Lazron’s October Horrorthon 2013

Well, it’s that time of year again. The time where I’m not the only person lovingly busting through as many horror flicks as possible. I’d argue that Halloween is my favourite holiday, though I’m also partial to Christmas. That said, my Christmas Horrorthon is never as good as my October Horrorthon, so Halloween might have the edge here.

I’ve been doing this for a few years now, much to the occasional chagrin of relationships past and present. As with most things, there’s been ups and downs. Lack of sleep, regrettable film choices, amazingly obscure soundtracks, it’s all been part of the fun in this horrific October learning curve.

This year will be a little different than years past. For one thing I’ve decided to pick 31 films I hadn’t seen before. Traditionally I’d watched the classic “Trick r’ Treat” on Halloween and “Halloween II” on the 30th. As much as I love those films, and I may still sneak them in, I felt there was already a glut of cinematic atrocities that remained to be seen, thus the painful decision to carry on without those two mainstays.

The other difference between this year and years past will be my inability to watch one film per night. I’ll still be watching (at least) 31 films over the month, but I’ll be out of town 3 days for a wedding, which is apparently more important than terror films. Hopefully I can sneak on the wedding-themed “Rec 3”, but it’s probably best not to ruin everybody’s joyous occasion. Not deliberately anyway.

Those caveats aside, I’m genuinely stoked to be starting another epic list of horror gems. In years past I’ve discovered some truly enjoyable flicks, including Nightmare City, Some Guy Who Kills People & The Dead. Of course, there’s also been stuff like The Burrowers & Rob Zombie’s Halloween 2, so it could go either way.

Another thing I’ve tried with this years list is including youtube links to full movies whenever possible. This will theoretically allow you to watch along with me ! Though you and I both know that’s not going to happen. Still, a surprising amount of them have been uploaded, thumbs up for modern technology.

Anyway, without further adieu, I present you with the latest installment of …

Lazron’s October Horrorthon 2013

1) Night of the Demons (1988)

night-of-the-demons-movie-poster-1989-1020204365“A group of teens decides to have a Halloween party up at the deserted funeral parlor. They accidentally awaken a demon while having a seance. The demon enters the body of one of the women, and soon the teens begin experiencing an attrition problem.”

At one time I actually owned this movie, though I never ended up watching it. I think it was on one of HMV’s 5-8$ Super Sales and seemed too good to pass up. That is, until I ended up selling it before viewing it. That said, it’s got a solid fanbase, multiple sequels and has since been remade. Seems like as good a film as any to kick of the holidays !

2) Curse of Chucky (2013)

Curse-of-Chucky-poster-art“After her mother’s mysterious death, Nica begins to suspect that the talking, red-haired doll her visiting niece has been playing with may be the key to recent bloodshed and chaos.”

I’m not really much of a Child’s Play fan, though I did enjoy Bride and Seed of Chucky. I’ve always found the originals to be fairly boring and unworthy of returning to. It’s rare for a film series, especially horror, to hit its’ stride on the fourth entry, but that’s precisely what many would agree happened in this case. This sixth film (all have been written by creator Don Mancini) is a direct to video affair, though it’s gotten good early reviews and is said to tie the series together nicely. Colour me intrigued.

3) Dr Phibes Rises Again (1972)

014“The vengeful Doctor rises again, seeking the Scrolls of Life in an attempt to resurrect his deceased wife.”

I’m a big fan of Vincent Price and would have to place the original Dr. Phibes film in my top 5 of his work. That film had a perfect ending, one which didn’t seem to leave room for a sequel (much like “The Descent”). I vaguely recall watching this follow up film when I was younger, though I dismissed it as a less than stellar rehash of the original. That said, my love for the original and distance between viewings has lead me to give it another chance. There was actually a third film planned (a script was eventually leaked online) but alas, it was not to be.

4) Body Melt (1993)

body_melt_1993“Residents of peaceful Pebbles Court, Homesville, are being used unknowingly as test experiments for a new ‘Body Drug’ that causes rapid body decomposition (melting skin etc.) and painful death.”

I’ve had a copy of this one for awhile but I’d always heard mixed reviews. I’m kind of a sucker for low budget melting movies though (Street Trash, Slime City, The Stuff), so I think it’s finally time to see whether or not this fits in the pantheon of Melted Masterpieces.

