Return to Horror High (1987)

Directed by Bill Froehlich [Other horror films: N/A]

In all honesty, Return to Horror High could have been something special. I don’t know what it would have needed to get there – maybe better direction, a more serious approach, something else – but with the meta nature of the film, along with the nonlinear plot (not to mention the plot twists), this had potential. The problem is it didn’t land at all.

And I don’t just mean the finale – I mean all of it. Certain scenes were interesting – the first time they had a scene break for us only to discover it was part of the filming threw me for a loop (I honestly thought it was a flashback), and there were a few decently artistic scenes (such as the love-making sequence, what with flashing lights from welding outside and the 80’s styles of Wendy Fraser’s “Man for Me”), but for the most part, very little in this film made an impact on me.

When I first saw this years ago, I suspect I might have found it somewhat convoluted, and while things generally make more sense this time around (aside from the “Daddy” ending), that cohesion doesn’t really benefit my views on this much. I just found it an interesting concept that was executed somewhat woefully, and not much in the way of performances save it.

Many might mention George Clooney when bringing this one up, and I guess I have also, but even knowing he was in this, I didn’t recognize his face (it doesn’t help that I know very little from Clooney – I’ve only seen two films with him in it, being Batman & Robin and From Dusk Till Dawn). More noticeable by far were Maureen McCormick (who was one of the few elements of comedy I consistently appreciated), Alex Rocco, Brendan Hughes (Howling VI: The Freaks), and Lori Lethin (who had three separate roles here).

There wasn’t much in the way of kills whatsoever. Pretty much all of them are weak save for perhaps the take on a human dissection. Everything else was forgettable, though, but that’s okay, because it fits well with the rest of the movie.

Which may have come out more unkindly than necessary, but Return to Horror High, like I said, had potential. Almost none of it really did anything for me though – not even the mystery of the killer, and that usually at least garners some mild interest from me. I found this utterly underwhelming, and despite some potentially clever ideas, I don’t think I’m going to give this one a third viewing.

5/10

The Mutilator (1984)

Directed by Buddy Cooper [Other horror films: N/A] & John Douglass [Other horror films: N/A]

You know, I have to admit that my recollection of this movie may not have done it proper justice. I saw The Mutilator once many years ago, and ever since, I’ve been telling people about how underwhelming I found the film. Seeing it again with fresh eyes, though, I didn’t feel underwhelmed at all. 

It could fairly be said that neither Morey Lampley nor Frances Raines (Disconnected and Breeders) did much for me, but the other four central characters were pretty good. Bill Hitchcock and Connie Rogers struck me as a realistic couple, Hitchcock’s character even occasionally amusing me. Matt Mitler was strong, and making for a quality final girl was Ruth Martinez, who I really liked here.

Pulling all of this together is the fact that I really got the sense that these were friends just hanging out, so even during the moments void of murder, it was fun just seeing this group of friends chilling (and playing Blind Man’s Bluff, a game that doesn’t look remotely fun).

What adds a little bit to the performances, by the way, is the fact that this was filmed in North Carolina, and most of the actors and actresses have that southern twang in their accents which just gives the movie a little more regional flavor, something that I quite appreciated. 

Of course, what really adds to the film is the quality gore, which is something I perhaps missed the first time I saw The Mutilator. With such classy kills as a character getting stabbed with a piece of wood through the throat and thusly decapitated and another guy’s chest getting all ripped up with an outboard motor (which isn’t necessarily clear during the scene, at least to me, but the impact is most definitely worth it), this movie doesn’t slouch off in that department. There might be a weak kill or two (such as the character who was drowned), but that strong finale, with some dismemberment and someone being cut in half by a car, is enough to cancel those out.

While a small point, I wanted to mention the song that sandwiches the film (plays both at the beginning and the ending during the credits) titled “Fall Break” (on a side-note, Fall Break is an alternative title to this movie, and in fact, the print of the film that I saw had this title as opposed to The Mutilator). The song is a bit too jaunty for me at times, but I did think it was a lot of fun, and it’s one of those songs that’ll end up on my iTunes (the same fate which befell “Fade to Black” from Prom Night).

Oh, and another thing that I found a pleasant surprise – unlike many horror films, The Mutilator didn’t go for some final scene jump scare, which surprised me as it sort of felt like they were moving in that direction. Luckily, it was just a little somber scene in a hospital, which I definitely appreciated.

