Posts Tagged ‘Scary old house


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.


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…


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.


The Evil Dead (1981)

TheEvilDeadposterAfter giving the recent remake of The Evil Dead a fair chance, I had no choice but to pop in the original. It had been a long while sine I’d seen it, or even Evil Dead II, and I needed to refresh my memory before really making a final judgement call on the glossy makeover version. So we dedicated the 27th day of our 31 Days of Horror to the mother of all cabin-in-the-woods horror movies, and it should come as no surprise to anyone on the planet that it far outshines its expensive remake.

A group of friends are taking a little trip into the unknown: a cabin in the middle of nowhere. Ash (Bruce Campbell), his girlfriend Linda and sister Cheryl accompany another couple, Scott and Shelly, for what is supposed to be a relaxing weekend. If only that damn Cheryl wasn’t so uptight, and didn’t freak out when they played this tape recording they found in the basement of an academic reading aloud some weird, old book, they could have had more fun. Or maybe Cheryl was right to be creeped out by the mysterious tape recording…

Indeed, not long after they shut the recording off, there’s a strange rustling out in the woods. What could it be? Perhaps the awakening of a sleeping evil that wants to take the happy-go-lucky-campers’ souls? It would seem so. At the very least there is no doubt it has some pretty nasty intentions once we see

Ash takes on the Evil Dead

Ash takes on the Evil Dead

it tree-rape Cheryl. When she comes back to the cabin, she seems a little off. It isn’t long before the rest of the group realizes something has possessed her, so they throw her into the basement from whence she can spout vindictive, raspy comments in her I’m-possessed voice! Will the group be able to survive the spreading evil?

I like to imagine when people say they enjoy gory horror movies, it’s movies like The Evil Dead they are talking about. As the movie progresses, each scene gets gorier, nastier and bloodier, but its tone is never really mean-spirited. It certainly doesn’t fall under the torture-porn category that is so popular these days; it isn’t watching people suffer for suffering’s sake. Instead, it seems a lot more like a showcase of the

Linda is so pretty!

Linda is so pretty!

special effects and make-up talent behind this movie. The stuff looks great, and what’s so great about it? One, it’s real. I know, I know, you’ve heard it a million times before, but get used to it, because you’re just going to keep hearing it: CG sucks and this movie is prime example of why. Nothing takes the audience out of a movie more than shitty special effects, and there is shitty CG and there is shitty claymation and there is shitty make-up, but of the three I’ll take the latter two over the former any day. Shitty CG is just so lazy, at least I feel if it’s something someone has touched with their hands they at least gave a shit. There is just nothing better than watching real, material special effects unfold in a movie like this. It’s glorious. And it’s even more glorious when the filmmakers manage to make it look good on a low budget; that’s when the true imagination, innovation and talent shines through, and it’s all over The Evil Dead. It’s quite clear why this movie set the template for so many that came after it.

Can Cheryl be contained by her chains?

Can Cheryl be contained by her chains?

Just as I felt silly writing up Evil Dead II, I feel silly writing this one up. If this is a movie you should see, you have already seen it. Though, now that I’m all old and out of touch with the young kids, I wonder – what horror movies are those kids watching? Are movies like The Evil Dead even on their radar? If they aren’t, should I be thankful for the remake in hopes that it piques their interest? I guess the answer is yes. I don’t want horror to die! I want a special-effects and claymation renaissance! Get on it, kids!


Evil Dead (2013)

EvilDead2013PosterWell kids, October is now over. All the people who aren’t horror fans are going to start watching romantic comedies in preparation for the upcoming, gooey holiday season. But we are different than them; for us, the horror doesn’t stop when November comes along. Anyway, being that I have a full-time job and need to do things other than write blog posts, I still have six movies we watched during 31 Days of Horror that I need to write up. Who knows how long it will take, we might be near December by the time I’m done with this damn tag. Anyway, at a certain point we decided it was our duty to watch the Evil Dead remake. Usually, I’d stay away from such things, but since it actually got some decent reviews, I figured I had to see what all the hype was about. So we picked it for day 26. I’m still wondering what all the hype was about.

Surely, you know the story, but this time there are a few tweaks. Instead of just a group of friends going to a cabin for a getaway, it’s a group of friends going to a cabin to make sure their pal Mia (Jane Levy) kicks her drug habit once and for all. Her estranged brother David has taken time out of his busy life to be there for her, too, I guess. Their mom got cancer and died and the dick wasn’t around for either of them, so I guess he decided he could at least support his sister through her delirium tremens, or something.

