Posts Tagged ‘Satanic Cult

02
Nov
14

The Black Cat (1934)

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.

The Black Cat is one of my favorite horror gems to share. It’s strange, unsettling, and moves at an extremely brisk pace, and while it gets mentioned in reverent tones by the bought-in, it just as often seems to have flown beneath the radar for many. Its current availability speaks to this: it’s one of six movies on the budget Bela Lugosi Legacy Collection DVD set, and is there without fanfare. One wouldn’t think to pick it up, unless one knew what treasure awaits. That’s a pity, since this is one of the finest horror films Universal released during their 1930s heyday. Thus, this movie was night 28 of our 31 Days of Horror for 2014.

The Alisons are happy young newlyweds taking the Orient Express to Hungary for their honeymoon. They are bland and normal, but oh so much in love. It’s a drag when overbooking forces them to share their private compartment with Dr. Vitus Werdegast (Béla Lugosi), and that drag turns creepy when he starts petting a sleeping Mrs. Alison. It’s OK. though — she just reminds him of his dead wife. See, the good doctor has been in a terrible prison for many years, and he’s making his pilgrimage back to where he fought in one of the bloodiest battles of World War I so that he can visit his old friend, the battle’s commanding general, who has built himself a house right at the site of the old fort… a location that happens to be right on the way to where the Alisons are themselves headed.

theblackcatset1934

The Poelzig place. It may not be much, but it’s home!

They all share a ride, which inconveniently crashes miles from everywhere but Dr. Werdegast’s friend’s house, an imposing Art Deco manse that looms on the mountain. Werdegast sweeps in like he owns the place, and he and Alison work on tending to the injured Mrs. Alison before the formal introduction to their inadvertent host. Hjalmar Poelzig (Boris Karloff, as a character reportedly inspired by Aleister Crowley, and with a look that supposedly inspired Steve Ditko’s initial depictions of Dr. Strange) is far more than what he seems, though: not only the turncoat commanding general of one of the worst battles of the war, he also is one of Europe’s finest architects: he designed and built the house himself, using elements from the old fort. He’s also got a basement full of female corpses suspended in glass cases. All involved find out rather quickly that Werdegast isn’t there for as friendly a visit as it at first appeared — Poelzig stole his wife and daughter while he was in jail, and might even have had set him up to go there. Werdegast is bound and determined to get the women in his life back from Poelzig, and grows all the more concerned as Poelzig seems to have sinister plans in store for Mrs. Alison…

black-cat

Werdegast, Poelzig, and a decorative floating corpse

This movie is great for all sorts of reasons. One is it fantastic look — though decidedly Gothic in its story and execution, much of this movie’s horror is rooted in its invocation of modernity rather than in the aesthetics of the distant past. Here, Poelzig’s malignant evil is expressed in the vocabulary of German Expressionism so popular in the Universal horrors, but by way of the clean lines and large empty spaces of contemporary architecture. Poelzig’s crime seems, in part, to stem from his efforts to erase the past, and in the monumental scale of his own ego, both as manifested in the icy beauty of his domicile. Also imminently compelling is that the two feuding men are so extremely civil to one another, but in that civility always have a heavy weight of latent menace. The boring Alisons are trapped in the midst of this, and while we perhaps have some sense of concern about their situation, I know my attentions are always on how — and when — the smouldering hatred of the big names will finally explode.

boris-karloff black cat mass

Did I mention that Poelzig has a meeting room for his Satanic cult in the basement?

By the time we really get down to it — when Poelzig’s Satanic cult comes a-calling, and when Werdegast finally exacts his horrifyingly under-stated revenge — the movie seems like it is simultaneously completely off the rails and also exactingly, minutely in control of its every action. We’ve been building to this, but have come such a long, strange way from those opening moments aboard the Orient Express that when in the movie’s final moments, we return there again it’s awfully jarring. How can we return unfazed to the exotic but decidedly middle-class trappings we came from after the curious, sinister, fascinating world that we’ve just been privy to? To some degree, that’s The Alisons’ problem — viewers I know seem to remain too haunted by the deliberate, frosty manipulations of Karloff’s Poelzig and Lugosi’s equally sympathetic and alienating Werdegast to really be placated by the efforts at a light ending. The two men are so driven, and so locked together, that it’s easy to read a kind of fascinating queerness underlying their relationship (at least, Henry Benshoff seems to see it too). That and the broad strokes of the plot have led many to credit this (along with James Whale’s Old Dark House) as one of the primary inspirations for The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I suppose it’s also worth saying that while the credits and period advertising materials credit Edgar Allan Poe’s famous story as inspiration, there’s as much Poe here as there is in Corman’s Haunted Castle or the AIP Conqueror Worm cut of Witchfinder General — that is to say not much at all. That’s not a bad thing, but it’s a thing worth noting.

black cat 3Anyway, for such a short movie (only 65 minutes!) there’s lots going on, and lots to recommend it.  If you have the chance, you should check this one out. Heck, don’t wait for the chance, go ahead and seek it out; I doubt you’ll be disappointed.

