Horrorfest 2021 Presents: Death By Invitation (1971, Ken Friedman)


This movie has some good kills, yet Death By Invitation is a low budget bore that doesn’t work. I mean you have a woman who is the reincarnation of a woman burned for witchcraft, yet there’s no indication she has any powers or whatever. Nope she just murders people in the fashion of a slasher villain, which is fine but a tad routine. I was hoping for something either more goofy or creepy, and the film doesn’t accomplish either one.

Honestly I fell asleep sitting through this film multiple times, which is a bad sign. I don’t remember any of the characters, and I think the ending was ok, maybe? The worst movies are the meh ones, the flicks that I sit through and forget I even saw them a year later. Or even months later. This is one of those.

Horrorfest 2021 Presents: Ratu Ilmu Hitam aka The Queen of Black Magic (1981, Liliek Sudjio)


Suzzanna gives a chilling, multi-layered and effective performance in The Queen of Black Magic, aka Ratu Ilmu Hitam, an early 1980s Indonesian horror movie that is quite gory and very entertaining. Murni was just an innocent woman accused of witchcraft by the local villagers. Wronged by a man who lied to her about marriage, and completely innocent, she is thrown off a cliff. Yet a local shaman rescues her, and trains her for revenge!

The locals already think Murni is a witch, and thus she decides to become one. Striking back at the villagers in so many different ways, she becomes a force of terror, a nightmare to the locals. One kill I particularly remember is her using a scarf to hang a man from a tree. Plus causing a man to tear his own head off, and have the head fly around, which is crazy and a tad freaky.

However a local holy man appears and throws a wrench into Murni’s master’s plans. Even though the finale is a bit too long and isn’t completely satisfying, I still really like this movie. The Queen of Black Magic is the second Indonesian horror movie I have seen, and both of them stand out in my mind really well. Sometimes it’s nice to venture out and watch a foreign horror movie, especially since many of them are often better than American or European ones.

Horrorfest 2021 Presents: Prevenge (2016, Alice Lowe)


Life sometimes imitates art, as in the case of Prevenge, which Alice Lowe made while actually pregnant with her own child. In this film her unborn child propels her to seek violent revenge against those responsible for her beloved’s demise. Or at least that’s how she feels, as she goes on an epic murder spree. This film is as much a dark comedy as it is a slasher movie, and some parts are quite humorous.

I think my favorite part was Ruth taking care of a businesswoman who foolishly does not hire her. Some of the movie doesn’t quite work, however by the unexpected conclusion I had mostly bought onto what Prevenge was offering. You don’t have to be a woman about to give birth to appreciate a film like this, although I bet it probably helps a little or a lot.

A final coda is that the unborn baby telling Ruth to kill is very Friday the 13th, and Ruth not being afraid to kill those who also offend her is very American Psycho. I can admire a film that leans on the influences that add to the overall makeup and texture, and Lowe has a pretty good directing look and feel for an actor moving to behind the camera. Viewed on Shudder and recommended.

Horrorfest 2020 Presents: Slaughter High (1986, Peter Litten, Mark Ezra)


By the mid to late 1980s the slasher genre had started to run out of ideas. So most of them became about the, well, execution (no pun intended, honestly) of the films themselves. Some meta elements showed up later, however Slaughter High does not have any of that. Nope this is a good old fashioned “Wronged Person Gets Bloody Revenge” movie and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I also thought having it be made in Britain with British actors was neat, just for a good change of pace.

Honestly you watch this sort of movie for the kills, and they are pretty brutal. There are even some good creepy scenes and I liked the abandoned high school building. Especially since it literally was an abandoned building that the filmmakers decided to shoot at. Caroline Munro shows up to give the movie a famous star, yet the rest of the no names aren’t too bad.

Even though Slaughter High doesn’t reinvent the slasher film I still liked it well enough. Not every 1980s horror movie or slasher flick was great, and the genre was a bit mindless. Yet Slaughter High wisely knows it’s limits, doesn’t hang around too long and quits while it is ahead. I can dig a movie like that.

Horrorfest 2015 Presents: Dead Silence (2007, James Wan)


 

Poor Jamie (Ryan Kwanten). He escaped his home town yet he is forced to return because of grisly events. Upon coming back he finds out that the homecoming is also ugly: hardly anyone is left. His father, Edward (Bob Gunton) is wheelchair bound and just as evil as he remembers. Also the ghost of Mary Shaw lingers over the town, existing as a mystery that Jamie must unravel. He needs to recall one thing: “Beware the stare of Mary Shaw / She had no children only dolls / And if you see her in your dreams / Be sure to never ever scream.”

