More Movies; Improved Meat Pies
I’ve been in quarantine now for around 4 weeks, I think. And you know what? It’s going well, on the whole. Not only am I not sick (which is something to be celebrated right there), but I am finding plenty to do to keep myself busy. I’ve read a lot of books, of course. I’ve fiddled around with a new Simon Wake story, though that is going slowly. I feel, writing-wise, like I have a hangover, after a year and a bit of working on the same piece every day (a Simon Wake novel, which I am now in the process of showing to agents). Anyway, fiction is happening, but slowly.
But! The two topics I really yearn to tell you about are the same two topics that I yearned to tell you about last week, vis., meat pies and movies. We have had a meat-pie breakthrough. Also, we’ve seen lots more movies. The meat pie first.
The Best Meat Pie Yet
It was a pork pie—ground sausage, cooked up in a skillet with mushrooms and onions and a little Applewood rub. But here is the magical part: we cooked up three apples until they were mushy and used that instead of gravy. This resulted in a pie beyond pie. A pie of almost supernatural deliciousness.
Anyway, so that’s the pie news. Now for movies.
Okay, so some of these movies are ones I saw last week, or the week before that, or the week before that, and just forgot to mention. But some are genuine this-week movies. All of them are available online, at least for me. And for this post, I’m only going to talk about the movies I’ve seen that I’ve liked, on the assumption that other people might be looking around for new things to watch just as avidly as I am at the moment.
Alec and I stumbled on this one by accident. We’d just seen William Castle’s House on Haunted Hill (1959), but that is only about an hour long, and we wanted to watch something else. In House on Haunted Hill, our attention had been caught by actress Carol Ohmart, so we looked her up on IMDB (our new best friend) and saw this movie among her credits. The title appealed to us, it was listed as horror/comedy, and it had not only Carol Ohmart in it but also Lon Chaney Jr. and Sid Haig. We therefore watched it at once.
And… it is great. Really, truly great. Lon Chaney Jr. plays a caretaker. His charges are the last surviving remnants of a family with a genetic abnormality that causes them to get steadily more uncontrollably violent as they get older. Sid Haig is the oldest of the three siblings we meet, and he’s just about ready to join his growling elders (who dwell, under heavy restraints, in the basement). There are two younger girls in the family, and they are also succumbing to the family madness.
And then a relation (Carol Ohmart) shows up. She wants to put the family in an institution, and take over all the family assets. This leads to lots of trouble. I’m not going to say more about the plot. The story is fascinating, and the end is, I think, genuinely moving.
There is an interesting tension, here—is the proper place for these people an institution of some sort? And I mean, logically, especially considering how dangerous they are, the answer there is yes. But the movie makes you feel very indignant about the suggestion. You are on the side of this murderous bunch. They seem so cheerful about it all. It seems so innocent. In fact, you feel that they are innocent. But it isn’t like you hate their victims or feel as if they deserve it. It isn’t that kind of movie. The victims are innocent, too. And the ending feels right… it is really the only emotionally correct way out of this situation.
This is listed as horror/comedy on IMDB, and I see what they mean. Is this exactly a comedy? I am not sure. It is very funny in places, and also sometimes it is very shocking, in a way that also produces laughter, of the nervous, startled sort. Is it exactly horror? Not sure there either. It is certainly horrifying. But it isn’t a movie that is very easy to classify, and I, at least, had the feeling as I watched it that I was seeing something original.
Alec says: “Spider Baby is like Shirley Jackson having an acid trip.”
The plot is easily described, because, I mean, it’s Hamlet. It is Hamlet, from the perspective of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, played out in a modern brewery, and with a scheme for world-domination and some other stuff thrown in for good measure. It is a delightful comedy, and Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas are great as the lead losers who end up saving the day. It is also nice to see Max Von Sydow in the role of a villainous brewer.
This movie is comedy, pure and simple. Or anyway, it isn’t horror-comedy. It is, I think, very funny. If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend it.
Weirdly, I’d never seen this movie before. It was fun, though parts of it felt a bit on the nose at the moment. I mean, it is about a (zombie) plague. When the newscaster tells people to isolate ill loved ones and stay home… all I’m saying is, it sounded familiar.
