When people think of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, they think of legendary film studio Hammer. But there was another British film studio that liked to pair the two in horror movies, Amicus films, who put out some great horror anthologies. Not only did we have the House of Hammer, but the House of Amicus, and like it’s better known rival, Amicus was a house that dripped plenty of blood.
One of the best anthologies produced by Amicus was “The House That Dripped Blood.” This four-part anthology featured Cushing and Lee, although they performed in separate segments. It also featured legendary Hammer vixen Ingrid Pitt, vamping it up in her typical fashion. Basically, that woman just played herself in each of her roles, with “herself” being utterly fabulous with her long cigarette holders and plenty of cleavage.
The first of the four segments features a writer and his wife who move into the old house that serves as a backdrop connecting the four stories. He wants to finish his novel about a vicious murderer. Problem is, it seems his murderer is coming to life and stalking him and his wife. Sounds very Stephen King, doesn’t it? Well, this was before Stephen King made it big, as the film was produced in 1970. Although one has to wonder if this didn’t inspire “The Dark Half” just a little bit. For the record it was Robert Bloch who wrote these stories.
Anyway, writers in particular will get a kick out of the whole writing process and the way writers tend to try to make their characters so real — Sometimes a little too real. The Dominic character is very sinister on the page and as a flesh and blood stalker. And oh, that creepy laugh.
Is he real or is he just a figment of the writer’s imagination? Watch it and find out the twist at the end.
Then we move into the second segment, with Cushing looking mighty sharp in a red smoking jacket… so elegant and refined. As he listens to his classical music and goes through his theater programs, he comes upon a photo of a beautiful woman and walks into town looking quite lovelorn. He happens upon a “Museum of Horror” and decides to check it out.
As he wanders around the museum, which is basically a waxworks, he comes upon a rather interesting display of Salome with the head of John the Baptist on a platter. And this Salome seems to have a mesmerizing effect on Cushing… Her eyes remind him of the woman in the photo he was looking at earlier.
“She is beautiful isn’t she? My Salome…” says the proprietor out of the blue. Where did that guy come from? “Perhaps she reminds you of someone? You see, she has a strange effect on people. They seem to see in her all sorts of things.”
As it turns out, not only does she remind Cushing of his long-lost love, but she’s modeled after the proprietor’s deceased wife, who he says was a murderess who was executed for her crime. So he created the tribute to her to preserve her beauty for all time.
Suffice it to say that dead or not, he doesn’t take too kindly to other men ogling his deceased wife. First, he takes out his jealous rage on a friend of Cushing’s who stops in after a visit, then on Cushing himself when he finds he can’t stay away.
That’s quite a woman, wax or not.
The third segment features Lee, as a rather uptight widower and father of a young girl. Seems his little girl has an unnatural fear of fire, and Lee has a rather unnatural fear of just what powers this little girl might possess. Seems Mama dabbled in some of the dark arts, so Lee doesn’t like to have any dolls around the house. Unfortunately, the young woman he hires to tutor the little girl doesn’t really quite understand the complexities of the situation, and when he destroys the doll given to his daughter as a gift, she doesn’t just get mad, she gets even with Daddy.
This old house has a whole lot of old books, and some of those books have some witchy spells in them. Mix that with some candles melted down to make a brand-new doll, and I think you see where this is going. It doesn’t end well.
The final story of the anthology is where Pitt finally gets to shine. An actor moves into the house and his current role is playing a vampire in a horror film. He hates the cheesy sets and the bad, fake looking costumes, so he takes upon himself to find his own vampire cloak. He goes to a vintage clothing an antique store and finds a something much more real. Little does he know how real it is.
But when he puts on the cloak on set, funny things happen. Funny, as in him sprouting fangs and trying to bite his costars. But no one seems to believe him when he tries to tell them the cloak has magical powers to turn him into a vampire, least of all Pitt. When he sets out to prove to her that the cloak is real, let’s just say he’s in for quite a surprise.
All four stories of this anthology featured great actors, great stories and some really creepy moments. You can’t go wrong with Lee and Cushing, even outside the Hammer franchise. If you haven’t heard of Amicus before, I strongly suggest you not only check out this movie, but some of their other titles as well: Another big favorite of mine is their feature film “The Skull,” featuring Cushing. You may have a great Hammer collection, but your horror collection is far from complete without some Amicus, as well.
It’s no coincidence that this week’s Retro Cinema choice is “Hellraiser.” Because in case you haven’t heard, the remake has been given a green light. Now, I know you hard-core horror fans like me are out there saying “Oh, God no, not another remake!” But fasten your seatbelts kids, because for once this is good news: Clive Barker is gonna direct and Doug Bradley is coming back as Pinhead.
When Barker first directed “Hellraiser,” he had a very limited budget and in fact, he confesses in the DVD commentary that he basically got the resurrection scene special effects done for much less than what it should’ve cost (only $25,000) because the studio liked what they saw of the film and threw a few more dollars their way. That scene wasn’t even in the original script due to not having a budget for it.
