October Music Series: Opeth – The Twilight is My Robe


If there’s one thing that will draw me back out of obscurity no matter how much work I’m bogged down with, it’s Horror season here on Shattered Lens. As a de facto film blog’s one author who pretty much never watches movies, I like to do my part by digging out a mix of tunes appropriate for the season.

This is always the time of year when I stop focusing on new releases and revisit a lot of my metal and folk favorites of old. From b-side Satanic cheese to authentic pagan anthems to the truly deranged, all the music I love most seems to find a home when that oppressive summer sun gives way to pleasant temperatures and dimming lights. It’s my favorite time of year, and my music collection rises to the occasion.

Opeth is pretty common fair in the textbooks of heavy metal these days, but Mikael Akerfeldt’s finest works came before the fame, in my opinion. Their 1995 debut, Orchid, ranks highest for me. While Akerfeldt’s trademark progressive rock experimentation was present from the get-go, those early albums had a sort of hollow, natural tone to them that lent the band a distinctly folk vibe. Orchid (and Morningrise) seem to drift through the crisp, foggy air surrounding a lake on the edge of a forest, the sun just beginning to rise over the horizon. I don’t wake up early when I can help it, but if a morning commute is necessary, Opeth always sees a spike in my play count. The vision that songs like “The Twilight is My Robe” paint is stunningly vivid, and surprisingly peaceful in contrast to Akerfeldt’s harsh vocals.

Halloween Havoc!: John Carradine in THE UNEARTHLY (Republic 1957)


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John Carradine hams it up as mad scientist Dr. Charles Conway in THE UNEARTHLY. The actor gave fine performances in first rate productions like THE PRISONER OF SHARK ISLAND and THE GRAPES OF WRATH, but by the 1940s,he took anything offered him, mostly B- horror and Western films. One thing you can say about Carradine: he was never boring. The movies might have sucked, but ol’ John put his melodramatic stamp on every one of them.

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Lovely Grace Thomas is brought to Dr. Conway’s sanitarium by her psychiatrist, Dr. Wright. But there’s something fishy going on here! Wright has been bringing patients to Conway so he can conduct his bizarre “glandular experiments”. Conway’s latest victim, Harry Jedloe, has become a zombie-like horror in a catatonic state. The good doctor’s giant servant, Lobo, is another unfortunate result of Conway’s experiments. Lobo is played by Swedish wrestler turned horror icon Tor Johnson. Tor was a 300 lb. bald hulk…

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Horror On TV: Twilight Zone 1.34 “The After Hours”


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In this episode of The Twilight Zone, Marsha White (played by Anne Francis) discovers some strange things happening in a department store. If you’re like me and you find mannequins to be super creepy, this episode is for you!

This episode originally aired on June 10th, 1960.

The Daily Horror Grindhouse: Mama Dracula (dir by Boris Szulzinger)


mamadraculaThis 1980 Belgian film is quite possibly the worst film that I’ve ever seen.

That’s something that I have to be careful about saying because there’s always a chance someone is going to say, “Oh my God!  If it’s really that bad, it must be a lot of fun to watch!  I have to track this movie down!”

Well, it’s not that hard to track down Mama Dracula.  It’s been included in countless Mill Creek box sets.  It’s in the public domain so you can probably find it on YouTube.  But seriously, when I say this movie is bad, I don’t mean that it’s so bad that it’s good.  This is not an Ed Wood film.  It’s not even a Herschell Gordon Lewis.  Instead, it’s just a really bad and tedious movie.  How bad is it?  It’s so bad that I originally suspected that maybe Bret Ratner had something to do with it.  That’s how bad it is.

Anyway, I guess I should tell you what the film is about so that way, I can at least say that I’ve reviewed this damn thing.  Professor Van Bloed (Jimmy Schuman) gets an invitation to attend a special conference on blood research.  The conference is being held in a small village in Transylvania and it’s being hosted by Countess Dracula.  And yes, she actually does sign the invitation “Countess Dracula” and no, Professor Van Bloed finds nothing strange about it.

Anyway, it turns out that Countess Dracula is played by Oscar-winner Louise Fletcher.  And yes, she’s a vampire.  But also, she’s the infamous Countess Bathory, who remains young by bathing in the blood of virgins.  But if she’s a vampire, wouldn’t she remain young regardless?  (And, add to that, Louise Fletcher doesn’t look particularly young in this film so you have to wonder how old she was when she first started bathing in blood.)  Countess Dracula also has twin sons and they are vampires with fangs and all that.  Apparently, they don’t have to bathe in blood to stay young.

