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Orange Title - Denotes first-time-ever viewing
Caution: Spoilers may follow!
Last year's tally: 47 films; 28 first-time viewings
This year's goals: 50 films; 30 first-time viewings; complete Theme Nights and Subset lists, and maybe take a crack at the Checklist
Note: This film is not counted in my totals, as it was watched outside the actual month of October. I consider it to be a sort of pre-Challenge warm up.
XX Corridors of Blood (1958) (DVD)
- Boris Karloff plays Dr. Thomas Bolton, a surgeon in 1840 London. He believes that, through using a mixture of chemicals inhaled by the patient, he can perform pain-free surgery. Unfortunately, he performs his experiments in mixing these chemicals on himself, and he soon becomes addicted to the drugs. Not-bad film was shot in 1958, but it wasn’t released in the United States until 1963, and then only as the bottom half of a double bill with Werewolf in a Girls’ Dormitory
. It struck me as kind of an amalgam of The Body Snatcher
and The Lost Weekend
, with a bit of Bowery at Midnight
and a smidgen of The Curse of Frankenstein
thrown in as well. The film is certainly not scary, and it gets pretty talky in spots, but it’s well-acted and nicely shot, and Betta St. John is always lovely to look at. Christopher Lee sure did get a lot of acid thrown in his face in the 1950s!
1. The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue
(a.k.a. Breakfast at the Manchester Morgue
, Let Sleeping Corpses Lie
, and Don't Open the Window
) (1974) (DVD)
- I first watched this one back in 2013 for the Challenge. Here's what I wrote then: "Another case of my having a DVD for a decade or more and just now getting around to watching it. The Challenge is good about making me catch up on some films. Let Sleeping Corpses Lie
is a pretty good Night of the Living Dead
ripoff that certainly doesn't skimp on the gore. I found it to have a rather nightmarish logic, with most of the action of the film happening between a few locations and the characters having to sort of rotate between them, always having to go back to a place that's no longer safe. I'd love to see this on the big screen from a well-used 35mm Don't Open the Window
print--it might be the ultimate wallow in that creepy '70s Euro-horror vibe." The only thing that I'll add for this watch is that I found it interesting that there's not only a scientific explanation for the reanimated dead, but a supernatural one as well.
2. Doghouse (2009) (DVD)
- Seven friends decide to have a boys’ weekend away from the wives and spouses in London by hiring a bus and driver to take them to the little village of Moodley. Once there, they realize that, while at first seeming to be deserted, Moodley has something very wrong going on—all the women have turned into homicidal zombies due to biological weaponry, and all they want to do is to kill men. Unfortunately, the weekenders are now the only males in town. Doghouse
starts off fun, but, besides adding a gender bias to the basic zombie film setup, it really doesn’t do anything new. It’s worth a watch, but it wears out its welcome long before the unsatisfying ending. Best line: "Getting away from it does not include spousal abuse via T-Mobile."
3. King of the Zombies (1941) (DVD)
- This riff on Bob Hope’s The Ghost Breakers
is almost as fun, thanks mainly to Mantan Moreland, who enlivened every film he was in. I find it difficult to believe that this was my first viewing of this film; all I had ever seen up to today were clips from the film in the old Goodtimes Video tape called Horrible Horror
, with John Zacherley. I’m glad to have rectified that. The plot (about three guys whose plane crash-lands on an island where voodoo is practiced) doesn’t really matter; what matters is Mantan Moreland’s one-liners, which pop up with wonderful regularity. Here are my three favorites:
#3: “Woman, you is a prevaricator!”;
#2: “This bein’ a zombie sho’ is a drawback.”;
and #1, which may be the best line in any movie ever: “Can I he’p it ‘cause I’m loquacious?”
4. Cooties (2014) (DVD)
is that rare comedy/horror film where one side of the slanted line doesn’t overshadow the other. Maybe that’s because the film was written by one of the guys behind Saw
and another guy who helped create Glee
. In Cooties
, a virus in tainted chicken nuggets turns normal kids into crazed, homicidal, cannibalistic zombies. A group of summer-school teachers, trapped in the elementary school where the virus first breaks out, has to try to get out of the building alive. For me, comedy/horror films hardly ever attain the right balance between yocks and shocks, but this one hit just the right tone. The bit where Rainn Wilson talks about his “dual rear wheel” truck is hysterical. Highly recommended for those with somewhat skewed sensibilities.
5. The Exorcist III (1990) (DVD)
- Oh, but I’ve tried to like this one twice, and I’ve failed at the attempt both times. I really want to like it, as I love the original film. But even more than that, I worked at Georgetown University while they were shooting this. Even though it was a pain in the butt, it was kind of cool having to step over cabling and walk past the catering trucks to get across campus. (My friend Jeff, who worked in a clothing store on M Street, met the film's producer, Carter De Haven in the store, who invited him to hang out on set one day. Jeff was there during the shooting of the scenes at the Key Theater. But I digress.) I think that the main problem with the film is that it’s too cerebral. It’s also talky and hard to follow, and there are some gaping plot holes as well. And then there’s that old lady crawling around on the ceiling. What was Bill Blatty thinking? Overall, it’s a step up from Exorcist II: The Heretic
, but it’s still not a good film. Even though I don’t particularly like the film, I have to give it credit for having one of the best jump scares in cinematic history. Too bad the movie around that sequence is so forgettable.
6. Red State (2011) (DVD)
- Kevin Smith ventures far, far away from his usual fare and succeeds admirably. Michael Parks plays the patriarch of a religious cult/church who is stockpiling weapons and, whenever possible, committing murder in the name of God. John Goodman plays an ATF agent who is called in to shut the family compound down after there’s an incident involving the shooting of a police officer. Echoes of the Waco Branch Davidians and the Westboro Baptist Church are all over the place, but Smith, usually a wiseacre, wisely limits the humor to sardonic jabs at how the government handles these types of fringe groups. Parks gives an Oscar-worthy performance, and Goodman is as reliable as ever. Red State
isn’t a great film, but it’s a very good one from a surprising source.
