It’s October again and for the husband and me, that means it’s time for horror movies galore! We watch them year round, but in October we try our best to watch one a night when possible.
We started a little late this year – we didn’t watch our first until the 2nd of October (we’re such slackers) but we’ve stayed on target ever since.
It wasn’t intentional, but we stumbled upon a theme for our two movies this past weekend – the consequences of fear and ignorance in extreme situations.
Dark Night of the Scarecrow (1981)
Bubba Ritter...he's all messed up
We started out pretty low key with a made-for-tv movie from 1981. Otis P. Hazelrigg (Charles Durning) leads a group of weak-minded characters who are literally looking for any excuse to torment the local mentally deficient man-child, Bubba Ritter (Larry Drake).
After brutally shooting Bubba down while he is hiding inside his mother’s scarecrow, they find out that Bubba is innocent of the crime they were chasing him down for – the death of his only friend, little pre-pubescent Marylee (Tonya Crowe).
But that doesn’t really matter. They weren’t chasing him down for what he did – just for what he was – something they didn’t understand or, in Hazelrigg’s case, something they envied.
At the trial, where all four men are found innocent of murder, Bubba’s mother warns them that there are different kinds of justice and that someday, they will pay for what they did.
They find out that Momma Ritter is right when one by one, they are tormented by the presence of a new scarecrow in their fields – one that disappears when they gather their friends to check it out. Tension levels and panic rise as each are struck down in turn until only one is left and running for his life.
Being made for television, there is very little gore in this movie amounting to a little blood and some gunshot wounds. All violence is implied except for the brutal killing of Bubba and by today’s standards even this is pretty tame. However, the emotional impact has a chilling effect.
This kind of movie just doesn’t work without a strong cast and this movie definitely has that. Charles Durning, a steadily working actor from the 1960’s to the present, will no doubt be familiar to almost any viewer and his performance makes this film.
I recommend this movie to anyone who enjoys atmosphere, a little mystery, strong characters and a solid story.
The Mist (2007)
On the run from monsters
Sunday night we re-watched The Mist for the first time since purchasing the DVD back when it first came out. Remembering how good the movie was, I wondered why we hadn’t watched it more than once. Halfway through the movie I remembered why.
This movie pisses me off. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great movie. It’s a very good adaptation of Stephen King’s novella by the same name, and even improves on some plot points that I really didn’t like from the original source material. The cast is top-notch and the direction superb.
I’ve just gotten to a point in my life where I can’t sympathize with ignorance any longer and especially the use of ignorance to generate fear and even more the use of religion to perpetuate that ignorance and fear. The character of Mrs. Carmody (Marcia Gay Harden) is a loathsome woman who does more damage to the survivors of the mist than the actual monsters now roaming the world.
I realize that this is the point of the film – that letting others use fear to control us is even more dangerous than letting the unknown frighten us out of our wits. By the end of this movie, the few rational people left dare to face the very real monsters outside the store rather than deal with the even more dangerous monster that is now human society.
Perhaps this is why my husband has such a problem with the movie’s ending – which does differ from the source material and not in a necessarily better way. I don’t want to give away any spoilers but I think I have to to make my point here. Our few heroes brave the unknown but it still ultimately destroys them. The only survivor has to kill all that he has left, including the personification of innocence, only to find that it was completely pointless.
So, yeah, if they had kept the original ending from the book, my analogy here would have been much more uplifting. And maybe that’s ultimately why I’m not going to be able to watch this movie more than once every few years.
Less scary than fanatics
Still, I highly recommend the movie. So many of King’s horror stories have been butchered by Hollywood and director Frank Darabont does a marvelous job adapting this tale for the screen.
If you get the special edition, I do recommend watching it as intended – in black and white. We watched it in color this time and while it still works, the black and white photography lends more to the alien atmosphere outside the store and reinforces the metaphor of opposing factions inside the store.
Purchase Dark Night of the Scarecrow
Purchase The Mist on Blu-Ray