Night of Fear (1972)

Night of Fear (1972) movie poster

director Terry Bourke
viewed: 06/17/2018

Can you imagine this showing up on prime time television in 1972? Apparently neither could Australian Broadcasting Commission. Shot as a pilot for telly, Night of Fear was rejected, then quickly banned before getting a brief theatrical release. 

And then came obscurity.

And now, it’s considered the forefather of Ozploitation.

In Night of Fear sex is ruthlessly suggestive, using still nudes cut together to impress much more lurid than what is really shown. It’s still pretty gruesome and racy for the boob tube.

Director Terry Bourke’s inventive style plays like a student film but though much more well-produced. It includes modernist editing styles, juxtaposing images for effect. And it is effective.

On top of all that the film runs dialogue-free. 

It’s 54 minute run time and the title sequence’s repetition of images from pieces of the film confirm that this was meant for broadcast.

Aenigma (1987)

Aenigma (1987) movie poster

director Lucio Fulci
viewed: 06/16/2018

“How does a young girl who is brain dead experience a violent emotion?”

Well, she’s brain dead but controlling a human avatar and seeking vengeance on schoolmates who pranked her into a coma in Lucio Fulci’s Aenigma.

Revenge is a dish best served … weird … and is meted out in dollops of reflections, snails, and living statuary.

Aenigma is derivative of a number of films and directors, coming in what would become the autumn of Fulci’s career. But it’s not not fun. It’s still Fulci.

Hereditary (2018)

Hereditary (2018) movie poster

director  Ari Aster
viewed: 06/16/2018 at Century 20 Daly City and XD, Daly City, CA

The hot horror movie of the moment, Hereditary, is a break-out first feature from writer-director Ari Aster. An original and intriguing concept, Hereditary is shaped like the more artsy classics of the horror genre, ranging away from the pulpier fare.

As well-crafted and inventive as it is, the film’s true power comes from its cast. Headlined certainly by Toni Collette, a lot of credit should also go to Alex Wolff and Milly Shapiro, who play her son and daughter, respectively. It’s familial terror, tinged with personal tragedy, mysterious histories, grief, loss, and something ultimately evil.

Definitely, the less you know going in, the better. Because the unknown is a dark place for the film. And significantly a component of its success.

All that said, its ambitions possibly outstretch its means. Some plot elements are blurted out in dialogue/monologue, successfully enough, but this drew my attention to plot holes or other flaws.

That said, I definitely think it’s a successful horror film and a promising start for Ari Aster.

Madhouse (1981)

Madhouse (1981) movie poster

director Ovidio G. Assonitis
viewed: 06/15/2018

I’m forever telling people that in any pair of twins, there is always one that is good and always another that is evil. That’s just science.

Madhouse is an Italian-American production directed by an Egyptian-born Greco-Italian and filmed in Savannah, GA. It’s another sort of slasher-giallo hybrid, with some nice cinematography and production values (except for the dog puppet, let’s say).

Savannah could be an interesting location but the film stays indoors a lot, shot at the historic Kehoe House, which seemed to be under some restoration at the time. The house is pretty cool and makes for some of the interesting shots and atmosphere.

But yeah, evil twins, a blood-thirsty Rottweiler, and a kooky priest who digs on children’s rhymes.

It’s not half bad. But then there’s the other half. Or slightly more than half.

Don’t Go in the Woods (1981)

Don't Go in the Woods (1981) movie poster

director James Bryan
viewed: 06/13/2018

I’m just going with my random notes for my Don’t Go in the Woods write-up.

Despite the cheapness, the folks seem like genuine annoying regular people stuck in each other’s miserable company.

Dick and Cherry and the love van.

The comedy is a sight scarier than the scares.

Even without the killings, could be a good “why to never go camping“ movie.

Quite misanthropic and critical societal constructs – terrible law enforcement.

The color pink.

The comedy at the expense of the wheelchair guy is really odd.

Surprisingly prototypical for backwoods horror redneck stuff.

Doppelgänger (1993)

Doppelgänger (1993) movie poster

director Avi Nesher
viewed: 06/09/2018

Drew Barrymore published an autobiography in 1991 at age 16, Little Girl Lost. Her transition into adulthood and into acceptance as an adult actress pitched her career by playing bad girls, or girls with a dark side. From Poison Ivy and Gun Crazy in 1992 to The Amy Fisher Story and Doppelgänger in 1993, her redemption trip in pulpy movies was complete.

