October Horrorshow: The Phantom of the Opera (1962)

Hammer’s version of The Phantom of the Opera may not look it at first, but it is a very significant film in the history of cinema. There have been many, many adaptations of Gaston Leroux’s Le Fantôme de l’Opéra — the most famous being the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical from 1986. But this film, from two and a half decades earlier, was the first Phantom adaptation to feature the phantom playing Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor. That simple decision on the part of the filmmakers to have the phantom banging away on an organ in one scene was the birth of a trope that has crept up in movies, television, and even videogames on a regular basis. Whenever a viewer sees a shadowy figure hunched over an organ and it spits out Bach, it’s all because of this movie. Continue reading “October Horrorshow: The Phantom of the Opera (1962)”

October Horrorshow: It Comes at Night, or, Misleading Title: The Movie

Writer/director Trey Edward Shults’ psychological horror flick from this past year, It Comes at Night, is well-written, gorgeously shot, well-acted, and deeply disturbing, but it has a bad title. At first glance, It Comes at Night is a great title for a horror flick. It implies that there is an It that will be coming to terrorize cast members, most probably at night. If this were a monster or a slasher flick, or maybe even something more mysterious, this would be a great title for a film. But in a film that has no It, and which places little meaningful significance on the night, it’s a terrible title. Perhaps Shults had this great title and this great screenplay, and decided to put them together, with little regard to whether or not they were beneficial to each other. Either way, the result is the audience being sold a false bill of goods, which is a shitty thing to do to viewers even if the end result is a good film. Continue reading “October Horrorshow: It Comes at Night, or, Misleading Title: The Movie”

October Horrorshow: The Horror of Frankenstein

So long, Peter Cushing! After five films over 12 years, Hammer decided to go in a different direction with 1970’s The Horror of Frankenstein, replacing the iconic, and aging, Cushing with Ralph Bates, who was an entire generation younger. Hammer also decided not to continue the jumbled and confused continuity of the previous films, going for a complete reboot of the franchise. That phrase, ‘reboot of the franchise,’ is decidedly anachronistic when applied to a film from almost fifty years ago, but it is an accurate description of what Hammer did. It’s just a new term for a practice as old as film itself. Continue reading “October Horrorshow: The Horror of Frankenstein”

October Horrorshow: The Curse of the Werewolf

The Curse of the Werewolf, from 1961, is the tragic tale of a beggar who is imprisoned by a cruel marquis. Then it is the tragic tale of a mute servant girl. Then it is the tragic tale of a young boy who grows up in a rich household with the loving attention of a pair of surrogate parents. Then it is the tragic tale of a young man attempting to make his own way in the world, who falls in love with a woman he cannot have. Then, finally, it is the tragic tale of a man cursed with lycanthropy. I have seen some films with long setups, many of them this month, but the setup in this film is so long and rambling compared to the promise of the title that I was wondering at times if I was watching the wrong movie. Continue reading “October Horrorshow: The Curse of the Werewolf”

October Horrorshow: Birdemic: Shock and Terror

Films like Birdemic: Shock and Terror exist on a rare plain where traditional criticism and traditional standards of film quality no longer apply. There is no way possible that I could point out, any more effectively than the film itself, just how God-awful it is. This is, without a doubt, the single worst movie I have ever seen. There is nothing in it, at any point, that appears to be the result of a professional film production. It has a staggering amount of ineptness in everything — from pacing, plot, dialogue, cinematography, editing, sound, direction, acting, or anything else I can’t be bothered to name. Possibly the costumes were passable, but I’m not going back to double check. Continue reading “October Horrorshow: Birdemic: Shock and Terror”

October Horrorshow: Scars of Dracula

These Hammer Dracula films are showing serious signs of franchise fatigue. Scars of Dracula is the sixth film in the series, and I can’t be sure that anyone involved cared one whit about the project. Unlike the Frankenstein films, which had their ups and downs, there was still great care in producing a viable film. But Scars of Dracula looks and feels cheap. Continue reading “October Horrorshow: Scars of Dracula”

October Horrorshow: The Man Who Could Cheat Death

Terence Fisher directing, Jimmy Sangster writing, and Christopher Lee in a supporting role. The Man Who Could Cheat Death, one of Hammer’s efforts from 1959, should have been among the best films in this month of reviews. But it’s not, and that’s because while three of Hammer’s top names appear in the credits, a fourth, Peter Cushing, does not. He had been set to star in this film, but the lead role instead went to Anton Diffring, who was not equal to the task. Continue reading “October Horrorshow: The Man Who Could Cheat Death”

October Horrorshow: Maniac Cop

With a title like Maniac Cop, there’s no way this movie is going to be good, right? The title is simple and to the point, and instantly conveys a large amount of plot to any potential viewer that happens to pass by the marquee. But boy, oh boy, it sounds like a first draft title. If all other films had used their initial titles, we wouldn’t have Alien, 2001: A Space Odyssey, or Unforgiven. Instead we would have Star Beast, Journey Beyond the Stars, and The Cut-Whore Killings (although it would have been ballsy for Clint Eastwood and company to try that last one). Continue reading “October Horrorshow: Maniac Cop”

October Horrorshow: Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed

The title of this film is apt. The character of Frankenstein has gone through many metamorphoses from film to film in the Hammer series. In the first two, The Curse of Frankenstein and The Revenge of Frankenstein, he was an obsessive driver, unable to see that his experiments were beyond the bounds of ethics. He wasn’t an evil man, but nor was he good. He was somewhat sociopathic, oblivious to the offenses his work caused. In The Evil of Frankenstein he was a weak copy of the Frankenstein from the Universal films, which was no coincidence, as Universal distributed the film. In Frankenstein Created Woman, Frankenstein was almost benevolent, using his experiments, though twisted, to restore life to a pair of unfortunate lovers. But in today’s film, Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed, Frankenstein is evil to the core. He extorts, kidnaps, imprisons, murders, and rapes the poor people whom he encounters. Indeed, a person like that needs to go. Continue reading “October Horrorshow: Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed”

October Horrorshow: Bad Ben

What a glorious age in which we live. Sure, there are problems. American democracy is eating itself alive, with Russia giving us an unwanted assist. Capitalism no longer promises the kind of wage gains necessary to sustain a middle class over the long haul. Technology companies are being hacked, and our personal information is being stolen on a seemingly daily basis. That’s actually less disturbing than it could be, because those same technology companies have shown they don’t have our best interests at heart, anyway. No one can be trusted, whether it’s in our political lives or our technological lives. But at least in this new age, one man can write, film, star in, edit, and release his very own movie. It may not be a good movie, but all the gatekeepers that had been in place to prevent free expression in the art of film are now gone. Continue reading “October Horrorshow: Bad Ben”