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.

RATING: Good.

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.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Day of the Dead (1985)

Day of the Dead (DOD) may well be one of the best zombie films ever. At least it’s one of my all-time favorites! DOD is the third zombie offering from the one and only George Romero who basically invented the modern zombie genre single-handedly with Night of the Living Dead (1968). DOD take place sometime after Dawn of the Dead (1978). The story line involves a group of military personnel and scientist who are living in an underground bunker while the world around them is overrun with zombies. The setting is perfect because it creates a claustrophobic feeling which Romero exploits to its fullest effect. Most of the humans are one step short or a nervous break down and sometimes it’s hard to tell who is the greater menace: the zombies or the humans! Brilliant!

The scientists in this film are experimenting on the zombies, trying to figure out what makes them tick with the hope they can rehabilitate them. The star of this show is Sherman Howard who plays a zombie named Bub. His performance in this film is astonishing. He is, in my opinion, the BEST ZOMBIE EVER! The way he embodies the character is nearly flawless. He makes the audience care for Bub in a way that makes us want to shoot some of the humans and save the zombie!

The human cast is a bit cliched but they serve their purpose. The exception to this is Lori Cardille, the daughter of Bill Cardille who hosted a weekly double feature monster fest in my hometown of Pittsburgh. Lori’s character, Sarah, brings lots of emotional depth to the table and helps carry some of the other actors in the film. As a bit of trivia, make-up effects guru Greg Nicotero [The Walking Dead] makes his acting debut in DOD. He was also an apprentice of Tom Savini who did the effects work on DOD.

Speaking of effects, Tom Savini upped his game big time since Dawn of the Dead and gives the audience some brilliant blood-spaltter effects and classic zombie make-up. His work is a feast for the eyes and his influence on Nicotero cannot be denied.

John Harrison also gives DOD a wonderful soundtrack which always cranks up when the zombies appear. It reminds me a bit of the work Goblin did on a number of Dario Argento’s films. It sets the perfect mood in the scenes it’s employed.

What more need to be said? Day of the Dead is essential viewing for those who love all things zombie. A remake of Day of the Dead was done 2008 with Steve Miner [Friday the 13th, Part II, Halloween: H2O] in the director’s chair. The zombies in the remake are the fast-moving viral kind which I find annoying, especially when they violate the laws of physics! The remake has its good points but it simply doesn’t compare to the original.

RATING: Excellent.

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


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

"They're coming to get you, Barbara!" So goes the famous line from the mother of all modern zombie movies, Night of the Living Dead. George Romero, who hails from my hometown of Pittsburgh, is the godfather of all that is zombie. [My pastor performed his wedding.  How cool is that?] Yes, there were zombie films before his but most of these involved living people whose minds are controlled through voodoo or some sort of black magic. What separates George Romero's work from everything that came before it is a number of things: 1.) His zombies are always the dead come back to life, except in the remakes.  2.) Romero adds a subversive layer of social commentary and dark humor to his films. The issue of racism runs all through Night of the Living Dead.  3.) He also ups the sense of terror and utter hopelessness in fighting "the machine" that is zombies. [There are many scholarly commentaries on Romero's films that are available online if you want to read more.]

The basic plot of Night of the Living Dead is simple. A sister [Barbara] and brother [Johnny] visit the grave of their father when they are attacked by zombies. Johnny is killed but Barbara flees to a nearby farmhouse where she meets up with others who are trying to survive. The rest of the movie is a classic study in human nature and how life-threatening situations bring out the best in some of us and the worst in others. Even though I've seen this film a million times, I still find the ending shocking and subversive. It's a stroke of pure genius. You don't see it coming.

Night of the Living Dead has been remade twice. First in 1990 with special effects guru Tom Savini as director and George Romero doing the rewrite. It is one of the best remakes of a horror film I've ever seen although the soundtrack is filled with cheesy synthesizers and the ending is reworked in a way that I think is less powerful than the original. The second remake is entitled Night of the Living Dead 3D (2006) and totally rewrites the original story until it is virtually unrecognizable. It is most definitely the worst of the three versions.

The best copy of this film I’ve seen is the Millennium Edition by Elite Entertainment. It has the blessing of George Romero and was made from the original 35mm negatives. Skip the 30th Anniversary Edition [a recut version of the film] which everyone agrees is a piece of crap. I would also stay away from the 40th Anniversary "No B.S." Edition which I paid too much for, only to discover that cheaper editions I’ve owned had a clearer picture. Rats! You can also download a nice copy from Archive.org and burn your own DVD. 


