As 1957 drew to a close, so did Universal’s stories around monsters, giant creatures, and supernatural events in the science fiction realm.
It wasn’t that the production company was short on ideas, and Monolith Monsters is a testament to this, pushing the envelope away from the known and into the unknown. When a meteorite crashes and its material then grows to epic proportions once exposed to water and turns anyone that crosses its path to ash.
Grant Williams who had already starred in the successful The Incredible Shrinking Man would star as the everyman turned hero, Dave Miller. Dave happens to be the head of San Antonio’s geological office, so he’s a man with smarts and just might have the answer to saving humanity from these monumental blocks of stone.
Joining Millar is his girlfriend and teacher Cathy played by American singer Lola Albright who supported Frank Sinatra and Debbie Reynolds in The Tender Trap and was only a few years away from acting opposite Elvis Presley in Kid Galahad. For Monolith Monsters though the lead characters Dave and Cathy would use their combined knowledge along with college professor Arthur Flanders (Trevor Bardette) to find a solution to stop the threat expanding into their town.
A particular highlight is the cameo performance from William Schallert as a benign meteorologist, happily carrying out his day without the slightest notion of the impending danger that is facing humankind. Also keen viewers will note a young Troy Donahue in one of his earlier roles playing a dynamite expert.
Whilst noted for its production design and special effects plus some noteworthy performances Monolith Monsters suffers with execution. It presents a unique story but fails to manifest or produce anything out of this grain of salt idea. As such the sands of time have been unkind over the years, left as a forgotten relic from a decade of dwindling success.
– Saul Muerte
Monolith Monsters is currently available as part of a double feature blu-ray with The Deadly Mantis at Umbrella Entertainment.
Universal Pictures would follow up their 1955 science fiction feature This Island Earth, with another larger than life science horror tale.
This time the focus would be a monster creature feature and developing one of humanity’s greatest fears, the spider, more specifically the tarantula. It would take on one of the popular themes of the time, by increasing the size of creatures (or in some cases, shrinking the humans) to maximise the threat factor on screen.
Set in the fictional town of Desert Rock, Arizona, Tarantula! Is essentially your science gone wrong, film, and picks up with a deformed man emerging out from the vast landscape before dying. The man in question was biological research scientist Eric Jacobs, and we later find out that it was his research that was his own undoing.
Our lead protagonist and local town doctor, Matt Hastings (John Agar) is intrigued by Jacobs’ strange deformity and is compelled to find out the truth. His investigations naturally lead him into danger when he finds out just how life threatening Jacobs’ research has gone. The research laboratory is in the back of beyond, where Jacob’s colleague Professor Gerald Deemer (Leo G. Carroll – Strangers on A Train, North By Northwest) resides and appears to be continuing with the experiments. It also turns out that part of the formula that is being tested on the animals in the lab, speeds up the growth rate, including the titular Tarantula who escapes following the initial fire outbreak and is now growing at an alarming rate and consuming all the local cattle… before taking a fancy to human flesh!
It’s all b-movie material with close ups of the victims as the tarantula descends upon them and they meet their end.
Of course it wouldn’t be a 50s sci fi horror without a love interest thrown into the mix, which is where lab assistant and student, Stephanie Clayton (Mara Corday) enters the scene and into the spider’s lair, so to speak, to become the damsel in distress but with smarts.
By the film’s conclusion, humanity has to resort to some heavy duty firepower to rid the world of this menacing creature, and it comes from the Air Force, carrying napalm and piloted by a certain cameo by Clint Eastwood.
Tarantula is currently available at Umbrella Entertainment as part of a double bill blu-ray with The Incredible Shrinking Man.
Daniel de la Vega’s latest feature, On the 3rd Day finds its place on Shudder’s Exclusive and Original platform. While it does serve up some fairly predictable choices, there is certainly some appeal in the manner that de la Vega chooses to weave his tale.
