CATACOMB OF TERROR
 

THE WOLFMAN

2010. Directed by Joe Johnston.

Thespian Laurence Talbot (Benicio Del Toro) is visited by his brothers fiancée, Gwen Conliffe (Emily Blunt) whereupon he his told that his brother is missing. He returns home to his fathers, Sir John Talbot (Anthony Hopkins), residence where he discovers that his brother has been found and is indeed dead - the victim of a savage attack. Talbot sets about discovering whom or what killed his brother and uncovers a destiny for himself that is truly horrific and full of guts and gore.

Throughout the tale of Talbot’s lycanthropic curse we find the accursed hero pursued by the insistent and almost obsessive Scotland Yard hound Inspector Abberline (Hugo Weaving), fall in love with the aforementioned Gwen Conliffe and remain at odds with his strange and eerie father John.

Normally my opinion of modern horror films can be tainted by pre-judgemental thoughts as regards the overuse of star names and general gory effects as well as the usual smattering of cheap thrills. This movie banishes any thoughts as such and comes forth as a genuine piece of atmospheric brilliance with ideal acting for the genre and a subtle but remarkably effective use of sombre tones throughout. The pace is ideal and helps build to the climactic scenes without any sense of unnecessary urgency. With some fantastic moments to drool over and an overwhelming sense of respect for the history of horror this is without doubt a modern day classic.

   

NEAR DARK

1987. Directed by Kathryn Bigelow

This vampire/western hybrid is a very classy film indeed with a small intriguing hotchpotch group of bloodsuckers wandering the US in search of new victims.

Caleb Colton (Adrian Pasdar), a young man in a small town meets attractive drifter Mae (Jenny Wright) and becomes instantly smitten. A kiss, a cuddle and a bite on the neck and our lead man soon begins to burn when the sun rises. Whilst staggering home and blistering badly a van appears, drags Caleb on board and away he his whisked. Unfortunately for him he his now part of a gang of the undead and an adventurous nightmare duly follows.

The vampires are led by the charismatic Jesse Hooker (Lance Henriksen) and his partner Diamondback (Jenette Goldstein). Also in the pack are the sociopathic Severen (Bill Paxton), the child vamp Homer (Joshua John Miller) and the aforementioned Mae. The trail of murder they go on is bloody, necessary and gratuitous but marvellously delivered.

What we have here isn't a run of the mill vampire flick but a tale of love, conscience and a choice of lifestyles. The acting is calm and reassured and the scenes of violence perfectly positioned and all the more startling amidst the films more tender moments. Surely one to digest over many viewings and a sweet change from the expected formula.

   

TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE

1983. Directed by Joe Dante, George Miller, Steven Spielberg and John Landis

A dream team director crew offer up 4 stories to defy belief and to bend your mind with. This portmanteau of chills is more fantasy than horror although a few touches are had to give the odd chill here and there.

The tales are varied with racial bigotry, lost youth, uncontrolled power and the fear of flying all given fair treatment by a host of accomplished names. The special effects are somewhat of their era and one or two stories don't truly meet the full potential but this is still a good watch nonetheless. The pick of the bunch for me personally is segment 3 'It's A Good Life' which is purely unpredictable and has some real over the top behaviour. Segment 2 'Kick The Can' is a sweet piece and the finale 'Nightmare at 20,000 Feet' is an old favourite from the original series with John Lithgow now the petrified flyer instead of (if I remember rightly) Bill Shatner.

Special touches along the way are the appearances of Kevin McCarthy (of Invasion Of The Body Snatchers fame) and Dick Miller who plays Walter Paisley in segment 3 who also starred in Roger Corman's classic 'A Bucket Of Blood' as a wannabe artist known as...you guessed it, Walter Paisley. Nice!

Not a bad bit of fun to be honest and one to be found frequently in the bargain bin.

   

THE PLAGUE OF THE ZOMBIES

1966. Directed by John Gilling

A neat little piece of horror from the Hammer studios set in a small Cornish Village where a strange epidemic is killing the residents and leaving local Dr Peter Thompson (Brook Williams) totally baffled. Professor James Forbes André Morell arrives on a visit with his daughter Sylvia (Diane Clare), who is best friends with Dr Thompson’s wife Alice (Mary Thompson), and soon finds himself caught up in a disturbing web of black magic and voodoo.

