Tag Archives: Doug Jones

Hocus Pocus (1993)

Q: How many witches were hanged in Salem?

A: The official death count for the Salem Witch Trials is 20 people: 19 victims were hanged at Proctor’s Ledge, near Gallows hill, and one person was tortured to death. Four people also died in prison while awaiting trial. But ZERO of them were witches – they were just socially inconvenient women put to death for some man’s ulterior motive.

Except.

Except 300 years ago, the Sanderson sisters were hanged in Salem for practicing witchcraft, and they actually deserved it. Winifred (Bette Midler), Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker), and Mary (Kathy Najimy) are a trio of old hags who kidnapped a little girl to suck the youth right out of her, and then turned her would-be hero older brother into a cat for daring to interrupt. And that’s just the stuff we know about. They were soon dangling from the gallows.

Alternate A: If you count the Sandersons, and we definitely do, Salem’s dead witch count is actually 3. And the townsfolk are definitely aware of their legend, even 3 centuries later. And it turns out those witches were never very far off: a group of kids including new-to-town Max (Omri Katz), his kid sister Dani (Thora Birch), and the girl he’s crushing on who’s “really into witches” Allison (Vinessa Shaw), accidentally call them back when a virgin lights a black flame candle (so don’t say I didn’t warn you). Anyway, the witches immediately want to eat Dani and it takes an immortal talking cat to offer up pro tips for defeating witches.

For some reason this movie has achieved cult Halloween status, and as one of the few films in the genre that isn’t horrifying, it makes for nice, family-friendly fare. I say this like I can’t understand the appeal when in fact as a kid, I loved it too. One year my cousin and I made our own Sanderson Sister costumes (and yeah, it’s problematic that there were only two of us, but since we both probably imagined ourselves to be the ‘sexy one’, it hardly mattered) and we were really proud to wear them, up until some well-meaning lady complimented my cousin’s teeth…who was not wearing prosthetics. It is hands-down the worst thing that ever happened to me on Halloween and I once had the candy ripped from my little hands by teenage bullies. And technically it didn’t even happen to me! But anyway, up to that point we were really smug and self-satisfied young witches with probably embarrassing handmade costumes.

Anyway, Disney World makes great use of Halloween time to break the Sanderson Sisters out of the vault. Not normally seen in the parks, they host the Villain Spectacular at Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party (other rarely-seen characters that also make an appearance for Halloween: Jack & Sally, Elvis Stitch, Cruella De Vil and more). We Assholes are actually headed for Disney on Saturday and November 2nd just happens to be the magical day when the parks erase Halloween and embrace Christmas, and yes, we’re going to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party and Sandy Claws only knows who we’ll meet there.

Fun Facts about Hocus Pocus:

  1. Brother and sister Garry and Penny Marshall play husband and wife in the film. The dog held by Garry actually belongs to Kathy Najimy.
  2. The animatronic cat was used again on Sabrina The Teenage Witch.
  3. Rosie O’Donnell turned down the role of Mary. Jennifer Lopez auditioned for Sarah. Leonardo DiCaprio turned down the role of Max and did What’s Eating Gilbert Grape instead.
  4. Doug Jones, as in Shape of Water Doug Jones, appears in this film as a zombie (see below).
  5. This movie came out in July of 1993 so that it would not compete with Disney’s other Halloween offering that year, The Nightmare Before Christmas, which got the coveted October slot.
  6. Real moths came out of Doug Jones’ mouth. Sarah Jessica Parker ate a real spider.
  7. While researching her family history for the show Who Do You Think You Are?, Sarah Jessica Parker discovered that her 10th great-grandmother, Esther Elwell, was arrested in Salem in the late 1600s for committing “sundry acts of witchcraft” and choking a neighbour to death. Esther’s case never went to court; she escaped with her life and the accusation ended the Salem Witch Trials.
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Hellboy

In the final days of WWII, the Nazis attempt some sort of magic to bolster their faltering cause, but instead they open up a portal through which Hellboy arrives and is adopted by an Allied scientist, Professor Broom. Hellboy (Ron Perlman) is raised in Broom’s lab, among other, erm, special…entities, such as firestarter Liz (Selma Blair) and the aquatic and telepathic Abe Sapien (Doug Jones, but voiced by David Hyde Pierce). So though Hellboy looks a lot like a demon with his horns (which he carefully files down) and his red skin and freaky arm, he’s actually been more of a force for good, deployed when only his special skills will do: welcome to the (secret) bureau for paranormal research and defense.

W4lFb0LOf course, no one would make a movie about a guy just doing his part to make the world a safer place – not one called Hellboy, anyway. Those Nazi fucks are back, and their aim is to recruit Hellboy back to the dark side, where he belongs.

