Friday, August 18, 2017

200 Items Or Less: Duel (1971)

A few thoughts: A motiveless chase thriller wherein a man gets on the bad side of a crazed trucker who proceeds to stalk him and threaten his life over the course of an afternoon. Shot almost entirely on the road, the two drivers never have a face-to-face moment, which only adds to the disarmingly simple and creepy vibe of the movie. It's weirdly terrifying the way they shoot the truck/trucker, presented as this daunting figure without reason, without a face, and totally relentless in his resolve to torment. Though some of the tension does become defused when they choose to throw in voice-over narration to spell out exactly what the character is thinking and feeling. It's distracting, but never enough to take you out of the story. Although it's a simple thriller on paper, the way it's shot and skillfully choreographed is anything but. Dennis Weaver does a great job in the lead, playing off the situation and nothing else in an appropriately paranoid way. The feature film debut of Steven Spielberg, and one of his greatest and most focused achievements.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Top 10 Favorite Horror Performances

This is one of the toughest top 10s I've ever tried to put together, which means by the time I hit "publish" I'll remember 5 other things I wished I'd put on it. But oh well. All lists I make are temporary, and that's part of what I like about them. Just seeing how much my opinion changes as time goes on makes this stuff as entertaining for me to read as I could ever hope it would be for anyone else.

I've mentioned this before, but horror is one of my very favorite genres. And while it doesn't often contain the greatest acting around, there are some obvious exceptions to this rule. This list, as the title may suggest, is by no means an attempt at being objective in any way. These are just my favorites, and when condensed to only 10 total performances, a very small list indeed. Cutting it down to only 30 was tough enough, so you can only imagine how sad it is for me to leave some of these things off. So I guess I'll just toss out a few honorable mentions now, because it would be sad to ignore them completely:


200 Items Or Less: The Day Of The Triffids (1962)

A few thoughts: Witness a walking pot farm zap itself on an electric fence! A meteor shower causes most of the population of Earth to go blind and drops a sort of alien flower/spore that spreads and kills people. How about that for a campy sci/fi horror premise? By causing this mass blindness, the movie finds a way to demonstrate how panicky and selfishly exploitative people can be, which I found very clever and well done. But let's talk about what brings people in and makes the movie special: the giant killer alien flowers. They're pretty cheesy, but I mean, what else would/could/should you expect? This isn't high art, it's a movie about evil alien plants that walk around (or I guess "scoot" would be more accurate) and kill people. The plot meanders at times, but the special effects work is great in that goofy '60s sort of way, so I can forgive a few pacing issues. This movie delivers on its promise and doesn't leave the audience feeling cheated by a lack of triffids. There are plenty of triffids, don't worry.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

200 Items Or Less: The Man They Could Not Hang (1939)

A few thoughts: Boris Karloff plays a scientist on the verge of a life-enhancing breakthrough when he is convicted of a murder he didn't really commit -- at least not in the traditional sense. To go much further in describing the plot would mean giving away a great deal of the bulk of the film, so I'll just leave it at that. This isn't exactly new territory for Karloff, as he played his fair share of crazed, genius scientists, but that doesn't make this any less entertaining to watch. Well-paced at under 70 minutes long, the plot moves along at a steady clip and never goes stale. I like how the story shifts focus and - to an extent - changes genres as it goes along, culminating in a very fun sequence wherein characters are creatively killed off one by one. As is often the case with his movies, the main highlight here is Karloff. Though he winds up becoming a fairly stereotypical maniac, he still goes through changes that - as crazy as they may be - are partially understandable. Not essential Karloff, but well worth the watch.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Top 5 Jeffrey Combs performances

One of the greatest cult character actors of the past 30 years, Combs is often overlooked by mainstream audiences and awards, but has a huge following of loyal fans who appreciate him for the talented performer that he is. These aren't meant to be wordy or deeply detailed, so no more introduction, it's list time.



5. From Beyond (1986)