October 2022 Mini-Reviews – Trilogy of Terror to Plague of the Zombies

Last year, when I tackled all of the Friday the 13th movies I could find, I thought that this year I might do the same with the Halloween franchise.  But, as it turned out, party due to circumstances on Halloween day (see note at end), I didn’t end up seeing even #3, which I planned to watch in any case.  The good news, though, is that I’m writing this on the 4th of September, so it will definitely be coming out more toward the middle of November, not at the last minute.

Below, you’ll find a lot of Halloween-appropriate movies, as well as stunning number of great TV series (4 or 5 stars), and me re-discovering some cool things along with a lot of old-favorites.  I also review the entire Fright Night series (4 films), both original and modern remakes/retakes.  So, what are you waiting for?  The Halloween-time viewing is good all year long!

Ratings are out of five stars. Here’s what those stars mean to me…

* – This film is not good. Avoid it unless you tolerate dreck well.
** – A flawed film. You may enjoy it if you like this genre or the folks in it.
*** – A good solid film. If you like this genre, you’ll probably like this film.
**** – A superior film within its genre. Thoroughly enjoyable.
***** – An outstanding film on many levels. A great example of its genre.

Trilogy of Terror ***** Karen Black hits it out of the park playing 4 parts in 3 different horror stories, but it’s killer Zuni doll of “Amelia” that folks remember.
Lightyear **** The “film” on which the Buzz Lightyear toy was (retroactively) based, Buzz fights aliens to get his colony home. Great characters.
Arsenic & Old Lace **** Cary Grant is the only non-murderer in his family, which includes 2 little old ladies who poison “lonely” lodger. Hilarious adaptation.
Munsters, The (2022) *** Rob Zombie clearly loves The Munsters, but not much happens in this prequel to the classic TV show. Looks pretty, though.
Devil’s Own, The *** AKA “The Witches,” Joan Fontaine (her last film role) is harried by witches who may or may not be in her imagination. Hammer fun.
Possessed (1947) **** Joan Crawford brings all her considerable talent to the story of a woman whose world is plagued delusions & mental illness.
Hellraiser **** Magic box links pain & pleasure dimensions & sucks family into world of S&M monsters. Still powerful, but low budget shows.
Hellbound: Hellraiser II *** The Lament Cube is back & it’s inner fiends with it in this sequel. Surviving heroine & girl get sucked into hell dimension. Not bad.
It! The Terror from Beyond Space (Sven) **** Whether this is a 3-star or a 4-star film depends on when I see it. This time, space crew being killed by alien stowaway hit the spot!
Van Der Valk (S2) ***** Dutch detective & his great supporting cast return for a 2nd season of gruesome murder mysteries. Top flight detective show.
War of the Planets (1966) *** Strange alien lights take over human beings for nefarious purposes, including the crew of the Gamma-1 space station. Colorful.
Wild Wild Planet (1967) *** A mad scientist & weird aliens miniature kidnapped Earth people in what’s probably the best & most exciting Gamma-1 entry.
Screaming Skull, The (1973) *** Part of a failed series of ABC TV movies, this bears no relation to 1958 film. Creepy husband kills his wife & then family is haunted.
Archer (S13) **** Archer’s mother (Jessica Walter, RIP) may be gone, but the team carries on under new boss (who may want them dead). Funny.
Green Slime, The **** Contamination turns space station into battleground against weird slimy aliens. Not officially Gamma-1, but… Catchy theme song.
Harley Quinn (S3) **** Harley & Poison Ivy are in love, but the whole crew battles other villains, the Bat Family, & themselves in this funny & fun season.
She-Hulk Attorney at Law (S1) ***** Tatiana Maslany heads a great cast in this 4th-wall-breaking comedy with fun Marvel hero & villian cameos. Avoid spoilers!
Rings of Power (S1) **** Lush production values, SPFX & Galadriel’s character highlight the first season of this Tolkien-inspired series. The dwarves are a real treat & the only real problem is the story is vague on the geography & scope of a key battle. But still this Tolkien fan’s dream.
Event Horizon (1997) *** Space ship with FTL drive may have actually broken through to another dimension: Hell! Space shock & horror with grisly effects.
Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, The (1920) ***** A mesmerist exhibits a carnival display of a sleepwalker, whom he uses to murder people. At least, that’s what the “hero” says…
Tingler, The (Sven) *** Vincent Price discovers a fear-activated monster living in our spines: the Tingler. Strong acting & lots of fun with a lackluster ending.
Deep Ones, The (2022) *** Couple moves to coastal town & are hounded/seduced by man & pregnant wife from Lovecraftian cult. Echoes Rosemary’s Baby.
House of Frankenstein *** Karloff, Naisch, Chaney, & Carradine carry the original monster rally on their (hunched) backs. Monsters great; story episodic.
House of Dracula **** Dracula wants to be cured. So does the Wolfman. Frankenstein monster, pretty hunchback, & mad doctor round out superior rally.
Poirot (S1 – 1989) ***** David Suchet’s first season as Christie’s detective shows why he’s the definitive version. Iconic portrayal with great mysteries.
Who Slew Auntie Roo? *** Shelly Winters lost her daughter, now hosts orphans for Christmas. When she kidnaps one, girl’s jealous brother must save them.
The Werewolf & the Yeti **** The yeti doesn’t appear much, but blame the US title for that. Waldemar Daninsky becomes werewolf in Tibet, fights bandits.
Peacemaker (S1) ***** Tight-knit, excellent cast treads the fine balance between comedy & action as Peacemaker & “friends” battle an alien takeover. Fab!
Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter ** Herman’s Hermits take a stab at Beatles-like movie, but though their music is good, there’s not nearly enough of it, because some idiot decided that Mrs. Brown should be a racing greyhound. Non-Hermit tunes fall flat & we never get to hear all of iconic song.
What We Do in the Shadows (S4) **** The energy vampire, Colin, has been reincarnated as a child. Between that a genii, a nightclub, & a lovelorn slayer, hilarity follows.
Gate, The *** Ancient tree topples revealing evil gate and kids must band together against stop-motion goblins. Fun 1980s monster film.
Fright Night (1985) **** When a vampire with designs on his girl moves in next door, teen must convince TV vampire slayer to join the hunt. Classic ’80s take on the genre. Much imitated but seldom if ever equaled. Roddy McDowall as TV host/vampire hunter makes it great.
Lights Out! (5 eps) **** Good collection of creepy stories from the early years of TV, often feature actors who later became big stars. “The Upstairs Floor,” “Just What Happened,” The Martian Eye,” “The Foncevill Curse,” “The Man with the Watch” Love to see better prints.
Bride of Frankenstein (Sven) ***** Universal classic revives the Frankenstein monster, who ravages the countryside & looks for a mate, the titular Bride. Great stuff!
Fright Night (2011) *** Un-needed modern remake of the 80s classic adds some new twists & David Tennant is a blast, but still not as good as original.
House of the Dragon (S1) **** The story of this Game of Thrones (Song of Ice & Fire) prequel spans decades & it’s packed with far more politics & set up than dragons, battles, & nudity. Still, the cast is strong & the wrting good. I could do without the misogyny & incest. Team Daemon.
Fright NIght 2 (1988) *** Follow-up to the ’85 classic drops the girlfriend (cliche) & misses the genre-bending cleverness of the 1st, but… Roddy McDowall!
Fright Night 2: New Blood ** “Sequel” has new cast with original names & gender-bend vampire, but it’s smarmy where all other Fright Night films are sly. Meh.
Man Who Turned to Stone, The *** Group of immortals who will turn to stone if they don’t prey on reform school girls. Budget shocker isn’t as good as premise sounds.
Dr. Goldfoot & the Bikini Machine *** Vincent Price gleefully chews scenery in this bikini-clad send-up of beach party, spy, & monster movies. Crazy long chase near end.
Dracula Prince of Darkness ***** Hapless tourists stumble into Dracula’s castle to become victims to count’s revival. Lee doesn’t speak, but great 1st sequel to series.
Black Cats & Broomsticks **** Fun & interesting classic short subject about superstitions, espeically in 30s-40s US.
Dracula Has Risen from the Grave ***** Lee’s Drac is back with another superior sequel, this time after gorgeous Veronica Carlson & up against her atheist boyfriend.
Taste the Blood of Dracula **** Ralph Bates revives Dracula in Victorian times to prey on uptight men with secret vices. Great sequel, though ending a bit limp.
