The Long Halloween: Some quick movie reviews

The Long Halloween: Some quick movie reviews October 8, 2016

The House at the End of Time: Twisty Venezuelan family/haunted-house horror about an older woman coming out of prison and sorting through what happened on the fateful night when her husband died and her son disappeared. A compassionate priest assigned to visit her (she’s sort of in house arrest in the haunted house) helps her unravel the mystery–and the final twist about the priest’s own history is genuinely moving. This is an emotionally-sincere, spooky film, and its climax is an extended sequence of plot traps snapping shut. Definitely worth checking out if the premise intrigues you. Available on US Netflix streaming, iirc.

Let Sleeping Corpses Lie: ’70s people have an unpleasant ’70s courtship in the lovely English countryside, and battle agribusiness zombies. I basically still don’t get the ’70s as a horror era, but if you like this sort of thing, it’s a slow-burner with some startling gore in the final stretch, including a full-on classic flesh feast.

Charlie Victor Romeo: “Please extinguish your cigarettes. We are making an emergency descent.” A straightforward dramatization of several black-box transcripts from real air disasters. Really effective as a portrayal of humans in extremis: their competence, their breakdowns, their gallantry and focus in the face of extended or out-of-nowhere catastrophe. If I have a criticism, it’s that I’m not totally sure why these specific plane crashes were chosen. They do represent a wide range of types of disaster, length of time in which the crew knew they were in mortal danger, and outcome, so that diversity is probably a good enough reason to include each of these.

Certain lines from this will stick with me: “We’ve still got ice,” a man says, casual, just reminding you to be aware.

Peelers: On the last night of a Canadian strip club’s operations, some local miners stumble in, coated in what seems to be oil. But as the gross-out stripper antics play out onstage, almost-as-gross stuff is happening in the men’s room, as the miners turn into homicidal zombie type things.

So okay, I was probably pretty naive about this movie. What I wanted was a portrayal of a besieged working-class community and institution: a contemporary update of My Bloody Valentine, for an even more demoralized working class. But Peelers just doesn’t have the emotional insight or maturity of that movie. The opening scene and credits hint that we’ll get a contrast between “perfect” bodies and ravaged ones. Even the gross strip-show stuff (seriously, there’s a girl in a… lingerie diaper?, whose shtik includes peeing on the front row, a baby-girl look plus boobs and sexy gyrating, just wrong on every possible level) could serve a narrative about how we try to use and consume every aspect of life in the flesh, just as we strip-mine and ravage the Earth. But the movie is just not interested in that stuff. It’s more into cliched family dynamics and quips and gore.

Neither Heaven Nor Hell: Like Peelers, this was part of the DC Spooky Movie Festival, and man, those two films could not be more different. NHNH is set among French troops in Afghanistan. The dog disappears, and then the men begin to disappear, and something is out there in the moonscape of the mountains….

I’ve seen comparisons to Picnic at Hanging Rock, another movie explicitly about mystery and the absence of explanation. But the setting and emotional tone of those two movies seem totally different to me (e.g., girls in Picnic vs men in NHNH) and I’d compare this film more to The Objective, another “weird, weird bad things happening out here in the Graveyard of Empires” flick.

There is a lot of theology in this film. In general, for fairly obvious reasons, horror films about God are about His power–inscrutable, inescapable, unconquerable–and not His love or mercy. Here, the French captain tries to get a chaplain to reassure his men, and the chaplain openly mocks him: “You think God is a teddy bear you hold at night?” “I don’t know–tell them God is Love,” the captain says, but the chaplain basically shrugs and says, How is that convincing out here?

And when he reads the Bible to the troops, the chaplain chooses the singularly unsoothing Job ch 16.

There’s no real distinction in the film between Islam and Christianity–both are just helpless human responses to God’s overwhelming power.

This is a very slow-burn movie. It also has an aggressively unsatisfying ending. That’s on purpose, but I do feel like there’s gotta be a way to make even the humiliation of human knowledge a bit more satisfying to watch.

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