Showing posts with label horror. Show all posts
Showing posts with label horror. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft, Part 5. Plays Well With Others

I touched briefly on this with my posts on Building a Darklord, Castle Amber, and Horror Adventures, but one of the key strengths of  Ravenloft has always been its mutability.  It can go anywhere, it be what you need it to be and while some might bemoan its pastiche of horror literature stereotypes, that same familiarity allows it to work in a lot of ways with other books and games.

While I am perfectly happy, indeed happier now, that Ravenloft is more amorphous and less of a "world" there are plenty of sources out there if you want to expand it beyond what lives in between the book covers now to a larger world.

Here are some resources I am planning on using to make my Ravenloft campaign (whenever I can get that going!) a little more personalized.

Ravenloft and Cthulhu

While this seems to be a "no-brainer" just slapping Cthulhu into a game almost never works.  Sure there are some great monsters here, but the real value-add here are the sections on running a cosmic horror game.  This is a great overall resource, and a fantastic one when running an adventure in Bluetspur.

Ravenloft and Fantasy Horror

I mentioned already the utility that Pathfinder's Horror Adventures provides in setting up some details for a Dark Fantasy Horror game.  The 3.x d20 system in Pathfinder is similar enough to the 5e one in Ravenloft to provide plenty of ideas with a minimum of conversion needed.   If you must have them, the Fear, Sanity, and Corruption rules can be ported over to 5e Ravenloft.  Even some of the Feats can be used (but used sparingly).  Spells and Magic items can be ported over almost as is really. 

In fact, I have found it so useful in the last few days that I have moved it from my "Pathfinder" shelf to my "Horror" shelf.

BlackRose

Going back to some of the earliest posts on this blog are my ideas for a BlackRose game.  Now with the new 5e Blue Rose out, it is practically begging me to use it for this.  For me, the ideas behind BlackRose have changed a bit.  I think a Domain that is similar to Aldea, but maybe more of one of sadness.  Not Aldea, but using a lot of the ideas and rules.  Something more akin to my Kingdom of Rain.  Which has one foot planted squarely in Blue Rose and another in a melancholic sort of Folk Horror that would find a home in Ravenloft.  I ran an adventure under the title "Kingdom of Rain" a while back. It was a little Aldea, a little bit Innsmouth, and a little bit Alton, Illinois.  There are some solid Fey elements to it as well; I introduced my River Hags here.  A version of Kingdom of Rain is set to be published under the name "Witching Weather," so watch this space for more on that.

Ravenloft and the Runewild


Speaking of fey lands, the Runewild from Sneak Attack Press also provides a bit of a wilder fey world with tinges of Horror and Dark Fantasy.  If you ever wanted to expand on the Domain of Tepset then this is a fantastic source.  Again, as with the Horror Adventures and Blue Rose, there is material here that can be dropped into Ravenloft "as is" with very little modification.  The Runewild also help build up that "dream-like feeling" I like to use in Ravenloft before hitting characters with the Nightmares.

My Kingdom of Rain lives in the intersection of the triquetra-shaped Venn diagram of Ravenloft, Blue Rose, and Runewild.  I can also use this for expanding my new Domain with The Snow Queen as the Darklord.  Though do I REALLY want my Kingdom of Rain converted to a Dark Domain?  I'll have to suss that one out as I go through my books here.

Ravenloft and Ravenloft


Sounds odd, but most of the grief the new book is getting online is "it's not like the old Ravenloft." Ok, fine. If you must, make it like it.   Most of the Ravenloft books are fluff anyway.  Grab what you want from any of the old books and reuse it.  Want Viktor back instead of Viktra? Ok, do that.  I might create a Domain where they are both there and there is an intense rivalry between them.  I am thinking Father and Daughter.  Their creations of course are caught in this battle.  Rival evil scientists. Using their creations to get at the other.  Both wanting to capture their opponents' creations to learn their secrets. Viktor is intensely jealous of his daughter fearing her creation Else is superior, all the wile claiming she knows nothing that he did not teach her.  Viktra hates her father for never sharing his work and finds Adam to be an abomination.  

The more I type this, the more I like it.  Go all Hammer Horror for Viktor and Giallo horror for Viktra.  Set them on different sides of Lamordia where their minions search the countryside for parts for their experiments and to hopefully capture one of the more successful ones of their rival Darklords. 

It's one part Frankenstein Created Woman (1967), one part Lady Frankenstein (1971), and one part War of the Gargantuas (1966).  All set in Fantasy Gothic Horror Switzerland. Sprinkle in a little bit of Reanimator and I am good to go. 

Horror is my favorite seasoning for most games.  Ravenloft lets me do this with everything.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft, Part 4. Do You Wanna Build a Darklord II?

Demon Eyed Elsa
I am going for this

Nothing exists in a vacuum. RPGs are no exception to this rule. While Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft is a great tool for a DM wanting to add horror to a D&D game and it is the tool to use to run a D&D 5e Ravenloft game, it is by no means the only tool.  

I have so many horror RPGs that I have tools for just about any type of horror game I ever want to run.  I have not even gotten into doing things like adding WitchCraft's Book of Hod to Ravenloft (and I have been doing it for years) or even getting into the material from World of Darkness or Call of Cthulhu RPGs.  

WitchCraft, World of Darkness, and Call of Cthulhu are all fantastic games.  Each one has a different approach to their own types of horror.  If I am fighting against the cosmic horrors then CoC is my game.  If I want to explore the horrors of existence within myself as a monster tr something that is no longer truly human then WoD.  If I want a mixture of the two with a grounding in philosophies of the world as all being true then WitchCraft/Armageddon is my game of choice.  This is only three games. I can grab from Chill, Kult, Little Fears, and more.   All are great. All are fun. Not every one of them is great for a Ravenloft game.

So. Let's build another Darklord like I did last week with Darlessa. I am not going to go into the same level of detail as I did with her.  Instead, I am going to use some other horror sources to do my heavy lifting.  NOW to be sure, I don't NEED to add anything to Ravenloft for me to use it.  Everything I am doing here I could do from scratch from the material in Chapter 2 of VRGtR. I happen to also have all these other books with great ideas. 

I have this thing that happens with all my campaigns.  I collect a lot of data, materials, products whatever for a campaign. I pick, I choose, I write, I rewrite and in the end, I get something that is often not at all exactly like what I wanted, but that is great really. But I also have this stack of other "Stuff" that I didn't use but is still compelling to me.  My campaign "Ogre Battle" grew out of my old "Shadow War" for example.  I ran this huge war that worked as a prequel to this big AD&D campaign.  The Second Campaign grew right out of Come Endless Darkness.  Right now my big campaign taking a lot of my creative energy is War of the Witch Queens.  I have barely got into it (characters are 3rd level) and I already have leftovers and plot threads that have grown larger than the campaign can handle.

Before I pull that into this conversation let me shift gears and talk about Pathfinder.

