Happy Halloween 2018 from Balladeer’s Blog!
THE HOUSE ON THE BORDERLAND (1908) – Written by William Hope Hodgson. This tale is a terrific but often overlooked forerunner of Lovecraftian horror blended with traditional haunted house elements. Throw in material that puts the reader in mind of Madame Blavatsky’s and Aleister Crowley’s horror fiction and it’s a magnificent story for Halloween.
Our tale is set in and around an isolated house in a desolate, eerie location in West Ireland. The main character is an elderly man who lives there with his sister. His sleep is tainted with disturbing dreams that become more like occult visions of barren but impossible landscapes. (Think “If M.C. Esher did landscaping.”)
In those visions his and his sister’s house is always in the middle of the terrifying geography. After these unsettling experiences on the astral plane the material version of those forces are unleashed in the real world by a minor earthquake near our main character’s house.
Swinish humanoids that resemble the illusory pig-faced monster in the movie Boardinghouse emerge from the new fissure and besiege the two terrified humans, Night of the Living Dead style. Continue reading
Halloween Month continues! Independent filmmaker Earl Owensby churned out a long list of movies over the years, including this horror flick. For more Earl Owensby horror films click HERE
Owensby’s macabre Grim Reaper/ Fool Killer style monster from A Day of Judgment.
A DAY OF JUDGMENT (1981) – This movie plays as if Owensby collaborated with Reverend Estus W Pirkle like Ron Ormond did for the religious zealot/ Cold War potboiler If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do?
You can strip away that movie’s Cold War angle, though, since A Day of Judgment is set in the 1920s American south. Well, 1920s-ISH we’ll say since the usual fun Owensby anachronisms turn up repeatedly in assorted scenes.
Reverend Cage addresses a church that is virtually empty and bores the few faithful who remain by bitching and moaning about how poor attendance has been. He’s leaving town and is basically washing his hands of the place, warning that the increasingly sinful town will get what’s coming to it.
Next we have a series of scenes featuring some of the more sinful citizens of the deep southern town. Adultery, bigotry, covetousness, greed and outright murderous passions lurk behind every corner of this Mayberry-turned-Sodom and Gomorrah. These scenes go on so long even Larry Buchanan would scream “Pick up the pace, dammit!” at the screen.
A sinister, monstrously ugly man in black arrives in town, driving a horse-drawn carriage and sporting a long scythe. This figure is the film’s Grim Reaper/ Angel of Death/ Foolkiller- type menace. Continue reading
As always, October flies by too quickly. There are just a few days left in Balladeer’s Blog’s month-long celebration of Halloween. Here’s a shoutout to the title song from the infamously bad 1991 horror film HauntedWeen.
That movie is about a young kid driven insane by accidentally causing an impalement death. Long years later that now grown-up figure runs his family’s yearly spook-house for Halloween season. The catch is that after a few deaths that he demonstrates as fakes for the attendees he then begins really killing several helpless captives. The live audience cheers wildly, thinking it’s all just more fake blood and gore.
That inspired premise is squandered in a classically bad film that DOES boast a catchy theme song. And here it is:
Balladeer’s Blog celebrates Halloween all month long. For today here’s a look at an 1899 mummy tale.
PHAROS THE EGYPTIAN (1899) – Written by Guy Boothby, who was better known for his Doctor Nikola stories about an evil genius in the mold of Dr Mabuse and Fu Manchu.
Cyril Forrester, a successful British artist, is approached by an enigmatic and sinister-seeming old Egyptian named Pharos. This figure tells Cyril that a mummy he (Cyril) inherited from his Egyptologist father is the dead body of Pharos’ ancestor from over 3,000 years ago.
That ancestor was Ptahmes, whom we’re told served as a magician for the Pharaoh Ramses during the mythical Exodus. Pharos is angry over the desecration of his ancestor’s remains so Forrester obligingly returns the mummy to the old man.
And so begins a danger-filled supernatural adventure to return the mummy of Ptahmes to his tomb. Cyril is suckered along into following Pharos because he is attracted to – or as we’re supposed to pretend in fiction, he is “in love with” Valerie, a beautiful Hungarian violinist who is in thrall to the old Egyptian. Continue reading
Balladeer’s Blog’s month-long celebration of Halloween hurtles toward its finale next Wednesday night. This time around I’ll examine the tale of Sean na Sagart aka John of the Priests, who should have been the lead character in several horror films by this point.
Sean was born John Mullowney around 1690 AD in Derrew, Ireland. By his teens he was living beyond his means, often drinking and carousing. He financed his hard-partying lifestyle through multiple crimes, with various accounts claiming he was a masked Highwayman or a burglar or even a rustler and horse-thief.
It IS certain he was arrested for stealing horses and was sentenced to death by hanging in Castlebar, Ireland. Recognizing what an amoral creature was before them, the authorities offered Sean a very dirty job in exchange for escaping death on the gallows – becoming a Priest Hunter/ Killer.
The Penal Act of 1709 had decreed that Catholic Priests plus higher and lower clergymen must take the Oath of Abjuration and recognize Great Britain’s Protestant Queen Anne as the supreme religious authority in England AND Ireland. Refusing to do so merited summary execution.
Thus began the career and dark legend of Sean na Sagart. Sean spent roughly the next 17 years hunting, capturing and killing renegade Catholic Priests, Bishops, and Cardinals.
Since Catholic schools were forbidden, outlaw Hedge School Teachers were also fair game. Sean’s bounty varied according to the rank of his clergy member victims. If he ever backed out of this career as a Priest Hunter it was back to the gallows for him.
WHY A HORROR STORY? For multiple reasons in a variety of storytelling approaches. First, if played strictly true-to-life it would make for a very ironic twist on the horror subgenre of Witchfinder General flicks, which always featured crazed, sadistic clergymen hunting and torturing confessions out of “witches.” And Continue reading
Halloween is celebrated all month long here at Balladeer’s Blog. Here’s my review of this Jean Rollin film. For even more reviews of horror films with a nudity theme click HERE
And for my look at three more Jean Rollin movies click HERE and HERE
The Nude Vampire
5. THE NUDE VAMPIRE (1970) – France’s Jean Rollin is one of those love-them-or-hate-them directors. The snooty French often bashed his films for their devotion to style over all else. Don’t believe reviews which claim that his movies have no comprehensible storylines.
Personally I find him more straightforward than Lynch or Jodorowsky. At any rate the central figure of this arthouse Euro-horror is indeed a beautiful female vampire in skimpy outfits and less. Continue reading
Balladeer’s Blog’s month-long celebration of Halloween skedaddles along! Here’s a look at my favorite horror tales of the neglected American writer Irvin S Cobb.
THE GALLOWSMITH (1918) – A traveling hangman really loves his work and has executed countless figures with no care regarding their guilt or innocence. If the court condemned them, he does his job.
An evil gunslinger called the Lone-Hand Kid has been condemned to death for a killing he didn’t actually commit. He berates the Gallowsmith so thoroughly while being hanged that our title character screws up, killing the Kid slowly and painfully instead of with one clean, neck-breaking drop.
As he dies the Kid curses the hangman, bringing on a ghastly finale. Continue reading