Beast from Haunted Cave (1959)

Directed by Monte Hellman [Other horror films: The Terror (1963), Silent Night, Deadly Night 3: Better Watch Out! (1989), Trapped Ashes (2006, segment ‘Stanley’s Girlfriend’)]

One of the many cheap horror films from the late 1950’s, Beast from Haunted Cave has a little charm, but having seen it twice now, I don’t think that charm does a hell of a lot to save it.

The biggest problem here is that, as far as I could tell, we never really saw much of the beast. We saw it’s arms a few times, and sort of a head, but as far as an overall view is concerned, I still don’t know if it was a giant spider or a land-octopus. Maybe it wouldn’t matter had it been used to greater effect, but this movie doesn’t really possess the subtlety you’d see in, say, a Val Lewton production.

Michael Forest made for a nice-looking, rugged lead, and he worked well with Shelia Noonan, who’s the real star of the film. Noonan played a pretty complicated character for such a cheap-looking movie, which is a shame, because I think she did a pretty good job with her material. She never really did do much else afterward in the movie industry, which is, again, a shame. Here, she started off with a shaky character, but she developed quickly and became quite sympathetic. Frank Wolff (who is better known for his spaghetti westerns) was okay, but I feel like his character could have used some of the development that Noonan’s got.

Being a snow-covered hill, I think Beast from Haunted Cave had a solid setting (and in fact, the beginning of the film thanks the people of South Dakota for the use of their state for filming, which I thought was a nice gesture), and I liked the skiing (never been skiing myself, but it almost looks fun), but aside from looking nice, the setting itself didn’t have much to do with the story.

I think the main issue with this film is what I said earlier, being that the beast isn’t really seen clearly (at least in the version I saw – I watched a 66-minute version of this movie, and I know that longer prints exist, so I sort of wonder how those go), and while there are some brutal scenes (a woman being drained of her blood by the beast), there’s not a lot here that did much as far as I was concerned.

Watching this again wasn’t the worst time ever (and part of this is due to the fact that it’s a pretty short movie, no matter which version you watch), but I think there are plenty of better films from the late 1950’s that are worth attention.

5/10

Two on a Guillotine (1965)

Directed by William Conrad [Other horror films: N/A]

This is a movie that I’ve been wanting to see for a long time. As soon as I first saw the title, I was hooked. Now fast-forward eight years or so, and here I am. Overall, while it’s not really the type of movie I expected (not that my expectations were based on anything more than the fact I knew a magician was in this movie), I do think it was a lot of fun and is worth a look should you be a fan of 1960’s horror.

Let me first talk about my foolish expectations coming into this. Before I really knew the plot (in which a young woman must spend a week in a dark and creaky house in order to fulfill the request in the will of her deceased father), all I knew was that it involved a magician. And what two films from around the same time period involved magicians? For one, the somewhat underrated 1960 film The Hypnotic Eye, along with the colorful, confusing gore-fest that was The Wizard of Gore (1970).

This movie is not anything like either of those whatsoever, and feels more like House of the Damned with maybe a few elements of House on Haunted Hill thrown in, which I think works to it’s benefit. At times it feels like it could have appropriately been made ten years earlier (and it doesn’t help that the film’s in black-and-white, which was falling out of favor around this time), but there’s also the somewhat lengthy romantic subplot that might have been handled differently in older films, so there’s enough here to place this in the 1960’s.

Though he doesn’t have much screen-time, Cesar Romero is a pleasure to see, and stands out well despite his short time on screen. Virginia Gregg did pretty well too, though half the time she played a drunk character, so more than anything, I found her amusing, but she had a few strong emotional scenes also. I don’t really know either Connie Stevens or Dean Jones, but they both did fantastic, and their slow-growing romance here (not something you’d necessarily expect to see in a horror film) was pretty delightful to see.

I can’t say that the mystery here really had the best conclusion, but it’s also accurate to say there were only so many possibilities (as I saw it, maybe four or five realistic endings), and the one that we got was still okay (and certainly led to additional emotional scenes and a solid finale). It never got too into expository as some endings, especially from the time period, can do, and I think the somber finale did well.

