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 5, 2024

My Girl Wants To Party All The Time!


Next VHS off the pile was the 1988 slasher Party Line. I certainly recalled the coverbox, but never got to it back in the day because it was one of a SLEW of titles that almost seemed interchangeable. Let's pick up the phone and call! I hear it's private, confidential, one-on-one and discreet!


Crazy sibling serial killers Seth (Leif Garrett) & Angelina (Greta Blackburn) cruise telephone chat lines for victims, while hothead detective Dan (Richard Hatch - the Battlestar one, not the gay Survivor one) remains one body behind.

Party Line was amusing, but this was admittedly not top-tier stuff. For those who were not alive in the eighties, there were all kinds of call-in services available, some not even for degenerates. I remember calling one called Dial-A-Joke a few times, until my father confronted me with the subsequent phone bill. Hell, there was even one to hear Freddy Krueger.

Anyway, I digress. For a movie called Party Line, the phone sex stuff actually makes up little of the movie. Characters would disappear for chunks at a time, tagging out for stretches of police procedure and generic nightclub revelry. I was being generous when I used the word slasher earlier. I guess technically it's accurate as the killer's weapon of choice is a straight razor, but it's really more of a tame erotic thriller. Save for a few slit throats, it is fairly anemic too.


We do get a lot of weirdo scenes with the "complicated" shenanigans of Seth & Angelina. It's a lot of simping and leering from the former and the latter slapping him around for it. It's... awkward. It sure was a banner year for Garrett, who also appeared in Cheerleader Camp in '88. 

Imdb tells me that viewers thought Hatch was miscast. I don't know if I agree, I think it more that the detective character as a whole was miscast. Everyone knows the "hard boiled cop who doesn't play by the rules" trope, but this was ridiculous. He pulled his gun out so much in this movie, he might as well have had fused to his hand ala Videodrome. And, since when do District Attorney employees visit crime scenes? Seems like a conflict of interest, but I guess Dan & Stacy (Shawn Weatherly) had to meet somehow.


Speaking of conflicts, when the teen using the party line in the beginning finally reappears again, Dan actually has the brilliant idea to have said sixteen-year-old help them in their investigation. Does any of this sound like it would hold up in court, people? However, after the inevitable plot twist and kidnapping of Stacy, I was happy that she didn't need to be saved at the end. She made short work of Mama's boy Seth, even with her hands tied. You go, girl!

Call me Nancy Lew-d.

Party Line was run-of-the-mill fare that needed more of a hook than just the passing fad it hung its hat on. Hider in the House had the wild card magic of Gary Busey and Fear had Ally Sheedy's psychic superpowers. This just has well, people perving on and off the phone. I want more for my dollar-ninety-five per minute, ya know?

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Horror Movie Guide: The Brain That Wouldn't Die

The next film in the Guide is perhaps one of the most recognized B-movies in existence, and yet one I had never seen - Joseph Green's 1962 movie The Brain That Wouldn't Die. I, and I am sure you, at least know the iconic image of actress Virginia Leith's head in a tray hooked up to various amounts of rigging and equipment. I feel I must have seen the MST3K episode at some point, but it was so long ago now, who knows?

After his girlfriend Jan (Leith) is decapitated in a road accident, a maverick surgeon Dr. Cortner (Jason Evers) keeps her head alive using his new experimental transplant procedure.

So yes this is primarily what I expected. I find the majority of these weird curiosities of the atomic age are "come up with a good hook or title" and then just pad the rest to make it feature length. What am I saying, that is the nature of most B-movies in general, isn't it? Nevertheless, The Brain That Wouldn't Die does go back and forth between lab scenes to mostly superfluous burlesque shows and beauty pageants that the good Doctor is cruising for new subjects.

Virginia Leith as Jan in The Brain That Wouldn't Die.














As good a surgeon as Cortner must have been, he was a shit driver, as that inciting accident was totally avoidable and not even serious from what I could tell. Then I had to chuckle that Cortner's first reaction to seeing his dead girlfriend was to pick up her head and run with it. Then again, that is the inherent nature of TBTWD really. Run with it. I mean, that cat fight scene? You might as well had Jerry Lewis come in and mug to the camera.


It makes me sad that Leith - whom was actually "the Girl" in Stanley Kubrick's debut film Fear & Desire that I saw for the first time recently - had such a terrible time on this picture that she wouldn't even come back for post. That may explain the ghoulish fake head that appears in the long shots of the lab.

