The Cult of Horror

The Cult of Horror

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Messiah of Evil 73' aka Dead People dir. Willard Huyck

I have acquired a recent personal sentiment for this film. I was watching the re-mastered version alone in a San Antonio hotel and midway I decided to go for a walk (about 1 am) and sat on an all-night diner and finished watching it on my phone. The bleak abandonment, the searching in a foreign town late at night, shadowy  faces peering around corners added an atmosphere that I haven’t felt while viewing a film since the first time I had seen Let’s Scare Jessica to Death.

A young beautiful Arletty (Marianna Hill) travels to a dark and dreary town called Point Dune, to visit her abstract artist father. She finds letters in his heavily decorated gallery type, abandoned beach house addressed to her about the “Blood Moon” and the terrible things that have recently happened to him and the strange things at night, most importantly his foreboding to not look for him.

The next morning, she searches for more answers at a local art gallery and meets Thom (Michael Greer) a well-dressed art snob and his two gal pals who are also curious about the “Blood Moon” as well. The nightmarish and surreal events that take place after their meeting at the beach house can be likened to a bizarro, Pre Lynchian-Fellini-esque night of horror, that also fades away when the sun rises. At night some of the towns folk turn into a form of cannibalistic vampires that can only be destroyed by fire, tearing one blood droplet from the left eye, wandering the dark streets, in supermarket’s and movie theaters added numbers to their ghoulish horde, led by a dark stranger, a 100 yr old a descendant from the "Donner Party"  Some ghouls leap through high windows, resist gun shots to the throat and one pours a gallon of blue paint on his face to add to the artistic back drop of the film.

A perfect score electronic score adds to the hypnotic and at times psychedelic vibe, similar in tone to “Let’s Scare Jessica to Death” makes this unsung gem an ultimate creepfest. Highly recommended.


Remembering Ingrid Pitt

The Gorgeous Ingrid Pitt only graced the world of horror with 4 notable cult films but her unmatched beauty stands the test of time.

A weird moment in my life, I was on a Hammer Horror kick and rented Vampire Lovers, obviously smitten by her looks, I looked her up the normal horror watching day on November 23rd 2010 and was shocked to discovery that same day she had died.

Young Ingrid Pitt survived being a Nazi Concentration camp and  worked her way into minor movie stardom with Dr Zhivago and Where Eagles dare but horror fans remember her stunning looks, curvaceous figure and sultry voice in her Carmilla Karnstein roles Countess Dracula and Vampire Lovers and the Amicus Anthology The House that Dripped Blood.  Ingrid played a small role as a Summerisle police burning pagan in the beloved Wicker Man. 

Although her mark in horror cinema was brief her centerfold looks are timeless and have been adored for decades from horror fans around the world.

Ingrid Pitt November 21st, 1937-Novermber 23rd, 2010

Calvaire (04)

Directed by Fabrice Du Welz

This by-the-numbers slow paced "Oh-no, my car is broken down a creepy town horror" really caught my attention. I heard about particular scenes (bar dance) from this film for years and was surprised at the director's minimalist surreal approach to a typical setting story. A young traveling performer Marc Stevens (Laurent Lucas) travels in a treacherous rain storm through old country road and unshockingly becomes stranded and led by an odd ball local, who is searching for his dog, to an abandoned Inn. The Inn keeper Bartel (Jackie Berroyer ) is a lovelorn man that never recovered from his lost love who was also a performer. The two become friends as the performer's vehicle is to be fixed within a day or two and the young traveler is heeded not to go into town.

Of course our young traveler heads into town and stumbles upon a glimpse of towns folk engaging in some pig bestiality. The man flees back to the hotel and realizes that the phone has never worked and no one is coming to fix his vehicle, at that point the Inn Keeper destroys his vehicle and holds him hostage. The traveler is then has half of his head shaven, wears women's clothes and is forced into the identify of his lost lover. The Inn Keeper goes into the town, with rifle in hand, and says to the peculiar villagers that his lover his back and he will kill anyone who tries to take her away. The oddball local finds a pig and thinks it is his lost dog and has Christmas Dinner with the Inn Keeper and his new found love. The Towns folk retaliate with rifles and pigs to take the traveler away.

