Category Archives: TV and Film

The Vampire’s Ghost

This article is from Forgotten Films. Click the title to hop over there.

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When I was younger my whole idea of what vampires were like was based on Bela Lugosi’s version of Dracula. You know, the fangs, the cape, the widow’s peak, occasional bat transformations…that sort of thing. It turns out, though, there are many different styles of cinematic vampires. The one in our film today, in fact, doesn’t look garish at all. He’s just your average guy running a nightclub in the middle of an African jungle. Have your crucifixes ready for 1945’s The Vampire’s Ghost.

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The story focuses on a region of Africa known as Bakunda, where there has been a series of unusual murders in which the victims appear to have been bitten in the neck and drained of their blood. Obviously, we have a vampire on the loose! Some folks aren’t so sure, though, including Roy Hendrick (Charles Gordon), his fiancee Julie (Peggy Stewart) and her father (Emmett Vogen). Still, Roy decides to investigate a bit by visiting a local nightclub owner named Webb Fallon (John Abbott) who knows a lot about voodoo and other creepy things. Three guesses who the vampire is.

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It soon becomes clear that Fallon is, in fact, a blood sucker when he survives being stabbed through the chest by one of the natives with a huge spear. Since he can’t let his secret get out, Fallon makes Roy his slave, but soon sets his sights on the lovely Julie. Every vampire needs and undead bride, after all. That means that somehow Roy has to break free of the vampire’s spell, save the girl, and destroy the vampire in the only way that will make him dead for good…burning him alive!

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The Vampire’s Ghost is one of the earliest writing gigs for Leigh Brackett, who would go on to write screenplays for such films as The Big Sleep, Rio Bravo, and The Long Goodbye…not to mention contributing to the screenplay for The Empire Strikes Back shortly before her death. This is very much a B picture with moderate production value and a paltry running time of 59 minutes, but it manages to have some intriguing elements. You’ve certainly got to admire that it does something very different with the whole vampire mythos. Fallon doesn’t hang out in a coffin all day, only to come out at night…he’s out and about during the day, somehow fully protected from the sun by just a pair of sunglasses. He doesn’t even wear black! White slacks and a white shirt are more his style. There’s nothing terribly creepy about him, he’s just a guy who happens to be a 400 year-old vampire. So the film certainly gets some points for creativity.

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However, the film could’ve used a lot more creep to make it more worthy of the horror movie moniker. There are no real shock moments that deliver the kind of atmosphere most viewers want to see in a horror film. The closest we get is a sequence toward the middle of the film where Fallon kills a dancer (Adele Mara) who works in his club after she has helped one of the regulars cheat Fallon out of some money. The scene is actually one of the film’s best moments, but it still doesn’t provide anything unsettling or disturbing for the audience. The film does try to lean a bit on the idea that the region of Africa where this story takes place is a hotbed for voodoo. I tend to think of voodoo more in the Caribbean context, so throwing that term around didn’t really seem to fit here. It doesn’t help that in the big climax of the film, some of the imagery being used seems more like it was borrowed from Hinduism. It’s a hodgepodge, to say the least.

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I guess it seems like The Vampire’s Ghost is a film that claims to be a horror movie but doesn’t seem like it really wants to be listed in that category.  Check out the original poster online…it makes the film look like a romance.  The film really needs to commit more to the whole horror vibe.  John Abbott is solid as the titular vampire. He has a real command of the screen, but it also feels like he’s being held back. He needed to be let loose and allowed to create a more intimidating villain. Even when his (spoiler alert) death scene comes around, it’s all played way too politely.

Though there’s nothing terribly spectacular about The Vampire’s Ghost, it is a decent enough way to spend 59 minutes. There’s enough here to appreciate what the filmmakers were going for, even if it falls far short of making full use of its horror opportunities. At least I was moderately entertained enough that I wasn’t too bugged by the fact that despite the title, there are not ghosts of any sort in this film! What gives, man!?!

Note: The Vampire’s Ghost was released on DVD and BluRay by Olive Films.  Thanks to them for letting us check out the film.

