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Halloween Horror Countdown 2010 Day 9 October 29, 2010

Posted by vorpalkeith in Movie Review.
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Fangs of the Living Dead
1969
Directed by Amando de Ossorio

A by the numbers vampire movie about a girl inheriting her family’s castle. Very uninspired.

Only one spooky pumpkin out of five.

The Pyx
1973
Directed by Harvey Hart

The Devil lives in Montreal. And he likes hookers.

I’ll be honest, I watched this damn thing and I still couldn’t tell you what it was about. Choppy, to say the least. It took me more than an hour to realize that the film was taking place in two distinct time lines. That is not a good thing.

Poor Christopher Plummer. You deserved so much more.

One spooky pumpkin out of five.

Blood Tide
1982
Directed by Richard Jeffries

Treasure hunting James Earl Jones frees an ancient monster that plagued the ancient Greeks, forcing them to satiate it with virgins. It doesn’t eat said virgins . . . it . . . well, it’s Greece. It turns out that they didn’t need to be feeding it virgins for thousands of years as a simple explosive charge is enough to destroy it. And here the ancient Greeks were supposed to be such great thinkers. They didn’t once bother to try and fight this thing!

One spooky pumpkin out of five.

Halloween Horror Countdown 2010 Day 8 October 20, 2010

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Dementia 13
1963
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola

Thank you Wikipedia for confirming my suspicions that Coppola was inspired by Psycho for this. “The producer wanted a cheap Psycho-copy, complete with gothic atmosphere and brutal killings, and Coppola quickly wrote a screenplay in accordance with Corman’s requirements.”

That would be Roger Corman, by the way.

It’s a decent movie limited by it’s budget mostly. I’d be curious to see what Coppola (who ever heard of him, am I right?) would have accomplished with more money.

Still, I give it three out of five spooky pumpkins.

Dracula and His Vampire Brides
1974
Directed by Alan Gibson

It took me awhile to find info on this, as the title I have was only one of the titles it was distributed under. It should perhaps appropriately be called “The Satanic Rites of Dracula”. That’s actually a cooler name.

There are three things you need to know about this:
1) Hammer Horror Films
2) Christopher Lee
3) Peter Cushing

If that doesn’t make you want to watch the movie, I don’t think anything I say will.

This film is the last in Hammer’s Dracula series, which began in 1958 with Horror of Dracula. Even though there are more in the series, it is also the last in the trilogy with Horror of Dracula and Dracula A.D. 1972.

The movie is a sort of mix of horror sci-fi and spy thriller (I take this right off the Wikipedia page) with a script from Doctor Who veteran Don Houghton. It’s awesome!

It details the final battle between Dracula and the Van Helsing family in a grand showdown wherein the world itself is at stake. Dracula, in a final bid for revenge against the world, seeks to wipe out the human race with a new super plague.

Peter Cushing smelts a silver crucifix into a bullet! That has to be, like, the ultimate in vampire hunting technology!

Four spooky pumpkins out of five!

The Last Man on Earth
1964
Directed by Ubaldo Ragona and Sydney Salkow

Say it with me now . . . VINCENT! PRICE!

Fuck yeah!

As you probably already know from my review of the Omega Man, this is an adaptation of the same novel “I am Legend” by Richard Matheson.

There’s not much else I can say about it in terms of story. Replace Charlton Heston with Vincent Price and remove the 70s cheese and holocaust cloaks, and you pretty much got this.

This is still better. It keeps the bleak ending of the novel which makes it the most faithful so far.

Plus, Vincent Price!

Three spooky pumpkins out of five.

Halloween Horror Countdown 2010 Day 7 October 17, 2010

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Dominique is Dead
1978
Directed by Michael Anderson

Dominique, in the conservatory, with a noose.

The quick run-down. Dead spouse. Ghost? Attempts to drive mad? Revenge! Profit! More revenge!

Oh, why, Cliff Robertson, why? You’re so much better than this stinker of a pseudo ghost story. You’re Uncle Ben for goodness sakes!

One spooky pumpkin out of five

The Ghost
1963
Directed by Riccardo Freda

In many ways, this film is nearly identical to Dominique is dead. Guess that’s why it was on the same DVD compilation.

The quick run-down. Dead spouse. Ghost? Attempts to drive mad? Revenge! Profit! More revenge!

