Horror mini-reviews (part 4)

This week, let’s look at three Asian horror films, Vincent Price horror from 1960s, and two of Peter Jackson’s splatter movies


The Host (2006)
South Korean horror. The visual style of the film feels like a comic book, you could watch by following the images without reading the subtitles.
There’s also a bit of social commentary, the disregard for nature, the way America force its will on the rest of the globe, and the false front provided by governments declaring bogus “terror alerts”.
Spoiler: I was confused by the ending, that the main characters are not affected by the agent yellow?
Rating 7.5


A Tale of Two Sisters (2003)
South Korean horror film. At first, I found it difficult to get into the movie, in fact the first half I was bored, because hardly anything happens. I found it difficult to figure out what the story is about? I agree with rotten tomatoes, that it is confusing.
I was interested in figuring out the mystery, and I liked the soundtrack score, but due to the languid pacing, it didn’t grab my attention as much as I had hoped. It seems I’m in the minority, since it has garnered heaps of praise.
It also didn’t really scare me. The twist was good, but I prefer I Saw the Devil (2010) from this director, which had faster pacing.
Rating 6.2


The Audition (1999)
Japanese horror. Not what I was expecting at all from the poster. A slow-paced character-driven drama.
I was okay with the pacing, because I wanted to learn more about the two main characters.
The horror elements don’t arrive until late in the film.
I don’t want to spoil what happens, let’s just say the last 30 minutes are memorable.
Rating 7.5


Dead Alive (1992)
Splatter Horror/Comedy. Also known as Braindead. Early directorial effort from Peter Jackson (Lord of The Rings Trilogy).
Very impressed by the special effects in this movie. Considered among the best in the gore genre. The bizarre mix of comedy and grossness somehow works. One of the supporting characters almost throws up, and that’s how the audience may feel as well. Highly entertaining, if you can stomach it. Looks like they had a lot of fun making the movie. They got a lot out of the reasonably small $3 million budget, because it has nearly every gore effect you can imagine. Definitely the most impressive “splatter” film I’ve ever seen. Just wow.
Rating 8.3


Bad Taste (1987)
Splatter Horror/Comedy. Can’t escape the look of a low budget film, which of course it is. Amusing to see Peter Jackson acting(dressed as a goofy Harry Potter) in what was the first feature he directed. The story is nothing special, though.
The gore effects are generally good(only missing the mark a couple of times, a fake human head, and fake seagull, look like props).
It has a few suspenseful chase scenes, on a cliff, and involving a car.
The stand-out scene could be when he regurgitates the green substance, followed by the gang eating it from a bowl, yuck!!!
Also, the ending is unexpected and feels iconic.
Rating 7.0


Horror of Dracula (1958)
Considered among the best of the low budget Hammer horror films. By today’s horror standards, this 1958 version is a bit tame, and I also found it slow. John Van Eyssen was a better casting choice as Jonathan Harker than Keanu Reeves. But I prefer Gary Oldman’s Count Dracula over Christopher Lee’s(even though I realize Count Dracula is Lee’s signature role)
As with Coppola’s 1992 film, the script takes some liberties with Bram Stoker’s original story. I just personally prefer the 1992 adaptation, in terms of pacing, music, visuals, and atmosphere.
Rating 6.2


The Hills Have Eyes (1977)
It does follow the usual horror formula of the hunter and the hunted, but it’s still pretty scary how uncivilized these savages are. Especially the blonde wife is good at behaving hysterical and helpless. The dog attack is very realistic.
Spoiler: The ending is surprising, in that it just stops, and feels unfinished. Maybe the sequel explains what happens to the characters?
Rating 7.0


Triangle (2009)
It seemed the female character was more interested in shooting her friends than in exploring the ship, I didn’t understand why. I read the explanation and it made sense.
If you like thought-provoking horror, give this a try.
Rating 7.5


Phantasm (1979)
Phantasm is an underappreciated horror, doesn’t get talked about a whole lot today. Deserves to be better known.
The “Tall Man” is creepy, and many bizarre, unpredictable things happen. Remarkable to read afterwards it only cost $300.000.
Rating 7.5


The House of Usher (1960)
Saw it because one of the clips from Nymphomaniac (2013) mentions the story. Based on a short story by Edgar Allan Poe. A man arrives and demands to see his beloved Madeline, only for her brother to refuse him. He claims both he and his sister suffer from a morbid acuteness to the senses, so the wrong food, clothes, light, noise, smell causes pain. Interestingly, the house is the villain. The film is boosted by a fine performance by Vincent Price.
Probably the best film I’ve seen directed by Roger Corman, who is known for his b-movie career.
Rating 7.6


Pit and the Pendulum (1961)
It’s pretty much acknowledged that the majority of the films directed by Roger Corman are low-brow b-movies, but there are a few highlights, and this is another of them. The Edgar Allen Poe short story is so brief, that they expanded the screenplay.
An atmospheric horror with a thrilling climax. My only complaint is how similar it feels to House of Usher (1960) the previous year, which also stars Vincent Price.
Rating 7.2


The Masque of the Red Death (1964)
Based on a story by Edgar Allan Poe. Visually the old castle looks really authentic, and Vincent Price is his usual sinister self. Among the better Roger Corman b-movies of the 1960s.
The knife game was uncomfortably real, did they really cut their arms for that scene? The scene with the ape costume was pretty horrifying.
Favorite quote: “You’re a madman! And yet I will live and you will die, where is your God in your hour of need?”
Rating 7.3


Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971)
The weirdest serial killer movie I saw for a while. Dr. Phibes sure has imaginative methods of disposing of his victims.
For all the beautiful set pieces, and inventive killings, the actual plot is rather repetitive.
Rating 6.5

Agree or disagree? Have you watched any of the above? Which horror films do you plan to watch this October?
Next week, for the final horror post this October, mini-reviews of 1920s horror, Cronenberg’s Dead Ringers (1988), Bergman’s Hour of the Wolf (1968), Kill List (2011), Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (2010), and The Orphanage (2007), stay tuned!

24 thoughts on “Horror mini-reviews (part 4)

  1. Hi Chris, I actually have not seen any of the films above but shouldn't be surprising as horror isn't my cup of tea. Y'know, I actually find Asian horror a heck of a lot more terrifying than Western ones. I remember accidentally watching a Chinese horror movie when I was a kid, not sure why I saw the whole thing but it still traumatized me to this day!

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  2. Hi Ruth. Interesting, haven’t really thought about if Asian horror is more terrifying than western. Sounds like that Chinese horror movie mananged to freak you out!!!
    Luckily horror seldom gives me nighmares. But I actually had a fright a few weeks ago, in a dream an animal(vampire?) bit me in the neck, just in the moment I woke up! Too much horror I guess 🙂

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  3. Great list of films. Haven't seen all of them, especially the old ones.
    It's a pity you didn't enjoy A Tale of Two Sisters. But I guess you put out a good reason to have this reaction. To each his own.
    Audition was a freaky film. I also enjoyed the pace in this one. It sure got weird by the end. A terrifying film, but so weird.
    I haven't seen the rest, but all of them have been on my watchlist for a while. Glad to see Triangle is worth seeing. I juggled with the idea of seeing this one.
    And answering to your question, this month, at least so far, I've seen the Invasion of the Body Snatchers films, the 1950's version as well as the one from 1978. Both were very good, but the 1978 one is more horror. The 1950's one was more about the paranoia that was back then post WWII.
    Also, the first Evil Dead films, very entertaining. The special effects were very well made. A lot of fun.
    Also, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Not a fan of silent films, but this one was pretty great. And what a twist.
    And finally, The Descent, which was a thrill ride. It scared me a lot, but not in a can't-sleep-at-night scary way. Still, it was well acted, well shot, both entertaining and terrifying.
    I see you plan of checking out The Orphanage. Don't know if it's a first watch for you, but if it is, you're in for a treat.

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  4. Lots of good stuff here, I really liked Triangle, shame Melissa George is not getting more good roles like this one. Sorry you didn't like Tale of Two Sisters more, I think it's one of the better horror films. Have you seen the American remake Uninvited?

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  5. @Cristi B: Thanks. Yes, that’s the way it goes, can’t agree on everything. The Audition was surprising in the direction it took. Triangle is worth it, quite the puzzle.
    I saw Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) last October, I liked it. The opening credits sequence is spectacular. An eeriness is maintained. A scene that stayed with me was when plants are going crazy, while Donald Sutherland sleeps in the garden chair. You can read the story as an allegory of mass political brainwashing and loss of individualism.
    I saw Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2 a few years ago, maybe I should rewatch at some stage, as I don’t remember what happened.
    I love Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1920), very atmospheric, the set design and performances are great. I think I read this movie is cited as having introduced the twist ending in cinema.
    Glad you liked The Descent, to me that's one of the best horrors the last 10 years, in how claustrophobic the situation is.
    The Orphanage is a first time watch. I also heard of another Spanish horror I might see next year, Julia's Eyes (2010)

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  6. @Sati: Thank you. Yeah, I don’t remember noticing Melissa George in other movies, she was pretty good in that role in Triangle.
    I’m probably in the minority not liking A Tale of Two Sisters. I’ve heard of The Uninvited, not watched it, though.

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  7. Of the five or six of these I've seen, the only one I liked was The Masque of the Red Death. It surprised me with the story and because it was made in the 60s it didn't substitute gore for a lack of story.

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  8. @Chip Lary: I too liked The Masque of the Red Death, there were indeed surprises, beautiful look to the film(considering the budget), and good performance by Vincent Price. A film I could easily rewatch when I'm older.

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  9. I haven't seen all of these, but I've seen a few. I was not a fan of Audition. The whole set up didn't work for me.

    I love The Masque of the Red Death, if only for how much fun Vincent Price has with the role. The same for The Horror of Dracula. The great thing about that is how much of a shadow Christopher Lee casts over the proceedings despite not having a line after the first act.

    I dearly love The Host, mostly because I love how the characters interact. The monster is almost an afterthought. As for Agent Yellow, I got the impression that it was harmless and ginned up to keep people away.

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  10. @SJHoneywell: Yeah, Vincent Price was on his A-game in those three Roger Corman-Poe outings I saw. V Price was born to play characters in horror, and I’m sure a lot of people would say the same for Christopher Lee, I just found that Dracula hammer film quite dull, unfortunately.
    The Host, thanks for your take on the ending, you could be right, that sounds like a logical explanation.

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  11. @msmariah: The Host is quite different to what I usually watch(hardly ever watch monster movies). I enjoyed the cartoonish style, I know you love westerns, and it reminded me of the visual storytelling of director Sergio Corbucci, especially Companeros (1970) and Django (1966).

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  12. @Josh: Of those, Dead Alive (1992) I’d watch first. I’ve scoped out a few lists of the best “splatter” horror films, and almost every time, Dead Alive is included. The Host is by the director of the upcoming Snowpiercer.

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  13. No problem! (Just realised about my damn spelling error on 'ones' there – why does Blogger not let you edit comments you've said on other peoples sites, man?)

    I definitely will! I've had The Hills Have Eyes sitting on my DVD shelf unwatched for far too long now.

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  14. @Cherokee: I know, right? Blogger is not perfect, but at least it's free.

    The Hills Have Eyes to me is genuinely scary. Kind of made me wonder if story is based on real life events. Just like that horror movie you reviewed Teeth (2007), surely it can't happen, or can it. *Shudder*

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  15. Nice wrap-up! I have only seen three of these — The Host, Audition and Dead Alive — and all three are great. I'm going to have to check out some of the others, especially the Vincent Price films. His work is a pretty big blind spot for me.

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  16. Eric @ The Warning Sign: Thanks! I'm happy I finally saw The Host, Audition and Dead Alive, been on my radar for a while, they lived up to expectations, and in the case of Dead Alive exceeded them.
    You should give those Vincent Price movies a try, especially the ones based on a story by Edgar Allan Poe.

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