The Halloween Horror Fest That Dripped Blood

The House That Dripped Blood (1971)

First off, The House That Dripped Blood is not a Hammer film.  It was, in fact, produced by rivals Amicus – though the film does share some familiar faces.  This is an anthology film, comprising of four short stories, wrapped up in to an overall narrative, concerning the spooky abandoned house of the title. thtdb

The first segment sees Denholm Elliott portray a writer, who slowly begins to lose his sanity whilst staying in the house.  Elliott gives a solid performance as he starts to crumble under the fear that his murderous creation has come to life.

Next up we have the story of two men – the always fantastic Peter Cushing and Joss Ackland – both obsessed with a waxwork dummy that resembles a lost love.  Both actors are great to watch, in a tale that seems fairly unbelievable but is probably the most gruesome of the four.

In the third instalment, the house is occupied by the legend that is Christopher Lee.  He lives with his young daughter and hired teacher (Nyree Dawn Porter).  The father’s strange, strict manner masks his daughter’s true heritage, and interest in witchcraft.  This is probably the best of the stories, with a stern Lee beginning to let fear get the better of him.  Genuinely creepy.

Finally, we have Jon Pertwee as a somewhat pompous horror movie actor, who acquires a cloak that bestows him with vampiric powers.  There’s a touch of comedy with this segment, plus some divine glamour in the form of Ingrid Pitt.  It’s all very enjoyable, and helps conclude the overall narrative in a suitably scary manner. ip

The House That Dripped Blood features a great cast and a fine writer in Robert Bloch, creator of Psycho.  On viewing, it’s surprisingly lacking in blood – however there are enough chills in each story to provide some frightful entertainment.  One of the best Amicus anthology movies, and well worth watching.

8/10.

Halloween Horror Fest the 13th

Blacula (1972)

Blacula updates the legend of Dracula, placing it’s protagonist in early 70’s California.  African Prince Mamuwalde (William Marshall) is visiting said Lord of the Undead, who curses him to become a vampire, known as Blacula.  After being entombed for a couple of hundred years, Mamuwalde is revived when his coffin is transported and opened in modern day USA. blacula

It’s a fun film, transposing many of the myths we’re familiar with from Hammer movies into a different setting.  As in other versions of the tale, Blacula is transfixed by Tina, who he sees as the reincarnation of his lost love.  Tina, played by the beautiful Vonetta McGee (dead ringer for Beyonce) falls for his deadly charms; whilst her friends attempt to stop the plague of vampirism from spreading.

Whilst undeniably dated, and wallowing in numerous stereotypes that are somewhat non-pc by today’s standards, Blacula offers some great entertainment.  There are a few scares, some incredibly groovy costumes and settings, and a cool funky score.  It’s a novelty rather  than an original, though transposing the Dracula story into the realm of Blaxploitation works a treat.

Recommended, especially for fans of Dracula AD 1972 and Dark Shadows.

7/10

Friday the 13th (1980)

We’re off to the realms of slasher movies next, for one of the all time classics of the genre.  I first saw this film when I was 17.  I’ve not been much of a fan of slasher flicks since. fr13

Friday the 13th knowingly raids all the cliches from the cupboard and displays them proudly on the wall.  Set at Crystal Lake summer camp, the young counsellors fit the required formula and are gruesomely picked off one by one in the classic manner.

And yet it works very well, with some genuinely well done gore (Tom Savini, take a bow) and real shocks that convince even after all these years.  This might not have been the first slasher flick,but it follows the Halloween blueprint faithfully and delivers with surprises and tension.

I’m still not a massive slasher movie fan, but this original Friday the 13th is well worth investigating.

7/10

Halloween Horror Fest 2016

Welcome to this year’s Halloween Horror Fest!  All through the month of October, I’ll be watching horror movies, monster flicks and general B-movie nonsense, and then sharing a short revue on this here blog.  Hope you enjoy!

