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Showing posts from October, 2021

Mystery (The Blue Rose Trilogy #2) (1990)

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HALLOWEEN REVIEWS 2021 by Peter Straub Tom Pasmore, an unusually introspective and intelligent  teenager, teams up with the aged, eccentric private detective Lamont von Heilitz to investigate a pair of murders in the mid-60s.  Peter Straub develops a compelling mystery with interesting characters and then fails to make it pay off in the end.   Peter Straub Tom's near-death experience turns out to have no bearing on later events and the resolution of the mystery is pretty much what you would expect; any time you have arrogant, powerful rich characters who treat the protagonist badly, you know that they must be up to their necks in some kind of dirty business.   I've read "Koko," the first (and much superior) novel in the so-called Blue Rose trilogy and I fail to see any connection between them, other than the fact that Tom reads a novel that was written by one of the characters from "Koko."   This is not one of Straub's best. "Mystery" (Greek) &

The Hands of Orlac (1924)

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HALLOWEEN REVIEWS 2021 Director: Robert Wiene Writers: Louis Nerz, from a novel by Maurice Renard Stars: Conrad Veidt, Alexandra Sorina, Fritz Strassny, Paul Askonas, Carmen Cartellieri, Hans Homma When the hands of a master pianist (Conrad Veidt)  are ruined in a train wreck, he receives transplanted appendages from an executed murderer.  Unable to play the piano anymore, Orlac sinks into madness as it seems that the hands are driving him to commit murder.   The expressionistic set design, exaggerated acting, and evocative modern score often transported me to another reality, but events felt stretched to fill the running time.   The filmmakers also made the always disappointing choice to explain away all the film’s mysteries as the product of some very mundane scheming.  Veidt is very impressive in the lead role.   Silent acting can seem silly when viewed in short bursts, but given the chance it can really pull you into a story.  It is amazing what some actors can accomplish with only

Beneath Still Waters (1989)

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HALLOWEEN REVIEWS 2021 by Matthew J. Costello The town of Goulden's Falls, long sunken beneath  the surface of a man-made lake, harbors a terrible secret.  As the fiftieth anniversary of the local dam approaches, a forgotten horror awakens, drawing two independent journalists into its orbit.  This novel actually succeeds as an efficient, effective little thriller for much of its length.   By the end, however, it becomes clear that author Matthew J. Costello has no way to end it other than by falling back on the hoariest of B-movie clich├ęs.  Until that point, though, it evokes some pretty good shudders, particularly in scenes wherein divers explore the submerged town.

28 Days Later (2002)

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HALLOWEEN REVIEWS 2021 Director: Danny Boyle Writer: Alex Garland Stars: Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, Christopher Eccleston, Megan Burns, Brendan Gleeson A virus that causes its victims to fly into a murderous  rage is released in London.   The country is devastated and a small band of uninfected survivors is left to struggle for their lives.  This film is most effective early on, but problems with the story swiftly accumulate to rob it of its power.  The cast is very good and scenes of star Cillian Murphy wandering through a deserted London and piecing together the truth from available evidence are very effective.   I was enjoying the movie a great deal at this point, but then the problems kept mounting.   Where were all the corpses?   How did a virus that claims its victim within seconds manage to spread throughout the whole country at all, much less within a month?  If the infected are so irrationally angry, why do they run in packs without attacking each other?  The last act of t

The Night of the Hunter (1955)

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HALLOWEEN REVIEWS 2021 Director: Charles Laughton Writers: James Agee, from the novel by Davis Grubb Stars: Robert Mitchum, Shelley Winters, Lillian Gish, James Gleason, Evelyn Varden, Peter Graves A truly haunting film in which a brother and sister  are imperiled by a psychopathic predator who wants to retrieve the money hidden by their late father.  The terror of the situation derives from their total helplessness as Robert Mitchum, expertly preying on their mother's weaknesses, insinuates himself into their home.   Shelley Winter's fate provides one of the most extraordinary shots I have ever seen in a film.   Ultimately, the children are forced to flee their home, and their nightmarish journey downriver is very well shot.  Throughout the film, the children are at the mercy of their surroundings.   The three parts of the story (the destruction of the children's home, their flight, and their rescue) each have a distinctive look and feel.