Halloween Scene: Scream (1996) & House Of Wax (1953)

Even amongst all this Christmas craziness, I still find some time to check out the occasional horror movie (though not as much as I would like). I made a double feature out of the mostly unrelated Scream and House of Wax on the NetBox the other night and had a good time with both.

I saw Scream back when it came out. I don’t think it was in the theaters, more likely at a friend’s house. At some point, I bought it on VHS andkept it secret from my parents. I wasn’t very well versed in horror at the time, but I liked it a lot, especially Matthew Lillard and Jamie Kennedy (what 13-year-old didn’t?) even though I got almost none of the horror references. I watched it again a few years back with Sam and Megan along with Hostel before heading down to Wizard World Philly the next day. We were all pretty freaked out and  I remember thinking that Scream held up pretty well. After watching it again with even more horror movies under my belt, I’m not sure if I like it as much. It was still enjoyable, but I didn’t buy into it as much this time around. I was left with a lot of head scratching “that doesn’t make sense” moments. For instance, how does Rose McGowan not open the door back into the house from the garage one moment and the killer does the next? Also, what kind of garage doesn’t have a side door? Also, upon further viewing, I don’t really buy Skeet Ulrich and Lillard’s explanation at the end of the movie for why they did it. I know it’s a joke throughout the movie that you don’t really need a motive anymore to be a killer, but why the hell does Lillard’s character do it? I can buy Ulrich’s motive, but Lillard literally says he’s doing it because he’s seen to many movies. Really? You’ve decided to plunge knives into your classmates because you’re seen too many movies? I’ve seen a butt load of horror movies and I don’t feel the need to kill anyone (that’s what video games are for).Plus, it’s funny to hear about how expensive cell phones are, with the cop yelling at Ulrich something like “How can a KID afford one of these?!”Hehe.

Those minor problems aside, it’s still a really enjoyable movie and changed the game for horror. Up until that time, horror was in pretty dire straights after a late-80s slump. Scream brought some heft to the table with a fairly solid story, a fun premise,”master” horror director Wes Craven, a script by the Dawson’s Creek guy, a stable of great actors (I think they all kill in this movie, except for Ulrich who’s channeling Johnny Depp a bit too much for my tastes), plenty of nods to horror fans and, of course, presenting us with “the rules.” Sure, older horror fans knew that you never screw, smoke, do drugs or say “I’ll be right back,” but those of us who were more impressionable at the time hadn’t figured it all out. I will say that, while I didn’t remember many of the scenes and movies referenced in Scream, I always remembered those rules. Heck, I actually wanted a few more. Maybe Craven, Williamson and Kennedy can get together and write a book/make a few YouTube videos. They’re making a fourth Scream right? I smell a potential tie-in! For some reason (and I hate when they do this), only the first Scream movie is available for instant watch on the NetBox, which is a bummer because I want to watch 2 and 3 again. It’s been a while since I’ve seen 2 again and I’ve only seen 3 one time (gotta love the Jay and Silent Bob cameos).

Up next was the original House of Wax movie, starring Vincent Price. I had seen the 2005 remake which is most well known for murdering Paris Hilton (for what it’s worth, I think she actually did a good job in the movie), but the two movies are completely different. The original stars Price as a man who runs a wax museum. His business partner burns it to the ground and Price is assumed dead, only to return with a much more macabre-oriented museum with wax figures that look suspiciously like people from the neighborhood. The remake revolves around a bunch of kids whose car breaks down in a town seemingly overrun with wax figures. Anyway, I’m a fan of anything Vincent Price is in, I’m still making my way through the MGM Vincent Price DVD box set I was given when I was still a lowly researcher at Wizard. We’re also fraternity brothers in Alpha Sigma Phi, so there’s that. I even included the man in one of those “What three people would you like to have dinner with?” essays that helped me get into college (Jimi Hendrix and Chicago columnist Mike Royko were the other two, for what it’s worth).

House of Wax continues my huge levels of enjoyment whenever seeing Price on screen. He plays his usual awesome self, you know, the seemingly normal guy who’s going a little bit crazy. This time around SPOILER WARNING, Price uses his thugs-turned-artists (one of which is Charles Bronson) and his own skills to kill people so he can cover them in wax and put them up in his brand new chamber of horrors (he doesn’t have good use of his hands since the fire). He killed the guy who tried to burn the place down and goes after his girlfriend. That’s where things get troublesome, because that woman’s roommate recognizes her dead friend in the museum. Eventually the cops catch on and there’s a manhunt. While watching it, I was continually struck by how similar this movie is to Roger Corman’s A Bucket of Blood (1959), though the characters’ motivations for turning corpses into art are completely different.

