Sunday, May 13, 2012

B-Movie Monsters (2012)

Once upon a time, there was a man named Max. He loved horror films. Day after day, week after week, he watched film after film. Until one day, he finally watched the wrong film.

Does this thing have Photoshop? Wait hold on, here we go:

Hello, all! I'm your guest reviewer for this evening. Well, I say "this evening," what I mean is "for the rest of poor Max's life." Which probably won't be long. I mean, I'm already decaying. I've been in his little body since he picked up that box of goodies and flipped through them.

In any case, I'm here to review. Not a movie, no sir, but a life. Specifically, Max's life. Which, I cannot stress enough, will soon be over. I mean, what kind of fellow reviews horror films on the internet? For free?

No, Max has no life, as far as I can see. He's a young man, like so many protagonists of those sweet little Horma films. You know, even I don't know where and when those things were made. Of course, I don't really care either.

Max has two parents and a sister. Now, you may be thinking "Don't kill his family, Mister Dying Man!" And I would reply, "What do you think I am, some sort of monster?" And then you might reply to my reply, "Well, yes." And I might reply to your reply of my reply, "Oh, okay," and kill you.

What was I saying? Oh right: Max's family. I've decided to leave them alone for now. Don't want anything to spoil the feeling of this moment. The moment when you finally break free of the mind and can exert your control. It smells like victory.

I'm doing him a favor, really. His room is filled with books and posters and oh my god so many movies. This isn't a life, it's an imitation of a life. What's his schedule like? Wake up, go to work, come home, watch movies, go on the internet, go to bed, start over again. The same thing, day after day. So boring.

Well, I'm not going to let life pass me by. I'm taking life by the horns and then slit life's throat and then cut off life's head and leave it in some poor soul's bed and this metaphor has really got off track hasn't it? Whatever.

Poor Max was always put off by the endings to those Horma films. "No resolution," he said. Well, my good friend, life has no resolution. It just keeps going and going until everyone dies.

I guess that's my cue. You see, poor Max won't live to see tomorrow. He's already fading. But since I learned that little trick of transferring myself into video, well, I can sort of transfer myself into other things.

Like a website. Or a blog.

I'll be spreading myself a bit thin, I know. But how often does one have the chance to infect everyone who reads something? A little bit of me in you.

See you soon.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Art of Dying (19??)

Okay, I thought I had seen weird. Really, I had seen enough Horma films to not be surprised anymore. Or so I thought...

Hey, kids! Do you want to see an instructional video made by a madman? You don't? Well, too bad! This is The Art of Dying.

Unlike the others, this is made in a mockumentary format. I think they were trying to imitate films like Cannibal Holocaust, which I guess makes this Horma's version of an exploitation film. It's...very, very weird.

Okay, first the main character. Unlike the other Horma films I've seen, the main protagonist is explicitly a bad guy. A very, very bad guy. His calls himself Grey, but others in the movie have called him "Judas," "Hart," "Tinker," "Chameleon," "the liar," and "evil motherfucker."

He's basically a serial killer. Only he has super serial killer powers, like the power to jump bodies. That's right: he jumps into other people's bodies. The only problem here is that it looks like he's sort of perpetually sick and whenever he switches bodies, his new body also becomes sick. Each body becomes sickly and pale as time goes on. But he never switches off the camera as he gruesomely murders whole families.

That's sort of the whole movie: him killing people, switching bodies, and killing more people.

And then, at the very end, he finally, finally gets his comeuppance. One of the relatives of his victims traps him in an isolated farmhouse, mortally wounds him, and then kills himself so he doesn't have a body to jump to (I know, very Fallen-esque, right?). In any case, just as we're expecting him to die, Grey picks up the camera and says, "One more trick up my sleeve. Let's hope my deal with Woody goes as planned. See you soon."

And then he dies. The end.

This one just sort of disgusted me. With the other films, they at least had some form of point, some artistic merit. This one just felt like torture porn to me. Even though it wasn't very explicit, it didn't feel like any of it meant anything. Grey killed people and...then died. Even his last words didn't make any sense.

