Monday, October 23, 2017

The Devil's Backbone (2001)

Original title: El Espinazo del Diablo

Director: Guillermo del Toro

Writers: Guillermo del Toro, Antonio Trashorras, David Munoz

Composer: Javier Navarrete

Starring: Marisa Paredes, Eduardo Noriega, Federico Luppi, Fernando Tielve, Inigo Garces, Irene Visedo, Jose Manuel Lorenzo, Francisco Maestre, Junio Valverde

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The living will always be more dangerous than the dead.

Plot: After Carlos, a 12-year-old whose father has died in the Spanish Civil War, arrives at an ominous boys' orphanage, he discovers the school is haunted and has many dark secrets that he must uncover.



My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

When this hit video 15 or 16 years ago I was working at a video store and took home THE OTHERS (2001) which was out at the same time.  That one left me disappointed and so the next night I hoped to correct that by taking this one home.  This is much better.  Maybe someday I might revisit the former but I doubt it (I just thought is was too slow and I figured out what was going on too early) but BACKBONE is a good one.  It's more drama than horror but it works firmly as both.  I dig the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War.  That just adds to the depth.  The acting is excellent, even the kids.  It's a great looking picture with cameras almost in a slow, continuous motion.  The only thing I have to gripe about is something that's in all of del Torro's movies and that's his hard on for everything making a sound.  Pick up a slug and there's a loud squishy sound.  Pick up an apple with your hand and it makes a louder than normal sound and this goes on and on.  Why?  Someday I'd like to have a deep discussion about sound in movies with someone who is in the business.  I've got questions.  One thing I dig is the feel of the picture.  You can tell this isn't a Hollywood movie.  It's got a foreign feel and that's to its benefit.  I've grown as a film fan over the years.  When I first saw this, it was refreshing and unusual.  Now it's just a very good film.  Watch more foreign films.



Sunday, October 22, 2017

All Cheerleaders Die (2013)

Directors: Lucky McKee, Chris Sivertson

Writers: Lucky McKee, Chris Sivertson

Composer: Mads Heldtberg

Starring: Caitlin Stasey, Sianoa Smit-McPhee, Brooke Butler, Tom Williamson, Michael Bowen, Reanin Johannink. Leah Parker

More info: IMDb

Tagline: You can't kill their spirit.

Plot: A rebel girl signs up a group of cheerleaders to help her take down the captain of their high school football team, but a supernatural turn of events thrusts the girls into a different battle.



My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

From the first few minutes you get a good idea for what you're in for.  It's going to be a deliciously good dark comedy horror.  And that's what you get.  Well, you actually get two films.  What starts out as one thing, it ends as another.  It does what FROM DUSK TILL DAWN (1996) did but it's a lot smoother and natural in this picture.   It's fun, the kills are fun, Maddie is a great character and the ending is balls out insanely fun.  Where's the sequel, y'all?  It's a wild picture in a lot of ways but one thing I dug was not liking the cheerleaders (except for Maddie) until 'that thing' happens and then I dig 'em.  It's a cool shift that I didn't see coming.  The Image DVD anamorphic widescreen print looks great but there's only one extra and that's a behind the scenes featurette (24 mim).  A commentary would've been better.  It's OK to hear the actors talk about their characters but in this case I'd like to hear what the directors had to say.  This is a remake of McKee and Sivertson's first film by the same name from 2001.  Now to get my hands on that one...

Saturday, October 21, 2017

The Witch (2015)

Director: Robert Eggers

Writer: Robert Eggers

Composer: Mark Korven

Starring: Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie, Harvey Scrimshaw, Ellie Grainger, Lucas Dawson, Julian Richings, Bathsheba Garnett, Sarah Stephens, Daniel Chaudhry

More info: IMDb

Tagline: A New-England Folktale.

Plot: A family in 1630s New England is torn apart by the forces of witchcraft, black magic and possession.



My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

Wow!  Congratulations to writer/director Robert Eggars on his impressive film debut.  I loved it.  The atmosphere is thick and dreary, much like how I suspect it would've been living like they did.  It's a story that I suspect will be enhanced with a second viewing.  And the music!  Wow!  Mark Korven's score perfectly compliments the dreariness and the mystery.  The only thing that bothered me were the couple of jump scares where a hand or something appeared out of nowhere with a loud bang in the music.  Other than that, it was one of the most creative scores I've heard in a long time.  The movie is only an hour and a half long but it feels longer and that's a good thing.  After the first few minutes I was captivated.  The story unfolds slowly but deliberately.   The last act gets justifiably frantic when the shit goes down and the ending is just fantastic.  It's so nice to see a small film like this that feels so fresh and takes its subject so seriously.  I watched some of the extras and there was a lot of care taken to make this film and it shows.  Highly recommended. 

The Reincarnation of Peter Proud (1975)

Director: J. Lee Thompson

Writer: Max Ehrlich

Composer: Jerry Goldsmith

Starring: Michael Sarrazin, Jennifer O'Neill, Margot Kidder, Cornelia Sharpe, Paul Hecht, Tony Stephano, Norman Burton, Anne Ives, Debralee Scott, Jon Richards, Steve Franken, Fred Stuthman

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Suppose you knew who you had been in your previous life. Where you had lived...whom you had loved and how you had died. What then?

