Saturday, January 21, 2017

Asylum (1972)

After spending the day with my beautiful and talented daughter Genesis in Morgantown today, I decided to kick back and find something interesting to watch. Incredibly, while searching Shudder, I accidentally stumbled upon a movie that has eluded me for decades (I could only remember the scenes with the tailor). That movie is the 1972 Amicus anthology Asylum.

Plot/ In order to secure a job at a mental institution, a young psychiatrist must interview four patients inside the asylum.

I love the horror anthologies put out by Amicus during the 1970s, and this one is falls in line with those. While this one may not be the best of its kind, it holds a special place in my heart, as it is the film that made me a fan of horror back decades ago. Yes, it is nowhere near as scary as I remember it as a child; this one has stuck with me (especially the story of the tailor). In fact, I have searched many years and watched many horror films trying to rediscover this one. The cast is outstanding, the performances solid, and the framing story does a great job at setting the atmosphere inside the dark and dismal asylum. Plus, with the stories coming from Robert Block, it is hard to imagine it not leaving an impression. Sure, some of the effects did not age well, and the material does seem a little tame in comparison to some of the other films of the era, but those flaws are easily overlooked. In the end, if you love the vintage anthologies from one of the best periods of horror cinema, give it a shot. It may not be the best, but it is entertaining and a fun watch.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Hostage to the Devil (2016)

After taking a night off to work on one of my many projects, I decided to get back at it early this evening. What was my choice? It was the 2016 documentary Hostage to the Devil.

Plot/ A child possessed. An exorcist locked in combat with an ancient evil. In the battle for saving a soul, the question remains, just who really is the 'Hostage to the Devil'?

For many, the name Malachi Martin is somewhat polarizing. If you don’t recognize the name, he well-known theologian, and controversial figure in and around the Vatican and in the study of demonic possession. I remember the first time I heard him speak; it was eye opening. In this documentary, there is a tremendous mixture of archived audio recordings and footage alongside eyewitness testimonials that show the truth behind many pontifical secrets. Well made and thought provoking, this documentary is more that a story of Martin and his death, it is an expose of many different elements within Catholicism, and one of the reasons why religious practice sits at a crossroads. In the end, if you have heard the name Malachi Martin, this is a solid documentary and one that you should watch.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Birthday Tribute to Edgar Allan Poe - Enigmas (A Poem)

If you have read my blog, you would understand that Edgar Allan Poe is one of my favorite authors and one of the biggest influences on me as a writer. I love his works, and the way he always was able to take the reader on a journey. He was truly ahead of his time and an artist that was taken too soon. This is something I wrote tonight on the eve of his birthday as I thought about Poe, and what he and his works have meant to me through the years. 


I stand quietly upon the land,
The vast countenance of oblivion staring into my depths,
Lucid stairways alive at last;
And illicit secrecies surround the silent enigmas once held dear,
Blind but I can see,
Dead but I can breathe,
A final frontier of all that was,
A dismal remnant of what will be,
Random elements twist through the darkness,
Creating life from the impossible,
A lone specimen from the mind of the master,
Edgar whispered; he lost his cat…
…Is it here?

Is this hollow existence merely a dream?
A spectral theory rising from a demonic abyss,
Is anyone here?
Can anyone hear me?
No, just the nothingness of decay shrouded by exile,
Trapped by a forgotten paradox once held as truth,
Am I alive?
Or, am dead?
I can feel every sensation, but cannot touch the frigid memories,
Paralyzed inside this void; no one answers my call,
Failed experiments cloud my vision; my secrets remain unseen,
Another string is strung…
… And the cat cries from the wall.

The Whip and the Body (1963)

As I sat here on the eve of Edgar Allan Poe’s birthday, I had originally intended to watch one of he classics based on his works. However, after some thought, I decided to venture into something that could have been inspired by Poe, with the 1963 Mario Bava classic The Whip and the Body.  

Plot/ In the 19th century, a sadistic nobleman terrorizes the members of his family. He is found dead, but his ghost soon returns to haunt the residents of his castle.

I am sure that when this one came out, it was controversial with the mixture of gothic horror with some sadism mixed in for good measure. In 1963, movies such as that were considered taboo, and likely would have not been well received. Starring Christopher Lee, this Mario Bava entry is an entertaining movie, and one that has many of the elements that made his movies memorable. Between the beautiful cinematography and the stylistic use of colors, solid performances, and an interesting storyline, this movie has everything a Bava fan could ask for. Yes, the ending does feel lacking and there a many illogical moments, but those almost seem to be part of Bava lore. In the end, this movie is an entertaining watch and one that should be viewed. If you have not seen it, but love gothic horror cinema, give it a shot.

The House of Seven Corpses (1974)

I have definitely been on a retro kick lately, although I did sneak in a viewing of Repo: The Genetic Opera. To continue my retro feel, I went way into my youth for the 1974 horror flick The House of Seven Corpses.

Plot/ A director is filming on location in a house where seven murders were committed. The caretaker warns them not to mess with things they do not understand (the murders were occult related), but the director wants to be as authentic as possible and has his cast re-enact rituals that took place in the house thus summoning a ghoul from the nearby cemetery to bump the whole film crew off one by one.

Horror movies of the 1970s were a mixed bag, as the genre seemed to be in a period of transition. While this one is not technically very good, I feel that is often overlooked as a piece of horror history. Yes, there are some flaws with the way the movie is scripted and paced, but there is a certain charm that will draw fans of early 1970s horror in. The cast is solid and there are some decent performances (John Carradine is definitely creepy), the atmosphere is dark and heavy, and the storyline is entertaining and interesting. Sure, there is not a lot of blood or gore, there is little action, there could have been some more supernatural elements added in, and the effects are nowhere near the quality of today, but for a lower budgeted film of that era, they are not that bad. In the end, this is a nice retro piece and a fun movie to help pass some time. Is it perfect, by no means, but it is a fun slow burn haunted house flick that is good on a cold windy night.