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Showing posts from October, 2018

It's Alive (1974)

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In 1973 Larry Cohen was enjoying the success of Black Caesar, one of the key blaxploitation films, and was working on its sequel, Hell Up in Harlem.  While making that movie Cohen also decided to make a horror film.  Featuring a couple dealing with a killer baby, It's Alive resulted in Cohen becoming primarily known as a horror director.

Frank (John P. Ryan) and Lenore Davis (Sharon Farrell) are expecting a second child.  It was kind of a surprise baby as they are approaching later life, but they decide to keep it.  They ship their child Chris (Daniel Holzman) over to his uncle Charley (William Wellman Jr.) for a few days while Lenore heads to the hospital.

During labor, she becomes concerned.  When she was in labor with Chris, at least according to Frank, it was only 45 minutes.  This time it seems to be taking longer, and the baby is a lot bigger.  Still, the doctor goes for a live birth.

While Frank is waiting, he sees one of the doctors stumble out of the maternity ward and c…

Carnival of Souls (1962)

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Recently on the website Quora there was a question about how a film becomes a cult classic.  My general answer, beyond the fact that trying to make a cult movie often fails miserably, is that there has to be some sort of vision behind it.  Anyone can make a terrible movie on purpose.  Few people can attempt to make a great movie and fall right in that area where they technically failed, but their talent still shines through.

The other thing that typically makes a cult film is that it could have been much more in the mainstream if budget constraints weren't an issue.  However, once again, the talent and vision of the people behind it often overcome that to put something unique on the screen.  Director Herk Harvey certainly accomplished that with Carnival of Souls.

Mary (Candace Hilligoss) is with her girlfriends when some boys challenge her to a drag race.  It ends badly, with her car going off a bridge and into a river.  Attempt to retrieve the vehicle and the bodies seem futile,…

Blood and Black Lace (1964)

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Music is my main love.  I own close to 10,000 records and CDs, and a good number of them I know the history behind.  However, there is one thing with music: pointing to a specific person, at a specific time, and saying, "This is where it all started," is often impossible. 

Rock and roll?  Yes, Bill Haley had the first major hit, but that was after he had been unsuccessfully pushing the sound for two years after getting bored with the country scene.  There are elements going back to the late 1940s, but those blend in with other styles that already existed.  Punk rock?  Yeah, you could say the Stooges, but what about a band like the Sonics?  There was no name to it for almost a decade after bands started playing it. 

Movies, however, are a different thing.  We can point to Birth of a Nation as being the first feature film that unfolded a story rather than just being a short, quick vignette that may or may not have a narrative.  The Cabinet of Dr. Caligarilargely created the h…

The Gift (2000)

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Sam Raimi is one of the most well-known horror directors.  Due to The Evil Deadand its sequels, he was one of a handful that took the genre in new directions.  He had his own style, combining horror with humor, and it largely (and has largely) stayed an affair of family and friends. 

However, sometime in the 1990s, he seemed to have decided that he really didn't want to be known for that any more.  Which was fine; A Simple Plan was much better than the awful book it was based on, and featured Raimi becoming less wild but still as striking in his directing, no doubt due to his work with the Coen Brothers.  He got his vanity project out of the way - a baseball movie called For Love of the Game - and then tepidly stuck his toe back in the horror waters with The Gift.

I'll admit that when I first saw this I was unimpressed.  I still wanted the old Raimi back, with those weird angles, frenetic camera work, hammy dialogue and performances and everything else he was in the beginning…

Psychic (1991)

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While many directors of classic horror films have gone on to continue entertaining in the genre, as well as expanding their horizons, George Mihalka became known for one movie only: My Bloody Valentine.  It may not have been a great movie, and it unfortunately suffered more butchering than the anyone in the film prior to release, but it had a memorable villain.  Also, being at the beginning of the whole slasher craze, didn't feel it needed to go over the same ground others did.

While he did a number of other horror and exploitation films, the bulk of Mihalka's work revolved around directing episodes for television series.  It's a good thing because he was never able to replicate anything as interesting as My Bloody Valentine, which was also rare in not having any sequels pop up. 

