Trailer Tuesday!

Happy Birthday to Me (1981)

Trailer Tuesday!

Madhouse aka There Was A Little Girl aka And When She Was Bad (1981)

Trailer Tuesday!

Sisters (1973)

Movie Poster Monday!

Poltergeist (1982)

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Germany

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Japan

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Turkey

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Movie Review – Dark was the Night (2014)

 

This one has been sitting in my Netflix queue for a while now.  It sounded interesting, but I just hadn’t pulled the trigger and sat down to watch it.  But I was bored and it was the only thing on my list that looked the least bit interesting so I thought “what the hell”.  I’m kind of glad that I Posterdid.

A small town sheriff is forced to investigate what he assumes is a series of pranks all while strange events keep plaguing his community.  All of the game in the woods surrounding them mysteriously disappears and even the local pets start to turn up missing.  He starts getting calls about prowlers and strange tracks start showing up all over town.  Of course eventually he figures out that there is something in the darkness that is scary and dangerous.  Sadly this doesn’t happen until they are in the middle of a huge snowstorm that has isolated them from the rest of the world.  So he and the remaining inhabitants who didn’t evacuate now have to hide in the most secure building, the local church, until the storm passes.

tracksThe story here has all the tropes that I’ve come to expect in a horror movie made in the last 40 plus years.  We have a main character that has suffered a personal tragedy, here the sheriff’s son died while he was watching him.  This causes a rift with his wife and remaining son that threatens to derail their family life.  You also have the new guy in town, Donny, the deputy that has baggage of his own from losing a partner and being shot before moving from the big city.  Toss in some uncooperative locals who come around eventually and a love interest for Donny and you have pretty much what you would expect.

CastThat said when a movie like this is done well I still rather enjoy it.  Dark was the Night gives me exactly that I thought it would (with one glaring exception I’ll talk about later) and was entertaining.  The story is solidly written and the acting is very good.  I especially like Lucas Haas as Donnie.  He manages to convey a whole lot without too much dialogue.  Story wise I liked that while we get mentions of both the Sheriff as well as Donnie’s past tragedies it doesn’t drag on and bog the action down.  While the movie is a slow burn it progressively builds tension with quickly moving shadows and horrors only being hinted at.  And it doesn’t use cheap jump scares.  Hell everything was awesome until we finally see the creature.

creatureDark was the Night is a creature feature.  I’ve said it every time I’ve reviewed a flick from this subgenre that you have to have a good creature to make it work.  Everything about this movie is top notch except the creature.  You get a few shots with actual latex feet or claws interacting with the cast and scenery, but the rest is CGI.  Not even good CGI.  The creatures move awkwardly around the screen and clearly aren’t really there.  They smash around but the filmmakers make no effort to actually rig the furniture to move in the shot.  All the damage that does happen is off screen and is seen after the fact.  Seriously you are in a church, tie a rope to the pew and sync it up with the CGI creature you will add later.  The design was bad as well.  The texture of the CGI creature doesn’t match the prop claws and feet they use.

Because the rest of the movie is executed so well I still will recommend Dark Was the Night in spite of having a bad creature.  Still I’m very frustrated because they were so close to having a great movie on their hands.

Trailer Tuesday!

Phantasm (1979)

Trailer Tuesday!

Tenebrae (1982)

Trailer Tuesday!

The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1974)

Movie Poster Monday!

Raw Meat aka Death Line (1972)

US

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France

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Germany

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UK

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Movie Review – Black Sunday (1960)

Black Sunday stars a very young and beautiful Barbara Steele as both a young woman and the 200 year old witch trying to steal her body away from her.  The movie opens with us seeing a witch being burnt alive with her henchman/lover.  Only it rains so they can’t burn her!  So instead they bury her in a crypt.  A couple hundred years later she breaks free and starts plotting Black Sunday posterher revenge against the ancestors of those that killed her.  Part of this plan includes stealing the life of her own ancestor so that she can live again!  Luckily for her a doctor is traveling nearby and is able to figure out something is up.