I'm also excited that MOMA did a complete 4K restoration from the original film negative in 2016. It's slated to hit select theaters in 2017 and, no doubt, will be available at some point as a Blu-ray disc. This version has the blessing of Geoerge Romero who said it was the closest thing  to what he intended viewers to see. With George's passing a few days ago, I'm fairly certain that this version will be made available to the general public.

Night of the Living Dead is a must see in whatever form you can get your hands on. I still think the original is one of the creepiest films of all time. Love you, George!



RATING: Excellent.
Download a copy of the film from Archive.org
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Zombie: Dawn of the Dead [Dario Argento's Cut] (1979)

Seeral years ago I hit the holy grail of zombie horror in the used DVD section of my local mall. If you're a zombie aficionado you are well aware that Dario Argento did the European Cut of George Romero's zombie classic Dawn of the Dead. I had heard about Argento's version for years but never had the opportunity to view it….until then!
How does it stack up to Romero's cut? Well, if you're looking for an exhaustive critique of the subject click HERE. But if you've read my blog before you know I like my reviews short and sweet. Argento's cut is fantastic. It's lean, mean, dark and full of action. While I love Romero's sense of humor and character development which appears in his cut, Argento skips the lighter moments in favor of a much more sinister and gorier film. It works beautifully. If you don't squirm in your seat or wince a time or two while watching Argento's cut then there may be something seriously wrong with you. He really brings out the horror in Romero's film.
Argento's cut is also greatly aided by a different musical score that was composed by the Italian progressive rock band Goblin. It really adds a great deal to the feel of the film and is a total home run.   
Some people enjoy getting into arguments about which version is better. What's the point? Both versions show the vision of two great directors who know how to edit horror. If you can get your fingers on a copy of this one, it's definitely well worth your time.
RATING: Excellent.
For more info check out the episode's entry in IMDB.

Monday, July 17, 2017

R.I.P. George Romero

Like everyone else who loves horror, I was saddened to learn of the death of George Romero. I grew up in Pittsburgh so I have always felt a kinship with George. He is much beloved in my hometown and elsewhere. The first time I saw Night of the Living Dead it scared the shit out of me but I loved it. I was in Middle School at the time. When Dawn of the Dead premiered I actually saw it at the Monroeville Mall where it was filmed. Walking out into the mall and parking lot scared the shit out of me again! I have always found his films to be thought-provoking with lots of social commentary to be found in the midst of gut-munching and zombie kills. George, you were one-of-a-kind. A great human being and a visionary filmmaker. You will me missed by this zombie-loving fan!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Summer Camp Nightmare (1987)

If Lord of the Flies (1963) was an after school special from the 70's, it would look EXACTLY like Summer Camp Nightmare. Good God, this one is a stinker. I'm not even sure why I watched it to the end except for the fact that once I commit to watching a film I really COMMIT to it...no matter how bad it is!

I can safely say there is not a single thing I liked about this film. The screenplay is chock full of cliche characters and bad dialogue as it tells the not-so harrowing tale of a summer camp whose rebellious children stage a coup in order to overthrow a strict camp director. The results are disastrous, of course with violence, assault, drunkenness an general mayhem abounding.

Veteran actor Chuck Conners [The Rifleman, Branded] is the Camp Director in question. I always picture him in some kind of Western with guns a-blazing and plenty of attitude to spare. Here is is merely collecting a paycheck. Some of this is not his fault because of the lines they gave him to work with. The only other actor worth mentioning is Charlie Stratton who plays the leader of the rebellion. He's actually quite decent in this role but, again, the script does not enable him to do much with the role.

That's all I really need to say about this red hot mess of a film. Don't give up 1 hour and 29 minutes of your life to watch it. You've been warned!

RATING: Bad [Really bad]

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

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Gargoyles (1972)

Considering it's a made-for-tv movie with a limited budget, Gargoyles is actually quite good. Yes, the plot is nothing special: An anthropologist and daughter are driving through the southwest desert and encounter a colony of living gargoyles whose goal is the extinction of the human race. It's familiar territory and there are no surprises along the way. Plus, it's surprising how easy it is to defeat a species bent on world domination. Daddy's never-ending shotgun bullets [Think Katniss' arrows in The Hunger Games] pretty much does the trick!

However, what makes this film rise above its plot limitations is as follows:

The soundtrack is better than it has a right to be. It's moody and atmospheric and gives the story some much needed emotional punch. We have Robert Prince [Wonder Woman, Night Gallery, Circle of Fear] to thank for this whose name is not well-known but who has a respectable body of work scoring television shows and films.

