20 Million Miles to Earth – Movie review and tribute

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Part of the “Keep Watching the Skies” Blogathon from Cinematic Frontier – Click on logo at right to see more entries of 50’s sci-fi classics!

 

20 Million Miles to Earth

directed by Nathan H. Juranscience-fiction-movies-of-the-1950s-blogathon-04
produced by Charles Schneer
Special effects by Ray Harryhausen

starring:
William Hopper
Joan Taylor
Frank Puglia

 

A US rocket returning from Venus crashes near a fishing village in Italy. Before it sinks beneath the waters depths, a young boy finds a strange figure encased in a gelatinous egg. He trades it to a zoologist and the next day it hatches an amazing little creature. However, this is the 1950’s so rest assured it won’t be ‘little’ for long; it will grow to monstrous proportions. It’s a testament to the amazing work of Ray Harryhausen that the directors of his films are mostly forgotten, but his name and his work lives on. He created a unique creature for this film, part reptilian, part humanoid and part alien, taken from its natural habitat to fend for itself in a strange new world.

Stop-motion animation from Harryhausen (as well as Willis O’Brien) was not Claymation. They did not use clay. They used a metal armature with movable joints, like a skeleton. It was then covered with foam and latex rubber enabling it to hold detail and fixed markings while maintaining flexibility for lifelike movement. For mammals the artists would add hair. You couldn’t get such good detail and movement with clay. Some stop-motion animation involved clay, (Gumby) and others involved wooden puppets (Rankin Bass holiday specials). However, Ymir was made with the aforementioned20-million-miles-to-earth-pic-1 rubber layers and molds over skeletal design. Another big aspect to the magic of stop-motion monster films (one that it shares with Toho’s suitmation effects) is the building of miniature sets. You will see actors running down the street on location, then the monster chasing them on that same street. However, that same street is a miniature version in a studio for which the stop-motion filming can be conducted upon.

Ymir’s humanoid expressions manipulated by the talented and patient hands of Harryhausen, gave the creature empathy. We see shock, disappointment, anger, fear, desperation, all within the reactions of the beast; wide eyes, roars, hand and arm gestures, posture, all used to communicate without words. Because of this, most who see the film feel sad for Ymir’s demise, cringing at the sound of gun shots that bring him down. Ymir’s fight with a zoo elephant brought a special realism to the film and a sense of scale. Ray’s self-drawn storyboards choreographed a tense battle that intercut real elephant footage with his own recreation of the huge mammal.  This was perhaps the greatest creature battle since Kong fought the T. Rex some 25 years previous. Shadows of Ymir will show up in later Harryhausen 20-million-miles-to-earth-postercreatures, the body is similar to his Cyclops in The 7th Voyage of Sinbad and his face is similar to the Kraken from Clash of the Titans. The wonderful long tail seems like a prerequisite for the snake-like Medusa. As with most 50s sci-fi/horror, there is a sub-plot following a budding romance concerning, Colonel Robert Calder, the only survivor from the space mission, and the zoologist’ s daughter, Marisa, played by the lovely Joan Taylor.

Charles Schneer was a good friend to Harryhausen and an advocate for his fine craft, working with him on nearly a dozen films. This was Ray’s fourth film depicting giant monsters rampaging through cities. The first was his work under his mentor, Willis O’Brien in Mighty Joe Young. Following that was Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, and It Came from Beneath the Sea. Ray and Charles Schneer would move into fantasy adventure films after this, depicting mythological figures in his Sinbad films and other tales of ancient lore.

To younger generations, stop-motion FX doesn’t seem so real. That was part of the charm for our generation. We knew there was an art involved with making these beasts come to life. These FX artists didn’t just copy motions and images from real animals and put it into the creature’s digital repertoire. They infused the model’s movements with their own personality and mannerisms. It’s like the difference between a digital photo of a human face and the Mona Lisa. The Mona Lisa isn’t perfect and that’s what makes her so. That’s what gives her soul and personality. You can sense Ray’s soul and personality through these films, the creator, the adventurer, the craftsman, and the boy with wide eyed wonder at endless possibilities.

 


 

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They recently digitally colorized the film and it looks like they did a decent enough job. However, I still prefer to watch it in b&w, the way Ray made it.

Once again, be sure to check out the Keep Watching The Skies Blogathon for more 50’s movie classics!



Parlor of Horror’s ‘Creature Feature’ reviews

 

Summer’s Horror Hits – 2016 – Horror Hits a High Note

Summer’s Horror Hits – why this year’s low budget and small cast horror hits may usher a new wave of original and well-made horror films.

