Horror Bites - Blood and Steel

THE MASK OF SATAN AKA BLACK SUNDAY(1960)

This is a story which has been given many titles over the years, so to be clear this is the one about vampires and castle crypts, not the Robert Shaw movie with the airship. Though admittedly that's pretty good too. Anyway, I digress. We can call it La maschera del demonio or Revenge of the Vampire if you prefer a more straightforward description. But whatever the title card says this is Mario Bava's first foray into the horror genre. Although he'd taken the reigns during production of the interesting feature I Vampiri, uncredited, this is the real debut. And what a debut it is.  Let's get into this high contrast super stylish take on the classic themes and legends.


Horror Bites - Black Sabbath

THREE FACES OF FEAR (1963)

Ah the old style horror anthology, it's always one of my personal favourites as a structure for the novelty of each chapter and the variety involved. From the '60s to the '80s there are many to choose from. They do tend to vary in scope (and sometimes quality) whether it's something like Creepshow with a lot of stories, or the smaller scale Two Evil Eyes which as the title suggests is split down the middle. The original name here also gives this one away as it's a trilogy of horror tales. They're bookended by a great intro and ending from Boris Karloff, who also features as a character in the second of these.


Horror Bites - Swamp Fever

THE PLAGUE OF THE ZOMBIES (1966)

With the over saturated zombie genre still shambling forward, sometimes it's refreshing to go back and look at the kind of thing that was around before 1968. A simpler time when reviving the dead was still all about voodoo magic, and nobody had to eat the flesh from anyone else's bones. Despite George A. Romero's reinvention of the whole revived corpse idea being just couple of years ahead in the same decade, it manages to feel worlds apart from the sort of stories that came before. However that isn't to say that John Gilling's film about occult rituals in rural Cornwall is bad, it's just very different. In fact it's one of the best Hammer horror releases in their catalogue.


Horror Bites - Hopping Mad

QUATERMASS AND THE PIT (1967)

The classic Hammer archive is full of what you might consider remakes and new versions of old material, which is particularly true of earlier the Universal properties. But they also had their a hand in adapting TV serials which the BBC had produced several years before. Taking an older story and giving it the full colour big screen treatment might not seem like most creative endeavour but the result is one of their best science fiction releases. It's a bit of a leap from the usual Gothic horror, but they retain a few recognisable elements including cast members from the likes of Dracula Prince of Darkness and director Roy Ward Baker who would go on to make a few of his own vampire features for the studio. This is hardly a big budget adaptation and some of the sequences are laughable, but there's plenty to like. It's story with a lot of atmosphere no matter how ropey things look at times.


Horror Bites - The Witch

SUSPIRIA (1977)

Dario Argento's baroque tale of ballet and blood is a kind of a crazy fork in the road when you consider the films he made which came before. The straightforward detective mystery elements which were so strong in his earlier films have been almost thrown out entirely. Some stylisation was always present of course, but even the telepathy subplot in Deep Red was nothing compared to the madness which would follow. The whole strangers in a foreign land idea is still present, but the rest of the familiar ingredients are almost gone. The shift in colours and sounds alone as American student Suzy (Jessica Harper) passes through the airport doors are just a hint of what is to come. It's a surreal journey into the occult in which reality is almost completely absent. Let's take a look at why this nightmarish journey is such an enjoyable ride.


Review Roundup - Spore

ANNIHILATION (2018)

Interesting, small scale science fiction stories are something I often harp on about. There's just something appealing about features which are cold and clinical in their approach whether the subject matter is alien life or artificial intelligence. So, it's typical that this sort of thing is given an extremely limited release and then the freshly minted 'dumped on Netflix' treatment. Why this was deemed necessary is a mystery beyond some vague notions that it lacked broad appeal, but in an age when low budget horror films are often successful I fail to understand why a few marketing tricks wouldn't have solved the problem. But I digress, this is a follow-up to Alex Garland's Ex-Machina. Where his 2015 film looked at life being developed in a robotics laboratory, this is all about the creeping dread of unknowable organisms from outer space. It's a shift in theme but the result is just as successful.


Super '70s Sunday - The Film with Balls

PHANTASM (1979)

Don Coscarelli's weird and wonderful funeral home escapade finally got a remastered release (from Bad Robot and J.J. Abrams of all people) so it's time to venture into the Tall Man's domain and see how things hold up nearly four decades years later. Is it a strange nonsensical horror story, or a laughably silly film about beings from another world? Is it just a tribute to the Italian traditions of shock cinema? Perhaps all of the above. It's certainly a movie that provokes a few both laughs and a few creepy feelings along the way, mainly because of the structure and the random nature of the events that transpire. These are certainly bizarre in nature even without considering the editing and the music choices. But let's take a closer look and see how this all comes together.


Weekend Restrospective - Your Move Creep...

DREDD (2012)

I was never a huge reader of 2000AD or comics generally as a kid, simply because I couldn't get hold of them often. However I did try to get my hands on them whenever it was at all possible, be it through random issues sold in mid '90s newsagents or as annuals and collections I found in local used book shops. Judge Dredd was easily the favourite thanks to his visual appearance, the look of the world and the characterisation. They left their mark on my imagination, with things like body recyclers, weird fashion fads (Get Ugly!) and riot foam staying in my memory. My feelings on another attempt at bringing this all the screen were pretty mixed but I'm happy to report that John Wagner's big chinned fascist finally gets a movie worth seeing, and more importantly it actually includes the character he created rather than a dumbed down interpretation.


Horror Bites - Dripping with Goo

PART ONE- Splatterhouse


It's that time once again, where we settle down and block out the outside world of tepid mainstream blockbusters and jump scare horror attempts. Time to warm the cockles of our hearts with a lot of grotesque violence and nightmare visions. And what a selection there is to choose from, whether it's Italian gore or madcap visions of '80s America. There's never a short supply of features that include pouring blood, dissolving skin and eye popping effects.

HCF Review - Storm Brewing

THE WITCH WHO CAME FROM THE SEA (1976)

As titles go, this is the kind of thing that I usually expect to be misleading. It’s a little over the top sounding, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it didn’t contain a single witch or any salt water at all. It’s also one of those which falls under the once dramatic sounding video nasties label, so again it’s unlikely that it contains any content to warrant such as status. Two out of three isn’t bad going, and while this is the story of a troubled ship captain’s daughter, there’s no black magic involved and the amount of adult rated material is quite tame. So what are we left with? Well overall this is another one of those stories about traumatic past experiences pushing someone to commit terrible acts. It’s a well trodden path. How it stacks up against other tales of this sort will take some closer examination.


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Horror Bites - Castle of Illusion

BARON BLOOD (1972)


It shouldn't really be that difficult to put a horror story together when filming out on location with a real castle. With a few good cast members and the expertise of Carlo Rambaldi at hand, what is there to do but write an engaging yarn? A cursed nobleman being resurrected by his foolish descendants seems like a straightforward plot, and just for fun throw in some elements about witchcraft and spiritual mediums to add a little variety to things. Unfortunately none of this has been given any thought whatsoever considering how easy it should be, and the result is a very weak effort from director Mario Bava.

Horror Bites - Crash Culture

 THE CARS THAT ATE PARIS (1974)

While the immediate Mad Max comparisons are obvious from the Australian accents and the gangs riding about in garish junkers, Peter Weir's first feature is a little more difficult to define. Some of the poster art shows bloody lettering and a monstrous Volkswagen adorned with metal spines, the sort of thing the first act of Fury Road gave a nod to. And yet this isn't an action movie, it's not a pure horror story and the vehicles are not really the centre of attention. If I had to pigeon hole this at all it would fall into the broad category of 'weird people in backwater towns doing weird things' to with align it with other strange places in the middle of nowhere that film characters wish they'd never stumbled across.


Horror Bites - Blood Feud

VAMPIRE CIRCUS (1971)

It might be an understatement to say there are quite a few vampire movies from Hammer, with seven featuring Christopher Lee and a host of others starring other blood suckers. Some are more interesting than others, with the most fun probably being Captain Kronos - Vampire Hunter. So here I'll take a quick look at one of the more unusual releases in which the main villain of the piece is slain in the opening action sequence and the rest of the story follows the antics of his evil minions and their familiars. A gang or circus performers isn't the most obvious choice for this kind of story, so how does it stack up against their usual blood drenched affairs?


Review Roundup - Ride the Lightning

THOR: RAGNARÖK (2017)

There have been a lot of unusual occurrences within the bloated superhero genre in the past few months. A Spider-Man reboot that was actually good, a DC comics adventure that was actually watchable, and now a third Thor vehicle that is somehow the best one so far. The original was mostly passable and the second was mostly filler, so this is an odd result. But the new direction they've chosen here is obvious from the outset. The look, the sound, and the tone have all been shaken up and indie film maker Taika Waititi has been given some measure of creative freedom. The dour plot elements and the doomsday world conquering villains are still here to some degree, but for the most part this is a step in the right direction.


Scorecard

FEBRUARY


FILM OF THE MONTH: Fitzcarraldo ☆☆☆☆
Heat ☆☆☆☆
Aguirre, The Wrath of God ☆☆☆☆
Black Narcissus ☆☆☆☆
Dazed and Confused ☆☆☆☆
The 400 Blows ☆☆☆☆
The Empire Strikes Back ☆☆☆☆
The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp ☆☆☆☆
Mindhorn ☆☆☆☆
Thor: Ragnarök ☆☆☆☆