31 Days of Halloween- Day 16- Lonely Water aka The Spirit of Dark and Lonely Water (1973)

31 Days of Halloween- Day 16- Lonely Water aka The Spirit of Dark and Lonely Water (1973)

One of the fantastic things about growing up as a child of the 70’s and 80’s and being a horror fan were the Public Information Films that were shown at random times both day and night on British TV. These could convey any burning issue from the dangers of abandoned old refrigerators on rubbish tips through to the importance of not using different kinds of tyres on your car.

Some could be quite humorous in tone. But some were the stuff of nightmares. They set out to scare the living bejesus out of you. And by Christ, they worked. Everything from the dangers of Rabies, how you could be maimed if you misuse fireworks and, as you will see, what can happen to the show-off children who play near water.

LonelyWaterMonk

Lonely Water aka The Spirit of Dark and Lonely Water was made in 1973 and directed by Jeff Grant. The jewel in it’s crown was that Donald Pleasance was used to voice the ghostly monk who appears when a child is about to come a cropper near a river or stream.

The eagle eyed will also see Terry Sue Patt aka Benny Green from Grange Hill as one of the kids.

LonelyWaterTerrySuePatt

This Public Information Film scared a whole generation from even thinking of going near their local river. This would also have been the generation who would later see Jaws either at the cinema (if they were old enough) or when it was first shown on TV. I wonder how many of my generation actually have hydrophobia as a result of this double whammy.

Lonely Water is a masterpiece of horror that was permitted to be shown at any time pre and post watershed on British television. Generation X have never gotten over it.

Grade- A+

31 Days of Halloween- Day 15- Halloween Kills (2021)

31 Days of Halloween- Day 15- Halloween Kills (2021)

After the frankly dreadful film from 2018 I wasn’t looking forward to it’s sequel. I even intended on not seeing the film but someone posted online that this was ‘The Film of the Year’. Mission accepted. I had to see and review it.

After the dodgy political posturing of the previous film (‘The Night The Patriarchy Came Home’) I was wondering which issues the new film would try to slyly convey. I looked at Jamie Lee Curtis’ Instagram profile to try to find a few clues. Maybe the new film would depict Michael Myers as an embodiment of inactivity against global warming with Laurie becoming a Greta Thunberg type Final Girl (or should that be Final Granny), accusing Michael of stealing her childhood and exclaiming that she can *actually see* CO2. Or maybe it will tackle transgenderism with Michael engendering (pun not intended) cis-gender bigotry and heteronormativity. Maybe Elliott Page could battle Michael. The options are limitless.HalloweenKillsQuadPoster

The start of Halloween Kills seemed to confirm my notions with the first character we see being the stunning and brave Bonnie (actually a man in a dress) from the fancy dress party from the previous movie still all frocked up and arguing with his Clyde on the phone. 

But then the film goes light on the political agenda posturing. There are a few touches here and there- the mainly white lynch mob who go after Michael, the mother-daughter action near the end of the film (‘I’m an innocent woman!’ screams Mommy Strode to Michael. ‘Just like my mother was!’ There’s Michael as patriarchy again).

HalloweenKillsWomen.jpg
The matriarchy are back!

Talking of Granny Strode, Jamie Lee is stuck in the hospital for much of the film rather than being the geriatric Linda Hamilton wannabe she was in the previous film. There is a God after all.

There was only one character I actually enjoyed and rooted for in this film and that was Michael. Maybe that’s his role in the later franchise entries and that’s viciously killing the film’s most irritating characters- the doctor, nurse and Marion (yes, the Marion from the first film), the couple flying the drone around their house, the gay couple who have taken over (and decorated to perfection) the old Myers house.

TommyDoyleHalloweenKills.jpg

But the worst crime of this film is that it references, steals and pillages far too much from the first film. In fact it does so in such a heavy handed fashion that it reminds you that you could be watching a genuine masterpiece rather than this anaemic entry. Characters from the first are introduced so thick and fast that it feels like there is an air of desperation about proceedings. There are sequences shot depicting other events from THAT night from 1978, a CGI Dr Loomis and even clips from the original film inserted here. Does it feel authentic? Does it hell. Halloween 2 felt wayyy more like the original film in feel, tone and visuals. After coming out of the movie I read a review that said these ham-fisted pilferings were ‘poisoning the well’ regarding the original’s legacy. I couldn’t agree more.

Halloween Kills feels like an episode from some kind of Halloween spin-off TV series that hasn’t even been made- yet. But give it time. It’s a film for the fanboys to salivate over, the kind of viewers who will lap it up as, y’know, Michael Myers is in it and he kills people.

