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!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Silent Night, Bloody Night (1974)

Before there was Friday the 13th or Halloween, the same year that Deranged and Black Friday were released, yet another early slasher flick was born: Silent Night, Bloody Night.  What was going on in 1974 that spawned two very dark Christmas stories virtually simultaneously?  Perhaps those Groovy 70's held their dark secrets after all, hidden beneath layers of polyester and bad hair styles!
Silent Night, Bloody Night is a somewhat forgotten gem.  It doesn't have near the production values as Black Christmas.  It's a bit slow paced at times.  However, there is a lot that is good about this film and almost great.  

First we have the serial killer cam, that follows the killer through the house as he stalks his prey.  Second, we have the element of surprise as the slow pace of the film lulls us into a false sense of security which is jarred by a sudden swing of an axe or shovel.  Third, the movie keeps us guessing who the killer is and we don't really learn the whole story until the end of the film.  Fourth, the soundtrack is good with Silent Night devolving into a haunting minor scale that suggests that not all is twinkling lights and holly in this film.  Fifth, the director chooses a "less is more" approach in terms of gore.  There's not a lot of blood on screen but your mind fills in all the messy details perfectly.  Finally, can there really be too many Christmas horror stories?  I think not!  It's a stressful, scary holiday to say the least.

The cast of Silent Night, Bloody Night is mostly unknown to me except for Patrick O'Neal who starred in tons of films including The Stepford Wives and The Way We Were.  [There is also a small cameo by John Carradine as well.]  Yet, in spite of its lack of star power the cast is quite good and gets the job done rather well.  You can download this one for free from Archive.org.  However, the copy is rather grainy.  Still this actually adds to the enjoyment of the film.  I don't think there's a better copy out there.  I searched the internet and one is just as bad as the other.  If anyone else knows of a better print, please let me know.
If you like slasher flicks, then definitely put this one on your list.  Silent Night, Bloody Night is a Christmas present that's the perfect gift any time of the year.
RATING: Very Good.
Download a copy of the film from Archive.org
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Black Christmas (1974)

If you love the sight of lights twinkling on an evergreen tree and carols wafting through the air, then this movie is NOT for you.  If the season of Christmas drives you crazy with its endless barrage of over-sentimentality and consumerism, then sit back and enjoy!  Although Friday the 13th (1980) inspired two generations of Dead Teenager Movies, it stole everything that was good about it from Black Christmas.  The setting is a sorority house instead of a summer camp but nearly everything else is the same.
We see significant portions of the film through the perspective of the killer as the "slasher cam" walks us through the house.  The killer is not "unmasked" until very late in the movie.  [In Black Christmas we may see his hand or his eye but never the whole person.]  The movie intentionally leads us down the wrong path so that we think the killer is someone else.  Teenagers are dispatched in creative and violent ways.  I think you get my point.
Black Christmas tackles these elements very well.  It creates a great deal of suspense throughout the film and I found myself squirming in my seat a number of times as these sweet sorority girls are knocked off in horrific ways.  That's a high complement from me because I'm pretty "unsquirmable."  Black Christmas follows the tradition of Alfred Hitchcock who instinctively knew that what we don't see is far more frightening that what we do see.  Therefore, there is actually very little blood spilled on screen but your mind fills in all the gory details [and does a better job in the process].
The cast is great and includes Margot Kidder [The Amityville Horror, Superman], Olivia Hussey [Romeo and Juliet], Andrea Martin [SCTV, My Big Fat Greek Wedding] and John Saxon [A Nightmare on Elm Street, Enter the Dragon].  Everyone is excellent and there's not a weak link in the bunch.  Particularly enjoyable is Marian Waldman who plays Mrs. Mac, the alcoholic house mother who watches over the girls.  She provides some much needed comic relief in the midst of the bloodletting.
Black Christmas was remade in 2006 with Andrea Martin returning to play the house mother instead of a sorority girl.  I consider it to be as enjoyable as the original and, in some ways, it's better.  The remake includes the backstory of Billy the killer and does it rather effectively.  These "nostalgic" moments enhance the film and provide some of the most twisted and disturbing elements in it. [You'll never look at Christmas cookies the same way again!]  The remake is more violent but it's still well done.  My recommendation is to watch both of them.  Start with the original and then view the remake.  Let me know what you think.  I watch Black Christmas every holiday season with my adult kids.  It's our version of A Christmas Story and helps us to cope with the madness that is the holiday season.  [You might find it hard to believe but Bob Clark directed both of these films.  Thanks to him we have both Ralphie and Billy as our holiday mascots.  WOW!]
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964)

Spectacularly bad.  Magnificently god-awful.  That pretty much describes Santa Claus Conquers the Martians which has been given a spot on the 100 worst films of all time. 

