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Feb 012017
 

Based on yet another Edgar Allan Poe poem, The Haunted Palace takes place in the town of Arkham in the 1700s. The townspeople accuse Joseph Curwen (Vincent Price) of being a warlock and burn him at the stake, but Curwen vowed revenge by coming back for the descendants of the people who killed him. Why must vengeful spirits always attack young people just because they share a bloodline?

One hundred and ten years later, Curwen’s great great grandson Charles Dexter Ward (Vincent Price) and his wife Anne (Debra Paget) inherit the palace Curwen lived in, completely unaware of the curse the town of Arkham has had since Curwen died. The townsfolk are unfriendly, except for Dr. Willet (Frank Maxwell) who shows them the way to the palace that looks real nice in the distance.

When Charles and Anne arrive, they explore the desolate palace. It has such a creepy ambiance that’s interesting and the portrait of Curwen adds a nice touch to the place. When Charles sees it he gets spooked and describes the palace as a mausoleum, as a joke of course.

Eventually, Charles and Anne meet Simon (Lon Chaney Jr.) the caretaker. He just happened to be preparing the palace for their arrival. Simon must not have gotten much done since the palace is still filed with cobwebs and a snake living in the oven. It’s also strange that Simon didn’t even greet them at the door, which was locked shut.

The next day, Charles and Anne discover that the townspeople are strangely becoming deformed. Mostly it’s their eyes disappearing, which is real horrific.

As more time goes by, Charles becomes more affected by the portrait of Curwen and later discovers that Curwen really was a warlock. Soon Curwen returns and takes control of Charles’s body, despite his resistance. As for Anne, she is unaware of the possession, but is suspicious about the changes.

It’s also revealed that Simon is involved with Curwen’s return as well as a guy named Jabez Hutchinson (Milton Parsons) who seemed to have popped out of nowhere.

Curwen also had a black magic book called the Necronomicon. Unlike the one from The Evil Dead franchise, this book was used to summon dark creatures so they would mate with mortal women to create a race of super humans. Now he plans to use it once again.

Curwen also takes revenge by killing the descendants of the people that burned him by burning them to death. Then he intends to bring his old lover Hester (Cathie Merchant) back from the dead. He succeeds but Hester doesn’t really talk much.

This is a good horror feature with mystery and suspense. Though I must admit that it doesn’t stand out as much as some of Vincent Price’s other Edgar Allan Poe based movies, but the whole idea of a haunted palace still keeps it interesting nonetheless.

Jan 112017
 

Based on the Edgar Allan Poe tale, The Pit and the Pendulum (Midnite Movies) stars Vincent Price as Nicholas Medina who lives in a castle near an ocean. As lovely as the castle looks in the scenery it contains a curse within the walls.

One day Nicholas’s brother-in-law Francis Barnard (John Kerr) heard that his sister Elizabeth (Barbara Steele) had died. So he pays Nicholas a visit and demands to know how it happened. Nicholas is so overwhelmed in despair by the loss of Elizabeth that he only gives vague answers.

Apparently, Francis insists on specific details. The way he demands answers is verbally brutal, if not rude. At least the family physician Dr. Leon (Antony Carbone) was able to help out some.

Also visiting Nicholas is his sister Catherine (Luana Anders). She tries to help her brother cope with his loss and seems to take a liking to Francis. I have no doubt that Francis feels the same way about Catherine.

Of course the biggest part of the story is the torture chamber down in the depths of the castle. It was invented by Nicholas’s father Sabastian Medina (Vincent Price) and was the source of the heavy atmosphere that corrupted Elizabeth, according to Nicholas, but things are not always as they seem.

When I first saw this movie, it was at this point when I realized that the biggest inspiration behind the story line from Elvira’s Haunted Hills came from here. That’s one of the main reasons I found the original Pit and the Pendulum film so interesting.

Overall, The Pit and the Pendulum does make for a good mystery/horror for its creepy exploration. It’s not comedic like The Raven, but Edgar Allan Poe horror tales were not known for their comedy.

