The Incredible Halloween Horror Fest

Cujo (1983)

I’ve not read all of Stephen King’s books, but I’ve read a handful and enjoyed them all.  A great deal of his books translate into equally great movies.  Some, like Maximum Overdrive, do not (though I thought it was kinda fun, anyway).

In Cujo, a nice old dog gets bitten by a bat and becomes rabid.  He attacks a couple of people and traps bored suburban housewife Dee Wallace and her young son in their broken down car.  The pair are terrorised by Cujo whilst they wait for rescue, or some way to attempt an escape.

Admittedly, I’ve not read Cujo, so don’t have any background on the tale itself.  The film takes a fair old while to get moving, so much so that I was beginning to wish I’d watched the classic Zoltan – Hound of Dracula instead.  This movie was looking to become one of those unfortunate King stories that become mediocre movies.

Things start to rev up when Cujo starts maiming people, though it’s a long wait.  Yet when Wallace and her boy are trapped in their car, the tension mounts considerably.  Their fear and desperation are vivid, ensuring the slow burn is worth persevering with.

I’m sure the book would be a much more satisfying experience – King is so good at delving into the mind and motivations of his small town characters, that the detail always becomes riveting.  I didn’t find the movie as engrossing as others, but the final act of the film – with Wallace becoming more and more terrified – takes Cujo out of the “dud” category and into the “not bad at all”.

7/10

Halloween Horror Fest 2019

A lonely forest at night.  The full moon peaks through the gnarled branches, as the wind whistles a mournful lament.  In the distance, a wolf howls… and the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end, involuntarily.

It’s October, and that means it’s time for – Halloween Horror Fest!

For the last few years, I’ve spent the month of October watching a load of scary movies.  Some spooky; some creepy; some funny – and some shit-your-shoes-off horrifying.

And then I write a little review.  Like this…

The Frighteners (1996)

Okay – so The Frighteners isn’t a full-on horror film exactly, but it has plenty of supernatural elements that make it ideal viewing for this time of year.  And anyway, we needed to watch something that wouldn’t scare the little ‘un too much, if she overheard it while trying to get to sleep upstairs!

Michael J Fox stars as Frank Bannister, a one time architect turned dodgy psychic investigator.  Bannister can actually communicate with spirits, but chooses to employ his ghostly buddies to help him exploit customers with phoney exorcisms.

Except townspeople are dying from fatal heart attacks, and Frank suspects that the ghost of a deranged killer is behind it all.  Unable to convince the law that his supernatural powers are genuine, Bannister becomes the chief suspect – and must clear his name and stop the killer.

Directed by Peter Jackson, this film makes a decent attempt at being spooky, funny and entertaining all in one go.  Quality performances from Fox and the cast (including a small role for the great John Astin) – combined with the directors flair and skill – keep the film rolling along enjoyably.

The special effects were state of the art in 1996, and still hold up well today – with several creepy moments realised with CGI that is actually tastefully done.

The Frighteners just manages to steer away from becoming silly, and remains good fun.  Ideal for a Halloween movie that won’t cause nightmares, it’s like Most Haunted with a plot and (more) laughs.

7/10

More macabre movies soon…

The Viking Halloween Horror Fest

Well Halloween 2018 is over, sadly.  But there are a few other movies I’ve watched in October as part of my Horror Fest, so here’s a quick overview of them.  I promise to keep this short and sweet…

The Brides of Fu Manchu (1966)

Is this even a horror movie?  I consulted the oracle of all things frightful, my old Horror Top Trumps, and YES – Fu Manchu is in there.  If he’s in that card pack then this counts as horror, as far as I’m concerned. 

Having said that, The Brides of Fu Manchu is more Indiana Jones style adventure than scary movie, despite some gruesome elements.

Fu Manchu is played by Christopher Lee (in make-up, the sort of Hollywood white washing that would quite rightly cause uproar nowadays).  The evil criminal mastermind is kidnapping the daughters of prominent scientists, to bribe them into helping him create a death ray.  It’s up to Scotland Yard’s Nayland Smith (Douglas Wilmer) to stop him.

