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October Horror Day 2

Horror Journal

Today I’m going to watch three films based on the stories of H.P. Lovecraft all directed by Stuart Gordon with screenplays by written by Dennis Paoli and produced by Brian Yuzna.

Re-Animator

This is a gory blast of H.P. Lovecraft that captures the spirit of the Herbert West Re-Animator short stories. Jeffery Combs is amazing as the highly-driven egotistical mad scientist with the nasty sense of humour. He is determined to conquer death and his research has led to him to develop a reagent that when injected into the dead brings them back to life.

Herbert has many impediments standing in the way of his research but he takes care of them with ruthless efficiency. I like the way he ensnares Dan Cain into his schemes then just keeps dragging him down further. The climax is just a pure blast of the over the top tastelessness with body parts flying around, graphic nudity and sexual abuse by headless corpse. It’s not for everyone but it’s one of my favourites

From Beyond

While I never had any trouble getting a copy of Re-Animator the company who owned this seemed to be in no hurry to put this out on DVD so I’m glad they finally got round to putting it out on Bluray. Barbara Crampton and Jeffrey Combs are back but in very different roles that are almost a reversal of the characters they played in Re-Animator. Jeffrey is Crawford Tillinghast a physicist who was assisting mad scientist Dr Pretorious to develop his resonator, a device designed to see beyond the normal dimensions of space and time. The experiment succeeds but Pretorious ends up dead with his head twisted off and Tillinghast is locked away in a psychiatric hospital for telling the police what he saw. He is taken back to the house by psychiatrist Dr Katherine McMichaels, played by Barbara Crampton, to show her what happened to Pretorious and they are accompanied by a very large cop called Bubba Brownlee played by Ken Foree. Crawford shows them.the resonator in operation and proves his innocence but McMichaels becomes obsessed by the resonator, putting them all in danger From Beyond.

In this film it is Jeffrey Combs who plays the innocent caught up in the madness of Barbara Crampton’s obsession. I liked the little touches of humour in the film, especially from Ken Foree but there are also things like the chalk outlines by the police being a little too accurate. The creature design is very reminiscent of The Thing.

Dagon

This is does have some Dagon references in it but the story is actually a pretty faithful adaptation of the story A Shadow over Innsmouth. There’s a much large gap between  this than the other two films and it clearly been made in cooperation with a Spanish production company, explaining the relocation of the setting to Spain  Paul Marsh (Ezra Godden stading in for Jeffrey Combs) and his wife Barbara are holidaying on a yacht owned by their friends Vicki and Howard just off the coast of Spain when a storm drives the yacht in a reef. Vicki is trapped and injures her leg so Paul and Barbara take the life raft to the nearby coastal town of Imbucco to get help. There they find the residents are all hostile to strangers and many are strangely deformed. Barbara goes missing and Paul finds himself pursued by the locals in a town that seems to always wet, with the rain falling constantly and many houses flooded. He finds out what’s going on from an old drunk out refuses to believe it until he comes across the strange woman who has haunted his dreams and discovers his destiny lies in Imbucco.

The film has a really intense atmosphere with constant heavy rain – Ezra Godden was almost always wet. The make-up effects were pretty good but the CGI near the end was not very good and I’m glad it was used sparingly. Francisco Rabal is great at the old drunk Ezekiel

 

 
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Posted by on October 2, 2013 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: Mortuary

DVD Review

Mortuary DVD 001I had never heard of this Lovecraft-inspired horror film directed by Tobe Hooper, director of the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I’m a sucker for Lovecraft stuff and this story has elements from the stories such as The Colour out of Space. It starts all right building up the characters and the location enough but the story kind of got messy towards the end and although I did enjoy it it’s not very memorable.

Leslie Doyle (Denise Crosby) gets a job at a run-down mortuary and moves in with her children 7-year-old Jamie and teenager Jonathan (Dan Byrd). Her husband died recently and this move was necessary to get on with her life and provide for her family. They get shown around the place by a local councilman Eliiot Cook and the place looks grubby and neglected. He tells Leslie that with a nursing home and a large interstate road nearby there is plenty of potential business. When Jamie sees coffins on display she rushes to touch one saying “Daddy?” Leslie takes her out and closes the door making her promise not to go in there. The embalming room is filthy mess with some sort of fungal growth

Jonathan takes a look around the rooms upstairs and makes his way to attic which has windows over-looking the cemetery. The cemetery soil is grey and dead with nothing growing in it. Jonathan sees the name Bobby F carved into windowsill. He goes downstairs to the embalming room where Jamie and Leslie have done a good job cleaning the place up. Jonathan asks Leslie if he can have the attic room then says he’s going into town to get a burger. Leslie gives him the car keys and asks him to pick some things for the house. She cuts her finger on the sharp edge of one of the keys of the mortuary, a strange star-shaped key. No-one notices veiny growths of greenish black fungus come out of the vein to absorb the drops of blood.