The design of the Gargoyles is interesting. Ellis Burman [Goonies, Back to the Future] chooses wisely to spend his modest budget on facial masks instead of the body suits the Gargoyles wear. There is enough variety and detail in the masks to help these creatures overcome their limitations.

The acting, for the most part, is solid. Cornel Wilde [The Greatest Show on Earth, The Naked Prey] channels his best 1950's man's man as the anthropologist at the center of the story. His acting style is definitely of an older era than the 70's but it work in this role. Jennifer Salt [co-executive producer of American Horror Story] fits the bill nicely as his daughter. Veteran actors Grayson Hall [Dark Shadows] and Woody Chambliss [Gunsmoke] have nice character parts that give this film some levity and fun. Finally, there is a young Scott Glenn [Silence of the Lambs, The Bourne Trilogy] who plays a motorcycle rider who helps Daddy take on the Gargoyles. This is one of those "his face looks so familiar" moments that sends you running to IMDB to figure out who he grew up to be!

So, give this one a try. It's not a huge blockbuster with a cast of thousands but Gargoyles is enjoyable fare that reminds the viewer that sometimes 1970's TV really got it right! Gargoyles is available to watch on YouTube.

RATING: Good.

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

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Svengali (1931)

When most people think of 1931 horror, the Universal Studios classics Dracula and Frankenstein immediately come to mind. However, Warner Brothers released a wonderfully crafted thriller that is every bit as good as both of them. What is this movie, you might ask? It's Svengali which boasts a remarkable performance by the incomparable John Barrymore, who first caught my eye  in the silent film Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920). Svengali proves he was able to the make a successful transition between silent films and talkies, a feat few actors were able to pull off.

Barrymore is absolutely mesmerizing as Svengali, a maestro and voice teacher who could steal the panties of a nun with his unearthly gaze and powers of mind control. Naturally, women cannot resist him and the film explores all the facets of this phenomenon with both humor and pathos. Barrymore is splendid in this role and gives a tour de force performance.

His main love interest, Trilby, is played by Marian Marsh. I wish I could say she was Barrymore's equal in terms of her performance but she suffers from an acting style of that era which is overly-dramatic and theatrical. The same is true of Bramwell Fletcher [The Mummy] who plays Billlee, Trilby's spurned love interest. He pines for her in a way that makes me want to snuff him out with a pillow!

Therefore, this is Barrymore's show and he doesn't disappoint. I am surprised it took me so long to see this film. It should have been on my radar years ago. However, hopefully you won't make the same mistake I did. If you are a fan of 1930's horror then this one is a must-see. Thankfully it's available to watch on YouTube. Don't miss it.

RATING: Excellent.

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

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Stranger in Our House, a.k.a. Summer of Fear (1978)

Let me start off by saying I love Wes Craven. I have several friends who worked for him and they always say such wonderful things about his kind and generous spirit. I also love the iconic and groundbreaking films he directed such as The Hills Have Eyes (1977), A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), and Scream (1996). That being said, I absolutely HATED Stranger in Our House (SIOH). Even if I didn't know that Craven had directed it, I still would have hated it!

Here's why: SIOH is a made for TV movie which means it's going to be a lot tamer film than a cinematic release. Yet TV series such as the Kolchack: Night Stalker (1974-75) proved that TV horror does not need to be boring. SIOH feels like an after school special with very little suspense and a "reveal" toward the end of the film that's laugh out loud ridiculous. I expect more from Craven than this. I'd like to believe his hands were tied by TV executives who prevented him from doing more. That's my story and I'm sticking with it!

Furthermore, screenwriter Glen N Benest struggles to write great dialogue for his characters. He has only has 8 writing credits to his name on IMDB and I can see why! One of my favorite bits of dialogue occurs between the main character, Rachel, and her mother. Rachel says "Have you ever read anything about witchcraft?" Her mom responds "No, not recently." It sounds as if she was initiated into a coven back in the day but just lost interest in it over time. It was an LOL moment.

SIOH is also not helped by its portrayal of modern witches which is absurd. I actually know a number of practitioners of the Craft and, trust me, they don't control the weather or operate cars remotely. Horses are not afraid of them and they can be photographed. This last detail was so preposterous and SIOH made a big deal out of it. Apparently, in their world, witches are like vampires and are invisible when they are photographed. Seriously? Seriously?

