A Trailer a Day Keeps the Boogeyman Away! Halloween A-Z

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Kronos 1957

“We have half of the equation; we can turn matter into energy. But up there, they have the second half; they can turn energy into matter.”

Kronos is a film I’ll be talking about with more gusto for my series Keep Watching the Skies: The Year is 1957. Stay tuned! 🚀

Kronos is a 1957 is an above average, intelligent American science fiction film directed by Kurt Neumann with a script by Irving Block and Lawrence L. Goldman. In a decade strewn with unrelenting hogwash, Kronos’s heroical special effects should stand for something. The movie centers on a giant extraterrestrial energy accumulator, essentially it’s a machine that consumes power – called Kronos that arrives on Earth with a mission to drain the planet of its energy resources. I remember this movie really making an impression on me as a kid, with Kronos stomping its way through the desert, its electrical currents snapping and crackling between its antennae as it pounded the earth.

A colossal flying saucer mistaken for an asteroid crashes fo the coast of Western Mexico. Scientist Leslie Gaskell has been tracking an asteroid, with missiles sent to intercept it, its path is only altered slightly off course, nearly hitting New York. It finally plunges into the ocean off Mexico. Les, his fiancee and associate Vera (Barbara Lawrence), and fellow scientist Arnie (George O’Hanlon) travel to Mexico waiting to see what develops, certain that this asteroid has been thoughtfully guided by an intelligence.

Soon, a domed-like crown rises to the ocean’s surface, and it emerges from the bubbling Pacific as a monolith metallic cube with multiple tiers. Its purpose is to voraciously siphon off the Earth’s energy, and bring it back to its own distant planet. As it greedily absorbs energy the cube undergoes a mesmerizing transformation as this extraterrestrial machine over a hundred feet tall continues to grow larger in scale. It also has the power to influence unwitting people to serve it.

Scientists and military personnel are perplexed by its presence and its relentless energy-absorbing capabilities. Dr. Leslie Gaskell (played by Jeff Morrow) takes charge of the investigation, and he and his team work tirelessly to find a way to stop the alien machine before it depletes Earth’s energy and devastates the planet.

As the story unfolds, Dr. Gaskell and his colleagues develop a daring plan to confront Kronos and prevent the impending catastrophe. The film blends elements of classic 1950s science fiction with Cold War-era anxieties about the potential threat of unknown forces from outer space.

Kronos is notable for its portrayal of an enigmatic and seemingly invincible alien entity and the efforts of humanity to overcome this existential threat. It is a classic example of the science fiction films of its era and is remembered for its imaginative premise and special effects. It also stars Barbara Lawrence as Vera Hunter, and John Emery as Dr. Hubbell Eliot who is taken over by Kronos – apparent by his menacing stare and the crackling ball of electricity that enters his body at the time he needs to pull the strings and make the Dr. do his bidding. Then there is good ‘ole Morris Ankrum as Dr. Albert Stern, and George O’Hanlon as Dr. Arnold Culver.

The Killer Shrews 1959

The Killer Shrews is a 1959 low-budget science fiction horror film directed by Ray Kellogg. The story is set on a remote island, where a group of people becomes trapped by a hurricane. The island is infested with giant (small dog-sized giant), mutated shrews that are both aggressive and venomous due to a failed scientific experiment.

Captain Thorne Sherman (played by James Best) a scientist named Dr. Marlowe Craigis (played by Baruch Lumet) Dr. Radford Baines (Gordon McLendon) and Craigis’s daughter Ann (Ingrid Goude) must band together to survive the nightmarish ordeal. As the group struggles to defend themselves against the ravenous shrews, tensions rise, and they must find a way to escape the island before they fall victim to the deadly creatures who are running out of food.

“The Killer Shrews” is known for its low-budget production values, including the use of dogs dressed in shaggy costumes to portray the oversized shrews. Despite its limited resources, the film has achieved cult status for its campy charm. Close-ups of the giant shrews were filmed using hand puppets. The wider shots used dogs made up as the shrews.

