Hi. Welcome to Nightmother’s new monthly horror post where I (your Nightmother, obviously) bring us together in unholy matrimony with the time-honoured tradition of collecting Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, and Something Bleu. Just stay with me here; it’s gonna be really good. Since this is our inaugural post, I’ll provide a little breakdown so you know what to generally expect.
Something Old will feature an old horror movie that may be celebrating an anniversary of some kind, or a renewed relevance. For example, this month’s entry is Wait Until Dark which was released 40 years ago this year.
Something New will feature a new horror movie that’s either recently been released in theatres, streaming, on-demand, or has an upcoming theatrical release. I’ll hook you up with a trailer and some buzz so you can see if it’s up your alley and pencil it in.
Something Borrowed is where things get interesting. I regularly take advantage of one of the last remaining local video stores in my city, Black Dog Video. Remember the days of yore when you’d go to the video store with your date, or your friends, or your stupid babysitter, and you’d wander around the aisles for an hour picking a movie based on the case alone? I guess I knew times had really changed when I picked up a DVD the other day and tried to zoom in on a picture by pinching and dragging with my fingers. Shit. Anyway, you can still do that in places if you look hard enough and just believe. This section will feature a movie I picked the old-school way based on the case. I’ll even have pictures for you sweet sweet nostalgia fiends. This is such a treasured way to discover movies you love, and I hope to find some new favourites I would have otherwise missed.
Finally, Something Bleu will feature a foreign horror film. My true love is indie and foreign horror, so there are no limits here. It doesn’t matter which country it’s from or how old or well-known it is, I’m just going to talk about art I love and hope I convince you to love it too. Lucky you.
Let’s try this out.
Something Old: Wait Until Dark (1967)
Posh and lithe Audrey Hepburn is not my kind of star (I much prefer the other Hepburn, Katharine, though I’m being unfair in admitting it since they have only a name in common) and frankly, neither are her generally romcom-esque movies. There are, of course, exceptions – one being The Children’s Hour, a moving and suspenseful story where she and Shirley Maclaine play two school teachers accused of being lesbians which was surely scandalous in 1934, the year the play was written, and 1967’s Wait Until Dark. These films are where Hepburn gently crosses into horror territory and holds up under scrutiny.
Wait Until Dark appeared at the end of the ‘60s, and though it’s filed in horror most will feel more comfortable calling it a thriller near the begging of ushering in in a new decade of horror, looking ahead to those brilliant ‘70s full of paranoid claustrophobia. This thriller opens as we watch an old man sew heroin into a child’s doll and a bouncing blonde carry it through airport security (terrifying) and hand it off to a gentleman who happens to be the husband of Susy (Hepburn), who’s working on becoming the ‘world’s best blind gal’. No matter how it ends up with them, the doll is key. Everyone wants it.
Its drug trafficking story and murderous tie-in is a little convoluted at times, but Hepburn pulls off the helpless but surprisingly scrappy victim with a certain charm. There’s special joy in the scenes between her and bratty Gloria, the preteen employed to do menial errands for Susy who ends up playing a bigger role in the game than I anticipated. Alan Arkin does a phenomenal job as the villain, scaring the audiences of the time with his looming demeanor and even inspiring Stephen King to call Wait Until Dark the “scariest film of all time.”
It’s no Don’t Breathe, but the tension is real as men hide around corners and Hepburn walks, arms outstretched and unseeing eyes wide with fear. She knows something is wrong but has no sight of her own to confirm her suspicions. This plays on the horror of perceived helplessness in a situation (Hush or Misery, anyone?) and does so in a small space with a very small set depending on the actors to carry the show. They do, for the most part. If it’s been on your back burner like it was mine, I suggest you check it out, 40 years after its initial release.
Something New: Psychopaths (2017)
In case you missed it, a stylish little horror film Psychopaths premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 20, 2017. Written and directed by Mickey Keating, it tells the story of multiple serial killers attacking Los Angeles over one night. Psychopaths stars and depends on a comfortably familiar horror cast of Ashley Bell (The Last Exorcism, Carnage Park) and Larry Fessenden (We Are Still Here, most other things these days much to the excitement of genre fans)
Psychopaths promises a gory ride of gleeful abandon. This clip hints at a psychedelic bend, and is maybe best served with some supplemental psychedelics? Just kidding, probably don’t do drugs. Check out the clip here:
The film describes itself as: “Over the course of one excessively blood-soaked night, multiple serial killers’ paths cross, leaving a trail of bodies and begging the question: Which psychopath will live to see morning? One of the most exciting and unclassifiable new voices in indie horror, Mickey Keating delivers his wildest ride yet with this ultra-stylish and uber-violent descent into madness.”