The setting, being a cliché mansion, wasn’t the most original we’ve seen, but I do appreciate how it stood out a bit by being filled with magicians’ tricks and props (such as that flying skeleton, which was used to great effect both times it came up), and it lent the film both a solid atmosphere and some pretty creepily creaky moments.

Two on a Guillotine isn’t a new favorite of the 1960’s, and I never really thought it would be, but it is a pretty solid film that has a decent amount to offer. It does run at almost an hour and 50 minutes, so while I never personally felt it dragged, that’s certainly something to be aware of. It also spends a fair amount of time on a building romance, so some also might not find that engaging, but overall, I really enjoyed the film.

8.5/10

Trog (1970)

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), Gebissen wird nur nachts – das Happening der Vampire (1971), Tales from the Crypt (1972), 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)]

A frustrating movie that occasionally has the sense of potential, Trog is, more than anything, a somewhat dry drama with a few horror portions sprinkled in (mainly at the beginning and the end), but it’s not enough to keep my interest, especially since I have to suffer through the idiocy of anti-scientific sentiments from multiple characters (one of them a scientist himself, which is just insulting).

The characters were one of the more frustrating things about the film, to be sure. I’m not saying that the story didn’t have problems, because it certainly did (once the troglodyte got to the research center, I certainly felt the movie went into a bit of a lull despite some moderately interesting looks at how scientists would react at such a discovery), but many of the characters (pretty much everyone who wasn’t either a scientist or Jack May) were entirely against the concept of keeping the discovered troglodyte for research, which really grinded my gears.

Of course, the worst of these characters was played by Michael Gough (who was in plenty of horror films in the 1960’s and early 1970’s, from The Skull and Curse of the Crimson Alter to The Legend of Hell House and Satan’s Slave), who did a good job at playing a detestable, anti-scientific individual. That guy was a bigger danger than 80 troglodytes ever could have been, and almost every death and ounce of destruction caused by the troglodyte could be traced back to his character’s idiocy.

And what’s worse is that, most of the community, and the police, seem to blame the scientists more, specifically Joan Crawford’s character. Crawford (who was in the fantastic What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? nearly ten years previously) was great here, playing a scientist who was actually interested in doing all she could to both benefit the Trog (as I’ll call it from now on) and the scientific community. She had sound reasons for everything she was doing, and even instilled that ethic into her daughter, played by Kim Braden. She was a great character, and it’s just a shame that people blamed her for the troubles caused almost exclusively by the anti-science bigots in the film.

To be clear, the story here, even without the characters, wasn’t great. I think the opening was pretty solid (three guys running amok of the Trog while cave-diving – it had a solid, claustrophobic feel to it), and the Trog’s rampage at the end was okay (it would have been better if it was actually a wild animal as opposed to a creature that just felt threatened), but most of the film follows Crawford’s character as she tries to ramp up support for keeping the Trog alive and try to train the Trog to do simple tasks (learning how to use toys, catch balls, understand colors, that type of thing).

The design for the troglodyte was somewhat laughable, and I think that, along with it’s admittedly dry plot, is a lot of the reason this has such a poor reputation. There’s also that ridiculous four-minute flashback that the troglodyte has, which uses claymation, I believe, and was overly tedious.

I didn’t really think that Trog would be a movie I’d end up liking, and it wasn’t. I wish there was more rampage here and less science, and more likable characters than just Crawford and Braden, but for the most part, this is a dry British film that, while the color looks nice, doesn’t have near enough to really hold interest for a long period of time.

