A few more horror movie reviews...

... just to keep the Halloween thing rollin' until I come up with something more substantial. These are some out of the archive, but they should be new to ya'll, so, here goes!


Baby, The (C, 1973) A social worker named Ann gets herself assigned to a very strange case; a family with a guy in his 20's who's been psychologically stunted so he's remained in an infant state his whole life. Baby's mother (Ruth Roman) is bitter towards men because her husband left her, and her two daughters are strange both are slutty, cold, and sadistic. Ann becomes obsessed with trying to make Baby show some development, but when he does, his sisters shock him with a cattle prod to discourage any such activity. They also sexually abuse him (offscreen). Ann figures out what's happening, so Ruth and her daughters get her reassigned. Ann plans to take them to court, so they decide they're going to have to kill her. She escapes and takes Baby with her, intending to make him into a grown up. This leads to violence and one heck of a twisted twist ending. Uniquely weird movie, well- directed by Ted Post (whose eclectic resume also includes Magnum Force and Beneath the Planet of the Apes.)

Whole movie starts here:

Black Belly of the Tarantula (C, 1971) aka La Tarantola dal ventre nero A psycho killer paralyzes women with injections of venom before carving them up while they watch (in the method used by wasps, which paralyze tarantulas and plant their larvae in their bodies, which then eat the tarantula alive). Police on the case investigate acupuncturists (because of the needles the killer uses) and drug -smuggling entomologists, and a bunch of other false leads and red herrings, while the killings continue. The gore's pretty cheap, obvious, and not very effective, but one corpse does end up filling a garbage bag. The cast includes three James Bond movie babes (Barbara Bach, Barbara Bouchet, and Claudine Auger) and the score is a very uncharacteristic Ennio Morricone job. Even though the premise is sicker than usual, it's still a rather average giallo film, stylish and competently done enough to keep from disappointing, but not powerful enough to really wow you.

Bloody Birthday (C, 1981) aka Creepers, Creeps. It's Village of the Damned through a low budget 80's horror filter, from the director of Starship Invasions. Three kids sharing the same birthday are all evil, due to the fact that Saturn the planet that's supposed to govern emotion was being eclipsed when they were born. Their acts range from the naughty (watching an older sister dance topless in front of her Eric Estrada poster while listening to some generic rock that steals the riff from Foreigner's "Hot Blooded") to the homicidal (murdering one of them's dad -- the sheriff -- with a baseball bat). To celebrate their 10th birthday they go on a killing spree, shooting a bunch of citizens with a stolen pistol, and other such acts of mayhem. One other kid and his older sister figure out what the pathological prepubescents are up to, but that only makes them targets. It's pretty much plotless and artless and the gore is mild, but it's still different enough to be surprisingly engaging, and the acting is a lot better than it has any right to be, especially on the part of the evil kids. I wasn't expecting much, but it turned out to be pretty fun and engaging video junk food.

Castle of the Creeping Flesh (C, 1967) aka Im SchloƟ der blutigen Begierde , Castle of Bloody Lust, Castle of Lust, Castle of Unholy Desires, In The Castle of Bloody Lust. Boy, is this embarrassing to watch. Some extremely silly people leave an even sillier party to go to a nearby castle. They engage in some awful dubbed banter and make goofy faces in close up. Much of the other footage seems to have been shot by a midget cameraman, since it's of people and horses from the knees down. They start another silly party in which a woman jumps around on the table shouting "Yi! Yi! Yi!" One girl flees the humiliating to witness festivities, and the others ride out to find her and end up at Howard Vernon's notorious castle, where they eat supper... erotically. In one room there are wax replicas depicting a gang rape. Elsewhere in the castle, Vernon and his assistant perform gory organ transplant surgeries (real open -heart surgery footage they got somewhere, shown at great length and in close up) to try to revive Vernon's daughter. This all really doesn't go much of anywhere but does have that Euro horror atmosphere, and it's good for laughs. Even the very gory surgery footage is somewhat funny, because you can see the surgeons have blue sleeves, but when they show the actors, their gowns are white. The movie's integrity is also compromised by one of the worst musical scores possible right from the opening, where the title "Castle of the Creeping Flesh" is backed with this breezy, jazzy number that makes you feel like you should be pushing a shopping cart, it sets the wrong mood. And sometimes you get the feeling that the director (Adrian Hoven, hiding behind the name Percy G. Parker) had a lot of contempt for these actors and wanted to make them look as silly as possible, from idiotic staring to a conga line to a woman spontaneously flinging off her clothes for no reason. Then the person who wrote the dubbed dialogue finished the job. But, how could you not have contempt for these actors most of them are Jess Franco movie regulars.

