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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Orphan (2009)

One of the surest way to get give people the heebie jeebies is to have a creepy kid in the movie.  "The Grudge" did it, "The Ring" did it... even Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining" did it.  One of the movies I watched during "Terrorpolooza 2012" did it as well...

The Colemans have adopted a young girl named Esther, who promises to bring some happiness back into the torn family.  Soon however, that happiness turns to fear as "accidents" begin to happen to those around them... with Esther at the center of the malestrom...

The premise reminds me a bit of "The Good Son " (1993), though there is an interesting, if slightly far fetched twist at the climax.

Other than the children Maxine and Daniel, there is very little to LIKE about most of the characters.  The husband and the shrink are idiots, and easily manipulated.  While you can understand the trauma and emotional problems the mother has, I found it hard to root for her.  In fact, I wanted Esther to win.  Esther was actually quite an interesting character- disturbing... but still interesting.

The majority of the acting was average, with only Isabelle Fuhrman as Esther rising up to give an above average performance.  She did rather good job of switching between sweet and psychotic.  The look on her face during one of the black light scenes was just unsettling.  She definately makes my list of creepiest kids in a movie.

The camera work is also somewhat average, with only the black light scenes standing out as being creative and interesting- though the scene of her screaming and the camera vibrating was a nice shot too.

Overall, this movie is worth a single viewing- but only because of Fuhrman's performance, which puts "Orphan" in The Bad.

Mary Shelly's Frankentein (1994)

I enjoy classical horror literature.  I've read Poe, "Dracula", and even reviewed "Frankenstein; or a Modern Prometheus" here on the blog.  I also enjoy seeing how Hollywood adapts these classics to the big screen.  I watched one such adaptation during "Terrorpolooza 2012"...

Victor Frankenstein becomes obsessed with defeating death after his mother dies during childbirth.  He soon begins to experiment with dead flesh, and discovers the means by which he can create a living, breathing, being.  Soon however, the consequences of his actions return to destroy all that he holds dear...

Those that I know said that "Mary Shelly's Frankenstein" was a less than spectacular movie.  I try to remain open minded when I hear comments about movies, since there is always the possibility that I'd enjoy it.  The difference of opinion my friend Jay (from "We Came From the Basement") and I have over the Kevin Costner movie, "The Postman" is a good example.  I liked "The Postman."

There wasn't a problem with the story in this movie.  The premise, and plot is strong and provides lots of opportunity for character, action, tension, suspense, and even a bit of grue.

There wasn't a problem with the characters either.  They were as interesting and engaging as they original source material- well crafted, and able to keep me wanting to see what happened next.

There wasn't even any serious problems with the acting.  Robert De Niro turned in an excellent performance as the Creation, bringing intellegence, dignity, and pathos to the character that is very much like the original literary version.  Kenneth Branagh, while not the greatest actor, still did a decent job of portraying Victor Frankenstein's rather manic mood swings and obsession.  I loved seeing John Cleese in the role of Professor Waldman- the man who puts Frankenstein on the path to his discovery.  A really solid job on his part, I thought.  I can't really say much about Sir Ian Holm's performance, since he go very little screen time, though I did feel he wasn't altogether in the mood for the role as Frankenstein's father.  Helena Bonham Carter brought her usual quirky approach to the character of Elizabeth- Frankenstein's fiancee.  I will admit though, that I seriously wished she'd appear in a movie with a less frizzy and wild hair do.

I didn't even have any serious problems with the visuals.  The make-up De Niro wore as the Creation was great and credible.  I want a hooded duster like the one he wore, myself- looked pretty cool.  The scenic views were wonderful, and really set the tone.  I liked Frankenstein's lab, but hated the staircase in the main household.  The scene where Elizabeth is killed by the Creation was well done as well- a decent amount of blood to it.  Her make-up later on is almost as credible as that used on De Niro, and helped create sympathy for the character's final fate.

No, what brings this movie down is the fact that it tries to be an epic like "Bram Stoker's Dracula" (1992), but fails.  I felt that it needed to be small in scope, more personal and up close in nature.  Because of that, I have to place it in The Bad.