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Summer’s Horror Hits – 2016 – Horror Hits a High Note with a great Summer for Horror films

This was a great summer for the horror film as lower budgeted and small-scale horror films trumped many high action and superhero films. In 2016 Horror films have been more profitable, just as popular and I might add, a bit more distinguishable than many of the other summer Blockbusters of the year. Hello Hollywood, it’s time to put away the CGI mega-FX and get back to basics. This year’s horror hits may usher a new wave of original and well-made horror films. First let’s take a look at the winning films.


the shallows The-Shallows-Poster

The Shallows – Summer officially started with the tense thriller, The Shallows (click for full review) which gave audiences a chilling survival tale on what should have been a beautiful day at the beach. Few characters, one main character, and one scary shark was all it needed to ramp up tension and bring the sea to a climatic boil. While it’s not straight up horror, it can be considered part of the sub-genre of nature-horror or animal horror which has a long reputation of making believable films praised by both horror and non-horror movie goers.

The-Conjuring-2-21 The-Conjuring-2- poster

The Conjuring 2 gave us another tale in the lives of the Warren’s, this time in Great Britain. There were several different aspects that provided scares in this something-for-everyone horror fest. The Wicked Nun chilled the screen with her deadpan eyes and aggression. My personal favorite, The Crooked Man, came to life in order to torment the child in the story. However, it started with a family that you cared for early on and that’s what makes the scares scary. Horror has to move beyond the young people partying in the woods format these days to make any lasting impression. The Conjuring films do just that.

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Lights Out was just a short film on YouTube less than a year ago. Well, it turned into a big hit over the summer as a dark ghost torments a boy and his broken family. The film was fast-paced and fluid providing nominal scares for the viewer. I would consider the film to be part of a newer sub-genre I like to call action-horror where it’s more about the moment rather than a deeper story. Like a roller coaster, you get the thrills and chills in a fun way, but ultimately it leaves less of a lasting impression. What you do remember is you had excitement along the way. Summers are made for roller coasters and the summer box time audience went for the ride!

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Don’t Breathe – While viewing this fantastic horror thriller you may notice yourself manifesting certain physical reactions; holding your breathe, squinting your eyes, yelling out in disgust, and squirming in your seat.  DB a genuine cat and mouse, rat in maze thriller, that induces physical reactions in the viewer. It appeals to a larger horror audience and movie goer because it’s not paranormal and it’s more tethered in reality. Seeing the audience react to it in physical ways added to the enjoyment of the film. At times, the theater full of people became so silent, we could hear popcorn popping in the lobby. The main characters are young thieves in the now failed city of Detroit but somehow Alverez manages to get us to like them and root for their survival. The blind man who they are stealing from and ultimately get trapped in the house with, has a stone cold killer instinct that pervades the atmosphere during every second of his screen time. I did have a problem with the very end of the film as it seemed almost tacked on to ensure a sequel. It also added an inconsistency to logic. If you’ve been reading my blog for any time you probably know I didn’t like Alverez’s ED 2013, partly because I’m not a fan of remakes (especially of my idolized horror films) but partly because of illogical inconsistencies in that film that just ruined it for me. Don’t Breathe redeemed Alverez in my eyes for the whole film until this end part. However, the rest of the film was so good it doesn’t deter my overall rating of the film.

10-cloverfield-lane- pic 4 10 Cloverfield Lane - poster

10 Cloverfield Lane – Earlier in the year, the small scale horror successes started with 10 Cloverfield Lane. The film had a modest budget (15 million) but to date has now grossed over 100 million with second line sales. The film had few characters (3) and really only one location, but presented a full story of suspense, thrills, and conflict. A young woman is T-boned in a car accident only to wake in a bunker bound and chained. Knowing she can’t fight her capturer she must use her wits and gain his trust and devise an escape. Along the way we get some interesting character study and an ending that flips our opinion of the bad guy…somewhat. Top-notch acting by Goodman and the small cast made this film a winner.


Two other important aspects to this Summers Horror Hits; they are not remakes, and all but one are not sequels. Perhaps we’ll get a bump in new original horror films because of this. Why is all of this important to horror?

Back in 1999 after the success of The Sixth Sense, it ushered a 5-year wave of very good, well written horror films (1999 – 2004) where there was a lot of fresh stories and ideas, new writers and more horror geared toward adult viewers and fans. Let’s hope Hollywood takes this summer’s box office successes as a direction and we could once again have an era of marked creativity in the horror film genre.




What will Summer 2016’s Horror Hits mean for the Horror Movie Genre?

In the period between 1999 and 2004 a wide range of varied horror films were released with new creative talents, ideas, directors and writers adding serious and more intelligent styled films aimed toward older and more discerning horror audiences. Directors and writers such as Zakk Snyder, James Wan, Alexandre Aja, Joe R Lansdale, Eli Roth, Gore Verbinski, Lucky McKee, James Wong, Rupert Wainwright, all got their piece of horror movie fame during this era in the horror genre.

