Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Dracula on the Prowl Again!!

Dracula, Prince Of Darkness 1966
Director: Terence Fisher
Writer: Jimmy Sangster
Starring Christopher Lee, Barbara Shelly, Andrew Keir, Francis Matthews, Suzan Farmer, Charles Tingwell and Thorley Walter

After 1958's Horror of Dracula Christopher Lee refused for 8 years to don the fangs and cape, so Hammer had to make other vampire films like The Kiss of the Vampire and the great Brides of Dracula to counter that effect. He finally came back to the fold with 1966's Dracula, Prince of Darkness and it was well worth the wait. Lee is still dynamic as hell as the Count and Matthews is a good replacement to Cushing's Van Helsing. The film has all the requisite gothic trappings and pulls them off flawlessly. From the opening scene with the burial of a supposed vampire victim until the exciting conclusion the viewer is hooked.
The plot basics are this, we open with a funeral procession, but it is not your typical procession as the priest is about to put a stake through the dead woman's heart, when a priest comes buy and stops him. It has been 10 years since Dracula was destroyed and the people are still held in fear by his presence. Then we meet 2 vacationing couples traveling abroad and they stop at a inn and meet the same priest (Matthews) who tells them not to stop at a castle on their way, they pretty much ignore his advice and through some weird occurrences stay at the castle. When one of the couples wake up in the morning they discover one couple is gone. The couple is spooked and decide to leave, but the husband (Matthews) decides to search the castle and finds his brother dead as he was used in the practice to return Dracula (Lee) to life. He fights for his wife and narrowly escapes and runs into the priest and then thy hatch a plan to beat Dracula, who is still hot on his trail, as he hungers for his wife. This leads to a showdown at the foot of Dracula's Castle.
This is a great film, it is brimming with atmosphere and suspense. The direction by Fisher is as always great. He really is the master of Hammer's gothic films. The script by Sangster is great, Lee never utters a word but he does not have to, you can see what he says just in his eyes and his movements. The cast is great, Lee as always is the epitome of Count Dracula and the film has a great foil against him with Keir. He is funny and heroic. There are some good SFX scenes especially during the reconstitution of Dracula and the staking of his bride. The music as always is haunting and cues the events of the film perfectly. This is a great Dracula film and one of the best of the Hammer series to boot. I highly recommend this one.
This one gets 5 out of 5 stars

Friday, June 26, 2009

Friday Flashbacks: Texas Chainsaw Massacre 1974

Texas Chainsaw Massacre 1974
Director: Tobe Hooper
Writers: Tobe Hooper and Kim Henkel
Starring Marilyn Burns, Allen Danziger, Paul A. Partain, William Vail, Teri McMinn, Edwin Neal, Jim Siedow and Gunnar Hansen

When many people think of what is the ultimate 70's horror film, the Texas Chainsaw Massacre is the first one that comes to mind. It really showcases the best of the genre that really blossomed in the decade. The documentary feel of the film really makes it feel real. Also, what is amazing is that with a title like the Texas Chainsaw Massacre it is hardly bloody at all. Most of the horrific things are left to the viewers fertile imagination. It is a film that you are hooked into once you hear John Larroquette's somber voice. It is a film that work as both a dark horror film and a darkly black comedy. It really depends on your mood on how you interpret the film with each viewing.
The plot basics are this a group of friends are traveling through Texas to make sure their families graves are intact, as someone has desecrated many of the graves in a local cemetery. The group is led by Sally (Burns) and her invalid brother Franklin (Partain). They pass a slaughterhouse and pick up a hitchhiker (Neal) who ends up going crazy and cutting Franklin before they kick him out. They stop at what seems to be an abandoned house looking for help with their van and their friends start disappearing. Then, in the evening Sally and Franklin are attacked by a chainsaw wielding maniac (Hansen) wearing a human face as a mask. The rest of the film follows Sally as she tries to survive and keep her sanity throughout this ordeal.
This is a phenomenal film, at times both creepy as hell and darkly humorous. The direction by Hooper is flawless and it really feels like you are watching a documentary as it really has that grainy feel to it. The story takes liberal parts from the exploits of serial killers Ed Gein and Albert Fish and makes their own dark mythology. The characters are rounded out well, I especially liked Franklin and the old man. The acting is really good, Burns really loses it several times and you really believe she has gone insane. Hansen as Leatherface fills the screen any time he is on the screen. The effects are good and the kills are hard to watch and definitely linger on your mind. My personal favorite scenes are when Leatherface first shows up and clobbers the guy with the mallet, I love how his body convulses. The other scene would be when Pam is put on the meat hook, that is just wrong, but you cannot look away. Another great thing about the film is the score, it gives you chills whenever you listen to it, and it automatically brings the film back into your head. This is a great film of any genre and anyone who has not seen it yet really needs to experience it.
This one gets 5 bloody chainsaws out of 5

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Snakes in the Hoo-Ha

Deadly Blessing 1981
Director: Wes Craven
Writers: Glenn M. Benest, Matthew Barr and Wes Craven
Starring Maren Jensen, Sharon Stone, Doug Barr, Ernest Borgnine, Michael Berry man, Lisa Hartman and Susan Buckner

