Hello, and welcome to my 2021 April A to Z Challenge! This year, I am talking about all the horror movies Alec and I watched during the pandemic. We’ve watched around 200 of them in the past year, enough to fill up an alphabetical list nicely. What I am doing here is listing them, with notes. The notes are sometimes almost like reviews, but sometimes they aren’t. Sometimes, I will just be noting the one thing that stands out to me about a particular film. And sometimes the notes will be more about me than about the movie.
If I short-change a movie that you loved or hated, feel free to give your own notes in the Comments section!
Oh! Another thing. Much of my site is more or less all-ages. This A to Z really isn’t. I am talking about horror movies here, and some of them are really pretty twisted. I did slap an “Adults-Only” label on this A to Z in The Big List, but let me just mention it here, too. If you’re a kid, this A to Z isn’t for you. I mention this especially today, because I am about to talk about Faceless. Faceless may be the most disturbing movie we’ve watched during the pandemic.
Without further ado…
Director: Jesús (Jess) Franco
Ah, Faceless. For days after seeing Faceless, many of our conversations went like this:
Me: So… Faceless, eh?
Alec (deeply interested): Faceless.
It’s kind of a doozy. Almost everyone is evil in Faceless, and… it’s like no-one is even thinking in those terms?
Basic premise: a plastic surgeon has an assistant and a sister. They are all having sex with each other (or anyway this is strongly suggested). Then the sister’s face gets messed up. I think acid is thrown at the surgeon by a disgruntled former patient, and the sister gets it instead. The damage is beyond the reach of plastic surgery to fix. So, of course, what you do, in this kind of movie, is steal the faces of other women and try to transplant them onto your sister.
No biggie. You are already kidnapping young women and using their blood as a youth serum for your aging clientele at your plastic surgery clinic. Face-stealing is just a logical extension of this, really.
There’s this blankness about the villains in this movie. They are just horribly pragmatically goal-oriented. They don’t enjoy being bad. They don’t mind being bad. It isn’t a problem for them. It’s just what is happening. They are like nightmare versions of sharks. Cold, scaly, and separated from anything we would consider morality by an impassable barrier, they regard their fellow humans as kicking legs, to be either torn to pieces or left alone, as the situation dictates.
In my mind, because I talked about Eating Raoul yesterday, I am now comparing the two films. In Eating Raoul, the Blands don’t seem to really mind killing people in any deep sense, but Paul Bland has to work himself up a bit to do it, and after the first time, he needed a drink. In Faceless, our three villainous main characters (or sort of our main characters; we follow two converging plot-lines. The face-stealers constitute one plot line; the other is the story of a detective who is trying to find Caroline Munro’s character, who as it happens is currently languishing in a dungeon under the plastic surgery clinic) aren’t horrified by or interested in what they are doing, besides not having a fundamental problem with it.
I was also reminded of Raymond and Connie Marble from Pink Flamingos, reminded mostly by a sense of contrast (and by the fact that the Marbles also have a basement full of kidnapped young women). Raymond and Connie Marble want to be evil. They’re into it. Our plastic surgeon and his team are indifferent to it. Which is deeply chilling.
Alec and I LOVED this movie. It felt different from other movies. Telly Savalas is in it, albeit briefly. We love Telly Savalas. Caroline Munro is also in it. We’re not huge Caroline Munro fans, but she does an excellent job here.
But don’t see it if you aren’t prepared for horrors.
There are so many chillingly good bits in this film. The toast near the end is especially horrifyingly effective, when the old Nazi scientist (who is helping with the whole face-transplant thing) says (something like; I am not sure I’ve got the quote exactly) “I’ve always been a sentimentalist at heart…” and you believe that he means it… and you go sort of sick inside.
See Faceless if you want to feel oddly but interestingly polluted for days afterwards by a movie. Otherwise, don’t see it. It clings. We saw it eight months ago. Today, we had the following conversation:
Me: so, Faceless, eh?
