Tag Archives: 31 days of horror

31 Days of Horror: 2015 – Revenge of the Bloody Shame

We’ve passed October’s midway point. The 15th has come and gone. The one-per day pace has officially slagged and I’m staring down the barrel of a final, grueling, monstrous, harrowing 16 final days to complete the 31 films required of me in the 2015 31 Days of Horror Shame-a-thon. I’ve been eyeballing a bunch of new non-horror DVD and Blu-ray acquisitions and wishing I could toss one in, just give it a quick watch. But alas. I’ve no time for anything other than horror. I’ve no time for Rock Band 4. No time to read the stack of books on my nightstand. There’s kids. There’s sleep. There’s work. There’s horror. There’s me and this stack of shamefully unwatched horror flicks. I’m redoubling my efforts (what does that even mean?). I’m not only going to beat my record of 27, I’m going to hit that magical #31. I’ve even Jedi mind-tricked the wife into asking what’s next on the horror schedule.

I’ve started this second post for ease of reading, simplicity of coding and preservation of sanity. The first post grew wonky in the saggy middle bits and constantly reformatted and ignored my header and paragraph tags. Clearly the work of a pesky poltergeist in the css.

THE great discovery of 2015 has not yet happened. Last year I viewed many new favorites. The Whip and the Body. The Lair of the White Worm. Night of the Comet. Vampyr. So much goddamn bloody goodness. But then again I’ve just skimmed the surface of my list of Shame. I’ve not even delved into the 1980’s picks, and you know I love me some Reagan-era trickle-down terror. (I’m also expecting great things from you, Pakistani Dracula.)

 

2015 31 Days of Horror

 


Past #31DaysOfHorror Shame-a-thons: 2013 | 2014 | 2015 Part 1

listofshame

  1. Cat and the Canary (1927)
  2. Island of Lost Souls (1932)
  3. The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945)
  4. La Momia Azteca (1957)
  5. Scream of Fear! (1961)
  6. The Innocents (1961)
  7. Burn Witch Burn (1962)
  8. Kwaidan (1964)
  9. Nightmare Castle (1965)
  10. The Living Corpse (Pakistani Dracula! – 1967)
  11. The Living Skeleton (or another from When Horror Came to Shichoku Eclipse Set, 1968)
  12. Koroneku (1968)
  13. Vampyros Lesbos (1971)
  14. Amuck! (1972)
  15. Night of the Devils (1972)
  16. A Candle for the Devil (1973)
  17. The Wicker Man (1973)
  18. Sugar Hill (1974)
  19. Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974, on 2014 and 2015 Shame lists)
  20. Alucarda (1977)
  21. Nosferatu (1979)
  22. Without Warning (1980)
  23. Scanners (1981)
  24. The Boogens (1981)
  25. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Miss Osbourne (1981)
  26. Fright Night (1985)
  27. Nightmare on Elm Street 2 (1985)
  28. Killer Party (1986)
  29. Inugami (2001)
  30. Romasanta (2004)
  31. A Girl Walks Home At Night (2014)

Off the menu:

  1. Frogs
  2. Beyond the Black Rainbow
  3. Comedy of Terrors
  4. MST3K – It Lives By Night
  5. The Beast With Five Fingers
  6. Corruption
  7. Bram Stoker’s Dracula*
  8. Crimson Peak
  9. Housebound
  10. The Vampire’s Coffin
  11. The Raven
  12. The Tingler
  13. Chamber of Horrors
  14. The Fog*
  • – not a first time watch

(Hz ratings out of 5 Hz)

View the 2015 Shame-a-thon Part 1: entries #1-#13 here.

#14. 10/16 – Fright Night (1985, dir. Tom Holland)

Fright Night

“Marcy D’arcy! It’s Marcy D’arcy!”

So I was disproportionately excited to see Al Bundy’s uptight neighbor. I get like that when I unexpectedly stumble upon Marcy or Jefferson in the wild. Not so much Steve, though. Steve was a bit of a dullard. Did you know that Marcy (Amanda Bearse) also directed 30 episodes of Married with Children? #TheMoreYouKow, am I right?

But let’s put aside the Marcy D’arcy euphoria for a second.

Fright Night rocketed to the top of the 2015 Shame-a-thon. An old-fashioned monster flick with a dose of self-awareness, reverence for classic horror and a jab or two at the contemporary (1980’s contemporary, of course) slasher movies dominating the milieu. William Ragsdale’s a bit of a stiff, but his rigidity plays against Chris Sarandon’s hunka hunka mock-turtleneck sexy-time face. In the climax he also rocks a Nehru jacket-looking shirt thing, which, let’s face it, not everyone can pull off.

The practical gore effects are top notch, used sparingly and to great effect — especially Evil’s demise. And while we’re doting on some boring technical aspects of the film, let’s talk about the score. Brad Fiedel’s music for Fright Night blends traditional scoring with moody synth roots the film in 1985 without slipping into that sour “dated” category.

Since I like my horror flicks with a dose of smarts (not to mention Marcy D’arcy in peril) this is kinda my jam.

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#15. 10/16 – Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992, dir. Francis Ford Coppola)

Bram Stoker's Dracula

So again it’s not technically a shame. Not technically. But this is my challenge and I can bend the rules whenever I see fit. And I saw fit last night because the Bram Stoker’s Dracula Blu-ray with the brand new 4K transfer arrived last week. As one of my favorite vampire films, I bent — nay broke the rules — of my own Shame-a-thon (again) in order to see how this transfer compared to the 8-year-old muddy Blu-ray dubbed “Dark-ula”. The Shame of course is that I owned the new Blu-ray for about 10 days before tossing it in on. Shame!

I come bearing good news. The new transfer is as good as this movie is ever going to look. The darkest scenes have a far superior color balance — it’s not just that they’re brighter, it’s that Coppola’s vivid colors have returned and detail remains even in the darkest shadows without sacrificing the deepest blacks. The scenes early on in Dracula’s castle provide ample proof that Sony has finally done right with this film.

Here’s the lesser news. Some crankshafts have noticed that there’s a small framing issue throughout the film. Before you go bridge jumping, let me attest that YOU WILL NOT NOTICE THE FRAMING ISSUE. I’ve seen this film enough to care about things like that. I thought one shot seemed a little… different. Not wrong. Just not what I remembered. Which is how I found these lunatic threads on DVD forums impaling this release.

If you want to join the hyperbolic legions of Interweb lunatics ranting about this new release, that’s your right and privilege as an anonymous blowhard with a Twitter account. If you want my opinion, however, your time is better spent just enjoying the film for what it is — a flawed but visually stunning masterpiece of gothic horror with a legendary performance by Gary Oldman (and maybe the best Van Helsing ever captured on film in Anthony Hopkins).

Also blood geysers, you guys.

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#16. 10/18 – Crimson Peak (2015, dir. by Guillermo del Toro)

Crimson Peak

Thank goodness for Crimson Peak. Guillermo del Toro’s timely release of his latest directorial effort allowed me to attack 31 Days of Horror on multiple fronts. Blu-ray. DVD. Streaming. Theater. I’ve got 2015 completely flanked. I don’t often drag my carcass out to the theater for modern horror films because 99% of them are pure prefabricated shit meant to sell tickets to the lowest common denominator. People who will buy tickets to anything that promises a body count. There’s more to horror that torture and death and general psychotic mayhem. The genre has a long tradition of style and visual creativity dating back to its origins. The earliest silent horror films — Nosferatu, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari just to have a couple of obvious examples — contain some of the most inventive cinematography ever captured on film. Horror does not equal gore, though that has its time and place as well (best used with equal parts comedy as unrepentant gore porn is just not my bag). Experiencing an effective horror film is the transference to a psychological state of persistent unease. Consider The Picture of Dorian Gray, a film I logged here as a horror film. Other than a stabbing and few unsettling shots of the decaying portrait, there’s no overtly horrific imagery, yet it remains the most disturbing film viewed in my Shame-a-thon to date. Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak follows the director’s traditional storytelling pattern (at least in his horror entries). Create unease and then punctuate that unease with flourishes of gore and brutality. Crimson Peak, however, is no Devil’s Backbone, a film where the horrors linger, building to a final climax followed by the cathartic release of tension. Peak falls short of that modern classic, nor does it aspire to such heights. Like Dorian Gray, Crimson Peak is first a gothic romance, second a haunted house story, third a meditation on storytelling itself. The film proves largely effective at  number 1, but only moderately effective at numbers 2 and 3. Peak undermines the gothic elements of the narrative with intermittently excessive and comical bloodletting. It is almost as if del Toro can’t help himself when a choice moment arises. A simple pen stabbing results in a massive spurting of blood. In a different movie, I’d have been pro-hyperbolic blood geyser, but Peak‘s pleasures are found elsewhere. In the dark corners of the house (a masterpiece of set design), in the true motives of Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) and his sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain), in the practically-rendered (no CGI according to GDT) metaphors/apparitions that appear to Edith (Mia Wasikowska). Crimson Peak is the recipient of some critical negativity because it is largely predictable (true) and languorously paced (also true) and uneven (ditto) and because its visual splendors could not compensate for all of the above (poppycock). The power and purpose of “visual splendors” in film cannot be overestimated. The slower, gothic nature of the film will repel viewers hungry for a gory frightfest. I see why del Toro took to Twitter to normalize viewer expectation, insisting that the film is first a romance. Viewer expectation can be damning, so can the pre-existing baggage people bring into a moviegoing experience. No matter your expectation or disappointment with the elements of this particular ghost story, Crimson Peak should and will satisfy those patient souls willing to bask in the extraordinary “visual splendors” of this old fashioned, gothic yarn… albeit a gothic yarn dotted with a few potentially unnecessary blood geysers, face bashings and questionably stunted dialogue.

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#17. 10/19 – The Living Corpse  (1967, dir. Khwaja Sarfraz)

 

the living corpse - pakistani dracula

The more than 10-minute pre-title sequence depicts a doctor struggling to create a potion for everlasting life. After many failures (we know because the formula melted through the flask) he succeeds. Before taking the potion he leaves a note for his assistant to toss him in the basement coffin once she finds him passed out on the floor. Later he shows up to suck her blood. We presume, anyway, because the film cuts away just before his shiny new teeth contact her succulent flesh. After the wonderful, high-contrast title sequence (pictured above) we’re treated to a lively rendition of “La Cucuracha” as a pimpmobile (color uncertain) traverses the rugged Mexican  Pakistani landscape. And so it goes with Zinda Laash aka The Living Corpse aka Dracula in Pakistan. Though director Surfraz had clearly mastered the use of light and shadow, the film gives rise to many other questions:   What are the logistics of the Dr. Aqil/Mr. Dracula situation? Hey girl, is that supposed to be sexy dancing? “Feed on this instead.” Wait, was that a baby?   So more full-clothed sexy dancing already? Well, alright. Did Burt Bacharach watch this before scoring the “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” scene in Butch Cassidy?   The Living Corpse took obvious cues from 1958’s The Horror of Dracula. Not having seen the film for some time, I can’t actually confirm that the film goes shot-by-shot but it certainly feels that way. Sarfraz also takes specific details from Bram Stoker’s novel that didn’t appear in other films at this time. The way it processes these elements, inherently British and Christian, through the Pakistani cultural lens make for fascinating viewing. If you like your Dracula with a dose of kitsch and cultural transmogrification, The Living Corpse must be seen to be fully appreciated.

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#18. 10/20 – Killer Party (1986, dir. William Fruet)

 

killer party

I’d normally give a resounding thumbs up to any movie prominently featuring Laura Branigan on the soundtrack. Then I met Killer Party. Taking cues from House on Sorority Row, Private School, and The Evil Dead or The Exorcist (hell, it doesn’t really matter, just something with malleable rules about demonic possession), Killer Party resembles a meta-slasher movie. But Fruet’s film is neither witty enough to succeed at the meta part or creepy enough to succeed at the slashing part. The opening promised something spectacularly awesomeful, like Night Train to Terror. It begins as a drive-in movie within a White Sister hair-metal rock video within a movie. Ten minutes in you don’t know what’s going on but you’re digging it. Soon the movie settles into Private School meets House on Sorority Row and you’re left wondering where all the cool, kitschy, meta bits went. I was kinda entertained… but at what cost? Even my shameful affection for all things from the mid-1980’s has limitations.

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#19. 10/21 – A Candle for the Devil (1973, dir. Eugenio Martin)

 

A Candle for the Devil

Lady butcher sisters enforce their strict moral code with knives, hatchets and the promise of raging, eternal hellfire. The movie’s languid pace will challenge some, engage others. I fell somewhere in between, but confess I was duly impressed by the moodiness of the cinematography and the fascinating distortion of Catholic teachings about sex, faith and “perversion” — a distortion that seems to be playing out in 2015 through politicized “faith-based” pandering to the moral right. There’s not a lot of exploitative gore — a stylistic choice that allows the unsettling mix of sex and religion to strike a nerve more squarely. One might rightly assume that there’s some talk of Satan in a movie called A Candle for the Devil — but unlike Alucarda, which wasted no opportunity to reference the subversive bastard, Candle leaves that sort of chatter in the subtext (and presumably to pander to an audience expecting something more notorious than a meditation on the continued relevance of Catholic doctrine). This is the story of two emotionally damaged women struggling to carve their own place in an increasingly frivolous, libidinous and morally uncertain world. A fascinating and obscure entry in the Eurotrash cannon — Eurotrash as character study — something I certainly never expected to find in this Spanish cult sleeper.  

