We’ve had a good time thus far—I have, anyway—putting together a top-notch list of horror films for a 24-hour Halloween marathon. In part one, we took the first six hours to acquaint ourselves with some classic horror films. In part two, we centered on slimy, goopy, ectoplasmic monster mashes.
Now, for the third quarter of the night of the beasts—covering the hours of 9pm (Oct. 31) to 3am (Nov. 1)—I want to take your no-doubt-addled-by-now brain to brave new places withbrain-twisting horrors that toe the line between fantastical terror and science fact
October 19, 2017
Corey Redekop’s Gory Bledalot’s 24-Hour Horror Movie Marathon (Part Three)
9pm, October 31 — 3am, November 1 — The Quatermass Quarter!
By Quatermass, I refer of course to Bernard Quartermass, legendary British sic-fi/horror character and all-around smart guy. As Wikipedia puts it, Quatermass is “an intelligent and highly moral British scientist…heading the British Experimental Rocket Group. He continually finds himself confronting sinister alien forces that threaten to destroy humanity.”
The Quatermass films were few in number but far-reaching in influence. Without going to much into it, Quatermass films are about the rational, scientific mind coming up against the supernatural and the fantastic. Appropriately, the films are a heady mix of scientific technobabble, occult goings-ons, and creepy horror tropes, all revolving around main characters who strive to combat the irrational with the rational.
All set then? Here we go!
Quatermass and the Pit (1967, dir. Roy Ward Baker — 97 min.)
Again, it’s late into the evening at this point and you’ve sat through twelve hours of film and eaten a fair amount of chocolate. This means your mind should be more susceptible to the frankly absurd circumstances of my favourite Quatermass film, Quatermass and the Pit (released as Five Million Years to Earth in the U.S.). The plot centres on the discovery of a mysterious object and the remains of early human ancestors. Quatermass grows to believe that the object is an ancient spacecraft, and deduces that alien beings once helped to influence human evolution. The movie veers wildly into some crazy places involving ghosts, military interference, religious beliefs, and the potential destruction of humanity. It all makes some kind of weird sense, especially if you’ve had a fair amount of high-fructose candy beforehand.
Prince of Darkness (1987, dir. John Carpenter — 102 min.)
John Carpenter wrote his screenplay for Prince of Darkness as Martin Quatermass, and the Quatermass influence is obvious. Technobabble such as “Say goodbye to classical reality, because our logic collapses on the subatomic level…into ghosts and shadows” does epic battle with theological nonsense: “It’s your disbelief that powers him. Your stubborn faith in common sense. He lives in the smallest parts of it.” The plot revolves around an aged container of sickly green liquid that contains Satan himself. Right smack in the middle, a religious tome reveals to the scientific team researching the liquid that Jesus Christ was an extra-terrestrial who tried to warn humans about the dangers inherent in the liquid, and no one bats an eye. That is some cold analytical science happening right there.
Lifeforce (1985, dir. Tobe Hooper — 116 min (director’s cut.)
The infamous sci-fi/horror flop Lifeforce is perhaps the most epic Quatermas film ever. An amalgamation of thoughtful British science-fiction and American horror, director Tobe Hooper and Alienscreenwriter Dan O’Bannon cobbled together one of the cinema’s most bizarre achievements. Ostensibly a tale of intergalactic vampires discovered in Halley’s Comet (embodied by the always-nude Mathilda May), Lifeforce switches tones at will, transforming from space opera to vampire flick to chase film, then going absolutely bugnuts to become a zombie apocalypse. It makes little sense, but no one involved phoned it in; Hooper’s direction (never better) captures the style and dry wit of classic Quatermass, the score by Henry Mancini (!) is appropriately bombastic, and John Dykstra’s special effects are superb — the desiccated zombie design is wonderful, and the alien spacecraft is a thing of beauty. No CGI here, just craft and skill. Lifeforce ain’t particularly scary, although it has a share of “Boo!” moments. But when you add up its elements — vampires, zombies, mad scientists, astronauts, sex, spaceships, psychics, aliens, Lovecraftian undertones, Patrick Stewart — you have one utterly sui generis film.
And so part three comes to a close. Take another quick break, warm up some microwave nachos, and prepare yourself for the fourth set (coming soon!).
To whet your appetite: Hours 3am thru 9am, being the final six hours of a massively horrific marathon, will be on the lighter side. Let’s end on a joke. Even if it’s a sick, gory, depraved joke.