Today I'll be devoting myself to two movies and two movies only. The Abominable Dr. Phibes and Dr. Phibes Rises Again!, two delightful camp-horror films from the early 1970s starring Vincent Price.
These movies are 100% awesome.
This movie is a goddamn masterpiece. A beautiful, British, early-70s, art-deco, camp masterpiece.
Here's the setup. Vincent Price plays Dr. Anton Phibes, a brilliant doctor and professional concert organist. While abroad, his wife took ill and required emergency surgery. While speeding to her side, his car went over a cliff and caught fire. His wife died on the operating table, under the scalpel of a doctor played fantastically by Joseph Cotten.
Everyone thinks Dr. Phibes is dead, but that's not true. He was just horribly disfigured. And now he's back for revenge, planning to kill Dr. Vesalius (played by Cotten) and the eight other doctors who had a hand in what he views as his wife's murder. His methods, of course, will all incorporate the ten plagues of Egypt, from the Bible.
So this guy, for example, is slowly strangled by a frog mask, until he barfs blood and falls down some stairs.
Everything's coming up roses for Dr. Phibes.
He slowly works his way through the other doctors. I can't show you all of them, although I want to. He kills one with bees, one with blood, one with beasts.
He kills a pilot by releasing a shitload of hungry rats into the cockpit, while the guy is in midair:
When the plane crashes into a horrible fireball, he twirls his telescope and applauds, while his beautiful assistant Vulnavia plays the violin.
You know, just like you or I would do.
The sets, wardrobe, and composition of this movie is incredible. The production went balls-out on the art-deco. It's set in the late 1920s, and they spared no expense to make it look as grandiose and ornate as possible.
And Vincent Price is INCREDIBLE in this movie. His actual face is super-messed-up, and the "Vincent Price" face is just bits of latex prosthesis spirit gummed onto his charred skull, basically. He can't use his mouth to speak-- or do anything else. So there are hilarious shots of him eating and drinking by putting the spoon or glass around to the back of his neck.
And because he can't speak normally, he's lucky he was a genius at electronic music. He rigs up a methodology by which he can plug a quarter-inch phono jack into his neck and speak through an old-school Victrola horn. While his dialogue plays onscreen, Price does his absolute best to mimic speaking the dialogue while keeping his mouth closed, which is hilarious and creepy at the same time.
The murder methods are Rube Goldberg affairs in some cases, gruesome little mini-adventures, and the promise of their impending display kept me on the edge of my seat, while the sets and framing of the shots kept me dazzled.
I hadn't planned on watching the sequel, but I loved the first one so much...
This one doesn't make quite as much sense. In the first movie, Dr. Phibes is out for revenge. In this one, there's some cockeyed scheme about a magical river in Egypt that can bring his wife back to life, and grant him immortality. Playing against Vibes, instead of a doctor struggling for survival, there's a centuries-old man desperate to retain his youth and bring his wife along so she can also live forever. Vibes' foe has a number of hired hands and lackeys that Phibes is given the opportunity to kill, but it seems much more like he's doing it for the sheer joy of murder than out of the righteous fury he displayed in the first movie.
Which is fine, because the murders are still hilarious and awesome.
Also, the first one was apparently enough of a hit to justify boosting the budget for this one. What it lacks in intelligent plot and character motivations, it more than makes up for in design, ostentatious costumery, and over-the-top sets.
These movies are so much fun.
I don't really have much else to say.
This is just an excuse for me to post more awesome screenshots.
You should check these movies out.
Howdy. Here are more of the 31+ horror movies I'm watching this October.
After Visiting Hours, I needed to cleanse my palate with something inoffensive, goofy, and ridiculous. Witchboard seemed to fit the bill perfectly. Silly 80s "evil ouija board" movie, starring Tawny Kitaen (of Whitesnake video fame).
It was everything I hoped. Some great laughs, some fantastic character actors, and solid performances from the three leads.
Exactly as expected. "Oui" out of "ja."
I have a soft spot for the Amicus anthology horror films of the 60s and 70s, but I'd never seen this one before. I'd seen Torture Garden, Vault of Horror, Asylum, and From Beyond the Grave. These things are usually a lot of fun-- they get high-profile actors, are filmed in a very pretty way, and usually come from great source material-- Robert Bloch, EC Comics, that kind of thing.