Mia atop a familiar-looking car.

Mia atop a familiar-looking car.

Anyway, the cabin they go to is supposedly their childhood summer home. Since their family seems to have dissolved into some big, dramatic mess, they haven’t been there for a while. Seems in their absence some witchcraft types took up residence; the basement is loaded with decaying animal carcasses, and the smell is so bad they almost decide to leave then and there. But Mia’s had a rough time with the drugs and all and her friends have decided they’re not going to leave until she’s drooled her last bit of detoxed saliva. David isn’t sure if this is a good idea; he doesn’t want to defy Mia. Their relationship is fragile after he’s dicked her over for all these years. But in the end he knows it’s what’s best for her, and he goes along with the idiot crowd.

As you know, there is a book. It is a book that shouldn’t be read, but it’s going to be read anyway. This time it’s a high school science teacher named Eric who becomes absorbed in the thing and decides to read it out loud, even though

That book looks scary. Let's read it out loud!

That book looks scary. Let’s read it out loud!

every single page of the damn thing warns him not to do so. His utterances awaken an ages-old demon that possesses and kills the group one by one. If only they hadn’t mistaken Mia’s post-tree-rape trauma for withdrawal, perhaps they could’ve gotten out of there in time…

I’ll be honest with you, I didn’t hate this remake. There were times I even caught myself enjoying this movie, and unlike the original I kind of felt skeeved out by the time I was getting to bed. The trouble is, being that the film is titled Evil Dead it will never be separated from the original, and therefore can never (at least in my mind) be considered actually good. It just baffles me a little bit that people who obviously enjoyed the original film and constantly wink at those in the know throughout their own version of it would actually make a film like this. It just doesn’t feel like they every really decide if they want it to have any humor or not. I found myself watching scenes with my head cocked a little thinking ‘is that funny?’ and never really coming to any conclusions. The addition of family drama and the addiction thing add too much weight;

Jane Levy is pretty good at making a scared face.

Jane Levy is pretty good at making a scared face.

it’s just unnecessary backstory the film could do without. It certainly doesn’t help that all of these people are helpless, idiotic assholes that I don’t give a shit about. All of them.

The other trouble is, it is just too damn gory. It’s gleefully gory, but without any glee, really. In other contexts in other films I would have laughed, but here I just found myself wincing, and by the end I’m like… blood rain? Really? Oof. And just as it seems the filmmakers couldn’t decide when enough gore was enough, it also seems they couldn’t figure out when the fuck to end the god damn movie. I think there were about three times that I thought: okay, okay, this is finally gonna be the end, right? I was wrong each time. And on that note, the ending they decided to go with was stupid anyway!

My thoughts on Evil Dead sound harsher than I think they really are. Like I said, I didn’t hate the thing, but I don’t think I liked it all that much. In fact, we are debating on whether or not it is worth keeping our copy of the DVD. I can’t picture a time when I would want to sit down and watch this massacre again, that’s what I own the original for. Ultimately, what this movie really lacks is charm. The first Evil Dead is loaded with charm, and that’s what helps make it stand the test of time. This remake just proves my theory that money ruins everything. All this being said, if you are a crazy gore hound, this movie’s out to please you. If it doesn’t sate your thirst for nail guns and electric-knife amputations, you are a truly sick individual.


House II: The Second Story (1987)

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.

Perhaps ten years ago, I got into a conversation with a co-worker about Weekend at Bernie’s II (1993). I listened incredulously to his description of the plot: a voodoo witch puts a curse on Bernie’s corpse, such that it dances towards a buried treasure whenever music plays near it. The hapless friends tasked in the first movie with pretending their friend is still alive now are tasked with keeping the world from finding out that their friend is a boogieing zombie. It seemed hard to believe that there was a movie out there that would live up to the promise that description offered for over-the-top hijinx. When a while later I got my hands on a copy, I found out that, indeed, Weekend at Bernie’s II didn’t. A while later, though, I found myself in a situation where I was watching through a healthy backlog of movies at a clip, and made a double feature of the Sean Cunningham-produced House (1986) and House II: The Second Story. While House didn’t do a lot for me (it couldn’t settle on a tone, and seemed like its best bits were done better in Evil Dead II — sorry, Fred Dekker!), House II was a revelation: THIS was the zombie buddy-comedy that I’d been hoping for all this time… the Weekend at Bernie’s II  that delivered on its promise. We watched it again for Katy’s first time as the 25th movie in the 31 Days of Horror.

