CATACOMB OF TERROR
 

FAHRENHEIT 451

1966.  Directed by François Truffaut
 
A superbly odd film based on the classic book by Ray Bradbury and the futuristic nightmare that all books will be destroyed and knowledge and hope will be restricted.

Guy Montag (Oskar Werner) is a fireman who, along with his comrades has the task of burning all known literature. During one of his working days he meets a young schoolteacher known as Clarisse (Julie Christie) whom has some quite unorthodox views and as a result sees her job put in a jeopardised position. They get talking, she asks Montag whether or not he reads any of the books he burns whereupon the fireman begins to read a few and so becomes involved in a serious bout of law breaking. Later the fire crew arrive at the house of a book collector, whereupon the captain (Cyril Cusack) gives Montag a lecture on the immorality of reading before burning the collectors books and...the collector herself who refuses to leave her precious tomes. Later that day Montag explodes at his wife and her friends and accuses them of passing time and not living life - his wife is more than a little upset. Raids follow, a crime committed and salvation is sought with a tribe who call themselves 'The Book People' - can Montag have any hope of a future?

This is a scary film for numerous psychological reasons and shows, what can happen, if a ruling body decides to take utter mental control. Bradbury is a genius and I do prefer the book to this movie but if one dwells upon the topic and doesn't pay too much heed to the sometimes comical appearance then it is worth your attention. I like the fact that the film's opening credits are spoken rather than displayed in type - a cute touch then starts an odd ball rolling never to stop.
   

AUDREY ROSE

1977.  Directed by Robert Wise
 
A strange unsettling tale that deals with subject matter quite disturbing to any parents out there. The story leaves an odd aftertaste and gets beneath the skin despite being a fairly slow crawl. This movie was based on the novel of the same title by Frank De Felitta.

Janice Templeton (Marsha Mason) and Bill Templeton (John Beck) live in New York, are happily married and have an eleven year old daughter called Ivy (Susan Swift), all seems to be idyllic. Over the course of a few weeks however they are stalked by a stranger whom they eventually meet up with to find out what he his actually up to. The stranger is called Elliot Hoover (Anthony Hopkins) and after a brief introduction comes out with the shocking statement that he believes Ivy to be the reincarnation of his own daughter, Audrey Rose, who died in a car accident with his wife two minutes before Ivy was born. The parents of Ivy are torn apart and react in different ways, with Janice eventually coming around to the idea that Hoover may be right after seeing her daughter have several strange episodes where she is seemingly reliving a long forgotten drama. Is Hoover a raving lunatic, is Ivy possessed of another girls spirit, will the nightmare for the Templeton’s ever end?

The pace of the film is quite slow and the atmosphere quite dry and dreary throughout which, no matter how you look at it, is the only way the story can be delivered. It is quite a trial to stick with this film but the eerie edgy acting of Hopkins and the fascinating plot win through and make for a curious horror flick.
   

FRANKENSTEIN - THE TRUE STORY

1973. Directed by Jack Smight

I lapped this one up when I was younger and have had fond memories of it ever since. It is the same old tale done with some subtle differences and catching up with it again as convinced me of a very rewarding effort.

After a family bereavement Victor Frankenstein (Leonard Whiting) denounces his belief in God and heads to London to train in Anatomy. Here he meets Henry Clerval (David McCallum), a scientist who is working towards restoring dead matter. Clerval reveals his aims at creating a race of superhumans and together they build a laboratory and construct a body from dead parts. Disaster hits, Clerval has a heart attack and Frankenstein is left lost but, vows to continue, which he does with gratifying results, man is created, a monster awaits (Michael Sarrazin). The brain he uses helps the story move with positivity but the shadow of a Dr Polidori (James Mason) is never far away and when things start to go from bad to worse and Frankenstein seeks solace in his impending wedding, Polidori turns up on our sub-heroes wedding day and uses blackmail to get his own devilish way. The question is can Victor resist the offer, or more appropriately, dare he?

A star laden, fascinating and lavish account of a story we all hold in great esteem with this offering laden with neat twists and gentle alterations in the script but somehow retaining all the touches and inclusions that have delighted us over the years. A genuinely good rehash of a classic with the inflicted self-destruction of everything leaving a real horrific impression.
   

THE ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN

1957. Directed by Val Guest

I had heard a good many negative vibes about this film and after many years eventually caught up with it and made up my own mind. Surely anything with Peter Cushing in it can't be that bad?