Now, I often shy away from zombie movies, but this one is an honorable exception. I’m sort of assuming, though, that you, dear reader, know about Shaun of the Dead, so I am not going to go into details.
I think one thing, of many, that I liked about this movie is that it resists explaining the cause of the zombie plague. One explanation (I forget what) is mentioned on the news as “disproved,” but that is all we get.
A classic. As with Shaun of the Dead, I hesitate to tell you too much about this one, because I sort of assume that you’ve probably seen it, or at least know about it. Anyway, it is an amazing movie, and thoroughly delivers on both horror and comedy.
This is an old favorite of ours, but we did re-watch it recently, so it isn’t cheating to include it on this list. Because I am sure that it matters deeply to you whether I break my own vague rules or not.
This movie has the look of a silent, in some ways. I mean, the costuming is lush, and the settings are elaborate, and everything is both stylish and stylized. The movie is, in fact, gorgeous. Even when it is also gross.
Alec has pointed out to me that The Abominable Dr. Phibes is kind of like Se7en, if Se7en were fun, highly-colored, and starred a blank-faced Vincent Price with a synthesized voice as the serial killer. And—yeah, that’s fair enough. But we must emphasize that word fun. The Abominable Dr. Phibes is a movie about an implacable serial killer, yes. But it is bursting with fun, that elusive quality.
Okay, so this one isn’t even kind of a horror-comedy. More of a horror-tragedy. Still, it is a solid horror movie of the supernatural slasher type, and one where my sympathy was with almost everyone in the film.
By the way, this summary may get spoil-y. I find it very hard to judge that sort of thing. Okay. I’ve gone and checked the IMDB summary, and I don’t think I give away too much more than that does. Still… spoiler alert, I guess?
Basically, what happens is that a bunch of heedless young people (the victim pool) come to a rural area for a vacation or something, and they accidentally kill the young son of a local shop-owner. The shop-owner, angry and grief-maddened, goes to the local witch and demands vengeance. She summons Pumpkinhead, who goes after the heedless young people, hunting them down one by one. Pretty basic.
Except! There is a bit more to this movie than that, because the local shop-owner is almost immediately sorry for what he’s done, and tries to stop it. Also! Some of the young people are totally likeable and innocent of the boy’s death, and the one who isn’t innocent, and who is a complete jerk, gets all redeem-y before he dies. Also, the local shop-owner has an intimate and terrifying connection with the demon Pumpkinhead, which adds much to the horror and emotional impact of the film.
This is a wrenching and miserable movie, but I don’t mean that in a bad way.
I enjoyed this one thoroughly, though I seem, judging from the comments on IMDB, to be in rather sparse company. The movie stars Paul Hipp as Dan O’Dare, a radio DJ who is trying to re-boot his scandal-rocked career with an elaborate radio stunt. There is a plucky reporter who is highly skeptical of his shenanigans, and tries to expose him. And then there is the alien invasion. It is possibly the strangest alien invasion ever. The alien in question (there is one alien, with a robot companion) wants to abduct pretty women (the goal, admittedly, of many movie aliens), shrink them, and keep them in jars. The method of abduction is… almost inexplicable. This movie is full of rock and roll (some of it performed by Blue Oyster Cult), and is positively bursting with oddity.
One of the things that I really like about this movie is the fact that Dan O’Dare is rather in the position of the boy who cried wolf. The alien has taken over his radio station, and Dan can still broadcast, but he can’t get anyone to believe that this isn’t another stunt. He’s looking at the alien, and at the jars, steadily filling with shrunken and indignant women, but he can’t call for help—too many fans are calling in to congratulate him on the alien gag—and he can’t convince his rapidly-swelling audience that any of it is real.
This is a Full Moon picture, so, I mean… yeah, it might be a bit cheap.
Atherton Signs Off
In my opinion, all of the above movies are worthy of note. Have you, dear reader, seen any of them? What did you think? Are there any movies on my list that sound interesting to you? Do you, in fact, plan to watch any of them? What movies should Alec and I watch next? I think that at this point you probably have at least an idea of the sort of thing we go in for.
Also, have you ever made a meat pie? What did you put in it? Have you ever had a meat pie with apples in it? Was it good?
Have a great week!