Reviewed: “Night of the Hunter,” “The Fury,” “Carrie,” “1922,” “Horror Express” and “Mindhunter.”
A few gems found in our #31DaysOfHalloween movie marathon before I roll out the big guns for the final week! Here we go.
“Night of the Hunter” (1955) – This might be the only movie Charles Laughton directed (a shame – it’s great). Noir that borders on horror, told from a young brother and sister’s point-of-view, grappling with increasing levels of inconsistent parenting. Tension ratchets up when a religious fanatic (a sometimes kindly, sometimes frightening Robert Mitchum) marries our young protagonists’ gullible mother. Pacing is taut for black & white film standards, a tad slow for today. TCM on demand until October 26. (8/10)
“The Fury” (1978) – Brian DePalma directs this bonkers, good-looking movie-of-the-week-style film that features a shady group within the CIA who want to weaponize telekinetic teenagers. Throw in a weird super-agent dad (Kirk Douglas!) who pulls out all the stops to get his son back and the often-present threat (?) of some sheik gunmen from the Middle East and silliness ensues! Far from DePalma’s best, yet never boring. Wonderful score by John Williams. Oh and a dude is blown up in slow motion (at least five times – from various camera angles). Streaming on Netflix. (7/10)
“Carrie” (1976) – Probably the most faithful adaptation of a Stephen King novel I’ve ever seen. There is some off-beat humor to lighten things up, but the movie mostly plays its story – about a young girl with psychokinetic powers adapting to life in a new high school – straight. Brilliant performances by Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie. DePalma’s innovative, kinetic direction makes the most of the dynamite cast and editing. The plot is simple, yet this keeps things believable, and the cautionary message of bullying misfits at one’s own peril was way ahead of its time. A classic. (10/10)
“1922” (2017) – Adapted from a Stephen King novel I haven’t yet read, this period piece takes the King trope of a family going through hard times (this time set in pre-Dust Bowl American farmland), then the father decides to selfishly indulge his tragic flaw. After a brief introduction, we get an intense rising action, then 100 minutes of meditation on guilt that reminded me of Poe’s THE TELL-TALE HEART mixed with the skin-crawling dread of Lovecraft’s THE RATS IN THE WALLS – besides King himself, the two most important figures in American literary horror. The mix is a potent cocktail worth watching. Streaming on Netflix. (8/10)
“Horror Express” (1972) – Delivers the charismatic one-two punch of performances by Christopher Lee AND Peter Cushing pitted against an ancient horror some short-sighted archaeologists unearth and transport via the luxurious Trans-Siberian Railway in this decidedly inexpensive period piece set in the early 1900s. A superb premise, though the execution is a bit toothless by today’s standards. Is a modern remake directed by James Wan or David F. Sandberg through Blumhouse too much to ask? (7/10)
“Mindhunter” (2017) – Phenomenal series that may be the closest thing we ever get to Stanley Kubrick directing a TV show. The Greek myth of Theseus –> “Vertigo” –> “Manhunter” –> “Zodiac” –> This. Brilliant music supervision (clearances by Matt Lilley) with period-accurate, recognizable songs rarely used before as source music. Netflix hits it out of the park. (10/10)