Hello, and welcome to my 2021 April A to Z Blogging Challenge! This year, I am listing all the horror movies we’ve seen during the pandemic, with notes. Today, I have around 20 movies to tell you about, so some of the entries are going to be lamentably short. If I short-change a movie you like, why not help me out by adding your thoughts in the Comments section?
And by the way, these are not intended to be proper reviews! I have included a link to the IMDB page of every movie I talk about, so that the curious can find out more about them. My focus here is “what I have retained about each film during the blur of the pandemic,” not “I am a serious student of cinema who knows how to write a proper review.” Because I’m not and I don’t.
Some of these posts are going to be pretty long. For example, this one is very long indeed. Feel free to just skim for a title you are particularly interested in, have a look at that, and comment on that basis. There will be no quiz.
Without further ado… C!
Director: Brian Clemens
This is a fine movie. Not great, but it has its pleasantly weird aspects. There is something (I can’t remember quite what) about frogs in boxes that is rather charmingly offbeat and odd. If you like Hammer horror, and haven’t seen Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter yet, then I recommend you do so. Caroline Munro is in it!
Case of the Bloody Iris (Perché quelle strane gocce di sangue sul corpo di Jennifer?) (1972)
Director: Giuliano Carnimeo
Edwige Fenech is in it. An interesting giallo. I am especially intrigued by its very long Italian title (which Google Translate assures me means “Why those weird drops of blood on Jennifer’s body?”). That’s a neat title. As you may have deduced, all I really remember about this one is that I liked it. The fact that I remember little else means that I will thoroughly enjoy watching it again, but admittedly doesn’t do you, my readers, much good.
Cellar Dweller (1988)
Director: John Carl Buechler
A fun movie. Jeffrey Combs is in it. Also, it’s directed by John Carl Buechler. Often, he is the effects guy on a movie crew. For this one, he is in charge. The movie is about a comic book artist whose drawings come alive on her (and kill people, because it is that sort of comic book).
It is also the source of my Mystery Picture from yesterday! I decided to pick this movie for my Mystery Picture because I thought the comic book pages really added an interesting dimension to the visual fabric of the film, and I wanted to highlight that.
Cemetery of Terror (Cementerio del terror) (1985)
Director: Rubén Galindo Jr.
So you’re a group of guy friends and all of you have girlfriends. But inexplicably (I mean, look at you!) they don’t seem to want to put out to any major extent. What do you do? Well, I mean, of course, you trick them into going to an abandoned house with you, under the pretext that it is a “jet-set party.” Ladies love lies!
Weirdly enough, though, the ladies seem annoyed about the deception. Instead of being instantly aroused by the festooned spider-webs and all the other classy touches, they say hurtful things, like “I’m mad at you,” and don’t seem to want to kiss you or anything.
What does the considerate gentleman do at this point? Seek revenge, of course! Those ladies hurt your feelings! You’ll show them! How dare they be grumpy at you?! VENGEANCE. Also, your theory (freely discussed among the three menfolk) is that if the ladies get sufficiently scared, they will fall right into your arms. So, really, two birds, one stone.
But how to achieve this desirable outcome? Again, the answer is easy. First, you go upstairs and find a Satanic book. Then you annoy the ladies by reading it at them. Then (follow me closely here) you go to a local morgue and steal the ugliest cadaver you can find. You throw him into the trunk of your station wagon and haul him (and your reluctant dates) to the nearest cemetery (just missing the police inspector and the psychiatrist who have come by the morgue to cremate that particular body, because he was a really bad dude and the psychiatrist is forge-signature-on-cremation-certificate-level nervous about what will happen if his body isn’t burned). You then read from the cursed book again. This time, you read the part that is supposed to resurrect the dead (for special fanciness, this bit is in Latin). Instant thunderstorm. You go back to the abandoned house to drink champagne and party. You, of course, ignore your friend who says that he saw the cadaver’s hand twitch. Friends are always saying things!
Everything will be fine.
NOTE: All of the above happens in the first twenty minutes or so of the movie, so I don’t feel like my summary is Spoiler-y. And I wanted to highlight this one. It isn’t very well-known, I think (only 650 people rated it on IMDB). And I thoroughly enjoyed it. Also, I watched it last week, so I actually remember it worth a damn. Moving on…
I don’t know if I am adequately conveying the crazy of this movie. Or how much I loved it. It is a slasher film that in many ways resembles other slasher films. However, within the typical slasher-film narrative structure there is lots of room for little individual strokes of oddity. This movie has lots of those. And it is those odd little touches that keep me watching slashers.
Oh, and weirdly: plenty of gore, but no bare breasts. Not a single one. The one nipple we see is a man-nipple. That’s… actually really refreshing, for this kind of film.
Oh, also, there’s a whole second plot involving a bunch of trick-or-treating kids (the movie is set on Halloween). These kids decide to head to the middle of the cemetery for a nice game of tag or something. Suddenly… but I am not going to even get into that second plot-line. I do have other movies to talk about.