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#20. 10/22 – Housebound (2014, dir. Gerard Johnstone)

 

housebound movie

I’ve had this one on my Netflix Watchlist for many moons. Someone told me it was really funny. The Netflix description promised ghosts and haunted houses. Okay, so there’s uncertain creaking and stuff, a Teddy Ruxpin bear gone rogue and some other freaky shenanigans. And there’s some extraordinarily glib moments of Kiwi humor… but I wouldn’t go as far to call it a full on comedy… or a full on horror movie. So now you’re asking — So what is Housebound then, jerk? Housebound is just a cool little movie from New Zealand. … What, did you want more explanation? Sigh. Well okay then. (Slave driver.) Kylie is forced to return to her childhood home, under house arrest, after failing miserably as a petty criminal. Mum’s a bit of a gossipy nutso and calls up talk radio tell stories about the spooks in the basement and creaks in the floorboards. It’s not long before Kylie gets the heebeejeebies and jumps on the notion that the house is haunted… or she’s merely becoming more like her mother the more she’s stuck in the house. (Both frightening propositions.) Kylie becomes a kind of paranormal investigator and uncovers the house’s violent secrets. Johnstone’s film is all that and a bag of nacho chips. I mentioned the spooks and the tongue-in-cheek goofs, but there’s also a measure of heart in this tale as mother and daughter reconnect. The film comes slightly undone during the climax which you might be able to overlook after being treated to a superfluous, but entirely welcome bit of gory bloodletting. The film succeeds most readily as it subverts expectation and twists genre tropes. So, if you’re like me, and Housebound has been staring at you on that Netflix Watchlist, now’s the time to cross it off. I definitely needed a fun and breezy flick after A Candle for the Devil. It’s Day 22. I’m also trying to sneak this writeup in at work while also watching my next entry (which has been happening in installments for about a week). With October winding down, there’s not a moment to spare. I’d also like to start reading books again at some point in the near future.  

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#21. 10/23 – The Vampire’s Coffin (1958, dir. Fernando Mendez)

 

the vampire's coffin

  …aka El ataúd del Vampiro which somehow makes it sound far more appealing than Dracula if he were a  gameshow host… in Spanish. Other than some inventive scenes using high contrast light and shadows, The Vampire’s Coffin feels like a Universal film from the 30’s or 40’s, but less interesting. Static camera, smattering of close-ups, chiaroscuro. Also seemingly unrelated sick children worried about stuff. I’m not going to say I didn’t enjoy this movie because how can you not love making “gameshow vampire” cracks to yourself… but it just wasn’t very good and I watched it because it was available on Netflix while I wasted a couple of hours at work waiting for 48″ signs to print on the blotter. This is definitely a movie you watch while you’re waiting for something better to happen.

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#22. 10/24 – The Raven (1963, dir. Roger Corman)

 

the raven 1963

If you’ve ever wanted to see an improv group attempt to continue the narrative of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” poem, The Raven might just be the movie for you. I’m pretty sure that Peter Lorre and Vincent Price weren’t at any point reading from a script. Jack Nicholson arrives in full flummox mode and then there’s the luminous Hazel Court. It’s hard not to have a measure of affection for a production as ill advised as this. A raven drinking from a wine goblet. Peter Lorre in a bird suit. Vincent Price and Boris Karloff as accomplished witches (warlocks?) and Peter Lorre as the Daffy Duck variety witch (always a failed second fiddle). When you think the movie couldn’t go more off the rails, it does somehow. And that makes it… well… worth something to fans of Corman and those lovable, huggable AIP productions from the 1960’s. Nevertheless, you always believe that the actors had more fun making the movie than you had watching it.  

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#23. 10/25 – The Innocents (1961, dir. Jack Clayton)

 

innocents

…words coming soon…    

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#24. 10/26 – The Tingler (1959, dir. William Castle)

 

thetingler

…words coming soon…    

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#25. 10/28 – Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974, dir. Tobe Hooper)

 

Texas Chain Saw Massacre 1974

This may be another case of a movie damned by expectation. Well, maybe not damned per say, but fricasseed, roasted and potentially boiled. TCSM had been held aloft as one of the most frightening experiences in cinema history. Unnerving, sure. I’ll give it that. Tense. Solid effort there. Tremendous foreshadowing through somewhat casual (but mostly forced) dialogue. But TCSM won’t keep me up at night like The Innocents, to name one very recent example that burrowed underneath my skin and lingered. Different goals. Different films, obviously. But it’s all relative, anyway, is it not? The specific details that cause certain films to climb into you subconscious and reside there, forever sending chills down the back of your spine. I’ve got a few of those. Candyman, for example. I watched Candyman alone just after it was released on video. Afterward I walked around the house turning on every light. I haven’t seen it since and I’m quite sure it wouldn’t affect me in the same ways it did then. That’s not the point. In specific moments in our lives we’re more receptive to certain types of horrors. And those horrors just don’t necessarily dissipate with time and tide. I will always think of that night and shudder, just a little bit. The same goes for the The Innocents. At age 37 I was fully ready to receive the chilling tale from 1961 in ways I wouldn’t have as a teenager. I might not have been as involved with the story, invested in the character, identifying with the horrors of small, manipulative children being puppet mastered by the lingering spooks of dead lovers. So that brings us back to 1974 and to this “true story” of the systematic murders of a group of stranded young motorists by a family of maniac butchers/cannibals. Though I engaged with the story (Step 1 of being receptive to horrors), I was mostly humored by the stupidity of the film’s “protagonists.” I documented these thoughts on Twitter, as I tend to do:

There were a few more of these, but you get the point. Hapless morons find themselves in a Murphy’s Law-type situation and in order to expedite the Murphy’s Lawness of it all, they just start flocking straight towards death like a moth to a flame. And the flame in this case is a guy wielding a chainsaw and wearing a skin mask of his victims. The parade of executions becomes preposterous. And then when there’s just one left, we’re treated to a “last supper” dinner scene featuring the entire family of deranged lunatics — truly a classic cinematic scene of the macabre. The final living protagonist is a girl named Sally — which is pretty much everything we know about Sally. This, the best scene in the film, is cruel, funny and believe it or not, humanizing… to the extent that you can humanize lunatic cannibals because he’s only okay with cooking his victims but not killing them. I get that. We as a first world society totally get that. We’re lunatic hillbilly murderers too. For the sake of bacon.

And this brings me to the not-so-subtext of the film. Texas Chain Saw Massacre is a pro-vegetarian propaganda piece. The characters document the horrors of the slaughterhouse and engage in a debate about whether its okay to eat meat but not kill it. They talk of headcheese processing and killing cows with two sledges to the head. This debate is so detailed in the various methods of cow executions, you know, YOU KNOW, this has to come back into the film at some point. And wouldn’t you know… the cannibal family cook states his reservations about killing his own ingredients, i.e. Sally.

Tasty, eh?

Was I entertained? No doubt. And in the end, that’s all that really matters… also keeping those TCSM #LifeHacks close at hand should you be presented with a situation where your van breaks down in the middle of Texas (how about let’s just not go to Texas?) and you find yourself looking for help in homes with dead things on the floor. Hey, these things happen and when they do, you want to be prepared.

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#26. 10/29 – Nosferatu (1979, dir. Werner Herzog)

nosferatu 1979

Dracula returns to the realm of the purely gothic. Herzog’s Count is a wretched cuss equated with the black plague. He’s a pestilence of rats and unwanted sexual advances. Klaus Kinski’s visage is the stuff of nightmares, rivaling only Max Schreck in the original 1922 F.W. Murnau Nosferatu that Herzog here aims to update. The movie lacks the eccentric, hyperbolic splendor or other Dracula adaptations. Every scene promises, eventually, the arrival of death. Every scene is carefully calculated forebode. Consider the scenes as Harker arrives in Transylvania. Herzog lingers on Harker’s inability to reach the castle. Peasants will not drive him, they will not even allow him to buy a horse to make the journey. Harker must walk the long distance. Popul Vuh’s haunting score (symphonic melodies and moans!) coupled with Herzog’s long, static shots of the treacherous splendor of the mountains and countryside put a shiver in your britches.

Herzog maintains the silent film’s languid pacing, allowing haunting visuals and extended silence to convey a creeping, menacing terror. Most striking is that Herzog doesn’t cloak his cinematography with effusive shadow. Nosferatu is often bright and always high-contrast, to the point of  appearing overdeveloped. Even the scenes with Harker (Bruno Ganz) at Dracula’s castle are well lit affairs (relatively speaking). The most prominent visual effect of this lighting scheme, the blazing whites, bathe the character of Lucy (Isabelle Adjani) in chastity. She’s seen on the beach, pale, washed out skin the color of the bleached sky and sand. Her face contrasting against her black hair, stark clothing. Adjani (and to a greater extent Herzog’s mise-en-scene) here could be seen as a prototype for our modern Goth culture — and in that the culture as I understand it rose in popularity during the early 80’s as part of the gothic-rock/post-punk movement, this notion has some merit. Furthemore, an argument can and has been made that German Romanticism itself is responsible for the visual tropes associated with the Goth culture. I’m going to conclude that thought here. I don’t have the time or space for such rabbit holes here.

When Dracula arrives in London, proper darkness finally arrives with the beast. Our expectations of dread are met, duly. The events have been told dozens of times over. I should note that I’ve been listening to the film’s score for the last hour and I’m sufficiently batshit loopy. Time to do some proper work now, which for me today is some simple graphic design. I hope my employer’s in the mood for brooding, high-contrast blacks and washed out whites.

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#27. 10/30 – Scream of Fear (1961, dir. Sean Holt)

scream of fear

A terrific film noir disguised as a Hammer horror flick. I’m not sure Scream’s narrative twists hold up under multiple viewings, but Holt’s film plays a fantastic game of misdirection. It allows the viewer to feel smart, predicting the first major twist, before pulling the rug out for a second. I won’t go into great detail because I’m running out of time to finish this post-Halloween blast of Shame-a-thon words, and because any information about the story might inadvertently direct your viewing.

Let’s just say that Scream of Fear is an underseen gem and you should watch it. Really. Go watch it.

I’ll wait here.

You haven’t left yet. I told you to stop reading my writing and go watch a movie. When a writer breaks from his solipsism to tell you to stop reading, you goddamn do it. That means he’s serious. Deadly serious.

 

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#28. 10/31 – The Fog (1980, dir. John Carpenter)

the fog 1980

I had the opportunity to program our Halloween viewing. I had to pick something that was “spooky but not too scary.” Some gore was permissible but it needed to be “kinda funny gore.” With these restrictions in mind, I brought to the table four potential titles for my assembled family members to choose from: Demon Knight, The Sentinel, The Haunting and The Fog. I tried to sneak The Sentinel in there to keep the Shame-a-thon rolling along, but nobody would bite because I couldn’t promise anything about the nature of the film other than the blurb on the case (which nobody really understood). I tried, Shamers… I tried. My wife campaigned for this John Carpenter favorite; I couldn’t have been more pleased.

Some new things struck me about this viewing of The Fog. The simplicity of the premise for example. There’s a fog. There are things in the fog. Some people figure it out. Some people don’t. The backstory fully comes to light during the climax, but until then the audience doesn’t need to concern themselves with anything other than Carpenter’s staging and visuals. Adrienne Barbeau broadcasting on the AM radio subs for a narrator. (I think Grosse Pointe Blank took notes on how to best deploy a DJ as a narration device.) Carpenter uses the all-seeing DJ/narrator to describe the comings and goings of the fog. This allows him to worry first about mood and visuals without wasting time with establishing shots. Of course, there are plenty of shots of the fog moving across the coastline and on into town, but they don’t seek necessarily to further the story — they set a specific mood, the portend the coming of doom. Carpenter also uses Barbeau’s voice, in full Delilah After Dark mode, the same way he uses his synth-laden score. It’s all about the curation of unease… and really, is there anyone better at this than Carpenter?

The Fog is expedient, enjoyable horror of the first order. If you want to scrutinize some of the narrative logic, that’s fair. But why rock the boat (of undead lepers)?

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#29. 11/1 – Chamber of Horrors (1940, dir. Norman Lee)

chamber of horrors 1940

I picked this movie up one day at Half Price Books. When browsing shelves and shelves of DVDs I scan for any case that looks odd or out of place. With a 3yo and/or a 6yo laying waste to everything around me, I have something less than 5 minutes to idly peruse. On one such trip I found this little devil. Released by Roan, this British oddity called out to me. Roan Group DVDs imply a few certainties. An obscure film, presented without restoration, intermittently watchable — but sometimes brilliant and underseen. I gladly bought my $4 lottery ticket to Chamber of Horrors (aka The Door with Seven Locks) based on the statement on the back of the box that it was shown in the U.S. on a double bill with Bela Lugosi’s The Ape. In the light of day, I must question whether that fact is actually a selling point.

