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2018 horror movie challenge -- preparations

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  • #61
    35. Messiah of Evil (1973)

    After receiving a series of chilling letters from her reclusive father (Royal Dano, Ghoulies II), Arletty (Mariana Hill, Blood Beach) drives to the remote seaside town of Pointe Dune to discover the reason for her father’s developing madness. Upon her arrival, she encounters a mysterious trio of strangers which include Thom (Michael Greer, Summer School Teachers), Laura (Anitra Ford, The Big Bird Cage) and Toni (Joy Bang, Night of the Cobra Woman) who are investigating a local legend known as “The Blood Moon”—a curse that has transformed the inhabitants of the town into a terrifying horde of blood-thirsty maniacs.

    One of favorite discoveries in the last decade or so. I first saw it on a 50 pack of movies in a terrible cropped and washed out transfer under a different title. Code Red released it on DVD in its 2:35.1 ratio with a boosted picture quality and I immediately fell in love with. It has since been released on blu-ray and looks even better. There’s been talk of another release by Code Red and I’d jump on it in a heartbeat.

    How to describe Messiah? An art film dealing with nightmares and madness seems appropriate, but hardly does it justice. There’s a constant sense of dread at all times. The characters the are never safe even when inside a home or walking the streets of the seemingly sleepy burg of Point Dune. Take the surreal dream-like quality found Let’s Scare Jessica to Death and ramp it up several degrees.

    It helps that moments of narration interject, either from Arletty and her confusion or from her father who, with each entry, seems to be spiraling further into madness. Royal Dano’s voice is damn perfect to the point I would listen to him simply read the entire script. In addition to cult actresses Joy Bang and Anitra Ford (no shortage of eye candy in this!), Elisha Cook, Jr. (Rosemary’s Baby) pops up to deliver his usual brand of bizarreness. While I’m mentioning the cast, I must confess that I always confuse Michael Greer for Andrew Prine. The two looks and sound so much alike.

    Most movie do well to have one shining moment of horror, but Messiah can easily claim at two. The first is the panic-filled scene involving a supermarket and a gang of flesh-eating ghouls. The second takes place in a movie theater and demonstrates what it means to make the screen run red. In addition is such the absurd, Dr. Caligari-type of production design that permeates Arletty’s dad’s house. The walls are illustrated with strange citizens of Point Dune (I swear, one of them looks like Rod Serling) so it always looks like one of them is about to come alive. To say it adds to the tension is an understatement.

    I will go on record that the ending falls a bit short compared to the rest of the story. My understanding is that the filmmakers simply ran out of funds, so they had to try their best to make it work. It’s good in a bleak way, but not great.

    Still, don’t let that deter anyone from watching this. If you’re reading this, I highly recommend checking out Messiah of Evil. However, do not settle for a cropped version. If it’s 4x3, then stop it and look for a presentable source. You owe it to yourself to experience this the way it was meant to.


    36. The Doll of Satan (1969)

    Elizabeth (Erna Schurer, Strip Nude for Your Killer) and her husband travel to a castle to read the will of her recently deceased wealthy uncle. It turns out that he left her the castle and its grounds. She is persuaded by various characters which include the governess (Aurora Bautista, It Happened at Nightmare Inn) to sell it but is hesitant. Strange things begin to happen, most of them directed at the young woman.

    The back of the Twilight Time blu-ray calls this Satan’s Doll, but the literal translation is The Doll of Satan and seems to be what most sources go by. The picture quality is great, but the subtitles need work. Several misspellings and poor word usage pop up. The worst part is that the subtitles themselves are small. C’mon, if I’m going to use them then make ‘em easier to read!

    Blood and Black Lace this is not. It’s often called a gothic giallo because it involves a gloved killer inside of an old castle. There’s very little gothic about it as the castle is poorly used. The Roger Corman Edgar Allen Poe movies contain more atmosphere than this. As for the gloved killer, only two people are murdered. The first murder is simply putting his hands on someone’s throat for literally two seconds and that’s it. Suffice to say, it fails on both accounts.

    Then there’s the bizarre ghost sex. Elizabeth is drugged, and she can’t separate reality from a dream and she begins to fantasize about being visited by a 500-year-old ghost. Oh, she’s also naked in her dream / fantasy as she’s being seduced. Why that’s supposed to scare her is anyone’s guess. Later, she has a nightmare about being kidnapped by three cult figures that tie her up, give her a flogging and then brand her while the governess looks on. It’s my understanding that this is all in her head which makes for an interesting insight into Elizabeth’s subconscious since it would be the most entertainment I’d have from this film. The actual mystery and investigation finally kick in during the last 20 minutes, but it’s too late.

    It’s hard to classify this as a giallo, but if so, it’s below average and is not one I would recommend unless you’re insistent on experiencing everything the genre has to offer.
    People hyping up latest comic book movie to be the GOAT and I'm like "psshh, you guys must not have seen Bigfoot rip off a man's dick before in 1980's Night of the Demon."

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    • #62
      Originally posted by Westin View Post

      Not great. Passable because it is better than The Ring 2.
      That film was such a disappointment considering it was directed by Hideo Nakata who did Ringu, Ringu 2, and Dark Water. It's such a slog to get through and feels like it should have been over with a half hour earlier.
      People hyping up latest comic book movie to be the GOAT and I'm like "psshh, you guys must not have seen Bigfoot rip off a man's dick before in 1980's Night of the Demon."

      Comment


      • #63
        I am doing terribly. Attempted to watch my 2nd movie, Malevolent (Netflix; a Conjuring/Insidious rip-off) and I couldn't sit through it... I fell asleep.

        Comment


        • #64
          October 9th

          37. American Nightmare (1983)

          Played out against the garish background of striptease pornography, drug peddling, and prostitution, this is the grim story of Eric (Lawrence Day, How Sleep the Brave) searching for his sister, Isabelle (Alexandra Paul, Christine). Also starring Michael Ironside (Scanners), Lenore Zann (Happy Birthday to Me) and produced by Paul Lynch (Prom Night).

