Archive for September, 2011

Frankenstein (1910)

Posted in Horror History, Updates with tags , , , , on September 23, 2011 by splatterpictures

This is somewhat of an impromptu post. I recently was taking a look at some early examples of photography and it naturally progressed into early motion pictures. I really remembered why I had become so enthralled with early film in the first place.

The link here will bring you to the very first adaptation of Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein. The film was released in 1910 and produced by Edison (as in Thomas) Studios. It’s primitive and difficult to follow but it is just a short. It’s beautiful, and I really just got this overwhelming calm watching a film that is over a hundred years old. What we have here is a bunch of early pioneers that helped shape our world. I urge you to watch it and consider that the people who saw this hadn’t seen anything quite like it before. In a short twenty years Universal would create one of the best horror movies ever made but before that there were a handful of people shooting what amounts to twelve minutes of footage over three days.

I can’t help but wonder what life was like when this film was made. What kinds of things did the actors do after the fact.  Did the audiences freak out at the creation scene? So many questions but I am just glad this important piece of history isn’t lost like so many others. I had always heard of this movie before but never took the time to watch it until today. I’m really glad I did. I hope you will too.

Ode to the unsung Slashers (The Hills Run Red)

Posted in Horror Showcase, Ode to the Unsung Slasher, Updates with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on September 22, 2011 by splatterpictures

Over the last decade or so, the concept of a slasher movie has become pretty broken. I’ve discussed in earlier posts before that when it comes to the slasher-genre people are quick to point out its flaws.

In the 80’s there was a huge slasher boom with studios trying to cash in on the popularity of franchises like Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm St. Endless sequels and knock offs followed up until the very early 90’s. Then it dried up for a few years until Wes Craven revitalized the concept with Scream. Being self aware was in vogue in horror after that point.  The slasher formula was mocked and picked apart by not only the characters in the movie but the actors and directors during the press junkets.

The problem with Hollywood is not only how stubborn they are to move outside the box but how quick they are to over saturate the market once they do. I personally never liked scream or movies like it but it seems that after we got out of the 90’s and into the mid 2000’s the self aware horror finally found it’s legs and made for some fine cinema. Not too long ago I discussed the horror Mockumentary Behind the Mask: The rise of Leslie Vernon, the film was fantastic with a wonderful blend of horror and comedy.

Today we’re going to be discussing another film that treads in the familiar waters of the self-aware-horror; The Hills Run Red.

The Hills Run Red was released straight to DVD in 2009. It stars a bunch of relatively unknowns with the exception of William Sadler who you might remember from films like The Mist. The film also stars Tad Hilgenbrink who I recognized from one of those direct to DVD American Pie movies. The whole thing was directed by Dave Parker.

The basic plot is that Tyler (Hilgenbrink) is a slick young film student that’s obsessed with this horror movies which is titled The Hills Run Red. It’s supposedly the most frightening horror movie ever made but the problem is that the only thing that anyone can find of it, is a trailer and a few screenshots. Tyler wants nothing more than to watch the movie and film a documentary about it. He finds the directors daughter who also had a role in the film. It turns out she’s a stripper now and has a pretty bad heroine problem. After a really bizarre sequence where I guess she gets off the drugs over a period of a few days she agrees to take Tyler, his girlfriend and his best friend to the locations where the movie was filmed in hopes of maybe finding a long lost copy of the original reels.

The whole movie within a movie thing works well for this flick. The Hills Run Red (the movie in the movie) is about a slasher named Babyface which is just a big Mongoloid woodsman with a doll mask on. That alone wouldn’t really be much to make me take notice. The thing that sets this killer apart from being just another Jason knockoff is that he’s an actor. See the thing you start to realize is that the reason this film was hidden and supposedly the most shocking horror ever made was because it was real. The Babyface killer is real and the deaths on camera are genuine. Of course our protagonist find this out far too late and are now dealing with a deranged director who wants to make the perfect horror film, and the ultimate method actor of Babyface.

The parts where the killer breaks character and shows signs of intelligence is pretty entertaining. One scene would have his victim facing off with him with a lit flare in either hand goading him into a hand to hand scuffle. Babyface just pulls out a gun and shots him (Indiana Jones style.)

The characters are all pretty self aware of the irony of heading out to the isolated woods in search of a horror movie and often cite things, like the use of cellphones or not bringing a weapon of any kind with them. Of course regardless of all of their planning they are stuck in the confines of a horror movie so things inevitable fail. The ending was alright, but nothing I would consider very interesting and one of my big complaints was how some of the actors hammed it up pretty bad in certain scenes which made them a lot less effective.

Despite some over the top acting The Hills Run Red is a worthy addition to the slasher genre and deserves a look from anyone interested. As always thanks for reading!