With master of horror Guillermo del Toro leading the way, the Hellboy movie is at its best when Hellboy is among the people he loves; it’s the quieter moments between the impressive action sequences that give this movie heft. Perlman is pretty damn magnetic as the spawn of satan, and delivers the kind of dry humour that no other comic book movie has come close to. It’s not a perfect movie but you can tell how del Toro has tried to smooth out some of the uneveness between Hellboy’s down time and his work. There’s more to him than you might guess and despite his monstrous looks, he’s got a good dose of humanity {this is a common theme of del Toro’s, I’ve noticed: the true monsters are never the ones who look the part}.

Clearly a fan of the source material, del Toro embraces some of Hellboy’s ridiculousness. He’s faithful to the wit and the charm and the misfittedness of the whole endeavour. And actually, who better than del Toro, who has made a career out of defining and applauding the outcasts, to pay homage to the movement’s red leader?

Hellboy is a lot of fun if you give yourself up to it. It already has a memorable character, and Perlman is nothing if not the perfect choice to play him. But Guillermo del Toro is also the perfect choice to colour in his surroundings. The production design set the standard for all comic book movies that came after. Del Toro knows that the details are where it’s at – it’s where old fans will find home, and new fans will be created.

 

A new Hellboy is in the works; not the third movie proposed by Del Toro and Perlman, but a complete reboot starring David Harbour instead, which has lots of fans rather upset. We’ll judge the new film on its own merits I suppose, but it feels like this one’s already going in the wrong direction.

 

Crimson Peak

Having somewhat of a crush on Guillermo del Toro’s movies, I watched Crimson Peak soon after it came out, despite my being a huge chicken. But I refused to review it because I was sure I didn’t really get it: the film had gotten tepid reviews, but my initial reaction was anything but lukewarm. On a recent del Toro kick I’ve rewatched it and came to the same conclusion: Crimson Peak is kind of great.

Okay, it’s not epic story-telling the way The Shape of Water is, but it’s a visual master piece that succeeds in both creeping us out and sucking us in.

Mia Wasikowska plays Edith Cushing, a young woman both relatable but maddening hero_Crimson-Peak-2015because she spurns the favour of her childhood friend, a mild-mannered, handome doctor who cares for her (Charlie Hunnam) in favour of the mysterious badboy newcomer (Tom Hiddleston). Even the brutal murder of her beloved father doesn’t stop her from flitting off to England to a crumbling old mansion atop a mountain that oozes blood-red clay with new hubby Thomas (Hiddleston) and his wicked sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain) as her only (living) roommates.

Del Toro has crafted an ode to gothic ghost stories. The story is simple but the visuals a sumptuous feast, with every inch of his Victorian sets crammed with macabre detail that are never without meaning. He couldn’t do it without some talented help. Thomas E. Sanders (Braveheart, Hook, Star Trek: Beyond; Oscar nominated for Saving Private Ryan and Dracula), who died earlier this year, was responsible for the incredibly rich production design. The mansion was built in its entirety on a sound stage, its layered look reflecting the generations of the Sharpe family who would have lived within it. Although inspired by period architecture, this being a del Toro film, everything was amplified and magnified. The details are familiar but the effect they create it startling and rather lavish. It helps to create a world in which the supernatural feels like a natural fit. Kate Hawley (Edge of Tomorrow, Suicide Squad), costumer extraordinaire, used a lot of the same principles on her end. Every single piece in the film was hand-stitched specifically for it. Though styles and silhouettes were inspired by the fashion of the time (circa 1901), every piece is elevated and la-ca-hc-guillermo-crimson-peak-20151011made more moody, more dramatic. Weeks and weeks were spent stitching an intricate detail onto one of Chastain’s dresses that gets a lot of screen time. And this being a haunting ghost story, every costume had to look just as meticulous from behind, for those eerie shots down darkened hallways.

Tom Hiddleston I can generally take or leave (well, preferably leave) but Jessica Chastain continues to impress with her versatility and restraint. And interestingly, it’s del Toro staple Doug Jones who packs a major wallop. A classically-trained mime and contortionist, most of Jones’ best work is done under heavy layers of prosthetics, but embodying several of the ghosts in this film, he reminds us just how creepy a mere movement of the arm can be.

Guillermo del Toro is a master orchestrator of aesthetic and imagination. Crimson Peak’s script doesn’t quite hold up to its incredible production design, but it chills your bones when it wants to and sets your blood pumping overtime when it needs to. There are twisted monsters hidden in the depths of the Allerdale mansion, but like his crowning achievement The Shape of Water, they aren’t always who you expect.