Horror on TV: Suspense 1.2 “Suspicion” (dir by Robert Stephens)


For tonight’s excursion into televised horror, we present to you an episode of Suspense!

What was Suspense?  It was an anthology show that ran from 1949 to 1954.  Each episode dealt with ordinary people who found themselves in not-so ordinary situations.  As well, each episode was broadcast live and the entire show was sponsored by the Autolite Corporation.  They make spark plugs.

Out of the over 250 episodes of Suspense, only 90 still survive.  Suspicion, the second episode of the first season, originally aired on March 15th, 1949.  It details what happens when a doting husband comes to suspect that his housekeeper may be a notorious arsenic poisoner!

And yes, it does start with a commercial for spark plugs.

Enjoy!

The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: A Cat In The Brain (dir by Lucio Fulci)


 

Oh, A Cat In the Brain.

What a frustrating film!

Listen, as someone who loves Italian horror and who feels that Lucio Fulci made some of the best (if most misunderstood) horror films of all time, I certainly wish A Cat In The Brain was a great film.  Every time I watch it, I find myself hoping that it will turn out to be better than I know it’s going to be.  Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t necessarily think that A Cat In the Brain was a terrible film.  Especially when compared to some of the other films that Fulci directed towards the end of his career, A Cat In The Brain is competently made and it certainly proves that Fulci had a better sense of humor than many critics give him credit for.  It’s not really a bad film.  It’s just a disappointing one.

To understand why, you have to understand just who Lucio Fulci was and why horror fans hold him in such high regard.  Fulci was an Italian director, one who was responsible for some of the most visually impressive horror films of all time.  Even though Fulci did not start his career working in the horror genre, it’s those films that for which he is best remembered.  Many of his films, like Zombi 2, City of the Living Dead, The House By The Cemetery, and The Beyond, are rightfully remembered as classics.  By design, these movies often felt like filmed nightmares and they remain influential to this very day.  Literally every zombie film that has been released over the past few decades owes a debt to Fulci and The Beyond trilogy is perhaps as close as any director has ever gotten to truly capturing the feel of H.P. Lovecraft on film.

Unfortunately, many critics refuses to look past the violent content of Fulci’s films.  In some countries, his movies were banned outright.  In America, Fulci’s masterpiece, The Beyond, was released in a butchered, compromised form.  Following the release of his controversial and disturbing slasher film, The New York Ripper, Fulci’s career went into decline and, suffering from ill-health and often in desperate need of money, he found himself directing low-budget films that were unworthy of his considerable talents.  It’s one of the sadder stories in the history of Italian horror.

A Cat In The Brain was one of Fulci’s final films and it stars none other than … Lucio Fulci!  Fulci plays a horror director named Lucio Fulci.  Fulci is concerned that all of his recent work in the horror genre is starting to mentally damage him.  For instance, after editing a scene about cannibalism, Fulci goes to a nearby restaurant and orders a steak.  However, whenever he starts to eat his steak, Fulci flashes back to the movie that he’s just directed.  When he goes home, the sound of the handyman using a chainsaw causes Fulci to think about a scene that he filmed, one that involved a killer chopping up a body.  When a frustrated Fulci kicks a bucket of red paint, he visualizes blood.  Meeting a German reporter causes Fulci to fantasize about a Nazi orgy.  Is Fulci losing it?  Could it be that violent movies really do cause violent urges?

Worried about his mental health, Fulci goes to see a psychiatrist, Professor Egon Schwarz (David L. Thompson).  Schwarz puts Fulci order hypnosis and tells Fulci that, over the next few weeks, he will think that he has “done terrible things.”  It turns out that Professor Schwarz is an aspiring serial killer.  Schwarz wants to go on a killing spree and have Lucio Fulci take responsibility for it…

To be honest, the plot description probably makes A Cat In The Brain sound like it’s a lot more subversive than it actually is.  It has all the ingredients to be a great satire but, unfortunately, Fulci’s heart never seems to really be in the movie.  Oddly, considering that the movie is literally about his life, Fulci directs A Cat In The Brain in a rather detached and clinical fashion.  There’s none of the visual poetry that distinguished Fulci’s best work.

Even worse, probably over half of this film is made up of clips that were lifted from other Fulci films.  Unfortunately, the scenes don’t come from Fulci’s good films.  Don’t go into A Cat In The Brain expecting to see anything from Zombi 2 or Don’t Torture A Duckling.  Instead, all of the clips come from stuff like Touch of Death and The Ghosts of Sodom, films that largely represent Lucio Fulci’s declining years.