4.5/10

Non aprite quella porta 3 (1990)

Directed by Claudio Fragasso [Other horror films: Virus (1980), Rats – Notte di terrore (1984), Leviatán (1984), Zombi 3 (1988), After Death (Oltre la morte) (1989), La casa 5 (1990), Troll 2 (1990), Una notte da paura (2012), Italian horror stories (2021)] & Bruno Mattei [Other horror films: Casa privata per le SS (1977), KZ9 – Lager di sterminio (1977), Virus (1980), L’altro inferno (1981), Violenza in un carcere femminile (1982), Rats – Notte di terrore (1984), Zombi 3 (1988), Terminator II (1989), Occhi senza volto (1994), Cruel Jaws (1995), Snuff killer – La morte in diretta (2003), Mondo cannibale (2004), Nella terra dei cannibali (2004), La tomba (2006), L’isola dei morti viventi (2007), Zombi: La creazione (2007)]

This Italian film, originally titled Non aprite quella porta 3, was an occasionally fun, occasionally dry movie, but I don’t think many people could say that it wasn’t entertaining.

Once the film moves away from the random kills and starts focusing on a single woman (Tara Buckman) and her ordeal of being abducted by a mysterious man (Peter Hooten), I think the movie gets in a bit of a lull, but it really doesn’t stay there long, and even though the portions I could have done without, it doesn’t stay too dull.

I’d say that no one really went out of there way to give a great performance, but most of the main actors and actresses were fine, such as Tara Buckman and Peter Hooten (despite his somewhat questionable character). Mel Davis (the police officer) and Lee Lively (the doctor) made for an interesting pair when they were on screen, and I appreciated it. I don’t think we learned enough about Richard Foster’s character to really make a judgment one way or the other.

Being a slasher fan, I did enjoy most of the kills here. None of them are really amazing (most of them end with the killer ramming his razor-sharp claw-glove through women’s stomachs), but that opening scene had some quality suspense and even a painful-looking cut. As for the end – well, I appreciate them going outside the box a little (because if things had ended how it was setting up to, it would have been quite the lack-luster conclusion), but I’m not entirely buying it either.

The masked killer in Night Killer looks silly, but it does possess it’s hokey charm, and certainly if he’s raping and killing women, the silliness of his mask sort of declines over time. I don’t think this Italian movie was necessary, and I wish it felt more like a giallo than a third-rate slasher, but for the early 90’s, in a country where soon horror would be hard to come by, I can appreciate the film. I just don’t love it.

6.5/10

This is one of the films covered on Fight Evil’s podcast. If you’re interested in hearing what Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I think about this Italian film, check it out, brahs.

Malibu Shark Attack (2009)

Directed by David Lister [Other horror films: N/A]

So I’m not going to claim that Malibu Shark Attack is a good movie, but I will say that, in some ways, it’s a refreshing one, because while it’s not a serious film at all times, this is before Syfy got stupid with their killer shark movies, and this one almost feels like an okay attempt at the sub-genre.

I enjoyed how the tsunami tied into the movie, because seeing those levels of destruction was pretty impressive, and what helped that were the newscasts seen throughout the film. What I liked about these newscasts was that they were appropriately somber and the exact type of thing you’d expect to see in a real situation like this, and it also helped that while the newscasts extensively followed the flooding, sharks never came up, which made it significantly more serious than any of the later shark movies (Sharknado and 2-Headed Shark Attack, I’m looking at you).

Most of the main cast here is fine. I mean, they’re generic, but they get the job done. Admittedly I couldn’t have cared less about Warren Christie’s character (a name you might recognize from Apollo 18), and there were a few others (Jeff Gannon, Sonya Salomaa, and Nicholas Cooper) that left no impression, but everyone else was fine.

Remi Broadway played a character not too different from Christie’s, but I liked Broadway’s story more, and, oddly enough, his budding romance with the irresponsible airhead played by Chelan Simmons (who, fun fact, played that little girl who was killed in the opening scene of the 1990 mini-series It). Simmons was also rather cute here, though for most of the film, her personality was atrocious. Peta Wilson didn’t have an atrocious personality, though – she was a strong character and perhaps one of the best in the movie, so kudos to her.