Meridian: Kiss of the Beast (1990)

Sometimes, a director/producer will surprise you- such was the case during "Terrorpolooza 2012" when I watched Charles Band's "Meridian: Kiss of the Beast"

Catherine Bomarzini has come home after her father's death.  Needing company, she asks Gina to stay with her.  Soon, the two meet a wondering troupe of performers that Catherine invites to dinner at her castle. Catherine find herself pulled into a love triangle and an ancient curse that only she can break.

After watching movies like "Evil Bong", and "Demonic Toys", I really wasn't expecting too much from this Charles Band movie- but I was pleasantly surprised by it.

The story is actually quite interesting with lots of potential for eerie scenes, and character development.  It's a nice twist on the classic "Beauty and the Beast" story.  It's a bit slower than most of Band's other works, but moves smoothly and draws you with it.

I have to admit that the Beast, and his brother are actually more interesting than the main character Catherine.  This isn't to say she's not interesting, because she does have depth and was engaging.  I just found myself more curious about the two brothers and their history than Catherine breaking their curse.  I also really liked the housekeeper, Martha (there's a nice twist with her character that pleased me), but I found the character of Gina to be somewhat superfulous and without any real purpose to the story.  She's just kinda that- which is sad, since Charlie Spradling is a gorgeous woman.

For a Charles Band movie, the acting in this one was also quite surprising.  I was quite impressed by it.  Malcolm Jamieson did a remarkable job as Lawrence and Oliver- the brothers.  He balanced out Lawrences darkness with Oliver's lightness quite well.  He brought a lot of depth to his performance, and really made me want to know more about the characters.  Just a wonderful job.  Sherilyn Fenn not only looked great, but turned in another good performance as Catherine, though as I said before, I found myself more interested in the brothers' story than hers.  The performance given by Hilary Mason as Martha was great as well- despite not having a lot of screen time.  The only disappointment was Charlie Spradling as Gina.  It's not that her acting was bad, because it wasn't.  The problem was that her character wasn't really necessary.  I got the feeling that the character (and the actress) was simply there because they needed a really nice set of boobs (other than Fenn's nice ones) for the nude scene.  I'm not complaining about her boobs, just that she deserved a slightly more important role in the story itself.

I found this movie to be quite pleasing visually too.  Band is known for interesting visuals, but he really manages to use the visuals to create a dream-like mood, and tell the story.  Just a beautiful piece of work in my opinion.  At times, you're not sure if you're watching a dream sequence, or not.  The look of Oliver as the Beast was also quite a surprise given what I've seen in his other films.  While many of the costumes in Band's movies are quite cheesy and silly, the Beast's design was quite good.  The facial make-up did a great job of allowing the actor to still express emotion while remaining beastial.

In the final analysis, I'm going to say that "Meridian: Kiss of the Beast" is a movie I think everyone should watch and that I'm hoping Charles Band will provide me with more pleasant surprises like this one.  I'm placing it in The Good.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

I felt that it wouldn't have been a proper "Terrorpolooza 2012" if I didn't watch a classic 1980's horror movie- which is why I pulled up "A Nightmare on Elm Street"...

Teenagers in a small American town are starting to dream of a disfigured man with a clawed glove.  When her friends start to die from their dreams, Nancy decides it's up to her to confront the supernatural killer and end his nightmarish reign of terror...

I'm pretty sure you, the reader, can figure out where I'm going to go with this particular review.

Yep- you guessed it.  I really enjoy this movie.

The premise is simple, but terrifying, since you're at your most vulnerable when sleeping, and we've all had those dreams that are just "too real" for comfort.  The story is well paced, with a great mixture of suspense, and plain old in your face scares.  No event is trivial, and the flow is smooth.  Just a masterpiece of writing.

The characters may seem a bit trite at times- but mostly on the part of the first couple of victims, but you come to like Nancy as the story comes to focus on her, echoing how Krueger starts to focus on her as his prey.  She grows from a mild teenager, into a strong female character.  Krueger is a well crafted character in his own right.  You come to realize that he ENJOYS the torment he's putting the teenagers through as he plays with them before the kill.

