sovay: (Jonathan & Dr. Einstein)
sovay ([personal profile] sovay) wrote2017-08-02 05:55 am
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Hands and feet and things like that, but no heads

Today was my brother's birthday observed, so I gave him an IOU for a set of automatic transmission brackets and levers that are on their way in the mail. (He's doing some car restoration.) My niece kept dragging me by the hand to come and look at her Brio trains until she decided it was more fun to have me sit on the couch with my feet up on the glass-topped table and provide a bridge for her to drive the trains beneath. I would take her to see the construction on the Comm. Ave. Bridge except that, if all goes well, the major replacements of this phase will be done in the next couple of days and then my brother and his family are going out of town. I might just have to go by myself. I don't think of it as being a very distinctive bridge, but it's been there all my life. Also, I like cranes.

1. Paul Harfleet's Pansy Project plants the flowers as memorials of and resistance against instances of homophobia and transphobia. The artist started his work in the UK, but it's an open-source, international project; he just asks that you follow the guidelines if planting a pansy for yourself or someone close to you. I don't have need of it myself right now—the last time someone harassed me in the street was based strictly on appearing female in public—but I really like the idea, both as art and ritual.

2. I know I'm in the wrong country, but maybe I'll get lucky and BBC America will show Queers (2017) and I can ask someone to tape the series; the actual BBC's streaming service just apologizes to me. This looks like the most interesting thing I've seen Mark Gatiss do since the time I watched The Cicerones (2002) and The Tractate Middoth (2013) in the same month.

3. The official video for "Stronger Than You" involves Estelle and a plaza full of Steven Universe fans and it's wonderful.

4. Courtesy of [personal profile] gaudior: "Judeo-Christian." Yep.

5. Does anyone know how far back the idea of ghosts as recordings on time actually goes? I think the earliest I've encountered it in fiction is Margaret Oliphant's "The Open Door" (1882), with the key conceit of a ghost—unlike the self-aware kind with unfinished business—trapped in endless reenactment of a moment of its life until it can be known and named and someone break the pattern. "Lord, let that woman there draw him inower! Let her draw him inower!" This question brought to mind earlier tonight by watching William Castle's House on Haunted Hill (1959), where Elisha Cook, Jr. believes firmly in the exact opposite kind of ghost: conscious, malevolent, and increasing in number with each death that occurs within the Mayan exteriors of the Ennis House, which [personal profile] spatch recognized at once from The Rocketeer (1991). He's the spooked host of the film, the house's reluctant owner who claims that spending one night inside left him "almost dead" and agrees to a rematch only because there's $10,000 in it, though he doesn't expect to survive to collect—he closes out the evening like a macabre Eeyore, sighing, "What's the use of saying goodnight?" He may be in worse shape than Roddy McDowall in The Legend of Hell House (1973), which is saying something. To the other four guests, invited for a Halloween-scare party that rapidly complicates into something more authentically lethal, he gives a lugubrious tour of the corridor where a girl's stabbing still bleeds through the dry ceiling, the basement where a husband dissolved his wife in acid that still burbles under the floor. He tells the story of his own brother's murder while holding the carving knife it was done with and keeps a drunken, self-appointed vigil over the body of the house's latest apparent victim, insisting to her incensed husband that he "didn't want them to take her away—they will if you don't watch her!" We are meant, I think, to suspect him as a pint-size psycho killer as much as trust him as a guide to the house's gruesome history, but there's such real panic in his voice when he cries, "Your wife isn't there anymore! She's already joined them!" that for a moment we expect the body to have vanished when the camera—along with Vincent Price, who was distracted by choking Cook—glances back. The real supernatural potential of the film runs on his unwavering, terrified conviction, not on the jump scares, although there are several good ones. I'm not sure it all pays off in the end in a way that doesn't leave plot holes even ghosts can't plug, but it's a great showcase for Price's barbed, silky, never quite parodic style as the playboy millionaire with $50,000 to burn and motives that are so obviously ulterior, they're successfully opaque, and its low-budget combination of gross-out and suggestion ("Funny thing is, the heads have never been found . . . You can hear them at night. They whisper to each other, and then cry") is actually at points disturbing. Human plotting and violence is one thing, but unappeasable ghosts seeping out unstoppably from the epicenter of whatever started the haunting in the first place is a much more modern horror motif than I was expecting from a movie with dripping ceilings and acid baths, especially when there's not the least implication that knowing what happened in the house could put an end to it. Cook seems to know all the stories: all it does for him is provide more reasons to drink. Even when the last act pivots through almost as many genres as plot twists, there's something unsettling left over. And the rest of it's fun. I might have to check out more of Castle's gimmick horror now. A plastic skeleton did not fly out over our heads at the climax, as in selected theaters during the original run, but I don't hold that against anything I watch off my laptop. This really haunted house brought to you by my restless backers at Patreon.
gwynnega: (Basil Rathbone)

[personal profile] gwynnega 2017-08-02 10:23 pm (UTC)(link)
May I ask why that one in particular?

Because of the film's dream/nightmare theme, Castle gets to indulge in some outright surrealism along with his shocks. There's a wedding ceremony involving a bunch of mannequins that is a particular favorite of mine.

Also, Barbara Stanwyck proves herself up to the task of carrying a "psychobiddy" vehicle, and she screams her lungs out a lot. (Though I can't help but wonder if the reason Stanwyck switched exclusively to TV work after this film is because she didn't want to make any more movies like it!)