Actor / co-producer Ken Curtis once commented that he had to force himself not to laugh during filming when the shrews attacked because they were basically just “dogs 
covered in shag carpet.”
The man playing Dr. Baines is Gordon McLendon He was the uncredited executive producer and financier of this and its companion feature The Giant Gila Monster 1959. He owned radio stations and a chain of theaters in Texas.

Kiss of the Vampire 1963

Kiss of the Vampire, a 1963 British horror masterpiece by Hammer that unfolds under the masterful direction of Don Sharp, with Anthony Hinds at the quill. While not part of the legendary Dracula series, this cinematic gem bears the indelible mark of Hammer’s signature Gothic horror.

The narrative elegantly trails a newlywed couple, the dashing Gerald Harcourt (Edward de Souza), and his enchanting bride, Marianne Harcourt (portrayed by the captivating Jennifer Daniel), as they embark on a European trip. Their idyllic journey takes an unexpected detour when their car breaks down near a remote Bavarian village, leaving them stranded.

Fortune intervenes as they are graciously invited to take refuge within a nearby chateau, an architectural marvel shrouded in both splendor and sinister secrets. The chateau’s enigmatic resident, Dr. Ravna (Noel Willman), reigns as the formidable leader of a clandestine cult of vampires. With beguiling allure, he ensnares the couple in his nefarious designs, with Marianne poised to join his unholy family.

As Gerald’s realization of their dire predicament dawns, he endeavors to rescue his beloved wife from the clutches of these ravenous vampires. In his quest for salvation, he seeks the wisdom of a local vampire scholar, Professor Zimmer ( Clifford Evans), forging a desperate alliance to rescue Marianne from Ravna.

Kingdom of the Spiders 1977

Kingdom of the Spiders is a 1977 American horror film directed by John “Bud” Cardos. The movie is set in a small rural town in Arizona and centers around the terrifying invasion of the town by an enormous army of aggressive and deadly tarantulas.

The story follows veterinarian Dr. Robert ‘Rack’ Hansen (played by the intrepid William Shatner) and entomologist Diane Ashley (played by Tiffany Bolling) as they investigate a series of unusual livestock deaths in the area. Hansen lives in Verde Valley an Arizona desert town, who is baffled by the death of Walter Colby’s (Woody Strode) prize calf. After he sends samples of blood to Arizona State University, entomologist Diane Ashley arrives with information about the calf’s death. It had been poisoned by a massive dose of tarantula venom.

As they dig deeper, they discover that there is a mammoth hill on Colby’s farm which is housing thousands of deadly spiders and his property is the epicenter of a colossal tarantula population explosion. As the creeping terror escalates, the townsfolk are thrust into a nightmarish world. Ashley is puzzled by the behavior as tarantulas usually don’t attack as a militarized group and are not usually aggressive to creatures that aren’t their usual prey. But these spiders are driven by a monstrous bloodlust.

They find themselves under siege as thousands of venomous tarantulas begin to overrun the town, attacking livestock, pets, and even humans. With the situation escalating into a life-and-death struggle, Dr. Hansen and Diane work together to find a way to combat the arachnid invasion and save the town from being consumed by the “kingdom of the spiders.”

Kingdom of the Spiders is a classic creature feature that capitalizes on our primal fear of arachnids and the idea of nature striking back against human encroachment. It’s known for its suspenseful and creepy atmosphere, as well as its memorable scenes of tarantulas swarming en masse. William Shatner’s portrayal of the determined hero adds to the film’s B-movie appeal among fans of a slightly above-schlocky 1970s horror cinema.

The Kindred 1987

Directed by Stephen Carpenter, Jeffrey Obrow, and Joseph Stefano (Psycho 1960 and The Outer Limits)The Kindred is a 1987 science fiction horror film that revolves around a series of dark and disturbing genetic experiments.

