Contrib | Varied Celluloid - Page 2


Posted by Josh Samford On October - 27 - 2011
Review by Prof. Aglaophotis

Axe (1977)
Director: Frederick R. Friedel
Writers: Frederick R. Friedel
Starring: Leslie Lee, Jack Canon and Ray Green

The Plot: Our story begins with three criminals: Steele, Lomax and Billy. Steel and Lomax are two well-dressed violent thugs; while Steele is the leader and Lomax is the wheelman, Billy is just along for the ride. One night, after beating a man to death, the three take off to hide from the authorities until the heat blows over. They drive into the countryside and seek shelter in the farm house of Lisa and her grandfather. Lisa is a quiet teenage girl looking after her equally quiet wheelchair bound grandfather. The three men settle in with their trigger fingers ready. While a violence-shaken Billy clearly wants to escape from his cohorts, Lisa finds herself hiding behind lies and preparing for the worst as she tries to defend herself from the two violent men with her only moral support being her own twisted psyche.

The Review
I sometimes wonder if the days of the Herschell Gordon-Lewis/Drive-In Horror movies should have really died out. I know I’m not the only person who appreciates such styles of film, and I know others in the modern day have emulated the ‘70’s Drive-In Horror movies as well. However, there’s this rare Gothic feel to some of those movies I haven’t seen in what feels like forever; the kind of rural, psychological atmosphere that is captured with the help of a creepy, yet attractive, Southern State home and an equally creepy and attractive lead female. Such an atmosphere is captured in movies like Kiss of the Tarantula, Don’t Open the Door and today’s film, the surprisingly brutal Axe. Unfortunately, while present, the atmosphere is quickly lost due to the poor writing and editing choices… and the fact that this is a ‘70’s Drive-In Horror film.

Axe is a functional, yet oddly arranged movie that has a fittingly dark, bleak personality. Our main characters consist of three criminals who eventually meet up with our heroine, Lisa, and the events that transpire before and during the encounters makes for some top-notch exploitation. The movie opens with what can only be described as a Mafia style Gay Bashing, which is shocking in itself but is intensified given the build-up and well-shot brutality of it all. I have to say, Axe has its share of subtle but disturbing, and sometimes even vile, imagery. There’s one part where Lisa slaughters a chicken and she keeps its headless body near the sink for a really long time. The last shot we see of that sink, after the mess Lisa makes out of it, is enough to make me cringe just thinking about it. The director really played up the dark grittiness within the movie, and I honestly can’t help but commend him for it. This guy took his characters, found his actors, looked at the settings and said: “How can I make this movie disturbing as Hell?” The characters in the movie are all pretty memorable too, especially considering how sadistic they are.

What I love about the main character Lisa is that we don’t get into her back story. There’s a lot of unknown stuff about her, like why she’s alone with her grandfather, how she makes a living in the house (I’ll bet she lives off of grandpa’s Veteran/retirement pay), where her parents are, why she’s so messed up or what drove her that way. Lisa is one big mystery, and it makes her a scary presence here as intended. Played by little known actress Leslie Lee, Lisa is played convincingly enough as a responsible, but clearly insane, girl in a bleak mundane world. There’s only one instance where we remotely get into Lisa’s perspective and it’s probably the best, yet oddest, scene in the movie. The scene I am speaking of shows her locking herself in the bathroom, and just staring at herself in the mirror.

The characters of Steele and Lomax are very entertaining, and both are surprisingly well acted. The two are violent, well dressed, heavy smoking, perverted bastards who bring chaos with them everywhere they go. Now, a bad actor could make these villains seem cartoonish, and their actions would simply seem like feeble excuses for the audience to hate them. Jack Canon and Ray Green on the other hand come across as genuinely intimidating thugs and disgusting criminals, yet they manage to be lively characters in the process. They kind of remind me of the two thugs at the beginning of Cronenberg’s A History of Violence.

Billy, on the other hand… well, he’s no Junior Stillo. Played by the movie’s director, Billy is supposed to be the gentle thug starting out fresh in a life of vague crime, and not liking it much. However, it’s hard to sympathize with the kid: He shows very little emotion and despite trying to sound concerned ends up sounding bored throughout the movie. He has some physical range, but he doesn’t do much beyond sitting around. It’s like watching James Franco play a heartfelt, family-first scientist; the character depth is there, the actor just isn’t selling it. Maybe if the actor was younger it would be more effective, or maybe it’s the beard matched with that silly afro wig, dunno. I will say though, Billy is his most convincing as a character near the end of the movie when he finds out what happened to one of his cohorts. It’s a realistic verbal moment correlated to a mental breakdown I always like to see in Horror movies and the director plays it fairly well.

