Daniel Isn’t Real (2019)
Producers: Daniel Noah & Josh C Waller & Lisa Whalen & Elijah Wood
Director: Adam Egypt Mortimer
Screenwriters: Brian DeLeeuw and Adam Egypt Mortimer (novel: Brian DeLeeuw)
A kid has an “imaginary” friend who gets him in trouble. He locks it up but lets it back out when he’s in college. And it gets much worse to the point of killing people.
This is a well-made and stylish film. There isn’t much horror until the very end and even that isn’t great. Critics seem to like this film — apparently not noticing that it really isn’t deep. But if you like interestingly shot films that are well-produced you’ll probably like it.
Daniel Isn’t Real is under copyright. It is available on DVD with 9 minutes of deleted scenes and a director commentary.
9 October 2021
Danny Johnson Saves the World (2015)
Producers: Christopher R Mihm and Stephanie Mihm
Director/Screenwriter: Christopher R Mihm
A grandfather tells the story of when he was a kid and how he saved the world from an invasion of brain-washing puppets.
This is probably Mihm’s most charming film with a mostly child cast with supporting parts by puppets. It’s still filled with the usual 1950s B-movie parody elements like over-explaining and ridiculous timing. There are also some great stop-motion animation by Norman Yeend.
Starring Elliott Mihm, James Norgard (House of Ghosts), Iola Warneke, and Jack Warneke. Christopher Mihm voices and controls Steve. Michael G Kaiser again plays the “monster.”
Danny Johnson Saves the World is under copyright. It is available on Amazon Prime.
The Dark and the Wicked (2020)
Producers: Bryan Bertino & Adrienne Biddle & Sonny Mallhi & Kevin Matusow
Director/Screenwriter: Bryan Bertino
A daughter and son come back to the family farm to help their mother with their dying father. But the mother is acting strangely and finally kills herself. There is something evil at the farm that is hunting for souls.
This is an exceptional horror film with thick atmosphere and a good number of jumps. It doesn’t explain everything but from my perspective it explains just enough (I don’t like over-explained plots). You might need a drink after it’s over.
11 March 2021
Dark City (1998)
Producers: Andrew Mason and Alex Proyas
Director: Alex Proyas
Screenwriters: Alex Proyas and Lem Dobbs and David S Goyer (story: Alex Proyas)
A man wakes up with no memory and is quickly on the run from a group of mysterious men. Slowly, he pieces his life together and tries to make his way to his childhood home, which he believes will provide answers. It does, but not the ones he expects.
This is a brilliant science-fiction noir that was clearly an influence on The Matrix. It bears repeated viewings.
Starring Rufus Sewell (A Knight’s Tale), William Hurt (Body Heat), Jennifer Connelly (Requiem for a Dream), and Kiefer Sutherland (Flatliners). It has an amazing secondary cast too, featuring Richard O’Brien (Elvira’s Haunted Hills), Bruce Spence (The Matrix Revolutions), Colin Friels (Darkman), Melissa George (30 Days of Night), and Ian Richardson (Brazil).
Dark City is copyrighted. It is available on DVD with a couple of interesting extras. Or you could get it with the 10-minute longer director’s cut on Blu-ray with more but different extras. It’s also available with other films but I’d get one of the single versions.
9 March 2020
Dark Star (1974)
Producer/Director: John Carpenter
Screenwriters: John Carpenter and Dan O’Bannon
This is John Carpenter’s very silly debut. And it is a delight. A small crew is in a spaceship far from Earth. They are destroying unstable planetoids so that humans can colonize the planetary systems at some later time. But everything goes wrong. The best part of it is the beachball alien.
The Darkness (2016)
Producers: Jason Blum, Bianca Martino, and Matthew Kaplan
Director: Greg McLean
Screenwriters: Greg McLean, Shayne Armstrong & SP Krause
A kid picks up Native American stones from Grand Canyon bringing evil into his house. A portal into the underworld is opened and all is lost unless the stones are returned.
This is about as close to a remake of Poltergeist (1982) as you can get without a lawsuit. But this works pretty well.
Dave Made a Maze (2017)
Producers: John Charles Meyer and John Chuldenko
Director: Bill Watterson
Screenwriters: Steven Sears & Bill Watterson (story: Steven Sears)
A guy builds a cardboard maze in his living room and gets trapped inside it. His girlfriend wants to help him but he tells her it is much larger inside and very dangerous. Eventually, she and his friends go inside to rescue him and it is indeed dangerous.
This is a wonderfully creative film. It may be too manic for some but it delivers on what it promises. The design is great (including cardboard-based gore) and the cast is excellent. It’s worth a look.
Dawn of the Dead (1978)
Producer: Richard P Rubinstein
Director/Screenwriter: George Romero
Alternate titles: Zombi, Zombie
Survivors of the zombie outbreak take over a shopping mall fighting the zombies there as well as a gang of bikers.
This is a classic. But it’s been copied so much that watching it now is more just for nostalgia. It’s kind of long but what’s an extra half-hour when you are hanging out with old friends?
Starring Ken Foree (The Devil’s Rejects), Gaylen Ross, David Emge, and Scott Reiniger.
Dawn of the Dead is under copyright. Anchor Bay released it on DVD and Blu-ray with a bunch of extras. But these are really expensive now. Or you can get the Arrow DVD for even more. There are a ton of versions including the “director’s cut,” which is even longer!
31 July 2020
Day of Anger (1967)
Producers: Alfonso Sansone and Henryk Chrosicki
Director: Tonino Valerii
Screenwriters: Ernesto Gastaldi, Tonino Valerii, and Renzo Genta (novel: Rolf Becker)
Alternate titles: I Giorni Dell’ira
A sanitation worker in the old west hooks up with a gunslinger who teaches him the ropes. But when he has learned the trade, the two men can no longer trust each other, and conflict arises.
This is a solid Spaghetti Western but ultimately more serious than I usually want to engage with. The two leads are excellent.
15 May 2020
Day of the Dead 2: Contagium (2005)
Producer: James Dudelson
Directors: James Dudelson and Ana Clavell
Screenwriter: Ana Clavell
The army creates a virus that turns people into zombies. They think they’ve wiped it out, but a vile shows up four decades later at a mental hospital. The virus gets out and starts turning everyone into zombies.
This film has seen more hatred than any other I can remember. And it’s all because of its name. It has nothing to do with George Romero or Day of the Dead (1985). But the title is entirely in keeping with what exploitation filmmakers do. Romero doesn’t need to be protected. And the fact is, this is a really good zombie film!
Starring Laurie Baranyay, Stan Klimecko, John F Henry II (Trickster), Justin Ipock, and Julian Thomas.
Day of the Dead 2: Contagium is copyrighted. It is available on DVD with filmmakers’ commentary and a featurette.
Day the World Ended (1955)
Producer/Director: Roger Corman
Screenwriter: Lou Rusoff
After nuclear war, two small groups make their way to a survivalist’s home where they should all learn to get along but don’t. Plus they have to deal with nuclear monsters who ogle the women folk.
This is more or less Five (1951) but much less bleak and with monsters. As usual, Corman shows that he can make a one-room feature better than anyone. But this one does suffer from excessive exposition, which probably played better when everyone thought they would die in a nuclear war.
Day the World Ended is under copyright. It is available on DVD with The She-Creature, another AIP release written by Lou Rusoff.
