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MOVIE REVIEW ARCHIVES

A-C     D-F     G-I     J-L     M-O     P-R     S-U     V-X     Y-Z

J

Jaws of Death

Junk

Ju-On

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

K

Killer Crocodile

Killer Tongue

The Killing Kind

King Cobra

Kingdom of the Spiders

Kiss Of The Tarantula

Kolchak: The Night Stalker

Kuroneko

Kwaidan

 

 

 

 

 

L

Lake Of Dracula

Lake Placid

Last House on the Beach

Last Shark

Last Stop Station

Last Winter

Left In Darkness

Legacy Of Dracula

Let's Scare Jessica to Death

Let the Right One In

Loreley's Grasp

LoveCracked

Lust For A Vampire

 

JAWS OF SATAN
(1981)
Directed by Bob Claver
Starring Fritz Weaver, Jon Korkes, Gretchen Corbett, John McCurry, Bob Hannan, Jack Gordon, Christina Applegate, Norman Lloyd.

This is an entertaining little flick about a snake, possessed by Satan himself, on the hunt for a priest who has lost his faith.  Fritz Weaver plays the priest, whose ancestors burned witches at the stake.  So apparently, Satan has a grudge against them and their descendants.

While real snakes are used throughout most of the movie, there are a couple of scenes where you can see the glass or plastic barriers between the snake and actors.  But for those of you out there who are bit afraid of snakes, there are a couple of scenes that will make you a little nervous.

The acting however is pretty bad.  While you do have Weaver putting on a great show, the rest of the cast don’t come close.  Korkes, who plays the snake expert called in by the local doctor, is as stiff as one can get.  I swear there are times in the film, where I think he forgot just what the hell he is doing there on the set, and the director just kept filming.  Gretchen Corbett plays the local doctor who calls in the expert.  Corbett played the eerie girl in the 1972 classic LET’SCARE JESSICA TO DEATH.  Of course, after calling in the snake expert, she’s told by the mayor not to alarm anybody, since the town’s new dog track in opening up soon, and they don’t want to start a panic.  Sound familiar?  A very young Christina Applegate has a bit part as a young victim of one the snake.

This film was the one and only outing in the feature business that director Claver dabbled in.  But as for television, he seemed to directed anything and everything, from Partridge Family, Bob Newhart Show, Welcome Back Kotter, Mork & Mindy, Dukes of Hazzard, Automan, to even Charles In Charge.

This isn’t one of the greatest snake films by any means.  But when comparing to recent snake films, such as PYTHON, this isn’t so bad.  Granted it doesn’t have the gratuitous nudity that PYTHON had…of course that’s all that one had.


JUNK
(1999)
Directed by Atsushi Muroga
Starring Nobuyuki Asano, Osamu Ebara, Tate Gouta, Natsuki Ozawa, Kaori Shimamura

This film pays homage to just about every zombie around.  It has elements from the Italian living dead films to American classics such as DAWN OF THE DEAD and RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD.  A drug of some sort is created by the military (isn’t that always the case?) that brings the dead back to life.  And of course, as always, when they come back, they have a taste for human flesh.

After an experiment goes bad in an isolated factory/laboratory, the government loses contact with the science team.  They want to clean it up as if it never happens.  But the remote self-destruct bomb isn’t working.  So one of the scientist who started the experiments, escorted by a military man, are dropped by the factory to activate the bomb.  But the scientist seems to have a hidden reason for wanting to go back the laboratory.

But this little out-of-the-way factory just happens to be the meeting place where some jewelry thieves are hooking up with the mob boss to sell their bounty.  But when they get there, they get way more than they bargained for.

You do have a little bit more action here than you normally do in zombie films.  But in like a lot of the zombie films, it does take a little while before the dead start to rise.  But once the do, there’s plenty of them.

The gore isn’t nearly as excessive as the Italian films, but it does have its share.  There is a lot of blood flying, mainly from flying bullets.  Hell, with one of the headshots, you’d would of thought the guy had a couple of gallons up there.  That isn’t a complaint, by the way.  There is even a mega-zombie-bitch that just does not want to die, even after getting cut in half.

Entertainment Value: The main zombie chick is walking around half the movie completely naked.  Nuff said?  But you also have a well done Japanese homage to the zombie genre.


(2000)
Directed by Takashi Shimizu
Starring Yûrei Yanagi, Chiaki Kuriyama, Hitomi Miwa, Asumi Miwa, Takako Fuji

"The most frightening film I've seen.  Leaving you no time to catch your breath." - Sam Raimi

Those above quotes are on the DVD cover.  Which leads me to believe that Sam Raimi has been so busy making his SPIDERMAN movies that he hasn't seen a movie in the last 20 years.  The one thing that I found this movie wasn't, was scary.  Oh, it did have a few interesting moments.  But scary?  Not at all.  After seeing this little white-faced kid popping up all over the place, it started to just get silly.  Same with the ghost woman; just not scary.

Before I was going to see the American film THE GRUDGE, I wanted to see the original Japanese version.  I've always tried to see the original first, that way you can see what the remake has taken from it, or come with on their own.  I've also always been a fan of the Japanese ghost story movies.  Granted, since RINGU came out, the Japanese horror market seems to be getting flooded with these type of movies.  But once it hits big here in the states, that's when the ride starts going downhill fast.  Much like in the 90's, when Hong Kong action movies became a 'popular thing' here in the states, it seemed that the quality of the films coming from HK dropped dramatically.  And that is what I think happened with JU-ON.

There's a lot of influence from RINGU here, especially when the ghost woman is crawling down the stairs.  But where in RINGU where the creepiness level soared, in JU-ON it just never gets off the ground.  It seemed to have a lot of potential, but just never clicked.

The basic story is about a house where a murder takes place, and then is haunted by the ghosts.  Anybody that comes in contact with the house, the ghosts haunt them until they die.  Yea, the story is that simple.  In most ghost stories, there's a hidden secret that the audience is suppose to figure out.  That's even the case in RINGU.  So if you're not going to have that kind of mystery to the film, then you definitely have to have the style.  And unfortunately here, director Shimizu just doesn't deliver.

At least this is going save me the trouble of seeing the American version of it.  Want to see a great Japanese ghost story movie?  Seek out SWEET HOME that was made in the late 80's.  Now that is a great movie.

But if you did enjoy this movie, Lions Gate has release a DVD that you will like.  They give you plenty of extras.  There are several behind-the-scenes sequence showing how some of the different shots are done.  There are also interviews with the director and several of the cast.  There is also some deleted scenes with audio commentary by the director, as well as trailers for DAGON and UNDEAD.

But the real puzzle here is the disc has audio commentary by Sam Raimi and Scott Spiegel.  Why?  I have no idea.  I started listening to the commentary, but after the first few minutes with them just talking about about EVIL DEAD and how tough it is working on low-budget independent movie, I got bored and confused.  Somehow after the SPIDERMAN movies and the several other films Raimi made, I have it hard to listen to him talk about low-budget filmmaking.  And when they do get to the film at hand, I don't understand where they are seeing the scariness.  I guess it all comes down to opinions.  But after hearing the below quote from Raimi on the commentary, I guess that it's explains a lot.

"Seeing so few Asian horror films though, it's all made uniquely original and new just
seeing the look of this set, these actors, I feel like I'm really into the unknown."


(1989)
Directed by Larry Ludman (aka Fabrizio De Angelis)
Starring Anthony Crenna, Ann Douglas, Van Johnson, Thomas Moore (Ennio Girolami), Sherrie Rose, Julian Hampton

If anybody watches KILLER CROCODILE and expects some high-tech, big budgeted film, then they are going to be very disappointed.  Come on people, the title alone says it all...pure cheesy entertainment.  But even better, this cheese comes from Italy.

Director Fabrizio De Angelis is probably best known for his role as producer.  He was behind some of the classic Italian horror in the 80's, like Fulci's ZOMBIE and HOUSE BY THE CEMETARY, as well as other greats like ZOMBI HOLOCAUST and 1990: THE BRONX WARRIORS.  Here he steps behind the camera to direct this very much 'inspired' film about a very large crocodile.  If you can't figure out what it was inspired by, just wait until you hear the music.  The crocodile and effects were done by another guy famous well known to fans of Italian horror: Giannetto De Rossi.

Now I do have to say, that no matter how cheesy the crocodile looked, since I'm still harboring a fear of aquatic terrors thanks to JAWS, I do get a little edgy with these types of movie.  But I will try not to let my personal quirk get in the way of this review.  Nuff said?  Good.  On to the review.

