Showing posts with label movies. Show all posts
Showing posts with label movies. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 3, 2023

October Horror Movie Challenge: Godzilla vs. Hedorah (1971)

Godzilla vs. Hedorah
Tonight is an "Attack of Opportunity" Pluto now has a Godzilla channel and I love it.  I have seen this one many times, but since tonight is "Mother Nature Strikes Back" I thought it would be a great choice.

Godzilla vs. Hedorah (1971)

Also known as Godzilla vs the Smog Monster this movie is what you get when the writers of Godzilla start to worry about pollution. Now Godzilla has always been social commentary, but this one seems a bet heavy-handed, and the monster...well Hedorah is just silly.  Still, I had good memories of this one as a kid and the battles for the most part hold up.

The teens in this one seem like some nihilist hippies. Thinking the world will end due to pollution (we will burn ourselves up first!) and deciding to have one last party on Mt. Fuji. Plus we get a rare spotting of Godzilla's ability to telepathically communicate with children. 

No, it is not good, even by cheesy late 1960s, early 1970s Toho standards. But it is still fun.

I still can't get that "Save the Earth" song out of my head from the English dubbed version. I watched the subbed version and it has the equally ear-wormy original version, "Return the Sun."

Mother Nature Strikes Back: All of the Godzilla movies are this at some level.  After all The Blue Öyster Cult sang "History shows again and again, How nature points out the folly of men." in their song "Godzilla." This movie turns that message up. Hedorah is like a polluted titan rising up to attack those who harmed its mother Gaia. Honestly, when reading over the list of themes this is the movie I thought of for today. So this works out well.

October Horror Movie Challenge 2023
Viewed: 4
First Time Views: 2

31 Days of Halloween Movie Challenge

Monday, October 2, 2023

October Horror Movie Challenge: The Golem (1920, 2020)

The Golem 1920
It is not very often you can find two related movies that are 100 years apart. However, this is something that will become more and more common.  Today's Re-animated movies are the classic The Golem (Der Golem) and 2020's The Golem.

Both movie deal with the old Jewish legend of the Golem as a being made of clay and imbued with the word of Life/God to become a protector to the people. But if the Golem is kept around too long it also brings destruction to all those around it. 

The Golem: How He Came into the World (German: Der Golem, wie er in die Welt kam) (1920)

This movie is a classic in every sense of the word. It is slow, black & white and silent, but worth watching. You can easily see some of the design choices that would later go into the Frankenstein movies from Universal Studios. 

In this one, the golem is created to protect the Jewish people of Prague. A warning is given that if the Golem is still animated when the planets enter the house of Uranus the evil spirit of Astaroth will take it over. 

There is a bit where the Rabbi who animated the Golem uses it to impress the Emperor and save all his people when his place collapses. As expected the Golem turns to evil and begins killing people. Well, he kills a knight of the Emperor who has been sleeping with a girl (Miriam) who the Rabbi's apprentice wants. In the end the Golem is "shut down" by a girl who removes the scroll from his chest (not mouth as in the legends).

The Golem 2020
The Golem (2018, 2020)

This is an English-language Israeli movie set during the Black Death. We see Hannah visiting a healer where we learn it was 7 years ago when her child had died. She sneaks off to listen to the Rabbi preach about the Kaballah (forbidden at the time). Her husband knows, but while not exactly understanding he is supportive. During her sister's wedding men from a nearby village bring in a plague-stricken girl. They blame the Jewish people and their sorceries for the plague. 

Hannah decides to use the book her husband smuggled for her to create a Golem to protect the village from these men.  We are given scenes where the Golem, in the form of her dead son, just beat the living shit out of these men; especially a group that attack Hannah alone and try to hang her.

In this we get the same story where the Golem protects, but after a bit it begins to turn on everyone. Int this case it seems to be connected to Hannah, who can feel it when the Golem-boy gets shot and sends it (unconsciously) to kill the woman she thinks her husband it having an affair with. 

The men leave when the daughter of their leader gets better, but come back to burn the village down after his daughter dies. The Golem wipes them all out and Hannah asks the golem to stop so she can remove the scroll from it's mouth. 

It is a good flick but only horror in the broad sense of the word. Hani Furstenberg as Hannah was rather great, to be honest, and the movie rides on her performances.

October Horror Movie Challenge 2023
Viewed: 3
First Time Views: 2

31 Days of Halloween Movie Challenge

Tuesday, August 8, 2023

End of an Era: Heavy Metal Magazine

Recently I read on fred's HM fan blog that Heavy Metal magazine is no more.

I have often said that Heavy Metal (the music, the magazine, and the movie) was/were as much of an influence on my early 80s gaming style as were the likes of Dragon magazine, White Dwarf, and really, far more than most of the Appendix N books.

The news comes to us via Bleeding Cool and Multiversity Comics.

While I have not read HM in a long time, it was part of my D&D experience as much as anything. I even rank Taarna among the celebrated heroes of fantasy, right along with Conan, Elric, Frodo, Fafhrd, and the Gray Mouser.

Heavy MetalHeavy Metal Movie

White DwarfHeavy Metal Special Taarna

This is not an age that is kind to the printed word, less kind even to the printed word on paper. I don't hold out any hope that HM will return in a new form any more than I hope that Dragon will.

Monday, October 31, 2022

October Horror Movie Challenge: Documentary Night

I do like to have at least one night of documentaries.

Understanding the Witch Trials (2018)

Understanding the Witch Trials (2018)

This was a good one. I found it on Kanopy and it is part of the Great Courses series. Not a lot of new data here but it was all very well represented. I will need to find the rest of this series.  

Aside: Kanopy is a great service. All you need is a public library or University library card to get access. 

War on Witches (2011)

Fairly obscure one. I only found it on Tubi. It covers England and Scotland's witch trials, arguably some of the most famous. It's fluffy and not a lot new material. 