I think it’s fair to say that this time around, Barker won’t face those kinds of problems. Nor have to resort to the cheesy painted in special effects he did himself — those being my main criticism of the original as well as the pretty dreadful acting of Ashley Laurence (sorry, but it’s true.) Sure, there are a few things that went wrong, but a whole lotta things went right.
While I’m sure most people reading this have seen the film, I don’t want to give away too much just in case, but let’s just say after “Hellraiser,” people really didn’t look at hooks and chains quite the same way again. Nor their prim and proper British wives.
How can you go wrong when you mix Stephen King, Gary Busey, and one of the Coreys? Trick question… You can’t go wrong. Plus if you add in a few werewolves, and some campy gore, you’ve got a big bundle of 80s horror known as “Silver Bullet.”
Corey Haim plays Marty, a boy stuck in a wheelchair that’s been dubbed the Silver Bullet. The story is narrated by his older sister, Jane (Megan Follows), reminiscing about the past. But in the present the story’s set in, she pretty much feels that he’s a pain in the butt. That starts to change and they find themselves coming together when people in their small town are turning up not only dead, but ripped to pieces. And the murders are metaphorically ripping the town apart as well.
When Marty’s best friend becomes the latest victim, the townsfolk seek some vigilante justice and want to hunt down whoever — or whatever — is killing people, despite pleas from the local sheriff. Of course, they go out hunting it at night. During a full moon.
Do I really need to tell you how that’s going to end? Yeah.
When Uncle Red (Busey) comes to visit Marty and Jane, that’s when things get really interesting. After Uncle Red builds Marty a supercharged motorized wheelchair and gives him some fireworks, Marty sneaks out in the middle the night to go set them off. Little does he know, this will bring him face to face with the beast that is terrorizing his town. During this late-night confrontation, Marty injures the werewolf, putting out an eye. It escapes, so Marty and Jane go on a hunt around town to find out who has a telltale injured eye. And suffice it to say, it is not the person they expected.
Unfortunately, the werewolf knows that they know, so they have to rely on Uncle Red to protect them when the beast comes to attack the only ones who know his identity.
The movie is based on Stephen King’s short story, “Cycle of the Werewolf.” Many King adaptations tend to turn into more campy fun than horror when they hit the screen, and this film follows that trend. That doesn’t mean it isn’t good… I mean, this is a classic 80s horror film that’s a lot of fun. And I’ve always been really partial to werewolves, but don’t expect any fancy transformation scenes in this one. In fact, I think the werewolf sort of looks like a teddy bear — I’m guessing that wasn’t exactly the effect they were going for.
Of course, there’s a bittersweet element to it now in light of Haim’s early demise, and the living train wreck that Busey has become. This is a pre-“Lost Boys” Haim, before Hollywood tore him apart. And Busey is in his prime here. The film is family-friendly if you’re looking for a film for kids that still appeals to adults.
Although you might have to explain Busey’s line that he’s more nervous “then a virgin on prom night.”
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I love cheesy horror as much as anybody, especially when you tie into something held sacred by so many, like Christmas. Usually, these films are done with the sort of sly wink from the filmmaker to acknowledge that it’s all meant to be silly fun. Unfortunately, I don’t really get that feeling with this Christmas horror film, “Christmas Evil.” And there is good silly and bad silly.
I’m afraid this falls into the latter.
I just want to grab the filmmaker and say, “Oh, honey. What were you thinking?” First of all, the whole “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” reference is nowhere near enough to traumatize a child, turning them into a psychotic adult. Not getting that. Then the whole scene where the deranged little boy decides to break a snow globe and cut himself is really confusing. Is that supposed to be interpreted as trying to slash wrists? It seems like he just cut his hand, which makes no sense whatsoever.
When the movie fast forwards to the adult psycho, I’ve seen many critics talk about the good performance of a man descending into madness. Oh PUH-lease. It was just silly. Bad silly. Not even so-silly-it’s-funny. The things that supposedly make him finally snap are so trivial that you can’t possibly believe even a psycho would be set off by them. And if so, he should have gone off the deep end a long time ago. I mean, a guy fooling you into covering his shift? A couple of fancy New Yorkers teasing you a little bit about your Santa suit?
Embracing the nonsense yields a few favorite moments: a group of New Yorkers turning into a torch-carrying mob, literally, and a guy falling over an embankment in the snow and you can see the rug underneath the fake snow moving with him. That was definitely an Ed Wood moment, may he rest in peace. And then that last scene with the van doing a “Thelma and Louise” leap and then an “E.T” flying across the moonlit sky… Sweet baby Jesus. That is a hot mess.
This is definitely one you watch after a lot of alcohol, or whatever substance of choice, because that’s the only thing that will make this entertaining. Especially if you get the special double feature edition packaged with “Silent Night, Bloody Night” that is set up movie theater style with the opening concession stand pitches as well as vintage cartoons of Casper and Popeye.
Don’t say you weren’t warned. Go rent or buy “Black Christmas” instead. Or the super size bottle of your favorite adult beverage.