Tuesday, October 17, 2017

THE GHOUL (2016) Blu-ray review

The Ghoul (2016) d. Tunley, Gareth (UK) (1st viewing) 85 min

A homicide detective (Tom Meetan) is called to London to investigate a strange double murder wherein both victims are reported to have continued moving towards their assailant despite multiple gunshots to the face and chest. With the help of his former lover (Alice Lowe), he decides to go undercover as a patient to investigate the suspect's psychotherapist (Niamh Cusack), but soon discovers that Nietzsche knew what he was talking about when he warned against looking into the abyss too long….

Much like the recent Tank 432, this Brit psycho-thriller is executive-produced by Ben Wheatley, whose early directorial features Kill List and Sightseers knocked me on my kiester. Unfortunately, also much like Tank 432, this is another admirably produced but thoroughly uninspired/uninspiring retread of superior material gone before. The acting is solid, the cinematography assured, the sound design effective... but the pacing and plot are ho-hum on a colossal level such as to generate more yawns and fervid glances at the clock than anything approximating a shiver. What might have made for a tense and clever 25-minute Twilight Zone episode becomes an exercise in unnecessary padding and tedium.

Arrow’s Blu-ray release offers a filmmakers’ commentary that does little to unlock any mysteries in the story, but writer/director Tunley and Co. do provide some helpful hints for aspiring low-budget auteurs hoping to make their own $19.98 magnum opus. There are also some enjoyable interviews with the cast and crew (who seem to have enjoyed themselves), as well as Tunley’s amusingly dark 9-minute short from 2013, The Baron.

The Ghoul is available now on Blu-ray from Arrow Video and can be ordered HERE:



THE HARVEST (2013) Blu-ray review

The Harvest (2013) d. McNaughton, John (USA) (1st viewing) 104 min

Recently relocated to her grandparents’ home following her parents’ death, lonely teenager Maryann (Natasha Calis) strikes up a random friendship with an unfortunate, bed-ridden lad (Charlie Tahan) stricken with a mysterious illness. Unfortunately for the two lost souls, his parents (Samantha Morton, Michael Shannon) shut down the play-dates in a hurry, clearly concerned with keeping an unspoken, perhaps sinister secret safe from the world.

Monday, October 16, 2017

BEYOND THE DARKNESS (aka BUIO OMEGA) (1979) Blu-ray review

Beyond the Darkness (aka Buio Omega) (1979) d. D’Amato, Joe (Italy) (3rd viewing) 94 min

In this unquestionably gruesome yet surprisingly accomplished and entertaining yarn by D’Amato (Anthropophagus, Ator the Fighting Eagle), reclusive rich young taxidermist Frank (Kieran Canter) steals his recently deceased girlfriend’s body (Cinzia Monreale) from the cemetery so he can embalm her and keep her around. As fate would have it, the out-of-the-way cottage becomes a high traffic route for attractive young female visitors who must meet their grisly end when they poke their noses where they don’t belong.

THE OTHER HELL (1980) Blu-ray review

The Other Hell (1980) d. Mattei, Bruno (Italy) (1st viewing) 88 min

Back in the day when he and fellow countryman and schlock merchant Claudio Fragasso (Rats: Nights of Terror, Troll 2) would pretty much wander back and forth between each other’s sets and trade off directing scenes, Mattei conjured this outrageous slice of Nunsploitation that does it utmost to shock and awe and urggghhhh at every turn.

Sunday, October 15, 2017


Caltiki, The Immortal Monster (1959) d. Freda, Riccardo/Bava, Mario (Italy) (2nd viewing) 78 min

Led by Dr John Fielding (John Merivale, Circus of Horrors), a team of archaeologists descends on the ruins of an ancient Mayan city to investigate the mysterious disappearance of its inhabitants. However, the unfortunate adventurers get more than they bargained for when their investigation of a sacrificial pool awakens the monster that dwells beneath its waters - the fearsome and malevolent (and radioactive!) god Caltiki.

FOUR FLIES ON GREY VELVET (1971) Blu-ray review

Four Flies on Grey Velvet (1971) d. Argento, Dario (Italy) (2nd viewing) 99 min.

Swinging rock drummer Roberto (Michael Brandon) finds himself the target of a maniac, stalking him relentlessly, driving him emotionally and mentally to the brink of sanity. Implicated in the accidental stabbing of a shadowy figure (a set-up cleverly captured on camera by the masked psychopath), the tortured musician seeks out assistance from a gay detective (Jean-Pierre Marielle) and his sympathetic wife (Mimsy Farmer), only to find the noose tightening further around his figurative neck.

Friday, October 13, 2017

THE CAT O' NINE TAILS (1971) Blu-ray review

The Cat o’ Nine Tails (1971) d. Argento, Dario (Italy) (2nd viewing) 112 min.

