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

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…

Wales Comic Con 2019

Wales Comic Con 

Saturday 27th – Sunday 8th April 2019

Glyndwr University, Wrexham

Storm Hannah was raging on Saturday when my family and I made one of our regular visits to Wales Comic Con.  The usual site at Glyndwr University was drowning under torrential downpours and lashed by fierce winds.

That may sound overly dramatic, but it really was grim.  Thor, God of Thunder, must have been in a really bad mood.  Or maybe it was Storm from the X-Men?

As a result, our family day trip was a bit of a washout.  Corridors were packed out as attendees shuffled along like zombies from The Walking Dead.

We managed to get into the merch tent, which was also very crowded and difficult to get near to the stalls.  Some traders looked to be suffering as the marquis roof was leaking rainwater.

I didn’t manage to get many photos of Cosplayers or props etc.  Most people were wrapped up against the elements, or there just wasn’t room to take a pic.  I don’t think anyone particularly felt like dawdling, posing for a photo – and I didn’t fancy hanging around in the wet!

The queue to get in to the signing tent was massive, stretching outdoors as people waited to get in.  As it was still chucking it down, we decided not to bother joining the line and decided to leave.

No big deal for me as I wasn’t really interested in autographs; Mrs Platinum Al had been thinking about meeting Kiefer Sutherland for a signing though, so that never happened..

But we’d had enough – the miserable weather had us beat.  We were wet through.  Basically, we paid £22 each to look round some stalls in a leaking tent.

Now nobody can be blamed for the weather, it was just unfortunate.  I did feel sorry for the traders with their soaked merchandise.  And the people in the rain waiting to have a photograph with a celeb whilst they looked like they’d just been rescued from the Titanic.

And the poor celebs too – what a welcome to the country!

Well the only answer was to just get on and make the most of things, which I think most did.  The organisers can’t be blamed for Storm Hannah.  Maybe in the future they need to consider shelters for the queue, rain or shine.

Sunday’s weather was much improved, however we’d only got tickets for Saturday.  The reason for that was because Rupert Grint, some Harry Potter kid, was there that day.  For some reason this was a big deal in our house, so we booked tickets for Saturday (the only day Ron Weasley was there) rather than our usual Sunday.

After buying the tickets, we then found out that autographs with Rupert would cost over £130 – so he was priced out of our range anyway.  Ironically, had we known that cost up front, we’d have bought Sunday tickets; avoided the storm and had a great day.

Rupert Grint better not show his face round here, I’ll stick his wand where the sun doesn’t shine for him.

The Wales Comic Con website is here.

Halloween Horror Fest Land

Zombieland (2009)

I can’t believe this film is nearly ten years old.  It seems like only yesterday I saw Zombieland in the cinema.  This movie is a horror comedy, set in a post apocalyptic America over-run with zombies.  And it’s brilliant.

We begin with shy, nerdy student Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), who is trying to make his way home to Columbus, Ohio to see if his parents are still alive.  He has developed a series of rules to stay alive such as “Beware of bathrooms” – thus far, these guides have proven solid. 

On his journey, Columbus meets Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), a zombie killing machine who’s looking for the last Twinkie.

These two then meet up with two sisters, Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin), who are on their way to a California amusement park which is supposedly zombie free.

On the way there are several adventures, not least a surprise encounter with a legendary Hollywood star.  And zombies, of course.  Lots of zombies.

Zombieland is really well put together, and gets better with repeated viewings.  There’s  a lot of subtle humour that might not be obvious at first.  There are plenty of big obvious laughs too, of course, amongst nice pop culture references.

There are some jumpy scares, and a fair dose of tension, but this film is mainly all about the laughs, with some charming moments too.  If you like Shaun of the Dead, you’ll probably like Zombie land too.  But for my money, I prefer Zombieland.

Plus, Emma Stone is a total babe.  Thank you.

9/10

Halloween Horror Fest Has Risen from the Grave (again)

Beetlejuice (1988)

Time for a change of pace for this year’s Halloween Horror Fest.  Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice is a spooky comedy horror, showcasing more of the Director’s trademark bizarre imagination. 

Adam (Alec Baldwin) and Barbara (Geena Davis) are a happily married couple, living in their dream house.  They wind up dead, due to an unfortunate accident, and haunting their old home.

When a new family move in, who turn out to be less than ideal inhabitants, Adam and Barbara attempt to scare the new householders away.  After all their attempts fail, they’re left with no other choice than to recruit Beetlegeuse (Michael Keaton) to do the job for them.

