Tuesday, October 22, 2019

31 Days of Halloween - Day 22 - Movie

A group of clerics acting as exorcists, who live sinful depraved lives so that is they encounter demons they can't drive back to Hell, they can invite them into their own bodies and commit suicide dragging the demons to hell with them. In their latest case they must stop Surtr, the Norse figure who will bring about Ragnorok and kill God.

Hellbenders (2012) starring Clancy Brown, Clifton Collins, Jr., Andre Royo, Robyn Rikoon, Maxon Blair and Larry Fessenden, is a comedy and somewhat structured like a filthy version of Ghostbusters, with a representative of the Catholic Church closing them down because of their excessively sinful lifestyle, and reinstating them once they save the world. It's pretty low brow, but often clever, and made for a fun viewing experience, but it's not quite successful in what it sets out to do.

Monday, October 21, 2019

31 Days of Halloween - Day 21 - Movie

Cursed to live for all eternity as a vampire, Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp), is released from the coffin prison which held him for nearly two centuries, and is determined to help his ancestors rise again to affluence. His plans meet opposition from Angelique (Eva Green), the witch who cursed him for spurning her love, whois still alive, and still determined to destroy the Collins family.

Based on the soap opera of the early 1970s, Tim Burton's Dark Shadows (2012) is a loose tribute to the show that inspired it. The gothic trappings are all there, and suitably punched up since this is, after all, a Tim Burton movie, but there's far more humor, which no doubt contributed to many fans finding the movie irreverent.

I liked the first two thirds of this movie far more than I expected to, but felt like the climax was lazy and uninspired, as well as uninspiring. There were a lot of loose ends, particularly involving Victoria Winters (Bella Heathcote) who enters the film as a character of importance then disappears for most of the rest of it. The cast was uniformly pretty great, and Depp's Barnabas Collins was handled nicely and without any real goofiness.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

31 Days of Halloween - Day 20 - Movie

When his brother goes missing, Robert Manning (Mark Eden) travels the remote country has that he was last heard from. No one claims to know who his brother was, but evidence suggests otherwise, and further digging leads him to secret passages and a cult of witchcraft.

Curse of the Crimson Altar / The Crimson Cult (1968), despite starring Christopher Lee, Boris Karloff, Michael Gough and Barabara Steele is not a very good movie. It is pretty fun though, with an opening, that had that tone been sustained throughout would have elevated this film to, at least, cult classic status. Most of the movie is bogged down with repetitive inquiries, walking the corridors of the manor, and trying to bed Christopher Lee's niece (Virginia Wetherell). There's also a boggling amount of generous hospitality and cooperation on the part of the same people who are trying to hide the truth from Manning, removing tension, and making things seem less sinister in the process, which is a big no-no when it comes to this type of film.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

31 Days of Halloween - Day 19 - Movie

In The Lost Skeleton Returns Again (2009), the original cast is joined by new characters in a search for a new element that can be found only in the Valley of Monsters where it is guarded by a lost civilization.

Less mired in replicating the look and feel of low budget science fiction movies circa 1958, this sequel is still filled with humor, though of a different style. The names of the new characters are more onomatopoeiac versions of name types than actual real names. Half of the film is in color this time and the score suggests Bernard Hermann's scores for Ray Harryhausen films. There are plenty of great extras on the new blu ray. If you enjoyed the first movie, you should certainly grab a copy of this one, too. You can order a copy here, or if you want the plain old dvd, look below.

Friday, October 18, 2019

31 Days of Halloween - Day 18 - Movie

Three different parties are in such of the rare radioactive element, Atmospherium. Dr. Paul Armstrong (Larry Blamire) and his wife Betty (Fay Masterson) because it could mean real advances in the field of science; Dr. Roger Fleming (Brian Howe) because it's necessary to resurrect the lost skeleton of Cadavra, with him he hopes to rule the world; and to Kro-Bar (Andrew Parks) and his wife Lattis (Susan McConnell), aliens from the planet Marva, because it will allow them to return home. Along the way they are also joined by Animala (Jennifer Blaire), a woman created from four different forest animals, Ranger Brad (Dan Conroy) and an escaped mutant (Darrin Read).

The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra (2001) is Larry Blamire's hilarious tribute to science fiction movies circa 1958. Made with loving affection and played straight, the movie gets just about everything right and has probably the most quotable lines of any movie ever made. It is not to be missed, and does not lose its effectiveness through multiple viewings.

