Horrorfest 2018 Presents: Tourist Trap (1979, David Schmoeller)


Create a horror movie with killer puppets, Chuck Connors, and Tanya Roberts and I am going to watch it. I love 1970s horror for being out there, unafraid to try its hardest to scare the viewer. While Tourist Trap is merely creepy, it also has plenty of entertainment value and also one of those endings you think about for days. Bravo to Shudder for having this movie and for Joe Bob Briggs adding the witty and informative comedy. Also based on what I have seen of his work David Schmoeller is an underrated horror craftsman who made some good flicks that I have enjoyed. This is one of them.

A group of young folks make that classic horror movie error of stumbling onto an abandoned museum. Is this place in the middle of nowhere and run by western acting legend Chuck Connors? Absolutely. I also like that I was unable to guess the Final Girl, which makes Tourist Trap in that unique small group of slasher films. I love the weird kills, Connor stealing the movie, the young likable cast, the amazing ending, and how goofy this film is at times. I imagine this flick has a high replay value, and that everyone should watch it at least once.

Horrorfest 2015 Presents: God Told Me To (1976, Larry Cohen)


Opening with a killing spree that feels ripped from today’s headlines, God Told Me To feels all too relevant in today’s blood soaked present. The cop who tries to find out why a seemingly normal man would murder people without cause or reason is coldly presented with an eerie sentence where ever he goes: “God told me to.” The opener is chaotic and terrifying, ending in tragedy.

The police fail to see a motive even though others continue to kill, stating the exact reason the first murderer did. The cop, Peter (Tony Lo Bianco) runs up against his own police force and ends up digging into his own past, revealing unanswered questions that might lead to a nightmarish future. At the heart of all of this is a cult leader who may not even be of this world. Cohen frames all of this in stark, realistic and eerie fashon, crafting scenes of pure tension.

Even more interesting is that the film has two particularly strong female characters, played by Deborah Raffin and Sandy Dennis. How they relate to and figure into what Peter is going through establish and ground the movie in a plausible reality. They also realize only too late the deep issues that Peter has, although his wife mediates upon Peter’s obsession with religion. One harrowing scene involves Peter dealing with his perceived sins in a church, a moment that reminds me of the works of Abel Ferrera.

Naturally all of this craziness boils to a shocking and chilling finale. Cohen is an underrated auteur that made different and interesting films, some horror, some crime, often mixing the two and giving us a film such as God Told Me To. Not too many films made in the 1970s have stayed relevant, yet what may be Cohen’s finest creation is still very applicable today. Particularly with the recent killing sprees and the rise of religious fanaticism.

Horrorfest 2014 Presents: Zombie (1979, Lucio Fulci)


Lucio Fulci sure loves his zombies, as evidenced by many of his movies. Especially the aptly named cult classic Zombie, made in 1979 and styled as a quasi sequel to George A. Romero’s Dawn Of The Dead. However this film is more graphic and violent, which is the usual hallmarks of a Fulci movie. This one starts out with a brutal killing followed by a freaky and gory incident on a boat in the New York harbor.

A reporter and the daughter of a doctor team up together and decide to travel down to the island to find him. This leads to them using a pair of vacationing adventurers and a mysterious island where a strange doctor is conducting bizarre experiments. Nothing is what it seems and the undead lurk around every corner, set on devouring the living. This is made especially clear during a horrific scene where a woman is powerless to stop a zombie from attacking her in gruesome fashion.

From that point on the film turns into a walking nightmare, as the undead rise and begin to attack. Most zombie movies have a siege moment at one point or another, and Zombie sure provides it. Funny how cowboys vs Native Americans are incorporated in many horror films, as the heroes must blast their way out and prevent themselves from becoming monster food. Also it helps that they have enough guns to battle the zombie menace.

Despite the low budget and the cheesy acting this is a really well shot horror film. Also the film has one of the coolest moments ever when a shark battles a zombie. Plus the ending is fantastic and eerie, a fitting conclusion to what could be Fulci’s masterwork. Also the film could be seen as a case study in different awesome ways to slaughter a zombie. Even though its not really dived into more there is also a subtitle yet also obvious commentary on how the island’s inhabitants get revenge/seek to devour their seemingly white colonial masters, in addition to the island’s curses that plagued its Spanish rulers coming back to haunt the living centuries later. I can’t wait to see some of his other films, as I have already viewed and liked a few of his other works.

One Night, Three Bava’s


Okay so I meant to post this on October 31st, 2013 but I tend to procrastinate and I was really far behind on reviews at that point anyways. This was mostly because I was too busy watching horror movies, and I spent Halloween night at home enjoying beer, food, and a trio of Mario Bava films:

1) 5 Dolls For An August Moon (1970)

In some ways I’m not even sure that 5 Dolls For An August Moon is a horror film, as most of the movie is a murder mystery/suspense drama with plenty of bodies to go around. Still its a loose slasher film/giallo crafted by the legendary Mario Bava, and I loved its ghoulish sense of humor. There is some amusement to be found in how this film unwinds, and there is a scene that possibly violates logic yet in this film’s loose and wild narrative its a scene that makes absolute sense. Oh and this film could have been subtitled “Rich people behaving badly. Really badly.”

A group of industrialists throw a party on a secluded island, with several of them attempting to pay off a scientist for his discovery of a formula that could be revolutionary. From early on when someone is horribly murdered to the group’s horrible way of dealing with the murders going on in their midst, 5 Dolls operates as a slasher comedy, with the characters rapidly dropping like flies. Like so many other slasher movies this film quickly becomes a guessing game, where the murder hides in plain sight and no one can be trusted. Its a nice level of paranoia that works fairly well in the best slasher movies.

I’m still not sure how I feel about the ending, and while I really liked this movie I think its one of Bava’s most uninteresting in terms of what happens. Yet I loved the pure style of the proceedings, and the final shot is in some regards a wonderful joke. Dead people haven’t been this funny or interesting in quite some time, I think.

2) Hatchet For Honeymoon (1970)

In some ways the great looking yet sinister manic John, the main character of Hatchet For The Honeymoon, reminds me of Patrick Bateman from American Psycho. Both are rich psychopaths who hide their murder lusts behind perfectly constructed facades, carefully wooing lovely beauties and then killing them. However Bateman wasn’t a mother’s boy, and he was too smart to be locked into a loveless marriage of connivance like John was. Poor John, much like Patrick, can barely keep it together: his world is a house of cards, and he is a lunatic bordering on absolute madness. This is Mario Bava’s masterwork, a film that takes us inside the world of a madman and achieves the tricky part of making us care if he can actually stay one step ahead of the law, that he escapes fate.

Not to mention the fact that midway through the movie loses itself completely in the tricky confines of John’s psychotic world view, operating as crazy as John does the rest of the way. The title by the way is a complete misnomer, as John doesn’t actually murder anyone with a hatchet, choosing instead to use a meat clever to nasty effect. The killings are gorgeous, constructed perfectly and therefore shockingly up close. You can almost feel and sense the fear of his victims and pity them even as John covers his awful behavior with the lies of a gentleman of leisure.

I cannot reveal here one of the film’s best aspects, nor can I say more about the ending, which is bone chillingly eerie. What I can note is that Hatchet For The Honeymoon is a classy giallo with plenty of surprises up its sleeve. So far the only other Bava I find that comes close to matching this film is Blood and Black Lace, another nasty piece of work that is another fine contribution to the slasher sub genre of horror movie making.

3) Twitch Of The Death Nerve/A Bay Of Blood (1971)

Okay so I can see why everyone feels that Friday the 13th: Part 2 ripped off Twitch of the Death Nerve, also known as A Bay of Blood. In fact its painfully obvious, and yet I like both movies-even though A Bay of Blood is the superior of the two. Mario Bava was really good at depicting horrible mayhem occurring onscreen to the point where its no surprise that the Americans decided to rip off his kills. Especially the famous “Spear through the two lovers” death scene that was so graphic the filmmakers of Friday the 13th were forced to cut parts of the scene just to avoid the dreaded “X” rating. Bava apparently did not have that problem in Italy, although I’m sure even the censors over there were strict to a certain degree.

Another thing I love about this film is that the killers are mostly revealed-there is little secret as to who is murdering who, and the body count is rather high. Since the lake front property is worth a great fortune a greedy brood has descended upon the area, desperately killing off one another to try and take control. In some ways this movie has the feel of a gory soap opera where someone is screwing someone else, another person has murdered someone else, and everyone seems to be in on some type of demented conspiracy. Its almost difficult to keep up with the machinations of the entire situation.


By the end of this movie I was a bit exhausted, although that was more so from having spent the entire Halloween night watching Bava movies on Netflix Instant Viewing. A Bay of Blood is gory, bloody (of course) and yet manages to keep that trademark dark humor that Bava featured in some of his later movies. I smiled at how the film ended, and I realize that the Friday the 13th series would have benefited from more dark humor in the series and maybe some nicely tuned irony.

Horrorfest 2013 Presents: Four Flies On Grey Velvet (1971, Dario Argento)


That mask was insanely creepy. Really it was another one of Dario Argento’s stylistic flourishes, a nice touch early on in his  famous Four Flies On Grey Velvet (1971). One of his earliest works and another fine example of his contributions to horror cinema. I also liked how Argento works in a Hitchcock style plot about a man tormented by a psychopath who knows about his accidental killing of a man that had been following him.

Ah Roberto you are in over your head, unable to go to the police, a prisoner in your own home. The list of suspects is long and the body count piles up fast. Best put on the old thinking cap if you want to survive, and Roberto is lucky that he has friends capable of aiding him. Plus a private detective that is not as incompetent as he seems.

There are some typically freaky deaths in this film and Argento deploys his wonderful and usual brutal tricks. I’ve always liked how Argento would use what scares people in real life-actual fears-and not things that scare people that only happen in the movies. That is highly effective and there were several moments in the film where I was freaked out.

Despite having a so-so last act redeemed by a great, fatalistic ending, Four Flies On Gray Velvet is another really good entry in Argento’s library. I look forward to continuing his filmography, even though his 90s and 2000s works have received mixed and bad reviews. He is still a master of horror regardless of a decline in his work, and I imagine I might even like some of his later movies more than others do.

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