I love October – the cool, refreshing air and the colorful autumn leaves put us in the mood for a few ghost stories, a haunted house, and let’s not forget blood and gore and Scream Queens. This week our scary movie selection is not for kids or the squeamish. We promised to ramp up the terror quotient as the month proceeds, so it is time for a well done movie with some surprising guest stars – Cannibals in the jungle.
The Green Inferno 2013 horror adventure
The movie follows a group of naïve, do-gooder college students whose bleeding-heart Liberal activism takes them off to South America on an eco-terrorism mission to “Save the Amazon forest”. After a disastrous plane crash, the survivors (4 guys and 3 girls) are captured by a tribe of stone age, cannibalistic savages; proving once again that the most horrifying creatures on earth are the two-legged sub-humans capable of unspeakable cruelty to fellow human beings. This film has plenty of terrible realism but also some dark humor when you consider the eco-terrorists goal was to save the native tribe along with the forest.
The seven prisoners are frog marched into the native village, locked into a crude cage, and before you can say “Jack the Ripper” one of the male eco-terrorists, Jonah, is on the sacrificial alter. The remaining survivors watch in horror as the village erupts in gleeful cheering as poor Jonah is butchered by the tribe’s headhunter. Next the women of the village prepare the feast of Jonah with well-practiced cannibal cooking skills. How is that for gratitude?
The three girls surviving the plane crash are the best collection of Scream Queens I have ever seen, and for a bonus they are all very attractive, white revolutionaries, unlike in real life where we see fat, ugly female mongrels waving protest signs. Justine played by Lorenza Izzo (Miss Peru 2010) is a real beauty queen. The tribal high priestess/witch doctor loves Justine, so they strip her naked, stake her out spread eagle and do some serious, head-to-toe body painting on Justine. Form a queue ladies for those interested in vibrant, diverse, bone-in-the-nose primitive cultures. Justine of course is not interested and is quite terrified to learn she has been selected to be the lip smacking main course for a special religious ceremony.
The know-it-all “woke” leader of the climate hustlers, Alejandro, collapses like a two dollar suitcase when the going gets tough. He slumps in the corner of the cage like a defeated loser. He lacks the courage and toughness to lead an escape. When the mask drops we see Alejandro for what he really is – a selfish worm of a latte Liberal with a private agenda. He cares for no one but himself. Under the intense pressure of horrible death, Justine emerges as the new leader and takes charge. And this change in leadership was, to me, the most interesting part of the film, and makes her the only sympathetic character amongst the band of eco-terrorists. In the adventure movie universe, there are only two types of people in extreme duress – those who crumble and “wait to be saved”, and those who keep a cool head and devise a good escape plan.
“The Green Inferno” is not for kids or the faint of heart. But it is a tasteful, dark comedy of a cannibal flick with a very subtle conservative message. And who would have thought that a plane crash was not the worst part of your day?
I love October – the cool, refreshing air and the colorful autumn leaves put us in the mood for a few ghost stories and a visit to a haunted house. This week our scary movie selection is rather restrained, with mostly psychological tension, and little to no violence and gore. We promise to ramp up the terror quotient as the month proceeds with nightmarish results.
The Haunting 1963 drama horror
Still the template for haunted house movies, accept no substitutes for the 1963 original and avoid the clunky 1999 remake. The bulk of the movie takes place at the Hill House, an old and remote mansion with a grisly past. Dr. Markway, who has spent his career studying the supernatural, believes that he can prove whether or not the house is truly haunted. Off we go to Hill House to find an iron gated, huge, jumbled example of dark and dreary Gothic architecture. The well detailed interior can be described as cluttered Victorian, suggesting the owners collected everything and never threw anything out.
The four main stars of the movie take up residence in the spook house; Eleanora aka Nell (played by Julie Harris), Theodora aka Theo (played by Claire Bloom), Dr. Markway (played by Richard Johnson), and Luke (played by Russ Tamblyn). The acting is first rate, with Dr. Markway and Luke correctly underplaying their roles to allow the two ladies to take center stage. Both Nell and Theo are excellent. Nell is nervous, introverted and caught up in the atmosphere of the house, it's the pivotal role of the movie and Harris instills a heart aching fragility into her character. She is every inch a virgin-wallflower with a touch of madness. For the first half of the movie, Nell is a sympathetic character, but as the film progresses she reveals herself as quite obsessive and delusional. The look in Nell’s eyes says it all; she is a vulnerable and needy young lady, and I can’t picture anyone else but Julie Harris playing Nell.
Bloom, as Theodora, on the other hand has mystical qualities, a sexiness and a devilishly playful disposition, qualities enhanced by her bitch charisma. She is also obviously gay. The sexual tension is high anytime Theo is around, and she seems especially attracted to Nell while being indifferent to the two men staying at the Hill House. Theo seems capable of reading Nell’s thoughts and some of the bedroom scenes hint strongly at Theo’s lesbian nature. Keep in mind the time period and the Hay’s Code for movie censorship and you have a movie walking on egg shells quite effectively.
I think what makes the film work so powerfully at its core is the way we come to know all the main characters, and feel like they're real people. We don't like all of them all the time, but they all have unexpected virtues and flaws. The compelling power of the film resides in the intense emotions felt by these characters, and the way they relate to one another. When the Hill House starts to come to life, the four of them band together and soldier on. It becomes quite clear that the ghosts of Hill House prefer Nell, but why?
The sudden arrival of Markway’s wife, Grace (played by Lois Maxwell), really gets the pot boiling at the old Hill House. Everyone knows (or should know) Lois Maxwell as the one and only "Miss Moneypenny", but there's much more to her acting career than just Bond flicks. Grace Markway, tall and shapely, really knows how to make an entrance at Hill House. She is the Queen Bee and instantly takes command, and starts giving orders. Grace has zero time for discussing the supernatural and considers the subject to be utter nonsense. She is concerned that Dr. Markway’s reputation will suffer should the press discover he is out “chasing ghosts”. Any negative press on her husband, of course, would reflect badly on herself.
Darkness falls on the angry House, and the ghost rampage begins. I will not the spoil the ending. This is low-key, sophisticated psychological horror film with a powerhouse of underrated (and unknown by me) UK actors. This is not the type film to trigger nightmares, so hardcore horror fans will probably be left wanting. I can do without nightmares, so I consider the film a must see classic.
Written by Ben Clark. Copyright 2016-2021. All rights reserved.