A Halloween Horror Fest on Elm Street

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Now here’s a film that should need no introduction. Though to be honest, back in the 80s when A Nightmare on Elm Street – and it’s sequels – were hugely popular, I was never a fan. I’ve just never been really into “Slasher” movies – I was investigating the classic Gothic horror of Hammer and Universal at the time, and modern, contemporary films just didn’t grab me.

Never the less, I decided to give Wes Craven’s original another go, just in case I was missing something.

Brief recap: a bunch of kids on Elm Street suffer from terrifying dreams, featuring a crispy faced dude wearing a mask and possessing a gardening glove customised with lethal blades. Yes, it’s evil child murderer Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund), and he intends not only to provide the kids with some unforgettable nightmares, he also wants to bloodily murderise them.

Revisiting this film was actually a lot of fun, I was surprised how well A Nightmare on Elm Street stood up. Yes, it’s incredibly dated, and ridden with clichés, but hey – these were new, original ideas back in the day. It’s not Gothic horror, but the supernatural elements are well plotted and help create the Krueger mythos.

Englund is great, though he’s more restrained in this first instalment. It’s always great to see John Saxon, who plays a cop here; and there’s an interesting debut from a fresh faced Johnny Depp, playing teenager Glen (who was probably about 40 at the time of filming).

Yes, I have been proven wrong – A Nightmare on Elm Street is actually a pretty damn good movie, with a mix of scares, peril and gore that shows Craven knows what he’s doing. Not the best film eve made, but I’m beginning to see how the cult of Freddy became so formidable. I’ll definitely check out the sequels.

8/10

The Indestructible Man (1956)

Convicted criminal “Butcher” Benton (Lon Chaney Jr.) is going to the electric chair, and he refuses to tell his bank robbing colleagues where the loot is. After being executed, Benton is brought back to life in an experiment. He then commences to seek revenge on his former partners, and the police are left to put the clues together and stop the gruesome murders.

A strange mix of the Frankenstein tale and 1950s cop show, this movie hardly feels like horror, but does have an impressive body count. Chaney has few lines – he’s mute for some reason, when resurrected – and we usually see his intense emotion only in wacky, extreme close up.

No points for originality here, but the film benefits from scenes representing the streets, bars and Burlesque clubs of old Los Angeles. As a period piece, The Indestructible Man is fun – it’s typical drive-in B-movie fare. Ironic that a couple of key scenes actually take place in a drive-in theatre!

6/10

Halloween Horror Fest of the Black Museum

Horrors of the Black Museum (1959)

London – and there’s a murderer about! As per usual, really. A gruesome killing involving a pair of booby trapped binoculars has the police stumped, and arrogant crime journalist Edmond Bancroft can’t resist winding the cops up in his obsessive quest to find the killer. Bancroft’s research over the years has led to the creation of his own Black Museum, housing artefacts from various crime scenes.

Further ghastly deaths reveal no clues, and Bancroft admits to his doctor that he’s so engrossed in the proceedings, he goes into a state of shock when one occurs. Following a row with his mistress, after which she is mysteriously (and nastily) decapitated, we soon begin to witness another side to the writer – and his collection of weapons…

Horrors of the Black Museum doesn’t feature many surprises, but it does feature some quite horrific deaths! There’s a great British cast, including Michael Gough as Bancroft in a lurid, bloodthirsty tale. Not supernatural in any way, the plot still manages to hold the attention all these many years later.

8/10

Island of Terror (1966)

Sci-fi horror next, as a remote, tiny island of the east coast of Ireland becomes the scene of horrific deaths – locals are left as just a pile of mush, with no bones remaining in their bodies. Experts from the mainland Dr Stanley (Peter Cushing) and Dr West (Edward Judd) along with West’s lady friend Toni (Carole Gray) head over to investigate, only to be stranded with no immediate way to leave.

A nearby research lab on the island has unwittingly created new, silicon based creatures, which are rapidly multiplying. It’s not long before our heroes, and the remaining islanders, are cornered with no hope of escape against the deadly silicates. Can they find a way to stop the creatures before it’s too late for them all?

This film features a superb cast – Cushing is always a delight, and he’s great here – all giving credible performances that keep the implausible plot grounded. The creatures themselves are really quite terrible – sub-standard Dr Who globs of muck. But Island of Terror comes together nicely, with Director Terence Fisher using his skills to create an apocalyptic, Day of the Triffids style, peril filled movie.