          There’s a lot of Canada in this American Nightmare. This is pure sleaze through and through. Think of Stripped to Kill meets The New York Ripper (less graphic) and you get this slice of Canadian gold. Good stuff.

          It’s neat to see the movie signs for films like Truck Turner in the background. The working girls’ room at the strip club is also full of interesting posters like Scorchy and Pumping Iron for some reason. The best surprise comes as one of the patrons taking in a show—Mario! I swear, it’s the plumber man himself.

          The weak link in this movie is leading man Lawrence Day who sounds comatose. It doesn’t help that he keeps pronouncing his sister’s stage name differently every time (Tonya / Tanya). Thankfully, the rest of the cast like Lora Staley (Deadly Weapon) and Lenore Zann pick up the slack. So weird to hear Rogue’s voice (Zann) from the 90’s X-Men cartoon in a slasher film in which she grinds on a pitchfork. That’s show business.

          Hopefully this gets a new transfer at some point. The best I’ve found is the Scorpion Releasing DVD that’s from a tape.


          38. X The Unknown (1956)

          A radioactive sludge erupts from the soil near a Scottish town after the British Army drills in the area. Countless victims are left scarred and burned as the monster absorbs energy from all around.

          I think the film’s production is more interesting than the movie. It was intended to be a sequel to The Quatermass Xperiment, but writer Nigel Kneale said otherwise. Then star Dean Jagger (Revolt of the Zombies) refused to work under director Joseph Losey and accused him of being a Communist sympathizer at the time of the Red Scare and witch hunts. Lastly is the dispute between RKO and Warner Bros. over distribution rights to the project.

          The film itself is more than adequate although the lesser of the two when compared to The Quatermass Xperiment. For one, Dean Jagger is no Brian Donlevy and that’s what the movie needs to punctuate its running time in between the monster moments. The creature itself is like that of The Blob, but that wouldn’t materialize until 1958.

          More than serviceable science fiction monster mayhem with some fun miniatures, but that’s its limit. I’m interested to see how it fares after a rewatch in the future.
          People hyping up latest comic book movie to be the GOAT and I'm like "psshh, you guys must not have seen Bigfoot rip off a man's dick before in 1980's Night of the Demon."

          Comment


          • #65
            October 10th

            39. The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970)

            Sam Dalmas (Tony Musante, The Pope of Greenwich Village), an American writer living in Rom, inadvertently witnesses a brutal attack on a woman (Eva Renzi, Taste of Excitement) in a modern art gallery. Powerless to help, he grows increasingly obsessed with the incident. Convinced that something he saw that night holds the key to identifying the maniac terrorizing Rome, he launches his own investigation parallel to that of the police, heedless of the danger to both himself and his girlfriend, Guilia (Suzy Kendall, Torso)

            I haven’t seen many gialli, but this may be my favorite so far. As stylish as Blood and Black Lace is, I find the hero of Bird and his involvement into solving the mystery more of an engaging story as opposed to simply waiting for each set piece to occur, have the police show up, mention a clue or two, rinse and repeat. It helps that Sam is so likeable as well. I never thought about it until this rewatch, but could it be that his desire to unlock the mystery is due to him feeling helpless at helping Monica? Maybe it’s him wanting to know all the answers. Also, the subverting of what had become a common giallo expectation at the time (murderer dressed in black) was a nice touch.

            The weakest link is Suzy Kendall’s character. She doesn’t have much to do and her sequence with the killer is poorly acted. She’s so over the top with hysterics while the killer is subdued and acts like the slight hint of force may break the set. The high energy displayed is great, no surprise given it’s Dario Argento (Suspiria), but that doesn’t compensate. One weak moment in a film full of strange characters and a murder mystery is damn good in my book. Is it the best giallo? I have so many entries in the genre that I need to see more to bestow upon it the title (in my opinion).


            40. Night of the Living Dead (1968)

            There is panic throughout the nation as the dead suddenly come back to life. The film follows a group of characters who barricade themselves in an old farmhouse in an attempt to remain safe from these bloodthirsty, flesh-eating monsters.

            What can I say about a film that is likely in my top 10 movies of all-time list? 1960’s American social history is my niche when it comes to the subject and Night is a perfect example of capturing the many different facets of turmoil found in the nation from Cold War paranoia, the space race, civil unrest and race relations, the Vietnam War and the assassination of prominent leaders. Just taking one of these characteristics and viewing the film only with it in mind can lead to interesting revelations. I won’t go into it here because I touched upon it in another topic and, hey, there’s time for another movie this evening. Great that it received an immaculate new transfer in lieu of its 50th anniversary


            41. The House of the Devil (2009)

            Desperate for quick cash, college sophomore Samantha Hughes (Joceline Donahue, Summer Camp) takes a babysitting job in the isolated mansion of the creepy Ulman family (Tom Noonan from Manhunter and Mary Woronov from Silent Night, Bloody Night). Ignoring the warnings from her best friend, Samantha has no idea that a nightmare of unspeakable fear and torment awaits her within these walls. At midnight, in the shadow of a full lunar eclipse, the ultimate evil will be unleashed.

            Slow-burn is a perfect description for this tale and is certainly not for everybody. I’ve always enjoyed it mostly due to Joceline Donahue’s performance as Samantha. Seems like she’s picked up more work in the past few years which is good. Add in a creepy Tom Noonan and Mary Woronov and there you have….oh, the director of Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig) is in this? Who knew the best friend would go on to make a hit movie? Huh, it also has AJ Bowan from You’re Next (which had a cameo by this movie’s director). I completely forgot about him. And Dee Wallace (The Howling)? I must have been mesmerized by Donahue’s dancing to The Fixx. Also, great cameo by the movie I just watched prior.

