Monday, February 28, 2005

Nightmare Castle

Reviewed by Patrick

Nightmare Castle

-Those Italians! Good pasta, good Olive Oil and great Gothic Horror Flicks!

Plotline: A demented scientist tortures and then murders his wife and her lover. Unfortunately, that's not the end of them, as his remarriage to his dead wife's mentally unstable cousin brings the duo back from the dead, bent on revenge.

Scariness factor: As with most older horror films (this one is from 1965), there's not so much an emphasis on making the audience jump, as there is on building a creepy atmosphere to immerse the viewer in. In this respect, 'Nightmare Castle' does pretty well for itself. The shots vary between scenes lit by extreme lighting during the night to hazy, soft images, by day, giving you the feeling of moving from dream to nightmare (pun intended) very quickly. There's only a few scenes of actual mutilated monsters, but most of the film takes place in that gray realm where you're left to wonder if it's "real" or just the product of an overactive imagination.

Originality: Lovers back from the dead to exact untold horrors on their murderer is actually not very original ground to be treading on and it seems like a scientist figures into 1 out of every 3 horror movies during the 50's and 60's. That said, though it was not incredibly unique, I didn't feel the lack of originality was a detriment to my enjoyment of the film.

Other High Points: Barbara Steele, the queen of Italian horror movies! I saw her last in the classic Mario Bava film 'Black Sunday'. In both movies, she plays the dual role of an undead witch/seductress and a living innocent/virgin. Surprisingly, for such inherent cheese, she pulls this off rather well. I felt that, even more so in 'Nightmare Castle', she was able to give a performance that really made you feel that these were two separate characters, instead of just the same woman with a different wig. I mean, sure, we're not talking academy award winning material here, but, for horror movies from that time period, she was a stand-out actress, made even better by her extremely unique looks and perfect evil laugh. She also wrote a good article about her memories working in Cult Movies, available here.

Other Complaints: As with many B-movies, it felt like something got dropped in the editing room. For example, we are never quite told what the scientist was studying in his basement laboratory (though it did somehow involve the restoration of the youth of his housekeeper) or why the lover's hearts played such a vital role in the end of the film. In addition, there's a brief glimpse into an affair between the scientist and the housekeeper, which goes absolutely nowhere. It's movies like *this* that really need a "director's cut" released. Also, as with most foreign films, the dubbing leaves something to be desired.

Overall: 'Nightmare Castle' is an example of the type of movie you just don't get anymore. It doesn't want to be more than a simple horror film and it doesn't try to scare you with FX beyond the reach of the current technology (i.e. men in masks for the 50's, badly rendered CGI monsters for today). It, instead, doles out screams and cackles in loving spoonfuls. Just like mamma use to make! Definitely worth a late night viewing.

Grade: B


Thursday, February 24, 2005

Birthday Horror

Readers big and small, clean and bloody, decapitated and zombified:

Today I got a subscription for Fangoria magazine from a lovely and kind Lyndsey L. Expect big things outta me and this blog (and by that, I DON'T mean big aliens exploding from my stomach). ; )

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

In Response

Spurred on by the creation of my new blog and our viewing of The Grudge this weekend, Eleven decided to post on why he's not a fan of horror movies. His post follows.

Eleven's post:

I'm not a big fan of horror movies. I found this out for certain this weekend when L. and I watched a movie called The Grudge. Now, she found the movie perfectly unscary. She reviewed it, gave it a D, and moved on with her life. I, though, found the movie eerily unsettling, not necessarily because of its plot or general theme, but because I am just plain freaked out by ghosts, zombies, spirits, the undead, monsters, and anything else designed for fright. This particular movie had some particularly creepy ghost-head-hair things that had these hollow eyes that just freaked me out. Now, I don't necessarily know where this deep fear of such things comes from, but I have had it my entire life. And, well, when I do think about it, I always come back to the same general idea: that I am someone who takes death very seriously. I don't want to get into any philosophical discussion here on the nature of death, the afterlife, what life means, or anything else up that stream. I just want it to be enough to say that I take the ending of life to be a particularly delicate and sad thing (in fact, it factors into the reasons I am a vegetarian), so I take more seriously than others, perhaps, the representation of the undead in a particularly uneasy light.

