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I always had a lot of sympathy for writer/director/producer Dan Curtis,
and have a great deal of respect for the contributions he made to the
world of cinematic as well as made-for-TV horror movies. Still, even
though I found all of his movies that I've seen entertaining while they
lasted, I must admit that for some strange reason not many of them
are truly memorable. "The Night Stalker" forms an exception, but I
honestly can't remember too much about such titles like "Burnt
Offerings", "Curse of the Black Widow" or even the predecessor of this
film; "House of Dark Shadows". I'm afraid it'll be just like that for
"Night of Dark Shadows" as well. It's an admirable and worthwhile
effort, especially because Curtis didn't opt for the safe formula to
further exploit the character and story line of vampire patriarch
Barnabas Collins, but the film doesn't make a lasting impression and
surely I will have troubles remembering it in a couple of months
already. But hey, that's also one of the reasons why I write these
things, namely to research and recall that albeit forgettable it
was at least enjoyable.
David Selby also known from the landmark TV-series replaces Jonathan Frid as the lead star of this installment. In present day Maine, he portrays another descendant of the infamous Collins clan, Quinten. He moves into the family home Collinwood with his amiable wife Tracy and hopes to quietly and peacefully work on his paintings. Soon, however, Quinten is haunted by nightmares of horrible events including adultery and witchery that took place amongst his ancestors in the house 200 years ago. Particularly the spirit of Aunt Angelique, who was hung up high in a tree, attempts to invade Quinten's mind and revive her former lover. As it is one of his trademarks, in "Night of Dark Shadows" Dan Curtis once again makes excellent use of the ominous locations and set-pieces. Certain sequences, especially the nightmares/flashbacks, are very atmospheric and unsettling. On the other hand, though, the plot is sadly derivative and predictable. Family feuds, executed witches, ghostly apparitions, reincarnations How many times haven't we seen this already? The film also contains too little action and often gets way too talkative. Grayson Hall's entire role, for example, adds almost nothing to the story and all she ever does is talk, talk, talk. Instead of focusing so much on her, Lara Parker should have been give more screen time. Her portrayal of great-auntie Angelique the witch is truly sensual and seductive. Many fans, notably the avid "Dark Shadows" followers, claim that production company MGM practically ruined this film because they instructed Dan Curtis to cut nearly 40 minutes out of the final film. Perhaps the full version provides more insights on certain plot aspects, but "Night of Dark Shadows" is already somewhat dull at 95 minutes, so personally I'm really not to keen on watching a 129 minutes director's cut.
Well, my last hope of watching a semi-decent 80s horror movie
completely flew out the window when, at least on the copy that I own,
the film started with a video-introduction by Troma-founder and
notorious bad taste jester Lloyd Kaufman. Apparently Troma served as
the distributor for "B.O.R.N", and in case you know a little something
about the horror industry, you also know that this company stands for
low-budgeted, silly and overall inept horror trash. On the other hand,
however, Kaufman's intro was perhaps the least boring part of the
entire film. In his very own and almost retarded style Kaufman makes a
couple of jokes about the cast and plot. For example, when he explains
that the film deals will illegal organ transplants he add-libs the
wordplay: "I kidney you not!"
"B.O.R.N" is overall a disappointment and this in spite of several potential strongpoints. The black market organ business is a very macabre topic and the idea of ruthless gangsters cruising around the big city in an authentic ambulance and scouting for innocent victims to kidnap is quite tense and disturbing. Moreover, there a few interesting names in the cast, like William Smith as an emotionless surgeon, Russ Tamblyn as a sleazy kidnapper, P.J. Soles as the vicious brain behind the criminal organization and the odd-by-nature Clint Howard as a police deputy. Then why isn't "B.O.R.N" an undiscovered gem of the late 80s horror era? Well, basically because the whole thing turns into a dull and semi-sentimental soap-opera almost straight from the beginning! The very first victims that we see abducted in the ambulance are already critical to the rest of the plot. A movie such as this needs at least two or three random 'collateral damage' victims in order to set the tone and illustrate how relentless this organ-network in fact is! But here the cowboy- father (played by writer/director Ross Hagen) immediately witnesses how his three adapted daughters are dragged into the ambulance and calls in the help of a befriended former detective to track them down. The rest of the film is a derivative and boring cat-and-mouse thriller instead of a gruesome horror flick. There's hardly any action or suspense, let alone gore and bloodshed, and the coolest actors are given the least screen time. This is even Troma unworthy! In case you want to see better and/or more entertaining movies dealing with more or less the same subjects, look for the intelligent Michael Crichton thriller "Coma" (1978) and the overlooked Larry Cohen gem "The Ambulance" (1990).
