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.


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.


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.


The Beast in the Cellar (1971)

Directed by James Kelley [Other horror films: La tua presenza nuda! (1972)]

This is a somewhat hard film to get a gauge on. It’s true that much of the film was a bit dry and dull, but there was a bit of charm to be had in this British movie. Even so, I need to err on the side of caution, and say this isn’t really a good film.

I did find the story somewhat interesting, despite the oft-dry tone. There’s a little mystery, some okay atmosphere, and a nice setting, so by no means is it the case the movie that has nothing to offer. Problematically, though, while we do see a couple of murders, saying The Beast in the Cellar picks up speed at any point is a hard case to make.

In the final thirty minutes, we get a lengthy story from Beryl Reid’s character that lasts a good portion of that thirty minutes. It’s told well, with plenty of emotion, and during this, we do see people out searching for the animal-like man that’s been out killing soldiers. But it’s hard to say that there’s any real tension save for perhaps the final five minutes, when the killer comes to the house in the pouring rain (which was nicely atmospheric, to be sure).

Beryl Reid (who I mostly know from Entertaining Mr. Sloane) gave the best performance of the film, and she worked beautifully with Flora Robson (The Shuttered Room), who played her sister. The two of them did great, though Reid gave the lengthy confession toward the end, and got some more emotional scenes in. Smaller roles, such as those provided by John Hamill and Tessa Wyatt, were perfectly good, but as Reid and Robson were the sole focus, no one else had a chance to really stand out.

The print I watched was a bit rough, I admit. I imagine it was a VHS rip, as it was quite scratchy and very dark during night sequences. I don’t think this negatively impacted the film aside from making some things a bit harder to discern (the kills were especially somewhat rough), and it could be said the print maybe even helped give the film a bit more of a grindhouse feel.

Produced by Tigon (who were also behind producing such films as Curse of the Crimson Altar, Witchfinder General, Virgin Witch, The Blood on Satan’s Claw, and The Haunted House of Horror), The Beast in the Cellar is an okay piece of lower budget British horror. It is quite dry, but the performances are compelling even if some of the finale isn’t. It’s not a good movie, but I can’t help but see the charm this one possesses.


Tribal Get Out Alive (2020)

Directed by Matt Routledge [Other horror films: N/A]

I didn’t have great hopes when I started this British film, and those doubts were somewhat well-founded. Certainly Tribal Get Out Alive (quality title – next time, invest in some colons on IMDb) is action-packed at times, and does have fun fighting sequences, but the plot isn’t something I care for, and while okay at times, overall, it’s not a film I think I can say I liked.

A big reason for that is the plot. It starts out okay – a bunch of private security individuals (bailiffs, they refer to themselves as) go help clear out a farm for a client. Soon, though, they run amok of someone killing their people, and before long, we learn there’s a bunch of mutated homeless people living in tunnels and they all fight with machetes and have enhanced strength and speed and there’s between forty and eighty of them and the leader has more muscles than Schwarzenegger in his prime.

Yeah, once the plot delves into a large mass of mutated people with super strength going after people with machetes, all because of a serum made by a mad scientist, I had to mentally check out of the story. It gets even worse when one of the characters we’ve been following decides to take the serum, and becomes a Final Antagonist and it was just awful.

The action is fun, though. I suspect this is because one of the two leads, Zara Phythian, has a background in martial arts. If IMDb trivia is to be believed, she is the first British martial artist to be inducted into the International Karate & Kickboxing Hall of Fame (and if you look at the list of inductees, Chuck Norris is also there, which is fun). Phythian kicks ass in this film, and it’s fun to see her fight, especially when she’s rocking a machete and slitting throats. Good times.

In fact, I do think Phythian (who has also been in The Hike from 2011 and Cannibals and Carpet Fitters from 2017) makes a solid lead. We never learn that much about her character, but the performance is pretty solid, and she brings in good credentials when it comes to the action. Ross O’Hennessy was a lot of fun too – quite a strong-looking man with a good personality, I thought he worked well with Phythian (which might be because the two worked together before, such as in the films Knights of the Damned and Dragon Kingdom).

[It’s at this juncture that I should mention Phythian, in 2022, was sentenced to eight years in prison for her role in the sexual abuse of a 13-year old girl with her husband. This happened after my review was written, and so wasn’t referenced elsewhere, but it does seem something worth knowing.]