The cinematography isn’t too bad, as there are a lot of good shots and imagery. There are moments where the camera bobs too noticeably, however, and there are a lot of dark spots where the lighting fails to elucidate. The movie has an easy pace to it, but the flow is broken up by awkward editing choices. In one scene, Steele and Lomax are eating in the kitchen but Billy runs out. The two chase after him as he runs around the barn with some urgency in their actions. The next scene after that is of Billy and Lisa in the house, with Billy calmly apologizing to her. That scene is quickly followed by all five characters in the TV room. It would’ve been more efficient if they had simply faded out at the end of every scene to tell us that some time elapsed. It kind of reminds me of the transition in Hell of the Living Dead where Lt. Mike London’s squad jump from a completed mission in Spain to a parachuted jeep in New Guinea: new scene, just like that! It’s also funny how useless that scene is, because Billy’s clothes change color as he runs away!

I’ve called this movie violent, but it never goes as far as most Herschell Gordon Lewis movies. The gore effects really come down to just fake blood, off-screen hacking and one dead chicken. All of which is fine until we reach a scene that actually requires some gore effects, but instead we see a re-used shot of the now dead character from when he was being killed. And I’m not talking Tom Savini gore requisites here, that shot could have easily just been of the actor sticking his head out of fake blood and torn clothes! Also, I love how the back of a character’s neck is slashed with a knife, but it has the same affect as though the knife cut their throat. It’s especially funny how the slashed character screams multiple times in the middle of the night, and this brings NO attention to the sleeping criminals.

The soundtrack can be a little annoying at times due to its choice instruments. The title and main theme of the movie consist of some kind of flat wind instrument that gets painful to listen to, fast. In some cases, the instrument makes some of the subtly weird moments of the movie sour, like when Lisa is caring for her grandad. Sometimes even the most intense bongo drumming, or triangle tapping, sounds right, but is usually off cue. Overall though, the soundtrack manages to be effective throughout with its combined use of a rattling tambourine, thudding bongos and bass synth tone. An attempted rape scene is made especially hectic and frightening with the simultaneous clash of every instrument.

The only genuine problem I found with this movie is the abrupt and rather out of place ending. It comes up out of nowhere, offers no closure and only serves to raise more questions than the movie needs; in context, it feels like the kind of ending Coleman Francis would come up with. Hell, S.F. Brownrigg could write a better ending complete with all the lacking closure and lingering questions at the end. The movie itself is only 68 minutes long and the movie creeps past the sixty minute mark due to the extra long opening and ending credits. Was it really that hard to come up with a cohesive ending to this??

But oh, Axe just wouldn’t be complete without some extras, would it? Brought to us by Something Weird Video, the movie comes packed with theatrical trailers for the movie under its several alternate titles (the funniest has got to be the one for Lisa, Lisa) as well as trailers for other movies. Oddly enough, the movie also comes with two Archival Shorts, one of which you’d expect to see on MST3K. Also, this is a Double Feature DVD. Axe precedes a J.G. Patterson movie called The Electric Chair with a similar runtime as Axe. Now if this were any other collection of Short Films, such as on the 2-Disc Limited Edition of Driller Killer, I’d comment on them, but those movies didn’t last 80 minutes, nor did they feel like an eternity to watch. I’m going to have to review The Electric Chair another day… whoo.

The Conclusion
Honestly, you could do a lot worse than watching Axe, maybe even buying it: it’s pretty well shot, decently played, violent and even psychologically creepy at times. I’d recommend it over at least one modern movie released this year based off a classic ’70’s film franchise, but the null writing talent rears its ugly head too often to get a full, hearty recommendation.

Strike of the Tortured Angels

Posted by Josh Samford On August - 10 - 2011
Review submitted by Prof. Aglaophotis

Strike of the Tortured Angels (1982)
Director: Roy Rosenberg
Writers: Dick O’Nell and Gary Capra Jr.
Starring: Susan Lee, Stella Jone, Laura Sode-Matteson and George Bill

The Plot: Our story takes place in Hong Kong where a group of delinquent young girls are being driven away to a Women’s Rehabilitation center. Many of the girls are beaten by the other inmates and put to work by the unfair guards. However, one girl named Susan passively fights back against these troubles with her stoic but rigid personality as she tries to escape. Julie, the toughest of the new girls, wants to escape the school and finds companionship in Susan’s personality and motivations. Susan wants to get even with a cheating Doctor Qua who is slowly ruining her family’s life: he drives Susan’s older sister to suicide by knocking her up, abandoning her and stealing money from the family fortune in the process. Susan will do what she can to stop him from ruining her family any further so the two girls escape with a third on their quest to stop the doctor, but not without facing various perils.

