Archive for the '31 Days of Horror' Category

17
Oct
15

Embrace of the Vampire (1995)

Alyssa Milano smolders coyly

Alyssa Milano smolders coyly

Have you ever been curious about Alyssa Milano’s breasts? If you answered ‘yes’ then boy, oh boy have I got the movie for you! Embrace of the Vampire is a one-stop shop for Alyssa Milano boobery that will have you tittering at its super lame plot that really only has one end-game in mind: exposing more of Alyssa Milano’s breasts.

Charlotte (Milano) is a college freshman still adjusting to life outside of the convent (yeah, really, she used to live in a convent, ok?). Her boyfriend Chris patiently (or sometimes not so patiently) awaits her 18th birthday, because he thinks that is when she’ll decide to give up her virginity. You know she’s a virgin because she’s always wearing white, she talks

Virgins wear white, right? And they love those knee-high thingies.

Virgins wear white, right? And they love those knee-high thingies.

about being a virgin all the time, and campus trollops make fun of her for being a virgin.

Her virginity makes her a target for more than just sorority sluts, though: you see, right around the corner from campus is a giant castle where a vampire (Martin Kemp) lives and he needs virgin blood, like, stat. So he infiltrates her dreams in hopes of planting seeds of doubt about her boyfriend and making her super horny so he can take advantage of her and they can live deadily ever after or something. For some reason, he only has three days to sink his fangs into some virgin blood or he dies forever, so let’s hope Charlotte’s a quick convert.

I mean, I don't know, I don't think this guy could turn me to the dark side. Not even with that sword tattoo thing.

I mean, I don’t know, I don’t think this guy could turn me to the dark side. Not even with that sword tattoo thing.

Usually when I write up a flick like this, I have to include a paragraph about how bad the acting is. But that’s just not the case here; everyone actually seems to pull their weight. Sure, they aren’t given much to work with, but no one is cringeworthy. Martin Kemp is kind of gross as the vampire, but he’s not a bad actor. And Milano is pretty solid, too, which makes me wonder why she had to resort to taking her clothes off to make cash in Hollywood. She’s a decent actress and probably deserves better. But hey, the mid-90’s were probably a great time to score wads of cash off the direct-to-video-not-quite-softcore market. Everyone likes easy money, I guess.

So, you know, Embrace of the Vampire is really good for three things: Alyssa Milano’s right breast, Alyssa Milano’s left breast, and solid, mindless, smutty entertainment. The

HOT CAMPUS GOTH ORGY SEX SEX ORGY! BAD DANCERS!

HOT CAMPUS GOTH ORGY SEX SEX ORGY! BAD DANCERS!

great thing about this movie is it has absolutely no illusions about what it is. It was made to show boobs, and it’s not afraid to embrace that fact. If you don’t know what you’re getting into when you start watching this, you’re clearly not paying attention. It’s not like one could accidentally happen upon a copy of this and think: “Oh, this looks like an interesting, innovative vampire movie.” No. No, you know exactly what you’re in for, and it delivers perfectly. I guess it is almost a teeny-weeny little bit arty because it’s kinda sorta an homage to Paul Morrissey’s Blood for Dracula, what with the whole Udo-Kier-lookalike-needs-virgin-blood thing. But yeah, no it’s not. It’s not arty. It’s just garbage. But it’s glorious garbage! Bonus: ultra-90’s goth vampire sex romp campus party! They didn’t have those at my college.

14
Oct
15

Pet Sematary (1989)

Stephen King’s Pet Sematary is one of those flicks that was always on cable while I was growing up. How many times I’d seen it as a youngster either in full or in part I have no idea, but the only thing that really left an impression on me was the name Gage. Seriously, who names their kid Gage? Anyway, I remembered the film being in ‘good enough’ territory and worthy of a revisit as an adult, so we hit it up for this year’s 31 Days of Horror.

It's always nice wen King makes a special appearance.

It’s always nice when King makes a special appearance.

Louis and Rachel (Denise Crosby) Creed move to a new house in Maine, where Louis has gotten a job teaching medicine at the local university. Their young daughter Ellie and her cat Church look like prime horror targets, but maybe not so much as their toddler son Gage. It’s pretty clear within the first five minutes of this flick that someone is getting hit by a truck before this movie is over. See, the Creeds’ new home is situated on a road frequently traveled by speeding semis. Their friendly neighbor Jud Crandall (Fred Gwynne) politely warns them to keep an eye on their cat as a result.

Fred Gwynne is the one true highlight of this movie. Too bad he's underused!

Fred Gwynne is the one true highlight of this movie. Too bad he’s underused!