Deadly Blessing is one of the few Craven films I had yet to see, it is very hard to find as it has not had a DVD release here. I have heard mixed things about this film and was curious to see how it played out to me. I really enjoyed it and I think it had some genuinely scary moments like the scene with Sharon Stone in the barn and the bathtub scene. The cast was perfect, especially Borgnine as the leader of the Hittites, Isahia. It was a generally creepy film and was suspenseful. I really did not figure out where the story was going. The ending also reminded me a lot of Drag Me To Hell. This is definitely a must see for Craven fans.
The plot basics are this, we are introduced to Jim (Barr) and Martha (Jensen) a pair of newlyweds that live in a farming community that is shared with a sect of Hittites led by Jim's father, Isahia (Borgnine). Next we meet a young girl painting, Faith (Hartman) who is chased by a young Hittite (Berryman). Jim chases him off but not before he calls Martha a incubus. Later that evening Jim is mysteriously killed in his barn, when his tractor runs him down. Soon, some college friends of Martha come to visit, Vicky (Buckner) and Lana (Stone). Strange things start to happen, where Lana starts having strange dreams dealing with spiders and then she has a strange encounter in the barn, and finds the hanged body of the Hittite stalker. The Hittites blame Martha and soon she is being attacked at all ends, but has no idea who is doing it. This leads to a ending where she is attacked at all corners and ends in a way you will not see coming.
Craven pulls off a truly scary film yet again. His direction was oppressive and felt very claustrophobic at times. The script is very good, and takes you through many twists and turns, and a lot of characters die that you do not expect too. The cast is great, I especially liked Borgnine and Buckner. The film had a few red herrings in the film and that is what makes it so much fun to watch. There is not much SFX in the film, until the ending, and the ending hits you with quite a wallop. The music by James Horner is great too, very reminiscent of the score from Children of the Corn. All in all, this is a good horror film, with a more original plot than most you see nowadays. I highly recommend this one too Craven fans.
This one gets 4 out of 5

Monday, June 22, 2009

Satanists and Zombies, oh my!!

Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things 1973
Director: Bob Clark
Writers: Bob Clark and Alan Ormsby
Starring Alan Ormsby, Valerie Mamches, Jeff Gillen, Anya Ormsby, Paul Cronin and Jane Daly

Bob Clark is one of my favorite of the 70's horror directors and Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things is the last of his classics I had yet to see. It is not on the level of Black Christmas but I would say it is just as excellent as Deathdream. It is a very campy film and if that is not your cup of tea I would stay away from this film. The acting especially by Ormsby is a hoot to watch. It has a nice goofy but somewhat somber feel to it too, as you know something horrible is bound to happen sooner or later. The dialogue is witty and fun to watch as well. It is a shame Clark and Ormsby did not make more films together.
The plot basics are this, A troupe of traveling satanic players come by boat to a secluded island which houses a decrepit cemetery. The group is led by Alan (Ormsby) who thinks he is a satanic leader and he leads the group to the cometary and digs up some bodies and tries to invoke a incantation that will raise the dead to do his bidding. He then takes one of the bodies he has dug up back to the caretakers house and he starts doing profane things with it and one of the girls Anya (Ormsby) tries to stop him, but he refuses and keep at it. Then suddenly all the dead rise from their graves and began to attack them and lay siege to the house. Now they must all fight for their lives from the growing numbers of zombies.
This was a really goofy and campy zombie film, but I really enjoyed it. The direction by Clark was really atmospheric and it set the stage well for the entire film. His zombie attack scenes were pulled off quite well. The story by Clark and Ormsby is very campy but I just love the way the story is pulled off. The dialogue for Alan is really fun as hell to watch. The actors were all unknowns, but the real standouts are the Ormsby's. Alan chews his scenes with relish and Anya as the psychic does a great job of showing the terror her character feels. The effects are adequate but it is a low budget campy film, so, the effects do not need to be that great. I highly recommend this to both 70's horror fans and zombie fans, you will get a kick out of it.
This one gets 4 out of 5

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Pancakes, Pancakes!!

Cabin Fever 2002
Director: Eli Roth
Writers: Eli Roth and Randy Pearlstein
Starring Rider Strong, Jordan Ladd, Cerina Vincent, James DeBello, Joey Kern and Arie Verveen

