House of Halloween Horror Fest 2022

It’s now November, and while Halloween is a distant memory for some, here it still lingers. Halloween Horror Fest was a blast, but it’s not quite dead and buried yet. There are a couple of spooky movies still to review for you lucky people. Gather round, ghouls – it’s time for…

House of Frankenstein (1944)

You just can’t beat the old Universal monster movies – I love ’em! Ideal easy viewing for Halloween – or any time, really!

In this picture, legendary horror master Boris Karloff plays Dr Niemann, a Mad Scientist if ever there was one, who escapes from prison with his hunchback accomplice. Together, they join a travelling horror side show curated by Professor Lampini, before eventually knocking him off. The remains of Count Dracula (John Carradine) are part of the show, and Niemann revives the vampire to help him wreak revenge on those responsible for his incarceration.

Revenge complete, the nefarious doctor abandons Dracula and makes his way to locate the records of Frankenstein. There, Niemann stumbles across both the Frankenstein Monster (Glenn Strange) and the Wolfman (Lon Chaney Jr), frozen in ice from their previous encounter in Frankenstein meets the Wolfman. With the Wolfman revived and his human counterpart, Larry Talbot, eager to receive aid from Dr Niemann, a rivalry between Talbot and the hunchback for the affection of a gypsy girl threatens to thwart all their plans.

It wouldn’t be Halloween without the monochrome delights of Universal monster movies, and this one is great fun. The only way to improve a monster movie is to cram in as many more monsters as possible, and House of Frankenstein does exactly that. Karloff and Chaney are wonderful, and though Carradine is no Lugosi, he has a charm of his own. It’s just a shame Drac isn’t utilised more fully here. That’s really my only complaint, other than the short running time.

The shared universe of the Marvel superheroes is a huge accomplishment nowadays; though it could be argued that Universal did it first: combining a bunch of their main horror characters into one movie. House of Frankenstein was certainly entertaining, a film I’ll revisit many times.

9/10

1408 (2007)

Based on a Stephen King short story I’ve never read, 1408 stars John Cusack as Mike Enslin, a professional paranormal investigator and writer. Enslin is somewhat jaded and definitely sceptical concerning his investigations of allegedly haunted houses.

When Enslin decides to investigate the infamous Room 1408 in a New York City hotel, he expects the usual non event – despite the manager (Samuel L Jackson) attempting to dissuade him from entering the room altogether. No one, the writer is warned, lasts longer than an hour in Room 1408.

Enslin enters the room, and slowly things start to happen. From witnessing ghosts of the room’s previous occupants to facing his own guilt and loss, Mike is increasingly trapped and tormented inside the hotel room.

It’s largely a one man show for Cusack, who does a solid job in his role as cynical writer turned haunted prisoner. The film has plenty of creepy, jumpy moments and unexpected twists. I’ve said enough, I don’t want to give anymore away – but I will say I was more impressed by 1408 than I expected to be.

7/10

There we go folks, Halloween Horror Fest is all over for another year. See you next time. Unpleasant dreams!

Hallowe’en Horror Fest

It’s October!  Which means it’s not long till Hallowe’en.  Which also means that I’ve started my annual Hallowe’en Horror Fest – watching scary movies and listening to horror rock!

The festival of Hallowe’en is a big deal at the Virtual Hot Tub.  Not only will I be decorating the place and having a fancy dress party for all my fiends, I’ll update you on other cultural happenings throughout the month.  Starting now.

A big part of Hallowe’en Horror Fest is the films.  Horror movies old and new, whether they’re real shit-your-shoes off jumpy, or just have some supernatural element to them.  My aim is to watch as many as possible before we get to November.   Here’s the scoop on the first two.

The Raven (2012)

A serial killer is committing terrible murders inspired by the writings of Edgar Allan Poe.  Poe (John Cusack) must turn detective to put an end to the grisly crimes before his betrothed becomes the next victim.

I was intrigued to see this film as I’ve read many of Poe’s stories over the years, and enjoyed them immensely.  Whether you enjoy the movie will depend on if you can accept the fictionalised account including the real Edgar Allan Poe as a protagonist.  For me, this twist was a great idea and worth exploring.

Not truly “Horrific”, but nonetheless creating a suitably dark, brooding atmosphere with a fair dose of gore, I enjoyed the film very much.  Very good, though shock factor is not too high.

7/10

From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)

A hybrid of Tarantino gangster movie and splatter crazy vampire fest, I wasn’t a big fan of this film the first time I saw it.  The juxtaposition of the two styles jarred.  However the exploding, gloopy vampires – acting more like zombies in their mass attack on the humans – grated on me even more.  They didn’t resemble enough the vampires of folklore I was familiar with.  I actually enjoyed the gritty realism of the first part of the film rather than the horror element.

Repeated viewings have proved me wrong.  The more I see this film, the more I admire the ingenuity, creativity and enthusiasm thrown onto the screen like an exploding blood pack by Director Robert Rodriguez.  Great performances from everyone, including George Clooney, Juliette Lewis, Harvey Keitel and Tarantino himself.  Watching it again now, the disparate elements really serve to create a sense of bewilderment when the vampires show themselves.

Highly recommended, if you’ve not seen this film, get on it now.  And not forgetting Salma Hayek makes one of the sexiest vampires ever as Santanico Pandemonium.

8/10