Aside from Phythian and O’Hennessy, we don’t really have any noteworthy performances. The only other really central characters were performed by Valerie Thomas (who wasn’t really the best actress I’ve seen in recent times) and Thomas Dodd (who wasn’t the best actor I’ve seen in recent times). Luckily, most of the time is spent with Phythain and O’Hennessy, but the fact that these are the only two good performances is a bit disheartening.

The biggest problem is the plot, though. Some scenes were pretty good, such as the action-oriented ones, and there was a good scene that was perhaps ripped from Wrong Turn (two women are hiding in a cabinet while a group of mutants throw their friend on a table, rip flesh off his arm, and eat it), but a lot of the stuff in the film strikes me as uninspired and generic.

Even so, I don’t doubt that Tribal Get Out Alive can be an okay viewing experience. It has that British flair and good action, so even though it is below average, I don’t think this movie is necessarily a disaster. It’s just a far step from really standing out.


Dance of the Vampires (1967)

Directed by Roman Polanski [Other horror films: Repulsion (1965), Rosemary’s Baby (1968), The Ninth Gate (1999)]

Roman Polanski is a director that I have very limited experience with. Perhaps his most well-known film, Rosemary’s Baby, is a movie I’ve not yet seen, and honestly don’t have that strong an urge to do so. Of the few films of him I have seen, the only one I actually liked was The Ninth Gate, and after watching this film, that hasn’t changed.

I can’t say what went wrong here with strong certainty. Dance of the Vampires (or to American audiences, The Fearless Vampire Killers) is a film that had potential, but I couldn’t get into it at all. I didn’t care for the style of the movie, I didn’t care for the characters, and I definitely didn’t care for the fact it ran for an hour and 48 minutes.

To be honest, this movie was a struggle to sit through. I was consistently frustrated with character decisions (especially those from Alfred, portrayed by director Roman Polanski), and I became actively annoyed the longer the film went on. It reminded me of two movies, both of which are well-respected, being Eraserhead and Multiple Maniacs. Both have quite high ratings, yet despite that, I utterly hated the both of them. Dance of the Vampires isn’t nearly as experimental as either of those two, but in much the same way, this seems to be a well-respected film, and I just couldn’t stand it.

Of all the performances, the only one I cared much for was Ferdy Mayne (who I know best from Frightmare). Mayne had that classy vampire appearance, and I could get behind it. Sharon Tate (Eye of the Devil) played a character I felt was pointless, Roman Polanski played the most aggravating character I could imagine, and while Jack MacGowran had a few okay moments, his absent-mindedness got old quickly.

There were some solid sequences. When MacGowran and Polanski are using the roofs of the castle to get around, with the mountain scenery in the background, that looked quite nice. The titular dance of the vampires was an okay sequence, and provided some of the only humor I really found amusing, being some characters trying to hold a conversation while dancing. It wasn’t laugh out loud funny – that’s not the type of humor this movie has – but it was mildly amusing.

Otherwise, Dance of the Vampires drags from beginning to end. It’s an hour and 48 minutes, so that’s a lot of dragging. If the type of humor this film possesses appeals to you, then you may be in for a good time, but like I said, I didn’t care for this humor, and so it was just painful throughout.

No doubt this is a classic comedy-horror mix. I hated it, though, and that’s all she wrote (the ‘she’ being me, in this case).


The Omen (1976)

Directed by Richard Donner [Other horror films: Two-Fisted Tales (1992, segment ‘Showdown’)]

Though not a movie I consider amazing, I always have thought The Omen was pretty good. It has a decently compelling story, made all the better by the mystery of Damien’s birth, and plenty of solid performances. It might be occasionally dry, but I do think it’s very much a classic.

Not being a religious individual myself, I don’t personally buy into any of the religious ramblings about the Antichrist, but unlike many exorcism films, I find that I can get into this movie far better, and it’s not all that trying. I think part of it is the fact I did first see this (or pieces of it) when I was quite young, and coupling that with the presence of a few familiar faces and classic scenes, despite not believing in the premise, I still have quite a good time.

I mean, just look at the kills here. From a woman hanging herself at a birthday party to a priest being impaled in front of a church, not to mention someone getting decapitated by a pane of glass and another individual getting pushed out a window of a hospital, there’s a lot to be found here if you’re primary concern is interesting deaths. In fact, the glass pane decapitation looks like it could be pulled out of any Final Destination movie, and while simpler in concept, the same could be said for the impalement.

