Film Review: Daughters of Darkness (1971)

Also known as: Les lèvres rouges, Erzebeth (original titles), Blood On the Lips, Children of the Night, The Promise of Red Lips, The Red Lips, The Redness of the Lips (alternate titles)
Release Date: May 28th, 1971 (New York City premiere)
Directed by:  Harry Kümel
Written by: Harry Kümel, J.J. Amiel, Pierre Drouot
Music by: François de Roubaix
Cast: Delphine Seyrig, Danielle Ouimet, John Karlen, Andrea Rau

Showking Films, Maya Films, Ciné Vog Films, 100 Minutes, 87 Minutes (edited cut)

Review:

“Love is stronger than death… even than life” – Countess Bathory

I was surprised to find that this is the first Belgian film that I’ve reviewed. I better start showing Belgium some more love.

Daughters of Darkness was one of the thirteen films featured on the recent horror marathon Joe Bob Briggs did for Shudder. This is streaming on Shudder, by the way, for those of you that have the streaming service.

This is a pretty artsy horror movie but the director was a bit of an uppity self-important tyrant that liked to slap his actresses around and take himself and his “art” way too seriously.

That being said, this isn’t in any way a great or memorable picture except for in one regard: cinematography.

This film is beautifully and magnificently shot. It would have made a spectacular music video had the scenes been used for that but as a motion picture, this falls pretty flat in every other way.

This was made in a time when lesbian vampire movies were all the rage. Okay, maybe not “all the rage” but they were at the height of their popularity, especially in Europe.

The story follows a young newlywed couple that stays in a creepy hotel on a Belgian beach. They are then preyed on by a gorgeous vampire woman and her vampire lesbian lover. The guy starts acting out of character, beats up his new bride and eventually everyone is banging everyone and then everyone dies. It’s predictable and derivative. It might not have been derivative for 1971 but by 2018, we’ve all seen this story a dozen times or more.

This isn’t so bad that it isn’t watchable. It did keep me engaged and the cinematography, especially the outdoor stuff, was genuinely captivating. But I can’t recommend it unless you’re just really into visuals.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: MalpertuisThe Blood Spattered BrideVampyresVampyros Lesbos and Vampire Lovers.

Film Review: Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992)

Release Date: July 31st, 1992
Directed by: Fran Rubel Kuzui
Written by: Joss Whedon
Music by: Carter Burwell
Cast: Kristy Swanson, Donald Sutherland, Paul Reubens, Rutger Hauer, Luke Perry, Hilary Swank, David Arquette, Stephen Root, Thomas Jane, Sasha Jenson, Ben Affleck (uncredited), Ricki Lake (uncredited), Seth Green (uncredited), Alexis Arquette

Sandollar, Kuzui Enterprises, 20th Century Fox, 86 Minutes

Review:

“Does the word “duh” mean anything to you?” – Buffy

Joss Whedon wasn’t a fan of this version of his Buffy character and five years later, he developed a television series that reflected what he saw in his mind. Most fans prefer the television show but I guess I have to be the odd man out or maybe it’s because I am often times a contrarian but I prefer this movie. I’ll explain though, that’s why I’m here.

First, I have always loved Kristy Swanson. This isn’t a battle over who is hotter between Swanson or Sarah Michelle Gellar, as both are gorgeous, but Swanson’s personality and the way she played this role was more my cup of tea. And if Buffy is going to be a valley girl high schooler, Swanson fits the part better for me. Not to discount Gellar’s work because she was great in her own way and played Buffy as a much more complex character. But let’s be honest, she also had seven seasons and 144 episodes to grow in that role, Swanson had less than 90 minutes.

I also love the supporting cast of the movie better. I mean the villains are Rutger Hauer and Paul Reubens for chrissakes! And man, both of those guys ham it the hell up in this and just fit the tone of the film perfectly. Reubens ad-libbed in a lot of scenes and it made for a better movie and for a more entertaining character.

