Sunday, July 28, 2013

Nightmare Castle (1965) Review

Poor innocent Jenny has married a psychopathic Mad Scientist and moved into a castle of nightmares that is haunted by her late sister, Muriel, and her lover, David.  Jenny's new husband, The evil Dr. Stephen Arrowsmith, tortured and then murdered his ex wife and her lover when he finds them making love in the greenhouse.  In a fit of jealousy, Stephen ties the lovers up and then electrocutes and burns them with acid. After they are dead he removes their hearts so that he can cure his own lover, Solange, of a disfiguring disease.

What Stephen does not realize is that his wife's fortune passes onto her sister in the event of her death.  So Stephen then has to court and marry the sister, Jenny, in order to carry on in the lifestyle he has grown accustomed to... A huge castle, his own laboratory, and his now youthful and lovely assistant.  Stephen Brings his new bride home to the castle.  Unfortunately his plans all go out the window when the restless spirits start haunting the very emotionally fragile Jenny. She quickly goes mad from the stress of it all.  
Scream Queen Barbara Steele plays the duo roles of  Muriel and Jenny.  The two characters couldn't be more different,  Muriel is conniving and adulterous, while Jenny is sweetly innocent and mentally unstable. This duality creates a perfect venue to showcase the talent of Ms. Steele.  Barbara Steele is best known for her striking good looks and grace in The Pit and the Pendulum, where she co-starred along side Vincent Price.   Nightmare Castle was directed by Mario Caiano and was originally filmed in Italian but has been dubbed over in English.  The DVD version I own is uncut, but when this film was originally screened in the US, all the best scenes were cut out of it. In fact 20 minutes was cut out from the Italian version because the torture scenes were considered far too risqué for american audiences.

Nightmare Castle and The Whip and the Body are good examples of classic Italian Gothic Horror that pushes the limits of the sensors of the early 60s.  In a lot of ways these movies were way ahead of their times for the torture and sex that is depicted on screen.  The Gothic scenery is beautiful with exquisitely decorated Victorian rooms and the leading ladies are dressed in ruffled and corseted dresses of the time.  The Castle is charming and creepy at the same time, with carnivorous bleeding plants, dark shadowed corners, and cobwebs.  Even though the movie is beautiful to watch, the dialogue and storyline is a little far-fetched at times. 

In the end, Nightmare Castle is a real treat for Gothic Horror Movie lovers that love the scenery and costumes but for those who don't know and love the genre might find it a little slow and tedious.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Conjuring Review

I always love a good ghost story that is based on a true haunting.  The saying goes that the truth is stranger than fiction and this is definitely true in the case of the Perrons.   In The Conjuring, The Perrons, a close family of seven,  Carolyn, Roger and their girls Andrea, Nancy, Christine, Cindy, and April all move into a beautiful farm house in a rural picturesque property by a lake.  They bought the farmhouse at auction and don't know anything about the history of the house.  As soon as they arrive strange things start to happen.  All the clocks stop every night at 3:07 am (The witching hour).  While playing a game of Clap and go seek, one of the girls finds a hidden doorway to the cellar filled with antiques from the previous owners of the house.

April finds a small jack in the box toy hidden in a tree on the property.   The smallest girl, April starts talking to an imaginary friend named Rorry, whom she claims can only be seen through the mirror on the Jack in the box.   Another game of Clap and go seek leads to a strange discovery in an antique armoire in one of the girls rooms.  The Father of the girls is a long haul trucker and has to leave on an extended business trip, of course that's when things start to escalate around the house.  After several sleepless nights in the house,  the family seeks help from professional Paranormal Investigators, Lorraine ( a clairvoyant) and Ed Warren (a Demonologist).  The Warrens are well known in the Paranormal field and come to stay with the family in order to help.  The Warrens tell them that there is a demon attached to the family and they must contact the Vatican for permission for an exorcism.  And in order to get permission they must show proof of the possession.  And so the Warrens and the Perrons set up house to catch a demon by installing cameras and recorders all over the house that only trigger with a sudden drop of temperature.  They are hoping to get a few snapshots of the ghosts or demon.

The Conjurring is a classic ghost story directed by James Wan who also brought us Saw, Insidious, and Dead Silence.  The film pays homage to older ghost movies like The Haunting, The Amityville Horror, The Changeling, Burnt Offerings, and Poltergeist without outright copying any of them.  What makes The Conjuring different is that it focuses not only on the family but the Paranormal investigators.  The film has a slow and deliberate build of tension but is never boring.  There are a few jump scares along the way but for the most part the movie relies on old fashioned scare tactics and practical effects.  This is the type of ghost story that I love.  I always find myself doing research on the real story behind the movie.  Usually Hollywood takes a real story and changes it dramatically to make it scarier, but in this case the real story was just as frightening.  The biggest surprise to me was that the doll named Anabelle is real!   If you don't already have a fear of dolls, you might just develop one after watching this movie.

Now, I am one of those people that have seen so many Horror movies over time, that they no longer scare me.  This is something I truly hate!  The big scare is what drew me into the genre to begin with.  I love the adrenaline rush of a truly scary movie.  Besides jumping a few times, I didn't find The Conjuring very scary at the theatre.  I emphasize the theatre part, because late that night when I went to bed,  I kept imagining or perhaps dreaming that someone or something was trying to grab at my legs!  So those of you that are easily scared may have a few sleepless nights with the lights on after watching The Conjuring.  But, those sleepless nights are what being a Horror Geek are all about, so enjoy the thrill of the scare.