Last but not least there's the acting. Linda Blair [The Exorcist 1973] is really bad as Rachel and delivers her lines like she's in a junior high school play. Her mom in the film, Carol Lawrence, is even worse. The bright spot in the acting pool is Fran Drescher [The Nanny] who plays Rachel's best friend. Unfortunately, she's a secondary character so her screen time in minimal. Then there's the "witch," who is played by Lee Purcell. She has potential as an actress but the material she has to work with limits what she can do.

I am surprised at all the positive comments on IMDB regarding this film. I just don't get it. My advice is that you avoid this one altogether.

RATING: Bad.

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

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Demons 3: The Ogre (1988)

Lamberto Bava, son of Italian horror legend Mario Bava, definitely knows what he's doing behind the camera. I'm definitely a fan of Demons 1 and 2, but when it comes to Demons 3: The Ogre, here's what you need to know to enjoy it more:

This movie has nothing to do with Demons 1 and 2. In fact, the title of the movie is The Ogre or House of the Ogre which was its original title. Demons 3 got slapped onto the box art of the latest DVD release in the US in order to generate more sales through name recognition. Lamberto never intended it as a sequel. Booooo!

The Ogre was created as a made for TV movie. This means its a lot tamer than the usual "buckets of blood" Italian horror film. This is not a bad thing. You just have to go into viewing it with this in mind.

Where Bala excels in The Ogre is creating tons of atmosphere. In all the scenes where the actual creature is lurking about it's a total home run. The visuals are greatly enhanced by a simple but ominous musical theme that is repeated throughout each of these scenes. It helps to build a sense of dread every time.

The two things that prevent The Ogre from receiving a Very Good rating form me are it's length and the design of the creature itself. The Ogre would have been much stronger with a shorter run time of around 1 hour. There are far too many scenes that don't contribute much to the story. With regard to the creature, it's best when we only see a hand or part of his torso. When we finally see him in full form he looks more like a giant, slimy Ewok! The clothing choice is too cartoonish and would have been more effective with a more disheveled/degraded look. Hansel & Gretel outfits don't exactly work in creating a menacing monster.

So, definitely give this movie a chance is you like Italian Horror. It's strong points definitely outweigh its weak points.

RATING: Good.

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

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Zombie Nightmare (1987)

Zombie Nightmare is, indeed, a nightmare but not in a good way. Heinous acting. Stereotypical characters. The worst Italian and Jamaican/Haitian accents I've ever heard in a film. No wonder this movie was the target of Mystery Science Theater 3000. In fact, I recommend that if you dare to watch this film watch the MST3K version so at least you can laugh at this "so bad, it's bad" movie.

The basic story revolves around a mother whose husband dies early in the film. Then, years later, her son is killed in a hit and run car accident. Mama isn't going down without a fight so she enlists the neighborhood voodoo priestess (Doesn't everybody have one?) to bring her son back to life so he can seek his revenge. The scenes with the priestess are laugh-out-loud ridiculous and the make-up on the zombie son looks like something you're likely to see in your neighborhood on Halloween night. I know they had a limited budget but, even I do better work than this! The rest of the film involves zombie-boy bashing in everyone's skulls in with a baseball bat until everyone who was in the car that hit him is dead. What makes it worse is that there is no gore in these scenes so the deaths have no emotional or visceral impact whatsoever.

The only bright spot in Zombie Nightmare are the songs from Motörhead and Girlschool. [Why the UK band Girlschool never got noticed in the US is a mystery to me.] The rest is the worst of what hair metal has to offer from bands you've never read of. [Virgin Steele, anyone?] Even the promise of Adam "Batman" West isn't enough of a draw since he doesn't appear in the film until about 45 minutes into it and then gives a lackluster performance.
So if you're looking for zombies of the flesh-eating type, look elsewhere. If you're looking for horror that's scary, look elsewhere. If you're looking for a movie that has been made wit at least a minimum of competence, look elsewhere. You've been warned!

RATING: Bad.

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

Saturday, March 11, 2017

The Unseen (1980)

Oh. My. Goodness. I really enjoyed this movie. If I didn't know any better, I would swear it was made in the early 70's because it has that slightly trashy, exploitive quality to it. And there's enough screaming and overall angst in the closing 20 minutes to rival any Italian horror film I've watched. Bravo!

The Unseen is the story of three female television reporters who end up staying in a house where something sinister is lurking in the basement. Granted, you figure out what's in the basement long before the reporters do, but that's half the fun.

Director Danny Steinmann only has four movie credits to his name which is surprising. He sets up the scenes very well and gets the maximum amount of suspense out of the story. His first film, High Rise, which he wrote and directed under the alias Danny Stone, was a hardcore porn feature. He definite carries that sensibility into The Unseen.