1 May 2020
Dead & Rotting (2002)
Producer: Trent Haaga
Director: David P Barton
Screenwriters: Douglas Snauffer and David P Barton (story: Barton)
Three friends abuse the cat familiar (in human form) of a witch. The witch fights back. Rather than let the battle end there, the guys continue with a game that will lead to three deaths.
This is the only film directed by special make-up artist David Barton. It has some cool effects but is mostly absent gore. It’s an enjoyable film but I can see why he didn’t direct again. The film saw the combined forces of Charles Band’s Full Moon Pictures and JR Bookwalter’s Tempe Entertainment.
Dead & Rotting is under copyright. It is available on a Tempe DVD with their usual excellent selection of extras.
25 February 2020
Dead Alive (1992)
Producer: Jim Booth
Director: Peter Jackson
Screenwriters: Stephen Sinclair, Fran Walsh, and Peter Jackson (story: Stephen Sinclair)
Alternate titles: Braindead
A rat-monkey from Skull Island turns people into zombies. When Lionel’s mother is infected, he tries to hold things together. But they fly out of control.
I miss the days when Peter Jackson made live-action films instead of his later animated films. (No offense. His King Kong is one of my very favorite films.) The effects in this film are fantastic. And it’s very funny in a sick way.
Dead Alive is copyrighted. It is available on a bare DVD. Strangely, that’s about it.
Dead End (2003)
Producers: James Huth & Gabriella Stollenwerk
Directors/Screenwriters: Jean-Baptiste Andrea & Fabrice Canepa
A family on the road to spend Christmas with relatives has a near-crash. They find themselves on a deserted road where they come upon a young woman with a dead baby. One by one, everyone dies and is taken away in a mysterious hearse.
This is a very effective horror film even if it’s pretty clear what is going on from the start. One nice thing is that the characters are fairly likeable so you aren’t cheering for their deaths. It features a fine cast.
Starring Alexandra Holden (Wishcraft), Ray Wise (Suburban Gothic), Lin Shaye (Insidious), Mick Cain (White Wolves III: Cry of the White Wolf), and Amber Smith (Tell Me No Lies). Steve Valentine (Crossing Jordan) also has a small role.
Dead End is under copyright. It is available on DVD.
30 December 2020
Dead Man (1995)
Producer: Demetra J MacBride
Director/Screenwriter: Jim Jarmusch
William Blake (the name is important) comes to an Old West town with the promise of an accountant job only to learn that the job has been given away. His life quickly goes downhill and he finds himself wanted for murder and hunted by three killers. Don’t think you know where this film is going.
This is Jim Jarmusch at his most oblique and wonderful. It is beautiful and filled with a large collection of colorful characters. Just relax and enjoy the ride.
Starring Johnny Depp (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) and Gary Farmer (Smoke Signals). It has too many notable actors in minor roles to list. But of particular note are Robert Mitchum (Cape Fear) and John Hurt (The Hit).
The film is under copyright but there is a low-resolution copy on Archive.org. It is available on DVD and Blu-ray from Criterion with lots of extras but no director commentary because, of course, Jarmusch is above such things.
The Dead Next Door (1989)
Producer/Director/Screenwriter: JR Bookwalter
A virus is causing people to turn into zombies. We follow along with the Zombie Squad as they fight a cult that protects zombies because they think it is God’s will.
The most expensive Super-8 film ever made! Okay, that’s not a big deal — especially considering how much money was wasted on things like redoing all the audio. But this is probably the film Bookwalter will be remembered for, even though I don’t think it is one of his best films. But it’s still a lot of fun!
Most of the people in this film were from the theater and industrial films. For example, Pete Ferry, who stands out in the film, is apparently very successful in industrial films in the midwest. Most of the others have gone on to work with Bookwalter in other films. Notable actors: Bogdan Pecic, Robert Kokai, and Jolie Jackunas.
The Dead Next Door is under copyright. Anchor Bay released a solid DVD back in 2005. But you are better to get the 2017 Tempe Digital release, which has both the Blu-ray and DVD in addition to a huge number of extras.
Dead of Night (1945)
Producer: Michael Balcon
Director: Basil Dearden and Alberto Cavalcanti and Robert Hamer and Charles Crichton
Screenwriter: John Baines & Angus MacPhail (stories: HG Wells, EF Benson, John Baines, Angus MacPhail)
Anthology film with a frame story about a man who enters a reality he has been dreaming about for some time.
This film is best remembered for the ventriloquist story, but the ending of the story frame is really well done. The comedic golf story is the weakest. None of it will be surprising to anyone who grew up on The Twilight Zone. But this is still a highly rewarding film to watch.
Dead of Night probably isn’t under copyright but it’s likely still a question courts would entertain. Regardless, you can find so-so prints on Archive.org. KL Studio Classics has released it on DVD and Blu-ray with a Tim Lucas commentary and a feature-length documentary.
1 July 2023
Dead of Night (1977)
Producer: Robert Singer
Director: Dan Curtis
Screenwriter: Richard Matheson (stories: Richard Matheson and Jack Finney)
An anthology film: a young man restores an old car that takes him back in time; a woman thinks she is being attacked by a vampire but her husband has doubts; a mother whose son drowns uses the dark arts to bring him back with the usual results.
This is a so-so anthology. The first one is kind of annoying with excessive narration. The second one is better but the twist is stale and was even at the time. But the last one is really good. Unsurprisingly, Curtis shot it again for Trilogy of Terror II.
Dead of Night is under copyright. It is available on DVD with some deleted material and the 1969 TV pilot.
23 June 2021
The Dead Pit (1989)
Producer: Gimel Everett
Director: Brett Leonard
Screenwriters: Brett Leonard and Gimel Everett
The most brilliant doctor at a mental hospital goes insane and experiments on and kills many patients. He’s killed but 20 years later, a woman shows up at the hospital who seems to be possessed by him. Soon, the doctor and his victims are risen from the dead.
This is a pretty typical horror film of the period but it’s more effective than you might imagine. In particular, the zombies look great and they are smart and fast.
The film stars Cheryl Lawson (J Edgar). She’s had a good career as stunt double. It is interesting to watch her here because even though she is very much presented as a sex object, she’s clearly an athletic woman. According to Michael Weldon, the topless scene was done by porn actor Shanna McCullough. Also featuring Jeremy Slate (True Grit), Stephen Gregory Foster, and Danny Gochnauer.
18 November 2020
Dead Ringers (1988)
Producers: David Cronenberg and Marc Boyman
Director: David Cronenberg
Screenwriters: David Cronenberg and Norman Snider (based on Twins by Bari Wood and Jack Geasland)
This film is as creepy as anything Cronenberg has ever done. It is mostly based on real-life gynecologists Stewart and Cyril Marcus who were twins who died together. It is definitely influenced by Peter Greenaway’s own creepy twins film A Zed & Two Noughts. But this film is much more focused on the body horror aspect of the twins’ dysfunction. It’s riveting from beginning to end — one of Cronenberg’s very best.
Jeremy Irons (Die Hard with a Vengeance) is great at differentiating the twins, although there are times when it isn’t certain which is which (and that’s the point). Geneviève Bujold (Coma) is the romantic (Is that the right word?!) lead. Also featured: Heidi von Palleske (Shepherd), Barbara Gordon (“Deathday Cake” episode of Todd and the Book of Pure Evil), and Stephen Lack (Scanners).