This one draws inspiration directly from EC comics stories-- hence the title. And there are some dazzlers.
This one has pretty big roles for Joan Collins, Ralph Richardson, and Peter Cushing, among many others, and they turn in good performances. About half the horror is fairly bloodless, but it still works, by providing a nice, creepy atmosphere. The special effects vary from story to story, but even when they're bad, they're good.
These stories seem to serve the same purpose as the EC comics they're based on. They're wry, tongue-in-cheek, and manage to be genuinely creepy on occasion.
If you know Amicus Horror, you should know this already. If you don't, this is a pretty good introduction.
What's this? Oh, it's another "found footage" film about a reality TV show about ghost hunting set in an abandoned mental hospital? No thanks, I've seen that several times before. What's that you say? Oh, a 6.1 on IMDB? Better than 50% on Rotten Tomatoes? Weird internet cult that loves it? Okay, if you say so.
This movie is a horrible piece of shit.
Just like every other "found footage" movie set in an abandoned hospital / mental institution / et cetera.
The thing that never ceases to amaze me about these things is that, every single time, it looks like the people making these movies have never actually watched a shitty reality ghost hunting TV show. They always film everything-- even the framing segments, where the "host" sets up the concept-- with super-terrible shakycam. Guys, reality TV shows use tripods for those shots. Also, mostly, reality TV shows use steadicams. Or at least a cinderblock attached to a pole. Just because it worked for Blair Witch Project-- a movie which in no way claimed to be done by professionals-- does not mean it will work for you, or the two dozen other found footage / abandoned hospital movies.
I couldn't even muster up the give-a-fuck to take a screenshot. Blegh.
Also, Barb pointed out that the guys who directed this movie are called "The Vicious Brothers." Despite being neither brothers, nor vicious, nor related in any way. "The Vicious Brothers." That is what dudes in rural towns who upload "Jackass" style videos in 2014 call themselves; or fellows who record Insane Clown Posse concert videos from the back third of the venue with their iPhones and upload them, in the mistaken, delusional belief that it will lead to them somehow becoming the band's official videographer. Stop.
This movie is just corny as all hell. It's about a tourist trap in rural somewhere, featuring telekinetically controlled murder mannequins and a Leatherface stand-in. It's a little uneven, but there are a lot of things that really work about it. The scene opens on some teenagers whose car has already broken down, forcing one of their number to find a gas station or auto shop.
One of them finds one... and... his... doom.
One of the highlights of this movie is the set dressing and special effects-- the art direction was done by Robert A. Burns, the same dude who worked on Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which goes a long way toward explaining that. The teenagers are beautiful, of course, and the "last girl" is a very capable and effective actor.
The sets and mannequins are effectively creepy.
The actual evil antagonist, who apparently was called "Plasterface" on set but not in the movie itself, is interesting-- the masks are a little creepy, the outfits are interesting, the methods of murder are pretty damn good-- but oh my god, the voicework is terrible. The guy is two octaves short of sounding like a radical laryngectomy patient with a buzzbox.
And he keeps screaming things like "COME BACK, LITTLE GIRL!"
I sent Ed Ringtone an audio SMS and he laughed for a long time.
The score is also pretty hit-or-miss. There are times when the music works with the visuals and literally gave me goosebumps, but there are just as many times when I found myself rolling my eyes at the corniness of the whole thing.
A solid effort, far from the worst movie I watched during the course of this October. One thumb up.
Welcome once again to a discussion of horror movies that I've seen this month, in an effort to watch 31 new-to-me horror movies in 31 days. Today, I'll be talking about three of them.
Here we go.
Honest to god, the lead guy's name is "Lou Garou."
This movie had me right where it wanted me within five minutes. In the following screenshot, the coroner investigating a heroin overdose death has just set his cruller down on the knee of the deceased in order to put on his latex gloves. It was a throwaway moment. Wasn't on screen for more than a second or two. And I couldn't stop laughing. You got me, WolfCop.
