IMDB Entry – Prince of Darkness
I forgot to mention that in addition to the Anthology mini festival this years Halloween Film Festival also includes a John Carpenter End of Days mini festival. Prince of Darkness was the second installment, although due to technical difficulties I’m showing it third. It doesn’t matter because the 3 films are not related they just deal with potential end of the world as we know it invasions. In case you haven’t been keeping track; The Thing was a catastrophe narrowly averted but we weren’t so lucky with In The Mouth Of Madness.
I have to say, I’m surprised that Carpenter was able to secure funding to make Prince of Darkness. Sure he was at the top of the game at the time but the “monster” is a gallon of green liquid inside something that seems to be a cross between a lava lamp and a blender. It’s supposed to be the essence of the devil but it could just as easily be the first batch of moonshine. I could see all the guys in the tribe getting wasted and the women declaring the brew the essence of the devil. Maybe that’s what the studio executives thought too.
The plot of Prince of Darkness is a dilly. A priest dies and everyone learns he has been guarding one of the churches deepest secrets. The new priest reads the diary and calls on the local college professor expert on really old stuff. The professor gathers his top students and a technical team to spend the weekend inside an old church studying something or other. When they get there they see the jug of green liquid and hear the story about it being Satan himself. The jug squirts a couple of people turning them into zombies. Meanwhile Alice Cooper has gathered a gang outside the church and the’re looking for trouble.
Despite the silly plot, Prince of Darkness is a pretty good film. Sure it’s a reworking of The Exorcist, but sort of different. Donald Plesence shines as the currently responsible priest. The music by John Carpenter really sets the mood and the pace. The camera work, lighting and editing are top notch. It’s a suspenseful film from beginning to end. Prince of Darkness even has an ending that involves a human sacrifice by a priest and it works. And I do love those 80’s hair and clothing styles.
Prince of Darkness
IMDB Entry – Baskin
It’s been a while since I had a recommendation form my friend The Countess Of Crummy Movies but Baskin was worth the wait. Don’t let her title fool you, it takes a certain amount of skill and dedication to completely pass on every mainstream movie in order to track down these obscure gems. Thank you Countess. Baskin is a recent delight from Turkey. From what I was able to gather, much of Baskin was filmed guerrilla style, that is without permits. Sometimes that type of “hurry up and shoot before the man arrives” leads to crappy movies but in this instance the tension felt by the film crew carried over into the film itself.
Make no mistake, Baskin is a weird movie. On the weirdness scale, it probably comes in at about a 7. Anything over a 7 is typically too bizarre to make any sense of. There is something of a circular plot and a couple of dream sequences. The director throws in a little upside down photography and a pair of giant hands just so you get the idea. By far the weirdest aspect to Baskin is the lead villain, Father. The guy is a dead ringer for the old comic strip character Henry … on steroids. If you don’t believe me, then check this out.
Five Turkish police officers are drinking in an out of the way restaurant. One of them decides to beat the crap out of the waiter just for something to do. The others think it’s funny. They leave when they get called to a crime scene nearby. While driving to the crime scene they apparently take a left turn and end up in … The Twilight Zone. Strange things start happening and the next thing you know, they’ve been captured by the strangest looking cult I’ve ever scene. Father Henry explains that they are in Hell or at least that’s what I think he said.
On the plus side, I could follow the plot of Baskin. Also the movie presented some naturally unusual looking characters like the guy at the campfire with the long sagging face and his pinhead friend. Father’s assistant, the tall, effeminate guy in blanket was entertaining without even speaking a word. On the negative side, Baskin is one gross movie. The cult consisted of a bunch of naked people with plastic bags over their faces , covered in blood, mud or something else having group sex at all times. This is not a picture for the squeamish, but then again the Countess never recommends easy movies.
IMDB Entry – The Beast with Five Fingers
What’s that? You say I haven’t shown a good crawling hand movie in a while. Well how about The Beast With Five Fingers. It’s one of the best horror films from the 1940’s and it’s from Warner Brothers Studios not Universal. In typical 1940’s fashion, the film makers almost ruin the movie by providing a “logical” explanation. Then they follow it up with a little bit of comic relief before running the credits. But up until the final 5 minutes The Beast With Five Fingers is a gripping tale.
Peter Lorre steals the film as the obvious villain. Lorre had an interesting career that features many highlights in mainstream movies like The Maltese Falcon, Casablanca and My Favorite Brunette. He also occasionally crossed over into horror in films like M, Mad Love and of course The Beast With Five Fingers. He kept busy in the 60’s appearing on TV shows like Voyage To The Bottom of The Sea and Rawhide. Eventually he hooked up with Vincent Price and Roger Corman to appear in The Raven, Tales of Terror and A Comedy of Terrors. In The Beast With Five Fingers as in just about all of his roles, he plays a creep.
