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Thursday, October 19, 2017

On this day in horror history.... October 19th, 1990

On this day in horror history.... Tom Savini took to the directors chair to re-tell George A. Romero's 'Night of the Living Dead'. A masterful new take on the original film, this one holds its own against the original. If you've never seen it, do yourself a favor and give it a whirl.

my thoughts on.... 'Torso'

As with all of my reviews of films for The Creepercast, I fully recommend that you check each and every one of them out. I am one man and this is my opinion. I've seen plenty of movies that received reviews that were the complete opposite of how I saw the film. These writers, directors, producers and actors all put a lot of time and love into these projects. They deserve to be seen and appreciated for what they are. Everyone has a dream and I fully support the people that take the time to make theirs a reality. With that being said....

I've tried to enjoy Giallo films. I've tried on more than one occasion, but they just don't seem to appeal to me and I do not get the ongoing appeal of this style of Italian horror. For those unfamiliar with the term or the genre, Wikipedia defines it as: “In English-speaking countries, the term giallo often refers to the Italian film version of the genre, a particular style of Italian-produced murder mystery thriller-horror film that usually blends the atmosphere and suspense of thriller fiction with elements of horror fiction (such as slasher violence) and eroticism (similar to the French fantastique genre), and often involves a mysterious killer whose identity is not revealed until the final act of the film. The genre developed in the mid-to-late 1960s, peaked in popularity during the 1970s, and subsequently declined over the next few decades.” On paper, this seems like a no brainer, for those of you who know me and my tastes in horror. The problem is, that no matter how many times I try and no matter what films I watch, this just doesn't resonate with me. Not in any way, shape or form. It's kind of frustrating, because I know so many people adore this genre and there have been countless books, documentaries, etc made about it. I guess it just proves my point that there is something out there for everyone and that's what makes books, art, film, television, etc so great. Either way, last night I gave it one more college try, as I watched Sergio Martino's 'Torso'.

The story is simple enough. Someone is killing pretty coeds and the police only have one clue, that the killer is wearing a red and black scarf. The police seem to have no other real leads or suspects in the case and the killers body count keeps rising. A group of 4 women, in fear for their lives, take a trip up to a villa to get away from the danger. Little do they know, that they've been followed by the masked killer and he may make them his next victims.

Sounds like your standard 80's slasher fare, right? 'Torso' was made in 1973 and was the 5th film in Sergio Martino's Giallo cycle. Some consider it to be his best work in the genre, while others contend that it was his least successful. The biggest thing to realize about Giallo films, is that they contain a few very distinct elements. Beautiful women, slow and methodical pacing, gore and excellent cinematography. (See the earlier Wikipedia citation for additional standards in the genre) This film contains all of those elements, but it never seems to form into an enjoyable experience. It's less of a horror film and more of a who cares who done it? None of the characters are particularly likable and everything is so paper thin, that it feels like a late night Cinemax film.... made in the 70's. Don't get me wrong. I love 70's style film making. Slow burns are a wonderful thing, when there's some kind of payoff at the end or an overall lesson to be taught. The problem is, that 'Torso' never had that final moment at the end where I felt satisfied with all of the waiting and buildup. It just kind of ends.

I don't know if I'll take a trip back down the Giallo rabbit hole again. I've seen several, including the master work of the genre: 'Susperia'. The only film in this Italian hay day that I truly appreciate is Lucio Fulci's 'Zombi 2' and I don't even think it qualifies to be included in this review. I'd give 'Torso' a 2 out of 5 star rating. I know that this may garner some hate among fans of the genre, but it's just not for me and there's nothing wrong with that. To each their own. Maybe someday, I'll look back on all of this and realize that I was wrong, but until that day I'm done with Giallo films. I've done my research and put in the work. I'll leave these films for the die hard fans to enjoy and go back to my regularly scheduled programming.

If you like this film, check out some of it's contemporaries: 'Susperia', 'A Lizard in a Woman's Skin' and 'Deep Red'

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

On this day in horror history.... October 18th, 1980

On this day in horror history.... one of the films that made me a horror fan, 'Motel Hell' is released. An oddity among horror, at the time. This film is a surrealistic trip down 80's horror memory lane. The image of Farmer Vincent with the pig's head mask, with the chainsaw.... is burned into my brain forever.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

On this day in horror history.... October 17th, 2003

On this day in horror history.... the Michael Bay produced reboot of 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre' is released. A film that initially rubbed me the wrong way, over the years, I've grown to enjoy it. While it may not have the realism that the original did, it still deserves a place at the Leatherface table.

