Category: Spectober

BOHEMIAN DELIRIUM: CZECH HORROR IN THE 80s AND 90s

As with so many Eastern European cinemas, Czechoslovakia’s flourished in the 1960s under relaxed censorship and state funding for wild experimentation on a level we can only dream of in the U.S. Before Soviet tanks rolled in, crushing the Prague Spring (and proposals for democratic elections) in 1968, the Czech New Wave had hit such international recognition as to have produced two academy award winners in the States, as well as more deliciously outré masterpieces like Vera Chytilova’s anarchic Daisies and Juraj Herz’s macabre satire of the lead-up to WWII THE CREMATOR.

But this series isn’t about the Czech New Wave, it’s about what happened after, when those same visionary directors refused to go away or give up their visions. For some, this ultimately meant fleeing to the West, but for Chytilova and Herz it would mean decades more of developing their art and fighting to get some of their best and most radical films made, first under Communist restriction and then against the new funding complications of capitalism. Chytilova was blacklisted from working entirely twice (for her work in the 60s, and again after her scathingly brilliant PANELSTORY, for about eight years total, during which she directed commercials under the name of her husband and cinematographer Jaroslav Kučera), while Herz’s career became a constant battle against compromise, bureaucratic red tape, and American directors borrowing scenes (as when bits of his own lived WWII concentration camp experiences may have made their way into SCHINDLER’S LIST).

Perhaps this is why both found success during forays into genre cinema in the 80s, where the official oversight was lower than in supposedly serious filmmaking. Perhaps this is why these films, sci-fi horrors both, are so uniquely strange and fantastic. (And, as a bonus, we’re also including Herz’s 90s nightmare vision of the post-modern shopping mall).

Chytliova passed away last year at the age of 85 after directing her last feature in 2006 and continuing to teach at FAMU, while Herz, now 81, is still at work on new films.


FERAT VAMPIRE
A.k.a. Upír z Feratu
Dir. Juraj Herz, 1981
Czechoslovakia, 94 min.
In Czech with English subtitles.

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 4 – 7:30 PM
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 10 – 10:00 PM
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 22 – 7:30 PM
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 25 – 5:00 PM

While Juraj Herz honed his horror chops on THE CREMATOR and gothic-psychedelic past Spectober favorite MORGIANNA, FERAT VAMPIRE may actually be his best. A sinister car corporation prepares to launch the Vampire, a flashy, modernist sports car with very peculiar engineering, mysteriously low gas requirements, and a flurry of marketable rumors of death and danger that international press constantly eats up. An ambulence driver (director Jiri Menzel, who snagged one of those 60s Best Foreign Film Oscars for CLOSELY OBSERVED TRAINS!) suspects something is up after his ex-racecar driver partner (Dagmar Havlová, later first lady of the Czech Republic!!) falls under the spell of the prototype. Soon, both are drawn deep into a stylish surrealist noir of hidden motives, doubles, corporate marketing machinations, and Cronenbergian bio-mechanical terror (actually arguably referenced by Cronenberg for Videodrome two years later!) As reality dissolves, even the logical linking scenes get taken over by absurdist vignettes of our uneasy symbiosis with the automotive world.


WOLF’S CHALET
A.k.a. Vlci bouda
Dir. Vera Chytilová, 1987
Czechoslovakia, 92 min.
In Czech with English subtitles.

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 7 – 10:00 PM
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 11 – 7:30 PM
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 23 – 7:30 PM
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 30 – 10:00 PM

An absolute and stunning outlier amongst the satiric relationship comedies Vera Chytilova was making at the time, Wolf’s Chalet opens essentially as a Chytilova teen ski movie, with all attendant teen behavior patterns familiar from the American 80s in evidence. Seriously, it’s either an impressive testament to the universal archetype of 80s teens, or to the increasing porousness of the Iron Curtain by the mid-80s, as it almost seems like anyone on the cast could have skied off-set and into a scene from BETTER OFF DEAD at any moment. But it gets better: the instructors at the remote alpine camp are not what they seem, strange events occur overnight, and soon the teens are turning on one another as ambiguous tensions and mysterious dread overtake the story. And then, Chytilova, a life-long Socialist however frustrated with the political realities she had to work under, manages to inject political allegory as a further layer in the wild mix of the film. While also assuring that you’ll never look at a snow man the same way again.