See what I mean?

Some nit-picky things . . . despite the fact the film takes place in Scotland no one has a Scottish accent. Also, the filmmakers didn’t realize that a bullet doesn’t remain intact after fired. They were pulling slugs out of the wall that were in PERFECT condition.

What wasn’t in perfect condition was the DVD transfer. This thing was scratched and artifacted out the wazoo. If that was the best print they could dig up to make a DVD copy, I’d hate to see what the damaged prints look like.

One spooky pumpkin out of five.

Bloody Pit of Horror
1965
Directed by Massimo Pupillo

Five facts you should know about this movie:

1) A man cuts himself out of ropes with nail clippers.
2) A man portraying a corpse both moves his foot and blinks in the same scene.
3) The movie claims to be based on the writings of the Marquis De Sade (it’s not).
4) It was filmed in something called “Psychovision”. I think this is just a codeword for poor color balance.
5) If I hear the phrase “Crimson Executioner” one more time I’m going to blow my brains out.

One spooky pumpkin out of five.

Nightmare Castle
1965
Directed by Mario Caiano

The motif of the same actress playing sisters differentiated only by their wig color is getting a bit played out. So is this plot, which is nearly identical to “The Ghost” and “Dominique is Dead”.

The quick run-down. Dead spouse. Ghost? Attempts to drive mad? Revenge! Profit! More revenge!

I’m not kidding.

This film also tries to make the claim that blood transfusions are the secret to immortality, literally restoring an old woman’s youth. Then when the magic young person blood is drained away from her she whithers to bones ala Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

One spooky pumpkin out of five.

Halloween Horror Countdown 2010 Day 6 October 11, 2010

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I Bury the Living
1958
Directed by Albert Band

Mild spoilers here . . . no living people are at any point in this film buried.

Whenever newly appointed cemetery committee chairman (this is apparently an actual job) Kraft places a black pin into a map of the cemetery, the person to whom that plot of land dies. Is it supernatural? Or is it murder? The opening titles would say outright that it’s one, while the ending says the other. Who are we to know?

Only one spooky pumpkin out of five.

The Undertaker and His Pals
1966
Directed by TLP Swicegood

This movie was so obscure I cannot find information on it from Wikipedia!

Fortunately, IMDB informs me that the tagline for the movie is: “A macabre story of two motorcycle-riding, knife-wielding, shiv-shaving, eye-gouging, arm-twisting, chain-lashing, scalpel-flashing, acid-throwing, gun-shooting, bone-breaking, pathological nuts and their pal the UNDERTAKER…”

Sounds like any Saturday night to me . . .

The film opens with our maniacs killing a girl named Sally Lamb and stealing her legs. Later, our protagonist is eating at a restaurant where the special is “Leg of Lamb”.

You can see where this is going.

The maniacs get really excited when they find out the detective’s secretary’s last name is Poultry.

You can see where this is going.

She becomes “Breast of Chicken”, by the way.

What a ridiculous movie! I wish I’d had company while watching it. If so, that might have improved the rating.

Two spooky pumpkins out of five, for sheer ridiculousness.

Halloween Horror Countdown 2010 Day 5 October 8, 2010

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The House on Haunted Hill
1959
Directed by William Castle

Oh Vincent Price, why can’t you be in every movie? You glorious, strange, wonderful man.

For the uninitiated, Vincent Price plays a millionaire who is throwing a themed party at a reputedly haunted house with his wife. He has invited several strangers with the promise that each will get a sum of ten thousand dollars if they can stay locked in the house for twelve hours.

And then strange things begin to occur! DUN DUN DUN.

Oddly enough this was the first time I’ve seen the movie. Strange considering what a classic it is. Great old school film

Some fun bits of trivia from Wikipedia:
1) The film is best known for a famous promotional gimmick used in the film’s original theatrical release called “Emergo”: William Castle placed an elaborate pulley system in some theaters showing the film; allowing a plastic skeleton to be flown over the audience at the appropriate time
2) Thanks to Castle’s gimmickry, the film was a huge success. Alfred Hitchcock took notice of the low-budget film’s performance at the box office, and set out to make his own low-budget horror film, which became the critically acclaimed hit Psycho.
3) And the ending credits credit “Skeleton as Himself”.

How cool is that?