Plot: When college professor Peter Proud begins to experience flashbacks from a previous incarnation, he is mysteriously drawn to a place he has never been before but which is troubling familiar. As if drawn to her by cosmic force, he soon finds himself unwittingly in the company of his previous incarnation's wife. This woman, Marcia Curtis, recognizes in Peter startling characteristics which he shares with her dead husband, Jeff.



My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

Good flick.  I'd like to have watched a nice widescreen print but you take what you can get.  You can watch the whole thing on YouTube at the moment (above).  There is an element of horror but it's mostly a drama mystery that doesn't play out like you think it might.  There's this weird thing going on when Peter (Sarrazin) falls for Ann (O'Neill) and he knows that his is her biological father's reincarnation.  So mentally he's falling in love (with benefits) with his daughter but physically he has no connection.  That's a strange thing to wrap your head around.  It's one of those 'how you you handle it' situations.  It's a well-made film with good performances, score and the like.  I like Goldsmith's score but I got the sense that John Barry would've played up the mystery and romance better.  This picture would've been a good fit for Barry.  The ending is great.  Avoid spoilers for this one.  Oh yeah, for you Margot Kidder fans. there's this...


The Sheriff's Strange Son (1982)

Original title: El Extrano Hijo del Sheriff

Director: Fernando Duran Rojas

Writers: Eric del Castillo, Barbara Gil

Composer: Rafael Carrion

Starring: Mario Almada, Eric del Castillo, Rosa Gloria Chagoyan, Alfredo Gutierrez, Luis Mario Quiroz, Roberto Carfiedo, Alicia Encinas

More info: IMDb
 
Plot: Set in the old west, the sheriff's wife gives birth to conjoined twins, she dies during labor and the ashamed sheriff decides to hide his children, years later he force the town doctor to surgically separate the kids but during the intervention one of them dies and his evil spirit possess his brother to take revenge.



My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

SPOILERS ON THE DUSTY TRAIL!!!  YARRRRR!!!

Westerns and horror are two of my favorite genres and I'll watch just about anything when they mix the two.  This Mexican oddity is a must-see for that reason alone.  It's a revenge flick for the dead conjoined twin who didn't survive the separation and he's pissed!  The movie's less than an hour and a half and it takes most of that time to get to the good stuff like the dead kid using his supernatural powers to kill everyone that has any responsibility in his death including his father hanging by his neck!  He's just the first casualty.


As others die, it feels like it's going to continue until the doctor who performed the operation gets some extensive notes in the mail on how to perform an exorcism!  I know, right?  Sweet!  Now the movie is almost over.  He performs the exorcism attended by the surviving kid and the beautiful young woman who ran the orphanage.  The chanting is over and everything goes quiet.  Success!  Nope.  The kid is dead.  Shit!  Then the woman drops dead.  More silence.  The fuck?  Then she gets up and she's possessed by the first dead kid and she cycles through his voice, the other kid's voice and her own.  The end.  What the hell?  Keep going, damn it!  You can see this isn't any normal Western.  The first half (and more) suffers from the usual drama that's dragged out a little more than necessary but it's what you get in the last half hour once the dead kid shows up that gets thing rolling and moving fast. 

Friday, October 20, 2017

The Dead (2010)

Directors: Howard J. Ford, Jonathan Ford

Writers: Howard J. Ford, Jonathan Ford

Composer: Imran Ahmad

Starring: Rob Freeman, Prince David Oseia, David Dontoh, Ben Crowe, Glenn Salvage, Dan Morgon

More info: IMDb

Tagline:  The feeding begins.

Plot: An American mercenary, the sole survivor of a plane crash, has to run the gauntlet across Africa, battling with the living dead.



My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Maybe.

This British production filmed in Burkina Faso and Ghana (both in West Africa) is a breath of fresh air in the midst of a gazillion zombie movies.  It's great.  I loved it.  The music goes a long way in this picture.  It's more atmospheric than melodic and it works very, very well.  The cast is wonderful.  It's mostly just Freeman and Oseia (who work well together) but it's the small roles that shine in their performance and in their authenticity.  The locations are beautiful and unusual for the genre.  The zombie effects are well done, too, and from what I've read they're mostly practical effects.  It shows.  And one thing I enjoyed immensely is how quiet the zombies are.  They're shamblers and they don't make a sound.  No loud-ass gargling or vocal noises.  It's so nice to NOT HEAR them.  I find that more menacing and realistic (as long as we're suspending our disbelief that this is even possible).  Oh, and the story?  It boils down to two characters trying to survive long enough to reach their destination.  Nice ending, too.  Highly recommended.

Behind the Mask (1932)

Director: John Francis Dillon

Writer: Jo Swerling

Starring: Jack Holt, Constance Cummings, Boris Karloff, Claude King, Bertha Mann, Edward Van Sloan, Willard Robertson, Thomas E. Jackson

More info: IMDb

Tagline: A SLINKING FIEND - SKULKING TERROR - MAD MURDER!

