Horrorfest 2020 Presents: The Amityville Horror (1979, Stuart Rosenberg)

I haven’t read the book or looked into the story itself, yet regardless The Amityville Horror is a well made and creepy haunted house movie from the golden age of horror. Despite being made at the end of the decade it is still a classic and features many hallmarks of that cinema period. The cast for this is great, too, with James Brolin, Margot Kidder, Rod Steiger and even Murray Hamilton. This helps to sell some of the movie’s more outrageous moments.

I’m reminded of The Omen where the fantastic is based in enough realism for it to be plausible. Brolin and Kidder have good chemistry together and Steiger adds gravitas as the priest who tries to bless their home. I liked how the film used quiet moments to lure the viewer into a false sense of calm, particularly right before some weird or frightening happens.

Even though I feel this movie is a tad dated, I still really liked it. The Amityville Horror is considered one of the essential US horror films for good reason, and it helped to establish numerous genre cliches. I heard that the sequels are insane and this I must see them, too. Oh and I loved the house that was the film’s setting-that massive old thing was a character all on its own.

Horrorfest 2020 Presents: Squirm (1976, Jeff Lieberman)

The killer animals movie Squirm is goofy, silly, and yet watchable in that kind of 1970s cult movie charm that works. Is it a good movie? Nah but it is a decent one featuring likable people and some hilarious lines such as “Now you’re gonna be the worm face!” The killer worm death scenes are actually gross, too, which helps even though this movie definitely could have used more gore and worm violence.

A storm causes worms to go crazy and murder people, or something. The plot is not important here. Plus you have one guy going crazy after getting worms in his face, which I guess would drive anyone nuts. I do want to watch the MST3K skewering of this flick, just because I bet the jokes are fun. I miss environmentally based killer animal movies-they just don’t make them like they used to anymore.

Horrorfest 2020 Presents: The Car (1977, Elliot Silverstein)

Elliot Silverstein’s The Car is both a demonic presence movie and a Jaws ripoff all in one marvelous, campy package. The opening death scenes are well done, and the car itself is an evil force bearing down upon the unlucky small town it decided to roll into. James Brolin is the local hero desperately trying to save people from a four wheeled menace that doesn’t have a driver and seems to have the world’s greatest gas mileage.

Kathleen Lloyd and Ronny Cox also star, and I wonder if this movie inspired Stephen King to write Christine. One car kill is both shocking and really well done, and the final act is pretty entertaining. If you are looking for a solid entry in the killer car genre, then The Car is a worthy choice. I can see why this was one of the 1970s horror movies to be restored by Anchor Bay and also by Scream Factory.

Horrorfest 2020 Presents: The House That Dripped Blood (1971, Peter Duffell)

Even though this movie has a cool title, The House That Dripped Blood is a bit of a lie. Still that’s a title that will grab your attention and make you want to watch it, which is what I did. I liked all of the stories except for one, and while maybe only one or two were really great this is still a very enjoyable Amicus Productions movie from a studio famous for its anthology movies. Oh and of course both Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee show up in this one, although believe it or not they weren’t in every British horror movie. Just most of them.

Also Robert Bloch was responsible for all of the stories, which of course surround a giant old mansion that a local real estate agent insists is cursed and ruins people’s lives. The first story is Denholm Elliott thinking he is going insane, and has a wonderful twist that I actually did not see coming. The man supposedly haunting him looks wonderfully creepy. Even though I liked the second tale I expected a bit more from one featuring Peter Cushing, although it does stick the landing.

The Christopher Lee one has a cool title yet I was bored by that one. Easily the weakest of the bunch. Luckily the last tale starring Jon Pertwee and Ingrid Pitt is the best of the bunch, and feels wonderfully meta for an early 1970s horror movie. The wrap around tale is enjoyable and has someone breaking the fourth wall, a bit that is eye rolling these days but was fresh back then. Amicus has done better ones, yet The House That Dripped Blood is an enjoyable and solid effort from a fun studio during the heyday of British horror films.

Someone has to clean that up…

Horrorfest 2020 Presents: Lady Frankenstein (1971, Mel Welles)

You know, Lady Frankenstein isn’t half bad. It has Joseph Cotten chewing scenery in what was a role he took to pay the bills, and Rosalba Neri under an assumed name as the Baron’s daughter. There is nudity, violence, brain swapping and even angry villagers! Naturally the grotesque creature shows up too to wreck havoc and kill a bunch of people. The Italians decided they could make their own Frankenstein movie, and I liked it despite it being pretty goofy at times.

When I watched this on Tubi I found out via YouTube that there is a director’s cut of Lady Frankenstein that is longer. I wonder if the additional footage makes for a better film. Guess I will have to find out later on. For now this was a passable spin on mostly already done material. Welles’ movie would fit in just fine with the other Hammer Frankenstein movies.

2019 Horrorfest Presents: Thirst (1979, Rod Hardy)

Rod Hardy’s Thirst (not to be confused with the modern day vampire movie with the same title) is equal parts Soylent Green and Hammer Films vampire movies put together in one over the top, marvelous package. Chantal Contouri headlines a cast that also includes David Hemmings and Henry Silva as part of a cult that is obsessed with a woman that is descended from Elizabeth Báthory. They want to turn her into a vampire just like Báthory! What you have is rooms full of giant blood vats, an opening that is rather startling, and a conclusion that left me a tad confused. This movie also gave me some David Cronenberg vibes, and I wonder if it further influenced him as much as it was seemingly influenced by him (I was reminded of Rabid quite a bit-which not a bad thing). Anyone who knows me well can attest to my love of cult cinema and strange B-movie oddities, and this movie fits into both categories.

There was parts that did bore me at times, and the fact that Kate keeps trying to escape only to be recaptured became a bit overplayed. However I still liked how the movie never stopped trying to shock her or the audience. The blood shower scene would be at home in any horror movie, and the part where she witnesses the cult members feeding is creepy and very memorable. The cast really helps with some of the thinner material, particularly Hemmings and Silva. Contouri also gives an excellent performance, as she is the movie’s anchor-you sympathize with her while also thinking “Hey she might give into all this madness.” Conformity in society is a powerful thing, and in the hands of the wrong people it can be easily weaponized.

Horrorfest 2019 Presents: Cannibal Girls (1973, Ivan Reitman)

I had no idea that Ivan Reitman made a horror comedy movie in the 1970s, called Cannibal Girls. Tubi TV has brought this to my attention and despite some obvious low budget limitations I still enjoyed this one. Primarily because it starred Eugene Levy and Andrea Martin as a couple stranded in a small town run by cannibals! The humor is a bit thick at times yet the kills are eerie and the pacing is solid. I wonder if maybe this film helped serve as a semi-dress rehearsal for Ghostbusters, although perhaps not. There are also a few quite gory scenes that I did not expect, and one sequence that offered up a surprise.

Oh and the movie oddly works as a feminist take on slasher films, primarily since in this case the men are the victims and the women are the killers. Cannibal Girls is easily a candidate for a late night drive in movie, or a flick that would be featured on one of those old school movie host programs. Also this is one of those movies that has the wonderfully creepy cliche (which it probably helped invent) of the townspeople being in on the whole thing. If this movie doesn’t make you consider being a vegetarian or inspire you to avoid small towns altogether, well…

Horrorfest 2018 Presents: The Black Belly Of The Tarantula (1971, Paolo Cavara)

Giancarlo Giannini is a legend in his own right, and starred in a movie featuring several Bond actresses and a score from Ennio Morricone, one of the greatest composers of all time. This movie is called The Black Belly of the Tarantula, a really good giallo despite the fact that l guessed the killer in the first couple of minutes. However I do not hold this against the film, mostly since I have spent almost a decade and a half viewing giallo films. Also parts of this film has more sex and violence than some giallos do, in addition to being the good type of mystery horror film that the Italians are known for creating.

Giannini plays a cop investigating a unique serial killer. This killer uses a paralyzing needle, then cuts open their victims while they are still alive. There is one freaky scene where this is shown in gruesome, open fashion. Also the killer humilates Tellini, the cop, by filming him having sex with his girlfriend and sending it to the police. I like that this film at times plays more as a detective film than a horror film, simply because that is an interesting take on the giallo that I have not seen before.

Despite being a tad slow at times, Paolo Cavara’s giallo is well made and mostly engaging. It is odd seeing Claudine Auger interact with Barbara Bouchet considering the former had already been a Bond girl and the latter became one years later. This also was one of the earlier giallos which plays in its favor. Tangling with a killer can be messy business, especially if the killer finds out you have someone you care about.

Horrorfest 2018 Presents: Magic (1978, Richard Attenborough)

Sometimes horror films reveal tragedy in a more unique way. Magic, a classic 1978 horror film gives the viewer a window into the disturbed mind of Corky, expertly played by Anthony Hopkins. Corky used a dummy named Fats to become successful, yet the dummy controls him, something that has popped up in horror and sci-fi multiple times. However Richard Attenborough takes a slow burning, sure handed approach and gives a fresh and creepy spin on previously done material.

My favorite scene happens to be the card trick, where Corky impresses upon his old school crush, Peggy (the marvelous Ann-Margret) the power of connecting each other’s minds. This is a rather intense scene that shows how Corky is more than just a quiet introvert. The heart carving he also tells her represents a longing for her that she quickly picks up on. Too bad for the pair of them Peggy is not only married, but also Fats has no intention of sharing Corky with anyone.

Magic also boasts a fine score from the legendary Jerry Goldsmith, and is a well made, near great film. Dummies and puppets creep me out period, yet in this case its a man who needs serious help that is the danger here. I am reminded of certain quotes about how men are either scarier than any monster, or are one and the same. The demons within are often harder to overcome than people realize.

Horrorfest 2018 Presents: Daughters of Darkness (1971, Harry Kümel)

Daughters of Darkness is one of those slow burnining, atmospheric erotic films where there is a horror plot, yet its just an excuse to feature nudity and blood. This is a Belgian vampire film with hardly any vampire moments, yet I still liked it, much as I also liked Jean Rollin’s The Shiver of the Vampires. Both movies have plenty of style, yet I prefer Kümel’s film more: it has better acting and even better pacing. I also can see where the possible inspiration for The Hunger (1983) came from, a film that is superior to the ones I have mentioned. Sometimes the student becomes the master, a common theme in many horror films.

A couple seemingly in love journey to a haunting and stunning hotel in the middle of nowhere. There is a gorgeous older woman who does not age, and talk of brutal murders. Things come to a head eventually, but not before we get eerie moments and a scene that is one of the film’s most interesting. Sure this film is the typical style over substance and maybe I liked it more than I should have. Vampire movies can be added to my list of horror subgenres I seem to adore, despite their obvious flaws.

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