CATACOMB OF TERROR
 

A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2: FREDDY'S REVENGE

1985. Directed by Jack Sholder

Here we go then, the follow-on that will precede a follow-on that will repeat the tradition and end up who knows where in an ever-growing collection of films. All we have to do is hang in, hope the dilution process isn't too harsh and hope for the best.

We are 5 years on from the original plot and the Walsh family now reside in the home of the Thompson’s, the scene of the original film. The son of the family, Jesse (Mark Patton), starts to have nightmares, as are some of his new classmates, most notably a girl he has the hots for, Lisa (Kim Myers) and a wannabe jock, Ron Grady (Robert Rusler). Lisa visits Jesse after school one day and they discover the diary of one Nancy Thompson, which details her awful nightmares, which in fact, are similar to Jesses (add own convenient music). It transpires that Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) is after a host body so as to continue his much needed murderous ways (where does this man get off). The clock is ticking, the Krueger influence is growing - Jesse and the crew are in a race of a lifetime to get the answers they need and to avoid a gory demise.

Run of the mill, far from profound and a typical sequel that continues a formula and paves the way for many follow-ons. This isn't a bad film and has some nice effects that help the attention levels and keep we humble horror enthusers ticking - just expect little and take it as it comes.
   

A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3. DREAM WARRIORS

1987. Directed by Chuck Russell

And here we go again, another series building after the success of the first 2 offerings. One can only hope we are not going down a repeater insult route where the same old, same old is rehashed and slapped forth without depth.

After young Kristen Parker (Patricia Arquette) has her wrists slashed by dream-stalking monster Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) she is sent to a local psychiatric ward where she joins a group of similarly troubled teens all of whom have seemingly made attempts on their own lives. Luckily for the students one of the Doctors is none other than one Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp), who has had her own fair share of Freddy bother as seen in the first 2 films. After several attacks on the teens Nancy decides to organise a group attack on our serial killer and see if they can rid themselves of him once and for all. Neil Gordon (Craig Wasson), the psychiatrist assigned to the children, at first is apprehensive about Nancy's presence but after meeting a nun called Mary Helena he becomes more reassure. Of course things never run smoothly and all goes awry with the nun popping up to convolute the tale a little more - it happens.

Acting wise there is some real out of sync, unemotive and quite lifeless stuff going down here and the script is far from absorbing but, looking at things from a kinder and less expectant angle, the film skips by, offers up some chunky moments to chew on and does what one would expect it to do - idly titillate!

   

ISLAND OF TERROR

1966. Directed by Terence Fisher

Purist nonsense and a rip-off of many films of a similar ilk where strange radiation borne monsters appear, crowds become panicked and an end result is almost ridiculously obvious.

We find the plot taking place on Petrie's Island, a remote area off the east coast of Ireland. For starters we have farmer Ian Bellows (Liam Gaffney) go missing and be eventually found by local copper John Harris (Sam Kydd) who finds him dead in a cave without a single bone in his body. Harris is aghast and gets the town physician Dr. Reginald Landers (Eddie Byrne) to offer his opinion, but Dr. Landers is clueless and seeks the help of the mainland dwelling noted London pathologist, Dr. Brian Stanley (Peter Cushing). Stanley still without any ideas and in turn looks to another source of assistance, this time in the form of Dr. David West (Edward Judd), an expert on bones and bone disease. Eventually, after a few more deaths, some light is shed on proceedings and our 3 intellects find out what has actually happened and what will actually occur if they don't come up with answers very soon. The village is under threat from a horde of multiplying beasts that feed on the skeleton and in a matter of hours the whole island will be overrun. Are you prepared to see if the day can be saved or if the population of Petries Island is going to be reduced to one dead jellified mass or will predictability crush your interest and a see you prematurely switching off?

I should know better. I should have enough insight and experience to not expect much from these low B-movie shockers and just take them for what they are. In fact I should know enough to give this one a severe bad review but, despite the orthodox way out plot, the outrageous conclusion and the pathetic effects I can't help but enjoy these things and go back to them fully undeterred and with an inkling for just one more peek. Cushing is a saviour as ever, the atmosphere not half bad and so, with a little idiot obsession like me you should get through this with a smile on your face and with a slight cerebral question of 'why' in your noggin. Escapism takes all forms, sometimes we shouldn't try to analyse it and instead just sit back and indulge!
   

THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN

1977. Directed by William Sachs

Pure out of this world hokum here that is awash with dubious effects and ham shank (rhyming slang) acting that somehow gets by and is an experience that is worth repeating several times over (oh we perverse horror maniacs).