Keaton is manically brilliant as sleazoid Beetlegeuse; a deranged, disreputable “bio-exorcist” with a seedy demeanour.

Burton manages to keep the film entertaining and lighthearted in his own goofy way.  Beetlejuice never becomes morbid or grim, instead it’s a fun (though dark) fantasy that oozes creativity.

8/10

Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1968)

In which good old Christopher Lee returns as Dracula, in his third outing as the Count for Hammer. 

This time around, Drac is out for revenge when is castle is exorcised by the Monsignor (Rupert Davies).  Not having anywhere to hang out, the Count is somewhat peeved and decides to enact his vengeance on the Monsignor’s virginal niece, played by lovely Veronica Carlson.

Hammer courageously attempt to avoid re-treading the same old formula in this film, though in reality the blueprint is never cast too far away.  The actors all do a fine job, including Davies, Carlson and Barry Andrews as Paul, the token heroic figure.

Lee is fantastic of course, with commanding presence and evil red eyes creating a powerful Lord of Vampires.  And the sets look great, like Kiss of the Vampire, bigger and more realistic than earlier efforts.

Dracula Has Risen from the Grave isn’t a completely successful entry in the series, but it’s a professionally produced and entertaining film in the Gothic Hammer horror tradition.  Well worth a look.

7/10

Pride and Prejudice and Halloween Horror Fest

The Addams Family (1991)

We decided to watch a spooky movie as a family, and The Addams Family was a perfect choice.  In this movie version of the famous cartoon/television show, Uncle Fester (Christopher Lloyd) has been missing for many years, but returns from the unknown to a warm welcome from his family.  But is Fester all he seems? af

This is another film that I wasn’t too fussed on when I saw it originally, way back in 1991.  Oh, that makes me feel old…

But returning to the movie all these years later I found I enjoyed it much more.  The look and feel of the family and their house is, for the most part, spot on.  Their peculiar interests and characters are suitably amusing, particularly in the case of Fester and Gomez (Raul Julia).  The only weak link is Anjelica Huston, who never cut it for me as Morticia – she has none of the allure of Carolyn Jones in the old TV show.

Stealing every scene however is Wednesday Addams, played by a very young Christina Ricci.  She gets her fair share of memorable lines and carries each of them off well.

The Addams Family is full of ghoulish laughs and was a big hit in our household.  Ideal for Halloween family fun.

8/10

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016)

Yes, that is indeed the title of this film.  And yes, it is indeed loosely based on the Jane Austen novel.  Unlike many purists, the idea of these type of mash up movies (see also Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Slayer – and others) appeals to me greatly.  I’m more than happy to mercilessly disregard any sense of genre loyalty for the sake of entertainment.

I should be honest and admit that I have never read Pride and Prejudice.  Nor have I seen any of the numerous film and television adaptations.  I did study Austen’s Emma for English A Level – I found it incredibly dull.

In my defence though I’ll say that I also read Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte – which I loved and still rate as one of my favourite books.  So I can’t be a complete philistine, surely?ppz

Anyway, back to the film.  England has fallen amidst a zombie apocalypse.  The ladies and gentlemen go about their business in their big stately homes much as one would expect, though in this version they’re now trained in deadly martial arts for self defence.

The plot follows the heroine, a tough Elizabeth Bennet (Lily James) and her sisters as they navigate not only the romance of the era, but a plague of zombies too.  Mr Darcy (Sam Riley) is played as a battle hardened zombie slayer, with some brilliant innovative devices for detecting the undead.

Although I’m not familiar with the source material, the dialogue and narrative seems authentic enough.  Plus the zombie element is woven in very nicely, providing a quirky additional element to the proceedings.

The second half of the film lagged a little as the characters seem to spend too much time untangling their romantic affairs and misunderstandings (just like in the unbearable Emma).  But there were a few laughs (great performance from Matt Smith as Parson Collins) and some tension in the finale to make it all worthwhile.

Put aside any prejudice you may hold yourself and give Pride and Prejudice and Zombies a chance.  Keep an open mind and it’s great fun.

8/10

So there we go – another year of Halloween Horror Fest is over.  Do not fear – there are many more horror DVDs in my collection for next year.

Fang you for joining me for Halloween Horror Fest 2016!

