CATACOMB OF TERROR
 

ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER

2012. Directed by Timur Bekmambetov

An odd title that intrigues the imagination and a film that is produced by Tim Burton, surely it was worth picking up after being found for £3? This one was loaded with potential and I was keen to see the end result. Action packed, full bloodied and with a relentless finale but would it dig its fangs in deep enough to squeeze out a good review?

We start with Abe aged 9 (Lux Haney-Jardine), who witnesses his mother fall at the hands and fangs of a vampire called Jack Barts (Marton Csokas). 10 years later our hero (Benjamin Walker) tries to kill Barts, fails and makes the acquaintance of Henry Burgess (Dominic Cooper) who duly teaches him the way to fight a vampire – however, there is a snag, Henry will tell Abe which vampires to kill! Quite odd don’t ya think? Abe moves to Springfield and works as a store clerk by day and kills vampires at night before, by many a twist, becoming the US President and finding out that vampires are in fact fighting with his own confederate forces. He, of course, rallies and builds a campaign to defeat the dreaded bloodsucking hordes - it is all part of the fantastical tale.

This is an entertaining film that does go overboard on effects and the believability of the plot but somehow just manages to scrape by with a positive result. Not one to watch over and over but definitely worth a few viewings to capture the madness. Effects wise this isn't too bad either but the main drawback, as is increasingly common with modern movies, is the lack of depth to the characters. If only time was given to develop these players more then the film could truly generate a reaction but, as it is, this is throwaway junk to just enjoy.
   

THE RAVEN

2012. Directed by James McTeigue

This film takes an unoriginal theme with a copycat killer taking the horrors of an author’s works and bringing them to a harsh reality. Nothing that new there but the author in question is one Edgar Allen Poe and it is the man himself, along with help from a young Baltimore detective, who tries to capture the insane individual and put an end to the killing spree.

2 corpses are discovered in a locked apartment, one of which has been stuffed up a chimney, which is later identified as the 12 year old daughter of the first victim. Detective Emmett Fields (Luke Evans) is called in and soon finds similarities of the crime to the details found in a famous Poe tale 'The Murders in the Rue Morgue'. It isn't long before the alcoholic-author Poe (John Cusack) is called in for questioning and soon after another killing takes place, this time imitating a gruesome death found in 'The Pit and the Pendulum'. Suspicions get higher before Poe's fiancée, Emily (Alice Eve), is kidnapped at a social gathering whereupon the killer taunts Poe and demands he write and publish a new story. The chase is on, Emily is buried alive, Poe writes one last chapter for his newspaper column, offering his life for Emily's, proposing that he could take a poison. The killer seems ready to reveal his dastardly hand.

The pace of this film is pleasing and makes up for a slight disappointment in the depth of the characters and the abundance of opportunities missed within, what could have been, a real mesmerising weave. The central character has too many wise-cracking touches and the real profundity of Poe's melancholic outlook and demeanour are lost. The gruesome parts work well and despite the tale being hardly anything new it is a slightly above average attempt and worth a peek. It should have been so much more though and consider this an open goal missed.

   

TARANTULA

1955. Directed by Jack Arnold

Straight out of the radiation-infected era when big critters dominated the screen. The title, coupled with the famed director, give most of the game away - surely a gem awaits.

We begin in the Arizona desert where Professor Gerald Deemer (Leo G. Carroll) is experimenting with growth hormones in the hope of dealing with some of the world’s food problems. His partner is found dead from some disease that usually takes months to afflict its victim but in this instance seems to have taken only a few days. Enter local Doc and essential nosey parker Matt Hastings (John Agar), a man on a mission to find out what really happened to the Professors partner and to uncover what is going on at the lab. Of course the Professor has a new partner arrive and yes it is a woman, Stephanie 'Steve' Clayton (Mara Corday) to be exact, who is attractive and under the scrutiny of our lead man - it is par for the course. Anyway after some skeletal remains of cattle are found in nearby fields, news comes to light that one of the Professors caged Tarantulas has escaped - we can almost guess the rest.

This may be predictable and an often repeated formula but this is a very good film and will entertain the B-Movie nut no end. The effects are quite startling for the 50's and the story flows with consistent liquidity with all players doing their set roles justice. Essential B&W balderdash of the highest order - crawling terror indeed!

   

AMITYVILLE 3D

1983. Directed by Richard Fleischer

Back to the house where terror reigns, where strange things happen over and over again and where the residents never seem to learn their lesson. You know what to expect, it is now a well flogged formula but here we get a taste of 80's 3D too.

