A… A To Z 2021 Horror Movies

Hello, and welcome to my 2021 April A to Z Blogging Challenge! This year, I am going to list all the horror movies that we (my boyfriend and I) have watched during the pandemic (so far). There sure are a lot of them, as you will see. Anyway, I am going to list them, and give you some notes about each movie. Sometimes, these notes will be pretty minimal. Sometimes, I will just tell you about the one part of a particular film that I still remember, many months after seeing it. Sometimes, I will give you the title of the movie, and note that I remember nothing about it. Sometimes, I will go into detail. And sometimes these notes may end up being more about me than about a particular film.

I do not intend to give you proper reviews of these films, though occasionally my notes may stray into review territory. However, I will supply an IMDB link for each film, so that it will be easy for the curious to find out more.

Without further ado, then… let us begin!

The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971)

UK

Director: Robert Fuest

One of my favorite movies. Fabulously beautiful, fantastically ugly. Like Art Deco threw up all over it (in a good way). We (re)watched this early on in the pandemic, and I talked about it a bit, somewhere in my View From Atherton Court series of posts.

Vincent Price plays Dr. Phibes. Dr. Phibes is a man with no face, an elaborate and mechanical method by which he produces speech from his ruined throat, and a serious hate-on for the doctors and nurses who didn’t save his wife’s life after the accident all those years ago. Virginia North out-dresses Price (by a nose; all the costumes in this are things of beauty) as his mute secretary/dancing partner/murder accomplice. Why she decides to go along with Dr. Phibes’ plans is a bit of a mystery to me. I wonder what kind of advertisement she answered to get this job.

It is the source of my Theme Reveal Mystery Picture. Because, even though it is a movie about Plagues of Egypt-based revenge, it takes time out to show us that Dr. Phibes has a robot band in his home.

I love this movie. I don’t know how to convey the beauty and strangeness of it to you. Watch it, if you haven’t. I mean, unless you don’t want to. Then, don’t.

I thought that this shot might give the game away, so I didn’t use it as my Mystery Picture.

Alien (1979)

UK/USA

Director: Ridley Scott

Yep. Good movie. I feel no need to go into details. I mean, you’ve probably seen it.

QUESTION: If you haven’t seen Alien, why not? Seriously, I want to know. I myself saw it for the first time in 2020, after I realized with a mild sense of shock that I really had never done so before. So, for me, it was just that I hadn’t gotten around to it. And, I mean, it felt like I’d seen it. It is so heavily referenced in popular culture that actually seeing the actual movie almost felt unnecessarily completist. If that makes any sense (which I rather doubt). Anyway, I’m glad I did see it. 

Alien From the Deep (Alien degli abissi) (1989)

Italy

Director: Antonio Margheriti

Um. So, when I say we watched this one, I should be a little more specific. We watched a French dub because that was all we could get. Since we don’t speak French, we got YouTube to autotranslate some English subtitles for us. I think technology is wonderful. Those subtitles sometimes even almost made sense. And I have to admit, they had a lot of Dadaist charm to them when the meaning broke down. But can I really say I have watched Alien from the Deep? It is a real question.

QUESTION: To what arcane methods have you resorted in order to keep yourself entertained during the pandemic? Have you done anything similar to what I have described above?

All The Colors of the Dark (Tutti i colori del buio) (1972)

Italy/Spain/UK

Director: Sergio Martino

Edwige Fenech stars in this movie. She is gorgeous and talented. We like her a lot here. Apparently, she’s still in the movie business, too, primarily on the production side of things (though she consented to be in Hostel 2, which is a movie I unfortunately don’t want to see, even for the undoubted thrill of seeing Fenech acting in it).

I think that this is the movie with the weird, trippy, and oddly vertiginous scene in which Edwige Fenech has to kiss all the Satanists. So… there are Satanists in it. And kissing. And… yeah, my memory appears to have gone a little vague on the other elements of this one. We’ve watched it once (and enjoyed it), but we haven’t watched it for a second time (and we do tend to re-watch our favorite gialli more than once, because they are often visually quite beautiful). Still, we may re-explore this one in the future.

As I mentioned above, this is a giallo. Giallo is a primarily Italian genre of horror/thriller/slasher film, flourishing in the 1970s, in which men (and ladies) in black gloves strangle enormous quantities of beautiful women. I’m not saying that that specific thing actually specifically happens in lots of specific gialli, but I say it to give you a sense of the tone. They tend to be mysteries in structure (in fact, they are called “giallo,” which means “yellow” in Italian, because they were often loosely inspired by the yellow-backed mystery novels popular at the time), with lots of sadism, lots of eroticism, lots of psychology, and lots and lots of murder. Here is what the BFI has to say about giallo:

“…a tradition that gleefully mixes high and low culture, where you’ll find flashes of artistic brilliance sharing the screen with moments of jaw-dropping squalor.”

