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.
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.”
Retro Cinema is a new column that reviews a different retro horror film every Monday. Subscribe at the top of the page for updates on new film reviews, interviews and horror news.
If I had a weak week last week for The Madness, I sure made up for it this week, being off work and all. I went for the bigger point items, going for those 4-6 pointers and some super bonus Elvira. I focused a lot on vampires, hoping to hit lots of ATB “death by sunlight” points, but damn if I could remember how vampires died in a lot of older films… stake or sunlight? So it was hit and miss.
I really never want to see another vampire movie as long as I live. But this was my big play to try to win one week before I get back to work next week.
Altitude – 90 minutes (Secret bonus 2010 fog/mist?, Jessica Lowndes) 20 points or 3 points: A bunch of annoying young people run into The Mist in an airplane. Sure, they added a twist at the end, but not the best I’ve seen by a long shot. 2 stars
Nightfall – 83 minutes (Secret bonus 1988 descent into darkness? Sarah Douglas) 20 points or ATB 6 points for extended night at the end: I swear this must be the prequel for Pitch Black, telling the story of what happened to the people who had lived on that planet before Vin and Radha crashed there. The very BAD prequel. Apparently going from endless day to into an extended night of unknown duration takes you from kites and hippie free love to homicidal madness. 1 star
40 points if I got the bonuses
Walking Dead – 60 minutes 1 point: Whoa, just when you think this is going to be one of those slow episodes again, BAM! someone’s smoking a cigarette and one of the Wolves bashes their brains in. Is Carol the badass to end all badasses or what? 4.5 stars
Talking Dead – 60 minutes 1 point: It occurred to me this should count as it talks about the Walking Dead plus they had Kevin Smith this week with his infamous comparison of the episode to “oral that doesn’t stop after you’re done.” 4 stars
Face Off – 60 minutes 1 point: the finale has started and this was the first of two parts. I’m thinking Nora is going to come out on top, but the fact it looks like that could be deceptive editing. 3.5 stars
AHS: Hotel – 60 minutes (Vampires, secret rooms) 3 points: I don’t know, I wasn’t feeling it so much this week. This is how past seasons have gone — start with a really strong premiere then just go down the toilet. More Sarah Paulson please. And Denis O’Hare. 3 stars
Halloween Wars – 60 minutes 1 point: I always love these competitions, creating Halloween scenes with pumpkin carvers, candy makers and bakers. Amazing creations. 3.5 stars
Scream Queens – 60 minutes (there was another secret room/passage reveal this week) 2 points: Sweet homages this week to The Shining and if you were quick to catch it, an ode to the scariest moment in Exorcist III. 3.5 stars
Underworld: Evolution – 106 minutes (vampires/werewolves) 4 points: I admit the Underworld movies are played out, but I dig them. I love the aesthetic and Kate Beckinsdale, even if it’s taken directly from the artwork of Monolith Graphics. 3.5 stars
Underworld: Rise of the Lycans – 92 minutes (ATB death by sunlight) 6 points: This one returns to the backstory between Lucien and Sonya, so I knew it would be an ATB. But it’s a slightly different spin on the series with the different time period. 4 stars
Blade II – 117 minutes (ATB death by sunlight) 6 points – Norman Reedus plays a Judas here, just like in that damn Lady Gaga video, but without the Gag Hag, as I call her. Bonus for Norman fans. Blade’s lady vampire friend has mad style., but too bad she had the brother from hell and had to do that whole suicide by sunlight thing. 4 stars
Fright Night – 106 minutes (ATB death by sunlight) 6 points: One of my favorite vampire movies ever and one of my favorite vamps ever. You can bite me any day Chris Sarandon. 5 stars
Dark Places – 91 minutes (Dark in title, Christopher Lee, walled up people) 5 points: Older film where poor Christopher Lee stumbles on a mad man rehabbing an old house where there is hidden money. It doesn’t work out well for him. 2.5 stars
Tomb of the Blind Dead, Spanish version – 101 minutes (tombs, blind, vampiric Knights Templar zombies that attack at night) 5 points: Silly film where some dingbat jumps off a train in the middle of nowhere and goes camping in abandoned ruins by herself, making sure to change into her nightie and turn on her portable radio to give it that homey feel. And no one can escape from blind, slow, Knights Templar, zombie vampires. 1 star