The film revolves around an astronaut whom, after a space trip to Saturn, is affected with radiation poisoning.  The astronaut, Steve West (Alex Rebar) arrives back on Earth and is hospitalised and starts to melt.  He soon escapes with sudden urges to cause destruction, kill and eat the bodies of his victims.  Hardly any explanation is given for this behaviour other than the radiation but who cares, there is something fascinating going on here and one does get involved.  On the tail of the gelatinous murderer is a Dr Ted Nelson (Burr DeBenning), a man who seems to be made of timber and who fumbles his way through a performance that leaves everything to be desired.  I care not though, this is a film one watches for the gunk, the melting morass of putrescence that we are promised by the gratuitous title that leaves nothing to the imagination.  You want a man that melts, you got it!  The finale is superbly nonsensical, so matter-of-fact that for me  makes it fit in to the whole theme of a film very much off the reality scale.

I have read many bad reviews regarding this film but I am still taken by it, it is a piece of pop-culture, B-grade trash and has very few redeeming qualities on a professional basis but it entertains me, simple as!  Some of the scenes work well, I like the mental anguish of the accursed dripper and like that throwback feeling the movie emits.  Madness I know but isn’t the whole scenario built on insanity.  Apologies I have none!

   

THE GHOUL

1975. Directed by Freddie Francis

A recent catch up with a film I hadn't seen for donkey's years was had and the whole 70's atmospheric direction had me absorbed throughout albeit with a finale that was a let-down if the truth be told.  With Freddie Francis at the helm one almost knows what to expect, is that a good or a bad thing?

Two partying couples compete in a car race to Land's End whereupon one car runs out of petrol and leaves a couple (Billy and Daphne) in the middle of nowhere.   Billy (Stewart Bevan)goes in search of petrol, Daphne (Veronica Carlson), after waiting for his return, sets out on her own and comes across the rural estate of Doctor Lawrence (Peter Cushing) who, unbeknownst to our visitor harbours a dark and terrible secret.  Billy returns to the car, is duly killed by Lawrence's gardener (John Hurt) whom is a sinister character and unsettles throughout.  The first couple's friends, Geoffery (Ian McCulloch) and Angela (Alexandra Bastedo) learn of Billy's death and set out to find Daphne and end up in the presence of Dr Lawrence.  As the film progresses things take a turn for the worst, tales of debauchery, deviancy and cannibalism come to the fore and eventually, after a few murders here and there, the hidden secret is revealed.

This film concentrates throughout on the final reveal, it keeps one guessing as to that which remains hidden and the suspense is nicely held in check whilst the characters reveal their personal layers.  Cushing, as per, is immersed in his role, Hurt plays the unhinged well and the rest of the cast fill their places adequately.   The only gripe I have with this one is the end showcase, one expects and one doesn't get and things seem a little rushed (no doubt the budget was tight) but I will be watching again and enjoying, I think these things are just in the blood.

MAGIC MOMENT - Tom (John Hurt) and his eruptions and just downright odd behaviour.   The man is a sexual deviant, a murderer and who knows what else - when in his shed of creatures he becomes a quite fascinating and unsettling character.  The moment when the utters the words 'I'll Hurt You' are from a mind on the brink.

   

THE FROZEN DEAD

1966. Directed by Herbert J. Leder

A film I had overlooked for a long while and one that I kept on seeing pictures of in my well-thumbed horror books - the frozen arms and hanging iced German officers, I am sure many will know what I mean. The eventual viewing was a joy, it was a film of unexpected surprises and although similar to many offerings I have witnessed over the years it is one that has a quite unique identity.

The central character is a Dr Norberg (Dana Andrews), an unapologetic Nazi who has been experimenting with frozen German soldiers at his tucked away English estate.  Unfortunately the outcome of the experiments is far from satisfactory and although he can revive the body, the brain is still a problem and indicated by several zombie-like humans that are kept under lock and key.  One of these creatures if Norberg's brother (Edward Fox) who is unpredictable and violent.  The film takes on a whole new twist when Norberg's niece Jean (Anna Palk) and her friend Elsa (Kathleen Breck) unexpectedly arrive from their American University and Elsa meets her end at the hands of one shifty customer.  Norberg, seemingly lacking morals, sees his chance and keeps the head alive with the help of recent arrival, Ted Roberts (Phillip Gilbert).  From here matters become warped and then a true horror is revealed as the blue-tinted head emits vibes of revenge.

I thoroughly enjoyed this one, I like Dana Andrews and he pulls off his role well despite a script that occasionally dictates somewhat wooden dialogue.  The merging of several ideas, print colour and general layered theme all give food for thought whilst keeping the viewer transfixed.   I shall be dabbling again with this one for sure, a fine off-beat film.

MAGIC MOMENT - The first exposure of the head in a box adds a new horror dimension to the film and the look on the poor victims face is one not to be forgotten.   The blue tones and blood feeding tubes make for a sight to send shivers down the spines of those who think a little too deeply.

   

BLACK SUNDAY

1960. Directed by Mario Bava

There are some films that appeal on first viewing and do it with charm built on nothing more than style. This is a very gothic and eye-catching spectacle and one that one can return to over and over and no doubt find new layers of terror.