7. The House of Seven Corpses (1974) (Blu-ray)
- The last time that I watched this film was for my first OHMC in 2010. Here's what I had to say then: "The first time I saw this film was on a local TV station on the Saturday night late movie. I was fairly young and impressionable, and it scared me quite a bit. The very next weekend, the same station showed Horror Express
, which also creeped me out. The next week was Unknown World
, which bored me into near catatonia. Then they repeated the same three films over the next three weeks. And again. They must have bought the smallest, cheapest movie package available. Still, because of the early TV exposure, I love The House of Seven Corpses
(and Horror Express
). The House of Seven Corpses
is definitely low-budget, and it certainly has its flaws, but it also has an indefinable atmosphere about it that really, really works for me. It's somewhat akin in atmosphere to Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things
, which I also love dearly. Of all the films that I'd love to see get a special edition released, this would have to be at the top of the list. I'd love to know more about its inception, its critical reception, and why it went from theaters to TV so quickly. (A lot of people mistakenly believe that this was a made-for-TV film, but I've got an original release one sheet poster that proves them wrong.) It was the only feature directed by Paul Harrison, who spent most of his career writing for television. In fact, most of the cast and crew came from television. If I ever make it to Utah, I'm going to visit the former Governor's Mansion where this was shot. Lastly, I must note that, contrary to the title, Rob Zombie's film is NOT approximately 143 times better than this." And six years later, I still feel the same way about the film. Is it a good film? A well-made film? Not at all. It still, however, has an indefinable quality about it that just exudes creepiness. And it's cool that I got my wish for a special edition. I've just got to make time to listen to the commentary one of these days.
8. Mansion of the Doomed (1976) (DVD)
- Sleazy, sleazy film is an uncredited remake of sorts of Franju’s Eyes Without a Face
, except this time there are faces but no eyes. Richard Basehart is a ophthalmologic surgeon who accidentally blinds his daughter in a car accident. Guilt-ridden, he starts transplanting eyes from not-necessarily willing donors to his daughter, but her sight never lasts long before her body rejects the new organs. So he has to try again, and again, and again. Instead of killing the now-eyeless donors, he keeps them locked in a cage in his basement, promising them that he’ll fix them back up as soon as he perfects the procedure on his daughter. At one point, he decides that only the eyes of children will work…and that’s when I was afraid that the film was going to fly off the rails completely. I won’t spoil what happens for you, in case you like this sort of thing. The amount of talent involved with this film is rather amazing; besides Richard Basehart, Gloria Grahame, a young Lance Henriksen, and a cameoing Vic Tayback in front of the camera, it was produced by Albert and Charles Band (on the way to founding their low-rent Empire/Full Moon empire), has cinematography by Andrew Davis, later famed for directing such films as The Fugitive
and Collateral Damage
, and was one of the first credits for future Oscar-winner for makeup effects Stan Winston. Even with all that talent, you’ll still want to take a shower immediately after watching it.
9. Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988) (DVD)
- This was my second time watching Killer Klowns
, and I think that I enjoyed it more this time than I did the first time. This is strange because this is the type of film that I usually keep far, far away from--you know, the kind of film that sets out to be deliberately bad so as to acquire a cult following. However, I don't think that's this film's M.O. Watching it this time, I was struck by how much thought and creativity went into creating the film. If it had been made by cretins with movie cameras, there wouldn't have been such a delightful touch as the cut-out paper footprints that the clown in the police station left. Sure, there are things that I could live without in the film (the ice cream truck guys, for two), but overall I still found it to be quite fun.
10. Not of This Earth (1957) (DVD)
- Another Roger Corman quickie from the ‘50s, Not of This Earth
was released by Allied Artists, NOT American International, Corman’s usual home base. Other than the change in releasing company, you’d be hard-pressed to find anything that sets it apart from Corman’s AIP product. Paul Birch plays an alien sent to Earth to find out if our blood is compatible with his blood, as he and all of the members of his race are slowly dying due to prolonged radiation exposure. Only complete transfusions can save them, so he’s here looking for a match. Corman regulars Jonathan Haze and Dick Miller (in a cameo as a door-to-door vacuum salesman) show up, as does Beverly Garland from Corman’s It Conquered the World
, released the previous year. Not of This Earth
was one of nine (!) Corman-directed films released in 1957. The thing is…it’s actually quite good.
11. The Earth Dies Screaming (1964) (DVD)
- Terence Fisher took a break from cranking out sumptuous Technicolor Hammer gothic horror films to make this low-budget black-and-white sci-fi film about the end of the world. As I am a complete and total sucker for this type of scenario, I enjoyed this one quite a bit. Most of the population of England (and we can assume the rest of the world) is wiped out by a gas attack, leaving corpses all over the place. Seven people find themselves thrown together in order to survive, but the virtual annihilation of mankind is only the start of their worries, as robot sentries walk the streets, killing survivors with their touch, and those who were killed in the initial attack start coming back to life as zombies. Unfortunately for most viewers, it sounds a lot more exciting than it actually is, but I enjoyed it quite a bit anyway. Its short run time (62 minutes) didn’t hurt matters either. If you’re a fan of mid-century British sci-fi movies, you’ll probably like it as well. Casual viewers will probably find it to be an effective sleep aid.
