Posts Tagged ‘Anthology


Screamtime (1986)

Note: Hi! This is Mike Q, and I’m not the one who usually writes here. I got this guest-spot because Katy’s fallen behind in writing up movies of late, so I’ve been called in to do some of the titles she doesn’t especially want to deal with.

In the aftermath 0f 31 Days of Horror, we’ve continued to watch horror movies. We were getting a bit wary of the pre-determined pile we’d set aside, though, so we turned to Netflix, where we found Screamtime, an ’80s horror anthology.

sc3Apparently, Screamtime was made in 1983 as a British/American co-production, but not released until 1986. Also, apparently, one of the anthology segments dates back to 1981. It’s hard to imagine that a 1986 audience would have seen much appeal in material that seems to have already passed its expiration date as cash-in cultural ephemera; this screams out as a Night Train to Terror-esque effort to just dump some already-canned footage on the market. From 2014, though, its generically, amorphously  1980s aesthetics seem charmingly “period” rather than glaringly, unfasionably just-out-of-date. All said, though, there’s nothing here that’s better than a middling episode of Tales From the Darkside.

The frame story is set in the pre-Giuliani/Disney grimey New York City, where a pair of ne’er-do-wells shoplift some horror titles from a video store for an afternoon’s jollies, and then take them to a friend’s house to watch. The friend is a shapely lady, who we first find in the shower… Screamtime puts its skin in the first few moments, in the hopes that it won’t immediately lose its audience–seldom a promising tactic. Unlike the frame, which screams its “Noo Yawk” American-ness, the shorts themselves are all decidely British. The first segment concerns a beleaguered puppeteer who has no support from his wife, and is actively terrorized by his bratty teenage stepson. After the boy burns down his stepfather’s puppet stand, the Punch puppet begins to dispatch his master’s enemies… Next, a newlywed couple moves into a house, but the wife has increasingly gruesome hallucinations that no one seems to understand… Finally, in what is simultaneously the most delightful and most conceptually negligent segment, another band of ne’er-do-wells (this time, they’re motorcross enthusiasts) decide to rob a pair of old ladies who claim their great wealth is protected by fairies (and garden gnomes). The pleasures come there more or less exactly as you’d expect (though, sadly, if you connected the dots to gnomes on motorbikes as I iniitally did, you may be disappointed). The closing of the frame story was just as easy, but all the more delightful for it.

The belle of the ball here (aside from the climax of the fairy/gnome story) is the short bit at the beginning in the video store — having recently watched the documentaries Be Kind Rewind and Video Nasties, it was nice to see the Wild West-inside of a 1980s video store as though it was no big deal, and to have the shorts presented herein as though they were, in fact, in-story the fly-by-night cheapies that they really were. There was a clear implication that the filmmakers saw their prospective audience as the slimeballs they showed watching the stuff — the lowest denominator they could imagine. While I admire the honesty, if you’re in the mood for a lovably schlocky ’80s horror anthology, you’d be better served by Deadtime Stories or even the aforementioned Night Train to Terror than by what’s offered here.


Asylum (1972)

Every time I watch an Amicus production, I ask myself why it’s taken three decades for the two of us to become acquainted. These flicks have everything I love about horror, and manage to take out almost all the boring parts, too! After watching Asylum, it’s clear to me they have perfected the art of the horror anthology. Asylum, like its counterparts Tales from the Crypt and The Monster Club, is a 100% delightful mix of fun horror vignettes, all cleverly framed within a story to help make the mixed bag more palatable.

Patrick Magee is so darn good at looking dissatisfied.

Patrick Magee is so darn good at looking dissatisfied.

Asylum‘s story revolves around young Dr. Martin, an applicant for head doctor at a hospital for the “incurably insane.” The place is currently run by Dr. Rutherford (Patrick Magee), who was recently attacked by the former head doctor, Dr. Starr. Rutherford decides to put Martin’s expertise to the true test, and will only consider him for the position of head doctor if he interviews all the patients in the asylum and correctly guesses which one is the formerly brilliant and now insane Dr. Starr.

