Tag Archives: Christopher Lee

Can’t get to Horror Channel FrightFest? Watch these instead

The UK’s biggest film festival dedicated to all things horror kicks off later today with over 60 films being screened across the bank holiday weekend. The annual Horror Channel FrightFest returns to its home in the dark heart of London on Leicester Square from the 24-28 August, showcasing some of the most anticipated and unique genre movies around.

If you’re not as fortunate as our writer Andrew Brooker, who is attending the extravaganza (and will be reviewing it on next week’s podcast along with Mike Shawcross), then don’t worry! We’ve picked out two films being shown on the Horror Channel each day across the duration of the festival for you to enjoy instead.

Whack your popcorn in the microwave, crack open that 2ltr bottle of pop from the corner shop, and turn your tele on for some quality horror, all from the comfort of your own home.

Continue reading Can’t get to Horror Channel FrightFest? Watch these instead

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Owen’s 2015 in Film: Part 6 – June: Electric Boogaloo

Following on from last month’s article, Owen continues his ongoing year in review series by reviewing the films he’s seen in June. As with each of the previous articles in the series, the month will be broken down by week, with a review of one arbitrarily chosen film seen during each period.

by Owen Hughes (@ohughes86)

delta forceI thought football was supposed to be over for the summer? The World Cup was last year, the Euro’s are next year. The season ended in May and yet somehow I seem to have spent so much time being disappointed with the England U21 side out in the Czech Republic and cheering on the women’s team over in Canada. I even stayed up until 3am watching football! This isn’t meant to happen. At this time of the year, it’s only supposed to take up half an hour of your day. Reading the transfer gossip columns over lunch, guffawing at Twitter rumours about Pogba to Man City, Angel Di Maria to Barcelona, or famous baldy Gervinho to Al Jazira including £85k per week wages, his own private beach and personal helicopter…

Hell, even two of the films I’ve watched in June have been football related. However, I did manage to squeeze both of them into the same day’s viewing so in reality they didn’t take up too much time away from other, proper, serious films. Like the myriad of Chuck Norris movies and micro-budget horrors listed below. Ahem.

Coupling these unexpectedly exciting international football tournaments and hilarious football transfers (Spurs mugging some Chinese team off by selling Paulinho for £10m?!) with new seasons of Hannibal and True Detective starting, plus the last few episodes of Game of Thrones and various other TV shows, I’m as surprised as anybody (probably, er, more than anyone else I guess) that I’ve actually watch so many films last month. Especially as quality seems to have gone completely out of the window in place of quantity, all thanks to a certain documentary. But I’ve tried to pick out a few of the more interesting movies seen lately to talk about below.


Week 1 – Monday 1 – Sunday 7 June 2015

Monday – Kung Fury (2015), San Andreas (2015); Tuesday – [absolutely nothing]; Wednesday – Spy (2015); Thursday – The Redwood Massacre (2015); Friday – Insidious: Chapter 3 (2015), Fist of the North Star (1986); Saturday – COBRA (1986); Sunday – The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (1988)

cobraEight films, five of which were released this year, including three cinema trips, plus two films from the year I was born and one classic 80’s comedy (that Steve recently revealed he has somehow never seen before despite it being on TV constantly.) As you can tell, I started off June with a bit of a mixed bag. A neat little indie film, a couple of decent comedies, a long boring blockbuster and a classic Sylvester Stallone 80s crime thriller released in the UK 10 days before I was born. I’m not quite sure what it was I was expecting from Cobra. It’s just one of many blurays on a Stallone box-set I own, it looked kinda cheesy but was fairly short so I stuck it on late one Saturday evening after Barcelona battered Juventus in the Champions League final (yep, more football). I don’t know whether it was due to a combination of the beer in me and sleep deprivation, or what, but man it was so much fun. From the moment Lt. Cobra rocks up in his first appearance with a hugely inappropriate muscle car and ‘AWSOM 50’ license plate, proceeding to take out the crazed gunman inside the supermarket delivering the one liner “you’re a disease, and I’m the cure”, I knew it was going to be a film I’d love. Sly is effortlessly cool as the policeman personally protecting a witness from the New World crime wave. I can’t believe I’d never seen it before but will absolutely be watching it again. And again. And again.


Week 2 – Monday 8 – Sunday 14 June 2015

Monday – Insidious (2010); Tuesday – Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013); Wednesday – Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films (2015); Thursday – Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films (2015), SAFETY LAST! (1923)Friday – The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959); Saturday – Jurassic World (2015); Sunday – [absolutely nothing]

