Films That I Saw is a self explanatory monthly column dedicated to cataloging each and every film I saw within that month. Each film will be given a grade and a mini review.
You can find previous catalogs here.
Film: The Masque of the Red Death
Random thoughts/mini review: While his buddies Cushing and Lee were recreating Universal monster movies across the pond, Price was in America with Roger Corman making Edgar Allen Poe adaptations. Although none of them are particularly scary, this one comes the closest to horror.
The film is about a European prince cum Satanist (Price) terrorizes the local peasantry while using his castle as a refuge against the “Red Death” plague that stalks the land. It’s beautifully shot and has a nice Tales from the Crypt type ending.
Film: Dark Night of the Scarecrow
Random thoughts/mini review: Fans often cite this film as being the greatest made for TV horror movie ever made and while they’re wrong (that honor belongs to Ghostwatch), it’s definitely one of the best.
In a small Southern town, a mentally handicapped man who was wrongfully killed seeks revenge on those who murdered him from beyond the grave. If you’re looking for a murderous scarecrow movie, you’ll be disappointed but if temper your expectations, you’ll probably dig it. It has one of the greatest final shots in all of horror.
Film: The Pit and the Pendulum
Random thoughts/mini review: It’s your boy Price back at it again with those Poe adaptations. In order to find out how his sister died, a man travels to Spain during the sixteenth century in order to question her husband–the son of a cruel Spanish Inquisitor.
Not even remotely scary but Price‘s performance is great and the story is good enough to keep your interest.
Random thoughts/mini review: Romero will always be synonymous with zombies but I wonder what would’ve happened to his career if this film was a huge hit.
A young man, who believes himself to be a vampire, goes to live with his elderly and hostile cousin in a small Pennsylvania town where he tries to redeem his blood-craving urges.
The young man that plays the “maybe he is, maybe he isn’t” vampire is fantastic as is the films pseudo documentary feel. The “Dead Trilogy” is his masterwork but Martin is far better than anything else he’s made.
Film: The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014)
Random thoughts/mini review: A very weird meta horror that acts like a sequel to the original film even though the original was based on true events. The only analogy I can think of is, it’s like someone made a sequel to the real-life Manson murders but instead of the family killing celebrities, they’re targeting all the actors who have played Charles Manson. It’s weird and far too gore heavy.
Random thoughts/mini review: Joe Spinell is phenomenal as a psychotic man who literally can’t stop himself from killing. After he savagely attacks his victims, he takes their scalps and hammers them into stolen mannequins.
Everything about Spinell was off putting. In addition to his constant sweating, and creepy stare, he also generated an aura of wrong. There was something about him that makes you feel unwell and there’s no better example of that than in the film Maniac. It’s a dirty, filthy movie that every horror fan needs to watch at least once.
Film: Deep Red
Random thoughts/mini review: The vast majority of Italian horror films are not unlike a 90 year old woman showing you her pristine 20 year old tits–you don’t understand what you’re looking at, it takes forever to get to the goods but it’s usually worth the wait.
I couldn’t recap the plot to Deep Red if you paid me but there are images in it that have been permanently burned into my brain. For better or worse.
Film: Theater of Blood
Random thoughts/mini review: The best way to describe Price‘s acting style in most of his movies would be “theatrical ham.” The man could chew more scenery than 100 award winning goats and in no film is that more evident than Theater of Blood.
Price plays a Shakespearean actor takes revenge on the critics who denied him recognition. Poetically, he kills them using deaths written by the bard himself. It’s as crazy as The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971) and has Price at his most gloriously over the top. A must watch.
Film: Horror Rises From The Grave
Random thoughts/mini review: Hundreds of years after being killed, the head of a vengeful warlock is accidentally awoken by a group of tourists, which he then precedes to torment and kill. Paul Naschy is the Mexican equivalent of Lon Chaney Jr. They both love playing werewolves and both have played pretty much every monster besides the gill-man. This was my first exposure to Naschy and honestly, the only thing I remember about the film is how much Naschy looked like a young John Belushi.
Random thoughts/mini review: Not since the days of Raimi and Jackson, has there been a horror film with this much energy. Terrified is a bullet train attached to a haunted house that transitions into a roller coaster. It’s non-stop spooks and fun.
This is the closest we’ve come to old school Raimi. Not in terms of tone or humor but in execution of gags. All it wants to do is make you jump out of your seat and scream and it’ll throw as much scary shit at you until you do. And you will.
Film: Monster of Frankenstein
Random thoughts/mini review: The first fifteen minutes of this film contain my absolute favorite Frankenstein anything. The monster has already been built and he’s not happy about it. He finds out where Frankenstein lives and immediately makes his life a living hell. He’s kills his live stock, stalks his daughter and rips apart his dog. It’s a straight up horror movie.
But then after the twenty minute mark, it unfortunately turns into a soap opera. Frankenstein becomes close to the blind man, befriends the little girl and you know the rest. It’s aggravating how close this film gets to greatness.