house 2 thai

A Thai poster. Not as cool as the disembodied hand ringing the doorbellon the VHS jacket, but more in line with what this flick holds in store…

In the 1950s, a couple that lives in a creepy house give their baby away for safekeeping just minutes before a nightmarish figure (voiced by Fred Welker, using the same voice he used for Darkseid on Super Friends) kills them both. In October of 1986, that baby, now grown, comes back to claim his birthright. He is Jesse McLaughlin, an up-and-coming artist, and he and his music-biz girlfriend Kate have come to make the family mansion into their new home away from the city. Before too long, they’re joined by Jesse’s meathead “entrepreneur” best friend Charlie (Fright Night‘s jonathan Stark) and his aspirant rockstar girlfriend. After only a few minutes have passed in screentime, Jesse explains that he’s named for his great-great grandfather, who was a bandit in the old west, and who built the house they now live in. Seems the elder Jesse had found one of the legendary Mayan crystal skulls along with his partner,  the ominously-named Slim Razor. When great-great Jesse absconded with the skull, Slim felt he’d been cheated. The younger Jesse and Charlie figure that there are big bucks in it for them if they can find the skull, and rashly decide it must have been buried with the elder Jesse. Why not dig him up? So they do, the night before Halloween… and that’s when the REAL fun begins.

Look! It´s a prehistoric bird...

Jesse, Charlie, and a prehistroric bird

I won’t say too much more, but it should come as no surprise that the elder Jesse isn’t dead at all — he’s been kept alive by the mystic powers of the skull, and is played delightfully by Royal Dano. Grandpa Jesse explains that the house has been designed as a temple for the skull, and that it acts as a gateway to alternate universes. They all have to work to keep it out of the wrong hands… This state of affairs — zombie grandfather, dimensional gateways — is something the fellows decide is best kept from an increasingly incensed Kate (who’s being egged on by her lecherous asshole boss, played by a young Bill Mahr), and leads to all sorts of wacky cross-time adventures. This movie at times feels like the pilot for an especially zany Sunday-afternoon adventure show of the sort produced by Sam Raimi in the ’90s, by way of a multiple-camera sitcom of the same period. It’s stupid, and even childish, but never really mean-spirited or cruel.  It gets away with its increasingly outrageous twists through charm and goodwill, and some moments that feel really heartfelt in the midst of the silliness. It’s no surprise, perhaps, that Slim continues to be a threat, but Cheers‘ John Ratzenberger’s guest appearance as an electrician with a helpful sideline comes as an unexpected delight. While, sure, it isn’t horror in the strictest sense, this seemed like a nice break from the gialli that we’d most recently consumed. Even Katy, who holds the ’86 House in high regard, was charmed by this one.


The whole House II gang… at least, all the regular humans

Don’t expect anything groundbreaking, scary, or intellectual here — it’s dumb laughs. But, like the Japanese House (1977) that I prefer to imagine this is the sequel to — this movie has nothing to do eith either other than its loose haunted house premise — this film is made all the better by virtue of its light spirit and easy demeanor.


The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave (1971)

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 Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave has such a good cover, we bought it twice.  Maybe that’s not true; maybe my pal Grant had given me a copy at some point in the past, and I’d forgotten about it. But, whatever the reason, we ended up with two copies right around when we figured out what we’d be watching for this Fall’s 31 Days of Horror, and into the running it went. We watched it as title 20 of the series.

the-night-evelyn-came-out-of-the-grave-3Before I tell you about how it fared, check out that cover! It’s great! It’s got most of what you’d want in horror packaging: a scantily-dressed lady–a scantily-dressed lady with a skull head — holding an almost tasteful severed head. When I was a kid (much like Panos Cosmatos) I was fascinated by the jackets to the VHS horror films my parents wouldn’t let me watch. Because of my rather limited frame of reference, I often imagined them as more intense Scooby Doo episodes — lots of pursuit by monsters. When I was older and able to pursue such things myself, I realized that most weren’t like that (the closest I’ve gotten to that platonic childhood sense is Tobe Hooper’s The Funhouse). Why am I sharing all of this? Because the jacket art to Evelyn is really great, and looks exactly like the sort of movie I’d like to watch.