There are some of those goody-to-shoes kids that are investigating the water in a local swampland village.  It seems that somebody has been dumping some toxic waste there.  And possibly because of this, it has cause the mutation of one of the crocodiles, causing to become very large.  At one point in the movie, one person says it's about 15 meters long, which I believe is close to 45 feet...that's one hell of a croc.

As usual with a lot of these low budget Italian films, the dialog is great.  Whether it's the dubbing that's not quite accurate, or simply the written dialog, it's always entertaining.  Right after losing one of their companions who is eaten by this giant croc, when the authority wants to kill it, these tree-hugging environmentalists do not want it to be killed, saying, "We're against killing of any kind!."  Of course, once a few more of their members become croc food, they turn so fast it'd make Ted Nugent proud.

There are plenty of crocodile-cam shots with the POV shot moving at the top of the water, either watching it's next victim, or going in for the kill.  For me, I've always found those effective.  The croc may not move around enough to be totally convincing, I think it looks pretty realistic.  Or at least for what it's suppose to be.

So once again, if you're looking for a serious film, don't bother.  But if you are a fan of these low-budget Italian horrors, then I can't recommend this one enough.  Between the dialog, the giant croc, and the gore, you can't go wrong.

I actually had to break out my old bootleg video just to remind myself how bad that copy was.  It really is amazing the stuff that is coming out these days.  The DVD was released by X Rated Kult DVD, in Region 2 PAL format.  The picture quality looks great.  It has English and German language tracks.  It also has alternate openings sequences from the Japanese, German, and Italian prints, as well as German and English trailers.  One of my favorite things about this release is that it comes in a nice glossy clamshell box, very similar to the ones that Super Video and Video Gems used to put their video releases out in....remember those?  Yea, while they may not fit nicely in our DVD shelves, I still think they're great looking and hope to pick up more of them.


KILLER TONGUE
(1996)
Directed by Alberto Sciamma
Starring Melinda Clarke, Doug Bradley, Robert Englund, Alicia Borrachero, Michael Cule, David Dale, Jason Durr

After quite a long time waiting for an English language print of this film to come out, it finally arrived at my doorstep. I’ve had a poster for this film hanging in my office for some time. Never seen the film before, but the poster is awesome looking. How could it not, when you have Melinda Clarke in a black body suit staring down at you? Of course, that was the also main reason that I wanted to see this film.

But anyway, back to the review at hand. This is a Spanish film that was directed by Alberto Sciamma. Besides the lovely Melinda Clarke, filling out the film is Jason Durr, Mapi Galan, Mabel Karr, and also Robert Englund and Doug Bradley.

This is probably one of the strangest films that I’ve seen in quite some time. What’s it about? Well, let’s see, you have an meteor that crashes, you have an alien tongue creature that invades Clarke, you have some French poodles that turn into male transvestites, some sort of prison run by Robert Englund in a bad wig, with Doug Bradley as one of the prisoners, and then you have a gas station out in the middle of the dessert that is run by a bunch of nuns. What more could you ask for?

If you see this expecting a horror movie (or any type of movie) you will be surprised. It doesn’t really seem to stick to any one genre, but flies back and forth from one another. While I still think that Alex de la Inglesia’s first two films, ACCION MUTANTE and DAY OF THE BEAST are much better films, I was very much entertained by KILLER TONGUE, even if it might be just because it was so damn strange.


(1973)
Directed by Curtis Harrington
Starring John Savage, Ann Sothern, Ruth Roman, Luana Anders,
Cindy Williams, Sue Bernard, Marjorie Eaton, Peter Brocco, Helene Winston

When a movie starts off with a gang rape, it sets the tone right there.  Right after that sequence, we meet our main character, Terry, played by John Savage, who was involved in the rape.  He’s arriving off the bus, coming home from a 2-year stint in prison from the previously witnessed rape.  At first we’re not really sure about this guy, since from the opening scene, we know that he was forced onto the naked girl, but then freaked out.  But there’s something about him that makes him seem a little…off.

He arrives at a huge house, which turns out to be a boarding house that his mother runs.  It takes a little while for us to learn that this is his mother, since he calls here by her first name.  Once again, their relationship seems a little odd.  The way his mother babies him, we can start to see where he might have developed some issues.  The more we get to know Terry, we can see that he does have a violent side to him, that sometimes gets out of control.  But even more disturbing is that some of the evil things he does are done when he seems to be in control.  And is just doing them because he wants to, as oppose to him not be able to control himself.  A sure sign of a sociopath. 

There are many strange and bizarre moments in this movie.  For instance, when the spinster neighbor comes over and tries to seduce the young Terry.  Knowing his past, she says “It must be wonderful…being raped.”  WHAT THE???  Never thought I’d hear those lines coming from a woman.  But it’s not just that scene either.  The parts with Terry and his mother almost hint at incest, though nothing obvious.  Just that his mother loves her little boy.  But it’s enough to make you wonder and creep you out at the same time.

It also doesn’t take us long to find out just how disturbed Terry is.  From being a peeping tom, to killing animals with no real remorse, we know the direction he’s heading in.  Plus, after the killing starts, it’s his laughing and his attitude about what has happened tends to be more disturbing than what he’s actually done.  This is one of those movies where the crimes that we see aren’t as violent or explicit as the ones in today’s movies, but they still have an impact.  That is because of the dark and seedy feelings around the whole movie.

The movie really is carried by the two main characters, John Savage, and Ann Sothern who plays his mother.  At times it seems that she knows of the possible dark side of her son, but chooses not to believe it.  But then is always questioning him on what he’s been doing, like she still suspects something.  And then there's the part of here always taking photos of him, including while he's taking a shower.  Pretty strange.  But both Savage and Sothern do an excellent job with their characters.  You really start to feel sorry for Sothern when she realizes what her son is becoming.

A young Cindy Williams, a few years before her success on the TV series Laverne & Shirley, plays one of the tenants at the boarding house.  And even her character seems a bit uneven.  After almost being drowned by Terry, next thing you know she’s trying to seduce him in the shower.  Guess that was just how people were in the early 70’s.

Dark Sky Film has done another great job with this release.  The print looks great, but still does retain enough grain to make it look like an older film.  And this isn’t a complaint by no means, but a compliment.  Films like this need to look their age.  It helps with the feel of the film.  The DVD also has a great interview with director Curtis Harrington, who talks about his career in the film business and working on this film.


KING COBRA  aka SETH
(1998)
Directed by David Hillenbrand & Scott Hillenbrand
Starring Scott Hillenbrand, Casey Fallo, Joseph Ruskin, Pat Morita, Hoyt Axton, Eric Lawson, Eric Duplechain, and Erik Estrada.

Even though this movie was apparently was on the drawing board before ANACONDA, it’s still strange that it is only now coming out of video, at least a year after ANACONDA has already been out on video. I’m sure that was due to some sort of legal issues, that was holding it back and nothing with the quality of the film, or the fact that ‘killer animal’ films are popular at the moment. Well, it didn’t long to figure that out while watching this movie. I would hope that the video release is an edited version of the original film. That would explain the many plot holes in the film.The film opens up with a beginning segment that has nothing to do with the movie, other than to let us know that this giant snake escapes. It doesn’t explain just how this snake grew to become 30 feet long. Sorry guys, but just by cross breeding a cobra and a rattlesnake doesn’t make this huge super-snake.

So this snake gets loose and is on it’s way to this local town who is going to have a festival for it’s hometown brewery. Of course, the mayor doesn’t want to close down the festival just because of a snake scare? Think of all the money the town will loose? Sound familiar? Besides, it’s just a snake, right? Even though they found the 30-foot skin that it just shredded. Just a little snake. So they call in Pat Morita as this snake expert to try and help them. He tells them don’t worry about trying to shoot it, because it’ll move too fast. Instead he’s going to use a net to catch it. Okay, let’s think about that one. It’s too fast to shoot with a gun, so we’re going to have this little 5 foot guy try and net a 30-foot snake. Does that sound about right? Just like the rest of the movie, it’s simple ridicules.

One of the main reasons of renting this movie was that the snake effects were being done by the Chiodos brothers. These are the same guys responsible for the original Critters, along with writing and directing the cult classic KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE. These are some talented guys. Unfortunately, they were either not given enough money to come up with some effective effects, or they just didn’t show them. You never get to see the snake all at once. You either see the head, basically doing the same thing each time, or just part of the body slithering by. Pretty lame.

So avoid this one at all costs. There are many more ‘bad movies’ that are at least entertaining. Even if you do have Erik Estrada playing a promoter for the brewery who is so flaming that I was waiting for his poodle to catch on fire.


KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS
(1977)

Directed by John Cardos. Starring William Shatner, Tiffany Bolling, Woody Strode, Lieux Dressier, Roy Engel, Marcy Lafferty
Adele Malis-Morey, David McLean and Joe E. Ross.

Back in the day with all the films about animals and nature revolting against man, along came crawling this movie. Like a lot of these type of movies, the plot is very simple: When their food supply is cut off, spiders decide to move up the food chain and start attacking animals and humans, taking over a small Arizona town.

William Shatner plays the local vet, named ‘Rack’ Hansen, (don’t worry, there’s an explanation for the name) who along with an entomologist, played by Tiffany Bolling, discover the town’s little spider problem. Of course, this all comes about right before a big county fair and the mayor doesn’t want to start a scare and ruin the attendance, so he wants to keep it hush-hush. Sound familiar?

If you are one of those people who are even slightly arachnophobic, this movie will definitely give you the chills. There are quite a few spiders in this film, and several scenes with people covered with these furry little creatures. In one scene with a little girl on a swing with spiders coving the ground even had me a little uneasy.

Does this movie have it’s flaws? You betcha! For instance, there were several times when our heroes could of basically just walked out of town, stepping on any spiders that came in there way, but I guess they didn’t think of that. Hell the movie has William Shatner in the lead! You want to talk about hamming it up! But somehow it’s still a damn fine and entertaining little film. After reading the retrospective that Fango did last year, I’ve been looking to see this little classic, and it was well worth the wait.


(1972)
Directed by Chris Munger
Starring Suzanna Ling, Eric Mason, Herman Wallner, Linda Spatz, Patricia Landon, Beverly Eddins

What a great twisted little film this is.  The basic plot is very CARRIE-like, except with spiders, but there is more going on here than just that.  Suzan, being the daughter of the local mortician, was always considered a bit weird by her classmates.  So she develops friendship with spiders that she had found around the house.  Yea, it is kind of strange that her house would have that many tarantulas, but that’s beside the point.

Her mother hates the fact that she has these friends, and is always yelling at her and trying to kill the creepy crawlers.  Of course, that’s when she’s not yelling at her husband, but does find some enjoyment jumping in the sack with her husband’s brother, a local cop.

When the young Suzan hears her mother plotting to have her father killed, she has her little furry friends help out, by literally scaring her mother to death.  That takes care of one problem for a while.  Until years later, when Suzan is older, her uncle seems to want to continue the relationship he had with her mother with her.  Apparently the fact that she’s his niece doesn’t matter much.  Damn…only in the 70s’.

Then one Halloween, some of the local boys decide that want to borrow a casket for their party.  But once they get there, they discover Suzan’s little pets.  Next thing you know, one of the little furry things gets killed.  Suzan freaks and decides to get revenge on them.

But as I said, the spiders getting revenge is not the all of the plot that this movie has going for it.  The poster art kind of misleads one to that (Boy, does that never happen!).  The underlying element about the uncle, who is now the Sheriff and is running for public office, is really more part of the story than the spiders.

If you are someone who has a problem with spiders, especially bigger ones, then you will want to leave this one alone.  There are several scenes with these things crawling over people’s hands, legs, shoulders, and even over a couple of faces.  And they did have the decency to use actual real live spiders.

After seeing VCI’s disappointing print of WATCH ME WHEN I KILL, I was afraid that maybe that would be the start of a trend.  But after watching this one, it seems that WATCH was just a fluke.  The print quality of KISS is great.  There some scratches here and there, but for the most part has been very nicely cleaned up.  That was nice to see that some care when into such an obscure little film.

As for the extras, VCI came up with a very simple, very cool animated menu.  It’s basically just a spider web, but has tarantulas crawling across the screen.  Very cool.  There are also trailers for this movie, along with other VCI titles like DON’T OPEN THE DOOR and CITY OF THE DEAD.  It would have been great to have some commentary or information about the making of the film, but I’m sure that might have been difficult to track down some of these people today.

All in all, KISS OF THE TARANTULA is highly recommended for fans of these low budget films of the 70’s, as well as fans of spider movies.  While not in the same vein as KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS and the like, it’s still a very enjoyable movie.  Plus, with it looking as good as this does, it’s hard to pass up.


For me growing up, going to the movies was a rare thing, since the small town I grew up in didn't have a theater.  Hell, we didn't even have a McDonalds in town.  But that's another story.

So my horror intake in the early years came through that large box in the living room called the television.  There I would catch classics on the late show (when I was able to stay up), and whatever else I could come across.  TV series like GHOST STORY and CIRCLE OF FEAR, and all those other great made-for-TV movies during the 70's were there to feed that desire.  But the main show that we would watch was KOLCHAK: THE NIGHT STALKER.  Each week, our favorite reporter Carl Kolchak would stumble upon some new mystery, that usually involved some sort of creature.  Whether is was your standard vampire or zombie, or something completely new like the boogeyman from the Cajun Bayou or a Hindu demon, I was sitting there each week waiting to see what Kolchak would have to battle this time around.

In my later years, once I had become a serious collector, obtaining the episodes of the original series wasn't the easiest.  At least not finding them in the best quality.  I had quite a few on tape, but some were just pretty tough to watch.  But now, thanks to the wonderful folks at Universal, we can now watch any and all of the 20 episodes of this great series on three beautiful looking DVDs.

Okay, I do have one little complaint about this box set.  And that is the set is pretty much devoid of any extras.  Couldn't they have come up with a nice documentary about the series?  A retrospect or something?  Each episode does list it's original air-date, which is cool.  But other than that, the fact that we have all the episodes out, in really nice quality, is really the most important part.  So that complaint, is a very minor one.

The first pilot for the series, which had already been released on DVD, was first aired on January 11th, 1972.  The second movie came out a year later.  And then the series didn't start until September 13th, 1974.  So it did take a little while for the series to finally get on it's own feet.  But unfortunately, it only lasted 6 months & 20 episodes before getting the final stake.  It's really a shame since I've always thought was a very entertaining series.  It had humor and horror, and combined them both very well. 

The series had the 'regulars' for Kolchak to play off of, which he did really well.  And probably the best was that of his editor Tony Vencenzo, played by Simon Oakland.  But there were also a bunch of 'guest stars', including some genre greats like Andrew Prine.

So if you weren't lucky enough to grow up at the time period to watch them originally, or maybe didn't get to catch them in late night re-runs, now is your chance.  The retail price is $39.95, but I've seen some on-line places as low as $26.99, so you might want to check around.  But in any case, you need this in your collection!


(1968)
Directed by Kaneto Shindo
Starring Nobuko Otowa, Kiwako Taichi, Kichiemon Nakamura.

In 1964, Director Shindo gave us ONIBABA, which I consider to be an awesome example of Japanese horror from the 60's.  Four years later, he followed that film with KURONEKO, delving once again into classic Japanese ghost stories for a story.  The plot, like ONIBABA, is simple.  A woman and her daughter-in-law are asleep in their hut.  We later find out that the old woman's son was taken from the fields to fight in the war. leaving mother and wife to fend for themselves.  Then a gang of wandering samurais happen upon their them.  Hungry for water, food, and sex, they attack them taking their food & water, and then gang raping them.  And as they leave, they set their hut of fire and leave them for dead.

Years later, a wandering samurai happens upon a young woman walking alone.  She tells him that she is afraid to walk through a certain parts of the woods by herself, and asks if the samurai would escort her home.  He gladly does this.  Once they get to her house safely, she invites him in for some food and drink.  An older woman helps serve him.  The samurai cheerfully boasts that since being a samurai, he can pretty much do and take what he wants.  The young girl flirts more with him until they move into the bedroom.  And then suddenly, the young girl attacks the throat of the unexpected samurai, sucking his blood.  We then see the samurai laying there dead, in the ruins of a burnt out hut.

The woman and her daughter-in-law have become ghost cats who take their vengeance out on samurais, feeding on their blood.  Until one day, the samurai that is sent to destroy these evil creatures, turns out to be their long lost son / husband.

As in ONIBABA, and even more so, the film is filled with very artistic set pieces.  It's as if it was filmed from a stage play, where one character would be at one part of the stage, and another is at the other end, in the dark.  And then the light hits the character and they seemed to appear from out of nowhere.  The movie moves a little slower than ONIBABA, taking a little too long to repeat the mission of the two ghostly women.  But like a lot of these movies of the time, they take their time in their storytelling, relying on beautiful visual sites.  And since this is in black and white, they do an excellent job painting some great imagery.

