Friday, 28 August 2015

Scars of Dracula (1970)

Much maligned by many critics and fans ‘Scars of Dracula’ has though its fair share of supporters including myself. It is the last truly good entry in Hammer’s Dracula franchise and is a step up from the mediocrity of I do not know why fan favourite Taste the Blood of Dracula released just previously in the same year. None of the sequels matches the magnificence of Terence Fisher’s lavish 1958 original ‘Horror of Dracula’ (the US title for Hammer’s ‘Dracula’ and my preferred title for it) but this one is the closest in recapturing many of its elements.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

American Nightmare (1983)

Released in 1983 but made in 1981, the little seen Canadian film ‘American Nightmare’ was shot at a time when the slasher became a horror sub-genre proper after the bloodgates opened for it the previous year with the phenomenal box-office success of Sean S. Cunningham’s simplistic yet effective Friday the 13th. This was Cunningham’s blood drenched contribution to the template innovated by John Carpenter in 1978 with the masterful ‘Halloween’ that itself took conventions from Bob Clark’s 1974 cult classic ‘Black Christmas’ that is also a Canadian production.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Coyote (2014)

‘Coyote’ is a micro-budgeted independent feature written, directed and edited by upcoming St. Louis filmmaker the talented Trevor Juenger. Produced by Juenger’s production company Live or Die Productions it was released in December of last year distributed on all media platforms by WildEye Releasing. It is a dark and surreal art-house psychological character study starring the versatile character actor and genre favourite Bill Oberst Jr. He plays a namesake character a struggling screenwriter suffering from insomnia whose fall into a sleep-deprived hell distorts his reality with hallucinations blurring the line between what is real and what is not, driving him insane with paranoia becoming a threat to himself and a danger to everyone around him resorting to extreme acts of violence. These graphic depictions along with explicit sexual elements proved to be too much for some film festival organisers resulting in a banning from certain events. This only helped the promotion though for the horror audience who are waiting to lap up such notoriety and it received a generous amount of awards at some of the festivals where it was shown.

Monday, 27 July 2015

The House by the Cemetery (1981)

Opening in a night setting with a close-up shot of a gravestone surrounded by branches of a bush the camera then pans to the right as we hear the diegetic sound of dogs howling and Walter Rizzati’s atmospheric piano tinged synth score creep in and we see established the primary setting of “The House by the Cemetery”. The camera lingers for about 15-seconds to show us there is activity in the downstairs front room with the movement of lights as Rizzati’s music gradually becomes louder.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Born for Hell (1976)

'Born for Hell' is a low-budget Canadian / French / West German / Italian production co-written and directed by Canadian filmmaker Denis Héroux who got his start in maple syrup porn. It is a grim tale inspired by the infamous American mass murderer Richard Speck who on July 14th 1966 systematically tortured, raped and murdered eight young female student nurses from South Chicago Community Hospital holding them hostage in a townhouse used as their dormitory. The grisly scenario of this true-life source material is depicted here in graphic detail and while these sights of the degradation and murders of innocent young attractive naked women is explicit and stomach churning stuff the film is more than just outright sleazy exploitation. With the changes of the time of setting to the ‘70s and of the backdrop to the paranoia of the Northern Ireland Conflict and these despicable crimes committed by a disturbed misogynist Vietnam War veteran it makes for an interesting juxtaposition and a nightmarish trip into the heart of human darkness in a riveting, gruesome and bleak character study.

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Rasputin: The Mad Monk (1966)

Filmed back-to-back with ‘Dracula: Prince of Darkness’ (1966) at Hammer's Bray Studios in ‘65 using the production’s sets and even a few of its cast, ‘Rasputin: The Mad Monk’ is the genre film company’s fictionalized account of peasant and mystic faith healer Grigori Rasputin’s rise to extraordinary power by gaining great influence over the Russian monarchy in pre-revolution Russia. Directed by Don Sharp (1973’s British cult horror ‘Psychomania’), the late great Christopher Lee stars as the infamous historical figure but do not expect any historically accurate depictions except for some events leading up to Rasputin’s assassination. The emphasis here is purely entertainment as we see Lee having a great time relishing his role as his character indulges in drunken debauchery and abuses his mystical powers to not only seduce women but to get them to do his bidding in his ruthless quest for wealth and power.

Monday, 6 July 2015

Day of the Dead (1985)

George A. Romero’s third and last great zombie film ‘Day of the Dead’ is a perfect representation of the 1980s, yet it is also the most unappreciated entry of his original flesh-eating undead trilogy. Romero embodied metaphors in his “walking dead” in ‘Night of the Living Dead’ (1968) and ‘Dawn of the Dead’ (1978) with biting social commentaries that accurately summed up the respective times of their releases. This was with domestic racism and the Vietnam War in the ‘60s and with a more tongue-in-cheek satirical jab at times as well commentating on society’s obsession with consumerism in the ’70s. This was with profound insight realized on screen by a horror filmmaker with more guts (excuse the pun) and vision than most auteurs of the genre before, then and now.