But fast trucks aren’t the only spooky thing about their new digs; just down the path in the backyard there’s a creepy-ass cemetery. Crandall explains that this cemetery was built by the kids who owned the countless pets that fell victim to speeding trucks on the road. Since this is podunk Maine, we can’t expect the kids to know how to spell, so the name of the place is actually Pet Sematary. Ok?

So a few short days after starting his new job, Louis is confronted with his first human victim of the speeding trucks, Victor Pascow. The kid somehow knows his name and spouts warnings about life and death or something, and then he dies. Shaken up and weirded out, Louis bids his family adieu as Rachel takes the kids to see her parents for Thanksgiving (her dad really hates Louis so he decides not to go). Of course this is a perfect time for Church to get killed by a truck, no? Crandall finds the cat’s corpse in his yard, and breaks the bad news to Louis. But, he says, there may be a way around having to be honest with your kid and telling her what a dumb shit you are for letting the cat run into the road…

Ancient burial grounds are pretty cool looking amirite?

Ancient burial grounds are pretty cool looking amirite?

That’s right. The same shit Pascow warned Louis about is what Crandall is about to show him right now: the real cemetery, some sacred-ass earth which is of course formerly a Native American burial ground. Word on the street is you bury something here, and it won’t stay dead. It comes back. Sure, it’s evil and might kill you and you’re seriously fucking with the balance of the universe, but that’s so much better than being honest with your kid, right?

I thought I wasn’t going to give the whole plot away, but maybe I am. So the cat comes back, and is mean and evil, and somewhere along the line we learn that Rachel had to deal with a sick sister as she was growing up and it made her afraid of confronting death or something. Which is exactly what she’s going to have to do when her kid gets nailed by a truck. Unless of course humans can be buried in the sacred ground and come back to life? Hmmm…

The story of Rachel's sister Zelda seems to be there just so we can have some scary shots of her being scary. At least the make-up is good?

The story of Rachel’s sister Zelda seems to be there just so we can have some scary shots of her being scary. At least the make-up is good?

Look, I haven’t read the book, or any King beyond a handful of short stories, so I can’t speak to how well this is adapted. But I can say that this movie is pretty much shit. I just have absolutely no empathy for any of the characters. The actor that plays Louis, Dale Midkiff, seems as though he is sleepwalking through the role. You’d think a guy whose entire family falls apart and watches some shit come back to life would have some real emotion to display, but no. This guy is like a tree trunk. It is seriously painful to watch.

And let’s talk about Rachel for a second. I think Denise Crosby does a fine job playing her, but she is made so unlikeable and unsympathetic, I really don’t give a shit that her family was basically abusive while she was growing up, or that she’s going through a lot of trauma with a dead kid of her own. She is written like an irritating, one-dimensional mother; you know, the kind of woman you might see at buybuyBABY shopping for the most expensive stroller, and being really, really loud about it.

Denise Crosby pretty much has this look for the whole movie. And whoever's responsible for her wardrobe should be forced to pay her damages.

Denise Crosby pretty much has this look for the whole movie. And whoever’s responsible for her wardrobe should be forced to pay her damages.

In terms of characters, Fred Gwynne’s Jud Crandall is the only saving grace, but even he isn’t given enough time to explain his motivations but for a two-minute indulgence in exposition. I guess a lot of people really take a shining to Victor Pascow, who I forgot to mention spends the rest of the movie as a ghost trying to guide these idiot characters into doing smart things instead of dumb things. Honestly, I kind of felt his presence was annoying. But, uh, the make-up looked good.

I can see some truly interesting things hiding in this movie, which leads me to believe the book probably has a shit-ton more to offer than the shit piled on the screen here. Then again, Stephen King does have the screenplay writing credit, so who knows. The movie obviously tries to tackle a family’s pain in dealing with loss, but either the actors or the writing, or maybe just the two of them together, can’t make it work. There are similar problems with Rachel’s death issues; obviously we are meant to feel bad for Rachel and the crap she dealt with as a child, and how difficult it is for her to come to terms with death as an adult. But the character in the film is so god damn shrill and annoying, I don’t give two shits about how difficult anything is for her. I just want her to shut up.

You know, sometimes I sit down and start writing about a movie I’ve watched, and it isn’t apparent to me just how much I disliked it until I’m done. And, wow, I guess I really hated Pet Sematary. There are a few redeeming factors, and some legitimately scary moments, but for the most part this movie is insufferable. There are far better King adaptations out there, some of which I’ll be writing up later on this month, so stay tuned!

