Sunday, December 31, 2023

End of Year Fourteen

Well, once again I slowed down at the end of the year thanks to real life situations, something I have talked about probably too much in a few reviews.

I’d love to say that 2024 will be a different story, but it’s definitely the case that I’ll be doing traveling several times in the next few months—North Carolina, St. Louis, and Austin, Texas are all on the docket through April, and more is naturally possible.

That said, I did manage to finish my Oscar list of 2022 films, so that’s a good thing. Since I’m generally a year or more behind, I’m happy to take recommendations for films from 2023, since that list of “to see” movies only gets longer. That’s going to be a big focus of the next 12 months…I hope.

See ya soon.

Friday, December 29, 2023


Film: Aftersun
Format: Streaming video from Hoopla on Fire!

I typically barely finish the Oscar movies by the end of the year. I was a little concerned when it came to Aftersun because I couldn’t find it streaming anywhere. And suddenly it appeared on the Hoopla service, sparing me the necessity of signing up for a free week on something like Max. This is a film that I don’t think I will find easy to write up for a number of reasons. It’s the sort of film that brings up emotions that are difficult to put into words. It’s a film that is wrapped in a sense of melancholy and of realization, a realization of the sort that someone you knew was going through something terrible years ago and you only now became aware of that truth.

This is also a very strange nomination in a lot of respects. Oscar does this now and then—nominating a film or performance kind of out of nowhere. In fact, at the last Oscars, there was a great deal of stink about the nomination for Andrea Riseborough in To Leslie because it was such an obscure film. Paul Mescal’s nomination feels very much the same way, although with less controversy surrounding it. It feels like an example of Oscar telling itself that it’s still hip and cool, edgy enough to nominate something like this, even though it has no chance of winning.

Monday, December 25, 2023

Christmas Crackers

What I used to call The Tome of Knowledge hasn’t been updated for a couple of years now. It’s a tradition for me to suggest 10 new entries every Christmas, but because the last update on the 1001 Movies list (to my knowledge—correct me if I’m wrong!) contained movies from 2020, I’m going to focus a lot more heavily on the last few years—movies that legitimately could be added if The List ever resumes. With that said, here’s 10 that should show up if there’s any justice in the world. Also, since The List always includes Oscar’s Best Picture winner, I will not be including those movies—if the series starts up again, those are shoo-ins.

Friday, December 15, 2023


Film: TÁR
Format: Streaming video from Amazon Prime on Fire!

As seems to be happening lately, my life has spiraled out of control over the last two weeks. Primarily, these are health-related concerns of family members that have been taking up a lot of my time, combined with the holidays and increased duties at work. I’ve watched, and this is completely serious, a single movie in the last two weeks, and that movie was TÁR, one of the last two Oscar movies from last year left on my list. A few months ago, I was in great shape on Oscar movies, and suddenly it’s the end of the year and I’m not finished. Well, at least I got the long one out of the way.

TÁR is the story of Lydia Tár (Cate Blanchett), the principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic. World renowned on the classical music scene and wildly influential. As the film begins, she is being interviewed about an upcoming performance of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony. Conducting this will give her all nine of Mahler’s symphonies with the Berlin Philharmonic, a true feat in the classical music world. As with any great tragic tale, we start with our hero at the pinnacle of her world and talent, poised for the fall that will take us to the end of the story.

Saturday, December 2, 2023

What I've Caught Up With, November 2023

I've spent more time watching television lately, catching up on things that I've missed. This has gotten me about halfway through season 8 of The Blacklist, most of the way through season 5 of 30 Rock, and through most of Lovecraft Country. A few of the reviews I posted this month--Evil Dead Rise, Asteroid City, The Blackening, and Talk to Me are from the big list along with the ones below. Of these, Stargate and Super Size Me were rewatches, but films I hadn't seen in a bit.

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Skype Calls

Film: Unfriended
Format: Streaming video from Tubi on Fire!

I am continually thankful for the fact that the internet and social media did not become a thing until I was not merely an adult but an adult with kids. While there is almost certainly some embarrassing things in my Facebook history if I go back far enough, it would be so much worse if it went back to the mid-‘80s when I was in high school. I, and pretty much everyone in my generation, has been saved from unending shame by not having those parts of our lives displayed in public. Knowing that I had a MySpace page means I’ve been on social media for a long time, and I still managed to avoid that. This is relevant for the film Unfriended, which takes place primarily in a Skype call.

Unfriended is not the first movie to take place in an entirely online environment, but it is one of the first to do so. This is a natural progression from found footage. In fact, I would say that the online film is a sort of variation of found footage; the difference is that the footage is computerized and that rather than being found, we’re watching it happen in real time.

Monday, November 27, 2023

Yankee, Go Home

Film: Turistas
Format: Streaming video from Tubi on Fire!

Horror movies tend to reflect the fears of a nation at the time. It’s why there are trends in horror where it seems like movies with similar themes come out within the same years or group of years. Post 9/11, we got a lot of movies that were extremely xenophobic. The poster child for these was definitely Hostel, but there were plenty of imitators that followed. Movies like The Ruins jumped on the bandwagon of “bad stuff happens outside of the U.S.” Others, like the reprehensible Live Animals focused on people being kidnapped and put in cages for sport. None really went for the full pseudo-remake of Hostel like Turistas did, though. Sure, the action is moved to Brazil instead of post-Communist Eastern Europe, and we’re dealing with organ trafficking instead of sport torture, but the politics are very similar.

What I mean by that is that Turistas, purporting to be a movie about young people in danger, is very much a movie that revels in its xenophobia. The central message of the film is that foreign places are dangerous places. We can trust the people who speak English natively—the guy from the UK is fine, after all, but the people who come across as “foreign” (even though the film takes place in their country) are a danger to everyone around them.

Saturday, November 25, 2023

Give 'Em a Hand

Film: Talk to Me
Format: DVD from DeKalb Public Library on rockin’ flatscreen.

Every time it feels like I’m going to get back into blogging more regularly, life seems to happen, and sadly I don’t see this changing until the start of next year. I’ve had Talk to Me recommended to me several times, and I had it sitting on a table for more than a week before I finally got the chance to watch it. Seeing it, I’m starting to wonder some things about my movie watching. Talk to Me is very much everything you likely want in a horror movie, and yet there was something about it that left me very much wanting.

