8 Shots From 8 Horror Films: The Late 50s


4 Or More Shots From 4 Or More 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 October, I’m going to be doing something a little bit different with my contribution to 4 (or more) Shots From 4 (or more) Films.  I’m going to be taking a little chronological tour of the history of horror cinema, moving from decade to decade.

Today, we take a look at the late 50s!

8 Shots From 8 Horror Films: The Late 50s

The Curse of Frankenstein (1957, dir by Terence Fisher, DP: Jack Asher)

Plan 9 From Outer Space (1957, dir by Edward D. Wood, Jr., DP: William C. Thompson)

Not Of This Earth (1957, dir by Roger Corman DP: John J. Mescall)

Horror of Dracula (1958, starring Christopher Lee as the Count, Dir by Terence Fisher, DP: Jack Asher)

Night of the Ghouls (1959, dir by Edward D Wood, Jr. DP: William C. Thompson)

War of the Colossal Beast (1958, dir by Bert I. Gordon, DP: Jack A. Marta)

House on Haunted Hill (1959, dir by William Castle, DP: Carl E. Guthrie)

The Mummy (1959, dir by Terence Fisher, DP: Jack Asher)

David Harbour brings some Yuletide fun with the Violent Night trailer!


It’s a little early to be celebrating the holidays with Halloween around the corner, but this is cute. From the director of Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters comes Violent Night, starring David Harbour (Hellboy, Black Widow) as Santa Claus. Santa finds himself in a Die Hard-like situation when a family is held hostage by gunmen, led by John Leguizamo (John Wick). Can Santa save the family and still finish doing his Christmas duties?

The film also stars Alex Hassell (Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop), Beverly D’Angelo (The National Lampoon’s Vacation films), and Cam Gigandet (Twilight).

The film premieres in theatres on December 2.

Horror Film Review: Children of the Corn (dir by Fritz Kiersch)


What to say about the original Children of the Corn?

First released in 1984, this film was based on one of Stephen King’s least interesting short stories. It’s a pretty dumb and poorly-paced movie, featuring villainous puritan children who are more annoying than menacing. The heroes aren’t particularly likable, even if one of them is played by Linda Hamilton. And yet, somehow, Children of the Corn spawned an 11-entry film franchise. (The 11th Children of the Corn film was released in 2020, 36 years after the original.) The original film was remade in 2009 and it continues to be a familiar reference point on the pop cultural landscape. I’ve lost track of the number of Children of the Corn parodies that I’ve seen.

The plot is pretty simple. One day, all of the children in a small rural town get together and kill all the adults. They worship a mysterious entity called He Who Walks Behind The Rows and they sacrifice any adult who is stupid enough to wander into town. The leader of the children is shrill-voiced little twerp named Isaac (John Franklin) and his second-in-command and chief enforcer is the sullen Malachai (played by Courtney Gaies). The children all dress like 1880s settlers and they spend a lot of time staring at each other. Eventually, Malachai overthrows Isaac and ties him to a cross, which leads to a seemingly endless scene of Isaac screeching, “Malachai!” over and over again.

Meanwhile, two adults have accidentally driven into town, Burt (Peter Horton) and his girlfriend, Vicky (Linda Hamilton). They end up running over a child who was trying to flee the cult. They put the body in the trunk of their car and then they kind of forget about it. In their defense, they’ve got a lot to deal with. The children want to sacrifice Vicky and Burt wants to lecture all of the children about how their backwards ways are ruining America. I’m not kidding. This film about children wearing old timey clothes and talking about He Who Walks Behind The Rows tries to convince the viewers that it has a sincere message.

Children of the Corn was not the first movie about killer children but it’s certainly one of the most influential. You have to wonder why because the film itself simply isn’t very good. Beyond the bad acting and the heavy-handed sermonizing, the film’s pacing is all off. A simple story shouldn’t have this many slow spots. Director Fritz Kiersch falls so in love with shots of that haunted cornfield that he forget to use them to tell a compelling story.

And yet, it can’t be denied that there is an audience for this film and the many sequels that followed. I imagine some of it has to do with the fact that people are just fascinated by the idea of evil children. We’re expected to like and forgive the behavior of children, regardless of how obnoxious they may be. Movies like Children of the Corn exploit a real fear that many people have, that children will figure out that they can get away with murder and therefore, they will. It’s a simple and not particularly well-executed idea but it’s one that led to an 11-film franchise so I guess one should never discount the value of keeping it simple.

Horror On The Lens: The Naked Witch (dir by Larry Buchanan)


Today’s Horror on the Lens come to us for director Larry Buchanan.

