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!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Last Woman on Earth (1960)

After having watched Vincent Price's magnificent performance in The Last Man on Earth (1964), I had high hopes for The Last Woman on Earth. My expectation was to discover a 1960's empowered female who beat the odds in the apocalypse and sent all of her enemies packing. No such luck!

Last Woman on Earth is a Roger Corman directed low-budget sleeper. IMDB says it's a drama/horror/mystery but I would be hard pressed to find any one of these elements in the film let alone all three of them. The plot is simplistic and predictable. You see everything coming from a mile away. Furthermore, it reads more like a bad, slow-paced soap opera rather than an exciting adventure.

Betsy Jones-Moreland [Creature From the Haunted Sea, bless her heart] is Evelyn Gern, the woman at the heart of the story. She is far from empowered and keeps flitting back and forth between what appears to be the last two men on earth. All three are weak in the acting department but to their credit, they had very little to work with in terms of great dialogue.

The basic gist of the story is that Evelyn, her husband, and a mutual friend are on vacation in Puerto Rico. They go scuba diving and when they surface for air they discover there was a temporary depletion of oxygen in the earth's atmosphere (which is never fully explained) and everyone they encounter is dead. That's all you need to know and that's about all that really happens in the film. No gore or horror elements to be found. Just straight up melodrama.

If you are expecting a nice, little horror/mystery film, then look elsewhere. This one was disappointing to say the least.


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

Monday, February 29, 2016

The Last Man on Earth (1964)

What a fantastic movie! Vincent Price acts for the first twenty-two minutes with voice over only. No dialogue. A remarkable feat! The "vampires" who attack his home are a bit lame. However, his compelling presence makes this movie a joy to watch.

The Last Man on Earth is based on Richard Matheson's 1954 novel "I Am Legend." The basic plot is that a plague has wiped out most, if not all, of humanity except for Robert Morgan [Vincent Price]. The dead humans have come back as "vampires" and Morgan spends his days killing vamps and trying to find a cure for the plague, all the while wondering why he is immune to the disease. [Go, Buffy!]

If the plot sounds familiar, it should. The book was also adapted to film as "The Omega Man" in 1971 starring Charlton Heston and as "I Am Legend" in 2007 starring Will Smith. Personally, I prefer "The Last Man on Earth" over both of these later versions. "The Omega Man" is too hip for its own good and is mired in bad 70's clothing and too much talk of "the family" as if the infected were followers of Charles Manson. The "zombies" who inhabit "I Am Legend" are CGI disasters, looking more like cartoon characters. They move in ways that would be impossible for a creature that was once a human being.

If you've never seen the 1964 film, I cannot recommend it enough. Thankfully, it is now available as a free download and is in the public domain. I hope this will enable more people to see this wonderful film.

RATING: Excellent.

Download a copy of the film from Archive.org

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

Friday, February 26, 2016

Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959)

This one falls into the "so bad it's good" category. Edward D. Wood Jr. has always had a reputation for being the worst director ever. However, I would nominate Michael Bay for that honor. Bay just has a bigger budget to work with!  Who else but Ed Wood could come up with a movie that incorporates space ships, vampires and zombies into one film? Sure, the dialogue is stiff and the sets are poorly constructed but, somehow, this only makes the film more endearing to me. [Why is there a tesla coil on a space ship? I'm just asking the question.]
The plot involves space aliens who try to take over the earth by resurrecting the dead who begin attacking the living. [Follow me so far?] It's up to our hero, Jeff Trent, a fearless airline pilot, to save the world as well as his wife from their evil "Plan 9." [The suspense is killing me!]
The cast includes Bela Lugosi [in his last, are arguably worst, performance on screen. It's a shame that drug addiction ruined his career], Vampira [with her impossibly slender waist] and Tor Johnson [a wrestler turned actor with considerably LESS acting skills than The Rock] as the undead. It's not a scary film but it will make you laugh and keep you thoroughly entertained. My favorite line from the film comes from actress Mona McKinnon who plays Paula Trent: "Now, don't you worry. The saucers are up there. The graveyard is out there. But I'll be locked up safely in there." Priceless!

A remake of the film was released in 2015 and is said to be an homage to the original. However, I've seen the trailer and it looks like they simply upped the gore and left out the campy spirit of the original film. Just what we need, another mindless gorefest for the masses. BORING! I'll stick with the original.

RATING: Very Good [Due to Wood's exuberance for filmmaking.]
Download a copy of the film from Archive.org
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

V (1984, TV Mini-series)

V is proof that a TV miniseries can be well-made and stand the test of cinematic time. Yes, it's got a number of 1980's giggle-worthy moments but, by and large, it's well made and well acted. The main thing that makes V work is it's intelligent screenplay. It starts with visiting aliens that appear as menacing as your grandma. Then, slowly, details are added which make you realize they are visiting earth with evil intent. The build-up is near perfect and makes for enjoyable TV watching.

I remember watching this when it first came out.  I was a fan of Marc Singer who had a hit a year earlier with The Beastmaster. He plays a TV cameraman in V and nails it perfectly. However, the best surprise is the appearance of Robert England who would become Freddy Krueger in A Nightmare on Elm Street the same year. His role as the lovable alien Willie is quite a contrast from the menacing Freddy, which goes to show his underrated range as an actor.