Genetic scientist Amanda Hollins (Kim Hunter) awakens after three years in a coma. Her son John Hollins (David Allen Brooks) is summoned to her bedside at the hospital where she urges him to destroy all her journals and anything that remains of her research and the mysterious endeavor that involved a long-lost brother of John’s she named Anthony.
John and company arrive at the abandoned country house with his girlfriend Sharon (Talia Balsam) and a few colleagues including the mysterious Melissa Leftridge (Amanda Pays). There at Shelter Cove, they discover his mother’s secret genetically engineered creation, a hybridization that still exists. Working against Dr. Hollins is the profoundly unhinged Dr. Phillip Lloyd (Rod Steiger) a competing geneticist who wants control of Anthony himself. Dr. Lloyd has planted Melissa as a spy and seeks her help to stop the destruction of Hollins’s work.
As they delve deeper into the labyrinthine mysteries of her work, they unwittingly awaken a monstrosity that lurks in the shadows—an abominable creature – a hybrid human a deep sea creature with tentacles that has a taste for human flesh. Anthony has emerged from the very cells taken from John’s tissues. This grotesque, aquatic entity, referred to as “John’s brother” stands as a testament to the macabre nature of his mother’s experiments. A battle takes place between the ethical scientists, the mad scientist, Melissa who in fact also shares some marine life DNA, and Anthony’s little squid-like buddies who can latch onto people. In one squishy gory scene, an angry gooey fetus leaps out of a clogged drain and attaches itself to someone’s face. And then there’s the little horrible beastie that springs out of a ripe watermelon and wraps its tentacles around a shocked grad student while she’s driving.

With a cinematic nod to the 1950s sci-fi genre, the scene with the creature inside the watermelon in the backseat of the car – and she is attacked with its tentacles is a bit of nostalgia.

Creative horror screenwriter Joseph Stefano (Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho”) contributed to the screenplay, most notably the sequence involving the creature hiding inside of a watermelon.

Rod Steiger performed his own stunts in a scene that involved him being doused with a 55 gallon drum of methyl cellulose “slime.

Killer Klowns from Outer Space 1988

Killer Klowns from Outer Space 1988 (Photo courtesy: Trans World Entertainment)

Curtis Mooney “They took your wife away in a balloon? Well you don’t need the police, pal, you need a psychiatrist!”

Killer Klowns from Outer Space is a 1988 cult science-fiction horror-comedy film directed by the Chiodo Brothers. The movie is known for its quirky offbeat and often comical premise. Not to mention as a society our collective primal, morbid fear of clowns!

The story begins when a small town is invaded by extraterrestrial beings who resemble creepy, colorful circus clowns from outer space. Even the spaceship has the appearance of a circus tent. These alien clowns, however, are not here to spread laughter and joy but instead to harvest humans as a source of sustenance. They capture people by trapping them in cotton candy cocoons and use outlandish, clown-themed weaponry to cause havoc. Killer Klowns is seriously outrageous, demented, and hilarious!

Debbie Stone -We were up at “the top of the world” and we saw this shooting star and we decided to go look for it. But instead of finding the shooting star we saw this… this circus tent. And that’s when we went inside, and that is when we saw those people in those… those pink, cotton candy cocoons. Dave, it was not a circus tent. It was something else.

Dave Hanson What? What?

Mike Tobacco It was a space ship. And there was these things, these killer clowns, and they shot popcorn at us! We barely got away!

Curtis Mooney Killer clowns, from outer space. Holy shit!

A group of young people, including Mike Tobacco (played by Grant Cramer) and Debbie Stone (played by Suzanne Snyder), discover the bizarre and deadly threat and take it upon themselves to stop the Killer Klowns. As they face off against these colorful, goofy yet terrifying otherworldly foes, they must find a way to save their town from being completely devoured by the extraterrestrial circus. Busy character actors Royal Dano as Farmer Gene Green and John Vernon make appearances in the film. Both actors appeared in The Outlaw Josey Wales together in 1976.

Killer Klowns from Outer Space is known for its dark humor, imaginative and campy special effects, and the sheer absurdity of its premise. It has become a beloved cult classic, appealing to fans of both horror and comedy for its unique blend of genres.

