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.

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Horror Movie Guide: Ape Double Bill.

The next entry in the Horror Movie Guide was the 1940 Boris Karloff film, The Ape. Additionally, since the next listing was Bela Lugosi's subsequent picture, 1943's The Ape Man - and each over just an hour - I decided to do them both at the same time, much like with those two Abbott & Costello flicks earlier this month. 

These were two films I had no knowledge of existing, but was more than willing to partake in some more silver scream horror, as it were. As I've said before, since this book was published in 1985, I'm going to be seeing a lot of movies from before my time. Let's dig in.

I enjoyed both movies, but it was sadly apparent that Karloff and Lugosi were beyond their best years here - both were at the end and start, respectively, of long contracts with lesser studio Monogram at the time. Though both movies weren't connected, they share a lot of similarities with maverick scientists trying to cure diseases (Karloff is seeking a cure for polio and Lugosi... well I have no idea, male pattern baldness?) using spinal fluid, apes in not as integral roles as the titles would suggest, and also share an actor named Henry Hall in a supporting role.

It could just be the YouTube rips, but The Ape seemed to be the newer picture, despite being made three years before The Ape Man. The former's narrative had a bit more purpose, but I wager that was also because it was based off a play - and one that was already adapted as The House of Mystery in the thirties - whereas the other seemed a bit more of a riff. It obviously made enough for a sequel. as Return of the Ape Man came the following year, this time with John Carradine in tow with Bela.

Boris Karloff in The Ape, Bela Lugosi in The Ape Man.

The Ape opens with some pretty enthusiastic big band music that would have been at home in a Looney Tunes cartoon, after which we get introduced to two separate storylines that seems to take forever to converge. When watching these old movies, it's usually amusing to see the antiquated gender relations - The Ape Man has some charming back-and-forth between the reporter and his dame photographer for instance - but there are gasp-inducing exchanges in The Ape. Divorce was not a thing in 1943 I guess.

The storyline gets surprisingly convoluted for 1940, but I have to admit that ape suit was pretty bad-ass - much more convincing than the one in The Ape Man, why didn't they just reuse it? - but I still have no idea where Karloff got it. Oh well, at least Frances (Maris Rixon) was cured at the end. To be honest, I was more concerned about that Guinea Pig that peaced out.

The Ape Man was definitely the weaker of the two with Lugosi's role being significantly less dignified than Dracula. I was surprised to learn that not only was stem cell research a thing in the forties, but also apparently telephone traces and security cameras. I think the only thing I was waiting around for was the purpose of that weirdo who mugged from the bushes and peeped in windows the entire movie. And boy, did I get my answer.

So not bad watches for a Saturday and Sunday afternoon, but not the pinnacle of fourties cinemas either. HMG seems to concur...

Next week, I'll be watching something decidedly more modern in 1979's The Attic.

Friday, January 27, 2023


The next tape off the pile (after watching 15 minutes of The Nesting and realizing I'd already posted about it in 2017) was Jag Mundhra's 1989 thriller The Jigsaw Murders.

Impossibly tan detective Joe DeVonzo (Chad Everett) spends his time, between swigs of his flask, chasing down a killer with his soon-to-be married partner, Greenfield (Michael Sabatino).

The Jigsaw Murders isn't really a horror movie I know, but I'd already switched tapes once so I just went with it. Off the hop, it seemed like your average Z-grade procedural, until it whipped out one of the strangest plot devices I've ever seen. While at Greenfield's bachelor party, Joe notices that the model in the gag gift - a naked lady puzzle much like the one in Pieces - has the same tattoo as their dismembered murder victim. They then show the stripper the door and - I shit you not - all the drunken middle-aged cops go about putting the puzzle together so they can see the model's face.

Chad Everett (left) and Michael Sabatino in The Jigsaw Murders.

The killer in this movie, a skeevy photographer named Ace Mosley is played by Eli Rich and he makes some odd choices. There's a scene where a Shannon Tweed lookalike talks about sociopaths, and it's like Rich asked the director what that was and Mundhra replied, “someone really weird.” Or perhaps someone who really gets off on their own slides.