Fuck, I'm tired. I don't know why I'm so tired these days. I took out the DVD from the player and my arms just felt so heavy. I'm going to bed. I don't know if I'm going to do another Horma marathon. This movie kind of killed any enthusiasm I had for them.

Friday, May 11, 2012

A Murder of Crows (19??)

Okay, first The Seventh Seal, then Cujo. And now? Now it's The Birds. I don't even think they are trying to hide it.

This is A Murder of Crows. Nope, not the 1998 film starring Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Tom Berenger. No, that would be too horrific. This one starts I don't know and was released I don't know when. (Damn you, Horma and your lack of credits.)

In any case, the main characters here are the siblings Andrew and Anya. They start seeing strange birds around their school and weird things start happening. Yes, I know "weird things start happening" is practically the Horma motto. What kinds of weird things? Men and women with scars start showing up at the school, some of them as janitors, some as substitute teachers. All of them have prominent scars over their body.

Then there is a lightning storm during the day. No rain, just lightning. All the scarred teachers unexpectedly stop during the lightning storm and gaze out into it. It's sort of similar to Invasion of the Body Snatchers - except we haven't seen these people before.

Andrew and Anya are super creeped out, so they follow some of the scarred teachers back to a meeting...where they cut open their scars and release birds from inside their bodies. I don't know how Horma did it, but those special effects looked damn good. Really realistic.

Andrew and Anya freak out and end up getting chased by a huge flock of birds back to their home. They hurry inside, while the birds silently wait outside. Andrew and Anya argue over what to do now, over what they can do, when one of the scarred teachers knocks on the door. He offers to let them live - he offers to make them like them, a "nest of the bright ones."

And Andrew accepts. Completely. Anya, however, decides to run for it and the movie ends with Andrew surrounded by birds and Anya on the run.

On the whole, I'd say this was better than some Horma films, but not as good as others. It had a good plot and good characters, but the resolution seemed rushed. And like they really wanted to make a sequel. I wonder if they did?

Time for the next and last one for tonight.

Howl (19??)

Okay, you know how the last movie was kind of like The Seventh Seal? This one is kind of like Cujo.

As you can see, the poster on the cover of the VHS tape looks much more modern than the others. Nonetheless, the actual film looks like it was shot in the seventies. Let's go:

Our main character is, as usual, a young man named Carraway. Carraway is a college student, living a normal life. But, as we soon learn, he has a secret. What is his secret? I don't know. It's never revealed. Which I think is kind of neat, actually - a secret that's actually a secret from the audience as well.

I mean, we got some flashbacks to his childhood and to his abusive mother, but it doesn't really give much away. When killings on campus start, I was thinking that perhaps Carraway was the killer, considering how much hinting the movie had done, but no. Just a red herring.

In typical Horma fashion, the killer is actually a dog. A huge, black dog. That, for some reason, kills those with secrets. So Carraway is next on the agenda.

Carraway, instead of getting the heck out of dodge, instead decides to research into this hound from hell, so he goes to the library. At the library, he encounters a young woman called only "Learner." And Learner, apparently, works for the dog (how that works, I don't know), pointing and choosing those that the dog goes after.

Carraway, of course, tries to convince her to call the dog off, but she can't. The dog already has his scent and it will kill him...unless he reveals his big secret. So he tells her - we can't hear what it is, we just see him talking, as drums beat on the soundtrack. Finally, she thanks him and writes the secret in her book. Then Carraway leaves and runs smack into the dog. And, true to Learner's word, it doesn't kill him. It just looks at him. And then it turns away and Carraway follows it.

Another ambiguous ending (I get the feeling that Horma loves those), but this one I liked more. There was more of a build up, it didn't feel abrupt. And it left us with lots of questions - did Carraway become like Learner, pointing out potential victims to the dog?

In any case, time to move onto the next film.

The Year of the Plague (19??)

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Horma's first historical horror film.

Very avant-garde.

Okay, so The Year of the Plague (still no credits and no date of release) is about a young physician in the city of London during the year of 1666. Yes, it's the Great Plague of London and our young doctor, Doctor Beakman, is in the middle of it all, trying to help as many patients as he can.

