Here’s a rundown of all the movies we watched this October (well, except for Halloween Kills), all horror-adjacent, but not necessarily all horror films per se. A lot of them turned out to be horror comedies, which wasn’t really intentional.
Dolores Claiborne – The movie is based on a Stephen King book, but while it has some horror elements, it isn’t supernatural. It stars Kathy Bates, who was in another King film adaptation that wasn’t supernatural, although it was more over-the-top. Here she plays a caretaker for a wealthy woman who lives on an island in Maine (of course), and when she’s found standing above the woman’s body at the bottom of the stairs, she’s accused of murder. Complicating things is that she was also suspected of killing her husband, although she wasn’t found guilty of that. Her daughter, played by Jennifer Jason Leigh, comes to visit her. Her character reminded me a little of Lois Lane, although I think that’s just because she’s a dark-haired journalist. Dolores eventually tells her daughter the whole story, that she was responsible for her husband’s death, but it was after he stole the money she’d been saving and molested the daughter. The daughter doesn’t believe her, but later has a recovered memory. Of course, there are a lot of problems with that sort of memory, but here it’s apparently accurate. If you’re into disturbing movies or Maine accents, you might want to watch this one.
Buttons and Rusty: Which Witch Is Which? – I don’t think I’d seen any of them before, but there were several holiday specials featuring these characters, and eventually an animated series as well. Beth had seen some of the specials before. The titular characters are a bear and fox cub who are curious about human ways, so they often wander over to the campground near their cave to see what’s going on. The park ranger is friendly to them and answers their questions, but also tries to keep them from scaring the people. Not that the children are all that concerned about them, but the woman who runs the shop is. Meanwhile, two thieves who live in a beat-up bus in the park dress up as a bear and a witch in order to rob the store while everyone is busy at the ranger’s Halloween party. This leads to some mix-ups, especially when the female thief wears a coat that makes her look a little like a fox. The ranger accompanies the cubs’ parents to try to find them, and somewhere in here is a song about witches with psychedelic visuals.
It has nothing to do with the rest of the show, and it’s the only part that relates to the title. There are mistaken identities and people dressed as witches, but they don’t intersect. By the way, Buttons and Rusty’s parents share a cave, the adult foxes are the same size as the adult bears, and Buttons’ dad is the only animal who wears clothes.
Also, the ranger talks to the animals, but I don’t know that any other humans do. Is he trying to disguise the fact that the animals speak English, or does he communicate with them in their own language? I can’t say that much for the plot, but it was pretty cute.
Cemetery Man – We watched this one because a YouTube reviewer Beth watches loved it, but neither of us got much out of it. It’s sort of a horror comedy, but it doesn’t particularly succeed at being either scary or funny. Rupert Everett plays a graveyard keeper in an Italian town, who’s assisted by a mute guy. The corpses keep coming back to life, but the keepers find it easier to just shoot them than to deal with the local politicians. A girl Everett’s character is attracted to keeps showing up in different forms, and the assistant tries to have a relationship with a dead girl’s reanimated head. In addition, neither of them have ever left the town, and nothing that happens really makes a difference. Overall, it seemed kind of amateurish, with some decent ideas but no real focus on anything.
The House by the Cemetery – Another Italian film with “cemetery” in the title, this one involves a family moving from New York City to a creepy old house in Boston that is, as per the title, by a cemetery. The dad is doing research on the house and its strange history, and it turns out there’s someone living in the basement who steals body parts to keep herself alive. The kid was pretty annoying, and I don’t know how much of that was due to bad dubbing, as the voice actor didn’t sound at all like a child.
Muppets Haunted Mansion – I guess Disney owning the Muppets means they can do a crossover with a ride in the Magic Kingdom. It wasn’t successful when they tried it with Eddie Murphy, so why not use Gonzo? The plot involves him agreeing to spend the night in a haunted house where a magician called the Great McGuffin had disappeared, seeing it as a stunt. Pepe the King Prawn comes with him because he thinks it’s a party. Someone on Facebook mentioned that she didn’t want to see this because she hated Pepe, and while I’m okay with him, I don’t know that his character is strong enough for him to work that well as a secondary protagonist. Gonzo takes the scary stuff in stride, eventually realizing that his main fear is that nobody will like him. Characters being insecure is pretty standard for the Muppets. Meanwhile, Pepe is charmed by a black widow played by Taraji P. Henson, seemingly unconcerned that her dead husbands are all still hanging around.
She’s based on an actual character from the ride, traditionally just called the Bride but given the name Constance Hatchaway in 2006. Plenty of other Muppets appear as well, the explanation being that the mansion reflects Gonzo’s thoughts. I have to say that Kermit’s voice sounds totally wrong now, which is weird considering how many better Kermit impressions I’ve heard. I guess I don’t know whether any of those people can do the puppetry, though. I didn’t love this as much as some of my friends did, but it was pretty funny. Beth has watched many Muppets movies and shows with me, and she’s annoyed by them due to the overuse of puns, which makes me wonder why she doesn’t just tell me to watch them without her. But being married to me is probably way worse for someone who hates puns than watching anything the Muppets have done.
