HIDDEN HORROR-Curse of the Demon

curse-of-the-demon-movie-poster-1957-1020174214“Curse of the Demon,” aka “Night of the Demon,” is a 1957 British horror film directed by Jacques Tourneur. It’s an intelligent horror film that deals with the subject of black magic. Don’t let its age and the somewhat cheesy special effects scare you off; this film is still very much ahead of its time and is worth a watch.

The film opens with a professor begging a cult leader to call off a curse he put on him. However it is too late and shortly afterwards a demon appears and kills the professor. Dr. John Holden, a friend of the professor, is a skeptic and does not believe in the paranormal. He is asked to attend a convention and prove that supernatural forces do not exist. However the same cult leader that cursed his friend places the same curse on him and he must find a way to rid himself of it before it’s too late.

“Curse of the Demon” is a must see because it is atmospheric, intelligent, well acted with a great cast and has a feeling of dread and tension all throughout. This film was also one of the first movies to deal with black magic and Satanism, before films such as “Rosemary’s Baby” and “The Exorcist.”

-Dakota Bailey

TERROR TV – MONSTERS – the Hole

The Hole.avi_000791124It’s been a while since I reviewed an episode of the anthology series “Monsters.” For this entry I’ll be taking a look at one of the best episodes from the final season, one that really stands out from the typical low budget, two sets limit of the show. I am talking about the Viet Cong zombies episode The Hole.

A group of American soldiers fighting in the Vietnam War retreat into an underground bunker. While they think they are safe they will soon encounter a threat far more sinister than the Viet Cong.

There are multiple aspects that make this episode worth watching. First, the story line is great. How can you go wrong with Viet Cong zombies? Second, the make-up effects on the zombies is fantastic. Third, the setting of the bunker provides a creepy and claustrophobic atmosphere. Fourth, there is a great build-up throughout. It starts out slow but as our panicked soldiers discover what they are up against, and more and more of the dead start popping out of the walls, the pace builds faster and faster.

The Hole is an excellent, stand out episode of the series and one that horror fans should check out once the DVD collection of “Monsters” comes out later this year.

 -James J. Coker

HIDDEN HORROR- At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul

CJ3“At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul” is a 1964 Brazilian horror film by Jose Mojica Marins, who is the writer/director and also plays lead role of Coffin Joe. It’s a great atmospheric horror film that is not very well known. It’s also the first film in the Coffin Joe trilogy, which includes “This Night I’ll Possess Your Corpse” from 1967 and “The Embodiment Of Evil” from 2008.

The film tells the tale of undertaker Zé do Caixão aka Coffin Joe, who terrorizes a religious village. He is feared by the people because he does not fear God or the Devil, he only cares about the continuity of his blood and having a son.

However his wife is unable to have a child so he tries to steal away his friend’s fiancé. He then murders his own wife with a poisonous tarantula and gets away with it. Coffin Joe’s quest for someone to bear him a son leads to more murders. A gypsy warns him not to defy the supernatural or he will pay, which he eventually does.

This movie is as atmospheric as any Mario Bava film, has a Universal Monster movie kind of vibe and is all around a very fresh, unique and original horror film.

Coffin Joe is a memorable villain and horror icon. He dresses all in black, wears a black top hat, and has very long fingernails. Coffin Joe has made appearances in other films and Jose Mojica Marins has had a prolific career as a filmmaker, but this title is probably his best known work and his masterpiece. This is in my opinion one of the most underrated and unknown horror films and is a must see.

 -Dakota Bailey

HIDDEN HORROR – Tales from the Hood

tales-from-the-hood-poster-1One of the most prevalent trends in film from the early to mid ‘90s were the “hood movies.” These films, such as “Boyz n the Hood,” depicted the violence in poor African-American neighborhoods. Since it was such a big sub genre at the time it was only natural there would be a horror film about “the hood” at some point. What’s surprising though is how good the film is. “Tales from the Hood” is a little-known 1995 anthology film that has an EC horror comics feel to it.

The movie consists of four, short moralistic horror segments. These stories deal with mostly black characters and address issues prevalent in the black community, such as police brutality, domestic abuse, racism and gang violence. The wrap around segment introduces three young hoodlums out to pick up a drug shipment at a funeral parlor from a eccentric mortician named Mr. Simms. As the three punks wind there way through the parlor Mr. Simms tells them the last stories of some of his more interesting clients.

For this entry I will be discussing each segment in the film.

The wrap around segment “Mr. Simms Funeral Parlor” gloriously sets the tone. When the young hoodlums arrive at the funeral parlor we are introduced to gothic organ music and some good camera work, showing us the macabre, ghoulish and almost gothic tone but with layers of “hood movie” troops as well. Imagine “Tales from the Crypt” meets a “hood movie.” We are then introduced to Mr. Simms, played wonderfully by Clarence Williams III. He practically steals the whole show. Those who remember the movie almost always remember his performance. The ending of this segment reveals who Mr. Simms really is and it is…batshit crazy in a “Hellish” sense.