While this may not be for your average horror fan, but if you enjoy classic Japanese cinema, and / or love artistic and beautifully shot black and white movies, you will no doubt enjoy this movie.  While not a lot happens here, it's still entertaining to watch it unfold before you.

This movie was released on a region 2 PAL DVD by Eureka!, and a nice little disc.  The movie is presented in 2.35:1 ratio and looks beautiful.  There are English subtitles, which are very easy to read.  The disc also comes with a gallery of vintage Toho production still, and a 24-page booklet that contains a new essay by Doug Cummings and a vintage interview with the director.


KWAIDAN
(1964)
Directed by Masaki Kobayashi

This film is a must for all fans of Japanese cinema, as well of fans of old-fashion ghost stories.  Recently released on DVD by Criterion, this movie tells four different stories, each one based on a different Japanese folklore.  And each story is filled with style and atmosphere.

THE BLACK HAIR - A poor samurai leaves his loving and dedicated wife to marry a woman from a rich family.  Soon he learns of the true love he left and returns to his first wife and vows never to leave her again.  But things are not as they seems . . .
THE WOMAN OF THE SNOW - While lost in a snowstorm, a woodcutter comes across a mysterious ghost-like woman.  After killing his friend, she takes pity on him and tells him she'll let him go free as long as he never speaks of her again to anyone.  This story was retold in the more recent TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE: THE MOVIE.
HOICHI: THE EARLESS - Hoichi is a blind musician, who's music and songs that tell of ancient sea battles is so touching that ghosts rise up to hear it.  When a fellow monk realizes the danger, he tries to help him ward of the ghosts by painting prayers all over his body . . . at least, most of his body .
IN A CUP OF TEA - A storyteller is telling the tale of a warrior who sees a phantom image of someone while looking in his cup of tea.  Soon the warrior meets this phantom in the flesh.

This film was my first introduction into the Japanese horror films of the 60's.  While the stories are a little bit slow paced, they are filled with wonderful scenery and mood.  It's amazing when you realize that most of the movie was filmed on a soundstage.

The quality of the DVD is very good.  The film is presented in it's original theatrical 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  The disc also comes with the theatrical trailer, and with new and improved English subtitle translation.  I would highly recommend this film to any serious fan of the horror genre.


(1971)
Directed by Michio Yamamoto
Starring Mori Kishida, Choei Takahashi, Sanae Emi, Midori Fukita

Following Toho's LEGACY OF DRACULA, director Yamamoto made another vampire film, this time with more of a traditional feel to it.  Definitely taking the lead from Hammer Studios, and trying to develop his own Dracula character, Yamamoto once again gives us a pretty decent and creepy story.

A little girl goes running after her dog who has gotten loose while playing by the lake.  She follows the dog to an old house, which looks like it's right off the set of a Hammer movie.  With fog surrounding the creepy house, the little girl goes in searching for her dog.  But what she finds instead is a young woman sitting at a piano.  But when she spins around, we see her ghost-white face and drained of blood.  And then she sees the face of the vampire, bloody teeth, and eyes glowing bright yellow...and then passes out.  Many years later, now grown into a young adult, she moves back to the area by the lake.  And while she passed the whole childhood experience as a dream, she is still haunted by that vision of those glowing eyes.

Like Christopher Lee in Hammer's Dracula films, Mori Kishida's vampire character is not really given that much to do, other than do the teeth-barring bit, the glaring with the hypnotic eyes, and appearing suddenly to give us a quick scare.  Also like Lee's performance, Kishida's vampire is very strong and doesn't like people getting in his way.  No smooth-talking, polite creature of the night here.  But none the less, Kishida does an adequate job in the role with what he has.

And once again, the DRACULA in the title is the only Dracula you'll find in this movie.  In this film, the vampire is a descendant of an "abominable vampire", which is apparently a hereditary illness.

Midori Fujita gives us a good performance as the young Akiko who's images from her nightmares after all these years turn out to be real.  Sanae Emi, playing her sister, also gives a great performance, especially once she falls under the spell of the vampire.  Seeing her rise from her coffin will definitely remind you of a few Hammer films.  But one thing that is quite different than the Hammer films, there are none of the usual trapping of vampire films.  Nothing to do with crosses or similar items.

While I didn't enjoy this one as much as LEGACY OF DRACULA, this film still does give it's share of atmosphere and style.  Director Yamamoto once again sets the pace for future Japanese directors to be inspired by his films.  As in LEGACY, there are several shots of the pale white face, that even though are something very simple, it still gives off one creepy feeling.  To bad it's getting way over used in today's Japanese horror films.

Released by Arts Magic in a region 2 DVD, the disc features biographies, still gallery, and previews for other releases.  It is in widescreen format, and has English subtitles.   Xploited Cinema has all three of these films available for $19.95 each as well as in a box set for all three for only $32.95.


LAKE PLACID
(1999)
Directed by Steve Miner
Starring Bill Pullman, Bridget Fonda, Oliver Platt, Brendan Gleeson, Betty White, Meredith Salenger, and Mariska Hargitay.

The first trailer I saw of this film gave no clue that it was really a comedy than anything else. The trailer made it look like a horror film in the JAWS tradition. A couple of days later, after hearing a bunch of radio ads, they made sure that you knew that it was a comedy . . . with bite, as they said. Is that necessarily a bad thing? No, not really. Just a bad movie.

Once again, Hollywood comes through with a film with really no story and no decent characters. Want the story? Okay, here goes: There’s a 30-foot crocodile that is loose in this lake up in Maine. Let’s kill it. No, let’s capture it. No, let’s kill it. That’s it, folks.

Out of all the characters in the film, the only one that I kind of liked was that of the sheriff, played by Brendan Gleeson. As for the others, Pullman looks as if he’s walking through his part, every once in awhile giving his little cocked-headed grins. Bridget Fonda is a paleontologist, who has no reason to be in this story line other than since they need a female lead. Oliver Platt, who I usually like, just doesn’t come off as the outdoorsman type, especially one who likes to jump in the water with crocodiles.

The humor of this movie is simply not funny. Unless you think that hearing Betty White say words like cock and fucker are amusing.

 Is there anything good about this movie? Well yes, a couple of things. The effects are done pretty good for the most part. Stan Winston (or his crew, more likely) did a great job on the crocodile. Most of the CGI effects are done well, with only a couple of the bigger scenes a little blurry. Also, there are a couple of "white-knuckle" moments in the film, but only really a couple. The gore is kept almost to a minimum and almost could have gotten an R rating.

But when it really comes down to it, if you really wanted to of gotten a good scare from crocodiles, you could of saved your money and just watched the Discovery Channel or Animal Planet.  Definitely wait for the video release.


(1978)
Directed by Franco Prosperi
Starring Florinda Bolkan, Ray Lovelock, Flavio Andreini, Stefano Cedrati, Sherry Buchanan, Laura Taziani, Luisa Maneri, Laura Trotter, Karina Verlier

In Kim Newman’s passionate love letter to horror films of the 1970s & 80s, Nightmare Movies, he states that “Italy may make rip-offs, but at least it can claim to make the best, most lively, most audacious rip-offs in the world.”  While Newman specifically alludes to the wave of flesh-noshing zombie flicks that poured out following uncle George Romero’s DAWN OF THE DEAD, the rule also extends to the rash of rape/revenge exploitation titles that emerged in the 70s, such as 1977’s AUTOSTOP ROSSO SANGUE (aka HITCH-HIKE) and 1980’s CASA SPERDUTA NEL PARCO, LA (aka HOUSE ON THE EDGE OF THE PARK).

Referred to as “Italy’s answer to LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT” on the box cover from Sazuma’s new DVD release, LA SETTIMA DONNA (which translates as “The Seventh Woman”) was released in the States and elsewhere as THE LAST HOUSE ON THE BEACH in order to cash in on Wes Craven’s 1972 groundbreaking and taboo-shattering debut effort.  While SETTIMA director Franco Prosperi doesn’t quite match the earlier film’s raw power, he does craft a sordid, absorbing tale of degradation that should satisfy exploitation fans everywhere.

The story is by-now familiar DESPERATE HOURS material: Three vicious bank-robbers (Ray Lovelock, Stephano Cedrati, Flavio Andreini) on the run take refuge at a secluded beachside estate where Sister Cristina (Florinda Bolkan) and her five female students are preparing for their exams.  Bursting into the house during a rehearsal of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, things quickly turn nightmarish for the young ladies as they are by turn harassed, beaten, raped and even killed over the course of the film.  Eventually, the resourceful, courageous women turn the tables and the crooks’ comeuppance is brutally dealt out in kind, the former victims transformed into cold-blooded animals bent on vengeance.

