Horror Channel FrightFest has unleashed Graham Humphrey’s spooktacular new artwork for this year’s annual Bank Holiday event taking place at Cineworld Leicester Square and The Prince Charles Cinema from 24 to 28 August 2017.
Drawing on the revivals of genre icons Chucky, Victor Crowley and Leatherface and paying homage to the annual event’s return to the Empire (aka Cineworld Leicester Square), Graham has created the FrightFest Phantom…
‘My image is an attempt to amalgamate the Gothic roots of horror with the 70s Monster revival that saturated the US and UK, inspiring generations of filmmakers that created some of the most successful film franchises and oddities of the last 40 years,’ says Humphreys. ‘Universal monsters meets 70s bubble gum pop. I also thought it would be fun to play with the idea of a FrightFest Phantom, the face behind the best in horror and added the scratches and dirt to make it look like old damaged film stock.’
Festival Passes and day tickets for Friday and Monday are still available.
Virgin Witch (aka The Virgin Witch and Lesbian Twins) is a 1971 British sexploitation horror about two models (played by real-life sisters Vicki Michelle Ann Michelle) who are lured into a coven by a lecherous lesbian. Directed by Ray Austin (TV’s Journey to the Unknown) from a screenplay by Klaus Vogel (allegedly the pseudonym for Hazel Adair, one of the creators of TV soap Crossroads), it was later disowned by the Michelle sisters, but remains a guilty pleasure for genre fans.
Catch it on The Horror Channel today at 10.55pm (Sky 319, Virgin 149, Freeview 70, Freesat 138).
This 1978 British horror from Return of the Jedi director Richard Marquand fuses that mystery staple, the old dark house – seen in many a classic, including James Whale’s 1932 whodunit and the long-running Agatha Christie play The Mousetrap – with the in-vogue satanic frighteners of the day like The Omen and Race With the Devil.
Stepford Wives heroine Katharine Ross and Mission: Impossible‘s Sam Elliott play an American couple who become reluctant guests at the English country mansion of a dying Satanist, who believes Ross to be the reincarnation of his mother and next in line to head his powerful cult. But standing in her way is a group of odd houseguests, who soon meet with spectacular deaths including drowning, burning, impaling and a botched tracheotomy.
The cast boasts some famous faces, including The Who’s Roger Daltrey, playing a music impresario – of course; Charles Gray (still my favourite Blofeld) as a weapons dealer; and West End actress Margaret Tyzack (who’d go on to play Bianca and Ricky’s gran in EastEnders) as a nurse who can turn herself into a cat.
With its themes of reincarnation, possession and telekinesis, The Legacy follows in the wake of other occult-themed films like The Omen and Suspiria. But while it’s no masterpiece, and didn’t catch the box-office alight – unlike Gray’s character, it’s still a stylish exercise in suspense with some decent special effects and another great score from Theatre of Blood composer Michael J Lewis.
Today you can visit the film’s location, Loseley Park in Surrey, as the house and gardens are open to the public all year round. But if you do, watch out for any suspicious-looking nurses lurking about.
Having spent six years dealing with all manner of freaks and psychos as Dr Sean McNamara in Ryan Murphy’s dark drama Nip/Tuck, Dylan Walsh made a suitable choice to step into the shoes of The Stepfather, which originally belonged to Terry O’Quinn back in 1987.
This 2009 remake of the cult classic sees Walsh play the deeply disturbed title character who sets up home with fatherless families, then slaughters them when they inevitably disappoint him. Now calling himself David Harris, Dylan’s killer has charmed his way into the life of divorcée Susan (Sela Ward) and her family. When Susan’s oldest son Michael (Penn Badgley) returns home after a spell at a military school, David uses every trick in the book to get on the bad boy’s good side so that he can marry Susan and start playing happy families.
But David slips up during a bonding session, causing Michael to become suspicious of his soon-to-be-step dad’s seemingly perfect manner. When Michael’s dad and Susan’s sister begin to check up on David’s background, the tension mounts as David’s dark side manifests – leading to a gripping climax.
This good-looking production is actually better than I thought. Walsh is effectively creepy – David’s conservative approach to raising a family is truly scary (just think right-wing Republican) – and Badgley shows he’s more than a pretty boy (although that’s no bad thing), especially when it soon becomes a fight to the finish as moody Michael tries to unmask David for the killer he really is.
A UK R2 DVD was released back in 2010. But why it was called the Extreme Director’s Cut is a mystery as Nelson McCormick, who also directed the Prom Night remake, and his writer, The Covenant‘s JS Cardone, have gone for Hitchcockian suspense over gore, which is actually a fright for sore eyes.
You can catch The Stepfather on The Horror Channel tonight (Wednesday 6 April) at 9pm.
Being a fan of both Henry Rollins and trashy horror films, I was intrigued to seek out Jason Connery’s 2009 direct-to-video horror The Devil’s Tomb. Rollins (who can’t forgive for raping SAMCRO matriarch Gemma in the second season of Sons of Anarchy) turns up here as a priest trapped in an underground laboratory, deep in the desert, where strange things are afoot.
Cuba Gooding Jr plays war veteran Mack, who heads up an elite group of soldiers tasked with retrieving a scientist called Wesley (played by another Sons of Anarchy star, Ron Perlman), who has gone missing beneath the shifting sands. Accompanied by a shifty CIA operative, Mack and his rag-tag team of gung-ho soldiers descend into the laboratory, which they find sabotaged and abandoned, except for Rollins’ strange priest. As they go in search of Wesley, Mack learns that the compound’s scientists inadvertently released a supernatural force while investigating an ancient archaeological find.
What follows is a spooky, gory tale that relocates Lamberto Bava’s cult film Demons and John Carpenter’s underrated Prince of Darkness undergound, as a malevolent supernatural force (actually fallen angels called Nephilim) infects the team, turning them into gooey legionnaires of evil.
The gore scenes are quite in-your-face: especially the lesbian boil licking scene (yewww!) and the eye slicing acid scene; but actors of the calibre of Gooding Jr and Perlman are wasted here. Rollins, however, does make a very convincing religious fanatic. And just what is Ray Winstone doing here popping up in a flashback and at the end. Well, if you stick it out, then it makes sense (sort of). Though I think Winstone only did this a favour to his old Robin of Sherwood mate (Connery).
If you enjoy shock schlock, 1980s style, then The Devil’s Tomb is passable entertainment, but it’s nowhere as good as the likes of Event Horizon and Quatermass & the Pit, which it also resembles. Watch out, though, for Rob Zombie favourite Bill Moseley as one of the possessed scientists.
Best line: ‘Let us dine on the afterbirth of her new beginning’.
The Devil’s Tomb is released through Lionsgate in the UK and also screens on The Horror Channel (Sky 319, Virgin 149, Freeview 70, Freesat 138), with the next showing today at 11pm.
If you’ve seen the 2014 remake, well here’s your chance to see the original 1976 drive-in crime thriller which shocked audiences on it’s release, preceded the slasher phenomenon, and included a castaway from Gilligan’s Island amongst its victims, as Eureka! Entertainment has released a brand new HD transfer of the legendary film on Blu-ray and DVD.
Starring Andrew Prine and Ben Johnson, and directed by Charles B Pierce, The Town That Dreaded Sundown is based on one of America’s most baffling murder cases. In the spring of 1946, the small town of Texarkana is terrorised by a mysterious assailant targeting young lovers in parked cars. Baffled local deputy Norman Ramsey (Andrew Prine) then calls in Texas Ranger JD Morales (Ben Johnson) to help him track down what the press call, The Phantom Killer, before he can strike again…
This American International Pictures (AIP) release has garnered quite a cult reputation over the years. Director Pierce was a former set decorator (he worked on AIP’s Coffy) before directing his first feature, the seminal faux Bigfoot documentary The Legend of Boggy Creek.
On the back of the success of Boggy Creek, Pierce again used documentary elements (and the same narrator) for his fictionalised thriller. He also added in some comic elements (including having himself play a bumbling cop), which ended up making the film’s violence all the more shocking: especially the now infamous death by trombone and the terrifying cornfield escape by Dawn Wells (aka Gilligan’s Island’s Mary Ann), who plays real-life victim Helen Reed.
The Eureka! Entertainment Dual Format UK release includes a brand new 1080p high-definition transfer and progressive DVD encode, presented in the film’s original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, and this is a huge improvement on the prints that crop up on The Horror Channel in the UK, and also serve to really highlight the colourful Panavision cinematography.
The special features include trailers for the original and the 2014 remake; interviews with Andrew Prine, Dawn Wells, and director of photography James Roberson; a fascinating featurette Small Town Lawman about Prine; and an audio commentary with historians Justin Beaham and Jim Presley. In the US, the film is released through Shout! Factory with the same extras, but also includes Pierce’s follow-up, The Evictors (1979).
Blood of Dracula screens today on The Horror Channel (Sky 319/320, Virgin 149/202, Freeview 70, Freesat 138/139) at 3.50pm
Sherwood School for Girls should have the inspectors called in, what with its batty chemistry teacher Ms Branding (Louise Lewis) hypnotising one of the pupils, Nancy (Sandra Harrison), with a Carpathian vampire amulet as part of some bizarre scientific experiment…
This low-budget black and white AIP offering, released on a double bill with I Was a Teenage Frankenstein, is worth checking out just for Harrison’s hilarious Nosferatu-styled make-up of fangs, bushy eyebrows and peaked hairstyle. There’s also singer Jerry Blaine (Tab) wooing the girls with the dire musical number Puppy Love and Lewis’ idiotic explanation, ‘No one can calculate the hazards of radiation…’, on just why she’s experimenting on her pupils.
The film, which has nothing to do with Dracula by the way, was retitled Blood is My Heritage in the UK (presumably so not to clash with the superior Blood of the Vampire, released the same year). Director Herbert L Strock followed this with How to Make a Monster, while producer Herman Cohen went on to make a handful of British Bs, including my favourite, Konga.
JERRY BLAINE SINGS PUPPY LOVE
If you screamed along to the Final Destinaton films and enjoyed the wild adventure that was Jumanji then 2009’s Open Graves, might be up your street. Set on the rugged coast of northern Spain, the film stars Eliza Dushku, Mike Vogel and an ancient board game with a deadly secret…
After buying the antique item from a paraplegic American, Vogel’s surfer dude Jason, his new friend Erica (Dushku), and a bunch friends attempt to play the game, in which the winner is granted their heart’s desire. But the game turns out to be all too real.
Made from the skin and bones of a 15th-century witch called Mamba, the game comes with a price – those who lose meet with a gruesome death as dictated by the card they draw. One guy falls off a cliff and gets his eyes gouged out by hordes of crabs, while venomous black mamba snakes kills another; one girl withers and dies of old age, while another meets a fiery end. It’s then up to wetsuit clad goth Dushku and hunky Vogel to find a way to beat the curse…
Open Graves starts promisingly and the first death scene is worthy of Argento, but the film is soon let down by a lame script. The game’s concept makes for a great starting point, but it’s never properly developed. The special effects are effective, especially the grim-reaper dragonfly, but they lack impact – and the snakes are naff. As for the lovely Dushku, she’s underused and her character seems lost.
With a little more fine-tuning and better storyboarding, Open Graves, could have been a winner. But everything, apart from the beautiful setting, gets lost in translation. And I blame the film being aimed purely at an English-speaking market (everyone speaks English, including the locals and even the board game is in English and Latin).
While its no [REC], Open Graves is a fright-filled fun that will have you re-thinking eating a crab sandwich again sometime soon. Oh, and I won’t give away the ending, but here’s a hint, Monkey’s Paw.
Open Graves screens on The Horror Channel in the UK, with the next showings on Friday 12 June at 10.55pm and Thursday 18 June at 12.35am
1966’s The Plague of the Zombies, one of the most celebrated Hammer productions of the decade, finds veteran actor André Morell playing a professor investigating a strange epidemic affecting a Cornish village, which turns out to be the work of a villainous squire (exquisitely played by a menacing John Carson) who is using zombies to work his tin mine.
Only The Lord Of The Dead Could Unleash Them!
