MONSTERZERO NJ’S 10 HORROR FLICKS FOR BLACK HISTORY MONTH!

MZNJ_new_views

now playing

MONSTERZERO NJ’S 10 HORROR FLICKS FOR BLACK HISTORY MONTH!

February is the month where we mark the achievements of the black community and there have been some wonderful contributions to the world of horror films by some amazing talents. Whether it be black filmmakers like William Crain and Jordan Peele, or actors such as William Marshall, Pam Grier and Duane Jones, there is much to celebrate! Here are ten films that illustrate the sometimes groundbreaking and always entertaining achievements in the horror genre that this month so proudly commemorates!

REVIEW LINKS: click to read the corresponding review!

  1. Blacula
  2. Scream Blacula Scream
  3. Abby
  4. Dr. Black and Mr. Hyde
  5. Sugar Hill
  6. The House On Skull Mountain
  7. Candyman
  8. Tales from the Hood
  9. Night of the Living Dead
  10. Get Out

 

To all these talented men and women in front of and behind the camera…CHEERS!

-MonsterZero NJ

bars

Advertisements

FAREWELL AND RIP BERNIE CASEY!

MZNJ_NEW_news

Bernard Terry Casey 1939-2017

It is with a very heavy heart that MonsterZero NJ’s Movie Madhouse reports the passing of the talented Bernie Casey. Casey started his acting career in 1969 and had a prolific career in films and TV from classics like Boxcar Bertha and Cornbread, Earl and Me to action films like Never Say Never Again and Under Siege. The former football player was also known to horror fans by appearing as the lead gargoyle in the classic TV movie Gargoyles, in William Crain’s blaxploitation classic Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde and an appearance in John Carpenter’s In The Mouth Of  Madness. A talented actor who has left a diverse legacy of film and TV roles to remember him by.

-MonsterZero NJ

Source: internet

bars

MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: GARGOYLES and DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK

MZNJ_SNDF

now playing

double feature_G_DBAOTD

bars

The 70s was a great time for made for TV horror. S0, for this week’s Saturday Night Double Feature I have decided to showcase two 70s TV movie horrors that scared the heck out of me when I was a little kid and watched them when they first aired. Gargoyles and the original Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark gave me nightmares back in the day when I was a lad of less then ten years old and will always remain horror favorites despite what effect time might have had on them…and speaking of which, what effect did they still have on me?…

gargoyles

GARGOYLES (1972)

Gargoyles is still one of my favorites and brings back such memories of a seven year old MonsterZero NJ being scared out of his wits by this fun and sometimes still spooky TV movie. The film opens with narration telling us that when The Devil was cast from Heaven he vowed to get revenge by ruling earth and every 600 years his minions, The Gargoyles would rise up to attempt to do so. We then focus on Dr. Mercer Boley (Cornel Wilde), a scientist and author who specializes in the study of man’s belief in demons, traveling in the desert with his hot photographer daughter Diana (Jennifer Salt) to see a man who claims to have found something of interest. Uncle Willie (Woody Chamblis) is an old man running a middle of nowhere roadside attraction and shows the pair a bizarre skeleton that looks like some kind of man-sized flying, horned lizard. Boley thinks it a fraud, but agrees to hear the old man’s tale of the local Native American legends telling of the tribes battling such creatures. During his tale the shack is attacked and Mercer and Diana barely escape with their lives and the mysterious creature’s skull, but not before being attacked by one of the very monsters Boley thought didn’t exist moments before. The creatures follow the two to a remote motel and after continual attacks The Gargoyles retrieve the skull, the corpse of one of their own killed in a previous attack and Diana whom the leader (Bernie Casey in Stan Winston make-up) takes a liking to. Now with only two cops and a dirt bike gang initially blamed for Willie’s death as allies, Mercer must find the Gargoyles lair, rescue his daughter and stop the monsters from taking over the planet.

