Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Nude Vampire (1970)

THE NUDE VAMPIRE has a lot going for it and is just as enjoyable as other early efforts from Jean Rollin (THE SHIVER OF THE VAMPIRES and REQUIEM FOR A VAMPIRE) and is a masterpiece that I can’t help thinking ends up not getting the love it deserves on account of its low production and bizarre ‘out there’ feel; although it is getting a Blu-ray release this January along with a few other Rollin favorites. 

A mysterious woman, Caroline Cartier, is stalked in the middle of the night by strange pursuers with animal masks. She runs into a well-dressed young gentleman, Pierre, played by Olivier Rollin (Rollin’s half-brother), who senses she is in danger and attempts to help her out but with no such luck, as she is eventually shot by her masked pursuers and carried away to a clubhouse that happens to belong to Pierre's father, Radamante, Maurice Lemaitre, where nicely dressed people seem to aggregate. Concerned, the young man attempts to enter, but he is refused by a gatekeeper who doesn’t let him in without an invitation. 

The appearance of the stalkers in animal masks are an early sign of the ‘no-budget’ feel of the film, but they still manage to be eerily intriguing, and the particular sequence is so visually unique that it is hard not to be interested. During this sequence, the dissonant and screeching violin and a delirious sounding saxophone that can be heard blend into a cacophony at times. The music succeeds in setting an unusual mood that is just as weird as the movie. The violin will sometimes shriek out, resulting in a feeling that is like a slap to the senses. 

When Pierre manages to gain entry to the nocturnal meetings, he finds that what might have been an exclusive private party at his father’s clubhouse turns out to be a meeting ground for a cult that worships the mysterious and alluring woman he met and saw shot on the streets.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Queens of Evil (1970)

David, Ray Lovelock, is riding free with the wind in his hair and the beautiful ocean in the background. He is an eloper of society looking for freedom in a new world. What he ends up finding is more or less an exaggeration of what his free spirit has always desired in this rarely seen but marvelous film. 

Following the music-video-like intro-credits, night falls and a shot of the lead character riding down a pitch black foggy highway in the middle of nowhere gives off a dark and uneasy feeling as he stops to help a stranded older looking gentleman, Gianni Santuccio, with a flat tire. A conversation of conflicting beliefs ensues, and while still expressing appreciation for the help, this older man lights a cigar and takes no time to criticize David’s long hair, hippie clothes, and free-love ideals (Remind you of a similar moment with lovelock in THE LIVING DEAD AT MANCHESTER MORGUE?), which are a strong contrast to the older man’s short grey hair, suit-and-tie, and enthusiasm for matrimony. 

Nonetheless, David holds onto his pride while the well kempt man, who hasn’t given his name (he’s known as L’uomo/Il diavolo on the IMDB which is Italian for Man/The Devil), attempts to provoke him to ‘betray his ideals’ by making suggestions that are a forecast to a very provocative situation that David later finds himself in. The old man’s drawn-out advice feels too premeditated to not raise the suspicion that he may’ve been planning on meeting David all along. It doesn’t help that he stuck a nail in David’s
motorcycle tire while he was working either.  

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Beyond the Darkness: buio omega (1979)

In a dream, someone once told me that nostalgia is the mind’s inability to cope with change. 

The desire to make things the way they once were, when times were happier, can be overwhelming, but we must find comfort in believing that things can be better and that new warmer days will be on the horizon. Some find the ability to carry on by fondly remembering the past in the form of keepsakes and mementos, and accept the fact that there is nothing that can be done other than to move on with strength and a resolve for a better tomorrow, while others prefer to do things a bit differently. This is definitely the case for the loathsome and childish lead character in Joe D’Amato’s BUIO OMEGA. 

Orphaned Frank (Kieran Canter) is a taxidermist with a large inheritance who has just suffered the loss of the love of his life, Anna (Cinzia Monreale of THE BEYOND). Stricken by grief, Frank commits a highly objectionable act of exhuming his recently deceased girlfriend’s corpse before preserving and making a doll out of her in order to still be close to her, to still be able to talk to her, sleep with her, and express his never ending love while still being able to look into her eyes. And woe unto any who would interfere… 

Though it may seem out of place to some, the progressive rock soundtrack in this movie from GOBLIN is bitchin’ and gives me an impulse to air-bass-guitar. It lends to BUIO OMEGA a flavor that is less horror and more sleaze, violence, and rock ‘n’ roll. Nonetheless, horror mainstays are all here such as a giant mansion, a graveyard, gore, and a knife wielding PSYCHO-esque housekeeper (Norman Bates’ sister, perhaps?). Yet, it is not the music or the story of a young man’s yearning for his love so cruelly taken from him that causes BUIO OMEGA to be an astonishing achievement, but it is the way that D’amato pushes the boundaries of ‘nasty’ through the roof and way beyond anything that would already be considered unwholesome and just plain wrong, which causes BUIO OMEGA to really stand out and be forever remembered as one of the crazier and most screwed up forays into dementia that exploitation cinema has to offer. 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Night of the Seagulls (1976)

The Templar zombies in the Blind Dead films are a good example of a simple idea that really hits the mark. They’ve been fondly remembered for decades by fans and still have an onscreen impact that is just as powerful today as it was in the 70s. Their iconic doom-laden theme music by Antón Garcia Abril enhances the believability of the creeping-death that is Amando De Ossorio’s blind dead. 