5) Nomads (1986)

NoMads“A French anthropologist moves to Los Angeles and is followed by the evil spirits of an extinct tribe he once uncovered.”

It’s hard not to enjoy seeing Pierce Brosnan in strange, pre-Bond forays (The Lawnmower Man, Mrs. Doubtfire. Nomads). Even in post-Bond efforts his appearance tends to bring a smile to my face. Brosnan made “Nomads” in between seasons of “Remington Steele”, and it actually has a fairly solid fanbase behind it. It doesn’t hurt that it was writer/director John McTiernan’s first film (over the next two years he’d make Predator and Die Hard). I’m most excited to see Pierce playing a french archeologist though. Spot on casting !

6) Slime City Massacre (2010)

SLIMECITYSMALLSIZEPOSTER“In the wake of a “dirty bomb” attack, a New York City neighborhood known as “Slime City” has been evacuated, except for the homeless (“displaced refugees”). Four squatters searching for food in the ruins of the Zachary Devon Soup Kitchen discover a supply of Zachary Devon’s Home Brewed Elixir and Himalayan Yogurt. When they drink the elixir and eat the yogurt, they are transformed into hideous slime creatures driven to murder – an intermediate step as they are possessed by the spirits of Zachary Devon and the members of his Coven of Flesh, who committed suicide years earlier. When a greedy developer sets his sites on Slime City, he hires a team of mercenaries to wipe out the homeless population. It’s a battle royale between the Slime Heads, the mercenaries, and bloodthirsty mutant cannibals!”

I tried to make a double bill of both Slime City films at one point, but I never got around to watching this one. Waiting 22 years between sequels is certainly uncommon, though “Godfather of Gore” Herschell Gordon Lewis waited 39 years between Blood Feast 1 & 2, so maybe 22 isn’t so bad. I guess we’ll find out what 22 years of fundraising buys you.

7) Terror Train (1980)

terror-train-poster“A masked killer targets six college kids responsible for a prank gone wrong years earlier and whom are currently throwing a large New Year’s Eve costume party aboard a moving train.”

This was Jamie Lee Curtis’ fourth film, following the triple threat of Halloween, The Fog and Prom Night (which have all been remade, terribly). I remember the Scream channel playing this one regularly, though I never got around to actually seeing it. I’ve heard nothing but good things about it though, so my hopes are pretty high.

8) The Bird with Crystal Plumage (1970)

argento-ucello-poster“A writer is stalked by a serial killer after witnessing a murder attempt on one woman’s life.”

I must confess, I’ve never been a huge fan of Dario Argento. I was always more of a Lucio Fulci fan, which is borderline sacrilege. I don’t deny that Argento is the more accomplished filmmaker, I just always preferred Fulci’s over the top gore to Argento’s subtle mastery. That said, I’ve set out to rectify my lack of Argento viewings by loading up on his films in this years Horrorthon. With 3 titles on the list, it’s up to his work to speak for itself.

9) No One Lives (2012)

no-one-lives-movie-wallpaper-26“A gang of ruthless highway killers kidnap a wealthy couple traveling cross country only to shockingly discover that things are not what they seem.”

I’ve heard pretty good things about this one, though I didn’t get around to seeing it in it’s brief theatrical run. Director Ryuhei Kitamura has made some incredibly enjoyable films, including Azumi, Godzilla – Final Wars, Versus, Sky High and Midnight Meat Train. None of those films are perfect (with the possible exception of Azumi), but he has an incredibly kinetic visual style that often makes up for any shortcomings in his stories.

10) Stagefright (1987)

stage-fright-deliria“A troupe of struggling stage actors is rehearsing for a small-town production of a play. Everything seems to be as it should until one of the cast members turns up dead. In a panic, the others try to get out, only to find they are now locked in the theater with the killer! Which one of them committed the murder, and who will get out alive?”

This is said to be something of a lost gem of the 80’s slasher set. It was produced by Joe D’Amato, a director best known for quickly made and cheaply produced grindhouse films. He did direct the infamous Anthropophagus and Beyond the Darkness (also featured on this list), so maybe his influence paid off in the end.

11) The Night Flier (1997)

night_flier_poster_01“A reporter is on the trail of a vampiric murderer who travels by plane.”