Heather Langenkamp does a wonderful job as Nancy, and is balanced out by the excellent performance of Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger.  I remember watching Englund as Willie in the TV Series, "V", and was amazed by how well he fit the role of Krueger.  I also thought that John Saxon and Ronne Blakley in the roles of Nancy's parents were great.  Johnny Depp fans will enjoy seeing his first movie role as Nancy's boyfriend, Glen.

There are some marvelous pieces of camera work that have become iconic images from the movie.  The shot of Freddy pushing through the wall above Nancy's bed, and the glove coming out of the bath water being just two of them.  Wes Craven uses shadow, light, and colour to create a wonderful sense of unreality and tension to the nightmare scenes.  And for grue fans, there's lots of blood to be had in this movie.  Tina's death and the "bed geyser" supplying more of the crimson than most horror movies alone.

So, as you can gather, "A Nightmare on Elm Street" is what I would call a "horror classic" that I would recommend to any horror fan, and would sit down in a heartbeat to rewatch.  It's assured a spot in The Good.

It Happened at Nightmare Inn (1973)

"Terrorpolooza 2012" brought me in contact with a couple of films made across the pond, some a bit better than others...

Women have been disappearing at a small Spanish inn, and soon the sister of one of the victims begins to investigate.  Will she uncover the dark secret of their disappearance... or will she join her sister?

This is a hard movie to say much about.  It's far from great, but for some reason still worth watching at least once.  The story is fairly simple, but offers enough of a skeleton to hang meat on and flesh out.  Having said that, "It Happened at Nightmare Inn" falls slightly short of a full bodied piece of work.

The characters of the two sisters running the inn are interesting, but the remaining cast seems to get introduced in order to simply die.  The heroine plays an unimportant part until near the end.

At least the girls looked good, even if their acting wasn't the greatest.

There isn't much in the way of blood or serious scares in this movie, either.

Having said all that I still would recommend this for a single viewing.  I'm just not altogether sure WHY I would.  I'm putting "It Happened at Nightmare Inn" into The Bad.

The Oval Portrait (1972)

I'm a fan of Edgar Allan Poe, so it was a pleasant surprise that one of the movies I watched during "Terrorpolooza 2012" was an adaptation of one of his stories...

Genevieve has come home to claim ownership of her deceased uncle's  house.  Soon, however, she discovers the tragic details behind her cousin's death- details that could cost her mind... and her soul...

"The Oval Portrait" isn't a perfect film, but I still found it enjoyable.  The story is simple, but is strengthened by the backstory of the cousin's death.  The pacing isn't too bad, though fans of horror movies that get right into the scares might be put off by the slower pacing and build up.  The story itself isn't so much frightening as macabre and disturbing... which is to be expected of a Poe story, actually.

While Genevieve is a little flat, the characters of her cousin and the Confederate soldier she loved help to make up for that.  The uncle was interesting as well, and I liked how the character of the housekeeper tied the past and the present together.

The acting reminded me of some of the lesser quality Hammer horror films with their somewhat exaggerated, theatrical tone. Although it would probably detract from most viewers' enjoyment these days, I enjoyed it

The look  of "The Oval Portrait" is also very similar to some of the Hammer horror films too.  There's nothing fancy in terms of camera work, but the subdued colours does give it a nice sense of morbid mood that I liked.  Althought I wasn't impressed with the scene of the flying objects, I did find the final dance scene to be quite disturbing- a nice touch that made up for the silliness of the previous scene.

I would certainly recommend this for a viewing to others, and mostly sit down to watch it again myself.  "The Oval Portrait" is going into The Good.

Guru, the Mad Monk (1970)

Moving forward with my "Terrorpolooza 2012" reviews, I come to a film that made me cringe... and not in a pleasantly horrified way...

Guru, the priest in charge of a prison, needs to do what he can to keep money coming into his pockets... and fresh "prey" for his mistress.  Unfortunately, his plan to use a female prisoner to coerce a simple minded fellow into doing his will backfires...