Alec (interested): Faceless!
…Oh, and I guess I should mention that this is based on an older movie called Eyes Without A Face. But I haven’t seen Eyes Without A Face, so I don’t know how similar they are.
Five Dolls for An August Moon (5 bambole per la luna d’agosto)(1970)
Director: Mario Bava
The only thing I really remember about this movie is the room that fills up with bagged corpses. Every time someone is murdered, we see their bagged-up corpse, hanging up with the others. The room quickly becomes pretty crowded. That is visually quite interesting. Otherwise, I remember thinking that the movie was okay, but not actively good. It kind of wastes Edwige Fenech though, which is a damn shame.
The Fog (1980)
Director: John Carpenter
Adrienne Barbeau and Jamie Lee Curtis are in this one, as is Tom Atkins. Tom Atkins is a man we’ve gotten used to seeing in movies. We’ve gone from exclaiming, “hey… it’s… you know, that guy! AHHHH WHAT IS HIS NAME!” to the more dignified, “Oh look, it’s Tom Atkins.” So–yeah, the man was in a lot of movies. Or anyway, he was in a fair number of movies of the sort we like to watch. Horror movies and similar.
Otherwise, I don’t have much to say about this one. It was good, but not my favorite Carpenter film. Worth seeing, though, if you haven’t.
Forbidden World (1982)
Director: Allan Holzman
Interesting movie. A Roger Corman production. Jim Wynorski (director of Chopping Mall, which I discuss in my “C” post) has a writing credit. An early-pandemic watch, and one that I have already talked about. To save you the trouble of clicking on things (and also because my original post has a spoiler in it, which I have removed from the text you will find below), here is what I said about Forbidden World then:
“Alec,” I said, wrinkling my brow with thought, my usually-placid voice throbbing with concern, “we’re watching too many good movies.”
Alec stared at me. Had I gone out of my mind? “Too many good movies,” he echoed.
“Yep. Too many good movies. If we go on like this, we soon simply will not be able to enjoy the mediocre ever again. The simple pleasures of a Roger Corman flick will be lost on us. They will begin to seem, to our increasingly sophisticated palettes, bland or even intolerable. So,” I said, staring blankly into the middle distance, “we’ve got to do it. We’ve got to watch a Corman flick tonight.”
“To re-set our standards?”
“To re-set, as you truly say, our standards.”
“How about a Corman take-out-box extravaganza?” He suggested, after a moment’s thought.
“You mean, Roger Corman… in space?”
And so our doom was sealed.
A note about the take-out-box thing. You know how, in movies, spaceship walls have lots of weird white geometric panels? Apparently, the Corman gang achieved this look by gluing take out boxes to the walls of their sets.
Anyway, as a result of the above conversation, we watched Forbidden World.
In Forbidden World, there is an intergalactic civilization, and a food crisis. Everyone is, we are told, starving. Our hero’s spaceship is attacked by food pirates at the beginning of the film. Our hero has his own spaceship, which he flies around in, accompanied only by a sassy robot who sounds like a twelve-year-old boy.
Anyway, after the hero (whose name I have forgotten) defeats the food pirates, the robot breaks it to him that he has a mission. He has to go help some scientists. The scientists work on a lab on a planet. They are supposed to be tinkering with genetics to help with the food problem, but they seem to have gotten a bit distracted, because all they are doing is making monsters. Now, a particularly monstrous monster has eaten all the other monsters and escaped.
What qualifications our hero has as a monster troubleshooter I do not know. Apparently, though, women cannot resist him. [SPOILER REMOVED]
The robot is the best part of the movie. He complains at one point, “They switch you off when life is good then switch you on when they’re up to their noses in life’s bitter droppings!”
Which has got to be up there, robot-complaint-wise.
It is also the source of yesterday’s Mystery Picture. Here it is again. The monster is oddly… cute.
