Sunday, December 29, 2013

Top Sensation (1969)

It seems there are always new potentials to explore with an isolated movie setting in a mansion, small villa, or castle, where a number of situations with fixed conditions can arise, murders can go unnoticed, and the sexually liberated can binge to their heart’s content. The peculiar sex crime thriller Top Sensation (aka The Seducers) embraces the many possibilities of the isolated story setting but does away with the more conventional remote house and substitutes it with a private recreational yacht, setting most of the movie on the open sea. Cabins below deck are the lavish bedrooms, the control room makes a nice study, and the poop deck is obviously the lounge, for partying, adultery, and all other manner of fun nonsense.

Top Sensation was directed and written by Ottavio Alessi who has writing credits for some thirty-two movies, which include Dick Smart 2007 and Emmanuelle in America, but only two directing credits with Top Sensation being the last film he ever worked on as a director. The soundtrack, by Sante Maria Romitelli, consists of a melodic and epic sounding piece that could’ve come from a Spaghetti Western but does still manage to feel very welcome here and is extremely memorable.

A big selling point to this movie is the fact that it stars Edwige Fenech and Rosalba Neri. Both of these Eurocult goddesses in the same movie, in the same sex scenes together, is a big deal. Fenech hadn’t quite cemented her fame in several giallo films yet at the time the film was made, and so the fact that she and Neri were together in the same movie was probably incidental, but in retrospect it’s a glorious spectacle. However, after watching Top Sensation it should be apparent that this is not the film’s only credential.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Alice / Neco z Alenky (1988)

I’m starting to realize I have a weakness for filmmakers who have their own distinct style, the type I could easily recognize even if I didn’t know what movie I was watching.  After having a blast watching several of his short films on YouTube, I became hooked on a lot of the inherent, and consistent, characteristics of Czech surrealist animator Jan Svankmajer’s films. He’s a hero of sorts of the stop animation technique, bringing inanimate objects like food and clay sculptures to life in very perplexing ways. What really got me, after watching a particular short film by Svankmajer, simply titled Food, was the way actual human actors were utilized in stop motion sequencing, something known as pixilation, which created a super strange reality, where people seemed to hover around and move like androids, and eat like monsters. Of course, stop motion has quite often been used by many filmmakers, but Svankmajer’s surreal style tends to lead to pretty morbid and bizarre visuals that are also amusing and humorous (the fourteen minute short Virile Games (1988) comes to mind).

After making short films for twenty years, Jan Svankmajer made his first full length movie, Alice, inspired by Lewis Carroll’s novel Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865), a book that is supposedly for kids but still works for adult readers too, especially ones still in touch with their inner child. The anthropomorphic creatures of Carroll’s dreamland present a perfect opportunity for Svankmajer to create a unique vision with his distinct stop animation style. It’s also that much creepier and a tad bit disturbing that most of the creature models used were once living animals, like the skulls, the stuffed White Rabbit, or the barracuda head.

Just about everything we know from the book is done with a different interpretation, here. Perhaps the simple title of Alice is fitting enough, for her dream doesn’t really feel quite like the Wonderland we all know. In this case, the title Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland could be modified to something more like “Alice’s Nightmares in an Animator’s Workshop.”

Monday, November 18, 2013

Jess Franco's Count Dracula (1970)

As a kid, my earliest understanding of Count Dracula came from The Monster Squad (1987), Count Chocula, Sesame Street, and a mythical final boss I could never get to in the Nintendo game Castlevania 2: Simon’s Quest. None of which was the proper way to get to know The Count, of course. And so, I remained ignorant of the real legend of Count Dracula until fairly recently when I was instilled with a desire to read Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897), following a pleasurably short read from Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla (1872). Thanks to Stoker’s novel, I’ve been on quite the Dracula kick lately, watching a lot of films based on the novel, such as Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror (1922), Dracula (1931), Horror of Dracula (1958), Count Dracula (1970), Nosferatu: The Vampyre (1979), Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992), and Dracula 3D (2012).

I really think we would’ve had a near-perfect adaptation with Francis Ford Coppola’s version from 1992, if it weren’t for the love story between Dracula and Mina thrown in, and I don’t think Lucy was supposed to seem so promiscuous, either. I’m actually not offended by a soft Dracula that could genuinely fall in love with a living woman without wishing her any harm; just don’t shoehorn it into an adaptation of Stoker’s novel. A lot of people who haven’t read the book will probably think it was a romance novel. I actually thought it was an interesting idea in Count Dracula’s Great Love (1974), where Paul Naschy created and portrayed, for the first time, Count Dracula as a romantic softie.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Lord of Tears (2013)

Lord of Tears is the first co-production between Hex Media and Dark Dunes. It is an attempt at making a different type of horror film and revitalizing the classic, supernatural chiller style of the British Hammer horror that played an influence on Lord of Tears director Lawrie Brewster. It is also rich in Pagan influenced mythos, providing an avenue of research for its protagonist, giving it a Lovecraftian feel.

