This was a busy Halloween, as the 31st marked the first birthday of my son Kai (how fast that went!), but I managed to squeeze in my annual Horrorthon. Ken Hart of Goodman games fame and my old friend James were on hand as I pulled out my box of horror DVDs and warmed up the DVR.
This year's selection:
The "Living Doll" episode of the Twilight Zone
"My name is Talky Tina..." I've always found dolls creepy as all get-out, and this episode was no exception, especially the chilling finish. Telly Savalas, sans lollipop, plays a great heel in Eric Strater, yet you almost feel sorry for the guy by the end, trapped as he is between a marriage on the edge of collapse and a sinister doll. June Foray provided the voice for Tina. I think the earliest occurrence of the dreaded doll-on-the-stairs trick I can recall was in an old Ray Bradbury story—I can't remember the name but it was during that period in the late 1940s when Bradbury wrote some fiendish stories about killer babies and such.
I recall many, many years ago crawling into the cubbyhole on the upper floor of my parents' home looking for something. It was our version of an attic. It was dark, dusty, and cramped. I was flat out on my stomach, pulling myself forward and ever-deeper with my hands in quest of that elusive item. I came across one of my sister's dolls, a heavy model with metal eyelids that opened and closed. Unbeknownst to me, the doll was made to work with a magnetic "wand"—if you waved the wand the metal eyelids flapped open, and if you touched the wand to the doll's chest the doll's arms would close and "hug" you.
As I neared the doll I stumbled across the wand and, not knowing what it was but curious, palmed it. Moments later I came face-to-face with the doll in the narrow cubby and as I tried to push it out of the way, my hand (still clutching the wand) touched its chest... The doll's eyes popped open and its arms closed around my hand in a tight embrace. To say I popped out of that cubby like a cork from a champagne bottle is about right. Only later did I figure out what had happened. Brrr.
The Simpsons TreeHouse of Horror III (which, by no coincidence, in part mocks the TZ episode above)
A great counterpoint to the evening's other chills!
"Eater" episode of Fear Itself
This episode concerned a policewoman who is part of a skeleton crew in a dingy precinct watching over a cannibalistic serial killer they are holding overnight. The environment was suitably frightening, but the episode quickly devolved into pretty standard fare. The stupid behavior of the protagonist didn't do much to generate sympathy.
As killer alligator movies go, this wasn't horrendous, but the character development was sorely lacking. Why should I care about these people again? Because two of them flirted a bit? That said, the alligator effects were pretty good! I also thought the scenic shots of Australia—clearly taken on location—were fabulous and added greatly to the feeling of puny humans in the great wilderness.
"New Year's Day" episode of Fear Itself
This was a rather tame version of the standard speed zombie / rage zombie theme wherein a woman awakens after a long New Years party to a very changed country. I liked the way the flashbacks revealed glimpses of the evening before and the ending helped save the episode for me. At the heart of this was a really good idea.
Many thanks to my fellow film watchers for an enjoyable evening. Here's to next year!