Unfortuntely, the movie itself isn’t much to write home about.

To cut right to the chase, Evelyn in practice isn’t too far from Scooby Doo in the broadest strokes of its plot — I’m going to be spoiler-y here since I don’t think the reveals are all that shocking — we’re in territory that was well-explored, and better, by the likes of Dominique is Dead or, perhaps most exceptionally, by Henri Cluzot’s Les Diaboliques: a plot to frighten a lightweight into being scared to death. We get there in Evelyn by way of a by-the-numbers ’70s giallo, with all of the misogyny that entails.

Killing some braod, like you do. Though it's not impossible to have a libale protagonist who is also a conflicted killer, this flick doesn't even try.

Killing some broad, like you do. Though it’s not impossible to have a viable protagonist who is also a conflicted killer, this flick doesn’t even try.

In this case, the movie begins with our “hero,” the decadent and troubled Lord Alan Cunningham, bringing a comely redhead to his rotting Gothic estate somewhere outside of London. He takes her down to his torture chamber and tortures and kills her. Hey! Wow! Can’t wait to see him get his comeuppance! (Spoiler alert: he doesn’t). Seems sometime in the past, Lord Alan had a redhead — his late wife Evelyn — cheat on him, and he killed her for it. Now, he’s trapped in a terrible cycle of finding and killing more redheads to somehw assuage/amplify his guilt. Everyone in his life — his psychiatrist/childhood best friend, his playboy cousin, his crippled, very young aunt, his lawyer — knows he’s got this problem, and while they’re all troubled by it to varying degrees, the only one who seems to hold him at all accountable is Albert, the estate’s groundskeeper and Lord Alan’s brother-in-law. Albert is always there, watching Lord Alan’s murderous dalliances, sneeringly taking Lord Alan’s pay-offs to keep quiet. It seems only a matter of time before he gets his revenge…

Meanwhile, Aunt Agatha holds a seance to bring back Evelyn’s spirit — and it works! This is all too much for Alan. The doctor says he needs regularity in his life — he should consider marriage. Maybe that will let him work his issues out.

His cousin takes him to a fancy-dress party where Alan is immediately smitten by yet another redhead, whom he proposes to before they’ve even left. Everyone in Alan’s life takes this in stride; they think she’s awfully well-mannered indeed. That, i guess, is the only qualification that need be had to marry the lunatic patriarch.

Evelyn's come out  of the grave! THIS is the night they were talking about!! ...Or was it?

Evelyn’s come out of the grave! THIS is the night they were talking about!! …Or was it?

Strange things start happening — the new wife discovers Evelyn isn’t in the family crypt, Albert is killed by a venomous snake by a mysterious assailant, Aunt Agatha gets up and walks without explanation, and then is killed and thrown to Alan’s pet foxes by a mysterious assailant… Some one, or some group of someones has something afoot, though damned if any of the pieces seem to fit together (Spoiler alert: they don’t).

This movie does have some wonderfully atmospheric locations and sets to play with — the aforementioned torture chamber and fancy-dress party both look stellar, as does the rotting family crypt and gardens around it. The fashions and hairstyles of both sexes are top-of-the-line mod/psychedelic, and reflect a vision of Swinging London that we here at Schlockwave find almost irresistably alluring. That’s not to say exactly that the movie looks good — the camera placements are a mess, and a series of bad decisions were made in the editing room that manage to squander what seems to be this movie’s only real resource. It’s hard to believe this movie was handled behind the camera by folks who’d  made anything professionally before.

I’d say that’s a pity, but this movie left me awfully frustrated. Beyond the first act, we seem to have been meant to view Lord Alan sympathetically… which is awfully hard to do once he’s mercilessly killed a few redheads. When he’s driven to madness and death, I wasn’t sad at all to see him go. And, when his death turns out to be a ruse to expose the plot that had been cooked up by the new wife, one of the redheads we thought was dead (?), and the playboy cousin, I couldn’t have been more disappointed. Their “sins” pretty well pale in comparison to his… and in the reactionary logic of horror generally and giallo specifically, doesn’t that emminently qualify Lord Alan for a really juicy bit of narrative justice? Not here, it doesn’t.

