TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE (1968)

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DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE (1968)

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Hammer Studios brought ‘new blood’ to their Dracula series with a new director, Hammer and Amicus regular Freddie Francis, armed with a script by Anthony Hinds. The result is one of the best of the sequels and a film where Lee was really given the opportunity to own the character of Dracula.

Story takes place a year after Dracula’s defeat and destruction and the villagers are still fearful of the evil they say remains lurking in his castle. Monsignor Mueller (Rupert Davies) arrives to find a distressing malaise that even keeps people from the church that lies in the castle’s shadow. He commands the local alcoholic priest (Ewan Hooper) to follow him to the castle itself to perform an exorcism. The ritual is successful but, an accident releases Dracula (Christopher Lee) from his icy tomb and now locked out of his house, plans to avenge himself on Mueller…and his beautiful niece, Maria (Hammer hottie Veronica Carlson). With the troubled priest in his thrall, can Dracula and his diabolical plans be stopped?

Former cinematographer Francis brings not only a new vibrant look and sumptuous visuals to the Dracula series but, ups the ante in the sex and blood department. Hinds’ script also gives Lee plenty of time onscreen and plenty of dialogue for the actor to bite into. We get a busty/lusty serving girl (Barabara Ewing) who is quite happy to let Dracula take a nip and is even jealous when he wants to dip his fangs elsewhere. Lee’s Dracula takes his female meals with far more sexual relish than in the previous two flicks and his Count is far more vicious when provoked…which is often. We also have a lively hero in Maria’s boyfriend Paul (Barry Andrews) and there is a lot more action than the moderately paced predecessors. While I would never characterize the last two films as ‘stuffy’ there was a moderation to things that Freddie Francis casts off for a more audacious entry that spatters blood often and gives Lee a chance to really strut his cape. Francis and cinematographer Arthur Grant use a very effective crimson iris filter whenever Lee is onscreen, that really accents that he is bathed in evil and overall, creates a palate of vivid colors that contrast the look of Fisher’s more subtle colored Dracula films. James Bernard returns again to score and it all combines for the bloodiest and sexiest entry in the series so far, cutting loose a bit, yet, without ever straying into camp.

Christopher Lee really locks in the role here, especially since he is given a lot to say and do. He masterfully creates a vicious monster who is equal parts diabolical and sexy and his scenes with his beautiful leading ladies are both eerie and enticing. This may be one of his best performances as the legendary vampire. Davies makes a good foe as Mueller, though his arrogance as a man of the cloth leaves him vulnerable. Ewan Hooper is actually sympathetic as a priest whose has lost his faith and now is the servant of the very evil he once vowed to oppose. Hooper plays the constant inner conflict very well. Andrews makes an interesting hero as the rambunctious student and atheist Paul. He is more impulsive and yet, noble and brave when Maria’ life is threatened and the film doesn’t ignore his having to face an evil he thought didn’t exist. A character that is in contrast to the prim, proper and religious characters of Fisher’s entries. Barbara Ewing is simply hot as serving girl/beer wench Zena and she is a lively and sexy woman, also in contrast to the chaste ladies that served as our female characters in the first two films. Even Carlson’s Maria is adorned with a playful sexiness that the female heroines of the series lacked so far. Still a damsel but, one not afraid to sneak out across the rooftops to visit her boyfriend.

I really enjoyed this sequel. It may be my favorite after the classic Horror Of Dracula, and certainly one of the most fun of the series. The film casts off the more restrained atmosphere of the Terrance Fisher films and gives us some blood and boobs (though still covered somewhat) and lets Lee really cut loose and revel in his Dracula’s bedside manner. The colors are vivid and bright and the characters, lively and more fun. There is plenty of action, bloodshed and best of all, plenty of Dracula! A very entertaining entry and possibly the best of the sequels in this series that maintained a level of quality almost till the final entry.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 fangs.

