Saturday, July 30, 2011

Saturday Scream Queen:
Olivia Wilde

With all the women who spend time and money turning themselves into blondes, one would think that actress Olivia Wilde would be happy with her status as a natural blonde. But no. She spends time and money becoming a brunette. "I feel like a brunette," she said in an interview once.

Perhaps best known for her portrayal of "Thirteen" on the long-running television medical drama "House," Wilde also has a growing resume of big-screen credits to her name.

Wilde's film career focuses mostly on comedies and science fiction, but she also starred in the 2006 torture porn-slasher flick "Turistas" and her upcoming film "In Time" falls into the border area between horror and sci-fi.

And, of course, there are alien monsters in "Cowboys and Aliens", which opened in theaters this week.

Olivia Wilde, before the dye

Princesses of Mars, Part Eleven

Here's another round of famous comic book artists offering up visions of Martian beauty....

By Steven Butler
By Ernie Chan
By Gene Gonzales
By Mike Grell
By Mike Hoffmann
By Thomas Yeates

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Saturday Scream Queen:
Ginger Rogers

Yes. Ginger Rogers.

Before Ginger Rogers became famous for doing everything Fred Astaire could do, but in heels and backwards, in the mid-1930s, and cemented her reputation as both a fine comedic and dramatic actress, she spent a few years appearing in films from small studios, including a pair of "dark old house" thrillers.

While these aren't horror movies by today's standards, "The Thirteenth Guest" (1932) and "A Shriek in the Night" (1933) are both films that are noteworthy for anyone interested in the evolution of the horror film, with the latter being of particular note as it bears some rather striking resemblance to the slasher genre that would finally congeal with the release of "Halloween" some 45 years later. The masked, knife-wielding killer is only the most obvious of these elements.

And Rogers proves that she's was good a screamer as she is was a singer.

While Rogers appeared in many other dramas during her five decades at the top of show-business, she never again played in a film that even came close to a horror movie; after being there for the formative stages of the genre, Rogers moved on and never returned.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Glittering Star

This past Sunday, July 16, marked the 100th anniversary of Ginger Rogers' birth. She remains forever a shining star.

(Confession time: Ginger Rogers was to have been the "Saturday Scream Queen" at Terror Titans this past weekend, but when I wrote the post MONTHS ago, but I failed to schedule it properly. I forgot I had written it to begin with, and so another worthy actress took the place that Rogers should have occupied on her 100th birthday. But, better late than never. She will get her due this coming Saturday. And if you're wondering why I am featuring Rogers in my series on horror actresses, you can use the list of tags in the right-hand column to locate some of her films that I've reviewed previously in this space.)

Sunday, July 17, 2011

'Blood Sucking Babes from Burbank'... sucks

Bloodsucking Babes from Burbank (2005)
Starring: Heidi Brucker, Danilo Mancinelli, Danny Kitz, Mira Rayson, Jacqueline Anzalone, Yasmine Vine, Danielle Kreinik, Christina Caporale, and Burke Morgan
Director: Kirk Bowman
Rating: Two of Ten Stars

Samantha (Brucker) and other archeology students conduct a search for a witch's cursed jewelry box that was reported to be lost in the Burbank Mountains two centuries ago. When her boyfriend, Gary (Kitz), takes the box to spite her because she won't "put out", he unleashes a curse that starts turning innocent women into cannibalistic monsters who hunger for man-meat, preferably the fleshy part on the neck and arms.

Given my questionable tastes in entertainment, a title like "Blood Sucking Babes from Burbank" attracts me like a bear to honey (or, perhaps more accurately, like flies to a cow paddy). Unfortunately, this film doesn't live up to the promise of the title.

It may have babes and they do engage in some blood-sucking, but a film like this needs to be either concentrated comedy or full of horror-driven violence and mayhem. There is precious little comedy here, the violence is nonsensical and very, very fake, and the mayhem is non-existent. The film is a letdown in just about every possible way.

The problems with the movie stem first and foremost from its weak script. It's full of too many characters and they're all badly motivated. There's also plenty of standard bad low-budget movie padding sequences of characters driving around, walking around, and having pointless conversations that repeat plot points that have already been explained.

The padding is particularly aggravating in this film, because if the scriptwriter (who is also the film's director and producer) had written a couple of scenes that gave more details about Angela's Cursed Jewel Box or more on the history that two of the film's more interesting characters--Zack and Felicity, a young couple who are trying to find the box and destroy it, played by Danilo Mancinelli and Mira Rayson--the overall film would have been stronger. (I'm sure I understand why the attack scenes--the ones where a sexy babe transforms into a monster cannibal with badly made fangs in her mouth and starts ripping the flesh from the body of the nearest male--are as static and uninteresting as they are: The film's amateur cast and crew were obviously not up for shooting fight scenes.