Unfortunately, for our young doc, all of his patients keep dying on him. Probably because they are infected with the Black Death. He becomes troubled, knowing that he can do nothing to help these people, and goes into something of an existential crisis.

And then Horma brings out it's normal weirdness: the Doc starts hearing a rumor that the plague was caused, not by rats or fleas, but by a man walking the streets of London. A man dressed as a plague doctor, robe and beak mask and everything. The rumor goes that this man chooses who is infected and who is not and the people living on the streets gain his favor by carving a straight line and a squiggly line into their bodies.

Our heroic doctor then goes out to discover this spreading of disease, first to disprove it and then when he actually sees this other plague doctor, to stop him.

And then the weird gets weirder. Beakman follows the other plague doctor back to the ruins of some castle and then we see Beakman go into the castle and then, after a few minutes where we hear nothing, he exits looking completely insane. We never see or know what happens to him.

After he escapes the castle, he runs through the streets of London, diseased people surrounding him, and finally reaches his house. When he goes inside, however, he finds the other plague doctor waiting for him.

And that's where it ends. No resolution whatsoever. I know it's supposed to be kind of a rip-off of The Seventh Seal (and believe me, it looks like it sometimes), but even that had an ending with a point. This one just...ends. No credits, just blackness.

Oh well, at least it was creepy. Moving on.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

More Marathoning

Sorry, I had to pause the marathon. I was getting so tired, I could barely keep my eyes open as I was writing that last review. I don't know why, I've marathoned horror films before - but I guess it's because these films are so different.

But that doesn't mean I'm giving up. No sirree. Tomorrow, a brand new marathon: four Horma films, chosen at random from the box.

Get ready.

It's about to go down.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Night Whispers (19??)

Well, this one was good and creepy. I liked it.

Night Whispers (again, no credits, no date listed) starts with our main character, James Hunter, dying. Like a classic noir film, he then narrates how he got to this moment in time and what happened:

In the beginning, James met a young lady and proceeded to court her. This part is mainly backstory and exposition until the point in time when he finds the young lady dead, with red gashes on her arm. He refuses to believe that she killed herself and instead tries to figure out who killed her. Up until this point, it looks like it's going to be a classic revenge tale.

And then James wakes up one night and looks outside and sees some...thing. It's not a man, not a dog. It's completely white, with long knife-like claws, and it just looks at him with these completely black eyes. And he knows that this is the thing that killed his girlfriend. And it freaks him the hell out.

He soon gets over it and starts preparing to find and kill the thing. He even buys a shotgun. Yeah, this isn't a normal horror protagonist - he comes prepared.

He starts following the trail of "suicides" that the thing leaves. Finally, he meets a survivor of the thing, another young woman who tells James that the thing doesn't actually kill its victims - instead, it "whispers" to them, driving them to the brink of insanity until they kill themselves. So James's girlfriend really did kill herself.

James is still determined to find and kill this thing, so he sets a trap for it. He puts himself to sleep and then gets the young woman to call him at a specific time to wake him up. When he does wake up, there is the thing sitting at the edge of his bed, just waiting for him. It opens its mouth and starts whispering - at which point, unfortunately, the movie spazzes out and just becomes static.

When the static goes away, James is shooting the thing with the shotgun. He keeps pumping lead into it until it stops moving. James, finally free of the thing, starts walking outside, but collapses. It turns out that the whispers did affect him and he has stabbed himself and is now bleeding out.

As the movie ends, James says that he knows he is going to die, but is glad that he finally killed the thing before it caused more deaths. As James's breath slows down and his eyesight blurs, however, the thing moves past him - it's still alive. It smiles at James as he dies and then leaves.

I liked this one more than the past two. It was bleak, yes, but that was the point. And whatever that thing was, it looked so creepy.

And now onto the next. Onward!

Escape: Aqua Terror (19??)

Okay, this one has just a really silly title. I don't even know what to make of it. Still no credits or even a date of release.