As a bonus, all of the bonus features are almost equally entertaining.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

31 Days of Halloween - Day 17 - Movie

In The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism (1967), Count Regula is quartered for murdering twelve young women (of thirteen intended victims) in a bid for immortality. He vows he will return for vengeance. Thirty-five years later Roger, a lawyer is invited to the castle of Count Regula where he will be given information about his past. Along with a thief posing as a monk, a baroness and her maid, Roger visits the castle to discover it is a death trap full of torture devices, and that the undead Count Regula plans to finish what he started 35 years ago.

Loosely based on Edgar Allan Poe's "The Pit and the Pendulum" this movie is full of atmosphere, and  more garish haunted castle decor than the entire run of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?. It's an entertaining, minor, Christopher Lee starring film. Perfect for the middle of the night, or a rainy afternoon.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

31 Days of Halloween - Day 16 - Movie

After he and his wife, Mandy (Andrea Riseborough), are victimized by a cult, Red (Nicolas Cage) goes on a psychotic revenge spree.

Mandy (2018) is thin on plot and populated by sketches of characters, but it has lots of style and visual interest to keep the viewer engrossed as Cage brings on the excessive violence. It's a cult classic in the making, and while the story, such as it is, has been depicted numerous times before, I was taken with quite a number of the visual elements in this film, and will be keeping my eye out for future projects from director, Panos Cosmotos, whose vision and inventive flourishes, may not have been able to elevate this movie into something truly good, kept it from being something truly bad.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

31 Days of Halloween - Day 15 - Movie

A pair of scientists and specialized soldiers find themselves battling a winged creature out of Thai folklore in Garuda (2004).

If you make a movie featuring a creature out of mythology I'm pretty likely to want to watch it. Most times I end up being disappointed. This was one of those times. The intentions were good here, the performances, while uneven, were ernest, but the film itself was way longer than it needed to be. It took too long for the story to get moving, and featured some really terrible science in a proposal that was meant to put the scientists together with the garuda. The garuda itself swung back and forth from looking pretty decent, to being really shoddily rendered in CGI, often depicted in a quality you'd have found in video games in the decade previous to when this film was made. Set mostly in a bunch of tunnels and corridors which kept the creature from doing much flying until the climax. The idea that these soldiers were trained specifically for fighting legendary creatures such as this one was nice, but not really explored. Instead of getting tight, suspenseful narrative we get a padded story where the mostly interchangeable soldiers are picked off one by one, and the garuda, while demonstrating intelligence does not seem to have much motivation other than killing everyone off one by one.

Scooby-Doo 50th Anniversary Giant #1

The Scooby-Doo 50th Anniversary Giant #1, published by DC Comics, is a 100 page collection of Scooby-Doo comics, old and new, including my story (with Leo Batic, Horacio Ottolini, Nick J. Napolitano, Harvey Richards and Joan Hilty) "Wolf In Creep's Clothing" which was nominated for a Rondo Award when it first saw publication. This comic is $4.99 and available at Walmart, up at the front of the store near where all the Pokemon cards are sold.

Monday, October 14, 2019

31 Days of Halloween - Day 14 - Movie

In an almost completely abandoned city of decaying houses, where nature has rapidly begun to reclaim the land, a mother and her two sons struggle to eke out an existence. Now, essentially lawless, the city is claimed by brutal, scissor wielding, Bully (Matt Smith) , who has it in for the elder son (Ian De Caestecker) for stripping properties, he claims now belong to him, of their copper pipes and wiring. Meanwhile, the mother (Christina Hendricks), desperate for income to keep them from losing their home, takes a job at Grand Guignol styled nightclub. Their one neighbor (Saoirse Ronan) who lives with her grandmother (Barbara Steele) claims the place has been cursed ever since the reservoir was put in decades earlier.

The synopsis may not make it seem like much of a horror movie, but Lost River (2014) bears a strange, dreamlike quality and plenty of horrific elements. There's something of a Twilight Zone quality to the story, too, that suggests that the world outside this essentially post-apocalyptic city is normal, and the characters are torn between wanted to remain in their homes and a desire to want to leave that is made nearly impossible for one reason of another, while their world becomes more and more hellish.

