HIDDEN HORROR-War of the Gargantuas

WAR OF THE GARGANTUASAt first glance “War of the Gargantuas” from 1966 may seem like a “Godzilla” knock-off. That could not be farther from the truth. Since they both come from the same company, Toho, you could call “War of the Gargantuas” a cousin film to “Godzilla.” Much like the early Godzilla films “War of the Gargantuas” is a fun, entertaining monster movie and, to get personal, it helped solidify me as a horror fan at an early age.  

It’s a dark, stormy night and a ship is stranded in the ocean, caught in a storm and under attack from a giant octopus. When the giant octopus lets go of the ship, the captain looks out the window and notices an ugly, green humanoid creature fighting the octopus. After it defeats the octopus the humanoid creature destroys the boat and devours the captain and his crew. Afterwards, a scientist and his assistant are being question by the police. They had a similar humanoid creature they have been studying since it was an infant, and the authorities wonder if it has grown up and is responsible for the killings. It turns out there are two creatures: the one studied by the scientists is brown, resides in the mountains and is peaceful; while the one responsible for the attacks is green, lives in the ocean and is evil.

When the green monster comes to land to feast he is nearly killed by the military. However he is saved by the brown creature. It turns out the green creature is an offspring of the brown one. Their friendship doesn’t last long though as they get into a a fight and then proceed to battle and destroy Tokyo.

You know this film is going to be a good one when you take a look at the credits. Here you have Inishiro Honda as director, Elji Tsubraya as the special effects director, Tomoyuki Tanaka as producer and Akira Ifukube as composer. This is the team that created the original “Godzilla” film, “Mothra” “Rodan” and many other classic Kaiju films. If you are looking for the cream of the crop of Kaiju films, you cannot go wrong with anything that has the involvement of these guys.

For its time the special effects were quite impressive. Yes it is miniature cities and men in monster costumes but believe me, these effects are still pretty good. I imagine some people may find these effects laughable and that is shame they will not be able to appreciate this film because of it.

If you are a fan of kaiju films or just want something entertaining I highly recommend checking out “War of the Gargantuas.” As I said early it help turned me into a horror fan and I am sure other horror fans can say the same. Mainstream filmmakers such as Tim Burton and Quentin Tarantino have cited this film as an influence. I am so much a fan of this film that I have both the 90’s Japanese and American VHS releases.

Bonus Review: Pantera’s Far Beyond Driven

On March 26th legendary heavy metal band Pantera’s album ”Far Beyond Driven” is going to be re-released for its 20th anniversary. In my opinion, and that of other metal fans, it is one of the best metal albums of all time, and I mean real heavy metal not the fake metal like Metallica’s ”Black album.” What’s interesting about ”Far Beyond Driven” is that at the time they were creating this album, Nirvana was at their height in popularity and grunge music was the thing that was in style. Pantera basically said fuck that and they made one of the most extreme heavy metal albums of all time. ”Far Beyond Driven” debuted at number one on the Billboard top 200 charts! That is something that does not happen very often with a heavy metal album. Also, when this album came out, the critics had been saying that heavy metal had died. That is why Metallica changed their look and style with ”Load”. On the other hand Pantera and Slayer were probably the top bands that pushed ahead and refused to give into the fads of the time or change their style and they still managed to be mainstream.

”Far Beyond Driven” is a very special album. Just listen to some of the tracks and you will know what I man. This album has ”Strength Beyond Strength”, ”Becoming” ”5 Minutes Alone” ”I’m Broken”, ”Use My Third Arm” and several more tracks that are examples of what real metal is.

What has always made Pantera so unique is that they were the biggest underground band to ever rising to fame from touring and a fan base instead of radio and television. And who can forget Pantera’s guitarist Dimebag Darrel who was as good, if not a better guitar play than Eddie Van Halen? It’s a shame what happened. Pantera, along with Slayer, Morbid Angel and other bands of this era were the extreme American heavy metal bands of the era making heavy music at a time when metal was called dead. And if you are new to extreme metal or want to get into extreme heavy metal this is a great place to start. Check this album out.

-Dakota Bailey

HIDDEN HORROR-Burn, Witch,Burn

burn_witch_burn_poster_02“Burn, Witch, Burn” also known as “Night of the Eagle,” is a 1962 British black magic/occult film directed by Sidney Hayers. This film is an intelligent, “Twilight Zone” esque tale- which makes sense as Richard Matherson, who wrote many episodes of the series, also wrote this film- that relies heavily on the power of suggestion.

Norman Taylor is a successful professor that does not believe in supernatural powers. One day he learns his wife has been messing around with black magic. She confess to him that she is  witch and the reason he is so successful is because of her magic powers. He refuses to believe it. Norman gets angry, rips apart the house and finds all sorts of black magic related items. He burns them all in the fire place. However after doing so he begins to have a downward spiral of bad luck. Is this just a coincidence or has he defined the supernatural.

