Blog Directory CineVerse: October 2009

Color me Scarlett

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The winds of winter are right around the corner, but they're no match for the lasting power of "Gone With the Wind," which celebrates its 70th anniversary this year. 

Join CineVerse for part 1 of this timeless cinematic spectacle on November 4, followed by part 2 on November 11 (with a full discussion to follow on that date).


Why old monsters never die

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

by Erik J. Martin

Old monsters never die, and they don't exactly fade away, either. Instead, they're reborn in fresh new takes on the horror genre that pay homage to the classic creatures and indelible demons of pop cultures past, a la contemporary fright films like "Twilight" and small scream TV series like "True Blood."

When I interviewed him a few years ago before his death, Forrest J Ackerman, the renowned horror historian and former editor of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine, said that he believed many modern movies and TV shows pay a respectful homage to classic horror monsters and myths.

“It’s nice to see the legacy of pioneers like Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi kept alive in contemporary horror movies and television programs,” Ackerman said.

James E. Gunn, Emeritus Professor of English and Director of the Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas, told me that “almost every other kind of fiction is based on the notion that people earn their fates. What’s horrible about horror is that people often do not deserve the bad things that happen to them.”

Gunn argued that exposing viewers to timeless horror references—however subtle—in modern entertainment helps promote the classics of literature and film and form a more close-knit fan community.

“It tends to give viewers a kind of feeling of belonging, of being in the cognoscenti when they recognize something referenced” on their favorite TV show or new movie, Gunn said. “They feel as if their show is paying tribute to their knowledge of the horror genre. When a teenage viewer doesn’t ‘get it,’ they say, ‘gee, I’d better get with it and brush up on my horror history.’”

Why does the vampire mythos continue to be so popular, as evidenced by the strong following for modern horror series on television like "The Vampire Diaries"?

“A mummy or a werewolf are typically unpleasant, menacing characters,” said Ackerman. “A vampire, on the other hand, can be a more handsome, realistic creature that appeals to our humanistic, sympathetic side.”

Ackerman added that he does not worry about batminded burnout.

“There’s been a bit too much focus on vampires in the past few years in movies, books and television, and I fear that we may be getting burned out as a culture on vampires,” Ackerman says. “Being more of a purist of the classics, I also feel that they’re taking a bit too much liberty with the original Dracula archetype in some of these new creations. For example, vampires can get around by day now in some of these stories. But then again, they can’t have these vampires keep doing the same things over and over again. You have to add something new to the mythology.”

Ackerman, like most fans, believes that the undead, as well as their millennium-proof monster brethren, will never rest.

“I think classic monsters like vampires, werewolves, mummies and the like will stand the test of time,” Ackerman said. “I never saw the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde character become forgotten. And Frankenstein, Dracula and the mummy have been brought back to life more times than you can count.”

Gunn agrees that these frightmare forerunners have staying power that will defy age.

“The reason characters like Dracula and the Wolfman have lasted this long is they are archetypal—they deal with certain basic human concerns. It isn’t that we’re afraid of turning into werewolves, it’s that we have these repressed feelings within us that we don’t often let out,” Gunn said.


Hire a Carpenter this Halloween

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

You can't beat Bernard Herrmann's haunting score for "Psycho." Or Jerry Goldsmith's Oscar-winning soundtrack for "The Omen."

But if you’re throwing a monster mash bash this weekend–or even if you just feel like getting creeped out wearing headphones alone in a dark room--the ultimate Eve of All Hallows soundtrack is the music for John Carpenter’s 1978 horror classic “Halloween," currently available in a 20th anniversary edition compact disc (click here for details).

Written and remastered by Carpenter himself, this CD of instrumental music from the film is packed with bone-chilling cuts, including, of course, the piano-and-synthesizer title theme that plays as the elevator music to so many of our nightmares. 

Also thrown in are spooky dialogue bits from the movie, featuring the voices of Jamie Lee Curtis and the late Donald Pleasance. Talk about your music to soothe the savage beast.


Join the Chicago Indie Film Meetup Group

Monday, October 26, 2009

One of our new members was kind enough to pass on information about another film club that meets regularly to view and discuss films--independent films, that is.  It's called the Chicago Indie Film Meetup Group, and it convenes on the north side of Chicago.

According to its website, "The Chicago Indie Film Group typically meets the 2nd Tuesday of each month at the Landmark Century Centre Cinema. We meet as a group, then split up into smaller groups to see several films based on the interests of those who attend. Afterward we retire to a local eatery to grab a bite or drink, discuss the films we saw, and socialize."

