Saturday, December 24, 2011

Another Two Years

Well it's been another two years since I last posted anything. For those who still check out this little project of mine I thank you. I apologize for the sever lack of updates. I've been busy with college where I finally just graduated with an Associates in Business. Other than that I've been working like a dog, but I shall be updating more often in a few days with a few changes.

What changes you ask? Well for one the layout of the blog has changed. For the better in my opinion. The main change is the review format. No longer will I be doing full synopsis' but instead I'll be doing mini reviews. This way I can crank out the reviews at a faster pace.

Hope you see you all here again soon with more reviews, starting with the long-time-coming review of Kingdom of the Spiders.

Oh and before I forget. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you all.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

House on Haunted Hill Review

The House on Haunted Hill (1959)

Our story begins with spooky Halloween sounds and the floating head of a man named Watson Pritchard. He's telling us about how ghosts are restless and hungry. Why they just walk down to the local Arbby's I don't know but anyways. Pritchard continues on with talking about how there have been seven murders in that house and one of them was his brother and sister-in-law. He also tells us that he has spent one night there and barely came out alive. Next they throw the great Vincent Price's head at us. Mr. Price, I mean Frederick Loren, informs us that he has rented the House on Haunted Hill so that he can throw a birthday party for his wife, Annabelle. The haunted house ghost party idea was her idea, but the guest were handpicked by Frederick. They are jet pilot Lance Schroeder, psychiatrist Doctor David Trent, gossip columnist Ruth Bridgers, one of his secretaries Nora Manning, and Watson Pritchard (played by the great Elisha Cook Jr). The guest arrive in hearses, which I think is just spiffy.

As the guests arrive a chandelier nearly falls on Nora but she is saved the Lance at the last minute. Afterward we see Loren and Annabelle deep in their hate-hate relationship bickering which ends with my favorite line of the movie: "Make a good headline, playboy kills wife with champagne cork." heh heh heh. Get's funnier every time.

Well Annabelle decides to stay in her room, since Fred scraped her guest list for the five attendees, and the rest of the guest are taken on a tour of the house led by Watson. We are shown a knife that was used to kill Pritchard's brother and in-law and told that they never found the heads who talk to each other and cry in the night, a pool of blood on the ceiling were a young girl die by something not human, and a vat of acid kept in the basement. Now I definitely want this house. How cool would it be to have a huge vat of acid in your basement? Now no one will be able to find the bodies...I mean let's continue. All in all seven people have died, four men and three women, just like the people in the house. Coincidence? Maybe. Plot Point? No. After the tour Lance and Nora stay behind to investigate. Lance steps into a small, seemingly empty room when the door slams shut and locks itself. Nora freaks out as the lights dim and she comes face to face with a lady in black, who silently glides in and out of the room. Creepy.

Nora freaks out and runs right to where the ghost was. Now how stupid is that. Gee I'm gonna run to where the ghosty was so it can get me. Anyways see runs back upstairs where everyone else is drinking and tells them what happened. They all rush back down to the cellar as Nora tells them that they are gonna have to break down the door. Wouldn't you know that as soon as she said that it opens right up and out comes Lance with a gash on his head. No one was in there, but he claims that someone hit him on the head. Dr. Trent takes him upstairs to fix him up as Watson mutters about why the ghosts didn't take him.

Upstairs Dr. Trent tells Lance that it wasn't a ghost that hit him, but rather Lance ran head long into the wall. After he's patched up Lance and Nora head back downstairs to the room where Lance had his accident. He believes that the doctor is wrong and that someone was in the room and hit him. Down in the basement the duo find that there is a room with no door leading into it. To verify this, Lance goes into one of the rooms next to it and Nora goes into the other one to knock on the wall. After she's done knocking around Nora stands straight up and turns around just to finder herself in the face of...Alice Cooper? No that's not right. Oh it's the floating ghosty from earlier and, in the funniest scene in the movie, rolls right in front of Nora with its hands held up like claws. So Nora does what she does best and that is scream like a howler monkey. In comes Lance and when Nora tells him what she saw Lance just laughs at her.