Elvira Mistress of the Dark – 96 minutes (Elvira bonus, personification of dark ATB) 9 points: I get the whole schtick with Elvira, but the humor works best as brief commentary on horror films, not making her own full length film. But I seriously want her car. And that house. I could work that space y’all. 2.5 stars
Elvira: Count Dracula’s Great Love – 97 minutes (Elvira bonus, ATB death by sunlight) 9 points: What is it with the telepathic voice most of the film from Count Dracula? He hardly ever moves his lips, which I suppose makes those foreign language dubs a lot easier. And he commits hari-kari? I know it’s supposed to be bad, but wtf? 0 stars
Dracula AD 1972 – 95 minutes (Christopher lee, vampires, fog/mist) 5 points: “Dig the music kids!!” while you resurrect Christopher Lee in this shagadelic feature with the fab Caroline Munro. Oh Christopher, really? 2 stars
Horror of Dracula – 82 minutes (Christopher Lee, vampires, ATB death by sunlight) 6 points: Sweet, SWEET move by Peter Cushing to tear down the drapes and destroy poor Dracula with sunlight, and get me my max points. 5 stars
Dracula: Prince of Darkness – 90 minutes (vampires, Christopher Lee, Darkness in name, personification of darkness ATB) 6 points: Christopher Lee is my all time favorite Dracula, and was my primary influence in a life long love and sympathy for the monster. He is why I always root for the vampire to win. 5 stars
Bram Stoker’s Dracula – 128 minutes (vampires, phantom mist) 4 points: I am so disappointed no death by sunlight, but Gary Oldman is definitely my second favorite vamp of all time. Pure gothic romance where even Keanu Reeves manages not to be too annoying. And a cameo by Tom Waits. 5 stars
Raw Meat – 87 minutes (London underground, Christopher Lee, power outage, secret room, ATB finale in transportation tunnel) 6 points: This must have been a film that influenced Creep, with a lunatic in the London Underground. I also noted in the credits a makeup artist named Peter Frampton. Do you suppose it was THAT Peter Frampton? Anyway, Christopher Lee verbally bitch slaps Donald Pleasance. 3 stars
Elvira: The Devil’s Wedding Night – 99 minutes (Elvira bonus, vampires, startled by bat, Shout Factory TV) 8 points? Boobs and blood sums this up. Lots of boobs and blood. Oh yes, there was something of a plot, sort of, with vampires and a wedding ritual involving virgin sacrifice. Did I mention boobs and blood? 1.5 stars
Daybreakers — 98 minutes (ATB destroyed by sunlight) 6 points: I used to hate Ethan Hawke but warmed to him just a bit in this film, as well as Sinister. I can’t say I love him, but I love the style of this film, which has a very noir feel to it. And some scary vampire mutations. 4 stars
Lost Boys – 97 minutes (vampires, cave, startled by bats) 5 points: How can you not love this 80s classic? A Kiefer Sutherland motorcycle gang, a cool California boardwalk carnival, the two Coreys, Jason Patric and Dianne Wiest doing her ditzy thing she does so well. 5 stars
Fright Night 2011 – 106 minutes (ATB death by sunlight ) 6 points: Another of the useless remakes, but I suppose I must concede it could have been much worse. Colin Farrell is no Chris Sarandon, but I’d still hit it. 3 stars
Fright Night 2 – 104 minutes (ATB death by sunlight) 6 points: Meh. Chris Sarandon’s vampire sister wants revenge. I just couldn’t get into it. The story was over guys. 2.5 stars
From Dusk til Dawn – 105 minutes (ATB death by sunlight) 6 points: Greg Nicotero was pretty fucking hot back in the day, wasn’t he? Rockin’ a whole Gregg Allman thing. Anyway, great vampire flick from Rodriguez with a lot of Tarantino snark and humor. And Tom Savini for the win. Oh yeah, George Clooney, too. 5 stars
From Dusk till Dawn 2 – 87 minutes (Bruce Campbell? I had no idea, startled by bats, vampires… Ah, ATB for death by sunlight) 6 points: Whoa, I wasn’t expecting that Campbell cameo. Obviously I hadn’t seen this campy sequel before, and I mean campy even by the original’s standards. Right at the boundary of too much, but it works. 3 stars
Prince of Darkness (John Carpenter) — 102 minutes (ATB, antagonist embodiment of darkness and willingly enter hellmouth) 6 points: I love this film, from Donald Pleasance to Alice Cooper’s deranged homeless guy and that bike scene. 5 stars
Hellraiser – 94 minutes (ATB entering hellmouth) 6 points: The puzzle box is a gateway to hell, adn Frank does enter it willingly at the beginning, hence my ATB claim. I love, love, LOVE Clive Barker, and even though the acting is terrible here by the lead and the budget is low, meaning some cheesy effects, Pinhead was a whole new beast in the horror villain worked, and he stands up well to the test of time. But an even more chilling one is Clare Higgins as Julia, working that high gothic femme fatale thing. 4.5 stars
