Horror on TV: Twilight Zone 5.28 “Caesar and Me”


TheTwilightZoneLogo


Tonight’s episode of The Twilight Zone might remind you of a previous episode entitled The Dummy. Once again, we have a story about a ventriloquist (Jackie Cooper) and a dummy who appears to have a mind of his own. (In fact, the same prop dummy was used in both episodes.) However, Caesar and Me is an even darker take on the conflict between puppet and puppeteer.


Seriously, don’t mess with Caesar.


This episode originally aired on April 10th, 1964.


Halloween Havoc!: THE WOLF MAN (Universal 1941)


cracked rear viewer

wolf1

We’re heading down the Halloween Havoc! homestretch and for the last week of October I’ll be dusting of my Universal Classic Horror tapes (yes I still have a VHS player…doesn’t everybody?) From watching them on late night TV to reading about them in “Famous Monsters of Filmland” and “Castle of Frankenstein” magazines, these are the films that got me started as a life-long lover of macabre movies. So let’s take a trip down Monster Memory Lane with one of my personal favorites, THE WOLF MAN.

wolf2

Prodigal son Larry Talbot returns to his Welsh home of Llanwelly after spending 18 years in America. Father Sir John Talbot is an astronomer, and through the telescope Larry spies beautiful village girl Gwen Conliffe. Fun loving Larry is captivated by her, so he heads to her father’s antique shop to work his charm on the lass. Larry flirts away,  and on impulse buys a cane with a…

View original post 572 more words

The TSL’s Daily Horror Grindhouse: Faceless (dir by Jess Franco)


FacelessPoster1988

Whenever it comes time to review a film like 1988’s Faceless, movie bloggers like me are faced with a very important question.  Which name should we use for this film’s prolific director?  The director was born Jesus Franco Manera and, for a very small handful of his 200+ film, he’s actually credited by his full name.  However, for the majority of his films, he dropped the Manera.  Sometimes, he is credited as Jesus Franco and then other times, the director’s credit reads Jesse Franco or just simply Jess Franco.

Myself, I usually prefer to go with “Jess Franco,” because it just seems to go with his “never give up” style of filmmaking.  At the same time, it seems rather appropriate that Franco is known by more than one name because he was a director with a many different personas, occasionally a serious artist, occasionally a subversive prankster, and sometimes a director-for-hire.  Franco was a lover of jazz and his films often had a similarly improvised feel.  Sometimes, the results were, to put it lightly, not very memorable.  But, for every Oasis of the Zombies, there was always a chance that Franco would give the world a film like Female Vampire.  The imdb credits Franco with directing 203 films before his death in 2013 but it’s generally agreed that he probably directed a lot more.  A lot of his films may not have worked but the ones that did are memorable enough to justify searching for them.

Faceless is Franco’s take on Eyes Without A Face, as well as being something of a descendant of his first film, The Awful Dr. Orloff.  All three of these films deal with a doctor trying to repair a loved one’s disfigured face.  In Faceless, the doctor is Dr. Flammad (Helmut Berger), a wealthy and decadent Paris-based plastic surgeon.  One night, while out with his sister Ingird (Christiane Jean) and his nurse and lover Nathalie (Brigitte Lahaie, the former pornographic actress who appeared in several of Jean Rollin’s best films, including the brilliant Night of the Hunted), Dr. Flammad is confronted by a former patient.  Flammad botched her operation so the patient tries to get back at him by tossing acid in his face.  However, Ingrid shoves Flammad out of the way and ends up getting splashed by the acid instead.

Now disfigured, Ingrid spends her time hidden away in Flammad’s clinic and wearing a mask.  Flammad and Nathalie start to kidnap models and actresses, searching for a perfect face.  Flammad’s plan is to perform a face transplant, giving Ingrid a new and beautiful face.

Needless to say, a face transplant is not a simple thing to do.  In order to get some advice, they go to the mysterious Dr. Orloff (Howard Vernon) and Orloff directs them to a Nazi war criminal named Dr. Moser (Anton Diffring).  Now, if you’re not familiar with Franco’s work, the scene with Dr. Orloff will probably seem like pointless filler.  However, if you are a Francophile, you will feel incredibly relieved to see Howard Vernon suddenly pop up.  When it comes Franco’s films, a Howard Vernon cameo is usually a good sign.

