Horror Scenes That I Love: Francoise Pascal Dances In A Cemetery in Jean Rollin’s the Iron Rose


The Iron Rose (1973, dir by Jean Rollin)

Today’s horror scene that I love comes from the 1972 French film, The Iron Rose.  In this scene, directed by the great Jean Rollin, Francoise Pascal dances in a cemetery.  Why is she dancing?  Perhaps she is celebrating the fact her lover has just suffocated inside of the crypt that she locked him in.  Perhaps she’s just happy that a clown came by earlier and lay some flowers on a grave.  One can never be sure.  This entire sequence is Rollin at his best.

This is one of Rollin’s most enigmatic films, which is saying something when you consider just how dream-like the average Rollin film is.  It was Rollin’s fifth film and his first to not involve vampires.

 

4 Shots From 4 Jean Rollin Films: The Nude Vampire, The Iron Rose, Lips of Blood, Lost in New York


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, I pay tribute to my favorite French director with….

4 Shots From 4 Jean Rollin Films

The Nude Vampire (1970, dir by Jean Rollin)

The Iron Rose (1973, dir by Jean Rollin)

Lips of Blood (1975, dir by Jean Rollin)

Lost in New York (1989, dir by Jean Rollin)

Rebel Days: All-American Murder (1991, directed by Anson Williams)


Artie Logan (Charlie Schlatter) is a wannabe James Dean who keeps getting kicked out of school because he is such a rebel.  His father, a judge, gives Artie one more chance.  Artie can either enroll at Fairfield College or he can go to jail.  Artie chooses Fairfield, where he meets and falls for the beautiful and popular Tally Fuller (Josie Bissett).  However, no sooner does Artie show up for their first date than someone sets Tally on fire and crashes through a window.  Artie is the number one suspect but Detective P.J. Decker (Christopher Walken) still gives him 24 hours to solve the murder and clear his name.  Artie investigates and discovers that Tally was not the innocent, all-American girl that everyone thought she was.  This leads to a nudity-filled flashback that explains why All-American Murder was an HBO mainstay in the 90s.  It also leads to other people being murdered by snakes and hand grenades.

Despite some bloody murders and the presence of Walken and Joanna Cassidy in potentially interesting supporting roles, All-American Murder fails because it asks us to accept Charlie Schlatter as being a charismatic rebel.  When Joanna Cassidy tells him that he’s a “renegade,” not even she sounds like she believes it.  The murder mystery is intriguing but Artie is so obnoxious that you want him to go to prison whether he’s guilty or not.

All-American Murder was directed by Anson Williams, who is best known for playing Potsie on Happy Days.  The Fonz could have framed Ralph Malph for this murder in half the time that it takes Artie to solve it.

Halloween Havoc!: THE INVISIBLE MAN’S REVENGE (Universal 1944)


cracked rear viewer

Jon Hall is back as The Invisible Man, but not the same one he played in INVISIBLE AGENT . Like all the Invisible Man movies, THE INVISIBLE MAN’S REVENGE features a new protagonist, as Hall plays Robert Griffin, an escaped mental hospital patient who comes to London seeking his share of a diamond mine after being left for dead in the African jungle by partners Sir Jasper and Irene Herrick. Griffin has returned to get what’s coming to him, and he does… Irene dopes him, and the couple throw the rascal out. Disoriented, Griffin stumbles into a nearby river, where he’s saved from drowning by shady Cockney Herbert Higgins.

Higgins and his disreputable attorney pal try to shake down Jasper, but are confronted by the local chief constable. Griffin’s left to fend for himself, when he stumbles upon the home of Dr. Drury, a scientist experimenting with invisibility on animals…

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Italian Horror Showcase: Ghosthouse (dir by Umberto Lenzi)


You have to love the utter shamelessness that was often displayed by the Italian horror directors of the 70s and 80s.

Consider this:

In Italy, both Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2 were huge hits.  Evil Dead was released under the name Las Casa so, of course, Evil Dead 2 was called La Casa 2.

Now, imagine that you’re Umberto Lenzi, a veteran Italian filmmaker who has directed everything from thrillers to westerns to war movies to gangster dramas.  Over the decades, you’ve followed the trends.  Whatever genre was popular at the time is the genre that you worked in.  It’s now the late 80s and, even though the Italian film industry is in decline, Italian horror movies are still popular enough to make money.  So, that’s what you now make.  You’ve made cannibal films.  You’ve made giallo films.  You’ve made zombie films.  Now, it’s time to make a haunted house film.

