Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2: A favorite in Slaughter town
As little girls our mother allowed us to watch the first Texas Chainsaw Massacre, being all of maybe nine years old we were terrified (and, yes, probably too young to watch it but our mom’s awesome like that). The thoughts of some psycho cannibal family living in an old farm house in Texas, hacking unsuspecting people to death and then consuming them definitely reached a higher level on the horror meter than some of the classics we had been previously exposed to and yet there was an element to it that really drew us in. That man behind the skin mask, not speaking a word yet saying so much to us, he won our hearts forever.
Flash forward a few years when we are on the cusp of becoming teenagers, the precious years when other girls are like totally concerned with regular girl things like makeup and stylish clothing, it was then that the young Sisters of Slaughter were reintroduced to a certain family of cannibals in the form of a sequel, a horror comedy that helped shape their twisted senses of humor, one that is celebrated in Slaughter Town like a national holiday. Continue Reading
And thus we have arrived. Sadly, I must say, The Mummy’s Curse will be the last of the Mummy movies to be reviewed here on this series. It is very sad. The mummy character has been one of my favorites during Universal Monsters in Review, starting of course with Boris Karloff as the original Mum in The Mummy (1932). The Mummy’s Curse (1944) is certainly not the last we’ll see of the cursed Egyptian priest. Lest we not forget, there was a resurgence of classic monsters back in the 1960s and 70s with those darling UK Hammer productions staring, typically, Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. Marvelous films those were. On today’s agenda, of course, we look back to the last time Lon Chaney will be forced through hours of prosthetic makeup and wardrobe. As with The Mummy’s Ghost, also released in 1944, the performances were kicked up a notch, as was the storytelling. The Mummy’s Curse was set upon a simple and easy to follow trajectory. No lazy appearances this time around, the mummy is actually unearthed from the swamp in which he fled at the end of The Mummy’s Ghost. Along of course with damsel the stereotypical damsel in distress Amina Mansouri, played by the beautiful Ramsay Ames in the last film, now replaced by Virginia Christine, in which he took with him into a watery grave. If you remember, at the end of The Mummy’s Ghost, Amina was kidnapped by the mummy and used to resurrect the soul of Princess Ananka, or she was a reincarnation of her, its hard to say exactly. Here we find the same tragedy, Amina is not quite herself, nor is she quite Ananka either. And for this, I applaud The Mummy’s Curse, for the curse is not really so much about the mummy Kharis, but rather, about Amina Mansouri and Princess Ananka, an innocent bystander who is thrust into this nightmarish world, and with Ananka, a princess who died naturally. There are some other elements with The Mummy’s Curse that I have not seen, or have seen rarely, in other Universal films during this era. What I’m referring to is Napoleon Simpson playing the role of Goobie (ugh), a very stereotypical “massa” and “sho’ ’nuff” style African American. His character was not comedic, nor was he useful in carrying the plot. Only in so much as screaming and running around crying for help. But again, we have to remember the era in which this film was made. Segregation was still the law, aka Jim Crow. And women could not vote. Homosexuality was also considered a crime. It doesnt make it right, but we also cannot expect to take a 1940s American film and judge it by modern standards. When looking at a historic film, one must remain (as much as possible) objective. Okay…I’ve seemed to ramble on quite a bit here. Let us venture forth and see what our esteemed guest has to say regarding The Mummy’s Curse.
The Mummy’s Curse (1944)
By Pembroke Sinclair
I’ve been struggling with where to start this review. It’s not that the movie was terrible, but it wasn’t exactly stellar, either. This film was pretty short, coming in at 1 hour long. Not a whole heck of a lot happened in that time, except that the mummy rose from the dead, killed a few people, then was defeated. There wasn’t much time for characters to be fleshed out, so I didn’t really feel for any of them.
Racial stereotypes ran rampant throughout the film, although my first impression was that I was impressed that several different cultures were portrayed. The film takes place in the swamps of Louisiana. Of course, the white man has come in and is planning to drain it for irrigation purposes, and when the workers refuse to work because of rumors about the mummy, he takes on an I-know-best attitude to get them to finish. As you can imagine, this leads to death and murder.
