Loon (2015)

Directed by Brandon Tobatto [Other horror films: Hacked Up for Barbecue (2009), Loons (2016), Cottontail (2017), Sugarplum (2017), Madhouse (2020)]

For a lower budget film, Loon is okay. It’s not great, and it’s possible calling it good is a stretch, but there’s a somewhat interesting story here, and though I don’t think I’d go back to it, I can appreciate what they were going for.

Truth be told, I expected most of the film to deal with the group of friends going to explore an old carnival attraction – something like a lower budget version of Haunt. You can soon see that’s not where the film’s going, as it switches gears to focus on a police detective (Ryan Gray) and his attempts to go after the killer stalking the woods around the carnival attraction, which is at least different.

Obviously, being a film of this budget, some of the acting is not great. I do think that Tara Moates and Trevor Moates worked as siblings, and given the last names, it’s quite possible that’s the case. During the opening flashback, Kerissa Porter and Randy Porter were good also, and I thought it was sort of a shame that opening scene was all they got. Otherwise, no one really did that well – Ryan Gray had some okay moments, as did both Anne Tuck and John Nieman, but everything else was just ehh.

What’s more was some of the dialogue felt iffy, and the delivery especially stood out as lower quality. I don’t think that really hurt the movie as a whole – God knows I’ve seen worse in other films – but it was noticeable at times.

Also noticeable was the fact that, save for a kill toward the end of the film, there weren’t many kills here worth seeing. The killer primarily used a bat to beat people to death, which is good and all, but after a while, I can’t say it’s not a little repetitive.

Even so, from my understanding, the budget of Loon was around $100, and I know that they probably got more out of the money than I could have. I don’t think the movie’s good, but I do think they did well with what they had, and though there were aspects of the story I wasn’t a fan of (I would have liked it if Tara Moates and Trevor Moates had a bit more to do in the second half of the movie), it’s not a terrible film if you know what you’re going into.


Salvage (2006)

Directed by Jeff Crook [Other horror films: N/A] & Josh Crook [Other horror films: Demon Hole (2017)]

In many ways, Salvage is a tragic film. It’s a movie that has potential, but despite some good ideas, I just don’t know if it’s worth it, and I definitely think the finale could have been done better.

Ambitious in some ways, especially with the twist to the story, I can appreciate Salvage for what it’s attempting to go for. It’s perhaps the type of movie that, after you’re finished watching it, you might want to read some theories online and try to make sense of it. In truth, it’s not that complicated, but it is somewhat confusing, because I just felt there wasn’t a clear enough answer given at the conclusion.

I think Lauren Currie Lewis did well with the role, especially for an individual who doesn’t have that much acting experience. Chris Ferry’s (Rise of the Dead) character never really got that much character, but he looked threatening when he was peeling faces off, so that’s not such a bad thing. Cody Darbe was occasionally amusing, but boy, was he a bad boyfriend.

Really, having seen this film once before (though I admit, it has been at least eight years, if not longer), I was hoping that the time away would allow me to come into this one fresh, and enjoy it just a bit more, or at least enough to see the uniqueness of the film’s answers. And I do sort of like what the film’s finale was going for, but I just don’t think it was executed as well as it could have been.

Salvage isn’t an easy movie for me to dislike, because I keep wanting to give credit to the film’s explanation of a Groundhog Day-esque situation, but so much of the film feels disjointed and dream-like (for the last third of the film, I was assuming all of it was a dream, which isn’t correct, but it’s also not incorrect, because that’s how we roll brahs) that it’s hard to really enjoy. 

Look, Salvage isn’t terrible. I don’t think it’s necessarily good, but it’s not terrible. I think it’s a movie that had more ambitions than they could really succeed in, but maybe if I watch this a third time, with the ending in mind going in, maybe it’ll do more for me.


