The Initiation of Sarah (1978)

the initiation of sarah

My current plan is to try to repost 3 of my old reviews per day and then link to three reviews I’ve written over at Cinema Sentries. I’m not entirely sure of how many reviews I’ve written in my life, so I have no idea how long that process will take.

I will be writing new reviews pretty regularly both over at Cinema Sentries and possibly just here. I’ve also got a whole lot of journal entries of the year I spent in France that I’d like to repost at some point. I’m still trying to figure out the best way to do that, so it may be a while before you see those thoughts.

There are also some old bootleg reviews, something I used to call Random Shuffle (I’d put my music collection and shuffle and then tell stories about what the songs reminded me of), and lots of other old stuff I’ll eventually repost.

I’m thinking about writing new bootleg reviews pretty regularly and I’m still pondering how best to upload and post new shows. There are all kinds of ideas floating around in my head about what to do with this site, but nothing had quite solidified.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. I recently wrote a review for CS about a movie called The Initiation of Sarah. It isn’t a very good movie. It is basically a rip-off of Carrie. But you can read my review here.

Film Noir: The Dark Side of Cinema VIII

film noir

Beyond horror, I am a huge fan of film noir. That’s a particular type of crime drama was made in Hollywood in the 1940s and 1950s. They use expressionistic black and white photography, a dark, cynical point of view, and usually a hard-boiled detective and a beautiful femme fatale.

Kino Lorber has been regularly putting out nice boxed sets of film noir featuring lesser-known titles in the genre. I recently reviewed one of those sets for Cinema Sentries and you can read it here.

Hell High (1989)

hell high bluray

Yesterday I spoke of the joy of reviewing Blu-rays in that it enables me to discover interesting new movies I might have otherwise overlooked. The underside of this is that I sometimes I have sit through (and review) really terrible movies. Hell High was one of those. As you’ve probably figured out I’m a big fan of horror movies and the slasher subgenre of horror. Hell High is a late-period slasher that tries to have fun with the genre’s tropes, and pretty much fails miserably. If you want to know more (and I know you do) then you can read my review here.

The Righteous (2021)

the righteous

One of the joys of reviewing movies for Cinema Sentries is that I sometimes get a chance to see something I might not have watched were it not for them. Our cinematic world these days is so filled with multi-film universes and blockbuster franchises that smaller, independent films often get blocked out, when they are even made at all.

I recently got to see The Righteous, a movie I’d never heard of before the Blu-ray landed in my mailbox. I’m glad it did. Not because it is perfect, but because it at least tries for something different. Anyway, click here for my review.

Planet of the Vampires (1965)

planet of the vampires bluray

Mario Bava is one of the all-time great horror directors. He basically created the Giallo subgenre and was a master visualist. He also directed lots of other genres, including sword and sandals movies and science fiction. Planet of the Vampires is a bit of a genre blend including both sci-fi and horror. Kino Lorber recently released a nice copy of it on Blu-ray and I wrote a review which you can read here.

Salem’s Lot (1979)

salems lot poster

I was slow coming ’round to Stephen King. Growing up I was more of a Dean Kontz man. I read the short story The Langoliers when I was in high school and loved it, but for some reason didn’t even both finishing the other short stories in the book much less read any other King. In college, I read Dolores Claiborne, and loved it, and then didn’t get around to reading any other King books until a few years later. And so it went for a long time. I’d read a King book, love it, and then not pick one up again for many months or years. And then four or five years ago I got a copy of the Mr. Mercedes audiobook from the library and really dug it, then picked up the sequel, Finder’s Keepers, and I was off to the races. I’ve been reading him steadily ever since.

I read ‘Salem’s Lot about 12 years ago and absolutely loved it. I’m a sucker for vampire stories and King tells a really good one. It remains one of my favorite novels of his. Tobe Hooper directed a two-part TV miniseries back in 1979 and I decided to rewatch it this week. It is surprisingly good.

The story concerns Ben Mears (David Soul) a writer (the first of many times the protagonist in a King story would have that occupation) who grew up in the small town of Salem’s Lot, but moved away as a boy. He comes back to write about a spooky old house up on a hill that has a sordid history and is rumored to be haunted. He plans on renting it but as it turns out the house has just been purchased by the mysterious Richard Straker (James Mason, completely enjoying himself), and his absent partner Kurt Barlow.

Turns out Barlow is an ancient vampire and Straker is his familiar. But the movie takes its time getting to that part. First Ben has to meet Susan (Bonnie Bedelia), the romantic interest, plus other assortments of characters. It isn’t until the second part of the movie, more than 90 minutes into its three-hour runtime that we actually see the vampire. Mysterious things do happen, people get sick, a kid dies, a dog is murdered, etc., but Hooper keeps the pace slow and the eeriness high.

There is quite a lot of padding, as one would expect from a TV movie made in 1979. And the production values fit within that genre as well. But Hooper gives some good jump scares and several truly spooky scenes. There’s one in which a vampire kid floats into another kid’s room which is an all-timer. The look of the main vampire is very Nosferatu-esque and pretty darn terrific.

It is a film that, if you consider the budget and its limitations, comes across as surprisingly great, and well worth watching.