As I sit here, I'm trying to think of positive things to say about "Guru, the Mad Monk".  Unfortunately, I can't think of a single thing.

Actually, I can think of one thing.  The premise had potential.

Too bad the rest of the film reeked of awful poo poo.

I didn't care one iota about ANY of the characters.  None.  Complete apathy.  And that goes for the rather attractive female prisoner Najia.  I guess it didn't help that the hunchback's name was Igor.  Yes, one of the most original names for a hunchback in movie history.  Real quality thinking on that score.

The acting was quite simply abyssmal.  Add into the mix horrible costumes and wigs and you've got a real piece of cinematic garbage.  I've seen much better stuff on YouTube.

Camera work?  Just ugh- as are the "special" effects.  For a movie with hands being lopped off, and eyes being gouged, there is a surprising lack of blood spraying around the set- a serious lack of blood.  This is only worsened by the fact that you don't even SEE the actually lopping and gouging.

Don't ever ask me to watch this movie again, because I will make sure there is blood when I gouge out my own eyes.  Seriously.  This movie goes beyond The Ugly.

Nightmare Castle (1965)

One of the movies I watched during "Terrorpolooza 2012" was an Italian gothic horror.  When it comes to gothic horror, Europeans tend to surpass North American in quality.

A scientist catches his wife and her lover together, and shows them the extent of his wrath. Soon, his new wife starts to experience hints to the fate of her sister- the scientist's previous wife.
Sometimes, as is the case with "Nightmare Castle," the simplest of plots is the best.  Murder and revenge are all that were needed to create the circumstances for the events in this story.  It moves along smoothly and fairly quickly, with the creepiness and scares spread throughout evenly.  If this were a book, I would have very little problem with sitting down by flickering candlelight, reading it, and enjoying the chills run up my spine.

The characters, while somewhat simplistic in nature are still interesting enough to keep me wondering what was going to happen next.  I really liked the mix of ghosts, mad scientist, and vampire.

While the characters themselves may have been a little two dimensional at times, the acting was superb.  Barbara Steele as BOTH Muriel and Jenny was simply beatiful (both with dark or blonde hair) and marvelous.  She was able to make both characters different from each other, while still making them compliment each other.  I thought Paul Muller did a fantastic job portraying the sadistic Dr. Arrowsmith.  I also quite enjoyed Helga Liné in the role of Solange (the Dr's mistress).  In her younger form, she's also quite beautiful.

"Nightmare Castle" is one of those movies that modern horror film makers should watch to learn about using light, shadow and how to to create mood, suspense, and errieness.  The camera work may not be super creative, but it's still highly effective in bringing a sense of growing doom to the viewer.

I wouldn't hesitate to recommend "Nightmare Castle" to my friends- nor would I hesitate to agree to sit down and rewatch this wonderful piece of Italian horror.  I'm placing this movie in The Good.

The Manster (1959)

Next on my list of "Terrorpolooza 2012" reviews is an American/Japanese horror movie that I felt combined the best parts of American and Japanese film making into a smooth whole.

Larry Stanford befriends a scientist whom he interviews for his newspaper.  As Dr. Suzuki introduces him to the finer parts of Japanese culture, he finds himself falling for the scientist's beautiful assistant.  His personality starts to change... and soon his body follows...

If there is ONE thing that Japan is known for, it's great monster ideas.  If there is ONE thing the US is known for- especially back in the 1950's, it was for great camera work.  The two are used to wonderful effect in "The Manster".

The story is a simple Mad Scientist plot, but if fully capable of carrying the weight of the characters, and the things that happen to them.  There is very little in the way of frivolous subplots in this movie, each element of the story helps to move it forward, and add depth to the characters.  I could easily imagine this movie being an old 1950's style pulp novel.

