This is an absolute gem, and why this masterful chiller remains so obscure is beyond me! ‘Unmann Wittering & Zigo’ is masterfully directed by John Mackenzie, with truly chilling performances from a sublime young cast and yet another stand-out performance from the ever-genius David Hemmings. This profoundly disturbing film can sit quite uncomfortably alongside ‘village of the damned’ & ‘the wicker man’ as one of British cinema’s all-time great horror films. A razor-edged shocker with a palpably disturbing atmosphere; as this genuinely creepy film unfolds, director, Mackenzie ratchets up the penetrating unease with consummate skill; including a number of genuinely terrifying sequences (The ICA or NFT really should give this masterpiece a screening) Highly recommended.
Archive for February, 2009
Unique example of mid-70’s weird-beard horror, and as far as I’m aware ‘Homebodies’ stands tall to this day as the one and only octogenarian revenge drama. This singular horror conserns the plight of disgruntled wrinkles as they confront their callous, money grubbin’ landlords with imaginatively murderous results. The films strapline is a neat précis of all this zimmer-framed lunacy…”A murder a day keeps the landlord away!” Director Yust manages to fashion a credible shlocker that achieves the impossible; that is, it manages to simulaneously tug at ones heart strings while a dobbering old bint hurls some schmoe estate agent into a cement-y grave! Hats off to thee, Larry Yust, they REALLY don’t make ‘em like this anymore!
Michael Reeve’s first and youthful foray into genre filmmaking, while admittedly hamstrung by the obvious constraints of a penurious budget and inexperience, still yields up considerable entertainment. ‘The She Beast’ is a zesty, vengeful yarn of bedeviled witchery that goes beyond it being merely the tentative opening salvo from the talented auteur of the soon-to-be-legendary ‘Witchfinder General’. Unlike many creaky horrors from the mid-sixties ‘The She Beast’ merits a re-visit not only for the other-worldly beauty of, Barbara Steele, but the almost pubescent, Reeves still manages to construct some luridly effective shock moments and generates a palpable gothic sensibility which remains timeless. Yes, one can easily to point out the obvious faults; but it’s far more amusing to kick back and enjoy all the frantic retributions of our lunatic, musili-faced witch. I will always have a soft spot for ‘The She Beast’ and it’s edifying to notice that it has generated a considerable cult of personality all of its own.
Effective spook house shocker with the splendidly bearded Richard Crenna finding himself inadvertently at the veritable epicentre of a centuries old battle betwixt good and evil. literally moments after moving into the cavernous and foreboding property it becomes patently obvious that the gothic building means to do the inhabitants considerable harm. This simple haunted house potboiler is enlivened by a series of genuinely creepy set pieces, aided by a marvellous score by Johnny ‘Fragment of Fear’ Harris. The Evil is a real find, and is a definite keeper for those with a yen for gothic melodrama.
Hyperbole aside this is one of the finest genre films to come out of the UK in the 1960’s; a fascinating and entirely compelling examination of a clannish, insular family whose behavior becomes increasingly erratic after a bereavement causes their already fragile existence to spiral into murkier depths of unsupervised eccentricity. Things take a proverbial turn for the worst after the arrival of, Dirk Bogarde’s uber spiv character, whose motives for accepting the role of caring patriarch appear to be far from altruistic. Jack Clayton’s delightfully unusual ‘Our Mother’s House’ remains to this day a deeply penetrating, unflinching examination of child psychosis, and makes for entirely essential, and dare I say it, creepy viewing. And it would be entirely remiss not to mention the sterling acting from the youthful, ensemble cast; with a particularly affecting performance from the luminous, Pamela ‘Legend of hell House’ Franklin.
