Welcome, children of the night! This Blog is for fans of vintage horror films as well as those who are just beginning to discover the joy of these classic movies. I'd love to hear from you!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Summer Camp Nightmare (1987)

If Lord of the Flies (1963) was an after school special from the 70's, it would look EXACTLY like Summer Camp Nightmare. Good God, this one is a stinker. I'm not even sure why I watched it to the end except for the fact that once I commit to watching a film I really COMMIT to it...no matter how bad it is!

I can safely say there is not a single thing I liked about this film. The screenplay is chock full of cliche characters and bad dialogue as it tells the not-so harrowing tale of a summer camp whose rebellious children stage a coup in order to overthrow a strict camp director. The results are disastrous, of course with violence, assault, drunkenness an general mayhem abounding.

Veteran actor Chuck Conners [The Rifleman, Branded] is the Camp Director in question. I always picture him in some kind of Western with guns a-blazing and plenty of attitude to spare. Here is is merely collecting a paycheck. Some of this is not his fault because of the lines they gave him to work with. The only other actor worth mentioning is Charlie Stratton who plays the leader of the rebellion. He's actually quite decent in this role but, again, the script does not enable him to do much with the role.

That's all I really need to say about this red hot mess of a film. Don't give up 1 hour and 29 minutes of your life to watch it. You've been warned!

RATING: Bad [Really bad]

For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Gargoyles (1972)

Considering it's a made-for-tv movie with a limited budget, Gargoyles is actually quite good. Yes, the plot is nothing special: An anthropologist and daughter are driving through the southwest desert and encounter a colony of living gargoyles whose goal is the extinction of the human race. It's familiar territory and there are no surprises along the way. Plus, it's surprising how easy it is to defeat a species bent on world domination. Daddy's never-ending shotgun bullets [Think Katniss' arrows in The Hunger Games] pretty much does the trick!

However, what makes this film rise above its plot limitations is as follows:

The soundtrack is better than it has a right to be. It's moody and atmospheric and gives the story some much needed emotional punch. We have Robert Prince [Wonder Woman, Night Gallery, Circle of Fear] to thank for this whose name is not well-known but who has a respectable body of work scoring television shows and films.

The design of the Gargoyles is interesting. Ellis Burman [Goonies, Back to the Future] chooses wisely to spend his modest budget on facial masks instead of the body suits the Gargoyles wear. There is enough variety and detail in the masks to help these creatures overcome their limitations.

The acting, for the most part, is solid. Cornel Wilde [The Greatest Show on Earth, The Naked Prey] channels his best 1950's man's man as the anthropologist at the center of the story. His acting style is definitely of an older era than the 70's but it work in this role. Jennifer Salt [co-executive producer of American Horror Story] fits the bill nicely as his daughter. Veteran actors Grayson Hall [Dark Shadows] and Woody Chambliss [Gunsmoke] have nice character parts that give this film some levity and fun. Finally, there is a young Scott Glenn [Silence of the Lambs, The Bourne Trilogy] who plays a motorcycle rider who helps Daddy take on the Gargoyles. This is one of those "his face looks so familiar" moments that sends you running to IMDB to figure out who he grew up to be!

So, give this one a try. It's not a huge blockbuster with a cast of thousands but Gargoyles is enjoyable fare that reminds the viewer that sometimes 1970's TV really got it right! Gargoyles is available to watch on YouTube.

RATING: Good.

For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Tales From the Darkside: The Complete Series (1983-1988)

In 2010 CBS FINALLY released the classic 1980's TV anthology Tales From the Darkside. Let's get the one negative out of the way: While the series was shot of film, all the post-production work was done on video before it aired on TV. Unfortunately, all the original film was destroyed so the DVD transfer was done from video. This gives it a very grainy texture which may be off-putting for some in the age of Blu-ray and HDTV. But, hey, it's the only way we can view this delightful series. So set aside the quality of the picture and enjoy the quality of the storytelling. (The audio is fine, by the way. Although the DVD version was released without it's original musical soundtrack, probably due to copyright licenses and the cost of procuring them.)