This is one of the least discussed and highly regarded Stephen King adaptations ever put to film. I’d never even heard of it for years, but it’s legend has slowly grown over time. I’m a big fan of The Mist and The Shawshank Redemption, but as long as this is better than Under the Dome and Sleepwalkers I’ll be just fine.

12) Beyond the Darkness (1979)

beyondthedarknessposter“A young rich orphan loses his fiancée to voodoo doll mischief on the part of his housekeeper who is jealous of his attentions. He digs his girlfriend up, cleans her out, stuffs her, and puts her in bed at the mansion. Following this, he tries out and disposes of a series of young maidens, trying to find the right replacement for her, and the disapproving housekeeper helps him with the disposals.”

As previously mentioned, this is one of the few Joe D’Amato films that has actually received critical acclaim over the years. Much like Anthropophangus, much of the film’s notoriety lies in it’s extreme violence. In fact, its remained banned in Australia for the past 21 years due to its content. Challenge accepted.

13) Cannibal Apocalypse (1980)

Cannibal_Apocalypse-1980-Poster“Giovanni Lambardo Radice and John Saxon are Vietman vets that bring back contagious virus that turn people into cannibals when bitten.”

I actually did have this on several weeks ago, but I tuned out the minute I heard the opening theme. It was so incredibly funky that I knew I needed to make a beat out of it. I spent the rest of the film creating the best beat I’ve ever made, at the cost of following the plot itself. All in all, it was totally worth it, but I would like to give it another go.

14) Dust Devil (1992)

dust-devil-movie-poster-1992-1020470855“A woman on the run from her abusive husband encounters a mysterious hitch-hiker.”

This is another film I’ve heard nothing but good things about. The original version of the film ran 120 minutes, which was later trimmed to 110. After that, a 95 minute version was tested, later trimmed to 87 minutes (much to the chagrin of the writer/director). Since then a 105 minute “Final Cut” and 114 minute “Director’s Cut” have surfaced, all making it extremely difficult to decide which version to choose.

15) The Beast Within (1982)

240984-1020-a“In the beginning of the movie you see a woman getting raped by a man-creature of some sort. The movie takes place years later when the child that was a result of that rape is on the rampage looking for a girl to rape to start the process all over again.”

Another favourite of the Scream channel, this film will be receiving a long overdue blu ray release by cult label Scream Factory (no relation to the channel). I’ve never been a huge werewolf fan, but if the transformation scenes are anything like An American Werewolf in London, this may well be worth the wait.

16) All the Boys Love Mandy Lane (2006/2013)

all-the-boys-love-mandy-lane-2006-poster-2“A group of high-schoolers invite Mandy Lane, a good girl who became quite hot over the summer, to a weekend party on a secluded ranch. While the festivities rage on, the number of revelers begins to drop quite mysteriously.”

Speaking of films being worth the wait, this was originally scheduled for release in 2006 ! It’s just now receiving a theatrical release (despite leaking online years ago). I’ve heard conflicting reviews on its quality, but my expectations are low enough that I may well enjoy myself.

17) REC 2 (2009)

rec2-QUADv4-final_RGB_LORES“The action continues from [Rec], with the medical officer and a SWAT team outfitted with video cameras are sent into the sealed off apartment to control the situation.”

I’m a huge fan of the original REC (possibly the best found footage horror to date) and have been trying to watch this well reviewed follow up for years now. I think both REC 2 and 3 were on last years’ Horrorthon list, but for whatever reason (likely subtitle reading laziness) they were bumped. I feel it’s finally time to get through these, just in time for next years’ REC 4 !

18) REC 3 (2012)

rec3“A couple’s wedding day turns horrific as some of the guests start showing signs of a strange illness.”

It’s borderline ironic that I’ve not seen this third REC film yet, as I’ll be getting married in June and will now know what to look out for if our guests start murdering each other. In their defense though, it’s more likely to be dessert bar related than demonic possession. Still, can’t be too careful these days …

19) Opera (1987)

Opera“A young opperata is stalked by a deranged fan bent on killing the people associated with her to claim her for himself.”

Our second Argento film is the highly regarded Opera, sometimes known as “Terror at the Opera” (probably to keep from confusing Opera fans who inadvertently rented the wrong tape). I’m a big fan of the iconic cover image and hope the ensuing film lives up to it.