The Review
Try thinking of the worst excuse of a Skin Flick, then think of a bad idea for a Women in Prison film and fill it with uninteresting characters. Now combine them, set them in China and imagine what you’d get. You’d get a dull, stupid, barely arousing movie that gives up on being either of those genres and falls into completely different movie genres like Crime, Revenge and Drama. That’s right: Tortured Angels is the bait and switch of Exploitation films. What starts out as a sexy and silly nonsense riddled Women in Prison movie becomes a boring and unappealing Drama/Revenge film.

What sucks about the movie is how hard its humor and combined sleaziness falls. The movie starts out with Susan and the rehabilitation assistant Mr. Lee mud wrestling and tearing at each other’s clothes over the opening credits. From there, the movie keeps up with the zany sex appeal as the transported girls are forced to strip down and wear short shorts and tank tops, some of which they lose completely in the goofiest (but most exciting) hazing sequence I’ve ever watched.

Throughout this, we get to know our main characters, Susan, Ginger and the rough and ready Julie. Julie is one of the most memorable characters I’ve seen in a movie of this caliber because… and I’m not making this up… she’s played by an Asian woman in blackface. She dons a curly dark haired afro to boot and has the funniest facial expressions for some of the most serious of scenes. Ginger on the other hand is the “weird girl” of the trio; she sort of reminds me of the cute nameless girl belonging to Satahn’s cult from the movie Snuff, the girl in the mini-skirt who would laugh every time someone fired a gun. Ginger spends most of the movie caring for a piglet and carrying it around even when the trio are busy warding off horny bikers and robbing people. What’s even funnier is how the piglet is just as badly dubbed as the actors: they give the piglet the oink of an adult pig!

For the first twenty minutes, the movie is somewhat entertaining as the girls try to find some way out of the rehab center. But then we start learning about Susan’s back story. That’s when the movie stops being fun and entertaining. The reason why Susan gets sent to the reform school is about as sympathetic as a drive-by shooting; I’m still not sure how in the Hell she blames the doctor for what she did, especially since he wasn’t involved. Julie’s strange desire to die of illness despite facing the cure several times makes her character hard to sympathize with.

The cinematography is a little awkward at times due to its mixed themes. It’s decent for the most part with a few good shots like the reflection of the cheating doctor in his mirrored sunglasses or a close-up of broken glass separating the scenes from Susan’s ailing father and the cheating doctor. Throughout the movie though the camera will focus on the bare legs of any young girl in the scene as if this really were a Skin Flick. Which is weird because this movie has practically no nudity in it. Girls get undressed and shower in one scene while one girl gets stripped naked during the hazing scene; we get one shot of a bare tush, but that’s it. That’s not a good thing in an Exploitation film!!

At no point does the soundtrack sound authentic. It’s hard to say where every song comes from, but it changes in style, composition and age constantly. One minute it will sound like an action movie, then a horror movie and then a 60’s jazz scene. I can recognize a bit from the Jean Michel Jaree song Oxygen (about three minutes in) and I can name one movie soundtrack this flick does rip off: The Burning! That’s right, the same average ‘80’s slasher that, for years, you couldn’t get uncut is featured in Tortured Angels via song. Be it the fake attack scenes or the main theme song, Tortured Angels plays them both during its many campy scenes. Because of the ripped off soundtrack though, many scenes will sound too action-packed, dramatic or intense for their own good. One of the best songs in the movie is used for a stripping scene and a car chase right out of Mitchell and it makes both scenes feel more intense than they really are.

Because this is movie was originally shot in the Chinese language (I’m guessing Mandarin), it’s kind of awkward how most of the characters have English names; sort of like how Ghost Head took place in Japan but everyone was renamed and the script was made to sound like it was San Francisco. However, at one point, someone shouts for Susan, but it’s not the dub actor speaking, it’s the actual actor. Still, the dubbing is pretty funny. Every now and again, the dub actors will throw in an English accent for random characters. Then there’s the dumpy doctor Susan wishes to take her revenge on who has the funniest voice in the whole movie. Not only does Dr. Qua have a British accent, but the actor sounds like he’s mumbling the whole time; if only this was What’s Up, Tiger Lilly?!

