Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Old Dark House (1963)



The Old Dark House (1963)
Directed by: William Castle
Written by: Robert Dillion, based on the novel Benighted by J.B Priestly 
Starring: Tom Poston, Robert Morley, Janette Scott

      For me personally the the combination of director William Castle and Hammer studios is a match only too perfect. Castle has personally been a director I have always admired as well felt bad for since his reputation as a B-Movie director prevented him from pursing many personal projects of his later on in his career such as directing "Rosemarys Baby". However though his attempt to remake James Whales 1932 film The Old Dark House for Hammer studios as a horror with a comedic tone (MAJOR emphases on the comedic tone) is a mixed bag, that I sadly find difficult to recommend to people.

     Addressing the issue of how does the remake compare to the original, lets say Castle didn't try to hard to imitate Whales original. The two are hardly alike at all, Whales original film is a fantastic Gothic styled horror film that is moody, suspenseful and spooky all at once. Castles remake on the other hand is a colorful, goofy film with an absurd plot. Which owes much more to screwball comedy than the horror genre. So for those of you reading because you like the original and are not sure weather or not the original is worth your time, my response to you is you are probably going to be a little dissapointed, so unless you`re committed to watching the remake its probably not going to be worth your time. Now for the rest of the people who haven`t seen the original and thus have no standards set for the film for the film, I still have trouble recommending it to you. A major reason is i`m afraid people who haven't seen the original The Old Dark House will be so displeased from watching this movie they wont even bother to watch the original.
   
     To be fair though for what this film is (horror comedy) it`s not terrible and far from one of Castles worst films (i`d watch this over Strait-Jacket any day). Otherwise its an oddly enduring film that is at least mildly entertaining, when its not awkward and dated. Notably however I have read other critical reactions to this film and to say the least critical reaction to this film has always been largely negative. For example Critic Craig Butler stated " when compared with James Whales original the remake of the Old Dark House is pretty sorry stuff ''. Halliwell`s Film and Video guide 2000 called the film a ''travesty that has nothing to do with the original film and posses no merit of its own''.
       
 As for the cast Tom Poston is occasionally comical but mostly awkward Only veteran British actors Robert Morley and Peter Bull provide some welcome relief to a otherwise droll cast. Sadly Boris Karloff (who starred in the original film) turned down a role in this film after being displeased with the script. I have no doubt that Karloff`s presence in this film would have undoubtedly raised the quality.
       
     Overall I personally was mildly entertained by this movie. The Old Dark House was an odd direction for Hammer to go, which helps make the film a curious piece. The Opening animation used in the intro was great and actually one of the films major highlights. Unfortunately otherwise the film fails to amount to much else and as far as remakes go its pretty sub-par material.















Thursday, November 27, 2014

Brandon Engels Black Friday Viewing Guide

I am once again pleased to present a article written by Brandon Engel in which he lists the five essential films to watch once Black Friday rolls in; 

Black Friday Viewing Guide

As the holiday season kicks in, many people look at “Black Friday” with a sense of excitement and dread thanks to the allure of great deals on presents and other goodies. However, the rat race-style shopping mania on the day after Thanksgiving causes others to hold a more cynical view of the whole concept.

Spending Black Friday indoors watching movies with family and friends is a tradition for many who’d rather not join in the mad rush of consumerism. Given the mixed emotions surrounding this day, horror movies are a great choice for those looking into the darker and scarier side of the beginning of the Christmas season. The following essential Black Friday horror list will get this special movie day rolling.

Number 5: Gremlins

Gremlins serves up a dose of humor and chaos set in the holiday season in a small American town. The whole story, in fact, revolves around a Christmas present that a loving grandfather, played by Hoyt Axton, finds in a shop full of odds and ends. A cute furry animal with big eyes grabs his attention. What he doesn’t know is that eating or coming into contact with water at the wrong time will have consequences that will bring the entire town to the edge of destruction.

