As always, we're going to watch four films, but I'm doing something a little different this time around. In this marathon you'll get to chose between two films in four categories.
Without further ado, here are the movies...
FILM #1: The Creature Feature
Beetlejuice (1988) vs. Dragonheart (1996)
We open the marathon with a bit of fun.
Beetlejuice deals with a recently dead couple and their attempt to discourage anyone from moving into their old house, by haunting it and hiring the "people exorcist" Beetle Juice.
This was the film Tim Burton did just before he hit the jackpot with Batman in 1989. It features a perfectly loony mix of typically weird Burton designs and ideas, plus his ongoing fascination with death. Burton had not yet embraced the goth look that would define his later projects, consequently this film is more colorful and more fun than many of his other works, and it's full of wonderful, odd old school effects, which just add to the quirky feeling.
Dragonheart is bit more classic. Even though it's located smack in the middle of the CGI revolution of the '90s, it feels almost '80s-like in story and mood. You could easily imagine this film being done in the middle of that decade, when there was a resurgence in the fantasy genre, or perhaps it could have been done by Disney in the '60s? After all, the story of a dragonslayer who strikes up a friendship with the last remaining dragon, to fight an evil king, is the stuff of fairytales, so it would be a perfect fit with the Mouse House.
Of course, back then they wouldn't have been able to do justice to the spectacular creature at the heart (pun!) of the story, and it really is spectacular! Coupled with Sean Connery's husky voice the dragon is easily the most fascinating aspect of the film.
FILM #2: The Monster Hour
The Monster Squad (1987) vs. Fright Night (1985)
The next choice is between two 80's movies, aimed at the, let's say, "younger crowd".
The Monster Squad would be a great double bill with The Goonies (1985), because it's got the same sense of adventure. A bunch of kids discover that Dracula is "alive" and well, and has brought back a bunch of classic monsters, so he can take over the world. Naturally they must stop him!
You can't go wrong with a clever script, co-written by wünder-screenwriter Shane Black. Add to that the sheer joy of watching the old Universal monsters stumble around in an urban setting. They really don't make movies like this anymore, both in terms of mood, story, style and size. It's great fun, and a little bit scary.
Fright Night is slightly more scary. It's got a wonderfully simple premise - "what if a vampire moved in next door to you?" - which makes for a great, paranoid, but slightly goofy urban horror story. It's not entirely without bite, though. There are a few dicey moments, when young Charley must watch both his mother, girlfriend and best friend fall prey to the beast next door!
The film also features some fantastic monster effects, the kind that could only be done in the 80's. Watch it before the upcoming remake will force you to refer to this as "the original".
FILM #3: The Hunter with a Heart
The Killer (1989) vs. Blade Runner (1982)
Time to get a bit moody, with two lonely assassins.
John Woo's seminal The Killer is a wonderfully operatic take on the classic "killer with a conscience"-story. Chow Yun Fat plays the titular hero, who accidentally blinds a lounge singer during a job, but wows to help her get back on her feet, and get her some essential eye surgery.
The heroic bloodshed genre, made famous by the late 80's and early 90's films of Hong Kong, has never been more perfectly realized than here. Every frame is brimming with style and every scene has a strong emotional core. Hollywood's modern action movies could learn a lot from this.
Blade Runner is equally seminal in its own right.
A visually stunning take on the future where a disillusioned detective, played by a deliberately uncharismatic Harrison Ford, must track down and kill four "synthetic humans".
At its heart this is just a simple detective story - some would call it pedestrian - but it's elevated to new levels by director Ridley Scott's dense and realistic depiction of a decrepit Earth of the future, full of uncannily familiar elements, all of which seems to be a flashing warning of things to come.
FILM #4: The Madman Murderer
The Shining (1980) vs. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Time to get chilly and more than a little freaked out, as we end the night with a choice between two truly classic films.
A family moves into a remote hotel, to take care of it during the winter. Dad goes nuts, then gets homicidal. It's a family film, then. Stanley Kubrick's The Shining may not stick very close to the Stephen King novel, but who cares? Kubrick sure didn't, and in the process he created a very unusual horror movie, which still works today. Few things are more frightening than Jack Nicholson's off the rails performance, and that ending will leave you chilled to the bone.
Modern filmmakers working in the horror genre these days are incapable of creating the kind of slow, deliberate descent into madness we're witnesses to in The Shining, they are too busy cutting. They should sit down, watch this movie, and learn.
By comparison The Silence of the Lambs is perhaps a bit more mainstream than The Shining, but it's no less frightening. A spiffy young Jodie Foster hunts serial killer Buffalo Bill and gets assistance from incarcerated psychiatrist and serial killer Hannibal Lecter.
With all the C.S.I. and Criminals Minds shows on TV these days, the hunt for serial killers has become a bit stale, luckily The Silence of the Lambs draws its mojo from the scenes between the innocent young girl and the shrewd, cannibalistic older man. They are still as electric today, as the first time we saw them.
So there you have it folks. Pick one film in each category, watch them during a single day, and report back with your results. It really is that simple.
As for me, I think I'll pick Dragonheart, Fright Night, The Killer, and The Shining to watch. It's going to be epic. I can't wait!