Horror On TV: Baywatch Nights 2.16 “Zargtha”

Tonight on Baywatch Nights

A mythical wolf man from Eastern Europe is murdering runaways in Los Angeles.  Can David Hasselhoff and Angie Harmon save the day?

Watch to find out!

And remember … “Don’t go out at night, or the zargtha will get you!”

(Zargtha originally aired on April 5th, 1997)

The TSL’s Daily Horror Grindhouse: Deathdream (dir by Bob Clark)


The 1974 film Deathdream opens with American soldier Andy Brooks (played by Richard Backus) on patrol in Vietnam. When he’s suddenly shot by an unseen sniper, he hears his mother’s voice calling out to him, telling him that he promised to come home. With the voice filling his head, Andy closes his eyes.

Sometime later, back in America, Andy’s family has been informed that Andy was killed in action. His father (John Marley, who you might recognize as the man who played Jack Woltz in The Godfather) and his younger sister (Anya Ormsby) have managed to accept the fact that Andy is dead but his mother (Lynn Carlin) remains in denial. Oddly enough, his mother is apparently proven to be correct in her doubts when Andy suddenly shows up at the front door.

The family (and, eventually, the entire community) welcomes Andy home but it quickly becomes apparent that Andy has returned as a far different person than when he left. Now pasty and emotionless, Andy spends most of his day sitting around listlessly. It’s only at night that Andy seems to have any energy and he spends those hours wandering around town and hanging out in the local cemetery.

It quickly becomes apparent to his father that Andy is no longer quite human. However, his devoted mother continues to insist that nothing is wrong with Andy and, once it becomes apparent just what exactly Andy is doing in order to survive, she becomes just as fanatical about protecting him as his father is about destroying him.

Not surprisingly, Deathdream is more than just a zombie film.  When Andy suddenly shows up on his family’s doorstep, he’s more than just a decaying monster.  He’s also a metaphor for the unease that viewers in the 70s would have felt about the state of American society.  (Of course, in many ways, contemporary viewers share that same unease.)  Andy goes off to war and it literally robs him of his humanity.  I would also argue that, in its way, Deathdream serves as a satire of the type of complacent society that sends young people off to fight for their lives and then expects them to come back exactly the same as they were before they left.  No matter how strange Andy’s behavior becomes, the people around him are willing to either ignore it or make excuses for it.  Andy’s mother emerges as a stand-in for everyone who willfully refuses to acknowledge the human consequences of war.

Deathdream is one of those wonderful horror films that deserves to be better known than it is. Deathdream was an early credit for the legendary effects artist Tom Savini and, while the film itself is not especially gory, Savini’s work can definitely be seen in the scenes where Backus’s body slowly decays. Screenwriter Alan Ormsby and director Bob Clark (who later went on to direct the far different A Christmas Story) perfectly creates and maintains a deceptively low-key atmosphere of perpetual unease while the cast elevates the entire film. Backus makes for an all-too plausible ghoul and Marley is great as a man struggling to understand what his son has become. The film is totally stolen, however, by Lynn Carlin who is both poignant and frightening as Andy’s devoted mother.

If you haven’t discovered Deathdream yet, this Halloween is the perfect season to do so.

Horror Film Review: The Mummy’s Shroud (dir by John Gilling)


In this underrated horror film from the legendary Hammer Studios, a British archaeological expedition travels to Egypt and makes the mistake of entering a mummy’s tomb.  As often happens, it turns out that the tomb is cursed and everyone who sets foot inside of it is destined to be tracked down and murdered by a mummy!

That’s pretty bad news for some of members of the expedition.  Among those who are now on the Mummy’s list, there’s Sir Basil Waldron (Andre Morrell) who, in the film’s most effective moment, finds himself talking to a toothless fortune teller who cackles as she tells him, “You are going to die!”  (Needless to say, a 7 foot tall Mummy is soon standing behind him).  And then there’s Claire (Maggie Kimberly), the linguist who translated the curse.  And there’s the expedition’s hilariously pompous financial backer, Stanley Preston (John Phillips), along with Stanley’s son, Paul (David Buck).  And finally, there’s poor Mr. Longbarrow (Michael Ripper), Stanley’s press agent.  If you’ve seen any other Hammer films from the late 60s, you’ll recognize the majority of the cast and you will probably be able to guess everyone’s fate from the minute they first appear on screen.

That, of course, is part of the fun!

First released in 1967 and often dismissed as being one of the lesser horror films to come out of Hammer Studios, The Mummy’s Shroud is actually a pretty effective film.  I watched it late last night, with lights out and the sound of rain pounding on the windows outside and I have to admit that, even if nothing about the film surprised me, it still had enough eerie moments that I found myself watching for sudden shadows and the sound of heavily wrapped feet.

And why not?  Mummy’s are scary!  Even if you don’t know all of the grotesque details that go into the mummification process, Mummy’s just look frightening.  It’s the bandages, to be honest.  The bandages keep you from knowing exactly who is doing the stalking but, at the same time, you know that if those bandages were unwrapped, you wouldn’t want to see what’s hiding underneath them.  By their very existence, Mummies are proof of the finality of death.

And The Mummy in The Mummy’s Shroud is frightening!  He towers over all of the “human” actors in the film and when he attacks, he does it with a sudden and savage cruelty.  Perhaps the death that disturbed me the most was the death of poor Mr. Longbarrow, who is literally lifted up off of his feet and tossed out of a window.  He crashes to the street below and, briefly, the screen is awash with Hammer’s trademark red blood.  It’s a disturbing scene, both because Longbarrow is one of the few likable characters in the film and also because the Mummy could have just as easily and much more efficiently strangled him.  Instead, the Mummy had to be mean about it.

Seriously, there’s nothing more frightening than a sadistic mummy.

The Mummy’s Shroud may not be one of Hammer’s best films but still, it’s an efficient little horror film and one that, I think, many other horror critics have been a bit too quick to dismiss.

Halloween Havoc!: Christopher Lee in DRACULA- PRINCE OF DARKNESS (Hammer/Warner Brothers. 1966)

cracked rear viewer


Christopher Lee returns to the role of the undead Count in this direct sequel to Horror of Dracula. The movie even begins with that film’s climactic battle between Dracula and his arch-nemesis Professor Van Helsing (Peter Cushing, who also played Hammer’s Dr. Frankenstein). DRACULA- PRINCE OF DARKNESS takes place ten years later, and while not as good as the original, it does have some scary moments.


Four English tourists are traveling through the Carpathian Mountains, heading to Carlsbad. Father Sandor (Andrew Keir) warns then to steer clear of “the castle”. Their coach driver refuses to take them any further when darkness begins to fall, leaving them stranded. A riderless horse and carriage appears out of nowhere, and they commandeer it to travel the rest of the way. But the horses instead take them straight to the forbidden castle. The door has been left open, and they find a table…

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Halloween Film Review: R.L. Stine’s Mostly Ghostly: Who Let The Ghosts Out? (2008, dir. Rich Correll)


Wow, this one is much better than the sequel. Except for one issue that I will bring up when I get to it.


That’s Max Doyle (Sterling Beaumon) who is really into magic. And that’s Phears (Brian Stepanek) behind him who is considerably more of an actually scary character than he is in the sequel. In the sequel he is an absolute joke. Here he’s just like Nukie, but that’s getting ahead of myself to the problem with this movie. Max has moved into a house that once held a family that Phears murdered (although in the sequel we find out he only made them ghosts, but didn’t actually kill them). He pops out of the mailbox and goes into Max’s room. Max is practicing his magic when he says some words that catch Phears’ ears. We will find out that those words are part of a spell that can be used to send Phears away and not just some fancy magic sounding words as Max believes. Then we hear voices whispering from the vents. Phears refer to them as his children, and leaves the room.


After we get introduced to Max’s family, the two other important parts of the movie are shown to us. First, are the two kids above. They are ghosts of two kids that lived at the house, but were killed by Phears along with their family. We occasionally see the ghost of her mother, but she’s barely in the film. The second thing is where those voices are coming from. There’s an invisible hole in a wall in the basement. On the other side is where Phears comes from and where he has a bunch of spirits he is waiting to unleash on the world. Phears needs to find the ghost kids because there is a spell and a ring that could ruin his plans, which they may have knowledge of.

That’s the setup. The kid just wants to just do his magic show at school and his greatest dream is to have Ali Lohan’s character be his assistant. But the two ghost kids, the “tunnel” in his basement, and Phears are having none of that. Hell, Phears literally splits Max’s dog Buster in half, emerges from the dog’s body, then shows that he can strip the skin off of Max and make it hurt next time. The dog then does snap back together though. So, this establishes that Phears can travel inside animals. In fact, he refers to himself as “the animal traveler”. Now is where the real problem in the film comes out.


That’s not the little girl ghost. That’s Phears having taken on her form. He takes on her form, the little boy ghost, and Max in quick succession in front of his underlings before revealing his plan to travel amongst them. Then he turns into a humanized form of himself. By that I mean he turns into the actor without all his makeup on.


That’s the same actor who played Arwin from The Suite Life. Makes sense since the Mom is played by Kim Rhodes who was the Mom on The Suite Life. The problem is that they showed that he can take on the form of other people and not just a humanized form of himself. Once you know he can do that, then just like when you find out Nukie can turn into light and fly anywhere, you wonder why the hell he doesn’t use this incredibly useful ability. I mean, go and replace the Mom. She’s the character that Max trusts the most and the film even provides a scene where he could have done it. Or replace Ali Lohan’s character to stick close to Max. This movie even sets up a scene where knowing that he can shapeshift, we expect him to do something with that ability which makes sense, but he doesn’t.


You see that? That’s a scene near the end of the movie where Phears pops out of a mouse on a teacher while she is alone in a classroom. Makes sense to get her alone by disguising himself as a mouse. Then he freezes her. Makes sense so that she can’t tell anyone what she just saw. Then he takes on her form so he can easily move about the school without anyone noticing someone who doesn’t belong. Nope, he turns into the humanized form of himself. What? Why do all that setup and then not have him do that? It’s really the only material problem with this film.


The rest of the film is a mixture of comedy and scares as it builds to Max finally getting the full spell and ring to send Phears away…till the sequel.

The movie ends with a cockroach laughing sinisterly, then the movie Joe’s Apartment (1996) begins.


If you can get past Phears not using that incredibly useful ability for anything useful, then this is perfectly fine. It’s much better than the sequel.

Horror on The Lens: The Embalmer (dir by Dino Tavella)

For today’s horror on the lens, we present, for your viewing pleasure, a 1965 Italian thriller called The Embalmer.  It’s also known as the Monster of Venice.

This film tells the story of a madman who lives in the catacombs in Venice, where he wanders around in a skull mask and embalms dead bodies.  Why does he embalm dead bodies?  Because he loves eternal beauty, of course!

Occasionally, he comes up to the surface and he wanders around Venice while wearing scuba gear.  Nobody finds that to be strange but then again, that’s Venice for you.

(As I’m sure I’ve mentioned a few times in the past, I spent the summer after high school in Italy.  I loved Venice!)

Anyway, as far as Venice-set thrillers are concerned, The Embalmer is no Don’t Look Now.  But it still has a few atmospheric scenes and the whole thing is filmed on location and in beautiful black-and-white.  It’s also fairly tame for an Italian horror film, so it might be good for those viewers who are looking for a thriller that doesn’t necessarily feature a lot of blood.