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Author: ChiaLynn

The Unreliable Narrators Watch… Chinese Ghost Story

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We spent nearly as much time talking about Chinese Ghost Story as we did watching it. This movie has (very nearly) everything—a beautiful, tragic love interest; a flame-throwing monk; a hapless tax-collector hero; a breathtaking pavilion in the middle of a lake; stop-motion zombies; and a climactic battle in hell. What it doesn’t have is a consistent tone or a linear plot—but maybe those things are overrated?

As always, we’ll start with our conclusions, and hide the full transcript after the jump. Prepare for spoilers galore.

DRAMATIS PERSONAE:
Chris
Cath
Chia
George

 

cathschaffstump 11:01 PM In part, even though these films have some “quality” issues, they are a lot of fun.

cathschaffstump 11:01 PM And the cheese is part of the feature.

cathschaffstump 11:01 PM And there are moments when they transcend and put us somewhere unique.

chris 11:02 PM cheese goes well with horror. Hello, Vincent Price

cathschaffstump 11:02 PM On the whole, I’m gonna say that I would recommend this to others if I know they would like it, or well, if they are well prepared.

chialynn 11:03 PM Yes, this is one I’d enjoy watching again with other people who would enjoy watching it.

chialynn 11:03 PM Or people I could count on to be entertainingly and/or charmingly baffled by it.

cathschaffstump 11:03 PM Yeah. It would be no fun if the people you were watching it with thought it was weird or stupid.

george_galuschak 11:03 PM this is as much screwball comedy as horror

george_galuschak 11:03 PM it’s really a very upbeat movie

george_galuschak 11:04 PM optimistic

chris 11:04 PM yeah that’s why earlier I said this may not even qualify as horror

cathschaffstump 11:04 PM But the tongue! That’s kind of scary.

chris 11:04 PM other than the tongues and claymation zombies

cathschaffstump 11:04 PM The zombies are pure camp.

george_galuschak 11:04 PM they were great

cathschaffstump 11:04 PM I will admit I am not too worried about having any bad dreams about this one.

 

The Unreliable Narrators Watch… The Woman in Black

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Or: Harry Potter and Chekhov’s Beloved Child

Okay, that’s not entirely fair.

The Woman in Black is an old-fashioned ghost movie with a sound design so effective that your humble Narrators are still talking about more than a week later. It’s not a perfect film—we’ll get to that—but what it does, it does well.

DRAMATIS PERSONAE:

Chris
Cath
Chia
George
Special Guest: Morris the Cat

 

Here be spoilers…

 

Our takeaways, with the full transcript after the jump:

chialynn 11:19 PM Obvious in ways I didn’t mind.

chris 11:19 PM I would say very creepy but not scary

chris 11:19 PM it’s that formula that relies on period. Phones and such make it not work

cathschaffstump 11:19 PM I concur, Chris.

cathschaffstump 11:20 PM Lots of really good sets and lighting.

cathschaffstump 11:20 PM Some really good acting.

chialynn 11:20 PM Novy just named the 3d animation and modeling package they used for the end credits.

george_galuschak 11:20 PM i liked it

cathschaffstump 11:20 PM I thought it was fine.

george_galuschak 11:20 PM it was effective at what it set out to do

chialynn 11:20 PM Good acting, effective use of the tropes, even when they were very clearly tropes.

chialynn 11:20 PM Creeped me the hell out.

chris 11:21 PM and yet… the tropes kept it from being scary

chris 11:21 PM too many scares that wouldn’t work without a BAM on the score

chris 11:21 PM It was mostly creepy-old-house atmospherics. And they played every card in that hand! who isn’t creeped out by old dolls, taxidermy, music boxes

chialynn 11:21 PM And… Kind of a happy ending?

cathschaffstump 11:21 PM Kind of.

chris 11:21 PM but then why go through all the shit with the car and the mud?

cathschaffstump 11:21 PM Trying to placate the woman.

chialynn 11:22 PM He thought he could change things. He couldn’t.

chris 11:22 PM did that even do anything?

george_galuschak 11:22 PM maybe she figured she was repaying him

george_galuschak 11:22 PM he wanted to be with his wife, she saw to it

cathschaffstump 11:22 PM Maybe. That’s an interesting take.

