The Quest For Monday! Part 61: Down A Dark Hall

(Post title reference here)

(Episode: “The Dreadful Doll”)

Synopsis: The Quests are diverted from marine biology,  first by the appearance of a spy sub, then by villagers with a voodoo problem. The voodoo is a smokescreen…er, zombie-drug-screen…to hide the construction of an undersea base, and the situation escalates faster than you can say “Wade Davis.” Highlights of this episode include turbanless Hadji and Bannon beefcake, because the dreadful doll is a doggone distraction.

Welcome back, campers! We all needed a break after fighting that giant turkey, no doubt. (Note to self: do not accept holiday food gifts from Dr. Zin.) Let’s check in with the Quest clan from a rather academic point of view.

Tip 61: Knowledge can be applicable in, shall we say, all sorts of places.

In the director’s commentary to his horror classic The Fall of the House of Usher, Roger Corman goes on at enthusiastic lengths about the Freudian symbolism of the burial chamber.

What does that have to do with the price of voodoo in Questland, you ask?

I’m just going to leave this here. (Technically, seventh grade still counts as “academic.”)

Fortunately, such profound psychological pondering doesn’t get in the way of a daring Quest rescue, followed by an explosion.

“Did we just hear a secret-sub-base-shattering kaboom?”

So it all works out in the… *immature giggle*

 

Next time: I come up with a Friday category for “Thing I got from Netflix thinking I was getting another thing, then watched it anyway.”

 

Next time on TQfM!: We start an episode titled “A Small Matter of Pygmies.” This is not my fault.

 

 

 

Finally! Friday: Night of the Demon/Curse of the Demon (1957)

Why Finally? I’ve known for a while that Dana Andrews, an excellent actor who played the guy standing next to Vincent Price hero in the classic noir Laura, starred in an adaptation of M.R. James’s story “Casting the Runes.” While it isn’t my favorite James story , it’s pretty close.

Curse of the Demon and Night of the Demon, which I believe are the UK and US versions respectively, are available on one DVD.

The Premise (original story): When Mr. Dunning gives Mr. Karswell’s alchemy book a bad review, he has no idea the author already tried out all the spells; he soon finds himself under a death curse. Dunning must join forces with the bereaved brother of a previous scathing reviewer, Harrington, in order to return Karswell’s all-too-practical magic to sender.

The Premise (movie version): American John Holden (Andrews in an updated version of the Dunning role) arrives at a convention in time to learn of the death of Harrington, who played a part in bringing down sorcerer Karswell’s notorious cult. When he crosses paths with Karswell and begins to feel strangely hunted, Holden teams up with Harrington’s niece to defeat this oddly jolly evil wizard who lives with his mother.

Also, if anybody saw Laura and wanted a shower scene, this movie has you covered.

What kind of convention is this, anyway?

Night/Curse of the Demon was directed by master of film mood Jacques Tourneur, and it shows in the spooky landscapes and shadows that seem alive as Karswell’s curse draws closer to fruition. The real treat, as far as I’m concerned, is the character of Karswell: he lurks on the fringes of the James story, but here he’s front and center, with a tantalizing library and an engaging habit of doing magic shows for the children of the village while in clown makeup, all while plotting your death.

Like most older horror films, Night/Curse of the Demon does suffer a bit in the effects department, in a way I found very rewarding. (SPOILER: the titular monster appears in the second shot below, so if you don’t want to see it, scroll quickly after the leopard attack.)

 

Until I saw this, I’d never realized how remiss James was in not putting a magic leopard attack in the source material.
It’s sort of a bat/cat/Muppet hybrid.

The Verdict: From the portentous prologue against a shot of Stonehenge to the final demon action, I really enjoyed Night of the Demon. Though it’s by no means a slavish adaptation. Night/Curse of the Demon uses a more nuanced, pervasive Karswell and his cult (which is not in the James story) to create a tense, updated variation on “Casting the Runes.” Very worth watching.

(The trailer gives too much away, as usual.)

 

Might go well with: Comfort food, a glass of port, and the double episode of A Podcast to the Curious dedicated to the original story, which is where I first found out about Night of the Demon.

 

Next time: We finish up “The Dreadful Doll” so the Quest family can move on to something with an even more embarrassing title.

