TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: THE RETURN OF COUNT YORGA (1971)

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THE RETURN OF COUNT YORGA (1971)

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Count Yorga (Robert Quarry) is back…though not sure how…and takes up refuge in an old mansion opposite an orphanage. He sets his sights on pretty teacher Cynthia (Mariette Hartley) and his fangs on all her family and friends. Can anyone stop this fiend before he takes Cynthia as his bride and everyone else as his dinner?

Sequel is directed again by Bob Kelljan from a script he co-wrote with Yvonne Wilder and is a rather dull return for Quarry’s suave Bulgarian count. Much like the first film, there are some spooky scenes, but there is also a lot of talk and the story never gets interesting enough to lure us in. Oddly the addition of an orphanage doesn’t amount to much as only one child seems to fit into Yorga’s plans and the action takes place, for the most part, in Yorga’s Mansion. Yorga himself is absent for stretches of time as the film focuses on Cynthia trapped in his lair and being taunted by his minions. As for Yorga, Quarry again makes a good vampire, but the rest of the cast is fairly wooden and Hartley isn’t given much to do but look frightened. Roger Perry again stars, but not as the same character he portrayed in the first film…which is a little off-putting. Technically the film looks good through cinematographer Bill Butler’s lens and Bill Marx’s score adds some atmosphere.

Not a big fan of the first Yorga film and this one won’t convert anyone who is not. It’s slow moving, has long stretches with no action and it’s story is routine for a vampire flick. The placement of Yorga’s lair near an orphanage doesn’t get used to it’s full potential and the fact that Yorga allows his minions to taunt his intended bride, doesn’t really make much sense either…unless he likes nutty women. A dull sequel.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 fangs.

 

 

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: SALEM’S LOT (1979)

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SALEM’S LOT (1979)

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Miniseries is an adaptation of the Stephen King book of the same name (book review HERE) and basically follows the same plot. Vampire story has writer Ben Mears (David Soul) returning to his hometown of Salem’s Lot after many years, to write a book about the Marsten House, a large old house on the outskirts of town renown for it’s dark past. Mears has no idea what he is in for as, at the same time, an ancient vampire named Barlow (Reggie Nalder) has set his sights on the town of Salem’s Lot as his new feeding ground and makes the Marsten House his new home. Can Ben convince this small town that a very real and supernatural horror has made residence there, as townsfolk start to disappear and the concerned locals turn a suspicious eye towards him?

Script is adapted by Paul Monash from King’s lengthy book and at just over three hours adapts it fairly well. The film is atmospherically directed by Texas Chainsaw Massacre’s Tobe Hooper who delivers some solid chills despite the restraint of doing the film for TV. Salem’s Lot has a moderate pace and can be a bit long-winded when watched all at once, but the book is a bit long-winded as well and the flick was originally made to be watched in two, two hour segments aired a week part, which broke it up. The vampire scenes are really creepy and Hooper handles the traditional vampire tropes very well and creates some memorable sequences that are still effective today. Barlow’s purple Nosferatu-like appearance is chilling and effective and the Marsten House has it’s own personality and is visually impressive, especially once we get inside. There is very little blood as it was made for network TV, but that is fine as it has atmosphere to spare, especially in it’s second half. It takes a while to get going, but once it does it is very entertaining.

The cast are good with David Soul making a fine, reluctant hero. His writer does give the impression of a man slightly obsessed with the old house and obviously, it takes him a little time to accept that vampires are real and the town is slowly filling with them. Bonnie Bedelia makes a fine heroine as a pretty school teacher who catches Ben’s eye. Veteran actor James Mason is spooky as Barlow’s human manservant and Reggie Nalder makes for a really creepy vampire under all the make-up and contact lenses and with no dialog. We also have roles by other veteran actors such as Geoffrey Lewis, Kenneth McMillan, Lew Ayres and Fred Willard. A good cast that Hooper guides well.

I saw this miniseries when it first aired in 1979 and as a kid it really creeped me out. It’s not quite as scary all these years later and can be a bit too long when watched in one sitting, especially with some of the melodrama. But, it does have some really spooky sequences as directed by the legendary Tobe Hooper and is one of the better adaptations of King’s work, though in my personal opinion, not one of his better books. Worth watching if you have never seen it.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 pairs of fangs.

blacula_2_rating

 

 

 

 

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: SUBSPECIES (1991)

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SUBSPECIES (1991)

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As it was the birthday of the late, great Angus Scrimm recently, I decided to revisit this flick in which he stars in a small role as Vampire King Vladislav. This is one of Charles Band’s Full Moon direct to video productions and actually has a bit of a cult following, spawning three sequels and a spin-off. This first film tells of the approaching of the Festival of Prejmer in which the locals celebrate a time when, as they believe, vampires saved them from the invading Turkish army. The Vampire King (Scrimm) is going to use it to pass his crown and the powerful relic, the Bloodstone, onto his younger son Stefan (Michael Watson). His evil eldest son Radu (Anders Hove) is not happy about this and returns from his banishment to murder his father and take the powerful Bloodstone for himself. Now Stefan must find a way to stop him and help two American college students (Laura Tate and Michelle McBride) and their local friend (Irina Movila), who have been targeted by his bloodthirsty brother.

