Sunday, April 4, 2010

Celluloid Horrors Movie Reviews

Alien Contamination (1980)

Director: Luigi Cozzi
Cast: Ian McCulloch, Louise Marleau, Marino Masé, Siegfried Rauch, Gisela Hahn, Carlo De Mejo and Carlo Monni

1980's Italian sci-fi\horror classic, Alien Contamination (known also as Contamination) was directed by the great Luigi Cozzi, and starred that action man himself, Ian McCulloch, of Fulci's undead grue classic, ZOMBI (1980), and it has all the essentials of great spaghetti horror: lots of gore, terrible dubbing and a story that makes almost no sense.
When a deserted cargo ship is discovered to be on a collision course with NYC's harbors, policemen descend upon the seemingly deserted ship, only to find the bloody remains of the strangely mutilated crew, which look as if they've been torn inside out. The police, led by a perpetually scruffy looking Marino Mase as a pissy NYC police detective, find a cargo hold full of strange looking green eggs. They also find out why the dead bodies look so bad, when one of their number stupidly decides to cuddle with one of the embryos. Soon, the government steps in to find the origin of these nasty eggs, with Louise Marleau, as a fem-power military Colonel, in charge of the investigation. She decides to enlist disgraced astronaut Ian McCulloch, who it seems wasn't believed when he said he saw the same eggs on Mars months before during a space landing. So Marleau teams up with pissed off Mase and McCulloch to track down the eggs' origin. And you won't believe where the eggs come from and how the aliens intend to invade our lonely little rock. Suffice it say, you won't be disappointed (even if the alien monster does resembles a Legend of Zelda Boss).
The soundtrack is vintage Goblin (my fav prog rock horror band, ever!) and their sound effects add a whole new level of creep to this almost forgotten grue classic.
If you have a chance to catch this one, it's highly recommended for fun and green eggs and ham, Sam I am.

--Nickolas Cook

Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)

Director: Tommy Lee Wallace
Cast: Tom Atkins, Stacey Nelkin, Dan O'Herlihy and Nancy Kyes

Directed by John Carpenter's longtime friend, movie collaborator and bandmate (you can hear an example of their band music in Carpenter's classic Big Trouble In Little China) Tommy Lee Wallace, this has to be one of the strangest horror movies of the 80s. And for those of us who lived through those halcyon days, that's saying a lot. So what do a stolen a five-ton Stonehenge rock and some freaky Halloween masks have in common?
You really wouldn't believe me if I told you.
Hell, I've seen the movie a dozen times since 1982 and I still don't believe it.
But that's besides the point.
This is just plain fun times for horror fans.
Seems Dan O'Herlihy wants to play history's greatest practical joke, by putting tiny pieces of Stonehenge inside his Silver Shamrock halloween masks and then performing a black magic ritual that activates said Stonehenge bits, thereby turning the masks' wearers into...well, that's never really explained very well. It's hinted at with scenes of kids' faces oozing snakes, bugs and pus; but if you're looking for logic and coherency, maybe this isn't the movie for you. Our hero, Tom Atkins, plays a divorced doc who teams up with his murdered patient's daughter, played by Stacey Nelkin, and they traipse across California to the small town of Santa Mira, which seems to be run like a fascist state, by elderly mask manufacturer, O'Herlihy. Well, they don't play it too smart and alert the bad guys to their real mission and, soon, they're hauled away in the middle of the night by O'Herlihy's robot goons (yeah...did I mention there were robots? No? Well, there're robots in this horror film. Just deal with it, okay? I said it made no sense, didn't I?) and detained while O'Herlihy spouts out his master plan...which in the light of things, seems a little stupid, because he's going to die, too.
Anyway, I won't spoil the end for you. Just remember: you've got a little gore, some great acting from Tom Atkins (still one of my fav actors), Nelkin gets naked a couple of times and there's that truly bizarre story.
If you haven't seen it, what the hell are you waiting for? Netflix it! Now! For the children!
(Three more days to Halloween, Halloween, Halloween...three more days to Halloween, Silver Shamrock!)

--Nickolas Cook

The Green Slime (1968)

Director: Kinji Fukasaku
Cast: Robert Horton, Richard Jaeckel and Luciana Paluzzi

From the first moment the rockin' theme song (coming to get you, green sliiiiiiiiiime) plays, while the opening credits pop before your eyes, you just know you're in for a good time with this Japanese\US co-production.
Set in earth's future, the bulk of the story takes place on a space station where a hideous force of invading green slime monsters (carried onboard by a bunch of careless astronauts sent to blow up a stray asteroid headed for earth...hmmmm...sound familiar?) are soon eating up all the electric power they can get to, getting huge, multiplying like crazy, and killing off the locals. But it's not all green slime antics. Heck no, there's adventure and romance, thanks to the likes of such drive-in vets as Robert Horton, Richard Jaeckel and Luciana Paluzzi.
Okay, so this isn't the kind of sci-fi horror that's gonna put the Alien franchise in any danger. The special effects are can even see the strings on the spaceships at times...the monsters are basically rubber suit fodder. But like I said, it's fun. It's Saturday matinee kind of fun, something modern filmmakers have forgotten how to do, with their overblown CGI budgets and multi-million dollar stars.

--Nickolas Cook

House By the Cemetery (1981)

Director: Lucio Fulci
Cast: Catriona MacColl, Paolo Malco, Giovanni Frezza, Silvia Collatina, Dagmar Lassander and Giovanni De Nava

I just got the chance to see this masterpiece of Italian grue on the big screen for the first time, thanks to our local arthouse cinema, The Loft, and I've got to say, even with the usual assinine MST3K antics from the audience, it was a hell of a thrill.
Unhappily married couple, Paolo Malco and Catriona MacColl, along with their whiny son, Giovanni Frezzi, move from the big city to a small country mansion so dad can do some research on old houses. Everything starts out weird from the beginning, as their young son suddenly begins seeing dead little girls and having conversations with her about why he shouldn't go to the old house. But the parents prevail and soon we're treated to tombs in the middle of the living room (no one thought that was strange, I guess...well, not strange enough to get the fuck out of the house anyway), some really grotesque, graphic murder set pieces, some great atmospheric organ music from Walter Rizzati (and this soundtrack has been a favorite of mine for years, ever since I first saw the movie on VHS back in the mid-80s), and a zombie. Yes, a zombie. This is a Fulci movie after all, which means zombies can pop up anytime, anywhere. In this case, our zombie happens to be Dr. Freudstein, the original inhabitant of the house, who has been living secretly in the basement for decades, killing anyone who dares to enter his domicile.
Fulci always had a sort of strangely existential approach to narrative and The House By the Cemetery is no exception. There's little logic, and even sometimes, it feels as if the entire movie might be out of sequence (which it's said actually happened upon its original release and no one noticed for six months, and it happened again upon its original VHS release, and again, no one noticed for several months. What does that tell you about the narrative logic and coherency of this film?). But this may be my 3rd favorite Fulci film of all time, right after Zombie and The Beyond and right before #4: The Gates of Hell. The terrible dubbing also makes for some great unintended laughs, but its the histrionic acting that really keeps you glued to the screen. The bat stabbing scene is just fucked up. You truly have to see it to believe it.
So I highly recommend this to anyone who considers him/herself to be a true blue Horrorhead.

--Nickolas Cook