Of course, it’s not only the deaths that stand out. There are a lot of great sequences, such as some characters being chased by rabid dogs in an old, dilapidated cemetery, or perhaps the baboon attack that Damien and his mother go through at the safari park. Even the finale is pretty solid all around, save for maybe the cheesiness of the final shot.

Gregory Peck (who I know best from the 1962 classic Cape Fear) was great as the lead, not buying into the Antichrist business at first (who can blame him – Patrick Troughton was a horrible messenger) but slowly figuring out the mystery and learning more about Damien’s origins. David Warner (Nightwing and a couple of other films) worked well with Peck, and the two of them scouring the Rome countryside, from monastery to cemetery, provided some of my favorite sequences in the film.

Patrick Troughton (not only one of my favorite Doctors from Doctor Who, but also The Gorgon) was a terrible messenger, but he did amazing as a religiously-inclined individual. He only got a few minutes of screen-time overall, but he dominated what he got with personality. Billie Whitelaw (Night Watch and Murder Elite) was somewhat similar, possessing a strong sinister aura. Leo McKern was a strong one-scene wonder, Lee Remick had her moments, and for a child actor, Harvey Stephens can smile with the best of them.

Overall, The Omen may not appeal to fans of more modern horror, as some of the film can feel a bit on the sluggish side. I wouldn’t call it a slow-burn – we get plenty of death throughout the whole of the movie – but it can be slow, and since it’s around an hour and 50 minutes, you might feel it. That said, I’ve always thought it hit most of the right spots, and like I said at the beginning, though I don’t find it amazing, I do think The Omen is pretty good.


Wild Country (2005)

Directed by Craig Strachan [Other horror films: N/A]

As far as I can tell, there’s only a few things going for Wild Country, and none of them are enough to pull the movie up above average, or even anywhere close.

For one, I do appreciate the fact it’s a Scottish movie – gives it a bit more flavor, and though the accents take a bit to get used to, subtitles were in the copy I watched, so it was never too difficult to decipher the conversations. Related, this was filmed somewhat near Glasgow, and the fields and such did look quite beautiful and pastoral.

The special effects are pretty good here, especially for a lower-budget picture. It’s never the main focus, but you do see throats ripped out, a guy almost chomped in half (with some ribcage showing), and a few gory aftermaths here and there. Again, it’s never the focus, but for what they had, the special effects weren’t shabby at all. The werewolf design, though, is a different question.

Lastly, and this might be what draws most people to this film, you have about 15 minutes of Peter Capaldi. I know Capaldi best from his run as The Doctor on Doctor Who – I always felt he was an underrated Doctor who was dealt iffy stories. Seeing him here was sort of amusing (and it’s worth mentioning that while I have seen this before, when I first saw it, I didn’t know who Capaldi was), but he only pops up at the beginning and the final ten minutes minutes, so he doesn’t really add that much aside from the value of seeing a familiar face.

Samantha Shields did pretty good as the lead, and though she didn’t have much experience, her performance here was quite decent. She worked well with Martin Compston, who also stood out positively. As for the other three central performances, being Nicola Muldoon, Kevin Quinn, and Jamie Quinn, I had no great issues with them, but they didn’t really add a whole lot to the movie.

Being a lower-budget werewolf movie, I can appreciate that it didn’t try to overstay it’s welcome, as the film runs at an hour and 13 minutes. Funnily enough, I still think it runs a bit long, but that’s just due to not caring for some of the pacing here.

And related to that, the ending of this film was somewhat abysmal. It didn’t come as a surprise – somewhat early on, once the action gets going, you can sort of see where it’s going. Even so,it just struck me as a bit ridiculous, and just didn’t really do much to make me care for the movie any more.

Overall, some aspects of Wild Country are worthy of respect, such as some of the performances and special effects. At the same time, it’s not a movie that I enjoy too much, and while it might be worth a single watch, it’s not something that would likely make someone’s top werewolf outings.


Nine Lives (2002)

Directed by Andrew Green [Other horror films: N/A]

So at the time of this writing (7/22/2021, should the reader be interested), Nine Lives has a rather poor rating on IMDb. Sporting a 2.3/10 with 3,372 total votes, Nine Lives is probably one of the worst received British horror movies ever made. I know when I first saw it, it didn’t do much for me.

