Friday, September 28, 2012

October Horror Challenge - The Preview

October is right around the corner yet again and that means for the 4th consecutive year I will be participating in the October Horror Movie Challenge at DVDTalk. The challenge is in its 8th year and just gets bigger and better every year. The basic idea of the challenge is to watch as much horror as you can during the month and have fun talking about what you watch with the other participants. To participate all you have to do is be signed up at DVDTalk forums and create a list post in the appropriate thread. Every participant has a chance to win a prize from the great sponsors this year. Sponsors and prizes are at an all time high this year and yes, Celluloid Terror is donating some prizes for the challenge.

Just like last year my daily viewing will be recapped on this site with mini reviews and thoughts about each movie. Any other seasonal stuff that I end up doing such as pumpkin carving, haunted houses, and anything else that goes along with Halloween will also be covered. This is the most active month of the year for CT and always the most fun too.

The challenge officially starts September 30 at dusk and ends the morning of November 1st at dawn. Join the challenge, follow my month of turning my brain to Jell-O and have fun with me. See you in a few days with the first post!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


Directed By: Various
Written By: Various
Starring: Various
Color/702 Minutes/Not Rated

The Film
By 1980 the famed horror studio Hammer had ceased theatrical productions and started an anthology TV series known as HAMMER HOUSE OF HORROR. The series ran for 13 one hour episodes that were cut for airing in the US, with the final episode never even making it to American screens. 

"Witching Time" is the first episode of the series. Directed by Don Leaver and originally airing on September 13, 1980, this episode starts out with a sequence that could be taken from any slasher the decade would come to be known for however this is not how the episode would play out. Take a little bith of witchcraft and add in some time travel, nudity and possession and you have a worthy start to this series. Look for Italian genre film favorite Ian McCulloch  to guest star as the doctor. A week later came "The Thirteenth Reunion" helmed by long time Hammer collaborator Peter Sasdy. Look for a familiar British face in Warren Clarke who played one of Alex De Large's droogs in Kubricks A Clockwork Orange. The horrors that high society partake in and get away with are on full display here. Rounding out the first disc in the set is another episode from Peter Sasdy that stars Denholm Elliott, a face fans of Indiana Jones will undoubtedly recognize. In this episode Elliott plays a real estate agent who dreams of murder over and over (and over) until his mind begins to crack under the pressure and dreams become a reality.

 Disc 2 gets underway with "Growing Pains" which feels a lot like The Omen through much of the episode. The atmosphere is creepy surrounding the main character, a young boy who was recently adopted. The ending doesn't quite live up to the build. I still found it to be a worthy entry. Have you ever heard how a house can harbor negative emotions or that an inanimate object can be evil? That is the case in "The House That Bled To Death", which has some of my favorite visuals of the entire series and may be the most unforgiving in it's nature. Director Robert Young made his Hammer debut with the underrated Vampire Circus. Here he directs "Charlie Boy", the story of a man and his wife who have inherited the art collection from their dead uncle. Included in which is an African statue similar to a voodoo doll that begins to claim the lives of those surrounding it. This may be among the most brutal of all the episodes. "The Silent Scream" starts out disc number 3 and was directed by Alan Gibson the man responsible for Hammer titles such as Dracula A.D. 1972 (which I love) and The Satanic Rites Of Dracula. While he got to direct Christopher Lee in those two films he gets to direct the other top name for Hammer, Peter Cushing. This episode is very well made, has great performances and excellent tension. There is good reason that this is probably the most well liked episode of the series. The only film in the series to use a traditional horror monster is "Children Of The Full  Moon". This episode is pretty good with it's use of old Hungarian folk lore and a spooky countryside atmosphere. A little more action would have been nice though. Wrapping up the disc is "Carpathian Eagle" a play on the story of Jack The Ripper that has a few twists on and in the story. I found it to be a bit slow and not totally engaging but the payoff is worth it.

