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, December 29, 2016

Vampire Men of the Lost Planet, a.k.a. Horror of the Blood Monsters (1970)

What fresh hell is this? Or, rather, what rewarmed hell is this? Vampire Men of the Lost Planet (VMLP) is an unforgettable film in all the wrong ways. Once you see it, you cannot unsee it!!

Director/producer Al Adamson made his living making cheap films for the drive-in market during the 1960's and 1970's. With VMLP he adds new footage to snippets from three old movies in order to create an unforgettable, as well as unforgivable, viewing experience. The films in question are One Million B.C. (1940), The Wizard of Mars (1965), and Tagani (1965). Visually, he ties everything together by using monocolor filters on all the old film stock and then includes an explanation in the plot as to why this phenomenon is happening. It's audacious and brilliant!

This is the kind of film that would make Ed Wood smile. The sets are cheaply constructed and look like something from a High School play. The cast of characters include vampires, astronauts, cavemen, dinosaurs, and crabs and bats that are humans in Halloween costumes (I kid you not)! Then there's the over-the-top, exuberant performance of John Carradine who tries to keep this sinking ship afloat by over-acting the part. He fails miserably. The only other notable actor in the cast is Robert Dix who also starred in Forbidden Planet.

If you like really, really bad cinema, then VMLP will tickle you with delight. Otherwise, I would avoid this film like the vampire plague depicted in this movie!

RATING: Good.

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


Monday, December 26, 2016

The Amityville Curse (1990)

Please. Make. It. Stop. As far as I'm concerned The Amityville Horror (1979) was, and should have always been, a stand alone movie that was based on the real life story of the Lutz family. However, when Hollywood has a cash cow they usually milk it to death! Such is the case of The Amityville Curse which has NOTHING to do with the original story nor the original house. The screenplay was based on a book by the same name. However, IMDB lists multiple authors which is never a good sign and usually indicates there were problems that needed to be fixed. After watching this film, I would say this is the case because the story is all over the place. At first, its a murder mystery. Then it's a supernatural thriller that's not very thrilling. Finally, it's a slasher flick. What a mess!

To make matters worse, they were on a shoestring budget so we have a director with no significant credits to his name, actors who are sometimes god-awful, and special effects that mostly consist of wind machines and lots of candles!!! There are many moments which are supposed to be terrifying but I found myself giggling constantly. I won't belabor the point so if you're tempted to watch this film on YouTube, PLEASE for the love of cinema, resist the urge. You've been warned.

RATING: Bad.

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


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

TerrorVision (1986)

This film is much beloved by some as a campy 80's classic. I guess it depends on your sense of humor but I just didn't get it. This is no Ferris Bueller's Day off or Weird Science. I found TerrorVision to be painful to watch. Comedy is a tricky thing to pull off, especially when it's the over-the-top kind. TerrorVision feels a bit like Pee-Wee's Playhouse with its brightly colored sets and cheesy over-exuberant characters. The only problem is that it's not nearly as funny as Pee-Wee nor quite as subversive.

The monster in this movie can best be described as a big pile of oozing flesh. There were lots of great puppetry effects in the 80's such as The Ghoulies but the way this monster is constructed makes it difficult for it to convey terror or any other emotion. It's sort of like the Grimace in the old McDonald's commercials whose only way of communicating was giggling and jumping up and down. Yeah, this is that kind of monster.

To be honest, the acting is fine. The cast is full of character actors such as Gerrit Graham [Child's Play 2, Demon Seed], Diane Franklin [Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, Better Off Dead] and Mary Woronov [The House of the Devil, Death Race 2000]. There's also the adorable Chad Allen who was also starring in the TV Drama Our House the same year this film was made. They give it their all, and then some. It's just that the screenplay doesn't have the kind of humor that works for me.

So, give it a shot if you like uber-cheesy 80's movies. Just be forewarned that there is barely any horror in this one and lots of groan-worthy humor.

RATING: Fair.

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


Sunday, December 4, 2016

Silent Night, Bloody Night (1974)

Before there was Friday the 13th or Halloween, the same year that Deranged and Black Friday were released, yet another early slasher flick was born: Silent Night, Bloody Night.  What was going on in 1974 that spawned two very dark Christmas stories virtually simultaneously?  Perhaps those Groovy 70's held their dark secrets after all, hidden beneath layers of polyester and bad hair styles!
Silent Night, Bloody Night is a somewhat forgotten gem.  It doesn't have near the production values as Black Christmas.  It's a bit slow paced at times.  However, there is a lot that is good about this film and almost great.  

First we have the serial killer cam, that follows the killer through the house as he stalks his prey.  Second, we have the element of surprise as the slow pace of the film lulls us into a false sense of security which is jarred by a sudden swing of an axe or shovel.  Third, the movie keeps us guessing who the killer is and we don't really learn the whole story until the end of the film.  Fourth, the soundtrack is good with Silent Night devolving into a haunting minor scale that suggests that not all is twinkling lights and holly in this film.  Fifth, the director chooses a "less is more" approach in terms of gore.  There's not a lot of blood on screen but your mind fills in all the messy details perfectly.  Finally, can there really be too many Christmas horror stories?  I think not!  It's a stressful, scary holiday to say the least.