 

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Parasite

This article is from Forgotten Films. Click the title to hop over there.

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You know what they say, right…everybody has to start somewhere. For many young actors, that somewhere is horror movies. Actually, cheap horror movies would be more accurate. These films are always looking for attractive young actors and actresses looking for their first big break. In 1982, a young Demi Moore certainly fit that bill. She got her first big break from director Charles Band, who would go on to create Full Moon Features, home of the Puppet Master series and many other low-budget horror flicks. That was all in the future, though. First there would be this post-apocalyptic tale of a man and the monster living inside him…Parasite.

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The story focuses on Dr. Paul Dean (Robert Glaudini), a scientist in the near future of 1992 on the run from the organization he once worked for. He comes to to the desolate town of Joshua, driving an ambulance and carrying with him a strange container. But the good doctor is carrying something else, too. There is a strange pulsing glob of some sort on his stomach. Now, Joshua isn’t exactly a peaceful place. There is a local gang of street toughs led by a guy called Riccus (Luca Bercovici) that are always causing problems for the peaceful folk, including a lovely lemon grower named Patricia (Demi Moore). Eventually, Riccus and his gang decide to kidnap Paul, figuring he must have drugs in his ambulance. Stupidly, a thug named Zeke (Tom Villard) opens up the mysterious container and ends up with giant gooey worm of some sort attached to him.

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The creature is a parasite developed by an evil organization known as the Merchants, with the help of scientists like Paul, as something that could be used to control the remaining population of the world. Paul, seeing how deadly the parasites were, escaped to research on one and find a way to stop them. That’s not going to be easy, though, as the escaped parasite is growing rapidly and knocking off Riccus’ gang one by one. Things are made more difficult thanks to a Merchant called Wolf (James Davidson) who is out to kill Paul and bring back deadly creature…which is gradually becoming much bigger and much more toothy.

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Parasite is not a terribly good movie, but I do admire its ambition on a certain level. It’s a horror movie that takes some elements of Alien and mixes it with a slightly Mad Max vibe to create a somewhat interesting scenario. I fear, though, that the filmmakers ideas didn’t quite match up with their pocket book. Other than a few cheap laser guns, there’s not much that is done to really give the film a futuristic feel. The film also has a very claustrophobic feel, looking like all of it was shot in a fifty square foot patch of land somewhere in the vicinity of the Manson family’s Spahn Ranch. Considering that the film deals with a sinister post-apocalyptic organization trying to control people with slimey parasites, putting a bit more into world building would’ve gone a long way.

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On the plus side, said parasite is effectively gross. The way it latches onto people is like the leech scene from Stand By Me taken to a way more horrific level. Eventually the thing sports a grotesque set of teeth that always seem to be blood-soaked. It’s a disgusting little bugger. When it does start doing some real damage, it’s grody. I mean, the xenomorph from Alien busts out of people’s chests, but at one point this toothy worm busts through one of its victim’s craniums. Some of the attack scenes do plays a bit strange as Parasite was originally released in 3-D, which explains why many of the the creature attack scenes have it flying, or falling, right into the camera. It does take quite a while for the monster action to kick into gear, though. When the monster isn’t factoring into a scene, the film is really stale.

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Now, the big question, of course, is how does Miss Moore do in one of her first big screen roles? Her career certainly went beyond the success of some of the others in the St. Elmo’s crowd, but I don’t know that she was ever really considered one of the most skilled actors of that group. In this early outing, though, she’s actually pretty good. Her performance is probably the one thing that keeps the film somewhat rooted despite all the teeth and puss and stuff. Paul Deen is fine as the troubled scientist, though the chief acting skill he displays throughout the film seems to be the ability to sweat all the time. I did also get a kick out of seeing Tom Villard in this; a familiar face from movies like One Crazy Summer and classic bad TV like We Got it Maid.

Parasite does offer a few moments that will certainly appeal to fans of low-budget 80’s horror, but it’s a film that doesn’t offer a whole lot to write home about. It’s got a cheesy and gross monster, and young Demi Moore is cute and shows a certain degree of acting talent, but much of the rest of the movie is pretty flat.