Lord of Tears just recently (a few days ago) won two awards at the 2013 Bram Stoker International Film Festival: 1) The Audience Award and 2) Best Female Lead. My congratulations go out to the production, cast, and crew. I had a feeling it was going to be good, but Lord of Tears just turned out to be incredible.

The story concerns a school teacher's, Jamie's (Euan Douglas), vague nightmares and unsettling childhood memories and his drive to uncover the mystery behind these visions at his inherited estate. Despite a warning letter from his recently deceased mother, Flora (Nancy Joy Page), he’s driven back to his childhood house, which seems to be the site of a past traumatic incident for Jamie, one he does not seem to clearly remember. An entity seemingly related to his past trauma, a tall figure with long arms, the head of an owl, Victorian clothing, and intimidating talons, manifests at times in front of Jamie. As nightmares take further hold on him, he begins to wonder if he’s gone mad. All isn’t entirely bad, though, thanks to a young, lovely lady employed in the area, Evie (Lexy Hulme), who Jamie starts feeling a romantic connection to as she aids him in uncovering the mystery behind the Baldurrock House.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Cthulhu (2007)

Cthulhu probably stands as one of the more controversial attempts at bringing the Cthulhu mythos to the screen, exploring certain themes completely absent from H.P. Lovecraft’s fictional writing. It’s a totally modern take on the novella The Shadow over Innsmouth that, at its core, still ends up feeling like a very true embodiment of Lovecraft horror.

Taking the more suggestive and indescribable approach, not much is seen yet much is insinuated. Hearing the radio news reporting on wild polar bears going extinct and the oceans rising, amongst others, suggests a kind of world that is falling apart, an uneasy feeling of an approaching end. Blending this with an emphasis on a beautiful but ominous dark ocean, it really feels like Cthulhu might be rising very soon and the Old Ones will be claiming what is rightfully theirs. The East Coast New England settings fans of the author are more in tune with have been transferred over to the West Coast in Astoria Oregon, and the setting is an interesting and fitting shift that doesn’t feel disagreeable at all. There’s just something about seaside towns that work so well for the Lovecraft sensibility. Why, after all, cannot the Old Ones haunt a port town on the other side of the country?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Holocaust 2000 (1977)

There is a lot to say about unoriginality in some of Alberto De Martino’s films, with Holocaust 2000 and The Antichrist being quickly produced cash-ins of The Omen and The Exorcist, respectively, and Operation Kid Brother is probably the boldest Bond rip-off ever. However, these films are also the best of their kind; The Antichrist is easily the best Exorcist knock-off, and Operation Kid Brother, along with De Martino’s Special Mission Lady Chaplin, probably ranks in to any Eurospy fan’s top ten list.

The Italian-British co-production Holocaust 2000 (aka Rain of Fire) is regarded as being better than any of The Omen sequels, and so, it would seem to me that to call Holocaust 2000 a lackluster version of The Omen would be just as foolish as calling Fulci’s Zombie Flesh Eaters a lackluster take on Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. I won’t go as far as saying they are better, but the aforementioned films by De Martino most certainly are not mere copies or inferior imitations of their source inspiration, yet they do have certain superior qualities and, in their own way, became influential themselves.

It is obviously smart from the business end to capitalize on successful international movies by creating other movies in a similar vein, catering to the taste of the audiences of the time, exploiting the spirit of the age. I imagine that this is what most likely gave these kind of genre films the green light from producers who probably cared more about what other movies the pitched script was similar to and not necessarily how original it was. Call this trendy, if you must, but a lot of these movies brought the source inspiration to different directions and new heights and therefore have an originality that can be discovered for those willing to look beneath the surface.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Werewolf Versus the Vampire Woman (1971)

Spanish filmmaker Paul Naschy, born Jacinto Molina, played the cursed Polish nobleman Waldemar Daninsky in twelve different movies. Thirteen, if you count the brief appearance in The Howl of the Devil (1987). A sort of missing addition, Nights of the Werewolf (1968), is alleged to be an uncompleted and lost film, unseen by anyone.