Tidbits:

The scene in which a car is thrown over a cliff was initially intended to be far more spectacular – the car was to fly over the cliff and crash down to the ground. Unfortunately, the sling rope snapped because effects crew members neglected to remove the stoppers from underneath the car’s wheels. The result was what is seen in the final film, the car slowly tumbles over the edge and becomes caught on a tree.

The iconic Killer Klowns March was originally written by John Massair for his high school rock band, Crisis. The band members did not like it because the notes of the song spelled out an F major 7th chord which they felt sounded too much like Jazz.

Around the same time, MGM began production of two low-budget horror films, one of them being “Killer Clowns from Outer Space” and the other “Clownshouse” by Victor Salva. Both films are very different but with the concept of Killer Clowns. Salva creator of the controversial “Clownhouse” expressed that there was a certain rivalry between both productions to know who copied whom, but in the end the films were very different from each other.

Mooney’s (John Vernon) fate is foreshadowed early in the film when he says “Nobody’s going to make a dummy out of me”. A Klown winds up making him a human ventriloquist dummy.

Originally, Klownzilla was supposed to be made with stop motion animation. But due to production costs and limited time to shoot, they made a suit instead

This is your EverLovin’ Joey sayin’ K…  I’ll be back with the letter L -hoping these trailers will LURE you in!

A Trailer a Day Keeps the Boogeyman Away! 11 terrifying tidbits from 1980-1983

THE ATTIC 1980

“Louise’s life downstairs is a living hell… and upstairs lurks a haunting nightmare!- She’s Daddy’s Little Girl … FOREVER!” 

Carrie Snodgress has always been an actress possessed of great dimension, just watch her as Tina Balsar the persecuted down-trodden housewife in director Frank Perry’s Diary of a Mad Housewife 1970. In The Attic Snodgress is yet again a repressed character Louise Elmore, this time a Librarian who is caring for her cruel and ruthlessly controlling wheelchair-bound father Wendell portrayed by a particularly nasty Ray Milland.

Milland toward the end of his career had started appearing in some of these low budget horror/exploitation films like X, The Man with the X-Ray Eyes 1963, Daughter of the Mind 1969, Frogs 1972. The 80s started to really slide into a kaleidoscope of cheap themes and shock value moments. It doesn’t detract from Milland’s contribution to film history, nor does it malign either his or Snogress’ depth of acting. Director George Edwards  ( produced Frogs 1972 with Milland, Queen of Blood 1966, Games 1967, How Awful About Allan 1970, What’s the Matter with Helen? 1971, The Killing Kind 1973, Ruby 1977 – all these films with the exception of Frogs, Edwards worked with Curtis Harrington as the director.

You can see Harrington’s influence on The Attic as it represents a small enclosed family environment creates psychological demons, mental disturbances or what I call director Harrington’s The Horror of Personality. With most of Harrington’s work the narrative is less centered around supernatural forces building it’s framework around the product of mental illness and the dysfunctional family trope acted out within closed in spaces, where relationships over time begin disintegrating, with acts of cruelty, despair, loneliness, fear and repression- the family then, becomes the monster…

The Attic is an angry, aggressive, and psychologically sadistic film, where Snodgress is yet again persecuted and trapped in a dreadful life. The hapless Louise is jilted by her fiancé and left at the altar leaving psychic scars, where she begins to go in and out of reality. Calling the Missing Persons Bureau on a regular basis looking for her lost love. She begins to fantasize about rejecting her abusive father whom she must do everything for. After 19 years of being left alone, Louise doesn’t find much joy in life, except for drinking and dreaming about trips she’ll never take, committing arson at the Library, and spending time with her pet monkey Dicky the Chimp. She is befriended by a co-worker who tries to help bring Louise back into the real world again, but the shocking truth that lurks in that creepy attic won’t stay locked away forever!

The Attic also stars Rosemary Murphy who is usually scary in her own right, at least she scares me since You’ll Like My Mother 1972!

PROM NIGHT 1980

“…Some will be crowned, others will lose their heads”

This is one of the earliest masked killer slasher movies where sexually active teenagers are being stalked on the night of their prom because they were responsible for the death of their classmate years ago. Prom Night features Scream Queen Jamie Lee Curtis who set the trend for good girls or The Final Girl trope… you know- the one who survives because of their integrity, purity, and smarts! Also starring one of my favorites Leslie Nielsen and Antoinette Bower.