The end is best left unspoiled. I was surprised with the symbolism and scenes of delusion from the antagonists and the transformation by the protagonist and when the credits rolled abruptly, The film felt as if it was more of a gritty and bizarre art piece than a horror film. 

I would recommend this only if you have a good attention span and appreciate films on  Bunuel, Jodorowsky level. Most horror fans would hate this and would be turned off by pacing and the overall weirdness of the film. Yet with the amount of depth and symbolism, there is a debatable and possible deeper meaning than just an unfortunate man's luck.


Burnt Offerings 76'

Produced, Written and Directed by Dan Curtis

An extremely well directed and plotted "Haunted House Horror" written, financed and directed by Dan Curtis (House of Dark Shadows) starring the impressive thespian Oliver Reed (Paranoiac, The Brood) as a husband "" and his peculiar wife Marian (Karen Black) and his mother " (Bettie Davis) and their annoying son rent (for a modest price) a large Victorian age house for the summer, two peculiar elderly folks (Burgess Meredith) with the condition of taking care of the old (and never seen) Ms. Aladice in the top room of the house.

Watching this 76' film feels like it will take steps towards The Shining but stays as it's own type of film and remains only creepy not scary. Modern Haunted House Horror fans may feel that the films length and may be to exhausting for how little danger presents it self with in the film. Few hair raising scenes from the Pall Bearer and the last 5 minutes are only real scares however, ending climax is delivered so well and after credit's role their is enough to digest and discuss what has happened in the Mansion's bloody history. The heavy execution and hard work from Curtis and crew are convincing however the film's only weak spot may be it's length. Some fans however appreciate a good slow burning thriller.


The Confessional aka House of Mortal Sin 76'

Directed by British Thriller Veteran Pete Walker (Frightmare, Flesh and Blood Show)

Young Jenny Welch (Susan Pehaligon) succumbs to the taunts of a manipulative and murderous catholic priest (played perfectly by Anthony Sharp) but has no one to turn to. The priests victims, who are morally askew, suffer his religious wrath through taped confessions and even a few of the fragile flock end up dead through poison communion wafers and Rosary Bead strangulations. The priests invalid and mute mother desperately tries to let someone know of his madness but her attempts are blocked by a disfigured Miss Brabazon (Sheila Kiethalso from Walker's Frightmare)

The Confessional is moderately paced and holds great restraint like all Peter Walker films and feels very 70's by film quality and UK location. However the forlorn score and scenes of surprising violence and bleak ending add enough tension to go head to head with even some of Hammer's best horror.


Dark Night of the Scarecrow 81'

Creepy 80's Revenge Horror has a surprisingly beautiful transfer by VCI Entertainment and has great atmosphere and production value for a TV movie. A mentally challenged man named Bubba (Larry Drake) and his  little best friend Marylee ( Tonya Crowe) are under the suspicious eye of  local bad boy towns people. The Lynch mob leader and head bully  (Charles Durning) has Bubba in his sights and aims to bring him to justice after little Marylee gets mauled viciously by an attack dog. The mailman and his redneck friends chase and track Bubba to his Mother's farm and find him hiding in a cornfield dressed as a creepy ass scarecrow. Bubba's demise is pretty violent for a 70's TV film as he his shot repeatedly.

After the local goons are taken into custody for Bubba's death, it is written off as self defense and the men go free. Shortly afterwards each of the men who were guilty start seeing a Scarecrow in a field periodically and then a gruesome death follows afterwards. Films like this follow a Wash, Rinse, Repeat of a basic storyline but the cool angle of Dark Night is you are on the side of the Stalker side waiting patiently for him to kill each victim. With wide shots of farm scenery and a scarecrow theme killer, this is a perfect film to watch around Halloween. 8 out of 10

Expose' aka House on Straw Hill aka Trauma 76'

Paul Martin (Udo Keir) is a tormented writer who suffers violent hallucinations and hires an editor, Linda Hindstatt (the voluptuous Linda Hayden) to help him write his second novel, while staying in a secluded country house surrounded by a field of straw.