Plot: A federal agent goes undercover to infiltrate a drug smuggling operation headed by a mysterious Mr. X, a criminal mastermind whose identity is unknown even to his henchmen. Mr. X is also running a bogus hospital where victims are killed on the operating table, and their coffins stuffed with narcotics. The drug-filled coffins are then buried in a cemetery.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Mabye.

I watched this hoping it was a horror movie like IMDb said.  It's got a horror element as far as the morbid tone of killing folks and stuffing their coffins with drugs and burying them in a graveyard.  Now, normally I'd say you know what you're going to get when the villain, who runs a big time drug ring, is called Mr. X but this picture is a little better than that.  For starters, you've got Edward Van Sloan (Van Helsing from DRACULA (1931) as well as being in FRANKENSTEIN (1931) and THE MUMMY (1932)) as the devious Mr. X.  And you've also got Boris Karloff as Mr. X's enforcer.  You actually get to see a little acting range from Karloff for a change.  Like a lot of pictures from this time, there's very little music which doesn't help.  Still, there are some nice moments of people dying and coming close to it.  Mr. X doesn't mess around and neither does Boris Karloff.  And that ending!  Nice!!!  I suspect this was a welcome picture for horror fans of the early 30s.  It can't compete with the likes of DRACULA, FRANKENSTEIN and the MUMMY but then it's not trying to and it succeeds on its own merit.




Thursday, October 19, 2017

I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957)

Director: Gene Fowler Jr.

Writers: Herman Cohen, Aben Kandel

Composer: Paul Dunlap

Starring: Michael Landon, Yvonne Lime, Whit Bissell, Charles Willcox, Dawn Richard, Barney Phillips, Ken Miller, Cynthia Chenault, Michael Rougas, Robert Griffin, Joseph Mell, Malcolm Atterbury, Eddie Marr, Vladimir Sokoloff, Louise Lewis, S. John Launer, Guy Williams, Dorothy Crehan

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The most amazing motion picture of our time!

Plot: A hypnotherapist uses a temperamental teenager as guinea pig for a serum which transforms him into a vicious werewolf.



My rating:

Will I watch it again?  No.

How about that hyperbolic tagline?  If this is true then we've got a serious teenage werewolf problem on our hands that's been festering in secrecy for 60 years.  This picture made a sweet bundle back then by capitalizing on the teenage market.  Now I'm sure this was a great picture to take your best gal to the drive-in because it's borderline boring enough to ensure she'd rather suck face and curl her bobbysox than to pay attention to what's on the screen.  It's a novelty to look back on this to see Landon in his first starring feature role.  It's a goofy picture but it doesn't lean enough on the culture of teenager or the things they dig, largely music.  It also doesn't have much that's fun in the way of werewolf horror.  It's OK but the filmmakers didn't try hard enough to make a good horror movie.  It's more of a picture that transforms the werewolf idea into some punk ass bitch with anger issues who recently went through puberty.  I didn't have any sympathy for anyone and I was hoping for more werewolf kills.  But then I should feel bad for not diggin' on the most amazing motion picture of our (or their) time.  If I suddenly stop updating this blog then you'll know it was werewolves that took my ass out.  Avenge me.


The Exotic Ones (1968)

Director: Ron Ormond

Writer: Ron Ormond

Starring: Georgette Dante, Sleepy LaBeef, Ron Ormond, June Russell, Diane Marshall, June Carr, Sam Tarpley, Harris Martin, Ed Livingston

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Bayou Bigfoot Does Bourbon Street

Plot: A trio of hunters in the Louisiana bayous capture a monster called the Swamp Thing. They take it to New Orleans where (naturally) they display it in a strip joint. When the monster's favorite stripper gets into a fight with another stripper, he breaks loose and starts killing.



My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again?  No.


Lets' see you do that.  Seriously, please send me videos
of you doing that with fiery tassels.

Say, kids, do ya like your 60s exploitation?  How about strippers that can actually dance and know how to use tassels?  Well, how about trapsin' around the French Quarter in New Orleans circa 1968?  Then what about capturing a swamp creature and making it part of the stripper variety show at a struggling titty bar?  No?  Then I reckon you're just going to miss out on some wild entertainment.  OK, so there's no nudity AT. ALL!  But there are a lot of good lookin' broads that are almost nekkid. 

video

The first half hour is a blast with girls auditioning their acts for hire at the local French Quarter titty bar.  Once the gangster B-plot and the monster C-plot get involved things start to drag a lot.  Then it all picks up in the last ten minutes with a great cat fight between a couple of strippers, the escape of The Swamp Thing going on a killing spree and then it just kind of ends with a Russ Meyer-ish voice over telling us about sleaze on Bourbon Street.  Cut out the middle nonsense and you've got yourself a great flick to toss on at a party.  If I had a time machine one thing I'd do is visit New Orleans strip joints in the 60s and 70s.  It looks like it'd be a blast.  Except for the crazy swamp monsters on the loose killin' strippers part.  Not cool.


