Lots of afraid-looking ladies standing in finely arranged rooms with mysterious glowing green light sources, speaking with absolutely appalling lipsync, the worst I’ve seen. This was made a few years after Black Sunday, which is somehow a different movie. Their original Italian titles are something like Mask of Satan and Three Faces of Fear, which are far more descriptive, since Black Sunday is about a mask of satan, and this one is an anthology of three fear-based short stories introduced by Boris Karloff.

The Telephone

Pretty good suspense story, with your usual black-gloved Italian knife murderer. Rosy (Michele Mercier, friendly prostitute in Shoot The Piano Player) is being harassed by telephone, thinks her just-escaped-from-prison ex Frank is returning for revenge, so calls over her former friend Mary. But Mary was making the calls as a fun prank in order to get invited over. As she writes a letter explaining this, Rosy’s just-escaped-from-prison ex Frank arrives and strangles Mary, then he’s killed by a knife-wielding Rosy, who now has no more friends. Fun fact: if you speak into the phone through a folded handkerchief your voice sounds just like Frank’s.

Dead by dawn! Dead by dawn!

Old friends hangin’ out:

The Wurdulak

Count Vladimir arrives at an inn where the locals are holed up in fear of wurdulaks: zombies who “yearn for the blood of those they loved most when they were alive.” When Father returns from hunting wurdulaks, it’s clear to the viewer that he has become one, because he’s Boris Karloff and looks insane. Yup, Boris kills his son Massimo Righi (of Danger!! Death Ray and Planet of the Vampires), steals his grandson and rides into the night. Vlad hangs out through all this because he thinks some girl is pretty (“my lips are dead without your kisses”), so he’s as doomed as they are.

The Drop of Water

Helen (Jacqueline Pierreux, Jean-Pierre Leaud’s mom) is a nurse, I guess. She’s called to the house of a dead recluse by Milly the maid, interrupting Helen’s plans to sit alone and get drunk, so understandably she is annoyed. While dressing the dead woman in funeral clothes, she steals the woman’s ring. This ring was apparently the source of the old woman’s fatal ghostly torment, because when Helen goes home and resumes drinking, after being harassed by flies and not-at-all-scary drops of water, she becomes possessed and strangles herself. Her landlady steals the ring, etc. This would have easily been the worst chapter if not for the dead old lady’s amazing death mask.

After all this, Karloff reappears and Bava reveals the studio artifice, Taste of Cherry-style. Karloff, a few years after Corridors of Blood, looks like he’s having fun.

Segments were written by Tolstoy and Chekhov (really). IMDB says Polanski choking himself in The Tenant was a reference to this, and apparently the mom in The Babadook is seen watching it.

Series of short twist-ending horrorshows. Quality was higher than I predicted. I watched in small batches over the course of the month – this 2+ hour collection is probably more wearying to watch all at once.

Apocalypse
Woman violently kills her husband, apologizes for not doing it more peacefully but she’d run out of time due to impending apocalypse. Nacho Vigalondo also directed the fun Timecrimes.

Bigfoot
Babysitters make up story of Mexico City heart-eaters. Story is true! Babysitters’ hearts are eaten, little girl lives. I must’ve missed where Bigfoot came in. Adrián García Bogliano made last year’s Here Comes the Devil.

Cycle
Doppelganger strangles his other, ad nauseum. Reliant on shock music. Ernesto Díaz Espinoza is known for action stuff like Kiltro and Mirageman.

Dogfight
Slow-mo, dialogue-free man-vs-dog underground fighting ring. Marcel Sarmiento made a good-sounding abandoned-asylum movie called Deadgirl.

Exterminate
Lazy dude keeps getting bitten by the same spider. We see the dude from spider POV sometimes. Then baby spiders hatch from his ear. Not as good as the Creepshow episode. Angela Bettis is a Lucky McKee collaborator, directing Roman and playing the lead in May.

Fart
The one about Japanese girls farting. Nothing to see here. Keep moving. Noboru Iguchi also made Zombie Ass and Bad Butt – I am sensing a trend.

Gravity
Surfer with first-person camera dies. Not as good as the Cuaron version. Andrew Traucki made a shark movie called The Reef.