The biggest reason why this film works is the remarkable performance of Sydney Lassick [Carrie, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest] who plays Ernest Keller, the owner of the house where the women are staying. He is able to cover a wide range of emotions from child-like innocence to bat-shit crazy. It's a delightful performance to watch and I cannot say enough good things about his work in this film.

The "star" of The Unseen is Barbara Bach, a doe-eyed model/actress who once graced the cover of Playboy magazine. She is best known for her role in the James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me (1977). Unfortunately, they don't give her much to do in this film except crawl across the floor screaming, crawl through the mud screaming, etc. Jeez, she only twisted her ankle. Why was she so helpless in the climatic scenes of this film? I hate disempowered women in movies and wish they had made a few stronger choices for her character.

I'm not going to give away the ending because watching The Unseen unfold is half the fun. This movie is so much better than its rating on IMDB. You can watch it on YouTube so definitely give it a try, especially if you like your murder movies a little on the trashy side!

RATING: Very Good.

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


Friday, March 10, 2017

Curse 2: The Bite (1989)

Dear sweet Jesus, please make this movie stop! Bad story. Bad acting. Bad sequel. Bad sound editing. Bad snake cam shot from the snake's perspective. Bad radioactive mutant snake-dog. Bad soundtrack. Holy crap, this is one bad movie! I simply couldn't watch it all the way through so I fast forwarded to the ending scene. What did I behold? Bad mutant snake and a woman wallowing in mud.

Don't watch it. Just don't watch it! Even if you like cheesy movies, just don't watch it! You've been warned! There is a Curse 3 and there is no way in hell I'm watching it! Thank God this is the only film director/writer/producer Frederico Prosperi ever directed. He only produced one more. Enough said!

RATING: Bad. (really, really bad)

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

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Witchboard III: The Possession (1995)

Who knew you could receive hot stock tips from a Ouija board? But proceed with caution, because everything has a price. That pretty much sums up Witchboard III: The Possession (W3) which is an attempt to milk a little more money out of a movie that never needed a sequel let alone a trilogy. There are a few clever moments in the movie  such as a death by taxidermy butterflies (Believe it or not, it's quite effective) and a shocking suicide. However, most of W3 is pretty predictable stuff.

The problem begins with the script which starts out strong but gets a little lost along the way. With three authors listed for the story and screenplay, this usually indicates there were problems that needed to be fixed. It shows. This story definitely has potential that was never fully realized.

The second weakness lies in the main character whose body is stolen by the demon. All of a sudden his speech pattern is different, along with his new hairdo…and his wife doesn't seen to notice! It's a bit silly and a subtler approach was definitely needed.

The last weakness is the ending which has some ridiculous CGI effects including a wife spinning rapidly in midair (an LOL moment is there ever was one) plus a demon who is a guy in a slimy Godzilla suit. It just kills what's supposed to be the climax of the film.

So, viewer beware. I was a fan of the first Witchboard but, honestly, the other two are not exactly great cinema. Rumors have been swirling on the internet on a remake of the first film. If it comes to fruition, I look forward to seeing what they can do with it. It's still a great story that has never reached its fullest potential on the big screen.

RATING: Fair.

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


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Curse (1987)

How this movie was never on my 1980's horror radar remains a mystery to me. Forget its low rating on IMBD. The Curse is a fun film that, somehow, I have not seen until now. Director David Keith, who is known more for his acting [An Officer and a Gentleman, U-571], does an excellent job of bringing all of the elements together to make The Curse work. First of all, he's got Will Wheaton who captured my heart as the troubled Gordie in Stand By Me (1986). He was excellent in that film and he is excellent here as a young abused farm boy who suspects something is amiss when an "asteroid" crashes nearby. Wheaton gives this character lots of emotional depth which is a rare gift for an actor his age. His counterpoint in this film is his religious zealot crazy father, played by veteran actor Claude Akins [Battle For the planet of the Apes] who has more acting credits to his name than can be mentioned here. They are great together. As an added bonus John Schneider [Bo in Dukes of Hazzard] makes an appearance as a TVA inspector who comes to the family farm to see what the fuss is all about.

The other element in The Curse that is a total home run is its special effects. Sight gags and gross out moments are in ample supply. This is old-fashioned ingenuity in an age where not a lot of CGI was happening. Modern audience will find that it still looks good and has aged well. The sight of mom going full-on crazy is pure delight and the maggots spewing from a cow is laugh out loud disgusting!