A lycanthrope, cursed to live forever with a regretful instinct to kill, the character of Waldemar Daninsky afforded Naschy plenty of opportunities to emulate, to an extent, and pay tribute to his childhood hero, Larry Talbot from Universal’s The Wolf Man (1941), while at the same time mark his werewolf with his own brand of personal characteristics. Naschy’s first encounter with the Wolf Man onscreen occurred while he, underage at the time, was allowed in to a theater, by an usher he personally knew, to see Lon Chaney Jr. and Bela Lugosi in Frankenstein meets the Wolf Man (1943), an experience that left the child Naschy awestruck, planting the seed for what would materialize in Naschy’s movies.

A record setting champion weightlifter from the late ‘50s to the early ‘70s, an artist, a Western novelist, and a lover of movies, Naschy became interested in working as an art director in film. Thanks to his father, Enrique Molina, Naschy got involved in filmmaking and eventually appeared in small bit parts, which include small uncredited roles in the peplum King of Kings and in the television show I Spy, where he met his longtime idol, Boris Karloff.

In 1967 Naschy wrote the script for Mark of the Wolfman (1968), introducing his cursed Wolf Man character while also throwing a pair of vampires into the story. After enduring numerous rejections from producers, Paul’s script was eventually picked up by two filming companies, one in Germany and the other in Spain, interested in making his film. The werewolf character in Mark of the Wolfman was originally a Spaniard, but the Spanish censors were not so keen on this, and so Paul, tweaking the script a bit, changed him into the Polish nobleman, Waldemar Daninsky.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Vampyres: Daughters of Dracula (1974)

Unrequited love and I are no strangers, but just as the muscle eventually grows stronger from the rigorous demands of exercise, so too do I grow more resistant to the sorrows of the lovelorn heart. It is sometimes an issue of attraction only going one way or knowing full well that the honest divulgence of true feelings will most certainly bring severe complications. In either case, it is perhaps best to take the noble route, walk the way of the hero, endure the pain – which will eventually subside in due time – and wish and bestow a fortunate and happy life upon that of the desired, even if I am not to be a part of that future.

Other times it is a matter of knowing when you are playing with fire and that the only best possible solution is to retreat for good, lest you find yourself meeting your doom in more ways than one. But alas, seduction sometimes overrules rational thought, and, like the lead in José Ramón Larraz’s languorous sexy vampire British horror, Vampyres: Daughters of Dracula; even with all routes of escape firmly planted while in the face of a deadly situation, the allure and honor of coalescing with that mysterious, sexy beauty once again somehow seems worth it.

A couple of lady vampires, Fran (Marianne Morris) and Miriam (Anulka Dziubinska), haunt an old vacant mansion isolated in the woods. They seem to have a pretty efficient system for securing blood nourishment by hitchhiking rides from vulnerable English chaps and taking them back to their place. After enticing these poor gentlemen with delectable vintage wines from the cellar and seducing them, Fran and Miriam do their vampire business and leave the bodies inside their crashed vehicles on the road, making it look like an accident.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Truth According to Satan (1972)

To call Renato Polselli’s The Truth According to Satan a.k.a. La verità secondo satana a movie about a woman being framed and blackmailed for her lover’s murder just doesn’t really capture what it’s all about. Anyone familiar with Polselli’s work will know that there’s usually a lot more to it than that, with the story being more like groundwork for filmmaking experimentation and expressionism, not to mention some truly disorienting editing. One could say the satanic title is misleading, but taking a lot of the, what I’m assuming to be, elaborate metaphors, it’s possible to make an attempt to figure in a correlation between the title and the film’s events. It’s like a type of art that one could draw numerous interpretations from and yet still be quite off. 

A woman, Diana (Rita Calderoni, whose beautiful eyes still shine through in the fuzzy looking, low quality version I watched), seems to be at the core of a man’s, Roibert’s (Isarco Ravaioli), depressions. Sick of himself and going through what is no doubt an existential crises, he deeply contemplates and, in a melodramatic bout of playing Russian roulette with himself, fails at committing suicide, an insult which only seems to further his unease.

