Monday, September 16, 2019

The Last Pregaming Halloween

As much as I've wanted to hold off on prime Halloween coverage until October... I just can't. Purposely watching stuff I'm less interested in was a dumb move so here's the last of it:

*Spooky TV

One Step Beyond - The Haunted U-Boat (S1 E17 1959)

Years before playing the buffoonish Col. Klink on Hogan's Heroes, actor Werner Klemperer portrayed a decidedly less comedic German Officer in this middling submarine set mystery.

Taxi  - Jim the Psychic (S4 E1 1981)

Jim predicts Alex’s imminent death. Not spooky, despite some fine screams,  but a solid episode. Andy Kaufman shines, as usual, in an unrelated subplot.

* Bad Movies?

The Demolitionist (1995)

Roboladycop mediocrity. Not the worst of this kind of thing but nothing special.

Napoleons Curse (2007)

New Orleans set haunted house horror.

Sometimes the line between indie and amateur gets blurred. This is the directors' third film so not an amateur I guess but yikes. Music cues are good for a laugh though and it has the best awkward dance scene song since Birdemic brought us "Hanging Out with the Family."

Crooked Billet (2017)

Oh dear.Another barely watchable low budget horror flick. I feel for movies like this, I’m sure a more generous budget would make for more effective, more compelling, pictures. Sadly it’s hard to look past these limitations despite the good intentions of the filmmakers.

When I see films like this I genuinely hope it leads the folks involved to bigger, more fully realizable, projects. I may not have liked, or even been able to finish their movies, but I value their passion for the art form and I wish them the best.

The Caller (1987)

Twisty two-hander starring Madolyn Smith and Malcolm McDowell. Essentially an overlong off-brand Twilight Zone episode. Getting to the twist will depend on how much you love the cat and mouse between the leads.

Not perfect but not at all bad.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Pregaming Halloween: Re watches and Real Estate Horrors

* Rewatches

Death Walks on High Heels (1971)

Dull as dishwater Giallo. Thought I’d missed something the first time around but nope.

Hider in the House (1989)

The most astonishing part of this is how effective it is despite the fact it does exactly what it says on the label. No twists, no subverted expectations. And it still works. It’s also nice to see pre punchline Gary Busey doing his thing.

The Final Terror (1983)

Above-average slasher in the woods flick. Held up on repeat viewing.

The Last Horror Film (1982)
I hadn’t seen this one in years and was really pleased with how well it’s held up. It’s a guilty pleasure to be sure but still a pleasure.

*Real Estate Horror

Are You in the House Alone? (1978)

High school stalker TV movie that makes up for lack of gore with relationship and domestic drama. Fairly effective for what it is thanks to a solid cast including Blythe Danner and Dennis Quaid in supporting turns.

Apartment 1303 3D (2013)

Yeah, no. Just terrible.

The Valdemar Legacy (2010)

Not particularly successful, slightly Lovecraftian, Gothic from Spain. Perhaps the last film with horror legend Paul Naschy. Sadly it’s barely a horror film and the dramatic elements aren't at all compelling. In fact, it eventually descends from boring to ridiculous, introducing Alistair Crowley, Bram Stocker, infamous accused murderesses Belle Gunnis and Lizzie frickin Borden. as characters. It's like crappy fan fiction.

The House (Húsið: Trúnaðarmál ) (1983)

Icelandic haunted house/relationship drama that starts slow, it takes nearly 20 minutes to get its protagonists into The House, and makes some interesting, though for me, not particularly satisfying narrative choices.

This was, according to Wikipedia, Iceland's official selection for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film in '84, though it didn't make the shortlist of nominees that year. I can see why it was selected, as it does have a bit of an art-house vibe.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Pregaming Halloween: Jack the Ripper on Tubi

More jack the Ripper Streams. This time found on Tubi.

Jack the Ripper (1976)

A watchable Jess Franco flick! Klaus Kinski is typecast as Jack the Ripper in this ahistorical take on the murders. A solid Euro-Horror.

From Hell to the Wild West (2017)

Ripper hunting Charles Bronson look-alike is the only point of interest in this low budget mess.

A Knife for the Ladies (1974)

Now, this is how you transplant Jack the Ripper to the Old West.No masterpiece but a nice change of pace.