Here’s the cold hard facts about Chamber of Horrors. There’s a chamber with an iron maiden. There’s also a door with seven locks. But despite the promises of horrors the most frightening thing in the film might be the butler’s bowl cut. Before dying some old, eccentric fellow leaves his estate to his oddly young son. He also stipulates that his family’s jewels will be interred with him in the mausoleum and locked behind a door… with seven locks.

30 minutes of this 80 minute film are spent discussing heirs and the whereabouts of that rapscallion son. It’s a bit of a let down considering we’ve got a spooky mausoleum with an obscene number of locks and a dead guy that’s promised to return from the grave to hunt down any trespassers. Where are the trespassers to roust the dead guy from his eternal slumber?

Lilli Palmer to the rescue. You might know Palmer from Hitchcock’s Secret Agent or Fritz Lang’s Cloak and Dagger among many other notable appearances. She starred in a litany of noir films through the 30’s and 40’s, eventually marrying Rex Harrison and moving to Hollywood. Palmer acted regularly until her death in 1986 and made one of her last appearances in the Holcroft Covenant alongside Michael Caine, Victoria Tennant and Michael Lonsdale. Lilli Palmer hoists Chamber of Horrors up on her slight shoulders and turns a snoozer into a fairly entertaining Scooby Doo caper. She has some help in that department from Leslie Banks (as the naughty Dr. Manetta (The Most Dangerous Game) — and while they’re both playing caricatures, it is Palmer that elevates the material she’s given.

Chamber of Horrors turns out to be 90% murder mystery and 10% early British post-“ban” horror — we allude to and insinuate that fiendish things are taking place, but we’re really quite polite about it. (The UK film board did not officially ban horror films so much as discourage their production with idle threats of censorship. As I understand it, this period in British cinema compares to the late pre-code years in American cinema — a lot of people ranting and raving about morality in domestic cinema without any specific traction.)

What was I saying? Eh.

Worth watching (with a little patience). Don’t expect too much. Enjoy Lilli Palmer. Carry on Shaming.

 

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#30. 11/1 – The Wicker Man (1973, Robin Hardy)

TheWickerMan

Instead of words I’m working on a .gif of Britt Ekland slapping her bum and singing a Scottish folk song… that would probably better reflect my thoughts about The Wicker Man than any slapdash collection of thoughts.

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#31. 11/1 – La Momia Azteca (1957, Rafael Portillo)

la momia azteca 1957

The Aztec Mummy has a legend- wait for it- dary reputation due to the ways in which the character was regurgitated in films such as The Aztec Mummy versus the Humanoid Robot. Think classic movie monster as luchador and you’re only barely halfway to this bizarro slice of Mexican cinema… which was skewered brilliantly by MST3K in the episode The Robot vs. the Aztec Mummy. I’d hoped an equally so-bad-its-awesomeful origin story with La Momia Azteca, the first of the tremendously unrelated Mexican Aztec Mummy films.

La Momia Azteca takes an interesting entry point into the mummy mythology. Dr. Almeda believes he can tap into past lives through a new hypnotism technique. Because no one would be his willing guinea pig (he stresses that the procedure may cause irreparable psychological damage if the past life lingers into the present) his fiance Flor volunteers. She does this so that the can complete his research on the matter and then get married. Apparently you can’t delve into the depths of past lives and be tied down by an old ball and chain. So it goes. Oddly, this is the interesting part of the film. It’s filled with lovely spinny things and beeps and boops and the thingamajiggers we associate with 1950’s OMG SCIENCE! And then Flor flashes back to Tenochtitlan of the Aztec civilization. She’s a lovely virgin who’s in love with a brave Aztec warrior, but here’s the rub — she’s scheduled to be sacrificed. The warrior plots an escape from Tenochtitlan before her execution, but their plan is uncovered by the Aztec prince (you can tell he’s important because he’s wearing a lot of shit on his head). He’s mummified and cursed to forever guard the Aztec treasure reserves. She’s still executed. Womp womp.

The Dr. and his associates, a rag tag bunch of scholars/cringing Harrys, use Flor’s new memories of the temple to locate the Aztec treasure to prove the legitimacy of her visions. And get rich. Don’t forget the get rich part. Up until this point in the film, I’m down with all of it. It’s a fun 1950’s low budget horror flick with a nice twist. Once we descend into Tenochtitlan — when this movie should just be getting good — the whole thing goes right off the rails. A scheming colleague of Dr. Almeda recruits a gang of thugs to follow the Dr. and his Merry Band of Thoughtmongers. The colleague, Professor Krup, rules these thugs from behind a black mask and calls himself “The Bat.” A Batman/Mummy/Abbott and Costello/Luchador mishmash?!?! HOW HAVE YOU NOT BEEN IN MY LIFE? Well, not so fast. Even though Krup dresses as a bat and calls himself “The Bat” doesn’t make him interesting. Think George Clooney as Batman, except Z-grade comic book villain that never makes a second appearance.

On top of this the movie is so dark in these scenes inside the pyramid that you can’t actually see whats going on. All you’ve got is grammatically poor subtitles to guide you. The scenes are so dark in fact that I’m pretty sure the script merely read “…and yada yada yada things go bump in the dark.” I would have just assumed poor transfer DVD, but part of me thinks that the budget only allowed for one or two interior rooms. In order to extend their utility Portillo cloaked the same rooms in complete darkness to squeeze some more blood from that stone. The final half of the film unfolds predictably, barely keeping you invested in the increasingly disconnected silliness. Yet, I’m still intrigued by the series. Enough at least to keep going through the set. I don’t know what that says about these movies or my moviewatching tendencies.

 

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Bonus watch with the kiddos:

#32. 10/31 – Toy Story of Terror (2013, dir. Angus MacLane)

toy story of terror

 

 

31 Days of Horror: 2015

Last year I called out to the masses, urging them to join me on a cleansing 31-Day Horror Shame-a-thon. As many horror movies as you can watch in one month — the catch? They all had to be shamers, movies you regret not having seen at this point in your moviewatching career. I had one taker. (Thanks, Kerry!) Well, this year, I’m done with with the safety-in-numbers thing. This time, see, I’m going it alone (alone except for everyone else out there doing their own lists… like Jaime Burchardt, who does this for super serious). All the horror and rigors of a brutal moviewatching regimen without a specific support group, plus, you know… life and stuff that just happens in between horror movies. And when you’ve got a 3yo and a 6yo that “life and stuff” part puts a major damper on the final total.

I’ll again follow the Cinema Shame method. I’ll create a list of 31 never-before-seen horror flicks (broadly defined as anything horror or containing elements associated with horror movies) and watch as many as I can manage over the course of the October month. I won’t watch all of them. After all, this list is a tentative guide, some self-cajoling. I watch some, go off the rails for others, and watch a few impromptu selections on TCM. I’ll attempt to view at least one from every decade 1920’s through the present. Last year, I viewed 27 — my all time documented* high. (*I’m sure I obliterated that total during my high school days. Comparing moviewatching prolificity at 37 years of age (with two kids and a wife that doesn’t watch horror movies) vs. 16 years of age (with, maybe, some homework in Photography class and a daily golf practice schedule) is like comparing the kid on your Little League team that handcuffed himself to the dugout fence to Mickey Mantle.

After each flick, I’ll toss up a mini review that may or may not contain any actual insight alongside a Hz Record rating. All that said, let’s commence the 31 Days of Horror.

First up. The list of Shame. For this list, in addition to egregious and overdue Shames (hello again, Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Wicker Man!), I’ll focus on the movies I’ve owned but never watched (blind buys, specifically, but also those that have just been forgotten over time).

2015 31 Days of Horror

Other #31DaysOfHorror participants!

@echidnabot – Prowler Needs a Jump

@jaimeburchardt – That Jaime

@reyes – Watch It Twice!


 

Past #31DaysOfHorror Shame-a-thons: 2013 | 2014 | 2015 Part 1 | 2015 Part 2

listofshame

  1. Cat and the Canary (1927)
  2. Island of Lost Souls (1932)
  3. The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945)
  4. La Momia Azteca (1957)
  5. Scream of Fear! (1961)
  6. The Innocents (1961)
  7. Burn Witch Burn (1962)
  8. Kwaidan (1964)
  9. Nightmare Castle (1965)
  10. The Living Corpse (Pakistani Dracula! – 1967)
  11. The Living Skeleton (or another from When Horror Came to Shichoku Eclipse Set, 1968)
  12. Koroneku (1968)
  13. Vampyros Lesbos (1971)
  14. Amuck! (1972)
  15. Night of the Devils (1972)
  16. A Candle for the Devil (1973)
  17. The Wicker Man (1973)
  18. Sugar Hill (1974)
  19. Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974, on 2014 and 2015 Shame lists)
  20. Alucarda (1977)
  21. Nosferatu (1979)
  22. Without Warning (1980)
  23. Scanners (1981)
  24. The Boogens (1981)
  25. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Miss Osbourne (1981)
  26. Fright Night (1985)
  27. Nightmare on Elm Street 2 (1985)
  28. Killer Party (1986)
  29. Inugami (2001)
  30. Romasanta (2004)
  31. A Girl Walks Home At Night (2014)

Off the menu:

  1. Frogs
  2. Beyond the Black Rainbow
  3. Comedy of Terror
  4. MST3K – It Lives By Night
  5. The Beast With Five Fingers
  6. Corruption

(Hz ratings out of 5 Hz)

#1. 9/30 – Frogs (1972, dir. George McCowan)

Frogs-3

There’s a brilliant simplicity about movies like Frogs or Alligator or Piranha. You’re offered people that deserve to be eaten by Frogs/Alligators/Piranhas and then, wait for it, they get eaten by Frogs/Alligators/Piranhas. There’s nothing especially unnerving about Frogs (except Sam Elliott disarmingly sans mustache)it’s just a fun nature-gone-evil flick with a lot of closeups of — get this — frogs! Also, a horror movie fest isn’t a horror movie fest without Ray Milland (I’m sure that’s a saying) so I’m glad I got that requirement out of the way early. Also yes, I started early because I need all the days I can pack into one month to make this happen.

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#2. 9/30 – Beyond the Black Rainbow (2010, dir. Panos Cosmatos)

beyondtheblack

Watched this for our #Bond_age_Choice feature the other night without knowing what I’d signed up for. Hey, so, good to know… this is what happens when Carl Theodor Dreyer sodomizes David Cronenberg. Though this isn’t outright horror this one will leave you unsettled for days. Truth be told, I have not yet recovered from the scene pictured above. I’ve still got the heebeejeebees. Cosmatos scrubbed this movie free of dialogue. Abstract imagery and use of washed-out color palettes foster an unsettling, creeping subtext that ultimately manifests as a riff on the slasher or giallo genres.

Greg McCambley summed this movie up best:

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#3. 10/2 – Alucarda (1977, dir. Juan Lopez Moctezuma)  alucarda 31DaysOfHorror

Justine arrives at a creepy convent where she immediately befriends the even creepier Alucarda who tells her, almost immediately, that she’s going to “love her to death.” And based on her delivery you’re quite sure there’s no Shakespearean orgasm metaphor mixed into that statement. After a quick flash of light and a jump cut, both girls are buck naked and flanking Mr. Scary Goat Man. Before you know it that crazy Alucarda has unleashed some satanic demon that dabbles in vampirism. There’s even an interesting footnote to the nudity and satanic rituals that suggests satanism was the natural counter-reaction to the innate brutality of the Catholic church. How strict enforcement of the Catholic doctrines (by the clerical male hierarchy) transforms innocent girls into fearful women rather than encouraging proper religious hope and spirituality. 

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#4. 10/3 – Island of Lost Souls (1932, dir. Erle C. Kenton)

 

Island of Lost Souls - 31 Days of Horror

After enduring the wife’s pick of Hot Pursuit on Friday night, I got back on the wagon Saturday night. Though she won’t willingly watch anything from the horror genre, she will get sucked into an older movie if it happens to show up on the television and she’s already on the couch and the effort to go upstairs to watch something on the DVR proves too daunting. I figured I could win her over with this little ditty. And by “ditty” I mean subtle and often unnerving slice of pre-code horror that happens to last something shy of 80 minutes. Having just watched the Lost Souls documentary about the making of the Brando/Kilmer 1990’s Moreau I was itching to finally give this Criterion a spin. Really the best thing that could be said about our leading man, Richard Arlen, is that he had fine posture. Charles Laughton binds this movie together with a tense portrayal of Moreau as a misguided, moralistic Dr. Frankenstein-type God complex. Despite recognizing the film’s duly earned status as a classic, I couldn’t help but rattle of a few lines of “Jump Around” every time a character mentioned the “House of Pain” or respond to “We are men!” with “We are DEVO!” I’m so mature. Terrific minor turns from Bela Lugosi and “the Panther Woman” (as she is billed in the credits), Kathleen Burke, help erase the harm caused by milquetoast leading man syndrome.