Nov 092016
 

When it comes to aliens and the horror genre, it’s not often that I would visualize them together but it does happen. One such example is the independent film Extraterrestrial.

This is about college teen April (Brittany Allen) spending a romantic weekend at her mother’s cabin with her boyfriend Kyle (Freddie Stroma). However, April is dismayed when Kyle brings his friends along. They include goofball Seth (Jesse Moss), his girlfriend Lex (Anja Savcic), and stoner Melanie (Melanie Papalia).

That’s right. It’s a movie about teens in the woods being terrorized by something frightening. This time, an alien spacecraft comes in search of victims to capture and experiment on. The way it was done is much more intense than the common cliché.

At first I thought the aliens were blowing up people after what became of their first victim Nancy McPherson (Emily Perkins) at the beginning of the movie.

Luckily the teens have an ally, Travis (Michael Ironside), who was friends with April’s father. He’s a weed farmer with a military background. It’s amazing what he knows about the aliens.

Meanwhile, Sheriff Murphy (Gil Bellows) investigates the disappearances. Of course he’s skeptical but all the clues he finds always lead to alien attacks.

The aliens only appear in short glimpses throughout the movie, but I can tell that they have a generic look with green skin and bald heads, wearing no clothes. The aliens never talk, so their reasons of invading remain a mystery.
This was a good movie. Sure it contained quite a few clichés of sci-fi horror films but that’s what made it easy to follow, just the way I like it.

Oct 262016
 

If there’s one gimmick that helps make horror movies interesting, it’s a trilogy of separate short stories put together into one film. So for Halloween this year, I’ll be going over two horror trilogy movies from the early 1960s. The first one is Tales of Terror, which are all based on Edgar Allan Poe poems. This was what first got me interested in the concept of horror trilogies, next to the Simpsons Halloween specials. Each tale begins with narration by Vincent Price and ends with a quote from the actual Edgar Allan Poe poem that it was based on.

It starts with Morella, which is about Lenora Locke (Maggie Pierce) visiting her father in a mansion that has so many cobwebs it’s unreal. Where’s the feather duster when you need it? However, Mr. Locke (Vincent Price) is drunk and blames her for his wife Morella’s (Leona Gage) death since she died in childbirth. This certainly brings the term “dysfunctional family” to a whole new level. Especially when the ghost of Morella gets involved by switching bodies with Lenora in order to avenge herself.

The second tale is The Black Cat. Despite how angry drunk Montresor Herringbone (Peter Lorre) treats his wife Annabelle (Joyce Jameson), this horror tale is a bit lighter than the previous one. The biggest highlight is when Montresor goes to a wine tasting and meets Fortunato Luchresi (Vincent Price). The way Fortunato tastes wine is by sniffing it and squishing it around with quick breathing gestures, which I find hilarious. Montresor just takes a big gulp. To each his own. Of course the biggest plot point is how Montresor hate’s his wife’s cat. Not to spoil the ending, but the cat does get even.

Then the movie goes in a dark direction again with the third tale, The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar. M. Valdemar (Vincent Price) is a dying man that has a hypnotist, Mr. Carmichael (Basil Rathbone), use hypnosis to ease his pain. However, while under hypnosis, Valdemar dies but his spirit cannot move on until Carmichael releases him. When Carmichael refuses, things become really creepy. Even though the horror standards were different from what we have today, I believe the outcome of this story still has the potential to give people nightmares.

A year later, Boris Karloff starred in a horror trilogy movie of his own called Black Sabbath, which he also narrates. Just so you know, it has nothing to do with the rock band Black Sabbath, or any Edgar Allan Poe tales.

The first tale is called A Drop of Water. After an elderly medium passes away, Nurse Helen Chester (Jacqueline Pierreux) is summoned to the medium’s house to prepare the body for burial. However, Helen is warned not to touch any of her belongings or be cursed. Helen doesn’t listen and steals the ring off the medium’s finger. After getting home, Helen is haunted by dripping water and the creepy vengeful corpse coming after her. I guess that will teach Helen to heed a curse. Some mediums can be very sensitive when it comes to their belongings.

