Creature Features revisited – Ghosts and Angry Spirits

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Creature Features revisited

A look back at the golden age of sci-fi and horror, the 1950‘s/60‘s. Our subject today…

Ghosts and Angry Spirits

The Screaming Skull (1958)
The Haunting (1963)
House on Haunted Hill (1959)
13 Ghosts (1960)

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The Screaming Skull (1958)

The film starts with a dire warning from the film studio. Taking a page from William Castle they offer to pay for funeral expenses to anyone who dies of heart failure do to fright from watching the film, The Screaming Skull. Then music starts, a familiar composition to horror fans, Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique which can more recently be heard in the intro to The Shining. It sets a somber tone and mood for the film. A recently married couple move into the estate mansion that the husband shared with his first wife. She had died unexpectedly a few years ago. But the shadow of the fist wife looms as the new wife hears screams in the middle of the night and is haunted by the vision of a skull. The film gets off to a slow start and the pacing doesn’t improve much until the last 20 minutes. The film tries to provide thrills, but never rises to a level above nostalgic. I imagine in the 1950s the image of a skull might be shocking, the skull image had not yet permeated the culture and was still viewed as a bad omen. Needless to say, after watching the film my wife had no reason to put in a claim for my funerary expenses.

the screaming skull poster the screaming skull pic 2

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The Haunting (1963)

This film begins with a narrative describing the decades of tragedy that has befallen the Hill House. A professor investigating the paranormal invites several people to stay a week at the home. This includes Eleanor, a woman who has lived a sheltered, closed-in life and welcomes a reason to leave her old life behind, even if it’s just for a week. The rest of the film we can hear Eleanor’s thoughts as she talks herself through creepy incidents happening throughout the house. This is the film that provides ghostly chills by never actually showing a visual ghost or spirit. There’s loud banging on the walls, twisting of doorknobs, and wails, screams, and groans, all unnerving to Eleanor and the other guests at Hill House. Many of these simple techniques are used to great success in modern films, The Conjuring and Insidious. The acting in this film is top notch providing a degree of respect to the genre at the time. Despite the slow start and older style, this is still one of my favorite haunted house movies and a textbook example of building psychological suspense in horror.

The-Haunting The haunting - 1963 - pic 1

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House on Haunted Hill (1959)

The film starts with narration explaining the party thrown by millionaire, Frederick Loren. Although it is a no-no by today’s standards, this offers an hospitable charm, as if you’re being invited into the fold of knowledge, and welcomed into the house. It doesn’t take long for the action to begin as doors slam by themselves, and a swinging chandelier crashes to the ground. Frederick and his wife, Annabelle, speak to each other with cordial contempt. One or both will be dead before morning’s light. The film contains one of the creepiest old ladies you will ever see in film. The story is interesting and fast paced and if you like old films this can easily hold your attention today with the many plot twists and wonderful performances. It’s a pleasure to watch Vincent Price in anything he does. In classic William Castle style, there’s a scene where a full skeleton rushes the screen. At the time of the films theatrical run, theater’s were rigged with a full sized skeleton prop on wires that would continue the journey from the screen, right into the theater and zoom overhead down the center aisle. The screams this must’ve caused in theater houses in 1959!

House on Haunted Hill poster house on haunted hill pic 4

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13 Ghosts (1960)

The marvelous intro, a count off of ghostly images representing the spirits we will see in the film, is a real attention grabber. But that’s not all William Castle has in store. How would you like a film that you can’t see the ghosts unless you put on the special ghost detecting glasses. Now, not only can you see them clearly, but they are in 3D. The Zorba family inherits a home from their distant uncle. The uncle has been known to dabble in the occult and is rumored to have even collected ghosts. The family confirms this early in their stay when a few questions on an Ouja board ends with the spirits attempting to harm the children. Margaret Hamilton plays a grumpy house maid. The children refer to her as ‘the witch’ (with a secret eye wink to the audience.) It’s a very active haunted house film and I imagine the effects were quite creepy at the time of its release. It’s nostalgia to watch today but a decent story makes it enjoyable. stars, Charles Herbert, Jo Morrow, Rosemary DeCamp, Martin Milner, Donald Woods. 

