I loved the new Alien movie, Aliens: Covenant. When I was raving about it at work, my co-worker sent me a pdf of the original script for Prometheus.
He said, “Did you ever read the screenplay that eventually become Prometheus? I think it’s a much better story and ties up quite a few (unnecessary) loose ends.”
He was right. While they kept a lot of elements from the original script, the first version was better. I recommend reading it if you like the Alien franchise. I found a copy of the script online. Reading it is nearly as good as seeing it on the screen.
Sometimes you see an actor in a horror film and that person just gets to you. Their acting alone makes them crawl out from the screen and whisper terrifying things in your ear. Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger, Gunnar Hansen as Leatherface, and Doug Bradley as Pinhead are just few that spring to mind.
But even rarer are those actors whose surpass a single character and become a name of their own. Boris Karloff, Vincent Price, Lon Chaney. These are a handful of the kings of horror cinema. Conrad Veidt stands among them.
Conrad Veidt (pronounced like the word white starting with a v) was a German actor who starred in movies throughout the rise of the silent film and into the 1940s. During that time, there were a lot of top actors in horror films and in German cinema. Why does he stand out?
He starred in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. This 1920 German film was called “the first true horror film” by Roger Ebert. Veidt plays Cesare, a somnambulist who controlled by the devilish and diabolical Dr. Caligari. Somnambulism is a fancy word for sleepwalking, and Veidt somehow
Conrad Veidt as Cesare in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.
manages to breath life and character into a someone who is, in effect, a zombie.
He made hands scary long before Bruce Campbell cut off his hand in Evil Dead II. In the silent 1924 film The Hands of Orlac, Veidt played the leading roll as Orlac. His character is a famed musician who was brutally injured in an accident. A surgeon replaces his hands with those of a murderer, and Orlac’s hands seem to take on a life of their own. Veidt manages to bring true terror to his own hands and uses them to express a range of emotion throughout he film.
He inspired the Joker. Conrad Veidt’s makeup and look in The Man Who Laughs inspired the creation of the Joker in the Batman comic book. In The Man Who Laughs, Veidt’s character has been surgically deformed and his face is permanently frozen in a terrifying smile.
Veidt inspired the Joker in The Man Who Laughs.
He worked against the Nazis. In real life, Conrad Veidt worked openly to oppose the Nazi regime. After Hitler came to power, he and his Jewish wife moved to England, where he starred in anti-Nazi films. He also donated a large part of his fortune to the British war effort. When he moved to America in 1941, he even made sure his contracts included a provision requiring that he play the villain if cast as a German. It is no surprise then to see him appear in Casablanca as Major Strasser, the film’s leading and utterly unlikable Nazi.
While Conrad Veidt was famous in his day – so famous that the Nazis tried to cut him a deal to keep him working in Germany – he has largely been forgotten with time. If you have not seen one of his movies, I highly recommend getting your hands on one and seeing his acting first hand.
With his silent films, a lot of them are available online. However, if you are going to watch The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, try to find a decent copy. The new Blu-ray edition fills in a lot of gaps and allows you to see the striking set design more clearly than free copies online.
My take: An interesting zombie film from Spain that has a good balance of scary and cheesy scenes.
Rating: 3 out of 4 stars
1972 seems to have been full of characters displaying wonton acts of hubris. In Baron Blood, a character decides to go and awaken his long dead and devilishly evil ancestor. In Tombs of the Blind Dead, a girl goes and decides it is a good idea to sleep alone in an old, abandoned monastery. Why not? What could happen?
Then, when she winds up dead, her friends decide they should also go to this old monastery. This despite the fact that every local who speaks of that place is absolutely terrified.
Hubris, hubris, and more hubris.
They should have known that the monastery was inhabited by zombie-like, demon worshipping Templars. It is a horror movie, after all. What did they expect?
Those are some creepy blind, dead Templars in Tombs of the Blind Dead.
And those devil-worshipping zombies are quite terrifying. They elevate the film above the standard horror stories of the era, and paved the way for three sequels to this story.
I would recommend this movie to people who like zombie films and 70s horror.
I got a copy from Netflix on DVD, which had a subtitled and a dubbed version. Here is a trailer on YouTube:
My take: This is a standard Italian gothic. Only see this one if you love others from this subgenre.