The characters are great as well.  Even though you'd like to smack him, you still like and feel for Larry as he undergoes the bizarre changes that occur.  You also come to like the cool, beautiful, and slightly aloof assistant, Tara as well as her boss, Dr. Suzuki.  These three are given depth, and grow as the movie progresses.  They could've been presented as stereotypes in the genre, but are given to us as complex people with emotions of their own- which is what I look for in movie characters.

The acting on the part of these three actors: Peter Dyneley (as Larry), Terri Zimmern (as Tara), and Tetsu Nakamura (as Dr. Suzuki) was just a pleasure for me.  They engaged me, drew me in, and pulled me along with them as the events of the story unfolded.  They made me care about what was happening on the screen.

And then there is the Manster itself, and a couple of other "monstrosities".  The costuming of the monster at the start of the movie was pretty good.  It gave me a hint of what was to come, and made me want to see it.  Then came the make-up for the female "failed experiment".  It tore at my heart to see what the experiments had done to her- and the story behind it only made it all the more poignant to the scientist's personality.  After that came one of the best visual effects scene I've ever seen in a movie from the period- the eyeball in the shoulder shot.  My jaw actually dropped when I saw it, I was so impressed by it.  Unfortunately, the next stage of the transformation with the two heads wasn't as smoothly done as the eyeball stage.  Given what they had to work with though back then, they did the best they could, and it was still effective.

There is also some wonderful camera work in "The Manster" as well.  The open attack scene with the blood splashed on the screen was a fantastic shot.  The use of light and shadows was just remarkable as well, and really helped to create the mood and atmoshphere that fit the story perfectly.  Modern movie makers could take a few lessons away from black and white movies like this one, I think.

Ultimately, I have to say that "The Manster" is one of those films that illustrates monster movie making at it's best, even with it's low budget.  I would have very little problem with re-watching this movie again.  It's going into The Good.

Creature From the Haunted Sea (1961)

I'm back after a small hiatus due to being sick with the third of my "Terrorpolooza 2012" movie reviews.  One thing I learned is that while horror and comedy often work together, sometimes, it doesn't work as well as it could've.

A group of gangsters have helped a South American dictator to escape a revolution with a strong box full of gold.  They hope to gain possession of it by using a legend of a local sea monster to scare off the dictator and his guards.  All goes according to plan until an American spy... and the real sea monster take an interest in the group.

"Creature From the Haunted Sea" is a Roger Corman horror comedy that- as was typical of Corman films, shot in about five days.  To be perfectly honest, you can tell that it was a rushed production.

The story is certainly enough to provide a decent amount of comedic fodder to go with the horror, though the humour far outweighs the horror.  Unfortunately, due to a few of the characters, and unnecessary subplots, the story felt rather disjointed and unfocused.  I found myself wanting the characters to stay on track with the main plot, rather than go off on their silly tangents.  The "romantic" subplots of two of the characters finding "love" with two island dwellers were especially irritating to me.  Now, there ARE some decent moments of humour that had me chuckling, but they were brought about by only two characters in the movie, and the Creature itself.

Other than the character of Renzo Capetto and the Creature, I found myself either indifferent or annoyed with the characters.  Mary-Belle wasn't bad to look at, but not very interesting, and Sparks was a little irritating.  The most annoying character- and the one that served the least purpose to boot was Pete Peterson, Jr- who communicates soley with ANIMAL noises.  Yeah, you heard me- "animal noises".  You can probably guess why I got annoyed with the character rather quickly.  I liked the dictator because he was serious in a humorous fashion, and provided a nice bit of political satire to the movie.

Of the actors, the best were Antony Carbone as Renzo, and Betsy Jones-Moreland as Mary-Belle.  Edmundo Rivera Álvarez was enjoyable as well as the dictator.  The remaining cast was what I would consider between subpar (in the case of Beach Dickerson who played the animal noise making Pete) to average.  Of course, the five day shooting schedule could be a factor, so I'm willing to be a little more forgiving... though not to the animal guy.

When I saw the Creature, I wondered if Christopher Mihm (see my review of "The Monster of Phantom Lake") had seen this movie when he designed the Monster in his own movie.  There are some serious similarities between them- especially the ping pong eyes, and the moss covering.  I couldn't help but laugh and enjoy the look and antics of the Creature as it wittled the cast down.  The final scene of the movie with the Creature was what I would consider the punchline to the whole joke of a movie that preceeded.

