Horror on TV: The Twilight Zone 1.23 “Shadow Play” (dir by Paul Lynch)

For tonight’s trip into the world of televised horror, we have an episode from a 1986 attempt to revive The Twilight Zone.

This episode is a remake of one of my favorite episodes of the original series, Shadow Play.  That’s the one where the guy is on death row but he says he’s not worried about being executed because he knows he’s just having a reoccuring nightmare.  Of course, this kind of freaks out some of the people around him because, if he’s just having a dream, what happens to them when the dream ends?

While the remake is nowhere near as good as the original, it’s still fairly well done.  Plus, it’s on YouTube and the original isn’t.

This episode was directed by Paul Lynch, the Canadian director who also directed the original Prom Night.


The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: Killer Party (dir by William Fruet)

The 1986 film Killer Party is one of those late 80s slasher films that somehow has developed a cult following.  Up until recently, there was a fairly active fansite devoted to the history of Killer Party and Killer Party still regularly shows up on TCM Underground.

So, apparently, Killer Party has fans.

I’m just not sure why.

Some of it, I suppose, could have to do with the first ten minutes of the film, which are genuinely clever.  It starts out with a young woman being menaced at a drive-in theater and, just when you’ve gotten invested in her story and have started to wonder whether or not she’ll survive the entire movie, it is suddenly revealed that we’ve actually been watching a movie-within-a-movie.  And that movie-within-a-movie then turns out to be part of an incredibly silly music video, featuring a band that is so 80s that you find yourself expecting them to stop performing so they can do a line of coke and play the stock market.  At one point, the band even performs while standing on the drive-in’s concession stand.

It’s all marvelously silly and kind of clever.  The problem is that the rest of the film never lives up to those ten minutes.  In fact, you spend the rest of the movie wishing you were still watching that movie about the girl trapped at the drive-in.

I also suppose that some of the film’s cult reputation has to do with the fact that Paul Bartel has a small supporting role.  Bartel plays the same basic role that he played in almost every horror film in which he appeared.  He’s a pompous professor who says a few dismissive lines and is then promptly killed off.  Maybe it’s the Bartel factor that has led to this film developing a cult following.

Who knows?

Killer Party is essentially four movies in one.  The first movie is that part that I’ve already talked about.  The opening is clever but it only lasts for ten minutes.

After the opening, the film turns into a rather standard college comedy.  Three girls want to join the wildest sorority on campus but it won’t be easy!  Everyone on this campus is obsessed with playing pranks.  And by pranks, I mean stuff like locking a bunch of people outside while they’re naked in a hot tub and then dumping a bunch of bees on them.  Of course, that prank gets filmed and the footage is later shown at a meeting of stuffy old people.  That’ll teach those uptight members of the World War II generation!  You may have made the world safe for democracy but that was like a really, really long time ago!  So there!  It’s time for a new generation, one that will make the world safe for pranks!

During this part of the film, there are only a few hints that we’re watching a horror movie.  For instance, the sorority wants to have a party in an abandoned frat house.  Their housemother goes by the frat house and kneels in front of a grave.  She speaks to someone named Alan and tells him that it’s time to move on.  Then she promptly gets killed and no one ever seems to notice.

The comedy part of the movie segues into a remarkably bloodless slasher movie.  The cast assembles at the forbidden house.  They have a party.  Someone in a diving mask shows up and kills off the majority of the cast in 20 minutes.  Almost everyone dies off-screen so there’s really not even any suspense as far as that goes.

Then, during the last few minutes of the film, the slasher film suddenly turns into a demonic possession film and that seems like that should be brilliant turn of events but it just doesn’t work in Killer Party.  Usually, I love movies that are kind of messy but Killer Party is a rather bland and listless affair.  If you’re going to combine a campus comedy with a slasher film and a demonic possession film, you owe it to your audience to really go totally over the top and embrace the ludicrousness of it all.  Instead, Killer Party rolls out at a languid and rather dull pace.

I would not accept an invitation to Killer Party.


A Movie A Day #271: Spellbinder (1988, directed by Janet Greek)

Jeff Mills (Tim Daly) is an attorney who might be unlucky in love but who still owns a copy of every movie that Frank Capra has ever directed. (There is even a scene where two of his friends are seen looking at his movie collection and saying, “He’s got every movie Capra ever made!”)  Miranda (Kelly Preston) is the beautiful and mysterious woman who Jeff saves from an abusive boyfriend.  Within minutes of meeting her, Jeff invites Miranda to say with him in his apartment.  For Jeff, it is love at first sight but his friends (Rick Rossovich and Diana Bellamy) worry that Jeff is getting in over his head with a woman about whom he knows nothing.  Weird things start to happen in Jeff’s apartment and a woman (Audra Lindley) shows up in his office, taunting him about how she dug up his mother’s bones and used them in a black magic ceremony.  Eventually, Miranda confesses that she is on the run from a Satanic coven that was planning on sacrificing her but is she telling the whole truth?

