31 Days of Horror: Lady Morgan’s Vengeance (1965)

Lady Morgans Vengeance Poster

If you paid any attention to my last post then you might have noticed that this film does not appear on my list of horror films to watch this month. That’s because it is part of a four-film boxed set from Arrow Video entitled Gothic Fantastico: Four Italian Tales of Terror which appeared in my mailbox today. I’ll be reviewing the entire set for Cinema Sentries in a few days or so, thus I’ll not say much about it here.

It is a surprisingly good film about a woman who marries a man she doesn’t love and finds herself in an old Scottish castle. Her husband and her staff begin gaslighting her, and she starts seeing spooky things and hearing spooky noises, and then she’s killed. Her ghost seeks some pretty fun revenge on those responsible for her death. I’d say that was a spoiler but those details you’ll find on the back of the box so it isn’t really a surprise.

I love a good gothic horror story and this has plenty of creeping sets, shadowy lighting, and billowy gowns. It is definitely worth checking out if you are into that sort of thing.

31 Days of Horror

Obviously, I like movies. Which is a funny thing for me to say since I feel like most of you had no idea I liked movies until I suddenly started flooding this blog with movie stuff after a decade+ of posting nothing but live music.

I’ve always liked movies. Some of my earliest memories are seeing movies like Return of the Jedi and The Goonies in the theater with my family. As a teenager going to the movies was the one thing I could do with my parents that didn’t end up in a fight or me thinking they were the dumbest people in the world.

That love has grown with me in my 4 plus decades of life on this Earth. The pandemic has only boosted that love. Having to stay at home all the time for 2 years or so led me to watch a lot more movies than usual. I used to watch a little over 100 movies a year, or about 2 movies a week. For the last three years, I’ve watched over 300 movies each year, or at least one movie a day. That’s a little misleading as I don’t really watch one movie every day. Throughout the week I often don’t watch a movie at all, but I make up for it on the weekends.

To help with my movie watching I’ve started creating monthly themes. I’ll choose a genre, or a director, or maybe a country or time period, and then try to watch as many movies from that theme as possible during that month. This helps me watch a lot of movies I might not normally watch, and it expands my understanding of cinematic history. Left to my own devices I’d wind up flipping through Netflix or some other streaming service, watching the same movies over and over again, or at the very least usually choosing safe films that won’t challenge me.

I like horror movies too.

This leads us to October. I’m not the only one who chooses monthly themes for my movie watching. Twitter is full of hashtags directing folks to watch certain types of movies during certain months of the year. October is probably the most popular month for this sort of thing as Halloween leads people to watching horror movies. I usually tag my movies this month with #31daysofhorror but others use things like #hooptober (for Tobe Hooper, director of such films as Poltergeist and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre), as well as many others.

I decided it would be fun to share my list of films that I want to watch here, as well as post about each movie I watch when I watch them. I probably won’t review everything, but I’ll let you all tag along with my viewings.

You can find the list here on my Letterboxd page. If you happen to have a Letterboxd account please follow me, and I’ll do the same.

I won’t watch every movie on the list. I chose 31 movies as there are 31 days in October, but I won’t watch one horror movie every day. Some days I’ll watch a movie with my family (who don’t like horror movies) and I’ll have some official reviews to do for Cinema Sentries. I’ll also likely get in the mood to watch something not on the list. But the list is a good way for me to watch things I’ve been meaning to see and never get around to. It also helps me when I can’t think of something good to watch.

It is, perhaps, a little heavy on the Italians. I got in a Giallo mood while making it. And there aren’t enough true classics, or modern movies in there either. Over the last few years, I’ve watched all of the classic Universal monsters which is why not many of those appear here. I did include one Mummy movie which I haven’t seen. I think I only included one Hammer Horror film on the list as well, and I’ll likely search out a few more of those.

Every year I try to watch all the movies in a single franchise. Previously I’ve watched the Friday the 13th movies, the Nightmare on Elm Street movies, and the Halloween movies. This year I’m thinking of doing all the Hellraiser films.

Anyways, this is my list and I’m sticking to it. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

The Friday Night Horror Movie: They Live (1988)

they live poster

John Carpenter is one of my favorite filmmakers. Not every film he’s made is an all-time classic. Let’s be honest here and say he’s made a few outright stinkers, especially in his twilight years. But his best films (Halloween, The Thing, Assault On Precinct 12, Christine) are pretty darn fantastic. During his height, even the films that didn’t quite achieve ultimate excellence (Big Trouble in Little China, The Fog) are still renewably rewatchable.

For tonight’s Friday Night Horror Movie I chose They Live which is perhaps more science fiction than horror, but I’m rolling with it anyways. If you are a stickler for this sort of thing then please note I did watch Carpenter’s remake of Village of the Damned earlier tonight and you can count that one for me.