The opening to NIGHT OF THE SEAGULLS of a woman being brutally sacrificed by the not-yet-undead Knights Templar is effective but not surprising to those already familiar with Ossorio’s films. During the sacrifice ritual while these evil men stand around observing the terrible act, I found myself shouting aloud “don’t you guys have anything better to do than torment, stab, and eat this poor young lady?!”. It truly is a disgusting scene that was still very well done. Afterwards, the poor mangled and severed body is left to the crabs in a chilling sequence that I primarily remember this film for. 

The shock and unpleasant feeling from the opening is shifted to a more melancholic vibe when the story transitions to present day while a mood setting synthesizer plays over the introduction of the two main characters, Dr. Henry Stein and his wife Joan Stein, played by Victor Petit and the always welcome Spanish horror regular Maria Kosty. The seaside village they’ve arrived at doesn’t feel like present day, in fact the film feels like an era piece, but Joan’s mall fashion wardrobe as well as the car they arrive in serves as a reminder that we are still in modern day Spain, just in a village that time forgot. 

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Blogger Zombie Walk Feature: Burial Ground (1980)

If a zombie is supposed to be a degraded form of pure motorized instinct to carnivorously feed, why do they still have the ingenuity to use axes, power saws, and battering rams or to throw knives with extreme precision to get what they want? I suppose there is some sort of unholy guidance that accompanies the feeding frenzy of the walking corpses in Andrea Bianchi’s BURIAL GROUND THE NIGHTS OF TERROR. 

Who knows what the filmmakers were thinking while making this, but this is a zombie film of recognizable influences that is still unlike any other zombie film by a long shot. The zombie makeup from Mauro Gavazzi is overdone to the point of being excessive, but the result is still very cool and also quite nauseating to look at. There is a lot of attention to detail for most of the zombies, such as maggots, murky green blood, and wormy eyes, and the smell of death can be sensed right from the viewer’s TV screen every time there is a close-up of one of these flesh eaters. 

BURIAL GROUND feels Influenced by Fulci’s ZOMBI 2 as well as Romero’s NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD with that familiar scenario of a band of humans locking themselves inside an architecture as the living dead outside desperately try to get in. When I watch it, I often find myself chuckling at the sight of the walking dead but also a bit ‘creeped out’ and a little scared. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Minions of Misery

Keith Woodruff, the creative writer of the horror blog L a u g h i n g Scared, has selected me to join the ranks of the “Minions of Misery” and it is now my duty to share some dark misery in the form of a dark book, a dark movie, and a dark secret, before selecting 3 other dark souls worthy to carry on the tradition.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Jess Franco's The Rites of Frankenstein (1972)

The greatest mystery in life is perhaps life itself. The answer to this mystery has constantly been sought after through the ages, and as we progress ever closer to the truth the question arises as to what to do with it once it has been found. 

Jess Franco’s film plays upon a controversial notion that synthetically creating life is unethical or more appropriately in the case of Dr. Frankenstein, played by Dennis Price, evil and maddening. This is the understanding one gets when witnessing the regretful facial expressions of Frankenstein’s lab assistant Morpho, Franco himself, reluctantly flipping the switch to give life to Dr. Frankenstein’s creation, a silvery almost robotic looking monster, played by Fernando Bilbao (the brutal axe wielding giant from THE VAMPIRES’ NIGHT ORGY). The Doctor’s deeds, as he claims, are for the sake of science and progression, which is an admirable motivation. However, the immediate arrival of 2 thieves in the night, Anne Libert and Luis Barboo, sabotaging the project and stealing the corpse goes to show that not everyone will have such pure intentions. The overall message here is that Dr. Frankenstein’s creation is not inherently evil, but it becomes evil in the wrong hands, and the wrong hands in this case is Cagliostro, Howard Vernon, a mad and evil warlock with bigger plans. 
Even though the Frankenstein monster is the headline of this film, Anne Libert steals the show as a blind cannibalistic harpy named Melisa, much the same way she steals the show as lady death in Franco’s A VIRGIN AMONG THE LIVING DEAD. Libert’s delirious performance here is amusing and way over the top, and I salute her for it. She was entirely enigmatic and silent as the lady in black in AVATLD, but she is very verbal here and even squawks like a bird of prey with grin inducing overdubs of what sounds like a falcon. Given Libert’s ability to just own every scene she’s in, I honestly think that she could be thought of as another Barbara Steele, albeit much more erotic. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Join Us

For those that don’t already know, there will be a BLOGGER ZOMBIE WALK event on September 30th that is being run by the intriguing Autumnforest, author of a really fun blog called GHOST HUNTING THEORIES.  I’m looking forward to including AT THE MANSION OF MADNESS in this zombie-loving event and encourage others to consider checking it out.  There are 50 participants so far, but 'the more the merrier', so click on the link--> HERE to be redirected to GHOST HUNTING THEORIES to learn all of the details.  You know you want to….