The Beast With Five Fingers is the story of a one handed piano player. The guy is rich and famous and in poor health. His best friend is a con artist. The sick due has a nurse and he changes his will to leave everything to her. The con artist has been putting the moves on the nurse. Peter Lorre is the faithful secretary who wants to inherit a library of rare books. The one armed piano player has an accident and dies. His heirs show up and dispute the new will. Then a hand shows up and starts choking people.
The Beast With Five Fingers is the best of the “crawling hand” movies and it deserves it’s place in the Hand Movie Hall Of Fame. There’s something about a disembodied hand finger walking around killing people that makes those movies sound way better than they actually all. I guess the hand on a rampage is good for a couple of minutes and then the ridiculousness of the situation takes over. After all you’d have pretty much have to lie on the floor and offer your neck in order to be killed by a malicious mitt. Even so The Beast With Five Fingers deserves a high five!
The Beast with Five Fingers
IMDB Entry – The Wolfman
Mid October seems like the perfect time for a werewolf film. The Wolfman is a recent big budget remake of a classic that is long overdue for a festival showing. This version stays relatively faithful to the original until it doesn’t. That said, it’s a nice attempt to retell the story of Lawrence Talbot in a manner that audiences under 60 might appreciate. Don’t worry, this version of The Wolfman is not in black and white. It’s in a muted color format that works really well at recreating the look of the Universal version but still providing full color. Although the Hammer films look great, I always had to wonder where the local tailors found such a wide variety of patterns and colors of fabric.
The Wolfman actually credits Curt Siomak, the screen writer of the original version as the source for the film. They even start the movie with Curt’s classic “Even a man who is pure at heart, and says his prayers by night, may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright”. Like the original, Lawrence Talbot returns home, meets a girl, encounters gypsies, gets bitten by a “wolf” and becomes a werewolf. That part is quite well done. The action and transformation scenes far surpass the original.
After that the role of Lord Talbot becomes more significant in this version. Claude Reins played the original wolf dad and he played it like a concerned aristocratic father. Anthony Hopkins gets the role here and he plays the role like Anthony Hopkins. He acts like a nut job for most of the story. The Lord Talbot role is bigger this time around and provides a lead in to a really good werewolf vs. werewolf throw down. After that the villagers show up in time for a quick finish in typical Universal style.
The Wolfman is a very good attempt to rework a great film. The film makers get straight A’s on all of the technical aspects and the action sequences are top notch. The werewolves look great. Talbot manor is impressively old and spooky looking. I’ll admit I wasn’t crazy about the changes to Lord Talbot but that’s minor. My big complaint with The Wolfman is lead actor Benicio Del Toro. Unbelievably, he has far less charisma than Lon Chaney Jr., an actor famous for being uncharismatic. Del Toro has the same blank expression from start to finish. At least Jr. knew how to smile.
IMDB Entry – Thirst
I spotted the film Thirst on Netflix some time ago but never bothered renting it. The premise of a priest becoming a vampire sounded like it would be the story of a “good” vampire. I should have checked closer. After watching the excellent The Handmaiden, by South Korean director Chan-wook Park, I noticed that Thirst was one of his films. I knew right away that I had misjudged the movie as Park never does mainstream ideas. True to form, Thirst is not a typical vampire movie by any definition.
Thirst takes place in South Korea where a Catholic priest volunteers to take part in an experiment that may help to identify a cure for a mysterious illness. Naturally, the experiment fails and the priest is infected. He grows a bunch of really ugly boils on his face, spits up blood and seems to die. To everyone’s surprise he recovers and many people believe he can cure the sick. It doesn’t take long until the priest notices that he needs a steady supply of blood to keep the boils off his face. He raids the hospital blood bank and even sets up a counseling service for terminally ill patients so he can get their blood.
A woman spots the priest and begs him to cure her son. He visits their home and it turns out he knows the family from childhood. The son starts feeling better. The son has a wife who is treated as the family slave. The wife seduces the priest and the two of them engage in some wild sex. The wife tricks the priest into killing her husband. The mother has a stroke. The priest turns the wife into a vampire. Unfortunately, she enjoys killing and goes on a spree.
Yes, Thirst breaks all kinds of taboo’s regarding Catholic priests. I noticed that South Korean films are willing to explore topics that are typically off limits in American movies. Chan-wook Park excels at making movies that are interesting as well as provocative. I’d highly recommend watching either Lady Vengeance or Oldboy and I don’t mean the Spike Lee Version. Both films deal with extreme revenge and topics too hot for Hollywood. The Spike Lee Oldboy was a remake of Chan-wook Park’s film but Lee’s version was heavily toned down to be inoffensive. It’s rare that talent and a willingness to offend merge this gracefully.