Halloween Horror Fest the 13th

Blacula (1972)

Blacula updates the legend of Dracula, placing it’s protagonist in early 70’s California.  African Prince Mamuwalde (William Marshall) is visiting said Lord of the Undead, who curses him to become a vampire, known as Blacula.  After being entombed for a couple of hundred years, Mamuwalde is revived when his coffin is transported and opened in modern day USA. blacula

It’s a fun film, transposing many of the myths we’re familiar with from Hammer movies into a different setting.  As in other versions of the tale, Blacula is transfixed by Tina, who he sees as the reincarnation of his lost love.  Tina, played by the beautiful Vonetta McGee (dead ringer for Beyonce) falls for his deadly charms; whilst her friends attempt to stop the plague of vampirism from spreading.

Whilst undeniably dated, and wallowing in numerous stereotypes that are somewhat non-pc by today’s standards, Blacula offers some great entertainment.  There are a few scares, some incredibly groovy costumes and settings, and a cool funky score.  It’s a novelty rather  than an original, though transposing the Dracula story into the realm of Blaxploitation works a treat.

Recommended, especially for fans of Dracula AD 1972 and Dark Shadows.

7/10

Friday the 13th (1980)

We’re off to the realms of slasher movies next, for one of the all time classics of the genre.  I first saw this film when I was 17.  I’ve not been much of a fan of slasher flicks since. fr13

Friday the 13th knowingly raids all the cliches from the cupboard and displays them proudly on the wall.  Set at Crystal Lake summer camp, the young counsellors fit the required formula and are gruesomely picked off one by one in the classic manner.

And yet it works very well, with some genuinely well done gore (Tom Savini, take a bow) and real shocks that convince even after all these years.  This might not have been the first slasher flick,but it follows the Halloween blueprint faithfully and delivers with surprises and tension.

I’m still not a massive slasher movie fan, but this original Friday the 13th is well worth investigating.

7/10

Halloween Horror Fest Circus

Vampire Circus (1972)

Yes it’s Hammer time at the Virtual Hot Tub, with this macabre classic from the legendary British studio!

A remote village, quarantined due to a strange plague, becomes the host to a travelling circus.  The circus entertain the villagers and distract them from their everyday woes; though they hide another motive.  That secret agenda involves a vanquished vampire count, and a despicable plot for revenge!

There’s no Cushing or Lee in this early seventies curiosity, yet Hammer are able to create a new spin on their Gothic tales with this unusual and striking film.  The boobs and gore identify the seventies vintage of this film, yet there’s plenty of atmosphere to embellish the tale.  Vampire Circus is a novel idea, and proves what the studio could do even without relying on the big names (stars or monsters).

Sadly this isn’t a feat that Hammer would replicate often in their twilight years.  Never the less, Vampire Circus is much more hit than miss.  The viewer will witness some real spectacle, some real frights – and the dark atmosphere of Hammer horror at it’s best.  Recommended.

8/10 vampire circus

From Hell (2001)

The crimes of Jack the Ripper are given a fictionalised re-telling in this 2001 Hughes brothers film.  It’s based – very loosely – on the Alan Moore graphic novel; relying heavily on conspiracy theory, a dash of clairvoyance and Johnny Depp as Inspector Abberline. from hell

The conspiracy at the heart of the story is, of course, absolute nonsense, but then the original source novel didn’t set out to identify the culprit.  Rather, From Hell was a dense tome covering the mythology and occult roots of London and it’s citizens.

The film version goes for a more straightforward dramatic approach, as we follow the case and slowly unravel the mystery of the killer’s identity.  If you can suspend disbelief, forget the ridiculousness of it all and enjoy the ride, it’s a great film.  Fantastic sets give From Hell a very genuine feel, along with some decent performances (though not all) and enough shadows and murder to make it an effective thriller.

Go and read the book – it’s an incredible work.  But I’ll happily state that despite the clichés and the total fudging of fact and fiction – let alone disregard for the source material – the film From Hell is definitely worth a watch.

8/10