Hiding in the shadows of The Curse is horror legend Lucio Fulchi [City of the Living Dead, Zombi 2] who is listed as an associate producer and uncredited as a special optical effects designer. He has an artistic eye when it comes to gore and I have no doubt his input helped to make this a better film.

Thankfully, The Curse is readily available for viewing on YouTube so, what are you waiting for? If you love 80's horror, you will thoroughly enjoy this somewhat forgotten gem.

RATING: Very Good.

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


Friday, February 3, 2017

Alien 3 (1992)

I usually don't review films made after 1990, but Aliens 3 is an exception since it's the follow up to the much beloved Alien and Aliens. Unfortunately, after such a high benchmark for excellent filmmaking, there is no where to go but downhill..and downhill it went with great speed and velocity! Alien 3 is the film critics love to hate. Even director David Fincher was infamously quoted as saying, "No one hated it more than me; to this day, no one hates it more than me."  That being said, it's not the worst movie ever made, but its not the greatest either.

Fincher points to a lot of reasons why Aliens 3 didn't work including his naivety as a young director, a studio that didn't care about its quality as long at it opened and was under budget, and severe cuts that were made to the original release that trimmed it from 144 to 114 minutes. There are a number of excellent critiques regarding the hows and whys of the failures of Aliens 3. I suggest you seek them out if you're interested.

Here are my observations as to why this movie wasn't as amazing as the previous two.

1). The screenplay. Why they decided to kill off everyone from the second film except for Ripley is a mystery to me. It made the saving of the little girl in Aliens a wasted effort. I also missed having Bishop around (played by the always excellent Lance Henriksen) whose animated remains appeared all too briefly in Aliens 3.

They also gave Sigourney Weaver very little to work with. Gone is the kickass, self-confident female from the first two films. In her place is a Ripley that is hesitant, fearful and just plain tired!

The rest of the cast is full of less than memorable characters with the exception of Dillon, played by Charles S. Dutton, who is one of the few characters who is given any depth. It felt like every time we were just getting to know someone better, they were food for the alien.

2). The creature. Damn to hell all bad GCI. Unlike the creature in the first two films, who was largely done by remote control and puppetry, this "new and improved" alien looks fake, fake, fake. It's just not the meaning character we know and love.

3). The cinematography. This is the brownest looking movie outside of the silent films of the 1920's. The darker tones of the first two Alien movies work much better. This just looks too bland and monochromatic.

I have seen both versions of Aliens 3 and I, like Fincher, prefer the longer 2003 Special "Assembly Cut" Edition. It provides information that's important to the storyline and the movie is better with these scenes added to it.

So that's my take. It's not as god-awful as move reviewers will tell you it is, but it's hardly the iconic films that Alien and Aliens are. After watching the breath-taking Prometheus (2012) which Ridley Scott wrote and directed as a prequel to Alien, I am reminded just how poorly Aliens 3 missed the mark.

RATING: Fine.

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

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Aliens (1986)

Wow! It's hard to believe it took this many years to produce a sequel to the brilliant Alien (1979). This time out they upped the budget from 11 million to 18.5. They also jettisoned Ridley Scott [Black Hawk Down, American Gangster, Kingdom of Heaven] and brought in James Cameron [The Terminator, Titanic, Avatar] to direct. The urban legend is that Sigourney Weaver refused to reprise the character until she read Cameron's script. The rest, they say, is history.

So how does it stack up to the original? Both films are excellent but they are also quite different from each another. Alien is quiet, brooding, beautiful and intense. Aliens is a guns blazing action adventure with stunning special effects.  Scott and Cameron definitely know how to make big, epic films and these two are pretty much a virtual tie in terms of excellent filmmaking. It all depends upon whether you like to brood or blow things up. I'm a brooder so I prefer the original over the sequel!

In addition to a totally kick ass performance from Sigourney Weaver, the cast of Aliens is loaded with stars including Bill Paxton, Paul Reiser and my personal favorite Lance Henricksen who plays the android, Bishop, like no one else can. Everyone in this cast gives a stellar performance. Personally, I could have done without the screaming little girl who looked like a reject from Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. I would have fed her to the creatures early in the film but, hey, that's just me. Some find her character adorable. I thought she was annoying.

The second film takes place 57 years after the first. Weaver's character Ripley has been in cryo-sleep all this time after having defeated the alien and saved the cat! Now she is discovered, thawed out, and ready for action. Weaver joins a group of marines for a search/rescue/destroy mission back on the planet she first encountered the creatures. She goes, kicks some booty, and that's all you really need to know.