 

Go to Source – Forgotten Films



The Unholy

This article is from Forgotten Films. Click the title to hop over there.

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If the movies have taught us one thing, it’s that being a priest in a horror flick ain’t no Sunday school picnic. They’re always having to deal with things like demons, nuns with fangs, and little girls who spin their heads around and vomit pea soup. The 70’s were an especially big time for the “satanic panic” sort of films, but our film today takes us to the demonic side of the 80’s. Say the rosary a few times and douse yourself with holy water for 1988’s The Unholy.

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We begin with a priest named Father Dennis who encounters something strange one dark night in his sanctuary…a sexy red-headed woman in a see-through nighty. The priest seems pretty concerned about this, and I guess he should be considering that after she plants a big wet kiss on his mouth she proceeds to tear his throat out and leave him to die. We then pick up a few years later with a priest named Father Michael (Ben Cross) who is brought in to help talk a man down from a ledge. The man ends up grabbing Father Michael and tossing him out the window. Strangely, though, Michael survives…in fact he isn’t injured in the slightest. This brings him to the attention of Archbishop Mosely (Hal Holbrook) and the blind Father Silva (Trevor Howard) who put Father Michael in charge of St. Agnes, the parish that has been vacant since the murder of Father Dennis.

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It seems that St. Agnes has had several mysterious murders of the priests over the years. With the cases having never been solved, Father Michael sets out to get to the bottom of things. This leads him to a girl named Millie (Jill Carroll) who works at a strange nightclub with a satanic theme. She had come to Father Dennis for confession shortly before his murder and claimed that her boss, a weirdo named Luke (William Russ), was the devil incarnate. Soon, Father Michael takes in Millie who comes to believe that a demon who seeks to corrupt the innocent (such as virgins and priests) is coming for her. This all leads to a final showdown between the priest and the snarling demon.

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The Unholy is a film that gets a bit too complicated for its own good, but does manage to be somewhat creepy. It has many elements that have certainly shown up in other satanic panic movies. The mysterious blind priest played by Trevor Howard made me remember John Carradine’s role in The Sentinel. Having a sexy female demon reminded me bit of the scene where Linda Blair gets all seductive on Richard Burton in Exorcist II…though this film does it with more skin. Then we have some weird little demon minions that are more than a bit reminiscent of the titular creatures in Ghoulies. The film does have some original elements, though. The idea of what is basically a satanic theme-restaurant is certainly original and does succeed in being pretty disturbing. I don’t want to know what they have on the kids’ menu.

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This film does go bit over-the-top with the gore, and for many their enjoyment of the film may depend on how you feel about that sort of thing. Right from the beginning, the murder of Father Dennis is shocking and very graphic. Things get worse as the film progresses with two very unsettling deaths that come one right after the other as we move into the final act. The big conclusion itself, in which Father Michael faces the demon, is more than a bit weird and disgusting. It begins with him up against the demon in it’s sexy redhead form, and later moves on to us seeing the demon in all its actual gruesomeness gettin’ way too up close and personal with the poor priest. Depending on how you look at it, the sequence is either really gross or really cheesy.

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On a whole the film is pretty well executed. Ben Cross, most famous for his role in Chariots of Fire, is quite effective as the virtuous Father Michael. Jill Carroll is also quite good as Millie. She has to perform a wide spectrum of emotional states and she pulls it off rather well. Some of the bigger name supporting players, though, are pretty much just doing as little as possible and trying to get the gig over with. Both Hal Holbrook and Ned Beatty, who plays a cop who has been investigating the murders, don’t do anything that you could’nt have gotten from your local community theater all-stars. As soon as the word “cut” was yelled you’ve gotta figure that Holbrook turned his head, held out his hand and said, “who’s got my check!?”

The Unholy is not a top notch horror flick, but it has enough going for it to make it interesting. It’s certainly not everybody’s cup-of-tea, though. For many viewers, the gross-out moments probably go a bit too far. It’s far too ugly to be called a “fun” horror movie, that’s for sure.

