Sonic Cinema

Sounds, Visions and Insights by Brian Skutle

This is the 10th time I’ve focused my October movie watching on horror movies. That’s kind of surreal to consider, actually. However, even more surreal was something that happened around the middle of the month that has thrown off my routine in a big way.

The long and short of it is this: my father, Mark, passed away on the 13th of this month. He had been having heart issues for a year and a half, and on the 10th of this month, he went into the hospital, and never recovered from the shocks that occurred when he first went in. His heart was just too weak, and he will be missed. He IS missed, in fact.

Unlike in 2007, when I held off on doing my October horror viewing month after spending the first 11 days of the month in the hospital myself with breathing issues, I pressed on. I had a really strong start, and even though there’s much to do in the aftermath of his passing, getting on with this particular tradition was important to me.

As I went back to work after having over a week off to take care of things with my mother, I got back into a pretty aggressive rhythm in terms of watching movies this month. My Top 10 horror films are always a must, and I found a way to get them all in without really rushing anything. In terms of seeing movies for the first time, there weren’t a whole lot in the long run, though I did start off well in that department; when I got back to business, it was more important for me to watch old favorites than discover new movies, although the new ones I did watch (especially “Children of the Corn” and Mario Bava’s “Black Sunday”) certainly made an impression.

In five out of the previous nine Octobers I’ve done this marathon, I’ve had another tradition, of sorts. Inspired by the images and sounds of the films I’ve watched in Octobers past, I’ve also created musical works that set out to tell similarly terrifying stories of their own. The first four of these, written between 2004 and 2009, were released earlier this year on my fifth album, “Storytelling”. Last year, two more pieces were composed based on ideas I had started to lay out in October 2011, and that gave me an idea for this year. This year (2013), I would write multiple pieces again, and hopefully, have enough to where I would be able to release a full album of ALL of my October pieces (including the four from “Storytelling”) by the end of the month.

Even more so than my movie marathon, this ambitious idea was put on hold by my father’s death. In the first couple of weeks, I had already written and recorded two pieces for this project– “Sin-uous Winds”, which utilized the Theremin-esque app on my iPhone, and “The Dreadful Tick of Time”, which was based around a lot synthesized guitar sounds on my keyboard –and had started on a third. However, it wasn’t until it was just my mother and I again, after friends and family had gone back home, that I was able to get back into something of a compositional rhythm. By this point, I knew the idea of writing and recording enough to have the album, entitled “The Cold Wind of Horror”, done by the end of the month was gone, but I did finish two more pieces (one for solo flute, which I had started before he died, and one for solo harpsichord; neither of which have titles as of yet), and have ideas for a lot more to flesh out for next year. (I also have what will be some pretty great artwork, done by a friend, that gets at the heart of what I’ve been trying to do with these pieces, as well as captures the essence of what films have inspired me most along my musical journey.) You can look at the track listing below to listen to some of these pieces.

I hope you enjoy, and Happy Halloween!

“I think of horror films as art, as films of confrontations. Films that make you confront aspects of your own life that are difficult to face. Just because you’re making a horror film doesn’t mean you can’t make an artful film.”- David Cronenberg (director, “The Fly,” “Spider,” “The Dead Zone”)

Brian Skutle’s Macabre Musical Saga: The October Pieces
“Otherworldly March” (2004)
“Gothic Twilight” (2005)
“Darkness for Voices, String Quartet and Tubular Bells” (2006)
“The Hour of the Wolf” (2009)
“Organ Grinder” (2012)
“Labyrinth of Terror” (2012)
“Sin-uous Winds” (2013)
“The Dreadful Tick of Time” (2013)
“Untitled Flute Piece” (2013)
“Untitled Harpsichord Piece” (2013)

Other Horror-Inspired Works by Brian Skutle
“Symphonic Dread” (2005)
“Symphonic Guitar Dread” (2005)
“Walpurgisnacht (Original Score for the Short Film ‘Walpurgis Night’)” (2009)

Mathew Timms’s “Walpurgis Night” (2009)

