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Dragonslayer (1981) – To This Day, Still One Of My Favourite Movie Dragon Designs

DragonslayerPoster1981’s movie, Dragonslayer, blew my twelve year old mind when I fist sat through this movie with my good friend, Robin. Now, 23 years later, I am still liking this movie.

Staring Peter MacNicol (better known to some as the short, curly haired lawyer, John Cage, from the TV show Ally McBeal), as Galen Bradwarden, a young apprentice of the Wizard, Ulrich of Craggenmoor (Ralph Richardson), who takes up the Wizard’s quest to slay the Dragon, Vermithrax Pejorative, after Ulrich is apparently killed while proving a point by brutish henchman Tyrian, right hand of King Casiodorus (Peter Eyre). Ulrich had just accepted the task of killing the Dragon when a delegation of peasants approached him asking for his help. Kind Casiodorus had implemented a lottery, offering up a female virgin each year to appease the beast. The people have had enough of the Lottery and living under the fear of the Dragon, and are at their wits end. Now seeing their hopes die almost immediately, with the death of Ulrich, they head back to their town. Soon, though, they are joined by Galen, who has just inherited the Wizard’s magic amulet, who states that he will take up his former Master’s task and slay the Dragon himself. Along the way he risks strong resistance from the King, who believes his lottery system is best for his people, and is temporarily jailed so as not to meddle with the lottery. It’s not until the King’s own daughter is in jeopardy that the King releases Galen in the hopes Galen can actually end the Dragon menace. Along the journey, Galen discovers one of their party is not what they seem (no, not a traitor)…

So, this early 190’s fantasy film still looks beautiful (not something that most movies with special effects from that era can say), and is still interesting. As stated in the title of the review/write up, the Dragon in this movie is still one of my favourite designs of a Dragon in movies, ever. Maybe it’s second to Smaug, now, though I’ll decide that after the third and final Hobbit movie. Still, this movie, in my opinion, still hold up well. I heartily suggest this as a must watch for any fan of the Fantasy genre.


Vampire Week Movie 5 – Shadow of the Vampire (2000)–The Troubles of Casting a Vampire – In Your Vampire Movie

ShadowoftheVampireposterSet during the shooting of the iconic 1922 Vampire film, Nosferatu, Shadow of the Vampire tells the tale of the dangers that can face you when you look for too much realism in your films. Staring John Malkovich as famous German Director, Frederich Wilhelm Murnau, during his filming of the above mentioned Nosferatu. Taking his cast and crew to film on location in Czechoslovakia, where he instroduces the rest of the crew to the star of the film, Max Schreck, whom, Murnau explains, will be in character for the entire time of the filming, and will only be seen at night. Schreck is played masterfully by Willem Dafoe. When members of the crew start to disappear, we see interesting back and forth  between Murnau and the Vampire, in which we find out that Murnau has made a very interesting and questionable bargain with the Vampire: His good behaviour for the life of one of his cast. Shame it’s so difficult to deal with the undead. 

Shadow of the Vampire puts a new twist to the Vampire movie: it’s a movie about the making of a vampire movie – wherein the Director of said movie chose to hire a real Vampire to play the title role. The cast is composed of a lot of “A” Listers and they all do an amazing job in this unusual film. The story is gripping, and the switch between regular filming, and the representation of what Murnau is capturing on his cameras is a great way to capture the dualism of the story. After watching this, I was compelled to watch the original, 1922 Nosferatu the very next day. If you enjoy horror movies, plot twists and damn good acting then you owe it to yourself to watch this film. Check out the trailer below:


Suspiria (1977)–Witchy Italian Movie Weirdness at an German Ballet Academy

SuspiriaItalySuspiria is a 1977 horror movie directed by the Italian master, Dario Argento, and the fist of a trilogy of horror. And it’s weird… and loud.