So, should you run across a copy of The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave, take a moment and drink in that cover art. It looks so good! But, you can safely skip watching it, not to mention buying it — let alone buying it twice.


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.


Hellraiser: Hellworld (2005)

Up to this point, this year’s iteration of 31 Days of Horror has offered up a pretty darn good list of horror flicks. It’s about time we had a real stinker, and Day 9 more than delivers that. Remember when I warned y’all that I was going to intentionally make the mistake of watching the rest of the Hellraiser series, even after Hellraiser: Inferno insulted my intelligence? Well, I’m a woman of my word folks; when I saw Hellworld on sale for $3 I figured it was time to bite the bullet. After all, Lance Henriksen is in it, so it can’t be that bad, right? Sigh… sometimes my optimism needs a reality check.
This computer game's menu is a little outdated, even for 2005.

This computer game’s menu is a little outdated, even for 2005.

So, this is when Hellraiser attempts to go meta, sort of. The film takes place in a world where the Hellraiser movies are a thing that everyone knows and loves, and there’s a computer game and everything! I’m not exactly sure what the stupid game entails, but I do know that some kid named Adam “took it too far,” doused himself in gasoline and set himself on fire. All of his friends are on a major guilt-trip, because they watched him get consumed by the game and sat back and did nothing. The only guy who seems to really feel super bad about it is this little twerp named Jake who freaks out on everyone at Adam’s funeral. Jake and his asshole friends consider themselves to bet he only “family” that Adam had, since his father was pretty much absent for most of his childhood, and I guess the mom is crazy or something? Whatever, within the first five minutes it is already apparent that we aren’t going to care about any of the characters.

Anyway, whatever, the four jackasses obviously didn’t learn their lesson and two years later are still hung up on Hellworld. If you can solve a particular puzzle with the puzzle box online, you get a special invitation to a Hellworld party! Despite our heroine (if you want to call her that) Chelsea’s reservations, she agrees it would be totally awesome to go to a Hellworld party, and so the  foursome head on over to some scary old house, where surprise, surprise, their old pal Jake shows up, too!  Looks like our host (Lance Henriksen) knew how to target all the right Hellworld fans. As the group convenes in the hallway, Henriksen invites them into a special room where he serves them questionable beverages and shows them fetuses in jars and stuff. So spooky. So edgy. Let’s party!

As I’m sure you’ve guessed by now, this party isn’t just fun and games. One by one, each unlikable asshole meets a pathetic end, seemingly at the hands of Pinhead. These fools stroll around the house, opening

Ladies and gents: your edgy host.

Ladies and gents: your edgy host.

doors you obviously shouldn’t be opening. Their curiosity kills them in the end, and the only two we are left with are Chelsea and Jake. When they set their feeble minds to work at figuring out just what the hell is going on at this “party” they start putting the pieces together. What they find results in one of the most unsatisfying and stupid endings to any horror movie I’ve ever seen, except, perhaps, Hellraiser: Inferno. Turns out, Henriksen is actually Adam’s father and is seeking revenge on all the kids whom he blames for his child’s death, even though he didn’t give a shit about his kid while he was alive, or even after he died; the scumbag couldn’t even make it to the kid’s funeral. Makes a whole lot of sense, right? But it gets better: he drugged the kids and then buried them alive, and everything we watched was nothing but a hallucination! Pinhead didn’t kill them, see, they killed themselves! Seriously. Wow. That is lame. Really, really lame.

It is truly amazing how easily dumbed down a great premise like Hellraiser can be. I know all too well that, usually, the quality of a franchise plunges the higher the sequel number, but holy bejeezus, I’ve never

Oh, if you care, Henry Cavill is in this.

Oh, if you care, Henry Cavill is in this.

seen anything quite as bad as the plummet from Hellraiser’s best films to the last two (maybe even three, Hellbound wasn’t so hot, either, but at least it wasn’t a total wreck) I’ve watched. The folks writing these films are literally given a premise and world in which to work, and they still can’t come up with anything worthwhile. There are many directions Hellworld could have taken, and a lot of them would have been a lot more interesting than what they decided to go with in the end.

