Producers: Sanzhar Sultan and Akan Satayev
Director: Akan Satayev
Screenwriter: Sanzhar Sultan (co-writer: Timur Zhaksylykov)
A young immigrant boy needs money for college so he turns to hacking and steals a lot of money before he is arrested.
This is a well-made film but also kind of boring. Nothing is surprising and the film never explains anything. It’s entertaining enough, however.
Hacker is under copyright. It is available on a DVD with almost 40 minutes of interviews.
2 January 2021
Producers: Michael Peyser & Ralph Winter
Director: Iain Softley
Screenwriter: Rafael Moreu
A bunch of high school hackers stumbles upon an evil-hacker plot to steal a bunch of money while causing an environmental catastrophe. But mostly, they just hang out being really cool.
This film is very well made and should be loads of fun for young people. I personally find it embarrassing in the “kids pretending to be sophisticated” way. But I first saw it when I was 30 and it didn’t make me cringe all that much.
Starring Jonny Lee Miller (Trainspotting), Angelina Jolie (Salt), Jesse Bradford (Far from Home: The Adventures of Yellow Dog), Matthew Lillard (The Curve), Laurence Mason (Parallel Sons), Renoly Santiago (Con Air), Lorraine Bracco (The Dream Team), and Fisher Stevens (Short Circuit).
6 September 2021
Hang ’em High (1968)
Producer: Leonard Freeman
Director: Ted Post
Screenwriters: Leonard Freeman and Mel Goldberg
A posse hangs an innocent man who is cut down just in time. He is hired as a lawman and arrests or kills the men who done him wrong.
A solid western that seems anemic compared to what the Italians were doing at that time. It’s a good revenge set-up but then it tries to be about the death penalty and justice more generally. And sure, I’m interested in that. But it feels pedantic. It’s the opposite of Dirty Harry — although this film still works whereas Dirty Harry really doesn’t offer anything but reactionary politics and a catchphrase.
29 July 2021
Producers/Directors/Screenwriters: Mark Polonia & John Polonia & Todd Michael Smith
Three teen boys are home alone when they start having violent and gruesome hallucinations.
This is among the first films of the Polonia brothers. It’s kind of a trial run for Splatter Farm. Clearly, the boys are still getting their feet. But there’s much to like. A torture scene with Mark is particularly creative. It lacks for dramatic momentum but it holds the viewer’s attention.
Starring the three filmmakers only.
Hallucinations is under copyright. It is only available on Amazon Prime so far as I can tell but you can find used copies of it on DVD.
22 July 2020
Producers: Akiva Goldsman & Michael Mann and Will Smith & James Lassiter
Director: Peter Berg
Screenwriters: Vy Vincent Ngo and Vince Gilligan
A drunk and disreputable superhero saves a PR genius who works to rebrand the superhero. Complications arise when we learn that the PR genius’ wife is married to the superhero.
Although it turns into a fairly typical superhero film at the end, the first half of this is an excellent send-up of the genre.
10 April 2021
The Happening (2008)
Producers: Sam Mercer & Barry Mendel and M Night Shyamalan
Director/Screenwriter: M Night Shyamalan
Something in the air is causing people to go insane and kill themselves — usually in horrifying ways. A small group tries to get out of town and survive whatever is happening.
Critics generally hate this film but I think it works really well. It features some great supporting characters and very effective sequences. It’s more or less a modernization of The Birds.
Starring Mark Wahlberg (The Other Guys), Zooey Deschanel (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), and John Leguizamo (Land of the Dead). There are notable performances by Frank Collison (O Brother, Where Art Thou?) and Broadway legend Betty Buckley.
19 May 2021
Harold and Maude (1971)
Producers: Colin Higgins and Charles B Mulvehill
Director: Hal Ashby
Screenwriter: Colin Higgins
Young Harold is obsessed with death and attends funerals for fun. He meets life-embracing Maude at funerals as she prepares for her own death. She teaches Harold much about life.
This is a shockingly good movie despite being two of my least favorite things: kinda political and very sentimental. It helps that some of the satire is really sharp — most notably everything having to do with Harold’s mother. The film is a must-see because critics didn’t much like it at the time and now love it. And you can bet that most of those critics would have the opposite opinion if you flipped the time when they saw it. Speaking of time: I like this film even more in my late 50s than I did in my late teens.
Starring Ruth Gordon (What Ever Happened to Aunt Alice?) and Bud Cort (The Hallucinating Trip). It has an outstanding supporting cast: Vivian Pickles (Sunday Bloody Sunday), Charles Tyner (Jeremiah Johnson), Tom Skerritt (The Dead Zone), and Ellen Geer (June). Cyril Cusack (Nineteen Eighty-Four) has a very minor role.
23 October 2021
Producers: Jerry Gershwin and Elliott Kastner
Director: Jack Smight
Screenwriter: William Goldman (novel: Ross Macdonald)
While dealing with his impending divorce, private detective Harper searches for a missing rich man and gets drawn into a world of drugs and human trafficking.
This is a great story well told. I cringe to think of how it would be made now with extended chase scenes and ridiculous fights. Not that this film doesn’t have its share of Hollywood cliches. But nothing goes on long enough to get boring. This is one worth owning!
18 April 2020
Hatred of a Minute (2002)
Producer: Bruce Campbell
Director: Michael Kallio
Screenwriter: Michael Kallio and Lisa Jesswein
See: First Look: Michael Kallio
A struggling screenwriter flips out when his mother dies. First, he kills his abusive step-father and then kills women in abusive relationships as acts of mercy. Meanwhile, his best friend is a cop who is on the case.