Also, along for the ride is WaxworksMichelle Johnson as Joe's rebellious daughter and gratefully Yaphet Kotto as the wacky coroner who also looks like he spent the decade since Alien in a cryo-chamber. I imagine this was just a job for Mundhra, whose previous two credits were actual horrors - but by no means more legitimate - Hack-O-Lantern and Open House.

When actors say they don't like watching themselves... this is why.

This movie is for the most part trash, but every ten minutes something amusing would happen - like the set piece that inexplicably takes place in a splash park and featured Joe falling allllll the way down a water slide with camera in tow. Or seeing Scream Queens Brinke Stevens and Michelle Bauer continue to pay their dues in thankless roles - the latter is the model in the aforementioned nudie puzzle. Or even after expecting Joe's partner to get blown away in formulaic fashion, have it not happen... until the very end in a completely random altercation with some street thugs. 

The Jigsaw Murders is not great, but what can I do? I'm a slave to the pile.

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Jan 2023 Horror Trivia Screening List

To all those who came here from the Storm Crow FB page, welcome! I am Jay, one half of the horror trivia quizmasters and this is my humble blog.

If you heard a title while at the January event and thought “oh that movie sounds cool, I should check that out”, here's a comprehensive list of all the films that were mentioned.

For everyone else, maybe there's one or two here you have yet to catch. Horror Trivia Night happens the last Wednesday of every month at Storm Crow Manor in Toronto. If you're in the area, come on down! Register here.

Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things(1972)

Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)
Friday the 13th Part 3-D (1982)
Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)
Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (1985)
Friday the 13th Part VIII (1989)

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Horror Movie Guide: And Now The Screaming Starts.

The next movie in the Guide was 1973's And Now The Screaming Starts. Now again, like the aforementioned Abbott & Costello movies, I wasn't a big Hammer or Amicus watcher as a kid. My childhood was filled with bloody slashers and animal attack films so these British imports appeared tame by comparison. My only exposure to Amicus before the age of ten was those dope Dr. Who movies. However, after seeing their Tales From The Crypt anthology, I began to appreciate what they had to offer.

Young bride Catherine (Stephanie Beacham) becomes embroiled in a family curse once moving into her husband's (Ian Ogilvy) estate.

And Now The Screaming Starts was watchable fare. It has this strange air that makes it appear tame on the surface, but then throws in all these disturbing elements. Do all Amicus pictures have this much rape in them?  I liked all of the ghoulish imagery and I can imagine that eyeless dude messing up a lot of kids back in the day. And for '73, those crawling hand effects were pretty awesome, too. I also have to give it up for the sets, which Imdb tells was the often utilized Oakley Court.

Peter Cushing and Stephanie Beacham in And Now The Screaming Starts

From my limited knowledge of Amicus, their bread and butter was anthologies and their features, in contrast to Hammer, tended to have more modern settings so ANTSS would appear to be an outlier. I do admit to having watched this in two sittings, as it does crawl along at some points. Cushing doesn't even appear until the third act, at which point I thought, “Oh yeah, I forgot he was in this!” Beacham is solid as the distressed bride. Fresh off her role in 1972 Dracula A.D. (which I just recently saw at Horror-Rama) she is literally busting out of her costume. Again, why didn't watch these movies as a kid?

The Guide didn't seem to think this was anything special - good cast; tired plot. I can get on board with that, only adding that the visuals stand out, as well.

So would I have watched this if it wasn't on a checklist? Probably not. But, that's what lists are for. I imagine this won't be last. Like the next film for instance, the 1940 Boris Karloff starrer The Ape.

Friday, January 20, 2023

Psychic or Psycho?

This week's tape is Stefan Avalos & Lance Weiler's 1998 faux documentary The Last Broadcast.

David Leigh (David Beard) documents his search for the truth behind the murders of three filmmakers in the Pine Barrens.