I have to admit that I was shocked to see boobies in a film from the early sixties, but I guess that is what Tubi meant by "uncensored". With my expectations tempered, I guess my only disappointment was that after all that talk of the abomination locked behind the door, it turned out to just be a dude in a mask -  think Richard Kiel crossed with Michael Berryman. And that ending - quite abrupt!


The Guide didn't seem to think much of it, but that is to be expected. 


Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Mar 27th Horror Trivia Screening Guide


To all those who came here from the event or Storm Crow's FB page, welcome! I am Jay, one half of the horror trivia quizmasters and this is my humble blog. Here's the selected list of titles mentioned at the last event. Click on the titles to be redirected to their Imdb listing.

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 occasionally stream the event on @ruemorguemag Instagram.

Vacancy (2007)

Troll (1986)

They/Them (2022)

Slugs (1988)
Troll 2 (1990)

Friday, March 15, 2024

Complications?!


The next VHS on the pile was Brian Thomas Jones' 1988 flick The Rejuvenator. This was a movie I'm kind of shocked I never got to because the coverbox was omnipresent during my youth. Let's see what I missed out on...


A doctor (John MacKay) looking to reverse the aging process finds a willing test subject in wealthy over-the-hill actress Elizabeth Warren (Vivian Lanko, not the US Senator). As you would expect, things go awry.

With experimental treatments really hitting the public eye in the eighties there were a glut of B-movies about mad scientist's work spiralling out of control. However, the floodgates really opened with the cult success of Re-Animator in 1985 and The Rejuvenator was no doubt a by-product of this boom.

As you can see by the cover, this movie presents itself as an FX picture and thankfully they had Ed French there to steer that ship. French worked on a ton of notable pictures from the eighties, including The StuffC.H.U.D & Creepshow 2 so he was well versed in bringing creatures to the screen. The evolution of the effects in The Rejuvenator is fun to watch and kudos to Lanko because she was a trooper. Acting with what must have been at least ten pounds strapped to the back of her head for hours on end must have been unpleasant to say the least.


And that's not even mentioning the air bladders galore, or the bonus mutant rats throughout. Also, in the positive column we have a pan flute accompanied sex scene, an elongated club sequence with the delightful female punk band, The Poison Dolly's and an optional drinking game involving the oft-said phrase "synthesize the serum".

Katell Pleven & John MacKay in the Rejuvenator.

















Despite our good doctor's insistence that "the science is sound", Elizabeth starts leaving a trail of bodies in her wake, including the dutiful assistant, Stella (Katell Pleven) - whom I'm sure was only named that so the doctor could yell that over her dead body Brando-style. By this point, Lizzie was sucking the brain juice right out of people's heads, cutting out the middle man so to speak. Soon after, the place is raided by the authorities, half of whom look like mob goons and cab drivers rather than detectives, and you can guess what happens next....

No one would say The Rejuvenator is top tier stuff, but despite being pretty dry for the first half-hour, it does have a lot of what you look for in an eighties FX picture so it's worth checking out if that's your bag - and you're reading this so I assume it is.

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Halloween Meets Three-Mile Island.

I just wanted to post about something really cool I discovered recently. I think a few sites wrote about this last year, but I didn't hear about until a friend of mine told me about a treasure trove of unproduced movie scripts over at archive.org.

So legend has it that circa 1977, John Carpenter took a job writing a script for a project called Prometheus Crisis. This screenplay, which was later called Meltdown, is essentially "Halloween in a nuclear power plant".


This script is fascinating for a few reasons. If you read it (you can find it here), you can see elements that would later end up in his future projects. The characters arriving and exploring the abandoned facility echoes that of MacCready and Doc Copper at the Norwegian camp in The Thing and there is a sequence that would be lifted verbatim a decade later for Prince of Darkness. I even saw a shot or two that would end up in Halloween II, but that could just be coincidence.


Perhaps most impressive is that the technical jargon sounds accurate - at least from my rudimentary knowledge watching Chernobyl and a few Netflix docs - even though it was written at a time when I can't imagine information of nuclear energy was readily available. Carpenter wrote this before meltdowns were a reality, as Three Mile Island or even the film The China Syndrome wouldn't happen for another two years. It's basically like when Stanley Kubrick made 2001 before anyone actually went to space. 


Aside from that though, Meltdown is  a pretty brutal slasher script with an atmospheric and unique location and some really good set pieces - one kill I've still never seen even to this day! It's a bummer this was never made. Carpenter & Co were trying to get it done as recently as 1997, but things just never came together. Oh well, at least we have the script. 