It has been a really long time since I’ve watched They Live so I’m pretty excited to give it another go.

The House by the Cemetery (1981)

house by the cemetery poster

It is almost October which means it is almost Halloween which means I’ll be watching a lot of horror movies. I should be creating a list for my #31DaysofHorror and #Hooptober hashtags (more on that later) but for today I just watched an old Italian horror. Lucio Fulci was an Italian director who made lots of films in lots of genres but is mostly known today for a series of Giallo and Horror films, most of which included high levels of graphic violence (he is sometimes called the “Godfather of Gore”.)

The House by the Cemetery is not his best work, nor his worst, but it is a pretty good example of what he is about. The story is hard to follow and mostly nonsense. The screenwriter, Dardano Sacchetti, says he was inspired by Henry James and Fulci says he wanted to make a Lovercraftian story. I’ve not read anything by any of those authors so I can’t comment on that, but I can say little of what’s on the screen makes much sense.

The story involves an intellectual, Norman Boyle (Paolo Malco) who moves from New York City to a small town in New England. He takes his wife Lucy (Catriona MacColl) and young son Bob (Giovanni Frezza) with him. He’s there to continue the research of his mentor Dr. Peterson, who previously went a little crazy and killed his mistress and then offed himself. All of this was done in the titular house by the cemetery, the house Norman and his family are moving into.

It is a creepy old horror movie house – big and dilapidated, filled with shadowy corners and a scary basement. It is not only located next to a cemetery but also on top of one. Or at least when they pull back a rug they find a tombstone in the middle of one of the rooms. Norman says that lots of homes bury their loved ones inside their houses because it gets cold up there in the winter and the ground is too hard. Sure Norman, whatever you say. There are lots of cold places in this world and I don’t think any of them keep grandma’s corpse in the basement.

People keep telling Norman that they’ve seen him before, that he must have been up in that town a few months prior. Norman keeps denying this. The librarian is a creepy dude who seems to know more than he lets on. A babysitter (Ania Pieroni) shows up and is found trying to get into the locked basement. Then she gets brutally murdered down there. Bob befriends a young girl who no one else can see and who may actually be a ghost.

None of these things are connected very well. It feels like several scenes are missing. Or the screenwriter got drunk and forgot to write a few pages. But it doesn’t really matter. Nobody watches a Fulci film for a great story. They watch it for the gore and this film gives you plenty.

It is the type of film that not only includes a dungeon filled with bodies chopped into pieces but that quick zooms into the viscera and lingers on the gore. In the very first scene a woman gets a knife stabbed through her skull. If you enjoy handcrafted gore effects, and I certainly do, then Lucio Fulci is your man, and The House by the Cemetery is not a bad place to start.

It isn’t just blood and guts though, that make this worth watching. The story is a bit bewildering but Fulcio does a nice job of creating an eerie atmosphere and keeping things just enough off balance that your left feeling on edge for most of the film’s runtime.

The Friday Night Horror Movie: Cure (1997)

cure movie poster

Unlike previous Friday nights, I’ve actually sat through tonight’s entire Horror Movie before writing this post. Theoretically, this means I can actually write a review of it now, instead of making vague promises to tell you what I think of it tomorrow (and then forgetting to actually do so). In reality, it is late, and I am tired, and my brain cannot think of anything to say about it.

Briefly, the plot involves a series of grisly murders being committed by seemingly ordinary people. There is a detective (Kôji Yakusho) trying to understand why this is happening, and an amnesiac (Masato Hagiwara) who may be hypnotizing them into doing it.

The plot is, at times, a bit silly and it is a whole lot enigmatic, but the director Kiyoshi Kurosawa fills it with atmosphere and mood. It is all about the vibe of the film more than the actual plot. I really quite loved it.

Two from Sergei Eisenstein: October (1928) & Alexander Nevsky (1938)

two from eisenstein

Sergei Eisenstein was one of the most important of the early directors. He’s someone I’ve heard about many times but until I watched and reviewed these two films back in November of last year I’d never actually set down and watched anything from him. I’m glad I finally did. You can read my reviews here.

Counterpoint (1968)

counterpoint blu-ray

There are a lot of boutique labels putting out all sorts of movies on Blu-ray these days. All the recent blockbusters get releases, of course, and the certified classics. Companies like Arrow Video and Severin and releasing cult films and old schlock horror movies. Kino Lorber continues to do a magnificent job of releasing what I like to call Almost Classics. These were mainstream movies with A-list directors or actors that were aiming for greatness and somehow fell short. They usually aren’t bad, sometimes they’re even quite good, but for one reason or another they never quite attained classic status.

I’ve reviewed quite a few of these over the years and Counterpoint is one such example. It stars Charlton Heston and Maximillian Schell and has an interesting WWII era plot. But it has largely been forgotten and with good reason, as it isn’t really very good. Anyway, you can read my full review here.