Horror AMV of the Day: Homura’s Seven Devils (Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica)


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It’s that time of the year when all things dark, terrifying and horrific invades the halls and corridors of Through the Shattered Lens.

While many who hear the term magical girl and colorful-costumed girls fighting evil won’t think dark and disturbing well they’d be dead wrong. The magical girl genre of Japanese animation have always had that undercurrent of darkness which makes these so-called kiddie anime series more adult than that many people realize.

In 2011, the magical girl anime series Puella Magi Madoka Magica (aka Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica) came out and it finally explored that very undercurrent of darkness in the magical girl genre that people discussed about. The series was still cute, but also disturbing in how it explored the cost these teenage girls would incur in gaining magical abilities to fight evil.

The latest AMV of the Day takes Madoka Magica (especially the three films which followed the series) and it’s two lead character in Homura Akemi (girl with the dark hair) and Madoka Kaname (girl with the pink-hair) and their very complicated relationship that transcends not just their friendship, but time and divinity itself.

What better song to pair up with Madoka Magica but none other than “Seven Devils” by Florence + The Machine.

Anime: Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica

Song: “Seven Devils” by Florence + The Machine

Creator: Kinnsao San

Past AMVs of the Day

Horror on TV: Tales From The Crypt 1.4 “Only Sin Deep” (dir by Howard Deutch)


You may remember, from previous horrorthons, that I like to end each day in October by sharing a classic example of televised horror.  Over the previous two years, I shared several episodes of The Twilight Zone and everyone seemed to enjoy them.  I know I certainly did.

Unfortunately, I can’t do that anymore.

All of the episodes of the Twilight Zone that were on YouTube have been taken down.  Copyright infringement, they say.  And, unfortunately, Hulu is no longer allowing people to watch The Twilight Zone for free.  I can still embed Hulu videos on this site but unless you’re a subscriber, you wouldn’t be able to watch them.

Which sucks, by the way!  Seriously, I was soooooo mad when I discovered what had happened…

However, fear not!  While I may not be able to share any Twilight Zone episodes this October, it turns out that every episode of HBO’s Tales From The Crypt has been uploaded to YouTube!  And what could be more appropriate for Halloween than a little trip to the crypt?

So, with all that in mind, here’s the fourth episode of Tales From The Crypt.  It’s called Only Sin Deep and it originally aired on June 14th, 1989.  It tells the story of a prostitute named Sylvia Vane (played by Lea Thompson) who agrees to sell her beauty for $10,000 and the chance to marry a rich man.  Sylvia doesn’t take the deal seriously.  You won’t be surprised to learn that was a mistake.  Only Sin Deep is an entertaining little morality tale.  Don’t mess with karma.

(As well, I’m going to assume that the name Sylvia Vane is meant to be an homage to the name of Angela Lansbury’s character in The Picture of Dorian Gray.)

Only Sin Deep was directed by Howard Deutch, who also directed Lea Thompson in Some Kind of Wonderful.  (And, of course, he also married her.)  It was written by Fred Dekker, who directed the classic Night of the Creeps.

And yes, the story is introduced by the infamous Cryptkeeper.

Enjoy!

 

The TSL’s Daily Horror Grindhouse: Color Me Blood Red (dir by Herschell Gordon Lewis)


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That sure is an interesting poster, isn’t it?  The poster for Color Me Blood Red pretty much screams grindhouse and if you didn’t already know that this 1965 film was directed by Herschell Gordon Lewis and produced by David Friedman, you’d be able to guess just from looking at it.  My favorite part of the poster is the promise that Color Me Blood Red is “drenched in crimson color.”

There’s a lot of blood in Color Me Blood Red.  In fact, it’s a movie about blood.  Adam Sorg (played by Gordon Oas-Heim, who I’m going to guess was not a professional actor because, otherwise, why wouldn’t he have changed his name to Gordon O?) is a painter who hasn’t had much success.  Sure, he has a house on the beach and he has a girlfriend named Gigi (Elyn Warner) who is willing to model for him but one thing that Adam doesn’t have is respect.  No one wants to buy his paintings!  Could it be because Adam is living in a city full of Philistines?  That’s what Adam seems to believe but I think a far bigger problem is the fact that Adam is not a very good painter.  His paintings are cartoonish and his use of color is more than a little dull.  However, after Gigi cuts her finger and bleeds all over one of his canvases, Adam discovers that he has now found the perfect shade of red!

