Hello, and welcome to my 2021 April A to Z Blogging Challenge! This year, my plan is to babble about every single horror movie we watched during the pandemic. And we sure watched a lot of them. We’re still doing so, in fact. Anyway, these are not intended to be proper movie reviews, just little notes about what stood out for me in each film. Each movie is supplied with a link to its IMDb page, so that the curious may find out more.
Today, the “D” movies. I’m trying for brevity today, because I got a bit of a late start, and I’d like to get this post out by dinnertime. And, as I have 14 movies I’m dying to tell you about, let’s get started!
Without further ado…
Daughters of Darkness (Les lèvres rouges) (1971)
Director: Harry Kumel
A newly-married couple go to a hotel to stay. This is because the groom doesn’t dare bring his new bride home to meet his mother. He keeps promising to do so, but I doubt she believes him at this point. At the hotel, they meet an aristocratic lady who often stays there. The hotel is attractively desolate, and the atmosphere of the film is interesting. The relationship between the aristocratic lady (whose name is some variation on Erzsébet Báthory, so, I mean, you know she’s going to be a villain from the get-go) and her servant is odd, as is her relationship with the hotel people, who are aware that she has looked exactly the same age every single time she’s visited…
This movie was, I think, one of the ones that felt a bit slow. But I only remember pieces of it now, and the pieces are attractively strange.
Dead and Buried (1981)
Director: Gary Sherman
We watched this one because Dan O’Bannon has a writing credit for it, and he’s done some neat stuff. That’s why we watched Bleeders, and it worked out great that time. We absolutely loved Bleeders. This movie we liked, but it’s never going to go farther than that. We don’t see a future for us with this movie. But, I mean, we had fun!
And now I’m hesitating. I kind of want to tell you more, but I don’t, in this case, remember the order of events particularly well. I am therefore really uncertain what would, and what would not, constitute a Spoiler. I’ll tell you just a little, but I am erring on the side of caution with this one, because this is a movie that I think is especially spoil-able. There are twists, and they’re pretty important, in terms of movie-enjoyment, here.
The main character is a small-town sheriff with a nice house and a nice (if rather odd) wife and all the things you’d want to have, I guess. But strangers keep being violently killed in his nice little town, and it’s his job to find out why and by whom. We the viewers know that it is more or less a community effort, because we see a photographer get mobbed by townsfolk and really bloodily killed in the very first scene. But the sheriff doesn’t know that, at first.
Death Becomes Her (1992)
Director: Robert Zemeckis
This, like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, is a movie that I loved as a kid and kind of grew up on. Or threw up on. Or something. Anyway, this one holds up better to re-watching as an adult. Possibly partially because this one was meant for an adult audience, whereas Buffy was aimed straight at young teens. With its star-studded cast (Meryl Steep, Goldie Hawn, Bruce Willis, Isabella Rossellini) and its interesting premise (an anti-aging treatment that as a side effect grants immortality, and how two rival aging beauties cope with this), it’s a fairly solid and fun film. I think I only didn’t love it because I still remembered it too well, from all those times I watched it as a kid. But if you haven’t seen it, it’s different and interesting, and I can definitely recommend it. Oh, and this is a horror-comedy that definitely stresses the comedy.
Death Line (aka Raw Meat) (1972)
Director: Gary Sherman
Okay, this one is grim, but fascinating. Donald Pleasence is in it. And, for those of you who might get the idea, either from your own experiences watching him or from this list thus far, that that is a sort of red flag–he’s great in this. He is the light touch this dark movie needs, as a cop who constantly helps himself to little items like whiskey and cigars from suspects’ homes, but is, you feel, ultimately incorruptible in any larger sense. Petty crime, yes. Major cover-up, no. At least… yeah, I really hope that’s this movie.
Spoilers? I forget how the movie is framed, revelation-wise, so I’m going to call spoilers on basically everything I want to say about the film. Text of spoilers is in white; highlight it to read.
This movie is about the last remaining cannibal of a little cannibal enclave living in the Tube tunnels underneath London. Many years ago, a whole lot of people were trapped and left to die when a tunnel collapsed. But they survived–horribly, by cannibalism (which wouldn’t work, without other food, over the period of time we’re talking about, but whatever). Now, yeah, only one of this tragic and terrifying community is left alive. He hunts for meat in the tunnels. Also, he keeps shrieking “Mind the doors!” in a way that tells you that he does not understand what he is saying. He has heard the phrase a lot. It has talismanic or mystical significance for him. And that is a really chilling touch.
Death Spa (1989)
Director: Michael Fischa
Yeah, so this movie isn’t one the greats. It isn’t even in the top tier of trash. But you know what? It is watchable. It isn’t dull, and it has one or two interesting ideas in it. It also didn’t think itself through very thoroughly, and some parts of it make no sense. I think it tried to do too many things at once, and the ideas all sort of collided, and this mess of a movie is the result. But again, credit for trying to do things. Lots of movies don’t even do that.
Deep Red (Profondo rosso) (1975)
Director: Dario Argento
This one is great. We’ve watched it several times, and I expect we’ll watch it again. And again. Really gorgeous shots, and a fairly fascinating mystery. The solution is… fine. It’s fine. Solutions are often a little disappointing. Anyway, the movie crawls with strangeness, beauty, and menace. If you want to watch one giallo, I’d say this is the one. I’d also say this is the best Argento, except that he also directed Suspiria (1977), which is possibly in my top ten movies ever. I don’t have a top ten movies ever list, and if I did, I bet the contents of the list would change almost daily, based on my mood or what I happened to be thinking about at a given moment. Anyway, on some days, and in some moods, I might include Deep Red on that list. Suspiria (the 1970s version; you will be hearing more about it when we get to “S”) would be on the list more often.
