Today we celebrate Women in Horror, with a tribute to a legendary queen of horror, Sigourney Weaver, star of enduring Alien franchise.
In Ridley Scott’s 1979 sci-fi horror masterpiece Alien, Sigourney relished the chance to bring a smart, no-nonsense, powerful leader to movie audiences during a time when women yearned to see a strong female presence on the big screen. Lt. Ellen Ripley proved to be way more than just the final girl, and in the 1986 sequel Aliens, Sigourney continued to portray Ripley, this time as a badass survivor and the voice of reason in this crazy new world. In her final action-packed showdown with the queen mother of all Xenomorphs, Ripley emerged as one of the greatest female kickass heroes on film, period.
The Pit and the Pendulum (1961) No one shall ever enter this room again.
Pit and the Pendulum was a film of many seconds for director Roger Corman. It was the second film adapted from an Edgar Allan Poe story, written by author and screenwriter Richard Matheson, who penned such successful novels such as I am Legend and the Incredible Shrinking Man. It was second big hit for distributor American International Pictures, grossing over $2 million USD from a measly $300,000 budget. It was also the second time that Corman would work with Vincent Price and Barbara Steele, each of whom would go on to become horror icons based on their work in numerous horror films.
Loosely based on Edgar Allan Poe of the same name, the story revolves around a tenacious Englishman Francis Barnard who goes to foreboding castle in Spain, after hearing word that his sister Elizabeth has died. He confronts his brother-in-law Don Nicholas Medina, demanding to know how she died. While there, Barnard finds the grieving don is slowly losing his mind, convinced that his late wife is haunting the castle, a site once used in the Spanish Inquisition. The don’s sister and personal physician try to sooth Barnard’s suspicions that Nicholas had anything to do with the sister’s death by revealing the tragic childhood trauma (shown in color-tinted vignette style flashbacks) that inflicts the don, but as the dark night drags by, it becomes apparent that a more sinister plot is afoot.
Richard Matheson creates magic here by fleshing out the Poe’s torture chamber story bringing in the doomed Don Nicholas Medina, who already believes he’s cursed with same madness that drove his father to inflict unspeakable horror on the Spanish population, as well as his own family. In some ways, Matheson’s story is better than Poe’s gothic tale, giving audiences a backstory into understanding the horror the Poe wrote about.
The Merchant of Menace, Vincent Price, is at his best here, playing both a grieving man losing his sanity and his sinister father in flashbacks. His acting is somewhat melodramatic but entirely encouraged by dark dreamy orchestral score by Les Baxter. The always beautiful and haunting bright eyes of Barbara Steele turn in another wicked performance, cementing her legacy as a horror vixen, and John Kerr, Luana Anders and Antony Carbone also give strong memorable performances.
Despite the low-budget, Corman’s gothic adaption looked like million dollar film, with its vibrant color, gorgeous costuming, intricate set design, and carefully planned wide-angle shots by Floyd Crosby, the lusciously filmed Pit and the Pendulum only took 15 days to film. Shot entirely on a sound stages in California, Corman’s meticulous pre-production with his team, in particular, set designer, Daniel Haller, who created a real pendulum for the movie’s nightmarish ending sequence. The imposing pendulum was 18-feet long, weighed over 2,000 lbs and hoisted thirty-five feet in the air at the top of the sound stage above the actors. The blade was made of rubber, but a real metal blade covered in steel paint was switched out for the close shots, giving John Kerr some serious anxiety, which shows in his perspiring face during the final scenes.
This is my favorite Roger Corman and Vincent Price collaboration. It’s the scariest and best overall production, an absolute epitome of gothic horror, inspiring dozens of other filmmakers, from Hollywood to the Italian gallo films of the 60s. Horror at that time was changing in a way that the scares were no longer implied. Horror master Stephen King remembers the Pit and the Pendulum scene which Price’s don Medina finds the decayed corpse of his dead wife, as having changed the horror landscape, King says “the most important moment in the post-1960 horror film, signaling a return to an all-out effort to terrify the audience…and a willingness to sue any means at hand to do it.”
Happy September! School is back in session, summer is winding down, and that recent holiday in the sun is now a distant memory. Everyone knows vacations can sometimes be more stressful than relaxing. Between the airlines losing luggage and hotel rooms not looking anything like the brochure, to pricey tourist traps or flat out being robbed, the reality of exotic trips not living up to their expectations is a top reason why people just stay home. Let’s be honest, a lot of the disappointment could’ve been solved with better research and a Lonely Planet travel guide.
No matter how awful your trip was, just be glad you weren’t a character in an Eli Roth movie.
Camp Crystal Lake, Friday the 13th (1980) dir. by Sean S. Cunningham
Years after a child’s accidental drowning, a group of young camp counselors prepare for the summer camp’s reopening, only to be stalked and murdered by an unseen force.
