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.

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

May 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 Wednesday's 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. Click on the titles to be redirected to their Imdb listing.

For everyone else, maybe there's one or two here you have yet to catch. Horror Trivia Night happens at Storm Crow Manor in Toronto. If you're in the area, come on down! Register here. If you're not local, we do often stream the event on @ruemorguemag Instagram.

The Ruins (2008)
The Thing (1982)
Zombie (1979)
X (2022)
Pearl (2022)
C.H.U.D. (1984)

Inferno (1980)
The Beyond (1981)
Demons (1985)
Suspiria (1977)

Junk (2000)
Halloween (1978)
Oculus (2013)
Madman (1981)
The Entity (1982)
100 Feet (2008)
It Follows (2014)
Razorback (1984)
Midsommar (2019)

Phantasm (1979)

Friday, May 26, 2023

Who Says All Canucks are Polite?

This week's VHS is a new acquisition courtesy of my brother. He was cleaning out his garage and shot me a text of a few tapes found in an old box he thought I might want. Rightly so, as in addition to the Brendan Lee actioner Laser Mission, I snagged this eighties flick called Bullies. It seemed vaguely familiar and it turned out that was for more than a few reasons.

Clay (Stephen Hunter) and Jenny (Janet-Laine Morris) and her son, Matt (John Crombie) move to a town in rural British Columbia only to quickly afoul of the local Ne'er-do-wells, the Cullen clan.

I was quick to discover by looking at the coverbox that this was a Canadian film with some notable names attached. Not only was it produced by the Wizard of Gore himself, Ray Sager and scored by the ubiquitous maestro Paul Zaza, but also directed by Paul “Prom NightLynch. Seeing the cast though, I realized I was actually thinking this was another movie, you'll forgive me for getting them confused.

So, let's get this out of the way off the hop. If 1977's Rituals was the Canadian version of John Boorman's Deliverance, then Bullies is the Canuck spin on Sam Peckinpah's Straw Dogs. Though Lynch adds in a Romeo & Juliet subplot with its teenage leads, the escalation of the mild mannered husband being pushed to the edge, and ultimately sent over by the assault of his wife is the driving force of the film. I mean the son even uses a bear trap on one of his attackers... it was smaller for like maybe a raccoon or something, but you get the idea.

Speaking of the love story, Olivia d'Abo is pretty smoking in this. I definitely did not complain about the gratuitous backstroke swimming scene and made me realize why this movie may have still been in my brother's posession. Recalling his huge crush on Some Kind of Wonderful era Mary Stuart Masterson back in the day, I thinking he definitely had a type. But I digress...

Olivia d'Abo as Becky in Bullies.

There is some terrific mountain scenery to enjoy in this and I was happy to see - from the Cullens' flashing vintage Canadian currency to Clay mentioning he's gonna fetch the authorities in Burnaby - that this story is actually set in the Great White North. The final battle scene between the two families is decent, but somewhat suffers the same fate as Rituals' climax in that its darkness makes it really hard at times to see WTF is going on.

Bullies was a nice piece of Canuxploitation to stumble upon, but it's probably not going to top anyone's list of maple syrup crime films either.

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Horror Movie Guide: Bloodsuckers

The next title in the Guide was 1971's Bloodsuckers aka Incense For The Damned. This was a title that I had no knowledge of - not even the coverbox rang any bells - but it did have some prestige talent involved with the likes of Peter Cushing and Patrick Macnee so I was cautiously optimistic?

To avoid scandal, colleagues of an Oxford student Richard (Pat Mower) travel to Greece where he has apparently fallen in with a weird hippie cult.

Unfortunately, Bloodsuckers was a bit of a slog and definitely reeked of something that had issues behind the scenes. Imdb mentions money problems and re-shoots and that tracks. When your first act consists largely of voiceover narration - basically just explaining what happens in the following scene I might add - it sadly shows how much confidence the filmmakers have in their product. I guess it makes sense that director Robert Hartford-Davis wanted his name taken off the project.

Sadly, that prestige I mentioned hardly matters, as Cushing was likely on set for no more than two days. MacNee has decidedly more to do, going full John Steed bad-ass for a bit before getting knocked off a cliff by some ridiculously fake looking boulders. What were left with is this weird pent-rangle between Richard, his friend Tony (Alex Davion), his pupil (lover?) Bob (Johnny Sekka), his betrothed Penelope (Madeleine Hinde) and his vampire dominatrix Chriseis (Imogen Hassall). I know, it's a lot to take in, but trust me; it sounds a lot more interesting than it actually is.

This is not what it looks like, I assure you...

Apart from the lazy narration, it didn't start out all that bad. While we see our heroes travel to the beautiful locale of Greece, Richard & Chriseis drop some acid and a six-minute psychedelic orgy ensued. As Kevin Nealon used to say, “I was interested.... interested... VERY interested...”

I was beginning to think that Bloodsuckers might be a soft porn that they tricked Cushing into appearing in, but then it was over and it became clear this was likely added after when the filmmakers realized most of their movie was dull as dirt. This would have been around the time of the hysteria surrounding hippie culture so I can see why those scenes got played up, as well.