HalloweenKillsFireman.jpg

Stick with the original and also Part 2 and the excellent Part 3: Season of the Witch. Everything after that is fanboy territory.

One final thought. During the runtime I kept thinking about John Carpenter (who acts as Executive Producer for Halloween Kills as well as composing the soundtrack). I kept thinking ‘This is the worst thing he’s ever been associated with during his whole career. And he’s done it by seemingly not caring if he cheapens the legacy of the first Halloween film’. Maybe that’s the real horror regarding this film.

Grade- E 

31 Days of Halloween- Day 14- Intruder (1989)

31 Days of Halloween- Day 14- Intruder (1989)

A convenience store is stalked by a killer after it has closed and the staff are restocking the shelves. Could the killer be the ex-boyfriend of one of the checkout workers who we saw earlier in the film making trouble? Or is it someone else?

IntruderNightCrew

This film has links to the team who made The Evil Dead and even stars Sam Raimi, his brother Ted and Bruce Campbell. Intruder was originally titled The Night Crew.

I’ve always found large supermarkets to be creepy, especially at night. Dawn of the Dead furthered this feeling and Intruder furthers it even more.

I remember seeing pictures of the gore effects from Intruder in the issues of Fangoria and Gorezone I used it buy. I couldn’t wait for it to finally be released on VHS in the UK. When it was I eagerly rented it and even though it was cut by the BBFC (of course), I still loved it.

Low budget but innovative with fantastic directorial flourishes and well rounded quirky characters, Intruder is still great fun after all of these years. It’s also fantastic to see the film fully uncut here in the UK with all previous cuts being (rightly) waived. And boy, those gore effects! You’ll never look at a bacon slicer in the same way again.

IntruderHeadEffect

Look out for the workprint version that was made available recently. I’ll be reviewing that soon.

Grade- A-

31 Days of Halloween- Day 13- The Wasp Woman (1959)

31 Days of Halloween- Day 13- The Wasp Woman (1959)

Janice Starlin sees that the sales of her cosmetics company are slumping as her customers see that she appears to be (shock horror) getting older (!) Dr Eric Zinthrop, a scientist, finds that he has been able to extract chemicals from royal jelly that can reverse the ageing process. Starlin agrees to become a human subject regarding this but when progress is too slow for her liking she takes additional doses of the chemical. This has disastrous results as she starts to transform into a half-woman, half-wasp type hybrid.

This 1959 film is a fantastic piece of Roger Corman goodness. It’s also a film that I had seen the poster for many many times but had never actually seen. Until now.

TheWaspWomanPoster

I’m pleased to say that it was worth the wait. Not only is it a fantastic piece of 50’s horror that must have truly shocked and astounded audiences when it was released but it also has some perceptive things to say about the role of beauty, youth and cosmetics particularly regarding women who are held up to more stringent standards regarding these issues than men.

The film’s commentary reminded me of Georges Franju’s masterpiece Les Yeux San Visage and also the episode of the TV show Tales of the Unexpected and the episode called Royal Jelly.

A brilliant time capsule of 1950’s drive-in Americana that tackles wider issues that are more than still relevant today.

Grade- B+

31 Days of Halloween- Day 12- Cape Fear (1962)

31 Days of Halloween- Day 12- Cape Fear (1962)

Sam Bowden is a lawyer who finds that a criminal, Max Cady who he prosecuted against resulting in him going to jail (he had attacked a young woman) has been released from prison. Cady starts a harassment campaign against Bowden and his family and is seemingly hellbent on making Sam suffer for his incarceration.

I knew of this film from when the Scorsese remake came out. I was in the midst of my love of all things Scorsese and thought his version of Cape Fear was very good. But that was until I saw the original.

For all of the visual frills, the over the top performance of De Niro as Cady and scenes that weren’t in the original (the thumb sucking scene instantly springs to mind as does the attack that resulted in the cheek biting gratuity) the remake isn’t as good as the original film. Sometimes, less is more as is the case with this film.

The 60’s version of Cape Fear is more understated, character led and directed (by the underrated J Lee Thompson) with more restraint and is a much better film because of it.

The original feels less forced, more organic and features some much better performances from truly great actors such as Gregory Peck as Bowden and the great Robert Mitchum as Cady. Whenever Mitchum plays crazy he always excels and his portrayal of Cady is up there with his star turn in another fantastic shocker of a film, Night of the Hunter.

This isn’t to take away from the 90’s remake which is still a great film in it’s own right. But one great thing about it is that it might make more people aware that it is indeed a remake and so hopefully they may seek out the original. And they have a treat in store when they do.

