Horrorfest 2022 Presents/Let’s Get Criterion: Häxan (1922, Benjamin Christensen)


Benjamin Christensen’s Häxan is one of those silent cinema era movies that helped influence and define the genre when it was still in it’s early years. It also reflects on the fact that man is the biggest monster of all, although this movie shows the Devil a lot. This movie’s version of the Devil inspires the witches that the movie covers and discusses, and he looks pretty much like you would expect, or at least the heavy metal version, anyways. Witchcraft has a long history and usually involves people accusing others of being witches, thus resulting in the local religious authorities torturing and murdering people. Often people were completely innocent, swept up in the mass hysteria of the time and condemned to awful and inhumane fates. The movie treats all of this as a quasi-documentary, and is framed as a long standing history lesson, which is fascinating and sometimes enlightening to those who were unaware of such things. Most of the time people who had mental disorders were thought to be witches, which makes things even worse.

There are several gorgeously shot and marvelous appearing set pieces, the one where the witches have a mass coven meeting after flying through the night being very remarkable. The movie has some great practical effects, many of which still hold up a century later. I viewed this classic on Halloween eve, which may have been the most opportune viewing time. It’s also notable that with few exceptions the victims of witch hunts were usually women, and thus sexism and misogynistic views reigned heavily during the periods where witch hunts were at their highest.

Christensen even ties this into the modern era with the final act, noting how the witch hunt never really died, it just changed it’s shape and purpose. For a silent cinema era movie to note this is outstanding, and I may view this movie again at a later date just to see how it holds up still in my eyes. Which will be easy to do since I own it on Criterion, and the Criterion Blu-ray is a gorgeous transfer. If people watch this on YouTube or via TCM that’s fine too, if you get the chance you should totally check this one out.

Horrorfest 2022 Presents: Deathdream (1974, Bob Clark)


Bob Clark gave us A Christmas Story, yet his main body of work lies in the horror movie genre. Deathdream is a really good horror movie that reminds us to be careful what you wish for. It just might come true and make things worse. Much worse. Lynn Carlin is fantastic as Christine, a mother who wishes for her son Andy (Richard Backus in a freaky and creepy performance) to come home from the Vietnam War. He was reportedly killed, and yet one night he shows up, to the amazement of his mother, father (John Marley) and sister (Anya Ormsby) who all thought he was dead. They choose to ignore the fact that he’s home, although his father starts to notice that Andy is well, different. A lot different! What occurs next is a series of brutal murders and the realization that while Andy is still walking, he’s not exactly human anymore. That’s for sure in what reminds me not only of The Monkey’s Paw (the inspiration for the flick) but also Stephen King tales as well.

I’m not sure if Andy is a zombie or a vampire, yet the scenes where he attacks people to drink their blood are pretty suspenseful and freaky. Clark made a low budget movie that is still well put together anyways, and he focuses on the negative impacts of the Vietnam War upon a local community literally less than a year after the US pulled out of the conflict. I do wish the movie had lingered on those aspects a bit more, yet Deathdream is a really effective drama horror movie that did burrow itself into my brain a little. Viewed thanks to Tubi, and a reminder that the 1970s had some of the best horror the genre had to offer.

Horrorfest 2022 Presents: The Flesh Eaters (1964, Jack Curtis)


The Flesh Eaters is one of those cheesy 1960s horror movies, and yet it has more violence and gore than a lot of them do. In fact this movie is not afraid to cross the line and feature some creature murder effects that would make Herschell Gordon Lewis nod in approval. Despite the movie’s obvious limitations I enjoyed this one, and it’s a mostly bleak bottle style episode movie where a group of people are trapped on a distant island. This island happens to be surrounded by a group of monstrous glowing microbe that a scientist on the island seems to know more about than he’s telling. Byron Sanders is stoic and resourceful as the movie’s hero, and Barbara Wilkin plays the love interest. There’s not a huge cast here, and honestly most of the others seem to exist as potential victims.

One of the victims ends up being devoured from the inside out in what is a really gruesome and nasty moment, and the movie’s evil critters sure are hungry. All the time! The movie doesn’t really overstay it’s welcome and I’m actually surprised no one has tried to remake this movie, although I guess the creature effects would all be CGI these days. Sometimes practical effects work best, or at least look really cool.