The Ripper (1985)

Jack’ haunted ring posses a college professor. Cheesy hijinks ensue. Not as bad as the western, not as good as the Franco/Kinski. ‘80s low budget horror. Boasts both Tom Savini and one of the saddest dance numbers ever committed to film. Fairly goofy.

Bad Karma (2002)

Crazy Patsy Kensit thinks her Doctor is Jack the Ripper reincarnated. She escapes the psych ward and interrupts the docs much-earned family vacay. Naughty patsy.

The opening flashback sequence is as trash a piece of filmmaking as I’ve seen in a while but the rest of it rises nearly to the level of a made for Lifetime tv movie. Nearly.

Nightblade (2016)

I knew this would suck before I even started. I was right. Modern-day Ripper style slayings.

Monday, September 09, 2019

Pregaming Halloween - More Jack the Ripper, Death Lays an Egg, Rod Serling, Bela and Bigfoot

* True Crime

Jack the Ripper - The Invention of the Serial Killer
(Crimes That Made History S1 E1)

Decent overview of the Ripper murders which serves as the opening episode of this French true-crime series (in English on Prime) which. If nothing else, offers a few different voices from the ones British and American investigations usually turn to.

Jack the Ripper
(Fred Dinenage Murder Casebook S3 E2)

Another solid effort from Dinenage. Recommended.

Razors (2016)

Jack's haunted razors anybody? No? Me neither.

* Film

Death Laid an Egg (1968)

What is it with these poultry obsessed Giallo (gialli?) - Don’t Torture a Duckling, the Donald Duck voiced psychopath of New York Ripper and now this pretentious faux Giallo.

Bulldance (Forbidden Sun) (1988)

Rape Revenge flick set on Crete. More of a coming of age thing, not really a genre flick. Good though, for what it is.

In Search of Ancient Mysteries

Presented by Rod Serling and it’s his voice that keeps this pseudo-scientific nonsense from becoming unwatchable.  I actually really enjoy these silly olf documentaries, it’s nostalgia I suppose. On the other hand, I can’t stand the modern incarnations - Aincent Aliens, all the bigfoot, psychic and ghost hunting shows.

Encounter with the Unknown (1973)

Another narration job for Rod Serling. This time a bad, sometimes laughably so, an anthology of supposedly true paranormal stories. Connected by a cemetery, one of 23 mysterious cemeteries linked to some sort of paranormal mumbo jumbo, Once again it’d Serling's narration that holds this disaster together. Wirth it for the cheese, it fairly begs for a good hard riffing from the Rifftrax gang.

Murder By Television (1935)

Poverty Row mystery that, unfortunately, doesn’t feature a murderous walking old console television. Instead, a creaky whodunnit with a hint of science fiction. Bela Lugosi is here but nothing to get excited about.

The Capture of Bigfoot (1979)

“You're just a sensuous tiger!”

Goofy Yeti flick from Bill “Giant Spider Invasion” Rebane. I think the Sherrif who fancies himself the Rich Little of Justice is my favorite, but there's a lot of tasty cheese to sink your teeth into here.

Friday, September 06, 2019

Pregaming Halloween: Jack the Ripper on Amazon Prime Video

Doing some true-crime bingeing in the run-up to Halloween and got into a Ripper groove on Amazon Prime. I'd seen some of these docs and features before but a couple were new to me, as was one of the feature films.

I was contemplating ranking these but their usefulness to the viewer is fluid based on previous knowledge of the Ripper story. What feels like a boring retread to me, a jaded historical crime aficionado will still prove fascinating to the neophyte.

* Documentaries 

Jack the Ripper: The Definitive Story
Despite some very dodgy green screen in the re-enactments, this one does a pretty good job.

The Secret Identity of Jack the Ripper (1988)
This ‘80s transatlantic television special brings together a panel of experts, including Mindhunter John Douglas and Roy Hazelwood who present thier F.B.I. profile of Jack the Ripper. Bonus points for being hosted by Peter Ustinov.

Jack the Ripper: Tabloid Killer
The Whitechapel Murders through the eyes of the popular press. Decent production values, fairly factual, though I don’t agree with all the facts they either claim or dismiss. Always love me some Magic Lantern slides.

Jack the Ripper: The German Suspect
Modern experts in crime and forensics examine a unique, if unlikely suspect A major stretch, as is often the case with Ripper theories. A step down in every respect.

The Diary of Jack the Ripper (1993)
Presented by Michael Winner and narrated by Tom Baker, this doc examines the 1991 hoax.

