Alien (1979)

Alien

Directed by Ridley Scott [Other horror films: Hannibal (2001), Alien: Covenant (2017)]

Perhaps one of the most popular horror films of all time, Alien is a very solid movie, perfectly capable of satisfying most viewers with it’s suspenseful and well-acted story.

It is a wee bit sluggish toward the beginning, but the story is set up nicely, which additionally works out due to the almost-entirely solid cast of the film (the only performance I didn’t love was Veronica Cartwright). The story is appropriately claustrophobic at times, and due to some good lighting and camera-work, there are some damn suspenseful scenes.

Like I said, pretty much every cast-member is worth watching. Ian Holm’s performance is perhaps my favorite of the bunch (especially given his interesting character), but Yaphet Kotto does great, as does John Hurt, Tom Skerritt, and Harry Dean Stanton. Sigourney Weaver, despite being the cast-member with the least acting experience (if you discount Bolaji Badejo, who played the alien), gave the strongest performance, and became a character (Ripley) that is well-respected inside and outside the horror community.

Another reason why this movie really worked would be the special effects, which were amazing. The titular alien really did seem a nightmarish organism at certain times (especially during both the air duct scene and the finale), and even the alien planet the crew landed on possessed a creepy vibe to it. And the face-hugger, with the acidic blood? Fantastic stuff.

All this said, unlike other classics of the genre, Alien isn’t a movie I really grew up on. I’ve seen it only once before, and back then, I didn’t even care much for it. Now, having seen it a second time, I definitely got a lot more enjoyment out of the film, but it comes nowhere close to movies such as Halloween or A Nightmare on Elm Street to me.

Still, this is a classic of the genre, and while nowhere near the first science-fiction/horror hybrid (It! The Terror from Beyond Space from 1958 comes to mind, and Invasion of the Body Snatchers two years before it), it’s definitely one of the most memorable, and is certainly worth a watch.

8.5/10

The Swarm (1978)

Swarm

Directed by Irwin Allen [Other horror films: N/A]

This two-and-a-half hour epic certainly feels like something unique, and despite some unnecessary sequences, I think the movie overall works out, which may be an unpopular opinion.

Very ecological in message (not dissimilar to films such as Night of the Lepus or Frogs), The Swarm boasts a strong epic feel and a very decent cast. The story isn’t necessarily special, but the almost procedural method the filmmakers employ set it apart from many other killer insect movies.

The cast here is pretty superb. I wouldn’t say that Michael Caine starring in this is the only reason to see the film, but I do think his incredibly strong presence here alone makes a good case for viewing this. Sometimes he’s a bit over-the-top, but he’s never boring. What makes his presence here better is that Caine, despite being very well-known, hasn’t been in many horror films (aside from this one, he’s been in maybe five others, such as Jaws: The Revenge and The Hand), so it’s great seeing an actor of his caliber starring here.

Richard Widmark, despite playing a somewhat unlikable character, stands out pretty well too. Like Caine, he had a strong personality, and it was fun to see where his character would go. I only know Richard Chamberlain from the Shogun mini-series, but he looks virtually identical here, and I enjoyed his character, though he didn’t get enough screen-time. Plenty of other names here stand out, such as Katharine Ross, Olivia de Havilland, Fred MacMurray, Slim Pickens, Cameron Mitchell, Morgan Paull, and perhaps most importantly, Henry Fonda.

The Swarm had some really great sequences, including an attack by bees on a small Texas community (the school scene, which reminded me a little of The Birds, stood out as particularly tragic), a rather thrilling train disaster, and the burning of Houston by the military via flamethrowers. Even toward the end, when a military base is under siege by both bees and fire, there’s a definite action feel to the scenes, and when this movie does well, it really does well.