Now, sure, the special effects of the goblin sharks are horrible, but they’re not as obnoxiously horrible as later Syfy movies, so in a way, it gives this movie a bit of a pass on that. There was a pretty painful scene of a character getting their leg stitched up without anesthetics, and that cut did look gnarly, so that was fun. Overall, nothing in the special effects department ruined the film.

I’ve seen Malibu Shark Attack before, and when I came to watch it again, I wasn’t dreading it like I do some rewatches, and that’s partially because I had an okay time with it the first time around, and the same can be said today. It’s not a great shark movie, but it’s honestly, at least in my opinion, not terrible.

6/10

The Night Before Halloween (2016)

Directed by Sheldon Wilson [Other horror films: Shallow Ground (2004), Kaw (2007), Screamers: The Hunting (2009), Carny (2009), Mothman (2010), Red: Werewolf Hunter (2010), Killer Mountain (2011), Scarecrow (2013), Shark Killer (2015), The Unspoken (2015), The Hollow (2015), Neverknock (2017), Stickman (2017), Dead in the Water (2018)]

In some ways, this Syfy original feels likes a mixture between Sorority Row/Tamara and It Follows, with a group of friends covering up an accidental death and contending with some evil entity or something (and I do mean ‘or something’ – we never learn anything about this entity aside from the fact it takes the form of CGI flies). It’s not the worst Syfy original I’ve seen in my many years, but it’s far from the best.

One of the problems is a similar problem to what Sorority Row had – at the beginning of the film, five friends decide to cover up the circumstances of an accident (that in reality, only three of the friends were involved with), and they have the exact same conversation they had in Tamara and Sorority Row. “Oh, this will ruin our futures,” and “Fine, you can call the police if you want to spend the next 20 years in prison,” that tripe. I’m not saying this isn’t theoretically realistic, but I am saying that as soon as that deal is made, my sympathy for any of the characters, even the hesitant ones, is thrown out the window entirely.

So when people start dying, be it the bitchy girl (Kiana Madeira) or the ‘nice girl’ (Bailee Madison), I don’t care, because these people are all horrible and whether they die or not is the least of my concerns. 

It doesn’t help that the entity isn’t made clear – apparently it can use cell phones (and it uses smileys when it texts, so yay for technological demons, I guess) – but we never learn anything about it’s origins, and we don’t even know if “the curse” that gets passed onto them is legit, because it seems that whether or not you complete it’s specifications (if those even are it’s specifications and not something previously -cursed people thought would help), you can be killed by it anyway.

None of this is the fault of the cast, who are all reasonably fine playing hateable characters. Kiana Maderia later showed up in one of Syfy’s better original movies, Neverknock. Bailee Madison was sort of cute, but also played a horrible person. Anthony Lemke (American Psycho, of all places) played an almost-interesting but ultimately generic cop, so no award there.

When everything’s said-and-done, there are worse Syfy original movies out there (look at 2018’s Karma, which even had a similar idea to this), but there are plenty of better, more memorable films, and I’d probably say the only thing I’ll remember about this one was the okay twist. Otherwise, it’s just not a good movie.

5.5/10

Faust: Eine deutsche Volkssage (1926)

Directed by F.W. Murnau [Other horror films: Satanas (1920), Der Bucklige und die Tänzerin (1920), Der Januskopf (1920), Schloß Vogelöd (1921) Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens (1922)]

Obliviously much more a drama than a horror, Faust: Eine deutsche Volkssage still has enough dark elements in it for it to clearly count as horror, which I’m grateful for, because otherwise, I’d probably never have seen this beautiful-looking movie.

The story here is one, of course, of a morality tale, in which Mephisto makes a wager with an angel that he can corrupt Faust, and the angel’s all like “Brah, men are too good to corrupt, I take your wager and if I lose, the world is yours.” And of course, through the tragedy and misery, the grace of God reigns supreme, and because of love, Mephisto’s wager fails.

