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

Forced Entry (1973)

Directed by Shaun Costello [Other horror films: Daughters of Discipline (1978), Dracula Exotica (1980)]

Oh boy, where do I start with this one?

Well, first, I guess I should state what this film primarily is, and that’s a pornographic movie. A very gritty and grimy porno, not to mention hairy, but a porno all the same. You can find this on IMDb if you look it up on a search engine such as Google or Webcrawler, but looking it up on the site’s search-bar will bring you to the 1976 remake, which was non-pornographic, and focused more on the kills (I’d guess, as I’ve not seen it).

Just because this is a more gritty and harrowing experience doesn’t make it any more wholesome, though. The high points of the film would be the few consensual sex scenes, particularly the lesbian one (though both actresses involved, Ruby Runhouse and Nina Fawcett, were extraordinarily annoying). There was also a solid stabbing scene, where a nude woman is slashed down the chest then stabbed twice. That’s really the only time I truly felt this was a horror film. Otherwise, it was a virtually plot-less fiddle flick.

Often, it’s just tedious sex scene after sex scene. Multiple forced blowjobs, a lot of derivative sex talk (‘Oh, you like it, don’t you.’ and ‘You know how to do this, you practiced, didn’t you’), and a lot of real-war sequences from Vietnam.

I think that’s perhaps the most (and only) interesting thing about the film. The serial rapist is a Vietnam vet with P.T.S.D., and instead of getting the treatment the U.S. Government should have given all returning soldiers, they’re thrown back into their lives without any way to cope with the horrors of war (and despite all the rape in the film, I really feel like the overarching trauma of war was the true culprit).

The movie didn’t really go out of their way to address this point – sure, they threw in a lot of images from Vietnam, and the killer (played rather well by Harry Reems) definitely had a problem with hippies and large crowds (which seemed to set off some of his manic behavior). Still, if you take any bigger idea away from this movie, it’d be the solid anti-war sentiment that’s apparent throughout.

Still, this is a porno, and not a particularly enjoyable one. Unless you’re into anal rape and forced blowjobs under coercion, all with the gritty and hairy sensibilities of the 1970’s, I don’t think Forced Entry would have much to give off. I will say that it’s finally refreshing to actually see male sexual organs in a horror film for once, but boy, after seeing this one twice, I don’t think there’s any enjoyment at all to derive from this.

3.5/10

Warlock Moon (1973)

Directed by William Herbert [Other horror movies: N/A]

While not entirely that good of a film, this early 70’s flick occasionally carries a psychedelic vibe that does really well for it. Much of the film, while certainly not incoherent, feels like a bad trip, and questioning the reality of the situation will probably happen at least once. This doesn’t make Warlock Moon a good movie, but it does allow it a more unique feel.

If one happened to be somewhat bored throughout a lot of the film, I don’t know how much I’d blame them. There’s certainly a sluggish and potentially-repetitive feel at times, and though it does pick up the pace a bit at the end, this movie makes you work for it.

The movie really only has three noteworthy characters, and two of them are decently well-acted. Playing the main young woman, Laurie Walters is pretty adorable, and has a very youthful, innocent feel to her. She does great when she believes she’s losing it later and, and pulls off much of her time onscreen well. Edna MacAfee did great in her role of a kindly, yet potentially dangerous, older woman. On the flip-side, Joe Spano did very little for me, and that includes the conclusion, in which we learn more of his character. Still, Walters and MacAfee are good enough to make up for that.

For much of Warlock Moon, I appreciate what they were going for, and even the ending, while I don’t personally love it, or enjoy it that much, shows a solid grasp on their goal of a somber, psychedelic experience. Maybe in a somewhat shorter film, things would have come out better, but as it is, while I was decently engrossed through most of the film, I felt lukewarm about most of it.

I think that the atmosphere of the movie is pretty good, and I think there’s a good feel for the confusion of Walters’ character. Really, Warlock Moon isn’t a bad film, it’s just lacking a bit here and there. The setting (a mostly dilapidated spa resort) is rather ominous, and at times, the uncomfortable vibes of the much more modern Get Out (2017) pop up.

Though I find the film below average, I would say that if you’re a fan of 70’s horror, it’s still potentially worth a look. You may not necessarily love it, but I do think you’d appreciate some of the elements and ideas they threw into the film.