There’s no doubt that this film is somewhat run-of-the-mill, and given that the killer wasn’t particularly distinctive in any way whatsoever, it makes sense to me that for some, this might just not cut it. And to be fair, like I said, the same could have been said of me prior to this rewatch. Seeing it again, though, opened my eyes, and while it’s not a great slasher, I did have quite a bit of fun with it.

7.5/10

The House That Cried Murder (1973)

Directed by Jean-Marie Pélissié [Other horror films: N/A]

Known under alternative titles such as The Bride and The Last House on Massacre Street, The House That Cried Murder was a film that I didn’t really know much about going into. I may have vaguely heard the title before (or at least one of them), but I didn’t know anything about it, and though the movie wasn’t really good in most conventional senses, I did think there was occasional charm to be had here.

Some of this, perhaps even a lot of it, has to do with the final twenty minutes, in which the film subverted expectations I held from the very beginning of the movie, which both surprised and impressed me. I really wasn’t expecting to be surprised by some low-budget 70’s movie with less than 300 votes on IMDb at the time of this writing, but here I am, so credit where credit’s due.

Really, the route this story took was sort of different. It possessed those quality 70’s sensibilities, and even the fact that the print I viewed was quite far away from stellar probably helped the vibe of The House That Cried Murder. Also moderately working in it’s favor is the fact the film is pretty short, lasting a mere 75 minutes (which at times still feels long, but more on that shortly). None of this is to say the movie is great, or even good, but like I said, it can be charming.

The unfortunate thing is, though, save the final twenty minutes (and if we’re being generous, final thirty minutes), there’s not really that much here to applaud. The rest of the film is rather dry (a fate that’s not entirely uncommon of movies from this time period), and while not painfully dull, there certainly wasn’t much to really help keep your attention. It picks up nicely, no doubt, but like Demented, getting there might be more of a hassle than you’d hope.

Arthur Roberts did okay as a rather unlikable character. I mean, he didn’t do great, but I don’t think most central performances here were that striking, so I wouldn’t take offense to that. And related to that sentiment, Iva Jean Saraceni’s short screen-time didn’t do that much to endear me to her character. Robin Strasser (the Bride in the film) was shaky too, but given what we learn about her character, I don’t really mind that. Out of everyone, I think John Beal (who played Strasser’s father, and starred in 1957’s The Vampire and 1939’s The Cat and the Canary) did the best, and was actually a character you could sympathize with.

There were some okay scares toward the latter half of the film, such as a nice surprise left in someone’s refrigerator and a tense walk up the stairs, but the movie never really gives us too much in that department. What’s more memorable, really, are the final five minutes or so, which seemed almost ahead of it’s time. I don’t personally know if I loved that ending, but it was at least unique, so again, credit where credit’s due.

As okay as the finale was, though, I don’t think credit is due that often. I certainly found The House That Cried Murder watchable enough, and occasionally enjoyable enough, but it’s sluggish pace during the first half is pretty damaging, and I just don’t know if the conclusion really saves it. It may well be worth at least one watch, but I don’t see this becoming a favorite of too many people.

5.5/10

The Strange Case of Doctor Rx (1942)

Directed by William Nigh [Other horror films: The House of Mystery (1934), The Ape (1940), The Ghost and the Guest (1943)]

This is another one of those movies that I’ve seen the title of quite a bit but never took the time to check out until now. I generally found this little movie enjoyable, but it’s quite typical of the time (or more specifically, of the 1930’s), and I don’t know if it’ll really end up that memorable a film.

Certainly the central plot is interesting, what with a serial killer going around and killing seemingly-guilty men who were found not guilty by the court system. There’s not really a lot of playing around with the vigilante aspect, but I did find the idea itself worth it.

Not that the film doesn’t play around a bit. There’s a fair amount of comedy thrown in (though this is never really an outright horror-comedy unless Moreland’s character is on screen), and despite the short run-time, there is a bit of focus on arguably more unnecessary scenes (such as one toward the end in which a gorilla randomly popped up).

Patric Knowles made for a decent and witty lead. He’s not a name I necessarily know (though he was in one of my favorite classic films, The Adventures of Robin Hood from 1938, along with appearing in The Wolf Man and Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man), but while not spectacular, he did good here. Anne Gwynne (The Black Cat from 1941, House of Frankenstein and Weird Woman) was also fine, but I can’t say that, at times, her character did rather annoy me.

