Halloween Horror Fest on Wheels

Well that’s it, it’s November – and my month of watching spooky movies for Halloween Horror Fest 2020 is at an end. Yet don’t be distraught, dear reader – here are the mini reviews of the movies I’ve watched, but not written up till now. Starting with something truly shocking…

Poltergeist (1982)

Shockingly bad, that is. I remember seeing this film in my teens, it scared the crap out of me. I was looking forward to revisiting Poltergeist, widely regarded as a classic horror film – but it was absolutely terrible.

The story centres on a pleasant, well-off family living in a new Californian housing development. It’s all lovely and cutesy-pie until the youngest child starts communicating with ghosts through the TV screen. Then it’s unbelievable jeopardy time, as the little girl is kidnapped by the spirits and taken away to ghost land.

Poltergeist starts well, with some interesting supernatural phenomena in the first 20 minutes. But it quickly abandons any subtlety in favour of big, dumb Hollywood spectacle: and the sheer ridiculousness of it renders the film not scary at all. In fact, I was bored 45 minutes in. A couple of jumpy moments, but very silly and very disappointing.

Compare Poltergeist to The Exorcist, and the latter film – though employing some shock tactics – is far more believable: it seems more real. The Exorcist is still a damn scary movie, and Poltergeist just isn’t.

All very strange, you may think, knowing that Poltergeist was directed by Tobe Hooper, who made the genuinely terrifying Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Unfortunately, someone Spielberged all over this film, leaving a twee load of nonsense and small town USA schmaltz. Old Stevie was involved as writer, producer, possibly even director and tea lady – and his influence shows.

You’d be better off watching the old BBC gem Ghost Watch, that’s far better.

4/10

The Howling (1981)

Another early 80’s horror – and although this one is also somewhat dated, The Howling is actually a pretty cool film.

Karen White (Dee Wallace) is a news reporter, who has a too-close for comfort encounter with a serial killer she’s investigating. To aid her recovery from the trauma, Karen’s therapist Dr Waggner (Patrick Macnee) recommends she recuperates at the The Colony, a remote health resort. Little does Karen realise that the other residents are hiding a secret…

Directed by Joe Dante, The Howling is a very entertaining film. Despite the werewolf transformation scenes now looking a little dated, the overall design and atmosphere are excellent. It also has some humour, a bit of raunch, and plenty of tension to keep everything rolling along quickly.

Released the same year as An American Werewolf in London, The Howling is sadly nowhere near as good as the John Landis classic. American Werewolf is still more terrifying by far. But The Howling is a great popcorn horror for a Halloween evening.

8.5/10

Werewolves on Wheels (1971)

More lycanthropic fun next, with this uber cult horror movie that does exactly what it says on the blood stained tin. Seriously, do I need to summarise the plot for this one?

Here goes: a gang of rowdy bikers – The Devil’s Advocates, no less – have a run in with a Satanic cult, which results in one of them becoming a werewolf. Much bloody carnage ensues. And that’s it.

Cheap and cheesy, this grindhouse exploitation flick is one of my recently discovered favourites. Like a horror version of Easy Rider, it’s certainly a product of it’s time – don’t watch this if high production values and modern Hollywood set pieces are your thing. Tom Cruise fans, walk away now.

The soundtrack is absolutely brilliant however, and the satanic ritual looks pretty grim. If you can forgive the atrocious wolfman make-up, you’ll find a lot to love here. Werewolves on Wheels is a low quality B-movie genre mash up that’s a work of art for any freaks like me.

9/10

And there you go, horror fans – another batch of movies with bite for this year’s Halloween Horror Fest! I’ll be back next October, so long as this pandemic doesn’t blossom into a full-on zombie apocalypse. See you then!

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…

Platinum Al’s Top 10 Rock/Metal Albums of 2018

2018 was a great year for music.  So much so, that I struggled condensing all those tasty new tunes into a top ten – and I’m still not sure I’ve got it right.  There are several other albums that could have featured in an annual top ten, but for reason or other didn’t make the cut.

Anyway, those cool folks at Ever Metal asked me to put together a list of my ten favourite rock and metal releases for the year.  I did so, Ever Metal posted it, and I thought I’d share with my Virtual Hot tub readers too.