6/10

The Clown Murders (1976)

Directed by Martyn Burke [Other horror films: N/A]

While there are some horror aspects to The Clown Murders, fundamentally, this is a melodramatic flick with far too much talking and far too little killing.

As for the positives, there was a cool shotgun blast through the chest. Also, someone’s hand got stabbed in what was probably one of the most action-packed scenes in this otherwise kill-me-now-I’m-so-bored movie. I mean, this movie was just dull. It had potential, but it meandered and just entirely blew it.

Oh, I’m supposed to be talking positives? Well, I did like William Osler and his character, who had a thick Irish accent. He didn’t appear much, but he was consistently the most amusing thing in this dull piece of tripe.

The Clown Murders is strictly a drama movie for the first hour and five minutes or so. About fifty minutes in, once the group got to the farmhouse, things really could have picked up and gone a more traditionally slasher-esque route, but that’s not what happened. Instead, we got – more talking.

I didn’t get Susan Keller’s character or how exactly she was hoping the prank pulled on her and her husband would go. Half the time, she seems entirely complicit in everything, so when tensions start really rising toward the end of the film, I found myself getting incredibly frustrated.

Pretty much everyone besides Osler is rather annoying in this film. John Candy is probably the worst offender, but Gary Reineke and John Bayliss were pretty bad too. Because of the situation, there’s really no character to particularly root for, and half the time, you just want the characters to shut up and just think through how to best get out of the situation they got themselves into (which shouldn’t be too hard, because as I said, the woman they ‘kidnapped’ seemed to be fine with everything).

There were some slasher aspects for a few minutes, so sure, The Clown Murders is a horror film in my eyes. Many don’t believe it to be, and I entirely understand where they’re coming from. Does a drama that lasts an hour and 35 minutes become horror with just six minutes of horror scenes? Damned if I know, but I thought there was enough to count.

Unfortunately, just because it actually felt like a horror movie at times only makes this atrocity that much worse, since it was obviously marketed as a horror film. And while there are aspects of the genre, it’s really a stretch. I have long-heard this would be a boring movie, and it really is. There’s really nothing here to go out of your way to find this movie for. John Candy was horrible, the film overall was a mess, and there’s nothing to boast about when The Clown Murders is concerned.

4/10

Il trono di fuoco (1970)

Directed by Jesús Franco [Other horror films: Gritos en la noche (1962), La mano de un hombre muerto (1962), El secreto del Dr. Orloff (1964), Miss Muerte (1966), Necronomicon – Geträumte Sünden (1968), The Blood of Fu Manchu (1968), Der heiße Tod (1969), Marquis de Sade: Justine (1969), The Castle of Fu Manchu (1969), Paroxismus (1969), De Sade 70 (1970), Nachts, wenn Dracula erwacht (1970), Les cauchemars naissent la nuit (1970), Vampyros Lesbos (1971), Sie tötete in Ekstase (1971), Jungfrauen-Report (1972), Drácula contra Frankenstein (1972), Der Todesrächer von Soho (1972), La fille de Dracula (1972), Dr. M schlägt zu (1972), Les démons (1973), La comtesse noire (1973), La maldición de Frankenstein (1973), La nuit des étoiles filantes (1973), Los ojos siniestros del doctor Orloff (1973), Al otro lado del espejo (1973), La noche de los asesinos (1974), Les possédées du diable (1974), La comtesse perverse (1974), Les gloutonnes (1975), L’éventreur de Notre-Dame (1975), Sexorcismes (1975), Frauengefängnis (1976), Jack the Ripper (1976), Un silencio de tumba (1976), In 80 Betten um die Welt (1976), Die Marquise von Sade (1976), Greta – Haus ohne Männer (1977), Die Liebesbriefe einer portugiesischen Nonne (1977), Die teuflischen Schwestern (1977), Der Ruf der blonden Göttin (1977), El sádico de Notre-Dame (1979), Mondo cannibale (1980), El caníbal (1980), Die Säge des Todes (1981), La tumba de los muertos vivientes (1982), La mansión de los muertos vivientes (1982), Revenge in the House of Usher (1983), El tesoro de la diosa blanca (1983), Macumba sexual (1983), Sola ante el terror (1983), Sangre en mis zapatos (1983), Mil sexos tiene la noche (1984), El siniestro doctor Orloff (1984), Lilian (la virgen pervertida) (1984), La esclava blanca (1985), Faceless (1987), Killer Barbys (1996), Tender Flesh (1997), Mari-Cookie and the Killer Tarantula (1998), Lust for Frankenstein (1998), Vampire Blues (1999), Dr. Wong’s Virtual Hell (1999), Helter Skelter (2000), Vampire Junction (2001), Incubus (2002), Killer Barbys vs. Dracula (2002), Snakewoman (2005), La cripta de las mujeres malditas (2008), La cripta de las mujeres malditas II (2008), La cripta de las condenadas (2012), La cripta de las condenadas: Parte II (2012)]