Suspiria tells the story of America ballet dance student, Suzy Bannion who takes up study at a prestigious dance study in Germany, but quickly discovers that things are not what they may seem.  Upon arriving at the school on a ridiculously rainy night, only to see an upset girl fleeing and mumbling something about a secret and a flower – and then to be refused entrance. Next we see a girl die in an artistically weird stabbing… The next day Suzy manages to get to the school, meets Madame Blanc and Miss Tanner, and is shown around the school and introduced to the girls in the locker room. Suzy is told that the room she was to stay in is not ready and that she will stay with another student for the time being. At the school, Suzy has a fainting spell (after a weird encounter with the school’s cook)… later she seems okay…

Alright: All I am doing is describing what happened in the movie – and that is a silly thing to do. It’s al artistic Italian Horror by the master Dario Argento and it is about a Ballet School run by witches…

Argento manages to create a creepy, artistic weird horror flick of sorts that keeps you watching. The strong uses of colour is very jarring as well as is the cacophonous soundtrack which built up so much tension in me that I almost felt nauseous. Seriously, I have never had a soundtrack for a film affect me so… and it was loud. This is a trippy experience of a film and definitely bot for everyone. If you have an open mind (and not overly sensitive ears)  , then this will be a memorable watch. Will you like it? Many won’t – I did, but with reservations. You check it out and tell me what you think. Here’s the trailer:


Remake Week Movie #5 – Fright Night (2011)

FrightNight2011We decided to take on the 2011 remake of the 1985 classic Vampire film, Fright Night last night and were not disappointed.

Fright Night tells the story of Charley Brewster (played by Anton Yelchin, now famous as Chekov from the Star Trek reboot) a teenager living in the suburbs of Las Vegas. Charley discovers that his neighbour, Jerry Dandrige (played by Colin Farrell) is actually a Vampire and must defeat him to save his family and friends.

Initially Charley just thinks Jerry is a normal guy that just moved in next door – that is until former best friend, Ed (played by Christopher Mintz-Plasse) opens his eyes to what is going on around him. Ed and Charley have become distanced and do not hang out any more, but Ed blackmails Charley to come with him to one of there mutual friend’s place to check on him as he seems to have disappeared without a trace. When they get there they find no trace of either their friend or family. It is here where Ed reveals that Charley’s new neighbour is a Vampire – something that Charley refuses to believe. Events at home, between himself and Jerry change his mind when Jerry asks him if he could borrow some beer for an upcoming liaison between himself and a girl – Charley obliges, and notices that Jerry cannot go past the threshold of his open door… Everyone knows a vampire cannot enter a home without being invited.

Soon things ramp up, and Jerry, being a Vampire starts feeding more and more and more people that Charley knows start disappearing. Jerry discovers that Charley has learned his secret and tries to get to Charley and his family, in any way possible. Charley seeks the help of a world famous occult/vampire hunter/Vegas Magician guy, Peter Vincent (played by David Tennant who at first just kicks him out, but eventually looks over a pile of information Charley left behind and realizes Charley is dealing with a real Vampire and decides to help… well, is forced to help when Jerry forces his hand. A note: in the original Fright Night, this character was played by the late and very great Roddy McDowall, and was the host of a late night horror movie show.

What follows is an action packed human’s versus Vampires battle(s) that is actually quite entertaining. There’s a cool battle between Charlie and former buddy, now turned Vampire Ed that in a way made me sympathetic to Ed. The final battle between Charley, Jerry and Jerry’s new brood of freshly changed Vampires is exciting and in a way pays homage to the original.

Is this better than the original? Oh, hell no. Is this movie good? Oh, yes. I found it a fun, entertaining Vampire movie and would not hesitate to recommend it as a watch.

Check out the trailer:


Remake Week Movie #3–Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)

Texas_chainsaw_massacreGood remakes may be hard to find, but I’ve been doing pretty good lately.

2003’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre (TCM), revisit’s Tobe Hooper’s ground breaking horror classic of (almost) the same name (add “The” to the beginning of the original), and gives it a great, modern refresh.