So, he decides to paint with blood.  Unfortunately, Gigi doesn’t want to give him any more of her blood.  So, Adam decides to open his own veins and use his own blood but he faints before he can finish his latest masterpiece.  What is Adam to do?  Well, he can always kill Gigi and use her blood.  And, of course, there’s always a fresh supply of teenagers showing up on the beach…

What’s sad about all this is that, even after Adam discovers that blood is the perfect shade of red, he’s still not a very good painter.  Believe me, I understand.  I majored in Art History.  The majority of my friends are artists.  Some paint, some write, some take pictures.  Believe me — I get it.  We all go through that phase where we fool ourselves into thinking that undeveloped talent, lazy thinking, and lack of ability is the same thing as having a unique vision that is destined to be unappreciated.  But most artists either eventually find their own voice or they give up by the time they turn 28.  Adam, on the other hand, is a middle-aged guy who is still acting like a student in an Intro to Graphic Design class.  What I’m saying is that blood is useless without a unique vision.  The perfect shade of red isn’t going to help if you still don’t have your own voice.

Then again, maybe I’m taking the film too seriously.

And really, that’s something you should never do when you’re reviewing a Herschell Gordon Lewis film.  Color Me Blood Red was the third part of Lewis’s blood trilogy but, unfortunately, it’s never quite as effective or memorable as either Blood Fest or Two Thousand Maniacs.  As silly as certain parts of the film may be, Blood Feast‘s gore still has the power to shock.  Two Thousand Maniacs is pure nightmare fuel.  Color Me Blood Red, meanwhile, is kind of bland.  It feels more like a successor to The Undertaker and His Pals than Blood Feast.

That said, the film is worth watching for some of the dialogue.  The entire film is full of campy lines, the majority of which are so strange that they give the proceedings an almost dream-like feel.

“Dig that crazy driftwood!” someone says upon spotting a corpse in the water.

“You mean the type who earn an honest living painting houses?” someone else says when asked for his opinion on artists.

And, of course, there’s my favorite line: “HOLY BANANAS!  It’s a girl’s leg!”

Color Me Blood Red is the least essential entry in the blood trilogy but, if you’re a Lewis/Friedman completist, you know you’re going to have to watch it.  So, you might as well sit back and enjoy it for the frequently silly little movie that it is.

Halloween Havoc!: GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS (Toho/TransWorld 1956)


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“History shows again and again, how nature points out the folly of man”-

“Godzilla” by Blue Oyster Cult

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Let’s kick off this year’s “Halloween Havoc” with the Grandaddy of kaiju eiga, GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS. The Big G first hit Japanese movie screens in 1954, and made its way to American shores two years later in a reedited version with new narrative footage. I’ve only seen the Americanized interpretation, so I can’t comment on Inoshiro Honda’s original vision, but I do enjoy this film a lot more than the endless, silly sequels that ensued. I’d go as far as saying GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS is one of the best sci-fi flicks of the 50’s, one that’s influence looms like Big G’s shadow even today.

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We start with a familiar sight: Tokyo in ruins, “a smoldering memorial to the unknown”! American reporter Steve Martin (played by Raymond Burr, not the “wild and…

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The Films of Dario Argento: The Bird With The Crystal Plumage


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Dario Argento.

The name inspires a lot of reactions.  Some people will tell you that Dario Argento is one of the greatest directors of all time.  Some people regularly cite him as being a prime example of an artist who hit his peak too early and who has spent the latter part of his career imitating his previous successes.  Some people will tell you that his films are dangerous.  He’s one of those directors whose films always seem to end up getting banned in certain communities.  Other cineastes will always praise him as a superior stylist whose influence is still felt to this very day.  Argento’s films have inspired thousands of horror filmmakers.  His films have also inspired a countless number of viewers to fall in love with horror.  Without the influence of Argento the horror genre would be not only less interesting but less profitable as well.

Myself, I’m a huge Argento fan.  Yes, I do love Suspiria but then again, everyone love Suspiria.  I have also made it a point to track down and watch the forgotten and/or critically reviled Argento films, like Trauma and The Phantom of the Opera.  My love of Argento is so strong that I usually even find myself enjoying his less acclaimed work as much as his acknowledged triumphs.  He is one of the masters of horror, a true maestro of Italian art.  For the longest time, I’ve been meaning to watch and review all 21 of Argento’s cinematic thrillers.  (Sadly, his one non-thriller, The Four Days, is notoriously difficult to see.)  With this being October, I figured why not now?

