Nightmare Honeymoon (1974)

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

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

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

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

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

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

4/10

Young Frankenstein (1974)

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

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

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

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

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

8/10

L’ossessa (1974)

L'ossessa

Directed by Mario Gariazzo [Other horror films: Play Motel (1979), Schiave bianche – Violenza in Amazzonia (1985)]

Having not seen this one in what has to be at least six years, I was taken aback by how out there the beginning was, only to be disappointed by the last two-thirds of the film as it went down a predictable route.

Made following the success of The Exorcist, L’ossessa (known under plenty of alternative titles, including Eerie Midnight Horror Show, Enter the Devil, and The Sexorcist), actually starts off in a moderately unique and creepy fashion. Stand-outs sequences include a rather brutal (and weird) crucifixion of the main character, along with quite a suspenseful scene on some stairwells, that sequence perhaps being one of the more tense 70’s scenes I’ve witnessed in a while. The wooden carving coming to life near the beginning was off-putting also.

There wasn’t much gore to speak of (even though the crucifixion was brutal, there wasn’t tons of blood present), and special effects overall were pretty poor, but at the same time, I think they were able to work with what they had to craft the type of movie they set out to.

Stella Carnacina did great as the main character, and you really felt for her at times. Her parents, played by Chris Avram (Bay of Blood perhaps being his biggest work in the genre) and Lucretia Love, both did well, despite somewhat bad dubbing for the pair of them. Luigi Pistilli, who has been in not only Bay of Blood, but other Italian classics such as The Case of the Scorpion’s Tale, The Iguana with the Tongue of Fire, and Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key, went all-out as the exorcist priest, and despite not having appeared until near the end of the film, made one of the best impressions. Finally, playing the devil, Ivan Rassimov (Planet of the Vampires, All the Colors of Dark, and Man from Deep River being his best-known films) probably laughed evilly a bit too much for my liking, but still obviously had fun with his performance.

The dubbing, as I touched on earlier, was pretty atrocious (I prefer subtitles when possible anyhow). It wasn’t helped by the fact that the audio quality for the most common print of the film can come across as awfully muddy at times. Still, it didn’t entirely cancel out some great lines of dialogue about how “there’s no such thing as incest,” and “masochistic tomfoolery.” Much of the dialogue was a hoot, despite the poor dubbing (or maybe because of it), and in a way, that added a bit of charm. Nice also were some of the Etruscan tombs, which were rather threatening.

L’ossessa’s biggest problem is that the final two-thirds of the film are pretty predictable and aren’t really all that interesting, especially compared to the wild ride we got for the first thirty minutes. Certainly, once the possession is clear, there’s not really a whole lot to look forward to (trying to seduce the priest attempting to exorcise her was fun, but not enough to cut it). I liked it more this time around than when I first saw it, and it can occasionally be both amusing and creepy, but I can’t see it being one I go out of my way to watch in the future.

6/10

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Directed by Tobe Hooper [Other horror films: Eaten Alive (1976), The Dark (1979), Salem’s Lot (1979), The Funhouse (1981), Poltergeist (1982), Lifeforce (1985), Invaders from Mars (1986), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986), Spontaneous Combustion (1990), I’m Dangerous Tonight (1990), Night Terrors (1993), Body Bags (1993, segment ‘Eye’), The Mangler (1995), The Apartment Complex (1999), Crocodile (2000), Shadow Realm (2002), Toolbox Murders (2004), Mortuary (2005), Djinn (2013)]

Six years after the low budget hit Night of the Living Dead, and two years after Craven’s gritty debut, The Last House on the Left, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre follows in it’s predecessors footsteps as a gritty, violent, unforgettable experience.

My problem has always been, though, that I don’t find the experience altogether enjoyable.

So many things about this movie are amazing: Leatherface’s screen presence is off the charts – all his kills are memorable. And his first on-screen appearance still scares the shit out of me. The room with the bones, feathers, and nightmarish furniture was truly horrifying. The chase scenes are tense, and feel quite real (as virtue to the lower-budget, in my opinion). Marilyn Burns does an absolutely amazing job as a woman who has been thrown off the cliff of sanity. And those final ten minutes? Still stands up amazingly to today’s standards.

So given all of those positives, what’s my problem? It stems basically to the fact that while memorable, I just couldn’t enjoy this. It’s gritty, dark, occasionally uncomfortable, and dreary as hell. And sure, while the first thirty minutes are slow (I’ve never been a fan of the hitchhiker scene), my main issue is that I just don’t find this all that enjoyable.

A masterpiece in it’s own right, I recognize the contributions Hooper made to the genre with this flick. But as good as many of the portions are, and as great an actress as Burns was, this isn’t a movie I find myself willingly re-watching all that often. I’d take Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street, hell, even Leprechaun, any time over this. A solid movie that stands out a gritty piece of history, but still, I have to give it just below average, which is what I’ve consistently given this flick every time I’ve seen it.

6.5/10

This is one of the films covered on Fight Evil’s podcast, so if you want to hear Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this one, look no further.