safety lastIt was bitterly sad news on Thursday 11 June as the iconic Sir Christopher Lee passed away. I knocked up a quick article highlighting some of my favourite performances of his and remembered I’d never seen The Hound of the Baskervilles before. In short: it was fine, not going to make me re-think my list, but Lee and Cushing together were absolutely brilliant. The best film I watched this week was actually the Electric Boogaloo documentary about Cannon films, but I’ve already written a review of that (and you should go watch it right now!) However, the film I’m actually going to talk about is the classic Harold Lloyd silent comedy, Safety Last!, which I saw at the Ultimate Picture Palace in Oxford with a score performed by Unsilent Movies live in the cinema. It was immensely entertaining; both witnessing this unbelievably talented duo keeping beat with every movement on screen, as well as the movie itself. I’ve confessed many times before that I like watching the odd silent film, but when it comes to silent comedies, I’m a little out of touch. Chaplin is pretty much my only point of reference. I’ve not seen any Laurel & Hardy, for example. The only Buster Keaton film I’ve seen (The General) had just one scene that made me laugh. Nevertheless, I genuinely found that the quality of the gags and humour in Safety Last! matched the joyful experience I was having at the UPP. The plot was simple enough to allow for some fantastical scenarios to occur, as Harold Lloyd moves to the city to get a good enough job to impress his sweetheart back home in the country, pretending to have a better job than he actually has. It’s constant gag after gag after gag, but each one is so well crafted that even now, 92 years on, you can still admire them and, more importantly, laugh at them. I guess you could say that it’s timeless. And yes, that is a shoe-horned in pun on the film’s most famous scene, that doesn’t really work. No, you shut up.


Week 3 – Monday 15 – Sunday 21 June 2015

Monday – Weaverfish (2015), Over The Top (1987); Tuesday – American Ninja (1985); Wednesday – La Grande Illusion (1937); Thursday – Invasion USA (1985); Friday – Dragon Lord (1982); Saturday – Gascoigne (2015), UNITED PASSIONS (2015); Sunday – Mr Holmes (2015)

united passionsThis is possibly only the fifth time this year that I’ve actually watched at least one film every day for an entire week. Despite that, the film I’m going to talk about is probably the least deserving of any minor publicity my reviews might bring. In fact, have we ever talked about a film on Failed Critics more obsessively than United Passions? I suppose Star Wars gets a mention every so often when Steve and I are in full-on argumentative mode. Kill Keith lingered like a chip van outside of an inner-city school at lunch time, refusing to go away despite repeated attempts to get rid of it. But this God awful piece of FIFA propaganda, this slimy, abhorrent garbage, this offensively obnoxious drivel, this nauseating, badly directed, badly written, badly acted detestable xenophobic filth just won’t leave us alone. I’ve listed the release year for the movie as 2015, but if this ever sees wide distribution in the UK, I will eat Sepp Blatter’s oversized hat off of his humongous head, once he’s finally extracted it from his fetid engorged colon. I’m aware that you have to allow artistic license for these kinds of biopics, so most of the film is based on fictional events (or at least highly exaggerated events), but to portray Sepp Blatter as a virtually infallible hero of world football, protecting it from the corruption all at the same time as being solely responsible for the promotion of the women’s game and saving Africa, it’s a fucking embarrassment. £16m of FIFA’s money was pumped into this smug circle jerk. Sixteen. Millions. Pounds. That’s £16m that has been taken out of the game, money that could be put back into developing football at a grass roots level in countries that would benefit from the investment. Instead all of it is splurted over Blatter’s scrotum-textured face like a FIFA-backed money-bukake. His resignation from FIFA cannot come soon enough, but knowing what a cowardly conniving bald fat twat he is, based on his real-life exploits not just those of Tim Roth’s portrayal in United Passions (Tim-bloody-Roth, what the fuck are you doing for crying out loud) he’ll no doubt renege on his promise, stand for re-election and miraculously win it it. Again. Ugh.


Week 4 – Monday 22 – Sunday 28 June 2015

Monday – Zombeavers (2014); Tuesday – The Terminator (1984); Wednesday – [absolutely nothing]; Thursday – [absolutely nothing]; Friday – Delta Force (1986), Pet Semetary (1989); Saturday – TWIN WARRIORS (AKA TAI-CHI MASTER) (1993); Sunday – Minions (2015), Through The Lens (2015)

tai chi masterHaving seen The Terminator for the second time this year (albeit on this occasion on the big screen for the very first time) I thought I’d give you all a break and talk about something else. In the first ever article I wrote for this series back at the end of January, I mentioned how I’d seen a boat-load of kung-fu movies. Well, it seems that itch returned as I sought out a few more in the latter part of June. Partly because after trying to think of my four favourite actresses for a Twitter trend that’s taking over my feed lately, I named one of them as Michelle Yeoh. It then got me thinking how few of her lesser known films I’ve actually sat down to watch during these recent binges. A quick trip to America to search for Yeoh’s films on Netflix revealed a 1993 martial arts action-comedy co-starring Jet Li that was quite highly rated at 4.5 stars. Whilst Yeoh herself is more of a side character who helps out Jet Li’s banished monk-turned-political rebellion activist after his long-time friend’s lust for power drives them apart, I still thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s occasionally funny, has some excellently choreographed combat scenes with both Yeoh and Li involved in some high-wire stunts. It even possesses quite a well crafted morality play throughout the plot. The sides of good and evil, right and wrong, friendship and enemies etc with not all of the important scenes involving fisty-cuffs. It’s balanced well enough to keep you engaged even when there’s no wave after wave of useless goons being pummeled by Jet Li’s furious fists…