Larry Buchanan was not only born in Texas but he made most of his films here too.  In 1964’s The Naked Witch, a college student is doing a research project on the German-speaking villages in Central Texas.  It’s while visiting one such village that this idiot accidentally brings an ancient witch back to life.  In many ways, this is a typical Buchanan film.  The budget is low and the plot is sometimes incoherent.  But the film is also fairly atmospheric.  In my case, it helps that I’ve actually spent time in Central Texas and I know how creepy things can sometimes get out there.

Enjoy The Naked Witch!

Witch Hunt, Review by Case Wright


Oof

I know many of you wonderful readers must think that I’m rooting for failure. I really want artists to do a good job and not be terrible. The short film is the farm team for many writers, directors, and actors. It forces you to have a clear idea, vibrant characters, be economical with your dialogue, and how to show not tell. This short was 8 minutes and change and it was awesome for the first four minutes. Then…..

The film has a great hook: without any dialogue, we see that the MC is a Twitter troll. He gets a knock at the door. She’s a pilgrim at the door and he proceeds to creep on her in at least three ways. This is a good setup. Then, a witch hunter from the past appears at the creep’s door with an arrest warrant. I’m getting a great twilight zone feel.

The artist shifts gears with a twist that it’s two of his Internet victims in Party City outfits who want to hang him. Then, they hang him. This is so anti-climatic. I get that he murdered their reputations so they murder him IRL. I could see this happening. If someone is recording someone to make them infamous, I could see someone thinking- well I might as well kill this guy. We always work under the assumption that people will play by the rules. This is a stupid way to be because we have obvious examples that it’s not true i.e. Road Rage.

The reveal didn’t pop the narrative suspense balloon with a bang, it deflated it … slowly and sadly. It was more fun for the pilgrims to be ghosts summoned for revenge than two people with a grudge who would be easily caught. Maybe….Maybe, it could have worked if it were clearer through a scene or two what this man had done that warranted his murder. The heroine did mumble something about what he did, but it was rushed exposition. It did not feel justified.

The writer grasped the idea that a payoff is critical in a story and especially a short, but to have a payoff – you need a pay-in. We did get the idea that the MC was a jerk, BUT hanging a man on his porch and seeing his asphyxiated face was not earned. Revenge stories are great, but the target has to be more than a jerk. We need to be clear with a slow burn that this man had harmed the killers so greatly that we agree with them that this guy needed killing. It felt unfair, not disturbing. It felt awkward and disappointing.

It’s a shame because the writer has some talent, but not enough.

Music Video of the Day: Love Kills by Vinnie Vincent Invasion (1988, directed by Nigel Dick)


After a stint as lead guitarist for KISS, Vinnie Vincent went on to form Vinnie Vincent Invasion.  Though the band was only together for four years before the members split up to pursue their own projects (two members of the band would go on to form Slaughter), Vinnie Vincent Invasion had a number of minor hits during its existence.

Love Kills was featured in Nightmare On Elm Street 4: The Dream Master and Freddy repaid them for the song by appearing in the music video.  This video was directed by Nigel Dick, who I think has directed at least one video for every band that has ever existed.

Enjoy!

October Positivity: The Appointment (dir by Rich Christiano)


First released in 1991 and filmed in Arkansas (which means that I might very well be distantly related to half the cast), The Appointment opens with people all across a small town reading a newspaper column that’s been written by Liz (Karen Jo Briere).  Liz’s column is all about how much she hates Christians and how she wishes that they would stop opening up new churches and demanding that everyone give them money.  Judging by the reactions of the people reading the column, this is apparently the only thing that Liz ever writes about.

At the newspaper, Liz is getting angry calls from people who she describes as being “religious nuts.”  At one point, she says that the paper has gotten fifteen calls!  Now, I know that probably doesn’t sound like that many calls to you city folks but we’re talking about small-town Arkansas here.  In Arkansas, for every one person who complains, there’s probably about twenty who are just holding their tongue out of politeness.  In other words, Liz has upset a lot of people but she doesn’t care.  She hates religion and, besides, she’s going to Hawaii in just a few weeks.

But then, a mysterious man enters Liz’s office.  We never actually see the man.  Instead, we just see things from his point-of-view and we hear his voice when he speaks.  He informs Liz that he has a message from the Lord.

“The Lord who?” Liz asks.

“The Lord Jesus Christ,” the man replies.

(What was Liz expecting to hear?  Does she regularly get messages from the House of Lords or something?)

The man tells Liz that she’s going to die on September 19th at 6:05 pm.  She laughs him off and says that she can’t die because she’s going to Hawaii and she’s never seen it before.

“You never will,” the man replies.

AGCK!