Dead Snow (2009)
Producer: Tomas Evjen
Director: Tommy Wirkola
Screenwriters: Tommy Wirkola and Stig Frode Henriksen
Young people vacation at a cabin. They learn about a bunch of Nazis who were slaughtered at the end of World War II. The kids find some old Nazi treasure and then the Nazi zombies show up. You know the only thing worse than a zombie is a Nazi zombie.
This is a fun zombie film with great attention paid to intestines. It suffers from tonal inconsistencies — jumping from serious to joke horror. It’s two halves of the perfect zombie picture. But it has so many spectacular scenes that it is well worth watching the whole film.
Starring Vegar Hoel (Dead Snow: Red vs Dead), Stig Frode Henriksen (Kill Buljo), Charlotte Frogner, Lasse Valdal, Evy Kasseth Røsten, Jeppe Beck Laursen, Jenny Skavlan, Ane Dahl Torp, and Ørjan Gamst.
Dead Snow: Red vs Dead (2014)
Producers: Terje Strømstad and Kjetil Omberg
Director: Tommy Wirkola
Screenwriters: Tommy Wirkola, Vegar Hoel, and Stig Frode Henriksen
Our review: Dead Snow: Red vs Dead
Starting at the very end of the original Dead Snow, this film follows Martin as he raises an army of Soviet zombies to take on the Nazi zombies. But first, he must escape from the police who believe that he murdered all his friends. (To be fair, he did kill his girlfriend.)
Unlike the original that switched between comedy and drama, this one is flat-out comedy. It’s wonderfully silly. But I find it more realistic than the original. Having a zombie arm attached to a living human is much more believable than someone voluntarily sawing off their own arm. But maybe that’s just me.
Vegar Hoel, Ørjan Gamst, and Charlotte Frogner reprise their roles from the first film and Stig Frode Henriksen is back in a different (better) role. Featuring: Kristoffer Joner (The Monitor), Amrita Acharia (Welcome to Curiosity), Derek Mears (Friday the 13th), and Bjarte Tjøstheim. It also features three North American actors Martin Starr (I’ll See You in My Dreams), Jocelyn DeBoer (Greener Grass), and Ingrid Haas (That Burning Feeling) as the Zombie Squad.
The Dead Want Women (2012)
Producer/Director: Charles Band
Screenwriter: Kent Roudebush (story: Charles Band)
Alternate titles: Haunted Hollywood
In 1927, when a starlet learns her contract has been cut, she kills herself and her sex entourage. In the present, two young real estate agents think they have found a buyer for the starlet’s old house, but it is just a trick by the ghosts who still haunt the place.
This is a weird one. Most of it is quite serious and it is done with a fair amount of style. But it also features a 3-minute (very tame) softcore porn scene. And much of the later material is played for laughs. It also features a lot of padding. But I did mostly enjoy it. There’s no doubt a great film in this material.
Starring Jessica Morris (Reel Evil), Eric Roberts (It Wants Blood!), Ariana Madix, Jean Louise O’Sullivan (The Bates Haunting), Nihilist Gelo (Zombies vs Strippers), Robert Zachar (Dragon Fighter), and Circus-Szalewski (The Rockville Slayer). Porn actor Jeanie Marie Sullivan is the blond flapper who is naked throughout the film.
28 July 2021
Deadly Playthings (2019)
Producer: Ron Bonk
Director: Mark Polonia
Screenwriter: Alan Wyoming
A little girl gets a hand-me-down doll that has a demon inside it. As a result, the family goes to pieces until they get the help of a psychic who used to own the doll.
The supernatural aspects of this film work fine. But the core of it is really the parents fighting. The writing and even the acting is fine. The emotional levels of the two actors don’t match, however. Otherwise, it’s an evil doll film and that’s nice. Also, the denouement is clever — especially for a micro-budget.
Starring Lilace Guignard, Titus Himmelberger (Outpost Earth), Gloria Giugnard, and Sarah Duterte. Mark Polonia has a small role as a real estate agent.
Deadly Playthings is under copyright. It is available on DVD.
17 July 2020
Death Bed: The Bed That Eats (1977)
Producer/Director/Screenwriter: George Barry
Our review: Death Bed: The Bed That Eats Review and Analysis
A demon is trapped inside a bed because of a love affair gone wrong. Ever since then, the bed’s been eating people who use it. It’s now in an abandoned house and various people are consumed by it before, through the help of an artist trapped in his own painting, it is destroyed.
This is an amazing art-horror-fetish-comedy film that’s pretty much unlike anything you’ve ever seen. Barry is an idiosyncratic genius who thought he was making a standard horror film. It’s must viewing for anyone interested in the wild and wonderful in film.
Starring Demene Hall, William Russ (Boy Meets World), composer Julie Ritter, and Linda Bond.
Death Bed: The Bed That Eats is under copyright although there is a very nice print of it on Archive.org. In truth, the film was widely pirated before it was ever released. I really think everyone owes it to George Barry to purchase the film. It is available on DVD with a 5-minute interview with Barry. It is also available on a 2013 Blu-ray with more interviews and a commentary track with writer Stephen Thrower and Barry.
15 August 2020
Death Proof (2007)
Producers: Elizabeth Avellán & Robert Rodriguez & Erica Steinberg & Quentin Tarantino
Director/Screenwriter: Quentin Tarantino
A man with a stunt vehicle uses it to kill 5 young women. He gets away with it and 14 months later, he goes after three more young women in a different state with a very different result.
Overall, this is a fine film and very much worth watching. But it suffers from Tarantino having too much power. The whole thing gets sidetracked for a half hour of dialog scenes when it should be rushing for the end. But it has some amazing effects (like a woman’s leg being cut off) and a great car chase at the end.
Starring Kurt Russell (The Thing), Rosario Dawson (This Revolution), Vanessa Ferlito (All Mistakes Buried), Sydney Tamiia Poitier, Tracie Thoms (The Drowning), and Michael Parks (From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money). The film also stars stunt-artist Zoë Bell. Tarantino has a small role.
14 March 2021
Death Ship (1980)
Producers: Derek Gibson and Harold Greenberg
Director: Alvin Rakoff
Screenwriter: John Robins (story: Jack Hill and David P Lewis)
A cruise ship is attacked by a Nazi ghost ship. The few survivors board this ship but it tortures and kills them. And the ghost of the Nazi captain takes over the living captain, which doesn’t actually make him much less likable.
This film has moments of brilliance but is kind of a slog. For me, that’s partly due to the death ship being kind of boring to look at. Overall, it feels very made-for-television, even though it most clearly is not. It has a great poster, though! And there have got to be people who love this film.
20 June 2020
Death Smiles on a Murderer (1973)
Producer: Franco Gaudenzi
Director: Joe D’Amato
Screenwriters: Joe D’Amato & R Scandariato and C Bernabei (story: Joe D’Amato)
A woman is taken in by a rich couple after she survives a carriage accident. A doctor brought to help her finds that she is undead and sets out to find the secret of life. And the husband falls in love with her. The jealous wife imprisons her in the Edgar Allan Poe style. Then it really gets going.
This is a seriously twisted film in many ways including domestic abuse and incest in the first minute. It’s quite interesting but it doesn’t have the style that earlier Italian horror films did.