Today cable series and movies are often of a quality above feature films.  There was a time, however, when a direct-to-cable (and often direct-to-video) movie meant that what you were getting cou…

The Woman Who Wouldn't Die (1965)

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Killing your wife.  It is amazing how many movies use this motif.  It is also amazing how many men have tried it in real life.  Obviously, if they got the idea from an old suspense film, they were too busy taking notes in the beginning to make it to the end.

In this day and age, with divorce being much less a taboo subject, it makes even less sense to use such extreme methods to get out of a bad marriage.  But, alas, for whatever reason - money, misplaced rage or just stupidity - they try.  It's a subgenre of horror that should be dated an stale by now.  Unfortunately, it still finds relevance in the modern world.

Fortunately if you love suspense films it can also be quite enjoyable if the film is done right.  After all, who doesn't like to see the evil cad suffer?

Raymond Garth (Gary Merrill) is an American playboy married to Ellen Garth (Georgina Cookson), who happens to be the heiress to a great fortune resulting from a milling operation.  Not only did she inherit her fami…

The Oblong Box (1969)

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The advantage of using a title that is in public domain is that you can slap it on almost any old film, regardless of what it has to do with the source material, and see if you can attract an audience.  Such is the case of The Oblong Box which, other than the fact that there is a story by Edgar Allen Poe by that name, has less to with Poe and more about American International trying to make a quick buck.

Julian (Vincent Price) and Edward Markham (Alister Williamson) are on their plantation in Africa when an accidental death stirs up the already agitated local population.  Edward is captured and mutilated by a witch doctor.  Julian manages to reach him and free him, but not before his face and mind are both shattered.

Back home in England Julian keeps Edward locked in the attic, sometimes in chains, depending on how violent his outbursts are.  Edward has family lawyer Mr. Trench (Peter Arne) fetch an African sorcerer named N'Galo (Harry Baird) to help him escape and to restore him…

1922 (2017)

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While I have every Stephen King book published except for The Outsider, there are so many adaptations of his work that I doubt I will ever see them all.  It often surprises me what they do try adapt.

What doesn't surprise me, especially in a lot of the anthology series where they try to bring his short stories to life, how bad they turn out.  While Stephen King can make a strange town filled with dead rock stars seem unsettling, seeing it made into a short film makes the concept laughable.  That's certainly a situation to consider when making movie versions of novellas from a collection like Full Dark, No Stars.  The collection was intentionally made up of material that was more disturbing than usual.

Still, three movies have come from it.  I really can't see Fair Exchange, the one exception so far, getting a full film treatment; in fact, I'm surprised Big Driver got made at all, since the only two I could see making it to the screen were A Good Marriage and this part…

Goke, Body Snatcher from Hell (1968)

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When you think of Japanese science fiction films from the 1950s and 1960s, undoubtedly images of various giant monsters take the forefront.  Toho and Daiei were the studios that dominated the market, at least for the films that (in butchered and horribly dubbed form) eventually made it to the United States.  It should be no surprise that there was more going on than just fire-breathing reptiles destroying urban centers.

Shochiko Eiga was a smaller studio that actually did have its own giant monster films (The X from Outer Space comes to mind), but also dabbled in much darker science fiction and horror.  While maybe not as much of a Saturday morning staple, some of these movies have had a major influence on later film makers, and certainly genre films in the United States.

With Goke, Body Snatcher from Hell we begin with what has got to be one of the worst flying experiences ever.  A routine flight to Osaka enters a strange atmospheric phenomena, flying through a red-tinted sky.  Whil…

Errementari (2017)

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There is a story that has been around for millenia, going back to possibly the bronze age and, even possibly, back to the stone age.  It's a story told with variation throughout Europe about a man who makes a deal with an evil spirit (a genie, a dark god or, when Christianity took hold, the Devil) and then made him his prisoner in order to get out of the consequences of the deal. 

The Basque are kind of a mystery.  Most likely they are all that is left of the original humans that settled Europe after coming over from Africa, eventually displacing and intermingling with the Neanderthals that had already evolved to live in the harsh, cold climate it was at the time.  Whether the later tribes that settled got it from them, or they got it from the Indo-Europeans, it has stuck around.  The Brothers Grimm transcribed their own version, and about every variation possible shows up in fairy tales. 

