Horror Movie Maven

Lover of all things that slash, gash, bleed, and otherwise terrify.

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The House That Dripped Blood (1971)

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.

the house that dripped blood

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:

Box of Dread for the Win (February 2015)

I decided to give Box of Dread a shot for a few months. The first box I got in January was lackluster, filled with promotional items for a movie I will likely never see. This month’s box for February 2015 was spectacular, however.

I got a signed photo of Derek Mears, who played Jason Voorhees in the Friday the 13th reboot:

Derek Mears Signed Photo

Pretty sweet addition to my growing collection.

I also got a Friday the 13th shot glass:

Friday the 13th shot glass

Now I need to develop a drinking game…

So, Box of Dread has temporarily won me over. Hopefully they have something equally good next month.

The Brotherhood of Satan (1971)

My take: If you like satanic cult movies, you might like this one from the period where those types of movies were at their height.

Rating: 2 out of 4 stars

In my last post on the Dunwich Horror, I commented on my old belief that all horror films from the 1970s were about satanic cults. Well, here’s another one that reinforces my old stereotype about horror from that era.

The Brotherhood of Satan is about a family who become stranded in a terrified town. People throughout the town have become victims of gruesome and inexplicable deaths. No one in town can determine the cause or the killer, and children keep disappearing from these scenes of violent death.

brotherhood of satan

Those pesky satan worshippers are up to something.

As you can guess from the title of the movie and from the start of my review, there is a satanic cult behind these deaths. If satanic cults scare you, then you might enjoy this film. It’s got some gory death scenes, creepy children, and some decent suspense. However, I don’t find satanic cults to be particularly scary subjects for horror. As a result, I would only recommend this movie as a deep cut for fans of horror.

I rented the movie from Amazon. Here is the trailer on YouTube:

The Dunwich Horror (1970)

My take: This movie is only slightly entertaining if you like H.P. Lovecraft stories and the Evil Dead franchise. Even then, it is just too cheesy.

Rating: 1 out of 4 stars

When I was growing up, I avoided horror films from the 1970s as a general rule. I can even see myself, as I was back then: dressed in all black with dyed hair, black fingernails, and a perpetual sneer at all things popular. I distinctly recall saying, “All horror from the 70s is about satanic cults, and they are utterly boring.”

I was such a little snot. This movie reinforces that old belief of mine, however.

It’s about the last living member of an ancient cult, Wilber Whateley. He is determined to finish what his forefathers started by summoning an ancient race of beings from another dimension to take control of the world (and kill everyone).

dunwich horror

Dean Stockwell plays Wilber Whateley in the Dunwich Horror.

Only H.P. Lovecraft could write a plot like this. And the film is chock full of classic Lovecraft. Unfortunately, it is also full of downright silly psychedelic dream sequences and extended shots of gyrating hips on alters.

My sixteen-year-old self was rolling her eyes throughout the film and demanding to know why we were wasting our time with such drivel. Even though I am well out of my angsty teenage years, I had a hard time disagreeing.

The only thing in this film that held my interest were the random overlapping phrases and words from the Evil Dead franchise. There’s a necronomicon from which you can summon the dead. At one point someone says something about an “army of darkness.” It makes me wonder how heavy an influence this film had on a young Sam Raimi or if he is simply a fan of Lovecraft.

It still wasn’t enough to overcome the inherent cheesy datedness of this film. As a result, I would say this is one you can skip. If you absolutely must watch it, it’s available on Netflix’s streaming service. Here’s the trailer:

The House That Screamed (1969)

My take: It’s got a storyline I was not able to predict. As a result, it’s a solid Spanish horror film.

Rating: 2 out of 4 stars

Called La Residencia in Spain, The House That Screamed is a suspense-driven horror film that I was unable to predict. I’ve noticed this with many foreign horror films. The typical tropes and expectations go out the window. Without the same cultural norms and history, you don’t know where the story will go next. This is how I felt while watching this movie.

The basic plot involves a boarding school for girls. There is a stern headmistress and her lurking son. There’s a sadistic girl who oversees (and punishes) other girls. We follow the new student, Thérèse as she orients herself to these new surroundings. And girls keep running away for some reason…

house that screamed

The lobby card for The House That Screamed.

To tell you more could ruin the fun. While it has a unique plot, I don’t know if I would recommend this film to just anyone. Not only is it difficult to get ahold of, it is also not a stand-out horror film that needs to be watched. As a result, I would recommend this movie to only die-hard fans of horror, including Spanish horror and period pieces.

I got a copy of the movie by ordering a DVD from Amazon. Here is the trailer in Spanish from YouTube:

Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969)

My take: This continuation of Hammer Film’s Frankenstein is well worth watching. It elevates Frankenstein into the ultimate villain.

Rating: 3 out of 4 stars

This was the fifth Frankenstein film from Hammer Films, but you wouldn’t know it by watching. I was surprised to learn that I had missed three films in between. I say this to note the fact that you don’t need to have seen the previous films to feel right at home watching Frankenstein Must be Destroyed.

Frankenstein Must be Destroyed.

Frankenstein and his blackmailed assistant getting to work in Frankenstein Must be Destroyed.

