TBT – Young Frankenstein (1974)

classic, films, Frankenstein, fucking funny, Gene Wilder, Halloween, horror, Mel Brooks, parody, reviews

Halloween is fast approaching and, if I were any kind of film blogger, then I’d be using this post to review a classic horror film. However, I am always held back by the fact that I’m something of a wimp. I’ve never been a big fan of the horror genre and have avoided many of them. It’s not the violence as much as it is the jump scares. It doesn’t take a lot to have me leaping out of my seats so I’m constantly on edge. This is bad enough in non-traditional horror films, like Alien or something, so how would I cope watching a film that was created with the sole intention to scare the shit out of me. It’s not something I’m very proud of but I am what I am. There are some notable exceptions, obviously, but I tend to just let the biggest horror sensations pass me by. Really, though, I have no real interest in being scared. I don’t want to pay to see how far a writer will go to try and terrify people willing to pay for the experience. I know certain people enjoy the rush of watching these films but I just don’t get it. Maybe it’s because it’s harder for me to go back to normal and turn off the fear response? Who knows. Whatever the reason, I just never have a desire to
watch horror films so, in order to celebrate this time of year, I’m doing the genre the only way I know how: by watching a parody of it.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is one of my favourite books. It helps that I was tasked with reading it for every year I was at university but it was something I was more than happy to do. Shelley’s story has been described as the birth of science-fiction because of her tale of a scientist raising the dead. However, it was the inspiration for plenty of classic horror films from as early as 1910. The character of the monster went on to frequent many films, which gave rise to the mistake that it is the monster and not the Doctor who is Frankenstein. But that’s not really important. Despite the sheer number of Frankenstein films that already existed, Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder decided that there was room for another. This time about a member of the family who does everything he can to get away from his family’s chequered past.

The Young Frankenstein of the title is Frederick Frankenstein, a professor who is so ashamed of his infamous grandfather, the Victor of Shelley’s novel, that he changes the pronunciation to ‘Fronkensteen’. Until the moment that he is presented with his grandfather’s will and he makes an unwelcome return to Transylvania. There he discovers Victor’s old notebooks that describe the process for reanimating a corpse. Very quickly, Fronkensteen is starting up the old family business and robbing corpses and brains in the name of science. All of this with the help of his trusty lab assistants, Igor, son of Victor’s own servant, and Inga, the busty babe who quickly catches his eye. There’s also the slight problem of the townsfolk who don’t trust Frederick and a monster that constantly escapes from the castle.

Young Frankenstein is a silly but incredibly shrewd parody of the classic horror films from the 1930s-50s. Brooks and Wilder created a script that played up on the traditions whilst cleverly working against them. It is Mel Brooks at his greatest. The whole thing looks and feels just like the films it is trying to copy. All of the techniques, visuals and sets are exactly the kind of thing you’d see in films like James Whale’s Frankenstein. It looks completely realistic, which not only makes it feel familiar but also makes it funnier. It’s a carefully crafted and intelligently made film. It works as a parody but also works as a story in itself. Young Frankenstein is a funny film. Yes, not everything works completely and there are definitely funnier Brooks films out there. That doesn’t mean the comedy isn’t there. Even the most obvious humour works here. There are moments that you shouldn’t want to find hilarious but just work. It may not have the sheer thrills of the normal fair you’d watch on Halloween but it’s definitely worth a watch.

SUNDAY RUNDOWN – THAT’S WHAT SHE READ

animation, book haul, books, Halloween, Harry Potter, Man Booker, Netflix, Penguin Books, rundown

Once again, I’ve have a Sunday off and I’ve done fuck all. This week has been a bit of a boring one. Work is increasingly frustrating and applying for jobs is back in full, repetitive, swing. Still, I’m remaining hopeful and trying to look into ways that I can prove myself. Bribery, selling my soul to the devil, that kind of thing. I’ve also, finally, come to the conclusion that I am too keen to wilfully spend my money on shit I don’t need so I’ve been trying super hard to not do that. Unfortunately, the shit I don’t need is actually really fun. So it’s been a difficult start. I am, however, a stubborn old mule and will persevere. If I can only get rid of some of my stuff as well I might actually start resembling a functioning adult… or at least someone who could one day turn into one.