20) Wicked Little Things (2006)

POSTER - WICKED LITTLE THINGS (2)“Karen, Sarah, and Emma Tunney are all moving to a small town in Pennsylvania where, unknown to them, in 1913, a horrid mine accident trapped dozens of children alive, underground. But there’s a problem. They’re still alive.”

The premise of this one always intrigued me, a sort of Night of the Living Dead meets Children of the Corn I suppose. One of the overseas titles for it was simply “Zombies”, so at this point I’m really not sure what to expect.

21) The Kindred (1987)

kindred_poster_01“Amanda’s deathbed request to her son, John, was for him to destroy all the lab notes etc. from her last experiment. She also blurts out he had a brother. At the funeral John meets Melissa, who claims to be his mothers biggest fan. Together with some of John’s friends they go to Amanda’s house, but none are prepared for what they find there.”

From what I can tell, this seems to be a film that relies mostly on creature effects to sell its story. The first film that comes to my mind in that category is the 1982 alien classic “Xtro” (released 4 days after I was born !). If this one comes anywhere close to that level of enjoyment, I’ll be pleased as punch.

22) Midnight (1982)

Midnight“A teenage girl runs away from home because police officer/stepfather puts the moves on her. Hitchhiking to California, she’s picked up by two guys who are also traveling cross-country. Along the way, they decide to camp out in the woods and run across a family of Satanists who keep their dead mother in the attic.”

This one is a bit of an odd duck. From what I can tell, the story has nothing to do with zombies, however, that poster would have you believe otherwise. This likely stems from the fact that its’ writer/director was the co-writer of Night of the Living Dead. Seeking to cash in on any remaining brand recognition seems to have brought on some very misleading marketing tactics. Still, it’s kind of a cool poster.

23) Come Out and Play (2012)

come-out-and-play-hires“A couple take a vacation to a remote island – their last holiday together before they become parents. Soon after their arrival, they notice that no adults seem to be present – an observation that quickly presents a nightmarish reality.”

This one is a remake of the lesser known spanish film “Who Can Kill a Child?”. While its long been known that no american studio would attempt a remake, this mexican made effort was willing to give it a try. From what I’ve heard, it’s essentially a shot for shot remake that pales in comparison to the original. Still, the subject matter is intriguing enough to give it a shot.

24) The Child (1977)

child_1977_poster_01“A newly-hired housekeeper in a remote area is alarmed to discover that her boss’s eleven-year-old daughter is using her supernatural powers to take revenge on the people she holds responsible for her mother’s death, with the aid of her flesh-eating zombie ‘friends’…”

I always think it’s wild when I find out a film like this was made the same year as Star Wars. I mean, the subject matter couldn’t be any different if they tried ! I’ve heard that this is quite an odd film, even more than the synopsis would have you believe. I’m kind of a sucker for lesser known zombie flicks though, so this one got the late add on.

25) The Boneyard (1991)

the_boneyard_german_custom-cdcovers“Children turned into zombies wreak havoc in a coroner’s building with just a burned-out psychic, an experienced cop and two coroners to stop the madness.”

I’m not sure what to think of this one. Apparently it starts strong but has a ridiculous second half, featuring an appearance by Phyllis Diller ! Still, it’s apparently saved by some excellent makeup effects that make the experience much more palatable. Here’s hoping.

26) The Bay (2012)

OR_The Bay 2012 movie Wallpaper 1280x1024“Chaos breaks out in a small Maryland town after an ecological disaster occurs.”

I was definitely thrown off when I heard that the academy award winning director of The Natural, Good Morning Vietnam and Rain Man would be making a found footage horror film. I mean, I guess it’s all the rage now, but it still seemed odd. Reviews were mixed, but the story is an interesting one, and not entirely unrealistic subject matter.

27) The Keep (1983)

aaaaaaa“Nazis are forced to turn to a Jewish historian for help in battling the ancient demon they have inadvertently freed from its prison.”

Speaking of well known directors, I’ve been meaning to watch Michael Mann’s sophmore effort for years now. Another casualty of last years’ list, this year I’m determined to get through it. As cool as the story is, I’ve learned to temper my expectations after years of mixed reviews.

