The Invisible Halloween Horror Fest

The Invisible Man (2020)

This latest retelling of the classic HG Wells tale focusses on the terrible experiences of Cecelia (Elisabeth Moss). She escapes the home of her wealthy but abusive partner, and hides out with friends, starting to rebuild her life.

Cecelia then hears that her ex-partner has died, and she has inherited a massive fortune. Yet there are a number of strange occurrences that lead Cecelia to believe that she is, in fact, being stalked by her ex – but no one can see him. As the paranoia mounts, and the odd events become more deadly, can Cecelia convince anyone that she’s not crazy?

This modern day version of The Invisible Man updates the central idea well, and does a good job of creating atmosphere and tension. However, I personally find the concept of an invisible villain fairly ridiculous (despite whatever science can be dreamt up to explain it) – and ultimately disengaging.

A nice try, but vampires and werewolves, please.

7/10

The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)

Now this is more like it! Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, the very first of Hammer’s colour Gothic horror films – it’s an absolute classic!

Mary Shelley’s original story is mutated here somewhat, with Victor Frankenstein’s (Cushing) obsession verging on the nefarious. The central narrative remains the same, with the Baron creating his monster from dead bodies and bringing it back to life.

However, it’s the creator, not the creature’s story here. Lee puts in a good performance as a mute and grim monster, but it’s the Baron’s scheming and grisly work that the film concentrates on.

Directed by Terence Fisher, the film looks beautiful: the sumptuous sets not betraying the shoestring budget. It’s fast and pacey, with dollops of technicolour gore and a wonderful James Bernard score. I love this film, The Curse of Frankenstein is Hammer horror at it’s best.

9.5/10

Young Halloween Horror Fest

Young Frankenstein (1974)

For some reason, I thought I’d never seen this Mel Brooks comedy homage to the Universal monster movies, so I bought the DVD. Turns out, I have seen this film – I remembered it as I watched. Even so, the DVD (which cost a fiver) has turned out to be a good investment.

Seann Walsh plays Frederick Frankenstein – sorry, that should be Gene Wilder plays Frederick Frankenstein, or as he pronounces it, “Fronkensteen”. Grandson of the late Victor Frankenstein of monster making infamy, Frederick inherits his family’s Transylvanian estate.

Aided by a beautiful assistant, Inga (Teri Garr) and hunchbacked servant Igor (Marty Feldman, stealing every scene), the younger Frankenstein discovers his grandfathers secret manuscripts. Abandoning his previous scorn of his ancestors work, Frederick decides to resume the experiments and reanimate the dead…

Young Frankenstein turned out to be very enjoyable. It’s genuinely very funny – not every gag works, but there’s enough life in the script to generate some real laugh-out-loud moments. The cast are perfect – Marty Feldman is great, and Peter Boyle as The Monster has both comedy and pathos.

The black and white cinematography is gorgeous, and the sets and scenery make this film a great tribute to the old monster movies. Highly recommended for some light-hearted Halloween fun.

8.5/10

The Resident (2011)

It’s a Hammer film, and Christopher Lee is in it! What more do you need to know? This is the modern incarnation of Hammer, and good old Chris Lee is here to add a touch of class.

Juliet Devereau (Hilary Swank) is an ER doctor, who has split with her husband and rents a too-good-to-true New York apartment from Max (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). It doesn’t take long for Juliet to feel that something isn’t right. In fact, someone is stalking her, watching her every move, and her life is at risk…

Not supernatural in anyway, this film has more in common with the old thrillers that Hammer used to churn out. The Resident is actually a very suspenseful movie, slow burning at first, but accelerating through paranoia to a violent climax.

It’s great to see Christopher Lee, but the two leads are the real stars. In particular Jeffrey Dean Morgan in a pre-Negan role, showing his masterful ability to personify a charming psychopath.

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

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

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

Star Wars Figures – the Next Wave

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…

Actually, it was just a few months ago that I wrote a blog about my collection of original Star Wars figures.  Last time I looked at the initial run of 12 figures; this time here’s a piece about the next wave to come along.

I hadn’t managed to collect all of the first twelve before the next batch of figures were released (sadly, this would be a recurring situation in my figure collecting).

After the phenomenal success of the first toys in the Star Wars line, additional figures were introduced to provide fanatics like me with further material for our mini universe.  This development would introduce hours more fun recreating classic scenes from the movie, or indeed inventing your own.

 

Most exciting was the introduction of four creatures from the Mos Eisley cantina – always my favourite scene from all of the movies.  Although in those pre-home video days, I can remember having trouble recalling where some of these characters actually appeared…

Greedo – who was sometimes referred to as “Green Greedo” on some card backs (I always found that a bit daft) was easily recognisable.  Scouring my Star Wars story book revealed an image of Hammerhead, and repeated rewinds when the video finally materialised revealed Snaggletooth too.  Though this was a real challenge when watching the cropped for television version.

