Castle of the Living Halloween Horror Fest

Castle of the Living Dead (1964)

In the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars, the land is beset by unrest and criminality. A travelling circus group are invited to the castle of Count Drago (Christopher Lee) to perform there for him. They encounter bad omens on their way, and find that the Count himself has some unusual – and deadly – hobbies.

And that’s about it, really. I watched this film to add yet another Christopher Lee performance to my stockpile – as always, he’s reliably sinister and is the best thing about Castle of the Living Dead. Donald Sutherland, in an early career role, also does a very fine job.

The film looks good in black and white, which adds a great deal to the creepy atmosphere. It’s not a fantastic film, but has enough quirky merit to be worth a watch.

7/10

The Addams Family (2019)

Regular readers will know that I try to cover some family friendly frights during Halloween Horror Fest. This most recent Addams Family outing – and animated portrayal with some great voice talent – provided some ghoulishly great entertainment for our household.

The animation is vibrant and totally appropriate for this creepy bunch, and Charlize Theron (as Morticia), Oscar Isaac (Gomez) and Chloe Grace Moretz (Wednesday) – along with the rest of the cast – gleefully get stuck into the characters.

Wednesday Addams seems a little underused here, but the whole “be yourself, be different” message of the film is well placed and much appreciated. Far better than I was expecting, this version of The Addams Family was a spooky and kooky delight.

8/10

Little Shop of Halloween Horror Fests

Halloween may be over, but as usual, I’ve still got a few left over Halloween Horror Fest reviews to write.  So don’t get too comfortable, you’re not safe just yet…

The Wolf Man (1941)

Yes!  This is what it’s all about – classic Universal Monsters!  The Wolf Man is one of my favourite movies of this type.  It’s massively influential – most of the folklore we know about werewolves was actually created for this film – and it’s great fun for Halloween.

Larry Talbot (the legendary Lon Chaney Jr) returns to his ancestral home (actually set in Wales, fact fiends!).  He reconciles with his father (an excellent Claude Rains), and tries to find his place in the community.

When defending a friend from a wolf attack, Larry is bitten by the creature.  Of course, there’s no prizes for guessing that the beast was a werewolf (human alter ego played by another horror legend, Bela Lugosi).  Larry is condemned to become a werewolf too, as his life takes a tragic turn.

The Wolf Man boasts great performances, a fantastic score and a story that is pretty much definitive in the realm of cinematic lycanthropes.  Larry Talbot’s story is both thrilling yet sadly ill-fated.  Iconic make-up effects from Jack Pierce also help to create an unforgettable monster movie that’s amongst the best from Universal.  And it’s set in Wales.

9/10

Little Shop of Horrors (1986)

Geeky plant shop worker Seymour Krelborn (Rick Moranis) is downtrodden, unsuccessful – and has a crush on his colleague Audrey (Ellen Greene).  Seymour discovers a strange plant which he names Audrey II.  The mysterious plant has an appetite for blood, and flourishes when it feeds on Audrey’s sadistic dentist boyfriend.  Soon the amazing Audrey II becomes a sensation, bringing fame and fortune to Seymour – but at what cost?

Now I’m no fan of musicals, but I’ll make an exception for Little Shop of Horrors.  It has a fun story, some great songs and a quality cast  – including cameos from some comedy greats.  Frank Oz directs, and the whole movie is a gruesome treat from start to finish.  A different, but wholly appropriate, Halloween movie.

8/10

Lust for a Vampire (1971)

The final film for this year’s Halloween Horror Fest is another from my beloved Hammer Films.  Lust for a Vampire forms part of an unofficial trilogy, sandwiched between The Vampire Lovers and Twins of Evil, being loosely based on J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s “Carmilla”.

Beautiful Mircalla (Yutte Stensgaard) arrives at a girl’s finishing school, situated somewhere vaguely Eastern European.  However, Mircalla is actually a reincarnation of  Carmilla – one of the evil, vampiric Karnstein clan.

The school headmaster (Ralph Bates) pledges his unholy allegiance to Mircalla and visiting author turned school teacher Richard LeStrange (Michael Johnson) falls in love with her.  But pupils and local villagers start to die off – and soon suspicion falls on the Karnstein’s and their demonic resurrection.

In Lust for a Vampire, Hammer plunge into more sexually explicit themes, resulting in cheap titillation and camp silliness.  This approach has caused the film it’s fair share of harsh criticism over the years.  Indeed, the story is a little cheesy and predictable, but the boobs’n’blood approach has never been an issue for me, unsurprisingly.

