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Scary Monsters 2011, Round 2

A couple of lists, a quiz, a dash of news, a collection of posters, reviews of Paranormal Activity 3 and more.

More than halfway through October now, and it's high time for a followup to the first "Scary Monsters" roundup of the year, the one that pointed to several ongoing month-long cinephilic celebrations of Halloween. Before taking a look at a few recent and upcoming releases, let's begin with a list, namely, Glenn Kenny's at MSN Movies, the "50 Scariest Movies of All Time." At Some Came Running, Glenn kicks himself for forgetting to include Erle C Kenton's Island of Lost Souls (1932) with Charles Laughton and Bela Lugosi: "In my defense, I've long held that it's not a real 'greatest' list unless it complains at least one completely bone-headed and inexcusable omission, and the omission of Souls, I would say, constitutes a particularly distinguished instance of such." Update: At Criterion's Current, Susan Arosteguy lists "10 Things I Learned" about Souls — factoids, some odd, some nifty, some a little spooky. Update, 10/21: Viewing (1'38"). "Three Reasons" for Souls from Criterion.

Here's another, much shorter list at the Vulture: "Claude Brodesser-Akner's Five Favorite Non-Slasher Halloween Movies."

The Playlist's Kevin Jagernauth passes along news that George A Romero "is working on an adaptation of Steven Schlozman's novel The Zombie Autopsies in collaboration with the author. The concept is not unlike that of World War Z or Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Similar to those books that the movies are based on, The Zombie Autopsies is presented as a journal written by a neuroscientist, Dr Stanley Blum, who is infected but is desperately on a cure to fix zombies. And the journal details the rather gruesome, forensic methods they employ…. [W]ith a number of zombie movies in development or production — World War Z, Warm Bodies, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, a Zombieland TV show among many many more — not to mention the smash success of The Walking Dead, Romero is entering a cultural sphere that has changed the zombie game entirely."



For the New York Times, Larry Rohter heads down to São Paulo and meets José Mojica Marins, aka Coffin Joe, and notes that At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul (1964) and This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse (1967) will be out on DVD next year "with new subtitles and improved prints and supplemental material… Some admirers see Mr Mojica, who has directed, written or acted in more than 50 movies, as a kind of South American Roger Corman, a B-movie auteur whose films contain references to Nietzsche and Dante. Others view his work as pure camp — more in the tradition of Ed Wood and Plan 9 From Outer Space than Luis Buñuel or John Waters — or simply trash. 'I'm an original, unlike anybody else, but it's been a hard road,' said Mr Mojica (pronounced moe-ZHEE-kah). 'I know that because of Coffin Joe I'm considered to be crazy, a blasphemer, and that some critics spit on me, but I've maintained my independence. I'm not connected or beholden to anyone.'"

In the Austin Chronicle, Marc Savlov meets Caroline Thompson, recipient of this year's Distinguished Screenwriter Award at the Austin Film Festival. She's worked with Tim Burton on Edward Scissorhands, The Nightmare Before Christmas and Corpse Bride and tells Savlov: "The most fun thing I've done recently is an adaptation of a novel called The Master and Margarita by the Russian novelist Mikhail Bulgakov. It was written in the 1930s and it's considered a national treasure in Russia. It is, in point of fact, kind of the forebear of all the magical realism that Márquez and Borges wrote. It's a wild, absolutely insane, crazy ride about the devil coming to Moscow and upending the bureaucratic, dull world. It's a marvelous book, and I wish I could tell you the director, but the deal's not done yet. It's going to be a really exciting project."

Savlov also talks with Ryan Levin, who's written Some Guy Who Kills People, in which Ken Boyd (Kevin Corrigan), "fresh out of his local asylum, spends his days scooping for his neighborhood ice creamery and his nights wreaking blood-drenched vengeance on the high school bullies who made his life hell once upon a homeroom."

Dennis Cozzalio presents Dr Phibes' Abominably Erudite, Musically Malignant, Cursedly Clever Halloween Movie Quiz.

Dan North has collected 50 Frankenstein posters.