Monday, March 11, 2024

Horror Movie Guide: The Boogeyman

The next title in the Guide is one of the more infamous and possibly surprising I'd never seen up until this point; Ulli Lommel's The Boogeyman. I mean, I was aware of the coverbox of this and its 1982 sequel to be sure, but I guess it just slipped through the cracks for two reasons. First, there was the dull-as-dirt 2005 version that I probably incorrectly assumed was a remake, and second my actual introduction to Lommel was through his shit parade of direct-to-video serial killer flicks in the mid 2000s. Neither of these occurrences incentivized me to check out the original 1980 one until now...


A brother and sister's (real life siblings Nicholas & Suzanna Love) traumatic event in their childhood comes back to haunt them through a cursed mirror. That's the best I got...

I struggled to come up with a place to start on this one because I have so many questions. Does every house in New England have those Amityville windows? What is the purpose of the brother in this story? Which one of the filmmakers had a thing for pantyhose?

Suzanna & Nic Love as Lacey & Willy in The Boogeyman.

Paramount among my queries while watching The Boogeyman though was how was this not an Italian production? Even without the tremendous score by Tim Korg (which truth be told is the best thing about this movie), you also have the inherent incoherence of the story. I mean, what are the rules here? Lommel must have been subscribing to Argento's "things just are." credo here. Apart from that, it seemed like he was mashing up The Exorcist and Amitville Horror, with a dash of proto Final Destination


What you get is something that feels long, even at eighty minutes, padded out by scenes with low budget royalty John Barrymore - who they likely had for a day - and the glowering of the aforementioned superfluous brother character.


At the end of the day, it's a somewhat entertaining watch, but there are other films of this ilk that offer way more bang for your buck (1982's Superstition for instance), but I can't deny that I did see its influence. The last scene in the kitchen did remind me of a similar sequence in 1983's Blood Beat. Lommel also was able to carve out a prolific career for himself, working regularly all the way up until his death in 2017. Not many maestros can say that. The Guide was surprisingly generous with this movie.


I find it weird they would praise the colour lighting as if this wasn't something the Italians hadn't been doing since the mid sixties. Oh well, I'm at least glad I was able to finally cross this one of the list.

Monday, March 4, 2024

Horror Movie Guide: Bog

Next up in the Guide was Don Keeslar's 1978 movie Bog. I had no previous knowledge of this movie, but wagered I knew what to expect, as everything by appearance screamed Z-grade. But hey, maybe I'd be lucky and get something orbiting the oeuvre of Don Dohler.


An aquatic prehistoric beast is awoken by fisherman using dynamite and starts to pick off the townsfolk.

Sadly, Bog was a bore. It kind of plays like a PG version of Humanoids From The Deep, where the beast is killing dudes and using the ladies to lay its eggs. Although, that is merely heresay, as absolutely none of it is onscreen. You get the ol' zoom-in-to-screaming-face and cut to red time and time again.


This movie has many similarities to Bigfoot, a film from the Guide I watched about this time last year. It's a lot of people talking and walking, is largely bloodless and has one recognizable character actor keeping things mildly interesting - in Bog's case, Aldo Ray. They both also have a pleasing theme song, as well.

Aldo Ray as Sheriff Rydholm in Bog.

You do at least get more shots of the creature, even if it does look like it came from the set of Pertwee-era Dr. Who. I'll also give credit to Gloria DeHaven who I never clued in to that in addition to playing the scientist, was also the forest hag, Adrianna. I also have a question - this movie was shot by Wings. Like Paul McCartney's band Wings??? I assume that can't be true otherwise the end credits would've spooled out to Live & Let Die...

In Bigfoot's defense, it had a few buxom ladies in swimsuits. Bog gives us a couple of harpies off the hop that I couldn't wait to get slimed. It also featured the most unappealing middle-aged make-out scene this side of Nightbeast

Yes, my reaction to this scene too.

Overall, I give the edge to Bog, but they are both pretty joyless affairs. The Guide would seem to agree with me, although they make it sound way more extreme a movie than it actually is. Hell of a font though!



Thursday, February 29, 2024

Feb 28th Horror Trivia Screening List


To all those who came here from the event or Storm Crow's FB page, welcome! I am Jay, one half of the horror trivia quizmasters and this is my humble blog. Here's the selected list of titles mentioned at the last event. Click on the titles to be redirected to their Imdb listing.

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 occasionally stream the event on @ruemorguemag Instagram.