 

 

 

The Quest For Monday! Part 60: The Hunt For Just Some Goober

(Episode: “The Dreadful Doll”)

Synopsis: The Quests are diverted from marine biology,  first by the appearance of a spy sub, then by villagers with a voodoo problem. The voodoo is a smokescreen…er, zombie-drug-screen…to hide the construction of an undersea base, and the situation escalates faster than you can say “Wade Davis.” Highlights of this episode include turbanless Hadji and Bannon beefcake, because the dreadful doll is a doggone distraction.

Tip 60: There are subs, and then there are subs.

Always be clear what you mean, campers: This “sub,” for example, is a secret evil construction project built under cover of voodoo.

 

Call it the Blue November.

Meanwhile, the voodoo guy himself is called upon as a sub: a substitute for a decent guard.

Poor guy. At least Barney Fife got pants.

Clarity (with no small help from any children who may come to your aid in time of need) will see you through.

 

Next time: To hell with “based on a true story”; Night of the Demon is based on a good story, and I’ve finally watched it!

Next time on TQfM!: Another rescue, the ghost of Sigmund Freud has a laugh, and the episode ends.

(Sort-Of) Found-Again Friday: Slasher Season 2

Why Finally? Readers of this site—if any are left after my absence—may have noticed my preference for supernatural horror over slasher/torture films (given Freddy, Jason and Michael, slashers aren’t exactly supernatural-free, but never mind). This is partly my own squeamishness and partly some ingrained impulse: asked to choose between “movie in which a live guy kills a bunch of people” and “movie in which a dead guy kills a bunch of people,” I’ll pick the cranky spirit every time.

So it was surprising last year that I enjoyed the first season of Canada’s Slasher series on Netflix. From its Halloween-massacre beginning to its maybe-supernatural coda, I was fascinated by the web of small-town intrigue, revenge,  and (very) bloody murder, and I highly recommend it even to people who will have to cover their eyes. I hadn’t realized the show was coming back, but the second season teased an unrelated story of concealed murder at a summer camp (subtitled Guilty Party)—what could be more classic?

Foreshadowing? You bet. Although watermelon tee-ball does look fun.

The Premise: When a revenge scheme gets out of hand and a girl dies, a group of camp counselors forges a pact of silence. Five years later, they come together to move the body before the commune that now owns the property expands its facilities to the burial site. Before the guilty parties (ha!) can even get unpacked, their only transportation out of the wilderness has an abrupt meeting with a chainsaw. The conspirators are trapped with the commune members in a snowy mountain retreat with a vengeful killer on the loose.

Being staked out in the snow is the nicest thing that happens to anybody in this whole series… and it doesn’t last.

That sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? And if I said that everyone in that cabin is hiding something terrible, even the vegan yogis, it would sound even better. Yet this story disappoints: things you think are red herrings become things you hope are red herrings, then pretty clearly become exactly what’s going on. Watching the commune members descend from hippy-dippy camaraderie to paranoia and violence is a large part of the seven episodes, but any psychological interest to be had from this can’t make up for the other deficiencies.

The Verdict: Despite good pacing—especially when unfolding the camp story—and enough character development that I was rooting for very different people at the end of the series than at the beginning, the second season of Slasher just didn’t quite achieve the heights of the first. Add to that a sense that some events are there purely for shock value (above and beyond the usual creative kills, I mean) and while I’ll likely check out any third season, this iteration of the series let me down.

Might go well with: The first Slasher season. The first Friday the 13th. And I ought to warn readers that there’s a whole plot about meat vs. vegetarianism, with somewhat predictable results, so choose your food with care.

 

You can find the trailer here.

 

Next time: I get to spend my weekend gearing up to resume The Quest For Monday. Race Bannon’s the nerdy redhead, right?

Very, Very Late Finally! Friday Halloween: The Conjuring

Why Finally? My attraction to spooky stuff has existed as long as I have; that’s why, at the age of eight or nine, I was already familiar with the work of psychic investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, on whose real-life adventures The Conjuring movies are based. (A bigger mystery is how I made it through seven years of Baptist school pursuing this stuff without being burned as a witch or, more prosaically, getting booted for Satanism.) Perhaps that seems too scary for a kid, but it was comforting, as I lay in bed at night playing the popular game “Dad Snoring? Or Bloodthirsty Demon-Thing Growling?” to know the boogeymen had opponents and the living had defenders.

