CATACOMB OF TERROR
 

NOSFERATU THE VAMPYRE

1979. Directed by Werner Herzog

Another twist on the old vampiric tale with this one placing sincere emphasis on atmosphere, suffering and delicate yet overwhelming evil.

The opening credits are delicious and set a fine scene before we move on and see the estate agent Jonathan Harker (Bruno Ganz) sent on his way from Wismar, Germany by his superior Renfield (Roland Topor) to Transylvania where he has to complete a deal with the nobleman Count Dracula (Klaus Kinski) for his bid to purchase a property close to Harker's home. Harker leaves behind his fretful and fearful wife Lucy (Isabelle Adjani) and makes his way to the dreaded abode of the nauseating Count. When Harker arrives our first visions of Dracula are superb with his rat-like features, highly sinister movements and deep drilling eyes all captivating our more morbid attention.. The beast emanates evil and Kinski plays the role quite beautifully giving a subtle power and deadly threat throughout as well as hinting at a deep suffering pain and malignant unrest. The story goes through the well known routine and the whole atmosphere aches with artistry and careful suggestion and finishes with the usual stake through the heart routine.

This film is, in truth, built on a timeless story that has been flogged to death but still this effort manages to shine bright and create its own unique character. Kinski reigns supreme but his backed by several other good players who are equally theatrical and that is the best way to sum up this whole movie - theatrical and of course, intriguing.

   

RATS
 
2003
.  Directed by Tibor Takacs
 
Low budget balderdash here with a half decent story ruined by some average acting and some absolutely dire special effects.  The script is also predictable and quite shoddy and so all in all what you get is a horror flick that resides in the lower echelons of the B-list.
 
The Brookdale Institute is a place for the criminally insane and the rich and famous addict.  Newspaper reporter Jennifer (Sara Downing) pretends to be a patient under the name of Samantha and is looking for a top story for her employer 'The Philadelphia Enquirer'.  She suspects a real scoop but unravels something more than she bargained for with a rat-infestation being the long lost experimental leftovers of the Chief Psychiatrist Dr William Winslow (Ron Perlman).  The rats are killers and have high intelligence and are controlled by washed-out creep Ernst (Michael Zelniker) who is an ex-patient and now the caretaker (those darn pesky janitors hey).  Patients begin to disappear, our heroine gets more and more drawn into the plot and the blood count rises as well as the frustration levels with a film sorely let down by disastrous animated inclusions.  The final wind up is cornball incarnate and we are left sorely disappointed - bah!
 
I expected a load of crap and in part got just that.  There are some half decent moments along the way but the relationships between the cast are shallow, the acting without emotion and so leaves one uninvolved and the general atmosphere just not quite there (close but not quite).  The use of liberal 'fucks' is poor form and too typical of modern horror and thus gives the final nail into the coffin of a film best buried away.

   

ZOLTAN - HOUND OF DRACULA

1978. Directed by Albert Band.

This one is cheap, has character and contains an avalanches of ropey acting with a plot that one could patch together in no time given the right amount of drugs. A near turkey for sure!

A subterranean crypt is accidentally opened by a Russian film crew whereupon an earthquakes shakes loose a coffin with a staked dog inside. Of course a guard removes the stake so we can have the pleasure (or pain) of the following yarn and indulge in some vampiric tomfoolery that leaves a lot to be desired. Roll back 200 years - a bat attacks a woman, the woman is saved from being bitten by the bat by a dog, the bat is Dracula and he is a little livid - he bites the dog who duly turns on his owner, an innkeeper, who also becomes a vampire (are you keeping up). We move on to modern day where Michael Drake a psychiatrist, the sole descendant of Dracula, is on vacation with his wife and two children in Winnebago National Forest where, it just so happens, are the Innkeeper and the dog (Zoltan). Death ensues in this strange rigmarole and eventually we get to a showdown that involves a cheap wannabe Van Helsing like character and the rest of the flimsy cast - bah!

I saw this when I was a young un' and had many distorted memories it seems. It is, in all fairness, a poor film really with a story that falls apart at the seams and appears to be just killing time. One can't help feeling that this is just an experimental effort for a director who wanted to go on to greater things, therefore the end verdict is a no, no!

