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Pinup Dolls on Ice (2013)
Pinup Dolls on Fire!
Wow! I had the pleasure of screening this gem at the 2013 New York City Horror Festival this past weekend and all I can say is "AMEN"! Montreal-based filmmakers Geoff Klein & Melissa Mira of BGOI FILMS have welcomed us back to the 'Slasher' genre with Pinup Dolls On Ice - a high voltage feature that delivers real scares, brutal violence, and the toughest bunch of Final Girls who can act the stilettos off the current genre's contemporaries! I have not seen a film of this caliber since Haute Tension, Severance and Wolf Creek. With rich production value, a great tongue-in-cheek script, a taut, nerve racking pace, and lush sound design guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat, Pinup Dolls On Ice is not only a 'welcome back' to a beloved genre, but a re-imagining of where it can (and should) be taken. Yeah...I'm a fan of this one!
I see you!
They're living right next door! Across the street! Now they're in your home! I saw this dark little beauty this past September at the 2008 Dark Carnival Film Festival in Bloomington, Ill. It scared the living daylights out of me! No blood. No gore. Just good old fashioned 'creeps' by taking the 'average' everyday suburban neighborhood and turning it into a children's game-gone-nightmare. And the old man's wife at the top of the stairs?? Yikes! Chilling! Now I know why I don't deal with my own neighbors! Excellent short film from a very clever director. I can't wait to see what he creates next! This little horror flick is must see- look for it!
Penny Dreadful (2005)
What a great little ghost story! Director Bryan Norton has brought so many great elements to PENNY DREADFUL to produce a tight, polished, sophisticated urban spook tale that takes place right in the heart of Manhattan's West Village district. Starring the legendary Betsy Palmer and a cast of horror genre notables like Tina Krause, Peter DuPre, Sebastian Lacause and Warrington Gillette, Norton also utilizies beautiful locations where classic thrillers like WAIT UNTIL DARK were actually shot. Actress Emily Vaughan is a knockout as the career girl investigating strange hauntings in her newly inherited townhouse. Instead of running into the streets screaming like any other actress allowed in stories of similar ilk, Vaughan makes it her mission to investigate these strange occurrences with a smirking awareness only to be found in true New York City gal fashion! SO MUCH FUN! A breath of fresh air - this is what short stories should all look like!
Divorce His - Divorce Hers (1973)
Everything seems better in ROME!
These two connecting movies, made in the early seventies were obviously tax write-offs for the over indulgent Burtons - but to see Carrie Nye, wafting about Rome in orange and canary yellow chiffon dresses, sipping champagne out of her golden slippers and charmingly trying to step in between Burton and Taylor's 'on again-off again' love affair is a treat that makes these two 70's period pieces great! With her honest husky drawl, she growls and drinks and brazenly seduces Burton so matter-of-factly, that you really can't understand why he turns her down for the shrill harping's of Taylor's needy character. A fun movie of a time long past - where material excess was accepted and longed for, and the only care in the world was 'what diamonds to wear' that day. Carrie Nye shines in these films.
A Feast of Souls (2004)
Get me a fly swatter!
I caught this indie gem at the NYC Horror Film Festival in 2004 and was completely enthralled. Feast of Souls tells the tale of three men who have known each other since childhood. They return to a special spot in the deep woods where they shared life, growing pains and many memories. But this particular visit down memory lane ends in the unfortunate murder of one trio member over a matter of stolen money. With two men remaining, a scuffle ensues and our main character (Josh Smith) is knocked unconscious. Upon awakening, he finds himself transported to a hallucinatory dimension guided by the ghost of an enigmatic slave girl (played beautifully by Ra Sylver). His surreal journey through these haunted southern woods relives the deaths which occurred in the forest since the Civil War. Is he only dreaming? Will he ever wake up? And what about all those flies? E. Lee's cinematography is lush and beautifully captures all the natural gradients of Virginia's forest greens. It dominates the screen and like all great locations, it becomes it's own character in the film. It also compliments and heightens the 'mortal' characters, which all appear in neutral earth tones. Andy Staley's authentic Bluegrass scoring and mix of eerie ambient effects stretches the hundred year gap between its main characters and fuses them. Director/actor Josh Smith makes a great debut in both titles. His direction is tight and his acting is natural and relaxed. This is only just the beginning for Josh Smith!