Dario Argento made his directorial debut in 1970 with The Bird With The Crystal Plumage.  Before directing his first movie, Argento had been a film critic and a screenwriter.  (Among other credits, he is listed as being one of the writers of Sergio Leone’s Once Upon A Time In The West.  Interestingly enough, his co-writer was another future director, Bernardo Bertolucci.)  With his very first film as a director, Argento established himself as a master of both suspense and horror.

I have seen some reviews that have identified The Bird With The Crystal Plumage as being the first giallo film.  That’s not at all true.  If anything, the credit for directing the first giallo should probably go to Mario Bava (who directed The Girl Who Knew Too Much in 1964) and some students of Italian cinema would even disagree with that.  However, The Bird With The Crystal Plumage undoubtedly did a lot to popularize the genre outside of Italy.

The film tells the story of Sam (Tony Musante) and his girlfriend, Julia (Suzy Kendall).  Sam is a writer and he’s living in Rome.  Argento is not traditionally known as an actor’s director but Musante and Kendall are both remarkably sympathetic in their roles and they seem to have a very real chemistry when they’re both on-screen together.  You actually do care about them as a couple and you find yourself hoping that nothing bad happens to them.  One thing that I liked was that their tiny apartment looked like it was someplace where a couple actually would live, love, and try to solve a murder.  Looking at Sam and Julia in that apartment (which is decorated with a picture of Albert Einstein and a poster reading “Black Power!”), you get the feeling that they have an existence outside of what you’re seeing during the film’s 94 minute running time.  They feel real.

Reportedly, Tony Musante and Argento did not have a great working relationship.  (Mustante was a character actor who wanted to talk about motivation.  Argento was more concerned with the technical aspects of shooting the film.)  Mustante may have been miserable but that actually works for his character.  When we first meet Sam, he’s frustrated because he’s suffering from writer’s block.  He’s so frustrated that he’s on the verge of moving back to the United States.  Sam’s frustration feels real and if that’s because Musante happened to be frustrated while shooting the film, so be it.  Whatever works.

One night, Sam goes for a walk and witnesses a stabbing in an art gallery.  Monica Ranieri (Eva Renzi) survives but it appears that her assailant has managed to escape.  The police suspect that Sam might be more than just a witness so they confiscate his passport.  Until the attacker is caught, Sam is stuck in Rome.

There’s a serial killer terrorizing Rome and both Sam and the police suspect that Monica nearly became the killer’s latest victim.  Some of the film’s most unnerving sequences are shot from the point-of-view of the killer, a technique that both leaves the killer’s identity a secret and also makes the audience complicit in the murders.  It’s as if Argento the film critic is daring the audience to consider why they’re watching what Argento the director is doing.

(And the murders in The Bird With The Crystal Plumage are brutal, even by the standards of Italian cinema.  The first murder that we actually witness — which is usually referred to as being “the panty murder,” for reasons that I’m not going to freak myself out by describing — is pure and total nightmare fuel.)

Everything that you might expect to find in a giallo is present in The Bird With The Crystal Plumage.  It may not have been the first but it’s definitely one of the prototypes for what the genre is usually considered to be.  Graphic violence, sexual perversion, point-of-view shots, a constantly roaming camera, a dramatic musical score, a killer who wears black gloves and carries a razor, a witness who has to prove his innocence, and a solution that’s revealed only when Sam reexamines what he thinks he saw; it’s all here.

What distinguishes The Bird With The Crystal Plumage is the style with which Argento tells his story.  Dario was 30 years old when he directed The Bird With The Crystal Plumage and there’s an infectious enthusiasm to the way he frames the mayhem.  Like many film critics directing their first film, Argento fills his debut with homages to earlier films.  You can tell he’s having a lot of fun while discovering just how far he can go without losing his audience.

46 years after it was first released, The Bird With The Crystal Plumage holds up surprisingly well.  It’s a nightmarish but compulsively watchable thrill ride and it remains one of Argento’s best.