First off this year it’s…

Countess Dracula (1971)

Loosely based on the true story of Countess Bathory, who bathed in the blood of virgins, this Hammer tale is suitably lurid and macabre.  It deals in all the classic (or stereotypical, if you prefer) Hammer traits, with gore and a dash of nudity – not to mention horse drawn carriages in the woods, castles and intrigue. countess

Here the widowed Countess is played by the legendary Ingrid Pitt, who makes a startling transformation from ancient crone to voluptuous young beauty when she discovers the restorative powers of virgin’s blood.  With this knowledge, the Countess embarks on a mission to ensnare her younger lover and keep the supply of comely wenches flowing.

There’s also plenty of plotting within the castle walls, leading to some duplicitous goings on and dastardly actions.  Chief amongst these scoundrels is Nigel Green as Dobi, keen to take the place of the Countess’s suitor (Sandor Eles).

Countess Dracula is one of the great Hammer films I remember seeing years ago, inded it was one of the first I ever bought – on VHS – for my collection!  It’s an entertaining film, aided by the deceitful twists and turns of the characters, that stops the film from becoming too run of the mill.

Unlike the real Countess Bathory story, and with this being Hammer, there is of course a supernatural element to the proceedings.  The Countess is magically rejuvenated; Ingrid Pitt at first made up to look old becomes miraculously young and seductive.  But this isn’t a historical docu-drama, it’s Hammer horror – and it’s all about entertainment.

Great fun and a worthy start to this years Halloween Horror Fest!

8/10 ingrid

Halloween Horror Fest Hollow

Halloween is over, but as ever, I’m behind with reviewing the films I’ve watched this October.  So here we go…

Bigfoot Wars (2014)

Now I’m a big fan of Bigfoot movies.  The Legend of Boggy Creek is, in my book, a total classic.  So I was intrigued by Bigfoot Wars and definitely wasn’t put off by the obvious low budget, straight to video fest that I was letting myself in for. bigfoot

The story, in a nutshell, is this: a small town (named Boggy Creek, interestingly enough) has a problem with marauding Bigfoot abducting the local females.

Unfortunately it is all a bit cheap, at least as far as the script goes.  The sasquatch look pretty scary and manage to introduce a good dose of tension to the proceedings.  However the story is fairly lame and obvious, with rather poor acting and dialogue.  Some guy called C Thomas Howell is the token ex-big name slumming it; but his performance is unintelligible.

As a fan of Bigfoot movies, there was enough here for me to enjoy.  However I couldn’t really recommend Bigfoot Wars to anyone else.

5/10

Sleepy Hollow (1999)

Tim Burton directed this version of the Washington Irving story, and it really is superb.  The design and cinematography are spell binding; the story rattles along at a great pace, and the cast is rammed with an unbelievable level of talent. Sleepy

Our old mate Johnny Depp plays Ichabod Crane, who in this version is a detective, sent to the remote town of Sleepy Hollow to investigate some hideous murders.  It appears that the locals are being decapitated by a  Headless Horseman, though why is a mystery.  Crane must use his rational, scientific sensibilities to put a stop to the carnage – though it appears that the events may be of supernatural origin after all…

Apparently this film is Tim Burton’s tribute to Hammer horror; it’s easy to see why with the scenes of stage coaches rolling through gloomy forests.  A cameo from the late, great Christopher Lee further exaggerates the point.  Lashings of blood also help to underscore the tribute to sixties horror.

Sleep Hollow is exceptionally well made – it looks incredible and the story is riveting.  Whilst the motivations are a little convoluted, it all comes together in the end.  Highly recommended for some blood thirsty thrills, and worthy of repeated viewings.

9/10

Bram Stoker’s Halloween Horror Fest

Dracula (1992)

A difficult one, this.  Undeniably stunning to watch, this version of the classic tale from Director Francis Ford Coppola has many positives.  Unfortunately it also has some screamingly bad inconsistencies, too.

I won’t dwell too long on the plot, as the narrative manages to follow the source novel for the most part.  Suffice to say that Jonathan Harker (Keanu Reeves) is despatched to Transylvania to arrange some London real estate for a certain Count Dracula (a brilliant Gary Oldman).  Dracula then relocates to Victorian England, where his cult of vampirism is destined to grow.

