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 16, 2012

The Crater Lake Monster (1977)

The reviews of this film on IMDB are brutal, giving it an average rating of less than 3.0.  However, I think this is completely unfair.  Granted, The Crater Lake Monster is no Jaws, but it's got some things going for it that make it less than a total red hot mess.

First of all, the monster in question is a plesiosarus who is brought to life by stop motion animation and well as various mechanized heads for close up shots.  For a low budget film, this work is done rather skillfully and the stop motion stuff is especially fun to watch.  There is also a dino-cam where we see the attack from the perspective of the dinosaur.  Unfortunately, they only use this once.  I would like to have seen it employed throughout the whole movie because it's rather effective.

The acting in Crater Lake Monster is not bad either.  The exception to this is the "comedic" duo of boat renters that aren't funny in the least.  The rest of the cast gives it their best shot and does an o.k job with the material they are given.

Crater Lake Monster is the kind of film I used to watch on Chiller Theater while growing up in Pittsburgh.  It's a bit cheesy but it's still fun to watch.  If you enjoy B-grade horror, you might want to give this one a try.  It could be better, but it could also be a LOT worse.


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

Friday, December 14, 2012

Amityville II: The Possession (1982)

Technically, Amityville II is the prequel to the 1979 original and is not the sequel.  It chronicles the story of the Montelli family who become the murder victims of their demon possessed son.  These grizzly murders happened in the same house the Lutz family would move into in the original film.  [Follow me os far?]

Dino de Laurentiis [Army of Darkness, Dune] takes over as executive producer which guarantees big special effects.  And, believe me, this film tries to pull out all the stops.    However, I felt like all the big explosions, latex prosthetics and buckets of blood were less effective than the simple scares used in the original.  Sometimes less really is more!

Damiano Damiani takes over the director's chair of Stuart Rosenberg [Cool Hand Luke, Brubaker] who did the original film.  However, Damiani is not nearly as skillful as Rosenberg in creating a real sense of terror and dread.  This one simply lacks the emotional punch of the first.

Part of the reason for this is that the actors who play the Montelli family are miscast. They just don't feel like a cohesive family unit.  Many of their performances are just O.K. and no one really gives an outstanding, jaw-dropping, performance.  Therefore, it's hard to get upset when they meet their demise.  The audience just doesn't get that emotionally invested in them.

The reviews on IMDB are all over the place with Amityville II.  Some love it.  Others hate it.  I've seen hundreds if not thousands of horror films in my lifetime and while Amityville II is not a poorly made film, I just can't get too excited about it.  I prefer the original by far.


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

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Re-Animator (1985)

A horror classic is born, or should I say reborn.  H.P. Lovecraft's "Herbert West: Re-Animator" is brought to life in all its gory and glorious details.  If you're the squeamish type, you might want to skip this one.  If not, welcome to the feast.  The story line is simple as it follows the experiments of a young medical student, Herbert West, who is bringing dead things back to life.  While this is not a zombie film in it's strictest sense, it does have a zombie quality to it so I'll add it to the sub-genre.

It's hard to know where to begin bragging about Re-Animator.  The cinematography and special effects are wonderful.  Anthony Doublin [Robot Chicken, The Lawnmover Man] and John Naulin's [Team America: World Police] undead creations remind me of the best of John Carpenter's work in the 1980's.  It's classic stuff that is a tad cheesy but still looks good all these years later.  The visual elements are greatly enhanced but a dynamic film score that doesn't have a trace of 80's New Wave and opts for a much more classic approach.  Furthermore, director Stuart Gordon [Honey I Shrunk the Kids] knows how to film action sequences and seems at home with all the special effects.  His pacing of the film is perfect and there's a good balance between horror and human elements.