However, there is one good thing about A Cat In the Brain (beyond the title, which I think is adorable): the film ends with Fulci happy and literally sailing into the sunset.  Considering both Fulci’s lasting influence as a filmmaker and the sad details of his final years, it’s hard not to feel that A Cat In The Brain gave Fulci the final scene that this talented director deserved.

Horror Film Review: Split (dir by M. Night Shyamalan)


There are a lot of negative things that you can say about 2017.  In the future, when historians look back of the second decade of the 21st century, I imagine that they will point to 2017 as being one of the worst years in American history.  The country is divided.  The world seems like a scary and dangerous place.  The outlook for the future feels bleak.  It’s not so much that people are angry.  Instead, it’s that there doesn’t seem to be any end in sight for all the anger.  It’s difficult to imagine that the differences that currently divide the world are ever going to be resolved.

However, there is one thing that can be said about 2017.  It’s been a very good year for horror cinema.

Sure, there have been a few less-than-perfect films.  Rings left most people disappointed.  Does anyone remember The Bye Bye Man or have we said farewell to the memories of that unfortunate film?  While The Dark Tower was never specifically a horror movie, it’s still not easy to think of any other Stephen King adaptation that has been greeted with such indifference.  The less said about Tom Cruise’s The Mummy, the better.

But even with all that in mind, there have been some truly outstanding horror movies released this year.  Movies like Get Out, It, and The Belko Experiment will be well-remembered long after the more “traditional” films of 2017 have faded from the collective memory.  I would go as far as to argue that David Lynch’s revival of Twin Peaks should itself be considered an 18-hour horror movie.  Maybe it is because the world seems like such a dark place right now.  Maybe, at this point, horror movies are the only movies that accurately reflect the way many people are feeling about the present and the future.  For whatever reason, 2017 has been a great year for horror.

Really, we wouldn’t be surprised.  Way back in January, things got off to a good start with the release of Split.  Split was a film that not many people were expecting to be impressive.  Just consider: the film was coming out in January, which is when the worst films are usually released.  (The theory is that everyone’s too busy with the Oscars to notice that studios are desperately trying to write off all of the losers that they misguidedly greenlit for production the previous year.)  Split was directed by M. Night Shyamalan, a formerly respected director whose last few films had been disappointing.  Finally, the film’s plot just didn’t sound that good: James McAvoy plays a man with multiple personalities who kidnaps three teenage girls (Anya Taylor-Joy, Haley Lu Richardson, and Jessica Sula) and holds them captive.  Throughout the film, McAvoy cycles through his different personalities and the girls try to find a way to escape before McAvoy turns into the Beast.

And yet somehow, Split works.  It’s a genuinely scary and unsettling film, one that left me feeling paranoid for days after I watched it.  From the minute that the film started, it grabbed hold of me and it did not let go for two hours.  I watched the movie and I wondered what would happen if I ever found myself in the same situation as the kidnapped girls.  Would I be able to survive?  Would I be able to escape?  Or would I just be another victim of the Beast?  It’s a deeply frightening film, one that feels like a waking nightmare at its most intense.

Obviously, a lot of credit has to go to James McAvoy, who is brilliant in a role that would have brought out the worst instincts in a lesser actor.  It’s a showy role and there had to be considerable temptation to go overboard.  And there are a few times when McAvoy embraces the more theatrical possibilities of the role.  However, in his best scenes, McAvoy is surprisingly subtle.  Yes, he does a lot of different voices.  Yes, his body language alters from personality to personality.  But McAvoy is at his best when he just allows his facial expression to subtly suggest that he has turned into someone else.  McAvoy is frightening but, at times, he’s also rather pathetic.  Whenever McAvoy shows up, you never know what he’s going to do.  He keeps you off-balance.

As good as McAvoy is, M. Night Shyamalan also deserves a lot of credit for Split.  For a film about a man with 23 warring personalities, Split is refreshingly direct and straight forward.  There’s none of the cloying cleverness that cheapened some of Shyamalan’s other films.  Instead, Split is simply a good, scary film for a really scary world.

Jedadiah Leland’s Horrific Adventures In The Internet Archive #3: Hugo’s House of Horrors (1990, Gray Designs Associates)


During today’s exploration of the horrific corners of the Internet Archive, I played Hugo’s House of Horrors (1990, Gray Designs Associates.)

In Hugo’s House of Horrors, you control Hugo.  Hugo’s girlfriend went to a haunted house to babysit and never returned.  When the game starts, you have just arrived at the house to try to find her.

