Hells yeah, horror! It’s no secret that I am a horror nut, so it is with great pleasure that I bring you my thoughts on Mario Bava’s BLACK SABBATH, Jack Hill’s SPIDER BABY and the newer flicks THE COLLECTION and ZOMBIE WOMEN OF SATAN.
You’ll also note a slight change at the end of this column. Since I am very much behind, it doesn’t feel honest to have the counter read “Films watched in 2013 so far.” Trust me, I’ve watched more than what has been listed, I just haven’t been able to get to all of them in print. Therefore, the counter will now read “Number of films covered in the Journal so far.” I know this was keeping you at the edge of your seat.
FILM GEEK JOURNAL – ENTRY 35
BLACK SABBATH (a.k.a. I TRE VOLTI DELLA PAURA) (1963) – This anthology film features three tales, bridged at the beginning and end by the great Boris Karloff. Eerie is the order of the day as each of the tales really creeps up on you.
Mario Bava’s anthology film is a testament to what a master stylist can do with minimal setups. This is the explanation for two of the stories in his classic film – “The Telephone” and “The Drop of Water.” Both are great, but rely on Bava’s skill as a director to amp up the psychological tension to an almost unbearable level.
The remaining story is considerably more epic, even if most of it does take place in a family’s modest home. “I Vurdulak” is based on a story by Leo Tolstoy. In this story, Karloff is actually featured as the patriarch of a family who goes to kill a vurdulak (the Russian folktale version of a vampire) and comes back as something less than human. It is absolutely one of the most chilling and uncompromising pieces of horror committed to the screen before the easing of censorship in the 1970s allowed people to really go for broke. BLACK SABBATH is highly recommended. ★★★½ (out of ★★★★)
SPIDER BABY (a.k.a. CANNIBAL ORGY, SPIDER BABY OR THE MADDEST STORY EVER TOLD) (1968) – The Merry family suffers from a rare ailment. Once the family members reach puberty, they start to regress. First, they become childlike, then more animal, until finally regressing to a savage, prenatal, prehistoric state of savagery. The madness comes in early as even childhood games start to take deadly turns.
I could go on and on about Jack Hill’s amazing cult classic, one of my favorite films of all time. In fact, I already did. I watched this in preparation for the second episode of my new web series, Moviocrity. Click on that link or check out the video below to see a full video presentation, celebrating the many things that make SPIDER BABY a fascinating and entertaining treat. ★★★★ (out of ★★★★)
ZOMBIE WOMEN OF SATAN (2009) – We start with an avant-garde burlesque circus act. We have fire eaters, magic tricks, at least one rock star and most notably the insatiable Pervo the Clown. The group gets a chance to appear on an internet show. Unfortunately, the guy hosting the show is also the leader of a cult of brainwashed women. Also, his father is a mad scientist that has been trying to re-animate the dead. Before you know it, there’s a zombie rampage going on all over the property and the circus troupe can’t get away.
It’s a wacky spin on the zombie sub-genre which has been saturating the world of horror lately. And in a more polished, assured production, perhaps it could have all worked. The problem is that they have a great idea for the protagonists, a group of drunken, outsider anti-heroes that find themselves in this crazy situation. Unfortunately, how these people come off on the screen is grating in the extreme. They basically curse, yell and argue with one another throughout all their scenes, to the point where even one of the supporting characters notes how unbearable it all is. Also, Pervo may have potential as a character, but he’s not as funny as the filmmakers seem to think he is. ★½ (out of ★★★★)
NOTE: Trailer is NSFW.
THE COLLECTION (2012) – In this sequel to 2009’s THE COLLECTOR, Arkin the thief-turned-protagonist (Josh Stewart) manages to escape from the Collector’s custody. Unfortunately, he does so while another young woman is kidnapped by the murder and torture freak, shortly after slicing, dicing and crushing several dozen ravers (I think that’s the right word. Is “ravers” still a thing? I don’t know, I’m getting old.). The kidnapped girl is the daughter of a wealthy man, who hires a group of special ops soldiers to enter the Collector’s lair. But to navigate the lair, they need Arkin, who is blackmailed into facing his old foe once again.
I didn’t hate THE COLLECTOR, but I didn’t go crazy for it either. I thought it had some nice set-pieces and an unapologetic brutality that worked for the film. However, it was also annoyingly bleak and filled with ridiculous plot holes.
THE COLLECTION keeps the plot holes, but is a slight improvement over the previous film precisely because it doesn’t take itself too seriously. When I heard that there was another film in which people get tortured and crushed, I was not interested in the slightest. Seriously guys, the well is dry. And in a constant attempt to be even more sadistic than the films that preceded it, many of these torture porn films has stopped trying to be better. Fortunately, THE COLLECTION has a refreshing sense of humor. All the crazy characters (and I mean that both figuratively and literally), coupled with the out-of-nowhere elaborate traps are instead treated with a sense of humor and energy which the original film lacked. It’s almost as if working on not just THE COLLECTOR but several later SAW movies as well has caused Marcus Dustan to create what in some respects is a knowing satire of those film, while still containing just enough jumps to serve as an adequate horror film. THE COLLECTION isn’t a great film, but it’s certainly better than I was expecting. ★★★ (out of ★★★★)
Number of films covered in the Journal so far: 170
Miss any of the previous Journal entries? Check them out here.
And tune into my new web series, Moviocrity!