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Dario Argento's Inferno (1980)

SUSPIRIA was an extremely successful international hit for Dario Argento, and he was faced with distributors wanting more of the same. The result is INFERNO, another surreal journey through trippy colorful sets and stylish horror scenarios, to the heart of a profound evil hidden away in a threatening architecture, like a secret for the film’s protagonist to unveil. INFERNO is a sequel to SUSPIRIA, but it was unlikely that a sequel was initially planned, so INFERNO takes on the task of relating the two films at the start by accounting the legend of the Three Mothers through a male voiceover that sounds while protagonist Rose (Irene Miracle) is reading a copy of an evil book, simply titled THE THREE MOTHERS. 

Now you don’t need to see SUSPIRIA first to enjoy INFERNO, in fact if there’s that little chance that you haven’t seen SUSPIRIA yet, I’d recommend checking out INFERNO first because there seems to be an inevitable comparison viewers make between the two that really ends up being an unfair fight for INFERNO. So, for the time being, I’m going to try to resist comparing the two films and instead focus only on INFERNO. 

INFERNO is a riddle in itself with a story based around three keys that characters must uncover in order to discover the truth behind the madness. The narration sort of disorients the viewer by shifting between three protagonists for the first half, giving it almost an episodic feel. It is unusual and at the same time very interesting that we at first spend some weird moments getting acquainted with the character of Rose sending a letter to her brother Mark (Leigh McCloskey) studying music in Rome before the story abruptly shifts to one of Mark’s classmates, Sara (Eleonora Giorgi), who happens to pick up the letter instead. When Sara reads the letter she ends up being so disturbed and troubled by what she’s read that on her way home she makes a detour to the library to check out a copy of THE THREE MOTHERS, a book that turns out to be more threatening than the Necronomicon. It seems rather hard to believe that a grown woman would be this influenced by the contents of a letter. It’s almost as if Sara is demonstrating a childlike impressionability. 

The following scene of Sara at the Library is fabulous and consists of terrific cinematography and dusty old bookshelves that tower to dizzying heights. A sinister stare from a young lady studying ends up giving off a surreal feeling that something very evil and powerful happens to be stalking Sara.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Paul Naschy's HUMAN BEASTS (1980)

Is it absurd to believe that negative actions or foul deeds can sometimes not have consequences? It really would be comfortable to know that some form of universal order exists that brings those who’ve escaped punishment for murder, genocide, and torture to justice so that no fiendish monster would ever truly be off the hook, in this life or the next. The message in Paul Naschy’s HUMAN BEASTS is that redemption in the universe is unavoidable and that no matter how you’ve managed to escape your unspeakable deeds you shall still eventually “reap what you sow”. 

HUMAN BEASTS can be viewed as an action/crime/heist film turned horror that features ghostly presences, nightmare sequences, man eating pigs, and family practiced cannibalism that fans of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE might dig. Scripted, directed, and co-produced by Paul Naschy who also stars as the protagonist, this film is definitely his baby and is still considered to be woefully overlooked despite a pristine DVD release in 2007 from Deimos Entertainment. 

Naschy plays Bruno Rivera who after double crossing his lover during a diamond robbery heist and escaping redemption (for the time being), ultimately finds himself trapped in a HOUSE OF PSYCHOTIC WOMEN. Yes, just like the American title of Naschy’s Spanish giallo better known as BLUE EYES OF THE BROKEN DOLL. But unlike that film, these women really are psychotic, which just leads to some really great stuff courtesy of Naschy’s brilliant and ever versatile mind.  

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Lucio Fulci's The House by the Cemetery (1981)

Oh glorious haunted New England mansion…. A supreme visual brought to life with the sound of Gothic CASTLEVANIA-esque theme music by Walter Rizzati, tombstones, and leafless winter trees. What splendid grandeur and majesty you emit against the daytime sky and how even more beautiful you are at night… What evil cosmic secrets do you hold? How I’d love to see what fate would befall a family that was to all of a sudden move in and inhabit you. What’s that you say? I can? In a film called HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY. 