This is a film I have not revisited since I saw it in theaters in 2003. When I went to see it I was feeling ill and the next day I ended up in the hospital for a week, so I think the film just raised bad connotations for me. So, I thought I would revisit it, and see if I still dislike it as much as I remembered. Thankfully, I enjoyed it much more this time and also while re watching you can see how the film was playing on peoples post 9/11 fears of things like Anthrax. I also think too many people give Roth shit and I think he is a good director, who just gets better with each movie. This film has a pseudo- documentary feel to it like the Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Last House on the left does. I also think the cast does a great job and the effects in the film are sick and brutal.
The plot basics are this, it opens with a hermit (Verveen) living out in the woods and discovers his dog dead with his flesh rotted away. We then cut to 5 college students on a break and they have rented a secluded cabin for the week. We meet Paul (Strong) who is friends with Karen (Ladd) and is trying to move their relationship to the romantic level. There is also Jeff (Kern) and Marcy (Vincent) who are dating each other and their obnoxious friend Bert (DeBello). They reach the cabin and everything is going well until, Bert shoots the hermit, who seems to have some disease. he runs away but later that night the Hermit comes back and scare them and they try to scare him away, but after he messes up their car he gets set on fire and runs away burning alive. He dies but not till he falls into the drinking water of the area, and infecting the water with his disease, which is a flesh eating virus. Most of them end up drinking the water and start getting sick with their skin rotting off. This causes them all to turn on each other and it ends rather badly for all of them.
This is really a good film. It is nice to watch an original horror film with all the sequels and remakes we are subjected to these days. Roth's direction is great, with a real grainy feel to the film. The script is good too, you really feel for Strong and Ladd's characters most of all. The acting is strong too, Strong is a great lead and Ladd is very good at playing the romantic lead, that suddenly turns horribly wrong. Loved the gore effects in the film, my personal favorite is the leg shaving scene, that still gives me goose bumps. The music is great too and I love how Roth uses the music from Last House on the Left in the film. This is a film well worth seeing and I can see myself re watching it again.
This one gets 4 out of 5

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Fun With Brain Eating Slugs

Brain Dead 2007
Director: Kevin S. Tenney
Writer: Dale Gelineau
Starring Joshua Benton, Sarah Grant Benedecke, David Crane, Andy Forrest, Cristina Tiberia, Michelle Tomlinson and Tess McVicker

Kevin S. Tenney is a name well known to fans of 80's horror, as he directed the classics Night of the Demons and Witchboard. Brain Dead is his latest film and is his first one I have seen since 1996's Pinocchio's Revenge. I am happy to say he is in proud form. He has not lost his adeptness at bringing great gore with T and A and acerbic dialogue. This is a film that throws Evil Dead 2, Night of the Living Dead and Bad Taste in a blender and brings you something exciting and fun for a diehard horror fan to immensely enjoy.
The plot basics are this, Some friends are fishing when a meteor plummets through one mans head and it is soon noticed that it is a alien life form that eats his brain and then takes over the body to eat brains. We then begin to meet the cast of characters of the film, first there is Bob (Crane), a stone cold killer and Clarence (Benton) a guy who had a car collision and they are both on their way to county jail. They escape and are off on foot after Bob kills the cop. Next we meet Reverend Farnsworth (Forest) and his parishioner Amy (Iberia). He is trying to have a dalliance with her and their car breaks down. Nest we meet Sydney (Clicker) a Ranger who is called in to check on the fishing buddies. Finally we meet 2 campers who are lost, Sherry (Brenda) and Claudia (Tomlinson). All of these disparate people end up in a empty fishing lodge and are at first held hostage by Bob until they notice something lurking and killing people outside. It is a battle of survival the rest of the film as all the people try to put aside their differences long enough to survive intact.
This was just a fun as hell film, I had a ball from beginning to end to this film. Tenney still shows that he is a great genre director, and he gives you great gore, humor and lots of gratuitous nudity, as every female in the film loses her clothes at some point. The writing is funny as hell and the main characters were well fleshed out, what was surprising though is it seems one character is set up as a lead but they don't survive very long. The actors are all unknowns, but they all do a great job, especially Benton and Tomlinson, they are fun as hell too watch. The gore effects in the film are all practical and are amazing, lots of great trauma scenes to the head and a great scene that involves a slug and a vagina. This is really a treat and highly recommended to gore hounds and naked chick lovers.
This one gets 4 slugs out of 5

Friday, June 19, 2009

Friday Flashbacks: The Thing 1982

Director: John Carpenter
Writers: John Carpenter and Bill Lancaster
Starring Kurt Russell, Keith David, Wilford Brimley, T.K. Carter, Charles Hallahan, David Clannon and Richard Dysart

The Thing, the 1982 version is one of the best of the hybrid genre of science fiction and horror. Along with Alien and Event Horizon, it is the best of it's genre. I have never liked the original 50's version of the film, as I find it coma inducing. This version is fast paced and has a great claustrophobic feel to it. It has a similar scenario to another Carpenter classic Assault on Precinct 13. It also has a tremdous cast anchored by Russell and David. And like all the best Carpenter films it ends on a huge downer ending. The story is really quite similar to the original story that both films are based on. John W. Campbell's Who Goes There. IT is a great story and really scary shit.
The plot basics are this, A alien ship crash lands in Antarctica in the early days of Earth;s evolution and is buried in ice and frozen for millions of years. Till it is discovered by a Norwegian research team. They are soon discovered trying to blow up a Husky and they drop a grenade and blow themselves up. The dog arrives at a United States Research post and it is soon discovered that it is not a dog but a alien species that mimics other life forms to a T. The team led by Macready (Russell) soon have to figure out who is real and who is not and they find their numbers dwindling rapidly. It all leads to a explosive climax underground where the creature is trying to build a new ship so it can leave intact.
This is Carpenter's finest film after Halloween. The direction by Caprenter is claustrophobic and intense throughout the film and he really knows how to build up the suspense. The script is tight and you get just enough feelings for the characters to feel for them when they die. The actors are great with a special nod to Russell, David and Brimley. I especially love ho paranoid Brimley plays Blair. Russell is his usual bad ass self, and David is just the angry guy, who doesn't believe any of this shit. The effects by Bottin are still something to marvel at to this day. My Favorite bit has to be when Hallahan's head oozes off and grows spider legs and scuttles away. It just shows you how practical effects are still better than CGI. The music by Carpenter is as always pitch perfect. It is haunting and solemn, which fits the film perfectly. This movie gets my highest recommendation and if you have not watched it yet, you are really missing out.
This one gets 5 mutated dog heads out of 5