Well Nora gets pissed that Lance didn't believe her and storms upstairs where she meets Mrs. Loren, who shows Nora to her room. Annabelle asks Nora what she thinks of her husband's little party, and also questions her as to why she was chosen. When Nora can’t provide a good enough answer Annabelle turns prophet of doom. She says that she and everyone else is in danger from her husband and leaves the room. Out in the hall Annabelle runs into Lance and engages him in a smattering of dialog. Mostly it's about her husband and how she fears for her life. You see old Freddie had three other wives before Annabelle. The first just upped and disappeared one day and the other two died of heart attacks in their twenties. She asks Lance for protection and he states that he'll see what he can do. After Lancy goes to his room Mrs. Loren sees the Hitchcock silhouette on some curtains down the hall. While it just stays there she freaks and runs back to her room. I don't know why because the shadow is very stationary for a long time. She could have just walked but women always have to complicate things. She pretends that she has been combing her hair when Frederick comes in. After sharing some more remarks which show their "love" for each other, Mr. Loren orders her to go to the party. On his way back downstairs he stops by both Lance and Nora's rooms and tell them to meet the others down stairs.

Before Nora goes down to the party she stops and opens her suitcase only to find a severed head in it. She screams, runs from the room and into a dark room where she is grabbed from behind by a man who grabs her and warns her to leave with him before it's too late. OOOOH! Can we say foreshadowing kiddies? Doubt it but you never know in the House on Haunted Hill. Anyways Nora breaks free and runs downstairs to the group. She whines to Lance that she wants to leave and doesn't care about the money. Soon the caretakers show up and wouldn't you know they're the ones who have been scaring the hell out of poor Nora. Funny thing is the wife is blind. So they let a blind woman roller skate in a cellar with a vat of acid in the floor? Well in their defense she did appear to be floating so... Anyways Annabelle soon enters in, unfortunately, a dress less revealing than what she was wearing. Though compared to Spider Baby she is as dressed up as a Victorian era woman. But anyways Freddie starts to go over the rules again when the caretakers just up and leave before they were suppose to. Now how rude it that? Not only do they leave before their shift is over, but right in the middle of Mr. Loren talking. The caretakers better be lucky if Frederick lets them keep their job the next day. Well as much of a downer that was now that no one can leave Freddie has a pick me up. They appear to be either 1911 Colt 45s or a 9mm I'm not sure, but the do come in little coffins so this is now the best party ever.

Well now that everybody is good and liquored up and now packing heat. Nora wants to show everyone the head in her suitcase. They follow her to her room. But, the head is gone and Nora is hysterical. They all leave. Ruth will keep an eye for Nora. Dr. Trent thinks that Freddie is disturbing Nora. Lance looks for Nora in her room, but finds the severed head in her closet. He grabs it by the hair and marches down to Watson claims the ghost's have her. Suddenly there's a scream which gets cut off. Lance and Trent rush to the scene to find a woman hung from the rafters. As they bring the body down the discover that it’s Annabelle. Frederick arrives to morn in his love-hate way.

Lance finds Nora who wants to hide. Someone choked in her in her room and crazy old Nora thinks it was Frederick. Lance tells Nora that Annabelle has died and he thinks that Loren killed her. Suddenly there's a knock on the door and Dr. Trent tells Lance they are having a meeting. Lance tells Nora to stay in his room with a gun.Freddie enters where Annabelle’s body is and comments on how beautiful and deadly she was. He turns to leave only to find a very drunk Watson watching him. Wow this got really disturbing for me for some reason. Anyways he claims that if no one watches the body then the ghost will come and taker her. Well Freddie doesn't like that a drunk is staring at his dead wife and forces him from the room.

