See It Instead: Winchester
I am of the opinion that Winchester is going to be a spectacular garbage fire presided over by the always majestic Helen Mirren. Here’s a few films about crazy old bats to watch instead.
This weekend, a strong contender for least anticipated movie 2018 arrives: Winchester. While Neil is highly antipathetic towards this horror movie; I’m morbidly curious. I think this movie could be such utter trash that it becomes fun. The horror looks awful; Helen Mirren looks glorious. While my nose for so bad they’re good movies has been suspect, this one is smelling like some delightful garbage to me.
The heiress to the Winchester firearm company fortune (Mirren) believes she is being haunted by all the souls lost to Winchester guns. Everyone else believes she’s crazy. Her neice and a brilliant physician are summoned to her mansion: a sprawling monstrosity built in apparent mania. The house is not for the living, however. It is an asylum for the dead.
The trailers for this movie look pretty bleh. Despite the stylishness of Mirren and insanity of the house’s layout, the scares look like every bad trope you’ve seen in modern horror. If this movie isn’t your cup of laudanum, here are a few more horror/thrillers about crazy old ladies.
The Serious Pick: What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)
After Proud Mary came out, we did an explainer on Blaxploitation. Did you know that there was also a thing called Hagsploitation? Now you do. You’re welcome.What Ever Happened to Baby Jane is the matriarch of the hagsploitation family.
Bette Davis and Joan Crawford play has-been sisters with a lot of bad blood. Jane (Davis) was the child star eclipsed by the more talented sister, Blanche (Crawford). Blanche is now wheelchair bound, which puts her at the mercy of the increasingly unhinged Jane. Both are driven further and further into madness in this tense, unsettling thriller.
This movie is a classic. If you like Hitchcock or the writings of Edgar Allen Poe, you definitely should give this a roll. Not only did it popularize the horror standard of crazy old ladies that were once famous/glamorous (hagsploitation), but Crawford and Davis apparently hated each other’s guts in real life. Now that is reality TV.
The Seriously Messed Up Pick: Suspiria (1977)
This film is relevant for two reasons: first, it’s a real mind-fuck; and like Winchester it uses crazy architecture to disorient and unsettle. Secondly, it’s getting a 2018 reboot with Dakota Johnson. While I’m highly dubious about the quality of the upcoming reboot, the first outing of Suspiria was a doozy of psychedelic horror.
Suzy Bannion is an aspiring ballerina who goes to a prestigious school in Germany to perfect her craft. Her first day begins with meeting a fellow ballerina… as she attempts to escape. Things get progressively weirder from there. Suzy finally comes to the realization that the school is a front for a coven of witches, and she must kill the queen to end the coven.
“But where is the crazy old lady?” you ask. That my friends is Madame Blanc, played by Joan Bennett in her final performance. Besides being a role that got Bennett nominated for a Saturn award, there is a lot of other aspects going for Suspiria. The film is awash in psychedelic colors and offputting images; Suspiria is the Italian “spaghetti horror” masterpiece that directors like Ana Lily Amirpour homage in their works. The film was the first to use THX sound to heighten the tension, and the entire proceeding is a gruesomely stylish flick that fans of current works like Hannibal would be remiss to miss.
The “Seriously?” Pick: Drag Me To Hell (2009)
Christine is your stereotypical corporate sociopath-lite. Her life gets decidedly awful when she cruelly denies a loan extension to Mrs. Ganush, an elderly woman who does not forgive, and has the means to repay the tresspass. With only a few days before she is literally dragged to hell, Christine must find a way to lift the curse.
Sometimes, you know who directed a film just from the trailer. After watching the trailer for Drag Me To Hell, I didn’t even need to go the IMDb; this film is geniune, 100% Sam Raimi awful. We love Raimi, but when he does bad… whoo boy does he ignite that dumpster into a glorious fire. I mean, check this ish out:
This is classic “splatstick” Raimi. You can’t tell whether Drag Me to Hell is trying to be seriously scary, or if Raimi is taking the piss out of us. It has special effects that are sometimes gruesome, and sometimes hilarious. Everything is over the top. It kept me on the knife’s edge of laughing and vomitting. If you ever read Stephen King’s Thinner and thought “yeah, but what if everyone exploded in blood?”, then Drag Me to Hell is the film for you.