Horrorfest 2022 Presents: The Vampire Bat (1933, Frank R. Strayer)

The Vampire Bat is a fairly decent pre code horror drama with some mad scientist thrown in for good measure. Too bad the title is a lie, yet it’s effective and gets one to notice the movie. The cast is really good for this one, maybe even great: Dwight Frye, Lionel Atwill, Melvyn Douglas, and Fay Wray. Frye actually steals the movie, playing a main suspect in the local killings. He was also great in Dracula (1931), a movie people like more than I do.

There is an angry mob scene, a tense final act and some film noir elements that are worked into this movie just like some of the other flicks made during this era. I still was left mostly entertained although better pre code movies exist than The Vampire Bat. Seen via Tubi, which is fast becoming one of my favorite streaming services.

Horrorfest 2022 Presents: Fright Night Part 2 (1988, Tommy Lee Wallace)

Vampires go bowling in Fright Night Part 2. There’s one on roller skates even. Another one tries to steal the hero’s girlfriend right out from under him. The sequel wisely decides to be different and even though it’s not as good as the first one, it’s still a lot of fun and I liked it. The remake and the original compliment each other a lot, this one just feels like a snappy appetizer. Which is alright with me.

William Ragsdale and Roddy McDowall pop back up again as the vampire killing duo, only Ragsdale’s Charlie is now convinced the events of the first movie were not real. His psychiatrist has him believing that Jerry was a serial killer, not a vampire, and that vampires don’t exist. McDowell’s Peter still believes, and is on the verge of losing his show over it. Traci Lind is Alex, Charlie’s new college girlfriend, who doesn’t believe in vampires either. Oh but she will sooner or later. Especially since Julie Carmen’s Regine has her sights aimed squarely at Charlie. She’s not exactly human, that’s for sure.

This movie has a lot more comedy elements than the first one, and way more vampires, as well. Regina’s crew consists of character actors Brian Thompson and Jon Gries, plus Russell Clark. Is it goofy at times? Sure, and it lacks the scare factor of the first movie. However Carmen steals the movie and delivers a captivating performance that people still talk about. It’s too bad I had to use YouTube just to watch this movie, it should be on Tubi or Shudder by now.

That’s a pretty cool opening title.

Horrorfest 2022 Presents: Son of Dracula (1943, Robert Siodmak)

The old Universal Studios monster movies were a lot of fun even if not all of them were really good or great. Son of Dracula is a pretty decent flick, very film noir and has Dracula pretending to be a count in a swampy backwater town. This place doesn’t believe in vampires but they’re about to rather quickly. He commences to romancing a local wealthy belle (Louise Allbritton)who owns that kind of giant old mansion you see in period type pieces.

Her boyfriend (Robert Paige) to be refuses to give her up without a fight, and I enjoyed Lon Chaney, Jr. in the title role although for some reason they didn’t let him do too much vampire activity. Perhaps it was limited by the ratings board, or the movie lacked the budget. Still there are some wonderful black and white shots that echo in my brain even if the story is a bit thin.

I’ll give the flick props for the ending, which was a bit different than I expected, and for being mostly well paced despite being a tad slow in certain parts. I encourage folks to check this out anyways, as Son of Dracula is one of those old school movies that clearly influenced later horror pictures, for better or for worse.

Horrorfest 2022 Presents: Mary, Mary, Bloody Mary (1975, Juan López Moctezuma)

Cristina Ferrare is the title slasher villain/vampire in Mary, Mary, Bloody Mary which is a pretty solid entry in the genre. In fact I was reminded of both Martin and The Velvet Vampire as well. The murders in this movie happen fairly quickly and Mary is being followed by an eerie stranger (horror legend John Carradine) who may have a link to her bleak past. I won’t say more, just that despite being goofy at times I was fairly engrossed in this flick and I rather liked it a lot despite the obvious B-movie limitations.

David Young is also great as the caring boyfriend who of course has no idea his special lady has a thirst for blood that is never ending. Juan López Moctezuma even throws in a frantic and wild car chase for good measure, just to pad out the movie. I think 1970s campy vampire movies are among my favorite things from the decade at this point.

Horrorfest 2021 Presents: One Dark Night (1983, Tom McLoughlin)

Even though most of the action happens in the last half of the movie, One Dark Night is still a decent horror movie. Plus the final act is pretty cool and quite weird, as if the movie couldn’t decide whether to be a slasher zombie movie or a vampire flick. So it choose all of those, combining different elements. I wish the kill count had been higher, still this is a flick I recommend anyways.

