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ANOTHER BLOODY BAGFUL OF ECLECTIC HORROR

Pictured: Connie Nelson Year: 1971
DRACULA VS FRANKENSTEIN: Here's an Al Adamson directed b-movie so tailor made for a drive-in theater, you might have to roll your car inside the living room to watch it... 

DraculaVFrankensteinSCORE: **
Not exactly a pairing-up of two classic monsters, DRACULA VS FRANKENSTEIN is more of an exploitation horror: Involving monolog-driven mad scientist J. Carrol Naish working out of a carnival fun house with an axe-wielding idiot man-child, Lon Chaney, sent to kill women for experiments to give his other employee, a brooding Count Dracula, eternal life...

All the while reanimating Frankenstein's Monster who resembles a melted cabbage... But the worst thing is that it can be quite boring with tedious bouts of dialogue, spouted mostly by two love-struck heroes: A man helping his new girlfriend find her lost sister and eventually happening upon... all that stuff already mentioned (a much cooler yet unlucky couple are beach lovers Connie Nelson and our pal, Gary Kent.) Although at times it can be somewhat involving: A fact which remains completely unexplainable.

1982 rating: ***
THE FOREST: The set-up to this woodsy body count low budget slasher: the massacre of two couples arriving at the forest... The women first and their boyfriends, who, for some reason, arrive later on... 

This is merely a bizarre platform for a subplot involving the ghosts of two children and their crazy, cannibalistic father played by director Don Jones's stock actor Gary Kent (SCHOOLGIRLS IN CHAINS), who kills, then eats, all females that cross his path: a cheap horror with a lot of activity, including a backstory involving the then-normal dad, kids, and a cheating wife just screaming to be killed keeps you interested enough to forget it's yet another FRIDAY THE 13th ripoff, but with a unique personality all its own. NOTE: The killer's son, child/pre-teen actor Corky Pigeon, played a geek named Freddie (whose secret was tap dancing) on the 80's sitcom SILVER SPOONS.

year: 1964 rating: ***
SPIDER BABY: Whenever there's a horror film about a backwoods family of dimwitted yet dangerous loons, it's usually compared to, or accused for stealing from, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE... but no longer.

This film, written and directed by Jack Hill ten years prior, starring Lon Chaney as the caretaker of two lethal sisters and their lanky, lughead brother played by scene-stealer Sid Haig, is not only groundbreaking and shocking, but lots of fun as most of the fear is implied: when outsiders visit the house, will Lon be able to stop the twisted clan... especially gorgeous Jill Banner, using knives like spider's teeth... from murdering them? And although things drag in the middle, it's still a minor classic.

year: 1987 rating: ***1/2
THE STEPFATHER: A fantastic, fully-satisfying suspense/horror from Canada about a man who always needs a new family to kill starring Terry O'Quinn, years before gaining fame on LOST...

As the title character, one minute he's extremely bland and unassuming, the next an intensely driven, strict "family values" patriarch, and eventually a complete psychopath, yet never showing the cards... Keeping protagonist Jill Schoelen, as the unfortunate new step-daughter, on her toes. Meanwhile, a side-story involving a young man's search for the Stepfather (before he strikes again) adds a nice peripheral balance, reminiscent of Alfred Hitchock and Brian De Palma's best work.

year: 1992 rating: **
INNOCENT BLOOD: Decent premise with good beginnings: A sexy, hungry french Vampire (Anne Parillaud) in America sets her sights on mafia kingpin Robert Loggia... a clever gag has her being repelled by Loggia's breath before she bits him... he's Italian, therefore reeking of garlic.

Our anti-heroine bloodsucker, while feasting on various evil mobsters, falls in love with undercover cop Anthony LaPalgia while they both try stopping Loggia, who's not only head of the mob but now a powerful vamp himself while director John Landis, returning to horror a decade after AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, balances humor and horror okay, but there's not enough going for either genre... Unlike the Werewolf classic, BLOOD is neither funny or scary: The choice of the vamps screeching like rabid cougars is pretty lame. And in the Landis fashion, there are many clips of other classic movies being watched on television by various characters, but homage becomes too excessive: making one long for those films instead.

1983 rating: *1/2
AMITYVILLE 3D: Gone are the days when 3D meant things moving towards the camera in a contrived manner. It's hilarious seeing this in 2D years later after the gimmick not only wore off, but is seen as merely that. Yet this film suffers from more than pretension of a 50s-era trend trying desperately to regain itself in the 1980's...