The Earth Dies Screaming (1964)

Directed by Terence Fisher [Other horror films: Three’s Company (1953, episodes ‘The Surgeon’ & ‘ Take a Number’), The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), Dracula (1958), The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958), The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959), The Man Who Could Cheat Death (1959), The Mummy (1959), The Stranglers of Bombay (1959), The Brides of Dracula (1960), The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll (1960), The Curse of the Werewolf (1961), The Phantom of the Opera (1962), The Horror of It All (1964), The Gorgon (1964), Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966), Island of Terror (1966), Frankenstein Created Woman (1967), Night of the Big Heat (1967), The Devil Rides Out (1968), Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969), Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974)]

In many ways, The Earth Dies Screaming is a decent movie, and reminiscent of later films (such as Night of the Living Dead). It’s a short film, running at just over an hour, and as such, quite digestible. I don’t think The Earth Dies Screaming is a movie I’d watch too often, and I don’t have a lot to say about it, but the movie is perfectly solid.

The film moves quite quickly – it has to, given how short it is. Most of civilization dies in a matter of a couple of minutes due to a gas attack, aside from a handful of people (reminding me of Corman’s Last Woman on Earth) who survived, such as a pilot. They then fight off zombie-esque controlled human beings and giant space robots.

It’s a quick, fun movie, with not really that much to it – there’s some conflict in the group of survivors (there always tends to be), and there’s naturally conflict against the alien menace. They discover a way to defeat, at least partially, the alien menace, and they make an attempt to do so. It’s simple and effective, just as you’d expect from the British.

Willard Parker, is his second-to-last film, made for a good and strong lead. He had that typical strong man feel to him, and I enjoyed him here. Dennis Price (The Haunted House of Horror and The Horror of It All) made for a fine human antagonist, though he got on my nerves quick. No other performances really stood out, aside from Thorley Walters (Frankenstein Created Woman), who had strong scene near the end.

The director of this one was Terence Fisher (and as you can see above, he has quite the filmography), which is partially why this film works as well as it does for so simple a story. There were some suspenseful scenes, and utilizing corpses as something that can be controlled by the soon-to-be robot overlords was a nice touch.

All-in-all, I don’t think The Earth Dies Screaming is an amazing movie, but it does what it needs to and does it quickly, and while it’s not one I think I’d watch too often in the future, I did think it was decent, and at least worth seeing once.


Welcome to Arrow Beach (1973)

Directed by Laurence Harvey [Other horror films: N/A]

I didn’t really know anything about what to expect going into Welcome to Arrow Beach, and now that I’ve seen it, I’m having somewhat of a difficult time deciding how I feel. On the one hand, the film is a bit slow, and I don’t know if the three-minute finale makes up for the sluggish nature of the first hour and a half. On the other, I did sort of dig the story and what they were going for.

Honestly, it reminded me a bit of two other films from the first half of the 1970’s, being Terror House and Warlock Moon. Both were a bit slow, both possessed a very 70’s free vibe, and both dealt with young women getting into a situation that’s not easy to escape from, if escape even is possible. Welcome to Arrow Beach fits that perfectly.

The story is simple enough – a hitch-hiking young woman stays over at someone’s beachside house, and finds out that the owner isn’t the most pleasant individual. But when she escapes and tells the police, because she’s a free-love hippie type, credibility isn’t her high point (it doesn’t help that drugs are planted on her). And after a few more things happen, and she decides to go back to the house to get some proof.

Really, for as much time is spent on somewhat tedious scenes (for instance, Stuart Whitman as the deputy is beginning to believe the hippie girl’s story, but that subplot never goes anywhere), I shouldn’t feel as defensive as I do about the film. There’s only three action-packed sequences, and while they’re all good, I don’t know if it’s enough.

Meg Foster did a great job as the main character. Foster (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, The Wind, They Live, Stepfather II, and The Lords of Salem) really has that free-love spirit I associate with the hippie subculture, and her referring to her breasts as “secondary sexual characteristics” pegged her for an amusing sort. This film is pretty early in her career, and I think for a younger actress she did really well here.

Laurence Harvey (who died in late 1973, and also appeared in Night Watch) played a cool cat out to make a killing (for any fans of the DC comic book series The Atom, specifically the 1960’s series, #27, you might catch that highly obscure reference), and Harvey did a good job, though I wish we got a bit more backstory on him. Ditto Joanna Pettet (The Evil and Double Exposure), who played Harvey’s sister.