What I like about this film is that it can never be outdated. There are no visual effects for modern day audiences to scoff at and the way it builds dread and tension is done in a way that a modern audience can comprehend. Yes not everyone will appreciate the black and white look of the film. However if you can watch”Twilight Zone” episodes then you will be able to make it though this film.

Gore hounds will not pleased with this film. However if you enjoy black and white horror films, “The Twilight Zone,” or “Rosemary’s Baby” than you will enjoy this film. A very intelligent film about black magic.

-Dakota Bailey

HIDDEN HORROR-Tombs of the Blind Dead

tombs-of-the-blind-dead-movie-poster-1972-1020374534For this entry let’s look at another horror film from Spain, 1971’s “Tombs of the Blind Dead,” the first entry in the Blind Dead series of films from Amando de Ossorio. This is a fantastic and criminally unknown horror film that deserves a lot more recognition. Imagine a Mario Bava film meets a R-rated horror film and that is what you get with this movie.

The film is a fictional story based on the real-life Christian military order The Knights Templar.  The knights are executed for practicing witchcraft and their bodies are left for the birds to pick their eyes out, thus making them “the blind dead.” Fast forward centuries later, a woman and her boyfriend are on a train ride. The woman runs into an old friend from her past. Feeling uncomfortable after the encounter, she jumps off the train and spends the night in an abandoned tomb. However it is the same tomb where the knights are buried. They awaken and murder her. The woman’s boyfriend and her friend learn what happen and begin to investigate. However as the murders keep happening it becomes clear the knights have risen from their grave and will not stop their killing spree.

As I stated earlier, this film is very much the visual style of Mario Bava mixed with a hard R film. There is a very dirty exploitation vibe to the whole thing. While there is some gore it is never excessive. The Knights themselves are great horror movie villains. While they may seem like zombies they have more of a mummy feel to them. There is also a good amount of technical creativity in the film. For example: when the knights are riding on horseback the speed of the camera is slowed down to make it seem as if they are moving very slowly.

Ossorio’s Blind Dead films are a fantastic series that I would recommend to any horror fan. The other films are “Return of the Blind Dead” “The Ghost Galleon” and “Night of the Seagulls.”

 Bonus Review: Slayer’s “Diabolus in Musica.” 

Slayer’s 1998 album “Diabolus in Musica,” is the “Dead Silence” of heavy metal albums. The reason this album is so hated by many is because the band did not use the same fast tempo they did on their classic albums like “Reign in Blood.” This album is mostly medium paced songs. Also Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman down tuned their guitars for this album so the guitar work is more heavy than usual. I think Slayer decided to expand their sound so people wouldn’t complain about them being stuck in the past and never changing. Plus, this album was a response to the rap metal craze at the time and was a way to show those poser rockers what real heavy metal is. This is an incredible album that deserves much more respect from the metal community.

-Dakota Bailey

HIDDEN HORROR – Red Clover (AKA Leprechauns Revenge)

red-clover-posterHappy St. Patrick’s Day my fellow Horror Fiends!

Now I know for many horror fans St. Patrick’s Day means watching the wonderfully goofy Warwick Davis “Leprechaun” movies from the ‘90s. However for your viewing pleasure I would like to suggest a different leprechaun horror movie from two years ago, one that was co-produced by After Dark Films and the Syfy Channel, originally airing on the network as one of their numerous monster movies. That film is “Red Clover”…well “Leprechaun’s Revenge” was the title it was given when it aired on Syfy…but anyway onto the review.

Founders of a small town brought a real leprechaun over from Ireland and drove it mad as they robbed it of all its luck to continue their prosperous gold rush. Centuries have passed and any talk of leprechauns is laughed off by most townspeople as crazy talk. With St. Patrick’s Day a few days away, descendants of the town founders make the mistake of hunting in a section of the woods where the “red clover” is said to bloom. The leprechaun is awakened and our main character finds herself marked for death, while the Irish imp goes around slashing people to death with its claws and eating their gold.

With a premise like that there are two directions the film could go, serious or comedic. This film manages to do both, but not in a perfect mix. The first half of the film is a serious horror film, which builds the mystery of the leprechaun, shows some bloody kills from the monster and gives us time with our main characters, particularly with the main girl and her sheriff father played by the always enjoyable, at least to me, Billy Zane. Half way through the film shifts to a comedic tone. The creature runs over someone with a car and we learn the way to defeat the creature is similar to that of a vampire, which is both silly and kinda cool. There is some comedic meta dialogue where a character jokes about being in a monster movie and calls the sheriff who believes in the creature a “LepreCop.” Many of the characters talk about how they will live but of course they immediately die. Lastly Bill Zane goes on a self-deprecating rant that is so unexpected and funny it has to be seen to be properly described.

“Red Clover” is a highly entertaining, if tonally inconsistent, monster movie. If you are tired of the Warwick Davis movies, then pop this one and have a good time.

– James J. Coker

TERROR TV-TALES FROM THE CRYPT-The Switch

Cktsasopen“The Switch” is a rather interesting episode of “Tales from the Crypt.” First off, It is directed by The Terminator himself Arnold Schwarzenegger. Second, it does not have any gore or monsters that you would find in a standard episode of the series. Rather this is episode is a tale of irony and is fantastic.