I’ll admit, the movie tries to spice things up a bit through the bad dubbing and strange costume changes. At one point, Susan shows up to talk to her sister dressed up in some kind of modern Native American garb as if she were a Tekken character. There’s even a great scene where the trio strip three random school girls and key their bikes. These moments are all short lived and pale in comparison to the squelching drama story though.

The last five minutes of the movie has some hilarity to it. One character responds to a shotgun blast to the gut by rolling their big wide eyes in the back of their head and forming their mouth in a perfect O shape and standing perfectly still once shot. Also, the copy of this movie I have is hardcoded in Danish, so there are many Danish subtitles throughout the film. However, it should be noted that the abrupt ending of the film is presented with a Power Point-like THE END screen, or in this case, simply END. The word END is subtitled in Danish as well… and the word for END in Danish is spelled S.L.U.T. (though pronounced differently). So, by the end, the movie insults the audience with the power of unintentional hilarity.

The Conclusion
As a Drama/Revenge Film, Tortured Angels is mediocre at best; it’s livened only with a few fun characters and random PG-13 sexual themes. This isn’t like Raw Force where there’s a laugh to be had every minute or bare bodies at every other. Its inconsistent silliness is so broken it barely makes the movie enjoyable. It’s silly and serious, but not never enough of either makes it worth watching.

Severed Arm, The

Posted by Josh Samford On July - 28 - 2011
Review contributed by Prof. Aglaophotis

The Severed Arm (1973)
Director: Thomas S. Alderman
Writers: Thomas S. Alderman, Larry Alexander, Kelly Estill, Darrel Presnell and Marc B. Ray
Starring: Deborah Walley, Paul Carr, David G. Cannon and Marvin Kaplan

The Plot: Jeff Ashton just received a rather bizarre gift in the mail: a severed arm! The message immediately reminds him of what happened five years ago, when he and his five middle aged buddies went on a mining vacation in order to dig for some rock samples. Thanks to one of the bumbling fellows though, the trip resulted in disaster as the shaft caved in with the six men inside with little water and hardly any food. After two weeks pass, the men can no longer continue without sustenance and they slowly resort to cannibalism. They sever the right arm of their friend Ted, only for a rescue team to come to their aide seconds after the deed was done. So all five men swore to secrecy, never to let anyone know what they did and claim the amputation was a result of the cave-in… but Ted said he’d never forget it, even after being hospitalized and institutionalized later. Jeff gathers his old pals together to remind them of the secret and how the truth would affect their long progressing careers. As the reunion finishes however, one of Jeff’s pals, Dr. Sanders, gets attacked, resulting in his right arm getting amputated. Jeff and his detective friend Mark now have little time to protect the others while trying to find Ted’s location and stop the traumatized mad man.

The Review
There are many sad things that can happen in a good Horror movie. The Severed Arm might not be original to begin with, as the premise sounds mysteriously familiar, but it has a good twist to it amidst various mediocre aspects. On the technical side, the production was clearly a few thousand dollars short of being passable.

Night shots are barely visible and the direction of the camera isn’t always set straight. The darkness obscures a lot of the action that is key to the scene’s atmosphere, thus the film’s lucidity is based on natural and in-room light, but even then it doesn’t work. There’s an attack scene where a man falls down a stair case, but the scene is so dark and the camera focuses so little on the event, and the victim’s screaming, that it almost looks like the guy tripped over the cameraman.

As a matter of fact, every death scene in the movie is awkwardly shot. Every time someone gets attacked, the camera always focuses on the actor’s face and the murder weapon at awkward angles; maybe this is to induce panic, but it just made the scenes look silly. Perhaps the best death scene in the whole movie is ruined because the scene is too dark. Another surprising death scene in an elevator is also botched by wretched camera angles and quick cuts. Although the lighting and direction is not entirely the attack scene’s fault: the worst of the death scenes has to be the one where a character is attacked, faints and the scene cuts away practically to the next day.

Yet, the movie makes-up for its technical flaws in its writing and some of its acting. The dialogue between Jeff and Mark is competent and direct enough to really hook me into their situation, and both characters are acted pretty well. For awhile I was actually buying the trouble these men had gotten themselves into, how they were going to handle it and the problems they faced along the way. Then of course there was the comic relief character, late night radio DJ, ‘Mad Man’ Herman. Played by comedic Brooklyn actor Marvin Kaplan, every one of Herman’s lines made my eyes roll so often I thought they’d fall out. He’s not painfully unfunny, (I mean I’ve heard worse in Horror movies) and the character is played pretty well, he’s just not funny at all despite the movie playing him up to be funny.