Anyway (and you end up saying anyway a lot when you watch a film like Mama Dracula), the Dracula Twins run a clothing store called Vamp and, whenever a virgin steps into the changing room, she is promptly kidnapped and whisked away to the castle.  But everyone in the village seems to know what the twins are doing so you have to wonder why they don’t just stop going into the store.

Anyway, it turns out that there’s not many virgins left in the world and the villagers are encouraging their daughters to get laid as soon as possible.  So, Countess Dracula is willing to set Prof. Van Bloed with a special laboratory so that he can … do something.

ANYWAY, after about an hour, the film realizes that it’s going to have to end at some point so Prof. Van Bloed ends up falling in love with Nancy Hawaii (Maria Schneider), who I guess is supposed to be a virgin, though the film never seems to be quite sure…

But … yeah, this was an amazingly bad film.  Bleh on you, 1980 filmmakers!

Bleh.  On.  You.

Horror Comic Pick Of The Month : “Providence” #5


Trash Film Guru

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Let’s take a quick breather from our Netflix horror movie rundown to talk horror comics for just a minute (or, more accurately, several minutes), shall we? After all, man (and woman) cannot live on a diet of celluloid scares alone — even in October — and once in awhile you may just wish to get your chills and thrills via a four-color, printed delivery method. If so, I humbly suggest that there’s no better way for you to go as we approach Halloween 2015 than by plunking down five of your heard-earned dollars for the fifth issue of Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows’ superb Lovecraftian travelogue, Providence.

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We’ve talked Providence around these parts before, of course — a couple of times, in fact (in fact, I halfway feel like I ought to go back and review issues two and three just to say I’ve covered ’em all) — but…

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Lisa’s Oscar Predictions for October!


It’s that time of the month again!

No, not that time!  I mean that it’s time for me to, once again, attempt to guess which films and performers will receive Oscar nominations next January!

This year’s Oscar race is shaping up to be an interesting one.  Even though some favorites have finally started to emerge, there doesn’t yet seem to be any true consensus choices.  For instance, last year, from the moment the film premiered at Sundance, we all knew that J.K. Simmons was going to win an Oscar for Whiplash.  There was never any doubt.  This year, however, has yet to see any such certainty.

Up until a few days ago, I thought a best picture nomination for Carol was about as close to a sure thing as we could hope for.  But now, word is coming in that American audiences are not reacting quite as enthusiastically to the film as the audiences at Cannes.  Much like last year’s Foxcatcher, it’s starting to sound as if Carol might be a film that people respect more than they like.

Meanwhile, Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies has been getting positive but not exactly rapturous reviews, which is pretty much what I was expecting.  Spotlight seems to be becoming more and more of a certainty.  A lot of self-appointed award divas are going crazy over Cate Blanchett in Truth, a film that looks incredibly tedious.  Myself, I’m hoping that Suffragette turns out to be great and gets all sorts of nominations.  Unfortunately, this means that I’m now in the rare position of actually agreeing with Sasha “I am the game” Stone of AwardsDaily.

And who would have thought that The Room would suddenly emerge as an Oscar front runner!? Way to go, Tommy Wiseau!  Oh, wait.  It’s a different Room?

Well, never mind then.

Anyway, below you can find my predictions for October and no, I’m still not hopping on the Revenant bangwagon, I don’t care how great the damn trailer is!  (Actually, the trailer is really good…but I made my choices for this month and I’ll live with them.)

Be sure to check out my previous predictions for January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, and September.  (Daaaaaaaaaaamn…that’s a lot of predictions!)

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Best Picture

Brooklyn

The Danish Girl

Joy

Room

Sicario

Son of Saul

Spotlight

Steve Jobs

Straight Outta Compton

Suffragette

Best Director

Danny Boyle for Steve Jobs

Tom McCarthy for Spotlight

Laszlo Nemes for Son of Saul

David O. Russell for Joy

Denis Villenueve for Sicario

Best Actor

Michael Caine in Youth

Bradley Cooper in Burnt

Johnny Depp in Black Mass

Michael Fassbender in Steve Jobs

Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl

Best Actress

Cate Blanchett in Carol (and not Truth, so fug off with that commie crap!)

Brie Larson in Room

Jennifer Lawrence in Joy

Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn

Lily Tomlin in Grandma

Best Supporting Actor

Paul Dano in Love and Mercy

Benicio Del Toro in Sicario

Idris Elba in Beasts of No Nation

Kurt Russell in The Hateful Eight

Mark Rylance in Bridge of Spies

Best Supporting Actress

Joan Allen in Room

Jennifer Jason Leigh in The Hateful Eight

Rooney Mara in Carol (though I’m sure Noomi Rapace would have been even better in the role)

Alicia Vikander in The Danish Girl

Kate Winslet in Steve Jobs

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Horror Film Review: The Devonsville Terror (dir by Ulli Lommel)


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Who is the world’s worst director?