SILENT SCREAM (1980) us release

“Quick! Scream! Too late! You’re dead”

During her first semester at college co-ed Scotty Parker (Rebecca Balding) is one of several college students who rents a room from Mrs. Engels, the Junoesque Yvonne De Carlo. But there is something very strange going on at this seaside mansion/boarding house–even murder! Mrs.Engels lives at the mansion with her weird neurotic son Mason (Brad Rearden) Scotty is joined by Steve Doubet (Jack Towne), Peter Ransom (John Widelock), and Doris Prichart (Juli Andelman). When Widelock is stabbed to death out on the beach, Police Lt. Sandy McGiver (Cameron Mitchell) investigates and uncovers the family secret. Silent Scream is a more eerie and less typical 80s slasher flick, perhaps it’s due to the weight of the strong cast that inhabits their roles, in what might be a predictable script still possesses that ability to convey the dread in a quietly stylish manner. Co-Produced by Joan Harris

Silent Scream has a claustrophobic melancholic atmosphere instead of utilizing gore it relies more on its Gothic gloomy sensibility, a sense of creepy voyeuristic camera work that makes you feel uncomfortable.

Two names -All you need to know to see this eerie obscure 80s gem Yvonne De Carlo as Mrs. Engels and Barbara Steele as Victoria Engels.

DEADLY BLESSINGS 1981

“Pray you’re not blessed”

Director Wes Craven delves into American rural Gothic horror

After her husband Jim, an ex-Hittite (Doug Barr) has been shunned by his people for having moved away, and marrying an outside. One night after they’ve moved back near the neighboring sect, Jim goes outside to find the word Incubus painted on their barn and then is mysteriously crushed to death by his tractor. A series of grisly murders ensue mostly in broad daylight, as Jim’s widow Martha Schmidt (Maren Jensen) feels increasingly threatened by the sinister neighboring religious community led by the enigmatic Isaiah Schmidt (Ernest Borgnine) who seems to be fanatically obsessed with the idea that Martha is an ‘incubus’ and must be dealt with fire and brimstone!

Deadly Blessing also plants a figure of a dated trope–the ambiguous gender & sexuality of one of the characters. That trope stems from a time when gay or transgendered characters were represented as obsessive, neurotic & at times, dangerous. I don’t endorse this weak and disparaging area of the plot, yet I allow myself to experience Wes Craven’s provocative film as a slice of horror history from a decade that hadn’t gotten it quite right yet. Where the film could have taken a bold step in expanding on this subplot instead it is fueled by subversive incitement.

Craven’s film ultimately relies on the supernatural subtext that is fueling the horror and leaves the other theme to hang out there on its own to be (justifiably to some)- offensive. Too many films with gender-fluid characters in past films were represented by psychos, deviants, and killers.

Deadly Blessings co-stars a young Sharon Stone, popular 70s actress (and one of my favorites) Lois Nettleton, Susan Buckner, Lisa Hartman, and familiar Craven regular Michael Berryman. Directed by Wes Craven

Some IMDb Trivia

Sharon Stone’s first big speaking role in a theatrical feature.

The name of the isolated rural farm where the farmers and Hittites lived and worked was “Our Blessing”.

Wes Craven compared his work with actor Ernest Borgnine to John Carpenter’s work with Donald Pleasance in the original “Halloween”. He states that Borgnine was the first “big name actor” he had worked with and was at first intimidated by the actor.

Ernest Borgnine had to be taken to the hospital to be treated for a head injury following a mishap involving a horse and buggy. Moreover, Borgnine returned to the set to continue acting in the film three days later.

Actor Ernest Borgnine, who had won a Best Actor Academy Award for Marty (1955), which also was Borgnine’s only ever Oscar nomination, was nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actor for Deadly Blessing (1981), but lost out on the Razzie to Steve Forrest for Mommie Dearest (1981).