The cast is great through and through.  Jeffrey Combs [The Frightners, From Beyond] is perfect as West.  He's both geeky and creepy at the same time.  His professor who wants to steal all his secrets is played by David Gale who is especially wonderful in the scenes where he's acting as a severed head on a tray.  West's classmate Dan is played by Bruce Abbott [Dark Justice, bad Screams].  He, along with his love interest Megan [Barbara Crampton] give the film the emotional center it needs in the midst of all the gore.

Rent Re-Animator ASAP.  80's horror doesn't get much better than this one!

RATING: Excellent.

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

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

So Evil, So Young (1961)

Sometimes Netflix is clueless in what recommendations it makes to its subscribers.  Such is the case of So Evil, So Young.  I got suckered into this one due to its title as well as its subject matter: life in a British girl's reform school.  The problem is, there is nothing evil about it.  Most of the time we see these British girls dressed in pink from head to toe, happily sewing feed bags while serving their time.  The only evil that happens in this school is talking to the headmistress without saying "Ma'am."

Seriously, this is dull, dull, dull.  Even the riot scene that's supposed to be one of the high points of the film is about as menacing as a litter of kittens fighting over a ball of string.  Furthermore, the soundtrack of hip, smooth jazz is annoyingly inappropriate.  It hardly sets a menacing mood and, in fact, often gets in the way of any sense of drama this film might contain.

For the love of cinema, just skip this one.  It's not a poorly made film.  The acting is fine.  There's just no point in watching it whatsoever.  You've been warned.


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

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Catman of Paris (1946)

The Catman of Paris is a decent thriller, typical of the 1940's.  However, it's a total rip off of the far superior Cat People (1942) which was produced by Val Lewton and directed by Jacques Tourneur.  [See the review elsewhere on my site.]  That being said, Catman has a lot going for it.  The cinematography is nice and the soundtrack is effective.  

Furthermore, in spite of the predictable plot, the acting is solid through and through.  Carl Esmond [Ministry of Fear] is very good as author Charles Regnier who has returned to Paris after publishing a controversial book.  Early on in the film, he is the prime suspect in a series of murders that are being blamed on the "catman."  The rest of the cast is solid as well.

I was hoping for a few more horror elements but they are not to be found.  Most of the film has lots of cat shots for no apparent reason.  Then, finally, when the Catman is revealed at the end of the movie, the makeup is tame at best.  He hardly looks like the ferocious creatures that has been terrorizing all of Paris.  

This Catman if Paris is a fine film but, by all means, watch Cat People instead.  It's a perfect example of how to hit this kind of thriller way out of the ballpark even if you have a limited budget.


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

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Tales That Witness Madness (1973)

While it's not Hammer Studios, this British horror anthology is jam packed with talent, including Kim Novak [Vertigo], Joan Collins [Dynasty, Tales from the Crypt], and Donald Pleasence [Halloween].  It's a collection of four tales of psychological horror that are hosted by Pleasence who plays an insane asylum doctor who is telling his colleague how four of his patients lost their marbles.

Each of the four stories is pretty even in terms of quality, direction and story.  What is missing from this anthology is a sense of humor and decent special effects.  These two missing elements rob the stories of their power.  There needs to be a little more shock value in the telling of these tales as well as a little more blood splatter!  

The best examples of successful anthologies I can think of are George Romero's Creepshow (1982) and Roger Corman's Tales of Terror (1962).  Both of these anthologies know how to maintain the right balance between horror and humor.  They also contain actors who know what kind of film they are making and don't take themselves too seriously.

Bless the Brits, they just needed to lighten up a bit in Tales That Witness Madness and they would have made a better movie.  This one is just O.K.  Interesting stories but too tepid of a delivery to captivate their audience.


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

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Bat (1959)

Vincent Price and Agnes Moorehead star this nicely done murder mystery.  The Bat is the story of mystery writer Cornelia van Gorder who has rented a house with a dubious past.  Moorehead is delightful as Gorder and commands the screen with her wit and effervescent personality.  Her counterpart is Dr. Malcolm Wells, a physician with few scruples and a motive for murder.  Price is his usual wonderful self in The Bat.  He's such a talented actor who can make even the most ridiculous dialogue believable.