This is a great film with a complex story structure and wonderfully adventurous direction. Apart from that, you get to see Leatherface buried alive!
The film stars its director Michael Kallio (My Name Is Bruce). Also with Tracee Newberry, Tim Lovelace (Koreatown), Lisa Jesswein, and Michael Robert Brandon. Featuring Gunnar Hansen (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre) as the step-father.
Hatred of a Minute is copyrighted. It is available on DVD with two commentaries, a documentary, and the screenplay. I paid about three times what it’s going for now. According to Kallio, a Blu-ray is coming out soon, which may explain why the DVD is now so cheap.
The Haunting in Connecticut (2009)
Producers: Paul Brooks & Andrew Trapani & Daniel Farrands & Wendy Rhoads
Director: Peter Cornwell
Screenwriters: Adam Simon & Tim Metcalfe
A family rents an old house so they can be near the hospital that is treating the cancer of their teen son. The house used to be a funeral home. The teen begins seeing things but it could be due to the cancer drugs he is on. But, of course, it isn’t.
This film has been unfairly criticized. It has some really effective moments. I suspect people don’t like the fact that the plot is not explained as much as is usual in films like this. But I think most films are over-explained. I don’t care what was really going on in the backstory here.
10 April 2021
The Haunting of Julia (1977)
Producers: Peter Fetterman & Alfred Pariser
Director: Richard Loncraine
Screenwriter: Dave Humphries (adaptation: Harry Bromley Davenport; novel: Peter Straub)
Alternate titles: Full Circle
A woman whose daughter recently choked to death buys a house to deal with her loss. But it seems to be haunted by a girl who died there at roughly the same age 30 years earlier.
This is a very well-made film but it develops slowly. I was engaged throughout but others may not connect with it as well. Only one of the characters is all that likeable but he manages to live through most of the film.
The Haunting of Julia is under copyright. It is available on DVD and that seems to be it.
2 April 2021
Haunting of the Mary Celeste (2020)
Producers: Justin Ambrosino and Norman Dreyfuss & Brian Dreyfuss
Director: Shana Betz
Screenwriter: David Ross (story: David Ross & Jerome Oliver)
A group of scientists rent a boat to test the hypothesis that the missing people from the Mary Celeste moved through a rift into another reality. Over time, this seems to be the case.
I don’t know what it is about this film, but it’s kind of dull. It’s all well-made. But it doesn’t go anywhere. With a better script, this group could do great stuff.
Starring Emily Swallow and Richard Roundtree (Shaft). With Alice Hunter, Dominic DeVore, and Pierre Adele.
Haunting of the Mary Celeste is copyrighted. It is available on DVD.
2 April 2021
The Haunting of Molly Hartley (2008)
Producers: Jennifer Hilton & Mickey Liddell
Director: Mickey Liddell
Screenwriters: John Travis and Rebecca Sonnenshine
A young woman hears voices and sees disturbing visions. She is afraid that she is going insane like her mother who is in an institution after she tried to kill the daughter. She also navigates a new school and eventually doesn’t know who to trust.
This film is well-made and interesting. It has an opening scene that doesn’t really relate to the main film except that what is happening to Molly has happened to other girls. And there is a tacked-on coda that fits better in Legally Blonde and weakens the film. But the center section works well enough.
Starring Haley Bennett (Swallow), Jake Weber (Dawn of the Dead), Chace Crawford (Undrafted), Shannon Woodward (The Shortcut), AnnaLynne McCord (Excision), Marin Hinkle (Commencement), and Nina Siemaszko (Wild Orchid II: Two Shades of Blue).
16 February 2021
He Never Died (2015)
Producers: Zach Hagen and Adrienne Stern
Director/Screenwriter: Jason Krawczyk
An older guy lives alone in his apartment and seems to be uninterested in the lives of those around him. He lives a quiet life and buys mysterious packages from a medical student. When two thugs show up to take him for a ride, he dispatches them with bored efficiency and goes on with his life.
What follows is a very funny and very bloody adventure. All is explained — a bit too explained for my taste. And that is the worst I can say of it. Otherwise, it’s a perfect film.
Starring Henry Rollins (Johnny Mnemonic) who really makes this film work. Featuring: Jordan Todosey (Live With Derek), Kate Greenhouse (The Dark Hours), David Richmond-Peck (Cruel & Unusual), Steven Ogg, and Booboo Stewart. That’s Don Francks (Johnny Mnemonic) as Satan or whatever.
He Never Died is under copyright. It is available on DVD, sadly with just the trailer.
26 Jun 2020
Producer: Rick Passmore
Director: Jon Bristol
Screenwriters: Jon Bristol and JR Calvo & Brian Woodman
Five young people camp in the woods where it is rumored a bunch of people was once killed. They meet an older reporter who tells them the stories are true. Then they start dying.
This is a very typical slasher film except that it is done entirely with puppets. Some of it is funny but mostly, it’s quite serious and effective. And the puppetry is quite good. It’s only an hour long and definitely worth a look.
Starring Manda Vasas, Nick Foreman, and Mike Finland.
Head is copyrighted. It is available on Amazon Prime.
