Tag Archives: creep factor

The Summer of Lovecraft: Curse of the Crimson Altar (1968)

curse_of_the_crimson_altar_poster_03

“Terror fills the night as she stalks her prey!”

Directed by Vernon Sewell

Starring Boris Karloff, Christopher Lee, Mark Eden, Virginia Wetherell, Barbara Steele and Michael Gough. Blimey.

This film connects to both our Christopher Lee retrospective and the ongoing Summer of Lovecraft. Economical!

The Story

It’s our second outing for “The Dreams in the Witch House,” so I’ll be brief. Physics student believes physics and witchcraft may be related; he is right. Old house, weird room, rat monster, interdimensional travel, baby-murdering, anti-Polish prejudice, heart eaten. OK? OK.

The Film

Antique dealer Robert Manning goes back to his family’s ancestral village of Greymarshe to look for his missing brother. While there, he encounters local squire type Morley (Lee), his beautiful daughter Eve (Wetherell), nervous butler Elder (Gough) and grumpy old professor Marshe (Karloff), together with his sunglassed factotum Basil. Eve has a wild hippie party that is totally unimportant to the plot except that as soon as Manning arrives at remote Craxted Lodge we get to see some tasteful seminudity.

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Continue reading The Summer of Lovecraft: Curse of the Crimson Altar (1968)

From the Archive – Hemoglobin (aka Bleeders) (1997)

Hemoglobin

It’s in the blood

Directed by Peter Svatek
Starring Rutger Hauer and Roy Dupuis

Way back when, Eva van Daam (described by the narrator as ‘one of the great narcissists’) screws her own twin brother as its the nearest she can get to screwing herself (as you do), thus getting her entire noble family booted out of Holland. They emigrate to the New World, perhaps hoping to find tolerance for their weird, incestuous ways in Fife, Alabama or something, where the family peters out and vanishes. Henceforth the movie drops any trace of potential which this premise might have held.

Flash forward to the now, and John Strauss (Dupuis) – a weird, pale, photosensitive guy with haemophilia, mismatched eyes and a mysterious trust fund – is travelling to an island to trace his roots, accompanied by his wife, a trained nurse, and presumably his full-time carer. He is dying of a congenital blood defect, and wants to find out if he has any family who know what it is and how to treat it. No one seems to know much about him, until he meets the old nurse on the island. She tells him that his family – the van Daams, natch – went into hiding underground when the islanders burned their house down because they were so very weird, but that they sent him away because he was different; because he was normal. He does however have these odd cravings, but she won’t tell him what for. She is then killed by a legless troll that leaps out of the cupboard and bashes her spine in.

Hi. This is our villain, not some sort of subhuman lackey. If you thought we were in for vampires, I have to disappoint you.

Meanwhile, the local undertaker and entrepreneur has been accused of making substandard coffins, so the entire cemetery is being dug up and shipped to the mainland for reburial, as you do. Almost immediately, people start to disappear, and the islanders – led by Dr Marlowe (Oscar-nominee and Golden Globe-winner Hauer) discover that the van Daams’ freakish, subterranean, hermaphrodite, troll-thing descendants are responsible.

It turns out that the van Daams became so inbred that they were forced to consume the embalmed flesh of the recently buried in order to survive, because of course horrific inbreeding leads inevitably to a terrible formaldehyde dependency. Now there are no more corpses in the graveyard – that’s right; I said formaldehyde dependency – they have turned to the flesh of the living in desperation – no, not blood, not flesh, formaldehyde – hence the disappearances.

As they hate light, Marlowe gets the islanders together in a lighthouse – and also saves Strauss by telling him about the formaldehyde, and giving him a pickled van Daam baby in a jar to eat – but of course the power goes out. A small number of islanders are killed, before the van Dam trolls’ tunnels collapse, leaving Strauss to rejoin his family and cop off with his hermaphrodite twin sister, and his wife to leave the island with their unborn child. She seems very excited about the pregnancy considering she’s likely to give birth to a congenital formaldehyde drinker, but I guess that’s the hormones talking.

What’s wrong with it?

Well, for starters, there’s the formaldehyde issue. Then there’s the van Daams themselves. Being a bunch of stunted, hermaphrodite formaldehyde eating weirdoes just isn’t nearly as interesting, or as frightening, or as creepy, as them being inbred, anaemic, haemophiliac vampires, and frankly they look like Yoda’s evil twins most of the time. Most of the time, you wonder why the islanders don’t just kick the across the room, since it doesn’t look like it would be that difficult. They barely even manage to be nasty; John the weirdo is a dozen times creepier, with the unknown urges, and the trying to rape his pregnant wife, and the eating of the foetus in formaldehyde.

The villagers, meanwhile, are such a pack of gripless wasters that you just want more of them to get eaten. Even when they have guns, they just stand around and watch their loved ones get dragged away.

The film ends with no real conclusion or closure, and with no explanation of a) how the trolls apparently continue to survive without the formaldehyde, and b) why the islanders don’t have them gassed like rabbits as soon as the film is over.

