Whenever you get Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing in the same film it is a treat. Add to that, a screenplay based on a story by Robert Bloch and director Freddie Francis, you have the trifecta of old-school British horror goodness.
The film concerns the accursed skull of the Marquis de Sade. Christopher Maitland (Cushing) and Sir Matthew Phillips (Lee), are collectors of occult artifacts. Maitland is offered the skull by a shady dealer and recognizes it as part of Lee’s collection. Knowing it must have been stolen he turns down the offer to purchase the skull. He contacts his fellow collector about the stolen item and Phillips tells him, he is happy to be rid of the accursed skull. He warns Maitland to stay away from it however, Maitland soon develops an obsession with the skull. When he re-visits the shady dealer, he finds the man dead and steals the skull. Once in his home the artifact haunts and torments Maitland, driving him to insanity and provoking him to kill.
The film is subtle, relying on atmosphere and mood to relay the psychological conflict between Maitland and the skull. The silent battle is brought to the screen superbly by Cushing. The visuals are dated and may be considered hokey by today’s standards, but none-the-less effective as the skull floats through the rooms of Maitland’s abode, taunting him to evil deeds. The gothic atmosphere provides a visual appeal that I find interesting. The Skull is quite different than most horror of the time, relying on the psychological horror rather than blood and gore, and the battle of wills rather than the usual perversions associated with the Marquis de Sade. It is a fantastic film for those who like old-style horror.
This review is part of a series I am doing to review all the Amicus horror films. You can check out all the reviews from links at this page: Amicus Films – overview
The Last Exorcism – (2010) – movie review The Last Exorcism is a mock-documentary about a popular evangelist preacher, ‘Cotton’ Marcus, who is part showman, part spiritual cheerleader. He brings a reporter and cameraman into his world to show them the inner workings and daily activities of a bible-belt preacher. He admits to the reporter that although he has spent many years preaching and doing exorcisms, he does not believe in demons, ghosts or other worldly entities. A personal crisis with his own son coincides with a tragic event in Texas where a young boy was killed during an exorcism event. This event was the epiphany that made Cotton Marcus want to reveal himself as a showman, as well as, all the other self-proclaimed preachers doing exorcisms in the south. Cotton hopes to expose the falseness of exorcisms so that people will understand that they should not put their children at risk in the hands of preachers over medical professionals. Cotton invites the news crew on an exorcism, picked randomly from a stack of letters requesting spiritual intervention on behalf of loved ones. They travel to the Sweetzer farm in the Deep South to perform this exorcism charade upon a teenage girl. The film then twists and turns leading the viewer to constantly change opinions about the possessed girl as the pendulum swings both ways, in favor for an actual possession, or just a psychologically disturbed teen.
The film is impressively filmed and directed by Daniel Stamm and the lead actor, Patrick Fabian (Cotton Marcus), is charismatic and entertaining. Likewise, Ashley Bell delivered a convincing performance as Nell, the possessed teen. In most exorcism films, it is all about the last 20 minutes but this one has creepy scenes and chills that held my interest throughout. In fact, the exorcism starts about halfway through the film. The Last Exorcism has a bizarre ending like no other exorcism movie. While some viewers did not like the surprise ending, I did like it. It took a familiar film genre and entwined a new aspect into it. There have been many exorcism films made in the last 10-12 years. I like this one better than most of the glossy, slick production films of the same genre that have been released.
House of the Devil is a creepy supernatural thriller that exudes dark atmosphere and suspense. Director, Ti West, writes/directs the film with the feel of 1970’s or early 1980’s films. From the opening title – the film’s title appearing suddenly upon a freeze frame image – to the character development unique to the 1970’s, to it’s occult themes, this film is a successful throwback while displaying originality in concept and story. The film is set in the early 1980’s time period, made evident by payphones, a walkman cassette player, and the automobiles. Two featured songs are dated to early 1980‘s: “One Thing Leads to Another” by The Fixx (1983) and “They Don’t Write em‘/The Break-up Song” (1981) by the Greg Kihn Band.
Samantha Hughes accepts a babysitting job in the countryside for an eccentric couple. The mansion is eerily quiet when the couple departs and Samantha tries to entertain herself during the lingering hours. The only thing on Television is news coverage of the full lunar eclipse event happening that very night. Samantha does not know that the occurrence is linked to her arrival at the home and she will soon be thrown into the spotlight of a supernatural event by satanic worshippers.
House of the Devil is an anxious slow-burn, building suspense as discrepancies discovered in the home give Samantha substance to her rising suspicions. The film uses the 1970’s style character development, allowing the viewer to get fully engrossed and empathetic to Samantha’s situation. Samantha, (Jocelin Donahue) a likable character that you hope will survive the ultimately evil plot. This was the first film by Ti West I had seen. Because I liked it so much I proceeded to purchase two of his other films, The Innkeeper and The Roost, which I will review at a later date. If you are a fan of 70’s horror, Hammer films, dark atmosphere and occult themes – or – if you’re just tired of explosions, CGI and all action and no substance in modern movies, you will want to check out House of the Devil.