What this has done, though, is given my some perspective on the horror genre, something that I am embarrassed to say has taken me until now to realize. Many, many horror movies deal with younger protagonists and friend groups. I always assumed at least at some level that this was because horror movies are often seen as kids’ fare, the sort of movies that are made to appeal to teens and 20-somethings. This gives the intended audience protagonist that they can feel connected to, and this is almost certainly a part of the truth. However, upon watching Talk to Me, I have realized another truth about character age in this genre: younger people are often used in these movies because many of them require the characters to make decisions that are clearly wrong, and that would clearly not be made by someone with even a little experience at life.

Thursday, November 16, 2023

Layers Upon Layers

Film: Asteroid City
Format: DVD from DeKalb Public Library on rockin’ flatscreen.

I watched Asteroid City last night, and it left me in something of a quandary. Typically when I watch something that I know will appear on this blog in one form or another, I review it immediately so that I am addressing the thoughts I have while it is all still fresh in my memory. I couldn’t really do that with Asteroid City because I wasn’t sure of what I thought about it or how I thought about it. Even now, more than 12 hours after watching, I’m still trying to make sense of it.

Wes Anderson has always been the twee-est of twee directors, and that’s not going to change with this one. All of his characters, as always, are defined by their quirks. Asteroid City gives us a constellation of people, many of whom are recognizable, legitimate stars who appear in this for a scene or two and say a line or two before vanishing. Jeff Goldblum, Margot Robbie, Hong Chau, Bob Balaban, Willem Dafoe, and others show up for a scene or two and then never really appear again. All of this is in service of a story that is about the creation of the story that we are watching—we’re looking at (essentially) a fictional documentary about the creation of a stage play and the actors who put on that play, and we are watching both the stage play as if it were the main story (which it is) and the actors behind the scenes. It’s multiple levels of meta.

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Fan Service

Film: Evil Dead Rise
Format: DVD from DeKalb Public Library on rockin’ flatscreen.

A couple of weeks ago, I went on record as saying that the Scream franchise is the best slasher franchise running, all things being equal. As for what is the best horror franchise in general, there’s going to be some conversation. I think you can make a very strong case for the Evil Dead franchise. The remake/reboot of a decade ago was a higher-budget revamp of the original story with not a lot of changes, but it was visceral and brutal. The television show, Ash vs. Evil Dead, is a low point (my opinion), but could be argued to be not a part of the film series. Regardless, because the series has been solid so far, I went into Evil Dead Rise both with high expectations and some real fear. Eventually, there’s going to be an Evil Dead film that doesn’t measure up.

Fortunately, that’s not the case here; Evil Dead Rise manages to live up to the rest of the franchise. It doesn’t break a lot of new ground here, but it does offer a great deal of fan service, gore, and violence without overburdening the audience with things like plot. Don’t get me wrong—I’m very interested in narrative all of the time, but when a horror movie is clicking on all cylinders, there isn’t much more plot needed than “people in danger from scary thing.”

Monday, November 6, 2023


Film: The Blackening
Format: Blu-ray from DeKalb Public Library on rockin’ flatscreen.

A couple of days ago, I watched a movie called Gatlopp, which involved a group of people playing a cursed boardgame. It was reminiscent of Jumanji in some ways. It also involves someone playing the game being shot with an arrow. How strange, then, that within the same seven days I have now watched The Blackening, a movie in which a group of people play something like a cursed board game and in which someone is shot by a crossbow bolt. It’s a weird confluence of things happening in films, a bizarre coincidence.

The Blackening concerns a group of friends renting a cabin in the woods for a Juneteenth celebration weekend. We’re initially introduced to Morgan and Shawn (Yvonne Orji and Jay Pharoah), who are the first to arrive at the house. They find a game room that contains an extremely racist boardgame called The Blackening. The game essentially starts playing with them standing there. It asks a question (name a horror movie where a Black character survives to the end), they get it wrong, and Shawn is hit in the throat by a crossbow bolt, and Morgan is herself attacked. That’s going to set the stage for what is coming next.

Saturday, November 4, 2023

What I've Caught Up With, October 2023

I did a lot better catching up on movies in October. It helped that I had already pretty much set up the Halloween reviews, so I wasn't pressured into watching movies for that. In addition to the eight movies below, I knocked out a few others that got full reviews, notably Gaia and John Wick IV. I also caught up on a little TV--the latest season of Good Omens,and a few seasons further into The Blacklist, as well as most of both seasons of The Bear. As the year starts to wind down, I'm looking forward to the possibility of a few quiet weeks..not that this is likely to happen.

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Sixth Time's a Charm

Film: Scream VI
Format: DVD from Sycamore Public Library on rockin’ flatscreen.

It’s entirely possible that my position on the Scream franchise should be taken with a grain of salt. If you think that’s because I don’t like the franchise, you’d be wrong. In fact, I think it’s far and away the best slasher franchise ever created. The reason that you might want to take that at face value is that I’m not a tremendous fan of slashers. I just don’t find them that interesting, so my opinion one which ones are the best isn’t going to carry as much water as it would if I were a die-hard fan. I was pleased that Scream VI was available at a local library, though, and snapped it up as soon as I saw it.

The joy, or one of the joys, of the Scream franchise is that it’s always about something more than just the movie’s plot. There’s always a meta-aspect to the film. Scream was about slasher movies; the sequel was about sequels and the third movie was about trilogies. The fourth Scream was about remakes and the follow-up to that was about reboots. Now, with the sixth film, we get a film about franchises. That means that throughout the course of the film, we’re going to play with, confirm, and subvert the expectations of slasher franchises as we once again dive into the world that features the Ghostface Killer.

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Ten Days of Terror!: Horror Shorts

Film: Frankenstein (1910); Thriller; The Skeleton Dance
Format: Internet video on Fire!

In the early days of film, almost everything was an experiment. When you look at the earliest of the silents, they start by showing essentially real life to the audience. We slowly start to develop the idea of stories and doing something more than just showing people walking or dancing or trains pulling into stations. Frankenstein, very loosely based on the Mary Shelley novel, was produced by the Edison company, is a film that tried to advance the language of film. How successful it is, however, is not as easy to determine.

There’s honestly not a lot here that connects to the actual story. Oh, we’re going to have a guy named Frankenstein (Augustus Phillips) who is engaged to be married to a woman named Elizabeth (Mary Fuller), a ceremony threatened by Frankenstein’s creation of a monster (Charles Ogle). But that’s where the similarities end.

Ten Days of Terror!: Fanatic (Die! Die! My Darling!)

Film: Die! Die! My Darling! (Fanatic)
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on Fire!