Monday, October 16, 2017

On this day in horror history.... October 16th, 1992

On this day in horror history.... Clive Barker's 'Candyman' is released. A frightening film to this day, Tony Todd turned words on the page, into a terrifying reality. Chicago never felt safe again.

my thoughts on.... 'Spider Baby or, The Maddest Story Ever Told'

As with all of my reviews of films for The Creepercast, I fully recommend that you check each and every one of them out. I am one man and this is my opinion. I've seen plenty of movies that received reviews that were the complete opposite of how I saw the film. These writers, directors, producers and actors all put a lot of time and love into these projects. They deserve to be seen and appreciated for what they are. Everyone has a dream and I fully support the people that take the time to make theirs a reality. With that being said....

The 60's were a different time. Not just socially and politically, but in the film making industry. It seemed that studios were more willing to take risks and there were more b-movies being made. Well, that's not entirely true. We have just as many b-movies being produced today, they're just being done on smaller budgets and by home made film makers. Therefore, the quality isn't quite as good as it was, as it's primarily being shot on cell phones, digital cameras and other cheap and easy options. There just aren't as many film makers, actually using film. Because of that, we don't get these strange little oddities like 'Spider Baby or, The Maddest Story Ever Told', that look like they had a bigger budget than they probably did. I've heard about this film for many years now. Being a fan of Sid Haig, ever since I first saw 'House of 1000 Corpses', it's been on my long list of things I needed to see before I died. It's currently streaming on Amazon Prime, so it felt like a good time to settle in and give it a proper viewing.

The basic story, which is fairly simple, focuses on the Merrye family. Two sisters (played by Jill Banner and Beverly Washburn) and a brother (played by a very young Sid Haig), who are being looked after by their caretaker, Bruno (played by the late Lon Chaney Jr). The adult children are suffering from something later referred to as 'Merrye Syndrome'. This is defined as a condition that basically makes them have the mental capacity of children. Sometimes, the condition can cause them to regress further and further into a younger state of mind. All three 'children', don't seem to have a full grasp on right and wrong and have been known to murder innocent passers by. After keeping them safe from outside eyes for many years, Bruno is soon forced into trying to save his house and the 'kids' from an outside family member who wants the home and all the assets that come with overseeing the 'children'. During the course of the fateful 24 hour period, all of them soon realize that the Merrye 'children' are not as innocent as they appear. They may not escape the night with their lives.

What's fascinating about this little slice of bizarre cinema history is that it was made in 1967, the same year as George A. Romero's 'Night of the Living Dead'. Although it doesn't share the undead aspect of the story, it still feels very much like a distant cousin to this film. Written and directed by Jack Hill ('Coffey', 'Switchblade Sisters' and 'Foxy Brown') this was originally intended as a comedy. What we ended up with, instead, was a very dark and somewhat demented tale of murder and mayhem. Despite there being no blood shed what so ever, this film is still rather gruesome and contains several scenes that are shocking. Perhaps that makes it tame by today's standards, but when you look at in the context in which it was made, it's a rather curious piece of cinema history. Perhaps this is why it's remembered so fondly? If you ever do any research on horror movies and the history of the genre, this one will continually pop up on people's required viewing lists. After finally seeing this one, I can see why. I can also see how it influenced several writers and directors, in their future film making careers. Where as many people cite 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2' as Rob Zombie's primary influence on 'House of 1000 Corpses', I would beg to differ. I would clearly put this at the top of the list, in terms of the movie that most closely resembles that film and bares a lot of striking similarities in more ways than one. Right down to the last scenes in the film, this almost feels like the original to Rob's unintentional remake. Perhaps that's too big of a stretch, but it clearly was a film that he used as a basic template. Watch it for yourself and see if you would agree with me.

All in all, this is one that will continue to puzzle and jump start the creative juices in many writer/directors to come. There's just something about it, that bares a required viewing seal of approval. It's strange, unique and twisted, but at the same time it's quite well made and something like you've never seen before. It's not the greatest film ever made, but it's certainly one that needs a wider audience. If you're a fan of Rob Zombie's work and want a little peak inside of his head, then you should put this one in the top of your queue and give it a go. A 4 out of 5 star blast from the past and something I could say a lot more about, but I don't want to spoil any of it for those of you who decide to take the journey. There are a lot of winks and nods to other prior films and a certain deranged charm to it. The only criticism that I might have, is that poor Sid Haig had no actual lines of dialogue. He spends most of his time just smiling and acting bizarre, but in only a way that he can. Make a bucket of popcorn, make sure your cat is okay and turn off all the lights. This is one that you'll be telling your friends about the next day.... just like I am.

If you like this, check out: 'Night of the Living Dead' (1968), 'House of 1000 Corpses' and 'The Wolf Man' (1941)

Sunday, October 15, 2017

On this day in horror history.... October 15th, 1981

On this day in horror history.... the original 'Evil Dead' is released. Jump starting the careers of both Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi, this film created not only a franchise, but gave birth to Ashley J. Williams. You can't call yourself a horror film fanatic, unless you've seen this one. A true masterpiece.