Hammer’s voodoo film is an entertaining creeper, containing some visually arresting moments, particularly a nightmare vision in a graveyard when the blank-eyed dead rise from their graves, while legendary character actor Michael Ripper provides the film’s comic relief (what would have Hammer done without him), this time playing a village policeman. ‘It doesn’t need me to tell you,’ huffs Ripper at the start of the mayhem, ‘that there’s something strange going on in the village.’ Later he asks Morrell’s hero, in hushed tones: ‘In Heaven’s name, where are they?’ after all the graves in the local churchyard are found to be empty. Watch out for Jacqueline Pearce (The Reptile) as the dying girl who turns into one of the zombies of the title.
When The Plague of the Zombies was first shown in US theatres as the support to Dracula, Prince of Darkness, girls received free zombie eyes (glasses) while the guys got vampire fangs. The film was later told in comic form in a 1977 issue of House of Hammer magazine. In 2012, a high definition transfer of the film was released by Studiocanal on Blu-ray and DVD, as part of their ongoing restoration of the iconic studio’s film library. For me, it would have real bonus to have a PDF of that HoH comic as well as a pair of those zombie glasses included in the release. Alas, we have only the pristine print to admire. Less admirable, however, is the out of synch sound that I noticed on the new release. In 2015, Anolis Entertainment plans to release their own Blu-ray version of the vintage voodoo horror, as well as The Evil of Frankenstein, The Reptile and Brides of Dracula.
The Plague of the Zombies can also bee seen regularly on The Horror Channel in the UK (click here for listings details).
Werewolves on Wheels revs into action on The Horror Channel tonight at 10.50pm (Sky 319/320, Virgin 149/202, Freesat 138/139)
If you’re hairy you belong on a motorbike!
The Devil’s Advocates, an outlaw gang of Harley-riding hellions led by Adam (Stephen Oliver), cruise the highways of the American Southwest in search of their next great kick. But when Adam’s right-hand man Tarot (Gene Shane) takes the motley gang into to a satanic church, the high priest One (Severn Darden) drugs the gang and performs a ritual sacrifice. Now, two have become – werewolves on wheels!
A grungy fusion of stoner road movie, outlaw biker trash, occult thriller and monster mayhem, 1971’s Werewolves on Wheels was the directorial debut of Michel Levesque (1943-2010), who crewed on Roger Corman’s The Trip and Bloody Mama before forging himself a career as an art director on Russ Meyer’s sexploitation flix and schlock pix like The Incredible Melting Man.
Levesque plays fast and loose with his leather-clad lycanthrope horror, in which you have to wait one hour fifteen to see the one and only transformation scene (and there are no werewolves on wheels); the rest of the movie is made up of the bikers wrestling in the dirt, mucking about in scrap yards, getting stoned around campfires, and shagging their women (or each other – yes, there’s a couple of gay bikers in the gang, how alternative!). The lengthy ritual scene is the film’s highlight – and practically a how-to guide in conjuring up Satan. Levesque shows off his visual flair best in these hallucinatory scenes, while his arty sand dune shots evoke Michelangelo Antonioni’s Zabriskie Point (which came out the year before) and the Monkees surreal 1968 comedy adventure Head.
Given most of the cast were non-actors and real bikers; it’s not surprising there’s very little dialogue. But this does allow for Don Gere’s psychedelic country score – all twangy guitars and beefy riffs with a scratchy Basil Kirchin bent – to hold sway (see below). Also starring Billy Gray (from TV’s Father Knows Best) and pop singer Barry McGuire. The guy playing One, the lead Satanist, is Severn Darden. He’s best known for playing the evil Kolp in two of the original Ape films (Conquest and Battle). This is 1970s bikesploitation at its ripest, and completely worthy of its cult status. Amazingly Tarantino hasn’t scheduled a remake – yet!
The Don Gere Soundtrack
Fans of stoner psychedelic rock will get a blast out of pop folk songwriter Don Gere’s soundtrack that has been described as a ‘hillbilly Haxan’ fusion of twangy country, crazy Krautrock and mood altering psychedelia. British label Finders Keepers, which specialises in re-issuing eccentric oddities, released a re-press red vinyl in 2013, containing 17 tracks, two of which are radio advertisements from the period. Composer Don Gere followed this with the soundtrack to Michel Levesque’s 1973 film Sweet Sugar. After that, little was heard of him.
THE FULL MOVIE
Beware! This YouTube version lifted from amctv.com has some wacky pan and scans.