#353- Black Sunday

Quick recap: A witch is executed back in the 1500s and comes back to life two centuries later to wreak havoc. She also brings to life her boyfriend/servant/ fellow vampire and/or witch who is also out to cause mayhem.

He’s a looker, that’s for sure

Fun (?) fact: The plot is loosely based on Nikolay Gogol’s story Viy. The movie is set in Russia, but played by an Italian cast who spoke English. The English was so heavily accented, however, that it was redubbed for an American release.

I too enjoy walking my dogs in abandoned cemeteries on stormy nights, dressed all in black.

My thoughts: Before I get into this review, I need to provide some context about my current relationship with horror films. I used to love discovering something scary as a kid and that extended to high school when I saw The Ring in theaters and it terrified me. And then at some point, my ability to be scared just sort of faded away, although I kind of missed the adrenaline. The last couple of years have brought some stellar horror films, including Hereditary, which I saw several months ago and I STILL have nightmares about sometimes. I won’t go too deep into the movie right now, except to say that elements of this movie are really similar to that one and thus explains why Black Sunday frightened me more than it would have had I watched it a couple of years ago.

Black Sunday isn’t scary enough to give me nightmares but it definitely gave me a sense of dread throughout the movie and I did make sure all my doors were locked before falling asleep. For one thing, it’s gory but not in a blood and guts kind of way. The first scene shows Asa the witch as she is about to be executed. The executioner brings a creepy mask of satan and then hammers it on to her face. And then they burn her alive just to be safe. When she is found a few hundred years later a man takes the mask off of her corpse. I was surprised by how realistic the skeleton was.The absolute creepiest scene for me was seeing Asa come back to life. The man who removed her mask also accidentally dripped blood on her dead body and it started the process of her returning to life. Seeing her growing her eyes back and having them return to their sockets was so, so disturbing. I really am surprised a movie made so long ago would have these sorts of details.

One thing that confused me the entire time was whether Asa was also a vampire and also her boyfriend/servant/ whatever. Several victims had distinct bite marks on their necks and it is referenced that the only way to stay safe is to have a cross nearby. Asa was definitely a witch but also worshipped satan, which makes sense. But the vampire angle just threw me off completely. This movie goes over and above to be as creepy as possible. Pretty much everything happens in the dead of night or during a storm and each setting is dark and foreboding. Adding in vampires just seems like overkill at this point.

Final review: 4/5. I was pleasantly surprised!

Up next: horrorfest continues

 

Advertisements

#352- The Hills Have Eyes

Quick recap: A loving family spends all of their time together hunting, cooking food and cracking jokes. Their world is turned upside down when a family full of jerks breaks down in their territory. Can this close-knit group fight to save what is rightfully theirs?

I don’t think you can find a closer relationship than these two. Whatever they are.

Fun (?) fact: Yup. That was a real dead dog director Wes Craven used.

happier times

 

My thoughts: Welcome back to Horrorfest, a month long celebration of (usually not) scary movies! This year I decided to kick off with a couple of classics. First up is The Hills Have Eyes, directed by horror legend Wes Craven. I reviewed Both Scream and A Nightmare on Elm Street during previous Horrorfests and both movies were sufficiently scary for me. This one, however, was not.

I’ve never been big on gore but I hoped for at least a little inbred creepiness. There was a little of that as I wondered how all the clan was related but,except for the necklace teeth and pelts everywhere, they weren’t all that terrifying. If anything, the patriarch of the stranded family scared me more than the murderous cannibals did. He talked of being a recently retired cop, which I think is the best possible solution because this guy was awful. He verbally abused his wife, made sure that every sentence had an expletive and carelessly handled firearms. I guess I was a little bummed out that the clan burned him alive but only because it made his wife and children sad.

Mostly, I was confused by the clan more than any other emotion. They are described as inbred, low intelligent beings yet they refer to each other using the names of the planets. And their speech is at times prehistoric and other times eloquent as they made puns and talked.  And yes, what they did was horrific BUT if they were so hungry as Ruby claimed than what better find than a fat, juicy, baby? I’m not saying I would ever eat babies but I can’t judge an inbred family who lives out in the desert, which is housed in a nuclear testing site. Sometimes you do what you have to do.

