Halloween Havoc!: Alfred Hitchcock’s THE BIRDS (Universal 1963)

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Many years ago, back in the 80’s I believe, I spent a week on Martha’s Vineyard. It was early in the morning on a gorgeous summer day, and as my friend was still crashed from the previous evening’s debauchery, I decided to walk down to the beach and catch some rays. I strolled past a particularly marshy stretch when, out of nowhere, a seagull buzzed by my head. Then another. And another. And soon there were about ten of the nasty flying rats swooping down at me, screeching and dive-bombing toward my long-haired dome (this was back when I actually had hair!). I ducked and dodged, yelling and snapping my beach towel at the airborne devils, and ran as fast as I could away from the area, scared to death one of these buzzards was going to peck my eyeballs out! It was like something straight out of Alfred Hitchcock’s 

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Stranger Things 2, S2 E2, Trick or Treat, Freak; ALT Title: Halfway Happy


Happy Halloween!!! Stranger Things 2 is in full-swing, but with some new twists like  characters behaving stupidly out of character to move the plot forward.

The episode begins with El saying, “Goodbye Mike.” *sniff*  BUT, she didn’t die after killing the Demimooregorgan! Instead of dying, she went into the Upside Down, escaped, and became feral in the Indiana woods living off squirrels and mugging hunters for their coats.  Really.  So, Yay?

Present day, she’s living with Hop who protects her by raising her in isolation.  She wants to go Trick or Treating.  Hop refuses.  Instead he offers a compromise: he’ll get home early, they’ll eat candy, and watch a movie.  Hop calls this a compromise – Halfway Happy.  With the phrase Halfway Happy, Hop encapsulates the theme of his life, her life, and our experience as viewers: Halfway Happy.

Hop is halfway happy because he gets to be a dad again- Kinda.

El is halfway happy because she doesn’t have to live as a feral monster in the woods, but is isolated from any normal life.

Mike and the boys are halfway happy because they are safe – for now.

We are halfway happy because it’s season 2 and I’m reviewing again!

Here comes the stupid:

Joyce and Hop review Will’s spider beast drawing and are convinced that it’s all in head.  WHY?!  They’ve been to the upside down.  They’ve seen monsters! Why are they incredulous?!  WHY?!

We learn that Madmax’s brother is likely wanted and an asshole.  But, I gotta write- his mullet is EPIC! Points for that!

Hop investigates more rotting pumpkins and loses track of time and misses eating candy with El.  He doesn’t believe Will’s new big bad drawings, but show him some gooey trees and he’s all in baby! I wish there were more to that subplot, but there just wasn’t.

Young Judah Friedlander is really dumb this season.  Did he get a TBI?!  He doesn’t know what words mean like presumptuous and rescues an unidentified whatever (baby demimooregorgan from his trash).  WHY?! He is somewhat popular with Madmax- good on him for that.

We learn that El has honed her skills to go into the black room by using a blindfold and thinking really hard.  Good on her for that.

Will emotes with the same face again this episode as he is harassed and put into the upside down with a shadow monster.  Also, a disappointment because the last big bad was a tangible threat out to “Suck your blood”.

Nancy is going through some growth.  She’s feeling guilty about Barb.  I didn’t think that sociopaths could develop emotions.  But, here we are – Another character that is out of character.  She gets drunk, breaks up with Steve, and gets taken home by Creeper.  The parents never wake even a little, which is out of character for Cara Buono who was up in everyone’s business last season.

I’m starting to think that this season is a transition for the creators who never envisioned this story continuing.  The first season ended like a great Beowolf Epic.  El sacrifices herself and the hope of love for her quest.  Hop goes all into redeem himself as a fallen knight for redemption.  This season, in contrast, falls flat because it doesn’t know where to go.  The monster is dead and this new one lacks suspense because he’s not even corporeal.  The Duffer Brothers might be using this season as transition to figure out a new compelling narrative- at least to think so makes me Halfway Happy.

Happy Halloween!





