#212 Carnival of Souls

Watched: December 19 2018

Director: Herk Harvey

Starring: Candace Hilligoss, Frances Feist, Art Ellison, Sidney Berger, Stan Levitt

Year: 1962

Runtime: 1h 22min

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Three friends accept a challenge to a drag race (though not the fun one with RuPaul) and their car ends up in the river. Only Mary Henry (Hilligoss) comes out of the water, but soon after the accident she starts to experience strange things.

Carnival of Souls (1962)Directed by Herk Harvey Shown: Candace Hilligoss
“What is this thing?? How do you even drive a car?!? Who on earth placed me behind a stearing wheel?”

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Newly moved to Salt Lake City, Mary finds herself slightly obsessed with an abandoned pavilion formerly used as a carnival. Even worse, she is haunted by the creepiest neighbour in the state of Utah. Oh, and also by a ghostly visage which pops up in windows, visions and dreams. But the neighbour is almost creepier than the spectre.

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Let us lay some wisdom on you: if your neighbour gives you the willies worse than this guy, it’s time to move. We don’t care how low your rent is.

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While Stalky McCreeperson, real name John (Berger), next door continuously tries to get in her pants, Mary tries to stay sane and perform well at her job as an organist. But she is troubled by her hallucinations (or are they?) and some unusual episodes in which all sounds disappear and people seem unable to see her. What is really going on with our heroine?

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She is tormented by confusion. How can a man simultaneously look so frightening and so amiable?

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Honestly, we went into this not expecting much. It’s part of a DVD box set we own with 50 horror films, and most of them are sub-par to say the least (with some notable exceptions). But we were pleasantly surprised by this atmospheric and unsettling cult classic.

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This single image will haunt our dreams for the rest of our lives. And now yours. You’re welcome. #sharethetrauma

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We loved the intense lighting and the reflections during Mary’s drive to Utah; the truly distressing ghosts; the main character (Mary is actually quite independent and don’t need no man!); the music; the make-up; and the dancing ghouls.

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This isn’t from the film, by the way. We just really wanted to share some pictures from our New Year’s party. ‘Twas a strange affair…

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Sadly, this was Herk Harvey’s only foray into the world of horror, although some of his other credits would suggest otherwise: “Dance, Little Children,” “To Touch a Child” and “Shake Hands with Danger” are all, unfortunately, enlightening and moralizing short films despite their evocative titles, and not the psychotic horror thrills we had envisioned. Our lack of research led to a very disappointing movie night indeed…

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All we’re saying is, when you settle in to watch a film called “Pork: The Meal with a Squeal” directed by this guy, you expect some Hannibal Lecter stuff.

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What we learned: We found 2019’s Halloween make-up. It’s a done deal now. Also, you should check out Herk Harvey’s credits as director. There are some real gems among these titles.

Next time: Jules et Jim (1962)

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Bonus: Pit and the Pendulum

Watched: November 9 2018

Director: Roger Corman

Starring: Vincent Price, Barbara Steele, John Kerr, Luana Anders, Antony Carbone

Year: 1961

Runtime: 1h 20min

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Spain, 1546. Mr Barnard (Kerr) comes from England to see where and how his beloved sister Elizabeth (Steele) died. He meets his brother-in-law Nicholas Medina (Price) and his sister Catherine (Anders) and is offered a strange and vague explanation of Elizabeth’s death.

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“Suffocation from too-tight corset” is not among the excuses. Neither is “tripped over own voluminous skirt and broke neck.”

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Family doctor Leon (Carbone) later reveals to the grieving brother that his sister died of fright. Since more details are surely required after such a statement, Medina confesses that his bride had become obsessed with the inquisition era torture chamber in the cellar, and that she perished in an Iron Maiden.

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We’ve always felt that a house is not a home without a fireplace, a lounge area, and an indoor torture chamber. We’re having ours installed next weekend.

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But is this all there is to it? Barnard is still not satisfied, and as we delve deeper into the house’s secrets, we learn that Medina’s father killed his brother and wife in the chamber when his children were young. Young Nicholas witnessed the ordeal and was never the same again.

