From Beyond the Halloween Horror Fest

The Omen (1976)

Widely regarded as a classic of the horror genre, I was never a huge fan of this movie when I first viewed it as a teen in the late 80’s.  Despite the high regard that The Omen was held in by my peers, I just didn’t find it that scary.

Watching the film again now, though, I was much more impressed by the clever story and formidable performances. 

Gregory Peck plays Robert Thorn, a US Ambassador in Italy.  When his wife, played by Lee Remick, has a stillborn child, Thorn is approached by a priest to adopt another baby as their own.  They name the child Damien, and following the family’s move to London strange things begin to happen.

A priest (Patrick Troughton) warns Thorn that the boy is the Antichrist.  Though sceptical at first, Thorn begins to investigate with a photo journalist (David Warner) also caught up in the case.  Death and destruction is always on their heels, but is it deadly coincidence or evil incarnate?

Excellent performances and a tight, fast paced narrative made The Omen far more interesting this time around.  The Director, Richard Donner, does a good job of creating a malevolent atmosphere and the chills keep coming.

Creepy rather than jump-out-of-your-skin scary, never the less The Omen stays in the mind long after the finale.  Far better than I’d given it credit for.

8/10

From Beyond the Grave (1974)

I remember first seeing this film years ago – a late night showing on TV when I got home from the pub!

From Beyond the Grave is another Amicus anthology movie.  Featuring four short stories, they are linked together by Peter Cushing’s antiques and curiosity shop, Temptations Ltd – which bookends all the events.

In the first segment, David Warner (again) buys an old mirror that brings an uninvited, murderous guest to his home.  The second, and best story, features Donald Pleasence and daughter in a weird tale of witchcraft.

The third instalment is more comedic, as a medium is involved in exorcising a demon from a business man’s life.

Finally, Ian Ogilvy and Lesley-Anne Down are confronted with a time travelling satanist in what is a far fetched, but very tense tale.

It’s all great campy 70’s horror fun, and I have a lot of love for this film.  There are several great British actors, all doing a fine job – and plenty of atmospheric chills. From Beyond the Grave is slightly dated but immensely entertaining.

7/10

The Abominable Halloween Horror Fest

The Babadook (2014)

I had heard that this film was good, and The Babadook didn’t disappoint.  This Australian movie was very impressive.

Centred around a widowed mother and her young son, the film is original and different right from the start.  The young boy, Samuel (Noah Wiseman), is having a troubled time; even more so when he encounters a book about Mr Babadook.  Suddenly, his fears of what hides in his room at night become more fraught. 

The mother, Amelia (Essie Davis), eventually becomes embroiled in the uncanny happenings as the Babadook seems to materialise.  Slowly, their relationship – and their existence –  becomes warped by the strange Babadook creature, until their reality threatens to fall apart.

The Babadook is both chilling and innovative; full of suspense and yet also a sharp psychological thriller.  How much are we experiencing for real, and how much is imagination?  This film very cleverly avoids cliche, whilst creating a forbidding atmosphere and genuine tension.

It’s also thought provoking and will stay with you for days afterwards.  Brilliant and highly recommended.

9/10 

The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971)

Horror legend Vincent Price stars in this cult classic about an esteemed doctor (and organist), in a terrible tale of revenge and murder.

Phibes’ beloved wife died tragically on the operating table, and he is now driven to kill the medical team he deems responsible.  There follows a series of grisly murders based on the biblical plagues of Egypt, each intricately designed by Phibes. 

There are plenty of moments of dark humour as the police officers attempt to put the clues together and trap the murderer, but Phibes is always one step ahead.

The Abominable Dr. Phibes is a great film, plenty of gruesome scenes and Vincent Price on top form.  An imaginative soundtrack and beautiful Art Deco set design create a fantasy that is wonderful to watch.  Seriously, the sets are fantastic.

Of course, as a big fan of punk/goth rock veterans The Damned, I was thrilled to put together the connection between this film and “13th Floor Vendetta” on the bands “Black Album”.  Just one of many reasons I thoroughly endorse this quirky little gem of a movie.

Oh, and did I mention that my favourite horror movie beauty Caroline Munro appears as Phibes’ wife (if only in photos)?

8/10

Bride of Halloween Horror Fest (Revisited)

Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

It was an absolute pleasure to re-watch this total classic of a monster movie.  Bride of Frankenstein features not one, but two iconic Universal creatures; in a multi faceted story directed by James Whale.