Julie (Meg Tilly) wants to join a group of popular girls despite her boyfriend telling her she’s better off ignoring them. They decide to send her to spend the night in a local mausoleum, and decide to come back to scare her. Too bad for them all a local occultist has been entombed there as well! Does he come back from the dead? What do you think? Also hey Adam West is even in the movie! Neat.

Melissa Newman also plays the daughter of the dead occultist, Raymar (what a great name) who attempts to figure out what her father was up to, and Robin Evans, E. G. Daily and Leslie Speights are the Sisters club that is responsible for Julie’s situation in the first place. I liked the zombies in this movie, and the finale is definitely pretty wild. It’s too bad that Tom McLoughlin didn’t make more movies, as between this one and Jason Lives he seemed to have a knack for directing watchable horror movies. Oh well.

Horrorfest 2021 Presents: Messiah of Evil (1973, Gloria Katz, Willard Huyck)

Equal parts slow burn, nightmare fuel and zombie film, Messiah of Evil is one one those 1970s cult gems that people talk about years later. There are two scenes that echo in my mind: one is a grocery store one that is super freaky, the other takes place in a movie theater which calls to mind Carnival of Souls. Both are highly effective and add to the film’s overall high eerie factor that works very much in it’s favor.

Arletty (Marianna Hill) goes to a small California town in search of her father, played by Royal Dano. Running into an old man (Elisha Cook, Jr.) who tells her about a dark prophecy straight out of a Lovecraft story. She ends up joining a rich guy (Michael Greer) and his two female pals (Joy Bang and Anitra Ford) who hang around despite all of them, Arletty included, reading her father’s spooky diary.

In fact much of this movie has the look and feel of a Lovecraft adaption, with some solid nods to George A. Romero, of course. The final act is your quality 1970s finale that has no qualms about being gloomy. I liked this movie a lot and I might watch it again if Shudder still keeps the rights or Tubi has it. This kind of movie is why I love 1970s horror so much: it has guts, literally.

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 Françoise 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: Subspecies (1991, Ted Nicolaou)

Knowing Full Moon Features more than I did before this Horrorfest, I went into Subspecies with some low expectations. Yet I ended up liking this film even though it’s budget limitations were obvious. However I liked the cast and the acting was much better than your average director to video movie. Oh and having a vampire movie set in Transylvanian and shot in Romania is pretty wicked.

A group of American college students end up in the middle of one those ancient wars between a good and evil pair of siblings that is a staple of many a horror or fantasy movie. Does this lead to some really weird moments involving a blood stone and little monster creatures? Yes. Is there a sword fight later on? Absolutely. I liked that an old guy decided to load a shotgun with rosemary beads.

Once again I watched another movie that was turned into a franchise, which seems to happen with horror movies a lot. I doubt I’ll watch the sequels, but Subspecies did have a nice love subplot that is better than anything in Twilight. That’s for sure. I finally realized last year that all the direct to video movies end up on RedBox or streaming services these days, and so thanks to Tubi I can enjoy tons of Full Moon Features online instead of via the video rental store.

Horrorfest 2020 Presents: Dracula: Pages from a Virgin’s Diary (2002, Guy Maddin)

This movie has Asian Dracula (the very graceful and elegant Zhang Wei-Qiang), is in black and white and is literally a silent movie. Yet Dracula: Pages from a Virgin’s Diary oddly works, even though this is a ballet horror movie filming of a stage ballet adaption of Dracula. That title is pretty cool, and I liked this movie despite it being mostly style rather than substance. I’ve never seen Dracula this graceful before, and the ending ballet is really neat.

If anything the ballet and silent film style filmmaking makes this more interesting than the average vampire flick. Guy Maddin seems to be a unique director, and I would like to see more of his work. Particularly if it is anything like this flick. Ballet vampire movie could be a regular thing, maybe.

Horrorfest 2020/Its Hammer Time Presents: Let Me In (2010, Matt Reeves)

Chloë Grace Moretz and Kodi Smit-McPhee have pretty good chemistry together in Let Me In, Matt Reeves’ quasi remake of Let The Right One In. I prefer the original but the remake is a good film, and has its own unique moments even if at times it felt like a copy of the Swedish film that was made two years before. Sometimes imitation is the best kind of flattery.

I rather like how the film was shot, with Abby and Owen’s relationship being as tender and complicated as the one in the original film. I like good remakes, and this was certainly one of them, although I am not sure it needed to exist. Still Reeves definitely has talent and is a good director, and I want to check out some of his other films. Especially since I really enjoyed Cloverfield. Oddly enough I prefer the pool scene in this film to the one in the original, mostly for a particular shot of Owen that is very remarkable and memorable.

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