While watching the movie, I have to say I was wondering why the hell Pinhead was using such lame methods to kill these kids. I thought the whole premise of Pinhead and the Cenobites is that they enjoyed bringing pain by way of torture to their victims. That’s not what we’re presented with here; instead we get a simple slashing of the throat or, perhaps the most egregious knock at Pinhead yet: decapitation by way of cleaver. Seriously? Even the kids in this movie should have known better than to think that Pinhead would use a cleaver to kill them. There is just no imagination whatsoever in this movie. And it looks like shit. And the characters are assholes, so who gives a shit if they die anyway?
This is wrong on so many levels. For the same reasons Captain America shouldn't use guns, Pinhead shouldn't use cleavers!

This is wrong on so many levels. For the same reasons Captain America shouldn’t use guns, Pinhead shouldn’t use cleavers!

Another thing I wondered while watching Hellworld: does Doug Bradley actually read the scripts of these sequels, or does he just show up, do a few takes, and leave? How much are they paying him to act in these films? It must be so sad to remember what it was like to have an interesting, meaty role in a horror film and then have to turn around and say a few cheesy lines as the same character just to take home a paycheck. His screen-time is probably shorter than the time it takes for him to get all that make-up on. On a related note, if I were Clive Barker I’d politely ask to have my name removed from such films. If you are considering, even for a second, that this movie is worth your time, please think again. It isn’t. It isn’t worth the plastic it’s printed on. It’s probably not worth the time I spent writing this post, either. Just say no.


Elvira’s Haunted Hills (2001)

31 Days of Horror 2014, Day 3: Elvira’s Haunted Hills! Thirteen years after Elvira: Mistress of the Dark, Cassandra Peterson and John Paragon team up once again in another campy horror parody starring Peterson’s boobs. This time it’s 1851, and Elvira and her right-hand woman Zou Zou travel through the Carpathian mountains on their way to Paris, where Elvira hopes to become a can-can star. But traveling through the mountains at night can be a very scary enterprise, especially for two buxom ladies!

Elvira & the good Dr. Bradley Bradley

Elvira & the good Dr. Bradley Bradley

It’s a good thing the dashing young doctor Bradley Bradley swoops in and saves the day, offering to bring the ladies to Castle Hellsubus, where they can get a good night’s sleep (or, you know, not). Naturally, the castle is nothing more than a host for horrors, including Lord Vladimere Hellsubus (Richard O’Brien) himself! But what’s scarier is the fact that our Mistress of the Dark looks an awful lot like the deceased Lady Hellsubus. Elvira’s presence brings bad memories to the forefront. Can Elvira and Zou Zou survive Vladimere and his castle of terror?!

Elvira not Elvira!

Elvira not Elvira!

This movie is basically a send-up of the Roger Corman/Vincent Price/Edgar Allan Poe set; you’ll see scenes straight out of The Pit and the PendulumFall of the House of Usher, Tomb of Ligeia, among others. Of course, these scenes have a lot more cleavage. I think it’s fair to say there’s a pretty small set of folks who will enjoy this film. First and foremost, you gotta be into tit jokes, because they’re all over the place. This works well for me; they never get old, and I just love the shit out of Elvira. Second, of course it helps if your familiar with older horror movies from the early 60’s, but even if you don’t know the exact movies that are quoted here, you’ll still recognize the tropes for sure.

Elvira & Vlad, out for a cemetery stroll...

Elvira & Vlad, out for a cemetery stroll…

Unfortunately, though it is amusing, Haunted Hills doesn’t come close to being the awesome flick Mistress is. I guess that magic was just a little too hard to recreate? Or is it that my expectations where high after being so pleasantly surprised by Mistress? Either way, I certainly don’t regret seeing Haunted Hills, and would gladly put it on for a Halloween party. It certainly isn’t a bad way to spend a day in October. Richard O’Brien overacts to a tee and is a complete joy to watch. And might I say again how awesome Cassandra Peterson is? Sure, some of the jokes may fall flat, but she knows exactly what’s up. And damn, woman looks good!


Elvira: Mistress of the Dark (1988)

Elvira can't help it; she was born this way.

Elvira can’t help it; she was born this way.

I’m a little bit of a late bloomer: it took me 30 years to meet the man I married, 31 years to get my Driver’s License, 32 years until I learned what bukkake meant (ahem, not by experience, mind you), and, perhaps most shocking of all, 33 years until I finally saw Elvira: Mistress of the Dark. In short, my thirties have been wonderful (and educational); I’ve learned that some things are worth waiting for. Elvira is one of them.

