Horrorfest 2020 Presents: Ghosthouse (1988, Umberto Lenzi)


Ghosthouse may have in some way helped inspire Final Destination. It is also an oddball mess of a movie that can’t decide if it wants to be a haunted house movie or a slasher movie. Some films that are competently made can do both, yet I wish Ghosthouse had just stuck with one. The haunted house and evil doll aspects work much better. Particularly since the doll looks like it escaped from Poltergeist.

Especially since there is one death scene that is hilariously awful. Still some other parts work, and I didn’t hate the characters even if I was given very little reason to care about what happened to them. Tubi has a lot of horror movies ranging from outright gems and classics, to mediocre and then outright trash. Unfortunately Ghosthouse falls in that muddled middle, not able to go the extra mile in either direction. Too bad.

Horrorfest 2020 Presents: Deadly Blessing (1981, Wes Craven)


Deadly Blessing is Wes Craven ironing out some more kinks before he started on his run of quality 1980s movies that kicked off with A Nightmare On Elm Street. However despite being very campy and odd, this movie works in spite of itself. The cast helps, as does the movie embracing the goofy plot, the multiple use of “Incubus!” (not to be confused with the band) and the fact that the countryside setting is creepy. After all, you are alone out in the middle of nowhere, and as the local cop reminds the trio of women at the farm, no help will arrive in time.

Perfect setting for what is equal parts a slasher flick, demonic flick, and sinister religious cult next door flick. Ernest Borgnine leads the religious fanatics who live next door, and he relishes the opportunity to ham it up as much as he did in The Devil’s Rain (hey I saw that too-neat). Maren Jensen is the woman who made the mistake of marrying his son and taking him away from a life of no electronics and tons of switch beatings. A pre-Hollywood stardom Sharon Stone and Michael Berryman add to the proceedings quite a bit.

I also liked Susan Buckner and Jeff East, though. They had nice chemistry in this flick, particularly since East plays the other son of a man not afraid to beat the fear of God into people. The final act is a strange molding of the supernatural and slasher, resulting in something that I might actually remember months later. Say what you will about Wes Craven, his movies never seem to be dull. Also feel free to turn people saying “Incubus!” into a fun drinking game. I forgot to mention that the James Horner score is fantastic, too.

Horrorfest 2020 Presents: Moon of the Wolf (1972, Daniel Petrie)


Look I know this was a TV movie yet Moon of the Wolf still comes across as a mess. The main problem is not enough werewolf moments for a movie with that literal of a title. I did not hate it however since the mystery elements are a tad interesting, and I did like that the movie tries to be a serious werewolf movie. However the low budget is a clear limitation that the film does not overcome.

The actual werewolf parts were neat, though, and the last act makes a sizable effort to be scary and suspenseful. I wonder if maybe a restoration of the original negatives would help, and I think this is one of those films that would benefit from a modern remake. Stop groaning already, you know I’m right.

Horrorfest 2020 Presents: The Living Dead Girl (1982, Jean Rollin)


Ok so now I know what inspired the Rob Zombie song by the same name. I like the song better than the movie, which is solid. The gore factor for this one is nice and heavy, which is good considering the characters are beyond paper thin and I didn’t care what happened to any of them. Perhaps my rating for Living Dead Girl is too high, yet I did like this movie somewhat so maybe not. I think the main woman played by Fran├žoise Blanchard is supposed to be a mix between a zombie, a vampire and a ghoul.

There are some lesbian overtones between her and her friend, who instead of running for the hills decides to bring her fresh victims to feed on. The ending is too anticlimactic for me yet there are some good kills and I liked the cinematography well enough. So far I have seen and liked two Jean Rollin movies but he seems to be a poor man’s Mario Bava. He does have some talent, though, and I might check out his other films anyways.

Horrorfest 2020 Presents: Son of Godzilla (1967, Jun Fukuda)


At this point the Godzilla franchise decides to aim for little kids and fully embrace pure camp. Thus we get Son of Godzilla, a fun movie about how Godzilla embraces a little kid and adapts him as his son. Godzilla is now a dad, and he tries to instruct his new off spring in the ways of being Godzilla. All while fighting off insect monsters.

Plus there are scientists on the island and a reporter who falls in love with the survivor of a past expedition. Or something, it is not important. Minilla is ridiculously adorable, and Godzilla is both a good and bad dad all at the same time. I liked the insect monsters, they were a nice touch and clearly were the inspiration for the monsters in the last couple American Godzilla flicks. My favorite part is the snow fight near the end, which is something the series could have done more often. Check it out.

Horrorfest 2020 Presents: The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh (1971, Sergio Martino)


Edwige Fenech certainly was a talented horror actress, appearing in many giallos. She is quite good in the entertaining film The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh, a movie where a woman is being stalked by a crazed killer. There is a limited number of suspects naturally since this is a giallo, and yet I did not figure out the mystery early which is nice. Some parts of this movie work better as an erotic drama or thriller than a horror movie.

However there are plenty of great horror moments scattered through the movie. The garden scene is a prime example of classic freaky giallo murder terror, proving to be most shocking. I also liked how the film lures the viewer into a false sense of security just before leaping up to grab their attention. Even though this flick isn’t quite as good as some of other giallos, I did really enjoy it. I hope to view even more of both Fenech and Sergio Martino’s movies at some point.

Horrorfest 2020 Presents: The Invisible Man (2020, Leigh Whannell)


I really wish I had been able to see The Invisible Man on the big screen, but that opportunity was cut short by covid closing movie theaters. This was a pretty engaging, creepy and near great horror remake. I’m not sure if I like the final act, yet the rest is intense and covers PTSD and abusive relationships. Elisabeth Moss turns in a well rounded and haunted performance as Cecilia, who refuses to believe she is truly free of her abusive and controlling husband.

Well, she turns out to be right, even though her best friend (the always great Aldis Hodge), who is a cop, his daughter Sydney (Storm Reid) and her sister Emily think she is crazy anyways. Or at the very least they feel she is overreacting. I liked the scenes where Cecilia thinks her husband is still around because we, the audience, know that he has achieved the impossible: becoming invisible.

Also I liked how certain aspects of this movie were slasher movie related. I’m not sure how the final act works with the rest of the movie’s moral framework, yet I will be thinking about this one for awhile. Give me more of these type of remakes, ones that build upon the original’s foundation. I wonder if the rest of the planned monster movies will be more Invisible Man and less The Mummy, which I didn’t bother to see. One can hope.

Horrorfest 2020 Presents: The Amityville Horror (1979, Stuart Rosenberg)


I haven’t read the book or looked into the story itself, yet regardless The Amityville Horror is a well made and creepy haunted house movie from the golden age of horror. Despite being made at the end of the decade it is still a classic and features many hallmarks of that cinema period. The cast for this is great, too, with James Brolin, Margot Kidder, Rod Steiger and even Murray Hamilton. This helps to sell some of the movie’s more outrageous moments.

I’m reminded of The Omen where the fantastic is based in enough realism for it to be plausible. Brolin and Kidder have good chemistry together and Steiger adds gravitas as the priest who tries to bless their home. I liked how the film used quiet moments to lure the viewer into a false sense of calm, particularly right before some weird or frightening happens.

Even though I feel this movie is a tad dated, I still really liked it. The Amityville Horror is considered one of the essential US horror films for good reason, and it helped to establish numerous genre cliches. I heard that the sequels are insane and this I must see them, too. Oh and I loved the house that was the film’s setting-that massive old thing was a character all on its own.

Horrorfest 2020 Presents: Jack’s Back (1988, Rowdy Herrington)


James Spader plays twins in a rather captivating and interesting performance in the 1988 film Jack’s Back, which works as both a neo noir and a slasher film. Someone is replicating Jack The Ripper in LA, an innocent man is framed and Spader must prove that it was someone else. Assisting him is Cynthia Gibb as Chris, who works at the clinic with one of the brothers, and helps him stay ahead of the cops who are certain they already have their man.

I loved the lyrical shots of LA, how intense Spader is in most of the film, and how the movie operates as a bleak nightmare for the most part. The film loves to keep the audience guessing, and has some pretty gruesome violent moments. Despite not being a great film this is a good one, and I rather enjoyed it. Definitely a nice change of pace from the typical 1980s slasher films.

Horrorfest 2020 Presents: Squirm (1976, Jeff Lieberman)


The killer animals movie Squirm is goofy, silly, and yet watchable in that kind of 1970s cult movie charm that works. Is it a good movie? Nah but it is a decent one featuring likable people and some hilarious lines such as “Now you’re gonna be the worm face!” The killer worm death scenes are actually gross, too, which helps even though this movie definitely could have used more gore and worm violence.

A storm causes worms to go crazy and murder people, or something. The plot is not important here. Plus you have one guy going crazy after getting worms in his face, which I guess would drive anyone nuts. I do want to watch the MST3K skewering of this flick, just because I bet the jokes are fun. I miss environmentally based killer animal movies-they just don’t make them like they used to anymore.

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