Horrorfest 2020 Presents: Hack O-Lantern (1988, Jag Mundhra)

I only saw Hack O-Lantern thanks to The Last Drive In With Joe Bob Briggs. I had no idea this movie even existed, and guess what: I liked it. Is it a good movie? Hmm…probably not. Is it my kind of bad trash that I embrace during each fall season? Absolutely. This film has goofy yet awesome one liners, breasts, gore, strange music videos and nasty kills. Plus cemetery sex, on top of a recently killed guy no less.

The opener makes clear that Tommy is a creepy kid who grows up to become a moody goth teenager. His murderous psycho grandpa wants him to embrace the ways of cult hood and become one with his destiny, or something like that. I love how this movie manages to rip off a majority of the Halloween series. They should have made a sequel that covers the rest of the franchise. Oh and the Halloween party scenes are a blast-I miss those times.

Although the last act is a bit too rushed for my liking, I enjoyed this flick. The characters are solid enough and this film achieves its goals and closes up shop rather quickly. I can admire a film that is businesslike and doesn’t need to mess around. “The power is in the blood…” or something like that. Spooky.

Horrorfest 2016 Presents: The Sacrament (2013, Ti West)

This is one of those films where found footage style filmmaking works.¬†The Sacrament¬†is unnerving and although a bit slow is a good and notable flick. Ti West is a talented director who knows how to craft a notable slow burn, and while his latest doesn’t add new ground I like what I saw. He also understands that characters are an important aspect of horror movies.

Patrick journeys to Eden Parish to find out what his sister, Caroline, is up to and why she has only reached out recently after years of silence. Sam and Jake, his fellow coworkers, accompany him, with the goal of making a documentary about the experience. What they find out is equal parts disturbing and sinister, putting them in great danger. I love that creeping feeling that comes from watching West’s films, the idea that at any given moment something terrible is bound to happen.

Some of the acting in this movie is weak and there are certain scenes that don’t quite work. Gene Jones steals the movie as Father, a man who’s grandfather style approach to running his commune hides a strong ability to manipulate people. Due to how the film is structured he doesn’t have enough screen time, unfortunately. Although not better than his previous efforts this is still worth a view as its still on Netflix.

Horrorfest 2015 Presents: Q The Winged Serpent (1982, Larry Cohen)

Out of all the monster films I’ve watched over the years Q: The Winged Serpent is rather bizarre. After all this is a movie about a cult that brings to life a freaky God creature that flies around and devours people. Plenty of awesome and entertaining moments there, not to mention Cohen once again directing a film set in New York where people are being killed by a strange force and the police are investigating.

What makes this film also interesting is the performances of Michael Moriarty and David Carradine. Moriarty plays a criminal piano player that stumbles onto the creature’s nest and being a crook naturally demands money for leading the police to the monster. Carradine’s police officer is a man too smart for his own good, who runs up against the fact that the police don’t like conspiracies. Much easier to simply tackle a beast flying around Manhattan as it kills people.

Despite being rather cheesy and not being quite as developed or as well made as some of his films this one is still rather solid. Also the creature effects are claymation, which is a nice touch. The 1980s didn’t have enough big monster movies save for the ones from Japan and a few others, which is kind of a shame as I love me a good big angry monster movie.

It’s Hammer Time Presents: The Stranglers of Bombay (1959, Terence Fisher)

Although not a horror movie this is still an exciting and thrilling adventure film that clearly had some influence on Steven Spielberg’s and George Lucas’ Temple of Doom (1985). The Stranglers of Bombay deals with a murderous Indian cult known as the religious cult of Kalias, which was run by men known as Thuggees. They terrorized the country until the British finally defeated it, thus reflecting how the English believed that in conquering other countries they were bring order to “Uncivilized” cultures. Fisher doesn’t exactly reflect that in this film however, as the colonial and political subtexts are either pushed aside or not deemed important, while the film’s main purpose is to be a movie thrill ride that entertains the audience instead. Which is too bad, although in the 1950s a movie questioning British colonialism at a time when the British were losing their empire probably would not have been too popular with audiences.

One of my favorite parts is when the young captain, named Henry Lewis (played elegantly by Guy Rolfe) has to be saved from a cobra by a brave mongoose in an exciting and very real fight to the death. The cult leader really lacks any type of personality and therefore isn’t really menacing although he is not actually the main villain. The movie has crisp, clear action sequences and is very straightforward which is not completely a bad thing. While not featuring the main stars that populated most of Hammer Studios films I liked that The Stranglers of Bombay has a cast that I was not familiar with, as it makes things more unpredictable. This is one Hammer Studios film that should have been rewarded with a sequel, as the future exploits of Lewis would have been also fun to watch onscreen. Oh well.

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