26 December 2020
The Headless Eyes (1971)
Producer: Ron Sullivan
Director/Screenwriter: Kent Bateman
The film begins brilliantly with the main character burglarizing an apartment to get money for rent. The woman sleeping there wakes up. Thinking that the man is trying to rape her, she grabs a spoon from her bedside table and carves out his eyeball. Some time later, the now one-eyed insane serial killer owns a shop that sells art made from the eyes of his victims. Yes, he removes the eyes with a spoon.
The directorial debut of Jason and Justine’s father. And it’s a wild one — far more bizarre and engaging than anything his kids ever did (not to take anything away from them). This film is highly recommended for those with psychotronic tastes.
The film stars Bo Brundin (The Great Waldo Pepper). The credits include Gordon Ramon, Kelly Swartz, and Mary Jane Early. I assume Ramon is the cop, Swartz the art student, and Early the actor. But none of them have been in much else and the credits don’t provide any other information.
The Headless Eyes is copyrighted. It is available as a Full Moon Features DVD.
The Hearse (1980)
Producer: George Bowers
Director: Mark Tenser
Screenwriter: William Bleich
A psychologically fragile woman goes to spend the summer in a rural home she inherited from her aunt. Most people in the town hate her for some unstated reason having to do with the house. And she is soon confronted with unusual happenings there.
This is a modestly successful haunted house film with a handful of solid scares. The main problem is that the subplots don’t hang together well. Still, it’s a good party film and maybe even worth seeking out.
The Hearse is under copyright. There is a very expensive Rhino DVD with no real features. It’s also available as a Blu-ray/DVD combo with a 20-minute interview with Gautreaux. And strangely you can get it on DVD along with Blood of Dracula’s Castle. It comes with a 12-minute interview with screenwriter Bleich.
17 November 2020
Hell Asylum (2002)
Producer: Tammi Sutton
Director: Danny Draven
Screenwriter: Trent Haaga
A disgraced TV producer tries to stage a comeback with a reality show Chill Challenge. Five young hotties must spend the night in an old mental hospital that is supposedly haunted. The problem? It really is haunted by spectres that kill everyone in spectacular ways.
This was a co-production between Full Moon and Tempe. It’s notably better than most Troma but certainly not up to the best work from Full Moon or Tempe. The acting is first-rate and Trent Haaga’s dialog was distinctly better than on most super-low budget films.
Starring Timothy Muskatell (Easter Bunny, Kill! Kill!), Debra Mayer (Blood Dolls), Tanya Dempsey (Witchouse 3: Demon Fire), Sunny Lombardo, Stacey Scowley (The Brotherhood 2: Young Warlocks), Olimpia Fernandez (Killjoy 2: Deliverance from Evil), and Joe Estevez (Axe Giant: The Wrath of Paul Bunyan). A mostly hidden Brinke Stevens (The Naked Monster) plays the head spectre and Trent Haaga (Dead & Rotting) plays the first victim.
Hell Asylum is under copyright. You can get it on DVD with a ton of extras.
21 March 2020
Hell Comes to Frogtown (1988)
Producers: Donald G Jackson and Randall Frakes
Directors: RJ Kizer and Donald G Jackson
Screenwriter: Randall Frakes (story: Donald G Jackson and Randall Frakes)
This is one of the silliest films ever made. If you don’t over-think it (or think at all) it’s quite fun and funny. Although a pubescent boy’s fantasy, the film is also somewhat feminist. A truly odd combination. Like I said: don’t think about it.
After a nuclear war, most humans are infertile. But serial impregnator Sam Hell is pressed into service by a group of women who seem now to control the military. With two of them, he goes off to save a bunch of fertile women who have been captured by the frog people.
Hell House LLC (2015)
Producer: Joe Bandelli
Director/Screenwriter: Stephen Cognetti
A group of young people rent an abandoned hotel in a small town to produce a haunted house. On opening night mayhem occurs and people die. Footage from their preparations shows that odd things had been happening for a while.
This is a solid found-foot film but it also shows the limitation of the form with an uninspired ending. But despite thinking the opening was lame, I was quickly turned around and engaged throughout.
Starring Ryan Jennifer, Danny Bellini, Gore Abrams, Jared Hacker, Adam Schneider, and Lauren A Kennedy (The Ten Commandments: The Musical).
Hell House LLC is under copyright. It is available on DVD as a director’s cut with a bunch of extras.
16 December 2020
Hell of the Living Dead (1980)
Executive Producer: Servio Cortona
Director: Bruno Mattei (as Vincent Dawn)
Screenwriters: Claudio Fragasso and JM Cunillés
Alternate titles: Virus
Rats bring a zombie virus to a secret military installation. A military unit goes to kill a bunch of eco-terrorists who want the facility shut down. After they are all killed, the group and two reporters make their way to the facility through hoards of zombies.
There is much to dislike in this film — especially that it is often slow. Some may be bothered that it is a rip-off of Day of the Dead. But it has such great gore (Including ripping a woman’s tongue out of her mouth!) and effective moments that all is forgiven. (Plus: if artistic theft bothers you, why are you watching a Bruno Mattei film?!)
1 June 2020
Producers: Lawrence Gordon & Mike Richardson & Lloyd Levin
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Screenwriters: Guillermo del Toro (story: Guillermo del Toro and Peter Briggs; comic: Mike Mignola)
During World War II, a special paranormal squad stops the Nazis from opening up another dimension and bringing in some badasses to help them win the war. Before they can close the portal, a baby, Hellboy, comes through who fights behind the scenes with an a fish-man for Truth, Justice, and the American Way.
