This year is my 5th outing to ANHM. 3 out of 5 years I've made it to the end, last October I struggled and missed the final movie, this year I only managed the first 3 of 5 films (I hope to do better for the 10th birthday edition later this year). Recently as regular blog readers will know I've had few health issues and so I was strict with myself and didn't stay out too long, much as I would have loved to experience seeing Child's Play in 35mm on the big screen. Still, I had a great night and this post will cover the first 3 movies.
On to the evening! Oh yah, and SPOILERS. ALWAYS SPOILERS, MANY SPOILERS. Away horror-virgin eyes, take things at your own pace when you're ready, with Blu-Ray.
For example Red Dwarf's Season 3 episode Marooned - also set in a barren tundra landscape - is by far my favourite ever episode. In the case of Marooned the cast is pared down to two people who barely leave one room, and it has the feeling of a stage play.
The Thing has a bigger set but still focuses on a small crew in a place confined by weather. Also Kurt Russell is so damned watchable. While he lacks the sheer mom-jean sexual chemistry of a young Rowdy Roddy Piper in They Live, his sore loser with surprisingly-poor-geography-for-a-pilot level headed McReady is us as we would like to imagine ourselves to be in a crisis situation. Right down to the Jim Beam and Smoky Bear hat.
The strength of this film in terms of it's horror factor is that the characters behave the way you think you would. They are pretty rational (bar the occasional outburst) and do the things you might expect - which makes it all the more terrifying. In a dumb movie they'd do something you as a watcher could mock for it's interminable stupidity, but McReady and crew do the right things. The blood test scene in particular is brilliant with each character getting a turn to react. There's some solid drama there, but the film isn't without laughs and employs a great ambiguous ending... I have state just how wonderful it was to view this film in 35mm - delicious down to every last crackled slice.
After 109 minutes the movie came to a close and we were given a break - because the ANHM organisers knew us ladies and gentlemen had been through a lot, but when they found the time, they knew we'd rather not spend the rest of this winter TIED TO THIS FUCKING COUCH!
Killer carnivorous sewer dwelling slugs weren't the only problem the people of this mullet-sporting rural town had, they also couldn't have a conversation rooted in the real world, stop engaging in machismo-fuelled and utterly pointless one-upmanship, defeat routine amnesia ('there are killer slugs damnit!' ...2 minutes later....'what that hell ya talking about killer slugs, that's crazy man!') or control their weird judgemental and often deadly horniness/alcoholism.
Maureen Watson: "Sorry I'm such a total bitch. It's my drinking. I should go see someone and get that under control."
Our 'Hero' - quote marks here because he is just a grade C tool bag - is the local health inspector, Mike Brady, who swaggers about town being seriously ineffective at his job and mourning friends and neighbours for a full 5 to 6 seconds after they explode. Bitey bitey slugs are discovered and everyone in a position of authority proceeds to ignore the department of health and sanitation when they complain of a contamination to the water supply. You'd think, like, maybe there'd be a form somewhere for general contamination, but no. The way to handle it just to burst in to various people's offices, not give them any kind of evidence and shout a half-assed explanation.
Mike Brady: "Now maybe, just maybe, we're dealing with a mutant form of slug here, a kind that eats meat!"
Frank Phillips: "You don't have the authority to declare Happy Birthday!"
This film is riddled with unnecessary scenes the way local toxic dump sites are riddled with mutated slugs. If you stop to question ANY of it you might as well just check out because this is tale of slime and golden gate bridge level suspended belief. I have to say I was SUPER disappointed that after one poor towns-person eats a slug he just exploded worms out of his face. I mean ok, gory and whatever, but I wanted to see a giant slug/human hybrid that led the slugs to glory. Also the music in this film is abominably inappropriate adding the hilarity. Giggles rippled round the audience all the way through this movie, along with the occasional whispered 'Wha?!' The second half really picks up the gore factor but the cuts are still weird and the pacing all over the slug infested farm. And I'm pretty sure the local school has a better science lab than Heisenberg.
Victim count - Just shy of a dozen characters and any semblance of natural dialogue.
The prizes were magnificent once again, with a GLOW IN THE DARK (whhaaaat???) one-off specially made poster of The Thing as a star prize. Well done to the raffle victors. I bid them well as everyone who comes to ANHM does so for the pure love of horror films and fun. I will crush my jealousy for [gasp] (wipes away tear) another year.
Film 3, my final film of the night but only half way for the rest of the troops, was the Mystery Film. Always choose the mystery box!
Inside the this year's mystery box was a Dario Argento number, The Hatchet Murders (also known as Deep Red). I'm a big fan of Argento's work so was very pleased to see this included in the line up. I really enjoy Giallo films in general (in a compartmentalised kind of way). The 1975 Italian film is more crime thriller than supernatural suspense like for example Suspiria, but employs some of the same motifs of creepiness.
After watching Slugs, The Hatchet Murders was a breath of fresh air. The acting here is solid and the dialogue, even when purposefully weird, makes sense for the place and characters.
We begin with the science of the paranormal being discussed in a theatre - a perfect metaphor for the drama and style of the film. This soon progresses into a murder, the end of which is witnessed by the world's only pianist/engineer who goes on to investigate the mystery and court danger around scenic Turin. I was pleasantly surprised that I genuinely didn't guess the ending of this film. The plot is smartly drawn and leaves you a trail of plausible red herrings. The use of eerie children's music, ghostly art deco haunted house setting and first person view of the murder's leather gloves create a central theme of theatre - a kind of twisted puppet show. It is a master-class of horror and the violent finale is a satisfying crescendo to the drama.
It was now 6 am or so and Rockin' Roy decided our duvet was calling. I thought about The Hatchett Murders all the way home. 5 hours of sleep later and I wasn't nearly awake enough to write this but a local tiny yappy dog in the street under my window kept me awake until I was. Thanks, yappy.
Although I'm sad I missed out on Child's Play and Halloween 3 and I had a good night and saw some great films. Well done to the ANHM organisers, fans and the Grosvenor. Roll on event 10!