Calling up the lady of his sorrows, Diana, in the midst of a love affair with her female companion/slave, Yanita (Marie-Paule Bastin), Roibert informs her of his failed attempt at killing himself, threatening to try again. She hastily comes over to his place, looking nice and sexy, and Roibert eventually does stab and kill himself while leaning over her, smearing his blood over her. The neighbor, a strange jester of a man, Totoletto (Sergio Ammirata, chewing the scenery like none have ever done before), seems to have witnessed enough of the incident from the window to decide to have a fun time with the situation, turning the film into a deranged comedy from here on out.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Zombie 5: Killing Birds (1987)

In the right mindset, Filmirage productions like Ghosthouse, Witchery, and Troll 2 can be a lot of fun, with a great amount of low budget cheese and outrageous horror. There were a couple titles that I thought stood out of this mold that were actually quite harrowing and long winded (in a good way) like Hitcher in the Dark and Door to Silence. I’ve always had a soft spot for the company, and I do aspire to see every Filmirage movie, myself, someday.

The company was founded in 1980 by Joe D’Amato, cult film favorite and director of nasty gore classics Beyond the Darkness and Antropophagus as well as most of the output from the guilty pleasure that is the Black Emanuelle series with Laura Gemser, who’s as classy as these BE films are sleazy. The company pelted out titles fairly consistently from 1980 to 1994, eventually ceasing to make films from what I’m guessing to be a kind of commercial low point in Italian cinema. There are most certainly a number of notorious cult classics among the selection which spans at least forty-five movies.

Directed by Joe D’Amato and Claudio Lattanzi, Killing Birds, or as it has become known in the US Zombie 5: Killing Birds, placing it into the infamously confusing Zombi series lineup, is a mixed bag with all of the elements that make a Filmirage horror movie a lot of fun.

It should be taken into consideration that Zombie 5: Killing Birds actually isn’t much of a zombie film nor is it much of a killer bird film, so it would probably suffice to say that it was titled poorly. Ninety-nine percent of everyone going into this will be expecting a zombie movie, but there are only a few zombies, and they’re more like ghoulish closet monsters, which don’t bite their victims, but rather they thrash them about, resulting in some pretty brutal gore. I’m not kidding. Watch Jennifer’s (Lin Gathright) death scene at around 56:30, and try to tell me this movie doesn’t have balls.

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Blood Spattered Bride (1972)

I’ve been hooked on The Blood Spattered Bride for quite some time now, one of those films that always seems to call me back. Every now and then a feeling of Déjà vu will leave me longing to return to that old family mansion that radiates with ancestral significance and a haunting history of mariticide. The men of this house seem to die young. Nearly every generation for two-hundred years, the wives seem ambivalently intent on murdering their husbands shortly after their weddings, a curse that began when Mircalla Karnstein joined the family and was entombed with the dagger she murdered her husband with on their wedding night. This curse led to a type of stigma towards the women of the family, with the result that all the family portraits of the women be buried away in the cellar like some kind of shameful family secret.

Still in their wedding clothes, the current master (Simón Andreu) and his new young bride, Susan (Maribel Martín of A Bell from Hell), will be arriving to the aforementioned cursed house to spend their honeymoon, deep in the forested countryside. He hasn’t been to this place for years, but the servants are still employed, and everything is made up for a pleasant stay for the newlyweds. Shortly after the consummation, and the loss of Susan’s virginity, a ghostly bride begins to visit Susan in her nightmares, offering her an undulated dagger, imploring her to use it on her husband for defiling her.

Spain’s take on Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s classic novella, Carmilla, is a damn fine Eurocult horror with some beautifully evil ambiance (no surprise there) and rather twisted sexuality (no surprise either). It’s very well made and doesn’t feel cheap enough to call exploitation, even if it is, and it actually succeeds at being pretty creepy. I’m hesitant to call this "erotically charged" horror, since I feel that something erotic should be capable of sexual arousal, but the sexual situations are twisted and awry, to say the least. The rape scene, awkwardly placed at the beginning, gives it a bad initial taste; the relationship between Susan and her chauvinist husband is not romantic, and the meetings between Susan and Carmilla feel more tragic than kinky since Susan is seduced and dominated and more or less a poor victim of the female vamp. It’s obvious this one is trying to disturb and unease rather than supply cheap sexual thrills.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Venomous Vixens: Britt Nichols

Born in Guarda, Portugal, May 29th, 1951, the delectable and very statuesque Britt Nichols (born Marìa do Carmo da Resurreição de Deus) has enjoyed a successful fashion modeling career in Argentina for over 35 years under her more common name Carmen Yazalde, and, looking better than ever, she continues to model to this day, hosting cable TV shows and appearing frequently in the media.

A former Miss Portugal, Nichols married an Argentinian soccer player on July 16th, 1973, European Golden Shoe winner Héctor Yazalde, and moved from Portugal to Argentina in 1977 and has stayed there ever since.