This Jesús Franco film didn’t really do a whole lot for me. While there are some solid scenes of torture every now and again, much of the film came across as a historical drama, and were it not for Christopher Lee (playing the sinister Judge Jeffries), I would have liked this film a lot less.

Widely known as The Bloody Judge, I really appreciate, as a moderate student of history (a minor of mine in college) the historical nature of the film, though I am slightly put off by how it overshadows any and all of the horror aspects (which come primarily from the torture sequences).

Of course, this film isn’t without it’s positives. Christopher Lee does great in his role (though I don’t think the conclusion insofar as Jeffries was concerned was that satisfactory), and Hans Hass Jr., Milo Quesada, and Maria Rohm stand out also. Also, there was a solid sequence at the end once William of Orange came ashore. Alas, the ending played out somewhat quickly, which gave it a somewhat anticlimactic feel.

Personally, I think the biggest problem with this film is it’s meandering plot. The basic plot, in which the son of a Lord is looking to get married to the sister of a woman killed for being a witch and escape out of England is all well-and-good, but at an hour and forty minutes, I will admit to having stopped caring past a certain point. Loved the torture sequences (though none were overly over-the-top), and every scene with Lee, but much of the film just wasn’t my cup of tea.

As it is, when it comes to historical horror films, I already have the 1968 Witchfinder General to fill the void. If you see this for any reason, it should be Lee’s solid performance as a despicable judge killing innocents in the name of God and country. Truth be told, I was hoping for more than I got from this. The Bloody Judge may work for you, but it didn’t do a lot for me.

5.5/10

I corpi presentano tracce di violenza carnale (1973)

Directed by Sergio Martino [Other horror films: Lo strano vizio della signora Wardh (1971), La cado dello scorpione (1971), Tutti i colori del buio (1972), Il tuo vizio è una stanza chiusa e solo io ne ho la chiave (1972), Morte sospetta di una minorenne (1975), La montagna del dio cannibale (1978), L’isola degli uomini pesce (1979), Il fiume del grande caimano (1979), Assassinio al cimitero etrusco (1982), 2019 – Dopo la caduta di New York (1983), American risciò (1989), La regina degli uomini pesce (1995), Mozart è un assassino (1999)]

Generally known as Torso, and originally known as I corpi presentano tracce di violenza carnale (what a mouthful that is), this giallo is a pretty solid and enjoyable film, though I don’t think it truly shines until the final thirty minutes.

Much of the success is due to Suzy Kendall’s strong performance. Throughout much of the film, she plays the type of protagonist you can really root for, as she does some solid investigation, along with making rather intelligent decisions toward the end. Probably one of the stronger women in horror at the time, which I appreciated. Her main friends (played by Tina Aumont, Angela Covello, and Carla Brait) all did well, but the only one to really make an impression was Aumont.

Otherwise, John Richardson was about the only other performance to really do much for me. Playing one of the many suspects (what’s a giallo without at least three suspects?), Richardson is decently memorable despite his moderately short screen-time.

What’s more memorable than him, though, is the ample nudity in the film. A lot of topless scenes here, including a drugged-out dance, skinny-dipping, and, of course, nude sunbathing. There was even some softcore lesbian action at times, which was kind of them to throw in. It sort of came out of nowhere, but that’s Italy for you.

The gore was pretty decent also, though not quite as good as I recalled. Still, it’s pretty solid, what with multiple slit throats, a rather nasty (but also rather fake) head injury, and of course, some mild dismemberment toward the end. Much of the violence wasn’t really gory, but it still had a strong sense of being brutal.

It’s in the final thirty minutes where Torso takes off from an okay giallo to a really suspenseful and mysterious film. The killer’s identity wasn’t really hard to decipher, but the reason for their actions was what had me most curious (and we get a fun flashback at the end to showcase just that). There’s some great suspenseful scenes in the finale, such as the newspaper scene and a taut sequence of a woman trying to conceal herself from the killer in the hilltop villa (which was a pretty solid setting, by the way).

