Film Review: The Monster Club (1981)

Release Date: April 2nd, 1981 (UK)
Directed by: Roy Ward Baker
Written by: Edward Abraham, Valerie Abraham
Based on: the works of R. Chetwynd-Hayes
Music by: Douglas Gamley, various
Cast: Vincent Price, John Carradine, Donald Pleasence, Patrick Magee, Stuart Whitman, Britt Ekland, Richard Johnson, Barbara Kellerman, Simon Ward

Chips Productions, Sword & Sorcery, 94 Minutes

Review:

“Can we truly call this a monster club if we do not boast amongst our membership a single member of the human race?” – Eramus

This used to be one of my favorite anthology horror movies when I was a kid and while it wasn’t my first Vincent Price movie, it’s one that I had on VHS and would watch more than any person probably should have.

The film is really a mixed bag, as anthology horror movies tend to go, but most of the stuff contained within is good and amusing. Even if the disintegrating woman at the end of the first story scared the living shit out of me every time I saw it with young eyes. Frankly, it’s still effective and the best special effects shot in the entire film.

This is incredibly low budget but it also makes the best out of its limited resources and I actually like how bad the monster costumes are in the nightclub scenes, which are sprinkled throughout the film as the narrative bookends.

A lot of this film felt overly hokey and I’m not sure if they were specifically aiming for that but it worked and gave it a charm that it wouldn’t have had if it was more serious or had a budget that better hid its flaws. I love that the movie sort of wears its cheapness and absurdity on its sleeve.

My favorite parts of the movie are the bookend bits, mainly because I like the music, the performances and the banter between Vincent Price and John Carradine. I especially love the scene where Price goes on a diatribe about how The Monster Club needs to open up to humans, the best monster that ever lived.

As far as the actual short horror stories go, I like the first one the best. It was actually effective, emotionally and I liked the characters and the simple story. The vampire chapter was the worst one and it’s really just meh. The final story with the village of ghouls was decent and I liked Patrick Magee in it but it’s still far from great and watching it, you just want to get back to the Monster Club scenes.

Overall, I can’t say that this aged well but it will most definitely excite the nostalgia bug for those who loved the horror and music of this era.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other ’70s and ’80s horror anthologies.

Video Game Review: Altered Beast (Arcade)

While I’ve played the Sega Genesis port of this game countless times, it’s been a really long time since I’ve fired up the original arcade version.

I was surprised to discover that there wasn’t much difference between the two.

Although, I feel like the rom that I played may have been an earlier version of the game, as I could only transform into the werewolf on each level and I wasn’t able to turn into the other were-creatures. After watching the arcade playthrough video below, I saw that the other animals did indeed exist in the arcade version. So why mine only had the werewolf is a mystery, I guess.

If you’ve got insight on this, leave a comment.

That being said, this was still fun to play, even if werewolf mode made it damn hard to beat some of the bosses that were tailored more for the special attacks of other hero monsters.

This is a very simple beat’em up game with minor platformer elements. It’s side scrolling and moves at it’s own pace. The only real objective is to beat stuff up, collect power-up orbs and turn into a badass were-creature to fight each level’s boss. The game has five levels.

Altered Beast was never great or even all that engaging. It was just a really cool game that was fun to play, had neat graphics and sound for the time and also allowed you to transform into pretty generic but powerful monsters.

As a kid, I used to wish it was longer because I’d usually beat it in fifteen minutes. Surprisingly, it didn’t get a sequel until years later. 

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other side scrolling beat’em ups from the 16-bit era.

Film Review: Werewolves on Wheels (1971)

Also known as: Angel Warriors 2 (Australia)
Release Date: August 11th, 1971 (Traverse City, Michigan)
Directed by: Michel Levesque
Written by: Michel Levesque, David M. Kaufman
Music by: Don Gere
Cast: Stephen Oliver, D.J. Anderson, Deuce Barry

South Street Films, 85 Minutes

Review:

On paper, this film seemed like an incredible idea! Especially for something coming out at the height of exploitation film that mashes up the counter culture biker picture with B-movie horror.