The problem is that there are more than a few meanderings into the personal lives’ of characters who ultimately don’t really matter. It could be argued that these characters help bring a personal, human element to a film otherwise preoccupied with scientific and military efficacy, but they felt a bit too out-of-place and humorous in this otherwise somewhat bleak and somber story. The love-story involving MacMurray’s, Havilland’s, and one Ben Johnson’s characters didn’t enthrall me, though again, I sort of see the point. Also worth mentioning, there are a few hideously superimposed giant bees that pop up throughout the film that looked laughably bad.

The director of the film, Irwin Allen, played a big part in this movie carrying with it an almost-disaster movie feel, due to the fact he was a producer for classics such as The Towering Inferno and The Poseidon Adventure (neither of which I’ve seen, if truth be told). For a more genre-centric comparison, think the military portions of The Stand, and that’s a lot of what you have here. Luckily, most of it works out in a pretty suspenseful way.

Personally, I don’t find a lot wrong with the film, despite the fact that many have more than a few negative things to say about it. Maybe it’s because I’m a decent fan of Caine’s work, maybe it’s because I have a soft spot for bees (on a side-note, being allergic, I really don’t), but this ecological horror-action film is a fun movie, and if you can survive the two-and-a-half hours, hopefully you too will get something out of it. I just know I’ve seen this twice now, and I’ve not been disappointed.

8.5/10

Halloween (1978)

hallo

Directed by John Carpenter [Other horror films: Someone’s Watching Me! (1978), The Fog (1980), The Thing (1982), Christine (1983), Prince of Darkness (1987), They Live (1988), Body Bags (1993, segments ‘The Gas Station’ & ‘Hair’), In the Mouth of Madness (1994), Village of the Damned (1995), Vampires (1998), Ghosts of Mars (2001), The Ward (2010)]

Without a doubt, this classic film is one of the best horror movies ever made, surpassing films such as The Evil Dead, The Shining, Jaws, and A Nightmare on Elm Street with utter ease.

So many factors of the film are great – masterful cinematography, an amazing musical score, pretty good performances, a captivating story, and a fine control of suspense. With little gore, Halloween manages to be the slasher that so many others afterward try to set their standards by, and generally reach nowhere close.

It’s true that Jamie Lee Curtis doesn’t look like a high school student, but she had a great performance here for her first film (her previous appearances were on television shows). I adore her character, the fact that she’s a mostly good girl who’s not averse to good times (the weed scene), and she’s just great here. Donald Pleasence, who has a long history of horror before this, dating back to 1960’s The Flesh and the Fiends, is amazing as Loomis, and while occasionally over-the-top, has some of the best dialogue in the film.

Between P.J. Soles (Lynda) and Nancy Kyes (Annie), I have to say I like Kyes’ character a lot more, though Soles’ does have a great piece of dialogue about the lack of necessity of books. It’s somewhat unfortunate that Kyes didn’t have much of a career (she appeared in the third Halloween, along with The Fog, also directed by Carpenter), as I thought this showed a lot of potential.

If there’s any problem with the film, it could be that Michael seems focused on Laura for absolutely no reason. While later sequels attempt to explain this, as far as this movie goes, it’s random with no meaning behind it. In some ways, though, I think that makes it more effective, and given that Nick Castle (who brilliantly plays The Shape, as he’s called) is fantastic throughout, it’s only an additional positive.

The only other John Carpenter film that could compete with this one, in my mind, is The Fog, and while the Fog is good, few movies could ever reach this level of excellence (on a side-note, many may be outraged I didn’t mention also The Thing, but I’m not as big a fan of that one as others).

For this movie, though, whether you watch it with or without the additional television footage, you could only do worse. One of the twenty or so horror films I see as pretty flawless, Halloween is a movie that will never get old, no matter how many times I’ve seen it, and the ending will never not be iconic (focusing on different locations seen in the movie with that music playing – perfection).

10/10

This classic was covered on Fight Evil’s third podcast. If interested, give it a listen as Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss it.