Currently Reading

  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling

I’ve been slowly getting through this but I’m finding the first few chapters to be incredibly slow. It is childish and easy but it’s still Harry Potter. The only problem with revisiting a story that you know so well is that you know what’s coming and you just want to get to the good bit. All the prelude and explanation wears a bit thin when you already know it. Still, it’s been a while since I’ve read the first one so it’ll be interesting to see what little details I’ve forgotten. 
  • Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh

Not really sure that I should include this on the list as I haven’t really read any of it. However, being unable to read Harry Potter in public because of my embarrassing dependence on other people’s perception of me, I’m carrying it around with me in case the mood should strike me.

Recently Purchased

  • Haunted Castles: The Complete Gothic Stories by Ray Russell
This is the Penguin Classics edition of Ray Russell’s Gothic horror stories. We all know that I’m a huge fan of the early days of Gothic literature since my Postgraduate dissertation. However, I tend to avoid more modern examples because it has often been diluted into the type of cringy tales that gave birth to the likes of Twilight. Ray Russell is considered to be a pioneer of the modern horror genre so it seemed like it was time to give him a go. Besides, I’ve seen this book all over Instagram in the last month because it’s so Halloweeny. Hopefully, there’s something worthwhile in here.
  • Pocket Penguins
As I’ve already mentioned I’m slowly increasing my collection of these editions. I felt that I was sadly lacking in the Orange so bought a couple to even things out a bit. The new ones are The Call of Cthulhu by H.P. Lovecraft and The Island of Doctor Moreau by H.G. Wells. I love Wells and really didn’t need another copy of Doctor Moreau but it’s part of the set. I honestly don’t think that I’ve read any Lovecraft so I felt that it was time to give it a go. As I’ve already discussed, I’m a fan of the macabre so this collection of tales should be the perfect it. Besides, what kind of literary being am I without having read Lovecraft. It’s a must.
Recently Watched
  • The Addams Family
I rewatched this for Halloween and because I needed a topic for my recent TBT review. Find out what I thought here
  • Rick and Morty
I’ve been meaning to watch this since it came onto Netflix and this weekend I finally did. I consumed seasons 1 and 2 in about 2 days and it was the greatest decision of my life. I’m desperate for Season 3 to come out. 

TBT – The Addams Family (1991)

comedy, family, Halloween, TBT

When I was younger our local village shop started renting out films on VHS. Yes, that does probably age me horribly but I lived through a golden age of video tapes, cassettes and floppy disks and I’m not about to hide that. Anyway, there were a couple of films available that I became obsessed with and always tried to get my father to rent for us. It drove my twin sister a bit mad because she got bored with them but I really didn’t give a shit. One of them was Addams Family Values. I fucking loved that film. It was everything to my pre-teen self. I’m pretty sure it’s the reason I love Joan Cusack so bloody much. Which makes it weirder that I don’t think I saw its predecessor until quite a few years later. I don’t know how I managed it but I somehow avoided the 1991 Addams Family film. Thankfully I’ve seen it more than enough times to make up for it now. And, as I never actually got round to creating that list of alternative Halloween films that I promised you, I decided I would discuss it here for my post-Halloween TBT. After all, along with last Thursday’s Hocus Pocus, it definitely would have made the list.

The Addams Family were first introduced in 1938 thanks to the cartoons of Charles Addams. There have been many incarnations of the weird aristocratic family with a love of the macabre but their introduction on the big screen didn’t come until 1991. Although, if I’m being honest, the film and its sequel are the only real knowledge I have of the family and, as such, it’s difficult for me not to see them as the dominant adaptation. I’m sure others would disagree but there’s fuck all I can do about it now. It just means that Anjelica Huston, Raúl Juliá, and Christopher Lloyd are the people I think about when someone mentions the Addams family to me.

