It’s a return to the late 1970s with this trio of flicks I just picked up on Blu-ray. I regret nothing, so let’s take a look.
It’s yet another killer creature of the deep film that came out in the wake of the Jaws box office numbers. This one is an Italian film that somehow lined up the likes of Shelley Winters, Henry Fonda, Claude Akins, John Huston, and Bo Hopkins.
For starters, I’ll just say that the biggest failure of this octopus film is the horrible Euro horror music cues that, as usual, never fit the tone of what is actually happening on screen and make everything feel like a whimsical action sequence.
The only scene I remembered from this film, which I literally saw decades ago as a tween, turns out to be the opener, because it involves the murder of a baby. Yay! But seriously, it’s so ridiculous. A woman is with her baby in its stroller by a rocky edge of the shore that drops off into the water. A friend pulls up on the far side of a two lane street, so this fucking Karen leaves the baby to go say hi.
There are quickly a series of deaths to get us hooked, as well as a jump scare from hell. Then we meet all the famous people in the movie and get the basic plot–a tunnel is being built under the bay, and radio signals are causing the octopus to go nuts. Just the octopus? No other animal life at all? Weird.
There are plenty of underwater scenes, some funny octopus ink attacks, shots of the octo eye and octo legs, and even some awesome shots of the octopus sinking boats.
But in exchange there are loads of very long montages of a boating race set to that horrible Euro muzak.
And in the end, the solution to taking down the octopus is a couple of killer whales.
It cools that it’s an octopus flick instead of yet another shark film, but it’s no Jaws.
THE MANITOU (1978)
More than 40 years before Malignant, there was…The Manitou!
Not to be upstaged in the horror genre by his wife and daughter, Tony Curtis jumped into the fray a few times, including here, where he plays a psychic who finds himself drawn into a very supernatural situation.
His woman has the demonic spirit of a Native American medicine man growing out of her back in fetus form. This is precisely why abortion needs to be legal.
There are some wild scenes, including one of Curtis’s clients floating down the hall of his building, and more importantly, the little man Native American demon that eventually emerges from the woman’s back.
There’s also a lot of filler as Curtis seeks out various means of help leading up to the wild final act when the birth occurs.
And then this shit totally jumps the shark, with a portal opened into another dimension that looks like outer space, the Native American little demon man floating around, and his involuntary mother floating around in her hospital bed shooting lasers out of her fingers. Sigh.
So, yeah…Malignant did it better.
SCREAMS OF A WINTER NIGHT (1979)
Although this is an anthology film, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if the wraparound inspired Raimi to make Evil Dead. It concerns a group of friends heading to a cabin in the woods. They stop at a gas station on the way and their gas is pumped by a young William Ragsdale of Fright Night fame.
When they arrive at the ramshackle cabin, one guy shows them a grave site and tells stories of a family believed to have been killed by a Native American spirit.
Finally, 25 minutes in, they gather in the cabin to tell stories. Adding to the fun, the same actors play the characters in the stories.
Adding even more to the fun, the Blu-ray includes the long version, which features a bonus tale cut from the original theatrical release. Here’s the breakdown:
1st story – this is a take on a classic urban legend we would see again in Urban Legend. A couple gets stuck on a road at night, he leaves to get gas, and something chases him in the woods. Back at the car a while later, she hears something scratching at the roof of the car….
2nd stort – guys sneak into a supposedly haunted building for a frat initiation, and when they go to investigate a noise, they split up. The short ends with a creepy and odd discovery by one of the guys. It’s the kind of final frame that would have been the stuff of nightmares when I was a kid.
3rd story – this is a tale of a witch buried outside the cemetery, and the stupid buddies who go to visit that cemetery. Eek!
4th story – this final tale shows you just what a problem horror has always had with chauvinism. A young woman goes on a date with a guy, he tries to rape her, and she kills him. So you’d think that would make her a man-hating killer, right? Nope. SPOILER: she ends up going to college, snaps, and kills her female roommate that borrowed her cardigan sweater without asking. WTF?
The wraparound delivers on the Evil Dead vibes right up to the conclusion, when the gang is finally targeted by the mysterious force believed to have killed that family in the woods.