2 expeditions are at the Himalayas, one a botanical based adventure involving Dr. John Rollason (Peter Cushing), his wife, Helen (Maureen Connell), and assistant, Peter Fox (Richard Wattis), who are guests of the Lama (Arnold Marlé) of the monastery of Rong-ruk. The other crew are in search of the Yeti and are made up of leader, Dr. Tom Friend (Forrest Tucker) accompanied by trapper Ed Shelley (Robert Brown), photographer Andrew McNee (Michael Brill) and Sherpa guide Kusang (Wolfe Morris). Rollason, despite his wife's misgivings and motivated by curiosity, joins his team up with Friends, (who are motivated by glory and fame) and set off in search of the mythical creature. It is not long after setting off and finding some strange footprints that tension between the two leads arises and the clash of aims comes to the fore which of course derails any level headed plans and culminates in much distress and nail-biting drama. Suggestions of something 'out there' are had, we a building to a finale, is there indeed any such thing as an Abominable Snowman?

A steady flowing film that relies way too heavily on an end climax but in some ways makes up for it with a good amount of atmosphere. The reveal is disappointing and in retrospect the tale is too tame but there is a sincere eeriness within and some good ghostly essences that create a madness that is quite tangible.
   

THE FLESH AND BLOOD SHOW

1972. Directed by Peter Walker

Cheap sexploitation done for those perverts of yesterday who would pay at the cinema to see a bit of bare flesh and hopefully get an added spine-chill as well. It has all the trimmings of low cut bilge desperately trying to titivate via pointless nudity and obvious horror - what can one say?

A seaside theatre is used by a bunch of young actors and actresses who carry out a series of rehearsals for a Grand Guignol play. It isn't long before our group of players start getting picked off one by one with a definite whodunit flavour coming to the surface amid the flotsam and jetsam of cheap scares and nude glimpses. The reveal eventually comes and is a matter of routine with a jilted psychotic the obvious choice.

One could go into greater detail, one could try and elaborate on what is a run of the mill flick but after watching this you will undoubtedly understand why one doesn't. It has its moments but is strictly a penny-pinching spectacle with very little flair or character. Ray Brooks and Jenny Hanley are the main stars and both give average displays in a film that is hardly anything more than that, average.

   

FRANKENSTEIN (2004)

2005. Directed by Kevin Conner

Why shouldn't such a classic tale be retold over and over again to meet the needs of each new generation and to show them what a darn good horror yarn is? Here we have an obscure cast with the tale generally sticking more or less to the original book - with one or two convolutions in the mix.

Captain Robert Walton (Donald Sutherland) is the head of a crew exploring the North Pole, where, quite unexpectedly he first sees a gigantic figure passing by on a dog sled and then picks up a worn out, frozen man known as Dr Frankenstein (Alec Newman). As Frankenstein regains his strength he begins to tell his harrowing tale of how over ambition and the desire to create life eventually turned into one long episode of wretchedness and suffering. From his high achievements at University, to his damning creation (Luke Goss), through many trials of misery and to the final chase to this remote and desolate area. The tale moves at pace, perhaps a little too quickly at times but for those well versed it will be easily digested.

For me, I find this version just lacking depth, just devoid of that true sense of unjust cruelty and Godless torture that is the main thread within the original yarn. Despite this it is worth a peek and even though is has the slight of originally being a TV mini-series (more often than not this is not a good thing) the feature does have many points to ponder. Luke Goss as the creature is a brave move and one that is met with initial hesitancy but, given time, I feel as though the performance is unique and refuses to rely too much on mimicry. Overall an average effort only for those genuine Frankensteinian nutcases. Count me in!

   

THE SCREAMING SKULL

1958. Directed by Alex Nicol

Low budget hokum here souped up with an opening disclaimer that promises a free burial for anyone who dies of fright while watching the film - now surely this means a real scare fest of the highest order (he states with heavy doubting sarcasm)?

A newly wed couple, Eric (John Hudson) and Jenni Whitlock (Peggy Webber) take up residence in the husband's late wife's home where the gardens are preciously looked after by the disturbed gardener Mickey (Alex Nicol). Jenni discovers that Eric's first wife apparently haunts the house (where she was actually killed) and starts to imagine that she herself is being haunted after seeing the portrait of the dead woman and then starting to see skulls around the house and hearing screaming noises. Eric decides that the portrait will be burnt whereupon, during the said burning, Jenni sees a skull in the flames, goes hysterical and is led away into the house whilst we see Eric (who claimed he can't see anything) bend down and remove the skull! The story now unfolds as Eric seems to be responsible for the trickery and also seems to have an eye on his new wife's fortune - ooh the devilish swine.

