Hannibal Rising (2007)

Directed by Peter Webber [Other horror films: N/A]

While this isn’t really a horror movie, it’s in a series I generally consider horror, so I’ll just throw this one in, which is unfortunate, as I had to watch this pile of trash.

I’m not exactly sure what my biggest problem with this was. Partially, I suspect, my disdain is due to the fact that an origin story was entirely unnecessary. What doesn’t help is the fact that I couldn’t even once see this character as Hannibal Lecter. So he accidentally eats his sister, and then decides to be a cannibal? Oh, and a samurai? Love it.

To be fair, this movie had a decent kill every now and again. One was even actually good, and potentially memorable. It’s a shame that the same can’t be said for any of the characters (be it the generic serial killer lead or the pointless detective on his trail) or the movie as a whole.

Gaspard Ulliel didn’t once remind me of Lecter, but I guess he was fine. Dominic West (The Wire) was pointless. I didn’t like Li Gong’s character whatsoever. And no one else was particularly memorable or good either.

A few good kills doesn’t make a movie good, especially when the movie is otherwise entirely generic and unnecessary. Truthfully, this was a struggle to get through, and I’d easily take Red Dragon or Hannibal twenty times over as opposed to ever having to watch this piece of trash again. I legitimately didn’t enjoy this. I did not have a good time. I was displeased.

3/10

Vampyr (1932)

Directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer [Other horror films: Prästänkan (1920)]

Sometimes called a German classic, Vampyr is a rather interesting film with unique stylistic choices. I don’t think any of it makes the film particularly good, despite the strong, often eerie, atmosphere, however.

The main issue with this film is that it’s rather incomprehensible at times. It’s experimental and dreamy, but despite the somewhat simple plot, not really coherent, so while you get some memorable sequences and rather interesting cinematography (especially regarding shadows), it’s possible that such design will fall flat if the style of the film doesn’t much enamor you.

One somewhat fun thing about the film is the sparse dialogue. The film was filmed much like it would have been during the silent era, and there are even plenty of title screens present, so the film really feels older than 1932. The dialogue they do have is generally inconsequential, and I don’t think it really helps make the story clearer.

Unfortunately, that’s my biggest problem with the film. Vampyr often feels incoherent, and while the skeleton outline of a story is there, it definitely isn’t explained well. Some may argue this helps induce a dreamy atmosphere, and it partially does, but when there’s atmosphere at the expense of story, I sometimes have problems.

As such, I can think of so many more classic horror films from the 1930’s that I’d rather watch again than this one. In fact, I might have liked this one more the first time I saw it, because it really didn’t gel with me upon my most-recent viewing. Vampyr has it’s fans, and it probably should, but I will admit to not being one of them, and despite some decent scenes and a solid aura, I don’t come close to loving the film.

5/10

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

Faceless (1987)

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

To be honest, I’ve not seen that many Jesús Franco flicks (and as you can see, even within just the horror genre, he was hella prolific). Off the top of my head, The Bloody Judge and Oasis of the Zombies are the only others from him I’ve seen. Not that I have anything against Franco – I’ve heard pretty mixed things about his work, but plenty of it sounds interesting. All of this is to say that I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect going into this one, but I certainly wasn’t expecting to enjoy it as much as I did.

Sure, the gore here is definitely good, and I’ll touch on that in a bit, but the story was surprisingly solid, sympathetic to both sides of the violence. Things went a bit deeper than I’d have expected, and on a whole, it was a nice surprise.

As far as performances go, the only one that really stood out was Helmut Berger. Gérard Zalcberg was pretty solid as a degenerate rapist and murderer, to be sure, but Berger is by far the most memorable. It’s not as though we’re inundated with bad performances, though – most people here do perfectly fine.

The gore within Faceless is most paramount, though. It’s just fantastic – the most brutal scene is a botched removal of a face (utterly sickening, but it really does it’s job), but even the successful facial removal is gruesome (especially given the victim is still alive, and taunted with their own face in sociopathic fashion). You also have a decapitation by chainsaw, a stab through the throat by some scissors, a needle stab in the eye, some power drill and hook action, all the goodies. This movie came to play, and play it did.

Even without the great gore, there were some really suspenseful scenes here. In one, a victim was just about to make herself known to someone searching for her, but last second, she’s dragged into another room and all hope vanishes. Speaking of vanishing hope, the conclusion here is a lot darker than I’d have initially expected. Talk about a dreary finale.

Faceless isn’t the most amazing Italian movie of the late 1980’s, nor do I suspect it’ll be the most memorable as the days move on, but it was a surprisingly solid time, and I’d certainly recommend it to fans of the genre.

7.5/10

And for even more on this, Faceless was one of the films covered on Fight Evil’s podcast, episode #28. If you’re interested, listen to Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this one.

Shaun of the Dead (2004)

Directed by Edgar Wright [Other horror films: N/A]

Often called one of the greatest zombie-comedies, Shaun of the Dead is an undeniably fun film. It never gets too silly (which is one of my personal pet peeves when it comes to comedy-horror films), and is just a good movie to throw in when little else is going on.

