Horror On TV: Kolchak The Night Stalker 1.14 “The Trevi Collection” (dir by Don Weis)

Tonight on Kolchak….

After witnessing the murder of an informant, Kolchak finds himself being targeted by the mob!

Of course, after some of what Kolchak has been through, a simple Earth-bound threat like the Mafia would be a nice change of pace.  However, Kolchak soon discovers that he’s also got a witch after him!  With the help of a model (Lara Parker), Kolchak sets out uncover the witch at the heat of Chicago’s fashion industry!

This episode originally aired on January 24th, 1975.


A Loud Cheer For “Sphere Fear”

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

At first glance, it may seem counter-intuitive, if not downright foolish and/or insane, to devote anything other than a “capsule”-style review (say, of the sort that make up my “Weekly Reading Round-Up” columns on this very site) to a 12-page mini that contains very little by way of dialogue and can literally be read in less than a minute, but hey — certain comics defy conventional wisdom.

Or, as is the case with William Cardini’s 2015-issued Sphere Fear, defy conventional wisdom, conventional explanation, conventional analysis, and maybe even conventional thought processes. But goddamnit, I’m gonna give it a shot anyway, because if there’s one thing we like at here 4CA, it’s a good challenge.

As a general rule of thumb, Cardini’s influences are pretty easy to spot : Kirby looms large at all times, a fact that the images reproduced in conjunction with this review make well enough…

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Horror Film Review: Let’s Scare Jessica To Death (dir by John D. Hancock)

In the 1971 film, Let’s Scare Jessica To Death, Zohra Lampert played Jessica, a woman who is struggling to remain sane.

As the film begins, Jessica has just been released from a mental institution.  As Jessica explains it, she’s been hearing voices ever since her father died.  She struggles with depression and sometimes, she gets paranoid.  Her husband, Duncan (Barton Heyman), has just purchased a farm in Connecticut, a place where he believes that Jessica can find some peace.  Their friend, Woody (Kevin O’Connor), will be moving out to the farm with them.  Woody is a bit of a hippie.  Some people would say that Jessica and Duncan are hippies as well but honestly, both of them seem to be more like people who desperately want other people to believe that they’re hippies as opposed to genuine members of the counterculture.

Upon arriving at their new farm, Jessica is shocked to discover a woman named Emily (Mariclare Costello) standing in their farmhouse.  When the shocked Jessica calls out for Duncan, he immediately assures her, “I see her, too!”  Emily explains that she’s spent the last few months living in the deserted farmhouse.  Though Emily offers to leave, Jessica insists that Emily have dinner with them and spend the night.  When it becomes obvious that Woody likes Emily, Jessica suggests that Emily should be allowed to live with them.

Duncan agrees to let Emily stay and, much like Jessica, you immediately start to wonder about his motives.  Is he merely letting Emily stay to keep Woody happy?  Or is he agreeing with Jessica because he’s scared that disagreeing with her will cause her have another breakdown?  Or is it possible that he’s attracted to Emily himself?

As the days pass, Jessica struggles to adjust to life in the middle of nowhere.  The location is beautiful but, because it’s so remote, it’s menacing as well.  The people in the nearby town are strangely hostile and they always seem to be wearing bandages on their necks.  Jessica starts to hear voices in the distance, taunting her and telling her that she has no place out in the country.  Are they real or is it just her imagination?  Is Jessica trying so hard to convince everyone that she’s okay that she’s actually pushing herself to a relapse?  And what about the mysterious blonde girl that keeps appearing in the distance, watching Jessica but running away whenever Jessica tries to approach her?

And then there’s the picture that Jessica finds in an antique shop.  It appears to be a picture of Emily but the shop’s owner assures her that the picture is over 100 years old….

Apparently, the script for Let’s Scare Jessica To Death was originally called It Drinks Hippy Blood and it’s intent was satirical.  You wouldn’t be able to guess that from watching Let’s Scare Jessica To Death, which is one of the creepiest and most dream-like horror films that I’ve ever seen.  Unfolding at a leisurely pace and featuring hazy but gorgeous cinematography, Let’s Scare Jessica To Death keeps both Jessica and the audience off-balance.  You’re never quite sure if Jessica is right about Emily and the town or if she’s relapsed and is drowning in a sea of her own paranoia.  Duncan and Woody both treat Jessica as if she might fall apart at any second.  At times, Duncan and his constant concern is so suffocating towards her that you feel that, if Emily hadn’t been there waiting for them, Jessica would have had to create her.  As frightening as Emily may be, only Emily can set Jessica free from her domineering husband.

More than being just a character study of a woman struggling to remain above water, Let’s Scare Jessica To Death is also a portrait of the death of counterculture idealism.  Jessica, Duncan, and Woody appear to have a chance to live the ideal hippy life on their Connecticut farm but that dream collapses under the weight of all the petty human emotions and foibles that they wrongly thought they could escape.  Duncan treats Jessica like a child, gaslighting her whenever she questions anything that’s going on.  Woody seems like a good guy but he’s so laid back that he refuses to stand against the tide.  Jessica is betrayed by everyone around her.  In the end, not even the mysterious blonde girl is willing to actually warn Jessica about what’s happening.

Zohra Lampert gives a wonderfully empathetic performance as Jessica and Mariclare Costello and Gretchen Corbett are well cast as the enigmatic strangers that Jessica can’t seem to escape.  Let’s Scare Jessica To Death is a creepy and atmospheric dream of dark and disturbing things and it’s definitely one to see.

