1964. Directed by Robert Hartford-Davis

The alternative title of this film is 'Estate of Insanity' which may reveal more about the yarn than the tag used here.  It is a tale many may recognise with madness and duplicity the main ingredients of the plot.

Sir Richard Fordyke (John Turner) returns home with his new bride Elisabeth (Heather Sears) whereupon the local blacksmith and other tenants give them both a frosty welcome.  Rumour has it that the last words of a dying rape victim where of Richards name - suspicion is high and even the staff and Richard's previous wife's sister Diane (Ann Lynn) is somewhat cold.  As matters progress it seems that Richard's previous wife is still amongst us and there is an imposter within the weird weft.  After Richard sees the ghost of his wife he starts to doubt his sanity with those around hardly helping matters with claims of apparitions and dastardly goings-on.  He gets apprehended, tries to strangle his wife and looks on the cerebral precipice of no return until light appears at the end of the twisting tunnel and some scheming deviants and their motivations are revealed.

This is a slow burner for sure but despite being predictable, shot in a dirty colour and with no outlandish shocks I found it an agreeable jaunt with a solid degree of tension.  I will retune, I will not be fooled by the title next time, I was expecting a film about a plague, what a silly sod.



1987. Directed by Sam Raimi  

A follow-up to the influential and unforgettable classic, this time with the utter madness turned up to level max and the story almost a second thought as demonic mania runs amok.  Laughably gratuitous and cerebrally intense, this is not for the faint of heart and delicate of soul.  

Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell) and his girlfriend Linda (Denise Bixler) arrive at a remote cabin for some romantic time but things go awry when Ash plays a tape made by the previous inhabitant Raymond Knowby.  The tape relays passages from the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis (The Book of the Dead) which duly releases a vile evil force known as the Kandarian Demon.  Linda becomes possessed and loses her head and Ash falls victim to a temporary take over.  Upon trying to flee Ash is attacked by his lover's bonce and, believe it or not, his own hand before severance is had and the five-digit beast escapes.  Meanwhile, Knowby's daughter Annie (Sarah Berry), and her research partner, Ed Getley (Richard Domeier), return from a dig with the missing pages of the Necronomicon. The bridge to the cabin however has been destroyed. Repairman Jake (Dan Hicks) and his girlfriend Bobby Joe (Kassie Wesley) enter the show and take the two archaeologists to the cabin via a different route. Upon arrival they find a blood splattered Ash, are convinced of devious goings-on but before long are proven wrong and thrown into a Hell-House of sheer, unadulterated madness. Trees come to life, eyeballs pop, the dead live again, the blood gushing is unstoppable until a vortex is opened and Ash is a strange new world (all ready for Evil Dead 3).  

I was a trifle shagged out come the end of this comic caper, the pace and frequency of horror-based insanity left me feeling absolutely whipped, and I had no complaints whatsoever.  The film is utterly tongue in cheek, the effects dated and the story line without any depth but this is a whipping waltzer ride to turn the senses inside out and wastes no time in getting from the start to the finish.  Campbells commitment to the cause and the sheer intensity of the part make this a fair frolic although time-out is needed afterwards before any consideration of part 3 is had.  



2004. Directed by Renny Harlin  

The name of the big shocker is taken here as a lure to draw in fans of the outrageous and highly effective original.  This is a veritable cheap trick and has one entering the opening scenes with high expectations - the final result is... well that would be revealing all a little too soon.  

The plot is set in 1949 and concerns a Father Lankester Merrin (Stellan Skarsgard), an ex-Man of the Cloth haunted by wartime executions in which he played a cowardly part.  Merrin ends up in Derati in the Turkana region of British Kenya after being sent there by the odd collector of antiquities known as Semelier (Ben Cross).  A church has been uncovered and Merrin is requested to recover an ancient relic of a demon before the British explorers can get at it.  Along with Father Francis (James D'Arcey), Merrin meets up with the chief excavator and boil-laden nasty man Jeffries (Alan Ford) and the local doctor Sarah Novak (Izabella Scorupco).  A curse is driving away the local diggers, insanity is spreading it seems and blasphemous imagery meets the eyes of the curious.  Lankester develops a 'thing' for Novak and an evil presence soon rears its vile head.  Possession comes, the finale is gratuitous and ups the laboured pace of the film.  History is repeated, final words are uttered and we are left wondering what will be. In truth though who the Hell cares - this is not a classic.  

Slow going, lacking in thrills and with no real unsettling atmosphere this production is a severe let down and has one wondering why many of the modern horror films fail to meet the lofty standards set by creations of yore.  I shall keep on dabbling in the odd 21st century flick, one day I may strike gold.  