Cancer of the Soul

The Brood 1979
Director: David Cronenberg
Writer: David Cronenberg
Starring Oliver Reed, Samantha Eggar, Art hindle, Susan Hogan and Cindy Hinds

Cronenberg is one of my favorite horror film directors, and the Brood is one I have been meaning to see for a long while. I am pleased to say it was well worth the wait, this one is definitely in my top 5 of Cronenberg films. The story is compelling, and it is frightening and sickening at times. The scene at the end where Nola gives birth to her new rage baby and licks it clean is definitely one of the sickest scenes I have ever seen on film. The acting is great as Reed is always great and he does not let you down in this film. It is a great film on the allegory of abuse and what it does to the human psyche.
The plot basics are this, Doctor Raglan (Reed) is a psychiatrist who specializes in a new scientific theory called psychoplasmics. We then meet Frank Carveth (Hindle) who's wife Nola ( Eggar) is under Raglan's care and their daughter Candy (Hinds) who visits Nola on the weekends. When Frank is washing Cindy one day she notices bruised and sores on Cindy's back and goes to Raglan and says Nola abused her and will not be bringing her back for visits. But he must because he could lost his parenting rights, so he tries to find something to hold over Raglan. Drank leaves Cindy with her Grandmother, and she is brutally attacked by what appears to be a deformed child. Soon it becomes clear that anyone who has wronged Nola or she has perceived to wrong her dies horribly. This leads Frank to discover that Nola is expressing her rage through giving birth to them and making them carry out her orders or her subconscious feelings. This leads to a climax at the end where Cindy has been captured by the rage killers and Raglan and Frank have to work together to retrieve Cindy safely.
What a twisted little film. The direction by Croneberg is as always brilliant. He sets up the scenes with clarity and you always feel something horrible is going to happen around the corner. His script is great too, it is a great allegory on abuse and how it affects the brain, and how people lash out with their anger in disturbing ways. The acting is great, Reed as Raglan is magnetic, and Eggar as Nola is just creepy and evil, and you never feel any sympathy for her. Hindle does a good job in the thankless hero role, but is overshadowed by Reed and Eggar. The SFX are great especially during the birthing and cleaning scene. I also thought the music by Howard Shore, was quite haunting and appropriate. This one is highly recommended.
This one gets 5 out of 5

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Kiss Of The Vampire 1963

The Kiss Of The Vampire 1963
Director: Don Sharp
Writer: Anthony Hinds
Starring Clifford Evans, Edward De Zousa, Noel Wilman, Jennifer Daniel and Barry Warren

Hammer films had to get very creative with their vampire films between 1958 to 1965, as Christopher Lee refused to don Dracula's cape till 1965's Dracula: Prince of Darkness. This was the 2nd follow up after Brides Of Dracula and it is original enough to be a well remembered film. A Gothic vampire film that combines vampirism, black magic and cults, and it does so flawlessly. The evil vampire is very charismatic and I really enjoyed Clifford Evans as the vampire hunter, he is a decent replacement for Cushing's Van Helsing. The film is tightly woven and also has a feel similar to Corman's Masque of the Red Death.
The plot basics are this, Gerald (De Souza) and Marianne (Daniel) Harcourt are traveling newlyweds and they run out of fuel for their car and are stuck in a isolated burg until they can get some fuel for their vehicle. They find a inn to stay at, and the owners seems cold and distant, and while they are getting settled in their room, a courier comes with a letter from a Doctor Ravna (Wilman) inviting them to dinner. They go to his mansion and have dinner and Marianne is swayed by their sophistication. Next, they are invited to a masquerade ball and Marianne is taken by Ravna and Gerald is drugged and when waken up they try to make him believe he came alone. He is rescued by Professor Zimmer (Evans) and is told that Ravna and all his ilk are vampires and runs a vampiric cult. It is now up to these two to save Marianne and to put an end to the diabolical deeds of Ravna, with the help of the Black Arts.
This is a really underrated vampire film. The direction by Sharp is tight and flies by quickly. The writing by Hinds is tight with special consideration with the characters of Ravna and Zimmer, they really make the movie a delight to watch. The acting by Evans and Wilman are great and they really personify good and evil. Especially Evans, who plays a broken hearted father very well. De Souza is great as the lead, another great role of his after his turn in the Phantom of the Opera. There is some blood in this film and it is utilized quite well. I also loved the climax of the film, was quite a creative way to defeat the vampires that I had never seen before. This is a great gothic vampire film that should agree with fans of the Lee films too.
This one gets 5 out of 5

