Welcome, children of the night! This Blog is for fans of vintage horror films as well as those who are just beginning to discover the joy of these classic movies. I'd love to hear from you!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Halloween (1978)

I cannot imagine Halloween without, uh, Halloween. Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho may be the mother of all slasher films, but John Carpenter's Halloween is the one that reinvented the genre and wrote the playbook for many inferior slasher films that would follow.

Jamie Lee Curtis is perfection as the virginal Laurie Strode who gives us one of the iconic performances of the horror genre. You find yourself rooting for her character every step of the way, wincing every time she stumbles and screaming "run" every time her nemesis Michel Meyers appears lurking in the background of the scene. I also love  Donald Pleasence's portrayal of Dr. Loomis who has some ridiculous lines to deliver, but he does them with such sincerity and conviction that I find myself buying into it hook, line and sinker.

The soundtrack is one of the finest that is found in horror. It's right up there with Psycho in my book with an instantly recognizable theme and moody synths that help maintain the sense of dread throughout the film. Carpenter's direction is also a joy to watch.  Michael Meyers may not utter a single word throughout the film, but Carpenter somehow manages to make him a commanding present in every scene. Nicely done!

Without the success of Halloween there may have never been a Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street or the Scream series. Halloween got the ball rolling and it keeps on rolling to this very day with the likes of Jeepers Creepers, The Ring and [unfortunately] Saw.

My favorite print of Halloween is the 25th Anniversary edition by Anchor Bay. This Divimax big resolution transfer bests every other one I’ve seen that’s out there. The images are crystal clear and the colors look natural. I found it for $3.00 at my local Book/CD/DVD store and there are reasonable used copies available online.

There are many excellent commentaries out there that extol the virtues of this film. My absolute favorite is Halloween: The Inside Story (2010) that can be found on YouTube. There is not a more exhaustive commentary to be found on this iconic horror film.

RATING: Excellent.

For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The American Nightmare (2000)

This documentary examines some of the iconic horror movies of the 1960s-1970s and how they were influenced by, and were commentaries of, what was happening in the world around us. George Romero, Tom Savini, John Carpenter, Tobe Hooper, Wes Craven, John Landis and David Cronenberg look back on the movies they made as young men and offer some interesting insight into such beloved films as Night of the Living Dead, Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Halloween among others. These filmmakers also talk about the horror films that scared and inspired them as children and teens.

The subject is thoroughly explored in the way one would expect from the Independent Film Channel. Also included are various professors/historians who add their insights as well. This is really good stuff. I know a lot about these directors but found myself being surprised by their candid insights time and time again. If you have any love of horror, this one is a must-see.

RATING: Excellent.

For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Knightriders (1981)

Knightriders is not a horror film, but the legendary George Romero [Night of the Living Dead, Creepshow] wrote and directed it so that’s why it’s here. Think of Nightriders as a Renaissance fair gone bad. It’s all about knights on motorcycles who joust and fight for paying spectators until someone gets hurt. Leading this family of Camelot misfits is none other than Ed Harris [Gravity, The Abyss] in one of his earlier roles. He is this group’s King Arthur, who goes by the name of Billy, and seeks to maintain harmony and order within the community. But Billy has a dark side which makes things interesting.

Billy’s nemesis and threat to the throne is Morgan, played wonderfully by special effects guru Tom Savini [Dawn of the Dead]. This movie proves that Savini is not only good at guts and gore, he’s a fine actor as well. The two of them duke it out among a cast of merry misfits who try to make a living doing what they love.

Romero’s script is smart and while it taps into universal themes, it still feels fresh and original. His direction is spot on as well and the action scenes are quite effective. Look for a fun cameo from Stephen King who was working with Romero on the script for Creepshow while Knightriders was being filmed. It’s great to see Romero make good use of this serendipitous occasion.

The only negative thing I can say about Knightriders is that with a run time of 146 minutes, it’s way too long for the story it tells and should have been edited down to 120 minutes or less. If you like action films with lots of drama, then Knightriders will be an enjoyable movie to watch. If you’re a Romero fan and you haven’t seen this one yet, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? I believe it showcases the talents of a creative and visionary director and stands as one of Romero’s best films.

RATING: Very Good.

For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Tales From the Darkside: The Complete Series (1983-1988)

In 2010 CBS FINALLY released the classic 1980's TV anthology Tales From the Darkside. Let's get the one negative out of the way: While the series was shot of film, all the post-production work was done on video before it aired on TV. Unfortunately, all the original film was destroyed so the DVD transfer was done from video. This gives it a very grainy texture which may be off-putting for some in the age of Blu-ray and HDTV. But, hey, it's the only way we can view this delightful series. So set aside the quality of the picture and enjoy the quality of the storytelling. (The audio is fine, by the way. Although the DVD version was released without it's original musical soundtrack, probably due to copyright licenses and the cost of procuring them.)

