The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: The Flesh and Blood Show (dir by Pete Walker)


I had a few reasons for watching the 1972 slasher film, The Flesh and Blood Show.

First off, the film was directed by Pete Walker.  Though Pete Walker may not be as well-known as some of his contemporaries and his overall cinematic output is dreadfully uneven, he was still responsible for enough memorable films that I will always give him a chance.

Secondly, it’s a British film and the British were responsible for some of the best horror films of the late 60s and early 70s.

Third, speaking as a horror fan, that title is just irresistible.  The Flesh and Blood Show?  Well, there’s nothing subtle about that!  Looking at that title, you find yourself wondering, “How much flesh and how much blood is actually in this film?”

Well, having watched the film, I can tell you that there’s very little blood and a good deal of flesh.  The Flesh and Blood Show was Walker’s first horror film.  Before moving into the horror genre, Walker specialized in making sexploitation movies and it’s kind of obvious that, when he directed this film, he was still more comfortable asking people to undress than asking them to play dead.  As opposed to other slasher films, the majority of the young cast survives and the almost all of the murders occur off-screen.  Every couple of minutes or so, someone else is getting undressed.  The constant nudity actually starts to get pretty funny after a while.  One could very easily use The Flesh and Blood Show to construct a drinking game.

As for the film’s plot, it deals with a group of actors who receive invitations to an abandoned theater.  An unseen producer apparently wants them all to perform an infamous play, perhaps the same play that is rumored to have led to tragedy back in 1945.  If it seems rather odd that the film’s characters would willingly go to an abandoned theater in the middle of nowhere and perform a possibly cursed play, no one is ever going to accuse anyone in this film of being smart.  Why ask why when there’s so much dancing and undressing to do?

There’s also an elderly major (Patrick Barr) hanging out around the theater.  He was actually one of my favorite characters in the movie because he approached everything with this very British, very stiff upper lip attitude.  Of course, the major himself has a secret.  That said, the secret isn’t that surprising.  I figured it out as soon as he showed up.

Naturally, all the murders at the theater are linked back to a tragedy in the past.  The final 15 minutes of the movie are made up of an extensive flashback to that tragedy and I will say this: it’s the best part of the film.  The flashback was originally filmed in 3-D and Walker uses this as an excuse to indulge in some surreal flourishes.

There are a few positive things to be said about The Flesh and Blood Show.  Pete Walker was a talented director and that talent comes through in even his weaker films.  There are a few scenes where Walker manages to maintain a properly ominous atmosphere and the movie’s score is so melodramatic and over the top that it’s kind of hard not to love it.

But, for the most part, The Flesh and Blood Show is a rather forgettable film.  If you want to see a good Pete Walker film, track down Frightmare.

Horror Scenes That I Love: Nosferatu on the Death Ship


Since I seem to be in a bit of a vampiric mood tonight, how about a scene from the 1922 classic, Nosferatu, for today’s scene that I love?

This scene features the titular vampire taking over a boat and it proves that movies didn’t need to be scary.

Enjoy!

(As a reminder, if you like this scene, you can watch the whole movie by clicking here!)

International Horror Film Review: The Nude Vampire (dir by Jean Rollin)


In the middle of the night, a woman (Christine François), wearing an orange nightgown walks down a dark, Paris street.

She is followed by three men, all of whom are wearing strange, bird-like masks.

The woman turns a corner and runs into Pierre (Olivier Rollin).  Pierre and the woman stare at each other, without saying a word.  Though it may be their first time to meet each other, both their attraction and their bond is instantaneous.

Both Pierre and the woman run down the street.  The men in the marks follow them.

Finally, in a deserted alley, the men corner the woman and Pierre.  Though Pierre escapes, the woman is shot by one of the men and promptly collapses.

The men pick up the woman’s body and carry her to a nearby, gated building.  A bearded doorman lets them through.  Several other people, all wearing tuxedos and fancy gowns, come to the gate and, after showing the doorman their invitation, are allowed to pass through.  Pierre tries to follow but is told that he cannot enter because he has not been invited.

And so begins Jean Rollin’s 1970 film, The Nude Vampire.  This was Rollin’s second film, following the controversial Le Viol du VampireThe Nude Vampire, while once again featuring all of Rollin’s pet obsessions, is still a far more assured piece of filmmaking than Rollin’s first film.  It’s interesting to watch The Nude Vampire directly after Le Viol du Vampire because you can can truly see Rollin developing as a director.  Once again, Rollin is telling an odd story about a frequently disrobed vampire and once again, all of the action leads to the beach.  However, the plot is far easier to follow in The Nude Vampire than in Le Viol du Vampire.  If the first film often seemed to be too indulgent for its own good, The Nude Vampire is just indulgent enough to work.  Of course, as with any Rollin film, your mileage may vary.  What seems rather coherent and almost tame to a Rollin fan may seem like the exact opposite to someone who has never seen a Rollin film before.

