Day 25- 31 Days of Halloween- Snowbeast (1977)

Day 25- 31 Days of Halloween- Snowbeast (1977)

An abominable snowman turns up at a snow resort and starts killing skiiers. And just before their Winter Carnival! So inconsiderate!

Substitute the snow resort for a Cape Cod coastal tourist town. Substitute the Winter Carnival for the 4th of July. Substitute the Snowbeast for a killer Great White Shark. Boom!

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If this was the 70’s and this TV movie was on the tube and there was nothing else on then it might be mildly diverting. Otherwise, watch something better.

1/5 out of 5 stars

Day 24- 31 Days of Halloween- Psychic Killer (1974)

Day 24- 31 Days of Halloween- Psychic Killer (1974)

Arnold Masters has several axes to grind. Hes in prison for a crime he didn’t commit (his mother who had a tumour who due to be operated on but wasn’t. The doctor who was due to undertake the procedure was then found dead in his office by Arnold who was then framed for his murder).

He tells his backstory to a fellow prisoner who confides his story to Arnold in return. His daughter was turned into a prostitute by a pimp. He says to him that he will seek revenge on this man by carving his name into his chest and slitting his throat. Lo and behold, sometime later he tells Arnold that hes done it and without leaving his prison cell. Before Arnold can ask him how, his confident scales the prison fence and jumps from the very high prison wall killing himself. It is later confirmed in the paper that the pimp indeed was murdered in the way the prisoner stipulated.

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Arnold then inherits his friends belongings one of which was an amulet. This allows the owner to leave their body and travel psychically anywhere they want. Perfect for seeking revenge against your perceived enemies and enacting revenge.

Arnold is then found to be innocent and released. Those who failed his mother are then one by one found dead in very strange circumstances that defy logic and reason.

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The original UK quad poster. What a double-bill!

I remember seeing the trailer for this film on almost VIPCO video back in the 80’s. The trailer was extremely evocative and I’m glad to say that now that I’ve seen the film it is every bit as brilliant as it’s trailer.

Early/mid 1970’s America is captured beautifully and the film has it’s own very eccentric character. Check out the murders and how unorthodox they are- whether they involve a shower, a new building’s cornerstone or a bacon slicer and mincing machine! The sequence involving the nurse before she steps into the shower from Hell could have been lifted from one of the great Russ Meyers’ movies.

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Matron!

This is a great concept for a horror movie- someone spiritually leaving their body to avenge their grievances through the power of their minds. Transcendental meditation and other New Age concepts were very fashionable in the 70’s and so it’s great that this should mind it’s way into an exploitation movie made for 42nd Street and the Drive-Ins.

And if you need any other recommendation for seeing this I’ll just say this. It stars Neville Brand!!!Now if that isn’t enough of an incentive then I don’t know what is.

4/5 out of 5 stars

Day 23- 31 Days of Halloween- Duel (1971)

Day 23- 31 Days of Halloween- Duel (1971)

This Steven Spielberg directed movie made for TV and adapted from Richard Matheson’s short story still packs a punch.

David Mann is a travelling businessman venturing to an appointment across California but is slowed down considerably by an ominous truck that at first inconveniences him until things suddenly take a much darker tone.

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This film could be seen to represent masculinity. David could be seen to represent the modern man- hen-pecked, pussy-whipped and a million miles from his caveman Id origins. Notice David meekly calling his wife to try and patch things up as he had earlier had an argument with her. They had been at a party when another man started coming onto her and acting inappropriately. He voices the opinion that she was sore because he didn’t choose to square up to the suitor and knock his lights out. He voices the opinion that she thinks he hadn’t fulfilled his traditionally masculine role.

Also, when David goes to the garage he asks the attendant to ‘Fill her up’ with the attendant replying ‘You’re the boss.’ To which David responds ‘Not in my house I’m not!’

David’s continued oneupmanship with the truck represents a display of masculine superiority. Whos the bigger man, who has the bigger penis?

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The clues to the driver of the truck point towards a more rugged, masculine opponent who is blue collar, possibly from Down South (he wears jeans and cowboy boots for his line of work as opposed to David’s white collar suit and polished shoes). 