Will the young Doctor correctly guess the madman of the bunch?

Will the young Doctor correctly guess the madman of the bunch?

Of course what follows is a retelling of every patients’ tale, each one more shocking (!) than the next. The horrific stories involve rich women who dig voodoo, strange men who want suits made out of even stranger fabric (Peter Cushing), young women with split personalities or something worse (Charlotte Rampling/Britt Ekland), and last but not least, crazed doctors who try to bring life to inanimate objects!

Everyone thinks Britt Ekland is the hottie, but I go in for Charlotte Rampling myself.

Everyone thinks Britt Ekland is the hottie, but I go in for Charlotte Rampling myself.

There are many joys about films like this, but perhaps the best part is that each segment is so short, if you don’t find it entertaining you can take comfort in the fact that it will be over in a flash. Luckily, this film doesn’t seem to suffer from any weak spots at all, really; each story is as intriguing as the next. Even though it isn’t as good as Tales from the Crypt or The Monster Club, it is still well worth your time.

It's never a good sign when your doctor plays with dolls!

It’s never a good sign when your doctor plays with dolls!


The Monster Club (1981)

Eramus (Vincent Price), a rather charming vampire, happens upon R.Chetwynd-Hayes (John Carradine) on the street. He asks for help, but he doesn’t want cash – he wants blood! When he finds out his victim is none other than the world’s premier horror writer, he insists on buying him a drink at The Monster Club, a place where all the local beasties hang out and listen to rad music!

I'd enjoy an instructional beverage with Vincent Price any day.

I’d enjoy an instructional beverage with Vincent Price any day.

The scenery ain't bad either, if ya know what I mean...

The scenery ain’t bad either, if ya know what I mean…


Here, Eramus instructs Chetwynd-Hayes on horror genealogy, hoping to give him some juicy new ideas to write about. We learn all about what happens when a ghoul and a human mate: they make a “humegoo” of course. And we learn to be terrified of the Shadmock’s whistle, which is just about the only thing the poor creatures have going for them. And, of course we learn never to forget the ancient strength of the good, old-fashioned vampire types.

Beware the Shadmock's whistle!

Beware the Shadmock’s whistle!

...but even more importantly, beware HUMANITY!

…but even more importantly, beware HUMANITY!

The Monster Club is exactly what I want out of horror movies. Vincent Price is awesome, of course; I can think of no man (or monster?) better than him to narrate this horror anthology. In between stories we get a glimpse into the world of monsters – who knew they hung out at such hip clubs, listening to such cool music and watching such hot skeleton stripteases! And like any good horror anthology, in the end we learn that us humans are the true monsters of the world.


Tales from the Crypt (1972)

As familiar as I am with the HBO series Tales from the Crypt, I guess it’s sort of surprising I never saw the Amicus film of the same name. At long last, this embarrassing shortcoming has been remedied. And, as is so often the case, it’s something I should have done a long, long time ago.

Of course Joan Collins plays a murderous wife.

Of course Joan Collins plays a murderous wife.

Like the television show I can likely blame for all my bad taste, the film is based on EC Comics. The setting here is a little different, to say the least. The Crypt Keeper isn’t a screeching skeleton spouting off bad puns (which, just to be clear, I love) but instead a monk in a robe. Five unlucky folks have ended up in a cave and he’s recounting to each of them how they died, and why the ended up there.

He who dares send mean-spirited Valentines to Peter Cushing won't make it to heaven...

He who dares send mean-spirited Valentines to Peter Cushing won’t make it to heaven…

Among them is a plotting wife (Joan Collins), a cheating husband, a snobby kid, a greedy businessman and a selfish Major. And, as you can guess, they all get theirs in the end, and with blood so red it rivals Herschell Gordon Lewis’s films. With each story under 15 minutes, there’s no time to get bored. Not that you would; everything is well-paced and so damn stylish. I can’t wait to watch more like this.

If you want to survive you must pass through the razor blade wall!

If you want to survive you must pass through the razor blade wall!


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