            In a movie about a disturbing house and a satanic cult, the strangest moment comes from the mish-mash of decade influences. The story feels like a nod to numerous films from the 70s while the way it’s shot feels 80s. It doesn’t matter. I still get that same smile from the awesome opening credits on this rewatch like I had when I first caught sight of them.
            People hyping up latest comic book movie to be the GOAT and I'm like "psshh, you guys must not have seen Bigfoot rip off a man's dick before in 1980's Night of the Demon."

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            • #66
              October 11th

              42. The Haunted Castle (1921)

              In the castle Vogeloed, a few are awaiting baroness Safferstätt (who suspiciously looks like the lead singer of My Chemical Romance). Also attending the gathering is count Oetsch who has invited himself much to the dismay of the group. Everyone thinks he murdered his brother, baroness Safferstat's first husband, three years ago. Rather than leaving, Oetsch stays; arguing he is not the murderer and will find the real one.

              Considering this is coming from F. W. Murnau (Faust), it’s a huge disappointment. It doesn’t even work as an old dark house type of movie. It takes nearly half the running time before the gang settles in at the castle and then the remaining minutes are spent watching different individuals flock to speak to a priest to confess their feelings. There’s little use of the production either with a limited appeal towards German Expressionism. It’s bland in looks and dull in story. There’s a reason it’s never mentioned when discussing Murnau’s work.


              43. Nosferatu (1922)

              An illegal adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the story follows Hutter as he arranges the sale of a new residence for the strange Count Orlok (Max Shrek, The Strange Case of Captain Ramper) who is also a vampire.

              This is more like it! Although Lugosi is fantastic as Dracula, Shrek is terrifyingly brilliant as Orlok. I would even say that Nosferatu is the better film between the two. There are some goofy moments of Hutter within the first 15 minutes involving his carefree attitude that can result in some unintentional humor, but it’s pure horror afterwards. The use of shadows to enhance the seemingly limitless power of Orlok is mesmerizing. Then there’s Orlok himself and rat or insect-like appearance. I love that image of him on the ship, standing in front of the nets like a creature in a spiderweb. It’s strange how someone could make something as mundane as Haunted Castle and then create this classic. I know Stoker’s widow tried to have every copy of the movie destroyed as it was made illegally (like many of Murnau’s adaptations of literature), but I’m glad she failed in her quest, so we can still enjoy it today.


              44. The Curse of Her Flesh (1968)

              Picking up a year after The Touch of Her Flesh, weapons expert Richard Jennings (Michael Findlay, The Slaughter) continues to seek out and dispatch sensual women as well as track down the man he caught having an affair with his wife.

              Ok, I needed this tonight as it’s a laugh riot. I don’t know if it’s better made than Touch, but it may be more entertaining because every line goes past the point of being bad to circling around to the awesome category. Plus, Jennings uses some of the bizarre methods to kill women. For example, he dips the paws of a cat into a liquid poison. After a conversation full of double meanings involving cats / vaginas, he makes the cat scratch the owner after rambling on about how women’s vaginas would swallow men whole if they could. The only drawback to this 75 minute of pure low-budget, New York City gold is that more than half of the running time is devoted to softcore sex acts or boring stripping sessions. I’m all for nudity, but these sequences do nothing for the story or add to the characters. Well, other than when he convinces a stripper to have sex with another woman by using a sex toy that turns out to be a knife. Turns out, Se7en was not the first to use the “bladed dildo death” gag.
              People hyping up latest comic book movie to be the GOAT and I'm like "psshh, you guys must not have seen Bigfoot rip off a man's dick before in 1980's Night of the Demon."

              Comment


              • #67
                Some quick thoughts about some of the movies I've watched this week:

                I still don't get all the hate JGTH receives. Sure, its nothing like any of the other films in the series and has some ridiculous moments, but that's part of why it works. The series was getting pretty tired at that point, they tried something new and I thought it worked. The series also looked tired at this point and I like the style of the film.

                Return of the Living Dead is one of those rare classics where you can watch it a million times and it seems to get better each time.

                Comment


                • #68
                  If you have Netflix, watch Hold the Dark. It's excellent.

                  Comment


                  • #69
                    Originally posted by SanicHeghog View Post
                    I still don't get all the hate JGTH receives. Sure, its nothing like any of the other films in the series and has some ridiculous moments, but that's part of why it works. The series was getting pretty tired at that point, they tried something new and I thought it worked. The series also looked tired at this point and I like the style of the film.
                    I remember reading about this movie back in the early 90s when the studio was trying to develop it. They wanted it to be much more realistic. I'm thinking of an interview in Fangoria; whoever they interviewed stated they wanted the people to think logically, like... "that house is spooky, let's not go in there." Instead of realism, they went with bizarre.

                    I don't like JGTH for a few reasons.
                    The coroner eating Jason's heart. Biggest WTF moment in the entire franchise. Was he compelled by the devil worm thing? Creighton Duke shows up out of nowhere and knows more about Jason Voorhees than anybody and states that "only through a Voorhees can he be killed." What is Duke's backstory and how does he come about this all-important method of defeating him? That's like Donny Osmund telling you how to handle yourself in the hood. Jason's look is bizarre; his head looks like a charred raspberry. Instead of killing Steven Freeman at the end of the movie, Jason just tosses him around.

                    If the uncut version ever surfaces (130 some minutes); we might get some of Duke's backstory (apparently his gf was killed by Jason).

                    The beginning of the movie is epic by F13 standards. The very end is shocking. Everything in between is just goofy and dumb. JGTH is a shit sandwich, IMO. Kudos for the Necronomicon's appearance. It's not the worst entry for me, but it is a huge letdown.

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                    • #70
                      October 12th

                      45. The Island (1980)

                      Michael Caine (The Hand) stars as Blair Maynard, an investigative writer who takes on one of the most baffling mysteries—the disappearance of boats and their passengers in the Caribbean. During his investigation, he and his son are captured by raiding pirates, led by David Warner (1976’s The Omen). Which his son is converted to the pirates’ barbarian ways and turns against him, Blair must come to his rescue.