In fact, I found that there’s plenty to enjoy in this movie: terrific gothic sets and atmosphere – always the hallmark of Hammer – are really effective here.  It lacks a Peter Cushing or Christopher Lee, yet the cast have a decent stab at creating a novel tale.

Any cringe worthiness generated by Lust for a Vampire can just as easily be enjoyed as “they don’t make ’em like that anymore” 70’s kitsch.  An entertaining film that whilst not a major shining jewel in Hammer’s crown, is still pretty much unmissable.

8/10

A Symphony of Halloween Horror Fest

King Kong (1933)

Halloween is, for me, all about monster movies.  You can keep the gore-fests, jumpy scares and cheep thrills – monsters are where it’s at.  And you don’t get a better creature feature than King Kong.

Released way back in 1933, this monochrome marvel is still pure excellence.

Daring filmmaker Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong) leads a crew to a long lost island in the middle of nowhere.  There, leading lady Ann Darrow (the legendary Fay Wray) is kidnapped by locals as an offering to their god, Kong.  Kong turns out to be a giant ape, who goes gooey-eyed for the blonde bombshell and fights off numerous prehistoric rivals to keep her safe.

The crew attempt a rescue, but only Jack Driscoll (Bruce Cabot) survives to rescue his sweetheart from her captor.  Denham decides that Kong should be central to his new venture; hatching a plan to capture the ape and take him back to civilisation as his star attraction.

It’s incredible that this film isn’t far off being a century old.  King Kong has a fantastic story and superb special effects that still hold up to this day.  It’s full on entertainment – and one of my favourite films of all time.

But is King Kong horror?  Well, Kong features in my old Horror Top Trumps set – so that qualifies as a definite YES.

10/10

Nosferatu (1922)

More black and white thrills next, with another magnificent movie that really should not be missed.  F W Murnau’s Nosferatu is a chilling piece of early horror cinema, even after all these years.

The film follows the plot of the book Dracula, with a few alterations to (unsuccessfully) avoid claims of plagiarism.  Our hero, Jonathan Harker (or whatever name is used in whichever version you see) is sent to deal with some real estate for the mysterious Count Orlok.  The Count, however, is a vampire – who traps the hero in his castle and makes his way back to Harker’s home town, bringing death with him.

In 1922, the art and language of cinema was still being developed, leading to some strange visuals this movie – such as a ghostly horse and carriage speeding along in a bizarre manner.  Yet the final film is filled with startling, shadowy imagery that maintains a sense of unease, thanks to some genuinely innovative work.

Murnau manages to create some masterful moments of suspense, and Max Schreck as Orlok – whether rising from his grave, or shadow rising eerily up the staircase (a true iconic moment) – is spellbinding.

An early classic of cinema, Nosferatu helped develop cinematic vampire folklore – and still delivers a sense of dread with its uncanny visuals.

10/10

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

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

Halloween Horror Fest from the Black Lagoon

Yes, you guessed it – more mini reviews of scary movies for the month of October.  As always Halloween is a big deal at the Virtual Hot Tub; we’ve started watching horror films already.  And why not?  Seeing as there’s already Christmas stuff in the shops, I want to (in the words of Alice Cooper) keep Halloween alive…

The Fog (1980)

The town of Antonio Bay is about to celebrate the one hundred year anniversary of its founding.  Yet the towns folk don’t know that their home was built with gold stolen from a ship that was deliberately wrecked.  The fog rolls in and the ghostly crew return, to seek revenge against those who conspired against them all those years ago.

John Carpenter created another horror classic with this film.  Although knocking on a bit, this movie still has some jumps, some gore and oodles of atmosphere.  The concept itself is great, and executed superbly as the fog – and the gruesome undead – take over the small town.

 fog

There’s not much character development or background, but decent performances from Jamie Lee Curtis and her mum, Janet Leigh.  Not to mention Adrienne Barbeau as honey voiced DJ Stevie; watching helplessly from a lighthouse as the mist creeps in towards her home in the distance, her young son waiting…

I hadn’t seen this film for a few years, and forgotten a lot of the detail.  It was refreshing to view it again and appreciate just how good it is.  Not quite up there with The Thing or Halloween, but definitely another cracker from Carpenter.  The Fog is worth your time.

8/10

Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)

Universal unleashed their last classic monster on the silver screen with this gem.  Originally filmed as a 3D feature, Creature from the Black Lagoon gives us the first appearance of the iconic Gill Man.  This genuine old school monochrome piece of art has it all – adventure, mystery, murder and mayhem.