The odd little subgenre of hagspolitation has some very interesting entries. It’s typical, at least for me, to think of the later careers of Bette Davis and Joan Crawford for these films, making What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? the ne plus ultra of the style. But let’s give a little bit of love to Tallulah Bankhead for her unhinged performance in Fanatic, which also goes by the much more entertaining and suggestive title Die! Die! My Darling!.

We begin with Patricia Carroll (Stefanie Powers), who has just arrived in London with her fiancé Alan (Maurice Kaufmann). Before the wedding, Patricia decides that she needs closure with the mother of her previous fiancé, Stephen. Stephen was killed several years previously in a car accident, and Patricia has never met his mother. Wanting to pull the curtain on that part of her life before starting anew—and wanting the same thing for his mother—Patricia heads off to Stephen’s family home.

Ten Days of Terror! Friday the 13th (2009)

Film: Friday the13th (2009)
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on Fire!

I’ve never been a huge fan of the slasher sub-genre. I do like a good horror movie, but slashers are lwest common denominator stuff in general in my opinion. There are good ones that transcend the genre, of course, but most of them are nothing more than what Siskel & Ebert called “dead teenager” movies. You have a group of dumb teens who wander too close to something purely evil. The film starts out showing plenty of T & A and ends up with blood, machetes, and viscera. “Plotless” is a compliment for many of them, which is definitely true of the remake of Friday the 13th from 2009.

Because of this, the real difference in a lot of slashers is the identity of the person who is, to coin a phrase (or name a really good slasher parody), behind the mask. Most of them are just variations on a theme. The main difference between Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, Victor Crowley, and a few others is the mask that they are wearing. This brings up a significant question—why remake a slasher rather than either make a sequel to an established series or start a new one? The answer is simple: name recognition. Even if you go into a remake of something like Friday the 13th relatively sure that it’s going to suck, you at least know it’s going to be Jason Voorhees behind the hockey mask and swinging the machete.

Ten Days of Terror!: Devil Doll

Film: Devil Doll
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on various players.

A few minutes in to Devil Doll, I had terrible déjà vu. I absolutely knew I had seen this before, and it turns out that I kind of had. Devil Doll is another movie that exists both as a film that has appeared on the They Shoot Zombies, Don’t They? list of horror films and as a film spoofed on Mystery Science Theater 3000. Specifically, this is episode 818 in which Tom Servo transfers his soul into a toaster strudel. That’s actually plot-relevant.

What this means is that I have seen Devil Doll, but I’ve never seen it on its own and without commentary. It definitely is a movie that benefits greatly from three comedians making fun of it, but it didn’t have to be that way. There’s a good idea or two swirling at the bottom of this film, and the failures come more from budget and lack of talent than anything else. Sorry if you’re a relative of any of the cast or director Lindsay Shonteff; it’s just the truth.

Monday, October 30, 2023

Ten Days of Terror!: Happy Birthday to Me

Film: Happy Birthday to Me
Format: Streaming video from Amazon Prime on Fire!

Halloween was probably the first horror movie to be named after a holiday, but it was probably Friday the 13th that really popularized the idea of it. Halloween, after all, is a true classic of the slasher genre because it’s a truly masterful film. As good as it is, it’s one that is difficult to duplicate. Friday the 13th is also a genre classic, but it’s also pretty low rent in a lot of ways, and a lot easier to copy. In the years that followed, pretty much every holiday got its own slasher eventually, which made a film like Happy Birthday to Me an inevitability.

The ground that we are going to cover here is going to feel like it’s old hat if you’re a fan of the genre. For the time, it might have been relatively fresh, but there have been plenty of films that have used insanity or something like it to move the plot along. We’re going to mainly be concerned with Ginny Wainwright (Melissa Sue Anderson), a member of what is called the “Top Ten,” the most popular students at an elite school, all of whom are dripping with money and social power. Before we get too involved with Ginny, though, we’re going to see one of the Top Ten, Bernadette (Lesleh Donaldson), get offed.

Ten Days of Terror!: Basket Case

Film: Basket Case
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on basement television.

Basket Case is a rare instance where I have seen the sequel of the film before I saw the first one, so I knew something of what to expect here. Additionally, there is an overt reference to this movie in the Frank Henenlotter filmBrain Damage. That being the case for me, there weren’t a lot of surprises going into Basket Case. It’s a prime example of the sort of low-rent horror from the early 1980s that I at least partly grew up on. I don’t know that anyone would ever really say that this is a good movie, but it is one that is in some respects a great one.

Here’s the thing about Basket Case: this is either a movie that you have already seen because you have the sort of sensibilities to like Frank Henenlotter movies or you would never watch this in a hundred years. That being the case, I’m not going to worry about some potential spoilers here. I won’t spoil the actual ending, but I will certainly dive head-first into things that otherwise remain secret through the first act and into the second act. If you want no spoilers at all here, you’ve been warned.

Ten Days of Terror!: Roadgames

Film: Roadgames
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on Fire!

In the world of Ozploitation films, Roadgames is unique in one particular way. This is a film that is very clearly Australian, but stars two Americans: Stacy Keach and Jamie Lee Curtis. It was also the most expensive Australian production for the time. There are some connections to a number of films here--Roadgames makes no bones about being influenced in many respects by Rear Window, but there’s just as much Duel here. It’s also a film that seems to have influenced others; The Hitcher comes to mind.

To be fair, Roadgames is essentially the opposite of Duel. In Duel, an innocent driver is harassed by an unknown truck driver. In Roadgames, a truck driver finds that he is sharing the road with a serial killer who is attempting to frame him for his crimes. In a significant respect, this is as much a precursor to The Hitcher than it is a role-reversed Duel. The biggest difference, and I’m going to say this as nicely as I can, is that most of the people in Roadgames are pretty dumb.

Ten Days of Terror!: Elvira: Mistress of the Dark

Film: Elvira, Mistress of the Dark
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on rockin’ flatscreen.

There’s a particular genre of local television in which bad horror and science fiction movies are hosted by someone dressed up in a campy costume. The person in question will have a silly name, show movies that are mostly unintentional comedy, and tend to have a dedicated cult following. A few of these have some national attention. Around Chicago, if you were into those movies, you grew up with the Son of Svengoolie. But nationally, no one was more famous than Elvira (played by Cassandra Peterson). A movie starring her was inevitable, and in 1988, we got Elvira, Mistress of the Dark.

