Hello, and welcome to my 2021 A to Z April Blogging Challenge! This year, I’ve decided to list all the horror movies Alec and I have seen so far over the course of the pandemic, with notes. Today, I have 18 movies to talk about. I’m going, for my own sanity and yours, to try to keep each entry pretty brief. If I mention a movie here that you feel should get a more ample treatment, please feel free to provide that treatment in the Comments section.
Oh, and feel free to just skim this post for movies that interest you, and comment on that basis. There will be no quiz.
Without further ado…
Director: Jag Mundhra
This one is fun. And very, very, very set on Halloween. There are jack-o-lanterns and costume parties and Satanic rituals and everything. I… yeah, I recommend this one. Low-budget fun. And full of crazy, which is a thing I go in for in a pretty big way, as long as it isn’t too terribly “crazy on purpose.” That… may make me a hipster, actually. I’d have to check.
Director: John Carpenter
If you haven’t seen Halloween, you might hesitate to try it now. With so many imitators on the market, you might worry that the movie will be no longer able to frighten, that it may have been rendered inaccessible to you by the layers of other similar movies. And I get that, but… I was pleasantly (or do I mean unpleasantly?) surprised. As a first-time watcher in the year 2020, I still found myself impressed by it.
Director: Tommy Lee Wallace
Also really, really good. Sad that people didn’t like the concept of an anthology-style series, and so this movie got into trouble with fans for not having Michael Myers in it. Or so I’ve heard, anyway. Gosh… we’re three for three, so far, Halloween-setting-wise. Not that that’s surprising.
Tom Atkins stars in this one.
The Hanging Woman (La orgía de los muertos)(1973)
Director: José Luis Merino
Paul Naschy plays a gravedigger in this one. I remember being pleased with this movie, and thinking it was “out of its goddamned mind” (which is praise, in the context of this list), but I remember very little else. It is set in 19th century Scotland. There are zombies. And mad science. And a decent amount of atmosphere.
Happy Death Day (2017)
Director: Christopher Landon
Yes. We both loved this one.
It’s Tree Gelbman’s birthday. It is also the last day of her life, because someone kills her. Then, she wakes up, and it is her birthday, and then someone kills her, and then… etc. It is the same sort of time-shenanigans that happen in Groundhog Day, only here the main character has to solve her own murder in order to break the repeating cycle.
Tree’s character arc throughout the movie has lots of charm. She goes from a mean, terribly flawed, vapid human being (though hilariously watchable, and never, I felt, too-too horrible to bear) to a nicer, better, happier person, over the course of the film. Anyway, she learns a lot, and is wonderfully funny, during this blast of a movie.
The Haunting (1963)
Director: Robert Wise
Hey look, it’s an unrecognizably young Russ Tamblyn (who played the freaky psychologist guy in Twin Peaks).
Based on Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. A classic. Well-done.
Director: Douglas Schulze
Wow. What? This is a very odd movie. John Saxon is in it. He’s a former professor of the college at which this movie is set. His work involves zombie-people. He made some of them in the movie’s deep background; he’s made some more quite lately. I sort of despair of explaining this one to you further, partially because it doesn’t actually make that much sense. It is an odd mix of unpleasant and wacky. I can’t say I recommend it, but if you’re desperate for something a little different (but not too different) in the horror line, I guess you could try it.
Director: Rick Sloane
We saw the Mystery Science Theater 3,000 version. That helped. However, I’ll just say this: I’ve seen worse movies. Much worse. People say it is one of the worst movies ever. This could not be true. It’s really not that bad. I wasn’t bored, and parts of it were even fun. And I love Club Scum. I’d go to a Club Scum, if it wasn’t a fictional place, and if we weren’t in the midst of a pandemic. Or maybe I’m just nostalgic for going places. Maybe that gives Club Scum a glamor.
Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers (1988)
Director: Fred Olen Ray
This is fun. It is, as far as I have been able to determine, the only good movie Fred Olen Ray ever directed. If I am wrong–if he has directed some other good ones–let me know, and I’ll be delighted to have a look at them.
One of the things that makes this movie fun is the typical Private Eye-type narration–and how it is often flatly contradicted by the action on the screen. Also, Linnea Quigley is in this movie, gamely brandishing a chainsaw several sizes too large for her. Michelle Bauer is also in it. Two scream-queens! There may be a third in there somewhere, too. Not sure. Anyway, it is fun. It is also only 75 minutes long, and so it is over before it outstays its welcome.
The IMDB Trivia page for this movie makes especially entertaining reading.