Jack the Ripper’s London
Taking a different tack, putting the Ripper’s crimes in geographic and historical context. Obviously low budget but still interesting.

Jack the Ripper Conspiracies (2002)
Gruesome, low rent, tawdry and amateurish. I tapped out early.

A Ripper in Canada: Paranormal Hauntings in the Great White North
Well, if Jack the Ripper didn’t escape to New York maybe he headed further north to Canada. Nope and after the Ripper nonsenses this no-budget program goes full ghost hunter, and you should never go full ghost hunter.

* Features

Jach the Ripper (1959)
Decent indie flick with a solid cast.

Jack’s Back (1988)
Solid late ‘80s thriller starring Keifer Sutherland. Not a period piece, but a modern Ripper copycat.

Terror at London Bridge
Jack comes to Lake Havasu! Deliciously cheesy TV movie starring the Hoff and Adrienne Barbeau.

Jack the Ripper: The London Slasher (2015)
German, with a decent budget and a convoluted script. Our heroine newly arrived in London, learns her brother has been accused of being Saucy Jack. As with many of these “based on true events” style films, the less you know about the real facts of the case the better, as fiction and truth are twisted, mangled and merged in service to a period set, but thoroughly modern thriller. Basically, a German Blumhouse.

Well made and has its moments but your suspension of disbelief may need a tune-up afterward

Thursday, September 05, 2019

Pregaming Halloween - (Midsomer Murders, Dinosaurs, Berberian Sound Studio, The Brain, Mutations, Death Farm+)

* True Crime

Mindhunter - Season Two (2019 Netflix)

Jumping the Shark in season two eh? I guess that’s what it’s like with these new-fangled limited series, can’t waste time.

The fictional soap opera stuff is bleeding into the quasi-fictional procedural and it’s a slog to get through. When it’s good it's really solid  - when it not it’s a snore.

* Spooky TV

Midsomer Murders

Now that MM has become as ubiquitous as Unsolved Mysteries on streaming services, including its own channel on Pluto TV, I thought I’d revisit some of the eerier themed episodes from over the years.

S7 E6 The Straw Woman
Witchcraft and a cooked curate.

S8 E1 Things That Go Bump in the Night
An undertaker taken under and spiritualism.

S9 E1 The House in the Woods
Murder in a haunted house!

S11 E5 The Magicians Nephew
Are there killers amongst the followers of The Temple of Thoth?
S11 E7 Talking to the Dead
This time it’s a forest that’s haunted.

S14 E6 The Sleeper Under the Hill

S15 E1 The Dark Rider
A Headless Horseman!

S15 E4 Death and the Divas
Slain 60’s Scream Queen!

S16 E1 The Christmas Haunting
Murder among the ghost hunters!

S17 E2 Murder By Magic
Oh, those Pagans!

S18 E2

(Full disclosure - I haven’t yet watched the last three, but judging from the descriptions they probably qualify. I also, quite likely, missed a few.)

Dinosaurs - Little Boy Boo (S3 E3 1992 Hulu)

Every sitcom cliche, but with Dinosaur puppets and costumes. Werewolf (okay, were-dinosaur/caveman) themed Halloween episode.

Dinosaurs - Monster Under the Bed (S4 E1 1993 Hulu)

A scary movie gives Baby Sinclair nightmares. But are his night terrors really just dreams? 

* Rewatched

Berberian Sound Studio (2012)

I think I enjoyed this a little bit more the second time around. The first time out I was hyped for this modern giallo but the reviews were too good and I was pretty disappointed. This time I was able to relax and really absorb the stunning visuals. Can’t wait to see the director’s new one, Fabric.

The Seventh Sign (1988)
I had low expectations for this back in the ’80s and was mildly surprised when it was watchable. Tries to tackle some big plot points but it stars Demi Moore and Michael Biehn so your only going to get so far with that, Jurgen Prochnow notwithstanding. 

* Bad (?) Movies

The Brain (1988)

Cliche riddled 80’s pseudo-intellectual horror with an overly familiar plot. If your an 80’s horror fan just looking for the aesthetic you might want to check it out but it's late 80’s so even then it’s weak sauce.

The Mutations (The Freakmaker) (1974)

“We are interested in cloning, not in clowning…”
Originally expected this to be an American grindhouse horror, based on the title, so imagine my delight when the credits revealed loads of familiar British names. From Donald Pleasence, Tom Baker and Jill Haworth to the Director, legendary cinematographer, Jack Cardiff.

