It’s not October without a review of an Amicus film, and this year I’ve got another Amicus Anthology here – the one with the title that grabbed my attention the most – The House That Dripped Blood. Unfortunately, it’s also probably the most disappointing I’ve seen to date.
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We have our second horror review for the month, with the 1960 film Jigoku.
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And now we move fully into the horror films with an ‘80s supernatural horror slasher film – Slaughterhouse Rock, with a bunch of college students being terrorized by a supernatural terror. Also, it’s scored by Mark Mothersbaugh and Devo, so it’s gotta be good – right? Right?
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It’s time for the first of my two horror film reviews for this year, with a look at the 1959 version of Ghost of Yotsuya.
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I have a soft spot for the El Santo movies. They are corny and campy, but universally sincere. No one in the films has any doubt that El Santo has the Doc Savage skill set he demonstrates over the series. There is no question that a professional wrestler can be a detective, an occultist, and a science hero. That said, the films are not without their flaws, and sadly Santo & the Treasure of Dracula is no exception.
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Cast a Deadly Spell is interesting as a historical artifact. While the film wears the trappings of the Cthulhu mythos, with the Necronomicon being the focus of the plot, and the protagonist bearing the name of H. P. Lovecraft (though with a different first name than the spectacularly racist author), it has almost more in common with the Hardboiled Detective variety of Urban Fantasy that we now associate with books like the Harry Dresden series. It’s not by any stretch the first urban fantasy work – Mike Resnick’s John Justin Mallory novels and War for the Oaks pre-dates it, with Resnick’s series also being hard-boiled detective fiction. But by being a movie made for HBO, it provided the genre a level of visibility that it had never before seen. But is it good?
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What happens when you give the director of Ghost of Yotsuya $1.95 and a ham sandwich (or, in this case, 195 yen and an onigiri), say the studio is on the brink of bankruptcy and tell him to make a horror film – you get Jigoku. This is a dark, grim, surreal, and truly nightmarish film.
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Madhouse is a very good film with a title that has effectively nothing to do with the plot, but that’s okay. It is – in short – Amicus making a very serious effort to do their take on giallo films, and they do fairly well.
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I have come to the conclusion that my first non-anthology Amicus film I watched, Scream and Scream Again, may have been an outlier, in terms of quality. By contrast, The Skull, while very light on narrative, has some very nicely done imagery and well done cinematography, which makes it an incredibly fun film.
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I’m following up on my review of Paperbacks From Hell, with a video review of a novel covered in that book – 1977’s The Sentinel.
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Ghost of Yotsuya is arguably a conventional horror film, though it’s one that also takes a little bit to get to the spooks. Like Kwaidan, it’s an adaptation of an existing horror story, in this case, one from a Kabuki play.
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Saturn 3 feels like a film coming off of the environmental dystopia films of the 1970s – like Silent Running – combined with a bit of horror. However, having a cast smaller than that of Alien – just 3 actors – ultimately ends up working against the film.
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It Came From Beneath The Sea is the kind of giant monster movie I can enjoy mostly guilt free. No appliances glued or stapled onto animals – just good old fashioned, cruelty-free Ray Harryhausen stop-motion. It’s how Willis O’Brian did it – it’s how the movie industry had done, and at that point in the ‘50s it had worked pretty well so far.
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The Astro-Zombies is, basically, 2-3 movies mashed together badly. They’re not mashed together in the editing room, like with the Godfrey Ho Ninja films, but in the screenwriting process.
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The Devil’s Rain, like Scream and Scream Again, is not a good movie. It is a more competently shot film. However, its story is barely comprehensible and the dialog is painful to listen to, in spite of its solid cast.
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Amicus Films greatest strength as a studio has been, in their films I’ve previously reviewed (like Tales from the Crypt and Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors) has been their anthology films. Their films were always fairly low budget, but the short form anthology film format allowed them to get good actors in for short narrative works. Scream and Scream Again shifts things by doing a more ambitious narrative, but one which stumbles out of the gate and is fumbled in its execution.
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One of the genres where horror thrives is the Anthology film, and by “thrives” I mean that pretty much the only anthology films being made these days are horror films. Often, they take the framing narrative from EC Comics and it’s like – horror stories book-ended with a narrative by a ghoulish presenter of some form or another – you know, the classic Tales From the Crypt formula. Well, when HBO launched their Tales From The Crypt anthology TV series and films, Showtime filmed a pilot for their own, to be titled Body Bags. They didn’t decide to go forward, but did take the three filmed stories and turned them into their own anthology film.
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The Haunted Palace is, ostensibly, another of Roger Corman’s Edger Allen Poe adaptations, in this case doing a story based on one of Poe’s poems. However, it’s not that at all. Indeed, Poe’s poem barely shows up in the story in the first place. Instead, The Haunted Palace is more of an adaptation of one of the stories of H.P. Lovecraft – specifically, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, with a screenplay by Charles Beaumont (who I reviewed a documentary about a while back).
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This time I’m reviewing a Golden Harvest film featuring Jiangshi.
Continue reading “Mr. Vampire: Film (Video) Review”
Since we’re spending so much time cooped up indoors, I give my thoughts on a Base Under Siege horror movie.
Continue reading “Phase IV: Video Review”
The last Lucio Fulci film I watched was The Black Cat, and while it was a pretty decent horror film, I will say it didn’t quite get into Fulci’s reputation as an extreme gorehound. The Beyond, part of his “Gates of Hell trilogy” and one of the films to make the Video Nasties, on the other hand, definitely fits that criteria.
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Horror films about vampires in the present day are kind of interesting to me. We live in a time where the concepts of how vampires “work” are common knowledge enough that on the one hand, you don’t need to explain the concepts to an audience. That said, we also are in a world of skepticism, so characters generally shouldn’t buy into the idea of vampires being real at first glance either. Count Yorga, Vampire is probably one of the earlier films I’ve seen that takes on this concept, even pre-dating Hammer’s attempts at the concept.
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I haven’t watched a lot of “Kids on Bikes” movies and fiction – I’ve seen ET, Explorers, and The Goonies, and as of this writing am currently in the middle of reading IT (which is something of a Kids on Bikes story for the flashback sequences) but I haven’t seen or read any of the other works that really feed into subsequent works like Stranger Things. I haven’t seen Monster Squad, and until recently, I hadn’t seen The Gate – a lesser-known work in the genre that I hadn’t heard about until Giant Bomb did a “Film and 40s” commentary for it with the Giant Beast crew. Well, this oversight has, at long last, been rectified.
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I wrap up my October horror reviews with a movie that has a much stronger sense of visual flair and style to it than Mother of Tears, and is from Canada instead of Italy – Beyond the Black Rainbow.
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