Truth be told, I’ve never been too big on Westerns. I don’t know why; I just don’t connect with most of them, or maybe I feel that there’s something missing. Perhaps…Satan?!? Yes, of course we’re heading back to the ‘70s where the Behooved One thrived, even on the small screen. Saddle up for Black Noon (1971), a long forgotten horror/western TV movie that laid the groundwork for some well-regarded horror films.
If you are new to the works of Italian horror maestro Dario Argento, Phenomena (1985) is as good a place as any to start. It practically plays like a ‘greatest hits’ of all his virtues, and more than a few of his vices. And for the Argento veteran, it’s a gas for those very same reasons – by combining so many elements from his other films he’s created his most bizarre feature to date – no mean feat. When I need five alarm Dario, I throw on Phenomena.
There are certain horror films you just love. Weird, offbeat, horrible puzzle boxes that, by all rights, have no logical reason to exist, and yet there they are. And then, there’s Beyond the Door (1974), an Italian / American co-produced quasi-Exorcist treatise that burns down that particular sacred house, stomps on the ashes, and pisses on the embers before speeding off in its Ferrari. If you found The Exorcist too restrained, we may have just become best friends.
As the ‘60s gave way to the ‘70s, vampires on film were stuck in a rut of crumbling castles and cotton candy cobwebs. It was time for an update; to rid the screen of the stagecoaches and street lamps. It was time for Count Yorga, Vampire (1970), a fun little romp brought into the modern age by a world class turn from Robert Quarry as the titular bloodsucker.
Hey there, everyone! I sincerely hope this finds you all well (or at least coping) and eager (or at least willing) to take on a new year. I love doing year-end lists. For me, it’s a time of reflection, as well as expansion.
Sometimes a small cast and an intriguing premise are all that’s needed for effective TV horror. (And it makes it a hell of a lot cheaper to produce too.) Case in point: 1973’s A Cold Night’s Death, starring Eli Wallach and Robert Culp, a two man tour de force pitting man against man against the fragility of the human mind. Plus monkeys!
At the turn of the ‘80s, Jamie Lee Curtis was THE face of horror; by this point she had already starred in Halloween (1978), and cemented her position with three releases in 1980 alone – The Fog in February, Prom Night in July, and today’s title, Terror Train, in October. It was a banner year for her, and for horror fans alike – well, apart from that snoozy school picture. Terror Train was a great way to end her 1980, and a fitting way to cap off 2016, as it’s a – ta da! – New Year’s Eve movie. Climb aboard for a fun, surprisingly classy ride.
’Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the land
Mommy and Santa, were getting on grand.
This threw little Harry, into such a tizzy
He grew up demented; delusional, dizzy.
What appears on the page is not always what appears on the screen. The screenwriter has most times defined what he/she hopes to see translated, but that’s not always the case (and when it isn’t, it’s usually for the worse). However, sometimes a film will morph from the pen to the multiplex in a post-faithful state that exceeds expectations. One such film is The Pit (1981), a Canadian made, US lensed flick that started out as a psychological breakdown of a delusional little boy, and ended up in B Movie Heaven, where it is personally fanned and fed grapes by Ed Wood and William Castle on a daily basis. There’s no other film quite like it.
What would happen if you crossed Demon Seed, Burnt Offerings, and The Legacy? You’d end up with a pretty confusing six hour horror movie I’d imagine, so scratch that. But what would happen if you took those same elements, made it a TV movie, and threw in The Hardy Boys’ Parker Stevenson for good measure? Well, then you’d be watching This House Possessed (1981), a supremely goofy, sublimely entertaining movie of the week that’s low on scares but high on smiles.