Monday, December 2, 2019

Spider Baby: Where the 1940s met the 1960s

Spider Baby, or The Maddest Story Ever Told (1968)
Starring: Jill Banner, Beverly Washburn, Lon Chaney Jr., Joan Keller, Quinn Redeker, Carol Ohmart, Mary Mitchel, Karl Schanzer, Sid Haig, and Mantan Moreland
Director: Jack Hill
Rating: Seven of Ten Stars

The last remaining servant of the Merrye family, Bruno (Chaney), has spent his life caring for the three demented children (Banner, Haig, and Washburn) who are heirs to its fortune, keeping their deep psychopathies hidden and controlled. But greedy distant relatives and their lawyer (Mitchel, Ohmart, Redeker, and Schanzer) arrive to take the mansion and the money, Bruno's tentative hold on them slips... with deadly results.


"Spider Baby" is an atmospheric little movie that moves easily from horror to comedy and that amply proves the point that filmmakers don't necessarily need budgets in the hundreds of thousands to make good movies, nor does a film need to be graphic to be sexy or scary. In fact, I don't recall a scene that was more scary and sexy than the "seduction" scene between the homicidal underage vixen and wanna-be human spider Virginia and one of the dipsticks that have come to take her house and caregiver away.

Although the film suffers from uneven pacing, and the would-be explosive ending falls short of what writer/director Hill hoped for due to budget limitations, it is carried by striking performances from its young female stars, Jill Banner and Beverly Washburn, who manage to in turn be funny, sexy and scary; and from Lon Chaney Jr, who in the fading twilight of his career managed to shake off the weight of alcoholism long enough to turn in a performance that reminds viewers of the great performances he turned in during the 1940s and early 1950s. Carol Ohmart is also wonderful as a bitchy gold-digger whom viewers will delight in watching getting her come-uppence, while Mantan Moreland, in a small part, turns in performance that, like Chaney, evokes pleasant memories of the 1940s when he was at the height of his comedic powers (even if he also comes to a very creepy end).

In many ways, the film straddles cinematic time periods. It has the appearance and flavor of a quirky 1960s low-budget drive-in film, but it's not only the presence of a rejuvenated Chaney and Moreland that calls to mind the 1940s; "Spider Baby" has at its core a spirit of craziness reminiscent of Monogram Pictures horror films. The combination adds up to a movie that has a one-of-a-kind quality that more than makes up for any budget- and pacing-related shortcomings. It's a film that any lover of B-movie classics needs to experience.


Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Tuneful Tuesday: Every Breath You Take

Finally! Someone has recorded a version of "Every Breath You Take" that fully captures the essence of the song. Play it, and you'll see why it belongs here at Terror Titans!


By Milo Manara

This cover of "Every Breath You Take" was made by the Melodicka Bros. Visit their Facebook page here!

Thursday, November 21, 2019

'Skinned Alive' will disappoint almost everyone

Skinned Alive (1990)
Starring: Scott Spiegel, Susan Rothacker, Mary Jackson, Floyd Ewing Jr., Lester Clark, and Barbara Katrz-Norrod
Director: John Killough
Rating: Two of Ten Stars

When a family of crazy cannibalistic taxidermists (Jackson, Rothacker, and Spiegel) are stranded over night in a small town, they see no reason to stop their ongoing killing spree.



"Skinned Alive" is a clumsily constructed horror comedy that features a talented cast doing their best with a weak script and a special effects crew that either didn't have enough money or enough skill to stretch the money for decent gore effects. There are only two instances in the film that will have you squirming in your seat due to the splatter/ick factor... and that's entirely too few for what this movie seems to want to be.

And the fact I say "seems to want to be" illustrates the biggest problem with "Skinned Alive", Watching it, I got the sense it wanted to be a cross between "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and "Spider Baby", but it lacks cohesion, so I'm really sure if that's what writer/director Killough was going for, or if that just my mind trying to bring order to the chaos.

If you're looking for a gory splatter-fest, "Skinned Alive" does not deliver. It doesn't even deliver on the promise of the title, as the only person who comes close to being "Skinned Alive" is a character who inexplicably kept coming back from the dead, in a manner that I couldn't determine whether it was supposed to be a joke or just a symptom of bad continuity. IF you looking for an intense and horrific viewing experience, "Skinned Alive" won't satisfy you either, because it unfolds in an entirely too random fashion, with too many characters being present for no good reason and the pace being too choppy and uneven for any tension to build in the film. The only possible audience for this film who will be satisfied are those looking for a Bad Movie Night experience; that this movie is perfect for.

With the horror falling flat, many of jokes being so lame they can't even be described as un-funny, the overall package of this film is pretty bad, despite the fact that most of the featured actors do a good job in the sense that they are hamming it up big time. Those over-the-top performances make the film more fun to watch than it otherwise might have been... and why it would be a nice addition to a Bad Movie Night. (Producer J.R. Bookwalter would have done everyone a favor if he had made this film part of the "Bad Movie Police" line-up from a few years ago. He might even have found that endeavor to be more successful than it was if he had.)

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Terror on the Thirteenth: Whistler

When preparing for this year's 31 Nights of Halloween, I found far more films than I could feature. Therefore, instead of letting the blog go completely dormant until Halloween 2020 approaches, I'll be posting a short film on the 13th of every month. I may even post an actual film review or two, and maybe a Saturday Scream Queen post will materialize every now and then. Time will tell!

