Summertime Screams: #1 Don't Leave Home...Ever!

June 4, 2015

 PHOTO: Still from American Werewolf in London, courtesy of Universal Pictures Entertainment

 

Staycations are safest! You can journey to far distant lands from the safety of your comfy sofa.

 

Perilous places film characters venture to have been: The Overlook Hotel (The Shining), Bodega Bay (The Birds) , The Bates Motel (Psycho), the Cahulawassee River valley (Deliverance) of the southern backwaters, Antonio Bay (The Fog), a Slovakian hostel (Hostel),  the Pine-Wood Motel (Vacancy), or picking up hitchikers named John Ryder (the Hitcher), may not be places you want to venture on your travels, either. 

 

This list is inspired by my favorite horror movie American Werewolf In London, Jack and David venture out on the backpacking adventure of a lifetime, and it will prove fatal for both.

 

American Werewolf In London (1981): Directed by the legendary John Landis, also masterfully by Landis intoxicating combination of raunch and terror, laughter and chills. The frisson of the haunting landscape and the ominous warnings of the locals at the Slaughtered Lamb pub "Beware the moon, lads. Keep to the roads." There is something so inviting, alluring and gruesome at the same time, the comic elements are so strong, the actors so en pointe, whilst the horror is so bloody gruesome by Rick Baker earned a well-deserved Oscar for his work on the werewolf transformation, victims, nightmare soldiers, undead creatures, and Jack's "meatloafesque" flesh wounds with hypnotic dangly bit that will have you lulled to their will. So bloody good that there has been nothing like it since, the pure mastery of the sex-death attraction. The character actors are incredible, from short cameos by Frank Oz as Mr. Collins, so too the touching perormances of David Naughton as David Kessler, and Jennie Agutter as Nurse Alex Price. Griffin Dunne's macabre but endearing portrayal of purgatorial victim Jack Goodman is very memorable. The tragic tale of two college backpackers on the trip of a lifetime through the countryside of Europe, their unexpected last stop into oblivion, East Proctor.

 

Motel Hell (1980): Directed by Kevin Connor, written by a handful of writers, it is a twisted but tender tale of a brother and sister who run the motel, Vincent and Ida Smith played by Rory Calhoun and Nancy Parson. Where the beef jerky is the best in the county, because it's made from the flesh of unwitting tourists. Yet, you almost feel sorry for the crazy cannibals, they become sympathetic and pitiful at times, making them appear almost human instead of merely murdrous monsters. A great cameo by Wolfman Jack, who plays radio personality Reverend Billy. Stylistic punches of vibrant and neon red in the mise-en-scene are effective in this grande gore-fest.

PHOTO: Still shot from Motel Hell, Courtesy of IncrediblyStrangeMovie.Ca blogspot

 

Interview With A Vampire (1994): Directed by the amazing Neil Jordan, stars Brad Pitt, with Tom Cruise as Lestat, and supported by Kirsten Dunst and Antonio Banderas. To me this epic blood-sucking tale seems like a travelogue from the purgatorial flames,  and the requisite daytime nap and sanguinary room service for Lestat, Louis, and little Claudia. The centuries-spanning sojurns take Louis de Point du Lac to Paris, New Orleans, and modern day San Francisco.

 

 PHOTO: Still from Sheitan, courtesy of MoviePilotCom

 

Sheitan (2006): Directed by Kim Chapiron, stars Vincent Cassel as the villian, with Olivier Barthelemy, and Roxane Mesquida. Odd, verging on the surreal, erotic horror. The unsettling journey begins at the Styxx Club disco in Paris a group of party-loving youngster find themselves invited for the weekend to the French countryside, their quaint journey is extinguished by perverse Satan-worshipping married twins, both twisted roles played by the incredible French actor, Vincent Cassel.

 

PHOTO: Still of Vincent Cassel in the double trouble roles of demented twins

 

And Soon The Darkness (1970/2010): Although they are movies with the same name, with the storylines following the "stranger in a strange land, goes awry", they are two totally different creatures, each with vastly different feel, or atmosphere. The original is the lovely technicolor grainy nostaligic horror/chase film, whilst the remake because of the surreal, apocalyptic location, and high-definition realism, takes on a surreal horror verging on noir-apocalyptic. 

