Nightmare Honeymoon (1974)

Directed by Elliot Silverstein [Other horror films: The Car (1977)]

If ever a movie has been marketed to the wrong audience, Nightmare Honeymoon would be a great example. Looking at the poster, you’d expect perhaps a somewhat exploitative grindhouse flick, but instead, you get a drama with a pinch of horror (and that’s if you’re being generous).

This isn’t really the movie’s fault, but more whoever decided to try and pitch the film to horror fans. When all’s said and done, Nightmare Honeymoon is decent, but it’s really not what I was looking for whatsoever, and I can’t help but find a lot of it a waste of time.

It could have been decent, though. This could have been a bloody tale of revenge, but instead, it felt like a subdued action movie at best, and overly melodramatic at worst. It wasn’t without it’s potential, as Rebecca Dianna Smith does well as a tragic victim of rape, and her husband (of a few hours, as they were on their honeymoon when she was attacked) Dack Rambo did good as someone seeking revenge.

But the revenge here wasn’t like what you might think from watching The Last House on the Left or I Spit on Your Grave, but just chasing down the manic rapist (played sadistically by John Beck) with ill intent and a gun.

If this is the type of movie you’re looking for, then it probably works well for you. The movie isn’t bad, like I said, just marketed to the wrong people. As a drama, Nightmare Honeymoon might be worth a watch, and even as a tepid tale of revenge, maybe there’s an audience, but as a horror movie, I think it’s quite weak and very much a disappointment.

4/10

Werewolves on Wheels (1971)

Directed by Michel Levesque [Other horror films: N/A]

Werewolves on Wheels? Sounds like a fun time. Instead, this is an ultimately dull and really forgettable experience with very little going for it.

And I do mean little. Most of the movie is tedious bike-riding or just the bikers chilling, not doing much of anything aside from arguing about the validity of tarot cards. The werewolf attacks are fine, but there’s only two in the first hour and ten minutes, and the ending, which certainly increases the death toll, is virtually incomprehensible.

What hurts Werewolves on Wheels most is that none of the characters, and I mean none of them, are memorable in any way. I didn’t feel anything for any one of them, aside from Donna Anders, who had a nude scene with the Satanic monks (not as exciting as it sounds, I’m afraid to report).

I’m not saying that Werewolves on Wheels didn’t have potential, because, I mean, it’s called Werewolves on Wheels. But for most of the film the story dragged something awful, and there’s very little here that’s worth remembering or seeing the movie again for.

4/10

Private Parts (1972)

Directed by Paul Bartel [Other horror films: Eating Raoul (1982)]

I knew next to nothing when I started this one, and it ended up being a fairly odd film. The atmosphere was generally good, and I’d even say Private Parts can certainly be memorable, but I didn’t really enjoy a lot of it, and I’d place this below average.

The general story in Private Parts is decent, and at the very least, even if you don’t like the route it takes, you can tell it has potential. Ayn Ruymen did well playing a somewhat naïve young woman, but some of the things she does in the latter half of the movie sort of bother me. Lucille Benson did decent in her role, and was certainly threatening enough, and while Laurie Main didn’t really add that much to the movie, I did love every time his goofy character (a gay priest) was on-screen.

Problematically, John Ventantonio wasn’t memorable whatsoever, even with the surprising ending, which hurts as he’s the main antagonist in the film (if you don’t count Benson and her often standoffish behavior). Is he suitably creepy at times? Sure, but Ruymen’s character goes for him despite that (which is one of her decisions that rather bugs me), and I wasn’t really satisfied with where things went from there.

It could fairly be said that a lot of the plot happened due to sexual repression, and if some characters had been able to more appropriately express their sexual interests, none of this would have happened. I don’t think Private Parts was going all out in trying to make this a main message, but it’s something I certainly noticed.

All-in-all, Private Parts is okay, and for the early 70’s, it’s certainly an interesting entry to the genre. I didn’t love it, though, and while the atmosphere and setting (an old hotel with quite a few screwball characters) were solid, elements of the story, and the route they took in the conclusion, didn’t much endear me to the film.