Walrus Man was a bit of a mystery, however.  Who was this strange, orange swimsuit wearing individual?  It wasn’t until years later that the chief suspect was confirmed, he was supposed to be the cantina bully who picked on Luke (later named Ponda Baba).

The detail of these aliens was variable – Greedo was, and still is, awesome.  Hammerhead and Snag were also very cool.  Walrus Man, on the other hand… 

No matter, I was a sucker then for obscure alien characters and I probably always will be!

I can clearly remember that the first figure that I got from this set was R5-D4.  He was from the Toy and Hobby shop in Chester.  The last one was Power Droid, who took me ages to find.  I think that figure finally turned up on a family trip to Skegness around 1982.

Death Star Droid was another nice replication, though repeated video viewings revealed that this silver version of the droid was seen on the Jawa Sandcrawler; a shiny black version appeared on the battle station.

Luke in his X-Wing Pilot outfit was the first time a character was re-released in a new outfit.  A great figure, I collected a few over the years to be additional Rebel pilots.  Like a lot of fans, my original Luke X-Wing was often recast as Wedge.

The great thing about this wave of figures was that it added minor character to my collection.  This went a small way towards recreating the world of Star Wars, with its hugely imaginative population of droids and creatures.  Populating my own mini scenes from the film was a major reason I kept collecting.

Finally, I must mention Blue Snaggletooth.  For those not n the know, the blue variation of this character was the first version produced and included in a US Sears exclusive set.  The toy manufacturer, Kenner, had scant resources to refer to (no lower body reference) and so produced a regular height figure, with kitsch silver space boots.  Lucasfilm then decreed that Snag was short and had hairy feet, so the version produced for the mass market was somewhat different.

To my knowledge, the blue variant was never released in the UK; I was unaware that this toy even existed till I started collecting again in the mid 90s.  I found this version in a comic shop in Rhyl, and after some soul searching, spent my savings and snapped him up for £90.  This is the most I have ever spent on a Star Wars figure, even the ultra rare toys were fortuitously bought for a couple of quid whilst still in the shops, years earlier.

I’m so, so glad I got him though!

A nice coincidence: the red Snaggletooth, always a favourite, was bought from a toy shop in Rhyl around 1979.  His blue cousin came from the same town twenty years later.

Never, ever, underestimate the wonder of Rhyl.

Wales Comic Con Strikes Back – part 1

Wales Comic Con

Saturday 23rd April to Sunday 24th April 2016

Glyndwr University, Wrexham

It was time for another fun family day out in Wrexham, for Wales Comic Con.  Time to charge up the landspeeder and head over for more sci-fi shenanigans at Glyndwr University

Following on from the success of last year’s events, Wales Comic Con is now spread over a whole weekend.  This was a good move, as there seemed to be less crowds this year  – without losing any of the welcoming spirit.

We headed over on the Sunday, and though the weather wasn’t as amazing as this time last year, it still managed to remain fairly decent.  No matter, there were plenty of things to see and do, both inside and out, at the Con.

Although the guests weren’t of particular interest to me personally, it was nice to see a good amount of celebs in attendance.  The celeb who I was most thrilled to see was none other than Justin Lee Collins, who I didn’t know was there.  Most of the females in the vicinity seemed to be very taken with Jason “Aquaman” Momoa…

The amount of merchandise on sale appeared to be greater than previous, which was a bonus.  We splashed out on a few items, namely a cuddly Harley Quinn doll, a Walking Dead mug and some (delicious) peanut butter fudge.

The highlight, as ever, were the Cosplayers – dressed as all manner of characters from every facet of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror that you could imagine.  Yet again, the ingenuity and creativity on display was astonishing.  I took load of photos, which you can see here.  Despite my best camera having gone to the great Jessops in the sky, they mostly turned out OK.

So a big thank you to everyone who posed for a photo.  Everyone was very friendly and happy to be photographed – they were all super stars!

Speaking of Cosplay, my daughter Eloise was dressed as Princess Leia again and looked fantastic!  Quite a few people commented how great she looked, and asked for her photo!

This was also the first time I tentatively dipped my toes in the water of costuming at an event also.  After having been chided by various people at Sci Fi Weekender for not dressing as Tony Stark, I decided to give it a go.  I wore the same Black Sabbath that Tony wears in the film, and relied on my beard for the rest.  It was OK and a couple of people knew who I was supposed to be.  No one asked for my picture though…

I should also say that the staff seemed to be very helpful and efficient also.

All in all a grand day out for the Platinum Al family.  Looking forward to more later in the year!

The Wales Comic Con website is here.

It turns out that I have loads of half decent photos from Wales Comic Con.  Stay tuned for part 2 soon!

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