   

PETER BENCHLEY'S CREATURE

1998. Directed by Stuart Gillard

Based on the novel ‘White Shark’ by ‘Jaw's’ mastermind Peter Benchley this is another water-based horror flick that involves various shark terror. Obviously not as good as the supreme masterpiece but not as bad as it seems considering this is a TV movie.

Its 1972 at a secret naval base in St Lucia and an attempt to create a dolphin/shark hybrid results in an entirely new species. Death and the creature escapes - let us move forward to 1997. Over zealous scientist Simon Chase (Craig T. Nelson) has taken over the island with his scientist ex-wife (Kim Cattrall) and 15-year-old son, Max (Matthew Carey). Whilst researching the connection between cancer and sharks a few islanders come a cropper as the beast rears its gory head once more. Local nut Giancarlo Esposito (who was part of the original experiment) joins in the action and our hero, family and friends are left to find the beast and ultimately destroy it. Predictable throughout and in parts pure corn but despite the long running time I have witnessed a whole lot worse films.

The main gripe is the aforementioned length of this film - weighing in at an unnecessary whopping 240 minutes is a test of patience and real sours all proceedings. The acting is hit and miss, the effects average, the dialogue uninteresting but...and a small but at that...it isn't a total duff. A cheap piece of escapism and nothing more!

   

CHRISTINE

1983. Directed by John Carpenter

A dark and twisted tale with subtle hints of creepy humour this tale of automobile addiction and lust is one weird old movie that fails to rise above the hype.

High school nerd and the butt of all jokes Arnie Cunningham (Keith Gordon) falls in love with an old with a broken down dustbucket of a car and begins an obsessive trail of restoration and revenge. The car in question, a bright red 1958 Plymouth Fury, utterly hypnotises Cunningham who spends all his time with the car much to the dismay of his family and friends. Cunningham's whole demeanour changes as the car reaches a perfect state and from a shy withdrawn geek we now have a cocky, arrogant slick boy who seems to hold a very sinister secret. Arnie's best friend and regular football jock Dennis Guilder (John Stockwell) and his girlfriend Leigh Cabot (Alexandra Paul) soon learn that Christine has a deadly past and try to save Arnie from an untimely death - but will he see sense and break away from the car's evil hold?

Based on a Stephen King novel, at the helm we have a top notch director and yet...the film just doesn't make the expected grade. It isn't too bad and has a few good sequences and has a central character that is well played out and has a good unsettling edge but...this could have been so much more. A 6 out of 10 at best but one to peruse now and again!

   

HELL COMES TO FROGTOWN

1988. Directed by Donald G. Jackson/R. J. Kizer

Cheap titillation, effects, dialogue and a storyline that is straight out of the penny dreadful comic book. Utter garbage and another episode of a director just going through a bit of practice and wasting a bundle of dosh - nice.

Veritable sleep around ham Sam Hell (Roddy Piper) is requested (make that ordered) to impregnate the women held captive by a race of frogs in this post apocalyptic world. Running the show is a woman named Spangle (Sandahl Bergman) and an aggressive guardswoman named Cendrilla (Cec Verrell) whom are from a band of warrior nurses who wish to get Hell into the so called Frogtown where they can free the women and the dirty work can begin. Hell is reluctant to join in the plan being the wandering nomad that he his so for safety measure an explosive device is fitted to his much prized genital area with the promise that it will explode as soon as he wanders too far. The crew reach their destination, encounter some nasty amphibians, flash a little flesh along the way and become involved in nothing more than a ludicrous romp.

Treat this film as a joke and there is some entertainment value to be had, if you go into it expecting some profound horror you will be deeply gutted. The acting and dialogue is pretty bilge but there are one or two amusing moments to hold attention however, I doubt if this one will get many replays and will soon become another title on a sighing shelf marked ‘crap’.

   

RETURN TO HORROR HIGH

1987. Directed by Bill Froehlich

A cut of B-movie garbage with numerous corned touches, clichéd one liners and hit and miss effects. A film much of its time with a definite one-viewing and no more essence.

A murderer ran amok on the grounds of Crippen High and was never caught and so a few years later the film company Cosmic Pictures has decided to make a film of the events...on location. The police arrive at the school to find the building and grounds covered in blood and guts and numerous cut up corpses and here the telling of the tale begins in a series of flashback snips. It seems that once filming got underway with the oily director Harry Sleerik at the helm murders started to happen again and it the killer is back on the loose and will stop at nothing to create a dismemberment bloodbath. Ex-student/cop/leading man Steven Blake and leading lady Callie Cassidy are the ones left to uncover the mystery - you may work out the rest of the plot for yourselves. Humour aplenty, horror less abundant, bad atmosphere throughout - hold on tight and persevere!