Tales from the Crypt (1972)

Tales

Directed by Freddie Francis [Other horror films: The Brain (1962), The Day of the Triffids (1963), Paranoiac (1963), Nightmare (1964), The Evil of Frankenstein (1964), Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors (1965), The Skull (1965), The Psychopath (1966), The Deadly Bees (1966), They Came from Beyond Space (1967), Torture Garden (1967), Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1968), Mumsy, Nanny, Sonny & Girly (1970), Trog (1970), Gebissen wird nur nachts – das Happening der Vampire (1971), The Creeping Flesh (1973), Son of Dracula (1973), Tales That Witness Madness (1973), Craze (1974), Legend of the Werewolf (1975), The Ghoul (1975), The Doctor and the Devils (1985), Dark Tower (1989)]

This horror film by Amicus is one of the better examples of a solid anthology. Well-known for their various anthology films (including The House That Dripped Blood, Asylum, and The Vault of Horror), Tales from the Crypt is probably one of Amicus’ best, and ends up a rather classic film.

With five tales throughout, only one is particularly weak, being the second story, or ‘Reflection of Death.’ You can see the twist from miles away, and it’s just not all that good. While the fourth story, or ‘Wish You Were Here,’ isn’t that strong, it at least can boast a pretty shocking ending.

Without a doubt, the two best stories are the third and fifth, being ‘Poetic Justice’ and ‘Blind Alleys.’ The third story works amazingly well due to the sympathy that can easily be felt for the character Grimsdyke (played spectacularly by Peter Cushing). The performance Cushing gives is utterly heartbreaking, and he plays such a likable guy. ‘Blind Alleys’ on the flip-side is notable for it’s pretty solid gore (while there’s not much on-screen, that razor-blade wall just looks hella lethal), and shows a desperate revenge by the downtrodden.

Peter Cushing gave the best performance here, but he was far from alone. Joan Collins was pretty good in ‘…And All Through the House’ (while a good story with a fun conclusion, it doesn’t stack up to the better stories presented), if not a little stilted. Nigel Patrick and Patrick Magee, both of whom were in ‘Blind Alleys,’ really worked well off each other, Patrick able to really pull off an intolerable military-minded individual, and Magee the righteous fury that one would feel in his situation. Ralph Richardson pulls it all together playing the enigmatic Crypt Keeper (in a far more somber tone than the character would later be known for).

All the actors in the film have a wide-range of additions of the horror genre (Cushing is, in fact, one of my favorite actors), appearing in films from Dementia 13 (Magee), The Black Castle (Richard Greene, from ‘Wish You Were Here’), Repulsion (Ian Hendry from ‘Reflection of Death’) to The House That Dripped Blood (Chloe Franks from the first story). There’s a lot of quality here, even with the actors and actresses who didn’t do as much for me. Certainly a cast worth watching.

Tales from the Crypt might come across as a bit slow, perhaps dry, in a way that one might expect from 1970’s British movies, and maybe somewhat generic to the modern-day viewer (and there’s no denying it’s not as fun as Creepshow). Personally, it’s a film I’ve seen many times and always loved, despite the failings of a few of the stories. ‘Blind Alleys’ and ‘Poetic Justice’ alone make this movie worth watching, though, so if you’ve passed this up because early 70’s British horror doesn’t do it for you, I’d recommend reconsidering.

8.5/10

I Drink Your Blood (1970)

I Drink Your Blood

Directed by David E. Durston [Other horror films: N/A]

This grindhouse exploitation flick isn’t nearly as gory and wild as I remember it being, but it’s still a moderately fun ride.

The story, in which Satanic hippies are infected with rabies as a form of revenge, was pretty fun. At times, it was reminiscent of Night of the Living Dead, which came out just two years prior, as multiple mindless people were wandering around, committing violent acts, and some others board themselves in to protect themselves.

