It came from the 70s…and ended up in my horror collection

Time to look at four flicks from the 1970s that have found their way onto the horror movie shelves in my Dan cave. It’s a blend of vampires, zombies, and crazed killers. Yay!

LUST FOR A VAMPIRE (1971)

The last of the Hammer Films trilogy that also includes The Vampire Lovers and Twins of Evil, Lust for a Vampire focuses on a count (played by a virtual Christopher Lee impersonator) who does a satanic ritual to bring his daughter back to life.

But the count really isn’t the star here…the resurrected daughter is. Would you believe it’s a vampires in a finishing school horror film?

Women start turning up with holes in their necks and the headmaster is on to them. A dude researching for his occult books at the count’s castle falls for a new female student.

The authorities and a priest begin to think vampirism is running rampant at the school. They plan on hunting down the vampire to take care of her. The dude who fell in love with her plans to save her.

The most memorable thing about this film is the fairly scandalous sex scene.

VENGEANCE OF THE ZOMBIES (1973)

I don’t even know that I could recommend this sloppy movie, but it is such an early 1970s mess of Euro horror weirdness starring horror hunk Paul Naschy that I found it undeniably entertaining.

Paul is some sort of Hindu cult leader, and a young woman becomes enthralled by his teachings, so she goes to stay at his house. At the same time, there is a masked killer that is also resurrecting dead women. If you ask me, wouldn’t it just be easier to keep them alive to begin with?

I’m telling you, there is so much shit going on here you’ll have no idea what is going on. The zombie women—a trio of them—is a lot of silly fun. They always approach their victims in slow motion and get right up in the camera to add to the trippy feel of the film. At one point they even smile joyfully and it’s just odd. It feels more like an outtake in which they couldn’t get into character.

The main woman has surreal, nightmarish dreams of Paul in devilish attire (complete with horns), with his undead cult members performing sacrificial rituals…on her!

At the same time, she is drawn to Paul when she’s awake, considering he’s so mysterious and dangerous. Lucky her, because there are three different versions of Paul battling it out by the final satanic ritual of the film.

Meanwhile, the masked killer likes variety so doesn’t always wear the same mask, and also takes various approaches to killing victims, including wax voodoo dolls, an axe, draining blood in a slaughterhouse, and even leaving the dirty work up to the zombie women. The best is when the slow mo zombie women kill a guy with a soda can. As they walk away in slow mo, one of them tosses the soda can over her shoulder like she’s totally too cool for school. All this scene needed was a song by The Cars playing to set the mood.

Unfortunately, as with many Euro horror flicks of the 1970s, particularly Paul Naschy horror flicks, the creepiest scenes are hindered—I’d say virtually ruined—by the use of the most horrendous, tone deaf jazz music as the score.

BLUE EYES OF THE BROKEN DOLL (1974)

Another film starring Paul Naschy and featuring an awful score, Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll is a provocative, weird and sexual murder mystery horror thriller that is considered a giallo, although it didn’t quite feel totally like one to me.

Paul is at his sexiest here, playing an ex-convict drifter who gets picked up by a woman with a prosthetic hand. She hires him as caretaker at her home where she lives with her two sisters, one a horny bitch that wants Paul’s bod, the other a woman in a wheelchair.

Paul shows off his sweaty bod as he chops wood, Paul makes the ladies drool, Paul bangs the horny sister, and Paul has visions of strangling women to death.

And someone is killing women and gouging out their eyes, so detectives on the case immediately suspect Paul.

The film is disjointed and meandering (okay, so maybe it is a giallo), and aside from Paul’s sexiness permeating the progress of the plot, most of the excitement is packed into the final act when the killer finally targets the sisters in the house.

THE DAY IT CAME TO EARTH (1977)

It’s astounding to me that this obscure flick doesn’t get more recognition for pioneering some major modern horror tropes—ironically all while appearing to be poking fun at sci-fi/horror flicks of the 1950s!

The plot is perfectly basic. After a shootout, gangsters dump a dead guy in a lake. A meteorite then crashes to earth and lands in the lake. As a result, the dead mobster comes back to life as a zombie and terrorizes a bunch of college kids. But only at night!

During the day he goes back to nap in the lake, making me wonder if he was the inspiration for Jason’s bottom of the lake dwelling in later Friday the 13th movies.

We get two funny college boys (who are shirtless quite a bit), and one of them does a pretty good gay impersonation.

They spy on girls from their window with binoculars. They play pranks on the girls.

When one of them parks in the woods at night with a girl, they get attacked by the monster, and he’s forced to do the penguin walk. They even work with a scientist when they suspect something fishy is going on in the water.

And eventually, the kids are chased by the monster at a sorority house after the guys sneak in to have some fun with the girls.

This film really needs a Blu-ray release.

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STREAM QUEEN: when modern horror and horror veterans collide

From cameos to starring roles, familiar horror faces made this foursome of films extra alluring for my latest marathon. Let’s see if they were all worth the watch.

JAKOB’S WIFE (2021)

The director of Girl On the Third Floor brings together two horror heavyweights to play a married couple in this vampire flick that is a blend of fresh and retro, horror and humor.

Larry Fessenden is a preacher, Barbara Crampton is his subservient wife. Barbara sneaks off to meet up with an old flame, played by 80s pretty boy Robert Rusler, and when she returns from their secret date, she’s…different.

Early “attack” scenes in this small town vampire film felt quite reminiscent of the tone of scenes from the original Tobe Hooper Salem’s Lot miniseries, so I was totally feeling it.

Barbara Crampton’s performance is especially captivating as she begins to transform into a lustful and…hungry vixen.

Highlights include her dancing to a cover of Concrete Blonde’s “Bloodletting (The Vampire Song)” by Tara Busch and having an erotic moment at her window as her new master stands outside in her yard.

 

And the film takes off in a new direction for the second half when Fessenden gets wind of what’s been bugging his wife, at which point we are treated to some good and bloody vampires action.

SPELL (2020)

As I was watching Spell, I tweeted a few things to my friend about the film:

a) Omari Hardwick of the Starz show Power stars in this and he’s delicious.

b) I can’t believe what I’m watching. This movie is literally Misery with Black people and a voodoo angle.

c) That could be my entire blog post about this movie.

And so…I’m going with it. But I’ll add one more thing.

Dreamgirl Loretta Devine (aka: Reese from Urban Legend) is the equivalent of the Kathy Bates character, and the creepy voodoo shit really sets it apart from Misery, so I’d highly suggest checking it out.

MIDNIGHT DEVILS (2019)

This is one of those films that I root for so badly because there is sooooo much potential, but it just doesn’t find its footing or hold together enough to be the kick ass film it should have.

Going for a very 1970s grindhouse vibe, the film also appears to be a love letter to Evil Dead, but that aspect comes way too late in the game, which is the film’s major flaw.

The camerawork, the lighting, the fog machines, the atmosphere, the tone, the grindhouse filter, and the demon all hit the mark.

Unfortunately, the story, some of the performances, the pacing, and the structure of the film leave much to be desired. Horror icon Michael Berryman appears in a brief horror scene at the beginning with a little girl, and then we meet two tough girls that get into a car accident while on the run after stealing money. They plan to hide out in one girl’s abandoned childhood house in the woods (see where this is going?).

Turns out there’s a weird Native American dude in there holding a family captive. Also, the guys from a strip club the girls stole the money from show up and plan to bust in to get what they came for.

Little does everyone know there’s a demonic presence in the woods just waiting to go shaky cam on their asses and they’re all in danger.

If only it were as simple and straightforward as I just made it sound. The film meanders, with plodding, unnecessary scenes and dialogue before eventually getting to the point.

There’s even a sudden scene that’s so out of place in narrative and tone featuring one guy about to torture another guy that I was convinced it was accidentally slipped into the wrong movie (unless that was intentional and part of the whole grindhouse experience).

Having said all that, when the demon finally bursts in, creating some minions along the way, we get a brief and fun Evil Dead feel. Unfortunately, the movie is over just as it finally gets going. Bummer.

TEN MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT (2020)

Ten Minutes to Midnight kicked into high gear within minutes and I was psyched, because it’s only about 70 minutes long.