Bottom line: if you like odd, quirky, low-budget slashers that are also zombie movies, why not try this one? It is available on blu ray.
Cemetery Man (Dellamorte Dellamore)(1994)
Director: Michele Soavi
This movie is the best thing ever, for the first half of the film. Then it seems to start to scrabble around trying for meaning or deeper significance, or maybe they just realized that their movie was way too short. Anyway, the second half is way less fun than the first. I love the morbidly romantic and utterly hilarious first half, though.
Fundamentally, it is about a lanky guy who lives at a cemetery–I guess he’s a caretaker. Anyway, he and a really strange friend of his live in a cemetery, and at this cemetery there is a problem, vis., that the dead tend to come back to life. Not, like, oh hey, I’m glad you’re up and walking again life, but zombie life. So these two guys have to kill them again. Also, they have crushes on various women. Widows, dead girls–the type of women you meet at their particular job. The humor here is very morbid and wonderful, kind of like Ginger Snaps.
And then the movie… continues. By the end, we were glad it was over.
But that first half was wonderful.
The Changeling (1980)
Director: Peter Medak
A good and classy movie. A bit slow, but not in a bad way. George C. Scott is in it.
Chopping Mall (1986)
Director: Jim Wynorski
Robotic mall security goes mad and kills a bunch of teens (who are having an illicit after-hours party). Not exactly a classy movie, but I enjoyed it.
By the way, what is it with these movie teens and their sex-parties? I may be mis-remembering, but I think that, when I was a teen and wanted to make out with my significant other, we’d generally try to get as far away from other people as possible before commencing operations. Even then, we felt a little shy about things. These “teens” all go to the same mattress store to have their fun. I think I would have been horribly embarrassed. This is not an original observation, but it occurred to me especially forcefully while watching this one.
Director: Douglas Cheek
I remember liking this one. I wish I remembered more than that, but it was an early pandemic watch, and I’ve seen a lot of movies since then. I retain an impression of effectively-used squalor, and also I think this is one of the many movies that turned out to be way better than I thought it was going to be.
The Church (La chiesa)(1989)
Director: Michele Soavi
This one is lots of fun. Scary and beautifully shot. There is an ancient curse buried underneath a church, and it gets activated, and lots of people are trapped in the church, and they mostly die horribly. In fact, the very structure of the church is… I mean, there’s a kind of gorgeous machine that… I’m not sure I can actually explain about the gorgeous machine. Anyway, definitely worth a watch.
I thought of this as a Dario Argento movie, and he does have a writing credit, but it was directed by Michele Soavi, who I only realized after I made my movie list directed lots of the movies on it. That sentence could have been better, but I expect you see what I mean. He directed, for example, Cemetery Man.
Oh! And this movie is based on an M.R. James story, “The Treasure of Abbot Thomas.” This is exciting for me, as I adore M.R. James. The “based-on” is one of those things that I never would have realized if someone (Alec, and IMDB, in this case) hadn’t told me, but I now totally see.
Cold Blooded Beast (La bestia uccide a sangue freddo)(1971)
Director: Fernando Di Leo
Lots of movies (especially low-budget, trashy movies, which is one of the categories of movies I love) have gratuitous nudity in them. I’m usually fine with it. Or… look, I could analyze what I mean by “fine with it” for pages and still not really explain, so let’s go with “fine with it.” It’s often just a part of the package, with low-budget trash, and I generally enjoy the package. And so on.
But this movie is fairly vile. I’d steer clear, unless you want to see the camera-work of a frustrated gynecologist. And you know what? It’s also no fun to watch. Possibly because they expected to sell this one to the “we secretly want to watch porn” market.
Rosabla Neri is in it. Which is a waste of Rosabla Neri.
QUESTION: am I being too harsh? Are there merits here I’m not seeing?
Color Out of Space (2019)
USA, Malaysia, Portugal
Director: Richard Stanley
An adaptation of the Lovecraft story. We were interested in seeing it, yet also reluctant to do so. Nicolas Cage struck us as an odd choice for Nahum (in the movie Nathan) Gardner.
Ultimately, the movie was a disappointment. And it didn’t have to be. The movie has lots of promise and interesting potentialities. I liked the Gardner family from the first, and was prepared to enjoy spending time with them. But every time the movie started out in an interesting direction, it fumbled it. We were kept in a continual state of disappointed expectation. I could list all the ways in which it disappointed us, but that would be both long and depressing, and I’d feel like I was picking on the film. I’m just going to say that, every time this movie made a choice, it felt wrong. There was this, “oh. You went with that?” atmosphere in the room.
Another inherent problem with any adaptation of “The Colour Out of Space” is that the story is about a color that is unlike any color anyone has ever seen before. For any filmmaker working in color, yeah, that’s a problem. This movie goes with “pink,” which I don’t feel is an adequate answer to the challenge.
So, ultimately, though there were things I liked about the movie, I can’t say I liked the movie as a whole.
QUESTION: Have you seen this one? What did you think? Have you read the story upon which it is based? Do you think my reaction to the movie is overly influenced by the fact that I have read the story?
