Following Arrow’s recent releases of gothic Bava classics Black Sunday, Baron Blood and Lisa and the Devil, it’s about time to revisit Black Sabbath, the film that gave Ozzy’s band its name. Bava’s 1963 movie is one of the earlier examples of that now entirely exhausted narrative device, the anthology, though remains far more entertaining than the myriad newer attempts.
Black Sabbath tells three tales: the gloriously windswept Boris Karloff vehicle The Wurdulak, based on a Tolstoy novella about the undead; the early precursor to the Giallo explosion, The Telephone; and the Victorian ghost story The Drop of Water.
All three are packed with striking images, memorable use of lighting and shocking moments, particularly the classy tale of a woman stalked by an old acquaintance in The Telephone. With both the European version and the vastly-altered English-language version included alongside a hamper of extras, this is candy for the horror enthusiast.
Also creeping malevolently out of the annals of time, we have British director Kevin Connor’s surprisingly great Motel Hell, offering a downright silly take on the Texas Chainsaw premise with a darkly comic view on Southern hospitality.
Western favourite and Hell Comes to Frogtown star (yes!) Rory Calhoun plays a seemingly charming farmer who also runs a motel in the middle of nowhere. Thing is, when people come to stay, they tend not to leave.
So, Farmer Vincent, as he’s known, puts together his own ‘special sauce’ that makes the meat he sells particularly tasty as a variety of unknowing victims wander to their doom. Everyone involved seems to be having a barrel of laughs with this oddly touching tale of a slightly strange family doing what it can to help God with his work. Pretty much what the phrase ‘cult cinema’ was invented for, Motel Hell is a gleeful romp through horror clichés.
Speaking of clichés, you may have heard of the latest Nazi zombie movie riding on the coat-tails of Dead Snow and Iron Sky, Devils of War. Set in Poland in 1944, a small team of US soldiers takes on an occult branch of the Third Reich before they can raise some nasty demon or other, the naughty people that they are.
Cheap in every sense of the word, Devils of War boasts terrible acting, a terrible script, terrible direction and an overwhelming sense of kill-me boredom, leaving its accumulated terribleness too bad to even get on the ‘so bad it’s good’ list.
Much more like how a decent horror should be (so let’s forget the last paragraph, shall we?), we have the chilling debut feature from Belorussian director Makinov, Come Out and Play. Makinov himself apparently wears a mask when writing and actually filming, as it “helps him to command the wisdom of being one with nothing”. As much as this sounds like a sixth-form drama student wearing a cape in the canteen, this young director is certainly doing something right with his remake of seventies Spanish movie Island of the Damned.
A cross between Lord of the Flies, Hitchcock’s The Birds and any number of zombie films, Come Out and Play follows a thirty something couple holidaying on a Mexican island, only to find that there are no adults, with the island’s children having taken over. As the couple slowly finds out what happened to the grown-ups, subtle, skillful direction, a chilling score also provided by our faceless director and strong performances from actual actors and convincingly disturbing local kids cranks up the tension stylishly.
With a heavily pregnant protagonist adding another layer of paranoia to the overpowering sense of dread, Makinov’s film is the satisfying debut of a potential star of this murky genre.
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