It begins with horror veteran Caroline Williams arriving at work in her small radio station having just been bitten in the neck by something outside in the dark. She also learns from her boss that a young woman will sort of be interning and sitting in on her show that evening.

Caroline is no idiot and sees the writing on the wall for her long career. Considering all her coworkers are stabbing her in the back, her sudden thirst for blood couldn’t have come at a better time.

It would seem this is going to be a vampire outbreak film in a small radio station. But instead it’s an abstract exploration of the state of mind of an older woman as she copes with the fact that she is suddenly falling victim to sexism and ageism after years of dedication. Much of what happens to Caroline Williams is surreal horror—possibly in her mind, possibly nightmares, possibly real. But we never quite know.

It’s hard to follow this film, and while that’s a big downside, that’s really the only downside. The atmosphere is tight, the special effects are way cool, and the vampire effects are plain and simple fun. But it is hard not to wish they were used in a more traditional narrative, which could have been scary, funny, and gory all rolled into one. I found the more artistic approach this film takes a bit of a challenge to stick with. What most kept me watching was Caroline Williams.

Quite honestly, she’s one of those horror veterans who never particularly tickled my horror bone—never disliked her but I was never enthralled by her—however, this is the movie that made me say, “Damn, Caroline finally got her chance to shine.” I think her decades of experience really helped her give one of her best performances ever, and she is reason enough to check this one out.

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Man eaters and model murderers in the 1980s

I’ve just added four more from the 1980s to my horror movie collection. Two are from one of the Blu-ray collections of films by Spanish horror actor/director Paul Naschy, and two are a Euro giallo/slasher series double feature that was just released.

HUMAN BEASTS (The Beasts’ Carnival) (1980)

Paul Naschy directs and stars in this film that I didn’t find very enthralling as a horror movie. By the end I took it as a comment on gluttony, greed, and privilege, but that didn’t improve my opinion any.

Paul’s character works for a crime boss. Paul is also romancing the boss’s daughter. So what does the idiot do? He double crosses the crime boss!

All of a sudden they’re chasing Paul through the woods with guns—the daughter included. Paul is wounded but gets away and is cared for by a doctor and his two adult daughters in a house in the woods where they also raise pigs. So it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that there’s some psychotic sexual and horror shit going on in this place.

One daughter tries to force herself on Paul while he’s bed bound. The other daughter becomes romantically involved with Paul. In a fucked up sex scene, the doctor goes full master/servant with his Black maid as he whips her.

Meanwhile, Paul keeps having nightmares and catching glimpses of a woman portrayed in a painting in the house. There’s also someone occasionally killing off people who come to the house and feeding them to the pigs.

On top of all that, there’s some sort of costume party that includes some drag (I think), which leads to anti-gay slurs being tossed around the dinner table.

I really had no idea what was going on until it finally came down to the horror money shot in the last few minutes…which is a sort of zinger ending that would have packed more of a punch if this had been a tale in an anthology rather than a dragged out full-length film.

NIGHT OF THE WEREWOLF (1981)

It’s so sexist that this movie isn’t titled Bathory vs. the Werewolf. This movie is all about Elizabeth Bathory, dammit! But Paul Naschy directs, and Paul Naschy plays the werewolf, so Paul Naschy named the movie after the Paul Naschy character (which Paul Naschy plays in numerous Paul Naschy werewolf movies).

Anyway, back in the day, Elizabeth Bathory and a whole bunch of her minions are tortured and killed for their heinous crimes, but Elizabeth swears she will be resurrected and get her revenge.

In modern times, three college girls obsessed with Bathory decide they are going to be the ones to resurrect her. Meanwhile, some dudes are taking care of resurrecting the werewolf.

They all end up at the same gothic mansion or castle or whatever it is, where Paul is the host by day and—you know—a werewolf by night.

The cool aspect here is that Bathory is an actual vampire, and the modern day girls become her bitches.

This shit turns into a campy Bathory vs. The Wolf Man battle! Eat your heart out, Hammer Films.

NOTHING UNDERNEATH (1985)

I guess you can turn to this film if you’ve a) seen everything by Argento, b) want to see everything Donald Pleasence was in that also features a killer with a sharp object, and/or c) like stylish, sexy 80s killer thrillers.

I’d say Pleasence was cast as a detective just to lure in Halloween fans. Even so, he seems too exhausted to even investigate fictional murders for an acting job in this film.

The main guy is a cute blond park ranger in the U.S. who gets premonitions of his model twin sister in Italy being stalked by someone with a scissor. So he flies to Italy and delves into the modeling world as he investigates her disappearance—mostly without any help from Pleasence. Although they do lunch together.

There are some boobs, female bush, a man ass, and our leading man shirtless.

There’s also one very Argento sequence that teases us repeatedly before the kill finally happens—entirely off screen. WTF? All we see is a bloody scissor after!

Thankfully there is one quick and juicy stab murder, another one much later in a flashback, and the killer going after the main guy with a drill in the final scene. Not Body Double length drill, but still impressive.

Unfortunately, other than the great 80s vibe and some good nostalgia including songs like “I Am What I Am” and “One Night in Bangkok” during a modeling show, this film is rather bland. However, I do think it’s worth it for the rather cheesy, over-the-top final move by the killer.

TOO BEAUTIFUL TO DIE (1988)

Apparently a sequel to Nothing Underneath, this film is directed by Dario Piana, a man who has only made a few films over the decades, including more recent films The Deaths of Ian Stone and The Lost Boys: The Thirst. 2011 brought The Last Fashion Show, a second sequel from Carlo Vanzina (director of Nothing Underneath), but I’ve been unable to track it down to watch. And let’s face it. It’s not from the 80s, so what’s the point?

Too Beautiful To Die has a very late 80s feel and is much more of a slasher that also takes on the dangers of young people being preyed upon and drawn into the seedy side of the modeling world by powerful men.

It’s not surprising that this is like one big sleek and sexy music video—in this case a music video that is being shot for the Frankie Goes to Hollywood track “Warriors of the Wasteland” (No, they don’t make an appearance like they did in Body Double). There’s a sensual dance club montage set to KTP’s “Certain Things Are Likely” that really made me miss the 80s so damn much. There’s a daytime boating montage as the Huey Lewis hit “Perfect World” brightens the mood. And Toto’s “I Won’t Hold You Back” is the soundtrack to a sex scene.

In the meantime, pretty young people that were in a disturbing hot tub scene at the beginning of the movie are getting killed off by a cloaked figure using a multi-blade weapon that serves as a prop in the music video. Awesome.

There is satisfying violence, atmosphere, and chase scenes enough for slasher fans to appreciate. However, the film isn’t quite focused, so the characters aren’t there to be developed or liked. They’re just present to be killed off.

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From a vampire’s return in 43 to a psycho circus in 60

Time to take on four oldies that have landed on my horror movie shelves, and the only miss for me is one that I scored simply because it was on a double feature disc with another movie I wanted.

THE RETURN OF THE VAMPIRE (1943)

Bela Lugosi dons his Dracula costume again to…play a different vampire. Pretty sneaky way to make an unofficial sequel without getting Universal’s blessing. Not that a vampire would want a blessing anyway.

It all starts in a foggy cemetery with…the Wolf Man? No, not Lon Chaney Jr., just some werewolf responsible for protecting the vampire’s grave. He sucks as a guard dog because the vamp gets staked.

A quarter century later, the woman responsible for killing the vampire is back, and so is the vampire. And he wants revenge. Although not named Dracula, he is Bela Lugosi dressed as Dracula. He turns a guy into his werewolf bitch by staring at him with hypnotic eyes and then assigns his new pet the duty of fetching him a coffin.

The vampire targets the family of the woman who staked him. There’s classic swirling mist seeping through windows as he visits a pretty young woman, and loads of fog in the cemetery, where a good chunk of this film takes place. And to mix things up so it’s not just another Dracula movie, bombs are falling because it’s wartime.

It’s a basic little vampire film, but it’s really a must-own for fans of the classic movie monsters and the iconic actors forever linked to them.

THEM! (1954)

This truly is a classic of the giant insect genre, despite some slowdown smack dab in the middle and way too much army involvement instead of ordinary everyday citizens as the heroes.

