Craze (1974 Britain)

I’d seen actor Michael Jayston in a couple of things before this and thought he was a good actor. But after seeing his ‘turn’ (as they used to say in our forefathers day) here as a police detective I just thought “what a tosser, they should have got anyone else!” His Detective Sgt Wall character is so thoroughly unlikable and ill mannered that you almost want him to fail to catch the serial killer running amok on his patch. The script for Craze had enough problems before they cast the wrong man in a role the viewer is supposed to sympathize with. [Read more…]

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Crooked House (2008 UK)

A BBC Christmas revival of the format that had lain dormant since 1980s US revivals “Creepshow” and “Tales from the Darkside”. Written by actor and writer Mark Gatiss – no slouch when it comes to knowledge of the macabre side of the silver screen as his “History of Horror” documentaries proved – here are 3 tales involving the history of foreboding Geap Manor, relayed by a sinister museum curator (Gatiss) to a schoolteacher (Lee Ingleby). [Read more…]

Die, Monster, Die! (1965 USA)

The original script for this adaptation of H. P. Lovecraft’s The Colour Out Of Space was so bad, written by Jerry Sohl, that the crew behind the camera could not stop giggling. At one point, actress Freida Jackson, wailed: “I can’t speak these lines. They’re unspeakable!” So director Daniel Haller had to rework the narrative mess. Despite his surgery, unintentional laughter remains. During an absurdly tense meal time scene, a servant collapses to the floor–taking the tablecloth and cutlery with him. Inspector Clouseau couldn’t have done it better.
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It! (United Kingdom 1967)

Roddy McDowell is at his paranoid best in this typically insane, typically 1960s, horror picture. Most fans of these flicks know this one is about a Norman Bates–like character who uses a monster named the Golem, (from Jewish folklore) to do his bidding. And the bidding is not nice. The Golem itself is a burnt but creepily imposing–looking statue. The rest of the cast pale beside Roddy and his chum so what do we get here for our attention? It has no great cinematography, direction, script or anything conventional to recommend it. It’s hard to explain but this movie is worth a watch if you like the offbeat, the original etc. You just have to see…it (I can’t stop typing the word!). C’mon, how many other films have a two letter title?
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Scream And Scream Again (1970 United Kingdom)

This is one of those old British films that let you down but you want to look for the good within the disappointment. Its mildly entertaining but incoherent: 3 separate stories have been forced together. The result is an ultra-long episode of TV’s The Avengers. This is so late ’60’s, with its discotheques, pop groups ( ‘The Amen Corner’ ) and blokes in flowered shirts. Hammer tried to go down the same route later with ‘Dracula A.D. 1972’ but, by then, London had stopped swinging. On the plus side, if any film signposted the direction horror took in the ’70’s, it was Scream And Scream Again. You even get a foretaste of Michael Crichton’s ‘Coma.’
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Salems Lot (Stephen King)

This novel brought up my lapsed Catholicism. About one third of the way in I had taken to wearing a crucifix. I was so absorbed that I only put the paperback down to sprinkle drops of holy water around my bedroom. Hell, why stop there. I even asked the dog and cat to help me out with a few Hail Marys. Back to the book: this is a busy tour de force of how evil small towns can be. Of course that’s total BS but it works for a fictional setting. There is a wonderful intimacy on display with so many characters we can relate to. From the paranoid bus driver aghast at how unpatriotic kids are in 1975… to a Peeping Tom old bag, Mabel Werts, and her binoculars… to the slut-shaming of a teenage girl because she has big boobies. Magic stuff.
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A View From A Hill (2005 United Kingdom)

In the 1970s the BBC used to include a ghost story, usually by Dickens or M.R. James, in their Christmas schedules. They dropped the habit later on, but this millennium saw them reboot the series again from time to time. Here is one of the better examples. Directed by Luke Watson, this goes back to the series’ roots; the period setting instantly lends itself a quality and timeless feel, meaning it’s very hard to pin point and define exactly when it was made. [Read more…]

The Spanish Moss Murders (Kolchak The Night Stalker episode December 6, 1974)

“Pepe?” inquires Kolchak of a street hustler. “Pepe Schmepe, my real name’s Maurice Shapiro…” comes the reply in a deadpan Bronx accent. Its that kind of earthy banter and bullshit that keeps me returning to this classic TV series. Kolchak bites off quite a wad with this bogeyman covered with Spainish Moss. The X FILES would get inspiration from this episode years later. Here, the Cajun Bogeyman is created by a University of Chicago student who is doing a sleep study to free his mind from childhood nightmares. Once again, Kolchak is trying to figure out the unthinkable. How do you kill the product of someone’s dreams? [Read more…]

Phantoms (Dean Koontz)

At the beginning of this novel, the author has added an apology for writing it and I understand why. Phantoms is scary! There is something so extraordinarily powerful, capable of wiping out a whole town, capable of being everywhere at once, something omnipresent and omnipotent…and yet I had no clue what it was for a good chunk of the book. But I was aware that everyone in that town pretty much got their asses kicked (and worse), and I thanked my lucky stars that I wasn’t there with them. But I won’t give away any major plot spoilers. [Read more…]

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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