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Exhibit A: this is now his default resting face

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As Medina devolves into madness, strange things also begin to happen in the castle… So what really happened to Elizabeth? Is she haunting them? Or was she buried prematurely, House of Usher-style?

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And why didn’t anyone bother informing doctor Leon of the dress code for the evening? These questions will haunt us…

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Pit and the Pendulum has everything we love: Gothic castles, secret passageways, hidden torture chambers, ghosts, murder, madness and torture. It is morbid, grotesque and lovely, and we completely adored Vincent Price as the confused, distressed widower. Barbara Steele’s eyes are as haunting as they were in Black Sunday, and she is the perfect Gothic heroine/villain (take your pick here). Personally, we are of course suckers for anything Poe (and Corman. And Price.), so we had no choice but to include this even though it is no longer on the list. It’s fantastic!

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Best watched by squinting from inside an Iron Maiden. Well, we say “best”…

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What we learned: Crazy is hereditary.

Next time: Carnival of Souls (1961)

Bonus: The Curse of the Werewolf

Watched: November 9 2018

Director: Terence Fisher

Starring: Oliver Reed, Clifford Evans, Yvonne Romain, Catherine Feller, Anthony Dawson, Richard Wordsworth, Hira Talfrey

Year: 1961

Runtime: 1h 33min

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Somewhere in 18th century Spain, a beggar (Wordsworth) goes to a castle to ask for some food and/or money. But the marquis (Dawson) is a cruel man and a bully, and he imprisons the beggar and promptly forgets about him. Left in the dungeon for fifteen years, the poor man is forgotten about by all but the jailer and his mute daughter.

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One look at this man and we would have run for our lives. Unfortunately the beggar didn’t share our instincts for people.

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After those fifteen years, the daughter (Romain) refuses to be raped by the marquis, and he throws her in the dungeon with the beggar. Apparently, he has forgotten all about the girl’s kindness to him and rapes her himself, and then dies (karma’s a bitch!).  The girl is sent back to the marquis so that he can have his way with her, but having been raped once already, she’s not about to let the bastard win, so she kills him and flees.

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Sometimes it’s a good, and righteous, thing to be a backstabbing bitch

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The runaway girl, now pregnant, is later found in the woods by Don Alfredo Corledo (Evans) and Teresa (Talfrey) who take her in and, when she dies in childbirth on Christmas Day, take on the responsibility of her newborn son.

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“Say, Teresa, do we know who the boy’s father is..? I only ask because he seems to be displaying some rather unusual dental development here which has me quite confused”

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Turns out though, unwanted children born on Christmas Day are cursed to be werewolves. Which makes us wonder why lycanthropy isn’t a bigger social problem than it currently seems to be. While young Leon (Reed) at first manages to keep his condition under control, once he grows up and faces adversity as well as love, he loses what little control he has and all hell breaks loose.

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Honestly, we were half expecting him to break into song once he had climbed the bell tower. Colour us disappointed.

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The Curse of the Werewolf was removed from the list after we’d already bought it, so as is tradition, we’re doing it anyway, dammit! And we’re glad we did. We loved the opening credits with the sad werewolf, the interesting explanation for the condition, and Leon’s partner in crime (not literally though) José.

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Also, even though it preceeds it by almost 5 decades, this is yet another werewolf better than the atrocity in The Prisoner of Azkaban. No, we’re still not over it.

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In many ways, it’s more a drama than a horror, except the ending which is very Frankenstein. But we believe it works for fans of both genres. Well worth watching! Even though there are apparently at least 1000 films which are better than this one… Let’s call it number 1001 and recommend it anyway. Happy New Year!

What we learned: Don’t give birth to unwanted children on Christmas day. We know, it’s a bit late for 2018, but keep it in mind for next year.