I am reticent to call this a “found footage” movie because it was made before it was even a thing. Sure, there were pioneers like Cannibal Holocaust and Man Bites Dog, but this concept was still very new in the West. It wasn't until The Blair Witch Project burst onto the scene a year later that the floodgates opened. I do have to give the filmmakers credit for what they accomplished for under a grand. That's a fraction of even Blair's budget!

Fact or Fiction? hosts Steven & Locus.

The Last Broadcast was definitely innovative - it's apparently the first feature to be shot and edited entirely on digital equipment - but it is also very rough around the edges. Ten minutes in, I was like "is this what this is?" At times I wondered if it was supposed to be a parody, and I guess in some ways it is. I did have a chuckle reliving pre-millennium tech like IRC and big-ass laptops - that have batteries that last forever and connect to the Internet in the middle of the forest!

Obviously, the comparisons between this and Blair are easy to see, and it is no surprise which one became a household name - and it's not just because of the latter's groundbreaking marketing campaign. Both are raw, but while Blair focused on story and bone-chilling lore, The Last Broadcast clung to its clunky and often wooden film within a film narrative. For a film about looking for the Jersey Devil, there's very little time allotted to said legend. Seemed like a bit of a missed opportunity to me.

The whole medium is the message diatribe Leigh drones on about toward the end is a bit eye-rolling and then the climax happens. In theory, it is quite unsettling, but that moment is so clumsily edited together it left me going, wut?  Despite The Last Broadcast's shortcomings, it is still an amusing time capsule of a subgenre that has become one of horror's touchstones. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Horror Movie Guide: Alison's Birthday

The next unwatched listing in the Guide was Ian Coughlan's 1981 Ozploitation picture Alison's Birthday. I'd never heard of this movie and I'm pretty impressed that a film that was likely fairly obscure at that time (Movie Guide to Horror – at least the edition I owned – was published in 1985) was featured here. I'm happy that my childhood compendium was at least international. Check out this fucking cover box though! Spoiler, this does not happen and Satan isn't even involved.

Alison (Joanne Samuel) decides to go home for her nineteenth birthday, despite having been warned not to during a tragic séance three years prior. 

Alison's Birthday was proof positive of two things. First, nothing good comes from performing a séance and second; never, ever go against your instincts. Alison knows there is something off about her old homestead, but she ignores it because her Aunt and Uncle are nice, kind people. Even her boyfriend  Peter (Lou Brown), who drives her there in his glorified dune buggy, knows something's up when her relatives blow a gasket when they find out he's been invited to the “party”. Throw in some Celtic rituals, a hundred-and-three-year-old crone in the guest room and a Vulcan cult pinch and you've got yourself some standard folk horror.

Joanne Samuel in Alison's Birthday

It's funny, as soon as I saw the backyard Stonehenge, I thought to myself, “I wonder if this movie is in Kier-la's Woodlands Box Set And sure enough, it is! It was also referenced in Mark Hartley's awesome doc Not Quite Hollywood, I'd just forgotten. Because well, it was over a decade ago and frankly NQH throws a lot of titles at you.

Alison's Birthday is definitely watchable fare, but it doesn't really have any surprises. I don't think that's even the movie's fault, it is merely that there are many other films that came before and after this that share similar elements. I see Rosemary's BabyBunney Brooks as Aunt Jennifer has mad Ruth Gordon vibes – as well as Halloween III and Skeleton Key for starters.

If I was a six-year-old Aussie and I saw this on late night TV, I know for a fact that some of the images within – Isabelle's midnight visit to Alison and that ending freeze frame – would have been burned into my brain, but as a cinephile who's ingested fourty-plus years of horror cinema, it's just aight.

The Guide seems to echo that sentiment, and I can agree that it does have a movie-of-the-week feel. But I still would have been satisfied to have spent a Wednesday night watching it back in the day.

Saturday, January 14, 2023

Rum Vs. Curacao

Here are some souvenirs from Serena's Freddy Vs. Jason Drunken Cinema screening last night.

Art by Tony Smerek.

Duelling cocktails were on offer. 

So I got both naturally!

Place Your Bets... on gettin' drunk.

