4 Shots From 4 Roger Corman Films: It Conquered The World, Not Of This Earth, Masque of the Red Death, Frankenstein Unbound


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.

This month, we’re using 4 Shots From 4 Films to pay tribute to some of our favorite filmmakers!  Today, we honor the life, career, and legacy of the great Roger Corman!

4 Shots From 4 Roger Corman Films

It Conquered The World (1956, dir by Roger Corman)

Not Of This Earth (1957, dir by Roger Corman)

The Masque of the Red Death (1964, dir by Roger Corman)

Frankenstein Unbound (1990, dir by Roger Corman)

Horror Film Review: Night of the Demons (dir by Kevin S. Tenney)


“Where are you going?  The party’s just begun.”

Sorry, Angela, the party kind of sucks.  Beyond the strange guest list — like seriously, why would any of these people be hanging out together — and the weird decision to hold it in the deserted old funeral home, there’s the fact that people are getting possessed and people are dying.  There’s a lot that I can tolerate from a party but once people start dying, it’s usually time to leave.

(Unless, of course, it’s a theme party.  I went to a Halloween murder party last year and I had a lot of fun watching as each guest was “killed off” until the eventual killer was revealed.  I drew a card telling me that I had been murdered in the master bathroom while stepping out of the shower so I ran upstairs, changed into a towel, and let out the loudest scream possible.  Now, that was a party!  That said, I can’t remember who the actual killer was so they’re still out there, probably breaking into your house at this very moment.)

As Jeff, Leonard, and I watched Night of the Demons last week as a part of the #ScarySocial live tweet, Jeff mentioned that this 1988 film had apparently been very popular on late night cable back in the day.  I could certainly see why, what with it’s combination of boobs, blood, and Linnea Quigley.  It’s about two outcasts — Angela (Amelia Kinkade) and Suzanne (Quigley) — who throw a Halloween party in a funeral parlor.  It’s a pretty boring party but it’s also an 80s party so we get to see some silly dancing before the spirits end up possessing Suzanne and Angela.  Angela does a wild dance.  Suzanne sticks a tube of lipstick into her breast.  I guess you can do that when you’re possessed by a demon.  That said, that scene still made cringe just because it made me think about all of the lipstick that I shoplifted when I was in high school and how much it would have upset to me to have gone to all that trouble just to have some possessed girl waste it by shoving it inside her boob.  One-by-one, the partiers die.  Soon, only good girl Judy (Cathy Podewell) and good guy Rodger (Alvin Alexis) are left alive but will they be able to figure out a way to escape the funeral home?  Not only do they have to climb a wall but they have to do it while dressed, respectively, like Alice in Wonderland and a pirate.  Good luck, kids!  You’re so fucking dead.

Anyway, Night of the Demons is pretty stupid but it’s a film that people have fun watching.  There’s none of the nuance that one found in Kevin Tenney’s other classic horror film, Witchboard.  Instead, this one is entertainingly over-the-top and enjoyably weird.  This is a film that was made for people who enjoy making snarky comments while watching horror movies.  As a result, it’s an ideal live tweet movie because it doesn’t require a lot of thought as much as it just requires a group of friends who are willing to validate your every comment by clicking the like button.  It’s not a particularly scary film but both Amelia Kinkade and Linnea Quigley deserve a lot of credit for throwing themselves into their roles and, at the very least, it’s got some dancing.  It’s a crowd pleaser and, I’ve recently been told, some people feel that’s the most important thing that a film can do.  Personally, being a film snob, I don’t quite agree with the assessment that it’s the most important thing but, still, one should probably never discount the importance of keeping the audience entertained.

The point is, I had fun with Night of the Demons.  Watch it with your friends.

The Things You Find on Netflix: Rebecca (dir by Ben Wheatley)


Ben Wheatley’s new film, Rebecca, is the second cinematic adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s classic gothic romance.  It was first adapted by David O. Selznick and Alfred Hitchcock in 1940.  That Rebecca was the only Hitchcock film to win the Oscar for Best Picture, though Hitchcock himself reportedly felt that Rebecca was more indicative of Selznick’s style than his own.

