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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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…]

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