Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Satan's Blood (1978, Carlos Puerto)

Continuing on with my series of reviews for Katarina's Midnight Theater is the 70s Spanish devil worshipping film Satan's Blood.  As I stated in my review for The Pyx, I love me some Occult 70s Horror so naturally Satan's Blood was on my wish list.

Satan's Blood stars Angel Aranda and Sandra Alberti as Bruno and Berta, a bored couple who decide to go out for some fun.  While stopped at a red light, a man (traveling with his wife) in the car next to them recognizes Bruno as an old college classmate.  Though Bruno doesn't remember him, they accept an invitation to their house.  After driving quite far and questioning whether they should turn around, they finally reach the house.  The man shows some old pictures of Bruno that he doesn't remember being in and then pulls out a Ouija board.  They talk Bruno and Berta into participating and some deep dark secrets come out.  As it turns out, the couple are disciples of Satan and all kinds of humping and bloody violence transpire.

Satan's Blood is a humdinger of a Horror/Exploitation hybrid.  The English dubbing is bad (though the DVD also includes a Spanish language track...without subtitles!) and the actions made by the characters are completely unbelievable.  Still, WHO CARES?  There is a satanic orgy and lots of other staples of the genre that will be welcomed by those miscreants who crave occult horror.  Lots of sex, blood and creepy atmosphere make this one a classic!  The DVD includes the aforementioned English and Spanish audio tracks (why couldn't they whip up some subtitles?), an intro by horror host Katarina Leigh Waters and trailers for other films in the Katarina's Midnight Theater series.

RATING:  8/10

The Carpenter (1988, David Wellington)

The Terminator, The Exterminator, The Destroyer...The Carpenter?  Hey, why not?  Another oddball horror film under Scorpion Releasing's Katarina's Nightmare Theater series, The Carpenter is part psychodrama, part slasher and part supernatural horror.  The oddest thing about it is just how damn original it is!

The Carpenter starts with an upper class woman named Alice taking a pair of scissors to her husband's expensive wardrobe after finding him cheating on her.  After a short stay in the nuthouse, she is released with her husband who has just bought a house in the country so his wife can rest and things can get back to normal.  The house needs some work and after the hired day crew have left, Alice hears something in the basement one night and finds a carpenter still working.  Obviously still a few fries short of a happy meal, she thinks nothing of this and after a quick chat, lets him get back to work.  One of the day crew who was fired for slacking off decides to sneak in one night, but is slaughtered by the mysterious carpenter after trying to rape Alice.  Who is this carpenter and why does he seem to be protecting Alice?

The Carpenter is a surprisingly original horror film that can't be taken seriously.  Though the tone is straight forward, the story is just too wacky and the characters laughable (and sporting some great mullets!).  I don't know who came up with the idea of a mystical carpenter as a villain in a horror film but I guess given the tools used in the death scenes, it kinda makes sense.  If you're going to use saws and power drills, why not have them wielded by a professional?  The acting here is hit or miss (usually miss), though Wings Hauser does a noble job as the carpenter.  The film has a weird made for TV feel and is terribly dated but overall I kind of liked it.  Not terribly bloody but there are a few good scenes for horror fans.  The DVD comes with an intro by horror host Katarina Leigh Waters and some trailers for other films in Katarina's Nightmare Theater line.

RATING:  6/10

Nothing But the Night (1973, Peter Sasdy)

Here we have the long awaited 70s horror film Nothing But the Night, finally available on DVD courtesy of Scorpion Releasing's Katarina's Nightmare Theater.  One of the many films pairing Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, it's great to be able to see this officially released.  This was the first (and only) film released under Christopher Lee's production company, Charlemagne Productions.

Christopher Lee stars as police Colonel Bingham who is investigating a series of seemingly connected murders.  The victims were all trustees of the wealthy Van Traylen fund, which owns an orphanage.  Bingham is brought in, along with Sir Mark Ashley, the head pathologist at a hospital where one of the orphans is currently admitted after a bus crash killed some of the children.  They are hoping that the child who survived can help them piece together what caused the bus crash and perhaps shed some light on the murders.  The girl's real mother has come for her though and wants to kidnap her.

Nothing But the Night is a very well done horror mystery which deals with occult and supernatural themes as well.  The tone reminded me very much of The Wicker Man and it was nice to see Lee and Cushing together again, as two of the good guys no less.  The story has a lot of twists and turns and the climax is exciting and very unexpected.  The acting is all very professional and the film moves along at a brisk pace.  There are a couple nice gory bits and some eerie supernatural scenes too.  The DVD includes an intro with horror host Katarina Leigh Waters and trailers for other films in the Katarina's Nightmare Theater collection.

RATING: 8/10

The Pyx (1973, Harvey Hart)

The Pyx, another title from Scorpion Releasing's Katarina's Nightmare Theater banner, is a 70s Canadian Horror Mystery with touches of the Occult mixed in for good meausre.  There's just something about 70s Occult Horror films that I love and though this isn't a full blown Devil Worshipping flick, with a great cast consisting of Karen Black and Christopher Plummer, it was a must see. 

