It’s almost too late for Halloween movie recommendations, but I want to mention a few past and current DVD releases that will give you a good spooky night indoors. I’m currently working through a box of seminal silent horrors from Kino, among them the original haunted-house movie, The Cat and the Canary, The Man Who Laughed With Conrad Veidt (the deformed protagonist inspired Batman’s Joker), and John Barrymore’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde — notable because Barrymore transforms largely without the aid of the usual monster makeup and lap dissolves. Barrymore is over the top, but no Hyde has ever been more terrifyingly savage when beating a man to death with a walking stick.
On CBS Sunday Morning last week, I suggested an antidote to the sentimental Lars and the Real Girl — a fun movie if you can get past the fact that a man’s delusional relationship with a life-size sex doll is viewed as ultimately healthy, a way station on the road to autonomy. I suggested a double feature of Lars and its antithesis, the superb Canadian shocker Pin, about a brother and sister who come to regard a life-size medical mannequin as a surrogate parent — with predictably grisly results. It’s a good thing for each of us to draw our own lines between healthy and unhealthy fantasy — between fantasy that helps us live in the world and fantasy that isolates us and incubates our craziness.
Among the current releases at your local video store, try Gregory Jacobs’s little-seen Wind Chill, a trim, claustrophobic, and unnerving little ghost story. It stars the heart-stoppingly beautiful Emily Blunt as a young woman trapped in a car in a blizzard with a fellow student who might be a crazed stalker, with sundry weird apparitions appearing in the frozen landscape. The ending is novel: borderline romantic, with no dumb nihilistic twist to send you groaning into the closing credits.
Finally, let me recommend the Showtime Masters of Horror episode Homecoming, written by my friend Sam Hamm and directed by Joe Dante, a grisly, ferociously political black comedy in which Iraq vets rise from their flag-draped coffins to cast votes against the grotesque war that ended their lives.
I have been derelict in following up on the reader contest mentioned in my very first blog post, in which I asked you to write 50 words in praise of the best scene in which a character does surgery on himself, inspired by Javier Bardem’s gruesome self-surgery in the Coens’ upcoming No Country for Old Men. Get on it, kids. Entries are due November 15, and the winning mini-essay will be posted on Monday, November 17. That gives you time — if you live near a theater where it’s playing — to see No Country and be inspired, as I was, by the notion of dispensing with managed care entirely.