31 Days Of Horror: Mystery Of The Wax Museum

10 Years of Fear Lionel Atwill stars as brilliant sculpture Ivan Igor. Igor has a wax museum in London that is sadly unprofitable. Igor’s partner Joe Worth (Edwin Maxwell) decides to burn the place to the ground for the insurance and when Igor tries to stop him, Worth knocks him out and leaves him to die in the flames.

12 years later in New York city Igor shows up with a new wax museum. He survived the fire but is now confined to a wheel chair and his hands were destroyed. As a result he no longer sculpts but has “assistants” such as the shady Professor Darcy (Arthur Edmund Carewe) and the silent Hugo (Matthew Betz).
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31 Days Of Horror: Quatermass And The Pit

10 Years of FearBefore Doctor Who there was Quatermass, which started off as a 1953 BBC TV serial. The show’s success lead Hammer Films to adapt it into a movie, The Quatermass Xperiment, which I’ve written about a couple of times (here and here). Creator Nigel Kneale wrote two more TV serials — Quatermass 2 and Quatermass and the Pit — which were both made into films by Hammer. That’s a lot of Quartermass!

Quatermass and the Pit was originally released in the United States as Five Million Years to Earth.

Professor Bernard Quatermass was played by American actor Brian Donlevy for Hammer’s first two outings. It was felt that Donlevy, a recognizable supporting actor from dozens of films and TV shows, had the stature to get the film theatrical screenings in North America. Kneale, whoever, disliked Donlevy as Quatermass because Donlevy played the character as kind of a huckster instead of a brilliant scientist. For the third film, Quatermass and the Pit, Andrew Keir stepped into the role. He was a perfect fit.
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31 Days Of Horror: The Invisible Man

10 Years of FearIt’s a dark and snowy night. A stranger covered head to toe in bandages arrives at the Lion’s Head Inn. He takes a room and asks for privacy. A while later, he falls behind on his rent and the landlords resolve to evict him. The stranger throws a fit and assaults the owner. The police are called. The stranger removes his bandages, revealing his secret to all present: he’s invisible!

H.G. Well’s fantastic novel was brilliantly adapted by Universal Studios in 1933. The film holds up extremely well today — even the 85-year-old effects.
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31 Days Of Horror: Alien

10 Years of FearI can’t believe it’s already the middle of the month! I’m halfway through 31 Days of Horror: 10 Years Of Fear. There are too many choices and not enough days.

Today’s pick is the classic 1979 sci-fi horror Alien. Written by Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett and directed by Ridley Scott, this movie changed the face of sci-fi horror for ever.
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31 Days Of Horror: Re-Animator

10 Years of FearH. P. Lovecraft has influenced a generations of filmmakers but very few movies based on his work are actually good . Re-Animator is an exception. It’s based on Lovecraft’s story Herbert West–Reanimator. While it’s a very, very loose adaptation, it’s one of the best takes on Lovecraft’s work. It’s certainly the most fun.

Director Stuart Gordon made the most of a pretty low budget, delivering hilariously gruesome special effects and terrific over-the-top performances from his actors. Interestingly, Gordon had originally planned Re-Animator as a stage play, then developed it as a TV pilot (which is pretty hard to believe once you’ve seen the film). Fortunately for fans of ridiculous cult movies, it was made into a feature film.
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31 Days Of Horror: The Haunting

10 Years of FearThere is a new TV series on Netflix based on Shirley Jackson’s novel The Haunting of Hill House. I’ve watched the first episode and it was good, but the 1963 adaptation from director Robert Wise is way, way, way better.

This movie is fantastic! Dr. John Markway (Richard Johnson) wants to examine a real haunted house. He asks the current owners of Hill House — a notorious house out in the country — if he can conduct an experiment on the place to prove that ghosts exist. The owners agree, as long as one of the attendees is young nephew Luke Sanderson (Russ Tamblyn). Other members of the experiment include Eleanor “Nell” Lance (Julie Harris) and Theodora “Theo” (Claire Bloom).
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31 Days Of Horror: Deep Red

10 Years of FearIt’s Christmastime in a small house and a children’s song is playing. Two figures struggle. A child screams. A bloody knife is dropped to the ground.