Number 4: Silent Night, Deadly Night

The jolly Santa we have come to know also has a creepy side that makes appearances in several movies. Perhaps no movie has taken this idea quite as far as Silent Night, Deadly Night, though. Playing off of the idea that Santa punishes bad children as well as brings gifts to the well-behaved, the movie plunges us straight into the world of Billy Chapman, whose family quite literally gets punished by Santa. A man dressed as Santa breaks into Billy’s home, disables the alarm system and brutally murders both of his parents, leaving Billy an orphan in an abusive environment. These traumatic events add up and reach a breaking point when a teenage Billy, played by Robert Brian Wilson, ends up having to dress like Santa, sending him into a spiral of violence. Silent Night, Deadly Night is only available on DVD as of this writing.

Number 3: Rare Exports

This critically-acclaimed film brings viewers to a remote location in the Arctic where unsettling things have been happening. Eventually, archeologists extract Santa Claus, or at least Santa’s long-lost cousin, from a suspicious mound that has been the source of rumors among locals. The real trouble, though, comes after this malevolent Santa starts kidnapping kids. Although it takes them a while to put the puzzle together, the local hunters eventually band together to catch Santa and send him packing back to the people who dug him up in the first place. What they don’t know is that Santa’s little helpers have figured out the plan, which sets the scene for an epic Christmas showdown.

Number 2: Santa’s Slay

This Santa origin movie leaves viewers with no doubt where Santa really comes from. He is from hell, and he lost a bet and now has to play the role of an elf that gives presents to kids. Every bet expires at some time, though, and after 1,000 years, this bet has run its course. When Santa (played by Bill Goldberg) frees himself from his obligation, he gets down to the killing that has always been in his heart. He even kills James Caan’s character, a treat for any cinephile. Although the movie was obviously put together on a tight budget, watching Santa go berserk always makes for good Black Friday viewing.

Number 1: Black Christmas

Aptly named, the number one spot on the list goes to Black Christmas, a Canadian contribution to dark Christmas stories. A house full of sorority sisters in abuzz with the excitement of the holiday break as the girls make plans. Right at this time, they start getting phone calls that aren’t full of best wishes for the holidays. In fact, the calls disturb the girls on many levels, but the police don’t share their concern. As it turns out, they were right to be frightened by the calls and it isn’t long before someone shows up dead. She won’t be the last during this horrific romp through a holiday break gone very wrong.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween


            

Its obviously one of my favorite holidays, and I realize my blog has been particularly quite lately but I promise soon I will be back with new reviews and ramblings, until then i`m going to enjoy this way too sweet pumpkin flavored coffee, and listen to White Zombie albums. 














Thursday, September 18, 2014

"The Sultan of Shrieks: Revisiting John Carpenter’s Extraordinary Career" By Brandon Engel

I am pleased to present a guest writer to the blog today, Brandon Engel who has written a piece on John Carpenter.


The Sultan of Shrieks: Revisiting John Carpenter’s Extraordinary Career

With a horror film heyday in the '70s and '80s and a career spanning decades, John Carpenter is known as a master of genre filmmaking. Although he is best known for his blockbuster contributions to the horror genre, Carpenter has written and directed romantic comedies, sci-fi thrillers and action epics. While many of his films were commercial failures, several of them have achieved cult status for their gruesome special effects and imaginative storylines, adding to John Carpenter's cinematic legacy.

Made quickly on a shoestring budget, Halloween (1978) became what is perhaps John Carpenter's most recognizable contribution to cinema history. Featuring the simple premise of a masked killer stalking and tormenting a handful of terrified adolescents, and integrating elements of earlier low-budget thrillers like Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960) and Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), Halloween inspired an entire sub-genre of popular slasher horror films. While the sexual promiscuity of the teenage victims in Halloween leads many film critics to suggest that the film is an analogy for the dangers of indecency, John Carpenter himself has said that he simply loved exploitation films as a kid and wanted to make films with the kind of trashy graphic imagery that would have appealed to his younger self. Despite its cheap budget, Halloween went on to become one of the highest grossing independent films of all time, and was one of the few huge commercial successes of Carpenter's career.

Although films like The Fog (1980) and The Thing (1982) helped cement his status as a horror film genius, John Carpenter's repertoire was far more varied and included classics in several genres. His other-worldly romantic comedy Starman (1984) is often overlooked today, despite earning Oscar and Golden Globe nominations and receiving critical acclaim upon its release in 1984. Columbia Pictures chose the Starman script over Spielberg's E.T. (1982), and the film was one of Carpenter's only ventures into romantic territory — with another notable exception being Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1992). Starman was not his only outing as a sci-fi director, however. Some of his earlier films such Dark Star (1974), the action classic Escape From New York (1981) and the dark thriller The Thing all integrated elements of science-fiction.