Horrorfest 2022 Presents: The Raven (1963, Roger Corman)


I finally watched Roger Corman’s 1963 horror comedy classic The Raven, which is a delightful movie with a great cast. When Jack Nicholson is a supporting actor in this movie you know you have some stars, that’s for sure. Vincent Price and Peter Lorre play sorcerers battling Boris Karloff in a battle of wits, powers, and even manners. Hazel Court plays Price’s wife who may still be alive, and Olive Sturgess is Price’s daughter. The movie uses the Edgar Allan Poe legendary poem The Raven as it’s main basis, although of course the rest of the movie has nothing to do with the actual story. Richard Matheson wrote the film, so that’s why it has so much good natured and fun humor combined with fantasy and horror movie elements.

In fact this is probably more of a dark comedy than a horror movie, still I counted it as such anyways because this is my Horrorfest and I do what I want. Price vs Karloff is great and all, yet the movie works the best when Lorre and Price are bickering amongst each other back and forth. While Corman and Price made better Poe movies than this one, I think it’s up there amongst their best works and it’s beyond fun to watch. The castle setting is perfect for this movie, and the chair wizard battle scene is marvelous in every way. I saw this thanks to Tubi, and I’m happy to check off another Price movie. It’s a shame he was never nominated for an Oscar.

Horrorfest 2022 Presents: Aenigma (1988, Lucio Fulci)


The really weirdly titled Aenigma was Lucio Fulci once again trying to craft something different than his other movies, although this one was a bit too campy for me at times. It was sort of channeling Carrie, although I was also reminded of Phenomena as well, and those are better movies than this one. Still if you want to see a Fulci movie about a coma patient who gets revenge for the prank pulled on her, this is the movie for you. Lara Lambert is great and sinister looking as Eva, the instrument of Milijana Zirojevic’s Kathy, and Ulli Reinthaler is good as Jenny, who I think you were supposed to root for even though she was involved in the prank. Jared Martin is the doctor who is treating Kathy, yet still fails to make any connection between her and the strange deaths. I can’t tell if that is the plot requiring him to be that oblivious, or if it’s just him being blinded by the two ladies who are in love with him. I’ll go with both here. Both is good.

The snails death is actually pretty nasty even for a Fulci movie, and is probably one of the most memorable from a master of memorable disgusting and gruesome moments. There is also several other decent kills, and the last act is suspenseful enough, particularly since Eva literally becomes an unstoppable killing machine. Does the movie offer tangible answers to what happened, why any of this was possible, and if it could happen again? Hah ha, no, of course not. That’s the Italian horror movie way, and I’m fine with it. Also the end credits shot is very The Shining, in a way, and that’s how I like it.

Horrorfest 2022 Presents: Manhattan Baby (1982, Lucio Fulci)


By the 1980s Lucio Fulci had decided to change up his style a bit, and the result is the pretty decent and somewhat entertaining Manhattan Baby, which is a strange title. Here Fulci channels The Exorcist, and reminds me of Poltergeist (even though that movie came out in the same year) for a movie about a girl who ends up cursed because her father uncovered an ancient Egyptian tomb. This leads to cruel deaths, weird happenings and a finale that is pretty wild. It’s a shame that this movie had its budget cut, as Fulci was trying to move away from his usual gory affairs, and you can tell that he was trying to make a creepy and effective movie. Still there are some good freaky death scenes in this movie, and it’s pretty obvious this is still a Fulci movie.

Christopher Connelly and Laura Lenz are really good as the parents of Susie (Brigitta Boccoli) who ends up becoming affected by the evil. What happens to Susie and her brother’s (Giovanni Frezza) babysitter is pretty crazy, and there is a bedroom scene that would easily be at home in any of the Poltergeist movies. I can’t say more about the deaths yet one that occurs in the finale is pretty wild and very memorable, and despite not being allowed to reach it’s full potential I still liked this movie. I saw it thanks to Shudder, which has a fairly solid collection of Fulci’s movies. The Italians sure knew how to make a crazy horror movie.

She’s got that…cobra in her? Huh Fulci was ahead of his time!

Horrorfest 2022 Presents: Elvira’s Haunted Hills (2001, Sam Irvin)


Unlike her other film, Elvira: Mistress of the Dark, Elvira’s Haunted Hills plays more as a spoof comedy/loving homage to classic Hollywood horror comedy movies. This is both good and bad, as some of the jokes fail to land and the storyline isn’t as good as her previous film. However I still liked this one anyways, since Elvira is quite funny as usual and has some truly great snappy one liners, which is her main charm and appeal. I’m not sure why Sam Irvin and her decided to make this a period piece movie, yet the castle setting is amusing enough and is good for some funny gags, some witty, some rather dumb. Cassandra Peterson deserved a bigger budget movie, and if it’s true she’s hung up being Elvira for good we may never see her star in one, which would be a shame although there’s still time for that to happen. It’s one major frustrating aspect of horror movies in that so many of them don’t receive the funding they deserve.