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The least you can say about "Arnold" is that it features an incredibly
inventive and completely original plot! When I first read the synopsis,
I actually didn't understand what was meant! "Upon his death, Arnold
marries his long-time mistress Karen
" What? Wait a minute, the titular
character Arnold is dead from the beginning of the film but he
nevertheless gets married? No worries, though, as the downright
phenomenal opening sequences pretty much clarify everything
immediately! And I use the word "phenomenal" because the film opens
with atmospheric images of a fog-enshrouded and morbidly ancient
cemetery where a black cat challenges a vicious raven to a fight!
Moments later a depressing funeral procession enters the church,
immediately followed by a cheerful white-dressed bride surrounded by
her joyous maids! By then you will also have figured out that "Arnold"
is, in fact, also a parody next to being an old- fashioned gruesome
horror film. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think there exist
many other ways for a film to start more promising or peculiar!
It turns out that Arnold's shrew of a wife never agreed to a divorce while he was alive, so he arranged to wed his mistress after he died! Arnold was a very wealthy but also eccentric man, and thus he astounds his ex-wife and greedy family members one last time by declaring in his will that his new wife Karen inherits his entire fortune and giant estate! There's one little condition, though They have to remain married and Arnold needs to remain with her in his open coffin until death do them part (again). Oh, by the way, did I mention that the deceased reads the testament to his family himself? He actually as a tape deck build into his coffin (!) and while the recordings are playing he lays there with a giant evil grin on his dead face! Obviously the testament causes further jealousy and hatred in the family, and even the brand new bride quickly turns out to be treacherous and in favor to put Arnold underneath the ground as fast as possible. But new tapes continue to arrive and illustrate how Arnold is always several steps ahead of his evil family. Although dead, he seemingly sees through their diabolical plans to get their hands on the fortune and prevents them by setting up freakish and painful death traps.
I really enjoyed "Arnold" a great deal in spite of some major defaults! Many other reviewers already righteously compared the film with "The Abominable Dr. Phibes". Even though that film benefited from much better direction and a smiling corpse could never replace the almighty Vincent Price, there are indeed a lot of similarities. "Arnold" is basically a throwback/homage to the good old days of dark mansions full of booby-traps, secret peeping holes in paintings and despicable family members fighting over an inheritance. There isn't a lot of tension, some parts are dull & slow-paced and the denouement is very predictable, but still the murders are gruesome and inventive (burning acid stirred into facial cream, shrinking suits, collapsing shower walls ) and as said already the set pieces are magnificent. Some of the parody aspects entirely miss their effect, while others are really funny! Personally, I loved the Constable Hooke character (Bernard Fox) and how he persists on reporting the macabre deaths as terribly unfortunate accidents. He also speaks a downright fantastic in my humble opinion, at least piece of monologue: "I wonder Is it always foggy here because it's a cemetery, or did they build a cemetery here because it's always foggy?" Oh, and final note for the avid horror nerds, that's Elsa "Bride of Frankenstein" Lanchester in the role of naive, cat- caressing sister!
