Monday, October 24, 2011

Phantom Film Festival: The Nightmare Before Christmas

Tim Burton's stop-motion extravaganza has become a Halloween staple for us, and has been on constant rotation for the past couple days. While it is a technical masterpiece, the music and characters raise it to a greater level. The song "This is Halloween" has become a holiday anthem, and I really enjoy the Cab Calloway-esque "Oogie Boogie Man" number.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Phantom Film Festival: Matango

"Matango," also known as "Attack of the Mushroom People," is a dark horror film from the storied Toho production team that brought Godzilla to life. It features a who's who of the Toho acting stable, most notably Akira Kubo and Kumi Mizuno.

The movie tells a deceptively simple story of a group of Tokyo natives who are shipwrecked on a desolate island. When their rations run low, loyalties shift and civility wanes. However, there are plenty of mushrooms to a horrific cost.

There are no cheap scares here; instead, a sense of unrelenting dread builds throughout the story. Neither is there a marauding monster to be found, despite the "attack" of the anglicized title; instead, the evil strikes from within, as lust, greed, and despair drives the course of action taken by the castaways.

"Matango" is ultimately a merciless meditation on human nature, and for that reason, it just may be the scariest movie we'll watch during our film fest.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Phantom Film Festival: Werewolf of London

Henry Hull stars as a botanist-turned-lycanthrope in tonight's chiller. "Werewolf of London" feels more like a stage play than a film in some respects; there is quite a bit of dialogue in the film, along with scenes that would be more at home on the stage than they are on the screen. In that regard, it bears somewhat of a resemblance to Universal's "Dracula."

Be that as it may, this is an enjoyable werewolf movie--the transformation sequences (which really are the drawing card of such pictures) are good enough to make my 8-year-old son say "cool." It must be said, though, that the titular monster is more than a little Mr. Hyde-esque. That's not a complaint, merely an observation. I enjoyed the plot point involving Tibet, which implicitly brought together werewolf and yeti legends, if only in the imagination of the viewer.

While too civilized to be terrifying, "Werewolf of London" is atmospheric and effective, with a few moments of authentic creepiness. Hull's lycanthropy serves as a thinly veiled symbol of his workaholic tendencies, both of which wreak disastrous consequences on his marriage. Werner Oland also appears in a pivotal supporting role.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Phantom Film Festival: The Creature from Black Lake

Tonight's movie was 1976's slice of Sasquatch cinema, "The Creature from Black Lake," starring Jack Elam, Dub Taylor and Dennis Fimple. I caught this for the first time years ago on a local independent station and now have it on DVD.

TCFBL is different in style and tone from its thematic cousin, "The Legend of Boggy Creek." Where "Boggy" takes a docudrama approach, "Black Lake" is purely melodramatic, resulting in a less haunting but more purely entertaining viewing experience. Many scenes are played purely for laughs, a nice counterbalance to the final act, which is mostly suspenseful.

TCFBL is the story of two college students from Chicago who take it upon themselves to investigate Bigfoot reports in Louisiana. They eventually find what they're looking for, despite running afoul of local law enforcement and offending the locals. This Sasquatch rather aggressively makes it clear that he'd rather not be found, and minor mayhem ensues.

"Black Lake" benefits from a number of good ingredients: an authentic sense of place, filmed, as it was, on location in Louisiana; plenty of pitch-perfect, scenery-chewing performances from the likes of Elam and Taylor; a believable "buddy" relationship that carries the story and the wisdom to never really show the cryptid in question. Earnest, specific, and totally unheralded, this movie is a personal favorite of mine.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Phantom Film Festival Kicks Off

Our first annual horror film fest has begun! From now until Halloween, we will watch sixteen genre classics, starting tonight with 1924's "Phantom of the Opera," preceded by the Walt Disney Silly Symphony, "Skeleton Dance."

Lon Chaney's performance and appearance in "Phantom" leave an indelible impression, as he manages to make Erik a horrifying-- yet somehow sympathetic-- character. Despite the conventions of silent film, there are plenty of unsettling moments and images to behold. It was a fittingly creepy start to our monstrous marathon!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Postcards from G-Fest 18: More Models

Godzilla and Minya got a great layout here at the Kaiju Modeler table at G-Fest. Long live the Son of Godzilla!

Saturday, October 1, 2011


What do you get the Grampy who has everything? A Cuyahoga Kaiju Club T-shirt, of course!