Directed by Bill L. Norton from a script by Steven and Elinor Karpf, Gargoyles is a fun horror flick that may not be as scary now as it was to me as a child, but is still a spooky, nostalgic good time nonetheless. Norton takes his film seriously and provides some very creepy moments early on, such as the attack on Willie’s and the subsequent attacks on Mercer and Diane in the motel. The film then switches gears somewhat and becomes a more traditional monster movie with our small band of heroes making a desperate attack on the Gargoyle nest. The film makes things a bit interesting by having the Gargoyle leader not only speak, but intelligently as well. He actually has charm as he obviously lies to Diana about his intent with not only her, but their purpose here, revealing his true nature and goal to Mercer once he feels he has the upper hand. This cleverly makes him less of a generic monster and gives him character and personality under the creepy make-up by FX legend Stan Winston (who would work on Bernie Casey again in Dr. Black And Mr. Hyde). This adds to a film already given some unsettling atmosphere by director Norton who really succeeds on making the creatures threatening and keeping them mysterious even once fully revealed. The film has some added suspense as the Gargoyles are few, but their long gestating eggs are steadily hatching and there will be thousands of them if Mercer and Co. cannot destroy them soon. Adding to Norton’s atmosphere is a very effective score by Robert Prince and equally effective cinematography from Earl Rath. Sure the film is not perfect, the narration tells us the creatures appear every 600 years, but the Gargoyle leader says 500, as does Mercer, and the Gargoyles revealing themselves long before they have enough numbers to be a real threat makes no sense since their existence is disbelieved. Why risk everything for a skeleton no one believes is real? But the flaws are minimal when compared to the entertainment.

As for the stars, the cast all take this very seriously and thus it goes a long way in giving weight to a, let’s face it, silly story. Wilde makes a strong hero, a man with both intelligence and fortitude and the fact that he is a skeptic at first makes his character more interesting in light of what is happening. Salt is more then just a pretty face and hot body as she gives Diana a lot of courage and she is a professional, smart and a tough girl who works well in her scenes with Casey’s Gargoyle. And as the leader, Casey is both charismatic and threatening. His scenes with Salt are very effective because, despite telling her he means her and mankind no harm, you can see it on her face that she isn’t convinced and he seems almost amused by his own lies. There is an uncomfortable sexual tension as the creature seems very enamored with Diana and she very afraid, despite his attempts to assure her that is not his intent. The whole ‘charm of the devil’ is well conveyed by Casey as is his malice when his true nature is brought to bare. The added element of the leader’s mate being jealous of his attention to Diana adds an effective angle that displays that the creatures are not very different than us under the scales and horns. The rest of the supporting characters are fine though we do get a little overacting by Grayson Hall’s Mrs. Parks, but the character appears to be an alcoholic, so it’s not that obtrusive. We also get a glimpse an actor that would become a star in later years with a young Scott Glenn playing a heroic biker who has taken a liking to Diana and joins Mercer to rescue her. A solid cast that worked well with the material.

So, overall, this is a fun and very well made TV movie horror that treats it’s B-movie monster story with a lot of respect and a talented cast and crew that makes it work. Even now it still has some creepy moments and effective bits, not to mention some decent bloodletting and with the added 70s nostalgia, it makes an entertaining treat. I will personally always have a place in my heart for this flick as a prime example of an era when TV horror was prolific and could hold it’s own against theatrical releases. The scene with the Gargoyle creeping up from under Mercer’s bed still gives me the willies!

3 and 1/2 gargoyles!

gargoyles rating

Couldn’t find a trailer so a short clip will have to do…

plus

dont-be-afraid-dark

DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK (1973)

I saw this 70s TV movie horror classic as a kid when it first aired and it scared the heck out of me. I had trouble sleeping thinking the tiny demons from the film were under my bed and waiting to get me. Now, upon revisiting it, I do still feel it still has some creepy sequences but some problems too.