I was surprised to hear the familiar strains of the late Phillan Bishop here, the same musician who gave us the creepy scores to Messiah of Evil and Kiss of the Tarantula. His work here isn’t too bad, but it’s not the best the man has done (that would be either one of the two aforementioned movies). There are some creepy tracks in the beginning of the movie like when the arm gets shipped out, the cave flashback or any scene with Ted stalking our main characters. Unfortunately, the rest of the music sounds like someone playing through the BGM mode of a cruddy Sega Genesis game! It doesn’t get too embarrassing until thirty minutes in: there’s a driving scene that is followed by such an indescribably goofy electronic score that I can’t even begin to say how inappropriate the song is in this movie. It felt like the director didn’t care what kind of music accompanied the filler scenes.

And yet, despite these mixed factors, the twist and finale weren’t half bad at all. Now it might be easy to guess if you’re into Murder Mysteries, but of the films of that genre I’ve seen this twist actually took me by surprise a little. If anything I feel there should’ve been a buzzsaw; no, I won’t elucidate on that, you’ll just have to see the movie yourself to see what I mean.

If there’s anything else I can question about the movie, it’s the scene with the dog. There’s a moment near the end of the movie where Jeff is chasing after Ted up a sandy hillside and a dog runs in front of him completely out of nowhere! It would’ve made more sense if you could see the extra calling their dog off the set as a crew man pulled them off camera. Also, I think someone should’ve told the extras to snap it up a bit; during the flashback, Ted’s family sees their one-armed father/husband getting wheeled into an ambulance and their collective reaction is more dead than the starving spelunkers who amputated him!

The Conclusion
Overall, The Severed Arm isn’t too bad of a Horror movie. It’s impossible to call it a Murder Mystery, because we’re familiar with who the killer is, we just don’t know when he’ll strike. Yet, The Severed Arm feels like a Murder Mystery: intelligent and squeaky clean, perhaps too much so. Regardless, it won’t hurt to watch it.

Demon, The

Posted by Josh Samford On May - 14 - 2011

Review originally written by Prof. Aglaophotis

The Demon (1981)
Director: Percival Rubens
Writers: Percival Rubens
Starring: Jennifer Holmes, Cameron Mitchell and Craig Gardner

The Plot: This tale begins when a prowler breaks into the isolated Parker house, tying Mrs. Joan Parker up with a plastic bag over her head and running off with her fourteen year old daughter Emily. The father comes home in time to save his wife, but the prowler has his way with the daughter in the nearby forest. After days go by and the search for Emily fails, the Parkers hire retired Marine Colonel turned psychic Bill Carson who can identify the killer and find their daughter by using his telepathic powers. In the meantime, our bulky leather strapping killer picks up a ride, asphyxiates the driver and attempts to rape and murder unsuspecting young women. It seems the killer is trying to kill a sassy young kindergarten instructor named Mary, who lives with her cousin Jo who is trying to hook up with a flashy rich boy named Dean Turner. Col. Carson reveals two particular aspects about the killer: 1) he has a deadly obsession with random young women and 2) his faceless visage suggests that he is not human or is at least possessed by something evil. Knowing this and how every attempt to stop him fails with fatal results, will Mary have a chance to evade the killer once he comes for her?

The Review
When looking through obscure Slasher movies, you’ll often come across some generic titles to surprisingly entertaining Horror movies. There’s a genuine sense of reward you get when you pick up movies like Stage Fright, The Prowler, House on Sorority Row or even Joe D’Amato’s Horrible and find some creepy atmosphere or gut wrenching death scenes that make you wonder why they’re often ignored. Then there are the titles that sound generic but have no payoff to them. The ones that make you feel like an idiot after having watched it. The Demon is one of them.

I should be honest with you, dear reader, this movie doesn’t feature an actual demon; much like how the tag line to The Prey does not feature an axe wielding monster but instead a mutant beatnik played by the bad guy from Battle for Endor.

The easiest assessment would be the fact that our killer is simply possessed by a demon which is why he kills, but that information is hardly lucid in the movie itself. It is hard to say whether the killer is really a demon since there are times where we can clearly see the man’s face and hair, as well as times where he suddenly no longer wears a white Halloween (or Alice, Sweet Alice) mask and instead has white face paint on. ‘But why are you looking into this,’ you may be asking. ‘Why analyze the title and its connection to the movie?’ Why? Because that’s the only interesting thing about this movie. The Demon is a confusing, lagging, poorly shot crap-fest of an ‘80’s Slasher movie. The only demonic specification the poor chump carries is his propensity to grunt and growl and his nearly obscure distaste for midnight radio evangelists. I actually had a hard time re-watching this for a review. The structure of this failed ‘80’s Slasher Film is so broken that not even a modern day remake would fix it. This is one of those movies that you can clearly envision as a person, throwing its hands up in the air, shaking its head and failure and admitting “I just don’t know.”