Martin's struggles to write as Linda acts as his typist, sexual tension begins on their first day together and Linda leaves to pleasure herself. Linda lays in a field near by and masturbates and is caught by two men who sexually attack her and she grabs hold of a shotgun and shoots both of them, leaving them for dead. She returns as if nothing happens and continues to act as Martin's secretary. Martin's girlfriend Suzzane (played by model Fiona Richmond) visits and creates more sexual tension between the three.

The story is slow and atmospheric with an eerie score that only hits extreme high points heightened by Sex and Violence. The BBC listed this one as a Video Nasty and approximately 30 cuts were taken out to tame the film to it's theatrical release.

The acting is strong and convincing despite the odd choices that the characters choose. The ending is definitly a WTF moment that leaves audiences scratching their heads. 

House on Straw Hill was remade in 2010 as Stalker featuring Hayden as the house maid. Severin Films released an uncut restored version sticking with the Australian title name House on Straw Hill.

7 out of 10

Living Dead Girl 82' La Morte Vivante

Jean Rollin, French Horror Sexploitation Auteur hits hard with a Zombie-Lesbo love tale about a ressurected woman, Catherine Valmont (Fransoise Blanchard) and her long time girl friend Helene (Marie Pierro) and their exploits of lust-filled murder, kidnapping and the consequences that follow.

Foolish Grave Robbing Thieves, who also dump toxic waste meet their eye-gouging demise with the beautiful Living Dead Girl after a small tremor awakens her from her coffin. After Catherine racks up a 3 man body count, she wanders the beautiful French country side barefoot and only wearing a white gown and is photographed by a tourist and her husband. The tourist woman becomes obsessed that this Living Dead Girl is the young Catherine only back from the dead and confronts her. After a few more naked dead people pile up, Helene unscuccessfully attempts to feed Catherine with a dead bird, then kidnaps a random woman and gives her to Catherine who then tears the victim apart.

Most fans of Rollin expect his films to be loaded with French styled gore and nudity and also are aware of the slow pacing in between scenes. Such is the staple for Euro Sleaze.

The films last 10 minutes kick in to high gear and to honest, it is pretty damn grueling to the degree of saying out loud "what other horror film can offer such goodies"?

Catherine then frees her next stripped bare victim and sets her loose, self-realizing that she is evil and is hating what she is becoming. Then Helene sets a tourist on fire who flees screaming and jumps off of a bridge and chops another tourists head with a midieval axe. Moved by guilt and self loathing. Catherine attempts to drown herself in a lake but is rescued by Helene. In Catherine's fury she rips her to shreds and devours her with a slow backwards moving camera shot, leaving the blood-soaked Catherine alone in the dark.


Russ Meyer's Super Vixens 75'

Sexploitation King Russ Meyer's first successful feature after his big Hollywood break out Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, mixes a universe that can come out of the trashy, clever mind of Myers himself.

Supervixens is a fast paced, surreal, sexy, part murder mystery/on the run camp/dark comedy that stars an all to gorgeous Shari Eubank as Super Angel, the ferocious and mean spirited vixen that drives her husband Clint Ramsey to the end of his wits. A crooked and evil sheriff Harry Sledge (played by films own producer Charles Napier) attempts an affair with Supervixen but her wicked taunted pushes him to the point of murder. Poor Ramsey is framed on the run from the law on a surreal journey of continuous journey of equal parts Vixen of all shapes and sizes and also equal part bad luck, from beatings, muggings and unwanted advances from voluptous goddessess starring a Myriad cast of Super Eula, Super Lorna, Super Cherry, Super Soul and Super Haji (Faster Pussy Cat Kill, Kill)

