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, March 29, 2018

Night of the Demons (1988)

I had high hopes for Night of the Demons. I recently saw the 2009 remake and found it to be entertaining. Therefore, I hoped the original would put a fun, classic 80's horror spin on the story. No such luck. The original suffers in so many ways.

First of all much of the acting is awful and amateurish. Most of the characters are total stereotypes and I couldn't have cared less about what happened to any of them. They lived. They were killed by demons. Big whooping deal!


The first exception to this is Amelia Kinkade [Night of the Demons 1,2,3] who plays Angela, the hostess of a Halloween party gone wrong and one of the first to become a demon. Her possession dance is excellent and her presence on screen is very good. Too bad, everyone else does not rise to her standards. This could be a really great film if this were the case.

Kudos also go out to Linnea Quigley [The Return of the Living Dead, Silent Night Deadly Night] whose femme fatale turned crazy demon is also worth a shout out. The sight gag with a tube of lipstick is not to be missed!

The second weakness of the film is that while there was tons of gory demon make-up, I found myself being bored with it all.  Everything I saw has been done before and done better. Give me Nightmare on Elm Street or Hellraiser over this film any day! Some of the demon make-up was good but the 80's spoiled me and I expect more!

The third weakness is that Night of the Demons was trying its best to imitate The Evil Dead in terms of its snarky attitude and cartoonish over-the-top gore. Epic fail as far as I'm concerned. No comparison between these two films.

Finally, while I'm a big fan of 80's music, the soundtrack suffered because of it. D-List bands composed most of the tepid score which contains some of the most god-awful metal music I've ever heard. A stronger soundtrack would have really helped with film.

Enough already. How this one got a 6.2 on the IMDB baffles me to no end. If you're a fan, tell me why. I'm listening. It's frustrating because this film has SO MUCH POTENTIAL it never quite reaches.


On a positive note, I really enjoyed director Kevin Tenney's [Witchboard] choices of scene composition. He gives the movie a claustrophobic feel during the scenes that take place in the house and the lighting is also really effective.

RATING: Fair.


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

NOTE: A sequel entitled Night of the Demons 2 came out in  1994 and is about on par with the original. It starts out strong with lots of humor mixed in with its horror. But then, unfortunately it drops its snarkyness which was its biggest asset. The biggest surprise is Night of the Demons 3 (1997) which I think is actually the best of the bunch in spite of its low rating on IMDB. The plot is well developed, the acting is solid, and the overall direction is stronger.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Sisters of Death (1976)

If this film feels like it's more late 60's early 70's, there is a reason for this. Sisters was actually shot in 1972 but was never released until 1976. As far as I'm concerned, it should have never been released period!

It's clear from the get-go that sisters is a low budget "exploitation" picture disguised as a horror film. It opens with a secret initiation where one of the sisters is accidentally murdered during a pledge ritual…or was she? Seven years later, they are all mysteriously invited to a reunion at the house of…the father of the murdered girl. You can imagine where it goes from there.

Bad acting and melodramatics abound as these beautiful bombshell fashionistas try to unsuccessfully escape impending danger. If there is any sense of fun in this film, it's trying to guess who will be killed next.
 

Joe Mazzuca has only four screen credits to his name as a director and Sisters of Death was his last. No big surprise there! Thankfully he turned out to be a great production manager and has a nice resume of TV credits to his name.

The cast has a few recognizables. The Dad of the murdered girl is Arthur Franz [Monster on Campus, Abbott & Costello Meet the Invisible Man] who is the best actor in this movie. One of the drivers who took the ladies to a secluded hideaway for their reunion is Joe E. Tata who is probably best known as the owner of the Peach Pit Diner in Beverly Hills 90210. The rest of the cast is just grist for the murder mill.

Trust me, you can skip this one!

RATING: Bad.

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

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Children of the Damned (1964)

Children of the Damned is not so much a sequel to Village of the Damned (1960) as it is it's own entity. You don't really need to see the earlier film in order to enjoy the second one. That being said, there is a lively debate regarding which one is the superior film. My preference is Village over Children.