The final 4 episodes are split across discs 4 and 5 starting with episode number 10 of the series, "Guardian Of The Abyss". This episode features Satanic cults, black masses, creepy evil antiques... all things I'm a fan of. There is some cool imagery as well that adds even more flare from the devil. All in all an enjoyable episode."Visitor From The Grave" is a bit more psychologically driven and is a decent thriller. Featuring murder, setups, and bodies that won't stay buried this episode spends it's runtime watching the main character descend into madness (again).What starts as an innocent vacation turns into a surreal nightmare where everything that can go wrong, does in "The Two Faces Of Evil". This is an interesting episode from returning director Alan Gibson that twists and turns down a road to doppleganger hell.'The Mark Of Satan" is "the episode that went too far!". The 13th and final episode of the series was never aired for syndication in the US including cable and a run with Elvira home videos and only aired one time during the original run in it's native England. Numerology, Demonology, conspiracies, paranoia, cannibalism and self-mutilation are all on display here in various levels. Is it evil at play or a crazy man's psyche tearing him apart? That is the ultimate question.

The Video
Synapse Films brings us the complete series of HAMMER HOUSE OF HORROR in a nice looking 1.33:1 full frame transfer preserving it's original aspect ratio from it's television broadcast. It isn't clear if any restoration work has been done to the film elements but they look well maintained and very clean. Colors and dark levels are strong and flesh tones look natural. There are only a couple of instances where the image gets soft and these instances only last for a few seconds each. Other than that there is nothing to complain about here.


The Audio
A 2.0 Mono track is the single audio option but it does the job just fine. The level mixing is done with skill as dialogue never has to compete with each episode's soundtrack. Levels are stable across all 5 discs and all in all the audio on this set is handled very well. 

The Extras
Episode Introductions With Film Historian Shane M. Dallman- Each episode receives an intro from Mr. Dallman that provides a brief insight into the making and history of that episode. Everything from key names in the cast to the censorship the episode received during original syndication is covered. These are optional for the episodes but are great to watch at least the first time you make your way through the set. 

Grave Recollections: A Visit With Kathryn Leigh Scott- This interview spends several minutes with the lead actress from the "Visitor From The Grave" episode as she fondly remembers her time spent with Hammer and in the horror genre. 

Hammer Housekeeping: A Visit With Mia Nadasi- Another interview with an actress from "Visitor From The Grave" who is also married to director Peter Sasdy. She discusses working with her husband and on the series. 

Animated Still Gallery

 The Bottom Line 
Synapse Films has put together an attractive 5 disc set in a standard width single Amaray case that presents HAMMER HOUSE OF HORROR uncensored with all of the nudity and violence intact. Any fan of Hammer productions, horror anthology series or horror as a whole will enjoy this set. There is enough variation in each episode that there is something for everyone. The extra features are a nice addition even if they leave us wanting more in the way of supplemental material. I have no problem highly recommending this set to everyone.


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Female Teacher: Dirty Afternoon (DVD Review)

Directed By: Castro Negishi
Written By: ?
Starring: Yuki Kazamatsuri, Ayako Ota, Eri Kanuma
Color/68 Minutes/Not Rated

The Film
Sakiko is a school teacher in Tokyo who has just received a phone call from Sueko, a former student that she barely remembers. Sueko has been accused of being a prostitute by local police and is looking for help in her former teacher. Sueko goes to town to lure men for sex but doesn't take any form of payment. Sakiko doesn't remember Sueko at first until her memory is jarred of when she worked at a school in the mountains and was raped by a man in a nylon ski mask. The painful memories are brought back and Sakiko soon realizes that she is intertwined with Sueko and her family more than she ever thought and that she and her former student are far more similar than she let herself believe. 

FEMALE TEACHER: DIRTY AFTERNOON came off quite a bit raunchier than it may have after recently watching Nympho Divers which was much more lighthearted. There is no shortage of sex in all forms, from meaningful and passionate to an afternoon quickie with a complete stranger in a tea house. The plot of the film only adds to the promiscuity of it all as a victim learns that she is a perpetrator in her own right and can't deal with it so she turns to what else but sex to deal with the pain. Virtually no time is spent within classroom walls despite the film's title, and Sakiko's occupation as a teacher is of little consequence. She could have easily been any other passing female in Sueko's life who happened to have the unfortunate series of events dumped on her. Despite the lack of perverted student/teacher relations that the title certainly implies, at least in my mind, FEMALE TEACHER will satisfy Nikkatsu Roman fans.

The Video
FEMALE TEACHER: DIRTY AFTERNOON is presented in it's OAR of 2.35:1 in this 16x9 transfer. As is the case with the rest of the series this is a pleasant looking transfer that is free of any major annoyances or debris. I couldn't detect any meddling with the picture and the film probably looks about as good as it ever has. A nice job yet again from the Impulse Pictures line of Synapse Films. 