Collingswood Story, The (C, 2002) This movie is so low budget that you can figure if they already owned the camera and got volunteer work from the actors, they probably literally made money on the first DVD sold... but (and this is unusual for these cheapies, which honestly usually aren't so hot) this one deserves to make a lot of bucks and sell a lot of DVDs, because it's very creepy, true to its concept, and the acting is great. When his girlfriend moves away to Collingswood, New Jersey to go to college, a guy named John buys her a phone cam for her computer so they can stay in touch. The movie consists of their calls to each other and various other phone cam weirdoes. At first the movie's mostly concerned with the strained, awkward distance relationship, but then they get involved with a creepy cam psychic who tells them that people were killed in cult rituals in the house where Rebecca is living, up in the attic. Unluckily for all involved, Rebecca is a brave young lady, has a laptop, and a hundred foot phone cord... It's an obvious variant on The Blair Witch Project but manages to hold its own and build some serious intensity, leading to a legitimately scary climax that is both slightly disappointing (it doesn't make complete sense) and perfect for the story (are things as creepy when they do make complete sense?) You'll have to seek this unique -format little movie out through its website (www.collingswoodstory.com) and deal with Paypal to order it (I'm not fond of the Paypal experience, sorry) but it's worth the hassle, unless you're one of those people who absolutely hated Blair Witch Project... and maybe even then, since these actors are a little more likeable and some have found this to be scarier (I wouldn't go that far, but Blair Witch really worked for me; this worked too, though). It also does a great job tapping into your voyeuristic instincts, so even though the movie is mostly all talk (My Scary Ass Dinner With Andre, sorta), it keeps your interest.

Deadly Spawn
(C, 1983) aka Return of the Alien's Deadly Spawn, The Alien's Deadly Spawn, Return of the Aliens: The Deadly Spawn Toothy aliens from outer space come to Earth on a meteorite and start a carnivorous rampage in a family's basement, chewing people up in the goriest way possible the effects are pretty damn good and there's a whole lot of blood flying around. The family with the bloodsoaked basement has a horror obsessed monster kid that most people who'd watch this can relate to. Since he's always reading Famous Monsters, watching horror movies, and trying to scare people with masks and stuff, he has helpful ideas about how to deal with the creatures. Soon the monsters are all over the house, presiding over an orgy of really creative carnage, and the survivors are running out of places to hide. The monsters come in a variety of sizes, from small larvae to three headed beasts the size of a hippo. And it doesn't end there... The movie is very cheap but the acting is okay and the nonstop effects range from impressive to bad but in a fun way puppetry. Overall, there is almost no way that any gore -loving monster fan could do anything but love this. It manages to be funny and nightmarish at the same time, and never stops walloping you with budget- necessitated creativity.

Dead Waters (C, 1994) aka Dark Waters Highly stylish but confusing Argento esque Italian horror in which a girl named Elizabeth travels to a convent where weird, violent things are happening. Nuns flagellate themselves in half flooded subterranean cathedral ruins while a hooded figure stabs a girl to death. Then our traveling girl takes a boat trip with an unbalanced captain and a truly creepy lunatic who eats disgusting stuff (raw octopus, I think - and you thought OldBoy invented that). When she arrives at the island convent, she tries to find out why her father had been sending money to the place, and why she's expected to continue making payments now that he's dead. There are blind nuns sniffing around and strange paintings. It turns out Elizabeth was born on the island and spent the first seven years of her life there, but her memories of the place have somehow been repressed. As she tries to find out why, she keeps having disturbing visions and crazy things keep happening. The nuns keep making images of a demonic beast (probably trying to raise it) and block her efforts to learn the truth about her past. The narrative structure of this is confounding, but what it lacks in a coherent story to follow it makes up for in nightmarishness and scary images and atmosphere; blank eyed nuns, leaky chapels, candles, gore, paintings of Chthonic monsters, dim underground passages, spooky little girls... all unrelenting presented in a format like that of a schizophrenic mind. Even though it's not easy to follow it's way creepy and should be sought out by fans of scary stuff. It wasn't easy to get for a while (I had to go to Facets online to get a copy) but then NoShame put out a better DVD, which included a stone amulet. That's currently hanging over the door to my TV room...