In spite of this crude and exploitative scenario, Prosperi approaches the scenes of violence with skill and forethought, thereby making the viewer assault more psychologically disturbing than mere graphic depiction.  Rather than simply sticking the camera in the midst of the action – shoving the evil deeds in our faces – he employs slow-motion, distorted camera angles and extreme close-ups of the victims’ faces.  Even more effective is his use of Roberto Pregadio’s eclectic score: All the “heavy” scenes are heightened further by covering the victims’ cries with a driving techno-beat or hauntingly beautiful elegiac refrains, the juxtaposition creating a dreamlike feel to the imagery that burns into the viewer’s mind on a nearly subliminal level.

However, that’s not to say that Franco doesn’t deliver the exploitation goodies.  Within moments of the initial break-in, the girls’ housekeeper is given a sound thrashing by the most sadistic of the killers (Andreini), then finished off with a laundry iron to the skull.  The female nudity is abundant, with the stripping down of nun Bolkan a particularly sleazy touch.  The special effects are limited but effective, with a notable bullet-through-the-back-of-the-head set piece that deserves its kudos. 

The performances are never less than adequate and often quite impressive.  Our three baddies are brilliantly assayed, with leader Lovelock (of LET SLEEPING CORPSES LIE fame) the most charming and ruthless of the bunch.  Andreini is pure evil, seeming to enjoy the sinful nature of his heinous crimes more than the acts themselves, and Cedrati is the slobbering dolt of the trio, his baser desires taking precedence over anything.  The legendary Bolkan, from FLAVIA: HERETIC PRIESTESS, LIZARD IN A WOMAN’S SKIN and DON’T TORTURE A DUCKLING, is the emotional center, radiating a myriad of fiery emotions beneath her stoic exterior.   Italian genre aficionados will also recognize such familiar faces as Sherry (ZOMBIE HOLOCAUST) Buchanan and Laura (NIGHTMARE CITY) Trotter as two of the hapless students.

Sazuma Films has given this underground classic a gorgeous five-star, Region 2 presentation.  (Yep, time to invest in that all-region player, folks!)  The cardboard slip cover digipak-style packaging puts most other new releases to shame.  Inside, there is a booklet – in both English and German – containing informative and articulate liner notes by film critic Christian KeBler. The flawlessly remastered print is presented in a 2.35:1, 16:9 Anamorphic Widescreen.  The audio options are Italian or German in Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono with either English or German subtitles.  Bonus Features include Italian and German trailers, German opening credits, photo gallery and the oddly titled featurette, “Holy Beauty vs. the Evil Beasts,” a 30-minute interview with Lovelock who reveals thoughts on his film work, the exploitation genre, as well as his singing career (he contributes the catchy tune “Place for the Landing” on the SETTIMA soundtrack).

By the way, for those of you who listen to the soundtrack and think, as I did, “I gotta get this!”, Sazuma has done your legwork for you by including the CD on a second disc.  Thank you, Sazuma!  Other DVD companies, take note.

For treasure hunters, there is an Easter egg in the Special Features menu that offers the hilariously tasteless, sing-a-long music video for “Landing,” which basically shows off every exploitation moment in the flick, at times doing a repeat edit of a face kick or slap in time with the drum fill!  Niiiice.

This is the second in Sazuma’s new series of releases, the Italian Genre Cinema Collection (the first being Sergio Martino’s SUSPECTED DEATH OF A MINOR, which we will be reviewing here at the Krypt very soon).  If all of Sazuma’s output is up to this standard, fans should be beating a path to their door with every new (and old) release.  Check out their full catalog at www.sazuma.com.

Reviewed by Aaron “Dr. AC” Christensen


(1981)
Directed by Enzo G. Castellari
Starring James Franciscus, Vic Morrow, Joshua Sinclair, Giancarlo Prete
Stefania Girolami Goodwin, Gian Marco Lari, Chuck Kaufman, Gail Moore, Joyce Lee 

It was not uncommon for a foreign film studio to make their own version of a popular US film.  I’m not talking remakes, mind you, since that would imply buying the rights for it.  I’m just talking on using the same ideas or storyline, but changing them enough to make it their own.  Just look at when William Friedkin’s The Exorcist came out.  There were tons of rip-offs…sorry, films “inspired by” made in Italy alone.  Now this wasn’t a bad thing, and we’re not complaining.  We love a lot of those….variations.

But what is strange and surprising is that when this new film called Great White opened in the US in March of 1982, Universal Pictures filed a lawsuit against the producers of the film, stating that it was too similar to their film Jaws.  And after only a month on the screen, it was pulled.  Of course, that didn’t stop the producers from making a reported $18 million for that single month.  Not too bad for a rip-off, huh?

The movie was originally titled L’ Ultimo Squalo, which translated means The Last Shark, and was directed by Enzo G. Castellari.  The story is very simple.  A great white shark starts to feed off a coastal town, right before they are holding a windsurfing contest.  After a young man mysteriously disappears while practicing for the contest, what is left of his mangled board is found.  And as Vic Morrow’s character states, “One things for sure.  It wasn’t a floating chainsaw.”

To throw a little drama into the mix, a party is being thrown by the local "rich guy" who hopes to be the next governor.  Of course, he can’t risk the election by cancelling the big meet-and-greet party he’s holding during the windsurfing contest, just because there are rumors of a shark hanging around.  Does this sound familiar at all?  Not to me.

Vic Morrow plays the old Scottish seadog who is the first to realize what is going on.  He gets his buddy James Franciscus, who is a local writer, involved in trying to warn everyone.  Of course, the mayor won’t hear any of it, refusing to cancel any of his festivities.  But when tragedy strikes again, this time killing the mayor’s assistant, it’s time to listen.

Morrow plays his character like an old suit…one with many holes.  Don’t get me wrong, he’s great to watch, and listen when his accent goes in and out like the tide.  Seeing him do his best to top Robert Shaw’s performance is one of the major highlights of the film for me.

The other, of course, is the shark.  Castellari does use a lot of stock footage of sharks, mainly used for underwater shots, or when we see a shark taking a chop out of some bait. These shots are usually done in slow motion to give the best effect.  For the scenes where humans have to interact with the shark, it seems that they only built two different shark machines.  One of them is for the underwater shots where we see the shark doing stuff that a normal shark wouldn’t do.  For instance, like when Morrow and Franciscus swim into an underwater cave to escape the killer fish, the shark starts hitting the rocks around the opening to try and trap them in there.  Or when Morrow is tangled up in a rope or netting of some sort, the shark grabs the rope with his mouth to drag him around a bit.  Or even putting its body up against the boats propeller to stop it from spinning.  I’m telling you….this is one smart shark.

The other mechanical shark is when its giant head pops out of the water to scare whoever might be in the water.  The head pops up.  The mouth moves a bit.  Then it goes back underwater.  Then it comes back up.  Does the same thing again.  And then goes back under.  Once again, please don’t take this as criticism since I loved every minute of it.

The film does have a little bit of gore, but it really is kept to a minimum.  We do get to see a couple of severed bodies, but that’s about it.  Castellari really tries to rely more on scaring the audience with the tension then with the gore.  And to his credit, there are a few good scenes in there where he pulls it off.

The one thing that they didn’t even try to copy was the music.  There is nothing even close to the classic John Williams score, which greatly enhanced the original Jaws.  But none the less, the music they do use here is adequate enough and works.

So is this movie worth watching?  I’d give that a big “Hell Yeah” without a doubt.  But let’s break that down a bit.  Do you like shark movies, even the cheesier kind?  Then that would be another “yes”.  How about Italian horror in general?  Another “yes”.  So I don’t think there’s really any need for more discussion.  Do you?

Okay, if you’re still not convinced, then seeing the print from this new release will change your mind.  In the past, all we were lucky to see was a grainy transfer from a PAL video tape.  This DVD looks great.  It’s presented in widescreen 16x9 (1.85:1).  Sadly it does lack any real extras.  It has some bios of Vic Morrow, James Franciscus, and director Castellari.  There are also a poster gallery and some trailers of releases from this same DVD company.  So do yourself a favor and find this import copy while you still can.


LAST STOP STATION
Directed by Andy Kumpon

For the most part, I am not very impressed with low budget films.  The reason for this is that they normally tend to be very unoriginal, or try very hard to pay 'homage' to the filmmaker's favorite films.  Or they pile on the blood and guts in hopes of hiding the lack of talent.  Or sometimes they are simply just plain awful.  But when a something comes along that at least tries to do something a little different, but also uses something that is much needed in Hollywood, that being style and atmosphere, it does make me take notice.