6/10

Death by Invitation (1971)

Directed by Ken Friedman [Other horror films: N/A]

Every Christmas season, you can find a Yule Log channel or video, with some solid crackling and dancing flames, to give you a feel of an authentic fireplace. I never really understood the appeal, but after seeing Death by Invitation, I think that’d easily be a more enjoyable alternative.

Could Death by Invitation have worked? It’s certainly possible, and I won’t take away from the potential the story had, if only the execution had been better. What we got here instead was just dull and tedious, with really boring conversations and not much else.

Well, in the movie’s defense, there was one solid scene, in which a character cuts off the head of another character and holds it up to a younger sister, appropriately startling her. But that was something like an hour into the movie, and that was the only scene to me that was worth seeing. Unless, of course, you like hearing a young woman talk about some Native American tribe where the women did the hunting and the men greased the women up, but they had to be on their knees, so the women… (This story is luckily only told once, which is good, as it was just six minutes of a woman talking slowly while a man watched her, expression either astonished, aroused, or afraid – I could never tell which – but it was threatened to be told again toward the end, and I legitimately groaned at the time).

The movie eventually connects the death of the witch at the beginning of the film to the events that befall an unfortunate family in present day, but it was never clear to me that it clicked to any of the characters, and while there were a bunch of three-second flashbacks to the judgment and execution of the suspected witch, I think that was more for the audience than the characters, which is ultimately a bad choice, as the audience didn’t really need nor want it.

Was Shelby Leverington attractive? Indeed she was. Was there ever any nudity, despite the fact her character seduced two men? Not once. And this is the 1970’s we’re talking about. ‘Tis shameful, as is the movie as a whole. Even worse, it’s just so damn dull.

3/10

Sometimes Aunt Martha Does Dreadful Things (1971)

Directed by Thomas Casey [Other horror films: N/A]

This is a somewhat interesting combination of crime and horror. Certainly there’s the occasional feel of a proto-slasher, but otherwise, it’s almost a crime-drama, dealing with a criminal disguising himself as an older woman to hide from the police. More than anything, it’s a mixed bag.

It’s a shame, really, because the idea is generally interesting and more so, the title of the film is just wild, but unfortunately what this movie has is usually tame. Oh, there was some okay nudity and tomfoolery, not to mention an early gay couple, but the kills weren’t anything to write home about, and while not dull, I wouldn’t exactly call much of the film engaging.

With few stand-out performances, I think the best has to go to Abe Zwick. This is his sole role, which is a bit of a shame, as he really comes across as a sadistic bastard at times in this movie, but he also possesses a decent emotional range. I liked many of his interactions with Crawford’s character, from the silly chasing-him-with-scissors scene to the somewhat sad ending. As such, Crawford’s character was hard to get into, but I appreciated his pastimes (hanging out with hippies, getting stoned, and engaging in, shall we say, activities most carnal).

Otherwise, there’s not much of a cast here to speak of. Certainly Robin Hughes was pretty cute, but it figures that she’s the one main young woman here not to get topless. Ah, well, not every day can be lucky.

Sometimes Aunt Martha Does Dreadful Things is an evocative title that the film doesn’t really live up to. It’s a somewhat unique little movie, but I didn’t love some of the characters or a few aspects of the story (such as Don Craig’s character), and I’d give this one a below average rating. It’s not really worth looking out for.

6/10

Another Son of Sam (1977)

Directed by Dave Adams [Other horror films: N/A]

What a poor, poor film. Sometimes called a proto-slasher, I was expecting quite a bit more from this, but I got oh so little.

The cinematography here is whack, and I mean whack. Some freeze-frames with dialogue of a different scene running (seemed to be a delay, or something), some slow-motion, rather inept editing that makes a few scenes difficult to really get a handle on. Pretty much everything about Another Son of Sam screams amateurish.