18 May 2020
Death Valley (2021)
Producers: Chad Archibald & Cody Calahan & Matthew Ninaber
Director/Screenwriter: Matthew Ninaber
Mercenaries are sent into a bio-lab that is locked down and under siege. After escaping from the military operation outside, they learn that there are monsters inside.
This is an impressive film. It seems like it has ten times the budget it does. And the monster suit is great. At the same time, the script is lacking with weak, obvious dialog and a plot that was clear pretty much from the moment we get inside. And the combat scenes suffer from a lack of a clear idea of where everyone is and who they are. But wow! Give Mr Ninaber a Paul Schrader script and watch out!
The standout here is Ethan Mitchell, who plays the sidekick. I expect to see more of him. Jeremy Ninaber and Kristen Kaster also give good performances. Ninaber plays the monsters.
Death Valley is under copyright. It isn’t currently available on disc and I kind of doubt it ever will be. You can stream it on Shudder.
6 January 2022
Def by Temptation (1990)
Producer/Director/Screenwriter: James Bond III
A succubus is in town having sex and killing men. But she apparently needs a virgin or something. So she calls to a seminary student. Will his actor friend or secret agent acquaintance be able to save him or will he have to depend upon his own faith?!
The screenplay of this film is full of problems. But the film is still watchable. It has some amazingly good sequences. And the acting is first-rate. The film rips off a bit of Videodrome but it’s done well. It’s also nice to see a film with an entirely Black cast. It’s too bad James Bond III hasn’t directed another film.
20 May 2021
Demolition Man (1993)
Producers: Joel Silver, Michael Levy, and Howard Kazanjian
Director: Marco Brambilla
Screenwriters: Daniel Waters and Robert Reneau and Peter M Lenkov (story: Peter M Lenkov and Robert Reneau)
John Spartan gets put in cryo-prison for accidentally killing a group of bus riders. But when a psychopath from his own time escapes from cryo-prison into the “idyllic” future, Spartan must be thawed out to combat him.
I have great reservations about even referring to this film as psychotronic. And the second half of it is pretty bad. But the first half (thanks to many of the ideas from Daniel Waters) is great. And the line about Schwarzenegger is very funny given it was long before he became governor and had that gone better, I could well imagine a Constitutional amendment.
Starring Sylvester Stallone (Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot), Wesley Snipes (New Jack City), and Sandra Bullock (Miss Congeniality). With Nigel Hawthorne (The Madness of King George), Benjamin Bratt (The Great Raid), Denis Leary (Double Whammy), Bill Cobbs (That Thing You Do!), and Bob Gunton (The Shawshank Redemption). Rob Schneider (Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo) has a funny uncredited role.
28 February 2020
Demon Seed (1977)
Producer: Herb Jaffe
Director: Donald Cammell
Screenwriters: Robert Jaffe and Roger O Hirson (novel: Dean Koontz)
A thinking computer doesn’t like being stuck inside a box and devises a way to impregnate a woman and give life to its child.
Much of the first have of this film is very frightening. The second half becomes more like The Andromeda Strain. Despite the tagline “Julie Christie Carries the Demon Seed. Fear For Her” the film makes no effort to mine the obvious body horror here. Still, it’s really well made and holds up despite a lot of computer graphics.
6 April 2020
Demon Slayer (2004)
Producers: Diana Derycz-Kessler and Sarah Esberg
Director: James Cotten
Screenwriters: Tristan Thai & James Cotten (based on: Michael B Druxman)
Five teen-offenders are forced to spend three days at an abandoned mental hospital to clean it up so it can become a community center. It turns out that before it was a hospital, it was a Satanic brothel. Scary things appear and then demons start possessing people.
This is kind of the horror-equivalent of The Breakfast Club. It uses a surprising amount of time developing characters. And most of the horror is pretty effective. It gleefully jumps in and out of camp. Overall, a pretty fun film.
A number of people involved in this film have gone on to successful careers, most notably Cotten (as a producer) and the actor who plays the priest, Robert Eaton (as a writer). It stars Michelle Acuna (Bounty), Howard Williams Jr, Adam Huss (Is It Just Me?), Hanna Lee, Monique Deville, and Joaquín Garrido (Like Water for Chocolate).
13 March 2020
Demon With the Atomic Brain (2017)
Producers: Christopher R Mihm and Stephanie Mihm
Director: Christopher R Mihm
A system designed to allow people to move from one reality to another goes on overload (because Pluto is out of range) and will destroy the universe in 72 hours. Three people hop from reality to reality trying to shut the machine down.
Even after a couple of viewings, I’m not sure what was going on in this film. And I suspect that is intentional because these kinds of science fiction films, for all their over-explaining, usually don’t make much sense. It’s fun to watch them jump from reality to reality.
Demon With the Atomic Brain is under copyright. It is available on Amazon Prime.
1 September 2020
Producer: Ettore Spagnuolo
Director: Lucio Fulci
Screenwriters: Piero Regnoli & Lucio Fulci
A young archaeologist has a vision of nuns being crucified. Soon after, she is invited on a dig in southern Italy where she is drawn to the site of this event. She even uncovers the bodies. Soon people start dying and she shows signs of being possessed.
This is a minor Fulci gem. It even features a cool bit of eye torture. The scene where the guy gets torn apart is shockingly unconvincing but the internal organs are good. Still, any of the Gates of Hell films are better.
16 June 2021
Demonic Toys (1992)
Producer: Anne Kelly
Director: Peter Manoogian
Screenwriter: David S Goyer
A cop, two gun runners, a chicken delivery boy, and a security guard are trapped in a toy warehouse with a demon who has brought the toys to life. Some manage to survive thanks to helpful editing.
This is a solid version of the killer toys subgenre. It’s helped along by a strong cast which helps to paper over a thin plot.
Starring Bentley Mitchum (Lethal Orbit), Tracy Scoggins (Babylon 5: The Lost Tales), Daniel Cerny (Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest), Ellen Dunning (Elvira: Mistress of the Dark), and Pete Schrum (Terminator 2: Judgment Day).
18 July 2021
Producer: Dario Argento
Director: Lamberto Bava
Screenwriters: Dario Argento & Lamberto Bava & Dardano Sacchetti & Franco Ferrini (story: Dardano Sacchetti)
People go to a free showing of a movie where the characters turn into demons. Then people in the audience start turning into demons just like in the movie. Everyone tries to escape but the demons get out first.
This was apparently a big hit. It’s easy to see why. It’s got a great soundtrack and it’s all just an excuse for one gore gag after another. I think of it as “Suspiria for Teens.” If you like it, check out Midnight Movie.
27 February 2021
Producer: Tom Karr
Directors: Jeff Gillen and Alan Ormsby
Screenwriter: Alan Ormsby
This is a relatively true telling of the story of serial killer Ed Gein. A middle age man’s mother dies and he doesn’t deal well with it. After a year, he digs her up and repairs her body. Then he digs up others. Then he starts killing. Say what you will about serial killers: they are self-actualized!
It’s a bit hard to grok the tone of the movie at first. It’s genuinely funny. And scary. And touching. Thinking about it, there probably was no other way to deal with the story of Ed Gein.
The film is also beautifully shot. There are many long, inventive takes. And it is all done in a postmodern style with a newsman reporting on the story as it is happening.
