Archive for scary

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!

Charles Band Spotlight (Part 1: Puppet Master)

Posted in Horror Showcase, Updates with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 12, 2011 by splatterpictures

One of the weirdest concepts I’ve always tried to wrestle with in horror is just how some things can kill other things. It seems to boggle my mind every time I hear about another strange horror movie where the killer is something totally fucking random. Take the recent movie “Rubber” for example.

When I was a kid I was definitely more forgiving on bizarre concepts, giant brains attacking people; or a videogame gone crazy. I’ve said before that there was just something about movies that came out of the 1980’s. It seems equal parts indifference and marketing genius. I get a lot of joy out of showing some of these movies to people. I know full well they are going to roll their eyes and say “you’ve got to be kidding me” Sometimes I wish I was. Sure as someone who bares a striking resemblance to an adult I would love to be part of the camp that just scoffs at these sorts of movies and moves on, but we all know that isn’t the case.

There are a lot of different kinds of horror; one of those is the just plain old “What the fuck” The kind of horror that really isn’t scary and it’s hard to imagine it was ever intended to be. I usually just assume that it all started with good intentions but the money just wasn’t there, maybe they ran out of time, or the actors they got just were terrible. They end up with a finished product that becomes art in how terrible it is.

Thankfully we had Charles Band and Full Moon productions. Charles Band is a director, writer and producer of Full Moon productions; he had some success in the 80’s with many horror movies, which are just off the wall. Honestly when I was young looking at all the crazy horror movies in a video story, I had no idea the ones that kept standing out to me involved Charles Band in some way. Here at splatterpictures, we love horror, we love all kinds of horror and we love Charles Band. It’s time to shed a little light on three of his films, first up! Puppet Master.

Puppet Master hit the shelves in 1989, and was the first film that launched Full Moon Productions. I say “hit shelves” because it never made it to the theatre. Puppet Master is a prime example about a lot of the things that Charles Band likes about horror like the Killer Doll concept. He already had some success with the movie “Dolls” and I guess he wanted to keep moving forward with that idea.

So, the big question is. What is the movie even about? Well basically there is this old man “The Puppet Master” named Andrea Tulon (William Hickey), he fled Europe during world war two with his creations but was followed by German spies to learn his secret technique of bringing his puppets to life so they could use them as some kind of weapon in the war.

How does he bring the puppets to life? It’s not totally explained, but it’s some kind of Egyptian magic.

Tulon hides the puppet in this room at the Bodega Bay Inn that he’s staying at and kills himself. Cut to the “present day” in this case the present day is 1989 and a bunch of people arrive to attend the funeral of a college of theirs named Neil Gallagher. Now the Inn has been abandoned for years and the puppets have remained there seemingly undetected. It doesn’t take long for shit to go down and we realize that it was no accident that they all came to the very Inn where the puppets have been in hiding.

Now I have to mention some of the weirdest concepts that this movie tries to get across. For starters all of the guests that arrive have psychic powers of some kind. Each one of them can use their powers at different times. One woman actually needs to be aroused for hers to work. I’m not kidding, you basically have to have sex with her or grab her boob for her visions to come through. It leads to a death that still makes me squeamish after her lover is tied to a bed.

All of the characters are pretty bland, but the real draw is of course the puppets. Each one of these guys has their own abilities and part to play in the movie. You have Blade who is totally badass, He has a knife and a hook for a hand, Jester; whose head spins around but he doesn’t actually have a weapon. Pinhead; he seems to have some kind of super strength. Tunnler; His head is a friggin drill and lastly and most disgustingly we have Leech Woman who spits out giant fucking leeches. Seriously where do the leeches come from? How are they still alive? Does she have to go to the store to get more leeches after she runs out?

The funniest thing about this movie is how the humans are all taken out by some of these guys. The puppets are all about two feet tall at best. Somehow everybody gets knocked down to the floor and once you’re on the ground the puppets can pretty much end you. They can’t ever seem to get away, or even stand up after the puppets nail em. Watching the movie is ridiculous only because you wonder why nobody just frigging stomps these things into pieces.

I will say that for such a weird concept, the film does try to take a serious tone and it works to a point. The deaths are good with a decent amount of gore to them. The final death is particularly gruesome where the puppets all gang up on one guy. Also, if murdering dolls aren’t enough it has a good amount of nudity too.

Last thing I’ll mention is the musical score; it has a killer theme that I absolutely loved. It sets the creepy tone of the horror movie while also playing with the childish concept of a puppet in the first place.

Puppet Master gained a massive cult following and spawned eight sequels and even a crossover with another franchise. In my opinion they got progressively worse. The most recent ones are not really what I would consider horror anymore (I don’t even think they would qualify as R rated).

I highly recommend anyone interested to check out this movie but you might want to leave your brain at the door.