What we got instead was a poorly made, shittily crafted flick that barely has any werewolf stuff in it and mostly just focuses on bikers being boring assholes.

Now the first act of the picture is kind of awesome. It sees this biker gang show up at a cemetery with a monastery that is full of satanic cultists. These cultists feed the bikers bread and wine that knocks them out. Then they start a satanic ritual with one of the biker dude’s ladies. There’s a bunch of black magic, chanting and a naked chick dancing with snakes next to a large flame pit. Then you get to see the bikers wake up, interrupt the ritual and beat up evil monks.

Then almost nothing happens for the rest of the movie except for a semi-violent werewolf kill which happens in silhouette and just shows a bloodied head with a fucked up eyeball. And then we get the really short finale, which sees one of the bikers trying to get away from the other bikers after he transforms into a werewolf.

The werewolf costume is pretty crappy but it works for me, as this is a no budget movie shot in just 16 days, guerrilla style and probably without permits.

In the end, this is a missed opportunity and someone should make a better version of this concept. If a better version exists, I’d like to know about it. If you do, let me know.

Rating: 3.5/10
Pairs well with: other biker movies of the era, as well as Psychomania.

Film Review: The Curse of the Werewolf (1961)

Release Date: May 1st, 1961 (UK)
Directed by: Terence Fisher
Written by: Anthony Hinds
Music by: Benjamin Frankel
Cast: Clifford Evans, Oliver Reed, Yvonne Romain, Catherine Feller, Anthony Dawson, Michael Ripper, Desmond Llewelyn (uncredited)

Hammer Films, Universal-International, 93 Minutes

Review:

“Cristina, do you love me? Will you marry me Cristina? You say you love me, will you marry me?” – Leon

The Curse of the Werewolf doesn’t star Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee or even Andre Morell but it is hands down, one of the absolute best Hammer Films movies involving a classic monster.

This was their original take on a werewolf movie, similar to Universal’s The Wolf Man, but this one didn’t try to replicate that film and instead gave us something original with a neat Spanish twist to it.

I love werewolf stories and I love Hammer, so seeing the studio take on a werewolf character is just cool. Plus, the werewolf, a young man named Leon, is played by the great Oliver Reed.

The story is kind of split into two parts: the first half deals with the origin of Leon and his upbringing, the second half deals with Leon as a young adult, trying to make his way in the world only to have everything upended by the curse he was tragically born with.

Leon has a loving family, gets a good job, meets a beautiful girl, makes a solid friend but the werewolf inside of him cannot be contained and we’re treated to a great Hammer movie that is truly a tragedy for a cast of mostly likable characters that are really innocent and undeserving of fate’s cruel hand.

Like most Hammer films of this era, this is a beautiful and stunning looking picture. Also, like Hammer films of the era, it also recycles some set pieces from other films. I kind of like that though, as it maintains a certain aesthetic and style. Even if this takes place in Spain, as opposed to England (or around Germany), you immediately recognize it as Hammer. A lot of that can also be due to this being directed by Hammer’s ace behind the camera, Terence Fisher.

I really like the story, though. This is a great classic horror tale with a new, enjoyable twist.

The opening sequence tells the story of a beggar who comes to the castle of a real asshole. The beggar is Leon’s biological father and his story, early in the film, really sets the tone for the picture. Frankly, this is a tale about innocence being victimized by the unfair, uncaring universe.

That being said, this is emotionally heavier than most horror pictures of its time. It has a lot of layers sewn into its wonderful tapestry and because of that, it’s one of the best stories Hammer has have told.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: other Hammer Horror films featuring classic monsters like Dracula, Frankenstein and The Mummy.

