Friday, October 18, 2019

New Streaming: Creepshow- 'Gray Matter' and 'The House of the Head'

After two good Films and one bad one, we finally get this the way it should have been done- a TV Show.  Will Shudder make it magical?
The first Tale is 'Gray Matter,' which definitely feels like an update of an EC Comics Story.
A kid goes to a General Store as a Hurricane approaches.  The three Character Actors...I mean, Sheriff, Doctor and Store Owner (respectively) are there.
He tells them that his Father is having problems- which they think of as just Alcoholism- so the two guys go to his House to talk to him.

It's all moody and bleak though.
As the men walk around looking for him, the kid tells his tale.  It starts off as just sad, but then turns...sinister.  What has dad become?!?
The second tale is more humorous, but also a bit strange in tone.  It's definitely a bit unique...
A little girl is really into her Dollhouse, which is huge!  The Smithsmith Family lives in there.

No matter what happens, this is already better than Amityville Dollhouse.
While she's away, the characters seem to move and a new thing appears inside- a zombie head!
Can she 'call in' help to save the 'family?'  Will the threat remain localized to the Dollhouse?
Two random and fun stories.  I liked the first two Films, even if the quality of tale varied throughout.  For instance, 'The Raft' was only alright.  Creepshow 3 was just all sorts of wrong.  That was due to it being owned by the Taurus Entertainment Company, who lent it out to two, well, hacks.  It's a shame that Romero lived to see their two knock-offs, but not this far superior product.  The first Story is light on explanation, but strong on atmosphere.  Why does the guy become a creature?  The Beer- I guess.  Yeah, it's not explained.  To be fair, many Stories of this type didn't explain a damn thing.  They were also written for, well, dumber audiences- by design.  To paraphrase Starship Troopers, Would I like to know more?  Yes.  Since I don't, I'm just going to enjoy the creative monster design and atmosphere.  I'm also glad that Adrianne Barbeau dropped out of Jeepers Creepers 3, but did do this.  The other Story is surprisingly-more interesting.  It's weird and quirky, but I kind of like it.  Like the other tale, I'd like to know more and, perhaps, even see the other side of the Story.  All the same, both sections are fun and interesting.  I'm happy to see more of this, even if it is still from the same people who ruined the Franchise's good name in the past...
Next time, more random tales and hopefully more fun.  This Format works best for the concept, so go for it.  See you then...

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

New(er) Flix: The Wicker Tree (2011)

After over 30 years and two failed attempts at financing, this one got made.  Was it worth all of the effort?
A Born-Again Christian Singer named Beth is sent on a mission trip to Scotland.

As long as this isn't just a retread of The Wicker Man, this should go well.
Oh right- that's exactly what this is.

Sadly, an on-set (not this one) injury forced Christopher Lee to only make a Cameo.  Sorry, but Graham McTavish can only do so much here.
Instead of one victim, we have two.

Instead of restoring fruit harvest, we have restoring fertility.

Oh...I see what you did there.
Beth's man gives up his Purity Pledge and Ring after seeing this woman for only the second time.  Granted- she's naked and inviting here (literally), but, wow, what conviction.
As the time comes, the Village prepares for the creepy work ahead.

Serious question- how far in do you have to be to take 'buttering up a naked woman for a human sacrifice' as common-place?
Can Beth turn the tide?  Can the evil Villagers be stopped?  Does the Film have any new ideas other than lots of generic Country Music?

