Halloween White Elephant: The Masque of the Red Death (1964)


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From John–“Is this Roger Corman’s best film?  Possibly.  I gave this one to Jacob Hall because it’s still fresh on my mind after seeing it a few months ago on Netflix.  MASQUE is genuinely perverse, sinister, and colorful, and stands out as the richest of Corman’s cheapies, a little closer in tone to Hammer Films than American International Pictures was typically known for. Time has sort of unfairly lumped it in with all of Corman’s Poe films; I think it stands out as a great horror film. My hope is that Jacob will think so too.”

Did you know that Roger Corman could actually direct? I’m not talking about a some unintentionally funny B-movie piece of junk, I’m talking about an intentionally interesting, creepy B-movie slice of awesome. The Corman name may be synonymous with schlock — and let’s face it, the man deserves it, mainly because he produced a whole bunch of worthless junk because it made him a whole bunch of money — but when he actually got behind the camera and had a decent script in his hand, he was capable of producing some damn fine schlock, schlock so good that it stops being schlock and starts being, I dunno, good schlock. His The Wasp Woman is one of the more character-driven “human becomes a monster” B-movies of the 1950s and his X: The Man With X-Ray Eyes is a legitimately fascinating science fiction film. Better than both of those is his adaptation of a classic Edgar Allan Poe story, The Masque of the Red Death, which manages to effectively Hollywood-ize the original story (Poe’s work is so internal that you’ve got to take some liberties) while capturing what makes the story work in the first place.

Halloween White Elephant: The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988)


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From John Gholson–”When people bring up zombie rules, I almost always think of this film — the last significant movie about “real” zombies.  Wes Craven is not a favorite of mine, but I think THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW is one of his more successful efforts.  It’s a sweaty, unpleasant fever dream about Haitian voodoo, with trace elements of old fashioned ‘white man’s guilt’ racism.  I haven’t seen it in a while, but many of its images linger. While that alone may not make it a great film, it’s a worthwhile one, especially for fans of the zombie genre.

By its climax, Wes Craven’s The Serpent and the Rainbow has transformed into an almost profoundly silly film, filled with wacky hallucinations, broken laws of physics, a villain that just won’t die and a chair with a mind of its own. I bring this up in the very first paragraph of this review because the film ends with a completely different tone than the creepy, sobering beginning, complete with opening titles that inform us that what we’re about to watch is “inspired by true events.”

Terror Tuesday Report: The Hitcher


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The Film

The Hitcher is the bastard son of Sergio Leone and John Carpenter, abandoned in a ditch to be discovered and raised by the B-movie circus. It’s a rare combination of the trashy and the sophisticated, walking a fine line between beautiful and disgusting. It’s too sick, too twisted to be classy, yet too gorgeously shot and well acted to be tossed in the bargain bin. That may sound like I’m describing a film with an identity crisis, but the real joy of The Hitcher is how well all of its various intentions gel together.

The set-up is pure horror pulp: a young man traveling across the country picks up a hitchhiker in the middle of rural Texas, realizes too late that he’s a murderous psychopath and spends the duration of the movie playing cat and mouse with the man as he transforms his life into something resembling Hell.

Terror Tuesday Report: Revenge From Planet Ape


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The Film

Revenge From Planet Ape isn’t very good, but not for the reasons you’re probably expecting. The title suggests that this 1971 Spanish film was made to capitalize on the gargantuan success of the Planet of the Apes series and that it’s just a lame rip-off cash-in good-for-nothin’ imitation of an American success. Nah, ripping off American films is the Italians‘ job. Revenge From Planet Ape is not the real title of this film — it was the third or fourth title, slapped on after the film had previously bombed two or three times under more accurate titles. Naturally, someone thought that tricking the American moviegoing public by making them think this Spanish zombie movie was a a Planet of the Apes was a fine plan indeed. And here we are.

Terror Tuesday Report: It’s Alive


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The Film

Do you know what It’s Alive has in spades?

Pathos. Humanity, man. Tons of it. This movie contains some of the most heart-breakingly realistic depictions of grief I’ve ever seen, honest, understated work from a cast of terrific character actors. Who cares if this is movie about a mutant baby running amuck and tearing the jugulars out of any unsuspecting sap who gets in his way. This is the ultimate Killer Mutant Baby movie. This Killer Mutant Baby movie is more honest with its characters and more truthful with its emotions than most prestige dramas.

Terror Tuesday Report: The Thrill Killers


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The Film

There’s a charming, bumbling incompetence on display in The Thrill Killers. It’s the same high energy, passionate camp that flows through the veins of so much 1950s ans 1960s genre cinema: movies that lack polish, structure and relatable characters but more than make up for those deficiencies with a delightful “Let’s Put On A Show!” flavor. Movies like this get made only because the people making them really, really wanted to make a movie. It’s what allows us to laugh with Ed Wood films instead of at them: there’s a soul beneath the cardboard sets and wooden acting.

That same soul exists in The Thrill Killers — that soul just happens to be pitch black and oozing hateful, nihilistic puss, ready to stab a nun to death after burning down an orphanage. Come to giggle at the shoddy craftsmanship, stay for the sequences of soul-crushing evil.

Terror Tuesday Report: Human Experiments


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The Film

Human Experiments is immediately noteworthy for two reasons. First, it stars Linda Haynes of Rolling Thunder fame in one of her last roles before she seemingly vanished off the face of the Earth. Secondly, the second lead is played by Geoffery Lewis, whose name you’ll never remember but whose good-natured face will be immediately recognizable to anyone who saw a movie in the 1970s.

The casting of an extremely talented leading lady and one of the most underrated character actors of all time (”He always used to play Clint Eastwood’s best friend, billed after the ape” Terror Tuesday programmer and host Zack Carlson said) lend Human Experiments just enough class to compensate for its various shortcomings — i.e., it’s total lack of budget. Haynes stars as a traveling musician who finds herself in the wrong place at the wrong time, gets convicted for a series of murders she didn’t commit and finds herself in prison. Lewis is the sociopathic prison psychiatrist who psychologically torments his patients as part of theoretical (ahem, sick and twisted) recovery program.

Terror Tuesday Report: Troll


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The Film

In the canon of modern horror films, Troll has become something of a footnote, overshadowed by its infamous pseudo-sequel Troll 2, an eternal member of the Great Bad Movie Pantheon. When Troll enters conversation, it’s usually to set up the joke that Troll 2 has no connection to its successor and was titled as such by greedy Italian filmmakers to cash in on a property with some, albeit limited, audience recognition. Typical Italian filmmaker behavior, in other words.

If that previous paragraph sounds slightly bitter and casually racist, well, that’s because it is. Troll being relegated to a gloomy existence in the shadow of its hilariously awful follow-up is sixteen pounds of frothing, swirling bullshit crammed into a twelve pound sack. As much fun as Troll 2 is (and it’s about as fun as a movie about goblins turning people into vegetables can be), Troll is easily the more entertaining film, a delicious hour and a half of non-sequitor weirdness that has to be seen to be believed. It’s a moderately well made film  from a technical standpoint with adequate production values and creature effects that actually hold up to scrutiny, but it’s saddled with a seriously wacky screenplay that feels like the culmination of a narcotic-laced brainstorming session with an ADD-addled six year old and a cast that feels like they were plucked straight from a community theater production of King Lear: they’re  acting their hearts out –just badly– and playing to the back row instead of the camera across the room.




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