This is a great movie.  The story is classic and is paced very well.  They waste no time setting up the character of the witch and then move right into the revenge plot.  Too many of these old gothic movies spend far too much time showing you the sets and costumes.  But Black Sunday is all about the characters and story.  There isn’t a scene that I can think of that doesn’t movie the plot along and is important.  I’ve seen this movie many times and it always holds my attention.  The performances are very good in spite of the sometimes bad dubbing.  This is especially so of the lovely Barbara Steele in her dual roles.  Now to be fair some viewers might not like the melodramatic approach that isn’t in favor any more with modern Black Sunday Maskdirectors/actors.  It is always a trap that audiences don’t take into account when a movie was made and approach watching it accordingly.  But I judge Black Sunday by the standards of the time in which it was made, and it is perfect.

Mario Bava was a genius filmmaker when it came to giving the audience something amazing to watch.  This goes beyond the traditional plot and character.  He used the camera to help set the tone and tell the story as well as anyone has ever done.  Right from the start when you have the iconic shot of the mask closing in on the camera with the spikes coming right towards you it is clear that something special is happening.  Bava Black Sunday henchmanuses the gothic setting and the castle to create shadows and play with the viewer’s expectations.  There is another scene where a character literally appears out of the shadows behind his victim.  Today this would have been pulled off with some bad CGI effect, but in Black Sunday it is all skill on the set.  Really this might be the greatest shot black and white movie that I’ve ever seen.

There is a nice Blu-Ray of this movie.  I remember watching this on late night TV growing up and I have to say the transfer on the new disc is damn amazing.  But I’m still going to push getting the Bava Box set.  I mean the transfer is decent and you get 4 more Bava movies to watch!

Bava Box SetWell that wraps up Bava week here at Screamzine.  I hope you enjoyed my reviews and more importantly they inspired you to either revisit or check out Bava’s work.  The man was a genius filmmaker who made some of the best movies I have ever seen.

 

Movie Review – Bay of Blood (aka. Twitch of the Death Nerve) (1971)

Review two of Bava week here at Screamzine and I picked another favorite of mine.  This Giallo feels like an early Italian entry into the slasher genre with some suspiciously familiar kills.  Time to talk about Bay of Blood.

The movie starts off just like a traditional Giallo, complete with the black-gloved killer.  We see Bay of Blood Posteran older woman in a wheel chair being stalked and finally killed.  But shockingly the camera pans up above the killer’s black gloves and his face is revealed!  Why does the movie show us the killer so quickly?  Well that is because another person dispatches him quickly.  This sets up the mystery of the movie.  Basically you have this Bay surrounded by some expensive property that was owned by the woman that was killed in the opening.  There are several people interested in how valuable the land and her estate are.  So we have many suspects.  Though they do get picked off one at a time, as well as anyone who has the misfortune of showing up for a swim!

The twists are one of the reasons that I love Bay of Blood so much.  You start watching and get what is expected from a Giallo but then the movie takes off in unexpected directions.  You really never know who is doing the killing until the movie is nearly over.  When it is revealed it makes sense and is satisfying.  Though Bava saves another unexpected and fun twist for the last scenes of the movie.  From start to finish there is always something interesting on screen making Bay of Blood quite a bit of fun to watch.  I don’t really want to talk much more about the plot and spoil it.

Let me talk some about the talent behind the camera.  First of all I need to talk about director Bay of Blood squidmondMario Bava.  Whether his films are in black and white or in color like Bay of Blood they have a unique visual style.  The camera is always moving around, either panning over the scenery or following the cast in thru the buildings.  This makes the movie as interesting visually as the plot is.  This is especially true of the 1st 7 minutes of the movie where the woman is stalked and the story is setup without a single line of dialogue being uttered.  Yet the movie still has the ability to grab the audience’s attention and keep it.  Also I wanted to mention how well the music is paired up with the action on the screen.  Between the camera work and the score this movie is chocked full of atmosphere.