Flammad’s search for the perfect face is complicated by the fact that his assistant, the moronic Gordon (Gerard Zalcberg), keeps accidentally killing and otherwise damaging all of the prospects.  As the bodies continue to pile up, Nathalie even points out that there’s “too many dead bodies” in the clinic.

(Of course, Nathalie isn’t doing much to solve that problem.  When the film got to the moment where Nathalie plunged a syringe into one troublesome patient’s eye, I ended up watching the movie between my fingers.)

Eventually, Nathalie kidnaps a coke-addicted model named Barbara (Caroline Munro).  Flammad thinks that Barbara might finally be the perfect face that they’ve been looking for but there’s a problem.  (Actually, two problems if you count Gordon…)  Barbara’s father (Telly Savalas) is a wealthy industrialist and he wants his daughter back.  He hires an American private investigator, Sam Morgan (Chris Mitchum, looking a lot like his father Robert), to track her down.

Actually, it’s not that much of a problem.  It quickly turns out that Sam is kind of an idiot.  Plus, since he’s American, nobody in Paris wants to help him.  A Paris police inspector orders him to go home, yells at him for always chewing gum, and then adds, “You are not Bogart!”

And things only get stranger from there…

Faceless is one of Franco’s better films, a mix of over-the-top glamour (Faceless was filmed in Paris, after all) and grindhouse sleaze.  Though there is a definite storyline, the film still feels like an extended improvisation, with characters and plot points coming out of nowhere and then disappearing just as quickly.  If we’re going to be totally honest, the film is kind of a mess but it’s a glorious and stylish mess, one that is never less than watchable.

One of the great tragedies of American politics is that Chris Mitchum has twice been defeated when he ran for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives (though he did come close to winning in 2014).  Not only would it be great to have Robert Mitchum’s son as a member of Congress but it would be even better to know that our laws were being written, in part, by the star of Faceless.  Unfortunately, Chris is sitting out the 2016 election.  Hopefully, he’ll reconsider and file for at least one office.

Run, Chris, run!

Halloween Film Review: Return To Halloweentown (2006, dir. David Jackson)


IMG_0533

We’ve reached the end of the Halloweentown movies. I love how the trivia section for this movie on IMDb says that “Kimberly J. Brown has publicly stated her disappointment with the recasting of her role for unknown reasons even though Brown was fully available for the shoot.” Unknown reasons?

IMG_0553

Hmm…flip her around.

IMG_0564

Yeah, unknown reasons. Seriously, they parade Sara Paxton around at the beginning of this movie just to make sure you know they got a girl with tits, ass, and a slinky figure. I’m sure there were other reasons as well, but the Disney Channel does like to hire these kinds of girls. That’s not to say that I don’t like actresses such as Dove Cameron, Bella Thorne, or Debby Ryan, but they all share something in common aside from being entertaining. And let’s be fair to Sara Paxton, this movie wasn’t going to work anyways. Even if they had cast Brown in the role. Paxton isn’t a bad actress either. She’s just cast against type. When the three Sinister sisters show up to harass Paxton, Paxton looks like she should be with them. If they wanted to have Paxton in the movie, then they should have condensed the three Sinister sisters into one character who is sweet and kind, but ultimately evil, and cast Paxton in that part. She seems like she could have nailed that role. Let’s talk about the movie.

After we see some scary things such as a pumpkin, a gargoyle, and Sara Paxton, we see the most terrifying thing of all.

IMG_0544

And if I didn’t know that there is a scene later in the movie where Reynolds is physically in the same room with Paxton, then I’d say that she is in this movie the way Pierre Kirby is in Movie A within a Godfrey Ho film.

IMG_0560

Luckily, hot mom played by Judith Hoag returns who by the way played the original April O’Neal in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990). It’s funny that they replaced a girl like Hoag with Megan Fox, just like they replaced Kimberly J. Brown with Sara Paxton.

Joey Zimmerman also returns as the brother who only exists to be a smartass. But what about that younger sister that made such an impression on me that I don’t think I even mentioned her existence in my reviews of the other films? Yeah, they wrote her out of the movie. Now it’s off to Witch’s University in Halloweentown.

IMG_0608

At least the cab driver makes an appearance in this movie. But they can’t even get him right. His face doesn’t move properly. I don’t remember his face making that much bone on bone noise. And I certainly don’t remember his jokes being so lame. Oh, well. We now arrive at Hogwarts…I mean Witch’s University where we meet the main villain of the movie named Silas Sinister.

