Horrorfest 2021 Presents: Rituals (1977, Peter Carter)


Rituals is a low budget 1970s wilderness horror thriller that was definitely inspired by Deliverance. Yet it has it’s own style and is mostly effective although parts of the movie was the director trying too hard. The final act drags on a bit too much also. Still I liked this movie and I realized midway through that I’m a fan of wilderness horror movies as a sub-genre. Hal Holbrook leads a cast of lesser known actors as they struggle to escape from a killer pursuing them in the Canadian wilderness.

This movie has some great outdoor shots, and Peter Carter puts both the characters and the audience through the ringer. This was a decent enough flick that I only saw thanks to Shudder. I’m not surprised that Steven King is a fan of this movie as many of his stories feature people dealing with extreme situations. Be prepared when you head out into the middle of nowhere and expect crazy people to show up is the lesson I got out of this movie.

Horrorfest 2021 Presents: Two Thousand Maniacs! (1964, Herschell Gordon Lewis)


Not only did Herschell Gordon Lewis manage to make one of the earliest slasher gore flicks with Blood Feast, he then followed it up with an early redneck torture genre movie in Two Thousand Maniacs! Sure the acting remains wonderfully awful, yet beneath that and some cheesy moments lies a movie that in 1964 examines the South being unable to let the Civil War go. Sadly that aspect remains more relevant than ever, and it makes me appreciate this movie more than others do I suppose.

That and the kills are really disturbing and gory for a drive in 1960s flick. Lewis was not afraid to go beyond any lines of good taste, and the poor Northerners who stumble into the town of Pleasant Valley find out all too well how thirsty for revenge the folks of the town are, via multiple different ways of violence! He helps create the cliches of the two dumb redneck guys responsible for orchestrating the chaos, the victims who fail to realize what is happening until it’s too late, and a fun twist ending that would be at home in any modern horror movie.

Lewis did all this, and helped along with others to drag the horror movie genre into the modern era kicking and screaming. I want to see more of his other movies, and I think myself and others have more of an appreciation for his movies, good or bad. This flick will stick with me for a while, that’s for sure.

Horrorfest 2021 Presents: I Bury The Living (1958, Albert Band)


Even though I Bury The Living does not stick the landing with the ending, the rest of the movie is pretty cool. You have Richard Boone playing a businessesman who has to oversee a local cemetery. During his stint as chairman he believes that he possess the ability to cause people to die. That is a good concept for a movie, and to have it be a 1950s movie reminds me that 1950s horror cinema is quite underrated. The black and white cinematography works in this movie’s favor as well, casting shadows and building up the movie’s overall atmosphere.

You have Boone’s Robert slowly falling into despair and insanity as he begins to believe he is the cause of people he knows dying. There is a fantastic scene where he runs among the tombstones that is one of the movie’s highlights. Alas the film’s conclusion is too mundane and a copout that happens too often in older horror movies. I do agree with those who say this is literally a Twilight Zone episode turned into a movie, which is fine.

My final thoughts are that my local community college cable channel used to show I Bury The Living all the time, and yet I never got around to seeing it. Thanks to Tubi I finally did and I’m glad because it is a really good old school horror movie. Richard Bone was a cool actor too by the way, definitely one of the more famous stock character actors of his time.

Horrorfest 2021 Presents: Sting of Death (1966, William Grefé)


So yes I did a double bill of William Grefé, enabled by Tubi. I really need to get my hands on that Arrow Video boxset of his films, even though I’ve now seen two of them. However I liked Sting of Death, too so that bodes well. It’s a little less goofy than the Tartu flick, although it does have another wonderfully cheesy dance scene although this one makes sense. It happens at a pool party, after all.

A giant killer jellyfish man or creature is horribly murdering people in the Everglades. Two scientists try to figure out what is happening, and without saying more this movie ventures into mad scientist territory. While also being a slasher film of sorts, which is note worthy considering this movie was made in the 1960s.

There is a pool attack scene that is parts hilarious and actually neat at the same time. My favorite thing about this movie is that Grefé sticks to his guns and makes a flick born for the drive in movie viewing experience. Sometimes that’s enough as far as cinema is concerned. This movie also has one of the best boat massacres ever, right up there with the one from The Burning, in fact.

Horrorfest 2021 Presents: Death Curse of Tartu (1966, William Grefé)


One William Grefé decided to make low budget B style exploitation movies in Florida. Death Curse of Tartu is one of those, and despite it being really goofy I liked it. Is it a great flick? Nah, yet it is fun to watch. I mean a group of people wander into the Everglades and awaken the vengeful spirit of Tartu, who proceeds to murder all of them with nature.

Yep this is equal parts slasher movie, ancient evil movie, and later on action adventure. Is there dancing randomly at some point? Yes. Are the killer animal moments ridiculous yet entertaining? Absolutely. You either give into a movie like this one or you think it’s really stupid. I fall a little in-between, yet I still give this movie a favorable rating anyways.

Mr. Grefé would have been right at home with Hammer Studios, and he’s one of the many American directors I wish has been able to work for that studio. Also I’ll never been able to forget the name “Tartu,” ever.

Horrorfest 2021 Presents: The Brain Eaters (1958, Bruno VeSota)


Sure 1950s cinema mostly featured sci-fi instead of horror movies, yet horror still managed to survive through efforts such as The Brain Eaters. This is a goofy yet well made B-movie that I enjoyed, mostly because it takes itself seriously enough to work. Also brain parasites from outer space is freaky enough, mixed in with of course some light Cold War commentary.

Once those space aliens grab onto your brain, they don’t let go and they take over your actions. There’s a cool scene where the film’s heroes realize that their communications are cut off, and also the finale is pretty entertaining. Other 1950s sci-fi horror movies may be better or smarter, yet The Brain Eaters is still a reliable and fun movie from the old school era of the genre.

Horrorfest 2021 Presents: Ratu Ilmu Hitam aka The Queen of Black Magic (1981, Liliek Sudjio)


Suzzanna gives a chilling, multi-layered and effective performance in The Queen of Black Magic, aka Ratu Ilmu Hitam, an early 1980s Indonesian horror movie that is quite gory and very entertaining. Murni was just an innocent woman accused of witchcraft by the local villagers. Wronged by a man who lied to her about marriage, and completely innocent, she is thrown off a cliff. Yet a local shaman rescues her, and trains her for revenge!

The locals already think Murni is a witch, and thus she decides to become one. Striking back at the villagers in so many different ways, she becomes a force of terror, a nightmare to the locals. One kill I particularly remember is her using a scarf to hang a man from a tree. Plus causing a man to tear his own head off, and have the head fly around, which is crazy and a tad freaky.

However a local holy man appears and throws a wrench into Murni’s master’s plans. Even though the finale is a bit too long and isn’t completely satisfying, I still really like this movie. The Queen of Black Magic is the second Indonesian horror movie I have seen, and both of them stand out in my mind really well. Sometimes it’s nice to venture out and watch a foreign horror movie, especially since many of them are often better than American or European ones.

Horrorfest 2018 Presents: The Gate (1987, Tibor Takács)


To kids in the 1980s, The Gate must have been pure nightmare fuel. Especially the scene where young Glen (Stephen Dorff, in his first role) goes to hug his parents, only to watch them melt away before his very eyes. It is moments such as that which make The Gate so fun to view, even if it is an outlandish and cheesy 1980s film. The plot is really simple: two kids open the portal to hell in their backyard. Freaky looking stop-motion animation creatures show up, leading to events that rapidly spiral out of control. The Gate is the weekend from hell that is often a staple of horror movies. Literally, in this case.

Christa Denton is great as Al, Glen’s sister, and Louis Tripp plays Glen’s weird friend, Terry. Even though I was never scared at all I rather liked and enjoyed The Gate. I also couldn’t help but notice that some aspects reminded me of Stranger Things, and I am sure the show counts The Gate as one of its many influences. Not bad for a Canadian-America horror movie I finally got to view thanks to the magic of streaming.

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