Inspired very loosely on the horrendous crimes of Ed Gein in 1950’s Wisconsin,  TCM tells the story of a group of young 20 somethings on their way to a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert in Dallas. Along the way they stop and pick up a dazed, confused woman who is walking around in the middle of the road by herself, almost unresponsive. They take her into the van in order to get her some help, but in a short time she kills herself using a pistol that she had concealed… Forced to look for help from authorities, they drive into a small town…and perhaps Hell on Earth.

What ensues is a battle between this group of youths and a hillbilly clan that seems un escapable. Call the Sheriff? Sure – too bad he’s mixed right up in this hillbilly killer family. No matter where they turn, the group finds themselves deeper and deeper in crap -  One by one, they fall gruesome victims to Leatherface and his family.

If you haven’t seen the original, you can still watch this movie without missing anything, but seeing the original’s stature in the horror world, you would be doing yourself a dis-service. Is this better than the original? Well, it really is good – maybe not as important as the original – but possible as good. Jessica Biel does a great job (and looks great), and the rest of the cast is good to.

Watch it!

Here’s the trailer:


Pawnshop Chronicles (2013) – Not 100% Sure Just What I Watched, But I Know I Liked It

pawn_shop_chroniclesWhat a weird film, Pawnshop Chronicles is… What a weird film.

Chock full of actor’s you’ve heard of, Pawnshop Chronicles is a circular tale of lost love, meth heads, kidnapping and the battle between good and evil.

Mathew Dillon plays Richard, a man about to begin his honeymoon with his second wife when they stop by a Pawnshop, hoping to get a little extra cash when something goes wrong with their banking. Quickly he spots a ring – the ring he gave he had custom made for his first wife, who disappeared without a trace 6 years prior. Abandoning his new wife, he takes off on a renewed search for his long missing love.

This begins a twisted tale that brings the viewer on a roller coaster ride – we encounter meth-heads, murder and white slavery (hint: you might not look at Frodo the same again). You’ll meat a failing Elvis Impersonator (played compellingly by Brendan Fraser). You’ll see bad guys screwing over bad guys, and a town split down the middle by which Barber they choose.

Add to this a character that offers salvation for your soul, leaving you wondering if he’s God or the Devil…

This movie may be weird, but I freakin’ loved it.

Check out the trailer below:


Jack the Giant Slayer (2013) – Like a Lamborghini With a Lawnmower Engine

Jack_the_Giant_Slayer_posterI was looking forward to 2013’s Jack the Gian Slayer since I saw the trailer in the theatre a number of months ago.

I wish I stuck with the trailer.

Jack the Giant Slayer is a very pretty looking movie – very pretty.

Jack the Giant Slayer is also quite boring.

Looking like a live action film meets the 2007 Beowulf animated film, this film drags most of the way through with dashes of action. Yes, there’s a great giant versus human battle at the end but it’s too little too late.

Jack the Giant Slayer bored me and I won’t forgive that. Should you watch it? I don’t know, are you having trouble sleeping?


Deranged (1974)–Interesting if Flawed Docu-Drama About The Man That Inspired So Many Horror Movies

derangedLast night I watch the masterful biopic, Hitchcock, about the Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock and absolutely loved it. The movie takes place during the filming of Psycho. What I learned was that Psycho was loosely based upon the crimes of Ed Gein, a serial killer, body snatcher and possible necrophilliac  from Plainfield, Wisconsin. This left me wondering about who this Ed Gein was and were there any movie based specifically about him and not just inspired by his crime. A quick Google search and I foung the movie, Deranged from 1974.