Bay of Blood pointyOf course one of the reasons that most genre fans talk about Bay of Blood are the effects and kills.  Quite simply they were ahead of their time in both exaction and brutality.  Characters are killed off in rather nasty ways like blades to the face and getting skewered in bed.  I don’t know but I find these very inspirational and memorable.  I mean who could forget these kinds of scenes…  Just saying it, now I’ll move on.  There is also a neat bit with a squid on the face that was oddly creepy.  If you haven’t figured it out yet the gore hounds will be pleased.

Bava Box Set 2If you haven’t’ taken the time to check out Bay of Blood and you consider yourself a fan of the horror genre you really must do so now.  This is another excellent reason to get your hands on the Bava Box set volume 2!

Movie Review – Black Sabbath (1963)

 

Of all the theme weeks that my man Charlie has picked this has to be my favorite so far.  I’m a huge fan of Mario Bava and any excuse to revisit his movies is a welcome one.  I thought that I’d pick one of my favorites to kick off the reviews.  How about we dig into Black Sabbath.

This is an anthology made up of three stories with a fun wrap around featuring Boris Karloff, Black Sabbath posterwho also stars in the second of the three shorts.  The first is called The Telephone.  In this one we see a beautiful young woman returning from a night on the town.  Well at least that is how she is dressed.  She starts getting phone calls from a mysterious man that threatens to kill her.  He also has knowledge that could only be gotten if he was watching her.  She panics and calls her girlfriend to come over.  This leads to an interesting twist that itself has a twist!

Of the three stories in Black Sabbath this is my least favorite.  It isn’t a bad story, but it drags a bit.  There isn’t much tension and lacks any scares.  Everything that should be scary isn’t because it is given away too soon.  For example there is a scene where someone is sneaking up on a victim.  Instead of shocking the audience with a sudden attack we get to see the person sneaking up slowly long before their victim knows.  Oh and the big reveal and twist is presented in a really disappointing way.

Black Sabbath KarloffNext up is my favorite of the three.  This one stars Boris Karloff and is called The Wurdulak.  It is an interesting take on the vampire genre.  Here Karloff stars as the patriarch of a family that lives in the middle of nowhere.  A stranger rides up to their house and lets the family know that he discovered a headless body (which he decided to bring along with him…).  They tell him that their father (Karloff’s character) went looking for a killer that was terrorizing the area.  Since the body had his dagger in its back it appears he got his man.  But he still hasn’t returned.  When he does it is clear that something is wrong with him.  See he has the same curse the killer had.

I really dig this one.  First up Karloff is genius.  The way he moves around the scenes and looks at the other characters is so effective.  He is able to give off a menacing vibe without trying too hard and is genuinely scary.  Since he is the “monster” this works very well.  Bava also does a great job of creating an atmosphere with the sets, lighting, and fog that only adds to the fun.  I don’t think that I’ve ever seen a filmmaker that was able to create such an amazing gothic feel to his films as Mario Bava.  The Wurdulak is such a pleasure to watch and reminds me why I love this hobby so much.

The Drop of Water is the final story in the anthology.  This might be the creepiest of the three and has the best scare.  In this story we see that a nurse is called in the middle of the night to help prepare the body of a woman that has died.  She arrives at a rundown estate to discover the Black Sabbath creepy chickold woman had died with a horrific look on her face.  It seems that she dabbled in the spirit world and they might have killed her.  The nurse is skeptical of this, but does notice the woman has an expensive ring on her finger.  Since the woman has no family to notice, she decides to take it.  This turns out to be a big mistake because the spirits aren’t happy with her at all.

First up the makeup job on the old woman is very simple but really creepy.  I can’t do it justice but has to be seen to be believed.  This simple makeup is used to great effect by Bava as it appears several times to “punctuate” a scene.  This helps to build up tension until the last sequence in the nurse’s apartment where she gets her reward for stealing from the dead.  In addition to the makeup Bava uses sound, in this case a drop of water dripping loudly, to further put the audience on edge.  And of course the lighting and camera work are top notch making The Drop of Water even more fun.