You might have noticed from the poster that the movie was originally filmed in 3D and much like my viewing of the My Bloody Valentine remake, I watched it without the aid of the third dimension. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the movie because it would have too many “whoa, look what’s flying at the camera NOW” moments, but those are few and far between. I actually forgot the movie was even originally in 3D until the opening of the new wax museum where there’s a dude smacking those paddleballs around at the audience. I bet that was pretty cool in 3D, but you’re not really missing much (not like, say Friday The 13th 3D, which is a bummer when not in 3D). Also, just check out how rad that poster is? This one’s definitly worth a look and makes me want to open a movie theater like The Alamo Drafthouse in Austin or The New Beverly in LA so I could show movies like this as they were originally intended. Anyone looking to hook that up in Orange County NY? I’ll be your manager, no probs.

Wild(er) and Crazy Flicks

2009-01-10
5:19:22 am

One of my favorite aspects of Xbox’s watch instantly option is that I can go through every movie offered online and add whatever looks even remotely interesting to my queue. Which is a great way to watch flicks by some classic directors. Within 24 hours, Em and I watched two movies by acclaimed director Billy Wilder (check him out if you’ve never heard of him, he’s probably most famous for Sunset Blvd. which is worth your time). I actually didn’t even realize that two movies I had already added were directed by him. I added Seven Year Itch because it’s regarded as a classic and Marilyn Monroe’s in it. Kiss Me, Stupid grabbed my attention because Dean Martin stars.

I’ll start with the movie that was…less good, which is Kiss Me, Stupid. There are two huge problems with this movie. The first is that it’s one of those stories where everyone’s lying to each other to make things easier and the whole time you’re yelling “just tell the truth” at the screen. Of course they never do till the end, because that would be the end of the movie. The other problem is that it’s just kind of creepy as the guy who played My Favorite Martian (and was also on Picket Fences) lets stranded crooner Dino (Dean Martin if you couldn’t figure out) hit on his pretend wife while he’s in the room. It’s even worse that Dino does it! It’s well acted and all that and they even incorporate some of Dean’s actual on stage antics in the movie, but, like I said, there’s just too many things taking me out of the movie. Em and I watched it while we took the Christmas decorations down and were both completely weirded out. Skip this one unless you’re a HUGE Dean Martin, My Favorite Martian, needlessly confusing story or Billy Wilder fan.

Luckily, The Seven Year Itch was awesome. The story follows a pocket book editor as his wife and kid leave New York City to summer somewhere only to head home and find out that the gorgeous Marilyn Monroe is living in the apartment above him. I’ve never seen Marilyn Monroe in anything but pictures (speaking of which, this movie has the famous subway/white dress scene (the the full-on image never appears in the flick). I freaking loved this movie. First off, it showed me a time period/practice I’ve never seen before. I had never heard of wives and kids leaving for the whole summer. Plus, I’m a sucker for anything set in New York City in the past. Next, the acting is fantastic. Marilyn doesn’t just seem like the dityz blonde (though she is both), there’s still some depth there without getting int he way. Also, the male lead Tom Ewell had some experience with the character as he played him in the original stage version. Even the smaller parts are all great. But what I really like about the story (and the basic story is very interesting as Tom tries, at the same time, to both be with and stay away from his neighbor) is that Tom gets to imagine all these different scenarios that we then see on screen. You know, kind of like Scrubs, but it doesn’t make me want to punch someone in the face. I highly recommend this flick.

Now a few general points of interest/thoughts. Just for the record, Wilder wrote and directed both flicks, though he didn’t write the play that Kiss is based on. I was surprised by the large amounts of sexuality and innuendo in both movies. I’m not sure if this was something that Wilder specifically dabled in, or if things were a little but more acceptable back then than we think, but there’s all kinds of sex bubbling around the surfaces (most obviously in the “will he have an affair” plot of Seven Year Itch). I was also surprised to see that Kiss Me came out nine years AFTER Itch (Kiss is from 1964, Itch 1955). First off because Itch is so much better, but also because Kiss is in black and white while Itch is in color. Just some interesting things.

Next up on my Billy Wilder list? Probably The Apartment from 1960 which stars Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine and Fred MacMurray.