October means Halloween is just around the corner, and here at Arrow in the Head, in honor of this ghoulish month of scares, every Friday leading up to Halloween, I’ll be posting mini-reviews of a few of my favorite horror flicks- some obscure, some not. Last week, we took a look at slashers, this week, we mix it up with everything from vampires, zombies to absolute mind-fucks of the highest order.
THE HUNGER (1983)
With Tony Scott’s tragic passing this summer, looking back at his first film, 1983’s goth-styled vampire tale, THE HUNGER, seems appropriate. Upon its initial release, THE HUNGER was a flop, but after years showing on HBO, and through video and DVD, it’s picked up a cult following. It’s the story of an immortal vampire (Catherine Denueve) and her companion (David Bowie) - who regularly haunt Goth bars picking up victims for sex and murder. When Bowie starts to age (only the vampires themselves remain mortal) Deneuve has to find herself a new companion, and she sets her sights on the impossibly young and luscious Susan Sarandon.
Defiantly arty- as opposed to his later (but just as heavily stylized) blockbusters, THE HUNGER is certainly not for everyone. Several years ago, during my university days, I had a brief flirtation with the Goth culture, and THE HUNGER really nailed big parts of it- although I wasn’t around for the eighties heyday depicted here. I really love the vibe of the film, from the opening performance of ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’ by Bauhaus, to Bowie’s unusually affecting performance and the strange ending. If you haven’t seen it- I highly recommend giving it a shot.
THE LOST BOYS (1987)
Who doesn’t love THE LOST BOYS? As a teen, I was constantly renting the VHS of THE LOST BOYS from my local videostore- and upon buying my Blu-ray player, it was one of the first titles I picked up. I know a lot of folks tend to dismiss this as “The Brat Pack Goes Vamp”, but all in all, I find it to be one of the better mainstream horror movies from this era. Along with FALLING DOWN, it’s probably Joel Schumacher’s best all-around film, and the young, hip cast- including Jason Patrick as the hero Michael (love the dangly earring), Corey Haim as his possibly gay younger brother (check the Rob Lowe centerfold on his wall), and Keifer Sutherland- decades before 24, as the undead villain.
To me, THE LOST BOYS is just one of those touchstone movies. By now I’ve seen it so many times that it practically feels like a part of me. Heck, I’m even entertaining the notion of going for Halloween as the greasy sax player from the boardwalk (actually Tina Turner’s sax-guy, Tim Capello, who Jon Hamm once dressed up as on SNL). Despite the R-rating, I also feel like THE LOST BOYS is a solid piece of horror the whole family can enjoy- similar to something like JAWS. I was about six the first time I saw it- and I turned out OK (well- kinda). Just ignore the God-awful, bargain basement DTV sequels.
DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978)
I know, I know. DAWN OF THE DEAD? Could I be any less original? I doubt there are many readers out there that haven’t seen George A. Romero’s 1978 classic- as well as Zack Snyder’s surprisingly decent remake. For me, the original DAWN will always be the best zombie movie ever made. To this day, I can’t walk through a mall without “The Gonk” playing in my head, and entertaining the notion of possibly holing up there for a zombie invasion (I already have a mall in Montreal’s West Island picked out).
Romero does it all here, mixing horror, suspense, social commentary and badass action- capped off by a strong performance by the iconic Ken Foree in the lead, and an amazing score by Goblin (sampled by Marilyn Manson in ‘I Put a Spell on You’). Given that there are seemingly dozens of different cuts out there- there’s even a DAWN for whatever kind of mood you’re in. There’s Romero’s moody original, Dario Argento’s action recut, and ultra-tame video version (for wimps), etc. Halloween isn’t Halloween without DAWN OF THE DEAD.
And here’s my obscure choice. Not many people have heard of John Frankenheimer’s SECONDS. Frankenheimer, riding high on the success of THE TRAIN and THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE got to make this weird little film for Paramount, and once it hit theaters, it tanked (big time) and ended up being buried for about thirty years. SECONDS is about a middle-aged businessman, who signs away his life for an opportunity at a second-chance in life. His death is faked, and he’s given extensive plastic surgery- reemerging as sixties heartthrob Rock Hudson- who was never better. Given a comfortable life lounging around as a bohemian artist living on the beach, Hudson quickly tires of his new hedonistic lifestyle, yearning to return to his family. Alas, “seconds” aren’t free, and there’s no way out for poor Rock. Cue lots of nightmarish imagery, one of the scariest orgies ever depicted, and Grandpa Walton as a shadowy, all-knowing figure.
If SECONDS were released today, people would probably still think it’s weird, so you can imagine how audiences’ circa-1966 felt, especially with frequent Doris Day cohort Hudson in the lead. Nevertheless, SECONDS is something of a hidden masterpiece, and I’m certain any AITH reader that gives it a shot will be as blown away by it as I was. Sadly, the DVD is out of print (it’s going for about sixty bucks on AMAZON), but it is available on-demand, also through Amazon, for only ten bucks. As the DVD was bare-bones, this is obviously a much better deal, and I urge you guys to give it a shot.