Alan Ormsby would go on to write the screenplay for Cat People (1982). I believe this was Tom Savini’s first film. He did the preserved corpses.
Destination: Outer Space (2010)
Producers: Christopher R Mihm, Stephanie Mihm, and Josh Craig
Director: Christopher R Mihm
Screenwriter: Christopher R Mihm (story: Christopher R Mihm and Josh Craig)
The alcoholic son of the couple from It Came From Another World! goes into space to test a new rocket. It works but he gets thrown far out of the solar system and must find his way home with the sorta help of a robot.
This is perhaps the most explicitly comedic of Mihm’s films. There are jokes involving Star Wars and Star Trek but even more than that, it has a lot of traditional (sometimes silent) comedic sequences. Very fun film!
Destination: Outer Space is under copyright. It is available on DVD.
10 October 2020
Devil Doll (1964)
Producer/Director: Lindsay Shonteff
Screenwriters: Ronald Kinnoch (as George Barclay) and Charles F Vetter (as Lance Z Hargreaves) (story: Frederick E Smith)
This is a really good film with a great denouement. Mystery Science Theater 3000 riffed on it in one of their episodes and I quickly started thinking, “Would you guys shut up! I’m trying to watch a film here!” It’s that good: it overwhelms the incessant chatter of the folks on the show. So you really should check it out.
The film is under copyright. You can usually find it online, however. If you want it on disc, it is available on DVD with a couple of minor extras.
Devil Girl from Mars (1954)
Producers: Edward J Danziger & Harry Lee Danziger (as The Danzigers)
Director: Terence Fisher
Screenwriter: James Eastwood (play: John C Maher and James Eastwood)
An escaped murderer, a fashion model, and two guys looking for a meteor come together with the owners and staff at a remote lodge. Then a spaceship from Mars lands. The female leader explains she has come looking for men because they’ve pretty much killed all the men on Mars.
This is a hell of a good silly sci-fi film with an excellent sense of humor. It’s one of my favorites. At various times it seems like real drama will break-out but it stops before it gets out of hand.
Starring Hugh McDermott (First Men in the Moon), Patricia Laffan (Quo Vadis), Hazel Court (The Raven), Adrienne Corri (The Tell-Tale Heart), Peter Reynolds (The Delavine Affair), Joseph Tomelty (Timeslip), Sophie Stewart (The Return of the Scarlet Pimpernel), and John Laurie (Treasure Island).
18 February 2021
The Devil Rides Out (1968)
Producer: Anthony Nelson Keys
Director: Terence Fisher
Screenwriter: Richard Matheson (novel: Dennis Wheatley)
Alternate titles: The Devil’s Bride
A rather low-budget Hammer film that still manages to work via great acting and campy charm. For some reason that is never explained, Christopher Lee knows way too much about Satanism. This comes in handy when his young friend becomes involved with a bunch of Satanists. Watch for the totally absurd ending. Matheson can not have been happy with this script. And after he made such a fuss over The Last Man on Earth. Featuring Charles Gray (Diamonds Are Forever) and Leon Greene (A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum).
This film is not in the public domain, but you can normally find it on YouTube or DailyMotion. It isn’t exactly a Hammer classic. There don’t seem to be any North American format DVDs but it is available on Blu-ray.
The Devil’s Backbone (2001)
Producers: Agustín Almodóvar & Bertha Navarro
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Screenwriters: Guillermo del Toro & Antonio Trashorras & David Muñoz
Alternate titles: El Espinazo del Diablo
A boy is dropped off at an orphanage during the Spanish Civil War. He begins seeing a ghost roaming around the place. Meanwhile, the caretaker is abusing the boys and looking for gold that soldiers have hidden there. The two storylines converge.
This is a great film filled with humanity despite its creepy atmosphere. Although it focuses on the boys it is never cloying. It’s the kind of film you want to watch a few times. It is in Spanish with English subtitles.
28 April 2021
Devil’s Express (1976)
Producers: Steve Madoff & Niki Patton
Director: Barry Rosen
Screenwriters: Barry Rosen & Niki Patton
Alternate titles: Subway to Hell, Gang Wars
An evil Chinese spirit, trapped for thousands of years, is released by a greedy New Yorker. After killing people in the New York subway system (it doesn’t like the light), it is killed by a badass karate instructor thus saving the world.
This film features some fine moments including a great final fight. Overall, it’s pretty fun. But the script wanders around and is boring throughout much of it.
4 July 2021
The Devil’s Rain (1975)
Producers: James V Cullen and Michael S Glick
Director: Robert Fuest
Screenwriters: Gabe Essoe & James Ashton and Gerald Hopman
A Satanic leader kidnaps a man’s mother and father to get an evil book. The son challenges the leader and quickly fails. Then it goes to his brother to save the family.
This film is a brilliant mess. The first 20 minutes are quite good. The next 40 minutes are hard going. And the last 20 minutes make it all worthwhile with the cult members melting and green puss dripping from their eyes as the church burns and then explodes impressively. The twist at the very end is lame though.
Starring Tom Skerritt (Alien), Ernest Borgnine (The Wild Bunch), Eddie Albert (Roman Holiday), William Shatner (The Intruder), Ida Lupino (The Food of the Gods), and Joan Prather. Keenan Wynn (Parts: The Clonus Horror) and John Travolta (Swordfish) have small roles.
9 November 2021
Devil’s Trail (2017)
Producer: Eric Widing
Director: Henrique Couto
Screenwriter: Jeremy Biltz
Two videographers go into the woods to make a survival video for the folks. They come upon three naked witches who tell them not to go but they proceed. As they get lost someone or something seems to be stalking them.
The two principals are very appealing and make this found footage film easy to get into. The ending features two tacked-on “clever” codas that spoil the rest of the film. But it’s overall pretty fun.
7 February 2021
The Devil’s Widow (1970)
Producers: Alan Ladd Jr and Stanley Mann
Director: Roddy McDowall
Screenwriter: William Spier
Alternate Titles: Tam Lin
An older woman surrounds herself with young people and uses witchcraft to stay young. Her boy-toy wants out, but she’s having none of it.
This is the film that Roddy McDowall passed up Beneath the Planet of the Apes to direct. It barely got released. It was savaged by critics — thought to be too arty for a horror film. But today, the film looks pretty good. It’s a shame McDowall never directed another film.
Starring Ian McShane (Deadwood) and Ava Gardner (On the Beach). Featuring: Stephanie Beacham (Dracula AD 1972), Richard Wattis (The Abominable Snowman), Cyril Cusack (Fahrenheit 451), and David Whitman.
The Devils (1971)
Producers: Ken Russell & Robert H Solo
Director: Ken Russell
Screenwriter: Ken Russell (play: John Whiting; novel: Aldous Huxley)
In 17-century France, a nun is in love with a priest who doesn’t even know she exists. She says the priest had sex with her. Because of national politics, a witch-hunter is sent to look into it all. And suddenly, all the other nuns say the same thing. And things look very bad for the priest.
This is a visually stunning film with great lead performances. It’s also kind of a drag. There are lots more fun films about witch trials. This one is largely true.
The Devils is copyrighted. It is available on DVD. If you have an all-region player, there are other versions.
8 March 2021
Les Diaboliques (1955)
Producer/Director: Henri-Georges Clouzot
Screenwriters: Henri-Georges Clouzot and Jérôme Géronimi (novel: Boileau-Narcejac)
The mistress of an abusive husband convinces his wife to join her in murdering him. The plot goes well but then his body vanishes and people begin to see him around town.
