Tuesday, December 24, 2019

On a Christmas Night....

... a young private detective discovered what happens to people who are put on the Naughty List! (Yes-- it's another short film to replace your Christmas Cheer with Christmas Fear!)

On a Christmas Night (2017)
Starring: Jessica Crandall
Director: Josh Quillin
Rating: Seven of Ten Stars

It's the Night Before Christmas...

... and if you hear something stirring, it's best you just pull the covers over your head and stay snug in your bed.

Stirring (2018)
Starring: Joni Durian
Director: Enrique Cotou
Rating: Seven of Ten Stars

(This film lost a Star on the Ten-star rating scale because of an overabundance of Stupid Character Syndrome, but gained it back because of the chuckle-worthy final shots.)

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Tuneful Tuesday: The Spook Returns

During this year's 31 Nights of Halloween celebration, we featured the terrifying tale of "The Spook" by KSHMR. Now, with Christmas carols drifting through the air... the moment is upon us when "The Spook Returns"!

We hope the great music and video that comes with it will add an extra chill to the December air!

(This video features clips from "Deathly Presents", which we featured in this space, back during the 2015 Christmas Season.)

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.