Seeing it again, though, I personally think that maybe people are being a bit harsh.

Don’t get me wrong, this is certainly not a good movie in many senses (aside from the setting, which is pretty solid, and the occasional decent performance), but I found a lot of it moderately tolerable, and again, while it’s not good, I don’t really understand exactly why this has gotten such terrible ratings. I mean, yeah, it’s not great, but is it as awful as 2.3/10? Maybe to some people, but I don’t see it.

The biggest issue I have with this movie is how it just throws nine characters into our faces with little context, and it took about thirty minutes for me to really get the characters and their relationships down. True to the title, there are indeed nine lives, so look forward to meeting Emma, Jo, Laura, Pete, Tom, Tim, Andy, Lucy, and Damien.

Of these nine, I actually enjoyed four of them, being Amelia Warner (Laura), Patrick Kennedy (Tim), James Schlesinger (Damien), and David Nicolle (Pete). Warner was pretty cute here, and she had some strong scenes, but out of all of them, I think Nicolle stood out the most. A big part of this, I’ll be entirely honest, is that I liked his Scottish accent, and he reminded me of Iain De Caestecker (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) consistently.

When it comes to the other five, none are terrible, but they don’t do anything for me. Lex Shrapnel (Tom) was fine, but didn’t do that much. Paris Hilton (House of Wax and Repo! The Genetic Opera) was playing the same character she always seems to, so yeah, that’s fun. Ben Peyton, Vivienne Harvey, and Rosie Fellner didn’t have much in the way of personality, but like I said, they’re not terrible.

The story is somewhat weak, what with a body-hopping spirit (?) going through a group of friends and killing them (with some weak-ass kills, such as simple stabbings that aren’t even on-screen), and while we get some backstory on this spirit, it just feels shallow a lot of the time. I think that part of it might be that Nine Lives is around 85 minutes, and just feels too long. If ten minutes, hell, even 15, were cut, I think it’d help things out.

Also worth mentioning is the final scene, following the chaos of the finale. We get some first-person narration from a survivor, and it’s just so damn dramatic that it’s legit funny. I mean, I laughed twice during it, and then rewatched it. It reminded me of the final scene from Bates Motel in just how corny it was, but like Bates Motel’s ending, I really enjoyed it. It was terrible, but it was funny, so no complaints.

Nine Lives isn’t a good movie, but honestly, I don’t get the hate. Personally, while I think it’s weak in plenty of aspects, I could easily see myself watching this in the future just for the entertainment value. It may put me in the unenviable position of having to give this one an almost okay score, but screw it; I’ll find a way to live.


The Door with Seven Locks (1940)

Directed by Norman Lee [Other horror films: The Monkey’s Paw (1948)]

Based on an Edgar Wallace novel by the same name, this is a movie that I’ve been wanting to see for some time now. Sometimes known under the title Chamber of Horrors, The Door with Seven Locks is a quality dark house mystery movie, and while it may not be special in many ways, I do adore much of the film.

Lilli Palmer isn’t a name I actively know, but she did a pretty good job as a strong female lead, and worked well with Romilly Lunge. Of course, Leslie Banks (Zaroff from The Most Dangerous Game) comes hard with a very sinister presence, and his gang of criminals (none of whom were that memorable) was occasionally fun to watch scheming. I could have done without Gina Malo, who was used primarily for comedic effect, but David Horne had some strong moments here.

What really makes this movie work, and work better, in my opinion, than The Dark Eyes of London (which was also based off an Edgar Wallace novel), is the strong and engaging mystery. There are a decent amount of moving parts you have to pay attention to, but I don’t think it even gets too bogged down or convoluted, and I think the answers we get toward the end were, while perhaps not too surprising, perfectly welcomed.

The action sequences, from a fist-fight between a masked man and a police officer to a criminal literally getting a rug pulled out from under him (such a classy move), were all pretty solid. Even toward the end, when the last antagonist standing gets trapped in the oddest iron maiden (“Iron Maiden? Excellent!”), there were some pretty tense moments.

While it’s unlikely to become a favorite unless you’ve some nostalgic connection to it, The Door with Seven Locks still hits many of the right spots, and if you’re a fan of these types of movies, it may be worth checking out.