Our first true segment, as told by Mr. Simms, is called “Rogue Cop Revelation” and it deals with police brutality. The story is about three racist white cops that murder a black politician who has opened the lid on their corruption. Little do they know that a year later he has returned as a vengeful corpse hellbent on revenge. This one feels very much like something out of EC comics, with its plot of the dead coming back for vengeance. A pretty fun short.

The second segment is called “Boys Do Get Bruised” and it deals with domestic abuse. A new boy at a school shows up the first day with a bunch of bruises on his arm. His teacher is very concerned. When asked the boy tells the teacher the “monster” that lives in his house gave him the bruises. The “monster” turns out to be his abusive stepfather, played by 90’s comedy actor David Alan Grier. This segment feels very much like a “Twilight Zone” episode as you have the little boy using his imagination to figure out how to defeat his “monster.” This one is just ok.

Move on to the third segment, which is my favorite and in my opinion the best. It’s called “KKK Comeuppance” and it concerns a former KKK member running for office while controversially residing in a former plantation with a bloody history. He is warned that the house is haunted by voodoo dolls animated by the souls of the former slaves who were massacred there. What I like most about this segment is that it’s about the horrors of the past coming back to haunt him. I also like how the voodoo dolls are used to terrify him and the creepiness they brings. There is great use of the violin to amplify the horror.

Finally, our last segment tackles the one constant thing in the hood, gang violence. “Hard Core Convert” is about a murderous gangster who is arrested and sentenced to life, only to be offered the chance to be apart of an experiment in correction. This is an interesting one. It is the weakest in terms of horror but is the strongest at tackling an issue. The segment is basically a gangster version of “A Clockwork Orange” with “binding” experimentation and flashing scenes of real life violence.

“Tales from the Hood” is an enjoyable little piece of EC Comics style horror and a good horror anthology. It is also a very well-made African-American horror movie. Sadly, there aren’t a lot of African-American filmmakers out there working in horror. An entertaining but sadly forgotten 90’s horror film. Check it out.

-James J. Coker

HIDDEN HORROR- Martin

martin-posterGeorge A. Romero will always be associated with zombies. However many seem to forget he also made non-zombie films. Those titles tend to get overlooked and I think it’s time to show them some love. The film I will be talking about for this entry deals with another creature from horror, vampires. Yes George Romero made a vampire movie….sort of. “Martin” is a rather unique entry in the vampire genre. It’s a great character study that strips away the supernatural elements of vampires and grounds the creatures in reality.

John Amplas plays the title character, Martin Mathias. He says he is an 84-year old vampire. However he does not have fangs, he can walk in sunlight, garlic does not affect him and neither do crosses. Rather than sucking the blood out of his victims he injects them with a sleeping serum, and when they are asleep cuts them with a razor blade.

After his father dies he is forced to move to Pittsburg to live with his cousin Tateh Cudah (Lincoln Maazel), an old school catholic. Cudah treats Martin like he is Dracula and constantly refers to him as Nosferatu. According to Cudah there is a curse on the family and Martin is one of the cursed ones. Martin however claims his condition is not caused by magic or any sort of curse.

If you notice in the opening paragraph I describe “Martin” as “sort of” a vampire film. There are two reasons for this. First, if you read the plot description you notice the character of Martin has no traits that are associated with the vampires we have come to know. Romero’s “vampire” is basically a human being. Second, Romero doesn’t explicit come out and say it is a vampire film. One can watch the film and view the character of Martin as a new type of vampire. That is a valid way to read and interpret the film  However one can also view Martin as a serial killer who is influenced by vampire movies. Or Martin can be seen as the victim of a messed up family environment. Romero designed the film for the audience to interpret however they desire.

To properly enjoy “Martin” you have to keep in mind the kind of film it is and how the story is told. If you only know Romero from his zombie films and go into “Martin” expecting one of those, you will be disappointed. It’s a character study rather than a traditional three-act narrative, as such the pacing and structure is different. The film can be slow at times and there are a lot of quiet moments that just serve to add nuance to the character. Even though this is a “vampire” film the kills are limited. In fact there are only three times Martin kills someone. Even though Tom Savini does the makeup, and appears in the film, this not a Savini gorefest. “Martin” is a quiet, subtle film where the horror comes from exploring this character and seeing just how messed up he is.

A character study can only work if the actor playing the character being studied performs the material well, and John Amplas does it beautifully. He plays the character as socially awkward,  almost child-like and manages to make him sympathetic, despite the terrible things he does. You get the feeling that he doesn’t want to do this but there are forces beyond his control, and Amplas perfectly shows that struggle. The other cast members are just as fantastic. Lincoln Mazzael is having a blast as Tateh Cudah and Christine Forrest is great as Cudah’s granddaughter Christine, who tries to help “Martin” and show him some sort of sympathy and love.

“Martin” is a very interesting film in the history of horror films. I see it as an interim film between the end of gothic horror and the beginnings of a more realistic type of horror. “Martin” came out in 1976. Gothic horror, such as Dracula, experienced a comeback with the Hammer horror films, which were popular from 1959-1974. After that they started falling out of style. Also in 1974 “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” was released, and that really influenced horror in the following years with it’s realistic, documentary look. Four years later in 1978 “Halloween” would come out and that marked the start of the slasher boom, which is of course another kind of realistic horror.

