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, January 22, 2012

Highlander (1986)

This is the movie that begun it all.  Highlander is an original piece of Sci-Fi fantasy that contains elements of horror.  Christopher Lambert plays Connor MacLeod an immortal Scottish swordsman who with the help of Sean Connery discovers his identity and develops his powers.  Lambert plays MacLeod with a quite intensity.  Although I personally prefer Adrian Paul in the role, you gotta give credit to Lambert for getting the ball rolling.  Connery is hilarious as MacLeod's mentor Juan Ramirez, who is also an immortal.  In this role he is Captain Jack Sparrow before there were was a Captian Jack Sparrow.  Who knew Connery has such great comedic timing.  
The other stand out role in Highlander is Clancy Brown as Victor Kruger, MacLeod's nemesis who is hell bent on destroying the Scotsman.  He channels a little bit of Mad Max in his performance and just his presence on screen is creepy before he ever utters a word.
The cinematography is Highlander is absolutely gorgeous, especially those "swooping" scenes of the Scottish countryside which provide an interesting contrast to the dark urban scenes that are set in the present time.  Combine great visuals with the music of Queen and it's a total home run for me.  Kudos to director Russell Mulcahy [Resident Evil: Extinction, Tales From the Crypt] for putting everything together and giving this film an epic feel without getting too self-pretentious.
Highlander spawned a successful TV series as well as a number of sequels.  Unless you've been living under a rock you've probably heard of this film by now.  If you haven't, it's time to climb out from under your rock and and rent this one ASAP.  It's not the greatest film in the world but it's a classic as far as I'm concerned.  The story itself feels so fresh and original.  I still enjoy watching it even though I've probably seen it two dozen times already.  It never gets old.
RATING: Excellent.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Plague of the Zombies (1966)

With Plague of the Zombies, Hammer Horror presents what I believe was their only venture into zombie territory with great results.  While it takes a while for the undead to appear on-screen, once they do, it's a visual feast for the eyes.  Director John Gilling [The Mummy's Shroud, The Flesh and the Fiends] uses every trick at his disposal to make his zombies pop on screen.  With the help of make up artist Roy Ashton, Gilling give us zombies that are one step closer to the unrelenting terror of George Romero's Night of the Living Dead (1968) and one step away from their black magic ancestors. This is a bit of a surprise since the plot involves Haitian voodoo and blood rituals as its context.  Kudos to the filmmakers for not simply rehashing the old zombie mythos that has been around since White Zombie.  Instead they take it into new territory, infusing it with energy and a bit of originality.
Plague is what we've come to expect from a Hammer Horror film: gorgeous sets, impeccable acting, and lush cinematography.  I really enjoyed this one and fans of the zombie genre will definitely appreciate how it helps to move the genre a bit forward, paving the way for the quantum leap that Romero would take two years later.
RATING: Excellent.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Mummy's Curse (1944)

Same mummy played, yet again, by Lon Chaney Jr.  Different evil priest.  The worst French-Italian-Spanish-Cajun accents I've ever heard.  An abandoned church turned into an Egyptian shrine.  A long unnecessary flashback.  It all adds up to yet another [insert yawn] sequel to the 1932 classic The Mummy.
The good news: The scene of Princess Ananka  rising from the dirt and walking into the swamp.  It's a really nice visual and quite effective.
The bad news:  Where do I begin?  Let's start with the moment when the mummy princess rises from the swamp as a squeaky clean zombified woman.  She was much better when encrusted with dirt.  It just doesn't make any sense whatsoever.
My favorite WTF moment is the opening musical number.  Yes, that's what I said, musical number.  Seriously?  Other musical moments follow and as far as I'm concerned they could have all been left out of this movie altogether.
Then there's the problem with the plot.  In The Mummy's Ghost, Kharis and Ananka enter into a swamp in New England at the end of the film.  Now, in The Mummy's Curse they rise from a Louisiana Bayou.  How does that happen?  Apparently the screen writers could have cared less.
Chaney's mummy is fine but David Carradine is sorely missed as the evil priest.  The priest in this film just doesn't cut it.  Furthermore, Jack Pierce does the make up but brings nothing new or exciting to the table except the scene of Ananka rising from the dirt.  He had the opportunity to do something wonderful with the princess but because of either a limited budget or lack of imagination missed his chance.  I'm a huge fan of Jack Pierce's work so I hate to see him do average work when he's capable of so much more.
Like the endless Elm Street and Friday the 13th sequels, it leaves me wondering what the point of The Mummy's Curse is besides milking the cash cow for more money.  Ho-hum.
RATING: Fair.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Mummy's Ghost (1944)