Karen Black plays Elizabeth, a heroin addicted prostitute who dies in the first few minutes of the film.  Christopher Plummer plays police detective Henderson who is trying to find out what happened to Elizabeth.  Through a series of flashbacks of the days before Elizabeth's death intercut with Henderson investigating we see that her death may have something to do with the occult.

The Pyx is a well made film with great acting, an interesting story and lots of suspense.  Most of the film is very dark and atmospheric with a haunting soundtrack (including a few songs sung by Karen Black).  As with many films of its ilk, there are some slow parts but the story is enough to make you anxious to find out how Elizabeth died.  Though the occult tones are sparse, they are an important part of the story and shouldn't disappoint fellow occult film fans.  Included on the DVD is an intro by horror host Katarina Leigh Waters as well as some trailers for other films in the Katarina's Nightmare Theater series and an audio commentary with Karen Black.

RATING:  7/10 

Humongous (1982, Paul Lynch)

Released last fall from Scorpion Releasing is the highly sought after 80s Canadian horror film, Humongous.  Released under the Katarina's Nightmare Theater banner and featuring an intro with horror host/former wrestler Katarina Leight Waters, this is the first time Humongous is getting a DVD release.  I had never even heard of this film before it was announced but definitely wanted to check it out after reading the synopsis.

Humongous begins with a woman being harassed and raped at a party by a drunk hooligan.  Many years later we are introduced to a group of teens who decide to take their boat out for some fun.  You have the stereotypical jerk, the nice couple, the nerdy girl and the heroine.  They come across a man whose boat has capsized and help him on board.  He warns them of some rocks up ahead but our stereotypical jerk decides to take the wheel and run right into them.  Way to go tough guy!  They end up shipwrecked on a nearby island which our capsized stranger tells us is owned by a reclusive woman guarded by wild dogs.  After doing a little exploring, the island appears to be deserted with only dog skeletons found.  But they're not alone.

Humongous is a fun little Canadian export that follows the 80s slasher formula pretty much to a T.  Though hampered by the typical dragging mid section where nothing much happens, the final act of the film pays off.  When we finally see what is lurking on the island and what he does to our protagonists, we find that the film was worth the wait.  One other gripe I had was the lack of background on the killer.  The explanation (or hinted explanation) didn't really make a lot of sense.  The film reminded me at times of The Beast Within, though with less plot.  But 80s horror fans shouldn't be disappointed.  Also included are trailers for other Katarina's Nightmare Theater DVDs and a nice commentary track with director Paul Lynch, writer William Gray, horror historian Nathaniel Thompson and Ms. Waters moderating.

RATING:  7/10

Friday, February 3, 2012

Casino Royale (2006, Martin Campbell)

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James Bond was, is and always will be my idol.  Ever since I saw my first Bond film (Licence to Kill) at the age of 9, way back in the summer of 1990, I was instantly hooked.  My good friend Paul and I would dress up like characters from Bond films (we'd take turns donning a Blofeld bald cap that I bought at a hobby shop), use a deck of cards to pretend we were playing casino games, and watch all of the Bond films religiously.  After being initially disappointed by the 1967 Bond spoof Casino Royale (though my opinion would change drastically over time), I wished they would film a serious version more closely following Ian Fleming's novel.  Well, many years after I outgrew pretending to be a secret agent, the Bond producers finally got the rights to the film and made it happen.

Casino Royale, which is based on Ian Fleming's first Bond novel from 1953, features James Bond (Daniel Craig's debut as Bond) on his first mission.  He is ordered by M (Judi Dench), head of MI6 to travel to Montenegro to make sure that an enemy loses at the high stakes poker game.  The enemy in question, Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), needs to win the money to continue funding terrorists.  Bond is aided by CIA man Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright), Rene Mathis (Giancarlo Giannini) and the mysterious Vesper Lynd (Eva Green).  Though Bond soon learns what terrible things will happen if he doesn't let Le Chiffre win.

Over the years, Bond has been shown at many casinos playing many different games - baccarat, roulette, craps, etc but none have been as life threatening as his turn at the poker table in Casino Royale.  Taking place largely in the casino, this film succeeds in drama, action, suspense and romance, creating one of the best film in the Bond series.  Everyone has their favorite Bond (most say Sean Connery) and everyone has their favorite Bond film.  Most would argue between From Russia With Love, Goldfinger, On Her Majesty's Secret Service and The Spy Who Loved Me (mine is Dr. No).  Casino Royale, and Daniel Craig, easily compete with the best Bond actors and best Bond films of the series.  The action is non-stop and Craig is amazing at fighting, acting, romancing and running fast too.  The rest of the cast also shines, especially Mads Mikkelson's sadistic Le Chiffre (who seems as if he's almost channeling Peter Lorre's portrayal in the original 1954 American TV movie of Casino Royale).  Eva Green, one of the most beautiful and talented Bond girls harkens back to the beauty's of the sixties Bond films like Ursula Andress, Claudine Auger and Daniela Bianchi.  Though Bond's next adventure (Quantum of Solace) was a slight misstep in the series, we can thank the Gods that Craig will be back as Bond in Skyfall, coming later this year!

RATING:  10/10