That’s a question that can really lead to lot of conflict.  First off, it’s a deceptively simple question.  The more you think about it, the more you realize how fragile concepts like good and bad truly are.  Some of the greatest films ever made were critical flops.  Some of the films that have been embraced by contemporary critics will definitely be less acclaimed by future viewers.  There’s a lot to take into consideration when it comes to determining whether or not a filmmaker is good, mediocre, or one of the worst of all time.  It’s something that requires a lot of careful thought and consideration and research.

Of course, if you don’t have time for all that, you can just say that the world’s worst director is Ulli Lommel and save yourself the trouble.

This German director has been making movies for longer than I’ve been alive.  He got his start in the early 70s, as an actor who frequently collaborated with the great German filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder.  With Fassbinder as his producer, Lommel made a few surrealistic (and, it should be stated, critically acclaimed) films in Germany and then, in 1977, he moved to the U.S, and became friends with Andy Warhol.  He also married Suzanna Love, an actress who was the heiress to the Standard Oil Fortune and who starred in a handful of Lommel’s early films.

Today, Lommel’s reputation for being the world’s worst director is largely the result of an endless series of low-budget, straight-to-DVD films that he’s made about various real-life serial killers.  I’ve seen quite a few of these movies (and I reviewed Lommel’s Curse of the Zodiac three years ago) and they are truly bad.  Normally, I can find something to love about almost every movie that I watch but Lommel’s serial killer films are beyond terrible.  They’re so bad that they are almost impossible to review.  I mean, how many different ways can you find to say that a movie sucks so much that it will make you question whether Eadweard Muybride should ever have filmed Sallie Gardner at a Gallop in the first place?

But here’s the thing with Ulli Lommel and this what makes it especially so frustrating to see him currently doing a thousand variations on Curse of the Zodiac.  His first two horror films — both of which were filmed in the early 80s and starred Love — are not that bad.  Don’t misunderstand me.  They’re not particularly good but they still feature enough hints of genuine talent and inspiration that you have to wonder just what the Hell happened.

The first (and best known) of Lommel’s horror films was 1980’s The Boogeyman, an incredibly stupid film that still featured some good atmosphere and a few memorable deaths.  Lommel followed The Boogeyman with 1983’s The Devonsville Terror.

The Devonsville Terror may not have the same cult status as The Boogeyman but it’s actually a far more interesting film.  The film opens in the 17th Century.  In the Massachusetts town of Devonsville, three women are executed for being witches.  After the final witch is burned, her spirit appears in the sky and announces that the town is now cursed.

We then jump forward 300 years.  Dr. Warley is researching the Devonsville curse.  By researching, I mean that he continually invites citizens in Devonsville into his office and hypnotizes them, which leads to them having flashbacks to 1683 and those of us in the audience having to continually rewatch the first few minutes of the movie.  The spirit of the witch curses Dr. Warley and soon, he’s having to pull maggots out of his arm.  It doesn’t add up too much but Dr. Warley is played by Donald Pleasence so he’s at least entertaining.

Meanwhile, a new school teacher, Jenny (played by Suzanna Love), has moved into town and she’s teaching the kids to think for themselves and even goes as far as to suggest that God might be a woman!  The town leaders are shocked and more than a few of them start to suspect that she might be a reincarnated witch…

At the same time, a loser named Walter (Paull Wilson) has just murdered his wife and soon finds himself having nightmares where Jenny allows him to drown in a swamp.  “The legend’s true!” Walter shouts in his dream, “You are a witch!”

On top of that, two other liberated women have recently moved into town, which leads to a panic as the townfathers realize that their town — best known for executing three witches — is now home to three feminists!

Of course, it all leads to an attempt to duplicate the executions of 1683.  Heads explode.  Faces melt.  Don’t mess with the witches, y’all.  That’s all I’m saying.

The Devonsville Terror is a huge mess but, much like The Boogeyman, the film has a lot of atmosphere and features a good performance from Suzanna Love.  (As well, just as The Boogeyman features John Carradine not doing much of anything, Devonsville Terror features Donald Pleasence not doing much of anything.)  But the main thing I liked about The Devonsville Terror was its feminist subtext, which is not something you would typically expect to find in a horror film from the early 80s.

You have to ask yourself — how did the director of The Devonsville Terror ends up becoming the guy who directed Curse of the Zodiac and Mondo Americana?  One huge clue is probably found in the fact that Suzanna Love is nowhere to be found in any of Lommel’s later films.  According to the imdb, Lommel and Love divorced in 1987.

With Suzanna Love, Ulli Lommel was an occasionally interesting, if uneven, filmmaker.

Without her, he’s just the guy who directed Curse of the Zodiac.