To find out, watch the Film.  You'd be in rare company if you did.
A pretty nothing retread.  No offense to Director Robin Hardy (especially considering that he's dead), but what was the point of this?  Quick History Lesson- Hardy had a Script which he pitched to Lee during the Production of Lord of the Rings.  Lee was on-board and got others (like Sean Astin) interested.  No funding.  Hardy turns his Script into a Book and then back to a Script.  Funding falls through again.  Finally, the Film gets made.  After all of that work, what did we gain?  We got what is just about a Remake of a Film that just had a (famously bad) Remake.  What's changed?  The goal of the Villagers- kind of.  The Setting is now Scotland.  We have victims lured to the Island under far more traceable circumstances.  Seriously, the group knows where they sent Beth- this can't end well!  Without SPOILing all of this, could they even divert people away from their crimes?  So if there is very little about the Plot that is changed, what else is there?  There's a smattering of sort-of commentary- like showing Beth's recent past- and some decent Characters mixed in throughout.  There's also some randomness like having bird's eye vision for a few Scenes.  The Film also doesn't really present us with Leads that are as engaging or interesting as in the first Film, so, this is, again, an inferior copy.  I wanted to be wrong.  I wanted to be the one to tell you that 'No, this is a good Film.'  It's not.  It's not badly-made, but it is unnecessary and does nothing for nobody.  Sadly, all we get to be that interesting is Christopher Lee in a (badly-disguised) Green Screen Flashback...
It should be good.  It's not.  Watching this Movie will 'not bring back your damn honey,' so don't bother.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Forgotten Flix: The Blood on Satan's Claw

How have I not heard of this one until now?!?  Today's Film is The Blood on Satan's Claw, a 1971 Thriller with a kind of bonkers plot.  Set in a time long ago, a strange being's presence causes the youth to be corrupted.  They go from friendly Puritan-looking kids to Satan-worshipping monsters!  What is the secret?  What can stop it?  What does all of this have to do with body hair?  The Film is part of the Folk Horror Trend that came along around this time.  The most famous example, of course, is The Wicker Man, but there are others as well (like Witchfinder General).  This one falls in the middle- quite literally- and is less remembered.  Should it be though?  It feature evil kids, a silly monster and lots of paranoia.  To find out more, read on...
A Farmer finds a strange body in his field and reports it.  When it vanishes, nobody believes him.
The missing parts of the body appear to be affecting people in Town, specifically the young.

The lead one- Angel (ha?)- starts to lead the children...
The children begin to resist the leadership of the adults and eventually escalate to some light murder.

If you're going to turn to Satan, you need to ease into it.
In a bit right out of some famous Story whose name escapes me, Angel seduces the lead guy and uses that against him.

This scene is crucible...I mean, crucial, so, of course, the nudity is covered in many prints with a literal darkening of the Scene.  TCM didn't do that, provided they play it at 4am.
The Cult continues to grow in secret, but enough people start to get worried in the Village.
They call in a Judge to help them deal with things and he sees a big problem.  He vows to return prepared to battle evil!
The Cult, meanwhile, doesn't stop, even when they are exposed.  Their own members and friends are soon punished and/or killed for their new God!
The side part of this involves all of the Members growing weird patches of fur on their bodies.  One of them has it removed- ouch!- and is rejected.

So the idea is that these parts are going to make up and reform the dead Demon in the ground from earlier.  Freaky, no?
It all builds to a big climax as the Cult tries to complete the Ceremony, but the Judge is back and he's got a big-ass sword.  The not-fully-restored creature is killed and the day is saved.

This is the last (English language )Film of the Actor who plays the Judge, so why not go out big?  The End.
A somewhat flawed, but atmospheric gem!  Is the Movie good?  Yes. Is it great?  Probably not.  It works best when it does one thing- establish a creepy atmosphere.  It make everything look creepy when it wants to with long shots, suspense being built up and then big, strange pay-offs.  A Cult Member plays hide-and-seek and ends up being killed!  A girl is lured into the Woods, only to be killed (and more) as part of a sacrifice!  A man discovers that his leg it growing fur!  The Film has atmosphere down pat- great.  The rest of the Film is so-so and it is not as engaging as it should be in the non-scary moments.  The Setting is unique for the time- avoiding the same ones used by nearly every Hammer Film- and that does help.  If you want a modern comparison, it's The Witch.  You can't see this Movie and not think of this Film.  The difference is that the focus is reversed- we see way more of the Cult Members and less of the Puritans (of sort).   We see how far they go and we see how the Village responds.  The Director was supposedly given a checklist of things to include from Witchfinder General- which I really need to re-watch!- and they are also here.  The big pay-off is interesting, but they definitely try to cover for any budgetary shortcomings.  I mean, you see that mask up there- you just barely do in the Film itself.  If you come in with an open mind, you can enjoy this fairly-unique Horror Film that came from a trend that never quite caught on.  As a bonus, you can enjoy it under a few different Titles.  For instance...
Next time, a more recent Film that touches upon similar themes of Folk Magic and the Occult.  This one died a quick death at the hands of both Audiences and Critics, so...yea.  Stay tuned...