If you’re somehow not familiar with our titular character—and I use the word “titular” intentionally—Elvira’s main schtick was that she dressed in a barely-fitting black dress that could hardly contain her substantial assets. She was (and still is) more or less Vampira, or for those who don’t understand that cultural reference, an extremely sexed-up version of Morticia Addams. She speaks in double entendre and bad puns. The entire character is a lot of fun and purely camp, and that’s a large part of the fun as well.

Sunday, October 29, 2023

Ten Days of Terror!: The Revenge of Frankenstein

Film: The Revenge of Frankenstein
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on Fire!

I do tend to like the Hammer versions of horror classics. They often build on the classic stories in interesting ways, retaining a lot of the old sense of the original tales, but with significant differences and new themes. The Revenge of Frankenstein is the second in the series of the seven Hammer Frankenstein films and arguably the best of them. It’s certainly the one that goes in the most interesting directions.

The film opens with what looks like the beheading of Dr. Victor Frankenstein (Peter Cushing). However, this is soon seen to be a ruse, as Frankenstein, under the not-very-clever pseudonym of Dr. Stein. In the three years since his evident execution, he has created a new reputation for himself as a physician for the wealthy, using their patronage to fund his work with the paupers’ hospital. When he is confronted by the local medical establishment, he balks, but also attracts the attention of Doctor Hans Kleve (Francis Matthews), a junior member of that council, who recognizes him and requests an apprenticeship.

Ten Days of Terror!: Host

Film: Host
Format: Streaming video from Amazon Prime on basement television.

It’s a rare horror movie that can sustain itself for more than 100 minutes. Horror tends to be about the quick hit—give us a character or two to care about, put them in some terrifying situation, and see how things shake out. Horror is visceral and while it can also be cerebral, it certainly doesn’t have to be. It’s why horror works well for anthologies, at least in theory. If you can scare your audience, that’s enough. Host, produced in 2020 during the lockdowns, walks that middle ground. It’s a slim 56 minutes—not quite feature length, but too big for a typical anthology—which makes it a bit of a queer duck.

Like a lot of good horror, Host has a high concept and works it as well as it can. The elevator pitch for this is, “What would happen if people did a séance over Zoom and actually attracted the attention of something terrible?” It’s a very simple premise, and it lasts roughly the length of an “I didn’t pay for this” Zoom call. We’re going to spend the entire film essentially as an additional silent participant in the call, watching everything from what is essentially a laptop screen.

Ten Days of Terror!: Brainscan

Film: Brainscan
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on Fire!

Remember when Edward Furlong had a career in movies? While he’s still best known for being easily the worst part of the best of the Terminator films, there was a time when he was thought of as potentially a star in actual properties. Brainscan is one such film. While this is a mid-range horror movie at best, a film that really wants to play with the idea of technology and what people thought of as cyberpunk in the mid-90s, it manages to have a luminary like Frank Langella in the cast. If I had to guess, I would think there was some effort to create a Freddy Kruger-like bad guy in The Trickster. There was potential here, but the movie itself short-circuited that possibility.

As with many a horror movie both before and after Brainscan, we’re going to be focused on a main character who loves horror movies. This is Michael (Furlong), who is the culmination of all of the stereotypes of how horror nerds are depicted in film. This is fair since the way computers are depicted here are going to be how computers are depicted through the 1990s as well. Michael gets in trouble at school for showing essentially a schlocky horror film in his horror club, and the club gets cancelled—this is the sort of thing that probably does happen in the real world and would just cause the kids to go watch movies at someone’s house instead.

Ten Days of Terror!: Darkman

Film: Darkman
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on Fire!

It’s hard not to love Darkman just a little bit. It’s such a completely bizarre collection of parts and performances that it’s almost inexplicable. This is very much a superhero movie that was made in the style of Tim Burton’s original Batman film. It has the same kind of energy, and at the same time, it’s hard not to see this as at least a partial influence on the later Batman films in the original quadrilogy. Darkman is Grand Guignol on a massive scale. It’s also a film that features Liam Neeson and Frances McDormand.

We’re going to start with Dr. Peyton Westlake (Liam Neeson), a scientist who is working on creating a new type of synthetic skin. He can’t get it to last more than 99 minutes, once it is exposed to light. At the same time, attorney girlfriend Julie Hastings (Frances McDormand) has discovered that local developer Louis Strack, Jr. (Colin Friels) has been bribing the zoning commission. She leaves the document indicting him at Peyton’s lab. Shortly thereafter, Peyton is visited by Robert Durant (Larry Drake), a mob boss, who is also implicated in the paperwork. In an effort to get it back, he kills Westlake’s assistant and blows up the lab, leaving Dr. Westlake horribly burned and scarred.

Saturday, October 28, 2023

Ten Days of Terror!: The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism (Die Schlangengrube und das Pendel)

Film: The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism (Die Schlangengrube und das Pendel)
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on Fire!

There are times when it seems that filmmakers have far too many good potential names to use for a movie and they throw them all onto the same thing. Such appears to be the case with the awesomely-named The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism, which was also released under the names The Blood Demon, The Castle of the Walking Dead and The Snake Pit and the Pendulum, a literal translation of its German title Die Schlangengrube und das Pendel. Honestly, any one of these titles would have had the sort of pull to bring in mid-‘60s horror fans in droves. Why not save a few of these for some other movies?

Regardless, we’ll being with Count Regula (Christopher Lee), whose name is almost certainly supposed to evoke connections to Count Dracula. Regula is being executed by quartering because he has been found guilty of killing 12 virgins in an effort to gain immortality. We flash forward to the film’s present, a few decades after Regula’s dismemberment and meet our main characters. These are Baroness Lilian von Brabant (Karin Dor) and Roger Mont Elise (Lex Barker), a lawyer. Both have been given invitations to a castle that was (naturally) the ancestral home of Regula.

Ten Days of Terror!: Timecrimes

Film: Timecrimes (Los Cronocrimenes)
Format: DVD from Ida Public Library through interlibrary loan on rockin’ flatscreen.

I don’t know if there is a lot of middle ground when it comes to time travel stories. You either like them a lot and appreciate them, or you are the type who ends up confused by them. I am typically of the latter type; time travel stories tend to leave me cold because I end up being confused by them very quickly. My mind doesn’t seem to work that way. I have to focus a great deal to make myself understand. That makes a film like Timecrimes or Los Cronocrimenes if you prefer) a chore, even when it’s one I’ve seen before.

