Happy autumnal equinox, ducklings! The tang of fall is in the air even in Southern California. We had rain for a day or so (I know, crazy) and it's washed away much of the summer's dusty haze, leaving a blistering blue sky and cool breeze. Fabulous. The Elvises in my neighbor's window are garlanded with harvest wreaths. I have, as usual, failed to harvest much of anything from my garden, but am nonetheless celebrating the season of the reaper with some lovely scary movies. (Art Boy: "But you always watch scary movies.")
First up was Final Girl's October Film Club Selection: "The Burning." Like the Friday the 13th films, it concerns a camp populated almost entirely with counselors, who are stalked by a vengeful killer. In this case, the killer is Cropsy, who is angry because a group of campers set him on fire. They didn't mean to, but Cropsy is angry all the same, and has taken up his trusty gardening shears to exact vengeance. Art Boy and I watched this last week (he wanted to Netflick it early & send it back so other FG readers could have at it; isn't he nice?) and enjoyed it tremendously. It opens with a group of boys at camp, whispering urgently above their flashlights, and the entire film retains the feel of a campfire ghost story. Yeah, it's got gore, it's got oversexed counselors, but it's genuinely creepy. (Except for Jason Alexander's scenes, in which he will not shut up. Art Boy and I imagined him constantly improvising on set, trying to take over each scene with his jovial banter, pissing his colleagues off. It's fun to see him, though. Holly Hunter's in it too, but is much quieter.) If you're hungry for a slasher set in the woods, this is a great bet.
As for the gore... this was the uncut version that's just been released on DVD, and my is it graphic. Cropsy's gardening shears slice merrily through foreheads, necks and limbs, all thanks to the wizardry of Tom Savini. It's lots of fun but the gory moments have sort of a similar feel to the ones Savini created for "Dawn of the Dead": the action almost seems to stop at each one, as if to allow the audience to go "Agggh!" It feels like a tiny interruption. After a while it almost feels like the movie has the hiccups.
I didn't give this a whole lot of thought until last night, when I settled down with Peter Jackson's classic splatterfest "Dead Alive," (Art Boy would not watch this with me), in which a young couple's burgeoning romance is hampered by a zombie plague. I knew it would be gross - I had seen the luncheon scene, with the custard, and I knew about the lawnmower finale. But oh my God. I was shocked. This movie is so tasteless, so over-the-top, so completely disgusting that I watched most of it with my fingers over my eyes going "Ugggh!" (This is different from going "Agggh!") Zombie baby in a Cuisinart, pus in the custard, writhing masses of reanimated intestines that are still passing gas... I can't believe I'm about to say this, but I absolutely adored it. For every "Ugggh!" something made me laugh out loud. (For example, the heroine's indignant shriek of "Your mother ate my dog!" and the sheepish retort "Not all of it.") It's funnier and better paced than "Evil Dead 2." It has a consistently beautiful look - it's set in 1957, and the sets, cars and costumes are gorgeous. Jackson uses color exquisitely: mostly red and green, often spewing out of a zombie or fresh victim. And the gore just... looks nice. It's seamlessly woven in with the action; this movie is sick, but it definitely has not got the hiccups. Sure, it could just be that the whole point is gore. I'm fine with that.