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Poor Bastards of Cinema: Dark Phoenix (2019)

Dark Phoenix was a big misfire.

On the plus side, I got another one of these.

In the Film, a bland woman leaves her Dinner Party when her dog barks.  Why not?
She runs across some Aliens, who apparently kill her and copy her body.
She comes back- acting just as bland- and uses her new powers of, um, body distortion to kill everyone.

This is so they can copy the others, not that this really amounts to anything.
The real shame- they probably had paella.  Aw...
These poor bastards are not relevant to the Plot, but we needed them to be killed to show...um, that the evil Aliens are evil.

Mind you, this is the same race whose tragic death meant that Jean Grey had to die (thanks, Jim Starlin), so making them evil is kind of like having Jewish Villains replacing the Nazis.  And yes, that is Godwin's Law.

The moral: don't invite boring people to your party.  It's actually just good advice overall, really.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Hammer and Sicko: The Quatermass Xperiment

A Hammer Film that isn't about Dracula or any other kind of Monster like that?!?  Is that allowed?  Yes, yes it is.  This is The Quatermass Xperiment (or Experiment), a 1955 Film made as the Studio's first official one.  Side-note: this is a Remake a TV Mini-Series from 1953, so stuff that in your 'people are only now obsessed with Remakes in Year XXXX' argument.  The Film is about the titular Scientist and the aftermath of, well, his experiment.  Movie Titles can sometimes be pretty straight-forward, no?  It seems simple enough at first, but then boils down to scientific silliness.  This is one of those 'crazy thing X has created crazy monster Y' Films.  It's also one of the ones that explains it- I'll get to that-, but also doesn't really explain the Science behind the thing all that much.  It's like that Film I watched about killer mud (also British and Hammer, I think) that explains (in a crazy way) how the creature exists.  That one also didn't actually *verify* the man's theory of what the creature was, which still bugs me to this day (clearly).  This time, it involves a crashed rocket ship, a lone survivor and...not Superman?  Oh well.  Instead, a guy slowly transforms into something freaky.  To find out how this long-regarded Cult Classic feels to me, read on...
A Ship crashes in a British Field.  They can't afford to show the effect, but they do give us this shot, so...alright.
A man- Quatermass- is called to the Scene.

You see, he set up a trip in the Rocket with three men, not getting full permission.  He's somehow not thrown in Jail, because reasons.
After a bit of stalling, the Rocker is opened and only one man is alive.  The other two are missing, although their still-sealed suits are there!
Is the secret to what happened going to be gained from this man?  He can only say two words- 'Help me.'
While he recovers in a Hospital, we get more padding about them getting the Film from the ship developed.

Yes, we can fly Rockets deep into Space in this semi-past/future, but no digital!

The footage reveals little, but raises many questions.
The man is freed from the Hospital by his somewhat-dense wife, but gets mutated more and kills the man she hired for the job.  He's kind of an evil monster-in-the-making now.
Skipping to the 3rd Act, he's now fully a monster and hiding in Westminster Abbey.  He's an evil, world-killing Alien, but he knows fancy!
Our Lead kills it again as his plan involves...shocking the metal frame to kill the beast.  I mean...I could have done that.
In the aftermath, he vows to do his experiment again and we see another rocket leave.  Again- he's not arrested for this and, not only that, he gets more funding?!?