I like the two main cops – John Ireland and Stuart Whitman. Ireland (I Saw What You Did, Miami Golem, Satan’s Cheerleaders, Day of the Nightmare, Terror Night, The House of Seven Corpses, and The Graveyard Story) was fun with his rugged, conservative cop route (in fact, he’s running for re-election as sheriff, and gets asked by a student paper his political beliefs – anti-porn, anti-abortion, anti-fun), and with more humanity, there’s Whitman (Revenge!, Vultures, Eaten Alive, and Night of the Lepus), who does pretty well, but again, his story doesn’t really go anywhere. Two others, being Janear Hines and David Macklin, stood out as well.

Welcome to Arrow Beach did do a few interesting things. One of the kills was during a photo shoot, and in little flashes, it goes from a woman being photographed to being chopped apart (we don’t see the extent of the damage, but there is definitely dismemberment involved). Another character opens a refrigerator, and seeing a bag of hamburger, has a flashback-type thing – this flashback isn’t the whole screen, though, it’s superimposed on the hamburger. It’s not amazing, but it did give this film a few unique portions.

This is a really hard film to get a grasp on. I liked a decent amount about it, and it was mostly engaging, but at the same time, I really think there should have been more meat to the story, Some background on Harvey’s character would have been nice (all we get were a few disjointed flashbacks), but even so, if you liked the vibe of films like Warlock Moon and Terror House, this is worth seeing.


Screamtime (1983)

Directed by Michael Armstrong [Other horror films: The Haunted House of Horror (1969), Hexen bis aufs Blut gequält (1970)] & Stanley A. Long [Other horror films: N/A]

This British anthology horror film may be cheap, but I think it has a lot of heart and occasional originality. It’s not the most polished movie, but Screamtime does have a decent amount going for it.

I’ve seen this one before, and I remembered a good portion of it (being the framing story, along with two of the three tales here). I remembered that I thought it was decent, but not great. That assessment is spot on, but that’s not at all damning. All three of the stories here are, at the very least, good, and when all the stories in an anthology horror film are good (which doesn’t happen very often), then you know you’re doing something right.

To be sure, the framing story here is laughably weak. It’s not as bad as Slices, but then again, what is? Here, two guys steal some videotapes from a store, and go to a friend’s apartment to watch them. Those tapes make up each of the three stories, being ‘That’s the Way to Do It,’ ‘Dreamhouse,’ and ‘Do You Believe in Fairies?’. Obviously, the set-up is utter weaksauce, but because I sort of like the movie, it doesn’t lose anything because of that.

Of the three stories, the one that comes closest to great is the last one, ‘Do You Believe in Fairies?’, This is partially due to quite an original story dealing with gnomes and fairies, and it’s just a lot of fun, especially with the performances of Jean Anderson and Dora Bryan. Both of the others are pretty fun too – ‘Dreamhouse’ is more a slow-burn about a woman seeing visions in her house, whereas ‘That’s the Way to Do It’ is decently solid throughout, about an older gentleman being put down by his family for running a Punch and Judy puppet show.

There are good performances in all of the stories (aside from the framing sequence, that is), which is nice. From the first segment, there’s Robin Bailey (See No Evil), whose performance reminds me a decent amount of Peter Cushing from his segment in Tales from the Crypt. Yvonne Nicholson wears the biggest pair of glasses I’ve ever seen in ‘Dreamhouse,’ and she’s believable throughout. And from the final story, as I mentioned you have the pair Dora Bryan and Jean Anderson. Both played the sweet older women nicely, and Jean Andersone reminded me of a mixture between Frances Bay (Happy Gilmore) and Myra Carter (Storm of the Century).

No doubt Screamtime is a cheap film. There’s not much in the way of special effects, and the framing sequence is never great (though I do love the utterly ridiculous ending). Even so, Screamtime has a lot of heart and originality, and I deeply applaud this British film for that. If you want an anthology horror film that’s worth seeing, give Screamtime a chance.


La main du diable (1943)

Directed by Maurice Tourneur [Other horror films: While Paris Sleeps (1923)]

This will be a somewhat quick write-up, if for no other reason, I just don’t have too much to really say about this French classic.

Sometimes known as Carnival of Sinners, this movie was another take on the whole deal-with-the-devil idea. As far back as Der Student von Prag, this has sometimes been an element in horror movies, so it’s not the most original content, but it is done quite well here, with a talisman being passed off from one person to another, and the central character here (Pierre Fresnay) tells the whole sordid story to a group at an inn.

To be fair, the movie feels more like a fantasy than it does a horror film for much of it, so it makes since that some of this wouldn’t be quite as interesting to me. To add to that, certainly that’s nothing to hold against the film – while I myself am not much a fantasy guy, plenty of people are, and given the rating this holds on IMDb (7.4/10), it’s fair to say I’m in the minority.

There are some clever things in the film, especially during a scene toward the end when we learn about each of the previous men who at one time possessed the talisman. Their origins are sort of told as though they’re plays, and it looked quite nifty, and the type of thing newer films wouldn’t really be able to replicate.

Pierre Fresnay was good as the lead, and Noël Roquevert (Diabolique) has some good scenes early on, but I think if there’s anyone who stands out, it’d have to be Palau, who played the Little Man (or, in terms more commonplace, the Devil). He had that charming personality that a Devil should have, and I think Palau had a good time playing the part.

With that in mind, La main du diable primarily felt, to me, like an extra long episode of The Twilight Zone. It just has that type of vibe, and while that’s not a bad thing, deal-with-the-devil stories aren’t really my preference, and so, while I appreciated plenty of technical aspect of the film, I can’t say it’s a French film I’d want to spend too much time with in the future.

I did think it was interesting, though, that this was directed by Maurice Tourneur, who is the father of Jacques Tourneur (the individual who directed classics such as Cat People, The Leopard Man, and I Walked with a Zombie), so while this isn’t a movie I was that fond of, I definitely appreciate other contributions his family made.


Madhouse (1974)

Directed by Jim Clark [Other horror films: N/A]

Madhouse isn’t the greatest movie I’ve ever seen. No doubt it’s a fun film – what more could you expect from a movie starring Vincent Price and Peter Cushing? – but it’s not necessarily the most original film, and while I certainly had a good time with it, I’m not sure it will stand the test of time like many of the films each have otherwise been involved in.

Of course, the story is decent, albeit in a been-there, done-it way, as Price’s character has to decide whether someone is trying to frame him for the murders going on around him or he’s having a mental break-down, as he has in the past. We’ve all seen films like this before, and to be sure, it was based on a novel titled Devilday, written by Angus Hall, so it’s not entirely the film’s fault, but given the fact Price and Cushing are here, I’d have hoped for a more original story.

Even so, they work decently well with what they have. I don’t think the finale is great, and I pretty much suspected who was behind the killing somewhat early on, but at the very least, the film is quite serviceable, and though it may not be as memorable as something like The Abominable Dr. Phibes or Theatre of Blood, it’s not a shabby film.

Vincent Price, as readers may know, is perhaps one of my favorite actors, and there are plenty of clips in this movie of his past works (among them, House of Usher, The Pit and the Pendulum, The Raven, and The Haunted Palace), and there’s even a joke made in-movie about him previously playing the Invisible Man (as he did in both The Invisible Man Returns and the ending of Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein). Price is a lot of fun here, as he always is, and seeing him with Cushing is a treat.

And speaking about Peter Cushing, he’s another actor of whom I have a deep appreciation for. He appeared in a ton of horror films, including, but not at all limited to, The Abominable Snowman, The Mummy, Dracula, The Flesh and the Fiends, The Skull, Horror Express, Incense for the Damned, and Night of the Big Heat. Cushing was quite solid, and though there are times when he doesn’t appear too often on screen, you alway know he’s lurking about, which is good enough for me.

Others here obviously have difficulty standing out, but they still did well, all things considered. Natasha Pyne, Robert Quarry (Count Yorga, Vampire, Moon in Scorpio, and Deathmaster), Linda Hayden (Taste the Blood of Dracula and The Blood on Satan’s Claw), and Ian Thompson were all pretty solid, though I will say, both Catherine Willmer and Ellis Dale felt way, way too goofy with their characters.

The kills here weren’t what I’d call great. You did see a double impalement on a sword, and a woman stabbed with a pitchfork, but being a mid-70’s British film, they’re just quick sequences with little to them, so though this may well be an interesting proto-slasher, it’s not always the most engaging when it comes to the death sequences (though there is the after-effects of a decapitation near the beginning which wasn’t half bad).

