CHILLING CLASSICS MONTH: The Demon (1979)

Imagine a movie that starts with a fourteen year-old girl being killed by a faceless maniac wearing a black leather glove with razor-tipped fingers. If you’re ready for that before the first credits roll, then you’re ready for The Demon.

That very same killer then kills a trucker, steals all his money and gets a place in a sleazy hotel in Johannesburg. Emily’s parents are frustrated by the police and turn to Bill Carson (Cameron Mitchell, the whole reason why I picked this movie), a psychic detective who was once a U.S. Marine. Of course.

Emily’s mother just wants to know if her daughter is alive or dead. Her father, though, wants revenge. Carson replies that its best for the Parkers if they don’t find the killer, telling them that he’s pure evil. I mean, you should believe a dude who can tear up a bed like this.

The killer has moved on to an American schoolteacher named Mary (Jennifer Holmes, who was on TV’s Newhart before being replaced by Julia Duffy). She first sees him outside her classroom window, as he can seemingly appear and disappear at will. And when she’s not seeing killers, she’s hanging out with her South African cousin who is dating Dean Turner, a rich American playboy that Mary hates.

Jo is out having fun and poor Mary is stuck at home, getting phone calls with heavy breathing and menacing knocks on her front door. Is it the killer? Or is he happy to be at home grunting, groaning, doing push-ups and shredding porno mags?

The Demon also likes to go out and try and pick up ladies. And where does he go? Boobs Disco! Yes, this was a real place. And yes, it was really called that.

We even get to hear some of Lipps Inc.’s “Funkytown” in this scene, as the killer is stopped from raping a girl by two motorists, one of whom is slashed and the other gets his motorcycle blown up real good.

Meanwhile, Cameron Mitchell is getting the most out of his ten minutes of screen time. I guess that’s all the producers could afford. He creates a faceless sketch of the killer and tells the Parkers where the man lives. He warns Mr. Parker one more time, but the guy just can’t listen and gets his neck snapped pretty much immediately, then thrown off a balcony.

Children are playing in the woods when they find Emily’s remains, which brings Carson back to Mrs. Parker, telling her that he’s sorry, but the time of The Demon is drawing close. She accuses him of being behind all of this to keep his career going as a psychic and shoots him in the face. Well, that had really nothing to do with the other half of this film, which is becoming a riff on Halloween.

Mary and Jo go out on dates that night while The Demon gets ready for them. Mary tells Bobby, her man, that she’s been getting stalked late at night. And she’s right — The Demon has, for reasons known only to him, broken in to kill Jo and rich guy Dean, then hide in the house.

You know, if I had a cool razor glove, I wouldn’t suffocate people with a plastic bag like The Demon. But hey — I’m just a writer on a web site.

It’s time for this movie to go full Halloween, with The Demon chasing Mary all over the house — up and down the stairs, through a closet, into the attic and finally through a hole in the roof. She finally makes it to the bathroom, where she builds a trap with scissors, the shower and shampoo. That’s right — The Demon is the first masked killer I’ve seen that is basically killed by slipping in the shower.

If you’re watching this movie based on the description Mill Creek gives, you’re going to be disappointed. Cameron Mitchell never gets to be the Australian Dr. Loomis, instead being felled by a housewife with a handgun. And I know that I give generous berth to the transfers on these, but even I was amazed by how long scratches would appear on the footage.

If you enjoy scenes that having nothing to do with the overall film being given the same importance as major facts, then let me recommend The Demon. Come for Cameron Mitchell, stay for Boobs Disco.

You can also watch this for free on Amazon Prime.

CHILLING CLASSICS MONTH: Man in the Attic (1953)

Editor’s Note: I first read Melody Vena’s writing in this year’s Horror and Sons Halloween Horrors 2018 event and learned that she won the 2017 and 2018 Monster Movie Maniac “Monster Movie Marathon” contest by watching the most movies in one month. It’s super exciting to have her write for us and share a movie all about Jack the Ripper. She also reviewed My Mom’s a Werewolf for our reviews of Mill Creek’s Pure Terror box set.