The Company of Wolves (1984)
Director: Neil Jordan
Lots of people seem to love this movie. We didn’t. This may possibly be because it didn’t live up to the wonderful things we’d heard about the movie (few movies do). But all I can say is, not a big fan. It felt long (which is one of the more damning things that one can say about any movie, I think).
QUESTION: If you’ve seen it, what did you think? What is the charm that I am missing here?
The Convent (2000)
Director: Mike Mendez
Delightful. It is fun from first minute to closing credits. I especially love the lame (yet murderous) Satanists and Coolio’s cameo as a cop. Oh, and Adrienne Barbeau is in it, and does a great job as the lady who beat the demon-nun problem last time. We see her character beating it during the opening credits, by murdering a lot of nuns to the tune of “You Don’t Own Me.” Anyway, yes. I thought this was one of the funnier and better-paced horror-comedies of the lockdown. And I really like horror-comedy. Have I mentioned that?
This movie seems to have sunk without a ripple when it was released (or that is the impression I get, anyway). I think one reason is that it has the feel of an 80s horror-comedy, but it was made in 2000. So, maybe it hit that sour spot, where that style of movie was too recent to feel retro, and just ended up feeling like old hat.
The Corpse Vanishes (1942)
Director: Wallace Fox
We saw the MST3K version. That helped a lot.
Director: Javier Aguirre
Starring Paul Naschy! Not as a werewolf, this time. This time, he’s playing Count Dracula. As always, he does it adequately. I mean, I think he’s great, but I also have a bit of a thing for him. He’s a handsome guy, when he isn’t covered in werewolf-fur. Or anyway I think so.
So… I guess that was my review of Paul Naschy’s face. It is good, and I would recommend it to a friend. Who would possibly tell me I had weird taste.
As for the movie… oh dear. I know we watched it. I have dim recollections of doing so. There are vampires in it!
That’s all I got.
Director: George A. Romero
An anthology. Stephen King is in one of the stories! In fact, that one is basically Lovecraft’s “The Colour Out of Space,” with King playing the doomed farmer who finds the glowing space-object. Fun! I liked seeing King act. And, I mean, look. If you are determined to watch one, and only one, version, of “The Colour Out of Space” ever… I’d go with this one rather than the 2019 movie. Plus, it’s shorter. I’m sorry.
I forget if all of the sections are good, which is always the question when it comes to anthologies. Anyway, well worth your time. Fairly goofy and light.
The Craft (1996)
Director: Andrew Fleming
I went through a “witch-phase” as a 90s teen. A lot of this movie therefore had that embarrassing-familiarity thing about it, for me. Not that my spells ever actually worked, but still…
The Crimson Cult (The Curse of the Crimson Altar) (1968)
Director: Vernon Sewell
Wow. Yeah, so this movie has some exciting talent in it. Boris Karloff. Christopher Lee. Michael Gough. Barbara Steele. And it sure is weird. One of those “has my brother been sacrificed to some crazy cult, and if not, where is he?” movies. I think? I just went to IMDB to see if I could refresh my memory about the plot, but no-one has written a synopsis of the film for them yet. I am not, somehow, surprised. The plot was, I dimly remember, fairly out of its goddamned mind.
Director: Stephen Herek
This is a good movie. Very fun. Watch it, if you like goofy (but bloody) lots-of-little-monsters-style horror-comedies. You know, like Gremlins.
Critters 2 (1988)
Director: Mike Garris
Blech. Don’t bother. Or, I mean, go ahead, but it is nowhere near as good as Critters. Also, there is a really, really annoying death in it. This bounty hunter who should know better just gets immediately wiped out by the monsters “she” (the bounty hunter is itself a shapeshifting alien of unknown biology, but has taken on a female disguise for this assignment) is very, very used to fighting. It is not good. The staple thing is funny, though. See, the female form the bounty hunter decides to assume is a centerfold model, and the hunter is working from a picture, so there’s a giant staple right where you’d expect it to be. There. That’s the best gag in this film (in my opinion. Then again, all of this is my opinion, so I don’t know why I just felt the need to add that). Now, you don’t have to see it.
The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)
Director: Terence Fisher
This is the first in a long series of Hammer Frankenstein pictures. Fun, but with few surprises. Oh, except that Christopher Lee is playing the Frankenstein monster here, which is cool. I like Christopher Lee. And it is always nice to see him on screen with Peter Cushing. And the frame narrative here is neat. Baron Von Frankenstein (Cushing) opens the film in prison under sentence of death. He tries to explain why his sentence is unjust to a skeptical priest. We then go back in time, and see how he got into his present predicament.
Right. So, that’s it for C. Most of my letters won’t be this long (though watch out for “H” and “S,” which are both real hum-dingers!). And you know what? This post needs further editing. I recognize that. But there comes a point in all of our lives where we just have to hit “Publish.” I feel that I have hit that point with this post.
Mystery Picture “D” (Identify it if you can!):