Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Psychopath, Italian Horror from the UK

Everything about this film exudes Italian horror. A weird and twisted psychopath and some sultry damsels in much distress (not all will survive) are pulled out of the plot lines of these erotic scary tales from Italy. But wait! This one is from England. From 1966, we take a peek at "The Psychopath." Consistent with Italian horror, everyone is a suspect in this film...and every beautiful woman seems doomed to be gutted.
Inspector Holloway
Some weird murders are occurring in England. The corpses are found, usually mangled, and a doll with their likeness nearby. The gruff Inspector Holloway (Patrick Wymark) is on the case. Ah, the victims seem to be connected. They were all members of an allied war crime commission that prosecuted some Nazi named Von Sturm. Von Sturm's estate in Germany was then seized. Uh oh, Von Sturm's wife (Margaret Johnston) and eerie son Mark (John Standing) now live in England and Mrs. Von Sturm collects, and talks to dolls. Members of the commission continue dying and now anyone who may have an idea about the case also assumes room temperature. In a heartbreaking plot device, the sultry Gina (Gina Gianelli), who works at a doll shop, is gutted in an alley, and a doll with her likeness is found nearby.
Oh no! Not Gina!
As Holloway pursues both Von Sturms', he becomes a target of the psycho. Uh oh...could someone else be doing the murders? The lovely Lousie (Judy Huxtable) has a fiance with lots of debt. Louise's dad was on the war crimes commission. Now she may be a target, and her fiance now has a motive as Louise's dad hated him. As we get more insight into Mrs. Von Sturm, she is indeed angry at the commission's findings and buys many doll bodies from the store Gina worked, and is adept at making dolls, which she considers part of her family. Is this too easy?
Louise meets the dolls
This mystery/horror whodunit is a lot of fun, and Patrick Wymark is fantastic as the driven detective. In Italian horror fashion, will the lovely Louise follow Gina's example, and die horribly? Are the Von Sturms' responsible for the carnage, given they have the best motive? The answer to the mystery is secondary to the extreme creepiness of the conclusion which goes way beyond merely identifying the killer. For some alluring horror, catch "The Psychopath," directed by Freddie Francis.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Extinction, Burn Notice in Winter

I usually avoid TV shows, but I do admit that I had a fondness for "Burn Notice." Jeffrey Donovan played the hero, disgraced secret agent Michael Westen. Fans of that show will also remember Bruce Campbell and Gabrielle Anwar rounding out a very dynamic and entertaining trio. So where does Mr. Donovan go after the show ends? The zombie apocalypse! I know, the mention of the phrase 'zombie apocalypse' draws a yawn from us.  However, 2015's "Extinction," though keeping many of the pitfalls that ruin modern zombie apocalypse films, does have some interesting and visually appealing elements.
Nine years previous the world ends. Zombies! Jack (Donovan) survives with his nine year old daughter, Lu (Quinn McColgan). Also surviving is Jack's former best friend Patrick (Matthew Fox). Former is the key word.  Something happened at the apocalypse which spurred an intense hatred by Jack toward Patrick. Don't worry, a back story will fill in the blanks. Now Patrick and Lou live in their fortified compound/house, and wouldn't you know it, Patrick lives next door. With no signs of life, this uneasy trio live in a frigid, snow-covered wasteland where no man or monster tread. Patrick is determined to reach more survivors on his shortwave radio, while Patrick home-schools Lu.
Years have past since monsters have been seen and Jack believes they are all dead. Oh yes, those zombies of nine years ago? They evolved into grotesque, super-human monsters. Bad news...while foraging for food, Patrick barely survives a monster attack. Not only are the monsters still around, they now know where the trio live.  Indications are that the creatures are coming and Patrick wants to flee. Unfortunately, his status with Jack is still in the dumpster, and Jack and Lu intend to stay put. A final war will take place, but not before some tense moments between Jack and Patrick...and more monsters.
Are Jack, Patrick, and Lu the only three survivors of the zombie apocalypse? What did Patrick do to Jack that inspired this intense hatred? Just how clever have these monsters become in the nine years since the apocalypse? One of the best aspects of "Extinction" are the snowy sets and desolate city wastelands in which Patrick and Jack forage in.  Some critics may argue that much of this film is unrealistic, but then again, what about zombie apocalypses are realistic? Shot in Budapest, Hungary, enjoy "Extinction," especially as "The Walking Dead" continues its painful decline.