At the centre of the plot is local Squire and all-round charmer Clive Hamilton (John Carson) and his gang of unruly ruffians. With his collection of voodoo dolls, underground mine of evil and cruel attitude Carson is not a man to be crossed and makes it his business to make a fair fortune to squander, by any means possible. Enter the Zombies!

So Hammer enter the realms of the mindless Zombie and come up with an often overlooked gem. Some very scary and effective moments are achieved with all players very comfortable in their given roles. The colour used is ideal and the walking dead very impressive. It's another one for your personal collection and one I am sure will be viewed many times and enjoyed over and over.

   

THE CURSE OF THE MUMMY'S TOMB

1964. Directed by Micael Carreras

Egyptian Prince Ra has been discovered by John Bray (Ronald Howard), his intended Annette Dubois (Jeanna Roland) and Sir Giles Dalrymple (Jack Gwillim) and the usual curse that pops up in these stories is about to rear its unconvincing head once more.

Enter the picture American showman and annoying jerk Alexander King (Fred Clarke) who insists that the mummified Prince and all the priceless artefacts be taken to London to be shown in a money spinning exhibition. Despite warning the show goes on and it is during the initial opening of the sarcophagus that we learn the Mummy is missing and, as we all should know, being used to wreak revenge on those who dare trespass against the great Prince. Now throw into the mix one Adam Beauchamp (Terence Morgan) an enigmatic and all round slimy character who steals Annette's attentions from under the nose of Bray and has more to do with the plot then one suspects.   Its all systems go with a twist ending only slightly helping the films overall effect on the viewer.

This isn't a great film to be honest and just another churned out 'Mummy' flick with the usual formula. Choice moment is the crushing of Hashmi Beys (George Pastell) head but beyond that the film has no real highs. Complete your collection but don't pay over the odds for this averaged bandaged fare.

   

THE OMEN

1976. Directed by Richard Donner

American official Robert Thorn (Gregory Peck) and his wife Katherine (Lee Remick) lose their newly born child during childbirth and so Robert replaces the child (unbeknownst to his wife) with an orphan whose mother died at the same moment of the child's death. Moving forward several years and a series of strange events haunt the lives of the Thorns and after a visit from a Father Brennan (Patrick Troughton) informing Robert that he must give himself up to Christ and to beware his orphaned son Damien (Harvey Stephens) who is going to kill all that stand in his path (especially the Thorn's unborn child) the recently appointed US Ambassador To Great Britain has much to consider.

Disaster follows disaster and no matter what, the wheels of fate turn and the devil child remains on course to fulfil his destiny. Protected by a subservient dog, an unhinged Nanny Mrs Baylock (Billie Whitelaw) who is an apostate of the dark one and a force of doom-laden blackness is there any way the prophecy can be stopped? Robert Thorn joins forces with photographer Keith Jennings (David Warner) on a journey to change the satanic fates of history with many a twist and horrific moment encountered along the way.

Despite the passage of time The Omen still makes an impact with its unsettling death scenes, sinister story and all round bleak outlook. The acting is absolutely convincing, the atmosphere exact and the pace captivating and without doubt Damien is the most evil pre-school bastard ever to grace the screen. This is an undoubted classic and one to have in your collection without fail.

   

THE OMEN II

1978. Directed by Don Taylor

A good follow-up this to the original tale (The Omen) of the devil child. The same format is used but now we have a 13 year old to deal with who is suddenly discovering who/what he actually is and the power held therein.

Damien Thorn (Jonathan Scott-Taylor) is a pubescent anti-Christ and now lives with his aunt Ann Thorn (Lee Remick) and his uncle Richard Thorn (William Holden) after disposing of his real parents in the aforementioned classic. After joining military school and being protected by various Satanists Damien begins to flex his unholy power after coming to grips with his true destiny. A trail of death soon follows and despite several warnings it does take a little time for Richard to actually come to realise that there is a devil in the house who really needs eliminating. There are some solid death scenes along the way with a controlled crazed corvid the creator of the most enjoyable where journalist Joan Hart (Elizabeth Shephard) has her eyes pecked out on a lonely road and his mowed down by a fast moving truck.

The atmosphere throughout this film is what captures the viewer’s attention and the impending murders cultivate anticipation. The overall essence is spot on and keeps the flow going from the original film which made such an impact. The choice of Scott-Taylor to play the evil one is perfect and Remick and Holden add that star appeal and experienced edge. I like this one and recommend it highly as it is a forerunner for many copy-cat films that just don't quite cut it.