To join this group or for more info, visit:


Hitchcock and Halloween: A match made in movie heaven

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Just in time for Halloween, the Oak Lawn Library will be hosting a free public screening of Alfred Hitchcock's "Strangers on a Train" (1951), scheduled for Thursday, October 29 at 2 p.m. and then repeated at 7 p.m. 

No, it's not a horror film, but it is a fascinating study in cinematic suspense that will keep you riveted and thoroughly entertained. Rated: PG for some violence and tension. 101 min.


Check out our November/December schedule

Friday, October 23, 2009

The CineVerse schedule for November/December has been created. Click here to view it. 

We'll have a nice smattering of different genres, eras and filmmakers to enjoy over the last two months of the year, so make plans to join us!


Let the write one in

Thursday, October 22, 2009

If you enjoyed our examination of "Let the Right One In" yesterday, or if you want to learn more, you can read the Reflections handout I created on the movie by clicking here. It contains erudite articles, essays and reviews about the picture. 

And for those who couldn't join us last evening, you can listen to a recorded podcast file of our discussion by clicking here.


Shocktober Theater x 2

Ever wonder what "Dracula" and "The Mummy" have in common? Actually, more than you think. 

See for yourself when you join us for our Shocktober Theater grand finale, a double-feature starring Bela Lugosi in the former and Boris Karloff in the latter, scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 28.


Celluloid possessions

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Earlier this month, we examined the lasting potency and lingering shock value of "The Exorcist" (click here for the article). 

If you want to delve more into demonic possessions and exorcisms on film, check out these flicks—some renowned, some obscure, and most (if not all) available on home video:

  • The Entity (1983). Barbara Hershey gets dominated by a lusty demon in this sometimes laughably lame fright flick.
  • Exorcism (1974). A satanic cult goes on a gruesome crime spree in a little English village. Tame by today’s standards, but has its spooky moments.
  • Exorcism’s Daughter (1974). Cheap ripoff of The Exorcist released a year later depicts the insanity of a woman who witnesses her mother’s death during an exorcism.
  • The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005). More of a disturbing psychological horror experience.
  • The Possessed (1977). An oh-so-dated made-for-TV fleshcrawler starring James Farentino as an exorcist called in to cast out Satan from a private girls’ school. 
  • Possession (1981). Rosemary’s Baby clone in which a secret agent’s wife prepares to give birth to an evil manifestation. 
  • The Possession of Joel Delaney (1972). Eerie flick about a wealthy divorcee whose brother, apparently the victim of Caribbean voodoo, undergoes harrowing transformations. Earns admiration points for predating The Exorcist by a year.

  • Repossessed (1990). A silly satire that’s still worth the rental just to see Linda Blair spoof herself—with the help of Naked Gun-slinger Leslie Nielson—and the entire demonic possession genre.  
  • Rosemary’s Baby (1968). A highly stylized and chillingly effective tale about a mother impregnated with the devil’s child, directed by master auteur Roman Polanski.


John Waters at Moraine Valley today

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Are you a fan of filmmaker John Waters? Here's a rare treat you won't want to miss: he's making a special appearance at Moraine Valley Community College today, Saturday, Oct. 17 at 7:30 p.m. For full details, click here.


Learn what happened to Baby Jane

Thursday, October 15, 2009

If you enjoyed yesterday's evaluation of "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane," or in case you missed our meeting and wanted to learn more about this film, you can download and read the Reflections handout I created on the film by clicking here. In it, you'll find interesting articles, critiques and essays. 

You can also listen to a recorded podcast of our Baby Jane discussion by clicking here (note, however, that my recorder's battery depleted halfway through the discussion, so I was only able to capture about 23 minutes worth).


Swedish style vampires

Good news, CineVers-ians: Our Oct. 21 meeting won't be cancelled after all, I've been reassured. Plan to join us that evening for our continuation of Shocktober Theater (we will not be in the theater, however, so check the signage as you enter the building).

This time up, it's a contemporary vampire tale from the other side of the world--Sweden, to be exact. 

We'll be discussing the modern horror classic "Let the Right One In" (this film will have subtitltes). For more info on this widely acclaimed picture, visit here

Just a warning: This film is rated R for some bloody violence including disturbing images, brief nudity and language.


Back from the dead

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The best (and worst) fright flick remakes

by Erik J. Martin

You can build a better mousetrap, but you can't build a better Frankenstein than the one brought to life by Boris Karloff. Or make Norman Bates any creepier than he was portrayed by Anthony Perkins in the original "Psycho."