Luckily, Moorehead and Price has a smart script to work with that has a few twists and turns.  Furthermore Crane Wilbur's direction is spot on, even with a limited budget.  His previous credits include one of my all time favorite horror films House of Wax (1953) so Price is, yet again, in very capable hands.

The supporting cast is good as well and add to the sense of drama that unfolds in this film.  The soundtrack is also effective in helping to set the mood for each scene.

While The Bat breaks no new ground in terms of storytelling, it is a well done thriller where we get to see two accomplished actors do their thing with great skill and emotional depth.  Nice!

RATING: Very Good.

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

Monday, December 3, 2012

Blood and Lace (1971)

Shock after shock after shock?  Hardly!  Granted the subject matter should be absolutely terrifying as we watch the sadistic owner of an orphanage and her handyman  torture and kill helpless teenage kids.  This one SHOULD send chills up the viewers spines time and time again.  Yet, I could only manage a tepid yawn.

So why doesn't this one work?  Well the pacing of the film is deadly slow [no pun intended].  Director Philip S. Gilbert simply doesn't have a clue with regard to building suspense and staging scenes of violence.  In the hands of a master like Tobe Hooper, this film could have really horrifying.  Thankfully, this is Gilbert's only directing credit on IMDB.

Secondly, the acting is less than top notch.  The teens in Blood and Lace should draw you in and rip your heart out as you witness their abuse.  However, I could not muster a single fret or worry for any of them.  Furthermore, the head mistress needs to take a few lessons from Louise Fletcher in Flowers in the Attic (1987). Now, THAT's how you do creepy, torturous mommy figures.

All that's left are the kill scenes which have a small amount of paint red blood and are shot in such a way that they are just as boring as the rest of the film.  Too bad.  The subject matter here could make for a truly terrifying horror film.  Instead, we are left with something about as exciting as cold oatmeal.  Skip it!  It's just plain boring.


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

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Face of Marble (1946)

Monogram Pictures produced low budget films from 1931 to 1953 and was a part of a group of studios referred to as "Poverty Row."  This one includes the great John Carradine as Dr. Charles Randolph, a "mad scientist" who is experimenting with creating life out of death.  If it wasn't for Carradine's solid performance, this one would be in serious trouble.  The rest of the cast runs from just O.K. to downright cartoonish.  

This low budget thriller brings nothing new to the table in terms of storytelling.  The storyline was done infinitely better in Frankenstein (1931) as well as a number of other horror movies that followed in the years to come.  The budget constraints of The Face of Marble definitely show.  The sets and cinematography are simple.  The plot is unimaginative and formulaic.  Furthermore, the overall impact of the film was not helped by the quality of the print I watched which was streamed to my TV via Netflix.  It was slightly blurry and jittery.  Argh!  Hopefully a better copy of this film exists out there somewhere. Netflix version is God-awful.

I just couldn't get too excited about this film.  Even at a brisk run time of 72 minutes, it felt SO MUCH LONGER.  Skip this one unless you're hard up for entertainment.


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

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Spell (1977)

The Spell is a pleasant surprise.  Although much of the soundtrack sounds like an ABC After School Special, this one delivers the goods more times than not.  [It was a made for TV movie so that explains a great deal.]  The Spell chronicles the life of the dysfunctional Matchett family.  Dad is mostly absent and disconnected, except when he's yelling at someone.  Mom, [played wonderfully by Lee Grant] is trying her best to keep her family from falling apart.  They have two daughters, the youngest of which is pretty and popular.  A very young Helen Hunt does a nice job with this character.  Finally, there's the "fat sister" [although there's nothing fat about her]  who is bullied by her peers and her parents.  Sweet little Rita also has magical powers which she uses to exact her revenge upon those whom she deems a threat to her happiness.  [Think of Rita as Carrie's kid sister.]  Susan Myers [Revenge of the Nerds, James at 16] is wonderful as Rita.  While she doesn't have the intensity of Sissy Spacek in Carrie, she delivers the goods and hits all the right emotional notes throughout the film.