Deranged starts with a warning that everything in the film is based on real events and that the names have been changed to protect the innocent…. blah, blah,blah! Telling the story of a man that was raised by an overbearing religious fanatic mother that taught him that all women, aside from herself, were diseased whores out to corrupt him. Not allowed to socialize with others outside of school, Ed was bound to come out twisted. Ed, obsessed with his mother, devoted himself to her caretaking. When she suffered a stroke, he became even more so. Upon her death he boarded up the rooms that she used and left himself a small area in the house for his own use.

In the movie, Ed soon finds himself missing his mother terribly, and convinced himself that she was actually sleeping and not dead. His mother’s voice calls to him telling him to retrieve her and bring her back to their home. Exhuming the body, Ed does just that. Mother, having been buried for the better part of a year was not in prime shape, so Ed decides to make repairs to his mother. Using bits of fish skin and the like he fixes her up as best he can. Eventually, he studies taxidermy to improve his skills. Not content with animals, Ed exhumes bodies from the grave yard, taking parts of or whole bodies from fresh graves. Ed’s a ghoul.

Soon Ed ups the ante when he becomes smitten with a local bar owner and kidnaps her. Hoping she’ll be his wife, he introduces her to his mother and dinner guests: posed bodis of the peopl he stole from the graveyard. Playing along, she convinced him to release her bound hand, and attempts to escape… Sorry! Ed ain’t letting you go. Instead of a wedding, she’s dead now.

Ed keeps up his shit with no one suspecting him at all, until a girl keeping shop dissapears with signs of foul play. The last person in the shop was Ed and the local Sherriff goes off to Ed’s farm house to talk to him. That’s where they find the body of the girl and evidence of all of Ed’s grisly crimes. The movie then ends with a write up of Ed being found insane…

Okay, this is not a great movie, but I did find it interesting as I knew little of Ed Gein. There have been a lot of movies about Ed and based on him. Not many of the biopics are very good, but this is one of the first. Should you watch it? If your interested in the crimes of Ed, then yes.  If not, then don’t bother.


House of Wax (1953)–A Must Watch Classic

howThe first time I watched The House of Wax was around 1984 when a local theatre was showing classic 3D films each Friday for a few months. I was 14 at the time and thought I was in for a hokey experience – what I ended up with was a new appreciation for the classics, for 3D cinema (when done well), and especially for Vincent Price.

Released in 1953, it was a remake of Mystery of the Wax Museum without the humour of the original (thanks Wikipedia). The film was one of the first colour 3D movies from a big American studio, and apparently one of the first with stereo sound… pretty innovative for 1953. The movie tells the tale of Professor Henry Jarrod (played by Vincent Price), an master in the art of wax sculptures and his quest for vengeance against his financial partner,  who burns down the Wax museum to recoup his investment through insurance. In an attempt to stop the blaze,  Matthew Burke (played by Roy Roberts) knocks out Jarrod in a fight and leaves him to burn in the fire.

Thinking Jarrod perished in the fire, we learn that Burke collected the insurance payout through a conversation with Burke and his girlfriend/Fiancé at dinner. Burke also tells her a tale of how sad he was at the loss of his friend and partner… a lie of course.

Well, it turns out that Jarrod was not killed in the fire, but was burned, leaving his hands useless. He has decided to create a school to teach his art and to recreate a new wax museum, but this time dedicated to the macabre, depicting true life horror scenes in wax. Working through the hands of his students, he even goes as far as to model the faces of the wax figures on victims of crime in the news papers.

Well, all is not as it seems, and a shadowy figure is seen leaving the wax museum/school and descending on Burke, murdering him while making it look like a suicide through hanging. We catch a glimpse of the killer who is horrible disfigures – it is the true face of Jarrod, dis-figured in the original wax museum fire. Shortly after the suicide is reported in the news, Burke’s body disappears, and a new exhibit opens in the museum depicting Burke’s apparent suicide with a picture perfect model of Burke as the centerpiece. Next to go is Burke’s fiancé who is murdered in her sleep by the grotesque Jarrod. Almost caught, he is seen by a flat mate of the now dead lady. When she describes the horrible face of the killer, she is not initially believed. Soon Burke’s Fiancé’s body disappears and a new exhibit depicting Joan of Arc at the stake takes it’s place with a model that looks exactly like the freshly dead woman.

