FINALLY! A new episode is here

Hey there Horrorfiends! James J. Coker here with the long awaited new episode of Hidden Horrors.

This time about a little known but batshit wonderful Mexican horror movie from the 70s.

Enjoy and dont forget to subscribe

 

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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HIDDEN HORROR-Messiah of Evil

Messiah of Evil 1973 movie poster“Messiah of Evil” is a 1973 American film written and directed by Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz, the husband and wife team that also wrote the screenplay for “American Graffiti.” This is a criminally unknown horror film and one I recommend to all horror fans. Imagine “Night of the Living Dead” meets “Eraserhead” or a Mario Bava film and that will give you an idea of what this film is like.

A woman named Arletty goes to a beach town to search for her missing father. When she arrives at his house she find it vacant, however her father’s diary has been left behind. The diary states that a darkness is starting to take over the town. The residents are very strange and don’t provide Arletty with any answers, suggesting the beach town may be hiding something.

What makes this film interesting is that it’s somewhat of a zombie movie but it’s also very artsy, dreamy and atmospheric. The mysterious beach town creates the perfect horror movie atmosphere. It’s a slow burn but it builds the dread and tension throughout and as the film progresses it becomes more dream like. There is a fantastic ending that you will leave you thinking and interpreting its meaning.

Overall, this is a great and unique horror film. It’s a shame it isn’t more well known because it has the potential to be a cult classic. If you are a looking for a unique, artistic and well acted film then you should definitely check this one out.

-Dakota Bailey

HIDDEN HORROR-Who Can Kill a Child?

who-can-kill“Who Can Kill a Child?” is a Spanish horror film from 1976 directed by Narciso Ibáñez Serrador. It’s a relatively unknown horror film but one that I recommend to any horror fans. Despite its age it still has the ability to disturb viewers. Much like “Village of the Damned” and “Children of the Corn” this film revolves around creepy children. However this one is much more disturbing and one that you won’t soon forget after a viewing.

The plot revolves around a couple named Tom and Evelyn who take a vacation to an island. When they arrive the only inhabits they find are weird children who say nothing. As Tom and Evelyn explore the island to find out what is happening they realize the children are violent killers and have killed all the adults on the island. The two then must defend themselves against the children or they will be killed.

Overall this is an intelligent, serious, disturbing and well-acted horror film. It’s a slow burn but as it progresses it perfectly builds up dread and tension. In addition the abandoned island makes for a really creepy setting. If you are looking for an unknown, out of the box horror film then you should definitely watch “Who Can Kill a Child?”

-Dakota Bailey

HIDDEN HORROR-The House with Laughing Windows

houselaughingwindows cover“The House with Laughing Windows” is a 1976 giallo film directed by Pupi Avati. It’s one of the most unknown and one of the best horror films out there. What you will find in this film is a lot of style, a weird plot, and a feeling of dread and tension throughout.

The plot revolves around an artist named Stefano. He comes to a village to restore a gruesome painting that depicts people being tortured and murdered. According to the locals the artist who created it would have real people killed and tortured as he painted, that way his art would be more realistic. As Stefano tries to restore the painting he finds that something or someone does not want him to, and the village’s twisted secret is eventually revealed.

Overall this film is the definition of a Hidden Horror. The opening is very creepy and so is the painting Stefano is restoring. The end is very bizarre and will creep you out. If you are looking for a unique, creepy horror film than this is worth a watch.

-Dakota Bailey

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- Dr. Phibes Rises Again

dr-phibes-rises-again-aka-dr-phibes-everettLast time I reviewed the little-known horror gem “The Abominable Dr. Phibes.” Naturally I felt I had to follow it up with a review of its sequel “Dr. Phibes Rises Again.” It has been a while since I have seen this one and watching it again I have to say that it is nowhere near as good as its predecessor. However it still has enough going for it that I feel it is worthy of being mentioned.

To properly describe the plot of this film I have to talk about the ending of the first. If you haven’t had the pleasure of watching it yet then you might want to skip down a couple of paragraphs. The first film ends with Dr. Phibes going into his wife’s tomb and putting himself into a form of suspended animation. Basically he takes all the blood out of his body and replaces it with embalming fluid.

The sequel takes place 3 years after the first. Phibes is awoken from the tomb by a planetary alignment, more on that later. With his revenge complete he has a new goal, which is to bring his wife back from the dead. To accomplish this he and Vulnavia, yes she is back and this time played by actress Valli Kemp, must travel to Egypt. In Egypt there is a Pharaohs tomb hidden in a mountain and a river runs under this tomb. Every 2,000 years when the planets align a certain way, yes this is the same alignment that awoke Phibes, the river of life flows into this river. Phibes believes when this happens not only can his wife be brought back to life but they will both be given eternal life.

However Phibes isn’t the only one interested in finding this river. A rich socialite by the name of Darrus Biederbeck (Robert Quarry) is also interested in finding it. He forms an expedition and stuff happens. Law enforcement becomes involved and Inspector Trout (Peter Jeffery) returns, this time joined by his Superintendent named Waverly (John Cater).

Biedberbeck is the weakest part of this film. At the beginning it appears there is a history and rivalry between the two and Biedberbeck seems to be a worthy opponent to Phibes, the James Moriarty to Phibes Sherlock Holmes. This is however not the case. Biedbercek is actually a bland character. Robert Quarry plays the role well but he isn’t given much to do. He mostly stands around, shouts things and is proactive rather than reactive. There is a reason to why he wants to find the river and when you find out that reason you do feel some sympathy for him. However Phibes is such a great character and is worthy of a stronger opponent.

A difference between this film and the first one is the use of humor. One aspect I love about the first film is how understated the humor is. It’s a very funny film but it isn’t trying to be a comedy. Everything feels natural. Here they are actively trying to be funny. This is necessarily a bad thing as the movie is quite funny. Trout and Waverly have some great moments together. One of my favorite scenes is when Phibes and Vulnavia are eating fish and Phibes, who has to eat through a hole in the side of his neck, pulls out a fishbone. While I do prefer the first films style of humor this one is quite funny and I found myself laughing quite a bit.

Price brings in another good performance here but it is different from the first film. In the first one Phibes hardly spoke. Price’s performance is very much like that of a silent film star. Here Phibes speaks throughout the film. It is still a silent film-esque performance as Phibes doesn’t open his mouth however the mystique of the character is taken away. However I think I can understand why the writers did this and it isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Much like the first film the performances are solid, the story is creative, the kills are unique, the writing is sharp, it moves at a good pace and the musical score is fantastic. It’s not as strong a film as the first one but there is still a lot to enjoy here. If you enjoyed the first Dr. Phibes movie I would recommend giving this one a watch. If you did not enjoy the first one then you are better off skipping this one.

-Ryan