Here are our latest Halloween-related viewings. Two of them involve puppets!
Eli Roth’s History of Horror – I can’t say I’ve ever been fond of Roth as a filmmaker, but he does have a lot of knowledge on the subject, so this was pretty good. In seven episodes, he covered zombies, slashers, demonic possession, monsters, vampires, and ghosts. Each one had several horror insiders discussing movies in each genre, with a lot of spoilers. David Landis is kind of a weird choice considering that he seems very unpopular these days. I’d heard much of what they had to say, but the discussion was interesting. I’ve never been that big on zombies, and had no interest in The Walking Dead, but I probably should watch the rest of the George Romero ones; I’ve only ever seen Night of the Living Dead. And I’m from Pennsylvania! There was some discussion on whether fast zombies were a good idea. I don’t think it makes that much sense, but it’s not like there are ever official rules for horrific beings. Can werewolves only be killed by silver? Can vampires go out in sunlight? It varies, and anyone who thinks about the subject at all probably has their own favorite concepts, but that doesn’t make the others invalid. I generally like the trope of there being only one specific way to kill a supernatural monster. I’m not even entirely sure why zombies have come to be reanimated corpses when they were originally people controlled by voodoo. I believe Romero originally called them “ghouls,” which makes more sense for flesh-eating dead guys, but I suppose things change. Someone said in the slasher one that they didn’t like the revelation in Halloween 2 that Michael Myers was Laurie Strode’s brother, as it took the mystery out of it. But then, you pretty much have to do that if you’re going to keep making sequels. The franchise was rebooted several times, but all of them kept the sibling relationship except the most recent, where it was mentioned but dismissed as a baseless rumor. The vampire episode talked about both Dracula and Twilight, and I’m not sure why I never wondered before whether Bella Swan was named after Bela Lugosi. From the little I’ve seen of the Twilight movies, they just seem dull. I’m sure that blue filter doesn’t help matters. It kind of seems like Stephenie Meyer took the attention away from Dan Brown as the primary popular but widely hated author, then E.L. James took it from her (with, I might add, repurposed Twilight fanfiction). I’ve never read anything by any of the three, but Beth and I did read a pretty thorough dissection of the Fifty Shades of Grey books that included a lot of actual quotes. I think the main thing I learned is to never listen to your inner goddess. Anyway, I understand there’s a new season of this debuting next month.
The Wickedest Witch – A Halloween special from 1989 that, for some reason, only aired that year. It was made by Paul Fusco, the creator, puppeteer, and voice of ALF, and one character has pretty much the same voice. As you might expect, it’s full of really corny jokes. Burgess Meredith narrates, and Rue McClanahan plays Avarissa, a wicked witch with a bunch of puppet minions known a Greevils, who are described as half reptile and half game show host, and spend most of their time playing Bingo.
From a magical soda machine, the witch learns that the curse that forces her to stay underground can be broken if she gets a child to commit a terrible act on Halloween night, which she tries to accomplish by way of a game show. The kid wants to be a magician, which made me think of The Care Bears Movie, although the villain in that was way more successful. That could have something to do with the relative length, though. It’s very of its time and has cute puppets, so you might as well give it a watch.
Puppet Master – Hey, wasn’t that Alicia Masters’ dad in the Fantastic Four comics? I guess they couldn’t copyright a name that generic. For that matter, there’s also a puppet in the movie called Pinhead, and he’s totally unrelated to the Hellraiser guy. I’m not entirely sure how to spell the title; I’ve seen it as both one word and two, but I think the two-word version is more common. As you might have guessed, it’s about killer puppets, but we see very little of them until late in the film. Seriously, the pacing is terrible. The whole thing opens in 1939 with a guy who knew the secret of bringing puppets to life, who hides his work and kills himself because some Nazis are on his trail. Fifty years later (the present at that time), a bunch of psychics receive messages to go to the hotel where this guy died, where someone named Neil Gallagher has rediscovered the secret, and not only controls the puppets but has seemingly found a way to make himself immortal. Then we get the puppets attacking, one of them by emitting leeches from its mouth, which is really gross but kind of breaks the theme. I didn’t get much out of it, but it was apparently popular enough to spawn multiple sequels. There was a mention that the puppet animation came from ancient Egyptian magic, which I suppose links it to the shabti, which I remembered from Rick Riordan’s Kane Chronicles. Not that the movie really does anything with that, but sometimes understanding a reference is kind of cool.