When I first came up with my Throwback Thirty idea there were a handful of movies that I was super excited about. This week’s film is one of the most exciting. I have always loved a good B movie and, despite my avoidance of traditional horror stuff, will always have time for a worthy comedy horror film… especially one starring aliens that look like clowns. I know a lot of people who are freaked out by clowns but I’ve never seen it. Maybe it helped that I never accidentally watched IT when I was a kid but I’ve never really been fussed either way about clowns. I did work with a guy who was absolutely terrified by them. I admit, we all kind of abused the situation and I was, at times, guilty of humming circus music whenever he was around. It genuinely used to freak him out because he was that scared. Yes, it was a dick move but, in my defence, it was really funny too. So I’d imagine that he’d never seen the 1988 classic Killer Klowns From Outer Space because that would be mental. Like the girl who was in the year below me at uni who was afraid of balloons and, during out college’s end of year party, freaked out during the balloon drop. I’d grabbed a balloon and she forced me to pop it. I was fucking livid! Mate, if you get so freaked out by balloons then why turn up to a place where you know there’ll be shit loads of them???? Not that I’m still bitter 10 years on or anything…
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
Thanks to a 20 year old hispter I work with I’ve spent the last few months revisiting the music of my youth. We’ve had a bit of a 90s revival recently which consisted of the two of us singing the Spice Girls and B*Witched as loud as possible to the alarm of our coworkers. It’s now moved on to the 80s focusing mainly on The Smiths and Spandau Ballet. I used to love The Smiths as a teenager but my tastes have grown up with me. Thankfully I’m less of a pretentious dick these days. However, it’s fucking sad that such a large part of my musical soundtrack has just disappeared. I’m madly making throwback Spotify playlists as I type. I mention it because as I watched today’s film pick I heard so many songs I haven’t really listened to in years that the wave of nostalgia left me feeling warm and fuzzy. Something it’s star, Daniel Radcliffe, normally fails to do. It was only after he got my seal of approval in Swiss Army Man that I decided it was time to give some more of his post-Potter films a chance. He was kinda funny in that so shit can he be in the rest, right? I’ve always liked the sound of Horns. I’ve never read the book by Joe Hill because, as anyone who’s ever read my Sunday Rundowns will know, I’m pretty shit at getting books read. However, from what I knew of the plot I figured it would be an interesting concept. Would the film live up to my own hype though?
In an attempt to leave behind the boy wizard that made him a household name, Daniel Radcliffe has gone to great lengths to pick weird and unusual roles. In Horns he plays a young man accused of murdering the love of his life who begins to turn into some devilish being. The story opens with Ignatius Perrish (Radcliffe) being vilified by his hometown and local news outlets for the rape and murder of his ex-girlfriend Merrin Williams. Ignatius is adament he didn’t kill Merrin but the only person who believes him in his childhood friend Lee (Max Minghella). Although handily for Ig he’s a lawyer who accepts his case. When Ig wakes one morning to find demonic horns sprouting from his head he discovers a whole host of powers that he uses to find the real killer.
Horns is a difficult film to give a genre to. Is it a horror, a romance, a thriller or a dark comedy? Who fucking knows? Well, director Alexandre Aja certainly doesn’t if the finished product is anything to go by. I wanted to like Horns and, for a brief moment, I really did. Then it bipolared its way through another 90 minutes and I found my attention going elsewhere. There was plenty of potential here for a weird black comedy which I loved. The opening 30 minutes of the film is genuinely enjoyable as Ig comes to terms with his horns and new powers. The scenes where the townspeople become compelled to reveal their darkest secrets and act on their basic depravities is comedy gold. I mean it’s the kind of shit I used to love on shows like The League of Gentlemen. It’s clever, silly and really fucking funny.
Unfortunately, the story has to continue. It moves between flashbacks of intense YA romance with images of floaty dresses and dancing in treehouses, to Ig’s crime thriller investigation, and ending on a CGI horror-style showdown. Any comedy that once existed is quickly replaced with uber intensity. Within Horns a great story exists but it is just too bloated and self-indulgent. Had Aja picked a tone and stuck to it the whole thing would have felt slicker but instead it’s all over the place. There are certainly some great moments but as the shows keeps going on they get fewer and fewer. There is so much potential in that initial plot but it’s just lost within the trappings of a Hollywood film.
There is so much that is overlooked and plenty that is dragged out longer that it deserves. The cast are, for the most part, given little to do and fail to make much of an impression. Daniel Radcliffe gives it his best but the whole concept of this film lets him down. I can’t even tell if I actually liked him or not because I was so fucking confused by what was going on. I can see why people enjoyed it but it certainly deserves the roasting that most of the professional critics gave it.