Few others really merit a mention – I enjoyed Lionel Atwill in movies such as Doctor X, Murders in the Zoo, and The Vampire Bat, but here, he doesn’t really do all that much, nor make much an impression. Edmund MacDonald’s character annoyed me more than anything, and Shemp Howard had potential, but was used primarily for failed comedic relief.

And to an extent, the same could be said of Mantan Moreland, a rather well-known African-American actor (and who I personally love in King of the Zombies), but half of Moreland’s dialogue was actually somewhat amusing (“I forgot to remember to get it”) in that horribly antiquated racist way. And of course, his cowardly antics here (which was a must for black actors in this time period, apparently) got old quick, but that’s no fault of Moreland.

I did like portions of the mystery here, and though he was only really in a single sequence, Doctor Rx did look pretty cool (he wore a hood, not too unlike The Town That Dreaded Sundown’s mysterious killer). I just wish he had more to do in terms of action than he did. And while his identity was decent, I just can’t help but feel the mystery was missing something.

Little in The Strange Case of Doctor Rx is that memorable, and that’s the biggest issue. I don’t doubt it’s largely watchable, and maybe even to an extent, enjoyable, but ultimately, I just don’t think it amounts to much.

6/10

Storm of the Century (1999)

Directed by Craig R. Baxley [Other horror films: Dark Angel (1990), A Family Torn Apart (1993), Rose Red (2002), The Glow (2002), The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer (2003)]

This mini-series, written by Stephen King (and mercifully not based on a novel) is perhaps, aside from his book It, one of the finest things he’s ever done, and it stands as my all-time favorite mini-series, and in fact, one of my favorite pieces of television that I’ve ever witnessed.

I can’t say when I first saw this – I doubt it was when it originally aired over three nights, but I do know I was pretty young, and given I would have been around six years old when this came out (I was born 1993), it’s not out of the question I saw pieces of this when my parents watched it. What I do know is that I did see a lot of this when I was quite young, and that only enhances my pleasure of it now.

With a mini-series like this, it’s hard to know where to start. Storm of the Century possesses three episodes and totals 4 hours and 17 minutes. Out of these four hours and 17 minutes, there’s only one thing I don’t care much for. Otherwise, this is outright perfection in a way that no mini-series has ever come close to matching.

There’s virtually nothing I don’t like about this – the story is fantastic. The setting is fantastic. The performances – almost every single one (and this is a big cast) – fantastic. The moral quandary the characters find themselves in, the mystery, the suspense, the music (oh, the music), the opening and closing narratives, the imagery, the atmosphere, the emotional gut-punches – all fantastic.

A mysterious man comes onto an island off the coast of Maine right before a storm (the titular storm of the century) hits hard, and this man, one André Linoge (Colm Feore), kills a woman and starts off a chain of events I daren’t reveal, because if this is a mini-series you haven’t seen yet, it would be a disservice to dig too deep into the story.

What I can say is that the story is fantastic (and given that I’ve already said such, that may be self-apparent), the mystery behind what Linoge wants (for, as he repeats, if he’s given what he wants, he’ll go away) is fantastic, and the atmosphere, which is already great due to the storm and isolated island setting, is quality dread.

I’ve never seen an island setting put to such great use. The whole theme of how island folk look after their own, and more so, known how to keep a secret, is embedded in the viewers from the beginning, and it only solidifies the longer each episode goes on. It’s a great look at island life (or what I imagine island life is like, given I’ve never set foot on an island in my life), and I love it.

There are a lot of great performances here, central among them Colm Feore and Tim Daly. I could watch Colm Feore walk through a crowd of people and pontificate on their dirty deeds all day, and his performance here is just masterful. Same with Daly – his utterly straight-laced attitude works well given he’s the town constable, and more so, he works great as a moral center and the central character, especially toward the somewhat depressing conclusion. Daly was also in both Spellbinder and The Skeptic.

Who else stands out? Well, who doesn’t? There’s Jeffrey DeMunn (The Blob, The Mist, The Green Mile) as the town manager that few people like. There’s Becky Ann Baker (Freaks and Geeks) with her quality accent, and Torri Higginson with an even better one. I absolutely adore Julianne Nicholson as Kat (“She’s your wife, Mike. How would I know where she’s hot?”), and though she got only two scenes of note, Myra Carter as the elderly Cora stole each of them.