Knowing that, I’ll also say this: Timecrimes is one of the better time travel movies that you’re going to find. This is a very smart movie, and one that is exquisitely plotted. It does make sense, but the path is exactly as convoluted as you expect a time travel movie to be. This is not a film to watch in the background while you are doing something else, and that’s even if you are watching the less-than-optimal dubbed version.

Ten Days of Terror!: Baskin

Film: Baskin
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on various players.

Despite what you might think, Baskin has nothing to do with suspected feeder-of-people-to-tigers Carole Baskin. Evidently, “baskin” is the Turkish word for surprise attack, or raid. There definitely is a raid in this movie, and it’s one that goes in some directions that are not expected from the opening. Around the midpoint of the film, things take a very serious left turn into something really, terribly disturbing on a visceral level.

Baskin follows a group of police officers who certainly seem at the beginning of the film as if they are going to be the antagonists. They are loud, obnoxious, sexist, and violent, and while they are swapping sex stories in the restaurant they are in, one of them picks a fight with the son of the restaurant’s owner. Eventually, the cops leave, and Seyfi (Sabahattin Yakut) insists on driving the van despite having just been sick in the restaurant bathroom.

Ten Days of Terror!: Your Vice is a Locked Room, and Only I Have the Key

Film: Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key (Il Tuo Vizio e una Stanza Chiusa e Solo Io ne ho la Chiave)
Format: Streaming video from Amazon Prime on Fire!

Giallo films often have ridiculous names, and none is more ridiculous than Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key (or Il tuo vizio e una stanza chiusa e solo io ne ho la chiave in the original Italian). It’s a wildly entertaining title, but also a ridiculous one, if just for the length of it. There’s a 200-character limit for tags on this website, and this comes close to maxing us out. For my own sanity, I’m going to call this Your Vice from this point forward.

I have complained about Italian horror films in the past, convinced as I am that a number of them are created by the director envisioning a particular scene or two and then cobbling the rest of the movie around them, not worrying about whether or not there is an actual coherent story. Plenty of these films are influential in various ways. Many of them have great moments—those scenes envisioned by the directors—but are otherwise difficult to follow.

Friday, October 27, 2023

Ten Days of Terror!: Psychomania (The Death Wheelers)

Film: Psychomania (The Death Wheelers)
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on Fire!

Based on one of the release names of this film, you might guess that this is a biker movie, and you’d be right about that. What feels more unlikely is that this is a British movie. British biker thugs feels like a stretch, and yet here we are—and in a large sense, there is a bit of a connection here to a film like Quadrophenia. The Rocker-style motorcycles and leather are where the similarities end, though. This is very much a horror film, and there are odd connections here to films like The Wicker Man. This is a sort of small village horror film with connections to a deeper evil, pagan gods and standing stones.

This is about a British biker gang, but don’t think about them as drinking tea and eating biscuits. Tom Latham (Nicky Henson) loves his mother (Beryl Reid), his girlfriend Abby (Mary Larkin), and creating mayhem with his motorcycle gang, The Living Dead. His mother, along with the family butler Shadwell (George Sanders in his final film) hold séances and worship an ancient frog god. While Tom and his gang cause problems and hang out at a set of standing stones called The Seven Witches, we learn that his father disappeared from a room in the family house.

Ten Days of Terror!: The Shout

Film: The Shout
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on Fire!

As a genre, horror encompasses a lot of possible ideas and can go in a lot of directions. It also mashes up well with other genres. The Shout is an odd little film, though. There are definite horror elements here, but this is much more a love triangle with some horror elements. It’s also a film that relies heavily on the idea of an unreliable narrator, and works in a way to help us forget that that narrator is not only unreliable, but actually exists in the context of the film.

The framing story of The Shout is a cricket match. Robert Graves (Tim Curry) is asked to be one of the scorekeepers for a cricket match. He is paired with a man named Crossley (Alan Bates), who begins telling him a story about ostensibly himself. At the very least, in the story we see unfold, it is Crossley in the role of the Crossley in the story. It’s eventually evident that the cricket match is happening at an insane asylum and it’s unclear whether or not Crossley is one of the inmates.

Ten Days of Terror!: Last House on Dead End Street

Film: Last House on Dead End Street
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on Fire!

This blog has taken me to some weird and disturbing places in the 13 years that I have written it. I’ve seen some really upsetting things, some of which I have seen as important films and others that have simply bothered me. Some films are disturbing and horrible (Last House on the Left) but are important cinematically. Others are important statements despite being hard to watch (Come and See). And there are a few that just feel oily. Some of those, like Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer leave us with something to talk about. Other don’t. There are a few films that have made me want to shower after watching them (Maniac, Deranged), but few to the extent of Last House on Dead End Street, also known as The Fun House, and sometimes with the word “The” attached to the front.

This is a notorious film in many respects along the lines of Blood Feast or The Wizard of Gore. What makes for the notoriety of this movie is that for a time, it was rumored to be an actual snuff film, to actually depict the deaths of several of the actors. To be fair, having seen this now, I get it. It’s not incredibly realistic, but it was made on such a stupidly low budget that it really feels like there’s no way possible that it could have been done any other way. According to rumor, the film had a $3,000 budget, of which $2,200 was used to buy drugs.

Ten Days of Terror!: Horrors of the Black Museum

Film: Horrors of the Black Museum
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on rockin’ flatscreen.

Sometimes, I genuinely don’t know what to make of the movies that are put on the lists that I am following. Horrors of the Black Museum is a case in point. This film holds a respectable place in the mid-500s on the They Shoot Zombies list, and I can’t understand why. According to the list’s website (and the fact that I’m going to the write-up for information indicates my desperation here) is that this is the first of a trilogy of movies that are based on ideas of the Marquis de Sade, the so-called Sadeian Trilogy that includes Circus of Horrors and Peeping Tom. The write-up suggests that this is the least of the three movies, and yet Circus of Horrors is not in the list of 1000 greatest horror movies and this one is. Go figure.

We’re going to open with the brutal and shocking murder of a young woman. She receives a pair of binoculars as a gift, but when she uses them, Needles shoot out of the eyepieces into her brain. It's grisly and a true highpoint of the film. The police are naturally baffled, and they are further harassed by crime writer Edmond Bancroft (Michael Gough, best known as Batman’s butler on the Batman television show), whose books and newspaper columns frequently mock the police.

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Ten Days of Terror!: Island of Terror

Film: Island of Terror
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on Fire!