The story has a young couple, Alex and Sally (Jim Hutton and Kim Darby) inheriting an old house that has been in Sally’s family for years. Sally notices the fireplace in the cellar is bricked up and the door used to remove the ash is bolted shut. Her inquiries to family handyman Mr. Harris (William Demarest) are met with vague warnings to leave well enough alone. Of course Sally fails to heed and opens the door and unknowingly unleashes 3 goblin-like creatures into her home who intend to do her great harm. Worse still, no one believes her when she starts to see the creepy little beings who want the pretty young woman to become one of their own. Can Sally save herself before the creatures get her, or her husband has her committed?

From a script by Nigel McKeand, Don’t Be afraid Of The Dark is very well directed by John Newland, who got his experience with all things spooky directing and hosting the classic One Step Beyond TV show. He gives the film some really creepy atmosphere and along with cinematographer Andrew Jackson gets really effective use out of the big old house that serves as it’s primary location. The little demons and their eerie whispering are very effective even now and after all these years they still give you the creeps despite being fairly simple in their design…like little prune headed apes. Basically they are three little people in suits (Tamara De Treaux, Patty Maloney and Felix Silla, to be exact) filmed on large sets to make them look small and it’s simple and effective. Also effective is keeping the creatures origins a mystery. They seem to have been there since the house was built claiming anyone who releases them from their imprisonment. In this case the air of mystery works. The film has some nice suspense especially in it’s last act and a very unsettling ending that still stays with you. Add Billy Goldenberg’s chilling score and you have a very effective little horror…though not perfect…

Where the film fails somewhat is in it’s the human characters. Kim Darby is just bland as the object of the demon’s attention. Sure we have sympathy for her as no one believes she’s being haunted and terrorized, but the actress seems very monotone most of the time. It’s hard to really become endeared or concerned for her. Jim Hutton is livelier as her husband, but he’s written like such a jerk that you can’t stand him, so he elicits very little sympathy when he finally realizes his wife may really be in danger. And my biggest problem is with William Demarest’s handyman. His performance is fine, he’s a little hammy, but it suits the material. The character claims to only know something isn’t right with the house, but not too many details. Yet, when in the basement and he encounters the creatures, they talk to him like they know him and he responds as if he knows them, too. It’s never clarified. Is he hiding something? Even when the husband comes to him later for answers, he never mentions his encounter or that he knows exactly was going on. He again gives vague details that there is something in the house that he thinks claimed Sally’s grandfather and he now might be one of them. But he is never clear, though his ‘talk’ with the little monsters indicates he knows a lot more then he ever tells. If he’s going to warn them and save Sally’s life, why not tell them everything? Also there is a sequence in the last act where a friend of Sally’s is locked outside the house by the fiends and there are a few shots that are in daylight when the sequence clearly takes place after dark. Whoops!

Flaws aside, there is still a nostalgic charm attached to this and it is still very effective in the creepy department. I count this as a favorite despite seeing it a little differently now, through the eyes of an adult and not an eight year-old boy. And this film scared that eight year-old boy quite a bit when first viewed in 1973. Remade recently under the guidance of producer Guillermo Del Toro, but with none of the effectiveness of this 1973 TV gem.

3 and 1/2 goblins!

dont be afraid of the dark rating

If these TV movies interest you, also check out my profile of the classic 70s Night Stalker and Night Strangler films!

bars

MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: BLACULA and DR. BLACK AND MR. HYDE

MZNJ_SNDF

now playing

double feature_BLAC_DBAMH

bars

Black History Month MonsterZero NJ style! I thought I’d revisit the blaxploitation era for this week’s double feature paying tribute to not only pioneer African-American director William Crain, with two of his most famous films but, African-American acting icons William Marshall and Bernie Casey who headline these two cult classic horror flicks!