When reading articles about the fashion model Carmen Yazalde on the web, as far as I could tell, there didn’t seem to be any mention of her cinema career in the early ‘70s. As I have found on a thread from the Latarnia Forums, she apparently does not wish to discuss that period of her career but claims to still be proud of the films she has been in; the bulk of which consists of films directed by the late, great Jess Franco. She also appeared in Amando De Ossorio’s Tombs of the Blind Dead and a giallo by Juan Bosch, The Killer with a Thousand Eyes.

Nichols left cinema behind shortly after getting married, but her relatively small body of work in film is fondly remembered and embraced by Eurocult movie fans. She is commonly seen in Franco films with Anne Libert (our favorite woman-in-black) and is perhaps heavily remembered as the sapphic vampire lead in Daughter of Dracula and more so as the bizarre, living-dead bombshell haunting the ancestral castle of the title character in A Virgin Among the Living Dead.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Macabre / Macabro (1980)

Lamberto Bava’s first movie is a brilliant deviation from the more-formulaic giallo. It lives up to its title and is a twisted treat that doesn’t nearly rise to the campy heights of the director’s more popular work, Demons. Unfortunately, due to Macabre being poorly received at the time of its release, by the public, it took three years before Lamberto could direct another film. It almost seems like he took a safer route with his next film, A Blade in the Dark, an impressively violent, though by-the-numbers, giallo that seemed like a stopping point to the interesting new direction Lamberto was going with Macabre.

Too bad, really, because as much as I do appreciate Demons and Blade, I really do think a different type of Italian thriller was blooming with Macabre (possibly only comparable to D’amato’s Buio Omega). It’s also something that Mike and the bots of Mystery Science Theatre 3000 wouldn’t be able to riff so easily, as they did with one of Lamberto’s other films, Devil Fish (season 10, episode 11).

After suffering from severe shock from losing her lover, Fred (Roberto Posse), in a car accident and finding out her son had drowned, all on the same day, Jane Baker (Bernice Stegers) is admitted to a mental hospital for a year. After getting out, her relationship with her husband damaged, she chooses to live in the flat where she used to have her, not so secret, affairs with Fred. The blind man who maintains the house, Robert (Stanko Molnar), regularly hears Jane at night upstairs in her room copulating with someone she is calling Fred.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (1970)

A lot of times when watching a surrealist film it’s a lot like watching a dream, but when viewing the Czech fantasy/horror Valerie and Her Week of Wonders it really feels like I’m the one that’s dreaming, wondering when someone is going to wake me. Here, the thoughts and images of the subconscious mind pervade, and the effect is that of surrealist automatism applied to film making. Saying the film is beautifully dreamlike, disorienting, and hallucinatory should not be mistaken as fan-boy code for a beautiful looking inept film with a messy plot. It’s actually quite the artistic achievement. The music and imagery are magical, to say the least, and the events are the stuff of dreams and nightmares of the child’s mind in the early stages of maturity, the accumulated fantasy-influenced imagination gathered during childhood coupled with the fears and wonders of a young girl’s coming-of-age.

The plot centers entirely around thirteen year old Valerie (Jaroslava Schallerová) and her first day (or week, I can't quite tell) of being a woman. She loves flowers, birds, and fruit, and her safety and security are connected to her magic earrings given to her by her mother, whom she knows to be deceased along with her father. She lives with her Grandmother (Helena Anýzová), and frequently consoles with a boy named Orlik (Petr Kopriva), whose creepy father, the Weasel (Jirí Prýmek), a boogeyman and one of the antagonists of the story, is a dead ringer for Nosferatu. Her world is like that of a fairytale, and her innocence and purity as well as her own wellbeing are threatened by a lecherous religious leader, Gracián (Jan Klusák), and vampires. Thankfully she has those magic earring pearls.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Baba Yaga (1973)

Comics have had their fair share of controversy, dating back to the ‘40s and ‘50s, most notably with the book Seduction of the Innocent by Fredric Wertham in 1954, where mature comics were practically demonized and said to contribute to juvenile delinquency. Wertham’s status as a respectable child psychologist gave his book merit, resulting in a national boycotting of comics, and so the Comics Code Authority seal-of-approval came about. The seal was used on the cover of comics to assure parents that the stamped comic complied with the censorship standards and guidelines set forth by the Comics Magazine Association of America. Nevertheless, this restriction put numerous comic companies out of business, and the industry took a huge blow.