The film has two distinct focuses. The first is on law enforcement realizing there are giant ants in the desert. There’s nothing better than the first sign of trouble being a young girl they find lost and terrified digging up the nerve to scream just one word…”Them!”

Awesome.

Soon, scientists are battling giant ants! Even more awesome? It was the good old days when someone actually went to the trouble of building giant ants for the actors to interact with.

Once authorities think they’ve conquered the ants in the desert, they discover a couple of queens have flown off to the city (don’t we always?).

The second half of the film involves the military tracking the ants down in the underground sewers to kill the queens.

THE SNORKEL (1958)

Not what you usually think of when you think of Hammer Films, this is a contemporary suspense thriller, and it’s a goodie. It’s also a clear precursor to many teen vs. evil stepparent films that would come after it.

The plot is pretty wild. This dude kills his wife by gassing her in a locked room, and then hiding under the floor boards and using a snorkel to breathe until her body is found so it will look like she committed suicide.

But when his stepdaughter arrives, she immediately assumes he killed her mother because she believes he killed her father years before. Naturally no one believes a grieving kid.

And so begins a battle of wits as she tries to figure out how he did it while he attempts to kill her in a way that also looks like an accident. And he’s definitely a bastard, because when her adorable dog becomes obsessed with his snorkel, rather than just throw out the damn snorkel, well….

Bastard.

The two actors perfectly carry the film, and while the way in which the final act unfolds may seem predictable by today’s standards, that’s because early films like this came before all the modern films we’re familiar with.

The only catch is that if this film were remade today, it would end a few minutes earlier than it does. I was all gleeful when I thought there was a dastardly conclusion, but it being the 1950s and all, the film goes all Leave It To Beaver on us and takes the higher moral ground in one final scene. Blah.

CIRCUS OF HORRORS (1960)

Circus of Horrors starts of strong, with a look at the deformed face of a woman whose plastic surgery went wrong.

The doctor who botched the job goes on the run and meets Donald Pleasence, who runs a circus.

When Donald is killed by a guy in a bear suit…I mean, by a bear in his circus…the doctor takes over the circus.

Then performers keep dying in front of an audience, but no one seems to do anything about stopping the show from going on.

This film is like a boring version of the movie Berserk! with Joan Crawford, with the added twist of the doctor being obsessed with plastic surgery.

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A demented grandma, zombie sea life, club-hopping vampires, and a killer teddy bear

While I was busy feeling miserable for two days after getting a COVID booster shot, I tapped into my cable and streaming watchlists, so here are my thoughts on four flicks I crossed off those lists.

RELIC (2020)

It has become common in recent years to explore the effect dementia has on families within the framework of horror. In most cases the offspring of an elderly woman are terrorized by unsettling happenings in a dark, dreary home where the elderly woman behaves freakishly as she lurks in shadows.

Add Relic to that formulaic list. Also add it to the list of movies these days that have the main characters roam around a spooky house in fear…yet never turn on a damn light. Ugh.

The grandmother’s daughter and granddaughter in Relic are forced to make tough decisions about her that lead to guilt and sadness…all while they are being terrorized by her erratic actions. In essence, they are experiencing the darkness and isolation the grandmother must be suffering from in her state, but it’s hard to sympathize with what she is going through considering she is presented as the scary antagonist!

While there are some eerie moments sprinkled throughout the film, it’s fairly slow. Only in the final act do we get a good dose of suspenseful horror, but the last scene is a bit jarring as it steps outside of the natural horror arc of the plot to drive home its emotional point about contending with dementia.

AQUARIUM OF THE DEAD (2021)

The director of Zoombies 1 and 2 moves the zombie animal action to an aquarium. So essentially this is “Zoombies 3: A Night at the Aquarium”.

It’s purely SyFy level creature feature silliness, and if SyFy was still fun it would have premiered this film as it did Zoombies. Therefore, it’s quite unexpected that this one turned up on Showtime.

So what do you get from these CGI zombie creatures and how exactly do people fail to avoid zombie sea life in fish tanks at an aquarium? They don’t. Everything survives outside the water. I guess it makes sense considering they’re already dead…

There’s a giant zombie octopus traveling through the vents, a giant walrus, an alligator, a dolphin, sharks, spiders (or are those crabs?), and best of all, killer zombie starfish.

There’s also a small group of aquarium workers, a scientist, and Vivica A. Fox running around the aquarium trying to stay alive. There’s not much more to say. Either you like this kind of campy crap or you don’t.

NIGHT TEETH (2021)

Neon lights, hip hop tracks, and pretty people in trendy fashions aren’t enough to make a sleek, sexy, action vampire flick, but that’s what the director of I See You seems to have thought. Quite honestly, my hubby and I were bored for a majority of this overly-long film.

The plot: a college dude takes a job as a chauffeur for a night, and the two girls he picks up turn out to be vampires that break the rules of their horde and go rogue. They drag their new chauffeur along for a night of chaos as they are hunted by their fellow vamps.


How is it she looks bored at the only time I wasn’t?

It sounds like it should be a load of fun, so what went wrong? Let’s see. The characters are astonishingly flat and there’s no chemistry between them (this everyday college dude is suddenly thrust into the middle of an underground vampire network and his reactions to everything that happens verge on indifference).

Scenes go on too long without getting to any actual point (there’s less footage of people just walking through dance clubs in fricking music videos). The few “action” scenes there are fail to deliver any energy or excitement and end practically before they begin (a guy and a vampire appear ready to start a Blade level dance floor fight, but within seconds everyone in the club screams and runs out. End scene). Megan Fox appears for about two minutes and delivers her dialogue as if she’s as bored by it as we are.

After nearly two hours of dullsville, this film manages to give us a rather exciting yet totally predictable final act.

BEARRY (2021)

The director of For Jennifer goes for a fun and silly giant killer teddy bear horror flick.

The opening animation and the pretty darn good pop songs that serve as the soundtrack set the tone for this campy slasher.

Our main girl is depressed after her douche of a husband divorces her. It should come as no surprise that the douche is hot as hell.

Felissa Rose, colorful as always, is the main girl’s best friend, and gives her a huge teddy bear named Bearry as a gift. Pretty soon, anyone who wrongs the main girl gets murdered.

This is a basic slasher and isn’t a very gory film, but there are plenty of elements to like. Felissa Rose for starters. Indie horror king Charles Chudabala appears briefly as the gay BFF, and subjects the main girl to a very funny speed dating session.

And the main girl eventually starts snuggling up to a cuddly bear (not Bearry, an actual guy). Damn, daddy! Look at that smile and all that beef.

But Bearry is also adorable, and he is definitely the highlight. Both the hubby and I giggled every time he threw a jealous tantrum or lunged at a victim from off screen.

The only thing that really messed up this film was a desperate attempt to explain why the bear kills by presenting a new character very late in the film, which totally slows down the momentum…and fails to explain anything considering the character literally says she doesn’t know why Bearry kills. WTF? Talk about writer’s block.

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I SAW IT ON CABLE: from revenge to religion, Lovecraft to lesbians

Between streaming, buying physical media, and premium movie channels, I am still way behind in my lists of movies to watch, so I’m chipping away at the cable selections now, starting with these four. All I can say is that on the bright side, there’s one that lands on the does the gay guy die? page

VISIONS (2015)

Visions is about as predictable as a Blumhouse horror movie can get. At this point I don’t even understand how someone can write scripts this obvious and still think they’re going to shock audiences.

After a car accident in which a baby was tragically killed, a young couple needs a change, so they move to a new house. The wife is now pregnant, and almost immediately begins experiencing strange occurrences.

She has nightmare visions of her belly bleeding, her headboard breaking, wine bottles exploding, a gun appearing then vanishing, and someone standing outside their house. And wouldn’t you know she’s been on meds, so her husband thinks she’s seeing things.

She also finds signs of occult happenings in the house, sees a party guest at their new house doing some sort of ritual, and befriends another young pregnant woman. It definitely feels like there are supernatural situations haunting her. I don’t want to spoil it, but…if you’re a fan of home invasion horror, you might enjoy this more than those looking for a paranormal film. And not to spoil it more, but the basic premise kind of reminds me of a short from the 1983 anthology Screamtime, which was remade as a full-length film called Psychosis with Charisma Carpenter.