Amityville journalist John Baxter (Tony Roberts) is persuaded to purchase the famed house after uncovering a couple of con artists at a séance with his working partner Melanie (Candy Clark). The estate agent who sold John the house goes to make preparations whereupon he hears footsteps upstairs, investigates, gets locked in a room with a swarm of flies and duly dies. In the meantime John is nearly killed in an elevator at work and Melanie is found cowering in the house after being shaken by some sinister happenings. Of course it is all palmed off as something and nothing and our lead man, even after Melanie is killed in a car accident, remains unmoved. John’s daughter Susan (Lori Loughlin) and her friend Lisa (Meg Ryan), plus 2 boyfriends, have a flirt with a Ouija board at the house, they get a response, a death occurs - now things are getting serious and its time to delve a little deeper into the Amityville curse.

Pure procedure with very few surprises. The 3D effects go by unnoticed but when you do realise they are there it seems a non-stop showpiece for this corned trickery. The film becomes a vehicle for the dimensional dabbling and the story seems a secondary thought. It fails to live up to the name and certainly doesn't hold ones attention like the first two releases. In truth, a weak film you may watch now and again if going through the series.

   

LET THE RIGHT ONE IN

2008. Directed by Tomas Alfredson

Quite simply a romantic horror done with care to respect the most warming innocence and the most valuable loyalty. A fairy tale is what we are dealt, one with a high magnitude of human kindness amid the more gory eruptions - in truth, what transpires is remarkable.

A lonely 12 year old called Oskar is a sad character and is constantly bullied by his spiteful classmates, but finds a release when a pale and serious young girl moves in next door. Eli though is a creature of the night and only plays when the sky has turned dark - Oskar has no suspicions as to why. Locally several people have disappeared and been murdered and it gradually transpires that the tragic girl, who Oskar seems smitten with, is the culprit for reasons he tries, and succeeds, in understanding. The lives of the two main characters gradually bond and come together resulting in a mutual trust and friendship that is quite tear jerking. Oskar's school troubles build to a climax, Eli has had to move on, will the film end in tragedy - you will undoubtedly find out because once started, this is a film you cannot stop watching.

10 out of 10 for this one from me, every facet is beautiful, every moment filled with delicate despondency, sadness and yet firm faithfulness. The 2 young stars are thoroughly wonderful and after you have finished this movie you will feel a strong weight in your heart that hopes for a better world. The whole tale is magical and warms the emotions throughout!
 

ROSEMARY'S BABY

1968. Directed by Roman Polanski

Before watching this film I indulged in the famed book by Ira Levin and came out at the end of the final chapter in the firm belief that I had just been immersed in a total and utter psychological classic. Throughout I was intrigued, when not at the book my thoughts kept wandering back, wondering what insidious proceedings were going to take place, the film it seems had much to live up to.

Set in New York, Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow) moves into a new apartment, The Bramford, with her ambitious actor boyfriend Guy (John Cassavetes) and soon becomes acquainted with several tenants, most notable of which are the elderly eccentric couple Minnie (Ruth Gordon) and Roman Castevet (Sidney Blackmer). All seems to be going smoothly, despite rumours of the Bramford being slightly jinxed, and of strange goings on in the air. Rosemary meets up with a young lady known as Terry Gionoffrio (Angela Dorian), who was taken in by Castevets from a wayward life on the streets. A bond builds, a friendship is imminent until one night, upon returning from a night out, Rosemary and Guy find that Terry has apparently thrown herself from her seventh floor apartment. The Castevets seem slightly unmoved, slightly unconcerned - suggestions are rife. Later Minnie gives Terry's pendant to Rosemary, telling her it is a lucky charm and the odd smell it emanates is from a plant called ‘tannis root’. Guy builds up a relationship with the Castevets, seems quite taken with them and suddenly lands a lead role after the main actor goes blind. All tension builds and when Rosemary and Guy prepare a romantic evening to try for a baby, it seems odd that Minnie appears with a Chocolate Mousse which has a strange undertaste and makes Rosemary quite ill. Despite this, a conception is had, Rosemary begins a difficult pregnancy, so many questions are left unanswered - the finale awaits.

This is a subtle gem, a film with solid and absorbing characters that draw you in and leave you wondering what layers lie beneath. Farrows performance is truly masterful and around her are such a good cast of sinister and unsettling characters that Polanski, the Director, must have thought all his dreams had come true. Brilliant!
 

CAPTAIN KRONOS - VAMPIRE HUNTER

1974. Directed by Brian Clemens

This is a film that intrigues due to the fact it isn't traditional run of the mill Hammer produce and has a feel all of its own. It is hard to place where the ambience comes from but the question is, does it ruin the film?

