Hello, and welcome to my 2021 April A to Z Blogging Challenge! This year, I am listing all of the horror movies Alec and I watched during the pandemic (so far), with brief notes. Not formal reviews, for the most part–we saw about 200 horror movies, and writing a review for each of them would take forever and drive me mad–just notes on each film and what I remember about it. What stands out for me about each movie, and what I basically thought of it. Sometimes, these notes are very brief indeed. And today is “S,” and the longest list of all. I have, at last count, 23 movies to talk about today. I am aiming for brevity in each entry. I’d like to be done this post before midnight. Heck, ideally I’d like to be done by dinnertime.
Looking at my list of films for today, I find that this is the ideal time to re-use a few introductory paragraphs from my “P” post. Here you go:
Let me just mention that I am into quite a varied range of horror movies. Some of them are classics. Some of them are disgusting gore-fests or semi-pornographic wallowings. I am going to list every one of them that I remember, the classics and the schlock alike. Seriously, we were watching a movie a night for several months of the lockdown, and we’re still watching quite a few a week. It’s been a journey, and not a wholly edifying one. If you, reader, wish to come on this journey with me, in a no-holds-barred sort of way, go ahead and read the whole of my posts. But if you like a certain level of propriety in your Internet, may I suggest just scanning for titles you recognize and reading about those? Or, of course, you could read these little introductions, then look at the Mystery Picture at the bottom of the post, then say “hi” in the Comments section, then move on with your life.
Oh, and, if you are a child, this isn’t the A to Z for you.
Without further ado…
Satanic Panic (2019)
Director: Chelsea Stardust
Fun. Also, the writer here is Grady Hendrix. I’ve read one of his books. Horrorstör. It is the one that is made up to look like an IKEA catalogue and is full of increasingly horrifying diagrams, at the same time as it tells an okay story about IKEA employees fighting… some overwhelming supernatural disaster or other. Anyway, I thought that the book itself was awesome, but that the story in it was a bit less than totally worthy of its gorgeous and lavish setting. It was a fine story, mind you. Just not quite as good as the visual elements of the book.
Satanic Panic is, however, great. Really well-written, really well-acted, very amusing, very tense. It is about a pizza-delivery girl who gets sucked into a web of upper-class Satan-worship, and is suddenly fighting for her life.
Satanico Pandemonium (Satanico Pandemonium: La Sexorcista)(1975)
Director: Gilberto Martínez Solares
Sexy (with his clothes on; he’s less effective shirtless) Satan tempts nun, who, without ever precisely seeming to give in to said temptation, still becomes almost immediately evil. It is fun to watch her sneaking around the convent, being wicked. Though she does go all evil at the drop of a hat. One look at a completely naked devil-man, about a minute of soul-struggle, and then she’s off murdering people and molesting local shepherd-boys and burning down cottages and everything. It leaves open the question of whether this was, in fact, her giving in to temptation, or if it is more like a case of possession.
The movie ends in a way that I would normally find irritating, but it leaves sufficient doubts in my mind that in this case I am okay with it.
Also, Salma Hayek’s character in From Dusk Till Dawn is named Satanico Pandemonium, in honor of this movie.
Saturday the 14th (1981)
Director: Howard R. Cohen
Hey, a PG film on this mostly pretty mucky list! A family is beset by monsters after moving to a new home. All the monsters are after a book, concealed somewhere in the house. A movie from 1981 with a horror-movie-parody feel. Student Bodies, later on in this list, is also exactly that, and of the two, I prefer it. Still, Saturday the 14th has its charms.
Scare Package (2019)
A wonderful anthology. This is yet another comic look at horror conventions, but with a rather different approach from some of the others on this list. The framing narrative is a video store; the mini-movies are all (as far as I remember) things available for rental on the shelves (with their genres stamped on them and everything). The only problem comes in the final mini-movie, which is about the video-store people themselves. Involving them in their own horror movie at the end was, I thought, a mistake. Actually, it would have been awesome, probably, if they were involved in a horror movie set at the video store itself, but alas! They leave the store almost immediately for their mini-movie.