With the exception of a couple of nasty stranglings and a gnarly train-running-over-a-guy sequence, this relatively bloodless thriller represents the second installment in what has come to be known as Argento’s “animals trilogy” that began with The Bird with the Crystal Plumage and concludes with Four Flies on Grey Velvet. Which is not to say that it doesn’t do a dandy job of keeping viewers on their toes following the twists and turns of a murderer targeting an experimental medical research facility that might be on the verge of a breakthrough discovery, even if its somewhat lengthy running time might challenge patience at times.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017


The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970) d. Argento, Dario (Italy) (2nd viewing)

Having served his time in the cinematic trenches both as a film critic and a screenwriter (notably collaborating with Bernardo Bertolucci on Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West), the man who would become known as “The Italian Hitchcock” made his directorial debut with this snappy little giallo, the success of which cemented his path within the genre. Admittedly, there are only a few moments of outright horror and/or gore, but the newcomer’s sharp grasp of tension, atmosphere, camerawork, and pacing are beyond reproach in this telling of a vacationing American (Tony Musante) who on his last day abroad witnesses an attempted murder in an art gallery and is detained to help solve the mystery.

Monday, October 9, 2017

THE DEVIL'S HONEY (1986) Blu-ray review

The Devil’s Honey (1986) d. Fulci, Lucio (Italy) (2nd viewing) 83 min

The first 20 minutes of this erotic thriller from Fulci are outrageously soapy and naughty, packed with oodles of nudity and sex (including a howler of a sequence where our saxophone-playing hero (Stefano Madino) gives his lady fair (Blanca Marsillach, sister of Cristina, star of Dario Argento’s Opera) a “blow job” that must be seen to be believed. But after her tune-tooting tease dies on the operating table following a motorcycle accident, she decides to wreak vengeance upon the doctor (Brett Halsey, Return of the Fly) who failed to save her paramour’s life, not knowing that the sawbones has a few kinks of his own. (The nail polish sequence with Eulalia Ramon’s uncredited prostitute is another high point in silly/sexy.)

Sunday, October 8, 2017

BROTHERHOOD OF THE WOLF (2001) movie review

Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001) d. Gans, Christophe (France) (3rd viewing) 152 min

Being that I’m currently performing in a stage production (The Man-Beast at First Folio) that addresses the same story, it was a no-brainer that I should revisit this unbelievably stylish, superbly produced period epic thriller. Springboarding from co-writer Stephane Cabel’s original scenario, Gans (who would go on to helm the big screen adaptation of Silent Hill five years later) serves up an incredible visual feast depicting the real-life period in history during which the 18th-century French province of Gevaudan was being terrorized by an enormous, bloodthirsty beast.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

NIGHT OF THE WEREWOLF (1981) Blu-ray review

Night of the Werewolf (aka The Craving) (1981) (2nd viewing) d. Molina, Jacinto (Spain) 93 min.

Originally titled El Retorno del Hombre Lobo, this enjoyably souped-up redux of 1971’s The Werewolf vs. the Vampire Women (which also starred and was written by Naschy) is directed by the actor himself (under his given name), and features one of the best wolfman makeups in the series, with great attention given to the lycan eyes and ears. Following a prologue featuring Waldemar Daninsky (Naschy, in his 8th iteration of the role) and Elizabeth Bathory’s (Julia Saly) execution centuries before, three college girls conspire to locate the dastardly duo’s final resting places and resurrect the fatal femme.

Friday, October 6, 2017

WOLF GUY (1975) Blu-ray review

Wolf Guy (1975) d. Yamaguchi, Kazuhiko (Japan) (1st viewing) 86 min

In this bizarre mixture of horror, action, sexploitation, and sci-fi, international superstar Sonny Chiba (Japan’s answer to Bruce Lee) is a cop who is also the only surviving member of a clan of ancient werewolves who relies on his supernatural powers to solve crimes! (After watching Teen Wolf and Teen Wolf Too, I’m starting to think that werewolves were the original superheroes – they’re able to box, play basketball, sleuth, pretty much anything!)

Thursday, October 5, 2017

TEEN WOLF TOO (1987) Blu-ray review

Teen Wolf Too (1987) d. Leitch, Christopher (USA) (1st viewing) 95 min

Or "Teen Wolf As Well," as we used to call it back in the day. The premise for this terrible, strained, not-funny wannabe sequel is that Jason Bateman plays Scott Howard, the similarly afflicted cousin of Michael J. Fox’s character from Teen Wolf annnnnnnnd, yep, that’s the plot. Screenwriter Tim Kring bizarrely brings back the characters of Coach Finstock (who coached basketball in high school and now is coaching college… boxing?) and party boy Stiles (both played by different actors?) and basketball teammate Chubby (again played by Mark Holton, aka "Francis" from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure). James Hampton returns as Bateman’s amiable uncle, while John Astin and Kim Darby cash their checks as the college dean and a strict but sympathetic professor, respectively.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

TEEN WOLF (1985) Blu-ray review

Teen Wolf (1985) d. Daniel, Rod (USA) (2nd viewing) 92 min

A few months after Michael J. Fox became a movie star with Back to the Future, this innocuous high-concept vehicle also hit screens, spinning the comic fable of a befuddled high school basketball player “going through some changes.” It’s all pretty much by-the-numbers teen comedy, with awesome character man James Hampton (The Longest Yard) stealing every scene as Fox’s doldrums dad. Legendary makeup man Tom Burman (Food of the Gods, Halloween III) handles the latex and fur (although, am I the only one who thinks that our hero looks more like a yeti than a wolfman?), while the devastatingly awful synth score comes courtesy of the late Miles Goodman.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