Witches: Masters of Time and Space (2021)

Ok, this one does cover material I have seen before but it also covers stories and histories from other parts of the world that I have seen only a few times before. So quite good really.

War on WitchesWitches: Masters of Time and Space (2021)

The Witches of Hollywood (2020)

This one covers how witches are depicted in Hollywood (and before). It features commentary from Peg Aloi, Heather Green, Pam Grossman, Kristen J. Sollée, and Dianca London. I am familiar with most of them.

It covers a lot of history very quickly to focus on Hollywood. They start with Snow White and Wizard of Oz and moves on to The Witch.  We get some history on why Margaret Hamilton has green skin.  There are some interesting thoughts on the ruby slippers but totally ignores the fact they are silver in the book and red because that shows up better in Technicolor. Other movies covered are Carrie, Rosemary's Baby, I Married a Witch, and more. 

They cover television as well including one of my favorites, "Bewitched" and "Charmed." 

There is a lot of great commentaries also on witches vs. the Patriarchy which is great, to be honest. This documentary reminds me how much I like Peg Aloi's and Pam Grossman's work.  

The Witches of Hollywood (2020)

I have a few more on my list but I am running out of juice here. So I am calling it.


October Horror Movie Challenge 2022
Viewed: 48
First Time Views: 37

October Horror Movie Challenge 2022

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

October Horror Movie Challenge: Witches of Blackwood (2020)

Witches of Blackwood (2020)
Is anyone up for Australian Witches? Sure, let's give it a go!

Witches of Blackwood (2020)

Originally released as The Unlit in Australia.  

Claire Nash (played by Cassandra Magrath) is having trouble. We know right away she is on leave for the police force and it has something to do with Luke and her fellow officers think she had something to do with it. Either way, she is depressed and feels guilty.

While she is under investigation she hears from her uncle that her father has died and she should return home to clear up his affairs. Leaving her boyfriend at home she drives to the idyllic town of Blackwood.  She begins to notice right away that the town seems empty. All she finds are listless, hollow-eyed women. No men. No children.

After talking to her uncle she goes to the local police station, but no one is there. She goes to the local bar and sees that there are only women there.  Walking out she meets up with an old high school friend who seems in a daze while pushing a baby stroller. They talk, but Claire notices that there is only a stick in the stroller. Her friend tells her that "She" took her son, but the trade was worth it.  There is a subtle hint that the "She" might be Claire's long-dead mother.

We get flashbacks to Claire's childhood. Her mother was likely a little crazy (something later confirmed by her uncle) and there were Pagan overtones to her upbringing.  She also has flashbacks to the time when she found Luke getting ready to kill himself.

Claire begins to see things in the woods, thinking it is her mother. There is some sort of meeting of all the women in town that she feels drawn too where the only cop left in town is sacrificed.

Her pasts and present all get mixed up. She ends up talking to her mother's ghost who appears all evil. Then to the ghost of Luke who is happy she "killed" him.   Though we see the scene where he does kill himself in flashbacks, it looks almost like Claire has him talked down and he is going to go back then a force possesses Clair making her look and sound all evil and demonic. She then convinces Luke that he should die and he has been asking for it for a while.

It is all rather slow going until the last 20 minutes when it really turns up the horrors. Claire's mom is alive, but has been hiding out. There is some sort of malevolent force and the only way to stop is for Claire's mom, the witch with the force in her, to kill herself by burning. This will stop it from going into Claire. 

We end six (or so) years later. Claire has a new daughter (no husband in sight) and it looks like she is free of the force, but we are not 100% sure her daughter is.

So not a bad movie really. A bit of folk horror and a southern (WAY southern) gothic feel to it all. 

It's not a scare-fest, but certainly a slow burn. So slow though that I almost gave up on it a couple of times, but it did pay off in the end. 

This is another pick from my list of "movies with a pentagram on the cover" though I will admit the original poster is much cooler.

The Unlit (2020)

October Horror Movie Challenge 2022
Viewed: 28
First Time Views: 21

October Horror Movie Challenge 2022

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

October Horror Movie Challenge: Return to the Witchouse

Witchouse II: Blood Coven
I already covered Witchouse* and it was...well not great. I went into Witchouse 2 with low expectations.  Did it live down to them? What about the hard-to-find Witchouse 3? 

Witchouse 2: Blood Coven (2000)

So this one has a couple of things working for it. Ariauna Albright is back as Lilith, this time in the flesh, not just a voice. Horror mainstay (and frequent Trek actor) Andrew Prine stars as both Sheriff Jake Harmon and Angus Westmore (it makes sense in the movie) and is easily the best actor in this lot. Yet I never felt like he was "Slumming it" he gave this one the same level of professionalism I see in all his movies.

The plot is simple. A university professor and her grad students are sent to this old house where bodies are discovered. The city wants to tear down the old house to make way for a new shopping mall and the city can't wait. So when the bodies are found and deemed to be too old for a cold case they bring in the archeologist and her students. 

Right away you can see the effect The Blair Witch Files had on this movie with all of the "first person video" shots. It is not effective here.

The bodies are dug up and soon the professor is processed by the ghost of Lilith and so are her students with the ghosts of her coven. Only the willing sacrifice of an innocent can stop Lilith, but Andrew Prine goes along as well after being wounded.

Good bits: For an RPG guy and former grad student like me the good bits are showing all the different avenues of research the students go though to get all their data information. 

Bad bits: most of the acting is not great. The "interviews" with the locals (while likely fun to make) was dull and rather pointless. 

*I noticed I had watched Witchouse (1999) back in 2015 and completely forgot it. Since I counted it this year as an "FTV" I am going to count this one as a rewatch, even though it is new to me to balance my tally.