It also has a decent amount of gory violence. While there weren’t too many notable gory portions, there was a solid decapitation, along with a few dismemberments (one by an electric knife), and an impalement by pitchfork. Despite all of this, though, it never reaches the H.G. Lewis level of bloodshed, which is sort of a shame.

Really, the only issue I have with the film is the length – I know that when this first came out, theaters dictated their own cuts, and thus, a lot of versions of this film exist. I think that the theaters had a better idea than the director, because at an hour and 24 minutes, I felt the film went on a bit long. Cut out just ten, maybe 15 minutes, and I think it’d have been both more digestible and less dragging.

For an early piece of 70’s exploitation, I Drink Your Blood can be pretty entertaining. If the gore had been a bit better, and the length a bit more bearable, then I think the movie would have ultimately been more memorable. Still, it’s certainly a movie that’s worth watching, especially if 70’s flicks are your thing.

7.5/10

Suspiria (1977)

Suspiria

Directed by Dario Argento [Other horror films: L’uccello dalle piume di cristallo (1970), Il gatto a nove code (1971), 4 mosche di velluto grigio (1971), Profondo rosso (1975), Inferno (1980), Tenebre (1982), Phenomena (1985), Opera (1987), Due occhi diabolici (1990, segment ‘The Black Cat’), Trauma (1993), La sindrome di Stendhal (1996), Il fantasma dell’opera (1998), Non ho sonno (2001), Il cartaio (2003), Ti piace Hitchcock? (2005), La terza madre (2007), Giallo (2009), Dracula 3D (2012), Occhiali neri (2022)]

This stylistic flick is a lot of fun, and while it doesn’t live up to Argento’s previous Deep Red, Suspiria is a solidly atmospheric flick.

Witches aren’t something that are dealt with too commonly in horror, so Argento going that route proved a wise move, especially as he was able to craft a movie of this atmosphere, with both moody tension and good gore (when the film deigned to go that direction). The gore is quite good, mostly in the first murder sequence, but the razor-wire room is fun also.

Jessica Harper wasn’t a big name before this film, and really didn’t become that big of a name after it, which is a bit of a shame, as I thought she did really well here. Unfortunately, while it’s not that big a deterrent, none of the other actors/actresses involved were that memorable, but it doesn’t leave that much a negative impact.

The artistic style this movie has can’t really be matched, what with amazing color schemes and music composed by Goblin. Really, just for these aspects alone, disregarding the story, the movie would probably be a must see (and I generally see a lot more compliments about the style of the film over the content, to be sure). All-around great use of camera, lighting, and music to bring a creepy vibe to this one.

While certainly not my favorite horror film of the 1970’s (I don’t know if it’d even make my top 25), Suspiria has a lot of character, and certainly, if you can find an uncut version, even if it is dubbed, to watch, I think that you’ll probably have a good time. Even after three, maybe four viewings myself, I still find the film quite fun, and I only wish the ending was a bit more conclusive.

8/10

God’s Bloody Acre (1975)

Gods Bloody AcCRE

Directed by Harry Kerwin [Other horror films: Barracuda (1978)]

After having wanted to see this one for many years now, I can’t help but feel disappointed. Not because the movie is particularly bad, but because I was expecting something quite different from what we got.

What I was hoping for was a grimy exploitation flick with decent gore and an escalation of conflict between the mountain men and the construction company. Instead, we get a lot of characters I wasn’t expecting dealing with various drama, and eventually coming into contact with the three brothers and dying in somewhat grisly (yet entirely gore-free) ways.

It’s certainly grimy, as the rape scene can attest to, and it’s entirely a product of the 1970’s, but for much of the film, it wasn’t that engaging or enthralling. While the sluggish pace was bad enough, the lack of gore in lieu of characterization of the three brothers, wasn’t the best trade-off, in my opinion.