The Appointment is a seriously creepy film.  What really makes it creepy is that no one at the newspaper seems to be that upset by this mysterious man who shows up in their office and tell their star columnist that she’s going to die.  Even though it’s established that everyone can see and hear the man, it doesn’t occur to anyone to call the cops after he leaves.  No one asks Liz if she’s okay.  When the mysterious figure shows up a second time, no one seems to be alarmed.  When the hour of what she’s told will be her death approaches, no one volunteers to stay with Liz or to protect her or offers her any words of comfort whatsoever.  I guess the 90s were a more innocent time but still, it seems like people should have been at least a little bit alarmed by all of this.  At the very least, maybe someone could have offered to walk Liz to her car.

The Appointment is one of those Christian films that attempts to convert viewers by scaring them.  I’m not really a fan of that approach and there’s something undeniably distasteful about the joy the film seems to take in counting down the minutes until Liz dies and presumably heads to Hell.  That said, it’s a surprisingly well-directed film and the amateur cast actually does a pretty good job.  The film’s musical score is loud, otherworldly, and totally intrusive, which is exactly right for this film.  The scenes in which the camera creep through the newspaper office feel more appropriate for a horror film than a faith-based film.  Agree or disagree with the film’s message, it’s still effective in its own crude sort of way.

Add to that, the film was shot in Arkansas, which is one of the many states in which I grew up and still have family.  As I watched the film, it was kind of nice to hear some familiar accents.

Horror on TV: Ghost Story 1.4 “Bad Connection” (dir by Walter Doniger)


On tonight’s episode of Ghost Story, Karen Black plays a widow who starts to get mysterious phone calls from a man who sounds just like her late husband.  Black later expressed some regret that she ended up getting typecast a horror actress but she definitely did a good job in these roles.

This episode was co-written by Richard Matheson and originally aired on October 6th, 1972.

The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: Ted Bundy: American Boogeyman (dir by Daniel Farrands)


The 2021 film, Ted Bundy: American Boogeyman, is yet another film about the life and crimes of America’s first celebrity serial killer, Ted Bundy.

In this particular film, Bundy is played as being a handsome nonentity by Chad Michael Murray.  The film follows Bundy as he moves from Seattle to Utah to Colorado and eventually to Florida, leaving a path of death in his wake.  Investigating his crimes are Seattle Detective Kathleen McChesney (Holland Roden) and FBI profiler Robert Ressler (Jake Hays).  McChesney not only has to track down Bundy but she also has to deal with her sexist police chief and his idiot son, both of whom think that Bundy’s victims are to blame.

Ted Bundy: American Boogeyman is the latest true crime horror film to be directed by Daniel Farrands.  The frustrating thing about Farrands is that, if you can overlook the subject matter of his recent films, he’s actually a talented horror director who knows how to create suspense and who can be counted on to come up with at least one effective jump scare in all of his films.  That said, he keeps making films that are almost impossible to defend because they exploit real-life tragedy.  Farrands’s best film, The Haunting of Sharon Tate, worked because of Hilary Duff’s committed performance in the title role and the fact that the film itself was fully on Tate’s side.  However, Farrands’s The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson was a tacky piece of exploitation that, despite Farrands’s strong visuals, appeared to have little compassion for the woman whose murder served as the film’s inspiration.

Ted Bundy: American Boogeyman is neither as effective as The Haunting of Sharon Tate nor as bad as The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson.  For the most part, the film plays loose with the facts of the case.  At one point, McChesney even shows up at one of Bundy’s crime scenes and takes a shot at him as he flees.  (Tarantino also played around with history in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood but, by allowing Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio to kill the members of the Mason family, he also allowed their victims to live.  Ted Bundy: American Boogeyman, on the other hand, is willing to change history to allow McChesney to arrive at the crime scene but it’s not willing to change history to allow any of Bundy’s victims to survive.  It’s hard not to feel that the film would have benefitted from following Tarantino’s approach and allowing Bundy’s victims to beat him to death.)  There are a few odd scenes in which Bundy is showing fondling several mannequins.  The scenes appear to pay homage to William Lustig’s Maniac but again, it doesn’t seem to be based on anything the actual Bundy did.  The film hints at the intriguing idea of Ted Bundy being America’s first celebrity serial killer but it doesn’t really follow up on it.  The whole thing feels rushed and rather icky.  It certainly doesn’t add any insight into Bundy or killers in general.

That said, our longtime readers know that I hate to end on a totally negative note so I will say that the film uses its low budget to its advantage.  The sparse sets and the small cast give the film something of a surreal feel, with Bundy as an evil specter who randomly shows up to haunt the dreams of a nation.  Lin Shaye and Diane Franklin appear in small roles.  Franklin plays a distraught mom who asks McChesney to kill Bundy rather than arrest him.  Shaye plays Bundy’s overprotective mother and gives a nicely creepy performance.  As I said earlier, it’s not so much that the film is badly made as the subject matter is so icky and the script is so bereft of any new insight that most viewers will wonder why the film needed to be made at all.