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.

RATING: Fair.

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.

RATING: Good.

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.

RATING: Fair.

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.

RATING: Good.

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.

RATING: Good.

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.

RATING: Bad.

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