Much of the reason this works is because of Simon Pegg, who does great as the unmotivated, titular Shaun. His was a rather enjoyable performance throughout. Much of the time, I didn’t care for Nick Frost’s character, but as an actor, he did well. Most others were enjoyable also, such as Bill Nighy (who had one of the few emotional scenes in the film), Kate Ashfield, Lucy Davis, and Penelope Wilton (who’s cheery ‘Hello’ always cracked me up). Hell, we even got a cameo of Martin Freeman before he became the star he now is.

Of course, the story’s fun, the style is solid (love the quick cuts used constantly), and I do enjoy the scenes of Pegg walking to and from his apartment, as they bring a very localized feel to the film. I don’t have any real big complaints, aside from a few portions that felt a bit much (such as the end, which was a tad more goofy than I’d have hoped for).

Generally, though, there’s a reason that this movie is held to such high regard, and though it’s not perfect, it is an enjoyable, potentially brainless, film that is pretty well worth seeing. There’s even a little gore, as one of the characters gets his legs and arms ripped off by a horde of zombies, so there’s a little something here for many horror fans.

I don’t necessarily love Shaun of the Dead, but I’ve seen it multiple times, and it’s never failed to amuse. Stand-out scene was probably the “Don’t Stop Me Now” Queen sequence in the pub. “Kill the Queen” indeed.

8/10

Urban Legend (1998)

Urban legend

Directed by Jamie Blanks [Other horror films: Valentine (2001), Storm Warning (2007), Long Weekend (2008)]

In many ways, while still a fun film, this late 90’s slasher feels rather neutered at times. I still like it, and it’s probably one of my favorite late 90’s post-Scream slashers, but still, Urban Legend just felt lacking at times.

First off, though, I have to say that the opening scene has long been a favorite of mine. The gas station attendant trying to shout, “There’s someone in the backseat” just always gave me chills. It was a solid way to open this film. Sadly, much of it can’t maintain that level of pure tension.

The story overall is pretty fun. I just wish that it had been more gory over stylistic, because it really felt like it was pulling it’s punches. Plenty of opportunities for gore, but very little delivery.

The cast was pretty damn good, though. Alicia Witt was decent enough, but Jared Leto (most well-known, to me, anyways, as the lead singer of 30 Seconds to Mars) has always been rather enjoyable in this. Rebecca Gayheart is rather animated (which comes with it’s pros and cons), and Loretta Devine’s character is really fun. Lastly, two great side-characters include Robert Englund (playing a college professor) and John Neville, the college dean (Neville’s most known to me from 1965’s A Study in Terror and The X-Files series), who add good flavor to the film.

Like I said, though, the lack of gore is pretty noticeable here, and it’s rather disappointing that 80’s slashers have more to offer than slashers from the late 90’s. Still, this is one of the post-Scream slashers worth watching, even if it isn’t amazing.

7.5/10

Murder Obsession (1981)

Murder Obsession

Directed by Riccardo Freda [Other horror films: I vampiri (1957), Caltiki il mostro immortale (1959), Maciste all’inferno (1962), L’orribile segreto del Dr. Hichcock (1962), Lo spettro (1963), L’iguana dalla lingua di fuoco (1971), Estratto dagli archivi segreti della polizia di una capitale europea (1972)]

For a late entry into the giallo subgenre, Murder Obsession isn’t terrible. It’s just not that great.

When it pops up, the gore is decently solid. A good throat-slitting with a chainsaw was the stand-out scene, but there’s a few others strewn about within the last thirty minutes or so. As always, the multitude of suspects made it a bit more fun, but to be honest, the conclusion was generally pretty meh.

Which is the biggest concern with this movie. Oh, the meandering plot and sluggish pacing didn’t help, nor the fact that the first murder doesn’t take place until an hour has gone by, but the ending isn’t that satisfactory. I do like how we got two different possible chains of events, told by two different characters, but it was moderately obvious which one was the one that really happened. Lastly, one of those dream sequences went on far too long – I don’t think we need a ten-minute dream (complete with one of the fakest-looking spiders in the history of cinema) when three minutes would have sufficed.

Stefano Patrizi made for an interesting lead character, what with his uncertainty over his past actions. His character was actually sort of a dick a lot of the time, but like I said, that makes him a bit more interesting. John Richardson (who has been in a quite a few horror films, such as Black Sunday, Frankenstein ’80, Torso, Eyeball, and Nine Guests for a Crime) had a great screen presence, though his character didn’t end up doing that much for me. Silvia Dionisio does moderately well, but past the halfway point of the film, she doesn’t appear that much. Finally, Anita Strindberg was generic through a lot of the film, but really picked up her performance toward the end.