Pathfinder is the biggest alternative to D&D out there.  They gained a lot of traction in the 3e days and boomed in the 4e days as the go-to choice for D&D-like games.  I have a lot of really cool, really well-written Pathfinder books. None of them are currently in use because I am not currently playing Pathfinder.

For Ravenloft, the best Pathfinder book you can get is Pathfinder Horror Adventures.  I reviewed this book a while back and there is a lot overlap between what this book does and what Ravenloft does. The Pathfinder book is more "Domain agnostic" so it has more room for things like new classes and spells.  The Pathfinder book also covers sanity, fear, and madness.  I mentioned in my overview of Ravenloft that I usually don't like how most games do "madness." What they do here works well, for Pathfinder, I am not sure how it would work for D&D 5.   I do like Pathfinder's approach to Darklords in their Dread Lords. I am going to keep this in mind for the next bit.

Note: The Horrific Inspirations on pages 252 to 253 in Horror Adventures covers movies, television, and print for the same types of Horror Genres found in Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft. 

Land of the Ice and Snow

Pathfinder forever gets a special place in my heart because it gave me Irrisen, the land of the Witch Queens. Home to the Daughters of Baba Yaga and has included such notables as Tasha/Tashana/Iggwilv. I have a bunch of material from the Winter Witch Queen adventure path from Pathfinder and other books.   I love the idea of Winter Witches, both in fiction and history.   If I am going to pull in some Pathfinder bits from various books then why not build a Dark Domain that is Pathfinder based.

So. Let's do this.  Irrisen is a land ruled by a Witch Queen and she gets 100 years to rule until Baba Yaga comes in a pulls her out. There have been a few that rebelled and try to go longer and there is always a rivalry between the various Daughters of Baba Yaga over who will get to rule. Queen Elvanna is a good example. There is a lot of potential her then for someone to be a little more pissed off and try to kill her rivals. Now. That in of itself is not a good enough reason to drag someone into the mists. In fact, Baba Yaga encourages such machinations to guarantee the strongest one will rule. It's hard to imagine then what a Witch Queen would need to do to get the mists' attention.  One would have to assume a crime or act so vile that mists have to take notice.

Building a Pathfinder / Ravenloft Domain

Let's take an easy example.  I'll start with Elvanna, but I don't have to.  Let's just say any Winter Witch Queen.  We don't know what happens to these queens when Baba Yaga is done with them.  Tashanna is the only we do know about, but she has been banned from returning to Golarion.  We can assume that Grandmother Bony Legs doesn't let them retire to a beach home in Florida.

When Elvanna was defeated let's say she came up with a plan, if she could not rule Irrisen then no one could.  She whips up a ritual to destroy the whole land in a winter that even the inhabitants of Irrisen would fear.  She started her ritual managed to wipe out a village or two, the key here is that people important to Baba Yaga have been killed. Either the mists open up to grab her OR maybe Baba Yaga has the power to summon them. One thing is for certain.  She killed her own sister, who was going to be the next Queen. Her name likely ends in "-anna."

I would steal some ideas from the 4e adventure Winter of the Witch.  I could even use Koliada the Winter Witch. I did 5e stats for her, but I really don't need stats.  I also have access to the Snow Queen a Winter Fey creature from Kobold Press' Tome of Beasts for 5e.

Snow Queen

If it looks like I am going for evil Elsa, then you would be right. Well. Elsa actually was evil before Disney got to her.

The idea with this Domain is to use the rules presented in Pathfinder Horror Adventures to get my ideas and then the rules from Ravenloft Chapter 2  to detail them. 

I do admit, I am likely to steal some ideas from the old Domain of Vorostokov from the 2nd Ed Darklords book.  The Darklord of that land, Zolnik, was not all that interesting as a Darklord, but the land was.

Think of a landlocked in an endless deadly winter.  Everyone is poor, miserable, cold and the only source of food is what the hunters can bring in.  I would call it Ikkesen.  Combining the Norwegian word for "not" (Ikke) and Irrisen. 

The Dark Domain (5e) / Realm (Pathfinder) is one of Dark Fantasy, but it is also really Survival Horror and just enough Folk Horror to keep you on your toes. Ikkesen rarely gets above sub-zero temps and never above freezing.  It is a dark land of endless winter.  Wolves of the worst sort roam the woods. There are skinwalkers, wendigos, undead and worst things. It is what happens if Ragnarök occurred and the Frost Giants won. 

I will detail this one some more, but I am also waiting to see what I have leftover from War of the Witch Queens.  

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Classic Adventures Revisited: X2 Castle Amber

X2 Castle Amber (Chateau d' Amberville)
What can I possibly say about Castle Amber?

This adventure had always been something of a Holy Grail quest for me. I was a huge fan of Tom Moldvay, I had heard this adventure took place in Glantri and it was full of horror elements. As time went on and I still never found a copy I began to hear more; that it was a crazy dungeon full of crazier NPCs. That it is was more of a thinking module and not a hack and slash one and finally, it was heavily influenced by Clark Ashton Smith, whom I always felt was superior to Lovecraft in many respects.

I did finally get a copy from my FLGS, paid a lot for it, and I also got a copy from DriveThruRPG. The module lives up to the hype. It is not a particularly easy module to run and you better spend a lot of time with it. But for me at that time (the mid-90s when I finally got a copy) it became a great addition to my growing Ravenloft collection. It was not officially part of Ravenloft mind you, but so much of it feels the same that it would have been a crime not to bring them together.  

Later I ran it for my family under D&D 5e rules and it quickly became one of their most favorite adventures ever.  I started a trend in my family's games; they love anything done by Tom Moldvay. 

For this review and retrospective, I am considering my original Castle Amber module, the PDF and POD from DriveThruRPG, and the Goodman Games hardcover of the Original and 5e update.

X2 Castle Amber

Castle Amber is an adventure for characters level 3 to 6 for the D&D Expert Set.  It was written by Tom Moldvay, who gave us D&D Basic set half of the B/X D&D line. This adventure shows that.  While the Expert set was more focused on wilderness adventures, this is a romp through a "haunted house."  For many gamers of a certain age this became the template for all sorts of Haunted House dungeons that are still being published today.

Physically the original adventure was a 28 page book with color covers by Erol Otus with the maps of the titular castle in old-school blue on the inside covers.  The art inside is black and white and done primarily by Jim Holloway.  The art has a duel effect here.  Otus was the prime B/X cover artist, so the feel here is 100% his weird fantasy vibe of B/X.  Jim Holloway was also at this time the primary artist for the Horror game Chill.  Come for the weirdness, stay for the horror. 

Averoigne

The adventure is overtly an homage to the tales of Clark Ashton Smith.  The area where it all takes place, Averoigne, is used right out of the works of CAS.  The Amber family would fit right-in in one of his tales and that is the Colossus of Ylourgne, or rather his D&D counterpart, on the cover.  The adventure even includes a reading guide for those that want to read up on the tales of CAS, and I highly recommend doing so.