31 (2016) movie review

31 (2016) d. Zombie, Rob (USA) (1st viewing)

Kicking the Seat podcast mogul Ian Simmons approached me with the notion of checking out the latest from Mr. Dragula Himself as a means of a) kicking off the Halloween season and b) maintaining our ongoing patronage of the ever-polarizing horror writer/director. (As documented in 2013’s review of The Lords of Salem, I find myself more and more to be a fan of the artist while not really enjoying the art itself.)

RED RIDING HOOD (2011) movie review

Red Riding Hood (2011) d. Hardwicke, Catherine (USA) (1st viewing) 100 min

Yes, it’s a spin on the classic fairy tale... as told by the director of Twilight. Trust me, those words also struck dread into my blood-lovin’ heart, but I had stumbled upon one of those fabled “best werewolf movies” lists on the wild, wild west that we know as the Interwebs and it had been mentioned favorably and I’m on a little werewolf kick right now and I didn’t HATE the two Twilight movies I saw and the cast included Amanda Seyfried, Gary Oldman, Virginia Madsen, Lukas Haas, and Julie Christie, so....

Monday, October 2, 2017

LYCAN (2017) DVD review

Lycan (2017) d. Land, Bev (USA) (1st viewing) 98 min

Six high schoolers in Talbot County, GA, assigned to “rediscover a moment in history” for a class project, head off into the woods in search of a local legend about a werewolf. Set in 1986 (presumably to eliminate the presence of cell phones and the internet) and populated with attractive young people who occasionally take their clothes off, it’s clear that writer/director Land knows his target audience. The cinematography and sound design are proficient enough for a presumably humble budget, and there are a couple of snazzy horror moments (the shot of a girl being spirited away from her tent is both simple and shocking, and there’s an interesting twist heading into the third act) even as the clichés run fast and furious.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Fool's Views (9/1 – 9/30)

Greetings, autumnal ones!

Considering how crazed I’ve felt over the past month, it’s bewildering that September allowed for as many flicks as it did. I chalk it up to the pressure of having rented most of this month’s offerings from the public library (12 in total) and thereby having an imposed deadline in which to watch them, as well as the pleasant prodding of Kicking the Seat’s Ian Simmons with whom I shared another three horror viewings. The end results included a trio of directors’ festivals (Akira Kurosawa, Peter Berg, Alex Cox) and a werewolf double feature inspired by my current onstage exploits (The Man-Beast at First Folio Theatre, opening next weekend just in time for the full moon).

But the October Horror Movie Challenge (and SCARE-A-THON 2017) looms nigh, so let’s get these in the books and head off into the cornfield mazes!

As always, feel free to leave your two cents worth – we’ll make sure you get some change back.


Thursday, September 28, 2017


Hello, friends and fellow fiends! It’s that time of year again, when shadows grow deeper, sweet tooths grow longer, and helpless pumpkins quake in fear....

It’s time for SCARE-A-THON 2017.

As faithful readers know, for the past several years I have dedicated my October viewing energies to various organizations deserving of some TLC (Terror Lovin’ Care). Thanks to generous, like-minded souls, we have raised thousands of dollars for over two dozen different groups. This year, I have selected the American Women's Self Defense Association, dedicated to "creating a safer society in which all women learn practical and effective self-defense skills" and IMPACT Chicago, which "teaches self-defense to women and girls so they can prevent, minimize, and stop violence."

Because everyone deserves to feel safe and empowered. Now more than ever.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Fool's Views (7/1 – 8/31)

Yep, it’s another 2-months-for-1, which not coincidentally at all cover the rehearsal and performance dates of Oak Park Festival Theatre’s boisterous and crowd-pleasing production of Thomas Heywood’s The Fair Maid of the West. (See trailer HERE.) Between early mornings at the health club and late nights slinging steel (and trying to catch up on sleep whenever possible), there remained precious little time to sit in front of the flickering image. Well, and stay conscious, that is. Many was the time that I passed out 10 minutes in and had to rewind/resume later.

That said, I was relatively pleased with the ground covered by the 19 films below, though it quickly becomes obvious to anyone with half an eye that my attention was placed clearly in the civilian quarter. No apologies, especially since October is only a few weeks away, although I heartily regret choosing Tank 432 out of the dozens of screeners I had on the docket. Ben Wheatley may be a dandy director, but he’s already blown his rep as far as executive producing goes.

Anyway, I will be keeping these trim and lean, since we’ve already got rehearsals for another show on the horizon (The Man-Beast at First Folio Theatre) and the clock is ticking for the annual Scare-A-Thon and October Horror Movie Challenge. Seems like only a year ago....

As always, feel free to leave your two cents worth – we’ll make sure you get some change back.