Monday, October 24, 2016

A Two-Necronomicon Day

Yeah, my blog is called October, and I've almost let the whole Halloween season pass without an update. Here's a few of the things the October family has been watching to get us in the spirit.

Ash vs. Evil Dead, Season 1: Returning to the world of the three Evil Dead movies, Bruce Campbell re-inhabits the character of Ash Williams so effortlessly, you'd think he'd been him every day since 1992's Army of Darkness. With evil loosed upon the world, the still gloriously idiotic Ash picks up his chainsaw and gets back to work, joined by two young co-workers from his job at an S Mart knock-off. Soft-spoken Pedro hero-worships Ash as the prophesied "El Jefe" destined to defeat the forces of darkness; Kelly, who could easily have been a one-note Jersey Girl stereotype, is forged by tragedy into a toughened warrior who can keep Ash in line. After a season under his mentorship (with advice ranging from "Chicks are like that" to "Shoot first, think never)," both kids seem perfectly capable of taking over someday as Deadite hunters supreme -- and both of them more responsibly than their teacher. This show is super-gory, very funny, has a kick-ass soundtrack, and its mostly half-hour episodes fly by in a delightful blink.

H.P. Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom: This feature-length animated film from 2016, based on a graphic novel, blends facts about the writer's childhood with a fanciful story about a journal opening a portal to another dimension. There, he meets a friendly Cthulhu and helps a race of fish-people break a dark spell. It's cute enough, and I appreciated the somewhat darker themes that reflect Lovecraft's life experience. Imaginative little Howard's father is locked up in a frightening mental institution, his doting mother is anxious and highly-strung, and his classmates think he's a weirdo. It's a nice (and not heavy-handed) message, that his life isn't perfect, and coping with situations is sometimes hard, but one can still be a decent person, and in helping others,  better one's own life. Unfortunately, overall it tends to be a bit long and talky -- hardly a fair criticism of something based on Lovecraft, I know, but I did groan a little when they started traveling to yet another location on another snowy path.

Bates Motel: Not the current series starring Vera Farmigia, but a full-length 1987 pilot for a never-made TV show. Bud Cort plays a young man who grew up in a mental hospital after killing his abusive stepfather. There, he and Norman Bates were inseparable friends (and the more Dr. Exposition expounds on how healthy this relationship was, the less it sounds), and when released, with a lack of preparation I found infuriating, he takes possession of the creepy old house and rundown motel Normal left him in his will. He befriends squatter Lori Petty -- speaking of Jersey Girl stereotypes -- and they work to reopen the motel as a place that will bring joy to the lives of weary travelers. In the first of what were probably going to be weekly Love Boat-style guests, their first customer is checking in to commit suicide, but she's saved by a roving band of 50s-era teen ghosts, including a depressed but flirtatious young Jason Bateman. It's nice that they all got together to save her life, but I don't know who was going to pay for all the punch and finger sandwiches they had at their sock hop. While this has all the marks of the TV movie it was, with its loose logic and obvious low budget, I found it an enjoyable time capsule. For example: OMG those shoulder pads!
Also, the sleazy banker who takes advantage of Cort's naivete is played by Starlord's grandpa.Which reminds me: apparently the fight against luxury condo development just never freaking ends, since that's a major in this plot from almost 30 years ago.