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

The Legend of Halloween Horror Fest 2019

The Legend of Boggy Creek (1972)

Prepare yourself, loyal reader – for one of the scariest, most horrifying films ever made.  A movie that can incite such fear that you will never stay in a log cabin – or trailer home – ever again.  What is this master piece of horror, you ask?  Why, it’s the classic known as The Legend of Boggy Creek!

Filmed in a semi-documentary style, The Legend of Boggy Creek investigates the strange case of a sasquatch type creature in Fouke, Arkansas.  Some local residents actually appear, recounting some of the creepy first hand experiences that they’ve had or heard about the Fouke Monster.

Contrasting visuals of the idyllic southern swampland with the threat of the unknown, waiting in the secluded creek – creates an unusual and gripping story.  Watching it, I felt the small town atmosphere and could imagine the loneliness of the locals – threatened by this mysterious creature.

I first saw The Legend of Boggy Creek when I was around nine years old, during a season of BBC2 “monster movies” that also featured King Kong and Mighty Joe Young.  Such was my fear that I had to change channel and watch something else.  I never saw the film all the way through till I tracked down a DVD copy some twenty years ago.

This movie still frightens the life out of me, even now.  There’s something about the isolated homes and strange, dark woods that still chills me to this day.

The final sequence of the creature menacing a local family in their remote house at night, is one of the most frightening things I’ve ever seen.

Of course, other viewers haven’t been so impressed.  Mrs Platinum Al considers this movie a load of old nonsense and not scary in the slightest.  Maybe I’m just reminded of being a terrified child when I watch The Legend of Boggy Creek now.

Whatever the cause, I know that this mysterious monster tale still has the power to absolutely chill me to the bone.  I wouldn’t watch it on my own at night, ever.  Not for any money.  Check out The Legend of Boggy Creek for yourself.  You’ll probably think it’s a hilariously cheap B-movie with no scares, too.

Or you might witness one of the most awesomely eerie, cult cinematic terrors ever.

10/10 for me

1/10 for Mrs Platinum Al

The Curse of Halloween Horror Fest 2019

The Curse of the Werewolf (1961)

Hammer’s only venture into lycanthrope-based horror in the movies, The Curse of the Werewolf is a great example of the studio doing what they do best.  There’s no Pete or Chris, but we do get an early chance for Oliver Reed to demonstrate his talent.

Apparently the movie was based on a book called “The Werewolf of Paris”; the location shifted to Spain when a planned film about the Spanish Inquisition had to be abandoned – and the Spanish sets were forced onto this production.

Reed plays Leon, who the audience learns has had a troubled upbringing.  Born on Christmas Day and conceived from a rape, Leon is cursed to become a werewolf.  With love and comfort, his curse is kept under control.  He falls for his employers daughter, who is engaged to another man – and soon Leon’s hidden wolf is out of control.

The Curse of the Werewolf is something of a gem in Hammer’s crown.  The story has tension and drama courtesy of Director, Terence Fisher – and the special effects are adequate for the time.  Reed is engaging as Leon, inviting our sympathy though the audience realises he is doomed.

The result is a monster movie that’s both entertaining and moving, with a depth not often witnessed in a Hammer horror.

8/10

Misery (1990)

You can’t beat a bit of Stephen King, and Misery is one of his best – the book is great, the film is a masterful adaptation.

Paul Sheldon (James Caan) is a best selling novelist, who crashes his car on a snowy Colorado road.  He’s rescued and nursed by Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates), who claims to be Paul’s number one fan.  But Wilkes discovers that Sheldon has killed off her beloved character, Misery, and his experience goes downhill faster than his car did.

Trapped in Annie’s house and confined to a wheelchair, how will Paul escape before Annie’s descent into murderous madness is complete?

Directed by Rob Reiner, Misery has tension and pace enough to keep anyone on the edge of their seat.  Caan is excellent; Bates is on Oscar winning form as the disturbed woman switching from kindly to evil in a heartbeat.

There’s nothing supernatural in Misery, but this story is certainly horrific.

9/10

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

John Carpenter’s Halloween Horror Fest

They Live (1988)

“I have come here to chew bubble gum and kick ass – and I’m all out of bubble gum!”

Yes, this legendary quote from Wrestling legend Rowdy Roddy Piper can be heard in They Live, another masterpiece from John Carpenter.  It’s a film I resisted watching for many years, as I labelled it just another dumb 80’s macho-man action flick.  Yet there is so much more to this film than that.

Piper plays an out of work drifter, scrabbling for employment and finding a home in a run-down shanty town.  The discovery of a special pair of sunglasses reveals to him that the world is under the control of grim looking aliens, who are using subliminal messaging to subdue the human race to their nefarious will.  So Roddy joins the underground and begins to fight back against the evil alien masters…

It might be more action/sci-fi than straight out horror, but there’s plenty in They Live to qualify it for Halloween Horror Fest.  The bad guys are pretty gruesome, and so is the nature of their plans for the human race.

But it’s the clever social commentary that makes this movie so great, and worth repeated viewings.  The evils of consumerism are revealed as methods to control the people.  Carpenter is attacking unrestrained capitalism, and the ways that media and society combine to keep us all oblivious to exploitation.

Only mildly successful on release, They Live has become a cult film and infiltrated popular culture.  Unsurprising, as the truths it exposes are still sadly prevalent today.  And that’s the scariest thing of all.