…which is, on the whole, fair enough.

And I’m no film historian, but I am fairly certain that the giallo genre was hugely influential in the creation of the slasher movie.

Alone in the Dark (1982)

USA

Director: Jack Sholder

We did not finish this one. It was sort of relentlessly awful, and we just couldn’t take it. Everyone seemed unpleasant. Our sympathies floundered, fumbling for someone to attach themselves to, and grabbing nothing.

When we realized that there was a pedophile among the escaped lunatics who were about to go and besiege their psychiatrist’s home, and that there was a child alone and defenseless at that home, we decided that we didn’t trust the movie enough to continue watching it. The movie had done nothing to earn our trust, and we felt that it was a big ask.

Donald Pleasence is in it.

QUESTION: Have you seen this movie? Ought we to have given it more of a chance?

Alucarda (Alucarda, la hija de las tinieblas)(1977)

Mexico

Director: Juan López Moctezuma

On the whole, I remember liking this one. Unfortunately, we watched it fairly early on in the pandemic, and so a lot of the details have faded. By the way, I totally didn’t plan to do this A to Z until a day or so before my Theme Reveal got posted. So it isn’t like I took notes while watching these movies. Or even kept a complete list of the movies we watched. Anyway, I wish I remembered more about Alucarda.

The basics, though, I do sort of remember. The movie takes place in a convent. Alucarda and another girl (Justine) are both… novices? Orphans? Both? I’m not absolutely certain about their status. Anyway, they get corrupted by the Devil (or maybe Alucarda was corrupted already). The main thing I do remember about the movie is Alucarda herself, who has this intensity about her.

American Rickshaw (American risciò) (1989)

Italy

Director: Sergio Martino

I mean. Wow. What? This movie I watched literally last night, and I can’t. I just… I just don’t know what happened in it. I can’t explain it, and I bet you wouldn’t be able to explain it either. Not actually explain it. Of course, there are things one can say about the movie, but that isn’t really the same.

Donald Pleasence is in it. That is one solid statement I can make about the film, and I make it without fear of contradiction. I have a horrible, sinking feeling that I’ve spelled the man’s last name wrong, but I’ve checked on that like 6 times now and I’m pretty sure I’ve nailed it.

To go into slightly more detail: I guess the movie is fundamentally a magical duel between an immortal Chinese mystic and the Evangelist preacher Donald Pleasence. He stole a magical boar statue from her and got powerful; she wants it back but apparently can’t go and get it herself. She’d rather trap a moonlighting rickshaw runner into an elaborate web of circumstances, so that eventually he will get it for her. This rickshaw runner guy is nominally the star, but mainly he just flounders on, a confused pawn in a bizarre contest of wills.

The only really memorable bit of this film occurs at the very end, when…

Ahem! Spoilers. I have decided to write all spoilers in white text. Highlight the text in order to read it.

…Donald Pleasence turns into a horrible pig-monster. I’ll remember that image for quite a long time.

***

Well folks, that’s it for today! Have you seen any of these movies? Do any of them sound like things you might want to watch? Tell me about it in the Comments section!

Today’s Mystery Picture (in which I show you a screenshot of one of the movies I will be reviewing tomorrow; so, I mean, in this case, you know that the movie will begin with a “B.” Actually, here’s a further hint: the English title of this movie begins with a “B;” the original title appears to begin with a number):

Name it if you can!

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30 Comments

  1. Hi Melanie!

    I’m looking forward to seeing what you’ve got to say about this genre. I’ve not watched a lot of horror films, so will be looking out for the ones I know in particular! I’ve still not seen Alien, and my experience is exactly like yours – familiar with it through pop culture, but just have not had an opportunity to watch it (yet). Dr Phibes might go on the TBW list too…

    David – @BreakerOfThings from
    Fiction Can Be Fun
    Saying hello as part of the #A2ZChallenge

    • Hi David! You know, I hadn’t actually seen all that many horror films either, before the pandemic hit. I went through a long phase in my life during which I refused to watch any movies at all. But yeah. That rule had already started to wobble in the months leading up to the first lockdowns over here, and, once we were home literally all of the time, movies seemed like a great way to finish the day. And we’re horror people in this house, so it has mostly been horror movies.
      The Abominable Dr. Phibes is a splendidly strange movie.

  2. Alien is the only one of these I’ve seen, and is an absolute classic. Like the sound of Dr. Phibes though, a bit of Vincent Price can’t be bad 🙂
    https://iainkellywriting.com/2021/04/01/the-state-trilogy-a-z-guide-a/

    • Hello Iain! Alien is good, isn’t it? It is a big movie that deserves to be big. Which is nice.
      Tell me what you think, if you end up watching Dr. Phibes!
      Vincent Price is very, very watchable. Then again, he was in some really bad movies. He once said (according to his IMDB page):

      ‘I like to be seen, I love being busy and I believe in being active. I know some people think I’ve lowered myself as an actor, but my idea of “professional decline” is “not working”.’