CAS, and his contemporary H.P. Lovecraft, were no strangers to the D&D world by 1981.  Indeed Molday's pulp sensibilities shine throughout in this adventure as much as they did with X1 The Isle of Dread and B4 The Lost City.  All three adventures have also been updated by Goodman Games for 5e in their hardcover Original Adventures Reincarnated series, making Moldvay their most reprinted designer. Even more than Gygax himself who as of this writing only has 1, soon to be 2.

There is a lot to love about this adventure too.  There are monsters to kill yes, but this is not a kick in the doors and kill the monster sort of deal.  There is a mood and atmosphere here.  In fact this is the prototype for the horror adventures of later date, in particular Ravenloft (which I will discuss).

On one hand, we have a haunted house filled with the not-quite-dead members of the Amber family.  This can be a pulpy nightmare or even a Gothic tale.  The room with the Tarot cards and their abilities gives us a sneak peak of some the things we will see in Ravenloft. On the other we have creatures from beyond that are quite Lovecraftian.  The Neh-Thalggu, or the Brain Collector, is a creepy ass aberration that can give the Mi-Go a run for their money.  

There is travel to other worlds via some strange mists and 16 new monsters. Some of these monsters also appeared in The Isle of Dread, but here they feel a bit different.  Plus what other B/X D&D book can you name that has "Demons" and "Pagans" in it. 

The background of this is rich enough that you want more of it. More on Averoigne and its connection to Glantri, more on the Amber family, and more on the world that this adventure implies.  It is no surprise really that much of this adventure and what it all implies found welcome homes in the BECMI version of Glantri.   

For me though the best connection is the one to Ravenloft. I have to admit the last time I ran this adventure I made the tie-ins to Ravenloft more specific, but I did not have to do much. I have to admit I was rather gleeful inside at the scene where they have to run from the "Grey Mists" to get into the castle.

Classic Modules Today & Revisited

I mentioned the Goodman Games hardcover above, but it really is a gem of a product.  With it, you get the original adventure and a 5e version of the adventure (where was that when I needed it!) as well as some fantastic comments about the adventure itself.  I wish Tom Moldvay had still been alive to give us his thoughts on this.   The 5e version expands on the Castle and those within.  There are a lot more monsters included and there are full NPC stat writeups for members of the Amber family. 

NPCs

Most of all this new version expands Averoigne in ways I would have loved to have had years ago. 

Additionally, there is the Classic Modules Today version published on DMsGuild by Chris Nolen. This one is a straightforward conversion. You need the original adventure but it is a fraction of the cost of the Goodman Games version.  I have both and have used both to great effect.   

Plays Well With Others

Castle Amber is a fantastic adventure and I am a big fan if you can't tell.  What I enjoy the most about it is that by the nature of the adventure itself and how it is written it can easily be added to any world and slotted into any sort of campaign. For me it was a no-brainer for my Come Endless Darkness campaign.  While that campaign is overtly a "Greyhawk" again the nature of it allowed a side trip to Mystara/The Known World. I would later use it as the "front door" to my Ravenloft adventure.  It was something I have wanted to do for so long and it worked so well I want to do it more.  A lot more.  While I gladly mixed and matched Basic, AD&D, 3e and 5e in my games, it is now much easier now that everything I want speaks the same, 5e, language.

Castle Amber & Ravenloft 5e

I have long postulated that not only is Castle Amber a Proto-Ravenloft, but Barovia is from Mystara/The Known World.   These connections are made more explicit with the D&D 5e adventure Curse of Strahd.  With the 5e Curse of Strahd, 5e Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft, and Goodman Games 5e Castle Amber this is now a trivial effort.

Ravenloft and Castle Amber

In fact, using the same process from Chapter 2 of Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft you could easily make the Averoigne of Castle Amber into a Domain of Dread. 

Averoigne is Gothic Horror and Dark Fantasy, with some Cosmic Horror and some Folk Horror.  I could turn up the horror elements a little, but I would not need to do much, to be honest.  Thinking back to my original running of X2 Castle Amber and I6 Ravenloft using the then-new 5e rules I had great fun. If I had tied them closer together then it would have been fantastic. 

Black Rose

Back in the early days of this blog I discussed a game I wanted to run; Black Rose, a combination of Blue Rose and Ravenloft.  Now with the 5e version of Blue Rose out, it would be a lot easier. 


I will have to write my review of the new Blue Rose Adventurer's Guide

This also begs for a good (or Goodman) version of B3 Palace of the Silver Princess for 5e.

Castle Amber is easily one of my favorite adventures and the appeal of it has only grown for me over the years.

Links

The Black Gate ran a fantastic series on Clark Ashton Smith.  I won't link all of them here, just ones that are germane to this discussion, but they are all good.

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Sword & Sorcery & Cinema: Belladonna of Sadness (1973)

Green is the color of the devil.

Looking over my plans for a new Darklord and some other ideas I went search for a very specific sort of movie. I wanted something set in the Dark Ages, I wanted it to involve a witch, and a normally innocent person turning to evil, or at least revenge.

I got a few hits, but the one that keep coming up in various permutations of my searches was the Japanese Animated feature, Kanashimi no Beradonna, also known as La Sorcière, Tragedy of Belladonna, and Belladonna of Sadness.

The movie takes place in an undisclosed time and place, but it is obviously some sort of feudal time.  Though we later learn it was medieval France, it could be anywhere.  Jeanne and her husband Jean have just gotten married and the Lord of the land demands jus primae noctis since Jean can't pay all his taxes.  That night Jeanne is brutalized and she returns home bloodied and bruised. While her husband wants her to forget Jeanne has visions of a phallic-shaped devil that promises her power in return for just small things.   She hesitates at first but soon succumbs to the little monster.

Soon Jeanne has power. Her husband is elevated to tax collector, though when he can't collect all the taxes the Lord chops off his hand.  As she grows in power her devil grows in size. Soon Jeanne is the true power in her village.  When the Lord returns from a war he seeks to arrest Jeanne, but she flees into the forest where she lives for a while.  The villagers start to die from the Bubonic plague and it is Jeanne that saves them with her magic.  They celebrate by throwing a huge orgy.

Jeanne runs afoul of the Lord and his wife again. She manages to get the wife killed when a young page comes to her for a love potion for the Lord's wife. The Lord offers to marry Jeanne but she refuses, claiming she wants everything he has.

She burned at the stake but as she looks out at the onlookers she sees their faces turn into hers. Knowing they sympathize with her.  The narration tells us that Jeanne's spirit lives on in the women of France and they will rise up to eventually overthrow the monarchy in the French Revolution.  It is implied that she is reborn as Liberty in La Liberté guidant le peuple

This was not like any anime movie I have ever seen before.  Check out the trailer for it.

The artistic style is not what many consider "anime" and there is almost a Ralph Bashski psychedelic about it.  The story is of course quite sad. Jeanne never has a choice in her actions, but at least she makes the best of them and she is defiant even to the point she is burning on the stake. 

Articles keep calling it "X" Rated. But that really is sensationalism.  Yes, there is a rape in the beginning, but it is all done in metaphor. Ok. Graphic metaphor.  The trailer has a lot of nudity in it, but that might be every cut in movie.  No, where this movie is the most disturbing is the violence perpetrated on Jeanne (and some to Jean) and how she reacts to it all. 