Now, I can do without all of the religious bullshit, but I admit that I love how some movies back then had the cojones to work within such a strongly fantastical story. Morality tales were the basis of horror films (just look at 1913’s Der Student von Prag), and stories that took place primarily in Hell have too been done (Italy’s 1925 Maciste all’inferno), so a movie like this that deals with a theological wager between two high entities is certainly welcomed. And you know that, if a newer movie did this, it would just look ridiculous, but here, it doesn’t look too shabby at all.

The pleasure of watching silent films is seeing exactly how much they were able to do with the limitations they had, and there are plenty of scenes in this film that really look great, and in fact far more impressive than modern-day special effects. While I do wish the latter half of the story had had more carnage in it (aside from that provided by the religious bigots who were going to burn a woman to death for killing her child, but the only reason that child died was because the religious bigots considered the woman a ‘whore’ and thus she had no support system – just another reason to stand against religious beliefs, I feel), I cannot deny that the special effects here all look stupendous.

Emil Jannings (Die Augen der Mumie Ma and Das Wachsfigurenkabinett) was solid as Mephisto, though there were a few light-hearted scenes surrounding him and a woman who was chasing after him (played by Yvette Guilbert) that I could have done without. As Faust, Gösta Ekman had an expressive and expansive range, and came across very impressively. And as for Camilla Horn – well, let me put it this way: I’m not usually one to find women from older movies attractive, but her – hubba hubba. I mean, she was one smokin’ piece, as the kids say, and her performance too, once the story turned more tragic, was certainly admirable.

Valentin, played by William Dieterle (the aforementioned Das Washsfigurenkabinett being his only other venture into horror) was a solid character, big and strong, until he went after his sister’s lover (after saying, basically, that she should put herself out more) and then calling her a ‘whore’ and also calling for her death. So basically, fuck this guy.

So with a fine cast, amazing special effects, and an interesting set-up, Faust is definitely one of those German classics that people like me sometimes like to bring up. It’s a damn fine piece of cinema, and while it’s not a personal favorite from the silent era for me personally, it’s still very much worth seeing.

7.5/10

Doctor X (1932)

Directed by Michael Curtiz [Other horror films: Alraune (1919), The Mad Genius (1931), Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933), The Walking Dead (1936)]

This has long been a movie I’ve found interesting. The story in Doctor X itself isn’t amazingly before it’s time (though references to cannibalism are welcomed), but the fact that the movie’s in color – in 1932 – is very much a stand-out. I don’t think it necessarily needed to be in color – it’s not like it made a big difference in any way – but the film is probably easier to get into for those who shy away from older movies, and I’ve always found it a hoot.

Certainly the film is far from perfect, but I appreciate how the story focuses on a very human killer as opposed to a vampire, a monster made up from dead body parts, or a mummy. We have, like any quality horror movie from the golden years, a plethora of potential suspects, and of course, a wise-cracking newsman out to get a story.

Lee Tracy isn’t a big name in the genre, and as far as I’m aware, this was his only role in a horror film, which is a shame, as he does pretty decent here. Maybe he comes across a bit generically, and many people in the industry would have been able to take on this same role without problem, but Tracy does well nonetheless.

Lionel Atwill is no stranger to the genre, appearing in films such as The Vampire Bat, Murders in the Zoo, Son of Frankenstein, Secret of the Blue Room, Mystery of the Wax Museum, and Mark of the Vampire, among others, and does great here as one of the lead scientists. He’s just suspicious enough at times to make for a good suspect, and it’s nice seeing an old hand wear a new (and colored) glove.

Elsewise, we have Fay Wray (King Kong, The Vampire Bat, Mystery of the Wax Museum, and Black Moon), who plays the very attractive daughter of Atwill, and has some rather amusing lines as well, matching Tracy with ease. Preston Foster was the only other one who really stood out, and that’s more due to the fact he looked like a good lead man than anything else.

I always loved the opening atmosphere of Doctor X, taking place on the misty docks next to a morgue with an ambulance coming in. It’s a solid opening, and I think the story is pretty entertaining, especially once they move to the admittedly cliché castle. Still, it’s overall a decent movie.