Andy Kumpon and company have recently sent us their short film LAST STOP STATION for review.  It's about two tabloid reporters coming across a somewhat deserted gas station that is run by something less than human.  Let's get the problems that I had with it out right away.  The character of Steve, played by Wayne Spitzer was just basically annoying.  If that was the purpose than it worked.  I'm sure some of the humor was intentional, but I think if they would have gone with a straight horror piece, I think it might have turned out much better.

The creatures running the gas station were pretty good, and I'm sure with a little bit bigger budget, they might have come up with some better looking costumes then something that looked like it was purchased at a party store around Halloween.  Now maybe it was because of the lack of budget that you couldn't really see that much of the creatures, other than the hands.  I don't think that necessarily screams out 'low-budget', but does show some style, if that was in fact the intention.  In other words, you don't always have to show everything.  Or if you do, you don't have to show it that much.

And which brings us to the main thing I liked about it.  Filmed in black and white,  it does a good job of building atmosphere.  Plus, most low budget filmmakers run to the 'blood and gore' way of filmmaking (which is not really a bad thing), but that without something really original, that can get very old, very quickly.  But what Kumpon does here is create a good sense of eerie atmosphere of a deserted gas station, one that tends to be off the main road or highway.  And even adding to the atmosphere, is the original music composed and performed by director Kumpon and Eric Gollinger.

While it's not the film that would make me change my religion or political views, it does show a little bit of promise.  We'll have to see what else they can come up with.


(2006)
Directed by Larry Fessenden
Starring Ron Pearlman, James LeGros, Connie Britton, Kevin Corrigan, Jamie Harold, Pato Hoffman, Zach Gilford, Joanne Shenandoah 

Since our buddy AC hooked us up with Larry Fessenden’s vampire tale HABIT, we’ve been a fan of his ever since.  So when his latest film hit the import DVD market, we jumped at the chance to see this.  I’m sure it’s going to get a release here in the states, but we couldn’t wait.

THE LAST WINTER takes place in a research center up in the middle of the artic cold of Alaska.  They are there doing research for the oil companies who are determined to start drilling there for new sources.  There is a very strong environmental stance in this film.  I don’t think is comes across as so in-your-face that you can’t watch the movie without feeling that you’re being preached to.  What they are "preaching" about has a central part of the story.  So  you can call it preaching, or just coming up with story from today's headlines.   In the end, no matter what the intent of the filmmaker was, he is just using a topic from today’s headlines to also spin a very creepy and scary tale.  And I think it works well.

Ron Pearlman stars as the leader of the group, bound and determined to get this project moving.  His biggest problem is James LeGros’ character, who is a young and famous environmentalist there to make sure things are done right and safe for the land.  Of course, the intensity builds as these two strong willed characters come together, both doing what they think is right for the world.  But when strange things start to happen, is it one of them just going stir crazy, or is there something else out there in the cold darkness of the untouched Alaskan wild?

Those that are hoping to see a straight up horror movie are going to be disappointed.  But if you’re looking for movie that has some great characters that all start to slowly fall apart, all the while something weird may or may not be happening, then you’re all set.  Yes, the film is a bit slow to get moving.  But I feel that it helps build the tension in the story.  Here you have a group of people out in the middle of the Alaskan tundra, miles away from any help if they needed it.  So right away, you have this feeling of isolation and loneliness.

Why Larry Fessenden hasn't hit the big time surely is a puzzle.  And maybe since he has not been absorbed by Hollywood is a good thing.  This keeps him real, as well as the pictures that he becomes involved with.  But none the less, he always delivers a high quality product.

So if you’re looking for something a little different than your normal “horror” movie, something that will give a little more than blood, guts and nudity (not that is a bad thing), then check out THE LAST WINTER.  Just sit back and enjoy….though you may want to make sure you have blanket or something to cover you.  Even watching this in the summer town, with all the scenes of the bitter cold winter wind, it made me want to shiver!


(2006)
Directed by Steven R. Monroe
Starring Monica Keena, David Anders, Chris Engen, Tim Thomerson, Tarah Paige

The last movie that I seen that was directed by Steven Monroe was IT WAITS.  And as you can tell by our review, we just thought it was okay.  Nothing great other than Cerina Vincent walking around in a tight wife-beater.  So when we got LEFT IN DARKNESS, I must admit that I wasn't looking that forward to it.  But much to my surprise, we really enjoyed this film.  Not to say that we thought it was a great movie, but we thought the story line was pretty unique and original.  And that was a nice change of pace.

The story starts off with a bang.  Celebrating her 21st birthday, Celia is taken to a frat party.  Birthdays have not always been a happy time for Celia, since her mother died during her birth.  But this is going to be different.  But while things seemed to be going well at the party, they quickly take a turn for the worse.  Celia is drugged, gang raped, and dies.  Nice, huh?  And all this happens in the about the first 20 minutes of the movie.

Don’t worry, that isn’t giving any plot spoilers way, since that isn’t really what the movie is about.  Celia wakes up in the frat house basement and sees her corpse lying there.  She then obviously starts to freak out.  Nobody else seems to be around, only if she looks in the a mirror, then she can see the party is still going on.  This is when the real plot of the movie kicks in.

Celia has to discover ‘where’ exactly she is.  And what are those demons outside the house that are trying to get her.  And what about her dead grandfather, played by Tim Thomerson?  Is he a demon is disguise or is he really trying to help her.  And what about her guardian angel Dominic?  Is he also really trying to help her or does he have  other motives?

Monica Keena portrays Celia and does an excellent job.  In the film, she seems to have a very sad face, with beautiful teary eyes.  And this gives her performance even more on an impact, since she really looks like she’s feeling what’s happening to her.  Tim Thomerson also does a great job as the grandfather.  And when he is in his makeup, he looks even better!  Kudos to the makeup department for the that and for the demons.  They don’t go overboard with it, but still make it good enough to make a nice impact.  David Anders plays the guardian angel Dominic.  He reminds me of a young and think William Sadler, with those serious and deep eyes.

I don’t know if I would consider this a scary movie.  Yes, it does have some jumps scares here and there and has some demons running around, but I think it’s mostly a simple morality tale.  And that’s the part that hooked me.  It was different than the normal stuff we’ve been seeing.  And I enjoyed that.

Director Monroe does a good job taking this good story and letting it and the actors speak for itself.  He doesn't try to do anything fancy, but let the story unfold.  I also liked the fact that the camera tricks that he did were just that…in-camera tricks.  Nothing fancy or CGI there, just good old-fashion camera tricks. And it works well.

The disc comes with a nice making-of featurette that covers everyone from the actors to the director to the producer and everyone in between.  It gives a good look at how this film was made and how it was given the look and feel that it has.

There is also a short featurette on what some of the makers did on their 21st birthday.  Really don’t know if I would have listed that as a special feature, since it’s pretty short and pretty silly.  Almost like they were grasping at anything for more extras.

The audio commentary is by the director and Line Producer John Duffy.  Like he did for IT WAITS, he does spend the time talking about the making of the film and the problems one can have making a small budget film.  But it does show how a good director can work around those problems.


(1970)
Directed by Michio Yamamoto
Starring Kayo Matsuo, Akira Nakao, Yukiko Kobayashi, Kaku Takashina, Yoko Minamikaze

A young man travels to meet his girlfriend after being away for six months on business.  When he arrives at her mother's house in the dark of night, he finds some very bad news.  His girlfriend, Yuko, died two weeks ago in a car accident.  Grief-stricken, the boyfriend stays the night.  But he is awakened by the sound of voice moaning in the distance.  He looks outside and sees his dead girlfriend standing out in the field.  He rushes out to meet her, and discovers what happened to her.

A week later, the young man's sister is very nervous that she hasn't heard from her brother and goes to investigate.  The more she and her boyfriend delve into the mysterious family of the dead girl, they soon uncover the secrets of the house.  But by then, is it too late?

After watching this first film in a trilogy of films made by director Yamamoto, I can see where this newer rage of Japanese horror cinema might have gotten their inspirations.  While only running a little over 70 minutes, the film still packs in the chills and thrills.  There are several sequences with the eerie white faced ghost/ghoul/demon, that has come to be very common with today's fair of Japanese horror.  But remember, this was over 30 years ago.

LEGACY, the first of three films that Yamamoto made for Toho in the early 70's, is very haunting.  The soundtrack causes even more atmosphere with it's harpsichord, giving us something like an old silent film.  There are several moments where Yamamoto uses slow panning camera movies, creating some great moments.  There are a few cheap jump-scares that he uses, which are still effective.  But the real scares here are from the mood.  I think what director Yamamoto was trying to do is continue the types of films that Hammer Studios were making, but putting a Japanese style and feel to them.  And I think in this film, he does a wonderful job.