Next time: Bonus: Pit and the Pendulum (1961)

#208 The Innocents

Watched: November 7 2018

Director: Jack Clayton

Starring: Deborah Kerr, Martin Stephens, Pamela Franklin, Michael Redgrave, Megs Jenkins, Peter Wyngarde

Year: 1961

Runtime: 1h 40min

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When Sister the Oldest was young, she watched a lot of movies which were somewhat age-inappropriate. Child’s Play (1988) abruptly ended her doll playing career around 1990. Early exposure to Predator (1987) and Blue Velvet (1986) brought on a fear of invisible monsters leaving cut-off ears lying around willy nilly (the two movies may have been a bit muddled up in her young brain), though she found Terminator 2 (1991) more sad than scary. And then there was The Innocents

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Deborah Kerr looking for Miles in a flowing nightgown with a candelabra will forever haunt her dreams

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Like many of the others, this was partially watched on a friend’s TV one night  – our own parents were quite strict about what was appropriate viewing for kids – and it messed Sister the Oldest up quite a bit. However, November of this year was the first time she’d seen it since, and it still holds up as a creepy Gothic tale of ghosts and/or madness.

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It helps that the 1961 winner of Britain’s Creepiest Kid Award stars in it

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Based on Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw (which we’ve actually read, being the cultured, sophisticated people that we are), the film tells the story of Miss Giddens (Kerr), who is sent to the British countryside as a governess to two young orphans, Miles (Stephens) and Flora (Franklin).

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As well as being a charming little doll, Flora possesses the strange ability to keep both the background and the foreground in focus. An unusual gift for so small a child.

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Giddens initially finds her two young wards utterly charming, and the estate beautiful. But as she starts to investigate what happened to the last governess and her dangerous lover, the children’s behaviour begins to worry her, and the rot underneath the beauty of the place starts to come up to the surface. Are the kids being haunted? Possessed? Are they playing games with her? Or is she slowly going insane in the isolated estate?

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It’s hard to decide what the truth is, but the crazy-eyes of Giddens might be a hint

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As stated, The Innocents has held up incredibly well. It’s a very faithful adaptation of James’ novella and the disturbing atmosphere of the original is very much present in the film version. The kids are perfectly cast, as is Deborah Kerr, and the estate is lovely and Gothic.

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Well done for finding not just one but two ghosty, floaty see-through children! They’re hard to come by.

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We loved the wholly impractical costumes (how were people supposed to do anything wearing something like that?) and the way everything in the shot was in focus at once (deep focus..? We’re not really down with the terminology of cinematography..), which made it feel unsettling and “wrong.” There’s very little score in the movie and it’s rather quiet most of the time, which works well to emphasise the atmosphere. Also, we loved the ambiguity of the ending…

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Ghosts or not, we’ve learned that cute children are inherently terrifying

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What we learned: One need not be a chamber to be haunted. Or mad. One need not be a chamber to be mad either.

Next time: Victim (1961)

#202 Village of the Damned

Watched: September 21 2018

Director: Wolf Rilla

Starring: George Sanders, Barbara Shelley, Michael Gwynn, Laurence Naismith, Martin Stephens

Year: 1960

Runtime: 1h 17min

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In a small British town, all the residents (and animals) simultaneously pass out one day. They wake up a few hours later, unharmed, but later find that all the fertile women in the village are pregnant. Which obviously leads to some uncomfortable questions and suspicions.

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Questions such as who was the sexy alien adonis who managed to impregnante a dozen women within the space of an hour? And what sort of pills was he on to keep it up?

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The children are born 5 months later (which hospital show-fans everywhere know is waaay too early), and they all have white blond hair and intense eyes. Among the new parents are Anthea (Shelley) and Gordon Zellaby (Sanders). The latter is a professor who enjoys a good relationship with British Intelligence, and he takes on the task of observing and possibly educating the strange children.

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As you can tell from his body language, he florishes in his new role as teacher and mentor for a bunch of creepy kids.

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The children develop quickly, and are supersmart and polite, which in itself is a warning sign for anyone who’s ever encountered an actual child. In addition, they seem to have a hive mind and powers of telepathy. If anyone from the village poses any sort of threat to them, they soon become suicidal and the threat is eliminated. But what is their purpose? And will humanity survive their coming?

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Ain’t nothing a rope and a gas mask can’t fix!