Deathdream (C, 1974) aka Dead of Night, The Night Andy Came Home, Night Walk, The Veteran, Whispers It's hard to believe that the director of Porkys and A Christmas Story had such a morbid, creepy horror film in him, but here it is, and it's a classic. A young man named Andy is killed in Vietnam, but his mother still holds him to a promise he made to come home... so he does, as a cold, emotionally dead zombie. And soon his parents aren't particularly happy to have him back, because he starts doing things like strangling the dog and killing people for their blood, which he injects into his veins to keep himself from rotting. Things soon go from bad to worse for Andy and his family... This all could be used as a metaphor for the guys who came back from 'Nam with their emotions burned out by post traumatic stress and addicted to drugs, but for the most part it's just concerned with being a very creepy movie that's best viewed late at night. This features some of Tom Savini's earliest special effects work.

Death Game (C, 1977) aka The Seducers, Mr. Manning's Weekend A happily -married man named George (believe me, you will not have a chance to not know his name is George) lets a couple of young ladies (Sondra Locke and Colleen Camp) into his house during a rainstorm, under the premise of using the phone. They finagle their way into hanging out there while supposedly waiting for a friend to pick them up. They're a flirty couple of girls and are soon aggressively seducing him and luring him into the hot tub. They're very sinister and psychotic, though, and start taking over his house and amusing themselves by making him uncomfortable. They say his name too much, borrow clothes, eat all his food, use appalling table manners, make a big mess, act like giggling smartasses, mess with his prize stereo, and resist all attempts to make them leave. When he tries to throw them out, they threaten to get him arrested because they say they're underage. Then they get crazier and more violent and end up tying him to a bed, trashing the house, painting demonic stuff on their faces, killing people, and putting George through hell in an orgy of complete craziness that verges on the surreal. The crazy performances are pretty amazing (Colleen Camp especially manages to be very seductive and frighteningly unhinged all at once... kind of a "Hmmm, I might not mind being tormented by her... wait, no, on second thought..." deal. The ending is a "whu?!?" out- of- nowhere smack, and if the plot and visuals don't drive you insane, the repetition of this awful "My Dear Old Daaaa aaaaa aaad!" song will make you as crazy as Colleen. This much creepier and more disturbing than most horror films dare to be and works kind of like a contemporary, more- intense female Clockwork Orange. It's slipped through the cracks somehow and doesn't have the reputation it deserves, but it is available on a cheap DVD (full screen with a too dark print and annoying pauses with each chapter change). Supposedly based on a true story.

Erotic Diary of a Murderess (C, 1975) aka La Encadenada, Diary of an Erotic Murderess, Diary of a Murderess, Diary of an Erotic Mistress. A pretty young psychologist named Gina takes a job looking after a disturbed young man who's been crazy and mute ever since he saw his mother killed. He'd worshiped her a little too much, and won't let anyone touch her stuff. He sits around all day playing his mother's favorite songs on the piano, but soon forms a crush on Gina. You can hardly blame him, and his dad likes her, too. But Gina's got ulterior motives: she's interested in stealing the family's art treasures for her detested husband, who's blackmailing her. She pokes around a drawer full of jewelry and finds the dead mother's diary and learns that she hated her husband, too, and had a plan to murder him. Gina gets caught stealing and she almost gets kicked out, but manages to stay and starts manipulating the son against the father, and trying to work out the dead wife's murder plans, and wonders if there might not be a way to get rid of her blackmailing husband, too. But the mute boy turns out to have an illegitimate brother, and Gina's plans may land her in big trouble. Suitably dark and twisted Spanish criminal saga with plenty of atmosphere and Marissa Mell's Barbara -Steele- like beauty fully focused and fetishized. The version I saw was on an old Alabama TV station that used to show cool stuff late at night before they were sold and turned to shit, so if there was ever any real erotic content it was trimmed out of the TV print, but I can't imagine where it would have been. Probably the only movie with the word "erotic" in the title ever aired on broadcast television, at least in the South. Very obscure but worthy of rediscovery...somebody should get on the stick and make a special edition DVD. In the meantime, there's Sinister Cinema.

