Archive for September, 2012


Posted in Uncategorized on September 20, 2012 by Brain Hammer

Not since Deliverance…has the wilderness held such terror!

RITUALS (1977)

Five middle aged doctors in matching yellow hats plan a backwoods getaway for a little much needed r&r. This vacation will also test the limits of the crabby & flabby doctor’s endurance. They are dropped off by seaplane in the middle of nowhere and left to their own devices for the following seven days. The week will be highlighted with an eighty mile hike to the isolated spot where the plane will be waiting.

On the first evening in the woods the doctors (Harry, Mitzi, DJ, Abel, and Martin) stay up all night getting drunk and having arguments about their professional ethics. Harry (Hal Holbrook) and Mitzi (Lawrence Dane, who also appeared in “Happy Birthday To Me”) bicker over how long Harry lets his patients suffer on the operating table before finally pulling the plug on them. Then they begin drunkenly bragging and chanting about being doctors and do their best Frankenstein impressions to mock dying patients. Unfortunately for everyone involved, someone is watching and listening in the woods and doesn’t find the doctor’s antics amusing.

The next morning the doctors wake up and discover their boots are missing. The immediately know something is very wrong and blame roaming theives or “boot freaks.” DJ was the only one who brought an extra pair of boots, and he goes wondering off to find a hydroelectric dam they had spotted on the map earlier. The remaining doctors stay put and spend the night. They awaken to find a macabre work of art in front of their tents. The same creep who stole their boots returned in the night and left behind a dead deer covered with snakes. The men are horrified, even more so when they see that the macabre work of art bears resemblance to the international cross and snake symbol for doctors.

Boots or no boots, the shaken doctors then decide to head towards the dam looking for DJ. Before they can make much progress somone throws an angry beehive at them and sends them running for lives into the water. Fatty doctor Abel makes the fatal mistake of diving in headfirst and smashes his head on a rock. The gentle boob then drowns before the others can save him. Martin finds DJ’s rope stung up across the river and tries to make the trek across, but steps on a waiting beartrap for his efforts. Once again, the creeper is one step ahead of them.

Harry and Mitzi then have to carry Martin around on a homemade stetcher as they try to make their way to safety. The creeper starts leaving clues to his identity, including a brutal set of Army x-rays dating back to 1945. The doctors now understand that whoever is after them obviously has a burning hatred for doctors and a thirst for revenge. They struggle to keep their heads together but the stress of carrying around their fallen comrade begins wearing them down. Mitzi is left in charge of keeping watch the following night but falls asleep. The next morning they discover the severed head of their buddy Abel on a stick. (Fuck “Wolf Creek!” This was the ORIGINAL “head on a stick” flick!) Harry at that point goes completely insane and chucks the head on a stick off a cliff like a lollipop javelin!

Mitzi is reduced to a blubbering imbecile who can’t stop crying and screaming. Harry on the other hand begins a transformation into a hardened warrior. He also carries most of load hauling around Martin. When they finally make it to the dam they discover it had abandoned years before. Their friend DJ is waiting for them, but he’s tied to a chair and almost dead from bloodloss. This time around Harry is quick to pull the plug on a suffering friend and puts DJ out of his misery. Mitzi is completely disgusted by this and runs off screaming like a woman. Harry then makes another tough decision and decides to leave Martin behind to die instead trying to carry him by himself.

Harry takes shelter in the first cabin he can find. Unfortunately, that cabin belongs to the creeper and his older brother. Harry puts the blast on the old man and then has a wild run in with the creeper that leaves him with a gushing femoral artery. Harry is forced to cauterize the wound by pouring gunpowder into it and lighting it on fire. (“Rambo III” ripped that off big time!) The final excruciating scenes feature a fiery showdown between the Harry and the creeper highlighted with Mitzi being roasted alive! Can Harry finally pull the plug on the creeper? If you go down to the woods today, you’re in for a big surprise!

RITUALS (a.k.a. “The Creeper”) was shot in 1976 but didn’t see an American release until 1978. The film got mixed reviews (the acting was always praised) but was often dismissed as a Canadian “Deliverance” knock off.  The film has gone on to earn a cult following over the years, and one of the reasons this one is considered such a clas-sick is because it combines some incredibly beautiful wilderness locations and genuinely gruesome and unsettling violence. The film ramps up the tension until the final scenes, which are punishingly brutal. The highlight of the film is undoubtedly the legendary head on a stick shot, but the cauterization and burning scenes are also jaw droppers. For a 70′s horror flick this is some truly gruesome, realistic violence. Much credit must be given to the fantastic special make-up by Carl Fullerton (“Friday The 13th” Parts 2 & 3). The Creeper, when we finally get to take a good look at him towards the climax of the film, is one nasty looking bastard.

The other reasons this film is a superior backwoods bloodbath are the acting and the story. As you would expect from a film with Hal Holbrook in the lead, the acting in this movie is excellent. Hilariously, there’s a shot of Hal in this flick that was actually used for the cover of his 1979 soft rock album “On The Road To Soft Gold.” You can’t make stuff like that up folks! The rest of the cast are also top notch. There is a lot of genuine tension between Hal & Lawrence Dane in this one. The way they bicker towards the end of the film feels very real. The story stands out for being exceptionally brutal, but also orignal. The killer’s hatred of doctors and macabre motivation for rural revenge is unique, and it also comes across as real. I also like the fact that a lot of the story isn’t spelled out for you right away, and that you get to experience the film on deeper levels when you watch it again knowing the killer’s motivations.

RITUALS is a truly great horror flick, and after many years of making due with the murky looking, edited tv version of the film (under the title “The Creeper”) in one of those cheap-o “horror collections” from Mill Creek, it was a real treat to finally see an uncut version for the first time! Code Red DVD released a very nice looking, uncut dvd of RITUALS that includes a commentary track with star/producer Lawrence Dane, interviews with Lawrence Dane and star Robin Gammell, and the theatrical trailer. This is a fantastic flick that deserves a larger audience!



Vengeance of the Zombies!

Posted in Uncategorized on September 12, 2012 by Brain Hammer

You will be a feast for our lord Satan! He is waiting…waiting…waiting!!!


This one begins appropriately enough within the confines of a darkened cemetery. A greedy pair of haggard groundskeepers decide to steal the jewels of a recently murdered young countess named Gloria Irving. The bickering couple break into the Irving family crypt and begin helping themselves to the dead girl’s riches. Things take a turn from morbid to the bizarre when a masked madman arrives, locks the couple inside the crypt, and begins performing a black magic ritual! In the name of Baron Samedi, in the name of the five ministers of the reign of Ize, through the Black Lords of the Monte, he orders Gloria Irving to leave her grave and obey him! Gloria then rises from the grave and brings violent death to those who dared desecrate her resting place. The thieves sought after riches and instead found the vengeance of the zombies.

The legendary Paul Naschy plays a popular Indian mystic named “Krisna” (of course!) who offers the public incredible demonstrations of his enlightenment. Krisna teaches all who choose to listen that the body is just ashes, life is just a brightly colored lie, and that the doors of wisdom are open before them. They must free themselves, for Nirvana is near. Because the Master has attained total control over his Prana, he feels no pain when he is burned with ashes or stuck with pins. One of Krisna’s followers is none other than Elvire Irving, the sexy redhead cousin of the now zombified Gloria. The mysterious man in black returns along with zombie Gloria to murder Elvire’s father and uncle. Elvire narrowly escapes being strangled by Gloria, and terrified, she winds up taking shelter with the only person she thinks can protect her – Krisna.

Krisna kindly allows Elvire into his home during her time of tragedy. He reminds her that only through pain can we reach happiness, what we long for. As Elvire drifts off to sleep, she dreams of horrible, disfigured men who tell her she is a fool who has fallen into a trap. She will be a feast for their lord, Satan! Elvire is kissed by the horned lord of Darkness, who proceeds to stab her in the neck and drink her blood from a golden chalice. This horrific dream is eerily prophetic, as Elvire will soon indeed be caught in the middle of a battle over her immortal soul.

Little does Elvire know that Krisna has been secretly hiding his evil twin brother – Kantaka. Kantaka was horribly disfigured after an angry mob set a fire that destroyed his castle, and he uses the diabolical powers of black magic to resurrect the recently deceased female relatives of the people that tried to kill him. The resurrected zombie women then become pawns in Kantaka’s deadly game of revenge. Elvire eventually (and inevitably, because it’s a Naschy flick) becomes romantically involved with Krisna, and a deadly love triangle is created when Kantaka decides that he wants more than her heart.