The Brides of Fu Manchu is terribly dated.  But if we can all agree to be adults and appreciate that this film was made in another age, reflecting views of an even older age, then it’s quite a rip-roaring yarn.  Take it with a pinch of salt and watch it with a wary eye.

7/10

The Viking Queen (1967)

It’s Hammer, but it’s not really horror!  The Viking Queen is (very) loosely based on the story of Boudica in Roman Britain. 

Here we have the tale of British Queen Salina (played by Carita) and nice Roman leader Justinian (Don Murray) who plan on creating a fair land for all.  And they fall in love.  Predictably, there are grumps on both Briton and Roman sides that conspire to make a right old mess of things for the romantic couple.

On first viewing, I found the historical inaccuracies too much to swallow.  Further viewings have allowed my expectations to be lowered and I’ve begun to enjoy it more.  Not for the history buffs, but The Viking Queen is an enjoyable tale (with some nasty gory bits to remind us it is Hammer, after all).

7/10

Arachnophobia (1990)

It’s Jaws with Spiders!  New doctor in town Jeff Daniels is an arachnophobe, who just happens to move his family to a new town that’s about to become deadly spider central. 

I saw this film in the cinema and don’t think I’ve ever watched it again since.  So I was surprised that it was actually still quite good fun, with the sort of scares that force the viewer to move away from any possible spider hiding places in the living room.

Good fun and quite gruesome in places, it’s too scary for young children (as I found out), although completely obvious plot-wise.  Disconnect brain and enjoy.

8/10

Monsters vs. Aliens (2009)

Much more suitable for your younger monsters, this animated feature from Dreamworks manages to entertain and pay homage to classic B-movie monsters from the past. 

Susan Murphy (voiced by Reese Witherspoon) is hit by a meteorite that mutates her into a giant, Attack of the 50 Foot Woman character.  She’s whisked off to a top secret military installation and holed up with some other monstrous types.  Eventually the creatures are brought out of confinement to defend earth from an alien invasion.

Monsters vs. Aliens features a great voice cast including Hugh Laurie (a mad scientist/The Fly-like Dr Cockroach), Seth Rogen (as The Blob-like B.O.B.), Will Arnett (as the Missing Link, a Creature from the Black Lagoon specimen) and Kiefer Sutherland as the General in charge.  Rogen in particular is hilarious.

Lots of fun, great animation and a nice message if that’s your thing.  Monster vs. Aliens is a winner.

8/10

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

Yes, it’s October – which means it’s time once again for Halloween Horror Fest!  Throughout the month on the run up to Halloween, Mrs Platinum Al and I watch some of the horror movies from our creepy collection, and I write a brief review of each for your evil entertainment.

It’s always out and out horror – so long as there’s a general spooky or paranormal element – or monsters! – then the movie is up for consideration.

This is the fifth year running we have attempted this mammoth task.  To keep everyone up to speed, here’s a list of the films that have been viewed over the last few years.

All are listed in alphabetical order.

28 Days Later
28 Weeks Later
30 Days of Night
The Addams Family
Alien
An American Werewolf in London
Big Tits Zombie
Bigfoot Wars
Blacula
Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb
Blood on Satan’s Claw
Bram Stoker’s Dracula
Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter
Carrie
Carry on Screaming
Company of Wolves
The Corpse Bride
Countess Dracula
Creature from the Black Lagoon
Dark Shadows
Day of the Dead
Dead Snow
Dead Snow 2
The Devil Rides Out
Dracula AD 1972
Dracula Prince of Darkness
Ed Wood
Elvira, Mistress of the Dark
Evil Dead
The Fog
Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman
Friday the 13th
From Dusk Till Dawn
From Hell
Ghost Ship
Ghostbusters
Halloween
The House That Dripped Blood
Lost Boys
Night Watch
Oupost
Para Norman
Paranormal Activity
Paranormal Xperience
Pet Sematary
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
The Raven
Rocky Horror Picture Show
Scream
Shadow of the Vampire
Shaun of the Dead
Silence of the Lambs
Sleepy Hollow
Taste the Blood of Dracula
Theatre of Blood
The Thing (1982)
Vampire Circus
The Vampire Lovers
The Wicker Man
The Wolfman (2010)
The Woman in Black
Zombie Strippers

