Some of Balladeer’s Blog’s readers have let me know that they feel I did not do as many blog posts about horror as I usually do during October. I’m all about you readers, so here’s a horror film review to help make up for it.
IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS (1994) – Directed by John Carpenter and written by Michael De Luca, this movie was an unabashed valentine to H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King’s imitations of Lovecraft, and The King in Yellow by Robert W Chambers. The King in Yellow, of course, is the 1895 book previously reviewed here at Balladeer’s Blog, and which Lovecraft admitted was an influence on his own works.
The story is about the title “king”, or more precisely about a stage play about that monarch. Everyone who reads the play The King in Yellow goes insane, causing worldwide chaos. Some of the King’s minions enter into our dimension to do his evil bidding, but unlike Lovecraft’s tentacled, enormous Old Ones, the monstrous servitors of the King in Yellow are humanoid in size and form.
That out of the way, let’s take it from the top. My LEAST favorite element of this otherwise excellent movie is the way it opens up. We are shown a crazed John Trent (Sam Neill) being committed to an insane asylum. Dialogue makes it clear that he’s just one of many people going mad in a worldwide epidemic of violent insanity. Even some of the staff at the insane asylum seem like they’re not all there anymore.
Soon, Trent is visited in his padded cell, where he has used a black crayon to cover his body and the padded walls with crucifixes for protection. His visitor is Dr Wrenn, played by David Warner, the panicked, crucifix-surrounded man from The Omen, now talking to the panicked, crucifix-surrounded Sam Neill in this film. (I admit that’s a sly touch in keeping with the style of the movie. It even has echoes of the victim in Equinox fixating on his protective crucifix.) Continue reading
Halloween month continues at Balladeer’s Blog with this look at two dozen of my favorite silent horror films.
THE CRIMSON STAIN MYSTERY (1916) – This was a 16 chapter silent serial that contained multiple horrific elements. The fact that it is so little remembered these days makes it perfect for this list, given Balladeer’s Blog’s overall theme. A mad scientist calling himself the Crimson Stain experiments on human guinea pigs in an attempt to create an intellectually superior race. His experiments all fail, producing hideous, mutated monsters. The Crimson Stain organizes his misbegotten menagerie into a villainous organization and wages a campaign of terror on the world at large. A heroic detective leads the opposition against them and tries to learn the identity of the Crimson Stain. Chapters in this serial boasted wonderfully campy titles like The Brand of Satan, The Devil’s Symphony, Despoiling Brutes and The Human Tiger.
THE MAN WITHOUT A SOUL (1916) – A man returns from the dead bereft of any trace of morality or humanity. He now views the people around him as victims and prey.
THE GOLEM AND THE DANCER (1917) – In the very first known horror movie sequel Paul Wegener starred and directed himself once again as the clay monster called the Golem. In this enjoyably “meta” production decades before Scream or The Human Caterpillar II, Wegener played himself. Continue reading
Halloween month rolls along with Balladeer’s Blog’s salute to Zuma, the king of Philippine horror movies, and his sequel film Daughter of Zuma.
ZUMA (1985) – Category: Enjoyably bad movie elevated by its obscurity value
There’s an old saying that goes “Once you have a big green bald guy with pythons growing out of his neck you never go back.” Or something to that effect. This monstrous figure is Zuma himself, the Freddy Krueger of the Philippines in the 1980s. Big, muscular and green like the Hulk, bald like Mr Clean and with pythons growing out of his neck like the late Michael Jackson. (Disclaimer: The preceding remark is probably not true)
Originally a comic book character in the Philippines, Zuma took the film industry of the islands by storm with his debut film in 1985 and a sequel in 1987. Copies of these films have been Continue reading
THE NEST OF THE CUCKOO BIRDS (1965) – Halloween Month continues here at Balladeer’s Blog with a review of this low-budget, black & white bomb which played a few theaters in 1965 then was considered lost until 2017. Florida’s Bert Williams produced, wrote, directed and starred in this very strange film which strives for “Psycho Meets Tennessee Williams” levels but falls more into territory occupied by the likes of Spider Baby and Manos, The Hands of Fate.
Williams’ wife Peggy sang the title song, which inspired a later version by the Cramps, believe it or not. Peggy also sang the closing song Lisa.
Our auteur Bert Williams plays Johnson, a Liquor Control Department Agent aka “Revenuer” in the slang of deep south moonshiners. He is sent on an assignment into the Everglades to infiltrate and bring down a violent gang of moonshiners who make their own bootleg whiskey via their still on one of the scattered pieces of solid land found in the swamps of the Florida Everglades.
After an absurdly irrelevant recollection to his chief about a lost love of his from long ago, Agent Johnson departs on his mission.
Johnson’s cover is blown, and he flees into the swamplands to escape the bootleggers, who are led by their murderous boss called Doc. Half wading and half swimming, our exhausted protagonist arrives after dark at another isolated and uncharted little “island” amid the Everglades. He is nearly stabbed to death by a naked woman wearing a wig and a bizarre mask, a woman he at first mistakes for a statue.
The Revenue Agent manages to outfight and escape the woman in an utterly ridiculous fast-motion scene which could use the Benny Hill Theme as accompaniment. Johnson stumbles upon the tiny island’s lone structure – a dilapidated hotel called the Cuckoo Bird Inn, run by some of the strangest people this side of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Eaten Alive. Needless to say, the
hilarity horror is just beginning. Continue reading
SLAUGHTER HIGH/ APRIL FOOL’S DAY (1986) – This is the low-budget horror film made in England and set on April Fool’s Day. There are still VHS tapes and YouTube videos that show the original title, but the title was changed to Slaughter High because of the year’s OTHER April Fool’s Day slasher film with a gimmick ending.