As for Pierre, he is determined to figure out what happened to the woman, even though his own father says that it is sometimes best to just leave well enough alone.  After punching out a partygoer and stealing his invitation, Pierre gets into the building and discovers that, despite having been shot in front of him, the woman in the orange nightgown is not dead.  In fact, she doesn’t even appear to be injured.  Instead, she drinks the blood of a party guest who has just committed suicide.  It turns out that the party is actually a cult and they worship the woman.

As if that’s not shocking enough, Pierre discovers that his own father is in charge of the cult!  His father explains that the woman is actually a vampire but that there might be a cure for her condition.  But, in order to cure her, she must be kept safe from the vampires who are trying to capture her….

And that’s not all!  But I won’t share any more of the plot.  I only have limited space here, after all.  The film plays out like a serial, with twists and turns and a lot of scenes involving people being chased from one location to another.  As I mentioned before, it all leads to the beach because this is a Rollin film and Rollin’s vampiric visions always ended with the beach.

As one should always expect from a Jean Rollin film, The Nude Vampire plays out at its own deliberate, dream-like pace.  As a director, Rollin was such a strong visualist that somehow even his film’s lapses in coherence seemed to make a strange sort of sense.  If every movie is a dream then who are we to complain when they employ dream logic?  As with any Rollin film, The Nude Vampire is not for everyone but fans of Rollin’s unique aesthetic will definitely find much to enjoy.

4 Shots From 4 Films: The Blair Witch Project, The Rage: Carrie 2, The Sixth Sense, Stir of Echoes


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 October, we’re using 4 Shots From 4 Films to look at some of the best years that horror has to offer!

4 Shots From 4 1999 Horror Films:

The Blair Witch Project (1999, dir by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez)

The Rage: Carrie 2 (1999, dir by Katt Shea)

The Sixth Sense (1999, dir by M. Night Shyamalan)

Stir of Echoes (1999, dir by David Koepp)

Horror Film Review: The Hunger (dir by Tony Scott)


“Bela Lugosi’s dead….” Peter Murphy sings at the start of 1983’s The Hunger and, in the case of this film, it’s as much of a challenge as a tribute.

Bela Lugosi and Dracula are gone, the film announces, and so is the old-fashioned vampire movie.  Here’s a new look at an old favorite….

Of course, seen today, The Hunger doesn’t seem new.  Since The Hunger‘s release, there’s been  a countless number of films in which vampires have been decadent and chic aristocrats, hanging out in dark nightclubs and looking at the world with ennui-stricken eyes.  By today’s standards, the stylish decadence of The Hunger can seem almost quaint.  Much like Paul Schrader’s remake of Cat People, The Hunger is such a film of the 80s that you half-expect someone to offer you a line coke while you’re watching it.  Also, like Cat People, it’s such a glorious tribute to excess that there’s no way you can’t watch it once it starts.  It’s hypnotic in its excess.

In The Hunger, our vampires are Miriam Blaylock (Catherine Deneuve) and her lover, John (David Bowie).  Miriam has been a vampire since at least the time of the ancient Egyptians.  Rather than sinking her fangs into the necks of her victims, Miriam uses an Ankh pendant to slit their throats.  John was once a cellist in 18th century France.  Now, they live in an expensive New York townhouse, where they teach classical music and occasionally murder anyone that they can convince to come up to see them.

When they first met, Miriam promised John that he would have eternal life but she didn’t promise him eternal youth.  Unfortunately, it takes 200 years for John to notice.  When he starts to rapidly age, he seeks out aging expert Dr. Sarah Roberts (Susan Sarandon) for help.  Though Dr. Roberts is originally dismissive of his claims, she is shocked to see John age several years in just an hour.

When an angry and desperate John kills the music student (Beth Ehlers) that Miriam was hoping to transform into her next lover, Miriam is forced to search elsewhere.  When Sarah shows up, searching for the man who aged years in an hour, Miriam feels that her search may be over.