Now, there are some "ghosty" kinds of stories with which I am ok. Take, for example, Toni Morrison's Beloved. Beloved is, I guess, a ghost. The house in which the family lives is haunted. There is a general theme of “spirit” in the novel. But, I rest easily with this novel more than I do other representations of ghosts. And maybe this is why: I think that, somehow someway, I feel it a bit disrespectful to death to make a mockery of it by representing the undead, the dead, ghosts and so on, in a fashion that is designed to make fun out of it. We watch horror movies because it is fun to be scared. We read scary stories because it is fun to be scared. But, going back to Beloved, Morrison's story is about respect for the dead, treating it in a serious manner that gives us pause about the importance of life. The novel isn't designed to scare for delight but to make us thing about the preciousness of life itself.

Now, this reflection, of course, doesn't explain why exactly I am afraid of scary things. I think I may have some plain ol' childish fear still residing in my heart. But what it does explain, maybe, is part of the reason why I am not a huge fan of the genre itself.

And, I think for right now I will leave it at that. I don't want to spawn an argument or debate about the value of horror movies. I don't be-grudge (pardon the pun) horror movies. I don't think people who like them are bad people, wrong people, or anything like that. I don't think we should stop making horror movies or scary stories or anything like that. What I am saying is something from my particular, and completely relative, point of view. The genre as it stands is probably a good thing--something to be lauded. It's just that I can't get into it the way others so easily and happily can.

posted by Eleven at 6:01 PM | 0 comments

* * * * * * * * * * * *

My thoughts:

The basest and most disconcerting of all the fears we must face on a daily basis is death. It opens the door to so many questions--Is there an afterlife? Is death the end of everything we are? What does death feel like?

What is so intriguing and attractive about horror movies is how they dredge up and play on these fears. They force us to acknowledge and respond to them in a base and completely visceral sort of way.

Eleven states that "...I don't necessarily know where this deep fear of such things [zombies, monsters, etc.] comes from, but I have had it my entire life. And, well, when I do think about it, I always come back to the same general idea: that I am someone who takes death very seriously." This is key--where does the commonly held fear of monsters come from? I think Eleven dances around this without ever really realizing himself that he is answering his own question--fear of such monsters comes from the fact that death is something to be taking seriously, something that scares most of us to our very core.

Eleven identifies something threatening that many people recognize in horror movies, that "the ending of life [can] be a particularly delicate and sad thing..." and "take[s] more seriously than others, perhaps, the representation of the undead in a particularly uneasy light." The thing is, death is not always a particularly delicate and sad thing--sometime it's terrible and horrific, and sometimes it's slow and painful, and sometimes it's a beautiful beautiful moment of love. But his words represent something that is hunched down terrified in the corners of all of us--fear of this unknown.

That's what is so attractive about horror movies--they play on this fear of death that pulses through most of our veins. Zombies and monsters and werewolves represent an in-your-face confrontation of that thing we fear the most--an abrupt, unplanned, and painful removal from this life. They are the unknown and stand in for exactly that which we don't quite understand about death.

But why do we watch them? Why do we like to be reminded of these fears? Many of us fear death, but not all of those who fear death like horror movies. So why is that some of us do?

Many people (such as Leon Rappoport, professor of psychology at Kansas State University), believe "it is the same thing that attracts people to amusement parks to ride roller coasters.

"It goes all the way back to sitting around the camp fire telling ghost stories and folk tales," Rappoport said. "It's a very prevalent, deep-seated, human characteristic to explore the boundaries where they can tolerate fear and anxiety, and then master that fear and anxiety by working through it."


"The more civilized we get the more we repress our sort of uncivilized nature," Rappoport said. "And one way to release that is through festival occasions, vicariously enjoying horror movies and all sorts of related things.""

I think the key here is this: some of us like to "explore the boundaries where they can tolerate fear and anxiety, and then master that fear and anxiety by working through it." Some of us do not. I think this is where the horror movie fan comes in--we like to step to the edge of the precipice and wobble there precariously with our hearts in our throat. We find it exhilerating. We like to be reminded of the fact that things are unstable, that life can leap out of your hands at any second. Many of us (though maybe not all) like to be confronted with this reminder of the unknown, this silent threat that's always lurking in the shadows.