Also, for a movie called Bloodsuckers - though admittedly that was one of many titles - it has a noticeable lack of vampirism. I appreciated the angle of sado-masochism and its relation to male impotence explained in a scene with a welcome appearance by Edward Woodward, but I also would have liked a little more Rollin if you know what I mean. Hassall was a unique beauty (who sadly died young) and I would've liked to seen her do more in this than just die from a 10-foot fall off some steps. I COULD'VE SURVIVED THAT!

Imogen Hassall as Chrisies in Bloodsuckers

Then to my disdain, after this movie should be done, it goes on for another TWENTY MINUTES. Oh well, at least its final moments are more like the vampire story it is purported to be. The Guide seemed to hold it in higher regard. Perhaps they were familiar with the source material - a old tome called Doctors Wear Scarlet.

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Horror Movie Guide: The Blood Spattered Bride

Okay, now I've been unceremoniously freed from distraction, I can get back to plugging through the Guide. The next entry was Vicente Aranda's 1972 film The Blood Spattered Bride, for which I of course knew the title - even before it showed up in Kill Bill chapter card - but was quick to find that I didn't know thing one about its actual subject matter.

Newly hitched Susan (Maribel Martin) moves into her husband's (Simón Andreu) family estate where she begins having nightmares about a former denizen who murdered her husband on their wedding night.

For some reason, I always figured this was a rape revenge film, something like I Spit On Your Grave or They Call Her One Eye, and the first five minutes with the apparently imagined assault didn't really steer me away from that assumption. Not having any knowledge of the Carmilla novella on which this movie was based, I thought I might be watching a more rape-y version of And Now The Screaming Starts, until the bloodsucking started finally happening around an hour in.

I initially thought this movie was Italian, not only because of the names and Mario Bava aesthetic, but who else would shotgun a poor fox in the FUCKING FACE on camera? The Spanish apparently. That was a hell of a jolt, in amongst all the nakedness and lascivious behaviour. I recognized Andreu from his work with director Luciano Erconi, but everything else was foreign to me.

Just one of Blood Spattered Bride's many memorable images.

I read that The Blood Spattered Bride gained notoriety in part due to its rejection of fascism, but to me it seems more of a “smash the patriarchy” kind of joint. I don't think they are the same thing... right? The Guide seemed to think this movie palatable, at least for a Gorgon Video title anyway.

Thursday, May 4, 2023

How Long 'Til Skynet?

My buddy Phil was mucking about with an AI art generator and he sent me this.

It's Bjork as Danny from The Shining. He then proceeded to ask me for ideas, for which I shot out “Scarlett Johansson as Ash from The Evil Dead.” of the cuff. A few minutes later I get this...

I for one welcome our robot overlords...

Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Horror Movie Guide: The Black Room (1982)

No, your eyes aren't deceiving you, there are indeed TWO movies logged in The Guide called The Black Room, this one helmed by Norman Thaddeus Vane & Elly Kenner from the early eighties. Apart from the vague recollection of the coverbox, I had about as much knowledge of this one as I did its thirties namesake.

A married man named Jason (Stephen Knight) rents a room to use as a secret sex den, but doesn't realize his landlord Larry (Jimmy Stithis) has his own nefarious plans.

This Black Room is an odd duck. I can't say that I've ever seen anything quite like it. 

I guess what I found most baffling were the character reactions. First off, there's Jason who when viewing the room doesn't seem to bat an eye that the room is totally blacked out and only lit with candles. I mean, I GUESS he's only there to fuck, and his landlord does offer to pre-pour the wine and put on smooth classical jams. How about some Chopin this time?  

But then, there's the wife (Clara Perryman) who seems to oh pshaw her husband every time he openly talks about his sex den. It's only when she finds the keys in Act Two, she's like “wait, he was being serious”? And her reaction? “Well, I'm gonna start using it too”. I'm going to take a wild guess and say the whole Swingers movement was in full swing in 1982. :P

However, the joke's on them because Larry and his sister Bridget (Cassandra Gava) are murdering their visitors ala H.H. Holmes and harvesting their blood to treat his aggressive anemia. I was onboard with this movie's unique take on vampirism (not unlike Romero's film Martin five years earlier), but they sure did get their money's worth out of those transfusion scenes.

This film probably cost very little to make and they did a few things to up their game, like finding a nice Hollywood Hills house location and some well shot Steadicam footage. They unfortunately couldn't afford that Super camera from Barry Lyndon because that would've helped with those Black Room scenes. I'll blame some of this on my muddy YT rip, but this movie was dark as hell, to the point I had to take the moans and groans as proof the characters were having sex.

I also kept waiting for Linnea Quigley to show up - she was seventh billed at the hop - only to find that she had even less to do in this than she did Silent Night, Deadly Night and Graduation Day.

The Black Room was palatable fare, but this may be the first time that the Guide liked a movie more than I did. I'm willing to bet they were sick of the overabundance of the slashers flooding the market at the time and they found this “adult” material a breath of fresh air.