Suggested Audio Candy:
Phillip Sarde Ghost Story
Just when you thought it was safe to pack up that dusty VHS player; Keeper has decided to resurrect a sequence of old and give it a fresh lick of paint. Considering it is something of a special edition; eighteen forgotten horror films will be remembered and celebrated accordingly for your reading perusal. You won’t find the works of John Carpenter or George A. Romero here, but you will discern infinite lesser-known treasures in this here bounty. Fill your boots Grueheads but don’t come crying lactose in my direction if you come a cropper. Alas, no B-List could ever dream to offer any bona fide guarantee of quality although this particular selection does contain one glimmering jewel bearing the hallmark of utter brilliance. Intrigued? Then read on.
Richard Styles’ exploitation flick Shallow Grave, no relation whatsoever to Danny Boyle’s film of the same name, begins with a nod to Argento’s Tenebrae as its voyeuristic camera pans across an entire dorm of busty co-eds before paying the homage card to Hitchcock’s Psycho a little too literally, almost shot-for-shot to be precise and could easily descend into uninspired dross after such a blatant start. However, after finding its own identity, a fairly tense game of cat-and-mouse ensues as crooked cop Sheriff Dean (Tony March) takes great umbrage to a group of college girls who unwittingly witness a murder as they pass through his jurisdiction. It isn’t so much that this particularly sleazy number was passed over for recognition, more that it remains almost entirely ambiguous to modern-day audiences for no real apparent reason.
Thomas Doran, Brendan Faulkner and Eugenie Johnson’s tongue-in-cheek horror fantasy Spookies arrived in 1986 and had far less trouble gaining its audience. Starting out as Twisted Souls two years previous, it was subsequently shelved until Johnson was drafted in to shoot additional scenes and, voila, he had himself a cult classic on his hands. Using underground comic artist Richard Corben’s tantalizing cover art to shamelessly draw in the crowds, it also boasts award-winning make-up including the notorious Muck Men of its poster art. Other than that it is fairly standard fare and woefully disjointed, which is probably because it is the sum of two distinctly different parts. Despite frequent glaring inconsistencies, it’s worth seeking out, if only to witness the glorious creations of Gabriel Bartalos, Arnold Gargiulo and Vincent J. Guastini.
Stephen Carpenter and Jeffrey Obrow’s acclaimed sci-fi horror feature The Kindred boasts an impressive ensemble which includes David Allen Brooks, Talia Balsam, a ravishing Amanda Pays, and the late, great Rod Steiger in a brief supporting role. This makes the B-list more because of its anonymity than anything else as it is a far more polished film than many of the bottom feeders it shares communion with and deserving of far greater recognition than it ever received. The buzz for original horror was already winding down in 1987 but Carpenter & Obrow’s oddity effortlessly nestles into the upper echelons of that year’s offerings, with marvelous monster effects and more than a hint of Stuart Gordon’s masterful From Beyond, which had done its rounds a year previous.
Kevin Tenney’s Witchboard from 1986 accentuates suspense over grue and shows admirable attention to detail, while creating an excellent three-way dynamic between its cursed main protagonists. Flame-haired firecracker Tawny Kitaen fast regrets ever dusting off that old Ouija board but not as much as her sparring suitors, past and present. Throw in a wonderfully campy turn by Kathleen Wilhoite as an ill-fated medium and you’ve got yourself a solid example of progressive entrapment, the likes of which could only have surfaced in the eighties.
John Irvin somehow achieved the unthinkable for his haunting 1981 chiller Ghost Story by attracting such reputable names as Douglas Fairbanks Jr, Melvyn Douglas, and Fred Astaire of all people, to his project. The top-tier cast also includes Craig Wasson (Body Double) and Alice Krige (Sleepwalkers) amongst others and the result is an atmospheric affair, best experienced with a tumbler of whiskey in one hand. It tells the tale of four elderly gentlemen whose ominous past comes back to haunt them and does so with no shortage of elegance.