There is a natural conjunction between horror movies and science fiction. Horror is often about things that we don’t understand, and that’s something the genre has in common with science fiction. Frequently, science fiction becomes horror when our characters do or create something with unintended consequences. “Science gone mad” is a common enough idea that it’s a legitimate subgenre of both horror and science fiction. Island of Terror (also called Night of the Silicates) is exactly that sort of film. All of the good intentions of science are twisted into the creation of something that, unchecked, could destroy the world. Of course, since this is 1966, it’s also going to be wonderfully goofy, and have an early Doctor Who or Quatermass and the Pit sense about it.

What we’ve got is an isolated island where a team of researchers led by Dr. Lawrence Phillips (Peter Forbes-Robertson) are working on a cure for cancer. With this basic set up, we soon see the local medico, Dr. Landers (Eddie Byrne) discovers the body of a local farmer. It appears that the farmer has had all of his bones removed. Flummoxed by this, he contacts Dr. Brian Stanley (Peter Cushing), who leads him to bone expert Dr. David West (Edward Judd). Interrupting his evening with high society jetsetter Toni Merrill (Carole Gray), they decide to head to the island, assisted by Toni’s father’s helicopter. Of course, the ‘copter can’t stay, so everyone is stranded on the island.

Ten Days of Terror!: The Fourth Kind

Film: The Fourth Kind
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on my phone.

We have a tendency to believe what we are told; it’s one of the reasons that people are very prone to falling for conspiracy theories. It’s also something that filmmakers can prey upon, and we’re prone to fall for it if we aren’t careful. The opening moments of Fargo tell us that the movie is based on true events, something that is a lie. Plenty of people fell for the “reality” of The Blair Witch Project. And it’s also what happens in The Fourth Kind, and in this movie, the attempt to tell us that this is based on reality is compounded by documentary footage after a fashion.

The opening moments of The Fourth Kind give us Milla Jovovich as herself telling us that she will be portraying Dr. Abbey Tyler and that the story we are about to see is not only based in reality, but that there is documentary footage that demonstrates the truth of the story. It’s not evident immediately, but this is an alien abduction story. What we’re going to see is not merely going to be supplemented by documentary footage, but at times will show us that footage side-by-side with the actors in the film, most of whom we are told have been given aliases to protect them.

Ten Days of Terror!: Earth vs. the Flying Saucers

Film: Earth vs. the Flying Saucers
Format: Streaming video from Crackle on rockin’ flatscreen.

So let’s talk about what you think about when it comes to science fiction movies in the 1950s. There are two basic varieties. The first is humans somewhere out in space. Forbidden Planet is a good archetype for that sort of science fiction, humans encountering aliens out in the reaches of space. The other is The Day the Earth Stood Still, where the aliens have come here. Yes, there’s also the “Science!” version with giant radioactive creatures, but those are more horror first, sci-fi second. Regardless, Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, it’s not going to be surprising, is a prime example of the second kind of science fiction. The aliens have come to Earth, they’re not coming in peace, and only weird science can save us.

Dr. Russell Marvin (Hugh Marlowe) and his new bride Carol (Joan Taylor), who was also his secretary (yeah, I know…I didn’t write this; I’m just writing about it) are involved in a project to put 12 monitoring satellites around the Earth. They’ve gotten married between the 10th and 11th launches, and just before the penultimate launch, they are contacted by Carol’s father, Brigadier General John Hanley (Morris Ankrum). He tells them that the previous 10 satellites have all come crashing back to Earth, and soon after the 11th launch, it crashes as well.

Ten Days of Terror!: Galaxy of Terror

Film: Galaxy of Terror
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on Fire!

In the movie world, there’s a lot of talk about how good Roger Corman is at finding talent. The list of directors who started out working for Corman. His stable includes Martin Scorsese, Ron Howard, Francis Ford Coppola, Joe Dante, and Peter Bogdanovich. That seems to be a strange thing to bring up concerning the early ‘80s sci-fi spook show Galaxy of Terror helmed by Bruce D. Clark (director of such classics as Naked Angels and The Ski Bum), but the production design was headed up by one James Cameron, who went on to be fired by Corman as the director of Piranha II: The Spawning.

Galaxy of Terror is an odd little film with an equally odd cast. Among those who will be traveling through space and encountering slimy creatures are erotic film maestro Zalman King (who looks for all the world like a poor man’s Rene Auberjonois), son of Hollywood royalty Edward Albert, Rob Zombie regular Sid Haig, and a pre-Elm Street Robert Englund, along with Bernard Behrens, Ray Walston, and Erin Moran.

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Ten Days of Terror!: Haunted Mansion

Film: Haunted Mansion
Format: Streaming video from Disney Plus on Fire!

There are a few people in the movie business I have hitched my metaphorical wagon to, and sometimes that’s going to get me in trouble. So far, I haven’t been terribly hurt by Guillermo del Toro or Greta Gerwig. However, Haunted Mansion has put a little damper on my dedication to seeing anything featuring LaKeith Stanfield. Don’t get me wrong; I will probably still watch anything I find that has him in it, but the reality of this film has shaken me a little.

The truth isn’t that Haunted Mansion is a bad movie; it’s just not a very good one, and much of the problem comes from the fact that it’s incredibly predictable. And, even worse than that, the predictability happens because there are certain parameters set up where we as the audience know what the bad guy needs to be victorious, the characters in the movie know what the bad guy has to do to be victorious, and we watch the characters knowingly do the thing that the bad guy needs them to do for him to be victorious. Imagine a business rival telling you that they could destroy your business if they had access to your files, and you responding by handing them your laptop. That’s Haunted Mansion.

Ten Days of Terror!: The Harbinger (Dir. Andy Mitton)

Film: The Harbinger (Andy Mitton)
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on basement television.

If you read the previous review, you had to expect that I was going to review the other film called The Harbinger next, assuming that I was able to find it. Fortunately, it was available streaming and was easily accessible. Even more fortunately, it’s not only quite a bit better than the other movie with the same name, it’s actually a pretty good movie in general.

We’re going to find out immediately that this version of The Harbinger is very much a pandemic movie in the sense that it clearly takes place during the COVID-19 pandemic. That means we’re going to have people wearing masks and we’re going to have people very specifically not wearing masks not as a plot point but just as a fact of life. The pandemic isn’t the focus of The Harbinger, but it’s definitely something that impacts the plot. This is a movie that would work without the pandemic, but having people isolated and afraid certainly adds a great deal to what it wants to do.

Ten Days of Terror!: The Harbinger (Dir. Will Klipstine)

Film: The Harbinger (Dir. Will Klipstine)
Format: DVD from Sycamore Public Library on basement television.