The reason for this is that Village sets a more menacing tone. The children in question are more menacing and the "glowy eye thing" works better in this film. In Children it is more inconsistent and the kids spend the vast majority of their time staring blankly and saying nothing.

Furthermore, Village has more of a Sci-Fi/Alien thing going on, while Children is more a Cold War morality/Human evolution tale.  Both have their merits. It just depends on what you're looking for.

So, let's talk about Children for a moment. The cinematography by Davis Boulton [The Haunting] in this film is gorgeous. The stark black and white is beautifully shot and gives the film lots of power. The art direction by Elliott Scott [Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, The Haunting] is also spot on, especially the scene which take place in a dilapidated cathedral.

The acting is also solid through and through. The children are well cast, although I prefer the David in Village over the David in Children who takes on a more "Damian Thorn in The Omen" kind of vibe.  Barbara Ferris is particularly good as Susan, who becomes the protector of the children. Her character is much stronger than the Mom in Village.

My advice with Children of the Damned is don't give up on it half way through the film. It is a slow starter but the ending scenes are really excellent and well worth your time. Just go into it knowing this is not so much a horror film as it is a morality tale.

Rating: Very Good.

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

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Ghosts on the Loose (1943)

If you're looking for horror, this is not it. Ghosts on the Loose is a low budget Banner Production, distributed by Monogram Pictures that's a vehicle for the comedy of The East Side Kids. Although both Bela Lugosi [Dracula] and Ava Gardner [Night of the Iguana] receive top billing on most movie posters, they have very little screen time. I watched this film because of Lugosi's fun performance in Spooks Run Wild (1941) which I highly recommend. But, alas, Ghosts on the Loose does not compare to his work in the other film. In this film he plays it straight and serious and only has a few lines here and there. It was disappointing to say the least.

This is not to say that Ghosts on the Loose was a bad film, but there's nothing paranormal going on here. It's a little "let's get the Nazis" meets "wedding of a friend" kind of film. If that's your thing, then you'll enjoy it. If you're looking for Lugosi to deliver the goods, then look elsewhere.

RATING: Fair.

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

Monday, March 12, 2018

Village of the Damned (1960)

As far as I'm concerned, Village of the Damned is a perfect Sci-Fi thriller. Yes, it's that good! Everything about this film works. Director Wolf Rilla is not exactly a household name but he paces this film perfectly and uses just the right amount to special effects to achieve his goal. Sometimes simple is best and tiny tots with their eyes all aglow is exactly what this film needs!

If you haven't seen this film I won't run any of the plot. It should be enjoyed as it unfolds. The set up involves a strange occurrence in a small English village and the suspense ramps up from there. It keeps the viewers attention easily from start to finish.

One of the reason why Village of the Damned works is a strong cast. From adults to kids, everyone gives a strong performance. The family at the center of this Sci-Fi drama pulls off their roles flawlessly. George Sanders [The Picture of Dorian Gray, All About Eve] is Gordon Zellaby, the father. He embodies the quintessential Englishman with a stiff upper lip and a "stick to it until we figure out what the heck is going on" attitude. His wife, Anthea, is played by Barbara Shelley [The Avengers] with lots of drama. Unfortunately, she is not the fierce, empowered woman we would like her to be. But, hey, it's 1960, and we still have a way to go when it comes to women's roles in cinema. Their son, David, is embodied creepily by Marin Stephens, who has the strongest presence of the three on screen. He really makes this movie work effectively.

Put this on your must-see list. I can't find a fault anywhere in this enjoyable movie. A remake of Village of the Damned was done in 1995 with legendary director John Carpenter at the helm. One would think it would be a rousing success. But, alas, it falls short of the original.

RATING: Excellent.