Italy had its own comic code stamp introduced in 1962, known as the “Garancia Morale” seal-of-approval. However, when the comic series Diabolik was created by sisters Angela and Luciana Giusanni of the Astorina publishing house in 1962, they avoided being restricted by the boundaries that adhering to a moral stamp-of-approval would cause by declaring outright on the cover that the material was for adults. Ultimately, the dark, murdering antihero Diabolik was a huge hit and numerous similar title characters (usually with a K in the title) sprang up, such as Kriminal, Mister X, Sadik, and Satanik, and the fumetti neri genre eventually became increasingly more violent and erotic. It ultimately grew to be very controversial, so much as to create moral panic, with the publishers of Diabolik eventually facing criminal charges.

The fumetti neri genre that started with Diabolik, nonetheless, paved the way for adult themed comics. One of the most popular controversial Italian comic artists of the time was Guido Crepax, and the erotic comic series he’s most known for, Valentina, was adapted to film by Corrado Farina as Baba Yaga, a cult Eurohorror that’s a real surreal oddity.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

A Bell from Hell (1973)

Grey, colorless, and at times very Gothic looking, this Spanish thriller, A Bell from Hell, from director Claudio Guerin Hill has an oppressive, gloomy undertone in its look and feel that, along with the story, feels like a melancholic reminder of a golden past: ruined, overtaken, and killed by treachery and hypocrisy.

After being involuntarily committed to a mental clinic for three years, John (Renaud Verley) is released on probation and given a summons for his case coming up in two months. At the start of his probation, he moves into his deceased mother’s dusty old house, finds a brief job at a cattle slaughtering house, and visits with his aunt, Marta (Viveca Lindfors) and her three lovely daughters. Himself unsure if he’s insane, John alludes to suspicions that his aunt paid a great deal of money to have him committed in order for her to keep his inheritance. Amidst a rather carefree lifestyle and a penchant for practical jokes, some of John’s activities strongly suggest he’s planning something horrible as payback for what his relatives supposedly did to him.

This is indeed a pleasing Spanish thriller. Though it adheres to the commonly used plot devices of vengeance and family inheritance, the story is still well written and kept interesting thanks to the quirky dynamics of the young, mischievous, and darkly humorous protagonist, John. Whether or not viewers end up liking him, John is still an entertaining, multidimensional character, a man-child that’s part hero and part villain. 

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Deep Shock (2014)

A new horror short written, directed, and co-produced by Italian filmmaker Davide Melini, titled Deep Shock, is currently in pre-production with a targeted release date for sometime in 2014 as part of a celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the giallo film; which is considering Mario Bava’s Blood and Black Lace from 1964 to be the starting point, as it is the film that set forth a lot of the immortal giallo tropes we know and love.

I covered two of Melini’s previous horror shorts, The Puzzle and The Sweet Hand of the White Rose, back in May of last year, and if you caught those articles, you’ll know that I am pretty enthusiastic about Melini’s work.

The plot synopsis for Deep Shock goes like this: “Sarah can't completely overcome the deaths of her grandfather and her older sister. The trauma and lack of sleep cause her to embark on a strange journey of apparitions and murders, apparently caused by her mind…” -IMDB/Deep Shock

I love the look of the official movie poster, mainly thanks to the fabulous art, by Cristina Gómez Rosales. It has a nice classic look, which is suitable for what Melini is shooting for with this film: a desire to bring back the ideas used during the golden age of giallo film making, during the ‘60s and ‘70s, and deliver them with new technology to be appreciated by new and longtime fans. The tagline “Italian giallo is ready to make its return” sounds bold, but based on Melini’s previous work, I'm pretty excited about this upcoming new short, and I’ve got a feeling that the writer/director will deliver.

Melini plans to have six actors total. The music in the film will be realized by the Gothic Italian band Visioni Gotiche (multiple samples of their work can be heard on the band’s MySpace page Here). The shooting location will be Málaga, Spain, and it’s possible that a teaser will be released sometime this month or in April.

Deep ShockFacebook Page 

Deep ShockIMDB Page

Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Beyond (1981)

I’ve always considered Lucio Fulci’s The Beyond to be the definitive Italian horror experience, and it’s the one I’d recommend most, even over Suspiria, if anyone ever asked me what a real good Italian horror is. No one ever has, though, and most anyone remotely familiar with Italian horror already knows about The Beyond. When I first saw it, this gross, gory but beautifully nightmarish picture had awoken something in me that completely turned my attention to Italian horror, with an unwaning interest, and it changed my previous negative opinion of Fulci’s Zombi 2 into an entirely positive one.