Okay. Escape: Aqua Terror is...weird. Weirder than the other Horma films, I mean. On the surface, it would seem to be an alien invasion story a la Invasion of the Body Snatchers. In fact, the main, well, "villain" does take over people with, as the movie poster states, "a single drop of water." But it much weirder.

Alright, here goes: it starts in some sort of government facility that's listed as the "Topography Genera Center." The Topography Genera Center has been doing all sorts of sundry experiments and one of them has to do with the titular "aqua terror," which is called, bear with me, Fossil-Type EVOLUTIONARY ADVERSE TRIGGER. According to the scientists at the Center, it causes "acute obsession followed by absorption into a hive mind."

And then there's an accident and the Evolutionary Adverse Trigger is let loose on the world. Yeah. It's implied that some of the scientists are actually infected with it and let it loose intentionally, but it's never confirmed.

The movie then shows the spread of the Trigger. It basically replaces water with itself, so it eats up ponds and rivers and lakes and eventually spreads to the ocean. Which is when humanity becomes fucked. We see various scenes of people drinking water and then becoming obsessed over various things. And then we see them drowning themselves and rising up and becoming a part of the "hive mind."

Occasionally, the movie will cut back to the Topography Genera Center where the scientists are tracking the "spread of the infection." Oh, I should mention that there aren't any characters that we really follow through the movie. Well, except for the Trigger itself. That sort of...evolves. In the beginning, it's just this hive mind thing that takes people over. And then it starts doing these weird things, like causing everyone in a certain area to dance or have sex (well, I assume they had sex - since there were still censors, it only showed people start removing their clothes before it cut away). It experiments with people.

The end of the film...oh boy. Okay, at the end of the film, the entire world has been taken over by the Trigger. Even the scientists at the Topography Genera Center have been taken over -- we see them dancing with each other, all of them moving in the same motions over and over again. And then suddenly everyone stops. And they all turn to the camera. And they just...look at the camera.

This was certainly very different from all the other Horma films I've seen. Sort of a cross between Invasion of the Body Snatchers and a David Lynch film. Again, the only thing I didn't like was the end. If they had ended it with everyone dancing, that would have been fine - but the head turn to look at the camera? What was that about?

Fine. Next!

The Boy Who Was Cold (19??)

Okay, these films not only don't have any credits, they don't even have the dates when they were released. Perhaps they were never released theatrically? Too bad the internet doesn't have any information (oh internet, you have finally failed me).

Alright, the first movie on this list is what looks, at first glance, to be an Omen / Bad Seed knockoff. Let's take a look, shall we?

The Boy Who Was Cold starts off with a little kid and his brother are playing on a frozen lake. We can already guess what's going to happen from the title: the frozen lake cracks, one of the boys falls in and dies.

Cut to: fifteen years later. The boy's brother, whose name is Tav, is now an adult. He is haunted by what happened fifteen years prior, but is determined to go to college and live his life. 

From here on, it goes like a standard horror film: various creepy happenings, Tav catches glimpses of a frozen little boy, thinks it's the ghost of his brother, et cetera. Tav starts investigating and even gets his own Girl Friday in Agnes, a feisty fellow student. Various other characters are found frozen to death, blah blah, standard horror tropes.

And then something strange happens. Tav tries to discuss what happened with his mother, but his mother insists that he never had a brother. It was Tav himself who fell into the frozen lake and was almost dead when he was pulled out. His mother says that he went out on the frozen lake because he was "looking for the cold boy."

Tav suddenly remembers what actually happened: there was another kid, but it wasn't his brother. It was some...thing that looked like a child and pulled him under the ice. This is the thing that has been showing up and killing people. Tav believes that this is just a manifestation of his loneliness and once he confronts it, it will go away.

He goes to confront the "cold boy," but all we see is him opening a door and walking into a world of snow and ice. The movie ends with his walking forward and shivering. It's...very surreal.

I actually like the twist on this one. The opening scene is actually from Tav's memories, so we are treated to a true unreliable narrator. Even at the end, we don't know how much of what Tav has told the audience is true or not. The ending, however, left a lot to be desired. There's no confrontation with the "cold boy," just Tav walking through the cold and lonely streets.