VENGEANCE OF THE ZOMBIES is a masterpiece of over the top occult themed horror from the dreaded Spanish tag team of director Leon Klimovsky and actor/writer Jacinto Molina (aka Paul Naschy). I’ve been on a tear lately trying to collect as many of these films as I can. This is by far the most strange, shocking, and entertaining of the bunch that I’ve seen. Say what you want about all the unintentional humor, inappropriate lounge music used for score, or the sheer overwhelming cheesiness of these old school Spanish horror flicks – I personally think they possess a creepy and authentic horror atmosphere that rivals many other, far more polished horror films. Director Leon Klimovsky in particular could always be counted on to deliver the goods. I’ve enjoyed every film of his that I’ve seen, with this flick, “Werewolf Versus The Vampire Women,” and “Vampire’s Night Orgy” being three of my personal favorites. Klimovsky’s flicks are always chock full of eerie cavernous castles, freshly unearthed rotting corpses, lots of gory effects and blood, and an abundance of beautiful women. No complaints here.

The late, great Jacinto Molina (aka Paul Naschy) really is an ICON of horror. He will forever be the undisputed king of Spanish horror! Sadly, even after his passing in 2009 he still doesn’t get nearly enough public recognition for the many decades full of clas-sick horror films that he’s written, directed, and starred in. He played every memorable movie monster there ever was. His most famous reoccurring character of corpse was Waldemar Daninsky – the wolf man, who appeared in numerous clas-sicks such as “Night Of The Werewolf,” “Curse Of The Devil,” and “Night Of The Howling Beast.” He’s also appeared as the Devil, Dracula, a mummy, a hunchback, a grave robber, an evil knight, a mercenary, an exorcist, and an assassin! This guy has really done it all.

A lot of Molina’s characters in these occult themed horror films were practitioners of the black arts. Over the years, many of his films featured evil characters that boldly experiment with Satanism, Sorcery, Witchcraft, blood sacrifices, alchemy, immortality, and resurrection of the dead. Molina in real life had studied black magic in order to make his films and characters more authentic. His storylines are always completely wild and over the top. ”Vengeance Of The Zombies” is no exception. There are multiple scenes of black magic ritual, including candles, scantily clad women, and animal slaughter. The twisted tale of a family curse, a brother’s betrayal, and an army of murderous zombie women is the stuff of pure fantasy. Molina said when he wrote the screenplay he must have been “under the effects of hashish, or like Bram Stroker, I’d had one hell of a nightmare.”

Unlike a lot of other Naschy flicks, there are no werewolves or vampires this time around. Instead we are treated to treats such as grave robbing, black masses, masked murder rampages, voodoo, ritual sacrifice, chicken decapitation, the walking dead, and the sight of Naschy as both an Indian mystic, his deformed brother, AND a horned Satan who guzzles blood from a golden chalice! There’s lots of bloody, violent voodoo mayhem in this one, and some very nice nudity provided by some especially HOT looking women, including the lovely leading lady Romy. Krisha’s occasionally gold-painted assistant Kala is played by Mirta Miller (“Count Dracula’s Great Love”), and she is one of the most unbelievably beautiful women I’ve ever seen. This film is a true feast for the Satanic senses!

VENGEANCE OF THE ZOMBIES is now available on a beautifully remastered dvd thanks to the fine fiends at Deimos/Brentwood. The special features include a wonderful introduction from star Paul Naschy, an extensive still gallery of photos and promotional materials, alternative “clothed” versions of the nude scenes, and the US theatrical trailer. Other Paul Naschy clas-sicks also available on dvd from Deimos/Brentwood include “Night Of The Werewolf,” “Horror Rises From The Tomb,” “Exorcism,” Curse Of The Devil,” and “Werewolf Shadow.” Best of all, these flicks can usually be found for cheap. I got both “Vengeance Of The Zombies” and “Night Of The Werewolf” in a double feature set for only $20! Horror fans looking for something a little…different should pick these clas-sicks up as soon as possible.