Monday, February 25, 2013

House on Haunted Hill

Director - William Castle (The Tingler, 13 Ghosts)
Starring - Vincent Price (House of Wax, Last Man on Earth), Carol Ohmart (Spider Baby), and Richard Long (The Stranger)
Release Date - 1959
Genre - Horror/Mystery
Tagline - "First Film With the Amazing New Wonder EMERGO: The Thrills Fly Right Into The Audience!"
Format - DVD (Personal Collection) (15 Horror Movies Volume 1)

Rating (out of 5):
      Every kid has that one movie that scared them to death.  It may not be the movie that scares you but a particular scene that taps straight into fear.  I can name so many movies from my youth that made me shit my pants and as ashamed as I am to admit this but some were not even horror films.  That brings me to the original House on Haunted Hill.  As a child I watched this movie more times than I can count.  One particular scene always freaked me out and from what I gather I am not the only one who feels that way.  Some argue that in essence this movie is not a horror flick but instead a mystery thriller.  Those that claim this are fucking idiots.  The point of a horror film is to scare and this movie does just that.  I had this movie on a shitty VHS that my Dad found at a flea market.  I never watched that VHS because I preferred to wait until the movie was on cable on the late night monster shows.  It had been years since I last seen this one and after watching those last three shitty Troma films I needed to watch something worth a damn.  
     The film follows millionaire Frederick Loren (Price) and is unsatisfied wife (Ohmart) as they host a contest for five contestants.  If the contestants can survive the night in a haunted mansion they will win $10,000.  Each contestant is secretly strapped for cash and agree.  However, there are far worse things at play tonight than ghosts.  Each contestant is given a gun to "defend" themselves.  Frederick's wife, Annabelle, is partnered with one of the contestants, Dr. Trent, and the pair plan on killing Frederick...more or less.  The plan is to frighten one of the young girls to the point of hysteria.  She will then think Frederick is trying to kill her and will shoot him with the gun he provided her.  Annabelle fakes her death and then appears at the young girls window.  The girl is frantic and keeps seeing apparitions throughout the night culminating in to hysteria.  Frederick is not as dumb as she Annabelle believes and placed blanks in the young girls gun.  Annabelle sneaks down in the basement, which has a pool of acid, where Frederick scares her with a skeleton on a string.  She falls in the acid and no one will know she is missing.  He feels his actions are justifiable and informs the other guests of what happened and places his faith in the judicial system.
     Horror films before the 60's has a vibe that will never be duplicated.  The best ones use that same vibe to give the films great atmosphere that is perfect for terrorizing the viewer.  Director William Castle was a master at creating the perfect horror atmosphere.  This movie, from start to finish, has the perfect brooding atmosphere that builds tension even when nothing eventful is happening.  The acting is superb by the entire cast and Price is amazing as always.  Each character is perfectly developed and displayed on screen flawlessly.  The story is great though it is nothing special, just well delivered.  Finally, the special effects are decent for a low-budget Castle flick.  The effects add a great campy feel that rounds out the perfect midnight movie.  Overall, this is a great film that needs to be in everyone's collection.  You can find this in almost every horror DVD set you come across for dirt cheap.  Get it.


Stuff Stephanie in the Incinerator

Director - Don Nardo (Spenser: For Hire)
Starring - Catherine Dee (Dead Rain), William Dame, and M. R. Murphy
Release Date - 1989
Genre - Horror/Mystery
Tagline(s) - "Get ready for some real body heat" and "Don't throw your love away. Burn it"
Format - DVD (Personal Collection) (Toxie's Top Ten)

Rating (out of 5):

     After I watched Croaked: Frog Monster from Hell I was hellbent on finishing the Toxie's Top Ten set.  I put this one off until last because I knew deep down that it would be the worst one of the lot.  The title and cover art put me in the mind set I was about to watch a slasher.  After watching Video Demons Do Psychotown and The Newlydeads I knew that if this one was a slasher it would be horrible.  However, after watching almost all these films I knew not to judge the book by it's cover.

