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Posts tagged “1981

Fright Fest: Burial Ground, The Nights of Terror (1981)

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Zombie fans come from every walk of life and every zombie fan has their own tastes when it comes to zombie movies. In fact, you could say that there are even sub-genres within the sub-genre of flesh eaters. Just this month alone during this year’s Fright Fest we have seen a wide variety of zombie flicks (saving the best for last, which will be tomorrows review). The only sub-genre within the sub-genre we did not allow into the mix were voodoo curses and “anger” viruses, like 28 Days Later which is not technically a “zombie” movie at all, just like The Crazies were not zombies, they’re “mad, insane, and otherwise still living.” Feeling very much like a bouncer at some classy (or not so classy actually) nightclub, we’ve allowed in a certain clientele. “Are you dead and are you eating the flesh of the living? Yes. Okay. You’re cool, come on in.” That’s right folks, we’ve got standards at this joint.

Be that as it may, even folks who consider themselves “fans” of flesh eating walking corpses are not necessarily all that well versed when it comes to the cabinet of zombie movies. Nowadays I’d say that’s a fair statement given the popularity of The Walking Dead and Z-Nation (not sure if that’s still popular, but I tossed it up anyway). There are some zombie fans who watch TWD and that’s about all she wrote. And there are others who delve into the Romero films, such as Dawn of the Dead, Night of the Living Dead, Day of the Dead, Land of the Dead, Diary of the Dead, and I shall’t not name that dreadfully last one made. And some Romero fans haven’t even seen all the named and unnamed movies. And then there are the truly indoctrinated flesh eating fan, those who’ve peered into the depths of foreign film and came back to tell the tale. You think only the Americans have zombies in the bag, well…you are sadly mistaken. As Winston Zeddmore so aptly put it, “I have seen shit that’ll turn you white!”  Continue Reading

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Fright Fest: Dead & Buried (1981)

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The Art of Death in Dead and Buried

What if someone’s arrogance took the act of dying to the extreme for artistic purposes? This is the cornerstone of Gary Sherman’s Dead and Buried, written by the team of Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett (though apparently O’Bannon’s writing efforts had been edited out) based upon the Chelsea Quinn Yarbro novel.

The story takes place in mythical Potters Bluff, Rhode Island – one of those out-of-the-way seaside communities where everything appears to be quaint, but what happens at night or behind closed doors is a different kind “The Twilight Zone” story. Daniel Gillis (James Forentino) happens to be the local sheriff investigating bizarre murders that seemingly spring out of nowhere, and William G. Dobbs (Jack Albertson), the town’s old-time undertaker who can’t even speak until a Big Band tune ends, helps in providing clues left behind by the bodies of the recently departed. But Sheriff Gillis is having a hard time navigating the evidence that may prove the involvement of his neighbors as well as his wife, Janet (Melody Anderson).  Continue Reading


Fright Fest: The Howling (1981)

 

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First things first, The Howling is my favorite werewolf movie. It’s creepy, it’s sometimes bizarre, it’s sexy, and it’s violent. From the tension-filled opening with Karen White and Eddie Quist to the burning –down-the-house attempt to destroy the fine people of The Colony, and the final change before a live televised audience, The Howling brings it. Released back in 1981, The Howling is based on the novel of the same name by Gary Brandner released in 1977 (the year I was born).

“We should never try to deny the best, the animal within us…”

While there are plenty of similarities between the novel and the film, the final screenplay turned in for the movie decided to take the film adaptation in its own direction. The book starts out with the main character getting raped in her apartment and features a similar “cabin in the woods” setting for her and her husband to go to recover and heal. The husband is also pursued and seduced by the local shopkeep/temptress. For the adaptation, screenwriter, John Sayles, a psychology major in college, decided to lean heavily on the psychological angle. In the book,  the town, Drago, just so happens to be a town filled with werewolves, whereas the screenplay has it all set up by the doctor (Dr. Waggner). Sayles did something I believe all good writers do when treading familiar ground—borrow what you like and make up the rest!  For werewolf folklore, he chose to go with silver bullets and fire to kill his beasts, as well as a bite to pass the curse along but threw out the full moon cycle of the werewolf. Instead, he chose to go shapeshifter with the creatures being able to shift at will, day or night.