This film, written and directed by Ryan Gosling, did not find a lot of love and quickly fell through the cracks, but I rather liked it. It does occasionally feel a bit slow going, but there are some really strong performances here, and Detroit, standing in for the city of Lost River, is used to great advantage providing some extraordinary scenes of urban decay and isolation.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

31 Days of Halloween - Day 13 - Movie 1

Based on the short story by Edgar Allan Poe, The Black Cat (1966) is about a drunk asshole who abuses his wife and pets, becoming more and more psychotic until he is driven to murder.

This movie is amateurish in every regard, yet also manages to be disturbing in its scenes of what is, hopefully, staged, and not genuine animal abuse. I wouldn't go so far as to recommend it, but considering how many elements it has stacked against it, it still turns out to be a pretty effective adaptation.


Saturday, October 12, 2019

31 Days of Halloween - Day 12 - Movie

Al Adamson makes Ed Wood look like Orson Welles by comparison. For evidence look no further than Brain of Blood (1971), the ponderously slow, inept, story of a crackpot scientist transferring the brain of a foreign country's leader into a healthier body so that the scientist can obtain power from himself in that country. On the plus side, the opening credits contain some great graphics. On the minus side, just about everything else. In a movie starring Grant Williams as the sort of hero, Angelo Rossito comes of as the most competent actor and he is essentially reduced to a mad dwarf henchman. The brain operation, which uses such high tech techniques as fast forwarding and rewinding a reel to reel tape at high speeds, goes on for ever. There are scenes and characters which seem to be there for no other reason than to pad this extremely thin plot beyond the fifteen minutes it might merit. We won't even get into the make-up effects, but the accompanying photo should say enough.

If I watch anything worse than this over the course of the rest of this Countdown, I'll be stunned.


Friday, October 11, 2019

31 Days of Halloween - Day 11 - Movie

The Crimson Ghost, a masked villain hiding behind the face of a skull, and his henchmen set out to steal the Cyclotrone, a device which can short circuit all electrical devices the planet. His goal is to sell it to a foreign power for $1million. Continually thwarting his efforts are criminology professor, Duncan Richards and his assistant Diana Farnsworth.

Technically, the 12 -part serial, The Crimson Ghost (1946), is more of a crime story, or even an espionage thriller, and not at all a horror story, but I'm including it anyway because of the appearance of the titular character, a character so iconic that he later became the logo to the band The Misfits.

As far as the Republic serials go, this is one of the best. The villain is great, his sidekick, Ashe (future Lone Ranger, Clayton Moore) is cold blooded. The fights are spectacular brawls that rarely leave even one item of furniture intact. Diana (Linda Stirling) is no traditional secretary, she gets right in the action, shooting guns, piloting planes, jumping from cars, engaging in chases, everything. The hero (Charles Quigley) , while he has Cary Grant-like good looks, is clever, and one hell of a fighter, often delivers his lines in an odd stilted manner that pretty much reinforces the idea that he was hired more for the action scenes than the exposition.

There are some nitpicky complaints I could make, including the fact that Duncan had a huge clue as to the Crimson Ghost's identity pretty early one, that given his often demonstrated cleverness makes you wonder why he wasn't able to flush him out a lot earlier, and without compromising himself so often as the story unfolds. This one was a lot of fun.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

31 Days of Halloween - Day 10 - Movie

Two community college science teachers (David Duchovny and Orlando Jones) investigate a nearby meteorite strike and make the discovery of a lifetime. Not only is the meteorite crawling with rapidly evolving alien life, but it it terraforming the cave it landed in into an environment that can sustain it. Once the military gets involved all hell breaks loose as the creatures no longer remain quarantined underground and soon begin adapting to our atmosphere.

From director Ivan Reitman, Evolution (2001) is a comedy that is mostly played straight, but lightning is not striking twice for Reitman. This is no Ghostbusters. Where the laughs in that classic film grew out of the characters and situations, here they mostly come from groin, ass, and flatulence jokes, which fall flat. The creatures, and there are many, are pretty cool, though a number have too much of a touch of whimsy about their design to really convey menace. This movie was a somewhat enjoyable diversion, but if you don't see it, you aren't really missing anything.

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

31 Days of Halloween - Day 9 - Movie

Abbott and Costello end up in possession of a medallion that belongs to the living mummy, Klaris, leading them into trouble with the law and competing groups trying to obtain the medallion for their own ends.

Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955) was the last of the movies in which the comedy duo met Universal's classic monsters and was also their 28th, and final, film for Universal, and essentially, the end of their careers. It's not surprising. The comedy in this film does not produce any grins let alone guffaws, as the pair falls back on stale, often poorly staged,  routines, which are not helped by the film's lackluster direction.