Aliens is NOT an intellectual film. It's a joy ride.  \If you want the intellectual side to this story go see the brilliant and beautiful Prometheus (2012) that came out this summer and was directed by Ridley Scott. It's the "prequel" to Alien and is a brooding, intense work of art. Aliens needs to be approached like an Indiana Jones film. Root for the good guys. Enjoy seeing things get blown up. Ooh and aah at the special effects. And watch Sigourney Weaver as she gives a strong performance in one of the best roles of her career.

Recently I bought the Alien Quadrilogy (Blu-Ray Edition) that contains a Director's Cut of the film. James Cameron tells the audience at the beginning of the film that the original version was too long for the producing studio so it demanded several cuts to tighten the plot. Cameron restores these cuts to the film and says it is his preferred way to see the Aliens. I really loved the extra material and didn't feel like it was too long in the least. It adds a little more depth to the film without sacrificing the pacing of the action. See this version if you can get your hands on a copy of it.

RATING: Excellent.

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

Monday, January 30, 2017

Alien (1979)

Alien is as close to a perfect film as you can get. Director Ridley Scott is a master at telling big stories with immaculately conceived visuals and lots of mood and emotion [Black Hawk Down, American Gangster, Kingdom of Heaven]. Alien is certainly no exception to this rule.  It's absolutely gorgeous to look at, especially when they arrive on the alien planet. The "chest-popping" scene is a classic in American horror and there are other moments that are just as powerful. Scott also got very strong performances from an amazing cast and gave birth to a strong female heroine with Sigourney Weaver. Other great performances in the cast include Tom Skerritt and John Hurt.

There is lots to love in Alien. The story is well conceived and continues to slowly amp up the tension until the conclusion of the film. Furthermore, Alien is a relatively quiet film with lots of silence behind the actors voices instead of a continuous musical track. This works extremely well with this film and I found myself completely drawn into the story, listening intently for signs that the creature was moving in for the kill.

I absolutely love the creature in all of its forms. It's a modern horror icon that few can match. Kudos to the special and visual effects crew for giving us truly frightening and unforgettable images that hold up very well over time. I could go on but I think you get my point.  SEE THIS MOVIE! It's one of the best of the best that appeals to lovers of both Sci-Fi and Horror.

I recently bought the Alien Quadrilogy Blu-Ray set which includes a "Director's Cut" of the film. (The Blu-Ray version is gorgeous, by the way!) Here is what Ridley Scott has to say about it: "The traditional definition of the term 'director's cut' suggests the restoration of a director's original vision, free of any creative limitations. It suggests that the filmmaker has finally overcome the interference of heavy-handed studio executives, and that the film has been restored to its original, untampered form. Such is not the case with Alien: The Director's Cut. It's a completely different beast."

You might be interested to know that Scott still considers the original his preferred version of the film. The Director's Cut was originally longer but Scott ended up parring it down to slightly under the original running time. Here's what he said about the editing process "Upon viewing the proposed expanded version of the film, I felt that the cut was simply too long and the pacing completely thrown off. After all, I cut those scenes out for a reason back in 1979. However, in the interest of giving the fans a new experience with Alien, I figured there had to be an appropriate middle ground. I chose to go in and recut that proposed long version into a more streamlined and polished alternate version of the film. For marketing purposes, this version is being called 'The Director's Cut'." As far as I'm concerned, you can't go wrong with either version of the movie.

[As a side note, Alien only leaves me with two unanswered questions: 1) Why are they smoking cigarettes on a spaceship? and 2) who the hell brings a cat on space mission?  Discuss…]

RATING: Excellent.

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

Friday, January 20, 2017

Lady Frankenstein (1971)

Only the late 60's and early 70's could give birth to this wild reinterpretation of the Frankenstein story. Rosalba Neri is delightful as the daughter of Baron Frankenstein who returns home after having become a "surgeon" and is determined to assist her father in his research. She is a force to be reckoned with: smart, sexy, ambitious and just a little bit crazy. Perfect! The film starts out as a woman's liberation tale but gets stranger as the plot develops which is a good thing. The basic moral of the story is if you bring the dead back to life, you die. If you have sex, you die. If you bring the dead back to life and have sex with them...well, I think you can figure out the rest for yourself.
The Frankenstein monster is a bit more like Michael Meyers in Hallloween (1978) than Boris Karloff's iconic performance in the original Frankenstein (1931). There is no sympathy for the monster here. He is a not so lean, mean killing machine. This movie is so much better than I thought it would be. I found it thoroughly entertaining and am glad I stumbled upon it. Warning to the timid:  There is a little bit of T&A in this film.  But since you're a fan of horror, I hardly think this will shock you.  
The one unintentionally funny thing for me in Lady Frankenstein is the mob with torches and pitchforks. Does every village have one of these? Where do they keep their torches when they're not using them? How do they keep them lit while they go about their vigilante justice? Inquiring minds want to know.
RATING: Very Good.
Download a copy of the film from Archive.org
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Diary of a Madman (1963)

