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a blog from Eli the Bearded
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His House


Wanting something to watch, I skimmed a list of best movies on Netflix (that page gets monthly updates). First the gothic horror Crimson Peak suggested itself, due to Guillermo del Toro directing. But the story was so-so and the actors never really disappeared into the roles (with one exception noted below), so it was meh overall.

Then I found a different sort of ghost story horror movie, His House.

Superficially this reminds me of American Gods: people moving to a new place bring with them the gods of their old location. Only in this case it's refugees bringing a malevolent spirit with them to the UK from South Sudan. This brings several forms of horror into play.

There's the low-level bureaucratic horror of seeking asylum in a western country, the more cruel horror (in flashbacks) of the violence they are fleeing, and the traditional horror movie evil spirit.

The three are seemlessly blended in this film, succeeding at making you care for the characters and worry about their welfare in the asylum system while also giving you ghosts and a witch to torrment and provide both visceral threats and existensial threats to the asylum process.

There's one actor who (dis)appears in both His House and Crimson Peak: Javier Botet. He's a dead spirit in Crimson Peak and the witch in His House. Botet is noted for playing monsters due to physical appearance, Wikipedia gives his height at 6"7' (a hair over 2m) and his weight at 123 lbs (56kg). This extremely tall and thin figure lends itself to playing inhuman creatures. The viewer in both of these films can't easily tell if it is puppetry, computer manipulation of the graphics, or a practical effect made possible by Botet's unusual figure.

Ten "rat" holes in the walls out of twelve.

His House at imdb

Wake in Fright


For a "lost" movie of Australia, this is surprisingly easy to watch:

Complete Wake in Fright on Youtube

Well, when I say "easy" I don't include how it might effect you.

The film was made in New South Wales, in the area The Road Warrior was filmed, directed by Ted Totcheff before he became known for Rambo. Some years after it's release it came to be considered a classic of Australian film, but the negative went missing. A bit over a decade ago a complete restoration was made from a good print and/or negatives found in a box labeled "For Destruction" — I've read different versions of the story there — for re-release and DVD. That restored version is what seems to be up on Youtube. There's a made-for-TV two episode "mini-series" remake that I have read about but not watched. The TV one is available on Amazon Prime presently.

My biggest gripe with this film is how an intelligent guy makes such a foolish bet about thirty minutes in, setting everything up for his predicament. The remake, I know, changes the reason he gets stuck without money in "The Yabba". A good and valid choice for the re-do, but otherwise I can't comment on the differences.

Wake in Fright opens with school teacher John Grant dismissing his one room schoolhouse in a desolate patch of the Outback for the Christmas break. John boards a train for the nearest city where he is to spend one night before flying to Sydney. The first half hour shows us how much John doesn't fit in with the locals in two-building Tiboonda or the city in Bundanyabba. We find out he's only teaching in that remote town because a financial obligation gives him no choice in posting.

Then John loses all of his money and the plot begins.

He dejectedly begins to try to find a way to earn some to be able to pay for a hotel, or better, his trip to Sydney. Instead he finds locals who are all too willing be friendly in sharing beer, food, beer, housing, beer, and a night hunting trip (with more beer). The hunt is neither simulated nor pretty.

The sun, the heat, the beer, the desolation, and the people begin to take a toll on John's well-being. It may well be the death of him.

Three XXX beer out of XXXX beer.

A word of warning: do not try to keep up drink for drink.

Inside No. 9 and Room 104


These are two television shows with a very similar theme. Presently both are available on HBO, where I watched them.

Inside No. 9 is a BBC anthology series were every episode involves the number nine, usually in the form of a location. Karaoke room nine, hotel floor nine, many buildings with address number nine. For many all of the action takes place on a single set, but some branch out a bit. Multiple rooms in a single building, brief outdoor scenes setting location, that sort of stuff. The creators act in all of the episodes, but sometimes just bit parts, the rest of the cast rotates.

Room 104 is an HBO anthology series were every episode takes place in the same location, that of a motel room numbered 104. The time jumps around, and there's some standard room decoration that will indicate what decade, but a few of them stretch that, eg a campfire on the site of a to-be-built building, a therapy session with dolls in a motel room diorama, etc. This is much stricter about location, a large room with a pair of beds, a small closet, and the adjoining bathroom. For this the entire cast rotates.

Both of them hop around genres a bit. In Room 104 there's a noir-ish one that turns supernatural, a musical sword and sorcery episode, an animated episode that looks like kids TV but deals with rape, a "documentary" about a father-son art collaboration, a Faustian bargain, and a nearly wordless dance. Inside No 9 doesn't stretch the genres as far afield, but still seems more creative with the stories.

Inside No. 9 is billed as a "dark comedy". Most episodes have a twist at the end. Death, fraud, and theft are frequent plot points. One episode is very much like a Shakespearian comedy, with separated at birth twins, love story, and a murder plot (and done in iambic pentameter). Some use well-known stories as jumping off points, there's a monkey's paw gimmick in one, another has an art show has echoes of Christie's And Then There Were None. But the flexibility with location allows creativity you can't get with the same motel room over and over.

Room 104 has four seasons of twelve episodes each, and is finished. I felt season one was the weakest.

Room 104 at imdb

Inside No. 9 has five seasons of six episodes each, and a new season has just started in the UK (not available on HBO). There are weak episodes -- I think s1e1 is not very good -- but not particularly weak seasons.

Inside No. 9 at imdb

There's no continuity between episodes, feel free to jump around. And if you don't like one, that doesn't mean you won't like the next. FWIW, there are some out of season things for No 9. I found the web-only episode on youtube, but I didn't think much of it and didn't save the link.

Starcrash


I was looking for Caroline Munro works and found this 1978 film. This is a Roger Corman production, and in many ways typical of his stuff: cheap. Considered by some a cult film, it was a quick to market rip-off of Star Wars.

There is an evil overlord with a novelty spaceship. There are a pair of smugglers being pursued by space police. There's risky hyperspace jumps to avoid those space police. There are robots. There's a weapon the size of a planet that needs to be dealt with. There's Akton (played by Marjoe Gortner) a force magic user (it's not really explained, not even to Star Wars: A New Hope level of explanation.)

And there's Stella Star (played by Caroline Munro in costumes not entirely unlike Barbarella). Unlike a lot of Corman's stuff of the era, this is strictly PG, so while Stella is never, eg, topless, she's clearly meant to be the big draw for a teenage male audience. They do spice it up with a planet of "Amazons" who also dress like the weather is rather warm.

The story is amusingly bad, and the special effects are amusing. There are some robots (not all of them) that remind me of Harryhusen's Sinbad films. (Munro became famous as a slave girl in one of those films.)

But Akton. Ugh. He just ruins the film for me. Gortner's rise to fame came from being ordained at age four and preaching on the "revival" circuit for years in his youth, then turning to acting to earn an honest living. It's an interesting story for the actor, but none of that matters for the film. Throughout this he can never seem to not look smug, and it grates. I've seen him in Bobby Jo and the Outlaw and didn't find him as unwatchable there, so I don't think it was Gortner's fault. (To be clear, the reason to watch that film is not him, the outlaw, but Lynda Carter's Bobby Jo.)

One escape pod out of four.

Starcrash at imdb
Star Wars: A New Hope at imdb

Bobby Jo and the Outlaw at imdb