Spellbinder is an enjoyably daft movie, especially if you are a fan of Kelly Preston.  It’s not that the rest of the cast isn’t good but this really is Preston’s show and her mix of All-American beauty and otherworldly sexiness is put to good use as the enigmatic Miranda.  It is easy to believe that Jeff would fall in love with her despite not knowing much about her.  The movie also has a few good scare scenes, like one in which the faces of all the members of the coven suddenly appear crowded around a window, staring in.  A slickly made example of how Hollywood made money off of the Satanic panic of the 1980s, Spellbinder is essentially The Wicker Man set in Los Angeles and is more entertaining than Neil LaBute’s actual remake.  (Even if it doesn’t have any bees.)

Halloween Havoc!: FROM HELL IT CAME (Allied Artists 1957)

cracked rear viewer

I’ve seen a lot of movie monsters in my time. Vampires and werewolves, zombies and mutated bugs, but nothing prepared me for the horror of… Tabanga, the Terrible Tree Monster and star of FROM HELL IT CAME! I’ve seen a lot of Grade ‘Z’ “so-bad-they’re-good” movies as well, and let me tell you, this one’s right up there with the best of the worst. This was the last film from Milner Brothers Productions (who brought you the equally ludicrous PHANTOM FROM 10,000 LEAGUES) and rightly so. FROM HELL IT CAME is so inept it makes Ed Wood’s epics look like Cecil B. DeMille spectaculars!

So there’s this tribe of suspiciously Caucasian-looking natives living on this South Seas island, okay. The very Caucasian Kimo (Gregg Palmer, ZOMBIES OF MORA TAU) is staked to the ground, accused of poisoning his chieftain father with the white man’s “bad medicine”. This is only a ruse by witch doctor Tano…

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Horror Scenes That I Love: The Monster Lives in Frankenstein

Today’s horror scene that I love comes from the 1931 Universal classic, Frankenstein!

Though it’s been parodied to death and often used out of context (for example, a few years ago, it was used in a freaking car commercial), the “It’s Alive!” scene from Frankenstein is still a classic piece of horror history.  Colin Clive is often unfairly criticized for going overboard in this scene but let’s be honest here: if you ever reanimated a corpse, you’d probably get pretty damn excited about it.

(After watching the scene, be sure to check out my review of this classic film by clicking here!)

(And if you want to see an alternative take on the creation of Frankenstein’s Monster, check out the 1910 silent version by clicking here!)

Horror Film Review: Village of the Damned (dir by John Carpenter)

At the risk of getting in trouble with at least a few people around the TSL offices, I am going to say something right now.  It may be controversial.  It may be shocking.  It may even make you question your belief in whatever it is that you believe in.


Here we go:

I do not think that the 1995 version of Village of the Damned is that bad.

Now, please notice that I didn’t say that I thought it was that great, either.  However, when you listen to some people talk about this movie (which, admittedly, doesn’t seem to happen a lot), they make it sound as if Village of the Damned is one of the worst films ever made.  It is usually cited as being a waste of director John Carpenter’s abilities and Carpenter himself has said that he’s indifferent to the film.  Carpenter has gone as far as to call the film a “contractual assignment.”

Of course, one reason why people dislike the 1995 Village of the Damned is because it’s a remake of an acknowledged classic.  Even worse, it’s an unnecessary remake.  I would not disagree with that opinion.  The 1960 Village of the Damned holds up remarkably well, featuring George Sanders at his best and a lot of creepy little children.  (If anything, the fact that the original is in black-and-white makes the children look even creepier in the original.)  Having recently watched both versions of Village of the Damned, I can say that the remake doesn’t really improve on the original.

And yet, I would still argue that John Carpenter’s Village of the Damned is an underrated and crudely effective little movie.

The film tells the story of the town of Midwich, California.  (The original film took place in the UK and Midwich doesn’t really sound like the name of a town you’d find in California.  Incidentally, my favorite town in California is a place named Drytown, specifically because the town bar advertises itself as being “the only wet place in Drytown.”)  Midwich is a nice, little town.  Everyone is friendly.  Everyone knows everyone else.  Carpenter spends a while establishing Midwich as being the idealized coastal town.  But then, one day, the skies turn dark and everyone in Midwich loses consciousness.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t work out well for some people.  Frank McGowan (Michael Pare), for instance, is driving when the blackout occurs and he ends up dying when his truck goes off the road.  Another unfortunate fellow was manning the grill at the church picnic and, when he passed out, he ended up burning to death.

When everyone does wake up, it’s discovered that ten women are now pregnant.  One of them, Kate (Linda Kozlowski), is the widow of Frank.  Another, a teenage girl named Melanie (Meredith Salenger), is a virgin.  Nine months later, all of the babies are born on the same night, though Melanie’s is stillborn.  The 9 babies eventually become 9 very creepy children.  They have pale skin, white hair, glowing eyes, and no emotions.  Soon the government, led by Dr. Verner (Kristie Alley), invades the town so that they can investigate and experiment on the children.  You know that once the government shows up and takes over, everyone’s screwed.

And, while all of this is going on, the once friendly and vibrant town of Midwich becomes a far different place.  We watch as the citizens of the town die, one after another.  Melanie finds herself ostracized and abandoned.  The local reverend (Mark Hamill) goes insane and ends up perched on a hill with a rifle.  The town doctor (Christopher Reeve) loses his wife when she walks into the ocean.