This is an excellent suspense film that holds you until the end. It’s slightly annoying at first that the main character is so reluctant to kill her husband who is wonderfully unlikable. Note that the film is in French.
28 July 2020
Diani & Devine Meet the Apocalypse (2016)
Producers: Etta Devine and Gabriel Diani and Chad Meserve
Directors/Screenwriters: Gabriel Diani & Etta Devine
Diani and Devine are a comedy duo trying to get work in Hollywood. It isn’t going well. They aren’t even certain how they’ll pay next month’s rent. Then they luck out: an apocalypse happens and they are forced to hit the road.
Another great comedy from this remarkable duo. Is it an allegory for seeking success in Hollywood? The cannibals make me think so. But who cares?! It’s a ton of fun from start to finish.
Diani & Devine Meet the Apocalypse is under copyright. Sadly, it doesn’t seem to have been released on disc. It is available on Amazon Prime.
19 October 2020
Diary of a Madman (1963)
Producer: Robert E Kent
Director: Reginald Le Borg
Screenwriter: Robert E Kent (stories by Guy de Maupassant)
After Simon Cordier dies, his diary is read. It explains that all the bad things he did were the result of the evil horla — a being that drove him insane. Or maybe the horla was just something he perceived because he had gone insane.
It has the feel of the Corman Poe films. It’s well-rendered with good acting. And it works.
Diary of a Madman stars Vincent Price, who you may have seen in a few dozen films. It features Nancy Kovack (Jason and the Argonauts), Chris Warfield (Incident in an Alley), Elaine Devry (The Boy Who Cried Werewolf), Ian Wolfe (pretty much every movie and television show), and Stephen Roberts.
The film is under copyright. It is available on an expensive DVD with just a trailer for company. It doesn’t seem to be available on Blu-Ray.
Dinosaur Island (1994)
Producers/Directors: Jim Wynorski and Fred Olen Ray
Screenwriters: Bob Sheridan & Christopher Wooden (story: Bob Sheridan)
An airplane is transporting three army deserters to jail. It crashes and the survivors make it to an island filled with dinosaurs and women in bikinis. The men help the women avoid starvation and dinosaurs. And they introduce them to sex.
This film features some fun stop-motion animation. Otherwise, the screenplay doesn’t really hang together and some of the female cast is weak. It also features two underwhelming softcore sex scenes. It’s what you expect from Wynorski and Ray — perfect for remembering what it was like to be a 15-year-old virgin. Gary Graver lit and shot the film.
Starring Richard Gabai (Bikini Drive-In), Antonia Dorian (The Bare Wench Project), Tom Shell, Griffin Drew (Dinosaur Valley Girls), Peter Spellos (Sexual Roulette), Michelle Bauer (Bikini Car Wash Academy), and Ross Hagen (Angels’ Wild Women).
Dinosaur Island is under copyright. You can get it on DVD with a commentary with the directors and a good deleted scene.
16 January 2021
Dinosaur Island (2014)
Producers: Jason Moody and Matt Drummond & Megan Williams
Director: Matt Drummond
Screenwriter: Matt Drummond (story: Matt Drummond and Megan Williams)
Alternate titles: Journey to Dinosaur Island
A little boy finds a crystal belonging to his grandmother. The crystal causes him to wake up on an island filled with dinosaurs. He meets a slightly older girl who has been there a couple of years and is generally happy because she’s studying the dinosaurs. Together they try to survive and find a way home.
This film features great looking creatures and two charming young people. The story is pretty good (the tribe that captures them is unfortunate, however). But the script is filled with far too much dialog. Still, it’s meant for tweens and I suspect that most of them will like this.
Starring Darius Williams, Kate Rasmussen, Juliette Palmer-Frederick, and Albert Allu.
Dinosaur Island is copyrighted. It is available on DVD.
25 April 2021
Dirty Harry (1971)
Producer/Director: Don Siegel
Screenwriters: Harry Julian Fink & RM Fink and Dean Riesner (story: Harry Julian Fink & RM Fink)
A serial killer is on the loose in San Francisco. He kidnaps a teen girl and threatens to kill her if he isn’t paid a bunch of money. Inspector Callahan manages to capture him but he is let go because of an unlawful arrest. So the serial killer kidnaps a bus of kids.
As a movie, this is fine but hardly great. It’s been wildly overrated. I believe its appeal was its reactionary politics. And those are ridiculous when you consider that there is no way Callahan’s search and arrest were unlawful. (The torturing to get the location of the teen was, however.) Other than Callahan’s catchphrase, he has no personality. If you are interested in this kind of film, I suggest Night Moves.
13 June 2021
Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry (1974)
Producer: Norman T Herman
Director: John Hough
Screenwriters: Leigh Chapman and Antonio Santean (novel: Richard Unekis)
This is a surprisingly good chase film. I have my problems with the ending, but it doesn’t much matter. It follows two car-obsessed friends as they steal money to fix their car in order to become racers. They pick up Mary along the way. The title is good but meaningless.
The film is copyrighted. You can get Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry alone on disc, but it is very expensive. Better to get it with Race With The Devil on DVD or Blu-ray. All versions come with director commentary.
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988)
Producer: Bernard Williams
Director: Frank Oz
Screenwriters: Dale Launer and Stanley Shapiro & Paul Henning
Two con artists are annoying each other by working the same town. So they make a bet to see which one can get $50,000 from a rich American woman. The loser must leave town.
This is a solid comedy although I don’t think some of the more extreme moments have aged well. But it’s still quite enjoyable.
2 April 2021
Producer/Director: Sergio Corbucci
Screenwriters: Sergio Corbucci & Bruno Corbucci
A lone gunman gets between a group of American racists and Mexican revolutionaries to destroy both and avenge the murder of his true love.
This is one of the best spaghetti westerns. Not as artful as Leone’s work, but more accessible and enjoyable.
Producers: Tim Smythe and Daniela Tully
Director: Tobe Hooper
Screenwriter: David Tully
A young American Muslim couple relocates to the UAE to move past the death of their child. Once there, the woman is attacked by a djinn because of a past sin.
This is really just a traditional ghost story but with Arabian folklore. It’s a fitting last film for Tobe Hooper. Don’t listen to the reviews. This is a very effective film.
26 September 2020
Producer: Leo C Popkin
Director: Rudolph Maté
Screenwriters: Russell Rouse and Clarence Greene
A man walks into an LA police department office to report that he has been murdered. He then tells his story of how he was poisoned with a “luminous toxin.” There is no cure so he used his few remaining days to find out who killed him and why.
This is a classic noir with a cast of unlikable characters — except for the main character’s long-suffering girlfriend. Other than the dark and grimy look of the film, this all works because of its excellent screenplay. It’s been remade at least twice as Color Me Dead (1969) and DOA (1988).
Starring Edmond O’Brien (The Killers), Pamela Britton (Blondie), William Ching (Terror in the Haunted House), Beverly Garland (Stark Fear), Laurette Luez (Prehistoric Women), and Luther Adler (Crashout). Neville Brand (Riot in Cell Block 11) has a small role as well.
