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

Halloween Horror Fest of the Dead

The Wolfman (2010)

Lawrence Talbot (Benicio Del Toro) returns to his ancestral home of Blackmoor in order to investigate the disappearance of his brother.  Reunited with this estranged father (Anthony Hopkins), it soon becomes apparent that something wild is stalking with the full moon.  When Lawrence is attacked by the werewolf, he too falls victim to the curse – destined to become the Wolfman when the moon is full… wolfman2

This remake of the classic Universal monster movie is something of an under rated treasure.  It was never going to have the charm of the Lon Chaney Jr original, but there’s a lot of craft and reverence gone into this movie.  The Gothic atmosphere is absolutely top notch and there’s enough blood and shocks to aid the spectacle.  It takes a while for our hero to get to his transformation, but it’s worth the wait.

My only criticism really is the werewolf versus werewolf showdown at the end.  Silly and unnecessary, at least this scene isn’t dragged out too long.

Otherwise The Wolfman is a great horror film in the classic tradition.  It really should have been much more successful.  The film is a much better revisit to the Universal vaults than the disastrous Van Helsing.  The only things they got wrong with this movie was not setting it in Wales, unlike the original.  Especially when you have the magnificent Anthony Hopkins in the cast!

8/10  

Universal Monsters – Action Figures

Back in the late 1990’s, a series of action figures based on the classic Universal monsters was released by Burger King.  That is, they were give aways with the kids’ meals.  As I love both action figures and classic monsters, I collected the set.

The figures are all 3.75 inches – Star Wars figure size – and each was packaged with a free glow in the dark sticker.  All of the stickers are now on my fridge door.  I’ve dragged the figures out in to the light as Halloween decorations, and they’re pretty cool. P_20141030_135609

Dracula

Based on the Bela Lugosi Dracula from the 1931 film, this vampire comes complete with his own bright red coffin.  Twist the lever at the bottom, and the Count rises to terrorise the night.  It’s a very neat and authentic feature.  Although the likeness to Lugosi isn’t brilliant, it’s still a very impressive toy.

Frankenstein’s Monster

As you can tell from the photo, this monster’s head is translucent.  It’s designed to glow while placed on the accompanying operating table, which emits a light when a button is pressed.  Unfortunately the battery in mine stopped working a long time ago.  The likeness is based on the classic Boris Karloff look.  The translucent effect, whilst a cool play feature, means that the head sculpt can’t be seen that well.  This is a shame, as it’s possibly the best face of the set.

Wolfman

The Wolfman appears with a twist of the lever (like Dracula) from what appears to be a wooden freight box.  Also as with Drac, you can detach the figure from the accessory.  I’ve always been a big fan of the Wolfman, and I love this action figure.

Creature from the Black Lagoon

Despite appearing a little chubby, the Creature from the Black Lagoon is very detailed.  He’s also designed to have a light up feature, by pressing his stomach the Creature’s torso glows.  Again, the batteries have long since drained away, and it looks extremely fiddly to replace.

A search on eBay will locate these figures if you’re interested, though you’ll pay a few quid to own the set mint.  Mine aren’t for sale.  I was 25 years old when these toys were released, and I was as excited as a tiny kid when I saw them.  They are monstrously cool!

Hallowee’en Horror Fest Meets the Wolfman

Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman (1943)

It wouldn’t be right, to review a load of horror movies and not include something from Universal.  I couldn’t forgive myself.  Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman, though not at the more critically acclaimed end of the Universal catalogue, is a hell of a lot of fun.

Lawrence Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr) is revived – in very creepy style – from his tomb.  Sometime later he’s treated in Cardiff hospital (yes, you read that right), only to disappear on a quest to destroy himself and his werewolf curse.  Eventually, Talbot finds his way to Frankenstein’s castle, where he aims to persuade the doctor to aid him.  Instead, Talbot finds the Frankenstein monster (Bela Lugosi), and ultimately chaos ensues… 187699-werewolves-frankenstein-meets-the-wolf-man-poster

This film features some great Universal sets and lots of atmosphere.  It wins bonus points from me, for setting the first part of the film in Wales – though the supposedly Welsh actors don’t tackle the accent at all!  It’s a bizarre fact that Hollywood chose to set it’s Wolfman saga in Wales, though I have no idea why.

Lugosi’s attempt with the monster falls a little short, though apparently his dialogue – which would have enhanced the performance – was cut.  As a result, the last part of the film doesn’t meet early, high expectations.

The thrill with Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman is seeing two Universal monsters together in one film.  When I heard about these Universal “team-ups” when I was a monster obsessed kid, this idea fascinated me.  It was like superhero team ups in comic books, and all seemed very exciting.  The end result doesn’t quite deliver, but I love it all the same.

8/10