Saturday, October 1, 2011

'Tis The Season!

My favorite time of year has begun! For me, the holiday season begins with October 1st, as I enjoy all things Halloween for the entire month. I enjoy Christmas so much more when it arrives after the proper build-up, which must commence with the spooky time of ghosties and creepy thrills. It's literally the most magical time of year for me. So, let's kick off our journey... I'll be recommending films that capture the unique blend of horror and adventure throughout the month. These are scary delights, old and new, that marry our beloved genre of exotic locales and expeditionary trappings with themes of things going bump in the night. Naturally, I'll make distinctions, because a bunch of teenagers stalked by a madman at a Club Med is NOT what I'm talking about. No, the films I'll be recommending will fit a little more firmly into the classic adventure backdrop and the horrors will be just as classic -- but none stale! The first recommendation for this Halloween adventure season is the 1932 cult favorite White Zombie starring Bela Lugosi.
I'll borrow the plot description from Wikipedia: 'On arrival in Haiti, Madeleine Short reunites with her fiancé Neil Parker, with imminent plans to be married. On the way to their lodging, the couple's coach passes Murder Legendre, an evil voodoo master, who observes them with interest. Neil and Madeleine arrive at the home of the wealthy plantation owner, Charles Beaumont. Charles' love of Madeleine prompts him to meet Murder secretly in Murder's sugar cane mill, operated entirely by zombies. Charles wants to convince Madeleine to marry him and solicits Murder's supernatural assistance. Murder states that the only way to help Charles is to transform Madeleine into a zombie with a potion.' Heh heh heh, as you can guess, from there we are treated to much eerie fun and intrigue.
I pull out my DVD of White Zombie every year (and am actually using it as a guide for Secret of the Amazon Queen production design) to marvel at the atmosphere created by the visual mood. The filmmakers were fortunate to have much available at the time as horror was a profitable and popular genre so the studios maintained wonderful sets. The jungle is lush and foreboding, the mansion somewhat anomalous yet a perfect fit, filling the role an ancient mysterious temple might fill in a straight adventure tale. I also love the black and white photography of this film, itself a reason to watch the movie. As a rule, I hate modern zombie movies, but this film features classic voodoo zombies, not boring gore-eating monsters. White Zombie is adventure-horror not just for the setting, but because it captures a similar esoteric strangeness to be found in the works of Talbot Mundy or H Rider Haggard.
So, before this month is out, whip up some popcorn and enjoy a midnight viewing of White Zombie...

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