To get things started, here's a little domestic chiller that keeps the tension up throughout and left me wanting more. (Hey, maybe we can consider it an unofficial crossover to The Whistle series while we wait for another chapter!)



Whistler (2016)
Starring: April Hughes
Director: Simon Berry
Rating: Nine of Ten Stars


Thursday, October 31, 2019

31 Nights of Halloween: The Last Laugh



We conclude the 5th annual 31 Nights of Halloween with the appropriately titled "The Last Laugh". We hope you enjoy this tale of terror and the just end to the sort of Hollywood figures who appear in the things we cover over at Shades of Gray. (The supposed scenes from the old sit-com could have been better executed, but those are really the only flaws in this otherwise neat film.)


The Last Laugh (2015)
Starring: Jan Munroe, Rob Mathes, and Alexandra Olson
Director: Zeke Pinheiro
Rating: Seven of Ten Stars


Terror Titans is not quite ready to return to the gave until 2020, however. We'll be back in December with a few Christmas-themed horror shorts (for those who need an antidote for Holiday Cheer)... and who knows? Maybe there'll even be a film review or two, just for old's time sake!

31 Nights of Halloween: Fool Me Once

Here's another tale of someone who's having a worse Halloween than you. Enjoy--and Happy Halloween! (The film's a bit slow in the wind-up and the acting is a bit wooden thoughout... but stick with it, because it's creepy fun!)


Fool Me Once (2017)
Starring: Hayden Hancock, Sanne Johnson Lund, John R. Sabine, and Carol-Anne Fooks
Director: Justin Wiggins
Rating: Six of Ten Stars


31 Nights of Halloween: Peek-a-Boo


The Big Day of Ghosts and Ghouls is upon us... and there's going to be a number of posts today in celebration! Let's get things started right with a well-made little tale of trick-or-treating ghost who jumps straight to the tricks!

Peek-a-Boo (2015)
Starring: Jennifer Lilou
Director: Castet Nicholas
Rating: Eight of Ten Stars

(This is the third short film we've featured at Terror Titans that has been titled "Peek-a-Boo". Here's hoping there'll be many more in Octobers to come!)

31 Nights of Halloween: Careless Sister

The big day is here... and we begin this final build-up to the Night of Halloween with song!


This parody cover song stars Jake Bacus (as Michael), Aaron James (on vocals), and Jamie Lee Curtis (as the Careless Sister, Laurie Strode).

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

31 Nights of Halloween: I Spy



We present tonight's short film as a Public Service Announcement, because we care about the visitors to Terror Titans... and we want you to keep visiting. Please be extra careful when wandering around in the dark for the next couple days, and keep in mind that if you see something strange that it's likely a monster is lurking nearby: Ghosts and ghoulies are out in force as the 31 Nights of Halloween come to a close! Don't be like Avery and Calvin!




I Spy (2018)
Starring: Lakin Mims and Skyler Ferguson
Director: Tarrell
Rating: Six of Ten Stars


Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Tuneful Tuesday with KSHMR

Part animated, part live action. Part black-and-white, part color. Part this, part that... the video for "The Spook" is creative, cool, and creepy. It tells a neat little horror story with music that will stir the Halloween spirit and get your body moving (or stir you to move the bodies, whichever works for you, as this year's 31 Nights of Halloween draws to its inevitable, horrific end!)



Pet Sematary by The Creepshow

This 2007 cover from The Creepshow is a little bit o' punk, a little bit o' country, a little rock 'n' roll, and a whole lotta cool! It was included as a bonus track on the band's debut CD, Run for Your Life!



That's the final trip to the Pet Sematary for this year! Have a great Halloween!

Monday, October 28, 2019

31 Nights of Halloween: Death Metal

The title of tonight's selection for the 31 Nights of Halloween says it all. It's a straight and to the point tale of a guitar made by Satan himself-- and it's gory and metal as hell! It's a great warm-up for tomorrow's Tuneful Tuesday entry!



Death Metal (2017)
Starring: Michael Dalmon and Kirk Johnson
Director: Chris McInroy
Rating: Six of Ten Stars

Sunday, October 27, 2019

31 Nights of Halloween: The Whistle 3



During this year's 31 Nights of Halloween, I've brought you the available installments of "The Whistle" series of short films. I thought the first one was creepy, I thought the second one opened up an entire, very interesting world and ended with a thrillingly bewildering twist.

I assumed the third one would continue the threads from the second film, but instead, it's a flashback. It ties into the second entry in the series, but it doesn't really build on anything, nor does it even lay a foundation that any of the other films rest on--except establishing the woods as the place the creature lives. (But then, one wonders, why did it attack the person in the first film?)

Also... did i miss the whistling in this one?

Taken on its own, "The Whistle: Maria" is a well-crafted, moody picture that lovers of gothic horror will enjoy. Taken as part of a series, it's a little lacking. Taken on its own, it's a Seven-star effort, but as part of the series, it only rates a Six.

The Whistle: Maria (aka "The Whistle 3") (2019)
Starring: Vanessa Sacco, Brenda Heilmann, and Marcel Heilmann
Director: Klaus Quirin
Rating: Six of Ten Stars