Otherwise, though, this is solid fun, and has an interesting mix of styles. All the stories are different, but feel like they belong in the same anthology. I liked some of the stories better than others (“Cold Open,” “Girls Night Out of Body,” and “One Time in the Woods” stand out to me at the moment, but I almost feel bad picking those ones because there’s lots of solid charm in the others, too), but yeah–all of them were fun.
Director: Wes Craven
I mean, I’d seen it before, but a loooong time ago. It is just possible that I saw this in theaters, even. I would technically have been too young to go by myself, but if I remember going to movies in the 90s correctly, no-one cared. I am not sure. Anyway, it was way more fun to watch this time, because, as you may have noticed, I’ve seen a lot of slashers lately. Since this movie is very, very, very much a commentary on the slasher genre, it had lots of appeal, this time around. Amusing and scary. My favorite combination.
Also, I hear (though I have no source for this, and I may be totally wrong) that Scream was supposed to be a sort of Sunset Boulevard or Touch of Evil* for the slasher genre–the last movie made in a dying style, which sort of memorializes and sums up the genre as a whole. But, in fact, it was so wildly popular that it actually re-invigorated the genre it had intended to bury. Again, I don’t know if that is true, but it does sound awfully plausible.
“Like the slashers themselves, the genre just won’t stay dead.”
I put that in quotes because, though I feel actually very clever for saying it, I bet lots of other people have also said it, and I’m quite sure it isn’t my own idea really. So, yeah. I’m sure I’m quoting someone. I’m just not sure who.
*Sunset Boulevard and Touch of Evil being two movies both said to be the last gasp of the film noir genre.
Screamers (L’isola degli uomini pesce) (1979)
Director: Sergio Martino
Richard Johnson and Barbara Bach. An island. A bunch of people washed up on said island. The sinister plans of Richard Johnson’s character, who is very, very hospitable (in a creepy and obviously menacing way) to his new victims… I mean, guests. Also, as the Italian title clearly states, there are fish-men.
The Screaming Skull (1958)
Director: Alex Nicol
We watched the MST3K* version. I strongly recommend doing the same. It is one of the funnier MST3K episodes, in my opinion. Definitely in my top ten.
But I wouldn’t go so far as recommending the actual movie. Though, I mean, it is less bad-seeming than many of the films reviewed by the MST3K crew.
*Mystery Science Theater 3,000
The Secret of the Mummy (O Segredo da Múmia)(1982)
Director: Ivan Cardoso
Charmingly odd film. There is this maid in the film who can’t seem to stop licking the bald head of the monster-butler guy she works with. That’s just an example chosen at random.
Plot-wise… there is a mad scientist, and a mummy that he re-animates. And the mummy goes on a killing spree.
There are, of course, complaints you could make about the movie. If I remember correctly, it switches from color to black and white a few times, and I don’t think that was a stylistic choice. More a matter, I suspect, of budget. So… yes, some of the oddity here is perhaps a result of working within the limitations of a small budget. But I kind of like that.
Seven Footprints to Satan (1929)
Director: Benjamin Christensen
This movie is fun until nearly the end, when it all falls flat on its face. The ending explanation is irritatingly lame. It was an early-pandemic watch, which I discuss here.
The Seven Vampires (As Sete Vampiras)(1986)
Director: Ivan Cardoso
Another odd one from Cardoso. There is a carnivorous plant involved. I think it turns people into vampires. There is a nightclub. I am vague on the details.
Seven Women for Satan (Les week-ends maléfiques du Comte Zaroff)(1976)
Director: Michel Lemoine
Basically porn? Seriously, I don’t know. What I can say is that Michel Lemoine is not only the director here, but also the writer and the star of the film. So, I’m not saying this is wish-fulfillment, but… it might be wish-fulfillment. He plays a sadistic Count who is always killing ladies. Or fantasizing about killing ladies, anyway. Or… sometimes, he kills them, and sometimes his butler does it without telling him. Sometimes, ladies come to his house and do elaborate dance-routines on his bed in a state of undress. It’s… I mean, there’s gratuitous nudity, and then there’s “Hold-Everything-While-This-Lady-Does-A-Three-Minute-Striptease-For-No-Real-Reason.” This movie goes in for the latter style of thing, in a pretty big way.