12. House of Dark Shadows (1970) (Blu-ray)
- Here's part of what I wrote about this film the last time that I watched it for the Challenge back in 2011: "This may seem like a really odd choice, but House of Dark Shadows
is my favorite vampire movie. I can't really put my finger on why it is--it may have something to do with my having seen it at an impressionable age, or maybe it's because, near the end of the film, practically EVERYONE has turned into a vampire, or it may be just that Carolyn Stoddard (played by Nancy Barrett) makes a really hot vampire chick. When watching it again tonight (and I can't count the number of times I've seen it), I was struck by how straight the entire cast played it. That's a unique quality about the vampire movies of the late 1960s and early 1970s: they were trying to scare us. They didn't want to make us laugh, or make us feel too sorry for the vampire--they wanted to frighten us. Many of them succeeded, but House of Dark Shadows
is the cream of the crop." And I still feel this way. It's a film of moments, and some of those moments please me so much--Carolyn's dead stare when the maid finds her body; the funeral in the rain; the encounter David has at the old swimming pool; the way the blood slings off of the arrow when Barnabas yanks it out of Willie's back...the list goes on and on. It's another film that I don't expect anyone will like as much as me, but that's okay--it's been a favorite of mine for somewhere around 45 years and feels like an old friend every time I visit it.
13. Death at Love House (1976) (DVD)
- Joel and Donna Gregory (Robert Wagner and Kate Jackson), married writing partners, move into Love House, the former abode of silent screen goddess Lorna Love, to research a book about Love’s affair with Joel’s father. As they start interviewing still-living associates of the actress, Donna realizes that Love was evil, while Joel starts falling under the sway of the house and having dreams of being with the dead actress. Although it’s got a great (and game) cast, Death at Love House
doesn’t have anything really new to bring to the table--it's very mediocre. If you’re hankering for a TV movie starring Kate Jackson, try Death Cruise
or Satan’s School for Girls
instead—they’re both WAY more fun than this one.
14. The Vampire Bat (1933) (DVD)
- I'm counting this as a rewatch, even though I didn't remember a thing about it from my first viewing of it when I bought the VHS thirty years ago. Someone, or something, is killing folks in a small German village and draining them of all their blood. Is it a giant bat? Is it a vampire? Is it a human culprit? A great cast is given so-so material to work with, and the end result is fairly reminiscent of a Scooby Doo episode, both in plot and in scares. It’s only a little over an hour long, but it feels much longer than that. Non-essential, but worth a watch if you like the Universal classics.
15. The Monster Maker (1944) (DVD)
- J. Carrol Naish stars as Dr. Igor Markoff, an expert in glandular disorders who is working on a cure for acromegaly, who falls for a concert pianist’s daughter who reminds him of his dead wife. And yup, I just used the word “who” three times in one sentence. When the daughter spurns his advances, he injects Dad with an acromegaly serum, vowing to cure him if the daughter will marry him. Not bad little film from PRC features Universal’s Frankenstein Monster Glenn Strange in a small role. Personally, I like Naish better when he’s not the villain, but he’s not bad here. And what was it with mad doctors and gorillas? Dr. Markoff keeps a gorilla handy, but for what we’re never told. Wouldn’t it have been a lot easier to keep a guinea pig or two around, or maybe a white mouse, instead of a gorilla? You know that lab had
to smell funky.
16. Phantasm (1979) (DVD)
- Don Coscarelli has said that Phantasm
was based on a dream that he once had, which is totally appropriate--the film showcases one of the finer examples of dream logic ever committed to celluloid. Set pieces flow into each other with no real concern for adhering to a timeline that can be easily followed; at any given point in the film it's impossible to tell what happened in the "yesterday" of the film. It's as if a 10-year-old is telling a friend of a particularly vivid nightmare, with all of the "and then"s intact. My first-time viewing (and that of everyone I know who saw it when it first came out) was tremendously exciting. Time has worn down that once-fresh edge, but it's still one of the most inventive horror films ever made. I don't see how one can claim to be a horror fan and not love Phantasm
17. Motel Hell (1980) (DVD)
- Another of the horror films that I saw at the drive-in during my high school days, Motel Hell
is actually pretty amusing, but you’d never have guessed that from its trailer, which tries to make it look like the most horrifying film since The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
. Rory Calhoun and Nancy Parsons star as an oddball brother and sister who run a hotel / smokehouse. Everybody loves Farmer Vincent’s smoked meats, but no one knows that the special ingredient for the meats is grown in Vincent and Ida’s secret garden. Wolfman Jack appears as a TV preacher, but it looks like he was hired for marquee value only, as his character doesn’t add anything whatsoever to the plot. John Ratzenberger, Cliff from Cheers
, shows up in a bit part. I still quote lines from this film with the friends that I first saw it with.
18. Hostel (2005) (Blu-ray)
- Eli Roth’s follow-up to Cabin Fever
is a much better movie in every way. That’s still not necessarily a recommendation, however. Three backpackers get a tip about a hostel in Eastern Europe that has beautiful girls galore…so they head there, not knowing the danger that they’re about to face. Because I didn’t really read the credits at the beginning of the movie, it suddenly occurred to me about a half-hour in that the lead actor had to be Mark Ruffalo, since he looked like him and even sounded a bit like him. So I spent the rest of the movie trying to decide if it really WAS Mark Ruffalo or not. I finally decided that it was him, only to be disproven by the end credits. I enjoyed Hostel
passably well, even if Mark Ruffalo wasn’t in it.
19. Exists (2014) (DVD)
, directed by one of the directors of the original Blair Witch Project
, is a Bigfoot movie. There have been a lot of them in last few years for whatever reason, but only Willow Creek
got any press whatsoever. That’s a shame, because Exists
is quite good. Five friends on their way to spend a few days at a remote cabin have a run-in with Bigfoot. Well, actually, they run OVER a Bigfoot and spend the rest of the film paying for that accident. Director Eduardo Sanchez proves once again that he’s a master at making the woods terrifying. This one earns a solid recommendation.