Hellbound: Hellraiser 2 – 97 minutes (ATB entering hellmouth) 6 points: Julia’s back and bitchier than ever. We get Pinhead’s back story, and why is everyone so anxious to visit hell? Clive’s pal Pete Atkins penned this sequel which worked out pretty well. Then the rest of the franchise pretty much went to hell, no pun intended, and in a bad way. 4 stars
Daughters of Darkness (Director’s Cut) — 99 minutes (ATB antagonist personification of darkness) 6 points: Lady Gaga seduces Ann Coulter and her boyfriend. The Hunger may be an influence on this season of AHS, but so is this. 3 stars
Nosferatuthe Vampyre – 107 minutes (ATB death by sunlight) 6 points: Remake of the 1922 classic, which was one of the rare scary vampire approaches, influencing many other films such as Salem’s Lot and 30 Days of Night. 3.5 stars
Lord of Illusions: Directors Cut – 121 minutes (dropped into pit, buried, Shout Factory DVD) 5 points: I love this movie more every time I see it. I love the dark side of the magic world, and wonder if this was based on Criss Angel, who Clive knew before he was famous. Extra bonus for using Diamanda Galas for the score as the disciples sink into the mud and are buried. 5 stars
The Dead Zone – 103 minutes 2 points: Not really part of my plan to focus on big point movies this week, but it was on Syfy while I was multitasking a bunch of internet junk. Plus it’s a great movie. I was trying to remember if Christopher Walken’s multiple references to Sleepy Hollow in this movie were before or after Tim Burton’s film. But it was ironic either way. 4 stars
Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace: 136 minutes (ATB antagonist personification of the dark) 7.5 points: I had hoped that the passage of time might make me say “That wasn’t as bad as I remembered.” I hoped wrong. Still dumbfounded by the awfulness of Jar Jar Binks. I got the worst one over with first. 1 star (only for special effects)
Star Wars II Attack of the Clones – 134 minutes (ATB antagonist personification of the dark) 6 points – Better than that goddawful Phantom Menace, which doesn’t say much except that it doesn’t make me want to beat George Lucas with a stick. And Christopher Lee always elevates whatever he is in, but I hate that Count Dooku name. It sounds like a baby trying to pronounce Dracula or a nickname for poop. 2 stars
Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith – 140 minutes (ATB antagonist personification of the dark) 7.5 points – Okay, the most bearable of the prequels, this wasn’t too bad. And of course, we finally got to see the creation of the Darth Vader we all know and hate today. 3 stars
Star Wars IV special edition – 125 minutes (ATB antagonist personification of the dark) 6 points: I vaguely remember seeing this in the theater when it came out, but I definitely remember the huge Star Wars mania after it came out. When I watched that trailer for The Force Awakens, I felt a huge surge of nostalgia, but this also reminded me that this really is one of the great spiritual stories of our times. Which is why the prequels piss me off so much. 5 stars
The Empire Strikes Back special edition – 127 minutes (ATB antagonist personification of the dark) 6 points: Some people prefer this sequel over the first and sure, the effects were improved in the originals, but I still like the first the best. or in this case, IV. But of course, the classic “I am your father” revelation is pretty freakin’ awesome. 5 stars
Return of the Jedi special edition – 135 minutes (ATB antagonist personification of the dark) 6 points: I could live without Jabba the Hut, but this did give us an iconic Halloween costume with Princess Leia in bondage. 4.5 points
Star Wars IV original – 121 minutes (ATB antagonist personification of the dark) 6 points: Yeah, the special effects are kind of primitive in some places, and the special editions that reworked some of them improved the films. Sorry purists, but deal with it. 4.5 stars
Attack the Block – 73 minutes (ATB Star Wars challenge) 6 points: I couldn’t understand half of what they were saying with that thick cockney accent, but campy horror comedy where some south London wayward youth find themselves under attack by werewolf-like aliens. What? Just go with it. 3.5 stars
The Star Wars Holiday Special – 117 minutes (Star Wars ATB) 6 points: That wookie kid is freaking me out. And what is with all the psychadelic music and dance numbers? Maude and Harvey Korman in the space bar, with Maude singing? I really needed to be in Colorado or Oregon to watch this, as the creators had to be high on something when they wrote it. 0 stars or 5 starsdepending on how stoned you are.