13 ghosts 1960 poster13 ghosts 1960 pic 11

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The Screaming Skull

The Haunting

House on Haunted Hill

13 Ghosts

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Now on Netflix Streaming – Horror – Fall 2014 edition

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Now on Netflix Streaming – Horror – Fall 2014 edition

I haven’t done one of these in a long time. I usually try to warn my readers of what not to watch on Netflix, but this time I’m going to list flicks available on Netflix Streaming that would be good choices for fall and winter viewing.

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25 Horror Flicks on Netflix Streaming to watch over the winter

In no particular order:

Stake Land (2010)
I resisted watching this for a long time. Finally watched it and it’s a good damn flick!re-animator 1985

Event Horizon (1997)
A space ship with a machine to open a portal to another dimension releases the horrors of hell.

Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988)
An even gorier follow-up to Clive Barker’s Hellraiser. The Doctor is in!

Fright Night (1985)
The original campy vampire flick that oozes personality and charm. Should have never been remade.

Candyman (1992)
Tony Todd’s voice will mesmerize you in this horror/psychological thriller from the mind of Clive Barker.Invasion_of_the_body_snatchers 1978

Reanimator (1985)
Fantastically gory Gordon/Yuzna adaptation of HP Lovecraft’s story will have you laughing in between spectacular ‘road kill’ moments.

Dead Silence (2007)
Creepy puppets in this fine James Wan horror film.

Brain Dead (1990)
Psychological horror flick takes you into the mind of a madman/genius.

Evil Dead 2 (1987)
Sam Raimi’s tongue-in-cheek sequel will get your blood pumping…all over the floor, walls, ceiling, face, etc.

Stake_Land_2010 event horizon dvd hellraiser II dvd fright night 1985 candyman 1992

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Oldies:

House on Haunted Hill (1959)
Dated but a good story worth watching to this day. Creepy ol’ lady, walking skeletons, ghostly shrieks in the night…the perfect old time creepy film.

The Fly (1958)The Fly 1958
The epitome of 1950’s sci-fi/horror. A scientific experiment goes awry and creates a half-man/half fly. Awesome giant fly head effect and disturbing ending.

Night of the Living Dead (1968)
George Romero classic zombie flick that changed the essence of zombie movies, books, and television shows forever.

The Dunwich Horror (1970)
Psychedelic adaptation of HP Lovecraft’s story of the same name. Dated feel and a little slow but worth a watch for the Lovecraft fan.

Madhouse (1974)
Vincent Price and Peter Cushing make this Amicus Film worth viewing. When a struggling actor tries to resurrect his career, everyone around him begins to get murdered, seemingly by the horror character he plays.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
A remake worth watching, noted for it’s great creepy music and sound construction. Wonderful characters, great acting.

The Legend of Hell House (1973)
Rody McDowell leads a group of ghost hunters into an abandoned mansion in this Richard Matheson classic ghost story film.

House on Haunted hill 1959 the fly dvd collection Night of the living dead 1968 The-Dunwich-Horror-1970 1974madhouse dvd
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The Crow (1994)
A dark and iconic comic book adaptation makes for a wonderful modern gothic film.

Apartment 143 (2011)
Well made Found Footage film about a ghost haunting in an apartment.

Dead End (2003)
Odd-ball low budget flick about a family lost on a haunted country road. This dysfunctional family generates some comical dialogue on their way to Grandma’s for the Holiday.

Satan’s Little Helper (2004)
Another strange low-budget flick about a serial killer that befriends a young boy on Halloween. A weird tale, not for everyone.

Darkness Falls (2003)
A witch-like ghost torments residents of a small town by masquerading under the Tooth Fairy legend.

The Stand (1994)
Decent yet dated mini series adaptation of Stephen King’s apocalyptic novel about a devastating viral outbreak.

From Dusk ‘til Dawn (1996)
While most remember Selma Hayek’s wonderful snake-dance and Quentin Tarantino’s bizarre dialogue, it’s easy to forget that this is a fun campy vampire flick with great old-school effects by Tom Savini. Directed by Robert Rodriguez.

The-Crow-dvd apartment-143 dead end 2003 satans little helper dvd Darkness Falls 2003

the stand dvd the fly dvd collection from dusk til dawn