It’s been blogged about a thousand times and reviewed to death, but I still feel that Lucio Fulci’s HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY deserves all of the love it can get. The film primarily concerns the Boyle family who are played by the likeable Fulci fan favorite Catriona MacColl, who has to be one of the best female screamers ever (consider the intro scream from THE GATES OF HELL), as Lucy, Paolo Malco as Norman, and Giovanni Frezza as little Bob (who it seems was dubbed by a woman, which ends up being just as awkward as it is creepy). These poor souls unknowingly mortgage their lives when they move into a quiet and isolated house in the woods next to a cemetery. The thought of a husband and wife moving into an isolated house with their creepy kid and into a deadly scenario may have THE SHINING written all over it, but the overall ordeal shares no similarities to that film. 

There is a memorable and fairly iconic relation between the son and a nineteenth century ghost girl that haunts the area, named Mae. The encounters between these two kids possess a childlike innocence that blurs the motive for why Mae is contacting Bob from beyond. The end result of their friendship is confusing but so fascinating and endearing that it’s no wonder that former kid actors Giovanni Frezza and Silvia Collatina’s Facebook pages are constantly bombarded with friend requests by loving fans (myself included). We may not know them personally, we may not be actual friends, but we would still like to know how poor Bob is fairing after the traumatic events that transpired in the evil basement of that damned house. And who doesn’t have a desire to express admiration to Mae, the cool Gothic ghost girl, for saving Bob from a fate worse than death in a satisfying heartwarming ending that makes the viewer want to run off and buy Fulci’s other films (me 10 years ago) and ultimately become a hardcore lover of Italian Horror? And what great sports those two are for friending so many fans. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Alice Sweet Alice (1976)

Anyone else ever feel down when you follow a bunch of new blogs and none of them follow you back? I mean, sure, bloggers have a right to not follow back, but seriously, where’s the support? “A stat for a stat”, so to speak… But not to worry, I don’t mind. New followers should be people who are actually interested in reading your blog, and I’ll admit to being a little jealous of other blogs sometimes, especially ones that have followers I’d love to have, but I’m not so jealous that I’d do anything rash, or at least I hope no one thinks I would. I don’t want to end up like Alice, the main character to an insane slasher film known as ALICE SWEET ALICE, whose little sister turns up murdered after being showered with gifts and attention. Naturally, the suspicion is thrown on poor little Alice. 

ALICE SWEET ALICE is a child themed murder mystery that feels influenced by the popular Giallo films of its era and features a masked killer, a creepy doll, bloody knives, and religious iconography. Despite nearly every scene being shot during the day, ALICE SWEET ALICE also contains a dark ambiance unique to horror films of the time that was prevalent in films like THE EXORCIST. I think what I’m trying to say is that this is a pretty good slice of the best that 70s horror/thrillers has to offer. 

The film initially paints the main character 12 year old Alice (played by a then 19 year old Paula Sheppard, who is a much more convincing child character played by an adult than Peter Bark from BURIAL GROUND) as neglected and with good reason to be jealous of her younger sister Karen (Brooke Shields in her first ever role). After standing by with a “what about me expression” on her face while Karen receives a pretty crucifix necklace from the priest Father Tom (Rudolph Willrich) and a brand new white dress for “First Communion”, it really starts to feel like Alice is being left out, and her frustration and teasing towards her little sister almost feels understandable. Whether or not Alice went through her first communion in the same manner is unknown, but being that this is a pretty religious family, I imagine she did. So maybe she’s just a brat who doesn’t know when it’s other people’s turn for attention.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Mario Bava's Lisa and the Devil (1974)

Picture this. You’re on a vacation in Toledo, at a crowded town square with a large group of tourists you’ve just spent the last several hours with on an uncomfortable stuffy bus ride.The tour guide is exhibiting an old fresco of the devil, whose face seems peculiar and unforgettable and looks like that one actor who used to play Kojak. Out of nowhere, an irresistible and soul warming melody catches your attention, and you can’t help but stray from the group and pursue its source. Your curiosity has led you to an antique store where a lovely music box is emanating a most attractive sound. Upon inquiry to the shop owner, you learn that the music box is not for sale but belongs to a customer standing before you, who to your concern, happens to carry the same face you beheld in the fresco. After leaving the shop, you now have a complete disoriented sense of direction amidst an endless winding labyrinth of cobblestoned alleyways, without any sign of the town square where you had the comfort and safety of being in a group. Strange folk you come across shun you, avoid you, and treat you like you’re invisible. 

Now you are lost and all alone, but this isn’t by mistake, he has chosen you and you are in his world now, for he is your only guide. You might as well make the best of it and try to look forward to what’s in store….. Surely bizarre and exciting adventures must lie ahead….. I’d also feel flattered if I were you, since it’s likely he thought you the fairest and prettiest of the bunch. 

What has just been narrated to you is my interpretation of the set up to a high-body-count Gothic thriller from Mario Bava called LISA AND THE DEVIL, a visual feast from a cinematographic master that is full of memorable sequences that uncontrollably pummel the viewer with some of the greatest “Oh my God!” moments, ever. Allow me to attempt to manifest in words why this film kicks much ass, without giving too much away. 