Slaughter High starts off showing us April Fool’s Day of 1976, when a group of “teenagers” including 30-something Caroline Munro go to bizarre lengths to degrade and victimize their nerdy classmate Marty. These “kids” aren’t so much bullies as they are psychopaths, actually.
After an April Fool’s Day “prank” involving nudity, electric shocks and near drowning, Marty is still alive through no fault of his classmates. The supposed popular kids get punished for their criminal assault on Marty, and perversely blame him for it! It’s that kind of movie. Hell, Marty’s tormentors were caught in the act, it’s not even like he peached on them (since this was made in England I couldn’t resist writing “peached on them”).
The psychotic teens-in-their -thirties decide Marty deserves some payback for the way they got in trouble for nearly killing him earlier, so they stage a new “prank” involving tampered-with marijuana, dangerous chemicals … and acid. C’mon, you kidders! Stop giving Marty the business! Just cut off one of his limbs or something and call it a day, ya jokesters! Continue reading
MARDI GRAS MASSACRE (1978) – Category: A neglected Bad Movie classic, but its hard-core gore will prevent it from ever having a Plan 9-sized cult following
It takes a twisted sort of genius to make multiple disembowelment murders look boring, but that’s exactly what Jack Weis accomplishes in Mardi Gras Massacre! Today may be Fat Tuesday, but let’s rechristen it “Splat Tuesday” in honor of this late 70s splatterfest.
The actual “massacre” part of this movie is an incredible disappointment. An insane, hate-filled man with a knife – no, not Jim Bowie (rimshot) – is roaming around New Orleans during Mardi Gras targeting prostitutes as sacrificial offerings to the Aztec deities he worships.
That sounds promising for a horror film but the disembowelment ritual is reenacted word for word and movement for movement for EACH VICTIM! There is no variation and also no suspense because after the first killing we know exactly how all the subsequent sacrifices will play out. The only chills come from listening to the awful disco music that plays during the ceremonial slayings. (“NOOOOOOOOOO!”) Continue reading
OPEN HOUSE (1987) – This movie falls into the bizarre sub-genre of “Theme Slashers” from the 1980s. I have a soft spot for those flicks and have previously reviewed Horror House on Highway 5 (slasher in a Richard Nixon mask), The Newlydeads (undead transvestite slasher), Bloodbeat (female slasher using a samurai sword), Hellroller (slasher in a wheelchair) and about a dozen others.
With Open House we get a slasher who specializes in killing … Real Estate Agents. Now who could resist a movie about a killer with such an oddly specific obsession? Cult figure Adrienne Barbeau stars in the film and has outrightly admitted she only made this turkey to finance her child’s college education. I have no idea what motivated Sam Bottoms and Tiffany Bolling to appear in this “so bad it’s good” little honey.
Harry, our homeless slasher, wins the hearts of all lovers of bad movies right off the bat with the makeshift weapon he uses to kill his first two on-screen victims. The homicidal Harry stops eating from a can of dogfood long enough to tape razors to a toilet plunger handle and uses the improvised device to unleash bloody mayhem. He carves up the sexy realtor and her hunky househunter just as they were about to get their freak on in the house she was trying to sell him.
HAPPY FATHER’S DAY FROM BALLADEER’S BLOG! Over the years my review of the 2011 horror film Father’s Day has been the most controversial. Reader reaction has been split between requests that I run the review every single Father’s Day and requests that I never run it again. Continue reading
HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY! LOVE, GEORGE (1973) – Category: Bad movie elevated by kitsch value in the casting.
Directed by THE Darren McGavin and featuring his wife Kathie Browne in a small role, this hilariously bizarre film is also known as Run, Stranger, Run. “Run, Potential Viewer, Run” would be a more appropriate title.
Happy Mother’s Day Love, George (henceforth HMDLG) is often described as a psycho-sexual thriller but actually it is nothing more than a melodramatic soap opera with a few murders and VERY few scenes of blood and gore. Those blood and gore scenes are so over-the-top they are completely at odds with the low-key, almost made-for-tv mildness of the rest of the movie.
This was a theatrical release but is so subdued and slow-paced it seems like a telefilm. You and your friends can keep yourselves entertained making jokes about the recognizable cast members to kill time since the first murder doesn’t happen until we’re more than an hour into this flick.
Ron Howard IS Johnny, a teenager who has come to town to discover who his birth parents are but who mostly just stands around staring at people and ESPECIALLY at houses. He seems completely taken aback that the townspeople find this somewhat creepy. Johnny is intrigued by the rash of missing persons plaguing the small town and feels they are connected to the secret of his past. Continue reading
Halloween Month continues at Balladeer’s Blog.
PSYCHO GOTHIC LOLITA (2010) – Also available under the title Gothic & Lolita Psycho, this ultra-violent and blood-soaked movie was Japanese filmmaker Go Ohara’s follow-up to Geisha Assassin from 2008.
Rina Akiyama stars as Yuki, the black-clad title character whose fashion sense combines two Japanese fetish looks in one. The film begins with Yuki already enacting her revenge quest against a bizarre quintet of villainous supernatural figures. Disjointed flashbacks provide background details as the story unfolds, with the most crucial secret being withheld for last. Continue reading