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Altered States (1980)

Director: Ken Russell

Writer: Paddy Chayefsky

Composer: John Corigliano

Starring: William Hurt, Blair Brown, Bob Balaban, Charles Haid, Thaao Penghlis, Miguel Godreau, Dori Brenner, Peter Brandon, Charles White-Eagle, Drew Barrymore, John Larroquette

More info: IMDb

Tagline: When he heard his cry for help it wasn't human

Plot: A Harvard scientist conducts experiments on himself with a hallucinatory drug and an isolation chamber that may be causing him to regress genetically.



My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  Maybe.


I hadn't seen this in at least 35 years.  It was trippy as shit back then and it hasn't changed.  I haven't read the novel but it feels like this might've been a challenge bringing it to film.  It's loaded with wild imagery and effects.  For that reason alone it's worth checking out.  It feels like it's more intellectual that it boils down to.  The performances are good and the score by John Corigliano, a classical composer brought in for his first film, is just as bonkers as the visuals.  I've always thought it might be neat to slink into an isolation tank but after seeing this again I'm not sure if I could take it.

Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)

Director: Dwight H. Little

Writers: Alan B. McElroy, Dhani Lipsius, Larry Rattner, Benjamin Ruffner

Composer: Alan Howarth

Starring: Donald Pleasance, Ellie Cornell, Danielle Harris, George P. Wilbur, Michael Pataki, Beau Starr, Kathleen Kinmont, Sasha Jenson, Gene Ross, Carmen Filpi, Donre Sampson

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Ten Years Ago HE Changed The Face Of Halloween. Tonight HE'S BACK!

Plot: Ten years after his original massacre, the invalid Michael Myers awakens and returns to Haddonfield to kill his seven-year-old niece on Halloween. Can Dr. Loomis stop him?



My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  Probably.

Well here's a good sequel.  I really wasn't expecting much because I go into these things as each sequel having diminishing returns.  Yeah, it's not as good as the second picture but it's still fun.  There's definitely something supernatural going on with Michael Myers.  There's no way he can do what he does and survive everything.  I don't care, though, because what I wanted was a good 80s slasher horror picture and that's what I got.  Howarth's use of the main theme is well placed.  He holds off using it until it's the right moment and it's effective.  It's always fun having Pleasence back.  The kid (Danielle Harris) does a fine job.  And how about that balls-out, fucking insane ending?  I loved it!  Michael gets in a couple of good kills.  The suspense is done well enough and I dug how Michael ended up at the house where everyone was holed up.  The atmosphere, score and vibe are firmly seated in the 80s and it was nice to be back in Haddenfield after all these years.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)

Director: Tommy Lee Wallace

Writers: Tommy Lee Wallace

Composers: John Carpenter, Alan Howarth

Starring: Tom Atkins, Stacey Nelkin, Dan O'Herlihy, Michael Currie, Ralph Strait, Jadeen Barbor, Brad Schacter, Garn Stephens, Nancy Kyes, Jonathan Terry, Al Berry, Maidie Norman, Jamie Lee Curtis

More info: IMDb

Tagline: ...and now the earth will run with blood again!

Plot: Kids all over America want Silver Shamrock masks for Halloween. Doctor Daniel Challis seeks to uncover a plot by Silver Shamrock owner Conal Cochran.



My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  Maybe.

I hope I'm not alone in feeling this way but when I saw this in the early 80s on a tape rental, I was expecting another HALLOWEEN movie with Michael Myers and I was, at very least, disappointed (if not pissed) that it was not the further adventures of an unstoppable killer.  Many years later I watched it again and I rather enjoyed it.  Carpenter never intended for the first movie to continue but instead have a series of films that had one thing in common and that's that they all took place on Halloween.  Well, I like it.  Two things make this totally watchable and that's Carpenter & Howarth's synth score and the wonderful Tom Atkins (and at near 50 he was looking great and he was in great shape, judging from his nude scene).  The music oozes classic Carpenter pictures.  Atkins is just all kinds of fun and he's sometimes delivering lines a little differently than what anyone else would and they feel genuine.  That adds a lot to his performance.  The story isn't as solid as it should've been.  There's a chunk of the picture where not much happens as far as unfolding the mystery is concerned but it's still enjoyable and that's what matters. But it does have one great little ending.  I score films based on how much I enjoy them, not on the merits of their technical aspects.  I don't care much about budgets, special effects and all.  It's what's on screen and how I react that counts.  Knowing where Carpenter wanted to take this series and make it one big anthology, that' would've been a neat way to treat the series.  At the same time I'd still like to see Myers killin' folks.


The Monolith Monsters (1957)

Director: John Sherwood

Writers: Norman Jolley, Robert M. Fresco, Jack Arnold

Composers: Irving Gertz,  Henry Mancini, Herman Stein

Starring: Grant Williams, Lola Albright, Les Tremayne, Trevor Bardette, Phil Harvey, William Flaherty, Harry Jackson, Richard H. Cutting, Paul Frees, William Schallert

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Mammoth skyscrapers of stone thundering across the earth!

Plot: Rocks from a meteor which grow when in contact with water threaten a sleepy Southwestern desert community.



My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again?  Maybe.

