Horrorfest 2018 Presents: Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986, Tobe Hooper)

My Halloween night was rather busy for someone who decided to stay in. I watched a couple flicks to start the day, then began drinking around 4 or 5. I spent a couple hours handing out candy to a bunch of trick or treaters until 8:30, while also viewing Hot Fuzz with a friend who had never seen it before. So when I made it upstairs to watch The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, I was tired and ready to pass out, which I did. Only to wake up at 2 in the morning annoyed and thirsty. I grabbed some brews and put on my copy of Tobe Hooper’s cult classic sequel, which I found on blu ray at Best Buy earlier that month, and hit play.

Although this flick does not live up to the original classic, it is still a fun gory time. Dennis Hopper is an excellent choice as Lefty, the Texas lawman who desires revenge against the infamous Sawyer clan. Aiding him is rock DJ Vanita, played by the awesome Caroline Williams. However Bill Moseley steals the movie as Brick Top, in an equal parts creepy and funny performance. It also helps that Hooper came back to helm this one, as it follows the events of the original a decade later. 

Thus my Horrorfest was concluded with a good solid slasher film, which is fitting considering how much I love the genre at this point. Also all of my four Halloween viewings were physical media ones, in contrast to my usual large use of streaming these days. Check out TCM 2, a late happy Halloween to all, and a see you all for Horrorfest 2019.

Horrorfest 2018/It’s Hammer Time Presents: The Curse of the Werewolf (1961, Terence Fisher)

Oliver Reed appeared in many Hammer Films over the years, and The Curse of the Werewolf, the third film I viewed on Halloween, was one of his towering performances. Reed goes from being sympathetic and likable to a horrifying beast, giving us, the audience, reason to root for and also be repulsed by him. As typical of many Hammer productions this one touches upon class issues, and of course features a prior evil that leads to the main evil, a plot element that many slasher films incorporated later on as well. Also I had no idea that a child born on Christmas Day would become a werewolf, something that I have never heard of before in any horror movie that I can think of, although perhaps it is based in some old myth or legend. It is too bad that Hammer Studios only made one werewolf movie, as this is one of their best films and it was made by their premier director, Terence Fisher.

Catherine Feller is also great as Cristina, who Reed’s Leon falls in love with despite the fact she comes from wealth and he is unable to marry her, and Martin Matthews is likable as Leon’s friend, Jose. I really dug the werewolf transformations, and the creature effects are properly freaky for such a film. Featuring a well rounded cast, surprising amounts of gore for a 1960s movie, and anchored by Reed’s excellent performance, The Curse of the Werewolf is a must for both horror and Hammer fans.

Horrorfest 2018 Presents: The Deadly Spawn (1983, Douglas McKeown)

There is low budget, and then there is low low budget. The second film I viewed on Halloween, The Deadly Spawn, was made on the super cheap, yet it is one of those dumb fun cult movies that people talk about having seen back when it came out. I found my copy on DVD at Half-Price Books, so I didn’t pay too much. The film has flimsy characters, not much of a plot and clearly was not very well shot, yet I liked it in a trashy sort of way.

Also I enjoyed the title alien, which spends most of the movie hiding in a basement and devouring anyone unlucky enough to come down there. The kills are quite gruesome, the ending made me grin and The Deadly Spawn has a third act that works as an intense violent bottle episode. This is one of those movies that you have to watch to believe, with your brain turned off and beer on hand. Ah, the 1980s.

Horrorfest 2018 Presents: The New York Ripper (1982, Lucio Fulci)

Sure Lucio Fulci has made better and even more violent movies, yet I dug his 1982 giallo style slasher film The New York Ripper. Considering Son of Sam and other serial killers had already happened, a movie about a crazed murderer haunting the city streets was not too outrageous. What I liked best about the killer was that he quacks like a duck the entire movie, a creepy device that Fulci uses to great effect. Also the kills are brutal and sexual, as the killer hates his victims. This is not a movie for the faint of heart, and it’s trashy nature adds to the picture’s grindhouse feel. Hence The New York Ripper being labeled a “Video Nasty,” banned in some countries as a result.

Fred Williams (a grizzled Jack Hedley) is the right main character for this flick, and unfortunately I guessed the killer although the film reveals him early on if one is paying attention. I found a DVD uncensored copy of this film at my local Half-Price Books, and I used it to kick off my Halloween viewing last year. What a flick to start with, and I’ll never hear duck sounds the same way again.

Horrorfest 2018 Presents: Ghostwatch (1992, Lesley Manning)

Imagine a movie like Ghostwatch in today’s world of social media. Not only would the secret be ruined, even more people would argue that it was real. After watching the BBC’s mock style documentary horror film, I don’t blame them: Ghostwatch looks and feels quite real. What helps is that it was shown on Halloween night, and features actual famous UK personalities such as Craig Charles, Michael Parkinson, and Sarah Greene. Oh and it is framed in a startingly realistic manner, as found footage movies that are well made are good at doing.

Also Pipes, the ghost, is pure nightmare fuel. Basing him off of the infamous Enfield Poltergeist was an excellent choice, and adds to the movie’s creepy factor. While the finale goes a bit off the rails, the majority of Ghostwatch is fantastic, and is one of the best haunted house movies I have seen in a while. I liked the back and forth arguments about the existence of ghosts, and what I discovered is that being in a studio does not prevent one from showing up. They also have a bad habit of arriving uninvited, as the BBC crew find out all too well.

Horrorfest 2018 Presents: Willow Creek (2013, Bobcat Goldthwait)

After seeing Willow Creek, I wasn’t completely sure what to think of Bobcat Goldthwait’s largely comedic horror found footage movie. I did like the two characters the film is centered around, and after I saw The Legend of Boggy Creek a year later I understood more what he was really going for, even if it is a tad underdeveloped at times. Jim and Kelly are both really likable and this is the main thing that Willow Creek has going for it the entire time. I do wish the movie had done a bit more to further explore the side effects of the Bigfoot legend on the local town, although there are scenes that sort of do that. I was amused by the one local who made a song about Bigfoot. Of course the locals also warn the couple to turn back, and it would not be a horror movie if the male lead did not dismiss those concerns.

When the couple gets on site to look for Bigfoot the movie cribs a bit too heavily from The Blair Witch Project, yet I found several moments to be really intense and creepy. I did like that this movie wisely stays within its limits, yet Willow Creek should have been more scary and memorable. Poor Jim and Kelly learned the hard way that searching for a legend can turn ugly, and that warnings exist for a reason. You couldn’t pay me to look for a giant potentially angry fur man wandering around in the woods of the Pacific Northwest, even if it could be friendly.  Most likely, it’s not friendly in the least.

Horrorfest 2018 Presents: Madman (1982, Joe Giannone)

When I was in the Boy Scouts, we went hiking to the old abandoned Scout camp that was next to the one everyone used. One of our leaders decided to scare the crap out of us by telling the story of a psycho killer that wandered the woods, searching for fresh victims. I am reminded of that story after having seen the 1981 cult classic The Burning, and having more recently viewed another cult flick, the 1982 brutal film Madman. This movie lives up to its title and then some, offering nasty kills and an urban legend that serves as a reminder that urban legends have a little basis in fact. In this case the tale of Madman Marz, it becomes very real for-you guessed it-a bunch of counselors at a local summer camp. You have to admire 1980s slasher cinema for being consistent in their choice of setting, although in this case the camp has been shut down because fall is approaching. So really this is more of a fall movie than a summer one, and that setting adds to the film’s style.

What makes this movie quite good is that it is mostly relentless, but also you have very little idea of who has a chance of surviving, which ups the suspense factor. I also thought the legend of Marz was quite freaky, and I thought the kills were fairly well done, both things that are necessary for a movie like this to work. If you are into a freaky gory movie that is pretty well made, then Madman is your kind of film. If you prefer something a bit more intelligent or with less body parts, then take a hard pass. I also prefer this to The Burning in terms of it being less goofy than a movie that was released a year earlier, although both are quite good and are solid introductions into the slasher sub-genre.

Horrorfest 2018 Presents: We Always Find Ourselves In The Sea (2017, Sean Hogan)

Image result for we always find ourselves in the sea

Despite turning into more of a gore hound over the years, I am still a huge fan of ghost stories. A well made one such as We Always Find Ourselves In The Sea is to be savored, and many others have been among the best horror flicks I have ever seen. However Sea is merely very good, although that is more due to being a short film that could have been a little more fleshed out into a longer feature. I did enjoy the lack of explanation, however it does leave one feeling a little unsatisfied. My other issue is that the acting was merely okay, although this was probably a low budget outing and so that aspect can be excused.

The director, Sean Hogan, uses a more damp color scheme to illustrate the loneliness and isolation of the sea front area where the film takes place. The fact that this occurs on Christmas adds to the moody atmosphere, and there are some very creepy moments that I liked. I have not viewed a ton of horror shorts, preferring instead to view horror anthologies that are collections of those, and I think I shall try to watch more. Especially since Shudder has a bunch and there are a few other horror sites that contain short form movies that attempt to scare or gross out the viewer in a quicker time frame.

Horrorfest 2018 Presents: Contamination (1980, Luigi Cozzi)

Even though the 1980 cult horror sci-fi movie Contamination has been called a rip off of Alien, I found it to be more of a lost, more gorier episode of Doctor Who. Particularly since the main enemy had been possessed by an alien species, and that aspect usually formed the basis of many a Doctor Who episode. Even though it’s low budget qualities are obvious, I rather enjoyed Contamination. The Italians and the Germans in the 1970s and 1980s made films that were destined to be grind house style classics beloved by those who journeyed to rundown cinemas to view the latest splatter fest. Now a days they are the kind of movie watched by horror fanatics (myself included) online (in this case, Shudder) or via physical media supplied by companies such as Arrow Bay or Shout! Factory.

Once again Ian McCulloch pops up as the sturdy hero, although in this movie he is more a haunted burnt out astronaut recruited by others to stop the invasion of earth by exploding eggs. Louise Monroe and Martin Mase fill out the rest of the cast, and provide the film with a weak love triangle that it jettisons the moment the film needs more violence. Naturally this movie ended up as a video nasty, which embellished its reputation and caused more people to want to see it, not less. Honestly Contamination is nothing more than a fun movie, although perhaps that is enough in this case, and due to changes in cinema and budgets a film like this wouldn’t be made today. The B-movie is dead, long live the B-movie.

Horrorfest 2018 Presents: Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead (1994, Don Coscarelli)

After the first two radical entries in the series, I was ready to watch Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead (what a cool title, too) and see more of what Don Coscarelli had to offer. Unfortunately this movie is a bit too uneven at times to match the others, and while I liked the new batch of characters sent to aid the timeless hero Reggie (Reggie Bannister, multi barrel shotgun and guitar in hand) parts of this flick are too just too weird even for me. Also the movie needed more Tall Man, not less-the trio of undead travelers that go after Reggie, his new buddies Tim and Rocky, are not really menacing or creepy. I feel that the second movie had the right balance of action sequences and freaky moments, something that for some reason or another Coscarelli failed to match at times. This is a reminder that often third installments feel too “Been there, done that, seen it,” a factor working against them.

On the other hand Rocky (Gloria Lynne Henry) is a great addition to the series, as Tim (Kevin Connors), who manages to be that rare child actor in a low budget horror movie who is not annoying. Jordy as a sphere is at times more amusing than strange, and he acts as a sort of super weapon as Reggie and Mike seek a way to end the nightmare. I think this series does not get enough credit at times for being a pure apocalyptic take on the American Southwest. And as a reminder that even when chasing a sinister alien man through deserted cities there is always time for some quality guitar playing.

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