Despite following many of the key scenes from Stoker’s original book, and indeed managing to correctly include most of the characters for a change, this isn’t the definitive movie version it claims to be.  Rather, Coppola’s film is scuppered by introducing a ridiculous love story between Dracula and Mina (Winona Ryder) that wasn’t in the book.  So for every brilliantly shot tribute to the novel that Coppola makes, there’s a stake through the heart thanks to the silly romance aspect. drac

The performances vary from superb (Oldman) to annoying (Sadie Frost as Lucy).  Then there’s Anthony Hopkins as Van Helsing, who can’t decide how far to ram his tongue in his own cheek.

Poor old Keanu always comes under heavy criticism for his work here, and yes, his British accent is truly abominable.  In his defence, however, I would say that he looks exactly as I always imagined Jonathan Harker to look.  So give him a break.  For me, Winona Ryder is much worse – her acting and accent are both wrong, and she also looks totally out of place.

Thank heavens for some authenticity with appearances for much loved characters Dr Seward (Richard E Grant, great job); Arthur Holmwood (perfectly cast as Cary Elwes) and the vampire hunter who was always my favourite, Quincey Morris (Bill Campbell).

If I ignore the stupid desecration that is the Oldman/Ryder romance, then there’s plenty to enjoy.  The sets, costume designs and cinematography are simply beautiful.  There are some ingenious ideas where the laws of physics just do not apply – such as shadows roaming randomly – which create a supernatural world.  And there is enough respect for the novel in various other ways that Coppola’s Dracula is irresistible to watch.  Not to mention plenty of blood and dismemberment, and some true horror.

So despite holding my head in my hands and screaming “WHY?!” to the heavens, Dracula is still a must see.  But please folks, read the book.  Repressed Victorian sexuality and fears of the outsider may be present there, but “Dracula” is no love story.

8/10

Halloween Horror Fest: Prince of Darkness

Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966)

I couldn’t have another Halloween Horror Fest without honouring the wonderful Sir Christopher Lee, who sadly died earlier this year.  So it’s time for another Hammer horror classic with Dracula: Prince of Darkness!

This was the first time that Lee reprised the role of the Count since his performance in the legendary Dracula (or Horror of Dracula in the US) in 1958.  Bizarrely, this time Dracula is silent throughout – not uttering a single word – as Lee claimed he refused to speak the atrocious dialogue.

Following on from the previous film some years later, we encounter four British travellers who wind up at Castle Dracula, despite warnings against going there.  The travellers face some strange goings on, leading ultimately to the true purpose of their welcome at the castle – being used as sacrifice to resurrect the Count.

dpod

It takes a while to get to the key scene of murder and resurrection, though there are several creepy elements in the lead up to it.  This revival of Dracula is quite a blood thirsty and shocking scene, even now.

The rest of the movie sees our heroes trying to evade the vampire whilst finding refuge at a monastery, where Father Sandor (a superb Andrew Keir) steadfastly defends against the Count.

Lee’s Dracula still manages to menace despite the lack of speech, exuding power and malevolence.  Barbara Shelley also gives a fine performance, switching from peevish Helen to deadly yet alluring vampiress.

Dracula: Prince of Darkness is not without it’s faults, but it does posses some witty ideas and a few sly winks to the original source novel.  Add in some terrific performances and the result is Hammer horror defined; it’s worth seeing to witness these traits before they became a cliché.  All the great elements of the famous studio are here – including the greatest Dracula of them all.

8/10

You can read my full tribute to Sir Christopher Lee here.

Halloween Horror Fest Circus

Vampire Circus (1972)

Yes it’s Hammer time at the Virtual Hot Tub, with this macabre classic from the legendary British studio!

A remote village, quarantined due to a strange plague, becomes the host to a travelling circus.  The circus entertain the villagers and distract them from their everyday woes; though they hide another motive.  That secret agenda involves a vanquished vampire count, and a despicable plot for revenge!

There’s no Cushing or Lee in this early seventies curiosity, yet Hammer are able to create a new spin on their Gothic tales with this unusual and striking film.  The boobs and gore identify the seventies vintage of this film, yet there’s plenty of atmosphere to embellish the tale.  Vampire Circus is a novel idea, and proves what the studio could do even without relying on the big names (stars or monsters).