24
Oct
14

Satan’s School for Girls (1973)

It’s all too often that a horror film’s name is much better than the film itself, isn’t it? Film’s like Blood of Ghastly HorrorThe Thirsty Dead and many others all come to mind; titles with such promise that deliver nothing close to what our jaded, bloodthirsty minds have dreamt up. Day 23 of 31 Days of Horror delivered disappointment along these lines. I can think of a million directions a film named Satan’s School for Girls could go! Unfortunately, the film itself never went any of these fun, degraded places. Instead of what you might expect, it’s a relatively tame made-for-TV flick from 1973.

Martha's freaked out.

Martha’s freaked out.

The film starts off with Martha, a young blonde woman driving down the highway in California. She seems to be running from something or someone. All we see is a man with a cigar who may or may not be after her. She is on her way to see her sister Elizabeth (Pamela Franklin). When she gets there, she is absolutely frantic; no one is coming to the door and they’re (?) coming to get her! Elizabeth’s landlord let’s her in. Minutes later he hears a scream, the cops arrive just in time for Elizabeth to open the door and see that her sister has hanged herself.

Though Martha has a history of depression and alienation, Elizabeth is convinced she’s been doing much better and doesn’t believe she would have come all the way out to see her just to kill herself. So she decides there must be something fishy going on at the Academy her sister was going to. So like anyone else would, she drops her whole life and goes undercover, enrolling at the same Academy as a student; not revealing to anyone that she is Martha’s sister.

Elizabeth is afraid to look.

Elizabeth is afraid to look.

The school seems pretty darn normal to me, but I guess I’m supposed to think some of it’s weird. There’s a chick named Debbie who did a painting of Martha in a basement somewhere. There’s a psych professor who is all-too excited about making the rats in his maze passive. There’s the art teacher all the girls drool over. Finally, there’s the headmistress, nicknamed by all the “Dragonlady” though I never quite understood why; she seemed perfectly nice to me. But clearly something weird is going on because girls keep committing suicide, and Elizabeth finds out after they drop dead, their files disappear from the main office. Someone in the administration is behind this, and Elizabeth is hell-bent on finding out.

Could it be, Satanists?

Could it be, Satanists?

Dang, this movie is a total snoozer. Pamela Franklin is cute and all, but I don’t think she’s cute enough to spend your time watching this movie. It’s pretty sub-standard satanic cult stuff; we don’t even really get to the interesting part until like the last twenty minutes. The characters aren’t very interesting or all that developed, and to be honest I don’t really give a crap what happens to any of them. All that being said, I can imagine if I’d been a kid in 1973 when this was released on television it would have been one of my favorite movies; I guess it just takes a lot more to impress me these days, eh? I guess if you have a kid who likes scary movies this might be worth showing them, but it’s pretty boring as far as adult fare goes.

It seems they remade the movie in 2000, also for television, this time starring Shannen Doherty as the lead undercover gal. I can’t help but think it’s probably just as boring (or perhaps even moreso) than the original; a film with a name like this really needs to be made as an R-rated feature. Imagine what fun we could have with Satan in the movie theaters!

22
Oct
14

The Dunwich Horror (1970)

For Day 18 of 31 Days of Horror, I finally broke the seal on The Dunwich Horror. Roger Corman, Dean Stockwell, Sandra Dee, Ed Begley, the Necronomicon, psychedelic nightmares, satanic impregnation and bulging eyes aplenty, this movie is pretty damn amazing. Again I have to wonder: what took me so long? Fans of Lovecraft will be disappointed with this loose interpretation of one of his stories, which I suspect is why so many people seem to hate this movie. Having never read a lick of Lovecraft myself, I am more than content with the psychedelic smear Corman brings to the screen in this film.

Dean Stockwell wants you to watch The Dunwich Horror. Don't you?

Dean Stockwell wants you to watch The Dunwich Horror. Don’t you?