Hallowe’en Horror Fest Must Be Destroyed

Ed Wood (1994)

OK – so Ed Wood doesn’t have any shocks or frights.  Nor does it contain anything remotely supernatural.  Yet it does have Bela Lugosi, Vampira, a Hallowe’en scene and references to some of the worst horror B-movies of all time.

This film charts the career lows (and more lows) of Ed Wood, a man whose movies are largely considered absolute disasters.  Played by Johnny Depp, Wood and his band of misfits blunder from one production to another, with far more enthusiasm than talent.  Thus we see a dramatised version of Wood’s life behind the scenes of such turkeys as Bride of the Monster and Plan 9 From Outer Spaceed_wood_ver2

Bela Lugosi is played fantastically by Martin Landau, in a role that elicits great sympathy from the audience.  The film also stars Sarah Jessica Parker, the legendary Bill Murray, Patricia Arquette and Lisa Marie as the aforementioned Vampira.  Depp, too, does a riveting job, making Wood likeable – a failed hero the audience can root for.

Directed by Tim Burton, this is a film that I can watch again and again.  You don’t have to be familiar with the works of Wood, but it does add another dimension if you are.  It’s a wonderful film that has, at it’s core, a story of succeeding against the odds.  Sort of.

Not a horror film then, as such, but the fact that Ed Wood features such icons of early horror makes this film an unmissable Hallowe’en treat.

10/10

Day of the Dead (1985)

So it’s post apocalypse and there are zombies everywhere.  There are these survivors holed up in an underground mine/storage facility.  Tensions mount between the survivors –  some being scientists and some military – as they each have their own agendas.  Eventually everything goes belly up and it’s zombie attack time.

I don’t think that gives away too many spoilers – you weren’t expecting anything else, were you?

Director George A Romero was also responsible for the completely thrilling Night of the Living Dead.  He also made Dawn of the Dead, a very fine sequel.  However, for me, Day of the Dead doesn’t quite reach the heights of the two earlier films.  Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty to get your teeth into here, and there are a few genuinely innovative moments.  It’s just harder to relate to people stuck in an underground cavern than it is a shopping mall.

I won’t mention the zombie Bub, a character that I definitely thought was too much.  But check it out, certainly if you’ve seen the other Dead films.

7/10

Hallowe’en Poem – Fear

Fear

 

Fear is black

It sounds like a clock striking midnight in the distance

And a strange creak on the stairs when you’re alone.

Fear looks like a long, dark road at night

Lined by the skeletons of trees as the moonlight creeps through.

It feels like your hair standing on end

When someone taps you on the shoulder…

Fear is black.

 

 

Son of Hallowe’en Horror Fest

28 Days Later (2002)

When Mrs Platinum Al and I went on our very first date, this was the film she wanted to see.  I’d heard it was good, and being a fan of the Director Danny Boyle’s earlier works (Shallow Grave, Trainspotting) agreed it would be a good choice.  What followed was one of the most extreme cinematic experiences I’ve ever had.  You’ve heard stories about people walking out of the cinema?  I saw that during this screening.  Audience members were getting up and leaving.  I’m sure that it wasn’t because the film was bad – it was because 28 Days Later is utterly terrifying. MV5BNzM2NDYwNjM3OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwNDYxNzk5._V1._SX337_SY500_ (1)

Jim (Cillian Murphy) wakes up in hospital after being in an accident.  Slowly he finds that the world he knew has crumbled, as an infectious virus called “Rage” has decimated the population by turning the victims into violent, mindless killers.  Jim meets other survivors, and together they begin a journey to find a cure for Rage, and safe refuge from the Infected.