The truck is the Return of the Repressed in the guise of David’s more base level, undomesticated masculinity. It’s always present, it’s unescapable and is waiting to confront him when he thinks he’s shaken it off.

Witness the scene in which David stops to use the payphone at the garage owned by the woman who keeps exhibits of rattlesnakes, tarantulas and lizards. Whilst the truck smashes the cages of these creatures and inadvertently sets them free whilst trying to run David over, it frees these creatures from their cages and places them where they would have been before- in the wild. This is also symbolic. The truck’s very deeds are also freeing David’s more primal masculine survival instincts which it thinks should be just as free but have become more deeply embedded and seemingly eradicated due to 70’s society with it’s emphasis on Women’s Liberation and, thus, the emasculation of men. The fact that the owner of the caged animals exhibit is female is also telling.

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But, whilst the truck might possess and exhibit brute force and traditional ‘Alpha Male’ qualities, it’s David’s qualities of cunning and intellect that save him. He utilises attributes that are above the level of the truck’s Id and he uses them advantageously.

Notice also the dinosaur roar the truck makes as it faces it’s demise. This could be seen as symbolic of this outdated, destructive and potentially dangerous version of untamed and unrefined masculinity. This dinosaur roar was also referenced in Spielberg’s later masterpiece, Jaws. He even made the roar louder when it was released in a new print on Blu ray a few years ago.

This really is a stunning piece of work. Acted to perfection, beautifully framed and paced amazingly. This may have been made for American TV but it proved so successful that it was expanded and released theatrically in the UK the year after.

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The UK cinema poster

A special mention to the gorgeous cinematography. The American landscape has never looked so beautiful along with the quintessentially American institutions such as it’s diners and random sideshow attractions such as the garage owner’s snakes and spiders sideshow. A gorgeous love -letter to Americana and a few examples of what makes this country so amazing.

Spielberg went on to make another horror themed TV movie, Something Evil the following year. This is also a resounding success but unfortunately never released on home media.

4/5 out of 5 stars

Day 22- 31 Days of Halloween- Look What’s Happened To Rosemary’s Baby (1976)

Day 22- 31 Days of Halloween- Look What’s Happened To Rosemary’s Baby (1976)

It’s extremely brave to decide to make a sequel to a beloved horror classic. It can almost feel like some kind of suicide mission as critics and the general public alike will trot out the hackneyed old cliche of ‘It’s not as good as the first film!’ as if this is an extremely original and perceptive line of criticism to extol.

If you do decide to make said sequel there are several routes you can take when doing this. You can either try to recreate the tone and feel of the original (Halloween 2 is an example of this and a very good sequel). You can try to make a film that has a tone and atmosphere all of it’s own whilst setting the action years ahead of the events of the original film (for example, Psycho 2 is an excellent film). Then you can make a film that is completely out there and batshit crazy. The ‘made for TV sequel’ to Rosemary’s Baby, the masterpiece made by Roman Polanski in 1968, goes down this route. It’s not often that whilst I watch a film I have a smile permanently etched onto my face at the sheer insanity I’m watching on the screen and that after the film has ended I have to take a few moments to reacclimatise myself to everyday life again whilst thinking ‘What the fuck was that?!’ And I mean that in the best possible sense.

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I will try to summarise the madness contained within this gem’s plot. I don’t normally like to give detailed and ‘scene by scene’ plot outlines in my reviews but what you will read speaks for itself and sells the film perfectly.

The film starts with a voice-over précis of the final events of the original but with the voices of the new actors in this production (only one actor returns from the original film and thankfully it’s Ruth Gordon who is as brilliant in this movie). In this scene Rosemary (now played by Patty Duke) discovers  the baby she has given birth to but has been swiftly taken away from her. Rosemary looks at him and expresses horror at his eyes. Obviously, the dialogue here is different and not as impactful as the original.

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The first part of the film is called The Book of Rosemary and concerns her taking her son (called Adrian by the Satanic coven we know and love from the original but called Andrew by her to try and distance him from the role the coven think he’s destined to live) away from the clutches of the coven and running away. She seeks refuge in a synagogue knowing that if she is in a house of God then the coven can’t harm her in any way. It’s here that we see her press a crucifix on a chain into her son’s chest only for her to later see with horror that it has seared an imprint into his skin. We then see Rosemary the next day at a bus stop making a call to her famous actor ex-husband Guy (now played by George Maharis). As she speaks to him a group of children start to taunt Adrian/Andrew and take his toy car from him. In return he turns all full-on Satan on them and they fall to the ground unconscious. A random stranger Marjean has seen the whole incident and hides Rosemary and her son in her trailer. Marjean then offers to help Rosemary and her son to get onto a bus to escape. But whilst Rosemary boards the bus, the bus doors close and it rides off with her trapped on it whilst Marjean is at the roadside with Adrian/Andrew in her arms. It becomes apparent that Marjean is in fact a follower of the coven and this was planned all along. Rosemary goes to speak to the driver of the bus but it’s then revealed that there is no driver on the bus. And this is the first act of the film! Crazy doesn’t describe it!

The second part of the film is called The Book of Adrian. It’s more than 20 years later. We see Andrew/Adrian get pulled over for speeding. He later goes to a casino/nightclub that Marjean runs (described by him as his Aunt) who is alarmed by his apparently wild behaviour. She then refers to his parents as being killed in a car crash. We then see Adrian/Andrew’s demonic side come to the fore as he tries to run over a biker gang. Minnie and Roman (the wonderful Gordon and Ray Millard) turn up to the casino to see Andrew/Adrian and ask him to drink one of Minnie’s concoctions (echoes here of the chocolate mousse and ‘health drink’ from the original film) and when he falls unconscious they paint him in demonic warpaint.

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The warpaint scene. Once seen, never unseen

It’s here that I will leave the plot synopsis alone as to reveal anymore would impact on the viewers experience on watching this TV movie for the first time (just to add that there is a third act to the film called The Book of Andrew). Theres a musical interlude within this second segment where we see a far-out rock band at the casino get stage invaded by Andrew/Adrian. It’s one of the freakiest scenes of the whole movie and thats really saying something!

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Lets here it for the band

There are never any troughs in this movie. It starts at weirdness level 11 and continues at that level until the climax.

I’m so glad that this sequel was made in the hedonistic, narcotically charged 70’s as the full unbridled eccentricity of the movie could be shot with no holds barred by filmmakers who were clearly heavily medicated. Add to the mental shenanigans a brilliant darkly psychedelic soundtrack by the ever great Charles Bernstein and you have a rollicking great time. There is also some impressive cinematography that is some of the best I’ve seen in a TV movie. In fact, I love the idea of some Average Joe at home in his 70’s American home watching this be accident. I actually think it enriched and expanded minds.

I’m so glad that this movie was made and that comes from a massive fan of the original film. If you love mental cinema, watch this. In fact, watch this back to back with the Exorcist 2: The Heretic.

I saw this on YouTube in a transfer from a very poor VHS tape. With Scream Factory releasing horror TV movies on Blu ray nowadays I hope to God (pun not intended) that they unleash this. A great transfer using a pristine print would be something to behold. This film deserves it.

4/5 out of 5 stars

 

Day 13- 31 Days of Halloween- The Reincarnation of Peter Proud (1975)

Day 13- 31 Days of Halloween- The Reincarnation of Peter Proud (1975)

Peter Proud is having such vivid dreams about swimming in a lake but then being killed by a woman in a boat that he seeks help regarding this. His girlfriend says that whilst he’s having this recurring nightmare he even starts talking in his sleep but in another man’s voice! He even screams the name of the woman who is killing him and identifies her as Marcia. Peter then sets off on investigating if in fact he is channeling someone else’s experiences.

Max Ehrlich’s novel is brought to life by director J. Lee Thompson with verve and flair with Ehrlich also writing the screenplay. The 70’s were a time of the exploration of alternative concepts such as reincarnation, Transcendental Meditation and other new age fads. This film perfectly taps into and captures this brilliantly. It’s great to see a 1970’s sleep lab and how it differs to the 1980’s equivalent in A Nightmare on Elm Street.