Comic Review: The Tomb of Dracula – The Complete Collection, Vol. 2

Published: October 3rd, 2018
Written by: Gerry Conway, Chris Claremont, Gary Friedrich, Tony Isabella, Roy Thomas, Len Wein, Marv Wolfman
Art by: Gene Colan, Ross Andru, John Buscema, Dick Giordano, Don Heck, Mike Ploog, Gil Kane (cover)
Based on: Dracula by Bram Stoker, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Marvel Comics, 512 Pages

Review:

Over the last few months, I’ve been reading a lot of the ’70s Marvel Comics stuff. I dabbled in some of these stories when I was a kid but they were before my time and weren’t as easy to get when I really started collecting comics circa 1990. Plus, my attention, at that time, was focused on superhero stuff, as well as G.I. Joe.

I enjoyed the first volume in this massive collections of The Tomb of Dracula, so naturally I wanted to check out this one too. In the end, I liked this one even more. I think a lot of that has to do with this taking place more in the modern world, which allowed Marvel’s incarnation of Dracula to interact with some of Marvel’s famous superheroes.

In this collection we get to see Dracula meet Spider-Man, Werewolf by Night and Marvel’s version of Frankenstein’s Monster. We also get a small cameo by the Human Torch, as well as the debut of Dracula’s daughter, Lilith. This even had a swashbuckling tale in it.

Now this had a ton of different writers and artists, as it bounces around to different titles that featured Dracula, at the time. Despite this, the book feels consistent, which is a testament to how great Marvel’s editorial was in the ’70s. As far as that company has fallen in recent years, they wouldn’t be able to pull this feat off in 2020.

Most of the stories here were good, it was an energetic read with great art by several legends and it is a fantastic example of ’70s Marvel horror at its finest.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Marvel Dracula stories, as well as other ’70s Marvel horror titles.

Film Review: Bad Moon (1996)

Also known as: Thor (working title)
Release Date: November 1st, 1996
Directed by: Eric Red
Written by: Eric Red
Based on: Thor by Wayne Smith
Music by: Daniel Licht
Cast: Mariel Hemingway, Michael Paré, Mason Gamble

Morgan Creek Entertainment, 80 Minutes

Review:

“Ted, you know you’re always welcome here. Here’s what you’re going to do. You’re going to park your Airstream in my backyard, and you’re going to live out of my fridge.” – Janet

I’ve never seen this film, which is pretty strange as it came out around the time that I was working in a video store. I certainly remember the poster and thinking it was badass but for whatever reason, I never took the tape home to watch.

I’m glad I checked it out now, though, as it was better than what I had anticipated and it was cool seeing Michael Paré in it, as I really dug that dude when I was a kid because he was the coolest thing in a cool movie that I watched a lot: Streets of Fire.

It also stars Mariel Hemingway and Mason Gamble, the kid from the ’90s Dennis the Menace movie remake. But more importantly than that, it stars Primo, a German shepherd that played the dog Thor. Why am I bringing up the damn dog? Well, because I’ve never seen animal acting this good and I’ve seen thousands of movies.

The dog was just superb, seriously. He stole every scene that he was in and he conveyed emotion, greatly. While the Academy would never watch a fine motion picture like Bad Moon, the film is a good example for the argument that maybe animal actors should have an Oscar category. But that will never happen because Hollywood hasn’t been fun in years and they’d actually have to pull a lot of sticks out of asses and learn how to be human beings again.

Anyway, this film mainly uses practical special effects and they look fantastic. The werewolf in this is one of the best I’ve ever seen in any movie. Granted, I have a strong bias towards bipedal werewolves.

The only special effects hiccup was the werewolf transformation scene in the final sequence of the film. They went the CGI route and while some of it looks okay, there are very weird and wonky moments that look terrible even for 1996 standards. CGI was still in its early stages, though, and this film didn’t have a budget the size of Jurassic Park‘s. I can look beyond that scene, however, as the rest of the film is pretty f’n awesome.

Now some of the acting is a bit off but I think that it was due to the editing and direction. The worst scene that comes to mind is the one with the con-artist baiting the dog to bite him. Unfortunately, this scene introduces us to two of the main characters, so it kicks off the film with a rocky start. Luckily, everything sort of slides into place and the rest of the film is mostly fine.