What makes this sting more is that one of the main actors, William Kerwin, starred in three H.G. Lewis films (A Taste of Blood, Blood Feast, and Two Thousand Maniacs!), not to mention plenty of other horror flicks, from Whiskey Mountain, The Shadow of Chikara, and Barracuda. With a guy like this, you’d expect a movie with a bit more force. Most of the other actors and actresses here did fine, though by far, Kerwin was the strongest link.

God’s Bloody Acre had potential, and I think they sensed it while making it, as there are some artistic and creative cuts in here that look like they belong in a higher-budget film. As it is, this movie might work out well for a drive-in (and the copy I saw certainly had that scratchy, 70’s feel that I associate with that), but due to the lack of gore and heavy drama at the beginning, I’d have to unfortunately say that this isn’t much worth watching.

5.5/10

Profondo rosso (1975)

Deep Red

Directed by Dario Argento [Other horror films: L’uccello dalle piume di cristallo (1970), Il gatto a nove code (1971), 4 mosche di velluto grigio (1971), Suspiria (1977), Inferno (1980), Tenebre (1982), Phenomena (1985), Opera (1987), Due occhi diabolici (1990, segment ‘The Black Cat’), Trauma (1993), La sindrome di Stendhal (1996), Il fantasma dell’opera (1998), Non ho sonno (2001), Il cartaio (2003), Ti piace Hitchcock? (2005), La terza madre (2007), Giallo (2009), Dracula 3D (2012), Occhiali neri (2022)]

I saw this some years back; I couldn’t have been any older than 14 or 15. And I liked it – I hadn’t had much experience with either giallos or Argento’s work, but I liked it. Seeing Deep Red for the second time, it not only lived up to my recollection, but far surpassed them.

There’s nothing I don’t like about this movie, and if I had to nitpick, I guess I’d say that they should have made the blood look a bit more realistic than it did. But even so, at two hours and seven minutes, never once did I lose focus in the movie or interest in finding out who the killer was (like I said, I’d seen this before, but it’s been so long that I forgot who was behind the brutal murders).

The kills are actually a little weak at times, but there were also some classics here, such as the graphic finale (absolutely loved it), along with the death of another character toward the end. Even the first current-day death was decent, what with being hacked to death by a cleaver. I just wish there had been a few more deaths, but that’s not so much a complaint as wishful hoping.

Italian band Goblin composed the score to the film (they also did Suspiria‘s a few years later), and it was magnificent. Some fun electronic progressive Italian-synth tunes can’t go wrong. The movie already had an artistic feel to it, due to masterful cinematography, but the music helped elevate to even higher heights. And that haunting children’s song? That won’t soon be out of my head.

I won’t get deep into the actors as I sometimes (perhaps too often) do – the fact of the matter is that there’s not one performance that I would have preferred removed. There was a little overacting at times, but given how well everything else worked, it wasn’t much noticeable. David Hemmings was amazing as the main character, and while aspects of his character were troubling (his antiquated sexism, for instance), he was very compelling in his role. So too was Daria Nicolodi – while she wasn’t as important to the story as I thought she might be, her presence helped a great deal (the car scenes added some light humor to the film, which was somewhat welcomed).

Most of this film is the main character trying to remember an important thing he witnessed at a scene of a murder. He slowly pieces together clues, we get a few red herrings, along with a few fun flashbacks, and eventually, after a lot of investigation, we finally have our answer. I loved that – the scenes at the old house were all fun and suspenseful despite mostly being safe, and the discoveries made, along with how he went clue to clue, were all so fun also.

I have no complaints about this film. It helped that I was able to find a beautiful copy online, in original Italian with English subs. Call me a snob if you want, but if I had watched this dubbed, I don’t think it would have made the same impact. As it is, this is a fantastic movie, and easily a favorite of mine now. Dario Argento didn’t disappoint with this one.