"In 2009, Oren Peli's low-budget, 'found-footage' thriller Paranormal Activity came out of nowhere to gross more than $100 million domestically at the box office," writes Jason Guerrasio in the Voice. "Not bad for a first-time filmmaker who made a $15,000 movie in his house in San Diego with two friends and sold it to Paramount for $350,000. Then, as if things couldn't get any better, a year later, Paranormal Activity 2 earned more than $40 million in its first weekend, making it the highest opening ever for a horror film. With Paranormal Activity 3 coming out Friday, the question now for Peli and his team of DIY nightmare makers is: Can Paranormal become a perennial horror franchise? 'One step at a time,' Peli says coyly when asked…. For Tod Williams, who took over directing duties for Paranormal Activity 2 after making a traditional family drama, The Door in the Floor, this style of filmmaking was invigorating. 'The fact that we had a release date but had no clear idea of what the movie was going to be, that we were going to work with unknowns, experiment and invent a new way to make a movie at a studio, and that everyone thought we were doomed to fail and be the next Blair Witch 2, that was super exciting to me,' he says."

"Directed by Catfish duo Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman and written by Christopher B Landon, Paranormal Activity 3 continues the prequelly backwards-tracking of the last installment, flashing back to 1988 and events documented on VHS," writes Alison Willmore for Movieline. "The franchise has been forced to come up with additional backgrounding as it reaches into the past and introduces new characters, and what's provided here is a halfhearted mix of familiar elements from films like Poltergeist, The Blair Witch Project, The Exorcist and Rosemary's Baby that come together for a finale that pulls out all the stops but ends up feeling a touch anticlimactic. The ending also raises some questions about how this film can possibly fit in with the other two — 'they were young and they forgot' won't really cut it. Then again, no one asks for Paranormal Activity's answer to The Silmarillion — the film provides a few imaginatively eerie sequences and enough jolts to entertain a midnight crowd (and make this critic curl up into a ball of cowardice), which is all it needs to deliver."

More from Richard Corliss (Time), Kate Erbland (Box Office, 3.5/5), Glenn Kenny (MSN Movies, 2.5/5) and Scott Tobias (AV Club, B). Update, 10/21: And more from Ty Burr (Boston Globe, 3/4), Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times, 1/4), Mark Olsen (Los Angeles Times) and Andy Webster (NYT). Update, 10/22: "The activity is pretty normal in Paranormal Activity 3, at least relative to its predecessors." A 1.5/4 from Nick Schager in Slant.

"The Woman arrives as a welcome antidote to one of the most pernicious diseases of our times, an epidemic of glossy remakes that have gutted and gelded the grand tradition of relentlessly grungy 70s horror classics like The Last House on the Left," writes Budd Wilkins in Slant. "Scripted by novelist Jack Ketchum and director Lucky McKee [whom Wilkins also interviews], The Woman is a slow-burning incendiary device, a brutal satire on the sanctity of the nuclear family and its conservative 'values' that, like the majority of Ketchum's work, seems to delight in burrowing down to the dark discontents that gnaw away at what nowadays passes for civilization. A sequel of sorts to 2009's The Offspring, McKee's film picks up with its title character (Pollyanna McIntosh), the sole survivor of the earlier film's cannibal clan, eking out an existence in the Maine woods like some unspoiled noble savage. The hallucinatory opening sequence plays like an unholy marriage between Antichrist and Apocalypse Now, down to the hand-scrawled title and synth-heavy score squalling and droning away on the soundtrack."

But for Mark Holcomb, writing in the Voice, "even with a nauseous climax, The Woman never gets under the skin, and its artsy-languid pacing and incessant lite-metal commentary tunes finally seem like part of an effort to disguise what it really is: torture porn for people who'd never admit to liking torture porn."

More from Eric Kohn (indieWIRE) and Joshua Rothkopf (TONY, 1/5). For indieWIRE, Nigel M Smith talks with Pollyanna McIntosh.

"The Dead has a promising setting for a zombie movie, and the first few minutes lead one to assume that the film will be engagingly terse and tough," writes Chuck Bowen in Slant. "An African soldier (Prince David Osei) goes AWOL to find his son whom he believes has escaped into the country somewhere following an undead uprising that's rapidly bringing South Africa to its knees, while an American mercenary (Rob Freeman) survives an airplane crash nearby that forces him to trek across the sweltering zombie-infested terrain in the hopes of finding another way out so that he may return to his family in the States. The parallel is obvious: Both men are soldiers whose loyalties to country are compromised by loyalties to family, and so of course they soon meet and bond while battling the dead." British commercial directors and brothers Howard J Ford and Jonathan Ford "have said in interviews that their film is about hope, which is telling of their movie's problem: The Dead is more preoccupied with Message than drama, which undermines the threat of chaos that drives any good horror movie."

But for Chuck Wilson, writing in the Voice, "The Dead, with its vast, pitiless landscapes and moral seriousness, is Night of the Living Dead reimagined as a Sergio Leone western. It's a knockout."

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