Week 5 – Monday 29 – Tuesday 30 June 2015

Monday – The Last Dragon (1985), The Big Sleep (1946); Tuesday – Police Assassins (AKA Yes Madam) (AKA  Huang jia shi jie) (1985)

the last dragonOn Monday, I had the evening to myself as my wife was away. I played a bit of Star Fox 64 on my new 2DS (it’s still rock solid) before spending a few hours watching two and just-over-a-half films. Don’t get too excited. I’m not going to name the ‘half a film’; not solely because I didn’t make it to the end before switching it off, but because it was a preview screener for review and don’t think it would be fair to name-and-shame unless I’d seen it all the way to the end. Who knows? That last 20-25 minutes could’ve been spectacular. Alas, of the hour and a bit I did see, it was, without doubt (bearing in mind I also watched United Passions last month) one of the worst, most incoherent, horrendously edited, joyless, completely devoid of any redeeming qualities and downright appalling movies I have ever seen in my entire life. To be fair to it, I personally think that werewolf films are the most difficult Horror sub-genre to tackle. They’re very rarely done right, particularly if you have no money for decent CGI or proper practical special effects. An American Werewolf In London might be one of my favourite films, but An American Werewolf In Paris ain’t. Ginger Snaps, Curse of the Werewolf and Dog Soldiers = good. Ginger Snaps Back, Never Cry Werewolf and Strippers vs Werewolves = bad, bad and ‘just fuck off’ bad. This particular screener for an as-yet unreleased werewolf film was just gibberish. If there was a main character, protagonist or antagonist, I couldn’t tell you. It seems stuck between avoiding replicating PG-rated teen romance dramas, and copying violent, more explicit OTT Japanese animes, whilst trying to construct an appalling superhero origin movie. Random characters would occasionally have exposition read out during mid-scene narration sequences. Think of the line “Jim never has a second cup of coffee at home” from Airplane! and you’re half way there. In some scenes, the actual conversational dialogue was inaudible due to the overbearing dubstep background music, yet explosions and sound effects were ear-bleedingly loud to the point that Michael Bay would’ve been proud. I genuinely rued that wasted hour of my evening. It was so bad I actually began questioning whether or not I even enjoy watching movies any more… before putting on The Big Sleep and realising I do enjoy films, just not this particular one. To make matters worse, I was actually going to talk about The Last Dragon in this review, Mo-Town’s funky kung-fu film about a (seemingly autistic) virgin dubbed Bruce Leroy, with a bordering-on-racist phony Asian accent, despite being from Harlem, who fantasises about achieving a “glow”. Ah well. Maybe I’ll get around to that should I ever rewatch it in the next 6 months. (Spoiler: that’s very, very unlikely.)


And that’s it, I guess! I’ll be back around about the same time next month to round up the stuff that I’ve been watching throughout July. No doubt more kung-fu films, a couple of classic movies and some 80’s cult Cannon films. As ever, if you’ve any comments to make on the films I’ve talked about (or not talked about) above, leave them in the box below or send me a tweet.

Failed Critics Podcast: Jurassic World & Christopher Lee

christopher leeHuh? Where’s the podcast gone…?

…oh, no…

…IT’S CAMOUFLAGED!

No, wait, here it is. And it looks like Steve Norman and Owen Hughes have spliced together some DNA and created a monster of their own in Mike Shawcross. You might think that’s an insult, but remember, ‘monster’ is relative. To a mouse, a cat is a monster. To Hammer Horror, Christopher Lee is a monster. To our audience, we are monsters.

Anyway, in this episode we review Colin Trevorrow’s new mega-blockbuster box office-record-breaking hit Jurassic World, including both a spoiler free review (as normal) and the return of “spoiler alert” at the end of the podcast after the credits.

Also in this episode: we pay tribute to the iconic Sir Christopher Lee, a true legend of cinema, who sadly passed away last week; as well as running through the original Jurassic Park films and the latest Channel 4 series Humans, Steve actually prepared a quiz this week; Mike explains the problems with The Matrix on blu-ray; and Owen raves about the documentary Paul recommended at the end of last week’s podcast, Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films.

Join us again next week as we review Entourage: The Movie (or whatever it’s called) and Mr Holmes.

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The Legacy of Christopher Lee

by Owen Hughes (@ohughes86)

Earlier today it was announced that the legendary film star recognised the world over, Sir Christopher Lee, had passed away. Famed for his iconic movie roles, many of which were villains in the horror and sci-fi genre, unfortunately no amount of virgin’s blood, ancient Egyptian curses or black magic will bring him back this time. The world of cinema has lost one of its true greats.

Star of over 200 movies in total, stretching as far back as his pre-Hammer Horror collaborations with Terence Fisher in the 1940’s, right the way through to last year’s multi-million pound blockbuster The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, it’s fair to say that he has left behind a rich legacy of films. Whatever age you are, you will know Christopher Lee for one role or another. As Scott Weinberg said on Twitter: “Do you have kids? They know who Christopher Lee is. Are your grandparents around? So do they“. And it’s completely true. Whether you grew up with Lee burning wicker effigies in the 70’s, or whether he’s Saruman the White wizard to you, he’s known to multiple generations.

To honour his remarkable talent and to hopefully reflect even a smidgen of the impact he’s had on the movie industry, here’s a quick list (in no particular order) of ten of his films that he is undoubtedly the star of.


