The Day of Destruction (2020, Toshiaki Toyoda)

A movie shot quickly in 2020, in which a masked woman screams that we’re all dying and can’t even hold funerals. A man pays his way into a closed mine, walks for a very long time, music only appearing as periodic blasts of static, looks at the epidemic-causing monster for ten seconds then turns around. We hear unconfirmed rumors of a Masque situation, the rich waiting out the plague together in an estate. But it’s an arthouse punk movie, and instead of going anyplace narrative it stays slow and philosophical. Issey Ogata (emperor of The Sun) appears, and I recognized the professor from Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy. Some good percussion on the soundtrack almost saves the movie, not quite.


The Tell-Tale Heart (1941, Jules Dassin)

Sorry to say I prefer the 1950’s animated version, the 2005 animated version, and the expressionist version all over this one. Dassin’s film debut is pretty good, with some cool lighting and camera moves, but the cinema is rich with Tell-Tale Hearts, and the 1940’s were the least frightening decade in the movies, unless you count the newsreels. Joseph Schildkraut (an oscar winner a few years before) isn’t even tormented by the evil vulture eye of the old man (Roman Bohnen, later Ingrid Bergman’s uncle in Joan of Arc), he’s just unstable and tired of being told what to do by such a miserable geezer, and he’s a terrible liar when the cops come around.


Metrograph ran a series of very average old-timey holiday shorts…

The Cuckoo Murder Case (1930, Ub Iwerks)

One of those cartoons where every single object is anthropomorphized, all swaying to the rhythm of the score. Detective Flip The Frog is on the case of a murdered cuckoo. I think Flip escapes into hell at the end but I’ll have to watch the sequel to be sure.


KoKo’s Haunted House (1928, Dave Fleischer)

KoKo sends his dog into the haunted house, too chicken to go himself. Primitive silent animation, with plenty of ghosts – some frantic out-of-the-inkwell stop-motion saves it at the end.


Betty Boop’s Hallowe’en Party (1933, Dave Fleischer)

Oh, I last watched this short from Clay’s collection at the Plaza. Those were good times.


The Haunted Ship (1930, Bailey & Davis & Foster)

A couple of dumbasses flying a tiny plane tempt fate until fate sinks them, so they explore a haunted ship on the sea floor. Hard to return to something this primitive after the Boop. I thought the sync sound would be limited to sound effects until a barbershop quartet of drunken turtles sang Sweet Adeline


Pete’s Haunted House (1926, Walter Lantz)

Cheeseball animator who puts on a suit to work from home keeps a cartoon dog in a model house in his office, sadistically torments the dog every chance he gets. The dog discovers the plot and blows the man to bits, good ending at least.


The Cobweb Hotel (1936, Dave Fleischer)

A fly hotel run by a spider, uh oh. Champion fighter fly and his equally strong wife bust it up and free the fly-prisoners. Pretty inventive. Our print was pink.


Felix the Cat Switches Witches (1927, Otto Mesmer)

After being a total dick and pranking everyone around, Felix gets his fortune told and learns he’ll marry and have a bunch of kids, but his bride is a horrible witch. Naw, it’s a hot girl cat in a witch costume.


Bold King Cole (1936, Burt Gillett)

Felix is just trying to get inside from a thunderstorm, ends up at Old King Cole’s castle. The King is a loudmouth braggart, and the castle ghosts have chosen this night to torment him for it. Felix harnesses the lightning to rescue the king. I was rooting for the ghosts.


The Garden (2019, Patrick Mùˆller)

Real 60’s 8mm-looking film of Savannah trees (reminded me of Charleston, which we’ve visited more recently) with a spoken Lovecraft poem. A nice breather after the cartoons.


The Pit and the Pendulum (1964, Alexandre Astruc)

Back to the classics – this is our third Pendulum on the blog, sticking closer to the original Poe story since the Stuart Gordon and the Roger Corman added whole plots to expand out to feature length. This is the mid-60’s version of arthouse slow cinema, entranced narrator speaking the story we see playing out with Maurice Ronet (star of The Fire Within) alone in the torture chamber. His great idea with minutes left to live is to have the rats chew through his ropes – I’d think that would take longer, but it works. The walls close in to force him into the pit, then they stop short, because just then, at that moment, the 350-year reign of the Spanish Inquisition ends. So it’s pretty much just as narratively suspect as the Stuart Gordon, but nice and short. Astruc was a pre-Cahiers auteurist known for his blandly-titled feature Une Vie.