And how do you make sure that people will spend their money to see your haunted house film?

You call it La Casa 3.

Sure, your film has close to nothing to actually do with either one of the Evil Dead films.  I mean, there is a deserted house and a scary basement and a message on a tape recorder but otherwise, your film is definitely not a part of the Evil Dead universe.   For that matter, your own rather staid directorial style is absolutely nothing like Sam Raimi’s.

Who cares?  Just call your movie La Casa 3 and make some of that Evil Dead money for yourself!

Of course, when the film is released in other countries, the name is going to have to be changed.  After all, no one outside of Italy knows the significance of La Casa.  In some territories, La Casa 3 is actually released under the name Evil Dead 3!  However, in the United Sates, it’s known as Ghosthouse.

As for the film itself, it opens with a murder and ends with a lesson about why you should be careful when crossing the street.  The film deals with a guy who spends all of his time in his apartment, listening to radio frequencies.  He hears someone screaming for help so he drags his girlfriend with him in a search for the source of the scream.  When she suggests that maybe it was a prank, he says, “That wouldn’t be ethical!”

Anyway, their search eventually leads them to an abandoned house in New England.  If the house looks familiar, it’s because it’s the exact same house that Lucio Fulci used for The House By The Cemetery.  It’s a pretty good location, too.  Almost all of Ghosthouse’seerie moments are due to the fact that the house is just naturally spooky.  Anyway it turns out that the house was the scene of a brutal murder.  If you enter the house, you might run into a little girl who is holding a scary clown doll.  As quite a few characters discover over the course of this film, the little girl will kill you just as soon as look at you.

As prolific as Umberto Lenzi was, he never really developed a signature style.  As opposed to the work of other Italian genre directors — like Dario Argento, Mario and Lamberto Bava, Lucio Fulci, Sergio Martino, Anthony Margheriti, and so many others — it’s rare that you ever watch an Umberto Lenzi film and think to yourself, “That is such an Umberto Lenzi moment.  Only Umberto Lenzi could have made this film work.”  As a result, Lenzi’s filmography tends to be a bit more uneven than the work of some of his contemporaries.

If you accept a film like Nightmare City as being an example of Lenzi at his most memorable and something like The Hitcher In The Dark as being Lenzi at his most forgettable, Ghosthouse is somewhere in the middle, between those two extremes.  It has lots of atmosphere and those looking for gore will get what they’re looking for.  At the same time, it doesn’t really add up to much beyond random people coming to the house, seeing something weird, and then dying.  If you’re a fan of horror that doesn’t demand much from the audience, Ghosthouse is a diverting enough waste of time.  If you’re looking for something deeper, I’d suggest rewatching The House By The Cemetery.

Horror Film Review: Poltergeist (dir by Tobe Hooper)


The 1982 film Poltergeist tells the story of the Freeling family.

There’s Steven the father (Craig T. Nelson) and Diana the mother (JoBeth Williams).  There’s the snarky teenager daughter, Dana (Dominique Dunne), who has a surprisingly good knowledge of the local motel scene.  There’s the son, Robbie (Oliver Robins), who is scared of not only a big ugly tree but also a big ugly clown doll that, for some reason, sits in his bedroom.  And then there’s the youngest daughter, Carol Ann (Heather O’Rourke).

They live in a planned community in Orange County, sitting just a few miles away from the cemetery.  (Or so they think….)  They’ve got a nice house.  They’ve got nice neighbors.  They’ve got a nice dog.  They’re getting a pool in the backyard.  There are hints that Steven and Diana may have once done the whole rebellion thing.  They still occasionally get high, though they do it with a smugness that somehow manages to make marijuana seem less appealing.  But, for the most part, Steven and Diana are happy members of the establishment.  Steven sells real estate and is a favorite of his boss, Mr. Teague (James Karen).  Diana is a stay-at-home mom who doesn’t get upset when some unseen spirit rearranges all the furniture in the kitchen (seriously, that would drive me crazy).  They’re the type of family that falls asleep in front of the TV at night, which is a bit of a mistake as Carol Ann has started talking to the “TV people.”