Flick is an OK vampire yarn elevated by some nice Romanian locations where it was actually filmed. The plot, as per Band and Jackson Barr’s script, plays it safe and doesn’t stray too far from the traditional vampire story. It has it’s fiend pursuing innocents and turning some into his own kind and a Van Helsing  type character, which here is represented in the form of local man Karl (Ivan J. Rado). There is a romance between Stefan and Michelle (Laura Tate) that seems added to satisfy the Anne Rice crowd, but otherwise it’s very old-fashioned. The film does have some atmosphere, though even at only 80 minutes director Ted Nicolaou moves things at a very moderate pace. There is the expected bloodshed and some nudity to appease the intended target audience and some brief stop motion animation from the legendary David Allen, in the portrayal of Radu’s diminutive demon-like minions. Being direct to video, the cinematography is sadly TV-like and the film’s sumptuous Romania locales deserved better. Aside from the always delightful Scrimm and Anders Hove giving his raspy voiced Radu some menace, the cast is fairly wooden all across the board. There is also a bit of a physical resemblance between Watson and Tate, including similar hairdos, that adds an uncomfortableness to their vampire/human romance. Too bad producer Charles Band couldn’t have given this flick a little more effort on a production and creative level, as it had potential to be something with a bit more weight had it not been targeted for direct to video sales.

Not a great movie by any lengths, but it has it’s entertainment value and even filmed unflatteringly, the Romanian locations are atmospheric. The vampire tropes are all paraded out for fans and our lead fiend is memorable and deserved a better film to be in. Angus Scrimm adds class to his pre-credits role as the Vampire King and might have been even more impressive if not for that silly wig they make him wear. Worth a look, but don’t expect too much. Actress Denise Duff would replace Tate as Michelle for the next three flicks.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2 fangs.

dracula_satanic rites rating

 

 

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: AFFLICTED (2013)

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AFFLICTED (2013)

(Clicking the highlighted links brings you to corresponding reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Afflicted is a Canadian found footage horror flick directed and starring Clif Prowse and Derek Lee, that cleverly documents a young man’s transformation into a monster and while the film isn’t always successful in what it sets out to do, it is still very effective and also one of the more intimate examinations of what it’s like for an average person to turn into a creature of the night.

The story has two friends, amateur filmmaker Clif (Clif Prowse) and IT man Derek (Derek Lee) planing a year long trip around the world despite Derek’s recently being diagnosed with cerebral arteriovenous malformation. Clif plans to document their travels for a web series/travel blog and thus his camera follows them every step of the way. But, an experience of a lifetime soon turns into a nightmare as Derek is attacked in Paris by a girl named Audrey (Baya Rehaz) whom he takes back to his room from a party. Bloodied and left with some nasty wounds, Derek can’t remember what happened but, insists he’s fine and he and Clif continue on with their trip only to discover that Derek is starting to change. He can’t eat and he starts to blister and burn violently when out in the sun. But, he also has increased strength and enhanced agilities, too. Clif continues to document as it becomes apparent his lifelong friend is changing into something unearthly, not realizing that it puts him in mortal danger as it appears Derek can only now feed on blood… human blood.

I’ll start out by saying that this flick does have a few flaws that hold it back a little but, gets a lot more right than it does wrong. Prowse and Lee start out the film with a lighter tone. An almost party/road trip atmosphere then it starts to turn darker and more grim as Derek gets ravaged and starts to change. The changes are subtle at first but, gradually get worse as Derek seems to sicken and yet get stronger by the day. The found footage format works really well as we follow Derek on his path of transformation and discovers both his new strengths and weakness, such as his aversion to sunlight and food. There are some very creepy sequences as the condition worsens and Derek and Clif begin to realize Derek is becoming a creature of myth… and a dangerous one. Sure we’ve seen this before but, the film is successful in presenting the negative effects of his transformation and the emotional turmoil that comes with it. It is only when he is reveling in his new strengths that things get a bit borderline silly and it evokes scenes from Chronicle and Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones and changes the tone of the film a bit from the more smoldering intensity of the negative aspects of Lee’s change. The flick also switches gears a bit about halfway through as Derek decides to hunt Audrey down and get answers, while being pursued by Interpol… as let’s just say he’s been very bad. When it becomes more of a hunt/chase film, it is still entertaining but, changes tone a bit and is not nearly as gripping as us watching him transform and feeling his pain and experiencing the increasing danger Clif may be in. His encounter with Audrey also gets a bit over-the-top as compared with the more grounded moments earlier on but, still presents an interesting twist on a very familiar horror story as Derek must now face that he is a monster. For the most part though, the film works and Prowse and Lee have some potential as filmmakers and the horror elements of the flick work a lot better than when it veers into the superpowers elements… though those have their entertainment factor too, as it is part of a very familiar type of horror character. The film has some nice atmosphere and the cinematography by Norm Li is well shot and without loosing the found footage feel. The portrayal of some of the more fantastic elements of Derek’s transformation, such as his augmented strength and agility, are well staged and help keep them from crossing the line into silly.

As for the cast… It’s basically a two man show with Prowse and Lee playing ‘themselves’ and they are fine as they come across as real people and Derek Lee actually portrays his torment and confusion quite well and can be scary when he wants to be. Prowse comes across a caring friend and inquisitive filmmaker but, also someone who may be too close to the situation to realize how dangerous things are getting. Baya Rehaz is effective as Audrey and gives her character a presence in her brief screen time and appears quite formidable and yet not entirely inhuman when Derek tracks her down for their climactic confrontation in Paris. The scene goes over-the-top a bit but, overall works.

I liked this flick and with the found footage format at a point where it’s starting to wear out it’s welcome, it is a novel use for it that puts an interesting spin on a very familiar horror story. The horror elements of this story work far better than the more over-the-top elements and the shift in tone when the film changes story focus at halftime isn’t as involving as what came before but, isn’t a failure either. Prowse and Lee show some real promise as filmmakers and overall this was a refreshing twist on a an overly saturated horror sub-genre and manages to give this somewhat neutered horror staple back a little bit of it’s teeth. Watch through the credits for a chilling epilogue.

3 sets of fangs.

blacula_2_rating

WARNING: this trailer shows A LOT…

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