From a surficial viewing of this film, it wasn’t anything special. There weren’t any jump scares, and the storyline actually confused me just a bit. Kharis (the mummy) was punished in his previous life (thousands of years ago in Egypt) because he was trying to raise his love (Princess Anaka) from the dead. I couldn’t really follow the story of his punishment, but some slaves were killed and he was buried alive and forced to be the guardian of the princess’s tomb.
There was something about special leaves that could bring the dead back to life, and that was what Kharis stole from the gods to bring Anaka back. After he was caught, they buried him with those leaves—and I’m not really sure why. I mean, if they have that power, why make it readily available to someone who might have inclinations to raise the dead? But when does horror always make sense?
Anyway, this story takes place 25 years after Kharis sunk in some quicksand (I’m assuming this happens in a previous movie, but I didn’t see it, so I don’t know). Kharis is raised from the dead from some priests so that he can find his princess, who also happens to be buried somewhere in the swamp. (She’s unearthed later by a bulldozer.)
So, in addition to the workers who are trying to drain the swamps, there are also archaeologists who are looking for the sarcophagi so that they can go to a museum. But one of these scientists (Ragheb) is looking for them so he can send them back to Egypt so that the dead can rest in peace. He’s the one who raises Kharis so that he can find Anaka. It sounds noble, for sure, but t becomes violent because Ragheb tells Kharis that he can kill whoever gets in his way while looking for Anaka. And, as you can imagine, people do, so they get strangled.
I became confused about a couple things. 1) Why did Princess Anaka retain her beauty after bathing in the river? Why didn’t she looked like hammered hell like Kharis? 2) If she was Kharis’s true love, why was she so afraid of him? There were indications that she was looking for him also—she would fall into a trance and repeat his name over and over—but when he showed up, she would freak out and run. 3) The love story between Dr. Ilzor Zandaab and Betty felt tacked on. I get that it needed to be there as a juxtaposition between Kharis and Anaka, but it needed to be developed.
This also might play into the point about the film, however. The title is The Mummy’s Curse, and he was punished because he was trying to reunite with his true love. In this film, he can’t resurrect himself, and humans have to intervene by giving him his potion of leaves. In a sense, he becomes a pawn to be used by whoever resurrects him. And perhaps Anaka not recognizing him and running away in fear is also part of his curse. He’s forever trying to possess something he can’t have.
Sure, he kills and is a walking corpse, but is he really that bad? Would he kill if he wasn’t instructed to? Is he truly the monster in the film or is it the others around him?
There were a few things that surprised me: the women in the film had some stereotypical roles (fainting and needing to be rescued), but they also had some powerful roles. For example, Betty on multiple occasions talks back to her uncle and lets him know how she feels about things. Anaka is shown using a microscope and expresses her knowledge about ancient Egyptian culture—mainly because she had lived through it, but she doesn’t remember that at the time.
While this film isn’t something I’d watch again for pure entertainment, I believe that there are some deeper meanings hidden within the text. Like all horror films, there is social commentary buried beneath the surface, and I’d watch it again to find these commentaries and figure out what they are saying.
Pembroke Sinclair is a literary jack of all trades, playing her hand at multiple genres. She has written an eclectic mix of fiction ranging from horror to sci-fi and even some westerns. Born in Rock Springs, Wyoming–the home of 56 nationalities–it is no wonder Pembroke ended up so creatively diverse. Her fascination with the notions of good and evil, demons and angels, and how the lines blur have inspired her writing. Pembroke lives in Laramie, Wyoming, with her husband, two spirited boys, a black lab named Ryder, and a rescue kitty named Alia, who happens to be the sweetest, most adorable kitty in the world! She cannot say no to dessert, orange soda, or cinnamon. She loves rats and tatts and rock and roll and wants to be an alien queen when she grows up. You can learn more about Pembroke Sinclair by visiting her at pembrokesinclair.blogspot.com. You can follow the very talented Pembroke on Facebook Amazon Twitter Or at her blog.