Dracula (1958)

draculaLon Chaney, Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Vincent Price, Peter Cushing and… Christopher Lee. Whoever your favourite classic horror film icon may be, in the mid-50’s the genre was flagging. Surpressed by its flashy American counterparts, or the subject of ribbing over Universal’s cartoonish nature. Without this full colour Hammer Horror film, who knows what might have happened to the independent British horror genre. Notoriously difficult to finance due to the legal wrangles with Universal over the rights to the Transylvanian Count, Dracula was shot on a budget of just £81,000. And yet, over a million people flocked to see the debonair giant Christopher Lee (at 6 ft 5 in) devour buxom hapless ladies. Much, much darker and more gruesome in tone than Lugosi’s take on the aristocratic vampire some 25-30 years earlier, Lee’s imposing presence terrified audiences back then and possibly still does even now. Of course, he would go onto play the character quite a few more times with …. less success. Nevertheless, Dracula still ranks amongst his finest performances.


The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)

JOHN JAY80Lest we forget, of course, that it was actually this film released the year before Dracula that actually shot Christopher Lee to stardom. Hammer’s first colour feature film, after the relative success of X-rated black and white horror The Quatermass Xperiment and its sequel, it took until 1957 for director Terence Fisher to join the studio for them to really be propelled into the big leagues. Whether it was the result of a genius at work, or just sheer dumb luck, they seemed to stumble upon the perfect formula with Lee as the monster and Cushing as the hero. As you can read in my Horrorble Month article from last year, they’re two genuinely impressive performances that elevate The Curse of Frankenstein from being simply ‘quite good’, to ‘immensely entertaining’, virtually by themselves.


The Mummy (1959)

the mummyAnd whilst we’re talking about Fisher, Lee and Cushing during Hammer Horror’s golden period, one last pick of their movies together that’s worth a mention is The Mummy. Mainly because, ahem, I haven’t seen The Hound of the Baskervilles. Sorry. Er, swiftly moving on. Unfortunately, whilst the overall quality of The Mummy is debatable, not quite at the level of the previous two – and whilst I’d never bad mouth Peter Cushing! Ever! – there’s only really one reason to watch this. Yep, you guessed it; Christopher Lee. From the make-up and practical effects used on the creepy silent ancient mummy coming to life, “bringing terror and death across 4000 years”, to Lee’s slow lumbering stalking, it really makes you appreciate just how great he was. It’s worth watching purely to see him do one of the things he did best (and perhaps somewhat underratedly these days?), which is just simply being the unstoppable terrifying monster. There’s probably none better, before or since. And there probably never will be, either.


Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990)

gremlinsIt wasn’t all serious horror films for Christopher Lee throughout his career. Sometimes, he displayed his famous wicked sense of humour in the choice of characters he made. Take, for example, his part Joe Dante’s Disney comedy sequel, Gremlins 2. In this, he pops up as a bit-part character, Doctor Catheter, a mad scientist experimenting on mutating animals. Something rather obviously playing on Lee’s reputation for constantly portraying the villain, his over the top performance steals the scene almost every single time he’s on screen. Even though the film is a cartoony little fluff piece to pass a Sunday afternoon, Lee himself is magnificent and huge amounts of fun.


Sleepy Hollow (1999)

sleepy hollowOne director, whatever your opinion of him, who truly loves the classic horror genre like few others is Tim Burton. From casting Vincent Price in Edward Scissorhands, to creating a whole film about Ed Wood, to give him credit, the guy clearly loves the b-movie. Which is why, even though I may not be a fan of most of his latter films, it’s great to see Christopher Lee honoured by Burton with a handful of slightly larger cameo roles every now and again. He pops up in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Dark Shadows, Corpse Bride and probably my favourite of his surprise roles, the town Burgomaster in Sleepy Hollow who sends Johnny Depp off to carry out his investigations into the town’s recent murders. And once again he can be found displaying the lighter humour that he was both renowned and admired for. He’s quite frequently been the highlight in some of Burton’s less critically acclaimed movies.


The Wicker Man (1973)

'The Wicker Man' film - 1973Proving he could pull off just about any role available to him and turn it into something incredibly memorable, even when wearing women’s clothes and dancing around a field burning a policeman to death, The Wicker Man is one of his most beloved low budget British movies. There’s more to The Wicker Man that makes it such a classic than simply the performance of Christopher Lee… but it certainly helps! As Lord Summerisle, head of a small cultish Scottish town with some rather bizarre rituals, his charisma makes him seem both likable and dangerous. It’s absolutely perfect casting to pit him alongside the sterner Edward Woodward as the two have chemistry together that emulates that shared between Lee & Cushing in his earlier films. A kind of wary friction that permeates through the screen and infects the viewer.


The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)

scaramangaThere’s probably three things you need to know about The Man with the Golden Gun. Firstly, it’s a Roger Moore James Bond film, so set your expectations to “goofy”. Secondly, there’s a man with a gun made of gold (evident from the title, I imagine?) Finally, it has Scaramanga, played by Christopher Lee, who is probably one of the most recognisable villains in the Bond back catalogue. Let’s just say, in a line up of topless decapitated Bond villains, his distinguishing feature will probably make him the first one you can identify. Surprisingly though, Scaramanga actually gets a lot less screen time than you probably remember. He certainly had less than I remembered back when I rewatched The Man with the Golden Gun for the first time as an adult ahead of our Bond special podcast in 2012. It was a shame he didn’t appear on screen more, as he lit up the picture frequently. It’s great to see Lee play a slightly more nuanced and complex villain with an in depth backstory for a change and still be fantastic at it.


