JWM SPOOKATHON 2017: The Fly (1958)

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A scientist has a horrific accident when he tries to use his newly invented teleportation device. (IMDb)
Starts off as a uniquely compelling murder mystery (more of a whydunit than a whodunit) but only goes downhill once the flashback begins, as the sci-fi intrigue and horror is tarnished by the annoying Andre (“You said you were frightened by progress. I’m filled with the wonder of it.” *eyeroll*) and his incompetent damsel in distress wife, cheesy effects (see the ridiculous fly hand), a bloated sequence of an attempt at catching a fly, and an unintentionally laughable climax (“Help meee”).
6/10 (Mediocre)
CREEPY QUOTE: “I shall never forget that scream as long as I live.” – Inspector Charas

SPOOKY STILL: the-fly-1958-750

 

JWM SPOOKATHON 2017: The Last Man on Earth (1964)

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When a disease turns all of humanity into the living dead, the last man on earth becomes a reluctant vampire hunter. (IMDb)
Price’s great turn (see his masterful laugh-turned-sob, badass record-play during the barrage, perfect opening line-“Another day to live through. Better get started”-though the narration is at times redundant) within a tastefully chilling setting (the vampires aren’t overplayed) and a nicely crafted flashback make for a strong first two acts. The final one is weaker, unfortunately, despite a good twist (“you’re a legend”), with its annoying distressed damsel and sloppy action-climax.
7/10 (Good)
CREEPY QUOTE: “How many more of these will I have to make before they’re all destroyed? They want my blood. Their lives are mine. I still get squeamish.” – Robert Morgan
SPOOKY STILL: img_1899

 

JWM SPOOKATHON 2017: The Bat (1959)

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A crazed killer known as “The Bat” is on the loose in a mansion full of people. (IMDb)
There’s not much 50s horror cheese to speak of here, save for the villain (those claws just seemed really impractical) and some action sequences, and what is here is overwhelmed by the refreshing female protagonist (the dryly witty Cornelia), engaging dual-mystery (even if its big reveal went unexplained), and consistently solid dialogue and acting (Doc and Mr. Fleming plotting murder is an early highlight, Cornelia’s summation an ending one: “You can hide money, but you can’t hide murder”).
7/10 (Good)
CREEPY QUOTE:
John Fleming: “What would you do for half a million dollars?”
Dr. Malcolm Wells: “Anything short of murder.”
John Fleming: “Why not murder?”
SPOOKY STILL: the-bat-04

 

House on Haunted Hill (1959)

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A millionaire offers $10,000 to five people who agree to be locked in a large, spooky, rented house overnight with him and his wife. (IMDb)
After the unnerving opening sequence, it’s mostly just an awkwardly staged melodrama with cheesy dialogue and scares and confusing characters (Vincent’s villain vacillating between sinister and clueless being the worst of them), until an excellent couple of climactic twists (marred only by one ridiculously incompetent damsel in distress) tie things together in a surprisingly satisfying manner that even the rational Dr. Trent would approve of… if he survives the night, that is! Mwahaha.
6.5/10 (Alright)

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

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There is panic throughout the nation as the dead suddenly come back to life. The film follows a group of characters who barricade themselves in an old farmhouse in an attempt the remain safe from these flesh eating monsters. (IMDb)
Painful dialogue and performances and unlikable characters (see the hysterical Barbra and brash Ben who punches her out) amidst dumb drama (see the repetitive cellar debate) and lazy exposition (see the lengthy news reports) are redeemed to a remarkable extent by the delightfully deadly climax (featuring a grotesque zombie feast over a grating soundtrack) and despairing denouement marked by a poignantly unassuming note of dramatic irony dragged out in the unique still-shots ending credits.
6.5/10 (Alright)

The Alligator People (1959)

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A woman in a hypnotic state recounts to two doctors the details of a horrific experience from her past life that began with the mysterious and sudden disappearance of her husband. (IMDb)
The sudden husband disappearing act to begin the story here sets a great tone for what could have been an engaging horror-mystery, set within an intriguing psychological study narrative framework. Unfortunately, the answers are revealed much too quickly and stated much too plainly for it to ever really have an impact. Unexceptional performances and laughable makeup and costumes (the atrocious alligator head ruins what could have been a decent ending) do nothing to cover for this poor writing.
5/10 (Poor)

The Shining (1980)

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A family heads to an isolated hotel for the winter where an evil and spiritual presence influences the father into violence, while his psychic son sees horrific forebodings from the past and of the future. (IMDb)
Wooden scenes of banal dialogue and trivialities start up an innocent plot that gets increasingly spotted with surrealist imagery both macabre and bizarre as more concrete cabin fever character tension slowly builds. The impending horror infuses the most vapid of scenes (riding a tricycle, throwing a ball, preparing dinner) with a thrilling uneasiness, amplified by the screeching soundtrack. It’s a masterfully crafted film perfected by superb acting and stunning cinematography.
9/10 (Amazing)