A witch, Asa Vajda (Barbara Steele) and her paramour, Prince Vajda (Aruro Dominici) are sentenced to death in 1630, Moldavia. Asa swears revenge and has a spiked metal mask hammered onto her face. 2 centuries later Dr. Thomas Kruvajan (Andrea Checchi) and his assistant, Dr. Andre Gorobec (John Richardson) come across Asa's tomb and can see her presevered body through the cracked glass of the casket. It goes without saying that an accident and some dropped blood lead to a resurrection whereupon our accursed lead lady seeks out a victim to drain of life and secure immortality. A race against teh undead now ensues with some quite bloodthirsty moments - just what the Doctor or Terror ordered.

The steady and sedate pace of the film suggest ongoing threat and the choice camera angles and fascinating atmosphere all make for a connoisseurs treat. The acting is somewhat theatrical at times but this adds to the realm of fantasy without removing the fear factor.

MAGIC MOMENT - The close-up of the mask when reincarnation is taking place is truly nerve-jangling and when the eyes begin to grow a certain nausea plays sweet merry-Hell with the aural palate.

   

TRILOGY OF TERROR

1975. Directed by Dan Curtis

A short film featuring 3 shorter stories all starring that famed actress Karen Black. This was a made for TV film but despite that usually negating angle this one is still highly watchable.

The first tale is called 'Julie' and deals with date rape and revenge, the seedy character known as 'Chad' (Robert Burton) duly gets his comeuppance in a creepy opener. The second tale known as 'Millicent and Theresa' sees Black take on both lead roles and gloriously embellish a sibling rivalry with a twist. This one leaves the viewer with a touch of pity and surprise. The final part 'Amelia' sees a woman return home after a shopping spree. She has in her possession a carved wooden fetish in the form of an aboriginal warrior. The figure wears a gold chain and if removed will allow a trapped inner spirit to be released. You can guess the outcome and what we have on our ends is a rip-roaring chase that combines comedy and horror quite splendidly.

Karen Black excels herself here and when put under this three-way spotlight proves herself to be a very capable actress with many strings to her bow. This may not be a classic but it is a fine curio worthy of anyone's time.

MAGIC MOMENT - I think the scene where the fetish is chasing its victim hither and thither is both comical and slightly unsettling. The little carved imp is a real nasty piece of work without a shadow of a doubt!

   

THE MASK

1961.  Directed by Julian Roffman

Some films are just odd, they leave you with a creeping terror beneath the flesh, a terror that gnaws away long after the initial viewing has been had, I suggest here we have one such film.  This Canadian offering may drift off in parts but there is a stylish creepiness not to underestimate and some snippets really are a cut above the norm.

The story revolves around a psychiatrist, Dr Allen Barnes (Paul Stevens) who finds himself in possession of an ancient tribal mask with a quite dubious history.  The mask comes with a warning, a warning that Barnes ignores and when he is forced by a mental force to wear the said mask he duly disappear into a land of quite fascinating and unhinged dreams.  These fantastical visions are both surreal and terrifying with the mask always at the centre of the hauntings.   Eventually Barnes cracks and becomes deranged, he unsettles and looks about to commit a crime beyond comprehension, with perspiring tension we head into the finale.

This has all the making of a classic with some remarkable moments, the only gripe is that there is too much detachment between reality and fantasy and some moments drag on too long with the dialogue almost seemingly pointless.   There is a good sense of threat, there is an overflow of classy scenes that fracture the consciousness and the acting, although staged in parts, is ideal for this type of film.

MAGIC MOMENT - Pick any one of several during the nightmare sequences, all of which bring mesmeric terror to the onlooker especially those were the mask dictates, controls and sends out damning fire.  The zombified mime-artistes are dance macabre given new life via monochrome artistry at its best!

 

FRANKENSTEIN'S DAUGHTER

1958.  Directed by Richard E. Cunha

I do love cheapo-horror flicks, especially ones that stick to a traditional story line, throw in their own effects and keep a momentum moving rather than trying to add unnecessary layers and fill out with nonsensical dialogue.  This budget flick received contemptuous reviews when released, perhaps it still does, I think many miss the point and underestimate we lovers of all that is a cost-cutting jaunt.

Carter Morgan (Felix Locher) and his obnoxious sidekick Oliver Frank (Donald Murphy) are working together on a serum that will cure all disease and help people to live forever.   Trudy Morton (Sandra Knight) who lives with her Uncle Carter has been having visions about being a monster and going on a rampage, it seems the doubtful Frank has been spiking her drinks with the untested formula.  Whilst Carter breaks into his local lab for a much needed chemical Frank is up to no good with his own dabblings, he is hell-bent on creating the perfect being and he really doesn't care how he goes about it.  He has the body, all that is lacking is the head, he gets this by dubious circumstances and soon we have a monster on the prowl.  It may be a routine storyline but it has enough old-school sensations and a 50's atmosphere to hold the aficionados attention for sure.

MAGIC MOMENT - Frank's lustful behaviour is the work of a man with no morals.  The eyes when his advances are rebuked are filled with uncontrolled mania and the frenzied fumblings during a night-time liaison really do disturb all senses of decency.  A nasty character this, a trait that runs in the family it seems.

   

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