Saturday, October 15, 2011

October Horror Movie Challenge 10/14


Nature of the Beast (1995)
(1st viewing) d. Salva, Victor (USA) 91min
Salva, who would later direct the Jeepers Creepers pictures, makes an impressive showing with this genuinely thrilling thriller that pits the wits of traveling salesman Lance Henriksen against Eric Roberts’ cool calculating psychopath. Conjuring shades of The Hitcher (and anyone who’s seen the opening 30 minutes of the first JC flick knows that the writer/director knows his way around a suspenseful automotive sequence), this two-hander continues to crank the tension right up until its sterling climax. The final (and grin-inducing) twist is but the topping on the cake.

Beast in the Cellar, The (1970) (1st viewing) d. Kelley, James (UK) 101min
Spinster sisters Flora Robson and Beryl Reid conceal a dark familial secret as patrolling military soldiers meet their demise one by one at the claws of a ferocious murdering creature. Is it man, monster or some combo of the two? Regrettably, this effort from British studio Tigon and exec producer Tony Tenser never really manages to effectively mine its subject matter’s lurid potential. The attack sequences are well staged with cameras whip-panning across the victims with ever-increasing blood and flesh exposed, but the prolonged third-act exposition is clumsily handled – the expression of weariness on the police superintendant forced to listen to Reid’s tale is shared by the viewer. Pretty blonde nurse Teresa Wyatt provides a welcome diversion, but it’s not enough to carry the day.


Family Portraits: A Trilogy of America (2003)
(4th viewing) d. Buck, Douglas (USA) 103min
Many thanks to Rue Morgue magazine for including the short film, “Cutting Moments,” on its list of “101 Alternative Horrors,” as this is what spurred me to seek it out Buck’s compiled trilogy. Truly devastating, with enough gore for the hounds, but within a setting of such unease that it settles in the pit of the viewer’s stomach and stays there for the rest of the movie, day and life. Perhaps it was a misstep to have the most disturbing of the trio as the first feature, as it sets the bar so high that the following films cannot help but fall a little short. That said, “Home” and “Prologue” are hardly also-rans, both carrying a wily emotional depth that Hollywood films haven’t come close to in years. This is not easy shock horror, this is well-crafted dread that settles into one’s bones. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. (For an extended review, visit:

Oval Portrait, The (aka One Minute Before Death) (1972) (1st viewing) d. Gonzales, Rogelio A. (Mexico) 87min
Based on Edgar Allan Poe’s story, this Civil War period film centers upon a young woman Lisa facing a struggle for her sanity. A portrait created by insane painter Joseph contains the soul of its female subject, the artist’s wife Rebecca. The young woman finds herself fighting off the portrait’s spirit that wishes to escape from the painting by replacing the young woman’s soul in her body…and trapping her spirit in the portrait. Made-for-TV cinematography and score seems well in keeping with the soapy melodramatic narrative. Drab, dull and hardly worth your time.

First Time Views: 32
Repeats: 30
Total Films: 62

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