It's almost pointless to name drop the directors, writers and actors that appears in this series which ran for four seasons from 1983-1988, by let me give it a try: George Romero, Tom Savini, Clive Barker, Stephen King, Jody Foster, Danny Aiello, Lori Cardille (Day of the Dead), Debbie Harry, Seth Green and some of the finest character actors to grace movies and television. What's not to like about that? While this series is not quite as strong as the 1990's HBO series Tales From the Crypt, it's got some great stories, fine performances and a few fun horror effects along the way. George Romero [Night of the Living Dead] was one of the Executive Producers for most of these episodes so you know you're in capable hands.

All 90 episodes are in this box set which I bought at Best-Buy for $24.99 It's also available through Amazon. At that price, it's a steal to relive this 80's gem. Don't miss it!

RATING: Excellent.

For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Svengali (1931)

When most people think of 1931 horror, the Universal Studios classics Dracula and Frankenstein immediately come to mind. However, Warner Brothers released a wonderfully crafted thriller that is every bit as good as both of them. What is this movie, you might ask? It's Svengali which boasts a remarkable performance by the incomparable John Barrymore, who first caught my eye  in the silent film Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920). Svengali proves he was able to the make a successful transition between silent films and talkies, a feat few actors were able to pull off.

Barrymore is absolutely mesmerizing as Svengali, a maestro and voice teacher who could steal the panties of a nun with his unearthly gaze and powers of mind control. Naturally, women cannot resist him and the film explores all the facets of this phenomenon with both humor and pathos. Barrymore is splendid in this role and gives a tour de force performance.

His main love interest, Trilby, is played by Marian Marsh. I wish I could say she was Barrymore's equal in terms of her performance but she suffers from an acting style of that era which is overly-dramatic and theatrical. The same is true of Bramwell Fletcher [The Mummy] who plays Billlee, Trilby's spurned love interest. He pines for her in a way that makes me want to snuff him out with a pillow!

Therefore, this is Barrymore's show and he doesn't disappoint. I am surprised it took me so long to see this film. It should have been on my radar years ago. However, hopefully you won't make the same mistake I did. If you are a fan of 1930's horror then this one is a must-see. Thankfully it's available to watch on YouTube. Don't miss it.

RATING: Excellent.

For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Stranger in Our House, a.k.a. Summer of Fear (1978)

Let me start off by saying I love Wes Craven. I have several friends who worked for him and they always say such wonderful things about his kind and generous spirit. I also love the iconic and groundbreaking films he directed such as The Hills Have Eyes (1977), A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), and Scream (1996). That being said, I absolutely HATED Stranger in Our House (SIOH). Even if I didn't know that Craven had directed it, I still would have hated it!

Here's why: SIOH is a made for TV movie which means it's going to be a lot tamer film than a cinematic release. Yet TV series such as the Kolchack: Night Stalker (1974-75) proved that TV horror does not need to be boring. SIOH feels like an after school special with very little suspense and a "reveal" toward the end of the film that's laugh out loud ridiculous. I expect more from Craven than this. I'd like to believe his hands were tied by TV executives who prevented him from doing more. That's my story and I'm sticking with it!

Furthermore, screenwriter Glen N Benest struggles to write great dialogue for his characters. He has only has 8 writing credits to his name on IMDB and I can see why! One of my favorite bits of dialogue occurs between the main character, Rachel, and her mother. Rachel says "Have you ever read anything about witchcraft?" Her mom responds "No, not recently." It sounds as if she was initiated into a coven back in the day but just lost interest in it over time. It was an LOL moment.

SIOH is also not helped by its portrayal of modern witches which is absurd. I actually know a number of practitioners of the Craft and, trust me, they don't control the weather or operate cars remotely. Horses are not afraid of them and they can be photographed. This last detail was so preposterous and SIOH made a big deal out of it. Apparently, in their world, witches are like vampires and are invisible when they are photographed. Seriously? Seriously?