Random thoughts/mini review: I don’t dislike this film because it writes a check, it doesn’t bother cashing, nor do I dislike that it’s not scary in the slightest. Beside it wasting Dan Stevens–which should be a crime punishable by death–the reason I dislike this film, is that it felt like watching water evaporate for 90 minutes. There were a couple of legitimately creepy images and the fight scenes were all well done but the rest felt like the first draft of a twelve year olds Wicker Man fan fiction.
There are sub plots that are pointless, characters that are meaningless and it feels like nothing of consequence happens. Say what you will about the Nic Cage Wicker Man remake but that film is at least memorable. This film will be completely forgotten about by Xmas.
Film: Wrong Turn 2
Random thoughts/mini review: I will say that this film at least attempts to do something original with the concept of taking a right instead of a left. The gore is not bad and you can Henry Rollins is having a shit ton of fun but Joe Lynch just isn’t a good director. Nothing about this works.
Film: The Devil Rides Out
Random thoughts/mini review: Devil worshipers plan to convert two new victims and only Christopher Lee can save them. Charles Gray is effective as the lead Satanist and it’s fun to see Lee as a hero but other than a pretty solid third act, there’s not much to write home about.
Film: REC 2
Random thoughts/mini review: In order to ascertain the current situation inside, a supposed medical officer and a GEO team step into the quarantined and ill-fated apartment building.
This film is the gold standard when it comes to horror sequels. It builds upon the lore without retconning anything, adds more action without feeling like a complete divergent from the original and actually improves the first film. Everything about these first two films is top notch and they’re both among the best found footage films ever made.
Film: Horrors of Malformed Men
Random thoughts/mini review: As convoluted as it is insane, I honestly don’t know what to make of this film. An amnesiac pretends to be a dead guy yada yada yada island of malformed men.
That yada yada yada is about 45 minutes of plot and there’s about 15 minutes of other shit that happens before he decides to impersonate a dead guy. I don’t remember how or why the man has no memory, why he decides to trick everyone into believing he’s this dead guy or why he wants to go to the island. But none of that shit really matters once he’s there because it becomes a completely different film from then on.
Imagine an adaptation of the Island of Dr. Moreau by the director of Hausu (1977) and you aren’t to far off.
Film: Brides of Dracula
Random thoughts/mini review: Vampire hunter Van Helsing returns to Transylvania to destroy handsome bloodsucker Baron Meinster, who has designs on beautiful young schoolteacher Marianne.
It’s beautifully shot and has a fun performance from Cushing but it would’ve benefited from a more threatening villain.
Film(s): Bad Times at the El Royale/Halloween
Random thoughts/mini review (Bad Times at the El Royale): Diet Tarantino mixed with light Agatha Christie, Bad Times at the El Royale is an enjoyable thriller that goes slightly flat by the end. A tighter third act could’ve really turned this into a classic but even with it’s bloated finale, the good far outweighs the bad.
Random thoughts/mini review (Halloween): Around 2015, Hollywood decided to cut out the middle man and instead of homages and pastiches, it would now produce nostalgia checklists. Films like Terminator: Genisys, Spectre, The Peanuts Movie, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Jurassic World and shows like Stranger Things all hit big by cashing in on the ol’ “hey, remember when that movie you like did that thing? Well here it is again.”
Directors no longer alluded to their influences. They now just recreated them shot-for-shot. The age of pandering to nostalgia babies was born.
Halloween is a direct result of the nostalgia obsession of 2015. It is less a film, than it is a checklist of things fans love of the series. There’s the gas station scene, the death by hammer scene, guy getting impaled by a knife shot, character going out a window, falling to the ground and then suddenly disappearing scene and on and on and on.
The third act is the only original thing this film does but in order to get to it, you have to suffer through unlikable characters (most of which talk shit about Laurie, even though she’s right), cringey ass humor, piss poor exposition and one character is written so lazily, it’s almost embarrassing.
I’m glad it’s doing well and I hope it inspires a slasher renaissance but I hope its imitators aim a little higher than just nostalgia porn.
Grade (El Royale): B
Grade (Halloween): D
Random thoughts/mini review: A horror movie star (Price) returns to his famous role after years in a mental institution. But the character seems to be committing murders independent of his will.
A poor imitation of Dr. Phibes (1971) and Theater of Blood (1973), Madhouse treads the same ground as both but is far less successful. Price looks bored or annoyed in every scene and Cushing is completely wasted. This is one of his worst.
Film: Witchfinder General
Random thoughts/mini review: This is Price at his absolute most wicked. There’s not a bit of fun to be had in either his performance or the film itself. He plays a witchfinder who tortures and then murders innocent people for fun and/or profit. His word is law, so if he declares you a witch, you will be beat and then burned alive.
There’s enough meat here to make for an excellent remake but as it stands, it’s just an ok movie with a fantastic performance from Price.