While the cinematography feels a bit dated for the late 1970's, the pacing of the film is good and the tension keeps increasing until it hits a fevered pitch toward the end of the film.  Furthermore, there's a small surprise in the climactic moments of The Spell that works very well.

While The Spell is not in the same league as other late 70's classics such as Carrie and Fright Night, it's surprisingly good and I was thoroughly entertained by it.  Don't miss this one.  It's a neglected gem of late 70's TV horror. [You can stream this one on Netflix.]

RATING: Very Good.

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

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Werewolf of Washington (1973)

Is the Pentagon or the Pentagram behind this heinous attempt at political satire/horror?  Reviews for this one on IMDB are all over the place.  I saw Werewolf of Washintgon as part of Elvira's Movie Macabre show where she adds her pity comments to the film from time to time.  To be honest, Elvira's comments were much more entertaining than the film itself.

I had high hopes for this low budget flick since the star of Werewolf was Dean Stockwell [Quantum Leap].  Alas, he gave it his best but it just didn't work for me.  Werewolf is sometimes unintentionally funny as well as intentionally funny.  I laughed from time to time but the laughs were few and far between.

Secondly, the make up job on Stockwell is simply horrible, especially the transformation scenes.  They did it better in the 40's!  Not to mention he takes off his shoes before his transformation but, inexplicably, his tailored suit fits fine once he's in full wolf mode.  He looks a bit like a furry John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever.  Scary?  Hardly.  Funny?  Somewhat.

I'm definitely the kind of guy who can appreciate a "so bad, it's good" kind of movie.  But Werewolf in Washington is just plain bad.  The idea behind this film is good.  It's simply executed too poorly to be enjoyed.


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

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Rock n' Roll Nightmare (1987)

Sex, demons and rock n' roll.  That's all you really need to know about this hair metal horror story by the indestructible John Mikal Thor.  Yes, the acting is marginal and the plot is a bit confusing at times.  But, hey, who cares?  This one falls into the sublime category of "so bad it's good."  If Spinal Tap did a horror film. this would be it!

For those who have no clue who John Mikal Thor is, he's the pioneer of "Muscle Rock" and has been around since the early 70's and still continues to tour and release new music to this day.  Thor was a busy man on this project.  Like a heavy metal M Night Shyamalan, Thor wrote the screenplay and the music, co-produced and stared in this tale of the fictional rock band Triton who hole themselves up in a secluded farm house to record a new album.  Everything is hunky dory until band members start disappearing one by one.  Along the way there are plenty of boob shots, demonic puppets and crunching AOR guitars.  

Kudos to the special effects team for their inventive, weird and often funny monsters.  They are definitely one of the highlights of this film and are quite amusing.  Overall, there is something endearing about Rock n' Roll Nightmare that would compel me to watch it again sometime.  So, grab a few friends [and a few beers] and bang your head to this strange but entertaining film.

RATING: Good.  [As in "so bad, it's good."]

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

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Sleepaway Camp (1983)

Bad. Bad. Bad.  Did I mention that Sleepaway Camp is bad?  This Friday the 13th rip off is dreadful.  I know some critics sing its praises on IMDB but I just don't get it.  The acting is absolutely wretched.  Lots of bad NYC accents and characters we simply don't care about.  Every cliche in the book is here from the pedophile camp cook to the mean kids who bully the weak ones.  It's been done before and done so much better.

So what is the appeal of this film?  I can only believe it's the joy of watching these wretched characters being killed off one by one.  Let me count the ways...death by boiling water, drowning under an overturned canoe, bee swarm in a toilet stall, knife through a shower stall wall [I sense a water theme going on here.  Freud would have a field day!], curling iron [An A+ for originality], an archery arrow through the throat and a beheadding.  The only surprise is the ending where we find out [spoiler alert] that the female killer is actually a boy who was raised as a girl.  Now, that's a pretty surprising ending.  I didn't see that one coming at all.  However it doesn't make up for all the bad acting and poor special effects that pave the path to the final scene.

