Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Horror Thoughts ‘14—Black Sabbath (1963) ***

UR, 92 min.
Director: Mario Bava
Writers: Mario Bava, Alberto Bevilacqua, Marcello Fondato, Anton Chekov (story “The Drop of Water”), F.G. Snyder (story “The Telephone”), Aleksei Tolstoy (novelette “Sem’ya vurdalaka”)
Starring: Boris Karloff, Jacqueline Pierreux, Milly Monti, Michèle Mercier, Lydia Alfonsi, Mark Damon, Susy Andersen, Massimo Righi, Rica Dialina, Glauco Onorato

The anthology format is one that seems to fit horror better than any other genre. I was quite surprised to find that Italian maestro Mario Bava had directed an entire anthology film. Filmed after Bava had moved into the color film format, it’s a good place to see the roots of the Italian horror movement’s signature look where lighting gels are used heavily to influence the atmosphere and moods of the most tense horror sequences.

Hosted by Boris Karloff, the movie tells three tales from short story sources. Almost as surprising as seeing Boris Karloff in a hosting role is learning that one of the tales is based on a short story by Anton Chekov and another is taken from a novelette by Aleksei Tolstoy. After seeing the movie, I’d be very interested in reading some horror by either of these literary masters.

Chekov’s “The Drop of Water” leads off the trilogy and is probably the best of the bunch. It tells a fairly simple story of a mortician who is called in to prep an old fortuneteller after her death. She is warned not to touch anything belonging to the psychic or a curse will befall her. It’s no surprise then to find the mortician can’t resist a ring worn by the woman. When the mortician arrives back home she begins to hear water drips everywhere in her apartment. At first they are all explained by physical means—a faucet drips, raindrops dripping off her umbrella, rain coming in through an open window. The reason this one is so successful, however, is the perfect direction by Bava, who creates such a creepy vibe throughout that it makes for the perfect Halloween creep out.

The middle piece “The Telephone” is a good suspense thriller that follows a woman who is tormented by a series of phone calls from a man who appears to be watching her every movement. It’s a good example of Bava’s obsession with beautiful women and placing them into situations of vulnerability.

The final film goes full Russian gothic with Tolstoy’s story of The Wurdalak, a vampire that feeds off loved ones. It’s satisfying to learn that Karloff sheds his host role here to perform a major role in this story. The idea behind how these bloodsuckers return home to attack those they love is so similar to some of the ideas in Chuck Hogan and Guillermo del Toro’s “The Strain” that I figure it must have influenced these current horror creators. Again Bava’s command of light and mood molds this tale into a perfect Halloween treat. I was so impressed by Bava’s work on these rather simple horror tales that I decided to dedicate most of the remainder of this year’s Horrorfest to the rather extensive collection of Bava films found on Netflix.

Watch the entire Italian version of the film below with English subtitles.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Horror Thoughts ‘14—A Haunted House (2013) *½

R, 86 min.
Director: Michael Tiddes
Writers: Marlon Wayans, Rick Alvarez
Starring: Marlon Wayans, Essence Atkins, Marlene Forte, David Koechner, Dave Sheridan, Nick Swardson, Alanna Ubach, Andrew Daly, Cedric the Entertainer, Affion Crockett, J.B. Smoove, Robin Thede, Jordenn Thompson

The art of the spoof is a delicate art indeed. The Wayans family has long been some of the few who could actually pull one off. They know what works and what doesn’t in terms of structure, but the success rate is still very low, even if you know what you’re doing. Marlon Wayans’  “A Haunted House” is a send up of the recent surge in found footage horror movies sparked by the success of the original “Paranormal Activity”.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Horror Thoughts ‘14—The Signal (2014) ***

PG-13, 97 min.
Director: William Eubank
Writers: Carlyle Eubank, William Eubank, David Frigerio
Starring: Brenton Thwaites, Olivia Cooke, Beau Knapp, Laurence Fishburne

The last movie called “The Signal” that I watched for Horrorfest is one of the better zombie movies out there. This “Signal” is a very different one than in that film, however. This time instead of some sort of broadcast signal that turns people into mad savages, this signal is from an IP address used by a hacker, who lures three unsuspecting MIT students out into the American southwestern desert. The hacker’s purpose and identity provide the movie’s twist in a story that isn’t entirely original, but is well told here.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Horror Thoughts ‘14—The Walking Dead, season 4 (2013-2014) ****