While there seems to be absolutely no need for another sequel, like Freddy Krueger rising from the ashes, Kharis rises again in The Mummy's Ghost.  This is the fourth movie in the series and the third using the character of Kharis.  This time out the action begins in Egypt with George Zucco briefly reprising his role as the evil high priest, Andoheb.  This time out, however, he's old and tired and hands over his evil priestly duties to Yousef Bey, played creepily by John Carradine.  Just his facial expressions alone give you the willies.  
Lon Chaney Jr is back as The Mummy and this time out he does earn his paycheck with a much better performance than the last time.  Perhaps the reason for this is that they actually give him some material to work with so that he has something to do instead of simply shuffling in the dust.
Like the last film, most of the action takes place in America but this time out they have bigger sets and lots of on location shoots.  Jack Pierce's makeup is still a bit lacking, making the mummy look more like he's been mud wrestling rather than been covered with the dust of the ages.
Overall, The Mummy's Ghost is a much better film than The Mummy's Tomb and might even be better than The Mummy Hand.  Yes, it's filled with lots of horror cliches and you know pretty much where the film is headed every step of the way but it's not a bad ride in spite of this.
RATING: Good.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Mummy's Tomb (1942)

Sequels are not always a good thing.  Universal should have really stopped after the original Mummy film instead of trying to spawn a series of useless sequels from it.  The Mummy's Tomb stars Lon Chaney Jr as Kharis, the Mummy who we met in the last film The Mummy's Hand (1940).  I had high hopes because Chaney was the star.  However, the only thing Chaney did in this film was collect a pay check!  Nothing less.  Nothing more.
The plot is supposed to be the Mummy's revenge as he travels to America in search of those who did him wrong in the last film.  This is actually a good premise but it's executed poorly.  It would have been much more interesting to have Kharis shamble down the streets of NYC, terrorizing tourists everywhere.  Universal settles for the back lot of the studio because its cheap and easy.
Yes, the cinematography is fine but the Mummy himself looks a bit worse for wear in this film.  Not scary at all.  It is some of the worst make up the legendary Jack Pierce ever conceived.  [I guess everyone was on auto pilot for this flick.]  Stay away from this one unless you're a real fan of mummies.  It smells like a studio trying to make a buck on a budget.  [Apparently they succeeded because two more sequels were made after this one.]  
RATING: Fair.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Mummy's Hand (1940)

Less a sequel and more the jumpstart of a franchise, The Mummy's Hand ditches much of the horror of the original Karlof film and trades it in for laughs and adventure.  Dick Foran and Wallace Ford do a poor imitation of Abbott & Costello as they play two unemployed archaeologists in search of a lost Egyptian treasure.  The plot is good and has some interesting story elements to it.  However, for me the humor gets in the way of the horror more times than not.
Two things that really work in this film: 1.) George Zucco as Professor Andoheb, who is the evil high priest of the temple.  This is probably the finest performance of his I've ever seen.  2.) Jack Pierce's make-up on the Mummy combined with Tom Tyler who embodies the costume.  While he's no Karloff, all of his scenes are good and I like his take on this classic character.
The Mummy's Hand spawned several sequels but none of these films compare to the iconic original, including The Mummy's Hand.  As long as you're prepared for more action-adventure and less horror, you'll find this an enjoyable film.  It's well made.  I just prefer my mummy tales a little darker.
RATING: Good.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988)

