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!

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.

RATING: Fair.

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.

RATING: Good.

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

Monday, October 22, 2012

Frankenweenie

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!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Burning (1981)

The Burning is the poor man's version of Friday the 13th.  The story begins with a camp prank gone awry.  The camp's caretaker is horribly burned and comes back five years later to take revenge revenge on unsuspecting campers.  Ho-Hum.

The cast has a few surprises with a young Jason Alexander [Frazier], Holly Hunter [The Incredibles] Brian Backer [Fast Times at Ridgemont High] and Fisher Stevens [Short Circuit].  This raises the quality of acting a step above most 1980's dead teenager movies.  However, the audience is a bit bored since the killer lurks a lot in the shadows but doesn't claim many victims until about an hour into the film.  Much of the time the audience is waiting for something to happen that never really happens.

Tom Savini did the special effects in this film which made me really excited at first.  However, the director gives him very little to do and wastes his talents as one of the kings of gore effects.  He could have really rocked this one if he was given the chance.

Rick Wakeman of the rock band Yes did the soundtrack and its synth driven loops are very effective in setting the mood of the film.  It is one of the highlights of The Burning.

I'm not sure how many horror camp stories we need.  Friday the 13th still did it the best.  This one is a very distant third or fourth place.

RATING: Good.

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

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.

RATING: Fair.

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.

RATING: Bad. REALLY bad.

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