Tag Archives: 31 days of horror

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.





  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

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

#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.


#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.


#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.


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


“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.


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


“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.


#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.


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


“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.


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


“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.


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


“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…


#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.


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


“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.


#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.


#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.


#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.


#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.



#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.



#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.


#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.


#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.


#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


#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.


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


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.


#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.


#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.


#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.


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):


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

EL GATO NEGRO - The Black Cat - 1941

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):


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


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):


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


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.


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


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.


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


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.


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


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.


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


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.


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


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.


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


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.


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

30Hz Horror - The Vampire Bat

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.


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

30Hz Horror - The Vampire (1957)

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.


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

30Hz Horror - Tucker and Dale vs. Evil

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.


#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.


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

30Hz Horror - Horror Castle

…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.


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

30hz Horror - Q The Winged Serpent

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.


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

30Hz Horror - Night of the Living Dead Rifftrax

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.


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

30hz horror - Lisa and the Devil

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.


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

30Hz Horror - Spider Baby

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.)


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

30Hz Horror - Masque of the Red Death

See my more extensive write-up here.


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

30Hz Horror - Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll

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.


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.


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.