We are first introduced to the new version through a storyline involving Uncle Fester’s (Christopher Lloyd) return to the family after disappearing in the Bermuda triangle 25 years earlier. He and his brother, Gomez (Raúl Juliá), fell out years later meaning Gomez has spent their time apart blaming himself for Fester’s disappearance. It’s safe to say the family are overjoyed to find their missing relative again and quickly try and help him recover from his amnesia. However, his young neice, Wednesday (Christina Ricci) and sister-in-law Morticia (Anjelica Huston) quickly begin to suspect that all is not what it seems. After all, Fester is actually just the disguised son of a greedy woman who has united with the Addams’ lawyer to steal their secret fortune.

As narratives go it’s hardly the most inpsiring and it tends to bungle around for a while before getting to the rather obvious and fairly cheap conclusion. It never really pushes itself too far and, instead of developing characters or concepts, puts too much empahsis on visual gags and family-friendly scares. Still, the whole film is fun and the tensions that exist between the Addams family and the real world create a fair amount of humour. There are more than a few great one-liners and the visual gags really are quite spectacular at times. I mean take the scene in which Wednesday and her brother Pugsley (Jimmy Workman) tackle the fight scene near the end of Hamlet. It created an iconic scene of bloody hilarity.

Still, it feels as though their world is never really explored as much as it should have been. It’s all rather tame. The narrative is rather flimsy and the script doesn’t really tie together. There are too many loose ends to tie up and the ones that are attempted are carried out clumsily. It’s all very awkward and should be better considering how great the casting is. I know I’ve already said that I’m biased but the family are all played wonderfully by their respective actors. Ajelica Huston was rightly nominated for a Golden Globe for her portrayal of Morticia and Christopher Lloyd and Raúl Juliá are both equally fun as Fester and Gomez. This film had such great potential but it wasn’t until the follow-up that the characters and their world were really able to get going. Still, it’s worth a watch every now and then. Especially at this time of year.

SUNDAY RUNDOWN – THAT’S WHAT SHE READ

books, currently reading, Halloween, Harry Potter, horror, Man Booker, Penguin Books, thriller

Today has been horrendous. Last night was my work friend’s 21st birthday so we all went out. It’s safe to say the gin was flowing quickly. Unfortunately, I happened to be working at 7am today. Even with the added hour I gained by the clocks changing, I’ve spent the day in a bit of a haze trying to get my brain to speed up. Somehow I made it through my 9 hour shift without any problems but I’ve spent the evening doing nothing. I just really want sleep so this will be brief. Also, because I’ve not had a very exciting literary week.

Currently Reading
  • Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh

I finally started reading this after wanting to for ages. It’s not going too well so far because I’ve not been in the mood to read. I’ve only read one chapter and, despite being interesting. I’ve found it slow to get going. I’ll carry on with it but it might take a while.

  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling
I decided last night that I wanted to reread this. I haven’t actually reread books 1 and 2 because they seem so badly written now. They’re both so childish that it feels cringey to go back. Still, I’m intrigued to revisit it. We all know the story but I wonder if I’ll get the wave of nostalgia and love that everyone else sees to feel. After being so disillusioned with the series for a while. 

Recently Purchased

  • Penguin Worlds Series
Is there anything better than a set of Penguin books? Well I don’t quite have a complete collection yet but I currently own 3 books in this series. The Penguin Worlds series is a collection of five forgotten classics from the sci-fi, fantasy and horror genres. They have been reissued to ensure they earn their rightful place on people’s bookshelves. The three I own are: True Names by Vernor Vinge; The World in Winter by John Christopher; and Horror Stories by E. Nesbit. Not only are these books fucking gorgeous but they sound amazing. I’m so glad I could be introduced to them.
  • The Haunted Hotel by Wilkie Collins
Just in time for Halloween I bought this story about a hotel in Venice. It’s from the author who wrote The Woman in White and The Moonstone so I figured it was worth a try. Who knows. If nothing else it gave me a good Halloween inspired shot for my Instagram.

  • Dark Tales by Shirley Jackson
This is the new hardback edition of Shirley Jackson’s greatest stories. Jackson is known for her disturbing tales of American gothic. This collection is all about the nasty secrets in Suburbia where nothing is as it seems and nowhere is safe. It’s a gorgeous collection and it sounds fucking creepy. Ideal really.