1944.  Directed by Henry Levin 

An American horror film shot in appealing black and white with a run of the mill plot and the acting likewise.  There are nuances and touches that give the flick a good watchability factor and come the end, despite a lack in punch power, I was gently pleased. 

Matters begin with a museum tour and the guide showing his guests the voodoo room and revealing that the building was the home of Marie LaTour, a presumed werewolf who is thought to be buried within the grounds. The owner of the museum Dr Morris (Fritz Leiber) claims to know where Marie LaTour is buried, much to the interest of his assistant Elsa (Osa Massen) and his son Bob (Stephen Crane). Also working at the museum is the sinister caretaker Jan (Ivan Triesaul), a man in touch with the local gypsies, including Princess Celeste (Nina Foch), the daughter of Marie LaTour and Bianca (Blanche Yurka).  Princess Celeste is protective of her mother's tomb and uses her lycanthropic powers to kill those outsiders who know of its whereabouts. Hidden rooms, screams, howls and deaths follow - Celeste is soon the hunted rather than the hunter and it isn't long before the finale comes and the werewolf is cornered. 

A mild film lacking in blood, gore and any real thrills but still an adequate snippet of viewing material for lovers of old-time horror.  There isn’t nothing wrong with some gentle horror viewed in a darkened room with the wind whipping outside - this is an ideal opportunity to experience such a moment. 



1978. Directed by Colin Eggleston

A very pertinent film that sees nature kickback against the downright carelessness and neglect of man, this slow-burning film isn't an easy watch but has many meritorious points.

Peter (John Hargreaves) and Marcia (Briony Behets), plus their pet dog Cricket, are a couple under pressure after an abortion has put a strain on their marriage and resentment is slowly affecting their relations.  They decide to take a break out in the wilds. Along the way they meet some locals who have no idea of their destination. They run over a Kangaroo further on their travels before eventually arriving at a spot to put up camp.  Here they treat the flora and fauna with disregard whilst they remain self-absorbed and bicker away like petulant and bitter children.  After the killing of a Dugong (among other crimes) the natural world has had enough, selfishness is repaid and the couple begin to panic without realising the error of their ways.  Justice is served, the end scenes are very satisfying indeed.

A brooding film with a crucial message still not heeded.  Perhaps this is a premonition of the greatest horror story to come, it is a film to not take lightly and emphasis should be made on the message rather than the obnoxious characters.



1987. Directed by Phillippe Mora

A continuation of the Howling series, this Australian film promises much and fails to deliver big-time in a far-fetched tale that is laden with lame acting, poor effects and some quite shabby dialogue.

Jerboa (Imogen Annesley) is a young Australian werewolf cum marsupial who flees her tribe and sexually abusive stepfather Thylo (Max Fairchild) and enters the big city of Sydney.  Here she is picked up by film worker Donny Martin (Leigh Biolos) who offers her a role in a film and duly falls in love with her.  Sex, a shape-shift and Donny becomes enlightened before Harry Beckmeyer (Barry Otto), an Australian anthropologist, is on the case.  Jerboa is tracked by three of her old tribe mates who are dressed as nuns.  Jerboa is caught and returned to her pack, Donny and Beckmeyer try to find her, into the mix is thrown Russian prima ballerina and werewolf, Olga Gorki (Dagmar Blahova) and matters become too convoluted for their own good.  Jerboa has a baby, Beckmeyer falls in love with Gorki and happy families are had as Jerboa and Danny (and kid) and Beckmeyer and Gorki (and kids too) all disappear into the great beyond.  The end seems to be hunky-dory but a return to civilization and a final twist make one shudder as to think there may be a follow-up movie.

Somehow I got through this one, partly due to the odd special effect and a grotesque birthing scene that was a real nasty snippet.  Overall though, this is regarded as shabby rubbish with a comedic edge that doesn't work. There is plenty of suspect acting, the script is poor and many of the effects are quite lame.  There seem to be 8 movies in this franchise - I hope there is an improvement or I may be ordering a few silver bullets.



1959. Directed by Robert Day  

A run-of-the-mill sci-fi cum horror jaunt that is very much a 50's snippet and one that will meet the needs of those obsessed by this monochrome space-age madness.  

Hot shot and cocky test pilot Lieutenant Dan Prescott (Bill Edwards) takes an experimental rocket up into space, ignores home-base orders and becomes the first man to fly beyond the ionosphere.  When things get heated the pilot duly ejects and finds himself covered in a strange metallic meteor dust.  The pilot capsule, when found, has no trace of Dan and soon after cattle, and then people, start to have their throats cut by some unknown assailant.  Dan's brother U. S. Navy Commander Charles "Chuck" Prescott (Marshall Thompson) is soon on the case and has suspicions regarding his lost relative.  The chase is on, more killings ensue and then a final confrontation that sees the brothers face off in a high altitude testing chamber - the outcome is bitter-sweet but closes a film than is far better than I initially deemed.  