Frankenstein’s Bloody Terror (La marca del Hombre Lobo) (1968)
Spain, West Germany
Director: Enrique López Eguiluz
Every time I come to this one on my list, I get confused. I can’t think what movie it could possibly be. The title seems to mean nothing to me. But then I refer to my notes, and I find that this is the first of a long series of werewolf movies, starring Paul Naschy as the perpetually tragically-doomed Waldemar Daninsky. I don’t know how Frankenstein comes into it.
Anyway, this movie is neat. And here’s a fun thing: Paul Naschy wasn’t planning to play the lead at all. The director wanted to get Lon Chaney Jr. for the role. But Naschy (who was the screenwriter for this film) stepped forward to play the lead when that plan fell through. Naschy went on to star in lots more Waldemar Daninsky movies, and I think he’s great.
In this film, Waldemar becomes a werewolf. Oh no! But he’s heard of some people who may be able to help him. He gets in touch with them, and they show up at his castle. Turns out they’re vampires, though. And they don’t plan to cure him, at all. I forget exactly what their sinister plan is, but it isn’t curing the werewolf and then politely going away.
Director: Norman Thaddeus Vane
So, this isn’t the British movie Frightmare. This is a totally different movie also called Frightmare. About a horror star, in poor health and in the last bitter throes of his career, who murders some people and then dies. Then some obsessed fans steal his body. Soon, the actor comes back to (un)life.
The first part is great. The rest of the movie is sort of boring.
I love the actor before he dies, gleefully committing murders, because he knows his days are numbered, and so… why not? He also has an awesome pre-recorded death message and a multi-media tomb. All of that is great. But that is all set-up. The actual substance of the movie is much less fun. Just some teens in a building, dancing with a corpse, and then getting murdered by a revenant.
From Beyond the Grave (1974)
Director: Kevin Connor
An anthology movie, with four different horror plots all linked by a strange and mysterious antique shop (with Peter Cushing playing the proprietor). I remember thinking that the stories all carried their weight, and that is pretty good in an anthology. Oh, and I notice that Ian Carmichael (or, as I tend to think of him, “Lord Peter Wimsey”) is in this one. Donald Pleasence is also in this film, but that is less surprising. David Warner also. The movie is stuffed with talent, really. And, like many horror anthologies, it has a fairly light tone (as far as I remember). I’d call this one fun, and well worth seeing.
Frozen Scream (1975)
Director: Frank Roach
Mad scientists making zombies. Kind of. The theory here is that if the human body is lowered in temperature it can be immortal. Like, if it runs at a lower temperature. Permanently.
So, that’s an interesting premise. I can’t say I loved the movie, but I also didn’t hate it. The results of the cryo-treatment do seem to vary quite a lot (turning most of the ladies who get the treatment into sexy but blank-faced party girls, and most of the men into straight-up killers–which I really wish had been noted by one of the doctors running the experiments, but which I fear is just catering to the audience’s expectations), but, I mean, it is an experimental treatment, and they are still fine-tuning it.
Fun idea. Kind of meh in execution, or so I thought.
Fury of the Wolfman (La furia del Hombre Lobo)(1972)
Director: José María Zabalza
Paul Naschy as Waldemar Daninsky. Hurray! But this particular Waldemar Daninsky film is absolutely out of its mind. I’m not sure I am capable of conveying to you quite how crazy this one is, so I am going to advise the interested to look at this 6-minute review of the movie on YouTube. I recognize that this is lazy and cheating, but this post is waaay longer than I anticipated, and I want to go and have my lunch. I’ve really nailed my omelet technique lately. The trick is: don’t try and use too many eggs or the crust bit will be too thick. Besides, it is a Dark Corners review, and that is a good YouTube channel to know about, if you are interested in this kind of movie.
I’m done. I want lunch. Omelet! I realize that in theory I could have my lunch and then come back and finish this post, but in practice that isn’t happening.