October Hammershow: 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 readingOctober Hammershow: Scars of Dracula”

October Hammershow: Taste the Blood of Dracula

What a title. Taste the Blood of Dracula. That’s a pretty good start for today’s horror film, before a single frame even goes by. From 1970, Taste the Blood of Dracula was written by Anthony Hinds, directed by Peter Sasdy, and features Christopher Lee returning to play Dracula. Continue readingOctober Hammershow: Taste the Blood of Dracula”

October Hammershow: Dracula Has Risen from the Grave

It is now the halfway point of this year’s Horrorshow, and I’m enjoying watching all these classic Hammer horror flicks. But, watching them all close together like this means I’m more aware of when they are repeating themselves compared to watching them on a normal release schedule. For example, the three Mummy flicks I’ve reviewed so far this month have basically been the same film. There is still a good film to be made from the idea, but by The Mummy’s Shroud, I’m not sure the filmmakers were trying. Today’s film, Dracula Has Risen from the Grave, suffers from some of the same sort of creative malaise that doomed The Mummy’s Shroud. Continue readingOctober Hammershow: Dracula Has Risen from the Grave”

October Hammershow: Dracula: Prince of Darkness

Dracula: Prince of DarknessAfter eight years, Dracula, the actual Dracula and not some misdirection with the title, is back in Hammer’s 1966 film Dracula: Prince of Darkness. 1958’s Dracula (Horror of Dracula in the US) is among the most well-known and revered of Hammer’s horror catalogue. It was also a moneymaker. So, for a company that was in the business to make a buck I find it surprising that it took Hammer eight years to put a sequel together. Part of the problem may have been Dracula’s recalcitrant star, Christopher Lee. He led a most interesting life, mingling with true giants on a regular basis. Sometimes it feels like he did all this cheap horror to pay the rent, but his heart was never really in it. Like many stars he often failed to do the decent thing and keep his mouth shut about a project after filming wrapped. Continue readingOctober Hammershow: Dracula: Prince of Darkness”

October Hammershow: The Brides of Dracula

Sangster! Fisher! Cushing! But, no Lee. Despite the name ‘Dracula’ being in the title of this film, The Brides of Dracula, Hammer’s 1960 follow-up to its Dracula remake, does not feature either Dracula or Christopher Lee playing him. But that could be forgiven, right? The title could be referring to the actual brides who lived in Dracula’s castle in Transylvania, only that isn’t the case, either. Not only is this film not about Dracula, it’s not about his brides. Instead, it features a completely different vampire in a completely different Transylvanian castle. That is gross misdirection on the part of Hammer. Continue readingOctober Hammershow: The Brides of Dracula”

October Hammershow: Dracula (1958), aka Horror of Dracula

It has been over a hundred and twenty years since Bram Stoker’s groundbreaking vampire novel was published. In that time, the titular character of Dracula has been put to film dozens of times. Every generation gets its own version of the tale. There’s just something about Dracula. The genre of horror itself is drawn to the character like one of his hapless victims. One can be sure that no matter what kind of just fate befalls Dracula in these films, it is only a matter of time before he returns. Continue readingOctober Hammershow: Dracula (1958), aka Horror of Dracula”

October Horrorshow: Lifeforce

Sometimes a movie tries to be an epic, but has a hard time shaking off its b-movie stink. Such is the case with Lifeforce, the 1985 sci-fi/horror film from director Tobe Hooper and writers Dan O’Bannon and Don Jakoby. The film opens with a bombastic score composed by Henry Mancini, in quite a departure from the type of music cinema buffs would associate with him. The camera flies over an endless asteroid that looks plucked from the long, dichromatic shots that Stanley Kubrick filmed for 2001. What follows is a quick introductory voiceover that takes care of all the backstory and character development. Viewers are told of the mission of the HMS Churchill, a joint American/British space shuttle mission tasked with exploring Halley’s Comet upon its dodranscentennial approach to the earth. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: Lifeforce”

October Horrorshow: Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Look at that title. Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Of all the cinematic interpretations of the classic horror tale, only this one has the original author’s name in the title. It’s a nice touch, and easily differentiates the film from all the others. But, if a viewer is like me, they will wonder if such a title isn’t a tiny bit disingenuous. When I think of this film, I think of it as Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula. His vision, and his touch, both deft and clumsy, is so evident throughout that he has made the material his own. Mr. Stoker didn’t need to have his name attached (except for legal reasons, apparently). Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: Bram Stoker’s Dracula”

October Horrorshow: Fright Night

Fright NightI have fond memories of this flick. I remember first discovering it with my father in the mid-80s. I’ve written about this before, but I got my love of shitty horror flicks from the old man. We thought we had discovered a real winner with Fright Night. We were expecting something cheesy and low budget. I mean, there was no way this could turn out to be a good movie, right? It stars Roddy MacDowall, for crying out loud. But, Fright Night exceeded both of our expectations. It’s a damn good horror flick, and since it’s now about thirty years old, I think it’s safe to call it a classic.

Written and directed by Tom Holland, Fright Night is both a vampire flick, and an homage to vampire flicks. It features William Ragsdale as Charlie, a high school student in suburban California who believes a vampire and his servant have moved into the vacant house next door. It seems like Charlie is just letting his imagination run wild. After all, Charlie is a lover of vampire films. He never misses a late night broadcast of vampire flicks on a local TV station, hosted by b-movie screen legend Peter Vincent (MacDowall). MacDowall’s character is great. His character is named after, and based loosely on, classic horror film performers Peter Cushing and Vincent Price. In his acting days, Peter Vincent was a Hammer Films-style vampire hunter, with all the Victorian trappings. It’s a shame his career has led to him hosting late-night movies, but once upon a time, it was showcases like these that introduced young viewers to the wonder that is horror cinema. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: Fright Night”

October Horrorshow: Stake Land

Stake LandA couple years back, I wanted to read Pet Sematary. These days, I prefer epubs to printed books. But believe it or not, the only epub edition I could find of that book, without torrenting a bootleg copy riddled with scanning errors, was in German. So, I had to go to a bookstore, something I hadn’t done in a long time. I found a mass-market paperback copy on the horror shelf of a Barnes & Noble near the World Trade Center. I could have been in and out of the store like a flash, but failure to browse in a bookstore is an intellectual misdemeanor, so I took a look around. When I think of a bookstore, the genres on the shelves tend to hold steady. Fiction and literature, horror, mystery, nonfiction, supernatural teen romance...huh?

That shelf caught me by surprise. I knew Twilight was a big thing, but until I walked into that bookstore, I had no idea that supernatural teen romance was a standalone genre, much less that it could command thirty feet of shelf space. That’s pretty damned impressive, but also makes soon-to-be middle-aged male me gag just a little bit. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: Stake Land”