Grade- A-

31 Days of Halloween- Day 11- Misery (1990)

31 Days of Halloween- Day 11- Misery (1990)

World famous author Paul Sheldon crashes his car whilst driving in a blizzard but is rescued by nurse and super-fan Annie Wilkes who has read everything he’s ever published as well as reading and viewing every interview he’s ever given. Sheldon finds himself trapped with multiple injuries included compound fractures to his legs meaning that he is immobile and dependent on Wilkes to care for him. She also tells him that the telephone lines and down and roads closed, both of which are lies. Things take a darker turn still when Wilkes goes and buys the latest book by Sheldon which has just been published (yes the road to town has mysteriously been reopened but there’s no mention of Wilkes taking Paul to a local hospital) only to discover that her favourite character Misery has died during childbirth. Wilkes isn’t happy about this. This is bad news for Sheldon.

Misery explores the obsessive, irrational fan devotion that was explored in very different circumstances in Scorsese’s meisterwerk The King of Comedy, a film that bombed at the box office whilst Misery was a huge hit but is inferior in comparison. Oh, the irony.

TheKingOfComedy
The dangerous side of fandom. The King Of Comedy (a much better film)

Before seeing Misery for the first time I had read and thoroughly enjoyed Stephen King’s masterful novel of the same name. The film adaptation feels like the finer nuances of the novel have been erased to make a big screen shocker that contains great performances by Kathy Bates (Wilkes) and James Caan (Sheldon) with Paul’s literary agent being portrayed effortlessly by the ever divine Lauren Bacall.

But the film also feels like some kind of TV movie that lacks not just the depth of King’s novel but also the cinematic grandeur that might have been envisaged and realised by another director other than Rob Reiner.

Misery 2

Misery feels like an attempt to hit big at the box office by creating two dimensional characters and cheap shocks rather than delivering anything with real intelligence. And it worked. Misery brought in the money and earned Bates an Oscar. But watch Misery next to other, better King adaptations such as The Shining and Carrie and you’ll see what I mean. There’s no comparison.

Grade- C

31 Days of Halloween- Day 10- The Entity (1982)

31 Days of Halloween- Day 10- The Entity (1982)

Carla Moran is violently raped by a seemingly invisible force. She tried to tell the people around her about what has happened but finds only resistance as her family and friends don’t believe her as she didn’t see who assaulted her especially when she says that her house was locked up when it happened and the assailant seemingly vanished into thin air.

Frank De Felitta’s bestselling book based on a true story (the case of Doris Bither) translates very well to the big screen with Barbara Hershey cast as Carla doing a phenomenal job in invoking the terror of a woman going through something very real but undertaken by someone or something very unreal. Apparently Bette Midler, Sally Field, Jane Fonda and Jill Clayburgh were all offered the role but declined.

Sidney J. Furie’s film stands alone as a one-off film of a one-off case that most people will have thought of as too much of a tall story to be true.

EntityQuadPoster
The quad poster for The Entity

Carla not being believed can also be seen as an allegory of something that far too many women (and men) go through when they find the courage and strength to report a rape or sexual assault- that their horror isn’t over yet as they try to seek justice whilst being met with an unfeeling and cruel judicial system that views their account with scepticism and disbelief. If it actually makes it to a court of law they will be made to relive their trauma. Those opposing them will try to disprove and belittle the magnitude of what they’ve been through. Or they will try to convince a jury that it didn’t happen at all.

The film all too harrowingly shows the full horror of what Carla goes through when she is raped and does a great job of showing the trail of very disturbing signs when the spirit or entity is approaching (objects shaking, a certain odour that permeates the surroundings Moran is in, a very sudden drop in temperature). Hershey’s performance, just like the film in general, never slides into TV movie melodramatics or sensationalism.

There needs to be special mention to Charles Bernstein’s insistent, pulsating and truly shocking score that is perfect for the movie and it’s subject matter. There are also echoes of the music he would write three years later for a new film called A Nightmare on Elm Street.

TheEntityHershey

Also the special effects for the scenes in which Moran is molested by the invisible force are very effective indeed. For one sequence a body cast of Hershey was made that was manipulated by currents of air to make it look like the invisible entity was touching her. It succeeds eerily well. Stan Winston supervised the practical effects.

The effects also come into their own when Carla meets professionals who actually believe her story and work in the field of parapsychology. But to tell you more about this would make me tiptoe into spoiler territory…

When the film opened it was met with protests from those who thought that such a film was exploiting such a serious topic as rape. Hershey actually defended this claim and voiced that herself and the filmmakers had actually worked hard not to make the film exploitative and to display the true horror of sexual assault and rape.

EntityAlienDoubleBill
The film was shown with another 20th Century Fox movie in the UK, Alien.