However, all it would have taken would have been some comment from Zack or Felicity about how men are paralyzed by the gaze of a woman under the curse to make the attacks seem a bit more believable; NO ONE would stand there and allow themselves to be killed the way the victims do in this movie, unless some force was acting upon them. The men being killed don't even utter a sound, aside from some mewling noises in most cases.

What it lacked in violence and logic, the film could still have made up for with humor, but it mostly fails to do that as well. The only funny bits in the film revolve around a pair of cannibalistic Valley Girls (Jacqueline Anzalone and Yasmine Vine) who sit around discussing Roman sex toys while munching on a gardener they killed after being cursed. Everything else is played absolutely straight... and played badly, because the film has a cast of mostly amateur actors who are working with tinny dialogue and a weak script.

And that's really too bad. A movie with a title like "Bloodsucking Babes from Burbank" should have been something I got a huge kick out of. As it is, the best thing I can say about it is that it did keep me watching to the end (even if the "twist ending" ended up knocking the film from a low 4 rating down to a low 3 rating, due to the fact that it was first completely unmotivated and ill-considered in the light of everything that had gone before it, and it features one final example of a strangely passive victim).

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Saturday Scream Queen:
Shirley Corrigan

Shirley Corrigan began acting professionally at the age of 9, and after spending a number of years with touring theater companies across Europe and the near-East, and she eventually found herself in India. Here, she spent the late 1960s working along-side the legendary Mother Teresa.

Mother Teresa encouraged Corrigan to resume her acting career and to work with children. So, Corrigan moved to Italy and spent the 1970s starring in horror films and soft-core sex comedies (with a few dramas mixed in); starring in movies that appeal to teenaged boys and juvenile men is sort of like working with children....

Among Corrigan's horror films are "The Devil's Nightmare", "Dr. Jekyll and the Werewolf", and "Crimes of the Black Cat".

Corrigan left the movie business in 1982 after appearing in 24 films. She returned to the stage, and works as an actress and model to this day. She also volunteers with children, which would get an approving nod from Mother Teresa.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Matter of Quality

These pictures of actress Patty Shepard show that you can get an interest effect if you make a high-quality scan of low-quality images. In this case, pictures from printed page in a magazine. Click on the pictures to see the full-sized versions.

The pictures were originally spotted on this Spanish horror blog. For more on Patty Shepard and her movies, visit the Terror Titans blog.

Monday, July 11, 2011

'Gothic' is an excursion into nightmares
that's not for everyone

Gothic (1986)
Starring: Gabriel Byrne, Natasha Richardson, Julian Sands, Myriam Cyr, and Timothy Spall
Director: Ken Russell
Rating: Seven of Ten Stars

Eccentric poet Lord Byron (Byrne) invites a young prodigy Percy Shelly and his fiance Mary Wollstonecraft (Sands and Richardson), along with her halfsister Claire Claremont (Cyr) to spend a weekend with him and his personal doctor, Polidori (Spall), at his isolated estate. After an evening of reading ghost stories, drinking wine enhanced with Laudanum (a hallucinogenic), and an impromptu seance, these members of the cream of the Age of Enlightenment's intellectual crop find themselves trapped in an ever worsening spiral of confusion and terror. Is it just the drugs, or did the seance call forth an evil spirit which is now tormenting them?

"Gothic" is a stylish, extremely creepy movie. There are very few films I've seen that manage to transfer the dread and fear felt by the characters as the film unfolds to me, but this is one of them. Although it starts out feeling like "Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolfe?" set in a rambling castle and performed by effeminate people in puffy shirts and bad hairdos, this movie soon turns into one of the most bizarre and terrifying films I've ever seen. Much of it unfolds seemingly at random, with the threads occasionally coming briefly together but invariably separating into a chaotic mess again.

While I would usually find this to be a flaw, it is something that works with great effect here.

The film has an odd tone to it from the very first arrival of Shelly and the girls at Byron's estate, and that oddness kicks into full fledged horror movie mode when the characters start reading ghost stories to each other. At that point, the passage of time, and the very nature of reality, the house, and those in it start to change. As a thunderous rainstorm batters the manor house, Byron, Shelly, Polidori, Mary, and Claire all seem to be drawn into ghost stories, and singly or together, they all experience one of more hallmarks of such tales, ranging from apparent possessions to hallucinations of all kinds.

In fact, while "Gothic" is not a movie about a haunted house, it should serve as required viewing for anyone who is thinking about making a haunted house movie. The way the house becomes a character unto itself as the film unfolds, the various torments the character's experience, the possessions... they're all haunted-house standards, and they're all handled with far greater skill than in the vast majority of movies that deal specifically with hauntings.

A great deal of the film's success can be credited to Gabriel Byrne. He gives a wonderfully varied performance as the twisted poet Byron, but he is also portraying the one character who remains stable throughout the film. Byron stars out as an unbalanced character--swinging from capricious, to sensitive, to menacingly insane, sometimes all within the space of a few minutes--but as the other characters come increasingly unglued, Byron emerges as the closest thing there is to a stable hold on reality. Whether in the dying light of a spring afternoon, or in the deepest part of a nightmare-made-real, Byrne's Byron is unchanged... and this contributes to the viewer's sense of unease; the abnormal has become the closet thing to normal, anywhere. Byrne, however, is merely a point man for an excellent cast. All the principles are great (Cyr is genuinely creepy after she's possessed (?)), and given the length of some of the shots and the difficulty of the dialogue delivered during them, I don't think this was an easy movie to star in.

Although the amazing use of Byron can also be credited to the script, there are some issues with the script as well--mostly relating to where the line between what's a dream and what's reality in the film is--and this cost it a Tomato in my rating. However, I may be overcritical on this point, because once "Gothic" gets going, the terror and disorientation builds and builds to such a degree that reality and drug-soaked nightmare and which is which really doesn't matter. And the way you can see the works of Mary Wollstonecraft-Shelly and Percy Shelly (and almost certainly also that of Dr. Polidori, although I've not read his book "The Vampyre", so I can't say) echoed throughout in dialogue and situations

This film is one scary ride, featuring fine performances from all its actors, and led by a director that deploys every tool in his filmmaking arsenal with great skill and artistry. It's a film worth seeing if you enjoy well-made horror flicks and experimental films, but it does require some patience and tolerance of artsy-fartsy flourishes.

(Oh... I suppose I should touch on what many reviewers seem to think is a selling point. The film supposedly chronicles the one night that gave rise to Mary Shelly's "Frankenstein", Shelly's best poems, and Polidori's "The Vampyre". While this is an interesting aspect of the film--and it's one that raises even more questions about where the line between reality and nightmare exists in the movie, and if perhaps Byron and his guests did, in fact, rouse some evil spirit that night--it's not one that felt was so all-fire important to the movie. It helps to know who the characters are, but one doesn't need a BA in English to "get it.")

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Saturday Scream Queen:
Patty Shepard

In 1963, at the age of 18, Patty Shepard moved from North Carolina to Spain where she swiftly found success as a model and actress. During the 1970s, she appeared in a string of thrillers and horror films along side the likes of Paul Naschy, Helga Line, and Erika Blanc while the eerie aura of mystery she brought to her these roles allowed her to carve out her own place in the pantheon of European B-horror movie stars.

In addition to her horror roles, Shepard was featured in westerns, comedies, sci-fi... probably every genre you can think of.

During the 1980s, Shepard's output slowed, and she retired from acting in 1988 after making two final horror movies--"Edge of the Axe" and "Slugs".

Shepard currently lives in Madrid, Spain, with her husband of nearly 45 years.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Saturday Scream Queen:
Charisma Carpenter

In celebration of July Fourth, Independence Day in the United States of America, I present a special Monday Scream Queen.

Charisma Carpenter was working as a cheerleader for the San Diego Chargers when she turned to acting. After landing a few commercials and bit parts, and recurring parts in television series "Josh Kirby: Time Warrior" and "Malibu Shores", she was cast as Cordelia, the social nemesis and eventual friend of teenaged vampire slayer, Buffy in the long-running series "Buffy the Vampire Slayer". She also potrayed the character on the spin-off series "Angel".

After playing Cordelia from 1996 to 2004, Carpenter has gone on to star in made-for-television horror movies, such as "Voodoo Moon" (2006) and "House of Bones (2010), both for the Syfy Channel, in addition to extended guest-shots on series "Charmed" and "Strange Frequency".

Most recently, Carpenter has starred in a couple of chillers for the big screen--"Psychosis" in 2010 and "Crash Site". which is scheduled to hit theaters in next month, August 2011.

Carpenter's current slate of films consists entirely of horror movies in various stages of production, with "The Human Factor" in pre-production and "A Trusted Man" and "Deadly Sibling Rivalry" in post-production and slated for release late this year. Carpenter plays twin sisters in that last film, one good and one evil.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Saturday Scream Queen:
Shannon Elizabeth

Shannon Elizabeth is a model turned actress--a common career path for Scream Queens. Her first professional acting jobs were bit parts on television, but her first major role was in "Jack Frost" where her character was killed off in what will surely forever be a unique scene in film history: She was raped to death by a killer snowman.

Although best known for her role as Nadia in the first two "American Pie" films, Elizabeth's resume is peppered with horror flicks, including the horror spoof "Scary Movie", remakes "13 Ghosts" and "Night of the Demons" and retro-chillers "You Belong to Me" and "Cursed."