October Movie Challenge # Godzillion-million-billion!

Earth Vs. The Spider (B&W) 1958 aka The Spider.  A giant spider living in a cave on the edge of town attacks a girl's father on his way home to her birthday.  Searching for him, the girl and her boyfriend discover the spider, and her father's withered corpse. They come back with the cops and spray the monster with DDT.  Thinking it's dead, they haul it to the school auditorium, where a rock & roll band's practice session wakes it up and sends it on a rampage through the town.  Surprisingly, they show a blood-covered toddler wandering around the rubble!  When the spider returns to the cave the townspeople want to blow it up, but a couple of the teens are lost in there.  Classic Bert I. Gordon giant-bug horror is more engaging than most and sports good special effects (although the size of the spider does seem to fluctuate from shot to shot; sometimes it's big as a house, other times it seems about the size of a car).

Welcome to Arrow Beach (C, 1973) aka Tender Flesh, And No One Would Believe Her This was chopped to hell before it was released, and now it's rarely seen at all (there's rumored to be only one print left in existence), which is way too damned bad because there's something about this movie... Icy eyed Meg Foster (who has nude scenes) is a hippie girl hitch hiking around California and she ends up having dinner with Lawrence Harvey (who died of cancer before this was released) and his skittish sister Joanna Pettet. They eat some extremely rare meat that's apparently pieces of a dead cop. Harvey developed a taste for cannibalism during the Korean war, and suffers from flashbacks that drive him to kill. Meg spends the night and wakes up to a weird chopping sound and eventually finds him in a basement meat locker hacking up a corpse with a cleaver. She escapes and goes to the cops (John Ireland and Stuart Whitman) but they think she's just been taking drugs and had a bad trip, and won't believe her accusations. Meanwhile Harvey lures an aging local slut to his house so he can take pictures of her... but he kills her in an extremely stylish scene composed of quick flash cuts patterned after the still pictures an automatic camera is winding off. Meg eventually finds someone willing to suspend their disbelief enough to go back to the house with her... Nice, atmospheric horror really gets butchered when shown on TV; they cut so much of it that you can't even really tell he's a killer, much less a cannibal. Uncut, it's pretty gory, but in a suggestive way - you only see quick glimpses of bloody meat, so you're not even quite sure exactly what you're looking at, but it's morbid, brutal, and highly effective. The theme song "We Are Born To Die" sets the atmosphere up right off the bat, and it's also strange because it's done by Lou Rawls!  DVDs are scarce.  Videotapes supposedly run 99 minutes, but I'm not certain about that.  One of my absolutely favorite horror films, seek it out.

Hands of Blood (C, 1974) aka Stepsisters, The Texas Hill Killings)  Small-budget (around $17K) Texas-shot drive-in horror with a slow pace, confusing plot, and a certain S.F. Brownrigg-type of atmosphere.  A couple of sisters living in a huge creepy old house have sex with men who drop by.  One of the sisters is married to a man she doesn't like very much, and he starts an affair with her sister.  Together they plot to kill his wife.  The plan's not all that ingenious -- he thinks he can just come home, catch her with another man, and kill her in a fit of jealous rage and the law won't touch him for it.  Things don't work out like he thought, though, and the sisters have a secret of their own.  There are a few killings - an axe murder, guts blown out (literally) with a shotgun blast, some stabbing - but overall it's a mess, with too much time spent driving cars back and forth, flying a plane back and forth, and people sitting around bickering.  It seems to want to be a noir-type crime story as much as it does horror, and it's a little too talky, with an attempt to build a web of intrigue around stuff we don't know enough about to be very interested in.  And there's not nearly enough killing.  But, it does have that old 70's sleazy drive-in charm, and the world can always use more of that.

The Omen (C, 1976)  C'mon, I don't really have to review The Omen, do I?  This is a full-blown classic, the horror film as an A-picture.  Ambassador to Great Britain Gregory Peck accepts a substitute baby when wife Lee Remick’s baby is born dead.   When young Damien reaches age five they start noticing some strange things; he’s terrified of churches, animals hate him (other than a malevolent rottweiler that guards him), and people die in mysterious ways around him (including a classic impalement and maybe the best-decapitation-ever).  Peck gets warned that the boy is the AntiChrist, and he starts believing it and getting ready to do something about it.  Very well-made horror that’s become one of the cornerstones of the genre, and part of the American idiom; people know this movie even if they haven’t seen it.

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