31 Days of Halloween- Day 31- Are You In The House Alone? (1978)

31 Days of Halloween- Day 31- Are You In The House Alone? (1978)

Gail Osborne is a 16 year old who starts dating Steve Pastorinis who goes to the same school as her. It’s also around this time that she starts to receive abusive notes stuck in the grills of her school locker and also abusive telephone calls.

For a film, let alone a TV movie to deal with an issue such as stalking in 1978 was very brave indeed as it hadn’t entered the public consciousness yet and was largely an alien concept. But Are You In The House Alone? deals with the subject very intelligently and exposes it for the vile, terrifying and horrific practice that it actually is.

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But the movie also deals with other issues such as Gail’s parents struggling with their marriage following her father losing his job. This again is dealt with brilliantly and feels integral to the plot rather than just feeling like padding to fill up the running time.

But Are You In The House Alone? also deals with rape, another taboo topic for 1978. It deals with it amazingly well with discussions regarding getting the rapist to court and obtaining a conviction against him being seen as being very difficult indeed.

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I love doing 31 Days of Halloween as it’s a great chance to revisit horror films that I have seen in the past but also to watch films that are completely new to me. Some of these I’m really glad I took the time to watch. A small minority bowl me over as they are just so powerful and brilliant. Are You In The House Alone? is one such film. When it ended I literally had to just sit and digest what I had just experienced and think about just how trailblazing the production was especially for that time and for the topics it depicted without any sugar coating or saccharine gloss.

Are You In The House Alone? is a very unsettling experience as it worms it’s way into your head and will stay with you long after it has finished. And it’s a rare instance of a TV movie rightly finding it’s way onto Blu Ray (thank you Vinegar Syndrome!)

Grade- A

31 Days of Halloween- Day 29- Ants (1977)

31 Days of Halloween- Day 29- Ants (1977)

A hotel complex where a new building is being constructed is infested with killer ants.

I love the TV movies that featured a special guest star who was slumming it as work had dried up. Ants stars Myrna Loy as well as Suzanne Somers (!) and Lynda Day George (yes, the actress from Pieces!) so you know you’re in for a special time.

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I actually remember watching this on UK TV in 1980 when I was the tender age of 5.

I love the fact that whenever the ants appear on screen we get discordant violins on the soundtrack.

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This is surprisingly bright and breezy in tone until the ants become more prevalent within the storyline and then it becomes a lot more apocalyptic in tone (which is always welcome for cult film fans). The whole production is a triumph in camp however dark it tries to become.

Ants aka It Happened at Lakewood Manor holds up very well though. The TV movie was also issued on DVD in 2014. This might not be some kind of classic uncovered from the vaults but it’s nice to see it has a life after being shown on TV all those decades before.

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Grace- C+

31 Days of Halloween- Day 24- No Place To Hide (1981)

31 Days of Halloween- Day 24- No Place To Hide (1981)

Amy leaves her art class late at night and goes to her car. However, she then finds a man dressed all in black resplendent with a black balaclava and shades waiting for her in her backseat. She gets away but isn’t taken seriously by the police when she goes to report the incident. Apparently the same man has been following her on previous occasions but has always gotten away. The police think she is a crank and that this mysterious man who is threatening and stalking her is a figment of her imagination.

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Soon afterwards she receives a funeral wreath from the same man. Realising that this is the first tangible piece of evidence that there is that in fact someone stalking her, she goes with her stepmother to the florists to ask who placed the order and what he looked like. The florist is amused as he says that it was her, Amy who walked in and placed the order just hours earlier.

Is Amy mad? Or is there really a man stalking and threatening to kill her?

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No Place To Hide is another example of an excellent made for TV horror movie. Tense, suspenseful and very well written not to mention perfectly acted.

In fact it has so many twists and turns that it would make a great episode of either Tales of the Unexpected or Thriller.

Grade- B

31 Days of Halloween- Day 17- How Awful About Allan (1970)

31 Days of Halloween- Day 17- How Awful About Allan (1970)

Allan (Anthony Perkins) wakes to find the family home is on fire. The fire kills his father and burns his sister. The trauma also makes him go blind. It was Allan who accidentally caused the fire as he placed cans of paint thinner too close to a heater making him take on a huge burden of guilt over such disastrous proceedings.

Allan returns home after being resident in a mental hospital. His sister explains that they will have to take on a boarder as the house can’t be upheld any other way. The man who takes the room instantly makes Allan suspicious. Add to this the blurry figure who he sees who appears to be haunting him (Allan can now partially see the world but everything is distorted and blurred). Is this figure real or the imaginings of his fragile mental state?

There is paranoia and ennui seeping out of every pore of this made for TV movie from 1970. This was actually produced by Aaron ‘Charlie’s Angels’ Spelling and goes to show how fantastic horror made for TV was at one period of time.

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I could watch Anthony Perkins all day long. Not only was he a great actor but theres something about his mannerisms and body language that makes him perfect for the screen especially in horror ventures. He is in cracking form here as are all of the cast. Allan’s vulnerable state due to his impaired vision is fully exploited by the film and it works amazingly well as a device.

