Tuesday, September 18

Streamathon - Urban Legends & Folklore

Streamathon - Urban Legends & Folklore

September 2018
Preface: This is part of an ongoing blog series of curated movie marathons that are thematically or otherwise tied together. The other common factor tying these films together will be their availability to watch them all from the comfort of your own home on various streaming platforms. The goal is that writing this blog will somehow justify the excessive number of streaming platforms I subscribe to. The films will be found on some combination of NetflixHuluAmazon Prime VideoMubiFilmStruckShudder and/or Fandor. These titles will be available for the month that the blog is published. All of these subscriptions offer free trials so feel free to dive in and follow along… Have fun. Just don’t message me for my login information.

By: Emery Martin-Snyder

It’s less than a week away from The Coda Presents: CANDYMAN at The Filmbar in Downtown Phoenix, AZ. This is kind of a big deal for us over here at The Coda, so I decided that in honor of the occasion, we could all get in the mood with some selections to watch at home in fevered anticipation of the momentous event. The screening is dangerously close to selling out so if you haven’t yet, click the link above and get your tickets…. Like, right now… Then come back and watch these movies with me. 

The Stream

CROPSEY (2010)
Directed by Joshua Zeman & Barbara Brancaccio – Streaming on Amazon Prime Video, Hulu & Shudder

The legend of Cropsey comes from Staten Island, NY. He was born out of the real-life terror of missing children and an abandoned mental institution in the middle of the woods. As a fictional legend, it pretty much writes itself. And that’s what is covered in the first fifteen minutes or so of this documentary. Then, luckily it is morphed into the true crime story of Andre Rand, the island’s most likely embodiment of the urban legend. It covers his trial and sentencing with a healthy balance of skepticism and realism, always connecting it to the larger-than-life story that terrified the community for decades.

Side note: Director Zeman’s follow up film, KILLER LEGENDS (2014) is also available to stream on Hulu. It is an anthology of other urban legends involving murderers, some of which have been immortalized in other films on this list. It’s not bad, but you don’t get even as much information about the stories he covers as you would from Wikipedia, so I didn’t think it was good enough for my list.

Directed by Zak Penn – Streaming on Amazon Prime Video

This movie is kind of a weird one for me to watch, specifically because of Zak Penn. I’ve never been much of a fan of Penn’s work. He does a lot of script doctoring on some big blockbuster films. I’ve always sort of thought of him as the type that comes in and revamps a story to dumb it down and make it more palatable for mass consumption. This is odd because for this movie, which he directed and co-wrote, he seems to be playing an archetypical version of himself that I’ve always suspected that he sort of actually is. It’s that type of self-deprecating portrayal that works well for me. And of course, there’s Werner Herzog who co-wrote and co-starred with him to provide the type of integral weight that steers the narrative perfectly. 

Directed by Kaneto Shindō – Streaming on FilmStruck

In Japanese culture, a bakeneko is basically a ghost-cat. This folklore dates back hundreds of years and it’s pretty creepy. Now, imagine that tale being used to tell a medieval rape revenge story. Shindō’s 1968 film does just that. It’s shot beautifully in low light black-and-white with a hauntingly moody score. This one’s is really all about tone. I won’t say too much about it. Just be forewarned, the opening scene always seem to catch me off guard with how vile and disturbing it is.

Directed by Victor Sjöström   – Streaming on FilmStruck

In case you didn’t know, if you are a very sinful person and you happen to be the last person to die in any given year, your sentence is to spend the following year driving all those unfortunate souls to their final resting place in the “Phantom Carriage.” At least that is legend explored in this 97-year-old Swedish film. It is an adaptation of the novel, “Thy Soul Shall Bear Witness!” by Selma Lagerlöf that was actually intended as a sort of public service to warn people of the dangers of tuberculosis. She incorporated the fable of Ankou, a hodgepodge of different European depictions of Death from the Dark-Ages. From a technical standpoint, this film was far ahead of its time. It’s not the first time that double-exposure had been done. But it was never done with a technique this complex and time consuming before. The results were captivating to audiences of the time. The special effects gave the illusion that characters were semi-transparent and at times, occupying two spaces at once. To have captured these images with hand-cranked cameras is quite an impressive feat.

Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon – Streaming on Amazon Prime Video

It’s unfortunate that the original 1976 flick is not available to stream from anywhere. On a whim, I decided to watch this one out of sheer curiosity. I was more than pleasantly surprised. 2014 was at the tail end of the classic horror remake surge that has mostly worn out its welcome. I think this film unfortunately suffered from that fatigue and as a result was underseen. But I dig it quite a bit and if you skipped it due to its unfortunate timing, I would suggest you catch up with this. The killer in this legend is very unique among movie monsters. He is purely human. Although vicious, there is not even an inkling of supernatural ability in him. This is even more true in this updated version of the story. He has speaking parts here. Which as I recall, differs from the original. And it's not some scary distorted 'Jigsaw' type voice. He speaks in a regional accent. I found this to keep him and his legend grounded in a version of reality that rarely exists in works like this.

This is less of a remake and more a reboot/meta-sequel. It’s not retelling the original story. Rather, it incorporates the town’s history and tradition with both the actual murders that took place in 1946 as well as the original film that was released in 1976. This is interesting as a plot in itself but even more exciting in how it allowed post-modern stylistic choices in editing and narrative. For example, after one kill scene, the camera pans the aftermath of the location revealing at the end of the shot that we are actually watching a behind-the-scenes take from the original movie.

Secondly, cinematography is paramount in genre films, especially action and horror. This one’s camerawork is excellent. Cinematographer Michael Goi utilizes smaller lightweight cameras to get a lot of great P.O.V. and various rig shots that respect the spatial relationship of the characters and settings. And the color palette is gorgeous as well as reverent for both the setting and the original Charles B. Pierce film. The ending of this is both unfortunate and disappointing. It’s discombobulated and even a bit anticlimactic. But alas, I’m not one to throw the slasher baby out with the bloody bathwater. It deserves to be seen. 

Directed by Cheng Wei-Hao – Streaming on Amazon Prime Video

This is Taiwan’s most profitable horror film of all time. Its titular character is the manifestation of a relatively new urban legend commonly referred to as, ‘the little girl in red’. As far as I can tell, it all started in 1998 when a family went hiking in the Taichung mountains. They documented their trip on a camcorder and were shocked later, to see what looks like a creepy little girl that no one remembered following them on the trail. When the family experienced an unexpected death, the legend took off. More sightings and disturbing anecdotes would abound in the years to follow.

I’m sure that the popularity of the legend itself helped this film immensely at the box office. That being said, I still think the atmosphere is eerie and well put together. I could be the thousandth person to complain about the bad CGI but I always tend to be forgiving of that stuff in favor of empathetic characters and good tension building. 

Directed by Bobcat Goldthwait – Streaming on Amazon Prime Video

This film has problems, but I still defend it. I don’t think that it needed to spend as much time as it did meandering around the first act and a half. But then, if you have the patience, you get to the tent scene. It’s a long single static shot that lasts around twenty minutes and leads into the climax. This shot, dimly lit inside a tent, gets underneath your fingernails as it exploits you most anxious empathy. The final act brings it home and makes this piece well worthwhile.

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