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#5. 10/3 – Comedy of Terrors (1963, dir. Jacques Tourneur)

 

comedy of terrors 31daysofhorror

…words coming soon…  

#6. 10/4 – The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945, dir. Albert Lewin)

 

the picture of dorian gray

It took me a few days to process this adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. I felt like the film required a bit more attention perhaps than an MST3K riff on The Bat People. First, let’s get some scattered observations out of the way. 1. Every movie should feature George Sanders. Also dialogue by Oscar Wilde in the mouth of George Sanders. 2. There’s a reason Hurd Hatfield had a minimal and very scattered Hollywood career. After a handful of starring gigs, Hatfield drifted off into a career in television. He’s suitable here (if my memory of the novel serves) because he satisfies Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray, but he’s unable to carry the film on his own — a very strong supporting cast props him up (meanwhile acting circles around him). Angela Lansbury, George Sanders, Donna Reed and Peter Lawford among them. 3. Harry Stradling, Sr. was a goddamn genius. The man worked for Hitchcock, Ray, Kazan, Mankiewicz, etc. Clearly, he knew what he was doing. This 1945 adaptation of Dorian Gray succeeds admirably in translating the gothic elements of Wilde’s novel to the screen and creating constant tension beneath the placid exterior events. As Dorian slips further into vanity and depravity (his specific actions barely even mentioned), director Albert Lewin manages the tone of the film accordingly. While the actual disfigurement of the portrait is presented in ghastly neon coloration and far less affecting than the novel’s ability to terrorize the mind’s eye, the film’s brilliant cinematography makes up the difference. The fear and tension are derived naturally from the terrors of time, fate and mortality. Dorian Gray’s plight is the human condition, not the supernatural, menacing portrait or Dorian’s vanity. There is in fact no villain present; there is only our own fears and regrets conveyed through Dorian and the visual majesty of light and shadow.

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#7. 10/5 – MST3K: It Lives By Night (aka The Bat People, 1974, Jerry Jameson)

 

it lives by night - mst3k

“GAH! The bats are causing me to not know how to stop a car!” I’ve made it a practice to watch at least one MST3K horror movie riff each 31 Days of Horror. If it wasn’t a documented practice before, it is now. Scanning the 30+ sets along the shelf, I recognized I’d never seen this experiment. Bob’s your uncle. Dude gets bitten by a bat then becomes a bloodsucking bat. The riffs here from Mike and the bots weren’t hugely memorable, always a problem when the movie at hand is more boring-bad than bad-bad. The good jokes happened while anthropomorphizing bats during stock footage, comparing the leading actress to Mary Tyler Moore and mocking the letchy, mustachioed detective. A well-placed Rikki-tikki-tavi joke may have been the golden riff.  

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#8. 10/6 – Amuck (1972, dir. Silvio Amadio)

 

amuck 31 days of horror

Holy. Smokes. Seven minutes into Amuck, the viewer’s treated to a slow-mo, wholly gratuitous scene of sapphic excess between Barbara Bouchet and Rosalba Neri. I don’t care if you’re man, woman, child (not that I’m testing this theory, mind you), plant or animal, you’d be impressed. Perhaps for different reasons. Perhaps for all the reasons. Visceral, theoretical, whatever your pleasure. The overt purpose and confidence by Amadio to render the scene in slow motion (and so early in the film) took me by surprise. I don’t know why, exactly, considering that the giallo genre has two general statements of purpose: #1. Suspense #2. Cast amazingly, legendarily beautiful women and worship them appropriately. and Amuck duly satisfies on both counts. That the film is not more widely known and that Amadio failed to forge a decent career in the genre puzzles me. Released on a mismatched “Spaghetti Cinema” double-feature from Code Red (with Super Stooges & the Wonder Women), the print used on the DVD has not been restored and occasionally becomes jumpy and/or speckled and/or faded. More love and restoration has been given to gialli half as good as Amuck. Someone, anyone, take Amuck and make it whole again.

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#9. 10/9 – Sugar Hill (1974, dir. Paul Maslansky)

sugar hill 31 days of horror Low-budget blaxploitation voodoo zombie flick. Marki Bey’s an on-screen force, rocking the deep-v jumpsuit,  dishing one-liners and unleashing hordes of zombies in the name of cold, calculated revenge. B-grade Baron Samedi doesn’t really dampen the proceedings, though I couldn’t help but imagine how much better the movie would have been with Geoffrey Holder (who, of course, played Baron Samedi in Live and Let Die). One tweet probably summarized my experience with Sugar Hill:  

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#10. 10/11 – The Beast With Five Fingers (1946, dir. Robert Florey)

the beast with five fingers

DVR’d this on Turner Classic Movies even though I’d already seen it a couple years ago… on TCM. Here’s the catch. I’d swapped this one in my brain with Mad Love, another film starring Peter Lorre that has to do with murderous hands gone wild. The difference between the two is that in Mad Love the murderous (knife throwing!) hands are still attached to someone whereas in The Beast With Five Fingers the murderous, detached hand goes rogue. Two minutes into the film I’d recognized my faulty memory. Happy accident, I suppose. The Beast is great entertainment because this movie about a (permit the repetition here, for effect) murderous, detached hand of a dead concert pianist is played completely straight. Peter Lorre gets to play a man haunted by said murderous, detached hand and make all sorts of fantastic faces while being stalked by the hand. If you haven’t stopped reading this to go watch The Beast With Five Fingers, you must have already seen it. In which case, you already know the joy of movies featuring a murderous, detached hand that also moonlights on the piano during the middle of the night. Maybe it’s not a 4-star flick, but it’s definitely worth 4 Hz in my book. Watch with friends. Take turns making Peter Lorre faces.

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#11. 10/12 – Corruption (1968, dir. Robert Hartford-Davis)

corruption 1968

Corruption owes its continued notoriety to being partly an indictment of the 1960’s fashion scene. There’s mod fashions and swinging parties and Peter Cushing robbing the cradle… and it is these era-specific eccentricities that elevate Corruption above your standard mad scientist frivolity.

Vanity. Superficiality. Youth. These two themes provide the backbone. Peter Cushing supplies the crazy eyes and reluctant homicides. His wife (Sue Lloyd) goes full Lady Macbeth after a photography flood lamp topples on her (oops), badly burning her face. Cushing’s surgeon has found a way to rehabilitate scarred tissue, except he needs fresh adrenal glands, don’t you know, to keep the skin from turning back into pizza. The wife drives his madness, but Cushing’s obsession with the looks of his young wife underlies something beyond his wife’s vanity. Cushing’s doctor (at least 30 years her senior) becomes obsessed with preserving her visage. As if having the beautiful, young model/wife also proves his own virility in this fast-paced glamorous world that has since passed this stodgy old curmudgeon by.

Together the pair become horrible monsters, inside and out. Not an especially *fun* flick — but one that resonates due to the embedded social commentary.

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#12. 10/13 – The Living Skeleton (1968, dir. Hiroshi Matsuno)

the living skeleton

The star of The Living Skeleton (one of the four features in the When Horror Came to Shochiku Criterion set) has to be the overcooked photography. High contrast with moody, soft focus. It’s a whole heap of atmosphere coupled with  absolutely hilarious cheapy effects. Bats on wires. Superimposed bat shadows. Floating underwater skeletons that look like knockoff Day of the Dead tchotchkes from a roadside attraction in Indiana. Miniature boats plucked from cereal boxes. Skeleton is part ghost story, part crime thriller and part mad scientist movie. It’s everything you could possibly need… or it’s a bit much all at once. Probably depends on your mood. Still, it’s pretty clear that John Carpenter likely saw this before prepping The Fog. And despite the comical effects that occasionally pull you out of the film’s spell, The Living Skeleton resonates because of the cinematography and the performance of Kikko Matsuoka. Or maybe it’s just her eyes. Either way, this one’s a keeper.  If only George Lucas could go back and maybe touch up those skeletons a bit for a Special Edition release.

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#13. 10/14 – Nightmare Castle (1965, dir. Mario Caiano, Jack Hill)

nightmare castle

I’ve been plagued by enjoyment without hyperbolic enthusiasm this October. A lot of the movies I’d built up in my head as the next great addition to my movie-watching resume have been good or very good, but just haven’t sent me over the moon. (On the flipside I haven’t really seen any stinkers to inspire a good honest rampage.) And you’re reading this and you’re thinking that clearly Nightmare Castle finally granted me this OMFG, YEAH! moment. But alas. It’s just the movie that hammered home this notion. I had Barbara Steele expectations, you see. Many of Steele’s flicks have warmed my cockles in the past. (Black Sunday! Castle of Blood!) I’d owned a bargain basement version of the Nightmare Castle DVD for at least a decade without ever fully watching it. I popped it in once, but the experience was like watching a film through Vaseline. So there it sat… until Severin Films stepped up with this exquisite Blu-ray edition. I tossed the original DVD in the donation pile and happily purchased a replacement.

Like most of Steele’s films, Nightmare Castle falls squarely into the gothic category of horror films. Think Roger Corman’s Edgar Allan Poe adaptations. The tone feels more like a British production than an Italian and could easily be considered a precursor to the kind of mad doctor situation that plays out a couple years later in Corruption. The doctor sets a trap for his wife and her lover. After catching them in the coital act, he tortures and eventually kills them. He then marries the dead wife’s sister to finagle the inheritance and, wouldn’t you know it, the deceased come back to haunt the castle. Or are they just visions in the sister’s corrupted brain? It’s a solid premise that never fully pays off because the viewer probably never finds the outcome in doubt. The ending reminded a bit too much of Elvira and Tor Johnson stomping around the foggy swamp in Plan 9 from Outer Space.

So Nightmare wasn’t the overlooked masterpiece for which I’d hoped. The transfer looks amazing, and the special features (full presentations of Castle of Blood and Terror Creatures from Beyond the Grave included) make this an essential purchase for fans of the genre.

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.…carry on to Part 2…. REVENGE OF THE SHAME….

So it’s October and it’s time to watch 31DaysOfHorror

I love coming up with lists of underrated flicks for Brian Saur’s www.rupertpupkinspeaks.com page because I revisit old favorites and explore oddballs I’d always meant to watch. It focuses my attention and simplifies the selection process. When a movie collection reaches a certain size, the wall of potentiality paralyzes. When it comes to horror films, there’s no better reason to binge on spooks and slashers than Halloween. The last couple of years I’ve approached my 31 Days/Night of Horror with a kind of reckless schizophrenia, loading the DVR with TCM horror flicks and throwing in an odd DVD when I’ve got the chance.

This year, inspired by the Cinema Shame method, I’ve created a list of 31 movies that fall in the “Shame” category (How have I not watched you, Texas Chainsaw Massacre?!?) or ones that I own and I need a good excuse to watch (I picked up Inugami at a Hollywood Video liquidation sale six years ago and still haven’t tossed it in). Will I watch all 31? Probably not. Absolutely not. But it’ll be a helluva lot of fun trying to sneak in as many as possible until the clock strikes midnight on October 31st.

I’ll toss a short write-up for each flick along with a snap judgment rating on the Hz Record scale. Commence the 31DaysOfHorror.

 

horrorshame

 


 

  1. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
  2. Re-Animator
  3. Nightmare on Elm Street 2
  4. Bird with the Crystal Plumage
  5. Night of the Devils
  6. Lair of the White Worm
  7. Wicker Man (1973)
  8. House on Sorority Row
  9. Piranha (1978)
  10. Without Warning
  11. Night Train to Terror
  12. Fascination
  13. Stage Fright
  14. The Fly (1986)
  15. Romasanta
  16. Vincent Price Wildcard
  17. Vincent Price Wildcard
  18. The Whip and the Body
  19. Lifeforce
  20. Countess Dracula
  21. Killer Party
  22. Cat People (1982)
  23. Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
  24. Inugami
  25. Ticks
  26. Night of the Comet
  27. Scream of Fear!
  28. Black Belly of the Tarantula
  29. Nosferatu (1979)
  30. Vampyr
  31. The Mystery of the Wax Museum

Alternates (aka spur of the moment pop-ins and TCM happenstance)

  1. The Man Who Could Cheat Death (Blu-ray)
  2. The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb (TCM)
  3. The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism (DVD)
  4. Transylvania 6-5000 (DVD)
  5. Massage Parlor Murders (Blu-ray)
  6. The Mummy’s Shroud (TCM)

#31DaysOfHorror Statistics

1920’s:
1930’s: xx
1940’s: xx
1950’s: xx
1960’s: xxxx
1970’s: xxxxxx
1980’s: xxxxxxxx
1990’s: x
2000’s:
2010’s

#1: 10/2 – Fascination (1979, dir. Jean Rollin)

fascination by jean rollin scythe

“Allow me to examine you like I would my horse.”

My first Jean Rollin. I’d been meaning to dig into the Rollin catalog of artsy naked vampires for years now. I even picked Fascination up on Blu-ray thinking that would finally provoke me to take that first step. Well that didn’t work… until now. That pang of guilt resulted in Fascination being added to this list and a watch on Day One of my #31DaysOfHorror Shame-a-thon list. Rollin is a true aesthete, an appreciator of color, contrast and vamp-on-vamp action. This film might boast more memorable images than lines of dialogue. Rollin definitely doesn’t want dialogue to get in the way of his other interests. I just don’t know if the above scene featuring Brigitte Lehaie wielding a scythe can really be topped. The last third of the film grows oddly chatty, but the lusty vampire girls doing the philosophizing are all wearing transparent gowns and capes, so I really can’t be too critical.

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#2: 10/2 – The Mad Magician (1954, dir. John Brahm)

The Mad Magician, starring Vincent Price

“Good luck on your murder.”