I Want My R-TV: Spellcaster (1992, directed by Rafal Zielinski)

Give Charles Band a castle and a D-List celebrity and he’ll give you a movie!

In Spellcaster, which Band produced in 1988 but didn’t release until 1992, the castle is in Italy and there’s not one but three D-list celebrities.  British DJ Richard Blade plays Rex, who is a VJ on R-TV, a cable station that only shows music videos.  (A music station that actually plays music?  Imagine that!)  Bunty Bailey, who was the hot girl in Aha’s Take Me On video, is Cassandra, an alcoholic rock star.  Finally, Adam Ant is Signor Diablo, who owns the castle.

The plot of the movie is that R-TV is hosting a contest where the winners get to go to Diablo’s castle and not only meet Rex and Cassandra but also search for a million dollar check.  The contest winners are a snooty British woman, a sex-obsessed Italian, a sexy French woman, an overweight New Yorker, a blonde vegan, and a brother and a sister who could really use the money.  They are a collection of clichés and none of them are very interesting, sympathetic, or smart.  Not even the Italian notices that their host is named Mr. Devil.

The search for the money is a bust because the guests keep dying.  For instance, the overweight New Yorker eats a stuffed pig, turns into a pig himself, and then gets shot by the snooty British woman, who just happened to bring a rifle with her because all snooty Brits enjoy hunting.  Another person ends up getting eaten by a chair that has a lion’s head carved into it.  When the lion comes to life and chomps down its jaws, the teeth are obviously foam rubber.  It all has to do with Signor Diablo’s crystal ball, where he’s building a collection of souls.

With the casting Adam Ant and Bunty Bailey, Spellcaster tried to be a horror movie for the MTV generation but it came out several years too late.  By the time Spellcaster was released, grunge had taken over MTV and both Adam Ant and the Take Me On video seemed like relics from another age.  The film itself is a mostly dull affair, one that will be best appreciated by people who are nostalgic for the type of bad movies that used to show up on late night cable.

“Horror” Scenes That I Love: The Birds Attack in Birdemic

To be honest, when it comes to bad movies, 2010’s Birdemic is kind of overrated.

I mean, yes — it is such an amazingly inept film that you do have to watch it at least once.  And yes, I do occasionally still find myself singing that “hanging out with my family” song to myself.

But compared to something like The Room or April Rain, Birdemic is actually a pretty dull film.  I’ve watched it maybe four or five times and it’s always been with a bit of reluctance.  The Room, on the other hand, is a film that you can watch over and over again.

(Or, at least you could until The Disaster Artist came out.  As brilliant as The Disaster Artist was, I kinda lost interest in The Room after watching it.  Incredibly, I haven’t gone to one showing of The Room this year.  Actually. now I’m feeling guilty about that.  I guess I’ll have to watch The Room sometime tonight.  Anyway….)

That said, there are a few scenes from Birdemic that are always good for a laugh.  Personally, I enjoy this one.  Just watch those birds attack!

Halloween Havoc!: THE MUMMY’S GHOST (Universal 1944)

cracked rear viewer

THE MUMMY’S GHOST, Kharis the killer mummy’s third time around, finds the plot wearing a bit thin in this rehash, as once again the High Priests of Arkham… wait, what? Arkham? What happened to Karnak? Did the High Priests suddenly change religions? Just another example of continuity shot to hell in this series, though we do get an upgrade in the High Priest department with John Carradine boiling the tanna leaves instead of Turhan Bey .

At least George Zucco as Andoheb is still around to brief Yousef Bey (Carradine) on the plot up til now, dispatching him to Mapleton to fetch back Princess Ananka and Kharis to the temple, though the usual tanna leave spiel is upped from three to nine. There are no more Bannings in Mapleton, but still plenty of victims for Kharis to kill. Frank Reicher is back too, as Professor Norman, giving a lecture on…

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4 Shots From 4 Jess Franco Films: The Awful Dr. Orloff, Count Dracula, A Virgin Among The Living Dead, Female Vampire

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.

Yesterday, we paid tribute to Jean Rollin.  Today, we pay tribute to another master of Eurohorror with….

4 Shots From 4 Jess Franco Films

The Awful Dr. Orloff (1961, dir by Jess Franco)

Count Dracula (1970, dir by Jess Franco)

A Virgin Among The Living Dead (1971, dir by Jess Franco)

Female Vampire (1973, dir by Jess Franco)

Horror on the Lens: Final Sacrifice (dir by Tjardus Greidanus)

Today’s horror on the lens comes to us all the way from Canada!

In the 1990 film, The Final Sacrifice, a lot of stuff happens.  In fact, the plot is almost as hard to follow as the plot of Raiders of the Living Dead.  There’s a cult leader named Satoris, who is always wearing a suit.  There’s a bunch of professional wrestlers who wear masks and are always running through the woods.  There’s a teenager who looks like a cross between Anthony Perkins and Roddy McDowall.  He’s being chased by the cultists but, fortunately, he meets a guy with a mullet.  Together, they meet a wiley old prospector and they all work together to discover a lost city or something like that.

Did I mention that this film makes no sense?  If you need further proof, you can check out my review over at Horror Critic.

That said, The Final Sacrifice is kinda fun, especially if you’re a fan of Candian exploitation films like I am.  It might not make much sense but at least it’s weird and that surely must count for something.