Last but not least there's the acting. Linda Blair [The Exorcist 1973] is really bad as Rachel and delivers her lines like she's in a junior high school play. Her mom in the film, Carol Lawrence, is even worse. The bright spot in the acting pool is Fran Drescher [The Nanny] who plays Rachel's best friend. Unfortunately, she's a secondary character so her screen time in minimal. Then there's the "witch," who is played by Lee Purcell. She has potential as an actress but the material she has to work with limits what she can do.

I am surprised at all the positive comments on IMDB regarding this film. I just don't get it. My advice is that you avoid this one altogether.

RATING: Bad.

For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Demons 3: The Ogre (1988)

Lamberto Bava, son of Italian horror legend Mario Bava, definitely knows what he's doing behind the camera. I'm definitely a fan of Demons 1 and 2, but when it comes to Demons 3: The Ogre, here's what you need to know to enjoy it more:

This movie has nothing to do with Demons 1 and 2. In fact, the title of the movie is The Ogre or House of the Ogre which was its original title. Demons 3 got slapped onto the box art of the latest DVD release in the US in order to generate more sales through name recognition. Lamberto never intended it as a sequel. Booooo!

The Ogre was created as a made for TV movie. This means its a lot tamer than the usual "buckets of blood" Italian horror film. This is not a bad thing. You just have to go into viewing it with this in mind.

Where Bala excels in The Ogre is creating tons of atmosphere. In all the scenes where the actual creature is lurking about it's a total home run. The visuals are greatly enhanced by a simple but ominous musical theme that is repeated throughout each of these scenes. It helps to build a sense of dread every time.

The two things that prevent The Ogre from receiving a Very Good rating form me are it's length and the design of the creature itself. The Ogre would have been much stronger with a shorter run time of around 1 hour. There are far too many scenes that don't contribute much to the story. With regard to the creature, it's best when we only see a hand or part of his torso. When we finally see him in full form he looks more like a giant, slimy Ewok! The clothing choice is too cartoonish and would have been more effective with a more disheveled/degraded look. Hansel & Gretel outfits don't exactly work in creating a menacing monster.

So, definitely give this movie a chance is you like Italian Horror. It's strong points definitely outweigh its weak points.

RATING: Good.

For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Zombie Nightmare (1987)

Zombie Nightmare is, indeed, a nightmare but not in a good way. Heinous acting. Stereotypical characters. The worst Italian and Jamaican/Haitian accents I've ever heard in a film. No wonder this movie was the target of Mystery Science Theater 3000. In fact, I recommend that if you dare to watch this film watch the MST3K version so at least you can laugh at this "so bad, it's bad" movie.

The basic story revolves around a mother whose husband dies early in the film. Then, years later, her son is killed in a hit and run car accident. Mama isn't going down without a fight so she enlists the neighborhood voodoo priestess (Doesn't everybody have one?) to bring her son back to life so he can seek his revenge. The scenes with the priestess are laugh-out-loud ridiculous and the make-up on the zombie son looks like something you're likely to see in your neighborhood on Halloween night. I know they had a limited budget but, even I do better work than this! The rest of the film involves zombie-boy bashing in everyone's skulls in with a baseball bat until everyone who was in the car that hit him is dead. What makes it worse is that there is no gore in these scenes so the deaths have no emotional or visceral impact whatsoever.

The only bright spot in Zombie Nightmare are the songs from Motörhead and Girlschool. [Why the UK band Girlschool never got noticed in the US is a mystery to me.] The rest is the worst of what hair metal has to offer from bands you've never read of. [Virgin Steele, anyone?] Even the promise of Adam "Batman" West isn't enough of a draw since he doesn't appear in the film until about 45 minutes into it and then gives a lackluster performance.
So if you're looking for zombies of the flesh-eating type, look elsewhere. If you're looking for horror that's scary, look elsewhere. If you're looking for a movie that has been made wit at least a minimum of competence, look elsewhere. You've been warned!

RATING: Bad.

For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.