  • Don’t Look Now by Daphne duMaurier
I love Daphne duMaurier but I’ve never read this story. Everyone knows the film adaptation starring Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie… mostly for the on-set rumours but also because it’s a classic. So, again inspired by Halloween, I bought the Pocket Penguin edition of the tale of horror. The short story is also accompanied by more of duMaurier’s tales of dread. I’m looking forward to it. 

TBT – Hocus Pocus (1993)

childhood favourite, cult, Halloween, magic, TBT, witches

It’s weird to think about it now that Hocus Pocus is a cult classic but when it was first released in the 90s the film bombed at the box office. The critics hated it and people just didn’t go an see it in the cinema. However, as we’ve seen with a shitload of supposedly terrible films, over the years it has become a fan favourite and a cult Halloween classic. It’s pretty much the only film I’d say is a must-have viewing over the fright season. Who needs scary movies and gore when you have Bette Midler and that nun from Sister Act dressed as witches and luring children to their home? Nobody that’s who. I realise I’m someone who dislikes the horror genre but that doesn’t make my point any less valid… does it? Well, I don’t give a shit. I’ve loved Hocus Pocus since I was a kid and I’m pretty sure I watch it every year around this time. It’s the only time I’ve enjoyed something starring Sarah Jessica Parker.

I understand why people might hate this film. I mean it’s kind of cheesy and it’s kind of over-complicated. On paper it’s nothing special but, thanks to a great cast and a fake talking cat, Hocus Pocus is actually incredible. One Halloween in Salem a teenage boy, desperate to impress a girl, lights a candle that brings three witchy sisters back to life. They have one night to magically steal the youth of a child or they’ll turn to dust. First they have to track down their spellbook from the trio who inadvertently set the menace on the world. There’s also some dancing, a couple of bullies and the aforementioned talking cat. I think it’s easy to see why this is my favourite Halloween based film.

The film follows awkward teenager Max Dennison (Omri Katz) who has been forced to move to Salem but can’t fit in with his fellow students. Despite being incredibly cynical about all things to do with the holiday, Max is charged with taking his younger sister Dani (Thora Birch) trick or treating he comes face-to-face with new crush Allison (Vinessa Shaw). Allison loves Halloween and, with some encouragement from Max, takes the pair to the house that once belonged to the three Sanderson sisters (Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy). The sisters were witches who hundreds of years earlier were killed after they kidnapped and killed a young girl, Emily. Max lights a candle and Winifred, Sarah and Mary return to life and immediately begin trying to find eternal youth. With some help from Emily’s brother, Thackery Binx, who was unfortunately turned into a cat, the trio must keep the sisters away from their spellbook and stop them brewing the all important potion.

A lot of what makes this film so great is what also makes it so bad. It’s utterly camp and over-the-top but it’s also endearingly fun. All the cast are clearly having a whale of a time and totally embrace the ridiculousness on screen. It means that despite whatever crazy shit is happening it still feels like everyone’s in control. And, yes, it is camp but it’s about Halloween for fuck’s sake. It’s a holiday about dressing in colourful costumes, demanding sweets and using cheap tricks to scare people. It’s hardly the classiest time of year. Anything that is based around plastic spiders and face-paint isn’t going to be ruined because Bette Midler and her skin-bound spellbook.

This film is silly and weird and absolutely amazing. It’s full of dark and adult humour despite being a kid’s film. It’s funny but it’s also kind of scary for children. I mean the sisters spend the entire film looking for children to kill, they nearly force the entire town to dance themselves to death, and there’s a hanging in the first 30 minutes. It would do the job as a children’s Halloween film but it’s so much more than that. It’s insane and unnecessarily complicated. The sister get locked in a furnace but somehow survive to drag the plot on further. There are plenty of sub-plots that aren’t needed and loads of things included just or jokes. It kind of feels like an hour long story dragged out by another 30 minutes. However, I honestly don’t know what I would remove if I had the chance. It’s all so fucking vital to the overall experience. The moments where the sister’s come to terms with modern life are fantastic. Any time when the three witches are together and just being fucking weird is fantastic.

