Archive for the Reanimated Corpses Category

Meals for Monsters Feeds THE LAUGHING DEAD (1989)

Posted in "So Bad They're Good" Movies, 1980s Horror, 2013, Bad Acting, Evil Spirits, Jenny Orosel Columns, Just Plain Bad, Meals for Monsters, Occult, Reanimated Corpses, Zombies with tags , , , , , , on March 13, 2013 by knifefighter

MEALS FOR MONSTERS: THE LAUGHING DEAD (1989)
Movie Review and Recipes by Jenny Orosel

The Laughing Dead 1989 online

There are horror movie fans who can appreciate a good scare, a well-crafted look at the darkness of the human soul, perfectly paced suspense. This one is not for those fans. No, this time I present a Meals for Monsters for those of us who love garbage. Yes, you, with the TROLL 2 T-shirt, the well-worn VHS of WEASELS RIP MY FLESH, the ones who have every line of PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE memorized. For those of you eagerly searching, hoping that there might be one movie left out there even worse than the ones you’ve seen before. Whatever the worst one is that you’ve seen, here is one to top them all: THE LAUGHING DEAD (1989).

A priest leads a group to explore some Aztec ruins. The cast of characters include some obnoxious New Agers, an obnoxious runaway, a couple of obnoxious frat-boy-style tourists, and an obnoxious former nun kicked out when she gave birth to a now-obnoxious teenager. Oh, and that teenager is the secret love-child of said priest in question. Luckily, the former nun kept the parentage quiet so, while she was defrocked and defamed, he happily got to keep his post (something which embittered her to no end). Did I mention the priest was no prize either? They get to the ruins and come to find that an evil doctor is trying to bring the evil Death God to life, and in the process, raises a bunch of the dead. Cue battle for the fate of humanity.

How painful is this to watch? Let me count the ways: poor performances, poor dialogue, poor pacing. Not a single character is remotely likeable, so there’s no one to root for. And by the time they’re killed off, you’ve got such a ‘blah’ feeling about the movie as a whole, it’s hard to bring yourself to cheer. What makes it even more painful is that the director should have known how to make a halfway decent fright flick. THE LAUGHING DEAD was directed by horror writer and one-time Horror Writers Association president S.P. Somtow. So it’s not like this was directed by a sixteen year old who’d never crafted a story before. And the majority of actors aren’t professional…actors, that is. They’re writers, which makes for some interesting trivia (Tim Powers, Bruce Barlow, Gregory Frost, Wendy Webb, Ed Bryant and Forrest J. Ackerman all show their faces), but let’s face it: unless you’ve seen them around or at conventions, you’ll have no idea who’s who, especially the ones in zombie attire. Playing “spot the writer” isn’t as much fun when you wouldn’t recognize them in front of you.

There are a few things you can do when encountering a movie this painfully bad. You could block it from memory and pretend you never witnessed it. You could dedicate a small portion of your life warning others to stay as far away as possible. Or you can have a party with your other bad film fan friends and share your pain. And what better way than throwing an Endurance Party? You all gather around to watch the flick, and each person who groans, curses at the screen, or runs screaming from the room is eliminated. The last person holding in their pain wins.

Alcohol would definitely help make THE LAUGHING DEAD more enjoyable to watch. But, during an Endurance Party, that is the last thing you want to do. But what if your friends refuse to watch without some adult beverage refreshment? I recommend the Faketail. They’ll think they’re getting a good, strong drink, but they’ll be left sober enough to experience every painful frame:

THE FAKETAIL

drink

Ingredients:
Cherry Juice
Apple Juice
Gin

Directions:

Pour one part cherry juice and one part apple juice. Gently float one tablespoon of gin on top of the drink. The drink will smell like an alcoholic beverage, and for the first few sips, taste like one.