A team of scientists in the Amazon discover some strange fossils, and explore a remote lagoon to learn more.  There they encounter the Creature of the title, a long lost evolutionary throw back – a fish man from another time.  The expedition’s encounter leads to an attempt to capture the Gill Man, who has developed a crush on the sole female in their team (Julie Adams).  The scientific interlopers are bumped off one by one, the tables are turned and the Gill Man claims his prize…

cfbl

This movie really is a blast from the past.  The story is gripping and retains the viewers attention throughout.  Some of the sequences are still very creepy, in particular when the Creature is gliding through the water, observing but unseen by the swimming girl above.  It’s these scenes where the humans are out of their natural element, and in the domain of their nemesis, that still hold the most power.

If you’re a fan of monster movies, like me, then you must see this film (if you haven’t already).  The Creature from the Black Lagoon has cool photography, is well written, and has that brilliant creature design.  It’s B-movie heaven.

8/10

Sci-Fi Weekender part 2

Sci-Fi Weekender 28th – 30th March 2014

Hafan Y Mor Holiday Park, Pwllheli

Day Two – and Adam, Greeny, Kurt and myself were up bright and early to see what the day would bring.  LIE.  We had a lie in, went to get s cooked breakfast, got some supplies at the Spar, and chilled out in the chalet for a while.  We decided to wander down to see what was going just a little after the action began at midday.  Although impressed with what we’d witnessed so far, we still didn’t know what to expect.

Exploring the set up, we soon found the events and had a good look around the merchandise area.  I picked up a couple of cool items – a Star Wars figure I needed and a Countess Dracula t-shirt.  I could’ve spent a fortune if I’d had the money.  There was quite a buzz as fans scouted around for bargains and highly desirable paraphernalia.

There were numerous discussion panels, interviews and signings through out the afternoon.  Luckily I caught a very interesting talk with 2000AD creator Pat Mills, refreshingly anti-authoritarian even after all these years.  There was quite a 2000AD presence, with some of my favourite artists of all time – Glenn Fabry and Simon Bisley – in attendance.  Somebody really should make a film version of Slaine…

I also caught a very entertaining chat with The Hobbit actor Graham McTavish.  Although I’ve yet to see the film(s), his interview was still engaging; with many captivating stories from behind the scenes.

Of course, the main attraction for me (except for beer) was taking photos of all the various fans who’d taken the time and trouble to dress up as their favourite characters.  There were some amazing costumes, as shown here and in the previous post.  Again, fans were more than happy to pose for photos.  The atmosphere was friendly and welcoming with no bad vibes on display anywhere.

The highlight of the evening was the Cosplay final – those who entered the competition were judged on the best costume.  I forget who won, but the talent and care on display was highly commendable – as you can see from the photos.

There were several Cosplayers I either missed getting a photo of, or the pic turned out rubbish.  My apologies – again, I’m not a professional.  It is with great shame that I cannot present for you here Jar Jar Green Screen, General Zod, the Beast and sexy Six of Nine silver Star Trek girl.  Sorry.  But I think Silk Spectre (below) makes up for that.

Another late night ended with the “legendary” Pat Sharp spinning the wax for a packed dance floor.  All in all, a great day with a real sense of community.

Finally, I must thank Glyn again for providing not only tickets but our accommodation.  I hope these reports give you some idea of how the event was.  Cheers!

Visit the Sci-Fi Weekender site here.

Captain Blood (1935)

After a long while, I finally added this film to my DVD collection.  Originally released in 1935, Captain Blood is black and white, no CGI – switch off now if this isn’t your thing.  But you’ll be missing something special if you do.

This is the story of a doctor, Peter Blood, who through misfortune and circumstance finds himself a slave in the West Indies.  From here he escapes with his trusty comrades and commandeers a Spanish ship, his only option now a life of piracy.  We follow Captain Blood and his crew’s adventures on the seas. captainblood1

Warner Brothers took a gamble in casting the unknown Errol Flynn in the lead role.  The risk paid off – Flynn lights up the screen from the start.  A star is not so much born as presented fully formed for the audience to adore.  Olivia de Havilland, as Arabella Bishop, also found herself become an established name.  There is real on screen chemistry between the two (they’d go on to star in many other films together); both Flynn and de Havilland captivating throughout.

Director Michael Curtiz employs everything he has to create a spectacle on screen, though surprisingly most of the scenes were shot on sound stages.  Flynn’s sword fight with Basil Rathbone is energetic and deadly.  The final swing-across-the-cavern ship to ship battle is still exciting even now.

Curtiz takes his time telling the back story before we get to the piracy on the high seas.  On first viewing you may wonder when the film will actually get to the pirate part, yet the tale is told well with engaging characters and action.

Captain Blood is golden era Hollywood.  It has escapism, adventure and above all, fun.  Even without a single “Garrrrgh!”, it’s still full of pirate-y goodness.

8/10