Horrorfest 2016 Presents: The Cars That Ate Paris (1974, Peter Weir)


This is a rather strange and yet intriguing movie. It is sci-fi, horror, and satire all rolled up into one cult low budget film package. Peter Weir before he hit it big in Hollywood created some interesting and unique movies that were centred in Australia or around Australians. The Cars That Ate Paris is one such film, and its title and subject is rather obvious. Well at least at face value.

Arthur is a young man who survives a car crash that kills his brother and leaves him stranded in the small town of Paris, Australia. He quickly discovers that no one leaves Paris, and also finds himself caught between the rebellious youth and the ruling elders of the town. This film despite weak acting and some questionable moments still is a bleak apocalyptic window into a society gone mad, ruined by their obsession with the auto.

The last act reminded me of Mad Max, which I’m sure was inspired by this movie. Weir has always been a director with something to say, and with Cars he delivers a good film that always kept me wathing. If one sits through the slower parts one is rewarded with a movie that has a crazy final act and even a funny scene out of a western. I would love to read the essay on this film written for its Criterion release.

Horrorfest 2015 Presents: Phantom of the Paradise (1974, Brian De Palma)


Why there are not more gothic horror operas in cinema I don’t know. Perhaps it’s due to the few ones being released bombing or not being successful. Phamtom of the Paradise did poorly at the box office, which is a shame considering that it’s wondeful and entertaining. I loved the musical numbers and the film’s cast compliments the proceedings well. Jessica Harper is the standout, although Paul Williams’ wonderfully evil Swan and William Finley as the tragic Winslow/the Phantom also turn in fine performances. I also enjoyed seeing Gerrit Graham as Beef, a 70s style glam rocker who is funny and entertaining. 

Brian De Palma has always utilized different influences, particularly Alfred Hitchcock, although here he channels Orson Welles more. Especially in a great split scene take that reminded me of the classic Touch of Evil. The musical numbers are the film’s strongest aspect, although the best song is saved for the end credits: “The Hell Of It,” a nasty ditty sung by Williams himself. Harper has an equally great number with “Special To Me”-the dance she performs at the end of it is rather amusing. Finley’s “Faust” is strangely beautiful as well; “Dream a bunch of friends,” one of its lyrics, is poetry. 

De Palma manages to create what is possibly the best of the Phantom of the Opera adaptions. While this film is cheesy at times it’s engaging and fantastic,  humorous and creepy. This is the kind of musical that I can endorse, and it is also one of his best films. An overabundance of style and a quality helping of exuberance is never a bad thing, and De Palma’s films always have those aspects in bunches. “Goodbye goodbye goodbye…”

Horrorfest 2015 Presents: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978, Philip Kaufman)


Eerie and very sinister, quiet and deadly. You only really too late that your own friends and neighbors are being replaced by creatures unknown. This is a force beyond our understanding, a parasite that feeds upon man. Do not, I repeat, do not fall asleep. You shall dream your last dream if you do, and the rest is a walking nightmare. Conformity is the norm already in human culture, which is unfortunate. Most unfortunate. Welcome to Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

The original 1956 classic dealt with McCarthyism and communism, fear of the other and the suburbs not being a safe haven. Philip Kaufman’s equally great remake moves the action to San Francisco, trafficking in 1970s style paranoia and the fear of government bureaucracy in the wake of Watergate and the Vietnam War. Donald Sutherland, Blake Adams, Veronica Cartwright, Jeff Goldblum and Leonard Nimoy round out a fine cast that adds to the expert direction. The soundtrack is nice and creepy, although the film easily uses silence to underline the horror of what is occurring.

One of the best parts of the film is when a person literally crumbles away in Sutherland’s arms. What a terrifying concept, that a person could be destroyed and an unfeeling monster emerges, occupying their living space. Also the film wonderfully uses Nimoy and Sutherland,  who both fit the material rather well and are the major players in a situation that could determine the fate of the human race.

While I’m not sure if the other two remakes are even worth seeing the 1978 version is almost equal to the 1956 adaptation of the novel all of them are based on. Due to spoofs and time I knew the film’s ending, and yet that finale still amazes. This film is another worthy additon to sci-fi and horror.

Horrorfest 2014 Presents: Orca: The Killer Whale (1977, Michael Anderson)


Joe Bob Briggs’ commentary on this film is complete gold, and is far better than anything I could possibly write about this movie. In fact there is a good movie in here somewhere, however Orca is overall a mediocre at best Jaws rip off that fails hard because it journeys into self-parody. The film also has some of the most hilarious slow motion deaths in cinema history, as the angry killer whale has to rely on his victims to literally hang over the boat in order for him to grab them. Did I mention that the big angry whale is also seeking revenge? Does it matter that really such a thing isn’t possible? Nope. This is a movie so reality is suspended, however there is only so much that I can take before I start to laugh and write off what is happening onscreen. Case in point: the Orca manages to attack a power station, followed by it giving Richard Harris the death stare as he stands on land. Now that’s one intelligent pissed off animal. This film is literally if Free Willy’s mate was killed and he decided to go on an epic killing spree-in fact maybe Free Willy is really what would happen if Mr. Orca decided to befriend a kid instead of murdering people. But where would the fun be in that?

What’s even worse about this movie is that it wastes a good cast that includes besides Harris Charlotte Rampling (who is given very little to do whatsoever), Keenan Wynn, Bo Derek (before she became famous-what happens to her is one of the film’s highlights) Robert Carradine and a post One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest Will Sampson, who has some of the film’s less cringe worthy lines. Although I liked certain moments and I didn’t mind the film’s ridiculous plot I still cannot give this film a passing grade. And yes I must stress viewing Joe Bob Briggs’ MonsterVision commentary for this film because it is really quite humorous. I’m not sure why the 70s became so killer animal obsessed as Jaws wasn’t the earliest example, even if it did end up becoming the most famous and best of the bunch. Oh and for some reason this film has a score by the legendary Ennio Morricone. I hope he got paid really well for composing music for this turkey.

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