 

BLACULA_poster

BLACULA (1972)

Blacula is one of the best examples of the 70’s blaxploitation films refered to in today’s politically correct times as Soul Cinema. Not only does it properly represent the era but, it is also simply a good horror flick, providing some legitimate chills and thrills, as well as, a bit of bittersweet romance too. As written by Raymond Koenig and Joan Torres and directed by William Crain, the tale of an African prince cursed to become the undead by Dracula himself and released from his ages old prison in modern day (at the time) Los Angeles, is a very entertaining movie even without the added 70s nostagia factor. There is lots to enjoy as Blacula builds his undead army and romances a woman who is the striking image of his long dead wife. A big part of the film’s success is the casting of Shakespearean actor William Marshall (know to many of today’s movie fans as The King Of Cartoons from Pee Wee’s Playhouse) in the lead role. Marshall brings a sense of power and nobility to the cursed African prince, Mamuwalde and knows exactly how and when to bring the monster to life when called upon. He even succeeds in making him sexy and sympathetic at the appropriate moments. He is supported by a good cast that brings life to what could have been two dimensional roles including Vonette McGee as Tina, a beautiful woman who resembles Blacula’s lost wife, Luva (also McGee) and veteran actor Thalmus Rasulala as a Dr. Gordon Thomas, a forensics investigator who serves as the film’s Van Helsing character and is helping the police investigate a rash of mysterious deaths. Three guesses who’s responsible for those. Sure it’s campy fun at this point and the FX are cheesy by today’s high standards but, that doesn’t negate the work of those in front of and behind the camera as Blacula delivers lots of spooky entertainment with class, style and not without a touch of humor. A classic of more than one genre.

EXTRA TRIVIA: It is said that  William Marshall himself worked with the filmmakers to give the character nobility and is responsible for his origin as an African Prince which was not part of the original script.

A solid 3 and 1/2 fangs

blacula_1_rating

plus

Drblackmrhyde

DR. BLACK AND MR. HYDE (1976)

Blacksploitation classic tells the story of African-American Dr. Henry Pryde (Bernie Casey) who is working tirelessly to find a cure for liver disease. He develops a serum that shows potential but, he can’t perfect it without human experimentation. After a failed test on a dying woman, Henry decides to test the serum on himself. The result transforms the valiant doctor into a super strong, violent tempered… white man. Directed by Blacula’s William Crain, this 70s horror treats it’s story with respect despite how silly it is and Crain, as with Blacula, gets good performances out of his cast that also includes Rosalind Cash (The Omega Man) and Marie O’Henry as Pryde’s love interest, a local hooker named Linda. Sadly, Larry LeBron’s script from an idea by Lawrence Woolner doesn’t nearly make as much use of the classic story it’s based on as did Blacula, nor is Crain able to give this film the same gothic flavor and style he did with that film. It’s pretty much a generic monster movie with Mr. Hyde stalking and killing Linda’s fellow hookers and their pimps while the police trying to find and stop the rampaging killer. The obvious blaxploitation elements are present but, seem a bit forced here as opposed to Blacula where they were just part of the characters and their life at that point in time. Still, the film does have that 70s nostalgia and is worth a look for those interested in the blaxploitation era of filmmaking. Not to mention the movie certainly is not without it’s entertainment value and is never dull. Also noteworthy are the Mr. Hyde make-up effects on Bernie Casey which were created by the legendary Stan Winston.

2 and 1/2 stars!

2 and 1-2 star rating

WARNING: trailer features some nudity and violence.

bars

MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: PRINCE OF DARKNESS and IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS

MZNJ_SNDF

now playing

double feature_POD_ITMOM

bars

For this week’s double feature I have decided to go with two underrated and under-appreciated films from recent birthday boy, legendary filmmaker John Carpenter. These two films also happen to be his strangest and most surreal efforts. Carpenter has referred to these two films as the second and third part of his “Apocalypse Trilogy” that was started with his classic The Thing. I wasn’t sure about either when I first saw them but, both have grown on me over the years and I have now come to believe that they are not given their proper due …

prince-of-darkness-1987

PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1987)

Prince of Darkness is a strange movie written by Carpenter and combining religion and theoretical quantum physics. It sounds like a contradictory combination but, it works better then you might expect. It was the first of a multi-picture deal with Alive Films where Carpenter would make 3 or 4 low budget flicks. The second and last film was the cult classic They Live, as a disagreement over the third film’s budget ended the collaboration.