You also have Luke Perry, at the height of his popularity, and I’m not afraid to admit that I watched Beverly Hills 90210 during its peak. It was the hottest show on television and I was in middle school. Plus, I met Luke Perry when I was young, just by coincidence, and he was really f’n cool.

This movie is cheesy as all hell but it is supposed to be. It captures that ’90s teen vibe really well but overall, this is just a really fun movie that I can put on at any time and still enjoy for its absurdity and its awesomeness.

I knew that once the TV show came out, that we’d never get a proper followup to this version of Buffy. But since the TV show has its own comics, it’d be cool if someone did a comic book sequel to this incarnation of that universe. Or hell, maybe even a Buffy vs. Buffy crossover. Who owns the comic book rights now? IDW? Dark Horse? Boom? Dynamite? I don’t know but whoever it is, get on it!

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: Other ’90s teen horror comedies: Idle HandsThe FacultyFreddy’s Dead, etc. I also like pairing this with Encino Man for some reason.

Film Review: Robo Vampire (1988)

Also known as: Robovamp (Spain)
Release Date: 1988 (Hong Kong)
Directed by: Godfrey Ho (as Joe Livingstone)
Written by: William Palmer
Music by: Ian Wilson
Cast: Robin Mackay, Nian Watts, Harry Myles, Joe Browne

Filmark International Ltd., 90 Minutes

Review:

“Now that Tom is dead, I want to use his body to create an android-like robot. I’d appreciate you approving my application.” – Soldier #1

This is easily one of the worst things I have ever seen, hands f’n down. This makes all of those other Godfrey Ho movies look like Fellini films.

To be honest, I don’t even know what the hell I watched. This is a Godfrey Ho movie but his pictures are much better when he just throws a bunch of ninjas at each other. This saw a fake Robocop take on vampires dressed in ornate Chinese garb that bounce around like pogo sticks with their arms outstretched. I’m not shitting you. The threat is bouncy zombie dudes dressed like a maître d’ at a super fancy Chinese restaurant.

The fake Robocop suit is so damn bad that it made my head want to explode with confusion and bewilderment. But not a good kind of bewilderment. I think I made a better Robocop suit out of tin foil and duct tape when I was nine years old.

This pile of donkey dung was terrible in every way. The acting was atrocious. The dubbing was deplorable. The directing was reprehensible. The cinematography was nonexistent. The music was barf inspiring. Nothing about this worked in any way whatsoever.

You know how a bad movie can be sort of good because it is so bad? Well, this is so bad it made me want to take a rotary sander to my face just to hide my eyes from it.

One time when I was in third grade, I did what I thought was a fart while I was in class. I got a little surprise though… it was more than a fart. It was a fart with a wet, physical friend. That experience was less horrifying than this one.

So let me use that analogy to segue into what we all know must happen. Robo Vampire absolutely must be run through the Cinespiria Shitometer. The results read, “Fuck you, asshole! I am not analyzing this cinematic calamity! – Sincerely, the Cinespiria Shitometer”

Rating: 0.25/10
Pairs well with: Bowel cancer.

Film Review: Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959)

Also known as: Grave Robbers From Outer Space, The Vampire’s Tomb (working titles)
Release Date: July 22nd, 1959
Directed by: Ed Wood
Written by: Ed Wood
Music by: stock recordings compiled by Gordon Zahler
Cast: Criswell, Bela Lugosi, Gregory Walcott, Vampira, Lyle Talbot, Tor Johnson, Mona McKinnon, Duke Moore, Tom Keene, Paul Marco, John “Bunny” Breckinridge, Conrad Brooks, Ed Wood (cameo)

Reynolds Pictures, 79 Minutes

Review:

“But one thing’s sure. Inspector Clay is dead, murdered, and somebody’s responsible.” – Lieutenant John Harper

I’ve reviewed several films by Ed Wood but I put off his most famous picture for quite awhile. I wanted to wait for a rainy day to revisit it. But then a friend and I got drunk and decided to watch the Rifftrax Live version of the film.

