Thursday, June 27, 2013
Back again, ladies and gents.
This week got a little more lively, especially once Artist Ensemble’s production of The 39 Steps got up on its merry feet and started trucking. Not sure what sparked the desire for an 80s ninja fix, but that was a lot of fun. With a couple independent horror efforts (one glossy, one decidedly not) to round things out, it wasn't such a bad little stretch of road.
Click on the links below for the full review (where applicable). As always, feel free to leave your two cents worth – we’ll make sure you get some change back.
Wednesday, June 26, 2013
Walking Dead, The (1936) d. Curtiz, Michael (USA)
A real disappointment, even for Karloff fans (and especially for those thinking they're picking up source material for the AMC zombie series). Boris stars as an ex-convict framed for murder who is then put to death in the electric chair. But as his innocence becomes apparent, semi-mad doc Edmund Gwenn brings him back to life…with a Lindbergh heart? (There’s a mildly amusing bit with Gwenn uttering, “He’s ALIVE.”) But then Karloff develops some sort of extrasensory ability to recognize those that railroaded him, and begins to show up at their places in the middle of the night.
Uninvited, The (1944) d. Allen, Lewis (USA)
While acknowledged as one of the first films to deal with ghosts and hauntings in a “serious” manner (i.e. not turning out to be a trick played upon the living by the living), those expecting to be truly frightened may be slightly disappointed by this tale of a spirit haunting the coastal English residence newly inhabited by siblings Ray Milland and Ruth Hussey. While the picture certainly has some fine moments of suspense and supernatural goings-on, viewers would do well to place it within its historical context to fully appreciate its reputation, especially since Victor Young’s whimsical score and Milland’s light-comic approach often undo any real sense of dread or horror.
Vault of Horror, The (1973) d. Baker, Roy Ward (UK)
Like the previous year’s Tales from the Crypt, this Amicus anthology based upon William Gaines' EC horror comics provides a impressively solid quintet of entertaining horror yarns bound together by a laughably weak wraparound story. A building elevator takes five upper class twits to a mysterious marble-floored sitting room, so they decide to sit down and tell each other their dreams?? Puh-lease.
|I know, I know, I'm working on it...|
It has been a very slow summer, movie-wise, for the Doc. If it weren’t for blood brother Doug Lamoreux and my unerring dead-ication to the Kryptic Army, I might not have sat down in front of the magic window at all. Strange days, indeed. However, with my two horror mentors goading me on, I managed to knock out a few “classic” Japanese sci-fi features, as well as a couple undead flicks with a twist. Not to worry, we stepped it up a bit in the weeks that follow, so stay tuned...
Click on the movie titles to be taken to the full reviews. As always, feel free to leave your two cents worth – we’ll make sure you get some change back.
***CLICK HERE TO VISIT FULL 2015 BLU-RAY REVIEW***
Habit (1995) d. Fessenden, Larry (USA)
The vampire of legend is eternal, and his cinematic brethren are equally durable and widespread. Even before the post-millennial pop culture phenomena of Twilight and True Blood (among others) but especially in their wake, it’s always been refreshing and rewarding to encounter an undead feature possessing a genuinely grounded and unique interpretation. Sam (played by writer/director Fessenden) is introduced recovering from the sudden death of his archeologist father, but it’s clear that life has not been going well for a long time. His longtime girlfriend Liza (renowned solo artist Heather Woodbury), troubled by his general aimlessness, has recently moved out. He has few interests or friends; those that he does have, like Rae and Nick (Patricia Coleman, Aaron Beall), cluck disapprovingly behind his back.
Saturday, June 22, 2013
Diary of a Madman (1963) d. Le Borg, Reginald (USA)
Vincent Price takes a brief respite in his parade of Roger Corman-directed Edgar Allan Poe adaptations to strut his stuff as a French attorney advised to take up sculpting to relieve his tension. He begins to come under attacks from the “Horla,” a disembodied malevolent parasitic force that renders its human host helpless, forcing him to perform unspeakable acts of violence and immorality.
Black Sheep (2006) d. King, Jonathan (New Zealand)
As surely as Peter Jackson drew inspiration from childhood idols Willis O’Brien and Ray Harryhausen, writer/director King’s admiration for his fellow Kiwi filmmaker’s early madcap horror/comedies is apparent in nearly every scene. Much like Bad Taste and Braindead (aka Dead-Alive), the characters are drawn large and loud, then inhabited by appealing, offbeat actors.
God Told Me To (1976) d. Cohen, Larry (USA)
Less manic and tongue in cheek than his other horror efforts, writer/director Larry Cohen’s gritty modern fable focuses on NYC cop Tony LoBianco investigating a spree of murders – each one committed by an individual who confides “God told me to” as justification for their acts. A deeply spiritual man, LoBianco finds his faith buffeted by these irrational yet undeniably linked incidents, and as he digs deeper, he discovers that he himself could very well be an integral piece of the mystery.
Aaah! Zombies!! (aka Wasting Away) (2007) d. Kohnen, Matthew (USA)
When a batch of super-secret-super-soldier-super-serum takes a tumble off a military truck, coming to rest next to a bowling alley’s tastee freeze mix, the delicious soft serve becomes a brain mush mainline for a young quartet of friends. A novel bit of apocalyptic stage setting, but director/co-writer Kohnen’s clever little zombie comedy earns big points for hitting upon an original take in an increasingly tiresome subgenre by taking us behind the eyes of the shamblers themselves.
Friday, June 21, 2013
Detention of the Dead (2012) d. Mann, Alex Craig (USA)
From the title alone, you know if this is your particular flavor of undead gutmuncher. Working alongside director Mann, Rob Rinow adapts his stage play for the screen and earns deserved kudos for opening it up beyond its primary library confines. But where the film is lacking is in its lack of ambition – the elevator pitch of “The Breakfast Club meets Shaun of the Dead” is all good and fine, and the two adapters meet the mashup requirements with gusto, but it never achieves the heart of either of its inspirations, content with spoofing without innovating. (The lackluster tagline of "When there is no more room in Hell, the Dead go to Detention" is indicative of the no-net play in store.)
Thursday, June 20, 2013
Swamphead (2011) d. Drover, Dustin / Propp, Justin (USA)
From the wild woods of Wisconsin comes this four-years-in-the-making DIY feature that could ostensibly be called a slasher save for the fact that no edged implements are responsible for the bodily damage. Instead, it is the carnivorous, self-ambulating noggin of a murdered Norse warrior (in Cheeseland?) splattering happy campers all over the joint, an outlandish premise that sets the flick’s lowbrow, low-brainer comedy/horror tone for its 75-minute running time.
Thursday, June 13, 2013
Hound of the Baskervilles, The (1959) d. Fisher, Terence (UK)
Riding the success of their remakes of Frankenstein and Dracula, Hammer Studios seized upon another opportunity to breathe Technicolor life into a cinematic/literary icon: Sherlock Holmes. Peter Cushing dons the deerstalker with the same intelligent, dedicated authority of his Baron and Van Helsing characters, with Andre Morell’s Watson a decidedly less buffoonish take than Nigel Bruce’s incarnation in the 1930s-40s Basil Rathbone series.
Black Christmas (2006) d. Morgan, Glen (USA)
Watching the behind-the-scenes DVD featurette, one almost aches for writer/director Glen Morgan. Here is a filmmaker whose previous directorial effort, the remake of Willard starring Crispin Glover, did not meet with much financial success, and he is obviously feeling the pressure to deliver a crowd-pleaser with plenty of “Boo!” or “Bleahhh!” moments. Seems like a nice guy and a genuine horror fan too, which is why his dead-on-arrival redux of Bob Clark’s cult classic is doubly disappointing.
We don't usually spill a lot of virtual ink on short films, but this one seems deserving of a little attention. Behold:
THE TWITCH FILM PREMIERE OF
Winner of the 2009 Fantasia Film Festival's Award for
Best Live-Action Short Film!
Wednesday, June 12, 2013
Gorath (aka Calamity Star Gorath) (1962) d. Honda, Ishiro (Japan)
When a spaceship on an exploratory mission to Saturn encounters a lethal runaway Red Dwarf star on a collision course with Earth, humanity’s scientists scramble to find a solution. When it is determined that the titular celestial freight train's mass is over 6000 times that our own, the decision is made to shift the Earth’s orbit out of Gorath’s path. Great! (pause) Now, how do we do that?
Tuesday, June 11, 2013
Abandoned, The (2006) d. Cerda, Nacho (Spain)
Set in Russia, this challenging and rewarding ghost story (co-scripted by Cerda, Richard Stanley and Karim Hussain) follows an American émigré (the haunted-looking Anastasia Hille) as she returns to her birthplace to claim her inheritance after her absent father passes away. Soon, however, she is coming face to face with long-lost siblings, hypnotic visions from the past, and some nasty-looking doppelgangers.
