The Hour Of The Oxrun Dead (Charles L Grant)

Those staples of horror–the rundown graveyard, the sinister shape in the fog, the strange noises in the night–they’re all here in spades, but rather than feeling clichéd, the late Charles L. Grant (who wrote under 5 other names as well) has fashioned them into an engaging little novel of 1970s paranoia. And his style is very moody and languid. He makes you wait, and if you enjoy the journey, that seemed to be his goal. Grant was a leading proponent of the quiet horror movement. Other than the odd quirk that might annoy the reader, like his heroine repeatedly fainting, if you like misdirection and mystery this just might be your cup of tea.
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The Oblong Box (1969 United Kingdom)

Owing virtually nothing to Edgar Allan Poe other than the title, American International Pictures (AIP) did like to insult the public’s intelligence. The critics of the time did not have much enthusiasm for this flick, which is often surprisingly nasty for that era, but I think this has enough entertainment value for at least one viewing. The director, Gordon Hessler, who replaced Michael Reeves after his untimely death, does a good job of making the film into a reasonably compelling narrative, even if he is a little too fond of extreme close-ups.
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The Man Who Could Cheat Death (1959 United Kingdom)

No, this is not the Cliff Richard story but that could be an alternate title. TMWCCD is from the era when a film could be made for 84,000 pounds, and look expensive. We have here a tale of an eminent doctor, Georges Bonnet (Anton Diffring, who stepped into the role after Peter Cushing backed out) who dabbles in sculpting. Bonnet is maintaining a pretty big secret: he’s actually a lot older than he looks, managing to stay healthy and youthful looking by a scientific process involving removing glands from unwilling donors. The problem is one can see this was developed from a stage work so the viewer has to be patient. Very patient! [Read more…]

The Woman In Black (1989 United Kingdom)

A truly memorable piece of work, once seen never forgotten. Unlike American made horror, the Brits know how to do subtle, relying on the potency of a story full of suggestion and anticipation. And when the great Nigel Kneale is involved with a script the result is usually quality and this is quality. Plus the special effects are few which lulls the viewer into thinking that this film is set in the real world, thus making us a bit more uneasy. No monsters, no blood or violence, no cliches, just terror. You’re constantly thinking: Is she there? Isn’t she? Where is she? What’s that sound? What’s upstairs? Everything’s fine…or is it? Aaah! [Read more…]

Night Gallery (1969–1973 USA)

night-gallery-season-2-billboard-rod-serling-600x300After “Twilight Zone” was canceled Rod Serling’s “The Night Gallery” appeared some years later. It was hosted by Rod Serling himself, a bit older than he looked when he hosted “Twilight Zone” as he walked us through an art gallery replete with strange, demonic, often very intimidating artwork. Each work of art told a story which was the focus of each half-hour episode. The series did very well and it was a more intense follow-up to “Twilight Zone”, which suffered from a rather static and preachy talkiness and far more censorship. Because it was the early 70’s, the episodes of Night Gallery were a tad more uncensored and graphic. [Read more…]

Rosemary’s Baby (1968 USA)

This post is dedicated to those who were slaughtered (Sharon Tate & John Lennon) or raped (Samantha Geimer) so Roman Polanski could enjoy a successful movie career, untold wealth and women to satisfy his carnal lusts. The devil certainly looks after his own…

RB was a real landmark that helped keep the genre alive by pushing the occult (something fairly taboo back then, and not fully explored in cinema since the days of the silents) to the fore. Also, the restrained atmospheric horror was extremely influential. It inspired many, but has rarely been bettered. Not as scary as The Exorcist, which is more sick and nasty but Rosemary’s Baby is superior in its intricate plotting, which drives the icicles up the viewer’s spine in a fit of paranoia. Its almost as if an innocent Catholic girl became victim of the real Illuminati. And she has. Oppressive control by shady forces seems all too real in our world. This gives Rosemary’s Baby an authenticity lacking in the usual horror/fantasy genre. [Read more…]

The Mask Of Cthulu (August Derleth)

One thing you can say about this August Derleth fellow is that he enjoys the frequent use of the word ‘conterminous’; and for that, I found his work rather endearing! ‘The Mask of Cthulhu’ is probably best enjoyed in small doses, since reading the whole collection in one voluminous bite reveals a distinct lack of variety in each fiendish tale of slumberous batrachian maleficence. These eldritch narratives, while stolid and well-written, do lack invention, and a modicum of dry wit would have added much to the murky proceedings. [Read more…]

Dementia 13 (USA/Ireland 1963)

Public domain titles from the golden age of schlock, like Dementia 13, tend to live an unloved life in the bargain bins of any self-respecting dvd store. Price will vary from fifty cents up to maybe five bucks if the merchant is feeling lucky. Why this has such a I’m cheap buy me status is baffling to a lover of old schlock like me. This film owes much of its terror from its setting, its imagery and surreal circumstances that have a hint of something otherworldly. [Read more…]

Tales Of Terror (1962 USA)

The fourth venture into Poe adaptations for Roger Corman and Vincent Price sees them taking on the portmanteau format with a trilogy of creepers.  Somewhat a turning point in the series. Tales of Terror implements a wicked sense of humour for the first time that’ll become more and more a trademark in the later movies. It is usually very difficult to try to adapt Poe stories to film–similar to the difficulty of attempting to adapt H.P. Lovecraft to film. Both authors write very dense, poetic, often abstract prose, and Poe, especially, is sometimes not very plot-oriented. Although each segment in Tales of Terror succeeds in its own way. [Read more…]

Halloween (1978 USA)

He’s gone! The evil has gone!” Bug eyed Dr Loomis (Donald Pleasence) screams. This hilarious line stands out from such a bare bones of a screenplay. John Carpenter’s direction makes a lot out of such simple elements as: shadows, dark streets, creaking doors, that it makes even the everyday setting of a small town neighborhood claustrophobically terrifying. Of course, back when this was made there were no smart phones or CCTV to combat predatory homicidal stalkers. Although it wasn’t the first of its kind, Halloween certainly was the game-changer for almost every other slasher flick that followed this low-budget indie horror. But they only ended up imitating the formula that this sick ‘classic’ originated. [Read more…]

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