Again, it’s been a while since I have posted anything, but seeing as it’s Halloween, I thought I’d write about the spooky/horror stuff that I’ve been clearing out of my lists lately.
Now, I’m not a huge horror fan. I dabble in some movies and books throughout the year and like to read at least one horror novel during every October. There was a book this year that while it was more of a mystery/suspense novel and not a horror novel, there was enough depravity to qualify in the Silence of the Lambs-type of realm. Unfortunately, it’s on the bench for a future Required Reading episode, so you’ll have to wait on that.
So without a novel to take up all of my spooky time, what did I indulge in this month?
Nosferatu. Yes, the class 1922 silent adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. I’d attempted to watch this 15-20 years ago when it ran on TCM, but I couldn’t get into it. I didn’t have an aversion to silent film at the time or anything; I think that the score used in that release was off-putting (I remember a lot of synthesizer). This release was available on Kanopy and was apparently the latest restoration of the film using prints that were available in different countries. The score was more classical and orchestral and seemed to fit the mood as well.
It took me three nights of watching 30-45-minute chunks of the film to finish it. I nodded off a couple of times, mainly because I was watching around 10:30-11:00 at night and was flat out exhausted from the day. So it wasn’t the film. In fact, the film itself is amazing. Yes, it takes a little while to get used to the fact that you are watching a silent film and it also takes a little while to engage in the plot instead of just looking at the film as if you were looking at an artifact in a museum, but once you do, you see that this is a fairly solid adaptation of the Stoker novel. Max Schreck, in what has to be some of the most groundbreaking makeup of its time (and probably of all-time, to be honest), is a frightening vampire who still is able to be seductive towards Ellen (Greta Schröder). Nowadays, a lot of the vampire stuff I have come across has been full of cheesy makeup and effects or “erotica” that seems to have been written by someone who spent way too much of the 1990s in IRC rooms for goth kids. This, because of its age, feels like a natural and authentic piece that is also a “foundational” vampire texts. Watch.
Vampyr. In contrast to Nosferatu, this is a 1932 vampire flick directed by Carl Dreyer about a drifter named Allan Gray (Julian West) who comes upon an inn filled with weird characters. One of the people inside is a teenage girl named Leone (Sybille Schmitz), whom Gray eventually realizes has been the victim of a vampire and is slowly turning into one. The unique thing about this film is that its main vampire (the one who attacked Leone) is an old woman instead of a man, which I think would have made for a more interesting storyline. But aside from a couple of genuinely scary scenes (Schmitz looks outright demonic at one point when she turns and looks at Gray, Gray has a nightmare about being buried alive, another character is drowned in flour from a mill), the film is ultimately boring. I know in my review of Nosferatu above I snarked about what I’ve seen out of more contemporary vampire flicks, but Vampyr could have done with a little bit of that. Or … something else. It’s missing the hold that Nosferatu has on its audience. Skip.
Forbidden Worlds #1, 24.; Eerie #1 These are three comics that I downloaded from Comic Book Plus a while back and have been sitting on my tablet for a very long time. At one point, I think I did actually read them or part of them, or may have just idly flipped through them. The idea of finding a 1950s pre-Code horror comic for free had been intriguing. The result was a mixed bag. These are anthology books with several short stories, so for every fun or even scary story to read, there’s one that is a dud. The highlights included a Forbidden Worlds story where a guy uses a love potion to get a woman to be with him, but it works too well–she’s nothing but devoted and he eventually becomes abusive and kills her. She then gets his revenge by haunting him to the point where she drains his soul from him and he gets tethered to her for the rest of time. Another “scolding wife” piece sees a henpecked husband actually shove his wife off a subway platform only to find out at the end that it was her sister and not her. In fact, there are a couple of henpecked/cuckolded husband stories in these books. There’s also a Joe Kubert-drawn war story (in Eerie) that is about the strange things a military unit finds on an island in the South Pacific. It’s beautifully drawn (1950s Joe Kubert!) but I have to say totally inappropriate for today because the enemies are native peoples who are portrayed as “savages.” So … a curiosity at best.
The other stories in here involve your typical monsters of werewolves and vampires, some of which are fun to read and others that are so clunky that I skimmed over them. It’s also kind of fun to see those classic 1950s comics ads and wonder if this is what my parents were buying when they were little kids (although maybe not these exact comics–they might have been a little too young). Overall, though? Well, they were free and don’t take up physical space, and they were also fun for what they were. Read if you’re interested in checking out some vintage horror.
Strange Sports Stories #1. I grabbed this at last weekend’s Baltimore Comic-Con out of a $2 bin. It was a 1970s DC horror title that I had heard of, and so I thought that it would be worth the price. It … well, I don’t want to rag on it too much. I’ll just say that while it was fun, I think I’d rather pick up an issue of Ghosts or Forbidden Tales of the Dark Mansion for my DC Bronze Age horror. Donate.
Ghosts in the Burbs. For a number of years now, Liz Sower has been producing this show about supposed hauntings in Wellesley, Massachusetts wherein she is a mom of three young children living in the suburbs and talking to the people in the town about weird things that happened to them. Each episode is its own story, although there is an overarching story arc where it’s possible that Liz is on to something that’s pretty sinister. Each episode runs about 45 minutes to an hour, and is incredibly entertaining. Sower peppers her narration with humor and snarky observations about the area and her neighbors that make you feel like you’re meeting her over coffee and pastries. There’s more than 100 episodes and I’m only on number 23 at the moment, so I have a way to go. But it’s very bingeable, and I find that you can do five or six in a row then come back to it after a while. It’s a Must Listen and you can find it here: Ghosts in the Burbs.