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

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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

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: ABBY and JD’S REVENGE

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It’s been a long time since I took a look at any films from the Blaxploitation era of the 70s, so I decided to put these two stories of supernatural possession together for today’s Saturday Night Double Feature!…
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ABBY (1974)

Released Christmas day 1974, Abby was A.I.P.’s blaxploitation answer to The Exorcist, so much so, that Warner Brothers sued and got the film pulled from release. But not before it made a ton of cash on it’s low budget investment. Abby tells the story of a holy man (the great William ‘Blacula’ Marshall) who, while investigating an archeological dig in Nigeria, pertaining to their ancient Yoruba religion, accidentally releases the evil entity Eshu. The vile spirit shows it’s gratitude by possessing his daughter-in-law Abby (Carol Speed). As the spirit takes hold and Abby becomes more and more vile in her behavior, Dr.Williams (Marshall) returns home to do battle with the demonic entity.

Abby is played very straight despite delivering some unintentional laughs. It’s very low budget, so it’s FX are limited to blowing wind, bizarre sounds and throwing furniture around while Abby speaks in an almost comically dubbed man voice, that was provided by Bob Holt, a prolific voice actor, complete with echo. Exploitation filmmaker William Girdler writes and directs and while despite trying to play it straight, most of possessed Abby’s vulgar talk and behavior just elicits laughs not chills. I do give credit to Carol Speed for just going with it and giving it her all despite how silly some of this comes off. Not to forget William Marshall, who once again brings a power and nobility to his role and maintains it despite how ridiculous things get. Still, you gotta like a movie that stages an African themed exorcism in a bar.

In Abby’s defense, there is some nice 70s nostalgia and unintentional laughs are a form of entertainment, so Abby is by no means a boring movie, it’s just not very scary or chilling. With a few beers it can be a hoot to watch and that’s just fine. Also stars Austin Stoker (Assault On Precinct 13) as Abby’s police officer brother.

EXTRA TRIVIA: Again actor William Marshall was involved in adding African culture to a film as he did with Blacula. It was he who added the use of the Yoruba religion in the film, though he apparently was still unhappy about the film’s final script. I don’t blame him.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 possessed Abbys!

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JD’S REVENGE (1976)

J.D.’s Revenge starts out in 1942 New Orleans as gangster J.D. Walker (David McKnight) is gunned down for a murder he didn’t commit, that of his own sister. Flash forward to 1976 New Orleans where Ike (Glynn E. Turman), a student working through law school, starts to have bloody hallucinations of a mysterious and violent man and soon starts to take on his characteristics against his will. A confused Ike seeks help, not realizing J.D. is back for revenge and using Ike’s body to do it.

As blaxploitation films go, this A.I.P. made flick looks good on a low budget and the acting (including future Oscar winner Lou Gossett Jr. as a former mobster turned preacher, who figures in J.D.’s past) is actually pretty good, especially from Turman. What hurts J.D.’s Revenge is director Arthur Marks’ slow pace and that the film could have used some more intensity. That’s not to say there aren’t intense scenes, there are, especially during the last act, but the film does drag a bit early on. You would expect a bit more scares in a story of possession and revenge from beyond the grave. Marks seems to treat the material like a routine drama despite the violent and supernatural story and that takes away from the fun and makes it a bit too serious for this type of movie. It’s as if he wasn’t comfortable with the horror elements, despite the fact that this is indeed a horror film. If it wasn’t for Turman’s effective portrayal of Ike’s torment, J.D.’s Revenge would be far less watchable. And without giving anything away, the end was far too neat and clean.

As it is, it is a well made film but not as intense or fun as we’d like. It is a curiosity for those who enjoy films from this era and not without some nostalgic fun, but doesn’t quite live up to it’s cult reputation.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 gangster possessed Ikes!

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: GRIZZLY (1976)

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GRIZZLY (1976)

Grizzly is a 1976 Jaws rip-off that tells the horrifying tale of a massive 15 foot (the ads for the film say 18, but in the movie it is said to be 15) grizzly bear, who has wandered hungrily into a state park and begins snacking down on the campers and rangers alike. Chief Ranger Mike Kelly (Christopher George) has his hands full as he, Naturalist Arthur Scott (Richard Jaeckel) and war vet chopper pilot Don Stober (Andrew Prine) have to somehow stop the relentless carnivore.

Grizzly follows the template created by Spielberg’s thriller quite closely with our three leads being the Brody, Hooper and Quint characters who are hunting a vicious, yet seemingly very intelligent predator, while it racks up quite the body count of innocent victims. We get the greedy head of the park refusing to close the place down despite the deaths and bringing in a bunch of amateur yahoos to hunt the bear down. But despite the blatant similarities, Grizzly actually works on a B-movie level. As directed by William Girdler (Abby, The Manitou), Grizzly is actually an effective and surprisingly gory PG horror flick. While it never matches the tension of the movie it was clearly inspired by, it does entertain in more of a low budget slasher flick kind of way, with the rampaging bear filling in for Jason or Michael Myers. For a 2000 lb. animal, it sneaks up on people quite easily. There is never much attempt to explain why the animal is so big, or why it has come to this park to feed, except for a quick throw-away line suggesting it might be a throw-back to it’s prehistoric ancestors. But like with the shark in Jaws, the grizzly is effectively portrayed and it’s background is unimportant to the carnage it creates. A live bear was used in filming and the 11 foot “Teddy” is quite effective in the part along with a prop arm for up-close mauling. It is said that the crew coaxed the bear into it’s roaring stance by offering it marshmallows, adding the roar in post production. Works for me!

Sure there is some silly dialog and all the acting is not top notch, but the leads are veteran actors and give the material the respect it needs to work and their characters are all pretty likable. This, along with some effectively gory kills and a nice fast pace by director Girdler, turns this low budget rip-off into an entertaining B-movie that works well enough on it’s own. Made for a reported $750,000, Grizzly grossed almost $40 million. Not bad for a Jaws imitation that, when you add the 70s nostalgia factor, is actually a fun Saturday night B-movie horror thriller despite it’s rip-off roots.

3 rampaging grizzly bears

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Couldn’t find a good trailer but did find the opening attack scene… in fact, you can watch the whole movie on Youtube as it appears to be public domain now… WARNING: SCENE IS GRAPHIC!

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