The story opens with the death of a priest who presided over a small inner city parish. Enter Donald Pleasence as another priest… who’s name is never given… who discovers that the deceased priest was part of a secret society within the church called The Brotherhood Of Sleep. And this sect have been protecting a dark secret that may challenge the very core of what we have come to believe both scientifically and religiously. A team of college students, led by Professor Birack (Victor Wong) and including Brian Marsh (Jameson Parker) and Catherine Danforth (Lisa Blount), are brought to the parish to investigate a strange cylinder filled with a pulsating green liquid in a locked chamber in the basement, as well as, the scriptures that come with it. They discover that the liquid is a form of the Anti-Christ and it seeks release in order to bring it’s father, the Anti-God into our world. And as members of the team start to fall under it’s powerful thrall and they all become plagued by the same strange dreams, it’s terrifyingly obvious that the remaining team members are in a fight against an ancient evil that their science may not be able to contain.

Carpenter delivers a very odd but, effectively creepy film. It’s has an atmosphere of dread from the start to the finish and presents a very chilling scenario that there may be things in existence that neither our religion or science may be able to handle. And as these are two things people most put their faith in, it is a disturbing concept. It also presents an interesting idea that Bible prophecies may have actually been warnings sent from the future as the dream effecting all our college science students appears to be exactly that. Carpenter also presents the possibility that certain Bible stories were put in place to cover more disturbing truths as the scientific knowledge to explain or understand the reality of it was not available. Basically we were told things in fable form because the science wasn’t there to properly explain it and we weren’t advanced enough to understand it. As someone who was born and raised Christian yet has always had an interest in science, I actually have had this thought myself occasionally and it was interesting to see the master filmmaker weave this theory into his plot. Carpenter also uses his low budget well and keeps the story, for the most part contained in the church. Again working with the fear of isolation as a horde of homicidal homeless people keep our besieged team members inside. Gary B. Kibbe provides the atmospheric cinematography and would collaborate with Carpenter on 7 more projects and he gives Prince a very unsettling look yet, rich with color. This is a strange film that may not appeal to everyone, it took me a few years and repeat viewings before I fully appreciated it and it’s grown on me since I first saw it in 87 and wasn’t quite sold on it then.

The film has it’s flaws, some of the make-up FX are cheesy and some of the violent death scenes, especially those perpetrated by the army of homeless people surrounding the church, lead by Alice Cooper, seem a little out of place in a film that starts out working in subtlety. But, since it does switch gears and become more of a traditional horror film in it’s second half, as the possessed students try to kill or possess the others who are fighting against their former friends to stay alive, so, in the overall scheme they work fine. Some may not have patience for some of the science heavy dialog but, I though Carpenter’s script does a good job of giving scientific explanations for some of the more supernatural elements of the religious scripture presented in his story. Regardless of your beliefs, Carpenter poses some interesting questions and the film is really creepy throughout. And adding to the effectiveness is one of Carpenter’s spookiest scores to date.

Overall, Prince Of Darkness is perhaps Carpenter’s oddest and most daring film, in some respects but, yet another that wasn’t all that well accepted at first and now has gained a following over the years and rightfully so. This flick may not be for everyone and it’s mix of science and religion may not work for some but, I think it’s an interesting and thoroughly creepy movie that not only presents some well executed traditional horror elements but, poses some interesting questions and theories about what we believe in as well.

3 canisters of gooey pulsating dormant evil!

prince of darkness

plus

in the mouth of madness

IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS (1995)