CONSUME.  CONFORM.  SUBMIT.  BUY.  NO IMAGINATION.  STAY ASLEEP.  OBEY.

9/10

The Incredible Halloween Horror Fest

Cujo (1983)

I’ve not read all of Stephen King’s books, but I’ve read a handful and enjoyed them all.  A great deal of his books translate into equally great movies.  Some, like Maximum Overdrive, do not (though I thought it was kinda fun, anyway).

In Cujo, a nice old dog gets bitten by a bat and becomes rabid.  He attacks a couple of people and traps bored suburban housewife Dee Wallace and her young son in their broken down car.  The pair are terrorised by Cujo whilst they wait for rescue, or some way to attempt an escape.

Admittedly, I’ve not read Cujo, so don’t have any background on the tale itself.  The film takes a fair old while to get moving, so much so that I was beginning to wish I’d watched the classic Zoltan – Hound of Dracula instead.  This movie was looking to become one of those unfortunate King stories that become mediocre movies.

Things start to rev up when Cujo starts maiming people, though it’s a long wait.  Yet when Wallace and her boy are trapped in their car, the tension mounts considerably.  Their fear and desperation are vivid, ensuring the slow burn is worth persevering with.

I’m sure the book would be a much more satisfying experience – King is so good at delving into the mind and motivations of his small town characters, that the detail always becomes riveting.  I didn’t find the movie as engrossing as others, but the final act of the film – with Wallace becoming more and more terrified – takes Cujo out of the “dud” category and into the “not bad at all”.

7/10

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…

Wales Comic Con 2019

Wales Comic Con 

Saturday 27th – Sunday 8th April 2019

Glyndwr University, Wrexham

Storm Hannah was raging on Saturday when my family and I made one of our regular visits to Wales Comic Con.  The usual site at Glyndwr University was drowning under torrential downpours and lashed by fierce winds.

That may sound overly dramatic, but it really was grim.  Thor, God of Thunder, must have been in a really bad mood.  Or maybe it was Storm from the X-Men?

As a result, our family day trip was a bit of a washout.  Corridors were packed out as attendees shuffled along like zombies from The Walking Dead.

We managed to get into the merch tent, which was also very crowded and difficult to get near to the stalls.  Some traders looked to be suffering as the marquis roof was leaking rainwater.

I didn’t manage to get many photos of Cosplayers or props etc.  Most people were wrapped up against the elements, or there just wasn’t room to take a pic.  I don’t think anyone particularly felt like dawdling, posing for a photo – and I didn’t fancy hanging around in the wet!

The queue to get in to the signing tent was massive, stretching outdoors as people waited to get in.  As it was still chucking it down, we decided not to bother joining the line and decided to leave.

No big deal for me as I wasn’t really interested in autographs; Mrs Platinum Al had been thinking about meeting Kiefer Sutherland for a signing though, so that never happened..

But we’d had enough – the miserable weather had us beat.  We were wet through.  Basically, we paid £22 each to look round some stalls in a leaking tent.

Now nobody can be blamed for the weather, it was just unfortunate.  I did feel sorry for the traders with their soaked merchandise.  And the people in the rain waiting to have a photograph with a celeb whilst they looked like they’d just been rescued from the Titanic.

And the poor celebs too – what a welcome to the country!

Well the only answer was to just get on and make the most of things, which I think most did.  The organisers can’t be blamed for Storm Hannah.  Maybe in the future they need to consider shelters for the queue, rain or shine.

Sunday’s weather was much improved, however we’d only got tickets for Saturday.  The reason for that was because Rupert Grint, some Harry Potter kid, was there that day.  For some reason this was a big deal in our house, so we booked tickets for Saturday (the only day Ron Weasley was there) rather than our usual Sunday.

After buying the tickets, we then found out that autographs with Rupert would cost over £130 – so he was priced out of our range anyway.  Ironically, had we known that cost up front, we’d have bought Sunday tickets; avoided the storm and had a great day.

Rupert Grint better not show his face round here, I’ll stick his wand where the sun doesn’t shine for him.

The Wales Comic Con website is here.

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

Halloween Horror Fest Land

Zombieland (2009)

I can’t believe this film is nearly ten years old.  It seems like only yesterday I saw Zombieland in the cinema.  This movie is a horror comedy, set in a post apocalyptic America over-run with zombies.  And it’s brilliant.

We begin with shy, nerdy student Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), who is trying to make his way home to Columbus, Ohio to see if his parents are still alive.  He has developed a series of rules to stay alive such as “Beware of bathrooms” – thus far, these guides have proven solid. 

On his journey, Columbus meets Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), a zombie killing machine who’s looking for the last Twinkie.

These two then meet up with two sisters, Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin), who are on their way to a California amusement park which is supposedly zombie free.

On the way there are several adventures, not least a surprise encounter with a legendary Hollywood star.  And zombies, of course.  Lots of zombies.

Zombieland is really well put together, and gets better with repeated viewings.  There’s  a lot of subtle humour that might not be obvious at first.  There are plenty of big obvious laughs too, of course, amongst nice pop culture references.

There are some jumpy scares, and a fair dose of tension, but this film is mainly all about the laughs, with some charming moments too.  If you like Shaun of the Dead, you’ll probably like Zombie land too.  But for my money, I prefer Zombieland.

Plus, Emma Stone is a total babe.  Thank you.

9/10