Fresh off a Pee Wee’s Playhouse marathon, we decided to change the tune a little bit and flipped on this flick. Lo and behold, John Paragon (also known as Jambi the Genie from the aforementioned Playhouse) has a cameo and co-wrote it! Synchronicity!

Elvira’s job as a bad-movies-on-tv hostess just isn’t doing it for her anymore, so she’s decided to pack it all up and do a show in Vegas. Elvira and Vegas seem a match made in heaven, but there’s a catch: the

She's a little clumsy, too!

She’s a little clumsy, too!

producers need her to come up with a large chunk of cash that she just doesn’t have. Perhaps the estate bequeathed to her by her recently-departed (and unknown-to-her) Great Aunt Morgana will yield the dollars she needs?

Or, perhaps not! Elvira must travel all the way to Fallwell, Massachusetts for the reading of the will, where she encounters her greedy Uncle Vincent and a “Morality Club” hell-bent on getting Elvira’s cleavage out of their chaste town! But when Elvira learns that her Great Aunt Morgana wasn’t just your average old lady, things really get cooking, and Elvira turns the town upside down!

But she sure knows how to put the fun back into that morality picnic...

But she sure knows how to put the fun back into that morality picnic…

Well, a movie like Elvira can really only be one of two things: hilariously stupid or just plain stupid. Lucky for us all, it falls into the first category. It’s chock-full of suggestive puns and cleavage, but benign enough to have earned a PG-13 rating. It’s the kind of movie I would have watched a thousand times as a kid, with half the jokes sailing over my head. It’s exactly the kind of movie I like to stumble upon, and I seriously cannot believe it hasn’t crossed my path until this recently. I can’t say I’m surprised that Cassandra Peterson and the film itself were nominated for Razzies, but the truth is I kind of am: I feel as though Elvira accomplished all the goals it set out to in exactly the ways it wanted to. What’s so bad about bad puns, anyway?


The Conjuring (2013)

Honestly, I didn't know they had five kids until this shot.

Honestly, I didn’t know they had five kids until this shot.

Well, the ghost story has struck again. This time, it’s The Conjuring that had me clutching stuffed animals from my childhood to my face in hopes of stifling my screams. Now, it is important to note that a ghost story doesn’t have to be particularly good, or even particularly scary for that matter, to work on me like a charm. It just takes a little “boo” here and there and I turn into a pile of fear jelly.

The Conjuring is supposedly based on a true story. The same “paranormal investigators” that inspired The Amityville Horror and A Haunting in Connecticut, Ed & Lorraine Warren, are behind this one, too. This time, they’re called upon by a woman in absolute desperation: she and her family (husband, five girls) are being terrorized in their new home. Selling the thing is out of the question; they sunk all their money into the place.

Ugh, creepy toy!

Ugh, creepy toy!

Her children can’t sleep, and she is covered in mysterious bruises, which she blames on anemia. Lorraine Warren has a different suspicion, though, and despite her husband’s reservations is determined to help the family in need. Her research yields terrifying results; you’ll have to watch (or heck, read Wikipedia for the details) that lead to plenty of screams and spilled popcorn.

Yes, this movie scared the crap out of me. Surprisingly, I did not suffer nightmares or the need to run from the bathroom to my bed in the middle of the night like I did after The Innkeepers. Perhaps part of the reason for that is the movie kind of gets a little ridiculously over the top towards the end, or it just might be that the build-up is always more exciting to me than the actual ghost-human

Mr. Livingston, you should have stayed in the office.

Mr. Livingston, you should have stayed in the office.

confrontation. And, since The Innkeepers is 95% build-up, that would explain why it’s scarier to me, and more effective than this movie. But, if you like ghost stories, you shouldn’t miss this; it is pretty standard, but it does its job pretty well.

Ghosts aside, though, the costume and set design is a mid-century cream dream! The film is set in 1971, and the clothing, the kitchenware, the furniture, everything is just to die for. I think I actually said a few times I’d live in that horrible, terrifying, haunted house if it came fully-equipped with that gorgeous freaking kitchen! This is probably not going to be a distraction for most viewers, but for me, it actually helped make me feel a little more at ease when I know I was supposed to be tensing up. I wonder if I’m the only one that felt the urge to hit up etsy after watching this?


Old Wave