Why Dracula is in the title, I'm not really sure.  Possibly when it was released on video, after his other two films which does have a Dracula type character in there, they wanted to tie them all together.  This is really not even a vampire movie.  Some of the characters refer to the girl to being a vampire, but that could also be something in the translation.  Not to say that there isn't bloodletting.  But even without the vampire motif, this film does deliver a great little story, and some very interesting and effectively chilling moments.

Released by Arts Magic in a region 2 DVD, the disc features biographies, still gallery, and previews for other releases.  It is in widescreen format (2.35:1), and has English subtitles.   Xploited Cinema has all three of these films available for $19.95 each as well as in a box set for all three for only $32.95.


LET’S SCARE JESSICA TO DEATH
(1971)
Directed by John Hancock
Starring Zohra Lambert, Barton Heyman, Kevin O’Connor, Gretchen Corbett, Alan Manson

After being released from a mental institute, Jessica, her husband and a friend, travel to a farmhouse in Connecticut that has an apple orchard.  They plan to take it easy and raise apples for a living, getting away from the big city.  When arriving at the new house, they find a young homeless young woman living there.  They invite her to stay with them for a while.

Jessica starts to her voices and seeing things.  But is she going crazy again, or is it something else?  Strange things are not just happening to her.  Could it be the ghost of a young woman who drowned in the nearby lake that is haunting the area?  Or is it just in her head.

The little town they have moved to doesn’t seem to have the most hospitable people, plus the fact that they all seemed to have a bandage of some sort on them, either on their arm or neck.

While being a little bit slow paced, this film has a lot of creepy atmosphere.

On an interesting trivial note, Barton Heyman’s next film was THE EXORCIST where he played one of the main doctors that were examining Linda Blair.  In EXORCIST 3, Zohra Lambert played the wife of Lt. Kinderman, played by George C. Scott.


(2008)
Directed by Tomas Alfredson
Starring Kåre Hedebrant, Lina Leandersson, Per Ragnar, Henrik Dahl, Karin Bergguist, Peter Carlberg, Ika Nord
Mikael Ralm, Karl-Robert Lindgren, Anders T. Peedu, Pale Olofsson, Patrik Rydmark

This film started to make noise here in the states way before it finally reached our shores.  It was getting praise from around the world, being a new take on a very old theme.  So once we finally got the chance to see it, how could it live up to this tidal wave of a reputation?  Like everyone else, we were consumed by this incredible tale of loneliness, revenge, and that hope of finding a true friend.

Based on the book of the same name by John Ajvide Lindqvist, the film starts out by introducing our main character, Oskar, a 12-year old boy who is constantly being bullied at school.  He doesn’t do anything about it, but dreams of fighting back, making these kids pay for the way they’ve been treating him.  One evening while sitting outside, he meets Eli, a young girl who recently moved into his building.  Right from the beginning when she tells him that they can’t be friends, he is drawn to her as much as she is to him.  So their strange friendship begins.

It doesn’t take long before we learn more about Eli and her caretaker.  She is a vampire, a creature of the night, or whatever name you wish to use.  She lives on blood, has to stay out of the sunlight, and never grows old.  And like most traditional vampires, is lonely.

One of the great things about this movie is that even though it is so different than what we’ve seen before, it also very similar.  It uses all the traditional trappings from this sub-genre.  As we mentioned, the sunlight, the feeding, the strength and dexterity, are all shown here.  Even the part where they can not enter someone’s house or room without being invited is used.  But here we get to see what happens when they enter without being invited, with a very dramatic and emotional effect.

The other great thing about this movie is the ambiguity of the character of Eli.  At first glance, she's a lonely little girl.  But as we learn more about her, we know she really is more than  the "12...more or less" that she tells Oskar.  But there is more going on here that we just never know, even though it's hinted.  The book is suppose to go into more details, but here we are given just enough to make us wonder.  And I love that about this film.  It's another example that Hollywood could learn from.  Sometimes we don't need to know everything.

The main impact of this movie is the emotions of the characters.  Oskar is a lonely, terrorized young boy that dreams of revenge.  He collects newspaper clippings of murders and other horrible things.  But yet is too scared to change his life.  Eli is an old creature in small body that seems to need companionship.  Even the old man who is Eli’s guardian is only there to serve her, which we can almost see him falling in love with this creature years before, much like the young Oskar is doing now.  The same goes with the supporting characters that are affected by Eli.  At the lost of one of his friends, Lacke can not let go of his friend’s disappearance.  So whatever happens to these characters, there is an emotional impact to the viewer.  That is the real beauty of this film.  All of this under the guise of a horror film.

One of the reasons this film works as well as it does, it due to it’s cast.  Newcomers Kåre Hedebrant and Lina Leandersson give remarkable performances as Oskar and Eli.  They immediately draw us into both of their characters and their worlds, empathizing with them the whole way through.  Per Ragnar plays the near silent guardian that gives us so much characterization with very few words.  Just the expressions on his face tell us his story and gets our compassion.  The rest of the cast is also quite good as well, all drawing us into their feelings.

Just as strikingly cold and lonely as the film's setting is the musical score by Johan Soderqvist.  With soft and quite themes, he fills the movie with quiet music that flows along with the story perfectly.  It's very subtle in it's presentation but very effective.  When we first watched the film, the we almost didn't even the music since it was playing so well with the emotions that were going on.

For the straight out horror fans, there is enough blood and a few make up effects that will keep you happy.  Sure, the film is slower and more character driven, so if you’re expecting a Lost Boys or Underworld type film, you will be sadly disappointed.  But if you just sit back and watch this bleak, cold and lonely story unfold before you, you will be sucked into it, much like the Oskar is when he meets very unique and strange Eli.


(1974)
Directed by Amando de Ossorio
Starring Tony Kendall, Helga Liné, Silvia Tortosa, Josefina Jartin, Loli Tovar, José Thelman, Luis Induni, Ángel Menéndez

Back in the early 80’s, I went to a midnight screening of some horror movie called either THE NIGHT THE SCREAMING STOPPED or WHEN THE SCREAMING STOPS.  The reason I’m not sure of the title was this film was actually Amando de Ossorio’s LORELEY’S GRASP, which was released here in the states under both of those titles.  The film was supposed to be pretty gory.  In fact, they were even passing out barf bags with the ticket.  How cool was that?  Too bad I didn’t keep it.  Of course, this was a few years before I became a serious student of the genre, or a collector.

But I do remember the movie being somewhat gory, with a rubber suited creature ripping people apart, eating their hearts.  But for the longest time, I never could remember what the name of the movie was.  Then upon renting WHEN THE SCREAMING STOPS on video, I was pleasantly surprised to find it was this mysterious movie.  This time out, I enjoyed it quite a bit more.  But I was always looking for an uncut version under the original title.  When I did find a bootleg of it, the copy was so poor, that I couldn’t even watch it.

But now thanks to the wonderful people at Deimos Entertainment, they has continued their success of DVD releases and have given us an uncut print of LORELEY’S GRASP that also looks simply incredible.

The story is about the ancient legend of Loreley, one of the sirens that would draw sailors to their doom.  She is alive again, but this time is seeking out the hearts of the locals to feed on.  A school for girls hires on a hunter to protect them from these beastly attacks.  But the hunter starts to fall in love with the human (and very beautiful) guise of Loreley. 

Loreley is played by Helga Liné.  Fans of Spanish films might recognize her name, but definitely remember that face of her’s.  She played with Paul Naschy in a few of his films, including HORROR RISES FROM THE TOMB and THE MUMMY’S REVENGE, and was also in other genre films like HORROR EXPRESS and VAMPIRE’S NIGHT ORGY.  She also went on to do some softcore films with directors like Jose Larrez, such as BLACK CANDLES.  Here as Loreley, she is just stunning, and might be one of the main reasons for me liking this film so much.

Amando de Ossorio is best known for this BLIND DEAD films.  But I think with this film, he traded in the slow motion spooky atmosphere for a rubber monster and some gore.  We have a lot of monster-cam shots, as it waits outside the window or in the bushes, waiting the right time to attack.  But then when it does, the gore and brutality is there.  Sure, some of the gore is a little less than real looking, even rubbery at times.  But for me, it all comes down to fun.  We don’t even get a really good look at the monster’s face, but can tell that it’s pretty much a rubber mask, filled with a lot of white teeth and bulging eyes.  But is that a bad thing?