For those that don’t know, Ed Wood is widely considered to be the worst director of all-time. Frankly, that’s bullshit, as there are many directors who are much worse than Wood. He just got famous for being bad. And yes, his films aren’t good but Wood was able to get his enthusiasm and love across, even if his movies were cheap, terribly acted, terribly directed and had scenarios that were hardly believable even for 1950s science fiction.

There is a charm to Wood’s pictures and Plan 9 From Outer Space wears that charm on its sleeve. It’s a jumbled mess of a lot of ideas, crashing together and competing with one another but Wood’s ambition here is hard to deny.

I always felt like Wood was someone that just needed a good creative partner to help steer his projects and refine them. Ed Wood was the ultimate fanboy and everything he made was a sort of mashup of all the things he was a hardcore fan of. It all just lacks refinement and a budget… and sometimes common sense and continuity.

Plan 9 From Outer Space is Wood’s magnum opus and it has the best cast that he was ever able to assemble. Okay, maybe they weren’t talented from an acting standpoint but he got known icons in the movie like Tor Johnson, Criswell, Vampira and Bela Lugosi, who died before this was actually made but shot footage with Wood for a future project.

As bad of a film as Plan 9 is, it isn’t unwatchable. Okay, it may be unwatchable for a modern audience that doesn’t understand the context of what this is, how it came to be and the legend of the man behind it. But with that being said, you don’t try to push Tommy Wiseau’s The Room on an audience that happily paid to see Transformers 5. For those that understand and appreciate things like this, it’s a worthwhile motion picture to experience.

There are aliens, vampires, ghouls, UFOs and an airplane cockpit that looks like it’s from the set of an elementary school play. There are a lot of things to love about this picture, if you’re into cheesy ’50s sci-fi and horror.

Plan 9 From Outer Space is something special. It has stood the test of time because of its flaws and how its director has become a legend of sorts. But maybe its still talked about because it has a bit of magic in it too.

I would suggest watching the biopic Ed Wood to understand the context of the film and its backstory. Plus, Ed Wood is one of my favorite movies of all-time and is still Tim Burton’s best.

Rating: 4.25/10
Pairs well with: Other Ed Wood films from the era: Bride of the MonsterNight of the Ghouls and Glen or Glenda? Also, the biopic Ed Wood, which was directed by Tim Burton and starred Johnny Depp as Wood.

Comic Review: Vampirella Archives, Vol. 1

Published: December 22nd, 2010
Written by: various
Art by: various

Dynamite, 390 Pages

Review:

I’ve read a few stories over the years with Vampirella in them. I have never gone back to check her out at her earliest though. Luckily, there was this archive edition of her first seven issues.

If you also haven’t read the earliest Vampirella stuff, then this book could be a bit of a disappointment. Not because it is bad but because what Vampirella was, in her original incarnation, was very different than what she would become.

The character was originally imagined as a horror story hostess, similar to Vampira or later, Elvira. She was created to set up short horror stories in an anthology collection, which is what her magazine was for its first eight issues. After that, she would go on to be a character with her own life and adventures.

While the original concept was really cool, I can see why they would change and evolve. Reading the seven issues collected here, the format starts to get derivative and actually loses its luster pretty quickly. Some of the short stories are fun but some just feel like quickly crafted knockoffs of stories you’ve seen before.

I really liked the art style in these old school Vampirella stories though. It kept that pulp feeling going strong well beyond the decades where it peaked.

This collection is definitely historically important but it isn’t a necessary read for those wanting to experience Vampirella. The second volume gets more into the Vampirella stuff most people would want to read. You know, where she is a total badass and gets her hands dirty while wearing only about four square inches of wardrobe.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: Lots of old horror and pulp magazines. I would continue on from here and keep reading further into Vampirella, as she goes on to be a leading character in her own stories, as opposed to just hosting tales.

Video Game Review: Castlevania (NES)

Every kid in the ‘8os played Castlevania. Well, if they didn’t, they missed out on one of the greatest experiences of their generation. Sure, it wasn’t as massive as Super Mario Bros. or The Legend of Zelda but it is just as much a classic and has had a similar level of staying power, as sequels are still made and it even has an anime show on Netflix that is currently running.