When all is said and done, "Creature From the Haunted Sea" is a silly movie that drags in a couple of parts, but has some moments of fun and laughs.  Students of Roger Corman films would probably enjoy it, but I won't be watching it again.  I'm placing it in The Bad.

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Screaming Skull (1958)

I'm back today with the second of my "Terrorpolooza 2012" reviews.  This time, it's "The Screaming Skull" .

Jenni and Eric are a happy couple who have recently gotten married.  Upon moving into Eric's mansion, Jenni learns of the tragic death of Eric's first wife.  Soon, Jenni will question her own sanity as strange sounds and skulls begin to haunt her.  Is it the ghost of Eric's first wife... or something more sinister?

I quite enjoyed this movie.  The premise is solid, as are the events that occur.  There are one or two small holes in the plot, but they're pretty minor and don't take away from the overall story.  I did feel though that the opening "disclaimer" was unnecessary, though it did make me smile as I remembered some of the William Castle movies I'd seen.

The characters, while they could be seen as somewhat stereotypical, are still interesting and engaging- especially the characters Jenni, and Mickey the Gardener.  I didn't mind the Reverend and his wife, but felt they were kinda just there as plot points, and Eric was a decently crafted character as well.

The acting is about what can be expected for a low budget film from the 1950's.  Some of it is a little cheesy, some of it right over the top, and some of it quite good.  It was cheesy for the most part, with the final chase scene being rather over the top on the part of John Hudson as Eric.  His facial expressions and movements are more giggle inducing than scary.  I will say that I thought Alex Nicol (who also directed this movie) did a pretty good job as the child-like Mickey.  I actually came to care quite abit for that character.

The camera offers the average fare to the viewer, with very little in the way of interesting or creative camera angles or movements.  There are some decent shots, and the use of shadows was good.  I really liked the way it looked when the ghost chases Jenni, but was disappointed by how they did the final chase scene with Eric.  It was a visual drop in quality from the chase scene with Jenni, I felt.

While I'd have very little problem with re-watching "The Screaming Skull" as part of a B-Movie Night with friends, I doubt that I would pull of the shelf and put it in the machine otherwise.  I'm putting it in "The Bad".

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Grave of the Vampire (1972)

This week, the "What Movie Wednesday" was a close competition between the three choices.  If it hadn't been for one vote near the end, it would've been a TRIPLE feature night.  Luckily, I was able to get some sleep because that one vote made "Grave of the Vampire" the winner.

James is hunting down a centuries old vampire who has risen from his slumber to hunt again.  The vampire is also his own father...

The basic premise is interesting and could provide for quite a good story, too bad this movie fails to come anywhere close to fulfilling that potential.  The story starts out interesting enough.  A vampire rises from the grave, rapes and impregnates a woman after killing her boyfriend.  The detective assigned to the case suspects that a vampire is involved, and begins to hunt it.  At that point, the story goes downhill as the detective gets killed, and we jump ahead several years to when the woman's baby is a full grown man hunting down his father (with a voice over thrown in for good measure).  There are so many plot holes, and illogical events that through most of the movie, I wore this sort of expression on my face:

Seriously.  A prime example is at the seance.  James' love interest is possessed by the spirit of her dead room mate, and identifies the vampire.  She faints, and James takes her upstairs- leaving the vampire alone in a room full of living appetizers.  Not only that, but while the vampire prepares to do some nomming, James prepares to have a tender moment with the girl.

There's only ONE interesting character in the whole movie- the detective who gets killed near the start of the movie.  I couldn't stand the James, and I felt indifferent to Anne and her room mate Anita.  The vampire left me feeling blah, and James' mother was just messed in the head.  If the movie had been about the detective hunting down the vampire, I probably would've enjoyed it more.

