Summer’s here and let’s be honest, drinking wine in Carmel Valley beats writing a horror rag 9 out of 10 times. But… like on every vacation, I got to catch up on some thoughts. This issue we take a quick look at the stellar film The taking of Deborah Logan, get caught up on the 30 year old classic In the Mouth of Madness and celebrate boob-less horror. We might even talk a bout a few other things as well.
Infinity Pool (2023) – Ascending Angel
While some may be asking if Brandon Cronenberg will ever eclipse the brilliance of his father, he happily blazes his own trail by pushing the boundaries of smart technology horror. One ting is clear, in his short career, Brandon has been swing for the fences with some mind bending psychedelic horror that challenges the intellect. His latest Infinity Pool, carries the torch. Brilliantly, he casts Mia Goth in a pivotal role.
The elite are perfectly fine taking using their wealth to their advantage, but Infinity Pool shows the insane lengths that they may be willing to go. The worst part of it all is that it is all for fun. In this Brandon Cronenberg offers a scathing, if not wholly realistic, view into a world where money really can fix everything for the people lucky enough to have it.
While Brandon Cronenberg is pushing the limits of visual stimulation in with his psychedelic body horror transitions, the visuals landed a bit too close to those of Possessor. I’ll give it a pass this time, but he’s going to have to find another magic trick for his next one.
In the Mouth of Madness (1994)
Wow, nearly 30 years after its release, I finally finished John Carpenter’s apocalypse trilogy with the completion of In the Mouth of Madness. This is another Tubi Terror joint. This one tracks John Trent (Sam Neill), an insurance investigator that get wrapped up in an investigation concerning the disappearance of horror writer Sutter Cane. The journey takes Trent to the brink of sanity as he learns that much strong forces are at play.
This one has everything from Lovecraftian esotericism to boiler plate body horror. Sam Neill once again proves his horror bona-fides for one of these brain bending film. While I am talking about it… why the hell is there no review of Possession (1981) up in this hizzy? Who the hell is running this place?
Carpenter uses some familiar techniques, to the extent that some of the effects give off a The Thing (1982) vibe. The scenes are horrifying and the plot is really cool, but somehow the film locks enough connective to tissue to be a great film. Still, it is a really good film and a fitting conclusion to the trilogy (since he insisted on making one).
The Taking of Deborah Logan (2014)
What is this you ask? It’s another MF Tubi Terror. I’ll say it again, I am loving this streaming service.
The Taking of Deborah Logan tells the story of a distressed daughter that is dealing with her mother’s descent into dementia. She agrees to allow a team to come and film a documentary about her mother. She needs the money. This follows the found footage model, although the footage formula, but in truth mistakes are made and it loses some credibility.
Some of the performances are literally fantastic: Jill Larson as the titular character and Anne Ramsay as her daughter. Ramsay’s ability to convey real anguish at her mother’s deterioration stands out. Other performances are just “ho hum”.
Despite the technical flaws, this film has some seriously frightening bits. For starters, it’s easy to empathize with Deborah as she is just a poor old lady suffering from a horrible disease. What’s worse, is that as her condition worsens, something far more sinister rises to the surface. This demonic force involve ritual sacrifice and demonic possession. Oh yeah, and SNAKES!
I’ll add that the film wraps up with some of the most haunting imagery ever put on film. This one comes highly recommended.
Getting Slayed by The Slayer (1982)
A while back, I penned a love letter to the best horror movies of 1982. The Slayer (1982) did not make that list. To be fair, I had not see the film at that point. After recent consideration, I don’t regret it. That doesn’t mean it is a bad film, but it manages to self-destruct by not knowing how to wrap itself up and relying on a cheap parlor trick to cover the spread. I will say that this film creates some pretty cool ‘slasher’ style moments that may be worth a watch.
The pacing might be a bit slow, but up until the very last moments the slow burn feels pretty good.
Pleasantly Surprised by…
Raised on horror, the genre spent most of its time in the early days being associated with cheap boobie shots, wanton misogyny teen sexy-time and gratuitous violence. Likewise, the films always drew my mother ire. Fortunately, she never stayed up to watch them, so I routinely was able to reason my way around her roadblocks. The good news is that as a father of young girls, I do not need to be worried about the same things… or at least not in the same quantities that my parents did.
The horror films of today are super smart and do not need to rely on cheap thrills (apart from never-ending jump-scares) to get their point across. Furthermore, the changing attitudes of “woke” (tongue in cheek) audiences have a much lower tolerance for these cheap thrills. The result, great horror films for younger audiences. If my 12 year old daughter is brave enough to handle the horror of it all, go for it.
None of that is to say that there are no filters, but the filter seems to be passing through some pretty awesome flicks that seem to push, but not break some sensible boundaries.
See, we are evolving as a society.