Silence of the Halloween Horror Fest

We’re well into November now, but I still have a few Halloween horror reviews left to cover.  Bonfire night?  Who cares?!  What fireworks?!

The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Jodie Foster plays FBI agent Clarice Starling in this fantastic film, on the trail of serial killer “Buffalo Bill”.  To find the killer she enlists the help of incarcerated psychopath Hannibal “the Cannibal” Lecter (a superb Anthony Hopkins in a career defining role).  Utilising Lecter’s knowledge to enhance the psychological profile of the killer, the young agent finds herself embroiled in his mind games, as the race to catch Buffalo Bill gains further urgency. lambs

If you’ve never seen this film, see it.  If you have, watch it again.  It won multiple Oscars and is absolutely captivating (no pun intended) on every viewing.  Brilliant performances; scenes that look and feel real; and a chilling story make The Silence of the Lambs unmissable.

True, there are no monsters or supernatural occurrences in this movie.  Yet the sense of unease and tension created in The Silence of the Lambs mark it as a real horror film with chills beyond compare.

10/10

Ghostbusters (1984)

Another film that needs no introduction, though of a vastly different style; Ghostbusters is an 80’s classic.  Featuring a team of scientists who, after finding themselves thrown out of their university, form a new business hunting ghosts, this film has laughs and thrills aplenty.  Taking New York by storm with their paranormal investigations, the Ghostbusters wind up facing a threat that is really out of this world! GB

The three main Ghostbusters – Bill Murray, Dan Ackroyd and Harold Ramis – are all excellent; with Murray in particular looking like he’s having tons of fun.  Ernie Hudson as the fourth member does a good job, but is somewhat underused.  Sigourney Weaver puts in a good performance as the musician caught up in a pan-dimensional event she doesn’t understand.  And keep your eyes on Rick Moranis, who is constantly hilarious.

Highly recommended as some fun Halloween viewing, Ghostbusters mixes a few spooky moments with some very funny scenes.  Add in a great theme tune and some memorable quotes, and you really can’t go wrong.

Who ya gonna call?

9/10

That’s it for another year, thanks for reading Halloween Horror Fest!

Dead Halloween Horror Fest 2

Ghost Ship (2002)

Right: so this salvage crew led by Gabriel Byrne and Julianna Margulies take on a job to find a mysterious, lost ship out at sea.  Turns out that some nefarious deeds had taken place on the vessel long ago, and things are about to get spooky.  And deadly.  Will anyone make it back alive? ghost ship

There’s not much love for this film, though I find it hard to see why.  I’ve seen a lot worse.  The cast do a reasonable job, the sets are pretty good and there’s plenty of jumpy frights, helped along with dollops of gore.  Plus Ghost Ship also has a different and interesting concept, which should have delivered more to the finished product.

But the film suffers from too many ideas being thrown into the pot, some of which are beyond far fetched and sail into silly waters (even for this genre).  Although not a classic, I would definitely say that I enjoyed Ghost Ship – it’s almost a great film.  Worth renting or picking up cheap!

7/10

Dead Snow 2: Red vs Dead (2014)

Speaking of worse films that I’ve seen…

This sequel to the superb Dead Snow (2009) was nowhere near as good as the first film.  It picks up where the last film left off, with lone survivor Martin finding his way back to civilisation.  It’s not long however till Martin again crosses paths with the Nazi zombies, and he’s on a mission to thwart their evil plans.

Whereas the original film had plenty of shocks along with a moderately tongue in cheek approach, this second film is all out comedy.  Which is fine, but it’s a jarring change in tone.  There’s very little in the way of frights; there are some gross out scenes but it’s all for laughs.  Dead Snow 2-AGI-DVD-OCard-UK&Eire EAGLE.indd

Some of the elements work, some are just pure silly.  Herzog’s zombies have now reacquired their stolen loot, and are on a mission to do something evil to a town somewhere.  This all feels a bit forced, only more so when the Red Army zombies are resurrected – one assumes just as a contractual fulfilment with regard to the title.

Add in a group of annoying American stereotypes as zombie hunters and it all equals disappointment.  Dead Snow was such a cool film, I really wanted this to be as good.  There’s hardly even any snow after the first ten minutes…

Dead Snow 2 is indeed entertaining, don’t get me wrong – but don’t go in with your expectations as high as I did.

6/10

Here’s a handy link to my review of the first Dead Snow: click me.

30 Days of Hallowe’en Horror Fest

OK: so I know Hallowe’en is all over.  It’s November.