THE UNHOLY (2021)

With a title so generic it’s the same as the title of a horror film from the 1980s, it’s not all that surprising that the film itself is as generic as they get. It’s also heavy on religion. I’d hold up a crucifix to ward off the horror of that aspect of the film, but, you know…crucifixes are religious, too.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan covers sensational stories, so when he finds a creepy doll in a tree after the supposed site of a Satanic ritual turns out to be nothing, he smashes the doll to make it look even creepier, and then creates a bullshit story to go along with it.

Needless to say, he will be punished and then atone for his sins by the time the film ends.

He almost runs over a mute girl—happy accident I’d say, because suddenly she can talk. She can also heal people. She becomes his real story, and the people in her congregation believe she is the Holy Mother Mary.

But JDM is having really horrible nightmares, there’s an evil, cloaked presence haunting the church, and eventually JDM will figure out just what it is.

Personally, I thought it was just a throwback to the tooth fairy from Darkness Falls. And that’s what you get from this film—early 2000s supernatural specter horror that delivers tame kills and cheap scares, with the added annoyance of religion.

SACRIFICE (2020)

Why does the same Lovecraftian plot just keep getting remade these days in the form of indie films that don’t need to spring for any special effects? Sacrifice was giving me flashbacks to The Block Island Sound, which I found to be a more effective horror movie.

A couple comes to the home of the husband’s deceased mother on an isolated island. The wife is pregnant. The locals are weird. The relationship becomes strained. The husband is drawn to the ocean. Barbara Crampton appears in the film because she’s like the queen of Lovecraft horror films since the 1980s.

And for about 70 minutes of this 88-minute movie, every scary experience the wife has turns out to be a dream. Every. Fucking. One.

Why even make a movie where all the spooky parts are just dreams? It leaves you with a thin plot with no guts, which could have been told more concisely as a 30-minute short. Not to mention that the title of this film essentially spoils the ending.

THE RETREAT (2021)

I have mixed feelings about this film. The fact that it is a gay horror film gets it a “Yay!” A gay male couple takes one for the team in the opening scene…after kissing and talking about their first time hooking up on Grindr. It seems like the new trend when presenting gay male couples in movies is to reference that they fell in love thanks to an anonymous fuck app. Sigh.

Next, we meet our main lesbian couple. Shocker—they’re relationship is on shaky ground as they head to a cabin in the woods. The “tougher” of the two is not all that romantic and is more hesitant to be open about her sexuality in public. Sigh.

During a pit stop, one of the girls is hit on by an Ashmore brother, reminding us how vulnerable women are to aggressive toxic masculinity, especially when they head into redneck territory. Yawn. It also makes it pretty obvious we’ll be seeing more of him, because, well, he’s an Ashmore brother.

Then they get to the cabin and this almost immediately turns into a predictable rednecks vs. city folk revenge flick. There’s some pretty good suspense, but there’s nothing new in terms of the action, right down to a bear trap moment. Yawn.

The weird part for me is that this is basically a film about queer haters specifically going after the queers, and the queers then getting revenge. How many yawns and sighs am I up to? Seriously, I just don’t see the point in making queer horror flicks in which the queers are targeted and terrorized by conservative straights. We get enough of that shit in real life. Can’t we just get stories with happy homos having sex, falling in love, and clashing with a variety of supernatural and otherworldly monsters?

Oh, wait. We can, and we do…in my Comfort Cove gay horror fiction series.

But I will admit, it’s quite satisfying when the lesbians spit on the extremists’ graves…

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STREAM QUEEN: will you Await the Dawn in the Funhouse with The Mad Hatter?

After a marathon of 26 Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee films, it was time for me to jump back into the 21st century with some streaming of modern horror flicks. Here’s how things turned out with the first 3 films I watched.

FUNHOUSE (2019)

The director of The Evil In Us makes a statement on the instant fame of reality by applying a Saw style touch.

Another Skarsgard kid is one of the leads as 8 wannabe celebrities are brought together for a Big Brother style reality show streaming live to the internet.

As soon as the first competition hits—human piñata!—the cast realizes this is no ordinary game.

In between violent and gory competition kills and tensions between the cast members, clips are interspersed including viewer reactions, video reviewer reactions, and news reports about the missing celebrities.

The host of the show is a computer generated, talking Panda, and the threatening assistants wear creepy panda masks.

There are boobs, a sex scene, a hottie with a Mohawk taking on a bunch of big beefy guys, and an ending that avoids the most obvious route.

THE MAD HATTER (2021)

The Mad Hatter trailer reminded me of supernatural killer of the early 2000s PG-13 movies, so I thought I’d check it out. The film’s creators had a different plan though.

A college professor who is so clearly weird from the start invites some students to stay in a mansion rumored to be haunted. He also plans to hypnotize them to further enhance their supernatural experiences. This just leads to some of them tapping into deeper distractions trapped inside their minds—most specifically one kid who seems to have guilt over a drowning.

As for the other kids, they experience a variety of different yet predictable supernatural occurrences. And yet each of them basically pretends their encounters didn’t happen and just go on without telling anyone.

For instance, a guy with a sexy body has a sexual encounter with a girl…who briefly turns into a man during foreplay. Hot. However, the guy says nothing when he later encounters the girl.

And when the whole group of kids is playing dress-up with some old clothes they find, a creepy, menacing man suddenly appears and doesn’t move or say anything to them. Soooo…they just leave the room and never speak of it again or wonder where the hell the man came from, who he is, or where he went.

Sort of like Euro horror of the 80s, this film just throws one horror after another at the audience (rarely is that horror actually the Mad Hatter). But unlike 80s Euro horror, which hit us with a series of nonsensical horrors that were also freakish or terrifying enough for us to not care that we couldn’t understand what the hell was going on, The Mad Hatter tries to make all those random horrors somehow have meaning and connection…yet it’s still nonsensical horror. Unfortunately, it also isn’t freakish or terrifying.

But my biggest issue? Every time someone just “disappears”, the increasingly creepy teacher simply says, “oh, they went home” and no one bats an eye!

AWAIT THE DAWN (2020)

A movie with Dee Wallace and her daughter Gabrielle? I was so here for it. I was also pleasantly surprised that this was a lighter, less polished indie with a campy vibe, plenty of practical gore effects, and eventually a “pass on the possession” plot—one my favorite kinds.

The opening scene and music totally gave me that Creepshow comic book movie feel—I’m talking the 1982 movie, not the current series. There’s definitely a campy tone that carries threw the film. However, despite the actors handling their business fine, a nagging melodramatic chord progression serves as the score and plays continuously regardless of the tone of the scene, which waters down any sense of nuance or range of emotion and often makes the performances seem awkward or misguided.

The story focuses on a family in an RV driving their addict daughter to get help. Dee Wallace is the mom, Courtney Gains of Children of the Corn is the daughter’s doctor. When the family is distracted, a (hot) guy sneaks on board and then holds them at gunpoint.

He also tries to warn them to just drive away as fast as they can when they come upon a little girl lying on a desolate road at night.

So they stop…

This girl is an evil little bitch, and the young actress cast in the role is clearly having a ball playing it to the max. As she terrorizes the family, she gets help from those she eventually makes into demonic minions.

I say eventually because unfortunately a good chunk of the film drags before the horror action truly kicks in. Serving as character development, the guy with the gun has conversations with each family member to get to know them better, and when he at last reveals what he’s all about and what he knows about the little girl, it gets a little technical.

Considering this is basically Evil Dead in an RV, we don’t need complicated exposition. Just bring on the demon people, the screaming, and the gore. Thankfully, Await the Dawn does so starting at about the 51-minute mark, at which point it becomes a lot of fun.

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13 horrors of Christopher Lee

Naturally I had to follow my Peter Cushing blog with a companion blog covering Christopher Lee films. And just like the Cushing blog, these are the last 13 films in my collection starring Lee that I hadn’t yet covered on my site, and only a few of his horror films are left to cover simply because they aren’t available on disc yet.

THE TWO FACES OF DR. JEKYLL (1960)

There’s only so many times you can see yet another adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic without feeling like you’ve seen enough. At least The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll brings some new elements to it—starting with a title change and the presence of Christopher Lee, of course.