It’s just another normal day at Miskatonic University; local coeds Nancy Wagner (Sandra Dee) and Elizabeth Hamilton are finishing up at the library, casually putting the Necronomicon back in its glass case. Out of nowhere, a handsome man with compelling eyes, curly hair and what must be a fake mustache (right?) walks up to them requesting to see the book… just for a few minutes, he promises. Elizabeth outright refuses, but there’s something about this man’s eyes Nancy can’t resist, and she allows him to take the book. When their professor, Dr. Henry Armitage (Ed Begley) discovers the book is not where it should be, he is rightly concerned and promptly goes over to the young man, demanding he return it. But his anger turns into joy when he discovers the young man interested in one of the world’s most powerful books is none other than Wilbur Whateley, the youngest in a family known for their connection to the book, among other things…

Nancy's psychedelic dream bed. Do they sell those at Ikea?

Nancy’s psychedelic dream bed. Do they sell those at Ikea?

It seems as though Nancy has no control over herself when she is with Wilbur, so when he misses the last bus back home, she insists on giving him a ride. Though Nancy intends to return home after dropping Wilbur off, it seems he has other plans, and he convinces her to stay for tea and take a rest before getting back on the road. Of course, Wilbur has more than just tea in mind; after drugging her and ripping vital parts of her engine out of her car, he can now be sure that she will stay the night, if not forever… mwahahahaha!

More psychedelic nightmares... nothing scarier than primal, painted humans, right?

More psychedelic nightmares… nothing scarier than primal, painted humans, right?

Though there are a host of very strange things going on (Wilbur’s grandfather, a crazed old man always spouting nonsense; the locked door upstairs Nancy is forbidden to explore; the hallucinations; the hatred the locals have for the entire Whateley family), Nancy is too drugged-up and entranced to give any of them a second thought. Elizabeth and Dr. Armitage come looking for her, but she sends them away saying she is staying the weekend with Wilbur. Everything is going as Wilbur had planned, now if he can just get his hands on that Necronomicon, his plans for the return of the “Old Ones” will finally come to fruition.

Nancy at the altar of the Old Ones.

Nancy at the altar of the Old Ones.

Don’t go into The Dunwich Horror expecting a faithful Lovecraftian horror adaptation. This is Roger Corman we’re talking about; this is all psychedelic hallucination and exploitation, and it is god damn glorious, people. I am pretty certain there are no legitimate scares in this film, and there are plot-holes-aplenty, but that’s part of what makes this such a joy to watch. Everyone hams it up here, but Dean Stockwell is just the best! There is no subtlety to his grand gestures and bulging eyes, but with a mustache like that, who would have expected subtlety? When he’s calling the Old Ones to Earth, he holds his hands up to his cheeks exposing his wonderful pinky rings for the whole world to see. It is just fantastic.

Dean Stockwell will be upset if you don't watch The Dunwich Horror!

Dean Stockwell will be upset if you don’t watch The Dunwich Horror!

But maybe even better than Stockwell’s performance are the psychedelic scenes, where we get a vague sense of monstrous beings and writhing primitive human bodies, but never a full picture of what this “horror” actually is. It is unfortunately difficult to capture this in a still; it works best in motion. These scenes definitely make the movie unique and are the most fun to watch: flashes of light interspersed with action seemingly from another dimension; hell yes! What better way to make up for a low budget than just confusing the hell out of your audience with shit like this? I love it.

I don't even know. I don't even care. Is that Zardoz?

I don’t even know. I don’t even care. Is that Zardoz?

The bottom line is, if you are the type of person who prefers a coherent plot and legitimate scares in your horror movies, you aren’t going to like The Dunwich Horror. Instead, what Dunwich offers is ham, style and psychedelia, which I will take over substance any day of the week. If you go in knowing what to expect, this movie will offer you the perfect thrill a horror flick should.

06
Oct
14

The Visitor (1979)

VisitorPosterDo you like The Exorcist & The Omen, or any of their sequels? What about Rosemary’s Baby? What about every other sci-fi horror movie from the 1970’s? If you answered yes to any of these, then why waste your time re-watching any of them when you could just watch The Visitor, a dazzling blend of everything you’ve already seen before, with a weird scientological, blonde Jesus twist! That’s what we did for day 6 of 31 Days of Horror. I think I don’t regret it.

The beginning of The Visitor happens somewhere else. I’m not sure if we’re on another planet, or in another dimension, or what, but blonde Jesus is telling a bunch of bald kids about the evil Sateen, who impregnated a bunch of women so his demon seed can spread through the cosmos. During this serious lecture, in walks Jerzy (John Huston – yes, that one) signaling to blonde Jesus they’ve found the latest demon seed. It’s time to rally the bald kids and send them to Earth in search of an eight-year-old girl named Katy, a creepy, southern-drawled version of Linda Blair who uses her telekinetic powers to rig basketball games and stuff.