At the meeting, Dr. Trent, Ruth, Lance, Watson, Frederick discuss the situation. There isn’t a way out of the house. Has everything that’s happened been accidents? Annabelle was murdered and there wasn’t anything for her to climb up where her body was found. The only person who would want Annabelle dead would be Loren. Really I don't see the logic in that. He was such a loving husband. Well they finally decide that they have to protect themselves until the morning and to do that everyone will stay in their rooms until it’s time to leave. Great now there will be no escaping from the killer when he comes to get you. Watson, prophet of doom, rants how it still isn’t over.

Watson sits in his room with the gun pointed at the door even though he said that they would be of no use against the dead. The poor drunken dope. Dr. Trent is writing something when his doorknob starts turning. Ruth has a gun on a nearby table. Blood drips on her hand again and, she wipes it off. Lance checks on Nora. She isn’t sure that it was Vincent anymore. Lance is positive that Loren killed Annabelle, and tells Nora, she asked for his help. It's then decided that Lance will try to get out of the house to contact the police. While trying to find a way out, Lance finds a hidden passage and gets trapped in it. The poor dope just doesn't have any luck with these kind of rooms. Anyways Nora is waiting in her room while outside, a thunder storm rages. Suddenly a rope comes up through the window and wraps itself around her feet. Nora, of course, freaks out and it only get worse when she sees Annabelle floating outside the window. The rope unwraps itself from Nora’s feet, and, being Nora, she is pretty hysterical from this but now is packing a pistol too. She runs from the room and right into Annabelle, who is hanging from the spot where she died. You see this is why we don't run in the halls. You'll knock into people A hand tries to grab her, but, she escapes by screaming at it. We see the organ playing itself and for the 16th time, yes I've been counting, Nora runs away screaming.

Dr. Trent leaves his room and goes to Mr. Loren's, who promptly answers the door with his gun. Damn Vincent Price can make answering the door cool. Anyways Trent asks Loren if he has heard anything, to which he says footsteps and organ music. Um did anyone hear Nora shattering the windows with her sonic scream? Well they decide to search the house and Loren heads downstairs. Dr. Trent goes to the room where Annabelle’s body is. She’s alive that conniving little fox..…The dastardly duo planned to have Nora kill Freddie so they can run off with his money. Well Nora finds herself down in the cellar. You'd think she would stop going down there. Well as usual the lights flicker and suddenly Frederick arrives. Nora freaks, shoots Loren and runs away, screaming. Again. You know one would think she'd have no voice by now. Anyways Dr. Trent emerges from the shadows and opens the cover for the wine vat to dispose of the body when the lights go completely off and all we get to hear is a body fall into the vat of acid. Annabelle heads to the cellar and when she gets there all the doors close. At least the ghost are polite and close the doors after themselves. She then notices the acid bubbling and looks in the wine-vat. We see a cool looking skeleton rise from the acid while Annabelle tries her best to imitate Nora. She cannot open any of the doors, probably due to the fact that she pushing when it's a pull door. Anyways the skeleton speaks in Loren’s voice telling her that she has it all now but won't be able to enjoy it. Annabelle keeps backing away form the skeleton screaming until she falls into the vat of acid herself.

We pan around to the doors again for the fifth time as we see Frederick emerge from the shadows wearing a control harness for the skeleton. He comments on how he was playing the murder game along with Trent and Annabelle with out them knowing it. Upstairs Ruth, Watson, and Nora find Lance whom Nora tell that she just killed Mr. Loren in the basement with the revolver. They rush downstairs only to find him alive. Fortunately Freddie knew of the murder plot and made sure Nora’s gun had blanks in it. He reveals Annabelle and Dr. Trent were trying to kill him and that he threw Trent into the acid and his wife tripped and fell. Mr. Loren decides that he will let the justice system decide if he did anything wrong and leaves. Watson tells that the house now has 9 ghosts and wouldn't you know they’ve marked him and maybe, just maybe if your good, you too…. THE END

Now on to the review...
Woohoo! Well over two years and I finally have an update. Short story is life sucks, and not much I can do about it. Anyways where was I.....