We essentially follow three stories here one consisting of a brutally strong, strangulating, serial death-rapist, his plucky soon-to-be next victim’s cousin Jo and Cameron Mitchell. Rarely do these stories connect or represent any real conflict. Most of the Cameron Mitchell sections just consists of Cameron being a mysterious, but ineffective psychic as he occasionally sees the killer and how Mr. Parker wants to hunt the killer down. The Mary sections just consist of the build up to her young cousin Jo (rather than Mary), her life style and how it will be ruined once the killer finally attacks her.

The director seemed to have little idea how to make either story connect effectively, thus creating tension and conflict or make us care about any of the characters involved. Granted, some of the characters are well acted: Jennifer Holmes certainly breathes some life into the character, but despite all the screen credit she’s given, she’s given little screen time or dialogue compared to her heart struck cousin. Cameron Mitchell is pretty decent in the movie, too; he pulls the struggling psychic role off pretty well as he telepathically tries to track the killer by getting into his persona. However, it would’ve been better if he was the main character in the story and if he actually confronted the killer at one point. It would’ve felt more like a Halloween rip-off if he did, but at least HIS plot would’ve tied in with the the killer and even Mary’s plot! Plus, it’s kind of funny how he switches from being facetious to serious when he’s first introduced to the bereaved Parkers; maybe that explains why his story arc ends so abruptly and why a secondary character steals the best line in the movie.

The movie is so wildly obsessed with Mary’s cousin Jo and her relationship with Dean that the segments involving them get old fast; we spend several minutes watching these lame-brains getting to know each other through wine drinking, boat rowing and photo shootings. Ordinarily, I’d say these two characters are the build-up and the character development found in any good Horror movie. Unfortunately, these characters aren’t interesting! Sure, Dean has a back story and he’s acted fairly well, but he’s no different than Robert Taylor from the French in Action TV series (in kidding, they practically have the same back story… and why I remember that series so well I don’t know*)!! By the time the movie focuses on Jennifer Holmes’ character, there’s a very brief sense of fear and dread, but not enough to really care whether she makes it out all right.

The movie is flawed on a technical basis, too. The music consists of a relentless string quartet that goes to unbearably high pitches during the jump scares. There are rare moments where the soundtrack works, mostly in the Cameron Mitchell scenes or when Mary finally confronts the killer in the end. The lighting in the movie is quite horrible as the only real good lighting is natural light; some shots in the film were far too dark to notice any details. I kept adjusting the screen to the brightest notch on the gamut during nighttime and day-for-night scenes and I still had to squint in order to see anything. You may notice there’s very little shots of intensity or murder in the shots I picked. Don’t get me wrong, I managed to see a few shots that looked decent like close-ups of the killers claw-gloves, but because the lighting is so murky in the indoor scenes I couldn’t get a good enough shot without editing it. There are some continuity errors here and there, but nothing out-right hilarious, just confusing. There are moments where the killer is supposed to be wearing a plaster Last House on Dead End Street Mask but it’ll change to white face paint. There’s one scene near the end where Dean and Jo are in bed to which Jo says Dean has to leave, but the next scene shows them frolicking in the pool. Like I said, the continuity isn’t good, but it’s not hilariously bad, either.

Probably the biggest goof in the whole movie is when someone who has all ready been in contact with the police finds the killer and several other people know about this. So when the person gets inevitably killed by the killer… why doesn’t anyone take the initiative to get the police involved?? Seriously, the character finds the killer’s location, the killer offs him, dumps his body right where he’s staying and it’s found the next morning… What the Hell, are the police in South Africa really that dense?! After that character’s body is found, the killer stays there, too! The people who knew about the character’s going there could have easily sent more police there!! Why’d it take so long for someone in the movie to find Emily’s body? Was it just an excuse for the director to use that classic skeleton wearing a wig effect?

I will be a little fair to this movie, though: it’s not THE worst ‘80’s Slasher I’ve seen; it is ONE OF the worst ‘80’s Slasher movies out there, but it’s slightly better than The Prey. Unlike The Prey, The Demon has a few moments of intensity, mainly when Mr. Parker hunts the killer down and when Mary defends herself from the killer. In fact, the last five minutes of this movie are the most intense as Mary and the killer play a game of cat and mouse and the final scene itself is surprisingly inventive. The Demon also has its share of T&A which, again, makes it better than The Prey; Compared to another ‘80’s Slasher directed by and starring people involved in the Adult Film industry about horny young adults in the woods that featured no nudity whatsoever, The Demon certainly has the upper hand.

