Horror Nerds, Start Your Engines


It’s that time of year again, when “everybody’s entitled to one good scare,” as Charles Cyphers puts it in Halloween. In addition to our own continuing Fright School series, coming up this weekend in Chicago is the 6th annual Music Box Massacre, a 24-hour marathon that is the ultimate horror nerd endurance test. I’m especially looking forward to seeing George A. Romero’s rarely-screened Hungry Wives (aka Season of the Witch aka Jack’s Wife), with its suddenly topical story of a suburban housewife (Jan White) who dabbles in witchcraft! Not only will White be making a guest appearance along with The Chiodo Brothers (creators of Killer Klowns From Outer Space, also screening) but following the notorious Basket Case, lead actor Kevin Van Hentenryck will be appearing for a Q&A (just don’t ask “What’s in the Basket?”) And what would a horror marathon be without such standbys as Vincent Price (Theatre of Blood) and David Cronenberg (Rabid)? About as good as it would be without Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, who will be represented by one of my favorite “best worst” movies, The Raven (1935). While decidedly less surreal than The Black Cat (their collaboration from the year before), the characterizations remain over the top, especially Lugosi (naturally) as the retired (and torture-and-Poe-obsessed) Dr. Richard Vollin. He breaks what was a seemingly ironclad decision to stay out of practice when his vanity is appealed to by the town judge, who asks him to perform an emergency operation upon his daughter Jean, the victim of a car crash (an accident laughably rendered with rear-projection and scale models). The success of the surgery fuels a God complex in Vollin as he becomes fixated on Jean, especially after she performs a risible dance interpretation of The Raven (give the film points for making at least a few token nods to the source from which it takes its title, something The Black Cat does not). When the judge becomes privy to Vollin’s feelings for Jean, he forbids his daughter to remain in contact, sending Lugosi into new heights of melodramatic madness as he harbors sadistic fantasies of revenge. Enter Boris Karloff (or simply “Karloff,” as he’s credited here, like Cher or Sting) as Edmond Bateman, a fugitive who with the aid of a gun persuades Vollin to delay his return to retirement long enough to perform another operation, one that will disguise him from his pursuers (“I want you should…change my face!”) Vollin purposefully botches the operation in an effort to entrap Bateman into carrying out his evil bidding until the surgery can be corrected, leaving Karloff with a fake eyeball (pictured) that must have set back Universal Pictures all of five cents. In a flash of inspiration that precedes Malcolm McLaren (R.I.P.) and the punk movement by 40 years, Lugosi declares “Your monstrous ugliness breeds monstrous hatred. Good! I can use your hate.” Poe spins in his grave.

Dan Mucha

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5 thoughts on “Horror Nerds, Start Your Engines

  1. I was excited to see this post, but disappointed to see that Facets is not doing the &quot;31 days of Halloween&quot; movie clips this year.<br /><br />I was all fired up!

  2. I&#39;m doing my own little horror film festival this weekend with friends. This is an annual &quot;themed&quot; event — this year I have selected a number of movies and shorts adapted from literary works.<br /><br />I am curious if you have any thoughts on the titles I&#39;ve selected, which include:<br /><br />“The Call of Chtulhu&quot; (USA – 2005) Dir: Andrew Leman<br /><br />&quot;The

  3. Your choices all sound intriguing, I see that we are going to be showing Fulci&#39;s &quot;The Black Cat&quot; here this Friday! <br /><br />The only one on your list that I have seen is &quot;Carrie,&quot; what a classic! DePalma does such a masterful job with it all. Piper Laurie as Carrie&#39;s mother is so magnificently creepy, as is the dark candlelit ambiance of the house they live in.

  4. Excellent thoughts on Carrie.<br /><br />And a great suggestion for a new theme night with Canadian horror films!<br /><br />David Cronenberg is a leading figure, I will look into &quot;The Changeling&quot; (which is set on my DVR now), then maybe I could throw in &quot;Ginger Snaps,&quot; and even &quot;The Gate!&quot;<br /><br />That is fine suggestion for my &quot;fright night&quot; festival

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