And I also know that there are 31 days in October.

But I’ve still got a few short’n’sweet Horror movie reviews for you, which due to scheduling issues I haven’t had chance to write up till now.  So here we go!

30 Days of Night (2007)

The Alaskan town of Barrow is a remote place, and about to become more isolated once the month long night commences.  As the town readies itself, a number of bizarre occurrences foreshadow an unimaginable horror.  For the town will be besieged by a group of blood thirsty vampires, allowed free reign due to the towns people’s disbelief and the ongoing dark. 30-days-of-night-poster-1_6599

This film hauls vampire folklore into the 21st century and breathes life into the (undead) corpse.  The vampires are brutal, savage and powerful.  Their leader, played chillingly by Danny Huston brings an unrelenting nightmare to the people of Barrow.  This is how vampires are supposed to be – the portrayal of the undead in this film is like the re-imagining of the zombies in 28 Days Later.  Suddenly, we are confronted by vampires who are genuinely threatening.

The human leads – Josh Hartnett and lovely Melissa George – also give sympathetic performances.  The audience are presented with characters we can empathise with, and share their fear.

The bleak, snowy landscape creates a hopeless and claustrophobic atmosphere.  The premise of 30 Days of Night is ingenious, and the film delivers admirably.  Recommended viewing, if only to see how ancient vampire myth can be made relevant – and frightening – for today’s audience.

9/10

Carry On Screaming (1966)

Yes, it’s the Carry On gang in a homage of sorts to that other British film institution – Hammer.  Although the plot manages to mix up elements of House of Wax, Jekyll and Hyde, Frankenstein and the Addams Family, it still manages to make some sense and entertain along the way. Carry_on_screaming_(film)

Sid James is MIA, replaced in this film by Harry H. Corbett of Steptoe and Son fame.  Corbett does an impeccable job as Detective Sergeant Sidney Bung.  Also along are many of the usual faces, including Kenneth Williams, Jim Dale, Joan Simms and Charles Hawtrey.

The creepy show is stolen though by uber vamp Fenella Fielding as Valeria, in her tight red dress; who manages to smoulder like Lily Munster or (Carolyn Jones) Morticia.  Utterly gorgeous!

It’s one of the better Carry On films in my opinion, and manages to get a few good gags in along with the usual double entendres.  The monsters – Oddbod and Oddbod Junior – scared me to death when I was eight.

Carry On Screaming is great for a bit of light relief from other, truly scary films.  And it manages to create a spooky Gothic vibe, too.

7/10

The Woman in Black (2012)

Hammer studios really got back in the game with this film.  Starring Daniel Radcliffe (yes, Harry Potter) as a young lawyer sent to work in a remote old house, this film manages to inject some real frights. womaninblack

Arthur Kipps (Radcliffe) travels from London to his assignment in the North at spooky old Eel Marsh House.  He’s there to examine papers of the deceased owner, but soon finds himself caught between the superstitious (and downright unfriendly) locals and whatever the presence is up at the house.

The Woman in Black was only certified as a 12 in the UK.  Hammer (quite uncharacteristically) shed blood, gore, sex and violence and instead concentrate on a film that has an overdose of jumpy frights.  The film is a classic ghost story, featuring a lonely haunted house that leaves the viewer truly unnerved.  Brilliant!

9/10

And there we have it – the end of another Hallowe’en Horror Fest.  Thank you to anyone who has taken the time to read these reviews.  I hope you had a chillingHalloween!

Hallowe’en Horror Fest of the Dead

Shaun of the Dead (2004)

Shaun (Simon Pegg) decides to get his life on track in the middle of a zombie apocalypse.  Together with best mate Ed (Nick Frost) and group of fellow survivors including his mum, step dad and (ex?) girlfriend, they group together to avoid the undead hordes.  In a pub. Shaun-of-the-dead

This black comedy from Director Edgar Wright and Pegg is very fine indeed.  There are some very funny moments and lots of detail, giving the film a depth and quality that can be enjoyed repeatedly.  Dark it my be, but there’s still plenty of humour and some poignancy too.

A homage to old zombie movies more than a spoof, there’s lots to get your (rotting) teeth into here.  It’s nice to see a zombie movie from a British perspective, where we get a cricket bat as the main defensive weapon.

If you’ve not seen Shaun of the Dead, check it out soon.

Fun fact: I first saw this film when I was getting a tattoo done.  Ouch!

8/10