 

Anthropophagus aka The Grim Reaper (1980): Directed by Joe D'Amato, stars Tia Farrow and Saverio Vallone. This group of tourists will be standed indefinitely, they will never make it off this island. For me, the setting creates atmosphere, shot on location inthe Italian Riviera, the water appears like glass. The abandoned village in the uninhabited island is also nothing that could be reproduced, nor recreated in a studio soundstage, it is like the haunting graininess only found in old film stock, so too the actual abandoned village is spooky, sublime, and spectacular in adding to the dark, creepy, unsettling mood of the film.

 

 

Tourist Trap (1979): Directed by David Schmoeller, stars Chuck Connors as Mr. Slaussen, with Jocelyn Jones, Robin Sherwood, Jon Van Ness, and Tanya Roberts. The perfectly named horror film, this spider to the fly said has a group of tourists getting trapped after one car gets a flat tire, find Mr. Slausen's macabre make-shift museum called Slaussen's Lost Cabin filled with life-like mannequins. An eerie, grainy, moody, often unsettling images are created from the intertwining of the grotesque masks, mannequins, and murder, enhanced with a breathy unique score by Italian composer Pino Donaggio. This obscure and underappreciated retro horror slasher is worth the moments of campiness. Remember kids, do not ignore the "closed to the public" sign.

 

Don't Look Now (1973): Directed by the innovative Nicholas Roeg, stars Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland as a grieving couple seeking a change of scenery after the to unexpected death of their only daughter, they travel to Venice where he is to restore an old church, in hopes of drowning their sorrows in the ancient canals. This occult thriller, masterfully woven imagery of water and hints of blood red, smatterings of sex and seances, with Gothic ghost story elements and macabre inspirations of Poe and Hitchcock it is a vintage time capsule of suspense and terror subtly building toward the climax. 

 

 PHOTO: Still from Don't Look Now, courtesy of Scene360.Com

 

A Lonely Place to Die (2011): Directed by Julian Gilbey, written by Julian and Will Gilbey, stars Melissa George, Ed Speleers, Karel Roden, Eamonn Walker. Because it is such an amazing combination of adventure/action, mystery/thriller, and dramatic elements, it is worth praising as an all-around amazing film that you can never predict where it leads or how it will end. Astonishing vistas, scenic shots combined with a tightly paced script, incredible editing, great character development, solid actors, and many twists and suspenseful turns along the way. What starts out as a bunch of climbers ascending a dangerous peak in the gorgeous Scottish Highlands...but they find something in the woods that takes them off track. A wild ride!

 

Splinter (2008): Directed by Toby Wilkins, stars Shea Whigham, Paulo Costanzo, and Jill Wagner. On their way to a romantic outing to the Oklahoma wilds, a young couple is carjacked by a convict and junkie girlfriend, seemingly regular roadkill with turn out to threaten all their lives from a growing menace. This film was a nice surprise, that little indie gem that you have not heard of before but you take a chance on and are rewarded by a truly enjoyable, satisfying and utterly fantastic horror film with incredible special effects.

 

Long Weekend (1978): This atmospheric Australian horror ma be vintage but is a classic tale of a turbulent marriage turns tragic when nature turns on their pastoral weekend trip, not only do the characters realize their marriage is doomed, but so are they. The isolated beach of New South Wales shall becomes the last thing they see, and ultimately their graves.

 

Identity (2003): Directed by James Mangold, stars John Cusack, Ray Liotta, Amanda Peet, among the 10 guests stranded at the motel during a storm, they are killed off one by one. In the vein of Bates Motel in Psycho meets Pine-Wood Motel from Vacancy, but with a mind-bending twist that takes it into the realm of Jacob's Ladder. Just sit back and enjoy the ride.

 

Animal (2014): Directed by Brett Simmons, stars Jeremy Sumpter, Elizabeth Gillies, Keke Palmer, Joey Lauren Adams, and others. This collaborative indie production delivers developed characters, suspenseful pacing, shocks, and some twists. Although the story is cliche with the venturing into the dark woods and dangers lurking therein, I thoroughly enjoyed this creepy creature feature. Drew Barrymore is one of the Executive Producers with her company Flower Films. The more you see the creature, the practical effects stand up and are realistic and organic to the story, creature designer Gary J. Tunnicliffe.

 

 

 

 

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