There is a lot to process in this movie, to be honest. I am severely disappointed I never saw it before this.  

Gaming Content

Would Jeanne be a Darklord? I am not sure, she doesn't seem to live up to the evil witch she is described as or thought of by others.  Instead, she becomes something else. Liberty if the movie is followed.  But there are moments when she could have turned a lot more evil.  I would have a very difficult time blaming her to be honest. 

I do like the subtle seduction the little devil does. As she grows in power, so does he.  This would be a good Warlock Patron.   

There is more I would love to do with this. I think I am going to need the BluRay. 

--

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.

Friday, June 4, 2021

Kickstart Your Weekend: Knock-Down Drag-Out: Country Noir RPG

I do love Kickstarter. I love it when it is used for a smaller company that has an idea and wants to get it off the ground.  Not companies that are using it as a "pre-order" system, but rather a real venture capital like solution.

Case in point.

Knock-Down Drag-Out: Country Noir RPG

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/kddo/knock-down-drag-out-1?ref=theotherside

Country Noir is best described as Americana Folk Horror.  Here are what the authors have to say.

Dark country roads, darker forest lands. Crumbling factories and dying towns. Bare-knuckle brawls and gunfights. Mystery and danger. These are just a few of the elements common to “country noir” (sometimes also called hillbilly noir, grit-lit, or southern noir), a category of crime fiction and film where secrets are everywhere and the restoration of order and justice are by no means a sure thing. Winter's Bone, Justified, Ozark, Hap & Leonard, and the Slim in Little Egypt series. Knock-Down Drag-Out is a way for you and your friends to bring these kinds of stories to life.

I mean it sounds really great. 

Now full disclosure. I know of the authors, but they might not remember me. Jason & Ian Miller both worked with my brother at a movie theatre in the heart of Little Egypt.  They had even been to my house at a Halloween Party where they drank some mead my roommates and I had made the year before.  We thought one of them was going to go blind from it.

The game looks like a lot of fun and one I would really enjoy.

So it would be great if it got funded!

Check it out and throw some coin in their direction.

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Sword & Sorcery & Cinema: Frankenstein

May has been split between two themes for me.  We started off with Sci-Fi month with a bunch of reviews on sci-fi games and movies and I ended with a week-long journey back to Ravenloft with the new 5e Ravenloft book.

What movie could I watch that would cover both halves of this theme?

Well really there is only one that could do it proper justice and I have a LOT of choices of that one.

The story is Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.  The movie is...well there are a lot of them.

While Frankenstein, or as it properly titled, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, was written by Mary Shelley and published in 1818 when she was only 20 years old.  

While it is a horror novel and a Gothic and Romantic Horror novel at that, it really is more properly one of the very first Science Fiction novels published. Jules Verne and H.G. Welles were not even alive at this point.  They might be known as the fathers of Science Fiction, but the mother of Science Fiction was a teenage girl and one of the most prominent feminist icons of her day.

So suck it up. Science Fiction was created by a teenaged feminist.

Currently, there are over 70 movies featuring Frankenstein and/or his monster. And those are just the ones I have access to on the Internet, there are likely even more.

No way am I going to watch them all tonight!  That would be a good October Movie Marathon month. But here are some I have seen in the past.

I am surprised by what is not on my list.  Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1994) directed by and starring Kenneth Branagh is one of my favorites and the closest we have seen to Shelley's book.

Maybe a Frankenstein Movie Marathon is in order after all!

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Sword & Sorcery & Cinema: Forbidden World (1982)

Forbidden World
More Roger Corman fun! This one is a repeat from an October Horror Movie Marathon from 2018.

If I had thought about it I should have done this as a double feature with last week's Galaxy of Terror.  I think a lot of the starship interiors were reused. The movie starts with some starships attacking another ship. A robot (straight out of Star Frontiers by the look of him) wakes up the commander out of cryosleep to deal with them.   After the battle, we learn that the captain, Mike Colby played by Jesse Vint, has been asleep so long his son is older than he is now.  Also, he has been re-routed to the planet Xarbia which Colby thinks is a joke.  It is an experimental research station and something got loose. Something they call Subject 20. June Chadwick stars as Dr. Barbara Glaser, who is best known from V and This is Spinal Tap. Dawn Dunlap also stars as Tracy Baxter.  Dunlap is better known as "Laura" from the quasi-erotic film of the same name when she was only 16 and from Corman's Barbarian Queen

Another Corman recycle are the two suns rising on the planet. Same shot is used in The Warrior and the Sorceress.  Wonder if it is the same planet? What happened to it I wonder. I was already running low on water in David Cardine's time.  Maybe it died out leaving only the Proto B bacteria the scientists are studying. 

So we have a mutant monster in a lab out in space.  What can go wrong?  Well, I sure you can guess.  The movie is not great, but it is also not really terrible. Like a lot of Corman's stuff, there is a core here, a kernel of a really good idea here.  This movie very, very effectively combines "Alien" and "The Thing" into one movie and puts the whole thing on a station in space.   It is Corman, so yeah the women take off their clothes at the drop of a hat. They also run around in high heels and shower together. The future is weird. 

The movie is fairly uneven, going from the tension of the escaped mutant in one scene to everyone turning in for the night in the next. 

The monster picks people off one by one, you know like a monster will. Until we are just left with just Tracy and Mike.  Though the idea of feeding the monster a cancerous tumor to kill it is a novel one. 

It was a fun flick, but I got really tired of Tracy's screaming in the last half of the flick. 

Gaming Content

Same as you get from Alien or The Thing.  Hunt the monster before it hunts you. I suppose that I will have to do a "monster is loose in a research facility" adventure at some point.  But I would need to make it different than either "Ghost Ship" or the "Ghost Station of Inverness V." This would have to be a flesh and blood abomination. NOT just an alien, but a creature of humankind's hubris.

--

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, May 15, 2021

Sword & Sorcery & Cinema: Galaxy of Terror (1981)

Something a little different tonight, an 80s sci-fi horror movie with a solid Sword & Sorcery feel to it. It's from Roger Corman, so I guess that is not a huge surprise.

Galaxy of Terror (1981)

This movie has everything! My favorite Martian Ray Walston, Erin "Joanie" Moran, Grace Zabriskie, Sid Haig, pre-Freddie (and really young looking!) Robert Englund, a space witch, tentacle rape monsters! Wait. What was that last bit again? Another Roger Corman offering. I have to admit the cast is something else really. 

The movie starts with the crew of our spaceship, the Quest, headed to planet Morganthus by the order of some mysterious dude called "The Planet Master." We never see his face due to the glowy red energy around it. He is playing some game with our Space Witch. Our pilot, Captain Trantor (Zabriskie) was the only survivor of some famous disaster that has left her a little worse for the wear.  We learn Alluma (Moran) is a psychic sensitive and she detects no life on the planet they all but crash land on.