In 1928, if you told someone that you had just seen a new cinematic version of The Fall of the House of Usher, someone could legitimately ask you which version, American or French, you had seen. In 2021, there were two films released called Swan Song, one starring Mahershala Ali and one starring Udo Kier. This happened again in 2022, when two films called The Harbinger were released, one in July and one in September. This is about the September release, the version written by, directed by, and starring Will Klipstine.

It would be natural to think that the two movies are essentially based on the same story—something else that happens on the regular in Hollywood (see Volcano and Dante’s Peak, for example)—but these two movies have the same name and belong in the same genre, but that’s where the similarities end.

Ten Days of Terror!: Watcher

Film: Watcher
Format: DVD from Sycamore Public Library on basement television.

Horror movies have a tendency to go after current fears. This is not a surprise, of course. If the movie is supposed to be scary, it makes sense to go with a common fear or something that taps into the zeitgeist. Home invasion movies are popular because that’s a common fear. Another common fear and common base plot is women being pursued in some voyeuristic fashion. Invasion of privacy, particularly this kind of personal invasion of privacy is a fear of most people, an intense fear for many women, and so it makes its way into plenty of horror movies as the base of the plot. It won’t be surprising that this is central to the film Watcher. After all, it’s kind of in the name.

I never thought that in addressing a stalker movie produced by a streaming service that I would be making a connection to one of the classic movies of the late 1940s, but there’s a huge connection to The Third Man, and it’s an awfully good one. In The Third Man, we as the audience follow Holly Martins around in Austria, and the speech of the natives is never translated for us or given subtitles. For anyone who doesn’t speak German, a huge percentage of the dialogue is simple not accessible. This throws us off-balance and makes it harder for us to feel assured of what is happening. Watcher takes place in Romania, and our main character Julia (Maika Monroe) has only a rudimentary understanding of the language. She’s alone for much of the day in a place where she doesn’t understand the bulk of what is happening around her, which leaves her isolated and vulnerable. It’s really effective.

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Ten Days of Terror!: Juan of the Dead

Film: Juan of the Dead (Juan de los Muertos)
Format: Streaming video from Amazon Prime on Fire!

What happens when you make a parody of a parody? Sometimes you can get something that works well enough. The Tick—both the comic and the television shows—were started as a parody of Dave Sim’s Roach character in Cerberus, who was himself a parody of a number of comic book characters (like his Wolver-roach incarnation). Juan of the Dead is very much a new take on Shaun of the Dead. While there are some real differences, too much of this movie appears to be drawn directly from the other for it to be a coincidence. Take Shaun and Ed, rename them Juan and Lazaro, set it in Cuba, and roll the cameras.

Juan (Alexis Díaz de Villegas) and his friend Lazaro (Jorge Molina) are 40-ish slackers living in Havana. They don’t have jobs as much as they survive by fishing and petty crime. At the opening of the film, they are out on a raft and snag what they think is a corpse. When it sits up out of the water and starts to attack, and is immediately put down by Lazaro’s reflexive firing of a small speargun he uses to hunt, they decide not to tell anyone and return back to land.

Ten Days of Terror!: Citadel

Film: Citadel
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on Fire!

There’s a good amount of discussion (to put it in a nicer way) in the horror movie fan community about what actually constitutes a zombie. Do they need to be undead or do they just need to exhibit zombie-like behavior? Do they need to eat their victims or just kill them? It’s the sort of thing that determines if you consider the infected in 28 Days Later to truly be zombies—they aren’t undead and they don’t eat their victims. They do, however, act like zombies and infect others like zombies. Citadel offers a similar question. The creatures here are clearly zombie-like, there’s evidence that they eat their victims, but they have much more limited ability to infect others and they clearly aren’t undead.

With Citadel, there is an additional question to answer. That question is whether or not the movie is good enough to determine what the creatures actually are. Yes, I’m spilling the eventual beans on this one at the top. Citadel has some really interesting ideas, but it fails in a lot of ways. It has high aspirations, but it’s simply not equal to them. All of this said, I’m going to call the creatures “zombies” for the rest of this simply because it’s easier, and close enough for jazz.

Ten Days of Terror!: Zombie Strippers!

Film: Zombie Strippers!
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on Fire!

I would guess that it’s fun to make a zombie movie. There are a lot of them, and while plenty of them make money, I would guess that a lot of the appeal is the ability to do some gory special effects and splatter a lot of people with fake blood and viscera. It does, however, appear to be really hard to make a good zombie movie. Even with a fun premise and the allure of acres of naked flesh, you might wind up with something like Zombie Strippers!, and how is that going to look on your resumé?

We’re initially let in on some “modern history” that appears to be designed specifically to directly make fun of George W. Bush and his administration. Far be it from me to complain about someone making fun of W., but this is not done in any clever or entertaining way; it’s incredibly ham-handed and bargain basement. The jokes are of the “Bush named his daughter to the Supreme Court and she’s gonna hold a kegger!” variety.

Ten Days of Terror!: [REC2]

Film: [•REC]2
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on Fire!

The question of what constitutes a zombie is once again important in the film [•REC]2 (sometimes written as [REC2] or even [•REC]2. For ease, I’m going to write it as [REC]2, sort of the best of all worlds and avoiding dealing with that bullet). This is a sequel to [•REC], one of the better found-footage horror movies, and far superior to its American remake, Quarantine. This sequel takes place immediately following the events of the first movie; in fact, the opening moments of this and the closing moments of the first are identical.

But, it helps to be brought up to speed—it has been a few years since I’ve seen [REC]. Basically, a reporter named Angela Vidal (Manuela Velasco) was shadowing a firefighting team who get called to an apartment complex. It happens to be ground zero for what looks a lot like a zombie apocalypse, but when we get to the end seems to have more biblical apocalypse written all over it. Our patient zero is infected/infested with something, but is being held at bay by a priest with a great deal of religious iconography, lending some support to the idea that this is not just a plague, but a possession that is somehow spreading.

Monday, October 23, 2023

Ten Days of Terror!: The Lodger (1944)

Film: The Lodger (1944)
Format: Internet video on Fire!

There are a lot of interesting things to talk about when it comes to the 1944 version of The Lodger, not the least of these being that this is a remake of a silent Hitchcock film. There are some real surprises here, although the plot isn’t one of them. There’s nothing here that is going to be a shock in terms of the plot and how it works, but there’s a lot around the edges that is surprising.

