Halloween Scene: Universal’s Wolf Monsters

chaney-wolf-manI might have to rethink my position on werewolf movies. For a while, they just didn’t click with me, but after loving An American Werewolf In London and four Universal Monsters movies revolving around lycanthropes, I might be changing my tune! And thanks to picking up the big UM DVD set, I’ve been able to do a pretty deep dive on all (or most) things wolf from that era. Continue reading Halloween Scene: Universal’s Wolf Monsters

Halloween Scene: More Horror Comedy Craziness

jack-frost-2 After enjoying the stellar An American Werewolf In London and having fun with Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil as well as Blood Diner, I kept looking around at various horror comedies spanning a variety of decades and styles. Some horror comedies play with the tropes of the genre while others just go all out with craziness you can’t help but laugh at. And I think that Jack Frost 2: The Revenge Of The Mutant Killer Snowman does both! Continue reading Halloween Scene: More Horror Comedy Craziness

A Feast Of Friday The 13th Frights!

abbott and costello meet frankensteinI was looking at the calendar last week and realized that there wouldn’t be another Friday the 13th until November. I celebrated last month’s by watching Funhouse and The Shortcut, but wanted to go all out for this one. So, here are a review I’ve been thinking about for a few weeks along with a few new ones! Continue reading A Feast Of Friday The 13th Frights!

Halloween Scene: Dracula (1931)

I’m starting to see the formula behind these Universal Monster movies. Show the audience the monster, so they know it’s real. Then introduce a new person into the monster’s circle. That person will start feeling crazy because people don’t really believe monsters exist. Bad things happen. People talk a lot about those bad things. An investigation begins. More people get in on the action and start believing. More talking about things. Good guys fight monster. Bad guy loses (mostly). At least that’s how the few I’ve seen recently are, which basically equal The Invisible Man and now Dracula.

As you probably know from being a human being on this earth for the past 100 years or so, this story of Dracula — which is based on the stage play which is based on the Bram Stoker book — follows the titular vampire as he makes his way from Transylvania to England only after putting the lackey Renfield under his spell. From there it’s some skulking around and looking creepy, hanging out with some vampire ladies and lots and lots of old white guys talking about what’s going on. Ultimately, it wasn’t a very thrilling viewing experience.

The biggest problem with watching Dracula is having seen so many Dracula adaptations and riffs over the years. Even if you’re not a horror fan, you probably know at least fifty to sixty percent of the story just from seeing sitcom or cartoon take-offs. Since I am a horror fan, I’ve seen all the more. As such, it’s kind of boring to watch this movie, specifically when Bela Lugosi’s not on screen as Drac.

However, I still enjoyed a specific part of this movie a lot: the beginning. Set in Dracula’s castle in Transylvania, there’s a real ephemeral quality to the proceedings that draws you way into the movie. Part of that is because the version I watched on Netflix still has scratches and some of the lightness that comes from old films, but part of it is because his castle looks SO FREAKING COOL. It’s gigantic and run down and has these giant cob webs all over the place. Fun fact: I read on the IMDb Trivia page that they were created “by shooting rubber cement from a rotary gun.” Isn’t that a hundred kinds of awesome? I love finding out all these old movie magic secrets from the old days when people really had to think about how things were done.

So, no, this isn’t the most exciting movie around and I’m a much bigger fan of Tod Browning’s next effort Freaks, but it is an important piece of horror fiction to check out. If you’re just getting into horror, I do recommend watching the Universal Monster flicks early on before everything else comes in and taints your view of the story.

Halloween Scene: Revenge Of The Living Dead Girls (1987) & White Zombie (1932)

Today’s movies have not one but two things in common. As you can tell by the titles, Revenge Of The Living Dead Girls and White Zombie are both tales of the undead, but they also seem to have inspired Rob Zombie. He obviously named his first band after the 1932 flick, but he also had a song called “Living Dead Girl” on his first solo album. I swear, I didn’t plan it that way, I was just looking for two zombie flicks. And man, what a weird pair of flicks, both of which I watched on Netflix Instant.

ROTLDG is actually a French flick that has been thankfully dubbed into English. Unlike a lot of dubbed movies I’ve seen, this one actually sounds okay and I didn’t realize it was dubbed at first. Instead of the scared inhuman voices you tend to hear on these kinds of things, it actually sounds like people are acting instead of reading lines.

Anyway, the story is mostly about corporate intrigue with a chemical company that accidentally creates zombies, but only three of them. This woman has a big complicated plan to bribe the company for a bunch of money and part of said plan involves putting some chemical into a truck filled with milk that’s supposed to make people sick, but instead kills them and they come back as zombies. Why no one else drank from the milk truck, I’m not so sure. Anyway, the zombie broads walk around kind of slowly, but less shambling and more casual. They go after people who wronged them though I’m not sure how they know who was involved in their poisoning. Check out the unembeddable trailer here.

The zombie chicks also swim for no reason and can also drive cars, but they also capture the prostitute who’s been helping the scheming woman, rip her clothes off, then take their clothes off and do weird sex stuff with her before stabbing her in the lady parts with a sword. Whoa, that part was crazy. I cringed and even looked away. Not cool, but it had nothing on the scene in the shower with the pregnant lady. I don’t think I’ve been that grossed out in a while.