John Carpenter directs what might be his most surreal film, from a script by Michael De Luca, and the final film in Carpenter’s self denominated “Apopcalypse Trilogy” begun by The Thing and Prince Of Darkness. The Lovecraftian film opens with Insurance Investigator John Trent (Sam Neill) being dragged in a straight-jacket into an insane asylum. An interview with his psychologist, Dr. Wrenn (David Warner) reveals that Trent was on a case to discover the whereabouts of famous, best-selling horror author Sutter Cane (a creepy Jurgen Prochnow) when his publishers file a claim that the Stephen King-like author is missing and hasn’t delivered his next book, which is due to be released very soon. Trent starts to read Cane’s books as part of the investigation and starts to have strange hallucinations but, chooses to wave them off as effects of his imagination combined with Cane’s effective prose which is said to have an equal effect on his readers. He decides to find Cane’s favorite setting, the supposedly fictional town of Hobb’s End which he believes is very real and is where Cane is hiding as part of a publicity stunt. Publisher Jackson Harglow (Charlton Heston) agrees to Trent’s quest as long as he brings Cane’s editor Linda Styles (Julie Carmen) along with him. But, while the journey does indeed lead to Hobb’s End, Trent and Styles find that the town may not be all that is real from Cane’s books as they are slowly drawn into a nightmare that may suggest that the belief in Cane’s novels by his massive fan-base, may be giving life to his prose and that his influence for those books may be from darker depths then just his imagination. Can Trent and Styles escape this living nightmare or are they just characters whose fates have already been decided by the pen of Sutter Cane and the ancient evil that serves as his muse.

Carpenter presents one of his strangest and most surreal film to date and while it gets a little hard to tell whether Cane’s books are effecting reality or if we are actually watching one unfold before us and it’s taking such life that it’s characters don’t realize they’re fictional… but, maybe we’re not supposed to figure it out which, does add to it’s unsettling atmosphere. Carpenter delivers his trademark visuals supported by frequent cinematographer Gary B. Kibbe and we get glimpses of horrible things lurking in the shadows, all tentacles, eyes and teeth, much like the horrors of H.P. Lovecraft. Hobb’s End seems like a typical sleepy New England town but, Carpenter slowly reveals that there is something horribly wrong here as there is an evil underneath the Norman Rockwell exterior with it’s children blood-thirstily pursuing a frightened dog or the sweet old lady who runs the inn and keeps her frail old husband handcuffed behind the counter. When we finally meet Cane things really start to spiral into madness for Trent and Carpenter takes us on the ride with some of the most bizarre and trippiest sequences he has presented and that’s saying a lot.

Where Madness really stumbles is in some weak dialog in it’s script and in an area that Carpenter is usually strong in, casting. For characters in a John Carpenter film, I found Trent and Styles to be fairly weak… though it is not his script or they, his original characters… characters from Carpenter’s own scripts are usually memorable and strong. But, I also thought that Sam Neil and Julie Carmen, didn’t quite fit their roles properly with Carmen especially appearing very uncomfortable or unsure how to play the material. She is the weak link in the film though I don’t really feel Neill, who I am a big fan of, quite fits the role of Trent either. He just seems like he really isn’t clicking with the weird material though he is nowhere near as awkward as Carmen who is borderline annoying here. Neill at least seems to enjoy playing the ‘going mad’ part of his role while Carmen gets worse as the story gets stranger. Prochnow is the only one who seems to get what’s going on and dives in with both feet in his portrayal of the sinister Sutter Cane and Heston is a perfect fit as Arcane Publishing head Harglow. Except for a few of the supporting characters in Carpenter’s The Ward… another film not written by the master… this is one of the only Carpenter films where weak characters or miscast actors were a factor. Classic characters are Carpenter’s forte’, at least when he writes the script.

Overall, In The Mouth Of Madness is a creepy, freaky, surreal film that works far more then it doesn’t. It’s his visually and conceptually most surreal film and it is very effective in both atmosphere and delivering some really cool creatures and bloody gore. Carpenter again writes a cool score, though this time with composer Jim Lang. While it’s leads don’t seem quite right for their roles, it still provides a spooky 90+ minutes that messes with your head a bit and there’s nothing wrong with that. Another Carpenter film that has garnered a bit of a cult following and as a fan of his work,  I agree this under-appreciated flick deserves it, even with it’s flaws. Also stars Bernie Casey as Trent’s boss Robinson and John Glover as an eccentric asylum employee.

3 deranged Sam Neil’s!

in the mouth of madness rating

bars