Romero brought something truly different to the vampire film and to my knowledge there hasn’t been another title quite like “Martin.” A unique vision that I think more horror fans need to seek out is worth checking out. The pacing and the way the story is structured might not appeal to everyone. Those who do see it though are in for a special treat.

-Ryan Laskodi

HIDDEN HORROR – Bloody Date

bloody-dateIt’s brutally safe to say that getting sidetracked from the ideal functions of modern information technology has its perks. One of them is the ability to come across things that are not made fully aware to us by major media outlets. The film chosen as the subject of this entry is not something I found out about online, but something over one million others have, and is a prime example of just how incredible some underground material can be.

Takena Nagao is a Japanese claymation filmmaker with a huge following for someone of his market. Since his high school days he’s been creating works that would make even Art Clokey request a stay in solitary confinement. The work shared here today is not his “most” popular, but quite possibly his most frightening by far.

“Bloody Date” is the short story of a couple on their first date. All is going well and as expected. Quiet, slow and uneventful, but in a peaceful way. You know, until a seemingly inbred teenager comes from behind them and bashes the girl’s could-have-been boyfriend over the head with a mallet. The girl then flees into the woods to seek refuge and finds such in the form of a single story house. As things quickly lead to another she comes to the gruesome realization that she is seeking protection within the same walls that the murderous teen himself calls his home, along with his equally sick and… cultured(?) family. As what can be called the greatest animated tribute to classic “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” tropes of all time and having some of the cleanest stop motion to ever grace a computer monitor, “Bloody Date” is everything you ever wanted to see, that you never knew you wanted to see, until you saw it.

As for why this is worth watching, the various degrees of artistic design that add up to a near perfect short horror experience can’t be missed. In the creator’s signature style “Bloody Date” is a mostly silent film. All you hear is the very unnerving soundtrack that attempts to remind you, “Cartoons are meant for kids, right?”, in its opening beat. As the film gets more tense the music seems to become self aware and goes as far as to help build up to its seldom heard but satisfying sound effects. The film does not hold back when it comes to gore and one cannot help but give praise to how much work it must’ve taken to create such a smooth and free flowing stream of blood in a stop motion film. Lastly, the psychological and visual elements that make up the terror factor are without boundaries. Nagao knows how much more you can get away with in a cartoon as opposed to live action entertainment, and he takes every chance to make you feel as uncomfortable as possible. You feel the tension as a young girl stares at her almost ex-boyfriend’s lifeless corpse as it gets dismembered. You feel scared for her as she tries to escape a house she thought she was safe in, even though no words come out of her mouth. Long story short, “Bloody Date” is bloody perfect and although I’m not British, fuck it, I’m sticking with that line.

This, as well as the majority of Takena Nagao’s library, gained most of its popularity through screenings at Spike and Mike’s Sick and Twisted Festival of Animation, an event that propelled the careers of legendary animators such as Mike Judge, John K, Danny Antonucci, Pixar’s entire staff and every single animator that made the 90’s something worth praising. Such films of Nagao’s can still be seen at select festival dates to this day. The full film can be viewed below via the animator’s personal Youtube channel.

 – Sterling “The Spork Guy” Anno

Hidden Horrors SPECIAL REPORT – FAT TUESDAY – The Lost “Tales from the Crypt” Presents Movie

Most of you fellow horror fiends know there are two “Tales from the Crypt Presents” movies, “DemonKnight” and “Bordello of Blood.” However you may not know there was a third movie that was filmed and completed between the two but never released. That film was “Fat Tuesday.”

 

The story takes place in New Orleans, of course, and concerns a troubled man searching into the dark mystery of his past, all the while protecting his son. Instead of the usual black humor and fun nature of “Tales from the Crypt,” this title has a very dark and mysterious feel with strong elements of psychological terror. It also involves a heavy dose of voodoo and even a demonic and humorous evil harlequin villain.

 

I know, that plots sounds fucking awesome. However you’re probably wondering “What the hell happened! Why didn’t we got to see this?” The reason, according to rumors, had to do with casting and race issues. Since the film contains strong voodoo elements the script naturally required a large African-American cast. However during pre-production there were debates as to whether the film would be commercially viable because of the cast. When the film was completed the cast was entirely white.

 

Because of this “Tales from the Crypt” producer Joel Silver stepped in, claimed he would be branded a racist if the film was released and locked it up in a vault. At least that is how the rumors go. If these rumors are in fact true then “Tales from the Crypt” fans everywhere, including myself, should be surly depressed, angered and very curious about this so called lost film. All I know is if I ever come in contact with Joel Silver, you can bet your ass I will be asking him about this.

 

To prove this project does exists I found two sales pitch artworks that were done for the movie, the kind of artwork that appears in the Crypt Keeper’s book when he presents the movie. I also found two images of an article on “Fat Tuesday” that come from the “DemonKnight” magazine that was published when that movie came out.

-James J. Coker

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