Here are what I consider the best horror films in that time period:

Stir of Echoes (1999)

Stigmata (1999)

Sleepy Hollow (1999)

Final Destination (2000)

Ginger Snaps (2000)

American Psycho (2000)

Jeepers Creepers (2001)

Dagon (2001)

The Others (2001)

28 Days Later (2002)

Cabin Fever (2002)

Dog Soldiers (2002)

May (2002)

Bubba Ho Tep (2002)

The Ring  (2002)

Darkness Falls (2003)

Jeepers Creepers II (2003)

Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)

Haute Tension (2003)

Wrong Turn  (2003)

Dawn of the Dead (2004)

The Grudge (2004)

Shawn of the Dead (2004)

What films did you like from that 5 year period? add them in the comments…


 

 

 

 

Crimson Peak (2015) – movie review

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Crimson Peak (2015)

Directed by Guillermo del Toro

starring:
Mia Wasikowska
Tom Hiddleston 
Jessica Chastain
Charlie Hunnam
Jim Beaver

 

Crimson Peak is an adult fairy tale. It is populated with an innocent dreamer, an evil sister-in-law, a castle, a romance/love affair, and a hero. Oh, and it has a few ghosts. If you’re expecting a straight up horror film you will most likely be disappointed. It has aspects of horror, a mystery and a psychological thriller, but if you think of it as anything different than a fairy tale, you will crimson peak - posterprobably not enjoy the film.

The first 40 minutes is a high drama and a murder mystery. It sets up the second half of the film. It successfully captures the upper echelon society of NY in the early 1900’s in mood and atmosphere. I suppose some viewers will find this boring. However, I, having firmly grasped the notion that I have been born in the wrong time period, love the atmosphere of other eras and I find the film’s dramatic events endearing to my sensibilities. The three main actors, Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston, and Jessica Chastain, turn out genuinely striking performances and it was just fun to watch them adapt to the people they portrayed.

The plot points are somewhat predictable as all gothic stories follow a similar pattern. The film is beautifully dark with deep, rich colors and slow languid camera movement, creating an appealing visual palette. Although the ghosts are CG enhanced, they work well in the lush and vibrant colors of the film. The impeccable costume of the period also sells the story and adds to the visual splendor of the film. Rounding out the high production values was a powerful classical soundtrack by composer Fernando Velázquez. I liked this film and felt heartache for the tragedy that the film presents. Like all fairy tales the calamities mirror real life and I felt the weight of missteps a person can take in life.

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A gothic fairy tale of high quality with adult themes and a suspenseful ending.

I give it a solid 4.0 ghastly, ghostly, nasties out of 5 on the haunted horrors of the fairy tale castle scale.

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fun facts:
(from IMdB)

Jessica Chastain learned the piano for the movie and performed all songs in the movie by herself. She had previously learned the bass guitar for Mama (2013), where Guillermo del Toro was the producer.

Visually, Guillermo del Toro wanted the film to look like a Mario Bava Technicolor movie.

Crimson Peak crimson peak - pic 31


parlor of horror – movie reviews

The Woman In Black (2012) – movie review

 

The Woman in Black 2012 - pic 1

The Woman in Black  (2012)

 

Directed by James Watkins

Starring
Daniel Radcliffe
Ciarán Hinds
Janet McTeer
Liz White

For a Hammer film, I would expect no less than a gothic ghost-tale, taking place in a deserted mansion, in the countryside of England. Being a period piece only adds to the true Hammer experience of yesteryear. These were elements missing from the re-launched Hammer production’s previous films.

A young lawyer, Arthur Kipps, struggling to provide for his motherless son, is sent on a countryside journey to the estate property, known as the Eel Marsh House. After the passing of tThe Woman In Black posterhe last living relative, Alice Drablow, it is Mr. Kipps’ assignment to wade through the mountain of paperwork at the decrepit estate, in order for his firm to gain the rights to sell it. At the Estate, Mr. Kipps begins to hear strange noises which lead to the frequent sighting of the Woman in Black, a ghastly, dark presence that haunts the Eel Marsh House. In town, there are several deaths of children. Mr. Kipps begins to investigate a recurrence of child deaths throughout many years and their ties to the Eel Marsh House. The intriguing story unfolds in layers as the mystery is revealed.

 

Daniel Radcliffe plays the young lawyer, Arthur Kipps, wonderfully, sporting  old-English style side-burns, causing one to wholly forget his Harry Potter persona. Ciarán Hinds plays an outstanding supporting role as the local neighbor, Sam Daily, who, years earlier, lost his own son to tragedy.