What would Halloween be without it??
Now what would Halloween, my favorite holiday, be without Charlie
Brown and the Great Pumpkin? Not to date myself, but I remember the very first time it aired on
CBS at the ripe old age of 7! I've never missed it since! Nothing encapsulates childhood, camaraderie and the spirit of
Halloween more than this Charles M. Schultz classic. Charlie
Brown and his bag of rocks, Snoopy and the Red Baron, Linus'
ingenious use of his security blanket for a ghost costume, Vince
Guaraldi's great score, and of course, bossy Lucy and her
sarcastic voice of reason - I think we all know a 'Lucy' growing up! All the feelings of anticipation, excitement and fear so commonly
associated with this spooky holiday is captured here - even the
feeling of great disappointment when awakening the day after and
knowing one must wait another FULL year for this greatest of
holidays to come again - another year to plan and live out your
fantasy. Well, at least there's Charlie Brown Xmas to get us over
the hump! Good Grief!!
The Uninvited (1944)
Always check your guest list!
Here is the ultimate' ghost story; an abandoned mansion seated
atop a jagged cliff off the English shores, an unsolved and brutal
murder from a generation past, a young woman obsessed with a
house that was once her home, and a vengeful and evil spirit
reaching out from the grave. Lewis Allen's The Uninvited (1944), based on Dorothy Macardle's
tale of murder, ghosts and things that go bump in the night
-remains unchallenged. While on holiday along the shores of Cornwall, siblings Rod &
Pam Fitzgerald (Ray Milland & Ruth Hussey) stumble upon a
beautiful deserted estate called Winwood. Enchanted by the
home, Pam convinces Rod that they should pile together all their
funds to buy the place and get out of their stuffy flat in London.
They approach the owner, Commander Beech (Donald Crisp),
who gladly sells them the property for a modest price, but not
without some strong opposition from his lovely granddaughter
Stella (Gail Russell). The home had belonged to Beech's
daughter, Mary Meredith, who met a violent death off the Winwood
cliffs 17 years prior. Foul play was implied, but never
investigated.Now the properties are rumoured to be cursed and
haunted. Young Stella is forbidden to step foot on the grounds,
which was her home for a brief time as a child. She is
mysteriously drawn to the mansion and the cliffs. Despite her
protests, Winwood is sold to the Fitzgeralds and they move in. But
now the seaside manor is suddenly loosing its charm. Their dog
'Bobby' will not climb the stairs to the second floor and has run
away. The maid's cat 'Whiskey' is also hissing up a storm. And
the dreadful sounds of a woman weeping and the smell of
mimosa permeate the house nightly before the rise of the dawn
breeze. Stella befriends Pam and Rod to get closer to the house, but also
becomes much 'closer' to handsome composer Rod who writes
a hauntingly beautiful lullaby for her titled, Stella By Starlight. But beautiful romance is quickly interrupted by the entry of two
ghosts who battle for Stella's soul. Possession, séances, and creeping mists soon become a staple
routine at Winwood. Now since I'm known to never reveal a stories end and spoil it for
someone who has never had the chance yet to see this classic
you know what to do! I first saw The Uninvited when I was about 9 years old it
convinced me that, one day, I would become a filmmaker. By today's standards it would most likely be considered tame', but
aside from classics like The Haunting (1963), Ghost Story (1974)
and The Changeling (1980), I have yet to have seen a more
atmospheric and haunting ghost tale. Thirty years later, it still chills
me to the bone and I always notice something new that I hadn't
seen before. The brilliant cinematography by Charles Lang, the lilting score by
Victor Young, a great script and the strong supporting cast of Alan
Napier, Barbara Everest, Dorothy Stickney, and Cornelia Otis
Skinner as the very creepy and ghoulish Miss Holloway (How very
curious!'), only add to the film's already perfect mix. The Uninvited' belongs on every ghost lover's shelf!