Starts out with some plant porn, at least the re-branded Freakmaker version I watched on Prime did, before moving into a horticultural re-imagining of Tod Browning’s Freaks. It’s good, b-movie good, but you’ve got Pleasence acting through an accent, and worse Baker through a mask/prosthetics, As this was Cardiff’s last film perhaps it’s not a surprise that it isn’t his best work. 

Demented Death Farm Massacre (1971)

Rebranded, and mad even more distasteful thanks to inserts featuring a truly sad mere husk of John Carradine, garbage from Troma.

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

Pregaming Halloween - Day Three

*True Crime

Mindhunter Season One (2017 Netflix)

Watched the first half of this when it first came out, decided to hit it again and while the production values are high and most of the performances are terrific the script frequently, and increasingly, gets bogged down in fictitious domestic drama that seldom rings true. This combination of procedural and soap opera is hard to get right and Mindhunter has more fast forwardable scenes then it should at this level. It’s likely what makes it at least an episode too long, which it has in common with too many “limited” series these days. Still, overall an excellent series.

* Spooky (?) TV

Charlies Angels - Night of the Strangler (S1 E3 1976)
A ritualistic sex killer with a clown doll fixation murders a fashion model and the Angels are on the case. I was hoping for a creepier vibe with this one. Still a decent episode.

Lewis - Down Among the Fearful (S6 E1 2013 PBS)

Inspector Morse spin-off’s 6th season opener presents Inspector Lewis with a murdered researcher turned psychic. Nothing spooky, nothing new or unique, nothing interesting. When did British mysteries become so boring, predictable and preachy?

Unsolved History - Hitler and the Holy Lance 

While the days of the History Channel being the all Hitler and WWII network have passed, the scourge of National Socialism is still hot fodder for documentarians of all kinds. From the Nazi / Occult sub-genre (popularized by Raiders of the Lost Ark) comes Hitler and the Holy Lance, and it's pretty good as these things go.

The Scholar Who Walks the Night (2015 Asian Crush)

Korean historical romance with supernatural flourishes. if that description floats your boat then I highly recommend checking out this series. It’s not action-packed or particularly spooky but it’s fairly well made with solid performances. That said, it’s a bit slow for me and I’ve only made it through a few of the twenty episodes so far with no burning desire to get back to it.

* Bad Movies

51 (2011)

As is Area 51. Syfy original that's good enough to leave on in the background but not worth paying much attention to.

Monday, September 02, 2019

Pregaming Halloween: Day Two - Into the Archives

Today we're pre-gaming by looking back at posts from this iteration of the blog's early days...

We were pretty much a curated link blog back in fall of 2008 and, sadly, most of those links have died and gone to Internet heaven. Here's a selection of those that have survived the ravages of bankruptcy, corporate mergers, DMCA takedowns, and authorial indifference...

Sept 2 - 5, 2008

skull (by archplus)
skull (by archplus)

Sunday, September 01, 2019

Pre-gaming Halloween Day One

I like to keep my Halloween traditional. I like spooky, eerie, creepy, macabre. Supernatural, paranormal, unknowable. Hauntings, mysterious occurrences, things that go bump in the night. Give me vampires, witches, ghosts and ghouls. Seance's and haunted woods and abandoned houses. I'm not so much into the slashers and the gore and the Kaiju and the jump scares and "it goes to eleven" volume of Haunted Attractions. I like most of these things, I just don't consider them quintessentially Halloween. Yes, I know I am an outlier.

I also want to get back into blogging, and before October, but I don't want to start marathoning Hammer Horror or re-reading classic Lovecraft just yet.

Thus I'm Pre-Gaming Halloween. Throughout September I’ll be covering other types of horror in the lead up to actual Halloween blogging time. True crime, sci-fi, bad horror movies, horror movie rewatches and re-assessments, creature features, spooky tv episodes, kids' stuff ... all things that I might avoid in October as I try to maximize my Halloween experience, but that are all at least horror adjacent.

What these posts will mostly take the form of is a log of the stuff I watch read and listen to with a dash of commentary. My selection process will be pretty much random, just what I find as I browse around streaming services and my collection. Hopefully, my dear readers will find something useful in these recommendations, warnings, and asides.