13
Oct
15

The Invisible Man (1933)

invisiblemanposterWhile I would undoubtedly call myself a fan of horror films, I am by no means an expert. There are many, many holes in my horror knowledge, in part because I got started late, and in part because there is just so much stuff out there. The good news is, every year has an October, and October is just the perfect time to fill in some of those holes. When thinking about which movies to pick for 31 Days of Horror this year, James Whale’s The Invisible Man was one of the first to spring to mind.

Dr. Jack Griffin (Claude Rains) is a dedicated scientist working under Dr. Cranley’s tutelage. He and his colleague Dr. Arthur Kemp both have taken a shine to Cranley’s daughter, Flora. It seems as though Flora and Griffin have a thing going on, but even so, he can’t help but feel inadequate. Compared to Kemp, he is poor, and worries that he won’t be able to adequately provide for Flora should they ever marry. This is probably only part of Griffin’s motivation for perfecting a serum that turns him invisible, thereby giving him incredible power and the ability to take over the world!

Well, it's tough to eat through all those bandages.

Well, it’s tough to eat through all those bandages.

The only trouble with the serum? He can’t perfect the antidote. So he moseys on over to an inn during a snowstorm and demands a room. The crowd there is a little taken aback, and Jenny Hall (Una O’Connor) the lady of the establishment doesn’t quite know how to deal with his temper, or the fact that he’s covered in bandages. But they leave the man to his work for a few days. But he is soon behind on rent and still hasn’t figured out the antidote situation. Here, Griffin’s anger gets the best of him, and he storms out of the place leaving a few poor, injured souls behind.

So, he goes to the only place he can think of for help: Kemp’s home. But rather than being apologetic and asking for help, Griffin threatens Kemp if he doesn’t do as he says. Kemp tries his best to get Cranley and the police involved, but they are no match for a crazed, arrogant invisible man. Or are they?

Una O'Connor has no idea what to do with this invisible man!

Una O’Connor has no idea what to do with this invisible man!

This movie is so much fun. I should have known; everything else I’ve watched by Whale has had both a darkness and a sense of humor about it, and this film is no exception. Dr. Jack Griffin is only slightly sympathetic; only in the scenes with Flora where we see his vulnerability to we feel anything like pity towards the guy. The rest of the time he is incredibly bombastic and pompous, which leads to a lot of hilarious moments, frankly. But the best and funniest moments are those with Una O’Connor, who also delighted me in Bride of Frankenstein. While I guess you could call her performance a bit over-the-top, I think it definitely adds to the air of incredulity that’s already present in this film. I mean, how would you react if there was an invisible man running about?

But aside from all that stuff, what’s really impressive to me here is of course the special effects. Sure, you can see a wire here and there, but that’s not the point. Nor does it detract from the ultimate effect: it really looks like that bike is riding itself, for instance. I’m no expert in the evolution of movie effects, but I know that what these guys did here was really damn impressive for 1933. Hell, it’s impressive to me even

The Invisible Man taunts his victims!

The Invisible Man taunts his victims!

today. I could take a million stills from this movie that made me say “wow, that looks so cool!” Just knowing how hard the effects crew must have worked to make the film look this way leaves me super impressed with the final output.

So, yeah, The Invisible Man is funny, impressive and also quite scary, when you think about its implications. As I’m sure I’ve said before, sometimes old-timey flicks are a hard sell for me. I typically have difficulty getting into the brains of characters from older movies, especially the female characters. Sure enough, Flora the love interest is just about as damsel-in-distressy as you’d expect from a 1933 flick. Even so, the insertion of humor in this movie really helps alleviate some of those issues for me. The lightened tone is a good reminder that not everything is so darn serious, and doesn’t have to be read that way. If you’re a horror fan, I definitely recommend this. A great watch!

12
Oct
15

Puffball: The Devil’s Eyeball (2007)

Just a little over three years ago, I packed a bag and housesat in the middle-of-nowhere Montana for six weeks. With not much else to do, Q and I decided we’d watch at least a movie a day. Montana was also the catalyst for me to start blogging again; I’d actually started this blog a few years before that but let it languish, wilt and die. Anyway, we brought a giant binder of DVDs with us, and many DVDs went unwatched (like I said, giant binder). It occurred to us that October would be a fine time to pluck Nic Roeg’s Puffball: The Devil’s Eyeball from the binder and watch it.

Set in the Irish countryside, Puffball centers around Liffey, a young and successful architect who has taken on a project renovating an old, dilapidated cottage. She and her boyfriend Richard are eager to get started, when he unfortunately gets called away on business in New York. Luckily, they bone on an ancient rock (which is actually an altar to Odin, as explained by Donald Sutherland) before he heads out of town. Unluckily, the condom breaks. While Richard’s away, Liffey discovers she is pregnant, and she is not happy about it.

A slice of country heaven.

A slice of country heaven.