Howard Vernon (an actor we have come to recognize, as he is in lots of low-budget European horror of about this vintage) plays a wicked butler in this film. He also plays the wicked butler’s dying father. He does this by donning an unconvincing white beard and getting into bed. It is so obviously Howard Vernon under the beard that it is kind of silly. When they film the two of them talking, they don’t even try to hide this fact. Lots of people would have the father in the bed, and like the shoulders and the profile of someone who might be Howard Vernon in the foreground, just to try to trick you into thinking that it’s not the same actor. Not this film.
The premise appears to be that, for some reason, Howard Vernon has promised his dying father that he will corrupt the Count. Because the Count’s ancestor was corrupt, and… yeah, I didn’t really follow the logic, there. The butler keeps leaving ladies around for the Count to find, hoping that the Count will brutally murder them. I… I don’t know.
Shaun of the Dead (2004)
UK, France, USA
Director: Edgar Wright
Yay, Shaun of the Dead! Now that’s a fun film. I’d known about it since it came out (no surprise there), but for some reason had resisted actually seeing it until the pandemic. I think I was worried that it wouldn’t live up to the hype. But you know what? It totally did. It was an early-pandemic watch, which I discuss here.
Director: David DeCoteau
Someday, we will learn. Someday, we will stop expecting trash of the fun sort from David DeCoteau. On that day, we will be better, happier people, and the average quality of the movies we watch will be noticeably improved. But… the title suggests a fun horror-comedy of a self-aware-of-itself-as-a-sleazy-boob-and-gorefest sort. And… it was all of those things except “fun.” The horror was lame. The comedy was limp. The self-awareness was probably present but uninteresting.
Anyway, we really should have known better, after Nightmare Sisters (which I pan in my “N” post).
Linnea Quigley is in it, playing a tough, world-weary punk. I really liked her character. She was, I think, the reason we finished the film. And… hey, you know what? I don’t actually think she strips in this one. That must have been a nice change for her.
Director: Roger Donaldson
Brilliant. It was an early-pandemic watch, which I talk about here.
Director: Rafal Zielinski
Adam Ant is in this movie! That’s kind of why we watched it. And it turns out that it is also all I can remember about this one. I think he plays an evil sorcerer. There’s… some sort of radio contest. The winners get to be in a scavenger hunt in a castle. But… yeah, that’s never as good of a deal as it sounds.
Director: Jack Hill
I love this movie. I explain why here (it was another early-pandemic watch). But let me just say this. Have you ever seen a movie you liked so much that you recommended it to everyone you spoke to for weeks afterwards? That was this movie, for us.
Stage Fright (Deliria) (1987)
Director: Michael Soavi
Some actors lock themselves in a building to finish rehearsing a play. Someone starts killing them. Will any survive? A neat premise, and competently handled.
The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh (Lo strano vizio della signora Wardh)(1971)
Italy, Spain, Austria
Director: Sergio Martino
Edwige Fenech is in this movie. That more or less makes it worth viewing right there. Seriously, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a more beautiful woman. Obviously, that’s subjective, but… what a face!
This is a classic giallo. Fenech plays a woman with an unsatisfactory marriage and a past relationship that inhabited an upsetting middle ground between consensual BDSM and straight-up abuse. The man from her past is still stalking her, being spooky at her. Then, she meets a third man at a party, and he seems great, and she begins an affair with him. Meanwhile, a serial killer is preying on ladies in the city, and everyone is tense and suspicious. And, when someone tries to kill Fenech’s character… is it the serial killer, or one of the men in her life… or are they one and the same? Lots of plot twists, lots of suspense. This is a good giallo to watch, if you’re interested in the genre and you haven’t seen it yet. Not sure I’d start with this one, but you could do worse. For an example of how you could do worse, see the next entry.
