Strolling into the second week brought a few surprises to Hooptober 2019. Who in the world would have suspected I would find and genuinely enjoy some subversion in Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives? And that a classic Universal Monster film like The Mummy’s Tomb would be the weakest film in the bunch? In between we have some strong outings from Australia in the giant mutant gore of Boar, the slick and dream-like French giallo Knife+Heart, and we finally learn what those chair towers are all about in the French Canadian “zombie” apocalypse Ravenous.
It’s been a full week, so grab your rosary and your preferred religious text and let’s jump in.
The admittedly bare-bones description of Part 6 doesn’t do justice to what writer/director Tom McLoughlin has up his sleeve. Meta jokes, fourth wall breaks, and sly comedy mix things up in a film that knows what a joke the series is and plays into it without getting too slapstick and stupid. Well, it IS stupid, but it still works, despite some truly awful acting. Jason resurrected is slightly faster, slightly leaner than later entries, and there’s a sense of relish as he takes apart counselors, cooperate execs at a paintball retreat, a recently engaged couple and Horshack from Welcome Back Kotter (full review here).
…in its simplicity lies the reason Ravenous works so well. There’s no needless and lumpy exposition about how it all started, what the creatures are, or how to kill them. The film’s biggest mystery is revealed in gorgeous, Terrence Malick-like imagery: huge piles of debris in the middle of fields, with hordes of the infected staring as if they were, well…zombies. The film lingers over the image of those chairs enough to make you – not the survivors wonder how they built them, and why. The almost constant threat of discovery and death keeps everyone on the run until the film heads to ward its inevitable climax, one that makes total sense in the world constructed by writer/director Robin Aubert. The zombies too are set apart from the norm, exhibiting rage and pain and exhaustion. It’s clear they’re infected with some virus, but their palpable humanity makes the more zombie-like mannerisms stand out and feel fresh (full review here).
Anyone worried about NOT having seen the previous film The Mummy’s Hand rest assured: you don’t need to because the opening of this movie is a summary using stock footage from the previous film. Which leaves us only about 50 minutes to tell the actual story. The creature, played by Lon Chaney jr. is relegated to a shambling hulk that chokes people, and has little to no agency besides following the orders of newly ordained high priest Mehemet Bey. And pretty much all Bey does is sit in a bar and listen to people, then run back to the cemetery he runs to let the Mummy loose to kill another family member. Beyond that there’s a lot running back and forth through the streets of a fictional Massachusetts town culminating in a “fight” at the son’s house where the townspeople wielding more torches than I can imagine anyone in 1940s America would own pretty much just burn the house down with the Mummy in it (full review here).
Don’t be shocked, but this is about a massive, roided out boar that is rampaging around the quiet Australian countryside killing anyone who gets in its way. I know, you never would have guessed, right? Boar follows a family coming in from the city to visit their own roided out Uncle Bernie and they fall into the path of the monster pig…writer/director Chris Sun uses practical effects whenever possible to bring the boar to life, and when it works it’s a terrifying, diseased monstrosity that gets particularly vicious with its kills…the terror is more palpable then the thankfully few CGI scenes, which Sun wisely makes short to punctuate a gag, such as when an obnoxious boyfriend is literally swiped up in the jaws of the beast and carried off like a bloody chew toy (full review here).
There are very deliberate touchstones and nods here to the work of Argento and Bava, with inventive POV kills and a murderer with a very mesmerizing look (try to get that sex mask/afro combination out of your head anytime soon). But also like those classic giallo films, plot and reason fall a little to wayside in order to make way for the beautiful visuals and weird, Lynch by way of Cronenberg sequences that serve little in the way of plot but add to the overall tonal impression Gonzalez is aiming for. Still, seeing a dude with a bird claw for a hand was something I never knew I needed to see until I saw it (full review here).
Next week we get all theatrical and current, with a visit to Pennywise the Clown in his latest outing, as well as a classic 80s slasher and its bizarre sub-par yet fascinating sequel. It’s practically raining sequels, as we also look at the follow-up to a splatter classic and a truly, truly awful movie that makes Hobgoblins look like art.
Until then, keep it Blood Red.