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Colour from the Dark (2008)

Ivan Zuccon’s COLOUR FROM THE DARK is an adaptation to my favorite and in my opinion most frightening H.P. Lovecraft story, THE COLOUR OUT OF SPACE. Zuccon’s film runs its own unique ideas alongside Lovecraft’s story fairly smoothly, helping it to be more than just a mere retelling. The outcome of how the characters are affected by a life draining contamination on a farm is similar in both tales, but the means is much more demonic and supernatural in Zuccon’s, while that in Lovecraft’s is something alien and chronically hazardous that feels realistic and not all together unlike a nuclear fallout. 

The most interesting original idea introduced in the film is the character of Alice (Marysia Kay), a mute childish woman, who despite being around 22 years old, is very much a portrait of a young and easily frightened child. She has a fear of the stairway in her home and when passing through it an anxiety generates in her that causes her to rush down the stairs afraid of something unseen and unknown. This easily reminds me of that same fear we felt as children all alone late at night in the hallways of our own homes, afraid of something not there, with an impulse to run through the hallway and back into bed under the secure blankets after a late night trip to the bathroom. Alice has a tendency to rely on her doll for security from the perceived hidden threats that lurk in the dark. Wandering around late at night, she covers one hand over her eyes while looking though her fingers and holding her doll out in front of her as if the doll is her protector, watching and letting her know if it is safe ahead. This introduction to Alice at the beginning of the film made me feel that I was in store for something pretty interesting with that surreal sensibility one can expect from Zuccon

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Thank You Holly

The always fascinating and impressive Holly's Horrorland has given me The Versatile Blogger award, and in order to accept it I must reveal 7 things about myself before passing this noble and prestigious award on to 15 other bloggers, who I'm guessing will have to continue to uphold the tradition if they want it. (In trying to trace the award back a little I've noticed that others are passing it on to only 7 other bloggers, so I'm not sure which is correct)   
OK here it goes:

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Perfume of the Lady in Black (1974)

I have read of the elusive cult that targets and stalks vulnerable victims while driving them to madness and suicide. They have a preferred method of friending those who’ve come into their domain, gaining the trust of the unfortunate, lonely soul who would likely not see the danger until it is too late. These sect members appear to live normal lives and are closely associated with each other in their own community, so that there’s no trouble at all once they’ve acquired a corpse for "God knows what". Once all is done, there is no memory of the unfortunate, no mourning, and no suspicion, as if the victim had never been born at all. 
Now I fear my own sanity is beginning to grow unsteady… The illusions of painful memories that appear before my eyes as though no time has passed since those tragic events…. The scary faces that follow and stare at me on my nightly walks home from work. I worry that I will soon be wiped clean from existence, in memory and in name. What will become of my body after they’ve taken me?
It all started after tasting the bitter wine that was offered to me from a so called friend, but my grip on reality really started to falter after he had me view Francesco Barilli’s THE PERFUME OF THE LADY IN BLACK, a masterpiece from the golden era of Italian horror in serious need of praise and discovery. Allow me to divulge a bit more: 
The film's main character, Silvia Hacherman (Mimsy Farmer), lives alone in an archaic apartment complex and is the boss of a research and development facility. What awaits her is a spell of madness that results in resurfaced tormenting childhood memories, haunting visions of her dead mother in a black dress, and a newfound murderous instinct. A nice touch and an eerie hint of the dark mystery between Silvia and her deceased mother occurs early on when a populated cemetery she’s visiting becomes quiet and empty after viewing and laying flowers on her mother’s headstone. 

Monday, April 4, 2011

Jean Rollin's Fascination (1979)

Some find the experience of tasting blood to be exciting, sexually arousing, and empowering. A condition known as “clinical vampirism” is an obsession for consuming blood due to a belief in its ability to grant life enhancing vitality. Given the awareness of this vampiric tendency in some, it’s not surprising that history is filled with unsolved murders of victims who appear to have been killed under conditions strongly suggestive of vampirism. Jean Rollin’s 1979 opus FASCINATION is an interesting and bewitching take on the idea of craving blood that is coupled with the director’s superior visual style and erotic nature.
Jean Rollin’s FASCINATION is an intriguing tale set in 1905 that begins with mesmerizing visuals that captivate and draw the viewer in, before the story unfolds. At the start, we are treated to the lovely sight of an antique phonograph set on a bridged pathway over a body of water where two women in white (Brigitte Lahaie and Franca Mai) are enjoying a ballroom style dance. Elsewhere on a different day in a bloody butcher house, high society women in fancy dress stand around and participate in the “latest fashion” of drinking ox blood as a therapy for anemia, which I felt to be an interesting take on vampirism, and it also feels like a mockery of sorts for wine tasting clubs. The beautiful but grim sight of these ladies drinking blood from a wine glass standing in a pool of blood is a darkly poetic visual done in a way only Rollin could and is an image that will stick with you forever. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Out of Mind: The Stories of H.P. Lovecraft (1998)

