Halloween Countdown: Bride of Chucky

Sublime-to-ridiculous time in this weeklong Halloween countdown. Tomorrow, something meaty; today, child’s play.

Bride of Chucky, by Robert Horton

There comes a time in every lad’s life when he must give up the wanderings of youth, when he should embrace the virtues of fidelity and security in a grown-up commitment. Herewith the theme of Bride of Chucky, the fourth installment in the Child’s Play series of slasher-doll movies. Don’t believe those “Chucky Gets Lucky” ads; this is a relationship we’re talking about here. Continue reading

Rosemary’s Baby

Rosemary’s Baby, by Robert Horton

“Taking my script to Paramount’s secretarial pool, which was situated at the top of the building, I asked the elderly woman supervisor whether anything could be done to make it look shorter–like using more single-space typing. A faraway look came into her eyes. ‘The last person who asked me that,’ she said, ‘was Mr. von Sternberg.'”–Roman Polanski, from Roman

That anecdote doesn’t lead anywhere, really, except to suggest the link between the craftsmanship of exalted glory-days directors such as Josef von Sternberg and the latter-day classicism of Polanski. In a peculiar way, the casting of Rosemary’s Baby (which, adapted from Ira Levin’s novel, was the hefty script Polanski handed to the Paramount secretary) makes this link, too. The weird denizens of the Bramford and the unforgettable Dr. Sapirstein are all played by Hollywood characters whose heyday was the 1930s and 40s: Elisha Cook, Jr., Sydney Blackmer, Ruth Gordon, Patsy Kelly, and Ralph Bellamy. It’s a gallery of waxworks, people we identify as being from another time, mustily recognizable although we haven’t seen them in a while (Gordon had been making films, but not in terribly important parts–it was after her Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Rosemary’s Baby that she began her mostly intolerable string of pixies). Their identifiability as golden-age movie folk lends a touch of the fantastic, as though they constituted a movie colony looking for a pair of actors to play the leading parts in their (literally) diabolical plot. So they get Guy, who actually is an actor, and the malleable Rosemary, played by Mia Farrow, daughter of the old-pro Hollywood couple Maureen O’Sullivan and director John Farrow. They’re all in the employ of Old Scratch himself, who might be akin to a cruel and golden-eyed studio head.

After all, Polanski had just come from a disappointing job on Dance of the Vampires, which producer Martin Ransohoff had cut, dubbed, and saddled with a cartoon prologue. Polanski describes viewing the cut version: “Watching this, I felt the way a mother must feel when she finds out she’s given birth to a deformed child. The man had completely butchered my work.” The natal imagery can’t be casual, coming into Rosemary’s Baby.

And consider too that Polanski, while no slavish homage-monger, does bring a sense of cinema history to his films. Rosemary’s new Vidal Sassoon haircut, for instance, invokes the cinematic memory of Falconetti in Carl Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc; both films emphasize close-ups of their close-cropped heroines, their prominent cheekbones flashing in the stark lighting. Joan led her people into a new age; that seems to be what Rosemary is going to do, albeit unintentionally. Both women hear voices, too–Rosemary hears them in her dreams, through the walls, and eventually must wonder whether her witch-fancies are in her head or across the hall.

And this uncertainty is crucial to the film’s delicious suspense. Continue reading

Halloween Countdown: Day of the Dead

A quickie on the least appreciated Romero zombie picture.

Day of the Dead, by Robert Horton

The 1985 midpoint to George Romero’s zombie quintet. Poorly released and mostly ignored at first, this has always been considered a letdown compared to the undisputed horror champs Night and Dawn (and by the time Land and Diary came along, Romero was automatically getting the love from critics and fanboys). But this is actually a really strong movie.

Before going underground for virtually the entire picture, we begin in a helicopter, as searchers land in a Florida city and look for survivors of some terrible cataclysm. No humans are present, but maybe it depends on how you define “survivors,” ‘cuz we got zombies all over. Continue reading