Hydro-Electric Diffusion
Live-action cartoon WWII soldier dog fights nazi stripper fox. Even better than it sounds! Thomas Cappelen Malling’s only other credit is Norwegian Ninja.

Ingrown
Kidnapped, tied-up girl is injected with Cabin Fever virus, dies. Awful high-pitched whine on the soundtrack. This is the worst. Jorge Michel Grau did the well-reviewed We Are What We Are.

Jidai-Geki
Executioner cannot focus on his head-chopping job because the dude committing harakiri keeps making funny faces. Yudai Yamaguchi worked on Tokyo Gore Police, directed two comedy-horror baseball movies and something called Meatball Machine.

Klutz
Animation is nice but it’s about a sentient, murderous piece of poop. Anders Morgenthaler made the enjoyable Princess.

Libido
New definition of torture-porn? Jackoff competition, loser is killed with a stake up the ass. One guy makes it to round 14 then finds himself on the wrong end of the contest as a girl has sex with him while chainsawing him to death. Odd. Timo Tjahjanto made the suicide/devil-cult segment of V/H/S/2.

Miscarriage
The shortest segment, and nearly the second in a row to be toilet-based. Ti West has been all the rage since House of the Devil.

Nuptials
Huge relief because it stars a colorful parrot who does not get killed or hurt. Talking parrot gives away dude’s affair during his proposal, he gets knifed. Banjong Pisanthanakun made horrors Shutter and Alone.

Orgasm
The great Cattet & Forzani explore new realms of color and slow-motion with a woman receiving oral sex and blowing soap bubbles. I hope they make another movie soon.

Pressure
Prostitute in financial trouble accepts job to be videotaped stomping kittens to death. Kinda the saddest one. Simon Rumley is known for Red White & Blue and The Living and the Dead.

Quack
Director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett decide their segment will stand out for featuring a real death, and plan to kill a caged duck on camera, but they don’t know how guns work and end up shooting each other. By far this is my favorite Wingard movie.

Removed
Hospital prisoner/patient has valuable movie film under his skin, but also has subcutaneous bullets for self-defense. Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat features prominently, and it rains blood at the end. Hunh? Srdjan Spasojevic’s only other credit is snuff-movie thriller A Serbian Film.

Speed
Notably bad acting and editing. Mad Max dystopia turns out to be fantasies of dying druggies. Jake West does DVD-extra docs for horror movies including the feature Phantasmagoria on the Phantasm series.

Toilet
Fantastic claymation. I was nervous since this is the third toilet-based short in the series but it’s completely wonderful. Lee Hardcastle has 20 credits from the last 3 years, and they’re all clay remakes of horror movies.

Unearthed
Death of a vampire, from the vampire’s first-person perspective, in just a few takes. I’ve seen most of Ben Wheatley’s movies, most recently A Field in England.

Vagitus
Sci-fi population-control short looks ike a video game cutscene, super slick, no idea what happened because I turned the volume down but someone was executed in the name of the government and someone else exploded. Kaare Andrews is the second director here after Ti West to have made a Cabin Fever sequel.

WTF!
Brief Metalocalypse-looking animation becomes making-of segment, freewheeling live-action ideas that start with W (includes an Insane Clown Posse magnets reference), then the whole thing turns brutally insane and hilarious. Jon Schnepp directs/designs/edits Metalocalypse.

XXL
French people super-taunt an overweight girl until she goes home and cuts herself thin with knives. Xavier Gens made Frontier(s).

Youngbuck
School janitor is a pedophile, a young victim takes revenge. No spoken dialogue, set to upbeat 1980’s montage music. Jason Eisener made Hobo with a Shotgun and Slumber Party Alien Abduction.

Zetsumetsu
Dr. Strangelove-referencing nazi race-war sex-melee dystopia, ending the anthology in an orgy of bad taste. Yoshihiro Nishimura directed Tokyo Gore Police, obviously.

More anthology nonsense, but this time (with the possible exception of the final alien segment) each found-footage first-person story actually has a reason for having cameras present – though again these are all digital cameras and there’s no reason they’d have all been transferred to VHS, besides that ever since The Ring people think videotapes are haunted.

