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!

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Monster on the Campus (1958)

Where has this movie been all my life? Monster on the Campus is almost as good as other 1950's Sci-fi classics such as Them (1954) and Tarantula (1955). It simply suffers from a bad title that doesn't compel the viewer to watch it. Thankfully, I did!

Monster on the Campus was directed by Jack Arnold who was at the helm of such classics as Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954), It Came From Outerspace (1953) and Tarantula (1955). Furthermore, writer David Duncan also did the screenplays for The Time Machine (1960) and Fantastic Voyage (1966). Ladies and gentleman, we are in very capable hands!

The basic story centers on a research professor who is infected by the blood of a prehistoric fish that was bombarded with gamma rays in order to preserve it. It's classic 1950's Sci-fi stuff and the science is as good as any other film of that era. Along the way we are treated to a rabid dog, a giant dragonfly and a professor who is transformed into the monster in question. The only weakness is that the makeup of the creature is just god-awful. It's a mask that they make no attempt to try and hide. If Jack Pierce had been the one doing the makeup, this movie would have been a classic!

Monster on the Campus also benefits from its two leads. Arthur Franz [Invaders From Mars, The Cain Mutiny] as Professor Donald Blake and Joanna Moore [Touch of Evil, Alfred Hitchcock Presents] as his gal pal Madeline Howard. They are simply perfect together and get every scene right. They are definitely the heart and soul of this movie.

The other star of the show is the magnificent orchestral soundtrack that was cobbled together with stock music from a number of composers including Henry Mancini. I am one of those people who simply loves to hear an orchestra accompany a film. It gives a richness to the movie that enhances the viewers experience of it.

So, forget about the lame title and WATCH THIS MOVIE! If you're a fan of 1950's Sci-fi you won't be disappointed.

RATING: Very Good.

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

Friday, September 9, 2016

The Midnight Hour (1985)

ABC aired this little gem on Halloween night in 1985. It's one of those horror films that can be watched by the entire family which is a rarity. It's a little bit spooky, a little bit funny, and there's even a little romance for good measure. If you need blood splatter and dismemberment to make your Halloween merry, you should probably look elsewhere. If you enjoy horror in the vein of the Munsters, then this is your kind of Halloween movie.

The plot is simple and befitting of a Scooby-Doo episode. The gang steals historical costumes from the local museum for a party, including a box with a mysterious scroll in it. They break the seal on the scroll and joke around as they read the incantation. Little did they know that as they drove off to the party they had unleashed something…lots of somethings, in fact. And, therein, lies the fun of the film as a host of ghouls and grisly characters roam the streets of the town and attend the party without anyone noticing them!

The Midnight Hour is loaded with well known faces from the 80's. LeVar Burton [Roots, Star Trek: The Next Generation], Shari Belafonte, Peter DeLouise [21 Jump Street], Dick Van Patten [Eight is Enough] and Kevin McCarthy [Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Innerspace]. Everyone in the cast is great and fulfills their roles nicely. However, the real stars are those who play the ghouls! Their physical mannerisms make them look like they just stepped out of Michael Jackson's Thriller video. They are quirky and funny and add a lot to this movie. They can even be menacing when they need to.

Kudos to director Jack Bender [Lost, Under the Dome] for making such a fun movie. There are so many things that work well in The Midnight Hour that it's hard to find anything to criticize…except for Shari Belafonte's song and dance number that feels out of place with the rest of the film.

RATING: Very Good.

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

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Witchboard 2: The Devil's Doorway (1993)

If the first film makes money, there's bound to be a sequel. But buyer beware because this movie has nothing to do with the "devil's doorway" as the title suggests. Instead we have the tale of Paige, a young businesswoman who aspire to be an artist. She moves into a new apartment and, ta-da, a Ouija Board makes its presence known in her bedroom closet.

If you've seen the first one, you kinda know where this one is going, although the plot is not as interesting as the first film. It's clear that writer/director Kevin Tenney [Night of the Demons] has more money to work with this time and he sinks it into special effects. Unfortunately, a plethera of flying tools and exploding cars don't make the film more terrifying than the first Witchblade movie. They just make it noisier!

Ami Dolenz [Pumpkinhead 2, General Hospital] plays Paige with lots of sweetness and charm and is a very likable character. Is it just me or does she bear a striking resemblance to Sarah Michelle Gellar from Buffy the Vampire Slayer? I kept on waiting for Joss Whedon's snarky dialogue to come flying out of her mouth but, alas, it didn't happen. The rest of the cast is fine with the most well known actor being Laraine Newman from Saturday Night Live. She plays the landlord who is perpetually stuck in 1969 and provides the movie it's lighter moments.

Overall, the dialogue is stronger and more natural than the first film, but the story just didn't grab me as much as the first movie did. That being said, I enjoyed watching it and if you liked the first Witchboard you will probably like the sequel as well.


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

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Witchboard (1986)

A friend brings a Ouija board to a party. You find yourself attracted to it and continue to mess with it on your own. At first it's fun. But then…weird things start to happen. This is the beginning of many stories that are told by actual people who have used Ouija or "spirit" boards. Writer and director Kevin Tenney [Night of the Demons] takes full advantage of these stories, adds a few legends of his own, and presents us with a worst-case scenario.