In town Jonathan goes into a diner but Rita (Lee Garlington) the owner tells him the kitchen is closed but she still has some turkey sandwiches. Jonathan applies for a job that was advertised in the window and Rita likes him and tells him to start the following day. Jonathan tries to introduce himself to some young people sitting at a table but they turn out to be completely obnoxious assholes which tends to a compulsory element of any horror film involving protagonists moving into a new town

Later that night Jonathan is standing out porch smoking and he sees a figure running in cemetery. He has a look around but can’t see whoever it is but he finds a necklace lying on the ground. He tells Leslie about seeing someone in the cemetery and gives her the necklace. She finds a strange hatch at the bottom of a wall but it just leads to a long passage that you’d have to crawl through so they don’t bother looking into it anymore

Next day Jonathan starts at the diner and meets Liz (Alexandra Adi), Rita’s niece who also works at the diner and he barely disguise his lust at first sight. He also fails to cover his crashing disappointment when her friend Grady (Rocky Marquette) comes and she eagerly welcomes him with hugs and kisses. The three assholes are back and they make some reference to Bobby Fowler and somehow this leads to a senseless fight between Jonathan and the male asshole called Cal. Rita chucks out the assholes

Leslie has a look around the cemetery while Jamie runs around putting red liquorice twist on each grave stone in case the people in the graves get hungry. Leslie finds a crypt with its door open and looks inside. It looks undisturbed with several coffins on shelves. There are also stairs going down underground and at the bottom there is a metal door with a plaque saying, “That which is dead can eternal Lie with strange eons even death may die,” which is a direct quote from H.P. Lovecraft. The door has a star-shaped lock so she unlocks it with matching star-shaped key but before she open the door she hears Jamie calling.

Sheriff Howell (Michael Shamus Wiles) has come round to welcome Leslie to the town. Leslie tells him about Jonathan seeing someone in cemetery at night and Howell reckons it is probably kids. He thinks that the boys like to pretend to brave and bring girls her and their heightened emotions leads to the inevitable and Howell promises that together that can help stamp out graveyard babies which would be a great name for a rock band

At the diner Jonathan gets told story of Bobby Fowler by Elizabeth and Grady. The local legend is that Fowler land was poisoned by something that fell out of space. Any crop planted just withered and the cattle rotted in the fields so the original ancestral Fowler became a mortician and turned his land into a cemetery. The family was wealthy but strange and very insular and there was a lot of incest until the most recent generation produced Bobby Fowler who was born so deformed that his family locked him away in the attic. No-one takes Rita seriously when she says Bobby Fowler is still alive.

The film was a very mixed bag  The Lovecraft elements are okay but there is not much of the cosmic terror about the film. Many things get brought up but just get dropped as the story goes on.The cast are pretty good but the characters are a bit undeveloped with traits that suit the narrative rather than feeling like real people. The asshole characters are perfect examples of this, existing just as antagonists to the main character and doing stupid things to ensure the hideous evil gets unleashed Jamie. The film has some humour but it could probably have done with more. Overall I’d say this film is unoriginal but entertaining even if gets bit messy towards the end.

Rating 6.5/10

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Posted by on December 10, 2012 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: The Unnamable

I am afraid this film continues the tradition of failure that seems to haunt adaptations of the stories of H.P. Lovecraft. I think the original story was a reaction by Lovecraft to criticism of his habit of using adjectives like Unnamable as a substitute for a proper description by creating a story where Joel, a critic of just such a habit by the character Carter is brought by Carter to face a creature that Joel himself calls Unnamable at the end.

The films opens with an old house where a worried old man lives with some screaming monster that he keeps locked in the attic. He says he is trying to civilise the creature which is his daughter but for some reason he seems to have mad turn of believing he can succeed and frees the creature which promptly butchers him. Local people quickly bury the old man and seal the house completely.