28 Days Later was never billed as a zombie flick originally, at least not as I remember it.  Although obviously inspired by zombie movies and other post apocalyptic films, it was promoted as a film exploring what could happen following the outbreak of a pandemic.  Scenes of an abandoned London created emotions of despair that were related, in the press, to the aftermath of 9/11.  Psychologically, the audience is submitted to a world of sheer desperation that pervades every minute.

As a result, 28 Days Later gives us much more than a zombie re-hash.  It has shocks and creates tension in the viewer unlike any other film I have ever seen.  But it also asks questions: how far away are any of us, in a world of road rage and social unrest, from mindless uncontrolled violence?

Quite simply a superb film on every level, 28 Days Later horrifies beyond belief.

10/10

Hallowe’en Horror Fest Has Risen From the Grave

Gather round, courageous ones.  It’s time for more horror movie reviews at the Virtual Hot Tub!

Dead Snow (2009)

Great film.  A group of Norwegian students decide to take a break in a remote cabin up in the mountains.  Surrounded by snow, their initial fun and games turn nasty when a group of Nazi zombies awaken and begin to terrorise them.  Mayhem, blood and gore is the result.

I love this film.  Dead Snow is  obviously inspired (and is a homage to) numerous other similar movies.  There are jumpy parts, gruesome parts – it ticks all the boxes.  Some of the humour is a little too much sometimes, but there’s enough great content to excuse any ideas that were a little too silly. dead-snow

Besides, what’s not to like?  Nazi zombies?  Is that not the ultimate bunch of evil bad guys ever?  A very cool movie, it still worked on a second viewing and highly recommended.  Norway also looks beautiful, I’d love to go there.

9/10

Night Watch (2004)

Many years ago, a truce was called between the warring factions of good and evil.  Now the forces of good police the day, while the forces of darkness hold control over the night.  In this world we meet the Night Watch, who are entrusted with keeping the vampires of the forces of darkness in line.

This Russian movie promised a lot, and indeed it looks spectacular.  There are several scenes that definitely impress.  However it’s more spectacle than substance, and I was left disengaged by the last half hour.  There’s undoubtedly vast imagination at work here, so perhaps repeated viewings or more familiarity with the source material would aid my appreciation.

On the whole, it’s more dark fantasy than horror.  I was hoping for more.

6/10

Hallowe’en Playlist

All these posts about horror movies, it’s about time there was a post devoted to music for Hallowe’en!

I have a couple of Hallowe’en compilation CDs, this playlist puts together various songs not on those collections.  Some of the choices are obvious horror themes (“The Number of the Beast”, “Nasty”); others are more tenuous (“Devil in Disguise”, “Hotter Than Hell”).  Other selections are related, directly or not, to great scary movies: you know where “Bad Moon Rising” is from, right?

Either way, there’s a variety of styles here – suitable for (most) Hallowe’en gatherings…

  1. Creedence Clearwater Revival – “Bad Moon Rising”
  2. The Damned – “Nasty”
  3. Elvis Presley – “(You’re the) Devil in Disguise”
  4. Ramones – “Pet Semetary”
  5. Motorhead – “Hellraiser”
  6. Johnny Cash – “(Ghost) Riders in the Sky”
  7. Iron Maiden – “The Number of the Beast”
  8. The Misfits – “Vampira”
  9. Kiss – “Hotter Than Hell”
  10. Rolling Stones – “Sympathy for the Devil”
  11. Zombina & The Skeletones – “Nobody Loves You (When You’re Dead)”
  12. Ozzy Osbourne – “Mr Crowley”
  13. Screamin’ Jay Hawkins – “I Put a Spell on You”
  14. GBH – “Horror Story”
  15. Van Halen – “Runnin’ with the Devil”
  16. David Bowie – “Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)”
  17. The Cult – “The Witch”
  18. Jimi Hendrix Experience – “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)”
  19. Alice Cooper – “I Love the Dead”