Many years later in Rome, the psychic Helga Ulmann (Macha Méril) is reading her audience’s minds, when she realizes that someone in the crowd is a murderer. Later, Helga is in her apartment trying to write down what she saw when someone breaks into her apartment and murders her. At the same time, Marcus Daly (David Hemmings) is taking his drunken friend Carlo (Gabriele Lavia) home and sees Ulmann being murdered. Marcus runs up to her apartment to help but it’s too late–and there’s blood everywhere.
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31 Days Of Horror: Doctor X

10 Years of FearI love pre-code movies — films made from 1929 to 1934, the years before the Motion Picture Production Code arrived to enforce mediocrity. It was kind of a wild-west time for movies. Nothing was too taboo. It was great.

Enter 1932’s Doctor X.

For the past several months when the moon is full, horrific murders have taken place. To make matters worse, the victim’s bodies have been cannibalized. The killer has been described by witnesses as as a monster. Reporter Lee Taylor (Lee Tracy) is trying to get a scoop on the story. Doctor Xavier (Lionel Atwill) is called into examine the latest victim but meanwhile, his university colleagues have been placed under suspicion. In order to avoid a scandal, Xavier convinces the police let him hold his own investigation.
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31 Days Of Horror: Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed

10 Years of FearI have covered this one a couple of times but it’s easily the best of the Hammer Frankenstein movies.

It’s fifth of Hammer’s Frankenstein movies where they followed Peter Cushing’s awesome Dr. Frankenstein instead of the monster like Universal’s Frankenstein horror movies did. All of ones with Peter Cushing are fantastic – heck Revenge of Frankenstein might be better but it’s a close draw.
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31 Days Of Horror: The Devil’s Backbone

10 Years of FearToday is Guillermo del Toro’s birthday so in honour today’s 31 Days of Horror takes another look at his brilliant horror film El espinazo del diablo aka The Devil’s Backbone (2001).

Del Toro made The Devil’s Backbone after working on Mimic for Harvey Weinstein. Mimic was Del Toro’s first English language and American movie and he clashed a lot against Weinstein. Del Toro would later disown Mimic. The Devil’s Backbone gave del Toro a chance to make his own movie his way.
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REVIEW: The Wife Is Not that Into You

It’s hard to find a more reliable performer than Glenn Close. The six-time Oscar nominee (should have won for Fatal Attraction) can be equally believable as a take-no-prisoners lawyer, the head of intergalactic police corps, and Homer Simpson’s mom.

The Wife gives Close a different showcase, one that asks from her to repress her emotions until it’s not physically possible. It’s a stunning piece of acting, one than someone with less experience wouldn’t be able to pull off.

The beginning of The Wife is dream-like. Literary lion Joe Castleman (Jonathan Pryce), one of those American writers who think of themselves as gods, is awaken by a call from the Swedish Academy. He has been awarded the Nobel Prize, the perfect capper for a prolific career. Continue reading “REVIEW: The Wife Is Not that Into You”

31 Days Of Horror: Audition

10 Years of FearJapanese filmmaker Takashi Miike has made over 100 movies since he started his career in th early 1990s and is still making even more. Miike had already directed almost 30 films when he made Audition in 1999. The movie helped expose the world to Miike’s work.

It’s hard to talk about Audition without giving away too much of the plot. A husband and father Shigeharu Aoyama (Ryo Ishibashi) has his wife pass away while his son is still very young. Aoyama doesn’t remarry and works hard and raises his son himself. Seven years later his son is 17 and wants his father to remarry. Aoyama doesn’t know where to begin. While having drinks with a film producer friend Yasuhisa Yoshikawa (Jun Kunimura), Yoshikawa suggests that they hold an audition for a wife.
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31 Days Of Horror: Black Sunday

10 Years of FearHappy Sunday! Today’s 31 Days of Horror is Mario Bava’s first official directorial debut. Bava had unofficially directed several films that he was working on as a cinematographer, 1957’s I Vampiri, 1959’s Caltiki – The Immortal Monster and also in 1959 The Giant of Marathon.

In all three films the original directors had left production half way and Bava had stepped in and completed the films but with no screen credit. His work on those movies lead Galatea Film to offer him the chance to make his own movie. Bava jumped at the chance and used a Russian novel by Nikolai Gogol called The Viy as the basis for his movie.
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31 Days Of Horror: Invasion Of The Body Snatchers

10 Years of FearToday’s pick is always a tough one. Normally I hate remakes but there have been some excellent ones. And in today’s case the original 1956 film is a masterpiece as is the 1978 remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

Based on Jack Finney’s 1954 novel The Body Snatchers both films follow a doctor, Dr. Miles J. Bennell (Kevin McCarthy in the original) or Dr. Matthew Bennell (Donald Sutherland in the remake) who discovers that people have been acting not themselves because they have been replaced with pod people.
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31 Days Of Horror: Vampire Circus

10 Years of FearBack in the day Hammer Film Productions made a lot of horror movies. The studio’s most famous for their Dracula films — it made a ton of them with Christopher Lee as the Count. But for my money, their Dracula films pale next to one of my favourites: 1972’s Vampire Circus.