On the other hand, I am also a big fat coward, so I suspected The Conjuring might be something of an endurance test.

Hey, look, an opening shot of the fractured eyeball of Annabelle, The Possessed Doll Of Evil! Maybe I’m clairvoyant too!

[shudders]
No: I mean “why,” when you said it would be done for Halloween, are we “finally” getting The Conjuring sometime after Thanksgiving Christmas Valentine’s Day St. Patrick’s Day Easter Memorial Day the NEXT Halloween?

Among other, more personal reasons, I didn’t want to screenshot the damned doll. Happy?

The Premise: Famed psychic investigators/demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) are called upon to help the Perron family with their newly acquired haunted house.

I’m more cynical about the Warrens as an adult, but must admit I enjoyed seeing two of my childhood heroes depicted in a movie.

Annabelle, the most horrific thing in the film by a large margin, is a mere side plot as she breaks out of the Warrens’ Friday the 13th: The Series-like storeroom and menaces their daughter. The outline of the main story will be familiar to anyone who ever caught The Amityville Horror on cable: the fixer-upper that turns into the fixer of little red wagons. And like those other movies, it’s easy to see how, given a sufficiently large space and a large family, communication breakdown can delay seeking assistance for even the most aggressive haunting.

Kids can be creepy even without haunted sleepwalking, but it certainly helps.

Eventually, the family’s matriarch Carolyn becomes the focus of the activity, and as you might imagine, things get worse before they get better.

The Verdict: Mixed. As a haunted-house movie, The Conjuring is effective to the point of creeping dread, even when characters are just walking between rooms. The casting is also superb: in addition to great performances by Wilson and Farmiga, Lili Taylor is perfect as Carolyn, the terrorized wife and mother who eventually takes on the darkness. My only objection is to the ultimate source of the haunting, which struck me as a tad goofy. Given that the movie is (depending how one feels about the Warrens) based on a true story/”based” on a “true” “story,” that may have been unavoidable. Certainly it’s not enough to stop me from checking out the sequel, and maybe even the Annabelle movies. No later than 3 p.m. and in strong daylight, of course.

Might go well with: Anything you can nibble without taking your eyes off the screen, House Hunters, NO DOLLS.

 

Next time: The recent second season of  a Netflix series. Nope, not that one.

Just In Time…

So I wasn’t back after all. This sorting out of personal stuff is harder than it looks.

I will, however, be back on Friday. And someday my review of The Conjuring will publish. But those are probably going to be two different things.

 

In the meantime, here’s a mantis who spent an afternoon hanging onto my house.

Some people have stone lions by the door; I had this.

I’m Back!

Sorry for the repeat absences. If you’ve been reading my Twitter feed on the side of the page, you probably know that my mother—Law & Order fan extraordinaire, brewer and drinker of two pitchers of sweet tea a day, and the woman who watched Poltergeist because she thought it was funny— was ill and unfortunately passed away a few weeks ago. I’m finally on the verge of settling some of the little details an only child has to settle when this happens, so the Omelet is open for business again.

One of the weird side effects of going through Mom’s things is that I now have a fridge full of food I wouldn’t ordinarily eat, because I can’t stand to waste it. (This is different, to my mind, from hoarding; nothing makes me happier than tossing the container from something I’ve finally used up. It’s the “finally used up” part that’s important here.) I did my best getting rid of the leftovers, tossing anything I knew I absolutely wouldn’t eat, but there’s still a lot left.

So not only will you actually be getting that Conjuring write-up I promised you back around Halloween, for a while I’ll be writing up “The MomFood Diary” as I go through all this stuff. Our first entry? Ensure Butter-Pecan shakes. Stay tuned…

The Quest For Monday! Part 59: Unity And Variety

(Episode: “The Dreadful Doll”)

Synopsis: The Quests are diverted from marine biology,  first by the appearance of a spy sub, then by villagers with a voodoo problem. The voodoo is a smokescreen…er, zombie-drug-screen…to hide the construction of an undersea base, and the situation escalates faster than you can say “Wade Davis.” Highlights of this episode include turbanless Hadji and Bannon beefcake, because the dreadful doll is a doggone distraction.

Tip 59: It’s hard to look at a familiar problem with fresh eyes.