Deep Red has too many things in it to go into here, but I will list some of the things. A conference of psychics, a children’s song, a dying message written on a steamy bathroom wall, a doll hanging from the ceiling, a bird, twisted children’s art hidden behind the wallpaper of a house, a peppy journalist, an angsty piano player, and a small girl who hurts lizards. Also… was there a puppet? I think so.
There is this one house in Deep Red that I want to be. I’m not really sure how else to express how deeply I want this house. It is a gorgeous art nouveau wreck of a place.
Demons (Dèmoni) (1985)
Director: Lamberto Bava
Dario Argento has a writing credit for this one. A fun movie, with fun characters, most of whom die horribly. A zombie movie, but with demons instead of zombies. Demons that are zombies in every way.
The basic set-up is fun here. People are invited, seemingly at random, to a movie screening. There’s this creepy guy (played, apparently, by Michele Soavi, who directed many of the films in this A to Z) going around presenting people with free tickets. Neat! Free tickets! But it is a trick, and soon the people find themselves trapped in a creepy theater with hoards of man-eating demons.
Director: Emmett Alston
George Kennedy and Michelle Bauer are in this one. I think that is probably where all the budget that they had went, hiring those two actors. Oh, and the monster costume is fine. The movie is also out of its goddamned mind, which is generally a compliment in the context of this list. I would like this movie more, if the lead wasn’t so darned annoying.
Bigfoot. Zombies. Space aliens. All here, in this one odd little movie.
The Devil Bat (1940)
Director: Jean Yarbrough
Awww. This movie. This movie’s… great. Just great. How can I be mean about The Devil Bat? I smile whenever I think of it.
It isn’t a good movie. Please don’t go thinking that I mean it’s good. It’s just… if you like late-career Bela Lugosi and really bad bat props, this is exactly your movie. Also, Lugosi, who is an angry perfume-scientist with a grudge against his business partners (a grudge he has decided to resolve in the time-honored method of perfume+devil bats), says, at one point, “rub it on the tender part of your neck” in a way that definitely reminds everyone watching that the role he is famous for is Dracula.
It is also the source of my Mystery Picture from yesterday! Here it is again, in all of its glory:
The Devil’s Nightmare (La plus longue nuit du diable) (1971)
Director: Jean Brismée
I saw this one last week, and I already forget the details. It wasn’t bad. It wasn’t good. It was a thing, and it was on. Then, it stopped, and we shrugged and went to bed. It is possible that we are getting a little jaded. Then again, maybe this one really was just sort of meh.
The only thing I can remember about it was that the victim-pool is based on the Seven Deadly Sins. I knew that going in, but it took a bit of work to figure out who Envy was (process of elimination gave me the solution there). Oh, and all the deaths are supposed to be based on the particular Deadly Sin with which the character is associated (like in Se7en). That was done better in some cases than in others (again, like in Se7en).
The Devil’s Wedding Night (Il plenilunio delle vergini) (1973)
Director: Luigi Batzella, Joe D’Amato
Another movie that I love, not so much because it is good, as because it is out of its goddamned mind. We’ve seen it twice. And, by “seen it,” we mean, “kind of seen it.” There is a cloudy and indistinct something about the version we’ve managed to find. We note that this one has recently been released on blu ray, and look forward, some fine day, to actually seeing-seeing this film.
Rosalba Neri is in it. We like her, in this house. She’s in some fun movies. Also, she has an absolutely exquisite nose.
The Diabolical Dr. Z (Miss Muerte) (1966)
Director: Jess Franco
Sigh. This one was a disappointment. We really, really liked Franco’s Faceless (which I’ll tell you more about when we get there), and so hopes were high for The Diabolical Dr. Z. We were promised mad science, mind control, and a lady (helplessly in thrall to someone else’s dream of revenge) who kills with her poison-tipped fingernails.
And all of that was almost in the movie. The “Miss Muerte” character never actually quite manages to kill anyone with her poisoned fingernails, because the people who brainwashed her keep showing up and doing the killing for her. So, what was the point of the brainwashing? It seems like a lot of trouble to go through for someone you’re not using as an assassin.
Dog Soldiers (2002)
Director: Neil Marshall
I liked this one. It was one of the early-pandemic watches that I mentioned on my blog last year, though, so I’m just going to straight-up copy my remarks from then into this post. Here we go:
Do you kind of want to watch Predator, only you’ve already seen it? Dog Soldiers to the rescue! A fun (where “fun” is defined as “gripping”) werewolf movie in which the werewolves are in a pack (why that is unusual, I don’t know, but it is) and the victim pool consists mainly of professional soldiers.
Dr. Pyckle and Mr. Pryde (1925)
Director: Scott Pembroke, Joe Rock
Watching this for the first time may have been my favorite 20 minutes of the entire pandemic. It is a delight from start to finish. Stan Laurel (of Laurel and Hardy fame) plays both main roles in a hilarious parody of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. You could watch it here. It is, I imagine, quite firmly in the public domain by now. Seriously. Twenty blissful minutes. Just click on the link. And this may or may not belong on a list of horror movies, but it deals with a classic horror text, so I’m going with yes.
And that’s it for today, folks! Have you seen any of these movies? What did you think of them? Tell me in the Comments section!