One can only dream of having the privilege to meet and converse face to face with significant figures in history, to live the same events as our ancestors, or to reach out through time and take possession of the bodies of descendants in the future and never have to succumb to death. If such a book contained the key to making this possible, it would likely be best kept forbidden and locked away forever, lest we find ourselves in danger from our own ancestors clawing away at our souls, trying to take possession of our lives. If you, like the main character in tonight’s film review, often find yourself dreaming that you are someone else in an entirely different time period, then it’s possible you may have been cursed from someone high above you in your own family tree that wants your life very much. 
By the way, all of this talk about taking the lives of descendants is the theme to H.P. Lovecraft’s THE CASE OF CHARLES DEXTER WARD, which is the basis for Raymond Saint-Jean’s 56-minute long, made for TV film, OUT OF MIND: THE STORIES OF H.P. LOVECRAFT. As the title suggests, the film also contains familiar scenarios from a few other Lovecraft tales that fans will likely enjoy noticing. However, the film’s main highlight is that it actually includes a very convincing H.P. Lovecraft played with stellar acting by Christopher Heyerdahl, who teaches us how CTHULHU is really pronounced. A pronunciation I’m unable to duplicate myself despite multiple attempts.  

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Jess Franco's A Virgin Among the Living Dead (1971)

To have never met or even known one’s own family is a sad thing indeed, but to finally be reunited with your relatives only to discover that you’d have been far better off never knowing them is truly the saddest thing of all. A young ladies first time discovery of her bizarre and outlandish relatives in a homecoming from Hell is the subject of tonight’s film review for a Belgian, Italian, and French financed film shot in Portugal that was written and directed by Spanish filmmaker Jess Franco (wait don’t leave!), known as A VIRGIN AMONG THE LIVING DEAD. 
The film follows Christina (Christina von Blanc) travelling home from a boarding school in London, in order to visit her relatives at the Castle Monteserate and to attend the reading of her father’s Will. Odd thing is she has never known her father or even met her relatives, and according to an Innkeeper and the village locals, the castle she is headed for is apparently abandoned. But nonetheless, Christina continually insists and believes that her whole family lives there. 
During the intro credits, the film illustrates Christina’s Journey to the village with travelling shots of very normal and mundane location visuals that clash with the dissonant and creepy music that is being heard. This for me suggests that danger can be nearby at even the most unexpected instances and reminds us that we live with the constant risk of heading into treacherous perils without even knowing it. This is definitely the case for Christina, who is most unsuspecting of the threat that awaits her back home… A threat in the form of a seductive lady in black, guiding her to the ultimate destination in life… 

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Red Queen Kills Seven Times (1972), AKA Blood Feast

After a long hard day, a brief trip to a different time period in a faraway place is usually what it takes to provide the right amount of escapism I crave in order to feel restored and at peace again. I’m sure that you sometimes feel the same way, and I think you’ll find Emilio Miraglia’s “THE RED QUEEN KILLS SEVEN TIMES” to be a source of much needed respite. The cinematography in the film ably makes use of exotic locations in a 1970s time period that, in a way, provides a pleasant getaway for you to enjoy from the comfort and safety of your couch. So if you’re feeling a bit burned out and in need of a vacation, come with me to a castle and town in Europe, where you can relax to the seductive visuals of a different time and place and enjoy the company of lovely Euro-beauties (like Barbara Bouchet and Marina Malfatti) as well as a ghostly killer just to make things more interesting and to your liking. 
At the beginning, the film instantly draws the viewer in with a very exotic and almost tourist-like European setting, where Kitty and Evelyn Wildenbrűk, 2 sisters of about 9 years of age, are enjoying playtime in a very luxurious courtyard with a marvelous castle looming in the background. The peace and serenity the ambiance this location provides is disrupted as Evelyn snatches Kitty’s precious doll from her and dashes through the castle grounds causing Kitty to chase after Evelyn, with great concern for the safety and integrity of her doll. The chase ultimately leads into the castle where Grandfather Tobias Wildenbrűk (played by Rudolf Schűndler, the witch expert from SUSPIRIA!) is disrupted from his morning paper because of all the bratty shouting. Just then, Evelyn becomes possessed from a gory painting nearby and starts chanting “I’m the red queen, and Kitty’s the black queen” and then completely loses it, grabs a knife and begins to viciously stab Kitty’s doll repeatedly before ripping its head off in a fit of maniacal laughter (an impressive and amusing performance from the child actor).