This film is really well made as we would expect from del Toro. But it keeps running into the fact that it’s a stupid superhero story with no nuance whatsoever. People love the film for obvious reasons. And I’m not saying they’re wrong. But I’ll always prefer The Devil’s Backbone.
Starring Ron Perlman (Alien Resurrection), Selma Blair (Cruel Intentions), Rupert Evans (The Canal), Jeffrey Tambor (The Larry Sanders Show), Karel Roden (A Prominent Patient), Kevin Trainor, and John Hurt (1984).
Hellboy is under copyright. You can get it on DVD with one disc and two discs. Or on Blu-ray or 4K. And, because it’s ultimately a superhero movie, it’s available in a dozen other forms. I think they all have a commentary with del Toro and Mike Mignola that is pretty good.
20 December 2020
Producer: Casey Silver
Director: Joe Johnston
Screenwriters: John Fusco
A half-Indian long-distance horse rider is complicit in the massacre at Wounded Knee. He becomes a drunk but finds an opportunity for redemption participating in an epic horse race in Saudi Arabia. There he gets into adventures as well as racing.
Despite some dark undertones, this is a very pleasant adventure film in the tradition of Gunga Din. It’s also beautiful to look at. I’m not sure why more people aren’t into this film.
Starring Viggo Mortensen (Eastern Promises), Omar Sharif (Doctor Zhivago), Zuleikha Robinson (The Namesake), and Louise Lombard (Shadow Wolves). It features some notables in small roles: Elizabeth Berridge (The Funhouse), Malcolm McDowell (A Clockwork Orange), C Thomas Howell (The Outsiders), and JK Simmons (Worlds Apart).
16 May 2021
The Hidden (1987)
Producers: Robert Shaye, Gerald T Olson, and Michael Meltzer
Director: Jack Sholder
Screenwriters: Bob Hunt
A space bug comes to Earth and takes over bodies. Then it makes them steal, murder, and play their boomboxes way too loud in restaurants. The police have difficulty finding it given that it jumps from body to body.
Films don’t get much more fun than this. And the fact that six different actors get to play this over-the-top villain is icing.
Starring Kyle MacLachlan (Blue Velvet) and Michael Nouri (Flashdance). Featuring Katherine Cannon and the six villains: Chris Mulkey (Any Day Now), William Boyett (Adam-12), Claudia Christian (Babylon 5), Clarence Felder, Ed O’Ross (Dick Tracy), and John McCann.
High Plains Drifter (1973)
Producer: Robert Daley
Director: Clint Eastwood
Screenwriter: Ernest Tidyman
A stranger comes into an old west town and is harassed by three local bullies. The stranger kills them. It turns out, the town had hired those men to protect the town from three other men they sent to jail a year earlier who are about to be released. Now the town hires the stranger to protect them. It soon becomes clear that the stranger has a connection to the town.
This is my favorite Clint Eastwood film and it works as well now as it did when it was released. It’s also really funny and features a strong cast.
Starring Clint Eastwood (Unforgiven). Featuring Billy Curtis (The Terror of Tiny Town), Verna Bloom (The Hired Hand), Marianna Hill (Messiah of Evil), Mitchell Ryan (Magnum Force), Jack Ging (Riptide), and Stefan Gierasch (Legend of the Phantom Rider).
13 June 2021
Highway to Hell (1992)
Producers: Mary Ann Page and John Byers
Director: Ate de Jong
Screenwriter: Brian Helgeland
A young couple is headed to Las Vegas to get married. But they are afraid their parents might try to stop them so they take a back road. An old gas station owner tells them to not sleep between two Joshua trees but they do and the girl gets kidnapped to hell. The boy must follow after and save her.
Despite being written by a great screenwriter, this is quite the muddle. But the film makes up for it with great design and some excellent performances. Still, not exactly something to go looking for.
Starring Chad Lowe (True Blood), Patrick Bergin (Sleeping with the Enemy), Richard Farnsworth (Comes a Horseman), and Kristy Swanson (Buffy the Vampire Slayer). Stiller and Meara and their children have small roles.
9 November 2021
The Hills Have Eyes (1977)
Producer: Peter Locke
Director/Screenwriter: Wes Craven
A family’s car crashes in the desert on their way to their silver mine. Unknown to them, they are being watched by a cannibalistic family nearby who communicate via portable CB radios. As the two men go in opposite directions to find help, they all become targets of the family.
Apparently, Craven tried to move out of horror after The Last House on the Left but no one wanted to finance him doing anything else. This film is similar in many ways with a dash of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre thrown in. It’s quite good — and scary.
Starring Bad Manners director Robert Houston, Susan Lanier, Dee Wallace (ET The Extra-Terrestrial), John Steadman (The Longest Yard), James Whitworth (Planet of Dinosaurs), and Michael Berryman (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest).
The Hills Have Eyes should be under copyright but there is a good print of it on Archive.org. It is available on a 2-disc DVD and Blu-ray both with substantial extras. There are loads of other releases.
4 January 2021
The Hills Have Eyes Part II (1985)
Producer: Barry Cahn and Peter Locke
Director/Screenwriter: Wes Craven
A group of motorcycle racers go to an event in the desert where the original movie took place. With them is Ruby from the first film, now living a normal (non-cannibal) life. The group is late for the event so they take a shortcut and have to stop. And it all starts again.
This is a famous troubled production. The weird thing is that almost everything about it is fine. The problem is the one thing that shouldn’t have been affected: the script. It is filled with so many ridiculous coincidences that it’s laughable. This is one for obsessives and scholars only.