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Village of the Damned is such a classic horror movie we will just go ahead and assume that everyone has seen it. We love the final scene in which the kids tear apart Gordon’s mental wall, the chilling, creepy children themselves, and the unsettling atmosphere. The kids, and especially David Zellaby (Stephens), are calm, rational and emotionless, and very disquieting. Their reactions to any threat are relentless and brutal which works great coming from adorable little kids.

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By “adorable” we mean “ominous-as-fuck!”

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With Halloween coming up, you could do a lot worse – and it’s short enough to fit neatly into any sort of marathon you may be planning. Also, perfect low budget costume idea for those of you with children of your own! Just prepare yourself to be terrified of them.

What we learned: We’re definitely never having children. Never.

Next time: Zazie dans le Métro (1960)

#199 The Little Shop of Horrors

Watched: September 21 2018

Director: Roger Corman

Starring: Jonathan Haze, Jackie Joseph, Mel Welles, Dick Miller, Myrtle Vail, Leola Wendorff, Jack Nicholson

Year: 1960

Runtime: 1h 12min

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Seymour Krelborn (Haze) is a simple employee at Mushnick’s (Welles) failing floral shop on Skid Row, along with his crush Audrey Fulquard (Joseph). Their few customers are mainly limited to the unluckiest woman in the universe, Mrs Shiva (Wendorff), whose relatives keep dropping dead on a daily basis, and flower eating Fouch (Miller).

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Mushnick suffering his third mental breakdown of the day. They opened ten minutes ago…

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When Seymour is threatened with unemployment after screwing up yet another order, he reveals to his boss that he has been cultivating a new plant which he has named “Audrey Jr” and is told he can keep his job if he manages to popularize the plant and grow more of them.

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“She’s a fascinating creature, not at all bloodthirsty and creepy!”

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However, Audrey Jr is dying and Seymour struggles to find a food source for it. That is, until he cuts himself and the plant greedily drinks his blood… Having found sustenance for his creation, Seymour turns the shop and his unusual plant into superstars. But Audrey Jr craves more. And Seymour must provide…

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“What? No! It eats shoes. Shoes. Not dead bodies – no siree!”

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The 1960 original Little Shop of Horrors may not be as well known as the musical remake from 1986, but oh my did we love it! The characters, the plot, the script and the humour are all hilarious and we laughed so much that we were in pain at the end.

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Also, Jack Nicholson has a fantastically creepy and funny, though somewhat hyped up, small part as a masochist seeking dental care

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Roger Corman seems to love him some murderous simpletons who profit from their kills, as the main character shares some clear similarities with Walter Paisley (also Miller) in A Bucket of Blood. However, while Walter becomes a douchebag with his newfound success, Seymour seems to be more aware that what he is doing is wrong, and many of Audrey Jr’s meals are products of accidents rather than cold blooded murder.

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Most of them…

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We loved the investigators (especially the one who lost his kid), Mrs Shiva and her accident prone family, Fouch and his handy salt/pepper shaker, the flower floozies and generally everything about this. It’s in many ways a funnier version of A Bucket of Blood, and we cannot recommend it enough. And while we love the musical version, this one is somehow more charming and has become our favourite of the two. Go watch it!

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Like Audrey, it is an utter delight!

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What we learned: If a lifeform of unknown origin craves human blood to thrive, just walk away!

Next time: The Running, Jumping and Standing Still Film (1960)

#193 Psycho

Watched: August 4 2018 (and many other times)

Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Starring: Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles, John Gavin, Janet Leigh, Martin Balsam

Year: 1960

Runtime: 1h 49min

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Man with mommy issues goes on killing spree. Loved by critics.

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“Mommy issues? Who has mommy issues? I’m just a normal, stable, sane boy.”

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Psycho probably needs no further introduction as it’s one of the most watched, loved and spoofed/homaged films of all time. Still, for those hermits who have been living secluded lives in the woods for the past 60 years but have also inexplicably stumbled upon this blog (hello, stranger! To be honest, you’re probably better off crawling back under that rock, given the current state of the world), we’ll give a very brief synopsis.