The acting was pretty horrid.  The detective's partner was cheesy, and Michael Pataki as the vampire tried to be like Christopher Lee's Dracula- but failed miserably.  Just not enjoyable watching them.

The camera work didn't help.  Plain, dull, and not very exciting or suspenseful.  To make it worse, you don't even get to SEE the actual kills or ANY serious blood.  A bit of blood around the mouth and on a victim's neck and that's it.  Seriously lacking in the grue department, let me tell you.

I couldn't even get through my usual two bags of microwave popcorn, because of how idiotic this movie was... and I love my popcorn.

This movie should've stayed in its grave.  I'm buring "Grave of the Vampire" in The Ugly.

Special Shout Out:

I want to thank everyone that took part in "What Movie Wednesday"- especially the following who voted for "Grave of the Vampire":

Ron Morgan
Jason Wiggins
Zoey Emily Onyx
Jenny Deol

The next "What Movie Wednesday" will be 14 November 2012!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Bluebeard (1944)

Many horror films delve into legends about infamous people for the kernel of an idea for their stories.  Cannibals, monsters, and serial killers are peppered throughout the history of horror cinema...

Gaston is a puppeteer in Paris during a rash of murders by a psychotic madman named "Bluebeard".  When Gaston meets Lucille, he believes that he's found happiness... but soon matters take a dark turn, and Gaston's happines could turn to murder...

This 1944 black and white suspense thriller has a lot going for it.  The story, is straightforward, and strong enough to keep you interested- even though you know who the killer is from the start.  It's still engaging to watch the events unfold.

The acting isn't bad- not great, but still enjoyable.  John Carradine does a great job in the role of the troubled Gaston, while Jean Parker was great as Lucille.  Carradine brings a nice touch of pathos to the character, while maintaining the feeling that there is something seriously wrong with the Gaston.  He also provides a couple of excellent examples of "crazy eyes" just before commiting a murder.  I also quite enjoyed Emmet Lynn as the old soldier that assists Gaston with his puppet shows.  Ludwig Stossel did a good job of portraying the art dealer Lamarte, while I found that I didn't enjoy Nils Asther as Inspector Lefevre.  For a film taking place in Paris, there is a distinct lack of French accents.

The character of Gaston was crazy, but was portrayed as being generally likable- with the added virtue of not wanting to kill, and tries to fight that compulsion throughout the movie.  He was complex, well formed, and believable.   Lucille is also likable, but not as well formed, or interesting as Gaston.  In fact, none of the characters are as deep as Gaston, and at times they feel as if they are just added to the story to slowly push Gaston to murder again.  The only character I found annoying though was Inspector Lefevre.  I just found him a little insincere.

There is some really good examples of camera work in this film.  The director uses light and dark beautifully in many of the shots to create a great mood to the scene.  One shot- of puppet shadows cast on the way was just a great shot in my opinion.  While there is nothing super creative on display in regards to camera movement, the angles, framing, and editing is still quite effective to tell the story.  I thought the puppet opera at the start of "Bluebeard" was a wonderful scene, even if it didn't necessarily have any serious impact on the story.  I also really liked how it felt like there were some silent movie elements and techniques used throughout the movie.  They were a great touch.

Personally, I think "Bluebeard" was a great way to kick off "Terrorpolooza 2012", and is a movie I would re-watch on a dark night, and recommend to fans of older suspense/thrillers.  I'm placing this movie in "The Good".

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Halloween Recap

This past Halloween, I held a 24 hour "Terrorpolooza 2012" horror movie tweet along.  From 1:00 am Halloween morning, to 1:00 am the next morning, I did nothing but watch horror movies and tweet along to them.  In total, I watched 13 movies- a number that seems rather fitting for day when superstitions and legends come alive, in my opinion.

Anyways, I would've posted my thoughts on the movies I watched on Thursday (or Friday even), but I was pretty much in a coma trying to catch up on my sleep.  The only time I woke up over the past two days was to do the tweeting for my "We Came From the Basement" as their show aired on CFBX 92.5 FM (www.thex.ca).  Other than that, I slept.  Just slept.

Which is why, today, I'm going to post a quick list of the movies I watched, and my thoughts on them.  Over the next couple of weeks or so, I'll be posting full length reviews of these movies as well.

1.  "Bluebeard" (1944)- A moody, black and white film starring John Carradine about a painter compelled to murder the women he paints.  Beautiful use of shadows, but for a movie set in Paris, there's a rather distinct lack of French accents.  Rating- The Good.

2.  "The Screaming Skull" (1958)- A low budget film about a woman who's convinced that she's seeing the ghost of her husband's previous wife... who's accidental death may not have been so accidental.  The scenes of the ghost chasing the heroine were great, but the skull scenes could've been done a bit better.  Rating- The Bad.

3.  "Creature From the Haunted Sea" (1961)- A Roger Corman horror comedy about some gangsters hoping to use the belief in a local sea monster to gain a strong box of gold... until the actual monster shows up.  There is some decent humour in this movie- but also some rather annoying characters.  Rating- The Bad.

4.  "The Manster" (1962)- A Japanese/United States joint venture about a man who unwittingly becomes part of an experiment in evolution... and must deal with the changes that overcome him.  Some decent visual effects.  The eye in the shoulder was remarkably well done.  Some nice Japanese monster movie goodness mixed with American filming styles.  Rating- The Good.

5.  "Nightmare Castle" (1965)- An atmospheric black and white film about a scientist who catches his wife and her lover together.  Soon, his new wife starts to experience hints to the fate of her sister- the scientist's previous wife.  The torture scene is short, but effective.  Colour would've added a nice touch to the slightly goreier visuals.  Barbara Steele is simply beautiful in dual roles.  Rating- The Good.

6.  "Guru, The Mad Monk" (1970)- A period piece about a monk who runs a prison with his vampiric lover.  Bad wigs, bad costumes, badly done gore, a hunchback named "Igor," and an idiotic hero.  Rating- The Ugly.

7.  "The Oval Portrait" (1971)- Another period piece adapts an Edgar Allen Poe story about a woman who must fight off the spirit dwelling within an oval portrait.  A decent piece that showcases the macabre touches that Poe brought to his stories.  The dance scene at the end is especially disturbing.  Rating- The Good.

8.  "It Happened at Nighmare Inn"- A Spanish film about two older sisters who run a family hotel... and have ways of dealing with the loose moral of some of their guests.  The sisters aren't bad looking for their age.  The heroine was cute, but rather unimportant until the climax.  Rating- The Bad.

9.  "A Nightmare on Elm Street" (1984)  The children on Elm Street are being butchered one by one in their sleep.  One of the classics of the 1980's- and still stands up in my opinion.  The remake/reboot didn't need to be made.  Rating- The Good.

10.  "Meridian: Kiss of the Beast" (1990)- A Charles Band film about a woman claiming her inheritance, and discovering that there's a curse that only she can dispel.  A nice surprise from Charles Band.  A great transformation scene, and some well done, trippy visuals.  Rating- The Good.

11.  "Mary Shelly's Frankenstein" (1994)- Victor Frankenstein seeks to create Life, and must deal with the consequences of doing so.  Tries hard to be an epic like "Bram Stoker's Dracula" (1992).  De Niro's great as The Creature.  Needed to be smaller in scope.  Rating- The Bad.

12.  "Orphan" (2009)- A family adopts a young girl named Esther, whose past is shrouded in some mystery.  Soon, accidents start to happen to those close to them.  Isabelle Fuhrman was great as Esther.  The shrink and the husband are idiots.  The black light scenes are well done and disturbing.  Reminded me at times of "The Good Son" (1993).  Rating- The Bad.

13.  "Trick 'r Treat" (2007)- The Halloween celebrations of various people are weaved together while the mysterious child, Sam does what needs to be done to remind people of Halloween is REALLY about.  Just plain fun.  Dark humour, with some decent chilly moments.  A classic in the spirit of "Creepyshow" (1982).  Rating- The Good.

Well, there is a quick look at my thoughts on the movies I watched Halloween.  Look for full length reviews to come.