This is an OK, by the numbers 50s sci-fi/horror flick that benefits from a good cast and crew.  One thing that keeps this from being great is the formulaic story and how mundane it can be.  The effects for the monoliths are fantastic!  I loved how they grew, broke apart and then the new pieces grew.  That was really neat.  It's a shame that there aren't any big names in the cast or actors who became stars later.  That alone would add to the cool factor.  This is one of five classic sci-fi horror movies from the 50s in the Universal DVD set The Classic Sci-Fi Ultimate Collection.  This flick is fullframe as it was theatrically shown.  The only extra is the theatrical trailer.  It's a great set.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Grim Prairie Tales (1990)

Director: Wayne Coe

Writer: Wayne Coe

Composer: Steve Dancz

Starring: James Earl Jones, Brad Dourif, Will Hare, Marc McClure, Michelle Joyner, William Atherton, Lisa Eichhorn, Wendy J. Cooke, Scott Paulin, Jennifer Barlow

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Hit The Trail...To Terror.

Plot: A cynical bounty hunter and a clerk traveling through the prairie rest by the campfire telling four stories of terror to each other.



My rating:  7.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

Wow, what a surprise this turned out to be!  Jones and Dourif are the two storytellers and boy are they fun together!  They work well off each other and I can't remember the last time I saw Jones having so much fun.  The stories are all pretty good.  I say pretty good because a couple of them are VERY short and feel like they could've/should've been expanded (the first and last were like that).  I enjoyed the diversity of the stories, too.  The one with the family arriving to their plot of land to build on had value of being reality-based horror but also of showing hope for bad people.  The others had supernatural elements to them.  It's rare that I like all of the stories from a horror anthology, especially one like this film that has more than the usual.  I thoroughly enjoyed this picture and the ending was hilarious.  The IMDb trivia says that Coe planned on a sequel that never happened.  This is his only film.  I'd like to know more about this cat.  He made one fine movie.  And what do you know...Janusz Kaminski, the cinematographer on this picture (his second film) has been Steven Spielberg's DP since SCHINDLER'S LIST (1993)!!!  The only print I could find is a horrible VHS copy.  I'll definitely get this if it ever comes out on DVD and this picture deserves a proper release with commentary and all the extras they can muster.

The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)

Director: Jack Arnold

Writer: Richard Matheson

Composers: Irving Gertz, Earl E. Lawrence, Hans J. Salter, Herman Stein

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Almost beyond the imagination . . . A strange adventure into the unknown!

Plot: When Scott Carey begins to shrink because of exposure to a combination of radiation and insecticide, medical science is powerless to help him.



My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Maybe.

Good movie.  Good effects.  The spider fight was great and it made for a great action piece at the end of the picture.  Something that didn't make sense was why he didn't go back to the scientist that halted his shrinking.  It might've been touched on when I blinked or something.  I guess that doesn't matter much because most people were going to the theaters to see a guy shrink and face wild obstacles us giants take for granted.  That's the real spectacle.  It's not all doll houses and big bugs.  There are some neat ideas that Scott (Williams) is faced with and he ponders them.  The ending leaves him and the viewer wondering about his fate as well as wondering if there are others like him (who encountered the mystery mist) and if this is the fate of mankind (one of many reasons I dig Matheson's work).  It's an interesting and fun ride if a little slow at times.  This is one of five classic sci-fi horror movies from the 50s in the Universal DVD set The Classic Sci-Fi Ultimate Collection.  This flick is anamorphic widescreen and it looks great.  The only extra is the theatrical trailer (also anamorphic wide).  It's a great set.





Sunday, October 15, 2017

Dracula Exotica (1980)

Director: Shaun Costello

Writer: Kenneth Schwartz

Composer: ???

Starring: Jamie Gillis, Samantha Fox, Vanessa del Rio, Eric Edwards, Roger Caine, Gordon G. Duvall, Bobby Astyr, Murry Bukofski, Alba Bonn, Leigh Hope, Terry Yule, Carol Markoe, Inez de Falla, Denise Sloan, Diana Sloan, Herschel Savage, Donald Blank, Ron Jeremy, Randy West

More info: IMDb

Tagline: He came to bite... and ate the whole thing

Plot: Sailing to the USA, smuggler Vita Valdez stabs Count Dracula, but he bites her. A necrophiliac morgue attendant reveals she became a vampire. She becomes Dracula's secretary but turns a sergeant into a vampire against Dracula.



My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again? No.

Oh, no!  Not wax play!  The horror!

At an hour and forty minutes this XXX movie is a lot longer than usual, but then this one is different than your usual porno.  There's a good attempt at telling a fun story.  There are some genuinely funny moments.  Dracula gets off the boat in America and kills a few folks on the boat and dock.  Then he attacks Vanessa Del Rio, strips her, bites her neck and boob, goes down on her and out of nowhere asks, "Can you type?".  Fucking classic.  The answer, for those dying to know, is 50 wpm.  It looks like Dracula just picked himself up a secretary. 