In 1913 author Marie Belloc Lowndes wrote a fascinating book called The Lodger; which is a fictional portrayal of the Jack the Ripper killings. By the year 1927, the book would have its first cinema counterpart,  filmed by none other than Alfred Hitchcock. The movie would see several versions from the years of 1932, 1944, 1953 and 2009. The 1953 movie that I am discussing was released December 31, in San Francisco and starred Jack Palance, Constance Smith and Byron Palmer.

Set in London, 1888 just as Jack the Ripper was beginning his reign of terror, an older couple decide to rent out their attic desperately in need of extra cash, on the third night of the killings a man appears and rents the room. The man, a researcher pathologist with a desire for experiments begins working in his newly rented room. The landlady meets the man and becomes suspicious, these suspicious feelings are fueled when her niece starts to show an interest in the man.

The movie opens to two police officers walking the streets discussing the killings when they come across a woman of the night being tossed from a pub, after she has a brief altercation with the owner, and throws some clever insults at the coppers, they proceed to walk her down the road for her safety. After a bit she decides to go off on her own down the dark alleyways of London and happens to fall victim to an off-screen Jack the Ripper. The following scene introduces us to Mr. and Mrs. Harley who are sitting in their living room, Mr. Harley discussing current events of the Ripper with his dog, when Mrs. Harley chimes in he has a way of curtly asking her to stop. Suddenly a knock at the door has both startled with Mrs. Harley asking “ I wonder who that could be at this hour” Mr. Harley replying “Well I’m sure if you think long and hard you’ll figure it out.” The door opens to Mr.Slade (a young Jack Palance) inquiring about a room for rent. The man enters the house and the family dog runs over wagging his tail and jumping on him, inciting a “He never does that to strangers,” from Mr.Harley; which earns him a glance from the man.

Innocent enough.

Mrs. Harley proceeds to show the man her rooms that are for rent, but once he steps inside he’s not very happy about the accommodations. After offering them for a reasonable rate he still asks if there are any other rooms, she says, “No unless you want the attic,” his disposition changes and he asks to be shown. Once in the attic he gets excited and says that he’s a research pathologist and will be needing to conduct experiments without interruption, and will also be renting the other rooms. They leave, he pays her in advance telling her that “his experiments take him out late at night,” his attention is drawn to an old Bible on the desk and they discuss who it was Mrs. Harley’s grandmothers; their conversation is cut short by the town crier yelling “MURDER IN WHITECHAPEL, JACK THE RIPPER STRIKES AGAIN.” Mrs. Harley lets her feelings be known after saying she wishes they would catch him, meanwhile, Mr. Slade, with a scowl on his face says”Jack the Ripper…what a horrible revolting name” and slams the Bible shut.

Not so innocent.

Without giving too much away, I suggest that you watch it for yourself. Black and white movies are always fun, and The Man in the Attic is sure to deliver for any classic movie fan, withitst musical score and dance numbers, to its suspense and mystery and an ending that will leave you guessing till the final frame. Any movie that has Jack the Ripper as its main antagonist usually pushes the envelope, and how could they not, not only was it never solved, it caused a widespread panic turning neighbor on neighbor. The Man in the Attic is able to show a little of what that hysteria was like, without gore, blood and visual effects, just sound and great acting.

I leave you with these final chilling words:

“One day men will look back and see that I gave birth to the twentieth century” – Jack the Ripper

CHILLING CLASSICS MONTH: Gothic (1986)

Back in my teenage days of haunting Prime Time Video, the case to this movie would call out to me. It featured a photo inspired by Henry Fuseli’s painting The Nightmare, with a near-nude Natascha Richardson being menaced by a goblin who has decided to squat on her chest. And while this is an arty film directed by noted director Ken Russell, it was known in my high school as the movie where “a lady has eyeballs for nipples.”

The film is a semi-fictionalized retelling of the Shelleys (Julian Sands and a debuting Richardson) visiting Lord Byron (Gabriel Byrne) at Switzerland’s Villa Diodati to do opium and the horror stories that resulted, with Mary Shelley writing Frankenstein and John Polidori creating The Vampyre.