Several local young women have been drained of life in a local village whereupon our vampire hunter hero, Captain Kronos (Jorst Hanson) and his humpbacked sidekick Professor Hieronymus Grost (John Cater) arrive at the request of their friend Dr Marcus (John Carson). Events move on, Kronos couples up with a girl named Carla (Caroline Munro) and the usual titivation comes whilst Marcus visits the family of his late friend, Lord Hagen Durward, and speaks with the Lord's son, Paul (Shane Briant) and his sister Sara (Lois Daine) but doesn't speak to the foul bed-ridden thing known as Lady Durward. In some nearby woods, Marcus encounters a cloaked figure that leaves him shaken and with blood on his lips…the tale glutinises. A bar room encounter with 3 bullying thugs, led by Kerro (Colin Hendry), is intriguing and maintains momentum with Hendry putting in a fine unsettling performance. An attempt to catch a vampire in the local woods results in Marcus becoming a vampire and begging Kronos to kill him. A hanging and an impalement with a stake fail and, only by accident, due to a piercing by a metal cross worn around Marcus' neck do our crew of saviours discover how to truly kill a vampire. Now is the time for the hot pursuit of the bloodsucking curse, Durward Manor comes under the spotlight, is that where the dreaded creature dwells?

A very rewarding watch this with its own character and with a certain spaghetti western feeling that adds to the interest levels. Apparently this film lost money at the box office and scuppered plans to create a full series, our loss for certain but perhaps it would have only diluted the impact of this above average effort.
 

THE AMITYVILLE HORROR 2005

2005. Directed by Andrew Douglas

Expectations of this film being a crackerjack were exceedingly low as most modern horror films rely too much on gore and corned clichés rather than go for the spook-laden subtlety or suggestive terrorisation of the mind. This came as part of a double bill with the original duly watched and reviewed and, of course, enjoyed. The question is, would this hold up against the old release and would it have enough clout for today's blood lusting horror crowds.

The tale follows the usual route with a young couple, George and Kathy Lutz, and their two kids, moving into their new house, the one in which an horrific series of murders took place the year before. It would be pointless to go through the storyline in too much detail other than to tell you is that George soon starts to behave oddly, the 28 days that follow are loaded with terror and the end result is...well what the hell are you expecting.

An average movie living on a title and falling way, way short. It has its moments but overall one would be no fool to expect a whole lot more. The main gripe is the lack of cinematic atmosphere, it just isn't convincing enough and leaves one a little cold.  Simply not good enough.
 

BLACULA

1972. Directed by William Crain
 

Pure unapologetic blaxploitation released via American International Pictures who have more than a few dubious films on their roll call. This is what it is, don't look for any deep meaning, don't hope to find a veritable classic, what we have is an unadulterated B-movie farce that can be enjoyed if your political stance and retrospective know all stance is suppressed.

We begin in 1780 where Prince Mamuwalde (William H. Marshall), the ruler of the Abani nation, and his wife, Luva (Vonetta McGee), seek the help of Count Dracula (Charles Macaulay) in overcoming the slave trade. Dracula, refuses to help, transforms Mamuwalde into a vampire and imprisons him in a coffin and his wife in the same cell where she eventually dies. Fast forward to the funky jive of 1972, the coffin of Blacula has been purchased by two gay decorators who mince around and ham it up and whom eventually fall victim to the Count (thank goodness). At the funeral of one of these fruity guys is a lady called Tina, Mamuwalde sees her and believes it is his wife reincarnated.  He makes his move whilst infecting other victims, love is borne, but there are one or two who are getting suspicious of this mysterious man, not least is Dr. Gordon Thomas (Thalmus Rasulala). You can almost guess where this is going, no surprises are in store except for the demise of the Count - but is that enough for ye hungry horror nuts?

I am undecided about this one and feel it is a very 'in the mood' movie. When you fancy a romp from a specific period before PC became overwhelming and tongue in cheek frivolity was there to had then this will suffice. It is important to remember also that this was one of the top grossing films of the year - how times do change.
   

SCREAM BLACULA SCREAM

1973. Directed by Bob Kelljan
 
The black prince is back, he brings to the table another hammed episode of blaxploitation and within the mix of the tale slightly outdoes his previous appearance. An AIP Production so expense is definitely spared but sometimes that forces the hands of the creators to be a little bit more urgent - we shall see.

Lisa Fortier (Pan Grier) is chosen as a successor to a dying voodoo queen but her arrogant son, and true heir, finds this a total insult. In his quest for revenge he buys the bones of Blacula, or Mumawalde if you prefer, from a former shaman and sets about resurrecting the blood drinking fiend so as to do his bidding...as if! No sooner has Blacula been brought back to life than he bites Willis and turns him into a slave and ever-thirsty vampire. Murders begin to take place has the vampire clan grows, ex-cop and antiques collector Justin Carter (Don Mitchell), has an interest in the occult and soon begins an investigation. Justin has a party to showcase his collection, he meets Mumawalde as does his girlfriend Lisa Fortier. A chord is struck between Lisa and Blacula after she discovers his true nature and he finds out she may have the ability to relieve him of his curse. An arrangement is made, can our dark deviant be saved or will his hope be thwarted - there is only one way to find out.

A case here of a sequel being better than its predecessor which isn't really saying that much I am afraid. This is watchable stuff though and as a double bill both films do work, as long as you take them for what they are - cheapo 70's dabblings on the look out for something slightly outrageous and off kilter.
   

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