I don’t care what you might say but Halloween isn’t a time to be scared. Especially when you’re my age. It’s about dressing up and being outrageous. This film, in it’s own way, is outrageous. It won’t get the appreciation it deserves from critics and the like but fans love it for a reason. You don’t need to sit around at home watching people run away from chainsaw wielding freaks in masks. No, you need the Sanderson sisters and Thackery fucking Binx.

TBT – An American Werewolf in London (1981)

comedy, fucking funny, Halloween, John Landis, TBT, werewolf

mv5bzgnmywqzmgetndlhms00nzewltkzmditmdq4mjkymzrknjfixkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymtqxnzmzndi40._v1_It’s Halloween this week and, to be honest, I don’t really give a fuck about this holiday. I’ve never really got it. The whole sexy costumes thing just confuses me. My favourite Halloween costume to date was my first year of uni when I went as Christine the demon car from the Stephen King novel. It was amazing, even if I do say so myself. I made a license plate, wore furry dice and taped torches to my legs as headlights. Fucking amazing. Now I’m not saying I hate Halloween because of my leanings towards homemade costumes. It’s just that I lack the artistic skills to make it look like something that wasn’t made by a fucking child. I’m all for any excuse to go out drinking but I dislike having to jump through certain fancy dress hoops to get there. I’d rather stay home and watch The Nightmare Before Christmas on repeat.

After all, I’m not a massive lover of horror films. I don’t rush to see films that are desperate to make scare the bejesus out of me every 5 seconds, Making me jump out of my seat is just a waste of good popcorn. Anything that doesn’t have a sense of humour with it’s method of scaring an audience is just not on my radar. Although, as I’ve discussed before, I love a good silly horror. So much so that I reference An American Werewolf in London in everyday conversation way more than I think is necessary. I fucking love it. As a proud Yorkshire lass, that might have something to do with the fact that the film’s first act takes place in God’s own county.

John Landis’ 1981 comedy-horror introduces us to young Americans David (David Naughton) and Jack (Griffin Dunne) as they embark on a backpacking tour of England. Stumbling across some creepy moors in the North, they find themselves taking refuge in The Slaughtered Lamb: a local pub for local people. After upsetting the pub’s patrons the pair soon become lost in the wilderness. Suffice it to say, it doesn’t end well. With Jack killed, supposedly by an escaped lunatic, David wakes up in a London hospital being nursed back to health by Alex (Jenny Agutter) and having crazy visions. Being visited by a quickly decomposing Jack, David discovers that he was bitten by a werewolf and will become an unstoppable monster at the next full moon. The only option, Jack reveals, is for his friend to kill himself.

So far, it sounds like a standard horror film but, thanks to John Landis’ script, American Werewolf is so much more. It’s fucking funny and takes shots at so many horror movie staples. He also lovingly takes the piss out of British customs. For such a simple narrative, the story manages to be fun. There are the usual Landis in-jokes and cameos to keep long-standing fans happy. The story is deceptively simple but is clever enough to have ensured the film has stood the test of time. There are moments when it starts to feel as though things are falling apart but there is something to endearing about the film. It’s easy to see why it became a cult classic.

Yes, this may not be the best film Landis has ever made. It’s no Blue Brothers but it’s still a film to get excited about. Even now, some 30 years later, the transformation scene is still fucking impressive. It’s both funny and disturbing in equal measure. Rick Baker’s effects throughout the film were outstanding at the time and, though they may seem rather quaint in this day and age, they are still fucking awesome. Watching the change in Dunne as his character becomes more and more haggard is a weird joy. It’s my second favourite part of the film: the best being the totally awkward and really fucking 80s sex scene between David and Alex. It’s a cold hard fact that Jenny Agutter was a fucking babe back in the day. She’s a stone cold fox but it’s one of the least tantalising things I’ve ever seen. We’ve seen it time and time again but sex was less sexy in the 80s. Still, it’s hard not to love Agutter as she runs through misty London trying to stop David. This film is worth a look for her alone.

American Werewolf isn’t the most fleshed out film you’ll ever see nor is it the most intelligent. It sets up the plot and then rushes towards an end without any real closure. The love story has no real depth and the character’s are fairly underdeveloped. That being said, it’s still a fucking great film and one I will always watch. It’s a B movie that also manages to be technically amazing. Who could ask for more?