Erotic Nights of the Living Dead (C, 1980) aka Notti Erotiche dei Morti Vivienti, Sexy Nights of the Living Dead, Nite of the Zombies) How can you pass up a movie with such an amazingly stupid title? I don't know, but you should probably investigate a way, because this is one howling doodoo of a film. Italian exploitation stalwarts George Eastman and Laura Gemser star in this exercise in envelope pushing directed by Joe D'Amato, which (if you get the unrated version) mixes a bunch of (boring) hardcore porn interludes with graphic zombie gore. George Eastman's hired by a hotel developer who's stupid enough to try to turn a shunned island that people dare not even speak of into a resort. It's called Cat Island because it's populated by zombies who are led by a cat. If there's much more plot than that, apparently it's a secret they decided not to let us in on. A lot of time is filled with ridiculous ephemera, such as a woman doing an awkward little dance and then opening a champagne bottle with her vagina (while watching that, marvel at the fact that a band somewhere actually composed and played the music that accompanies it). It takes forever for the zombies to show up, but at least they're halfway decent wearing rags with hoods around their heads and rotting faces, and they supply some gore as a reward for sitting through the rest of this dreck. Violence includes impalement, corpse eating, a bitten -off dick, gunshots to the head. But it's too little too late, and this film is easily missable by all except for people who just HAVE to see every Italian zombie flick ever created (I plead guilty... oh, so very damnably guilty...)

Some of the music (which isn't bad)

Face at the Window, The (B&W, 1939) A killer called The Wolf is on the loose in 1880's Paris. A young bank clerk named Lucien becomes a suspect when The Wolf robs the bank, but there's also a millionaire named Chevalier around, and he's played by Tod Slaughter, who always plays the most nefarious bad guys possible, so you don't have to be Fellini to figure out what's going on. Slaughter and Lucien both have their eyes on the owner of the bank's daughter ? Lucien because he's in love with her, Slaughter because of greed. Slaughter plans to get rid of Lucien as soon as possible, but Lucien is friends with a mad doctor who's doing experiments on raising the dead via electricity. He wants to resurrect one of The Wolf's victims to discover his identity. Slaughter frames Lucien for one of The Wolf's crimes, but Slaughter is doing the killings himself with the aid of his deformed idiot brother, who peeks in the window to horrify the victims with his bestial drooling while Slaughter stabs them in the back. Lucien fights back, and a series of evil events follow. Another dated but fun Tod Slaughter horror flick, with Tod a bit more restrained that usual, but still gleefully sinister, even with a mustache and beard and pretending to be French.

Whole movie starts here:

Fall of the House of Usher
(B&W, 1949) Extremely bizarre, creaky British obscurity that plays like a weird nightmare and has little to do (at first) with Poe's story. It starts with a framing device of some stodgy old farts swapping stories at a gentlemen's club. Then it goes into the story, about a guy taking Roderick Usher out into the woods to a temple (which has a torture chamber in the basement!) to explain his family curse to him. There's a living severed head in an alcove in the wall, and it's guarded by Roderick's insane, mute old hag of a mother; the head belonged to a lover of hers and she'll go homicidal on anyone who tries to touch it. But, to prevent some sort of family curse, Roderick has to burn the head. One guy who tries it ends up caught in a bear trap and is left to the crazy lady. The alternate way to end the curse is to kill Roderick's sister Madeline, but of course they don't want to do that. Madeline roams in the woods at night and almost gets caught by the knife wielding hag, who also travels through underground passages from the temple to the Usher house, which is filled with secret passages. Then suddenly Madeline dies and it turns into Poe's story, with her being entombed and rising from the dead and stalking Roderick around the house during a thunderstorm. It's all semi nonsensical and that's why it's so creepy -- it has a lot of dream logic, and the movie's shortcomings actually work in its favor. The stiff acting, low budget, and badly outdated (even for its time, this one's archaic and creaky) approach to filmmaking add to the dreamlike absurdity. Some of the photography is effectively spooky, too, with lots of heavy shadows and dark silhouettes. I caught this on an old satellite station years ago and figured I was the only person on the planet who'd seen this thing. I was amazed to recently find creepyclassics.com offering it on a DVD -R, so now you can check it out, too, if they still have it. It's good if you like movies like Vampyr (not that this is a masterpiece like that ? this is a cheap little B- flick, but it still has that kind of slow, eerie mood.) Prints are scratchy, making it seem even more ancient.

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