The cast of Silent Night, Bloody Night is mostly unknown to me except for Patrick O'Neal who starred in tons of films including The Stepford Wives and The Way We Were.  [There is also a small cameo by John Carradine as well.]  Yet, in spite of its lack of star power the cast is quite good and gets the job done rather well.  You can download this one for free from Archive.org.  However, the copy is rather grainy.  Still this actually adds to the enjoyment of the film.  I don't think there's a better copy out there.  I searched the internet and one is just as bad as the other.  If anyone else knows of a better print, please let me know.
If you like slasher flicks, then definitely put this one on your list.  Silent Night, Bloody Night is a Christmas present that's the perfect gift any time of the year.
RATING: Very Good.
Download a copy of the film from Archive.org
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Black Christmas (1974)

If you love the sight of lights twinkling on an evergreen tree and carols wafting through the air, then this movie is NOT for you.  If the season of Christmas drives you crazy with its endless barrage of over-sentimentality and consumerism, then sit back and enjoy!  Although Friday the 13th (1980) inspired two generations of Dead Teenager Movies, it stole everything that was good about it from Black Christmas.  The setting is a sorority house instead of a summer camp but nearly everything else is the same.
We see significant portions of the film through the perspective of the killer as the "slasher cam" walks us through the house.  The killer is not "unmasked" until very late in the movie.  [In Black Christmas we may see his hand or his eye but never the whole person.]  The movie intentionally leads us down the wrong path so that we think the killer is someone else.  Teenagers are dispatched in creative and violent ways.  I think you get my point.
Black Christmas tackles these elements very well.  It creates a great deal of suspense throughout the film and I found myself squirming in my seat a number of times as these sweet sorority girls are knocked off in horrific ways.  That's a high complement from me because I'm pretty "unsquirmable."  Black Christmas follows the tradition of Alfred Hitchcock who instinctively knew that what we don't see is far more frightening that what we do see.  Therefore, there is actually very little blood spilled on screen but your mind fills in all the gory details [and does a better job in the process].
The cast is great and includes Margot Kidder [The Amityville Horror, Superman], Olivia Hussey [Romeo and Juliet], Andrea Martin [SCTV, My Big Fat Greek Wedding] and John Saxon [A Nightmare on Elm Street, Enter the Dragon].  Everyone is excellent and there's not a weak link in the bunch.  Particularly enjoyable is Marian Waldman who plays Mrs. Mac, the alcoholic house mother who watches over the girls.  She provides some much needed comic relief in the midst of the bloodletting.
Black Christmas was remade in 2006 with Andrea Martin returning to play the house mother instead of a sorority girl.  I consider it to be as enjoyable as the original and, in some ways, it's better.  The remake includes the backstory of Billy the killer and does it rather effectively.  These "nostalgic" moments enhance the film and provide some of the most twisted and disturbing elements in it. [You'll never look at Christmas cookies the same way again!]  The remake is more violent but it's still well done.  My recommendation is to watch both of them.  Start with the original and then view the remake.  Let me know what you think.  I watch Black Christmas every holiday season with my adult kids.  It's our version of A Christmas Story and helps us to cope with the madness that is the holiday season.  [You might find it hard to believe but Bob Clark directed both of these films.  Thanks to him we have both Ralphie and Billy as our holiday mascots.  WOW!]
RATING: EXCELLENT.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964)

Spectacularly bad.  Magnificently god-awful.  That pretty much describes Santa Claus Conquers the Martians which has been given a spot on the 100 worst films of all time. 

Here’s the thing:  First of all, this film was made for children, so let’s cut it some slack.  SCCM is a delicious slice of 1960’s children’s TV fair that has the sentimentality of Lassie and the humor of Dennis the Menace.  Scarface it is not!

Secondly, this film was made for a paltry $200,000 and includes scenes from the North Pole, outer space and the planet Mars.  It also has a sizable cast including Pia Zadora in her first film!  You gotta give them an A for effort!

Yes, the costumes are horrible and amateurish.  Yes, the script and acting are just as bad.  Yes, the sets look like they were made for a Jr High School play.  But, who cares?  Like Ed Wood’s Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959), SCCM is exuberant, independent filmmaking that knows exactly what it is and celebrates it with gusto.  This is one of those films that falls into the “so-bad-it’s good” category.  If that’s your kind of thing [and it’s my kind of thing] then don’t miss this one. 

SCCM may be best viewed in December with a group of friends, Christmas cookies and spiked eggnog.  It will definitely be a part of my holiday celebration from tis time forth and forevermore!

RATING: Bad. [as in so-bad-it’s-good]

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