Witchboard is Tenney's first feature film and he does a great job with scene composition and pacing of the film. The "spirit cam" is especially effective as we see some scenes through the eyes of the spectre. This is a nod to earlier movies such as Friday the 13th (1980) and Black Christmas (1974), where we visually walk in the shoes of the serial killer. Where the film falters is the character of the detective who interrogates his suspects at graveside. Who does that?

Another thing that didn't work for me is the Zarabeth, the Valley Girl Medium. She is obviously there to inject a little humor into the film but her performance is so over the top that I found it distracting. Give me Tangina from Poltergeist over her any day!

Finally there's a slow-motion fall out a window that pays tribute to a similar scene in Psycho (1960) where someone falls down a flight of stairs and we travel with them. It works much better in Psycho than it does here.

The two things that really "work" for me in Witchboard are the complex love triangle and the spirit of "David," the dead 10 year old whom they contact. The love triangle is between the friend who brought the board and the couple who hosted the party. They all have a long history with each other and Tenney plays around with their feelings for each other in interesting ways. "David" also works and reminds us that sometimes simple is best. The Ouija board does most of the talking in the beginning of the film and it drew me into the story. If these a weakness with "David," it's that the audience figures out what David is trying to say long before the characters in the film do. Perhaps this is intentional because I found myself screaming at people who were absolutely clueless more than a few times.

Speaking of love triangles…the acting of the three main character is a bit uneven. Stephen Nichols [Days of Our Lives, General Hospital], who plays the friend, channels his inner James Spader in Pretty in Pink toward the beginning of the film. It's a bit too much for me an a more nuanced performance would have been better. Thankfully, he redeems himself later in the film and gives us more than a one-dimensional character. The girlfriend is none other than Tawny Kitaen who is best known for shaking her stuff in Whitesnake videos. Here, she shows us she has some skill as an actress and her character has a nice vulnerability about her, especially when communicating with "David." Finally, her boyfriend is played by Todd Allen [Silverado, The Apostle] who is the strongest of the three and has a more natural acting style that works well.

With a few small tweaks, I think Witchboard could have been a great film. A remake has been in the works for a while so it will be interesting to see what they do with it. My hope is that they'll follow Tenney's lead and go for suspense and intrigue rather than excessive gore. Definitely give this one a try. It may very well be one of the most underrated horror films of the 1980's.

RATING: Very Good.

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

Monday, September 5, 2016

Chiller (1985)

What most critics fail to take into consideration when reviewing Wes Craven's Chiller is that it was a MADE FOR TV MOVIE IN THE 1980's. Therefore, we're not going to see the gleeful gore and dark humor of A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) nor the sadistic horror of The Hills Have Eyes (1977). Instead, we have a film that was made for general audiences and it must be judged with this in mind.

Let's start with the screenplay. J.D. Feigelson [Dark Night of the Scarecrow], poses an interesting question: If someone is brought back to life after being cryogenically frozen, are they the same person or are they different? He tackles the subject matter fairly well and asks a few existential questions along the way. Sure, there are really no big surprises in this film but it does hold your attention and is interesting enough to keep you watching it.

Wes Craven's direction is solid and he manages to create several really good scenes, especially when the man in question is brought back to life at the hospital. I thought the effects were good and it provided one of the most interesting moments in the film.

Chiller was also helped by several veteran actors including Paul Sorvino [Goodfellas] as Reverend Penny, Beatrice Straight [Poltergeist] as Marian Creighton and Michael Beck [The Warriors] as Miles Creighton, the man who was brought back to life. Straight puts her heart and soul into this role and is definitely the emotional center of this film. Sorvino an Beck do a fine job as well.

So, give this one a try if you like thrillers. It may not be Craven's most inventive work but it's a solid effort from a director I've always admired. Just keep in mind that Thriller was a MADE FOR TV MOVIE IN THE 1980's and you'll be fine. You can find this one on YouTube. There's one copy with really crappy sound but keep searching and you'll find a decent one!


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

Friday, September 2, 2016

Wolf Blood (1925)

If you're looking for a man in a wolf costume, you'll be sorely disappointed with this 1925 silent film release. Archive.org says that Wolf Blood is the oldest remaining werewolf movie. However, I would argue that there is no werewolf in this movie at all. Just a guy who undergoes a wolf blood transfusion and thinks he's becoming wolf. Furthermore, the blood transfusion occurs very late in the film and I found myself waiting and waiting for something to happen and it didn't. 

The main plot involves two rival lumber companies and a love triangle between the femme fatale, wolf boy and the doctor who performed the transfusion. The print of the film I saw was in remarkably good shape and was accompanied by a decent soundtrack. It stars George Chesebro who also directed the film as well as Marguerite Clayton who appeared in 179 films during the Silent Era. It is well acted and is an important historical piece that I'm glad is being preserved for future generations to watch.

"Wolf Blood" is strictly for film buffs only. It is hardly Nosferatu (1922) by any stretch of the imagination. However, the film does sow the seeds for later werewolf pictures. It also gives the viewer an appreciation for the giant leap horror films made between it and Dracula (1931) or Frankenstein (1931). If audiences were used to seeing Wolf Blood, I cannot imagine how shocked they would have been when Bela Lugosi or Boris Karloff appeared on the screen.


Download a copy of the film from Archive.org

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