Friday, December 8, 2017

The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism, Nubile Virgins Sacrificed

Karin Dor was the first German Bond Girl when she appeared in 1967's "You Only Live Twice." That same year, she played the nubile virgin with impressive and lively cleavage in "The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism." Her attractiveness blows Christopher Lee's performance away in this German made Gothic horror film. Also, this German film comes very close to mirroring the style of the horror films made by Hammer.
Count Regula (Lee) is drawn and quartered for murdering 12 beautiful virgins. He was caught before he could torture to death the 13th. Unfortunately for Regula, if he had succeeded, he would have been granted eternal life by the devil. 35 years later, Lilian (Dor), the descendant of the 13th virgin is summoned to Regula's castle. Also summoned is Roger (Lex Barker), a descendant to the magistrate that sentenced Regula to death. Unbeknownst to these two, who will of course fall in love, Regula is no longer in the grave and is eager to pick up where he left off 35 years ago.
As Roger and Lilian journey through a dark forest, with corpses hanging from trees, they both realize their pasts are intertwined. Babette (Christiane Rucker) is Lilian's buxom servant, and she is also along for the ride. Uh oh, Lilian and Roger are immediately hounded and harassed by Regula's undead servant Anatol (Carl Lange). Babette is strung up in torture devices and the two lovebirds discover a dozen dead beaties who have been tortured to death. As Regula returns, he begins his quest to make Lilian the 13th virgin. But get this! It is not enough to just murder Lilian, she needs to die in the throes of extreme horror. As Anatol separates Roger from his new love, Regula begins his quest to frighten Lilian to death in order to receive eternal life.
Can square-jawed Roger save the sultry Lilian? Is the buxom, blonde Babette a virgin? Just how does Regula plan to scare Lilian to death? Lots of torture device carnage, snake-pits, and buzzards picking apart corpses will enhance this Gothic tale. This is a good re-imagining of Poe's "The Pit and the Pendulum," and the beautiful Karin Dor makes this film so worthwhile. For some almost-Hammer horror, see "The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism," directed by Ms. Dor's husband, Harald Reinl. 

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Tomb of Torture, Gothic Horror from Italy

An old haunted castle!  Ghosts!  Deformed ghouls! A torture chamber!  A pretty damsel in much distress!  From Italy, today we take a look at 1963's "Tomb of Torture." Perhaps a pretty standard tale of ghosts and possession, but that doesn't mean this film doesn't work. Spooky and atmospheric, this movie will please horror fans.
Countess Irene (Annie Alberti) mysteriously disappeared 20 years ago. Uh oh, Anna (also Annie Alberti) is a spitting image of this beauty and also has weird dreams suggesting she is Irene's reincarnate.  Anna's dad (Adriano Micontoni) is worried about Anna's preoccupation with an unrelated, long missing countess, and decides to bring Anna to the castle to help cure her. This doesn't work. Living at the castle is Irene's weird sister, Elizabeth (Flora Carosello). Homicidal antics permeate this old castle as the film begins when two nubile Italian babes trespass into the castle, are captured by a weird ghoul, strung up in various states of undress and tortured to death in a secret chamber.  Will this ultimately be Anna's fate?
Anna's dreams of Irene continue and now she is even seeing Irene's ghost. To take her mind off this eerie circumstance, Anna goes skinny dipping...as we all would, I'm sure. While naked, reporter George (Marco Mariani) comes across her and falls in love with her. Anna also falls in love with George, so sweet. George is trying to investigate the death of the two aforementioned beauties and has linked the carnage to the castle. Oh yes, Elizabeth is not happy to see Anna arrive and wants her out of the picture. Of course, this all leads to a mysterious force leading Anna to the castle and the torture chamber.
What happened to Countess Irene, and why is Elizabeth so hostile to Anna? What secrets does the hidden torture chamber hold, and why were the two babes strung up there?  Will Anna also end up strung up in that chamber, and will her fate differ from the two beauties who have assumed room temperature?  This is an eerie damsel in much distress ghost story, directed by Antonio Boccaci. For some frivolous fun that includes babes being tortured, ghosts, and skinny dipping, see "Tomb of Torture."   