Overall a cheapo effort at something so corned that one wonders why the hell they bothered. It is a piss take in every definition so please view as such and grasp what thrills you can - good luck because this one ain't nothing special at all!

   

SPIDERS

2000. Directed by Gary Jones

Oh boy - another b-movie balls up of what could have been a much better effort. The potential was great but the dialogue, effects and predictability all mar the end product - now where have we heard that before?

We begin with a DNA experiment in outer space aboard a NASA space Shuttle that contains a rare spider. A meteor shower puts pay to the experiment and sees the shuttle crash to earth in the Californian Desert with only one survivor left. He is at first found by our youthful lead characters, namely the hack reporter and conspiracy theorist Marci Eyre (Lana Parrilla) and her two male sidekicks, before being taken away by numerous officials one of whom is an utter psychopath and will not let the project be halted...no matter what. Spiders appear and burst from several individuals (one or two are noteworthy scenes) and the impetus builds and the finale goes for a rip-roaring blow out but...well that is for you to find out and judge upon.

My humble verdict is of a very run of the mill flick that is average in all departments with acting that convinces and then leaves one disinterested in equal measure. It is a case of the same old, same old and this one still falling down with its computer generated images and overall predictability. You'll come away without any scenes sticking in the noggin which is crucial in giving this one a verdict of 'below average'.

   

THE RAVEN

1963. Directed by Roger Corman

It's cheap, it's comedic and it's directed by Corman, the master at such deliveries but despite all these potential failings the film is actually quite enjoyable and packs in one or two top names who seem to enjoy the magical going's on.

Dr Adolphus Bendlo (Peter Lorre) is a magician who has been turned into a Raven by the more powerful magic man Dr Scarabus (Boris Karloff). Dr Erasmus Craven (Vincent Price) is the third maker of miracles and it seems has abandoned his art after the death of his wife Lenore (Hazel Court). One night Bendlo turns up in his Raven state and begs Craven to change him back to his proper form which eventually (after a small mistake) happens. Craven learns from Bendlo that his thought deceased wife is alive and well and living with the wicked Scarabus whereupon a visit is organised so Bendlo can challenge the mad sorcerer and so prove his skills as a magician and hopefully so Craven can rescue his wife and take her back home. Joining in the adventure is Bendlo’s son, Rexford (Jack Nicholson) who adds more interest for the film historian.

This film is a kind of self-effacing journey for Corman (as well as all involved) who has produced some real stunning atmospheric films over the years despite the lack of funds. Loaded with short-comings and utter nonsense but at the end of it I'll guarantee you will be quite pleased with what you have seen. Take it for what it is and get involved in the fun!

   

THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH

1964. Directed by Roger Corman

Almost part of a series of delicious low budget escapades by Corman and his crew this one meets all expected desires and ranks up there with some of the best material the director gave us using the 'Poe' angle. The constant questioning of ones faith in good or evil makes for an intriguing story and this one is another minor classic.

We begin with a figure cloaked in red who gives a peasant lady a warning of doom for all in the land that is ruled by Prince Prospero (Vincent Price). Prospero is a Satan worshipping maniac without morals and upon a visit to the run down village where the peasants reside is informed of the ominous message received by the aforementioned lady. 2 villagers who tell him of the message are the father, Ludovico (Nigel Green) and lover, Gino (David Weston) of Francesca (Jane Asher), both of whom are sentenced to death whereupon Francesca begs forgiveness. Prospero having learned that the village now has the plague orders for it to be razed and takes Ludovico, Gino and Francesca to his castle where she will have to decide if her father or lover will be killed. At the castle Prospero invites all the local nobility to his castle for safety from the plague and to take part in a planned masked ball. Along the way Prospero is exposed as a malevolent, despicable character who enjoys entertainment that is filled with depravity. Sub-plots are minimal, the thread easy to follow and the closing sequence that sees the entrance of a mysterious figure (cloaked in red) at the ball is fitting.

These films have their own identity, have all players throwing themselves into the plot, are gloriously colourful and rich in visuals and script and have defined their own period in the genre. Great stuff and a definite to watch over and over.

   

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