Maybe a bit too philosophical, yes.

Maybe we just like to watch these things for sheer entertainment.

But there is no doubt that our bodies respond to horror movies in a completely visceral way, in a way that we don't respond to most movies (jumping in our seats, screaming out in fear), and to me, it is hard not to see our love of horror movies as an obvious confrontation of this one thing that scares us the most.

And now I shall quote The Shining twins (blatant symbol of death and the unknown) once more in support of my argument:

"Come play with us, Eleven. Forever... and ever... and ever..."

Monday, February 21, 2005

Atom Age Vampire

Reviewed by Patrick

- With a name like that, what's not to love? Well..alot.

Plotline: Huh? You mean it's supposed to have a plot? Brilliant! Okay, from what I gathered through the choppy editing, it's the story of a stripper who gets horribly disfigured in a car accident. The disfigurement leaves her suicidal, until a "mysterious figure" offers to help her with an experimental new treatment. She accepts and, after a few shots in a basement labratory, is good-as-new. The only bad part is: the treatments don't last. She has to get further treatments to stay beautiful. Somehow, the doctor, who performed the surgery and has subsequently fallen in love with her, transforming into a horrible monster at night and killing young women, solves this. Keep in mind, this procedure is something he hopes to market to the world.

Doctor: "I have this new serum which will cure the world of ugliness!"

World: "YAH!"

Doctor: "But I'm afraid I'll have to kill a bunch of young women to make it."

World: "ummm...."

Does that make sense? No? Well, good, 'cause the whole movie is like that. Halfway through I stopped trying to understand it and hoped for a catfight or something (which, by the way, never came.)

Scariness factor: The scariest part of this movie is how much the stripper looks like Laura Dern.

Originality: It reminded me alot of "The Brain that Wouldn't Die", which also involved a stripper in a car crash and young women getting killed to somehow prolong her life. Other than that, it was definitely in a class all it's own.

Other High Points: Cheesy Dialog, a mute gardener named Sasha and an extended "Island Girl" dance number, where the dancer winks at the camera no less than 3 times. I wish I were joking about the last one.

Other Complaints: The sound! As if the story wasn't hard enough to follow, the sound, which varied between muted and freakishly loud, made conversations impossible to follow.

Grade: F


The Grudge

--Reviewed by Lindy Loo

Saw The Grudge this weekend. Here's what I thunk.

Plotline: Sad and washed up. Sarah Michelle Gellar goes to work temporarily as a nurse for an old woman who lives in what turns out to be a haunted house. The house is haunted by a young Asian boy and his mother who slowly pick off people who come into contact with them.

Scariness factor: Like watching your grandma hobble towards you with a Casper mask on. There wasn't a real scary moment in the whole film which was extremely disappointing. They showed too much of the beings that were haunting the place--it would've best been left to the viewer's imagination. And never was I nervously sitting on the edge of my seat.

Originality: Blatant Rip-off of both The Eye (elevator scenes and creepy Asian child) and The Ring (girl with long hair hanging over face lurching towards camera).

Other High Points: None. (Except maybe for the creepy noise that accompanies the ghosts and only because it's easy to imitate and annoy people with.)

Other Complaints: Sarah Michelle Gellar does a shower scene and we don't get to see boobage. What kinda lousy horror movie IS this?

Grade: D

--Reviewed by Lindy Loo


Sunday, February 20, 2005


Out of boredom and a weird obsession with horror movies, I've decided to start this blog. Patrick (out of a similar weird obsession with horror movies) has decided he wants to get in on the action as well. So this blog will consist pretty much solely of horror movie reviews (with the occasional random horror movie musing thrown in).

Patrick will also be a contributing writer, but I will be fortunate enough to be in charge of publishing his posts. *Thinking of mischievous ways to take advantage of this fact and use my power for evil*

Anyways, enjoy. If you have any suggestions about any of the content, feel free to let us know.