Starring Tamara Stafford, Janus Blythe (The Hills Have Eyes), Kevin Spirtas (Friday the 13th Part VII), John Bloom (Brain of Blood), and Michael Berryman. Robert Houston from the first film has a small part at the start of the film.
The Hills Have Eyes Part II should be under copyright but a decent copy is available on Archive. It is available on DVD with no real extras. It is also available on Blu-ray with a lot of extras. You can also get the first two films together on DVD.
10 January 2021
His House (2020)
Producers: Ed King & Martin Gentles & Roy Lee & Aidan Elliott and Arnon Milchan
Director: Remi Weekes
Screenwriter: Remi Weekes (story: Felicity Evans & Toby Venables)
A young couple flees violence in their home country, losing their daughter in the process. They ask for asylum in the UK. But the ghosts from their trip haunt them in their new home.
This is an amazing film that is both scary and poignant. It even has some good make-up effects and excellent acting. Not to be missed.
His House is under copyright. It is currently only available on Netflix.
4 November 2020
The Hitch-Hiker (1953)
Producer: Collier Young
Director: Ida Lupino
Screenwriters: Collier Young and Ida Lupino (Adaptation: Robert Joseph; original screenplay: Daniel Mainwaring)
A murderous psychopath kidnaps two guys on a fishing trip. We follow them as the two men look for opportunities to escape. It all leads to a wonderfully compelling denouement.
The film is ultimately about how good people respond to evil. The psychopath even mocks the men for caring about each other. Ultimately, it is collective action that brings down the psychopath. I find it a much more compelling rendering of evil than No Country for Old Men.
The Hitch-Hiker is in the public domain and available on Archive.org with a decent print. You can also get it on DVD and Blu-ray. It’s also been restored, but this version hasn’t been made available on disc yet.
Producer/Director/Screenwriter: Rick Sloane
A young man takes a job as a security guard in a movie studio. Unknown to him, space alien hobgoblins have been imprisoned in the film vault. He accidentally lets them out. They cause everyone to hallucinate their greatest dreams, which end up killing them. Now he must get the hobgoblins back.
This is an odd one. It’s the kind of film I’d make because the script isn’t bad but the film is shot and edited in such a boring way that it largely destroys it. It features medium-long shots over and over. It’s too bad because Sloane has talent in some areas. The puppets by Kenneth J Hall are exceptional. Bob Ivy was the stunt coordinator.
Starring Tom Bartlett, Paige Sullivan, Steven Boggs, Kelley Palmer, Billy Frank, Duane Whitaker (Eddie Presley), and Jeffrey Culver.
Hobgoblins is under copyright. It is available on a combo Blu-ray/DVD with a commentary and about an hour of documentary stuff.
29 July 2021
Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers (1988)
Producer/Director: Fred Olen Ray
Screenwriters: Fred Olen Ray & TL Lankford
A PI searching for a runaway finds himself trapped by chainsaw cultists. The cult dates back to ancient Egypt and the “Chainsaws of the Gods.” Other than The Master, everyone involved in the cult appears to be a prostitute. Also, it takes place in Hollywood. So you should understand the title now.
Ray had a bunch of nude women with chainsaws. He really didn’t need more. But this is a genuinely funny film with dialog straight from the Kentucky Fried Theatre.
Starring Linnea Quigley (Creepozoids) and John Henry Richardson. Featuring: Dawn Wildsmith (Surf Nazis Must Die), Michelle Bauer (Lust for Frankenstein), Esther Elise (Vampire at Midnight), and Michael Sonye (Commando Squad). Gunnar Hansen (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre) gets top billing but it isn’t much of a part.
Producer/Director: William Castle
Screenwriter: Robb White
Starting with a spectacular murder, we follow Emily who ostensibly cares for an older woman but really torments her. The related family members slowly come to terms with the psychopath in their presence and the revelation of dark secrets.
I was deeply affected by this film when I was a kid and only happened upon it as an adult. It really is fantastic — probably my favorite William Castle film.
Homicidal is under copyright. You can get it on DVD with a 7-minute featurette. You can get it on Blu-ray with Mr Sardonicus. I recommend the William Castle Film Collection, which comes with 13 Firghtened Girls, 13 Ghosts, Mr Sardonicus, and The Old Dark House.
11 May 2020
Horror Express (1972)
Producer: Bernard Gordon
Director: Eugenio Martín
Screenwriters: Arnaud d’Usseau and Julian Zimet (as Julian Halevy) (story: Gene Martin)
Alternate titles: Pánico en el Transiberiano
Two anthropologists are on a train through Siberia. One of them is transporting a frozen ape-man he’s found. People start showing up dead with white eyes. It seems there is something evil inside that ape-man.
This is a weird genre mix that looks very much like a Hammer film. It’s pretty fun.
Horror Express ought to be under copyright but there is a good copy on Archive.org. It is available on DVD and a Blu-ray/DVD combo. Better to get it on the Arrow Blu-ray with a 2K transfer and a good selection of extras.
9 October 2021
Horror High (1974)
Producer: Jamieson Film Company
Director: Larry N Stouffer
Screenwriter: JD Feigelson (as Jake Fowler)
Alternate titles: Twisted Brain
Basically, it is Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde but set in a modern high school as a revenge tragedy.