You may be wondering: Why is an arty film about Lord Byron and the Shelleys on a box set of mostly kitschy horror films? Because Mill Creek is either awesome, insane or takes whatever public domain films they can get. Actually, the right answer is all three.

After a reading of the book Phantasmagoria, the party guests conduct a séance around a human skull, during which Claire, Mary Shelley’s stepsister has a seizure. These happened throughout their childhoods whenever the supernatural reared its head. Here’s a real otherworldy event: Lord Byron goes down on Claire and she has a miscarriage during his ministrations. And oh yeah, Polidori claims a vampire has bitten him. He also tries to poison and hang himself because he can’t deal with his homosexuality.

What follows are a series of visions in which, yes, breasts do grow eyeballs, a shadowy figure rides on horseback, Claire disappears and Mary sees her future son William in a coffin and visions of her miscarriage. She tries to throw herself off the balcony but is saved by Percy.

As we fast forward to modern times, we learn the truth via voiceover: Mary’s son, William, did die just three years later, followed by Percy’s drowning in 1822. Byron would die two years after Percy, and Polidori would kill himself in London. Mary wanted to raise her child from the dead, so she created Frankenstein and The Vampyre came from Polidori’s homosexuality and suicidal thoughts. 

Your willingness to enjoy this film will depend on how much you enjoy Victorian writers and Russell’s visual style. It’s always amazed me that this was stocked in the horror section of most video stores. Chilling Classics continues that tradition by putting it into this set.

Want to watch it? The newly reminted Vestron Video released it earlier this year and you can find it at Diabolik DVD.

CHILLING CLASSICS MONTH: Hands of a Stranger (1962)

Concert Vernon Paris’ hard work has finally paid off. He’s become the biggest star there is. That’s when his hands are ruined in an auto accident and Dr. Gil Harding amputates them — with no authority — and replaces them with the hands of a murderer, all in the hopes that Paris can play piano again. Sure, the transplant is a success, but Paris becomes unhinged and increasingly violent toward those he blames for him needing his killer new mitts.

Sure, this is based on the 1920 novel Les Mains d’Orlac by French writer Maurice Renard, but the real draw is the absolutely over the top slasher like violence — well, as good as it gets in 1962 — throughout the film. First, Paris argues with his former girlfriend Eileen, who can’t love him as a normal man and craves the limelight that dating him gave her. Her dress catches on fire as they fight and she burns alive. Later, Skeet, the son of the taxi driver who caused the accident, enrages Victor by being able to play the piano when he cannot. He crushes the child’s hands, then smashes his head open.

Keep your eyes peeled for a very young Sally Kellerman and Irish McCalla, who was TV’s Sheena: Queen of the Jungle. This isn’t a great movie, per se, but it’s over the top and filled with brimming menace. It’s also anything but boring!

It’s available on Amazon Prime for free with a subscription.

CHILLING CLASSICS MONTH: The Game (1984)

Is Bill Rebane a horrible filmmaker or a secret genius? If we’re to go by Blood Harvest, I lean toward the latter. However, every single other one of his films that I’ve watched so far has left me feeling like that movie is his lone success, his moment where the hundreds of monkeys all writing scripts for him finally got one that approached Shakespeare. Will 1984’s The Game (also known as The Cold and we all know how much Mill Creek cares about getting the correct title on their films or letting you know that the same movie has multiple names) convince me otherwise?

It’s a good conceit. Imagine if three millionaires gather nine people in an old mansion and give task them to conquer their biggest fears. If they make it, they each get a millon dollars in cash. That’s the idea. What follows is a gaseous cloud that chases people, a 1980’s looking amateur band rocking out, people sharing pickles at dinner, an Alien ripoff, people drinking tea with spiders in it, tennis playing, a hunchbacked mental patient who ends up being a British thespian, singalongs of “Jimmy Crack Corn” and so many endings, you’ll feel like you’re watching The Return of the King on LSD.

I haven’t seen a movie that makes less overall sense that didn’t come from the hands of an Italian director. Seriously, this movie is bonkers. Come for the swimsuit models, stay for the meta reference to Rebane’s other film, The Giant Spider Invasion. I really need to watch this like twenty-five more times to really appreciate it and its not-so-subtle nuances.

Which Rebane made this, the schlockmeister or the auteur? I’m thinking the genius, but then again, some people think Claudio Fragasso is one of those too.

CHILLING CLASSICS MONTH: Demons of Ludlow (1983)

Thanks to Dustin Fallon from Horror and Sons for this entry. He’s been instrumental in helping us get writers for this project and is one hell of a nice guy. Also, his site is great!

As the population of a small, quiet town prepares to celebrate the bicentennial anniversary of its founding, the literal ghosts of its past return to seek retribution for the actions of their forefathers long, long before. If you think that this plot synopsis sounds like it’s for John Carpenter’s 1980 film The Fog, you are right! It sounds a whole Hell of a lot like The Fog.

In this case, the film in question is Bill Rebane’s 1983 release, The Demons of Ludlow. However, in Demons, it is the town’s founder himself that has returned with a supernatural bloodlust. And while Blake and his men may have sailed into Antonio Bay in spooky style in The Fog, Demons of Ludlow‘s Ephram Ludlow comes to town by way of a haunted piano. Somehow, that just doesn’t seem as “grand” an entrance.

The most significant difference between both films is undoubtedly in the quality of the production. Simply put, The Fog had a budget, while Demons clearly does not. By no means is that to say that Demons of Ludlow is not worth watching. In fact, it’s these same budgetary limitations that gives all of Rebane’s films whatever appeal they may have.

Being a major studio release, Carpenter was able to enlist the acting talents of heavyweights such as Hal Holbrook, Janet Leigh, and John Houseman to help lend his film some “credibility” (as well as some highly entertaining performances). However, the cast of Demons is comprised almost entirely of actors native to Rebane’s home of Wisconsin, most of whom had no previous or future film credits to their name.

Expectedly, performances here aren’t as “polished” as those in Carpenter’s film, but the majority of Demons‘ cast give respectable performances. A few scenes do feel like community theater performances, and this feeling is further enforced by a couple of the sets looking like just a backdrop on a stage. Overall, the film has a very “made for early 80’s syndication” look to it, which may provide some additional appeal for audiences alive during that era.

While The Fog undoubtedly provided more than a few chills and shocking deaths, Demons of Ludlow is much more gleefully sadistic with its underworldly carnage. Demons unabashedly presents scenes featuring a beheading, severed hands, an old woman pelted in the face with stones, and (most notably) a pack of ghouls possibly sexually assaulting a mentally handicapped woman while ripping her to pieces and eating her. Interestingly enough, the forthcoming scene featuring the Mayor’s complete lack of empathy about the girl’s death (with her mother present) is the film’s biggest comedic moment.

Gore is quite light in Rebane’s film, presumably due to budget. However, what is implied is just as effective as a pile of blood and guts on the screen, if not more so. There is one quick moment of nudity during the attack on the handicapped woman, and one character spends the majority of her screen time in sexy lingerie despite being the minister’s wife, so the film may not be appropriate for audiences of all ages. As there’s little to no outdoor lighting used in this film, it probably fits best as a late night viewing.

Much like Rebane’s most successful film, The Giant Spider Invasion, Demons of Ludlow is far from polished, but shines as an example of local filmmaking. What makes this film work is that all parties involved are trying their best to make it work. Special effects really aren’t all that “special”, but are wisely kept secondary to the story itself. The story is fairly ambitious, but the film never tries to be bigger than it is.

Demons of Ludlow is definitely not the best film on Mill Creek’s 50 Chilling Films collection, but it’s also far from being the worst. (I feel sympathy for the poor bastard stuck reviewing either War of the Robots or The Witch’s Mountain.) I’ve owned this set for quite a few years now and highly recommend it to any fan, new or old, that may want to freshen up a bit on their older horror films.

CHILLING CLASSICS MONTH: The Alpha Incident (1978)

The first Bill Rebane movie I saw was the berserk Tiny Tim vehicle Blood Harvest. Once I realized that The Alpha Mission — one of his older efforts — is on the Chilling Classics box set — I jumped on it.

Much like Night of the Living Dead, a space probe has returned, this time from Mars. It’s brought back an organism that can kill all life on Earth. As it’s being transported by train, an employee accidentally releases it and the entire station is quarantined and must wait endless hours for the government to find the cure. There’s only one problem — if they fall asleep, the organism will kill them.

Basically, this is a movie about a bunch of people drinking coffee. doing amphetamines and making horrible decisions. Ralph Meeker (Without Warning) stars here, bringing along several unknowns and George “Buck” Flower (who shows up in nearly every John Carpenter film). It’s basically a movie where people stand around, upset one another and stand around some more.

With a better team of actors, this could be a much better film. That said, it’s enough to keep me interested. My disclaimer is that I’m exactly the kind of person who loves watching horrible movies with bad transfers from a $9 box set with fifty movies on it.

“What year is this from? Is this foreign?” asked Becca. No, this movie is magically made in this country, unless Wisconsin is really a foreign country. “Is this the end of the movie?” she also asked. Yep, that’s the kind of film this is.

CHILLING CLASSICS MONTH: Cathy’s Curse (1977)

John S Berry is back with another entry in this month’s Chilling Classics event. He’s been watching a lot of Big Japan wrestling, which I can totally respect, and has a lot of cool things to say about one of my favorite movies ever. Seriously, I could watch this one every single day of the year. You can read more of his words on his Twitter

 

Even Linda Blair possessed

Was a more likable kid

Than when Cathy was not cursed

***Gamberlaku 7-7-7 format created by the dude Raven Mack***

I think I have seen Cathy’s Curse multiple times. Similar to the sense of I think I have had that dream before that was out of order and at times it has a pink or sepia tone and characters appeared that I instinctively knew who they were. Also acceptable comparisons are: driving late into the night with heartburn from gas station coffee and your eyes drying up, falling asleep with on a Saturday night where it switches from edited movies to Byron Allen to infomercials about non-stick egg pans and a two hour hayride in the cold Midwest night with not a lot of pay-off.

I do not mention these comparisons in a negative sense, or for that matter a positive one. Cathy’s Curse is its own sense, its own grainy huh? magic. I have watched it several times and am pretty sure even if I have a sudden change of lifestyle and emulate Old Paul I am guessing I will view at least a few more times before I shuffle into a possessed doll or an old lady specter that lives in a cold ass attic.

There is an aura about this film and all of the gaps and plot holes just add to all the speculation fun you can have with it. My original viewing of this was with my nephews on a Christmas visit and it makes me proud that the movie is often quoted and will probably live on the next generation and maybe even further. Our family may not have jewelry to pass down but we have plenty of warped.

This is French Canadian film and it looks like most of the actors didn’t really go on to do a whole lot (watch for the scene at the 27-minute mark when Mummy moans “My Baby!” and police investigator puts his hand over his mouth to prevent himself from laughing). A lot of the acting is flat and Mummy seems to be filming two different movies, one where she is a doting mom and the other when she is ready to lock her daughter in an attic and go on vacation with an escaped convict. But this unevenness just adds to the film.

The film starts with a flashback scene to 1947 when a scorned husband decides to wildly drive off with his left behind daughter to catch up with his wife and son. They lose control and meet their end in an awful way in a snowy ditch. Also, this is the start of the great lines which I will not ruin, best to experience them in the moment (I actually envy those who get to hear them for the first time).

Flash to current day and the son that got away actually decides that after his wife’s breakdown it is a good idea to move into his drafty, cold ass childhood home. George just marvels about all the good memories from the house. Maybe he was too young when his mother took him away to remember all the bad times or maybe he is just a clueless putz. I am leaning towards the putz angle.

George never seems to put two and two together and have an Ah-ha moment linking his family history and all the horrible things that are happening around him. He is one of those business as usual guys, housekeeper plunged to her death? Well looks like I better put another ad in the paper tomorrow. Wife having a breakdown in a bloody bathtub and back is all lashed up? She will be fine with some soup and rest.

There is something about this film that just feels cold and also has that spare cold room you have to stay in when you visit a grandma or aunt’s house feel. Maybe you will see your breath when you wake up and for sure you are going to go thru those comforters and blankets stacked on the rocking chair next to the bed. Only thing colder is Mummy’s affection towards the Prince Valiant flat delivery Daddy. Maybe the cold and musty old house smell is not as much of an aphrodisiac that Paul thought it would be (see putz).

It doesn’t take long for the bad vibes to arrive in many forms. Creepy dolls are found, mediums (or extra rares) show up and Mummy’s sanity slides down the cold slippery ditch embankment. Luckily she has a housekeeper to help things run nice and tidy. Well, actually she may be the worst housekeeper since me in college. After for no reason, Cathy shatters a bowl against the wall the housekeeper picks up about 4 pieces and announces “there it is all done.” Shortly after the tidying up, Cathy’s doll plays some Wolf Eyes and Mummy is home just in time to see the lady go out the window.

Mummy is the only one who seems to be kind of shook up about this. Everyone else seems pretty flat and emotionless about it. Mummy has questions and suddenly Cathy can teleport and control objects and Mummy is scared and screaming. Paul seems more upset about having the ambulance out to his place for the second day in a row than his wife being sent away for another breakdown. As the ambulance pulls away I honestly thought the shrill siren was Mummy wailing and crying out. Yup, her voice and screaming and voice is that bad.

I am not sure if Old Paul and the housekeeper lady were married. Paul didn’t seem that broken up by the lady’s stage dive out the window. Maybe that is why he started hanging out with Cathy. I am not sure how or what exactly you did but I owe ya one for getting rid of that old cow. Paul’s home that was once tidy and proper is now a mess with plates piled in the sink, smut mags on the coffee table and piles of old holy underpants now that the lady is gone and he loves it.

He ties one on Cathy is way ahead of the curve in encouraging others to binge drink. The psychic just decides to pay a visit and the duo drives her to stumble to the hills. Paul drinks more and snakes appear. Cathy is going to really be fun at parties when she gets older.

Mummy comes home and immediately trouble brews. Paul tries to sober up and protect her but well let’s just say that did not end up well for poor old Paul. Mummy has a final showdown with the doll and a burned up specter of her husband’s sister. The house chuckles shakes and bellows and George never really figures out that the haunting is by Laura his crusty faced dead sister.

But Mummy smiles at Cathy and the clueless putz strikes again. See everything is fine. I often wonder what life would be like for characters after the movie wraps up. I imagine that things would be back to normal for hmm… maybe an afternoon. By the next cold morning, Mummy is back to screeching and Cathy will never be the same again. George probably completed the cycle of life and ran off with Cathy leaving their mom behind. Hopefully, George put snow chains on and is a better driver than his dad. If not, well they do make a lot of sequels and reboots these days. I’m game.

CHILLING CLASSICS MONTH: The Blancheville Monster (1963)

Thanks to Dustin Fallon from Horror and Sons for this entry. Beyond having a great web site, Dustin has really helped us get people to see our site and get writers for this project. It’s really appreciated! Thanks for watching so many movies for this month’s project!

Originally filmed as Terror, the 1963 Spanish/Italian production The Blancheville Monster is a musty, dusty Gothic horror affair that’s just rife with classic horror trappings and features more than just a touch of American soap opera melodrama, although that last part probably wasn’t overly intentional. The film was directed by Italian filmmaker Alberto De Martino, whose later horror credits include 1974’s The Antichrist and 1982’s Blood Link. However, Martino may be best remembered for a film so schlocky that it was featured on an episode of Mystery Science Theater, 1980’s The Pumaman.

Set in Northern France in 1884, the film opens to find young countess Emilie de Blancheville returning home to her family’s ancestral estate after many years away at school. Accompanying her on her trip are her friend, Alice, as well as Alice’s older brother, John. John is secretly in love with Emilie, but it would seem to be a very poorly kept secret. Just as poorly kept of a secret is Alice’s own growing romantic interest in Emilie’s brother, Rodéric, a man that she only knows from hearing Emilie read the letters that he has sent his sister over the years.

Upon arriving at her family’s castle, Emilie is saddened to learn that her father was killed in a fire just a few years prior. Her family’s servants have passed on in her absence as well and have since been replaced. In addition to a new butler, the family has taken on a new housekeeper as well: a much younger, attractive woman named Miss Eleonore. Eleonore is played by one of the better known starlets of 60’s and 70’s (and even later) European cinema, Helga Liné. Liné appeared in numerous horror and genre films, such as Horror Express, Horror Rises From the Tomb, and Nightmare Castle. Liné had a tendency for playing evil or sinister characters, surely due to her ability to be both sensual and emotionless in the same shot.

It doesn’t take long for eerie occurrences to begin around de Blancheville Castle. As they sit for their first meal, a sound much like the howls of an old hound dog or the cries of an injured man can be heard in the distance. Rodéric explains that the sound is indeed just that of an old dog, carried by the wind from one of the surrounding “peasant villages”.

At almost immediately the same time, the new family doctor arrives at the castle. He is introduced by Rodéric as Dr. LaRouche , the tension instantaneous between the two men. Rodéric excuses himself to escort his house guests to their rooms, but essentially warns the doctor that he will return. This leaves LaRouche alone with Eleonore, filling the air with a different sort of tension. There is some vague allusions to double-crosses and other “devious activities” before LaRouche hands Eleonore what appears to be three small vials.

As with any good Gothic horror, a storm rages through the night. Alice is woken by thunder, and begins to wander the darkened halls and corridors of the old stone structure. She hears a gasping sound coming from a stairwell and ascends her way up to a shuttered door. Throwing the door wide, she finds Eleonore standing over the prone body of a severely burned man. A syringe filled with a dark, viscous fluid is clutched in her hand.

Rodéric is forced to reveal that the burned man is in fact he and Emilie’s father, the Count de Blancheville. While the elder de Blancheville had indeed survived his injuries, he had also been driven bat-shit crazy. The syringe that Eleonore had intended to use on him was filled with a sedative intended to help abate the old man’s ravings and rages. Without the injection, the Count has broken free from his chamber and is roaming the castle grounds at large.

Making this family reunion more memorable is the fact that dear ol’ Dad has become obsessed with a curse allegedly placed on his family, one that will befall them should a female descendant reach her 21st birthday. In order to prevent this prophecy from fulfilling, the Count must now murder his own daughter before her next birthday, just mere days away.

The Count de Blancheville appears throughout the castle, usually at his Emilie’s bedside. Almost hypnotically, he frequently makes her rise from her slumber and sleepwalk to the family tomb. There, he systematically attempts to shatter his daughter’s psyche, almost willing her into accepting her impending death. Why he never chooses to actually kill her while he has her in this defenseless state may be the film’s biggest mystery.

The passive-aggressive behavior from our aspiring practitioner of filicide leaves the film free to muddle up the remainder of its runtime with soap opera style love triangles and rampant melodrama, filling the screen with more “red herrings” than a bag of Swedish Fish! Everyone is in love with everyone else, while jilting another all in one breath. You’d be forgiven for expecting Eric Braeden to pop up as “Victor”, but that would be one too many “shady fuckers” for a film to handle.

Buried somewhere in all of this mess is the overlooked fact that the Count de Blancheville is apparently a ninja. Not only can the Count slink from room to room throughout the castle undetected, hiding in the old castle’s multitude of shadowed corners and nooks, but he (or she?) can also launch large blocks at his prey from the castle walls while theoretically still in another room at the time. “Spoiler alert”, or something.

The entire thing culminates in one giant pretzel of double-crosses and fake outs. Characters die only to later return. Ya know, kinda like when “Marlena” supposedly died in that plane crash on Days of Our Lives, only to be “revived” from a coma later on. At least no one in The Blancheville Monster gets possessed by a demon.

Most casual horror fans will probably find The Blancheville Monster to be an insanely boring film… and they’re not entirely wrong. It’s filled with tiresome exposition and moves at a plodding pace. Even ardent Gothic horror fans may be hard-pressed to find much of exception, excluding the beautiful, yet foreboding, architecture of the old castle itself. And despite having Edgar Allan Poe’s name attached to its original title, the film has little to nothing to do with his stories. Skip this one and go watch Barbara Steele in The Ghost, which is conveniently also included in this set.

CHILLING CLASSICS MONTH: Messiah of Evil (1973)

Between great design, reviews of junk food and lots of great info on the artists behind horror movie posters, there’s a lot to love about the site Camera Viscera. Here’s one more: Doc, the creator of the site, has sent this article on Messiah of Evil!

The best word to describe Messiah of Evil (really, the only word to describe the film) is surreal. With its vampire-zombie hybrid antagonists and rundown seaside setting (not to mention its pseudo-satanic undertones) it’s a movie less concerned with weaving a cohesive narrative than it is stringing together as many odd characters and bold set pieces as it can in its belabored 90-minute runtime. But what Messiah lacks in grace (and budget, and continuity, and comprehension, etc.) it makes up for in genuine curiosity.

When the film opens, a young woman named Arletty (Marianna Hill, who also acts as narrator) is driving to Point Dume, a sleepy seaside town along the California coast, in search of her artist father from whom she hasn’t heard in some time. When she arrives at his beach house, she finds no sign of him, but she does find a diary he left, seemingly for her to read. The journal entries are ominous and cryptic, warning her of not only the other-worldly dangers that seem to inhabit the town, but also unsettling changes that are happening to her father.

Through no real explanation, she eventually hooks up with a trio of fellow out-of-towners: Thom, Toni, and Laura (Michael Greer, Joy Bang, Anitra Ford). Thom seems to be on a similar hunt of his own, searching for answers surrounding the type of portents Arletty’s father’s diary warned about. Thom’s motivations are never clearly explained, but that’s par for the course with Messiah.

One of the signs Arletty’s father warned of is a blood moon, which eventually appears in the sky one night, setting off the chain of events described in his diary. Locals wander aimlessly on the beach, their heads transfixed skyward. Hordes of blood-thirsty flesh-eaters stalk the streets at night. People bleed from their eyes. Our titular Man in Black (who we come to learn was a member of the fated Donner Party) shows up to greet his disciples. No one seems to know what the hell is going on, including the viewer.

After a few inspired but poorly executed set pieces (the two best ones involving a supermarket and a movie theater), the film crescendos into a battle of survival for Thom and Arletty at her father’s bungalow. Despite its minuscule budget, the film manages to deliver some surprising action, including a few falls-through-a-skylight and even an extended full body burn. Alas, even these dazzling displays including the supermarket and movie theater scenes aren’t enough to make the film feel anything less than a slog. The highlights are too few and far between, sandwiched amid a shuffle of go-nowhere scenes and mostly sluggish performances.

Messiah was released theatrically in 1973, under no less than four different titles, and getting it to the big screen was no easy task. According to Ford, “…shot in 1971, this movie was originally titled The Second Coming. Towards the end of the filming, investors pulled their money out, and the film was never finished. A Frenchman bought the unedited footage, edited it and released the movie under the title of Messiah of Evil.” And indeed one of Messiah‘s greatest weaknesses is its editing. Scenes abruptly end, dialogue isn’t synced properly, jump cuts abound. It’s all very slapdash, and it shows.

The film was written and directed by husband and wife team, Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz, and to say they have had an interesting career in Hollywood would be an understatement. The same year Messiah was released, the duo who happened to be friends with George Lucas, serendipitously enough ended up being asked to write American Graffiti and later Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, as well as being tasked with writing and directing the unanimously derided bomb, Howard the Duck. It’s about as strange a journey as Messiah of Evil itself.

Messiah is arthouse exploitation. Equal doses of trippy visuals (for the pompous types) and goopy low-budget viscera (for the rowdy types). Though not as refined as its contemporaries, it still shares shelf space with the likes of Let’s Scare Jessica to Death, Burnt Offerings, The Witch Who Came from the Sea, and others. It’s a niche but important sub-genre, one whose entries flow with the languid, dreamlike pace that only a movie from this era could. Gauzy visuals and strange happenings like your brain after a long night of drinking.

While I’d recommend a few other titles before this one, Messiah of Evil is worth a watch if you’re an exploitation completist looking for a break from reality.