Witchouse 3: Demon Fire
Witchouse 3: Demon Fire

Annie (Tanya Dempsey) is in an abusive relationship with Burke (Paul Darrigo). Three minutes in and I already want the guy dead. She goes to see her friends Stevie (Debbie Rochon) and Rose (Tina Krause) and stays at their place. Stevie and Rose are filming a witchcraft ritual when she comes in. They tell her she can stay with them as long as she likes.  

Stevie has a grant to film a witchcraft documentary. Which they have to discuss in the hot tub of course. After a night of drinking Stevie convinces them to try one of the rituals she found curiously enough in an antique store in Covington County, MA, the location of the other movies. 

They start the ritual and summon Lilith LeFey. But it turns out the book was something that Stevie got at gag shop and all the pages are blank. She made up the ritual on the fly. 

The next day they all wake up hung-over, except for Stevie who is excited about filming some wiccan at a festival. Soon they all begin to see things in the house. It is Lilith, this time played by horror icon Brinke Stevens.

Annie and Rose are all freaked out about the video. Stevie tells them they are overreacting. Soon even Stevie is seeing things. Soon Lilith is talking to both Stevie and Rose, but doesn't let them see her.

Stevie runs into Burke and he tells her Stevie is crazy. He never hit her and she was the one writing "Witches Burn" on her mirror. We later see Burke in a car watching the house and someone, presumably Lilith, films him while his car fills with exhaust fumes. Coming home Rose and Annie see a "Play Me" sign on the TV and watch it.

Rose and Annie run out, but Rose goes back into the house and is attacked by an unseen assailant. Annie returns to the house to see Stevie crying over Rose's bloody body.  

There is a video of Rose getting killed. Stevie and Annie watch it and it revealed that Annie was the killer all along (shocked I know), BUT she actually WAS possessed by Lilith.  Turns out Annie wanted revenge because Rose and Stevie both slept with Burke. 

Angry at the death of Rose, Stevie does the most un-horror movie thing I have seen in a while. She beats the living shit out of Annie.  Lilith is impressed and offers her a deal.

Not sure what happened but Stevie is no long worried about getting caught for Burke and Rose (assuming she is leaving Annie to take the fall) and now she is in league with Lilith.

Ok. The acting is not great here, but it is better and this is a much better movie. Debbie Rochon had some good moments. While it was no shock that the killer was Annie, the procession by Lilith was a good switch-up.

For use in NIGHT SHIFT and War of the Witch Queens

Now, more than ever I need to work on an adventure where one of the evil witches from the War of the Witch Queens comes back to plague the characters of NIGHT SHIFT.

Just gotta figure out who and how.

October Horror Movie Challenge 2022
Viewed: 27
First Time Views: 20

October Horror Movie Challenge 2022

Friday, September 30, 2022

October Horror Movie Challenge 2022

Today is the last day of September and that means tomorrow is the first day of Halloween, er...October.

And you know what that means here! Yes, the start of the October Horror Movie Challenge!

I have been doing the October Horror Movie Challenge for years now.  I am not doing anything wildly different than in previous years, and I am largely following the rules as set out by Krell Laboratories.

You have 31 days, October 1st to October 31st, to watch 31 Horror movies. At least 20 of these need to be first-time views.  

I am largely going themeless this year. I have a few I want to hit, a few brand new ones, and a few leftovers from last year.  If I have a theme so far it is "movies that have a pentagram on the cover."

Some Movies

I have learned over the years that if there is a movie you want to watch and it is on a streaming service you need to watch it right away.   So yeah, I have a lot of "witch" movies. 

Again I am hoping to have content for NIGHT SHIFT, my Monstrous Mondays, and more. 

If you want to join me here is a banner image to use.

October Horror Movie Challenge 2022

Let the Spooky Season begin!

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

#AtoZChallenge2022: J is for JFK

The A to Z of Conspiracy Theories: J is for JFK

Can't talk about conspiracy theories and not talk about JFK.

Though I am not talking about the 35th President, but rather the 1991 Oliver Stone movie.  Anyone that has even a passing interest in conspiracy theories needs to check this movie out.  It is a master class on conspiracies, but not in the way Oliver Stone wanted it to be.

The premise of the movie (and the conspiracy theories) was that Kennedy was killed by multiple gunmen. 

Kevin Costner gives a fantastic performance as Jim Garrison the District Attorney obsessed with finding multiple killers.  The film and most of the conspiracy theories fail on two main points.   1. A great man like Kennedy could not have been killed by a nobody like Lee Harvey Oswald.  2. The importance of "back and to the left."  Kennedy was shot from behind but his head snapped "back and to the left" this was taken as "proof" of a shooter in front, say from the Grassy Knoll.  

The problems with these ideas are pretty simple to point out.  1. Great men are killed by nobodies all the time, flying in the face of the Great Man Theory.  2. Ballistics testing, even from people like Penn & Teller, shows that shots with this type of rifle (an Italian Carcano M91/38 bolt-action rifle) do exactly this. Even an untrained marksman like Teller (who does have experience with stage guns) can fire off as many shots as Oswald did.

Many conspiracy theories fall apart once some real testing is done.


I honestly would recommend watching JFK over such movies as "Angels & Demons" or "Da Vinci Code."  The reason is that there is the underlying assumption that everything portrayed could have happened that way AND you can see how it could have happened that way.   Obviously, the realization of the underlying fallacies pulls the rug from under the whole thing.

Otherwise, it is a great step-by-step process on how to create a conspiracy theory investigation.  Oliver Stone may be obsessed, but he knows how to tell a good tale. Plus Tommy Lee Jones is brilliant in this. If you set your game in the "Paranoid 90s" then this is a must-see.

There is an old joke about time travel and Kennedy's assassination that there were so many time travelers on the Grassy Knoll when Kennedy was killed that there was no room for another gunman.  This got me thinking about a potential time travel story with Kennedy.  The Umbrella Academy did it. Quantum Leap did it. I think there was even a Star Trek episode planned, but never filmed that wanted to do it.   Just not 100% sure I would want to do it.