                      Based on the book written by Peter Benchley, I was digging this for the first 45 minutes or so. Once Blair and his son become captives of the pirates, well, the story takes a hard left turn. These guys are living in a Neverland fantasy or something who mumble their way through the dialogue. At least David Warner looks to be enjoying his time.

                      Best part is when the pirates raid a schooner ran by what looks to be college students out having a good time. Turns out they’re drug smugglers. Why a schooner? Whatever. The real star of the picture isn’t Michael Caine or David Warner, but the random karate master who challenges the pirates to a one on one brawl. Where the hell did this guy come from? What’s his backstory? Is it wrong that, in a movie full of rejects from Waterworld, that I find him the most fascinating?

                      What becomes infuriating is the son. He keeps flipflopping as to whether he wants to be a pirate or live in the modern day with zero sign of him feeling conflicted. The kid shoots an unarmed man with no hesitation only to later have doubts about being a pirate when told to drink blood from the holy grail. Did he know if he did, he would have chosen….poorly?

                      If I can say anything about The Island, it’s that it defied whatever expectations I had for it.


                      46. The Kiss of Her Flesh (1968)

                      Weapons expert Richard Jennings (Michael Findlay, The Touch of Her Flesh), who murdered his unfaithful stripper wife and her lover, goes on a killing spree to bump off exotic dancers and hookers while plotting the demise of his wife's swinging bisexual sister (Uta Erickson, Marcy) and her kinky boyfriend.

                      Jennings really ups his game as a weapons expert in this entry! He tortures a woman with a lobster claw and then murders her by attaching electric wires to her earrings to shock her to death. Unfortunately, there seems to be less victims this go around or maybe it’s my imagination.

                      The sex sequences don’t seem to last as long or come off as titillating filler this time around. This also has more of a plot than Curse with Uta Erickson’s character hunting down Jennings rather than Jennings going after women whenever the mood suits him. The downside is that the viewer follows Erickson’s character rather than Jennings, so we don’t get as many humorous quotes.

                      Retaining that sense of mean spiritedness without the humor from Jennings’ rambling to offset it almost makes me place this below Curse, but the ending with Jennings forced to watch two characters have sex while a shotgun is pointed at his crotch nearly balances it out. I’d say it’s about comparable.


                      47. Sole Survivor (1984)

                      This chilling tale tells of a young woman, Denise (Anita Skinner, Girlfriends), who is the sole survivor of an airplane crash. Disregarding the warnings of a psychic (Caren Larkey, Get Out) , Denise tries to move with her life…but she has somehow cheated Death and the Grim Reaper sends his minions to bring her to him. Directed by Thom Eberhardt (Night of the Comet).

                      This often gets compared to Final Destination due to a survivor of a plane crash being stalked by death to reclaim what’s missing. To me, this is more of the missing piece between Final Destination and TV’s The Twilight Zone episode titled “Flight 22”. In Twilight Zone, a woman has a premonition of her death later to be revealed as the result of a plane crash. Final Destination uses the premise of surviving a plane crash to jumpstart the rest of the story as each survivor is hunted down by death. Sole Survivor is mostly just the one survivor being stalked by dead bodies puppeted by death to reclaim her life.

                      What becomes confusing is why other characters are murdered if Denise is the intended target. It’s implied by the ending that anyone who is getting close to the supernatural truth is then stopped by death to make sure nobody else knows. Yet one girl is murdered simply because she happens across one of the dead bodies being maneuvered around like a doll. Is that part of death’s design? It’s blurry. One character says Denise has a thick layer of karma around her and perhaps that’s the explanation. Get close enough to Denise and you end up on the chopping block.

                      Because the movie seems so serious, the random moment of teenage hijinks really stands out. Denise’s neighbor has two other girls and a guy over to play strip poker. It’s really just a way to toss in some t&a, but it feels out of place. Still, nice to see Brinke Stevens (The Slumber Party Massacre) pop as one of the girls that’s losing in the game. There’s also a guy who looks like a chubby Michael Cera. Y’know, for all you Michael Cera fans.

                      Sole Survivor is a great example of crescendo horror. Outside of the first few graphic moments, the movie comes off more as a drama before building up more and more to the supernatural elements. By the time the third act starts, the horror kicks in. My advice to anyone giving it a shot is to have patience and stick with it.


                      48. Jennifer (1978)

                      Jennifer (Lisa Pelikan, Ghoulies) is a shy, quiet country girl who wins a scholarship to the prestigious Green View School for girls, a dream come true. But the snobby girls at the school refuse to accept her and begin to torment Jennifer, hoping she’ll leave. The humiliation becomes unbearable and her growing anger and pain suddenly turn to a consuming desire for vengeance. Determined to repay those who degraded her, Jennifer releases the evil powers she had once fought to suppress. In a blinding fury of destruction, Jennifer events the score. Also stars Burt Convy (Semi-Tough), Nina Foch (The Return of the Vampire), Amy Johnston (The Buddy Holly Story), John Gavin (1960’s Psycho), Jeff Corey (Premonition), Leslie King (Gas Pump Girls) and Ray Underwood (Massacre at Central High).

                      A cash grab to tag along the success of Carrie, Jennifer uses only the basic elements of girl with powers and a religious parent and is bullied by classmates. Outside of that, it tries to be its own film. Best of all, it mostly works. There’s an added element of social class as the snobbish head mistress (Nina Foch) blatantly states the “rich are always right”, meaning everyone else is lesser in society and that includes Jennifer and anyone who doesn’t abide by this philosophy. The religious parent (Burt Convy) doesn’t seek to condemn his daughter but urge her to use her powers. If you thought the girls in Carrie were trouble, wait until you get a load of this gang led by Amy Johnston’s character. She’s a bitch from hell as she bullies others besides Jennifer, tries to drown her in front of witnesses, murders a kitten and convinces her boyfriend to rape another girl. She’s evil on another level which makes for her comeuppance all the more enticing.