London Voodoo (2004)
I'm in a Voodoo state of mind!
I often wonder when I read other sour reviews of excellent films posted on this site, what is going on through the confined and jaded thinking of some folk! I was lucky enough to catch the premiere of London Voodoo at the Fearless Tales Genre Fest in San Francisco this winter 2004 and was literally glued to the screen! For the first time since 1987's The Believers, and 1988's Serpent and the Rainbow, comes a stylish, authentic and urban tale of voodoo, possession, exorcism and redemption. London Voodoo is a film, much like Rosemary's Baby, in that it takes its time telling its story in order to reveal it's many hidden surprises.
Manahattanites Lincoln (Doug Cockle) and Sarah (Sarah Stewart) move to London with their baby and take up residency in a poshy reconverted old townhouse - not knowing that their new (but old) home, especially the basement, has a very serious past. Settling into their new lifestyle, Lincoln establishes his executive career with a popular high-end company in midtown. Meanwhile, Sarah and her baby are left alone in an environment that is not only foreign, but also extremely lonely -and director Robert Pratten does wonders with his leading lady by slowly revealing her American neurosis of the classic misplaced 'Yankee' in a new country.
With construction work going on throughout their new home, Sarah soon discovers a dark secret entombed in the basement. And this is where the film really takes off!
London Voodoo offers it all. Mystery and intrigue soon turn to paranoia and mounting terror. I'm not going to reveal any more of the storyline - you have to see this one for yourselves! The supporting cast, especially Trisha Mortimer, Sven-Bertil Taube and the vampy Vonda Barnes only add to the great atmosphere and subplots of the film. It's easy to see why director Robert Pratten won Best Director at the Fearless Tales Genre Fest. His attention to detail - especially his knowledge of the very intricate practices of voodoo, white and black magic and spells, is a lesson in itself.
And also noted is that his amazing ensemble' cast won the Best Acting accolades at the same festival- with kudos going to Cockle and Stewart.
Finally a creepy tale that relies on real actors - and not 'stars'. Maybe I'm old fashioned, but horror movies should always put characters first to pull you in before unleashing its fright upon the audience.
Much like the more polished fright flicks of the sixties such as Curtis Harrington's Games (1967), and even Freddie Francis' Dr. Terror's House of Horrors (1965), London Voodoo is a cerebral and stylish foray into the horror/voodoo genre . chilling without showing much, therefore leaving a lot to the imagination - but trust me - you'll jump!
Moonlight by the Sea (2003)
A thinking man's sci-fi tale
I saw this film by Justin Hennard at the 2004 Fearless Tales Genre Fest in San Francisco and it simply blew me away! 'Moonlight by the Sea' is a tale of a man's battle within himself and the company that owns him. Set in the near future, one conglomerate company - The Corporation, now owns the world. Albion Moonlight (Sean Allen), is The Corporation's top salesman and foot soldier, who while traveling on an urgent and important mission, crashes his spaceship onto a barren planet with no chance of rescue, communication or possibility of completing that 'big deal.' Meanwhile back on earth, everyone is linked to The Corporation either by employment or the mass consumerism of its mind-altering, addictive products. This is 'Big Brother' on a more logical scale - and eerily - it doesn't appear so far off from the distant future when reviewing the country's status today. Albion, now free of the Corporation's wiring and mechanized thought-reading equipments that have been part of his being for most of his adult life, is, for the first time, alone. His journey through the dry and desolate landscape puts his 'own' mind into overdrive. Have the voices of the Corporation finally stopped? Does he now have free thought and a chance to escape? Unfortunately 'no.' With all this 'free time' on his hands and the fear that he will eventually be rescued and returned to 'active' duty, he obsesses on how to complete his mission. So 'new' is free thought and privacy to him, that he conjures up 2 beings to walk his journey with him; there is Stranger, played by Kingsley Martin, who expertly portrays the side of Albion's brain that is 'all Corporation'. When Albion lets his thoughts wander to the other side of his brain and the prospective of a real life, Stranger begins to short circuit! Albion leaves Stranger behind with the ship to pursue other avenues of thought and escape. His childhood, a loving mother, a once-loving wife, and happy days - all flood back to him. He is allowed free thought and for once, no one can hear it! Enter Nomman, played by Prince Camp. Nomman is the human side of Albion's brain, slowly and patiently trying to reopen the dried riverbeds of Albion's mind, which are much like the landscape they are traveling together.
