Live Blog: October is Horror Movie Month! (Updated 10/26)

The extraordinary Vincent Price as Matthew Hopkins in the British horror classic “Witchfinder General” (1977).

Don’t you just love this time of year? For some it’s the coming of cool fall air, for others, its the wonderful foliage, but for many, it’s time to crack out the horror flicks and watch as many as you can in the month of October! For me, the mainstays have always been The Shining, The Exorcist series, and The Omen trilogy, but this year, since Comcast OnDemand has expanded their collection of crap moderately decent films, I will be broadening my horizons. Most of them are campy, cheesy, see-it-once garbage piles (you know, the ones that are so bad they’re actually worth watching), but every once in a while, a real gem will slip through. Take yesterday, for instance. I decided to watch two movies in a row (something I have not had the time for in quite a while), one of which was The Crater Lake Monster from 1977, a film that appears to seriously have had a budget of under $1000. Nevertheless, it was not the worst thing I had ever seen, and the scenery of the lake and forest was actually quite spectacular—the acting, which truly was scary, is what eventually brought it down, as even the special effects dealing with the monster in question were not too horrendous.

Later on, I watched a Vincent Price flick titled Witchfinder General, that was actually very good. Price can nail any role he plays, but even he considered this one to be the “finest” of his career—I will agree with him on that, because aside from the brutally violent storyline involving 17th century witch-hunting in England, his acting will give you goosebumps if you listen to how he says certain chilling phrases with such ease. I will be keeping track of the horror movies I watch this month, with the list below and a special live blog with tidbits and reviews in this article that will be updated throughout the month. So, what’s on your list? Tell us of your spine-tingling ventures in the comment section below!

Greg’s October 2012 Horror Movie Watch List!

  1. October 2: The Crater Lake Monster (1977): 2/10
  2. October 2: Witchfinder General (1968): 8/10
  3. October 3: The Brotherhood of Satan (1971): 6/10
  4. October 6: The Mummy (1932): 7/10
  5. October 8: The Mummy’s Hand (1940): 5/10
  6. October 11: King of the Zombies (1941): 6/10
  7. October 18: The Premature Burial (1965): 8/10
  8. October 26: The Exorcist (1973): 10/10

Live Month-Long Blog with Film Tidbits!

