Italian Horror Showcase: Zombi 4: After Death (dir by Claudio Fragasso)

The 1989 Italian zombie film, After Death, takes place on a Caribbean island.  I’m not sure if the island was actually given a name in the film.  If they mentioned it, I either didn’t hear it or I didn’t bother to jot it down in my notes.  But, to be honest, the island doesn’t really need a name.  If you’ve ever seen an Italian zombie film, you’ll recognize the island immediately.  It features the same lush tropical jungle that was used in Hell of the Living Dead and there’s the usual voodoo-loving island natives.  Whether it was in Zombi 2 or Zombie Holocaust, you’ve seen this island before.

Years ago, Jenny grew up on the island.  Her parents were scientists, working to discover a cure for cancer.  But, after one of them shot and killed the local voodoo priest, all of the scientists on the island ended up getting eaten by zombies.  Jenny would have been eaten as well, except for the fact that she owns a magic necklace.

Now an adult, Jenny (Candice Daly) is returning to the island with a group of mercenaries.  We know that they’re meant to be mercenaries because they have guns and grenades and headbands.  They’re not exactly the most impressive paramilitary crew that’s ever appeared in a movie.  I mean, if this was a Predator movie, it would be a contest to see which one of them ended up getting killed first.

Jenniy and the mercenaries are heading to island to discover why her parents were killed.  As soon as they arrives at the island, their boat’s engine dies, which is really rotten luck because now they’re stranded.  Of course, their luck is about to get even worse….

But first, we cut to some hikers.  They’re hiking the island and you have to wonder why Jenny and the mercenaries were acting like this island was so isolated when apparently, anyone can just hire a guide and hike it anytime they want to.  Anyway, the hikers stumble into a cave that they shouldn’t have stumbled into.  This leads to the zombies once again coming to “life” and proceeding to attack anyone who they perceive as not belonging on the island.

Only one of the hikers survives.  Fortunately Chuck (played by Jeff Stryker, a porn star who appeared in this film under the name Chuck Peyton) manages to find the mercenaries and together, they all hide out in a deserted laboratory.  Unfortunately, one of the mercenaries has been injured by the zombies and is slowly dying.  Soon, everyone is under siege as the undead surround the lab….

So, After Death is a totally ludicrous film that I can’t help but kind of like.  It doesn’t quite rise to the level of being a guilty pleasure but, for the most part, the cast fully commits to their thinly-written roles and, from the minute the dead come back to life, the action is nonstop.  These aren’t your typical mindless zombies, just wandering about and randomly eating people.  Instead, these zombies are on a mission and their determination makes them a bit more menacing than the typical decaying cannibal.  While director Claude Fragasso never creates the type of ominous atmosphere that distinguished the zombie films of Lucio Fulci, he still keeps the action moving at a steady pace.  Even the fact that the ending makes no sense adds to the film’s weird charm.

After Death is also known as Zombi 4: After Death.  When Dawn of the Dead was released in the Italy, it was called Zombi.  It’s success led to Lucio Fulci making a film called Zombi 2, which, while being a fantastic horror film, had nothing to do with George Romero’s classic.  The success of Zombi 2 led to Zombi 3, which was started by Fulci but completed by Claudio Fragasso’s frequent collaborator, Bruno Mattei.  (Fragasso also wrote the screenplay for Zombi 3.)  Beyond the undead and the island setting, After Death has nothing to do with the previous Zombi films.  It has even less to do with the subsequent Zombi 5: Killing Birds.  However, you have to give the Italian exploitation film industry some credit.  They never allowed a good title to go to waste.

Horror Film Review: The Walking Dead (dir by Michael Curtiz)

In this 1936 film (which has absolutely no relation to the AMC zombie show), Boris Karloff plays John Ellman.  John Ellman is perhaps one of the unluckiest guys ever.  Seriously check this out:

John Ellman was once an acclaimed concert pianist.  However, he was wrongly convicted of killing his wife and spent ten years in prison.  Now that he’s finally been paroled, he can’t get anyone to hire him.  Meanwhile, the judge who originally sent him to prison is in the news for having defied the mob and sentenced a well-known gangster to prison.  The mob is out for revenge but, rather than take the fall themselves, they’d rather frame a patsy.  And who could be a better patsy than a man who everyone already knows has a grudge against the judge?