This is all just a story being told by Randolph Carter (Mark Kinsey Stephenson) to his friends Joel Manton (Mark Parra) and Howard Damon (Charles Klausmeyer), fellow students at prestigious fictional Miskatonic University in Arkham in Lovecraft country. Joel ridicules Carter’s use of the “unnamable” adjective reasonably arguing that if it can be seen or experienced with the five senses then it can be described. Carter then drops the bombshell that the story is as was reported and happened in old abandoned house by the edge of the cemetery.

Joel dares Carter to spend the night in the house calling him out on his bravery but Carter really does not rise to it and refuses the challenge, pointing out that he’s not the sceptic and he believes it to be a dangerous and foolish stunt but Joel can go ahead on his own if he really believes there is nothing to fear. I’m not sure I have really adequately conveyed how smug and arrogant Carter is in this film.

This arrogance of Carter’s is what prompts Joel to declare he will go and stay at the house in the hoping to wipe that smug grin off Carter’s face. Joel goes the house and looks around and eventually heads up to loft. He hears noises and thinks Carter is trying to scare him. He then gets jumped by some unseen creature which tears him apart.

Up to this point I was fairly happy with the film and it did seem to have some basis in the original story. But a this point the story starts to take another more familiar shape. Two college jocks John and Bruce are chatting to two new girls, Wendy and Tanya. Howard likes Wendy but she doesn’t like him while Tanya like Howard who barely notices Tanya. Bruce and John convince the girls to go to old haunted house with them by claiming it is used for sorority initiations and they can get some advance knowledge. It is a BS excuse and everyone knows what’s really going on and while Wendy is happy enough Tanya isn’t.

Yes, a Lovecraft story been turned into yet another formulaic film about a group of students who go to an abandoned scary house to make out and get killed. Meanwhile Howard is worried that they have not heard from Joel but Carter dismisses his fears at first. It’s only much later after Howard has checked with Joel’s family that Carter agrees to go the old Winthrop house with Howard.

I really was disappointed with this film. The elements from Lovecraft seem to work even if the guy playing Carter is an enormous ham. But the reduction of a Lovecraft horror to a haunted house monster story really just irritates me. It is like there are two films running concurrently and every moment spent with Howard  and the shallow screaming girls from the haunted house story is a distraction from the real story. The effects are quite good and the creature looks okay but it really doesn’t look unnamable, in fact she has a name Aliydah or something that we hear her called over and over by her father’s spirit at the end.  Oh, yeah, the end. When Carter and Howard get to the house Howard springs into action looking aroung the house for Wendy with Tanya

But Carter finds a room full of old books that turn out to be grimoires and of course includes the Necronomicon and while the monster is chasing and killing students upstairs Carter plonks himself down for some reading. At the end it all pays off when he gets an “of course” look in his face and takes the Necronomicon outside to the graveyard. He opens up one tomb then whilst reading spells from the book he descend to do battle with whatever, tree spirits or something.  But we don’t go with him and instead we go back Howard and Tanya battling Aliydah until Carter’s spells work and a tree reaches in and drags away Aliydah. When it’s all over Carter crawls out of grave and with bony hands trying to drag him back. This is a very abrupt ending and it was just groan-inducing for me especially when Carter makes reference to something he saw down in the tomb as being unnamable – argh! stupid cheat ending dumb film

Rating 5/10

 
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Posted by on October 2, 2011 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: The Last Lovecraft – Relic of Cthulhu

The Cult of Cthulhu are searching for part of a relic which is the key that will raise their master from his watery tomb and free him to rule the Earth. The Council of Cthulhu possess the other half of the relic and to stop the cult they send Professor Lake (Edmund Lupinski) of Miskatonic University to take the relic to the last descendant of H. P. Lovecraft and prevent the Cult from raising Cthulhu. This descendant is Jeff Philips (Kyle Davis) who works in a boring job in a cubicle in an office with his comic-book geek friend Charlie (Devin McGinn) and wishes there was more to life.

