Hello, and welcome to my 2021 April A to Z Blogging Challenge! This year, I’m talking horror movies. Specifically, I am listing all the horror movies Alec and I watched over the course of the pandemic (so far). I add “so far” because, as you may have noticed, the pandemic is still pandemic-ing away out there, and we’re still watching horror movies instead of going out. So, the list does keep getting additions. I am very serious about following the rules I make up for myself, and so, every movie we watch in April will end up in a blog-post, if (and here is the exciting loophole I have been exploiting) it begins with a letter I haven’t gotten to yet. I admit this has led me to prefer to watch horror movies that begin with, say, “A,” rather than, for example, “W.”
Without further ado…
M (M – Eine Stadt sucht einen Mörder)(1931)
Director: Fritz Lang
Really good. Peter Lorre is amazing as M, a child-murderer. Wow. And the pursuit of M is quite amazing. The German title, Google Translate assures me, means “a city is looking for a murderer,” and… yep. That’s exactly what happens in this movie. Everyone is on the alert for M. And there’s Peter Lorre, a poor hunted creature, yet also very dangerous, slinking through the streets, whistling a sinister tune, and always watching for the next child. Gangs of police, gangs of criminals: everyone is after M. Everyone wants to catch him.
M was massively influential, and sometimes an influential movie loses some of its power. By the time you watch the root-movie, you’ve seen its elements reflected in other films so often that you can’t really appreciate the original for what it is. I did not find this to be the case with M. It was pretty gripping.
That’s… it, really. I don’t have anything else to say on the subject. It was an early-pandemic watch, so many of the details have faded. Still, a very good movie, and one I will watch again at some point.
Maniac Cop (1988)
Director: William Lustig
This (quietly star-studded) movie fell squarely into the “better than we expected” category. We expected it to be just the usual sort of mildly interesting schlock. We didn’t expect it to be tense and very well-paced. But it was both of those things. We surprised ourselves by being fairly fully engaged and invested in the story. The writer here is Larry Cohen. That may have helped.
This movie is about a serial killer dressed in a police uniform. Is he a cop gone bad, or just a guy in a costume? No-one knows for sure. Tension runs high at the station and in the city. Bruce Campbell (“Ash”) plays a cop who is suspected of being the serial killer. He isn’t. He’ll prove his innocence somehow. Possibly with the help of Tom Atkins, who is also playing a cop. Again. He’s also a cop in Night of the Creeps. Robert Z’Dar plays (I think I can reveal this without it being a spoiler; I don’t think it is actually a secret in the movie, and if it is, some of the advertising matter kind of gives the game away. Still, I’ll put the tail-end of this paragraph in white text; highlight to read!) the titular Maniac Cop.
The Mansion of Madness (1973)
Director: Juan López Moctezuma
A surreal visual feast from start to finish. A movie where many of the scenes are so painting-like in composition that I started to wonder if some of the scenes are actually referencing specific paintings, and whether I ought to be able to recognize some of them. I really enjoyed watching the parade of images pass across my screen. The feeling evoked is very much that of a visit to the court of a decadent king. Very effectively evoked, too, and perfect for the plot.
The story is based on Poe’s story “The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether,” but many of the elements from the story are interestingly topsy-turvy in the film. Which is a topsy-turvy film based on an itself topsy-turvy story.
I really enjoyed this film, mostly for the stunning visual stuff. Alec’s view is that it is rather longer than its material would warrant, and thinks it would have been better as a 20-minute short. I wouldn’t mention this if I didn’t feel that there was some truth in it, but I didn’t mind the fact that this was feature-length, personally.
Director: Charles Band
Charles Band has been responsible, as a producer, for some movies I’ve really liked, and some I’ve really hated. On the one hand, he produced Bad Channels (which I like, and talked about in my “B” post). On the other hand, Ghoulies (which I pan in my “G” post) appears to have been primarily his fault. A sort of lesser Corman, in a way. Anyway, here, he is the actual director, and… yeah, I liked Meridian. It was interesting. And! Sherilyn Fenn (or, as I think of her, Audrey Horne from Twin Peaks) is the star of the film. And I love Sherilyn Fenn. She’s great. So, that’s neat.
It is about twin brothers who are part of a traveling circus. One is good, and one is bad. The good one has a bit of a werewolf problem, though. Fenn’s character invites the circus performers over to her newly-inherited Italian castle for dinner, and thus opens her doors to lots of trouble.
QUESTION: Is it fair to call Charles Band a lesser Corman?
The Monster Squad (1987)
Director: Fred Dekker
A fun movie, and one of the few movies on this list not rated R (or worse). This one gets a PG-13.
We are introduced to a circle of boys who are united by a common obsession with monsters. Plus, one little sister, who, as you can see from the picture, just ignores the “no girls” thing and marches right into their group. Anyway, suddenly their town is invaded by your classic Universal-Studios collection of monsters. And it is up to our intrepid monster-fans to stop them. A really fun film.
Fred Dekker appears to be both director and co-writer here. This appears to be an excellent thing, for movies. Anyway, that same killer combination brought us Night of the Creeps (of which excellent movie, more tomorrow).
Here’s that charming picture again:
The Murder Mansion (La mansión de la niebla)(1972)
Director: Francisco Lara Polop
“Oh good, a cemetery!” That isn’t an exact quote, but I think I’ve captured the essence of the thing, anyway. Not a sentiment I’d personally have when lost on a creepy road at night, but everyone to their tastes. I think maybe the idea was that, where there is a cemetery, there are probably also houses and things.
…and that bit where people seem relieved to find a cemetery is kind of all I remember about this one. That isn’t necessarily because the movie isn’t memorable, though. It was an early-pandemic watch, and it isn’t one of the movies I retain any vivid impressions of.
The Midnight Hour (1985)
Director: Jack Bender
This is a TV movie about teens who accidentally summon the dead on Halloween. Fairly typical stuff, but there are at least two awesome things in this movie, both of which communicate visually something that they would not be allowed to show on TV in any more blatant form. The first thing is when two teenagers are making out in a car, and there’s this shot of the top of the car (it is a convertible) slowly rising into the air. And, I mean… it… how to put this delicately? Male arousal is suggested. Or, I mean, I have a dirty mind.
The other thing is even better. So there’s this vampire, right? But I guess on TV at the time, you weren’t really supposed to show spurting blood. So the vampire attacks her victim in a wine cellar, and the bottles get broken, and the air is full of spurting… red wine. Very clever.
Director: Michael Dugan
Meh. It was fine. Not my favorite, but you could do worse. Charles Band produced this one.
So that’s it for “M,” folks! Tomorrow, “N,” and a whole lot of “Night” and “Nightmare” movies.
Mystery Picture “N”
Identify it if you can!