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BARE BONES: IN FEAR, THE INVOKING and FRIGHTMARE

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IN FEAR (2013)

I’ll give director and writer Jeremy Lovering a lot of credit for giving this little thriller some really nice atmosphere, tension and suspense despite the fact that it is basically about a couple, Tom and Lucy (Iain Caestecker and Alice Englert), lost in the Irish countryside in a maze of rural roads looking for an elusive hotel. Obviously they come to realize their predicament is being manipulated and soon a masked figure keeps appearing in and around the road as they drive. And while the film is never boring in itself…though it can be frustrating as the constant driving in circles gets tiresome…the story is very dull and routine. It also remains somewhat vague as to the definitive reason for all this cruel game playing with the young lovers. It could be a fascination with Lucy based on the opening scene, or there is also reason to believe it was simply a disagreement in a pub over a spilt beer caused by Tom, that raised the ire of a deranged local. We Irish (I am proudly half) take our pints very seriously. Some other bumps in Lovering’s ride are that the couple’s arguing gets a bit annoying at times, the mysterious figure seems to defy the constraints of time and distance in his appearances and activities and a frustratingly ambiguous ending when we deserved a more satisfying climax after all we’ve sat through. Overall, it is still worth a look. Lovering shows lots of potential, the performances are good, but even from the deranged individuals point of view, it seems like a lot of effort and work just over a spilt beer which, if I understand the dialog correctly, was replaced after some arguing anyway. Doesn’t live up to the hype and praise, but certainly worth a watch. Also stars Allen Leech.

2 and 1-2 star rating

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THE INVOKING (2013)

Odd and sometimes effective little movie about a young woman, Sam (Trin Miller), who takes some friends up to a house she has just inherited after the death of her aunt. After arriving, strange things start to occur as it appears the house holds suppressed and hidden memories for Sam that start bubbling to the surface now that she has returned to a place she doesn’t remember ever being at…or is it something far more sinister? Writer/director Jeremy Berg gives the film some nice touches and some atmosphere and the cast are adequate if not a bit uneven in their performances. But what starts as a mildly intriguing psychological thriller degenerates into a routine blood bath in it’s last act and the big reveal as to what actually occurred to Sam in that house as a little girl, is also routine as well. We’ve seen it all before and the climax just serves more to give it a shock ending then to actual serve the story which has veered off course in the last 10-15 minutes to suddenly turn into a slasher. It’s an OK flick overall and hopefully Berg can build on what he does right here with tighter focus and a bit more imagination in his stories. Also stars Brandon Anthony, D’Angelo Midili, Andi Norris and Josh Truax.

2 and 1-2 star rating

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FRIGHTMARE (1974)

70s English horror written and directed by Pete Walker is a very bizarre, strange and sometimes gruesome flick that didn’t totally grab me, but didn’t loose my attention either. The film starts out in 1957 where it appears a couple (Rupert Davies and Sheila Keith) has been convicted of murder and do to the nature of their crimes, are sentenced to a psychiatric hospital. We then move forward to the 70s and the couple’s one daughter Jackie (Deborah Fairfax) is a grown woman now and younger daughter Debbie (Kim Butcher) is a 15 year old…who looks more like 25…delinquent. Jackie is trying to care for her troublesome half-sister, who has just been released from a convent, and her parents who have been declared cured and released, but things start to fall apart when mom starts her old habits of tarot card reading and cannibalism. Worse still, Jackie is just a step-daughter to dear old mum, but Debbie seems like a chip off the murderous block who appears perfectly happy to carry on family traditions…can Jackie escape the family reunion from hell? I’m not all that familiar with the films of British exploitation director Walker, but this is one of his more infamous titles and by today’s standards it’s more campy then scary, though still has some disturbing moments. The performances are a bit over the top at times adding to the campy, nostalgic flavor and it is rather slow paced for under 90 minutes with it only getting really disturbing in it’s last act. There is plenty of gore, but some definite lapses in logic as well. Not sure I would trust the British medical system for letting an obviously deranged woman free as ‘cured’. Overall, it’s an amusing watch and maybe some of the camp is deliberate, but it basically serves as an oddball diversion with some disturbing sequences that still work and others that make you chuckle and didn’t quite impact me like it’s reputation suggests it did audiences in the 70s. For a film about murderous old geezers, it seemed a bit dry when all is said and done.

2 and 1-2 star rating

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