Oh well. Onto the next film!

Friday, May 4, 2012


Okay, so I have a bunch of time this upcoming weekend, so I'm going to marathon the Horma movies and post my reviews after I see each one. Let's hope that they aren't duds, right?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Bad News

The place where I get cheap DVDs -- a used bookstore -- is actually going out of business. Next week, they will be closed and I will have to either order DVDs through the internet or get them through, ahem, less then legal means.

This kind of sucks. I mean, not just because of the DVD thing, but because I genuinely liked that used bookstore. The owner was nice to me and I always picked up a few paperbacks as well as a DVD.

He did show me his collection of all the "Horma Studios" films and gave me a really good offer on them. I asked where he had bought them since I couldn't even find them on the internet and he sheepishly said that he had mistakenly ordered them from an infomercial. Apparently, while intoxicated one night, he had flipped through channels and become entranced by an infomercial selling the "complete Horma collection on DVD" and he had called the number and bought them. He couldn't remember what channel it was or what faded actor or actress was in the infomercial, but he admitted that he had also never watched any of the DVDs (he's not a big horror fan).

So I accepted his offer and bought them. I'm sad that the store's closing, but at least I have plenty of new material to review for this blog.

Let's hope it's actually good, shall we?

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Lady Harlequin (1960)

Okay, here's something unusual: it's a supernatural film noir, before those things became popular.

Lady Harlequin is a 1960 horror film noir with no listed director. It's from the same "Horma" production company as The Slender Man and Cruel Embrace, so they must be older than what I thought. I still don't know why there isn't any information about them on the internet, but oh well.

The main plot concerns Detective John Smith (yes, that's his name in the film and no, they don't list any actor for him either - in fact, there are no credits whatsoever in this film) who is investigating the kidnapping of his niece, Grace. He finds out that she has been taken by "Lady Harlequin," a crime boss who is, I kid you not, an actual life-sized marionette, made of wood and everything.

Lady Harlequin tries to seduce Detective Smith to get him to join her criminal "family" - which is filled with weird characters like "Mister Jester." He refuses to join them, however, and finally finds Grace, who is being prepared as a sacrifice.

Detective Smith is caught by Lady Harlequin's "strings" however and (SPOILER) watches helplessly as Grace is sacrificed upon the "Screaming Tower." This scene was unusually graphic for a movie made in 1960. Smith escapes from Lady Harlequin's strings and vows revenge on her and anything like her.

And...that's where it ends. It doesn't really have the weird ending of The Slender Man and Cruel Embrace, but then the ending also doesn't pack the same punch as those ones. Those endings were memorable (even if they didn't really make sense), which this one seems to be more of a lead-up for the final act.

Anyway, thus ends film noir week.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Kiss Me Deadly (1955)

Ah, Kiss Me Deadly. It's practically a deconstruction of the film noir. Let's take a look, shall we?

Kiss Me Deadly was a 1955 film noir directed by Robert Aldrich (who later went on to direct Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, Flight of the Phoenix, and The Dirty Dozen). It came at the very end of the original noir era. And it had by far one of the weirdest endings ever. (So this WILL have spoilers. Sorry!)

The main character is the archetypal film noir detective, Mike Hammer (Ralph Meeker). He's crude, he's misogynistic. He has  a hot secretary, Velma, who is in love with him, but he doesn't care. He's Mike Hammer, dammit.

The film begins with Hammer driving down a country road one evening and encountering Christina (Cloris Leachman). She is the Mysterious Woman who sets Hammer off on the case and then dies.

The plot twists and turns like a roller coaster. There's Lily (Gaby Rodgers), who pretends to be Christina's roommate, but is actually after some sort of mysterious box (nicknamed, in a bit of genius, "the great whatshit" by Velma). The box is the archetypal Maguffin. It's only there to move the plot forward. Or is it?

Well, in this case, no, it isn't. There is a purpose for the box. And here there be BIG SPOILERS, so if you want to watch the movie without knowing what's going to happen, stop reading. The purpose of the box is this: it represents the end of the world.