Although the first ten minutes as Tony Roberts and Candy Clark trick a pair of seance-giving charlatans is not bad, the rest of the movie, after Roberts moves into the ghostly manor with his gorgeous daughter Lori Laughlin (visited by her friend, Meg Ryan), is quite stale. And those ever-buzzing flies just aren't scary... In fact, they never were.

year: 1987 rating: ***
THE COVE AKA BAY COVEN: Occasionally, made for TV films delving into the supernatural are surprisingly good. GARGOYLES and SATAN'S SCHOOL FOR GIRLS come to mind, and here’s another... 

Pamela Sue Martin and Tim Matheson are a city couple who decide to move to the salty, old-fashioned island of Bay Cove, which, it turns out, has some strange content: including an eerie old man who stares out his window, neighbors who really hate dogs, and a cemetery that's most recent headstone dates back to the 1700s. 

Martin is the main protagonist, much like Mia Farrow in ROSEMARY’S BABY (without being impregnated); while the in-denial Matheson, who loves fixing up the house, adheres way too quickly. The suspense and intrigue goes hand in hand: As our heroine discovers the truth behind the residents, her life becomes more in danger. The original name's BAY COVEN, yet without the N lies a more suitable title, since much of the film consists of obscuring that element: A bit simplistic and cliché, but entertaining.

THE WARD: Anyone hoping for the old John Carpenter… Or rather, the young John Carpenter’s old films… will be disappointed in this mind-trip thriller that only passes as a horror whenever the antagonist… the zombie of a former patient inside a psychiatric ward… shows up and kills.

2010 rating: **
The plot is simple if nonexistent: A beautiful young girl is admitted into a sanitarium, and she’s not sure why. All we know is she burned down a house – and with some exposition-clues provided by chief doctor Jared Harris, we’re led to believe there’s something else to learn: keeping the viewer somewhat intrigued.

The inhabitants are five beautiful girls, and this seems like Carpenter’s cup of tea… His groundbreaking HALLOWEEN served up young beauties as victims, but these characters aren’t interesting enough to care about: even if they all act crazy.

There are some good frights i.e. sudden unexpected jolts, but any director can pull that off. The only reminiscence of the master’s style is the first-person glide-cam: giving the feel the girls are being watched and stalked. But that persistent aura of dreaded doom, which makes any horror movie worthwhile, just isn’t there – unless the killer’s around to remind us to be scared while a thunderstorm persists outside. And the conclusion/twist is somewhat creative, but that’s for you to decide.

year: 1985 rating: *1/2
PHENOMENA: It's hard to stare at bugs, especially maggots, for very long... Some can't even say the M word out loud...

But not for teenager Jennifer Connely who has the power to read their little minds, thus aiding Donald Pleasence, as a insect forensic expert, in finding a serial killer roaming around much like the phantom in Dario's SUSPERIA, which this is either a ripoff or, since it's the same man behind it, a homage by crashing girl's heads through windows, using a Goblin soundtrack but this time adding Iron Maiden and Motorhead tunes: So if you enjoy watching Jennifer Connelly, right after a flashback role in ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA and before playing a sexy ingenue in her career making CAREER OPPORTUNITIES, this isn't bad... but if you want a good horror flick, or a movie that actually goes somewhere: best try something else.

year: 1981 rating: **1/2
THE HAND: Michael Caine is terrific in this otherwise mediocre thriller by first-time director yet already screenplay Oscar winning Oliver Stone. Story centers on a cartoonist (Caine) who loses his hand in an automobile accident – technically the most riveting scene. After which he rehabilitates while the severed limb is, or seems to be, crawling around doing his dirty work for him.

Midnight Relocated
Stone’s best direction occurs during taut conversations between Caine and the people around him, providing a suspenseful base liken to stage-influenced British horror films, building character development in lue of cheap shocks. But scenes involving The Hand itself look a bit cheesy, and sporadic cuts to black and white seem misplaced, contrasting from our protagonist turned antagonist and revolving side-characters Annie McEnroe (THE SURVIVORS, THE HOWLING II) as a tempestuous college student, Bruce McGill as a temperamental shrink, and Caine’s cheating wife Andrea Marovicci: his ultimate target.

The film has moments, but loses its grip less than halfway through. Although, witnessing Michael Caine slowly going mad – a role that, according to Stone, took a toll on the actor’s real life – is worth the ninety minutes.
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