There are a number of screenshots I won't post here of the actual transformation that "Lou Garou" undergoes to become a werewolf. The reason I will not post them here is because they show graphic blood graphically spurting out of his graphic penis. It's hilarious, and made Ed Ringtone say "You had me at blood piss," but I have to draw the line somewhere regarding what I'll show on this blog. And as evidenced by yesterday's post, that line is "Somewhere a little short of where BBC TV will."
I'll still show you some of the hilarious gore, don't you worry.
The basic premise of the movie is that a small-town, asshole, lazy, alcoholic cop becomes a werewolf at the hands of "shapechangers." The shapechangers do this so that they can then trap the werewolf during the eclipse, when he is vulnerable to harm, and then drain his blood. Drinking (or snorting) werewolf blood allows the shapeshifters to retain their powers, and stay alive for centuries, as long as they have a supply. The actual procedure for lycanthropization is a little out of the known canon, but whatever. Asshole drunkard cop becomes a werewolf.
What more do you need, really?
The following screenshot comes from a scene wherein WolfCop stops a small-town convenience store robbery being perpetrated by three idiots in pig masks. Yes. Three little pigs. One of them screams "What are you?"
He growls back, "The Fuzz."
Then there is a five-minute montage where the WolfCop takes his car into a closed Auto Body Shop and makes sparks fly everywhere. He's wearing goggles, he's got the pneumatic drill, the whole thing.
He's converting his sheriff's car into the WolfCopMobile, you see.
The goddamn WolfCopMobile.
Then he goes driving around the rural roads looking for crimes to stop. One conceit of the movie is that during the full moon, the WolfCop straight-up cannot be harmed. So there are lots of fun shots of him just getting riddled with bullets and not giving a single shit.
Anyway, at one point, WolfCop crams his head out the window and starts sniffing. He can smell trouble. He can smell a meth lab, miles away. What's a WolfCop to do, but go and bust it up?
I don't want to give too much away, but there is, of course, a love scene, between WolfCop and a woman dressed like Little Red Riding hood. It comes out of nowhere, it takes place in a jail cell, and all of a sudden cheesy soft-rock starts playing and there are candles everywhere.
The only way it could have been any better is if they'd actually gotten the rights to "Take My Breath Away" and played that instead.
The problem with most movies that attempt to do the whole balls-to-the-wall, goofy 80s funny-action movie thing, is that they tend to fail miserably. They don't understand what makes things cheesy-funny. They often accomplish the cheesy, but it's not the right flavor of cheesy, or it's cheesy but not funny, or they take lot of pauses to stare straight into the camera and grin and gawk, miming "look how funny we're being."
Usually, unless the movie was actually made in the 80s, and was actually made by someone trying in earnest to make a good movie, your average faux-corny shitty movie will fail. It will fail horribly, and it will make me hate you forever.
WolfCop is that rare beast, a movie that somehow gets it right.
I went into this with low expectations. I saw this movie pretty much solely because I already bought the soundtrack on vinyl. I only bought the soundtrack on vinyl because a guy a sort of know, Randy Ortiz, did the art for it. Randy is fantastic. And the art is fantastic. And the gatefold of the vinyl is basically what convinced me to give the movie an honest shot. Here is that gatefold:
I can't recommend this movie highly enough. It is so ridiculous, so low-budget and high-laughter.
Road Games was another pleasant surprise. I only watched it for two reasons: Stacy Keach and Jamie Lee Curtis.
Stacy Keach plays a long-haul trucker in Australia. He's been working four days straight with very little sleep, and he's called upon to do another job--hauling a truckload of meat to Perth. He's a little on edge, pretty tired, and also convinced that he's being followed by a knife-wielding maniac who's already killed a bunch of girls on a rampage.
Jamie Lee Curtis is a hitchhiker he picks up along the way, and who becomes involved in the investigation.
This is basically a road movie-- 80% of the film takes place inside the cab of the big rig-- and as such, I expected to be bored. I was surprised that I was engrossed throughout. Mostly due to Stacy Keach's incredible acting abilities, especially when paired with the various misfits he interacts with along the way. The driver maintains a running commentary about the people in the other cars, and it's often funny.