Again, ROTLDG isn’t a good movie by any stretch of the imagination, the effects were kind of shocking, which I wasn’t expecting from the goofy cover (for the record, the naked zombie ladies look like that in the face, but regular in the body, it’s weird). Overly complicated, but good effects and weird kills. Worth watching with some friends and some beers.

However, I did not have any fun watching Bela Lugosi’s White Zombie. First off, the sound on the Netflix Instant version was SO quiet I couldn’t hear anything. I had the volume on the TV up to the mid 40s, usually it’s in the 20s. That could be because it’s an 87 year old movie, I’m not sure , but it kind of ruined the watching experience. The plot to this movie is a lot like I Walked With A Zombie which I watched recently. A dude moves to a place in the West Indies and his wife dies, so he turns to Lugosi to help bring her back which she does and just looks glassy eyed the whole time. There’s an ending with a lot of dudes falling off a cliff lemmings-style.

Usually I can watch a flick while working or blogging without much trouble, but I had pretty much zero idea what the hell was going on in the movie. They’re in a big house, the woman dies, she gets brought back, she looks creepy, the husband confronts Lugosi. The movie’s just over an hour long, but it feels like I can explain the whole thing in just a few words, then it’s probably not that good of a movie, right? I guess it gets props for being the first in line, but it seems like a lot of other filmmakers have done it MUCH better. Oh, also, instead of getting the sound of a bird screeching, they instead got a woman to scream every time. It’s awful.

Halloween Scene: I Walked With A Zombie (1943) & The Body Snatcher (1945)

I haven’t seen a lot of horror movies from the 40s or 50s. Sure, I’ve seen Frankenstein and Dracula and a few others here and there, but there are lots and lots I haven’t seen. On the list of classic oversights are the films of Val Lewton a producer I just discovered recently who worked for RKO back in the 40s. There’s a nine movie DVD set out that collects his horror flicks which, from what I’ve seen and read, went more for atmosphere than all-out terror. I moved one of those DVDs to the top of my queue and it made the perfect double feature, starting with I Walked With A Zombie.

Now, even though I checked off the “Zombies” category box, this isn’t your average brain-craving zombie. Instead, it’s the more traditional, voodoo-inspired, walking dead kind of a thing with an island plantation owner’s wife afflicted with the “disease” and a young, imported Canadian nurse taking care of her.

I wound up really liking this film. The different take on the zombie concept was fun and super creepy, especially with the nurse taking the woman to the voodoo jamboree. There was even some melodrama as the nurse started to fall for the plantation owner, but that got interrupted by a local singer singing a folk song about the owner, his wife, his previous wife and all the strange things that had been going on with those women. I can’t quite say how it was all connected or what explanation they gave for the wife’s condition, but I absolutely loved that they used a singer to convey a lot of that knowledge, especially later when he comes out of nowhere singing just to the woman on an abandoned street.

I like these movies because they’re short and sweet and get to the point without bothering with too much nonsense and yet still have a lot going on. Good stuff.

Like I said above, I’ve seen Frankenstein and Dracula and every horror fan worth his salt knows about Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi. However, I didn’t know that both men were in The Body Snatcher, which is actually based on a Robert Louis Stevenson short story and has nothing to do with Invasion of the Body Snatchers. This one’s a period piece set in Scotland though curiously devoid of the trademark Scottish brogue we all know and love. A doctor uses Karloff to get him bodies so he can learn how the human body really works. The doctor has an assistant played by Lugosi and a young medical student who wants to help cure a little girl.

I mentioned Pollyanna in my review of Murderer’s Row because of Karl Malden’s involvement in that film. Well, The Body Snatcher feels like a horror sequel to that movie, which is really funny because not only did this movie pre-date that one (it came out in 1960), but the RLS short story (1884) came out well before the Pollyanna book (1913). Pollyanna ends with the titular character crippled and heading off for treatment while this one starts with a girl who can’t walk and a couple of doctors operating on her. This time around, though, it’s a white horse that draws her attention instead of a doll, but the similarities are there. There’s even musical cues that reminded me of Pollyanna.

Anyway, this story has been retold over and over both officially and unofficially and played out pretty much how you would expect it to with the corpse-finder vaguely threatening the doctor, the student finding out, the doctor confronting the corpse-man, etc. SPOILER ALERTS FOR A 70 YEAR OLD MOVIE (can’t say I’m not careful). Towards the end, the doctor kills the corpse man (after he kills Lugosi, that’s right, Frankenstein’s monster aced Dracula with his bare hands!). For some reason I don’t recall, he and the student go and dig up a woman of their own, but the guilt of killing someone gets to the doctor on the rainy night that they’re returning to their office. He starts hearing Karloff’s voice repeating something over and over and over and over. Then, the student gets out and the horses take off with Karloff’s body (somehow switched with the woman’s!) sits exposed and half naked, leaning on the doctor seemingly reaching out for him. Then the horse breaks away and the carriage tumbles off a cliff (I almost expected it to blow up thanks to too many movies). The student climbs down to examine the scene only to discover that the body really was the woman and the doctor had just lost his mind! It’s a great sequence that ranks up there in my all time brainbank of closing horror movies scenes.

While neither of these movies will take over for any of my previous all-time favorites, they were both good flicks that I’m glad I watched. Makes me want to go through the rest of that set and move onward from there.