Suspiria (1977)

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SuspiriaPoster

Suspiria (1977)

“Always, everywhere, some are believed by all.”

In 1977, Dario Argento’s Suspiria exploded onto the screens worldwide. The R-rated horror film was the first in his Three Mothers Trilogy. Co-written by Daria Nicolodi, the movie became an instant cult film classic. The 2018 remake is still in theaters; however, before seeing the latest, experience the original.

An American ballerina (Jessica Harper) enrolls in the Tanz dance academy in Germany unaware that a coven of witches operates the school during the day and communes with Helena Markos, the supreme deifier of God, at night.

According to urban legends, Nicolodi’s grandmother, Yvonne, inspired the film by retelling stories of her experience at an arts school where she claimed to experience black magic. Argento dismissed the story by stating inspiration sprung from the fantastical English collection of short stories Suspiria de Profundis (1845) written by Thomas De Quincey. Regardless, this film merges fantasy with horror.

The cast is an international ensemble, which causes the strange yet satisfying dialog. The actors spoke their native tongue, which was dubbed over in English in post-production. Carefully watch the exchange between Jessica Harper’s character “Suzy Bannion” and Udo Kier’s “Dr. Frank Mandel.” While it is obvious that Jessica is speaking English, it is unclear what language Udo is speaking. (Spoiler: It’s German. A crew member fed Udo his lines off-camera) It’s practically bewitching to watch.

Udo--Jessica

This would be iconic screen legend Joan Bennett’s (1910-1990) final full-length feature film appearance. She exudes sophistication and glamour as Madame Blanc, head of the Tanz academy.

The set design is equally captivating. Argento based the color scheme off Disney’s 1937 classic Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Each scene is purposefully and beautifully designed.

The creepy music performed by Goblin, an Italian progressive rock band, enhances the horror experience and can be called hypnotic. Over the years several well-known bands have covered Goblin’s music. Listen to the film’s soundtrack here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QkZ2rdbDHM4. (Note: Do you hear Harry Potter when listening like I do?)

Goblin

The art-house horror movie appears on numerous Top Horror Film lists including #28 Cinema Blend, #18 Thrillist, #6 The Guardian, and #5 Mental Floss. It certainly is a top 5 on mine!

Suspiria is streaming for free with limited commercial breaks on Tubi.

Don’t Fear the Opal

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Don’t Fear the Opal

As the holiday gift-giving season kicks off, many are fearful of receiving opals. This fear is unsubstantiated. There is no rational reason to fear opals.

Opals were revered through ancient times. The colorful gemstone represented fidelity. The Ancient Greeks believed that the gem bestowed foresight and prophecy to their owners. Equally, it was the number one favorite gemstone in Ancient Roman times, equating to purity and hope. Further, the Ancient Arabs believed the stone came to earth via bolts of lightning and were, therefore, incredibly special. The stone brought good luck to those in possession during the Middle Ages. Today, the stone is lucky for businesses in China and Japan.

However, the opal is thought to bring bad luck. It is said that only those born in October should wear the gem. Opals were the birthstone for the month until 1912 when the listing was changed to favor transparent gemstones. But do not be dissuaded. One may offset the bad luck if one wears the opal with diamonds. Or if one was born during the 6 PM hour. One urban legend states to never gift an opal. Instead, one should exchange money for the pricey stone. Another legend claims that when the owner of the opal dies, the opal loses its shine. These false stories are rooted in fact.

In 1829, Sir Walter Scott published Anne of Geierstein; or the Maiden of the Mist. The character Lady Hermione wore enchanted opals. In her hair, the opals displayed her mood by changing her hair’s appearance. Lady Hermione met an unfortunate end when a drop of holy water fell onto her opal. The story was popular as readers associated death with the stone.

One person failed to believe the hype: Queen Victoria loved her opals. She helped reignite the opal market, which was displaced by the growing popularity of diamonds. Hence, the second source of the myth.