Strip Nude for Your Killer (Nude per l’assassino)(1975)
Director: Andrea Bianchi
Um. So, Edwige Fenech is in this movie, too. But you know what? I mean. The title kind of gives the game away. It’s one of the sleazier gialli, though not nearly as bad as Cold-Blooded Beast (which I pan in my “C” post). If you really like giallo, and haven’t seen this one yet, you could give it a try, I guess. Otherwise, there are better ones to watch. Like The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh, for example. Or Deep Red (which I praise in my “D” post).
We saw this one, after lots of hesitation, because we were on a serious giallo kick and were running out of classier options. It wasn’t, on the whole, as bad as I’d expected. But it also wasn’t nearly as good as I’d hoped. “Meh” would, I think, characterize it nicely.
Student Bodies (1981)
Director: Mickey Rose, Michael Ritchie
A comic look at the slasher trend, from 1981. Funny, and fun. It begins with the words, in white upon a black screen:
“This motion picture is based on an actual incident.
Last year 26 horror films were released…
None of them lost money.”
…and, having set the tone nicely in the first second of the film, it goes on from there. In an example of how it goes on from there, here is my Mystery Picture from yesterday. I did not, by the way, add the words and the arrow into this shot. No, that’s just how this movie rolls.
The Stuff (1985)
Director: Larry Cohen
This one is fun. It is about the dangers of consumerism, or at least of the dangers of consuming things that bubble up in gravel quarries. And then marketing it as a health food. Rapidly, the people who eat The Stuff become basically pod-people. All they want to do is force-feed The Stuff to their loved ones and be left alone until the goo is finished with them.
Our hero, played by Michael Moriarty, is a disgraced ex-FBI agent who mutters, confuses, and blackmails his way through the film. He’ll use anyone to get the job done, even the weird militia group he happens to know is holed up nearby. Not because he thinks they’re good guys (they’re not), but because he has a handle on their leader and they are the nearest supply of guns around when he needs them. The muttered line delivery was especially unexpected, and I thought it was really funny how vague he seemed all the time.
Director: Ted Nicolaou
This is a Charles Band production. It is, I hasten to add, a good one. Ted Nicolaou directs it. He also directed Bad Channels (which I say nice things about in my “B” post) and TerrorVision (which I haven’t personally seen, but which Alec assures me is wonderful, though he can’t for the life of him figure out who its target audience could possibly have been).
There’s a good vampire and a bad vampire. They are brothers, and struggling to be king of vampires or something. Three students get caught in this struggle. Lots of fun moments in this film, like when the bad vampire pulls off his fingers and they turn into little imps, who then go fetch the keys to the cell he’s locked in.
Director: Dario Argento
I love this movie. I am not sure I have more to say on the subject.
There’s a dancing academy. There are mysteries. There is menace hanging thick in the air. The teachers seem to be up to something. Girls are disappearing. Is it witches? It might be. The whole thing is creepy as hell and gorgeously shot. And the soundtrack! The song (or songs) by the band known as Goblin are hypnotic and beautiful and also creepy as hell. I’ve never heard anyone go “la la la la la la la, la la la la la… la” with more menace.
This is probably one of my favorite movies ever.
And by the way, though Dario Argento has done lots of gialli, this one is not generally considered to be itself a giallo. Which is fair enough, because as far as I can see, it isn’t.
Director: Luca Guadagnino
A re-make of the 1977 movie. We had to stop watching it in the middle, but not because it was bad. Our copy, which we thought we’d acquired through a reputable source, turned out to be some nearly-unwatchable bootleg or something. Anyway, the image and sound quality died on us, and with a movie that looks as beautiful as I suspect this one looks, that just isn’t cool.
I would say that it was neat to see Tilda Swinton in either three or four roles, including that of an old man, except that she’s so good at doing that that I didn’t even notice it was the same actor. As a rank amateur in the drag line myself, I can only admire.
And–oh look at that, I’m done! Yippity skippity. Time for a beer. Tomorrow, “T,” and a much shorter list! Not that it’s actually short, mind. Just much shorter than this one. Here is a shot from one of tomorrow’s movies. Can you name this charming fellow, or the movie he comes from?