"The Rifleman of the Voroshilov Regiment" admittedly has on one of the most overused and routine plots that exists in our traditional cinematic universe. It's yet another umpteenth version of the "Death Wish" story line, but still there are two tiny aspects that make the film quite unique and really made me want to see it. First of all, it's an authentic Russian production; entirely spoken in the native language and with those bizarre letters from the Russian alphabet used the title sequences. Honestly how many "regular" thrillers from Russia do you have the chance of seeing in your life? I've seen a handful of oddball Russian Sci-Fi movies from the sixties, and more recently the "Night Watch" trilogy, but those are all fancier films that were intended for the international export market. "The Rifleman of the Voroshilov Regiment" is a really small-scaled film, shot in a typical Russian village and starring ordinary Russian people. Secondly, the loving family member bent on extracting blood vengeance isn't the girl's father, brother or fiancée It's her grandfather! On her way back home on a bright Wednesday afternoon, the incredibly cute teenage girl Katya is lured into the apartment of three macho thugs, one of which she went to school with. It naturally doesn't take long before they drug and gang-rape her. The investigation is rapidly closed, since one of the rapists' father is the police commissioner. Katya's devoted granddaddy Fjodorovich can't accept that his sweet girl locks herself inside the house and grows increasingly paranoid while those filthy scumbags remain unpunished, so he buys himself a massive and I do mean MASSIVE sniper rifle and meticulously prepares his quest for revenge. What are the differences between an average aged Charles Bronson and a retired 70-year-old one? I guess it's in the details. Fjodorovich carefully puts the flowerpots back on the table after he shot a rapist in the testicles from a window across the street, rejoins his friends who are playing chess on the market square and stands along in the curious crowd when the ambulance arrives. The screenplay also masterfully captures how Fjodorovich clearly doesn't care too much about what the possible consequences are for him in case he gets caught; as he purely acts out of love and compassion for his beloved granddaughter. "The Rifleman of the Voroshilov Regiment" is a slow- paced, but beautifully intense and absorbing drama rather than an exciting and furious revenge thriller. Our senior citizen Mikhail Ulyanov puts down a magnificent performance and, thanks to him coming across as a completely normal and prototypical grandfather, his character promptly earns all the viewer's sympathy and support. The rest of the cast is very good as well, the musical score is serene yet sublime and the climax (more or less anti-climax, in fact) is courageous, intelligent and subtle. This film is fairly obscure, but worth tracking down for sure. The copy that I own started with apologies from the company that provided the subtitles for all the probable errors. Yes, well, many of the wordings in English were quite incorrect, but on the other hand I never would have been able to follow the movie if it were in Russian, so I gladly forgive them!
I said it before and I'll repeat it until my dying day No horror movie should last longer than an hour and a half! I worship the genre and have been a fan since childhood, but overlong horror movies are a complete turn-off and I always postpone watching them for this sole and superficial reason. Like with every "rule", there naturally are exceptions, but there most certainly don't exist any exceptions within the group of low-budgeted and amateurish 80s horror! "Forever Evil" lasts no less than one hour and fifty minutes! In other words, that's like 110 minutes and thus at least 30 minutes too long for trashy smut of its kind! Straight from the irritating, video-game style opening sequences, you notice that this is an independently produced amateur flick made by - and starring - inexperienced and incompetent fan- boys. The logical and inevitable consequence hereof is that more than half of the movie is pointless filler that should have been cut, the dialogues and performances are abysmal and that the gore and make-up effects, although plentiful, are lousy and pathetic. My attention span struggled to survive for about half an hour, but not that many significant things happened by then. Three couples spend the weekend in a holiday house and even the decision of who receives the last remaining slice of pizza gets turned into an overlong and boring five-minute sequence! Suddenly they all get butchered one by one by a mysterious and (initially) invisible force of evil. The culprit then turns out to be a demon with the face of a grandfather who has been dead for 30 years. Just when you're starting to hope that the running time indicated on the tape is erroneous and the film actually only lasts 50 minutes, there is one idiot who survives the ordeal and ends up in the hospital. Enter a nagging old police detective, who really ought to be retired already, and a photographer. Together they investigate the case and team with the supposedly embittered survivor who seeks revenge. I must admit that by now the movie was only playing in the background and I only occasionally looked at the screen whilst doing other stuff. The first half hour was nearly unendurable already, so I can only pay my respect to anyone staying focused throughout the whole running time! Oh, and please don't tell me that you have to watch this film from start to finish for giving a valid and trustworthy judgment.