As the original movie had been such a success, this sequel shines with a commitment to match it and create something even better – which it does.

Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive) has survived the events of the first film, and vows never to return to his ghastly experiments.  The creature (a fantastic Boris Karloff) has also survived, and begins to explore his surroundings and grow in experience.  Of course, these adventures inevitably lead to mayhem.

An old tutor of Frankenstein, Dr Pretorius – played with a camp menace by Ernest Thesiger – has a proposition for Henry.  Together, they can combine their skill to create a new monster, a mate for the first.  Events transpire to force Frankenstein to enter into this hell bound, yet inevitable partnership. 

Universal obviously invested heavily in this second Frankenstein movie, the sets are more grand and the special effects really surprisingly good for the time.  Whale is on fine form and the whole film is a real spectacle – I remember being thrilled to see this revered movie for the first time.

Performance wise, Clive is melodramatic in the extreme and his acting appears somewhat dated.  The rest of the cast are magnificent though, Thesiger is delightfully wicked and Elsa Lanchester is unforgettable as the monster’s bride.

The best though is the legendary Karloff, here given much more to do (even being allowed to develop speech, a little like the novel).  His ability to convey emotion and make the audience empathise with a giant, re-animated corpse is astounding.

All in all, Bride of Frankenstein is a classic of the genre.

10/10

The Nightmare Before Halloween Horror Fest

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

This year, we’ve tried to include our 7 year old daughter in Halloween Horror Fest as much as we can.  Obviously, we’re not going to show her The Exorcist, but The Nightmare Before Christmas was a perfect choice.

It’s a fantastic animated movie, full of creepy and imaginative characters, from the mind of that good old Halloween advocate, Tim Burton. 

Jack Skellington is the Pumpkin King of Halloween Town, where he presides over the preparations for celebrating the spooky holiday.  Although this year, he’s bored of Halloween – and a chance trip to Christmas Town gives him a spark of inspiration.  Enthused by the joy of Christmas, Jack decides to take over that holiday, and deliver Christmas cheer to the world.

It doesn’t take much to guess that this will all go a teeny bit wrong…

We all loved The Nightmare Before Christmas, with it’s enjoyable mix of classic stop motion animation and quirky songs.  The film is amazing to watch, the detail is spellbinding and the story easy to follow for everyone.  In particular, I was very impressed with the diversity of background characters – nerd heaven.

Excellent family entertainment, especially if your family is Halloween crazy like ours!

9/10

Dreamcatcher (2003)

A group of four friends are off to spend their annual weekend away in a cabin in the woods.  This year, however, events take a horrific turn.  At first caught in a blizzard, they find that there is a disease outbreak of some kind, with the military involved and everyone being evacuated.

Except we learn that the outbreak is actually caused by extra terrestrials, with a diabolical plan to take over the world.  Can these evil aliens be stopped before it’s too late? 

This is really well made film, with good performances and a meandering plot that keeps the viewer guessing.  However in the end, I found it a bit too much of a Frankenstein patchwork of an idea.

Based on a Stephen King book, I can’t judge how accurate a version this is as I’ve not read the source material.  But the movie comes across as a somewhat garbled mix of King’s own It, plus The Thing, Alien, X-files and a ton of other stuff.  Factor in the most gross-out, toilet based gore I’ve ever seen and we’re left with a strange film that never adds up to the sum of it’s parts.

Too many ideas (and influences) bolted together to be truly satisfying, Dreamcatcher is entertaining but not essential.

7/10

The Kiss of Halloween Horror Fest

The Kiss of the Vampire (1963)

Do you know what I like best about watching loads of horror movies for Halloween?  I like re-watching the old classics, like this little beauty from Hammer.

Kiss of the Vampire follows a British couple – Gerald and Marianne Harcourt (Edward De Souza and Jennifer Daniel) – on honeymoon somewhere in Europe, around the early years of the twentieth century.  Their car breaks down, and they seek refuge in a nearby hotel.  It’s quite clear, however, that all is not as it seems. 

The couple are invited to dine at the local castle with Dr Ravna (Noel Willman) and his family.  Although Ravna is in fact the undead leader of a vampire cult, hell bent on initiating Marianne into their group.

It’s perhaps not the most original plot, and there’s no Christopher Lee or Peter Cushing in this movie.  Kiss of the Vampire is however a really good film, featuring convincing performances and excellent sets.  The production looks high quality, with intricate, detailed sets that appear more lavish than usual.