Rasputin: The Mad Monk (1966)

rasputinProbably less well known of Christopher Lee’s films behind even the likes of Fu Manchu and Howling II (neither of which are making it on this list!) but still one of my personal favourite performances of his is as the crazy Russian advisor, Rasputin. Sure, OK, the film is so very melodramatic and wildly inaccurate (historically speaking); it would be understandable for someone to expect very little going into Rasputin. It does not deserve to be as brilliant as it actually, honestly, God-help-me is. Lee as the mad Russian monk with his supernatural healing powers and hairy face utterly dominates. Horse-and-cart-jacking his way from one drinking game to the next, womanising, hypnotising and bellowing all the way to the top, Lee is absolutely superb. I know it sounds like I’m overstating his role, but I genuinely believe this is perhaps his most unappreciated performance. It’s more than just a schlocky mid-60’s Hammer Horror film because Sir Christopher Frank Carandini Lee makes it thus.


Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002)

count dookuRepeating my long-held opinion on the Star Wars films will be a massive waste of time for all involved here. As has been established plenty of times during the 160 episodes of our podcast, George Lucas’s space adventure films just aren’t for me, I’m afraid. However, I don’t think I would be forgiven if I made this list and left out Count Dooku. Even I can’t deny that he deserves his place here. He’s actually one of the more sympathetic characters in the Star Wars universe, having basically turned to the dark side of the force because he hated the Kafka-esque bureaucracy of the Jedi’s. In fairness, it’s enough to turn anybody to the dark side. I suppose the fact that he’s also a massive arrogant dick probably made the job easier for Darth Sidious. Starting a full scale war might also count against him too. Regardless, it’s not a completely wild accusation for me to say this film is basically carried by Christopher Lee’s broad shoulders.


The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014)

sarumanI could’ve picked any of his performances as Saruman the White from Peter Jackson’s middle earth films. In The Two Towers, that’s probably his finest accomplishment throughout the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films combined as he and Sir Ian McKellan’s Gandalf the Grey clash during a siege. But just think about this for a second. Last year, some sixty six years after making his big screen debut, now a 90+ year old man, he was still making huge blockbuster films! And in the third instalment of The Hobbit, which is at time of publishing his last on screen performance, he convincingly portrayed an arse-kicking heroic wizard with all the enthusiasm you’d have expected a fresh faced 26 year old to muster. To have had such a verve for life after having already lived such a full and truly astonishing 93 years on this planet, and to still have gotten excited about doing his job as excellently as he possibly could, he’s just a credit to everyone and I for one will sorely miss seeing him in new movies.

A Horrorble Month

by Owen Hughes (@ohughes86)

I watch a lot of films. When I say “a lot”, I mean, a lot. I’m not boasting about this, I’m sure there are people who watch more and good luck to them! But there hasn’t been a week since the 20 – 26th August 2011 where I haven’t seen at least one film. In fact, the only week since then where I’ve only seen one film was 1st – 7th October 2011. Every week since, I’ve watched a minimum of two films within that seven day period. In 2012 I watched 464 films; in 2013 that rose to 555 films. So far this year, I’ve seen (according to Letterboxd + my private list of films I’ve yet to log on the site) 443 movies.

Yes. Exactly. For someone who doesn’t get paid to do this – who’s not employed by anyone as a professional film critic and holds down a full time job in a completely different industry – I’m fully prepared to accept that I do indeed watch a lot of films. A lot.

This month started no differently to any other from the past three years. I knew I was going to be writing a Decade In Film piece for 1964 soon and in the name of research had acquired a copy of the Vincent Price / Roger Corman classic from that year, The Masque of the Red Death. I watched it. I loved it. The following day, I had a look through my DVD’s to see if I had any other Roger Corman films floating about and there nestled in amongst the piles of unopened hard plastic cases on my shelves, on a three-films-on-one-disc collection, I stumbled across A Bucket of Blood. I watched it. I loved it. I began watching more and more Roger Corman and/or Vincent Price movies and before I knew it, by the 7th of October (amongst a few other movies) I’d seen at least one horror film per day.

It got me thinking; given that Halloween was a mere four weeks away, could I possibly make it to the end of the month, continuing on in the same vein; one horror film per day? I do watch lots of movies, but I am only human! Even I need a break every other day.

But there it was. A challenge had been set (by me) and I accepted (my own challenge). Fuck you, me! I’d show you (me) who’s boss (you/me). (Me.)

The key thing to establish before completing a challenge like this is setting what the parameters are. The most obvious thing to start with was to define exactly what I meant by a “horror film”. I did what any rational person would do and Googled it, taking the Wikipedia entry as 100% irrefutable evidence.

Horror is a film genre seeking to elicit a negative emotional reaction from viewers by playing on the audience’s primal fears…

…Horror films often deal with the viewer’s nightmares, hidden fears, revulsions and terror of the unknown.

