There will come a point about 20 minutes into this film when you will realize that there’s still an hour to go. Blood of Dracula’s Castle bears all the signs of one of those bad movies that is still going to be some cheap, campy fun. There’s the bad sets, corny acting, John Carradine in one of his three million movies, a monstrous ogre to do the dirty work, and women chained up in a dungeon to be used for their blood to keep the main vampire characters alive. However, where most of these so-bad-it’s-good-and-we-know-it films realize their identity is the running time of the movie and construction of the script. They don’t try to push the limit. What this one did is drag on endlessly at times, weaving in a minor subplot here and there and having scenes that should have been ended three or four minutes sooner.
I don’t often have a soft spot for bad movies, especially horror ones since they are a dime a dozen. Where The Devil’s Hand is concerned is that it is a little piece of film history and you may not even know it. The United States underwent a Satanic scare in the 1960’s. Cults were popping up around the country and people in general were breaking from traditional societal norms, and maybe had a reason to be scared. Add to that the paranoia of the Cold War, and you get a treasure trove of low-budget horror and science fiction movies that capitalized on the atmosphere in which they were made. The Church of Satan wouldn’t be founded until 1966, but even before that, filmmakers started to tackle this dark subject. The “Satanist next door” motif is an often used one, and it may have begun here with this movie. No, the name “Satan” is never uttered once (replaced by the fictional “Devil god Gamba”), but that may have been too shocking for the time. The portrayal of evil has gradually evolved, and plots tended to dance around it until Rosemary’s Baby blew the top off in 1968.
We’ve seen this story a million times. A bunch of asshole high school kids portrayed by 30-year-old actors play a prank on the nerd of the school only to have it go horribly wrong and he seeks revenge on them years later. While not exactly a rip-off of Carrie, Slaughter High plays to that same theme. The story is so predictable that you can turn it off halfway through and still take credit for having watched the entire thing. It’s not even really a bad movie, but as we see over and over again through the decades, it’s pretty hard to get into a story when teenagers are played by actors and actresses who are far older than they should be and the plot seems like it was outlined by the writers on the back of a cocktail napkin. Caroline Munro was actually 36 at the time of filming. The producers would have been better off setting this at a college rather than a high school. Even that would have been a stretch given the mugs on some of them. But no matter, we get over it pretty quickly.
With a title such as Chopping Mall, I was expecting a complete and utter shit-fest. I was right. Only thing is, this movie was actually fun to watch. This is the epitome of an 80’s horror movie. The type of straight-to-VHS masterpiece with enough cringe-worthy dialogue, synthesizer music, and cheap effects to make your head spin like Linda Blair’s. But there’s just something about it that prevents it from becoming a total disaster. It doesn’t take itself seriously, which is a wonderful thing when you know your story is garbage. A high-tech mall has recently invented three robots to patrol the inside of the building after hours rather than use security guards. These little monsters are programmed to shoot any potential burglar with a sleep-inducing stun gun. But of course, things go horribly wrong and these little bastards turn into killing machines. Well, Killbots to be precise, which was the original name of the film when it hit theaters in 1986. However, it didn’t do well at the box office because—get this—people thought with such a title it was a Transformers-like kids movie. What drugs were people hitting in the 1980’s? Be sure, the only thing childish about this one is the script.
I almost didn’t review this one because of how indescribable the plot became at some points. Night Train to Terror is not the type of movie one can just put on in the background or be on their phone or computer and still get the gist of it. The fact that it requires constant attention is unfortunate, because even when you are eyeing up the screen every second, you will still be befuddled. There is a train full of kids and a rock band dancing and singing along to some horrible 80’s music—the type of music (and costumes) which will make you wonder how people actually survived that decade without putting a gun to their head. As the train chugs along, we are shown God and Satan having a conversation in one of the cars, reviewing stories of how people acted in their lives, and deciding who gets to go to heaven and who goes to hell. Three vignettes are then played out, alternating back and forth between them and the two arch-nemeses of each other discussing what happened.
