Operation Backlog Completion 2018
Oct 312013

Do you know what tonight is? What’s that? Halloween? No, I mean what else is it? Mike Collins‘s birthday? Well, yes, but besides those two things, what else?

You don’t know? Don’t you smell the Sour-Sweet Wind coming? It’s Grinch Night!

Grinch Night is a short animated movie, also known as Halloween is Grinch Night. Whenever the Sour-Sweet Wind blows, it sets off a chain of events that gets the Grinch’s attention, and he goes on a rampage to destroy everything in his path and wreak general mayhem. Everyone in Whoville knows that they need to stay inside and lock their doors to be safe, but young Euchariah Who needs to “go to the euphemism” and ventures out on Grinch Night.

Euchariah gets horribly lost and runs into the Grinch, and then he decides that it’s up to him to protect Whoville by delaying the Grinch until the Sour-Sweet Wind stops and Grinch Night is over.

This might be my favorite Dr. Seuss movie. It’s filled with general wackiness, memorable lines, and a particularly creepy climax when Euchariah stalls the Grinch by facing the horrors of the Paraphernalia Wagon, which shows what happens when Dr. Seuss tackles Halloween.

The whole movie is just about a half an hour long, and it’s available on DVD now in a set with other Dr. Seuss stories, so check it out!

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Oct 312013

How could I celebrate Halloween without mentioning one of my favorite movies? Arsenic and Old Lace was a play that was later adapted as a movie starring Cary Grant. It is black comedy at its finest, in my opinion. The story centers around the Brewster family: the Brewster sisters, Abby and Martha, who are considered by everyone who knows them to be two of the sweetest, kindest old ladies in the world, their nephew Teddy, who believes himself to be Theodore Roosevelt, and their other nephew Mortimer, a famous dramatic critic. Teddy and Mortimer have a third brother, Jonathan, but he has long since left home and they hope to never see him again. The story begins when Mortimer marries Elaine Harper and stops to visit his aunts before leaving on his honeymoon. While there, however, he opens up the window seat and discovers a dead body.

Mortimer initially believes Teddy is a murderer, but when he brings it up to his aunts, they quickly correct him–that is one of their gentlemen, and since they’re going to bury him in the cellar with all the others, there’s really nothing for Mortimer to worry about.

They go on to explain about how one day, a lonely old man visited them and had a heart attack right there in the house. When they saw how peaceful he looked, they added poisoning lonely old men to the list of charities they perform. And Teddy, who had been down in the basement digging the Panama Canal, believed the dead men to be Yellow Fever victims, and therefore immediately buried them.

Teddy, from Arsenic and Old LaceMortimer knows something has to be done, but he doesn’t want it to be known that Abby and Martha were murderers. He finally decides that since everyone already knows that Teddy is crazy, if he can commit him to the sanitarium now, it’ll be assumed he was responsible if the bodies are ever discovered. And without Teddy to dig the canal, Abby and Martha won’t be able to take care of any more gentlemen. He begins a frantic race to commit Teddy, keep his new wife from becoming too angry with him as he delays their honeymoon, and keep his aunts from killing anyone else in the meantime.

Jonathan Brewster from Arsenic and Old LaceBut while Mortimer is gone, his criminally insane brother Jonathan returns to town with his assistant, Dr. Einstein–on the run from the police and with a dead body to hide. As far as Jonathan is concerned, the house is a perfect hideout. He can find a place to hide the body, get Dr. Einstein to change his appearance yet again (especially since people keep comparing him to Boris Karloff), and maybe, just maybe, eliminate his hated brother Mortimer once and for all.

I’ll leave the rest of the plot for you to discover when you watch Arsenic and Old Lace, because it is definitely worth watching. By the way, the play eventually returned to Broadway in the 80s with Jonathan Frid playing Jonathan Brewster. In that version Larry Storch plays Dr. Einstein, and the entire cast is excellent. But whether you’re watching the play or the movie, it’s certain to be something you’ll enjoy.

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Oct 282013

I’m not a big watcher of horror movies, so I’d never seen John Carpenter’s The Thing before this semester. I was, however, familiar with the story, the major plot points, and the characters. Last October, Linkara began to review the comic book sequels to the movie. (He reviewed two more this October and has more planned for next year.) For those of you who don’t know, Linkara is an Internet reviewer of bad comic books. He loves the movie, but yes, he thinks the comics suck. But we aren’t here to talk about the comics (though I do recommend you check out the reviews). Let’s discuss the movie.

Fair warning: there will be spoilers in this post.

First, I want to mention the music just briefly. Sometimes I feel like movies, television shows, video games, and so on have an advantage over books because they can use sound to help create a mood. I really liked the song that played during the opening and closing credits of The Thing. It did a perfect job of setting up a sinister, creepy atmosphere.

Next, I referenced the setting in a previous post. Antarctica is not as terrifying and isolated as space, but it’s still pretty high on the list. But this movie uses that setting for a twofold purpose. It traps the research team, yes, but it also traps the Thing itself. It’s both a means to heighten the fear (no way to escape) and provide a form of grim hope (the monster can’t get to the rest of humanity). The Thing’s resources are limited because it’s in the middle of Antarctica. If it was in a more populated setting, it would become an Apocalypse scenario pretty quickly.

Even without the computer’s amazing analysis to make things clear, you can imagine how bad it would be. The Thing wouldn’t have to rely on a dozen men and a handful of dogs. With a huge variety of people and animals to infect, it would go from being the stalker/imitator of the movie to a plague–a thinking plague that actively tries to spread itself.

As monsters go, the Thing is pretty scary. Not only is it incredibly resilient and powerful, but its greatest strength is in its ability to imitate other organisms. It imitates them perfectly. This is no T-virus or Flood that mutates its host from the onset. This is a creature that assimilates its prey and becomes an exact duplicate. Until it’s forced to show itself or tries to attack someone (at which point it displays some pretty grotesque body horror), there’s nothing to set it apart from any of the others.

It could be me. It could be you. If imitation is its greatest strength, paranoia is its greatest weapon. You can’t trust anyone, and no one can trust you. I like the paranoia aspect a lot. I think that’s an excellent way to add tension and suspense to a plot. It’s a step up from the “any one of us could be the killer” plot element. The cast–or at least Macready–does eventually come up with a way to discover whether or not someone is human by doing a blood test, but they still end up with a pretty grim ending–MacReady and Childs, the only survivors, await their deaths in the wreckage of the outpost, and neither knows for sure if the other is infected. (And this is part of the reason a direct sequel to the movie is problematic.) By the way, apparently the television version managed to make the ending even more hopeless by showing a Husky running from the burning camp.

In many ways, it shows the unstoppable force of some of the other monsters we’ve looked at, but it’s also intelligent. It’s not just killing people that get in its way. It’s actively trying to get out of Antarctica. Apparently, there’s some ambiguity about whether or not infected people know they’re infected, but I like to think the Thing is in control of the infected, and that it’s smart enough to imitate their behavior well enough for no one to notice anything strange. It adds a different layer of fear and paranoia if the Thing could be lurking dormant inside of you and you wouldn’t know it until it made its move, but I still prefer the hidden malevolence of the Thing pretending to be a human.

All of these aspects come together to make it one of the scariest monsters we looked at. And as aliens go, it’s one of the most alien. It made for a solid, tense, disturbing movie.

Also, that spider-head thing is going to haunt my nightmares.

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