Friday, October 7, 2016

A "Hell" of a Good Time - Hellish Horror Movies

Some bad, bad demon-types.
It's October!  The time of the year I can be unabashedly obsessed with gothic creepiness.  Now, this does not mean I am not obsessed with horror the other eleven months of year.  It just means that October is when I feel I can be overt about it and not look too crazed.

My creepy celebrations for this year have included going back and watching some horror, suspense, and thriller flicks.  I wanted a theme, and well, "Hell" seemed as good as any.  So my trio of terror included "Hellraiser," "From Hell," and "Hellboy."

Note - Spoilers galore.  If you haven't seen these yet, go watch some Netflix or something then come on back.

"Hellraiser," which I'm going to call HR in this post, is really the only straight horror flick of the three.  It is a classic of the 1980's horror scene, and expresses the pros and cons of that era.  The movie suffers from being old, with special effects that are not too realistic anymore, and come over as campy.  As far as standard horror goes, I'm not too much a fan of 'jump scares.'  I find them tedious.  So I was glad that there are few enough in this movie, which often shows you pretty much exactly what is going on.

Puzzle Box.  Do Not Use.
In spite of its failings, there is some good tension, and some creative villain-demon-thingies, like the iconic "Pinhead" character.  In fact, the villains (Cenobites) are really the best part of HR.  While this movie does not make it perfectly clear what these torturers are, "demon" is pretty close, given that they seem to admit to residing in Hell.  Apparently, they are called by use of a puzzle box by a human who is seeking the extremes of physical sensation (and who apparently does not care if that extreme is of pleasure or pain.)  The character of Frank in HR says this - that he wanted to experience the extreme.  And he clearly got more than he bargained for since he was very interested in escaping.

Other thoughts.  Ugh.  I hate movies with sexism, and that's a lot of movies.  Watching strange men come on to the female lead was just nauseating.  Gross and foul.  Watching the movers in one scene harass a young woman was infuriating.  It is so expected no one in the film even comments on it.  Blarg.  And the way the lead female was attracted to the blatantly abusive and manipulative Frank?   Oh ewwww.  Greasy.

I think it would have made a much better cerebral-thriller movie than horror.  The gore does not seem to serve the purpose of supporting the interesting conceit (puzzle box) and more interesting demons.  So overall, HR is okay for some popcorn fun on a rainy night, but not re-watchable.

Looks more impressive
than it is ...
"From Hell." (or FH ...) Now why does this movie rub me the wrong way?  I just don' t know, but it does.  As a re-telling of the Jack-the-Ripper story, it should have bean great.  So many talented actors and actresses.  The scenes are wonderfully dark, with a foggy, dreary London that is only beaten out by something like Burton's Sweeney Todd.  The secret-society-of-British-gentlemen angle is also an interesting plot driver.  

But a few things really stuck in my craw about FH.  Now to start, I want to say I know a great deal about absinthe and how it was used, and then prohibited.  How absinthe is portrayed in this movie is really ridiculous.  And setting it on fire?  No.  No, no, no.  People did not do that.  Hollywood invented that, and it might have been this very movie that is to blame for this misconception.  And Depp, who I normally like, just fell flat in this movie.  Did not feel like a real person, more like a sort of puppet.  He ends up OD-ing and I didn't care.  The fate of Heather Graham's character?  Also did not care.  And the gory scenes are not scary.  Just gore for gore's sake.

The movie does not work.  It needed to go either all out horror, or dial back and be more suspense/thriller.  It straddles the line and ends up not really working as either.  I simply didn't enjoy it.  So overall, I'd only watch this film if I really, desperately needed to see a horror movie with Depp and couldn't stream Sleepy Hollow.  Which means, nah.  I'll pass.

The good guy from Hell.
"Hellboy" i.e. HB.  I knew nothing of this film before watching.  Just needed another "Hell" movie to round out my trio.  It turns out to be the best of the three, but it's not a horror movie any more than 'Aliens' was horror.  ('Alien,' singular, now that was horror, and the best of the genre as far as I'm concerned.)  HB is a comic superhero vs. the monsters type of movie, with a lot of suspenseful moments, dark themes, and simply bizarre characters.  So if you like superheros and monsters, you will like this movie.

I like the conceit of a demon from hell having a choice to be good or evil.  This one seems to be working for the good guys because it was raised with compassion to be a 'real boy.'  I get the impression the actual named Hellboy from the comics is supposed to be more angsty and troubled.  This one is a bit brooding, but still comes over as a generally positive straight talker who just wants to get the job done.  A gritty guy, but not despairing at all.  I was bummed that some of the more interesting characters got waxed by the middle of the movie, and one was too injured to make it to the finale.  And they could have done so much more with the overall story line of Hellboy and his mysterious past and even more mysterious purpose in life.  It just does not come together well.

Still it was fun to watch, and the monsters were done well with pretty good special effects.  I'd watch this one again, even without the popcorn.   

Image Credits:  Cenobites, Fair use,  Puzzle box Public Domain.  From Hell Theatrical Release Poster  Hellboy Theatrical Release poster

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