She has more than that to be unhappy about, though. Liffey’s closest neighbors are well-versed in ancient Druidic magic. Molly, the matriarch of the family, believes the baby Liffey is pregnant with was actually meant for her own daughter, Mabs (Miranda Richardson), who has been trying to get pregnant with a little boy for quite some time now, for reasons the film will cram down your throat. It’s not working out, and the local doctor refuses her fertility treatments saying she’s just too old to be a new mum. But Molly isn’t worried, she is fairly certain that her knowledge of magic, coupled with Mabs’ daughter Audrey’s natural powers can get the baby back to the right family. A little penis mushroom here, a little tainted alcohol there and voila! The baby will be in the right womb.

Nosy neighbors.

Nosy neighbors.

Well, unfortunately Molly and her witchy cohorts aren’t as in tune with Liffey’s pregnancy situation as they think. The lines get a little crossed, and their meddling causes some seriously bad mojo for everyone involved. Most of this is happening without Liffey even realizing it. But, in the end, Liffey decides to keep her baby, much to Mabs’ dismay, which leads to a very unsettling argument/labor situation that is DEFINITELY not something you want to watch if you are eight months pregnant!

Too old to breed.

Too old to breed.

I’m still not sure how I really feel about this movie. It definitely made me very uncomfortable, but how much of that has to do with my own pregnancy and imminent labor I can’t be sure. Certainly the idea that there are forces outside of us working to influence the outcome of a pregnancy is a terrifying one. What I for sure don’t like is the insatiable I-need-a-baby-now attitude that defines Miranda Richardson’s character. Sure, the film makes no bones about why Mabs feels this way, and I guess this was necessary to contrast Liffey’s I-definitely-don’t-want-a-baby-but-oops-accidentally-got-pregnant thing, but it really made me feel as though the filmmakers, or perhaps Fay Weldon, the author of the novel on which the film is based, think there are only two categories of women: those who wish to spawn, and those who don’t. That sort of dichotomy leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Life-changing sonogram.

Life-changing sonogram.

I have other problems with the film as well, but I’m afraid they’re mostly due to the budget Roeg had to work with. The film is very cheaply shot and reminds me of a throw-away television production. Sometimes I’m able to overlook stuff like this, but here I found the cheapness distracting. I also felt a lot of the special effects, which were also distractingly cheap, were used in very heavy-handed ways. I am sure there are other ways to convey a fire from back in the day to a film’s audience than showing the present-day object with flames overlaid on top. Over and over again. Oy. We get it.

Somewhere deep inside Puffball there is a good movie. Maybe even a great movie. But as it is now, I am not sure I liked it very much at all. It is thought-provoking, which is of course a positive thing, but there are so many smaller problems with the film that they take away from my ultimate read of the thing. Also, don’t be too excited to see Donald Sutherland’s name in the credits; he is only in two short scenes and that made me sad, too. For the most part though, the other actors do a good job of pulling their weight; they just don’t have much to pull.

10
Oct
15

The Beast Within (1982)

beastwithinposterI’m not quite sure where to begin with The Beast Within. I sort of assumed, just by its name, that it was a werewolf movie, but it’s not that at all. After having watched it, I’m still not exactly sure what it’s all about. I also assumed that Ronny Cox would play a huge dick in it, because that’s what Ronny Cox does. But he doesn’t! He plays a normal dude! In fact, he plays a dad very concerned about his son. See what happens when you assume? Anyway, I’m not sure The Beast Within will overturn all your expectations, but it certainly is different than your typical horror flick.

The plot is super convoluted, which is one of the film’s shortcomings. If I were to go in-depth not only would this be a 2,000-word blog post, it would also be rife with spoilers. So I’ll do my best to keep it short and sweet. During their honeymoon, Caroline and Eli (Cox) MacLeary run into some car trouble. Eli runs to get help, leaving Caroline and their dog with the car. The dog sees something in the woods (because everyone has car trouble while they’re near the spooky woods) and bolts. Caroline of course goes after the dog, and is mauled and raped by someone… or something.

Caroline and Eli do some digging.

Caroline and Eli do some digging.

Seventeen years later, their son Michael is having some serious medical issues. Fearing they might be genetic, the couple must come to terms with the fact that Michael is the result of Caroline’s rape. So like any loving pair of parents they head to the town where it all went down to look for any information on Michael’s biological father. When they get there, they are confronted with nothing but spooky folks who refuse to cooperate, or even acknowledge that anything bad ever happened in their town. Luckily, Caroline finds a lead while fishing through the library’s old newspapers. Strangely enough, the folks tied to Caroline’s mysterious lead start dying horfiffic deaths, and Michael is becoming less and less like himself…

Yowza, this movie is so all over the place, and so strange! As I said before, the plot is circuitous and confusing and just generally batshitty, and it’s more than a little distracting. I think if it had been simplified even just a little bit, it

The beast within finally comes out...