An affable counterpart to Daly was Casey Siemaszko as Hatch, and playing Daly’s wife was Debrah Farentino, who did great despite the maddening choices she made toward the end (but really, it’s pretty hard to blame these people given the dire circumstances they were in). Ron Perkins was great as Peter, same with Steve Rankin as Jack. Denis Forest popped up here and then, and he was always a nice face to see (and his secret was one of the most tragic).

Who couldn’t feel bad for Nada Despotovich as she discusses leaving DeMunn’s Robbie or Adam LeFevre running and screaming in fear after finding a dear friend dead. Kathleen Chalfant was great (especially with her back-and-forth with Myra Carter’s irascible character) and most of the child actors and actresses were acceptable.

Once we figure out exactly what Linoge is after, the characters are thrown into quite a fun moral quandary (and of course, I mean fun for us, the audience, and not fun for them), made all-the-better by the fact that while I fully, 100% agreed with Daly’s vote more, given what the townspeople had been to up to that point, I don’t think it’s out of the question for the vast majority to take the opposite choice (and some try to play both sides, such as Daly’s wife).

They never really needed that many special effects aside from the constant storm raging on. The silver wolf cane did look a little janky at times, but I thought the sequence with the kids in flight looked reasonably decent, and even a better example, the dream in which the townspeople walked off a pier into the ocean really came across well.

I mentioned there’s one thing I didn’t care for, though, and now seems a good time to point it out. Every now and again, Linoge growls at the camera, baring vampire-like teeth. He doesn’t do this to anybody in the mini-series – just us, the audience. Now, something like that happens in the final scene of the mini-series, witnessed by an actual character, which was fine, but otherwise, this technique just struck me as somewhat out of place. I get it, they need to cut to commercial, but they can do that without a toothy growl.

Aside from that, though, like I said – perfection.

And speaking of perfection, that score. This video is a little piece of the score. Throughout the mini-series, it really packs a punch, and there’s plenty of atmosphere and emotion resonating from just the score alone, which is impressive, and, on a personal note, it’s not that common that a score is as consistently moving as this one is.

Storm of the Century may seem like quite an undertaking, given it’s over four hours long, but it’s a journey well-worth it, and if you’re one that’s skeptical of King-related mini-series, I can’t say I blame you, but I’d ask you at least give this one a chance, as this most definitely stands out as a solid work.

Born in sin? Come on it, as my pappy always said.

10/10

Cheerleader Camp (1988)

Directed by John Quinn [Other horror films: The Secret Cellar (2003)]

Though certainly a flawed movie in some obvious ways, I found Cheerleader Camp (sometimes known as Bloody Pom Poms) an enjoyable experience, which I think is where this movie excels, though whether that makes up for the failures, well, that’s an interesting question.

The tone of this movie seems all over the place – the opening sequence is a dream, complete with a nice dream-like atmosphere and unique angles. It’s not a particularly silly dream either, but once the character awakens, and we meet the cast, there’s plenty of silly scenes to come. A few other dreams pop up throughout, to be sure, though I think they qualify as more ridiculous than they do atmospheric.

Betsy Russell made for an interesting lead. Russell (who later went on to play Jill Kramer in some of the Saw sequels) doesn’t really have a lot of agency herself, and generally reacts to her nightmares and the horrors surrounding her at camp without fighting back, but hey, she tries. I don’t know Lucinda Dickey (aside from this, she was only in five other films), but I did like her low-key style, and toward the finale, she became even more fun.

Leif Garrett (a singer that apparently my mother listened to in her youth) didn’t make much an impression. He did okay as a dickish character, I guess, but I preferred him in the underrated Peopletoys (better known as Devil Times Five). Lorie Griffin was fun as the sterotypically dumb blonde, Travis McKenna was extremely fun as the likable weighty boi, and George ‘Buck’ Flower (who has appeared in quite a handful of random horror films, such as Skeletons, Spontaneous Combustion, Pumpkinhead, and The Fog) got a bit more screen-time here than he usually does, and I enjoyed it. Lastly, while her character was #awful, Vickie Benson was decent.

I called the conclusion pretty early on (and to be fair, I have seen this movie before, but it had been so long that most of the story and mystery was unfamiliar to be), but it was still an okay surprise, especially since a few red herrings were strewn throughout. On the flipside, the kills here are mostly weak (I think the best one was a pair of scissors stabbed through someone’s mouth), but if you’re having fun already, that may not make too much of a difference.

