The List Roundup: September 2019

These are the movies from the list that I watched in September.

A Blood Pledge: Broken Promise (2009, Jong-yong Lee, South Korea)

This is the fifth installment of the Whispering Corridors series; I watched the second, Memento Mori, earlier this year. A Blood Pledge continues on the series’ themes of teen suicide and queerness in the harsh school system.

A Blood Pledge’s director is new to the series and pushed it more towards shocking scares than the rest of the series did, but was still in line in terms of atmosphere, dread, character focus. I liked the cast a lot, although their performances were more exaggerated than the usual mutedness of the series.

The Fly II (1989, Chris Walas, USA) 

This movie has a lot working against it, just by following one of the most acclaimed horror movies. Add to that the fact that it tells a much different story from the first (although trying to copy the story of the first probably wouldn’t have earned it any praise either).

The movie centers on the main character’s captivity in a scientific facility, his development throughout his life there, and the relationships he forms. It metamorphoses into a creature feature by the end, and while it’s less creative than its 1986 predecessor, it still goes all in on a couple gory body horror scenes.

Return of the Fly (1959, Edward Bernds, USA)

The sequel to the previous year’s The Fly. Vincent Price is the only returning cast member, and a new director stepped in following the death of the first movie’s director. This one is a shift in tone from the first and lacks the existential horror, which was the reason I enjoyed the first so much.

Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969, Terence Fisher, UK)

This is the fifth installment of Hammer’s Frankenstein movies, which began in 1957. Peter Cushing continues to be my favorite incarnation of the character, bringing the perfect balance of charm, arrogance, and malice.

It’s less of a monster movie and more about crime and intrigue. It’s engaging enough, aside from the baffling inclusion of a rape scene partway through (which, I’ve read, was added at the producer’s request and against the actors’ and director’s protests).

Arundati (2009, Kodi Ramakrishna, India)

I think this is the first Indian film I’ve watched from the list, and it’s a shame it’s taken me this long. I don’t think I’ve seen any Indian movies period, so double shame. The internet tells me that this was a huge blockbuster and a very influential movie. I really have no familiarity with Indian films, but I’ll be interested to see its influence and inspiration in other Indian horror on the list. The DVD I rented had the movie in Hindi instead of its original Telegu, and I would have preferred to see it in its original language.

That said, watching Arundati was pretty wild. At the risk of stating the obvious because I don’t know how much of the movie’s presentation was typical, the movie’s fast pace stood out and required some adjustment on my part. It had a lot of plot and dialogue to get through and still had to make room for the lavish setpieces and songs.

The list has presented me with a lot of horror from around the world, and this is the first one where I felt the movie was speaking a cinematic language that was completely foreign to me. I can’t honestly say why that is, compared to movies from other countries, but there’s clearly a lot for me to learn.

Death Spa (1989, Michael Fischa, USA)

yo death spa 

People are too hard on this movie, but also they’re not wrong

Also just saying it’s in pole position for best title sequence. Imagine if that wasn’t at the beginning and only in its diagetic place at the end.

Wake Wood (2009, David Keating, Ireland)

A brooding wallow in a family’s grief, mixed with a good dose of small-town cult. Low-budget feel and a strong cast.

Death felt so pervasive in this movie: from the couples’ loss, to the constant accidents in this small town, to the town’s reason for being centered around the cult. Keating maintains this atmosphere throughout and effectively uses it to shock and build dread.

Orphan (2009, Jaume Collet-Serra, USA)

Orphan is a drama/thriller about a family adopting a strange girl and their destruction that follows, as manipulation and suspicion turn to distrust, which turns to pure antagonism between the mother and her adopted daughter. 

It hits some really high highs, particularly with Vera Farmiga’s performance. Much of the movie is spent on her character’s past trauma and insecurities and this enhances the main plot of the orphan herself. It’s much to the movie’s credit that Farmiga is given as much room as she is. 

There’s little to complain about, only that the movie felt like it didn’t quite reach its potential. Jump scares and abrupt noises feel like they’re just going through the motions, resulting in a feeling that someone in charge wasn’t confident enough in the great thing they had.

Sorority Row (2009, Stewart Hendler, USA)

It’s a slasher. Unapologetically so. There’s something to be said for a movie that doesn’t pretend to be anything it’s not, and this feels like a love letter to the slashers of the 80s heyday and the 90s teen revival.

Shocker (1989, Wes Craven, USA)

In Shocker, a serial killer is executed in the electric chair after making a deal with the devil (in a spectacular scene). He uses his power to travel from person to person and through electric devices to stalk and torment the person responsible for his capture. It’s very Wes Craven, with the same kind of camp and dark humor as A Nightmare on Elm Street but more of it.

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