SHOCKTOBERFEST 2020 FOURTH EDITION, A ROUGH TRANSITION TO THE MODERN ERA
This week’s edition of Shocktoberfest 2020 is about old world horrors under the modern world’s electric lights. A Bay of Blood, which I wrote about last week, is an apt milestone to delineate between the dignified, gloomy gothic horror films set in the past and the newer, present-day, violent, and gory horror films that began to push them aside. Viewers began to lose interest in watching movies set in the previous century and began to crave movies set in a more familiar world – the one they were living in now.
Ironically, the vampire genre has always been about the transition from the old and alien to the familiar present day. The creatures of the night struggle to leave their dusty, ruined castles for the tempting, gayly lit world. Bram Stoker’s1897 novel Dracula became a template for the genre. Count Dracula was an elaborately adorned, attractive, and articulate aristocrat of a long-vanished family. He attempted to leave his stuck-in-time Transylvanian homeland to join the up-to-date world of England in the 1890s. He was driven out of London by his foes and forced to race back to his ruined castle in the Carpathians.
Stoker used the shiny bauble of contemporary, modern England as the lure to get Dracula to leave his medieval homeland. Written nearly a century and a quarter ago, it is hard to recognize that the tools the vampire hunters used were on the cutting edge of science and technology. Steam trains, trolleys, telegrams, and wax-cylinder recordings are the progenitors of many state of the art conveniences we take for granted now.
We are in a transitory time and should remember to take the lesson of Stoker’s Dracula to heart and be vigilant not to bring old monsters into our new world. To celebrate the vampire’s evolutionary role as the Neanderthal man of monsters, I revisited one of my favorite Hammer Dracula films this week. I also squeezed in some other, lesser-known monster movies about life and terror in the present.
25) Revenge of the Living Dead Girls (1987) First Time Watch! – Part of the mini-genre of environmental horror and zombie films (Jorge Grau’s The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue and Jean Rollin’s Grapes of Death are the only others I know), this French splatter, soft-core porn, zombie movie is definitely a niche film for the fans of the strange and unusual. In an interesting inversion, the highly sexualized violence is committed by women against men instead of vice-versa. Be aware that there is an extremely graphic la bitte severing scene.
26) Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972) – Hammer films are almost always about the conflict between the older, staid generation and the frivolous and senseless younger one. What better way to showcase that conflict than to set a gothic vampire movie in the swinging London of the early 1970s? Pitting the bored and disaffected youth, searching for new kicks, against their stuffy and humorless elders brings back the biggest and baddest vampire of them all. If anything though, this version of the Count was even more uncomfortable and at odds with the modern world than Stoker’s. Christopher Lee’s Count Dracula never leaves the ruined church he is resurrected in. But there is a reason why Lee is considered cinema’s greatest King of Vampires! Watching him stride about in his regalia is just as breathtaking in the jaded 21st century as it was in the previous one.
27) Night of the Cobra Woman (1972) First Time Watch! – inspired by Marlene Clark’s performance in Lord Shango from last week; I saw this was available and checked it out. Sadly, her skills are wasted in this illogical mess of a movie. However, the skin shedding scenes of the cobra woman were pretty gross, so there is that.
28) Wolfen (1981) First Time Watch! – Documentarian Michael Wadleigh’s (Woodstock) only foray into feature films is a somewhat overlong, mind churning story of shape-shifting, Native American spirits hunting New York City’s wealthiest developers to protect their territory. Albert Finney is the New York detective tasked with solving the mystery. Gregory Hines is the city’s hippest coroner with a veritable helmet of an afro and single, dangling gold earring.
Dear reader, are you curating your own film festival? What movies are included? Please share them with me in the comments below. I am always looking for new films to experience!