Although it takes a while to get moving – this is no roller coaster ride, rather a slow burner –  the quality of the acting and production keeps things entertaining.  Not one for the adrenaline junkies, but a nice master class in old fashioned horror.

7/10

Halloween Horror Fest 2017

Here we go with another month of as many horror films as I can fit in, on the run up to Halloween.  Both myself and Mrs Platinum Al take turns top pick a spooky movie to entertain us; I then write these here mini movie reviews.

Sound OK to you?  Let’s crack on, then.

It (1990)

Recently Mrs Platinum Al and I went to see the new version of It in the cinema.  I was familiar with the story but wasn’t really expecting anything really exciting.  How wrong I was: the remake of It is superb fun from start to finish.

So it’s a bit of a no-brainer that the first film of this years Halloween Horror Fest would be the original 1990 version.  But how would it stack up compared to the revised film?

It is based on a Stephen king novel, in which a nondescript North American town is plagued by a series of child murders.  A gang of misfit kids, labelling themselves the Loser’s Club, find themselves terrorised by the evil entity that is responsible.  Preying on their deepest fears, It threatens to kill them all, until the Losers can unite and defeat the creature. 

Years later, the grown up gang are brought back together when it becomes obvious that It has returned.  This time they must destroy it once and for all…

The old film (actually a TV mini series, if you want to be picky) stands up surprisingly well against the new.  The new film is superb, and resplendent with the latest in special effects technology.  However the more primitive effects don’t harm the original at all, it still works thanks to great performances from all.  The 1990 movie succeeds because, like the later film, it brings the characters to the fore.  The Losers Club – whether kids or adults – are all interesting people that the audience can root for.

Of course the star of the show is the phenomenal Tim Curry, as Pennywise the clown.  Creepy and sinister one minute, Curry transforms into unhinged malevolence with startling ease.  Pennywise is evil incarnate and brilliantly portrayed here.

But who is the best?  Tim Curry or the new film’s Pennywise, played by Bill Skarsgard?  I’ll leave that for you to decide…

8/10

Bring Your Own Vinyl Night #13

Bring Your Own Vinyl Night

The Queen’s Head, Mold

Friday 29th September 2017

It’s Vinyl Night!  Once again, Halcyon Dreams hosted the Bring Your Own Vinyl Night at the Queen’s Head in Mold, North Wales.  An evening of beer, good company and – of course – spinning tunes!

You know the drill by now, so I’ll fast forward straight to my set.

There was a theme this time, which I stumbled on whilst playing these records over the previous months.  I decided to play songs that weren’t performed in the English language, which produced a few interesting ideas.  Here are the ones that made the cut:

Anhrefn – Molly Melys/Rhedeg I Paris

As I was in Mold, how could I not kick things off with something Welsh?  Anhrefn were a superb Welsh language punk band that I saw several times back in the early 90s.  I had a cassette of their album “Dragon’s Revenge” from those days, and successfully tracked down a vinyl copy not long ago.  This is actually two tracks – sorry, a bit sneaky: “Molly Melys” is a traditional folk song evoking Celtic tradition.  It’s a short, mellow introduction before it suddenly erupts into “Rhedeg I Paris”, a fast paced, energetic, melodic rocker in the vein of the Clash.  Fantastic!

Cypress Hill – Loco En El Coco

This is, of course, the Cypress Hill track “Insane in the Brain” but performed with Spanish lyrics.  Taken from “Los Grandes Exitos en Espanol” – their Greatest Hits in Spanish – and for some reason these versions just sound even funkier in Spanish.  I love the whole album for that reason.  Check it out, I recommend it.

Faith No More – Evidence (Italian Version)

This isn’t the “funk metal” Faith No More you may know.  Rather, this is a kind of smooth jazz-funk hybrid from the album “King for a Day… Fool for a Lifetime”, here performed in Italian.  Apparently singer Mike Patton is multi lingual and there are versions of this track in several other languages too.  It’s a great song, showing FNM stretching out and writing something across musical boundaries: and it really works. 

Plastic Bertrand – Ca Plane Pour Moi

And finally, I went with this French language pop punk/faux punk/new wave confection.  It’s a fun little treat that bounces along with a life of it’s own.  Loads of fun to end the set.

That was it, set over.  All songs in different languages.  I could have chosen a few others (I have a record by Kvelertak in Norwegian) but I figured that would do.

A great night again – thanks all!  Who knows if there’ll be a theme next time.  I’m just looking forward to another Vinyl Night!

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