Halloween Havoc! Extra: Vincent Price Does “The Monster Mash”

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In what’s become an annual tradition here at Cracked Rear Viewer, it’s time for Halloween season’s theme song, “The Monster Mash” ! This time around, Vincent Price and his fiends, including fellow horror icon John Carradine , perform the hit from 1981’s cult movie THE MONSTER CLUB, featuring a scary soliloquy by Vincent on the monsters known as “humes”! Without further ado, here’s this year’s “Monster Mash”! And Happy Halloween, boys and ghouls!:

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Halloween Havoc!: THE SMILING GHOST (Warner Brothers 1941)

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A mysterious killer stalks his prey in an old, dark house! Sound familiar? Sure, the formula has been around since Lon Chaney Sr. first crept his way through 1925’s THE MONSTER, and was perfected in the 1927 horror comedy THE CAT AND THE CANARY. THE SMILING GHOST, a 1941 variation on the venerable theme, doesn’t add anything new to the genre, but it’s a pleasant enough diversion with a solid cast courtesy of the Warner Brothers Stock Company of contract players and a swift 71-minute running time.

Lucky Downing, a somewhat dimwitted chemical engineer heavily in debt to his creditors, answers a newspaper ad for a male willing to do “anything legal’ for a thousand bucks. Rich Mrs. Bentley explains the job is to get engaged to her granddaughter, Elinor Bentley Fairchild, for a month. Smelling easy money, and a way out of the hole, Lucky and his best friend/valet Clarence take a train…

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Halloween Havoc!: THEM! (Warner Brothers 1954)

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The iconic, bloodcurdling scream of little Sandy Descher heralds the arrival of THEM!, the first and best of the 50’s “Big Bug” atomic thrillers. Warner Brothers had one of their biggest hits of 1954 with this sci-fi shocker, putting it up there with Cukor’s A STAR IS BORN, Hitchcock’s DIAL M FOR MURDER, and Wellman’s THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY as their highest-grossing films of the year. Not bad company for director Gordon Douglas , previously known for his work with Our Gang and Laurel & Hardy! THEM! was also Oscar nominated that year for its special effects (and should’ve been for Bronislaw Kaper’s terrific score).

The movie begins with the look and feel of a noir mystery courtesy of DP Sidney Hickox’s (DARK PASSAGE, THE BIG SLEEP  , WHITE HEAT) brooding shadows and sandstorm-battered landscape. New Mexico policemen Ben Peterson and Ed Blackburn come across a little girl wandering…

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Halloween TV Havoc!: Boris Karloff in “The Crystal Ball” (from THE VEIL TV Series, 1958)

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You all remember Boris Karloff’s pre-THRILLER supernatural anthology series THE VEIL, right? Of course you don’t!! That’s because it never aired! It was being filmed at Hal Roach Studios when they went belly up, and only 10 episodes were filmed. Karloff had a role in most of the episodes, including this spooky oddity entitled “The Crystal Ball”, presented here for your Halloween enjoyment. (The series itself is available through Something Weird Video for all you Karloff Kollectors!):

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Halloween Havoc!: ALIAS NICK BEAL (Paramount 1949)

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The worlds of supernatural horror and film noir collided to great effect in ALIAS NICK BEAL, John Farrow’s 1949 updated take on the Faust legend. The film wasn’t seen for decades due to legal complications, but last August the good folks at TCM broadcast it for the first time. I have been wanting to see this one for years, and I wasn’t disappointed! It’s loaded with dark atmosphere, a taut screenplay by hardboiled writer/noir vet Jonathan Latimer , and a cast of pros led by a ‘devilish’ turn from Ray Milland as Nick Beal.

The Faust character this time around is Joseph Foster, played by veteran Thomas Mitchell . Foster is an honest, crusading DA with political ambitions. When he says aloud he’d “give my soul” to convict racketeer Hanson, Foster receives a message to meet a man who claims he can help. Summoned to a seedy tavern on…

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