Nolan (Ricardo Cortez), a crooked lawyer, arranges for Ellman to be given a job.  Ellman is told that he simply has to spy on the judge for a few nights to determine whether the judge is having an extramarital affair.  Ellman agrees and soon finds himself being set up.  The gangsters kill the judge and plant the body in Ellman’s car.  Ellman is arrested and sentenced to die.  It doesn’t matter that there are witnesses who know that Ellman’s innocent.  No one is willing to cross the mafia.

Ellman is convicted and promptly executed but his story isn’t over.  A scientist named Dr. Beaumont (Edmund Gwenn, who later played the man who might be Santa Claus in Miracle on 34th Street) knows that Ellman is innocent.  He takes Ellman’s body and, through an artificial heart and a bunch of other science-y things, he manages to revive Ellman.  John Ellman lives again!  Of course, he’s a bit of a zombie now and he doesn’t have any memory of his former life.  And yet, he instinctively knows who set him up to be executed and he sets out for revenge.

What’s interesting is that Ellman doesn’t kill anyone.  Even after he’s revived and presumably has no concept of right and wrong, John Ellman remains a rather passive zombie.  For the most part, the racketeers die because of how they react to the sight of the previously dead Ellman coming towards them.  For that matter, Beaumont isn’t the typical mad scientist that you might expect to turn up in a film like this.  He’s a benevolent man who was simply doing what he thought was the right thing.  Though the film ends with a warning about playing God, one can’t hep but get the feeling that, unlike Frankenstein, the film is overall very supportive of the idea of reviving the dead.

Directed by Michael Curtiz (who also did Casablanca, Mildred Pierce, The Adventures of Robin Hood, and countless other classic films), The Walking Dead is a combination horror/gangster film.  The film’s plot is a bit too convoluted for its own good but, overall, The Walking Dead works because of Boris Karloff’s performance.  He’s poignantly pathetic as the living John Ellman and then rather chilling as the vengeance-driven, recently revived Ellman.  The film’s most effective scenes are the ones where he just stares at his enemies, fixing them with a gaze that takes no prisoners and offers no hope.  It’s a great performance that elevates an otherwise uneven film.

Your 2018 American League Champions: The Boston Red Sox!

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October isn’t just about Halloween and all things spooky – there’s the MLB Playoffs going on, and since everybody knows what a Boston sports fanatic I am, I’d just like to give a shout-out to my beloved Red Sox, your 2018 American League Champs! David Price finally earned his first postseason victory after oh-so-many tries, Number Nine hitter Jackie Bradley Jr. is your ALCS MVP, and first year manager Alex Cora gets to celebrate his 43rd birthday in grand style! The champagne is flowing in Houston, but these 108 game winning Boys From Fenway aren’t done yet. Next stop: The World Series! Until then, enjoy the party – we’ve got four more wins to go!

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Horror Scenes That I Love: Conal Cochran Explains Halloween in Halloween III: Season of the Witch

Tonight’s horror scene that I love is from the underrated 1982 film, Halloween III: Season of the Witch.

In this scene, Conal Cochran (Dan O’Herlihy) explains not only the origins of Halloween but he also discusses how he’s going to make Halloween great again.  This scene is probably the best in the film and it’s almost entirely due to O’Herlihy’s wonderfully menacing performance as Conal Cochran.

“….and happy Halloween.”


Horror on TV: Kolchak: The Night Stalker 1.8 “Bad Medicine” (dir by Alexander Grasshoff)

On tonight’s episode of Kolchak: The Night Stalker, wealthy women are dying in Chicago and Carl Kolchak is on the case!  It turns out that it’s all connected to priceless jewels and a legendary monster known as the Diabelro, a creature has been cursed to roam the Earth and search for gems.

The Diabelro is played by Richard Kiel, who might be best known for playing Jaws in The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker.

This episode originally aired on November 29th, 1974.