Seems quite broad, doesn’t it? In the end, that turned out to be quite a helpful thing. As anybody who has listened to any of our ‘triple bill’ podcasts knows, I’m not too reliable when it comes to sticking within the boundaries of a particular topic. A little wriggle room meant, in theory, I could stretch from classic 50’s sci-fi and psychological thrillers, to Hammer Horror and good old fashioned ghoulish monster movies, should the need present itself. TV shows (The Walking Dead, American Horror Story and so on) or short movies would most definitely not be applicable. By film, I mean a feature film (that is, over 2400 seconds (or 40 minutes) in length).

The only other parameter left to establish was what did I constitute as “one per day”. Rather straight forward, perhaps, but what if I watched half a film on a Monday, fell asleep, and never went back to finish it? I decided that would not count. It had to be watched in its entirety that day for it to count. A couple of times due to various issues (such as internet cutting out in the middle of streaming a film on Netflix and not coming back on that day) a film had to be abandoned. If that was the case, it broke rule number 2 and was therefore not allowed.

I didn’t do this project for some sort of self enlightenment. I didn’t do it as a social experiment, or to make some kind of commentary on the film industry or film criticism either. I am simply an idiot with too much time on his hands who happens to have ready access to a film blog. Plus, it was kind of fun.

Below, I’m going to list the weeks through October and name each horror film that I watched per day. I’ll pick out one film to talk about. Are you ready? Let’s begin.


Week 1: Wednesday 1 – Sunday 5 October 2014

Wednesday – Cannibal (2014), The Masque of the Red Death (1964); Thursday – A Bucket of Blood (1959), The Tomb of Ligeia (1964); Friday – The Pit and the Pendulum (1961), The Little Shop of Horrors (1960); Saturday – Creature from the Haunted Sea (1961); Sunday – WITCHFINDER GENERAL (1968)

witchfinder generalThis was not my first watch of Michael Reeves’ horror. Tragically dying from an accidental barbiturate overdose at the age of 25, this would be his fourth and final movie. It details an episode in the life of the infamous Witch Finder Generall, Matthew Hopkins (Vincent Price) in the 17th century. Barbarically torturing women he denounces as witches, the film was originally heavily censored and notorious amongst horror fans. Ian Ogilvy plays a young Roundhead whose fiancée is taken and accused by Hopkins. Even watching this film a second time, knowing what is coming, it doesn’t make it any less brutal and horrific. If ever an ending to a horror film could be described as chilling, then it’s the final thud, thud, thud of this classic folk horror. And it’s impossible to let a review slip by without mentioning what a true genius Vincent Price was.


Week 2: Monday 6 – Sunday 12 October 2014

Monday – The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971); Tuesday – The Fly (1958); Wednesday – THE FLY (1986), The House of Usher (1960); Thursday – Madhouse (1974); Friday – Premature Burial (1962), The Wasp Woman (1959); Saturday – Black Sunday (1960), Night of the Blood Beast (1958); Sunday – This Island Earth (1955)the fly

As you can see from the above, I watched the fun and disturbing original film version of The Fly on the Tuesday of this week. It was enjoyable, fun and just a little bit twisted. However, immediately after it is David Cronenberg’s 1980’s Promethean body-horror retelling of this science fiction classic and it just blew the original out of the water. Or rather, as it happens, blew it out of the telepod. Starring Jeff Goldblum as Seth Brundle, a research scientist innocently working hard to invent a device that can instantaneously teleport an object from one pod to another, he accidentally splices his DNA with that of a humble fly. Thus begins 90 minutes of some of the most gruesome and memorable special effects in horror cinema history. An intelligent, well paced and horrifying sci-fi movie, it sits just one tier below the similar all time greats such as Alien and The Thing.


Week 3: Monday 13 – Sunday 19 October 2014

Monday – Tales from the Crypt (1972); Tuesday – Vampyr (1932); Wednesday – The Thing from Another World (1951); Thursday – Rasputin: The Mad Monk (1966), The Ghoul (1933), The Bat (1959), ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS (1980); Friday – City of the Living Dead (1980), King of the Zombies (1941); Saturday – The Silence of the Lambs (1991); Sunday – Revolt of the Zombies (1936)

zfeZombie, Zombi 2, Zombie Flesh Eaters, whichever of the 34 titles listed on IMDb that you may know it by, Lucio Fulci and Elisa Briganti’s exotic living dead film is one of the finest movies to ever grace the zombie sub-genre. It ticks every box and then draws a few extra boxes underneath with a Sharpe and ticks those too. Whoever knew that what they really wanted from a zombie movie was to see one of the undead wrestling with a shark underwater? Certainly not me until I witnessed it. Since then, I have rated every other zombie film by how many shark-biting-zombies it has in it. Suffice to say, it’s never been topped.


Week 4: Monday 20 – Sunday 26 October 2014

Monday – FRIGHT NIGHT (1985); Tuesday – Dracula (1958); Wednesday – The Intruder (1962); Thursday – House (1986); Friday – The House of the Devil (2009); Saturday – Black Sabbath (1963), Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966), Dawn of the Dead (1978), Day of the Dead (1985); Sunday – Creepshow (1982), Vault of Horror (1973), The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)fright night

What a week this was! I could’ve chosen virtually any of them to talk about. Of all the films listed above featuring iconic vampires, this typical 80s comedy-horror about a teenager who believes his new neighbour is a vampire was the clear standout. I’d seen the 2011 remake before and found it be enjoyable (perhaps surprisingly so) but as one might expect, the original is best. Director Tom Holland would go on to find further success later in the decade with his most famous movie Child’s Play, but I honestly don’t think I had as much fun with any new discoveries this week than I had with Fright Night.