The movie has one heck have an opening act. A small-town Serbia vampire, Count Mitterhaus (Robert Tayman), has seduced the school master’s wife, Anna Müller (Domini Blythe), and she steals children for him to eat. The town finds out what’s going on and a mob storms the castle. A massive melee breaks out and the count kills several villagers before the school master, Professor Albert Müller (Laurence Payne), manages to drive a stake through the vampire’s heart. The dying count curses the town and tells his lover to find his cousin.
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31 Days Of Horror: An American Werewolf In London

10 Years of FearJohn Landis has made a lot of movies — mostly comedies. But here’s a little-known fact: he started his career with a horror-comedy called Schlock. So it isn’t surprising that after home runs with National Lampoon’s Animal House and The Blues Brothers, Landis would revisit that hybrid genre.

The result is one of the best monster movies of all time.

David Kessler (David Naughton) and Jack Goodman (Griffin Dunne) are Americans backpacking across England. One dark and spooky night, they stop at a creepy country pub called the Slaughtered Lamb, but the hostile locals make them feel so uncomfortable they quickly leave. As the head out, they receive a warning: “Stay on the road. Keep clear of the moors. Beware the moon, lads.”

They don’t, they can’t and by the time they do, it’s too late. Lost in fog and menaced by bone-chilling howls, the two turn around but are savagely attacked by a huge, fur-covered beast that shreds Jack and bites David.

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31 Days Of Horror: The Uninvited

10 Years of FearOne of my favourite haunted-house movies is 1944’s The Uninvited.

Roderick Fitzgerald (Ray Milland) and his sister, Pamela (Ruth Hussey) are on holiday by the English coast. Their little dog runs into an old abandoned house, which looks pretty good for a vacant place. They inquire in town and learn the house is for sale, and buy it from the owner, a retired colonel.

The colonel’s granddaughter, Stella (Gail Russell) is upset the house has been sold but is attracted to Roderick. He has some things to do in the city before moving out to the country, so Pamela stays to get the house ready.

Then things gets weird.
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31 Days Of Horror: Night Of The Living Dead

10 Years of FearOct. 1 marked the 50th anniversary of George A. Romero’s groundbreaking Night of the Living Dead. The 1968 film is one of the most iconic and terrifying movies ever made, and it changed the way zombies are portrayed in film. They were merely mindless lackeys of voodoo priests in horror movies up until Night of the Living Dead came out, but that film re-envisioned them as the shambling, rotting cannibals we know and love today.

Although it was made independently on a very low budget ($112,000), Night of the Living Dead was very successful. It changed the horror genre forever.

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31 Days Of Horror: Mad Love

10 Years of Fear10 years ago today on a cold October night with the wind howling and the leaves rustling, I started a yearly ritual: a month-long blog series about my favourite horror movies. I came up with the not-too-original title “31 Days of Horror” and plunged into the task like a maniac’s knife into weak flesh. I’ve continued every year since.

Every year’s 31 Days Of Horror has a theme: I’ve covered thrillers, monster movies, horror movies from around the world, b-movies, Hammer horrors, spooky space horrors and Canadian horror movies, to name a few (well, seven) series.

Since this is my 10th year, I’m commemorating the decade with my absolute, all-time favourite horror films. To start things off I’m going back to the beginning with the first horror movie I wrote about. Mad Love was released in 1935, and it’s notable because it marked Peter Lorre’s American debut.

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Sunday Matinee: Pan’s Labyrinth

Tomorrow is October 1st and I will begin another month of 31 Days of Horror. During the month of October there will be no Sunday Matinees but they will begin again in November. As I’m on a bit of Guillermo del Toro kick today’s Sunday Matinee is El laberinto del fauno aka Pan’s Labyrinth.

Pan’s Labyrinth is set in the 1940s after the Spanish Civil War. Young Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) arrives at a small town with her very pregnant mother. Her new step-father is Captain Vidal (Sergi López) who is tasked with hunting down and executing rebels for the Franco regime. Ofelia loves fairy tales and finds a ancient stone labyrinth nearby but is stopped from going in by the housekeeper.
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