When you’ve recently waltzed around a secret nerve-gas factory, etc.,  it can be easy to forget that sometimes infiltrations don’t go so well.

Being reminded doesn’t seem great, either.

Instead, look for ways to liven up ordinary tasks and keep them exciting.

For example, Korbay the would-be voodoo priest lifehacked (sorry) this skull into a two-way radio.

 

Next time: I’m going to take a run at finishing my long-neglected post on The Conjuring.

Next time on TQfM!: Rescue.

Finally! Friday: Streets Of Fire (1984)

Honestly, this one’s pretty hard to write up.

Why Finally? “You’ve never seen this movie?!” someone with a wide-ranging Apple movie collection said—and off we went.

People, I had barely heard of Streets of Fire. Movie-wise, I spent 1984 watching The Secret of NIMH repeatedly on cable (while begging to be allowed to watch Flashdance), getting the bejeezus scared out of me at Gremlins, laughing at Ghostbusters and, sadly, not watching The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension.
(In that last case, as the man in a later movie said, I chose… poorly.)

Here is what I knew about Streets of Fire before last weekend:

This video. That’s it.

The Premise: When hometown girl turned rock star Ellen Aim (Diane Lane) is kidnapped from the stage by weird bikers (led by Willem Dafoe as “Raven”), old flame/current mercenary Tom Cody (Michael Paré) is called upon to rescue her. Which he does in spectacular fashion—for the ’80s, that is,  back when less stuff exploded—thanks to the help of a fellow ex-soldier (Amy Madigan in what may be my favorite role in the film).  Also along for the ride is Ellen’s current squeeze, music manager Billy Fish (Rick Moranis).

Streets of Fire calls itself a “rock ‘n’ roll fable,” which is a nice clue that things aren’t always going to make sense. The setting, for example, seems to be simultaneously the 1950s and the 1980s, with spandex pants and punky makeup for performers, but greasers all over the place like it’s set in a Stephen King town. I recall a lot of people in the ’80s complaining that TV and movies were becoming like music videos, and I bet this was held up (down?) as an early example. The story itself is about an inch deep, but evokes so many of the Classic Plots that it has the appeal of a fairy tale.

The Verdict: On one hand, I used the word “delightful” about five times during viewing, and I really enjoyed Streets of Fire. That may be less about the movie itself, though, and more about its resemblance to other works of its time. It has an underdog-mercenary plot like Extreme Prejudice or The A-Team, the random serendipity of the Buckaroo Banzai movie, a neo-retro underbelly like Blue Velvet (and two years before Blue Velvet came out, too), and, heaven help me, the good-will-prevail attitude that is the only thing I like about classic clunker Megaforce.

It also has, at most, 1.5 actual streets of fire.

Even though I found it delightful, I can imagine the film having a lot of haters: the loner-with-a-heart-of-gold hero, for one thing,  is a trope that should be using a rollator to get around by now. Had Streets of Fire been one whit more realistic, I think it would have sunk like a stone.

Might go well with:  I mentioned so many movies above that I’ve got nothing but popcorn for this one.

 

Next time: In the Quest For Monday, Race tours the facilities.

 

The Quest For Monday! Part 58: In Which Sympathetic Magic Gets No Sympathy

(Episode: “The Dreadful Doll”)

Synopsis: The Quests are diverted from fun undersea business: first by the appearance of a spy sub, then by villagers with a voodoo problem. The voodoo is a smokescreen…er, zombie-drug-screen…to hide the construction of an undersea base, and the situation escalates faster than you can say “Wade Davis.” Highlights of this episode include turbanless Hadji and Bannon beefcake, because the dreadful doll is a doggone distraction.

Tip 58: There are lessons to be learned even from falsehood and fraud.

The would-be witch doctor’s scheme survives about five seconds of contact with the mind of Benton Quest:

“As I wrote in my book, The Snake And The Multicolored Arc.

But at least we get to find out what the esteemed scientist’s Mini-Me would look like.

Pointy!

As well as what Race Bannon’s swimsuit calendar would look like.

Hey, at least he’s not purple and impersonating a god this time.

Next time: After I spend more time wondering how every online project I try slowly turns into a horror blog, I’ll pick something.

Next time on TQfM!: More than just a pretty face, Race is a top-notch finder of secret lairs.