When Jeff and Charlie get home to their apartment they find Professor Lake standing there. He tries to tell them about the Cult of Cthulhu but Jeff doesn’t believe any of it. Charlie on the other hand knows far too much about it and goes into a comic-illustrated history of Cthulhu and his war with the Elder Ones. Jeff does not think this makes the story any more credible, but Lake agrees that Charlie’s story is true but incomplete. He reveals that Lovecraft was disguising truth as fiction and that he seemed to have a natural immunity to the madness inducing powers of Cthulhu and his General Starspawn (Ethan Wilde). The Council of Cthulhu think that this immunity has been passed down to Jeff making him the only person who can tackle Starspawn and stop the end of human civilisation. Lake’s story is interrupted when the cult get to the apartment on the trail of the relic and Lake tells Jeff and Charlie to go and he gives the relic to Jeff. Lake then pulls out a large hammer on a chain with a harpoon at the other end from his bag and starts fighting off cult creatures to give Jeff and Charlie time to escape until Starspawn comes in and kills him.

Jeff and Charlie have to fight off a creature with a lamprey-like sucker mouth that fixes itself to their car window. They manage to do this with just a tire iron and then they drive off. Charlie suggests that they go see a guy they went to school with who knows all about Lovecraft. Paul (Barak Hardley) is another geek who lives with his foul-mouthed grandmother. He doesn’t believe their story at first but is convinced when he sees the eyes of the relic glowing and he wants in on the adventure. He has a map from a comic-book to a Captain Olaf (Gregg Lawrence) who has told stories of his encounters with spawn of Cthulhu, the Deep Ones who live in the ocean. Starspawn has called up these Deep Ones to help him to get the relic. They come ashore next to a beach party and we see and hear them slaughtering everyone from inside a tent where a woman lies cowering in fear.

Jeff, Paul and Charlie have to get to Captain Olaf who lives in the middle of the desert to see if he has any idea how to defeat Starspawn and the Cult of Cthulhu

A comedy based on the works of H.P. Lovecraft has potential but this was disappointing. It has a very low-budget so it really has very little in the way of effects though some of it was pretty good for the money spent. I wasn’t too put off by the large amount of dysfunctional geek comedy the film has. I think I was mainly let-down by how lame the bad guys really turned out to be. Maybe they should have spread a little more madness around because apart from the Deep Ones they didn’t seem any more dangerous than any bunch of mooks. And the Deep Ones had a great build-up but after their initial killing spree they were a bit crap. Lovecraft wrote about cosmic horror but there really wasn’t much sign of that here. It does show some promise and if they had decent budget they may have delivered something a bit better.

Rating 6/10

 
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Posted by on August 20, 2011 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Film review: Re-Animator

This is one of my favourite films, a classic H.P. Lovecraft adaptation from director Stuart Gordon and producer Brian Yuzna.

Synopsis: Herbert West  (Jeffrey Combs) is an obsessed medical researcher who enrolls in Miskatonic University to continue his research into bringing the dead back to life. He blackmails his room-mate Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott) into assisting him in his research by threatening to reveal Dan’s relations with Megan Halsey (Barbara Crampton), daughter of the university’s Dean. When Dan naïvely tells Dean Halsey Robert Sampson) about their research he threatens to expel them. West is determined to keep going so they sneak into the hospital morgue to continue their research but are disturbed by the Dean who is killed by an out of control reanimated corpse. To cover up his death West reanimates the Dean. The Dean’s condition as violent mindless zombie raises the suspicions of Megan and university professor Dr Hill (David Gale). Hill tries to force West to turn over his research to him but instead West cuts off his head. West then reanimates Hill’s head and body but Hill is far from helpless and he escapes to plan his revenge.

There is so much about this film that I love. Combs is just marvellous as Herbert West, playing him as an amoral monster.Most of  the humour in the film comes from the vicious contempt West shows to everyone else, especially towards Megan and Dr Hill. David Gale gives great performance as Hill, a man desperate to stay top dog. Bruce Abbott is very pleasant to look at and I’m sure others will say the same about Barbara Crampton

The effects are probably a little dated but I don’t think that detracts from this film at all. Modern CGI effects rarely disgust me like these older effects still manage to. I think fluids like pus and vomit gore are still better as real fake fluids than any CGI equivalent I have seen to date especially when they are dripping from an actor.

Another thing I like is the wonderful score by Richard Band, a theme that builds in tension then decays into madness perfectly matching this film

I read the original Lovecraft story “Herbert West – Re-Animator” after watching this film and I was surprised to find that the film was toned down quite a lot from the book. I suppose I should warn those concerned that this film is violent, gory and has some nudity in it.

Rating   10/10

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B000NO1U70

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0089885/

 
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Posted by on June 27, 2011 in Entertainment, Film

 

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