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October Horror Day 26

Horror Journal

The evil killer doll sub-genre is always a good one for creeping out the kiddies and it is surprising how often you find adults even more creeped out by dolls than children. Dolls always have kind of creepy quality in the first place 

Dolls

This is a bizarre film from Re-Animator director Stuart Gordon and though it is quite cheesy but still violent manages to be violent and disturbing, like a violent modern fairy tale.

What can you say about film that two people get torn apart by a giant teddy bear? What is even more disturbing is that this is actually a little girl called Judy’s (Carrie Lorraine) fantasy. She is on a vacation with her father David Bower (Ian Patrick Williams) and his wife Rosemary (Carolyn Purdy-Gordon who is Stuart Gordon’s wife and meets a gory end as usual in his films). When their car gets stuck in the mud during a sudden storm they go looking for help and find themselves in a strange spooky old house with a sweet old man Gabriel Hartwicke (Guy Rolfe) and his lovely wife Hilary (Hilary Mason). The house is full of dolls and toys because the old man is a toymaker. Judy is delighted when Gabriel gives her a punch doll to make up for the teddy bear she was forced to leave behind in the car

Another three stranded travellers show up, Ralph (Stephen Lee) and two unpleasant English punk girls called Enid (Cassie Stuart) and Isabel (Bunty Bailey) that were hitch-hiking. The old couple show everyone to their rooms and are nice and patient no matter how unpleasant some of their guests are. As the night goes on Ralph and Judy discover that the toys are alive but they are okay because the like toys the toys like them. The others suffer a much more grisly fate at the hands of the dolls and the mysterious toymaker.

Curse of Chucky

This is the latest story in the series about the serial killer Charles Lee Ray (Brad Dourif) known as Chucky who was trapped in the children’s doll by voodoo way back in the first film. It plays with the idea of being a reboot but as the film goes on it is clear that it is a true sequel

Nica (Fiona Dourif) is a young paraplegic who lives with her mother Sarah but Sarah dies not long after someone mysteriously send them a Good Guy doll, a creepy red-haired doll with a set of programmed catchphrases.

Nica’s sister Barb (Danielle Bisutti) comes with her family to help Nica make arrangements for the funeral with Father Frank (A Martinez) the local priest. Nica gives the doll to her niece Alice (Summer H. Howell) who loves him right away. The doll is Chucky but he seems a lot less messed up than the last time we saw him and there is room for a bit of doubt.

This vanishes when we see Chucky put rat poison into a plate of chilli just before the meals are served and we have no idea who has the poison plate. It is obvious who it had to be for the sake of the structure of the story but the film pulls a couple of false scares before the surprisingly brutal death for a poisoning.

I liked that this film took a look into Chucky’s history so we get to see him as a real nasty living person. Chucky is not a physically strong character which is why his kills involve some element of ambush but there was a nice bit of tension created when the main protagonist is paraplegic making the showdown a battle of wits.

The ending was a nice little call out to fans of the earlier films though anyone not familiar with them will just be puzzled. The story starts slow but at the halfway point it picks up pace. One of the best things about these films is the effects which bring Chucky to life which are just great and I have no trouble believing that doll is an evil little bastard.

Puppetmaster

This film from Full Moon director Charles Band has a strange story that almost feels like a sequel. Although the puppets do play an important part in the film they are not the main villain but then the film is called Puppetmaster, not Puppets.

We see André Toulon (William Hickey) in his room at the Bodega Bay Inn in California putting the finishing touches to his jester puppet before infusing him with magical life. Two Nazi agents arrive at the inn looking for Toulon but Toulon hides his puppets away in the wall then blasts his brains out to stop his secrets falling into the hands of the Nazis. This intriguing start hints a back story that would take two sequels to reveal.

Cut to the present day (sometime in the 80s) and a bunch of psychics in different parts of the country get a strong psychic message from Neil Gallagher (Jimmie F. Skaggs) another psychic they all used to work with. They know he was searching for Toulon’s secrets and go to see him at the Bodega Bay Inn.

There they discover that he married the owner of the Inn Megan (Robin Frates) and that he is also now dead and they are not sure which revelation is more surprising to them.

Despite them all being psychic they seem shockingly unprepared when the puppets start killing them off and we see the puppets in action: Blade, Jester, Pinhead, Leech Woman and Drill Sergeant.

The showdown is between Gallagher and Alex Whittaker (Paul Le Mat) but when Gallagher disrespects the puppets they turn on him and finish him off.