Here’s the thing:  First of all, this film was made for children, so let’s cut it some slack.  SCCM is a delicious slice of 1960’s children’s TV fair that has the sentimentality of Lassie and the humor of Dennis the Menace.  Scarface it is not!

Secondly, this film was made for a paltry $200,000 and includes scenes from the North Pole, outer space and the planet Mars.  It also has a sizable cast including Pia Zadora in her first film!  You gotta give them an A for effort!

Yes, the costumes are horrible and amateurish.  Yes, the script and acting are just as bad.  Yes, the sets look like they were made for a Jr High School play.  But, who cares?  Like Ed Wood’s Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959), SCCM is exuberant, independent filmmaking that knows exactly what it is and celebrates it with gusto.  This is one of those films that falls into the “so-bad-it’s good” category.  If that’s your kind of thing [and it’s my kind of thing] then don’t miss this one. 

SCCM may be best viewed in December with a group of friends, Christmas cookies and spiked eggnog.  It will definitely be a part of my holiday celebration from tis time forth and forevermore!

RATING: Bad. [as in so-bad-it’s-good]

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

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)

Earlier today I found this film in the Blu-Ray discount bin at a big box store. I had never seen it before so I decided to give it a try. Silent Night, Deadly Night is a bit of a mixed bag but, overall, it's a good film. There are no big names here and lots of first timers. Director Charles E. Sellier Jr. only directed 4 films but went on to produce a significant number of documentaries. He does a great job with the action sequences but the performances he gets from the actors are a bit uneven. Writer Paul Caimi's screen play is classic horror stuff with lots of creative Christmas kills as Billy goes buck on everyone after having a flashback of his parent's murder at the hands of a man dressed in a Santa suit. It's entertaining enough but lacks the genius of Black Christmas (1974) my favorite Christmas horror film.

The star of this show is definitely the way people meet their demise. Kudos to Rick Josephsen [Cujo, Fright Night Part 2] for all the squirm-worthy kills. A few in particular are genius but I'll let you discover those for yourself. The soundtrack by Perry Botkin Jr. is also quite good and adds to the feel of the film.

Silent Night is one of those early 80's "dead teenager" movies that tried to duplicate the success of Friday the 13th (1980) or at least make a quick buck riding the popularity of this horror sub-genre. It succeeds more than it fails.

As a final note the Blu-ray I bought was the 30th Anniversary Edition that is also the "Original Unrated Version." This means portions of the film are not as crisp as others but there is a disclaimer at the beginning that states this up front. The attempt here is to present the film as it was originally intended. With that in mind, I can easily overlook the uneven quality of the film.


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

Saturday, October 29, 2016

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

A Nightmare on Elm Street is the perfect horror film. It is one of my all-time favorites. Not only did Writer/Director Wes Craven create one of the most iconic horror villains ever, he also wowed us with amazing special effects on a modest budget. The basic story centers on Fred Krueger [played to perfection by Robert Englund], a child murderer who haunts the dreams of the teens whose parents killed him many years ago in an act of revenge. If he is able to kill the teens in their dreams, they die in real life as well. The screenplay is virtually flawless and stands out as highly original. I believe it to be Wes Craven's finest work as a writer.

The cast includes Johnny Depp in his first feature film as well as the perfect horror heroine in Heather Langenkamp. She portrays her character Nancy as strong yet vulnerable, smart yet capable of great emotional depth. She's the perfect example of an empowered 1980's woman and I enjoy watching her in every scene. Veteran actor John Saxon [Enter the Dragon, From Dusk Till Dawn] is also great as Nancy's father. He provides the perfect adult skepticism to what's happening on Elm Street but eventually gets it before it's too late.