Here's another.  There's a disturbing turning hilarious scene when Anatole (Astyr) arrives at an apartment where his teenage daughter is all innocent like.  She calls him Daddy, he gives her a lollipop and they talk about daughter/fathers stuff. Then he fingers her telling her it's a butterfly chasing its wings.  It's creepy.  Naturally, they fuck.  I kept thinking, "They're really going there.".  After all, this was practically the 70s.


Afterward, she answers the phone and she's completely out of character.  It was role play all along and the girl was Sally (Fox) in disguise.  The man on the other end of the phone tells her to kill him.  She does by continuing the play time with Anatole and puts a gun barrel in his butt.  Bam.  The movie has its funny moments but not enough.  There are little spots here an there that couldv'e been shortened to help with the pacing and length but it's more entertaining than most porn features I've seen from the 70s.  The fuck scenes are OK.  There isn't any effort into creating any genuine horror but it is one of the few pornos from the era that dabbled in horror.  The best acting goes to Murray Bukofski as Chikopnik, his only IMDb credit.  The the award for "I Didn't Know He Could Juggle" goes to Ron Jeremy for an early scene when he's juggling oranges while getting blown. 



The Phantom Carriage (1921)

Original title: Korkarlen

Director: Victor Sjostrom

Writers: Selma Lagerlof, Victor Sjostrom

Composer: Matti Bye (for the 1998 release?)

Starring: Victor Sjostrom, Hilda Borgstrom, Tore Svennberg, Astrid Holm, Concordia Selander, Lisa Lundholm, Tor Weijden, Einar Axelsson

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Metro's Sensational Production

Plot: On New Year's Eve, the driver of a ghostly carriage forces a drunken man to reflect on his selfish, wasted life.



My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

It's so rare that I watch silent pictures and it's not by design.  I just don't seem to get around to them as much as I'd like.  This one's been on my radar for a few years and I'm glad I finally got around to it.  I loved it.   Victor Sjostrom as David Holm is fantastic and he plays a real bastard.  The little things he does facially are remarkable.  They brought me further into not only the story but it gave him even more depth.  There's a nice use of tinting like having blue for night and so on.  And that got even better when the neat visual effects were thrown in. 
 

There are several nice shots, shots that I wouldn't have expected in a movie made almost a hundred years ago.  Another thing I dug was the scenes aren't chronological.  There's a good deal of skipping around with the timeline.  It made for a little confusion at times but it also helped hold my attention.  Some of it was possibly unnecessary, and so were some of the scenes which led to covering the same ground story-wise.   Hey, does this look familiar?

"Here's Davey!"

When David started going to town on the door to get to his wife I was hoping for a shot similar to THE SHINING (1980) but this is as close as Sjostrom got. The ending had me all choked up.  Call me surprised.  It was heartbreaking and beautiful and it's all thanks to Sjostrom's performance.  He really is magnificent in this.  I would've preferred a much darker ending (which it looked like it was going there but turned on me) but I'm happy with what is there.  The score by Matti Bye is gorgeous.  I see YouTube has the movie in full with a much darker score.  I watched a few minutes of it and it sounds like that will be the one I watch the next time.  If you've never seen a silent film or only a few, you might want to start somewhere else as this one runs about an hour and forty-seven minutes which is probably more than what most people are willing to take in that are unfamiliar with type of thing.  I really enjoyed it and I look forward to seeing it again someday and with this other contemporary score.  Congratulations for reading this far.  This picture is less of a horror movie than a drama but it does have horror and fantasy elements which might be enough to draw the horror fans in.  That's what prompted me to see it and I'm not disappointed in the least.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Curse of Chucky (2013)

Director: Don Mancini

Writer: Don Mancini

Composer: Joseph LoDuca

Starring: Fiona Dourif, Brad Dourif, Chantal Quesnelle, Danielle Bisutti, A Martinez, Maitland McConnell, Brennan Elliott, Summer H. Howell, Adam Hurtig, Jennifer Tilly, Alex Vincent

More info: IDMb

Tagline: Be afraid. Be effing afraid.

Plot: After her mother's mysterious death, Nica begins to suspect that the talking, red-haired doll her visiting niece has been playing with may be the key to recent bloodshed and chaos.



My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

I REALLY like this franchise!  The last two films (4 (Bride) and 5 (Seed)) took a left turn in Albequerque and went from horror to comedy/horror.  This one goes back to its roots for a straight up horror movie and it's good.  I loved the atmosphere of the house.  It's almost entirely set there so the house needs to have some personality and variety.  The kills are good but more importantly, Mancini delivers the goods when it comes to making a good horror movie that DOES NOT RELY ON FUCKING JUMP SCARES!  There are none.  Having Nica (Fiona Dourif, Brad's daughter...neat...and she does a great job!) confined to a wheelchair works very well and it doesn't feel gimmicky at all.  What's better is that there's a great fucking reason why she's paralyzed below the waist.  I loved how this story ties into the previous and how it expands on Charles Lee Ray's history.  The movie looks great and it feels at just the right length.  The Blu-ray looks outstanding.  The sequel, CULT OF CHUCKY (2017), dropped a few days ago and I'm anxiously awaiting that one.