The centrepoint of catharsis stems from the moment when Cecilia and her son Martin are involved in a car accident. Cecilia was in the throes of escaping her abusive husband when the catalyst occurred. The story picks ups three days later with Cecilia trying to piece the puzzle along with now trying to find her son; absent since the car crash.
Who was responsible?
Who is this mysterious elderly religious man, hellbent on his own quest and the other party in the collison. Is this coincidence or divine reckoning that has brought these two together only to counter against one another towards the film’s climactic reveal?
The further Ceclia digs into her lost days, the more of the past she uncovers with brutal truths exposed.
The air of intrigue that hangs in the air of Cecilia’s character is the main draw card here and Mariana Anghileri’s portrayal of our protagonist is a big draw card as she delicately dapples with strength and vulnerability. It is this balance of emotional range that allows the audience to play along with the poetry of the piece and despite its obvious movements, is captivating all the same.
On the 3rd Day treads a foreseeable trail but in this case it’s not the destination that is its selling point but the journey it takes us on. Celia’s plight and dedication to find out the truth of the mystery carries our own intrigue with careful deliberation to hook us in and deliver a satisfying tale.
Last week I joined up with fellow Surgeon Myles Davies to watch Ti West’s latest turn behind the camera with his seventies inspired horror slasher flick, X.
A couple of days later, my colleague fired up the following tweet to cast his judgement before the world.
But what prompted this response from our slasher surgeon guru?
What compelled him to go Cujo frothing crazy?
Was he merely spouting foreign tongue, possessed by Satan’s work?
Or was there a method to the madness and perhaps people should sit up and take note of his prophecy?
Well, let’s throw the beast onto the mortician’s slab and dissect the film to get to the heart of it.
It’s been about six years since West sat in the directors chair for a feature length movie, and his subject of choice is a love song to the late sixties and early seventies with the infusion of sex and slasher horror.
There are obvious nods to the porno scene that had infiltrated the movie Plex with films such as Debbie Does Dallas, opening to dorr for adventurous and risky filmmakers to make their mark with cheap, low budget, guerrilla style approach to the medium.
Similarly the slasher scene was starting to raise its head, notably through The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, directed by Tobe Hooper and from which West draws the bulk of his inspiration from.
West is clearly a man who knows his field though with suitable nods to Hitchcock’s Psycho, Kubrick’s The Shining, and even early 80s horror flick Alligator.
X follows a group of young filmmakers intent on making an adult movie that could launch them to stardom; whether it was through escapism, to be famous, or for the money. Leading the stakes with that certain X factor is Maxine Minx (Mia Goth), a stripper and pornographic film actress. Joining her on their filming expedition is her boyfriend and producer Wayne (Martin Henderson), fellow actors Bobby Lynne (Brittany Snow), and Jackson Hole (Kid Cudi), Director RJ (Owen Capbell), and his girlfriend Lorraine (Jenny Ortega).
Their choice of location happens to be a farmhouse in Texas (of course) and much like its inspiration, there’s more than meets the eye from its occupants, but not necessarily how you would expect… an elderly couple. Pearl (also Goth) is unwilling to let go of her sexuality just because of her age; and Howard (Stephen Ure) who will stop at nothing to satisfy her needs, but time may not be on his side.
There is a fine line between pleasure and pain, and all it takes is one simple flip to turn our intrepid pioneers in filmmaking to be pushed into a world where they may not return from. Once the characters and setting take hold, West then lets loose with a slasher frenzy of delight, painting his celluloid brush with the artistic style and grace that the genre lends its name from, dabbing from a palette of iconic horror visuals to stimulate the audience with.
X is more than a homage to films of yester-year though as West immediately lures us in with the style from the era, both visually and auditorily, scintillating the senses. As he subjects us to the charm of the movie, West then pulls us in further with rich characterisation, who on face value appear to be stereotypes of the decade, but beneath the surface are more than their appearance depicts. In fact, West’s masterstroke is in forcing the viewer to look beneath the surface of these characters, delving deep into their personalities and forcing their true selves to the fore. The biggest component that Wast dapples with is the social stigma that age has on society, and how sex can diminish when time plays its part on us all. Does age damage the psyche? When we are left with our souls, and our body begins to fail us, what makes us worthy then when we aren’t able to let go of our sensuality?