As you undoubtedly know (otherwise you wouldn't be reading the review
for a movie such as this one
), the seventies were a glorious decade
for sleazy and exploitative cinematic smut! Quite early in the decade
already, Wes Craven's "Last House on the Left" launched the popular
hype of so-called 'rape & revenge' thrillers. These are thriller/horror
movies in which a poor and defenseless girl, or a whole bunch of poor
and defenseless girls, is viciously raped by a gang of ruthless thugs,
but then in the final act she or her family cruelly gets even. This
fairly simplistic idea quickly got imitated numerous times in the next
couple of years, notably in Italy, and the premise also got stretched
quite a bit. Pretty soon, there were more movies where the rape and sex
sequences became over- dominant while the revenge part was just a minor
footnote at the end of the film. There also came films, like "Convicts
Women" a.k.a. "Bust Out", where the rape & revenge plot only formed a
weak excuse to depict non-stop gratuitous soft-core pornography! Here
we have the "story" of two escaped convicts, supposedly chased by the
police even though there isn't a single copper in the entire film, that
interrupt their rush to Mexico in order to interfere with a Sunday
school picnic, play volleyball and have an orgy with the not-so
catholic under-aged girls. These girls aren't as cherubic and innocent
as their Sunday school counselors assume, though. One of them abandons
the group no less than three times to go and have wild sex with her
boyfriend who patiently waits for her a bit further away in the woods.
Two of the other girls jump and narrowly rape the escaped convicts
rather than vice versa. The final girl is still strongly religious and
very much against premarital sex at first, but turns into a bona fide
nymphomaniac once she gets "raped". Oh yes, this is another one of
those flicks supporting the infamous and dreadful "rape fantasy";
meaning the victims weakly attempt to push off their assailant and say
no, but at the same time they are putting their hands around his body
and mean yes! When it eventually becomes clear that these men are
fugitive criminals, they take the group hostage and lock themselves in
a barn. There they "rape" the counselor's wife and "force" the four
girls to have sex with the male counselor. It's quite hilarious to see
that the supposedly prudish and devoted Christian wife has giant fake
breasts, and how the husband's protest rapidly fades away when the four
girls are undressing him. There isn't anything else to write about
"Convicts Women", in fact. There isn't any suspense, atmosphere or
character development. There's just sex. Naturally I don't have
anything against sex in 70s exploitation movies, but I did expect at
least some sort of additional storyline from the director of "Grave of
the Vampire" and "Garden of the Dead".
PS: the guy I don't even know what his name is playing the boyfriend of girl #1 does have the most fantastic job in cinema history! He just lays on the grass, has passionate sex three times with the sexiest girl of the group and then at the end of the movie he still becomes the hero who saves the day! He's a role model to us all...
It seems like there exists an extremely strong desire among young and
aspiring horror directors to travel back in time to the 1980s. Of all
the "new" (2010 2017) horror movies I watched, almost half have of
them either take place in the 80s or are a throwback in style and/or
substance to that same decade. "Almost Human" is yet another example,
set in respectively the years 1987 and 1989 and paying tribute to alien
invasion and extraterrestrial body snatcher movies of that era. My
guess is that these directors are nostalgic about their own youth and
the classics that introduced them to the genre, and simultaneously they
crave for making less complicated horror flicks in which they don't
have to bother with cell phones, social media, internet, etc
Speaking of young and aspiring horror directors, Joe Bigos is clearly an enthusiast genre fanatic himself and he undoubtedly watched all the classics as well as the obscure hidden gems worth seeking out; I'm sure of that. His film is straightforward and appealing, and he obviously gives priority to serving gore and entertainment rather than ensuring that his screenplay makes sense or doesn't contain any giant plot holes. During a dark October night in Maine in 1987, Mark got sucked into a flashy blue light that came out of the sky and he disappeared right before the eyes of his girlfriend Jen and best friend Seth. Two years later, the two are still flabbergasted about what happened but try to move on with their lives when they suddenly hear the news of a vicious murder spree in the area. Seth immediately suspects that his missing buddy is responsible for the killings, and indeed, Mark has returned! The alienated, brainwashed and most likely anally probed Mark axe- murders his way back to his old house, but he stores his victims in the shed where they go through a sort of rebirth process in a cocoon. It's probably best not to contemplate too much about all of the script's shortcomings, stupidities and senseless details For example, what exactly is this alien race's intention? To cleanse and repopulate the world one person at the time, starting in some random hole up in Maine? What alien race, in fact? We never see any aliens or spaceships, we only see our buddy Mark. And if Mark really has been replaced by an emotionless alien parasite with an earthly mission, then why does he insist on returning to his old house and hook up with his former girlfriend again? Anyway, there are far more questions than the screenplay ever bothers to answer, but the good news is that there's a fair portion of gore and bloodshed to enjoy. The acting performances are so bad they become amusing again. Particularly the people in the supportive roles, like Jen's new lover Clyde, are in desperate need of some basic acting lessons. "Almost Human" is very short less than 80 minutes and at least it's never boring, so you won't have the impression that you wasted precious time watching it.