 

 
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Posted by on October 26, 2013 in Entertainment, Film

 

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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: Castle Freak

DVD Review

Castle Freak DVD 001I really enjoy the films of horror director Stuart Gordon but I had never seen this film and I‘m not even sure if it ever got a release in UK before this digitally restored DVD release. It stars Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton who have both worked with Stuart Gordon on other films and was produced by Charles Band’s Full Moon studios. Although it has nudity and gore it doesn’t really have the dark humour of films like Re-Animator or From Beyond and the absence of any element of the fantastic makes it less memorable than those films.

A very old woman who looks like a homeless wino feeds some poor abused human creature she calls Giorgio (Jonathan Fuller) that she has locked up in the dungeon of her castle before viciously whipping it with a barbed cat-o-nine-tails. Then the real monster of this film returns to her bedroom and dies of a heart attack. This old woman was the Duchess D’Orsino (Helen Stirling) and we learn what sort of foul evil she has been up to through the film.

John Reilly (Jeffrey Combs) has inherited the castle of Duchess D’Orsino and he takes his wife Susan (Barbara Crampton) and daughter Rebecca (Jessica Dollarhide) to see the place no that Rebecca will see much since she is blind. They get shown to castle by the lawyer Giannetti (Massimo Sarchielli) whose sister Agnese (Elisabeth Kaza) is the castle’s housekeeper. Agnese shows them to their rooms and that is first hint we have that Susan and John are not happily married when Susan asks Agnese to prepare another room for John. That night john tries to sweet talk his wife in to sleeping together but she just can’t

John has a very restless night with a nice convenient expository nightmare which gives us an insight into the reason that relations between Susan and John are frosty. John was driving with Rebecca in the passenger seat and his young son JJ in the back and while he was distracted by JJ nearly crashes into a truck but John swerves and instead hits a tree. Rebecca ended up blinded by shards of glass in her eyes and we don’t see what happen to JJ but it certainly killed him.

John wakes to sound of crying so he gets up and puts on some clothes then wanders around the castle trying to find the source of the crying, following the sound down into the cellar. He doesn’t find the source of the sound but he does find a very well stocked wine cellar. John is alcoholic but he has been dry for a while but he feels tempted by the wine but he smashes the bottle in disgust and cuts his hand. John goes to the kitchen to clean the cut. Agnese comes in and helps him clean his cut and put a dressing on it. John asks her if she heard the sound and she sits and tells him about the Duchess. She married an American and they had a son called Giorgio but her husband left her and ran off to United States with another woman leaving D’Orsino and their son behind. The son died mysteriously and Agnese mentions the suspicion that D’Orsino murdered him to get back at her husband. The Duchess never left the castle since that day until she died and local people say they hear the sound of child crying and that the castle is haunted.

No-one knows anything about the poor forgotten creature Giorgio chained up in the dungeon starving. I don’t know how long it has been since the Duchess died but since she never gave him much to eat hunger would never be far away. Clearly Giorgio did not die but has been imprisoned and physically abused by his mother for forty years but we don’t get to see the full effects of her abuse yet.

John and Rebecca decide to explore the castle a bit and Susan warns John to keep an eye on Rebecca. They pass through a nursery before they find Duchess D’Orsino’s bedroom. John finds an old photo album and while he looks through it Rebecca goes after a cat she finds stuck in a room. She follows it down to the dungeon where she falls and scrapes herself on the knee. Rebecca hears a moaning and she goes to the cell and calls out but Giorgio is too weak to respond. Rebecca goes back upstairs and Giorgio manages get his hands on the poor cat and drags it back into the cell.

When Rebecca gets upstairs Susan finds her and scolds her for wandering off which she blames on John for not watching but Rebecca protest that she has to allowed to learn how to cope with being blind without her mother fussing over her. She tries to tell Susan about hearing someone downstairs but Susan brushes it off as nothing but the strange noises the castle makes because she doesn’t think it’s possible.

In his cell Giorgio feeds on the cat and that gives him more energy. Seeing Rebecca at the grille of the cell door has given him a reason to get free. The manacles are joined by a chain fixed to the wall. He chews off his thumb and takes the manacle off his left hand which lets him free of the wall. He batters at the cell door and soon he breaks through and he’s free. Strangely no-one heard any of this. Giorgio limps up stairs on his twisted limbs until he comes to a mirror in a hallway. Disgusted by his hideous appearance he smashes the mirror and runs off.

The Reillys were in the kitchen having dinner when they hear the mirror break and rush out to investigate. They have no idea what caused the mirror to break but John suggests that old mirrors may break anytime due to the wood warping which sounds good enough for him but Rebecca suggests that it smashed because someone broke it. She’s frustrated that her parents don’t take her seriously.