The Conclusion
I won’t kid you, though, The Demon is not an obscure movie tracking down, not even for Cameron Mitchell fans. I honestly can’t re-watch this movie without taking a break halfway through. I’m sure it had potential somewhere and somehow, but it certainly didn’t go very far and in short deserves to stay there.

Stinger: “Did your Extra Sensory Perception prepare you for THIS?”

*: Oh, wait, I know why I remember French in Action so well: Valérie Allain! Yuum!

Horror Rises From the Tomb

Posted by Josh Samford On May - 3 - 2011

Horror Rises From the Tomb (1973)
Director: Carlos Aured
Writers: Paul Naschy
Starring: Paul Naschy, Emma Cohen and Víctor Alcázar

The Plot: Our story begins in France, 1454 when practitioners of black magic Aleric de Marnac and Mabille DeLancré are sentenced to death by Aleric’s brother Armand and his friend Andre Roland. Before they are killed, the warlocks curse the execution grounds and the names of their executioners, vowing to wreak their revenge when a relative of Armand de Marnac befriends a relative of Andre Roland. We then cut to France, 1973: Maurice Roland, a local painter, is attempting to piece together his latest work but he never comes close enough to finishing it. His good friend Hugo de Marnac and their girlfriends Paula and Sylvia eventually spend some time together with a couple who tell them of a great psychic. Hugo denies the abilities of the psychic so everyone else pitches in to prove him wrong by going to a séance hosted by the psychic. After a spiritual encounter with the severed head of Aleric de Marnac who tells them of his burial ground, Hugo is still unconvinced; to try and prove he’s right, he offers to drive the group up to his old country home where, according to legend, Mabille and Aleric were executed and buried. Maurice agrees to go as well after he finally completes the painting: A cloaked, decapitated figure holding the severed head of his friend Hugo. The two men and their lovers head out to the estate, following a trail drawn by the relentless curse that promises the rise of the two warlocks once the head of Aleric is unearthed. Will our intrepid heroes survive?

The Review
Horror Rises From the Tomb is one of those kind of Horror movies that carries a lot of entertainment value for several reasons. While certainly maintaining the gruesomeness and brutality required for a good Horror flick, it also carries a solid story arc, a lot of build-up and decent characters to present themselves. Yet, despite this, the presentation value and overall quality is so under-budgeted and unintentionally silly that the movie works in a party setting as well; Horror Rises is the kind of film you can watch seriously, yet still manage to get a good laugh out of it and never feel like a moron for doing so.

First, I have to say it’s always a little odd watching a movie about people being accused of witchcraft and demon summoning being put to death. I always remind myself of how many innocent people in history were killed because of another group’s dogma and beliefs… but in these spiritual Horror movies it always turns out the people being put to death really WERE black magic users and they demonstrate this by cursing their executioners (see also The Devonsville Terror). I bring this up mostly because the opening narration in the movie leads us to believe Aleric and Mabille aren’t really evil doers and that many people in Europe were killed for suspected witchcraft. Well, inappropriate opening narration aside, this movie’s not too bad.

As I said before, the movie has good build-up to it. We get to know our four main characters a little bit before the warlock’s curse is unearthed; everyone is fleshed out pretty well save for the character Sylvia who is honestly just a morality booster with a pretty face along for the ride. The acting overall is what you’d expect in a low budget Spanish Horror film: it’s good, but you get this feeling of archetypes being used a lot in the film. I’ve seen a few Spanish Horror films now and it seems that there’s always a group of characters who are often killed by their own avarice or motivated entirely by greed. It’s like watching an Italian movie and the characters at one point have to talk about vinegar as a primary recipe.

Most character reactions are relatively believable, though. If anything the character of Elvira (one of the house servants that Hugo grew up with) is a little stoic throughout the movie mostly when she has to show sadness. Hugo comes across as a bit of a jerk, but he’s a responsible one. Plus, Hugo is played by the film’s writer, the late/great Paul Naschy, a Spanish novelist/director/actor/light weight champion who produced and acted in several Spanish Horror films. The man had a competent screen presence, and he comes across as a somewhat likable hero in this. Granted, Paul also plays the villain Aleric de Marnac and once again proves to be a good performer in that role, too. He looks pretty intimidating in a cloak and spirit gum and he’s got the crazy eyes necessary for a mystically evil character. Honestly, seeing Naschy as the villain in this movie makes me think he’d play a Shakespearean character very well.