So here we go, in reverse order:

  1. Ghost – “Prequelle”
  2. Gama Bomb – “Speed Between the Lines”
  3. Orange Goblin – “The Wolf Bites Back”
  4. Earthless – “Black Heaven”
  5. 1968 – “Ballads of the Godless”
  6. Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats – “Wasteland”
  7. Monster Magnet – “Mindfucker”
  8. Corrosion of Conformity – “No Cross No Crown”
  9. Fu Manchu – “Clone of the Universe”
  10. Clutch – “Book of Bad Decisions”

Hope you did a Smashy and Nicey voice in your head whilst you counted that down.

Some classic albums there, in my opinion at least.  Honorable mentions are due for Sleep, High on Fire and Satan’s Satyrs (amongst others) who just missed out.  Who knows, next week I might have changed my mind.

Finally, a big thanks to the Ever Metal team for having me on board.  It’s a real honour to be part of the team, and writing for the site has been one of my highlights of last year. Here’s to contributing more in 2019.  Cheers!

Visit the Ever Metal site here and check out some cool music!

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

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

Ye Olde Kings Head – Mostly Haunted

Ye Olde Kings Head

Chester

Would you dare to stay a night in a 300 year old pub, in one of it’s most haunted bedrooms?  Sound like fun?  I wasn’t 100% convinced, but that’s what Mrs Platinum Al and I decided to do recently.

You’re familiar with Most Haunted, right?  Where Yvette Fielding and her intrepid group of paranormal investigators visit aged buildings to discover what ghostly goings on they can find?  Well Ye Olde Kings Head in Chester, was featured on the programme not too long ago.  We watched the programme and were intrigued by the various strange occurrences the team observed.

So Mrs Platinum Al decided she wanted to stay the night there.  In the room that was supposedly the most active with things that go bump in the night…

Not like that, you smutty lot!

Ye Olde Kings Head is a wonderful looking building in the Tudor style – dark wooden beams highlighting the architecture.  Inside, the pub also has a real Olde Worlde, traditional style with plenty more wooden beams, comfy chairs and an open fire.  It is indeed very charming – you would swear you’re on a film set if you didn’t know better.  There’s also a well stocked bar, live music and a friendly welcome. 

We were staying in Room 1 – supposedly the most active in the paranormal activity stakes.  The room featured an enormous four poster bed and antique looking furniture.  There were yet more old wooden beams visible, these ones a bit lower – OK for any headless spirits.  An excellent spacious bathroom completed the impressive amenities.  All very cosy and not at all spooky, I wasn’t nervous at all.

Now I’m not necessarily a believer in the supernatural.  There’s usually a plausible real world explanation for most weird events.  However I’m not a total nay-sayer either; I’m certainly interested, and if something truly bizarre occurred I’d accept it.  But it would have to be pretty out of this world and happen right in front of my eyes.

After a few drinks and a top notch evening meal, we retired to our room to begin our own paranormal investigations.  With a glass of wine (or two) for Dutch courage, we waited to see if anything would happen.  We closely observed everything in the room to see if any objects had moved.

In true Derek Acorah style, we attempted some “calling out”.  You  know, all that “Is there anybody there?” malarkey.  No, I can’t believe I did that either.  I assured our ghostly hosts – if they were there – that we meant no harm and were only curious if they would like to make contact.

Unfortunately, nothing happened.  No otherworldly voices, no items moving of their own inexplicable accord.

Although just as we were falling asleep, the television switched itself on.

Now that occurrence might be explainable in many ways: a faulty TV for one.  But the fact that the same thing had happened on the Most Haunted episode had us intrigued.  I’m not saying I was convinced, but it was an interesting coincidence.

I then fell asleep in the giant four poster, easily the most comfortable bed I have ever slept in.  Happily I slept right the way through; my main concern of this visit was having to go for a wee, in the dark, in the middle of the night.

In the morning we had a great full English breakfast and were ready for a new day.

Our investigation at Ye Olde Kings Head didn’t deliver much in the way of ghostly goings on, but we definitely had a brilliant time.  We were well looked after, with the food and drinks being excellent.  Both the pub and the room we stayed in were really warm with an almost magical ambience.

We’ll definitely visit again, and attempt some further paranormal investigations.  Perhaps it was a little disappointing that we didn’t experience anything strange.  But we both had a relaxing break in a really good pub, and that’s good enough for me.

The website for Ye Olde Kings Head is here.

The Facebook page for Ye Olde Kings Head is here.

Ye Olde Kings Head, 48-50 Lower Bridge Street, Chester CH1 1RS

Tel: 01244 324855

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!