Eurocomics Spotlight : Samplerman’s “Fearless Colors”

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

French cartoonist Yvan Guillo, better known under his nom de plume of Samplerman, has a technique like no other — and it’s one that leaves me in a real quandary. Digitally manipulating pre-existing (primarily Golden Age, and most likely all public domain) comic book illustrations into hitherto-unforeseen, and uniformly bizarre, new shapes and formations and probably even realities is the part I “get,” but what sort of artist does that make Mr. Samplerman? Or, perhaps more specifically, what sort of art is it that he’s making? Is it “found” art? Is it “Pop Art”? Is it collage? Is it Lichtenstein- or Warhol-esque  appropriation/theft?

Eventually, I settled on — re-mixing. What do we all think of that?

If his recently-issued collection,  Fearless Colors (co-published by Kus!, Ediciones Valientes, and MMMNNNRRRG) proves one thing, it’s that some sort of musical comparison is in order, because while the “strips” in this book are a…

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4 Shots From 4 Halloween Films

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 lets the visuals do the talking.

Today, we acknowledge the release of David Gordon Green’s Halloween with….

4 Shots From 4 Halloween Films

Halloween (1978, dir by John Carpenter)

Halloween III: Season of The Witch (1982, dir by Tommy Lee Wallace)

Halloween H20 (1998, dir by Steve Miner)

Halloween (2007, dir by Rob Zombie)

Cowboys and Zombies: Ghost Town (1988, directed by Richard Governor)

When an abandoned car is found in the desert, Deputy Langely (Franc Luz) is dispatched to the scene.  While Langely investigates, a man suddenly rides by on horseback and takes a shot at him.  Searching for the man, Langely comes across an old ghost town.  After he passes out in a seemingly abandoned building, he wakes up and discovers that he’s surrounded by old-timey western folks.  There’s a barmaid and a blind gambler and a blacksmith.  They are all spirits who are being held hostage by an undead outlaw, Devlin (Jimmie Skaggs), who long ago made a pact with Satan that gave him control over the souls of all the people in the town.  Now, Devlin has kidnapped Kate (Catherine Hickland), a woman from the modern world, and it’s up to Langely to not only rescue her but also set free the spirits that are trapped in the ghost town.

There’s nothing unexpected about this hororr/western hybrid, which was produced by Charles Band’s Empire Productions.  The combination of two different genres leads to double the clichés but the film itself is still entertaining in its own cheesy way.  The town is atmospheric and spooky, Franc Luz is a passable lawman, Jimmy Skaggs is a devilish villain, and Catherine Hickland shows that she deserved to be known for more than just being David Hasselhoff’s first wife.  Despite a troubled production that went through three different directors, Ghost Town is a decent B-movie that should be enjoyed by anyone who ever played cowboys and zombies.


Halloween Havoc!: FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN (Universal 1943)

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FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN was Universal’s first Monster Mash-Up, and in my opinion the best of the lot. From here, things got a little crowded, but by spotlighting just two supernatural terrors, we get a spooky, atmospheric ‘B’ film that really works. Lon Chaney Jr. returns to his signature role of Lawrence Talbot, suffering from the curse of lycanthropy, and he’s even better than in the original (which I reviewed in 2015 ). And The Monster is played by 60-year-old Bela Lugosi , in the part he rejected twelve years earlier. Bela’s interpretation is… interesting (but more on that later).

The eerie opening scene features two graverobbers under a full moon, breaking into the Talbot family crypt. Opening the lid of the late Larry Talbot’s coffin, they find the body is covered in wolfbane, and one of them recites that familiar “Even a man who’s pure in heart…” poem…

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Horror Trailer: The Curse of La Llorona

The Curse of La Llorona

Every culture has it’s own folktales and scary stories to tell around the campfire in the dark. Coming from the Philippines I know of many scary folk stories and monsters that’s unique to my culture. As the world has become more modern these dark tales have morphed into urban legends new and old.

What all these dark folk tales and urban legends have in common is the theme of death and suffering. One such urban legend, or a dark folk story among the Latino community, is the tale of “La Llorona” or the Weeping Woman.

This April 2019, James Wan of The Conjuring fame will bring to the bigscreen an adaptation of the tale of the “La Llorona.” This should be of much interest not just to me but to fellow co-founder of the site, Lisa Marie, who has such a huge interest in the subject of the Weeping Woman.

The Curse of La Llorona arrives with its first official poster as seen above and it’s first trailer below.