Clint Ramsey's luck turns around when he meets a woman quite like Super Angel in appearance (also played by Shari Eubank)but only all she is all too sweet as a gas station/restuarant owner. Ramsey finally finds love until the evil Harry Sledge enters their life again to bring a climax of cartoonish dynamite throwning violence that could only be taken slightly serious in the entertaining Universe of Russ Meyer. 8/10

Raw Meat aka Deathline 73'

Gary Sherman (Dead and Buried) churned out this gory, slower paced Brit-Mystery Horror at the early part of the 70's, about the legendary subway killer.

Two college hipsters find an unconscious British politician on a set of subway stairs. They argue wether to get involved and telling the authorities, upon returning to the knocked out/possibly drunk politician they find he is gone. Enter Inspector Calhoun (Donald Pleasance aka Dr. Loomis), half comedian half rule breaking detective, the couple's complaint creates more questions concerning other "missing" cases related to the underground subway tunnels. Brief (and I mean brief) cameo by the always pleasant Christopher as an opposing agent to Dr. Calhoun adds little to the detective part of the story, but if you are a Lee fan, he is still cool as shit.

The films pacing is undiliberatley slow and slightly off putting from mildly warm scenes between Pleasance and others within his office to the overly gritty subway cannibal family and their grimy way of life. Sharon Gurney, the love interest of the films protagonist played by David Ladd, is easy on the eyes in contrast to the grotesque and convincing make-up of the main, constant drooling, Cannibal (Hugh Armstrong) and his relentless rephrashing of "Mind the Doors!"

One particular stand out long, long, long camera shot reveals the interior of the Cannibal's dwelling and the tunnels connecting to the busy subway, adding needed tension and showing Gary Sherman's early eye for suspenseful layout's.

I would only recommend this for Pleasance/Lee or Sherman completists. The film is at best, a mediocre gross-out detective story. Similar plots can be found in the much superior Frightmare by Pete Walker.

Deadly Blessing 81'

Deadly Blessing 81' Ernest Borgnine, Sharon Stone. After Wes Craven's Success of The Hills Have Eyes and Last House on the Left and before the height of his Nightmare on Elm St days, he helmed this multi-faceted, Isolated supernatural slasher, set in an Amish-type setting.

 A young pregnant Martha Schmidt(Maren Jensen) loses her husband in a farming accident, attempts to stay on the farm with the help of her friends Vicki and Lana (starring a young voluptuous Sharon stone and Susan Buckner). Vicki suffers her own hell after being trapped in the barn and battles nightmares of a spider and Lana tries seducing a curious Hittite, who was the brother Hittite turned wordly John Schmidt. The Hittites (as quoted from the film "Makes the Amish look like swingers") continue to torment these three woman with threats of vandalism and planting typical scares for the genre helmed by the screen captivating Michael Berryman, until they decide to fight back and arm themselves.

 The films third act transcends into the supernatural, and delivers more frightening tension than an average slasher with a sleep walking psychic, ghostly visitation and one hell of a shoot out that was not scene in Craven's films until this one. The ending rings a bell for exploitation fans of Russ Meyer's Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. Borgnine's strong performance as the overbearing rule enforcing elder brings strength to the story, and his harsh way of dishing out punishment to even shunning his own people. A surprising 8/10. If you are a Craven completist or are tired of the regular late 70's early 80's slasher fair, this will be a breath of fresh air.