Rockets, a familiar lead guy, a fair pace and a decent monster - in truth what more could a retro-sci-fi nut want?  I enjoyed this one, it is ideal viewing for a rainy afternoon when the stresses of life need escaping and some far-out hokum is the necessary therapy. Cheap, cheerful and effective – job done.  



1943. Directed by Sam Newfield  

George Zucco is the main presence here in a dual role that makes sure he earns his crust.  I was intrigued by this situation and wondered if the primarily 'support role' gent could deliver the goods, come the end, my thoughts were mixed. 

Doctor George Clayton (George Zucco) seems a nice bloke but he has a secret, the secret being he was responsible for the death of his brother Elwyn (also played by Zucco), a man who had a fetish for dabbling in various occult practices.  Elwyn's hunchback Zolarr (Dwight Frye) is still around, he has deep-rooted suspicions of foul play and confronts the Doctor.  Self-defense is the claim but Zolarr is not convinced.  Meanwhile the meddler in the black arts returns as a nefarious supernatural presence and taunts his brother with various threats.  The doctors young niece Gayle Clayton (Mary Carlisle) and her fiancé Dr. David Bentley (Nedrick Young) are soon under threat too, due to being aware of Elwyn's seeming resurrection.  Clayton realises that he has to kill his brother, a conflict comes and flames of interest are kindled - the outcome is half expected, it still doesn't dampen the effect of a fair flick.

I think Zucco at the helm, although theatrical, holds his own in a quite creepy thriller with some good chilling moments.  Having Dwight Frye in the mix is always a bonus and the supporting cast do a reliable job.  A short and orthodox offering ideal for a quick winter's night pick-me-up.  



1988. Directed by Robert Englund  

An 80's horror-flick, one that showcases the directorial debut of Robert Englund (The Freddy Kreuger star) and one that really does reek of the era and has many effects that seem of their time.  The film refers to the now defunct 976 telephone exchange and is a creepy affair with a touch of comedy thrown in.  

Hoax Arthur Wilmoth (Stephen Geoffreys) is a mummy's boy, in this instance the mummy being the religiously fanatical and utterly quirky Lucy Wilmouth (Sandy Dennis). Arthur is in awe of his cool cousin Leonard 'Spike' Johnson (Patrick O'Bryan), a guy who protects Hoax from the local bullies and has the girl to be lusted after. As foundations for the film are lain both boys discover the novelty horoscope line named 976-EVIL. Spike is soon disinterested but Hoax uncovers the sinister truth, becomes possessed and exacts revenge on those that have made his life a misery.  A few good beatings, a hand hacked off, some vindictive behaviour and a glimpse into Hell and the film rattles along to the finale with a decent degree of pace and action.  Geoffrey plays his role to a tee and exacts revenge with utter relish thus keeping the watcher involved.  

Again, I expected little, initially was not impressed but as matters unfolded I became slightly taken by the whole fiasco and found myself far from disappointed.  To be honest though, I wouldn't watch again and realise the story lacks a certain depth and any moments of true terror and is, in fact, a second-rate feature destined to gather dust on the collectors bottom shelf. 



1955. Directed by Edward L. Cahn  

A gangster horror movie that is utterly outlandish and totally enjoyable due to the silliness of the plot.  As per, with many of these 50's storylines, the rules are out of the window and science and experiments are given free-rein to stretch all boundaries.  

The main gist of this one deals with American gangster Frank Buchanan (Michael Granger) who, after being deported, has returned to pay back the gang members who betrayed him.  Forced to help the vengeful hood is ex-Nazi scientist Wilhelm Steigg (Gregory Gaye) who has been reanimating the dead so that they can be used as a form of cheap labour. The zombies are now used to kill and kill again but the local police are soon onto matters and try and offer some form of protection to the remaining gang members.  Buchanan uses a reanimated cop and police captain to further carry out the dirty work but a zombie is captured, Dr Chet Walker finds an atomic-powered remote control brain implant and soon the shifty and vengeful Buchanan, and his small army of automatons, are cornered.  A showdown with the police and army troops against the walking dead brings the film to a conclusion, Walker saves the day, well who would have thought it?  

These films one can take or leave but if the mood is right they are a quite wonderful romp.  The acting is second rate, the effects not half bad and the outcome packs no real punch but the staggering lifeless ones do hold attention and the short running time assists the impact.  I shall delve again, I am stricken with an unshakable malady it seems.


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