Our main character is a rich old man named Carlton Webster and he is in love with a young woman named Linda, who does not know he is rich. Carlton knows that Linda can’t be attracted to his old body so he goes to a doctor that can make his face look younger. He pays the doctor $900,000 and Carlton gets a handsome young face. Linda likes his new face however is body is still that of an old man. Calrton continues to go back to the doctor and change his body. However in the end Carlton gets a surprise that he never saw coming.

Having Arnold direct this episode is in itself quite ironic. This episode is about health and fitness, basically what Arnold was all about. With its lack of gore and monsters and “be careful what you wish for” storyline it is more akin to “Twilight Zone” than “Tales from the Crypt. However this episode tells this story quite well and is worth a watch.

-Dakota Bailey

HIDDEN HORROR- Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things

slideshow_1001767362_children-play-dead-thingsIn the horror community Bob Clark, the same guy who made “A Christmas Story,” is best known for “Black Christmas.” However Clark made other horror films that are very interesting and tend to get overlooked. For this entry I’m going to discuss his 1972 film “Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things,” a dark, gory and very disturbing entry in the zombie genre.

A group of actors are brought to a creepy island by their jerk of a director Alan. On the island is an abandoned house and cemetery, where several criminals have been buried. Alan has a corpse dug up and performs a satanic ritual to make the dead rise from their graves. It doesn’t work, so the disappointed Alan uses the corpse for sick, disturbing jokes. An actress tries the ritual again and this time it works. The dead do rise from their graves, however they are hungry for flesh so the actors take refuge in the house. Unfortunately the zombies overpower them.

It may sound like a typical zombie movie but it isn’t. One aspect that separates this film from others is there is no hero. In addition things just get worse and worse for our characters, to the point where there is no silver lining for them. Also the way Alan interacts with the corpse he digs up is very disturbing, it reminds very much of “Nekromantik.” It was a disturbing film for time and is quite frankly still disturbing today.  In addition the foggy, mysterious island and cemetery make for a perfect for horror movie atmosphere. There is not a modern horror movie I have seen that can match the vibe of this film. Composer Carl Zitter’s score deserves mention as well.

The most impressive aspect about this film though is that it was made for only $70,000 and shot in two weeks. Watching the film you wouldn’t think that it was made for that relatively low amount of money. Just goes to show creativity will beat budget any day.

I highly recommend this film, especially if you are a fan of zombie movies. Sleazy, dark and a perfect representation of ‘70s horror.

PS: If anyone wants a recommendation for a really cool and hardcore heavy metal band check out Superjoint Ritual, they were a bad ass band. While no longer together they put two fantastic albums, which kill modern rock and generic fake metal bands,”Use Once and Destroy” in 2002 and “A Lethal Dose of American Hatred in 2003.” If you love ass-kicking heavy metal these guys are worth your time. RIP Superjoint Ritual.

-Dakota Bailey

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TERROR TV-TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE-The Yattering and Jack

TalesDarkside4Film is not the only medium to adapt the work of Clive Barker. In this entry I’m going to take a look at the 1987 “Tales from the Darkside” episode The Yattering and Jack, an adaptation of Barker’s short story of the same name. While not the most famous episode of the series it’s a very unique one. Barker wrote the episode and while it’s different from the original story, it’s still a great episode with a unique plot and is very funny. However by no means is this a comedy.

The episode tells the story of Jack Pollo, an average ordinary guy. A demon known as The Yattering has been sent by the forces of Hell to drive Jack insane and take his soul. If he does not accomplish this he becomes Jack’s slave. There are rules The Yattering must follow to achieve this task: such as he is not allowed to touch Jack. He tries mischievous things, such as making messes or boiling the water in Jack’s fishbowl, however he is unable to make Jack snap. This drives The Yattering mad and he is the one starting to go crazy. However Jack’s daughter has come to visit him on Chrstmas and The Yattering has an epic plan which he hopes will finally cause Jack to snap.

As I mentioned earlier this episode is quite different from its source material. The short story was vulgar, violent and brutal while this episode is not that at all. The story also goes into more depth as to why The Yattering is there to torment Jack, while the episode skips over those details. I could spoil it for you but I think you should go ahead and read the short story. If you are really curious though I will provide that information at the bottom of this post. It’s a fairly accurate adaptation of the story, just stripped of all its extreme parts. A great episode with a unique plot and a good sense of humor.

If you enjoy the work of Clive Barker or just want a unique piece of short horror then I highly recommend checking out this “Tales from the Darkside” episode.

SPOILER ALERT: In the short story the reason the forces of Hell want Jack’s soul was because his mother made a deal with the forces of Hell for her soul. However she double crossed them, died in the arms of a preacher and went to heaven. To compensate for their loss they want to take her son’s soul (Jack Pollo) so they send an inexperienced young demon to do the job of driving Jack to insanity.

-Dakota Bailey