This was directed by Curtis Harrington who of course made the excellent Ruby starring Piper Laurie and Whoever Slew Auntie Roo?

Watch out for the sting(s) in the tail. This film manages to have more than one trump card up it’s sleeve which it delivers expertly for maximum chills.

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As I’ve said in so many reviews thus far, this release deserves a fantastic Blu Ray release preferably on Scream Factory seeing as they are resurrecting other fantastic horror themed TV movies such as John Carpenter’s amazing Someone’s Watching Me!

Grade- B

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

31 Days of Halloween- Day 1- Tarantulas The Deadly Cargo

31 Days of Halloween- Day 1- Tarantulas The Deadly Cargo

Two goons think they’re going to hit paydirt by bringing coffee beans from Ecuador to California. But they also bring with them several deadly tarantulas.

I only found out about this TV movie after hearing the song of (almost) the same name by Sleaford Mods.

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This is a very dull affair. Not even Tom Atkins can make it more interesting.

I thought this might be fun like The Savage Bees. But it isn’t. Only watch this if you’re suffering from insomnia.

1 star out of 5

Day 23- 31 Days of Halloween- The Savage Bees

Day 23- 31 Days of Halloween- The Savage Bees

The other half of a double-bill in UK cinemas with the other film being the far better The Incredible Melting Man. This was actually made for television in America.

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Killer bees have flown into America and are claiming their first casualties disturbingly close to New Orleans when their Mardi Gras is due to kick off. A bee expert (of course) and a guy who isn’t quite a coroner yet (so he isn’t taken seriously) are on the case but come up against obstacles in the form of sniffy officials who don’t want to see Mardi Gras cancelled- at any cost (hints of Murray Hamilton’s character in Jaws here).

We learn that the bees don’t like noise and the colours black and red. The first human victim is a coloured girl in a red dress blowing a toy horn. Not her lucky day.

The finale involves Ms Bee Expert being nudged into a sports stadium in her red Beetle which the bees have covered as she was earlier using the horn near them (doh!). The temperature of the Super Dome is then lowered as the bees die when temperatures reach below 35 Degrees Fahrenheit. This sequence is very unexpected and works well with tension being ramped up as the temperatures come down (we see this on huge displays which show the actual countdown).

This is an above average TV movie which received a video release in some territories. There aren’t enough action sequences and some of the more talky bits are quite pedestrian. But when it gets going its quite exciting. Because I saw it on TV when I was a small child and loved it then it will always hold a special place in my little black heart.

Look out for the scene in which someone in fancy dress tries to take on the bees with a sword. Yes, a sword!

2 out of 5

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Day 5- 31 Days of Halloween- Dark Night of the Scarecrow (1981)

Day 5- 31 Days of Halloween- Dark Night of the Scarecrow (1981)

Small town vigilantes wrongly accuse a mentally challenged man of attacking and killing a little girl. It turns out he didn’t attack her but saved her from a neighbour’s vicious dog. The vigilantes find this out just after killing the innocent man who is disguised as a scarecrow. Oops. When the local courts offer no justice, the vigilantes start getting bumped off one by one.

This is actually a TV movie and is a cracker. It built up a cult following amongst horror fans and is one of the best horror TV movies ever made.

The film feels authentic and depicts the bloodthirsty lynchmob really well. We see during the course of the film that these people are the true simpletons of the piece. We also see that a group of people who are desperate for violence and maybe more don’t need any justification for it. Its also interesting that the members of the lynch mob are all depicted as being fine upstanding members of the community (the postman, mechanic, farmer etc) whilst being completely hellbent on inflicting their lawless brand of ‘justice’ on someone whos just a bit different.

This film has a great cast that is like a whos who for horror fans. As well as Larry Drake from Tales From The Crypt, Charles Durning who amongst other things was in When a Stranger Calls, John Houseman from the original Hills Have Eyes and Ed Call who played Glen’s (Johnny Depp) father in A Nightmare on Elm Street.

The tension in certain scenes is built up to nailbiting levels and the direction and screenplay are top notch. This is the perfect example of a TV movie that was so great that it transcended its medium and was given a VHS and DVD release. And deservedly so. This is brilliant.

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4 out of 5.

31 Days of Halloween 2017

31 Days of Halloween 2017

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Every day in October I will be reviewing a different horror film.

Some of the criteria I’ve used for the choice of films are

– a film from each decade from the 1920s onwards

– films from a number of different countries

– a Friday the 13th film as within October this year the 13th falls on a Friday!!! (mind blown)

The rest of my choices were films that I had wanted to see for ages but hadn’t gotten around to or were films that I have seen before but was dying to revisit (three of the films have ratings already by myself. These are some of the films that will be revisited and be reviewed again to see if my opinion has changed).

When I had my list of films they were then fed into an online randomiser so that they could be mixed up. With my randomised list I made one change- I made sure that the film watched on the 13th of October was the Friday the 13th movie. But thats the only change.

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Here are the films-

Day 1- The Nanny (1965)

Day 2- Battle Royale (2000)

Day 3- The Exorcist (1973)

Day 4- Piranha (1978)

Day 5- Dark Night of the Scarecrow (1981) and Tales From The Unexpected episode ‘Flypaper’ (1980)

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Day 6- The Abominable Dr Phibes (1971)

Day 7- The Fog (1980)

Day 8- Eyes Without A Face (1960)

Day 9- Phantasm (1979)

Day 10- Nosferatu (1922)

 

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Day 11- Blood Beach (1980)

Day 12- The Hills Have Eyes (1977)

Day 13- Friday the 13th Part 4- The Final Chapter (1984)

Day 14- M (1931)

Day 15- Freaks (1932)

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Day 16- The Tingler (1959)

Day 17- Drive-in Massacre (1976)

Day 18- Kill Baby, Kill (1966)

Day 19- Invasion of the Bodysnatchers (1978)

Day 20- Ginger Snaps (2000)

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Day 21- The Beast With Five Fingers (1946)

Day 22- The Incredible Melting Man (1977)

Day 23- Ringu (1998)

Day 24- Tombs of the Blind Dead (1972)

Day 25- Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)

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Day 26- Les Diaboliques (1955)

Day 27- The Sadist (1963)

Day 28- The Lift (1983)

Day 29- Prom Night (1980)

Day 30- It Follows (2014)

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Day 31- Seytan (1974)

Please join me on this horrifying journey 🙂

Duel – Day 25- 31 Days of Halloween

Duel – Day 25- 31 Days of Halloween

A man (called David Mann) is travelling to meet an appiontment but is stalked, driven insane (pun not intended) and almost killed by a driver in a huge battered old truck.

This movie is amazing. Firstly, it was directed by Steven Spielberg for TV which makes the fruits of his labour even more staggering. So much innovation, imagination and art was poured into this project whereas many directors of TV movies would have treated them as a low art form and a way of making an easy quick buck.

This is like Jaws on the road. Instead of a shark persuing the hapless prey theres a truck. The amount of ingenuity that Spielberg used to film in the sea years later he here uses when filming speeding vehicles on desert highways. The cinematography is flawless and could serve as a tourist film for California if the events depicted weren’t so frightening.

The way that I read the film was that the truck is a test to Mann’s manhood. Up until the encounter with the truck Mann hears on the radio a discussion regarding modern gender roles and how men in general are now emasculated and subserviant to women. One caller says that his trick when dealing with his wife is to ‘play meek’. There is also a phone call with Mann to his wife in which he apologises as the previous night they had been a party at which a man had been a bit too ‘hands on’ with her. Mann had done nothing and this had caused his wife to argue with him and question his masculinity. There is also a conversation with a garage owner. ‘You’re the boss!’ says the garage owner to whch Mann replies ‘Not in my house I’m not!’

The truck in this film is a test to this masculinity. The modern man (or Mann) who has had his baser instincts of being a hunter/gatherer eroded by the modern world is going to be pushed to the limit. Thus certain events happen during the film- the truck won’t let Mann pass when its travelling too slow. The one time he motions for Mann to pass it is to make him run into oncoming traffic in the other lane. There are also moments in the film where Mann thinks hes gotten rid of the truck only to find it hiding in wait further on in his journey. The truck driver wants to control, manipulate and wear Mann down. Will Mann play meek and accept this or fight back?

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Truck as test to Mann’s masculinity

There is an amazing sequence in which Mann retires to a roadside cafe as a respite to the onslaught from the truck. When he comes back out from the bathroom hes just used he sees to his horror that the murderous truck is parked in front of the cafe. The driver must be in the cafeteria as Mann and so his paranoia goes off the scale! This sequence is amazing- are the other patrons really looking around at Mann or is he just imagining it? Can he eliminate the patrons and single out the truck driver who is trying to kill him? This is one of the tense, nervous and nerve wrecking sequences I’ve ever seen in a film.

The film even feels like a live action horror version of a Roadrunner cartoon during one scene. When the truck starts pushing Mann’s car into a level crossing which is closed and with a train travelling through it the sheer surreality of the whole situation can be seen. This scene was added to the TV movie to make it into a full length film to be released in cinemas in Europe.

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UK quad cinema poster for Duel

The ending of the film involves Mann defeating his adversary but by sacrificing his own car. Mann jams his briefcase full of paperwork onto the cars accelerator so that it keeps on running. The truck crashes into the car but on doing so both run off the edge of a cliff. The dinosaur roar that is heard when the truck is falling and crashing into the rocks down below was later used by Spielberg in Jaws to accompany the death of the shark.

Spielberg seems to be implying that when man (Mann) strips away all of the trappings of modern life (symbolised by his car, his briefcase that is indicative of his job) then he possesses what man has always possessed- ingeuinity, intelligence and a strong survival instinct. No amount of watering down of these qualities by modern societal forces can erode this.

This film is amazing as are so many of Spielberg’s TV movies- and indeed his movies made for the cinema. This has been released on Blu ray thankfully. Now if only Steven would oversee the release of the brilliant Something Evil then I would be truly happy.