While the acting and dialogue is painless, exposition pulls a little overtime here. After the first spiritual killing spree in the movie, Hugo and Maurice talk about how the mayor and gendarme of the village won’t help them look into the crimes, how the local kids hate their arrival, how the town drunk knows something about what’s going, but we never see any of this.

The cinematography isn’t too bad. The director knows where to point the camera and there are a lot of decent shots. There are several moments though where the camera shakes around as if this were a shot-on-video movie. There are a few questionable scenes in it, like when Hugo and Maurice leave the house armed with a shotgun in hand but they do this for no reason; the next time we see them, they’re in their PJs! There is also one awkward scene near the end where Mabille and Aleric are heavily petting a scantily clad woman they have captive and the scene goes on for about two minutes, again, for no reason. The music that plays is really intense, but there’s no nudity in the scene or anything intensely sexual or any connection to later or current events; I know it’s just padding, but for a movie about warlock related phenomena, you’d think a scene like that would be something plot related.

As a European Horror movie from the seventies, the movie is quite brutal. Most of the female victims will end up getting their tops ripped off before getting killed (you may notice I can’t show most of the gore because of shots like that). The gore effects are pretty decent as well and definitely show a better budget in that department than the rubber bats used for the cavern scenes. However most other death scenes come down to throat slashing and a few off-screen heart-rippings. The death scenes do get a little cheap, though. The first time someone gets their heart ripped out in the movie it happens almost too quick; I can understand someone with mystical powers ripping into another person’s chest cavity and pulling their still-beating heart out (like when Mabille does it, or in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom), but an ordinary person with a farm tool… that’s a bit of a reach, even for this movie. Truthfully, that’s nothing compared to when a human body gets reduced to a skeleton wearing a wig or when a guy dies from an intense back scratching; if the latter were the case, my ex would’ve killed me years ago!

Of course, this being a Spanish Horror film released in the states, it’s got its share of dubbing, but thankfully it’s decent. The dub actors play it straight throughout the whole movie, though occasionally, there will be one actor who sounds a little like a pirate. The goofiest performance out of them though has to be the monotone Hispanic voice for Aleric who is supposed to be dark and intimidating. It doesn’t help either that the first time we see him in the present day, he’s a severed head in a box giving orders to the possessed. *

Then there’s the soundtrack. The music in this movie is really something to behold. The soundtrack relies mostly on organ music not unlike Gene Moore’s work in Carnival of Souls, but without the talent. The organ music here carries many Roller Rink sounds to it and is often followed by a relentless wood instrument. The music gets so over the top and fantastical to the point where it sounds like soap opera music. The love theme between Maurice and Paula in particular was pretty goofy. Throughout the movie, I couldn’t keep myself from quipping: ‘Will Elvira be the next of Aleric’s victims? And Will Maurice ever change out of his pink sweater? Tune in tomorrow to find out on the next exciting and touching episode of Days of our Warlocks.’

There’s even a weird scene with Hugo and Elvira where the music is edited awkwardly: the soundtrack kicks in with this inappropriately spooky music and just stops abruptly. The only time the soundtrack works is with the second-long musical stingers. Regardless, the soundtrack was recorded so high and played so intensely, the audio will more than likely cause you to jump out of your seat and reach for the Volume Down button.

Something I thought was unique about the movie was the ancient relic used to ward off the warlock’s evil. Instead of the usual crucifix, the heroes uncover a talisman from Nordic mythology. Okay, it’s kind of weird a holy relic of Nordic mythology would be in France, but it’s still a much welcome break from the standard. Now while the story is interesting and not badly conceived, I couldn’t help but wonder why Mabille and Aleric, two hated and despised Warlocks, were given tombs? I understand burying Aleric’s head from his body in a separate place, but cavernous tombs for criminals?

The Conclusion
In summation though, Horror Rises from the Tomb is a fun Horror movie. It’s a little hard to take it seriously sometimes, but it’s in those times you can get a genuinely good-laugh out of the movie. Plus it’s got an easy story to follow that was pretty well written with a lot of violence, nudity and a random zombie invasion, so it’s all the more recommendable.

*: Curse of the Brain That Wouldn’t Die… I like that





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Varied Celluloid is a film website intent on delivering views on movies from all genres. Started in 2003, the website has been steadfast in its goal and features a database of over 500 lengthy reviews. If you would like to contact us about writing for the website or sending screeners, please visit the about page located here.