We have such sights to show you...again.  Hellbound is Clive Barker's sequel to the iconic Hellraiser.  The plot picks up where the first one left off with Kirsty in an insane asylum.  No one believers her amazing story, of course, expect for the good doctor who manages to resurrect Julia and unleash the Cenobites for another round of terror.
Clive Barker hands over the director's duties this time to Tony Randel who maintains the  quality of the first film with the sequel.  Barker writes and executive produces.  Hellbound is every bit as twisted and eye popping as the first film.  My favorite effect is the the "skinless" Julie which is achieved in a rather low tech way but is a total home run.  Really creepy.
In addition to the original cast, which is present for the sequel, Imogene Boorman is a welcome addition as Tiffany, the girl who has a gift for manipulating the puzzle box.  She has such expressive eyes and while she doesn't speak a word for much of the film conveys every emotion needed for her character.  Nicely done.
I admit that Clive Barker is an acquired taste.  He's not my personal favorite but no one can deny his talent and twisted imagination.  He has such a unique vision of horror whose images last long after the ending credits roll.  Hellbound is NOT for the faint of heart.  However, if you enjoyed the first film you will definitely enjoy this one as well. 
As a final note, the film score is absolutely gorgeous.  Kudos to Christopher Young who also did the music for the original.  I can only wish that all horror films had this good of a soundtrack.  Beautifully done.
RATING: Excellent.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Never Take Sweets From a Stranger (1960)

WARNING: This is not a horror flick.  However, Never Take Sweets From a Stranger is a very well made crime drama from the folks at Hammer Studio. It's part of their "Icons of Suspense" collection that can be rented through Netflix.  The story pulls no surprises as it tells the story of the most powerful family in town whose patriarch is accused of inappropriate behavior with two young girls.  When one of the girl's families discovers what he did, they bring him to trail...but can they really take on such a powerful and influential family and win in court?
I won't ruin the plot of the movie for you but it moves along in ways that are predictable but realistic.  Sweets feels like an extended episode of CSI: Special Victim's Unit which is not a bad thing.  It is nicely filmed, as are almost all Hammer films, and there's not a clinker in the cast.  Especially noteworthy is the little girl at the center of the story who is played by Janina Faye [Horror of Dracula, The Day of the Triffids].  She takes on the role full force with emotions that ring true at every turn.  Nicely done.
If you're looking for blood freely flowing or things that go bump in the night, you better look elsewhere.  If you're looking for a nice little thriller to pass away a Sunday afternoon, you could do a lot worse.
RATING: Good.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

These Are The Damned (1963)

Like most Hammer Productions, These Are The Damned is filmed well and acted well.  However, it's weakness lies in the plot.  It just doesn't know what kind of movie it wants to be.  It starts out as a crime thriller where an American tourist is robbed by a gang of leather-clad teenage boys.  The soundtrack is hip and catchy and you're prepared to enjoy an early 60's "youth gone bad" flick.  
But wait, then we are introduced to a group of children who are pronounced "dead" by one of the character in the film.  Yet, they are not walking around like mindless flesh-eating zombies.  Instead, they are wise beyond their years,a little too precocious and in need of rescue.  The soundtrack changes and you almost feel like you're slipping into horror territory.
Then a guy in what looks like a space suit arrives on the scene.  WTF?  Now, you're in a Sci-Fi flick!  We later learn this outfit is a radiation suit and These Are The Damned makes an abrupt U-turn and travels back to a 1950's atomic radiation paranoia picture.
Yep, it's a bit confusing, to say the least.  
Because These Are The Damned is attached to Hammer Studios, reviewers appear to be much kinder than they should be.  While it is a well made film, it's plot gives the viewer cinematic whiplash.  Even the presence of Oliver Reed cannot save it.  There are much better Hammer Horror films to watch than this one.  I wouldn't waste my time.
RATING: Fair.
For more info check out the episode's entry in IMDB.