      …which I feel explains a lot about some of the roles he took. But he brings a certain dignity to any role he plays. And Dr. Phibes is an excellent role for him.

  3. Fantastic! I love horror movies, and these are some of my favorites. Alien is a favorite, and I LOVED Dr. Phibes.
    I do a horror movie marathon every October.

    And for your mystery picture. Well, no spoilers save that I am a Mario Bava fan and a giallo fan in general.

    • Eek! You got it! Excellent! So happy to meet another giallo fan! And Dr. Phibes is a splendid movie, isn’t it? Have you seen Dr. Phibes Rises Again? We haven’t yet, because we can’t really believe it could possibly be nearly as good. But we are also intrigued, because, if it is even half as good, that would be amazing.

      Horror movie marathon, eh? That sounds wonderful. Unfortunately, our Octobers are spent (almost entirely) building our Halloween yard haunt. We are very serious about Halloween here. What are some of your top horror films? Are there some movies you watch every October, or are they always different movies?

      • Same! My October is crazy for me as well. In addition to my Horror Movie Marathon, I am also blogging all October long about Horror in Role-Playing Games.

        I have seen Dr. Phibes Rides Again. It’s…it’s ok. It was the inevitable sequel but let’s be honest, Vincent Price was fantastic in everything.

        The rules of the Horror Movie Marathon I am in are you have to watch 31 movies in October and at least 20 have to be first-time viewings.
        While I am fond of vampire flicks, Italian horror, and anything occult or supernatural, I try to watch all sorts.
        Last year I focused on movies between 1968 and 1973 to get a good feel about what filmmakers were doing in horror BEFORE the Exorcist hit big. After 1973 most movies tried to copy the success of The Exorcist.

        I keep a Pinterest board for all the movies I have watched in this marathon since I started.
        https://www.pinterest.com/timothybrannan/october-horror-movie-challenge/

        You and your boyfriend should give it a try!

  4. I saw Alien when it first came out. I haven’t seen the others but the Vincent Price film sounds intreaguing.

    • Hello Anne! The Vincent Price film is, I think, really worth seeing. The costumes alone are worth your time. And the movie has, in many ways, the feel of a silent film. Very stylized. If you see it, tell me what you think! I’d be interested in your take on the movie.

  5. Hi Mel
    OK. Love the list. I hate to say this, but I kind of try not to watch films with Donald Pleasance. Esp horror. Not a fan.

    I saw Alien in the theater when it was first released. The theater SHOOK when the Nostrodamis landed on the planet. They amped the sound way past 11. I loved it then, still love it now.

    Dr. Phibbes is another. Love most things Vincent Price. Saw this as a kid (double feature) at a theater in the Bronx. Ate popcorn, drank soda and had a ball with some weeks.

    I am pretty sure I did see Alone in the Dark. Title is really familiar, but the fact I remember little else says a lot for the film.

    More, More, More.

    No clue about the photo. Darn

    • Hello Stuart! I’m glad you like the list! And, I see what you mean about Donald Pleasence, but he has been in some good stuff.

      It must have been fun to see Alien in the theater like that, in a room full of people who were probably also all seeing it for the first time. I came to it, as I remarked, already knowing a whole lot about it. I was still able to enjoy it, but it didn’t have many surprises for me.

      Dr. Phibes is splendid. Again, seeing it in the theater must have been great.

      And if you avoid Donald Pleasence, maybe you didn’t see Alone in the Dark. By the way, there is another movie also called Alone in the Dark, from 2005. That one has Christian Slater in it. Could you be thinking of that one? I’ve never seen it, but it rates a staggeringly low 2.4 on IMDB, with over 40,000 people voting. So… I mean, I don’t always agree with the IMDB consensus, but… it might be bad. I may check it out anyway, though, as it sounds mildly interesting. And a score that low is almost a challenge in itself.

  6. I love your theme, and thanks for watching all these movies for me 🙂 Now I can make a list for my own late night viewing 🙂

  7. I generally don’t do horror movies, but my friends wanted me to go see the new Alien movie whenever that came out so I watched the first two. They were actually really good, but not my typical. I’m glad I watched them though!

    Stopping by from A to Z!
    – Jayden Vincente
    Erotic fiction author
    https://jrvincente.com/a-to-z-2021/

    • Hi Jayden! Yeah, they really are good, aren’t they? And I get it about having a comfort zone, movie-wise, and sticking rigidly to it. I am personally fine with, for example, seeing someone’s intestines pouring in improbable profusion out of their abdominal cavity, but I avoid anything I suspect of having designs upon my heart-strings. They are mine, and if I want them pulled, I’ll do it myself! So yes. Melodrama and the Rom-er sort of Rom-Com: not for me, on the whole (with some honorable exceptions). For example, I have never seen Titanic, because no.