As a final note, Sleepaway Camp spawned four, count them, four sequels.  For the love of cinema, I cannot bring myself to endure another moment of this franchise. If you've seen them, let me know how they stack up to the original!  My suspicion is it's more of the same.


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

Friday, November 9, 2012

El Vampiro (1957)

Who knew that there was so much dim lighting and fog in Mexico?  El Vampiro [The Vampire] is a gem of a movie.  I saw it last night at our local cinema that shows a free vintage horror film every Thursday evening!  El Vampiro was an inspired pick.  While the story is pretty much standard vampire stuff, the overall look of the film and the quality of the acting set it apart from many films in this sub-genre.  Director Fernando Mendez and cinematographer Rosalio Solano know how to do a lot with a limited budget.  Each scene is composed with great care and is very moody and atmospheric.  While the theme song gets a bit repetitious to the point of being annoying, it definitely adds to the over feel of the film.

The acting in El Vampiro is excellent. [I saw it in Spanish with English subtitles.  The only way to view it as far as I'm concerned.]  German Robles makes a wonderful vampire and has a commanding presence on screen.  I understand he's quite short of stature but this is not noticeable on screen.  His female vamp counterpart, played by Alicia Montoya, is absolutely radiant.  She looks amazing on screen and has a mesmerizing presence that cannot be denied.  The rest of the cast is excellent as well.

El Vampiro is really worth tracking down.  [You can rent it on Netflix.] It's in the same league as the 1931 Spanish version of Dracula that was filmed on the same sets as the Lugosi version.  Were all vampire films this good we would be fortunate.  It was a delight from start to finish.

RATING: Excellent.

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

Monday, October 29, 2012

Top 10 Vintage Horror Films For Halloween 2012

These are my suggestions to keep you on the edge of your seat this Halloween night.  Pair them with a modern classic such as Trick r' Treat.  They are in no particular order.  Enjoy!

1. Night of the Living Dead (1968)
2. Suspira (1977)
3. The Exorcist (1973)
4. The Shining (1980)
5. Psycho (1960)
6. Freaks (1932)
7. Poltergeist (1982)
8. Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
9. House on Haunted Hill (1959)
10. The Wolf Man (1941)

Friday, October 26, 2012

Thriller: God Grante That She Lye Stille (1961)

Season 2, Episode 5

What a smart, excellently written thriller.  The story begins in 1661.  Elspeth Clewer is labeled as a witch, is burned at the stake, and vows to return.  Three hundred years later she tries to occupy the body of her last living relative, Lady Margaret Clewer.   

Sarah Marshall plays the dual roles of Elspeth and Margaret.  Her performance reminds me a bit of Italian horror icon Barbara Steele.  She is especially magnetic as Elspeth and give the role the perfect amount of drama and power it needs.  The rest of the cast is great as well and include a cameo from Victor Buono [Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte] who always has a strong presence on screen.

Herschel Daugherty's direction [Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Bonanza] is superb and he stages each scene for maximum tension.  His work is greatly aided by a smart screenplay from Robert Hardy Andrews who based it on a story by Cynthia Asquith.  This is supernatural horror at its best.

RATING: Excellent.

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

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Devil's Hand (1962)

Boring and horribly inaccurate.  That's the best way to describe this thriller about a man who gets involved in a satanic cult.  First of all, there's LOTS of talking but the dialogue feels like chatter and has very little meaning.  Secondly, the acting is tepid at best with no one really having a commanding presence on screen.  Thirdly, I see nothing remotely connected to Satanism in this film.  It's some weird voodoo rituals and drumming that have more to do with Haiti than it does with Anton Lavey.  It's not a poorly made film.  It's simply uninteresting on every level.  Skip this one altogether.