This is a brilliant lost gem. It puts anything that Herschell Gordon Lewis ever did to shame. Made on a budget of just $16,000, the producers wring every bit of value out of their money. The script, editing, and direction are all very strong. What’s more, even the worst acting is competent.
It stars Pat Cardi in his last acting role as nerd-turned-monster Vernon. In the female lead is Rosie Holotik (Don’t Look in the Basement). And playing a very Columbo-like detective is Austin Stoker (Assault on Precinct 13).
Horror High is copyrighted but can usually be found on YouTube and similar sites. If you want it on DVD, you may already have it. It is on a lot of compilations. One example: Cult Terror Cinema.
Producers: JR Bookwalter and Michael Catalano
Director: Danny Draven
Screenwriters: Scott Phillips (story: JR Bookwalter and Scott Phillips)
A website called horrorvision.com is killing people and creating digital versions of them. Two techies join forces to fight it.
This is kind of like the internet version of Videodrome. There isn’t much of a plot. In fact, it seems kind of like the pilot to a TV series. But it’s filled with loads of creativity — much of it thanks to David Barton — that looks great (especially for the time). The acting is also quite good.
Horrorvision is under copyright. It is available on DVD in various forms. Your best bet is probably the Special Edition.
8 November 2020
Horrors of Spider Island (1965)
Producers: Gaston Hakim & Wolf C Hartwig†
Director/Screenwriter: Fritz Böttger (as Jaime Nolan)†
Alternate titles: Ein Toter hing im Netz (1960); It’s Hot in Paradise (1962); Hot in Paradise; Girls of Spider Island; and Spider’s Web
Our review: Horrors of Spider Island and the Sex-Horror Genre
A dance troupe on its way to Singapore crash lands and only eight sexy women and their manager (Alexander D’Arcy) survives. But he turns into a monster soon and there is more than enough time for the women to get into fights in their pajamas.
Is it a monster movie? Or is it a girlie movie? Well, it’s both! This German cheapie was cut as a girl-fight movie in 1962 as It’s Hot in Paradise and then again as a monster movie in 1965 as Horrors of Spider Island. It’s the second film that is better known, probably because it was used for Mystery Science Theater 3000. It’s a surprisingly enjoyable film.
The film features Rainer Brandt and Barbara Valentin. Helga Franck would probably have gone on to a good career but fell from a window to her death at the age of 30.
The film is not copyrighted and a decent copy is available at Archive.org. Something Weird has released it on DVD. It comes with no features to speak of (at least ones related to the film). But the print is beautifully restored and presented in its original 1.85 : 1 aspect ratio.
† All of the credit information is based on hearsay. The posters provide no details and the prints only list Jaime Nolan as the director.
Horror of Dracula (1958)
Producer: Anthony Hinds
Director: Terence Fisher
Screenwriter: Jimmy Sangster (Novel: Bram Stoker)
The first of the 9 Hammer Dracula films, this is every bit as much a classic as Bela Lugosi’s Dracula (1931). And really, at this point, it’s quite a bit more fun. It’s as much action as horror and it works really well.
It has more or less the same plot as the 1931 version: Dracula is chased and a young woman is saved. But lots happens along the way. It’s much more briskly paced.
Peter Cushing (The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires) gets billed above the title, but after 7 other appearances as Dracula, it’s Christopher Lee (The Wicker Man) who is the star. Featuring: Michael Gough (Batman), John Van Eyssen, Melissa Stribling, Janina Faye (Don’t Talk to Strange Men), and Carol Marsh. George Merritt (I, Monster) has a small role. There are many more that you’ll recognize.
Horror of Dracula is copyrighted. I don’t know of a good DVD release of it. So if you want it on DVD, you are best to get it along with the 4th, 5th, and 7th in the series. There are other collections like one combined with Frankenstein and another with eight films. But it is much better to get the film on the Warner Archives Blu-ray. There is supposedly a great UK release of the film with new color correction and loads of extras, but I haven’t seen it.
Producer: Douglas Cox
Director: Rob Savage
Screenwriters: Gemma Hurley & Rob Savage & Jed Shepherd
During the pandemic lockdown, some friends have a Zoom seance. But one of them is disrespectful and a demon from the other world is angry and takes it out on all of them.
This is an exceptional low-budget film with some nice practical effects and overall potent use of digital effects. It also features wonderful acting. It’s just under an hour so it never gets boring. It also features a few twists in the plot.
Starring Haley Bishop, Jemma Moore (Doom: Annihilation), Emma Louise Webb, Radina Drandova, Caroline Ward, Seylan Baxter, and Edward Linard.
15 August 2021
Hotel Noir (2012)
Producers: Steve Bing & Sebastian Gutierrez & Zach Schwartz
Director/Screenwriter: Sebastian Gutierrez
Alternate titles: City of Sin
A hardboiled cop falls in love with the wrong woman and steals a bunch of money. But the woman stands him up and now he’s waiting for the chips to fall.
This is a very funny and unusually structured noir parody. It’s told largely by characters explaining what has happened to other characters. All the characters are so engaging I find it irresistible. The film was originally released in B&W and then re-released in color in 2017 as City of Sin.
19 January 2021
Producers: Tomoyuki Tanaka, Yorihiko Yamada, Nobuhiko Ôbayashi ?!
Director: Nobuhiko Ôbayashi
Screenwriters: Chiho Katsura (screenplay) Chigumi Ôbayashi (story)
Alternate titles: Hausu
A teenage girl wants to get away from her new step-mother and so goes to visit her aunt with six of her friends. Once at her aunt’s house, they are attacked by supernatural forces.