Horror Express (Pánico en el Transiberiano)(1972)
Dir. Eugenio Martin
Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing play dueling anthropologists in this film, which is set on a transcontinental train voyage. One of the anthropologists (I forget which) has made a marvelous discovery: a prehistoric monster, frozen in the ice, possibly the Missing Link. All very exciting. He loads it onto the train, to the grumbling resentment of the other anthropologist. Trouble ensues. The thing thaws. It begins to mentally control the people on the train. Everything is bad. The audience knows who is responsible for the sudden chaos on the train, but the passengers don’t. Who has done these wicked things? Suspicion intensifies. Mistrust, already pretty rampant, runs through the compartments like wildfire.
Telly Savalas plays a military-type policeman called Captain Kazan, who joins the train to get to the bottom of the murders and so on. He bounces into the film and is breezy and splendid. This is the movie that made us love Telly Savalas. I only wish he’d had more screen-time in this one.
Horror From The Tomb (El espanto surge de la tumba)(1973)
Director: Carlos Aured
Long ago, a very bad wizard (played by Paul Naschy) was executed for wizardry and badness. Now, some poor idiots have found his head, and he is arranging his own resurrection. Fun! Also fairly similar in plot to The Thing That Couldn’t Die (which by the way is thoroughly mocked in one of our favorite Mystery Science Theater 3,000 episodes).
Horror From The Tomb is also the source of the Mystery Picture from yesterday. Here it is again:
Hot Fuzz (2007)
Director: Edgar Wright
This is more of a crime-comedy than a horror-comedy, but there are plenty of horror elements. A top cop (played by Simon Pegg) from London, who annoys his co-workers because he is so irritatingly good at his job, is transferred to a small town, where, with the help of a bumbling local constable (played by Nick Frost) he slowly begins to uncover a terrible secret. Lots of fun.
Director: Nobuhiko Ôbayashi
Usually, when I say a movie is “out of its goddamned mind,” I mean it as a compliment. But House goes a little too far down that path. It is about a bunch of girls going to a house and getting, for example, eaten by pianos. And I think I could have dealt with all the furniture-based death if the world they start out in didn’t seem so odd already. There is no contrasting normalcy against which to view the craziness of the haunted house. We enter a world that is so off-kilter already that maybe furniture is always eating people. So, though I’m glad I saw House, and I may see it again, I didn’t personally feel that it succeeded, for me.
This was an early-pandemic watch, and I talked about it last year.
House of the Long Shadows (1983)
Director: Pete Walker
Another early-pandemic watch, which I talked about last year.
House of Usher (1960)
Director: Roger Corman
Yet a third early-pandemic watch, which I talked about in this post. Scroll waaaay down, past the part of the post where I babble about Swinburne.
House on Sorority Row (1982)
Director: Mark Rosman
It was adequate. A bunch of sorority sisters play a mean prank on an elderly lady, who is accidentally killed. How many movies start like that? I feel like they all do, right now, but I may be getting morbid. Anyway, they then throw a party and hide the body and stuff, and are terribly surprised when someone starts to pick them off, one by one.
The Howling (1981)
Director: Joe Dante
A classic. Great movie. And Patrick Macnee is in it. He played John Steed in the fairly awesome TV show The Avengers.
I find, however, that I don’t have that much to say about The Howling, and practically nothing at all that wouldn’t constitute a spoiler. Because, I mean, that ending! Bad werewolf effect, just at the end, but otherwise, I love the note on which this film closes.
Humanoids from the Deep (1980)
Director: Barbara Peeters, Jimmy T. Murakami
After we saw this one (and enjoyed it), we discovered that it was controversial. When it came out, people declared it to be anti-woman. And it is a movie about horrible fish-monsters who come out of the sea to attack and breed with human women. That’s a pretty common trope, but it is handled fairly explicitly here.
I didn’t have a problem, myself. I actually found some of the scenes empowering, because some of the ladies who are attacked not only fight back (a rarity in itself for this sort of movie), but actually succeed in defending themselves. In the sort of movie I generally watch, that barely ever happens.
There’s this one scene where a husband realizes his wife is home alone and likely to be attacked by the fish-monsters. He rushes home to protect her, only to find that yes, a monster attacked her, but she dealt with it. It has been very stabbed, and is now a disgusting pile of monster-parts, still slightly quivering, on the kitchen floor. She’s soaked in blood and freaking out, but otherwise unharmed, and all the big protective male gets to do for her there is give her a big, bloody hug (which I expect she appreciated). I cheered.
That’s it for today, folks! Have you seen any of these movies? What did you think? Feel free to tell me (or just say hi) in the Comments section!
…and I was going to give you a Mystery Picture, as usual, but my computer is misbehaving. I think I’m just going to publish this and then give the machine a bit of a nap. I will update this post with a picture later on.
UPDATE: hey, look, my computer is relatively cheerful again! Here is the Mystery Picture, as promised!