So what is the conclusion? Is this as Myles states, a potential contender for horror film of the year?
Ti West serves up a beautifully shot movie that sparks nostalgia and awakening to the slasher genre. The performances, especially from Mia Goth in her dual role are an absolute delight. And the slow burn tension that flicks with humour and horror is perfectly balanced throughout the film. Plus the use of age and fear of ageism in the wake of losing one’s sexuality as the central theme is a bold but rewarding one.
West has always proved to be a quiet achiever from the mumblegore movement, but deserves more praise for his efforts.
X has just elevated his profile further and with the promise of turning the movie into a trilogy and a prequel called Pearl due later in the year, West could very well have made the best horror film of the year. Stay tuned 2022.
And there’s plenty to like about this French horror thriller from director Patrick Ridremont.
Eugenie Derouand stars as Eva, a paraplegic who receives a mysterious box in the guise of the titular advent calendar from her friend Sophie (Honorine Magnier). As expected with ominous gifts with offers of treats that stretch from confectionary to real life rewards, there will be repercussions. The question though is whether the benefits outweigh these hindrances? How much is one willing to salvage for a better chance at life? For Eva, this temptation proves too great, but how far is she willing to go?
There are three rules to follow.
Eat all the chocolate… Or die.
Do every task given… Or die.
And don’t dump the advent calendar… Or…you guessed it. You die.
The premise is pretty straight up and the performances are solid across the board, allowing the viewer to step into the narrative easily. We’re even presented with a nicely stylised creature who lurks from within the box and comes out when rules are broken or when sacrifices need to be made. This helps ramp up the tension suitably, hooking you further into the drama. And sure enough when things go sour, it does so that stays firmly in believability. A tough thing to do when you’re playing in the realms of fantasy.
A solid feature with some nice moments that entertains despite some predictable moments.
It helps that the performances from the leads are strong to fuel the the loss of control as the drama unfolds.
The Advent Calendar is currently streaming on ShudderANZ
It’s been with much anticipation that I’ve been waiting for a return trip to Cabrini-Green and one that doesn’t sour the original feature directed by Bernard Rose based on the Novella by Clive Barker was released back in 1992. Where Freddy Krueger haunted my dreams and ignited my love of horror, Candyman pushed me deeper into the genre and I’ve been… (ahem) hooked on it ever since.
Just check out our thoughts on the original movie below:
From the creative mindset of Jordan Peele (Get Out, Us), Win Rosenfeld (The Twilight Zone), and Director Nia DaCosta (Crossing The Line) we are presented with a ‘spiritual’ sequel. It’s clear from the get-go that this film won’t exactly walk the same route as its predecessor with the inverted shots of skyscrapers shot from beneath, looking up to a foggy skyline, in juxtaposition to Bernard Rose’s helicopter shots over an expansive cityscape. While this latest offering trips over a little in bringing our central characters into the mythology surrounding Daniel Robataille, which may disappoint devotees, but those that are familiar with Peele’s work (myself included among them) will soon succumb to this interpretation. In effect, the key component that really makes the 2021 version a must-see movie, is that it takes the Barker/Rose vision one step further and gives ownership to the titular character to Black America and its history. Where the story behind Robitaille, Helen Lyle, and Cabrini-Green is the stuff of legend, it is one of many that has embedded itself in America’s racial divide. With each passing generation, the scars have been etched over the years and with every Daniel Robataille, there’s a Sherman Fields. The physical and mental weight has taken its toll and is ripe for the Candyman to return and leave a path of bloody retribution.
Where DaCosta casts the narrative this time around we follow struggling artist Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II – Us, Aquaman), a name that may be familiar to some. In order to reawaken his artistic expression, McCoy discovers the true story behind Candyman and in doing so, rekindles the horrors that lurk just beneath the surface. Just as it seeps out of the woodwork of Cabrini-Green and out of the mirror, Candyman breathes new life and old fears into the neighbourhood whilst affecting the souls of those closest to his awakening.
All the cast deserve high praise, standing alongside Abdul-Mateen II is Teyonah Parris as his partner, Brianna; Nathan Stewart-Jarrett as her brother, Troy; Colman Domingo (Fear the Walking Dead) as the keeper of the legend, William Burke; and Vanessa Williams reprising her role of Anne-Marie.
It is the myth that really shines through here though and the artistic expression from a bold and creative team to take it in a direction that is not only a powerful commentary on the state of our times, but an important one. It’s not perfect, but it’s as near as and earmarks a new chapter in the Candyman legend; one that may herald more stories to come. Heaven knows the dark chapter of American history has a lot to explore and a perfect avenue for Candyman to continue to spread fear and devastation, if you dare to say his name and expose the truth.
Straight off the bat, I have to proclaim that I am not a massive fan of the found footage genre. There have been some exceptions, primarily Spanish horror flick, [REC], and as much as it pains me, I’ve come to appreciate The Blair Witch Project over the years for how it’s simple storytelling and tapping into the wake of the internet boom.
Similarly, Host capitalises on the current social climate and the restrictions that COVID 19 has had on the Arts. Unlike the film Unfriendedwhich tried to harness the ever-changing social media landscape to project fear onto the screens, but ultimately falling short of expectations, Director Rob Savage, crafts a clever and creative script using the minimal amount of tools to his advantage, shooting everything through Zoom links and relying heavy on his cast to create the lighting, stunts, and visual effects needed to pull off the story and make it seem believable.
The narrative takes place with a group of friends meeting together via Zoom to initiate a seance, conducted by a medium, Seylan. It all seems innocent with some of the group not entirely taking it seriously, but as events play out, it soon takes a sinister turn with the group unwittingly calling in a demonic entity into their fold. Can they ward off this evil presence, or will it slowly and violently take them out?
Don’t be turned off by the remarkably short running time, Host packs in a lot into the story with great performances and strong characters. Not all of them are likeable, but that’s the point. You have to have a few that you wish to get their comeuppance and those that you genuinely hope to survive their ordeal. Savage has proved himself a compelling storyteller as a result, while taking a simple enough premise and weaving a delightfully dark tale with minimal tools at hand. It goes to show that you don’t need a lot to create a little bit of magic and by tapping into the social mainstream, breathe life into the found footage genre once more.
Jordan Peele’s follow up to his critically-acclaimed debut feature, Get Out has a lot of similarities to Lewis Carroll’s second outing with Alice as he not only puts a mirror up to American society and not only forces us to watch the horror as it unfolds but physically flips our perspective without us realising in an effective twist moment.
That’s not where there the similarity ends, as we also have some twins, a red queen, and placed is as pawns in our own game of chess. Only the colours are so blurred, it’s hard to know which side we should be on. We certainly should know and definitely root for our protagonists, but what if it’s revealed that we’ve been championing for the wrong side? Do we still pledge our allegiance?
Peele craftily weaves in all these images to subject his picture with pop culture images and references ranging from The Shining to The Lost Boys to C.H.U.D. and Michael Jackson and N.W.A. It’s a style that works in this instance as film and music have so shaped our worlds that we have become embedded in these Arts and in some cases schooled by them.
Essentially a home invasion turned country invasion, Us takes the audience on a journey where a family must unite in a bloody tale of survival, but in a world that is so fractured and broken, how can we truly know who to trust and survive without hiding behind the masks that protect us? Can we really join hands across the globe and save humanity from itself by building a wall of protest, or will it merely be viewed as an art installation with no real impact at all? Peele seems quite happy to leave that question unanswered.
Peele is starting to make his mark on the film circuit with his second psychological horror and although it isn’t quite as impactful as Get Out, Us still offers an enjoyable, powerful punch.
For those questioning that opening statement from a website dedicated to the horror movie genre, here’s the thing… Stephen King is so immersed in my discovery of horror as a pre-adolescent male and he opened up my eyes into the world of darkness and the recesses of the human soul, whether it was through a possessed Plymouth Fury or a disturbed entity from the dawn of time that takes on the form of a killer clown. King’s universe easily slipped into the corners of my imagination and lit them up like wildfire, so to emulate these visions and project them onto the big screen would always be a tough sell for this writer.
Maybe I am warped by these Stephen King tinted spectacles that I use in every facet of my waking (and sleeping) life, but in this instance I feel that I have good reason to have the bar set high. King himself was reluctant to release his novel upon completion and described it as his darkest novel to date. The reason it was eventually published fell down to contractual reasons as King was short by one novel with his publishers and so The Creeds and their cat Church saw the light of day.
During the 80’s when King was hitting his stride, Hollywood would snap up his novels, eager to put bums on cinema seats by trying to lure in his fans and to emulate his horror in celluloid form, so it was inevitable that Pet Sematary would also be adapted into film. Mary Lambert’s vision had haunted me in my youth from its depiction of the bed-riddled Zelda to Gage’s death and return from the grave. Another strength was that it was grounded in reality partly through the set design and scenery which was meticulously detailed and shot primarily in Maine, King’s hometown, which also added a level of authenticity to it. Having said all that though, it wasn’t flawless and watching it back now, it does feel dated, so when it was announced there would be a remake, there was a twinge of excitement at the prospect of what that would look like. Early talks were of how it would be more of an inspiration piece and take some alternate directions on its journey beyond the dead lands and back. This did not deter me though, as I was open to a fresh take on the narrative.
The results though left me wanting. Whilst I admired directors Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer’s bold attempts in adding an alternate skew, I didn’t mind the gender switch with Ellie’s untimely demise and resurrection, I found that the choices they made were more based on ‘what if we did this?’ or ‘why not do that?’ without any rhyme or reason behind decisions. What’s more, the film relied too heavily on jump scares rather than genuinely frightening moments. The overall tone of the piece was a mess and never resonated with me. For a story that is ultimately about death and grief, it was strangely lacking in powerful emotion from the characters.
Grief is such a powerful feeling and evokes a range of emotions from sadness to anger, and that void or emptiness where one wishes to be whole again is absent in this film. I wanted to experience that deep level of despair but it never materialised. In facet, death became more of a comical component in this film from the awkward conversation that Rachel and Louis have with Ellie and even Church’s presence is one that sparks horror.
There was a lot of promise at the beginning when we witness a procession for a dead dog led by a bunch of kids in creepy animal masks that sparks the imagery of an occult and the town of Ludlow, which would have a really interesting take, but this is never really touched on again, which is a real shame.
There are some standout performances from Ellie (Jete Laurence), the always magnificent John Lithgow as Judd, and I really enjoyed the character development of Rachel Creed portrayed by Amy Seimetz (You’re Next), which just fell short at the last hurdle. It would have been really interesting if she faced up to her fears of death by confronting it head on. And one of the creepiest moments was presented by Rachel’s sick-ridden sister, Zelda even if it did evoke some Samara-type behaviour in its delivery. The rest was just white noise.
A brave attempt at taking this story in a whole new direction, but falls flat on exposition. The horror was lacking and comical with the emotion completely stripped away, leaving an empty vessel that is soulless and inconsequential.
For more thoughts and discussions on Pet Sematary, check out our podcast below:
At the time of writing this article Halloweenhas made over $106 million dollars in Box Office sales and taken the second-best ever opening weekend of October and has become the best-ever film starring a lead actress over 55 years old.
It’s director David Gordon Green must be riding an all-time high at the moment, which is interesting as he was the original choice to direct the Suspiria remake which would have starred Isabelle Huppert, but due to a confliction of interests this vision fell through.
One can only wonder how his operatic nod to Dario Argento’s classic would have looked like. Instead Italian director Luca Guadagnino, who turned heads last year with his film Call Me By Your Name, picked up the mantle and collaborated once more with actress Tilda Swinton with his homage.
Now, a lot of people would have balked at the very idea of someone attempting to recreate a much-loved horror film, especially as Suspiria was so unique in style and content.
And yet, it’s because of this that you could argue that there is room to revisit the storyline and create something different for a new generation.
And with the trailer’s release earlier in the year, you could tell that Guadagnino was aiming to do jus that and develop a movie with the look and feel of it’s time and setting, 1977, Berlin.
It’s a fascinating time in German history as it was going through a huge discord and anarchy through political unrest, driving far-left militant organization, Red Army Faction (RAF) also known as the Baader-Meinhof Group to drastic measure involving bombing, kidnapping, and assassinations.
The climate was ripe for a dark evil to erupt, and in this instance it resides with a coven of witches in The Markos Dance Company, which too was going through a split faction between Helena Markos, the self-proclaimed Mother of Sighs and the company director, Madame Blanc, (both played by Swinton).
The story evolves through a series of Acts that opens with an unhinged Patricia Hingle (Chloe Grace Moretz) discloses to her psychiatrist Jozef Klemperer (another Swinton performance as the elderly Gent, a performance that sometimes amazes in just how powerful an actress she is, but on occasion distracts through the times that her character slips a little) about the secret sect.
Hingle quickly disappears from the scene, allegedly involved with the RAF movement. This opens the door for when our story truly begins, when American, Susie Bannion (Dakota Johnson) arrives at the dance company and quickly rises as Blanc’s protégé.
All the while, the dancers are unaware of what truly lurks behind the mirrored walls and beneath the dance floor and Professor Klemperer continues on his quest to find the missing Hingle (an effort that masks his own failings in never finding his wife during the outbreak of the second world war).
There are so many layers to this film that it’s easy to get lost in the narrative and fall under the spell that is cast with powerful performances from all the actors driving you deeper into the world as you spiral into the hypnosis.
This is strengthened further by the musical score supplied Thom Yorke, something of a masterpiece in his delivery and trance-like songs that perfectly accompany the atmosphere and direction of the movie.
Equally effective are the dance pieces that closely pull from the Martha Graham technique, using a psychoanalytical viewpoint on the medium depicting human struggles through every contorted and distorted action from the performer.
It’s a perfect accompaniment to the films narrative and proves a central tool to evoke the darkness beyond the known world.
American writer David Kajganich who wrote the screenplay for Suspiria openly admits that he is not a fan of horror movies and prefers to keep the drama grounded in reality. It’s a curious choice to take for a horror film, but one that speaks volumes to the final product on show.
There are some great moments in the movie that drive the drama forward in a fairly slow pace towards a fevered conclusion.
One moment that I found compelling was when the coven congregates around the dining table, providing small talk, but in the same instance offer a small window into their world and the synergy between them all.
The problem is the choice taken pulls as far from a horror as you could get with the exception of an absolutely phenomenal sequence when one of the dancers, Olga has her body twisted and contorted in a gruesome fashion that is so relentless on the screen, that you can’t help but squirm in your seat.
The timing of this delivery is hopeful too and leads you on a hopeful journey that the movie is going to go dark and harrowing, but it never comes.
By the time the finale arises, the left-of-centre change in direction is a little jarring and feels remiss and leaves any horror fan wanting.
It’s a slow-burn movie that grinds its way to a stumbled conclusion.
The drama is gritty and realistic with some stunning performances and dramatic dance sequences that hook you in, but rather than set you ablaze in a fury of emotion, it peeters out to a mere whimper.