Madhouse is a decent movie, but given the names involved, I was sort of expecting more than decent. Maybe that’s on me – God knows it’s not the first movie I went into with possibly unrealistic expectations. As it is, I found the movie a decent and fun watch, but ultimately, I do think it rests somewhere around average.


Island Claws (1980)

Directed by Hernan Cardenas [Other horror films: N/A]

There are some movies that I just wish were better, either because I think the concept is pretty cool or the film has a lot of potential. Island Claws is one of them. While it could have been a nice little treat from the early 80’s, instead it’s just mostly slow and really doesn’t have much in the way of reward.

A small part of this perception may be the print I watch, which was likely a VHS rip, and as such, was quite low in quality. Specifically, sequences that took place at night were quite difficult to decipher, and though I doubt my rating would change much had it been Blu-ray quality, that is worth taking note of.

Either way, it’s no doubt a slow movie, with it’s plot just crawling along and rarely doing much to pull the audience back in. There were a few good sequences – a man who lived in an old bus (not typical living quarters, but it looked comfortable) gets attacked by crabs, and the bus catches fire and blows up. And now that I think about it, that might be the only sequence I think of as actually good.

There were only five performances of note, and that’s being generous. Robert Lansing (Empire of the Ants, 4D Man, and The Nest) was pretty decent as one of the leads, working well with Steve Hanks (12/12/12) and Jo McDonnell. Barry Nelson (who some may recognize from The Shining) was good also, though he didn’t stand out as much as I’d have liked. Tony Rigo (who reminded me a little of Dick Miller) had his moments also.

Even so, the story here was just so slow, and even the occasionally interesting elements thrown in (such as some racism toward Haitians who are hiding out on the island) just didn’t amount to much in the end, especially when the final battle against the sole giant crab was so damn luckluster. I mean, I guess the crab looked okay, but when you have a choice between a film like this and Corman’s Attack of the Crab Monsters, and you’re leaning Corman, you know the movie has a problem.

Certainly there is a little charm to be had here. I personally liked the small-town feel, especially a scene early on in a rambunctious bar where everyone knew everyone. It was nice and homey. That doesn’t make the film worth seeing though, and despite hoping that I could like this (and I gave it two chances – I first saw this one some years back), it’s just really not that good.


The Eighteenth Angel (1997)

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

In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, religiously-themed horror films were all the rage, as the Millennium was upon us, and religious people are scared of even numbers, and as such, films such as Stigmata, End of Days, Lost Souls, The Ninth Gate, The Calling, and Bless the Child were borne into the world. Few of these are good, and while The Eighteenth Angel isn’t without merits, it still struggles to really stand out.

I will admit it was sort of funny seeing Christopher McDonald take the lead here. While McDonald has done a little horror in the past (1990’s Playroom), I know him almost solely from one of my favorite comedies, being Happy Gilmore (Shooter McGavin), but despite being unable to take him seriously at first, he did a really good job. Playing his daughter was Rachael Leigh Cook, and while her agency was limited toward the last third of the film, she had a strong start.

Not too many others here are all that memorable. Stanley Tucci has a few good scenes, most of those coming in the last thirty minutes or so. Wendy Crewson (Skullduggery of all places) didn’t have much to do past the first five minutes, but she was okay. Maximilian Schnell (Vampires) was a bit generic, but I guess John Crowther’s flowing hair was nice.

Actually, the story here was decent. It dealt with an Etruscian cult who, while buying into the framework of Christianity, instead dedicated their works to Satan, and by binding science and religion, hoped to fulfill some prophecy from the Etruscian Book of the Dead by using genetics, modeling, horses, and beauty. Yeah, being prophecy, not much is clear, but hey, that’s religion for you.

As it was, the conclusion to this film isn’t one that I’d personally call satisfactory, but I will give it points for being a bit different than I’d have expected. It was sort of ridiculous in some ways, but still, it was different.

To the film’s credit, there were some amusing kills in the film. One character is attacked and maimed by a bunch of cats, and another befalls a painful-looking spike-thingy. Even another is almost strangled by a pair of horses, which was a scene that was probably a lot more amusing to me than it should have been, given the emotional punch it did almost pack.