                      This is where Jennifer drops the ball. Where as Carrie could use her telekinesis to manipulate any object, Jennifer is restricted to conjuring up snakes. While they do use real snakes (for the most part), you can’t really show them biting into actors. That only leaves the after shots of when the snakes fanged their victims off-screen. The filmmakers do try to get around this by having Jennifer summon up two monstrous snakes (one which bites a man’s head off), but they look hysterically goofy. It’s a good idea, but the effects aren’t quite there. That leaves the climax feeling a bit limp after so much build up.
                      People hyping up latest comic book movie to be the GOAT and I'm like "psshh, you guys must not have seen Bigfoot rip off a man's dick before in 1980's Night of the Demon."

                      Comment


                      • #71
                        Originally posted by SanicHeghog View Post
                        Some quick thoughts about some of the movies I've watched this week:

                        I still don't get all the hate JGTH receives. Sure, its nothing like any of the other films in the series and has some ridiculous moments, but that's part of why it works. The series was getting pretty tired at that point, they tried something new and I thought it worked. The series also looked tired at this point and I like the style of the film.
                        I've come to appreciate it more with each passing year, especially in a marathon setting. As you said, the Paramount films were feeling stale. Manhattan is just dull to me and lacks any "oomph" to it. I know Hell screws up the mythos, but let's be serious, the mythos was already fucked by the second film and further compounded with later installments. The beginning of Hell is great stuff as it plays to the expectations you come to expect. The rest of the movie essentially being The Hidden works fine for me and gives it something fresh.

                        I don't care much for the design of Jason, though. The bloated look isn't for me and I could do without the groaning he lets out.
                        People hyping up latest comic book movie to be the GOAT and I'm like "psshh, you guys must not have seen Bigfoot rip off a man's dick before in 1980's Night of the Demon."

                        Comment


                        • #72
                          October 13th

                          49. Popcorn (1991)

                          What could be scarier than an all-night “Horrorthon”? A group of film students finds out when they stage just such an event at an abandoned movie palace. In addition to the three features, they discover a bizarre short film called The Possessor, whose creator, Lanyard Gates, killed his family and set the theater on fire after its first showing. Maggie (Jill Schoelen, Cutting Class) has been having frightening dreams that seem connected to The Possessor, and as the festival proceeds, the nightmare comes true for her and her friends as they are stalked and slain by a mysterious killer. Has Gates survived to continue The Possessor’s deadly legacy? Dee Wallace (The Howling), Ray Walston (Amityville 3-D) and Kelly Jo Minter (A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child) also appear.

                          Jill Schoelen is such a babe.

                          Anyway, I’m glad to admit that I was wrong about this movie. For years, I’ve dismissed it because it’s a slasher film from 1991, a time when the subgenre seemed tired. What appeals to me is that it’s more than an inspired Phantom of the Opera slasher, but also a love letter to horror and sci-fi movies as well as the ballyhoo of William Castle. The B-monster movies shown in the theater complete with gimmicks like giant mosquitos and electric buzzers with a crowd that’s shown having fun just rings so true.

                          It’s enjoyable to see a twist on the hunky leading man (Derek Rydall, Phantom of the Mall: Eric’s Revenge) saving the day by becoming a literal punching bag to every obstacle. It’s so strange that the character stopping the revenge-obsessed, burned up villain in this happens to play a revenge-obsessed, burned up villain in another movie.

                          I do wish there were a few more slasher moments, but considering the time is spent on viewing portions of the homage flicks, I can’t complain. All in all, I can see revisiting this again soon as I’m eager to listen to the commentary and see the long-awaited documentary.


                          50. The Vampire Bat (1933)

                          A macabre tale involving vampire attacks on a small village. Does a troubled man-child (Dwight Frye, 1931’s Dracula) with an affection for bats have something to do with it? Or is it a local scientist (Lionel Atwill, Son of Frankenstein) who appears to know quite a bit about vampirism?

                          This was quite a surprise! The gothic look of the village reminds me of the Universal horror pictures from around the same time. What really sticks out is how fluid the camera is as it’s always moving. Sometimes it would zoom in or move around while the scene would do a fade into the next which also begins while moving. Like a Jess Franco picture, but more coherent. The use of color in the torches is a nice touch and something unexpected.

                          As usual, Dwight Frye rocks it. He’s playing Renfield from 1931’s Dracula, but that’s fine. For the longest time, it looked like Lionel Atwill may actually be a good guy. So close, but no cigar. Not that he hasn’t played several characters on the side of good, but that he’s usually the go to character to point the finger at when trouble occurs. Nice to see Fay Wray (1933’s King Kong), but she’s not given much to do. This makes at least the third picture she appears in with Lionel Atwill (Doctor X and Murder in the Wax Museum) Something I didn’t quite get is the connection between him and the assassin. Mind control? Hypnosis? How did the assassin create the two animal-like puncture marks?

                          All of that happens in the second half and is one of the reasons it falters a bit when compared to what came earlier. In fact, I’d say after Frye’s, uh, absence does the movie descend slightly. Still worth a viewing if you’re in the mood for more horror from the pre-code days. Go for the blu-ray if you can as the picture quality is the best there can be as it’s taken from a surviving 35mm print.


                          51. The Old Dark House (1932)

                          From the director of The Invisible Man and Frankenstein (James Whale), a group of stranded travelers stumble upon a strange old house and find themselves at the mercy of the highly eccentric, and potentially dangerous, Femm family. Stars Boris Karloff (Frankenstein), Gloria Stuart (The Invisible Man), Melvyn Douglas (The Vampire Bat), Charles Laughton (The Island of Lost Souls) and Ernest Thesiger (The Bride of Frankenstein).