chialynn 11:22 PM But she did say “Never forgive.”

cathschaffstump 11:22 PM You gave me back my kid.

cathschaffstump 11:22 PM I give you back to your wife.

george_galuschak 11:22 PM sure

cathschaffstump 11:22 PM I like that.

chris 11:22 PM Well, we spent the entire film waiting for the other shoe to drop on Chekov’s beloved child

chris 11:22 PM and it did

chris 11:24 PM the child showing up just in time for the ending…

george_galuschak 11:23 PM yes, good ending

chialynn 11:23 PM Yes.

cathschaffstump 11:24 PM I still liked it, but I could see why some people might not.

cathschaffstump 11:25 PM So, I’m gonna recommend this one, but with some hesitation for those who don’t like their horror slow.

george_galuschak 11:25 PM i liked it. i will probably watch it again. i turned the sound down so i wouldn’t get too freaked

george_galuschak 11:25 PM the sound is the scariest thing about this movie

cathschaffstump 11:30 PM Agreed, George.

chialynn 11:25 PM I’m going to watch it again.

chialynn 11:26 PM I want to see some of the background stuff I missed.

chialynn 11:27 PM I like slow-build atmospheric horror.

chris 11:28 PM I’d say it’s passable. Not really a standout for me

cathschaffstump 11:29 PM I wouldn’t call it a great horror film.

cathschaffstump 11:29 PM But believe me, I’ve seen plenty worse.

chris 11:29 PM There’s the jacket quote. “I’ve seen plenty worse.” – Cath Schaff-Stump

chris 11:29 PM “Damning with faint praise indeed.”–Cath Schaff-Stump

chris 11:30 PM it wasn’t a waste of time. that’s my jacket quote

The Unreliable Narrators Watch… The Pit and the Pendulum

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The Pit and the Pendulum movie poster

Or, to be more formal, Edgar Allan Poe’s The Pit and the Pendulum.

But it isn’t, really.

It’s Roger Corman’s The Pit and the Pendulum. It’s also Richard Matheson’s The Pit and the Pendulum.

And more than that, it’s Vincent Price’s The Pit and the Pendulum.

Let’s get started, shall we?

As always, we’ll begin with our final impressions; you’ll find the full transcript after the jump.

Spoilers Ahoy!!!

 

DRAMATIS PERSONAE:

Chris
Cath
Chia
George
Special Guest: Bryon

 

Chris 9:27 PM That was like 5% Poe, 95% Richard Matheson

Cathschaffstump 9:27 PM For sure.

Chris 9:27 PM but Matheson is awesome

Cathschaffstump 9:27 PM Definitely a critter of 1961.

Chris 9:29 PM Okay, so I guess Richard Matheson had an idea for a screenplay, and Edgar Allen Poe is public domain so why not tack his name on?

Cathschaffstump 9:28 PM So, there were a boat load of films like this, focusing on Poe stories.

Cathschaffstump 9:28 PM Because Poe is you know, scary.

Cathschaffstump 9:29 PM But there isn’t much to most of his stories, so yeah.

Cathschaffstump 9:30 PM Having grown up with these somewhat, I appreciate them, but I think they would be hard for modern audiences.

Cathschaffstump 9:31 PM Films that belong to a very different time.

Chialynn 9:32 PM They do what they need to do very well.

Chialynn 9:33 PM Which is kind of a Corman hallmark.

Chris 9:34 PM They have sort of a theatrical appeal

george_galuschak 9:35 PM it’s a fine movie

chialynn 9:35 PM Low budget, made fast, some amazing performers, a lot of schlock.

Cathschaffstump 9:35 PM More like theater than a movie.

Chris 9:35 PM They feel very proscenium arch despite being full sets to me

Chialynn 9:35 PM Perfect for a night at the drive-in.

Cathschaffstump 9:35 PM but a different kind of thing than Hammer.

Cathschaffstump 9:36 PM Hammer is rawer, racier.

Cathschaffstump 9:36 PM Corman is well, as Chris just said, proscenium arch.