One thing that really stood out for me was the musical score. It was intense but good. It reminded me a lot of the scores by Jerry Goldsmith and James Horner. It had that heavy, brassy, orchestral vibe in the best way possible. I’ve never heard of Daniel Licht or recognized any of his scores in other films but looking him up on IMDb, he’s done a lot of cool ’90s horror pictures. Sadly, he died a few years back.

I was really surprised by this picture. It was a lot of fun and a really cool, campy, werewolf flick. It’s not perfect but it doesn’t need to be. While it has the flaws that I’ve already mentioned, everything else more than makes up for them.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: ’80s, ’90s and early ’00s werewolf movies: Silver Bullet, Ginger Snaps, Dog Soldiers, the original Howling.

TV Review: Creepshow (2019- )

Original Run: September 26th, 2019 – current
Created by: Greg Nicotero
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: Creepshow by Stephen King, George A. Romero
Music by: various
Cast: various

Cartel Pictures, Monster Agency Productions, Striker Entertainment, Shudder, 6 Episodes (so far), 45 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I’m a few months late to the party but I finally got around to watching the Creepshow television revival on Shudder. And now that I have, it’s just one more great reason to subscribe to Shudder, which has a much lower price than the average streaming service.

Schilling aside, I swear I’m not a Shudder employee, I’m just a happy customer, the show is pretty much what I expected in that most of it is pretty enjoyable but the quality varies from story to story.

I’ve stated before that I’m not a big anthology fan and the main reason for that is because of consistency. Horror anthologies, especially, seem to be like a pendulum swinging back and forth from good to bad within the same film.

While this show isn’t that different, most of what’s here is engaging and the few tales that I didn’t like weren’t terribly bad. Plus, each 45ish minute episode contains two different stories. So even if you aren’t feeling something, it’s not going to take up too much of your time.

I think the only one I really didn’t like was the fat loss leeches one, which was surprising to me as I’m a fan of Paul Dini’s writing, mainly because of Batman: The Animated Series and his run on Detective Comics, and I’ve always liked Dana Gould.

Other than that, there was something about each episode that lured me in. I think some of my favorites were the first tale, which was written by Stephen King, then the ghost head one, the suitcase one and Nessie one. Maybe I’ll do a list where I rank the segments soon.

Anyway, this was a good show that holds onto the spirit of the films. And in a similar vein as those movies, it also feels like it’s channeling the anthology horror comics of old. I felt like I was watching EC Comics come to life.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: the Creepshow movies, as well as other horror anthology TV shows and movies.

Comic Review: 1985

Published: July 22nd, 2009
Written by: Mark Millar
Art by: Tommy Lee Edwards

Marvel Comics, 146 Pages

Review:

This comic book was cool as hell!

It sort of reads like it’s a season of Stranger Things but where the small town is haunted by Marvel villains instead of weird shit from the Upsidedown. This also came out in the decade before Stranger Things, so it was kind of ahead of the curve but like Stranger Things, knew how to tap into ’80s nostalgia in a brilliant way.

But this was also written by Mark Millar, a true master of his craft.

What’s unique and cool about this comic is that it doesn’t take place in the Marvel Universe, it takes place in our universe.

The story follows a young boy in 1985. He is having issues like any normal ’80s kid dealing with divorced parents. He bonds with his father pretty strongly though, as they both have a deep love of comic books and are experts on Marvel lore. At the same time, Marvel villains start showing up in the real world because there are no heroes here to stop them.

Overall, this was a really neat idea and for the most part, I thought it was superbly executed.

1985 is incredibly imaginative but it really worked so well because the art fit the concept and the tone. While Millar deserves credit for a great story, Tommy Lee Edwards gave it so much more life than just words on paper. And his style works better for the setting than having that sort of standard Marvel art style.

This is one of those comics that I’m happy to have discovered as an adult but wish would have been around when I was a kid. If you know a kid that loves Marvel but they’ve never read this, I think that they’ll probably love the hell out of it.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: the Stranger Things comics, as well as other Mark Millar stories.

