Witchfinder Halloween Horror Fest

Witchfinder General (1968)

The ever reliable Vincent Price, one of the greats of horror, stars in this late sixties classic movie. Price plays Matthew Hopkins, a Witch Finder, at the time of the English Civil War. In reality, Hopkins is using his position for his own sadistic pleasure and monetary gain, whilst the country is in turmoil and the people are blinded by fear and prejudice.

Richard Marshall (Ian Ogilvy), a young Roundhead soldier, swears to avenge the crimes committed against his fiancée and her uncle, who is tortured and killed by Hopkins. We follow Marshall on his quest, against the backdrop of historical events. Will he be able to rescue his fiancée and end Hopkins’ reign of terror?

Great performances in this film, particularly from Price, make Witchfinder General worth seeing. Despite seeming more like a historical drama than horror film a good deal of the time, it’s still a fairly bewitching (!) folk horror.

7.5/10

Byzantium (2012)

Directed by Neil Jordan, who has also helmed The Company of Wolves and Interview with the Vampire, Byzantium is a modern take on the vampire myth.

Set in a crumbling English seaside town, we follow the fortunes of Eleanor (Saoirse Ronan) and her mother, Clara (Gemma Arterton). Both are actually two hundred year old vampires, in hiding from a vampire group called the Brethren, who want them eradicated. Whilst Clara sets up a makeshift brothel in the rundown Byzantium hotel, Eleanor attends a local college. Tired of hiding, Eleanor befriends local boy Frank (Caleb Landry Jones), and her tale starts to unravel…

Whilst this film takes some dramatic departures from traditional vampire lore (such as how they come to be, amongst others), Byzantium is such a novel and well told tale that it doesn’t matter. Following Clara and Eleanor as the lead protagonists allows the audience a unique point of view; regardless of the inevitable bloody horror, we can’t help but be dragged along.

Byzantium is definitely recommended; it’s a thrilling tale and looks superb. And I’m not just talking about Gemma Arterton, who is, quite simply, absolutely gorgeous…

8.5/10

Halloween Horror Fest – Vampire Hunter

Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter (1974)

I remember being about nine or ten years old, and my Dad telling me he’d stayed up late watching a vampire film the night before.  In it, the vampire hunters buried toads in the ground as a way to detect the undead.  Fast forward to my late teens, and I saw this very scene was part of Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter.  That was pretty exciting, in a very nerdy way!

This film from Hammer studios was something of a departure, as they investigated ways to breathe new life into their usual formula.  Brian Clemens of television’s Avengers fame took on writing and directing duties; adding numerous flourishes to refresh the vampire mythology. Kronos

Captain Kronos (Horst Janson) is the hero of the piece, roaming Europe with his companion Professor Grost (John Cater) and beautiful Carla (Caroline Munro) to rid the land of the undead.  They receive a call for help from old friend Dr Marcus (John Carson), whose village is plagued by a strange form of vampirism.  There follows a hybrid of classic Gothic Hammer horror and swashbuckling adventure, that is full to the brim with novel ideas and variations on traditional vampire folklore.

Originally planned as the first in a series, unfortunately this was not to be.  Changing tastes in horror films led to a decline in the traditional Hammer approach; the studios waning success meant that Kronos was a one-off.  It’s a great shame, as the new approach really pays off.  It’s almost a prototype for Blade (or even the disastrous Van Helsing).

One of my favourite Hammer films, Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter has everything you could want.  The level of detail with regard to vampire lore and the new twist on the familiar are just some of the films strengths.  This film is a true classic and should be enjoyed by all!

Furthermore, I usually hate sequels and remakes – but Captain Kronos would be a great franchise to rise from the dead.  Apparently Tarantino is a fan.  Now that would be interesting…

10/10

Did I mention that the stunning Caroline Munro appears in this film?  Here’s some proof…

Hallowe’en Horror Fest of Wolves

Paranormal Xperience (2011)

A group of students travel to a deserted town to investigate the apparent paranormal activity witnessed there.  The story goes that the town doctor went mad, tortured and killed several inhabitants.  As the group conduct their exploration, the supernatural begins to manifest itself – but who is the focus?

This Spanish (subtitled) film offers a cliched cast of characters, and can’t decide if it wants to be a dramatised version of Most Haunted or Saw.  At first it’s a fairly clumsy mutation of the two, but stay with it and the actual story is worth experiencing.

Not essential viewing, but the twist is interesting (I didn’t see it coming, anyway).

7/10

The Company of Wolves (1984)

“Never stray from the path, never eat a windfall apple and never trust a man whose eyebrows meet in the middle.”

Neil Jordan’s dreamlike film is often explained as an updating of the Little Red Riding Hood tale.  But there’s so much more to it than that.  coofwolves

Rosaleen (Sarah Patterson) hears tales of strange men with eyebrows that meet in the middle from her grandmother (Angela Lansbury).  There are several elements of werewolf folklore, wrapped up in dreams and myths that provide a warning to young maidens – illustrating how people in years gone by were wary of the forest at night, the full moon and the howling wolves.

Although the effects are dated somewhat, the transformations from man into wolf are quite ingenious.  However this isn’t really a horror movie, it ‘s a film heavy with symbolism that explores the loss of innocence and the onset of sexual maturity.  There’s plenty to enjoy with the rich, surreal vision we are presented with, but far more to think about.

Great cameo by Terence Stamp, too.

8/10