And there’s bad movie sex. Twice. Including the touching ‘my husband just ate a baby in formaldehyde and he tried to rape me yesterday, so I must have him’ sex scene.

Also, Rutger Hauer provides the acting highlights. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

On a more technical note, as well as the trolls looking naff, the lighting is rubbish. I suppose it’s meant to be moody, but it’s just dark really. A couple of gratuitous sweeping aerial shots aside (I guess they hired a helicopter and wanted to get their money’s worth, said fellow BMM Reviewer Simon Drake), the direction is pretty lacklustre, and while there’s a competent – if occasionally grating – score, the dialogue is so mumbled that two out of three viewers failed to note at all that the wife was pregnant, and I only picked it up by inference.

What’s right with it?

Nada.

How bad is it really?

This film is an utter and abject turd. There’s a reason that it got its own page on the original site, and that is that not even a Mark Dacascos movie deserves to be on the same page as this stink bomb. I mean, I’ve seen some real tripe in my time, but this film was just stunningly bad. The film is nasty in all the wrong ways, but not even nasty enough to get a decent squirm. It’s also cheaply exploitative, including a gratuitous tit shot on a hanging corpse for crying out loud. There is nothing about this vile piece of celluloid excrement that is done right.

Best bit?

Ba-ha! Bwahahahahahahahaaaaaa! BWAAAAAH-HAHAHAHAAAAA!

BWAHAHAHAHAHAAAAA!

Hem. Sorry. No; there isn’t a best bit.

What’s up with?

Where to start…? Oh yes:

  • The formaldehyde vampires? Not scary, guys. I mean, come on; how could you think they would be? “We have come for your embalming fluid!” Just doesn’t rate alongside “We come to drink your blood!” It’s just not as scary if it can be conveniently shop bought.
  • The doctor telling the freakish John that he needs to eat embalmed flesh, then giving him a baby van Daam in a jar to eat!? I mean, what’s up with that?
  • The gratuitous sex scene, in the middle of the whole “they’re coming to eat us” panic?
  • The title? Why not call it: Formaldehyde? It’s not about haemoglobin; and it certainly isn’t about bleeders; Strauss is the only haemophilliac in the film.
  • How come John turned out normal? And how come his twin sister looked fairly normal, even if she was actually a hermaphrodite? I mean, they were very normal, given that the rest of the family had been deformed trolls for generations.

Ratings

Production Values – Poor to barely adequate. The lighting is inadequate (no doubt they felt ‘subdued’), the sound balance is for shit, and the direction is poor. Oh, and lest we forget, the van Daam trolls look like Yoda’s evil twin. 17

Dialogue and Performances – Rutger Hauer takes the acting honours (in English), which should tell you how bad everyone else was. There’s bugger all in the way of emoting, and some half-hearted screams. Plus a whole lot of dead frames where the actors stand there and wait for something bad to happen to them, although that’s really the director’s fault, I guess. 19

Plot and Execution – If stunted, hermaphrodite, inbred, formaldehyde-drinking trolls constitute a plot, then my face is red, and this film was down there with the best of them. The execution was still off though, with the pacing being rubbish and the exposition non-existent or nonsensical. 19

Randomness – Inbred, hermaphrodite, formaldehyde-dependent trolls. Lost scions. All the corpses on the island being dug up because they were in substandard coffins. Huh? 19

Waste of Potential – Creepy inbred vampires have a lot of potential in the horror department, but the minute you make them into formaldehyde dependent trolls instead of effete, Byronesque sociopaths, you lose it all, you really do. 19

Overall 93%

Dungeons & Dragons: The Book of Vile Darkness (2012)

Vile Darkness Poster

Directed by Gerry Lively
Starring Jack Derges and Eleanor Gecks

We open with the last of the Knights of the New Sun, an ironically old and defunct holy order who once threw down an evil sorcerer (the opening narration tells us so; with animation) and were the guardians of peace for centuries, but are now an irrelevance in an age when every small town has a curtain wall and a magically-shielded trove of enchanted treasures. Newly anointed knight Grayson takes his vows of duty and chastity, like his father and grandfather before him, but the mystical light show fails to happen, as it has failed to happen for decades, and he is feeling a little blue when the order are attacked by barbarians and wiped out, save for Grayson – who is left for dead – and his father, who is captured.

In pursuit of the barbarians, Grayson gets help from a friendly prostitute, as you do when you’re a paladin. She hooks him up with a magic item seller – a contact that is no doubt of immense use to a small-town whore – who sells him some black armour and a jaggedy sword so that he can disguise himself as a badass. The prostitute – judging by the credits she might be called Carlotta, but names are elusive things in this film, and none of the actors are recognisable enough to narrow it down – then points him towards Akordia, a ruthless witch who is recruiting sell-swords in the service of the barbarians’ master, Shathrax the Mind Flayer.

He does not make the best showing at first, given that the posse of evil bastards are unconvinced by Grayson’s manly swagger. However, by killing one of her existing goons, Grayson wins a place on team evil, alongside Seith the Libertarian Assassin, Bezz the Vermin Lord, and Vimak the enormous black guy with the immense sexual appetite (I think someone slipped and fell on a stereotype). In the hopes of being led to his father he goes with them on their mission for Shathrax, despite knowing that he may have to betray his vows to maintain his cover.