Yet, like mad scientists confined too long in a haunted laboratory, modern moviemakers continue their attempts to improve on popular fright film formulas. They simply won't let some horror classics rest in peace, as evidenced by the slew of remakes Hollywood has churned out over the past three decades.

But fear fans can argue that there are as many good remakes of scary movies as there are rejuvenated celluloid monsters that were better left buried. Facelifts given to "Dracula," for example, either take a fresh bite out of the vampire legend (Francis Ford Coppola's 1992 version, more faithful to Bram Stoker's original book) or just plain bite (the laughable 1979 attempt starring Frank Langella).

Wrap new gauze on the mummy's corpse and you either get a gripping sarcophogus comeback (Stephen Sommers' "The Mummy," 1999) or a tattered and tired retelling (the painfully awful "Mummy's Revenge" from 1973).

Put new fangs on the Wolf Man and you either end up with a fan favorite man-beast a la Jack Nicholson ("Wolf," 1994) or dismal dreck that should have been put out of its misery with a silver bullet before it hit the big screen ("The Wolfman," 1982).

We can only hope that if someday they dare decide to remake more modern terror touchstones like "The Blair Witch Project," "Scream" and "The Exorcist," moviemakers will put in a little extra eye of newt to ensure a quality witches brew of shock cinema. Meanwhile, conjure up a few old ghosts this Halloween by renting some of the remakes in my "best" horror film remakes list below. But beware of the dreaded retreads in my"worst" list!

Best horror film remakes
(remake year, followed by year of original release)

  • The Blob: 1988, 1958 
  • Bram Stoker's Dracula: 1992, 1931
  • Cat People: 1982, 1942 
  • The Fall of the House of Usher: 1960, 1949
  • The Fly: 1986, 1958  
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame: 1939, 1923 
  • The Mummy: 1999, 1931 
  • The Thing: 1982, 1951

Worst horror film remakes

(remake year, followed by year of original release)
  • Frankenstein '80: 1979, 1931
  • Island of Dr. Moreau: 1996, 1933 (Island of Lost Souls) 
  • Night of the Living Dead: 1990, 1968
  • Psycho: 1998, 1960
  • Village of the Damned: 1995, 1960
  • House of Wax: 2005, 1953
  • Halloween: 2007, 1978
  • Texas Chainsaw Massacre: 2004, 1973
  • Friday the 13th: 2009, 1980
  • The Haunting: 1999, 1963


Read more about "Rebecca"

Saturday, October 10, 2009

If you relished viewing and discussing Hitchcock's "Rebecca" at our last meeting, you may want to read more about the film by checking out this Reflections document I created (click here), which includes some great reviews of the movie as well as further insights into themes and symbolism. 

And for those who missed our "Rebecca" discussion, you can listen to a recorded podcast of it by clicking here. Enjoy!


Columbus Day double feature at Oak Lawn Library

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Oak Lawn Library will be hosting two free public screenings of modern movies on Columbus Day, Monday, October 12. 

First up is "Stranger Than Fiction" (2006) at 10 a.m. In this flick, an IRS auditor suddenly finds himself the subject of narration only he can hear inside his own head in this smart comedy. Starring Will Ferrell, Emma Thompson and Dustin Hoffman. Rated: PG-13 for some disturbing images, sexuality, brief language and brief nudity. 113 min.

Then, at 2 p.m., bring the kids to see "Monsters vs. Aliens" (2009) When a meteorite from outer space hits a young woman and turns her into a giant monster, she is taken to a secret government compound where she meets a ragtag group of monsters also rounded up over the years in this animated, action-filled family film. Rated: PG for sci-fi action, some crude humor and mild language. 94 min.


Grand Guignol, Davis and Crawford style

Thursday, October 8, 2009

What do you get when you mix a healthy heapin' of a hateful Bette Davis and a generous portion of the pathos of Joan Crawford? Two aging Hollywood divas duking it out in a Grand Guignol grudge match, a la "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane."

Don't miss this Shocktober Theater special, up next in the batting order, scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 14. You can learn more about the movie here.


Speak of the devil

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

by Erik J. Martin

Back in 1973, chances are you were either having sweet dreams of then-big-screen-sex-symbols Jane Fonda or Robert Redford, or else having nightmares after seeing “The Exorcist.”

Directed by William Friedkin and produced by William Peter Blatty and Bill Malley, “The Exorcist” is based on Blatty’s hair raising, best-selling novel that tells the story of every parent’s worst fear: demonic possession of their child. 