Watcher (2022)


Creep (2004)
Creep (2014)

Monday, February 26, 2024

Horror Movie Guide: The Body Snatcher

As it turns out, I was unable to track down the 1972 version of Bluebeard so I'll have to circle back to that at a later date. In its stead, I moved onto Robert Wise's 1945 film The Body Snatcher. I'd never heard of it before reading of it in the Guide, but I had a good feeling.


In 1830's Edinburgh, a doctor (Henry Daniell) and his new assistant (Russell Wade) look to shady cabman John Gray (Boris Karloff) to supply them with increasingly fresh cadavers for their medical experiments.

Yeah, The Body Snatcher was a delight. I'm surprised people don't talk about this one more, because it is a literal Venn diagram of silver screen horror movie greats. Wise, directing Karloff and Bela Lugosi in a Val Lewton-produced RKO picture based on Robert Louis Stephenson? I mean, come on!

As I've said before, Karloff's filmography features large in The Guide and it seems with each title I say 'oh was my fave Boris performance!'. Well, again I say, THIS one was tops. He's so deliciously evil as John Gray. I was sad to see Lugosi in a smaller part (apparently due to his health) but the scene him and Karloff last share together was a great one. 

Boris Karloff & Bela Lugosi in The Body Snatcher

I was initially disappointed that Lugosi didn't play the doctor, until I saw Daniell in action. He's terrific and his theatrical training comes out right away. And then there's Wade, who's striking resemblance to Judge Reinhold was almost distracting..

In addition to the strong cast, the atmosphere is on point. Using sets from RKO's production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Wise employs shadow as well as he ever did (wow, just realizing how long and storied a career Wise actually had) and that prolonged shot in the fog that ends with the street urchin's voice being cut off was *chef's kiss*. 


Though they naturally don't show anything onscreen and the fight scenes are rudimentary, Wise doesn't give a fuck, he'll off anyone or anything. Oh, and I loved that Val was still up to his old tricks, swapping out Cat People's Lewton Bus, for a Lewton Horse


The Body Snatcher was a joy throughout, and may even best Bedlam (another Val Lewton RKO picture) in the B&W horrors I've experienced while going through the Guide. Naturally, they agreed with me, maybe the first four star they've awarded so far.


Friday, February 23, 2024

Caaaaayseeeeeee.


Today's VHS is another Vestron title, this one from 1990, called simply, Fear. No, not the one where Marky Mark fingers Reese Witherspoon, or the one with the tree dude, but one I do recall from my video store days. I never partook, likely because it looked like a slew of other titles that were released around this time, but more on that later...


Psychic Cayce (Ally Sheedy) uses her powers to help track down violent criminals, but things get dangerous when she crosses paths with a serial killer with the same gifts.

Like last week's title Hider in the House, this movie was also a casualty of Vestron's bankruptcy in the late eighties. Denied a theatrical release, it found a home on Showtime and was then unceremoniously dumped on video two years later when distributors were filling shelves with anything that remotely resembled The Silence of the Lambs.


Having said that though, this was a fun one. There have been tons of movies where characters see through a killer's eyes, but I can't recall one exactly like this, where they are communicating, even taunting, the person receiving the visions. Fear is not just a title, but refers to the killer getting off on the fear of his victims, and also Cayce's as she witnesses his misdeeds. Director Rockne S. O' Bannon's (no relation to Dan) confident filmmaking is helped along by a Henry Mancini score that really slaps.


Sheedy had to do all of the heavy lifting here and performs admirably, even through the more ridiculous situations she is put in and her almost Final Girl-like shift from victim to aggressor during the carnival set piece felt organic and bad-ass. And I admit I let out a little cheer when the killer, who'd been previously only referred to as Shadow Man, was revealed to be the King of all shifty-eyed psychos, Pruitt Taylor Vince!


I found Cayce's eagerness to be out in the public eye, writing books about the killers she'd collared, a little bold. Like, wouldn't having a crime crystal ball make you a target? And the rules of her powers were a little muddy and seemed to extend beyond her explanation of them at the hop, but hey! It's a 90s movie-of-the-week, who am I to judge? 

I should look further into the demise of Vestron because, at least from my small sample size, it appears they were still cranking out entertaining product at the end. Maybe they threw all their money in a Superman IV-sized hole like Cannon did? Quick everyone, to the 'Pedia!

Friday, February 16, 2024

Busey's Gonna Busey.