*****

I pondered making an authentic Aztec meal. After all, the movie is based on the Aztecs, right? Plantains were a staple in ancient Aztec cultures. Then I started thinking about how well-researched and historically correct the Aztec references are in THE LAUGHING DEAD, and adjusted my recipe to the movie’s level of authenticity. I present to you:

MEAT BANANA SPLITS (aka Stuffed Baked Plantains)
(Serves 3, adjust the recipe depending on how many people are in attendance.)

dinner

Ingredients:
3 green plantains
3 tbsps. Butter
1 ½ pounds various meats (I used 1/2lb taco meat, 1/2lb chicken sausage and 1/2lb pulled pork)
Salsa
Cheese

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut a slit in each plantain, through the peel, about halfway through. Stuff 1 tablespoon butter into each slit. Bake for an hour, or until the plantains soften.

Peel the plantains. Half the plantains lengthwise, using the slit as a guide. Arrange on a plate with three scoops of meat. Place the cheese directly onto the meat and top with salsa. Add a vegetable or salad for a side if you feel the need to make it a somewhat rounded meal. Otherwise, enjoy!

*****

After enduring the entirety of THE LAUGHING DEAD, a reward is definitely in order. I leave it to you whether or not the ‘drop-outs’ at your party deserve cake. Not just any cake, but…

BLEEDING CAKE

dessert

Ingredients:
1 box lemon cake mix (plus ingredients as directed on the box)
1 jar cherry jam
1 package unflavored gelatin
1 tub vanilla frosting

Directions:

Bake the cake in a 13” x 9” pan, as directed on the package. Cool in pan for an hour. Meanwhile, melt the jam down over medium heat. When it just begins to bubble, dissolve the gelatin package into the jam. Heat and stir until completely dissolved.

Using the back of a wooden spoon, poke holes in the cake of varying deepness. Spread the melted jam over the top of the cake, making sure to fill the holes. Refrigerate for an hour or until set. Spread the frosting over the cake until you can no longer see the jam layer. Can be made up to two days in advance.

I’m not normally one to advocate putting your friends through pain. But, as many other bad flick fans can attest, there’s a certain thrill at finding one that’s even worse than any you’d ever experienced. And that is one thing I can give THE LAUGHING DEAD, and one thing that makes me sad. I think I might have truly found the worst of the worst, and it’s going to be a long haul trying to top this one. And, in a sick, masochistic way, I look forward to the challenge.

© Copyright 2013 by Jenny Orosel

In the Spooklight: THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957)

Posted in 1950s Horror, 2010, Christopher Lee films, Classic Films, Evil Doctors!, Frankenstein Movies, Hammer Films, Horror, In the Spooklight, Michael Arruda Reviews, Peter Cushing Films, Reanimated Corpses with tags , , , , , , on December 26, 2012 by knifefighter

This is a reprint of my 100th IN THE SPOOKLIGHT column, which originally appeared in the HWA Newsletter in December 2010.  It’s on THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, one of my all-time favorites, and one of a handful of movies that influenced me at a young age and got me into this horror business in the first place.  Hope you enjoy it.  And don’t forget, my IN THE SPOOKLIGHT collection – 115 reviews in all— is now available as an EBook at http://www.neconebooks.com.  Thanks for reading.

—Michael Arruda

 IN THE SPOOKLIGHT

By

Michael Arruda

The_Curse_of_Frankenstein_poster

Welcome to the 100th IN THE SPOOKLIGHT column.  Woo hoo!  It’s been a fun ride.  Thanks for coming along.

In honor of the occasion, let’s look at THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957), Hammer Films’ first horror hit.

To make their Frankenstein movie different from the Universal 1931 original starring Boris Karloff, Hammer Films decided to concentrate more on the doctor rather than on the monster.  Enter Peter Cushing as Baron Victor Frankenstein.

Hammer Films’ signing of Peter Cushing to play Victor Frankenstein in THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN was a major coup for the tiny studio which made low-budget movies.  In the 1950s, Peter Cushing had become the most popular actor on British television.  To British audiences, he was a household name.

THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN was Cushing’s first shot at being the lead actor in a theatrical movie, and he doesn’t disappoint.  In fact, THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN belongs to Peter Cushing.  He dominates this movie and carries it on his shoulders.  He’s in nearly every scene.

Cushing succeeded in creating a character who was the perfect shade of gray, a villain who was also a hero.  He’s so convincing in this dual persona that we want to see Victor Frankenstein succeed in his quest to create life, even though he murders a few people along the way.

Peter Cushing went on to become an international superstar.  He delivered countless fine performances over the years until his death from cancer in 1994.  Yet, his performance as Victor Frankenstein in THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN is arguably his best.

Peter Cushing as Victor Frankenstein

Peter Cushing as Victor Frankenstein

Like the 1931 version of FRANKENSTEIN before it, THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, while based on the book by Mary Shelley, is not overly faithful to the novel and takes lots of liberties with the story.

Victor Frankenstein (Peter Cushing) enlists the aid of his former tutor Paul (Robert Urquhart) to conduct his experiments, to “create the most complex thing known to man- man himself!”  Victor wants his creation to be “born with a lifetime of knowledge” and so he invites the brilliant Professor Bernstein (Paul Hardtmuth) to his house for dinner.  After dinner, Victor promptly murders him.  Later, when Paul confronts Victor and says he’s going to stop him from using the brain, Victor replies with one of the better lines from the movie, “Why?  He has no further use for it.”

Lightning strikes and starts the lab equipment, while Victor is out of the laboratory, and the Creature (Christopher Lee, also in his starring role debut) is brought to life without Victor present, saving him from an “It’s alive!” moment.

Victor opens the door to the laboratory and finds the Creature standing in the doorway alive.  In the film’s most memorable scene, the Creature rips off the mask of bandages covering his face, and the camera tracks into a violent grotesque close-up of the Creature’s hideous face.  It’s a most horrific make-up job by Phil Leakey, and it’s unique to Frankenstein movies, since in all six of the Hammer Frankenstein sequels to follow, this Creature, so chillingly portrayed by Christopher Lee, never appears again.

Christopher Lee as Frankenstein's Creature

Christopher Lee as Frankenstein’s Creature

Lee’s Creature is a murderous beast, and he quickly escapes from the laboratory.  Victor and Paul chase him into the woods, where Paul shoots him in the head, killing him.  Or so he thinks.  Victor promptly digs up the body and brings it back to life again.

Victor performs multiple brain surgeries to improve the Creature, but eventually things get out of hand, as Paul goes to the police just as the Creature escapes again.  The film has a dark conclusion which I won’t give away here.

Over the years, Christopher Lee has been criticized for his portrayal of the Creature in THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN.  Sure, Lee’s Creature is not the Karloff monster.   However, the Creature, who appears fleetingly here and there, has an almost Michael Myers quality in this movie, a killer who creeps in the shadows, here one moment, gone the next.

Lee is scary in the role.  His Creature is an insane unpredictable being.  As the Creature, Lee doesn’t speak a word, and he hardly makes a sound, using pantomime skills to bring the character to life.  His performance has always reminded me of a silent film performance, a la Lon Chaney Sr.  Lee captures the almost childlike persona of a new creation born into the world for the first time, albeit a child that’s a homicidal maniac.

THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN has a great music score by James Bernard.  It’s haunting, ghastly, and memorable.

Director Terence Fisher, arguably Hammer’s best director, is at the helm here.  As he did in all his best movies, Fisher created some truly memorable scenes in THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN.  The Creature’s first appearance is classic, one of the most memorable scenes of its kind.  The scene when Victor murders Professor Bernstein features a great stunt where Victor pushes the Professor off a second floor balcony to his death, and we actually see the stunt double hit the floor head first with a neck breaking thud.  It’s a jarring scene.  And this is 1957.

There are lots of other neat touches as well.  When Victor’s fiancée Elizabeth (Hazel Court) peers into the acid vat in which Victor has been disposing unwanted bodies and body parts, she covers her nose- a great little touch.