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

31 Days of Halloween - Day 8 - Movie

Dr. Marco, the leader of a band of vampires, plagues the family of his dead lover as he preys on her siblings in an attempt to bring her back to life in The Blood Drinkers (1964).

This stylish movie had me at its opening scene. if you distilled every cheap late-night, drive-in, knockoff of classic and not so classic vampire films into one movie, you might get this one. Marco's band includes an imbecilic hunchback with bad teeth and violent tendencies, a dwarf, a sensual gothic vampire chick, the human mother of his deceased lover, and his own bald villainous self. They are like a monster super-villain team. The film contains full color footage intercut with blue tinted scenes for night, and red tinted scenes indicating the presence of the vampires -- which turns out to be, not simply a style choice, but what happens to the light within the movie.

More importantly, the story, which is pretty fast paced,  is populated with characters you care about, and with some surprisingly sympathetic motivations from the vampires. Religion also plays a key role, including a really wonky explanation for why you need a wooden stake to kill a vampire.

This movie was a blast, pleasantly surprised me, and so far has turned out to be my favorite film this Countdown.

Ghosts Now Available

From the Yoe Books website:

There's an eerie moan on the midnight wind from just beyond the cemetery gate. A crypt door slowly creaks open, and a strange shape emerges from the darkness within.
It flitters across the cold, foggy night, eyes ablaze with hate--and now glaring in your direction! You're too paralyzed to move. It's coming towards you... closer... closer... closer...
From the terror team that curdled your blood with Haunted Horror, Zombies, Return of the Zombies, and Haunted Love, GHOSTS is the latest and ghastly greatest in the Classic Monsters of Pre-Code Horror Comics collection, which includes Mummies and Swamp Monsters. 
128 pages of appalling apparitions, formidable phantoms, shuddery seances, shivery spooks 'n specters, and evil wraiths with much more than just revenge on their murdered minds!
Featuring hair-raising precode '50s horror gems and a ghostly gallery of classic cover creeps!

Series: Classic Monsters of Pre-Code Horror Comics
Paperback: 128 pages

Release date: October 8, 2019
7 x 10 inches

Monday, October 07, 2019

31 Days of Halloween - Day 7 - Movie

In Terror Beneath the Sea (1966) two reporters (Sonny Chiba and Peggy Neal) uncover the plot of a mad scientist in an underwater city to take over the world with people transformed into fish-men, which he can control with a remote device.

Viewing this as a dubbed film can only have made it more of a chore to sit through than it would have been in its original Japanese. Overly long and goofy, the plot is childish, and the fish-men are less convincing than some of the creatures in similar time period Doctor Who episodes. This is exactly the kind of movie that used to litter the Sunday afternoon UHF channels back in the day. It's also the kind of movie that in ten years I will convince myself probably wasn't as bad as I remembered, and I'll be sucked into watching it again. Please remind my future self of this post.

Sunday, October 06, 2019

31 Days of Halloween - Day 6 - Movie

Hellboy (2019) reboots the franchise entirely, ignoring the two previous Guillermo Del Toro movie and starting fresh. This time David Harbour is Hellboy, and this time he's out to stop the resurrected witch Nimue (Milla Jovavich), or will be be allying himself with her instead? In director Neil Marshall's movie, Hellboy is teamed up with medium, Alice Monaghan (Sasha Lane), soldier with a secret, Ben Daimio (Daniel Dae Kim) and his father (Ian McShane) and there are monsters galore including bat god, giants, Baba Yaga, the Gruagach, undead corpses, a werejaguar and a slew of uncategorizable monsters of the apocalypse.

This movie was highly frowned upon even before it was released, mostly by fans of the Del Toro movie, and those who thought the trailers for this movie were marketed pretty terribly (which they were). I'm not sure where all the hatred ended up coming from when this movie was released. I had a great time seeing it in the theater. Yes, it has it's flaws, but it's much closer to the spirit of the original comics than Del Toro's movies were by far, and it was a really refreshing new cinematic take on the character.

Chances are slim of there being another one any time soon, but I'd be there if a new Hellboy movie ever came to light.

Saturday, October 05, 2019

31 Days of Halloween - Day 5 - Movie

Now an adult, Philippe Delambre (Brett Halsey) decides to recreate his father's matter transmitter. What he doesn't know is that his partner in the endeavor is planning to steal and sell the plans. When he is caught, he throws Philippe into one of the transmitter booths...with a fly, and turns Philippe into a revenge driven monster with the head, arm and leg of a fly.