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

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht (1979)

Noferatu is a visual feast by a master filmmaker.  It is one of the finest vampire films ever made.  Rather than simply copy F.W. Murnau's silent screen masterpiece Nosferatu (1922) scene by scene, Werner Herzog [Encounters as the End of the World, Aguirre: The Wrath of God] opts for a highly visual and sensual version of the story that shows his love for the original film.  The cinematography is absolutely breathtaking with each scene composed and lighted to perfection.  This Nosferatu is not a movie to be watched but to be experienced.  The plot is not nearly as important and the feeling watching it gives the viewer.  It's unsettling and brooding and one finds themselves learning toward the screen to take in the sights and sounds.

Klaus Kinski [Crawlspace, Aguirre: The Wrath of God] is perfect as Dracula.  He gives us a figure that is not so much menacing as he is haunted by his own curse.  Dark and sullen, this is not the love-stricken, sparkling Edward of the Twilight series.  Instead, we see someone who vaguely remembers his humanity and would, if given the chance, exchange the life he now lives to become human again.  A superb and genre defining performance.

What more needs to be said?  If you've never seen this one before rent it ASAP.  It is easily one of the finest vampire films ever made.  Thankfully, it's also in the original German (with English subtitles) which allows the viewer to experience the pure emotion of the lines the actors speak.  Anything else would have been an insult to the film and the filmmaker.

RATING: Excellent.

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

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Vampire (1957)

The Vampire is a solid film that suffers from a weak looking monster.  It's an original take on an old theme where a small town doctor accidentally ingests an experimental drug that was made from the blood of vampire bats.  This, naturally, transforms him into a blood sucking creature of the night.  Kudos for coming up with an original story on a theme that is well known by everyone.  It's nice to see a screen play that has some thought and originality behind it.

The Vampire is further enhanced by the acting, especially veteran character actor Dabbs Greer [Invasion of the Body Snatchers, THe Green Mile] as Dr. Beaumont.  The rest of the cast is solid as well and do some nice ensemble acting.

The only drawback to this film is when we actually see the vampire creature.  The make up may be typical of B-grade 1950's movies but it's so bad that it takes the power away from the story.  Nothing menacing here.  Anyone these days could produce the same effect with a trip to the Halloween Superstore.

So, take it for what it's worth.  If you're a fan of vampires this one should be watched because of it's originality.  If you're a casual fan of the sub-genre, you can probably skip this one altogether.


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

Monday, October 22, 2012


I just saw the Disney film Frankenweenie which is a loving homage to the horror films of the 30's and 50's.  You'll see snippets of almost everything from Frankenstein and his bride to Godzilla and Vincent Price.  Tim Burton is in fine form with this one.  It's a visually stunning and powerfully told story.  Don't miss it!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Frogs (1972)

Dull and predictable.  That's about all I can say about Frogs.  This man vs. nature drama is about as scary as a litter of baby kittens.  Even the presence of Sam Elliott and Joan Van Ark cannot save this tepid nature film.  I've seen more thrills on Animal Planet.  The plot is predictable.  The actors spout endless lines of meaningless dialogue.  The scenes where the animals attack the humans are anything but frightening.  The only reason why I didn't give this one a Bad rating is because the cinematography is fairly decent even though the special effects suck.  Just skip this one.  If you're looking for the best man vs. nature flick, Jaws will fit the bill quite nicely.


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

Friday, October 19, 2012

Troll 2 (1990)

OMG, this one really sucked.  Everything about it sucked.  Creature creator John Carl Buechler is MIA.  In his place are some of the most horribly constructed monsters since the 1950's.  THe acting is truly horrible from everyone in the cast.  Furthermore the really cheesy 1980's music is, uh, really bad and adds absolutely nothing to the film.  To make matters worse the script is god-awful.  Don't waste a since moment on this horrible film.  All the things than made the original interesting and entertaining are no where to see seen in the sequel.  This one belongs in the depths of Mordor.