                          A Melvyn Douglas double feature! Ok, it wasn’t planned that way.

                          Quite possible the best of the “old dark house” subgenre and worthy of carrying the name. The cast is all on point, the characters are totally eccentric, so you never know what they’ll do or say, it’s funny yet the comedic dialogue can turn on a dime. Hard to believe Laughton gives a sympathetic performance as a money seeking workaholic and performs as Dr. Moreau all in the same year. Douglas has more to work with in this than in The Vampire Bat and he shows his strength at delivering fast dialogue. Karloff’s character, Morgan, is such a brute but I find his backstory fascinating as you only get hints here and there. However, it’s Ernest Thesiger that steals the show. He’s fantastic in The Bride of Frankenstein, but more so here. Just the way he keeps urging people to eat a potato has me chuckling.

                          Then there’s the look of the house. It’s easily one of the best old dark houses visually as the hallways and corners are drenched in shadows. My favorite room is Rebecca’s with the assortment of candlelight and cracked mirrors that distort the faces of those which gaze into them. You can tell Rebecca (and the inhabitants of the house) are just as broken as the mirrors.

                          This year’s viewing was a bit different. I’m used to watching the DVD which had, I believe, a 16mm transfer from almost 20 years ago. The blu-ray now sports a beautiful 4K transfer (although I’m not sure from what) that is more gorgeous than I ever dreamed. You can see so much more detail in the shadows. The dialogue is more coherent as the hiss sound has been seriously reduced. I never thought I’d say the day when this classic would look so pristine.


                          52. The Nature of the Beast (1995)

                          An intense psychological thriller about a businessman (Lance Henriksen, Pumpkinhead) drawn into a bloody game of cat and mouse by a mysterious drifter (Eric Roberts, Best of the Best). With the police searching for a serial killer on a murderous rampage dubbed the “Hatchet Man” and a million dollars missing from a Las Vegas casino, both men have something sinister to hide. But as the lies are peeled away and their true nature is revealed, it becomes clear that one of them is a madman. The question is which one.

                          This movie holds up on a rewatch just to see how the dialogue has a double meaning once you know which character is the Hatchet Man and which is the thief. It’s not full of gore despite the name of the serial killer, but it does contain plenty of psychological banter and mind games coming from Roberts. He also does a decent Jack Nicholson impression. Best way to describe this is to think of it like The Hitcher transformed into 90-minute episode of Tales from the Crypt. It has a similar look and style to it.

                          Such an overlooked movie with Roberts and Henriksen at the top of their game. I can understand some folks aren’t interested in director Victor Salva’s filmography given his past, but if given the chance then give it a shot.
                          People hyping up latest comic book movie to be the GOAT and I'm like "psshh, you guys must not have seen Bigfoot rip off a man's dick before in 1980's Night of the Demon."

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                          • #73
                            October 14th

                            53. Dead Dudes in the House (1989)

                            Friends go inspect an old house. They find a grave of a woman in the front yard. One of them smashes the headstone and awakens her vengeance. The dead come alive and the living can't escape as the house locks down to keep them in, forever.

                            I remember over 20 years ago catching some of this early in the wee hours of the morning on a friend’s recorded copy on VHS. I’m not sure I saw all of it, but I still remember the bitchy girlfriend and the asshole buddy in it even after all this time.

                            Dead Dudes is in the style of 1983’s The Evil Dead. It’s a very similar premise with a group of friends stuck in an isolated location and, as each one succumbs their demise, are used as ghoulish puppets to hunt down the other friends. There are even several homages to Evil Dead which include the stabbing in the ankle bit.

                            Much like Evil Dead, Dead Dudes won’t win any awards for acting. Instead, it’s all in the gore effects and this film is in great hands courtesy of Ed French. He’s got a hell of a resume, but if you’ve ever seen Blood Rage, you know what to expect.

                            Dead Dudes go best by getting some friends together and grabbing some drinks as you laugh, root for and anticipate each character’s grisly and bloody death.


                            54. Die Sister, Die! (1978)

                            A man (Jack Ging, Sssssss) hires a nurse (Antoinette Bower, Prom Night) to care for his ailing but nasty and shrewish sister (Edith Atwater, The Body Snatcher). What he really intends to do, however, is convince the nurse to join him in a plot to kill her!

                            A psychological thriller that comes off as a classy TV movie. There’s nothing here that I haven’t seen elsewhere, but it’s solid enough for what it does. I like how the poster art makes it seem like it’s about a young girl being tormented by supernatural forces, yet the movie is as reality-based as it could be about an older woman. There’s not much else to say about it other than I like the title.


                            55. A Woman’s Torment (1977)

                            Don Compton and his wife Frances have been struggling in their marriage. France’s mentally ill sister Karen, who lives with them, is taking a toll on their romance and as such, the Comptons have been considering having her committed to an asylum. Upon overhearing their plans, Karen decides to stay at her family’s empty house on a remote beach. Buch slowly her grip on reality diminishes, giving way to increasingly violent delusions and an ever-growing bloodlust. Directed by Robert Findlay (Snuff).

                            This is like a sexploitation version of Repulsion and, quite frankly, rather good. Tara Chung is vulnerable yet can pull off psychotic at the same while switching between personalities. The drama between the Comptons is at least humorous so the cutting back and forth between them and Karen kept my interest. For a proto-slasher, the deaths are stretched out as the camera cuts between Karen and her victims almost like the shower scene from Psycho. For all of its low-budget production, it does leave an intense impression. This may be one of Findlay’s best although I think I still prefer Tenement by a narrow margin.


                            56. Prince of Darkness (1987)

                            A group of graduate students and scientists uncover an ancient canister in an abandoned church, but when it opens, a strange liquid and an evil force on all humanity is unleashed. As the liquid turns their co-workers into zombies, terror mounts as the team must fight to save the world from a devilish fury that has been contained for over seven million years. Starring Donald Pleasence (1978’s Halloween), Jameson Parker (TV’s Simon & Simon), Lisa Blount (Needful Things), Victor Wong and Denis Dun (both from Big Trouble in Little China), Alice Cooper and written / directed by John Carpenter (1980’s The Fog).