Black Castle, The (1952) d. Juran, Nathan (USA)
Boris Karloff and Lon Chaney, Jr. receive prominent billing in this middling Universal effort, but neither is really given much to do: Chaney turns in another one of his patented “drooling idiot” roles, while Boris skulks in the shadows much of the picture, which could hardly be called a horror film to begin with. Instead, it concerns itself primarily with the dashing Richard Greene’s search for the killers of his companions, leading him to the door of evil count Stephen McNally.
Descent, The (2005) d. Marshall, Neil (UK)
After a tragic accident, six friends (Shauna Macdonald, Natalie Mendoza, Alex Reid, Saskia Mulder, MyAnna Buring and Nora-Jane Noone) reunite for a caving expedition. Their adventure soon goes horribly wrong when a collapse traps them deep underground and they find themselves pursued by bloodthirsty subterranean creatures.
Gamera: Super Monster (1980) d. Yuasa, Noriaki (Japan)
The original Showa series ground to a halt with this cheapjack revival of the heroic flying flamethrower on the half-shell, one in which 95% of the monster action comes courtesy of footage swiped from the previous seven features. By the late ’70s, Gamera’s home studio of Daiei was bankruptcy bound; in a last ditch effort to keep home fires burning, screenwriter Nisan Takahashi conjured a rickety story that focuses on a trio of Space Women (Mach Fumiake, Yaeko Kojima, Yoko Komatsu) charged with saving the Earth from an ill-mannered band of marauding aliens looking to set up camp - heavy on the camp.
Friday, June 7, 2013
Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006) d. Glosserman, Scott (USA)
A combo of The Blair Witch Project, Man Bites Dog and a Christopher Guest pic, BtM follows a documentary film crew as they attempt to get up close and personal with wannabe slasher icon Leslie Vernon (assayed with Jim Carrey-like glee by Nathan Baesel) as he prepares for his first big mass murder, the one that will put him “over the top.”
Wilderness (2006) d. Bassett, Michael J. (UK)
A fine example of what a low budget film can be with solid, gritty acting and excellent use of an outdoor setting. Sean Pertwee plays a tough-nosed prison official who oversees an outing to an isolated island location, attempting to bring unity and team-building skills to his delinquents. When a group of female prisoners is discovered, having coincidentally come to the island for a similar purpose, the tension thickens.
Monster on the Campus (1958) d. Arnold, Jack (USA)
While experimenting with a prehistoric fish, mild-mannered university professor Arthur Franz inadvertently learns that contact with the creature’s gamma-radiated fluids has numerous unfortunate side effects, resulting in savage German Shepherds, oversized mosquitoes and murderous Neanderthals. What’s not to like?
EDIT (6/17/2014): FOR AN EXTENDED REVIEW OF SHOUT! FACTORY'S 2014 BLU-RAY RELEASE, CLICK THE LINK BELOW:
Ravenous (1999) d. Bird, Antonia (UK)
“It’s lonely being a cannibal. Tough making friends.”
Director Antonia Bird serves up heaping helpings of black comedy and gory carnage in this hilarious, edgy period horror. Set in the waning days of the Mexican-American War, Guy Pearce’s cowardly Army captain is stationed at a remote outpost in the Sierra Nevadas where daily routine is stultifying dull...until Robert Carlyle staggers in from the wilderness with tales of survival that would turn the hardiest soul into a vegetarian.
Thursday, June 6, 2013
Dead Silence (2007) d. Wan, James (USA)
"Beware the stare of Mary Shaw
She had no children, only dolls
And if you see her, do not scream
Or she'll rip your tongue out at the seam."
When Ryan Kwanten’s wife is found murdered with her tongue mysteriously and brutally torn out by the roots, he is led on a wild chase to track down her killer; a pursuit that leads him back to his hometown, uncovering some very dark (surprise!) family secrets along the way.
Monolith Monsters, The (1957) d. Sherman, John (USA)
After crashing near a town in Death Valley, fragments of a meteor expand and grow when touched by water. When the resulting stalagmite marauders threaten the nearby town, it’s up to Incredible Shrinking Man star Grant Williams to find answers quick, especially when he discovers that contact with the fragments turns his neighbors into solid rock.
Isolation (2005) d. O'Brien, Billy (Ireland)
Slathered in grime, mud, blood and bovine lube (!), this highly realistic shocker from Irish writer/director O’Brien takes horror down on the farm – by the time the credits roll, you may never look at that steak on your plate the same way ever again.