The Jason was surprisingly the tastier of the two, despite not really liking either cocoanut or pineapple. Curacao. Who knew? I thought it was a country.

Friday, January 13, 2023

Bedlam Indeed!

This week's VHS is Vadim Jean's 1994 Brit horror Nightscare aka Beyond Bedlam.

When scientist Dr. Lyell (Elizabeth Hurley) decides to test an experimental mind-altering drug on dangerous convict Gilmour (Keith Allen), strange suicides begin happening around her. Are they connected?

Nightscare is a hot mess. I guess I should have been alerted to what I was in for by the preceding trio of trailers – LL Cool J as a gangster DJ in Out of Sync, a Predator rip-off called Mutant Species, and Lorenzo Lamas actioner-of-the-month Blood for Blood.

Beyond Bedlam is a good alternate title because at least sixty percent of this movie is just nonsense. I feel like there may have been a script for the first half and then the rest was random ideas written on discarded napkins and those papers they use to wrap fish & chips. I think the premise was that the drug allows you enter people's dreams ala Freddy, but after a while it just seemed like Gilmour could bend reality willy-nilly. 

Craig Fairbrass & Elizabeth Hurley in Nightscare.

Allen is definitely going for a discount version Hannibal Lecter in this. Fairly insipid, but at least not as grating as some nineties B-movie psychos. As you would expect (save for the guy on fire falling out a window at the hop), Hurley is the most palatable thing about this movie. I sadly thought she looked a little awkward at times though. Not I'm-twenty-seven-and-playing-a-brilliant-neurologist kind of awkward, but more physically awkward. It wasn't until halfway through I noticed that she had these massive heels on for no reason. There were some scenes where she was literally hobbling.

Sad, I would've thought she'd paid her dues by then, as this definitely seemed like a step back from Passenger 57. That said, I have no explanation as to why she completely forgot how to fire a gun.

Or maybe that was the point? Imdb actually tags this movie as Comedy Horror so maybe they know something I don't. I mean, it's funny because it's ridiculous, but is it intentional? A movie with the tagline, “Psychological terror beyond your wildest nightmares” hardly sounds like the moniker of a yuk-fest, does it? There's also the issue of that ten-minute stretch where Jean throws in some attempted rape, incest and abortion, not really for shock value I wager, more just to pad the running time. And speaking of running time... Why so many shots of people going down hallways. So. Many. Hallways. 

In conclusion, Imdb also told me that Jean was later an AD on Event Horizon, which tracks. I feel like that was what he was going for with Nightscare, but had neither the chops or the budget to realize it. Oh well, onto the next tape!

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Horror Movie Guide: Abbott & Costello Double Bill.

So, here we go with my inaugural post of the Horror Movie Guide Checklist. The first two listings in the book were a pair of Abbott & Costello flicks, the 1948 picture where they Meet Frankenstein and then Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde five years later.

Full disclosure; I was never a Universal monster guy. I started consuming horror movies in 1979 so my Dracula & Wolfman were Jason and Michael. That's not to say I don't like appreciate those old films, I just didn't seek out titles from the silver era until much later in life. As for Abbott & Costello, I was partial to The Three Stooges as a kid so this may have been my first exposure to A&C beyond Who's On First?

I enjoyed both movies and found them very amusing. I tried coming at it from the angle of how mind-blowing it must have been to have all these famous characters on-screen at once, much like Freddy vs. Jason, Alien vs. Predator, and more explosively, the MCU. I wonder, were there detractors upset that, formerly terrifying characters like Dracula and Frankenstein's Monster, were now being played for laughs. Not unlike Freddy in the last eighties.

I thought the difference the tone between the two pictures was interesting. I mean, sure they are goofy overall, but inversely. Frankenstein starts wacky and then gets darker. I sure didn't expect all the baddies to die at the end (except for the Invisible Man/Vincent Price cameo at the outset) and I was certainly shocked to see the female lead get pitched out a window to her doom. I also dug the old school animations, as well. And I'm going to assume that face-changing transition technique was still wowing audiences because they USED IT A LOT. In both movies.