While The Fly (1958) (see previous post) was a classy widescreen, color, thriller, Return of the Fly (1959) is sort of the cheap, black and white exploitation version of the same story. Not that this is bad. The adding of a criminal element and revenge motif doesn't hurt the story, which moves along pretty briskly. There are more horror elements; the fly-headed human is more fly, the human headed fly weird, but by no means as grotesquely pathetic as in the original, which makes sense since this film comes with a much different ending. There's also a policeman murdered and merged with a guinea pig, resulting in a guinea pig with human hands. This film's akin to Universal's sequels to The Mummy (1932) from the 1940s, as if AIP had made them. While no classic, like the original, this is a perfectly enjoyable sequel.

Friday, October 04, 2019

31 Days of Halloween - Day 4 - Movie

A scientist experimenting with matter teleportation, winds up in dire straits when a fly enters one of the matter transmitting booths with him and they swap heads and an arm.

The Fly (1958) is a classic of the genre and with good reason. Beautifully made in color and in wide screen, the movie is filled with tension and tragedy. The story unfolds mostly in flashback after the scientist Andre Delambre (David Hedison) is killed by his wife Helene Delambre (Patricia Owens) who refuses to explain why she killed her husband until her brother-in-law, Francois (Vincent Price) tricks her into telling himself and Inspector Charas (Herbert Marshall). There are two occasions where Andre's situation could have been reversed, once immediately after his accident, and once shortly after his death. Hides gives a convincing performance as a man slowly losing his humanity and recognizing this.

Thursday, October 03, 2019

31 Days of Halloween - Day 3 - Movie

An isolated jewish village is threatened by outsiders who are plague victims who blame their troubles on the jews who are not touched by sickness. One of the women in the village who has been secretly learning the kabbalah decides she's going to protect her village by creating a golem to defend it. Childless by choice, since her own child, she forms an empathic bond with the golem, so that when it is struck she feels its physical pain, and the golem picks up on her moods, thoughts, and fears, and starts striking out against anyone it thinks has wronged, or threatened her.

The Golem (2018) is not a perfect movie, but was a surprising effective fairy tale about loss, fear, and consequences. The performances were good, and the golem was pretty intimidating and not at all suggestive of any form of kindness. I's been curious to see this since first seeing the trailer and am glad I caught up with it.

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

31 Days of Halloween - Day 2 - Movie

The disembodied spirit of an executed murderess and a scheming fake medium intersect with an heiress in the atmospheric, but convoluted, Supernatural (1933). Director Victor Halperin's follow up to White Zombie is chock full of menace, spooky trappings and weird ideas, but motivations in the plot are murky and the tension that should be there as the story progresses just isn't there. Star, Carole Lombard is blandly pleasant as the grieving heiress, but really comes to life when her character becomes possessed by the dead murderess (Vivienne Osborne).

I've always loved the poster for this movie, and am glad I finally tracked down the film itself, but in the end it's more of a curiosity piece than a must see pre-code horror classic.

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

31 Days of Halloween - Day 1 - Movie

As his son and daughter undertake serious romances, the ailing patriarch of the family is discovered to have been keeping his deceased, and now vampire, wife locked away in a hidden room where he whips her regularly. The son, mistakenly believing he can reach his true mother within the vampire, sets off a chain of events that proves to be the ruin for just about everyone in the movie.

More soap opera than horror movie, Ibulong Mo sa Hangin / Curse of the Vampires (1966) is more interested in the family and societal dynamics than outright scares. This Filipino film has some nice atmosphere, and characters you do end up caring about. Most of what's new here stems from the cultural differences shown that vary from the usual European vampire movie, with a greater emphasis on religion, and a fascinating and impressive finale that is a step up on the angry villagers with torches and pitchforks scenario.


31 Days of Halloween - Welcome!

Welcome to my 14th Halloween Countdown. This year things are going to be a little more laid back here with only a daily movie viewing being offered up. It's not so bad as getting handed a toothbrush when trick or treating, as there are 13 years of past posts to sort through should you choose to do so (simply click on each year's October in the Blog Archive column to the right). My companion blog, The Grim Gallery is also putting forth monstrous offerings, not only each day this month, but every day of the year, going back to 2011.

For the real goodies though, be sure to visit the Countdown to Halloween homepage where you will find links to dozens of blogs handing out all manner of treats this month.