Ah yes The House On Haunted Hill. Along with another William Castle great The Tingler, which I may review come Halloween, House was my first introduction to the late Vincent Price. He is one of the greats who can make any film he shows up in pure gold. Vincent played the main role of this film with the style, grace, and menace we’ve come to expect from him, so much so that the thought of remaking the movie with another actor in his role (which, proving there is no god, happened in 1999) sent many horror fans into gastrointestinal distress. But Price didn’t just bring acting chops; his mere presence brought an air of dignity to the film. This film may well have been forgotten if it wasn’t for Price’s presence.

Another great actor in this movie is Elisha Cook Jr. A character actor Cook has co-stared with some of Hollywood's greats, such as Humphrey Bogart in greatest version of The Maltese Falcon (1941) and Alan Ladd in Shane (1953). He played off the part of the drunken prophet of doom so well it makes you think that he actually showed up like that. It is also worth noting that in this movie the one who is the prophet of doom survives until the end, therefore breaking the horror movie rules before they were even made.

The only other stand out performance is of the ever sexy Carol Ohmart. Miss Utah 1946 was truly a cold heated bitch in this movie and in her other horror role Spider Baby, Or The Maddest Story Ever Told. That's it. The rest of the cast I could care less about.

This is a William Castle film and if you never heard of the man you should go cry in a corner. The man was a genius at movie promotion. For 13 Ghosts, not the shitty remake, he had visors were you could choose to either view the ghosts or not. In Mr. Sardonicus the viewers were left the choice of the main characters fate. My favorite one was for The Tingler. Some seats in theaters showing the Tingler were equipped with larger versions of the hand-held joy buzzers attached to the underside of the seats. When the Tingler in the film attacked the audience the buzzers were activated as a voice encouraged the real audience to "Scream - scream for your lives."

For this film during the climax a giant glowing skeleton would swoop down over the audience. As fun as that might have seemed it didn't always instill fright. Sometimes the poor thing became a target for some audience members who hurled candy boxes, soda cups or any other objects at hand at the skeleton. It was sort of a pre Rocky Horror, which would have been fun to see.

All in all this is a wonderful little flick. Sure the audience of today would laugh and claim how boring it is. Well it is obvious that they have no inner child. This movie has became a one of the main features in my Halloween marathons. Everything just seems to fall into place. You have the isolated location, the crazy man warning of death to all, the evil fox of a lady, creepy caretakers scaring the guests, a random thunderstorm, and of course Vincent Price being as charmingly evil as ever. So I ask for you all to just turn off your brain and enjoy your stay at The House On Haunted Hill.

I give it *****/*****

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Screaming Skull Review

The Screaming Skull (1958)

Our story begins with the ever-present narrator informing us that The Screaming Skull will kill us and that the producers offer as a free burial if we die of fright. Now I don’t know about the rest of you but as long as Cher isn’t dancing around in a thong I think I’ll live. We now cut to a nice little country mansion with a garden and a fishpond. Zoom in on a frog in the pond as fog rolls in. Cue the boiling water with the rising skull that sounds like Godzilla with laryngitis. The credits roll with the German umpa music that one would associate with shocking horror that could kill you.

After the credits we find the newlyweds Eric and Jenny arriving to the mansion, which Eric inherited from his first wife, Miriam, who died under "mysterious" circumstances. Apparently a lion jumped out and shot her but I’m getting a head of myself. As Eric gives Jenny a tour of the estate he tells her about Mickey. Who is Mickey you ask? Is he related to that damn annoying mouse? To answer the last question first…no thank God. Mickey is the gardener as we learn this I don’t know how many times. I mean come on. How long does it take for it to sink into you skull Jenny? Anyways they notice a car pulling around to the front and go to investigate.

Turns out that it’s Eric’s old friends the Reverend Snow and his wife who have come to visit the couple. Suddenly Eric sees Mickey (remember Jenny he is the gardener) and introduces him to Jenny. Wait until you see this cat. Ever wonder were the inspiration for Torgo of Manos fame came from? Well this is it. After the awkward introduction we learn that children love to hang drapes. Thank you movie. Thank you for telling me that I wasted my youth running around playing instead of putting up curtains. After that the couples split up the Jenny going with the Rev and Eric with Mrs. Snow. Here we learn the Jenny is impressionable ever since she saw her parents drown right in front of her. While this is going on Jenny asks Rev. Snow how Miriam died. Mr. Snow says that Eric told them that Miriam was helping Mickey in the garden when she had to go back to the house. On the way back it started to rain and from what they can figure she slipped on a leaf and smashed her head on the side of the pond. She died in the water. The face of her skull was smashed. While this is going on Mickey has sneaked into the house and asks a portrait of Miriam to make the others go away. I’m beginning to suspect that our boy Mickey here isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer. Next he’s in the greenhouse crying that Miriam never returned to him on the day she died.

As the Snows leave Mrs. Snow mentions that Jenny has a lot of money. She also states that Jenny is very timid and appears to be scared of something. Now the scene cuts to Mickey taking a Lilly pad from the pond. Now we jump to Eric and Jenny's bedroom where, after discussing a book about jungle beasts, they get down to the honeymooning. Jenny wakes up sometime latter to bagging sounds. Going to investigate she finds the shutters banging in another room. As she goes to shut them she falls through a wormhole and ends up in Eric's arms screaming. They notice the Lilly pad and Jenny again shows us how smart she is by asking, "What is that? Water?" She then panics claiming that Miriam looked like her mother and her bad feelings are coming back. Eric shows that he cares by forbidding her to talk about it. Elsewhere Mickey tells the pond goodnight.

The next day Eric goes into town to get the furniture and turn the utilities on. He suggests that Jenny help Mickey in the garden while he's gone. Here we learn that Jenny wanted to be a caterpillar. Ok she's crazier than Mickey in my book. Anyways they pick some flowers for Miriam's grave and Mickey mentions that he hears Miriam crying in the night before running off leaving Jenny dazed and confused. To cure this she goes to look and the portrait of Miriam when the cabinet opens on its own. Instead of doing what a normal person would do and freak out she calmly shuts it and goes to the pond. Suddenly she's in her room getting undressed in what appears to be considered TnA back then. In her dreams she hears the other characters talk about Miriam’s death when she hears the local train pull in, I mean a piercing scream that wakes her up. She roams around the house and ends up in the same room with the portrait. The cabinet opens again but now there's a skull on the top shelf. Jenny screams then notices some scratches on her hand and she runs away. Back in her room Jenny wraps her hand in some cloth while Mickey is watching a tree bang against the house. Jenny then hears what sounds like footsteps and after sitting there for a while she gets up and throws the skull out the window where it doesn't smash but settles in a divot. Jenny goes back to her room where she is still freaking out when there are knocks at the door. Taking her sweet time on answering it Jenny goes to see what it is. It's the skull that chases her back into the room where Jenny faints. Outside Mickey is walking around.

Eric wakes Jenny up in her bed where he tells her that nothing was there when he found her. Jenny thinks that she needs to go back to New York and see her old psychiatrist while Eric dismiss her. The next day Reverend Snow comes over. Eric and him look for the skull but can't find it. Jenny then confesses to Mr. Snow that she spent a year in the crazy house after her parents die. While she's boring the Rev. Eric looks for Mickey. He keeps looking for him while Mr. Snow takes Jenny to his house for lunch. After a futile search Eric goes to pick up Jenny. Mr. Snow suggests that Eric should take Jenny away from the house, but Eric tells him that the only cure for her is to show her that she is loved. Okay I'm thanking God that Eric isn't a psychiatrist right about now, else we would have a whole lotta crazies on our hands.

Back at the house Eric and Jenny are walking the grounds when they find Mickey and Eric chases after him. He catches him and accuses him for scaring his wife. He throws Mickey into some bushes but Jenny doesn’t think Mickey is responsible for it. Eric seems to think that all of this started when Jenny saw the painting of Miriam and it reminded her of her mother. He believes that if they burn that portrait then Jenny would be cured. While it goes up in flames they hear the scream. Eric says that it's just the peacocks, since you know they sound like human screams. Else where someone throws a rock at some birds. Back at the pond the water is boiling and at Miriam's grave the flower wilts. While they are tending to the ashes Jenny sees the skull in them, but Eric claims that there is nothing there. Jenny faints and Eric takes the skull and hides it in the pond. Mickey sees this from the bushes.

Eric decides to take Jenny way when Mr. Snow brings in some fresh eggs. Eric tell him that he is taking her away for good and that she tried to kill herself and thinks that she will do it again. Later Jenny tells Eric that Rev. Snow said that he was going to bring some men over tomorrow to search the whole estate. Eric leaves while Jenny goes to pack. We see Mickey duck into some bushes while Eric searches the pond for the skull, which he can't find. He sees Mickey and chases down to the greenhouse. Eric smacks him around asking him where the skull is and who took it, but Mickey claims that Miriam took it. Eric rushes off and dives into the pond looking for the skull, but Mickey has it. He checks the grave but sees the skull in Miriam's tombstone and he smashes a glass ball against it.

Meanwhile Mickey takes the skull to the Snow's where they ask him if he did it. Mickey says that he didn't and they rush off to the house to confront Eric. At said house Jenny looks for Mickey to say goodbye to him. You know another good name for this movie would be "Looking for Mickey." Eric meanwhile sneaks back into the house. As Jenny checks the greenhouse the ghost of Miriam chases her. At the house Eric readies a noose when he hears Jenny screaming. He hides in the doorway while Jenny runs upstairs and he strangles her. When he's done he hears someone knocking on the front door. Answering the door he sees the ghost, which is a skeleton in a dress. Eric throws a hard stool at the ghost, which collapses into a pile of bones. As he goes to run upstairs he sees a skull that chases him outside. There he is surrounded by giant flying skulls that chase him around the gardens. There is even a skull in the car when Eric tries to escape in it. He runs to the pond where the skull latches onto his throat, knocking him into the pond. Missing all the fun Jenny wakes up and find the dress of Miriam's ghost when the Snow's and Mickey arrive. Mrs. Snow comforts Jenny while the Reverend looks for someone else besides Mickey, i.e. Eric. He finds him in the pond, choked to death. As the Snows take Jenny away she asks why did Eric do it. They tell her it was for her money and now they question it Miriam died of and accident. Mickey's at the pond again where he says, "They're gone now. Rest." THE END

First of all I want to dedicate this review to the fine folks of Mystery Science Theater 3000. This was the last broadcast episode of the greatest show ever made and I want to thank them for bring a lot of joy into my life.

Now onto the review.

This film may seem dull when you first watch it, but if you put your mind on neutral it can be a lot of fun and at times a little bit creepy. The cabinet opening on it's own, the footsteps in the hall, the banging shutters, the tree hitting the house, and the knocking doors adds to the overall creepiness of the film. The isolated setting helps as well. The acting is what one would expect from a low budget from this era but it is pretty good.

John Hudson played Eric and pulled the character off greatly in my opinion. He played Eric’s descent into madness and obsession with killing his wife greatly and made it believable. You can still tell he's G-U-I-L-T-Y right off the bat though.

Peggy Webber was Jenny and she too pulled off the character of the crazy wife well enough. She was still annoying at times but in her defense she looked damn good in that bra.

The director Alex Nicol played Mickey. From what I heard he didn't really have to put much effort into the role but I disagree. He too did a good job at playing the creepy man-child caretaker that is a staple of these haunted house flicks.

All in all The Screaming Skull was an all right flick. It's not Casablanca by a long shot, but it is a good time waster or a good choice at a party where you and your drunken friends can mock it to death. Also I didn’t need the free burial but will you when you witness the shocking horror of THE SCREAMING SKULL?!?!?!

I give it ****/*****
B-Movie Dumpster (©2007-2011)

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