Sunday, September 13, 2020

Terror on the Thirteenth: Seagrass

Here's a little something that will bring a chill to the waning summer heat...

Seagrass (2019)
Starring: Charlotte Butcher
Director: Dylan Clark
Rating: Ten of Ten Stars

A teenager (Butcher) is cleaning up the beach at the end of summer when she comes upon something more than just trash.

Charlotte Butcher in "Seagrass" (2019)

I considered holding this great short film from Dylan Clark for the annual Terror Titans 31 Nights of Halloween short film festival, but I decided that it's best seen during these waning days of summer. It is also a preview of some of the excellence I have planned for next month--as it's a horror short film that does not need jump-scares or overblown music to build dread or conclude on a surprisingly shocking note.

More greatness from Dylan Clark will be seen in this space, next month.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Terror on the Thirteenth: Battery Low

As the last person on Earth who is still using a n old-school flip-phone, the main character in today's film is like a stand-in for me. I can relate 100 percent to the situation he's in... well, except maybe for the very last part.

Check out this little morsel of horror from Croatian filmmaker Dario Radusin. If you enjoy it, be sure to come back in October for the 31 Nights of Halloween, because I'll be featuring a couple more of his films. (And they are even better than this one!)

Battery Low (2020)
Starring: Miroslav Radovic
Director: Dario Radusin
Rating: Six of Ten Stars

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Tuneful Tuesday with Jason Vorhees

Jason has been doing his annual training regiment, so he can be in full fighting form come the next Friday the 13th. Please enjoy this mini-documentary (and music) all about everyone's favorite misshapen, demon-possessed, masked mass-murderer and how we works out.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Terror on the 13th: Reflection

Who ya gonna call when your bathroom's haunted? The young lady in tonight's film probably wishes she knew....

Reflection (2019)
Starring: Kelemen Orsolya
Director: Guzmits Z. Dániel
Rating: Six of Ten Stars

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Terror on the Thirteenth: Be Mine

It's the 13th of the month AND the day before Valentine's Day. So we bring you a very special short film!

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Avoid 'The Swamp of Ravens'

The Swamp of Ravens (1974)
Starring: Ramiro Oliveros and Fernando Sancho
Director: Manuel Cano
Rating: Two of Ten Stars

A mad doctor is exploring gene therapy to "cure" the condition known as death and to show its relation to evolution. Or something like that...

"The Swamp of Ravens" is an atmospheric film that sets out to be a modern-day take on the Frankenstein legend, with its protagonist being some sort of medical doctor or scientist bent on identifying the factor that separates life from death. Sadly, its story is so muddled, the motivations of the characters so confused, and the characters so ill-defined that you're going to be left wondering what the heck you've just watched by the time its over.

For example, the scientist SEEMS to have accomplished some sort of scientific breakthrough, given that his assistant is apparently a re-animated corpse... and the "failures" he tosses in the titular swamp outside his secret research shack are likewise undead and lurking just below the surface. Or are they? Are the presence of zombies in the muddy waters just figments of the mad doctor's imagination? They kill a vagrant, so maybe not. But then why isn't he trying to figure out what's animating them?.Is he trying to make the soul/awareness of his subjects stay with the body beyond death? Whether the writers knew or not, you won't by the time the film is over.

Although the film has plenty of atmospheric shots and stylistically presented violence, the creepiness of it all is undermined by perhaps one of the most wildly inappropriate soundtracks I've ever come across. Have you ever seen one of those British sex/manners comedies like the "Carry On" series? Well, that is where this music belongs, not in a film about a mad doctor who is a sexual sadist who turns his girlfriend into a test subject in a fit of jealousy. So, as far as the technical aspects of the film go, it's one point its favor and five points against.

Oh... a minor nitpick: There are no ravens in the film. The swamp in question seems to be home to a flock of turkey buzzards, but no ravens. Still, the shots of the buzzards are pretty creepy... and I suppose "The Swamp of Turkey Buzzards" doesn't make for a very attractive title.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Terror on the 13th: Did You See It, Too?

Every 13th between now and October, a horror morsel appear here at Terror Titans. We hope to keep visitors in shape so no one suffers heart attacks from fear come the next 31 Nights of Halloween! This month's offering was released too late in 2019 to be considered for inclusion in our festival of mini-frights... which is too bad, because it's a good one!

Do You See It Too? (2019)
Starring: Jay Podmore and Chlöe Crump
Director: Lliam Banks
Rating: Eight of Ten Stars

On a dark and stormy night, a strange creature invades a couple's home. But what (or whom) is it truly after?

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.

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.)