The diamond broker company De Beers, founded by Cecil Rhodes, began spreading lies about opals in order to sell more diamonds. Luckily, the Black Opal was discovered in the Australian opal mines, and the opal regained its place as an expensive, luxurious gemstone. It is also worth noting that Australia mines 95% of all opals. The Australian government gifted Queen Elizabeth II with the exquisite Andamooka Opal for her coronation. The monarchs jewelry collection boasts a lot of opals.

Today, opals appear in fantasy stories. They were called patronus furum in Latin, translating to “patron of thieves,” due to people believing that if they carried opals wrapped in fresh bay leaves, they would be invisible. Although modern magicians probably don’t believe this, they do use opals to assist in astral projection.

Consider purchasing and wearing opals. And if someone warns you to beware, merely educate them on their worth.

October 21st: Best Ghost Story

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TheOthers

October 21st: Best Ghost Story

Writer/Director Alejandro Amenabar based The Others (2001) off an episode on the British TV show Armchair Theatre. Nicole Kidman plays Grace, a mother of two anxiously awaiting the return of her military husband from World War II. The children suffer from a debilitating disease where sunlight makes them violently ill. Grace spends her time toiling within the dark mansion and admonishing the staff to keep the curtains closed. But then the curtains open, doors open, and sunlight is let in.

Originally written in Spanish and then translated into English, The Others was a box office hit. The budget of $17 million was easily recouped with US gross at $96 million and worldwide gross at $209 million. It remains the highest grossing film in Spain, where most of the scenes were shot. This traditional ghost story does not disappoint.

October 20th: Best Slasher Film

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TexasChainsawMassacre

October 20th: Best Slasher Film

Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) revolutionized the horror genre with his low-budget slasher film. Initial reviews were tepid at best. With an incredibly low budget of $300,000, this film grossed over $30 million in the US alone.

The plot was simple: Cannibalistic psychopaths feast off 5 teenagers on a road trip to visit a grandfather’s grave. The film is entirely fictional; however, it was loosely inspired by infamous killer Ed Gein. It was the subject of lawsuits and mafia ties. After all these years, it remains an iconic slasher film. The movie is part of the permanent collection in the Museum of Modern Art, where it has found newfound praise and criticism.

October 19th: Best Movie with a (Supposed) Curse Attached

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Poltergeist

October 19th: Best Movie with a (Supposed) Curse Attached

Steven Spielberg’s entry into the horror genre is genius. In Poltergeist (1982) unknown forces kidnap the Freeling’s youngest daughter, Carol Anne. After its release, urban legends circulated that the movie was cursed. Several people associated with the film died unexpectantly. Most notable were 1) Dominique Dunne, who played older daughter “Dana,” was strangled by her ex-boyfriend days before her 23rd birthday and shortly after the movie was released and 2) Heather O’Rourke, who played “Carol Anne,” died on the operating table at age 12. Both are buried near one another at Westwood Memorial Park in L.A.

This film grossed over $123 million worldwide and has generated 2 sequels and a reboot. It is an iconic horror film classic with other films referencing it.

Spoiler: By the way, there is only one death in the film: Tweety the Bird.

October 18th: Best Made-for-TV on SyFy

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DeadStill

October 18th: Best Made-for-TV on SyFy

In October 2014, I reviewed the made-for-TV SyFy original film Dead Still. It was the first fictional feature-length film from the Booth Brothers, twin brothers who produced several nonfiction films based on paranormal themes. Four years later, the movie remains enjoyable. The movie will be aired again on October 21st on the SyFy Network. Plan to DVR this one.

Here is the original review:

Dead Still Worth Viewing

I love horror movies. I’ve watched them since I was a teenager. My favorites include the classics: The Exorcist (1975), Jaws (1975), and Poltergeist (1982). However, I like the B-movie horror films, namely The House on Haunted Hill (1959), The Monster Squad (1987), and The Tingler (1959), too. I grew up watching Dr. Paul Bearer on Creature Feature on WTOG. Horror movies transcend decades and act as social commentary. The Booth Brothers’ new film Dead Still incorporates the Victorian practice of taking mourning portraits into a fictional modern-day inheritance issue. Dead Still, an original SyFy movie, is worth viewing.