Monday, December 4, 2017

House of Blood, Vampire Monsters vs. Convicts

In the age old battle between vampire monsters and convicts, the vampire fiends will win again. No surprise there, but in 2006's "House of Blood" (aka "Chain Reaction") this conflict isn't really what the film is about. Too bad, the real story is hardly as dramatic. Don't fret, this film is still a worthwhile take. Whatever the themes and plot of this work are, the appeal of "House of Blood" is some great gore.  Decapitations, severed limbs, internal organs pulled out, and some amputations will warm your heart. Oh yes, one more point of introduction. Critics pan this film because of the acting. I guess that's fair, but keep in mind, this film was made in Austria with Austrians trying to act like hardened American criminals.
A doctor is in a head on collision with a prison bus. In the ensuing carnage, four prisoners dis-arm the guards, execute them in gory fashion, and take Dr. Madsen (Christopher Kriesa) hostage. The four psychos tell the doctor that they will let him live if he keeps a wounded prisoner, Spence (Luca Maric) alive. Madsen agrees but lets the gang leader, Arthur (Simon Newby) know that Spence's arm needs to be amputated. The four, plus the doctor, head toward the Canadian border and find a weird house in the wilderness.
Now, more fun begins. Yep, the convicts invade the house and find eight really weird people. The doctor enlists the help of Alice (Martina Ittenbach) to amputate Spence's arm. After the residents eat the severed arm, Arthur goes crazy and the convicts execute the residents. The peeps don't stay dead and return to life as vampires and pull off the heads and rip out the internal organs of the convicts, and Alice helps Madsen escape. Guess what! We aren't even half way through the film. What follows is more of the same and a hint that the doctor may have some connection to the house and the monsters inside. More decapitations and people being ripped apart, and oh yes...more amputations await.
What is the doctor's connection to the monsters? Why is vampire-monster Alice so eager to save the doctor? Does this film represent Austria's far right movement's ideas for criminal justice? Gory and interesting, this film has a lot of detractors. As far as the assertion that the acting is horrible in this film...well...the acting here is better than any effort given by Megan Fox or Ben Affleck. For some great gore and mean vampire fiends, check out "House of Blood" (directed by Olaf Ittenbach).

Saturday, December 2, 2017

The Villainess, Hot Asian Chick Wipes Out Korea

Hot Asian chick, clad in a leather jacket and some kinda attitude, using a semi-automatic pistol, a knife, and a rope, kills 54 South Koreans...in the first seven minutes of this film. Merry Christmas! From 2017 we take a peek "The Villainess." A love story, really. Don't fret, if you thought that opening scene was cool, the closing scene is similar, except an axe instead of a gun, and a leather body suit instead of just a jacket.
Sook-hee (Ok-bin Kim) is an assassin. From the aforementioned opening scene, we see that she is a really good one. Uh oh, after that carnage she is arrested as a mess of cops arrive...or are they cops? They aren't! Nope, they are from The Agency. Who is The Agency?! They break her like a cowboy does a bronco and then fine tune her. Sook-hee is taught to act, cook, sew, and even has a child. Now she's ready. The Agency will implant her in society as a single mom, actress. Once a week or so she will be asked to assassinate various peeps who probably deserve what they get.
Sook-hee is very valuable to The Agency and they send in their best man, Joong-rang (Ha-kyun Shin) to fall in love with her and marry her. The vulnerable killer falls for this and has no clue her new beau is also a trained assassin working for The Agency. Uh oh...Joon-rang really does fall for her. They do make a cute couple even though Sook-hee has to fake going to the restroom all the time in order to assassinate various schmucks. I have not mentioned the back story, and I won't, but it bubbles up in this story and threatens Sook-hee's new life as a wife and mother. Explosions, gunfights, knife-fights, and bloody car chases then take center stage as we are left questioning just who are the bad guys.
I know this all sounds kind of confusing, but I really didn't want to deliver too many spoilers by giving more of the plot. This is a wild one and the final scene is an orgasmic voyage into carnage and bloody revenge. Our sultry villainess (or should I say heroine?) will kill about a hundred Koreans before the final credits roll. The blood will spurt, severed limbs will fly, and lots of stuff will be blown up in the heartwarming tale of romance and death. For a tender Christmas film, watch "The Villainess," directed by Byung-gil Jung.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Malafafone, Vanity and Vegetables

It must be true, it was on the internet! Whenever I'm stumped at a question, my advice is always the same, "pick up the iPad and look it up." Want to build a nuclear power plant in your backyard? Go to YouTube or Google, it'll show you how. Want to cook some roadkill? Pick up your Tablet and look up a good recipe. Want to look beautiful for a big date? Yep...you guessed it. Of course believing everything you see on the internet could lead to horrific results...or comedic results. Today we look at a short horror/comedy film (2 minutes) written and directed by Jono Freedrix, "Malafafone."
So cute! A lovely young lady (Lesley Shannon) has a big date tonight with a guy (Andy Baldeschwiler) she is crazy about. Bless her soul, she is taking great pains to look her best...and we know the beau will appreciate it. Uh oh...according to her device, there is one more fool proof way to look your best. What follows is...well...you'll see.
Funny and irreverent, "Malafafone" will make you laugh. A slightly deeper examination of the plot may have you a bit creeped out, though. No spoilers here, but I will say my friend Alan Rowe Kelly does a bang up job on the make-up and special f/x. If we want to get even deeper, I dare say that this short film is very poignant in today's America as we are seeing the level of misogyny rampant in the world of young professional women.
If you'd like to see this 2 minute horror comedy, click on this link Malafafone
For inquiries, email jonathan@thevirtualstage.org or dani@integralartists.com