This Fearsome Five head out, slay a dragon, massacre a small town and generally behave badly. Sure, they occasionally stop to discuss philosophy (Seith believes that poor people just exist as somewhere to keep his knives), ambition (Vimak was exiled for being weak and wants to go back and kill everyone who knows about it, although apparently he mostly wants to sleep with a huge number of women simultaneously), to kill each other (even Grayson murders Vimak and lets Seith die), or just to afflict people with bug plagues for the sheer, unadulterated hell of it (Bezz the Vermin Lord digs insects; go figure), but mostly it’s just one bad deed after another. Finally, with most of them dead of friendly fire, they retrieve the cover of the long-lost Book of Vile Darkness from its keeper.

Said keeper, by the way, is a ‘slaymate’; an undead child betrayed and abandoned by her guardians and now subsisting on cruelty and hate. It is very, very creepy. Being allergic to all touchy-feely feels, the Slaymate reveals that Akordia is in love with Grayson after (spoilers) he betrays one of his vows when they have creepy, Red Sonya-ish ‘you saved my life so I must do you’ suddenly-submissive-Amazon, post-dragon slaying sex, which is a phrase almost as uncomfortable to say as the scene of Akordia being all ‘the witchy law says you may ravish me as you desire’ is to watch.

Finally, we reach the castle of Shathrax, who turns out to be a guy with his mouth sewn shut who speaks through two women he keeps on chains, which is creepy, but so not a Mind Flayer. Grayson rescues his father, and when they are cornered his defiant hope kindles his paladin amulet into life (bizarrely in response to his declaring himself a blackguard, which in D&D is an anti-paladin rather than a bounder and a cad). Shock, horror! This turns out to be a trap, as the villains need ‘liquid pain’ extracted from a true knight using a machine clearly knocked off from Count Rugen’s design in The Princess Bride to ink the new Book of Vile Darkness, but Akordia betrays the dark lord for love and light returns.

The end.

What’s wrong with it?

So, another Dungeons & Dragons movie; more mock heroics and dodgy dragons, and perhaps another chance to see Bruce Payne in purple lipstick chewing on the scenery.

Right?

Well… not exactly.

The third D&D movie takes its title and setting from the game line’s controversial Evil Bastard’s Manual, released amid much sound and fury as a ‘mature readers only’ product from the pen of Monte ‘Monte Cook’s World of Darkness’ Cook, introducing rules for sex, drugs and rock and roll (well, drugs and bad magic rituals at least) and making Tracy ‘All thieves must be evil unless they are racially inclined to kleptomania’ Hickman cry.

What’s right with it?

It has a few decent moments, and some effort clearly went into it, and the evil adventuring party are not only properly evil, there is also a clear division between the Chaotic, Neutral and Lawful Evil members which shows proper commitment to the material.

How bad is it really?

The Book of Vile Darkness is… bad, but not as bad as the first D&D movie and for different reasons. The attempt at grimdark is partially successful, but Grayson is painfully bland and Akordia not much better and the less said about the awkward stab at sexing up the franchise the better. Seith, Bezz and Vimak are the stars here, since they are clearly having fun, especially Bezz, whose presence seems to be as a reminder that not all evil is Lawful Evil. There are also some nice moments, and even some half-decent dialogue.

All in all, however, if you’re not siting up into the wee small hours waiting for your laundry to finish, there are probably better choices available.

Best bit?

Having murdered the giant Vimak, and needing to make it look as if he ran off with the treasure, Grayson stuffs the corpse into a bag of holding.

What’s up with…?

  • The Paladin in disguise? Honestly, it’s amazing that this works at all, given how incredibly bland and wet our hero is. If you picture a cross between Johnny Depp and Karl Urban, with all the manly passion and charisma of Justin Beiber, you’re about there.
  • The Knights’ vow of chastity. Grayson is at least a third generation knight, but they forswear the pleasures of the flesh. I pity their wives; I really do.
  • The Witch law that you have to get nekkid for a guy who saves your life? Oh, yes; they were trying to sex things up some.

Ratings

Production values – Mediocre, at best. The dragon is pretty clearly CGI and nothing is better than you would see on a TV series; and not a good TV series either. I’m talking the level of Lexx or Cleopatra 2525. Buffy the Vampire Slayer looked this good in the 90s, and today even nuWho would be embarrassed. 15

Dialogue and performances – Mostly pretty lame, although some of the support is good. Bezz the Vermin Lord is an enthusiastic treat, and clearly would have been Bruce Payne if they could have afforded him. The dialogue has a few corkers, but is mostly nothing to write home about, either for good or for ill. 13

Plot and execution – The plot is coherent, at least, and the direction and fight choreography passes the first test of being better than I could have managed. 12

Randomness –  – Pretty well in hand, for the most part, although the fact that a small mountain town has a towering wall, a magical vault and a massive, exotic brothel seemed a little out of left-field. 8

Waste of potential  – Pretty much all it could have been, with what it had to work with. 5

Overall 53%