It’s also dull, which is in large part due to the procedural route this movie went past a certain point. The last forty minutes or so are spent in a dormitory (that looks nothing at all like a dormitory), and nothing very interesting happens. Nothing interested happened before, so it wasn’t a big loss, but even so, it’s just disappointing that a psychopathic serial killer can take down half a SWAT team and it’s still boring.

I’ll give a little props for a few cute girls (didn’t catch their names, but one might be Bonnie Schrier) and one solid scene of the killer’s hand coming up from beneath the bed of an unsuspecting victim. It was almost creepy, which is more than what I can say about anything else in the film.

Easily, I could see this movie, rough as it is, making it’s rounds in drive-in theaters toward the end of the 1970’s, and it may have even entertained some people. It does possess proto-slasher elements, and though very little is executed well, there’s a little here. It doesn’t matter, though, because Another Son of Sam has very little going for it. It’s not even a particularly gritty or gory film – it’s just dull, and certainly not worth another watch. It was barely worth the first watch, and I can’t, in good conscience, recommend it.

3/10

Jaws 2 (1978)

Directed by Jeannot Szwarc [Other horror films: The Devil’s Daughter (1973), Bug (1975), The Murders in the Rue Morgue (1986)]

GODDAMN, SON, THAT’S HOW YOU KILL A FUCKING SHARK!

Personally, I enjoyed this film a lot more than the first Jaws, and I’m not entirely sure why. Whereas the first often felt dry and almost procedural, Jaws 2 generally feels a lot more soulful and tense. This isn’t to say the second half of the first film wasn’t great, but Jaws 2 was fun all-around fun, and the drama was top-notch.

One of the best scenes in the film has to be when Roy Scheider’s character comes home drunk after getting fired as police chief. He’s drunkenly telling jokes and making toasts while his wife and second-in-command have some of the saddest eyes I’ve ever seen. That scene really blew me away with how touching it was, and while there was nary a fin in sight, this was the highlight of the film.

There’s solid shark frenzies, though, especially that first one with the sailing teenagers. Talk about carnage and utter tension. Even when things wind down, the scene of the kids trying to help out the young boy (in-movie, Schieder’s youngest), was rather touching.

And that ending? Read the first line of the review again to see my enthusiasm toward the fantastic finale.

Roy Scheider’s pretty much the only performance that matters here, and he does a great job. From the breakdown on the beach to that city council scene, Scheider did just amazing here, and you really felt for his character. I know I did, especially after he was fired. And while he’s not there a whole lot, Murray Hamilton, who also appeared in the first movie, was nice to see again, though his character, that of the mayor, was pretty atrocious.

Jaws 2 hit the spots in a way the first movie was unable to, and I really got a kick out of this one. Pretty much a fun ride from beginning to end, this is a sequel that did it right.

8.5/10

Jaws (1975)

Directed by Steven Spielberg [Other horror films: Duel (1971), Something Evil (1972), Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983, segment ‘Kick the Can’), War of the Worlds (2005)]

While certainly one of the true classics of not just the horror genre, but cinema as a whole, Jaws is a film that I don’t love, and don’t really come close to loving. There’s a lot of good stuff in it, especially the second half of the movie, but there’s also some rather sluggish scenes that no amount of good orchestra music makes up for.

Luckily, the three main characters are all pretty decent. While it took some time for Quint’s gruff character to grow on me, there’s no denying that Robert Shaw does a fine job, especially during the scene where the group compares stories and scars. I always liked Richard Dreyfuss’ character, and he consistently solid through the film. Lastly, Roy Scheider does commendably also, though honestly, I think he stands out more in Jaws 2.

The movie picks up beautifully as these three embark on a small ship in order to take out the great white, but the movie beforehand was somewhat patchy, and while never bad, portions just bored me. The second half of the film isn’t perfect, but it was a lot more tense and enjoyable in my opinion.