TV-MA, 16 45-min. episodes
Developer: Frank Darabont

Directors: Greg Nicotero, Guy Furland, Dan Sackheim, Tricia Brock, David Boyd, Michael Uppendahl, Jeremy Podeswa, Ernest Dickerson, Seith Mann, Julius Ramsay, Michael E. Satrazemis, Michelle Maclaren

Writers: Frank Darabont, Robert Kirkman (also graphic novels), Tony Moore (graphic novels), Charlie Adlard (graphic novels), Scott M. Gimple, Angela Kang, Matthew Negrete, Channing Powell, Nichole Beattie, Curtis Gwinn, Seth Hoffman,

Starring: Andrew Lincoln, Norman Reedus, Steven Yeun, Lauren Cohen, Chandler Riggs, Danai Gurira, Melissa McBride, Scott Wilson, Emily Kinney, Chad L. Coleman, Sonequa Martin-Green, Lawrence Gilliard Jr., Alanna Masterson

Guest starring: Melissa Ponzio, Kerry Condon, Kyle Gallner, Vincent Martella, Sunkirsh Bala, Brighton Sharbino, Robin Lord Taylor, David Morrissey, Audrey Marie Anderson, Jose Pablo Cantillo, Meyrick Murphy, Kirk Acevedo, Enver Gjokaj, Kyla Kenedy, Juliana Harkavy, Sherry Richards, Aldis Hodge, Brendan Fobbs, Michael Cudlitz, Josh McDermitt, Christian Serratos, Jeff Kober, Marcus Hester, Denise Crosby, Andrew J. West

What could’ve been the season where “The Walking Dead” jumped the shark, the show runners pulled back on where they were headed and brought the series back to the basics of the zombie genre. Things got heated in season three with the introduction of The Governor, which was an interesting line of exploration but took focus away from what the zombie analogy is really about. Characters skittered on the edge of betraying everything they were about, but season four focused them in a deliberate manner.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

ZAM Review—World War Z: Unrated Version (2013) **

This review was originally written for and published in Zombie Apocalypse Monthly.

UR, 122 min.
Director: Marc Forster
Writers: Matthew Michael Carnahan, Drew Goddard, Damon Lindelof, J. Michael Straczynski, Max Brooks (novel)
Starring: Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, Daniella Kurtesz, James Badge Dale, Ludi Boeken, Fana Mokoena, David Morse, Matthew Fox, Peter Capaldi, Pierfrancesco Favino, Ruth Negga, Mortiz Bleibtreu, Sterling Jerins, Abigail Hargrove

In the year since the theatrical release of Brad Pitt’s big screen adaptation of Max Brooks’ zombie apocalypse fictionalized history novel “World War Z”, the general consensus on the film version has been that of disappointment. This is despite the fact that the film grossed over $200 million in the U.S. theatrically after an expensive reshoot of the film’s original ending. In fact, it was more like a reshoot of the entire last act of the film, which was totally rewritten.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Horror Thoughts ‘14—The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976) *

R, 86 min.
Director: Charles B. Pierce
Writer: Earl E. Smith
Starring: Ben Johnson, Andrew Prine, Jimmy Clem, Jim Citty, Charles B. Pierce, Robert Aquino, Dawn Wells

The original 1976 version of “The Town That Dreaded Sundown” is so bad I really don’t want to talk about it much. It’s an indie that came out a couple of years before John Carpenter’s original “Halloween”. I mention the Carpenter film because they both focus on serial killers who terrorize a small town. Both killers wear fairly non-descript masks and breathe heavily under them. I don’t recall much about Carpenter’s inspiration for “Halloween”, but I would find it hard to believe that “The Town That Dreaded Sundown” didn’t play some part. The killer’s are too similar and the sound effects of each film’s killer sounds as if they came from the same source.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Horror Thoughts ‘14—Black Sunday (1960) ***½

UR, 87 min.
Director: Mario Bava
Writers: Ennio de Concini, Mario Serandrei, Nikolaj Gogol (short story)
Starring: Barbara Steel, John Richardson, Andrea Checchi, Ivo Garrani, Arturo Dominici, Enrico Olivieri, Antonio Pierfederici

I think I prefer the original title of “Black Sunday”. “The Mask of Satan” has much more to do with the movie. I don’t think the day of the week is ever even mentioned in the film. And does it really matter what day it is? I suppose in 1960, it would’ve been difficult to get U.S. audiences of any kind to go see a movie that even mentioned Satan in its title. Hell, today’s Hollywood would be just as scared to release a film under such a title, but people would go to see it. People who will never see it would also lambast it in the media.