Five Days of Double Features: Trick r' Treat (2007) and Satan's Little Helper (2004)


Can't say much more about Trick r' Treat than what's already been said by many others. Since it premiered on home video in 2009 (after two years of film fest screenings) it's steadily built up a reputation as a holiday go-to classic, among the ranks of It's a Wonderful Life. Last year a cable channel ran a 24-hour marathon of the movie on Halloween day, and earlier this week it screened theatrically here in Hollywood, where the filmmakers made an appearance and announced that a sequel is in production.

I wouldn't mind seeing a director's cut, and it seems the movie is loved enough to justify one. The producers cut up the stories in post (originally they ran in sequence, like the fictional comic book the movie was trying to emulate) and made other egregious errors like swapping out Peggy Lee for Marilyn Manson in the musical soundtrack. But even with the studio meddling, it's a great piece of entertainment. And fairly tame; appropriate for kids over ten, by my standards. Doesn't look to be available via subscription services, But Amazon has it on instant view for $1.99.


This is second only to Trick r' Treat in how extremely Halloween-y it is. The setting helps; filmed entirely in the Hudson River Valley area of New York and Connecticut in the Autumn, you couldn't imagine a more authentic vision of Americana. John Carpenter's eponymous movie is all isolation and dark space, but here is a small New England town bustling with lively holiday spirit.

Something about this doesn't quite work. The concept is better than its execution. The balance between black humor and real horror is never decided upon, and some of the scenes are very tasteless, to the level of Troma movies, even, which drains it of its fun. So you'll want to put the kids to bed before this one, and this is a halfhearted recommendation, but it makes for a good double feature with Trick 'r Treat.
(click posters to link)


Five Days of Double Features, Extra-Depraved Edition: Pieces (1983) and Maniac (2012)


These two are paired up because they're thematically similar, even though they couldn't be more different stylistically. We've discussed Pieces before, and I have little to add, other than that despite the misogyny and extreme violence, it's a total hoot. I first saw this during a dusk-till-dawn horror-thon at a vintage theater in Hollywood on Halloween, and even though it was two a.m, the audience was virtually in hysterics. How many movies have you been to that ended in applause? So that was the ideal setting, but here we'll be using Hulu Streaming instead so forget it.


I put on Maniac last week because it showed up in the Netflix Streaming recommendations. I had no intention of finishing, because I generally don't like the mean-spirited, surgically graphic torture sessions that pass for horror movies these days. And I figured there was no way a remake of one of the nastiest films of a nasty genre could be any good, but I was curious, and quickly got into its unique charms.

If you haven't seen the infamous 1980 film its based on, then at least you won't have a basis of comparison, because it's almost too different to compare. Both films are products of their times. The setting here is downtown LA, which is not gritty nor intimidating, or even all that urban-looking. It's trying to copy the ugliness and hopelessness of the Times Square-set original, but the setting is too plain. And Elijah Wood is equally plain, delivering his lines in monotone from offscreen. It's supposed to be a subdued performance, I know, but he's the only developed character in the movie so there isn't much to engage with. Another difference with the update is that it feels necessary to explain why he's a maniac, with childhood flashbacks of his prostitute mother that are too cliched and outrageous to be effective or believable.

What probably saves this is the POV gimmick, even though it could have been handled with more finesse, and the filmmakers sporadically shift from it when dramatically beneficial. But it's a trick you don't often see sustained through an entire movie, and it's more interesting than any of the shorts in  the two similarly-styled V/H/S film anthologies, which are simply childish. Anyway, nothing great here, but worthwhile, and big content warning for this one; it goes far beyond an R rating.

(click posters to link to movie streams)


Five Days of Double Features: Flesh for Frankenstein and Blood for Dracula

Click the above images above if you have Netflix Streaming. Otherwise, look elsewhere.


Five Days of Double Features: House by the Cemetery and The Beyond

For the next five consecutive days, we'll be offering five Halloween-friendly double features immediately available via online streaming.

By way of Hulu, let's start with a big kick to the consciousness: Lucio Fulci's two best films, House by the Cemetery and The Beyond. I'm listing them in that order (reverse chronology) because I think it's the best sequence to see them in a double feature paradigm; House by the Cemetery, while extremely scary, is a straightforward narrative. But The Beyond is a plunge into total madness, so your fatigue and exasperation will better serve the agenda of the film. Best to watch both of them late, preferably after midnight, as this is when your feeble mortal mind is at its most malleable. Read more about these two special films here.

Unless you subscribe to Hulu Plus, you'll have to sit through commercials. Also, they've decided for their own perverted reasons that The Beyond is rated X, so you have to create an account or sign in with Facebook. But they're HD transfers,  which are the only appropriate way to see Sergio Salvati's beauteous, Gothic cinematography, so well worth the hurdles.

(not embeddable; click posters to link)


The Dario Argento Triple Feature

For some reason, all of Argento's best films are currently available on youtube, and they look to be high-quality transfers. Ideally, you'd be seeing a movie like Suspiria as a pristine 35mm strike from the original technicolor negative, in a theater with stereo sound cranked way up and an enthusiastic audience. But this is the 21st century, and people don't go out to the movies anymore. Youtube will have to suffice. Here are my three favorites, in diminishing order:

Inferno (1980)

Suspiria (1977)

Phenomena (1985)

You could expand this beyond a mere triple-feature if you wanted to; Deep Red, Tenebrae and Opera are also all on youtube in their original, uncut international versions. Everyone seems to like those. I suppose they're fine, but I was never a fan of his giallos. They don't speak to me the same way as these three surreal, maddening, insane horror films.

Bonus Feature: the 1985 documentary Dario Argento's World of Horror, an enlightening 70 minutes focusing largely on Phenomena (which I consider to be his last great movie). Some of the montages are too lengthy, making it drag in spots, but like Cronenberg, Argento makes for a good subject due to the insightful and articulate manner in which he's able to analyze his own work.


The Witch's Dungeon Is Now Showing

Somehow this has missed my radar my whole life, but it's been running for 47 years. Unfortunately, it's about as difficult to see as a lunar eclipse. You not only have to get yourself to Bristol CT, you also have to attend during their extremely limited hours; five days out of the whole year, all of them in October. You have this Friday and Saturday to get up there, and then Halloween day, then that's it.

I met the guy, or one of the guys, who runs it at last weekend's convention. Buy one of their DVD's and support the museum. More info here.