The Audio
A Japanese 2.0 mono track is your only listening choice, with optional English subtitles of course. The track is clear and stable. It won't test your sound system but dialogue is perfectly clear and the subtitles are easy to read and timed well. 

The Extras
Again Jasper Sharp's liner notes are the lone extra but they remain a valuable commodity. 


The Bottom Line 
Impulse Pictures does another fine job with their 8th release in the Nikkatsu Roman Porno line and will keep fans of the series coming back for more. 


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Nympho Diver: G-String Festival (DVD Review)

Directed By: Atsushi Fujiura
Written By: Kazuhiko Ban, Atsushi Fujiura
Starring: Anzai Eri, Ezaki Kazuyo, Aono Rima
Color/69 Minutes/Not Rated

The Film 
A struggling Japanese village is in need of new divers to collect various seafood creatures. Luckily a group of young attractive ladies have just come back from Tokyo and are ready to help out their village. The males of the village are extremely happy at the turn of events and the girls are as willing as the guys are happy. The sex starts to fly anywhere and everywhere with not a care in the world of who may be watching. 

Plot takes a back seat (or perhaps a completely separate car) to nudity and sex in NYMPHO DIVERS. This is an erotic comedy that plays on Japanese traditions and customs and is pretty successful in both areas. The comedy being the harder of the two to pull off, of course, and there are some laughs to be had with some silly characters throughout the town and ridiculous sex situations. There's not a whole lot going on here besides that but it makes for an entertaining light viewing experience.  

The Video
Impulse Pictures delivers NYMPHO DIVERS in an anamorphic widescreen print with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The picture looks good with a strong image that is clean and stable. There was no major print damage noticeable and flesh tones looked nice and natural. This is a really solid transfer.

The Audio
A Japanese 2.0 Mono track is the lone audio option. English subs are available if you don't speak Japanese and they are well timed and written as well as being very easy to read. The audio itself is free of any distortions and remains at a stable level throughout and is a perfectly serviceable track.

The Extras
An original theatrical trailer is the lone disc extra but the real prize, once again, is the liner notes from Jasper Sharp. You should be well on your way to being a walking encyclopedia on Nikkatsu by this point.


The Bottom Line
With spine number 7 in the Nikkatsu line from Impulse Pictures, NYMPHO DIVER: G-STRING FESTIVAL is a change of pace as far as plot goes from the rest of the series but it's a welcomed one. There is still plenty of sex and nudity that we've become accustomed to since the line launched earlier this year. If you've been a fan of the series you'll want to grab this disc to add to the collection.


Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Heroin Busters (1977)

"...I'm going to put a bullet in your asshole and that could be very messy."

Fabio is an undercover Italian police officer who has teamed up with an INTERPOL agent to break up an international drug ring specializing in the distribution of heroin. Fabio has to do the dirtiest dirt and dealer or junkie would do to obtain information and contacts for his partner who he commonly has to fight with in order to keep his cover. As Fabio rises through the ranks of the Rome drug ring things get messier and more violent for him and his partner until the entire city is in the line of fire and even the skies aren't safe during the finale.

The plot of THE HEROIN BUSTERS is a simple one but director Enzo G. Castellari handles the story written by frequent Castellari collaborators Massimo De Rita and Galliano Juso with such care that it comes out great. The slow start, which is some uncharacteristic for a Euro-Crime film such as this, is never boring thanks to the great performances from Fabio Testi (Four Of The Apocalypse) and David Hemmings (Deep Red). The two leads completely own their performances and fully embody their characters of the undercover cop and INTERPOL agent respectively. The action does pickup throughout the film and there is no shortage of violence or exciting chases, whether they be on foot through the city and on rooftops or in cars and motorcycles or in airplanes (look for Testi to do all of his own piloting during the airplane scene). The music is handled by Goblin so it goes without saying that the soundtrack is great.

THE HEROIN BUSTERS suffers from being rather monotone throughout. The only time the mood really changes is during a few brief surreal scenes when someone is tripping balls after shooting up. Outside of those sequences the feeling the viewer gets is the same throughout, even during the climax, which was fun to watch but that sense of excitement and nervous anticipation for something big to happen really wasn't there. This is by far my biggest problem with an otherwise entertaining and well put together Italian crime film. It may not be among my favorite films of the genre but I wouldn't doubt it is probably one of the better films on the technical side and it is, despite it's flaws, a very entertaining movie.