I’ve been very much enjoying the obscure offerings brought to us by the people at Warner Archive, Sony and MGM through their respective burn-on-demand DVD services. Sure, there’s some conversation about the longevity of the discs, but I’m getting to see some seriously cool flicks that I wouldn’t have otherwise known about. (Plus, if the need arises I can just rip the movies to a big ass hard drive.) The Mad Magician is one of those movies, released on the Sony Pictures Choice Collection. I picked it up, blind, for the same reasons that it was chosen for the “Choice Collection” in the first place. It wasn’t previously on DVD and it starred Vincent Price. Sold.

Let me preface this next statement by saying I’ve seen dozens – nay, hordes – of Vincent Price movies and The Mad Magician just jumped up to the top tier. In this one he’s an inventor of gadgets for magic acts. When he, as the Gallico the Great, attempts to perform a trick of his own design, his jerk-store manager shuts him down so that a more well-known, rival magician can perform the act. Gallico, who has anger management issues, loses his mind and starts using his inventions/illusions to eliminate those who have served as impediments to his own success. It’s part The Abominable Dr. Phibes, part Mission: Impossible, and part Phantom of the Opera. The whole bloody affair could have been avoided if Gallico had hired a decent lawyer and bypassed the decapitations, but where’s the fun in that? Plus Eva Gabor pops up in a hat of feathers and a fur shawl, exactly how you’d want Eva Gabor to make an entrance.

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#3: 10/6 – Vampyr (1931, dir. Carl Th. Dreyer)

carl theodore dreyer's vampyr

Mr. Dreyer and I have a love/hate relationship, but that’s a new development. Until a few minutes ago it was just hate/hate. You see, Mr. Dreyer twice forced upon me The Passion of Joan of Arc during my film school curriculum. Picture this: I’m a college junior, spread too thin, running the campus television station and directing my own sketch comedy show for said TV station, plus, of course, acing all my film studies classes. My Film Theory class screens it’s movies at 8pm every Thursday. No amount of caffeine (IIRC, it was a six shot Americano) could have kept me awake for a silent movie comprised largely of static close-up. I was toast twenty minutes in. I had to go to the library to watch the laserdisc on a 7-inch Viewmaster to make up for that little cat nap.

Step 1: Watch The Passion of Joan of Arc on a 7″ screen in library.

Step 2: ???

Step 3: RAGE

Two semesters later another class thought it’d be wise to screen Joan. You can preach the merits of that film until we’re both blue in the face and doing tequila shots and my eyes will still gloss over as I go to my happy place. I get why it’s brilliant cinema. I do. But that doesn’t mean I have to enjoy any second of that film.

Fast forward a decade. I pick up Vampyr on Criterion DVD because 1) vampires and 2) Criterion. I throw it in the DVD player that very same week. 10 Internet dollars if you can guess what happened…. I fell asleep. Damn you, Carl Theodore Dreyer. I added Vampyr to this horror list to make amends on 16 years of Dreyer negativity. Thank goodness for that because Vampyr‘s a class in How to Film Horror 101. Creative (brilliant) use of light and shadow, combinations of multiple negatives. Haunting imagery. Skewed camera angles. Creepy ass dudes with scythes. Seriously have you thought about the efficacy of a scythe at foreshadowing evil? (see also: Fascination). Max Schreck may have been the creepiest vampire ever on screen, but Nosferatu lacked this constant, obscure feeling of latent doom. Also, don’t expect much on-screen bloodsucking. Despite the name of the film, the evil is almost all of a more ghostly, ethereal variety.

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#4: 10/7 – Cat People (1982, dir. Paul Schrader)

catpeople

“You can’t escape your nightmare without me, and I can’t escape my nightmare without you. I’ve waited a long time for you.”

Paul Schrader made some silly ass movies in between writing some of the gold standards of American cinema (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull). I resisted watching Cat People until now because, well, I had very little faith in Schrader’s remake of Jacque Tourneur’s elegant, atmospheric Cat People from 1942. I gave in and blind bought the Scream! Factory release because A) Nastassja Kinski; B) Giorgio Moroder’s excellent score (which I have on vinyl); C) I’d recently gained an appreciation for one of Schrader’s films. I’d just  watched and enjoyed the underrated 80’s thriller Light Sleeper starring Willem Defoe and Susan Sarandon. This forced me to reconsider my position on Schrader, who puts a nifty spin on the 80’s noir cycle. I’m here to report that Cat People is indeed one of those silly ass Paul Schrader movies without any definite identity. It’s not without merit, however. There’s some nice tension that builds through the first 90 minutes as we learn about Irena’s (Kinski) burgeoning sexuality/animalistic tendencies. Meanwhile crazy Malcolm McDowell’s hair becomes the creepiest element in the movie (as he serially beds and devours hookers). The gore effects play comical (Ed Begley, Jr lends a hand here… get it… lends a hand?) which could play right into Schrader’s cheese, if indeed the psycho-sexual stuff felt less stilted and similarly fell in line. Cat People‘s a mixed bag of the 80’s horror I crave and the kind that conceives itself as something far greater than the sum of its ridiculous parts.

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#5: 10/8 – Re-Animator (1985, dir. Stuart Gordon)

re-animator

“Don’t expect it to tango; it has a broken back.”

I picked up the DVD of Re-Animator when it was first released. At some point along the path of not watching Re-Animator I’d convinced myself that I’d actually watched Re-Animator. Of course, when the Blu-ray was released I needed to upgrade. What is this special brand of sickness? I remembered/realized that I’d not watched Re-Animator when I pulled that decade-old DVD off the shelf still sealed. This particular event made Re-Animator the first movie considered when crafting this #31DaysOfHorror list for the Cinema Shame Shame-a-thon. Like many of the films explored during the Cinema Shame process, I wondered if there were any secrets left to reveal. I’d become so familiar with the story and notion of Re-Animator I worried it wouldn’t thrill me upon a proper viewing. …as Monty Python once said, however, no one expects the Re-Animator… or something like that. As a side note, I tried to place the lead actress Barbara Crampton (she was in Stuart Gordon’s other films such as From Beyond) with a quick IMDB search and I stumbled across the following piece of information:

But anyway… This movie, Re-Animator, goes gloriously… gleefully balls out. Filth and gore played to comical extremes. Once decapitated heads in bowling bags start controlling animated corpses (topped with masked mannequin heads for verisimilitude!) you just know Re-Animator gets it. Barbara Crampton deserves some sort of medal for laying on a gurney while the blood-spewing severed head of Dr. Hill goes both uptown and downtown. Amazing stuff. 30hz_alternate_rating30hz_alternate_rating30hz_alternate_rating30hz_alternate_half_rating

#6: 10/8 – The Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933, dir. Michael Curtiz)

mystery of the wax museum

“I don’t know what it was but it made Frankenstein look like a lily.”

I watch a lot of Michael Curtiz movies because Michael Curtiz directed a lot of movies. I justify watching a lot of random Michael Curtiz movies because Casablanca. I looked for a short flick to squeeze in before prior #Bond_age_ commitments and noticed this little two-strip technicolor ditty just hanging out on the flipside of the old House of Wax DVD. Most of the characters think they’re acting in a Cagney picture and at one point a particularly egregious character lovingly fake punches Fay Wray on the chin to flirt with her. I can’t remember, however, if he called her “kiddo.” And now random thoughts:

The Mystery of the Wax Museum offers up some lingering imagery — the burning mannequins intercut with a fistfight in the opening sequence offers far more than the movie actually delivers as it plays out like a slightly creepy potboiler — the Technicolor certainly doesn’t enhance anything. Lionel Atwill needed more screentime or scenery to chew. Fay Wray and her exquisite wardrobe remain nice on the eyes, if nothing else.

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#7: 10/11 – The Man Who Could Cheat Death (1959, dir. Terence Fisher)

the man who could cheat death

Hammer stalwart Terence Fisher directed this fair-to-middling remake of The Man of Half Moon Street (1945). Also, forget any connection to Dorian Gray. A centenarian scientist/artist remains youthful by periodically replacing a gland with that of a living person. I’m a bit sketchy about the whole “living person” element of the transaction. It doesn’t seem like gland function would be predicated on the healthfulness of the donor. Perhaps that conversation requires a med student and a few pints of ale. There’s some nice foggy Parisian street scenes and Christopher Lee slips comfortably into “doctor with reservations” but The Man Who Could Cheat Death rarely breaks free from the feeling that this is Hammer Horror on auto-pilot. The original cut of the film reportedly contained a Hazel Court topless scene.. and at least that would have livened things up a bit. Anton Diffring’s relatively understated approach to “mad scientist pouring a glowing liquid from a beaker into an Erlenmeyer flask” could have used a bit more hyperbole. Threw this in because it’s the first feature on a double bill with The Skull. Basically I need to get back on the reservation and watch movies on my list. No more freeballing.

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#8: 10/13 – Countess Dracula (1971, dir. Peter Sasdy)

countessdracula

“Well, how should I know where she is? Try the whorehouse.”

Hammer attempts to cash in on its own bloodsucker series by tacking “Dracula” onto this loose adaptation of the Countess Bathory story. In keeping with tradition no blood is sucked… though much is let, mostly off-screen. Here’s the 30Hz Notes version of the tale: Elizabeth Bathory is considered the most prolific female serial killer in history — she reportedly imprisoned and murdered hundreds of young girls because she believed that bathing in the blood of virgins kept her young. In this little ditty, the lovely Ingrid Pitt murders, bathes and woos. Repeat. The gentleman suitor believes he’s trying to jump the bones of the Countess’ 19yo daughter not the aged Countess. Meanwhile she’s holding her daughter captive so that the truth about her bloody duplicity never comes to light. There’s some buxom beauties scattered about and one memorable scene with Pitt giving herself a bloody sponge bath, but the film lacks menace or any persistent tension. It’s hard not to place this film in direct comparison with the far more interesting Vampire Lovers. Ingrid Pitt, per her usual, makes this one worth visiting. Her character dominates the film and provides Pitt with a meaty role; the male characters, including Nigel Green despite being a brilliant asshole, recede into the background. It’s a shame that Pitt saw few (if any) great roles after Countess Dracula — this woman commanded the screen and deserved a shot at a broader audience outside the limited (but entertaining!) industry of Hammer Horror.

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#9: 10/14 – The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb (1964, dir. Michael Carreras)

mummystomb

“Those Egyptian gentleman are always up to some very funny tricks.”

Imagine waiting in the dentist’s office with only a copy of Better Homes & Gardens to read. That’s how this movie begins. I began to wonder if there was going to be any actual horror beyond a dude getting his hand chopped off in the first five minutes. There was the novelty of seeing Jeanne Roland outside of the Bond universe for the first time. The actress appeared in both You Only Live Twice and Casino Royale (67). Still, a lopped off hand and Jeanne Roland but no animate mummy despite excavating the mummy right from the get go. They load the mummy onto a boat. Nothing. They set up a mummy exhibition. No mummy. Finally… finally! at a preview appearance for special VIP’s the sarcophagus opens to reveal…. that the mummy has disappeared!! Anyway, at least this is something because the disappeared mummy catalyzes a fun, campy final third of the film that nearly redeems all of the aforementioned sluggish bits. The actual animate mummy looks quite a bit like a papier mache Creature from the Black Lagoon. Overall, this one’s a fun entry in the Hammer Mummy series (the second of four) even if it does strike all the requisite and predictable beats for a mummy flick (with one twist you might not see coming). Terence Morgan does a nice job carrying the film as a haughty skeeze. I was distracted by my inability to place him in context — after consulting IMDB I learned that he played Laertes in Olivier’s Hamlet. He must have stopped by the Hammer studios to class up the joint.

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#10: 10/15 – Ticks (1993, dir. Tony Randel)

ticks

“Dude, you’re all messed up.”

Carlton from the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air plays a bit of a brash tough-guy and then transforms into mega-tick despite Seth Greene’s best efforts to save the poor chap. If you’re not interested in watching Ticks after hearing that, I don’t know what’s wrong with you. So it is still your standard troubled-teens-encounter-genetically-mutated-killer-insects-on-a-rehabilitation-weekend-with-Peter Scolari narrative, however…

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#11: 10/16 – The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism (1967, dir. Harald Reinl)

Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism

“It could have all been a bad dream. But me, this is real.”  

This German production was directed by a guy best known for Karl May Westerns, Dr. Mabuse sequels and a bunch of films that provided stepping stones for the giallo genre. This low-budget revenge/demonic resurrection flick stars Christopher Lee, Karin Dor (best known for her roles in You Only Live Twice and Hitchcock’s Topaz) and a dude named Lex Barker who had a minor role in La Dolce Vita. While browsing a recent sale on the TCM site, I came across this movie. The name alone warmed my cockles. How can you not love that the movie pulls absolutely no punches when it comes to its title. THE TORTURE CHAMBER OF DR. SADISM!! It’s just too damn perfect. It even sounds great in German: Die Schlangengrube und das Pendel, but then again all movies sound like horror movies in German.