   

THE OMEN III. THE FINAL CONFLICT

1981. Directed by Graham Barker

Our good friend Damien (Sam Neill) is now a grown man (32 to be exact) and at the head of Thorn Industries and revelling in the power. He is also the new Ambassador to Great Britain just like his father was in the first film of the series - spooky hey! Here we see Damien try to fulfil his dreams and overthrow the second coming and rule supreme over the entire population. To do this he plans to kill all the boys born on the morning of the 24th of March when the second Star of Bethlehem appeared and signified the re-birth of Christ. One of his close colleagues hides the fact that his son was born on the day in question and so a nice sub-plot is had but other than this the tale is predictable stuff and fairly tame in comparison to its predecessors.

What we get this third time around is more of the same and in truth this is the weakest film of the unholy trinity. Neill plays the Anti-Christ well but the story is so average and the death scenes usual fare with the final ending a severe let down to this film and the series as a whole. The love angle between Damien and Journalist Kate Reynolds (Lisa Harrow) is weak although the sex scene has a touch of brutality that shows the evil ones darker side.

If you have the first two then by all means complete the set and as a stand alone I suppose it isn't as bad a picture as I have painted but after two solid build up films a real crackerjack was needed and this just isn't it.

 

CREEPSHOW III

2006. Directed by Ana Clavell

After watching the first Creepshow movie I didn't expect anything less than weird for this one and that is exactly what I got.  The five tales here are entitled 'Alice', 'The Radio', 'Call Girl', 'The Professor's Wife' & 'Haunted Dog'.   It is a bizarre mix and in parts it works, in other areas it fails with some moments completely off the mark and just going for good old cheapo shock tactics.
 
'Alice' deals with a fracturing of dimensions as a remote control somehow alters reality and sends our obnoxious teenager off at various tangents.  Not a bad opening with some stomach turning make-up thrown in for good measure.  'The Radio' is about just that - a radio that controls the actions of a security guard who ends up as a thief, a murderer and eventually a victim.  A twilight zone moment with an obvious twist but still highly watchable.  'Call Girl' is a good story but when the hooker at the centre of the story kills whilst having sex I feel the gratuitous violence is obscene, pointless and lacks any real intelligence.  The tale is marred somewhat although the dude who is the victim turns out to be a surprisingly effective creep.  'The Professors Wife' is an amusing piece with a gory bucket upturned and dramatically overdone with tongue firmly in cheek.  As a fun piece this one is highly predictable but has no real depth.  We close with 'Haunted Dog' which is as the title suggests - a ghost story.  Not bad but with humour throughout that somehow detracts from a darker side that is needed to help give a more believable yarn.
 
So five tales and all fairly average with the odd moment to savour in the midst of much mediocre shenanigans.  The style is admirable but this one lacks the subtleties of the first film and, in brutal truth, the all round level of acting performances.  One to dip into now and again but far from a classic.

   

OMEN IV: THE AWAKENING

1991. Directed by Jorge Montesi and Dominique Othenin-Girard

This is a made for TV movie and in all fairness it shows. Apparently this is the 4th instalment in the Omen series but to me it is a bold claim the film cannot uphold.

This time we concentrate on a young girl called Delia (Asia Vieira) who is adopted by two attorneys, namely Karen York (Faye Grant) and Gene York (Michael Woods). A few sinister events occur and suspicions arise particularly after the family nanny Jo Thueson (Ann Hearn) takes Delia to a psychic fair where all hell breaks loose and a photograph taken by Jo's psychic friend Noah (Jim Byrnes) displays an aura of evil and chaos. Of course Jo starts to learn a little too much about our devil child and is soon dealt with in the usual manner. Meanwhile Delia's mum Karen has increasing paranoid suspicions of her daughter which get worse as she finds out she is pregnant and after she gives birth to a baby son. A twist soon unfolds and although neat doesn't rescue the films ever falling status.

This is utter dross to be honest with poor acting, a predictable storyline (except for the final turnabout), a sheer lack of atmosphere and a soundtrack that is totally inappropriate in parts and seemingly taking the piss. As I watched this I couldn't believe what I was actually witnessing and the only recommendation I could make for you to buy this worthless junk is so as to use as a comparison for something half decent. Awful stuff and a pure deflating movie.  Avoid at all costs!

   

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