Halloween Scene: The Raven (1963) & The Tower Of London (1962)

Over the weekend I found myself in an increasingly rare place: looking for something to watch on a Saturday night. Of course, I flipped through Netflix, Amazon Video and Hulu trying to figure out what to watch, but it was a trip to my trusty DVD rack that finally helped me figure out what to put in my brain: Vincent Price flicks!

Continue reading Halloween Scene: The Raven (1963) & The Tower Of London (1962)

My Favorite Older Horror Film Discoveries Of 2018

In addition to making my way through a lot of films in the Great Chronological Slasher Franchise Project (which I will post an update on shortly), I also dug into a nice mix of purchased Blu-rays, gifted DVDs and streaming offerings in 2018! To my surprise and delight, I actually came across some movies that have become favorites easily making their way into my collection. You gotta hit that jump to find out what they are, though!

Continue reading My Favorite Older Horror Film Discoveries Of 2018

My Favorite Older Horror Discoveries Of 2017

All in all, I had pretty great luck with newer horror films during 2017, as I wrote about in a post last week. When it comes to older films, especially horror ones, I tend to have lower — or at least different — expectations. If a movie’s off-the-wall bonkers, but made with effort, I’ll probably love it. That accounts for about half of the movies on this list. However, I also discovered a few that I now very much consider new-to-me classics that I hope to watch again and again. To find out which ones, you’ve got to hit that jump!

Continue reading My Favorite Older Horror Discoveries Of 2017

Prime Time: TerrorVision, Vicious Lips & Jack’s Back

terrorvision I’ve been kicking around a recurring blog element here where I pick out a random movie or two on Amazon Prime and give it a review. The name Prime Time popped right into my head and seemed to spot-on to ignore. As it happened, I wrote a Prime Time post a little over a year ago that I never published for some reason. So, here’s the first installment as I wrote it in February of 2016.

My folks recently gifted us with an Amazon Prime membership. In addition to rocking out to a rad All 90s Amazon Music playlist on the regular and trying to figure out which Dash Buttons to buy, I’m also watching some pretty great movies on there. Well, “great” is probably too strong of a word, but I’m having a good time at least. Continue reading Prime Time: TerrorVision, Vicious Lips & Jack’s Back

Halloween Scene: New Slasher Round-Up!

Good golly, I watched a lot of horror movies this season. I actually kicked things off pretty early, sometime in September and pretty much watched only scare fare since then with the exception of many, many episodes of Daniel Tiger, the shows my wife and I watch and a few kids movies sprinkled in.

I found myself missing Topless Robot quite a bit this fall as that site offered the best place for me to knock out crazy lists about some of the longest running horror franchises around. I wound up not writing anything about new horror for pay, so I’m going to go through as many of the newer films as I can in this series of posts. Let’s start off with one of my favorite subgenres, the slasher movie! I watched four that I thought each did something fun an interesting. Continue reading Halloween Scene: New Slasher Round-Up!

Halloween Scene: 2015 Horror Recap

Usually around the end of a year I take some time to go through my favorite albums of the year and I still might do that, but I also felt like looking back at my favorite horror experiences of 2015. Thanks to Netflix, the library and a gaggle of fun freelance assignments around Halloween I got to see a good mix of old and new films this year that I wanted to look back on one more time before moving on to the new year. Continue reading Halloween Scene: 2015 Horror Recap

Halloween Scene: Stung (2015) & Return Of Count Yorga (1971)

stung posterA good buddy of mine sent me a box of awesome horror Blu-rays leading up to Halloween. I wrote about a few of them last week, but also wanted to give Stung and Return Of Count Yorga some blog love.

Stung was actually a bonus tossed in the box without warning. At first I wasn’t super interested because it sounded like a bit of Syfy or Asylum craziness with a plot revolving around giant wasps attacking an upscale garden party. But this Benni Diez-directed, Adam Aresty-written film is actually pretty damn delightful.

Our heroes are the owner of a catering company and her slacker employee who can barely handle himself when she switches from one shirt into another on the way to the event. He’s a bit too much of a goofball for my personal tastes (haven’t we seen enough of this character?) but he gets tangled up in the craziness of the events around him and starts adapting in the process.

Anyway, they wind up working some local bigwig’s party when these insane wasps start attacking. The stings are bad enough, but they also make their targets transform into gigantic wasps. Our heroes are joined in their drive to survive by Clifton Collins Jr. (who starred in Capote) and friggin’ Lance Henriksen, both of whom play against type a bit and also last much longer than you might expect.

I give Stung a lot of credit for not only featuring some impressive special effects (yes, there’s a lot of CGI, plus a fair amount of practical grossness) but also playing with expectations with what many would assume is stunt casting. I also thought it worked quite well as a nature-run-amok movie along the lines of Frogs. My own personal scare factor was boosted because I’ve been dealing with wasps under our siding all summer and hate those damn things. Whether you have wasps diving bombing your table or not, I highly recommend checking out Stung. It just went up on Netflix Instant, so it’s even easier!

return of count yorga posterI also gave The Return Of Count Yorga a watch. I feel like I’ve always known about these movies (or at least the original one from 1970), but just never got around to watching either of them. I think I saw part of the first on Netflix a while back, but who can remember?