It's almost pointless to name drop the directors, writers and actors that appears in this series which ran for four seasons from 1983-1988, by let me give it a try: George Romero, Tom Savini, Clive Barker, Stephen King, Jody Foster, Danny Aiello, Lori Cardille (Day of the Dead), Debbie Harry, Seth Green and some of the finest character actors to grace movies and television. What's not to like about that? While this series is not quite as strong as the 1990's HBO series Tales From the Crypt, it's got some great stories, fine performances and a few fun horror effects along the way. George Romero [Night of the Living Dead] was one of the Executive Producers for most of these episodes so you know you're in capable hands.

All 90 episodes are in this box set which I bought at Best-Buy for $24.99 It's also available through Amazon. At that price, it's a steal to relive this 80's gem. Don't miss it!

RATING: Excellent.

For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Martin (1978)

Visionary director George Romero gave birth to the modern zombie in his 1968 horror classic Night of the Living Dead. Almost every zombie film that has been created since begins with his template and goes from there. Then in 1978, the same year Dawn of the Dead was released, he set his sights on vampires. The result is Martin, one of Romero’s lesser known and under-appreciated films. The story centers on teenage Martin who is either a true vampire or a serial killer with a taste for blood. The brilliance of Romero’s script is that he leaves it completely up in the air for his audience to decide. Young Martin drugs his victims and then drinks their blood through an incision on their body. Everyone dies and no one is “turned” into another vampire.  Gone are the capes, the fangs, the bats, and the fog. In their place are mystery, hunger, curiosity and murder.

John Amplas [Day of the Dead, Creepshow] is great as Martin. He’s in every scene and nails the character completely. He holds his secrets close, only letting us see bits and  pieces of himself along the way. We watch him evolve as both a killer and as a sexual being. Like a train wreck, you can’t take your eyes off of him and wonder what he’s going to do next.

Lincoln Maazel, Martin’s Uncle, is a modern day Van Helsing. He’s the only character in the movie that has an old-world, gothic feel to him. He’s the cross carrying Nosferatu slayer who everyone looks at as if he’s a bit crazed…but maybe he’s the only sane one in the film. Hmmmm.

The pace of Martin is a bit slow but that’s not a problem for me. Romero takes his time telling the story and those who stick with it will be rewarded. The blood effects by Tom Savini [Dawn of the Dead] work well and if you watch closely you’ll also spot Savini in a cameo performance in the film. Romero also makes an appearance as Father Howard.

The biggest surprise for me is how good Martin looks in spite of its minuscule budget. Romero does a lot with a little and he is to be commended for it. Don’t miss this one. Martin is Romero at his creative best and gives us a vampire story that’s inventive and compelling.

RATING: Excellent.

For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Document of the Dead (1985)

If you are a George Romero fan, a zombie fan, or a film student, then Document of the Dead will give you a rare glimpse into the process of film-making as seen through the eyes of George Romero during the shooting of his zombie classic Dawn of the Dead. It's low-tech in its approach but provides tons of fun facts and insights.

For me, it was a rare treat to watch Romero do his thing as a screenwriter, director, producer and editor, a feat few can pull off with as much grace as Romero does. Document also talks in depth about Romero's editing style and explores what makes his vision unique among horror directors.

Romero was not only a visionary director. Those who have worked with him have always said he was a generous and kind human being as well. This film definitely lets that side of Romero shine brightly. Nicely done. You can find this one on YouTube.


For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Season of the Witch [a.k.a. Hungry Wives] {1972)

What's a frustrated, middle-aged 70's housewife to do? Why, take up the practice of witchcraft, of course! Season of the Witch is one of the lesser known and highly underrated films of the godfather of zombie movies, George Romero. The fact that it was made for $90,000 is downright miraculous. I have seen films with much bigger budgets from the same era that don't come close to what Season of the Witch accomplishes. It does a lot with very little which is a tribute to Romero.

Categorizing this film is a little difficult. It's part Valley of the Dolls psychedelia, part women's lib melodrama, and part supernatural/occult. The opening scene is flat out bizarre, but it sets the tone for the rest of the movie. It made me feel like I didn't know what the hell was going on and I think this is right where Romero wants his viewing audience to be.

Jan White is great as Joan Mitchell, the housewife in question. Her strong eyes convey tons of emotion, even when she isn't speaking. She also gave her character just the right amount of cray-cray when needed. The rest of the cast fill in nicely but this is definitely Ms. White's show.

The only thing I take issue with in the film is some of its portrayal of witchcraft. The modern witches I know personally do not believe in Satan and see him as a Christian invention. Furthermore much of their spell-casting involves working with elemental spirits, ancestors, and the Lord and Lady which represent the Divine masculine and feminine. Working with evil/demonic entities is not really a part of what they practice so I found all this a bit distracting as I watched it. That being said, the general viewer will not notice any of this and will probably enjoy this exploration of the dark side of things.

So definitely give this one a try. If you search hard enough you can find a copy of it on YouTube but this is not always the case.

RATING: Very Good.

For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.