Thanks for listening,

Brian Skutle

“The horror story was birthed when we became sedentary cavemen and started telling scary stories to keep the children from wandering off into the night. Today, there’s nothing more cathartic for a guy in a three-piece suit, someone super wound-up and super-tight, to get on a roller coaster of a horror film and scream like a madman.” -Guillermo Del Toro (director, “Pan’s Labyrinth,” “The Devil’s Backbone,” “Cronos”)

Brian’s 10th October Halloween Horror-a-Thon: The List
“Silent Hill: Revelation” (2012)- C+
“Horror of Dracula” (1958)- A+
“Insidious: Chapter 2” (2013)- A-
“Stephen King’s Children of the Corn” (1984)- B+
“Haxan” (1922)- A+
“Cat People” (1942)- A+
“Pet Sematary” (1989)- B
“I Walked With a Zombie” (1943)- A
“Frankenstein” (1931)- A
“The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” (1920)- A+
“Insidious” (2011)- A
“The Silence of the Lambs” (1991)- A+
“Let Me In” (2010)- A
“The Hound of the Baskervilles” (1959)- A
“The Grudge” (2004)- A-
“Pan’s Labyrinth” (2006)- A+
“The Cabin in the Woods” (2012)- A+
“The Masque of the Red Death” (1964)- A+
“The Hour of the Wolf” (1968)- A+
“Black Sunday” (1960)- B+
“The Exorcist” (1973)- A+
“Nosferatu” (1922)- A+
“Jaws” (1975)- A+
“Dracula” (1931)- A
“The Mummy” (1959)- A
“The Ring” (2002)- A+
“Carrie” (1976)- A
“Stephen King’s It” (1990)- A-
“The Conjuring” (2013)- A+
“Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Hush” (1999)- A+
“RiffTrax Live! Night of the Living Dead” (2013)- A (Movie: B+)
“Psycho” (1960)- A+
“The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror” (1990)- A+
“The Devil’s Backbone” (2001)- A
“Sinister” (2012)- A-
“The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror XXIV” (2013)- C+
“The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror XXIII” (2012)- B
“Evil Dead II” (1987)- A
“Sleepy Hollow” (1999)- A
“1408” (2007)- A-
“The Woman in Black” (2012)- A-
“Bride of Frankenstein” (1935)- A+
“Friday the 13th” & “Friday the 13th: Part 2” (1980-81)- A- & B
“Mimic” (1997)- B+
“The Mist” (in Black & White) (2007)- A+
“Shaun of the Dead (2004)- A
“The Signal” (2008)- A
“Halloween” (1978)- A
“The Shining” (1980)- A+

Brian’s 10 Favorite Frightfests
10. “Friday the 13th” (1980; Sean S. Cunningham) & “Friday the 13th: Part 2” (1981; Steve Miner)- Two years after John Carpenter redefined the modern horror movie with “Halloween,” along came the legend of Crystal Lake. One day, negligent camp counselors were fornicating in the woods while young Jason Voorhees drown. The next year, they were killed. Now, Crystal Lake (also known as Camp Blood to the locals) is open again for business, but an unknown force still roams the woods. If you’ve followed even a little horror over the years, you know who it is. Over thirty years and twelve films later, Jason has moved from being a terrifying stalker to ridiculous parody, but this origin story, and the 1981 sequel that further set the stage for continued terror, still intrigues as it introduces a new force in horror.

9. “The Ring” (2002; Gore Verbinski)- Verbinski may have made blockbuster bucks directing the “Pirates of the Caribbean” films, but for my money, he hit the jackpot first by making this tense thriller, Hollywood’s first remake of a Japanese horror classic. To star, he chose Naomi Watts, who projects her natural intelligence and strength along with your typical horror movie vulnerability as a reporter who starts to try and uncover the dark secrets of a videotape where the viewer dies after seven days. However, just when you think it’s over, Verbinski and his collaborators have one more twist in store to curdle your blood.