Personally, I don’t think Cheerleader Camp is great, and I definitely think the movie had potential to be more than what it ended up. That said, I did find Cheerleader Camp a pretty fun movie, and while I do think it ultimately ends up below average, it’s not a movie I’d consider an altogether bad time at all.

6.5/10

Bordello of Blood (1996)

Directed by Gilbert Adler [Other horror films: N/A]

For a long time, despite quite enjoying Demon Knight, I had a pretty bad feeling about Bordello of Blood. It just looked too goofy and generally didn’t interest me. After finally seeing it, I have to say that I was largely right, but the movie isn’t without a few strong points.

Chief among those strong points is Dennis Miller as private detective Rafe Guttman. Guttman is such a fun character, with so many amusing lines pretty much every time he’s on screen (“You’re reminding me why being married to you drove me to the brink of homosexuality” and the ever-classy “Sorry, Zeke – I’m just not in the mood for a blowjob,”) and I just dug his personality from beginning to end.

Miller was a lot of fun here, which is definitely good, because otherwise, I don’t think the film had a hell of a lot going for it. I mean, the whole vampire-ran brothel idea was done somewhat better in From Dusk Till Dawn, and while the special effects here are decent (save for some hideous mishaps during the “Ballroom Blitz” sequence), most of the story and many of the characters, save Miller’s, didn’t do much of anything for me.

I guess that Erika Eleniak was decent (though I will further say that I didn’t love the conclusion to this movie, and in relation, her character’s story), and Chris Sarandon (Fright Night and Child’s Play) grew on me over time (though his religious nonsense was hard to swallow). The other central performances, though, such as Angie Everhart, Corey Feldman (Gremlins, The Lost Boys), and Aubrey Morris failed to leave me with much in the way of a positive impression.

I think, though, the biggest issue in regards to my failed interest was the story, which was quite light-hearted and pretty ridiculous at times. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t mind that much when Miller was on screen, but I didn’t much care for the tone at any other point, especially the framing of this movie, what with the Crypt Keeper presenting this as a story while playing a card game with a mummy. I mean, you can expect something campy and corny – look at the end of Demon Knight – but this just felt like too much.

Which is ultimately my problem with the film. It’s just too goofy, which sort of hinders the better portions of the film from fully taking control. And again, I find this quite sad, as I really did enjoy Dennis Miller here, and I feel like this could have been executed better, but as it stands, while watchable if only due to Miller, this wasn’t what I’d call a particularly good time, and it’s not a movie I could see myself going back to that often.

5.5/10

The Hills Have Eyes (1977)

Directed by Wes Craven [Other horror films: The Last House on the Left (1972), Stranger in Our House (1978), Deadly Blessing (1981), Swamp Thing (1982), Invitation to Hell (1984), The Hills Have Eyes Part II (1984), A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), Chiller (1985), Deadly Friend (1986), The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988), Shocker (1989), The People Under the Stairs (1991), New Nightmare (1994), Vampire in Brooklyn (1995), Scream (1996), Scream 2 (1997), Scream 3 (2000), Cursed (2005), My Soul to Take (2010), Scream 4 (2011)]

I’ve not seen this one in a long while, and given that I’ve also only seen this one once, I was quite excited to watch The Hills Have Eyes again. It’s not the most gritty or violent horror films of the 1970’s, but even so, Wes Craven made a winner here following his success with The Last House on the Left.

In many ways, this feels reminiscent of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, what with the desert and the cannibal family. Obviously this takes a different approach to things, which I believe works in it’s favor (and makes this a more enjoyable film than The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, on a side-note), but I just love how Craven paid homage to Hooper’s successful film – it’s nice to see these directors’ stuff from the 1970’s feel somewhat interconnected.

And no doubt, the setting here is great. Along with being quite isolating, it’s just nice to see the environment play a large part in the story, be it things like the heat, tarantulas (in a scene that I definitely could have done without), lack of food and intense heat. It gives a more realistic sense of danger even aside from the cannibal homebois in the hills, and I find that aspect enjoyable.

At first, I wasn’t going to spend that much time on the performances, and I probably still won’t, but I did want to say that pretty much everyone did well. Robert Houston had some shaky moments, and Susan Lanier did get to become a bit much as the movie went on, but given what her character went through, I can’t really blame her.