Film: Dr. Phibes Rises Again
Random thoughts/mini review: In this completely pointless sequel, Dr. Phibes rises from the grave to seek the Scrolls of Life in an attempt to resurrect his deceased wife. This film not only shouldn’t exist, it bends itself in half trying to justify its own existence. The first one had a perfect ending and this one shits all over it.
It does nothing new or original and Price looks bored throughout.
Film: Night Creatures
Random thoughts/mini review: It’s insane to me that Hammer released this film. I’ve seen scarier shit on the Disney channel. In fact, it’s extremely close to their film Dr. Syn, alias the Scarecrow (1963), which is a fantastic hidden gem. This, not so much.
Random thoughts/mini review: David Cronenberg is a fucking madman. It’s easy to tell from watching any one of his films that he likes to make you think and to make you uncomfortable but Shivers is the first time I considered him less a provocateur and more an unhinged loon.
Which isn’t a negative.
Only a wild man could create a film as shocking and subversive as Shivers. The residents of a suburban high-rise apartment building are being infected by a strain of parasites that turn them into mindless, sex-crazed fiends out to infect others by the slightest sexual contact.
They’re essentially rape zombies. It’s absolutely bonkers and I loved every second of it.
Random thoughts/mini review: Often referred to as Dario Argento‘s last masterpiece, Opera is about a young opera singer who is stalked by a deranged fan bent on killing everyone associated to her in order to claim her for himself.
While it’s not as visually stunning as Suspiria (1977) or batshit insane like Creepers (1985), I actually like it more than most of his other work. Deep Red (1975) included. It never got convoluted, nor was I ever bored. Which is more than I can say about most of them.
That soundtrack is pretty bad though.
Film: The Ritual
Random thoughts/mini review: After the death of one of their friends, a group of buddies reunite to take a vacation they had all planned before the tragedy. Whilst on the trip, one of them sprains their leg and the group decides to take a short cut through the forest but encounter a menacing presence intent on killing them.
The Ritual is a solid little thriller with great performances and a really unique looking monster.
Random thoughts/mini review: Man, if this film stuck the landing, it would be a bona fide classic. A group of thieves break into an agoraphobic woman’s house but quickly find out that agoraphobia is not her only problem. It’s a slow build thriller that keeps ratcheting the tension until the third act deflates it all like a balloon. Half great/half disappointing.
Film: The Undying Monster
Random thoughts/mini review: Since Hammer studios made a veritable mountain of money from their monster pictures, every producer immediately grew money signs for eyes and wanted a slice of that cheddah.
The Undying Monster was Fox’s attempt at duplicating the success of The Wolf Man (1941) and while it should get points for trying something original, it’s simply boring with very little monster action.
Film: The Stepford Wives
Random thoughts/mini review: After arriving at the quaint little town of Stepford, Connecticut with her family, Joanna Eberhart (Katharine Ross) soon discovers there lies a sinister truth in the all too perfect behavior of the female residents.
One of the best examples of a slow burn horror, The Stepford Wives brilliantly piecemeals out information and slowly accumulates dread until the shocking third act. It’s never scary. Just unnerving and smartly written.
Avoid the remake like the plague.
Film: The Resurrection of Michael Myers
Random thoughts/mini review: Shot in the late 80’s with a miniscule budget, The Resurrection of Michael Myers is actually two short fan films edited together to make one hour of pure, unadulterated insanity. The first short is essentially a 20 minute chase scene between Michael Myers and a guy who just watched the first Halloween (1978) and the second takes place in a hospital where, due to some scientific shenanigans, Michael Myers, a kung fu zombie, Jason and Leatherface materialize out of an issue of Fangoria and team up to kill everyone there.
It’s crazy, it’s fun and it’s Swedish. Which meant I had no idea what was happening at any time.
Film: Ninja Zombie
Random thoughts/mini review: Shot on Super 8mm in 1992 but due to the fact that the creators couldn’t find a distributor, it sat on the shelf for over twenty years until the film distributor Bleeding Skull approached the director with a deal to release it.
The rest is history.
Or it should be because although this film is incredibly obscure, it’s as entertaining as the best of the no budget B movies that have garnered cult movie status. It’s about a ninja zombie that uses his karate skills to enact revenge on The cult who killed him in the first place. There’s a bit more to the plot but honestly, what more do you need?
Random thoughts/mini review: Although it clearly inspired From Dusk Till Dawn (1996) and Bordello of Blood (1996), Vamp is a case of nailing the premise but fucking up the execution. Two fraternity pledges travel to a sleazy bar in search of a stripper for their college friends, unaware it is occupied by vampires.
All the elements are there and while it’s consistently entertaining, it’s missing something that would make it a classic. And that thing is urgency and stakes. Even after the shit hits the fan, the characters just sort of meander around. They never feel like they’re in any real danger. But other than that, it’s a fun breezy horror flick that’s worth a rental.