"Pleased to MEAT you!"

The House on Haunted Hill

Posted in Horror History, Horror Showcase with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 12, 2011 by splatterpictures

For some reason the year (1999) when the remakes of The Haunting and the House on Haunted Hill sticks out in my mind a lot. My brother really wanted to go and see the latter. So we went and I really enjoyed it. It was the very first time I had ever seen that 32 frame per second type ghost effect. You know where it ends up looking really frigging weird, and unnaturally fast?

It wouldn’t be until years later that I would finally sit down and watch the original. The house on Haunted Hill was released in 1959. The film was directed and produced by B movie legend and shameless promoter William Castle. The film stars Vincent Price (I swear this is just a coincidence) and Carolyn Craig.

The basic plot is this. Fredrick Loren (Price) is an eccentric millionaire who hosts a party at a supposedly haunted house.  He gathers together a group of virtual strangers and tells them that he will pay them each ten thousand dollars if they would spend the night in the mansion. He says he is doing this because his wife had the idea of throwing a “ghost party”. He informs the guests that the servants will be leaving the grounds and locking all of the doors and they won’t be opened again until 8 AM the next day. Anyone who makes it, will be given their money. This is all treated as light hearted at first and each of the guests seem to be enjoying themselves.

None of the guests are very remarkable. Waston Pritchard is the current owner of the property is there who knows the most about the place. He tells the others that his brother and sister-in-law were murdered in the house and he is legitimately terrified of the place.

Nora Manning (Craig) is just a secretary for one of Lorens companies. Ruth Bridges is a columnist; Lance Schroeder is a pilot and finally Dr. David Trent is the resident psychiatrist. I honestly had a hard time telling some of them apart. The one thing they all have in common is that they need money and this seems like a golden opportunity.

It seems that spooky things start to happen to Nora only who freaks out and hysterically screams at numerous different situations. One of the moments that stood out for me is when she encounters the creepy old hag with the long fingernails that scares her half to death. The movie relies for sudden shocks and special effects for their scares, but it’s a pretty typical case of Nora seeing something and everybody arriving too late. That all changes when the body of Loren’s wife is found hanging from the staircase and everyone seems dumbfounded. At this point it isn’t really clear what happened. They had shown scenes of Loren and his wife fighting and it’s reasonable to assume she had killed herself. The movie takes a swift turn to a whodunit motif that carries it for the rest of the story.

Castle was well known for his use of theatre gimmicks and this movie was no different. During the films final moments a skeleton rises out of an acid bath and starts to stalk it’s prey. Apparently when that moment happened in the movie the theatre goers were treated to a plastic skeleton flying over their heads. It was things like that which elevated this B horror movie into the cult classic that it is today. The famous macabre director Alfred Hitchcock was so impressed with the movie that it was said that it would inspire him to make the classic Psycho. Among the skeleton gag the movie also breaks the forth wall both at the very start and the very end. It’s not too often that this happens anymore (probably for the best).

Well, since its release this movie has become public domain, so it’s free to watch in a variety of ways. I recommend that people check it out when they got a chance. It has some great thrills and special effects so cheesy they become genius. Plus, it has the unforgettably talented Vincent Price. Okay I promise this will be the last Price movie for awhile.

See yah next time, and thanks for reading!

"Do I have something in my teeth?!"

"Do I have something in my teeth?!"

The Abominable Dr. Phibes (Nine Eternities in Doom!)

Posted in Horror Showcase, Updates with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on September 1, 2011 by splatterpictures

Well when I do one thing it makes me think of another and sooner or later you have yourself a theme. We’re going to be showcasing another Vincent Price movie to kick off September and boy do I have a great one.

The 1970’s would see a lot of changes in the horror genre and the film industry in general. The ratings system by the motion pictures association was implemented, which is funny to think of as a new thing. The Gothic style of horror had gone the way of the Dodo after decades of being the formula for horror. Also, the post nuclear sci-fi was also proving to be less successful and audiences were ready for something new. They wanted something edgier, since we’re talking about a generation raised in the 1960’s it’s no wonder. Censorship laws were loosening and filmmakers wanted to push the limits.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Black Christmas, The Exorcist, The Omen, and Halloween I could go on and on. These new films were different; they were closer to home, smaller more realistic settings in suburban homes or neighborhoods. Or someplace that could be a little more than an hour out of town. Places that could excite people’s imaginations and make them question what that shadow outside the window was. There was more gore, nudity and bad language than you could shake a stick at, and the audiences went to see these films in droves. They made the films about the teenagers that were seeing them and it worked.

Before all of that, there was one film that sticks out in the early 70’s that really was a transitional movie. It had the grand sets and music of the older Gothic horrors, but it pushed the limits of gore for its age. To top it all off it had an amazing cast that starred Vincent Price in his 100th film; The Abominable Dr. Phibes.