  • (Oct. 3): The Brotherhood of Satan: Being a big fan of Strother Martin’s work in True Grit, Slap Shot, and many other films, I was looking forward to his performance here in something that seemed so far out of his element: a horror movie. While the film was actually pretty good, and I was entertained throughout, this is definitely a role he should have turned down. Scratch that; ran away from! His character basically has two sides, one of a small-town doctor (which he was fine as) and the other as a leader of a coven of Satanist witches. In the latter of the two roles, he looked completely out of place, and though he certainly tried his best to hide that Midwestern drawl of his, I could not help but laugh every time he yelled out Satan’s name. That said, one can only work with what they are given, and though the atmosphere of the film was pretty spooky and serious, and the production value was higher than you might think, the dialogue and costume he had to don while taking part in various Satanic ceremonies was utterly ridiculous. Still, give it a try. It’s nowhere near as bad as its 4.3 IMDB rating indicates.
  • (Oct. 7): Yesterday, I had a chance to see one of the “Big Four” horror movies of early Hollywood cinema, as I call them (you can guess what the other three are), with the flexible Boris Karloff starring in the classic The Mummy. Although marred by choppy editing and a slow pace, even for such a short movie, it still must be recognized as the masterpiece it was considered back then, and given kudos for being the first of its kind, and something so influential, it inspired countless sequels, remakes, and mock-ups. The storyline, when you think about it, is nearly identical to Dracula, with simply the names, location, and time period changing. Both involve an age-old “undead” character, seen as the embodiment of evil, an old and wise doctor, a young man eager to help, and of course, the damsel in distress. It’s a great film for someone who wants to study the technical aspects of the genre, as well as a decent late-night view on All Hallow’s Eve. We’ll put the horrendous and abrupt scene-ending editing aside, and recognize this as the classic it truly is.
  • (Oct. 8): Running at only 67 minutes in length, The Mummy’s Hand leaves much to be desired. After a lengthy flashback sequence to The Mummy (1932), of which this film is a sequel to, and numerous, pointless excursions en route to the climactic, semi-dramatic ending, this film contains very little substance and begs us to ask the question, “How short is too short?” Would another ten or fifteen minutes have mattered? I really can’t say, because while the filmmakers here had a chance for a decent sequel to a landmark film, they flubbed it with a rush job full of hammy acting, subpar special effects, and countless side stories and bits of supposed humorous dialogue that bordered on dreadful and distracting, and had nothing to do with the plot except tack on running time, and it barely succeeded at that. The ending was as abrupt and silly as the rest of the movie, and may have served to answer the question I asked above with, “Thankfully it’s over. Even at that length, enough was enough!” While the humor I mentioned is often welcome in a horror movie, this one went out of its way to be too funny, and the character of Babe Jensen, played by Wallace Ford, who can be compared to a Lou Costello-type character, seriously detracts from the plot by not anything useful or serious. In fact, the only acting performance worth anything in this film is that of Eduardo Ciannelli as the High Priest, who played a very similarly eerie role in Gunga Din (1939) as the Guru. While the sets were not bad and makeup job on the mummy, this time played by Tom Tyler, with its named changed to Kharis, was actually pretty good, this truly is a forgettable film in the mummy area of the horror genre. You might want to give it a try, considering the running time, and maybe you’ll see something I don’t, but for me, it simply sits as a lost opportunity. The film also had nothing at all to do with a “mummy’s hand”, except that the mummy has one…err, two of them.
  • (Oct. 11): King of the Zombies is definitely one of the most unique zombie films I have ever seen, mainly due to the way that WWII served as the backdrop to the story, and actually involved a character named Admiral Wainwright (could this have been a shake-up of General Jonathon Wainwright?). The story begins when a plane is drawn off course and lands on a remote island that is virtually run by a single German doctor, played by Henry Victor,  and a collection of zombies he has acquired through the voodoo magic of his servants as well as his studies in hypnotism. While the Nazis are never mentioned, it is obvious that he is trying to relay information back to them regarding the Unites States Army, as he tortures and attempts to get secrets out of the Wainwright character through hypnotism. Still, the army subplot is relatively minor, and the three main characters, played by Dick Purcell, the wonderfully funny Mantan Moreland, and John Archer, take up most of the screen-time in trying to find a way off the island, as well as seeing what the evil doctor is up to. Not to throw away the plot, but they will find a lot more than they expected, as the story spins through some pretty cool scenes of zombification and rituals. For a smaller budget film from the 1940’s, the acting holds up quite well (it’s actually the strong point), with Moreland’s character being a real treat to watch. His mannerisms and dialogue worked very well to compliment what would have been an overly dark storyline, especially for audiences back then. Instead, this ends up being part horror, part comedy, with the latter not overdoing itself like it did in the previously reviewed film, The Mummy’s Hand. Oh, and here is a little bit of movie trivia for you: this is the only zombie movie in history to ever get nominated for an Academy Award, which it did for a very underused best musical score (but failed to win).
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One thought on “Live Blog: October is Horror Movie Month! (Updated 10/26)

  1. Gettysbuff

    The Devil Rides Out, Salem’s Lot, The Fog, IT, and one of the segments of Cat’s Eye are just some examples of really creepy classic movies that freaked me out when i was a kid and i still love them now….although some of them may now seem a bit lame by today’s standards. I still think that The Fog is a completely underrated classic which was sadly (but understandably) overshadowed by Carpenter’s other, more successful work which was made/released 2 years earlier – Halloween. And apart from The Thing it is probably his best/my favorite Carpenter movie.

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