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Phantom Of The Opera 1962 Review

The Phantom Of The Opera 1962
Director: Terence Fisher
Writer: Anthony Hinds
Starring Herbert Lom, Michael Gough, Heather Sears, Edward De Souza and Thorley Walters

The Phantom of the Opera is a s story that has been adapted countess times to film, and they all have met with varying degrees of success. I think Hammer Films production is the finest one next to the original Lon Chaney Sr. version. The story is very tightly woven, and the Phantom is shown in a very sympathetic light in this film, as the real evil is portrayed by Gough who stole his music and causes his deformity that makes him live in the shadows of the sewers. This is another classic Hammer film directed by Terence Fisher, who was the finest of all of the directors under this company. The film strays a bit from the original book, but still does it well enough that you can enjoy it. Some people may not like this opinion, but I for one am not a fan of the musical or the movie version that Joel Schumacher did a few years ago.
The plot basics are this, It is 18th Century France and Lord D'Arcy (Gough) is getting ready to unveil his opera when the lead actress is left with warnings and then as she sings a hanged body descends from the rafters. This causes them to look for a new leading lady and they audition many but one stands out Christine (Sears), D'Arcy becomes infatuated with her and invites her to dinner and propositions her that if she wants to be in his production she must sleep with him. Luckily, the producer, Harry (De Souza) shows up and rescues her. Soon, she is abducted by a grotesque figure wearing all black and a mask with one eye (Lom) and he forces her to learn how to sing and only for him. Harry figures out what happens and goes to find her and as he confronts the Phantom finds out that the music was his and was stolen by D'Arcy. This leads to the Opera being performed with the Phantom watching and leads to a tragic ending for the beleaguered Phantom.
This was another fine Hammer film. Great direction by Fisher, who has a great grasp on what works in a Gothic horror film. The writing by Hinds is great too, he has written many of the classic films and does another fine job here. His sympathetic characterization of the Phantom, really makes this film one of the best versions of the story. The actors are great, special props go to Lom and Gough, Lom is equally creepy and sad as the phantom and Gough is a sleaze ball of great magnitude throughout the film. Sears is great as Christine as well, you feel her terror as she is beaten down by the Phantom. The effects are good, only real gore you see is the Phantoms face at the end, which looks quite grotesque. The music is great too and that is one of the most important pieces of a Phantom film, the music needs to work, and it does so well here. For fans of gothic horror, this is a must see.
I give this one 5 out of 5.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Frankenstein Created Woman 1967 Review

Frankenstein Created Woman 1967
Director: Terence Fisher
Writer: Anthony Hinds
Starring Peter Cushing, Susan Denberg, Thorley Walters and Robert Morris

When I think classic gothic horror, My mind first remembers Hammer films rather than the Universal classics, as they really were some of the formative films of my love for the horror genre, and when I think Frankenstein films I always think of the incomparable work of Peter Cushing. He is just magnetic and commanding as Baron Frankenstein and he can truly be evil at times. The ambience of the films and the moody music also make these films atmospheric as hell. Frankenstein Created Woman is one of the best of the series, which some can take as a transgender take on the Frankenstein Mythos.
The plot basics are this, Baron Frankenstein (Cushing) has discovered that the soul stays alive in the human body after death and wants to transfer a soul into another living body. This comes into play later when his assistant Hans, (Morris) is accused of killing a tavern owner, whose daughter (Denberg) he is wooing and is found guilty and wrongfully executed for the crime. Christina, who is deformed sees the execution and drowns herself. Frankenstein and his assistant Doctor Hertz (Walters) retrieves the body of Hans and also gets the drowned body of Christina and begins procedures for the soul transferences while repairing Christina's body. Everything seems to be working perfectly until Christina starts hearing the voice of Hans and he compels her to go after the people responsible or killing her father. She entices them to her with sex and then brutally kills them. It culminates in Frankenstein finding out and tries to stop her, but by then it is too late and it ends tragically, with Frankenstein once again clearing the drawing board.
This is a phenomenal film. The last film was minus the direction of Terence Fisher and that was felt, so they fixed that problem with this film and the film has shades of similarity to The Bride of Frankenstein. It does it without feeling like a rip off and takes it in its own direction. The writing is tight with great characterization for Hans and Christina. The actors are great, with special props to Cushing who gives a bona fide perfect performance here. I also, loved Denberg as the conflicted Christina, who didn't know which way she was going till it was too late to change. This is one of the Hammer films without much gore but that works in its favor as the film is more about the characters and the story. This is a great Hammer film and I highly recommend it.
This one gets 5 out of 5