This is what Sid and Marty Krofft would have produced if hired to make Dead Alive. Much of it is violent and even horrifying. But it’s all done in a charming way. When Melody is eaten and chopped up by the piano, she seems to be having a fine time. This is truly one of the most disturbing films ever made.
It features Kimiko Ikegami, singer Miki Jinbo, Kumiko Ohba, Ai Matsubara, Mieko Satô, Eriko Tanaka, and Masayo Miyako.
The House by the Cemetery (1981)
Producer: Fabrizio De Angelis
Director: Lucio Fulci
Screenwriters: Dardano Sacchetti, Giorgio Mariuzzo, and Lucio Fulci (story: Elisa Livia Briganti)
Alternate titles: Quella Villa Accanto al Cimitero
Our review: The Gates of Hell Trilogy
A professor, his wife, and son move to an old house so he can continue the work of his colleague who just murdered his mistress and killed himself. The problem: there is an ancient madman in the basement killing people and using their body parts to prolong his life.
The last of the Gates of Hell trilogy, this one does not disappoint. It leaves a lot of unanswered questions but has a sweet ending — or at least as sweet as you can when everyone dies.
The House by the Cemetery is under copyright. It is available on a number of releases but you are best to get the Blue Underground DVD or Blu-ray, both of which have a good selection of extras. Or just get the Anchor Bay DVD, which doesn’t come with much but is a good release and costs almost nothing.
House Hunting (2012)
Producers: Erica Arvold and Pat Cassidy
Director/Screenwriter: Eric Hurt
Alternate titles: The Wrong House
Two troubled families come to see a remote house for sale. Once there, they find a wounded young woman with her tongue cut out. Then they are trapped on the property with all roads leading back to the house. Over the course of a month on the property, relationships are strained and secrets revealed — including why they are trapped.
This is a very good ghost story with intriguing mysteries, cool visuals, and excellent acting. I have my problems with the ending but most people will like it.
29 August 2020
House of 1000 Corpses (2003)
Producer: Andy Gould
Director/Screenwriter: Rob Zombie
Two couples on a road-trip through America to write a book about interesting places look for the source of a legend about a serial killer. They find him and are tortured and killed.
This film is everything you expect from a Rob Zombie film: visually gorgeous, plenty of gore, good performances, and a lame script. It’s very much like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, but less believable. But regardless, the first five minutes of this film are fantastic. At least watch those!
Starring Sid Haig (Spider Baby), Bill Moseley (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2), Karen Black (Invaders from Mars), and Sheri Moon Zombie (The Lords of Salem). Michael J Pollard (Four of the Apocalypse) has a small part.
6 April 2021
House of Ghosts (2012)
Producers: Christopher R Mihm and Stephanie Mihm
Director/Screenwriter: Christopher R Mihm
Hosts of a dinner party invite a medium to hold a seance. Nothing seems to happen so the medium is kicked out. But then ghosts appear. And eventually, zombies.
This is a parody of William Castle films. But it mostly isn’t played for laughs. Rather, it is an homage that works rather well. It has some very effective moments that are actually better than anything I remember in any of Castle’s films.
20 August 2020
The House of the Dead (1978)
Producer: William Jackson
Director: Sharron Miller
Screenwriter: David O’Malley
Alternate titles: Alien Zone
An adulterer on his way from his lover to his hotel to call his wife gets caught in the rain and takes shelter at a funeral home. The mortician shows him different caskets and tells him the stories of them. Thus we get four short horror stories.
This film is certainly not up to the level of the Amicus anthology films but it works pretty well. The main thing is that most of the stories are predictable. I’m not sure if that was true at the time of its release. But it’s directed well and is generally effective.
Featuring Ivor Francis (The Wackiest Wagon Train in the West), John Ericson (Pretty Boy Floyd), Judith Novgrod (Nightwing), Burr DeBenning (The Incredible Melting Man), Charles Aidman (Countdown), Bernard Fox (Bewitched), and Richard Gates.
The House of the Dead should be under copyright but there is an absolutely terrible copy on Archive.org. You can get it in great condition with extended interviews with the screenwriter and director in a Blu-ray/DVD combo. Beware other versions!
The House of the Devil (2009)
Producers: Roger Kass & Josh Braun & Larry Fessenden & Peter Phok
Director/Screenwriter: Ti West
A college student takes a “baby” sitting job but supposedly for the grandmother. The couple who hire her is a bit odd. But after she is alone, she notices some odd things in the house like a photo of a different family in front of the same car the couple just drove away in.
Overall, this is a very effective film. With one notable exception, almost nothing happens in the first hour but the suspense is almost overwhelming. The last 20 minutes are intense. The acting is great. I really don’t like the coda but that may just be because I watch way too many horror films.
Starring Jocelin Donahue (Summer Camp), Tom Noonan (Synecdoche, New York), Mary Woronov (Night of the Comet), AJ Bowen (Creepshow 3), and Greta Gerwig (The Dish & the Spoon). Dee Wallace (ET the Extra-Terrestrial) has a small role at the start.
29 January 2021
House of the Long Shadows (1983)
Producers: Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus
Director: Pete Walker
Screenwriter: Michael Armstrong
A writer makes a bet that he can finish a novel in 24 hours inside a spooky old house. But a family is already there for a family reunion of sorts. And other people show up. As befits a Gothic novel, there is a homicidal brother who has been locked in a bedroom for decades. But he’s gone and people start dying.