The game sort of takes the Universal Monsters and throws them into a 2D side scrolling adventure of badass proportions. The big boss is Dracula but you also face Frankenstein’s monster, a hunchback, a mummy, several gillmen, as well as other classic monsters that weren’t in the Universal Monsters canon like the Grim Reaper and Medusa. There are also zombies, giant wolves, giant bats and dismembered Medusa heads that fly at you. There are deadly traps, pits and water that is instant death. The game throws a lot at you and pulls no punches.

Seriously, this really pulls no punches. The game is hard as hell. And maybe the difficulty level is it’s only real negative. It isn’t an unbeatable game, as I have conquered it. But man, it is an incredible challenge that takes hours upon hours of mastery before one can actually beat it. But that was what the best old school NES games were about: mastery.

Another slight negative is the mechanics. Sometimes the jumping is wonky and it’s easy to get overzealous and screw up. Also, the stairs can be a total pain in the ass but eventually you’ll get it.

Castlevania is one of the best games of its era. It had to be to create a franchise as strong as it did. It is a true product of the ’80s and a real blast for old school horror fans.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: The other NES Castlevania games: Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest and Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse, also PlayStation’s epic sequel Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.

Film Review: Scream Blacula Scream (1973)

Also known as: Blacula II, Blacula is Beautiful, Blacula Lives Again!, The Name is Blacula
Release Date: June 27th, 1973
Directed by: Bob Kelljan
Written by: Joan Torres, Raymond Koenig, Maurice Jules
Music by: Bill Marx
Cast: William Marshall, Pam Grier, Don Mitchell, Michael Conrad, Lynne Moody, Richard Lawson

Power Productions, American International Pictures, 96 Minutes

Review:

“Your bread, man, all of it! Or are we gonna have to become anti-social and kick your ass?” – Pimp, “I’m sorry, I don’t have any ‘bread’ on me, and as for ‘kicking my ass’ I’d strongly suggest you give it careful consideration before trying.” – Blacula/Mamuwalde

Blacula was a better than decent attempt at merging blaxploitation cinema with classic horror. It also did fairly well for American International, so a sequel was pretty much a no brainer.

William Marshall came back but that was it. But if you need to find someone to replace Vonetta McGee, one of the queens of blaxploitation pictures, you hire the other queen, Pam Grier.

This film also brings in a voodoo twist and its a voodoo ritual that resurrects the bones of Blacula and brings him back into the world once again. Grier also plays a voodoo practitioner that becomes the apple of Blacula’s eye since his beloved African princess isn’t in this tale. All things considered, while I loved Marshall and McGee playing opposite of one another, I really liked Marshall’s chemistry with Grier too.

The gist of the story is about how a voodoo priestess, Lisa Fortier, chooses an apprentice to be her successor that isn’t the man destined to be her true heir. The rejected heir becomes outraged, buys the bones of Blacula and uses his powers to bring the vampire back to life. The evil voodoo heir needs Blacula to help him get revenge but Blacula turns him into a vampire and enslaves his spirit. As the film rolls on, Blacula ends up with a large vampire horde that is hard for him to control and after being smitten with Grier’s Lisa, he must protect her from his own children of the night.

While this isn’t as good as the first Blacula, it isn’t a huge step down either. I liked Grier, a lot. I also liked the voodoo element and the fact that it came with its own twists and powers that could be exploited in this tale of hungry rogue vampires. Plus, William Marshall just looked so comfortable in the role. While he isn’t the traditional Dracula, he brings a certain gravitas and legitimacy to the Dracula mythos and holds his own against some of the greats. He’s certainly better as a Dracula-esque character than the vast majority of actors who stepped into the role of a vampiric aristocrat.

Scream Blacula Scream was good enough to at least warrant another sequel but alas, this was the last film in the short-lived Blacula series. There have been rumors of a remake for years but nothing has ever actually materialized. But I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of Blacula as the undead never truly stay dead.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: Blacula, of course! I also like watching these paired with those two Count Yorga movies from the same era and also put out by American International.