Chilling Classics ii

More short reviews of movies from the 50-movie collection, Chilling Classics:

Scream Bloody Murder (1975): I didn’t like this movie, but as a low-budget horror film, it has some things going for it. The main character is a disturbed young man (supposed to be about 17 but the actor looks more like 30) who killed his dad  when he was younger by running over him with farm equipment. I couldn’t quite tell whether the kid intentionally did it or if it was an accident, but he was sent away to an institution, so it must have been intentional. He gets released in time to find his mom newly married. His new step-dad, who is amazingly kind and friendly to him, doesn’t get to enjoy his marriage for long. The kid then goes on a murdering spree. He fixates on an artist/prostitute, who learns that no good deed goes unpunished the hard way.

This movie had potential, but I just found the story too disturbing and the kid too creepy, and none of it in a good way, if that makes any sense. I disliked the way the story played out, and apparently not only were there no law enforcement officers anywhere near this teen’s murdering mayhem, but all the men who were about twice the kid’s size didn’t have the strength or sense even to try to defend themselves. Kind of ridiculous. Yet, the film hits its genre pretty well – if you like creepy, disturbing themes in a cheap horror film, then you might like this, and the artist friend was a likeable, cool character, so I’ll bump the rating a notch for her, but the movie left me irritated. Rating: 3 out of 10.

Bell From Hell (1973): Unusual for this collection, this film is a quality production, with good cinematography and good acting. For all that, however, I just found the story a confusing mess. A young man has been committed by his aunt; when he is released, he starts to play mind games with the aunt and his female cousins. It’s a European movie and has that European vibe, but it’s a somber, strange story. I lost interest quickly and never understood what the bell had to do with anything – it was carted to a church and put into the church tower. I’d probably need to re-watch and pay closer attention in order to understand the details, but this particular DVD transfer is so dark, and the sound so muddied, that it was hard to see or hear everything. This YouTube trailer has a much brighter, cleaner picture and sound. Rating: 4 out of 10.

Naked Massacre (1976): An American Vietnam War veteran, in Belfast, invades a dorm of nurses and rapes and terrorizes them. This apparently take some elements from the Richard Speck crimes. I shouldn’t rate this one, as I didn’t watch more than twenty minutes or so. Even in fiction, it’s sickening to see people be very kind and helpful to someone who then comes back to commit atrocities; just not something that I want to see. I turned it off when the first rape scene started; what I can say about it is that it was unpleasant but not explicit in the sense of skin showing (I think, in fact, that both people were fully clothed). I guess that I can see this as ‘chilling,’ but certainly a different kind of chill than a horror movie. Hits too close to reality.

Concerning the DVD picture, it’s actually pretty good, colors and picture are bright, sound is good. But, about ten minutes into the film, an old Charlie McCarthy clip is spliced into the transfer. I thought for a minute that one of the nurses was watching TV and it was the program that was on, but it is just some kind of mistake on the part of the DVD makers. Funniest part of this movie, because there’s nothing else funny about it. The acting is good, there are some beautiful actresses playing some of the nurses, and the movie is a quality one for what it is, but it’s not a movie that I want to finish watching. Rating (just my own reaction, I can see someone else giving it a higher one): 2 out of 10.

More to come …


Chilling Classics i

I just got the video collection “Chilling Classics,” with 50 movies of varying quality, but mostly bad. I thought that I’d write a short review of each movie as I watch them, but I probably won’t be watching all of them. I would call most of these movies far from “classics;” they’re just old, which isn’t the same thing.

Messiah of Evil (1972) is about a woman who travels to where her artist father, now dead, had been living. There’s some kind of zombie, flesh-eating cult there, apparently. The movie has a few saving features, especially one scene of a grocery store chase and another of a woman’s experience with the zombies in a movie theater — this is probably the most effective scene on the movie, really captures the feel of being trapped with no escape route, and the colors of the film pop in this scene. I can’t tell you how it ends, because I’m not sure — it lost me at some point and, even though it was still playing, I was distracted with other things and didn’t really care how it ended. Rating: 2 out of 10.

The Devil’s Hand (1962) stars Robert Alda and is not too bad. A man is visited by an apparition who ends up being a real follower of an evil cult that makes human sacrifices, and he is soon lured into the web. Worth a watch, better than expected, helped by fairly good acting. It’s a black-and-white film that reminds me of an extended Twilight Zone episode, but a little different. Rating: 4 out of 10.