Another Lovecraft movie to go with our Re-Animator duo (and with the same composer). A man named Ward has made a bloody impossible escape from some institution, detective March is closing the case via dictaphone in flash-forward, then there’s… a flashback from the flash-forward? March is the boring, lumpy John Terry (of a Timothy Dalton Bond movie), his client Mrs. Ward is the unnaturally terrible Jane Sibbett (of a Mary-Kate and Ashley movie). Too much voiceover, maybe to make up for the dialogue recording being pretty bad – overall competence here is low, though eventually there’s a doppelganger, a living skeleton, and some good monstrosities, so it’s not a total waste of time.

John Terry… and John Terry… in A Bronx Tale

Christoph Huber in Cinema Scope 83 called this movie “superior” and “neglected,” so maybe I was just tired and unappreciative. O’Bannon is of course the Alien creator who also made Return of the Living Dead. Corman’s The Haunted Palace, the first IMDB-credited Lovecraft-based feature, is an adaptation of the same story, featuring Vincent Price, Elisha Cook Jr., and surely far less blood.

Lavinia is introduced by the lake, doing a wiccan ritual to cure her mom of cancer and get herself out of this town, when a wandering hydrologist interrupts – it’s convenient that a hydrologist is on-site exactly when an alien color-force lands via meteor and gets into the locals via the well water. Lavinia’s cancerous mom is Joely Richardson (of a movie-royalty family, previously of Drowning by Numbers and the Ken Russell Lady Chatterley), her dad is Nic Cage (toned down from Mandy, and better), doing his damnedest to inform America that alpacas are the animal of the future (they are!).

Lavinia and little brother Jack-Jack:

Cage vs. The Color (Purple):

Soon the mutations begin. Mom reabsorbs Jack, stoner brother Benny and his buddy Tommy Chong see otherworldy visions, the alpacas fuse into a many-headed blob, and Cage takes care of business with a shotgun. I think Lavinia helps bring about the apocalypse! Stanley is beloved for some 1990’s cult films… good music by the composer from Hereditary… shot by a music video vet (Grinderman’s “Heathen Child”). The first major Lovecraft feature since Beyond Re-Animator and Dagon in the early 2000’s (RIP Stuart Gordon).

Hydrologist, Benny, Tommy:

Hi, mom:

Cop brings injured dude to near-abandoned rural hospital, bringing to mind that Southbound episode from last year’s SHOCKtober, or Attack on Hospital 13. Then hooded cultists appear outside and they discover a portal to hell in the basement, and things get interesting. The pre-credits scene has rural folks setting a dude on fire, and we’ve been at the hospital only six minutes before a possessed nurse murders a patient, so there’s not much time for setup – I’d barely get a handle on any particular character before they’d be killed in some horrible way.

As Filipe Furtado said more eloquently on Letterboxd, Stuart Gordon it ain’t, but Lovecraftian horror and blatant Hellraiser ripoffs (as opposed to bland official Hellraiser sequels) are always welcome.

The codirectors have done art and effects for Guillermo del Toro films and are buddies with the guys who made The Editor. Our cast includes Art Hindle (The Brood), the BBC interviewer from Pontypool, at least two people from Survival of the Dead, and Knives Chau from Scott Pilgrim.

Since I enjoyed From Beyond, here’s another Stuart Gordon / Brian Yuzna / HP Lovecraft movie, Dagon (pronounced “DAY-gun”) which was released straight to video in the U.S., for some shameful reason.

Whole new cast and crew for this one, which was set/filmed in Spain. Sadly no Jeffrey Combs, just a nerdy Ezra Godden (who later starred in Gordon’s first Masters of Horror entry) and a lot of Spanish actors, including Francisco Rabal: the film director in Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down… the voice of Luis Bunuel in 100 Nights of Simon Cinema… a hit-man in Sorcerer… the guy monica vitti dumps at the start of L’Eclisse… the guy Viridiana ends up with… somebody (dom morel) in The Nun… Father Nazarin… and in his final role, a drunken old man, the only human survivor in a small Spanish town overtaken by the cult of DAGON.

More serious and faithfully Lovecraftian than From Beyond. Some unfortunate-looking digital effect shots of the boat, but all the makeup effects and sets are very good. It’s not exactly a tense, rapid-fire battle of wits and strength, but rather semi-competent Ezra (channeling Harold Lloyd) versus an army of slow-moving dull-witted fish creatures.