 

Final review: 1/5. Not scary and I don’t know where to draw the line between ‘cult classic’ and ‘b-movie’

Up next: more Horrorfest

 

 

#321- The Black Cat

Quick recap: Young lovers, Brad and Janet Peter and Joan, get caught in a horrible rainstorm and take refuge in Dr. Frank-N-Furter’s mansion Hjalmar Poelzig’s ultra modern fortress.

pretty sure this guy would break his neck trying to do the Time Warp

Fun (?) fact: Despite Edgar Allen Poe being credited as a writer for The Black Cat, this movie has nothing to do with his story.

The absolute opposite of terrifying for me

My thoughts: So, here we are, once again, at the end of Horrorfest. I’d say it’s been a wild ride but that’s not true at all. Having given up on scaring myself, I chose The Black Cat because one of my favorite podcasts, You Must Remember This, is devoting several episodes to Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff. Seeing as how both of them star in this film, it seemed the perfect choice to close out October.

I’m going to go ahead and spoil an 80 year old movie by telling you it wasn’t the cat behind all the evil. I mean, that’s what they want you to think, but it’s totally the creepy guy everyone suspected all along. Then again, it’s hard to tell what is going on most of the time. Poelzig is some sort of sorcerer but also an ultra modern architect. He claims Dr. Vitus Werdegast’s wife died naturally but then he suspended her body and married her daughter so………….. yeah. Totally natural. Poelzig also has his sights set on Joan, the newlywed who wanders into his house. There’s a ceremony at the end when I think he tries to marry a whole harem of women, but then there’s also this scene which reminded me of Rocky and Dr. Frank-N-Furter:

Is this movie creepy? Totally. The accents alone paint an ominous picture but then you add in the score and weird house and you end up with a film that sticks with you longer than it should. On the other hand, the cat only appeared for less than 2 minutes and for a movie that bills itself as The Black Cat, I expected more.

Final review: This would’ve been a complete classic had it featured more cat. Because of this, I’m dropping it to a 2/5

Up next: Rear Window

#320- Don’t Look Now

Quick recap: After losing his daughter in a drowning accident, John starts to have visions which may or may not be trying to warn him of danger.

A big fat nope that scene was

Fun (?) fact: Julie Christie ( who plays Laura) and Donald Sutherland ( who plays John), had never met before shooting the film and the first scene they did was the infamous sex scene.

Look it up yourself if you are dying to see this man naked

My thoughts: Although my primary goal in Horrorfest is to work my way through the list, my secondary goal is find something terrifying. Save for some recent horror films ( shout out to It for still giving me nightmares in my 3os), I haven’t found much in this book that really got to me. Don’t Look Now was supposed to be that film. Real life situations scare me (versus monster movies) but those involving dead children go straight to the top of my list.

I want to go ahead and mention that there is a twist of sorts at some point in the movie and though the film is over 40 years old, I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who might want to watch it. I knew what was going to happen thanks to gifs I’ve seen and I think that took away from the horror a bit. There were still a few creepy scenes though, that got me going. I posted one above that occurred within the first 10 minutes of the film and I thought was a great way to portray the death. There are several parts of the film that are like this: utterly creepy without overdoing it. Many refer to Don’t Look Now as ‘gothic horror’ and I tend to agree with the label. There aren’t any things that jump out or do anything horrifying. It’s more of a sense of dread throughout the movie and a reticence to find what might happen next.

Overall, though, this movie just didn’t do much for me. Maybe it was the slow moving plot, the droning on and on about the same things, the weird sex scene, or maybe it was just that I couldn’t keep this gif of Donald Sutherland out of my head:

Whatever it is that did it, I’m disappointed. After doing some research I have a better appreciation for what the film did and I especially love all the symbolism. The fact that so many well known people love this movie also speaks to its greatness, but it just wasn’t my cup of tea.

Final review: 2/5

Up next: one more movie left in Horrorfest!