Just like last year, Reel to Real will feature a special series for the fall season. Titled “Halloween 2K16”, this will be where I blog about horror movies, share fall recipes, and also let you know what’s going on in my paranormal investigating adventures. October is going to be a busy month. My team, Ghosts on the Coast, is honored to be partnering up with our usual haunt (no pun intended) the Strauss Mansion Museum and Atlantic Highlands Historical Society. We have a full schedule of events on tap, including three movie screenings, a party, a paranormal investigation, and then two weekends of new-look ghost tours.
For those of you who have enjoyed my Food & Spirits column here for the last year, I have good news: the posts will keep coming, but they will just be located in a different place. Yes, it was time to create a blog devoted entirely to food, rather than the potpourri of subjects I have had here on this blog. So please check out (and follow) my new venture, Eating New Jersey. The site is set up a bit differently. The blog can be accessed at the top of the homepage by simply clicking the “blog” tab. By becoming a subscriber, posts will be sent right to your inbox as soon as they are live.
Below are some food and drink-related odds and ends which did not make it into my restaurant reviews from Kennet Square, Pennsylvania the last few days:
- Longwood Gardens, as expected, was pretty great. Gardens aren’t really my thing, and walking around in the heat and humidity was a bit of a chore, but I enjoyed it. We ended up getting tickets to the Nightscape viewing too. They have about 10 different light shows coordinated with music set up around the park. They play on a loop every 10-15 minutes allowing you to see them all as you make your way around. I thought some of the effects were pretty weak, just because of how hard it is to project light and moving images onto a tree or shrub many yards away. There were some that were spectacular, though. The ones in the conservatory are a little smaller and in a controlled environment, and therefore more robust in color. There also happened to be a bluegrass concert going on in the beer garden. We stopped in to try the grapefruit beer on tap. It was made by local Victory Brewing and very bitter, almost like an IPA (which I don’t like). I didn’t enjoy it, but where that fell short, an awesome pretzel picked it up. No kidding, it was the best damn pretzel I’ve ever had in my life. Soft and hot on the inside, crispy on the outside, and packed with plenty of salt. For $6, it was a long braid and came with warm beer cheese, garlic butter, and grain mustard.
Restaurant: Half Moon Restaurant and Saloon
Date: August 25, 2016
Location: 108 West State Street, Kennet Square, PA
After an abominable meal the night before, I desperately needed something good to bring me back. We visited The Mushroom Cap which is a store in town devoted entirely to mushrooms (and includes presumably the world’s only “Mushroom Museum”) and asked the worker what restaurant she recommended. She steered us over to the Half Moon, which specializes in exotic meats. They actually have a menu full of normal items, but when I have the chance to try something I probably couldn’t get anywhere else, I go for it. When we walked in, the place reminded me of the saloon in The Shootist, John Wayne’s final movie. Not western themed, just old school and classy. Everything from the floors to the booths, walls, and bar. It was beautiful, but when we were told they also had a rooftop atrium, we decided to go sit up there. With a view of Kennet Square and a clock tower in the background, it was a nice spot to have a drink.
Restaurant: Kildare’s Public House
Date: August 24, 2016
Location: 18 West Gay Street, West Chester, PA
It was a beautiful afternoon yesterday and although the inside of the pub was gorgeous, we decided to sit outside. The menu was full of contemporary American classics as well as old Irish favorites. As soon as I saw the full Irish breakfast listed, I knew what I wanted. I had never had one before. Pubs in New Jersey rarely serve them except as specials on weekends. Before the meal, we had an order of deviled eggs. I’m not usually a fan of them, but these were okay. The filling was light, and stabbed into the middle of each of them was a small piece of jerky to give it some added smokiness and saltiness. For drinks, Will had some tiny $7 cocktail which was sparkling wine over sorbet, filling up only an insulting half of a glass. I went with an easy one: Bushmills on the rocks, and later trying a Jameson Black Barrel. The whiskey selection was superb.