There’s a lot of shoestring style to love here. Castle halls wallpapered with skulls, series of rooms filled with various torture devices… the evil Count Frederic Regula (Lee) even keeps the bled bodies of the women he’s murdered along the way to his resurrection on slabs in one of these rooms. It’s like the Upright Citizens Brigade’s “Hot Chicks Room” sketch, except all the hot chicks are naked and dead. Totally the same thing. Lee doesn’t get a ton to do as he’s drawn and quartered in the pre-credits and then re-appears 50 minutes later. So as the titular Dr. Sadism, he’s a bit of background noise. The real star of The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism is, appropriately, the torture chambers. This really is the work of an under-funded Ken Adams. So I looked the fellow up… or as it turns out, fellows. Rolf Zehetbauer and Gabriel Pellon. The latter toiled on similar low-rent projects for his entire career. The former, however, made a name for himself on Cabaret, The Neverending Story, and Das Boot. I should scout art direction talent. I saw a glimmer of brilliance in that young Rolf’s eye, I did.  

Right, well, anyway. The Count needs to sacrifice 13 virgins to attain immortality. He’s drawn and quartered before he can kill the 13th and he returns to seek revenge on the daughter of his intended original target and yada yada yada finally achieve immortality. A cool flick that probably deserves more attention from fans of Mario Bava, Euro trash and the giallo genre. The DVD from Desert Island Classics is a disaster, by the way. It’s not an especially deep experience, but the following conversation with my wife made my day:   Wife: What did you do today during your 2-hour break from child rearing?   Me: Finished up some edits on my query letter… and watched The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism.   Wife: … I’m sorry I asked.

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#12: 10/17 – Lifeforce (1985, dir. Tobe Hooper)

lifeforce

“The girl chose me. And when she mixed with me she gave me a part of herself. And now she wants that part back.”

So space vampires terrorize London and then Patrick Stewart shows up. It’s 2001 meets The Thing meets Dawn of the Dead with more nudity and vampires. Basically I watched this movie thinking about much I love the 1980’s. I love the 1980’s because Kenny Loggins and Oingo Boingo appeared on 72% of all movie soundtracks. I love the 1980’s because frivolous nudity was both a right and a privilege. I love the 1980’s because people made bonkers horror/sci-fi like this, where every line sounds like it requires a THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID and nobody knew what the hell a computer generated effect was.

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#13: 10/17 – Transylvania 6-5000 (1985, dir. Rudy de Luca)

transylvania 6-5000

“Ooh, bazonkers! I never counted on bazonkers.”

There was a certain symbiosis in following 1985’s Lifeforce with 1985’s Transylvania 6-5000. Not only did the share the same release year but also wacked out vampires… in a certain sense. Of course there’s a far cry from space vampires to Geena Davis, but in my brain they made a perfect double feature. Not only am I glossing over the hackneyed connection between the two but I’m also stretching the notion of “horror” by including T6-5000 in my #31DaysOrHorror list. So you’re just going to accept this. Recently I’d read a few blurbs touting this one as an underrated little gem. Certainly the critics had ripped it to bits and, well, it had… a reputation. Reputations be damned. If the movie contains Jeff Goldblum, Michael Richards, Geena Davis, and Carol Kane I’m going to watch it. And I wasn’t disappointed. Of course it’s dumb. But this was the 80’s when movies knew how to have a 5 IQ and still reward with creative ineptitude and brilliant character actors just doing pratfalls and Carol Kane being Carol Kane. Ed Begley, Jr. in a starring role! Moving along. I’ll just make this another entry in the Why I Loved the 1980’s coffee table book.

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#14: 10/20 – House on Sorority Row (1983, dir. Mark Rosman)

house on sorority row

“I’m a sea pig!”

I’d read good things and not so good things about this one. Consequently it’d festered on the shelf in my stack of new Blu acquisitions. I recently watched Slumber Party Massacre for the first time and while I enjoyed it, I couldn’t place it in the top tier of 1980’s slashers. My expectations, thusly, limped into House on Sorority Row because clearly movies about sororities and slumber parties are related. Despite the implications of “sorority” in the title, House on Sorority Row‘s less exploitation and more straight-laced slasher. But it’s also funny and more often than not earns its thrills. I don’t remember any tacky red herrings, and the camerawork teases and rewards in equal measure with explicit and implied gore. It’s not the scariest flick, but what House on Sorority Row lacks in the way of sustained tension it makes up for in technical merit. Am I praising a slasher for low-budget technical merit? Good goddamn I think I am.

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#15: 10/21 – Night of the Comet (1984, dir. Thom Eberhardt)

Night of the Comet

“Daddy would have gotten us Uzis.”

Having a mini-crush on Catherine Mary Stewart since Weekend at Bernie’s should have made a viewing of Night of the Comet essential, right? It’s never too late to right that egregious wrong. I picked up Scream Factory’s Night of the Comet specifically to add to my personal 31DaysOfHorror Shame-a-thon. As a horror movie it’s pretty tame. As a time-capsule of the 1980’s with a valley girl cheerleader  spraying a MAC-10 and a side dish of zombification it’s high m’f’ing art. It’s the Casablanca of post-apocalyptic zombie-sci-coms. Or something. Jesus. Stop looking to me for words, I only got 4 hours of sleep last night. No more sentences. Movie good. You watch. Lots of hair. Catherine Mary Stewart. If someone wants to track down a copy of this soundtrack on vinyl, I’d be open to that. Christmas is coming, you know. On to #16.

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#16: 10/21 – Daughters of Darkness (1971, dir. Harry Kümel)

Daughters of darkness

“It is since long that I have crossed the river Ocean!”

I’m typing this blurb with a cat sprawled across my arms. If you’ve never typed with a cat across your keyboard let me tell you it is not especially easy. Especially with a stubborn feline like my own. Back on track. Daughters of Darkness had sat on my DVD shelf for ages. On one of those low shelves full of neglected DVDs that you never notice. At the moment I wish it would have stayed there. Can you suggest a movie is a sexy vampire movie and neglect the “sexy” and the vampirisim? Okay sure there’s ample nudity and the specter of vampirism, albeit in a less obvious manner, like the “I VANT TO SUCK YOUR BLOOD” situation. In this film the vampire merely stalks young couples with the intent of, ahem, borrowing the body of a young, beautiful women in order to remain young and beautiful. There’s some deft cinematography and the promise of a better movie among the bumbling narrative. There’s enough soft focus on the lovely Delphine Seyrig to choke a camel and so many people staring awkwardly at nothing that Marty Feldman might have felt at home.

…and then, just as I was beginning to rage against this movie the end sucked me in.

This caused me to consider how much of the movie I actually need to enjoy in order to consider the ending a miraculous savior. The end partakes of shock and awe and woke me from my slumber of pessimism. Even though the ending had been telegraphed for some time, the visceral imagery of the final five minutes almost…. ALMOST… makes the entire ordeal worthwhile.

…almost…

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#17: 10/21 – Massage Parlor Murders (1973, dir. Chester Fox, Alex Stevens)

massage parlor murders

“Creatures of twilight and illusion, we drift and drift towards our unknown ends. And that’s why I feel the best thing is not to be born. But who is as lucky as that?”

The line between intentionally bad and unintentionally bad filmmaking is a razor’s edge. I’m not sure which side the movie falls on. All I know is that the oddball opening sequence had me hooked, for better or worse. And then there was some killing and some pointless nudity and then some killing and then some pointless indoor pool nudity and then some killing and then the detectives had a EUREKA! moment and the movie was over. Murder and sexual exploitation of the most innocent sort. Or something like that. I watched three movies today and I’m still four behind.

Shit.

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#18: 10/22 – Black Belly of the Tarantula (1971, dir. Paolo Cavara)

black belly of the tarantula

Pre-billed as the giallo with 3 Bond Girls! Claudine Auger and Barbara Bach, yes, sure. But once you start calling Barbara Bouchet a Bond girl because she appeared in Casino Royale (’67) I’m calling shenanigans. You don’t include Peter Sellers alongside Sean Connery and Roger Moore. Anyhooooo. This one’s a traditional giallo about a killer who injects his victims with tarantula venom to paralyze them so they can watch their own murder. Ennio Morricone’s score serves as a juicy nugget during the stalking and slashing, but he occasionally goes over the top. The bombast during one of Giancarlo Giannini’s drinking sessions caused a chuckle. He’s a haggared investigator so he partook of some libation… WITH LOTS OF BLARING STRINGS! Caraza’s direction feels pretty traditional for the golden-era of giallo — it lacks a bit of the perverse style of Argento, for example — but the actors are game (I do love me some Giancarlo Giannini — even if his voice is dubbed over) and the tension builds as the killer gets too close to Giancarlo’s home for comfort. Top tier-ish for the genre.

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#19: 10/23 – Night Train to Terror (1985, dir. John Carr, Phillip Marshak, Tom McGowan, Jay Schlossberg-Cohen, Gregg C. Tallas)

Night Train to Terror

“Like, I really wish our bus hadn’t broken down, ya know?”

What the actual fuck?

Segmented horror flick framed by argument between God and Satan (both played by Cameron Mitchell) about whether man is good, evil or just insanely stupid. Because this movie is a pastiche of stupidity I’ll just verbally recreate what I just saw for the uninitiated. Stone cold aerobicize dancers that failed to make Madonna’s Like a Virgin Tour. Richard Moll. Psychotic John Phillip Law. Recant! Never! Big ol’ iron ball on a rope. Stop motion Satan monsters. Hacksaw surgery, crotch north. Scalpels in the hands of lobotomized morons. Mind control serum. Poor John Phillip Law. Stop motion insect with mammoth stinger. Exploding eyeballs. Cloven hoof under argyle sock. Did I mention Bull from Night Court? Melting wax head. Surgery on Satan? I think. Except it wasn’t Satan’s heart in the box. Some dude from Diamonds Are Forever and The Man with the Golden Gun. His name escapes me. Come on and dance with me! Dance with me! Everybody’s got something to do! Everybody but you! Toy train. Fire ball.

“Shall we continue?”

This was the most insane movie I’ve seen since Hausu and even though I wanted to turn it off by the 30-minute mark, it grew endearing. Instead of giving this a traditional rating, I’ll just drop this picture of moldy cheese.

moldy cheese

#20: 10/23 – Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff (1949, dir. Charles Barton)

Abbott and Costello Meet Boris Karloff, the Killer

“It’s a booby trap.”

“For what?”

“For boobs.”

Spare me the criticism that this isn’t a horror movie and I’m merely padding my totals. It features Boris Karloff and someone gets murdered. And yes, I’m padding my totals and it isn’t exactly a horror movie. I needed a rebound movie to come down off of Night Train to Terror. I needed an elementary narrative with a predictable outcome and a few laughs. I needed to return to a cinematic womb for some coddling. Hold me, Abbott and Costello.

I’d seen all the other A&C “Meets” pictures as a kid but don’t recall this ever being a part of the rotation. It’s not the best Abbott and Costello and it’s also not the best “Meets” but it’s still highly enjoyable… enjoyable like finding an old pair of super cushy sherpa-lined slippers that still fit juuuuuust right. Except the interminable subterranean climax.

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#21: 10/26 – The Mummy’s Shroud (1967, dir. John Gilling)

The Mummy's Shroud

You can pretty much lift my blurb from The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb and put it right here. This one was a bit of a slog and if my cat hadn’t been sprawled across my lap I’d have put a movie in the player instead of fiddling with the DVR on this one. Instead I hoped for a quick nap, but alas I was also not granted a mid-movie siesta. The Mummy crushing a bottle of hydrochloric acid over a victim was a nice change of pace from the traditional lumbering and moaning. A slightly more entertaining Mummy death, as well, but for the wrong reasons. The bad guy was laughing himself silly as the Mummy closed in on the protagonists (and they chanted the incantation that would supposedly send the mummy put to sleep) and yelled something akin to “You fools! The Mummy won’t respond unless you’re holding the shroud!” So they went and grabbed the shroud from him, offed him and won the day. Darwinism for deserving villainy.

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#22: 10/27 – Piranha (1978, dir. Joe Dante)

Piranha (1978)

“What about the piranhas?”

“They’re eating the guests.”

Jawsploitation of the most obvious order. Created as a military weapon to use against the Vietnamese and ultimately destroyed by the pollution of the new era. It’s either a thinly-veiled socio-political statement or an excuse to show a lot of girls in bikinis. I’ll go with both. I can’t get enough of the sound the piranhas make while they’re feeding. I’m on a mission to make that a ringtone. Fun and campy, but also fleeting and temporary like a wintergreen Life Saver with genetically enhanced intelligence and lots of teeth and awesome sound effects.

P.S. I love it when R.J. Fletcher (Kevin McCarthy) shows up in a movie to be all gruff and annoyed.

Kevin McCarthy in UHF

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#23: 10/28 – The Whip and the Body (1963, dir. Mario Bava)

the whip and the body

“You haven’t changed, I see. You’ve always loved violence.”