Framing story is by Adam Wingard associate Simon Barrett – a private-eye/video-blackmailer couple is hired by a mom to find her college kid who is presumed missing, but has actually disappeared into a cult of haunted VHS-tape trading.

Phase I Clinical Trials by Adam Wingard, since I am accidentally determined to see every Adam Wingard movie. He also made the terrible A Horrible Way To Die (terrible’s what it is). I think the lead guy who gets a cybernetic eye is Wingard himself. He sees ghosts, and soon meets a nose-ringed girl with cybernetic ear who hears ghosts and wants to have sex with him in order to drown out the ghost sounds. This doesn’t work for long. Ghosts drown the girl and he ends up cutting out his fake eye with a knife as the ghosts slowly approach. Presumably this is a remake of Johnnie To’s My Left Eye Sees Ghosts.

A Ride in the Park by Sanchez and Hale, two of the original Blair Witch guys, brings some fun and comic zombie mayhem to the proceedings. A dying girl interrupts a biker, then he gets bitten and they both become zombies. But his helmet-mounted GoPro is still running, and records his attack on a family picnic. Happy ending: he recognizes what has happened and blows his own brains out.

Safe Haven by the guy who made The Raid movies and a guy who made a couple of Indonesian horrors, has a camera crew interviewing a commune death cult. It’s an odd segment because the camera crew is incompetent, full of relationship drama and uncharged batteries and general lack of preparation, so why is this the organization the reclusive cult finally allows into their compound on the day of mass suicide / zombie apocalypse / demon summoning?

Slumber Party Alien Abduction is by the Hobo With A Shotgun team, and as with that movie, the title says it all. Parents are away so the kids invite friends over and they all have sex and throw water balloons and torment each other, until aliens come for them.

Fun movies to watch on weekdays in Shocktober when I only have 20 minutes to spare (The ABCs of Death is for when I only have three minutes to spare). Still not so great, but surely better than part one.

There’s something to this Etaix rediscovery after all. This is a disarmingly funny series of shorts cobbled together into a feature – I figured it’d make for a good Etaix intro. I’ve seen him as an actor recently in Le Havre, and he looks not entirely different 45 years earlier. Cowriter Jean-Claude Carriere also worked on Bunuel’s late films

DCairns: “Into a perfect, crisp frame steps a man who is as elegant and sharp as his own composition and who moves in rhythm with the film around him, every changing angle of his body a graphic/poetic statement. You may mistake his silhouette for another’s—but not when it moves. And movement is his art form.”

Insomnia
In color, Etaix stays awake reading a vampire novel, seen in b/w episodes, as his wife sleeps next to him. The stories start to affect each other, culminating in the wife becoming a vampire.

The Movies
1960’s version of the annoyances encountered when going out to the movies – things were difficult even before cell phones. This turns into an extended advertising parody.

As Long As You’ve Got Your Health
A wide view of bustling city life – “everyone’s nerves are constantly shot”. Crowds, traffic, noise, pollution, construction conspire to make living hell. It seems more apocalyptically negative now than it did while watching it.

Into The Woods No More
Sepia-toned segment where a hunter keeps annoying a farmer, who thinks a nearby picnicking couple is to blame for his troubles.

Another horror anthology from the writer/director of Tales from the Crypt, this one with an even weaker framing story. But now it’s Peter Cushing’s turn to be the arch-villain (vith ze fake german accent), a psychic who predicts very specific supernatural deaths for everyone riding in his train car, including skeptic Christopher Lee.

First, Neil McCallum (of forgotten thriller Catacombs) is an architect who clumsily frees an evil werewolf from inside the walls of old Mrs. Biddulph’s home, faces the consequences.

In the silliest segment, Bill (BBC DJ Alan Freeman) brings home botanist Jeremy Kemp (of Blake Edwards’s Darling Lili) to examine his haunted vine. “A plant like that could take over the world,” Bill is told, before it kills them all.

Next, Roy Castle, who joined Cushing in a Dr. Who movie the same year, is musician Biff Bailey. He travels to the West Indies, disrespects voodoo rituals and makes a jazz arrangement of their sacred music, bringing vengeance in the form of a face-painted black man who appears in Biff’s apartment and murders him. Pretty much the same plot as the Papa Benjamin episode of Thriller a few years earlier.