‘Hasta el viento tiene miedo’ is a supremely atmospheric gothic horror from the Mexican maesrtro of understated chills, Carlos Enrique Taboada. Here he takes a prosaic plot, the haunting of a all-girls school and turns it into high cinematic art. To my shame I was, until recently, entirely unaware of Taboada’s genre cinema, and it becomes apparent fairly switly that he is a true master of horror; the opening gambit of ‘Hasta el viento tiene miedo’ is creepy, subtle and shows a great mastery of camera that brings to mind the visionary genius of, Mario Bava. This is a genuinely unnerving ghost story that has you in its icy grip from its bravura first act to the heart-pounding, ectoplasmic dénouement. ‘Hasta el viento tiene miedo’ is clearly an important work, whose chilling gothic moitifs rivals that of ‘Black Sunday’, ‘N.O.T.L.D’, and ‘Carnival of Souls’, and it remains a profound injustice to genre cineastes everywhere that Taboada’s majestic, penetrating visions of fear aren’t more recognized for the landmark films that they so clearly are.
Wonderful gothic melodrama directed with considerable flair by the delightfully monikered, Reginald Le Borg (now there’s a name entirely suited to the genre!). Like many early forays into Freudian horror the premise is somewhat clunky; that evil exists as a separate, sentient entity able to commandeer the mind of man for its own malevolent end. This ersatz poltergeist (The Horla) eventually takes hold of the noble and law abiding mind of Vincent Price (An actor with a seemingly effortless ability to play aristocratic crazies!) and proceeds to drag this once erudite magistrate into the degenerate realms of a gibbering bedlamite. ‘Diary of A Madman’ is a splendid, neatly wrought horror tale with yet another sterling Price performance to recommend it. This laudable, Guy De Maupassant adaptation is a worthy compliment to the similarly pitched Corman/Poe pot boilers from the same era.
THE RATS (Robert Clouse) This little documented B-monster mash up turned out to be quite an amusing timewaster concerning the mainly human diet of a ravening plague of dachshund-sized rats in downtown Toronto. The real problem with the film is that it is meant to be based on James Herbert’s scuzzball splatterfest, and outside of cribbing the title, Clouse ill-advisedly decided to eschew Herbert’s wall-to-wall grume and stick to a more conventional modus operandi, which plays like a 1950’s Bert I. Gordon quickie, but it’s this very anachronistic take on the genre which I found so appealing; ‘Deadly Eyes’ would make a great double bill with the equally ludicrous, but entirely fantastic ‘Food Of The Gods’ . A particularly amusing moment (reminding one of ‘The Blob’) is the sequence in the packed cinema with a clutch of appreciative, vocal fans enjoying the classic sequence from ‘Game of Death’ where Bruce Lee makes light work of lanky titan, Kareem Abdul Jabbar; when suddenly the rampaging rats chew their way through the shrieking audience; bloody marvellous! Yes, the script is banal, with all the characterizations and performances, outside of the delightful Scatman Crothers cameo being completely perfunctory, but miraculously all this lumpen silliness manages to translate into acceptable late-night fare. (Admittedly it’s one of those uninspired schlockers where one’s lack of sobriety plays a role in the degree of entertainment said film affords).
Very rare Mexican gothic horror from director, Ramon Obon. I have to profess to a yielding soft spot for Mexican horror; as even the worst schlocker from south of the border generally has a certain special something to amuse even the most jaded psychotronic junkie, and ‘100 Cries of Terror’ is unlikely to disappoint. This atmospheric compendium comprises of two bone rattlin’ supernatural yarns, with the latter tale clearly being inspired by Poe’s premature burial. Both stories have considerable merit, but the ‘Cripta De Terror’ segment is a truly unusual and decidedly effective foray into ice-veined, sepulchral horror. Highly recommended.
Singular Mexican horror film that “expertly” blends the seemingly incongrous themes of gothic melodrama and gonzoid sci-fi. A supposed heretic (Abel Salazar) is condemned to a fiery death by members of the be-hooded, bloodthirsty inquisition; and as ‘El Baron’ fails to perish in the flames he threatens to return in 300 years???? in order to eradicate the last family members of those that have deigned to put him to death. Utter madness, but oddly compelling at the same time. Salazar makes for a fabulous villain who transforms into a monstrous, brain sucking demon.