Rating: 2 out of 4 stars
In Baron Blood, Peter Kleist returns to his family’s ancestral castle. He has found a piece of parchment which claims to hold the key to awakening Peter’s ancestor, Baron Otto von Kleist. The Baron earned the nickname Baron Blood due to his sadistic, murderous ways in the 16th century.
So, Peter finds a cute girl (as always seems to happen in horror films) and they sneak into the castle to awaken Baron Blood.
Hubris. Pure hubris. And it goes about as well as you could expect.
The poster for Baron Blood is excellent. The movie is just okay.
This movie is a fairly standard Italian gothic tale, and it is a bit more predicable than others I have seen (such as Devil’s Nightmare). It has all of the tropes you expect in an Italian gothic horror (castle, hot chick, torture chamber, etc.), but none of the fun, unexpected elements.
As a result, I would only recommend this to serious fans of gothic horror films. Otherwise, I would recommend that you skip this one in favor of a Hammer film or a Barbara Steele picture.
I found the movie on Netflix’s instant watch. Here’s the trailer on YouTube:
My take: This movie is made up of five gruesome tales. So, there’s sure to be at least one you like.
Rating: 3 out of 4 stars
Five strangers are on a tour of a catacombs. They fall behind the tour guide in the tunnels, and find themselves lost. A door opens mysteriously. When they enter the room, a robed man appears, and the door slides shut behind them. This is the cryptkeeper (no, he does not look like that beloved little skeletal corpse from the TV version in the 90s).
He bids them to set, which the group begrudgingly does, while asking why they are there. The cryptkeeper takes each person in turn, revealing the stories of how they arrived at the catacombs. Each story is filled with its own horrors of course.
Poster for Tales From the Crypt
Bonus: Peter Cushing stars in what is probably the most morally repugnant tale in the bunch. This tale alone makes the movie worth a watch.
But I liked all of the stories. Multi-story films make it easier to get through bad elements, acting or stories. You simply have to wait a few minutes for the next tale.
I would recommend this to fans of classic horror, 1970s horror and Peter Cushing. Also, if you also liked Tales From the Crypt when it aired on HBO in the 90s, you will likely enjoy this as well. Both this film and the TV show are based on the same comic book series.
My take: This is a lot of cheesy, Italian-gothic goodness. Tropes abound but there are enough scares to keep it fun and interesting.
Rating: 3 out of 4 stars
Like many of the films I have watched previously, Devil’s Nightmare is chock full of gothic horror tropes:
There’s a creepy castle (with bonus torture devices in the attic)
The baron in said castle has a bubbling, smoky laboratory (though he does alchemy, not science)
There’s a demonic curse on the baron
A group of tourists get stranded at said castle with said baron
One thing that sets this movie apart from those before it, however, is the blatant integration of sex into the film. While the group of tourists are settling into their rooms, the two young females decide to share a room. And it is not just because they are scared. The movie seems to suddenly change genres and become a 1970s girl-on-girl porno.
Poster for Devil’s Nightmare.
After that scene, sex serves as an undercurrent to the film. The baron’s family lives under a demonic curse: every first-born female is a succubus and serves at the devil’s whim. As you can guess, a succubus appears to spoil the group’s stay at the castle. She punishes each for their sins in turn, while wearing very revealing clothing.
Even through all this cheesiness, the film is downright fun to watch. As a result, I would recommend this to people who like gothic horror and Italian horror.
I bought a DVD copy of the movie from Amazon. Here is the trailer on YouTube:
My take: Riddled with suspense, this movie is right in line with the classics and it definitely one I would watch again.
Rating: 3 out of 4 stars
Synopsis of It Follows
When you have sex in a horror movie, bad things happen. And bad things certainly happen in It Follows.
The story is about Jay, a young and beautiful college girl. On a date with a guy she likes, Hugh, she has an intimate tryst with him in the back of his car. While she basks in the post-coital afterglow, however, Hugh chloroforms her.
Poster for It Follows showing the car with that fateful tryst.
Jay awakes tied to a wheelchair in an abandoned parking garage. Hugh is pacing nearby, apologizing to her. He says he had to pass it on to her. Wherever she is, it is somewhere, walking straight for her. It will follow her. She should find someone else to sleep with soon so she can also pass it on.
From that day on, Jay finds herself being stalked by something. And she needs to find a way to stop it before it kills her.