Ben Wheatley, as one might expect from the brilliant director of A Field in England, takes his own idiosyncratic approach to the material.  From the start, he gets two things right when he casts Lily James as the second Mrs. de Winter and Armie Hammer as the enigmatic Maxim de Winter.  James and Hammer are ideal for these roles because they’re both so achingly pretty that they seem like they belong on the cover of a gothic romance.  That’s especially true of Armie Hammer, who has never been that interesting of an actor but who still has the type of chiseled screen presence that makes him ideally suited for roles like the one that he plays here.  He’s tall, handsome, a bit dull, and undeniably upper class.  He’s an appealing slab of beef and that makes him perfect for the role of Maxim de Winter.

Directing in vibrant color and taking advantage of the fact that the films stars two of the best-looking people working in the movies today, Wheatley brings an erotic charge to the story that was missing from Hitchcock’s more sedate (and Production code-restricted) version of the story.  When Maxim and the woman who will became the second Mrs. de Winter embark on their whirlwind romance on the French Riviera, there might as well be a title card that announces, “Yeah, they’re fucking.”  There’s nothing subtle about it but, at the same time, it provides a definite contrast to the second part of the film, in which Maxim and Mrs. de Winter return to the grand but chilly mansion of Manderley and Maxim goes from being charming and sensual to being cold and withdrawn.

It’s also at Manderley that we meet Mrs. Danvers (Kristin Scott Thomas), who is obsessed with preserving the memory of Maxim’s first wife, Rebecca.  Scott Thomas is perfect casting for Mrs. Danvers.  In fact, at first, she seems almost too perfect for the role.  She’s so imperious and passive aggressively hostile when we first meet her that I was worried that Scott Thomas wouldn’t be able to bring much more to the role beyond what she had already shown.  However, as the film progresses, Scott Thomas turns Danvers into a surprisingly vulnerable character, with the film suggesting that she’s as much of a victim of Rebecca’s toxic legacy as anyone else at Maderley.

Wheatley’s Rebecca is all about the journey of the second Mrs. de Winter and her transformation from being meek and somewhat mousey to being someone who refuses to be cast in anyone else’s shadow.  When Maxim says that Mrs. de Winter is no longer the innocent girl that he meet on the Riviera, Maxim is disappointed but Mrs. de Winter is not.  By the end of the film, the de Winters resemble none other than Henry and June Miller, searching the world for their place and casting seductive glances at the audience.

Visually, it’s a stunning film.  The colors are vibrant.  The sets are ornate.  The costumes are to die for.  That said, the film itself is never quite as engaging as it should be.  Despite the strength of the cast, the film still leaves the viewer feelings somewhat detached.  It’s all wonderfully produced by the film still feels more like an intellectual exercise than an emotional one.  Wheatley is a brilliant filmmaker but, when the second Mrs. de Winter announces that everything she’s been through is worth it because she’s found love, you don’t believe her and you don’t get the feeling that, deep down, Wheatley believes her either.  Instead, it’s hard not to feel that this version of Rebecca is a romance that doesn’t believe in love.  It’s interesting but it’s not particularly satisfying.

Horror on the Lens: The Terror (dir by Roger Corman, Francis Ford Coppola, Jack Hill, Monte Hellman, Dennis Jakob, and Jack Nicholson)


(As some of you may have noticed, I shared this movie last year as well.  I figured I might as well post it again this year.  Plus, it’s Boris Karloff, Jack Nicholson, and Dick Miller!  Why not post it again?)

Have you ever woken up and thought to yourself, “I’d love to see a movie where a youngish Jack Nicholson played a French soldier who, while searching for a mysterious woman, comes across a castle that’s inhabited by both Dick Miller and Boris Karloff?”

Of course you have!  Who hasn’t?

Well, fortunately, it’s YouTube to the rescue.  In Roger Corman’s 1963 film The Terror, Jack Nicholson is the least believable 19th century French soldier ever.  However, it’s still interesting to watch him before he became a cinematic icon.  (Judging from his performance here and in Cry Baby Killer, Jack was not a natural-born actor.)  Boris Karloff is, as usual, great and familiar Corman actor Dick Miller gets a much larger role than usual.  Pay attention to the actress playing the mysterious woman.  That’s Sandra Knight who, at the time of filming, was married to Jack Nicholson.