All-in-all, Torso’s not quite the amazing movie I remember it being, but it’s still very much above average, and it’s definitely a giallo I’d recommend. Sergio Martino did a lot for Italian horror (and I mean a lot), so his entry here is unsurprisingly solid. The specific scarf design one of the girls was attempting to remember was classic giallo. Not an overly amazing movie, Torso was still a lot of fun.

7.5/10

Dominique (1979)

Directed by Michael Anderson [Other horror films: Orca (1977), Murder by Phone (1982)]

I think I’ve seen this movie before under the title Les diaboliques (1955), or maybe it was House on Haunted Hill (1959). Or perhaps it was The Screaming Skull (1958). Wait, Lo spettro (or The Ghost, 1963)?

The point is, Dominique’s plot is far from unique. It’s not a bad story, but it’s been done before many times. It helps a little that the movie’s British, which gives it maybe a little more flavor, but at the same time, despite the plot being competent, Dominique feels stuffy.

Cliff Robertson and Simon Ward were both fine as central characters, but they didn’t really add much to the film, and it’s certainly not on them that the movie falls flat. In fact, I did rather like Simon Ward, so without him, it’s possible the film wouldn’t be that engaging, not that it’s overly engaging to begin with.

As it is, the story Dominique boasts is okay. There’s a few suspenseful scenes, though not that many really thrilling scenes (save one), and pretty much all the scenes are okay, but nothing special. The best I can say is that the sequences that take place in the conservatory are solid.

I think that’s the best way to describe this movie, really: okay, but nothing special. It’s a bit stuffy, but it’s competently made. Dominique’s just not really that great, though, and I certainly understand why I’ve never heard about this one until I watched it.

6/10

This is one of the film’s covered on Fight Evil’s podcast. If interested, listen below as Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this one.

Grizzly (1976)

Directed by William Girdler [Other horror films: Three on a Meathook (1972), Asylum of Satan (1972), Abby (1974), Day of the Animals (1977), The Manitou (1978)]

More than anything, this 70’s rip-off of Jaws, while occasionally charming and certainly possessing a beautiful setting (forested Clayton, Georgia), is ultimately a sluggish experience, and though not without positive aspects, ends up only an okay film.

The main issue here is how sluggish the film is. Sure, the setting is indeed beautiful, and there are a few solid scenes here (bear vs. kid, and bear vs. ranger tower being two of my favorite), but otherwise, Grizzly is just drier than the wood of the trees that make up the forest (horrible analogy, sure, but Grizzly’s still dry).

A few of the characters are decent. The main character, played by Christopher George (who went to later appear in plenty of horror films, including Whiskey Mountain, Day of the Animals, Mortuary, Pieces, City of the Living Dead, Cruise Into Terror, and Graduation Day) was perfectly solid, and I liked the differences in personalities between Andrew Prine’s gruff Vietnam vet character (this is just a few year following the conflict, so he’s still young man) and the scientific viewpoint of Richard Jaeckel. Honestly, none of the three add anything that special to the film, though, which is a bit of a problem.

Oh, and Joan McCall (who had a role in Peopletoys, more commonly known as Devil Time Five) was pretty much useless in this. I don’t really know what the point of her character was, because past a certain scene, she pretty much loses what limited relevance she had to begin with.

I don’t know. Grizzly isn’t that poor of a film, and as far as Jaws rip-offs go, it’s not bad. Like I said, it occasionally possesses a little charm here and there, and there are a few decent scenes, but overall, I think it’s a pretty underwhelming experience, and I’ve seen this twice now, so I think I’m somewhat firm in that stance.

6/10

This is one of the films covered on Fight Evil’s podcast, so if interested, listen below as Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss the film.

Day of the Woman (1978)

Directed by Meir Zarchi [Other horror films: Don’t Mess with My Sister! (1985), I Spit on Your Grave: Deja Vu (2019)]

This classic in the rape-and-revenge subgenre of exploitation film, generally known under the far-better title I Spit on Your Grave, is oftentimes a difficult movie to watch. Due to the fact it’s a 70’s film, it has that dead serious, gritty vibe that you would expect, making I Spit on Your Grave an awfully grueling viewing experience at times.