Lee’s inclusion is a main reason for a major change in the plot. He plays the lover of Dr. Jekyll’s wife, who is bored because her man is so busy in his lab all the time.

The other change? The doctor is the “ugly one”. See, when he takes the drug he creates, his dark side comes out in the form of a sexy, smooth-faced playboy.

Indeed, Jekyll is a bland, bearded, older dude (insulting) and Hyde is like his beautiful portrait of Dorian Gray come to life.

So don’t expect to see a traditional monster here. Despite being sleazy and sexual, this adaptation has Hyde mind-fucking his wife and her lover until he eventually enacts his revenge on them. It’s utterly boring, and the most exciting moment is when his wife falls off a balcony onto a crowded dance floor.

SCREAM OF FEAR (1961)

We have a winner! At least I have a winner in the realm of the dozens of Hammer films I’ve subjected myself to since inheriting my brother’s collection.

Scream Of Fear has what is by now a seemingly cliché plot, but it is such a tightly presented horror flick with so many delicious little twists at the end that it stands out from the pack of its time.

After the loss of a friend by suicide, a young woman in a wheelchair returns home to her estranged father’s estate. And they remain estranged because he’s not even home! She’s greeted by her stepmother and doesn’t quite trust her.

This is one of those “are they trying to drive her crazy?” films. The young woman begins seeing signs that her father is “around”…including a sighting of his corpse (eek!), but everyone in the home thinks she imagined it. Even the doctor, played by Christopher Lee, makes her feel like she’s going nuts.

The only person she can turn to for help is a new love interest…who we get to see in a bikini swimwear!

There are some truly eerie and increasingly gruesome moments as the film progresses, with great use made of tight camera work and shadowy lighting, plus a series of unexpected events in the final act. This is one Hammer film I am thrilled to have in my collection.

CHALLENGE THE DEVIL (1963)

This is an Italian language film, so Christopher Lee fans need to know that his voice has been dubbed by another actor. So not only are you sort of getting Lee, he is also in the film for just a very brief time.

The first twenty minutes or so are wasted with setup—basically a monk gets mixed up in an attempted murder, reconnects with his ex-girlfriend, and then tells her a story of what led him to the life he’s living now. But before that, we are bombarded by a couple of song and dance numbers at a club.

As for the rest of the story, it’s about the monk and his delinquent friends committing some violence and then busting into a castle and doing some psychedelic dance partying before Christopher Lee suddenly appears in a white wig and stares into a fireplace for a while. He also tells them he’s possessed by the devil.

After that, the group mostly sticks together (shocking) as they try to find their way out of the house.

Lee is never seen again, and this plays out like a haunted house attraction movie, with winding stairs, a maze of mirrors, a ghostly apparition, a spider sighting, and not much else. Plus, the final takeaway is pretty much a religious message. Yawn.

THE VIRGIN OF NUREMBERG (aka: Horror Castle) (1963)

Now this is classic horror. It all starts with thunder, lightning, a woman walking around a castle with a candle, torture devices, and gore.

Horrible sixties jazz music kills that mood fast. Why the fuck did they do that shit in sixties horror?

Anyway, that’s about all we hear of that nonsense music, so the atmosphere is perfect for the rest of the film.

Our main woman has moved into a creepy castle/museum with her husband and must contend with a weird maid, an unnerving, scarred custodian played by Christopher Lee, and worst of all, what is apparently the resurrected resident torturer known as “the punisher”.

It’s all very House on Haunted Hill as our poor leading lady is terrorized. Best of all, the film becomes more horrific as it reaches the final act, with a nasty rat torture scene and the great reveal of the punisher’s face. Eek!

There’s even a gruesome Nazi tie-in backstory.

CASTLE OF THE LIVING DEAD (1964)

Even though this is a period piece, there’s nothing more modern than a couple making out on the side of the road and getting killed by an unseen threat.

The film focuses on a group of traveling entertainers with an escape artist gimmick.

They are invited to stay at the castle of Count Drago (uh-oh), but before they can get there a witchy woman on the road warns them to stay away.

Naturally, when they get to the castle, the count is Christopher Lee, who looks more perfectly undead than in any of his other movies and says that he’s been down in his “Luh-bore-a-tory”. Pronunciation is everything.

He has a room full of stuffed birds, so you can just imagine what Count Taxidermist has in store for them. And a young Donald Sutherland shows up as law enforcement to complicate matters.

But this film takes an odd turn…the real danger is this laughing Lurch looking goon that was traveling with the group. This dude is a psycho killer! He even tosses a little man off the castle roof! Luckily we have a woman traveling in the group to serve as the main girl.

CRYPT OF THE VAMPIRE (1964)

Now this is my kind of old black and white horror movie, and it sure makes me wish Christopher Lee had escaped the clutches of redundant, bland Hammer Films productions more often.

Crypt of the Vampire has a lot going on, and despite having “vampire” in the title, this is far from a hardcore vampire film.

Filled with classic black and white horror atmosphere, the film is about Lee’s grown daughter, who is experiencing nightmares and paranoia. Lee believes her issue is related to a family curse, so he hires a man to research the witch that cast it.

Meanwhile, the housekeeper believes the daughter is possessed, so she calls on fricking Satan to help her. Also, a young woman comes to stay in the house after an accident and befriends the daughter.

A very haunting series of scenes of vampires terrorizing the daughter reminded of the nightmarish scene from the original Salem’s Lot (you know the one).

Another highlight is when the two girls make a gruesome discover in a large bell.

As the girls are off on their excursion in ghostly white nightgowns, Lee and his expert are busy trying to prove the witch is influencing all the supernatural shit going on, and vampiric themes finally emerge.

THE TORTURE CHAMBER OF DR. SADISM (1967)

Somehow, this movie with “torture porn” basically built right into the title won’t commit to its promise after a pretty gnarly opening.

It starts back in time with Christopher Lee, a count (why was everyone a count back then?), being punished for his crimes of torturing other human beings. How is he punished? Torture, of course! He gets a spike laced mask smashed onto his face and then has all his limbs ripped off by four horses. Ah, the classics.

In the present day (still the past since this is a period piece), a baroness and her lawyer are summoned to Blood Castle so she can collect an inheritance. The journey in a stagecoach goes on and on and on…until a foggy night when they travel a road lined with dead bodies hanging from trees. Best scene in the movie.

Circumstances lead them right to the castle, they meet a ghoulish servant of the count, and we learn that the plan is to resurrect the count and keep him alive with sacrifices.

And then…brace yourself…it turns out this is an adaptation of Poe’s “The Pit and the Pendulum”! The lawyer comes face to blade with the pendulum, the baroness is pitted against a pit of snakes, and I literally guffawed at how the lawyer escapes the pit…and it’s not with the help of rats. But will the baroness and lawyer get away, and will there be a happy ending? The absolutely awful music that destroys any horror atmosphere at the end of the movie can answer that question.

THEATRE OF DEATH (1967)

This is a fun little film in which Christopher Lee runs a theater of the macabre, crafting performance pieces that end with someone’s gruesome murder. He is mesmerizing audiences…and hypnotizing his performers to get them to do his bidding in his shows.

A detective starts to fall for one of Lee’s leading actresses, who Lee seems to be mentally tormenting, making her feel inferior and replaceable when a new girl joins the theater group.

Meanwhile, women have been murdered around town, and the detective doesn’t trust Lee. There are plenty of odd plot points that don’t add up here. For instance, the detectives specifically discuss only women being victims, yet the next thing you know, we’re witnessing a man being murdered in a tunnel (it’s implied). Also, it’s pointed out that the main detective has hand damage so he can’t use it, which makes it seem like that factoid will play a crucial part in the plot later, but it doesn’t. Even the possibility of vampirism is discussed by the detectives, who think the killer desires blood, but that doesn’t pan out either.

The biggest surprise of all is that Christopher Lee vanishes from the film halfway through, never to be seen again. It’s kind of cool to pull such a stunt, but he does add an element of intrigue to the plot earlier on and is missed once he’s gone. However, the cast manages to carry on, and by the time the main girl confronts the killer, you should have guessed who it is.

