Witchfinder Halloween Horror Fest

Witchfinder General (1968)

The ever reliable Vincent Price, one of the greats of horror, stars in this late sixties classic movie. Price plays Matthew Hopkins, a Witch Finder, at the time of the English Civil War. In reality, Hopkins is using his position for his own sadistic pleasure and monetary gain, whilst the country is in turmoil and the people are blinded by fear and prejudice.

Richard Marshall (Ian Ogilvy), a young Roundhead soldier, swears to avenge the crimes committed against his fiancée and her uncle, who is tortured and killed by Hopkins. We follow Marshall on his quest, against the backdrop of historical events. Will he be able to rescue his fiancée and end Hopkins’ reign of terror?

Great performances in this film, particularly from Price, make Witchfinder General worth seeing. Despite seeming more like a historical drama than horror film a good deal of the time, it’s still a fairly bewitching (!) folk horror.

7.5/10

Byzantium (2012)

Directed by Neil Jordan, who has also helmed The Company of Wolves and Interview with the Vampire, Byzantium is a modern take on the vampire myth.

Set in a crumbling English seaside town, we follow the fortunes of Eleanor (Saoirse Ronan) and her mother, Clara (Gemma Arterton). Both are actually two hundred year old vampires, in hiding from a vampire group called the Brethren, who want them eradicated. Whilst Clara sets up a makeshift brothel in the rundown Byzantium hotel, Eleanor attends a local college. Tired of hiding, Eleanor befriends local boy Frank (Caleb Landry Jones), and her tale starts to unravel…

Whilst this film takes some dramatic departures from traditional vampire lore (such as how they come to be, amongst others), Byzantium is such a novel and well told tale that it doesn’t matter. Following Clara and Eleanor as the lead protagonists allows the audience a unique point of view; regardless of the inevitable bloody horror, we can’t help but be dragged along.

Byzantium is definitely recommended; it’s a thrilling tale and looks superb. And I’m not just talking about Gemma Arterton, who is, quite simply, absolutely gorgeous…

8.5/10

Scream and Scream Halloween Horror Fest

Scream and Scream Again (1970)

Now this is a strange little film.  Another Amicus production, though not an anthology this time, Scream and Scream Again is a baffling amalgam of sci-fi, horror, and at least three plots that seem totally unrelated at first.  So in a way, it almost is like a portmanteau horror, bizarrely.

Here we have a vampire killer in London, draining his victims of blood.  There’s also another thread relating to a dictatorship in an obscure European country.  Plus, someone is removing limbs – one by one – from hospital patients.  All very odd and with no connection at all, the audience may assume at first. 

The plot strands eventually come together by the end, but most viewers will be confused beyond caring if they get that far.

Scream and Scream Again proudly proclaims that it stars Vincent Price, Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee all in the same film.  However, Cushing is only in one scene (with neither of the other two stars).  Lee and Price both pop up in cameo roles, having only one scene together.

The film does have it’s moments, however.  There’s an extended chase scene as the police pursue the serial killer which is actually quite exciting, despite being dragged out.  And Alfred Marks as the detective in charge puts in an admirable effort.

So yes, a strange little film, and not one with much to recommend it.  Unless, like me, you’re fairly obsessed with British horror films from this time – in which case Scream and Scream Again is worth ticking off your list.

6/10

The Abominable Halloween Horror Fest

The Babadook (2014)

I had heard that this film was good, and The Babadook didn’t disappoint.  This Australian movie was very impressive.

Centred around a widowed mother and her young son, the film is original and different right from the start.  The young boy, Samuel (Noah Wiseman), is having a troubled time; even more so when he encounters a book about Mr Babadook.  Suddenly, his fears of what hides in his room at night become more fraught. 

The mother, Amelia (Essie Davis), eventually becomes embroiled in the uncanny happenings as the Babadook seems to materialise.  Slowly, their relationship – and their existence –  becomes warped by the strange Babadook creature, until their reality threatens to fall apart.

The Babadook is both chilling and innovative; full of suspense and yet also a sharp psychological thriller.  How much are we experiencing for real, and how much is imagination?  This film very cleverly avoids cliche, whilst creating a forbidding atmosphere and genuine tension.

It’s also thought provoking and will stay with you for days afterwards.  Brilliant and highly recommended.

9/10 

The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971)

Horror legend Vincent Price stars in this cult classic about an esteemed doctor (and organist), in a terrible tale of revenge and murder.

Phibes’ beloved wife died tragically on the operating table, and he is now driven to kill the medical team he deems responsible.  There follows a series of grisly murders based on the biblical plagues of Egypt, each intricately designed by Phibes. 

There are plenty of moments of dark humour as the police officers attempt to put the clues together and trap the murderer, but Phibes is always one step ahead.

The Abominable Dr. Phibes is a great film, plenty of gruesome scenes and Vincent Price on top form.  An imaginative soundtrack and beautiful Art Deco set design create a fantasy that is wonderful to watch.  Seriously, the sets are fantastic.

Of course, as a big fan of punk/goth rock veterans The Damned, I was thrilled to put together the connection between this film and “13th Floor Vendetta” on the bands “Black Album”.  Just one of many reasons I thoroughly endorse this quirky little gem of a movie.

Oh, and did I mention that my favourite horror movie beauty Caroline Munro appears as Phibes’ wife (if only in photos)?

8/10

Hallowe’en Horror Fest of Blood

Theatre of Blood (1973)

Vincent Price plays Edward Lionheart, Shakespearean actor presumed dead – now returned to seek revenge on the theatre critics who mocked him.  One by one, the tormentors are killed in gruesome ways based on the bard’s work.  Twisted by Obsession, Lionheart creates elaborate methods to slay the critics in the pursuit of an award he felt was rightly his.  theatre-of-blood-poster

This film features a great performance by Price, not to mention a superb cast of British actors not afraid to embrace the camp yet grisly feel of it all.  We see Arthur Lowe, Michael Hordern, Diana Rigg, Ian Hendry, Jack Hawkins and more.  Oh, and the impossibly pretty Madeline Smith gets some screen time too.

The plot is not the most original of ideas – it’s very similar to The Abominable Dr Phibes (also starring Price).  However, several of the murders are actually quite ghastly – as well as bizarre – and the actors’ performances keep the pace rolling along.  There are surprises and chills aplenty, making Theatre of Blood a film I heartily recommend.

8/10

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

Well it’s basically inspired by old B-movies and horror/sci-fi flicks, so The Rocky Horror Picture Show is in this years Hallowe’en Horror Fest!

I’m not a huge fan though, sorry.  Mrs Platinum Al loves this old nonsense though, and made me promise not to write a bad review.  So to ensure I don’t end up like Eddy, I’ll list the things I enjoyed about this film and not mention the negatives.

  • It’s a musical, but has nothing to do with that Lloyd-Webber tit.
  • A couple of the songs are actually quite good – Science Fiction Double Feature is a great tune with cool lyrics in tribute to some classic films.
  • Charles Gray is MAGNIFICENT.
  • Susan Sarandon has a great rack.
  • Magenta would also get a portion (nice French maid outfit).

It’s actually quite good, campy fun for the most part, though I lost interest for the last twenty minutes.  I won’t be dressing up in stockings and suspenders for a late night showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show any time soon.

4/10