IMG_0632

That’s all well and good Silas, but I’ve seen Monster High and this guy has a much more impressive title.

IMG_0633

This is when Paxton runs into the three Sinister sisters.

IMG_0648

We can tell they’re evil not because they are rejects from Mean Girls (2004), but because they are desperately trying to make you forget that Paxton is miscast by acting over the top bad. Then we meet totally not Lucius Malfoy.

IMG_0653

He informs Paxton that use of magic on campus will be grounds for immediate dismissal. As we find out, it’s Paxton’s fault. As you may recall, Marnie was bragging that she opened the portal between the real world and Halloweentown at the beginning of Halloweentown High. That resulted in a bunch of students from Halloweentown going to real world colleges. As a result, Witch’s University needed to increase enrollment so they opened it up to creatures other than witches. To level the academic playing field, witches are not allowed to use magic. We find this out when we meet Paxton’s Resident Advisor (RA) who is a genie.

IMG_0697

I had an RA that was a gay business major who was followed by an Apartment Assistant (AA) that was an optometrist when I went to college. But I guess if they had her twitch her nose in one scene to get in a reference to Bewitched, and they’ve referenced everything else, then throw in I Dream Of Jeannie as well. Two more pieces of setup before I can leap over the rest of this nonsense, which includes time travel again. Yeah, because that part was clearly the best part of Halloweentown II: Kalabar’s Revenge.

IMG_0737

That’s Paxton’s boy toy for this movie.

IMG_0811

And that’s what the rest of the movie revolves around. Basically, Paxton is extremely powerful, and a group called the Dominion wants to use her to rule over the world. The rest of the movie is about that, which includes a scene where Paxton goes far back in time to find an old queen played by herself who becomes the Debbie Reynolds character. And how does it end?

IMG_1060

Well, how do you think it ends? The same way as the others. The Cromwell witches use their magic to allegedly destroy the special amulet thingy that is like the ring from The Lord Of The Rings. They even directly reference Charmed again by having Paxton say “by the power of 3” before she, Hoag, and smartass brother do their thing. And yes, I said “allegedly” because they didn’t actually destroy it, but hid it away in case they wanted to make a sequel.

IMG_1105

Actually, even though this didn’t work, I could’ve gotten behind a sequel where the brother turns evil. I mean they already used the term the Dominion and one of the things that made Star Trek: Deep Space Nine great is how long they spent slowly building up the ultimate war between the Federation and the Dominion. It could have been neat to see this character that was simmering on the back burner come to the forefront. Oh, well.

As you might have already noticed, this thing was doomed. One, shows or franchises that make the jump to college are the exception, not the rule. There is far too much upheaval that occurs when you do that. Two, Sabrina, The Teenage Witch was off the air, Charmed had worn out it’s welcome, and Harry Potter had just cranked up the maturity level to the point where kids not only could, but did die in that universe. It was also dominating the kids at a magic school thing in 2006, which this tried to compete with. The Disney Channel couldn’t compete. Sure Wizards of Waverly Place came out the next year, but that didn’t try to do the Harry Potter thing. Finally, the first film was a fluke, the second film fixed the problems of the first, and the third film should have spawned a TV Show, but didn’t. This just wasn’t going to happen.

Ultimately, a disappointing end to a reasonably enjoyable series of Halloween themed movies. Now I just need to watch those two Twitches movies before they expire at the end of this month.

Netflix Halloween 2015 : “Djinn”


Trash Film Guru

Djinn_poster

When the going gets tough, the tough go to Abu Dhabi.

Look, don’t get me wrong — I still like Tobe Hooper, but he’s kinda fallen off the “A-list” of American horror directors, hasn’t he? The guy who gave us such timeless classics as The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Poltergeist has hit sort of his a “dry spell” in his career of late, so when some upstart producers from the United Arab Emirates threw some money his way to come and help get a film “scene” going in their country’s capital city, he quite understandably took them up on the offer and packed his bags for sunnier (and drier, and hotter) climes. The end result? 2013’s Djinn, a semi-claustrophobic, semi-atmospheric ghost-story-with-a-twist steeped in local legend and folklore.