Obviously, this is a classic, and there’s decent reason for that, but like some other classics of the 1970’s, such as The Exorcist, I was more underwhelmed than anything. I’d probably say the movie’s just a bit below average, but it’s close. Jaws is still worth seeing, please don’t think I doubt that, but unless you’re already a fan, I don’t know how likely it is that you’ll end up loving it.

6.5/10

This is one of the films covered by Fight Evil’s podcast. Listen below as Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this one.

Young Frankenstein (1974)

Directed by Mel Brooks [Other horror films: Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995)]

Perhaps one of the most famous horror spoofs of all time, Young Frankenstein is a great flick with mostly solid comedy and a good feel of classic horror films, especially, unsurprisingly, the 1931 classic Frankenstein.

Gene Wilder is an actor I’ve not seen in many other films, but he is great nonetheless. I particularly love his louder moments, from his outburst at the beginning of the movie (“I AM A SCIENTIST, NOT A PHILOSOPHER!”) to the always-fun “IT COULD WORK!” He’s funny throughout, though, from lines like “That goes without saying,” to “What knockers,” all eliciting solid laughs.

Marty Feldman is the other piece that really makes the film work. His often-sassy attitude (“Well, they were wrong then, weren’t they”) is a lot of fun, and he works well with Wilder, though his charade ability really sucks. Also worth mentioning, playing the Monster, Peter Boyle does a fantastic job, and though his dialogue is rather lacking, he does present some great facial expressions.

In all honesty, Young Frankenstein isn’t really the type of movie that I’d go out of my way to see. Personally, I do happen to consider spoofs of the horror genre a part of the genre themselves, but even so, overtly comedic horror films aren’t my go-to (though I am certainly no stranger to comedy films in general). This one did get a bit silly a few times (such as the dancing scene during the scientific demonstration), but much of it was just as funny now as it was when I last saw it. It’s a classic for a reason, and Wilder certainly makes it a film that’s not forgettable.

8/10

Sisters (1972)

Directed by Brian De Palma [Other horror films: Phantom of the Paradise (1974), Carrie (1976), The Fury (1978), Raising Cain (1992)]

Brian De Palma’s first real movie of note (shortly afterwards overshadowed almost entirely by the immensely popular Carrie), Sisters is a rather interesting and somewhat decent film, though it’s not necessarily altogether as enjoyable as I remember it being from my first experience viewing.

For the longest time, pretty much everything works out. You’ve a journalist (played by Jennifer Salt, an actress often used in De Palma’s earlier films) investigating a murder she witnessed (which the police don’t have enough evidence to look into) with the occasional help of private detective (Charles Durning). The murderer, Margot Kidder’s potentially psychotic character. For the first 50-odd minutes, I think Sisters is an enjoyably immersive movie.

There comes a point, though, about in hour in when there’s a bit of a turn taken that I didn’t entirely care for. Instead of a more clear-cut investigation, it turns more into a trippy, drug-fueled flick for ten, fifteen minutes, and that transition I didn’t care for. Also, while I really love the final shot in the film, I find the overall conclusion somewhat unsatisfactory.

Honestly, I’m not a big fan of Kidder’s performance here, but I did really enjoy both Charles Durning and Jennifer Salt. William Finley (who later appeared in such films as Hooper’s Eaten Alive and The Funhouse) also appeared, but much like Kidder, neither his character nor his performance, especially toward the end, did much for me at all.

Sisters does have a few positives going for it, of course, perhaps most notably a rather fun sequence involving split screen (which was also used briefly in De Palma’s later film, Carrie). The split screen sequence was really enjoyable, and brought with it a solid vibe. Also, the gore, while not a highlight of the film, by any means, is decent. Lastly, like I said, I really love the final shot of the film – not sure exactly why, but it always has a somewhat ominous feel to me.

I enjoyed Sisters a lot more the first time I saw it than I did this time around. Certainly aspects are well-done, and for a majority of the movie, I find myself having a good time, but the conclusion really didn’t work out for me, and while it’s likely still worth seeing, I actually find the film somewhat below average, at least this time around.

6.5/10