Twins of Evil 71'

A third Hammer entry in the blood thirsty and lust-flled Carmilla Karnstein story. Starring the always impressive Peter Cushing as a Witch Hunting Puritan who takes in his occult curious nieces (playboy playmates Mary Collinson and Madeleine Collinson)who live under his strict guidelines.
Fandom always appreciates Hammer productions for being moody, Gothic period pieces, some varying in budget from impressive to unconvincing. Twins of Evil,however shot in the 70's was way past Hammer's prime, yet comes out strong, more evil and showing more skin usual in a Hammer production.
Hammer's previous Karnstein entries,Vampire Lovers and Lust for a Vampire, were also showing more blood and skin than , adapting to the change of cinematic times, lesbian vampires could bring in more revenue then another Christopher Lee Dracula sequel.
With the Collinson twins upping the ante for sex appeal, and the atmospheric directing of John Hough (Legend of Hell House) Twins is a pleasing and strong third entry. As of 2012 Synapse release a gorgeous Blu Ray/DVD combo and fandom was finally satisfied. Prior viewing would have to be seen on VHS or a rough VHS to DVD transfer.

Zulawski's Possession 81'

Andrzej Zulawski's Possession, is arguably a daring masterpiece, a modern horror-drama that has rarely been imitated and revered as an intimidating, gut-wrenching; at a few moments stomach churning, piece of celluloid.

A distraught husband (Sam Nell) is certain his wife (Isabella Adjani) is having an affair. His investigation leads him on a downward spiral to an emotional breakdown, as he finds out the truth of his wife's actual were-abouts. The end result reveals a dark, evil realm of questions that no man should ever asked himself.

Adjani's award winning performance maybe (and I am not saying this lightly) one of the most disturbing performances ever filmed. This marital drama transcends paranoia and rejection and enters into a bizarre world of sickening horror that would turn most audiences stomachs and even drop the jaws of hardened horror viewers.

A must see for any fan of cult cinema or horror. Few films have come close to the disturbing content, save the earlier work of David Cronenberg (The Brood)

Horror Hotel aka City of the Dead 60'

Directed by John Moxey (Circus of Fear)

The always screen captivating Christopher Lee stars as an occult savvy Professor who leads a young student, Nan Barlow, into a haunted Massachusetts town called Whitewood, for the furthering of her knowledge in Witchcraft. Little does she know that she is the now a target for a virgin sacrifice.

Horror Hotel is ranked among classic horror films that are recognized for its dreadful atmosphere along with Wicker Man (also starring Lee), Blood on Satan's Claw and Witchfinder General.

Spoiler Alert. Similar to Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho of the same year, the main female (and blonde of course) protagonist is stabbed within the first act of them film leading into a mystery of her whereabouts.

Amando De Ossorio's Return of the Blind Dead aka El Ataque de los Muertos Sin Ojos

Apparently Peter Jackson saw this wonderful Spanish horror film prior to filming the Lord of the Rings films. Revenge of the Evil Dead is the second installment in the "Blind Dead" Quadrilogy, helmed by low-budget Spanish Horror director/visionary Amando De Ossorio. The reason I am reviewing the second in the series and not the first film Tombs of the Blind Dead is simply because this is a stronger film in terms of story and pacing.

Tombs of the Blind Dead was so successful that De Ossorio continued the story of the "Blind Dead" with Revenge of the Evil Dead as a follow up. Revenge starts of with recycled footage from the first film telling the story of the Cult of Templar Knights and their quest from immortality by sacrificing and drinking the blood of a virgin woman. The towns people round up the Knights and burn out their eyes, "so they may never find the town again" and then incinerate them. Centuries later, the Knights are free and bring their revenge back on the same town, on a celebratory night, remembering the Templar Knights deaths. Then the film borrows tricks from Night of the Living Dead only with more betrayal amongst the cast of characters who are cornered in a locked church hiding from the evil knights. 

In the Lord of the Rings films, the Nazgul or the Ring Wraiths that obsessively hunted Frodo for the ring, looked so much like the Blind Dead Knights in Ossorio's films that the similarity is obvious. Even down to the weakness of both Nazgul and the Blind Dead Knights when concerning being scared of torches or being attacked by fire. 

Revenge of the Evil Dead is not a technically brilliant film in terms of cinematography or editing but it is worthy to make mention that great idea with sub-standard execution can influence a multi million dollar film franchise.