DOA is in the public domain. There are many copies floating around the internet; Archive has a very good one. There are a ton of versions on DVD. Be careful of them as you should be of DVDs of any film in the public domain. There is a supposedly restored version, but I don’t know anything more about it.
30 April 2021
Producers: Ian Sander & Laura Ziskin
Directors: Rocky Morton & Annabel Jankel
Screenwriter: Charles Edward Pogue (story: Charles Edward Pogue and Russell Rouse & Clarence Greene)
A man staggers into a police station to report his own murder. He tells his story of being a college English professor who was poisoned and the murders surrounding it.
Although this isn’t quite up to the original film, it’s still quite good. It’s stylishly directed with an impeccable blending of tone. It also fixes some of the problems in the film (like the vacation set-up) even as it introduces its own (like the unnecessary love scene). It’s as good a remake of a cinema classic as you will find.
30 April 2021
Doctor X (1932)
Director: Michael Curtiz
Screenwriters: Robert Tasker & Earl Baldwin (play: Howard W Comstock & Allen C Miller)
A cannibal serial killer is on the loose and he is one of the teachers at the local medical school. The head of the school tries to find out who it is while his daughter tangles with an intrepid reporter trying to get the story.
This is made by much the same people who would make Mystery of the Wax Museum the next year. It has much of the same charm with perhaps even better horror. Check this one out!
Doctor X is still under copyright but there’s a pretty good copy on Archive.org (although if you download the mpeg, there is no sound). It is available on a DVD with the non-sequel The Return of Doctor X — both with a commentary track.
15 January 2021
Doll Factory (2014)
Producer: Carlos M Tovar
Director/Screenwriter: Stephen Wolfe
A group of bored teens break into the creepy old doll factory to try out “an old witchcraft book” their mother found in the closet. They succeed in waking the evil spirit Yegor, who animates the dolls and sends them out in search of souls.
This is a genuinely funny horror-comedy with delicious gore. The teens are mostly developed as horrible people so it’s fun to watch them die. It also features sympathetic stereotypes like the (rationally) scared black guy and the virgin nerd. This is a fun romp.
This production is typical of these low-budget gems in featuring solid acting by a group working the margins of Hollywood: Nicole Elliott, Justin Herman, Andy Palmer (also executive producer), and Boo Gay.
Doll Factory is under copyright. It is available on DVD with a half-hour “making of” and an audio commentary with Wolfe, Herman, and Palmer. It’s also available through Prime Video.
13 May 2020
Producer: Cathy Gesualdo
Director: Albert Pyun
Screenwriter: Chris Roghair (story: Charles Band)
Badass but disliked cop Brick Bardo inadvertently flies thousands of light-years chasing a villain only to end up on Earth where he is a tiny person — maybe a foot in height (kind of like The Twilight Zone episode “The Invaders”). He protects a young mother from a violent street gang while fixing his spaceship.
Parts of this are clearly meant to be funny — and they are! I’m not sure if I was supposed to see the tsunami of cliches as part of its send-up of the genre, but I found that even funnier. The film is so well-made that I suspect many people enjoy it straight. Pyun again shows what an excellent visual sense he has.
29 November 2020
Producer: Brian Yuzna
Director: Stuart Gordon
Screenwriter: Ed Naha
A horrible father and step-mother get stranded in the country with their adorable daughter. They go to a nearby old dark house where a nice old couple lives; he is a doll maker. Soon, a very nice man shows up with two awful young hitchhikers. All the bad people are killed by dolls and the good people live happily ever after.
This Charles Band presentation was clearly the basis for his later Puppet Master films. But I like this one more than any of those admirable films. In fact, I’m planning to show it this Christmas — probably along with Christmas Evil.
Starring Stephen Lee (The Pit and the Pendulum), Carrie Lorraine, and Guy Rolfe (Mr Sardonicus). Featuring Ian Patrick Williams (The Extendables), Carolyn Purdy-Gordon (Re-Animator), Hilary Mason (Don’t Look Now), Bunty Bailey (Spellcaster), and Cassie Stuart (Hidden City).
Dolores Claiborne (1995)
Producers: Taylor Hackford and Charles Mulvehill
Director: Taylor Hackford
Screenwriter: Tony Gilroy (novel: Stephen King)
A journalist comes home when her mother is accused of the murder of the mother’s employer. They have a troubled relationship because of the daughter’s belief that her mother killed her father. The details of the complicated past slowly come together.
This is an outstanding film. It is one of the rare films that can justifiably be called a psychological thriller. And it has one moment of actual horror that has never left me.
18 August 2021
Don’t Go in the Woods (1981)
Producers: Roberto Gomez & Suzette Gomez
Director: James Bryan
Screenwriter: Garth Eliassen
Alternate titles: Don’t Go in the Woods… Alone!
Four friends go into the woods and what follows is the iron law of early-80s films. The whole thing turns into a revenge film toward the end. And it has a chilling bit with a kidnapped baby (whose mother is killed spectacularly). Brian Albright noted it is, “Incredibly cheap, but self-conscious enough to lightly mock genre conventions.”
You aren’t likely to know anyone in this film. Mary Gail Artz plays Ingrid, the woman who is taking manic pleasure killing the savage at the end of the film. She has gone on to be a highly successful casting director. Her first job was casting Holloween II. The sheriff in the film is played by Ken Carter. It’s the only movie he was ever in, but he was a legendary disc jockey in Texas.
Of most interest is director James Bryan who made a ton of low-budget films from the early 1970s through the 1980s. Like a lot of exploitation filmmakers, he directed a lot of sexploitation — often combined with action. He seems to have made a lot of softcore porn (as Morris Deal) on video once moving back to Utah.
Don’t Go in the Woods is copyrighted. Vinegar Syndrome has released a fantastic Blu-ray/DVD combo of the film.
Don’t Go in the Woods (2010)
Producers: Ken Christmas & Erika Hampson
Director: Vincent D’Onofrio
Screenwriters: Joe Vinciguerra & Sam Bisbee (story: Vincent D’Onofrio)
The hardass leader forces his bandmates to go to the woods to write some songs so they can get a record contract. But they all brought drugs and then girls show up and he is not happy. Then people start being killed with a sledgehammer.
This film features a lot of rather good music — mostly as part of the action. It’s really well made on almost every level. I like that they are trying to do something new. And the make-up effects are dynamite. But the story’s kind of tired. And I’m not fond of the cheeky ending. Ultimately, it turns into a less-interesting Starry Eyes (2014). It gets worse with repeated views because the filmmakers aren’t fair with the viewer and ultimately the story makes no sense at all. But it’s better than most “running around the woods” horror films.
Starring Matt Sbeglia, Cassandra Lee Walker, Casey Smith, Soomin Lee, Kate O’Malley, Jorgen Jorgensen, and Nick Thorp.
Don’t Go in the Woods is under copyright. It is available on DVD with two featurettes.
30 January 2021
Don’t Look in the Basement (1973)
Producer/Director: SF Brownrigg
Screenwriter: Tim Pope
Alternate titles: The Forgotten
The other title is more appropriate, but I think this film got more distribution under Don’t Look in the Basement. A young nurse comes to a psychiatric hospital right after its head was accidentally killed by a patient. Things are not as they seem, however. And the ending is spectacular (and sad if you care to think about it).
