In addition to the usual reviews and comments you would find on a horror movie blog, this is also a document of the wonderfully vast horror movie section of the video store I worked at in my youth.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Evil Things Come In Small Packages.

For those of you that haven't been following the Loose Cannons podcast, their newest episode marks the entrance into Cannon Films' golden age – the eighties. Cannon's first project of the decade was Gabrielle Beaumont's The Godsend, for which I watched for today's edition of VHS Fridays.

After Alan (Malcolm Stoddard) & Kate (Cyd Hayman) find themselves caring for an abandoned baby, their family is visited by tragedy after tragedy. Could their adopted daughter be the cause?

So, there's really no way around it. This felt like a diluted knock-off of 1976's The Omen. While it is true the book by Bernard Taylor on which The Godsend was based came out that same year, it's difficult to deny that it wasn't influenced heavily by the Richard Donner classic. They both share many of the same beats, but The Godsend goes for subtlety over its more colourful counterpart, thus being noticeably less interesting as a result.

The movie begins almost instantly with a strange pregnant woman (Angela Pleasance, daughter of Donald) being invited into the unsuspecting family's home. Then, no sooner than you can say placenta, she's dropped a fetus and peaced out. Pleasance's performance was such I couldn't decide whether it was creepy or awkward. She had this weird thousand-yard stare and the way she moved around made me think at one point her character was supposed to be blind. Anyway, the couple seemed to be immediately on board with keeping this thing, even though they already had four (yes, FOUR) kids. And, that included two gingers and another baby. What a fucking nightmare! I mean, that is literally a horror movie right there, am I right? And that's even before “Bonnie” started knocking them off.

Angela Pleasance as The Strang-- Can you please stop looking at me like that??

So, the children started dying in mysterious ways and only the last daughter remained before the father started to clue in. The mother was completely blinded by love, despite her tripping over her daughter's doll – losing yet another child – and her husband left sterile from contracting the mumps (who knew that was a thing?) and continued to think everything was hunky-dory. Kate was really good at compartmentalizing grief, I'll give her that.

The father pretty much does everything short of killing his evil orphan, but she always seems to be in the right spot when anyone is precariously leaning over a high drop. I mean, seriously, after one or two of your siblings drop, you think you'd be a bit more wary of your surroundings.


As a horror film, the subject matter was familiar, but sadly most of the bad stuff happened offscreen. We certainly don't get anything as ace as someone getting their head sheared off by a plate of glass, so the proceedings were rather less than. I will say, however, that the girls (Wilhelmina Green & Joanne Boorman) they got to play Bonnie at various ages could glower with the best of them.

I wouldn't put this in the upper echelon of killer kid movies, but it was still fairly well put together, and Alan's attempts to convince Kate their daughter was evil were pretty hilarious in a did-you-really-think-this-would-work kind of way.

I have a solution. Don't have kids. Problem solved. The End.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

California Dreamin'

I'm back on home soil. I can definitely see the appeal, as I didn't see a cloud until the fourth day of my visit to LA.

Sure, the traffic's bad, but otherwise, what a life! My trip was fantastic, and I managed to tick off everything on my list. My first night there, I checked out The New Beverley Cinema.

The screen's not the biggest, but the admission & concessions are affordable, their programming is solid and everything is on 35mm. This place is a gem. I drove by the Chinese & Egyptian Theatres, and I'll definitely hit Cinefamily my next time round.

Being a big fan of David Lynch, I took the winding ride along Mulholland Drive with the top down, and dined at Du Par's, an establishment Lynch frequents often.

The next day, I walked down the stretch known as The Monster Mile, which includes such establishments as Creature Features, Dark Delicacies and Halloween Town.

I also went to Gallery 1988, which is currently featuring Alex Solis' series Icons Unmasked from which I picked up this beauty.

Saturday was Monsterpalooza, for which there are not enough words to describe the multitude of spectacles I saw there. All I have are these poorly snapped pics.

Sideshow continues to kill it.

Life-size I Was A Teenage Werewolf sculplture by Mike Hill

Shuna Sassi bust at Clive Barker booth.

Bunny from the Twilight Zone movie.

3D Frank the Bunny print by Dave Warner.

Painting by Clive Barker

Painting by Eric Swartz

Painting by Adam Padilla.

Painting by Chris Mann.

This little guy followed me home!

I was so busy walking around the show, I only got to see one panel, a talk on the current state of horror, including the likes of Mike Flanagan, Axelle Carolyn, Nick Phillips and Sandy King Carpenter.

Perhaps my highest priority was going to the various locations used in John Carpenter's classic Halloween. As most of you know, the original Myers house has been moved from its original location, and now sits right across the street from where the hardware store was.

The Strode house still looks similar, and the stone flats where Laurie waited for Annie to pick her up are still there, as well.

We looked up the other two houses used in the finale, and one still has the same outside lamps!

The last day I was there I went to Universal Studios. It was a really fun time, and especially liked seeing some classic sets like the Bates Motel from Psycho and the lake used for The Creature From The Black Lagoon.

Norman welcomed us as we drove by.

The Bates house is tucked behind the plane wreckage of the War of the Worlds remake.

The Gillman lurks...

Then, alas I was on a flight back home. It was a super fun time and amazing to actually see the land I've spied in so many movies.

Now, back to reality...

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Californ Aye Ayyyy!