“You can’t be afraid of dreams…Turn around, Karen…”

From the psychological standpoint, we get to see Dee Wallace deliver an excellent performance as Karen White. After being attacked by and catching a glimpse of Eddie in his werewolf form, she is sent to The Colony, a “place to recharge her batteries” and run by Dr. George Waggner. The Colony is a place where everyone is known to howl at the moon. It’s there that Karen and her husband, Bill, meet Marsha Quist and a number of others.  Karen battles her nightmares of Eddie, reliving the moments with her stalker in her dreams and during her sessions with Dr. Waggner at The Colony.

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Her husband, Bill, tries to wait for her to let him touch her again without reliving her attack. Marsha sees her opportunity and sets her sights on him. It doesn’t take long for her “animal magnetism” to lure Bill in. One bite and Bill is all hers. This leads to one hell of a sex scene in the woods between the two.  I mentioned the sexy thing in my introduction, right? Well, that is definitely brought on by Elisabeth Brooks in her role as Marsha, aka Marsha the Man-Eater. Her wild mane, perfect body, and relentless sex appeal speak to the beast in us all.

“Whoever is bitten by a werewolf and lives becomes a werewolf himself.”

The true highlights of the film are the spectacular transformations. Watching the werewolves come to life without the help of today’s special effects crutch (CGI) is a fantastic thing to behold.  After killing off Karen’s friend, Eddie comes face-to-face with the object of his desire and we bear witness to the change of all changes as Eddie goes from man to beast before the screen. Watching his eyes alone is amazing. Add that to the work and hours it must have taken to get the snout just right, that’s the good stuff. I can’t imagine how amazing this must have been to see for the first time in 1981.  Those of us who were spoiled by the effects of the ‘90’s and the 2000’s have earned a new appreciation for moments in the film like Eddie’s transformation.  I think of movies like John Carpenter’s The Thing, And John Landi’s American Werewolf in London (which was also released in 1981), and even Michael Jacksons’s “Thiller” video (also directed by Landis), or even Jeff Goldblum’s wicked evolution from man-to-fly in The Fly. It must have been a thousand times better for actors to stand in front of a tangible creation rather than whatever stand-ins they use today for the CGI monsters.

“You can’t tame what’s meant to be wild…”

The Howling, along with Silver Bullet, forged an unforgettable bond in my mind between me and the werewolf. For older folks, it was probably The Wolf Man (1941) with Lon Chaney, for younger kids maybe it’s something like Dog Soldiers (2002) or the Underworld films (hopefully not Twilight!). In the eighties, my older brother shared these films with me and it was for this reason I dedicated my werewolf novel, Blood, and Rain, to him.

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It should also be mentioned that director, Joe Dante, was at the helm of a number of great films that followed, namely, The ‘Burbs (1989) with Tom Hanks, and Gremlins (1984). While both The ‘Burbs and Gremlins contain plenty of humor to go along with the horror, The Howling, for the most part, maintained its dark edge. Although, if you look close enough, you can find spots of Dante’s appreciation for humor between the lines of the film, as well. Next time you watch it, keep your eyes on the televisions in any given scene.

To this day, The Howling remains my favorite werewolf film. The dark, sleazy, psychological aspects in the opening remind me of Scorsese’s Taxi Driver (1971). It maintains that psychological thriller tone (presented magnificently by screenwriter Sayles) throughout which makes the horror that much deeper. You combine the writing with the special effects, the visual beasts, great direction, and a superb cast of actors and you get the equivalent to a great novel—a full, well-rounded story and presentation.

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Final note: Gary Brandner’s novel, The Howling, is also terrific. In fact, film sequel, The Howling IV: The Original Nightmare (1988), is a more faithful adaptation of the original novel. It is easily my second favorite of the movies that followed in the series.  For werewolf flicks that I also love, check out American Werewolf in London, Silver Bullet, Wolf (1994), The Wolfman (2010), and Wolfen (1981).  You can go ahead and add Teen Wolf (1985), as well.