Presently I can’t figure out why, but I had loathed Zombi 2 for quite some time, so when a local theater that specialized in cult and independent cinema advertised a screening of an old Zombie film, Lucio Fulci’s The Beyond, I immediately recognized the director and thought, “oh no, not that guy” (I was severely of the uninitiated at the time). But, since I regularly attended the weekly midnight screenings at this theater, I thought it’d be fun to go and watch this movie in a dark room full of strangers and observe the general response. Despite numerous riffing and laughter from the audience, there was something about the film that entertained and terrified me. Those moments with the grieving widow in the morgue and every time someone went into room 36 were real intense for me, and the scene with the blind ghost girl, Emily, surrounded by the zombies from Hell gave me a nightmare that night. The characteristics of The Beyond reminded me of Zombi 2, in a good way, and the gore, as indicated by the screams and waves of laughter in the audience, was a real crowd pleaser.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

From Beyond (1986)

While Stuart Gordon’s From Beyond is known as an adaptation to H.P. Lovecraft’s short story of the same name, the movie is nonetheless its own beast, with the original literature being more like a seed to what Gordon and his team developed in this FX heavy, gory ‘80s shocker. The pre-credits intro is more or less the component that is primarily adapted from Lovecraft’s ultra-short, seven page story, while the rest of the film continues on as an imagining of what could’ve happened had the original story not ended so abruptly. Whether or not Gordon got it spot-on is arguable, but Lovecraft’s ideas in From Beyond did have a lot of unexplored potential, and Gordon took liberties to explore this potential and, at the same time, do things his way, by including those far-out sexual elements á la Re-Animator (the Barbara Crampton escapades), some of the coolest grotesque interdimensional creatures and transformations since John Carpenter’s The Thing, and a face full of the good ol’ nauseating gore; most of which didn’t make it past the censors at the time of its initial release.

Due to the success of Re-Animator, Gordon wanted to do another Lovecraft film, and he wanted to reuse the key actors from Re-Animator, Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton, who all ended up being extremely successful and welcome returns. However, I remember really wanting to see this when I found out that Ken Foree was in it, my favorite zombie killer (Dawn of the Dead). Here, Foree still has that likability he had as Peter in Romero’s film, but his character in From Beyond just wasn’t as skilled with handling interdimensional creatures, as Peter was with zombies, to make it all the way through this one.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Faceless (1987)

Faceless is a rather unscrupulous, but not entirely tasteless, splatter film from Jess Franco that is a loose addition to his long running Dr. Orloff series that began in 1962 with The Awful Dr. Orloff. It’s got a bigger budget than the usual Franco film, thanks to French producer Rene Chateau, and it shows. Being more a fan of Franco’s ‘no-budget’ erotic surrealist horror from the late ‘60s, early ‘70s, it was interesting for me to see him do the gory ‘80s thing rather adequately. The cast is also a treat for genre-fans, as it includes several fan favorites who are all great in their parts, like Helmut Berger, Brigitte Lahaie, Telly Savalas, Caroline Munro, Lina Romay, and Howard Vernon as Dr. Orloff, who, like Romay, is only here for a brief but memorable cameo.

Along with the copious gore candy, a major strength here is the addition of numerous well-acted villains. It’s like a gathering of abhorrent human monsters that are all a representation of the darker, evil side of human nature and therefore realistic, but there’s also a fantasy angle, too, with the beauty restoration operations and the youthful look of Dr. Orloff’s elderly wife (Romay) bringing Faceless into the realm of Cinema Fantastique. The surgical operations are the most gruesome element; the way the eyes still move from the still conscious, drugged victims after their faces have been surgically removed is extremely disturbing. The man in charge of the real dirty work of disposing the bodies of the captured girls, Gordon (Gérard Zalcberg), brings on the gore, too, and is also the most outwardly monstrous creation of the bunch (I can’t help wishing that he was called Morpho, to keep up with a Franco tradition for these types of characters).

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Living Dead Girl (1982)

The use of gore in a movie is generally meant as a gag to horrify, excite, or produce uncomfortable laughter, but rarely is it used to help convey emotion in a way that might make viewers have to pass around the tissue box. This is the case for Jean Rollin’s The Living Dead Girl, which, in addition to being Rollin’s goriest film, happens to be the most tragic; with a wave of emotion accompanying a blood splatter finale that’s become known for generating its fair share of teary eyed viewers. The film’s powerful aftereffect does owe a great deal to the all-or-nothing performance of its lead lady, Françoise Blanchard, but everything else, like the cinematography, the story, and the realistic gore FX by Benoît Lestang, come together to create a grand theatrical payoff that is made all the better for seguing into a quiet ending credit sequence.