Well, I'm off to the west coast. Be good and I'll see you all next week!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Day Seven.

Rounding out this edition of April Showers is genre malcontent Adam Mason's newest endeavour, Hangman.

After the Millers come home from vacation to find they've been burgled, they go about their lives, not realizing their assailant never left.

For over a decade, Mason and his writing partner Simon Boyes have been carving out a niche steeped in unapologetic filmmaking. You never feel good after watching one of their movies, and maybe that's the point. Hangman continued this tradition, but it may also be Mason's most centered pieces to date. There's always been an element of chaos to Mason's work, but this was the first time I felt it was presented in a wholly realistic way.

Hangman feels very current, as components were ripped from real events, such as people who found others secretly living inside their walls and how burgulars rob the houses gleaned from the GPS's of vehicles left at airports. This stuff makes you reevaluate how safe you are in your own home. Also, with the leads being the recognizable faces of Jeremy Sisto and Kate Ashfield (Liz from Shaun of the Dead!), there was an immediate level of familiarity, as well.

I have give props to the Hangman himself, played by Erin Michael Cole. His demeanor was calculated, but still had that aforementioned chaotic quality. He had a plan, but was ready to go nuclear at any point. He was like a 21st century cross between Thomas Harris' Tooth Fairy and Billy from Black Christmas. He is someone who exists to disrupt and ultimately obliterate happy families. I must say that I was surprised to find that Mason was fairly restrained here, as perhaps he knew that the creep factor of his scenario was more effective than pervasive violence and torture.

Despite the use of hidden cameras to tell most of the story, it didn't feel like your average found footage film. Mason did dabble with this technique in his previous film Luster, but it was used much better here.

While Hangman was perhaps not as outwardly shocking as something like The Poughkeepsie Tapes, there was an element of the here-and-now that really worked in its favour. Obviously, this voyeuristic type of horror is not everyone's bag, but I'd say give it a go because it's really quite well executed. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go seal up the hatch to the attic.

So, that's it. Seven days, seven reviews. Hope you enjoyed the ride.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Day Six.

While searching my shelves for another title to watch, my eyes were drawn to the angelic form of Barbara Bouchet on my bootleg cover of Silvio Amadio's 1972 flick Amuck.

After her friend disappeared while in the service of eccentric writer Richard Stuart (Farley Granger), Greta (Barbara Bouchet) arrives at his island villa to investigate.

It was fortuitous that I chose this one, as it was the last on my watch list of Bouchet's ventures into the gialli. She was, of course, as beautiful and vibrant as ever, and along with her co-stars Rosalba Neri and Patricia Viotti, I have to argue there was never a more intoxicating era than seventies Italian genre film.

The incomparable Barbara Bouchet as Greta in Amuck. 

As for the movie, it didn't take much to reel me in. It had your familiar murder mystery plot, the striking locale (in this case Venice) and lots and lots of skin. A prolonged slow motion sequence between Neri & Bouchet early on sure put the UK release title Hot Bed of Sex into perspective. Although, as the film goes along, the sex became a bit more salacious than I tend to enjoy.

As with most gialli, the music by Teo Usuelli was fucking stellar. I couldn't even start the movie until I'd jammed out a bit to the song that played during the main menu screen. There's also a dance party sequence involving Viotti that reminded me of the one from Torso.

Unfortunately, as was common in Italian cinema at the time, there's a lot of onscreen animal deaths. I mean, I'd like to think that all of those birds that were being shot out of the sky weren't real, but I wouldn't bet on it. You know what else I noticed? When was the last time you saw someone fall into quicksand in a movie? Nobody does that anymore and I think filmmakers should totally bring that back.

Amuck was titillating to a point, and there were some effective twists and turns, but I wouldn't put it up against some of Bouchet's other horror films like Don't Torture A Duckling and The Lady In Red Kills Seven Times. If you are a completist like me though, I'd would definitely track it down.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Day Five.

In keeping with the new and old alternating pattern I've started here, today I look at Perry Blackshear's recent effort, They Look Like People.

Convinced that the population is being taken over by unknown creatures, Wyatt (MacLeod Andrews) seeks the help of his oldest friend Christain (Evan Dumouchel).

They Look Like People was a solid piece of indie horror that's understated patois that really creeps up on you. There are a lot of additional factors that contribute to this, but first I want to praise the two leads, Andrews and Dumouchel. They both give incredibly naturalistic performances, and I immediately got that these two had a lot of history together. This went a long way toward setting up the trust that was needed to make the last act land as well as it did.

They Look Like People was helped immeasurably by some very pronounced sound design and excellent visual choices. The use of darkness was perfectly implemented at times. Right at the top, there's a scene where the Wyatt was in bed watching his fiancée sleep. Her face was shrouded in black, and the camera held there for an extended period of time. I felt it very difficult to keep my eyes on the screen, even though there was no real reason why I should feel such dread. It's such a simple, yet powerful shot.

I think the best thing about this film though, was its perception of mental illness. Wyatt was a largely normal person prone to bouts of unstable behaviour. It was not sensationalized, it happened as you think it might, with those around him react as you think they would. The whole approach to the situation felt sincere and handled so much better than some titles (namely 2014's borderline inappropriate The Voices) I've seen.

At a brisk eighty minutes, They Look Like People was decidedly minimalist, but maintained a strong presence due to the collective weight of the characters, story and technique.