Week 5: Monday 27 – Thursday 30 October 2014

Monday – Hatchet for the Honeymoon (1970); Tuesday – THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957); Wednesday – Island of Death (1976), Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954); Thursday – Ils (Them) (2006), It Came From Outer Space (1953)

curse of frankensteinThis has not been my favourite week. In fact, you might say it has been horrorble (hey, hey, see what I did there??) thanks mainly to two depressingly crap 70’s exploitation films. However, one of those other movies has more than made up for that  on its own. This Hammer Horror film, the first to unite long time friends Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee (and the studios first colour movie) was a real gem. A frankly quite astounding financial success for the British film industry at the time, the movie took as much as possible from Mary Shelley’s original novel, added its own new-wave horror flavour and tried as carefully as possible not to infringe on any Universal Studios rights. Unrecognisable as being anything at all to do with the James Whale / Boris Karloff classic (because, well it isn’t), it’s uniquely identifiable with two genuinely impressive performances elevating a film from ‘decent’ to ‘immensely entertaining’ virtually by themselves.


I guess all that leaves is today, Halloween! Should I make it home alive, then tonight I will be watching another horror movie to complete my self imposed challenge. If I’ve learnt anything from this past month of watching horror film after horror film, then it’s been:

  1. I am now a fully paid up member of the Roger Corman fan club
  2. Mario Bava just does not do anything for me
  3. No matter how good some horror films are these days, you just cannot beat the classics

What will you be watching tonight?

A Decade In Film: The Seventies – 1973

This week Owen gives us a run down on his favourite 5 films from 1973. A year in which Nixon is inaugurated for his second term as President of the USA despite the ongoing Watergate scandal, in a blow to male chauvinists everywhere, Billie Jean King beat Bobby Riggs in a game of tennis, and one of the Premier League’s greatest midfielders ever, Claude Makelele, was born. Oh, and some film stuff happened too.

5. Enter The Dragon

Enter the DragonDon’t think. FEEL. It’s like a finger pointing at the moon. Do not concentrate on the finger or you will miss all of the heavenly glory!

What a year for Bruce Lee’s finest film to fall on. Almost any other year in the 70’s and this would be either 1st or 2nd choice.

From the opening bout between Lee and a young Sammo Hung, to its climactic and iconic hall of mirrors scene, this kung-fu classic delivers on just about every level. Charisma oozes out of Lee like blood from Jackie Chan’s face (true fact: Lee actually smacked Chan in the face with a stick in this film). Although he died before its premiere, it’s often the film most people will think of first when asked to name a Bruce Lee movie (not a fact: I may have made that up.)

The plot focuses on 3 central characters; obviously Bruce Lee being one of those; the other two are Roper, a tough, gambling, debt-ridden American played by John Saxon; and Williams, an African American martial arts master played by Jim Kelly. They are invited to take part in a fighting tournament on an island by a mysterious fellow called Han. Lee’s role is to find evidence of Han’s criminal ways, (human trafficking, opium peddling, murder and so on) but instead, he ends up fighting him. YES! Result.

It is truly the master of all kung-fu films, influencing everything from Jackie Chan and Jean-Claude Van Damme films, to computer games and cartoons for years and years after. Fantastic choreography on the fight scenes, particularly a huge brawl in which Lee dispatches about 50 henchmen, with uber cool characters and a memorable score too. It’s brilliant.

4. The Wicker Man

The Wicker Man“Sergeant Howie: And what of the TRUE God? Whose glory, churches and monasteries have been built on these islands for generations past? Now sir, what of him?

Lord Summerisle: He’s dead. Can’t complain, had his chance and in modern parlance, blew it.”

Of the small batch of the “folk-horror” sub-genre of films that came into existence in the mid-late 60’s to its near demise in the mid 70’s, films such as Witchfinder General and Picnic at Hanging Rock, there were none greater than The Wicker Man. Laden with accolades and awards despite being a fairly obscure film for many years, Robin Hardy’s British horror is one of the most influential of its kind not just from this whole decade, but of any decade.

It tells the story of a devout Christian Scottish policeman, played sublimely by Edward Woodward, who answers an anonymous letter from Summerisle, a small, coastal and isolated island. A young girl has gone missing, Sergeant Howie plans to get to the root of the problem.

The Wicker Man is one of those films that no matter when you see it; young or old, in the 70’s, 80’s 90’s or 00’s, it will still have an impact on the viewer. The fact it relies on generating this eerie atmosphere, thanks in no small part to Christopher Lee’s unnerving performance as the pagan Lord of Summerisle, is what helps it to stay quite fresh. Because the plot takes place on a remote island with a community walled off from the rest of the world, it also seems quite a believable story. It could happen, right? There could really be this community of mostly naked, fire dancing, underrage drinking, premaritall shagging, all night partying, free spirited people …. actually, it doesn’t sound so bad, does it?

