Monday, October 31, 2016

Currently Watching 10.31.16

Talk Spooky to Me: Halloween Viewing Recomendations

Halloween is my absolute favorite holiday, to the point where I have convinced myself that the entire month of October is dedicated to jack-o-lanterns and other spookiness. 
However, living in Brooklyn sort of cramps my style as many of my favorite Halloween traditions are a little harder to execute. For example, growing up my parents always go all out with decorations. Every room in my house is covered each October in creepy knickknacks and window clings reigned supreme. The yard is also transformed into a cemetery of sorts populated by ghouls my dad created by hand (he calls them "My Spooky Guys"). He's very into it: they all have rhyming epigraphs about how they died, usually in the form of some cautionary tale (i.e. wear a helmet, don't drink and drive, etc.) Some of them are rigged to look like they're flying, as well (it's a simple case of fishing line and wind but the effect is impressive). Obviously, such enthusiasm has had a lasting effect on me, and it makes me sad to miss out on all the fun. It's not really feasible to go all out in my apartment because we don't have enough space or storage as it is, and I'm not in a residential area, so we don't get trick-or-treaters anyway. Of course, I've found other ways of keeping myself in the spirit and mostly that's involved watching a lot of Halloween-y movies and shows. 

First up: Buffy the Vampire Slayer (and it's spin-off: Angel)

For those of you unfamiliar with Buffy, the premise is pretty simple: little blonde girl who is usually fated to die in an alley by the hand of a scary movie monster kicks ass as The Chosen One, or Vampire Slayer in a small South California town that happens to sit on a demon-attracting Hellmouth. The whole series is DEFINITELY worth a watch (it's one of my favorites) but the first season is a particular kind of campy-spooky that works SO well for Halloween. Right now I'm embracing the nerd in me and watching some of the later seasons of Buffy in conjunction with the spin-off in a close approximation to how the shows would have originally aired. I've watching Buffy a lot over the years (probably too much) so I know the show pretty well, but I've been less inclined to give Angel another look and now I'm sort of remembering why. It's just...not as good. It's not bad, exactly, but it's missing so many of the elements that I love in Buffy. Angel definitely set out to be different: it branded itself as "adult," where Buffy began as a highschool show; Angel is set in Los Angeles rather than a small town; but most damningly Angel went for edgy, dark, and gritty when it maybe shouldn't have. One of Buffy's strongest features is the show's disregard for genre barriers: it's a horror show, yes, but it's also a comedy, a teen soap, a satire, even a musical at one point. It's bright and sunny while also being dark and mysterious, it's never afraid of it's campy-ness but it's also not afraid to become serious. Angel, on the other hand tried to box itself in as a kind of neo-noir while also trying to explore more "daring and edgy" concepts. Of course, the show is at its best when it forgets this commitment (like the episode where Angel is turned into a muppet). In 2016, Buffy's genre bending still feels fun and fresh while Angel's concept feels aged. On the whole, Buffy gets a 9.5/10 while Angel comes in closer to a 6. 

Near Dark (1987)

Speaking of aged and "gritty," this painfully 80s vampire movie is quite a ride. I found this film on a list of female directed horror movies and was instantly interested when I noticed that it was directed by Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty, The Hurt Locker (for which she won an Academy Award for Directing, the only woman to ever do so). Kathryn Bigelow, vampires, and 1980s seemed like a bizarre mix so I went for it, and it definitely lived up to expectations. It was...well, quite a ride. Essentially it follows a young farm boy, Caleb, after he picks up a drifter (in an effort to get laid) and is accidentally turned into a vampire. Murderous hijinks ensue as Caleb is reluctantly taken in by a group of nomadic undead. I'm not really sure I recommend this one. It has a lot going on, it's violent, much of the actual vampire lore doesn't make much sense, and the plot is difficult to believe at best. It also has that weird blue 80s aesthetic that I hate. But it has an 88% on Rotten Tomatoes so what do I know. 

When Animals Dream (2014)

I have a thing for female werewolves. They're very rare, for whatever reason, despite werewolfism often being used as a puberty metaphor. I mean, yeah, I guess men do tend to get hairier than women but there's a menstration metaphor in there somewhere, I swear. Anyway, this Danish film takes place in a small fishing town and follows a young woman who starts to go through some changes. It's very beautifully shot and it's not as over-the-top as monster movies can be (cough, Near Dark). There's also some gender commentary and an appearance by Lars Mikkelson, who's is lately known for his impressive performance as the Russian Prime Minister on House of Cards. I recommend this one as long as you're okay with reading subtitles (it's in Danish) and, helpfully, it's on Netflix.

The Munsters

And now for something completely different, I bring you an old Hollywood classic, The Munsters. I used to watch this show a lot with my mom when I was little (who used to watch it when she was little). A week or so ago I found that it was on Netflix and since it's been a dinner accompaniment for my boyfriend and I. Meant to be something of a satire of both family tv shows and monster movies, The Munsters aired for two seasons in the mid 1960s. The show catalogues the day-to-day misadventures of a "normal" family: Herman and Lily are your typical married couple (idiot breadwinner husband and doting wife/mother (though Lily has more fight in her than is typical for the time); Eddie, there son, is a precocious little werewolf who for some reason is always sitting in the kitchen cabinet; Grandpa is a vampire who spend most of his time doing experiments in his basement/dungeon/lab; and Marilyn, the family's niece, is normal looking (or ugly to the Munsters) and is constantly wondering why she keeps scaring away her dates (I'll give you a hint, Marilyn, it's not you). 90% of the show is misunderstanding involving the Munsters somehow not realizing that they are monsters that other people are frightened of. It's a very cute show, often forgotten in favor of its contemporaneous rival, The Addams Family. I highly recommend giving The Munsters a shot, especially if you don't have time to watch a full movie. 

I think all of that sums up my month quite nicely and gives you some fun ideas for seasonal viewing. If none of these satisfy your craving, Hitchcok is always a good go-to, as is The Twilight Zone. And one can never forget The X-Files. 

In any event, have a fantastic Halloween, and stay safe!   

- r.d. 
(aka Spooky Boogan) 

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