The beast within finally comes out…

would have made a world of difference. That being said, I still admire how much this movie tries to cram into its 98 minutes, and I certainly didn’t find myself bored or exasperated by it, and for me that’s always a bonus. It even has stuff it wants to say about small-town nepotism and the beasts we all become once we grow into adults, even if it’s done a little clumsily. The performances are all pretty good too; even old Ronny Cox is convincing as a normal dude, which I never thought I’d say. But probably the best thing The Beast Within has got going for it is the practical special effects; damn, that shit looks good.

Apologies for this rather ambiguous post, but I don’t want to give too much away. This movie was fun in large part because I didn’t know what to expect, and I hate it when I accidentally fall down the trap of wasting paragraph upon paragraph detailing the plot. I think this movie is definitely worth your time, so long as you have patience enough to deal with a rather mystifying plot and a weird obsession with locusts.

09
Oct
15

Leeches! (2003)

Very recently I decided it was make or break with my disc rental service from Netflix. All too often the movies sit there and don’t get watched for months, and with their selection of available discs diminishing every day, I sometimes have trouble convincing myself it’s worth it. The trouble is, I’ve been a customer for so long it’s just so hard to let go! I’m not the type of person that’s just going to watch whatever’s available; I refuse to be a slave to the availability of films on any streaming service. Netflix disc rental is my safety net. So since we are keeping it, we decided it was high time to push on through the queue.

My gift from Netflix: Hot Boyz with no Shirtz

My gift from Netflix: Hot Boyz with no Shirtz

Unfortunately, the disc we set down to watch that evening was broken. No big deal, we reported it and waited for the replacement. Which was also broken. Okay, that’s weird, there’s no way the third disc will be broken, right? Wrong! So the ever-wonderful Q called customer service, where they had trouble believing us, and handed us an extra disc from our queue while also sending another replacement for the same movie. Wouldn’t you know it, that fourth disc was broken, too. Q called customer service again and was so darn nice to the dude on the phone that he offered us two extra discs from our queue. And that long introduction, my friends, is what got me into the mess of a film called Leeches! Since I usually have time between shipping off one disc and Netflix receiving it, I have time to groom my queue and decide what movie I want next. Unfortunately, the kind generosity of Netflix Customer Service Representative X forced me to end up with a movie I honestly can’t even fathom having put in my queue. My guess is I put it in there somewhere around seven years ago where it languished until it said “Long Wait” next to it, at which point I moved it up top because, well, that’s where all the long waits live.

In the end, though, it is clear that I owe a giant thank you to Netflix Customer Service Representative X, because Leeches! probably never would have made it into the mail if not by accident, and although it is awful, it is awful in new and exciting ways! It’s not that I’m not used to awful horror movies, it’s just that I prefer those awful horror movies to come from a specific window of time (preferably the 60’s – 80’s). So when I saw this flick was from 2003 my first thought was Oh, dear lord, why?

“Dude, leeches! Gross!”

Thankfully, my worst fears were allayed at the very first scene. A young college boy in speedos practicing for a swim meet! In slow motion! He touches his hair as the camera softly graces his young, ideal form… holy crap! This is homoerotic smut! What an exciting, unexpected treat! I have to admit, I had no idea this sub-genre of horror even existed! Thank you Netflix Customer Service Representative X for opening my eyes!

I guess I should go through the plot. Ok, so there’s this college where none of the boys wear clothes. I mean, they wear speedos, and sometimes they wear swim trunks over those speedos, and surely sometimes they wear an earring (sometimes two!) or a necklace. They are really super pumped about being a great swim team, so they’re all on steroids! For some reason, they’re always swimming in this lake that’s right on campus, next to the swimming pool, where you’d think they’d get the best practice, but whatever. As you might have guessed, this idyllic lake is populated with more than just an Adonis or two; it’s also rife with LEECHES!

Still no shirts.

Still no shirts.

Well, that’s not really a big deal, just pick them off and throw them on the floor of the showers in the locker room, right? There’s just one minor problem: the leeches aren’t just feasting on hot-boy blood, but also on the hot-boy steroids! As you can imagine, the leeches grow to a ridiculous size and start wreaking havoc all over this extremely small and mostly-naked campus.

There is other stuff that happens, but obviously nobody watching this movie gives a crap what that is. I’d seen the director’s name, David DeCoteau, on countless used DVDs, some of which we’ve purchased. I had no idea a large part of his career was directing extremely cheap smut! That being said, at least here in Leeches! the smut is quite tame; I don’t think there’s any nudity at all. Just a lot of close-ups of cut abs and whatnot. It’s just so hilariously horny, it’s hard not to enjoy watching it.