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

Friday, March 9, 2018

Spooks Run Wild (1941)

It does my heart good to see Bela Lugosi having fun onscreen. He's definitely in on the joke in this low budget Monogram film in which he stars along with The East Side Kids. They would do another Monogram film together entitled Ghosts on the Loose (1943) and Bela would do a total of 9 films for Monogram. Spooks Run Wild is, perhaps the best of the bunch.

The story takes place at a camp where the East Side Kids hear about a "monster killer" who is on the loose. It's a classic horror set up. Not surprisingly, the Kids decide to leave the camp and get themselves into all sorts of trouble. I won't ruin the fun. Just enjoy it.

Lugosi plays Nardo who has just moved into a nearby mansion that was left unoccupied for many years. He shows up with several coffins along with his man servant, Luigi. Lugosi has a blast in every scene and makes the most of his mythology, poking fun at it more than a time or two. Luigi is played by the legendary Angelo Rossitto, who appeared in over 70 feature films. While he is only 2' 11" tall, he has a commanding presence in this film and many others. Most people know him from Tod Browning's Freaks (1932) or Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985).

The East Side Kids provide a lot of the comedy in this film and their chemistry together is very good. The only criticism I have is that these "kids" look like Beverly Hills 90210 teens, if you know what I mean. They are definitely older than the characters they portray on screen.

Director Phil Rosen keeps the action and comedy bits moving along so there are no dead spots in Spooks Run Wild. I don't know why it's taken me this long to see this film. I enjoyed it very much and would definitely watch it again.

RATING: Very Good.

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

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Superstition (1982)

I don't think they meant for Superstition to be a comedy, but I found myself laughing constantly throughout it. Overall, I thought this move was terrible but that doesn't mean it wasn't entertaining. This one is definitely over-rated on IMDB but here's what I enjoyed about the film.

First of all, it has some really great sight gags. This isn't your typical 80's slice and dice. They tried to be creative with the kills which have more in common with a Road Runner cartoon than they do Friday the 13th. The biggest missed opportunity was a "death by paper cutter" that almost happened. Alas, it was not meant to be! They settled for a hanging instead.

The witch who seeks her revenge in Superstition is also mildly entertaining. We see her full figure only in flashbacks some 300 years ago when she was put to death by drowning. In the present time we only her her cackle and her super strong arm that grabs most of her victims by the head an tosses them around like a kitten with a mouse. Again, this is very Road Runner and elicited a number of laughs from yours truly.

The rest of the film is bad acting from Canadians whose names we've never heard of, plus a plot that is pretty predictable from start to finish. I'd skip this one if I were you. There are lots of great slasher flicks from this era that you could watch instead. Look elsewhere on my blog for suggestions. That's all folks!

RATING: Bad.

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

Monday, March 5, 2018

Prom Night II: Hello Mary Lou (1987)

Campy and occasionally inventive, Prom Night 2 is a lot of fun to watch. You need to ignore some of the bad acting and just enjoy it for what it is: A Canadian "Dead Teenager" flick from the 1980's. The plot is standard horror fare: A teenage girl is possessed by the spirit of another teen who died tragically on prom night back in 1957. The person responsible for her death is now the principle of the school and, conveniently, his son is attending prom…..you know where this is going! Need I say more?

Director Bruce Pittman is not exactly a household name but he has a long career in Canadian television. He paces the film well and incorporates enough sight gags along the way to keep the viewer interested. Much of what happens in Prom Night 2 is done with tongue-in-cheek and it contains lots of giggle-worthy moments. This film steals from lots of other sources including The Exorcist, Carrie, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and every after school special we watched during the 1980's. As long as you don't expect this to be a scary movie, you'll probably find it entertaining.

The two strongest performances come from Michael Ironside [Scanners, Total Recall] who plays Principal Nordham and Lisa Schrage who plays Mary Lou. Ironside always has such a strong presence in his films and this one is no exception. Schrage play the deceased teenager with a great balance of camp and anger as she seeks her revenge.

As a side note, you do not have to view the original Prom Night (1980) in order to watch this film. It stands by itself and doesn't reference anything in the original film.

RATING: Good.

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