The Wolf Man has become over the years one of my favorite Universal monsters. Larry Talbot has to be the single most tragic character to ever grace the silver (no pun intended) screen. Curt Siodmak, a Jewish immigrant from Germany, wrote the screenplay for The Wolf Man and several other monster movies and even into the 1950s science fiction era. Given the times and his heritage, I wonder if he had more than a few themes in mind for this horror story. The Wolf Man mythos has Greek tragedy written all over. An innocent, somewhat oblivious, man is cursed with lycanthropy, an uncontrollable transformation from man to wolf. He’s as much a victim as he is a monster. There’s a book written by Siodmak, which I have shamefully not read yet, detailing his creation of the Wolf Man. I am curious how the events of Nazism and WWII and being forced to immigrate to the U.S. impacted his perception of freedom and of humanism. But I’ve yarned on long enough. We’ve got a special guest writer today to tell us a bit about this amazing and haunting movie. Shall we see what Mr. X has to say about The Wolf Man?
When the Wolfbane Blooms
By: Jeffery X. Martin
There’s not a whole lot you can say about a 75 year old movie that hasn’t already been said, but The Wolf Man, a movie which has spawned more bastard children than Mick Jagger, remains so vital, so heart-wrenching, that it deserves to be seen by everyone who has grown up with only Landis and Dante’s version of lycanthropy.
George Waggner’s direction is solid and downright artsy in some scenes. His gorgeous shot inside the town church is utterly breathtaking in its contrast and shadowplay. Who needs color? This black and white work is sublime. He also has an almost symbiotic bond with low-lying fog, a standard element of every werewolf picture to follow.
It’s also right and proper to pour some out for Jack Pierce, the pioneering make-up artist who created the werewolf makeup. He also created the original make-up work for the Frankenstein monster and the Mummy. He may not have been well-liked around the studio, but he was responsible for the looks of almost all of what we think of as the “classic” monsters.
But the heart of The Wolf Man is Curt Siodmak. I know… of course, the writer is going to give credit to the writer. Blood sings to blood and all that. The fact is Siodmak, who was sort of the Rod Serling of his time, wrote a rock-solid script. Lon Chaney pulls off the role of Larry Talbot, who really is just a poor lunkhead, with great aplomb.
There’s stuff in this movie you couldn’t get away with now, like how Larry spies on the girl he likes with a telescope. Stalker! But he’s such a schmoe, such an awkward guy, you can’t help but root for him. You want him to take some power for himself and not be such a noodge.
When he finally gets a bit of that power, and becomes a werewolf, he’s shocked at his own behavior. He doesn’t want to own that kind of personal growth. If Larry has a fatal flaw, it isn’t that he becomes a werewolf when the wolfbane blooms and the gypsies come to town. It’s his humanity that makes him a classic tragic character. He realizes that he’s doomed. He always has been. In a world where the attitude is, as Richard Nixon said, “Fuck the doomed,” he’s never going to get what he wants. No sweetheart, no place as a pillar of the community, no joy. The old gypsy woman was right when she said, “Tears run to a predestined place.”
That gorgeous line is true for all of us. We’re all doomed. We’re all Larry Talbot, awkward and weak in some areas. If we really had some crazy power, would we use it the best way we could, or would we just wish it away? The real question The Wolf Man asks is not, “What is it like to be a werewolf?”
The Wolf Man asks all of us, “What does it mean to be human?”
Jeffery X. Martin, or Mr. X to you, is the published author of several stories that are sure to shock, including those in the Elder’s Keep universe and Tarotsphere. He also published a fantastic tale in The Black Room Manuscripts. You can find his work on Amazon. When Mr. X is not writing creep mind-benders, he’s the host and/or contributor to several podcasts and blogs, including, but not limited to, Pop Shiftier and Kiss the Goat.