Filmed almost exclusively in obscured shadows and darkness, the Bavalicious gothic horror picture serves up a case of the bumps and creeps. Easily the most impressive visuals of any movie I’ve watched this month. Bava (using the name John M. Old) also doesn’t shy away from rather overt depictions of sadomasochism. Nevenka (Daliah Lavi) strikes Kurt (Christopher Lee) with a whip. Christopher Lee stares at her, a virulent rage simmering just beneath his placidity and he says, “You haven’t changed, I see. You’ve always loved violence.” The then proceeds to beat her with the whip five or six times across her back. With each lash she becomes more submissive and receptive to his brand of aggression until he falls upon her. Coitus assumed. When Kurt is killed (he’s been persona non grata since arriving due to his past transgressions with Nevenka) his “form” continues to stalk her, proceeding with some whipping and more voilent S&M from the beyond. The lust coupled with the dramatic piano score render The Whip and the Body at face value a wonderfully macabre soap opera of blood and inescapable passion. Daliah Lavi and Christopher Lee render delicious performances and raise the material above mere bodice ripping. This film reeks top to bottom of Mario Bava and had I not been so engrossed in the film I might have seen the twist coming before the FIN. As a result I bestow the highest honor of my #31DaysOfHorror Shame-a-thon, the rare and honorable 4-record salute.

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#24: 10/29 – Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978, dir. Philip Kaufman)

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I’d seen the Don Siegel 1956 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers a bunch of times. I’d set the over/under at 6.5 in case you’re putting hard cash on that. That includes a couple of viewings during film school. Invasion ’56 is a meticulously crafted red-scare parable conveyed through the the science fiction genre. Was it my fear of a remake of a classic that kept me away from this highly regarded film? Or was it just convenient happenstance? I’ll go with “I was busy being born in 1978 and had a pretty packed calendar.”

Kaufman’s update is an entirely different beast. Less political and more reflective of man’s modern malaise. Invasion ’78 uses the people-replacing premise as a way to explore what it means to be human, to exist in this world of perceived soullessness. If we were replaced one night would anyone even really notice? The shift from small town America to big city San Francisco punctuates this tonal shift. The characters wax philosophical and political, intellectualizing the horror that takes place around them as a coping mechanism, but they fail to act until the horror they’ve imagined manifests in a legitimate, terrible form. But can it now be reversed? Both Siegal and star (Kevin McCarthy again!) of Invasion ’54 appear in cameos, offering their remake blessings. And justifiably so.

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#25: 10/30 – The Blob (1988, dir. Chuck Russell)

The Blob (1988)

“Chew on that, slimeball.”

I got caught up in the Twilight Time The Blob Blu-ray craze. I know I’d seen this at some point but couldn’t remember one thing about it other than a guy gets sucked down a sink drain. Seriously, that moment will mess with your head as a kid. I wouldn’t look down a drain for weeks. And because I don’t remember anything else, I’ve deemed that it fits the Shame-a-thon concept since I dropped $30 on a movie I don’t really remember watching.

Also, I’d forgotten about my Shawnee Smith crush. Watch The Blob, Summer School and Who’s Harry Crumb for the Shawnee Smith trifecta.

Shawnee Smith The Blob

So I rekindled a long dormant 10-year old crush, rediscovered a really cool B-grade horror flick and justified the semi-blind purchase of a $30 Blu-ray disc. That’s what I call a 90-minutes well spent. I’m sorry… did you want to know something about the movie? Okay, well, uh it’s a pink blob thing that absorbs people into its ever-increasing gelatinous mass and Kevin Dillon and Shawnee Smith run away from it better than most. The end. Sadly, Kevin McCarthy doesn’t make an appearance so I docked it a few points for the lack of R.J. Fletcherness.

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#26: 10/31 – Lair of the White Worm (1988, dir. Ken Russell)

The Lair of the White Worm

 “Oh, good! So you’ve taken to our local specialty. Pickled earthworms in aspic is not to everyone’s taste, I can tell you.”

This. Movie. Is. Hilarious.

Other than some of his early, non-representative efforts like Billion Dollar Brain and Lisztomania I don’t believe I’ve ever seen any of the more “conventional” Ken Russell movies, the ones for which is he more widely known. The Devils and Altered States for example. Russell’s reputation has never been an especially strong selling point with me. But when I was compiling my list for this 31DaysOfHorror Shame-a-thon I found Lair of the White Worm tucked away at the bottom of a top 100 Horror and Sci-Fi movies in my mid-90’s published Entertainment Weekly Guide to the Greatest Movies Ever Made. Though the book sounds rather silly considering EW‘s current reputation, the book itself contains some fairly strong lists, featuring both essentials and sleeper picks.

Lair of the White Worm in EW's Guide to the Greatest Movies Ever Made

So I added it to my list. This same list inspired me to add Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Re-Animator. Both of those worked out pretty well for me so I squeezed in Lair on the final day of October. It’s on Netflix, by the way, with a pretty nice HD presentation.

Based on the lowly-regarded shortish gothic novel by Bram Stoker, the movie lays bare the comical subtext of the unintentionally comical novel. Russell amplifies the subtext (Christian symbolism and phalluses for everybody!) through venom-induced hallucinations that are more z-grade music video than budgeted feature film. Starring Hugh Grant (Lord James), future Doc Peter Capaldi (playing a Scottish archaeologist) and Amanda Donohue, Lair allows it’s stars to bask in the absurdity of this horror-com mishmash. Cheap props, cheaper effects and rampant punnage. Everyone’s in on the joke. Lair of the White Worm is a B-grade movie made by A-grade talent based on a Z-grade book by an A-grade writer.

And can I just for one second sing the praises of Amanda Donohue? Donohue makes this movie with her over-the-moon performance as Lady Sylvia Marsh. 4-inch fangs and blue full body paint. Wowza. You should see what she does to the boy scout.

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#27: 10/31 – The Uninvited (1944, dir. Lewis Allen)

The Uninvited (1944)

This one’s cheating. I’ve definitely seen The Uninvited before. I know I love The Uninvited. The only “shame” part of this entry is that I’ve owned the Criterion edition of the movie on Blu-ray for a year now and I’m just getting around to watching it. I wanted to pick a favorite to watch on Halloween and cap off the 31DaysOfHorror run. Most would cite Robert Wise’s The Haunting as the pinnacle of the haunted house genre, but I’m sticking with The Uninvited. It’s genuinely creepy, stirring you with more than just bumps in the night. The sordid tale of the house’s history reflects the familial struggle that took place within it. The story touches on a lesbian affair, an unconventional marriage arrangement and centers the story not on a married couple but a brother and sister played by Ray Milland and Ruth Hussey. The movie throws the entire notion of traditional and familiar family dynamics into flux. This puts the viewer on edge, expectations usurped. This was 1944! When I first say The Uninvited as a kid, the eerie crying and ghostly effects spooked me. Having watched this many times over the course of 20 years, the movie constantly reveals more layers, exposing greater “spooks” than just the shimmery specter that appears on screen during the climax. If you allow yourself to connect with The Uninvited it will leave you as unsettled as any ghost story put on film.

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31 Days of Horror by Kerry Fristoe

Regular #Bond_age_ contributor and fanatical movie fiend Kerry Fristoe has volunteered to further contribute to  30Hz 31 Days of Horror. Follow her on Twitter at @echidnabot and chat her up about movies.

31 Days of Horror at 30Hz

Follow the 31 Days of Horror watchers on Twitter with the #31DaysOfHorror hashtag.

1. The Dunwich Horror (1970)

30Hz Horror - The Dunwich Horror

Set in the mythical Miskatonic Valley like many of H.P. Lovecraft’s tales, The Dunwich Horror revolves around Dean Stockwell in a role even creepier than the one he plays in Blue Velvet. Stockwell’s Wilbur Whately lives in Dunwich, Massachusetts with his raving grandfather Sam Jaffe, and where the natives, who often speak with southern accents, avoid them.

Anyway, Wilbur Whately wants Ed Begley’s Necronomicon so he can summon some of his buddies from a parallel universe to come and play with him and Sandra Dee. Sandra digs hanging with Wilbur because he adds copious amounts of hallucinogens to her tea which make her woozy and dream she’s watching a revival of Hair.

I won’t spoil it for you but the trippy lighting and creature effects and projections onto canvas gave the film a distinctive look and the breathy heartbeat sounds added to the spookiness factor.

Along with the cast I’ve mentioned, Lloyd Bochner, 70’s staple, and Talia (billed as Coppola) Shire also appear in small character roles.

I haven’t read the original Lovecraft story but I know many of them take place in a fictionalized version of Wilbraham, Massachusetts (the real home of Friendly Ice Cream) which sits about 160 miles inland so the ocean puzzled me a bit but no matter.

It was a fun 60s, 70s, witch hunt, hippie, parallel universe, Satanic ritual, acid flick.

Yog-Sothoth! Continue reading 31 Days of Horror by Kerry Fristoe

31 Days of Horror @ 30Hz

One of the greatest benefits of being a movie fan on Twitter is the pooling of shared knowledge and obscure movies. With the decline of the video store, Twitter has arisen as the new video store counter, albeit less personal but more expansive. Every year the greater movie-watching community at large makes October the official month of horror. I scour the Turner Classic Movies schedule for flicks we’ve never seen (and often of which we’ve never heard). I obsess over the newly registered deals on cool horror flicks on Amazon. I dig out movies in my own collection I’ve not had the impetus to watch in many moons. The result, at least in my house, a gleeful (and directed) film festival of my favorite genre. The great thing about horror is that the genre is so expansive to include films and styles for nearly all cinematic predilections.

31 Days of Horror at 30Hz

Welcome to my 31 Days of Horror Film Festival

I shared some brief thoughts and underseen gems on the joy of horror in my Underrated Horror list on @bobfreelander’s RUPERT PUPKIN SPEAKS last month.

I’ll detail the movies I’ve watched this month and offer a brief write up as the words come to me. 31 horror flicks or bust. If you’re keeping a watch list for your October horror spree, send me a link and I’ll put a link to yours below. If you don’t have a web page for your list and want to participate, I’ll set you up with a page on the Rumble.

#1. Man Made Monster (1941) starring Lionel Atwill and Lon Chaney, Jr. (DVD)

30Hz Horror - Man Made Monster

A fairly standard fear of science / Frankenstein-type story where a lone bus crash survivor (the rest were electrocuted) is treated to increasingly larger quantities of electricity as a means to control his mind. Welp. As these things tend to go, the decent guy commits a murder under suggestion, admits to it because he’s a decent guy and gets sent to the chair. But ooops! More electricity just makes him ANGRY! The glowing electro-man effects and Lon Chaney make it worth the watch. Rating (out of 5):

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#2. The Black Cat (1941) starring Basil Rathbone, Broderick Crawford and Bela Lugosi (DVD)

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When I put the DVD in, I thought I was watching the Karloff/Lugosi movie from 1934. It was just the second movie on the disc with Man Made Monster. Big difference. This one, as it turns out, is a comedic romp containing greedy relatives groveling after inheritance and the cats who dared to kill them off. Popular comedian Hugh Herbert provides odd and intermittent pratfalls. The movie’s a bit of a mess but the oddly inserted comic relief makes this oddball one to check out. Lugosi has merely a couple of scenes and gets offed by a kitty rather unceremoniously. Rating (out of 5):

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#3. The Vampire Lovers (1970) starring Ingrid Pitt, Kate O’Mara, Peter Cushing (BD)

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Far from pure exploitation, this adaptation of Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla, best represents the Hammer ideology. Showcase beautiful women and classic movie monsters in contemporary and brilliant technicolor style and Gothic atmosphere. The restoration done for this new SHOUT! FACTORY Blu-ray makes the movie look brand new. Hammer fans know it well, but those unfamiliar with the Hammer films oeuvre might only know the reputation. Also, Ingrid Pitt is beguiling. Rating (out of 5):

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#4. The Gorgon (1964) starring Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and Barbara Steele (TCM)

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The greatest surprise so far. I’d never heard of this film until I happened upon it on the TCM schedule. It might be overlooked because it lacks a traditional movie monster. Director Terence Fisher was repsonsible for some of Hammer’s greatest hits in the 1950’s and 60’s: The Horror of Dracula and The Curse of Frankenstein among them. The delineation between good and evil here is far less defined. As it turns out, most people are as evil as the mythological monster haunting this picture. Considered an extra half-spot on the rating just for Peter Cushing’s badass facial hair.

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#5. The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue aka Let Sleeping Corpses Lie (1974) starring Cristina Galbó, Ray Lovelock and Arthur Kennedy (BD)

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A zombie picture with good acting, a bit of gore (but not enough that it begins to bore) and legitimate suspense? The hell you say! Some spooky set-pieces and setting elevate Manchester Morgue above your average intestine-muncher. I’d put off watching this movie for many years first under its US release name (Let Sleeping Corpses Lie) and then again after borrowing the recent Blue Underground BD release from a friend. It wasn’t until I looked the movie up on IMDB (like 5 minutes ago!) did I realize I’d been avoiding the the same movie twice at the same time.

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#6. The Devil’s Bride aka The Devil Rides Out (1968) starring Christopher Lee and Charles Gray (TCM)

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Charles Gray unleashes the power of the devil. Christopher Lee disagrees. A pretty entertaining satanic cult, demonic-possession, good vs. evil flick that I’d long known about but never watched. Christopher Lee gives Peter Cushing’s facial hair in The Gorgon a run for its money. A standard narrative with an interesting twist that should have played like deus ex machina, but I was too entertained by the demonic histrionics to pay attention.