Kudos as well to Charles Bernstein [April Fool's Day, Kill Bill Vol. 1] for the exceptional musical score that adds greatly to the overall feel of the film.  Nightmare wouldn't be the same without it! It sets the perfect mood time and time again.

Tons of scholarly analysis has already been written about Nightmare so I won't bore you with all the details. Simply enjoy this classic film which has the right amount of gore, scares and characters you care about to keep you on the edge of your set every second of this finely crafted film.

I saw the 2010 remake and, like most critics, I consider it to be pure crap. They spent a lot of money on it but it doesn't come close to the original. The 2010 Freddy just doesn't work for me at all. He is humorless and boring. Furthermore, they may have upped the gore in the sequel and included a back story on Freddy, but both of these things seem totally unnecessary. Stick with the original!

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

Friday, October 28, 2016

Halloween 3: Season of the Witch (1982)

If you are wondering when in the hell Michael Meyers is going to make an appearance in Halloween 3, you'll be waiting for a very long time. There is a quick shot of his looming presence on a TV set in the film and that's it. Halloween 3 is really not an end to a trilogy but a whole new story. This makes people either love it or hate it. I fall somewhere in-between.

H3 has several things going for it. 1) The story is interesting and has a few surprises along the way. I have watched H3 many times and never get tired of it. 2) John Carpenter supplies a creepy soundtrack which greatly adds to the feel of the film. This includes the nerve-wrecking Silver Shamrock Jingle that taunts its listeners throughout the film. 3) Tom Atkins [The Fog, Escape From New York] gives a strong performance as Daniel Challis, a doctor who suspects that something fishy is happening over at the Silver Shamrock plant. This movie would be in trouble without him.

Now for the negatives: 1) Toward the end of the film there's some utter BS abut Samhain and witchcraft that is not only pure fiction but it has little to do with the rest of the film. It's not needed at all. 2) Some of the special effects are a bit laughable. They pale in comparison to some of Carpenter's other masterpieces such as The Thing. 3) Carpenter gives the director's and writer's tasks to Tommy Lee Wallace [It, Fright Night 2] who does a decent job but he's no John Carpenter. The same thing happened to Wes Craven in the Nightmare on Elm street franchise. The best of those films [the Original and A New Nightmare] were the ones where Craven had control of the project.

So, don't believe the haters. It's really a decent film if you haven't seen it. Just remember that it's not a sequel to the original. It's a totally different beast. Happy, happy Halloween!


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

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Monster on the Campus (1958)

Where has this movie been all my life? Monster on the Campus is almost as good as other 1950's Sci-fi classics such as Them (1954) and Tarantula (1955). It simply suffers from a bad title that doesn't compel the viewer to watch it. Thankfully, I did!

Monster on the Campus was directed by Jack Arnold who was at the helm of such classics as Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954), It Came From Outerspace (1953) and Tarantula (1955). Furthermore, writer David Duncan also did the screenplays for The Time Machine (1960) and Fantastic Voyage (1966). Ladies and gentleman, we are in very capable hands!

The basic story centers on a research professor who is infected by the blood of a prehistoric fish that was bombarded with gamma rays in order to preserve it. It's classic 1950's Sci-fi stuff and the science is as good as any other film of that era. Along the way we are treated to a rabid dog, a giant dragonfly and a professor who is transformed into the monster in question. The only weakness is that the makeup of the creature is just god-awful. It's a mask that they make no attempt to try and hide. If Jack Pierce had been the one doing the makeup, this movie would have been a classic!

Monster on the Campus also benefits from its two leads. Arthur Franz [Invaders From Mars, The Cain Mutiny] as Professor Donald Blake and Joanna Moore [Touch of Evil, Alfred Hitchcock Presents] as his gal pal Madeline Howard. They are simply perfect together and get every scene right. They are definitely the heart and soul of this movie.

The other star of the show is the magnificent orchestral soundtrack that was cobbled together with stock music from a number of composers including Henry Mancini. I am one of those people who simply loves to hear an orchestra accompany a film. It gives a richness to the movie that enhances the viewers experience of it.

So, forget about the lame title and WATCH THIS MOVIE! If you're a fan of 1950's Sci-fi you won't be disappointed.

RATING: Very Good.

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