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

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Troll (1986)

Critics be damned.  Troll is an imaginative, fun movie with a slice of horror served on the side.  John Carl Buechler, the same puppeteer who brought us the dazzling creatures in Ghoulies (1985), gives us another dose of his wicked imagination.  A singing mushroom,  fairies and little slimy things make the viewer smile with delight.  It's one crazy world he creates and I, for one, am glad he decided to share his talents with us.  Buechler also did the directing and writing on this project so this really is his show.

Where Troll falls short is in terms of its actors whose performances are inconsistent and, at times, downright awful.  The two kids at center screen are Wendy Anne Potter (Jenny Beck) and Harry Potter, Jr. (Noah Hathaway).  Beck is the stronger of the two in terms of acting, especially when the troll inhabits her body.  Her crazy, over the top performance in these moments is funny and enjoyable.  Hathaway, who previously starred in The Never Ending Story (1984) is O.K. but nothing special.  Furthermore, there are some lines he delivers horribly in important emotional scenes.  It's cringe-worthy at times.

The better actors in the bunch are June Lockhart [Lost in Space] as Eunice St. Clair, the witch.  Her expressive eyes and energetic spirit form one of the emotional centerpieces of this film.  Phil Fondacaro who plays the dual roles of Malcolm and Torok the Troll is especially fabulous as the troll.  In spite of all the heavy prosthetic make-up, Fondacaro makes Torok come alive and completely captures the troll's menacing and mischievous presence.  As an added bonus, Sonny Bono has a small role as neighbor Peter Dickinson.  He essentially plays himself but delivers the laughs time and time again.

If you're looking for a scary movie, this is not it.  If you're looking for lots of fun, imagination and a twisted sense of humor then Toll is your movie.  Don't pay attention to its rating on IMDB.  Give this one a chance.

RATING: Very Good.

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

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Night of the Demon a.k.a. Curse of the Demon (1957)

"Dana Andrews said prunes, gave him the runes, and passing them used lots of skills."  So goes the famous line from Rocky Horror Picture Show's "Science Fiction/Double Feature."  This, boys and ghouls, is where it came from.  Night of the Demon is a smart supernatural thriller which is based on M.R. James' short story "Casting the Runes."  The plot revolves around American professor John Holden [Dana Andrews] who goes to England to investigate a Satanic cult.  It's nefarious leader, Dr. Julian Carswell places a Runic curse on Holden and this sets the story into motion.

Night of the Demon is greatly helped by its director Jacques Tournier who, with Val Lewton, made some wonderfully memorable thrillers for RKO in the 1940s.  My two favorites are Cat People and I Walked With a Zombie.  Tournier is a master at creating a beautiful atmosphere for his films.  The lighting, camera angles and scene composition was spot on every time.  The only thing that doesn't work are the two scenes where the demon actually appears on screen.  Tournier got into an argument with producer Hal E. Chester who insisted that the demon needed to make a highly visible presence on camera.  Tournier didn't want to show the demon at all.  I believe Tournier was right because what appears on screen is a giant hairy, two legged creature with a bat face.  [Quake with fear, you mortals!] Sometimes less is more!  Torunier's work is also further enhanced by a superb soundtrack that helps to further set the mood for the film.

The acting in Night of the Demon is also very good.  Andrews is perfect as the skeptical American professor who is bound and determined to prove that Carswell is a fraud.  Naill MacGuiness [Jason and the Argonauts, Never Take Sweets From a Stranger] is ever better as the evil Carswell.  He gives a subtle but menacing performance.

Sometimes they did get it right in 1950's horror.  It's not always a cheese-fest.  Night of the Demon is a great example of a finely crafted film that remains suspenseful from start to finish.  Now, if I could not figure out why prunes gave Dana Andrews the runes!  I thought it was Dr. Carswell!!

RATING: Very Good.

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