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

House of Black Wings (2010)

Hello everyone and welcome back!  I just want to start out this time by expressing my appreciation to everyone who has checked out my blog “At the Mansion of Madness”. It has been a blast so far, and I look forward to posting many more reviews for your reading pleasure. “Thank you” to everyone who has taken the time to visit and to all who have followed me on my blog and on Twitter

Today I write to you about a tale of friendship, ghostly possession, and cosmic horror, from a movie written, directed, and produced by David Schmidt of “Sword & Cloak Productions. HOUSE OF BLACK WINGS is a film that I personally believe to be quite an achievement that really goes a long way given the modest resources available to the filmmakers. One of this film’s major strengths is the development that occurs between two interesting and unique lead characters. These being ex rock star Kate Stone, played very convincingly by Leah Myette, and her friend Robyn Huck, a very cute and likable gothic artsy type, portrayed by Katherine Herrera. Needless to say, I developed an attachment to both of these lovely ladies, and I’m sure others have/will as well. 
These two happen to be old college roommates with a strong connection based on a long term friendship they’ve had since before Kate’s brief stint of fame as a musician. An unfortunate incident has resulted in a career downfall that has left Kate completely bitter about her rock star past. She now wants nothing more than to forget everything and start anew with the support and company of her good friend Robyn. With her music career over and nowhere else to turn to, Kate arrives to stay at the Blackwood apartment complex, owned and maintained by Robyn, who inherited the place from her father. While trying to rebuild her life, Kate learns that past demons aren’t so easily forgotten, and to make matters worse, something else is impeding her recovery, something demonic with black wings that seems to come from nightmares that exist between time and space….

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Devil's Nightmare (1971), Starring Erika Blanc

It is believed that Succubi repeatedly visit men in their dreams and upon paralyzing them engage in nocturnal intercourse whilst draining their life and vitality until they wake up dead. I am writing to you all today to relate my encounter with a Succubus during one of my somnambulant journeys. It’s a miracle that I survived the horrific encounter with that unwholesome she devil to write to you these words today. Of course, I am talking about my encounter with the fiery redheaded, blazing hot demon from Jean Brismée’s “THE DEVIL’S NIGHTMARE”.

In this film, Erika Blanc stars as a homicidal Succubus prowling a twelfth century castle luring the film's various characters to their dooms. The brooding feminine threat in the movie is personified with a theme song consisting of moody haunting female vocals that the Succubus herself would surely approve of.

Filmed in Sepia with WWII stock footage interspersed between scenes, the start of this nightmare is a brilliant segment set in 1945 Berlin during one of the bloodiest battles in human history. While the battle is raging outside, a maid/midwife is nursing the Baroness, who is in labor. 2 uniformed men are nearby; one of these men is the Baron von Rhoneberg, looking fairly agitated, and the other is his servant Hans. The Baroness eventually passes away while giving birth, and even after the Baron realizes his wife has just died, he still seems to be deeply troubled by something else (and it’s not the fall off the Third Reich). When he learns that the baby is not a boy, he sends everyone away in order to be alone with his newborn daughter. Afterwards, he says a prayer, takes out a knife, and commits a dastardly deed…. What on Earth could compel a man to do such a thing?!! 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

An Angel for Satan (1966), Starring Barbara Steele

Imagine being so taken by a lady's stunning beauty that you lose interest in everything else and become so detached from your regular life that you don’t even feel like yourself anymore. According to the film “AN ANGEL FOR SATAN”, finding yourself under the favorable attention of such a seductive presence could cause you to neglect things you used to hold dear and ultimately suffer tragic consequences. In this movie, actress and legendary horror queen, Barbara Steele, plays a character that maliciously uses her otherworldly beauty and womanly charm to seduce and get into the heads of villagers, both men and women, causing them to commit regrettable and woeful deeds. 
Set in the early 1900s in a superstitious backwater village, Camillo Mastrocinque’s AN ANGEL FOR SATAN is a compelling piece of Gothic horror, where atmosphere and mystery rule the day. Similar to some of her other movies, Steele plays a good and an evil role but this time as a single character with a dual personality. She spends the latter half of the film bouncing in and out of her evil side causing us to wonder if she is being possessed or just plain out of her mind. The reason behind the terror is ultimately explained in a fairly satisfying climax that I will in no way try to ruin.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Dark Waters (1994), Lovecraftian Terror with Italian Horror Flair