Friday, June 12, 2009

Friday Flashbacks: The Last House On The Left 1972

The Last House On The Left 1972
Director: Wes Craven
Writer: Wes Craven
Starring Sandra Cassel, Lucy Grantham, David Hess, Fred Lincoln, Jeramie Rain, Marc Sheffler, Martin Kove, Richard Towers and Cynthia Carr

When many genre fans thin 70's horror films and in particular the extreme ones. The Last House on the Left is one that immediately comes to mind. Along with the Texas Chainsaw Massacre it is one of the benchmarks of the modern horror film. It is definitely a polarizing film, people either love it or hate it, and I am proud to say I love it. IT is just such a raw film and every time I peruse it, I feel dirtier than the last time I saw it. Very few films can get that reaction out of me, only other one I can think of off the top of my head is Cannibal Holocaust. Every time I see the rape and brutality that is shown in this film I still grimace and wince. I also think the moments of levity in the film are there for a reason. It is showing us that life is peppered with good moments and horrible moments and that is just the way life is. It is a sobering philosophy, but anyone who has really lived knows and agrees with this statement very well.
The plot basics are this, Mari (Cassel) has just turned 17 and is going out to see a concert and have a good time with her friend Phyllis (Grantham). Her parents try to talk her out of it but she won't listen and she goes out anyway. While she is out in the city with Phyllis they try to score some marijuana and meet Junior (Sheffler), this leads to them coming up to his hotel room and being captured by his father (Hess) and his gang Sadie (Rain) and Weasel (Lincoln). They are humiliated and attacked and then driven to the woods near Mari's house and are brutally attacked and raped there, and are eventually killed after one tries to escape. After Krug and the gang kill the girls, they come to a house which is Mari's parents, and soon it becomes clear that they killed their girl so they make plans and set traps to get their revenge for their little girl that ends badly.
This movie is a powder keg, every time I view it the film always hits me like a shotgun blast in the face. Craven has never been a finer director than in this film I believe. His control is tight and the film has a grainy documentary type feel to it. His writing is great too, you really get to feel Mari's character and the base evilness of Krug and his cohorts. The acting is great, especially Hess as Krug he just seeps sleazy and evil out of his pores. I thought Towers and Carr as the parents were great to watch too, as the story unfolded and their demeanor changed it was amazing to watch. The effects in the film are great for such a low budgeted film especially the intestine playing scenes. I also loved the music which was composed and sung by David Hess. It really brings a melancholy feel to all the proceedings. This is a great film, but it is not one that gives you good feelings after watching it, you always feel unclean afterwards.
This one gets 5 out of 5

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Sam Spade Meets Dagon

Cast A Deadly Spell 1991
Director: Martin Campbell
Writer: Joseph Dougherty
Starring Fred Ward, David Warner, Julianne Moore, Clancy Brown, Charles Hallahan, Alexandra Powers and Lee Tergesen

Hard boiled detectives and Horror are two of my favorite genres and I am always intrigued to see something that melds the two together. One that comes immediately to mind is Barker's Lord of Illusions and the two lovecraft detective films produced for HBO, Cast A Deadly Spell and Witch Hunt. They combine the wealth of hard boiled crime with the mythology of the cthulu monsters created by the classic H. P. Lovecraft. This is a great film with great performances all around, especially the lead role personified by Fred Ward one of my favorite underrated actors. The dark humor, the horror and the action all make this film a delight to watch.
The plot basics are this, Phil Lovecraft (Ward) is a private investigator in 1948 Los Angeles where magic is a commonly used thing in this reality, though Lovecraft refuses to use it. He is a down on his luck detective and is hired by a rich man, Hackshaw (Warner) to find a book he has lost, the Necronomicon. Lovecraft begins his search and runs into his old partner as a policeman Harry Borden (Brown) who owns a nightclub and seems to be up to no good and he sees his ex girl, Connie (Moore) as a torch singer for him, As Lovecraft digs deeper he sees that everyone involved wants this book for nefarious purposes. It all leads to a demonic showdown at the end, where anything can happen.
This is a great amalgamation of the detective genre and supernatural horror, with some great comic touches thrown in too. The direction by Campbell is great and I can see why he went to great things as Goldeneye and the Zorro films. The writing is funny and sharp, and all the characters are written tightly and you get a real feel for all of them. The acting is all great as well, Ward is great as the haggard P. I. and he has great comic timing throughout. Brown and Warner as the villains are great too, they are suitably over the top. Moore is very sexy as the femme fatale and you never know where her loyalties lie. The effects are great with some great puppet work done throughout. I especially loved the scene with the gremlins, that was classic. If you like film noir and Lovecraftian horror, I highly recommend this one.
This one gets 4 out of 5

Friday, June 5, 2009

Friday Flashbacks: The Beyond 1981

The Beyond 1981
Director: Lucio Fulci
Writer: Dardano Saccheti
Starring Catriona Maccoll, David Warbeck, Cinzia Monreale, Antoine Saint-John and Veronica Lazar