The Horror film genre remains popular. Box office rival Annabelle nearly toppled Gone Girl this past weekend. Even though each film generated over $37 million in ticket sales, Annabelle was the money winner. Produced for under $7 million dollars, Annabelle’s return in one weekend was five times its production costs. Wow! Low-budget horror films produce huge profits. This applies to films released exclusively on television with DVD sales later.

Dead Still’s estimated production costs were $2 million dollars. That’s extremely low for any film project. Moreover, the film shines with beautiful cinematography, haunting music, and A-list acting.

Filmed on location in Baton Rouge, Dead Still features an incredibly spooky house. Philip Adrian Booth captures the moody ambiance of the house, as well as, the Negative world. Remember: This is a low-budget film. Philip does a lot on a tight budget.

Equally impressive is the eerily evocative soundtrack. Twin brother Christopher Saint Booth assembled a soundtrack heavy with strings—quite appropriate for a horror film. Working as “Saint,” Christopher has assumed the role as music scorer for their productions. Christopher delivers.

Producers landed three strong actors. Ray Wise is absolutely wicked. Mr. Wise’s transformation into the crazy “Wenton Davis,” great grandfather and original owner of the antique Victorian camera, is creepy. Creepy weird and chilling. Ben Browder as “Brandon” is convincing as the relationship-challenged heir to the camera. He’s at his best in the Negative world. Gavin Casalegno portrays “Bobby,” Brandon’s son. His facial expressions convey what words cannot. Already boasting an impressive acting resume, Gavin has a long career ahead of him.

Graphic scenes are limited; however, I could have done without the sexual scene with the newlyweds. It didn’t add any real content and could have been achieved without the nudity and hand-gripping bedrail close-ups.

The antique Victorian camera is an amazing prop. The claw-footed, custom-made stand is intricately detailed and gorgeous. Reproductions of mourning portraits are impactful. They realistically represent the type of photographs popular in America and Europe from 1840-1891.

Dead Still is entertaining and gruesome. The Booth Brothers have expanded their filmmaking collection and have made the jump into the fictional horror movie genre. I look forward to their next film. Until then, stay still—Dead Still.

October 17th: Top 5 Animated Films for Halloween

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October 17th: Top 5 Animated Films for Halloween

These are some of the best animated films with creepy themes to watch with the family for Halloween.

  1. Coraline (2009): Sinister secrets lurk behind a door in the old house Coraline and her parents move into. In a parallel universe, Coraline finds she really didn’t want what she wished for.
  2. The Corpse Bride (2005): Victor Van Dort practices his impeding wedding proposal and awakes the corpse bride, who thinks she is actually married to Victor. Another Tim Burton classic.
  3. The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005): Stop-action Claymation film from the creators of Wallace and Gromit see the duo investigating the sabotage of the village’s annual vegetable contest. It’s clever, sophisticated, and full of humor.
  4. Hotel Transylvania (2012): Dracula runs a luxury resort for monster families. When a human boy discovers the hotel, Dracula tries to disguise him from the other monsters and his daughter. The third installment of this franchise opened this past summer earning over $425 million dollars worldwide.
  5. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993): The pumpkin king of Halloween Town, Jack Skellington, is bored and sets off on an adventure to stumble across Christmas Town. Tim Burton’s stop-action animated film became an instant Halloween classic. It boasts an fantastic soundtrack, as well.

 

October 16th: I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream

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Scream

October 16th: I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream

Wes Craven’s Scream (1996) received an Honorable Mention in “Top 10 Opening Scenes in Movies” from WatchMojo.com (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=74BE-_jsEmc). Screenwriter Kevin Williamson makes fun of the horror film genre by littering references throughout. Scream rejuvenated the dying horror film genre and ignited new interest. There are four films in the $600 million dollar worldwide grossing franchise; however, the first one is the best.