Wait, before you rush off to TripAdvisor looking for the best deal on the nicest sounding Scottish coastal island you can find, it’s probably worth noting the whole sacrificing business these fictional pagans get up to. It seems to put a bit of a downer on Sergeant Howie’s trip, in any case. Makes for a fantastic film, though.

3. The Last Detail

the last detailBuddusky: He don’t stand a chance in Portsmouth, you know. You know that, don’t you? Goddamn grunts, kickin’ the shit outta him for eight years… he don’t stand a chance.

Mulhall: I don’t want to hear about it.

Buddusky: ‘Maggot’ this, ‘maggot’ that… Marines are really assholes, you know that? It takes a certain kind of a sadistic temperament to be a Marine.

One of Jack Nicholson’s finest performances. And there have been a few! The Last Detail is just one of those films that makes you realise how incredible and versatile an actor he really is. Not to take anything away from Randy Quaid as the young offender ‘Meadows’, who is being escorted to prison by two experienced naval officers, Nicholson (Buddusky) and Otis Young (Mulhall). Meadow’s is a great character and Quaid is a good actor, but all 3 of the main cast together are fantastic. They each bring something different to the table, something unique about their characters and their performances.

The main theme that runs through The Last Detail is one of ‘justice’. Not so much what’s right, but what each of them in turn consider to be ‘just’. Whether it’s the scoffing when they learn that Meadows is being sent to prison for 8 years just for stealing $40, or as the journey progresses and Buddusky tries to give Meadows his last taste of freedom. It doesn’t really try to make you think about what’s right and wrong, more that it implies if you have any sense of justice then how much should Meadows be entitled to. Is it just that Buddusky and Mulhall’s characters are overcompensating for their lack of freedom (Otis constantly expresses how much he loves the Navy, it could be implied that he’s lying to himself or trying to convince himself of it) or is it because they genuinely feel that Meadow’s deserves to live a little before his life is ruined over nothing much at all?

It’s an entertaining film that has a lot of points to make, with some really good, complex characters and one of those classic film journey stories.

2. Serpico

serpico2The reality is that we do not wash our own laundry – it just gets dirtier

Sidney Lumet’s biopic of 60’s New York cop Frank Serpico (Al Pacino) who stood up to the corruption within the police force is undoubtedly one of his finest achievements. And this is a director who has also made Network, Dog Day Afternoon and 12 Angry Men!

Serpico falls during an unrivalled run of exceptionally high quality films and performances by Al Pacino. The Godfather (72), Serpico (73), The Godfather: Part II (74) and Dog Day Afternoon (75) is just an incredible run of movies. Four straight years, one amazing film after the other. All of them are films almost any other actor would kill to have been a part of. Not only that, but they’re his 4 best performances too. I can’t think of a single film he’s starred in that’s better than any of these.

Pacino is sometimes mocked for becoming something of a parody of himself in his later career. Honestly, I didn’t really think much of his performance in Heat. But when you watch him at the top of his game, such as he is as Frank Serpico, it honestly doesn’t matter. He could only ever appear as a cross eyed, dress wearing, window licker of a sidekick to Rob Schneider in every film for the rest of his career, it won’t matter as he’s still going to go down as (quite rightly) one of the greatest actors of all time.

Oh, and, erm, the film is pretty good too.

1. The Exorcist

The ExorcistThere are no experts. You probably know as much about possession than most priests. Look, your daughter doesn’t say she’s a demon. She says she’s the devil himself. And if you’ve seen as many psychotics as I have, you’d know it’s like saying you’re Napoleon Bonaparte.”

Yes, the greatest film of 1973 is none other than box office record breaking demonic possession horror, The Exorcist. Famous for having ambulances parked outside the cinema ready to rescue those viewers who would pass out from fright or scream themselves to death (maybe)! It does mean that Mean Streets, Westworld and the final Planet of the Apes film (pre-Burton) miss out, but how could they hope to compete with such an immeasurable success as this?

When I first watched The Exorcist as a young ‘en, it was at my mate’s house. Most of my friends at the time had already seen the grainy VHS copy that had been passed around school, and were all scared half to death by it. When I finally got around to watching it, I seem to remember it being a bit silly, not very scary and quite frankly hilarious.

Oh, the folly of youth! Having since then rewatched The Exorcist a few times (including one ill fated attempt at watching it on an outdoor screen on a freezing cold night in a park in Reading) I can safely say it is one of the most terrifying, disturbing and powerful horrors ever committed to film. It never just goes straight into the more gruesome bits, as some might expect. It builds tension and suspense slowly, spending a good chunk of time developing the characters before dumping their situation in front of you.

It’s the gradual realisation that an exorcism is their only hope, and the way it’s portrayed in the characters of the mum (Ellen Burstyn) and the priest/psychiatrist (Jason Miller), both generally rational people, is extremely well written. The transformation that Linda Blair, who plays the unfortunate possessed young girl ‘Regan’, goes through during this process broke the mould of every film that came before it. Not only is it the fact that what’s happening to a young girl that causes the audience such distress, but the sheer brutality and offensiveness of it was like nothing anyone had seen.

I’ve always had a slight problem with the ending. I think it’s slightly let down by how suddenly the pace of the film quickens and then stops very sharply; but it’s only really a problem because the rest of the film is at such an already high standard. It is one of the most well written, properly scary and important horror films ever created. A must for any fan of the genre.