It’s Hammer Time Presents: X: The Unknown (1956, Leslie Norman)


Around the time that Hammer Studios began to venture into sci-fi and horror they released in 1957 a fairly decent gem called X: The Unknown. This movie, directed by Leslie Norman, was created in the horror/sci-fi style that was popular back in the 1950s, and it properly reflected fears of nuclear radiation. Not to mention mankind worrying about nuclear destruction and death caused by a science that many did not understand. The creature effects are entertaining although a bit cheesy, and yet the movie is well crafted and never becomes silly.

One of my favorite moments is when two kids stumble onto the blob, which ends up leading to a scene that is both horrific and tragic. The scientists of course must race against time to come up with a solution, and the film’s climax although typical of most horror/sci-fi from that era is still enjoyable to watch. X: The Unknown is a reliable introduction to Hammer Films, and it was followed up by the studio’s masterwork, The Curse of Frankenstein, released the next year.

It’s Hammer Time


I couldn’t resist, as cheesy as that title is. Anyways I set out last year to watch as many Hammer Studios movies as I could, and although I’m really behind schedule I’ve still viewed some since last Horrorfest. Links to reviews will be posted here, and I would like to note that I have already seen some Hammer Studios movies prior. I would like to dedicate this entire project to the studio itself, and I’m glad that they are following me on Twitter, which is cool. Also since Netflix sends me whatever DVD they have ready on hand some of these viewings will be out of order.
The List, So Far:

1. X: The Unknown (1956, Leslie Norman), Netflix-https://madman731.wordpress.com/2014/03/30/its-hammer-time-x-the-unknown-1956-leslie-norman/
2. The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959, Terence Fisher), Netflix-https://madman731.wordpress.com/2014/04/01/its-hammer-time-presents-the-hound-of-the-baskervilles-1959-terence-fisher/
3. The Plague of the Zombies (1966, John Gilling), Netflix-https://madman731.wordpress.com/2014/04/07/its-hammer-time-presents-plague-of-the-zombies-1966-john-gilling/
4. Frankenstein Created Woman (1967, Terrence Fisher), Netflix-https://madman731.wordpress.com/2014/04/12/its-hammer-time-presents-frankenstein-created-woman-1967-terence-fisher/
5. The Abominable Snowman (1957, Val Guest), Netflix-https://madman731.wordpress.com/2014/04/27/its-hammer-time-presents-the-adominable-snowman-1957-val-guest/
6. Night Creatures (1962, Peter Graham Scott), Netflix-https://madman731.wordpress.com/2014/05/16/its-hammer-time-presents-night-creatures-1962-peter-graham-scott/
7. The Evil of Frankenstein (1964, Freddie Francis), Netflix-https://madman731.wordpress.com/2014/05/16/its-hammer-time-presents-the-evil-of-frankenstein-1964-freddie-francis/
8. The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958, Terence Fisher), Netflix-https://madman731.wordpress.com/2014/05/29/its-hammer-time-presents-the-revenge-of-frankenstein-1958-terence-fisher/
9. The Stranglers of Bombay (1959, Terence Fisher)-https://madman731.wordpress.com/2014/06/17/its-hammer-time-presents-the-stranglers-of-bombay-1959-terence-fisher/
10. The Terror of the Tongs (1961, Anthony Bushnell)-https://madman731.wordpress.com/2014/06/23/its-hammer-time-presents-the-terror-of-the-tongs-1961-anthony-bushnell/
11. The Man Who Could Cheat Death (1959, Terence Fisher)-https://madman731.wordpress.com/2014/07/22/its-hammer-time-presents-the-man-who-could-cheat-death-1959-terence-fisher/
12. The Phantom of the Opera (1962, Terence Fisher)
13. Paranoiac (1963, Freddie Francis)
14. The Snorkel (1958, Guy Green)
15. The Maniac (1963, Michael Carreras)
16. The Curse of The Mummy’s Tomb (1964, Michael Carreras)
17. The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll (1960, Terence Fisher)
18. The Reptile (1966, John Gilling)
19. The Witches (1966, Cyril Frankel)
20. The Mummy’s Shroud (1967, John Gilling)
21. Dracula Has Risen From The Grave (1968, Freddie Francis)
22. Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969, Terence Fisher)
23. Taste The Blood of Dracula (1970, Peter Sasdy)
24. Blood From The Mummy’s Tomb (1971, Seth Holt)
25. Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972, Alan Gibson)
26. The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (1974, Roy Ward Baker)
27. Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell (1974, Terence Fisher)
28. The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1974, Alan Gibson)
Previously Viewed:

1. The Curse of Frankenstein (1957, Terence Fisher)
2. The Horror of Dracula (1958, Terence Fisher)
3. The Mummy (1959, Terence Fisher)
4. The Brides of Dracula (1960, Terence Fisher)
5. The Gorgon (1964, Terence Fisher)
6. The Devil Rides Out (1968, Terence Fisher)
7. Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter (1974, Brian Clemens)

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.

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: The Funhouse (1981, Tobe Hooper)


Part well made scare marathon, part funny and cheesy homage to previous 50s and 60s horror films, Tobe Hooper’s The Funhouse (1981) is another example of his gift at making entertaining horror movies. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was absolutely terrifying and captivating, while Lifeforce is pure cheesy goodness on an epic scale. The Funhouse works almost as a bottle episode stretched out as a full length feature movie: a bunch of kids are trapped in a carnival funhouse, stalked and hunted by carnival freaks. One of them is even more freak than man, a monstrous evil that might be inhuman. At the same time Hooper can’t help but conform to slasher genre conventions, which both helps and hurts this movie.

Chief among those conventions being the need for a “Survival Girl,” a woman who is considered pure although in this case she is more just slightly aware of what is going on. This girl keeps thinking that going deeper into the carnival is a bad idea, that maybe something terrible is going to happen. Of course she ends up being right, yet by the time the rest of the group she goes in with figures it out the murders begin to happen. Violence is responded to with more violence, and by the end of the long gory night people will never be the same. Especially that poor young lady who should have remained at home and kept her sanity.

At times Hooper gets too cheesy, and there are a few scenes that are rather downright predictable. The Funhouse almost wears out its welcome, and yet its still a really good horror film, a movie that presents the carnival scene, warts glory and all. Not to mention a really creepy and memorizing performance from Kevin Conway, who does a great job being two different people. Underneath the bright lights, past the freak acts and the cheap parlor games, lies a darker world that only some are aware of. Those who dare to enter must pay the fee, and the fee is rather high. Rather high indeed.

Horrorfest 2013 Presents: Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986, John McNaughton)


Made before found footage movies became standard, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is almost a found footage film. It has some of the characteristics: a first person look at the characters, acting rather biographical and up front and personal. Henry is a mass murdering psychopath who happens to hook up with Otis and his sister, two people who really have no idea who he is or what he is doing. Slowly though Otis uncovers the truth, and instead of running away chooses to become Henry’s disciple and engage in killing and mayhem.

Few horror films have ever been, to quote the great horror critic Bleeding Critic, “Damaging,” not to mention absolutely brutal and unrelenting. In fact my one criticism of this film is that by the end you so numb to what happened that the damage has already been done, that the film is spinning its wheels by the final shot. That’s rather disturbing, although that criticism was my same issue with another cult horror film/drama classic, Man Bites Dog, which came along later and was probably in many ways influenced by Henry. In the case of Henry the film is helped greatly by Michael Rooker’s disturbing and stark, brilliant and unflinching performance which is the dark heart of this film.

Still there are plenty of nasty and brutal scenes to be found, chief among them the murder of a family that Otis chooses to document, a moment that is defiantly found footage style material. The worst part about that entire scene though is that Otis not only captured every horrible detail, but that he chooses to rewind and watch all of what him and Henry did all over again. That is beyond the pale-two men who have no conscience, no remorse for what they have done. Since both Henry and Otis were real people its quite chilling to think about if your next door neighbor is really a homicidal manic who will kill you and those you love without even thinking twice.

Could elements of this movie have been pure fiction? Sure, as Hollywood has a legacy of bending facts for dramatic impact. What cannot be denied though is that Henry did murder endless numbers of people, and that Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is a window into his black soul. Henry can be seen as a shark, a creature of habit that killed for no reason, moving from place to place, staying ahead of the authorities hunting him. Films like this one cover real life monsters that get the viewer too close, like being able to wander into the lion cage at the zoo or being in a shark cage in the shark tank as a great white circles past.

Horrorfest 2013 Presents: Leprechaun 2 (1994, Rodman Flender)


Made not too long after the first film, Leprechaun 2 is one of those rare horror movie sequels that actually manages to live up to the original. In this case I actually prefer the sequel-it ups the hilarious elements and also has some really nasty kills. Plus there is the fact that the stakes are much higher here, as the evil Leprechaun desires a human bride in revenge for being denied a bride centuries earlier. So there is that whole “Race against time” aspect that adds a layer of suspense to the proceedings. For now I find the series really entertaining, and I look forward to watching Leprechaun 3, 4, and 5. But I heard that the 6th one is quite awful, and there was supposed to be a remake in the works. How a remake would not fail to copy the rest of the series makes me wonder, and I doubt I’ll find out anytime soon.

A young man and his drunk uncle have the misfortune to encounter the angry Leprechaun, who has been brought back by the usual stupid people. After randomly murdering a few people the Leprechaun sets his eyes upon the youth’s pretty lass of a girlfriend, proceeding to kidnap her. He doesn’t even have the good sense to leave a ransom note. Nasty bugger that one. The uncle falls prey to greed, leaving the young man to desperately attempt to spring his girlfriend and prevent her from becoming the ugly wife of a horrible little green man. Its really tough for a young man who is faced with endless rivals and burdened with taking care of his lush of an uncle, but now he’s dealing with a homicidal ancient Irish folk creature. That’s tough.

Even cheesier than the first one and having more crazy kills (although none of them match the pogo stick death from the original), Leprechaun 2 is pretty enjoyable for what it is, choosing to not reinvent the wheel or deviate from what worked in the first place. The series has its own brand of deranged bleak humor that is easy to laugh at, and I would still love a Chucky vs. Leprechaun film. Too bad it will never happen.

Horrorfest 2013 Presents: City of the Living Dead (1980, Lucio Fulci)


Hungry for the flesh of the living, they emerge from the earth to prey upon the living and devour them whole. Ravenous and unrelenting, they are the undead: zombies, creatures of the night, unholy terrors that lurk beneath the pretty facade of normal everyday life. Lucio Fulci doesn’t just shoot his 1980 film City of the Living Dead in the darkness because its a low budget movie. No its because he is choosing to lay bare the terrors that await us when the sun goes down and the light fades away.

Light is peace and a refuge from what nasty beasts lie in wait for man and woman as they stumble around in the empty black of nighttime. There is no telling what may lay around the corner, and usually its something that is very hungry and has plenty of teeth. Although I guess these zombies are decaying and lack teeth so they make due by tearing your flesh apart. Quite chilling, really. That’s not even without touching upon the horrific and famous death by drill scene that occurs in the movie as well, and is rather bloody.

Despite the low budget limitations that plagued his entire career Fulci always managed to create films that were pure experiences in terror and City of the Living Dead does not fail in that area. I liked the scene where a child discovers a zombie dwelling in their closet and makes the mistake of opening the door. Its a truly creepy moment in a movie that depends heavily on atmosphere, and in that regard Fulci was in touch with his fellow horror filmmakers Mario Bava and Dario Argento.

All three were gifted at ignoring plot conventions and simply making horror films that struck at the nerve of the viewer, although Bava and Argento were more talented than Fulci. Still I rather enjoyed City of the Living Dead. Its kind of dumb, and yet it has a nasty charm that can be admired. Besides that opener is perfect: a nice day in a cemetery shattered by the suicide of a priest that happens to release the Gates of Hell. That’s truly something.

Horrorfest 2013 Presents: The Video Dead (1987, Robert Scott)


Released around the same time as Sam Rami’s classic The Evil Dead II, Scott’s The Video Dead is a low budget zombie film in a long line of low budget zombie films. What I dig about his movie is that it’s gory, raw, creepy and entertaining despite its clear limitations and the poor acting. I can admire the level of dedication it takes to get a movie like this made and how hard it was to achieve a pure vision without the proper funds. This is one movie that could have been a classic with just the right budget. Although I guess that never stopped George A. Romero or Sam Rami. Still Scott had an original idea, one that I rather like.

Zombies emerging from a cursed TV set is both fantastic and rather eerie. The hapless brother and sister duo that are faced with an nameless ancient evil must battle the undead horde that is terrorizing their neighborhood. I liked most of the kills, with one murder being properly gruesome. The zombies themselves are decaying and ugly, appearing as if they did truly emerge from their graves to prey upon the living. That’s some quality makeup work for a film that took a year to make due to lack of funding.

The DVD copy I found of this film was a two pack, with The Video Dead being parterned with another solid underrated cult horror film, Terrorvision-thanks to Scream Factory, a division of Shout! Factory. Which is a cool double bill, one I would love to see on the big screen. The Video Dead also has a bone chilling ending and is a reliable addition to the zombie subgenre. I realize it’s funny how every time I think I’m getting tired of zombie films I find another one that surprises me in a good way.

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.

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