It’s also kind of weird when the main detective refers to a Black victim as a “colored woman”. Totally brought me back to the days of my single-digit years when all the really old people in my life used to refer to Black people that way.

THE DEVIL RIDES OUT (1968)

I’m rather surprised this mess of a cult movie was written by horror master Richard Matheson. It’s 95 minutes of characters running around from one house to another being abducted and escaping a cult over and over.

While investigating the occult leanings of a friend’s son, Christopher Lee accidentally summons a demon…that looks exactly like your ordinary everyday Black man. What the hell?

Lee and friend escape the demon by running to another friend’s house, and in doing so, drag that whole family into the occult madness, for an entire cult is on their tail.

After much running around in circles for most of the movie and being subjected to having their bodies temporarily possessed by a demon every once in a while, the main characters step into a pentagram for protection and watch as a giant spider and a skeleton knight on horseback come to taunt them just outside the circle. I did not find this horror movie chilling at all.

THE CRIMSON CULT (1968)

What I like about this film is that it knows it has Christopher Lee and Boris Karloff waiting in the wings, so it totally sets the tone in a creepy house with thunder, lightning, secret passages, a cemetery, a weird butler lurking in the shadows, and a celebration of witches and witchcraft.

A man comes to the house—basically a bed and breakfast owned by Christopher Lee—in search of his missing brother.

Lee’s niece takes a shine to the guest and tries to help him with his investigation. And Boris Karloff is an occult fanatic being rolled around in a wheelchair to oversee a joyous party marking witch history.

The main man starts having ominous nightmares about an evil witch queen that adored torturing people, and her entourage includes a whip-wielding mistress in pasties and a hunky slave boy in a black Speedo. Awesome.

It’s perhaps a little lowbrow compared to Hammer Films productions of the era…which would explain why I like it better than most of them. It’s just pure, silly, classic horror fun.

THE BLOODY JUDGE (1970)

Christopher Lee wasn’t above taking on “horror” that was simply misogynistic exploitation of the witch trials, which is all this plotless movie is.

Lee is a judge who finds beautiful women guilty of witchcraft left and right.

They are then taken to a dungeon barely dressed and subjected to various forms of physical abuse, most of which won’t exactly impress torture porn fans in this day and age.

The thin plot involves one young woman desperate to clear her accused sister’s name…but not desperate enough to sleep with Lee in exchange. Soooo…she’s tortured a lot.

Meanwhile, Lee is desperate to preserve his political ambitions by taking down any challengers to his authority.

There are various war battles, but you really just watch this one if you want to see writhing women in pain at the hands of a dude who looks like Marty Feldman in Young Frankenstein.

Also watch if you want to witness the voluptuous leading lady give a bloody female victim a sensual tongue bath.

THE WICKER MAN (1973)

Permanently scarred from watching the remake with Nicholas Cage, I never felt the need to watch the original…until discovering I’m obligated due to the rules set in my own mind not only to watch it but to own it because Christopher Lee is in it.

On the bright side, Nicholas Cage is not in it. On the down side, I see why Midsommar gets compared to this film. It is boooooooring.

The plot is intriguing, it really is. A Christian detective gets an anonymous note about a missing girl on an island. He flies to the island and quickly realizes everyone on it is entrenched in Pagan rituals…and acting as if the missing girl doesn’t exist, including her mother!

Christopher Lee is the leader of the island, and the detective is at odds with him for rejecting God.

We are subjected to horrible singing and dancing around a maypole, a frog being used in the mouth of a child to cure a sore throat, a scary clown doll, people in creepy masks, and most terrifying of all, a naked woman singing a folk song. Nightmare material.

And then there’s the final sacrificial pagan ritual in a big wicker man contraption that would be so damn easy to get out of once it started burning, which makes the shocking finale of this movie a huge disappointment.

THE KEEPER (1976)

This is an odd little film that comes across as silly and campy at times—I think on purpose.

Christopher Lee runs an insane asylum for rich people, where he makes everyone call him “The Keeper”. He also finds a way to get rich off the fortunes of his patients.

A detective and his partner look into deaths surrounding the asylum, going under cover inside the place. But Lee, who is on to them, uses his very special treatments method—hypnotherapy—to find out more and to put a stop to their interference.

How silly is this film? I mean, aside from the hypnotherapy “special effects” shown above? The detective gets tips from a young shoe shine boy, and at one point Lee hypnotizes a detective and makes him choo choo like a train…

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It’s October: how about a whopping 13 movie Peter Cushing marathon?

This big ass blog takes on the remaining 13 movies I hadn’t yet posted about from my collection of Peter Cushing films. I’ve now covered virtually every horror movie he was in (!), with just a few stray titles still on my list to get that have yet to be released on physical media.

THE ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN (1957)

One of Cushing’s earliest horror films, this is a creature feature with not much creature. We don’t see the Yeti until the last few minutes!

Cushing is on a botanical expedition in the Himalayas, and a group of men shows up looking for the Abominable Snowman. So they join forces to go into the mountains together.

The leader of the other gang turns out to be a douche who wants to capture and exploit the Yeti while Cushing is in it for scientific research—a conflict that will echo through creature features for decades to come. Unfortunately, the movie is also super heavy on scientific theory dialogue.

As in many of these movies, the men are their own worst enemies as they turn on each other and themselves, but there’s also a catch—it appears they are being mind-controlled by the Yeti (that we never see). Indeed there’s a much more epic backstory for the Yeti than in most modern films that take on the mythical monster. Difference is, modern films deliver monster action, and this film doesn’t.

ISLAND OF TERROR (1966)

As if to make up for the huge creature feature disappointment of The Abominable Snowman, Cushing delves into full monster movie territory with this sci-fi/horror flick.

After a man goes missing on an island and is then found as a total pile of jelly, Cushing is called in as a scientist to determine what the cause could possibly be. I’m fairly convinced the victim’s face was the inspiration for “Ring face”.

No time is wasted in giving us the full monster Monty, with tentacle attacks easing us in before we get to see the huge snail-like creatures that crawl along the ground. They also drop out of trees and into the arms of victims occasionally, which made me laugh every time.

It’s just old school monster fun as a team is assembled to go hunt down and kill the creatures in the woods.

NIGHT OF THE BIG HEAT (1967)

The lame title of this sci-fi/horror film is as watered down as the movie itself. To have both Cushing and Christopher Lee in a film this sterile is rather disappointing, and it’s not surprising that neither of them proves to be the true star. However, Night of the Big Heat is noticeably one of the building blocks for many films that have come after it.

On an isolated island, an inn owner has a dilemma—the new woman he hires is a hot young thing he had an affair with, and she’s determined to ruin his marriage.

Meanwhile, inn guest Christopher Lee is a secretive scientist who creeps around the island taking photos and using mysterious equipment, after which he locks himself in his room.

The island is subjected to unnaturally high temperatures, people start dying after hearing a high-pitched sound, a guy reports his sheep being killed (in a modern horror film we would have seen the mutilated sheep), and the main guy’s wife sees something crash land in a field.

Concluding there’s an alien life form, Lee, Cushing, and the small cast come together to figure out a way to fend off the invasion. This is a slow film and lacks suspense or scares. And the alien life form? It’s a glowing, pulsing mass that simply dies when it rains. Lame!

The highlight for me was when the husband discusses his new employee with his wife and says, “She was a slut and I wanted her!”

CORRUPTION (1968)

To me, this film feels like someone was really itching to have Peter Cushing star in a Herschel Gordon Lewis sleazefest, so they just did it themselves.

The plot has been revisited in various horror movies over the years. Cushing plays a plastic surgeon with a beautiful fiancée.

When the pair attends a totally sixties psychedelic dance party, the fiancée is horribly burned by a photography light that is so big it actually would have pulverized her head when it fell on her.

Determined to regenerate her skin tissue, Cushing experiments…on corpses, of course. And it works! The catch is, he has to give his woman the treatment regularly and needs fresh flesh. And so his brutal murdering spree begins.

A spree of three in total. Yawn! But the kills are very bloody, it’s magnificent to see Cushing’s hair not only out of place but looking like he stuck a finger in an electric socket, and he gets to touch some prostitute boob if you watch the international cut. Interestingly, the cleaner cut of the film features an entirely different scene with the prostitute—played by a different actress!