Additionally, the pacing and camera work is top-notch. It simmers for long periods of time before breaking into a boil, and the third star of the movie is honestly the Australian scenery.
Slow, pretty, well acted and directed. Two thumbs up.
Michael Ironside, William Shatner, Lee Grant, and Linda Purl. What could go wrong?
Needlessly cruel, stultifyingly slow. The Shat and ol' Ironside do their best, and turn in pretty good performances, but they can't save what is essentially a brainless, crappy, poorly-done slasher flick.
Join me next time for a discussion of four more movies, one of which is godawful, one of which was pretty good, and two of which are cheesy and awesome.
Welcome back to another edition of "some horror movies I've watched this month." I'm Keef, and I'm watching (at least) 31 horror movies during the month of October, as previously discussed. Instead of the batch-movie format, this post will discuss a single movie, mostly because I started writing about it and then couldn't stop.
This was a really pleasant surprise. Schalcken the Painter is a BBC movie based on a short story by Sheridan Le Fanu, starring Jeremy Clyde in the title role, with a fantastic supporting cast. But really, the star is the filmmaking and set design itself. In the creation of this movie, the lighting, camerawork, and eerie stillness takes center stage. There are many shots of the painters at work, showing the models in their poses and surroundings, clearly meant to evoke or even reproduce the works of the old Dutch masters themselves. It's nearly Barry Lyndon-esque in its beautiful lighting and careful pacing.
Additionally, the whole thing is narrated, and there are many pauses for what is in effect a brief historical lecture on Dutch art in the 15th century, providing some context for the action. Very informative, about the historical figures involved and the larger societal mores and attitudes, which inform the plot a fair amount. To its credit, this information is delivered very well, being interesting and informative without becoming preachy or boring.
It doesn't hurt that there's a lot of nudity in this movie.
After the first ten movies or so in this series, when I had the idea to start blogging this stuff, I started taking lots of screenshots of these movies as I watched them. I knew that it would be fun to show these afterwards, and taking them in the moment meant that I had the ability to sort of "live tweet" these things via text with some friends. Take a screenshot, send it to a friend with commentary, chat about the movie. So I chose a lot of funny or interesting screenshots-- I went for frames with good composition, or startling horror or gore aspects, or nudity.
Did I mention that this movie-- a BBC TV movie-- has a lot of nudity?
And so but anyway, I'm sending text messages back and forth with Ed Ringtone, and he made a remark that this looked like "Whoops My Titty: The Movie."
Which is not entirely inaccurate. In an effort to recreate the paintings of the Old Masters, many of which included nudity, the movie itself incorporates those same titty-related elements.
Unfortunately, the adherence to the source material provided another side effect-- the movie itself was shelved for being prurient, and was unavailable for a very long time. It is now available for purchase on the BFI website, but if you read the IMDB reviews page, as I did because this movie is incredibly good, it's riddled with people complaining about the lack of availability of this film. They discuss how it was shown about three times in the last thirty-five years, including the initial airing, and half of the reviews include pleas for anyone who owns the movie to contact the reviewer to trade VHS tapes or whatever.
The fact that so many people, a quarter-century after the fact, remembered this film fondly and desired a repeat viewing, says more about the haunting and memorable qualities of the movie than I could.
Now here's some more nudity.
Also, my god, the costumes and wardrobe in this thing. In conjunction with the lighting and direction, this movie looks good enough to eat.
Anyway, the story starts with the title character being a lowly student, studying under the painter Gerard Douw, who was at the time much more well-known. Over the course of his studies, Schalcken falls in love with Douw's niece, the beautiful Rose, played fantastically by Cheryl Kennedy. She, of course, also falls for him, in a beautiful playful back-and-forth of shared glances and affectionate grazes.
Alas, there is conflict. A strange man, claiming to be "Minheer Vanderhausen of Rotterdam," shows up. He offers Douw, nearly blind in his old age, a fortune in gold for the hand of his niece. From the story, and neatly paraphrased in the film:
Gerard Douw knew nothing of the attachment which had sprung up between his pupil and his niece; and even if he had, it is doubtful whether he would have regarded its existence as any serious obstruction to the wishes of Minheer Vanderhausen. Marriages were then and there matters of traffic and calculation; and it would have appeared as absurd in the eyes of the guardian to make a mutual attachment an essential element in a contract of the sort, as it would have been to draw up his bonds and receipts in the language of romance.