28) The Orphanage (2007)

the-orphanage-poster-800“A woman brings her family back to her childhood home, which used to be an orphanage for handicapped children. Before long, her son starts to communicate with an invisible new friend.”

On the opposite end of the spectrum, this film has received nearly universal acclaim. Produced by Guillermo Del Toro, I’ve had this recommended to me countless times over the years. I’ve tried not to get my hopes up, but it has to at least be better than “Orphan”.

29) We Are What We Are (2010)

“When the patriarch of the family passes away, the teenage children must take responsibility for the family chores: the preparation of the rituals, the hunting and putting the all-important meat on the table. These newfound responsibilities are even more daunting, however, when you live in the city and happen to be a family of cannibals.”

This was recently remade, though I felt it best to watch the original before the american version is released. Supposedly they’re quite different takes on the material, but I still would have been upset had I seen Quarantine before REC.

30) The Innkeepers (2011)

ExclInnkeepersBig“During the final days at the Yankee Pedlar Inn, two employees determined to reveal the hotel’s haunted past begin to experience disturbing events as old guests check in for a stay.”

I’m not really a huge Ti West fan, though he gets a lot of respect for his throwback-style of filmmaking. I tried to love The House of the Devil, but it was a bit too slow moving for my tastes. Here’s hoping West wins me over with this one.

31) Tenebrae (1982)

tenebre_poster_01“An American writer in Rome is stalked by a serial killer bent on harassing him while killing all people associated with his work on his latest book.”

Our third (and final) Argento film is the classic Tenebrae. It was a bit tough to pick and choose which of his films to watch, though I’d already seen Inferno, Suspiria and Deep Red (my personal favourite). I’m not a huge Giallo fan, but I do love a good mystery. Fingers crossed for this one.

002And there you have it ! Another dreadfully delightful list of 31 terror-riffic treats to fill my head with visions of rotting sugarplums and severed limbs and the like. I’ll do my best to update my reviews daily throughout October, but it’s gonna be a bit of an odd Horrorthon this year, just the way I like it !

Till’ next time, smoke em’ if you gut em’ !

– e

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10 Recent Overlooked Horror Gems

With so many hit and miss films out there (especially horror) it becomes taxing to sit through so much potential mediocrity after awhile. I’ve decided to assemble a top 10 list of recent gems worth checking out –

1) Session 9 (2001)

http://youtu.be/LsxkRNvEbhM

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“Session 9” is a criminally underrated psychological horror about a clean up crew removing asbestos from an abandoned mental hospital on a tight schedule. It does a great job of getting under your skin and builds to a satisfying conclusion. Solid flick

http://m.imdb.com/title/tt0261983/

2) May (2002)

http://youtu.be/3qv38cYbcq0

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“May” is an excellent character study of a girls decent into madness. It was a stellar debut by director Lucky McKee, with a powerhouse performance by Angela Bettis.

http://m.imdb.com/title/tt0303361/

3) Inside (2007)

http://youtu.be/YVGswuX42x0

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“Inside” was one of the titles from the French “Nu Wave” horror films that briefly overtook the genre. Of those (Frontiers, Martyrs, Sheitan, etc) this one is easily the best. It’s a claustrophobic thriller with a shocker of an ending. Brutal, intense, brilliant.

http://m.imdb.com/title/tt0856288/

4) The Mist (2007)

http://youtu.be/E-NF55EZ5tw

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“The Mist” is an excellent adaptation of the Stephen King short story of the same name. I loved the story and trusted Frank Darabonts’ vision, but it’s the gutsy ending that really surprised me and divided the audience. Very well done film, also available in a black and white version.

http://m.imdb.com/title/tt0884328/

5) The Signal (2007)

http://youtu.be/tLnUcuy6078

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“The Signal” is a product of three different Writer/Directors each filming part of the film before combining them into one cohesive story. It concerns a sort of madness outbreak, brought on by cell/cable signals. It’s a hauntingly well done film, especial considering its budget.

http://m.imdb.com/title/tt0780607/

6) The Crazies (2010)

http://youtu.be/5WRH2bzArGk

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“The Crazies” is one of the rare times of a remake being better than the original. I’m actually a fan of George A Romeros’ original, but this one is much better paced and uses its budget and technology to good effect. It’s a very creepy character driven film, and I was pleasantly surprised with it.