Jimmy Sangster’s screenplay is one of his best.  Probably the best written scene is the one where Victor tries to convince Paul how well he has trained his Creature by having the Creature stand, walk, and sit down.  Paul is unimpressed, saying “Is this your perfect physical being, this animal?  Why don’t you ask it a question of advanced physics?  It’s got a brain with a lifetime of knowledge behind it, it should find it simple!”  It’s also a great scene for Christopher Lee, as it’s one of the few times he invokes sympathy for the Creature.

But THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN sinks or swims with Peter Cushing.  Rarely has an actor delivered such a powerful performance in a horror movie.  Cushing is flawless here.  He draws you into Frankenstein’s madness and convinces you he’s right.

If I could give you one gift this holiday season, it would be to watch THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN.  Rediscover it today, more than 50 years after it was made.  It’s time this movie received its due as one of the best ever, which isn’t news to those who saw it in 1957. After all, it was the biggest money maker in Britain that year.

One of its original lobby cards reads “THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN will haunt you forever.”

It will.

—END—

© Copyright 2010 by Michael Arruda

Transmissions to Earth: FIEND (1980)

Posted in "So Bad They're Good" Movies, 1980s Horror, 2012, Bad Acting, Drive-in Movies, Evil Spirits, Grindhouse Goodies, LL Soares Reviews, Low Budget Movies, Reanimated Corpses, Trasmissions to Earth with tags , , , , , , , , on September 6, 2012 by knifefighter

TRANSMISSIONS TO EARTH:
FIEND (1980)
By L.L. Soares

About a year ago, Nick Cato reviewed this one from memory for his “Suburban Grindhouse Memories” column, and it sounded interesting to me, so I figured I’d check it out. A big part of why was the “monster” —Dan Leifert in zombie makeup—which I’d seen stills of all over the place, but had never actually seen the movie (or even knew what it was called). Despite the fact that Nick didn’t remember it being very good, I have to admit, I really enjoyed this one more than I expected to.

Made by low-budget Baltimore filmmaker Don Dohler, FIEND (1980) is one of those movies that defies logic, and will have you laughing your ass off at certain scenes. The scenes that work are actually pretty good, the ones that don’t are just plain funny. But, despite its lack of funds, it’s a decent little flick, tells a coherent story, and features some entertaining acting, especially from Leifert as the pompous violin teacher (and part-time reanimated corpse) Eric Longfellow.

It begins with a spirit of some kind—it glows bright red and is hard to make out—entering a graveyard at night. How’s that for a spooky beginning! The spirit flies around until it stops at the grave of someone named Dorian and then it plunges down into the ground. Not long afterwards, the corpse rises from its resting place—an ugly deteriorating zombie. The spirit has reanimated him! Soon afterwards, he strangles  a young woman, and his hands glow red. After she dies, he no longer looks like a walking corpse—he looks like a normal man! He wanders into a neighborhood where his distant cousin is selling a house (I guess they’re not there). He pulls up the “For Sale” sign and makes the place his home. So that’s how a zombie gets a place to live!

The soul energy that revives him only lasts so long, so Mr. Longfellow (as the creature now calls himself) has to strangle more women now and then to keep himself fresh.  We’ve seen creatures like this in dozens of other horror movies, but somehow it works pretty well here. Every time he kills someone, he glows red (it’s a cheapo effect that gets used a lot). Somehow, in between murders, he is able to open his own music school and is considered a respectable member of society. How? Where did he get the money to fund a school (much less handle the expenses of a house—like gas and electricity—where he’s obviously a squatter). It doesn’t matter. He even has a faithful employee named Dennis Frye (the great George Stover, veteran of several of John Waters’ movies and probably a local hero in Baltimore—Stover also produced the movie). Frye is clearly afraid of his boss and is always saying “Yes, sir, yes sir,” when Longfellow verbally abuses him.

The “creepy red glow” – a cheapo effect that gets used a lot in FIEND.