Martin Speer (Killer’s Delight) was decent toward the end, but it did take his character a little while to get there. Virginia Vincent really shined after her husband (played by Russ Grieve) got #barbecued. John Steadman and Dee Wallace (The Howling, Critters, and Cujo) both add some flavor. Of the cannibal family, it’s James Whitworth, Janus Blythe (Eaten Alive), and Michael Berryman (Deadly Blessing, Mask Maker, and Cut and Run) should get the most credit, but again, everyone does decently.

Like I said, this isn’t really that violent of a film. Sure, a dog attack leaves a man’s foot in a less-than-ideal condition, and another character is burned alive, but it’s more of an emotional scene than it is graphic. There is a painful stabbing also, but Last House on the Left, at least from what I remember, was more disturbing than this one was, and certainly the 2006 remake upped the violence too.

Some of this movie is pretty dark, as one could potentially expect from 70’s horror. It seems almost no one is spared from being killed off, and there are some pretty tense and moderately disturbing scenes here, which would probably be true of any horror film in which a character’s family was slowly being killed off around them. This movie, as I said, packs an emotional punch at times (even if the performances can’t necessarily carry that), so I appreciate that.

Really, there’s not much here that I didn’t care for. Sometimes the film focuses more on the point-of-views of the cannibal family (which I think is a good way to almost compare and contrast the two family units), which felt sort of jarring, but it didn’t happen often, and when it did, it sometimes led to quality canine attacks, so I can’t really complain about that.

Oh, and the final scene is quite sudden (and I mean sudden as though it was a 50’s monster movie), but it was sort of jarring, in that event horizon way, so that wasn’t much of an issue.

The Hills Have Eyes has a lot going for it. It doesn’t match the grittiness of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre at all, nor does it match the violence of many of the other horror films coming out around the mid-to-late 1970’s, but it does have a pretty good story with quality performances and a great sense of dread, so if this is a Craven movie you’ve been skipping, I’d ask that you perhaps reconsider. Either that, or I’ll eat the brains of your kids’ kids.

8.5/10

Frankenstein (1931)

Directed by James Whale [Other horror films: The Old Dark House (1932), The Invisible Man (1933), Bride of Frankenstein (1935)]

Perhaps one of the most beloved of the Universal classics, Frankenstein is undoubtedly a great film, and while it may not necessarily impress viewers of more modern-day movies, it really is a treat to see once again.

I can’t really fathom exactly how long it’s been since I’ve seen this one – I know it’s at least been seven years, but likely closer to ten. Regardless, this is one of the films that my parents owned on VHS when I was a kid, and as such, this probably went a long way into getting me into the genre to begin with (along with Dracula and The Wolf Man). I don’t doubt I have some strong nostalgia tied to this one, but if the overwhelming positive reaction to Frankenstein is to be believed, my kind opinions are not at all odd.

Of course, the story does deal a bit with a pet peeve of mine, being the same basic idea that Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde presupposed – that man shouldn’t attempt to unlock the secrets of God. Science should, of course, be done carefully and with consideration of proper protocol, but the idea that certain ideas are too dangerous to be delved into just strikes me as ludicrous. As Dr. Frankenstein, Colin Clive probably took it a bit far, but even so, under the proper conditions, his experiment might have had better consequences.

And on Clive, what a performance. He died young in 1937, having also been in Bride of Frankenstein and Mad Love, and this is clearly a strong performance. Just his emotion and dialogue alone during the famous “It’s alive!” scene are off-the-charts fun. “In the name of God, now I know what it feels like to be God!” Quality line – I use it twice a week at least.

Elsewise, everyone else puts in a great performance also. John Boles does sort of get lost in the crowd, but Edward Van Sloan (Van Helsing from Dracula, a fact I honestly didn’t know until today) was fantastic, and even after disavowing Frankenstein’s experiments, I deeply respected how he hung around and tried to help Frankenstein out. Frederick Kerr (just two years before his death in 1933) was great as Frankenstein’s father, and was a lot of fun whenever he was on-screen.

Lionel Belmore (The Vampire Bat) only had one scene of note, and Kerr sort of stole it, but regardless, he was still enjoyable. Mae Clarke was sort of trapped in the stereotypical role that women had in these movies, but with what little agency she had, I thought she was compelling. Dwight Frye (of both Dracula and The Vampire Bat) was great as Fritz, though we never do learn much about his character. As the Monster, Karloff is just amazing – he’s as much the victim as the antagonist (and actually, much more the victim), and his story here is just sad, especially as he never really had a chance to grow whatsoever.