20. Chopping Mall (1986) (DVD)
- Yes, there is a mall. No, there is no chopping involved. A great name for a slasher flick gets appended to a by-the-numbers story of a group of teenagers who, whilst partying after work in one of the mall stores, get attacked and killed by the new robot guards who have gone haywire due to an electrical storm. I don’t get the love for this film at all. There is absolutely nothing about it that stands out in any way. Even the cameos by Paul Bartel, Mary Woronov, that guy Dick Miller, and Gerrit Graham are uninspired. That’s probably the word that sums up the film best—uninspired. It’s not really bad, but it’s certainly not good either. The film’s original title, Killbots
, was much more accurate.
21. Bad Biology (2008) (DVD)
- Yet another example of that age-old story of a girl with (at least) seven clitorises who meets a guy with a misshapen, giant penis that can detach itself and go off looking for love on its own. Frank Henenlotter, director of such mainstream Hollywood hits as Basket Case
, Brain Damage
, and the classic family film Frankenhooker
has really outdone himself with this one. It’s probably best that you know as little as possible about the film before going into it so that its surprises aren’t ruined. And it has PLENTY of surprises. Even if you’re the type of person that doesn’t get offended at anything, this one just might push your buttons.
22. Deathgasm (2015) (Streaming--Netflix)
- Man, but I was afraid of watching this one. I was scared that this would end up being similar to Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead
from last year, which I hated nearly beyond all measure. And you know what? I was wrong. I thought that Deathgasm
was a lot of fun. It definitely has echoes of Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive
, along with some Evil Dead II
and This is Spinal Tap
thrown in there for good measure. The plot? Teenage metalhead comes into possession of some really (really) old music, plays it with his band, and brings about hell on earth. I have a feeling that if you were to look at the plot closely, it wouldn’t hold up, but the film moves so fast and is so much fun that you won’t be paying a lot of attention to the plot anyway. Two devil horns up.
23. Axe (1974) (DVD)
- I saw this back in high school, and I remember thinking that it was a lot better than it should have been, but I remembered practically nothing of its plot. Watching it again tonight for the first time in probably 35 years, I found that my initial impressions of the film were pretty on-target. Three criminals commit murder and hide out in the farmhouse of Lisa and her paralyzed grandfather. Lisa doesn’t cotton to this, so she starts eliminating the crooks, one by one. This film is so good that it makes me wonder how it’s flown under the radar for so many years. It’s got an atmosphere about it that’s thick with sex, death, isolation, and madness. The Blu-ray from Severin is going on my must-buy list immediately.
24. The Descent (2005) (Blu-ray)
- The Descent
, a modern classic from the writer/director of Dog Soldiers
, is a rare bird indeed—an action/horror film with an all-female cast. Each year, a group of women meet to take part in an extreme outdoor sporting challenge. This year, they meet to go caving…but once they get in the caves, they realize that they’re not alone. The cave sequences, which make up most of of the film, might be a bit tough to watch if you’re claustrophobic. The unrated cut that I watched on Blu-ray had the original British ending, which was deemed both too downbeat and too difficult to understand for American audiences. It’s the better of the two endings by far, though. The Descent
is easily one of the top twenty horror films of the new millennium.
25. Chernobyl Diaries (2012) (DVD)
- Chernobyl Diaries
starts out okay, with a trio of twenty-somethings visiting one of them’s brother in Eastern Europe. The brother has arranged for them to take an extreme tour of the town, Pripyat, nearest the Chernobyl Nuclear Plant. But of course, the van they’re traveling in won’t start at the end of the tour, stranding them in the still-radioactive city overnight. And when their tour guide disappears and one of them is mauled by wild dogs, things start looking really grim for the home team. Up until this point, about halfway through the movie, it’s an acceptably decent horror film; however, once the group splits up and some of them disappear, it takes a sharp left turn to Stupidville. Pretty much the last half-hour of the film is made up of shots of the actors moving down long corridors in the dark, with a jump-scare every 6-7 minutes or so. Once the film turned into this kind of first-person shooter scenario shot in poorly-lit hallways and underground tunnels, I gave up caring whether anyone would get out alive or not. Not recommended except to the most easily-amused urban explorers.
26. Bone Tomahawk (2015) (Streaming--Amazon Prime)
- When I was kid, I went to the movies all the time. I didn’t care what was showing; I’d watch most anything. I can recall going at least once when I had zero desire to watch either of the movies on the double-feature that night, but I was happy to be there just the same because at least I got to watch a bunch of trailers between the features. The only type of film that I would go out of my way to avoid as a kid was a western. If you had really wanted to punish me for misbehaving when I was seven or eight, making me watch a western would have been the worst thing you could have done to me. These days, I love westerns. I don’t know what finally clicked with me (but it probably had a lot to do with John Ford and Clint Eastwood), but now I actively seek them out. I was looking forward to seeing Bone Tomahawk
, and it didn’t disappoint me. The movie got everything right—it was exceptionally written, well-acted, nicely shot and scored, and made me cringe at some of the violence. I can’t think of anything that I didn’t like about this movie. It’s decidedly my favorite first-time watch of the Challenge so far.
27. Bloody Birthday (1981) (DVD)
- Not very good, but never boring, Bloody Birthday
posits that, if one is born during an eclipse that also eclipses Saturn, one will turn out to be a psychopath. Three kids who were born during such an event start killing pretty much everyone in sight about a week before their shared tenth birthday. The audience is never told what triggers this homicidal rampage, but it really doesn’t matter, as the movie never slows down long enough to allow the viewer to think about it much. Julie Brown (before she went blonde), of “Homecoming Queen’s Got a Gun” and Earth Girls are Easy
, co-stars as this film’s analogue to P.J. Soles in Halloween
. It’s a forgettable film, but it’s also a painless way to spend an hour and a half.