2013_djinn_1_innerbig

Having recently lost their infant son, upwardly-mobile couple Khalid (played by Khalid Laith) and Salama (Razan Jammal) decide to attempt to…

View original post 579 more words

Netflix Halloween 2015 : “Extraterrestrial”


Trash Film Guru

extraterrestrial_ver3

Having been somewhat impressed by the Grave Encounters films (considerably moreso with the first than the second) that were the brainchild of the so-called Vicious Brothers (co-writer Stuart Ortiz and co-writer /director Colin Minihan), I was reasonably stoked to give their latest effort, 2014’s Extraterrestrial, a go when I saw it in the Netflix streaming queue, and while the bog-standard premise of five teens in a remote cabin set upon by evil (or at least amoral and pathologically curious) aliens seemed more than a tad on the unimaginative side, the fact of the matter is that there’s nothing terribly original about the “found footage” paranormal investigation trope, either, and yet our intrepid pair of not-really-siblings had managed to do something pretty good with that. Why not err on the side of optimism, then, when going into this one?

I guess I’ve more or less given away the basic plot…

View original post 724 more words

Horror Film Review: Alone in the Dark (dir by Jack Sholder)


Alone_in_the_dark_ver1

“There are no crazy people, doctor.  We’re all just on vacation.”

— Frank Hawkes in Alone In The Dark (1982)

What is the difference between being crazy and being sane?  Why are some forms of delusion considered to be socially acceptable while others are condemned?  Who is the ultimate authority on what is normal and what is abnormal?  These are just some of the issues that are raised by the gleefully subversive 1982 horror film, Alone In The Dark.

We know that there’s something off about Dr. Leo Bain (Donald Pleasence) from the minute we meet him.  His smile is a little too nervous and his constant patter of positive words sound a little bit too rehearsed and convenient.  When he greets another doctor, he insists on hugging him but it’s an awkward hug.  Dr. Bain seems to be trying just a little bit too hard.  (In many ways, Pleasence seems to be poking fun at his best-known role, Halloween‘s intense and dramatic Dr. Loomis.)

Dr. Bain is in charge of a psychiatric hospital.  He doesn’t believe in conventional therapy.  Instead, his hospital is perhaps the most oppressively positive place in the world, a place where every delusion is treated as being perfectly normal and where the patients are treated very leniently.

In fact, security is only present on the third floor of the hospital.  That’s because the third floor is home to four inmates who are criminally insane.  Frank Hawkes (Jack Palance) is a former POW who suffers from paranoia and gets mad whenever he hears anyone curse.  Bryon “Preacher” Sutcliffe (Martin Landau) is a pyromaniac.  Ronald Estler (Erland van Lidth) is a gigantic child molester.  And finally, there’s The Bleeder, who always hides his face.  The Bleeder is a serial killer who is called the Bleeder because, whenever he kills, his nose starts to bleed.

Dr. Bain scoffs at the idea that these four even need security but, as he explains it, the state requires it.  However, one night, the power goes out and the four of them manage to escape.  As they make their way into the nearby town, they rather easily blend into the mob of “normal” people who are using the blackout as an excuse to go looting.

However, these four patients are on a very specific mission.  They had all grown to trust their psychiatrist, Dr. Merton.  However, Dr. Merton was eventually hired away by another hospital.  Frank is convinced — and has convinced the others — that Dr. Merton was murdered by their new psychiatrist, Dr. Dan Potter (Dwight Schultz).  They’re goal now is to track down Dr. Potter and kill him and his family.

Meanwhile, Dr. Potter has issues of his own to deal with.  He’s a nice guy but he’s also a bit too uptight and rational for his own good.  (Early on in the film, he gets upset when his wife tries to get him to go see a band called the Sic Fucks.)  His younger sister, Toni (Lee Taylor-Allan), is visiting while she recovers from a nervous breakdown of her own.  She manages to get arrested while protesting a nuclear power plant and, when she gets out of jail, she insists on bringing another protester, Tom (Phillip Clark), home with her.

It all leads to one long night, during which the inmates lay siege to Dan’s house.  And, all the while, Dr. Bain worries about whether or not they’re all mad at him…

Alone in the Dark may come disguised as a slasher movie but actually, it’s a pitch black comedy, with a lot of the humor coming from the contrast between Dan’s rationality, Bain’s nonstop optimism, and the fact that every one else in the film is literally batshit insane.  The final siege is a masterpiece of suspense and Palance, van Lidth, and especially Martin Landau are memorably frightening in their menacing roles.  The film’s final scene deserves to be iconic.

Alone in the Dark is one of those horror films that definitely deserves to be better known.  Do NOT mistake it for the Uwe Boll film.