OCTOBER 3, 2007
I remember it like it was about a year ago... I was at Best Buy, buying the best things I could find, when I stumbled upon what seemed like a treasure in DVD form: 50 horror movies for 20 bucks. Seeing such well-known titles as Deep Red, Bad Taste, and Driller Killer in the mix, I assumed all 50 films were of equal merit, just not as well known. So I plunked down my 21.64 (fuck you, tax!) and went home.
Opening the box and reading the capsule descriptions for each film, I was bummed to discover that a lot of the movies sounded pretty terrible. In fact, it took me like a half hour to find one that sparked my interest enough to inaugurate the set: Haunts, which promised a slasher movie with a twist ending.
(Note - a few weeks after I bought the set, I bought a new TV, HDTV/16:9 blah blah. The horrendous video quality (not to mention full frame transfers) meant that I would never again watch a film from the set at home. Haunts remains the only one I didn’t watch at work (not to mention the only one I didn’t watch specifically for Horror Movie A Day).)
Now that’ I’ve worked my way through about 90% of the set, I can safely say that Haunts is definitely one of the more interesting movies, worth far more than the 40 cents or so each one set me back. The description makes it sound more like a slasher film than it is, but that’s OK. The film is a strange, atmospheric psychological drama about a woman slowly going nuts as some pretty terrible childhood memories began to resurface. Few people fully enjoy the film, and it’s amazing how many random (read: wrong) sub-genres the IMDb lists it under (among them, Zombie, Demon, and Supernatural – all in a film without so much as a single non-realistic element).
About a month after I first saw the film, I saw the highly underrated The Return, which was similar in pace and “Not really horror!” tone (and, like Haunts, was marketed as a totally different type of movie). Given my undying love of excess, one might assume that a film as sparse and “slow” as these would be the bane of my existence, but that’s not the case. In fact, I love slow movies just as much as fast ones (my two favorite non horror movies this year certainly support this statement – Shoot Em Up and The Assassination of Jesse James...). There’s something about being slowly drawn into a fairly simple story that appeals to me. In Haunts' case, I’ve already described the entire plot; there’s very little else to the narrative. The occasional murder is more or less a macguffin, the film is really about this poor girl’s sexually repressed lifestyle sadly getting the better of her. It doesn’t exactly get the adrenaline pumping, but it works, at least for me.
And also, Cameron Mitchell plays the uncle, which puts him in the cast of a record 10% of the Chilling Classics set. I don’t know if that’s something to be proud of or not, but there it is. As always, he’s pretty bad, but that’s our Cameron! And for some reason he plays the final 10 minutes of the film with his hair drenched in white paint (or perhaps milk).
The transfer on this film is among the poorest on the set, with some sort of odd “Auto-contrast” option being used that turns almost every intentionally dark shot into an ugly, washed out and murky gray. Far as I know, it’s not available by itself on DVD, but I understand the VHS (!!) is actually of better quality.
And how’s this for a weird coincidence – both this movie and yesterday’s "October Extra" were scored by Pino Donaggio (this one’s almost as good too, if a bit too 70s). Note I said ‘weird’, not ‘interesting’.
What say you?