Well, there they are ladies and gents, the titular leeches! And still no shirt.

Well, there they are ladies and gents, the titular leeches! And still no shirt.

I’m frankly not sure how many different movies of this ilk I could sit through, but the chances are I’m going to test my limits. At any rate, it’s really good to know this sub-genre is out there; what a gloriously idiotic and empty way to spend 85 minutes.

08
Oct
15

Village of the Damned (1960)

When 2015 started I promised myself I’d read a lot of books this year. Now, here we are in October and I can say with certainty that however many books I’ve read so far doesn’t come anywhere close to anyone’s definition of “a lot.” Realizing this of course didn’t make me run to my reading nook, but instead prompted me to watch a film adaptation of one of the books I did read this year, John Wyndham’s The Midwich Cuckoos. After all, it is October, and what says Halloween more than a dozen creepy kids with glowing eyes?

Just a mysteriously-induced nap in the middle of the day for the whole town of Midwich

Just a mysteriously-induced nap in the middle of the day for the whole town of Midwich

Midwich is a small, forgettable village outside of London. New folks rarely show up, and when they do they’re often met with suspicion. Everyone that lives there has known everyone else for essentially their whole lives. There’s absolutely nothing remarkable about the place. That is, until all the residents of the town experience a strange, unexplained simultaneous black-out. Literally every living thing in the confines of the village falls asleep, right in the middle of what they’re doing, at exactly the same time. Scientists from neighboring villages are unable to pinpoint the cause, and when everyone wakes up seemingly normal, it is chalked up to a harmless oddity.

Unfortunately, it turns out not to be so harmless after all. It isn’t long until the local doctor starts to notice a disturbing trend: every single woman of child-bearing age is found to be pregnant. Some even claim to still be virgins. Not only that, the babies are growing at an alarming rate, causing the doctor and the town’s one intellectual, a writer named Zellaby, to question the origin of these babies…

Beware the children with the golden eyes!

Beware the children with the golden eyes!

A few months pass, and the women uneventfully give birth to the babies. Most are strong, and they seem normal, except for their weird golden eyes. It’s when they get older that the problems start to show themselves. They seem to exert a strange control over people to get what they want. Zellaby also discovers that what one toddler learns, the rest of the group learns without being present. They’re like a unit. A big, scary, evil, golden-eyed unit. What plans do they have in store for little old Midwich?

For a flick from 1960, Village of the Damned is pretty effectively freaky. Those shining golden eyes actually look pretty good, but the actors they cast (and those awful haircuts!) do a lot of the heavy-lifting when it comes to making the kids look super creepy. Unsurprisingly though, the film doesn’t have half the bite the book does.

Cross these kids and they'll make you blow your own brains out.

Cross these kids and they’ll make you blow your own brains out.

Clocking in at under 80 minutes, it doesn’t even really give itself the chance to tackle some of the subtleties that make the book so great. Not only that, the characters are kind of just there; there is no time for any of them to develop personalities. You still get a good dose of Cold-War era paranoia, especially with those kids acting all robotic and pretty much sharing a brain, but the book offers so much more than this skimpy film does.

So, is that what I get for reading the book first? It’s always so hard to put my expectations on the back burner and enjoy a film isolated from its source material. The bottom line is, the story this film tells is legitimately spooky, and done well enough. I have to admit I’m curious about John Carpenter’s 1995 version; I wonder if a more modern adaptation would be willing to take more risks than obviously the 1960 version could, or would, have wanted to. But I digress. In the end Village of the Damned is just allright; it’s the “light” version of a seriously creepy story. Cliche as it is, I have to say: the book was better.

05
Oct
15

Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb (1971)

Does anyone out there still rent Netflix discs? Is it just the old people? Do I count as an old person because 1) I’m 35 and 2) I rent discs from Netflix? Should I stop asking rhetorical questions? Sometimes I wonder why I continue to rent the discs, since I go through cycles of watching them and then not watching them for months on end, letting them sit there on the table by the front door. But it’s just so hard to let go! I’ve been a disc customer for so long, bloodfromthemummystomb_2and I feel a real emotional attachment to my disc queue, which is why it pains me so damn hard to watch the discs drop from the queue to the ‘saved’ section like flies. But even still, it’s my security blanket: if I’m not sure I want to buy a movie I’ve never seen and it’s not streaming, it’s the best and cheapest way to rent a flick, since Netflix pretty much destroyed any chance of walking out the door and finding a decent place to rent movies. Sorry, but Redbox does not fucking cut it. And I am not one of those people who will just watch whatever is available. In fact, I think that’s the worst thing about Netflix streaming – I tell someone to watch a movie and the first question I get is: “is it on Netflix?” What the fuck! A movie’s only worth seeking out if you can sit on your ass and click a few buttons to get there? Pshaw!