                            I fall in love with this movie a little more every time I watch it. There’s this constant sense of dread that permeates the entire running time and begins the very moment the film starts with the Universal logo. There’s this pulsating beat of three notes that underlines the entire score. Listening closely to it as the montage of opening credits play, it’s like that of a heartbeat, but different. Twisted and evil. Demonic.

                            This also had me listen closely to the music throughout the picture. There’s but one moment that I realized there is none. Almost every scene has music in it which helps make the pace feel like it’s progressing even if the story is a bit on the slow side. That’s not a complaint, by the way. I love the pacing, the building of something terrible about to burst through. The only sequence I remember it being quiet is after Parker and Blount’s character make love. Other than background noise to indicate its morning, I don’t recall any instrument heard. Now I’m doubting my own senses and have a desire to go and check. However, I’d want to stick around for the entire duration once more and it’s time to call it a night.

                            Such an underrated entry into Carpenter’s filmography. It does seem to grow ever slightly with each passing year, but it’s often ranked below his other more famous projects. I feel it can stand alongside some of them.
                            People hyping up latest comic book movie to be the GOAT and I'm like "psshh, you guys must not have seen Bigfoot rip off a man's dick before in 1980's Night of the Demon."

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                            • #74
                              October 15th

                              57. The Unseen (1980)

                              A TV reporter (Barbara Bach, The Spy Who Loved Me) and two friends head to Solvang, California, to cover a Danish festival. When a mix-up at the hotel leaves them stranded without rooms, the girls accept the invitation of a friendly museum owner (Sydney Lassick, Carrie) to board at his farmhouse. Also stars Stephen Furst (Animal House), Doug Barr (Deadly Blessing) from a story created by Stan Winston & Tom Burman, written by Kim Henkel (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) and directed by Danny Steinmann (Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning).

                              Although released in 1980, this has more of a mid-70s flair to it with a pace to match. At only 92 minutes, it could probably lose 15 or so and not feel rushed. It’s also not a body count story and, going in with the expectations of multiple people dying in the farmhouse, left me surprised. It’s more like Don’t Go in the House as it’s about the psychological horror of family and its dark history. Once Bach must contend with the creature in the basement, I wasn’t sure where it was going to go as there was still over 30 minutes left. The revelation of the creature gives it a nice spin although I’m wondering if Bach’s character is still going ahead with her pregnancy after the events.

                              Lastly, this may be Steinmann’s best shot film. Don’t get me wrong, Savage Streets is aces, but the cinematography here feels like a bump up from his other work. I did notice the similarities between the finale in this and Friday the 13th Part 5—both have rainstorms crashing down while the lead hides out in a barn to escape the killer.


                              58. Human Experiments (1979)

                              Rachel Foster (Linda Haynes, Rolling Thunder) is a country singer traveling alone through the United States. She resists the advances of a lecherous bar owner Mat Tibbs (Aldo Ray, Don’t Go Near the Park), and in a hurry to leave town, she accidentally wrecks her car while trying to avoid a woman staggering onto the road. Looking for assistance, she finds what appears to be an abandoned house—but after stumbling inside, she discovers that in fact it’s the scene of a grisly multiple homicide. Simply being at the wrong place at the wrong time, she’s railroaded into a women’s correctional facility and finds herself at the mercy of a prison psychiatrist Doctor Kline (Geoffrey Lewis, Salem’s Lot) who has insidious intentions up his sleeve.

                              Ever wanted to see Jackie Coogan gaze at a Playboy and perform a jerking motion with his hand? You’re in luck! Bonus points if you really want to see John Travolta’s sister, Ellen, in an exploitation film.

                              A horrific women in prison movie, Human Experiments is nothing like the fun Jack Hill entries of the genre. It’s dirty, grimy and bleak in nearly every shot. Haynes does a solid job of making you care if she survives her predicament although I chuckle at how crazy the audience goes for her singing. She’s not so hot there. I must hand it to Haynes for putting up the conditions of playing the character. She’s in a deplorable location, forced to push her mind to its boundaries and is covered with various spiders and scorpions. It’s no wonder she retired shortly after this.

                              Scorpion Releasing took nearly a decade to get this out, mostly because of trying to secure an interview with Linda Haynes who has become very private about her career. The interview is mentioned by movie host Katarina, but doesn’t appear on the disc. It’s a shame that so much time was spent on something that couldn’t happen, but I’m glad this finally made it out.


                              59. The Gorgon (1964)

                              In a rural village, a series of murders have been committed where each victim was turned into stone. A local professor (Christopher Lee, The Curse of Frankenstein) investigates and find an evil Gorgon haunting a nearby castle and in search of more victims. Also stars Peter Cushing (The Horror of Dracula) and Barbara Shelley (Dracula: Prince of Darkness).

                              A tight little monster movie from Hammer studios. Works rather well on this cold, rainy afternoon. There’s a nice sense of mystery to the story and you have a monster that isn’t often used in horror movies. I like the clues to the creature’s attacks and who it may be although I didn’t recognize them as such at the time. It’s always great to see Cushing and Lee square off and this time it’s on opposing positions with Lee as the hero and Cushing as the villain. My only criticism is the Gorgon’s snakes that are controlled via wires. They mostly just remain stagnant until the actress moves, causing them to simply bob up and down.


                              60. The Legend of Blood Castle (1973)

                              When Marquise Erzsebet Bathory (Lucia Bose, Something Creeping in the Dark) is accidentally splattered with some blood drops of one of her nubile maidservants, the Marquise finds out that the blood can preserve her skin young and beautiful. Compelled to kill innocent young girls to use their blood, the Marquise is helped by her husband Karl (Espartaco Santoni, The Feast of Satan), who fakes his own death and pretends to be a vampire to fool the superstitious villagers about the source of the exsanguinations. In the meantime, Karl finds himself attracted to Marina (Ewa Aulin, Death Smiles on a Murderer), the young daughter of a local innkeeper, perhaps another victim for the Marquise. Directed by Jorge Grau (The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue).