Sure- why not?  The End.
A somewhat dry, but enjoyable Film.  1950s Sci-Fi can be that way.  Throw in the fact that this is British and you're going to get dryness overload!  It's still a good, solid Film though.  The premise is simple enough and they don't muck things up too much.  He accidentally brings back a monster, it kills some people (more Poor Bastards of Cinema in the future) and it gets defeated.  It's pretty cut-and-dry, really.  The devil, as always, is in the details.  We see a man transforming into a monster and see you how much he hates it.  Nothing will ever top the possessed man crying while killing himself to stop the beast in Prince of Darkness for me (R.I.P. Jessie Lawrence Ferguson), but this guy does his best.  He makes you feel bad for him.  His story does not end happily.  On the plus side, he doesn't kill Paul McCartney's future fiancee (Jane Asher as a littler girl), so it worked out well for someone else.  The worst thing you can say about Films like this is that they spend more time talking about the idea and science of their monster/creature than they do showing it.  This is definitely a good example of that.  It's still better than damn mud though!  There was apparently some issue with the Casting of an American Actor as the Lead, but I was cool with it.  On a related Casting Note, how often do you see the strange caveat under Jack Warner's name?
Next time, a jump back the 1970s.  I've got plenty of strange options, so who knows what's next?  Stay tuned...

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

'70s *TV* Class: Frankenstein- The True Story- Part 2

Previously on this same Site that you're hopefully reading, we got this stuff that happened...

- Dr. Frankenstein becomes an Atheist who tries to create life.
- He joins forces with another Doctor, who dies before revealing that the process will not last.
- The Doctor's attempts to humanize Adam seems to be working, until his body breaks down.
- The Creature/Adam tries to kill himself/itself, but survives a cliff dive...unbeknownst to the Doctor.

Now that you're caught up, here is Part 2...
Adam observes a blind man and his family.  Sadly, it's not Gene Hackman in this and not nearly as funny.
Unfortunately, his time there ends in tragedy as he kills the young man (with a light shove against a wall) and the lady with him is killed by a sudden, surprise carriage.

Adam takes her body and finds...the guy from the beginning who broke the 4th Wall.  He's a key character in Part 2, so enjoy James Mason.
The Doctor, meanwhile, has gone back to his lady and is now happily-married.  That bit with James Mason finally connects to the Story (over 90 minutes later!).
To avoid having his acts brought up (with what evidence?!?), he agrees to help Mason create a new creature- a woman.

As it turns out, Mason has damaged/missing hands from an experiment too.  Now look back at all the times he grabbed things with them and don't think about how he must make his twin servants help him go to the bathroom.

Too late.
The Bride- not called that- is set up to join High Society, but that all ends when a burned up Adam (escaping an attempt to destroy him) shows up.  His plan- rip the woman's head off!

Oh well- you always have your QVC Jewelry Line, Jane Seymour.
The Doctor and his wife go on a boat to America, but have company- Mason and Adam!

This can't end well for anyone!
Adam seems to revert to the personality/mind of the original helper and kills Mason, as well as scaring the crew off of the boat as he steers it to...
Antarctica!

What a great shot.  Even better if it was actually convincing, right?
The wife is killed and the Doctor goes to see the Monster.  They both decide to leave society and an Iceberg crashes around them.

Yes, they did show this in the Teaser bit covered last time.  The End.
All of the stuff you actually wanted to see last time!  Yes, this one is all of the payoff from the last Film.  You obviously can't have one without the other.  Even so, this 2nd Half is so much more interesting that its kind of sad to look back at the other half.  In this one, we get the famous Blind Man bit, albeit more in line with the Book.  We get the Monster killing quite a few people.  While they can't actually afford the effect, we get to picture him ripping someone's head off.  Hell, a man is struck by lightning and turned into a skeleton!  What happened in the last part again?  Oh right- he took Adam to see an Opera and his face got kind of ugly.  Oh the horror!  It's obviously way too late to do anything about it, but maybe there's a lesson here.  Don't make a 3-Hour Film if you only have 90 or so minutes of really good and interesting content.  Don't make it longer just to make it more 'epic.'  Likewise, maybe sticking stringently to parts that work in a Book and not on Film isn't the best idea.  Frankenstein- The True Story is a great example of what's wrong and right about these 2-part Miniseries Films.  Yes, you get more context and more detail.  Yes, sometimes you get too much and you could have lived with less.  I'm not being snide because alot of good, talented people worked on the Film.  Besides Mason and are other Leads, we get Sir John Gielgud and the 4th Doctor himself- Tom Baker- in small Roles.  Yes, this was the best shot I could get of him.  Sorry, Tom.
Next time, I look at more Films from this time period.  They surely won't be this classy though.  Stay tuned...