Starry Eyes – An aspiring actress who’s working at a Hooters-style restaurant auditions for a part in a movie, but is suspicious of what she’s asked to do to get the part, including sexual favors and self-harm. She goes along with it anyway, as she’s so desperate to become a star, and finds out that the production company is a demon-worshipping cult. This one didn’t really grab me, and the main thing I got out of it is that the protagonist had the same name as someone I know from college.
TerrorVision – This is a weird, campy horror comedy from the eighties that I’d only recently heard of. It focuses on a quirky suburban family, where the parents are swingers, the grandfather a survivalist who eats lizard tails, the son paranoid, and the daughter a rocker with a heavy metal musician for a boyfriend. When the dad installs a new satellite dish, it picks up a transmission from an alien world, which is actually a ravenous monster being beamed across the universe. The creature starts eating everyone it finds, and is able to fool survivors by animating the heads of the dead people. There’s also a parody of Elvira who’s Medusa-themed. As I believe a review mentioned, the human characters are stranger than the monster, but I suspect that was done on purpose. Beth said early on that it reminded her of John Waters, and there was definitely a similarity there, both with the gross humor and the absurd satire of suburbia, although it was more explicitly cartoonish than his films generally are. This was not a well-received film, but I enjoyed it.
House II: The Second Story – The original House is about a writer who moves into a haunted house, loses his son, has Vietnam flashbacks, and makes friends with Norm from Cheers. This sequel is along the same lines as Halloween 3 or Troll 2 in that it has a few of the same themes (a creepy mansion with the doors acting as magic portals, a perceived betrayal in the past, a guest star from Cheers), but isn’t really a sequel at all; and because it doesn’t entirely seem to know what kind of movie it wants to be. While it starts out setting up what seems like a horror scenario, it turns out to be more of a goofy fantasy adventure. The first House was kind of wacky, but this one doesn’t even try to be scary. Two yuppies move into a giant old house that’s in one of their families, and he uses a crystal skull to bring his great-great-grandfather back to life. Beth had seen this before and said that what she remembered was the rootin’ tootin’ cowboy ghost, and while he’s definitely a cowboy and both rootin’ and tootin’, I don’t think he technically counts as a ghost so much as a revitalized corpse.
The skull is stolen three times, by a caveman, some Aztec warriors, and the great-great-grandfather’s old partner, leading to chases through a prehistoric world, a temple, and the Old West, all accessible through the house, in order to get it back. For the temple, they’re accompanied by an electrician played by Jon Ratzenberger, who immediately goes along with the oddities the same way George Wendt did in the first film. The protagonists bring back a prehistoric bird, a cross between a dog and a caterpillar, and a woman who was going to be sacrificed. The animals are pretty cute, and remind me of the ones in The Neverending Story.
There’s also a subplot involving the one yuppie’s ex-girlfriend showing up for no particular reason and his current girlfriend leaving because of that, for which Bill Maher also shows up. I have to wonder if this would have been more popular if it had been advertised as a fantasy adventure instead of a follow-up to House, but it’s not like it was great either way.
Bride of Chucky – Seven years after Child’s Play 3, the series returned, ditching the original title in favor of a reference to Bride of Frankenstein (a little of which is shown in this movie), and removing Andy. After three films of nobody believing him, he deserved a rest. The focus is on Chucky and on dark comedy, with meta-humor and pop culture references. It starts with Tiffany, played by Jennifer Tilly, who had dated Charles Lee Ray before he died and had his consciousness transferred into a doll, finding and restoring the Chucky doll and bringing him back to life with a book called Voodoo for Dummies (a timely reference for the nineties). When she finds out he wasn’t interested in marrying her, she locks him up in a crib, but he escapes, electrocutes her, and puts her soul in another doll. They have a tumultuous relationship, teaming up to find creative ways to murder people and even having sex (apparently the dolls were anatomically correct, although I’m sure the original Good Guys doll wouldn’t have been), but also often turning on each other. Chucky wants to find the amulet that had been buried with his old body in Hackensack, even though he was gunned down in Chicago. He even has his own plot and tombstone. Who paid for all of that? Anyway, Tiffany pays her neighbor to take the two dolls to New Jersey. The neighbor is dating the police chief’s niece, and her uncle doesn’t approve of the relationship, so she goes with her boyfriend so they can elope on the way. It ends with Chucky being temporarily killed, and Tiffany giving birth to a creepy doll baby, setting up the next sequel.
Wait … HATES PUNS?! I’m horrorfied.
Sadly, there are probably more people who hate them than like them.
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