Whatever your horror flavor, I hope you’ll make some time for one or more of these excellent films this Halloween season.

Aaarrrrroooooooo!

glenn

Glenn Rolfe is an author, singer, songwriter and all around fun loving guy from the haunted woods of New England. He has studied Creative Writing at Southern New Hampshire University and continues his education in the world of horror by devouring the novels of Stephen King, Jack Ketchum, Hunter Shea, Brian Moreland and many others. He and his wife, Meghan, have three children, Ruby, Ramona, and Axl. He is grateful to be loved despite his weirdness. He is the author of Blood and Rain, The Haunted Halls, Chasing Ghosts, Boom Town, Abram’s Bridge, Things We Fear, and the collections, Out if Range, Slush, and Where Nightmares Begin. You can get your paws on Glenn’s work on Amazon.

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Fright Fest: The Beyond (1981)

 

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Lucio Fulci was a giant of Italian horror cinema. Actually, scrap that. I couldn’t vouch for the accuracy of that statement as I wasn’t old enough to be aware of Lucio Fulci in his heyday; but since I discovered my love of lurid horror, director Lucio Fulci has certainly seemed like a giant to me. The man appears on the infamous Video Nasties list three times, and even though some of his other titles didn’t make it on that infamous list of banned movies in the 1980s, they certainly should. It’s true that Zombie Flesh Eaters probably made most of an impact on cinema with its grimy interpretation of the walking dead. A move away from the comically blue versions found in Dawn of the Dead; the decomposing look actually came about due to budget restrictions. A few wipes of clay across the monster’s faces and a new image was born!

However, it was The Beyond that stands head and shoulders above the rest as the best film he created. It is actually considered the second part of loosely based ‘ gates of hell’ trilogy which compromises of City Of The Living Dead, The Beyond and House By The Cemetery. The plot centers around a hotel. Originally owned by the artist who was murdered (in glorious detail at the start) by locals fearing he was practicing black magic. Years later a young woman inherits the hotel and decides to renovate and re-open it. However, the hotel stands over one of the seven doors of death. This is not going to end well…

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What follows is a dream-like narrative that just manages to keeps the story together, giving the movie a sense of strange unease. However, the other benefit this offers is that it allows the director to lurch from set piece to set piece. And this is why I love this film so much, there is no filler. Like the 1963 version of Jason and the Argonauts (which you really need to go back and view again), the film is a riot of scenes that leave you gasping for air with excitement, but no room to catch your breath before the next sequence continues the onslaught of its run time.

Released in 1981, not all the special effects are great and you’ll need to cut it some slack for the obviously fake spiders that lurk in the background behind the real tarantula’s that slowly make their way towards the fallen man as he lies sprawled out on the floor.

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But hang on, I’m getting ahead of myself here.

In order to describe how amazing this film is I’m going to go through a scene summary. Be warned, there will be spoilers. So if you don’t want to know what happens before your first viewing then don’t read any further, but actually, I don’t think knowing any of the plots will spoil the experience.

This film is ghoulishly brilliant entertainment and can easily be enjoyed with countless repeat viewings. (I know, I’ve tested it).

So join me, my fiendish friend. Let me take you by the tentacle and lead you through the scenes of Lucio Fulci’s splatter film masterpiece.

Ready let’s go:

It starts in 1927 (and in sepia to suggest olden times) A group of men storms the hotel. They accuse a painter of being a warlock, viscously attack him and nail him to the wall before melting his face with acid.

Cut to titles sequence, with a cool backdrop of fire and an awesome soundtrack.

Next, up to a builder, working on the renovations, sees a mysterious face causing him to fall from some scaffolding. Cue much blood and screaming.

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Continuing with the building work, a plumber comes to fix the flooded basement. He discovers a secret room. Suddenly a monstrous claw shoots from mud and claws his face, slowly pulling his eye from its socket.