Four spooky pumpkins out of five.

Carnival of Souls
1962
Directed by Herk Harvey

The film begins with a tragic drag race (all movies in 1962 started this way). Mary is the only surviving passenger of a car that plunges off a bridge into a lake. She moves to Utah where she is employed as a church organist (in Utah women can only be employed as organists), where she begins to be followed everywhere by a ghoulish stranger (not to mention her pervy neighbor who didn’t get the sexual sensitivity pamphlet).

Listen, I like B-horror movies as much as the next guy. But this one meanders for a solid 78 minutes. Let me save you the trouble.

In the end it turns out that Bruce Willis was a ghost the whole time. This comment is only half a joke.

I’m amazed that Criterion released not only a DVD version, but a Director’s Cut DVD, no less.

Only one spooky pumpkin out of five.

Halloween Horror Countdown 2010 Day 4 October 6, 2010

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The Omega Man
1971
Directed by Boris Segal

The Omega Man opens with Charlton Heston cruising through the dead streets in a convertible and popping an 8-track into the player. Just when we think this movie is going to be totally groovy he takes a potshot at a shadowy mutant in a window and our buzz is totally blown.

You see, Charlton Heston is the last man on Earth, cats. Much like Vincent Price was in The Last Man on Earth. Or Will Smith in I am Legend. These are all adaptations of Richard Matheson’s novel I Am Legend. It even went on to inspire Mark Daskaskos to be the last man on Earth in The Asylum’s cleverly named I am Omega. Ya dig?

I’m talking this jive because this particular take on the film is served up with a big heaping of 70s cheese. It shares more similarities with the Will Smith version than with Matheson’s novel, or does the Will Smith version share more with this?

Anyway . . . you all know the story, so why belabor that more than countless remakes have done. I’ll just hit the positive and negative of this particular adaptation. Positive: I kinda liked the design of the mutants, as cheesy as it was. Negative: Too much 70s cheese, the movie hasn’t aged well. Positive: Anthony Zerbe as the mutant leader Mathias.

That’s a positivity sandwich.

I give it three spooky pumpkins out of five.

Pandorum
2009
Directed by Christian Alvart

The real joy of movie watching is discovery. I’ve often found that the movies I grow to like the most are the ones I go in with no expectations for, or even negative expectations . . . and then get totally surprised. Such was the case with Pandorum.

I really didn’t think I was going to like the movie, as I felt I’d seen it already recycled through a dozen films. I’m glad that I was wrong.

The subgenre of science fiction horror is hardly new. Look to Alien, Pitch Black, or Event Horizon. The darkness and claustrophobia of starship corridors are a boon to horror. You want a terrifying atmosphere? How about the concept of being cut off, alone in the universe, with no hope of someone coming to help you?

Of course Pandorum takes cues from all of these previous films, but it works. What you get is an intelligent story, that manages monsters, claustrophobic terror, and real science fiction. Pretty cool mix, if you ask me.

Five spooky pumpkins out of five. Watch it.

Halloween Horror Countdown 2010 Day 3 October 5, 2010

Posted by vorpalkeith in Film Thing, Movie News.
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The Signal
2007
Directed by David Bruckner, Dan Bush, & Jacob Gentry

“Do you have the crazy?”

This film deals with an event in the city of Terminus, wherein all telecommunications devices begin to broadcast a signal that drives people to madness. It alters their perceptions, eventually making them all killers.

The film is broken up into three segments, called “Transmissions” each directed by one of the three directors. The transmissions vary in flavor, making one cohesive story that is sometimes splatter film, sometimes a black comedy, and sometimes a brutal psychological thriller and romance.

The film is brutal, with some moments that shine through as statements about the nature of society and our relationship with technology. It is also, at times, hilarious. These are both good things and prove a strength . . . but could unfortunately prove to be the film’s greatest weakness. At times it just can’t seem to decide what it is, and I feel that a more singular vision at the helm would have elevated the film from just good into greatness.

Still, though, for what I did like I’ll give it four spooky pumpkins out of five.

Red Sands
2009
Directed by Alex Turner

The film opens with a text explanation of what a djinn is . . . a powerful spirit made of smokeless flame, able to take many forms. In pre-Islamic mythology they were said to have been created by God before life, and that they hate humanity.