28. The Fog (Commentary Track) (1980) (Blu-ray)
- I've seen The Fog
countless times since I caught it on its initial theatrical run, but I never seem to get tired of it. Being so familiar with the film, I was hoping that the commentary track featuring John Carpenter and Debra Hill would be chock-full of interesting tidbits that I didn't know about the film, but that wasn't the case. There WERE some things mentioned that I didn't know, but for every fun fact about the budget or where the lighthouse stairs came from, there was a moment when Carpenter would explain what was happening in the plot. It was nice to hear Debra Hill on the track; I really had no idea that she was as knowledgeable about the nuts and bolts of film production as she obviously was. But then again, I thought that the only reason that she worked on Carpenter's films was that she was his girlfriend, and I was most surprised to find out that she'd done something like nine films before meeting Carpenter when he hired her for Assault on Precinct 13
. It's too bad that she died so young.
29. Green Room (2015) (DVD)
- A band accepts a last-minute offer to play at a neo-Nazi gathering, and the members end up fighting for their lives after witnessing a murder. I really enjoyed this film, and it probably helped that I knew zero about it before watching it. If I weren't in the middle of the Challenge, I'd have watched it twice in a row; as it stands, I'll be catching it again in November. Highly recommended.
30. Death Ship (1980) (DVD-R from VHS)
- Leonard Maltin’s review of this encapsulates it perfectly in eighteen words. I’m going to go a few more than that. Death Ship
is an awful film that, despite a workable premise, doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. It also has an awful score, features Sally Ann Howes in a role she was at least ten years too old to play, and features a character whose main trait is that he has to pee a lot. If one were to cut out all of the shots of the ship’s pistons, the film would probably run less than an hour. To give credit where credit is due, however, the film did convince me to throw out some old peppermints that I had in the pantry.
31. The Devonsville Terror (1983) (DVD)
- Three single women move to Devonsville, where, three hundred years ago, three women had been put to death for witchcraft. Donald Pleasance, the town doctor who operates from his home, has something to do with bringing about vengeance for the long-dead women. Meanwhile, the guy that owns the town’s lone store has killed his wife, and he thinks that he’s responsible for awakening the curse. The Devonsville Terror
doesn’t make a lick of sense, as it operates on a sort of dream logic, but I never found myself bored. It’s not good, but I couldn’t stop watching just to see what gonzo idea would pop up next. Special mention must be made of the demon in the film; it’s phenomenal for all the wrong reasons. I can’t really recommend the film, but if you’re the adventurous sort, you might try giving it a shot. It’s short enough that you won’t feel too cheated if you don’t like it.
32. Howl (2015) (Blu-ray)
- A red-eye train hits a deer, causing a fuel leak that stops the train literally in its track. Unfortunately, it’s stopped in a forest, and there’s something in the woods that’s hungry…and there’s a full moon. Surprisingly good (and moody) film takes its time to set up its scenario, but the atmosphere that’s created is wonderfully creepy. Some great performances make up for the iffy creature designs, but I do love the glowing eyes of the werewolves. My only real complaint with the film is that I wish that the filmmakers hadn’t resorted to the rather obvious ending…but that’s not enough of a flaw to keep me from liking this one a lot. Highly recommended.
33. The Undying Monster (1942) (DVD)
- Good-looking but overly complicated film squeezes a whole lot of plot into its brief running time. All the men in the Hammond family are under a curse, which goes like this: “When stars are bright on a frosty night / Beware thy bane on the rocky lane.” Film features a pair from Scotland Yard who are awfully reminiscent of Holmes and Watson, except that one of them is a woman, and the guy delivers all of his lines with the enthusiasm of a cheerleader. It’s a weird performance in a not-especially-satisfying film. So, yeah, we’re in full rip-off mode from the previous year’s The Wolf Man
AND 1939’s The Hound of the Baskervilles
. Still, it’s old-school horror and it’s short, so it’s difficult to be too hard on it.
34. The People Under the Stairs (1991) (DVD)
- I first caught this dreadful film in the theater, where the previews made it look like it could be really scary. I was expecting something at least as effective as A Nightmare on Elm Street
; unfortunately, I had chosen to overlook that fact that Wes Craven had directed both Deadly Friend
in the interim. So I paid my money and I took my chances…and I lost, big time. I had hopes that Everett McGill and Wendy Robie, fresh off Twin Peaks
, would at least be creepy, but even those slight hopes were dashed. I hated, hated, hated the movie, to use one of Roger Ebert’s phrases. Tonight’s viewing was my first one in twenty-five years, and I didn’t hate the film quite as badly this time…but then again, I knew what to expect. I don’t know what Wes Craven was smoking between his two Nightmare on Elm Street
films, but whatever it was, it wasn’t conducive to making good movies. This one may not be his worst film, but it’s certainly in the running. On the positive side, Brandon Adams as Fool was very good, and McGill and Robie were pretty funny. Unfortunately, the film refused to find a tone and stick to it, and far too many last-minute rescues completely undermined what little suspense that it could work up. You might want to watch it once just to see how batshit crazy one movie can be, but don’t expect it to join Scream
as one of Craven’s best.
35. The Old Dark House (1932) (DVD)
- This is another film that I’ve had on DVD for years but had never gotten around to watching. Because of a really fierce thunderstorm, two groups of travelers get stranded and end up making their way to the titular domicile. The Femms live there, and they allow the travelers to wait out the storm with them. But the Femms are no ordinary family, and the travelers are in for a frightful night. The film is chock full of classic stars, including Boris Karloff as the mute butler, Ernest Thesiger, Charles Laughton, Melvyn Douglas, Raymond Massey, and Gloria Stewart (probably best-known these days for playing the modern-day Rose in Titanic
). James Whale directs, showing a bit more quirk than he did in Frankenstein
. I’ve never seen two people fall in love faster in a movie than Melvyn Douglas and Lillian Bond; it takes them three minutes, tops, to decide that they need to make a lifelong commitment to each other. Ernest Thesiger gets most of the best lines; my favorite is, “It's only gin, you know. Only gin. I like gin.” Hugely enjoyable.
36. Jaws (1975) (Blu-ray)
- Time really hasn't diminished this movie's effectiveness. With the added clarity of Blu-ray, the shark looks more mechanical than ever, but the film still delivers as an excellent example of popcorn cinema. I was struck this go-round by just how nicely composed the film's shots were. There was one shot in particular that impressed me, a shot that had the three men on the Orca
all in frame at once, with Roy Scheider on the left and in the foreground, Richard Dreyfuss in the background center, and Robert Shaw in the background right. It looked stunning. I find more to admire about the film every time that I see it.
37. MST3K: Devil Fish (1984/1998) (DVD)
- Good lord, what an awful movie. Mike and the 'bots do what they can, but overall it's not one of the best MST3K episodes. There are still enough laughs to make it worth one's while to catch, however.
38. Dracula (1979) (DVD)
- My friends and I all loved this when it came out in 1979, but director John Badham's choice to drain most of the color out of the film in the early 1990s also took a lot of the life out of it. It's still a strong adaptation of the same play that Bela Lugosi's version was based on, with Frank Langella making for a pretty-commanding Count, and Kate Nelligan looking quite lovely as Lucy. This has one of my favorite lines from any movie, spoken by Langella as Dracula: "If, at any time, my company does not please you, you will have only yourself to blame for an acquaintance who seldom forces himself but is difficult to be rid of."
39. Hush (2016) (Streaming--Netflix)
- Remember the days when movies going “straight-to-video” was a thing? Times have changed a bit, and now those movies are beginning to go “straight-to-Netflix.” Such is the case with this film that’s actually pretty good. A deaf and mute writer who moved out to the country because, in her words, the city was too “noisy” (heh heh) finds herself in quite the predicament when a stranger shows up outside her house intent upon killing her. And for most of the film’s 81-minute running time, that’s what he tries to do. Kate Siegal plays the writer, and she also co-wrote the film with its director Mike Flanagan, who made the exasperating Oculus
a couple of years ago. Together they’ve crafted a film that utilizes its one location nicely, provides some nice scares, and doesn’t run on too long to wear out its welcome. Speaking of scares, there’s a fun one at the very, very start of the film. It may be the first time that I’ve ever jumped at a main title card. Shot in Alabama.
40. The Curse of the Werewolf (1961) (DVD)
- Hammer’s only werewolf film, The Curse of the Werewolf
stars Oliver Reed as the bastard child of a beggar and a mute woman. Because of his parentage and the fact that he was born on Christmas Day, he’s destined to turn into a werewolf, according to the woman who took him in after his mother died giving birth to him. Yet, according to the local priest, if he’s given enough love as a child, and finds the love of a woman as an adult, he can be cured of his affliction. He seems to find both, but, as is generally the rule in this type of film, complications ensue…and he’s in full werewolf mode an hour into the film. The werewolf makeup in the film is unusual, owing far more to Henry Hull’s Werewolf of London
than Lon Chaney, Jr.’s Wolf Man
. Oliver Reed is fine in the starring role, but, man, did he sweat a lot in this film! The leading lady is just weird-looking. Overall, it’s a fun film from Hammer’s heyday and worth checking out.
41. Stung (2015) (Streaming--Netflix)
- Giant mutant wasps attack an outdoor dinner party. Dumb German film exhibits one of the things that are indicative of lazy writing—one of the characters’ only personality trait is that he drops the f-bomb into the middle of sentences that just don’t need it. This one had a few icky effects sequences, but overall, it’s about on par with the crap that SyFy churns out. It's easily the worst first-time-view of the Challenge so far this year. Worth going out of one’s way to avoid.
42. Godzilla Vs. Megalon (1973) (Blu-ray)
- I saw this originally at the theater during its initial American run, and I loved it to death. It was an early VHS purchase, and I picked it up on DVD as well. And now I own the Blu-ray…and the film contained therein was not nearly as fun as I remembered it. The plot: Seatopia unleashes the giant monster Megalon against the surface dwellers of Earth, because the constant nuclear testing is making a shambles of their underground world. Luckily, a scientist, his younger brother, his best friend, and Jet Jaguar, a robot he created, are there to try to stop Megalon. When Seatopia calls in Gigan, another giant monster, the good guys decide that they need more firepower, so they send for Godzilla. Let’s face it; this movie is as dumb as a bag of hammers. It’s also strangely lacking in women. When I was a kid, neither of these things mattered to me; now, there’s not much to keep my attention until the monster brawling gets underway. Once it DOES start up, however, it goes without stopping for something like a half-hour. If you’re not familiar with Godzilla and want to see what all the fuss is about, this is NOT the place to start. I must add that the Blu-ray looks phenomenal when compared to all the previous home-video versions.
43. Bait (2012) (Blu-ray 3D)
- After a tsunami, a bunch of people are trapped in an underground grocery store and its parking garage with some killer sharks. The CGI used on the sharks was pretty bad, but other than that, it’s a decent-enough way to spend an hour-and-a-half. The 3D is subdued, but there is the occasional in-your-face effect. An Australia/Singapore co-production.
44. Baskin (2015) (Streaming--Netflix)
- Super-strange film from Turkey tells the disorienting story of a team of police officers who respond to a call for backup at a decrepit building in the middle of nowhere. When they get there, things take a turn for the nightmarish. “Nightmarish” is probably the best adjective to describe this film, as the narrative is fractured and disjointed, like the storyline of a particularly bad dream. Unfortunately, the film never really grabbed me; it’s too bewildering and made too little sense. Still, if you’re an adventurous viewer, you may find something here to like.
45. Krampus (2015) (DVD)
- Generally speaking, I like to watch Christmas-set movies at Christmas, and I obviously watched this one in October. Therefore, I don’t think that I enjoyed it nearly as much as I would have if I’d watched it in December. In what would have happened if National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
had been played straight(er) and took a Gremlins
-esque turn toward the macabre, an unhappy kid brings down the wrath of Krampus, the anti-Santa Claus, on his family and visiting relatives a few days before Christmas. The film starts out well enough, but by the middle it begins to drag, and the ending is particularly unsatisfying. A game cast and some pretty nifty special effects didn’t make the film successful in my eyes; you might find more to like in it, but it just wasn’t unique enough to make much of an impact on me.
46. Rare Exports (2010) (DVD)
- Again, if I’d seen this in December, I would have liked it better, but I still enjoyed it MUCH more than I did Krampus
. Using the same underlying mythology, Rare Exports
tells the story of the excavation of a mountain in Finland that turns up the real, giant Krampus-y Santa Claus, buried in a gigantic block of ice and guarded by his “elves,” a group of naked old bearded men. These elves rampage through a nearby town, stealing all of the radiators, ovens, and hair dryers that they can find in order to thaw out the frozen Santa, who will punish all of the bad children (who have ALSO been stolen and put into potato bags by the elves). Only a kid named Pietari realizes what’s going on, and he’s got to convince his father and a few of his friends that they’re all in danger. The film is similar in tone to Trollhunter
, but it’s not as funny. Still, it’s enjoyable and worth seeing. The film’s title is explained in the last scene.
47. Witchboard (1986) (Streaming--Vudu Free with Ads)
- This surprisingly watchable hunk of ‘80s cheese stars Tawny Kitaen (of those Whitesnake videos that got everybody all hot and bothered) as a woman who plays with a Ouija board just a bit too much, unleashing an evil spirit. It’s a completely by-the-numbers affair, but it still has something about it that’s kind of endearing. It’s always fun to see Kathleen Wilhoite in anything; here she plays a Valley Girl psychic.
48. Southbound (2015) (Streaming--Amazon Prime)
- Horror anthology film comprised of five stories by four different directors is pretty good, with the second and third stories being the best. While the film isn’t overly gory, the effects it does have are really, really effective. Not the best thing I’ve ever seen, but not a total waste of time, either.
49. The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) (Blu-ray)
- James Whale’s masterpiece, The Bride of Frankenstein
does a good job of advancing the story of the first film while leaving it light-years behind in technique. As I watched it this time, I was struck by Whale’s use of framing and camera movement to accentuate various areas of the image. The Blu-ray restoration is gorgeous. A little of Una O’Connor goes a long way, but other than her shrill comedy relief, it’s a nearly-perfect horror film.
50. Goodnight Mommy (2014) (Streaming--Amazon Prime)
- Beautifully shot but rather deliberately paced, Goodnight Mommy
echoes themes and images from a host of other, classic horror movies, but it never succeeds in actually becoming a fully-realized film on its own. At least, that’s MY take on it, although I suppose that if you haven’t seen a lot of the films that are in its DNA (Misery
, The Other
, A Tale of Two Sisters
, Eyes without a Face
, etc.) it may have quite the impact on you. The three leads are all very good, and I’ll cop to squirming quite a bit in the last half-hour, so I don’t want to give the impression that it’s not worth seeing, because it is. It’s just not going to hit genre aficionados as hard as it will novices to horror films.
51. Satan's Blood (1978) (DVD)
- Sleazy Spanish film about a couple who get coerced by a guy in a car next to them in traffic (!) into spending the weekend at a remote house where lots of odd sex and Satanic rituals and odd Satanic sex rituals take place. There’s a goodly amount of nudity, some raw meat eating, and an ending that, if you’re familiar with Spanish genre films at all, you can see a mile coming. I’ve got to give it credit, though—I wasn’t bored.
52. Halloween II (1981) (Blu-ray)
- Another film that I saw in the theater on its initial release, Halloween II
picks up exactly where Halloween
left off, and finds nowhere better to take the story than into a hospital. There must have been something in the zeitgeist in the early ‘80s to have so many hospital-set horror movies (this one, Visiting Hours
) come out. I really liked this one 35 years ago, but now it seems the palest of imitations of the original. The acting is bad, the pacing is non-existent, Jamie Lee’s wig is atrocious and looks nothing like her hair in the original, and Donald Pleasence has, essentially, one line of dialogue that he repeats at varying decibel levels (“I shot him six times!”). I really wish that I liked this one today as much as I used to, but it’s just not a very good film and an even more unworthy sequel.
31 Films Subset
This Year's Stats -- Final Tally
Select 10 actors:
--- Erin Brown -
--- Peter Cushing -
--- Sybil Danning -
--- Andrew Divoff -
--- John Ireland -
--- Brion James -
-X- Boris Karloff - The Old Dark House
--- Camille Keaton -
--- Christopher Lee -
--- Bela Lugosi -
--- Bill Moseley -
--- Tom Noonan -
--- Felissa Rose -
--- Chris Sarandon -
--- Lin Shaye -
--- John Saxon -
--- Peter Stormare -
--- Julie Strain -
--- Emmanuelle Vaugier -
--- Dick Warlock -
Select 2 film composers:
--- Charles Bernstein -
--- Joseph Bishara -
--- Bruno Nicolai -
--- Christopher Young -
Select 5 directors:
-X- Dan Curtis - House of Dark Shadows
--- Joe Dante -
-X- Terence Fisher - The Earth Dies Screaming
--- Len Kabasinski -
--- Kiyoshi Kurosawa -
--- Herschell Gordon Lewis -
--- Juan Piquer Simón -
-X- Kevin Tenney - Witchboard
-X- James Whale - The Old Dark House
-X- Jim Wynorski - Chopping Mall
Select 2 makeup effects artists:
--- John Carl Buechler -
--- Barney Burman -
--- Ed French -
--- Rosario Prestopino -
Select 2 producers:
-X- Anthony Hinds - The Curse of the Werewolf
--- Samuel M. Sherman -
--- Robert Tapert -
--- Twisted Pictures -
Select 2 writers:
--- Jaume Balagueró -
--- The Pang Brothers: Danny & Oxide Chung -
--- Lou Rusoff -
-X- Leigh Whannel - Cooties
Select 30 of the following sub-genres / types:
-X- *3-D Film - Bait 3D
--- Agoraphobia -
-X- Anthology Film - Southbound
-X- Appears on BFI's 100 European Horror Films List - The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue
-X- Appears on Video Nasties List - The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue
--- Based on a True Story -
-X- Based on a Novel - The Undying Monster
-X- Cannibalism - Motel Hell
--- Cinema Inspired By: Richard Matheson -
-X- Cinematic Titanic / Horror Host / MST3K / RiffTrax - MST3K: Devil Fish
--- Comedy / Spoof -
--- Criterion / Masters of Cinema Version Film -
-X- Death by: Axe - Axe
-X- Distributor / Studio: Severin Films - The House of Seven Corpses
--- Documentary -
-X- Extraterrestrial / Takes Place in Space - Killer Klowns from Outer Space
-X- Found Footage - Exists
-X- Frankenstein - The Bride of Frankenstein
--- Ghost / Haunting -
--- Giallo -
--- K-Horror -
-X- Killer / Evil Animal - Exists
-X- Killer / Evil Child - Bloody Birthday
--- Killer / Evil Doll -
-X- Made-for-TV Movie - Death at Love House
-X- Monster / Creature Feature / Godzilla - The Descent
--- Mummy -
--- Musical / Rock ‘n Roll Horror
-X- Nation of Origin: Japan - Godzilla Vs. Megalon
-X- Nazi - Death Ship
--- Psychological -
--- Rape / Revenge -
-X- Recently Deceased Actor or Director - Phantasm
--- Slasher / Psycho / Homicidal Maniac -
-X- Takes Place on a Holiday - Krampus
-X- Takes Place on or Under the Sea - Jaws
--- Three Installments in a Franchise -
-X- Vampire - House of Dark Shadows
-X- Werewolf - Howl
-X- Witchcraft / Satanic / Religious - The Exorcist III
-X- With Commentary - The Fog (1980)
--- With Two or More Horror Legends -
-X- Zombie - The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue
Watch 1 w/commentary from the "Masters of Commentary":
--- Joe Bob Briggs -
-X- John Carpenter - The Fog (1980)
--- Larry Cohen -
--- Joe Dante -
--- Guillermo del Toro -
--- David del Valle -
--- Tim Lucas -
Select 2 from the following anniversaries:
-X- 10th Anniversary of TCM Underground – The House of Seven Corpses
-X- 50th Anniversary of Dark Shadows – House of Dark Shadows
-X- 90th Birthday of Roger Corman - Not of This Earth
--- 100th Birthday of Forrest J Ackerman -
Select 1 from the "Chronological Horror Years Faceoff":
-X- 1941 (75th) - King of the Zombies
--- 1966 (50th) -
--- 1991 (25th) –
Watch films in at least three formats:
-X- First format, (DVD), (Doghouse).
-X- Second format, (Blu-ray), (The House of Seven Corpses).
-X- Third format, (Streaming video [Netflix]), (Deathgasm).
Watch films in at least three languages:
-X- First language, (Turkish), (Baskin).
-X- Second language, (Finnish), (Rare Exports).
-X- Third language, (German), (Goodnight Mommy).
Watch 3 films that you've never seen before that:
--- Stars a Deborah (Dutch, Foreman, Lamb) -
--- Features music by Pino Donaggio -
-X- Was made in the 1940s - King of the Zombies
-X- Features a killer kid - Cooties
--- Was written by Dardano Sacchetti -
-X- Features a killer robot - The Earth Dies Screaming
--- Has the word "Night" in the title -
--- Was directed by Christopher Smith -
--- Stars Paul Naschy -
--- Takes place at a retail establishment -
Select 8 decades of film history:
--- 1890 -
--- 1900 -
--- 1910 -
--- 1920 -
-X- 1930 - The Vampire Bat (1933)
-X- 1940 - King of the Zombies (1941)
-X- 1950 - Not of This Earth (1957)
-X- 1960 - The Earth Dies Screaming (1964)
-X- 1970 - The House of Seven Corpses (1974)
-X- 1980 - Chopping Mall (1986)
--- 1990 -
-X- 2000 - Hostel (2005)
-X- 2010 - Red State (2011)
Select 4 ratings:
--- G -
-X- PG - The House of Seven Corpses
-X- PG-13 - Killer Klowns from Outer Space
-X- R - Phantasm
--- NC-17 -
--- X -
--- Unrated -
--- M -
-X- GP - House of Dark Shadows
Attend a live event (convention, play, haunted house, ghost tour, etc.):
--- (insert event). OPTIONAL
Venture Into the Literary World:
--- Read a Horror Novel or Novella (insert title). OPTIONAL
--- Read a Comic Book or Graphic Novel (insert title). OPTIONAL
This year marks my 7th Challenge.
Goal: 50 Total Watched: 52
First Time Viewings: 31 (60%)
32 DVD – 62%
1 VHS-to-DVD-R – 2%
8 Streaming (Netflix, Amazon Prime, Vudu Free with Ads) – 15%
11 Blu-ray - 21%
1930s: 3 (6%)
1940s: 3 (6%)
1950s: 1 (2%)
1960s: 2 (4%)
1970s: 11 (21%)
1980s: 9.5 (18%)
1990s: 2.5 (5%)
2000s: 4 (8%)
2010s: 16 (30%)
Longest Film Viewed: Bone Tomahawk
Shortest Films Viewed: The Earth Dies Screaming
, The Monster Maker
New favorites: Green Room
, Bone Tomahawk
, Red State
Will never watch again: Doghouse
, Chernobyl Diaries
LIST IS NOW FINALIZED.