Philosophy of a Knife (2008)

Director: Andrey Iskanov

Writer: Andrey Iskanov

Composer: Alexander Shevchenko

Starring: Anatoly Protasov, Stephen Tipton, Tetsuro Sakagami, Tomoya Okamoto, Yukari Fujimoto, Manoush, Yumiko Fujiwara, Masaki Kitagava, Reiko Niakawa, Elena Romanova, Tatyana Kopeykina, Veronika Leonova, Irina Nikitina

More info: IMDb

Tagline: God created heaven, man created hell

Plot: The true history of Japanese Unit 731, from its beginnings in the 1930s to its demise in 1945, and the subsequent trials in Khabarovsk, USSR, of many of the Japanese doctors from Unit 731. The facts are told, and previously unknown evidence is revealed by an eyewitness to these events, former doctor and military translator, Anatoly Protasov. Part documentary and part feature, the story is shown from the perspective of a young Japanese nurse who witnessed many of horrors, and a young Japanese officer who is torn between his sincere convictions that he is serving the greater purpose, and the deep sympathy he feels for an imprisoned Russian girl. His life is a living hell as he's compelled to carry out atrocious experiments on the other prisoners, using them as guinea pigs in this shocking tale of mankind's barbarity.



My rating: 4.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

OK, so I'm settled in to my comfy couch, I pop in the DVD looking for some foreign horror knowing nothing about this except it has something to do with the infamous Unit 731, one of several Japanese centers for human experimentation (just like what the Nazis did) from 1930 until 1945.   The movie starts.  It's fullscreen and B&W.  A prisoner is in the middle of two Japanese soldiers treading through thigh-high snow.  The soldier in front is carrying a Samurai sword so you figure this is going to play a role somehow.  It does.  They stop and the prisoner is beheaded.  That's all that happens for probably 7 minutes.  Then the opening credits roll, looking and sounding very much inspired by the opening credits and music to SEVEN (1995).  So far this is the first 13 minutes of the picture and that's all that's happened.

This gal and the guy below are the two Japanese we see a lot of
and they mostly do what you're seeing here.

What follows is part documentary (I watched the English dub version and the narration is mixed too low with the music and sound effects too high, making it difficult to hear at times), part interview with a Russian interpreter, Anatoly Protasov, who lived in the neighboring town as a med student, and part docu-drama, taking us inside Unit 731 as if we're watching the experiments.  The documentary part is OK but the narration volume was an issue.  The interview with Protasov was the best part.  The problem I have with this is almost entirely with the "recreations".  Remember how stylized the opening credits in SEVEN were?  Put that in B&W and you get an idea of how the editing of these scenes are.  Writer/director Iskanov gets really involved with these scenes (and there are A LOT of them) with the editing, visuals and sound.  It might be neat for the first torture scene but this technique is used extensively over the next four and a half hours.  That's right, it's two minutes shy of 4.5 hours!  I discovered that when I hit the remote button and I was only an hour in and I saw the remaining time left.  I thought it was a mistake.  It was not.


I finished it but I cheated a little by fast forwarding through the torture scenes, stopping frequently to see if there was anything worth watching that I hadn't seen already.  The torture scenes might be the reason a lot of people seek this film out.  I was hoping for some good gore but I was left disappointed.  They're OK but there's a lot left to be desired.  It's in B&W which hides a lot of the effects when they're sloppy or poor (part of the reason I think this is shown in B&W), the editing is fast and cuts quick enough that you don't get a good look at much (which also shows the lack of talent that would normally go into making something look real), and it's all been processed to make it look like old footage when you know darn well it's not and the dirty look just adds to the list of things that don't work well enough in this picture.  There are other little things like the prisoners don't resist AT ALL until the knife enters them or they're in serious pain.  The female prisoners also wear makeup.  Really.


Maybe the Japanese issued eye liner to their female guests.  The most unusual I-haven't-seen-that-before scene is when a prisoner is force-fed disease-laced cockroaches into her vagina (and, yes, they show it).  That was different but I couldn't help but think of how cutting edge the prisoner's pubic styling was and it was so smooth around the landing strip.  Again, maybe pre-1945 Japanese were that progressive with their prisoners.  I'd always heard different.  Hmmm.  The more you know.  Anyway, between the documentary bits, the interview bits and the recreation bits, it's the interview I found most interesting.  The visual 'horror' is so over produced that it adds to the already phony looking gore.  Maybe these scenes are over produced to hide the lack of good gore and horror that should've been there. 


It's an ambitious film (IMDb says it was four years in the making and I believe it) and I might've given this a little higher score if it hadn't been sooooooo long but the pacing (especially that first 13 minutes where almost nothing happens, and nothing that's pertinent to the story) drags this 4.5 hour flick into endurance test territory.  It's a curiosity and i think that people who focus on the gory aspects of films might dig this a lot more but only if you don't mind the quick edits of stylized torture.  I dug the droning music.  I think it fit the film well considering the extreme length of the picture.  I watched the Unearthed 2-DVD Limited Edition set.  The first film has one extra and that's a several minute long intro from the director and two other people (the director sat in the middle and said very little).  Disc 2 has a making of documentary (45 min), A Glimpse of Hell featurette (13 min) which is a longer scene (but in color) from the film that is made to look like vintage documentary footage of nude dead bodies piled on cots in a small room, 3 deleted scenes (3 minutes), an interview with actress Manoush (13 min), an interview with Iskanov (this feature didn't work for some reason), music videos for Dead Before Born and Forgive Me, the soundtrack, photo galleries for production, map of Unit 73, Khabarovsk from 1900 to present day, trial documents and finally trailers for 7 films but not for this one.