8. “Insidious” (2011; James Wan)- Seven years after they created the latest serial horror killer in “Saw’s” Jigsaw, director Wan and writer Leigh Whannell looked to a couple of other durable genre blueprints, those of the haunted house, and haunted kid, and delivered one of the few horror films that actually terrifies when a family’s eldest child lands, inexplicably, into a coma, which will uncover dark family secrets, and lead a father (Patrick Wilson) through his own childhood fears in order to save his son. I don’t know if I want to see this film go the way of “Saw,” but Wan and Whannell lay the groundwork for a franchise unlike any other in American cinema. I can’t wait to see what they have coming our way next…

7. “Psycho” (1960; Alfred Hitchcock)- In 1998, maverick director Gus Van Sant (“Milk,” “My Own Private Idaho”) did the unthinkable and remade this legendary Hitchcock thriller shot-for-shot, in color no less. To what end, critics are still figuring out, but the classic original still looms large, with Anthony Perkins’s unforgettable performance as Norman Bates, a man whose devotion to his mother is beyond creepy; a story that turns the audience on its head with the expectations it sets up, and the surprises it has in store (spoiler: Janet Leigh doesn’t last long); and one of the greatest, deceptively simple horror scores of all-time courtesy of Bernard Herrmann, who paved the way for other iconic themes to come.

6. “Horror of Dracula” (1958; Terence Fisher)- Though no other film has captured the allure of Bram Stoker’s tale as hauntingly as Murnau’s “Nosferatu,” Britain’s Hammer Films came closest with this dramatically powerful first film in their own Dracula franchise, with Christopher Lee rivaling the iconic Bela Legosi in the role of the titular vampire, and Peter Cushing in a terrific interpretation of Dr. Van Helsing, whose hunt for the Undead One has rarely been so visceral. Director Fisher was a Hammer fixture that, in this film and others (especially “The Revenge of Frankenstein” and “The Hound of the Baskervilles”), became one of the great masters of the genre by delving deep into the Gothic and sensual origins of this type of horror story.

5. “Nosferatu” (1922; F.W. Murnau)- If you need any proof as to how the silent era was the heyday for horror films, all you’d need to see is this evocative adaptation of Bram Stoker’s classic tale from silent film master Murnau, which captures all the terror in the story through its haunting imagery (which so inspired Werner Herzog when he remade it, he shot his film in the same locations) and a lead performance by Max Shreck as Count Orlock that is impossible to forget. As with “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari,” “Haxan,” and the likes of “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” and “The Phantom of the Opera,” the silent era brought a nightmarish touch to this story that sound takes away, and Murnau milks it for all its worth.

4. “The Masque of the Red Death” (1964; Roger Corman)- Though typically known for low-budget B-movies like those you’d see on “Mystery Science Theatre 3000,” writer-director Corman– a mentor to the likes of Scorsese and Ron Howard –nonetheless found his greatest storytelling strengths in adapting the works of Edgar Allen Poe, especially with this opulent and striking story of the evil Prince Prospero (Vincent Price) and the feasts of his court when the Red Death comes to town. Price is incomparable, and Corman’s vision of the tale, full of sensual pleasures and wicked delights, is without compromise or peer.

3. “Cat People” (1942; Jacques Tourneur)- The first in a series of low-budget thrillers from producer Val Lewton, Tourneur’s film is not scary but sinuous, as a young Serbian woman (Simon Simone) finds herself dealing with fears of her innermost desires when she marries a New York man, but doesn’t feel as though she can act on her natural womanly desires, for fear that she’ll become a cat. The low-budget trappings only enhance the mood Lewton and Tourneur are able to achieve, while Simone’s performance not only fills you with dread but sympathy for her plight. Paul Schrader’s 1980s remake added more blatant sexuality, but included none of the original’s suspense. Warner Bros.’s box set of Lewton’s films, which include other collaborations with Tourneur such as “I Walked With a Zombie” and “The Leopard Man,” is not just a treat for horror fans, but for anyone who appreciates cinema that moves through the shadows of the human experience.