A strange, blind woman appears and gives a warning for the new owner to leave the hotel.

Acid falls on a woman’s face as her daughter watches. The daughter tries to escape the acid as it pools across the floor. She opens a door to reveal approaching zombies who reach for her.

The blind woman touches the warlock’s painting causing her hands to bleed.

The hotel owner sees the corpse of the warlock nailed to a bathroom wall. Blood pours from the brickwork.

A man falls from a library ladder. Tarantulas slowly surround his prone body, crawl all over him and messily devour his flesh, biting out his tongue and stabbing their fangs into his eyes.

A hotel hand unblocks the bath in the haunted Room 36. The draining water reveals a zombie that slowly rises and grabs her face. It pushes the back of her skull into a nail on the wall. The nail is forced out through her eye socket, pushing out her eyeball.

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Zombies surround the blind woman in her house. Her dog attacks them before turning on her. He rips her throat out and tears her ear from her skull.

A woman gets attacked by a zombie in the basement.

The hotel shakes and water turn to blood, making a couple flee.

The couple is surrounded by zombies in a hospital. Brandishing a gun, the man shoots many in the head, but the undead is too numerous.

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A window shatters causing the glass to fly through the air, hitting another man in the face and killing him as it slices into his skin.

Zombies corner the couple, now with a child.

The child violently turns on the couple but is halted when the man viscously shoots her in the face. (makes me cheer every single time)

Fleeing from the zombies, the couple finds themselves back in the basement. Heading towards a light they find themselves in the landscape from the warlock’s painting. Looking around, the basement and hotel have disappeared. They are trapped in hell!
They run into the void with the last shot showing us they have both been blinded.

END!
Phew!

So as you can see there is no messing around with this film. No awkward sex scenes to fill time, or reams of stilted dialogue to advance a convoluted plot. It is simplicity, brilliantly executed, and guaranteed to provide you all the thrills and kills you could want from this high-water mark in over the top, glorious Italian horror.

What more could you want a fun-filled Halloween night?
Exactly.
Trust me.
Make a date with The Beyond.

megreen

J.R. Park is an author of horror fiction and co-founder of the publishing imprint the Sinister Horror Company. He has currently written four books: Terror Byte, Punch, Upon Waking and The Exchange, as well as appearing in a number of short story anthologies. Arthouse, pulp, and exploitation alike inform his inspirations, as well as misheard conversations, partially remembered childhood terrors and cheese before sleep. He currently resides in Bristol, UK. Find out more at JRPark.co.uk and SinisterHorrorCompany.com

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The Evil Dead: a 34 year review

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Before we walk through the woods and enter the cabin, I’d like to take a moment and recognize Sam Raimi. Today is his birthday. Born this day in 1959, Sam has held a distinguished career. He’s directed numerous horror pictures adored by many twisted people and non-twisted people alike, worldwide. He’s got a fan base reaching from the dark Necronomicon fueled world of Evil Dead (1981) all the way past Darkman (1990) into the comic book world of Spider-man (which is still considered by many as the best film adaption to date). He’s even directed a little known western called, The Quick and the Dead (1995). He’s dabbled in television, and I’m not just talking about the highly anticipated return of everyone’s favorite chainsaw welding sassy hero in Ash Vs. The Evil Dead (2015), but also the short lived 90s shows, M.A.N.T.I.S and Legend of the Seeker. And he has also produced some amazing and totally underrated horror flicks, including both 30 Days of Night (2007) and The Possession (2012). And this is just a tip of the iceberg. Sam Raimi, in my humble opinion, is an amazing storyteller, not without his faults. His vision has a unique blend of terror and comedy that is often precarious to mix. Many couldn’t quite jive with his return to form with Drag Me to Hell (2009) with its strange formula of laughs and jolts of absolute fear…well, all but the true die hard fans. I actually loved Drag Me to Hell. It was wonderfully sadistic! In celebrating the macabre directors birthday, I thought it was high-time I reviewed his most legendary and longest lasting cult film, The Evil Dead (1981).