Oh yeah, so Ezra is sailing off the Spanish coast with his girl and another couple when a storm hits. He and the girl raft to a deserted town for help. Ezra returns to the boat to find his friends gone (he later turns up skinned to death, she turns up minus one leg and raped by fish-creatures), then returns to land to find his girlfriend gone. He hides at the hotel until the cult comes calling, hilariously escapes using his limited physical abilities and a pocketknife, then crashes with Francisco Rabal who fills him in on some back-story about the townsfolk’s demon-worshipping and eventual devolution into fish-beasties.

Ezra, of course, turns out to be the son of the high priest in this town, and his half-sister is the gorgeous mermaid he’s been dreaming of, who wants him to stay with her and have dirty incestual hot mermaid sex (which may actually be possible, since her legs are just sorta tentacles, it’s not the full-on fish fin). He fights this idea at first and tries to rescue his girl from being sacrificed. When his girl is raped by and then eaten by Dagon, Ezra is given another chance, but opts to set himself on fire instead. Fortunately (for those of us perverse enough to have hoped for such a thing), he’s extinguished and goes on to live eternally underwater with the half-human half-sister in the kingdom of DAGON.

Ezra (left) with girlfriend and evil priest:
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High priestess:
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Francisco Rabal, a fine actor whose final scene in his final film had his face getting graphically ripped off by the evil priest:
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Mermaid love:
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Dagon (left):
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From Beyond fits in nicely with other 80’s horrors featuring characters who explore the outer limits of bodily experience, like Brain Damage (1988), Hellraiser (1987), Society (1989) and Teen Wolf Too (1987). Maybe it was a topic on everyone’s mind, or maybe they were just getting around to ripping off David Cronenberg. This one has an S&M-tinged sex theme to its body horror (as opposed to the blatantly S&M-drenched sex theme in Hellraiser or the hallucinogenic drug theme to Brain Damage). Movie never takes itself seriously, dialogue and character behavior a bit on the stupid side, still totally worth seeing.

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Movie stars everyone’s favorite lunatic Jeffrey Combs as a research assistant to weirdo Dr. Pretorius in a big spooky house. They succeed in their attempts to create a crazy machine that magnetically taps into the pineal gland, psychically revealing a new dimension of reality where swimming, bitey eel creatures and larger, darker things lurk. One of these things bite Pretorius’s head off, and Combs is committed to an ethically unsound institution by some questionable cops. He is released into the care of an even more ethically unsound psychiatrist, Dr. Katherine (the hot girl from Re-Animator), and taken along with somewhat-competent cop Ken Foree (from Dawn of the Dead!) back to the old house to reignite the experiments for no clear reason. They just hang out doing experiments until Pretorius reemerges all messed up from the alternate dimension and starts to gain control over everything. Oh, also our heroes’ newly-awakened pineal glands make ’em want to have kinky lite-S&M sex with each other.

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The horror and monsters escalate towards the end, there’s a sidetrack visit back to the hospital (where our psychiatrist is just rescued from shock therapy), Ken finally dies (eaten by a million black insects), and Jeffrey and Pretorius destroy each other in the end. Final shot is pretty great, Dr. Katherine going mad, just like Jeffrey apparently did at the end of the opening sequence.

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Gordon and producer Brian Yuzna have built their careers on filming HP Lovecraft stories… you could certainly find worse things to do with your time. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that this screenplay isn’t very close to the source material, especially the funny/campy parts.

Wikipedia: “The pineal gland is occasionally associated with the sixth chakra (also called Ajna or the third eye chakra in yoga) or sometimes the Seventh (Crown) chakra. It is believed by some to be a dormant organ that can be awakened to enable telepathic communication.”

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Long, very nicely done. Music and intertitles, mostly-convincing period style but with (forgiveable, for low budget) 30fps video look. Triple Flashback (fb in a fb in a fb) tells of ship visiting uncharted island, seeing stop-motion tentacle-head Cthulhu, fleeing in terror… otherwise a lot of newspaper clippings and people who want their papers burned and unspeakable horror and such.

Also saw “Day of the Dead”, cutie cartoon (animated in korea) about an iguana learning about his mexican heritage or something… well intentioned but tedious. “The Shovel” a twisty little number where the dude from Good Luck Good Night is accused of killing his neighbor. “Tell-Tale Heart” nicely animated Sin City style with Bela Lugosi’s voice narrating from an ancient tape. And “Venom” about an old woman who loves cats, hates bugs. I dig how the AFF played the latter with no sound at all, with no apology or mention of the problem. I know it’s hard to run a festival, but that’s just like them.