Reportedly, The Terror was one of those films that Corman made because he still had the sets from his much more acclaimed film version of The Raven.  The script was never finished, the story was made up as filming moved alone, and no less than five directors shot different parts of this 81 minute movie.  Among the directors: Roger Corman, Jack Hill, Monte Hellman, Francis Ford Coppola, and even Jack Nicholson himself!  Perhaps not surprisingly, the final film is a total mess but it does have some historical value.

(In typical Corman fashion, scenes from The Terror were later used in the 1968 film, Targets.)

Check out The Terror below!

 

Horror on TV: Baywatch Nights 2.21 — “The Vortex” (dir by L. Lewis Stout)


 

On tonight’s horror on TV, we present the next-to-last episode of Baywatch Nights.  In this episode, David Hasselhoff and Angie Harmon visit a Native American fortune teller (Floyd “Red Crow” Westerman) and end up entering a vortex that sends them into the future.  They then watch as their future selves investigate something weird that happened on a ship that’s just arrived from the Amazon.

This is a very weird episode and it originally aired on May 9th. 1997.

Horror(-ish) Film Review: Hubie Halloween (dir by Steven Brill)


“Oh my God!” I said as I looked at what was new on Netflix, “A Halloween movie starring the guy from Uncut Gems!?  THIS IS GOING TO BE INTENSE!”

Of course, as I’m sure you already guessed, Hubie Halloween might as well be taking place in a totally different universe from Uncut GemsUncut Gems was an intense drama that starred Adam Sandler as a man so self-destructive that he literally seems to spend the entire movie just daring death to reach out and take him.  Hubie Halloween, on the other hand, is fairly laid back comedy featuring Adam Sandler playing yet another well-meaning manchild.  The film features supporting performances from all the usual Happy Madison suspects, like Kevin James, Rob Schneider, Steve Buscemi, Tim Meadows, Ben Stiller, Maya Rudolph, Keenan Thompson, and Colin Quinn.  It’s sentimental and it’s about thirty minute too long and the humor is often juvenile but also frequently funny.

Adam Sandler plays Hubie, who lives in Salem, Massachusetts with his mother (June Squibb).  Hubie is the town eccentric, the type of guy who thinks that he’s protecting the entire town but who mostly just gets on everyone’s nerves.  A lot of people make fun of Hubie (who they call Pubie).  Pete Landolfa (Ray Liotta) may be mourning the recent death of his father but he still finds time to toss Hubie into an open grave.  Not even Father Dave (Michael Chiklis) has much sympathy for Hubie.  Hubie is the type of guy who goes down to the local school to give a speech on Halloween safety, just for the students (and teachers) to respond by throwing all of their food at him.

One of the few people who is nice to Hubie is his new neighbor, Walter Lambert (Steve Buscemi).  However, Hubie suspects that Walter might be a werewolf and when people start to disappear over the course of Halloween, Hubie suspects that Walter’s responsible.  Meanwhile, the police (represented by a heavily bearded Kevin James) thinks that it might be Hubie, seeing as how everyone who has disappeared is also someone who has bullied him.

Then again, Richie Hartman (Rob Schneider) has just escaped from the local mental institution.  Could he possibly have something to do with the mysterious happenings in Salem!?

When Adam Sandler won his Indie Spirit Award for Uncut Gems, he infamously announced that, if he didn’t get an Oscar nomination, he would get back at the Academy by making the worst film of all time.  Well, Sandler was snubbed the Academy.  (Though Sandler deserved that nomination — and probably nominations for The Meyerowtiz Stories, Funny People, and Punch-Drunk Love as well — it’s pretty obvious that the Academy is never going to nominate the star of That’s My Boy and Jack and Jill.)  However, Hubie Halloween is certainly not the worst film ever made.  It’s actually a rather likable and sweet-natured comedy, one in which the humor is definitely juvenile but, in contrast to some of the other Happy Madison comedies, never really mean-spirited.  In many ways, it’s a perfect Netflix film.  It’s good enough to keep you entertained while, at the same time, you don’t necessarily have to really pay attention to every minute of the film to get it.  It’s the epitome of the type of film that you can watch while doing something else.