That night while Rebecca is sleeping in her bed Giorgio creeps into her room. He pulls back her covers to look at her and he almost touches her hair. Suddenly Rebecca wakes up startled and Giorgio cowers away. She senses he is there asks who it is, getting more and more panicked by the lack of response. She screams and Giorgio panics, grabs a blanket from her bed and runs off. Susan and John rush in to find out what’s wrong. Rebecca tells them someone was in her room and Susan doesn’t believe her but John decides to investigate and goes into the hall where he hears the sound of the chains still manacled to Giorgio’s right wrist. He looks around a room full of covered furniture but doesn’t see Giorgio hiding plain sight as a piece of covered furniture.

John goes down the dungeon and has a look in the empty cell which should have been stinking from forty years of crap and piss and absolute proof that someone had been imprisoned in there, never mind the dead cat he fails to see. He looks around and finds the family crypt and the marker for Giorgio with a picture of him as a child and he looks exactly like John’s son JJ. This gets John very weepy. Giorgio has followed him down and is hiding and watching John mourning his son.

Next day John calls the police and the search the castle but don’t find anything which is strange when you remember that cell with dead cat, the heap of shit and stench of piss that shows this search was a very slap dash job. The police sergeant Forte (Luca Zingaretti) tells John that there is no way he can have the whole castle searched because the place is huge and he‘s not got the manpower. He doesn’t think there is anyone and doesn’t believe Rebecca. This gets John ranting a bit and that does nothing to convince the police to stay.

Rebecca is upset about being dismissed yet again and is tired since she didn’t get much sleep so she goes to bed. John wants to show Susan the picture of Giorgio but when they get down there the picture is gone but John swears it was identical to JJ. He talks about how he felt a presence like JJ was here with him. This leads to tears and hugs which John tries to take too far and then there are angry accusations and John storms off up to the roof where he thinks about jumping off and killing himself.

At the local bar John has gone back to drinking and sits all day getting incredibly drunk. In the evening the bar gets busier. A woman Sylvana () is working as a prostitute and she chats up John who orders her a drink but clumsily spills it. The barman tries to explain he’s had enough to drink and has to leave and Forte explains it to him in English and tells him to go back to his family, making it really obvious to Sylvana. Forte has an angry exchange in Italian with Sylvana who leaves with John.

John takes Sylvana back to the castle and down to the wine cellar and he opens up a bottle of wine. This is followed by quick sex up against a wall which is being watched by Giorgio who is getting very excited. Unbelievably John didn’t realise she was a prostitute until she asks for money. She gets her money and leaves while John passes out on the floor.

On her way out she walks through the nursery and Giorgio throws a blanket over head and grabs her. This leads to the scene that probably gave this film most trouble with the censors. Giorgio takes Sylvana to the cell where he tries to copy what John did but gets it very wrong. He puts the manacle on her wrist so she can’t get away. First we see that his penis has been cut off long ago so he can’t have sex and while John had gently nuzzled on her nipples Giorgio eats them off.

Next morning Forte comes to the door of the castle and wants to talk to John but Susan stays because she insists they don’t have secrets. Forte wants to know what happened to Sylvana since she didn’t go home after she went off with John. John insists that she left but Forte wants to take a look and John gets defensive since Forte had refused to search the castle the day before. The situation is very different and Forte asks if John has something to hide. He doesn’t let him and closes the door. Now John has to face Susan who very angry because he got drunk picked a woman and brought her back the castle and had sex with her while Susan and Rebecca were sleeping upstairs.

John goes to talk to Gianetti in a cafe who tells them that the police have no evidence so they can’t arrest him. Gianetti gets a phone call from Agnese who has found Sylvana’s handbag in one of the rooms. Gianetti offers to keep hold of the handbag until Sylvana shows up or the police find out what really happened to her. Of course he wants money for this and John calls him a bastard. Gianetti tells him the rest of his family history. His mother was the sister of Duchess D’Orsino and his father was her husband. They fled to America to get away from her but D’Orsino would never give him a divorce so his parents could never legally get married and with a smug grin on his face points out that means John is in fact the bastard.

At the castle Susan is getting Rebecca ready to leave. Rebecca doesn’t want to leave thinking that John is in trouble they should be with him but Susan has had enough of his drinking causing them pain.

Agnese has the handbag is taking it to Gianetti and she hears a scream from the dungeon and as she makes her way down there are more screams and cries. When she gets close she calls out and Giorgio takes his manacle off Sylvana’s hands and hides. Agnese come to the cell and finds Sylvana who is just barely alive. Agnes tries to take care of Sylvana but Giorgio comes up behind he her and smashes her head in with his chain.