Katy’s mom Barbara is having an intense relationship with the owner of the interested basketball team, Raymond (Lance Henriksen). He’s trying his damndest to get her to marry him, but she won’t because she knows there’s something wrong with Katy and doesn’t want to give birth to another creepy little shithead monster thing. Of course it turns out Raymond isn’t actually in love with Katy, he is part of a satanic cabal interested in populating the world with more of Sateen’s mutant seed. If Jerzy and his band of baldies can’t steal away with Katy in time, the whole universe will feel the ripples of that evil tidal wave!

This movie is like, whoa, all over the place; it is excitingly schizophrenic in that way. It is a bit like The Sentinel or The Manitou; there’s so much going on and it’s all crazy weird conspiracy shit tinged with religion and mythology. But all of its freneticism does not work in its favor; the movie is a tangled mess of tropes and what seems like possibly a weird religious agenda. The confusion results in a muddled and incoherent plot. Of course, none of that matters to a person like me: I still loved watching it; I had to know what the hell was going to happen next, even though (or perhaps especially because) I knew whatever it was wasn’t going to make any sense and was going to be delivered with questionable dialog!

The best part about movies like The Visitor isn’t on the screen at all; it’s wondering how a film like this ever got off the ground in the first place. What compelled the writer to sit down and come up with this story? Who financed it? Why? What about the actors; what are they thinking when they deliver these terrible lines? And specific to The Visitor, how the hell did they get people like John Huston and Sam Peckinpah (yeah, he acts in this too, by the way) to be in this movie? The whole thing is just so gloriously bizarre you have to love it. Though it is obviously a pastiche of a million movies that come before it, it automatically sets itself apart from every one of those by its sheer what-the-fuckness.

Should you see The Visitor? Well, that clearly depends on what type of person you are. If you’re the kinda guy or gal that only likes “Good” movies, then, uh, NO, you should not see The Visitor. However, if you’re reading my blog right now that probably is some indication that you’re at least a little bit interested in the weirder fringes of cinema, and in that case then I direct you to watch The Visitor as soon as possible, and to get on your knees and thank the fine folks at Drafthouse Films for resurrecting this nearly-forgotten shitsterpiece.

24
Jan
14

Lord of Illusions (1995)

Private Detectives: Nothin' but trouble.

Private Detectives: Nothin’ but trouble.

Private detectives are always getting into some sort of trouble; either they’re totally broke or they’re in way over their ignorant heads. It’s probably safe to say Clive Barker’s private detectives fare the worst of all. Just ask Harry D’Amour (Scott Bakula), the gumshoe extraordinaire in Lord of Illusions. He managed to stumble his way into a freaky cult. I mean, like, freaky even for Los Angeles.

Thirteen years ago, a man named Nix (Daniel von Bargen) kidnaped a young girl with the intention of sacrificing her up to Satan (I guess?). His disciples, of course, were totally on board (I mean, that’s what disciples do, right?). Lucky for the girl, some former members

Swann and his fatefully stupid sword trick.

Swann and his fatefully stupid sword trick.

of the cult were able to shake loose of Nix’s mental grip and return just in time to save her from destruction. One of these saviors was a man named Swann, whom Nix thought of as something of a protégé. Burned by his rejection and stymied sacrifice, Nix casts a spell on Swann which causes him to see things as they truly are, or something. His friends’ faces become monstrous, the world around them liquid and terrifying. He finally snaps out of it, but never forgets the vision. He and the other good guys are able to trap Nix, put a horrifying iron mask on his face and bury him deep as hell.

Back to present day, Swann now makes his living as a famous illusionist a la David Copperfield. His beautiful wife has convinced D’Amour to help protect Swann from the cult members, whom she believes are assembling together for Nix’s resurrection. That’s all well and good, but one thing D’Amour can’t protect Swann from is his own illusions: his newest trick has failed him and he dies in front of his adoring fans. Or does he?
Kruger?

Kruger?

You know, I don’t think I liked this movie very much. It screams 1995 in some of the worst ways. Some of the characters exhibit those black and white extremes that only work if whatever you’re watching is laughably bad (I’m thinking Alien Warrior or Death Wish 3 here). The ones that don’t still manage to make decisions that you’d never make, and that left me frustrated with the movie. Furthermore, it doesn’t help that Nix, the baddest of baddies, is played by Daniel von Bargen, none-other than Seinfeld’s Kruger (if you’re not familiar, he was one of the silliest, dumbest bosses ever portrayed in television history). Now, that’s hardly Clive Barker’s fault, but nevertheless made the movie that much more ridiculous for me.