As we journey through Albion's complex and resigned existence, the film is intercut with high-tech scenes from Corporation Headquarters and our introduction to Gwen Klaus, played by the gorgeous and capable Mylinda Wenz. She is charge of all product sales and the 'correct' thought patterns of her drone workers. She is thrown off schedule by Albion's disappearance and the corporation demands answers and solutions. The Corporation products, which are denied use by any corporation member, are also becoming part of Gwen's closet addiction. She enlists the aid of Capt. Santop (Gary Peters) to assist her, and in an unusual twist of subliminal romance, he covers for her and accepts her strict and clinical abuse, even after discovering her illegal usage. For more storyline, you simply have to get your hands on a copy of this great film. MOONLIGHT BY THE SEA is not your average, run of the mill, sci-fi romp. You're really going to have to put your thinking cap on kids and start using a little gray matter for this one! Justin Hennard has brilliantly created a future world and a hopeless existence for all living under the dictatorship of one singular mindset. He opens the film within the dark and claustrophobic hull of Albion's small ship, and with an ever-widening pinhole of light, he slowly opens the frame to reveal a constricted world.
Shot in lush black & white - a wonderful switch from the computerized C.G.I. fare of today - Hennard's photography grows comparison to the high-art camera work of 90' icons Bruce Weber and the late Herb Ritts. His streamlined sets, lighting, and total attention to detail and continuity, make for very sophisticated viewing. It took me to a far away place - I never once looked at a shot and thought - 'Oh, I know where that is!' Moonlight's look and expression reminded me much of those great French filmmakers from the 1960's. Quite impressive from a new filmmaker who is still very young - but only in years! An art film? Yes. An allegory to today's consumerism and greed? Absolutely!
There isn't a lot of action, just human condition. I think Ray Bradbury and Rod Serling would cheer at Justin Hennard and Jonathan Ackley's intelligent screenplay. I found 'Moonlight' very similar to one of my favorite films; Stanley Kramer's 1959 film of Nevil Shute's WW III epic, On The Beach, which placed Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner in a tale of apocalyptic proportions and relied solely on their 'humanness' as a storyline - and not millions of dollars of special effects.
Some may think MOONLIGHT BY THE SEA a bit highbrow and surreal, but maybe its just time for all of us to start using that part of our brain not controlled by the mass media and look a bit deeper as well. * * * * *
A forgotten 50's classic
One of my favorite 50's monster movies! For some reason this priceless little gem is always overlooked in the lists of B-movie monster faves of the 1950s. You have one of the better amphibious creature costumes designed by Jack Kevan (No zipper!!), a great sea coast location, decapitations and gore, some very decent acting by A-list party girl and pin-up queen Jeanne Carmen, and last but not least, Les Tremayne - He is only in 85% of all classic B-horror/sci-fi films of the 1950s! What's a film without him?! All right guys, I know its formula, but this obscure little tale holds a special place in my heart since I was 9-years old! The film has drama, subtext, coastal atmosphere, sex, and about 5 or 6 headless corpses lying about! John Harmon as Sturges, the crusty lighthouse keeper who feeds the hungry cave-dwelling beast meat scraps from the local deli, does a credible job here as a man who has closed off all emotions to the world, including those of his fetching daughter Lucy (Carmen), in exchange for companionship with the hungry creature. Jeanne Carmen is a natural beauty equal to the Mara Cordays' and Allison Hayes' of her decade. Too bad the studios didn't use her a little more proficiently. Psuedo-teen heartthrob Don Sullivan is thrown in for some romantic interest and all that biology jazz and the musical score (which is never credited) is rich, layered and 'original.' So, sorry guys! The Monster of Piedras Blancas always wins with me!