Jekyll and Hyde was grim from the top with a man being killed in the street and then a subsequent brawl at a suffrage rally. Having those women's right activists moonlighting as burlesque dancers was sure a bizarre subplot. Shoehorned musical numbers are always a good way to know you are watching a movie from the fifties.

I was surprised to see Boris Karloff show up, considering they got someone else to play the Monster in the previous film. Maybe he was just too old for that shit. I was also aware that Abbott & Costello disappeared for a good chunk of the picture for some reason. I think I was more impressed with the action beats in this one, that rooftop chase was kinda dope, as was unexpected monster outbreak finale.

The HMG definitely gave Frank a sizable edge, but I think they both exist on their own merits.

I find it odd that the other A&C crossovers weren't included in the book. Maybe they wanted to save space? Who knows?

Friday, January 6, 2023

God Hates Stupid Children!

So here we are, the triumphant return of VHS Fridays. First tape off the top of the pile was Doug Jackson’s 1994 thriller The Paperboy.

Weirdo twelve-year-old Johnny (Marc Marut) goes to increasingly homicidal lengths to make his neighbour Melissa (Alexandra Thorpe) his new mommy.

The Paperboy was watchable, but fairly mediocre fare. It had the air of a TV movie – it didn’t surprise me to see most of Jackson’s credits were in that medium – and sadly not as memorable as his two previous efforts that I recall from my video store days, Whispers & Deadbolt. And as far as vintage Cancon, it did not make me nearly as giddy as my revelatory viewing of The Kiss last fall.

That’s not to say that The Paperboy doesn’t have its moments. It escalated immediately with an old lady being plastic bagged quicker than Lynne Griffin in Black Christmas. and did chuckle during the Mr. Furley moment when Melissa overhears Johnny playing with her daughter...

And perhaps most impressive was that he was able to order a doll from the mid-nineties version of the Web and have it delivered the next day!

Marut did a decent job playing the piece-of-shit kid. His tantrums were wince inducing, and I suppose that was the point. I was a bit confused about his plan though. It was unclear at times about whether he wanted a mother or a girlfriend. If it really was the former – and he wasn’t so impulsive and unhinged – he could have just gone the easy route and tried to set up his lonely father with her. There you go, bonkers Brady Bunch complete! But that seemingly inflammable William Katt had to swoop in and ruin EVERYTHING!

Marc Marut as Johnny in The Paperboy

I was happy to see Frances Bay show up, but when I saw her carrying Chekhov's inhaler I sadly knew she’d die in the third act. I think my only strain on believability - apart from someone actually screaming Ow! as they got knocked out – was that Melissa would put up with Johnny's antics for so long. Sure, she’s a teacher with the patience of a saint, but it was stretched to the extreme. The second she found out Johnny killed her mother she should have been beating his ass Naomi Watts/Vera Farmiga I’m-not-your-fucking-mommy style.

The Paperboy doesn’t possess the darkness of Mikey – which Imdb says this was a remake of not two years later??? – nor the polish of The Good Son, but as far as killer kid movies go, you could do worse.

Monday, January 2, 2023


Okay, we're two days in and so far so good, right? Although I say that without having checked the news... Anyhoops, I just wanted to check in with some notes about this coming year.

I'm going to make an effort to post more this year. I did feel the pull during my hiatus, but I figured if Final Girl can take a break, so can I! 

I doubt I will concentrate on the new stuff (although I am excited about a few titles, M3gan, MaXXXine among others - even Winnie The Pooh and the new Evil Dead for shits and gigs), but I do have two features in mind for 2023, the first of which being the resurrection of VHS Fridays.

I have enough tapes on deck to last me a few months so we'll see how long it lasts.

Secondly, right before the pandemic, I referenced a movie guide that was a very important tome to me in my youth.

This was my first horror reference tome that doubled as a checklist. I've kept a tally in the front cover which still only sits at under seventy-per-cent. It is my goal to start at the beginning of this book and go through all the remaining unwatched films. It's likely about a hundred flicks so it should keep me going for a while.

Talk soon, kiddies.