The next VHS on my pile was the 1989 thriller Hider in the House. I hadn't seen this movie, but I certainly remember it at my video store with that coverbox that SCREAMS late 80s/early 90s.


Julie (Mimi Rogers) and her family move into their newly renovated dream home, not realizing that a recently released mental patient (Gary Busey) has built himself a secret room in the attic.

I was pleasantly surprised by Hider in the House. It was very similar to a lot of movies that came out around that time, which is why I found its release year of 1989 (before the floodgates opened in the 90s) confounding. Due to Vestron going tits up, it never got its planned theatrical release so it's not like this was widely seen. HITH is like a reverse The Hand That Rocks the Cradle where an outside party works their way into the family in order to take what they feel is owed. You know what's really crazy though? I thought for sure Mimi's pottery hobby was a reaction to Ghost's popularity, but nope, that doesn't line up either. 


The performances, especially Rogers, were above board and grounded me enough to overlook the overall implausibility of the situation. For instance, I had no idea that loony bins had construction and electrical classes to facilitate their denizens building themselves accommodations upon release. Also, I assume most wives know what their husband's handwriting looks like? And that neighbour? He's always peeping on Julie, but somehow missed Busey climbing all over the roof and burying multiple bodies in the yard? That last one would have made sense if he got murdered for being a wtiness, but he didn't? How does a character who was even creepier than the antagonist survive?? Anyway, I digress.


Having said that, Busey actually showed restraint in this role, initially coming off as someone who really wanted to get better. In fact, his presence at the start was almost helpful. He prevented the daughter from drowning in the pool, taught the son how to defend himself against the school bully and shielded Julie from the aforementioned neighbour's advances. If he hadn't already murdered the family dog and an unfortunate exterminator by this point, I might have said this unknown tenant was almost a positive. However, it is also quite possible he was driven over the edge by the incessant chirping of that cricket that was stuck in there with him.


In addition to the usual shits and gigs you get from a man-in-the-walls movie, there were also a few other intriguing things going on. I noticed there was a shift where Busey's character went from looking at Julie as a mother figure to wanting to become the husband. I'm not sure if that was triggered by witnessing anti-social behaviour (like pyromania) in the son and wanting to help, but it offered more depth than I was expecting. 

Overall, this was quite entertaining and even if it did play out rather predictability (minus the almost Black Christmas-like nod at the end) there's some good stuff in here.

Monday, February 12, 2024

Horror Movie Guide: Bluebeard (1944)

As promised last week, it's time to get back to working my way through the Horror Movie Guide. I left off midway through the B's so now we're onto another oldie, Edgar G. Ulmer's 1944 film Bluebeard. This was one I had no previous knowledge of due to its absence from my local video stores, but it's now on the chopping block so let's dive in

The citizens of Paris live in fear of Bluebeard, a seemingly uncatchable strangler of young women. How long before he strikes again?

I found this one was a bit of a bore, though I admit it was pretty cool to see John Carradine, not only when he was young, but also in a leading role. You know, it would be funny to count up how many movies in this Guide that Carradine is actually in. I feel like I've already covered half a dozen two letters in. He's definitely one of those guys where you think, "was he ever young?" so it was good to see some proof. He's rather dapper and solid in this one, but doesn't get to do as much as I'd like.

I'm assuming that the Hays Code was weighing on this production heavily because you never get to see anything remotely graphic onscreen here. You'll get the close-ups of Carradine's eyes after the first few frames of a strangle and then a shot of the victim on the ground. 


They also do that thing where someone gets hit on the head and then freezes in tableau for a few moments before keeling over. Oh, and this actress clearly failed dead body school.


I guess I was also distracted by the story which seemed to have more in common with Jack the Ripper than Bluebeard. Wasn't Bluey the one that hid all his dead wives in a locked room? Carradine's character Gaston is a starving artist bachelor in this tale, and most of this movie is spent talking about art dealing, painting and puppetry.

While I did fall asleep during my first attempt to watch this, I did find it more interesting in the third act. The police sting sequence and the last chase across the Parisian rooftops were somewhat exciting even if they both ended rather clumsily. Speaking of the latter, the most positive attribute I would say about Bluebeard is the set design which was almost certainly influenced by the Expressionism movement of the 20s.


This is another one to file under glad I watched it, but it's not really the best is it? It's surely no Bedlam. What's surprising to me is that the Guide highly praised this picture.


To each their own I guess. Next up is the 1972 version of Bluebeard with Richard Burton and Raquel Welsh... if I can find it. Stay tuned.