It appears to be in the public domain and is available on Archive in so-so condition. You can find it streaming various other places. It’s hard to know what to say about disc copies. I have a few and they are all bad. There is a Blu-ray version that also comes with Don’t Open the Door (1975). At least one reviewer says the copy is good. Be careful!
Don’t Look in the Cellar (2008)
Producers: David Sterling and Ted Chalmers
Director: Dennis Devine
Screenwriters: Carlos Perez and Dennis Devine
A group of junior college students uses a closed mental hospital to celebrate Halloween and research the true story of why it was closed. But it turns out some of the inmates never left. Once they are locked in, there’s only one way out: through the cellar.
I only bought this disc because I was amused at the shamelessness of the title. But it turns out to be a surprisingly good film with lots of interesting characters and a solid plot. There’s lots of blood but basically no gore. This film is widely hated by people who have useless opinions.
Starring Randal Malone (Dahmer vs Gacy). With a pretty large cast for this kind of film, including Shevaun Kastl, Tara Shayne, Juliette Angeli, and Jed Rowen.
Don’t Look in the Cellar is under copyright. You can get it on DVD with just the trailer.
Don’t Torture a Duckling (1972)
Producer: Renato Jaboni
Director: Lucio Fulci
Screenwriters: Lucio Fulci, Roberto Gianviti, and Gianfranco Clerici (story: Fulci and Gianviti)
Alternate titles: Non si Sevizia un Paperino
Boys in a small Italian town are being murdered. The town is turning on itself. And the police are mostly using the murders to abuse the marginalized population. Luckily, a reporter and a recovering drug addict are on the case.
This is an intense mystery with lots of twists and turns. The murders are suspenseful. And there’s just a lot going on with the main characters and the police and the townspeople. It’s an exceptional film.
12 July 2020
The Dorm That Dripped Blood (1982)
Producer: Jeffrey Obrow
Directors: Jeffrey Obrow & Stephen Carpenter
Screenwriters: Stephen Carpenter & Jeffrey Obrow & Stacey Giachino
Alternate titles: Pranks, Death Dorm
Some college students stay behind during Christmas break to clean out a building set for demolition. But someone is going around murdering them. They think it is the homeless man but of course it isn’t. It’s just a kid who really wants to get laid.
This is a pretty typical slasher. But it works well and features good acting. My main complaint is that they needed another $10,000 for their lighting budget. But the film shows potential and the crew went on to make some better films like The Power. And Stephen Carpenter went on to write many things including the very funny The Man.
Starring Laurie Lapinski, Stephen Sachs, David Snow, Pamela Holland, Dennis Ely, Woody Roll, and Daphne Zuniga (The Fly II).
8 August 2021
Dr Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine (1965)
Producers: James H Nicholson and Samuel Z Arkoff
Director: Norman Taurog
Screenwriters: Elwood Ullman and Robert Kaufman (story: James Hartford)
Vincent Price is an evil scientist who creates super-model robots who will seduce the wealthy men of the world in an effort to rule the world. Bwahaha! It’s a very silly film, but Price is wonderful. There’s also a great parody of The Pit and the Pendulum (1961).
Dr Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine is copyrighted. You are best off getting it on DVD along with Dr Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs. But you can also get it alone. You can get it with a commentary track with David Del Valle and David DeCoteau on Blu-ray.
Dr Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs (1966)
Producers: Fulvio Lucisano and Louis M Heyward
Director: Mario Bava
Screenwriters: Louis M Heyward and Robert Kaufman (story: James Hartford)
The sequel AIP was so hopeful about they made it in Italy! Well, that makes a certain amount of sense given that the original did so well in Italy. This film was a bomb and widely criticized. But it’s fun enough.
Price is back — this time with super-model robots that explode. And yes: Mario Bava directed it — The Mario Bava.
Featuring Fabian (because sometimes your film isn’t even good enough for Frankie Avalon), Laura Antonelli (Malicious), Franco Franchi (Dream of Zorro), and Ciccio Ingrassia (Amarcord).
Dr Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs is copyrighted. You are best off getting it on DVD along with Dr Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine. You can get it with a commentary track with David Del Valle and David DeCoteau on Blu-ray.
Dr Phibes Rises Again (1972)
Producer: Louis M Heyward
Director: Robert Fuest
Screenwriters: Robert Fuest and Robert Blees
Freed up from the constraint previously applied of having to make sense, this film focuses on what we all love: the revenge murders. And it doesn’t disappoint. Some may like the original better. It is a more finely crafted screenplay. But ultimately, all that plot seems to get in the way of the good stuff. Valli Kemp takes over as Phibe’s assistant. Robert Quarry (Count Yorga, Vampire) does a good job as Price’s foil.
The film is copyrighted. It is best found on Vincent Price: MGM Scream Legends Collection.
Dr Terror’s House of Horrors (1965)
Producers: Milton Subotsky and Max J Rosenberg
Director: Freddie Francis
Screenwriter: Milton Subotsky
Five men sharing a train car listen to a strange man’s tarot card predictions of their futures. These lead to five stories that all end in their deaths: werewolf, creeping vines, voodoo, disembodied hand, and vampire.
This was the first of the Amicus anthology films. Michael Weldon claims it is probably the best. I disagree. But it’s quite good even though the vines story is probably not meant to be funny.
Starring Peter Cushing (And Now the Screaming Starts!), Neil McCallum (The Siege of Pinchgut), Alan Freeman, Roy Castle (Dr Who and The Daleks), Christopher Lee (Curse of the Crimson Altar), and Donald Sutherland (Invasion of the Body Snatchers).
Dr Terror’s House of Horrors is copyrighted but there is a nice print of it inside some “creature features” kind of show. There is a widescreen print on DVD and a ridiculously expensive Blu-ray neither with much in terms of extras.
11 June 2021
Drag Me to Hell (2009)
Producers: Robert Tapert & Grant Curtis
Director: Sam Raimi
Screenwriters: Sam Raimi & Ivan Raimi
A young woman loan officer at a bank denies an older gypsy woman an extension on her mortgage. So the gypsy curses her. The young woman begins to be tormented by a demon and faces death.
The opening of this film is great. And it has much to recommend it overall. Parts of it remind me of Tobe Hooper. But its tone is all over the place, which you may or may not like.
19 April 2021
Drive Angry (2011)
Producers: René Besson and Michael De Luca
Director: Patrick Lussier
Screenwriters: Todd Farmer & Patrick Lussier
A guy escapes from hell to stop a cult leader from sacrificing the guy’s granddaughter and bringing Hell to Earth.
As tired as the plot sounds this film is a whole lot of fun. Sure, it’s no Highway to Hell. But it’s more consistent. And I loved The Accountant.
Drive Angry is under copyright. It is available on DVD. There is a special edition Blu-ray with a commentary by the director and writer and a bit more. There’s also a 3D version but I don’t know anything about it.
11 February 2022
The Dunwich Horror (1970)
Producers: James H Nicholson & Samuel Z Arkoff
Director: Daniel Haller
Screenwriters: Curtis Lee Hanson and Henry Rosenbaum and Ronald Silkosky (story: HP Lovecraft)
A worshipper manipulates and drugs a woman to sacrifice her and use a stolen copy of the Necronomicon in an effort to bring a return of The Old Ones.
This is an odd one! Pretty slow-moving but compelling. And the slowness contrasts with the very strange lead performance. The whole thing comes off very much as one of the Poe Cycle films — but on acid.
22 September 2021