  8. I saw “Alien” when it first came out. The advance hype had been pervasive: “In space, no one can hear you scream.” Agonizingly sustained tension once they hit the planet. A-mazing. It was Ridley Scott’s first feature film. Prior to “Alien”, he had directed only commercials — about 150 of them, if I remember correctly. So his expertise was straight-line storytelling, which was perfect for Alien.

    I grew up with 4 o’clock Saturday afternoon movie programs — mostly B scifi and horror flicks — hosted by characters like LA’s dangerously sexy Elvira, Mistress of the Night; sweetly sexy Moonalisa (San Diego local); and the cadaverous Seymour in his opera cape and flamboyantly broad-brimmed opera hat, who spoke on a payphone with the never-seen Banjo Billy. So I’ve seen a lot of Vincent Price movies, but I don’t remember ever seeing “The Abominable Dr. Phibes”. Sounds worth seeing.

    • Hello Susan! As I remarked to Stuart, it must have been amazing, seeing Alien when it first came out, in a theater full of people who were also seeing it for the first time.
      I didn’t know that about Ridley Scott. Neat! And I imagine his experience did help with Alien.
      I wonder how many of the films you grew up watching will be on this list (if any). We do tend towards the B-picture here, to a certain extent.
      Tell me what you think of Dr. Phibes if you do end up watching it!

      • I will if I do!

        Did you already know that the John Hurt chest bursting scene in “Alien” was shot only once, and the rest of the cast had no idea what was going to happen so their reactions would be authentic? I think the most interesting one was the young guy who almost laughed.

  9. I will be taking notes this month. Not only for older titles, but international titles.

    I’ve seen many Vincent Price movies but I can’t remember if The Abominable Dr. Phibes is one of them…

    I was late to seeing Alien, having watched Aliens and Alien3 before it. It was oddly a science fiction film my parents didn’t own on video, I never came across on cable, and never bothered renting on my own. Now, I’d gladly go see a theatrical re-release. You know, when we can do things like that again.

    • Hello Katherine! There will indeed be lots of non-US films on this list! Last time I checked, it was about half and half. Of course, my list has grown since them, so I’m not actually sure how the numbers stand at the moment. And yeah, most (but not all!) of these are older movies. There are two or three from 2019, and a few more from the 2000s generally, but most of them are older than that.

      I saw Aliens before I saw Alien, also! And I’ve never seen Alien3.
      I, too, would like to see movies in theaters again, someday. That will be nice. 🙂

  10. Wow, you really did work at keeping yourself entertained last year! I’ve only seen Alien, and I saw it at the cinema when it first came out, so no spoilers. I think it does make a difference. When I finally got around to reading Rosemary’s Baby, it wasn’t especially scary, because I’d heard so much about it.

    My A to Z this year is Greek Myths

    https://suebursztynski.blogspot.com/2021/04/a-to-z-blogging-challenge-2021-b-is-for.html

    • Hello Sue! Yes, we sure did watch a lot of movies. A lot of movies. It added (adds) a nice sense of closure to our days. Have dinner, watch movie, go to bed. Patterns are important, and it gave our lives a pattern. And we got to watch lots of fascinating movies!

      I’m doing my best to avoid spoilers. I know it does ruin movies, sometimes, to know too much about them.

      I will be very interested to look at your A to Z!

    • By the way, I visited your A to Z, and tried to leave a comment, but I don’t have a blogger profile, so I couldn’t do it. Any way you could joggle things around to accept different sources of comments? 🙂 I really enjoyed your post about Bellerophon, anyway. It was lively reading!

  11. Thanks! I’ll have to work something out, because the only way is to allow anonymous comments and the last time I did that I got stacks of daily spam. I think you just need a Google account.

  12. Believe it or not, I’ve actually seen one movie on your list: Alien, of course. And I saw that in a college dorm TV room, with somewhat divided attention to minimize the intensity. Because I did not want the full intensity! I will be curious (and somewhat surprised) if there’s another movie all month that I will have seen!

    Black and White: A for Atlantis

  13. Cool! Another fellow blogger doing Horror movies from A – Z. I must say that I am IMPRESSED! You watched a TON of horror movies!! Alien is great and The Abominable Dr. Phibes is an old favorite from my youth. I remember seeing it late Saturday night on the local creature feature show. Those were good times!! I can see I am going to learn about movies I haven’t yet seen here. Very cool.

  14. Hi Melanie, I’m not a horror movie watcher, although my boyfriend is working to convert me. I’ve not seen any of these, although Dr Phibes sounds great and I particularly liked that you described it as “like Art Deco threw up all over it” – I mean, what’s not to like, eh?

    A-Zing from Fiction Can Be Fun
    Normally found at Debs Despatches

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