http://m.imdb.com/title/tt0455407/

7) The Dead (2010)

http://youtu.be/ANpgVWVvpjs

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“The Dead” is the first zombie film to use similar zombie make up to Lucio Fulci’s classic “Zombi 2” (aka – “Zombie”). It’s a great stylistic choice, and this African-shot film boasts gorgeous scenery and a powerful storyline. Quite an achievement for a modern zombie film.

http://m.imdb.com/title/tt1386925/

8) Frozen (2010)

http://youtu.be/3dwLYCnrHGk

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When “Frozen” came out we all wondered how a full length film set (almost) entirely on a chairlift with 3 actors could be good. Much like the Ryan Reynolds starring “Buried”, this film uses a potentially gimmicky premise to its advantage and successfully milks the scenario. It really gets under your skin, very unsettling.

http://m.imdb.com/title/tt1323045/

9) The Reef (2010)

http://youtu.be/0UD2gbjB3vw

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“The Reef” is everything I’d wanted “Open Water” to be. It’s well filmed, uses real shark footage and is a genuinely terrifying film. Easily the best shark film since “Jaws” (and trust me, I’ve seen my share). Very impressively edited film.

http://m.imdb.com/title/tt1320291/

10) Stake Land (2010)

http://youtu.be/zNC2HwAaWWE

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“Stake Land” is a well done indie flick that is essentially “The Road” but with Vampires. The film does a great job ratcheting up the tension while maintaining a glimmer of hope amidst the hopeless surroundings. Nice to see a newer vampire movie adding a fresh fake to the mythos.

http://m.imdb.com/title/tt1464580/

Hope that helps ! Happy viewing folks !

P.S – Looks like 2007 and 2010 were big years for horror. Who knew ?

October Horrorthon 2012 – 23 – “Lifeforce”

Aka – Space Vampires

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KqNquDlAanE

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Lifeforce has such a wicked premise (from a great writer), it always seemed like a movie I should love. It has zombies ! Vampires ! Aliens ! Space ! Good effects ! Cool story ! Cool alternate title ! Exclamation mark ! Anyway, I tried watching it when I was younger and found it boring, has time been kind ?

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The film begins with several astronauts discovering an enormous spaceship hidden in Hailey’s Comet. All of the occupants are dead, save for 3 human-like beings (2 male, 1 female) who are frozen in suspended animation. Once on earth these “space vampires” begin stealing people’s “Lifeforce”, turning them into mindless zombies. Can humanity stop them in time ?!

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The cast does a good job with the material and included a few familiar faces. Obviously the first that jumps out is Patrick Stewart, and it’s fun waiting to see him pop up. In addition Steve Railsback (Helter Skelter, Alligator 2, Disturbing Behaviour) turns in a good performance as the main astronaut who first discovers the space vamps.

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One of the most exciting things about this movie is the talent involved. Tobe Hooper had made a name for himself with the original “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, but it was “Poltergeist” that helped solidify his name as a director. He signed a 3 movie deal after that success, with “Lifeforce” being the first (his remake of “Invaders from Mars” and follow up “Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2” were the other two). Hooper does a good job directing the action, no doubt having learned much from Spielberg on set of “Poltergeist”.

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Even more influential than Hooper was writer Dan O’Bannon. He’s written some truly awesome movies, including Total Recall, Dead & Buried, Alien, Return of the Living Dead (which he also directed), Blue Thunder and 2 of the segments from the awesome “Heavy Metal” animated movie. O’Bannon is geek royalty, and he brings a lot of fun ideas to “Lifeforce”.

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Now, I’m not gonna say this is an awesome movie. It certainly doesn’t live up to the amount of awesome in its premise. It starts well, has good effects and maintains interest for the first hour or so, but at some point it sort of fizzles out. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but by the end of the movie you’re just sort of like “Oh, cool”.

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That having been said, there is still a lot to like about this movie. Lifeforce would turn out to be a flop, as would his two follow up films. Oddly enough, all 3 have gained cult status in the years since, and it’s certainly not hard to see why. That said, this is my least favourite film of those three, but it’s certainly my favourite with space vampires. Too bad it sort of sucks.