The Quest crew investigates a crashed ship, the Remus, where all the crew seems to be dead. Soon the first crew member, Cos, is killed by some sort of monster with claws.  The crew looks for more survivors and finds a really creepy ass pyramid.  The mission Commander, Ivar, is lowered into the pyramid but he gets attacked by some blood-sucking tentacles.  Quuhod (Haig) is killed by one of his own crystal throwing stars.  Dameia (played by Taaffe O'Connell), in one of the most controversial bits in the movie, is attacked by a giant maggot/worm/tentacle beast who manages to get all her clothes off before it rapes/eats her.  

We find out that Core, the cook (Walston) is some sort of spy. He had been in the disaster the Captain had been in.  She seems to be hallucinating an attack.  We next see her trying to leave the ship but she bursts into flames.   The remaining crew regroup and head back to the pyramid.  They get separated, of course, and picked off one by one until only Kore and Cabren remain. We learn that Kore is really the Planet Master and this pyramid is part of a game. Cabren manages to kill Kore, but becomes the Planet Master in his place.

I'll give the writers credit, there is some background going on here.  I am not sure that it all translates well on the screen though. I like the idea of the pyramid causing fear, but there is no reason why The Master/Kore would actually be interested in it. 

The movie has a solid Alien (1979) and Aliens (1986) feel to it. No surprise really, James Cameron served as Production Designer and Second Unit Director on the film would five years later direct Aliens. 

But, and let's be honest here, the movie is not good. I am not sure why we never saw it then but Erin Moran is terrible in this. Taaffe O'Connell is in it only so she can take off her clothes.  Even mainstays like Robert Englund and Sid Haig are wasted here.  Ray Walston and Grace Zabriskie were obviously here for the paycheck.

Gaming Content

The idea of entering an ancient and abandoned pyramid is as old as...well, the Pyramids.  This one just happens to have a sci-fi horror feel to it.  There are a lot of ideas I could steal for BlackStar. Watching this after reviewing Stars Without Number I am more convinced now that my BlackStar game must have psionics. 

--

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.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Ravenloft Returns to 5e D&D (Again!)

The word is out that next D&D book/campaign setting is going to be Ravenloft and I could not be more pleased!  

Ravenloft coverRavenloft cover

What do we know so far?

It will be released on May 18th, 2021 and it has both the normal and game store exclusive covers.  I have already preordered both.

Thirty Domains of Dread will be detailed. These include Lamordia, Dementlieu (both from the original 2nd Ed set), Kalakeri (new), and Falkovnia (revised).

Likewise, we are getting old, new, and revised Darklords. One that seems to be causing a stir is  Dr. Viktra Mordenheim and her creation Alyss. Not sure if she is a genderswapped Viktor, a daughter or something else.  I mean, lets be honest, even Hammer did the wives and daughters of all their great movies. Ravenloft can too.

Gothic Horror will be covered as well as more traditional "ghost" stories, psychological horror, dark fantasy, and D&D's own brand of cosmic horror.  Which is good, I love all that Far Realm stuff.

While the book is called "Van Richten's Guide" the eponymous Van Righten disappeared before he could complete his last volume "Van Richten's Guide to Witches."  So I am expecting, and am promised, new monster hunters to carry on his legacy.   Our cover girl appears to be Ezmerelda d’Avenir, one of the newer vampire hunters in Barovia.

There are two new sub-classes, College of Spirits Bard and the Undead Pact Warlock.

For lineages, there are dhampir, hexblood, or reborn characters, which offer vampire, hag, and undead lineages, respectively. 

Characters can also get "dark gifts" to aid them in their fights...or to help them become the monster they truly want to be.

There will be 40 pages on monsters; some new and some familiar ones.  I am expecting to see a Brain in the Jar myself. 

And a new adventure. A new take on the House of Lament.  

Ravenloft through the editions

It also sounds like they have a wide variety of voices and inputs on this which is great; horror is a universal concept. Many are horror authors.  I while I do love my Gothic Horror, I also love all horror.  I am looking forward to seeing the Vistani become something more than an uncomfortable stereotype. 

So folks are complaining about the "loss" of Falkovnia, but's let's be honest here. Falkovnia and Vlad Drakov were nothing more than the "leftovers" after Barovia and Strahd mined all the Dracula lore. I never even used it much back in the 2e days and I am certainly not missing it now. Falkovnia is now a zombie apocalypse land and I think that works better to be honest.  We didn't really have one of those.  

Sithicus may or may not show up, but Lord Soth certainly won't.  Also not a surprise really. Those rights were a tangled mess anyway.

I am rather looking forward to this book.  Ravenloft was MY game for all of 2nd Ed AD&D and college. I bought every campaign book, adventure, and yes even novel I could get my hands on.  I was contributing to the Kargatane official netbooks of Ravenloft material.  My 2nd Ed AD&D is Ravenloft; I don't separate the two.

My only question is do I put this on my D&D5 shelf, my horror shelf, or my Ravenloft shelf?

Links

Saturday, October 31, 2020

October Horror Movie Challenge: The Craft Legacy (2020)

Managed to get one last one in for October 2020.  And this one is rather perfect for this week.

The Craft: Legacy (2020)

This one was released to much fanfare online on Wednesday.

The movie begins with three witches, Lourdes (Zoey Luna), Franky (Gideon Adlon), and Tabby (Lovie Simone) trying to get their magic to work.  They lament the lack of their "fourth."

Enter Lily (newcomer Cailee Spaeny) and her mother Helen (the always wonderful Michelle Monaghan) moving to a new town and home to live with Helen's new boyfriend Adam (David Duchovny) and his three sons.   

From here the movie follows the same trajectory as the first Craft movie.  This is not an accident, nor is it sloppy writing.  There are a lot callbacks to the previous movie and a lot of nods.  When this movie comes to the point of climax of the previous movie it takes a turn. 

Spoilers follow.

The coven turns against Lily, not because they are abusing their power, but because she is.  They blame her for the death of Timmy. So the other members of the coven bind her and all of their powers.  

Before Timmy's funeral, Lily learns that she was adopted and she begins to suspect that Adam is not what he says he is.  We learn that Adam is some sort of warlock himself. He takes on Helen's form to get Lily to give him her powers.  When she refuses he decides to kill her.  While fighting she manages to freeze him revealing her powers were back and the other members of her coven were there.  Together they all manage to subdue and then eliminate Adam. 

The coven reconstituted Lily is taken to an institute to meet her biological mother, Nancy Downs from the first movie.  Yes, Fairuza Balk makes a cameo as Nancy. 

So. Yeah not quite as scary as the first, but it also keeps it open for future sequels.  There is the question of Adam and what he was doing all over the world.  There was certainly a vibe of "Warlocks vs. Witches" implied here.  I was expecting more horror given this is a Blumehouse flick. 

In truth, I rather enjoyed it even with its lack of real horror.  Nice nod to the first while moving ahead on its own path.

NIGHT SHIFT Content:  My NIGHT SHIFT co-author Jason Vey also watched this movie a couple of days ago and agrees it would make for a very fun NIGHT SHIFT setting. So expect to see some more from either or both of us on this. 

Watched: 60
New: 41


And that is it. Another October Horror Challenge in the bag. 60 total movies, 41 new. I am already looking at the movies for next year.

Friday, October 30, 2020

October Horror Movie Challenge: Witchcraft of the 70s

I want to get in some Witchcraft documentaries from the 70s.  These really cover what formed some of my earliest thoughts on witchcraft and the occult.

These movies are not really horror, but they good supporting movies for all the horror movies I typically watch. All these titles received an X rating when they were released but are really all pretty tame.  

An interesting note that all these films feature Alex Sanders and Maxine Sanders.

Legend of the Witches bluray cover
Legend of the Witches (1970)

This is a nice weird one and It is part of a larger DVD/Blu-Collection I grabbed from Amazon.  The first part is a slow narration over scenes of the moon and sun rising and setting in glorious black & white.  It reminds me a little of the start of Aradia, Gospel of the Witches.  We get to the creation of man and we see a number of neolithic shamanistic cave paintings. 
We get to the part about witches with prerequisite naked dancing under the moon.

We get to see a witchcraft initiation, which looks a bit Gardenarian or Alexandrian (checked it is Alex Sanders, so Alexandrian). We get some history of England including the notion that William the Conqueror was the son of a Witch, and Robin Hood had a coven. This leads to a bunch of material about witches including the witch hunts. 

Different witch rituals are shown from wicca to Luciferian with copious amounts of nudity (likely the source for the X ratings) but nothing even remotely shocking really.

Secret Rites (1971)

This one starts off with a "witches orgy" and a woman being dragged to "unspeakable obscenities" but fear not! Her lover "John Goodfellow" has come to rescue her brandishing a cross and rebuke witches as if they were vampires.  The scene freezes and our narrator continues in saying that this has been the perception of witches for years.  We cut to Alex Sanders who tells us it is complete rubbish. 

This covers the initiation of a new witch into Alex's coven. As well as a very brief look at his discussion group (likely brief since there is no nudity), a Wiccan handfasting, and even a Great Rite.

The following were included on the same DVD. 

The Witch's Fiddle (1924)
A man gets a fiddle from a witch that can make anyone dance. 

Out of Step (1957)
A documentary series that covers witchcraft in this episode.  Interviewed are Margaret Murry, Gerald Gardner, and Alastair Crowley's friend, Louis Wilkinson. 

The Judgement of Albion (1968)
From Robert Wynne-Simmons, the director of Blood on Satan's Claw.  Based on the poems of William Blake. It is a trippy little flick where faeries, in the guise of young college students, still roam "A Green and Pleasant Land" amid modern troubles.  Completely experimental and yet so utterly British. 

All of these movies and shorts reveal an interesting look at Britain at the end of the 60's.  While in the US we were moving headlong into the excess of the 70s and "left-over hippie shit", England seemed to be two different places at the same time. A country aware that it is slowing down even as new prospects are on the horizon and a country whose Pagan past was just a little bit below the surface. These two are likely related to each other.

Witchcraft 70 poster
Witchcraft '70 (1970)

This Italian "documentary" follows the lives of various real witches in England. I say "documentary" because it only details the most salacious elements of the neo-pagan movement in England.  It also conflates all witchcraft with satanism.  Now a few of the people they profile like Alex Sanders dabbled in "the Left-Hand Path" decades before and Anton LeVey who was a Satanist, others like Eleanor Bone and Maxine Sanders were Wiccans.  The Sanders in fact developed the Alexandrian Tradition of Wicca.  In fact, there are many times that what is depicted on screen and what the narrator is telling us is happening are complete conflict.   There is a hand-fasting between Alex and Maxine Sanders which is described as Maxine marrying the Devil in the guise of Alex.  They imply that in all of these "Satanic Weddings" that Alex, as the Devil, gets to have sex with the women first.  A lot of criticism has been laid at the feet of Alex Sanders and Alexandrian Wicca, but this is not one of them. 

Oh there is the implication too that Brazilian witches engage in incest.  If that feels like it came out of nowhere then yeah, I thought so too. In the middle of talking about proper British witchcraft we get this side trip to Brazil. 

Another unforgivable sin (if that word can be used) is that the Narrator (Alberto Bevilacqua) quotes Jacob Sprenger of the Malleus Maleficarum as an authority. 

Finnish witchcraft is shown to have a nubile nude witch submit to a cult leader as her future husband, chosen by the high priestess. 

It is all very Mondo with plenty of blood sacrifices.  There is a bit on Ted Serios and his psychic photography.  Mediums. Krishna Consciousness (which is entrapping all of America's youth!) and some more on Brazil.  Oh. and they spend some time on LaVey.  Plenty of nude women hanging around including LaVey's own daughter and future high priestess of her own sect. There are a few scenes in the LaVey piece that I am sure got in front of some of the artists of White Dwarf

And it ends with Cryonics, or the freezing your body after death.  Cause why not.  Even the start of the 70s was weird.  I guess their issue was the artificial extension of life. 
It feels like some Christian scare tract/documentary.  Better watch out those English witches will get you!

It has an X rating, but there is nothing here that I have not seen in a "TV-MA" series on Amazon or Netflix. 

Reading other reviews online I just watched the Italian version "Angeli Bianchi... Angeli Neri" (White Angel ...Black Angel), not the redubbed, re-edited "American" version. 

NIGHT SHIFT and Old-school Content:  A few notes.

I have had this game idea for a while now, Spirit of '76, that takes place in the summer of 1976.  It has a solid Americana feel to it and it is inspired as much by movies like "Smokey and the Bandit" and "Convoy" as it is "The Omen" and "It's Alive".  But this got me thinking of a similar idea, only maybe set in England during the end of the 60s, 1968 to 1972 in particular.  Something very Mod but with horror and supernatural elements.   I'd love to set it in London. 

Watched: 55
New: 39



Thursday, October 29, 2020

October Horror Movie Challenge: Demon Witch Child (1975)

Demon Witch Child (1975)
Demon Witch Child (1975)

Another one that has been on my list for a while now.  I had it on tap for 2018, but for some reason, I never got around to it.  I think I just forgot about it. Actually, it is perfect for this year and right now.

Before I get into the plot, such that it is, I want to talk about what this movie represents.  All month long I have been focused on the time period in Europe, and mostly Italian and Spanish cinema, just right before the Exorcist hit.  The sweet spot for me has been 1971 to 1973.  Now maybe someday I'll do a post Exorcist run of movies, but until then this is the film that I will hold up as Exhibit A as to the effect the Exorcist had on filmmaking. 

Demon Witch Child, aka The Possessed and La Endemoniada, has a pedigree of sorts.  Marián Salgado who plays Susan, the titular "Demon Witch Child," was the Spanish voice actress for Linda Blair's Regan in the Exorcist.  So she was handpicked by director Amando de Ossorio for his Exorcist rip-off, er, homage.   The fact that she also bears some similar facial features to the old witch played by Tota Alba helps.

The Exorcist influences are all over this movie.  Susan crawls around, her body (not just head) spins around 180 degrees. She swears, she makes rude sexual comments all the time, she speaks in different languages (though we never hear them).  And it is all a little weird. I honestly got the feeling that the movie was written one way, but when the Exorcist hit more was added. 

An old witch desecrates a church and is arrested.  She is suspected of kidnapping a baby, but instead of talking she throws herself out of a window.  Her daughter (played by Kali Hansa who also spent some of time working with Jess Franco, including one of his hardcore outings, Weiße Haut und schwarze Schenkel, 1976) witnesses this and decides to curse the daughter of a local politician, Susan. 

Susan it seems is now possessed by the spirit of the dead old witch. The make-up effects are pretty good and do a good job of making Marián Salgado look like Tota Alba.  

Sadly the movie goes nowhere really.  Susan sacrifices babies, eats them,  gets people killed, murders a reporter, and comments on how well hung he is before castrating him. But there is also a surprising lack of gore or nudity for the time.  There is a subplot with a priest, our would-be exorcist, how before he became a priest he was engaged.  It is all very random in places. 

This is not the only movie I have seen from the time that suffers a lot from comparisons to The Exorcist, but this one of the most glaring ones. 

Watched: 52
New: 36

NIGHT SHIFT and Old-School Content
Possession is always fun in a game. Unless you happen to be the one possessed.  While this movie was obviously about demonic possession they can be other types.  Based on similar tales, I posted about the Eretica Vampire a few years back.  I even used a still from this movie.

Eretica (Vampire)
Eretica (Vampire)
No. Appearing: 1
AC: 6
Move: 40ft.
Hit Dice: 7
Special: 2 attacks (claws, bite), Mind control, Strong and Fast, Witch spells, blood drain.
XP VALUE: 750 

Eretica are the spirits of dead witches who possess the living, turning them into a sort of living vampire.

Unlike the typical Vampire, these creatures cannot Polymorph and cannot create new vampires.  In their host form, they can also move about during the day and are immune to holy items.  In their "possessed" form they have all the standard weaknesses of vampires. 
They can witch spells at the 4th level of experience.



Wednesday, October 28, 2020

October Horror Movie Challenge: Baba Yaga (1973, 1975)

Baba Yaga (1975)

I started watching this one a couple of years ago, but for some reason, I never finished it.  I kept meaning to come back to it but never did.  Next thing I knew Amazon Prime no longer listed it.  So I picked up the Blue Underground BluRay of it.  I always enjoy Blue Underground's DVDs and BluRays, so when I saw they had this one I knew I better jump on it.  

So glad I did.  Blue Underground is now listing it as Out of Print.  If the years of doing this October Challenge has taught me anything it is to jump on the movie when you can, I have lost track of all the ones that have gone out of print or have become unavailable over the years. 

Carroll Baker plays a very haunting version of Baba Yaga, one is immediately reminded of Delphine Seyrig's Elizabeth Báthory from "Daughters of Darkness".  Isabelle De Funès plays Valentina, a photographer in Milan. They meet when Baba Yaga's car nearly hits Valentina while she is petting a stray dog.

After Baba Yaga takes a clip from Valentina's garter belt some strange things start to happen.   
Valentina goes to Baba Yaga's home and it is wonderfully creepy. Full of strange antiques, seemingly bottomless wholes, and a doll wearing S&M gear. Though when photographed it is wearing a normal doll's dress.   There are times too when the doll seems to come to life (played by Ely Galleani).  

There is also a clear plastic phone that I am sure was the coolest thing ever in 1975.

When Valentina's models start to get hurt or die she begins to suspect that Baba Yaga might be a witch. 

The movie is slow. No doubt. And it tries to be experimental in places, various hallucinations or visions of fascism or even silent German horror films. But it does have a nice creepy vibe and you never really know what is real or not. 

The story is based on the Italian comic, or fumetti, Valentina by Guido Crepax.  The movie even features some of the art from the comics in the credits and the actors can be seen paging through some of the comics.  Isabelle De Funès certainly has the look of Valentina down.  She looks like she walked right off the page, to be honest. 

The movie is listed as 91 minutes on IMDB, but my BluRay is 83 minutes.  There are some cut scenes on the BluRay that add up to the missing time.  But I am not sure if they are the same missing minutes or not.   They don't really add anything to the movie really. 

Watched: 51
New: 35

NIGHT SHIFT and Old-School Content
Movies about Baba Yaga in English are so rare. This one was dubbed into English from Italian, so rarer still.  This is not your Russian Grandmother's Baba Yaga. This Baba Yaga drives Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud not a mortar and pestle.  The ancient myths of Baba Yaga were about an old witch that devoured or sometimes protected young girls.  The Swinging 70s Baba Yaga is an older woman that preys on younger women in a carnal way. What would a 21st Century Baba Yaga be like?  Maybe a powerful businesswoman, who employs a number of young beautiful women. Likely models or maybe webcam girls.  In the modern retelling, she is not a predator that eats or seduces the young women, but rather uses them up in other ways. Maybe something like I did with Willow & Tara: Web of Lies.


Tuesday, October 27, 2020

October Horror Movie Challenge: Blood Sabbath (1972)

Staying in the 70s tonight. In fact, I seem to be stuck in 1971-1973, but that is fine really.  I had seen this one before but I realized I had never reviewed it for my October Horror Movie marathon. 

Well, there is not a lot to recommend here. A very young Anthony Geary stars as a Vietnam Vet and a bunch of women run around completely naked.   How much of the movie is that? I have an edited for TV version that is only about an hour-long, so at least 20 mins were cut.  He meets up with a woman, Yyala, but he can't find her later. 

It does have Dyanne Thorne as Alotta, Queen of Witches.  So there is that I guess. The biggest issue is that the movie is so slow. 

I remember first wanting to see this for the overt association with hippie culture and witchcraft and it certainly has that.  Alotta makes for a good if somewhat stereotypical 70s-era witch. But that doesn't make her less fun.  Susan Damante as the water nymph/witch Yyala is less entertaining, but I think it is because her lines are so bad.  

So to love Yyala, David has to get rid of his soul. A bargain the Witch Queen is happy to oblige him with. Then of course the horror ensues. 

It is pretty typical of the Occult 70s right before the Exorcist hit the theatres. Lots of jumbled up occult ideas, lots of weird filming, and plenty of soft-core nudity.  It also pretty much typifies what I call the "leftover hippie shit" of the 60 going into the 70s.

There is a pretty good review of it (with plenty of screencaps) at the Grind House Database.

Watched: 50
New: 34

NIGHT SHIFT and Old-School Content
So one idea I had based on this one and The Boy Who Cried Werewolf last night is the PCs find a group of hippies, yes in 2020, but these hippies seem a bit stranger than most. That is because they are all Fey or nymphs and satyrs. Maybe even Dionysis is still with them but instead of wine he the god of drugs. 

The characters run into problems when these fey want them to "Tune in, Turn on, and Drop Out" with them for the rest of eternity.


Monday, October 26, 2020

October Horror Movie Challenge: Blair Witch 2 Book of Shadows (2000)

So this one has been on my list for some time now.  I have hesitated because of all the really negative reviews I have read about it.  But I figure I need to get to it sooner or later and today is that day.

Truth be told I loved the original Blair Witch Project. Such a fun film really. This one had some promise; well...at least promise in my mind.  Mix a goth girl and a Wiccan in the Blair Witch mix? That should have been a hit for me.  And there is the seed of a good movie here, but it got lost somewhere.

Many of the actors are not great, but thankfully many of them got better. Jeffrey Donovan for example moved on to much bigger and better things. 

The beginning starts promisingly enough and then the middle drags a bit.  Again, there are all the elements of a good movie here, just not put together well.  Like getting some furniture from Ikea, but not having the instructions. 

I kinda like the mystery, reminds me of the first movie in that respect, but none of the claustrophobia. 

While it didn't live up to its predecessor it was not as bad as I was lead to believe. Oh it was bad, just not awful. 

NIGHT SHIFT and Old-school Content:  So the Blair Witch Project, in any form, is great for a Modern Supernatural game. An ancient witch coming back to haunt people? That is great stuff.

The memory blackout is a good plot point and easy to do in a game, even if it can be a bit cliched. 

Watched: 49
New: 33


Sunday, October 25, 2020

October Horror Movie Challenge: Satanic Sunday

We are in the last week of October. I am sad to see it go.  But we still have the whole week and I am going to watch as much as I can.  I had some movies still on BluRay so I thought I'd make a theme weekend of it. 

Inquisition (1976)

Another Mondo Macabro purchase.  This is Paul Naschy's first directorial effort. The Blu Ray is quite nice, you could almost believe it was originally filmed in HD. The transfer is very good. Naschy is his best leering self and chews up scenery like no one's business. 

It's the 16th century and witches, warlocks and the devil is everywhere.  At least that is what Benard de Fossey thinks.  One by one all the beautiful women in the village are accused of witchcraft and find themselves at the mercy of de Fossey. 

It is largely an excuse to have a bunch of naked women getting tortured. Even so a lot of effort went into this one. There is the witchhunter's manual that is as nicely illustrated as any Monster Manual.  I'd love to get some art like that for a monster book. 

There is a witch, of sorts, and she recruits our star, Catherine (Daniela Giordano).  The scenes of the witches' sabbat are trippy and Naschy pulls double duty as Satan.  Triple duty really since he also plays the Grim Reaper. 

The ending is not entirely unexpected but still, there is a nice twist ar the end. 


The Demons (1973)

Jess Franco is as notorious as Paul Naschy.  But in some ways I like Franco better. It's nothing I can put my finger on, I have just seemed to like his movies a little more. This movie though is a touch sleazier than his others.  This one also reunites Britt Nichols and Anne Libert with Jess Franco. Their last outing together was La fille de Dracula in 1972. Though this time Brit Nichols and Anne Libert play sisters and not cousins. 

This one begins with the trial and burning of a suspected witch.  She curses all who are there, by saying her daughters will avenge her. 

We switch to a convent where two orphans have been raise. One Margaret (Carmen Yazalde appearing as Britt Nichols) is good and pure, but Kathleen (Anne Libert) daydreams (a sure sign of sin) and moans and writhes in her sleep at night.  So she is obviously possessed by the devil.  Sure enough, these two girls are the daughters of the witch.  We are treated with not one, but two scenes of Katheleen being "seduced" by the devil.  

Lady de Winter (Karin Field), an eyewitness to the execution of the witch arrives at the convent. We discover that Kathleen, unlike her good sister, is no longer a virgin.   She is taken, strung up on a wrack, and tortured.  Lady De Winter seems to get off on the torture. While Lord De Winter pities the poor girl.  She is found guilty of witchcraft, of course, and sentenced to be burned.  But Lord De Winter sets her free in the night.  She finds the home of a painter where she stays. 

While that is happening Margaret is back at the coven praying when she is visited by the ghost of her mother and then by a servant of Satan to "initiate" her.  And no Margaret, putting your cross between your legs won't help.  Now a full bride of Satan Margaret starts in on the convent. First by seducing another nun and then getting her to commit suicide.  She soon finds Kiru "Satan's Favorite Wife."

Kathleen is recaptured, but her captor falls in love with her and wants to escape to England with her. But she manages to escape again and is recaptured.

Margaret finds her way to Lady De Winter's home where she seduces her.  But now she has the cool power of being able to kill anyone she has sex with.  I guess we see that again in American Horror Story Coven. 


Margaret and Kathleen escape, but when Margaret uses her sex magic on Kathleen's lover (who had hunted their mother) she turns Margaret in.

On the pyre, Margret requests a last kiss from the Lord Justice and she kills him.  She laughs while she burns.  In the end, Kathleen finds Kiru.

Not a bad flick, but a little all over the place. The BluRay has a couple of nice features, but not a lot. 

Britt Nichols and Anne Lipert would also later go on to be in A Virgin Among the Living Dead (1973), another Franco movie.  Between 1972 and 1973 they would appear in six movies together. They stopped filming with Franco also at the same time that Lina Romay started.  I am going to try not to read too much into that.


Mark of the Devil (1970)

Also known as "Hexen bis aufs Blut gequält", or "Witches Tortured till They Bleed."

Bleed is appropriate here since this movie is overflowing with blood.   

This features a young Udo Kier as a magistrate over the European Witch Trials in Austria. Naturally, he falls in love with a woman accused of witchcraft.   There is some goings on with the local witch-finder and his gang and church appointed witchfinder.  But honestly, it is just an excuse to make a torture-porn movie. 

The torture is vivid and done well with the effects of the time, but after an hour or so it gets routine.  Starting off the movie with the rape of some nuns sets the desensitizing dial pretty high, everything after is just more brutality.  Or maybe since this is the third movie of roughly the same subject I am getting burned out.

I guess the film was fairly notorious back in the day. I have seen copies of this go for really ridiculous amounts. Not as much "sexploitation" in this as "tortureploitation" as some of the other movies about this time. 

The highlight of this one is Udo Kier, who even then, showed a great talent for acting. 

I looked for "Mark of the Devil Part II" since it featured Erika Blanc, but all I found was a really terrible copy on YouTube.

NIGHT SHIFT and Old-school Content:  A few notes.

A tortured innocent will say many names, but a real witch will never reveal who her sisters are. 
I also need more prophetic dreams for my witches.

Lady De Winter looks like she could be part of the Winters family of witches. She enjoys the torture of the other witches a little too much. But the deviousness with the blonde hair and blue eyes almost makes her a family member by defualt.

Margaret's death by sex is a cool Occult power (for one of my Old-School witches) but it has limited utility in a game.

Nuns and witch covens have a lot in common. 

I also need more witch hunts in my games.  Something for my witches to act against. Especially skeezy ones like from Mark of the Devil.

Watched: 48
New: 32