THE BLOOD BEAST TERROR (1968)

Since this creature feature has such a cheesy giant moth monster, it would have served the film better to just fill it with monster sightings instead of keeping the death scenes enshrouded in mystery for so long.

After a promising opening kill, Cushing appears as a detective investigating the deaths of various young men who were sucked dry.

He starts snooping around the home of a professor who is of course the one hiding the truth about the moth creature…it’s his daughter, who transforms at night!

I’m all about pretty boys being seduced to their deaths for a change, if only the silly monster had been exploited. Hell, this moth lady doesn’t even transform during her transformations. No special effects, just poof and she’s a moth.

And Cushing’s final battle shooting the moth out of the sky is such a letdown…for both the moth and us.

INCENSE FOR THE DAMNED (aka: Bloodsuckers) (1971)

This is a film that mostly forgets about the horror rather quickly.

Cushing plays some sort of college bigwig who pushes for a search for a prestigious young Oxford man who goes missing in Greece. And that’s all we see of Cushing until the end of the film.

A handful of the young man’s friends (white guy, Black guy, young white woman) go to search for him with the help of their contact in Greece, original Avenger Patrick Mcnamee (no, not those Avengers).

The most mesmerizing part of the film is a scene of the missing man with the mysterious young woman he’s met as they delve into an orgy that goes full-on drug trip with psychedelic rock blasting, strobe lights, and quick, flashing edits that transition into a bloody sacrifice by people in masks.

As the friends go around asking questions and chasing leads, the only other interesting part, which isn’t expanded on quiet enough probably due to when the film was made, is the suggestion that the Black guy may be hot for the missing friend. He vehemently denies it, yet when they finally locate the friend shirtless and delusional, the Black guy sure does touch his bare body a lot.

This one could have been a lot more interesting as a horror movie if it better teased what is implied at the end…vampire cult!

It’s like this film took a classic Hammer Films vampire movie, updated it to modern times, and then gutted all the vampire stuff until the intriguing conclusion. At least Peter Cushing finally returns for a few minutes to relish the vampiric aspects.

TWINS OF EVIL (1971)

A follow-up to The Vampire Lovers, which was the first of a Hammer trilogy, Twins of Evil is quite cool because it a) blends witchcraft and vampires into one plot, b) uses a swapping twins plot, and c) brings more sex to the Hammer name than most of their films.

Cushing leads a vigilante group of witch hunters that burns innocent women, starting immediately with the first scene.

Meanwhile, Cushing’s twin nieces come to live with him, and one in particular loathes his rigid religious way of life and plans to rebel against him. So…

She gets involved with a handsome count who draws her into Satanism and vampirism. But her identical twin is really going to complicate matters…

It’s yet another Hammer vampire film, but this one delivers some sexy stuff, including the count’s hunky bodyguard, a sex scene in which a candle is stroked quite erotically, and hints of lesbianism, with a female vampire sucking on a tit. On top of that, Cushing performs a juicy beheading.

I, MONSTER (1971)

It’s another take on Jekyll and Hyde, yet both the title and the character names have been changed. There’s nothing new here, but a few things make this a satisfying adaptation.

  1. a) Christopher Lee is the most fun I’ve ever seen him in the role of the devious monster.

  1. b) We get to see Lee pitted against Cushing.

  1. c) The monster attacks children. Yay!

FEAR IN THE NIGHT (1972)

This may just be a Hammer Films masterpiece, and I’m not just saying that because it’s not a period piece for a change. It’s not only an immersive suspense mystery, it is a fantastic stalker film.

Our main girl is about to start a new life with her teacher husband when she is attacked in her own home…and gets a serious surprise when she fights back. Problem is no one really believes it happened because she had a nervous breakdown recently. When she’s attacked again, even her husband doubts her.

The school headmaster, played by Peter Cushing, encounters her touring her husband’s new workplace, so he shows her around, but he is like a pervy old man. It’s a very uncomfortable scene that reminds us of how easily women can be preyed upon when they’re attempting to be polite.

Her paranoia leads to the best scene in the movie, which is also the most infuriating. Her husband has to leave for the night, so she gets a shotgun then proceeds to turn out all the lights before going upstairs! WTF? When she hears a noise, she has to go downstairs in the dark to turn them all back on!

But this shit turns into a kick ass chase packed with so many elements of slasher chase scenes that were on the 80s horizon. It had me totally braced to find out where the film was going, although it seemed pretty obvious, especially when you have a vixen like Joan Collins come on the scene.

Not sure if it seems predictable just because I’ve been watching these kinds of film for so long, but even so, there were still enough twists in the plot to keep this old horror whore interested.

TENDER DRACULA (1974)

I don’t know if something gets lost in the translation from the original language, but this French farce is an absolute nonsensical mess in which not only does nothing happen, but the material that does fill the time isn’t even vaguely funny.

Two writers and their girlfriends are sent to the mansion of an actor who has decided to give up his career playing vampire roles to do romances.

That actor is played by Peter Cushing, who at least finally gets to lighten up and smile quite a bit for a change.

Beyond that I have no idea what was going on. I can’t even vaguely describe a plot to you. I can tell you there are a couple of really annoying musical numbers, including one in which the two main girls sing naked.

And the only other moment of note is Cushing taking a woman over his knee and spanking her. Seriously, that is the highlight of this film because it’s so out of character for this iconic horror actor.

LEGEND OF THE WEREWOLF (1975)

It might be directed by a Hammer alum and star Peter Cushing as a doctor hunting down a werewolf that looks very much like Oliver Reed in The Curse of the Werewolf, but this is not a sequel or a Hammer film.

It’s an illogical story of a baby raised by wolves. He grows into a feral boy and ends up as a sideshow freak.

When he becomes a man, he starts turning into a werewolf even though he was never bitten by anything!

He then falls for a prostitute at a brothel and kills off any John that pays for sex with her. Funny considering this judgmental werewolf is the one living in the sewers.

Killer POV is represented by the screen going red, there are often injections of close-ups of the bloody werewolf mouth, and the real killing spree starts 65 minutes in.

After that, Cushing and his team grab their werewolf hunting necessities and go down into the sewer to take care of business. It’s a fairly boring film overall.

THE GHOUL (1975)

Pre-dating many slashers and backwoods horror flicks that came after it, The Ghoul doesn’t quite deliver on the horror the premise lends itself to.

Elitists at a country estate are having a car race. One couple’s car runs out of gas, they split up, and the woman is welcomed into the estate of Peter Cushing. He serenades her with his violin, which he spends most of the movie playing.

Meanwhile, William Hurt is a psychotic gardener, there’s a witchy woman living in the house, and there’s something in the attic…

The movie pulls a Psycho, with a lead character switcheroo deep into the movie. There’s even a kill scene in a bed that seems to take its style—hearing more than seeing the gore—from the famous shower scene.

More snobby victims show up at the mansion to be killed off, but this film is way before the time of high body counts, so it’s ultimately rather tame. As is the thing in the attic when it’s finally revealed.

THE DEVIL’S MEN (aka: Land of the Minotaur) (1976)

Donald Pleasence vs. Peter Cushing in a battle between good and evil sounds like it can’t go wrong, right? Wrong.

It virtually feels like there’s no script for this film, just loads of scenes of a cult kidnapping blonde girls in Greece and then worshipping a big statue of a Minotaur in a cave. Over and over and over and over.

Half the time I wasn’t even sure if shit was really supposed to be happening or if Donald’s priest character was experiencing nightmares or hallucinations while investigating the disappearances of the tourists.

Whenever Donald gives a speech about evil, it feels like he’s rehearsing for his role in Halloween two years later. The few times Cushing appears on screen it feels like he’s collecting a paycheck. And all the black, red, and white hooded cultists just gave me icky Klan vibes.

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2 Halloween horrors, an 80s slasher remake, and a home invasion gone wrong

Just like everything else, there’s a shortage of Halloween themed horror movies this year, but I managed to find two more to add to the holiday horror page, and I tossed in a couple of non-holiday themed horror flicks just for fun. Let’s see which ones were worth the watch.