As one might expect from a film directed by Tony Scott, The Hunger is an extremely stylish film, to the extent that the film’s story is often secondary to the way that Scott chooses to tell it.  The set design is so ornate and every scene is so precisely lit and shot and that, at times, the movie feels a bit like a commercial for vampirism.  It’s easy to imagine Britney Spears singing “Work Bitch” in the background of some of the scenes.  (“You want a hot body?  You want a Bugatti?  You Want a Maserati?  You better work vamp.”)  Throughout the film, New York glows like a neon wonderland while John and Miriam coolly look out over the world like 18th century French aristocrats who have no idea that they have a future date with the guillotine.  At times, it’s a film that becomes almost ludicrous in its celebration of grandeur and style.  One could imagine Jean Rollin telling the same story just as effectively while spending a lot less money.

And yet, it’s that very embrace of the over-the-top ludicrousness of it all that makes The Hunger a memorable film.  The film’s a tribute to excess, with an ending that falters precisely because it attempts to reject precisely what it’s spent the past hour and a half celebrating.  The Hunger doesn’t add up too much but its hypnotically stylish and well-acted by a cast who does their best to keep up with Tony Scott’s camera.

 

Horror on the Lens: The Lodger (dir by Alfred Hitchcock)


A serial killer known as “The Avenger” is murdering blonde women in London (which, once again, proves that its better to be a redhead).  And while nobody knows the identity of the Avenger, they do know that the enigmatic stranger  (Ivor Novello), who has just recently rented a room at boarding house, happens to fit his description.  They also know that the lodger’s landlord’s daughter happens to be a blonde…

Released in 1927, the silent The Lodger was Alfred Hitchcock’s third film but, according to the director, this was the first true “Hitchcock film.”  Certainly it shows that even at the start of his career, Hitchcock’s famous obsessions were already present — the stranger accused of a crime, the blonde victims, and the link between sex and violence.

Also of note, the credited assistant director — Alma Reville — would become Alma Hitchcock shortly before The Lodger was released.

The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: The Banana Splits Movie (dir by Danishka Esterhazy)


The Banana Splits Movie takes viewers behind the scenes of a children’s television show and shows us the sordid world that nobody knows about.

The stage manager is overworked.  The new head of the network is a jerk.  The star of the show is a drunk.  The lovable Banana Splits, who play silly games and all play music instruments, are all actually robots who are looked down upon by their human coworkers.  When Stevie (Richard White), the star of the show, learns that the show is being canceled, he makes the mistake of telling the robots and, before you know it, all Hell is breaking lose.  People are getting stabbed to death with lollipops.  Network executives are getting dismembered.  One unfortunate person gets slammed in the head with a giant hammer.  You gotta be careful who you piss off, folks.  Robots are ruthless.

To me, the most shocking thing about The Banana Splits Movie was the discovery that it was based on an actual show.  Apparently, the Banana Splits were real and they had their own show in the late 60s and early 70s.  I’m going to guess that the Banana Splits were played by people in costumes as opposed to just being big robots.  At least, I hope that’s the case because, after watching The Banana Splits Movie, I’m kind of over wanting anything to do with robots.

I will say this.  If I imagine the characters from this movie not killing people, I can kinda understand why they would have their own TV show.  I mean, they’re all really cute, except for when they’re covered in blood and brain matter.  My personal favorite was Snorky, who was a big elephant and was a bit less murderous than the other three members of the Banana Splits.  In fact, I have to admit that the film kind of left me feeling a little bit depressed because all of the robots are so cute that you really don’t want to see them murder people or get damaged themselves.  The film actually does a pretty good job of contrasting the adorableness of the Banana Splits with the pain and carnage that they caused.

And make no doubt about it.  There’s a lot of blood spilled in this movie.  The Banana Splits are ruthless murderers and they don’t care how nice you are or if you paid money to see the show or if you’re just trying to make your daughter into a big star.  If they see you, they’ll kill you.  In fact, I have to admit that it sometimes got to be a bit too much for me.  I got a little bit tired of all the violence but, at the same time, I also appreciated the film’s satiric intent.  In a world gone mad, why wouldn’t the stars of a children’s TV show turn out to be a bunch of killer robots?  When you think about all of the once beloved celebrities that have fallen from grace over the past 10 years, it makes an odd sort of sense.

Anyway, The Banana Splits Movie is well made splatter film with a satiric vein running through all blood and guts.  It was a bit much for me but I respected it for sticking to its subversive premise and I do think it will be appreciated by a lot of other horror fans and pop culture fanatics.

I’m just hoping that the sequel features more Snorky.