Mary Jo Smith is a riot as Elvira’s faithful companion, Richard O’Brien is creepy and weirdly funny as the castle’s owner, and Mary Scheer about steals the movie along with Scott Atkinson, who probably was channeling George Sanders, although according to others it was supposed to be Vincent Price. Either one is good. The final act has a moment that is so funny and awesome it has to be seen to be believed, and I won’t spoiler it. Check this one out, lower expectations a bit, and enjoy Elvira being well, Elvira.

Horrorfest 2022 Presents: The House of Seven Corpses (1973, Paul Harrison)


I’m not sure if The House of Seven Corpses is a really early example of a meta style horror movie, yet this one doesn’t seem to fully commit to the idea. Maybe it was lack of money, talent or style, yet Paul Harrison’s movie is pretty tame and fails to offer any scares. I did like the zombie aspect, yet the movie only features that way too late for such events to make a sizable impact. I didn’t hate this movie, but I didn’t really like it either, so it rests in that 50-60s out of 100 score that I’ve given forgettable movies that fade away in my brain. If it wasn’t for blogs and movie logging websites I would probably forget I had even watched movies such as this one, and that’s the worst offense a movie can commit: to be pedestrian, lackadaisical. John Carradine stars in this movie, yet even can’t rescue this one, and the movie manages to waste him in a thankless old man role.

I will admit I did like the ending, although the overall conclusion doesn’t really make sense. The opening part of the film is excellent, and it’s all downhill from there, which is rather disappointing. I guess the only reason I’m glad I saw this is that it’s probably another movie that inspired Edgar Wright’s hilarious fake trailer spoof of British and American horror movies, Don’t! That’s about it, and I’m glad I saw this for free on Tubi because if I had paid to view this in theaters I would have been rather annoyed.

Horrorfest 2022 Presents: Roadgames (1981, Richard Franklin)


This movie’s title is either Roadgames or Road Games, but that doesn’t matter because it is a highly effective, well crafted and even gorgeous horror thriller from Australia. Richard Franklin makes a really good movie that I should probably rate higher, and the cast helps him out: Stacy Keach and Jamie Lee Curtis, who play a trucker and the hitchhiker he picks up on the dusty backroads of the Australian Outback. Keach’s Pat is tired and in an hurry to make some money, yet along the way he ends up possibly driving behind a man who could be a serial killer. That or Pat is just sleep deprived and going crazy, which is something even he entertains at one point. Curtis’ Pamela believes him to a point, or perhaps she just is eager for a ride and some adventure. Roadgames is Hitchcock in the Australian wild, yet it’s done with style, beautiful cinematography, and some nicely executed set pieces.

My favorite thing about this movie is how the police keep thinking Pat is the killer, which is something that Hitchcock loved to do in his movies. Franklin also made Patrick, which is just as good as this movie, and he went on to a pretty solid Hollywood career. Yet this movie stands out I’m sure when people think of his filmography, and for good reason. Keep watching for the bleakly amusing ending, which has a final shot that I’m sure made people jump in the movie theater. Good times. Also any movie that has a dingo and doesn’t kill it off will get tons of points from me. Viewed thanks to Tubi, which is my favorite free streaming service. If you don’t mind the ads, that’s the one for you.

Horrorfest 2022 Presents: Watcher (2022, Chloe Okuno)


Although Watcher is a slow burn, the movie pays off pretty well in the last half and it is a very claustrophobic and intense horror thriller that lets the viewer into the mindset of a woman in a foreign city. Lucky for her she is with her boyfriend, however she is left alone to her own devices while he is working and she wanders Bucharest, all while a serial killer runs amok. Maika Monroe is excellent in role of Julia, who attracts unwanted attention when she looks across at another building’s window from hers. Sure this is very Rear Window to a degree, yet Watcher operates differently from that one. Chloe Okuno does a fine job of showing the viewer what possibly justifiable paranoia feels like, and how women often experience this whenever they go. It’s quite different for a man, and I often think about how I’m fine walking alone in many places, where as women wouldn’t feel this way. That’s too bad, yet that’s often the case.

I’m a little mixed about the finale, and I kind of wondered if maybe things could have played out a bit differently. Maybe the movie couldn’t have had it’s cake and eaten it too, yet that final shot is rather haunting and very effective. I probably should have tried to see this movie in theaters, and I loved those late night scenes that linger in my mind a little. Cities look so beautiful and peaceful at night, yet behind closed doors may lurk unknown horrors or evil that we don’t know about. Horror movies do a great job of bringing that to the forefront, although some times it can make one very fearful and well, paranoid. Shudder has this one, check it out.

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