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#7. The Devil Bat (1940) starring Bela Lugosi (Amazon Streaming)

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The shriek of the Devil Bat so affected me I provided it’s very own page. I don’t often recommend a movie solely based on cheesy special effects but the motionless rubber bat sliding down a fishing wire visual doesn’t get old. The movie goes as far as showing you, within the narrative, how the filmmakers created the devil bat attacks. Also, Bela Lugosi gets ample time to mug for the camera. It’s refreshing to see these horror icons playing roles unburdened by the shackles of their traditional horror monster roles. See also: Karloff in Isle of the Dead.

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#8. Isle of the Dead (1940) starring Boris Karloff (TCM)

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This Val Lewton-produced vampire(?) flick boasts the filmmaker’s trademark atmosphere and gorgeous black and white cinematography. Flowy white robes. Chiaroscuro lighting. Light. Shadows. And the caverns of Boris Karloff’s visage. A bunch of people are stranded on a Greek island during 1912 due to an outbreak of the plague. The General (Karloff) visits his wife’s grave and finds it empty. A local peasant woman keeps spreading notions of vampirism. Is she strung out? Is Karloff as evil as he looks? And where’d the goddamn body go? Peasant women are spooky. I mean, remember the FLORES PARA LOS MUERTOS woman in Quick Change? Spooky. Looked great but Isle never really hooked me despite Karloff’s standout performance.

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#9. Dead of Night (1945) starring Michael Redgrave, Mervyn Jones (TCM)

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Ealing Studios best known for its UK comedies dips a toe in the horror genre with a chilling compilation of tales told by attendees at an unexpected soiree. One guy tells a story… then the others offer their own tales of the macabre. And just when you think the whole endeavor is going absolutely nowhere, the film (rather skillfully, despite my early concerns) manages to pull everything together with flare. Don’t think that you’ll escape the film without that Ealing sense of humor. One of the stories adapts an HG Wells short about a haunted golfer and offers some welcome comic relief. This one needed some patience, but your patience pays dividends. The movie really hits its stride during the Michael Redgrave segment.

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#10. House of the 7 Corpses (1973) starring John Ireland, Faith Domergue, John Carradine, Carole Wells (TCM)

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I’m glad I watched this movie. There’s just so much wrong that it’s almost right. Film crew making a movie of the “true” story of the grisly tale of a family massacred in their home. Up until the last ten minutes, everything, and I mean EVERYTHING that happens in the movie is a red herring. The crew keeps reading passages from the Tibetan Book of the Dead prop. SUSPENSE! Nothing happens. Every time a murder scene is filmed for the movie within a movie, the camera lingers over the corpse just long enough for us to think that something *gasp* has gone wrong in filming! The actor/actress is dead! SUSPENSE! Nope, she was just hanging out for an extra few seconds after the director yelled “Cut!” Then suddenly, the guy that keeps reciting passages of the Book of the Dead (I guess he claims verisimilitude for their movie within a movie crapfest) FINALLY… FINALLY summons some zombie thing from the graveyard. The zombie takes so long to emerge from the ground that the movie intercuts a bunch of other scenes in between the dirt moving… ever so slightly. Footage of dirt moving is RECYCLED to prolong the emergence. Then once the ground finally births the monster, it just reaches up and grabs the John Carradine character by the leg. Because he apparently couldn’t step lively enough across the gently shifting ground. Oh, and by the way, Carradine dies because the monster grabbed his leg. He’s grabbed. Intercut him tugging at his pants with the movie being filmed inside. Still tugging. Still filming. Then he’s dead. As to the redemption part of the movie. When the zombie thing rampages all over the film crew, it also destroys the film cans of the almost-completed movie. The director (John Ireland) comes in, sees the dead bodies everywhere… but loses his shit over the film. He collapses in the pile of cans, holding the tarnished film up to the heavens with his best “NOOOOOOOOOOO!” face. Extra half 30Hz for the hilarious filmmaking ineptitude.

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#11. The Vampire Bat (1933) starring Lionel Atwill, Fay Wray and Melvyn Douglas (TCM)

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Early talkie that suffers from wooden acting from its (apparently?) disinterested stars, a lack of dramatic momentum and a (unintentionally?) comic ending. The supporting actors fare better because they’re given actual motives and eccentricities to use in their performances. The stars might as well have been cardboard lobby standups. I don’t mean to spoil any potential viewings of this dull slog through vampire hysteria, but [SPOILER] there’s no vampire bat in a movie called The Vampire Bat and the film concludes with a frantic run to the toilet because of laxative abuse. I had to rewatch the finale to confirm what I’d just seen.

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#12. The Vampire (1957) starring John Beal, Coleen Gray, Kenneth Tobey (TCM)

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What a slog. The Vampire is a lukewarm vampire/werewolf pu pu platter  leftover from the Universal horror classics. Maybe it’s because by now I’ve seen so many vampire movies that I’ve gone beyond the need for ingenuity. I now require genre trappings. Some mystery, blood and at least one sexy vixen in distress. This is a 1950’s Fear-of-Science coloring book with vampirism (vampire bat blood transfusions gone wrong!) scribbled between the lines. You can’t fool me, movie. I’ve been around the block on both genres. When your vampire feels like Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Werewolf, you’re doing something wrong.

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#13. Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (2010) starring Alan Tudyk, Tyler Labine and Katrina Bowden (Netflix Streaming)

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There’s nothing particularly shocking about the way T&DvE plays out. You know what’s going to happen in the first five minutes, but the movie rolls on with such a carefree and brainy joie de vivre that it can’t help but be admired. There’s no beating around the bush. Once T&E are mistaken for bloodthirsty hillbillies, game on. The “accidental” deaths are hilarious, trumped only by Tucker’s reactions to those “suicidal college kids.” It’s not complicated; it’s Tucker and Dale — they’re hillbillies who just want a nice vacation home.

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#14. The Awful Dr. Orlof (1962) starring Howard Vernon, Conrado San Martin (Netflix Streaming)30Hz Horror - The Awful Dr. Orlof

I don’t know if there’s a dub that wasn’t carried out by the voice talents of The Rugrats but I’d really like to see this movie without odd inflections at the end of sentences. Then again, this is Jesus Franco we’re talking about here. I’ll just take the dubbing as part and parcel with the experience. Dr. Orlof provides some good chills between the mangled faces of the good Dr.’s skin-graft reclamation projects. Franco’s camerawork is actually quite inventive. The camera hinges at varying degrees offering steep shots up and down upon its subjects. With The Awful Dr. Orlof it seems Franco has sketched out the blueprint for early Euro-trash cinema. It’s a gleeful romp through the beauty and horror of botched plastic surgery on “dead” people.

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#15. Horror Castle aka La vergine di Norimberga (1963) starring Rossana Podestà, Georges Rivière, Christopher Lee (TCM)

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…and speaking of that Euro-trash horror blueprint, along comes Horror Castle — a good excuse for a very attractive woman to run around an old spooky castle, willy nilly, while screaming with great frequency. You’d think she’d get tired of scurrying from room to room. I don’t know if it actually constituted 75% of the film’s relatively short runtime, but it certainly felt that way. Women are being captured, tortured and killed by a mysterious masked madman that’s NOT Christopher Lee, although he does appear in a small-ish role. It turns out that the madman is mad because he’s a deformed holocaust survivor. When they drop that bomb on you to explain away the dude’s actions, you’re almost like, “Well that makes perfect sense now.” EXCEPT IT DOESN’T. But it’s a pretty solid Euro-trash creeper, even if it does move rather slowly. Also, you’ll never forget the rat scene, just a heads up if you have issues with torture by rodent.

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#16. Q: The Winged Serpent (1982) starring David Carradine, Michael Moriarty, Richard Roundtree (BD)

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David Carradine goes full creep. Michael Moriarty acts like he’s in Shakespeare instead of a Larry Cohen creature flick. Richard Roundtree, well, he gets eaten rather unceremoniously. Is this movie as bad/good as advertised or is it just good/good with ridiculous creature effects. I’m caught somewhere in between. It is, however, a f’ing blast… filled with awesomeful effects, people staring toward the sky in terror and all too infrequent creature effects (all of the C/C- variety). I’d waited many moons to watch this movie and now I regret waiting so long. I’m compelled to watch it again just for the final moment of the movie when the Q egg bursts open and begets “A LARRY COHEN FILM.” Oh, Larry Cohen. I give this one a rather generous 4 30Hz’s.

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#17: Night of the Living Dead (1968): Rifftrax Live! starring Barbra! (Theater)

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It had been a long time since I’d seen the original NOTLD. I’d spent far more time with Dawn of the Dead in recent years. NOTLD still holds up despite being riffed to (un)death my the Rifftrax crew. The problem with these live Rifftrax events is that you’re laughing too hard, too in the moment to remember any of the damn jokes. At home I’d just skip back a scene and watch it all over again. I really want a chronicle of Barbra’s deep thoughts.

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#18: Lisa and the Devil (1973) starring Telly Savalas, Elke Sommer (Netflix Streaming)

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This would be Euro-trash without Telly Savalas in there classing shit up. Also, there’s plenty of attractive women but they all seem to be wearing clothes. It’s shot like Euro-trash, (mostly) acted and written like Euro-trash (logical character motivations are non-existant), weird like Euro-trash… but it’s got my micro-genre radar all messed up. Bava shoots the film in his typically grand, hallucinatory style with plenty of underlying tension. I need to give this one a rewatch if only because I think it’s actually *gasp* a pretty great movie without requiring excessive amounts of 1970’s Euro exploitation. Weird, right? Plus, you just have to hear Savalas say “The Devil loves ya, baby!” about ten or twelve times before it even comes close to getting stale.

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19. Spider Baby (1964) starring Lon Chaney, Jr, Carol Ohmart, Sid Haig (TCM)

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Director Jack Hill cut his teeth as an AD on the Corman films The Wasp Woman and The Terror and gained funding for this project from two real estate investors (whom he met through a friend/private investigator) who wanted a piece of the movie business. Is this how they’d imagined it?

For the first fifteen or so minutes, I couldn’t tell if Spider Baby was a satire, a sincere(ish) slasher or just a completely bonkers mess of a movie. It was honestly one of the most bizarre openings I’ve seen, horror or otherwise. I had no sense of what Spider Baby was supposed to be. I tweeted thusly:

I was well aware of Spider Baby‘s cult status… but quite often the quality of a film has very little to do with the esteem. The inbred Merrye family lives with the inherited curse of a disease that causes them to mentally regress to “pre-human savagery and cannibalism” as they age. After the death of the family patriarch, the family’s chauffeur becomes the guardian of the motley crew. When I sent that above tweet, I was thoroughly convinced that the film’s popularity had been based on the “so-bad-it’s-bad” mantra rather than the “so-bad-it’s-good” variety. But then the movie clicked. Spider Baby boasts a wicked sense of humor and some creepy proto-slasher moments in addition to some surprisingly crisp and moody black and white cinematography. It’s at once a send-up of the old Universal monster flicks and a gateway to the 1970’s slashers. The movie doesn’t have a genre, but it’s wicked fun you won’t forget. (Also, does Lon Chaney, Jr. give the best performance of his career here? This movie had no business cultivating a performance like that.)

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20. Masque of the Red Death (1964) starring Vincent Price, Hazel Court, Jane Asher. (BD)

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See my more extensive write-up here.

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21. The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll (1960) starring Paul Massie, Dawn Adams, Christopher Lee

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An interesting variation on the Dr. Jekyll story that entertains some discussions on gender and gender power. Overall, I probably preferred this to Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde. Two Faces had some thoroughly entertaining sequences… and perhaps most notably and coy, smarmy playboy played by Christopher Lee with a certain charismatic panache. If for no other reason, check this out of Christopher Lee’s performance and the performance of his impressive sideburns.

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22. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

30Hz Horror - Nightmare on Elm Street

I don’t really feel like I need to comment much on this one. It’s the Nightmare. On Elm Street. Freddy Kreuger and all that. I happened upon it in HD on the Spike Channel and couldn’t stop watching it. Why did it suddenly seem so radically different? Ahhhh, yes. I hadn’t watched Nightmare since the days of VHS rentals. VHS rentals! Remember those? You’d walk into a store, there would be rows and rows and rows of tapes… sometimes organized, sometimes not… and you’d stand there staring at a wave of tapes just waiting for one to strike the right chord. No premeditation other than the need to watch a movie. We were all so innocent…

Anyway, Nightmare has an entirely different feel in widescreen. A shocking, change-all-my-preconceptions difference actually. It made me realize I’ve undervalued the film as a cinematic experience. The low-lighting cinematography is quite stunning, actually, as opposed to the chalky, uniform variations on grey that I remember from the VHS. It’s causing me to consider a wholesale re-introduction to Craven’s filmography.

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23. Night of the Creeps (1986) starring Jill Whitlow, Jason Lively, Tom Atkins

30Hz Horror - Night of the Creeps

How have I lived this long without seeing Night of the Creeps? What a lot of fun. Hot college girls with flamethrowers. Alien slugs that turn people into zombies? Tom Atkins spewing one liners. “Thrill me.” “I got good news and bad news, girls. The good new is your dates are here. The bad news is they’re dead.” THAT’S GOOD STUFF. I tweeted a whole bunch of stuff about crushing on Jill Whitlow in this movie so I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention it here. Jill Whitlow! Also, zombie David Paymer. So. So. Good.

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