Psychopath is Keating’s theatrical debut. You might know him for Darling, a film that seemed tailor-made for me in the vein of Polanski’s psychological thrills but I have to admit I was mostly disappointed. He’s got the fresh smell of a director who’s still trying to find his place, so I’ll give him another shot. At the very least, he’s a real fan of the genre. Let’s let him clear his throat and see what original content he brings to the table. It’s nice to see someone taking some risks. And man, sometimes it’s good to just have a little fun.
Something Borrowed: The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane (1976)
I don’t know how I missed this little ‘70s cult film starring Jodie Foster and Martin Sheen. Where my desk sits gives a clear view of the cult section of the store, conveniently tucked beside the horror section that I’ve alphabetized to sweet perfection. Someone had rented The Witch Who Came From the Sea and in putting the case back I saw Jodie’s little face on the front of The Little Girl… and the tagline had me: “Ask her no questions and nobody dies.” Oh, okay. Do you like evil children in movies? I guess evil is subjective, especially in this case. Anyway, I’ll take a weirdo any day whatever their age.
I’m obsessed with this Canadian-filmed movie and its heavy adult themes with children earnestly acting them out. Jodie plays Rynn, a young girl given charge of the house from her extremely busy and totally unavailable poet of a father. She stands up to the snoopy landlord and anyone who questions her independence, at least until she meets her magician love interest (Scott Jacoby as Mario the Magician). Girls love magic, and between parlour tricks the two children speak frankly about sex and relationships, acting like lovers about to be torn apart by circumstance. It’s laugh out-loud worthy at times, but the actors take it so seriously that it’s always impressive.
I much prefer baby Jodie to her later work, and watching her perform with such precision and commitment at such a young age is fascinating. She’s creepily believable in this role, confidently running the house and calling bluffs while making grandiose ones of her own. Of course, she’s protecting a great and terrible secret, one you’ll find yourself rooting for her to keep through until the end.
Besides crappy landlords, police officers and nosy adults, Rynn has to protect herself from even darker evils. Martin Sheen plays Frank, a local pedophile and predator, and his violent rat-like demeanor is effectively scary. He repeatedly tries to corner Rynn, who speaks loudly about his disgusting taste for children and threatens to shame his family. Just a little reminiscent of Hard Candy, wouldn’t you say?
If you missed this film like I did, because you’re also a baby, I highly recommend seeking it out. If you don’t have the luxury of a local mom n’ pop video store, try your local library! HOT TIPS!
Something Azul: The Similars (Los Parecidos) (2016)
Mexican horror film The Similars (Los Parecidos) hit iTunes in April, but it also happens to be on Canadian Netflix and I had the chance to check it out. There’s something rare about this movie. It has the air of sitting around a campfire listening to a friend tell a legend, and it goes something like this: The night is October 2nd, 1968, and one by one, a group of 8 strangers find themselves trapped inside a bus station under a supernatural rain.
Right away, we begin at peak drama with shouting, musical crescendos and panicked despair. Everyone is affected by the rain in much more than a seasonal affective disorder kind of way, and when the strange happenings take place there’s a clear moment where you, as the audience, must decide whether you’re in or out.
iTunes classifies this as sci-fi/fantasy and there’s good reason for that, but the horror aspect can’t be denied. The Similars feels like an old episode of The Twilight Zone; a love letter to the science-fiction films of the ‘60s and ‘70s. The muted colours and style add so much atmosphere to the already otherworldly story.
All horror movies require some suspension of disbelief, but this one asks you to to go beyond your comfort zone with it. If, for example, your friend was telling you this story around the fire, you may want to interrupt from time to time “But what about?” “Didn’t he just?” “Why…” but while your questions aren’t answered, director Ezban Issac is generous with opportunities to laugh out loud at the melodrama onscreen.
If you can wait it out, you’ll be given an urban-legend explanation that seems heavy handed on an expository note, but you’ll be glad you sat through it. My mind has been working at it since I saw it, and despite my trepidous first viewing I think it might be worth a second. Plus, just look at this poster! It’s perfect.
Are you still hungry? Here’s what you may have missed around here on the horror front this month:
Anyway, there’s that. Thanks for tuning in for the first installment. The banquet has just begun, and if you stick around your belly will remain pleasantly full with all the horror it needs. I promise.
Featured Image: Caminante Films