THE INCUBUS 1981

“The dreams. The nightmares. The desires. The fears. The mystery. The revelation. The warning: He is the destroyer”

WARNING: Though not overtly graphic Incubus is suggestive of rape. For anyone who might be triggered by sexual violence in film, I would advise you to skip this portion of the post and/or the film entirely!

Back in the day when I read a lot of horror fiction, I have a vague recollection of Ray Russell’s (Mr. Sardonicus 1961, Premature Burial 1962, X-The Man With The X-Ray Eyes 1963), novel knocking me out with its supernatural mythology and its brutality. Of course, when it was adapted to the screen in 1982 directed by John Hough (The Legend of Hell House 1973, Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry 1974, The Watcher in the Woods 1980, American Gothic 1987) you know I was there with my milk duds, raisinets, popcorn and a large icy cup of Pepsi expecting something powerful and Incubus collided with the accepted one-gendered fiend that I had grown up seeing within the constraints of a fairly “cultural conservative” as Carol Clover puts it, driven classical horror industry, stories like werewolves, vampires, mummies, phantoms and mad doctors turned into vile fiends.

As Carol Clover states in her Men, Women and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film-“stories that stem from the one-sex era, and for all their updating, they still carry with them, to a greater or lesser degree, a premodern sense of sexual difference…}…{and some people are impossible to tell apart (the figure in God Told Me To who is genitally ambiguous -the doctor did not know what sex to assign, the pubescent girl in Sleepaway Camp who turns out to be a boy, the rapist in The Incubus whose ejaculate consists of equal parts of semen and menstrual blood.”

Incubus is a supernatural film that sneaks into the 80s but carries with it the demonology sensibility of the early-mid 1970s, The Exorcist (1973), The Omen (1976). Adapted from Ray Russell’s disquieting novel about a demon with a dangerously sized phallus who can incarnate in human form, committing several savage sexual assaults and murders in the small California town of Galen. John Cassavetes plays Dr. Sam Cordell who examines the survivor of one of the assaults and is disturbed by the violence of the attack, learning that her uterus has been ruptured. When the local librarian is killed, John Ireland is his usual brackish self this time playing Sheriff Hank Walden, and team up believing that these brutal attacks are the work of only one perpetrator and not a gang. Kerrie Keane plays a reporter Laura Kincaid who insinuates herself into the investigation and begins an affair with Sam. Erin Flannery plays Sam’s young teenage daughter Jenny who is dating Tim Galen (Duncan McIntosh) who has nightmarish visions of the attacks while he is in a sleeping state. His Grandmother Agatha (Helen Hughes -Storm of the Century 1999 tele-series) tries to convince her Grandson that he is not responsible for these horrible events, but she knows more than she is telling, about the arcane secret the town is hiding and the true history of the venerable family name of Galen.

NIGHT SCHOOL 1981

A is for Apple B is for Bed C is for Co-ed D is for Dead F is for Failing to keep your Head!

Aka known as Terror Eyes

Night School has an unnerving tone, an almost oppressive atmosphere that looms over the film. The 80s was fertile for the slasher films that were popping up in variations of the same narrative, using different methods of death as the centerpiece to highlight the story. In this film, a mysterious killer is decapitating students at a night school for women. I won’t reveal the killer, but I will say that there is misogyny afoot. Originally picked to direct was Alfred Sole, best known for his phenomenal psychological horror masterpiece Alice, Sweet Alice (1976) which would have most definitely improved on the depressing aura the film gives off. Directed by Ken Hughes who wrote the screenplays for The Trials of Oscar Wilde 1960 and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang 1968. His direction was superior in the dark and dogged Wicked As They Come 1956 starring Arlene Dahl and Phillip Carey.

Night School stars Rachel Ward, Leonard Mann, and Drew Snyder.

ALONE IN THE DARK 1982

“They’re out… for blood! Don’t let them find you!”