Directed by Riccardo Freda (who was behind 1963’s Lo spettro, a favorite of mine, along with a few other 70’s horror flicks), Murder Obsession lacked some of the mystery I’d have preferred for a giallo. There was no shortage of suspects, but like I said, it was somewhat obvious where it was going. Not a bad film, but for a giallo, this doesn’t really stand out much.

6/10

La lama nel corpo (1966)

Murder Clinic

Directed by Elio Scardamaglia [Other horror films: N/A]

This early giallo (originally titled La lama nel corpo, and seems best to be known as The Murder Clinic) lacks the flair of many others that come later, yet ends up having a pretty fun and ominous vibe all the same.

While the film lacks the style of earlier entries such as Blood and Black Lace (part of this may be due to the fact that this is Elio Scardamaglia’s, the director, one and only film), the film does have a decent amount of suspense, mystery, and, of course, potential suspects, to offer. It was a bit sluggish at the beginning, but picks up nicely around the twenty minute mark.

Unfortunately, there’s not that much in the way of gore, another thing that slightly sets it apart from its peers. The kills themselves are good, at least when we see them on screen, but it’s not at all a gory film, which was a bit of a shame.

William Berger did exceptionally well as a doctor with more than a few problems. He had a solid screen presence, and I rather liked his complex character. Some of the film’s charm too has to go to Mary Young and Barbara Wilson, especially considering that this is Wilson’s sole film, and just the second of only two films Young was in. Given the lack of experience with the both of them, they really brought something to this movie.

The atmosphere could have been a bit thicker than what it ended up being, admittedly. And like I said, the gore wasn’t really strong at all. But still, you have a fun mystery, a lot of suspects, a few twists, a few surprising deaths, so even though this film lacked the class of many giallos that followed suit, I thought that it was well worth watching.

7.5/10

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

2019 – Dopo la caduta di New York (1983)

2019

Directed by Sergio Martino [Other horror films: Lo strano vizio della signora Wardh (1971), La cado dello scorpione (1971), Tutti i colori del buio (1972), Il tuo vizio è una stanza chiusa e solo io ne ho la chiave (1972), I corpi presentano tracce di violenza carnale (1973), Morte sospetta di una minorenne (1975), La montagna del dio cannibale (1978), L’isola degli uomini pesce (1979), Il fiume del grande caimano (1979), Assassinio al cimitero etrusco (1982), American risciò (1989), La regina degli uomini pesce (1995), Mozart è un assassino (1999)]

I’ve never seen either Mad Max or Escape from New York (non-horror films are not really my thing, generally speaking), but I have to imagine this Italian movie, known in the US as 2019: After the Fall of New, is quite a bit like those films. A fantastic action/science fiction/horror medley, this film is a lot of fun, and comes highly recommended.

Post-apocalyptic movies can sometimes not quite work out, but this one does, due to multiple factors, being the fun cast of characters, the soundtrack, the heavy gore, and just general fun of the action. Primarily, if you’re looking for an action-filled flick, this is it. Plenty of brawl sequences, some gun play, interesting weapons, and further helping this along is the strong gore throughout the film. Two of my favorite instances being a rather brutal eye-gouging and a multiple-person decapitation – those aside, other sequences of splatter can be found, and the special effects are decent enough to back up the ambitious gore.

A small note on the soundtrack – it’s filled with a bunch of fun Italian electronic tracks. It’s a funky soundtrack, and certainly added a little something special to the film.

Michael Sopkiw does pretty damn good as the main character, and he has a fun presence also. The same can be said for most of the cast, but in particular, Valentine Monnier, Romano Puppo, Louis Ecclesia, and George Eastman, brought most of the fun to the film. I do wish that there had been more scenes of the three central characters (Sopkiw, Puppo, and a Paolo Maria Scalondro) in what was left of New York, but what we got was still action-packed amusement.

Brought to us by well-known director Sergio Martino (if I tried to list his better-known additions to the genre, this paragraph would be at least three lines longer, so lucky, they’re listed above), 2019: After the Fall of New York is a lot of fun, and if you’re a fan of post-apocalyptic films, gory Italian movies, or just having a good time, this is a movie I’d recommend looking into.

8.5/10

My Little Eye (2002)

My Little Eye

Directed by Marc Evans [Other horror films: Trauma (2004)]

Maybe back in 2002, this movie was fresh, but this is the second time I’ve seen it, and still, it doesn’t do a hell of a lot for me. Horror movies based off reality television can often be risky – you get a lot of bad movies, such as Reality Check (2002) and Cruel World (2005). This isn’t nearly as bad as those two, but it is very average.

Plot twists you see coming a mile away. Atrocious early 2000’s techno music played incessantly toward the end. Unnecessary slow motion scenes. Heck, I don’t even think the conclusion is all that satisfying.

There are some good parts, though – some of the characters are bearable, and one of the kills (though annoyingly done in night vision view) was sort of cool. Overall, though, while My Little Eye is, by some people, called a gem of the time (which may be true), this is the second time I’ve been disappointed by it, and I don’t anticipate that to change with a third viewing.

6/10