The Eel Marsh House provides a fantastic setting, almost like a character itself; it sits upon an isolated hill that becomes surrounded by water during high tide. There is a small family graveyard on the property, which adds to the creepiness of the house and exudes the perfect atmosphere for sightings of the veiled, woman in woman in black radcliffeblack. The inside of the mansion is suitably run-down, genuinely old, and neglected, with cob-webs, worn edges and dimly lit areas for evil to hide. The cinematography in this film was exceptional, portraying the ugly-beauty of the age tattered estate.

The Woman in Black is a classic, old-fashioned ghost story. It’s a slow-burn with a small cast and low-key feel, self contained in the sparse community surrounding the estate. This is not the full-on, ‘Poltergeist’ style ghost film. The haunting is subtle; a noise, a toy turning on for no reason, a movement seen in the mirror, and movement in your peripheral vision.  It is the type of film that I have purchased on DVD for my own collection and watch it often around Halloween. If the new Hammer Films would make all of their movies in this style and not try to compete with Hollywood, I would be quite pleased.



parlor of horror – movie review

 

Horror TV Shows – Tales From the Crypt

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My favorite horror TV Show episodes.

Tales From the Crypt – HBO
Seasons 7, episode 8
Report from the Grave

Two young scientists break into a mausoleum so Elliot can perform his experiment. His machine can retrieve left over residue from the human brain like computer code left behind on a hard drive. He seeks out the corpse of Valdemar Tymrak, butcher-type mass murderer, who wrote books about the dead. He hopes to gain some insight about Valdemar’s lost notes. Arianne is not pleased with her boyfriend’s choice of subject for the experiment, but helps him out of love and devotion. Hooking up his Tales season 7machine to Valdemar, he hears a faint signal. When he goes back to the machine Arianne puts the head device on, right as he’s boosting the power to high. She screams, then dies.

After a time of mourning and depression Elliott sets up the experiment again to see if he can resurrect the memory of his love Arianne. He gets more than that as he actually resurrects the conscious spirit of her, proving the afterlife exists. After a celebration of their love, she tells him that Valdemar is there with her, keeping her soul prisoner and keeping her from moving into the light. He wants to torture her forever. She sits up alert and nervous as she feels him coming for her reclamation. Valdemar arrives and he is one ugly, freaky, creepy, son of a bitch, wielding a curved bone-cutter knife.

This is one of my favorite episodes. The camp angle synonymous with the “Tales” series is played down and the story plays out in a serious manner. It’s a gory, bloody, ugly episode, rich with atmosphere and haunting visuals. If I was a little younger and less jaded, that creep, Valdemar would have given me cause for nightmares.

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My Halloween tale, Bon Fire posted on Cemetery Tomes

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My Halloween fiction story, Bon Fire,
posted on Cemetery Tomes – modern gothic fiction site.

Have you ever sat around a campfire or backyard fire-pit with a group of family or friends and take turns telling scary stories. Bon Fire is about that kind of get together. Who has the creepiest tale, the most believable urban legend, who’s just recycling the same story from last year? Sit in with my group of friends and find out.

This is semi-autobiographical and makes for some traditional Halloween reading. When I was younger, we used to go camping with campfire 1friends. Besides enjoying the great outdoor scenery, the only other good part was sitting around the campfire at night, drinking Ale and telling wicked tales. (in a bar it’s beer, but when you’re in the great outdoors it’s automatically called Ale) This is what happened on one of those nights.

The story is light on horror, more like a strange tale with gothic overtones. A perfect read for all ages and with a little personalizing, a great tale to relay at your own scary storytelling get-together this Halloween.

read here:
Michael Thomas-Knight – Bon Fire

Originally published in my chapbook, The Clock Tower Black, from Goblin Press (2007). Out of print.

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Nate over at Cemetery Tomes is new to wordpress. Head over to his blog and check out what he’s got going on. For all you horror writers and authors, Nate says he will be open to submissions in November for several story themes. Subscribe to his blog so you don’t miss his calls for submissions. 

Journals of Horror – news and 99 cents sale!

Journals of Horror Terry M. West pic

Ok, first the news! Journals of Horror has made the preliminary ballot for the Bram Stoker Award in the category of Anthology! It’s only the first step of many, but still an honor to even be recognized by the HWA. Oh, and did I mention that I have a story in this book?

Now, you can get your Kindle version of Journals Of Horror for only 99 cents!

That’s right, sign into Amazon on Feb. 14th, Valentine’s Day and get a copy of Journals of Horror for only 99 cents!

If you get a copy, be sure to read my story, Night Terrors and leave a comment on Amazon Reviews about the book 🙂

****Sale extended though Mon, Feb 16th****

get it here: Journals of Horror