That's right, ladies and gentlemen. See in the movie poster where it says "Latest H-Bomb!" They weren't be figurative: the box actually contains radioactive materials needed to built an atomic bomb. That's the Maguffin everyone is searching for. At one point, Mike Hammer opens the box and his hand gets burned by radiation - so we know, contrary to the filmmakers at the time, Hammer is almost certainly doomed.

And, even worse, is the ending. (Yes, I am going to spoil the end.) Velma is, of course, kidnapped and taken the evil villains house. Hammer goes there and gives up the box. The villain opens the box. The box explodes (in the original ending, Hammer and Velma escape; for the longest time, this ending was cut, so it is assumed that they both died). Since this is an atomic explosion, this pretty much dooms whatever city it took place in. And the surrounding areas. 

There is a reason that critics have called this film "apocalyptic." Because it is. Because it takes the tropes of the normal film noir and it brings up the shadow of the Cold War and it smooshes them together and shows you exactly what would happened if they met. It showed you just how out of his depth the detective was, how dangerous the radioactive material was, how nothing anyone did mattered. This was the bleakest film noir until Chinatown.

And it is awesome. Sorry for spoiling so much, but you guys need to watch it.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Gun Crazy (1950)

Okay, this week is going to be a little different, because I'm switching genres. They are still B-movies, but now, instead of horror, I'm going with my other favorite genre: film noir. Oh yes.

Gun Crazy is a 1950 film noir starring Peggy Cummins and John Dall and directed by Joseph H. Lewis. Ostensibly, it's about Dall's character, an ex-soldier who has had a long fascination with guns, and falls in love with Cummins' character, Annie Starr, who is a sharpshooter at a circus. What follows is, as the poster says: thrill crazy, kill crazy, gun crazy.

But you can forget the characters. Well, okay, you can't forget them, just as you can't forget the plot, but the true story is about violence and the violence inherent in humans. Dall's character, Bart, has had a fascination with guns since he was a kid - and not just guns, but shooting them. After all, that is what they are for. There is a darkness in him that only needs to smallest push from Annie to bring out.

Annie is an interesting study in violence, too. It's obvious that she's turned on by Bart's use of guns. This was back when the Hays Code didn't allow that much sexuality, but boy, do they hint at it. If there's anyplace where a gun really does represent a penis, it's here.

And, finally, there's the last scene. I really don't want to spoil it for anyone, but the last scene is masterpiece. It's dreamlike, it's dark, it's symbolic as fuck. But it's shows exactly what the entire movie is about: the madness in all of us, that fact that we are gun crazy.

Or maybe I'm reading too much into it.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Cruel Embrace (1971)

Okay, I found this in the same bargain bin as The Slender Man and it looks like it's by the same company. So let's dive right in.

This is Cruel Embrace, a 1971 film by HORMA Studios, starring "Seann Barbour" as the main character. Still no director listed - is this going to be a thing with all HORMA films? Are they directed by a pool of directors who take no credit? I recognize some of the actor names from The Slender Man, so perhaps they did have a pool of actors, but some I don't recognize and Google gives me nothing.

The plot is this: Steward Joseph (Barbour) is a transfer student at a university where there are some mysterious happenings going on. Strange rituals, weird cults that appear at night during student celebrations, blood sacrifices. Stewie acts like a good amateur detective and investigates along with his girlfriend/gal friday Crystal.

Here there be spoilers: Stewie and Crystal figure out what's going on, that there's a cult made of up professors who sacrifices students to their god "The Archangel." They try and stop them, but Crystal ends up being killed and...this is where the movie goes off the rails for me. The Archangel itself appears as Crystal - which was, I'll admit, a very neat twist - and reveals to Stewie that it is the afterlife. Like, whenever someone dies, they go to the Archangel. No matter what. It contains all the dead. "I contain multitudes," the Archangel says. "Embrace me."

Stewie doesn't, of course, since he's the hero. But then...that portal from the end of The Slender Man appears and the "slender man" (played by Dooling again, I think) appears and extends a hand towards Steward. And Steward takes it.