John Carpenter's career contains several high notes, but as his commercial and critical success began to decline, studios began offering him less juicy projects, prompting his return to independent filmmaking and smaller projects. Although most of these films enjoyed only limited success upon their release, several of them are considered cult classics by audiences today. Films like Prince of Darkness (1987), They Live (1988) and In the Mouth of Madness (1994) are considered by film buffs to be lost gems of horror films, despite their poor box office performance. Although John Carpenter is now retired from directing, he continues to contribute to the horror genre in other mediums, including video games and comic books. And, as evidenced by his recent interview on The Director’s Chair on El Rey Network (click here for details on finding the channel), countless contemporary filmmakers regard him as a major inspiration.

Even though his lengthy career saw both failures and successes, John Carpenter is remembered today for his substantial contributions to film making, including his unique flair for storytelling, scoring and special effects. While cinematic history will have to ultimately forgive his shortcomings, audiences will never forget the impact and influence that films like Halloween and The Thing had on the horror genre as we know it today.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Devil Rides Out (1968)

        

 The Devil Rides Out (1968)
 Directed by: Terence Fisher 
Written by: Richard Matheson, based on the novel "The Devil Rides Out" by Dennis Wheatley.
Starring: Christopher Lee, Charles Gray, Nike Arrighi.

Hammers 1968 occult/satanism themed horror The Devil Rides Out (aka The Devils Bride) is by far one of Hammers best films and even Christopher Lee has often cited it as his favorite film hes starred in. Britain for whatever reason has made a lot of great occult themed films, especially in the 60`s and "The Devil Rides Out" is by far my second favorite after 1957`s "Curse of the Demon". The film though is fantastic, beautifully shot and oozes with English Gothic themes that Fisher was always so good at conveying.
   
        The film is about the character Duke de Richleau (Lee) who has come to investigate the sudden strange reclusive behavior of the son of one of his friends, Simon Aron. Not long after Richleau has arrived at Simons residence he sudden realizes the situation that Simon has involved himself in a very serious satanic cult led by the sinister leader Mocata. From there Richleau and his accomplice Rex Van Ryn are forced to venture through the deepest and darkest secrets and rituals of the occult to free Simon from its influence and hopefully bring an end to Mocatas cult in the process.
     
       As i`ve stated before the film is based on a novel by the same name by Dennis Wheatley. Wheatley was one of Lee`s favorite writers and had been pushing producers in Hammer to make a film based on one of his novels. For the longest time they were a little weary of attempting it due to the fact that most of his novels especially the ones Lee wanted to see get made into films, dealt with the occult and satanism. Though by 1968 that wasn't so much of a taboo subject that the censors were going to get too upset about, by the time this was made Hammer had already an occult based film with Joan Fontaine called "The Witches". Then in 1962 you had "Burn, Witch, Burn" and then just before this was released Polanski's "Rosemary`s Baby" had been released. So obviously by now satanism and occult themed films weren't as difficult of themes to get made as they used to be.

     Christopher Lee is the star of the show for me, this is not only one of his best performances, but probably one of his most unique. For one he`s a good guy, not the lead satanist which I feel a lot of people would just naturally assume. Charles Gray also does a very notable performance as the Mocata the lead satanist. When ever he has a scene with other charterers you definitely get the feeling that there is something very off about this man.

 Overall "The Devil Rides Out" is a great film and I can defiantly see why Lee considers it his favorite film he`s done. Its very well directed by Terence Fisher and Christopher Lee`s performance is one of his best. It has a fantastic 1920`s period setting and the scenes involving satanic rituals are creepy and NOT cheesy. So if you haven't already seen this film, i`d highly recommend it.













Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Quiet Ones (2014)

                  

The Quiet Ones (2014)
Direted by: John Pogue
Written by: Craig Rosenberg, Oren Moverman, and John Pogue. Based on a Screenplay by Tom de Ville.
Starring: Jared Harris, Sam Claffin, Olivia Cooke. 