The Beyond, whenever this film is brought up there are usually 2 types of reactions people who adore it, or people who think it is overrated trash. I, for one, thinks it belongs in the former category. This is both my favorite Fulci film and my favorite Italian Horror film. I just love everything about it, from the gore, the haunting music and the dream like narrative that permeates through the film. And these are some of the very reasons other people cannot stand this film. I have seen this film at least 30 times and I find more to love about it with every viewing.
The plot basics are this, we open up in the early 1900's in New Orleans, Louisiana and meet a painter in a hotel who is painting something dark and foreboding and we see a mob coming to attack the painter. They reach him and whip and torture him brutally and then encase him in cement. We flash forward to the modern era and meet Liza (Maccoll) who has just inherited the same hotel and is in the process of renovating it, and soon bizarre accidents start happening with people dying horrible deaths. It is through this she meets a young doctor (Warbeck) and she clings to him as she keeps having weird visions and occurrences in the hotel. She then meets a blind girl (Monreale) and her dog on the road and she tells Liza her hotel is cursed and must leave before something horrible happens to her. Soon more bizarre things start happening culminating in the dead coming back to life and attacking the living. It all leads to a bizarre battle that culminates in Hell itself.
God, I love this movie. Fulci's direction is at the top of his game here, he really controls the nightmarish dream like narrative really well and you really feel that you are watching someone's nightmares. The story is great, a lot of people give it grief for not making sense, but I feel the film makes perfect sense. You are viewing a version of Hell Earth that is brought to life by the filmmakers and I have no problem with that. The acting is great I love Maccoll and Warbeck as the leads, and Monreale as Emily is eerily creepy throughout. The music is one of my fave soundtracks to any horror film, and gives me chills whenever I hear it. The SFX are amazing, my favorite has to be the gunshot blast to the little girl's head that still blows me away. This is an amazing film, that takes you on a trip through the realm of nightmares and does it expertly. This film gets my highest recommendation.
This film gets 5 tongue eating spiders out of 5

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Devilman, Does Whatever A DevilMan Can

Devilman 2004
Director: Hiroyuki Nasu
Writer: Machiko Nasu
Starring Hisato Izaki, Yƻsuke Izaki, Ayana Sakai and Asuka Shibuya

I am a big fan of anime, especially the anime of the horror variety. So, when I heard there was a live action version of the classic Devilman series, I had to go and seek it out. I am glad I did, as it is one of the best translations I have seen of a anime to live action. The CGI is done expertly well done, especially for the time it was done 5 years ago, and fits the story very well. I also think they made the story have a lot of similarities with Spider-Man. The main character is also a weak person, who has power and responsibility thrust upon him, and the crux of the story is how he adapts and changes to it. The film could have been edited with a tighter rein, but overall I thought it was a good story.
The plot basics are this, Akira (Isako) and Ryo (Izaki) are friends in school. While Ryo is great at everything, Akira seems to fail at everything he tires, like when he tries to stand up for Ryo. Ryo soon comes to Akira to show him what his father was working on, something to do with demons and his father is absorbed by it and Akira comes to him and a orb of power hits him in the chest and he is transformed a human who has a powerful demon form. He is shocked at first but begins to use his newfound powers to battle demons that are terrorizing humanity. Soon demons are popping up all over the place and demon hunting unit squads are hunting them down and anyone they think is a demon. It soon becomes clear that Ryo is behind everything and is actually Satan and this all leads to tragedy for Akira's family and a epic battle of demon against demon with the world hanging in the balance.
This was a fun and solid film, it definitely played out like a comic book. The direction by Nasu was great, the story flowed well and it had some great visuals. The writing by Nasu was also excellent you really felt all the inner turmoil that Akira was going through, and it was especially sad when he lost someone he deeply cared about. The actors were excellent especially the two Shako's as the leads, and Sakai as Miki is great as well and has great chemistry with Akira. The digital effects were very good for the time that they were made and also it had some great gore effects in the film too. I just feel that all around this was a solid entry in the category of Japanese horror films and highly worth seeking out.
This one gets 4 out of 5

Alien Tentacles Love Naked Women

Forbidden World 1982
Director: Allan Holzman
Writers: Tim Curnen and R.J. Robertson
Starring Jesse Vint, Dawn Dunlap, June Chadwick, Linden Chiles and Fox Harris