Chris 9:36 PM Hammer didn’t even pretend to have plots, really

george_galuschak 9:36 PM Vincent price makes that movie

cathschaffstump 9:36 PM Vincent Price makes pretty much any movie.

Chris 9:36 PM that’s true, remove him and not much is left

cathschaffstump 9:36 PM Even Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine.

Chris 9:37 PM The acting is very declamatory, which I think sort of saves it. Makes it like an intentional artifact rather than just dated.

Cathschaffstump 9:38 PM yes! I like to think of this film as an artifact.

Cathschaffstump 9:38 PM A perfect specimen.

Chris 9:38 PM so, final verdict?

george_galuschak 9:38 PM thumb’s up!

Chris 9:48 PM Not bad, even though it has almost nothing to do with Poe

Chialynn 9:48 PM Excellent, very much a product of its time.

Cathschaffstump 9:48 PM I recommended it, so you know I gotta like it.

Chialynn 9:48 PM A better movie for watching with others than for watching alone.

Cathschaffstump 9:49 PM It’s also a good date film at my house.

Chialynn 9:49 PM Not because of the scary bits, but because cheese is best when shared.

The Unreliable Narrators Watch… The Exorcist

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The Exorcist (1973)

Editor’s Note: Possible spoilers ahead

Welcome to the inaugural issue of “The Unreliable Narrators Watch…” with your hosts, the Unreliable Narrators. This week, we’re settling in with William Friedkin’s gory, unsettling classic, The Exorcist.

To begin, as they say, at the end, we’ll start with our final impressions of the film. Those of you interested in our thoughts about the rest of the movie will find the (nearly complete) transcript of our Slack discussion after the jump.

DRAMATIS PERSONAE:

Chris
Cath
Chia
George
and introducing: Morris

george_galuschak 10:14 PM i think it’s an effective movie

chris 10:15 PM full props, though, it still is disturbing. even if it doesn’t make much sense

george_galuschak 10:15 PM well, it depends on whether you want everything explained

cathschaffstump 10:15 PM I don’t think that’s it at all.

george_galuschak 10:16 PM for me, the plot holds together. this isn’t linear storytelling

((Editor’s Note: George is wrong. It is linear storytelling))

((Second Editor’s Note: George wrote the previous Editor’s Note. Chia isn’t convinced that George is wrong.))

chris 10:16 PM well, I think it was deliberately structured with all the red herrings

cathschaffstump 10:16 PM I think that it has a lot of characters that don’t need to be there, and a lot of connections that aren’t made because the author edited the original story, but perhaps not in an effective way.

cathschaffstump 10:16 PM I don’t want everything explained. I am down with ambiguity.

chris 10:16 PM yeah the inspector added nothing, other than make us wonder about his behavior

chialynn 10:17 PM I can’t be sure how many of those connections I would have made if I hadn’t read the book (even if I don’t remember much of it).

cathschaffstump 10:17 PM But I do like knowing where the arcs are.

george_galuschak 10:17 PM not sure if this is the theatrical cut

chris 10:17 PM yeah I wonder if the director’s cut clears things up, or is just grosser

chialynn 10:17 PM It’s about an extra 10 or 20 minutes?

chris 10:17 PM I remember the crab walking so I must have seen it at some point

cathschaffstump 10:17 PM That was missing, wasn’t it? I remember that too.

george_galuschak 10:17 PM they cut lots of stuff from the book

cathschaffstump 10:18 PM So, in many cases, the book is better than the movie. Kind of a conventional wisdom.

chris 10:18 PM I think maybe people who have read the book are happier with the movie because they can fill in the gaps?

george_galuschak 10:19 PM most of the movie’s shitty dialogue is from the book, so not really to the book being better, yes to filling in the gaps

chialynn 10:19 PM I like the cuts from what’s happening with Regan and her mom to what’s happening with the priest and his mom.

chris 10:19 PM I wonder why they cut that out

cathschaffstump 10:19 PM That is a nice parallelism.

chris 10:20 PM Exorcist is good, and holds up well after all this time. It could just make more sense, I think

chialynn 10:21 PM Excellent performances.

george_galuschak 10:21 PM effective at what it does

cathschaffstump 10:21 PM I’m gonna give it horror movie props. Good special effects, some good acting, Karras for the win.