What’s happening? Burke, enraged and crazed after the loss of his life’s work and his disfigurement in the fire, has decided to get revenge on his former partner and all those that may stand in his way. He has taken to creating wax sculptures by covering the bodies of his victims in wax and making them the centrepiece of his works. The burn make up on Price, in my opinion looks great and the performances by all are top notch. I really don’t think that it should be considered scary by today’s standards, but is a classic in any case. The movie has recently been re-released on Blu-Ray and in 3D and I must say it looks fabulous. This is a movie that I heartily suggest you watch, even if you’ve seen it before.

Check out the Trailer below:


The Legend of Hell House (1973) – Creepy British Horror

The_Legend_of_Hell_House1973’s British production, The Legend of Hell House is a stylish, early 1970s horror movie that kind of surprised me. You see, I usually find 60’s and 70’s British horror to be boring… and mostly crap. With the exception of some (but not all) Hammer films. Well I am glad to say The Legend of Hell House is an exception to this.

The story is basically this: A millionaire, Mr. Deutsch hires a group of “specialists” to investigate a purported Haunted house, The Belasco House, in an effort to either prove or disprove  life after death. The Belasco house had been the home of Emeric Belasco, a rumoured, evil giant of a man who reportedly held massive orgies in the home. Later, after the death of Belasco, people who entered the house either died or suffered insanity.

In the 1950s, a group that entered and tried to get to the bottom of the hauntings ended in tragedy. The only survivor, a 15 year old physical medium named Ben Fisher survived. Now, in 1974, Ben (played by Roddy McDowell), along with physicist Dr. Lionel Barrett (Clive Revill), his wife, Ann Barrett (Gayle Hunnicutt) and spiritual medium Florence Tanner (Pamela Franklin) make up the new team that was hired to investigate.

The fist night together in Belasco House, the group partakes in a séance (or sitting). During this sitting, Florence claims to be channel a spirit, and in a weird, manly voice warns and threatens the group, while physical objects around the room are shaken and moved without anyone touching them. While the group is shaken up, Dr. Barrett believes that there must be a scientific reason for the events.

As the days go by, Florence is visited by what appears to be several spirits, but most notably, one claiming to be Belasco’s son, asking to be released. These visits seem to end with Florence being physically attacked – even by an evil, determined black cat.

Florence isn’t the only one being targeted – they all are. Ann Barrett, becomes temporarily possessed while sleep walking and tries to engage Ben in sex. Ben, realizing it is the spirit talking and not really Ann, slaps her awake – she comes to and runs away. – A note: Ann is pretty hot – Ben must have used some serious will power here-. Also, during another sitting, Dr. Barrett is targeted by flying objects that are hurled in his direction seemingly by invisible hands. Dr. Barrett, though, is still convinced that this can be explained scientifically.

Barrett has a large piece of equipment delivered to the house that I think drains the ethereal energy of the house – Florence attempts to destroy the machine but fails. Barrett starts up his machine and gets to work. While they are doing so, Florence gets up and enters the chapel of the house… where tragedy befalls her. While this is happening, in the room with the machine, Dr. Barrett believes that the machine has done it’s job, and even Ben agrees, declaring the home “clear.” Well, almost immediately a bunch of crap happens and Dr. Barrett is killed. Ann and Ben enter the chapel, and find Florence dead. Ben, coming to a realization, hurls accusations at the spirit, belittling it, and soon they discover a hidden chamber… and the truth of the evil Emeric Belasco…

Well, as I stated at the beginning of this post, I generally find British horror from this time boring , but I enjoyed this quite a bit. It was an interesting story and the acting was good. Not a lot of gore, but that’s okay. Should you watch it? That’s completely up to you.

Check out the trailer below: