Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Night of Dark Shadows

Just in time for Halloween, "Night of Dark Shadows" (1971) starring David Selby, Grayson Hall and Kate Jackson was finally released on DVD and Blu-ray today!  I've been waiting for it to be released and am glad to finally own a copy of this movie. This film is written and directed by Dan Curtis who did the original Dark Shadows series as well as many made for TV thrillers in the 70s.  It takes place in the present (1971) where Quentin Collins (David Selby) and his wife Tracy (Kate Jackson in her first movie appearance) move into the newly inherited Collinwood Manor. 

Soon after moving into the mansion, Quentin starts acting mysteriously, always locking himself into the tower room to work on his paintings.  He starts remembering things from his family's past in the 1800s when Angelique was alive and then killed as a witch.  Angelique's ghost is haunting the house and turning Quentin against Tracy.  The housekeeper, Carlotta Drake (the delightful Grayson Hall), is the reincarnation of a girl that lived in the house and is now keeping Angelique's spirit alive. 

The Gothic style house and estate is a character in itself adding loads of atmosphere to this movie.  I'm glad to see this movie finally getting wider release.  A great addition to any horror library!

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Secret of Crickley Hall

I just happened upon "The Secret of Crickley Hall" (2012) on BBC America, a made for TV mini-series starring Tom Ellis and Suranne Jones.  It is based on a novel of the same name by James Herbert that I recently read.

The Caleigh family move from London to the country town of Devil's Cleave to Crickley Hall, a large old house.  The father believes it will be good for the mother to get away from town where their young son went missing a year ago.  Soon after moving into the large old house with their two daughters, strange things start to happen.  The door to the cellar where there is a well keeps opening.  A male spirit keeps hitting the children's hands with a switch.  There are unexplained noises and movements out of the corner of the eye.

The movie flashes back and forth between the present day Calieighs and 1943 when the house was an orphanage run by a sadistic brother and sister team.  In the goodness of their hearts they took children in from London which was being bombed during WWII.  The headmaster keeps a ledger of how many times he has to beat the children to gain their compliance.  The storylines eventually merge and come together and we see why the house is currently haunted by multiple ghosts.

This is a good haunted house story that faithfully follows the novel.  I'm glad I happened upon it.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Devil Dog: Hound of Hell

"Devil Dog: Hound of Hell" (1978) is a made for TV movie starring Richard Crenna, Yvette Mimieux, Ike Eisenmann and Kim Richards.  A suburban family adopts a dog from a passing produce salesman.  Little do they know the dog is possessed by a devil that a local cult of devil worshipers has summoned in a ceremony we see at the beginning of the film.  It is directed by Curtis Harrington.

Mike Barry (Crenna) is the father and he is told by the maid that the dog is evil, shortly before she is killed.  We discover that the dog has the power to make things happen to people he doesn't like.  Mike doesn't believe it at first but soon sees his sweet son and daughter (Eisenmann & Richards who are the same team that played the siblings on the original Escape to Witch Mountain movie) turn into mean and deceitful brats.  He also sees his loving wife, Betty (Mimieux) turn into a cold, heartless tramp.  He soon suspects it's the dog and later discovers them worshiping the devil in the attic!   Mike will do all he can to save his family from the evil that has taken over his family!

I had this on my watch list for a long time and finally watched it today and I am really glad I did!  It was a really well done TV movie and the kind that I really enjoy watching.  I have added this to my favorite Made for TV Horror/Thriller page.

The House that Screamed

"The House That Screamed" (AKA "La Residencia") (1969) starring Lilli Palmer, Cristina Galb√≥ and John Moulder-Brown is a foreign movie that has been dubbed into English.  The movie is a period piece taking place my guess around 1900. It takes place in a imposing old mansion that is a school for older wayward girls in France. 

The school is run with a firm hand by Madam Fourneau who has made the school into a prison for the girls.  She will accept nothing less than total obedience from these girls.  The girls are aged 15 to 21 and there definitely is a hierarchy of students with Teresa being the teacher's pet and very cruel to the other girls.  The headmistress's teenaged son also lives in the house and you can imagine where that would lead.  One by one girls go missing and the headmistress insists that they have escaped.  We soon find out something more sinister is going on.

This movie is beautifully shot and full of atmosphere.  There's the giant old house lit by candlelight, spooky attic, stormy nights and dark passageways throughout.  Plus there's a murder on the loose.  There are two brief scenes where there is some blood but by today's standards it is not gory.  The movie slowly builds to the surprising ending.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Changeling

"The Changeling" (1980) starring George C. Scott, Trish Van Devere and Melvyn Douglas is one of my all time favorite haunted house movies.  I watch it every year in October to get me into the Halloween spirit!

John Russell (George C. Scott) loses his wife and young daughter in a tragic car accident.  He decides to move across country to teach music at the university in Seattle and make a fresh start.  Claire Norman (Trish Van Devere) works for the Historical Society and she rents the large old mansion to John.  The mansion is huge and filled with old antiques.  Not long after moving in, John starts hearing strange noises in the house and sees unexpected things. He also uncovers a child's room that's been closed up and hidden for many years. He and Claire later work together to uncover what happened at this house that caused it to become haunted. 

This movie is one that I always remember and enjoy watching over and over.  It is truly spooky movie with an atmospheric old house with a restless spirit.  If you haven't seen this movie, watch it now.  I think it will also become one of your favorites!

City of the Dead

"City of the Dead" (1960) starring Patricia Jessel, Dennis Lotis, Venetia Stevenson and Christopher Lee was originally released with the title "Horror Hotel".  This is another classic black & white horror movie that is loaded with atmosphere and suspense.

College student Nan Barlow (Stevenson) goes to the tiny village of Whitewood, Massachusetts to do research about witchcraft for her term paper.  Her professor (Christopher Lee) suggests the small village because it has a history of witchcraft.  We learn later that the professor was born in Whitewood.

The village hasn't changed much since the 17th century.  Nan stays at the Raven's Inn in the middle of the village right next to the church and the graveyard.  The Inn is run by Mrs. Newless, played by the terrifically intense Patricia Jessel, who right from the start you suspect isn't all she appears to be. The entire town is always engulfed in fog and all the scenes take place at night.  There's eerie scenes of Nan wandering through the foggy town and townsfolk stopping in mid stride to turn around and stare at her.  The scenes indoors are dappled with firelight from the fireplaces.  We soon learn the town is the ceremonial grounds of the coven of witches that still practices the dark arts.

This movie has a wonderfully spooky storyline and atmosphere and music to set the mood.  Watch it if you dare but beware of the trapdoor in the room off the lobby at the Raven's Inn!

Curse of the Demon

I ran across a great black & white horror movie on Turner Classic Movies, "Curse of the Demon" (1957) starring Dana Andrews, Peggy Cummins and Niall MacGinnis.  American psychologist Dr. John Holden (Andrews) travels to England to attend a conference on paranormal research.  He is supposed to join a team headed by Dr. Harrington but when he arrives he discovers the doctor is dead.  He soon meets Harrington's niece, Joanna (Cummins) and together they try to discover what really killed Harrington.

Their investigations soon leads to the mysterious Dr. Julian Karswell, who not only put a Runic curse on Dr. Harrington but also on Dr. Holden.  The curse brings the demon monster upon the person and death occurs at the appointed hour.  It's not too long into the movie where we first see the demon.  The demon is very cheesy looking by today's standards but remember this is 1957 and the effects were probably state of the art back then.  What makes this movie a classic is the atmosphere which really comes through in this old black & white movie.  The film's use of darkness and shadows really adds to the eeriness and mood in the film.  There are fantastically done wind storms with the requisite thunder and lightning.  There are walks through the dark foggy woods and walking around dark houses with candlesticks. 

This film was very well done and held my attention throughout.   Don't get discouraged and stop watching when you see the demon.  Keep watching and be rewarded with a horror classic that you may have never heard of.  This was a great movie to happen upon on TV!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown App

This is a review for an app, "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" that's available for Android and Apple devices. I am reviewing the Android version. This is a haunting on the very small screen!

I've always loved the classic Halloween show with Charlie Brown and the entire Peanuts gang and I love this interactive storybook of that show also!  This app is like flipping through a storybook and listening to the actual dialog and voices from the original show all enhanced by the fantastic music in the background.

You create an avatar of yourself and dress it up in costume.  You can also download the free separate app "The Great Pumpkin Festival" which uses the same avatar and in that game you can earn more candy points to purchase better costumes for your avatar. The avatar that you build in either of the apps will join the Peanuts gang in the Great Pumpkin storyline.  You'll be invited to Violet's Halloween Party as well as trick or treating with the gang!

The characters and pages of the books are beautifully drawn and look like pages out of a story book.  There are also hidden things to find in the game (candy bags, pumpkins, etc).

This app is from Loud Crow Interactive which did a great job bringing this story to life.  They also developed a Charlie Brown Christmas app last year which is also great fun and in the same format as the Great Pumpkin.

These apps are available for your Android device (phone, tablet, etc) from the Google Play store or for your Apple device.  It's great fun for kids and for the young at heart!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Ghost Cat

Ghost Cat starring Michael Ontkean, Ellen Page and Lori Hallier is a made for TV movie from 2004 originally aired on Animal Planet as "Mrs. Ashboro's Cat" and is also available as "The Cat That Came Back".

Natalie Merritt (Ellen Page) is a teenager who moves from Manhattan to the small town of Ringwood, NY with her father Wes (Michael Ontkean) a year and a half after her mother passing away.  While looking for a house they meet Mrs. Ashboro and her cat, Margaret.  Shortly thereafter, Mrs. Ashboro dies of a heart attack and the cat on the day of her funeral dies also.  The Merritts end up buying her home from her scheming nephew who has been trying to sell the house out from under his aunt and get control of her money.

Soon after moving in, Natalie starts experiencing some ghostly happenings in the large old house.  The piano playing at night, pictures falling from the shelf and other noises.  We soon see it's the ghost of Margaret the cat who is trying to help Natalie get Mrs. Ashboro's hidden money that she had intended to give to Brenda who owns the neighboring animal shelter. Natalie also meets the two brothers next door who she starts volunteering with at the animal shelter.  Will the ghost cat help save the animal shelter from the scheming nephew and the unscrupulous land developer who wants the land?  Being a movie geared toward families - take a guess. "Ghost Cat" is definitely not a scary movie but is an enjoyable watch nonetheless. 

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Birds

This weekend I just watched Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds (1963) starring Rod Taylor, Tippi Hedren, Jessica Tandy and Suzanne Pleshette.  I’ve always loved this classic thriller where nature goes on the attack.

Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren), a San Francisco socialite meets Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor) in a pet store in San Francisco and they hit it off.   Melanie impulsively buys two love birds for Mitch’s sister Cathy and plans on driving up the coast to Bodega Bay to drop them off and surprise them.  Shortly after her arrival, a gull swoops down and attacks Melanie but this is just a hint of things to come.  Melanie gets closer to Mitch and his little sister Cathy but has a harder time breaking the ice with Mitch’s mother, Lydia (an excellent portrayal by Jessica Tandy).  Little by little we see normal characters deal with the abnormal situation where birds of all species start attacking the people of Bodega Bay.  

This is one of those movies I enjoy watching every time I watch it and is one of my favorite atmospheric horror movies.  It’s a Technicolor classic where the town and its colorful citizens add to the tension and humor of the very abnormal situation.  Terror slowly escalates and the bird attack scenes are especially horrifying and fun to watch.  If you haven’t seen this movie or watched it for a long time, take a look and you’ll quickly get sucked in to this wonderful Hitchcock classic! 

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Haunted Honeymoon

Haunted Honeymoon (1986) starring Gene Wilder, Gilda Radner and Dom DeLuise is a comedy/horror movie that takes place in the 40s.  Larry Abbot (Wilder) and Vickie Pearle (Radner) are popular actors on a radio horror serial.  The couple heads off to Larry's childhood home, a huge Gothic castle where his Aunt Kate (Dom DeLuise) lives, to get married.

At the castle, we meet all the eccentric family members who have come for the wedding.  Aunt Kate is the bigger than life matriarch of the family (a delightfully funny performance by Dom DeLuise) and as soon as the guests converge for dinner, she announces the place and family is haunted by a curse that turned one of them into a werewolf. Larry thinks he's there to just to get married but his Uncle has planned to "scare him to death" to help cure Larry's mental disorder.  Something goes wrong when real dead bodies start to pile up.

This movie brings out all the classic and cliched atmosphere that a horror movie should have which adds to the funny scares this movie provides.  The castle is huge and gloomy.  The thunder and lightning are ever-present.  The interior of the castle is wonderfully grand and spooky with billowing curtains, secret passageways and candlelit scenes.

This is a fun comedy horror movie to catch on TV or find on video.  The musical scene with Aunt Kate and the Vickie (the always wonderful Gilda Radner) is worth the movie alone.  This movie is a blast to watch and enjoy!  

Friday, October 5, 2012

The Canterville Ghost

While rummaging through the DVD bargain bin recently I found "The Canterville Ghost" (1985) starring Richard Kiley, Jenny Beck, Shelley Fabares and a very young Brian Austin Green.  This is a made for TV version, one of the many different versions of the spooky Oscar Wilde story.

This is a good ghost story meant for a family audience with children at the center of the story.  A family inherits the old English manor and soon after moving in learns the house is haunted by the ghost of Sir Simon Canterville.  The little girl soon befriends the cranky ghost and sets out to break the curse of Canterville. The big old house is spooky and there's even the graveyard on the estate .This is one of those classic ghost stories that generations have grown up on. 

The Paul Lynde Halloween Special

I was recently looking for Halloween specials on Amazon and came across The Paul Lynde Halloween Special.  This was an variety show / special originally aired on ABC on October 29, 1976.  I knew going in that anything that had Paul Lynde would be campy but I didn't know how much of a campfest this would be until I watched it today! 

The show consists of comedy routines, skits, musical / dance numbers and a host of celebrities from the time.  To know how campy this is, think of the year this aired, 1976, and the following celebrities that guest starred:  Margaret Hamilton and Billy Hayes playing sister witches reprising their famous roles of the Wicked Witch of the West from Wizard of Oz and Witchiepoo from H.R. Pufnstuf.  These two had the most interaction with Paul and provided some great laughs.  Other guest stars had roles in skits and often in musical numbers as well: Florence Henderson who sang a rendition of "That Old Black Magic", Tim Conway in many comedic skits, Roz Kelly "Pinkie Tuscadero from Happy Days" and small guest appearances by Betty White (as Ms. Halloween 1976) and Donny and Marie Osmond.  This was also the first prime time appearance by the rock group Kiss and they do three different numbers including one of their slow songs, "Beth".

This show is a time warp back to the 70s!  Some cringe-worthy routines, disco dancing, Paul Lynde's trademark joke delivery style, 70s music and clothing and some real laugh out loud moments.  It took me a little time to get back into the time and enjoy myself but once I let myself go, I really enjoyed this special.  I particularly loved and couldn't stop laughing at the Halloween Disco finale where all the stars are dancing and singing in costume to a modified version of Johnny Taylor's "Disco Lady" - "Move it in, move it out, move in and about, disco lady".  All in all, if you want to see a time capsule of what pop culture was like in 1976 and you like campy variety shows of the time, find this DVD and prepare to laugh.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Bugs Bunny's Howl-oween Special

It's the first of October and Fall is here.  It's also the month where I start getting into the Halloween spirit!  As a kid, I couldn't wait to see the Halloween specials that would be shown on TV this time of year.  I just discovered this Bugs Bunny's Howl-oween Special (1978) at the store and couldn't pass it up.  This is a special that contains parts of many different cartoons with a Halloween theme.  Witch Hazel is the main attraction in this special and I always loved her.  She's the witch that would zip off the screen with a "HeHeHe" and her bobby pins would be left spinning in the air behind her.  She's always trying to cook up one of the regulars (Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, etc.).  In addition to Bugs and Daffy, we also see Sylvester and Tweety and Dr. Jekyll, Porky Pig and Sylvester at the haunted hotel, Speedy Gonzales playing Witch Hazel, and Bugs at Count Dracula's castle.  These cartoons were always some of my favorites growing up and I'm glad I could revisit them this Halloween season.