Thursday, 23 June 2016

More Favourite Horror Flicks, Alphabetically: Dawn of the Dead


Dawn of the Dead
Dir: George A. Romero. Starring Gaylen Ross, Ken Foree, David Emge & Scott H. Reiniger. 1978

George A. Romero returned to the familiar shambling grounds of his groundbreaking Night of the Living Dead (1968) with a more openly satirical, day-glo splatter fest. The hype when Dawn of the Dead was released was astounding. A full-page ad in Rolling Stone magazine promised: “There is no explicit sex in this picture. However, there are scenes of violence which may be considered shocking.” And at the time, boy, were they! Unfortunately, the under-age me saw the cut Canadian version at my local theatre. Images in the first issue of Fangoria, however, let me know what I was missing. Seen uncut, Tom Savini’s effects give guts to the film’s plot, which, by now, is the stuff of legend: Zombie plague survivors take sanctuary in an abandoned shopping mall where the dead return out of mindless habit. Obviously, Romero was giving us the last word in consumerism, but he had even more on his politically-oriented mind. Romero frequently anchors his films with strong female and African-American characters, as evidenced in this, the ultimate zombie flick.


Wednesday, 25 May 2016

More Favourite Horror Flicks, Alphabetically: Burn, Witch, Burn!


Burn, Witch, Burn!
Dir: Sidney Hayers. Starring Peter Wyngarde, Janet Blair & Margaret Johnston. 1962

Adapted from Fritz Leiber’s novel Conjure Wife, by Leiber, Richard Matheson and Charles Beaumont, Burn, Witch, Burn! is an outstanding and contemporary look at witchcraft. Blair is the practitioner, and Wyngarde is the husband who tries to convince her that it’s all superstitious nonsense. However, it’s Wyngarde whose perceptions end up altered.

Smart, entertaining and suspenseful, Burn, Witch, Burn! deserves more recognition, and is, in many ways, a precursor to Rosemary’s Baby. Here, however, the heroine’s husband refuses to believe in her power until he’s shown otherwise. In fact, the film hints at the notion that women in general posses a necessary power that men, through our blindness, refuse to acknowledge.


Tuesday, 24 May 2016

More Favourite Horror Flicks, Alphabetically: Black Christmas


Black Christmas
Dir: Bob Clark. Starring Olivia Hussey, Keir Dullea, Margot Kidder, John Saxon, Lynne Griffin, Art Hindle, Marian Waldman and Andrea Martin. 1974

The original “the calls are coming from inside the house” flick. Sorority sisters are stalked in their home by a madman in the attic. Simple and effective, but it's that simplicity supported by a potent setting, atmosphere, score, cinematography, direction and acting that make this proto-slasher a standout. The characters, too, are another key to the film's success. They, and their problems, are memorable, believable and relatable. It also doesn't hurt that, for my money, Black Christmas features the eeriest obscene phone calls in any film I've seen, er... heard. Finally, and significantly, Black Christmas successfully exploits and subverts all the elements of a Canadian Christmas to its best advantage – the snow, the cold, the lights, the carols, the quiet and the Yuletide loneliness.


Friday, 20 May 2016

More Favourite Horror Flicks, Alphabetically: The Birds



The Birds
Dir: Alfred Hitchcock. Starring Tippi Hedren, Rod Taylor, Jessica Tandy, Suzanne Pleshette and Veronica Cartwright. 1963

How do you follow up a groundbreaking hit like Psycho? With more innovation, in the case of Alfred Hitchcock.

The Birds is a cunning movie with many layers. Hitchcock sets it up like a romantic comedy, and then turns it into the horror film that it truly is. The film's structure is iconic, having influenced George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead (1968) and countless others, no explanation is given for the attacks which echo the disharmony amongst the film's human characters, children are targeted, the ending is ambiguous, it's a technically challenging film, and there's no music; instead the screeching of birds gives us the soundtrack here. 

Like all Hitchcock films, The Birds is intensely visual, pure cinema. The suspense is outstanding, of course, but it's the characters that drive this movie, and the audience is asked to fill in the gaps between characters that are only hinted at in glances and actions. 

Suzanne Pleshette's Annie Hayworth is unforgettable, one of the most tragic characters in all of Hitchcock's films, and a sort of sister to Janet Leigh's Marion Crane in Psycho, unlucky in love rather then merely disappointed.  

  

More Favourite Horror Flicks, Alphabetically: Alien



Alien
Dir: Ridley Scott. Starring Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, Veronica Cartwright, Harr Dean Stanton, John Hurt, Ian Holm and Yaphet Kotto. 1979


Another version of this post originally appeared on November 5, 2007.

This movie has been written about ad nauseum, and it's so well known that it's a part of pop culture history. The premise isn't far removed from that of a slasher film - a group of stranded people are killed by a stalker, one-by-one. Elements of the film are also reminiscent of "It! The Terror from Beyond Space" and Mario Bava's "Planet of the Vampires". Still, it's a scary and suspenseful outer space horror movie with terrific effects and an iconic villain, one of the last (to this date) great monster designs. 

Though the first sequel, "Aliens", is the preferred alien flick by many, I still prefer the original. I like its emphasis on horror and suspense over the second film's focus on action scenes. And I find the original alien infinitely more scary than those in the sequel. The original creature is almost unstoppable, while the creatures in "Aliens" are easy to destroy, finding their strength in numbers.

Ridley Scott's direction is controlled and builds suspense terrifically. The script by Dan O'Bannon is smart, and the score by Jerry Goldsmith is eerie and effective. The cast are all perfect, with Sigorney Weaver being a standout. The unexpected arrival of the baby alien is one of horror's classic moments. File this movie under "You Must Have Seen This By Now" category.

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Florid: The Musical (That Wasn't)


My good friend The Annekenstein Monster posted about a stage musical that we almost wrote, based on a short film that we actually made. I think his post is worth sharing, so click HERE to find out more and hear the track "Eyes Froze Shut".


Monday, 4 January 2016

Home Media Recommendations 2015



Anchor Bay Canada
Black Christmas – Seasons Grievings Edition

Arrow Video US
Blood and Black Lace / Blood Rage / Island of Death / Spider Baby / The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Miss Osbourne / The Tenderness of the Wolves / What Have You Done to Solange?

Criterion Collection
The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant / The Brood / Night and the City

Cult Epics
Angst / Der Todesking

Forbidden Films
Headless

Kino Lorber
Deranged / The Evil Eye / A Girl Walks Home Alone in the Dark

Mondo Macabro
Tango of Perversion / The Wife Killer 

Scream Factory
Blood and Lace / Ghosthouse & Witchery / The Sentinel 

Seraphim
Clive Barker's Origins: Salome & The Forbidden

Severin Films
Nightmare Castle

Synapse
Thundercrack!

Warner Archives
Face of Fire / Hand of Death / Our Mother’s House / The Strangler

Vinegar Syndrome
Corruption (w/Last House on Dead End Street) / Farmer’s Daughters / Long Jeanne Silver / Night of the Strangler

Visual Entertainment Inc.
Thriller: The Complete Collection of 43 Murder Mystery Movies