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.
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.
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.