The film jumps right in with Baron Frankenstein, played still by Peter Cushing, up to his old antics. He is determined to reanimate his hodgepodge creations and now needs the help of a fellow scientist to learn the tricks for transplanting a brain.

The problem? That scientist happens to be locked up in an asylum and is no longer able to speak. Frankenstein is determined to get at the information in this poor man’s addled mind, and he will do anything to learn his secrets.

I found this film to be a fun and interesting story from beginning to end. You can’t help but get wrapped up in the story, and you may even find yourself yelling the title of the film at the screen by the end. It’s a fitting title.

I would recommend this movie to fans of Hammer Horror, Frankenstein stories and class horror. I got the movie through Netflix’s DVD service. Here is the trailer on YouTube to whet your whistle:

Cannot find: el libro do piedra (1968)

Mexican horror films are impossible to find in English. El libro de piedra is no exception. While I am able to find movies like this on YouTube, the auto-translate for captions is terrible. If you know of a place where I can get copies of classic Mexican horror films with English subtitles, please let me know by leaving a comment.

Witchfinder General (1968)

My take: This movie is a product of it’s time and is not very frightening today.

Rating: 1 out of 4 stars

Witchfinder General was released at the same time as Night of the Living Dead and Rosemary’s Baby. But it lacks the timeless qualities of those films.

It is a period piece set in the 1600s. One thing I have come to learn about historical fiction: they often say more about the time they were created than the time they are set. This film is no different.

witchfinder general

Vincent Price as the Witchfinder General

Witchfinder General tells the story of the victims of witch hunting in England at the time of Cromwell. But the film focuses heavily on the senseless violence, terrifying raping of women, and the sadism of the witch hunter, played in this film by Vincent Price. These themes are prevalent in horror throughout the early 1960s and70s.

Straw Dogs is one example from 1971, where a couple is brutally terrorized by a group of locals. Last House on the Left from 1972 is another exploitation horror film that covers similar ground.

As a result, I imagine that this story of witch hunting and torture would have terrified me in 1968. But today, it simply falls flat and fails to scare me any more than an episode of Law & Order SVU.

If you like period horror films, you might like this one. Otherwise, you can probably just skip it.

I got the movie from Netflix. Here is the trailer:

Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

My take: Roman Polanski’s talent as a director shines through in this tale of a married pregnant woman who fears that her baby will be stolen by witches..

Rating: 4 out of 4 stars

Every time I watch Rosemary’s Baby, I notice something new. On this last viewing, I noticed that the real estate agent blocks Guy Woodhouse at the entrance to every room while showing the apartment at the start of the film. It forces Guy to squeeze past the agent while his wife, Rosemary Woodhouse, breezes into rooms unencumbered. Is this because Guy’s opinion is unimportant? Was this a sign of the times or did the agent want to sell her on the property for a reason?

This type of subtle detail sets Rosemary’s Baby apart from other films from the era, and it showcases the keen eye of the director Roman Polanski.

rosemary's baby

Rosemary fleeing in fear. Of what? Watch it to find out.

When watching this movie, you have to concentrate and pay attention to the details. I made the mistake once of showing this movie at a horror movie marathon/party with some friends. It does not lend itself well to the side conversations and giggling of a group of marathon movie watchers. Instead, I recommend dimming the lights, grabbing a drink and some popcorn, and settling in alone to watch this movie from beginning to end.

This movie fits right in with the satan-worshipping horror films of the era. But I would also recommend this movie to anyone who likes supernatural horror films and scary movies without a lot of gore.

There was a recent rerelease of the movie on bluray and a mini-series remake of the film for television. Here is the trailer on YouTube:

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

My take: This movie is essential to the horror cannon and was the genesis of countless zombie films.

Rating: 4 out of 4 stars

Produced for a mere $114,000 in 1967, Night of the Living Dead continues to be one of the greatest zombie films ever created. It was George A. Romero’s first feature-length film, and it still influences zombie stories and films today.

night of the living dead poster

Poster for Night of the Living Dead

What makes it so terrific?

  • There are no weird rituals: Unlike the zombie films that came before it like White Zombie or the Plague of the Zombies, Night of the Living Dead cut out all the Haitian mythology and rituals. It cuts right to the core of what makes a good horror film: the stories of the individuals who are facing the horror.
  • It’s in black and white: Back when I lived in New York, I used to buy cheap DVD copies of new theatrical releases on the street. One odd thing I discovered: horror movies are scarier when the picture is shoddy and you can’t quite see everything. Likewise, the use of black and white in Night of the Living Dead stands out in its time, when color was taking over the motion picture industry. It gives it an eerie quality that color may have ruined.
  • There is no pointless romance: So many horror movies, especially during this era, focus on some romantic interest. This film does away with all of that so you are forced to focus solely on the terror of a zombie attack.
  • It’s got the first African-American lead actor in a horror film: George Romero did not plan to hire a black lead actor. According to his preface to The Complete Night of the Living Dead Filmbook, Romero says, “We cast a black man not because he was black, but because we liked Duane’s audition better than others we had seen.” when you watch Duane Jones’ performance, you can see why.

As a result of these elements (and others that would spoil the film for those who haven’t seen it), I would make this required watching for anyone who professes a love of horror films or zombie stories.

It’s available on DVD, through Hulu or on Amazon’s Instant Watch. Here’s the trailer on YouTube:

 

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