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!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Poltergeist (1982)

Perhaps the most surprising thing about this film is who directed it.  Most people, including me, would swear to you that Steven Spielberg directed this near perfect tale of the supernatural.  However, it was Tobe Hooper [The Texas Chainsaw Massacre] who directed Poltergeist with Spielberg writing the screenplay and acting as producer.  Tobe Hooper?  It seems hard to believe, but it's true.  But when you think about it, it's a match made in heaven.  Tobe brings the gore and fright.  Spielberg brings the magic.  Who could ask for anything more?
The script for Poltergeist shows us horror storytelling at its finest.  The film first grabs us by the heart, introducing us to an all-American family that encounters what first appears as a playful sprite.  Then the movie grabs us by the throat as the sense of dread increases until it reaches a fevered pitch.  This is such a contrast to many modern horror films whose characters simply serve as grist for the mill [Saw, anyone?]  The audience doesn't really care about them.  The joy appears to be in watching the many creative ways they meet their demise.  Personally, I prefer Poltergeist over much of the torture porn that is called horror these days.
In addition to a great script, the cast is perfect.  Veteran actors Craig T. Nelson and JoBeth Williams are wonderful as the loving parents of three "just above average" kids, being raised in the California suburbs.  For me, JoBeth is the emotional heart of the film and her performance is wonderful to watch.  Other standouts include Heather O'Rourke as little sis Carol Anne.  How can you not love this sweet and sometimes a little bit creepy kid?  Zelda Rubinstein is a total rock star as psychic Tangina.  She is delicious in every scene.  One of my all time favorite horror roles ever created.  I cannot imagine this movie without her in it.
The special effects in this film are also great to watch and hold up well 28 years later.  This is where Tobe Hooper is an asset.  He pushes Spielberg to go a little darker than usual.  This is a good thing.  It increases the intensity of the film and makes it creepier than it would have been if Spielberg was totally in charge.
Poltergeist is one of my all-time favorites.  I've watched it numerous times and never get tired of this well crafted film.  Make sure you watch the 25th Anniversary edition.  The clarity of the picture is stunning and makes earlier versions pale in comparison.  
RATING: Excellent.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Carrie (1976)

Geeks and rejects of the world, this is OUR horror movie!  Carrie is one of the finest horror films ever made.  Revenge doesn't get any better than this!  If you've never seen this film run to the nearest video store and watch it immediately.  Unlike many of the mindless slasher flicks that would follow, Carrie has an emotional core that is deep and profound.  The movie was adapted from Stephen King's novel by both King and Lawrence D. Cohen.  It's the story of a girl with telekinetic powers that is tormented by her crazy fundamentalist mother and, eventually, her classmates.
Brian DePalma's direction [Scarface, The Untouchables] is flawless.  There isn't a wasted scene in this film and DePalma continues to build the tension until it explodes in blood, fire and rage.  The cast is luminous.  Sissy Spacek is perfection as Carrie in her ability to portray both sweetness and fury, often switching back and forth between these two emotions at lightning speed.  Piper Laurie plays her mother and brings the "crazy Jesus" in a way that is truly unsettling.  Not surprisingly, both of them were nominated for Academy Awards for Best Actress (Spacek) and Best Supporting Actress (Laurie), which rarely happens in the horror genre.  Rounding out the cast are Amy Irving as Carrie's "friend" and John Travolta for good measure.  Both give great performances as well.
Carrie was remade for TV in 2002.  I saw it and thought it was far inferior to the original.  There was also a sequel entitled The Rage: Carrie 2 which was unimpressive as well.  In 2013 Carrie hit the big screen again with Chloe Grace Moretz as Carrie and Julianne Moore as her mom.  I thought this remake was a total home run.  Mortez and Moore don't try to imitate the original performances.  Instead, they inhabit both characters in fresh ways and make them their own.  The story was also updated and centers on cyber bullying which is perfect for 2013.  

I cannot tell you how many times I've watched Carrie, but I never get tired of seeing it.  We would be so blessed if all horror films were this good.  It is a classic and probably one of my Top Ten.
Rating: Excellent.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Rosemary's Baby (1968)

I don’t think Rosemary’s Baby was the first “giving birth to Satan’s baby” movie, but it definitely set the template for films to follow such as The Omen (1976) and, most recently, Rob Zombie’s The Lords of Salem (2012).  When Rosemary’s Baby premiered, people people were horrified.  But times have changed and in 2013 this is pretty tepid stuff.  This doesn’t mean, however, it’s a poorly made film.  Far from it.  Director Roman Polanski (Chinatown, The Pianist) wrote a wonderful screenplay with lots of tension, suspense and smart dialogue.  Each scene is composed with care and Polanski gets wonderful performances our of his cast of colorful characters.

Mia Farrow is perfect as Rosemary Woodhouse, who moves into a new apartment with her husband and discovers she is pregnant.  The joys of motherhood quickly give way to paranoia and worse as she tries to protect her unborn child.  My other favorite character is Minnie, played to perfection by Ruth Gordon.  Her character os eccentric and crazy in all the right places.  It’s fun to watch.

The first time I saw this film I was a teenager and i just didn’t get it.  136 minutes of dialogue and they don’t even show the devil baby?  I felt ripped off.  Now, as an adult I appreciate what a smart thriller this is.  If you don’t need lots of blood to make you happy, Rosemary’s Baby is your kind of film.  It’s definitely a horror classic and should be seen by everyone interested in the genre.

RATING: Excellent.

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

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Beyond (1981)

When Lucio Fulci does gore, he elevates it into an art form.  This is not your ordinary torture porn with buckets of blood spraying and girls screaming for hours on end.  Fulci somehow manages to find beauty in blood and the effects in this film are unlike anything  else you’ve probably ever seen, unless you’re a massive fan of Italian horror.

The Beyond is one of Fulci’s best.  He directed it and helped with the screenplay.  The first scene alone is a total attention grabber as a warlock is brutally executed by a lynch mob in 1930‘s New Orleans.  Flash forward to the present day when a young woman inherits the old hotel and begins restoring it.  Little did she know that the hotel is built over one of the entrances to hell!  You know where it goes from there!

Cinematographer Sergio Salvati [Zombi, City of the Living Dead] is to be credited for helping Fulci craft the look of this film.  His work reminds me a great deal of Zombi which is my favorite Fulci film.  The Beyond is dreamlike and unflinchingly brutal.  It’s not for everyone but I admire the skill that is employed in the creation of this film.

So, it depends upon what kind of horror you like.  If you’ve got the stomach for a little gore, this film will take you somewhere you’ve probably never gone before!

RATING: Very Good.

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

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Skeleton Dance (1929)

Here's a delightful shirt film Disney did back in the day.  I never saw this before but absolutely love it.  Enjoy!

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Vampire’s Coffin, El ataúd del Vampiro (1958)

Ah, another dose of Mexican horror!  The Vampire’s Coffin is the sequel to the wonderful El Vampire (1957).  Thankfully German Robles is back as the vampire and does a great job with the role for a second time.  Alicia Montoya is also back which is a good thing as well.

I watched the restored version of this film that can be rented from Netflix.  The print is gorgeous and the viewer is able to watch the film in Spanish, Spanish with English subtitles and English dubbed.  I made the mistake of beginning the film with the English dub version.  I quickly changed it to English subtitles and the experience of watching the film improved dramatically.  Trust me, the dub is terrible.

Director Fernando Mendez is also back but this time with a different cinematographer, Victor Herrera.  It shows.  This film takes place mostly indoors in simple, modern buildings.  It’s missing the beautiful atmosphere I loved about the first film.  This is not to say it’s poorly made.  The original is simply more moody and atmospheric.  The overall look of the original is superior to the sequel.

Overall, The Vampire’s Coffin is a delightful old vampire flick.  If you enjoyed the original, this one is most definitely worth your time as well.

RATING: Very Good.

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

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

A Lizard in a Woman's Skin (1971)

Lizard is definitely one of Italian Horror director Lucio Fulci’s finest films.  It’s a mature, competent and compelling crime thriller that can best be described as a Lesbian Acid Trip Horror Orgy.  Now that I have your attention, here’s how I see it:

Fulci’s direction is wonderful.  From the opening scene the viewer knows they’re in for a long, strange trip and this is exactly what they get.  Fulci’s script is clever with lots if twists and turns.  In the final 20 minutes of the film you are completely clueless as to who the real murderer is.  It could be anybody and that’s the sign of a good movie.

Like Bava and Argento, Lulci utilizes some amazing and startling images that often hit the viewer like a ton of bricks.  I know Italian Horror is not everyone’s taste but Lizard is a great place to start as an introduction to the genre.  Low on blood and high on fantasy imagery, it’s the kind of stuff Rob Zombie went for in 2013’s The Lords of Salem.  He was slammed by many critics but it’s because they fail to appreciate his inspiration.  [If you have any appreciation for Italian Horror, Zombie’s film is a must see.]

The acting is solid through and through but the visuals are definitely what drive the story.  I’ve said this before: Italian horror is not meant to be watched, it’s meant to be experienced.  This is a fine place to start that experience.

RATING: Very Good.

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

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

31 Vintage Frights for October

Here are some of my favorite horror films with an emphasis on creepy/scary.  They are arranged in chronological order:

1. Nosferatu (1922)
2. Frankenstein (1931)
3. Dracula (1931)
4. Freaks (1932)
5. The Invisible Man (1933)
6. The Wolf Man (1941)
7. The Return of the Vampire (1944)
8. Creature from the Black Lagoon (1953)
9. House of Wax (1953)
10. The Bad Seed (1956)
11. Psycho (1960)
12. Homicidal (1961)
13. Straight-Jacket (1964)
14. Night of the Living Dead (1968)
15. Dr Phibes Rises Again (1972)
16. The Last House on the Left (1972)
17. The Exorcist (1973)
18. Deranged (1974)
19. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
20. Suspiria (1977)
21. The Hills Have Eyes (1977)
22. Halloween (1978)
23. Dawn of the Dead: Dario Argento cut (1979)
24. Phantasm (1979)
25. The Shining (1980)
26. Friday the 13th (1980)
27. The Evil Dead (1981)
28. Children of the Corn (1984)
29. A Nightmare of Elm Street (1984)
30. Phenomena (1985)
31. Hellraiser (1987)