      In 2012 Hammer Pictures released "The Women in Black" which I went to see and immensely enjoyed, in fact it was my favorite horror film of 2012. So naturally i`ve been eagerly awaiting there next film "The Quiet Ones"for two years now, and unfortunately I have to say I walked away a little disappointed. Its not a "bad" film but its flaws definitely out way its pluses.

    One thing this movie does have going for it is it does have a good plot. Its set in the 1970s in Oxford, England were Professor Joseph Coupland (Jared Harris) is attempting to create a poltergeist and in doing so prove that the ''supernatural'' doesn't exist but is just a manifestation of a form of mental illness resulting from an excess of negative energy and that if he can cure one person of this he can cure the world of the "supernatural''. As you can see (or maybe its just me) but the basic plot is very interesting and original. I have to add though like so many horror movies these days this one is "inspired by true events'', and I guess a little bit of this stuff actually happened except in it took place in Canada not England.

    Problem is this good plot is just not presented very well. I`m not sure how to explain it but its just one of those movies that you can tell they did a lot of rewrites on and had probably too many writers trying to get there to get their individual ideas crammed into the movie. One indicator of this is its the film says "based on a screenplay by Tom De Ville'' and this movie is not a remake. A lot of the ideas end up getting convoluted like; the scandalous love affair triangle that's going, the "this is a hoax" sensations, and the ancient Sumerian demon cult, all just didn't end up blending together very well.

    My next issue I had was how the movie kept going between found footage and not being found footage, which got old for me. It didn't make it any scarier and the fact that i`d say 3/4 of the movie is found footage really disappointing me (in case you couldn't tell i`m not a fan of found footage). I admit that at first it was a kind of cool novelty to see it transfer into this grain 70`s film footage but it wore off pretty quickly. The other thing that I didn't really like was the off and on sexual tension between the camera guy Brian McNeil and the proposed possessed girl Jane. It felt awkward and like it was thrown in haphazardly.

  I will say though the actors give it there best. Especially Jared Harris, you can tell he`s embraced the character and made it as convincing as possible. In fact i`m disappointed there wasn`t more  of his character in the film. The next person who stood out for me was Olivia Cooke who plays the possessed girl. I found out later shes from the TV show "Bates Motel" (which i`ve never watched), but here shes very creepy and very interesting to watch. I understand this is one of her first roles in a feature film. Shes about to be in that upcoming science fiction film "The Signal" that's coming out in next month, so hopefully she will continue having a productive career in acting.

   "The Quiet Ones" was a good try by the recently revived Hammer Pictures but unfortunately despite the good story, the film just doesn't end up being more than a so-so forgettable film. Hopefully Hammers next film which I believe is going to be  a sequel to the "The Woman in Black" will be a more successful film. On a side note, yes I have seen all the new Hammer films which counting this one is about five (I`m not counting that made for internet movie "Rave to the Grave") and if I were to rank them i`d rank "The Quiet Ones" as the third best of the five.






Saturday, February 15, 2014

An Overview of Some of the Early H.P Lovecraft Adaptations


                                                            




   


       Anyone who knows me will know that I have a deep love and regard to the works of none other than H.P Lovecraft. I have been a big fan of his writing since around my fresh man year of high school and to this day read and reread his stories periodically. He is without a doubt one of Americas greatest figures in literature and to this day inspires so many other writers.

       Anyways recently I got to thinking how has Lovecraft`s fared in regards film adaptations of his stories? I know there really haven't been that many, which is so strange to me. But you have other fellow "horror" writers such as Edgar Allan Poe and Stephen King  who have had numerous adaptions of there stories and many have been fantastic. Yet Lovecraft seems to be ignored and when his stuff does actually get adapted to film they either drift ridiculously far from the story to the point it can hardly be identified with the original story or they are just plain awful. Yet there have been a few exceptions. Anyhow to get the full perspective of Lovecraft film adaptions lets start from the beginning with Roger Corman`s "The Haunted Palace".