Well anyway, that’s a long way ’round to introducing Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb, a disc I’d had sitting around for nearly half a year. It was kind of one of those unintentional rentals; I’d added it to my queue so long ago and didn’t do proper maintenance after returning the disc beforehand and it just came in the mail. And sat. And sat. And sat. I guess I was under the impression it would be some old, muddy print of a boring movie I never meant to watch and only threw on the queue because it had the word “mummy” in it. Luckily it was much better than I expected.

As with most Hammer horror, and most mummy movies for that matter, the plot is pretty simple. An archaeologist named Fuchs brings back the severed hand of a pristinely-preserved Egyptian priestess. Frankly I’m not sure why she’s referred to as a mummy, because she is not mummified! She’s just a regular woman in a sarcophagus who happened to avoid decomposing for thousands of years. She even manages to maintain perky, tasteful underboob.

A disembodied hand is rarely a good thing.

A disembodied hand is rarely a good thing.

NBD. Fuchs suspects the mummy, otherwise known as Queen Tera, has some weird, deep connection with his daughter Margaret. Which kinda makes sense when you notice they’re played by the same actress (Valerie Leon).

So, the night before Margaret’s birthday, she is waiting patiently for her boyfriend Tod Browning (yeah, that’s his name folks) to come pick her up. Before Tod shows up, Fuchs gives her this gaudy old ring for ‘protection.’ From what? Or whom? And why is Tod’s mentor so afraid of it? And why is everyone in London suddenly an archaeologist? I guess these old fogies know some shit’s about to go down on Margaret’s birthday, and everyone involved in the original Queen Tera expedition is greedily guarding the relics they kept for themselves, hoping it will protect them from whatever evil the Queen has in mind for the world at large. But with Margaret suddenly (psychically?) connected to Tera, can they stop the worst from happening?

Not bad for a thousands-year-old broad.

Not bad for a thousands-year-old broad.

Okay, a lot of the movie doesn’t make much sense. But, it’s rare that I watch a Hammer film expecting a riveting, thoughtful plot, so I don’t care. This movie still has a lot going for it. First of all, everyone is so god damn fashionable, especially Margaret and Tod, who must have a different jacket for every day of the week. I guess Tod comes from money, because he drives some hot-ass cars that would be just impossible to afford on an archaeological apprentice’s wages! While it’s all pretty cheap and unimaginative, the Egyptian tchotchkes and costumes are vibrant and fun. But, perhaps, not as vibrant or fun as the electric-red blood spattered on everyone’s throats once Queen Tera is done with them!

I’m not saying you should rush out and get a copy of Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb. But if you happen to find yourself in the vicinity of one, or find a copy for a relatively affordable price, pick it up. It’s good, harmless fun. If you’re already bought in to Hammer horror, there’s no reason why you wouldn’t enjoy this one, too.

04
Oct
15

National Lampoon’s Class Reunion (1982)

Did Walter keep the same paper bag, or do you think maybe he makes a new one every couple years or so?

Did Walter keep the same paper bag, or do you think maybe he makes a new one every couple years or so?

Everyone loves John Hughes, right? The lovable writer of such 80’s teen classics as The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Sixteen Candles can do no wrong, right? Well, not exactly. If you’ve seen National Lampoon’s Class Reunion, you know just how much wrong John Hughes can do.

Back in the good old days (that’s 1972), a bunch of assholes at Lizzie Borden High (yeah, the jokes are that bad and that obvious throughout the whole movie, so settle on in) set up the school loser to hook up with his twin sister. Chief Asshole Bob Spinnaker (Gerrit Graham) convinces Walter Baylor that popular girl x, y or z really has the hots for him and wants to do it with him, so long as he wears this paper bag over his head. What a gag! After they hook up for a bit Spinnaker unveils the embarrassment of incest to the entire class of 1972, who all are apparently in on the joke, waiting at lookout point or whatever cliched hookup spot these stupid kids are at, with the high beams of their cars shining in Walter’s shamed face.

The one true highlight of this film is Anne Ramsey as the lunch lady. Unfortunately the jokes are old and tired.

The one true highlight of this film is Anne Ramsey as the lunch lady. Unfortunately the jokes are old and tired.