The atmosphere of this one is quality, from the opening during the funeral service to the finale at the windmill – there’s just a lot here to look forward to. The famous “it’s alive!” scene is great, and so are many of the sequences here, such as Fritz breaking into the university to steal a brain, or the Creature’s tortuous shouts as it’s chained in Frankenstein’s cellar, or the Creature’s fateful meeting with Maria. Even the manhunt sequences at the end hold appeal, especially the mountain portions, as I couldn’t personally imagine trying to locate a murderer in such rocky and dangerous conditions.

As to the violence, honestly, for the time period, it’s not that bad. Just the idea of a body being made of bits and pieces of others, all stitched up, is gruesome enough, but you also have the tragic death of a young girl (and even better, the scene where her grief-stricken father is carrying her corpse through the village’s celebrations in silent shock) and a rather painful scene of a man hitting on of those windmill wind-thingys (predating the famous Titanic propeller blade scene by over 50 years).

I also love the beginning, which is warning from the movie-makers, telling us that it may thrill, shock, and horrify us, and indeed, subtly suggesting if someone can’t take the horrors in store, they may wish to leave the theater. It’s a wholly charming beginning, and I totes enjoy it brahs.

I grew up on this film, and that VHS tape that I mentioned earlier, I still have it. It’s a great movie, and while not my favorite of the time period, Frankenstein is definitely up there.

8.5/10

The Raven (1963)

Directed by Roger Corman [Other horror films: The Beast with a Million Eyes (1955), Day the World Ended (1955), It Conquered the World (1956), Not of This Earth (1957), Attack of the Crab Monsters (1957), The Undead (1957), War of the Satellites (1958), The Wasp Woman (1959), A Bucket of Blood (1959), House of Usher (1960), The Little Shop of Horrors (1960), Creature from the Haunted Sea (1961), The Pit and the Pendulum (1961), The Premature Burial (1962), Tales of Terror (1962), Tower of London (1962), The Terror (1963), X (1963), The Haunted Palace (1963), The Masque of the Red Death (1964), The Tomb of Ligeia (1964), Roger Corman’s Frankenstein Unbound (1990)]

For many, this is a classic film, an enjoyable blend of horror and comedy, but I have to admit that, despite the fantastic cast, this movie really didn’t do a thing for me.

Which is a damn shame, as you can imagine. I mean, check out the cast – Vincent Price (House on Haunted Hill, The Haunted Palace, and Theatre of Blood), Boris Karloff (Frankenstein, The Black Cat, The Ghoul, and The Walking Dead), and Peter Lorre (Mad Love, The Beast with Five Fingers, and You’ll Find Out) are the central actors, and what a great mix it is. A young Jack Nicholson (The Shining and The Terror) appears throughout, and we also get some Hazel Court (The Premature Burial, Ghost Ship, The Masque of the Red Death, and The Curse of Frankenstein). All of these performances (and throw in Olive Sturgess for good measure) were solid.

I just don’t care for the story, though, which is very heavily entwined with comedy and fantasy. It started out strong, with some stanzas from Edgar Allan Poe’s classic poem being read by Price, but as soon as the raven (Lorre’s character who was transformed during a failed magical duel with Karloff’s sinister warlock character) flew in, I was just taken aback. Don’t get me wrong, I knew the film was partly comedy, but I didn’t quite realize it’d play so heavily a part, and some of the intended comedy just didn’t do much for me (such as Nicholson’s scene on the carriage).

And of course, this isn’t to take away from the performances, which were fantastic throughout, and they even managed a few pretty good scenes (I personally think the best one was Nicholson’s character traversing a ledge outside Karloff’s castle in order to get to another room, which held quality tension), but then there was a lengthy magical duel at the end between Price and Karloff which went on for at least six minutes with zero dialogue, and I can’t express how drowsy that made me.

Vincent Price is one of my personal favorite actors of the horror genre, being in multiple movies I absolutely love (such as the aforementioned House on Haunted Hill and Theatre of Blood), so it gives me no pleasure to admit that I didn’t care for this, especially because I also have a huge respect for Lorre and Karloff. The story just wasn’t my cup of tea, though, and I just did not derive much in the way of enjoyment from this whatsoever.

Most people enjoy this one, though, so if you’re into classic movies, by all means, give it a shot. Just know what you’re going into.

5/10