Strange things start to happen.  As mentioned earlier, furniture starts to rearrange itself.  Whenever Carol Ann sits down in the kitchen, an unseen force moves her across the floor.  Diana, for whatever reason, thinks this is the greatest thing ever.  Then, on the night of a big storm, the big ugly tree tries to eat Robbie and Carol Ann goes into a closet and doesn’t come out.  Though Carol Ann has vanished, the Freelings can still hear her voice.  Apparently, she’s been sucked into another dimension and she’s being encouraged to go into the light.

Of course, this leads to the usual collection of paranormal researchers moving in.  The house decides to pick on one unfortunate guy and he ends up not only eating maggot-filled meat but also imagining his face falling apart over a sink.  A medium named Tangina (Zelda Rubinstein) comes by and reprimands Steven and Diana for not doing exactly what she says.  Of course, it turns out that Tangina isn’t quite as infallible as she claims to be….

To me, Poltergeist is the epitome of a “Why didn’t they just leave the house” type of film.  Don’t get me wrong.  I understand that once Carol Ann vanished, Diana and Steven had to stay in the house to rescue their daughter.  I’m talking about all the stuff that went on before the big storm.  Seriously, if a ghost started moving furniture around in the kitchen, I’m leaving the house.  At the very least, I’m not going to take my youngest daughter and invite the ghost to push her around the kitchen.  Even stranger is that, at the end of the film, the Freelings still don’t leave the house even though the situation with Carol Ann has been resolved.  They hire a moving truck and make plans to leave but, instead of spending a night in a hotel, they instead decide to spend one more night in a house that’s apparently possessed by Satan.

Poltergeist is famous for bringing together two filmmakers who really seem like they should exist in different universes.  Steven Spielberg produced while Tobe Hooper directed.  It seems like it’s impossible to read a review of Poltergeist without coming across speculation as to how much of the film should be credited to Spielberg and how much should be credited to Hooper.  It must be said that the film does occasionally feel like it’s at war with itself, as if it can’t decide whether to embrace Spielberg’s middle class sensibilities or Hooper’s counter-culture subversiveness.  On the one hand, the emphasis on special effects and the early scenes where the Freelings watch TV and Steven gets into a remote control fight with his neighbor all feel like something Steven Spielberg would have come up with.  On the other hand, the obvious joy that the film takes in tormenting the Freelings feels more like Tobe Hooper than Steven Spielberg.  Or take the film’s finale, where the special effects are pure Spielberg but the scene of Diana getting assaulted in bed and then thrown around her bedroom feels like pure Hooper.  Really, it’s the mix of two sensibilities that make the film compelling.  Poltergeist’s planned community is appealing but it’ll still kill you.

Anyway, I like Poltergeist.  I certainly prefer the original to the remake.  It’s a silly film in many ways but it’s still effective.  Once you get over how stupid Diana acts during the first part of the film, JoBeth Williams gives a strong performance as a mother determined to protect her children.  And Craig T. Nelson gives a classic over the top performance, especially towards the end of the film.  Just listen as he screams, “Don’t look back!”  That said, my favorite performance comes from James Karen, who is perfectly sleazy as the outwardly friendly, cost-cutting land developer.

Poltergeist is still a good, scary film.  And, if anyone wants to play a lengendary prank this Halloween, show it to someone who has a fear of clowns.

Horror on the Lens: The Phantom of the Opera (dir by Rupert Julian)


Today’s horror movie on the Shattered Lens is both a classic of silent era and one of the most influential horror films ever made.  It’s one that I previously shared in 2013, 2015, and 2106 but it’s such a classic that I feel that it is worth sharing a second (or fourth) time.

First released in 1925, The Phantom of the Opera is today best known for both Lon Chaney’s theatrical but empathetic performance as the Phantom and the iconic scene where Mary Philbin unmasks him. However, the film is also a perfect example of early screen spectacle. The Phantom of the Opera was released during that period of time, between Birth of the Nation and the introduction of sound, when audiences expected films to provide a visual feast and Phantom of the Opera certainly accomplishes that. Indeed, after watching this film and reading Gaston Leroux’s original novel, it’s obvious that the musical was inspired more by the opulence of this film than by the book.

This film is also historically significant in that it was one of the first films to be massively reworked as the result of a poor test screening. The film’s ending was originally faithful to the end of the novel. However, audiences demanded something a little more dramatic and that’s what they got.