What I Thought of It Follows & Who Should Watch It
This movie is right in line with the classic slashers from the late 70s and early 80s. The mounting tension and suspense were reminiscent of Halloween. There are also some scenes that evoke some serious Nightmare on Elm Street nostalgia. It is clear that the director loves those movies as much as I do.
Will this movie stand the test of time like those classics? I’m not sure, but I am definitely excited to watch it again in the future. I think the only negative point about the film is that I could not help but do the math. If a person/creature is following you and walking, you could continue moving so that it never caught you. An individual can only walk about 3 or 4 miles per hour. So, if you simply drove 60 miles (an hour or so by car), you would buy yourself a full 15 hours of respite. What if you hopped on a plane? Can this thing walk through water?
In spite of these questions, however, the movie was solidly terrifying. As a result, I would recommend this movie to anyone who likes 70s and 80s slasher movies, teen horror films, and suspenseful stories.
My take: Was it a ghost? Was it madness? I’m still not sure, and I don’t think that is a good thing.
Rating: 1 out of 4 stars
This movie raised a lot of questions in my mind about the early 1970s:
Were there a lot of hippies everywhere?
Did people just roam around the country and do nothing?
Why was the soundtrack so terrible? Did people listen to that crap?
Why is the main character so mindlessly happy at the strangest moments?
The movie is about a couple and their friend. The female in the couple is Jessica (of the movie title), who just got out of a mental facility. Her and her beau are getting a fresh start in a country home.
Even the poster for Let’s Scare Jessica to Death is bad.
When the trio arrive at the house, they stumble upon a young female squatter. Oddly, they let the girl stay.
At the same time, Jessica starts hearing voices around the house and out in the lake. Voices pushing her to do things.
It’s a film that rides the line between insanity and the supernatural. Unfortunately, the characters are simply not believable or relatable enough to carry the plot.
As you can tell from my barrage of questions above, there were a lot of issues that went unanswered in the film. Perhaps it was a film made for the 70s that does not hold up to today’s standards of suspense and fear.
I would only recommend this movie to people who like supernatural films and also happen to like movies from the 1970s. That person is not me.
I got a copy of the movie from Netflix via disc. Here’s the trailer:
My take: This story was a bit too slow for my liking, but it was one of the more interesting Countess Bathory stories I have seen.
Rating: 2 out of 4 stars
Daughters of Darkness (not to be confused with Daughter of Darkness) is a slow-moving horror film from the 1970s with a distinctly European feeling to it. I get the impression while watching it that I am missing something or that I may have liked it better if I was living in Italy in 1971.
The movie follows two young newlyweds on their honeymoon. They stop at a coastal town , where they meet a strange older woman and her young female companion. This woman claims to be the descendant of the infamous Countess Bathory, who murdered hundreds of girls in Hungary from 1585-1610 (according to Wikipedia at least).
Countess Elizabeth Bathory in Daughters of Darkness. Lookin’ good after so many years.
Is she the descendant? Or is show the real deal? You will have to watch the movie to find out.
And I do recommend watching it, particularly if you find stories about Elizabeth Bathory interesting. I myself had a bit of an obsession with her story in high school. Hers was the first story I learned that seemed like a real-life basis for vampirism. She was also a famously sadistic serial killer. Little goth 16-year-old me found this fascinating.
I got a copy of the movie via Netflix disc. Here is the trailer on YouTube:
My take: The film has multiple stories, all taking place in the same house. It’s good for those of us with little patience or who tire of a story quickly.
Rating: 3 out of 4 stars
Some horror does not lend itself to a whole film. Stretching the story out can ruin a tight, short horror movie. Case in point: Twilight Zone episodes. I would not want many of them to be longer, and they could not be any scarier.
For these reason, I have a soft spot in my heart for movies like the House That Dripped Blood. There is enough change that I don’t get bored, and I get my fill of succinct scares.
This is a truly excellent poster for the film.
There are four stories in the House That Dripped Blood. They include:
A writer who begins to believe the strangler in his book is real
A retiree (played by Peter Cushing) who becomes obsessed with a waxwork in town
A father (played by Christopher Lee) who is trying to keep control over his young daughter
A horror movie actor who finds himself turning into one of his characters
I enjoyed each one, and I would happily recommend the movie to people who like British horror, Christopher Lee/Peter Cushing movies, and supernatural horror.
I got the movie via a disc from Netflix. Here is the trailer on YouTube: