PURE TERROR MONTH: My Mom’s A Werewolf (1989)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: I first read Melody Vena’s writing in last 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. She also wrote about Man In the Attic for us last year.

My moms a werewolf hit the screen in May of 1989, a comedy/horror film much like Teen Wolf. With a cast starring John Saxon, John Schuck,Susan Blakely and Ruth Buzzi, and being directed by Michael Fischa the film has that classic 1980s cheesy vibe that we all know and somewhat love.

The movie focuses on an average kind of ditzy housewife (Susan Blakely) who is fed up with her boring doing the same thing every day kind of life, and the situation gets worse by the fact that she is being continually ignored by her husband, Howard (John Schuck). She often finds herself watching TV with the family dog instead of being included in things with the family. Meanwhile her daughter, Jennifer is being dragged to a horror convention by her horror obsessed friend, Stacey. Jennifer finds the whole convention boring. Very disinterested and skeptical by the whole scene, she agrees to have her fortune told by a palm reader at the convention. The fortune teller seems pretty phony at first, but then tells Jennifer that she sees the sign of the pentagram on her face, and warns her that she will “struggle with an unholy evil over the next few days.” Jennifer jokes that she must mean the Halloween party she’s been planning.

Meanwhile, Leslie leaves the house in a huff to go shopping, after being ignored by her husband once again. She goes to a local pet store to buy a flea-collar for her dog but is surprised by the mysterious owner, Harry Thropen (John Saxon), who offers to give her the collar for free. Taken back by the generous offer, she leaves the store and the camera focuses on Thropen as he sneakily eats one of the white mice he has for sale. As the she enters the street a thief grabs her bag, flipping her off before running away. Thropen, sees what happens and is able to catch the purse snatcher by appearing suddenly in front of him and throwing him onto a pickup truck full of eggs. Leslie is befuddled at how he was able to do this but offers to buy Thropen lunch in for his troubles. Worried about her parents’ marriage (all of a sudden), Jennifer goes with Stacey to the restaurant her mother frequents with a bunch of flowers, she has made a plan to tell her mother that the flowers are from her father.

Unfortunately she sees Leslie eating with a strange man and assumes that she is having an affair (I mean she is ignored A LOT). Although Leslie asserts to Thropen that she is a married woman, he goes right ahead and  kisses her anyway. 


The kiss ends abruptly when dessert arrives en flambe, and the flames scare him away.  Leslie chases him back to his shop ( all of a sudden full of courage) with Jennifer and Stacey following close behind. While in the shop Leslie continues to avoid his advances until Thropen removes the sunglasses he has been wearing, revealing disturbing orange irises which hold the ability to hypnotize her. Meanwhile outside Jennifer and Stacey are shooed away from the pet shop door by a policeman who catches them snooping outside, then he proceeds to look in the cracks himself. 

After a few cocktails (some with goldfish swimming in them) Leslie and Thropen start fooling around on a bed covered in animal skins. Leslie seems to be enjoying herself with the strange pet shop owner until he bites her big toe, which causes her to jump up and leave hurry (not the fact that she was about to go full blown affair with a stranger) Thropen allows her to go, saying that she would be back because he would “be in her thoughts.” (cause that’s not weird)

When she arrives back home the family dog, and her only friend, growls at Leslie. Then Jennifer attempts to confront her about the affair, a matter of which Leslie is genuinely ignorant, thanks to the glowing eyes of hypnotism. Howard also notices a change in Leslie, both in the way she cooks meat for dinner despite being vegetarian and more importantly the way she acts in the bedroom (because now all of a sudden he wants to have sex with the wife he has constantly been ignoring…must have been the meat). The next morning Leslie is horrified to learn her teeth have become fangs. She attempts to hide her deformity from her daughter who assumes she is nervous because of the presumed affair. Leslie goes to see the suggestively named dentist, Dr. Rod (and yes, the name fits the persona and behavior of doctor and nurses), to have her fangs filed down, which only results in a broken file and some lewd sounds of frustration from Dr. Rod. (think a lot of moaning and groaning)

Driven by cravings for meat, she stops at a butchery and gets a snack, Leslie drives back home eating raw meat, milk bones, and singing loudly to rock music (apparent werewolf behavior). When an elderly couple pull up next to her at a stoplight and the old man remarks: “Look Edna, a singing werewolf. We don’t see many of those nowadays, do we?”

My Mom’s A Werewolf is such a good time to watch, with its underlying sexual tones, and quick one liners, it’s surprising that it does not have much of a cult following. I will not give away any spoilers, I enjoy leaving you all wanting more, so I highly suggest giving this one a good watch. I mean is a horror comedy with a moral at heart – Men, don’t ignore your ladies because you never know where a furry beast may be waiting to pounce.

PURE TERROR MONTH: Night Fright (1967)

“Okay, kid. I want you to make me a film under 80-minutes for $18,000 bucks,” cigar chomps the film executive planting his wing-tips on his desk. “And I got this ratty gorilla suit at an auction . . . they lost the gorilla head, so use this alien mask that I think is left over from 20 Million Miles to Earth . . . and use these reels of NASA stock footage . . . oh, and I can’t afford any lights, so shoot all the night time scenes day-for-night. And you’re using John Agar in the lead.”

“Who’s John Agar?” snivels the fresh-out-of-film-school grad.

“A washed up drunk who boinked Shirley Temple. He comes cheap.”

“Well, sir. Thank you for the opportunity—.”

“Believe me, kid. If I could get Larry Buchanan to shoot this, I would. Now, let’s go to work.”

. . . And so starts this go-go swingin’ adventure: A NASA rocket sent into space filled with test animals flies through a radiation cloud and crashes into the wilds of Cielo, Texas, so a mutated-gorilla monster can munch on a bunch of 18-going-on-30 teenagers in a wooded area known as “Satan’s Hollow.” (Speaking of a “Satan’s Hollow,” check this out.)

“Hey, gang,” head cool kid Chris Jordan calls out. “Let’s go have a swingin’ dance party in the woods! You know, our own ‘private blast’ where that mysterious object crashed!”

“Yeah, and we can do some off-screen shimmy-shammin’ so the Klingon-headed-gorilla space monster can chew us up,” squeals Judy.

“Shit. Let’s go to work, Ben,” says Sheriff Clint Crawford (John Agar) to Deputy Ben Whitfield (Bill Thurman). “It looks like we’re stuck in a movie that’s worse than Robot Monster. Hell, even The Giant Gila Monster.”

“Yeah,” whisky bottle swigs John Agar. “At this rate, we’ll be co-starring in Ed Wood pictures. Damn shame I won’t live long enough to star in an ‘80s SOV stinker. Heck, I would have been great as the detective in Blood Cult.”

“Nah, I’ll do just fine, John. I won’t end up in SOV crap like Spine. Respected directors like Louis Malle, Steven Speilberg, and Lawrence Kasdan will cast me, and I’ll work with Steve McQueen,” chest puffs Bill. “Now go stuff that mannequin with explosives so the dumb space gorilla eats it and we can get the hell out of here and have a beer,” bug neck-smacks Bill Thurman. “And besides, John, don’t you remember? You do that interview in 1986. So it’s not that you died, it’s just that you’ll be so washed up, that the director, Christopher Lewis, wouldn’t want you.”

“Hey, wait a sec . . . Lewis? Loretta’s kid. Yeah, didn’t I bang Loretta Young?”

“Yeah, right, Johnny boy,” says Bill with a back pat. “She married Clark Gable. What would she want with a pug like you? Now, let’s go kill us a space gorilla.”

John Agar was on top of the world. He starred alongside John Wayne in Sands of Iwo Jima, Fort Apache, and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon. He was the toast of tinsel town with his five-year marriage to Shirley Temple. . . . Then the marriage failed and his drinking got worse and he became a stock player for Larry Buchanan at AIP Studios in the low-budget frolics The Mole People and The Brain from Planet Arous.

Night Fright VHS 2

Me: I always cherish Mr. Agar in my late dad’s John Wayne flicks and I’ll always remember John in the Alien precursor and the UHF double-billed, Journey to the Seventh Planet (alongside The Demon Planet, aka Planet of Vampires).

“I don’t resent being identified with B-science fiction movies at all,” Agar reflected in a 1986 interview chronicled at Monster Shack. “Why should I? Even though they were not considered top of the line, for those people that like sci-fi, I guess they were fun. My whole feeling about working as an actor is, if I give anybody any enjoyment, I’m doing my job, and that’s what counts.”

You did, John Agar. You most certainly did. You are at the center of this writer’s Venn Diagram-Borromean Rings of my “Bad Sci-Fi Battle of Evermore.”

In addition to satisfying my John Agar fix, Night Fright also quenches my Bill Thurman completest-compulsions—and gives me an opportunity to talk about Hollywood fringe-obscurity, Brenda Venus.

Brenda Venus, who stars as Sue, grew up to sprout “white nipples” so Eric Swann (Martin Mull) could boink her on the audio mixing console in FM (1978). Oh, you’ve seen Brenda around. She was in Fred Williamson’s blaxploitation spaghetti western, Joshua (1976) and Jack Hill’s Foxy Brown (1974). She starred with Clint Eastwood in The Eiger Sanction (?!) and she endured the wrath of Ankar Moor in Deathsport (1978). Brenda’s Wikipedia is well worth the visit and it directs you to her very cool, official website.

As for Bill Thurman: It’s like shootin’ fish in a Larry Buchanan-AIP barrel. Bill was in everything calculated inside the UHF Venn Diagram of my youth and went on to become the “go-to actor” when you needed a backwoods sheriff or redneck.

He was Sheriff Brad Crenshaw in Zontar, the Thing from Venus.

He was Sheriff Joe Bob Thomas in ‘Gator Bait.

He was Sheriff Billy Carter in Creature from Black Lake. . . .

Night Fright VHS

And get a load of the ‘80s VHS and ‘90s digital-platform repacks of Night Fright: they really are better than the movie. And don’t be fooled by its alternate titlings and confuse it with 1958’s Night of the Blood Beast, which is also available on the Mill Creek Pure Terror 50 Box Set (and my condolences to whomever reviews that stinker. Wait. What? I’m the “whomever” reviewing it? Crap!).

So, yeah, Night Fright sucks. But it’s also one of my cherished UHF snowy memories. Thanks, Mill Creek!

About the Author: You can read the music and film criticisms of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his rock ‘n’ roll biographies, along with horror and sci-fi novellas, on Facebook.

PURE TERROR MONTH: The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave (1971)

“The worms are waiting are waiting for you, Gladys!”

If I had a nickel every time a fellow film lover told me they hate Italian Gialli and that the films make no sense. . . . It certainly doesn’t help when a skull-faced woman in a curly-red wig and flowing nighty sashays around a crumbly castle. I guess you have to be a video store dork raised on UHF television suffering from a case of the nostalgia-blues to understand the attraction of a skull-faced woman in a curly-red wig and flowing nighty sashaying around a crumbly castle.

Today, with the advent of DVDs released through boutique imprints, horror connoisseurs can watch these Neapolitan thriller-horrors in their pristine state, free of the heartless butchering imposed by American distributors for their ‘70s Drive-In and UHF television and ‘80s VHS distribution. It was those distributors—according to Roberto Curti’s comprehensive Giallipedia, Italian Gothic Horror Films 1970-1979 (2017)—who additionally cheapened the beauty of Evelyn with William Castle-styled camp-servings of “bloodcorn,” actually dyed-red popcorn. I guess dumping red food coloring onto popcorn was cheaper than printing up bogus “insurance policies” (a stunt pulled on Night of Bloody Horror, also available on the Mill Creek Pure Terror 50 Box Set) or “vomit bags.”

Evelyn circulates under a variety of titles on public-domain, bargain DVD box sets (and its early ‘80s VHS reboots), such as The Night She Rose from the Tomb, The Night Evelyn Left the Tomb, Evelyn Raises the Dead, Evelyn’s Back from the Dead, and the really crummy title of Sweet to Be Kissed, Hard to Die. Don’t be fooled: When you come across any of those titles, know you’re seeing a heavily-edited cut—not that the American cuts under the film’s original title are any better. Thankfully, Sinema Diable, Sinister Cinema, and Arrow Video each offer restored, uncut letterbox editions of the film in its full 99-minute format. However, if you’re not a hardcore Giallo fan and can’t afford to purchase boutique DVDs, the version provided on the Mill Creek Pure Terror 50 Box Set is a great introduction to the golden era of Italian horror cinema.

This twisty whodunit-hybrid mixed with British Hammer-Amicus gothic overtones is directed by Emilio P. Miraglia (of the Giallo The Red Queen Kills Seven Times) and tells the tale of a psychologically-troubled British aristocrat recently released from an asylum who’s haunted (read: obsessed) by the death of his “cheating” first wife, the red-headed Evelyn. To assuage the “haunting,” he seduces red-heads in the local taverns that he subsequently tortures and kills in his kinky dungeon. Then he meets and marries Gladys (Marina Malfatti of the Giallo All the Colors of the Dark), which triggers a series of Twitch of the Death Nerve-styled deaths at Lord Cunningham’s crumbly, remote estate. Or is this more Henry James-inspired “turning of the screws” afoot amid the greedy cast of characters?

One of the Lord’s “conquests” is Erika Blanc of The Devil’s Nightmare, Mario Bava’s Kill, Baby, Kill, and the German Hammer Studios-inspired romp, Witches Tortured Till They Die, aka Mark of the Devil II, and a slew of Italian spaghetti westerns with the words “Django” and “Fistful” in the title.

There are two trailers available: The Italian version, while nicely cut and more “stylish,” it looks like it’s promoting an episode of TV’s Columbo—with an occasional splash of a full-frontal and a web-strewn crypt. The American trailer cheeses it up a bit, but at least shows Evelyn isn’t a G-rated American detective romp, but the Giallo-gothic screw turner we know and love.

About the Author: You can read the music and film criticisms of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his rock ‘n’ roll biographies, along with horror and sci-fi novellas, on Facebook.

PURE TERROR MONTH: The Embalmer (1965)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: An American living in London, Jennifer Upton is a freelance writer for International publishers Story Terrace and others. In addition, she has a blog where she frequently writes about horror and sci-fi called Womanycom.

The Embalmer (1965), aka Il Mostro di Venezia is a slow burner that fits somewhere in between the horror sub-genres of early Italian Giallo and the Italian gothic films of the 1960s. It is part murder mystery and part an exercise in atmosphere. 

Several young women have disappeared into the canals of Venice. A visual signifier freeze-frame appears for each victim at the moment the killer chooses them. He then stalks them from the nighttime canals in a scuba suit and pounces once they are alone. He drowns them and takes them through a series of tunnels underneath the city to his abandoned Monastery laboratory lair. Once inside, he skulks around in a monastic Skeletor costume. 

Although his origins are never explained, he’s a mad scientist who has invented a new form of embalming fluid to preserve the dead women’s beauty for all eternity. After the procedure, he stands them up into glass display cases like dolls and talks to them. 

Meanwhile, above ground, handsome newspaper reporter Andrea (Luigi Martocci– billed hilariously as “Gin Mart”) coordinates with the police to uncover information. When a group of visiting schoolgirls arrives and one of them falls victim to the maniac, Andrea becomes deeply involved in trying to solve the mystery. 

In a typical Giallo, the identity and the motives of the killer would become clear at the film’s conclusion. The Embalmer’s thin script falls short. When Andrea finally pulls the killer’s skeleton mask off by in the final chase sequence, it’s just a guy. It’s not someone we’ve even seen before anywhere else in the film and we never find out who he is or why he did what he did before being shot by the police. 

One characteristic of films from this period of Italian cinema is that they often looked and sounded a decade older than they were. This film is no exception. The black and white photography, jazzy soundtrack, long dance sequences and lack of gore place it in stark contrast with the exciting horror films coming from Hammer studios and Herschell Gordon Lewis during the same period. There’s even a ‘50s-style Italian Elvis. Not at all reflective of the beatnik La Dolce Vita culture prevalent in Italy in 1965. 

The acting is average – made worse by a poor English-language dub with some questionable translation. In one scene, there’s a woman dancing at a nightclub who claims to be 42 years old. She’s a minimum of 70. Her dance moves are groovy regardless. 

These shortcomings aside, the film contains some interesting set-pieces. In the best one, the killer, dressed in his robe and skeleton mask, hides out among the preserved corpses of the deceased monks in his underwater monastery. He enjoys a distinct advantage over Andrea when he comes snooping around with only a flashlight as a single source of light. The gag is so good, it’s used twice. 

Setting the film in Venice adds an immeasurable amount of production value for a film with such an obviously small budget. The night streets are deserted, the throngs of tourists having returned to their cruise-ships parked offshore. It’s a city easy to get lost in with its web of narrow shadowed alleys. During the day, the film goes to great lengths to show the beauty of the Venice and nearby Murano with its artisan glass merchants. Without this bonus, the film would be just okay. As it stands it’s basically par and recommended only for those die-hard fans of ‘60s Italian Giallo cinema. 

PURE TERROR MONTH: De Prooi (1985)

Don’t let the addition of this ‘80s Amsterdam-bred thriller’s inclusion alongside the American, low-brow ‘60s horrors of Night Fright and Night of the Blood Beast in this Mill Creek Pure Terror 50 Movie Pack leave to you believe this movie will be a boring watch. While it doesn’t provide the ‘80s slasher overtones coupled with cliché horror shock-twists in which American audiences are accustomed, those who enjoyed the Dutch art-thrillers The 4th Man (1979) from Paul Verhoeven and The Vanishing (1988) by George Sluizer will be drawn into the film noirish twists of De Prooi (The Proof, aka Death in the Shadows).

As with the previously referenced films, the cinematography of De Prooi is polished; in conjunction with the score, the film maintains a purposefully sullen mood throughout. An added plus: the English dub is excellent. As with any giallo-influenced thriller—regardless of the lack of blood (so we have a film noir here)—red herring characters are afoot and the obligatory “strange things” start happening, i.e., an address book leads to a weird couple who run a garage that want nothing to do with Valerie and say they never heard of her dead mother. Val discovers Ria, her mother’s friend and neighbor—who moonlights as a peep show worker—is suddenly planning a trip to Sri Lanka. When Val finds a regretful long-lost “uncle,” he’s murdered. Then there’s Val’s mother’s red-herring ex-employer, a local lawyer who’s a bit too eager to help Val. And on the night her boyfriend doesn’t pick her up for a party, someone runs Val’s bicycle off the road.

Written by the husband and wife, editor-and-directing team of Ton Ruys and Vivian Pieters (she’s the executive producer of the oldest and longest-running Dutch daytime-series, Goede tijden, slechte tijden, aka Good Times, Bad Times), De Prooi tells the story of a soon-to-graduate high school student, Valerie Jaspers, and her mother, Trudy, who live a quiet, middle class life in a village outside of Amsterdam—with skeletons.

When her mother becomes a victim of what seems to be a random hit-and run, an autopsy reveals that it wasn’t an “accident”: Trudy was run over twice. The police investigation reveals that Trudy was never married and had no children: she’s not Valerie’s mother. So Val sets off to solve the mystery—of not only who her real mother is, but who murdered the woman she thought was her mother.

As with any film noir, an Italian Giallo-influenced masked assailant will make sure those skeletons are kept closeted. Remember being disappointed by the forced, homogenized ending tacked onto the 1993 American remake of The Vanishing? As with most Euro-thrillers, there is no warm and fuzzy ending cast in the shadows of this effective, chilling and dreary Dutch thriller.

About the Author: You can read the music and film criticisms of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his rock ‘n’ roll biographies, along with horror and sci-fi novellas, on Facebook.

PURE TERROR MONTH: The House by the Cemetery (1981)

About the Author: Paul Andolina is one of my favorite people to talk movies with. If you like his stuff, check out his site Wrestling with Film

The House by the Cemetery is an Italian horror film directed by Lucio Fulci from 1981. Fulci has been a favorite director of mine since I first started watching Italian horror films back in 2007. His film Zombi was one of my first forays into the milieu of Italian horror and I was hooked when I saw a zombie fight a shark.

The House by the Cemetery is about Norman Boyle and his family who move from New York to Boston. Norman is moving into Oak Mansion also known as the Freudstein house to research old houses. His colleague who was the previous tenant of the house committed suicide under unusual circumstances. Norman and his wife Lucy, have a son named Bob who sees a girl in a photo at his house in NY that tells him not to go to the house but his mom won’t listen. The house just so happened to a deranged doctor.

This film takes a while to get insane but it is so worth sticking through. If Bob’s hilarious dubbing doesn’t get you fully invested from the opening scene by the end of the film you’ll surely have witnessed something that really grabbed your attention. There is a scene where Norman listens to the ramblings of his colleague Dr. Peterson on a tape recorder that seems like the rambling of a tortured protagonist from a Lovecraft story, that is excellent.

The soundtrack is perfect for the movie and the imagery is haunting and beautiful. This film also heavily influenced Ted Geoghegan’s We Are Still Here. In fact Ted made an entire thread on Twitter on how it influenced him. If you have somehow managed to not see The House By The Cemetery yet, you should check it out. It’s pretty crazy. 

PURE TERROR MONTH: Frankenstein ’80 (1972)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Bill Van Ryn is the man behind the website Groovy Doom and the zine Drive-In Asylum. He’s the inspiration for me to write more about movies.

I’ve seen the movie Frankenstein ’80 a number of times already, and I still can’t point to any reason that it carries this title. If there is an explanation somewhere in the movie, then I missed it about seven times. It’s an Italian film originally released in 1972, and the sole directorial effort from Mario Mancini, better known as a camera operator and/or DP for a number of films, including Mario Bava’s Blood and Black Lace and Black Sabbath

Frankenstein ’80 shows us what we assume to be a descendant of the good doctor operating out of a secret laboratory in his clinic. A rival scientist, Professor Schwartz, has created a serum that prevents the rejection of transplants. Despite the life-changing implications of a substance like this, Schwartz has only made a single bottle of the stuff, which makes it rough when the bottle goes missing, resulting in the death of Schwartz’s latest transplant hopeful.

Of course the bottle has been stolen by Dr. Frankenstein, or rather, Frankenstein’s emissary, a hulking man that Frankenstein calls Mosaic, sewn together from stray body parts. Frankenstein is obsessed with the idea of perfecting Mosaic, and Schwartz’s formula will do nicely in helping achieve this. Dr. Frankie in this movie is played by American actor Gordon Mitchell, a former bodybuilding champ who followed the example of Steve Reeves and other muscleheads like Mickey Hargitay and Brad Harris in forging an acting career in European-lensed movies. He looks a little svelte in this movie for a bodybuilder, so this must have been after his lifting days. The beef in this movie is Mosaic, played by a hulking actor named Xiro Papas (who, rather ironically, died in the year….1980). Mosaic has the nasty habit of rampaging through the local village, murdering random women and making off with one of their internal organs, which he takes back to Frankenstein to use as his own. Frankenstein scolds the creature for these brutal murders the way a parent would scold a child for eating cookies before dinner (“Mosaic, you must stop this killing!”), but he does use the organs after all, which only reinforces Mosaic’s bad behavior. Although we see the monster kill men, we only see him steal organs from women, so there’s no explanation as to where Dr. Frankenstein gets the “gonad” transplant that he uses to increase Mosaic’s sexual potency. Maybe it’s better that way.

Dr. Frankenstein sure is a stupid dick, too, because -duh- this turns the monster into a sexual predator as well. In a movie full of disturbing murders, one of the hardest to watch is a scene where Mosaic rapes a prostitute who seems to be somewhat overwhelmed by the size of his “external organ”, then strangles her during the afterglow. Frankenstein has been trailing Mosaic during this episode, but arrives too late to prevent the murder, ushering Mosaic into his clothes and out of the apartment with barely more than a “naughty, naughty.”

By now you should understand that Frankenstein ‘80 is completely absurd. It actually predates Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein in its blending of broad comedy with visceral horror, and it comes close to matching that film’s gut-churning violence. Mosaic’s murders are sudden and brutal, and they often are prefaced by the victim being kind to him; a female butcher gives him some friendly customer service before he rudely follows her into the freezer and beats her to death with a large femur. Even the hooker is nice to him, sort of, until she gets a good look at him naked and sees that he’s all stitched together. I don’t know if I’d call it camp, it’s not easy to gauge the movie’s own self-awareness since the English audio track is one of those dodgy dub jobs, but some of the scenarios do seem intentionally over the top, such as the subplot of the local law enforcement vainly trying to keep up with Mosaic’s murders. 

What really could have helped Frankenstein ‘80 would have been at least a fraction of Paul Morrissey’s style or wit, not to mention his budget. There are no real serious moments in Frankenstein ‘80, no commentary on the decadence of the wealthy nobility, no pondering of the human condition by considering the liberties taken by these reckless practitioners of so-called medicine, and an almost total lack of suspense. What it does have is sleaze, in great gory buckets, and a disturbing partiality for the brutal murder of beautiful women, who are usually stripped of their clothing before being throttled or clobbered by the hulking monster. Lest we accuse the filmmakers of being sexist, I must point out that male victims suffer greatly as well, including one guy who is killed in a public men’s room. He’s just taking a piss, minding his own business, when Mosaic moves on him like a sex addict in a truck stop – except he doesn’t want to give the guy a quick blowjob in a stall, he takes the guy’s head and smashes it against the tile wall, resulting in an explosion of gore. Now that’s just plain rude.

PURE TERROR MONTH: Death Warmed Up (1984)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Roger Braden runs the Facebook group Valley Nightmares, which is all about the history of the films that played at the drive-ins and theaters in his home state of Kentucky. He’s a great guy and I’m excited to read his take on this movie.

Also known as Death Warmed Over and Robot Maniac, New Zealand’s first splatter film pre-dates Peter Jacksons Bad Taste by 3 years, and was quite the shocker when first unleashed to theaters and later on VHS.  

A group of friends and myself would have a movie night every weekend during the 1980s VHS rental boom, usually at my friend Marty’s place. The dude had a killer “Great Room” with a huge projection TV and quadraphonic sound system. Just bring something to watch, your own beer, snacks and smoke and the night was set. We watched everything, but I could always be counted on for bringing some obscure Horror flick that nobody had heard of, many thanks to Fangoria magazine for the knowledge.

One of those nights I brought over Death Warmed Up.  The reaction from my friends that night are still vivid, and for me, hilarious. They were shocked, grossed out and had no idea what was going on. After muliple recent viewings  I’d tell those friends today (and you), it still shocks and is gorily gross. And you’re still not going to have any idea of just what the fuck is going on while watching it.

The movie opens with some brain surgery being performed, and we’re talking drilling through the skull first just to get to the brain! We meet our hero Michael, whose dad is a research scientist with a Dr. Archer Howell, the two doctors that are doing the brain surgery. Seems Howell wants all the credit for what the two doctors are working on, so he brainwashes Michael into blasting his parents to death with a shotgun, then Michael is thrown into the looey bin.  This is in the first 10 minutes of the film. We flash forward 7 years. Michael, formely dark haired and now sporting a blonde Rutger Hauer look is getting released, and his girlfriend, best friend and his girl pick him up so they can go vacation to the island that Dr. Howell has set up as his research facility (yes Michael knows where he’s going, he’s out for revenge!).  On the ferry to the island we meet “Spider” and his partner, two of the facility workers, who clash immediately with our vacationing friends.

It only gets more bat shit crazy from here, and it’s fantastic.  Our friends go exploring and discover a massive tunnel system under the island linked to Dr Howell’s facility patrolled by  Spider and coworkers on their motorbikes. Howell’s patient’s brains start exploding, gun battles, squirting bloody violence, more brain surgery with wet walnut looking tumors discovered, mutants released from the bowels of the island to run amok destroying everything in their path, and an act of revenge that is not the best course of action.

I’m hoping this is enough to convince you to watch this film for the first time or the 100th.  Remember Spider’s words

 Thanks for having me in the Mill Creek Pure Terror series at bandsaboutmovies.com.  

Severin has a loaded blu of this movie also.

 

PURE TERROR MONTH: The House That Screamed (1969)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Paul Andolina is back to watch another movie for us. If you like his stuff, check out his site Wrestling with Film

The House that Screamed aka La Residencia, is a Spanish horror film from the director Narciso (Chicho) Ibáñez Serrador. He is mostly known for a game show and the TV series Historias para no dormir (Stories to Keep You Awake). I would love to get my hands on a copy of Historias para no dormir which started in 1966 and ended in 1982. He also wrote quite a few screenplays under the name Luis Peñafiel. Chicho very recently passed away at the age of 83 on June 7, 2019. 

I’m glad I got a chance to watch this film for the first time as part of Pure Terror month. I have recently gotten back into the habit of studying Spanish and although most of my focus is on Latin American Spanish it’s always great to see horror films from Spain itself. This movie is about a boarding house in France run by a lovely old spinster, Madam Forneau, who has made it her mission in life to take care of rehabilitating and educating girls with behavioral problems. She has a bigger problem on her hands though because some of her girls are disappearing under unusual circumstances. 

A new girl, Teresa, is entering the boarding school. She has been sent by her mother who works in a cabaret as a singer to be educated there. This boarding school is essentially a prison, the girls are locked into their shared dormitory every night and most haven’t seen boys in months. Oh, the agony! Madam Forneau’s son Luis is a huge voyeur and sees a few of the girls here and there but that is not the extent of the strangeness going on at the school.

It takes a while for the killing to happen in this movie, which really helps build the atmosphere and tension of the film. This movie reminds me of the Italian Gialli mostly because of its sexual overtones mixed with violence. It’s well shot and I imagine that the Bluray that includes its extended cut looks beautiful. It is an excellent film despite its simplicity of plot. In fact this movie alone will most likely be the reason I seek out Chicho’s other film Who Can Kill a Child? and the Stories to Keep You Awake series.

This movie is worth a watch for pretty much anybody who enjoys horror. I did find it a bit boring because I’m not super invested in the lives of girls living in boarding schools. If you like women in prison movies I also believe you will find something to enjoy with this one.

I enjoyed The House that Screamed and I will look to see if I can watch the extended cut through rental soon. This movie is not one to skip if you pick up the Pure Terror set or if there isn’t much in the way you want to watch on this set you can seek it out on Bluray or DVD. However, I imagine it is impossible to not want to pick up the set as there is so much to enjoy at the cost of almost one DVD!

PURE TERROR MONTH: Keep My Grave Open (1977)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: John S Berry is someone I have great conversations with. I’m excited that he’s writing for the site. You can check out John on Twitter

I had one of those odd realizations as I was watching Keep My Grave Open. Someone had recently asked me if David Lynch was my favorite director. I couldn’t jump right on that answer and say yes for some reason. Don’t get me wrong, I love his work (yes even Dune) but favorite? What makes someone your favorite? 

Sunday night I was winding down a great weekend and was happy to have an extra hour to burn. I remembered I needed to re-watch Keep My Grave Open for Sam. It had been some time since I had viewed it and Sam’s Movie Pack reviews deserve the respect of watching them as they appear on the box sets (note: I watched it again Monday night)

So, I put this in and about midway something hit me, SF Brownrigg may be my favorite director. All my current favorite films and filmmakers have the same spirit; small I budgets, character studies and unique locations that make me either homesick or nostalgic. His movie always have a touch of sadness to them and I often find some sweetness in one or more of the characters. Maybe SF Brownrigg is the great grandfather of horror that really is about the people and the small universes they inhabit. 

Grave starts with cracks and pops and the sounds of wind in the back of a pick-up. The old bum immediately melted my heart as he investigated the surrounding farms as the mournful music played and he grabbed his knapsack. This just set the tone for the movie, people carrying a quiet sadness about them in a rural setting, it was like seeing some of my mom’s scrapbooks come to life and speak.

Usually I am not too fond of origin stories or laying out a character’s back story piece by piece. With all of Brownrigg’s films (all 5, four horror and the ones I have seen) I want to know how they got there, why are they damaged this way? 

Even with the opening hobo character just serving as a quick jumpstart to the story I found myself wanting to know more about him. Why the bright yellow sweater? Why was he so polite in a sense when he was raiding the fridge and didn’t take all the contents? Was he looking for work?  

Brownrigg often used some of the same actors in his films and they all do great to decent jobs. They give a lot of them small little natural quirks. Keep My Grave Open centers around Ms. Fontaine played by Camilla Carr who keeps up appearances (2 to be exact). But is slowly losing her grip on sanity or is she just trying to win over the mysterious Kevin?

Ms. Fontaine is a lonely tortured soul in a good-sized country house with a nice young man named Bobby who takes care of her horse Caesar. Bobby cares more about the horse than teenage girls (OK community college girls) or older women trying to seduce him. He is likeable polite young Texas man and the actor is Topher Grace before there was a Topher Grace or that 70s show. 