Fast forward 10 years to the class reunion, where everyone is still a huge asshole and Walter Baylor has returned from the insane asylum to pick off the people who humiliated him one by one. The film, for what reason I haven’t actually figured out, centers around Lizzie Borden’s “nobody” guy, Gary Nash. No one remembers him, not even his best friend – isn’t that hilarious? Anyway, after five minutes that joke gets old – but don’t worry, they’re still making it at the end of the movie, along with some other really stale jokes, like the ones about blind people, feminists, transsexuals, and stoners. Oh and isn’t that chick that’s possessed by the devil à la The Exorcist just a hoot?!

Yes, this movie is an equal opportunity offender, but maybe the most offensive thing about it is its absolute lack of laughs. I don’t think I even cracked a smile once. I suppose it is possible that if the movie hadn’t been so awfully offensive straight off the bat, I would have been more prone to giggling. But this movie pretty much shits on everyone from the get-go and never stops. Look, I know what you’re thinking, a lot of comedy is made at the expense of someone, why am I being so sensitive? It’s true, comedy doesn’t have to be, and maybe even shouldn’t be, inoffensive. But it

AREN'T JOKES ABOUT BLIND PEOPLE HILARIOUS?!

AREN’T JOKES ABOUT BLIND PEOPLE HILARIOUS?!

should be funny. And this movie isn’t funny. Not even in the remotest sense. Does anyone actually like this movie? Also, for the record, I am not easily offended! Believe me! This just hits all the wrong buttons.

It is perhaps worth noting that this is exactly the reaction Q was hoping for when he forced this film upon me. I should have known when he said things like “No, I don’t like this movie” but still wanted to watch it that his motives were less about entertainment, and more about his I-told-you-John-Hughes-is-a-huge-dick-and-maybe-you-should-reconsider-liking-his-shitty-movies-that-always-champion-the-assholes agenda. While I’m not going to say my love for the aforementioned Hughes films has diminished (nostalgia is, after all, a hell of a drug), Class Reunion has certainly cast a nasty pall on Hughes’ name.

01
Oct
15

Lifeforce (1985)

Probably five or ten years ago, I watched Tobe Hooper’s Lifeforce for the first time. I only remembered two things about it: 1) I didn’t like it and 2) space vampires. Q had two copies of the film, one on videocassette, which supposedly had the superior cut, and the other on DVD; the inferior cut that I must have seen previously. So, in a move to free some space on our shelves, I agreed to buy the blu-ray which had both cuts, knowing I was also agreeing to give the film another go. But all that crap is boring, can we just get to the naked vampires already?

Space is the place

Space is the place

Like any good science fiction horror flick, Lifeforce starts off on a spaceship. This particular ship, the Churchill, is out exploring Halley’s comet. When they get close to the comet, they discover a giant alien spaceship and do what no one should ever do, but what they always do in movies like this: explore it. Inside, they find some desiccated alien life forms resembling bats, and three ‘sleeping’ humanoid forms suspended in some kind of enclosure. What else to do but bring the specimens back to the spaceship? After all, this is a mission of discovery.

NAKED VAMPIRE SPACE PODS

NAKED VAMPIRE SPACE PODS

Well, the next thing you know, no one has heard anything from the Churchill for some alarming amount of time. A rescue shuttle shoots on into space to see what the hell’s going on, only to find a burned out ship and the three alien pods. Not knowing what the hell happened, they take the pods back to Earth, and that’s when shit gets totally fuckin’ naked and weird. And naked. Did I mention naked?

Steve Railsback gets a tough break.

Steve Railsback gets a tough break.

Rewatching Lifeforce a second time, it is amazing to me I didn’t remember that nearly a third of the film consists of a Mathilda May walking around completely naked sucking the life out of people. Okay, to be fair, some of that time she is lying down naked. The other thing I found perplexing was why my initial reaction was so negative; turns out the film is actually pretty good – and no, it wasn’t because of the different cuts, because we accidentally watched the longer cut and I didn’t find myself squirming in my seat or anything remotely along those lines. No, the film actually moved at a pretty decent clip, and it kept me interested.

It's never a good thing when desiccated corpses walk the earth.

It’s never a good thing when desiccated corpses walk the earth.

So, yes, there is more to Lifeforce than Mathilda May’s tits. Steve Railsback plays a perfect shell-shocked victim; frantic eyes, desperate pleas, the whole bit. Bonus getting to see a bespectacled pre-TNG Patrick Stewart play a role that doesn’t come close at all to resembling the in-control Captain Picard. But probably what impressed me most were the special effects. There’s a few Pink Floyd light-show moments, and those are cool, but the really great stuff is watching May suck the life out of her victims, and in consequence watching their desiccated corpses search for lifeforce amongst the living. Ok yeah and it’s pretty cool when they explode, too.




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