Susan has the car packed and she’s about to leave with Rebecca. John comes running up from his meeting with Gianetti and tries to stop her leaving. He thinks the police are going to arrest him and if Susan leaves that will make him look guilty. Susan gets in the car and drives making a remark about John making himself a whipping boy. This remark reminds John of the whip and he suddenly realise what is going on and that Rebecca was right and he can prove it. He finds a tool room and picks up a spade. He goes down to the crypt and start smashing open Giorgio’s tomb

Outside before Susan gets to the bottom of the drive Forte arrives with Gianetti and a couple of cops to arrest John. Forte insists that Rebecca and Susan will have to stay in D’Orsino until they give their statements to the police. Inside there’s a loud noise of John smashing open the tomb. They go down to the dungeon with Susan and John has broken the tomb open. He pulls out the coffin and smashes it open and as he suspected it is empty except for rocks. He tries to convince them that Giorgio is not dead but has been kept alive by D’Orsino so she could torture him. Everyone thinks he’s crazy and John gets cuffed.

As they are about to leave with John Forte sees the bodies of Sylvana and Agnese in the cell but there’s no sign of Giorgio (apart from the stench of urine and pile of shit). Forte and Gianetti think John killed them but John tries to convince them of his innocence, pleading desperately with Susan as he gets dragged off to the police station. Forte leaves a couple of cops to watch Rebecca and Susan then he leaves with john and Gianetti.

Susan asks one of the cops if he can get them some water and he heads off to the kitchen. He gets the water but sees soot falling of the chimney over the stove. He goes to investigate and get dragged up into the chimney by Giorgio and killed.

At the police station John is being questioned by Forte who only wants John to tell him why he killed Sylvana and Agnese and doesn’t want to hear John’s story. John gets fed up with not being listened to and he gives an insensitive reply that cause Forte to flip out and attack him, forcing the other cop present to intervene and drag him off. Now he’s alone he decides to escape. He finds the truncheon Forte used on him. He hears forte coming back and when he comes in he smacks him over the head with the truncheon and knocks him then he climbs out a window in the corridor.

Susan asks the other cop about the water and he goes to look for the first cop. He sees a figure lying on the floor and when he approaches the figure it jumps at him and it’s Giorgio and he attacks him, biting his face and killing him. In Rebecca’s room Rebecca has a headache and Susan wants to give her painkillers but they have no water. She goes to see what’s happened to the cops and Giorgio reaches out from behind a door and grabs her head smacking it on the wall and knocking her out.

Giorgio goes into Rebecca’s room where she is getting undressed for bed. When he helps her take her blouse off Rebecca thinks he’s her mother but she rapidly learns that not true. He carries her off to his cell. Susan recovers and goes after him, stopping at the kitchen to pick up a knife.

In the cell puts the manacle and he put his manacle on her hands. He tries to communicate with her but he’s got no tongue and so can’t speak. He tries showing her the photograph of himself as a child but is frustrated to discover that Rebecca is blind. He realises he doesn’t have to hide his face and takes off the sheet he has covering his face and the sight of his abused face is revolting and a sign of how evil D’Orsino was. Giorgio paws at Rebecca and starts kissing her ear and neck while Rebecca screams. Susan comes into the cell and orders Giorgio to leave Rebecca alone. She offers herself in to Giorgio in her daughter’s place and unbuttons her shirt. Giorgio falls for it and comes toward her but when he’s in reach Susan sticks the knife in his back.

While Giorgio is doubled-up in pan and distracted Susan frees Rebecca from the manacle and leads her out upstairs. Giorgio isn’t very far behind them so Susan hides them in the large wardrobe in Duchess D’Orsino’s bedroom. When Giorgio comes into the room he knows the place and his memories are not happy. He finds the cat’ o’ nine tails and starts swing it round and once he gets the feel of it hi starts smashing things with it. He whips the wardrobe and wrecks it but he doesn’t discover Susan and Rebecca cowering at the bottom. He leaves to continue his search and they climb out of the wardrobe. Susan leads Rebecca down a corridor but Rebecca knocks over a vase and Giorgio spots them.

Susan leads Rebecca further up and they come to the roof and are trapped. Giorgio catches up and makes his way towards them. That’s when John arrive just in time and calls Giorgio’s name. They struggle and run about on the roof but Giorgio manages to beat John down. He starts towards Rebecca and Susan but his chain is dragging behind him and John grabs it and puts the other manacle on his wrist. He stands up and climbs on the battlement. John leaps off onto the courtyard below dragging Giorgio behind him. Giorgio is killed right away but John stays alive long enough to tell Rebecca and Susan that he loves them

Rating 7.5/10 

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Posted by on February 23, 2013 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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