While I'm quite sure this is one of those stories that Disney has made a hard pass on, …

The Thaw (2009)

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Unless you're George Romero and know how to do it without being preachy, please keep your politics out of my horror films.  That said, if you are so smug and up your own wazoo that you think anyone cares to have a finger wagged in their face throughout something that is supposed to provide an escape from such things, please try not to go over the same tired paces. 

But, then, it was the 2000s, which was probably the absolute worst decade for horror.

Dr. Kruipen (Val Kilmer) is a scientist and radical environmental activist that is leading a research team on a remote Canadian island in the arctic.  They come across a polar bear feasting on the remains of a mammoth that has been revealed due to a receding glacier.  Soon, however, the entire team, including their guide Nuti (Lamech Kadloo), Krupien's girlfriend Jane (Anne Marie DeLuise) and assistant Jack (Garry Chalk) are all infected and dying from something.

Kruipen initially bumps a research student position so his daughter …

Halloween (2018)

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Halloweenis considered one of the best horror movies ever released.  John Carpenter was able to make it quite intense without being overly bloody.  He also did things right: no more backstory than was needed and no overt reason for the killing.  Because other slashers ran with the theme many assumed that it was teenagers having sex that sent him off, but it always seemed to be just because one girl yelled something at him as he drove by.  In fact, it just seems that, starting with his sister Judith, he just had it in for all of Haddonfield.

Unfortunately, other than throwing some money at the films, John Carpenter really hasn't had much involvement since.  In fact, Halloween was supposed to be a one-off film; it may have had an open ending, but that was the ending.  It was not purposely left open for a sequel, as the next film with a Halloween title was supposed to have nothing to do with Michael Myers.  The whole series was conceived as an anthology, something that got messed up …

Halloween (1978)

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John Carpenter is considered one the tentpole horror directors, and it largely began with this movie.  At the time he was still an independent movie director, having had some small success with Assault on Precinct 13, and just managed to be lucky enough to get funding from a guy with deep pockets that figured if he was spending the entire budget of Halloween daily on other films, then there was really not a lot of risk in seeing what something with a low budget could return.

What happened is it not only became one of the highest grossing horror films, but also (at the time) the highest grossing independent film.  The horror genre is, almost by nature, imitative and exploitative, and the crazy fact is Carpenter came up with something that gelled in a way that the movies it inspired, and the sequels involving Michael Myers, rarely did. 

On Halloween in 1963, Michael Myers (Will Sandin) dons a clown mask and murders his sister after she has a quickie with her boyfriend.  15 years later …

Scream and Scream Again (1970)

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Somewhere deep inside the bowels of this fetid mess there is a movie of some sort screaming to get out.  Possibly three movies, to be honest, and at least one of them halfway decent.  Unfortunately, it's buried under a number of disconnected plots, top billings that turn out to be little more than cameos and a whole host of things that I guess we're supposed to care about.  There may even be an anti-communist message in there as well. 

Unfortunately, it's a movie that never decides what it is going to be, nor who the actual protagonists or antagonists are supposed be.  It's like everyone on set had ideas, they filmed them and decided they didn't have time for editor to attempt to make the results coherent.

A man who is out jogging suddenly has a heart attack, and wakes up in what he first assumes as a hospital, looked over by a silent nurse (Kay Adrian).  Disturbingly, he finds that his leg is missing.

We switch to Konratz (Marshall Jones), the head of the secret …

Tusk (2014)

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One of the classic Ren and Stimpy episodes, from the first season before they fired John Kricfalusi, is where the pair get a job as rubber nipple salesmen.  At one point they knock on the door of a talking horse who is dressed in rubber from the waist down, who states he doesn't have a use for rubber nipples, but wonders if they have any rubber walrus protectors.  He produces said walrus, who then begs them to call the police.

This is a movie for anyone who ever wanted to know what was going on behind the scenes.

Wallace Bryton (Justin Long) has a successful podcast with his friend Teddy (Haley Joel Osment) called the Not See Party.  Their idea is something along the line of the two describing things to each other for a funny result, as the other can not see what is happening.  One of the things that comes up is a boy from Winnipeg they dub the "Kill Bill Kid", as he sends them a video of him playing with a katana and accidentally cutting off his own leg.  Intrigued, Wa…