    The Haunted Palace (1963) was directed by the great Roger Corman and written by Charles Beaumont ("The Seven Faces of Dr.Lao", "Burn, Witch, Burn!"), apparently Francs Ford Coppola did some additional writing on the movie as well. The Film was based on H.P Lovecraft`s novella "The Case of Charles Dextar Ward". Interesting fact when this released Lovecraft was still not really well known so they made Corman name it after the Edgar Allan Poe Poem "The Haunted Palace" and act as if its just another one of Corman`s Poe films.
     The film is a fair adaption of the short Lovecraft novel and a superb film. I know some people might find the pacel "slow-burn" but I think its paced perfectly. Vincent Price stars in the film as Charles Dexter Ward/Joseph Curwen. Another Horror Icon Lon Chaney Jr co stars as one of Prices followers, (this was the only movie Chaney ever did with Corman). Elisha Cook Jr and Debra Pagent also have roles in the film. Overall its a good Lovecraft adaptation in fact id definitely say its  one of the best and just a really good Gothic style horror film, I highly recommend it.



     The next film adaption i`d like to mention is "Die Monster Die!" (1965). This film is a adaption of Lovecraft`s story "The Color out of Space". "Die, Monster, Die!" was directed by Daniel Haller and written by Jerry Sohl. It stars Boris Karloff, Nick Adams, and Freda Jackson.
      I`ve come to realize though that  people generally don`t really like this movie, now I can see why but personally i`m fan of this film. I think Boris Karloff is great in the role of Nahum Witley and the sets/art direction just looks really good. Unfortunately I admit it does end up being a bit of a lose adaptation and the special effects are something Mystery Science Fiction Theater would have so many jokes about.  Though overall I think its a fine film on its but I admit its definitely not the most loyal of adaptations. I`d say "The Haunted Palace" was a more loyal adaptation then "Die Monster Die!" by far.

   



 The next "adaptation" is so lose its debatable that even counts as an adaptation at all and and that is of 1968`s "Curse of the Crimson Alter" (aka The Crimson Cult). This film is supposed to be based on Lovecraft`s story "The Dreams in the Witch House" but it really just does its own thing. There`s some themes from the story in the movie like how the main character is haunted by disturbing dreams, but truthfully if you expect a movie based on the story your going to be disappointed. There no big rat eating through anyone's chest, appearances of Elder Things, or anything like that from the story.
      Its to bad to because it has the makings for a really good film, i`m not saying its a bad movie i`m just saying it could have been much better. Its directed by Vernon Sewell and stares a bunch of really great horror actors like Boris Karloff (this is one of his last films), Christopher Lee, Michael Gough and Barbara Steele. Yet with all this talent the movie isn't really much more than just OK and is so loosely based on the story "The Dreams in the Witch House" its debatable that its even based on the story at all.



     Next up is "The Dunwich Horror" from 1970. This film tends to get a mixed reception from people. Personally I just think its ok, its a very psychedelic and kind of weird horror film. Its directed by Daniel Haller (same person who directed "Die, Monster, Die!"), produced by Roger Corman and stars Dean Stockwell, Sandra Dee, and Ed Begley. It was supposed to have Boris Karloff in the Ed Begley role of Dr.Henry Armitage which would have been perfect but Karloff died before production started. Then Peter Fonda was originally in the Dean Stockwell role of Wilbur Whateley.
      "The Dunwich Horror" has some really good moments in it. For example the scenes that involve the occult are really well executed, they genuinely chilling and creepy. Not at all cheesy or campy like so many films that attempt doing scenes involving the occult and occult rituals. Then there scenes that are set up to like look like bad acid trips which was unique and definitely a testament to the time it was made. Ed Begly was a good choice for Dr.Armitage and worthy successor to late Boris Karloff for the part.
     Now the not so great is that to me it didn't include enough of the story in movie. It adds some weird and unnecessary aspects, but by no means ruins the original story. Then of course we have to address the monster that we finally see at the end. Some people have gone so far as to say it ruins the movie, I wouldn't go that far but I do admit it looks kinda hooky. I don't even describe the thing you have to see it for your self.
     Overall despite its flaws "The Dunwich Horror" is not to bad. It could have been a bit better, but is fairly loyal to the original story, has a very good cast of actors, and very cool poster. So would I recommend it? If your interested or have read the original story by Lovecraft then yes, otherwise there's no real big reason to go out of your way to see it.