What happens when you have six girls born on the sixth day of the sixmonth in the same Amish community with deep religious beliefs? Why, a demonic legend surrounding them, of course. The latest creepy devil legend thriller is The Devil’s Hand, now available on DVD. Is this movie worth buying for your personal collection?
The Devil’s Hand has some scary moments and some great twists, using misdirection to keep the ending in suspense as far as who is the killer. And somewhat suspenseful which one of the girl’s is the “Drommelkind” of legend, destined to become “the Devil’s hand” on her 18th birthday.
The cast is mostly relatively unknown actors whose faces you know if not their names, and young actors, with the exception of Jennifer Carpenter, aka Debra Morgan on Dexter. Unfortunately, Carpenter is tragically underused here, except to scowl and smirk throughout the entire film as the evil stepmother. Sorry, Dexter fans, no potty mouth here as the devout Rebekah.
If the lead actress seems familiar, it’s probably because Alysia Debnam Carey bears a striking resemblance to Taissa Farmiga of American Horror Story fame, and Sarah is portrayed by Leah Pipes, who bears a striking resemblance to Radha Mitchell.
The acting and script are better than average and this is a very respectable horror film, if there are the typical moments when a character does something stupid that hastens their demise (hiding in a well?)
Obviously if you really love the movie you’ll want the DVD for your collection, but sadly, there are no special features to add value, so your decision will come down to how much you love the movie yourself.
Haunted mirrors with evil spirits can be very creepy, as can watching someone break down into mental illness and violence. If presented in a simple, straightforward way, it’s effective, but some of the great disturbing moments of “Oculus” get muddied up in whiplash-causing cuts between past and present in rapid succession. It’s hard to stay in the moment when you’re trying to figure what the hell is going on.
Now that I think about it, “Insidious 2” also falls into the same trap of mixing past and present and confusing viewers, or least some of us. Dear filmmakers, this does not create suspense. I kept finding myself getting frustrated with the inability to just get a straightforward timeline and story of what was going on. It’s almost as if some films don’t have enough confidence to just rely on their story without the gimmicks of intercutting between past and present to try to make the story more complex.
Sometimes simple is better. Sometimes simple is actually great.
There’s no shortage of scary moments in this movie, particularly the mirror effect of the eyes. Although it did strike me as being very similar to that first “Salem’s Lot” movie with David Soul, where the vampires had that same glint in their eye. add to that , having mommy dearest chained up like a dog in the bedroom because she’s losing her mind, and you’ve got some pretty damn scary stuff, indeed.
But then if you mix in some plot holes — which to be fair, almost any horror movie has to some extent — you start to water-down the fear factor and that, combined with confusing elements takes you out of the story while you’re lagging behind asking yourself basic questions. Why didn’t the mirror effect the kids when they were younger like it affected mom and dad? Why did it wait till the present to have an effect on them? Why did it seem to create the need for violence in mom and dad, but just cause confusion about time and place for the kids in the present?
I’m still so perplexed by what the plot was that I can barely put the confusion I felt into words. I just know that if I was in a cartoon, there would have been a big “WTF?” floating over my head for most of the second half of the movie.
Also, recognize the difference between foreshadowing and giving away your ending. Now I admit, as someone who has dabbled in creative writing, I’m pretty good at seeing foreshadowing that other people miss. But this movie went way beyond foreshadowing, completely giving away the ending to me. I won’t say exactly how in case you actually haven’t seen this movie yet, but it doesn’t take a genius to see where one of the main character’s fate lies.
There are a lot of great positive things I can say about the film in terms of atmosphere, mood, creepiness, but when all is said and done, I just feel like I’m caught up in one big creepy ball of confusion. And that’s not a satisfying ending, even for a gal who hates happy endings like me.