Even though I daresay of myself that I know quite a lot about horror, I had never heard or read anything about "Terrified" before. When I accidentally stumbled on it via YouTube, I immediately wanted to see it solely based on its juicy one-phrase plot description: "A masked lunatic kills off people in an abandoned ghost town". That's a fairly straightforward and unusual premise for an early sixties horror film, and I also read in the user-comments around here that many fans still have fond memories of watching the film on late- night television and remembering that they were, well terrified! I must admit that the first 15-20 minutes exist of astounding and genuinely macabre horror footage. It's almost amazing how darkly atmospheric and unsettling "Terrified" is during its opening sequences, with a grisly on-screen murder (someone is buried alive in a grave with wet cement) and the discovery of a body impaled on a fence. The set-pieces are also uniquely eerie (old cemetery, ghost town), there are lots of traditionally spooky touches (big hairy spiders, cobwebs, hanging noose dangling in front of the window ), subtle music and the masked murderer still comes across as relentless. The only thing missing, in fact, is a semi-decent explanation of what is going on. It must have something to do with a beautiful girl, Marge, whose heart every guy in town including the killer - wants to conquer. But then, sadly enough, the whole promising set-up falls apart like an unstable house of cards. The identity of the killer can be guessed within the first few sequences, the pivot characters start doing and saying things that make absolutely no sense, the masked psycho makes the dreadful mistake of talking too much and everything starts to become dull, dull, dull! To get an idea of how boring "Terrified" gets, just count the number of times that Marge and her lead admirer sit in their car (driving very calmly and serene even though they know their pal is in lethal danger) and talk irrelevant nonsense to each other! Towards the final act the boredom was quite unendurable and I hardly paid attention anymore to the denouement, which wasn't too much of a problem since we all knew already who the killer was and what his motivations were.
"The Story of Mankind" initially only came to my attention because I'm
an enormous fan of Vincent Price and because I really want to watch all
the films and TV-series he ever appeared in,
particularly the ones
where his character is credited as "The Devil"; duh! When I started
reading more trivia about this production and its infamous reputation,
I naturally became only more intrigued. How is it possible that a film
with such a phenomenal cast and ambitious premise is labeled everywhere
as one of the worst turkeys ever created? The practically unaffordable
all-star cast as well as the flamboyant plot can easily be clarified if
you take a closer look at the name of the producer/director. Irwin
Allen was one of the most notorious big spenders in Hollywood ever.
He's mostly known for producing a series of massively budgeted disaster
movies during the seventies ("The Towering Inferno", "The Poseidon
) but apparently he already had a fondness for bombastic
productions in the fifties. The film's turkey reputation can perhaps be
clarified easily as well, because the concept is ludicrous,
megalomaniac and downright insane.