Monday, September 3, 2012

The Whisperer In Darkness (2011)

I love H.P. Lovecraft. His ability to create an overbearing sense of fear and dread may very well be unmatched. Each page is a terrifying descent into madness. The life of the writer was a troubled one of poverty, never getting the notoriety he deserved. Of course he has since received his due credit as a true master of horror and science-fiction but the adaptations of his work for the screen is hit or miss at best. There have been great films made based off his writings such as Re-Animator from director Stuart Gordon (who has done several other HPL adaptations or works that are clearly inspired by him) but even this movie doesn't capture Lovecraft. There have also been the adaptations that are just plain crap such as every film version of The Dunwich Horror. Rarely has a movie adapted his work into a great movie that captures the spirit and essence of his writing. THE WHISPERER IN DARKNESS does just that.

For those of you not familiar with the story here is a brief summary. Albert Wilmarth is a professor at Miskatonic University in Arkham, Massachusetts. where he focuses on folklore and legends. Wilmarth has been corresponding with Henry Akeley of Vermont via letters for some time. Akeley claims that a group of flying crab-like creatures is terrorizing the area and specifically him and his farm. As the letters become more desperate Wilmarth is caught off guard when he receives a typed letter from Akeley with a much calmer tone inviting him to visit and discuss their findings on the matter. Wilmarth, who has been conducting research with various items sent to him by Akeley (not always through the mail since Akeley's mail is being interfered with), goes to the farm to discover the true interstellar nature of the situation and the horror he has walked in to.

That is the gist of it without spoiling the twists and turns. It is one of the longest stories by Lovecraft and it is entirely engaging and tense. The dread and paranoia builds with each letter you read between the two until the climax brings it all to a horrific end that leaves you wanting more. The film adaptation here, produced by the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society (responsible for a brilliant silent film adaptation of The Call Of Cthulhu) does much of the same while expanding the story. Wilmarth is approached by Henry Akeley's son who pleads with him to take his father seriously. After showing Wilmarth, and several other notable minds, some photographs he leaves a phonograph recording with Wilmarth. This is said to be the creatures talking. Eventually the typed letter inviting the professor up to Vermont arrives and Wilmarth boards a train to oblige his host. When he arrives he is met by a man named Noys, who was sent by Akeley to pick up his guest since he was ill. When Wilmarth arrives he has a conversation with his host that leaves him uneasy, and then a subsequent conversation that tells the truth of what is happening. This leaves Wilmarth in a confused, terrified frame of mind that is only made worse when he hears mysterious talking in the middle of the night and sees shadows of things he could only dream of.

Shortly after that is when the story ends in Lovecraft's short story. In the film we are only about halfway as they expand the story in to a vintage style creature feature while maintaining the integrity of the story and film. Wilmarth sets out to stop the evil plans of the small cult and monsters he's encountered at all costs. After receiving some help from a young girl who's father is mixed up in this mess he finds the hidden lair and does his best to destroy it.

THE WHISPERER IN DARKNESS is a largely successful film and adaptation. The two biggest flaws in the film are rushing through the correspondence between Wilmarth and Akeley in the beginning. The story is set at this point and the feeling of dread is established. In the film it comes across as an after thought and any chance of setting up tension early is wasted. The other is fleshing out the monsters at the end. Lovecraft has a very "less is more" quality to his writing and seeing only glimpses or shadows of the monsters would not only be more effective it would have kept their very low budget CGI look hidden. That said, the movie is able to create that fear in the viewer and the monsters being fleshed out isn't a major deal breaker. The company is able to create a beautiful looking film that is very reminiscent of the period it's set in on a tight budget. A large concern I had coming into the film was the acting. The company's other feature film, the aforementioned The Call Of Cthulhu, was a silent film. Dialogue was of no concern. My fears were to put to rest early when Matt Foyer began his excellent portrayal of Albert Wilmarth. He was a true stand out. The rest of the cast was on point too. This was just a well made independent film on all levels.

While this film is far from perfect, it does a nice job of feeling like an early talkie without being corny about it. It isn't a perfect adaptation and some decisions made in the production are questionable but damn if it isn't a really good one. You can easily see the love and respect the whole crew has for the source material. Whether you're a fan of Lovecraft or just interested in a great horror/sci-fi movie that is different from most things being made these days you need to check out THE WHISPERER IN DARKNESS.