Douw agrees, and in effect sells his niece to Vanderhausen.
Neither Schalcken nor Rose have any idea about any of this. The man shows up at dinner and throws back his hood, revealing that he is horribly, horribly wrong:
all the flesh of the face was coloured with the bluish leaden hue... the eyes showed an undue proportion of muddy white, and had a certain indefinable character of insanity; the hue of the lips bearing the usual relation to that of the face, was, consequently, nearly black; and the entire character of the face was sensual, malignant, and even satanic.
Rose says something to the effect that she would not like to ever see that man again, which is when Douw drops the bomb that she is now engaged to the walking corpse. Surprise!
Rose begs Schalcken to elope with her. He refuses, saying that he will become a rich painter, and then buy out the marriage licence (or whatever weird equivalent existed in 15th century Netherlands).
She packs her bags, gives him a last glance, and goes.
Despite the movie itself being more than a third of a century old, and itself based on a hundred-and-fifty year old short story that's in the public domain as part of the Gutenberg Project, I still get squeamish and discomfited about posting any spoilers.
So. Spoilers ahead. Here there be spoilers.
A few weeks after the marriage, Douw hears nothing from Rose, and asks Schalcken to go find her. He goes to Rotterdam, and can find hide nor hair of Vanderhausen or Rose.
He gives up. He gets older. He remains unsatisfied, and begins to paint damning indictments of capitalism and the intermix of money and affection that existed at the time. After a long period of years, Rose returns to the house, all scratched up and rough. She begs Schalcken not to leave her alone. Frenetic, worried about her, he steps out of the room for a minute-- and hears screaming. The door slams shut. He eventually gets it open, and discovers the window inside is open, and there are ripples in the water of the canal below.
Then, things start to get really bad.
NO MORE TEXT SPOILERS WATCH THE DAMN MOVIE
I've watched a bunch more horror movies this month. I realized I didn't actually post a list last time, so this time I'll start by listing the ones I talked about last time, and then start fresh with the new ones. So here you go.
1. Leviathan (1989)
2. Eyes Without a Face (1960)
3. Trollhunter (2010)
4. Dracula (1931)
5. Dracula's Daughter (1936)
6. Headhunters (2010)
7. Soultangler (1987)
8. Slime City (1988)
9. Hour of the Wolf (1968)
10. Landscape Suicide (1986)
That brings us to now. I've watched fifteen more horror movies since then. Some of them were great, some of them were not so great, and some of them were pretty terrible. I'll start by listing the order in my list, the title, and then I'll give you a little bitty mini-review. Because I'm a member of the itty-bitty-review-committee. I plan to break this up into smaller collected chunks so you don't go crazy or lose interest. From here on out, I'll probably be alternating between this format, where I discuss lesser movies or give itty-bitty reviews, and a longer format, where I blather on at length about movies that I particularly liked (or maybe disliked). Here are the first six, in a shorter format.
This movie was so weird. Strange Japanese horror, released in the late-1980s in conjunction with an NES video game. Like, literally, that trailer plays right before the movie starts. The tone of this thing was all over the place-- over-the-top, Noh-style Japanese slapstick, and then some of the most horrifying things you can imagine. Then back to the bouncy, goofy-music slapstick. The most unsettling and terrifying part about this movie was that someone thought pairing super-bouncy goofy music with horrible, horrible terror was a good idea. It really heightens the "what the shit" factor.
Also, there's a great face-melting scene.
I'd never seen this one before. It's one of the worst horror movies of all time. I'd seen Best Worst Movie, which is a documentary film all about Troll 2 and how terrible it is, and about how people love it in spite of it being terrible. Honestly, after watching the documentary, I felt like I didn't really need to see Troll 2 itself. But what the hell, right?
It was... it was pretty bad. I enjoyed it thoroughly all the way through.
The acting is atrocious, the dialogue is straight-up laughable most of the way through, the costumes were trash, and the editing is questionable at best. I enjoyed it all the way through.
No screenshots necessary or recommended.