Roy runs across the movie’s own poster:

For some reason the movie doesn’t save the skeptic’s episode for last. “I live by my vision,” says art critic Christopher Lee, so of course he is blinded in crash. But first, he has a cruel rivalry with painter Michael Gough (The Horse’s Mouth), crushes Gough’s hand in a hit-and-run, then after Gough kills himself the hand follows Lee, causing the blinding crash. At least it’s more eventful than the haunted vine.

Finally young doctor Donald Sutherland (in only his second real film role) brings home new wife Nicole (Jennifer Jayne of MST3K-bait The Crawling Eye). Max Adrian (Delius in Delius) is the only other doctor in town, suspects that the blood-drinking bat-morphing Nicole might be a vampire, convinces Donald to kill her with a stake. Twist: Max Adrian is a vampire using Donald to eliminate his competition, as Donald is carted off to jail.

But wait – they were dead all along!

But wait – if that’s true, what was the point of all the stories? Each passenger, even skeptic Christopher Lee, queasily accepted his own ludicrous tale of future demise, never interjecting “oh I doubt a vine is going to kill my whole family” or “but I’ve never even been to the West Indies,” or “then I won’t dig the werewolf casket out of the lady’s wall, so now do I get to live?” The tales are assumed to take place in the future, since on the train Lee is not blind, and Donald is not in jail. Then they’re all supposedly killed in a train accident, so either Dr. Terror was completely fucking with them or else he was holding them captive with his stories in order that they would die – but without the stories, where else would they have gone? All I’m saying is that Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors might contain some inconsistencies.

Anthology horror with a lousy framing story, exactly like Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors. This is actually based on the comics, didn’t just steal the title. Buncha pricks on a tourist romp in some ancient crypts get lost, run into evil cryptkeeper Ralph Richardson (bad parson of The Holly and the Ivy), leading to series of flashbacks before revealing that they’ve all been dead all along.

First, TV star Joan Collins kills her husband (for the insurance) on Christmas, then she’s stalked by a psycho killer santa.

Next, Ian Hendry (Repulsion) leaves his wife to run off with a girl, but he dies in a car crash then comes back a zombie.

Robin Phillips wants to do some realty scheme, but friendly old Peter Cushing refuses to step aside, so Robin destroys the old man, who comes back a zombie and kills him.

Richard Greene (Hound of the Baskervilles) dies in a car crash after his financial advisor (Roy Dotrice, Mozart’s dad in Amadeus) wishes on the monkey’s paw, then he and Greene’s wife have second thoughts and wish him alive again, but he lives in zombie-agony. Three zombie stories in a row!

Mustache businessman Nigel Patrick (The League of Gentlemen) becomes new head of a home for the blind and slashes budgets for everything to the despair of Patrick Magee (Alex’s tormentee/tormentor in A Clockwork Orange), who plots elaborate revenge.

“Men were vulgar. They wanted to forget their history. Only funerals seemed true, as they passed streets of dirty houses, like tombs for the living.”

Almost an anthology film – three stories with no overlapping characters, set maybe in the 1920’s or 30’s. An adaptation of three separate works – a fact I didn’t catch in the opening credits. Very strange, but as magnetic and thrilling as Non.

The Immortals

A burst of music over the opening, then the first line, from a father to his son, is “Kill yourself.” Both father (Jose Pinto of Abraham’s Valley) and son (Luis Miguel Cintra, star of Non) are the most famous scientists of their respective generation. But the father is feeling washed-up and forgotten, and urges his son to die at the height of his fame.

Time out for a picnic with Marta (Isabel Ruth of The Uncertainty Principle), an old student/flame of the father’s, then back to the apartment. The son won’t be convinced, refuses to swallow cyanide, but agrees to fix his father’s curtain rod over the back door, at which time his dad pushes him over the balcony, then jumps after, yelling about immortality.

I’d noted that the movie felt like theater, the old man playing towards an imagined crowd instead of his son, in a single location except for the cutaways to the picnic and a downstairs neighbor’s place as the men fell to their deaths – and it was theater after all. A half hour into the movie, a curtain raises, and we begin to follow a couple groups of friends who have been watching the play, never to return to the scientist family.

Suzy

Square-jawed Diogo Doria of Non and his friend David Cardoso are paying as much attention to a pair of courtesans/prostitutes in another box as to the play. Cardoso meets the girls and reports back, having claimed Gabi (Rita Blanco) as his own, and later, Doria starts spending much time with Suzy (the ever-present Leonor Silveira), though he remains rational when he sees her out with other men.

All along, I’m suspicious that this will be another play, even though the atmosphere has changed – it’s more realistic, mostly shot in long takes (as was the first episode), but still held at a strange remove, with ellipses of undetermined lengths between scenes.

Suzy: “I have wealthy lovers, dresses by the best seamstresses, everything, except happiness.” Eventually she’s seeing Doria less often, though they exchange letters. In the end, Suzy has died in hospital during an operation (“she said: it’s a small thing”), but he keeps writing the letters. Cardoso stops by to visit his pathetic friend, and tells him a story.

Mother of the River

Young Fisalina (Leonor Baldaque, star of The Portuguese Nun) is in love with Ricardo Trepa (who played her husband in Christopher Columbus, The Enigma). But it’s not that simple: there are customs, rules, meddling parents and a small, stifling village. So she sneaks off to see the Mother of the River (Irene Papas, greek singer in A Talking Picture, also star of Z). “I love a boy with pretty teeth. I do not know how to marry him… curse me, but set me free.” So the mother takes Fisalina through a candlelit cavern to the edge of the water.

The next day Fisalina notices her fingertips are golden. She hides them from everyone, but no longer feels urgent towards her boy, and seems at peace with the village. During a candlelight festival, the light shines off her fingers and she is discovered, a witch! “Fisalina, reckless, fated, has chosen to live beside the deep water, where she will wait a thousand years before swapping lives with someone else.”

Goldfinger:

Trepa, despondent:

Oliveira has returned to these writers: his A Caixa was a play by Prista Monteiro (The Immortals), and he’s done at least four major films based on stories by Agustina Bessa-Luis (Mother of the River).

D. Kehr says the segments are “all centered on themes of death and eternity and presented sequentially as social comedy, existential tragedy and lyrical epic,” but Rosenbaum, more correctly I think, says it’s “the theme of existential identity” that unites the stories.

Middle of R.R.’s war trilogy, six episodes about different wartime encounters with (mostly?) Americans. The movie’s subject is that “war is an epidemic that sweeps up everyone in its path,” sayeth the TV narrator. A pretty active and mobile camera, and big noisy music by brother Renzo. Fellini was co-writer and assistant director. A whole bunch of writers, including Alfred Hayes (later Clash By Night and Human Desire) who might account for the surprisingly not-bad English dialogue.

1.
A couple of misunderstandings. U.S. soldiers come to town, recruit a local girl to lead them over the mine-laced lava path. Joe stays in a building with her while the others go ahead. Nazis wander in as Joe is connecting with the girl despite their language barrier, shoot Joe then toss her off the cliff. When the Americans return, they assume the traitorous Italian girl killed their friend then ran off.

2.
Black American soldier hangs out with kid, drunkenly assaults a puppet show, gets his shoes stolen, later comes after the kid to reclaim his shoes but leaves empty-handed, shocked to realize that the kids live in rubble, their parents dead from the bombings. It’s practically a Germany Year Zero prequel.

3.
This and the previous episode give the impression that there were about 200 people in wartime Italy. Very easy to find someone you’re looking for in the streets, or to run into an old acquaintance. Kind of a cheesy episode, a soldier sleeping with some lowlife whore (Maria Michi, the drug-addled turncoat in Rome Open City), telling her dreamily about this perfect upright Italian girl he met before the war, wishing he could meet her again and marry her – of course they are the same girl. Interesting, the Allies shown as liberating heroes, then as witnesses to (or, more likely, causers of) Italy’s immediate post-liberation decline into poverty and desperation.

4.
Nurse Harriet Medin (later in Blood and Black Lace and The Horrible Dr. Hichcock) enlists headstrong dude named Massimo (Renzo Avanzo, later a co-writer of The Golden Coach) trying to get into zone the rebels (partisans) control, only for her to find out her man, now leader of the locals, died that morning. The most action-packed fighting scenes of the movie.

5.
This was a favorite. Three American chaplains visit a monastery, are welcomed happily until the monks find out one is a protestant and one a jew, then commence praying and fasting in hopes that the two can be saved.

6.
The most typically propagandistic of the episodes, showing Italian partisans, British and American soldiers helping each other and fighting together, while Nazis kill peaceful villagers then capture our heroes and murder them all. A downbeat, defeated finale, ending in death like the other two movies in the War Trilogy.

A very late entry for…

Initiated by Shadowplay

Le final film de Jean Renoir, made for television when the director was in his mid-70’s, eight years after his last theatrical picture The Elusive Corporal. Some tinges of bitterness, of sadness and despair, but as always Jean is finally generous and life-affirming, closing with a whole town roaring laughter, making me laugh in response.

But first, Renoir minimizes expectations. Away from the monumental cinema screen (which he often conflated with a theatrical stage), now working for television, he envisions a diminished stage, a tiny theater, and so presents short stories instead of one long work.

A rich loudmouth (Roland Bertin of The Model Couple, The Hairdresser’s Husband), in a move imitated by Lars Von Trier for The Five Obstructions, pays a homeless guy to watch his friends’ Christmas feast through the restaurant window. Some of his guests are bummed, so they flit off elsewhere, leaving this guy outside making restaurant patrons nervous until the maitre d’ pays him in food and wine to buzz off. The bum (Nino Formicola) brings the food to his girlfriend (singer Milly, in The Conformist the same year) under a bridge – they celebrate the holiday talking together (but not eating) then lie down and freeze to death with happy smiles on their face. A weird holiday fable, and a circular one for Renoir, who’d filmed The Little Match Girl (with much window gazing and freezing to death) over forty years prior.

Gaze from outside:

Gaze from inside:

As with the concept of the “petit theater” itself, the next episode can be seen as a cranky old-timer’s refusal to accept modern technology, but in both cases he suffuses his premise with humor, downplaying the crankiness in favor of amusement. It’s the most comedic and musical of the pieces, featuring a Greek choir of townsfolk, a painting that changes expression, and cartoonishly fun acting.

Marguerite Cassan (my favorite actor of the same year’s La Rupture – mother of the husband-gone-mad) wants only an electric floor buffer, and bullies her husband about it until the next-door neighbor, an electric floor buffer sales rep, overhears and comes over to demo the product. Unfortunately, Cassan’s poor husband (Pierre Olaf of Camelot) slips on the ultra-smooth floor and dies. She remarries a man with a stronger will (Jacques Dynam, who played buffoon inspector Juve’s second-in-command in the 1964 Fantomas) who insists she not run the machine while he’s home. She disobeys and he hurls it out the window, so she hurls herself out the window. That’s two Renoir stories in a row that end in demise.

M. Cassan giving the silent treatment to first husband:

M. Cassan giving the silent treatment to second husband:

Part Three is a musical interlude featuring Jeanne Moreau (the same year she was/wasn’t in Orson Welles’s The Deep) singing “When Love Dies.” Incredibly, the producers of the VHS copy I watched decided not to subtitle the song.

The final segment was my favorite. Duvallier (Fernand Sardou), a well-loved retired captain, resides happily in his big house with his young wife (Francoise Arnoul, lead girl in French Cancan) and a lovestruck maid (the rarely seen Dominique Labourier, a few years before starring in Celine and Julie Go Boating), spending his days in town playing bowls (a similar game to bocce). All is bliss until the wife is discovered to be sleeping with a friend of his, then it’s tears all around. Duvallier ponders the situation, asking townsfolk for advice, while the friend first decides to leave town (him: “He loves you”, Mrs. Duvallier: “Yes, but only when I’m happy. When I’m unhappy I upset him, and if you leave I’ll be unhappy.”) then proposes a duel. But Duvallier decides it’s best for everyone to stay happy, to live as they have been, and so the trio goes into town for a game of bowls. It’s the most cheerful movie about infidelity that I’ve ever seen.

Final bow: