It’s Hammer Time Presents: Frankenstein Created Woman (1967, Terence Fisher)

One of the best things about Peter Cushing is how no matter what the movie he appeared in he always gave his all to whatever role he played. The part of Baron Frankenstein suited him rather well, and in Frankenstein Created Woman the Baron is working with an older assistant named Dr Hertz, attempting to isolate the soul of a person. In doing so he will conquer death via a new means, so long as he is able to captain a person’s soul and essence. Finally the brilliant madman is able to achieve his goal without interference from others, yet human nature becomes his new problem.

Like many of the entries in this series there is a ghoulish and cruel opener. A man is the executed, and the repercussions of this action happen years later when his son is framed for murder by a trio of upper class thugs. His beloved, Christina (the lovely and talented Susan Denberg) kills herself in response after seeing her lover brutally executed, and Frankenstein realizes this his chance to prove his metaphysical theories. Of course this leads to that classic scene featuring strange machines at work, resulting in weird science happening.

Frankenstein Created Woman is a film with two halves: one a science fiction Gothic horror tale with tragedy, the other a slasher film. The Baron does create a monster that is beautiful and lovely, and yet due to having the soul of a vengeful man it proceeds to go on a rampage. Unfortunately for Baron Frankenstein and his assistant the authorities of the village come after him per the typical realization that he is responsible, and events come to a head. Particularly after the Baron and Dr Hertz realize what is actually happening.

Despite at times being cheesy and a little slow in the middle, Frankenstein Created Woman is one of the better sequels in the Frankenstein series. The conclusion is both sad and haunting, and this film is rather entertaining and intelligently made. I continue to enjoy viewing these movies, as its amusing to me how Frankenstein continues to survive and work despite everyone being against him.

It’s Hammer Time Presents: The Plague of the Zombies (1966 John Gilling)

Made before George A. Romero created Night of the Living Dead Hammer Studios released their own zombie film, Plague of the Zombies. In some ways this film had zombies acting more like modern zombies, minus the eating of people. The creatures were violent, hostile, and really freaky looking, which was different in a way from the old versions of the monsters featured in films such as White Zombie and I Walked With A Zombie.

However this time they were under control, used by a voodoo master for his own twisted ends. One of the coolest parts of the movie is when two people witness a freaky zombie killing a man. Its harrowing and shocking, which are classic characteristics of many Hammer Studios films. As is also violence and gore, which are also utilized properly in many of the studios’ films. I loved the main characters, too-a professor and his young friend, who tackle the threat with typical British stiff upper lip and their refusal to shy away from great danger.

Also the famous element of class is thrown in, as the main villains are ruthless aristocracy. I like the film’s creepy sense of foreboding mixed in with pure weirdness at times. The opener is quite strange and unique, and for an entry that wasn’t directed by Terence Fisher this is a good, properly crafted movie. Oh and that ending is actually haunting and scary, a great conclusion to a quality popcorn flick. I love how English this movie is, and how Hammer Studios sets its movies in either the big cities of England or the small towns, where just underneath the surface of quiet country life something terrible is happening.

Horrorfest 2013 Presents: The Blob (1988, Chuck Russell)

In the 1980s there were a surprisingly high number of quality remakes: John Carpenter’s The Thing, David Cronenberg’s The Fly, and Chuck Russell’s The Blob. The Blob was a sharp contrast to its 1950s original, a cheesy sci-fi/horror movie that launched the career of Steve McQueen. In the original the government aids the town in fighting the alien menace, showing that government could be helpful and protective. By the 1980s the government was seen as the problem, and not just because of Reagan America: Watergate, the Vietnam War and the Kennedy murders had soured the American public’s opinion of their public officials. The military that once helped the people in the old film now posed a big threat in the 1980s remake, choosing to cover up the deaths caused by a monster from beyond.

The creature effects are pretty good in this movie too, and of course the death toll gets drastically upped as well. When the Blob gets you it horribly eats you in the grossest, nastiest way possible. This is creepy and ups the tension, adding to the film’s modern take on sci-fi and horror. One of my favorite parts is when a pair of kids become trapped down in the sewers as they attempt to flee from the Blob. For some reason kids being put in serious and terrifying danger has been a staple of modern horror, although in older films such as Night of the Hunter children being threatened was prominent as well. I’m also reminded of Jurassic Park’s kitchen scene, with the dreaded raptors hunting the two kids as they desperately tried to avoid becoming lunch.

Although at times the movie is really cheesy, I still like the film’s cast and how the movie plays out. Its an entertaining thrill ride, a dated 80s movie where Kevin Dillion’s street tough motor bike riding outcast is the hero and Shawnee Smith is the pretty heroine in distress who proves more to be more than just that. I loved the ending despite it being the type of ending that we see in horror movies these days, and how they defeat the Blob is just as great as it was in the 1950s original. We need more good, solid horror remakes like this (or great horror remakes such as The Thing and The Fly), ones that build upon the original and do something different, offering up their own twist on previous material. I would rather have those than another bland sequel.

Horrorfest 2013 Presents: TerrorVision (1986, Ted Nicolaou)

You can’t help but love TerrorVision’s theme song. It’s as deliciously campy as the actual film it is, and yet it doesn’t give away the film’s darker side, hinting at what will possibly happen later on in an eerie fashion. This is a horror sci-fi movie that also utilizes satire, although not to as great effect as I would like. Still this is a solid and reliable comedy with some nasty moments.

What I like about 80s horror is that it takes the harsh and brutal style of 70s horror and adds its own brand of dark comedy to the bleak horror elements. TerrorVision pokes fun at the nuclear family, war, TV (of course) and man’s stupidity. Plus even E.T. as the vapid Valley Girl daughter and her idiot boyfriend fail to realize how dangerous the alien creature is, greedily thinking of ways to exploit the monster. The parents are sex crazed money obsessed swingers; the son brainwashed by his nutjob grandpa into thinking war is fun.

Throw a vain and dumb T.V. star into the mix and you have the ingredients for an unlikable bunch of characters, which is something not found in most movies in general. What that means I’m not sure, although I guess it does feed into the film’s harsh view of the 80s. The Idiot Box summons mankind’s doom and results in a hilariously nasty moment and an unexpected conclusion. Despite being rather low budget and having some poor acting I rather enjoyed TerrorVision. Thanks goes out to my public library for enabling me to view this camp classic.

Slipping And Sliding

During the winter season I can handle cold and snow. However I cannot stand ice, which makes driving and walking almost impossible. It also leads to falls and I experienced this first hand tonight. While salting the parking lot I slipped and fell, chipping my tailbone. I’m afraid to admit that I cursed like a sailor because it really hurt. A lot. Luckily for me I did not injure anything else, and people were there to help me up.

They took me to the hospital in an ambulance-no sirens though. Because of horror movies and lost loved ones hospitals creep me out. Still the nurses were nice and they released me after x-rays showed I had only chipped it. If I’m lucky I’ll go to work tomorrow. Until then I’m icing up my sore and bruised ass and watching TV. Not the way I wanted to spend my Friday evening.

Horrorfest 2013 Presents: Village of the Damned (1960, Wolf Rilla)

One thing I enjoy about British horror and sci-fi is how fact of the matter everything is. Oh sure the village is experiencing a weird event where everyone falls asleep, resulting in bizarre pregnancies? Okay we’ll figure it out after tea and crumpets. George Sanders plays the unflappable professor who is faced with the harsh reality that his young son might be an alien; that’s a crushing blow for any parent, but damnit he’s British so he thinks the world of his kid anyways. These children are super creepy-in fact some of them give Damien from The Omen a run for his money. If you anger any of them, the entire collective group will use their super mind powers to kill you in an inventive and horrible way that would make a slasher film screenwriter smile. I loved how smartly made this movie was, how it slowly builds up the creepy atmosphere, and its interesting that this came from MGM and not Hammer Studios, as feels more like a Hammer film instead.

The death scenes are few but they quite stand out: one man is forced to kill himself with his other gun. Another has his own torch turned against him for leading an angry mob against the children. Sanders’ professor and the military are forced to decide what they must do, and this leads to an action that is equally tragic and haunting. Village of the Damned is a 60s classic, showcasing the best of horror and sci-fi, molding together the two genres and giving rise to a near great film. I would like to view both the sequel, Children of the Damned, and the remake, but I doubt either one is as well crafted or as engaging as the original.

Horrorfest 2013 Presents: Forbidden World (1982, Allen Holzman)

Space is a dangerous and scary place. Full of wonders and dangers lurking around every asteroid and moon. At least that’s the case in Forbidden World which is an Alien ripoff that I actually enjoyed. Even with the low-budget special effects and the hilariously bad opening space battle. We can thank the legendary Roger Corman for producing this entertaining piece of sci-fi horror schlock.

I can’t even recall the space fodder….I mean, characters…names. They aren’t terribly important and neither is the plot which involves genetics and some ugly monstrous creature. This film has it all: tons of nudity gore and horrific death scenes. Not to mention amusingly cheesy moments and a cool android. That’s always a plus. Don’t forget that random shower scene either. The creature itself has great big shiny teeth and appears to be a cross between a spider and god knows what else.

A film like this could only exist in the past when cheesy low-budget films were easy to make. Today this film would fail to straddle the fine line between entertaining goofy camp and outright dumb parody. Someone like Roger Corman was always able to walk that line as a director and as a producer.

Viewer Beware, You’re In For A Scare

Back when I was a kid, Goosebumps was all the rage. Everyone read the books, owned the books, and loved the books. R.L. Stine helped make reading cool, which despite his stories being cheesy or very kids oriented was still a good thing: anything that gets kids to read should be encouraged. In fact some of his tales had twists that M. Night Shyamalan wishes he could come up with. So I was happy that Netflix Instant Viewing now has the rights to the show, which channeled the books pretty well, as all four seasons have been released so far. But hey its a start and I plan to go through the show as much as possible. I started last night with the pilot, titled The Girl Who Cried Monster.

Really its merely a solid episode, yet I still enjoyed it anyways. I vaguely remember reading the book, and it has a trademark Stine twist that made me smile a bit. The creature effects are rather decent for a kids TV show that aired on Saturday mornings, and the main protagonist starts off with their narration, which was part of Stine’s books. I do plan on continuing to watch the show, and go through the rest of the series. Which I will share here as a side project to my Horrorfest, as its fitting to view a horror oriented show while also watching horror movies.

Horrorfest 2013 Presents: John Dies At The End (2013, Don Coscarelli)

Yes I know this movie is based on a book. Considering that the movie adaption just freaked me out and left me wondering exactly what the hell I just watched, I want to read the book. Damn soy sauce man, or the black oil, or whatever that thing really was….I don’t understand. Viewing this movie while drinking failed to do me any favors: the terror I felt was amplified more by the alcohol. I need to see John Dies At The End sober, and yet I’m afraid to because the movie took me to dark places, areas I didn’t want to go. It’s fitting to watch a movie about a drug that amplifies the human mind, sweeping the brain and psyche into worlds that you did not think were possible to enter into to while intoxicated on beer.

David is the film’s main protagonist, telling Arnie a story about his misadventures. Arnie of course does not believe David, yet David proceeds to inform him about the creepy nightmares that dwell beneath our main plain of normal life. The real world is not the real world, no, for there are other lands out there waiting to be found. All you have to do is inject or digest this black subsistence into your body, thus heightening ones perception and expanding ones mind into the infinite. This what I think anyways, as the film is never really clear as to how this drug exists in the first place. Oh and Clancy Brown knows exactly what’s going on because well he’s Clancy Brown. Duh.

Even though the last act drags a bit this is a film that dives into that special brand of weirdness that you never forget. I’ll remember the random worm creatures, the magical Jamaican guy who introduces David to the possibility that his understanding of the universe is too limited, and that at some point the dog has a better knowledge of what’s going on than David, John, or us, the audience, actually do. Bark Lee rules. Its been too long since I’ve viewed a movie quite like this one, where I’m not sure what is going on but it doesn’t matter since my mind is completely blown and I’m in awe of what is happening. We need more films like this one, not less.

Top 20 Horror Films of the 2000s Presents: Monsters (2010)

5.    Monsters (2010, Gareth Edward)

As much a love story as it is a monster movie, Monsters is a tender and moving film, one that is a classic journey story with a twist: a photojournalist and the woman he has been hired to bring back to the states are forced to trek through a Mexican wilderness populated by aliens. Creatures that descended from the sky a couple years prior, taking over the country and forcing the government to enact quarantine areas in an attempt to contain a menace they do not understand.

Andrew and Samantha are two different people, and and such do not get along. She doesn’t understand his job, he likes her but cannot seem to connect with her on any level. The fact that this film was made on a low budget is rather impressive, and that rests not only on the freaky looking aliens but also the two leads, who help carry the movie and give you enough reason to care about them. All great or good monster films rest on that concept, the idea that people are experiencing an unreal nightmare and are forced to deal with that nightmare: that a beast from who knows where has invaded their lives, impacting their ability to survive.

Plus I loved the shots of the Mexican countryside: the beauty of nature juxtaposed with the often constant danger of the aliens, the slowly growing connection between Sam and Andrew, the realization from both that maybe their lives could have greater meaning. Monsters is actually frightening at times, particularly during a night scene with a creature attack straight out of Jurassic Park, and that underlying thought of danger potentially happening is a running theme of the film. I’m glad that the young budding filmmaker Gareth Edwards is directing the new Godzilla film, because he has a clear eye for visuals and has already displayed that he can create a wonderful and yet sad experience in Monsters that left me wanting more.

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