One of my favorite scenes is when Singer boards one of the alien ships and ends up tussling with one of them when his hiding place is discovered. As the human mask of the alien is pealed away, it reveals a reptilian creature whose face is well done and effective.

V would spawn another miniseries, V: The Final Battle (1984), and two TV series which ran from 1984-85 and 2009-11. I am especially fond of the latter version that is one of the finest remakes out there. If you're a Sci-Fi fan and haven't seen the original, what are you waiting for?

RATING: Excellent.

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

Monday, October 19, 2015

The People Under the Stairs (1991)

Wes Craven's The People Under the Stairs [TPUTS] is still one of the weirdest and most original horror films I have ever seen.  While it could have easily ventured into pure torture porn, Craven packs the script with lots of intelligence and just enough humor to make the gore bearable.  There are more squirm-worthy moments than I can possibly list here.  That's a tribute to Craven's skill as a filmmaker because it takes a lot to make me squirm!

In addition to excellent directing and writing TPUTS benefits from a strong cast including the delightfully demented slum landlord and his wife, played respectively by Everett McGill [Twin Peaks, Silver Bullet] and Wendy Robie [Twin Peaks, The Glimmer Man].  I would much rather spend a night with Freddy Krueger than with these two sadistic cannibals!  Even though their actions are way over the top, both of these actors make their characters seem very real.  Deep in the bottom of your gut you know there are people in our world who are equally as crazy and sadistic as these two which is what makes the film so horrifying.

The kids in the cast are also pretty good as well. Brandon Quintin Adams plays Fool who is the hero who saves the day.  He goes from being an average kid from the hood to bad mamma-jaima who utters the line "I'm tired of fucking around so you either put the gun down now or kiss your ass goodbye, boy!"  A.J. Longer is great as Alice, the daughter they've kept locked up in the house for as long as she can remember and Sean Whalen [Men in Black,Twister] brings a lot of heart and warmth to the story as Roach, one of the kids who lives under the stairs.

The final piece that makes TPUTS work is the incredible set and special effects.  The design of the house is flawless and seems to have an endless number of creepy rooms with secret passageways and tunnels that lead to one horrific room after another. The blood and gore effects also hold up well and definitely made me wince a time or two.

I have always been a Wes Craven fan and admire his visionary spirit and demented imagination.  TPUTS stands the test of time as one of his best and should not be missed.

RATING: Excellent.

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

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Return of the Living Dead (1985)

A zombie classic is born!  The Return of the Living Dead begins with a direct reference to George Romero's Night of the Living Dead.  Apparently some of the zombies from that plague were packed in barrels that were filled with a mysterious liquid.  [Zombie pickles?  Fantastic!]  When two bumbling employees discover them in a medical supply warehouse they not only bring one back to life but unknowingly launch a new zombie apocalypse.  The new zombies are a little bit different from the original models.  Unlike their shambling elders, these zombies move quickly like those in 28 Days Later and also have a specific craving for brains instead of flesh.  The result is a thrill ride that is both gory and funny.
ROTLD sports a somewhat cheesy 80's soundtrack but it does have a few good songs along the way.  The mix of comedy and gore is near perfect and the special effects are solid for 80's standards.  The cast of teens is a bit over the top in terms of typecasting but it suits this film just fine.  The main actors, especially James Karen [Poltergeist, Joyride] and Clu Gulager [Feast series] are great and understand how to make the comedic aspects of this film work.  The rest of the cast is solid as well, even though many are simply hors d'oeuvres for the zombie buffet.
ROTLD launched many sequels and solidified the reputation for zombies to be brain munchers.  It also provided some of the inspiration for making Shaun of the Dead (2004) which is definitely my all-time favorite zombie horror comedy.  Definitely watch ROTLD if you have any love for zombies at all.
RATING: Excellent.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

My Bloody Valentine (1981)

After the Americans artfully slashed their way through Black Christmas (1974), Halloween (1978) and Friday the 13th (1980), it was time for the Canadians to answer the call and cash in on the slasher craze.  The result is My Bloody Valentine [MBV] which is beloved by many and even labeled as a “cult classic” by some.  I don’t fall into either of these categories.  Like Little Nell in Rocky Horror Picture Show, I found myself saying “He’s OK” at the end of the film.  Nothing more, nothing less.

MBV has a few things going for it: 1) The scenes in the mine are creepy and atmospheric, 2) The look of the killer is original and interesting, and 3) the premise of the story is solid.  What it lacks are 1) characters we care about, 2) actors who can convey genuine terror instead of just screaming hysterically and, 3) a “twist” ending that’s actually a twist.

I know there will be many in cyberspace who will disagree with me with regard to MBV, but I’ve seen more than my fair share of slasher flicks and I found it to be fairly uninteresting, standard fare.  Yes, there are a few good kills that made me wince a bit but the rest of the movie is a yawner.  The young miners and their girlfriends who inhabit the opening scenes of the film are just not that interesting. I really could not have cared less who survived and who got impaled by the pick axe!  There is no character, like Laurie Strode from Halloween, who drew me in and stole my heart with her vulnerability and perseverance against a terrorizing psychopath.  Every character in MBV felt formulaic and poorly acted.

Yeah, I know, some of you out there LOVE this film!  What can I say?  I’m just not one of them.  I never saw the 2009 remake because I didn’t care for the original. If you’re a fan, tell me why you like it.  I’m still open to hearing what you have to say.


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