While The Eighteenth Angel did take a little bit to really become something I’d consider engaging, I will also say that the finale as a whole was pretty thrilling. I still think the film’s a bit below average, but The Eighteenth Angel did pick up nicely, and despite not personally caring for the final scenes, at least it picked up the pace.

Overall, when it comes to end-of-the-century horror, The Eighteenth Angel isn’t terrible. I don’t think there’s enough here for it to be good, but if you’re looking for some religiously-themed horror that is perhaps a bit more obscure, and one that has some occasionally decent scenes of cats attacking people, this may be a movie to look into.


Perché quelle strane gocce di sangue sul corpo di Jennifer? (1972)

Directed by Giuliano Carnimeo [Other horror films: Quella villa in fondo al parco (1988)]

Commonly known under the title The Case of the Bloody Iris, and perhaps sometimes known as What Are Those Strange Drops of Blood Doing on Jennifer’s Body?, this giallo is a great example of why I love the subgenre. There’s a fun story here with a lot of suspects and decent kills, and so Perché quelle strane gocce di sangue sul corpo di Jennifer? is a giallo done right.

It’s the mystery of the story that always drew me to gialli. I love slashers in which there are multiple reasonable suspects for who the killer is, but of course, not all slashers have that bent (such as The Slumber Party Massacre, Halloween, and Final Exam). Gialli, though, pretty much has to possess that element, and while it’s not always done well, when a giallo has all the pieces come together, it’s a damn good time.

Here, for instance, there’s no dearth of potential killers. When a young woman moves into an apartment building and multiple people around her start getting killed, sure, it could be the possibly gay photographer (Oreste Lionello), or maybe the mysterious man living in the nearby apartment, or the architect of the building (George Hilton) or the old professor (George Rigaud), or perhaps his lesbian daughter (Annabella Incontrera)? Oh, and let’s not forget the main character’s husband (Ben Carra), who is obsessed with getting her back.

The Case of the Bloody Iris has a pretty good mystery, and I was going back-and-forth on who I thought the killer might be (one of my guesses, though, was indeed correct), and when there’s not a clear-cut answer, I just love it. Come the finale, everything is pieced together nicely, red herrings are dealt with in reasonable and realistic manners, and everything just works.

Plenty of the performances here were great. There’s the lead, Edwige Fenech (from many Italian classics, such as Five Dolls for An August Moon, The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh, All the Colors of the Dark, Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key, and Strip Nude for Your Killer), who did a very good job playing a character who feels as though she’s in constant danger. George Hilton (The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh, The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail, All the Colors of the Dark, and The Killer Must Kill Again) didn’t have a ton of personality, but made for a good suspect.

I loved Giampiero Albertini as the police commissioner, and his stamp-collecting antics, not to mention his conversations with subordinate Franco Agostini were of good quality. Paola Quattrini played a hilarious roommate of Fenech’s, and all her scenes were golden. Annabella Incontrera (So Sweet, So Dead and The Crimes of the Black Cat) was amusing as an overly seductive lesbian neighbor, and like Quattrini’s character, I enjoyed her everytime she was on screen. Ben Carra, Carla Brait (Torso), George Rigaud (Horror Express and Love Brides of the Blood Mummy), Maria Tedeschi, and Oreste Lionello (4 Flies on Grey Velvet) all gave the film some good extra flavor.

There are only a few what I’d call stand-out kills, and one of them was pretty mild, being a steam pipe being turned on as someone was walking by, and this caused some awful burn damage (and death). One of the better kills, though, was a quick stab to the stomach in broad daylight, and also in a crowd. Just filmed in a quality manner (with the killer’s POV), and I dug it.

I also dug the simple design of the killer, the typical black-masked look, complete with a hat, trench coat, and gloves. Even when the killer just popped up in the main character’s apartment without harming her, it was pretty creepy, so kudos there.

Admittedly, it did take The Case of the Bloody Iris about 15 minutes to really start making an impact, but once it did, and I felt more engagement, I found this giallo quite a rewarding experience, and would definitely recommend it, especially for that killer finale. #LovedIt.