The Lodger is a sort of macabre love triangle that involves everyone’s favorite uncaught psychopath, Jack the Ripper. What I’m going to say here is going to seem very much like spoilers, but I promise you it’s not. If you’ve ever seen a movie before, especially one of this vintage, you’re going to know what is happening long before the people in the film do.

Ten Days of Terror!: The Werewolf

Film: The Werewolf
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on Fire!

There are specific expectations we have with certain movie monsters. Vampires are going to have a hypnotic gaze and be vulnerable to sunlight and crosses. Frankenstein’s monster is going to fear fire. Werewolves come out during a full moon and are killed by silver bullets. So what happens when you take one of those monsters with clear expectations and do something completely different with it? That’s central to the uninterestingly named The Werewolf, a mid-‘50s horror movie that tries to latch on to the mad science craze of the Atomic Age.

We’re going to start with a drifter (Steven Ritch) who seems disoriented and unclear of who and where he is. He leaves a bar and is followed by another patron who knows the drifter is flush with cash (he paid for a drink with a $20, which is pretty good money for 1956, roughly a couple of hundred bucks). A fight breaks out, and while we don’t see the fight, we do hear the results. A local woman sees the fight, though, and our ruffian who tried to mug the drifter is dead, his throat ripped out.

Ten Days of Terror!: The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923)

Film: The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923)
Format: Internet video on Fire!

There are a lot of holes in my viewing history, something that is certainly true of just about everyone. For the sort of bog-standard “everyone’s seen them” films, my biggest gaps are probably Home Alone and The Goonies. For horror movies, the original 1923 Lon Chaney version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame was probably my biggest miss until now. I’ve seen other versions, notably the 1939 version with Charles Laughton, but this one is, in the slang of a few decades ago, the O.G.

There’s a lot to unpack right at the start with something like The Hunchback of Notre Dame. It’s one of those rare stories that everyone seems to know even if they haven’t seen it or read it. It’s kind of like Robin Hood in that respect—there’s a sort of cultural knowledge of the story that we learn by osmosis. Of course, some of that is going to come from the title. We know going in that this is going to take place in Paris and that there’s going to be a hunchback who is our main character. Of course today, people are going to associate this story with the Disney version, including plenty of songs and animated gargoyle sidekicks.

Ten Days of Terror!: Murders in the Rue Morgue

Film: Murders in the Rue Morgue
Format: Internet video on Fire!

When a novel is turned into a movie, most of the time, large parts of the story are removed. We lose subplots and detail simply because of time. Even larger projects do this—watch (for instance) any adaptation of Dune and we lose tons of nuance, even in the miniseries version. The reverse is true when it comes to short stories. With something like he 1932 adaptation of Murders in the Rue Morgue, a bunch gets added to the basic story. This is true even in the case where the movie just barely creeps over the hour mark.

I’m going to spoil the original story here, and I’m going to do this unapologetically—it was written more than 180 years ago. The original Edgar Allen Poe story essentially invents the modern detective tale. We’re introduced to a detective who solves a bizarre crime of terrible murders where witnesses identify the language being spoken by the perpetrator as a variety of other languages—one person thinks the killer is German, another says Italian, etc. In truth, the murders are being carried out by an orangutan.

Sunday, October 22, 2023

Ten Days of Terror!: Daybreakers

Film: Daybreakers
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on Fire!

It’s not easy to do something really new and interesting with vampires. Make them romantic, and you’re tapping into much of the original Dracula story and also invite immediate comparisons to Twilight. Make them feral, and you’re going to court a different crowd, and you will bring up thoughts of 30 Days of Night, Blade II, and maybe Stake Land. So what kind of story is really different? Daybreakers looks to explore that concept by looking at vampirism taking over the world and dealing with what happens when the human population—and the blood—runs out.

The film takes place 10 years into the future of when it was made, back in the halcyon pre-pandemic days of 2019. At this point in the film’s story, vampirism has essentially taken hold of the world. The vast majority of people have been turned and the economy more or less carries on as it always has, albeit one formed around blood. With so many vampires, though, the human population has dwindled. Some of this is simply the rise in the vampire population, since it appears that anyone surviving a bite is quickly turned. Much of it, though, comes from the hunting of humans. The vampire population survives, barely, on animal blood mixed with lesser and lesser percentages of human blood.

Ten Days of Terror!: The Return of the Vampire

Film: The Return of the Vampire
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on Fire!

With the popularity of horror movies in the early days of talkies, it didn’t take long for things to take a turn for the goofy. Since these movies were also considered kids’ stuff, they weren’t taken very seriously, given much of a budget, or given much of a running time. That’s certainly the case with The Return of the Vampire, a film that desperately wants to capitalize not only on the Dracula story, but on the fact that they managed to get a fading Bela Lugosi (albeit a few years before his full descent) to play the titular creature.

We start in World War I with a vampire named Armand Tesla (Lugosi) stalking the streets of London. His latest victim is admitted to a clinic run by Lady Jane Ainsley (Frieda Inescourt) and Doctor Walter Saunders (Gilbert Emery). They are nonplussed when their patient dies of evident anemia. Shortly after, the doctor’s young niece Nicki (Sharliee Collier as a child, and then Nina Foch as an adult) is attacked. Lady Jane and Dr. Saunders track the vampire down and kill him, fighting off his werewolf assistant (Matt Willis). With the vampire dead, staked through the heart, the werewolf changes back into a human, restored to his humanity.

Ten Days of Terror!: Lust for a Vampire

Film: Lust for a Vampire
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on Fire!

The early 1970s were a weird time for Hammer horror movies. On the one hand, they were still very much enmeshed in that world of Gothic horror. Films took place in the 17th-19th Century, dealt in some respect with the aristocracy, and often tended to take place all or in part in castles. However, the horror world was changing and becoming harder and harsher. While Hammer couldn’t get away from the Gothic ideas, they could try to incorporate more sex and nudity. The Vampire Lovers was a slight indication of this, as was its sequel, Lust for a Vampire. As with the first film, this sequel has a much more titillating title than it does content. If you’re expecting a lesbian vampire orgy, you’ve come to the right movie title, but the wrong actual film.

In truth Lust for a Vampire is the middle film in Hammer’s Karnstein Trilogy, and was followed the next year by Twins of Evil. In this case, it seems that this is the serious low point: both the first and third film are much more favorably reviewed. I have to think that a part of that is going to be the disconnect from the title to the content. It would be hard not to be disappointed going into a film with this name to come out the other side with a few hints of lesbianism and a couple of bared chests to show for it.