Sadly this isn’t a feat that Hammer would replicate often in their twilight years.  Never the less, Vampire Circus is much more hit than miss.  The viewer will witness some real spectacle, some real frights – and the dark atmosphere of Hammer horror at it’s best.  Recommended.

8/10 vampire circus

From Hell (2001)

The crimes of Jack the Ripper are given a fictionalised re-telling in this 2001 Hughes brothers film.  It’s based – very loosely – on the Alan Moore graphic novel; relying heavily on conspiracy theory, a dash of clairvoyance and Johnny Depp as Inspector Abberline. from hell

The conspiracy at the heart of the story is, of course, absolute nonsense, but then the original source novel didn’t set out to identify the culprit.  Rather, From Hell was a dense tome covering the mythology and occult roots of London and it’s citizens.

The film version goes for a more straightforward dramatic approach, as we follow the case and slowly unravel the mystery of the killer’s identity.  If you can suspend disbelief, forget the ridiculousness of it all and enjoy the ride, it’s a great film.  Fantastic sets give From Hell a very genuine feel, along with some decent performances (though not all) and enough shadows and murder to make it an effective thriller.

Go and read the book – it’s an incredible work.  But I’ll happily state that despite the clichés and the total fudging of fact and fiction – let alone disregard for the source material – the film From Hell is definitely worth a watch.

8/10

Hallowe’en Horror Fest Shadows

Dark Shadows (2012)

Tim Burton and – who else? – Johnny Depp bring us Dark Shadows, based on the cult late ’60’s TV show of the same name.  It’s a mix of horror, comedy and drama that is happy to lurk in Gothic darkness, but also offers a campy humour. dark

Barnabas Collins (Depp), heir to the wealthy Collins clan fortune, makes the mistake of spurning the love of Angelique (Eva Green).  Angelique happens to be a witch who curses Barnabas to become a vampire.  After being imprisoned for 200 years, Collins is awoken and finds himself in the year 1972.  A man – or vampire – considerably out of his time, Barnabas returns to the family home with the intention of restoring the Collins family to both wealth and harmony.  Aided by matriarch Elizabeth (Michelle Pfeiffer), Barnabas faces Angelique once more; whilst also attempting to help his family and win the love of his life.

Does that sound like fun to you?  It did to me.  Which is why I’m surprised that some people didn’t dig this retro gem.  The mixing of genres may have confused some audiences, but to me Dark Shadows is a delightfully ghoulish confection in the spirit of the Addams Family and The Munsters.

I enjoyed the comedy elements, and there’s enough blood to tick the horror box.  Most of all though, I love the 1970’s setting – obviously inspired (again) by Hammer, there are cool cars and an exceptional soundtrack.  Alice Cooper even has a cameo as himself, for goodness sake – playing two classic Coop tracks!

Great cast, cool atmosphere – it all adds up to a winner in my book.

9/10

Taste the Blood of Hallowe’en Horror Fest

Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970)

Time for more Hammer for Hallowe’en Horror Fest.  This film sees Christopher Lee star as Dracula in an unusual twist on typical vampire sequels.  

Three well-to-do Victorian gentlemen leave their family homes once a month to carry out some charity work in the less desirable parts of town.  Although it turns out that they’re actually a group of depraved hedonists, hell bent on enjoying whatever illicit thrills they can.  Enter Lord Courtley (Ralph Bates), a society satanist, who encourages the revellers to partake in a gruesome evil ritual.  A ritual that involves relics of the vanquished Count – including his powdered blood.  The three refuse to drink the blood mixture, and resort to killing Courtley.  Once dead, he is regenerated as Dracula, who vows to destroy those who killed his loyal servant. taste-the-blood-of-dracula-1-1024

Taste the Blood of Dracula offers a novel spin on the rejuvenation of Count Dracula.  We also see a different plot in that Dracula engineers a revenge against his servant’s enemies and their families.  It’s a good idea and executed well in the typical Gothic Hammer fashion.  This variation on the normal themes creates a sequel that’s well worth checking out.

7/10