7.5/10

The Beast with Five Fingers (1946)

Directed by Robert Florey [Other horror films: Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932)]

It’s been some years since I’ve last seen this one, and I have to admit that I didn’t find it as enjoyable this time around as I did the first time I saw it. It’s not that The Beast with Five Fingers is a bad movie, because it certainly has it’s charm, but I do think an argument could be made that it moderately overstays it’s welcome, and that goofy conclusion didn’t help much.

Of course, it’s great to see Peter Lorre focused on so heavily here. He’s not the main character, no, but he does have an important role, and given how fantastic he was in the eleven-year earlier Mad Love, it’s nice to see him being thrown a somewhat similar role. Robert Alda (who later starred in a forgettable horror film ironically titled The Devil’s Hand) was a decent lead, and with J. Carroll Naish (The Monster Maker), they were an interesting pair trying to figure out what was going on.

Even so, as fun as some of the movie was, it definitely felt like it was dragging past the half-way mark, and again, the final few moments throws in some goofy things that aren’t be any means deal-breakers, but at the same time, I wish they had at least kept it down to one goofy ending scene, as opposed to two.

Still, I’ll give this credit for it’s original idea (especially for a decade like the 1940’s) that predates The Hand by 35 years and Idle Hands by 53 years (these are the only three killer hand movies that I can think of, so take that as you will). I just wish it had cut a few things out. The Beast with Five Fingers isn’t a bad movie, but I do think it’s a bit below average, which is definitely not my view on it when I last saw it.

6/10

Sora no daikaijû Radon (1956)

Directed by Ishirô Honda [Other horror films: Gojira (1954), Gojira no gyakushû (1955), Jû jin yuki otoko (1955), Godzilla: King of the Monsters! (1956), Godzilla (1957), Tokyo 1960 (1957), Bijo to ekitai ningen (1958), Daikaijû Baran (1958), Half Human: The Story of the Abominable Snowman (1958), Gigantis: The Fire Monster (1959), Mosura (1961), Varan the Unbelievable (1962), King Kong vs. Godzilla (1963), Matango (1963), Mosura tai Gojira (1964), Uchû daikaijû Dogora (1964), War-Gods of the Deep (1965), Furankenshutain tai chitei kaijû Baragon (1965), Furankenshutain no kaijû: Sanda tai Gaira (1966), Gezora, Ganime, Kameba: Kessen! Nankai no daikaijû (1970), Gojira tai Hedora (1971), Godzilla (1977), Godzilla 1985 (1985), Gojira vs. Desutoroiâ (1995), Gojira tai Megagirasu: Jî shômetsu sakusen (2000)]

Released beautifully in color, this Japanese monster movie, a follow-up of sorts to the Godzilla movies, is a pretty fun film, and while, much like the recently-seen The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, it isn’t my normal cup of tea, I can indulge in a sip or two.

What makes Rodan work is how the story unravels – it starts out with mysterious murders, and then it’s discovered those deaths are caused by a creature long-thought dead. And then we find out there are more of these creatures, and then there’s a giant egg, and then there’s two Rodans, so it’s all fun.

The design for Rodan isn’t the best, and the effects are questionable, especially since you can clearly scene the strings holding it up in multiple scenes, but I thought they were fun anyway. The fact that they flew at supersonic speed (and certainly had the sound effects to back that up) and caused utter destruction with their sound-waves was cool. One of the Rodans (or Rodani) just flew above a jeep, and utterly fucked it up, so when it happens to whole parts of the city, it’s hella fun.

I can’t say there’s much in the way of memorable characters here aside from maybe the lead, Kenji Sahara, and even he wasn’t amazing, but he did have cool hair. Really, in a movie like this, with so many moving parts, it’s not easy to have a plethora of important and interesting characters, so the fact that Sahara was about the only one that stuck out to me isn’t that much a deterrent.

Toho monster movies aren’t something I’ve a lot of experience with, but I’ve seen Rodan before, and it’s enough fun that I’m sure I’ll see it again. I don’t think it’s a special movie (though the color is smashing), but it is a decent one.

7/10