WRONG PLACE, WRONG TIME (2021)

Justin Price, director of werewolf film Dark Moon Rising, takes on the “criminals commit crime then hide out in house with monsters in it” plot. Having been left completely befuddled by Wrong Place, Wrong Time, I just looked back at my blog about his werewolf film to refresh my memory. It isn’t surprising that one of my sentences in the Dark Moon Rising blog was “Endless disjointed scenes baffle rather than give any sense of what the fuck is going on.”

This film somehow takes the most basic concept and attempts to complicate it, which piles on the plot holes. I watched this with the hubba hubba and then we talked it through trying to make sense of it. We even watched the first fifteen minutes again to see if all the setup scenes (which we at first thought weren’t presented in chronological order) held some answers we’d missed. They did not.

The opener feels like it is in place just to let viewers know there will be action and blood in this film. Then we are introduced to the main characters with a painfully forced method—one character shows the “files” of each character to the guy hiring them as he describes them while we are presented with clips of them in action.

And the mission they’re hired for? We don’t see it executed. Suddenly they are on the run, one of them is wounded, and they decide to bust into some seemingly random house to hide out. There they find some people tied up.

Neither the events that unfold nor characters that are presented seem to fall into place. The good news is that the horror and “monster” moments totally rock and awesome practical effects are on full display instead of CGI. There’s even a great police cam POV scene.

Yet, as if the film doesn’t already have a confusing narrative as it is, the very last line in the movie, which seems to be intended to blow our minds with a new piece of information, instead leaves us wondering why the new detail would even be introduced at all.

REUNION MASSACRE (aka: Invitation to Die) (2014)

Would you believe this is a high school reunion/Halloween horror mashup? And it is all jammed into what feels like a 60-minute fan film made by someone who wanted to do reunion and Halloween horror movies but couldn’t even come up with enough ideas to fill an hour with both themes at their disposal.

Reunion Massacre, which was originally titled Invitation to Die, starts with a horror hostess introducing the movie with its original title, so the voice totally changes due to an overdub of someone else saying Reunion Massacre. This pretty much foreshadows the quality of the rest of the movie.

There’s a girl. She gets an invite to her high school reunion. Her friend convinces her to go…and then they dive into a Halloween decorating montage.

She heads to her reunion, but the address turns out to be a derelict house in the woods. A guy in a clown mask abducts her and ties her up in the house a couple of times. Each time she gets away she just roams around to pad the running time of this 1-hour movie. Two girls are also killed in between, and then the main girl has a final confrontation with the killer.

Three weeks later, she’s carving a pumpkin, and someone keeps ringing the doorbell. Guess who.

I don’t say this often, but I’d suggest avoiding this one at all costs (and my price was free with my Amazon Prime membership).

BAD CANDY (2020)

If Trick ‘r Treat collided with All Hallows’ Eve, you would sort of get Bad Candy. I’ll say immediately that this is a visual Halloween spectacle nearly from start to finish. It gives a gorgeously eerie Halloween vibe and glow, and the creepy ghouls and gore throughout totally deliver on the Halloween fun. Not to mention, a male narrator voice at the beginning is very reminiscent of the Tales From the Darkside intro.

The wraparound focuses on two DJs at a radio show taking requests for scary stories —Corey Taylor of the band Slipknot and Zach Galligan, who brings along some Gremlins references.

Much like Trick ‘r Treat, the stories all sort of take place in the same universe and overlap here and there. And like All Hallows’ Eve, an evil clown makes an appearance in most of the tales.

These are more like creepy vignettes rather than fully developed stories, and some are better than others. Now here’s the curious part. Based on the movie title and the themes of the tales, I’m thinking that these are tales of morality (the temptations of the sinners being the “bad candy”). However, there’s a catch if I’m reading things right. Some of the moral viewpoints are (hopefully) universal. However, others may have a rather right wing propaganda bent. I could be wrong, but I’ll give you some examples as I attempt to breakdown each separate “story”, which I’d consider “situations” rather than stories.

1st – remember the bratty kid who trashed Halloween displays in Trick ‘r Treat? There’s another one here, and the evil clown doesn’t like that. Yay! Bratty Halloween hating kid gets taught a lesson.

2nd – a young girl dressed as a witch has a pretty vile stepfather. She also has the ability to bring supernatural beings into reality by drawing them. Yay! Scummy stepdad gets taught a lesson.

3rd – the evil clown takes center stage when a nasty old man taints Halloween candy. Yay! Nasty old man gets taught a lesson.

4th – hm. A dirt bag is selling drugs at a party. Personally, I don’t think he deserves to be taught a lesson for being a dirt bag or for selling drugs to privileged white kids that demand it, but maybe that’s just me. However, when he goes into a bathroom stall, things get interesting. There’s a glory hole and also “for a good time call Pedro” graffiti punctuated with a pentagram. The drug dealer calls “Pedro”, which immediately left me wondering if it’s being implied that he’s gay, a Satanist, or both, and therefore deserves to be taught a lesson by the devilish killer that shows up.

5th – corpse fucker gets taught a lesson. Yay!

6th – a man beats a woman, and while I’m totally feeling his big gay club kid shorts, yay! Woman beater gets taught a lesson.

7th – this is a story that’s weird, kind of freaky in a good way yet goes on way too long, and could be troubling if not for the fact that it’s just convoluted enough to possibly be masking its true intent. Some guys bring a bunch of bound men in underwear with ball gags in their mouths to a pumpkin patch at night.

Earlier in the movie there’s a conversation between two of the abductors in which one obnoxiously calls the other one gay. This obnoxious guy is Derek Russo, the hunk from the Creepshow Christmas episode. He’s also leading the charge in the field and explains that he didn’t fight in the military man to have all these men bring shame upon the country by doing what they’ve done. Here’s the catch. We don’t know what they’ve done. We don’t know where they came from. We don’t know if they were already in undies and ball gags (maybe at a sex party?), or if their abductors did that to them.

One of the victims is wearing a wig, which seems to imply either drag or a non-male gender identity. Is this an attack on queer men? I’m not sure, but it kind of feels like it. However, if I’m reading the internet right, it’s interesting to note that actor Derek Russo appears to have done porn in the past and even dabbled in some gay erotic material. Not that it would matter or stop him from doing an anti-gay horror tale. Anyway, all the practically naked men are splashed in blood, have jack o’ lanterns placed over their heads, and are then let loose to run from a variety of horrors both human and monster.

8th – this begins as a ghost hunters tale, but it becomes a super confusing attempt to tie everything together, including the wraparound. It’s quite a mess, and personally I felt it kind of ruins the movie and is a huge letdown after all the horror and Halloween goodness that carried most of the film, despite those hints of queer persecution I may just be totally misreading.

SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE (2021)

The director of The Banana Splits Movie and the writer of Leprechaun Returns, both female, create what is possibly now one of my favorite slasher remakes yet.

They seem totally aware of the original 1982 slasher’s history of being written by feminist writer Rita Mae Brown, and how it became one of the major players in critical theory of the misogyny of 80s slashers. They then take that idea and totally flip the script, crafting a meta horror comedy that is so of the moment with how it tackles gender and race issues we are contending with both in society and in horror right now.

After a fantastic opener that takes place in 1993 at a cabin in the woods, with a killer that perfectly replicates the odd presence and physical stance and quirks of the killer from the original Slumber Party Massacre, we jump to present day.

A group of girls heads to a cabin in the woods…and immediately delves into a dance montage! Before long, some boys from across the lake drop by. They’re staying at the cabin in which the murders from 93 took place, and the girls realize they just might have to help save the boys should the killer make a return. Awesome.

And wouldn’t you know we get an all-male pillow fight along with plenty of other satirical reversals of gender issues in slashers, which can better be appreciated in this visual presentation (which happened to be a pain in the ass to create because I had to take pictures of the TV with my phone while the movie was playing to capture these shots).

The kills are fun and gory, there’s plenty of comedy, there’s a nod to the guitar playing killer from Slumber Party Massacre 2, there’s a nod to the infamous phallic poster art, and there’s a Black main girl.

There’s even a shower scene…which also deserves a visual presentation.


DAMN YOU, SYFY! Just have to wait for the blur-free Blu-ray release…

And if you watch closely during a scene in which the lights keep flashing on and off, there appears to be a little more than a bromance going on between two of the guys.

 

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