Along in the Dark is a highly charged psycho thriller that wants to be a black comedy. The inmates let loose upon an unsuspecting town and mayhem ensues when they target the home of Pleasance’s (Dr. Leo Bain) therapist Dr. Dan Potter (Dwight Schultz) psychiatrist. During a statewide blackout, a group of 3 particularly nasty homicidal maniacs get free from their maximum security ward at the mental Institution and set out on an adventure. Alone in the Dark opens with Donald Pleasance as a short-order cook who has gone berserk and wielding a meat cleaver. Martin Landau is splendid as crazed Byron ‘Preacher’ Sutcliff who likes to set things on fire. Then there’s Erland Van Lidth (from The Wanderers 1979) as a sex maniac Ronald “fatty” Elster with a penchant for younger kids. The best psycho next to Landau, is Jack Palance. The Special Effects are by Tom Savini.

Alone in the Dark is a frenetic ride and you must watch out for the scene when Preacher insists he wants the mailman’s on the bicycle’s hat!

CREEPSHOW 1982

“The Most Fun You’ll Ever Have… BEING SCARED!”

An anthology that tells five terrifying tales based on the E.C. horror comic books of the 1950s. Directed by George A. Romero, with the original screenplay by Stephen King. Stars include Hal Holbrook, Adrienne Barbeau, Fritz Weaver, Leslie Nielsen, Carrie Nye, E.G. Marshall, Viveca Lindfors, Ed Harris, Ted Danson, Stephen King,

HALLOWEEN 3: SEASON OF THE WITCH 1983

After the failure of Halloween II (1978) to excite people at the box office, John Carpenter decided to put a different twist on the creepy goings on for Halloween III (1983) and adapt a script from Nigel Kneale who wrote the Quartermass series, who removed his name from the credits, leaving Tommy Lee Wallace as the writer. I do not hate this film in the way that other fans do. I rather like the odd and malevolent tone of the film, like a dark Halloween fairy tale journey. The idea, children all over America can not wait to get their hands on 3 frightfully popular offerings of rubber masks for Halloween. The jingle for the TV ad alone is enough to send suspicious shivers up a more discerning eye. There is a plot run by an old Druid toy-maker (Dan O’Herlihy) who is perfectly menacing and wants to actually harm the children once they wear the deadly masks, in order to bring back the olden days of black witchcraft and magic. There’s also a sense of a vengeful bitter spirit in Conal Cochran (O’Herlihy) toward consumerism and the misguided exploitation of Halloween.

Halloween III: Season of the Witch also stars Tom Atkins and Stacey Nelkin.

THE SENDER 1982

“Your dreams will never be the same.”

This is British director Roger Christian’s first feature film he worked as assistant art director on the tense thriller And Soon the Darkness (1970)

The Sender works on so many levels, first of all, it stars an impressive cast of accomplished actors. The incredible Shirley Knight, and two very thoughtful actors from the 1980s- Kathryn Harrold, and Zelijko Ivanek.

From Kim Newman’s Nightmare Movies talks about the trend that began with Brian DePalma’s Carrie (1976) “created a briefly popular horror movie sub-genre, the ‘Psichopath’ film. Damien Thorn and Carrie White, like Jim Hutton in Psychic Killer (1975), Alan Bates in The Shout (1978), Lisa Pelikan in Jennifer (1978) Robert Thompson in Patrick (1979) and Robert Powell in Harlequin (1979) are ‘Psichopaths’, seemingly ordinary individuals with hidden, awesome paranormal powers. The wish fulfillment fantasy element of the Psichopath film is obvious.The usual formula finds the Psichopath humiliated, abused and pushed beyond endurance, whereupon immense mental powers are unleashed in an orgy of mass destruction.”

I would also include Brian DePalma’s The Fury (1978) featuring Amy Irving who possesses the psycho-kinetic powers.

When The Sender (Ivanek) is sent to an Institution after a public suicide attempt, psychiatrist Kathryn Harrold as Gail Farmer realizes that he possesses the ability to channel his frightening and often volatile visions to receptive people on the psyche ward. There are truly enigmatic hallucinatory segments of the film which create real apprehension and shivers. In one particular scene where they are juicing Ivanek with electro-shock therapy, his mental waves send a storm of havoc through his personal pain. In the midst of this theme there lies an even dark more disturbing element to the story. There are ghostly visitations from his creepy mother played by the amazing Shirley Knight as Jerolyn. She would make a formidable more temperate yet sinister sister of Carrie White’s hellacious mother -Piper Laurie!