Anyway, in this film, Yorga (Robert Quarry) makes his come back because of the Santa Anna winds (sure, why not) and he soon gets to work turning the gorgeous Cynthia — played by Mariette Hartley — into a fellow undead minion. Along the way his vampire brides also turn an orphan boy who then leads them to Cynthia’s family. Soon enough everyone in the family is turned aside from a deaf woman. She goes to the police about the attack, but no one believes her because the vamps cleaned up the mess and the kid is on their side.

As I mentioned, Hartley is just captivating, but so is Quarry. When he’s just hanging out in slick guy mode — at a costume party no less — he’s mesmerizing. But when he’s in vamp mode? It’s a bit laughable. Instead of sneaking up on his victims, he puts both arms straight out and just charges at them (complete with white pancake makeup). Even with that, though, there are some pretty scary moments, though they mostly revolve around people telling the truth and not being believed or voices coming from nowhere potentially driving folks crazy.

So, yeah, it’s a little goofy at times, but there’s also enough cool in this movie for me to recommend it if you dig on early 70s movies with some psychological scares and great actors.

 

Halloween Scene: The Old School

noesEven though I had a lot of luck with new movies, as documented in this earlier post, I still went back and watched some old movies I’d never seen, plus a few I had seen but only once and an old favorite or two. Continue reading Halloween Scene: The Old School

Halloween Scene: The Tomb Of Ligeia (1964)

the-tomb-of-ligeiaLast week the weather turned gray and all I wanted to do was sit down and watch a marathon of Val Lewton, Universal Monster and Vincent Price movies. Of course, I have two small kids, so I only got to watch one of them, but it was still a great experience. A few months ago I got my hands on the excellent Scream Factory Vincent Price Collection II set and have slowly been making my way through it. As it happens, I’ve only seen a few of these movies before — House On Haunted Hill, Dr. Phibes Rides Again and Last Man On Earth — so the others have been a nice surprise, like Tomb Of Ligeia.

I knew nothing about this film going in aside from the main star, but it also happens to be directed by Roger Corman and adapts an Edgar Allen Poe story. This was Corman’s last Poe film and, instead of shooting all of it in the studio, he actually went out and used the gorgeous crumbling British abbey you can see in the film. This not only opens the world up, but also brightens it and adds a sense that everything’s about to crumble around the main characters.

The story follows Price’s Verden Fell, a widower who hangs out in a mansion next to the crumbling abbey. His dead wife Ligeia said that she would never really die, but that doesn’t stop ol’ Verden from flirting with the delightful Rowena (Elizabeth Shepherd). The two have a whirlwind relationship, that ends in marriage and a honeymoon. While away, the super-serious Verden lightens up (and even takes off the strange sunglasses he’s always wearing), but upon returning he goes back to his old, strange ways. The longer they’re in the mansion, the more Rowena realizes that it might be haunted, the pet cat is a jerk and her husband is clearly up to some craziness that most likely involves his seemingly deceased former love. All of this comes to a head at the end of the film in a delightfully crazy manner.

At 82 minutes, Ligeia moves at a quick clip and covers quite a bit of ground in a short time while also taking time to show off some beautiful scenery before returning to the darkness within the castle (and Verden). I highly recommend giving this movie your full attention if you’re going to watch because it’s very easy to miss a few key details here and there. You might think the horse riding scene or long shots of the honeymoon are going to take a while, but as soon as they lull you into wondering what’s happening on Twitter, you’ve already missed a major explanation. I rewound a few times thanks to brief distractions from my phone and am glad I did because otherwise I would have been pretty lost.

As far as the Blu-ray transfer goes, this one looks spectacular, enhanced by the real locations used to shoot about half of the film. You really get to see that abbey in all it’s creepy glory. The pops of red from the flowers and blue and purple from the candles can all be properly seen and wondered about thematically. I haven’t listened to the commentaries (one by Corman, the other by Shepherd) but I do enjoy the intros and outros that Price recorded for this and some of the other films back in the 80s. They were part of a PBS Price marathon series and the kind of awesome find that Shout/Scream Factory has become famous for in the film fan community. Kudos to them for that and for this amazing set. I hope to get my hands on the first one at some point, but am also looking forward to watching The Raven and the rest of these movies in this rad-looking format.

Halloween Scene Blu Review: Scream Factory’s Body Bags (1993)

body bags I love seeing horror movies that I’ve heard about over the years but never actually seen. I also love the TLC that Shout Factory’s Scream Factory imprint gives to films like that as far as presentation and special features go. So, as you might expect, I loved Scream Factory’s recent Body Bags Blu-ray.

