Editor’s Note: These posts originally appeared starting here on the AV Club *stares off wistfully*. They are being reposted for completionist sake as this annual series continued onto the AVCAD and now here. Also, forgive the writing for I was younger and dumber and these were written to appear in comments so don’t include pictures and are far shorter and less thorough than the series is now. They have been preserved as they were.
Month of Horror: World Edition
10/22/2015 – The Netherlands: The Lift (De Lift) (1983)
Directed by Dick Maas
Befitting a small nation, The Netherlands is not exactly the most prolific producer of films and oddly enough many of the most prominent Dutch language films are Belgian. There are a few exceptions in The Vanishing and the films of Paul Verhoeven and Jan de Bont though the most prominent work of the former and just about all the work of the latter was done outside the country. Hilariously the Wikipedia page goes through just about every Dutch person involved in a Hollywood film with it starting to feel real desperate when they start bringing up softcore porn actresses, TV cinematographers, and costume designers. When it comes to horror films, there is one director though who is attached to all their most well received titles and that is Dick Maas (who I giggle every time I see his name because a part of me is apparently still 10 years old). Sure the country has also given us the Human Centipede films and the mediocre at best Frankenstein’s Army as a collaboration with the US and Czech Republic but let’s not hold it against them.
Whenever you get a killer [blank] movie, where [blank] is something that is not known for killing (especially if it’s because that thing is an inanimate object, there is always going to be an inherent ridiculousness. It’s an uphill battle to lend any credibility to the premise and therefore the most efficient way is usually to lean into this ridiculousness and go the horror-comedy route. I wouldn’t go out and call The Lift a horror-comedy, but there is a pervasive dark sense of humor that really gives the film its charm and making it much better than any movie about a killer elevator should be. The first death in particular cracked me up as it felt like something out of Mr. Magooor Looney Tunes with a SPOILERS blind man wandering through the elevator doors and failing to notice the elevator wasn’t there. The kill by beheading was inevitable and only a matter of time, but the film gets some laughs out of it and the very obvious fakeness of the head END OF SPOILERS.
Aside from a decent amount of puns on the word “lift” (intentional or not), the humor is much more situational with the elevators at times feeling almost playful in their murders especially when nearly charming a girl to her death. The overarching plot is to put it bluntly pretty stupid, but I appreciated the SPOILERS decision to go sci-fi with the explanation instead of supernatural like in say the later, lousy Devil while also allowing for the elevator to become a sort of biomechanical organism. It’s nonsense, but it’s nonsense that allows for scenes such as lightning bringing it to life (the first of what was apparently a theme day today) and the elevator being killed by a guy unloading bullets into the gooey computer only to be straight up hung by a cable in the most lifelike moment for the elevator (as opposed to normal malfunctioning that is maliciously timed).
This film was remade as Down/The Shaft by Dick Maas himself (I really need to grow up) that film is mostly known now for its pre-9/11 terrorists attacking New York City and Bin Laden references that make it a favorite of clickbait and listicles about movies “predicting 9/11”. By most accounts it seems pretty terrible, but more than anything it looks like a more straight horror movie which is the wrong approach to take with this material. The Lift has some suspenseful moments, but for the most part it gets by on a sense of fun and makes for a really good movie. Taking away that and all that’s left is a few decent kills and some questionable plotting.
Month of Horror: World Edition
Bonus Episode #13 – United States: Frankenhooker (1990)
Directed by Frank Henenlotter
Everything about the title Frankenhooker screams shitty low budget movie or softcore porn, so the decent reviews it got intrigued me. While it isn’t either, it certainly straddles the line between those two categories. There is plenty of the gratuitous topless nudity that you’d expect from a film with this title with shots that linger way too long on breasts to be anything but.
The lead spends most of the movie talking to himself which can get forced at times, but for the most part is pretty funny even if it seems fairly apparent he can’t act. He doesn’t even stop talking to himself during a scene where he is trepanning himself. Yet he is quite easily the best actor in the films with the rest of the cast (the hell is Louise Lasser doing here) only vaguely resembling actual humans. To what extent this is intentional is unknown, but it they are almost always amusingly over the top with special bonus to the drug crazed hookers and a giant muscled man in an ill-fitting tank top named Zorro who brands his hookers with a “Z”. I do have to give Patty Mullen credit for her post-transformation self looking oddly like Krysten Ritter and for the hilariously strange expression where she contorts the lower part of her mouth that she frequently goes to (in character) which seems strange to no one in the movie .
Despite the TV guide’s description calling it a “gorefest”, there is only a brief splatter of blood at the beginning and a whole lot of exploding bloodless bodies. The highlight of this is SPOILERS an utterly surreal scene where a bunch of hookers smoke a bunch of giant crack rocks, then start dancing topless before they start exploding in gloriously low budget effects and leaving the room full of charred human bits END OF SPOILERS. Even the many human body parts that are scattered through this movie remain bloodless though the movie does feature quite a bit of goo from the process to revive them. These special effects are charmingly terrible with everything very clearly being mannequin parts and before each explosion plenty of time to see the body switched out with its double. There’s also a brain with an eye in it which subsists on its own and that nobody seems to think is even the slightest bit weird.
Despite its horror premise, it is very much on the comedic side of the horror-comedy scale at least until SPOILERS out of nowhere ends with a bunch of The Thing-like abominations coming to life though even this is played for laughs. The film is a bit too exploitative for its own good, but it kept me constantly entertained and occasionally laughing at what is at its heart a deeply silly movie. The film never takes itself seriously nor really winks itself and that is for the best since it feels way too good-hearted for any of it to come across as mean spirited.
Up Next: Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu: Phantom Der Nacht representing Germany