Longfellow has a good cover, so no one finds him suspicious. No one, that is, except his next-door neighbor Gary Kender (Richard Nelson). Kender first starts complaining to his wife Marsha (Elaine White, one of the better actors in this movie) because Longfellow has students come to his home for violin lessons, and the noise is irritating him, but he eventually learns that that’s the least of the troubles Mr. Longfellow has brought to town. The murders of young women seem to be happening closer and closer to where they live, and when a little girl in the neighborhood named Kristy Michaels (played by Dohler’s daughter, Kim) is found murdered in the woods behind their houses, her neck broken, Kender starts to notice the weird comings and goings of Mr. Longfellow. When he finds out that Longfellow told the police he didn’t hear anything because he was listening to music with his employee Frye on headphones (how do two people listen on headphones to reel-t0-reel tape player?), he really thinks there’s something up.

Gary goes over to Longfellow’s house to ask him questions. He learns that Longfellow doesn’t live in the upper part of the house, but down in the basement, where it’s darker and damp. When Kender asks him why he lives like this, Longfellow says he likes it that way. When Longfellow goes to get them some wine, Gary snoops around and finds a room hidden behind a black curtain, where Longfellow has skulls and books on black magic! That’s a sure sign this guy is up to no good!

Kender does some investigating on Longfellow’s background and finds out some odd things about him. Meanwhile, a kid in the neighborhood named Scotty (Dohler’s son Greg) follows Longfellow through the woods and sees him meet Frye in a secluded place and kill him. Scotty runs to tell Kender, but Marsha at first tells the boy he’s sleeping and to come back later. When Gary finds out the boy had come by, he is eager to know what Scotty saw, so he goes to his house. Scotty is reluctant to tell his story at first, but then he spills the beans, and Kender is even more sure that Longfellow is the local serial killer.

Mr. Longfellow decides to silence his employee Dennis Frye (George Stover) for good, in FIEND.

Armed with all the facts he has dug up, Kender is about to call the police, when he notices his wife is gone. Longfellow called her up and asked her to bring over some aspirin, because he had a horrible headache. She tells him she doesn’t have anything at first, then decides the neighborly thing to do is to help the guy out, so she goes over. Longfellow told her over the phone that he would leave the door open for her, since he’s in too much pain to come over himself.

Marsha goes into the house, but Longfellow is nowhere to be found. Anyone with half a brain would have just left the bottle on a table and gone home, but she wanders around the house calling out Longfellow’s name. Eventually she goes down into the basement, and you know she’s in trouble then!

Kender figures out where Marsha went and goes over to save her. Which leads to the big showdown between Kender and Longfellow. Will the damsel be saved? Will good prevail over evil? You’ll have to see the movie to find out.

FIEND is actually a pretty enjoyable flick, if you’re into this kind of low-budget drive-in fare. Director Don Dohler also made other goofy horror flicks like THE ALIEN FACTOR (1978), NIGHTBEAST (1982), THE GALAXY INVADER (1985) and BLOOD MASSACRE (1991). His movies are exactly the kind of stuff you’d find in abundance at Mom and Pop video stores in the 80s.

The cast may not be made up of the best actors in the world, but I enjoyed the performances. Richard Nelson is kind of stiff at times as Gary Kender, but as the movie progresses, he gets better in the role, and makes a decent hero. Elaine White is actually very likable as his wife, Marsha. George Stover, not the best actor you’ll ever see in a movie, is actually pretty entertaining as the milquetoast employee Frye, and Don Leifert is terrific as Eric Longfellow, who acts like a pompous ass when he’s not out strangling people. I thought Leifert’s performance was pretty funny at times, and FIEND seems like one of those grindhouse gems you find once in a while after wading through a lot of garbage.

This one is only for fans of low-budget, trashy movies. But if you’re into this kind of stuff, I think you’ll have a fun time with FIEND. If this one isn’t a cult movie yet, it should be.

© Copyright 2012 by L.L. Soares

The DVD box cover for FIEND.