The NIGHT SHIFT RPG is available from the Elf Lair Games website (hardcover) and from DriveThruRPG (PDF).

Thursday, October 7, 2021

October Horror Movie Challenge: The Unnamable (1988)

The Unnamable (1988)
I started watching 1988's The Unnamable tonight thinking for sure I had seen it.  Started it, couldn't remember it, then realized I had seen it.

The Unnamable (1988)

So there must be an unwritten rule that all modern adaptations of H.P. Lovecraft must take place in or around Miskatonic University and/or Arkham. After all, it makes good sense and if I were a filmmaker it is what I would do as well.  Of course, it doesn't mean you always have to do it.

Case in point there is almost more about M.U. here than there is about the titular monster/character here.  We get glimpses into the undergraduate life, the student body (and bodies), even people majoring in things other than medicine and the dark arts.  But all of this is just fluff for the main story.  Again a common problem, how to make a full-length movie out of a short story.

This one features Lovecraft's reoccurring protagonist Randolph Carter (this time played by Mark Kinsey Stephenson).

It is typical late 80s fare. Lots of gore. Lots of implied sexual antics.  

In this second viewing (or third, who knows) I can help but think Randolph Carter here is kind of a jerk. By the time he comes around to helping anyone half the cast is dead. Yeah, it's a horror flick people are going to die, but his laissez-faire attitude borders on sociopathic negligence rather than a cool distance.

I wanted to also watch The Unnamable II but I can't find it anywhere.  This is also a problem I am having with other Lovecraft-based flicks.

2021 October Horror Movie Challenge

October 2021
Viewed: 11
First Time Views: 4.5

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

October Horror Movie Challenge: The Thing on the Doorstep (2014)

The Thing on the Doorstep (2014)
Ok. I can already tell that a Lovecraft film-fest is going to be rough.  Lovecraft's writings rarely translate well to the screen, this one is no exception.

The Thing on the Doorstep (2014)

This one looks like it was a student film, except everyone looks too old to be a student. 

The story sort of follows the Lovecraft short story, updated to modern times.

The cast is all unknowns. For most of them, this is their only film credit.  

The filming has an odd sepia tone to it that I thought was more than a little annoying. It certainly gave it a solid straight-to-video vibe about it. 

Again this video commits the worst sin a horror movie can; it was boring. I made it halfway through and ended up fast-forwarding to the end.  I am sure I missed nothing.   But given that I can only give myself half a point.  

2021 October Horror Movie Challenge

October 2021
Viewed: 10
First Time Views: 4.5

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

October Horror Movie Challenge: From Beyond (1986) & Banshee Chapter (2013)

From Beyond (1986) might have been the very first Lovecraft-based movie I ever saw.  I remember having the poster of it hanging in my room until I went off to college and then my brother had it in his room.  I was pleased to also find a new movie based on the same Lovecraft short story and this film.

From Beyond (1986)
From Beyond (1986)

I have been re-watching Star Trek: Enterprise, so I have been getting a fairly constant dose of Jeffrey Combs, but he looks so damn young here.  Incidentally, the doors in the psych ward make the same noise as the doors on classic Trek. 

This movie reunites Combs with Barbara Crampton, director Stuart Gordon, and producer Brian Yuzna.  Gordon wanted a core set of actors he could work with to do a bunch of Lovecraft's stories.  It's didn't quite turn out that way, which is too bad really.  Crampton and Combs have great on-screen chemistry; especially considering they have no scenes where they are "romantically" linked.  This is also the best of the batch of the Lovecraft movies.  Having Barbara Crampton as Dr. Katherine McMichaels, a strong woman as a Lovecraft protagonist is fantastic.   Combs does a great job as Tillinghast and you never once think of him as West from Re-Animator.  Ted Sorel was also fantastic as the mad Dr. Edward Pretorius. 

The movie holds up really well. The only things that seem "dated" in it are the hairstyles and technology.   Even many of the special effects are still great. 

I think I would have rather had a sequel to this one more so than Re-Animator.

Banshee Chapter (2013)
Banshee Chapter (2013)

I sort of got the sequel in Banshee Chapter.  This one combines the Lovecraft tale with the CIA's MK-ULTRA program. It features Katia Winter (who I adored in Sleepy Hollow), Ted Levine (from Silence of the Lambs and more recently The Alienist), and Michael McMillian (formerly of True Blood).

This features some "found footage" material, used to great effect in Blair Witch and Paranormal Activity and I think it works well here too.    In this movie, the dimensional shifting abilities are from a chemical created by the CIA, and some short-wave radio broadcasts over Number Stations.  I will tell you this, if you don't like jump scares, avoid this movie.  

The mixing of Lovecraft's base story, secret CIA programs, weapons-grade hallucinogens, and creepy urban legends makes for an attractive mix.

Katia Winter plays Anne Roland, a journalist searching for her missing friend James Hirsch (McMillian) who filmed himself taking some of MK-ULTRA's super-LSD (DMT-19) and has now disappeared.   She investigates the mystery and stumbles upon a recording of her friend picked up by a short-wave radio hobbyist who also happened to have worked for the NSA.

Ted Levin brilliantly plays Thomas Blackburn, a Hunter S. Thompson-like character.   This is getting better all the time.

Anne views some CIA footage on the effects of the drugs. She watches one of the patients/test subjects get attacked by some creature in the dark.  She also learns that DMT-19 is extracted directly from dead human pineal glands. 

Anne finally gets in contact with Blackburn and they do some DMT-19 created by Blackburn's friend Callie (Jenny Gabrielle).  Callie, who took some DMT-19 earlier, begins to show the same behavior that James did on the tape.  They see creatures that they normally could not see.  Much like how the Resonator does in From Beyond.  At one point we see Callie, all white-skinned and black eyes, vomiting up a ton of blood. It's a lot of fun.  