Go to Source – Forgotten Films



Uninvited

This article is from Forgotten Films. Click the title to hop over there.

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After watching all four films in the Airport series a few years ago, George Kennedy became one of my favorite actors. Watching him as Joe Patroni in those films, you start to believe that guy can do just about anything. Of course, Kennedy won the Academy Award for best supporting actor for Cool Hand Luke, but even Oscar winners end up in some less-than-Oscar-worthy films. Kennedy appeared in a lot of dreck. By 1988 he was no longer saving doomed aircraft, rather he was trapped on a yacht being terrorized by a mutant cat. Here comes Uninvited!

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We open with a cute and cuddly cat escaping from some sort of genetic lab. The cat is only cute and cuddly some of the time, though, for inside its mouth lives some sort of demon cat which tends to leave a body count whenever its host barfs it up. Several people have already become victims by the time the cat is found by a couple of lovely young spring breakers, Bobbie (Clare Carey) and Suzanne (Shari Shattuck). They’ve been invited to set sail on the yacht of less-than-legit businessman Walter Graham (Alex Cord) who is always flanked by his two goons (George Kennedy and Clu Gulager). The girls also pick up a few guys looking for a good time and all of them jump on board Mr Graham’s ship, along with the cat. Little do the college kids suspect that Mr. Graham is headin’ for the Cayman Islands with a couple of million dollars, trying to avoid prosecution from the SEC.

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The party starts to turn sour, though, when the mutant cat starts attacking the passengers…beginning with Graham’s two goons. Yep, George Kennedy is taken out when his foot is nearly bitten off by a slimy cat puppet. It’s soon learned, though, that even a small bite from the demonic feline is a death sentence since it’s bite is extremely poisonous. Then, a busted engine conveniently leaves our group of co-eds floating helplessly in the ocean, miles and miles from port. So, the survivors need to work together to fix the boat and locate the cat before it can kill again.

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Essentially, Uninvited is what you get when you mix a spring break party movie with Alien…but instead of a spaceship it’s a boat, and instead of a xenomorph it’s a cat. The movie is as unintentionally funny as you think, in no small part thanks to the ridiculous looking puppet that plays the part of the evil cat. It looks a little bit like head of Triumph the insult comic dog sewn onto a Chewbacca doll that’s been left out in the sun for too long. When Clu Gulager’s character is attacked by the beast it looks like a brown feather duster is being thrown at him from an off-camera production assistant. Still, I did get a certain joy out of some of the crazier shots of this beast crawling out of the mouth of its more fluffy host.

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George Kennedy is top billed on this film, but his part is actually pretty small. Still, if there’s one thing Kennedy doesn’t do, it’s phone in a performance. That’s not to say that all his performances are amazing, but you do get the impression that he’s giving it all he’s got. He seems to be at least making the effort to raise the level of the material. The same can’t be said for Clu Gulager who gives a bizarre and cartoonish performance, complete with a set of novelty teeth that Irwin M. Fletcher would envy. As for the young members of the cast, they’re far from the most annoying cast of spring breakers in movie history, if not terribly appealing either.

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The film’s biggest misfire is that it doesn’t put a whole lot of effort into atmosphere or building suspense. I mean, part of what makes the Alien premise work so well is the endless dark corridors that make the audience feel as trapped and helpless as the crew. Here it’s bright and sunny rather than dark and mysterious. Heck, Bobbie and Suzanne spend almost the whole movie in their swimsuits! I mean, there’s a limit to how creepy a film can be when there are bare midriffs involved.

Uninvited does get pretty bloody.  Some of the scene where the victims’ skin bulges due to the cat’s poison are gross, but crudely done.  The film is not the slightest bit scary, though, and yet it still makes for a fun viewing experience. A film that has a premise that is this silly, yet takes itself this seriously, is always going to have a certain charm, and since seeing George Kennedy have his foot gnawed off by a poisonous demon cat should be on everyone’s bucket list, it ends up being a win for everyone.

Go to Source – Forgotten Films



Blood Hook

This article is from Forgotten Films. Click the title to hop over there.

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There are certain weapons that have become trusty favorites of slasher movie killers. The machete, the chainsaw, the butcher knife, the glove with razor sharp fingernails…just to name a few. Things can get a bit tired, though, if we don’t have some originality every now and then. So, why use a meat cleaver when you can snag people with a fishing lure? That’s the weapon of choice in 1987’s Blood Hook.

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The mayhem takes place in the backwoods of Wisconsin where the annual Muskie Madness festival is about to start. Folks come from all over to try and land the biggest catch, and see the giant fiberglass muskie (an actual landmark you can visit in Hayward, Wisconsin). We follow a group of college kids led by Tom “Finner” Finnegan (Christopher Whiting) who has his eye on winning the contest. His friends aren’t as keen on fishing, but are cool with spending some time at a secluded lake house. Even though some of the local fishermen are kind of jerks, Finner and his friends start to settle in, and get a bit friendly with the bubbly hostess of the contest, Bev D (Sandy Meuwissen).

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It doesn’t take long, though, for the trouble to begin. It starts when Bev D’s young son is injured while playing by the lake; cut by a fishing hook of unknown origin. Things get more serious, though, when one of Finner’s buddies is hooked while lounging in a boat. He’s dragged into the lake, never to be heard from again. Gradually, more and more people begin to disappear. So our young heroes need to team up with some of the local oddballs to find out who is taking the idea of hooking the biggest fish to a new, bloody extreme.

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Blood Hook was directed by Jim Mallon, who is most famous for his contributions to Mystery Science Theater 3000. He directed over 75 episodes of the show as well as Mystery Science 3000: The Movie, and was the original performer of the character Gypsy. So, it should come as no surprise that Blood Hook was not really intended as a straight up horror film. The filmmakers were clearly trying to go for laughs. Strangely, though, the comedy is the weakest part of the film. Most of the gags just don’t land, so as a comedy the film flops around like a fish on a pier.

On the other hand, I found the horror element of the film to be somewhat intriguing. The idea of a killer fisherman who hooks his victims is a bit silly, I’ll admit. Yet, it’s also a very original concept that is not without promise. The scenes in which the killer strikes, though crudely executed, do have some legitimate horror to them. The scenes aren’t overly bloody, but seeing someone snared by the stomach with a big ole fish hook sure looked like a horrible and painful experience. It may have helped that I’ve always had a certain nervousness about fishing hooks. When I was a kid I saw someone get caught with one by eyebrow when a nearby fisherman was less than accurate with his cast. Ouch!

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When it comes to the horror element, this film does push the envelope a bit. After all, the first victim is a little kid! The tyke survives, and it’s not a graphic scene, but still, how many films start the mayhem with a toddler almost being the first casualty? The creepiest element of the film comes with the reveal that the killer keeps the bodies of his victims tied to a rope, hooked through their mouths, in the water under the pier…just like how a fisherman might keep the fish he snagged. It’s a bizarre and creepy image that really worked for me.

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Unfortunately, I think the filmmakers misjudged what they had here. Even though the film’s killer uses a ridiculous weapon, they had a promising horror film on their hands. The attempts at comedy, though, seriously derail things. The worst is the joke that what drives the killer to commit his crimes is the screeching of the cicadas…those big bugs that only emerge from the ground once every seventeen years…causing a reaction with the metal plate in his head. That means that every kill scene (and several others) feature an incessant sound effect that is a bit like a baby rattle mixed with the tune of someone dragging their fingernails down a blackboard.

Blood Hook is a film that has its moments, but it is ultimately a misguided effort. As a horror film it has some definite creativity that isn’t allowed to reach its full potential. As a comedy, it’s a dead fish.

Go to Source – Forgotten Films



The Rats are Coming! The Werewolves are Here!

This article is from Forgotten Films. Click the title to hop over there.

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Werewolves are one of those trusty standbys when it comes to horror movie monsters. It’s kind of a perfect formula when you think about it. After all, the guy looks like anybody else during the day, but when that full moon hits, it’s all teeth and drool and the shredded bloody corpses start piling up. Most of the time the disease of lycanthropy is passed on by being bitten by a werewolf, but our film today looks at a case where full moon fever runs in the family. ..1972’s The Rats are Coming! The Werewolves are Here!

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The film takes place in 1899 England and focuses on a young woman, Diana (Jackie Skarvellis) as she returns to her family’s home after spending several years at medical school in Scotland. Along with her is her new husband, Gerald (Ian Innes). Now, Diana’s family, the Mooneys, are an interesting bunch. Pa (Douglas Phair) is a bedridden former doctor and he is none too thrilled with Diana having gotten married without his permission. The siblings include the uppity Phoebe (Joan Ogden), businessman Mortimer (Noel Collins), Monica (Hope Stansbury) who spends her free time killing rats, and Malcolm (Berwick Kaler) who basically behaves like an animal and spends all his time locked in his room.

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Things are not looking good for Pa right now. His sickness is getting worse and he is depending on Diana to continue his medical research. You see, the family suffers from a strange condition that forces them to be totally self sufficient. As you may have figured out, the family members are all werewolves who transform into snarling creatures once a month. Only Diana doesn’t transform when the full moon comes. Now there are concerns that Diana, who is now pregnant with Gerald’s child, may have no interest in finding a cure for this condition that has tortured her family for generations. However, there may be more to Diana than anybody is aware.

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The Rats are Coming! The Werewolves are Here! was directed by Andy Milligan, a director with a unique history in the realm of exploitation cinema. Several of his early films have very lurid sounding titles and many are now lost. Though released in 1972, most of this film was shot in England in 1969. A few scenes were filmed in New York almost two years later at the request of the film’s producer to increase it’s running time.

There is actually very little about this film that would make it qualify as either a horror or exploitation film. Most of the film feels more like a soap opera, spending lots of time dwelling on family squabbling. There are long sequence involving the various characters explaining who they are and what role they play in the family dynamic. There is a moment where Diana literally runs through the list of each family member for Gerald, detailing their names, ages, and few other details about each. This, and other scenes like it, are over-scripted and seem to go on and on and on.

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The scenes that were added to pad the film out are the scenes that involve the rats subplot. Apparently it was decided to focus on rodents after the success of the 1971 rat-centric film Willard. The names Willard and Ben both come up in this film as names for the rats. The rat sequences strangely show us two extremes when it comes to how this film was executed. In one scene we see Monica petting a rat which eventually bites her, throwing her into a rage. The camera lingers on her petting what is clearly a motionless rubber rodent. Yet, at another point in the film we see the actual execution of a mouse in graphic fashion. When all is said and done the viewer just ends up wondering what on earth the rats had to do with anything else we experienced in this film.

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On a whole, the film is very amateurish in its execution. The actors are the chief offenders as they all try just a bit too hard to outdo whoever else they happen to be sharing the screen with. There is one major exception, though, and that would be director Andy Milligan, himself. He appears in two different roles (credited under two different names) which end up being the highlights of the film. He first appears as the disfigured man who sells Monica the rats. Half of his face has been gnawed off by rats, and he looks some what rotentine himself. It’s cheaply done makeup, but coupled with his eccentric performance it’s actually quite effective. Later in the film he plays a jovial gunsmith. He seems like he lept right out of a 50’s era live-action Disney film…which is both jarring and delightful for a film that also features the onscreen murder of a mouse.

When the big werewolf sequence finally comes in the last few moments of the film I couldn’t help but sigh, “well it’s about time.” Of course, the scene is unavoidably disappointing after waiting so long for the werewolves promised by the title to finally show. The sequence may also cause nausea for some viewers with the most dizzying hand-held camera work this side of the Blair Witch. Only the two cameos by the director make the long void between opening credits and werewolf carnage bearable. In truth, this film is just a slow moving soap opera with werewolves tacked on at the end.

Go to Source – Forgotten Films



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