Released in 1971, by MGM, The Abominable Dr. Phibes would build upon the tragic monster character that was made famous in the Phantom of the Opera. The film opens up with a grand set that is Dr. Phibes home, we see a cloaked man, playing the organ with dramatic flair and enters a tall thin woman, in a pretty seventies interpretation of stylish wear, (which is weird because the movie is supposed to take place in 1925) they dance and it’s all very theatrical. There is also a really creepy clockwork band playing called “Dr. Phibes Clockwork Wizards” It’s a really surreal opening and it has no dialogue at all.

A series of strange murders start to occur, a man found dead in his room tore to shreds by bats, normally found in the tropics. The man was named Dr. Dunwoody and he wasn’t the first noted surgeon to be killed. Before (and off camera I guess) Professor Thornton was stung to death by bees. These two murders are not enough to call it a trend they police aren’t convinced they are related except for inspector Harry Trout (Peter Jeffery). Soon after (possibly the weirdest death scenes I’ve ever seen,) Dr. Hargreaves head is crushed inside a mechanical frog’s mask at some kind of masquerade party.

As each one of these death’s occur the police try to find a connection, but aside from them all being in the medical profession, they see no pattern. It’s not until the find Dr. Vesalius (Joseph Cotton) that they begin to piece it all together. All of the doctors being targeted worked together on one case. It seemed that his wife Victoria Phibes was sick and while she was being operated on by the team of seven doctors and one nurse; she died. Phibes is believe to be dead because on the on the way to see her, his car went over the side of a mountain and he was presumably killed. Trout has a gut feeling that Phibes isn’t dead and in this case he would be right.

He survived but his face was horribly disfigured and was left unable to speak. He wants revenge against the incompetent doctors that he says murdered her; nine to suffer his elaborate murders, all in the theme of the ten plagues of Egypt. (The ninth presumably would be himself)

Phibes is a friggin genius and the police can’t seem to do anything to stop him, even when they know who he’s going to kill. For a guy who’s apparent doctorates lie in music and theology he is an amazing inventor. Not only does he invent a machine, which is basically a gramophone hooked up to his neck to speak, he also creates a bunch clockwork people (his band) and other strange devices. (he actually makes a device that made a car 100 degrees below freezing)

He also has his badass silent assistant named Vulnavia played by the absolutely beautiful Virgina North. It never explains who she is or why she helps him, but she is his public face who handles a lot of day to day stuff for Phibes. She is also his accomplice to most of the murders. Originally in the script it was to be explained that she was actually just another of his clockwork creations but they decided against it, which was too bad because that would elevate her to “super-badass”.

There are a lot of hilariously campy things in this movie. The clockwork band itself is great aswell as the weird masks at the Masquerade but other things really made me laugh too. One death is lead into by one of the doctors watching the equivalent of 1925 porn. He hooks up this huge camera to play some woman belly dancing with a snake while her turns the crank all turned on, and sucking back scotch it. Another great what the fuck moment was when one of the last doctors killed was done in by a brass unicorn head being catapulted across the street and into his chest. They try to get him off the wall by spinning him around like a top. The police chief even says “I’m at a loss for words” well so am I chief, so am I. He also drives around in a car that has his profile painted on both sides of the window which is just fucked up.

There are a lot of things I can’t help but notice. The most glaring thing is how this sort of tragic, revenge for his wife, and wanting to be with her jazz really reminded me a mister freeze. It made me wonder if this might be one of the sources of inspiration, especially in the scenes where he is talking to his dead wife’s picture.

The last sequence is just fantastic and I’m going to spoil it because I need to, in order to make my next point. So SPOILER ALERT. Dr. Vesalius plague is; death of the first born. Phibes and his assistant kidnap the doctor’s son and lure him to Phibes home. Vesalius has six minutes to remove a key lodged in his son’s heart. The same six minutes his wife had on the operating table before she died. The key unlocks a chain around the boy’s neck that is secured to the operating table. Phibes set up this acid to trickle down and land on the boy’s face if the key isn’t retrieved. All the while Phibes taunts the doctor and it’s just fucking amazingly well done. This entire sequence is so similar of the recent saw series and the Jigsaw killer that it’s kind of hard to imagine this wasn’t part of the inspiration.

Doctor Phibes is an awesome villain, part mad doctor, part Phantom and part Jigsaw killer. It makes for a truly amazing character that really carries the entire film. So much so that it spawned a sequel Dr. Phibes Rides Again. It’s just as good and I actually got them both on one dvd for five bucks. I highly recommend you find these films and give them a watch.

See you next time and thanks for reading!

Thanks for reading!