I’m a sucker for a good atmospheric Lovecraftian horror film, and I’m even more thrilled when it happens to be an Italian horror film, because then you know it’s going to be overflowing with unique style and excess. Filmed in the Ukraine, director Mariano Baino’s “DARK WATERS” is a stellar example of the nightmarish gem that can result when Lovecraft and Italian horror are fused as one. Just like in Lucio Fulci’s masterpiece “THE BEYOND”, those grandiose and gory gross out death scenes are on full display, and the film contains characters whose eyes have gone white from being blinded after witnessing the threatening evil presence in all of its supernatural glory. There’s even a little bit of Dario Argento’s “SUSPIRIA” thrown in, with an unsuspecting main character arriving to stay at an architecture that is ruled by a threatening, all female, presence and a couple other moments characteristic of “SUSPIRIA, that fans will no doubt notice. As far as I could observe, the H.P. Lovecraft influence is mostly “THE CALL OF CTHULHU” with an ending climax that shares a resemblance to a plot device from “THE DUNWICH HORROR”. I didn’t notice the resemblance to “THE DUNWICH HORROR” the first time I viewed this film, but if you think about it, you’ll see it. I don’t want to give it away, so I’ll hint at it. It involves 2 offspring from some otherworldly creature, with one resembling the parent more than the other! 
Starting out strong with style and mysticism, the first part of the movie is presented in a dialogue-free fashion, amongst a sea side monastery, dark threatening waters, creepy religious imagery, and candle lit subterranean caverns. In fact, the beginning of the film happens to be the only part of the story that consists of an attack from actual dark waters, with the film’s monster not even coming from the sea, which is opposite of what I was led to believe given the movie’s title. Not a big deal at all though, because just like a movie called "TROLL 2" that has no Trolls in it, this movie is still great and is deserving of a new found popularity. That way, Mariano Baino can inflict many more films on us like he said he would do in the director’s introduction to the film (the release from No Shame).

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Crocodile (1979)

Behold the power of exploitation movie poster art… I clearly recall stumbling across this one at the video rental store as a little kid during one of my many curious romps to the horror movie section. I was dually fascinated and terrified by the VHS box art of a crocodile, bigger than anything I had ever imagined, emerging from the waters with an explosion of destruction and carnage. The image had penetrated my subconscious, and for days I wondered what a movie that bared such menacing and awesome cover art could be like. After finally convincing my parents to rent it for me, I patiently waited for the household to fall asleep, in order to have the VCR and TV all to myself. Not surprisingly, the film ended up being nothing like I expected. The end result was a foreign, low budget, and awkwardly dubbed affair that didn’t leave me with a water phobia like JAWS did. However, it still managed to creep and gross me out with its eerie croc attacks and graphic under water carnage. For some reason, the movie really got under my skin, and to this day, its hold on me has never left. 

What unholy forces compel me to revisit this maddening tale of underwater terror? Is it a determination to confront and drive away an unsettling memory this film has procured in my mind, or is it to determine what has made it burrow its way deep into my sub-conscience and refuse to leave? It is also quite possible that I was just too young to recognize a lousy movie when I saw one. Well after viewing it again, I would have to say that I indeed was too young to notice the films flaws, and I’m glad that I was able to still put myself into a childlike mindset and still derive all of the feelings I experienced during my first viewing and more.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Dario Argento's Phenomena (1984), or Connelly in Wonderland

All those times watching Labyrinth as a kid I was completely oblivious to the fact that Jennifer Connelly had previously starred in an even darker fairytale. Director Dario Argento’s “Phenomena” is like a film dressed up to resemble a childlike fairytale but is really a nightmarish journey through hell. Before seeing it, I recall being very intrigued from what I read on the Internet and from already being aware of the film's main musical theme from a rendition by metal band “Rhapsody of Fire” Link to Song (It seriously does make for great background music, while reading this review). The movie’s unique style of fantasy and horror had caught my attention so much that I was already a fan of the movie before I even saw it. I had to have it!! After ordering off for the DVD on Amazon and waiting for a month, that seemed to take forever, the movie finally showed up in the mail. What I was to see forever sealed my fandom for Dario Argento’s films.   
The movie opens abruptly in the Swiss Alps, where a Danish tourist (Dario Argento’s daughter, Fiore) misses the bus and is left stranded. During the opening credits, I was surprised to find out that the costumes were designed by Giorgio Armani (the same people that design Lady Gaga’s clothes!) and that among the soundtrack is “Iron Maiden” and “Motorhead”. Most criticize the use of metal in this movie because it deflates the suspense, but I for one enjoyed those moments where it all of a sudden feels like we’ve just wandered into a music video. 

Monday, January 3, 2011

My First Words and Upcoming Debut Reviews

Greetings readers and fellow bloggers! With this blog "At the Mansion of Madness", I wish to share my love and appreciation for a number of different Horror Cult Films to everyone. My main goal is to try and shed a positive light on movies that I believe to be sorely underrated and to try and contribute in any way possible to their survival and vitality. If just one person finds joy from a film they were guided to from one of my reviews then I will consider my decision to start this blog successful. I also aim to try and put those who are already familiar with a particular reviewed movie in the mood to re-watch it with greater fondness and enthusiasm. This isn’t to say that there won’t ever be any negative reviews either. So please comment and let me know what you think. Compliments and scrutiny are equally encouraged. In any case, come inside and stay for a while…I hope you enjoy your visit to this MANSION OF MADNESS.....

During the month of January, I will post my first ever movie reviews for this blog:

1) Dario Argento's Phenomena (1984)

2) Crocodile, 1979

3) Mariano Baino's Dark Waters 1994