Is Magistrate Simon Cordier slowly losing his mind or is he being possessed by a darker, more sinister force? This is the question that is explored in Diary of a Madman. Vincent Price [The Fly, House of Wax] is wonderful as Cordier. Although Price can sometimes be guilty of over-the-top performances, his work in Diary is subtle and nuanced. This is definitely Price's show and everyone else is along for the ride.

The screenplay for Diary is from veteran writer Robert E. Kent [Zombies on Broadway, Twice-Told Tales] who adapted several of the short stories of French writer Guy de Maupassant. He gives Price plenty of great material to work with and the story is classic thriller material. Director Reginald Le Borg [The Mummy's Ghost, The Black Sleep] is no stranger to the director's chair and does an excellent job of bringing this story to life. The only bad choice in this film is this way the Horla (the evil entity in question) is portrayed. The green light bar over Price's eyes and the "voice in an echo chamber" come across as cheesy other than menacing. With a different choice, Diary would have been even more powerful and dramatic.

So, if you like thrillers and are a fan of Vincent Prince, then I highly recommend Diary of a Madman. It is one of Price's most overlooked and underappreciated films.  Don't miss it!

RATING: Very Good.

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


Thursday, January 5, 2017

Curse of the Undead (1959)

A vampire western? You betcha! I know it sounds like a bad idea but somehow Curse of the Undead avoids all of the the vampire and Wild West cliches you see in most films. It gives us, instead, interesting characters you care about and actors who give dynamic performances in their roles. Why director and co-writer Edward Dein was not given more films to direct is a mystery to me. He handles his subject matter well both in print and onscreen. Curse of the Undead is also helped by a great symphonic soundtrack by Irving Gertz which adds tons of atmosphere to film.

Standout performances include Kathleen Crowley [tons of TV credits] as Dolores, who is the vampire's one true love.  She is tough when she needs to be but also vulnerable when the scene calls for it. Michael Pate [The Black Castle, Julius Caesar] leaves all the bad Bela Lugosi impressions behind him, in favor of a more human vampire. It works rather effectively here. Finally, Eric Fleming [Conquest of Space, Queen of Outer Space] gives the Preacher Dan a stoic grace presence without resorting to the pious clergyman you see so often in movies.

So, if you like vampire pictures you definitely need to give this one a try. It's not as well known as some of the others but you will be surprised and pleased by what you find in Curse of the Undead. You can find it easily on YouTube.

RATING: Very Good.

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

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Gallery of Horror (1967)

One would think that a horror anthology with Lon Chaney Jr. and John Carradine in it would be a home run. Well, this one struck out at home plate! Galley of Horror presents five short stories that are unimaginative and horribly acted. The budget for this yawn-fest was a paltry $20,000 and it shows. Lon Chaney only appears in one of these stories and it's clear he did this just for a paycheck (However small it may have been). It's some of the poorest work I've ever seen from this much beloved actor.

John Carradine is the host for this anthology and also appears in several of the stories. His work is sub-par as well and he showed more spunk in the god-awful Ed Woodesque Vampire Men of the Lost Planet (1970) than he does here. The other actor with a major stick up his posterior is Roger Gentry who, unfortunately, appears in four of the five stories. I have rarely seen lines delivered with less enthusiasm than he does here. He is completely devoid of emotion and is stiff and wooden in every scene.

The director for Gallery of Horror is David L. Hewitt who is better known for his special effects than he is for his directing. He also worked on the screenplay which is never a good idea. M Night Shyamalan does this all the time with mixd results, and I think it's always good to have someone around who can tell you "no" when it is needed!

Not much more need to be said about this terrible film. The stories include witches, vampires, zombies and mad scientists but none of these is the least but menacing nor interesting. If you want a good horror anthology from this time period, try Tales of Terror (1962) starring Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, and Basil Rathbone. It's the perfect example of how a collection of horror stories should be done.

Gallery of Horror can be found on YouTube. Watch it if you dare, but you've been warned!

RATING: Bad.

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