This is a fun little movie that looks great. Unfortunately, the ending is silly until it turns boring. But it doesn’t much matter because it is the only time the four horror icons ever worked together on film.
It stars Desi Arnaz Jr (Red Sky at Morning). Then there are the four icons in supporting roles: Vincent Price (Theatre of Blood), Peter Cushing (The Curse of Frankenstein), Christopher Lee (Dracula), and John Carradine (The Astro-Zombies). Featuring Julie Peasgood (The Snarling), Sheila Keith (The Confessional), Louise English, and Richard Hunter.
27 May 2020
House on Haunted Hill (1959)
Producer/Director: William Castle
Screenwriter: Robb White
This film really scared me when I was a kid. Price was so menacing. And there was the vat of acid. But I wasn’t completely wrong. It is creepy. And some of the scenes are very effective like the blood dripping from the ceiling and the rope entering from the window. Even though it ultimately makes no sense and is silly besides, it is rightly a classic.
Starring Vincent Price (House of Wax), Carol Ohmart (Spider Baby), Elisha Cook Jr (The Big Sleep), Richard Long, Carolyn Craig (Portland Expose), Alan Marshal (The White Cliffs of Dover), and Julie Mitchum. Comedy singer Leona Anderson plays the maid.
House on Haunted Hill is in the public domain and Archive.org has a good copy of it. Legend Films has released a colorized version on DVD. The colorization is some of the best I’ve seen. But more important, the black and white print is fantastic. There are two problems with the disc, however. First, it is rendered at 1.34:1 instead of the original 1.85:1 ratio. Second, it has a very unfunny “commentary” track by Mike Nelson. Who thought that was a good idea?!
Better would be to buy Shout Factory’s The Vincent Price Collection 2. It contains a widescreen print along with a commentary by Steve Haberman, someone who actually likes the film. The collection also comes with: The Raven, The Comedy of Terrors, The Tomb of Ligeia, The Last Man on Earth, Dr Phibes Rises Again, and The Return of the Fly.
Producer: Ron Bonk
Director/Screenwriter: John Bowker
A guy brings a Christmas tree to his agoraphobic lady friend so she can enjoy Christmas in July. Unfortunately, there is a space alien parasite in the tree. It gets out and kills a bunch of people more or less causing them to melt.
The melting effect is pretty cool and based on the documentary that comes with the disc, it was done with nacho cheese. The plot is scattered in order to include a bunch of deaths. But it’s still enjoyable enough.
30 June 2020
Producer: Luke Sharpe
Director/Screenwriter: Gerard Johnstone
A meth addict is arrested during a failed robbery and goes on house arrest with her mother and step-father. But her mother thinks the house is haunted and soon so does the addict daughter — and the tech who monitors her ankle bracelet. There is a creepy next-door neighbor who may have killed someone. Or maybe the addict is just hallucinating.
This is an outstanding film. I haven’t been able to find the words to explain it. It is a horror-comedy and it is very scary and very funny. But what’s remarkable is how the film shifts from one tone to the next and combines them. See this film!
Starring Morgana O’Reilly, Rima Te Wiata (Hunt for the Wilderpeople), Ross Harper, Cameron Rhodes, Mick Innes, and Ryan Lampp.
15 Jun 2021
The Howling (1981)
Producers: Michael Finnell and Jack Conrad
Director: Joe Dante
Screenwriters: John Sayles and Terence H Winkless (novel: Gary Brandner)
A reporter goes to a colony run by her therapist. But it turns out they are all a bunch of werewolves trying to live in society. And there is conflict.
This is one of the best werewolf films I’ve seen. Parts of it really are scary. And I like the social aspects of werewolf culture, which makes a lot more sense than for vampires.
Starring Dee Wallace (Cujo), Patrick Macnee (The Avengers), director Dennis Dugan, Christopher Stone (Spencer’s Pilots), Kevin McCarthy (Invasion of the Body Snatchers), Slim Pickens (Dr Strangelove), and John Carradine (The Unearthly).
15 April 2021
Humanoids From Atlantis (1992)
Producer/Director: JR Bookwalter
Screenwriter:Lloyd Turner (story: JR Bookwalter)
A young filmmaker gets a contract to make an environmental film about the local lake. In the process, he discovers that some monster from Atlantis is living there. How did it get from the Atlantic Ocean to a small lake in Ohio? If you have to ask, you’ll never understand.
JR Bookwalter’s films can be roughly divided into two categories. There are films that he took some time with, which are excellent. This even includes microbudget films like Kingdom of the Vampire (1991). And then there are the films he shot and edited over a weekend. Somehow, these films always have an irresistible charm despite often being, well, rough.
Bookwalter seems genuinely confused as to why people like Humanoids From Atlantis. And I suspect it wouldn’t have much of a cult following if it weren’t for his other films of this type. But the ending of this film acts as a kind of coda for them all. It feels right even if it was just a hack to end a failed production.
The film stars James L Edwards (Galaxy of the Dinosaurs), Christine Morrison (Chickboxer), and Sandra Wurzer. They are all ghastly. But that isn’t their faults. They’ve been fine in other films. Bookwalter was clearly rushing through this one. The film succeeds despite this.
Humanoids From Atlantis is copyrighted. I recommend getting it on DVD as part of Bad Movie Police: Crimewave! That comes with all the “Let’s put on a show!” films that Bookwalter made from 1991 through 1992. There is a more recent Blu-ray release of the film