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In short, wood dwelling hermit: if you see this place, just keep driving. Or walking. Or riding your tame bear.

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Marion Crane (Leigh) is having an affair with Sam Loomis (Gavin) but they cannot afford to get married. When Marion gets her hands on $40 000 at work, she decides to steal the money and run away to elope with her beau. She is caught in a rainstorm and checks in for the night at the secluded Bates Motel.

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Bad, bad idea

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Marion is reported missing by her sister Lila (Miles) and wanted by the police for theft. Lila decides to investigate the disappearance herself with the help of Sam and private investigator Milton Arbogast (Balsam) who is also on the case. What they find is not what they expected…

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It’s not what anyone would expect, really

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There’s nothing not to love about Psycho. It lulls you into thinking that you’re watching just another crime movie, and then BLAM! Creepy horror film!

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Hitchcock also managed to insert a T-1000, but we feel that subplot is vastly underdeveloped.

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The shower scene is perhaps the most famous scene in cinematic history, and no matter how many times you’ve seen it or its various recreations, it still has impact. As does Norman Bates’ transformation from sweetly awkward and likable young man to creepy insane murderer.

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He actually seems quite charming at first, making Marion supper and all

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As mentioned in our last entry, this goes perfectly as a double feature with Peeping Tom, if you want a night filled with serial killers and crazy. And who doesn’t?

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“We’re off to see the killer! The wonderful killer of girls!”

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What we learned: We all go a little mad sometimes. Also, if it doesn’t jell it’s not aspics.

Next time: Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960)

#192 Peeping Tom

Watched: July 11 2018

Director: Michael Powell

Starring: Karlheinz Böhm, Anna Massey, Moira Shearer, Maxine Audley

Year: 1960

Runtime: 1h 41min

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Man with daddy-issues goes on killing spree. Hated by critics.

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“Oh, this pointy thing? I just use it to get the best possible angle for a portrait shot.”

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For those of you who want more context than the initial summary, Mark Lewis (Böhm) is an aspiring film maker who shoots soft porn during the day and murders at night. His neighbour Helen (Massey) takes an interest in the socially awkward weirdo, and we learn that Mark was used as a guinea pig by his psychiatrist father who studied fear.

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Daddy also filmed the child abuse. Father of the year!

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Peeping Tom was initially hated by critics and basically killed the career of its director, but time has worked in its favour and it is now a beloved classic. And we absolutely loved it!

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We loved this movie almost as much as this guy loves his camera. Which is a bit of a love/hate-relationship to be honest.

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We were enthralled from the very beginning, with the camera point-of-view, and we were on the edge of our seats throughout. Mark is a complex and strange character; is the real him the awkward and timid man he is in social situations, or is it the dynamic take-charge man we see when he’s about to commit murder?

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We’re sure this woman was super-impressed by his sudden alfa-maleness just before she was brutally murdered

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As horrible as Mark is, we’re also forced to sympathise with him learning his backstory, and Helen (who we really liked) actually falls for the guy.

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Who wouldn’t fall for a guy with such an impressive set-up?

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It’s a must-see for horror fans (or movie fans in general), and it works fantastically as a double bill with the upcoming Psycho. Get out your blankets, wine (or tea – we don’t judge) and snacks, and enjoy!

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It’s also very pretty. Just saying.

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What we learned: First rule of serial killing: lock your damn door!

Next time: Psycho (1960)

#190 Eyes Without a Face/Les yeux sans visage

Watched: August 4 2018

Director: Georges Franju

Starring: Pierre Brasseur, Alida Valli, Edith Scob, Juliette Mayniel, Béatrice Altariba

Year: 1960

Runtime: 1h 30min

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A woman dumps a faceless body in the middle of the night. The body is found and identified as Christiane Génessier (Scob) by her father, Doctor Génessier. Her face was destroyed in a car accident caused by the doctor and she is presumed to have killed herself.

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“Yes, yes, definitely my daughter. I would recognize her lack of face anywhere.”

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The body is buried and no one questions its identity, but what is the deal with all the missing girls in the area? The ones who resemble the presumably dead girl? The one with the ruined face and the surgeon father..?

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They’re certainly not having their faces removed and transplanted to Christiane. No siree!

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Doctor Génessier is riddled with guilt and hubris, and despite his daughter’s protests he’s trying to repair the damage he’s done, leaving in his wake a trail of faceless bodies. With the help of former patient Louise (Valli), he kidnaps young women, removes their faces, and tries to transplant them onto his own daughter who he keeps locked up in the house like the stray dogs he experiments on.

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At least the prisoners can take comfort in each other’s company

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We love everything about this film! The circusy music, the surgery shown in excruciating detail, the haunting mask and outfits of Christiane which make her look like a doll, and the ending with the gorgeous final shots – there’s nothing here not to love.

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She’s like the adorable ghost of a life-sized doll wandering about the mansion, bonding with animals Gothic Disney-princess style.

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Daddy is a giant douche whose pride is more important than the happiness of his daughter, even if he tells himself he’s doing this for her. Also, there’s some seriously shoddy police work going on – we mean, why would they send in Paulette (Altariba) for a consultation with the doctor without keeping an eye on her or instructing her to report back when she was discharged? Amateurs.

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“Yeah, this is what you get for shoplifting!”

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Terribly unprofessional police work aside, Eyes Without a Face is a haunting horror movie which should be on everyone’s to-watch list. It’s terrible and beautiful, and it reminds us of a twisted and dark fairytale. Love it!

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We prophesize a Disney remake

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What we learned: Looks aren’t everything.

Next time: La Dolce Vita (1960)

#188 Black Sunday

Watched: July 19 2018

Director: Mario Bava

Starring: Barbara Steele, John Richardson, Andrea Checchi, Ivo Garrani, Arturo Dominici, Enrico Olivieri

Year: 1960

Runtime: 1h 27min

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In 17th century Moldavia, Princess Asa Vajda (Steele) is sentenced as a witch by her brother and executed after having the “mask of Satan” nailed to her face. But before she dies, she curses her brother and all his descendants.

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To be fair, if someone tried to nail this thing to our faces, we’d probably curse them too

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Fast forward 200 years and two travelling doctors stumble upon her grave. One of them, Kruvajan (Checchi), is attacked by a bat which he kills over Asa’s tomb smashing the cross guarding it in the process. He then proceeds to remove her mask and spill blood on her.

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“Let’s open this tomb with the strangely preserved corpse and drip some blood on it” – a man who has never seen a horror film

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Kruvajan and his young companion Andre Gorobec (Richardson) then run into a mysterious young woman who bears a striking resemblance to the dead witch, Katia (Steele again) and Andre is smitten.

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It’s hard to resist a woman with two massive dogs

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After the meddling with the dead witch’s grave, the surviving members of the Vajda family start to experience strange phenomena, and it becomes clear that Asa and her companion Javuto (Dominici) are back for revenge.

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“Grrr rawr, I’m coming to get you, Barbara!”

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We’re back in our favourite genre with this horror film, and we have a bit of a thing for Mario Bava (especially Sister the Oldest), so naturally we loved Black Sunday. It’s an unsettling and atmospheric Gothic horror with gorgeous lighting and some very good effects. We loved Asa’s resurrection and Katia’s transformation, Barbara Steele’s eyes (emphasized by intense make-up) and the creepy castle.

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Not what most people associate with a “come hither look,” but strangely effective nonetheless

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Sure, there are some issues with this movie, such as the slightly iffy dialogue and the fact that everyone keeps treating Katia like an idiot child (even with everything going on and several corpses piled up, the men don’t really believe her when she claims to have seen someone in her room), but we still love it.

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In the men’s defence, Katia does tend to act a bit like an idiot child, so they may be justified

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Absolutely a must-see if you’re into Italian cult horrors. Which of course is everyone’s favourite genre, so why wouldn’t you watch it?

What we learned: Don’t remove all protective elements and then spill blood on cursed graves. Just don’t.

Next time: Breathless/À bout de souffle (1960)