8.5/10

Halloween Horror Fest 2021

Departing platform 13, the next ghost train to Halloween Horror Fest! Your wait is almost over – through the undulating mist, with a shrill blast of it’s piercing whistle, your carriage has arrived. Collect your belongings, get ready, the journey is about to begin…

Yes folks, that’s right – welcome once again to Halloween Horror Fest, where I will be viewing several macabre movies and providing you with a short, easily digestible overview. Whether old or new, classic or ropey, the month of October always brings the gruesome goodness – and this year Platinum Al’s Virtual Hot Tub will feature plenty of it.

Let’s get the (heads) rolling with these first morsels…

Gremlins (1984)

OK, I know – Gremlins is set during the Christmas period, but come on – it’s still totally appropriate for Halloween. We chose this movie as something we could watch with our own little Wednesday Addams, as freaky family entertainment. And seasonally, this film fits in nicely between now and the end of the year. Like Jack Skellington, this movie can bridge the festivals, too!

Surely you know the story, but for a quick recap: young Billy (Zach Galligan) receives a cute new pet for Christmas, a Mogwai named Gizmo. Gizmo doesn’t need batteries, but he does come with a very definite set of instructions. When these rules are accidentally broken, Billy’s small town is overrun by a throng of small, malicious creatures – all of whom are bent of murderous mayhem.

Excellent design and animatronics make both Gizmo and the ghastly Gremlins a wonderful watch, and though the plot is fairly obvious, Director Joe Dante delivers all the jeopardy and fun the viewer could ask for. Plus, I was very happy as the delightfully beautiful Phoebe Cates is in this movie. A great film to kick off Halloween Horror Fest 2021!

9/10

(10/10 from Daughtertron)

Bucket of Blood (1959)

Next up on my viewing list was “Bucket of Blood”, a black and white B-movie from the legendary Roger Corman. It’s a dark comedy horror, set amongst the groovy Beatnik culture of the time, which it explores and satirises at the same time.

Dick Miller (who also appeared in Gremlins, fact fans!) appears as Walter, a not-too-bright café worker who is in awe of the hip clientele. When an accident results in Walter killing a cat, he encases it in modelling clay and the “statue” becomes a minor sensation amongst the beat kids, oblivious to how Walter created such a piece.

Encouraged by those he admires, and through a series of misadventures, Walter ends up graduating to becoming a serial killer as he attempts to increase his artistic prowess and his social standing.

Though low budget, this movie is very watchable – not least because of Miller’s performance and a fast pace. Yes the Beatnik theme dates the film, but “Bucket of Blood” has humour and charm as a movie, even if it is somewhat grisly.

7.5/10

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!

Halloween Horror Fest Hollow

Halloween is over, but as ever, I’m behind with reviewing the films I’ve watched this October.  So here we go…

Bigfoot Wars (2014)

Now I’m a big fan of Bigfoot movies.  The Legend of Boggy Creek is, in my book, a total classic.  So I was intrigued by Bigfoot Wars and definitely wasn’t put off by the obvious low budget, straight to video fest that I was letting myself in for. bigfoot

The story, in a nutshell, is this: a small town (named Boggy Creek, interestingly enough) has a problem with marauding Bigfoot abducting the local females.

Unfortunately it is all a bit cheap, at least as far as the script goes.  The sasquatch look pretty scary and manage to introduce a good dose of tension to the proceedings.  However the story is fairly lame and obvious, with rather poor acting and dialogue.  Some guy called C Thomas Howell is the token ex-big name slumming it; but his performance is unintelligible.

As a fan of Bigfoot movies, there was enough here for me to enjoy.  However I couldn’t really recommend Bigfoot Wars to anyone else.

5/10

Sleepy Hollow (1999)

Tim Burton directed this version of the Washington Irving story, and it really is superb.  The design and cinematography are spell binding; the story rattles along at a great pace, and the cast is rammed with an unbelievable level of talent. Sleepy

Our old mate Johnny Depp plays Ichabod Crane, who in this version is a detective, sent to the remote town of Sleepy Hollow to investigate some hideous murders.  It appears that the locals are being decapitated by a  Headless Horseman, though why is a mystery.  Crane must use his rational, scientific sensibilities to put a stop to the carnage – though it appears that the events may be of supernatural origin after all…

Apparently this film is Tim Burton’s tribute to Hammer horror; it’s easy to see why with the scenes of stage coaches rolling through gloomy forests.  A cameo from the late, great Christopher Lee further exaggerates the point.  Lashings of blood also help to underscore the tribute to sixties horror.

Sleep Hollow is exceptionally well made – it looks incredible and the story is riveting.  Whilst the motivations are a little convoluted, it all comes together in the end.  Highly recommended for some blood thirsty thrills, and worthy of repeated viewings.

9/10

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