2. “Evil Dead II” (1987; Sam Raimi)- Maybe this is the type of movie Bryan Singer was trying for with his revisionist “Superman Returns.” Alternately a sequel and a remake of his cult classic, “The Evil Dead,” Sam Raimi– who returned to the genre brilliantly recently with “Drag Me to Hell” –returns to the woods and the unseen terror unleashed by the Book of the Dead with everyman star Bruce Campbell returning as idiot hero Ashe. The difference this time? This sucker is funny as Hell. Scenes of Ashe being followed by the evil, exemplified by Peter Deming’s zooming camera, and Ashe dealing with his dismembered and possessed hand have the intensity lacking in many a horror movie, with a darkly comic edge that makes it a laugh-out-loud riot.

1. “The Shining” (1980; Stanley Kubrick)- If John Carpenter’s “Halloween” two years before ushered in the modern era of horror films, Kubrick’s unsettling adaptation of Stephen King’s infamous masterpiece marked the end of the reign (for decades) of intelligent, adult-oriented horror films, stretching back to silent classics like “Nosferatu,” and continuing through the Universal legacy with Legosi and Karloff and the Hammer films with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. Make no mistake– intelligent horror found its’ way onto the screen, from “Silence of the Lambs” to “The Sixth Sense,” to “Sleepy Hollow” to underrated King adaptations such as “1408” and “The Mist” –but with one visceral and brilliant entry, the reclusive master, with the aide of Jack Nicholson’s timeless nuttiness, brought the legacy of movie monsters past to its’ unforgettable peak.

Other Noteworthy Nightmares- More of Brian’s Faves:
“The Blair Witch Project” (1999; Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez)
-“Bride of Frankenstein” (1935; James Whale)
“Bubba ho-Tep” (2003; Don Coscarelli)
-“Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Hush” (1999; Joss Whedon)
“The Cabin in the Woods” (2012; Drew Goddard)
“The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” (1920; Robert Weine)
“The Conjuring” (2013; James Wan)
“The Devil’s Backbone” (2001; Guillermo Del Toro)
“Drag Me to Hell” (2009; Sam Raimi)
“The Frighteners” (1996; Peter Jackson)
“Haxan” (1922; Benjamin Christensen)
“Hour of the Wolf” (1968; Ingmar Bergman)
“Jaws” (1975; Steven Spielberg)
“Scream” (1996; Wes Craven)
-“Shaun of the Dead” (2004; Edgar Wright)
“The Signal” (2008; David Bruckner, Jacob Gentry and Dan Bush)
-“The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror” (1990; Rich Moore, Wes Archer, David Silverman)
“Stephen King’s It” (1990; Tommy Lee Wallace)

Macabre Masterworks I Plan on Adding to My Collection
-“Army of Darkness” (1993)
-“The Birds” (1963)
“Carrie” (1976)
-“Freaks” (1932)
-“The House of the Devil” (2009)
“Insidious: Chapter 2” (2013)
-“In the Mouth of Madness” (1995)
-“John Carpenter’s The Thing” (1982)
-“Let the Right One In” (2008)
-“Night of the Living Dead” (1968)
-“The Omen” (1976)
-The “Paranormal Activity” Series (2009-12)
“Scream 4” (2011)
“Silent Hill” (2006)
“Stoker” (2013)
-“Troll 2” (1991)
-“Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection” (1931-1945)
-“Wes Craven’s New Nightmare” (1994)
“You’re Next” (2013)

“The Horror…The Horror”: 2013 in the Genre
“Stoker”– A+
“The Conjuring”– A+
“Warm Bodies”– A-
“Insidious: Chapter 2”– A-
“Mama”– A-
“You’re Next”– B+
“John Dies at the End”– B+
“All American Zombie Drugs”– B+
“World War Z”– B
“Evil Dead”– C+
“The Purge”– D
“The ABC’s of Death”– Haven’t Seen
“Carrie”– Haven’t Seen
“Dark Skies”– Haven’t Seen
“Hell Baby”– Haven’t Seen
“I Spit on Your Grave 2”– Haven’t Seen
“The Last Exorcism Part II”– Haven’t Seen
“Texas Chainsaw 3D”– Haven’t Seen
“V/H/S/2”– Haven’t Seen

Read Previous “Month of the Macabre” Entries

Categories: News, News - General

Leave a Reply