As a sequel to The Slender Man, it doesn't really work. It has a completely different atmosphere, much more realistic and bleaker. And, really, it holds up on its own enough. It has good characterization, good acting, and some very good plot twists. But for some reason, the director decided to directly connect it to the previous film. I don't know why.

It didn't help that my copy of the film contained a bunch of glitches. Oh well, onto the next film!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Prince of Darkness (1987)

This is one of my favorite horror films and one of the most imaginative.

The 1987 film Prince of Darkness, directed by the master himself John Carpenter and starring Donald Pleasence and Jameson Parker. In the second film in Carpenter's "Apocalypse Trilogy," the first being the classic The Thing and the last being the mindbending In the Mouth of Madness.

The vicar of a church (played by Donald Pleasence) invites several academics to his church, including a Professor and a metaphysician named Marsh (Jameson Parker). The reason he has invited them? Because in the basement of his church, he found a hidden room where they was an ancient cylinder...filled with a mysterious green liquid. The academics try to figure out what the mysterious green liquid is, while they all seem to suffer from bad dreams.

So why is this movie so good? Well, I'm going to spoil it a bit for you: that green liquid? That's Satan. That's right: Liquid Satan. How awesome is that? The Liquid Satan starts influencing rats and bugs and homeless people (one played awesomely by Alice Cooper) and soon the vicar and the academics are fighting for the lives and holing up inside the church, hoping to survive the night. But the Liquid Satan can possess people and it wants to bring its father into the word...a being known as the Anti-God.

This movie is, very simply, a very complex and well thought out horror film, which invents new ways of scaring people. The first scene I saw of this movie was of a spurt of Liquid Satan flying into someone's mouth and possessing them...and it scared the living hell out of me. Just one scene and I was scared. And the end, my god, the end is just wonderful.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Suspiria (1977)

It's time for some good, old-fashioned blood and gore!

This is the 1977 Italian film Suspiria directed by noted horror film director Dario Argento. It's the first in a thematic trilogy Argenta calls "The Three Mothers," which was followed by Inferno and The Mother of Tears.

The plot is this: Suzy Banyon (Jessica Harper) is an American ballet student who has moved to Germany to go to a prestigious ballet school. The school, however, is creepy and is associated with several deaths, including that of a former student. The school is run by Madame Blance and Miss Tanner, while Suzy befriends the blind pianist Daniel and her roommate Sarah.

The true horror in Suspiria is not in the plot, however. It's in the cruel and inventive ways of dying: the very first death (in the opening sequence) has the ex-student being smothered, stabbed, graphically disemboweled, and then hung on a cord for a skylight (where the broken glass ends up falling and killing someone else). In another scene, a character tries to escape through an open window and ends up falling into a room filled with barbed wired. Why is there a room with nothing but barbed wired? There's no explanation, just the eerie atmosphere of the film.

The ending is a bit rushed and kind of lame, I will give you. The Big Bad is dispatched so easily it seems like a cheat. But the rest of the film is beautifully shot pain, with every murder lovingly detailed. It's an ode to suspense and death by Dario Argento and if you enjoy horror films, you should see it at least once.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Slender Man (1968)

Here's an interesting B movie I found just a few days ago.

The Slender Man starring "Jordan Dooling" as the titular character. What's weird is that there is no director listed and I can't seem to find any of the actors on IMDb. I guess they didn't want this movie on their resume, so they all used pseudonyms - which makes this a movie filled with Alan Smithees.

I don't know why they would want to distance themselves from this film, however, since it is great. My copy was on an old VHS tape, so it wasn't the greatest condition, but it still held me in suspense.

The plot is this: Dr. Hartford (Dooling) is, of course, a mad scientist who seeks to combine science with magic. To this end, he tries to create a "tulpa man" using what looks like the remains of an interocitor from This Island Earth and a spell from the Necronomicon. He succeeds in creating a tulpa, but his creation (also played by Dooling) ends up half-finished, without a face, and kills Hartford. From here, the movie goes off an a sort of weird tangent, where the "slender man" stalks several characters, including Hartford's wife and children. We see him eventually abducting them, but we don't see where he took them or what he did with them. It gives the whole thing a very creepy vibe. And then, at the end (SPOILERS), the whole movie goes insane and the "slender man" opens what looks like a portal where other beings like him enter into the world, as probably a hook for a bunch of sequels.