Drearily this past week, we were privy to our first taste of authors contributing to The Black Room Manuscripts regarding their favorite books. When it comes to writing, one must read. No, seriously. To showcase a range of talent, you have to be a “prolific reader.” Not only in our own genre of choice but also in other genres. And when it comes to horror writers, we are often found to have a wide assortment of favorite books we like to keep on our shelves. Research for knowledge and information we can tap into to help shape our own stories. So to keep things interesting and to be a bit villainess, I’ve asked my guests to tell us what their two favorite books are and why. That’s right. You heard me. Only two!!! (laughs manically). So, without further ado, here is D.K. Ryan
When Thomas S. Flowers asked me to name my two favourite books and why, it was the same as asking which of my children I love best.
Being the owner of close to four thousand books, along with a growing collection on my Kindle, the question is anything but simple. My reading life started out with horror, but along the way I’ve also enjoyed many, Thrillers, Crime, Sci-Fi and Fantasy, the latter of which I love almost as much as the blood and gore that regularly slips through my fingers.
So how does a person wean out a possible two from such an enormous collection? Well. I have to be practical, I have to be honest, and more than anything, I have to take you right back to where it all started. I could have sat back and chosen horror all day long to fill this very short list but if I did that I’d be a fake and the actual reason for my choices would never be known.
As I said above, my reading life started late, nineteen to be exact, and using a book for anything other than to prop up a wonky leg on a table seemed ridiculous and certainly a waste of time, for a young party animal like myself.
Then something strange happened. My brother, who was the total opposite and found joy sitting for hours in his own head, left a copy of James Herbert’s, The Dark on a chair in our bedroom. Thinking that I could use it for no good, I picked it up and for whatever reason, I opened it and started to read. Over the next few hours, the horror within, ignited something. The scenes that were obviously fictitious, didn’t matter, because to me they were real, and I wanted more. My arrogance had completely disappeared along with my ignorance, and in their place, a revelation took place, one, I’m pleased to say, has never left. I became a person who looked at books the same way my brother did, using them to transport me off to different lands and for a long time, the outside world failed to exist. So for that reason, The Dark is the first of my two.
The second is again down to my brother. He became my unofficial go to guy when I wanted something new to read. It had become like a drug. Nothing else could satisfy my cravings more than paper and words. This time it was Terry Brooks who shared his work with the recently converted.
In 1986 he released a book called, Kingdom for sale, his first in what was to become the Landover series, about a Chicago lawyer, who’s lost his way and is bored with life and where it’s taking him. He comes across an advert claiming a kingdom is being sold for the sum of one million dollars. Ben, (the lawyer) has lost his wife and unborn child in a car accident and with nothing to lose takes up the offer to buy and rule this magical kingdom.
This book for me, held something more than, The Dark. It combined both real world and fantasy world, and the struggles of a skeptic, coming to terms with his loss while at the same time asking himself if he really ‘has’ lost it and needs to be locked up for good.
I’m pleased to say that I’ve accumulated quite a collection of Terry Brooks’s work, as well as James Herbert. There are so many more books I could have chosen, and in time I hope to share them all. For now, a more fitting question would have been to name my top one hundred. But Thomas is a writer of horror and somewhat twisted himself, hence the difficult task of naming just two.
Though, I’m happy to say, that what this has done is take me back and remember how those two books made me feel. They made me feel comfortable, and in a sense, relieved, that I’d finally found something, in reading that is as strong today as it was in a quiet bedroom reading, The Dark.
I want to thank D.K. Ryan for taking the time and letting us know a bit about his favorite two books and the history behind his choices. D.K. Ryan is the author of two Zombie Rodent Tales (Egor and the Cruise Ship Nasty, and Egor and the Ouzo Taverna) and a soon to be re-released novel, Family Perfect. But D.K. Ryan is probably best known for his spectacular work on Dead as Hell Horror Podcast with his book review segment, Paper cuts. D.K. Ryan also co-pilots Horror Worlds, a site dedicated to helping promote up and coming horror authors.