And the children continue to coldly and unemotionally kill anyone who displeases them.  One man is forced to shoot himself.  In perhaps the film’s most disturbing scene, a scientist is forced to dissect herself.

Admittedly, some of the actors do a better than others.  Meredith Salenger gives the best performance while Mark Hamill definitely gives the worst.  At first, Kirstie Alley seems miscast but she actually gives one of the better performances in the film.  As the nominal hero, Christopher Reeve is boring but then again, many small town doctors are.  Of course, nearly everyone in the movie is dead by the time the end credits roll.

It’s a seriously dark movie and, when taken on its own terms, it’s definitely effective.  Carpenter does such a good job of establishing Midwich as a place where anyone would want to live that it does carry an impact to see the town suddenly isolate from the world and the once happy citizens resorting to suicide just to escape the town’s children.  In the end, John Carpenter’s Village of the Damned does capture the anguish of feeling as if there’s no escape from the present nor hope for the future.

Village of the Damned is crudely effective but effective nonetheless.


Jedadiah Leland’s Horrific Adventures In The Internet Archive #5: Baal (1989, Psygnosis Limited)

For my next adventure in the horror section of the Internet Archive, I played Baal (1989, Psygnosis Limited).

In Baal, you are a leader of something called The Time Warriors.  A demon named Baal has stolen a super weapon and it is up to you to infiltrate Baal’s underground lair, kill Baal’s warriors, get the weapon, and destroy Baal.  It sounds simple but this game is biased against people like me who aren’t any good at games like this.

The game starts with you materializing in Baal’s lair.  I think the blue contraption is a transporter.

Yes, there are ladders and multiple levels.  The controls are simple.  Use the arrow keys to move.  Press the space bar to fire our weapon.  If you want jump, press the space bar and an arrow key at the same time.

That serpent is one of Baal’s minions.  You can destroy the serpent by shooting it several times but don’t make my mistake and get too close.  Touching the serpent kills you.

After it kills you, the serpent flies away.  That was cool.

After getting killed by the serpent, I was given a second chance.  This time, instead of running forward, I ran up the ladder.  I discovered that, much like the serpents, you do not want to touch that blue force field.  I also discovered what happens when you fall off a level.

Eventually, I figured out how to jump and I also managed to kill the serpent before it killed me.  This is what I discovered at the other end of the cave.

Another force field!  I decided to test my theory that running into the force field would cause me to die.

It did.

That was it for me.  Baal can have the super weapon.  Hopefully, Baal’s next opponent will be better at games like this than I am.


4 Shots From 4 Films: Special John Carpenter Edition

4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films is all about letting the visuals do the talking.

This October, I am going to be using our 4 Shots From 4 Films feature to pay tribute to some of my favorite horror directors, in alphabetical order!  That’s right, we’re going from Argento to Zombie in one month!

Today’s director is the man who put Halloween on the map and a personal favorite of TSL editor-in-cheif Arleigh Sandoc’s, John Carpenter!

4 Shots From 4 Films

Halloween (1977, dir by John Carpenter)

The Fog (1980, dir by John Carpenter)

The Thing (1982, dir by John Carpenter)

Christine (1983, dir by John Carpenter)

Horror on the Lens: Gargoyles (dir by Bill Norton)

For today’s horror on the lens, we have a made-for-TV monster movie from 1972, Gargoyles!

What happens when a somewhat condescending anthropologist (Cornel Wilde) and his daughter (Jennifer Salt) head out to the desert?  Well, they stop by a crazy old man’s shack so that they can look at his genuine monster skeleton.  Before Wilde can thoroughly debunk the old man’s claims, the shack is attacked by real monsters!

That’s right!  Gargoyles exist and they apparently live in Arizona!

This film was introduced to me by TSL contributor and Late Night Movie Gang founder Patrick Smith and we had an absolute blast watching it.  There’s nothing particularly surprising about the plot but the gargoyles are memorable creations and Bernie Casey gives a good performance as their leader.  The gargoyle makeup was designed by none other than Stan Winston, who won an Emmy for his work here and who went on to win Oscars for his work on Aliens, Terminator 2, and Jurassic Park.

As well, a very young Scott Glenn shows up in the cast.  I like to think that he’s playing the same character in both Gargoyles and Sucker Punch.


This Week’s Reading Round-Up : 10/1/2017 – 10/7/2017

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

Okay, look, who are we kidding? Fantagraphics’ Now #1 is the “big story” in comics this week, as well it should be, but I’m still cobbling my various and sundry thoughts on that one together for a comprehensive review that I should have ready in the next few days. Until then, though, let’s take a quick look at a handful of other items new on shelves and/or in my mailbox that grabbed my attention, for good or ill, this week —

Portrait is a self-published collection of strips by Simon Hanselmann that ran as part of his “Truth Zone” (or TZ, if you prefer) webcomics series. The initial printing sold out pretty quickly and I missed out on it, but I ordered one up pronto when word got out that he was headed back to press (or, more likely, Kinko’s) with it. Megg. Mogg, and Owl take aim at the…

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