10/10

Entertaining Mr Sloane (1970)

Entertaining

Directed by Douglas Hickox [Other horror films: Behemoth the Sea Monster (1959), Theater of Blood (1973), The Hound of the Baskervilles (1983), Blackout (1985)]

What an oddball film. Based off a play of the same name, I’d probably call this mostly a dark comedy with a splash of horror elements near the end. Being a British movie, the humor is oftentimes dry, but it generally worked. It’s such a strange plot, though, and the characters (there are only four of note) aren’t relatable whatsoever, making is a somewhat difficult film to truly get into.

The four cast members all do reasonably well. Beryl Reid and Harry Andrews were certainly the more interesting siblings I’ve seen. Alan Webb overacted more than a bit, but given he played an old man close to dementia, I think that’s moderately forgivable. Mr. Sloane, played by Peter McEnery, was an oddity of a character, and I’d certainly have liked more background into him. His interactions with Andrews (who played a closeted gay man attracted to Sloane) were pretty golden, and overall, I’d say McEnery was the best of the bunch.

Given the horror elements are both sparse and don’t show up until an hour and ten minutes in, this film relies on it’s humor and witty dialogue. If you’re not into British comedy, this would definitely be a hard one to get through. Luckily, like I said, the humor worked for me, and the catchy tune ‘Entertaining Mr. Sloane‘ will be stuck in my head for the next few days, but even so, it’s not really a film I entirely enjoyed, given the lack of horror elements until the end (and even those were rather light).

Honestly, this is a film the likes of which I’ve never really seen before, and while I was enjoying much of the humor and just general nuttiness of the movie, from a horror standpoint, it left a lot to be desired. If you’re into 70’s British comedies, I’d give this one a go, but if you’re looking for some classic British horror (the same director of this later made Theater of Blood, which would certainly count), you won’t be finding it here.

5.5/10

Mais ne nous délivrez pas du mal (1971)

deliver

Directed by Joël Séria [Other horror films: N/A]

What makes a slow-burn movie good? It’s upon examination of this question that will lead to whether you will like or dislike this film. Known in the USA as Don’t Deliver Us from Evil, this French film is an interesting one, and as alluded to, quite the slow-burn. But does the ending pay off?

The plot of the film is simple, in that two Catholic girls decide they want to push the limits and sin (welcome to the consequences of religious oppression). For the first hour and twenty minutes, there’s very few horror elements – it’s just the two girls going around doing ‘bad’ things of varying degrees (poisoning canaries, setting bales of hay on fire, teasing men with sexual come-ons), and it feels somewhat aimless, in many ways.

Eventually, when something more in the realm of the genre happens, things pick up a bit, but that’s in the final twenty minutes of the film. Now, what doesn’t make this a complete loss is the fact that the two main actresses Jeanne Goupil and Catherine Wagener were amazing in their roles. They were both very convincing, both as innocent Catholic schoolgirls, and then as randy, sensual young women wanting to explore the more lustful side of life (on a side-note, for a good majority of this movie, it seems like a coming-of-age story).

Honestly, for a French film, this was pretty tame. Despite plenty of scenes of the two young women in their underwear, never once is lesbianism encroached upon (I’ll be honest, I was expecting something like that from the very beginning), and while there’s occasionally nudity, it’s pretty brief. And the two attempted rape scenes are both more on the mild side, at least compared to other such scenes of the same time period.

Instead, they attempted to build up to the end, which somewhat worked, but a somewhat shocking final minute of the film doesn’t really excuse an hour and forty minutes of very little happening beforehand. Still, Don’t Deliver Us from Evil occasionally had a chilly vibe, helped along by a very haunting soundtrack that popped up multiple times throughout the film.

A classic of sorts, with pretty high ratings from various sources, this movie didn’t entirely do it for me. Fantastic acting aside, it was just way too slow, despite occasionally showing us some interesting scenes. No doubt I was pretty engaged during the whole of the film, but I was hoping for something more than the great ending they had. If you’re a practicing Catholic, though, this film will probably be a lot more effective.

5.5/10