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Showing posts from February, 2009

Dementia 13

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AKA The Haunted & the Hunted
1963
Dir. Francis Ford Coppola

Troubled couple Louise (lovely, lovely Luana Anders) and her husband John are staying at his family castle in deepest, darkest Ireland. The family have gathered for the annual memorial service of John’s sister and the reading of his mother’s will. Taking a midnight jaunt in a row boat, Louise and John discuss his mother’s will, they argue and he reminds Louise that if he dies before his mother, she will not see a penny of the inheritance. As she tries to persuade him to talk his mother into changing the will, he has a heart attack and dies. Louise sees the opportunity to worm her way into her mother-in-law’s favour and tips John’s body into the lake, later faking a note from him stating that he had to return to New York on urgent business. She hatches a plan that involves driving the mother insane by making her believe that her dead daughter has come back to haunt her and will therefore be more easily persuaded to change …

Eyes Without a Face

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1960
Dir. Georges Franju

Famed surgeon Dr Génessier’s daughter Christiane (Edith Scob) is horrifically disfigured in a car accident caused by his reckless driving. The guilt of his own careless actions, and the despair and pain they have caused his daughter, have drove him to abduct young women, surgically remove their faces and attempt to graft them onto Christiane’s own scarred face. When Christiane realises what her father is doing, she decides that the time has come to show him that he cannot control everything…

This was Franju’s feature film debut. Preceding it was a series of short films and documentaries, notably The Blood of the Beasts, a documentary about an abattoir. While not the first film to follow the exploits of a deranged surgeon, Eyes Without a Face was certainly the first to do so in such a poetic, provocative and literate way. It addresses notions of identity, morality, obsession and hope. Written by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac, writers whose earlier work suc…

Stigmata

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1999
Dir. Rupert Wainwright

The religious significance of pigeons! Patricia Arquette as a Saint! Gabriel Byrne’s furrowed brow! Jonathan Pryce as a stereotypical, English-accented, Vatican Priest coverer-uper of miracles (boo hiss). All lovingly filtered through MTV aesthetics and strobe-light editing, with enough dry ice and back-lit rain to give Ridley Scott a run for his money, Stigmata has it all. And a positive message about how personal religion can truly be, to boot.

Fast-livin’, free-lovin’ Frankie Paige (Patricia Arquette) has it all: a spacious apartment with minimalist interior, a cool job as a hairdresser (sorry, hair technician) in a snazzy salon in Pittsburgh, an eclectic mix of funky friends and ethnically diverse clubbing buddies and an uncanny knack for somehow managing to sustain the expense for all this while she works as a hairdresser, sorry, hair technician, for a pittance. After her mother posts her some rosary beads that belonged to a recently deceased Priest, F…

Paracinema Issue 5

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Ladies and Gentlemens,
the latest issue of Paracinema is now available to order...

Amongst the many lurid delights to be found dwelling within its beautifully designed pages and yearning to be touched-up by your filthy paws are Behind Dark Glasses: The Not-So-Hidden Messages in They Live by S. Patrick Gallagher; Royale With Seduction: The Gothic Heart of Pulp Fiction by Molly Griffin; and something called Vicious Cunts: Transgressive Sexuality & Monstrous Femininity in Ginger Snaps and Teeth, by someone called James Gracey. Sounds like someone with WAY too much time on his hands if you ask me.

Click here to purchase a copy.

Random Creepy Scene # 338: The After Hours

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Mannequins have been used to supremely creepy effect many times before in horror cinema. From Mario Bava’s early giallo Blood & Black Lace, with its lavish fashion house peppered with dress makers dummies, to 1979’s eerie Tourist Trap with its bizarre roadside museum chock-full of the uncanny dummies, it is fair to say that mannequins are officially creepy.

An early episode of the Twilight Zone called The After Hours, also utilises the spooky plastic people to shuddering effect, and then it manages to do something genuinely original with them too…

Anne Francis stars as Marsha White, a perky gal about town who enjoys nothing more than shopping and browsing in expensive boutiques. Mooching around a colossal department store looking for a gold thimble for her mother, Marsha is taken to the 9th floor by the elevator operator: a floor that does not appear on the elevator gauge. When she reaches the 9th floor Marsha is greeted by a socially inept saleswomen, who shows her the only ite…

The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue

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1965
Dir. Jorge Grau

AKA
Let Sleeping Corpses Lie
Don't Open the Window
Do Not Speak Ill of the Dead
Breakfast at the Manchester Morgue

The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue is an Italian/Spanish co-production, largely shot in England with a mostly English cast by a Spanish director. Still with me?

George (Ray Lovelock) is a groovy Antique Shop owner in swinging sixties Manchester. He shuts up shop one fateful weekend to head off into the English countryside to fix up an old house with some friends. On the way his motorbike is accidently reversed into by Edna (Cristina Galbo). She agrees to give him a lift to his destination, after she has been to visit her wayward sister Katie. George insists on driving Edna’s car, what with her being a female driver and all, he wants to ensure they get to their destinations without reversing into anyone else along the way.

And so begins a night of terror for George and Edna. Hunted not only by an ever-growing horde of the living dead shuffling…

The Fearless Vampire Killers

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1967
Dir. Roman Polanski

AKA Dance of the Vampires
The Fearless Vampire Killers… Or, Pardon Me, But Your Teeth Are in My Neck

Polanski’s pastiche of Hammeresque vampire films opens as any other vampire film at the time: two eccentric ‘outsiders’ seek refuge in an inn inhabited by superstitious locals and an abundance of garlic bulbs hanging everywhere. The mere suggestion that these two inept gentlemen are searching for the castle of famed fiend Herbert Von Krolock is enough to frighten the simple townsfolk. The sort of madcap shenanigans that ensue set the tone wonderfully for a film that, while largely a comedy, still manages to muster a sharp bite (sorry) and a dark edge.

Polanski himself plays Alfred, the loyal and somewhat long-suffering assistant to vampire killer extraordinaire Professor Abronsius (Jack McGowern). Abronsius has no one but himself fooled that his ‘façade’ of ineptitude and incompetence is actually a wily foil to conceal his status as a legendary Van Helsing-a…

Random Creepy Scene #116: Prince of Darkness

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John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness is a woefully underrated and highly moody horror flick from 1987. After the discovery of a giant canister containing an eerie green and swirling mass under a church, a group of students specialising in Philosophy, science, theology and linguistics are invited by the troubled priest (Donald Pleasance) who discovered the canister, to investigate it. They realise that the lurid green liquid inside is Satan himself and that the only way to open the canister is from the inside…

Soon, the liquid begins to seep out and possess the students, one by one. Meanwhile outside, a group of menacing street urchins led by Alice Cooper surround the church and the remaining students must barricade themselves in, unaware that they are in as much danger, if not more, from their own group inside.

The collective dream shared by the students is, for this reviewer anyway, one of the most memorable, creepy and quietly unsettling images presented in a horror film.

A static…

Interview with composer Marco Werba

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I recently conducted (no pun intended) an interview with Marco Werba for Little White Lies.
Werba has just finished completing the score for Dario Argento's latest thriller Giallo. Click here to read the interview with the delectable Mr Werba...

Click here to listen to some of Werba's music from the forthcoming Giallo. Indeed, why not check out some of Werba's other film scores by clicking here. Enjoy.

The Skull

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1965
Dir. Freddie Francis

Amicus Productions was set up as a rival to Hammer Horror in the sixties. Many of its films took the form of creepy, and maybe even a bit knowingly silly, portmanteaux tales of insanity, revenge and grim death. Some of their more well known titles include Torture Garden, Scream And Scream Again, I Monster and The House that Dripped Blood. The Skull is a pretty typical example of their output, an atmospheric, thoroughly ridiculous, but nonetheless entertaining slice of gothic schlock.
The story follows Peter Cushing as Dr maitland, a collector of odd and bizarre artefacts and transcripts, who goes a bit insane after acquiring the skull of the Marquis de Sade. What's not to love?

Directed with notable flair by Freddie Francis and based on a short story by Robert Bloch, The Skull unfolds at a languid pace. Untypical attention to characterisation is lavished upon Cushing’s Dr Maitland as he sinks deeper into despair and insanity. Cushing is a credible actor …

Little Otik

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2000
Dir. Jan Svankmajer

Little Otik is the troubling tale of a childless couple whose desperation for a baby pushes them to the brink of sanity. In an attempt to alleviate his wife’s distress, Karel offers her a tree stump which she accepts as their offspring. Eventually however, they realise to their horror that the stump has a voracious appetite that can’t be quelled by milk and carrot soup alone… it longs for something slightly more chewy and meaty. And so their nightmare begins…

Svankmajer is renowned for his groundbreaking and innovative use of stop-motion animation in his films. Many of his surreal short films comprise mainly of his experiments in this medium. Recent works however, have seen Svankmajer experimenting more with live action and a more restrained use of stop-motion animation. Little Otik is one such film.
Svankmajer imbues his animated creations with so much life and character, more so in fact than those of his human/live action characters. Indeed Little Otik seems…

Pit & the Pendulum

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1961
Dir. Roger Corman

The Corman adaptations of various Edgar Allan Poe stories were perhaps some of the first horror films I ever watched as a young child. Staying up late and secretly watching the little portable TV in my room, with the light on of course, I often discovered these lurid gems of the genre from between my fingers. None however had more of an impact on me than Pit and the Pendulum. While certainly not the best film in Corman’s Poe cycle, it still retains the ability to chill and unsettle in its own unique way. Watching it is pure nostalgic bliss. Adding to the nostalgia and the bliss is the fact that the film stars Vincent Price AND Barbara Steele - and anyone familiar with Behind the Couch should know by now that I LOVE this diabolical duo.

The film is teeming with memorable and startling images, from the moody opening shots depicting a young man making his way along a harsh and craggy shore to an imposing castle in the background, to the warped and dreamy flashbacks…