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I also loved the fact that it almost seems like Peter’s destiny to follow the trail of breadcrumbs being laid out for him such as the documentary he sees on television in which he recognises several landmarks that he sees in his dream. Hes being lured by fate to go deeper into this specific rabbit hole.

But thats enough spoilers and plot devices given away. The less you know about this film, the more you will enjoy it’s twists and turns. There are uniformly great performances but theres one that especially deserves praise- Margot Kidder. Shes even playing a character a lot older than she was in real life and pulls it off beautifully.

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Margot Kidder- younger and older in the film

Also, listen out for Jerry Goldsmith’s eerie and darkly psychedelic soundtrack. It matches the paranormal events amazingly.

This would make a very chilling double-bill with Don’t Look Now.

4/5 out of 5 stars

Day 11- 31 Days of Halloween- Don’t Go In The House (1979)

Day 11- 31 Days of Halloween- Don’t Go In The House (1979)

Donny is a very damaged person. After an incident at work sees one of his colleagues set himself on fire, we see Danny freeze with terror at the incident. This is explained through flashbacks. We see that as a boy his mother used to punish him by burning his forearms.

When he returns home from work he finds that his domineering mother has actually passed away. We then see her throughout the film in different stages of decomposition.

Donny then constructs a flame-proof room in his house and lures women back there to strip them naked and set fire to them using a flamethrower whilst they are hung up.

As a study of mental decay this is closer to Maniac than Repulsion. Lurid, sleazy and generally unsettling, this shocker deserves it’s notorious reputation.

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The original title of the film was actually The Burning (the print I saw actually had this title card) but when the filmmakers found out that another film was being made using this name they quickly changed it.

The BBFC cut three whole minutes from this film for it’s cinema release and then banned it outright for video. Most of the cut material was from the first murder involving the florist Donny tricks into coming back to his house. And this sequence is VERY full-on! Theres shades of Ed Gein to Donny’s MO. But without Gein’s flair for interior decoration.

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Hows that for a double bill?! A pyromaniac and the silver spheres.

The first three victims he torches to death he then dresses in his dead mother’s clothes and places in armchairs. He rants to them as if they’re still alive which gives us a very darkly entertaining glimpse into his twisted psyche. He sometimes hears their voices.

As you can tell from the plot elements I’ve described above this certainly isn’t a film to put on in the middle of a family get together (unless you want them to leave of course). But if you love deranged, unhinged and off kilter horror then you’ll love this Check out the new Blu Ray release. The print is gorgeous.

4 out of 5 stars

Day 9- 31 Days of Halloween- Play Misty For Me (1971)

Day 9- 31 Days of Halloween- Play Misty For Me (1971)

Jazz DJ Dave Garvin (Clint Eastwood) sleeps with a woman he seemingly randomly meets in a nightclub. But unfortunately for him she turns out to be a psychopath who is textbook Cluster B and as we would say in Yorkshire a ‘wrong un’.

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This film is cracking. It’s a stunning and, with hindsight, very realistic depiction of obsessional ‘love’ and stalking.

This film was a risk for Clint Eastwood and co. Not only was he depicting himself and in turn his movie image as vulnerable and a victim but also he was handing the reins over to Jessica Walters and her show-stealing performance as the unhinged Evelyn. And boy, what a performance it is! She is just as psychotic and disturbed as Andrew Robinson in Clint’s other film Dirty Harry.

This was also Clint’s first film as director and it showcases his brilliance behind the camera as well as in front of  it.

There are several scenes in this film that are genuinely terrifying. Check out Evelyn’s attack on Dave’s cleaning lady. It’s actually painful to watch. Also look for Evelyn’s cameo at the end of the scene of Dave and his girlfriend as they decide to rekindle their relationship.

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I also love how Eastwood’s films were politically incorrect decades before political correctness was even a thing. This film depicts a woman as the predator and aggressor when maybe nowadays it would be seen as unacceptable and going against prevailing media politics to depict a woman as possessing such qualities. Evelyn is depicted as a woman scorned and shown to be so much deadlier and calculating than her male counterpart.

5 out of 5 stars