With the central plot, Rollin carries over a characteristic theme he’s used frequently in his other films: two inseparable female companions who are like kindred souls with a sisterly connection. Sometimes they are lovers, twins, or, in this case, childhood friends with a bond made in blood, and the main emphasis is the tenderness and strength of this connection. With The Living Dead Girl, Rollin fantasizes about what would happen if death were to come between this unbreakable bond between the lead characters, Catherine (Blanchard) and Helene (Marina Pierro). There becomes this obsession with preserving the past that ends up being unhealthy and spiritually debilitating for all involved, as it seems more and more hopeless for Catherine to continue on the way she is; her hunger for blood causes her to suffer, and she comes to the realization that she is evil and regrets being a living dead girl. The conditions needed to satiate Catherine’s hunger ultimately corrupt Helene.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Top Ten Goriest Kill Scenes from Dario Argento

Today begins Blood Sucking Geek's Ultimate Gore-a-thon: A Splatterific Extravaganza, and to start things off, I thought I’d do something I’ve never done before: create a top ten list. 

I've decided to make a list about the man who is the main reason behind my love for the giallo film: Dario Argento. And since this is a gore-a-thon, I thought it best to base the list on the top ten kill scenes from this film-making god who’s delighted in bringing us some of the very best and groundbreaking kill scenes of all time.

So get cozy and prepare yourself for At the Mansion of Madness’s very first list:

Top Ten Goriest Kill Scenes from Dario Argento. Enjoy!
 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Announcing the Ultimate Gore-a-thon


The horror blogging call of duty sounds once again, and this time it’s a multi-blog event dreamt up and organized by a longtime friend of this blog, Jonny Dead of Blood Sucking Geek (BSG), titled Ultimate Gore-a-thon: A Splatterific Extravaganza! I’m thrilled to include At the Mansion of Madness to this cause along with BSG and seven additional blogs also taking part. The event will take place over a two week period (February 10-23) and will include a series of posts covering the blood-and-guts tradition in horror. To check out the diverse range of what everyone is covering, and what I’ll be writing about, click Here. The other blogs that are participating in the Gore-a-thon are as follows: 


Be sure to stop by and visit everyone! 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Vengeance of the Zombies (1973)

I think It’s been too long since I last covered a Paul Naschy movie, and to make up for this, I’ve chosen to cover one of the best and easiest to recommend, aside from Horror Rises from the Tomb, that you Naschy fans out there have no doubt already seen.

Vengeance of the Zombies aka La Rebelion de las Muertas is a huge slice of awesome from Naschy and director Leon Klimovsky that delivers a good deal of bloody fun to go with its heavy-handed themes of religion, betrayal, and vengeance, partly thanks to some extraordinary gore and plenty of sassy female zombies in see-thru negligees who’ve managed to maintain fabulous looking hair despite being dead and partially decayed. It’s also a Spanish horror babe-fest, complete with some of the best from the era: Aurora de Alba (Mark of the Wolfman), Maria Kosty (A Dragonfly for each Corpse), my personal favorite from the movie Mirta Miller (Count Dracula’s Great Love), and an adorable redhead lead actress that just seems to go by Romy.

This one’s notorious for having an off-kilter score, by Juan Carlos Calderon, but I rather like it. I personally don’t think it’s bad; it just has a tone that some may find mismatching. With the fearsome personality of the picture, one could say that the upbeat, jazzy score seems intrusive and misplaced at times, overthrowing suspense and possibly inciting failed restrained laughter from some of the more uninitiated audience members (as an aside I want to mention that the sounds heard during the morgue scene, as the zombies rise, are some of the most eerie and unnerving I've ever heard and fit in perfectly; listen for it). But this is part of what makes cult film so fascinating and kitsch. I was initially hooked at the beginning when a resurrected zombie lady (Norma Kastel) began running over concrete graves in slow motion. The credits roll over an up-close shot of this creepy living dead woman walking a fixed distance from the camera, as dark, reality transcending jazz music can be heard before the movie transitions into a bright and cheerful day in London with a another hip Jazzy piece and some embarrassingly catchy “dow-dow-dow” vocals that are a bigger earworm than Gangnam Style. It’s my kind of way to start a horror film. Totally off the wall!

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