     The film begins with an airplane mechanic as he is abducted by two thugs.  He is then taken to a mansion where he meets a beautiful young girl who is being held there against her will.  The rich owner of the mansion, Roberta, wants to watch the younger two have sex.  The young man refuses and plots the two's escape.  They leave the mansion and hide inside one of the outer buildings lining the property.  Once inside, the young girl thinks him for helping her escape by letting him hide the mushroom tip.  That morning Roberta enters the building and informs them that she watched the entire thing.  She takes them back to the house and offers the man a deal.  She likes what she saw and wants him to bed her.  He wants to leave and agrees.  Right before the two kiss, Roberta speaks in a mans voice and pulls off his wig.  The abducted man and woman are actually married and paid Robert to dress up as a man and role play with the two.  They pay Robert and send him on his way.  That night the young girl hears a noise downstairs and goes to investigate.  There she finds Robert robbing the place.  She confronts him but then confesses she no longer loves her husband.  The two hatch a plan to kill him so she can inherit his fortune.  While he is sleeping they attack him with fire pokers until they realize that it is not him.  It is actually a gas attendant that she has been cheating on him with.  Her husband was on to her plan and is now after them with with a gun.  When he gets them cornered the two fight back only to reveal this is another role playing game.
     Sometimes I will watch a movie and get blown away by the insanity that I just saw.  However, I have never seen a shitty movie actually has a very decent twist and meaning this movie has a great story.  Most lost budget affairs are simple in story and rely on special effects and shock value to make it worth watching.  The acting is also very good which is another shocker.  Most of the cast has no prior acting credits and did not go on to star in any more films.  That is a true shame because this film shows a lot of promising talent.  Finally, there is no real on screen deaths.  Literally and figuratively.  During the fight scene the three stab and slash at each other.  We get fake blood splatter here and there but no real deaths and because it is staged we miss out.  The film delivers on story and acting but fails at delivering any true horrific moments.  The movie tries so hard to be a horror film when it would have been a great mystery or thriller.  Overall, this movie is a piss poor attempt at horror but has so much potential.  It deserves at least one viewing but has no replay value.


Sunday, February 24, 2013

VHS/DVD/Bluray 2/25/13 Part II

VHS/DVD/Bluray Update 2/25/13 Part I

Croaked: Frog Monster from Hell

aka Rana: The Legend of Shadow Lake
Director - Bill Rebane (Blood Harvest, The Capture of Bigfoot)
Starring - Glenn Scherer (King Frat, Cocoon: The Return), Brad Ellingson, and Karen McDiarmid
Release Date - 1975
Genre - Horror
Tagline - "Something's wrong beneath shadow lake... dead wrong"
Format - DVD (Personal Collection) (Toxie's Top Ten)

Rating (out of 5):
     As a film collector I often buy movies without watching them.  I'll remove the packaging and put them on my shelf to sit for months or even years.  When I finally watch it and discover that the movie sucks I do not feel bad for buying it.  I'm a collector and sometimes that happens.  The Toxie's Top Ten collector's tin is one of those sets.  Most of the movies in this set are hardly worth watching aside from a few others.  However, I am proud to own this box set and do not view it as a bad investment.  Now as for the film.  The poster artwork reminded me of the film Frogs and I assumed this movie was in the same fashion.  It was not until I actually set down to watch the movie that I noticed the aka on the cover and did a little digging.  When I found the alternative name on a VHS cover I quickly realized what this movie was.  
     The film opens with a young man and his lady visiting his father's cabin isolated on an island.  He then begins to tell the young lady a story about what happened here 20 years prior.  One day he found some fossils and a scientist was sent in to look over the lake surrounding the small island for more fossils.  There is also another group of guys there looking around the same lake for gold that has gone missing.  As the young boy's father and the scientist search for more archeological finds, the group of men is wiped out by an unknown creature.  A local trapper, who is also senile, tells the young boy about Rana, the water god.  The old trapper feeds Rana livestock daily to keep it at bay but now the trapper is dying because one of the guys shot him.  Rana is now butchering everyone on the island until it is stopped.
     After the first five minutes I thought I would really enjoy this movie.  The film looked and felt like The Legend of Boggy Creek.  However, it was far from it.  The film was a rip off of Creature from the Black Lagoon, one of the most successful horror films, and still failed to deliver anything worth watching.  The acting is surprisingly very well done and probably the best I have seen with the Troma logo attached to it.  However, the praise ends there.  The story is taken straight from CftBL.  An amphibious humanoid rising from the deep to attack humans.  Simple as that.  Finally, the special effects are non-existent.  We only get small glimpses of the beast which is disappointing.  Could you imagine watching Godzilla and not seeing the beast at all?  Pretty shitty if you ask me.  Overall, this is a poor effort at creating a monster film.  The film is barely watchable at times and I would recommend watching something else from the Troma library over this one.