Friday, October 13, 2017

American Made (2017)

Director: Doug Liman

Writer: Gary Spinelli

Composer: Christopher Beck

Starring: Tom Cruise, Domhnall Gleeson, Sarah Wright, Jesse Plemons, Caleb Landry Jones, Lola Kirke, Jayma Mays, Alejandro Edda

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The sky is never the limit.

Plot: The story of Barry Seal, an American pilot who became a drug-runner for the CIA in the 1980s in a clandestine operation that would be exposed as the Iran-Contra Affair.



My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

I've heard that they use movie magic to keep Tom Cruise looking younger than his years and I'm starting to believe it.  Cruise does a fine job in this picture.  He's fun.   I dug the flick and there are a few moments of "will he make it?" and "how the hell is this going to turn out?" but the film misses the boat by not building a compelling story so that the climax has more weight.  Don't misunderstand.  There are a lot of very good scenes and it is an enjoyable movie but it never felt like like momentum was building in the sense we were being taken on a journey that will end with an emotional punch.  Instead, we're just hanging out with Sears (Cruise) on some of his little adventures.  That alone is good enough but I'm not sure what the filmmakers were going for if they wanted the audience to have that emotional connection. Regardless, it's a good film.  When I got home from the theater I checked out Barry Seal's Wikipedia page and it looks like the film is loosely based on Seals but shares little of what happened, at least as far as the big picture is concerned.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988)

Director: Renny Harlin

Writers: William Kotzwinkle, Brian Helgeland, Jim Wheat, Ken Wheat

Composer: Craig Safan

Starring: Robert Englund, Lisa Wilcox, Danny Hassel, Rodney Eastman, Andras Jones, Tuesday Knight, Toy Newkirk, Ken Sagoes, Brooke Theiss, Brooke Bundy

More info: IMDb

Tagline: You shouldn't have buried me, I'm not dead

Plot: The last girl from Elm Street is still bothered by dreams about Freddy; soon he returns and kills her, but before she died she wills her power to a new friend.



My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Yeah.

This one picks up shortly after the last one, making it sort of a two-parter.  So far the series is doing a decent job of continuing the story. People die and others are drawn in.  I liked how Alice was a daydreamer.  You know instantly that it's going to at the very least give her some trouble and us some fun with Freddy.  I really wish they'd give more screen time with Freddy.  He gets a good deal, I suppose, but his role is pretty much the boogeyman that comes to add to his teenage body count.  I guess I want more substance.  The acting is OK but we're not watching the movies for anything but Freddy doing what he does best.  There is one cool shot that I really dug.  When Kristen's (Knight) mother dopes her up with sleeping pills and Kristen quickly loses her struggle against them, the camera is constantly moving above and around her for the entire time until she drops.  It was an effective visual to match what she was feeling.  Nice.  As always, Englund is fun as are the effects and kills.  Look fast for a Linnea Quigley cameo inside of Freddy's belly near the end.  You can't mistake whose boobs these belong to...
 

I'm not thrilled with this franchise as a whole (so far).  None of the films up to this point are great or even very good.  I like them enough to justify watching them but they just aren't doing it for me.  If it weren't for the wonderful kills and effects I probably wouldn't bother but there's enough here and there to keep my interest.  The Blu-ray (from the box set ANonES Collection with all 7 films) looks great.  They all do.  

The Haunted Strangler (1958)

Original title: Grip of the Strangler

Director: Robert Day

Writers: John Croydon, Jan Read

Composer: Buxton Orr

Starring: Boris Karloff, Jean Kent, Elizabeth Allan, Anthony Dawson, Vera Day, Tim Turner, Diane Aubrey, Max Brimmell, Leslie Perrins

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Their wild beauty marked them for death by . . . The Haunted Strangler

Plot: A researcher investigating a notorious serial killer who was hanged 20 years earlier seemingly becomes possessed by the long dead strangler.



My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  Maybe.

Before I forget, who the hell is responsible for the gross error of getting Jack the Ripper off by 8 years?  It clearly states in the beginning that the hanging is in 1860 and then a title card says it's 20 years later.  Soon after, Rankin (Karloff) is at police headquarters in the evidence room and there's a box labeled Jack the Ripper which wouldn't happen until 1888.  That's just a minor gripe.  That didn't keep me from enjoying the movie.  It's pretty good.  The makeup job on Karloff is fantastic and it's great how he was able to disfigure himself.  Neat-O!  It's a good story despite being a little far-fetched but Karloff et al make it fun.  It's got good atmosphere and a good ending to go with it.  I enjoyed it and I wasn't sure I would.  These sub-80 minute horror pictures from the 50s can be really spotty but this one turned out very nice.