While the rape sequences were a bit much (and probably more disturbing than Last House on the Left from six years earlier), the revenge sequences were a lot of fun (and very well-deserved – if you don’t think those men deserved the painful deaths they got, I’d really question your sense of right-and-wrong), the best being a castration. A strong argument could be made that Richard Pace’s mentally-disabled character should have gotten some mercy, but there you go. Definitely gory when it needs to be, more often than not, I Spit on Your Grave just sticks with a bit of build-up and a quick blow, especially near the end.

Camille Keaton does well as a messed up victim of rape, and there was no point in the film in which I didn’t sympathize with her. The four rapists were all well-played too, and while Richard Pace’s Matthew was somewhat hard to hate, the other three (Eron Tabor, Anthony Nichols, and Gunter Kleeman) were as despicable as you can imagine. The only shame is that their deaths weren’t longer. Worth noting, none of the four male actors have been in any other film, before or after, which I found interesting.

The film can be quite tedious. After the first horrific rape, Keaton’s character is raped twice more, and it’s only after she begins to get her revenge that I really feel comfortable watching the film, as it goes more into a proto-slasher feel. Otherwise, the rape sequences were, understandably, deeply unpleasant, and possessed a very desperate, degrading quality to them.

Personally, though I’ve seen this film twice now, I think that I Spit on Your Grave is a hard movie to love. I certainly find the revenge satisfactory, but that doesn’t happen until about an hour in, and dealing with the rape sequences is a bit much. I still find the last forty minutes enjoyable, but it’s a grind getting through the first hour. Probably a movie worth watching, but while it’s certainly good at times, it’s not one that I’d watch multiple times for enjoyment.

7/10

This is one of the films covered on Fight Evil’s podcast, and what coverage it was. If interested, check out below as Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss and laugh inappropriately at this film.

The Brood (1979)

Directed by David Cronenberg [Other horror films: Shivers (1975), Rabid (1977), Scanners (1981), Videodrome (1983), The Dead Zone (1983), The Fly (1986), Dead Ringers (1988), Naked Lunch (1991), eXistenZ (1999)]

I’ve seen this Cronenberg film once before, and it wasn’t quite my thing. That didn’t really surprise me, as I was similarly lukewarm toward Videodrome (despite it’s classic status). I’ve not yet seen many of Cronenberg’s other movies, but only one (Shivers, or They Come from Within) was something I actually liked.

All this said, I enjoyed The Brood a little bit more than when I first saw it. It still seems all over the place, and doesn’t quite get close to reaching an average rating from me, but it’s still an unique experience that’s perhaps worth seeing at least one time around.

At times, the story here seems muddled, and it’s not always clear where exactly the plot is going. At first, I thought there was going to be a big issue made of the grandmother abusing Frank’s (Art Hindle) daughter, but instead, the old woman gets killed by a mutant child, who then kills another character, and eventually kidnaps the daughter herself. All this is going on while Hindle’s character is investigating a controversial therapy method that his wife is undergoing, and it doesn’t necessarily seem to all fit together, even by the ending.

Performance-wise, Art Hindle is okay as the lead character. I think that psychologist Oliver Reed made more an impression, but I wasn’t moved much by Samantha Eggar whatsoever (even during the somewhat surprising and very odd finale). Susan Hogan played a nice character addition, but aside from a solid death sequence, she wasn’t that relevant to the story. I think a surprising stand-out, as far as performances go, is Henry Beckman. There’s a scene in which he’s drinking and reminiscing about his recently deceased ex-wife. That was somewhat emotional in itself, but the conclusion of that scene just ensures it’s one of the better sequences in the film.

There were some aspects I liked about this movie. Hindle’s character encounters a mutant child-type thing, and informs the police, who actually proceed to have an actual useful autopsy on it, which points out what an odd mutation this kid is. Just seeing the authorities actually having no choice but to believe a bizarre claim is a nice change of pace, though ultimately, I don’t think it really leads anywhere.

The conclusion itself is decently suspenseful, regardless of the fact I didn’t much care for where the story went. I wouldn’t go as far as to say the ending validates the rest of the movie, or makes it worth watching alone, but it’s solid. Even so, the whole of the movie doesn’t impress me (a big part of this, aside from the flaws in the story, stem from the fact I’m really not a fan of body horror), and while I did enjoy it more this time around, I doubt that I’ll grow much fonder of this one down the line.

6/10

This is one of the film’s covered on Fight Evil’s podcast. If you’re at all interested in the hidden mysteries of the world, listen below as Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this film.