This past weekend saw the untimely death of Wayne Crawford at the comparatively young age of 69. Crawford is probably best known for producing such cult classics as Valley Girl and Night of the Comet, but he was also a talented writer, director, and actor. And sometimes, he did it all in the same movie. The 1978 low-budget horror classic Barracuda was one of those times.
Between the success of “The Walking Dead” on television and the campiness of any number of the “X vs. Zombies” movies in theaters (or, more likely, on VOD), zombies are literally everywhere, having invaded every last fiber of popular culture. George Romero’s classic Night of the Living Dead is usually credited with inventing the modern zombie, but the horror trope goes back farther than that. Low-budget movie moguls the Halperin brothers (Ex-Flame) made what most people consider to be the first feature length zombie movie thirty-five years earlier in 1932 when they came up with White Zombie.
When most people think about witches, they automatically envision women. Movies are no different; from the old classic The Witches to the modern masterpiece The Witch, the title characters are usually female. But there are male witches – or warlocks, as they are known – in movies, and 1971’s Simon, King of the Witches is as good of an example of a witch-man movie as one is bound to find.
Actors usually don’t just step into million-dollar roles, they most likely have had to work their way up. Sometimes, they even have to start in horror movies. Everyone knows how Johnny Depp began his career in A Nightmare on Elm Street and how Jennifer Aniston’s first movie was Leprechaun, but even the too-cute and equally talented Brooke Shields made her big screen debut in a horror movie way back in 1976 when she appeared in the cut-rate supernatural slasher Alice, Sweet Alice.
Although it has a fairly rich cinematic history, most American filmgoers only know Austria as the birthplace of Arnold Schwarzenegger. With its close proximity to (and shared language with) Germany, what few Austrian films that find their way to America are often mistaken for German productions. The country is not usually thought of as a hotbed of horror, but last year’s dark horse thriller Goodnight Mommy was Austrian, as was Michael Haneke’s 1997 home invasion nightmare Funny Games (which was remade in English ten years later by Haneke himself for American audiences). In 1983, another legendary Austrian horror film was made, the proto-psycho-slasher with the name that means “Fear” in English, Angst.
In the mid-sixties, writer/director Dan Curtis successfully injected vampires into a soap opera with “Dark Shadows,” a show that not only ran for over twelve hundred episodes, but also spawned a number of tie-in movies, a nineties television reboot, and even a 2012 Tim Burton/Johnny Depp big-budget reboot-of-the-reboot. Curtis was more than just “Dark Shadows,” however; he owned horror on the small screen, with TV movie titles like Scream of the Wolf and Dracula on his resume. He also made a couple of the greatest television horror anthology movies ever – one was the 1975 classic Trilogy of Terror, and the other, the focus of this week’s Cinema Fearité, is the criminally underrated 1977 effort Dead of Night.
On September 19, 1961, Betty and Barney Hill were driving along a road in rural New Hampshire when they were reportedly abducted by extraterrestrials. Four years later, on September 3, 1965, Norman Muscarello saw a UFO while hitchhiking near Exeter, NH, and reported it to police, which resulted in New Hampshire Police Officers Eugene Bertrand and David Hunt also observing the phenomenon. These are two of the most compelling and controversial cases in the annals of UFO encounters, and they are examined in the new documentary Strange Septembers: The Hill Abduction & The Exeter Encounter.
The horror and science fiction genres have always loved their end of the world movies. From the original comet-crashing 1916 movie The End of the World to more modern dystopic films like The Hunger Games and Divergent, the end of mankind is a solid premise. In 1964, the extinction of humanity by alien invasion was explored in the dramatically titled The Earth Dies Screaming.
On March 10th, 2016, influential keyboardist/composer Keith Emerson died of an apparent suicide. Emerson was best known as a founding member of the prog-rock group Emerson, Lake and Palmer (or ELP for short), but the maestro also dabbled in film scoring. Arguably, his most famous score was the soundtrack to legendary Italian filmmaker Dario Argento’s 1980 classic Inferno.
In 1962, burgeoning young filmmaker François Truffaut approached his idol, the legendary director Alfred Hitchcock, about sitting down for an extended interview about his attitudes and methodologies towards cinema. Truffaut, a critic as well as a filmmaker, asked all the right questions and Hitchcock affably gave all the right answers, and in 1966, the results were published in veritable bible of auteur film theory, a simply titled book called Hitchcock/Truffaut. Now, “The Daily Show” writer Kent Jones has turned those conversations into a movie, the also simply titled Hitchcock/Truffaut.
The internet was in mourning a couple of weeks ago over the death of a talented-yet-underappreciated character actor named Tony Burton. Burton was most recognizable for his role as Duke, Apollo Creed’s corner man who would become Rocky’s corner man, in all of the Rocky movies up until Rocky Balboa. However, in 1976, the same year that the original Rocky was released, Burton had a small-but-pivotal role as a prisoner in an influential horror classic: Assault on Precinct 13.
Last weekend, Hollywood icon George Kennedy passed away at the age of 91. Kennedy won an Academy Award for his performance in Cool Hand Luke, but he was not above taking sillier, less distinguished roles in fun movies; he appeared in all of the Airport series of disaster movies as well as the entire The Naked Gun comedy franchise, and that’s not even mentioning his stint as a regular on the nighttime soap opera “Dallas.” Of course, he also did horror movies, with performances in the noir thriller Strait-Jacket, the schlockfest Brain Dead, and the “Old Chief Wood’nhead” segment of the anthology Creepshow 2. In 1981, Kennedy even appeared in the full-blown slasher movie Just Before Dawn.
After over a decade of waiting, even longer if you’ve wiped the three prequel’s from your mind, Star Wars is back in a big way. Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Episode 7 in the franchise, has arrived, and brought with it a new direction. Like the original films, The Force Awakens is all about myth building and discovery, creating a mystique that slowly unravels as the 2-hour plus space tale unfolds. We see and hear the familiar sights and sounds of the galaxy far, far away, but it isn’t long before it becomes clear that this is Star Wars for the modern age, thanks in part to the gender and race blind casting.
The big difference between the classic horror anthologies of yesteryear and those that are made today is consistency. Today’s anthologies, movies like those found in the V/H/S and The ABCs of Death franchises, have different directors and writers for each segment, so the quality and tone can vary greatly. That’s not the case with the old-school classic anthologies. From 1924’s Waxworks right up to the beloved Creepshow movies of the eighties, horror anthologies were the vision of a single director, one filmmaker who would bring several stories to life by putting his or her personal thumbprint on each one. One of the most fun and forgotten of these classic anthologies is 1983’s Nightmares.