Originally conceived as a Tales From The Crypt-like horror anthology series for Showtime. Body Bags features director John Carpenter as The Coroner, a creepy, pun-loving ghoul who opens various black bags in the morgue and tells the person’s tale. Carpenter directed the first two installments, “The Gas Station” and “Hair” while Texas Chainsaw Massacre mastermind Tobe Hooper came in and did “The Eye.” As with most of the horror anthologies I’ve seen — like Cat’s Eye or Creepshow 2 —  this one features two solid stories and one weaker one.

I loved “The Gas Station.” It’s about a young woman named Anne (Alex Datcher) working over night in a gas station in one of those small booths so she can take money and sell cigarettes. While there she encounters a few creepy regulars, a few nice guys and a bum-murdering adversary who wants to add her to his kill list. Carpenter does a killer job of making this whole thing feel tense and dangerous. There’s a scene where Anne locks herself out of the booth and has to go find keys in the main building. I got super nervous during this portion of the short. Then you’ve got the end where she actually faces the killer. It’s great how Carpenter never leaves the gas station and makes it seem both cramped and huge depending on the scene.

There are a lot of fear elements here, many of which are simply related to work. She’s new, wants to prove herself and also make herself seem super capable. This seems like less of a pride thing and more a need for cash to keep putting herself through school, which is super important to her. You’re also dealing with the claustrophobia of the booth which goes from safe zone to cage and the seemingly expansive space between it and the main building.

Sometimes with anthologies or shorter form horror stories, they feel like truncated films, but I thought this story was perfectly suited for this format and used the timing well. Too much longer and it would be filled with too many fakeouts and lose suspense, which it has in spades.

SPOILERS THIS PARAGRAPH I want to talk a bit about the killer reveal in this one. Carpenter set up several possibilities for the killer in the forms of various customers — including a super-creepy Wes Craven — but I’ve got to say, I never once thought it was going to be Anne’s fellow employee played by Revenge Of The Nerds star Robert Carradine. He got me there. Even though I didn’t recognize Carradine right away, I knew he was a nice guy and didn’t even think about him again  I also liked how Carpenter included a few nods to his other films like when Carradine’s character does the background sit-up Michael Myers style with Anne in the foreground.

I wasn’t nearly as interested in “Hair” which stars Stacey Keach as an aging rich business guy who becomes obsessed with his thinning hair. I understand that this is something that does get into peoples’ heads, but it’s not really on my radar. Anyway, Keach goes to Doctor Lock whose method for hair growth seems to work really well, so well in fact that hair starts growing everywhere. I won’t get into the end reveal, but I’ll say it didn’t do much for me. I’ve actually gone back and watched this segment with an eye for the satire of it all and enjoyed it a lot more. 

Thankfully, I enjoyed the third installment, “Eye” starring Mark Hamill and Twiggy. Hamill plays baseball player Brent Miller who gets into a car accident that leads to the loss of an eye. He gets a transplant, but soon comes to realize that this new organ might be a bit defective as he begins seeing morbid scenes some of which are genuinely spooky. As it turns out the new eye came from a misogynistic killer who starts taking over his body which doesn’t work out so well for his wife. This is definitely the darkest, most intense entry in the series as Hamill struggles for his sanity.

It’s funny, while watching the movie again with audio commentary, “The Gas Station” whizzes by. The first time I watched, I was so absorbed and freaked out that it felt like a feature. Carpenter also points out that he used a station out in the middle of nowhere so it would feel even more remote and lonely. He also pointed out a number of shot set-ups that add to the feel of the picture. Carradine also joined in on the fun. The pair caught up a bit and talked about a few other things, but mainly stuck to the story at hand offering lots of insider details.

Keach comes on and does the same for “Hair” and it’s a ton of fun listening to these two longtime pros talk craft. More than that, Keach says that this story was very personal for him because his parents always told him to wear his hairpiece in part because his dad thought he didn’t make it as an actor for being bald. They even went off on a bit of a tangent about zombie movies after pointing out effects artist Greg Nicotero in a quick shot which was a lot of fun. Listening to this track actually framed the story in a better light for me which will definitely make repeated viewings more fun.

For “Eye” Hooper wasn’t available, so producer (and Carpenter’s wife) Sandy King and Justin Beahm talked about not only his segment, but also some of the goings on behind the scenes that went into filming the various segments and how the movie came to be. This one’s a bit more dry, but still really interesting.

The last major bonus feature on the disc is a doc called Unzipping Body Bags. Carpenter and King get a little more into the background of the show, which started out as an anthology script that they presented to Showtime who bit. So, they decided to do the first one without much thought to anything beyond this first offering. Carradine and Keach also joined in on the doc, which adds a lot of depth to the proceedings.

I’ve been on a John Carpenter kick lately and this movie just continues to build my feelings of affection for this director who has such weird, great sensibilities that have resulted in some of the most fun, creepy and adventurous films around.