Max Von Sydow and Jason Miller star as Father Merrin and Father Karras, respectively--two priests summoned by a frightened mother (Ellen Burstyn) to try to exorcize Satan from the body of her 12-year old daughter Regan, played masterfully by Linda Blair. Without revealing too much of the plot, the results are, to say the least, completely terrifying to audiences.

The possessed little girl proceeds to attack the priests, projectile vomit pea soup, spew forth limitless obscenities (in a perfectly chilling satanic voice provided by veteran radio actress Mercedes McCambridge), spin her head 360 degrees, and even levitate. Ace makeup artists Rick Baker and Dick Smith gave Blair her gory, hellish appearance--the face that launched a thousand nightmares.

As word-of-mouth spread, “The Exorcist” became a big hit at the box office. Later, it was nominated for best picture of 1973, and won Blatty an Oscar for best screenplay.

The film spawned a virtual new genre of demonic horror films, among them: “The House of Exorcism” (1975); “Beyond the Door” (‘75); “Cathy’s Curse” (‘76); and “The Omen” (1976) series. A series of dismal “Exorcist” sequels followed, including 1977’s widely panned “Exorcist II: The Heretic,” also starring Blair. Blair went on to spoof her role in the 1990 comedy “Repossessed,” co-starring Leslie Nielson.

Even after 36 years, many critics still regard “The Exorcist” as the best horror film of its kind. And for movie fans, it remains at or near the top of the all-time scariest flicks list.


A Chicago Film Festivus for the rest of us

Monday, October 5, 2009

Here's a quick reminder to all you serious film fans out there that the 45th annual Chicago Film Festival kicks off on October 8 and runs through October 21.

You can learn more by visiting here.


Take a fun film class at Facets

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Ever wish you could go to film school? Now you can, compliments of Facets Multimedia, an organization here in Chicago devoted to showcasing classic, foreign, and indie films.

Among the programs and events they offer are just-for-fun film classes taught by local film historians who like to share their interests in film with others. Each session is six weeks and classes meet once a week. The first fall session starts this week on October 5.


For more information, click here.


What are your favorite films?

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Have you recently joined CineVerse and attended one of our group meetings? Then we'd like to know some of your favorite movies. Please email me a list of your top 10 favorite films (rank them in order if you'd like), along with your first and last name, and I'll post it in the "Member Favorites" section on our Web site (you can find the link to our "Member Favorites" at the top of our page or by clicking here).

Also, if you've recently attended one of our meetings for the first time and want to get into the movie pick rotation (remember, you have to come to at least 4 meetings to be eligible for inclusion in the rotation), then please e-mail me a list of at least 5 films from which you'd like me to select when your turn comes around. 

Please list movies that you think are worthy of intelligent analysis and discussion--be they foreign, modern, silent, independent, classic, etc. Be aware that I'll be creating the November/December schedule over the next 2 1/2 weeks, so your timing is excellent if you want to be considered for Nov/Dec. (of course, if you're new, that means you'll have to attend regularly over the next few weeks to qualify!)

Note: by rule, we try not to repeat a movie we've already discussed. To see what we've screened so far since 2005, I strongly recommend you click on the "Reflections Handouts" link at the top of our page (or by clicking here), which includes insightful essays, reviews and write-ups on every film we've ever discussed.  

Lastly, to listen to a podcast recording of any of our CineVerse group discussions since 2007, click on the CineVerse podcasts link at the top of our page (or click here). Enjoy!


King of the fright flicks

Friday, October 2, 2009

"Psycho" or "Silence of the Lambs"? "Jaws" or "The Exorcist"? "Halloween" or "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre"? Ahhh, decisions, decisions...

It's up to you to help us decide which is the scariest movie of all time by voting in our new CineVerse poll for this month, which can be found in the far left sidebar on our Web page. The polls close on October 31, so cast your vote before you end up casting out the spirits!

By the way, the top vote getter in last month's CineVerse poll (Who is the greatest director of all time?) was Alfred Hitchcock, with 42% of the vote; runners up included John Ford, Akira Kurosawa, Martin Scorsese and Frank Capra.


Hitchcock kicks off "Shocktober Theater" month

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Whom better to launch CineVerse's 4-week season of suspense than Alfred Hitchock? "Shocktober Theater" month is back, and we'll kick things off in grand style on October 7 with "Rebecca," Hitch's only film to win the Academy Award for best picture (1940).

Starring Joan Fontaine and Laurence Olivier, "Rebecca" is a dark, shadowy, gothic romance/mystery that also features the awesome brooding presence of Judith Anderson as Mrs. Danvers, in a truly scene-stealing supporting role. 

For more info on "Rebecca," click here.


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