One of the main complaints that’s always lodged against Sandler is that he primarily just makes movies so that he can hang out with his friends and get paid for it.  There’s a certain amount of truth to that statement and that, more than anything, explains why Sandler’s filmography tends to be so frustratingly uneven.  The cast of Hubie Halloween looks like they had a lot of fun making it.  Fortunately, in this case, that sense of fun actually translates onto the screen.  Steve Buscemi, June Squibb, and particularly Ray Liotta all seem to be having a ball getting to parody their own dramatic images.

Admittedly, Hubie Halloween is not a film that sticks with you.  It won’t make you laugh as much as Happy Gilmore and it won’t leave you stunned like Uncut Gems.  But, for what it is, it’s just likable enough to be entertaining.

 

Witchcraft XI: Sisters in Blood (2000, directed by Ron Ford)


Warlock-turned attorney-turned-police consultant Will Spanner is back for the 11th Witchcraft film.  This time he’s played by James Servais.  Working again with Lutz (Stephanie Beaton) and Garner (Mikul Robins) of the LAPD, Will is investigating yet another attempt to perform a ceremony that will bring Satan back to Earth.  Why is every Satanic ceremony so elaborate that it always gives Will, Lutz, and Garner time to investigate and disrupt it?  That seems short-sighted on Satan’s part.

This time, the head Satanist is a drama professor who is putting on a production of MacBeth and who convinces the three actresses playing the witches to really get into their roles by performing a “fake” magic ritual.  Unfortunately, the ritual is real and the actresses are possessed by the spirits of three actual witches.  Because they have to find a stone that will help to bring a demon into the world who will then bring Satan into the world as well (See what I mean about foolishly complex rituals?), the three actresses are soon going on a sex-fueled murder rampage across campus.  One of the possessed actresses is also the sister of Will’s long-suffering girlfriend and now-fiancée, Kelly (Wendy Blair).  That makes it even more important than usual that Will prevent Satan from coming into the world.

As easy as it is to make fun of the Witchcraft films for their grade-Z production values and the often less than impressive performances of the actors involved, it’s hard not to appreciate their loyalty to the idea behind the entire franchise.  With only a few exceptions, every film has dealt with Will coming to terms with being a warlock.  Even though the actors change frequently, just the fact that nearly every Witchcraft installment features the same characters does a lot to distinguish Witchcraft from other direct- to-video horror franchises.  Will and Kelly finally getting engaged would probably be more meaningful if they had been consistently been played the same actors over the last several films (and if Witchcraft XI spelled Kelli’s name correctly) but it still rewarded the viewers who had stuck with the franchise up to its eleventh installment.  (Unfortunately, this movie would also be Kelly’s final appearance in the series.  The character is never mentioned in any of the films following this one.)

Otherwise, Witchcraft XI features some of the worst acting in the series up to this point and the plot is incoherent even by Witchcraft standards.  Supposedly, this was one of the most financially successful of all the Witchcraft movies, probably because of three possessed and often topless co-eds.  Will Spanner would return, though unfortunately without Lutz, Garner, or Kelly, in Witchcraft XII.

Game Review: The Shadow In The Snow (2020, Andrew Brown)


The game is an entrant in the 2020 Interactive Fiction Competition.  All of the games can be played here.

You’re in a dicey situation.  You’ve been driving through the middle of the blizzard, simply trying to find your way back to the main road.  After you crash into a snowdrift, your engine dies.  It doesn’t matter how many times you turn the key in the ignition, the car is not going anywhere.  It’s cold.  It’s snowing.  You haven’t seen another car for hours.  What do you do?

You can stay in your car.  I tried that a few times.  I don’t recommend it.

Your only other option is to get out of the car and wander through the wilderness in search of help.  Move in the right direction and you might find a cabin or a motel.  But be aware that you’re not alone in the wilderness.  There’s a shadow in the snow and it’s coming for you.

This Twine game is perfect for Halloween.  The story plays out like a horror movie and I was impressed by the number of ways that I ended up dying.  Right when I thought I had figured out the right way to kill the beast, I discovered that there was more to the monster than I originally considered.  The Shadow in the Snow is an enjoyable challenge and one that makes good use of the Twine format.

You can play it here.