Now some may not see this as “awesome”, but that term really applies to our much enjoyment we get out of watching them.  Sure, the films themselves might not be great, but we enjoy the hell out of them, they truly are “awesome”.  So I feel this film is awesome.  I’m sure that has a lot to do with my memories (though somewhat foggy) of seeing this at a midnight show, or maybe even due to the gorgeous Helga Liné.  Who knows.

The print of this release, like the other titles from Deimos, is incredible.  The colors are all bright and the picture is crystal clear.  This is being released in its uncut format for the first time in the states.  But unfortunately, this unlike their Naschy releases, there are very little extras on this disc.  It does come with the alternate title and credit sequences, a still gallery, and some great liner notes by Mirek Lipinski.  It also has audio in the dubbed English version, or the Castilian track with English subtitles.  Sure would have been great to see an interview with Helga Liné today.  But I guess that’s asking for a bit too much.

But none the less, if you are a fan of Spanish horror films, then you have to add this for your collection.  You won’t find a better looking print than this one.


It’s always an intriguing situation receiving a DVD screener from an independent distributor and/or filmmaker. You know that they are doing it for the proverbial love of the game, rather than a big fat paycheck, so you would like to, in the best of all circumstances, be supportive.  On the other hand, we at the Krypt pride ourselves on being honest and shooting our readers straight, so we gotta call ‘em as we see ‘em.  And last, but not least, in order to serve both the filmmaker and the readers, we gotta make it through the whole film, in order to provide a truly informed opinion.

LOVECRACKED!: THE MOVIE proved to be an absolute test of integrity on this last point, because after the first 20 minutes, I wanted nothing more than to turn it off and say, “Um, skip it.  That’s all my life I’m prepared to waste.”   But, because of our commitment to weigh in with as honest a judgment as possible (see how we suffer for you?), I stuck around.  And, either through some hoodoo on the part of the Biff Juggernaut team, or more likely, because the short films that make up the majority of this anthology finally took center stage, I can honestly say that I enjoyed myself to a certain degree.  Despite the excruciating wraparound device featuring the comic stylings of Elias (one of BF’s main players) as an investigative reporter uncovering the mystery of H.P. Lovecraft, many of the short films themselves turn out to be diverting, engaging, and in some cases, bordering on brilliant.

Upon popping in LOVECRACKED!, my expectations were low, but my hopes were high.  Things got off to a great start with one of the cooler production logos I’ve seen in a while: Biff Juggernaut’s giant, blood-drooling behometh.  This was followed by an intriguing cartoon panel-styled title sequence (created by Brian Bernhard) backed by a punk soundtrack (provided by Things Outside the Skin, BF’s house band). 

And then the movie started.   

Despite billing itself as a horror/comedy, there is hardly a chuckle to be found and the biggest horror came from glancing at the DVD counter and realizing (after what seemed like an eternity) that only 15 minutes had passed.  Elias’ attempts at humor are painfully strained and mannered, along the lines of someone who had an idea about 5 minutes before the cameras rolled and was trying out new material.  “Wouldn’t it be funny if…?”  Which is a real shame, since much of the material that Elias introduces takes itself, and its homages to Lovecraft, rather seriously.  Rather than achieving the (presumably) desired eclectic tone, the enterprise comes off as uneven, slipshod and even disrespectful towards its contributors and its subject matter. Even  the most die-hard Toxie fan will have difficulty cracking a smile during Lloyd Kaufman’s tired, obviously improvised bit where he answers every interview question with a random plug for Troma library titles.  I would have much preferred to just watch the short films themselves, as a sort of mini film festival, than endure the labored “comic” sketches and scenarios that link them.

Now, that’s not to say that all of the contributions are winners.  In fact, by putting some of the weaker selections toward the beginning, combined with the aforementioned awfulness of the Elias material, less determined viewers will have their patience thoroughly tested.  But trust me, things do get better.  Right around the 20 minute mark, there is Ashley Thorpe’s imaginative live stop-motion piece, “Remain,” concerning an artist’s head-on collision with his latest work, followed by one of the best offerings, “Bugboy,” a film class-looking b/w exercise where a jilted lover undergoes a rather gooey and startling metamorphosis.  The writer/director of “Bugboy” is Tomas Algren, who pens the 3-minute stunner “Chaos of Flesh,” directed by the equally talented Grady Ganros.  Keep your eyes out for these guys in the future.

There is also Doug Sakmann’s diverting parody of Lovecraft’s most well-known cinematic offering, entitled RE-PENETRATOR.  If it sounds like a porn flick, that’s because that’s exactly what it is:  a soft-core take on Herbert West’s after-hours activities, involving alternative uses for his glowing green reagent.  While sure to offend a few, there are some pretty inspired moments of gore-letting, mocking cinematic conventions of both horror and porn.  Not for the kiddies, but I got a kick out of it.

For my money, however, the best of the bunch is  Simon Ruben’s fully realized “Alecto.”  With disturbing imagery and creepy puppetry, the film examines a tortured violinist with some serious mother issues.  Not being familiar with enough of Lovecraft’s written works, I cannot confirm whether it stays true to the author’s spirit; all I can say for sure is that Ruben knows how to create a palpable sense of dread.  I’ll be curious to see future efforts from this one.

As far as DVD extras go, there’s a trailer, a couple of short films that apparently didn’t make the cut (to make room for…what, exactly?), including a mildly amusing bit about a hair restorer that has the unfortunate side effect of transforming its subjects into werewolves.  And feelings of derision toward Elias are somewhat allayed upon witnessing BF’s award-winning short, “The Voice Inside,” a 13-minute shocker that will elicit vocal responses from the most hardcore horror fan.  Not to give anything away, but you’ll never look at a hammer the same way again.

Bottom line, think of LOVECRACKED as a relatively decent short film festival hosted by a really bad MC.  And feel free to arrive late, if you catch my drift.

Reviewed by Aaron "Dr. AC" Christensen 


LUST FOR A VAMPIRE
(1971)
Directed by Jimmy Sangster
Starring Ralph Bates, Yutte Stensgaard, Michael Johnson, Suzanna Leigh, Barbara Jefford, Helen Christie, Pippa Steel, Harvey Hall, Mike Raven, Christopher Neame

This is the continuing saga of Carmilla and the Karnstein family.  Michael Johnson plays a writer who sneaks his way into a teaching job at an academy for young women after he falls in love with one of the newer students, played by Hammer’s latest discovery Yutte Stensgaard.  But she has a strange past, but doesn’t seem to remember that much of it.

Most fans would probably agree that this is weakest of Hammer's Karnstein trilogy.  I would be one of them.  Even the director and one of the stars think it's a piece of crap!  But is it really as terrible as some may find it?  Maybe I'm slightly bias in my opinion, but I think there is still enjoyment to be had in watching this film.  This movie has the gothic look and feel of a Hammer film all the way through it.

Granted, there were some problems right from the beginning of the filming.  The original director was to be Terry Fisher, but had another accident with a car and broke his leg.  Hammer called up Jimmy Sangster, who was just finishing up his directorial debut, HORROR OF FRANKENSTEIN, and asked him to take over the film.  All the pre-production had been done for LUST, so Sangster couldn’t really make any changes.  Then the character of Giles, the school’s headmaster, was to be played by Peter Cushing.  But he was unable to do it when his wife became ill.  He was replaced with Ralph Bates, who also just came off of Sangster’s HORROR OF FRANKENSTEIN.

But even with all f that said, I don’t think it’s as bad as everyone says.  Granted, it’s no where near as good what Hammer was putting out at that time, say TWINS OF EVIL, or even VAMPIRE CIRCUS.  But it does have its merits.

What, you may ask?  Well, you have that great little village, which lives under the fear of the ancient evil from the castle on the hill.  You have scantly clad women running around.  You have Mike Raven and Ralph Bates in very entertaining roles (even if that isn’t Raven’s voice or eyes in the close-up).  If you’re a fan of Hammer, you have to have it for the collection.  It’s as simple as that.  If you’re a fan of vampire fans, you should still pick this one up.  And while its not the great Hammer film of their later era, it’s still worth seeing.

The DVD was put out by Anchor Bay Entertainment, and has done a great job with this disc.  The quality is very nice and clear.  The disc also features commentary by the director Jimmy Sangster, actress Suzanna Leigh and Hammer film historian Marcus Hearn.  The commentary does add some nice stories and information, but unfortunately it seems that a lot of Sangster’s memory has faded.  A lot of the information seems to come from Hearn.

But none the less, with a price tag of around $15 (depending on where you get it), you really can’t go wrong with this title.  Come on.  Give it a try.