It’s a little sad that it didn’t last longer, but I’ve always been happy that she was able to make it in Hollywood after a troubled childhood.

Doppelgänger may not be the best of this period, but it’s probably the weirdest. It’s a low budget thriller about a gal (Barrymore) with multiple personalities, one of which is evil.

But then there is the ending, where the whole thing goes off the rails and becomes a bizarre horror film with some intense and creative creature effects that may have made more of an impression than Barrymore herself.

I have a soft spot for this brief period of dark material, though Barrymore is much better suited to her eventual sweet spot of an actress in light romantic comedies.

Sorority House Massacre (1987)

Sorority House Massacre (1987) movie poster

director Carol Frank
viewed: 06/08/2018

As a lot of folks have noted, this late 80’s slasher breaks little ground, and what unbroken ground it treads, it does so somewhat shabbily.

A surreal atmosphere pervades Sorority House Massacre, full of dreamy flashbacks and hypnotic dreams. It’s also charmingly girly but very girly, which I suppose fits the milieu of a sorority house. And, Ouch the outfits!

More than anything, it has a real lack of tension and drama in the scenes it needs it most.

It explains my sense of déjà vu, that director Carol Frank worked on Slumber Party Massacre (1982) and that the scene in the upstairs room with the killer trying to enter the window was essentially copied from it.

I’m not going to beat up on it.

Night School (1981)

Night School (1981) movie poster

director  Ken Hughes
viewed: 06/06/2018

Night School is a  1981 slasher that plays more like an American giallo. Shot in Boston, the film makes great use of the city, a pretty, but gritty place that I wonder if it’s still recognizable today.

The script by Ruth Avergon highlights a classic trope of toxic masculinity, the lecherous professor who sleeps with all of his female students. Drew Snyder is quite the Frasier Crane type (they could be brothers), and he’s got girls from his school showing up around Boston with their heads all chopped off, and oddly enough left in water.

Leonard Mann is the cop on this case. With Joseph R. Sicari as his Armenian, wise-cracking underling. A very gorgeous Rachel Ward is the professor’s main squeeze.

The killer is a motorcycle-riding figure in all black, with some pretty creative means of decapitation with a fancy Nepalese knife.

There’s a lot to like here. At least for me.

She Demons (1958)

She Demons (1958) movie poster

director  Richard E. Cunha
viewed: 06/03/2018

“The body of a woman with the face of a demon!”

She Demons is cheap pulp horror/adventure featuring a mad Nazi scientist based in an underground island volcano laboratory, experimenting on kidnapped girls, turning them (temporarily) into She Demons. A shipwrecked pleasure crew (including ultra-vixen Irish McCalla, Victor “Number 2 Son” Sen Yung, and Tod Griffin) land on the island and discover its bizarre secrets.

First they encounter the all white native girls, “The Diane Nellis Dancers” dancing up a storm. Then the Nazis.

It’s cheap and corny and wooden at times, but it also occasionally perks up as fun. The make-up effects are hilariously camp, yet a genuine S&M undercurrent suffuses the Nazi villains. It also features some insinuated violence that seems pretty strong for 1958.

I was also struck that this vague twist on The Island of Dr. Mureau might also have influenced the films of Eddie Romero and Gerardo de Leon.

Richard E. Cunha is a deeply anomalous 1950’s horror/sci-fi director. He made four flicks, all in one year Giant from the Unknown, She Demons, Frankenstein’s Daughter, and Missile to the Moon, 1958. And then he stopped.

She Demons, for my money at least, is some pretty decent late Fifties junk.

One Dark Night (1983)

One Dark Night (1983) movie poster

director Tom McLaughlin
viewed: 05/20/2018

“Let’s book up!”

Yeah, Meg Tilly. Totally cute. And yay Elizabeth (E.G.) Daily, who I think of from Valley Girl more so than Pee-wee’s Big Adventure. Here as one of the less convincing girl gangs on film who do however sport nice purple satin jackets. And yes, an underutilized Adam West, but Adam West no less.

One Dark Night is pretty entertaining stuff, despite not quite achieving heights of horror or kitsch. The shots of the Santa Monica pier’s sweet arcade is also pretty cool.

I’m going to end this write-up simply with a list of hyperlinked keywords in the Wikipedia plot description. Russian. Occultist. Psychic. Vampire. Telekinesis. Bioenergy. Audiotape. Mausoleum. Chapel. Cadavers. Compact.