All in all a terrifying film that still feels underrated and excluded from serious writings regarding 80’s horror.

Grade- A-

31 Days of Halloween- Day 9- I Don’t Want To Be Born (1975)

31 Days of Halloween- Day 9- I Don’t Want To Be Born (1975)

This film has the best plotline of any movie in the history of cinema. Really!

Joan Collins stars as a stripper in a burlesque joint. Her co-star is a gypsy dwarf named Hercules. He makes advances on his co-star but when she knocks him back he places a curse on her unborn baby making the unborn child psychopathic.

IDontWantToBeBornPoster.jpg

If that wasn’t enough, the film also co-stars Donald Pleasance, Ralph Bates and Caroline Munro. Kids TV legend Floella Benjamin even stars as a nurse. Holy great casting, Batman.

The film effortlessly captures the period with 70’s London looking beautiful but with a sleazy underbelly as exemplified by the strip club. The film also gives La Collins an opportunity to look breathlessly fabulous in every scene. And every scene necessitates a costume change for Joanie.

TheDevilWithinHerLobbyCards

And then there are the fantastic kills from the baby from hell. I love how the film cuts from some awful act of violence to the cutest baby you’ve ever seen. It feels completely jarring, surreal and works really well.

I Don’t Want To Be Born also goes by other titles such as The Devil Within Her, Sharon’s Baby and The Monster which is the title that is being used for a new Blu Ray release from Network Releasing who are fantastic with their titles and so I look forward to how great this title will look. 70’s Joan Collins in High Def! We really don’t deserve it. And we’ve only just had Blu Ray releases of both The Bitch and The Stud.

TheMonsterBluRay

I actually think this film is a masterpiece. It’s also my favourite film from 1975. Yes, I think it’s better or maybe just as good as Jaws and One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.

Of course there are those who dismiss this title as just 70’s exploitation fluff. But that lazy summation disregards the beautiful cinematography, the time capsule aspect of the time the film captures both on and off camera (there was a real thirst for horror movies amongst British cinema goers in the 70’s) and the set design which is pinpoint perfect. Oh, and the acting is pretty fantastic too. This film may be an Exorcist/Rosemary’s Baby rip-off but just like Beyond The Door it more than holds it’s own just like Piranha did in the wake of Jaws or Zombie Flesh Eaters after Dawn of the Dead.

A classic film. Seriously.

Grade- A+

31 Days of Halloween- Day 8- Beware! Children At Play (1989)

31 Days of Halloween- Day 8- Beware! Children At Play (1989)

The children of a New Jersey town are disappearing at a very fast rate and the adults of the same town are being slaughtered in ways that suggest a strange death cult are behind this. Could there be a connection?

The first time I ever heard about this film was when I saw the trailer that was included on the DVD for another Troma title. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing in the trailer as it showed the taboo subjects of not just children going missing but also of killer kids. And with this being a Troma title, obviously taste, subtlety and restraint went out of the window. My prevailing thought was ‘How the hell did they get away with that?’

BewareChildrenAtPlayDVD

But when you actually make it past the trailer, is the actual movie a snoozefest? Well, no actually. the film is pretty good and held my attention with enough suspense, tension, kills and dark humour to satisfy the most committed gorehound.

This is Children of the Corn on steroids. Some of the acting is erm, over-ripe shall we say but you really don’t venture to this kind of fare to discover De Niro levels of performance.

If ever a film deserved a trigger warning it’s this though. Shocking, extreme but great fun.

Grade- B-

31 Days of Halloween- Day 7- Alligator (1980)

31 Days of Halloween- Day 7- Alligator (1980)

Ramon the baby alligator gets flushed down the toilet. 12 years later Ramon is now living in the sewers where he has ingested hormones that have made him grow massively. He’s also very hungry.

Alligator is a fantastic horror film that also has a brilliant sense of dark humour. But this isn’t one of those ‘comedy horrors’ that are light on horror and heavy on naff laughs.

AlligatorQuad2

Robert Forster stars as the cop with the receding hairline who is on the case. With snappy (pun not intended) dialogue by the fantastic John Sayles, more quirky characters than you can shake a stick at and masterful direction by Lewis Teague (who would later direct the equally brilliant Cujo) this movie really delivers.

Watch out for the garden party scene. It’s a doozy.

AlligatorQuad1

Alas, when Alligator was released in the UK the BBFC cut almost all of the gore from the film so that it would receive an ‘A’ certificate (the equivalent to today’s PG rating). The film would then be resubmitted uncut to the Board in 1991 and would receive a 15 rating with all previous cuts waived.

You know you’ve made a great film when a toy company makes a game based on it.

AlligatorGame
The game made by Ideal based on the film

Grade- A-