Pete Walker has long since been one of Britain’s finest horror film-makers and in 1982 he trumped Irvin by pooling together three of the undisputed greats of all time for his comedy of terrors House of The Long Shadows. Peter Cushing, Vincent Price and the seemingly eternal Christopher Lee gladly hopped aboard and their combined heft alone makes this well worth seeking out. While you’re at it, give Walker’s 1974 exploitation flick Frightmare a view as it is markedly ahead of its time and often regarded as the closest the English have to our own equivalent of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. As preposterous a notion as that may well be, it is similarly unpleasant and refreshingly cynical.
Returning momentarily to Hammer/Amicus stalwart Price, Jeff Burr’s From a Whisper To A Scream aka The Offering from 1987 is one of the more unrighteously overlooked anthologies of the period and more than deserving of additional attention. Price provides the wraparound and four well crafted tales of torment perch well beneath his wings. Another forgotten compendium from the epoch is Joseph Sargent’s Nightmares from 1983. Emilio Estevez and Cristina Raines head up the cast and a smattering of knowing segments which encompass various styles of eighties horror/sci-fi serve it well. If you really feel like slumming it, check out Jeffrey Delman’s 1986 guilty pleasure Freaky Fairytales aka Deadtime Stories while you’re at it.
Meanwhile, fans of Raines would be astute to investigate Michael Winner’s The Sentinel from 1977. Hapless extrovert Winner couldn’t shit a break by the time audiences forgot about Death Wish but back then everyone wanted a piece, which afforded him the ability to enlist the likes of John Carradine, Burgess Meredith, Beverly D’Ángelo, Chris Sarandon, and even a young Christopher Walken. For other supernatural delights be sure to search out Gus Trikonis’ The Evil, Mike Newell’s The Awakening, and particularly William Girdler’s The Manitou, which showcases the downright macabre rebirth of a four century-old demonic Native American spirit.
Ray Cameron’s Bloodbath at The House of Death pits late comic and national treasure Kenny Everett and Pamela Stephenson against a satanic cult and lampoons its Gothic forefathers brilliantly. Again, Price makes an appearance and, when the comedy falls flat as is often, then a number of cunningly infused horror elements make our very best resistances futile. It also boasts a first; never before have I seen a wall-mounted can opener used to such ingenious effect.
Andrzej Korzynski The Night The Screaming Stops
Without doubt the best film in this inventory is Andrzej Zulawski much celebrated former video nasty Possession from 1981. This one has the lot plus change; excellent central performances from Sam Neill and unforgettably Isabelle Adjani, ethereal liquid cinematography, an espionage sub-plot, dark comic underlining, and particular scenes which will remain stained on your psyche long after the credits roll. Everyone knows Nicholas Roeg’s undisputable masterpiece Don’t Look Now; not so many however are aware of Possession. It’s high time that changes. In short, Zulawski’s film is easily one of the top ten horror movies of its decade.
I cannot resist ending on Jack Sholder’s The Hidden from 1987. More sci-fi than horror; Sholder’s lightning-paced tale of an alien parasite which moves from body to body orally, assuming the mass of whomever pouts its way became one of the most successful straight-to-video movies of its year and is fondly remembered across the board with sound reasoning. John McNaughton’s 1991 effort The Borrower repeats the feat to slightly lesser effect but comes good on the grue.
There we have it Grueheads, eighteen lesser known gifts from my filmic childhood. I urge you to revisit my other four B-Lists and you will find links to all at the close of this article. Whether this actually proves to be The Final Collection remains to be seen as, truth be known, I ran out of seasons and decided instead to be ironic. You know, like Zito did for Friday The 13th Part VI: The Final Chapter. That’s it, I’ve just given provided myself with an out courtesy of Voorhees. Should I return then B-List: A New Collection would be too priceless to pass up right? Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for my medication.
The Final Collection
House of The Long Shadows
From a Whisper to a Scream aka The Offering
Freaky Fairytales aka Deadtime Stories
Bloodbath at The House of Death
Sequence in full
Truly, Really, Clearly, Sincerely,
Keeper of the Crimson Quill
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Copyright: Crimson Quill: Savage Vault Enterprises 2015