Horror Film Review: The Picture of Dorian Gray (dir by Albert Lewin)


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Hello and welcome to the start of TSL’s annual October horrorthon!  All through the month of October, our focus will be on horror.  We will be sharing reviews and thoughts on some of the best (and worst) horror films ever made!  I have to admit that this is my favorite time of the year.  I love horror … like all good people!

I want to start things off by taking a look at a film from 1945.  The Picture of Dorian Gray is based on the famous novel by Oscar Wilde (a novel that some people think was inspired by the Jack the Ripper murders).  Dorian Gray (played by Hurd Hatfield) is a young and handsome aristocrat who lives in 19th century London.  When we first meet him, Dorian is intelligent, kind and virtuous.  He’s also more than a little boring.  He is the bland face of the establishment, a man destined to be celebrated for his position in society and largely forgotten after his death.

Dorian is posing for a painting that’s being done by his friend, an artist named Basil Hallward (Lowell Gilmore).  One day, Lord Henry Wotton (George Sanders) stops by the studio while Basil is painting Dorian.  Lord Henry is everything that Dorian Gray is not.  He’s a worldly and cynical man and he is very proud to live a life devoted to complete and total hedonistic pleasure.  He immediately sets out to corrupt Dorian and it turns out to be a lot easier than he was expecting.  Henry convinces Dorian that he can have everything that he wants as long as he’s young and handsome.  Dorian announces that he wishes the painting could age instead of him…

Now, here’s where the film takes a huge departure from Wilde’s novel.  In the novel, the painting ages while Dorian stay young.  No specific reason is given.  Instead, it’s just something that happens.  In the film, it turns out that Basil owns an ancient Egyptian statue and that the statue has mystical powers.  Dorian makes his wish in front of the statue and that’s why the painting starts to age.  Personally, I think the bit with the Egyptian statue is unnecessary and a little bit silly.  To me, the story is a lot more effective if the painting starts to age without an explanation.  The filmmakers obviously disagreed.

But no matter!  In the end, the Egyptian statue isn’t that important.  What is important that, freed from getting old or physically suffering for his actions, Dorian transforms into a different person.  Soon, he’s even more hedonistic than Lord Henry.  When he breaks the heart of a tragic singer named Sybil Vane (Angela Lansbury, in a poignant and Oscar-nominated performance), Dorian sees that the painting is now cruelly smirking while his own face remains innocent and untouched.  When Dorian eventually commits a murder to keep his secret from getting out, the blood appears on the painting’s hands while his own remain clean.

And the years pass.  Dorian finds himself both being hunted by Sybil’s brother (Richard Fraser) and falling in love with the niece (Donna Reed) of a man that he earlier murdered.  Dorian never ages but his portrait becomes more and more twisted.  What’s particularly interesting is that we see little of Dorian’s evil actions.  Instead, we watch and listen as other characters whisper about the horrific things that he’s done.  Physically, Dorian remains an innocent and young aristocrat.  But all we have to do is look at the picture and we can see what a monster Dorian has become…

The Picture of Dorian Gray is an absolutely gorgeous film, one that is full of elaborate sets that are often cast in shadow.  (It’s interesting to note that the more corrupt Dorian becomes, the darker and more shadowy his estate becomes.)  The film is in black-and-white, with the exception of three scenes in which the portrait is revealed in all of its Technicolor glory.  If that sounds like a gimmick … well, it is.  But it’s an amazingly effective gimmick.

The Picture of Dorian Gray is a classic exercise in psychological horror.  See it the next chance you get!

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4 Shots From Horror History: The Execution of Mary Stuart, The House of the Devil, The Haunted Castle, The X-Rays


This October, I’m going to be doing something a little bit different with my contribution to 4 Shots From 4 Films.  I’m going to be taking a little chronological tour of the history of horror cinema, moving from decade to decade.

Today, we start with the 1890s and the birth of horror cinema.

4 Shots From 4 Films

The Execution of Mary Stuart (1895, dir by Alfred Clark)

The Execution of Mary Stuart (1895, dir by Alfred Clark)

The House of the Devil (1896, dir by Georges Méliès)

The House of the Devil (1896, dir by Georges Méliès)

The Haunted Castle (1897, dir by George Albert Smith)

The Haunted Castle (1897, dir by George Albert Smith)

The X-Rays (1897, dir by George Albert Smith)

The X-Rays (1897, dir by George Albert Smith)