PASSAGE
A.k.a. Pasáz
Dir. Juraj Herz, 1997
Czechoslovakia, 104 min.
In Czech with English subtitles.

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 6 – 7:30 PM
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 16 – 10PM
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 30 – 7:30 PM

In PASÁZ (PASSAGE), one of his late career films from 1997, Juraj Herz explores the deep animal fear we experience when setting foot inside a shopping mall. It is the fear of an unending self-contained world of buying and selling, so like the new Capitalism the Czech Republic had recently been plunged into.

The hero of PASÁZ Mikhail Forman, a banker out for a shopping trip wanders the murky halls and crannies of the mall with the presumed initial goal of picking up an anniversary gift for his wife. The shopping trip turns sinister as Mikhail encounters various mall types with unclear identities, his own identity is stripped away, and causality becomes a closed loop, like that of a shopping mall arcade. Packed with vague anxieties about bureaucracy and the modern world, this one is a true masterpiece of the “Man propelled against his will on journey, which takes place in a compressed time frame, and from which he emerges forever changed” genre.

CATS IN THE CRADLE (TO THE GRAVE): THREE JAPANESE GHOST STORIES

This Spectober, our Japanese Ghost Story series returns with three bakeneko-mono or ghost-cat stories, one of the most popular sub-genres of kaidan. All three of these films involve a woman who is wronged by a feudal lord and either ruthlessly murdered or driven to suicide. But first, she urges her cat to lap up her blood as she lies dying. The cat is transformed into her avenging spirit and proceeds to bring misery and death to the Lord’s castle.

BlackCatMansionBANNER

BLACK CAT MANSION
Dir. Nobuo Nakagawa, 1958
Japan, 69 min.
In Japanese with English subtitles.

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 1 – 10:00 PM
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 15 – 10:00 PM
MONDAY, OCTOBER 19 – 10:00 PM
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 23 – 10:00 PM

Acknowledged by Nobuhiku Ôbayashi as a major influence on HAUSU, BLACK CAT MANSION contains an unusual, extended present-day sequence bookending its Edo-period tale. Filmed in blue-tinted monochrome, the modern-day segment involves a doctor who relocates to an old country mansion to care for his sick wife. Once there, the doctor and his wife begin to experience bizarre hallucinations. They consult a monk who relates the tragic history of the mansion: a tale of a jealous lord, a blind monk and his distraught sister and a possessed cat.  BLACK CAT MANSION features near-psychedelic set pieces that point the way towards Nakagawa’s most celebrated horror masterpiece JIGOKU, made two years later.

BakenekoBanner

BAKENEKO: A VENGEFUL SPIRIT (aka THE CURSED SWAMP)
Dir. Yoshihiro Ishikawa, 1968
Japan, 86 min.
In Japanese with English subtitles.

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 13 – 10:00 PM
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 17 – 7:30 PM
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 25 – 7:30 PM

Lord Nabeshima, who rose to power by murdering his master, demands that the young Yujiki become his concubine. When she refuses to submit, he murders her and her fiance Yuki. Yujiki’s cat consumes her blood and becomes her avenging spirit, possessing one of Nabeshima’s wives and murdering his vassals, his concubines and his only son.

Ishikawa was one of the writers of BLACK CAT MANSION, and though he directed few films, Bakeneko displays directorial genius. Beginning in a quietly haunting vein reminiscent of UGETSU, BAKENEKO descends into a nightmarish parade of splattered blood, decapitations and ghosts gnawing on severed limbs.

HauntedCastleBANNER

THE HAUNTED CASTLE (aka SECRET CHRONICLES OF THE GHOST-CAT)
Dir. Tokuzô Tanaka, 1969
Japan, 82 min.
In Japanese with English subtitles.

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 1 – 7:30 PM
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 11 – 5:00 PM
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 21 – 10:00 PM

THE HAUNTED CASTLE’s narrative is a bloodier retelling of BLACK CAT MANSION, but its unique and elaborate visual style, marked by disorienting zooms and elaborate tracking shots, wouldn’t be out of place in a giallo. Much of the film take place in near-total darkness, illuminated only by slivers of candlelight and lightning flashes. Director Tokuzô Tanaka was an assistant director on RASHOMON, UGETSU and SANSHO THE BAILIFF, and he later directed the great kaidan THE SNOW WOMAN, a favorite from last Spectober’s series of Japanese Ghost Films.

THE HOUSE OF HATE

THE HOUSE OF HATE
Dir. George B. Seitz
1918
USA

PART 1: Episodes 1–5

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 3 – 7:30 PM
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 7 – 7:30 PM
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 18 – 5:00 PM

PART 2: Episodes 6–10

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 15 – 7:30 PM
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 18 – 7:30 PM
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 29 – 10:00 PM

Short-form weekly action serials were the blockbusters of the early cinema, and Pearl White was their queen. White rose to fame in wildly popular and aliterated titles such as THE PERILS OF PAULINE and THE EXPLOITS OF ELAINE, narrowly avoiding death every episode, only to be imperiled in another, often literal, cliffhanger ending. White famously did (almost) all of her own stunt work, swimming rivers, shooting pistols, and thrilling an audience who came back every week to see their plucky heroine evade the latest trap her enemies set for her.

Much of White’s filmography has been lost, but THE HOUSE OF HATE is among the few of her surviving serials. White plays Pearl, the illegitimate daughter of a munitions tycoon. Suspecting the rest of his family of plotting against him, Pearl’s father names her the sole heir to his fortune, outraging his scheming relatives, and making Pearl the target of a mysterious masked maniac set on murdering her.

This October, Spectacle is proud to present the entire ten-episode series in two parts; episodes 1-5 and episodes 6-10.

This digital transfer comes to us from our friends at Serial Squadron.

GHOSTS OF SHRIEK SHOWS PAST

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 2 – MIDNIGHT: 555
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 9 – MIDNIGHT: THE UNDERTAKER AND HIS PALS
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 16 – MIDNIGHT: HEADLESS EYES
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 23 – MIDNIGHT: MARLEY’S REVENGE: THE MONSTER MOVIE

Since the dawn of time, Spectacle has long been carried on the backs of many a supporter. It’s kind of like that poem Footprints that hung in your grandma’s dorm room. Or better yet, it’s like an ant farm. A cool ass ant farm that shows the best movies you’ve ever seen. To be blunt–Spectacle wouldn’t and couldn’t exist without the often jaw-dropping amount of love we receive from filmmakers, distributors, cinephiles, and (of course) our audience.

In 2011, we held our first ever horror marathon (and last ever sci-fi marathon). Over the course of the next 4 years the marathon would play host to some incredible titles both old and new while laying waste to brains both old and new. Whether you stopped by for the full 12 (sometimes 14) hours or just came for one movie (or maybe you’re the those two dudes who showed up at 2am after the first one who thought it started at midnight instead of noon)–we say thank you.

To celebrate half a decade of marathons we present GHOSTS OF SHRIEK SHOWS PAST. The following titles are hand picked one from each past year to lead into The Fifth Annual Spectacle Shriek Show this year on October 24th. Without the generosity, kindness, and confidence of the following presenters (and others too numerous to cover in this brief post) we wouldn’t be where we are today.

South Third Street Forever.


555_banner

Massacre Video presents: 555
Dir. Wally Koz, 1988.
90 min, USA.

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 2 – MIDNIGHT

From The First Annual Spectacle Shriek Show. (2011)

A hippie killer with a sex-fueled, murderous bloodlust is on a rampage and he’s brutally murdering innocent young couples! A nationwide trend of killings with the same m.o. happens to catch the eyes of Detective Haller and Sergeant Connor. Every five years, within five days of each other, the killer strikes! Now it’s up to Haller and Connor to find out who is behind these grisly murders. Who is this crazed, blood thirsty hippie? And more importantly, what is the significance of the third ‘five’?

Written by Roy Koz and directed by Wally Koz, this rare SOV splatter-classic has recently been given the royal treatment by Massacre Video with a DVD, special edition DVD, and an already eBay fodder clamshell.


UNDERTAKER_BANNER

Lunchmeat VHS Fanzine presents: THE UNDERTAKER AND HIS PALS
Dir. T.L.P. Swicegood, 1966.
63 min, USA.

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 9 – MIDNIGHT

From The Spectacle Shriek Show II. (2012)

Two degenerate café owners cook up a depraved alliance with a demented Undertaker and run amok through town on their motorcycles, hacking up hot dames and cleaving craniums. Select portions of the corpses are served up as daily specials at the café and The Undertaker gets to bury the leftovers. But when a pair of local detectives smell something fishy afoot, the trio’s reign of terror runs into some trouble.

One of Lunchmeat Publisher and Editor-in-Chief Josh Schafer’s all-time favorite flicks, this pioneering pitch black comedy is a kitschy slice of pure drive-in delirium that plants its tongue firmly in cheek, then bites it off and spits it out onto a sizzling hot plate ready for you to enjoy. Once you’ve ingested the wacky slab o’ cinema cheeze that is THE UNDERTAKER AND HIS PALS, you’ll never get the taste out of your mouth!

Dig it!


HEADLESSEYES_Banner

Spectacle Midnights presents: HEADLESS EYES
Dir. Kent Bateman, 1971.
78 min, USA.

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 16 – MIDNIGHT

From The Third Annual Spectacle Shriek Show. (2013)

You know how it is for starving artists, right? I mean, look at your clothes. Anyway, it used to be even harder! So hard that some of them turned to a life of crime. This is especially true in the case of Arthur Malcolm. Down on his luck, Arthur is caught robbing an apartment and loses his eye in the process. Once he’s healed he’s out on the streets and, brother, he is HEATED. Arthur sets about on a mad killing spree, gouging out the eyes of his victims with a spoon. He collects the eyes for his artwork, you see. This continues for some time with mixed results.

This film was directed by Kent Bateman, father of Jason and Justine, in the streets of a now long gone version of NYC. According to this film, it was a time when a hooker would approach a man covered in blood in the middle of the day in order to turn a trick. The good old days. In addition to this movie being totally batshit insane with a FIERCE mutant soundtrack, it’s a veritable snapshot of a city as nasty as they come. The performances are hammy and intense, like Easter dinner in a mental institution.

Not to be missed!


MARLEY_Banner

Horror Boobs presents: MARLEY’S REVENGE: THE MONSTER MOVIE
Dir. Jet Eller, 1989.
83 min, USA.

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 23 – MIDNIGHT

From The Fourth Annual Spectacle Shriek Show. (2014)

“I don’t know about you, man, but I’m still huuuuungry.”

Two bozos get picked up by a gang of vigilantes out to scrub the streets of scum after mistaking the men for drug smugglers. The problem is they’re actually smuggling in their aunt and uncle. The four are whisked away to the local island where they murder all the other drug smugglers. You know what though? None of this even matters because once they get to the island things get really out of hand. Zombies rise from the grave, a giant hell monster shows up, and the vigilantes aren’t too pleased either. How will anyone escape this island alive?

Another marathon mainstay and VHS monolith, Horror Boobs has been providing not only marathon fare but midnight fodder at Spectacle for over a decade![citation needed] This years entry is…well, something special indeed.

Featuring a completely new transfer and other goodies. If you saw this at the marathon last year, you still haven’t truly seen it. A house favorite and rare treat!