Red Sands is set in Afghanistan in 2002, not long after the US invasion. A squad of soldiers is assigned to monitor a desert road that intelligence suggests Al Qaeda may be using to transport supplies. While en route to the location of their posting they come upon a statue, which their linguist suggests may be representative of a djinn, and he goes on to say that the belief was they had to be imprisoned in objects. The required-by-Hollywood-law dumb hick of the squadron grows bored and takes a potshot at that statue, which, combined with its age, causes it to crumble.

After they arrive at their posting there is a huge sandstorm. A mysterious Afghan woman arrives through the storm and the unit takes her prisoner for further questioning. Members of the unit begin to have hallucinations related to their previous experiences in the war, and just when they’ve all but done everything in their power to convince the audience it’s post-traumatic stress disorder, men start to die under strange circumstances.

I understand what the film is trying to do. It attempts to be a parable about the dangers of going blindly into a land you don’t truly understand. One could even argue that it’s about the ability of war to destroy even the survivors of combat. The film pulls too many of those punches though, and too often takes the road of standard horror film.

I give it three spooky pumpkins out of five.

Halloween Horror Countdown 2010 Day 2 October 3, 2010

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Session 9
2001
Directed by Brad Anderson

“I live in the weak and the wounded, Doc.”

Preface, if you haven’t seen The Machinist, which Brad Anderson also directed, go watch that.

Session 9 revolves around an asbestos removal crew hired to clean up an abandoned insane asylum so that it can be turned into a historic site for tourists. While there, strange things begin to happen to them, seemingly tying into events in a previous patient’s life, that ultimately bring out the dark sides of each member of the crew.

The film asks the question . . . is evil a genuine force in the world or the result of madness? Is if a malignant power that can take hold of a person, literally transforming them into something else altogether?

I dare not say more because it would spoil a lot of the story. Sufficed to say, there are twists. Most of which you’ll see coming. And comparisons (mostly due to setting and subject matter) between this and Shutter Island are unavoidable.

The real star of the film is the setting, which gives us an amazing atmosphere. It was filmed at the Danvers State Mental Hospital, a spot specifically chosen by the director because he used to drive by the place every day. The place is rank, like a sour wound festering with evil. Lovely.

“Because she let me, Doc. They ALWAYS let me.”

I give it four spooky pumpkins out of five.

Halloween Horror Countdown 2010 Day 1 October 2, 2010

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Anyone who has been following my blog for a little while (there are two of you) will know that every October I fill myself like a junkie on horror films and review the results here. It usually starts off pretty strong, but by the end of the month the inevitable fatigue will have set in and I will no doubt sound loopy as hell.

So without further adieu . . .

DEAD SNOW
2009
Directed by Tommy Wirkola

A ski vacation turns horrific for a group of medical students, as they find themselves confronted by an unimaginable menace: Nazi zombies.

I know what you’re thinking. Sounds like a formula for ultimate win, right? Zombie Nazis. Nazi zombies! You can’t go wrong. And yet . . .

Look. There’s no reason for these zombies to have been Nazis. It has absolutely nothing to do with anything. They could have just as easily been pirates, cowboys, farmers, or any other adjective. If you’re trying to sell me on the premise of Nazi zombies, at least make the fact that they are Nazis as important as the fact they’re zombies.

It was fun. I will certainly give it that. You should check it out with a group of buddies and MST3K your way through it. Once.

Just once.

I give it two spooky pumpkins out of five.

SHARKTOPUS
2010
Directed by Declan O’Brien

For the life of me I was convinced this was directed by Roger Corman. Did he just produce it? Anyone with more knowledge, please clear this up for me, because for the longest time I was expecting Cormantacularness.

This is a movie about a shark. An octopus. Mash them together with a crazy military experiment designed by Eric Roberts and you get a Sharktopus.

This movie is terrible. We knew this going in. The acting is awful (with the possible exception of Ralph Garman as a ridiculous pirate radio host). The CGI is horrible (it is a SyFy original, after all).

But you know what this movie does have? A Sharktopus! A Sharktopus that walks on land and is programmed to kill. How sweet is that?

Two spooky pumpkins out of five.

September 2010 Movies October 1, 2010

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Rambo
Dead Snow
Inglorious Basterds
Sharktopus
The 36th Chamber of Shaolin
Iron Man 2