The film is cheap, is lacking in any terrorising moments but is one of those you can watch, enjoy and keep dabbling with when nothing else inspires. The film apparently only took 6 weeks to make which I think is not reflected here and shows, with a good work ethic, a small bit of imagination and a fair dousing of low-brow atmosphere you can indeed create something viable.

   

JEEPERS CREEPERS

2001. Directed by Victor Salva

A film it seems that divides opinion with its modern day approach and somewhat predictable direction. I find it very heard to come across anything decent in this all show and no substance 21st century but I go in neutral and see what transpires.

On their way home from their spring break, brother and sister Trish (Gina Philips) and Darry (Justin Long) get taken off the road by a mysterious old truck that they later come across parked near an old church were they see the driver unloaded some suspicious, blood soaked object into a nearby by pipe sticking out of the ground. Suspicions and stupidity levels are raised and of course Darry has just got to take a look at what is going on down that potential tube of terror. This start holds much promise and what is found down the pipe gives the whole movie many options and massive potential to play with. So why do we get an avalanche of predictability and cliched nonsense? As the story moves on we find out that the truck driver was indeed a strange creature known as 'The Creeper' who feeds on human flesh which makes up its own body. It seems this creature is attracted by the smell of fear and is equally attracted by Trish and Darry (ooh what a shock). What follows is...well you make up your own mind.

These modern films never fail to disappoint and even when given a firm footing on which to begin soon disintegrate into run of the mill horror with atmospherics, character building and eeriness all left abandoned to make way for highly predictable fare that loses weight as the film progresses. This is a film one can describe as 'routine' for the modern era, which in itself is quite insulting.

   

THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD

1951. Directed by Christian Nyby

A startling classic from the early fifties built on a strong tale and executed by all with exceptional ease. Atmospheric, perfectly paced and with that 'what would I do in this situation' thread the film never lets one down.

An alien craft lands near an American Air Force outpost in the remote frozen regions of the arctic. Captain Hendry (Kenneth Tobey) leads a group of his airmen to the crash zone and sets about blasting free the buried craft by using thermite heat bombs. The saucer is destroyed but one of the groups Geiger counter leads them to a nearby humanoid shape buried in the ice nearby. The crew cut out a block of ice, with the being inside, and take it back to camp where some of the scientists want to thaw out the body. Hendry refuses and insists they await orders from Air Force HQ. Watch is taken over the slab of ice with the second stand in covering the frozen block with an electric blanket (which has been left on from the previous watch). Of course this results in a complete thaw out, the revival of the creature inside and an ensuing rampage that sees the camp, and those within, under attack. It transpires the creature needs blood to survive, a desperate struggle to save all follows with excitement at level max to the finale - what more do you want?

This film is a classic, the Frankensteinian monster fascinates with its human appearance but vegetative structure (an 'intellectual carrot' it is indeed referred to) and the ideal pace and overall tidy plotting all help the cause and make this one of those you can watch over and over again without fear of boredom setting in.

   

BLACK CHRISTMAS

1974. Directed by Bob Clark

An early trailblazer for many slash and stalk movies this one and, after many years, still has the power to unsettle, shock and in parts, disgust (but not in the gratuitous gory fashion).  It is a decent cinematic delivery and one to recommend to any horror buff from any era.
 
A bunch of young girls are living in a sorority house when they begin to receive some quite insane and of course sexually explicit phone calls from a man obviously unhinged.  The first called is dealt with by Barb Coard (Margot Kidder) and sees her unnecessarily provoke the caller whereupon he ends the call with the fatal warning of 'I'm going to kill you' - you can almost guess what is about to follow.  After a disappearance of a housemate and more calls it isn't long before Kenneth Fuller (John Saxon) is on the case.  Of course murders follow, a guessing game is the pivotal point of intrigue and this film, despite the now predictable formula used, holds out and is a quite entertaining ride.
 
For me, the obvious weight of the film comes from its almost underpolished edge and the natural slant of the players.  Combine these two facets with the opening crudity of the telephone calls and utter madness radiated and you have a film to grasp your attentive horror zones.  In truth the film, in this day and age of high replication, shouldn't work but still, with adequate ease, outstrips many modern day copies that just lack character. A recommended reel of terror from those often overlooked vaults.

   

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