The Cold (1984). Wow … bad on top of bad. There’s a scene with a nude woman in a sauna and a nearly nude man with her, and that’s the highlight of the film. The release date is 1984 but it looks like it was shot in 1978, going by the clothes, hair and make-up. This may possibly be the crappiest film that I’ve ever seen. Bad acting, bad effects, bad cinematography, and not even funny. Not recommended and not even worth the cost of the film that  it was printed on. 1/4 out of 10 (yes, that’s one-quarter out of ten, it’s really that unenjoyable).

The Demons of Ludlow (1984). Well, it’s better than The Cold, but that’s not saying much. A town receives a piano as a gift as part of its bicentennial celebration. It seems to be connected to a warlock and brings mayhem to the townsfolk. Again, not compelling enough for me even to pay much attention to it. A basic theme of ancestral guilt, at least one gratuitous and unnecessary breast-shot, an odd girl and her dolls, a “piano” that sounds like a harpsichord, a reverend with a somewhat naughty wife … sounds like it could have been a decent movie, but it’s not. There’s one scene where a couple of ghost girls throw rocks at a woman’s face while she’s in bed, a demon hand punches a hole in the ceiling, and a noose comes down to hang the woman — that scene made me laugh, so I’ll bump the rating up a notch. Rating: 2 out of 10.

More to come …

L’Inferno (1911)

I watched the 1911 Italian film L’Inferno, based on Dante’s Divine Comedy, last week for the first time. It has some good effects for its time, as it depicts Dante and Virgil traveling through the circles of hell. I had read many customer reviews of this DVD, complaining that the modern music by Tangerine Dream was good but not appropriate for the film. I disagree — the movie is very dream-like, not horrific, and the music supports and enhances that dream-like quality. I would prefer to watch a silent movie while hearing a score, even a modern one, that was written specifically for the movie, and that is what Tangerine Dream has done. The song lyrics are from the book and help to drive the silence of the movie. Sometimes silent films simply have Classical music attached, which may or not sound appropriate for any given scene.

Not all of the effects are so good, however. Cerberus, if you can truly call him that, is the most laughable, pathetic creature that I’ve ever seen in a movie. He is about the size of a large dog, seems to be a moth-eaten puppet, and looks more like a three-headed sheep than a dog. It’s really incredibly bad. Had that Cerberus been the one that Herakles had taken from Hades, then he would have had nothing to brag about.

The Lucifer scene towards the end of the film looks good at first and very similar to the Dore illustration, but the actor keeps making googly eyes as he pretends to chomp on a human body. He reminds me of the cowardly lion in The Wizard of Oz. It kind of ruins the effect.

Overall, though, well worth seeing this piece of cinematic history.

Review of Possessed (2009)

Possessed (2009)Possessed is a South Korean TV drama from 2009, combing elements of crime drama, mystery, psychological thriller and the supernatural into one of the best films that I’ve seen in a long time.

The story centers around Hana (hah-NAH), a high school student who once experienced a tragic event when she was little and now is troubled by visions of things that only she can see. Soon, she finds herself the unwitting vehicle of vengeful ghosts and a famous criminal profiler, who experienced his own trauma as a youth.

That’s the basic background, but there is so much more to this show. Integral to the drama is the issue of the modern criminal justice system, especially its failures and corruption. It’s a story of good versus evil, but, as the story progresses, this simple opposition of forces becomes more muddied and brings up questions of just how far justice against cruelty can go before the avenger has become corrupted into cruelty.

This presentation is pretty amazing, as are the actors. Lim Ju-Eun is a lovely young actress who does a fantastic job as Hana, as does Lee Seo-Jin as the profiler. I especially liked the role of Lee Jin as the girlfriend of profiler Shin Ryu: she does a beautiful job of portraying a caring woman coming to terms with being confronted by unremorseful cruelty against her idealistic support of the reformation of criminals. It’s clear that South Korea’s criminal justice system mirrors in many ways that in the U.S. There are issues here that are important that a society consider and re-evaluate.

Possessed does not seem to be available on DVD yet, but you can see it on Hulu in ten parts of an hour each. It is in Korean with English subtitles. Don’t be put off by the opening theme song, which I found rather annoying (sounding a bit like it’s sung by a cloyingly cute animated character). Some loose ends never seem to be entirely tied up and I found that the ending was a little unfulfilling, but it works well enough with the progression of the storyline. There is, however, much sweet, sweet revenge along the way. Perhaps you will find it worth your time.

[Edit October 14, 2018: Hulu has changed since the time I originally wrote this, so the old link no longer works and I doubt that the series is available (at least for free) on Hulu now. I did find a DVD version on Amazon; I won’t put a link here but the title at Amazon is listed as “Soul Aka Possessed – 2009 Korean TV Series – English Subtitle.” It has a current price of $49.95 and only available from third-party sellers. There are at least some parts of the series viewable on YouTube, but you may have to search around to find the complete show.]