I have followed Shirley Knight’s underrated and outstanding career from her divine performance as Polly in Sidney Lumet’s The Group (1966), the tv series Naked City 1962, The Eleventh Hour 1963, as the gently Noelle Anderson in The Outer Limits 1963 episode The Man Who Was Never Born co-starring Martin Landau. The Defenders 1964, The Fugitive 1964-66, Petulia 1968, The Rain People 1969, The Bold Ones, Circle of Fear, Streets of San Fransisco 1973, Medical Center, Marcus Welby, M.D, Murder, She Wrote, Law & Order 1991 and more… The gravity of each of Knight’s performances has a quality that draws you into her orbit –experiencing her as genuine and engaging. Even as the wraith-like mother figure who comes calling on her son- The Sender, Knight makes you believe in the low-key, spine-chilling moments on screen. She is the catalyst for The Sender’s secret dilemma.

At times The Sender sends its universe into mayhem, at other times it’s a very creepy, restrained atmospheric horror story that is perhaps one of the best films of the 1980s.

CURTAINS 1983

The one impression I took away from Curtains is the iconic sinister hag mask that the killer wears and the scythe or sickle they wield as they creepily skated across the small pond. It’s the kind of moment from a moment that stays in the brain forever!

This stylish Canadian horror film is directed by cinematographer Richard Ciupka (Atlantic City 1980) Curtains stars John Vernon as the typically caustic alpha male Jonathan Stryker director and British Scream Queen Samantha Eggar  (The Collector 1965, Doctor Doolittle 1967, The Dead Are Alive 1972, A Name For Evil 1973, All The Kind Strangers 1974, The Seven-Per-Cent Solution 1976, The Brood 1979) who plays Samantha Sherwood an actress who has always gotten top billing in Stryker’s works and in his bed. Samantha believes she is getting the role of a lifetime, the chance to play ‘Audra’ in his next film. Stryker insists that Samantha inhabits the role, to bring out the realism of Audra’s character by having herself committed to an asylum as background research. (It seems Audra was a psychiatric patient.) Stryker is a sadist and leaves Samantha in the hospital for an indeterminate amount of time, while he auditions other young actresses- each who has their own motivations for desperately wanting the part.

Samantha escapes her confinement and goes back to the menacing old mountain cabin during a snowstorm, where Stryker is putting the various women through their acting trials.

Interesting that the character of Samantha in studying the mindset of a mentally ill woman, becomes too well aware of insanity during her own ordeal. The film does a particularly effective job of projecting the intensity that actors experience when trying to lose themselves in a role, keeping their footing in reality.

At the center of this interesting chamber piece is the psychopath in a nightmarish old hag mask who begins killing off the women!

Curtains also stars Linda Thorson (Tara King in The Avengers 1968-69), Anne Ditchburn, Lynne Griffin (Black Christmas 1974) Sandee Currie, Lesleh Donaldson, and Deborah Burgess. 

According to Mark Allan Gunnells in his essay in Hidden Horror edited by Aaron Christensen-Curtains took 3 years to make it to it’s release due to reshoots and rewrites. “It is suggested that a lot of the problems stemmed from producer Peter Simpson who, having produced the Jamie Lee Curtis vehicle Prom Night, wanted another straight forward horror flick. Director Richard Ciupka, on the other hand, chose to go against the established slasher grain, bringing more European sensibility to the production. The original screenplay even had a supernatural element, with a creature designed (but never used) by makeup legend Greg Cannom (…) As Gunnells points out about the films many chilling scenes, a few that stand out are the dream sequence with a creepy life size doll and the chase scene that involves a hiding place that winds up becoming a “deathtrap.”

 

This is Your EverLovin’ MonsterGirl sayin’ See ya round the snack bar! Save me a big box of Raisinets!