The studio who made this, "Horma," I can't seem to find anything about on the internet. From the accents in the film, they might have been a small British company, probably trying to capitalize on the Hammer Horror films.

The movie, though strange and incredibly disturbing at times, is great. If you can find it, I recommend watching it.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

So we've all seen the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers, right? The 1956 black-and-white version which ends with Kevin McCarthy yelling "You're next!" at the audience?

Well, what about this version?

The 1978 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, starring Donald Sutherland and directed by Philip Kaufman.

The plot is, essentially, the same one as the original movie: Matthew Bennell (Sutherland, called "Miles Bennell" in the original) is a local health inspector (doctor in the original) who starts hearing reports of people saying that their loved ones aren't themselves - that they've been replaced. His friend, Dr. Kibner (played wonderfully by Leonard Nimoy) dismisses this as simply "hysteria," but the truth is that they have been replaced by people grown out of alien "pods."

The beauty of this film is that is essentially replaces the original films metaphor about post-war panic with Cold War paranoia. In the original film, Bennell is essentially telling his story to the audience about this new danger - the danger is real and we could be next if we don't act fast. In the studio-mandated ending, the authorities do act fast and stop all the pods from spreading - an executive-mandated happy ending.

Nothing like that happens in the 1978 version. No, it's much more bleak here. The danger is real and the danger is here...but nobody can stop it. You have to sleep sometime. And who can you trust? Your friend? Your lover? They have been replaced. Even the ending to the movie (SPOILERS) has one of the only surviving characters ending Bennell and whisper to him...only for him to point at her and let out a pod-person scream, revealing that he is, of course, one of Them. They are everywhere and you cannot escape Them.

People who loved the original version should definitely see this one. In fact, people who love horror films laced with paranoia fuel should see it. It has wonderful displays of acting by Sutherland, Jeff Goldbum, Veronica Cartwright, and, of course, Leonard Nimoy.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes (1963)

This first movie is special to me. It's the movie that got me started on watching B movies, if you can believe it.

It's X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes, a 1963 movie starring Ray Milland and directed by Roger Corman.

The plot is simple enough: Ray Milland plays Dr. Xavier (no relation to the X-Men's Professor Xavier), a scientist who invents eye drops that allow him to have x-ray vision. The science is, of course, as soft as pudding, but as soon as he puts on the eye drops, he can see perfectly through people's clothing.

But, as usual with these films, things soon go wrong. The eye drops don't stop working and in fact they increase in strength. Soon, he's seeing through bones and brick walls. His eyes turn black and silver and then just black.

Towards the end of the film, he tells someone that he's gone beyond seeing through objects and begun seeing things on the "edge of the universe" and that there is an "eye that sees all" at the center of the universe. To spoil the ending, he plucks out his eyes, like Oedipus in Thebes.

Here's why I watched this and why it began my obsession: Stephen King wrote about it in his book Danse Macabre. He claimed that there was an alternate ending, where Xavier, after ripping out his eyes, screamed towards the heavens, "I can still see!" Nobody's seen this ending, even though Corman does admit to filming it "on a whim."

This is a classic B movie with a standard plot of scientific hubris. The acting is superb, as to be expected by Ray Milland. The individual scenes themselves are boring at the beginning, but as soon as Dr. Xavier starts losing his marbles, it picks up and gets really interesting. His scenes at the carnival are good and the ending scene itself is great.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Hello and Welcome

I am B-Movie Max, your host for this blog.

I love B movies. I love how they look, how they sound, how they feel. I love Piranha. I love Freaks. I love every Vincent Price movie, especially The Abominable Dr. Phibes. Hell, I even lose the new cheesy horror movies. I love Birdemic. It's the classic B movie formula on a budget that wishes it could afford shoe strings.

And so I will review these and more.

Let's get started.