Once Alien hit theaters in 1979, there were many rip offs and clones of the film, and most are forgettable. But, two I have some fondness for are Galaxy of Terror and Forbidden World. Released by New World films and both produced by genre stalwart Roger Corman, they are cheesy, bloody and sex filled romps that I always had a lot of fun with. The acting is mediocre at best, and the effects are cheesy but still fun. The real reason to watch these films is the propensity of the females in the cast to drop their clothes at the drop of a hat, and this film has that in spades.
The plot basics are such, Mike Colby (Vint) is a troubleshooter for a corporation and is brought out of hypersleep to help a scientific colony on a barren planet with a problem with one of their experiments. He arrives at the facility and meets Doctor Barbara Glasser (Chadwick) and it soon become clear she is flirting with him. He also meets the head of the facility, Earl Richards (Scott Paulin), he tells him that they were trying to perfect a new food source and they somehow created a mutant species, which soon begins killing all the crew and now Colby and the survivors are trying to stay ahead of the monster and find a way to combat it. And some of the crew wants to protect it and try to reason with it. It all leads to a creative conclusion, with a needlessly pointless epilogue that made no sense.
This is a fun and cheesy B film. It's not a film that you watch for its excellence, as there is little to be found here. The direction is competent at best and confusing at worst. The writing basically contains every stereotype you would expect in a horror/scifi film. It has the naive damsel in distress, the opportunistic scientist, the one with a pang of conscience and the arrogant and stupid female. The action is serviceable at best, Vint does a decent job as the hero, and Dunlap as the female hero is good and a delight to watch run around naked or half naked. the effects are really cheesy and laughable, what you would expect from a Corman produced film. Especially fun is the final mutant who looks like a cross between a squid, Venom and a Hentai creature. This is a film I would recommend to fans of cheesy B horror films, but not to the casual viewer.
I give this one 3 out of 5

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Critters are Back

Critters 2: The Main Course 1988
Director: Mick Garris
Writers: Mick Garris and David Twohy
Starring Scott Grimes, Don Opper, Barry Corbin, Terence Mann, Lin Shaye and Roxanne Kernohan

Sequel work best when they double the stakes and give the viewer something even more grandiose than the first film. Critters 2: The Main Course does this extremely well, I had not viewed this one since I first saw it as a kid in the 80's and the only thing I remembered was the one bounty hunter turning into a playmate, that did leave quite an impression on my mind. But after rewatching the film, there are a lot of things that are great about it minus the cheesecake factor. It has a great story with some even better creature effects by the Chiodo brothers and a great performance by Barry Corbin as Harve, more than ably replacing M. Emmett Walsh from the first film. It is just a fun film to watch, period.
The plot basics are this, Brad (grimes is coming back to Grover's Bend to visit his grandma. It has been 2 years since the first infestation of the Critters and Brad and his family have moved to Kansas City to get away from the memories.. Someone has found a batch of Critters eggs and sells them to a flea market owner and he in turn sells them to Brad's Grandmother and the church for an upcoming Easter egg hunt. They begun to hatch and start wreaking havoc in the town starting with killing the town sheriff in a Easter Bunny costume. The bounty hunters come back along with Charlie (Opper), who has been working with them the last few years. Soon they star killing the Critters but, the infestation is much worse and they soon overrun the town and the whole town lays up, hiding in the church, until Harve (Corbin) shows up to lead the battle. It all leads to an explosive climax.
This film is even better than the first one. It is really helped by the able direction of Garris, who would soon be come to known as one of the premiere King adapters. The script by Twohy and Garris, is funny and action packed. Especially love the scene where Lee almost morphs into Freddy Krueger. The cast is great, Grimes is good and I love Corbin, who plays Harve in a almost like John Wayne capacity. And of course Roxanne Kernohan as Lee is very easy on the eyes. The effects by the Chiodo brothers is even better than the first one. This film I highly recommend for people who like science fiction horror hybrids.
This one gets 5 out of 5

Monday, June 1, 2009

Not Such Cute Cuddly Critters

Critters 1986
Director: Stephen Herek
Writers: Stephen Herek and Domonic Muir
Starring Dee Wallace Stone, Scott Grimes, M. Emmet Walsh, Don Opper, Lin Shaye, Ethan Phillips and Billy Zane

When Gremlins came out in 1984 there were a lot of variations on the idea of a little creature causing havoc. It spawned the Ghoulies, the Munchies and by far the most successful and popular the Critters. This series is one of my favorite low budget horror series, and I think the sense of humor the series has and how good the creature effects in the film looks really helps the film. It is a fun little monster movie that runs by at a fast pace, and for being a pg-13 horror film, is rather bloody and cruel at times.
The plot basics are this, in deep outer space a spaceship is delivering a group of 8 criminals known as Krites for extermination and they somehow escape with a ship and head to Earth. The warden hires 2 bounty hunters to eradicate them before they cause a problem. Next, we meet the Brown family, they are located at a secluded farmhouse. Brad (Grimes) is their son and likes to play with fireworks and torment his teenage sister. The ship with the Krites lands and soon begins terrorizing the area and soon starts laying siege to the Brown family. It is mainly through sheer luck that they are able to stay a step ahead or two of them. Soon, the bounty hunters show up and it becomes a shooting gallery as everyone tries to wipe out the critters.
It had been a long time since I have revisited this movie and its's still a hell of a ride. The direction by Herek is great, you get to know the family before the Critters lay siege and it is awhile before you actually see them and the payoff is well worth it. The script was brisk and tight, with some great humor, especially with the Critters. The acting was good, Stone is great as always, and I Really like Grimes as the boy who tries to save his family. The film also has a early performance by Billy Zane, he is really just cannon fodder, but he does a great job with what he has. The Chiodo Brothers creature effects for the Critters are amazing, they never look too hokey and are always menacing. Definitely this is one of my favorite little creatures on the loose type of film and is a great start to a fun franchise.
This one gets 4 out of 5