Horrorfest 2020 Presents: The Pit & the Pendulum (1991, Stuart Gordon)

Look I didn’t hate Stuart Gordon’s take on the Edgar Allan Poe classic story, mostly because it is more close to the original tale than some of the other adaptations. My problem is that the 1960s version with Vincent Price is so cool this one feels unnecessary. Lance Henriksen hams it up so much that he manages to overshadow the rest of the cast. It was odd seeing Jeffrey Combs being the straight man in this flick, and I chuckled when he apologized to a witch for not having time to torture her properly. After all, no torture, no confession and then the Inquisition looks bad or something.

The other problem with this film is that the leads are really bland and I didn’t care about them at all. Oh and Oliver Reed pops up for a short cameo because he probably had nothing better to do. I gave this film a passing grade because the sword fights were neat and it does somewhat cover the horrors of the time period. Coming from a good director like Gordon it is disappointing yet I still have liked the other ones I’ve seen from him so far.

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.

It’s Hammer Time Presents: Night Creatures (1962, Peter Graham Scott)

The original title for this film is Captain Clegg and that sounds better yet in America they went with Night Creatures instead. Peter Cushing shows off his action hero abilities and with Oliver Reed and his loyal sidekick Mipps (played with gusto by Hammer Studios character actor Michael Ripper) he tricks the English while bootlegging to provide for the town he presides over as a seemingly humble priest. Of course Hammer Studios can’t resist putting in gothic horror elements yet Clegg is a famous hero and pirate in English fiction.

I really enjoyed this movie as it has plenty of thrills mystery and adventure. The night creatures are quite cool and it was fun to watch Cushing and his fellow outlaws outwit the English soldiers trying to arrest them. I do wish there had been more time spent on Clegg’s adventures-still this is a most wonderful movie. There is also a large amount of populism and wealth distribution in this film, as Clegg is responsible for the town not being bled dry by the overbearing English government’s taxes. The finale was also rather surprising and even a tad bittersweet, which is different from some of Hammmer Studios’ other movies.

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