There are many dimensions to a film that was made to fill up time on the drive-in screens across America in the 70s. It is much more nuanced and open ended, and boy do I love an open-ended film, especially when you can go and talk about theories and ideas with a friend over a good milk shake (miss you Lucas). 

In that spirit, rather than recap and describe the film (which to be honest you cannot get better than Groovy Doom’s amazing piece here.

Let’s all take some time,78 minutes and get out our notecards, yarn, push pins and giant whiteboard. Put on your best formed foil hat and let’s talk some theories and speculation. 

But before we get into was Kevin real? Was he there the whole time? Etc. Let’s take a minute to really ponder the odd old dingy country bar/ one stop brothel scene, one of the those great I can almost smell it scenes that Brownrigg often had in his films. 

After hearing of this place from Kevin and him giving a great Yelp review of Twinkle Ms. Fontaine decides maybe she needed to see what the fuss was about. Maybe get some take out for Kevin.

We cut to a man and a lady trying to negotiate how much adult fun they are going to have this evening. What comes next is some good old fashion haggling but using amounts of $22.50 with a counter of $17.50. Is there change in prostitution? Where and how do you give change? 

I imagine the bar/brothel really priding themselves in their customer service and imagine most interactions went like this:

Trixie Diamond: OK you had the #3 and an Around the World.’ 

Good Bubba: ‘Here’s a twenty.’ 

Trixie Diamond: OK and here’s a dollar fifty back.

Good Bubba: Keep the change

Trixie Diamond: Thanks hon’ Have a good rest of your night.

Good Bubba: You too ma’am careful driving home looks like rain. 

Old bar maid: Don’t forget to get your customer rewards card punched. 12 punches and you get a free one. 

Twinkle was inpatient lady, she must have double booked herself. Smart move hiding in the car and pulling the sheet over your head. Not such a smart move gasping and giving away your position.

So, we know some of the facts but do we truly? We know of Ms. Fontaine’s version and her recalling. But we have also been hinted at a different truth from the doctor? 

Was????:

  1. A. Kevin an orphan with Miss Fontaine as children or her biological brother. At her 16th birthday she was caught changing innocently to try on the dress or is that Miss Fontaine’s version? Where they really caught by the old aunt who took care of them and Kevin was shipped out to another orphanage or military school or did he just run away. Again, we are hearing Ms. Fontaine’s telling of the story 
  2. B. They were both orphans and Red was crushed that he left, and she was stuck with the house after the old lady died and she kept dreaming of Kevin returning.

C. Maybe Kevin was there the whole time but would go on benders and do anything he could do to get away from Ms. Fontaine. Each of the victims had some connection to Kevin which is why Ms. Fontaine eliminated them: 

1c. Old Bum was one of Kevin’s drinking buddies fellow hobo on the road coming back into town. Remembered that was his place and thought he would stop by. 

2c. Bobby (Topher Grace) was ranch hand that Kevin liked working with and was kind of like a kid brother which leads to…

3c. Twinkle was one of the ladies that Kevin and Topher uh hung out with when they went out for beers on a Saturday night

4c. Young girl who liked Bobby had caught Kevin’s eyes a few times and Miss Fontaine saw it

  1. C. Why the fencing like sword and gloves as the weapon? Did Kevin kill a fellow orphan or sibling when the old lady made them practice fencing? 
  2. D. Why did nobody come looking for any of the people. OK we know they probably thought Twinkle had finally mouthed off to the wrong guy. But what about the Topher Grace and the other girl, I am not sure if they were supposed to high school kids or community college kids. But someone had to wonder where they were. 
  3. E. Did Ms. Fontaine kill herself because she had gone to such extremes and Kevin had still not come back and given her is full attention? Or did he just not care and was sleeping off one hell of a bender?
  4. F. Did Kevin read about Ms. Fontaine’s death in the paper? Maybe he get word from the MD? Perhaps he was just as damaged where he was, a male version going through what Miss Fontaine was going thru but on a different coast or state and he came to take his place as last member of odd family?
  5. G. Or is it possible there is some sort of rebirth, re-awakening action going on? With Ms. Fontaine dying, she re immerges as the manifestation of Kevin. Kevin calls up to her in the house at the end. Or maybe the suicide opened some odd dimension and they switched places ala Freaky Friday? Or perhaps Ms. Fontaine took 

I guess that is why SF Brownrigg may be my favorite director, in a simple short movie made for drive ins I become immersed in the what ifs and wonder whys. Anyone can Room 237 a Kubrick film, but I am glad to get to do the service for SR Brownrigg.

I have an idea of the story but am never sure how it is going to end or what direction it will take. SF Brownrigg’s films make day dream and speculate, and wouldn’t it be nice if more films did that?