Film Review: Dog Soldiers (2002)

Also known as: Night of the Werewolves (working title)
Release Date: March 22nd, 2002 (Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival)
Directed by: Neil Marshall
Written by: Neil Marshall
Music by: Mark Thomas
Cast: Sean Pertwee, Kevin McKidd, Emma Cleasby, Liam Cunningham

Kismet Entertainment Group, The Noel Gay Motion Picture Company, The Carousel Picture Company, Victor Film Company, Pathé, 105 Minutes

Review:

“We are now up against live, hostile targets. So, if Little Red Riding Hood should show up with a bazooka and a bad attitude, I expect you to chin the bitch.” – Sgt. Harry Wells

I wasn’t aware of this film until a few years ago but I’m glad that I came across it and checked it out.

To start, I dig werewolf stories but I also really like Sean Pertwee, now most famous for playing Alfred Pennyworth on Gotham, as well as Kevin McKidd, a guy that fanboys were hoping would be cast as Thor before the job went to Chris Hemsworth.

The film takes place in the Scottish Highlands and follows a military unit as they are doing some exercises in the woods. The soldiers soon discover that they are in the country with a pack of werewolves and their training mission gets all too serious. Eventually, they hole up in a suspiciously abandoned house and have to fight off the werewolves that are trying to invade. Primarily, it’s a waiting game, as they need to survive until morning.

The plot has some twists to it, most of which are predictable but that doesn’t make this a bad picture. In fact, it’s still a lot of fun, plays into the werewolf tropes pretty hard but still gives us something cool and unique.

I also like the fact that the werewolves are bipedal, which are my favorite type. In this film, they are large, tall and damn vicious. They almost appear to be wolf versions of the Deathclaws from the Fallout video game series.

Additionally, the special effects, which are almost all practical, physical effects, are impressive.

There are even some funny gags in the film like when a soldier is trying to hold his guts into his body but the dog in the house starts tugging on an intestine.

In the end, this is just a really neat movie that probably deserves more recognition and fanfare than what it has. Pertwee and McKidd were solid together and I really liked Emma Cleasby, the film’s sole female lead.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: Brotherhood of the Wolf, The Howling, Ginger Snaps and The Company of Wolves.

Video Game Review: Castlevania: Bloodlines (Sega Genesis)

Who doesn’t love Castlevania games?

I’ve played almost all of them up until the late ’00s. Yet, I never got around to playing Bloodlines, which is actually kind of strange, as I owned a Sega Genesis and rented games for it all the damn time.

This was cool to check out now, though.

This plays just like all the other Castlevania games before it, well… excluding Simon’s Quest, as that one was a breed all its own.

Anyway, this plays a lot like the first and third games for the original Nintendo. You work your way through levels, you fight all sorts of monstrosities and you usually get the shit kicked out of you because Castlevania games tend to be hard as shit, even for those of us who have played them pretty steadily over the course of our lives.

For the most part, this Castlevania game is a lot of fun. I like that you have two characters to choose from but if I’m being honest, just pick the dude with the whip because playing a Castlevania game without a whip is like playing a different game entirely. Unless, you’re Alucard and you can transform into cool shit and have a lightning fast rapier. But this game doesn’t have Alucard as a playable character, so just take the whip dude.

This game is also set further into the future and the characters have a lineage to characters of the past. Hence, the name Bloodlines.

Still, the world looks about the same and it doesn’t really matter which century this take place in.

Now I didn’t beat this game. I think I got pretty far but man, this game will crush your ass. I especially had a lot of frustration on the level with the rising water and then having to kill that level’s boss without drowning. That’s the one spot where I really got hung up, lost a lot of lives and blew through too many continues.

Despite my difficulty, this is still a solid game and it was more fun than frustrating.

It has fluid gameplay, looks superb and boasts a great soundtrack.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: The original Castlevania trilogy for NES, Super Castlevania IV for SNES, the Gameboy Castlevania games, Castlevania: Rondo of Blood (also known as Dracula X) and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night for the original PlayStation.