True Crime  - Martin Fido's Murder After Midnight

I first became aware of true crime historian Martin Fido through my teenage obsession with the Jack the Ripper murders. It was years later when a friend from the UK sent me a disc full of airchecks from a late-night radio show Fido had appeared on. Each night Fido would share a tale of murder most foul under the title Murder After Midnight. Stranglers, poisoners, shooters and, of course, rippers, a cornucopia of man’s inhumanity to man. Though I don’t always agree with his assumptions and opinion-based conclusions, Fido is a fine researcher and compelling storyteller.

Fido’s written a number of books but, thanks to these shows, I’ve become a fan of his audiobooks, as read by the man himself. Loads of his Murder After Midnight scripts have been re-recorded and are widely available to purchase or stream. After binging on a bunch of the radio shows, I finished off my true crime evening with an expanded version of one of the first Murder After Midnight episodes I’d heard - 10 Rillington Place.

* Spooky (?) TV - Blackadder \ Cybil

So, here in the TV posts, I’ll be taking a fairly random ramble through tv series to find spooky sounding episodes that I, usually, haven't seen before. Not Halloween episodes but ones with some sort of horror theme.

Blackadder -  Witchsmeller Pursuivant (S1, E5 1983)
Streaming - Hulu

When this first series of Blackadder hit A&E (here in The States) back in the day it was a revelation, now most consider it perhaps the third or fourth-best series but at the time it was the merde. In this episode, Frank Finlay guests as a Witchfinder summoned to rid the Kingdom of the supernatural forces bringing a plague upon the land. Hilarity ensues.

Rewatchability - High

Cybill - The Curse of Zoe (S1, E8 1995)
Streaming - Amazon Prime

Cybill Shepherd sitcom where I feel the lead is sometimes the shows weakest link, though honestly outside of Christine Baranski the actors are all either uninspired, unprepared or just very poorly directed. In The Curse of Zoe, the only real voodoo is whatever dark art has brought Chuck Lorre to the pinnacle of his industry with such an aggressively mediocre body of work.

Anyway, the plot showed real promise. Struggling actress and divorcee Cybill's life takes a surprising turn for the better when angsty teen daughter Zoe (Alicia Witt) leaves to live with her Dad. Once at Dad’s, her negative vibes become a millstone around his neck as well. There's also a limp psychic subplot. What could have been a deliciously dark comedy where the entitled brat is literal poison to her family is instead utterly meh.

Rewatchability - Near Nil

* Horror Adjacent Movies

Lured ( 1947 - Amazon Channels - Cohen Media)

Solid Douglas Sirk directed serial killer mystery with a few creepy touches. Stars Lucille Ball with George Sanders, Boris Karloff, and George Zucco.

Spacehunter - Adventures in the Forbidden Zone (1983 Amazon Prime)

Originally expected this to be a crappy Star Wars knockoff but seeing it was an Ivan Reitman production I shifted to wondering if it was a spoof, and in the end, it was a bit of both. At first, I thought I’d be filing this under Bad Movies but I really enjoyed it - as good cheesy B-Movie fun. Probably would have been even better in its original 3D. If this had not been released just ahead of Return of the Jedi I’d wager it would have a much better reputation.

Silent Panic (2019 Amazon Prime)

What would you do if you came back to your car and found a dead body in the trunk? Huh? Asking for a friend... plus it's what this indie thriller opens with. Not great but I'm grading on a curve and putting it here instead of the next section because the filmmaker shows promise and God knows I've seen

* Bad Movies

Here I’ll be watching, or at least attempting to watch, movies that, on the surface, seem like they're going to suck. Why? Because I’m a masochistic horror completist and if I’m going to subject myself to this garbage I at least deserve the catharsis of shaming them or even perhaps praising them, to the world.

Sea Ghost (2004 Amazon Prime)
Terrible underwater creature-feature

Spooky Stakeout (2016 Amazon Prime)
Sub-par Irish kid's mini-Ghostbusters.

Apple Pie (1976 Amazon Prime)
Experimental NYC fairy tale. Yeah, no. Though it was interesting seeing younger Larry “Bud” Melman actor Calvin DeForest and Brother Theodore.

* Rewatched

Here I'll tackle a film I've seen before to see if I love or hate it any more or less this time around.

The Fog (2005 Vudu)

An unfathomably bad and utterly unnecessary remake of one of my favorite John Carpenter flicks. Does literally everything wrong. Everything. Gross incompetence, actually still makes me a little bit mad. Did not improve with age.