Each day in October, three brave souls from our gang of Groovy Goolies (co-editor Paul Childs, Boardgames Master Aaron Nash and Ultimate Movie Geek Nathaniel Jepson) are watching horror films from around the world and across a wide spectrum of the horror genre, so expect slashers, ghosts, cultists, demons, vampires, cannibals, zombies, kaiju, aliens and more!
Paul’s Choice – The Abominable Dr Phibes (1971)
A brass unicorn has been catapulted across a London street and impaled an eminent surgeon. Words fail me, gentlemen.
Well, that quote just about sums up this entire film. This was my first viewing of The Abominable Doctor Phibes – I think it definitely deserves a further look, mostly so I can wrap my head around what I have just seen!
What I was expecting: A Hammer/Amicus-esque, campy revenge thriller about a mad doctor hunting down the people responsible for his wife’s death.
What I got: Ten minutes of a manic organ recital followed by a jazz number played by an ensemble of life-size clockwork musicians, followed by a Hammer/Amicus-esque campy revenge thriller about a mad doctor hunting down the people responsible for his wife’s death, interpolated with further organ recitals and clockwork jazz shenanigans. Oh, and a man being impaled by a brass unicorn.
I know it’s the next day but I think I need another lie down after that complete head-screw! But all its eccentricities aside, it is a good revenge thriller, albeit a quirky, funny and often quite a gory one. It’s also plain to see, watching this for the first time almost fifty years after it was made, the influence it has had on horror cinema down the ages, the most obvious examples being Se7en and Saw and maybe even Sam Raimi’s first superhero film, Darkman.
Despite being the villain of the piece, and not uttering a word (except via a few lines of recorded dialogue) this film belongs to Vincent Price. It’s the sign of an astonishing performance that I was rooting for Doctor Phibes to fulfil his quest! Such is the charm of this, frankly, abhorrent man, one can’t help draw comparison with Anthony Hopkins’ take on Hannibal Lecter.
Weird, kind of artsy, very campy, wince-inducing and, in places, very funny (deliberately). You owe it to yourself to check this out!
Aaron’s Choice – Halloween H20 (1998)
When creating my list of 31 horror films to watch I said to myself ‘no more than one film per franchise’ then I went back on myself as I felt Halloween H20 deserved a place in the list (even if the new film coming out will erase it from continuity). I doesn’t exactly redefine the franchise in so much as bring it into the modern generation.
Both set and made 20 years after the original film H20 yet again follows Laurie Strode as both she and her son are stalked by Michael. This film ignores parts 3-6 And works as a perfect follow up to number 2. With a tight script and some great direction from genre veteran Steve Miner (who also directed Friday the 13th parts 2 & 3), it is clear why this film did well on release and has continued to be praised by slasher fans.
The cast is full of veteran actors/actresses as well as newcomers who would go on to have massive careers. Such names as Joseph Gordon Levitt, Josh Harnett, Janet Leigh (Jamie Lee Curtis’ mother) and LL Cool J combine on screen to make a nowadays who’s who of cinema. Let’s not forget Jamie Lee Curtis though who reprises the role that really birthed her career. She is amazing and you can feel that it’s the same character. Her evolution in H20 is fascinating as well as being superbly crafted on screen. From hunted to hunter Laurie grows through the picture and is brilliantly crafted.
It’s nice to see that the long lurking shots have returned and that feeling that Michael could be anywhere is still prominent. It also gets rid of all of the silly ideas from 4-6 That Michael is some superpowers demon. We are back to him being a mentally ill person who feels unstoppable but might not be.
This film also makes me wonder what the point of the new sequel coming out is. This film did the whole years later with the same characters and did it incredibly well. It works as both a perfect follow up and a great ending to a trilogy.
Why do it again? The new film could be great but it doesn’t stop the fact it’s pointless. It’s frustrating that the filmmakers have felt the need to erase such a great slasher film from the franchise.
This, in my view, is the only other must-see Halloween film alongside the stunning original.
Nathaniel’s Choice – Damien: Omen II (1978)
Our resident YouTuber is sharing his thoughts via a video every day. Read his review of the satanic sequel, Damien: Omen II, and check out his video below: