Horrorfest 2017 Presents: The Bride of Frankenstein (1935, James Whale)


Everyone knows about The Bride of Frankenstein, widely mentioned as that rare sequel to equal or be superior to the original film, and its a shame I have taken so long to finally watch it. Luckily for me my local library had a blu ray copy, and it had not been too long ago that I had seen the first film, which is also a classic in its own right. There are certain things about the sequel that I prefer to the original, most notably the addition of a key member: Dr. Pretorius (a wonderfully flamboyant Ernest Thesiger). The good doctor is the driving force that makes Dr. Frankenstein (Colin Clive) proceed to create a new monster, one to be a mate for the Monster (the legendary Boris Karloff), who of course survived the mob attack depicted in the previous installment.

This film begins the trend of horror sequels depicting previous events so new viewers would not be left behind, and it is also more brutal than the original film. Karloff starts off by murdering a poor couple who had the misfortune to investigate if he was dead or not, and yet in this film he begins to discover his own humanity. The Monster even learns how to speak, and it is this film where the poor blind man (hilariously parodied in Young Frankenstein) befriends the creature, only for others to drive the poor beast away. I also am amused that the titular creature is hardly even in the film, saved away for a wonderfully dramatic and intense moment near the film’s end. This movie also has a surprisingly amount of comedy, which Whale perhaps inserted to dull some of its more harsh edges.

While I am not sure if this is better than the first film, I still love it just as much, seeing as Universal wisely brought back the original cast and crew that made the first film so great. Too bad the rest of the sequels did not involve James Whale, although I still want to seek them out as well. I have an odd fascination with horror film series, and Universal deserves both praise and disdain for giving birth to them in the first place.

Horrorfest 2016 Presents: Castle Freak (1995, Stuart Gordon)


How to know you’re in a horror movie: you have been blinded in a car accident, your parents are played by Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton, and Combs’ haunted ex professor is moving the family into a huge Italian castle. This is Stuart Gordon’s Castle Freak, an exercise in slow burning fear that, although a bit too slow, is still creepy and entertaining.

I mean you have a movie where a deranged monster escapes and the family hangs around, because…why not? Sure later on they can’t leave but the minute I found out the castle had a rather serious issue I would be running far, far away. Yet when the blind daughter, played by Jessica Dollarhide, tells her parents someone is in the castle they dismiss her as hearing things. The fact that her parents are fighting only complicates things and adds to more problems later on.

One thing I like about Gordon’s work so far (I’ve seen his two other Lovecraft inspired films from the 80s) is that he embodies his movies with a sense of dread, plus gore. The creature effects here are nasty and brutal enough, and the last act is suspenseful. Despite its flaws Castle Freak is a solid entry in the “Don’t go in the house” type of movie, which by the 90s seemed to be on life support for some reason.

Horrorfest 2015 Presents: The Babadook (2014, Jennifer Kent)


After watching The Babadook I realize that I’m glad I don’t have kids. Poor Amelia is a widow dealing with the fact that her kid’s birthday is on the same day her husband died. So things don’t get any better when her son, Samuel, believes that a monster is after them. Naturally things spiral downward from then on, eventually building up to the possibility that it may be all in their imagination. Or maybe not. Either way, not good. The rhyme describing the creature itself is beyond creepy.

Few horror movies adequately deal with female issues and problems. Well The Babadook does this in spades and is a truly frightening and nightmarish experience. The opening is a slow burn that eventually leads to a mass escalation and the Babadook making an appearance. I love how the monster is practical effects and not CGI, which results in attack scenes being highly effective. Also the ending was somewhat unexpected, a hallmark of a good horror film.

Despite some questionable moments this is a near great and terrifying horror film. Several moments recall previous classic horror movies and Essie Davis gives a brave and unflinching performance as Amelia, while Noah Wiseman is great and surprising as Sam. Without giving further details I must say that I like the story and feel that based on observation and basic knowledge this film does a fine job of covering what it’s like to deal with a troubled child while being a single parent.

It’s Hammer Time Presents: The Man Who Could Cheat Death (1959, Terence Fisher)


Operating as another one of the studios famous mad scientist movies, The Man Who Could Cheat Death has some of Terence Fisher’s usually strong visual style of film making that is the reason why he is the best out of the studios’ stable of directors at the height of its popularity. This film is well made and also is a tad creepy, as the title character turns out to be a monster as a result of his desire to live forever. Georges Bonnet is arrogant, intelligent, murderous and yet utterly charming. Without the parathyroid glands he takes from his victims Georges will finally die after living for over a 100 years. His mentor, Prof. Ludwig Weiss, refuses to help and therefore Georges has to force Pierre Gerard to perform the operation that will enable Georges to continue living forever. A scene that shows what happens to Georges’ victims is rather eerie, aimed at being terrifying and featuring plenty of green. Its almost as if Georges was an alien instead of just a man who thanks to science has found the secret of eternal life. This gift is of course not without a steep price.

Its a bit strange seeing Christopher Lee in a non-monster/evil person role, and he does a fine job here as Pierre, the doctor who unless he aids Georges will suffer the loss of the woman the two men love, Janine Dubois (played by the lovely and talented Hazel Court).  Anton Diffring is fantastic as Georges, giving life to a man who has become evil in his quest to never die. His fate becomes sealed by different forces, and the finale is rather violent and intense, as are most endings to Hammer Studios movies. This film is rather good also for its discussion on what long life, especially possibly living forever, can do to a person. In a key scene Ludwig and Georges argue about the surgery, with Ludwig mentioning that the years have changed Georges for the worse, not for the better. It almost reminds me of some newer Doctor Who episodes where the Doctor’s companions tell him to never travel alone, and how the Doctor often reflects that living so long has turned him into a different man completely.

Some argue that this movie is too heavy on dialogue, yet I like how Fisher sets up his more dramatic elements. Plus the killings are properly horrific and there is plenty of suspense in the final act. I do want to view the original version of this film, titled The Man In Half Moon Street and compare the two films. Hammer Studios was usually quite good at making remarkably entertaining remakes that either channeled the spirits of the originals or offered a new twist on previous material.

It’s Hammer Time Presents: The Evil of Frankenstein (1964, Freddie Francis)


Although building on the previous entries in the series, The Evil of Frankenstein is in many ways a stand alone movie. It also feels a bit like a remake since Universal Studios finally gave Hammer Studios the rights to their Frankenstein franchise. Which is why the monster in this film resembles the famous version from the James Whale films. By this point the Baron is in desperate need of funds so he returns home with his assistant Hans in tow, to seek out his home and use what lies within to enable him to continue his research.

While I dug the opening sequence and I found the evil hypnotist, Zoltan, to be a good aspect of the film I was mostly left disappointed. Francis clearly has talent but he isn’t given much to work with here. This entry fails to offer anything new and is saved from being completely dull by Peter Cushing, who by this point was able to play Frankenstein in his sleep. However this is not a bad film, and I liked the ending. It’s just that compared to the other Hammer Frankenstein movies its a pale imitation. I’m not even sure Terence Fisher could have saved this film.

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