Friday, November 18, 2016

119. Eternal Evil and 120. I Bury the Living

Jump to I Bury the Living (1958)

119. Eternal Evil aka The Blue Man (1985)
Director: George Mihalka
Writer: Robert Geoffrion
From: Cult Cinema

A man experimenting with astral projection starts to fear that he’s murdering people, but there might be something even more sinister at work.

Paul is a commercial director who’s become dissatisfied with his life. His company is running well, but he’s abandoned his dream of being a film director to make commercials he hates. After meeting Janus, he begins to explore astral projection because of the thrill it gives him. He tells his psychologist about it, but the doctor brushes him off. That evening, the doctor sees a ghost and is killed by it.

At home, Paul has a strained relationship with his wife, Jennifer, and is frustrated by his son, Matthew, waking up throughout the night. Matthew keeps seeing a form he calls “the blue man” that’s telling him to do things. The family goes to Jennifer’s father’s house that Paul had previously visited while astral projecting. That time, he was seen by both his father-in-law and the dog and is attacked by the dog on this visit.

Meanwhile (honestly, this whole movie could be summed up with “meanwhile”), the police are investigating the psychologist’s death because, even though he died from a heart attack, it looks like he exploded from the inside—all his organs are shredded and his ribs are all broken facing out.

Stuff happens, Paul talks to Janus about how he’s worried that he can’t control his projections and may be hurting someone, his father-in-law visits to tell Paul about seeing him as a ghost and then the father-in-law is killed, cop starts investigating Paul and gets a lead on Janus as well which leads him to watching Paul’s only film, Wandering Souls.

Wandering Souls is a documentary about astral projection where Paul meets a couple who claims to be able to use astral projection as a means of soul transference—as they approach death, they find a new vessel to possess. They work to make that person suicidal and then release the soul and replace it with their own.

So now, more than halfway through the movie, the actual plot emerges. It’s not about Paul, who’s a dick, killing people through astral projection; it’s actually about these “soul vampires” using him while preparing for new bodies.

The soul vampires force Matthew to drink varnish which distracts his mom enough for them to kill her. Paul, now close to despair, figures out that everything has been engineered by Janus, who’s one of the soul vampires, and goes to kill her. The cop figures it out at the same time. They meet, fight briefly, and Paul goes to face Janus alone. She’s about to possess him when the cop walks in. He shoots the other soul vampire and, as Janus is about to attack the cop, Paul shoots her in the head.

Epilogue: a few months later. Paul has sold his company and is getting ready to make movies again and the cop has quit the force and started traveling. Cut to the cop in Japan writing Paul a postcard which he signs Janus. TWIST!

Yeah, it sucks. The movie’s slow, the plot doesn’t make sense, and the main character is a dick. On top of all that, the dramatic moments are scored by what sounds like a choir going, “Weo-weo-weo” as loud as they can. It’s not that it’s a bad idea—a psychological thriller built around astral projection—it’s just that the movie never pulls it off. The fact that it takes more than half the film to introduce the actual threat is a big mistake and it doesn’t help that the cop manages to figure things out because the script needs him to. It’s not even particularly cheesy so there aren’t a lot of riffing opportunities. This is one I’d definitely give a pass.

The movie, however, is in the public domain. Mill Creek smeared their logo feces across my copy, but there's a version available at the Internet Archive.

120. I Bury the Living (1958)
Director: Albert Band
Writer: Louis Garfinkle
From: Chilling

A newly appointed cemetery director comes to believe that by switching the pins on a map of graves from "reserved" to "filled" he causes the death of the owner of the plot.

A late black & white era piece that’s pretty competently done. Local department store owner, Robert Kraft, is put in charge of the cemetery. Even though he’s busy with other work, it’s his turn and such jobs are the responsibility of the leading businessmen of the community. When he arrives, Andy, the groundskeeper, gives him the tour, ending with the map of all the plots. Those marked with a white pin are reserved, those with a black pin are filled. Robert then instructs Andy to start looking for a new groundskeeper—Andy’s been working for forty years and the company wants him to retire with a full pension.

It’s a quick set-up leading to the actual plot of the movie: initially, Robert mistakenly reserves a few plots with black pins and, on the respective nights, those people die. While he gets nervous, the people around him insist it’s impossible and force him to swap other pins leading to more deaths. At a final moment of stress, after seven deaths and the police tricking him into swapping the pin of a man currently out of the country, Robert switches the pins he’d initially placed with white ones and, the next morning, finds those graves empty.

He returns to the cemetery office about to kill himself when the phone rings. It’s the wife of the man abroad reading Robert a telegram announcing the man’s death. As he hears it, Andy enters, covered in grave dirt, and says it’s impossible. Andy killed all the people to get revenge against Robert for forcing him to retire—a man without a job isn’t a man at all. Robert starts to convince Andy that it wasn’t Andy’s doing, it was some unexplained power within Robert that actually forced his hand. As Andy starts hearing sounds, he panics and believes that the bodies he’s dug up have actually come back to life and are trying to break into the office. As the police break in, Andy dies of a heart attack. Robert is absolved and reunited with his fiancĂ©e.

I watched this movie the last time I tried to work my way through these sets, and I remember it standing out. It’s not lavish or overly-ambitious—indeed, it keeps itself bound to just a few small sets and a very small cast—but the movie doesn’t feel restrained, it feels straightforward. It’s pretty short, 76 minutes, and does feel like it lacks a little bit of incident. The movie limits itself to Robert starting to believe he has these powers and being very disturbed by them, but it doesn’t take it much beyond him or the confines of the cemetery office. That said, I liked its focus and I liked the performances.

This film appears to be in the public domain and I uploaded a copy to here back in early 2014. I don’t know why, but this feels like a very winter movie, like it’s supposed to be enjoyed on a snowy Sunday afternoon with popcorn and hot chocolate. It’s an all right flick on its own and offers lots of opportunities for riffing as well. I recommend giving it a peek.

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