Longest lasting cult classic…? What does even mean? More to point, longest lasting, as in a franchise property in which is still being watched, talked about, and continued, to date. Sam’s Spider-man days are over. There are no more westerns. No more trips to hell. No more over the top 90s television action. No more blown apart scientists with one heck of an anger management problem. His one true lasting cult creation, is Ash and those demon bastards in The Evil Dead. I’m sure you’re thinking, “What a sec? Wasn’t there a remake of Evil Dead?” And though this as nothing to do with our discussion, I do have this to say, there was and there wasn’t. Confused? Good!

We can debate this all day long, and I’ve been in a few conversations on social media about this subject, but in my opinion, Evil Dead (2013) was not a remake or reboot. It was simply another “cabin in the woods, kids find Necronomicon” movie. The 2013 misadventure kept to the familiar themes of the original while maintaining its own story arch and more gritty vibe. To me, that spells continuity, the continuation of the “Evil Dead” mythology through a new cast of characters. Hell, it was even rumored (and still is) that Ash will team up with Mia in some future (probably never going to happen) film. How could they team up if Mia’s story was a reboot of the original? They couldn’t, simple enough. Thus, Evil Dead (2013) was not a reboot of The Evil Dead (1981).  It would be easier to argue The Evil Dead 2 as a reboot of the first film then it would the 2013 film. Just saying…stop arguing with me!!!

Again…I’m getting really far off topic here. Can we talk about just The Evil Dead (1981) for a moment?

Okay then!

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The Evil Dead first released to theaters in October 1981. It was a low budget film with a no name cast of teenaged-twenty-somethings, shot on 16mm film in the woods of Tennessee for around $350,000. Though not the first “cabin in the woods” horror movie, you could probably give that credit to either Equinox (1970) or The Red House (1947), but you could make a strong argument that The Evil Dead solidified “the cabin” as a pop trope in horror stories.  The plot is easy to follow. A group of friends head out to a lonely cabin in the woods for a little R&R. The place is dilapidated, albeit cozy.  Its a celebration of friendship and perhaps even a little romance, despite the third wheel. But there’s a eerie presence in the cabin. Strange sounds in the cellar. The boys investigate and discover a nasty looking book and a tape recorder, among other things (including a poster of The Hills Have Eyes on the wall). They play the recording and the archaeologist on the tape recites some of the words he’d translated from the Necronomicon. His incantation awakens something dark and demonic in the forest surrounding the cabin. One by one, Ash (Bruce Campbell) watches his friends get possessed. Before daybreak, he must find a way to survive…or meet the same fate as his friends.

The Evil Dead captures, for me, the potential for horror. I’m talking more in film probably then storytelling, though in storytelling itself you cannot find a more perfect and basic trope to work with than the “cabin in the woods.” As for film, though, The Evil Dead demonstrates the power of low-budget horror with a list of no-name actors but over-the-top effects. I guess today we’d call these indie films, or independent to be frank. Horror, in its long life, seems to have thrived better as independent and low-budgeted. Directors and cast members and producers have to rely on cost effective means, focusing on mood and tension, and maximizing production budgets as much as humanly, sanely possible. And when it comes to horror, such as this film, at a glance they’d need to used more of the budget on practical effects than anything else. The effects for me are what count. Good storytelling, that’s a given. But you’re trying to sale me on horror, you gotta bring the practical gore.

Some might say the effects in The Evil Dead look cheesy, and maybe some parts do nowadays. But in my book, given the budget restraints, The Evil Dead looked and still looks amazingly graphic. Shaky steady-cam and all the buckets of blood. A fantastic wonderland of dark imagery and terror and perhaps even a little humor.

The story isn’t complicated and that’s a good thing. It is friendship and love pitted against the fear of the unknown, the evil taking possession of those closest to us. Not every horror story needs to have some complex AHS plot. Add the practical gore with the simple story, and that’ll give you one hell of an entertaining need to watch movie.

My Rating: 5/5