Ode to the Unsung Slashers (Laid to Rest)

Posted in Horror Showcase, Ode to the Unsung Slasher, Updates with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 24, 2011 by splatterpictures

Horror comes in a lot of different varieties and it’s easy to know a lot about one and not a lot about another, especially for casual viewers. I have a lot of conversations with people about horror; either films, literature or the culture in general. Most people who are not exactly fans of the genre as a whole always are ready to dismiss them as throw away movies. Of course when they make their arguments they by and large are referring to the slasher-genre.

It’s funny but I find myself defending slasher flicks a lot more than any other kind of horror out there. I think it’s just because that particular genre is littered with iconic figures and ridiculous clichés. A lot of horror takes itself seriously but not really slashers. Slashers exist to give the audience; bodies, boobs and if we’re lucky an Iconic killer with a flair for the dramatic.

It’s not really a profound revelation to say that the killers are really the stars of the movie. Nobody cares about the teenagers getting killed. Everybody cheers for Jason, Freddy, Michael Myers or Chucky. Tonnes of slasher films have made household names of their killers. However, we all know that here at Splatterpictures we don’t talk about the ones that are Iconic. No no, I am going to talk about slashers that are nowhere near as famous but are pretty badass in their own right.

Recently sat down to watch a particular slasher called Laid to Rest. I just couldn’t resist the box art. Yeah I’m one of those people. Anybody who’s read my “about” section knows that a lot of times I would be sent to wonder the horror section of my local video store. More often than not I never got one of the movies but I sure liked looking at the box art.

Laid to rest was released direct to DVD in 2009 and was distributed by Anchor Bay (big surprise). The film was directed by Robert Hall. This was definitely one of those pet projects of Hall; he had been doing the make-up artist thing in the industry for awhile with some great success. The films Stars his wife Bobbi Sue Luther (Who looks different every single time I see her). I’d like to take a minute and say how sweet it was for Hall to make a movie and put his wife in it, considering how hard it is for a big breasted woman to make it in Hollywood.

So what’s it even about? Well, basically a girl wakes up in a coffin with no memory or inclination about how she got there. The coffin is in a funeral home and she isn’t alone. A chrome-skulled killer with a video camera mounted on his shoulder is stalking her. It’s about at this point where I start to notice that this girl is dumb even by slasher movie standards. One scene I have to mention is she actually calls the police from the funeral home. Then, she sees a dead body in the morgue and walks towards it while the woman on the phone tells her that in 30 seconds they’ll have traced her call. She actually walks so far that she pulls the phone cord out of the phone. I’m not fucking kidding, Bravo; the Darwin award goes to the lady with the huge rack.

The killer shows up and gives chase. He’s one of those silent slashers but seems to actually communicate with recorded voice of one of his previous victims off of his cellphone. It’s actually kinda refreshing to see a killer who uses modern technology. He also actually has a car.
It’s not long before the girl runs into a kindly man named Tucker, (Kevin Gage) who picks her up and brings her home after she can’t remember what has happened to her, or seem to remember the proper words for things. He has a wife (Lena Headey) and it’s all very typical set up. Of course, they have no phone, no land line or cell. Nothing. Also their truck is pretty much out of gas. The killer catches up with them and the case is on.

The girl that Tucker has named Princess at this point escape to this random computer nerd named Steven (Sean Whalen) That’s pretty much your trio of people running away from the killer and trying to figure out how to stop him and get help. More characters come and go but they’re really only there to get murdered. Watching this one I kept being reminded about why a lot of people hate slashers.

I am all for dumb people in horror movies but they are the biggest bunch of lame-ducks I’ve ever seen. I swear they all could have saved themselves a lot of trouble if they just walked off a cliff to spare themselves a gruesome death. How dumb? Well they fall down, the split up, nobody has a cell, nobody has gas, they can’t shoot straight, they can’t load their guns fast enough, they throw away their weapons, they draw attention to themselves while the killer is around, they don’t listen, and finally they stand around watching while other people get killed when they could easily overpower Chrome-skull with numbers. Oh well. Oh wait they also keep going back to the killer instead of just driving away.

Something I would have liked to have scene would be more information about the killer himself. He has a habit of going into cities, kidnapping girls and bringing them back to this funeral home where he tortures and kills them while videotaping. Not much else is learned about him, other than dude can get shot a whole lot.

The most surprising thing about this whole movie was how well it was acted. Even if some of the reasoning was pretty dumb, the characters really reacted to others being killed. It wasn’t just run “oh my friend died”, run, “oh my friend died; no time to care keep running.” Characters have powerful scenes of grief that you would expect when someone you love dies in front of you. The total indifference to others being killed in slashers has always been on of the things that bugged me the most.

So what about the deaths? They’re pretty good. One of them where this guy gets his head partially cut off from the jaw up was great. It was a blend of CGI and traditional effects, which was really effective. Everything frankly looked pretty great considering this was a direct to DVD venture and the first horror directed by Hall.

The ending was pretty weird. Not because of what happens to the killer or most of the characters but without giving too much away I was surprised about who survives and who doesn’t and the final decisions made by some characters. It seemed kinda rushed and not very well thought out. Also the big revelation about the character of princess was kinda cliché.

See you next time!