Speaking of ridiculous, can we stop it with the edgy private detectives already? Look, I like Scott Bakula as much as the next girl that grew up in the 80’s, but even he can’t make this tired stereotype interesting. Snappy comebacks and a persistent sense of curiosity in the face of satanic magic is doubtful to get you very far. Perhaps there are some better examples, but after watching this flick I get the impression that the 1990’s and Noir tendencies really shouldn’t mix. Ever. Unless it’s a comedy.
08
Dec
13

The Devil Rides Out (1968)

A fangless Christopher Lee

A fangless Christopher Lee

Don’t you hate it when your dead best friend’s son gets involved with a Satanic Cult? It’s even more of a bummer when you promised your dearly-departed pal you’d watch over the kid. This is exactly the predicament in which Duc de Richleau (Christopher Lee)  finds himself in Hammer’s The Devil Rides Out.

Richleau first suspects some weird stuff is going down when he and his useless friend Rex stop by their friend’s place and find his son Simon hosting a strange party with some even stranger people. The party is apparently for some secret society, and Richleau and Rex find themselves unwelcome. Promising to leave, they instead head upstairs

Rex and  Tanith drive as far away from Mocata as possible... but is that good enough?

Rex and Tanith drive as far away from Mocata as possible… but is that good enough?

to a room with a pentagram on the floor, chickens in a box, and a telescope pointing towards the soon-to-be-eclipsed moon!

We soon find out that Simon and a young lady named Tanith are the victims of brainwashing and mind control at the hands of the ringleader of the cult, a strange fellow named Mocata. He needs the two youths to reach the right number of people (thirteen, of course) to summon the goat-headed demon from the depths of hell! But Richleau and Rex, who’s fallen in love with young Tanith, will stop at nothing to keep Mocata from

Mocata and the goat-headed demon!

Mocata and the goat-headed demon!

using the two kids to complete his evil plan.

This movie is good, Satanic fun à la Hammer’s 1968 vision. Who wouldn’t want to see Christopher Lee battling the demons of hell?! Frankly, it’s nice to see Lee play the good guy for once. My one complaint is Rex’s character; he is so damn useless and stupid, he made me downright angry by the end of the thing! If I had a nickel for every time Rex did something stupid to endanger the lives of those he’s trying to protect, I’d have at least 25 cents.

 

01
Dec
13

Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996)

The safest way to open the box is by making a robot do it. Clever, Merchant. Clever.

The safest way to open the box is by making a robot do it. Clever, Merchant. Clever.

Ever wonder why that darned box was made in the first place? Or why all the chains? Well my friends, wonder no more! The fourth installment of the Hellraiser franchise will answer these questions and so much more!

Well, it all starts in the 22nd century. No, really. A scientist has commandeered a space station to use for his own purposes: he’s going to raise hell and banish the Cenobites into eternal space! Of course, no one believes him because, really, who would. But he’s got a long story to tell, and a pretty girl to listen to him, and so, here we go…

Seems this scientist is the last in a long line of guys that all look exactly the same and who all have some weird affinity for building things that look like, well, that box from Hellraiser. The troubles began when his great-to-a-high-power grandpappy, Phillip L’Merchant, was commissioned to

Evil powdered-wig guy raises demons!

Evil powdered-wig guy raises demons!

make a puzzle box by a Marquis-de-Sade type in powdered-wig times, Paris. L’Merchant had no idea what his creation would be used for, and he and his growing family desperately needed the money, so he went for it.

Turns out, the box is used to animate the dead corpse of a peasant girl into a demon to do powdered-wig-man’s bidding. L’Merchant is none-too-happy about this and sets off to create an antidote, so-to-speak, but to do so he needs the original box back. Well, of course he doesn’t get it, and the demon, Angelique, curses him and all of his descendants.

Wouldn't be a Hellraiser movie without weird-looking Cenobites.

Wouldn’t be a Hellraiser movie without weird-looking Cenobites.

Then some stuff happens in the 1990’s, and then we’re back on the space station and more stuff happens. The good news (or, perhaps, the bad news, given the disaster Hellraiser 5 turns out to be) is that if you eradicate Pinhead in the 22nd century, we can still make movies about him in the present day!

This movie is not good. I knew it was bad when I saw in the theaters at fifteen-years-old, and it isn’t any better watching it as an adult. That being said, it certainly is not the worst of the Hellraiser flicks. Oh, no, that one, my friends, comes next.




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