I'd already watched this one, but I'm giving myself a few passes this month to break up the mysterious new horror flicks. This is one of Cronenberg's best, with Jeremy Irons giving one of his best performances in a double role as twin gynecologists, one of who slowly spirals into drug addiction and madness, pulling his brother with him.
I cannot stress how incredible Jeremy Irons is in this movie.
Highly, highly recommended.
I'd heard about this movie for a long time. It's a dramatization of the story of Ed Gein. It's from the 70s. I had always assumed that it came out after "Texas Chainsaw Massacre," as sort of a low-grade effort to cash in on that movie's success.
I couldn't have been more wrong.
This movie came out in 1974, the same year as Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but it came out first. Also, the movies are trying to accomplish entirely different things. Where Chainsaw is aiming for-- and providing-- balls-out horror and dread for nearly the full running time, Deranged is much slower and creepier. It follows the actual criminal history of Ed Gein much more closely than any other fictionalized account that I've seen, and it does it with style and panache. It was filmed mostly in Canada, and the bleak, snowy filming locations provide a fairly accurate representation of what it's like to experience an upper-Midwestern winter.
Roberts Blossom plays "Ezra Cobb," the Ed Gein stand-in, to perfection. A little slow, a lot creepy, and he even manages a Wisconsin accent fairly well. He plays Ez perfectly, displaying that steely, midwestern work-ethic resolve, except instead of farming, his work-ethic is devoted to taxidermy, grave robbery, and murrrrrrder.
The set design is also spot-on. It seems like they must have scouted locations and just straight-up entered a late-70s rural farmhouse.
And that makeup. Woo, that makeup.
About halfway through the movie, I became so impressed with the makeup that I actually broke out my phone and looked it up. Turns out this was one of Tom Savini's early efforts. You might recognize Savini as the makeup / SFX guy from Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, Friday the 13th, Maniac, The Burning... he's famous for a reason, and his talents are on wonderful display here.
I can't recommend this enough. Four out of four hatchets.
There's a subset of horror movies, of which I am a huge fan, devoted to Rock 'n' Roll Horror. I've got about fifty rock horror movies in my collection. Most of them are... not good. There are a few gems. Killer Party is in that collection, but it's on the periphery. This movie is famous for, among other things, a ten-minute fakeout opening sequence, featuring a movie within a movie within a music video. It's pretty hilarious and weird, and I've watched that ten-minute sequence more than once.
I figured that's close enough to "never watched" to count.
Killer Party is a pretty straightforward 80s sorority slasher flick. It does some things really well.
Fun enough, when you're in the mood for an 80s slasher flick.
Eric Bana, Joel McHale, Edgar Ramirez. All dudes I like. This movie came out and sank like a stone. I wanted to see it in the theater, but I somehow missed the brief run, which is unfortunate. I'm glad I got a chance to see it on VOD.
This is a pretty well-directed possession / exorcism movie. Everything's staged and shot beautifully. Some of the acting is hit-or-miss, however; Eric Bana drips authenticity until he opens his mouth and uses a Brooklyn accent. About every fourth time, I got flashes of Doug Hutchison as "Loony Bin Jim" in Punisher War Zone, which is to say extremely campy. I don't think Bana's playing it for laughs, and it's fairly easy to suspend disbelief, but it is a definite factor to keep in mind when watching this movie. Joel McHale is incredible as his partner, a smartass cop who prefers knifeplay. That said, I like Joel McHale in just about anything, and I think he was underused in this movie.
I watched this late at night, which helped in terms of enjoyment, and lowered the eye-rolling quotient. The plot is fairly by-the-numbers, as possession / exorcism movies go, and the fun is the same as watching ballet or a complicated dance routine, just being able to see where individuals add flair, how well they execute particular moves, and where they fall down flat. Maybe I'm just inured to horror movies of this type at this point in my life-- I am an old man-- but there weren't many scares in this movie. I did enjoy the execution, however.
Solid six out of ten. I didn't bother taking screenshots.
And that brings this edition of "31 Nights of Horror" to a close. Please join us tomorrow, when I'll spend twelve hundred words discussing titties, the paintings of the old Dutch masters, and the painful existential horror of being alive.