This one almost didn’t make the list because for all its posturing and preparation for summer visitors, Camp Crystal Lake never actually opened to the public. That’s right, no vacations were had, which is a good thing because after all those brutal murders, they never would have survived the Yelp reviews. The locals called it ‘Camp Blood’ for short. I mean, can you imagine the BBB rating on this place? “One star for the blood-stained bunk beds!” Never before has the mere uttering of a vacation destination sparked so much fear, because no one steps foot in a forest these days without hearing Jason’s theme ‘ki-ki-ki-ma-ma-ma‘ in their head.
Midsummer Scream in Long Beach, CA, kicked off the 2019 Halloween season with spooky flair and a fair amount of nostalgia. Now, the largest Halloween and haunt expo on the west coast, this year’s theme was the dark side of Tiki, featuring artwork from world-class artist Jeff Granito and Tiki Terror entryway designed by SoCal’s famed haunt builders, CalHaunts.
Posting this blog a day late and a dollar short, just like dear ‘ole dad. If you were one of the millions who spent Father’s Day pining over your lost, non-existent volatile relationship with daddy dearest, cheer up, and be glad you weren’t the offspring of any of these bad dads of horror.
10. Satan – Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
It doesn’t really get much worse than having Satan for a dad. Sure, there are probably perks to being the Antichrist, but the trade-off is lifetime of micromanagement from mid-level staffers on daddy’s payroll. Satan’s coven rape, conspire, commit murder and drive the chosen mother-to-be to the brink of insanity, all to ensure Satan’s son is born on the exact date that will make him 33 years on the millennial, the same age as Jesus when he came into his own. Who would’ve guessed the devil would be so petty?
For a country so rich in myths and folklore, Ireland doesn’t produce many horror films. Let’s hope someone is carving out some funds from the $250 million that the Irish Film Board received last year to help usher in more scary movies from the Emerald Isle. Until then, here are five great Irish horror films to watch this month.
“Take a look at yourself. Everything about you, says victim.”
A grieving new father joins forces with a grumpy priest to protect his baby from being taken by feral children.
Nothing will prepare for the barrage of emotions you’ll feel, watching a grieving young man struggling to care for his baby, fight the broken system, and deal with his post-traumatic stress disorder, all while fending off a group of freaky feral children from trying to kidnap his child. Suspenseful and unsettling, in the same vein as the French thriller Them, sadly, The Citadel misses the opportunity to truly be a frightening horror film, nonetheless, I still recommend it for the outstanding performances from Aneurin Barnard and James Cosmos.’
January is almost over and few of us have kept our resolutions. Don’t worry, the year is still new and second chances can happen anytime. So, in keeping with that theme, here’s my picks for the best horror reboots/remakes.
Typically, I’m a big fan of the phrase “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. However, with the superior technological advances in both filmmaking and special effects, some reboots or remakes are pretty darn good, a few even surpass their predecessors. Let me know what you think.
10. Fright Night (1985/2011)
Yes, the characters aren’t half as charismatic as the original cast, but the acting talents of Colin Farrell, Anton Yelchin, Toni Collette and David Tennant are what keep Fright Night from being a bad remake. While the story itself hasn’t changed much, the remake loses most of its humor, in favor of a more sardonic style, making the film more of a thriller.
Biggest Changes: Setting location moves from main town, USA to a glitzy suburb of Las Vegas. No more camp, just blood-thirsty vampires.
This is a special Halloween edition of Wicked Art Wednesdays, honoring the incredible mind-blowing classic monster art of three legendary world-renowned artists and creators. These gentlemen are the genius masters of art, who inspire all others to follow in their footsteps.
Urban legends are stories that are meant to scare us and typically serve as a warning or have some type of moral lesson attached. Every state has their own urban legends, some states even share legends, changing the details to fit their locale or whichever narrative is needed, but the core plot stay the same. The ones I have chosen for this list are the creepiest found in the USA, and some of them are based on real-life true stories! Can you figure out which ones?
Turn on the Light
After partying most of the night, a co-ed decides to spend the night with a boy she met at the party. She returns to dorm room to retrieve her keys, careful not to wake her roommate. In the dark room she can hear the sleeping roommate’s heavy breathing and assumes she’s got a cold. When she returns the next day, she finds her roommate’s dead body and the note written in blood on the wall, “Aren’t you glad you didn’t turn on the light?”
This story is sometimes told with the co-ed being more studious and returning to retrieve a book for an all-night study session, but the end-result is always the same. This legend has been around 50 years or more and most likely was started by a parent worried about their college-bound kid.
Moral of the Story: Screw your roommate’s feelings, always turn on the damn light.
One night, a woman who lives alone with her nice little dog, hears on the radio that an escaped lunatic is on the loose in her town. She locks up the house tight and goes to bed with her faithful canine companion, who stays close by her bedside all night. When the woman wakes the next morning, she finds her pooch slaughtered and note written in blood on the bathroom mirror, “Humans can lick too.”
Some variations of this legend feature an old woman and sometimes, a young girl. Sometimes she wakes in the middle of the night, hearing a dripping sound, and sometimes, the pet is alive and well at the end. Like the ‘Turn on the Light’ legend, the killer rubs the survivor’s nose in the fact that they barely escaped death.
Moral of the Story: You’re never going to be in control of your own death and maybe you should get a cat.