James Wan’s Dead Silence suffers a bit from plot holes and some weak acting. Yet it’s still a relatively creepy and even scary movie that thrives on people’s  (myself included) fear of puppets. Mary Shaw (played expertly by Judith Ann Roberts) though is terrifying herself: after all, she had herself made into a puppet after her death. I also dig Wan’s 1970s horror ascetic and Donnie Wahlberg chews scenery as a detective who is the center of normal in this crazy movie. I also loved the ending despite many critics not liking it or the film at all. That’s too bad since Wan has a unique style is and is a gifted horror filmmaker. Oh well.

Horrorfest 2014 Presents: Orca: The Killer Whale (1977, Michael Anderson)


Joe Bob Briggs’ commentary on this film is complete gold, and is far better than anything I could possibly write about this movie. In fact there is a good movie in here somewhere, however Orca is overall a mediocre at best Jaws rip off that fails hard because it journeys into self-parody. The film also has some of the most hilarious slow motion deaths in cinema history, as the angry killer whale has to rely on his victims to literally hang over the boat in order for him to grab them. Did I mention that the big angry whale is also seeking revenge? Does it matter that really such a thing isn’t possible? Nope. This is a movie so reality is suspended, however there is only so much that I can take before I start to laugh and write off what is happening onscreen. Case in point: the Orca manages to attack a power station, followed by it giving Richard Harris the death stare as he stands on land. Now that’s one intelligent pissed off animal. This film is literally if Free Willy’s mate was killed and he decided to go on an epic killing spree-in fact maybe Free Willy is really what would happen if Mr. Orca decided to befriend a kid instead of murdering people. But where would the fun be in that?

What’s even worse about this movie is that it wastes a good cast that includes besides Harris Charlotte Rampling (who is given very little to do whatsoever), Keenan Wynn, Bo Derek (before she became famous-what happens to her is one of the film’s highlights) Robert Carradine and a post One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest Will Sampson, who has some of the film’s less cringe worthy lines. Although I liked certain moments and I didn’t mind the film’s ridiculous plot I still cannot give this film a passing grade. And yes I must stress viewing Joe Bob Briggs’ MonsterVision commentary for this film because it is really quite humorous. I’m not sure why the 70s became so killer animal obsessed as Jaws wasn’t the earliest example, even if it did end up becoming the most famous and best of the bunch. Oh and for some reason this film has a score by the legendary Ennio Morricone. I hope he got paid really well for composing music for this turkey.

It’s Hammer Time Presents: The Phantom of the Opera (1962, Terence Fisher)


Unlike its predecessors, Terence Fisher’s The Phantom of the Opera (1962) is more of a modern style take on the original 1925 classic, which starred Lon Chaney. In this remake Herbert Lom tackles the role, and gives it style, grace, and a tragic flare that was missing from the original film. In fact despite not being as good as the 1925 version one thing I like about the 1962 adaption is that it is more in tune with the book. The Phantom was not a monster at first, but in the end was turned into one because of circumstance-in this case, it is because the Phantom was robbed of his works by an arrogant and selfish individual, leading to him turning into a horribly disfigured man. Also I was a bit reminded of the 2004 musical, especially since there are actually musical numbers in this movie and much of the film is as much a drama as it is a horror movie.

The cast is pretty good here-Hammer Studios regular Michael Gough is wonderfully evil and sinister, Edward de Souza plays a solid and likable hero, and Heather Sears is rather good while doing the thankless job of being the pretty damsel who ends up the object of the Phantom’s desire. Much like Fisher’s other Hammer films the visuals here are stunning, and the set designs are remarkable. Even though it lacks the 1925 version’s high level of creepiness, and Lom unfortunately doesn’t measure up to Lon Chaney’s brilliant and freaky Phantom, who he completely made his own, this is a rather solid remake. Some of Hammer Studio’s most notable efforts included non-franchise movies such as this one, and its a shame that this movie failed at the box office. At least its developed a cult following since.

Horrorfest 2013 Presents: Terror Train (1980, Roger Spottiswoode)


Made at the height of the slasher film craze Terror Train is an effective and semi creepy killer thriller. It features many of the genre’s famous cliches, and yet the setting is unique. While there have been mystery films with killings taking place on trains most slasher films are set in the woods or in deserted locations. The murderer may or may not be someone from a group of friend’s past as they gruesomely kill their victims.

Jamie Lee Curtis choose to make another horror film despite the risk of being type cast as a scream queen. She is the sympathetic final girl forced to deal with a terrible situation. Unfortunately for everyone the train is in the middle of nowhere, putting the slasher theme of people isolated and trapped in a lonely place with no way to get help. This only ups the tension further.

With some brutal kills and an entertaining finale Terror Train is one of the best of the 80s slasher films. From my experience a lot of the quality slasher films over the decades have been stand alone, films without sequels. I was amused that Ben Johnson starred in this movie after making so many westerns. That was a nice touch.

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