More than 20 years ago, I watched a horror omnibus film called "Night Train to Terror" and I laughed myself silly because of the goofy wraparound story that featured God and Satan, sitting in a train carriage, discussing whether a handful of thugs belonged in heaven or in hell. Little did I know back then that this preposterous idea was actually just a simplified version of the same plot used in "The Story of Mankind"! Now that humanity has developed an all-destructive H- Bomb, sixty years prior to what has been scheduled, the heavens call together a tribunal that must decide whether mankind is allowed to survive or that it should be extinct for good. The almighty Vincent Price stars as the devil of course and pleas to the High Judge (Sir Cedric Hardwicke) that mankind doesn't deserve to exist further, what with the destructive tendencies they demonstrated since centuries already. God himself apparently couldn't make it, but he's replaced by "the Spirit of Mankind" (Ronald Colman) who represents the modest, everyday human being. The whole idea of the movie is that the Price, as the prosecutor, recalls famous historic cases to prove that mankind doesn't deserve to survive, while the Spirit of Mankind is the defending attorney. It must be said that the miserable spirit of mankind can't hold a candle to Vincent the Devil Price, and if all this nonsense was real, we would all be extinct! Price recalls some of the most eccentric madmen (or mad women) in history, and colorfully illustrates their share in history's darkest pages from the Roman Empire over the French Revolution, the Colonization of America and towards World War II. As a fan of Vincent Price, I must state that "The Story of Mankind" is worth watching. He has the most lines and screen time, even though he's only the 7th or 8th name on the opening credits, and clearly enjoys all the overlong philosophical monologues he's firing off. The vast majority of the film is stock footage, often terribly bad stock footage in fact. In spite of the versatile segments and cast, "The Story of Mankind" is dreadfully boring, which is probably the biggest letdown of all. Two-thirds of the phenomenal cast only appears in brief cameo roles. Another hero of mine, Peter Lorre, for example only has two lines and the contribution of the legendary Marx Brothers' is negligible as well.
Every once and a while, unfortunately not very often, you encounter a film for which you had low or even zero expectations, but then it turns out to be surprisingly enjoyable! I used to always refer to "Scream for Help" as an example for this, but it looks as if I can now also refer to "Steel and Lace" as an example as well! Being a low-budgeted and early 90s Sci-Fi/cyborg rip-off starring a couple of washed up B- movie stars, I just started watching "Steel and Lace" with all my brain functions switched off, but it didn't even take 10 minutes before I sat there with a big and sleazy smile on my face! The very simple but ingenious premise can be described as a hybrid between cyborg flicks like "The Terminator" or "Robocop" and rape & revenge horrors like "I Spit on your Grave". The beautiful and talented Gaily Morton was the victim a gang-rape, but during the trial in court, the nasty culprit Daniel Emerson and his buddies are set free due a lack of evidence. The poor girl can't handle the acquittal and commits suicide by throwing herself from a rooftop. Five years later, Gaily's scientist brother Albert recovered her body and turned her into a hi-tech cyborg with as sole mission to eliminate her assailants one by one. The murders in "Steel and Lace" are downright fantastic! Disguised as femme fatale, she lures them to sleazy hotels or empty meeting rooms and subsequently disembowels, decapitates or viciously castrates them! Enter David Naughton ("An American Werewolf in London") and the ravishing Stacy Haiduk as respectively a police inspector and a freelance reporter; both investigating the murder series and both suspecting a connection with the infamous trial. Particularly the first half of "Steel and Lace" is a lot of fun, with even a handful of hilarious lines as well. Upon discovering the first corpse, who got killed by a drilling device coming out of the cyborg's stomach, Detective Dunn makes the intelligent remark: "It looks like someone dropped a bowling ball right through him". The police doctor's reaction is even better, as he lifts the sheet that is covering the body, looks as him and stoically says: "This man has a hole in him " The make-up effects are very good, which shouldn't come as too much of a surprise, since director Ernest Farino previously worked in the visual effects department of such classics like "The Terminator", "The Abyss", "The Thing" and "Dreamscape". The second half is less entertaining, since it primarily focuses on Haiduk's private investigation and Gaily's human conscience that slowly develops itself again, but by then "Steel and Lace" already turned into a guilty pleasure for sure.
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