Monique Candelaria also appears as "Patient 14," one of the CIA test subjects.  She would later make another contribution to Lovecraft media in "Lovecraft Country."

Maybe it is my ears, but I found it helpful to have the Closed Captions turned on.

We learn after some scares and a run in with Callie that Blackburn never gave Anne the drug. Though she can hear and see the creatures.  We also find out the drug can be transmitted via touch and Blackburn was a subject of the CIA experiments when he was a teen.

Pretty good flick, but it sort of fell apart at the end.  I read the director ran out of time for filming and you can kind of tell.  But still, it was fun.  They even name drop Lovecraft in it.

2021 October Horror Movie Challenge

October 2021
Viewed: 9
First Time Views: 4

Monday, October 4, 2021

October Horror Movie Challenge: Re-Animator (1985, 1991, 2003)

Re-Animator (1985)
I can't do a Lovecraft film fest and NOT do the Re-Animator series.  Yeah, it is so loosely based on Lovecraft's Herbert West, but it left a long shadow, for good or ill, on all future Lovecraft film adaptions.

Re-Animator (1985)

The first thing I notice about this is how freaking young Jeffery Combs is.  Secondly how much gratuitous nudity there is in this.  Third, re-animated humans are SUPER STRONG!

The scene where they reanimated Rufus the cat has stuck with me for years. Pretty much everyone in this is a little forgettable, save for Jeffery Combs as Herbert West and David Gale as Dr. Carl Hill.  Yes, Barbara Crampton is in it as Meg doing what she does best, screaming and getting naked. 

The version I just watched on the Midnight Pulp did not have the infamous "head giving head" scene, nor did it have the scene where West is injecting some of the reagent into himself like heroin. That might be in the sequel.  Which is for later tonight.  Though this one ends fairly definitively with West, Hill and Meg all dying in the end.  Yeah...I know the title of the movie here.

I have seen this movie, I don't know now, maybe three dozen times.  Never fails to amuse and entertain.  Though it has been a few years since I last saw it and I am surprised which parts seemed to new to me.

I might need to get one of the newer Blu-Ray releases of it.  Though that could just be my tired brain talking.

Bride of Reanimator
Bride of Re-Animator (1991)

Taking place after what is being called the Miskatonic Medical School Massacre, Herbert West and Dan Cain are still working on perfecting the re-animation process.   

This movie, along with the first, completes the Lovecraft short story, more or less. 

This one is also less campy than the first, which is interesting since the camp was one of the main features of the first one.  Although West seems a little more unhinged in this movie.  Almost out of character really. 

There is also far less gratuitous nudity and blood in this one. Of it's there, just not the same as the thirst movie.  I am getting the feeling the director and writers were trying to make a more serious horror movie.  The scenes where the "Bride" is reanimated are very reminiscent of the Bride of Frankenstein with Else Lancaster. The lightning and the rain in the scene helps that feeling. 

David Gale is back as Dr. Carl Hill, a fantastic bad guy to have really.  This also marks one of his last roles before dying due to complications from open-heart surgery.  Hill as a bat-winged flying head is really one of the joys of the film.  

The ending though is pretty campy and crazy.

Beyond Re-Animator (2003)
Beyond Re-Animator (2003)

Oh, I am going to be dragging in the morning.  I knew of this movie but did not recall it until I went looking for Bride of Re-Animator on my streaming services.  I found it and figured, let's make a night of it! Plus I need a new watch for this challenge.

This one is different from the other two even if it is supposed to be a direct sequel.  We begin with the last night of the last movie. Young Howard Philips (hehe) is camping out in a tent with a friend when they hear someone go into their house.  They investigate only to find his older sister, but they are quickly attacked by a zombie that kills his sister Emily.  Wandering out of his house he sees the police take Herbert West into custody. West drops one of his re-agents and Howard picks it up.

It's13 years after those events and Herbert West is in prison experimenting on rats. Dr. Howard Philips has joined the prison hospital as the new doctor.  

The movie was made in Spain and sadly has a less than polished feel about it.  I was not surprised to hear it was direct to SciFi production, though I guess it was in some theatres overseas.  The presentation is SD, not HD.

They try for a "Silence of the Lambs" feel to the prison, Arkham State Prison.

Elsa Pataky, aka Liam Hemsworth's wife, appears as Laura Olney a journalist who starts an affair with Dr. Philips.

Philips and West set up a lab space in secret to continue their experiments.  Meanwhile, Laura keeps investigating West's background. The use of the original music for the research/investigation scenes is a nice touch.

West has discovered that the reagent is only half the solution, there is also this "Nano-Plasmic Energy" that jump starts all the cells.  They try it on a pet rat and it comes back to life and 100% fine...well almost.

Laura goes to interview the prisoner that West revived, but is discovered by the Warden. Who promptly gets his ear ripped off. Laura refuses the advances of the Warden and he kills her too.  They bring Laura back to life and use the Warden's NPE to make her normal, but it has some weird side-effects, like making her homicidal.   West also brings back the Warden, but he manages to escape and steal the reagent.  He starts killing prisoners and guards to bring them back to experience death over and over.

A prison riot breaks out and prisoners and the reanimated are all locked in together. 

SWAT teams rush in to stop the rioters. We also learn what happens when a living person injects the pure reagent.  Spoiler, it's messy.

This one ends with Herbert West walking out of the prison into the night.

It wasn't great, but it was fun.

2021 October Horror Movie Challenge

October 2021
Viewed: 7
First Time Views: 3

Sunday, October 3, 2021

October Horror Movie Challenge: The Dunwich Horror (1970, 2008)

The Dunwich Horror (1970)
The Dunwich Horror is one of Lovecraft's most enduring tales.  We get the demented and evil Whately family.  It is the story that gives us the most information on the Old One and Outer God Yog-Sothoth.   There have been a number of movies based on it, but tonight I want to focus on two, both starring Dean Stockwell.

Double the Dunwich Horror and double Dean Stockwell!

The Dunwich Horror (1970)

So from the start, this movie is not 100% sure if it wants to be Lovecraftian horror of more typical 70s occult-themed horror.  

I do love how the Necronomicon is given to a coed to return to the library like it was a copy of the Encyclopedia Britannica. Dean Stockwell is Wilbur in this one.  He is really young and does a good job acting, BUT he is not a good Wilbur.  That is due to the script really, not the acting. I guess they needed someone to charm Sandra Dee, and a deformed 10-year-old would not do the trick.   Ed Begley (in one of his last roles) is our Dr. Armitage and he brings the right amount of pomposity to the role. 

The biggest crime here is that the movie is so slow. The Whateley home in this movie is far nicer than it ever was in the Lovecraft tale.  

The effects are not great, but fun.  The image of Wilbur's brother is kind of cool. 

There is a lot of conflating of the Old Ones with some sort of satanic aspect, which is fairly irritating, to be honest.  But is it more irritating than Wilbur getting a "love interest?" Hard to say.  

Among other things, this movie is notable for a very, very rare, blink and you will miss it, Sandra Dee topless scene. This was also near the end of her very prolific career. She would only appear in a few more TV episodes. 

The movie ends with Dee's character, Nancy Wagner, pregnant with Wilbur's baby.  I guess he would be in his 50s now.  Sounds like a sequel to me!  The Bride of Dunwich!

The Dunwich Horror (2008)
The Dunwich Horror (2008)

This one has also been called "Witches: The Darkest Horror" and "Witches: The Dunwich Horror." This time the story moves to Louisana. 

Dean Stockwell this time plays Dr. Henry Armitage.  The movie is really not good, to be honest, but it is kind of fun.  It watches like a Call of Cthulhu adventure; exotic locales, strange artifacts, old evil tomes, guest-starring Jeffery Combs (as Wilbur no less).  Even John Dee, Olas Wormius, and the Knights Templar get name-dropped here.  Olas even shows up in a swamp for some reason.

Moving the location to the far south is an interesting one. I am sure in Lovecraft's time New England had its share of strange locales, but now on a larger scale the same "other place" is served by the backwoods southern parts of the country.  Or I might be giving the filmmakers too much credit.  I also can't tell if the effect of Wilbur being "slightly out of this dimension/time" is interesting or irritating. 

While it is not Lovecraft's Dunwich Horror and it is not very good, it kept me watching to the end.

So where are we at now?  I think it is time for another Dunwich Horror movie, this time make it closer to the Lovecraft tale and get Dean Stockwell to play old man Whateley! 

2021 October Horror Movie Challenge

October 2021
Viewed: 4
First Time Views: 2

Friday, October 1, 2021

October Horror Movie Challenge: Tragic Ceremony (1972)

Tragic Ceremony (1972)
Time for another October Horror Movie Challenge.   My goal this year is as in previous years, to watch 31 horror movies with at least 20 new ones. This year I am going to try a Lovecraft film fest, know full well it is (or I am) likely doomed to failure on it.  Lovecraft does not translate well onto the big (or small) screens.

But before that gets started I have (as in previous years) some "leftovers" of movies I wanted to see but did not get around to watching.  Tonight is the first.

Tragic Ceremony (1972)

Last year I spent a lot of time watching European, especially Italian, horror films released before 1973.  I wanted to get a good feel for what was going on in horror before The Exorcist changed everything.  

Tragic Ceremony is a Spanish/Italian flick starring American actress Camille Keaton years before her defining role in "I Spit on Your Grave" in 1978.

Four "hippies" spend some time goofing off in the country when their car runs out of gas.  They end up staying at the manor of Lord and Lady Alexander (Luciana Paluzzi).   Lady Alexander takes a particular interest in Jane (Keaton) of course.  The other three dudes witness a black mass where Lord and Lady Alexander attempt to sacrifice Jane. They stop it and everyone goes insane and they all kill each other. 

Jane and her dudes drive away (thought their dune buggy was out of gas?) and they head back to Bill's (one of the guys) home.  Soon everyone starts getting killed and no one knows who is doing it.

Eventually, only Jane is left alive, she had been killing them all.  She is committed to an asylum but is visited by Lady Alexander (who survived the massacre).  Jane walks out of the asylum and into a waiting car where she is transformed into Lady Alexander.  Jane's body remains in the asylum where the doctor matter of factly tells us she had been dead this whole time and possessed by LAdy Alexander.

There was a moment there where I thought I had found my "mystery movie" from the 70s. But it turned out not to be it.

I watched this one with my kids, but yeah it is not good. Though I will comment that Camille Keaton's Italian seem to me to be pretty good.  I thought it was pretty good in last year's Il Sesso Della Strega (1973) as well. 

2021 October Horror Movie Challenge

October 2021
Viewed: 1
First Time Views: 1

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Sword & Sorcery & Cinema: Sarah Douglas Film Fest

I was working on an adventure for War of the Witch Queens this past week and I was thinking that my Witch Queen in this adventure had a lot in common with Queen Taramis from A Witch Shall be Born and the Conan the Destroyer movie.   I did my digging and discovered that yes, the look/vibe I wanting in my next Witch Queen (loosely based on Methyn Sarr from Barbarians of Lemuria) was based on Queen Taramis AND surprisingly enough "Lyranna" from Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time.

Both were played by the exquisite Sarah Douglas

So I figured I would have to do Sarah Douglas film fest since she plays a witch in both movies.  

Beastmaster 2
Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time (1991)

Nearly a decade after the last Beastmaster movie we rejoin Dar in his battle against evil.  This time against his own older half-brother Arklon. The camp is WAY high in this one. Sarah Douglas plays Lyranna which sounds a lot like my "Larina" (but mine was 5 years before this).  Lyranna has a lot of language and speech that makes her sound like she is from L.A. from the late 80s.  There is a reason for that since she has been studying the land of "LA" where she has learned about a Neutron Detonator that she will give to Arklon, in exchange for ruling with him.

While she has the portal open Kari Wuhrer comes racing through in her red Porshe.  The poster showing the scene has a solid "Back to the Future" vibe to it. 

Ok. I am going to say this. Kari Wuher gets on my nerves. She is not so bad here, and she is actually supposed to be annoying here. 

Let's be honest. This is not a good movie.  I give Marc Singer a lot of credit here. The movie all around him is campy as all hell and he is playing Dar straight.  His earnestness from the previous movie holds over here. 

Wings Hauser chews up scenes as Arklon.  I can't if he is good at camp or bad. In any case, it works for him and this role.  Sarah Douglas is great, but I was inclined to like her anyway.  Even Kari Wuher was a lot of fun in it. 

The movie is not good, but it is fun. 

Conan the Destroyer
Conan the Destroyer (1984)

This is the second, and less well-liked Conan movie.  I personally thought it was a lot of fun. I had been a fan of Grace Jones since her Nightclubbing album so I was looking forward to seeing her in this.

This movie was also the second time I became aware of Sarah Douglas. I thought she was fantastic as Ursa in Superman and Superman II, and she was exceptionally great here.  Well. At least I thought so then.  I STILL think she was great, to be honest.

Queen Taramis (only a princess in the Howard story) gives Conan a quest to escort the Queen's Niece, Princess Jehnna, played the ever-lovely Olivia d'Abo in her first movie, to restore the horn of the dreaming god Dagoth (played by none other than André the Giant).  Sounds vaguely Lovecraftian. Jehnna is naturally a virgin.  Hey pro tip, girls who sleep around never get sacrificed to Elder gods. 

Going along with Conan is the Queen's guard Bombaata played by the NBA and College Basketball Hall of Famer, and future best-selling author, Wilt Chamberlain in his only film role.  I am sure you have all seen the photos with Arnold standing next to Wilt and André before.  Shared by Arnold himself, he commented that he had never felt so puny before in his life.

Arnold standing next to Wilt and André

There is a cool scene with Conan in a room full of mirrors and a creature that swear influenced Hordak.  The creature was neat, the scene however seemed really silly. Made even sillier now with such memes as this. 

Conan and Rose

Among other actors, the immortal Tracey Walter appears as Malak. I swear this guy has been in everything. How many thieves started swallowing gems because of this movie? The equally prolific Mako is here as Akiro, sounding like a gruff Iroh. 

Our virgin is captured. Found. Captured again. Put in jeopardy. And set to sacrificed.  

And like all sacrifices go awry, the angry god kills the one summoning him, this time Taramis. 

So will a fun little romp it is worse than I remember but not as bad as I feared.   I remember that is felt more "D&D" than the first movie did and pretty much every gamer I knew had gone to see it.

Gaming Content

For me,  I can use Lyranna as Queen Taramis as a nice bit of history for my own version of Queen Methyn Sarr.  She starts out as a witch, finds a ruler whom she seduces, and then ultimately betrays and takes his kingdom as her own.  Not 100% original, but it fits with the pulpy feel I want. 

Plus it will give me something to start from.  Though given tonight's movies I wonder if I should rename her to Methyn Sarah.  Doesn't sound quite as evil does it?

Methyn Sarr



Tim Knight of Hero Press and Pun Isaac of Halls of the Nephilim along with myself are getting together at the Facebook Group I'd Rather Be Killing Monsters to discuss these movies.  Follow along with the hashtag #IdRatherBeWatchingMonsters.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Sword & Sorcery & Cinema: Camelot (1967)

Camelot (1967)
At the risk of sounding really old, I adore Camelot.  Back when I was young I ended up with a second bout of chickenpox.  My parents had a laser disc player back then and this one of the movies they had. I think I watched it a dozen times.  Not a lot of choice really, but it was still good.  I can still recall all the songs.

I have to admit I often judge my Athurs, Gueneveres, and Lancelots based on the examples set by Richard Harris, Vanessa Redgrave, and Franco Nero.  Let's be honest. Vanessa Redgrave is adorable here.  I am not 100% convinced that she did not contribute to me having so many blue-eyed, redheaded characters.

Arthur's meeting with Guenevere is one of my favorites. And I fully admit I still hum "Camelot" whenever I watch another movie about Arthur.

The story here follows, more or less, the T.H. White "Once and Future King" novel.

Arthur's conversations with "Jenny" are really fantastic. I mean the attitudes are more modern, but that is fine since the setting is more Ren Faire than post-Roman Britain. I find Richard Harris' Arthur enthusiasm infectious. 

Also if you ever wanted a better depiction of an AD&D Paladin then you can't do much better than Camelot's Lancelot. The scene where Lancelot is jousting with Sir Dinadan, accidentally mortally wounds and then heals him has stuck with me for years as the example of laying on hands.  I can't help but think this is what Gygax had in mind when he wrote the Paladin class.  

The movie does drag on a bit, it is nearly 3 hours, but I am hesitant to suggest any cuts. 

The scene where Lancelot rescues Guenevere is both profoundly heroic and profoundly sad at the same time.  Give this to Richard Harris, he makes you feel Arthur's pain. 

Arthur, "For what? Revenge. The most worthless of causes."

I might lack the historical gravitas of Excalibur and have nearly nothing in common with real history but I don't care.  

Much like reading Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur, I think this is a must-view for any fan of the myths and tales of King Arthur.

Gaming Content

Nothing directly here save what all the tales of Arthur can give us.  BUT given the musical nature of this movie, it does make me wonder if a game where everyone is a bard might work.  Lusty Month of May indeed.

This Lancelot, maybe more than any other, is a great example of a Paladin in D&D.


Tim Knight of Hero Press and Pun Isaac of Halls of the Nephilim along with myself are getting together at the Facebook Group I'd Rather Be Killing Monsters to discuss these movies.  Follow along with the hashtag #IdRatherBeWatchingMonsters.

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Sword & Sorcery & Cinema: King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017)

The tale of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table has been so deeply embedded in our society that retellings are not just inevitable, they are ubiquitous.  Among those, there are going to retellings that differ from the classic, Geoffrey of Monmouth and Thomas Malory retellings.  Some might even improve on the tales.

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017), is not one of those.  It's not that it takes so many liberties with the tale, that is expected.  It's the liberties are fairly nonsensical and some are just bad.  For starters, while Charlie Hunnam is ok as Arthur, he is really much too old for the role.  

Jude Law reunites with his Sherlock director Guy Ritchie and gives us a decent enough Vortigern, but I felt he wasn't really giving the part all he could.  

Supergirl's Katie McGrath appears as Elsa, Vortigern's wife, making this her second dip into the Arthurian legends. She had played Morganna in "Merlin" (I'll be getting to that soon).  

Djimon Hounsou appears as Sir Bedivere. Frankly, I enjoy every role he has played, but I felt he was phoning this one in. I also felt Eric Bana was miscast, but honestly, I am not entirely I have seen him in anything that I liked him in.  Even his Nero in Star Trek seemed a little off to me.   

The movie feels like it has too much "Games of Throne" or "Vikings" envy.  To that end, Aidan Gillen appears as Sir William, but all I could see was Little Finger. At least he was using his real accent here. 

Of course, there were other things I could pick on, like there being Vikings in Britain at all at this time, or even Chinese people at this point; figuring this was between 550AD and 1040AD.

There is more, but not enough to write about, to be honest.  Interestingly enough my wife, who doesn't care for the King Arthur story, really likes this one.  

What good can I grab from this?  Well, I liked Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey as the Mage, Merlin's apprentice.  I always felt Merlin needed to have a couple more apprentices.  I'll also talk about this when I discuss "Cursed."

Gaming Content

Back in Jr. High, I was playing in a D&D game (Basic/Expert) set in Medieval Britain in the time of Arthur.  Of course, as most Jr. High games in the early 80s were, this one devolved rather quickly on who was going to kill Arthur and claim Excalibur as their own.  I grew tired of that campaign rather quickly and instead wanted to play in Middle Earth.   

But ever since then I have been very, very curious about the RPG Chivalry & Sorcery.  Seeing ads in Dragon Magazine only added to the mystery of the game.  I am going to have to spend some time with that.

Another bit of content, something that I think comes for the later retellings of the Knights of Camelot, is the notion of the New Religion (Christianity) vs. The Old Ways (Paganism).  We saw this in Excalibur and it was a central focus of The Mists of Avalon (which I also hope to talk about).  This movie did not feature it all that much, but the thought was still there.  I like this sort of interaction and love putting it into my games when I can.

Saturday, July 3, 2021

Sword & Sorcery & Cinema: Excalibur (1981)

Excalibur (1981)
Let's be honest. Few tales grab the epic feel of Fantasy RPG as well as the tale of King Authur, and few retellings of King Arthur's tale are as epic as John Boorman's Excalibur

Excalibur (1981)

Ok. So it's not perfect in its retelling of King Authur's tale, nor is it a great representation of say Dark Ages, post-Roman-Britain arms, and armor.  But it is still a fun movie with some seriously epic scenes and moments.

First, let's take a moment to appreciate this cast;  Nigel Terry as King Arthur, Nicol Williamson as Merlin, Nicholas Clay as Lancelot, Cherie Lunghi as Guenevere, Helen Mirren as Morgana, Liam Neeson as Gawain, Gabriel Byrne as Uther Pendragon, Corin Redgrave as Gorlois, Duke of Cornwall, and Patrick Stewart as Leondegrance.  Seriously.  It would have been enough for me just to have Helen Mirren as Morgana. Everything else is just gravy. 

Rewatching it now, after a lifetime of reading and rereading various tales of King Authur, I am pleased with how well this one holds up.  I do recall there being a bit of gore, but it was more than even I remembered. 

Watching this now makes me want to do a "King Authur" film fest.  There are a few really great ones and a few terrible ones. But all the same, it would be fun.

The tale is largely what we all know, but that doesn't make it less fun.  On the contrary, it makes even more enjoyable at times because you are expecting certain things. 

I think Nicol Williamson might very well be one of the best cinematic Merlin's ever.  Not just in the look and manner, but pretty much everything he does. Equal parts wizard and fool. Perfect as the advisor to a King. 

Authur: No riddles Merlin, a simple "yes." That really frightens me. 

The exchange between Merlin and Morgana at Authur's and Guenevere's wedding imprinted so deep on my unconsciousness that I don't doubt that my fascination with pagan witches wasn't intensified 100 fold here. Also, my enduring love for Helen Mirren certainly began here.  

Helen Mirren
Can you really blame me?

Ultimately King Authur, like most Celtic stories, is a tragedy.  The betrayal of Lancelot, the birth of Modred, the Quest for the Grail. 

Merlin: A dream to some. A nightmare to others!

While the first half is much better than the latter half, the return of Lancelot to Authur's side is one of the great and saddest cinematic moments in Authur's tale. 

Yes.  An Authurian filmfest is in order.

Gaming Content

Again, are you serious? 

One of the best bits, for me, was the Charm of Making, spoken in old Irish (sorta).

Anál nathrach,
orth’ bháis's bethad,
do chél dénmha


Serpent's breath,
charm of death and life,
thy omen of making.

Great stuff really.