Satanic Rites of Dracula **** Lee’s final turn as Hammer’s Dracula has the count in the 70s, using spies, snipers, & vampires to spread plague. Good last outing.
Corpse Vanishes, The *** Bela Lugosi’s mad scientist kidnaps brides after they “die” on their wedding day to help cure his wife of incurable illness. Cheap fun.
Bowery at Midnight, The *** Lugosi is kindly professor & ruthless bowery criminal masquerating as non-profit crusader. Twisted end. Blu-ray looks better, but…!
Flesh Eaters, The **** Sleazy fun flick about people stranded on an island with a possibly-mad doctor & flesh eating monsters. Blu-ray looks great. A fave.
Face of Fu Manchu, The *** Christopher Lee is menacing as Fu & story has plenty of thrills & fights, plus good cast, but loses a star for the underlying racism.
Ape, The *** Karloff tries everything to get wheelchair-bound girl to walk, including using human fluids obtained by killer ape. Blu-ray upgrade OK.
Black Raven, The *** Zucco is master criminal “retired” to run titular in, where a muder takes place. Blu-ray is generally good, but some scenes grainy.
Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane, The **** Jody Foster is mysterious young girl living in remote community, whose father is never seen, courted by lame boy Scott Jacoby. She’s also in sights of crooked landlord Alexis Smith & child-molester son, Martin Sheen. Great cast. suspense. Surprising nudity.
Phantom of the Paradise, The **** De Palma’s comic-horror take on Phantom of the Opera * Faust has super production values & great score by star Paul Williams.
Alice, Sweet Alice *** Jealous little Alice may or may not have gotten another girl killed & someone is still murdering. Odd mix of Catholicism & suspsense.
Haunting of Julia *** Mia Farrow’s tragic loss of a child has either unhinged her or unleashed a vengeful ghost (or maniac). Fairly standard creepy ’70s.
Nosferatu (1922) ***** Classic silent vampire film (based on Dracula) remains creepy 100 years after release. Version with James Bernard score a plus.
Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla (1974) *** Original Mecha-G movie has Godzilla being impersonated & then teaming up with furry King Caesar to defeat aliens. Kiddie fun.
Count Yorga, Vampire (Sven) 1970 *** Vampire count preys on hippie types in 1970. Interesting update with some cool scenes. Loses some on Sven, thus lower rating.
Unholy Three, The (1930) **** Lon Chaney Sr. is brilliant doing 2 characters & 5 voices. Tale of 3 carnies turned criminal + moll & apes. Sadly, his only talkie.
Dracula AD 1972 *** Dracula’s transition to the mod 70s is a uneven, but good cast plus usual great Lee & Cushing help anchor this series installment.
Monster Maker, The *** J. Carrol Naish gives his all to a Mad Love turn as mad doc who makes woman’s father a “monster” to get her to marry him.
King of the Zombies **** Mantan Moreland steals the show in this low-budget flick about trio crashed on an island with spies using zombies to help Axis.
Plague of the Zombies **** Hammer’s chiller about evil lord turning townsfolk into zombie laborers for his mine. Strong cast & production make this a must-see.

So, that’s it for October 2022.  A fun lot of films, and because TCM was playing them, I ended up seeing a lot more Hammer Dracula films than expected — but that’s never a bad thing.  Also finished up some excellent seasons, but since we’re at Peak TV, there are plenty more good series going on now or coming out soon.  Best re-discoveries: Little Girl Who Lived Down the Lane and Fright Night (original).

Total films/shows/etc. for October 2022 is 63, a fine total, even with all the Lights Out episodes bunched together as one.  Total for all of 2022 is 456.  A good number for sure, but a little dampened (!) by having to replace a leaky waterbed on Halloween day, which knocked 8-12 hours out of my Halloween viewing.  With luck, that won’t happen again for a long time.

Next Month: Some overflow of Halloween films including Alligator and Alligator 2, and who knows what else?  It’s so early in the month that I can’t tell!  But it’s possible that Andor at least will be finished by month’s end.  And maybe I’ll even finish my quest for good Sword & Sorcery films!  Drop back in and find out!

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