                              Another story about Elizabeth Bathory and her vampiric ways to stay beautiful through the blood of young girls. This is one of the better versions although it takes it a while to kick in. The first half is all about setting up the characters and their motivations. Then the blood shedding begins, and things get much more interesting. This is full of gothic appeal as castles and crypts look creepy as they’re half-lit with cobwebs hiding in the shadows. Also, the music is intense and never lets up. It’s as if it’s a warning sign that every character is doomed and it’s only a matter of time.

                              It would be nice to see this receive a better transfer than the Mya DVD release. It’s a gorgeous looking production making use of its location and some of the blood bathing moments would looks spectacular with a more pronounced picture quality.


                              61. Evil Dead (2013)

                              Five young friends have found the mysterious and fiercely powerful Book of the Dead. Unable to resist its temptation, they release a violent demon on a bloodthirsty quest to possess them all. Stars Jane Levy and written / directed by Fede Alvarez (both from Don’t Breathe).

                              Not only one of the best remakes, but a damn good film period. There are several nods to the original series that it uses to play with audience expectations. One example is how the film shifts from who you believe is the main character. After all, the main character will make it through most of the film so by alternating, you never know who will make it.
                              Three observations with this viewing. The first is how the sound design does not get enough credit. Every slice, stab and pounding are something you can feel merely by hearing it. I’ve seen plenty of gore pictures, but what makes this stand out is due to the sound as I find myself wincing at various moments of visceral gold.

                              Second is the punishment of Eric. I always want the asshole that unleashes evil to get the worst of it and that’s what happens here. However, I find myself eventually rooting for him just because he keeps on ticking. David wouldn’t have made it but moments without Eric. He’s a punching bag. Then there’s possessed Eric who doesn’t fuck around. Shows up and goes right the jugular to get things done. As a side comment, surely there isn’t any confusion still about the dog and if it counted as one of the souls. Take the first letter from David, Mia, Eric, Natalie and Olivia’s name and you get DEMON. The dog’s name was Grandpa so, uh, that doesn’t quite fit.

                              Last is the summoned demon. Yeah, I wish it was something other than a standard deadite, but I love how it’s the poster design from the original film come to life. The way it comes full circle just works for me.


                              62. The Thing from Another World (1951)

                              Arctic researchers discover a huge, froze spaceling inside a crash-landed UFO, then fight for their lives after the murderous being (James Arness, TV’s Gunsmoke) emerges from icy captivity. Will other creatures soon follow? The famed final words of this film are both warning and answer: “Keep watching the skies!”

                              A fantastic example of great 50s science fiction. Watch enough movies that came out before Thing and you’ll notice how fast the dialogue is and how it crisscrosses between characters to make for a more intense scene. You can tell John Carpenter is a big fan of it by seeing it in Assault on Precinct 13 and The Fog among others. The snowy isolation also sets it apart from its contemporary colleagues as the characters are stuck in a wintery land, unable to call for help. There are no nations uniting or the American military sending in reinforcements like in other sci-fi films of the time. The noir look of the time adds to the level of dread of the monster appearing around every corner.

                              Carpenter’s remake has special effects that anyone who has seen it will remember. The 1951 version isn’t going to top that, but damn if the monster screeching and jumping through a window while on fire doesn’t make an impression. Another highlight is when the men determine the shape of the aircraft and come to the realization that’s a circle which means a flying saucer. The look of astonishment on their faces and the music blaring sells it.

                              It’s got a cast of who’s who from horror / sci-fi films from the decade, but I only noticed this time around that Robert Nichols from This Island Earth appears.
                              People hyping up latest comic book movie to be the GOAT and I'm like "psshh, you guys must not have seen Bigfoot rip off a man's dick before in 1980's Night of the Demon."

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                              • #75
                                October 16th

                                63. Trapped (1982)

                                An innocent camping weekend turns into terror and murder for four university students when they witness Henry Chatwill (Henry Silva, Chained Heat) stalk and slaughter his wife’s lover. Unable to contact the sheriff, the youths return to their campfire where they are taken captive and subjected to Chatwill’s backwoods verdict—violent death! Also stars Nicholas Campbell (The Dead Zone), Joy Thompson (Prom Night), Gina Dick (1981’s My Bloody Valentine) and written by John Beaird (1981’s My Bloody Valentine) and directed by William Fruet (Funeral Home).

                                Only time for one today, but it’s a goody. Canadian horror hicksploitation! Made to cash in on the popularity of Deliverance, this is a Canadian production and crew filming in Georgia. If you’ve seen any Canadian horror from the early 80s, chances are you’ll recognize some of them here.

                                To put it bluntly, Henry Silva plays a real piece of shit. Hypocritical, power-hungry and psychotic. Yet he’s not the most revolting of characters. No, that honor belongs to the leading hero who is totally inept. He’s told by the townsfolk to make a plan and trap Silva’s character. He doesn’t do it. He rushes into obvious dangerous situations without thinking of the consequences. Even at the end, he needs the assistance of someone else because he decides to turn his back on a crazed hillbilly coming at him with an axe. The fuck is wrong with this guy?

                                There’s a moment when one of the college kids shows up to the backwoods village and it’s completely deserted. It reminded me of the beginning of Resident Evil 4 before the Spanish villagers come pouring out of the houses.

                                Effective and incredibly entertaining hicksploitation involving a maniacal redneck played by Henry Silva who runs amuck with the character.
                                People hyping up latest comic book movie to be the GOAT and I'm like "psshh, you guys must not have seen Bigfoot rip off a man's dick before in 1980's Night of the Demon."

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