Bava Box SetThere is a nice Blu-Ray of this movie available but for my money I’d track down the Bava Box set that contains this and several other great movies.  The Blu-Ray has a nice transfer, but is lacking in special features so you really aren’t missing much.

Trailer Tuesday!

Kill, baby… kill! (1966)

Trailer Tuesday!

Shock (1977) aka Beyond The Door II

Trailer Tuesday!

Baron Blood (1972)

Movie Poster Monday!

La ragazza che sapeva troppo (1963) aka Evil Eye

US

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Belgium

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Italy

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Spain

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Movie Review – The Church (1989)

So I’m a sucker for Italian cinema, especially anything that Dario Argento is involved in, here as

thechurch the producer and writer.  Over the last 10 years I binge watched everything or so I thought.  I realized that somehow I had managed to not watch the Church in spite of having owned it for years.  I mean in my defense it is in a box set so I probably just forgot.  Regardless I have rectified that situation.

The movie opens with a bunch of Templar Knights wiping out a village.  Seems that they think they are demon possessed.  Anyway after dumping them in a mass grave they are ordered to build a church over it to consecrate the ground and keep the evil contained.  We then jump ahead to today (today being the ‘80s) to follow the churches new librarian on his first day of work.  Thru a parchment his lady friend discovers he believes there is something amazing buried beneath the church.  Sure enough he unleashes the evil just in time to trap a bunch of innocent people inside the now locked down sanctuary with it.  Much mayhem ensues.

Fish MonsterThis is a solid movie with a decent cast, a very good director, and was clearly influenced by a legendary filmmaker serving as the producer.  I thought the story was interesting and plays out pretty well on screen.  The narrative jumps around a bit and can be confusing if you aren’t paying attention.  But that is typical with Italian horror movies.  There are a couple of sequences that almost feel like they were included just so a nifty scene could be shot.  Not to sound pretentious but when Argento or any of his protégés are involved in a movie it is going to look very pretty, even at the detriment to the plot.  Here it isn’t too bad and director Soavi keeps things moving along while still giving a few stunning visuals.  There is one brief scene that was inspired by a disturbing medieval woodcarving.  This is a perfect example of what I mentioned above.  We have a couple characters that are introduced whose only purpose is to setup this one visual.  But it has stuck with me so it was worth it.

The effects work in The Church is rather tame.  We get a couple of bloody bits but for the most Horny Demonpart it is mostly one creature.  This isn’t a gory movie at all, especially compared to many of the Giallos and other creature movies Argento was involved in.  Of course I say this and we get a disembowelment by jackhammer and a heart ripped from a chest!  I think I might be desensitized to movie violence…

As I was poking around I read that this was at one point considered to be another Demons sequel (also produced by Argento who produces here as well).  But the director Michele Soavi didn’t want his movie associated with those.  Not sure why because this plays out exactly like the two entries into Demons.  You have a group of people trapped in a location, if they get bitten or scratched by a possessed person they also become possessed, and the evil plays upon their flaws to trap them.  I suppose that the only difference is that the Demons movies are a lot gorier.  Regardless of title this is a Demons sequel and since I’m a fan of those movies I’m okay with that.

Asia

Of course Dario had to put his daughter in this one!

Reviewing Italian horror movies from the ‘70s and ‘80s has always been tricky for me.  You are either a fan of this kind of movie or you aren’t.  They have their own sensibility that doesn’t always appeal to American audiences.  Don’t get me wrong I’m not being snobby and saying that some viewers aren’t “smart” enough for these flicks.  There is no doubt that these movies are an acquired taste.  Personally I rather enjoy them and thought that the Church is well worth the time.  It is nice to know that there are still some cool movies for me to discover.  Clearly I’m recommending the movie.

 

Trailer Tuesday!

Lisa and the Devil (1973)

Trailer Tuesday!

Black Sabbath (1963)

Trailer Tuesday!

Planet of the Vampires (1965)