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October Horrorthon 2012 – 2 – “Nightmare City”

Aka – “City of the Living Dead”, “Invasion by the Atomic Zombies”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xKmPCFP6pI8

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Let me start off by saying that I am very well versed in the “art” of Italian zombie films. As a young gorehound I gravitated to the work of Lucio Fulci, eventually moving on to Bruno Mattei, Umberto Lenzi, Lamberto Bava, etc. Not too many out and out “classics” between them, but many entertainingly awful gems nonetheless.

I mention this because at this point in my trash-loving career it’s quite rare to find an 80s Italian zombie flick that I haven’t seen, or at least TRIED to sit through. The problem is further impacted by the fact that most of these films have at least 3-10 alternate titles, many of them hilarious and completely misleading (Hell of the Dawn of the Night of the Day of the Zombies type-shit).

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This brings us to our featured film – 1980 Italian/Spanish co-production “Nightmare City” (aka “City of the Walking Dead”, aka “Invasion by the Atomic Zombies”). Apart from the fact that the alternate title sounds an awful lot like Fulci’s “City of the Living Dead”, the poster art also makes it look like a dozen other seemingly similar horror films. That said, and having seen enough of them to know, “Nightmare City” is one of a kind.

The basic premise is about a TV reporter who is sent to an airfield to interview a scientist about an apparent chemical leak. A large unresponsive plane appears in the distance and lands as the military surrounds it. Suddenly, dozens of zombies burst out of the plane with guns, knives and hatchets ! They make quick work of the entire unit as the reporter and his cameraman film the fracas before escaping. As the reporter takes to the airwaves to warn the populace of this bizarre incident, the military forces them to stop so they can stifle the impending panic. The rest of the movie is essentially the reporter trying to find his wife and escape while the military struggles to figure out what is going on and why.

Now, I was really stoked to see this once I realized it had fast zombies (20 years before 28 Days Later) who could not only use weapons, but also disconnect phone lines deliberately, etc. how awesome is that premise ?! The opening massacre alone was wicked, especially the part where a zombie shot a guys arm off. It looked as good as it sounds. I was also a fan of the hatchet wielding zombies, not entirely sure why.

I’m not gonna lie to you, this movie was a blast ! The effects switch between cheesy and super gross (plenty of impalings, exploding heads, gougings, hatchetings, etc). The make up of the zombies themselves was mostly a cross between The Wolfman and The Toxic Avenger. It’s possible they just dipped their faces in hamburger helper, I’m not clear on that.

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Additionally, these zombies seemed to favour drinking blood to eating brains. I suppose that would make this more of a Zompire movie, but Zompires don’t use hatchets or have shit all over their faces, so who even knows. Much of the film is unintentionally hilarious, but the thing that really sets this apart and won me over (apart from the premise itself) was the amazing soundtrack.

http://youtu.be/2AOWimuAumg

Now, not all horror films have great music (obviously), but many Italian horror films seem to. Both Goblin (Dawn of the Dead) and Fabio Frizzi (The Beyond) have made many excellent horror scores. I’m a real sucker for the eerie, synth laden scores that permeate many of these films. “Nightmare City” was scored by Stelvio Cipriani (Twitch of the Death Nerve), a composer I wasn’t too familiar with before this.

The music switches between downbeat post-apocalyptic instrumental to funky bassline drive themes, upbeat quasi jazz and even a borderline disco vocal track ! I can safely say that this is probably the best score I have ever heard in a movie like this, and that’s certainly saying something.

http://youtu.be/ts4PZrDN5Ho

Now, clearly this kind of movie isn’t for everyone. It’s goofy and gory and stupid and doesn’t make much sense, but that’s kind of its charm. If you’re like me and can find the unbridled joy in an inept but well intentioned horror flick, you’ll love “Nightmare City”. At the very least you’ll be bobbing your head to the hypnotic soundtrack as you chuckle at the seemingly indestructible squadron of shit-faced zombies.

It may not be high art, but it’s a hell of a good time

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Bonus – Speaking of cool horror music, the director of “Nightmare City” (Umberto Lenzi) also directed the cannibal classic “Cannibal Ferox” which has a pretty sweet soundtrack of its own. I was able to track down a vinyl 45 of the theme, and I post it now for your enjoyment –

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t833O1-1Pd4