Saturday, October 31, 2015


Challenge Totals to Date:

Movies Watched: 4
Total Movies Watched: 96
Total First Time Views: 34
Scare-A-Thon Donations: $2716.80

Remember, if you would like to make a pledge toward Scare-A-Thon 2015 (benefiting PLANNED PARENTHOOD and GREENHOUSE SHELTER) at any time, drop me an email at to say how much you would like to pledge. Your donation is tax deductible and, seriously, even a penny per film helps.

Black Sabbath (1963) d. Bava, Mario (Italy/USA) (6th viewing) 92 min

Il Maestro teamed with Boris Karloff and distributor American International for this well-polished and extremely atmospheric anthology of fright, perfect for introducing fans to both AIP’s gothic horrors and Bava’s particular visual aesthetic. The first tale, Anton Chekhov’s “The Drop of Water,” has a greedy woman (Jacqueline Pierreux) stealing a ring off the corpse she has been called to prepare. Later at her home, someone comes a’callin’ (featuring one of the creepiest “fun” visuals since the blind housekeeper in William Castle’s House on Haunted Hill, crafted by Bava’s sculptor father Eugenio). Next, the gorgeous Michele Mercier contends with calls from her dead convict lover in “The Telephone” and finally, “The Wurdulak” has House of Usher hero Mark Damon arriving at a terrified household run by a vampiric patriarch. All the stories are introduced by a droll Karloff with Bava’s exquisite use of light and color are on glorious display.

The original Italian version – finally made available on DVD a few years back – orders the stories such that “Telephone” opens the proceedings and is expanded to make a bit more narrative sense (as well as adding a smattering of lesbianism with Lydia Alfonsi), followed by “Wurdulak,” and closing with “Drop of Water,” arguably the scariest of the bunch. Unfortunately, the trade-off is that we lose Karloff’s distinctive voice, which is a high price to pay, and I actually prefer the nonsensical “ghost” angle of “Telephone.” The Italian version also features an amusing denouement that explodes the illusion of cinema, but serves the double purpose of diminishing the horror impact of all that has gone before. I feel fortunate to have both versions on my shelf (taped the AIP cut off American Movie Classics back in the day, and it’s the one I find myself returning to more often).

Howling II: Your Sister Is a Werewolf (1985) d. Mora, Phillipe (UK/USA) (4th viewing) 91 min

The first in an unraveling string of inferior sequels to the Joe Dante mini-classic, Christopher Lee stars as an occult investigator tracking down the surviving werewolf clan members in (music cue!) Transylvania. Sybil Danning sinks her teeth into the role of Stirba the lycanthrope queen, shedding her ’80s arena rock costumes in scene after scene (one disrobing is recycled 15, count ’em, FIFTEEN times for the closing credits sequence). Speaking of recycling, who needs a soundtrack when you can just play the same awful new wave “Howling” song over and over and over again? There’s not much meat on these bones, but there are bucketloads of unintentional laughs, such as Lee’s explanation why only titanium bullets work on this hairy bunch or when Danning gets all warm and fuzzy – literally – in an attempt to replicate the infamous connubial bliss of the 1981 original.


Spasmo (1974) d. Lenzi, Umberto (Italy) (2nd viewing) 94 min

More psycho-terror than giallo, swinging sexyguy Robert Hoffman thinks he sees a dead girl on the beach, but it turns out to be Suzy Kendall who proceeds to lead him on a wild chase through murder, intrigue and a really serious case of sibling rivalry. There are also any number of life-sized sex dolls scattered throughout the film, which really don’t seem to have much to do with anything. Oh, and they never really explain the title either.

I’d like to turn the mike over to my buddy Bryan Martinez over at Film Deviant for this one at this point, because he’s got more to say about this weird little flick than I ever could.

Eaten Alive (1976) d. Hooper, Tobe (USA) (3rd viewing) 91 min.

Hooper’s follow-up to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is an ugly, dirty, punishing exercise in madness... not that that’s a bad thing. Neville Brand offers a completely unhinged performance as the proprietor of a backwater Louisiana motel where the guests check in, only to be hacked up with a variety of gardening tools and then fed to the pet alligator. With less of the gripping tension and suspense that made TCM such a success, we are instead subjected to over-the-top acting, an abrasively mind-numbing score (by Hooper and Wayne Bell), a god-awful country radio music soundtrack eternally playing in the background, and a truly senseless string of murders. Brand leads the race in “weird-acting” honors, as he mumbles an unintelligible stream of consciousness punctuated by whooping and howling, but his dedicated compatriots are not far behind. These include Carolyn Jones, Mel Ferrer, Marilyn Burns (back for more screaming after her Chain Saw stint), William Finley, Stuart Whitman, and a young Robert Englund makes an impression as a slimy hillbilly obsessed with kinky backdoor sex. Filled with bizarre touches, although some of the moments are directly lifted from Hooper’s earlier effort (prolonged scenes with tied-up victims, handheld camera chases through the woods, etc.), and while it concludes with a spirited fever-pitch climax, it’s a long and winding road, with the only tension generated by Brand’s sheer unpredictability.

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