Tale number two is The Telephone. Long before the Scream franchise, as well as caller ID, this story is about call girl Rosy (Michele Mercier) getting frightening phone calls. They’re from someone that Rosy thought was long dead. He’s threatening her life and knows everything she’s doing to the last detail, which drives Rosy into hysteria. This story has horror, but on a much different level from the previous tale.

The final tale is The Wurdalak, which is a vampire story that takes place in Russia. When young nobleman Vladimir Durfe (Mark Damon) takes shelter in a cottage, he finds the owner Giorgio (Glauco Onorato) and his family. They tell him that Giorgio’s father Gorca (Boris Karloff) went to kill a wurdulak, which is a living cadaver that feeds on human blood, particularly the blood of loved ones. Soon Gorca returns and has become a wurdulak himself, slowly attacking his family. This story is an interesting one to end on. My only concern is that the pacing is very slow on at least several points.

I should also point out that even though Boris Karloff may be the star and narrator of Black Sabbath, he only appears in The Wurdulak in comparison to Vincent Price appearing in all three of Tales of Terror as well as being star and narrator.

These were both great trilogy movies of classic horror. Sometimes it’s nice to look back on old horror after so many years, especially on Halloween. As for remakes on old horror movies, well that’s another story.

Oct 192016
 

As much as I enjoyed the first film, I couldn’t wait to see its sequel Hotel Transylvania 2 and believe me it was well worth it.

Much has changed at Hotel Transylvania. Now that humans and monsters live in peace and harmony, Dracula (voice of Adam Sandler) approves of human guests and his daughter Mavis (voice of Selena Gomez) is married to Johnny (voice of Andy Samberg). Could things get any better?

Yes they can. Mavis and Johnny have a son named Dennis (voice of Asher Blinkoff), who is half human, half vampire, (a.k.a. a dhampir) and just adorable. Dracula is very close with Dennis. In fact, he even disguised himself as a nurse to see his grandson. That’s just not something you would ever expect Count Dracula to do.

Johnny’s family is introduced in this sequel. His father Mike (voice of Nick Offerman) is always so serious as he tolerates everyone around him. Johnny’s mother Linda (voice of Megan Mullally) tries to be kind but always ends up putting her foot in her mouth, making things become awkward.

Dracula has high hopes for Dennis to show his vampire side, but it hasn’t surfaced yet. Secondly, Dennis’s favorite monster is Kakie (voice of Chris Kattan) a TV monster that’s friendly like Elmo and bit corny.

After seeing how the numerous wolf pups can move around like a wild tornado, Mavis believes that the hotel is not a good place to raise Dennis and considers moving to Johnny’s hometown in California. While the two of them are gone, Dracula sees this as an opportunity to inspire Dennis. So Dracula and his friends Frankenstein (voice of Kevin James), Wayne the Wolfman (voice of Steve Buscemi), Griffin the invisible man (voice of David Spade), and Murray the mummy (voice of Keegan-Michael Key) take Dennis on a road trip to their old haunts. Even Blobby the blob monster comes along for laughs.

Once Mavis finds out, she is so determined to get back to the hotel, she actually carries Johnny and their luggage herself while flying back to Transylvania as a bat. I never thought Mavis was that strong. I guess it goes to show that you should never underestimate the power of a concerned vampire mother.

Here’s a cool addition. The hotel has an organ player, who is none other than the Phantom of the Opera (voice of Jon Lovitz). It’s neat how he was thrown in so randomly. That got me thinking. There’s no mention of what became of Quasimodo after how he was left in the first movie.

It isn’t until much later when we see Dracula’s father Vlad (voice of Mel Brooks). Although Vlad dislikes humans even more than Dracula used to, the real threat is Vlad’s servant bat monster Bela (voice of Rob Riggle) and his bat crew, since they’re always up front about it.

I really like this movie and find it even funnier than the first one. I also saw online that there is a third installment in the works. I have no doubt that it will only get better from here.