This last weekend my kid brother came up to stay at Casa Borknopf (aka: The Knorup House). In addition to playing hours of Halo, consuming jugs of lemonade, and setting Scott’s work uniform on fire, we also found time to do one of my favorite things: watch an ungodly number of movies. Among those was a double feature of Something Wicked This Way Comes and The Watcher in the Woods. Lately, everything I’ve wanted to watch are horror movies. My brother’s not that into anything overly frightening or bloody, so I thought it might be nice to visit the films that freaked our mom out, but are still very Disney.
Something Wicked This Way Comes was not bad. Slightly scary and very fanciful, I think both of us enjoyed watching this one. However, it wasn’t even near as good as it could have been. With Ray Bradbury originally intending the story as a film, and then adapting his own work, there are elements of creepiness snuck into the movie that are finally overrode by the Disney machine. IMDB reports that there was an original score that was much darker, longer animation bits they deemed too hokey, and Sam motherfucking Peckinpah originally wanted to direct it! According to Bradbury, Disney bypassed many of his original intentions for the project by making it much more kid-friendly. To be fair, test screenings didn’t go well, and Disney – like any studio – had to make its money back, but the film was a failure anyway. Better to be a totally rad failure with a mechanical hand attack, I think.
Jonathan Pryce saved the movie for me. Any time something dipped into hokeyness (the bad kind) or moral lessons, Pryce brought it back to the level of creepy I think Bradbury could be proud of. As the demon carnival owner Mr. Dark, Pryce’s steady stare and fierce voice could haunt a child’s dreams. I hope he haunts my brother’s.
Now, The Watcher in the Woods is an entirely different story. What a load of shit.
I think I’m predisposed to hate this one because of everything I’ve heard about it growing up. From a very young age, every Halloween was spent trying to convince my friends and I that we should watch The Watcher in the Woods: “The Scariest Movie with a PG Rating Ever Made.” But – luckily – we were unconvinced and usually just watched episodes of X-files instead. Growing up Mormon, PG Horror was far more popular at a far later age than it ever should have been. So while I was watching Halloween for the first time, my adult friends were still watching The Watcher in the Woods and claiming it to be “very scary” and “very dark.”
Fine. I watched it.
I have nothing against PG Horror. I enjoy the Hitchcock movies without boobs, sometimes even more than the Hitchcock movies with boobs! And I’m a huge fan of Ernest Scared Stupid. But even a kid as young as my brother sees past the horrible acting, silly gimmicks, and utter stupidity of this one.
But, Bette Davis was great as a white, female Al Sharpton (joking aside, she was really good. More enjoyable than a lot of her older films, when I find her just plain annoying).
What was semi-successful about this Friday night was the combo. Pairing these two films up was a good choice (though I wish I would have seen Watcher before Wicked). But, it was also the obvious choice. “Two Disney Horror Movies our Parents were Afraid of” is a little narrow a topic for a good double feature. I’ll try to be a little more creative for next time.