Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969 United Kingdom)

Following a long period of cheap-looking productions designed to play as double-features on their home turf, Hammer returned to premium quality with Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed. This is Peter Cushing’s definitive portrayal of the Baron. For once a Hammer Frankenstein doesn’t need an actual monster, but lets the baron himself become “more monstrous than the monsters he created”, as the advertisements proclaimed. And for a horror film, you’d have to agree that the locations used for filming were really quite elegant and ornate. The Spengler boarding house and Brandt’s home were exquisitely appointed and furnished, and all the while I kept thinking that they would have been a pretty nice place to live.  [Read more…]

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Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (1956 USA)

The Thing From Another World birthed the alien invader film, and the theme proved so popular it quickly became its own genre. Where most of these, especially The War of the Worlds, showed aliens arriving en masse in gigantic spaceships to obliterate humanity from the face of the Earth. The Thing From Another World and its ilk took the same basic idea and ran with it to more invasive places. And Invasion of the Body Snatchers is the finest example. At the time it was made, it was the most terrifying alien invader film to emerge. There are other worthy examples but few have unsettled audiences like this dark and eerie work. [Read more…]

Short Stories of Ambrose Bierce Vol 1 (read by Charlton Griffin)

Named after a hanged felon, Ambrose Gwinett Bierce (1842–1914?) fittingly turned his literary gift to the macabre. In this he became the successor to Poe, adding to the master’s repertoire a distinctly American style of Gothic, and the horror he witnessed on the battlefields of the American Civil War. Charlton Griffin reads eight of his chillers here, including his masterpiece, “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge.” His other classic, “The Moonlit Road” is part of this collection too. In a resonant and well-modulated baritone Griffin employs a curious detachment; although he skillfully negotiates some difficult locutions, he undercuts suspense and ignores a tale’s trajectory. This is not really a criticism – Bierce’s tales are sparse and uniquely solitary, living by the maxim: less is more. He packed so much power into so few words. A smattering of creepy music and sound effects that conjure up being lost in a forest, rounds out this audio performance, although it gilds the lily rather than adds anything of real meaning. I do recommend this as a worthwhile audio book.

Something Wicked This Way Comes (Ray Bradbury)

One of my favorite “semi-horror” reads. I suppose it could be called “horror” but it doesn’t fit neatly into the mold. The point of view is that of a boy on the brink of manhood as he gets to know more about certain concepts of “good and evil” than he ever really wanted to…the traveling carnivals that moved from town to town, showing up at county fairs, sets the background for this tale–with their mysterious denizens, noisy rides, lights that filled the night while leaving pockets of darkness. The barkers and their “side shows”, the fixed games of “chance” are now a thing of a bygone era. Bradbury paints such a vivid picture of a now-lost bucolic rural life here as to be almost heartbreaking to contemporary readers.  [Read more…]

Twice-Told Tales (1963 USA)

In Twice-Told Tales Vincent Price does what he does best: be mysterious. It’s good enough to compare favourably with the best films in the Price / Roger Corman / A.I.P. series of Edgar Allan Poe adaptations. But the slow pacing and length of the film may not sit well with some viewers, but others will take delight in the atmosphere, the performances, the story telling, and all the trappings of the genre. Possibly the inspiration for “Creepshow,” complete with a skeleton hand turning the pages between stories. Twice-Told Tales is sometimes funny, sometimes ridiculous, but always entertaining in that surreal sixties style I find so charming.
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Endless Night (1972 Britain)

First I reviewed the novel, now the celluloid. The book was a clever literary trick for its time. It is the first person narration of a psychopathic killer who is trying to hide his real nature and intentions from the reader, while actually dropping a series of clues that things are not quite what they seem. It is this trick, rather the banal situation, which is the real reason for reading the book and it is obviously this trick that made Sidney Gilliat want to film it. The problem is that he could not find a way to replicate it on screen, because cinema only really works in the third person and people are generally uncomfortable with movies that tell lies. [Read more…]

Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)

“Love Never Dies” screamed the posters. But creativity did. It died at the Borgo Pass. How bad is this? Keanu Reeves bad. Come on! He actually looks as high as a kite. I think the people in charge of this piece of garbage were his dealers. They were in the wings, feeding him his lines – and his coke. Urging him on with “we got this, those schmucks in the theatre seats will never know you’re out of it. You look dead when you deliver your lines anyway…” Really, if I wanted to see people reading their lines without emotion I’d watch a small business ad on TV. He’s that bad. In fact, the only good actor was Gary Oldman, and it looks like he doesn’t even care, though I can’t say I’d blame him: everyone seems to be reading from cue cards. [Read more…]

Revenge Of The Manitou (Graham Masterton)

The 71 year old Edinburgh-born author has an unusual pedigree. He used to write sex books like How To Drive Your Man Wild In Bed – 3 million copies of that one sold. He was also heavily involved as an editor for porn mags like Mayfair and Penthouse too. Then he became a prolifically successful horror novel writer. Interesting…anyway, this follow up to his earlier The Manitou is much more entertaining. At first I was leery as the book opened with the focus on an eight-year old protagonist, but I quickly warmed-up to Toby and the Fenner clan.  [Read more…]

The Blob (1958 USA)

Hardly substantial enough to be a guilty pleasure, let alone a cult film: a giant quivering mound of raspberry (or is it blackcurrant?) jelly chasing – and often catching – fleeing, highly respectable teenagers on a weekend night. From the moment we hear Burt Bacharach’s opening theme song “Beware of the Blob!” we know we’re in for a good, solid, campy light hearted fun. Refreshingly free of any scientific investigation/jargon. I like to watch this stuff for historical reasons: the 50’s cars, teens in high collar shirts and high pants, crime-free suburbia, Polio posters, proper girls, crooked teeth, chess games, super friendly cops… [Read more…]

Dracula A.D. 1972 (United Kingdom)

(I dedicate this post to Peter Cushing, who always maintained his dignity even when his hands were full.) Moving on…no prizes for guessing which year this baby was released. T’was a leap year in horror. A vintage year for being a vampire trapped in St Bartolph’s churchyard, London. Although it feels slapdash, with its day-as-night shots, total lack of continuity and sloppy script, this film succeeds as a comic masterpiece. A bit like the Beatles disastrous Let It Be sessions, Hammer’s Dracula run-at-the-top was also nigh. Right nigh. And there was little Peter Cushing or Christopher Lee could do to stop the rot except to throw as much middle aged, Anglo-Saxon gravitas at the latest concotion they had found themselves roped into. [Read more…]

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