First impression: I’m really digging the graphics.  That house sure does look haunted.  The spooky music that playing in the background is also pretty cool.

I guess it’s time for Hugo to enter the house.  This turned out to be more difficult then I was expecting.

Why not?  That’s a great idea!

Locked?  But look at all those eyes watching Hugo.  Maybe someone inside the house can help.

Hello?

Son of a bitch!  Maybe there’s something I’m missing.

I just tried that!

OPEN THIS DOOR!

OPEN UP!

OPEN THE DOOR, I SEE YOU STARING AT ME!

Eventually, I noticed the pumpkin at Hugo’s feet.  The key was hidden in the pumpkin so Hugo was finally able to open the door and enter the house.

Nice house.  I especially like the painting of the bat.  I sent Hugo went upstairs and had him go through that open doorway at the end of the hall.

Get in the box?  Why not?

Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.

Oh, this is bullsh–

After the professor left, I realized that Hugo was now much smaller.  After the professor left, I decided that Hugo should leave the room too.  I don’t trust Igor.

The lesson here is don’t get into strange boxes.

This is as far as I have gotten on Hugo’s House of Horrors.  Hugo may be in trouble because it doesn’t seem that I’m very good at this game.  Maybe he will have better luck with you controlling his actions than me.

A Movie A Day #268: Destroyer (1988, directed by Robert Kirk)


A year and a half ago, serial killer Ivan Mosser (Lyle Alzado) was sent to the electric chair for murdering 23 people.  On the night that he was electrocuted, the worst prison riot in American history broke out.  The prison was closed and abandoned.  A year and a half later, a film crew has entered the prison to make a women in prison film.  Robert Edwards (Anthony Perkins) is the sleazy director.  David Harris (Clayton Rohner) is the screenwriter who fights to maintain the integrity of his script and who is an expert on the prison’s history.  Susan Malone (Deborah Foreman) is a stuntwoman and David’s girlfriend.  And Ivan is the murderer who is still half-alive and full of electricity.

Watching a forgettable, direct-to-video movie like Destroyer, it is impossible not to feel sorry for Anthony Perkins, who went from getting nominated from Oscars and working with Hitchcock to appearing in films like this.  According to the Perkins biography, Split Image, Perkins was brought in at the last minute to replace Roddy McDowall and was miserable during most of the shoot.  Since Perkins spent a good deal of his later career working with directors like the one he plays in Destroyer, it’s not surprising that he gives one of the two good performances in Destroyer and he also gets the movie’s only memorable death scene.  The other good performance comes from Lyle Alzado, a former football player who had exactly the right look for his role and who plays Ivan like a ghost who is in the throes of roid rage.  Unfortunately, both Alzado and Perkins would die within months of each other in 1992, four years after co-starring in Destroyer.

Halloween Havoc!: KISS OF THE TARANTULA (Cinema-VU 1976)


cracked rear viewer

KISS OF THE TARANTULA is not a direct sequel to TARANTULA . Not even close. Instead, it’s a WILLARD inspired movie with spiders in place of rats, a female protagonist, and a much lower budget. Shot in Columbus, GA by director Chris Munger, this regional indie production has a few genuinely creepy moments, and has gained itself something of a cult following.

Pretty Susan Bradley has been fascinated with spiders since childhood. She lives with her loving father and bitchy mother in a mortuary where Dad plies his trade. Mom is dallying with her cop brother-in-law, Susan’s Uncle Walter, and overhears them plotting Dad’s demise. The precocious kid then sics her pet tarantula on arachnaphobe Mom, resulting in a massive heart attack.

Soon Susan’s all grown up, yet shunned by the local kids for her unhealthy obsession with eight-legged pets. Dad’s still supportive, but Uncle Walter has developed an unhealthy obsession of…

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Horror Scenes That I Love: Thomas Edison’s Production of Frankenstein


Today’s horror scene that I love is, much like The Haunted Castle and The Monster, less a scene and more an entire movie.

In 1910, Thomas Edison produced what is thought to be the first ever film version of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein!  Clocking in at 12 minutes and 41 seconds, this film was directed by J. Searle Dawley and stars Charles Ogle as the monster.

Admittedly, the surviving prints of this 107 year-old movie are not in the greatest condition.  But I still think it’s effectively surreal and, in its way, quite creepy.  While it always takes a while for modern audiences to get used to the more theatrical acting styles of the silent films, Charles Ogle still makes for a very memorable monster.  I especially enjoy the tinted scenes where the monster comes to life.  In the video below, it start around the 2:18 mark and it’s truly a scene that I love!

Enjoy this piece of film history!