Saturday, January 24, 2009

Horror Movie Review: To the Devil a Daughter

To the Devil a Daughter

Starring: Christopher Lee, Richard Widmark, Honor Blackman, Denholm Elliott, Nastassja Kinski, and Anthony Valentine

Directed by: Peter Sykes

Written by: John Peacock, Christopher Wicking, and Gerald Vaughan-Hughes, based on Dennis Wheatley's novel

Production Companies: Hammer Film Productions, Terra-Filmkunst, and Charlemagne Productions

Ah, the Hammer Horror Films. Beautiful, British forays into dark suspense and Gothic tales of terror and from the late 50's to the 70s, they were the goto company for if you wanted to watch something scary. But in the 70s, they were having trouble and To the Devil a Daughter was one of their last films...until recently.

John Verney is an occult writer who is approached by Henry Beddows. Henry entices Verney to assist him with a tale of Satanists who are going to sacrifice his daughter, Catherine. Verney quickly learns that this isn't some mumbo-jumbo as Father Michael Rayner turns his malevolent gaze on Verney and his friends Anna and David to get to Catherine. Can Verney stop the Satanic priest before he summons the Devil with Catherine's blood?

To the Devil a Daughter seems to find itself often compared with earlier films Rosemary's Baby and The Exorcist, which is a disservice to this film. It is not as scary as the two earlier films, but then having a human antagonist is never as scary as the unseen, demonic influences from the other films, so accept that this is more of an adventure and less a spiritual struggle.

So, accepting that...To the Devil a Daughter is an excellent film. Richard Widmark, who plays protagonist John Verney, is compelling as the writer who has to come to grips with the fact that he's living the fiction he's been writing about and has to face the consequences of his arrogance in getting involved. Widmark apparently hated working on this film, but maybe he better appreciated his later foray into horror working on The Swarm.

Anthony Valentine plays Verney's friend David who get impassioned in Verney's quest to stop Father Rayner. Valentine does a fine job, but there wasn't anything compelling about his performance. Valentine had opposed the forces of evil earlier in 1972's the Tower of Evil.

It was interesting seeing Denholm Elliott as someone other than Marcus Brody from the Indiana Jones movies. With this role either I'm learning that he frequently got cast as a kind of bumbling guy who tends to be in over his head. But here he splices in some creepiness not seen in the innocent Brody character and does so quite well.
Elliott starred in Clive Barker's Underworld.

Nastassja Kinski plays the sacrifice Catherine. It was fab watching young Kinski i9n this early role. She played the doe-eyed innocent wonderfully and...well, she gets naked. Kinski also gets hot in the controversial 1982 film Cat People.

But more exciting than watching Kinski was watching Honor Blackman as Anna, Verney'd friend and David's lover. You know Blackman most likely as Pussy Galore from Goldfinger. Not only was she beautiful, but smoothly portrayed the flippant Anna. Blackman also starred in Fright, a British horror film about a babysitter which predates When a Stranger Calls.

Most notable, however, was the intense gaze of Christopher Lee as Father Michael Rayner. It's Christopher Lee...what is there to say...Of course he did great. On the commentary from the disk he commented that the bloody demon newborn was too much, but I do have to disagree with him. It may not have been very realistic, but the concept was very disturbing that helped create a feeling of unease.

My main complaint, other than there could have been more Honor Blackman, is that the ending was abrupt. You are geared up for the climactic end battle and...nothing...It's a good film with some minor flaws. Give it a rent.

Related Trailers

The Swarm starring Richard Widmark

Cat People starring Nastassja Kinski

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Horror Movie Review Preview: To the Devil a Daughter

Coming Soon...To the Devil a Daughter. An American occult novelist battles to save the soul of a young girl from a group of Satanists, led by an excommunicated priest, who plan on using her as the representative of the Devil on Earth.

To the Devil a Daughter

...and suddenly the screams of a baby born in Hell!

Warning! This Motion Picture Contains The Most Shocking Scenes This Side Of Hell!

A Hammer Film Production, To the Devil a Daughter stars famed actors Christopher Lee, Denholm Eliot known for his role as Dr. Marcus Brody in the Indiana Jones movies, and Honor Blackman known best as Pussy Galmore in Goldfinger, and Richard Widmark.

Join us soon to see if To the Devil a Daughter...delivers...

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Horror Movie Review: Prom Night

Prom Night

Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Leslie Nielsen, Casey Stevens, and Anne-Marie Martin

Directed by: Paul Lynch

Written by: William Gray and Robert Guza, Jr.

Production Companies: Quadrant Trust Company and Simcom Limited

Release Date: July 18, 1980

When you sit down to watch a movie 30 years old, you know there are some things that are going to seem dated. Some of the best classic films are able to make it with a minimal of quality degradation due to clear elements of "old skool" style and topical material.

But if my only complaint about the original Prom Night was that it's dated, I could still say it was a good movie. But I can't...

Six years ago, a girl died accidentally during a cruel game in an abandoned building. A supposed killer is hunted down and gets severely burned in an accident, but the responsible children, in a pact to keep the truth quiet, go on with their lives.

Until it's time for the senior prom. The convicted killer has escaped from a mental hospital and the children involved in the game are getting threatening phone calls. As the police try and catch the escaped mental patient and the teenagers get ready for the prom, someone is stalking the teens and killing them unbeknownst to everyone.

It sounds like a promising, if not a bit mundane, plot. We've seen some variation of that film a dozen times over. Halloween, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Scream all have similar plot elements and all entertaining. It did come across here for Prom Night.

Now, the disco used in the movie, naturally, makes the film feel dated, and watching Jamie Lee Curtis play some kind of High School Prom-Dance Queen certainly was difficult to watch. I'm a fan of Curtis horror films, possibly giving her too much credit for my love of Halloween, but she doesn't come through here. So it's probably best that, despite the fact that Curtis gets top billing and is featured on current DVD covers for the film, she really doesn't have any larger role than any of the other victims in the film. In fact Anne-Marie Martin, who plays Wendy Richards, seems to have the larger role.

But in the end, who has the larger role doesn't matter, and the overlong disco dance scene doesn't take anything away because the film just isn't scary. The kills are too quick preventing us from getting worked up. They're fairly boring kills that don't stun us, and gore isn't used at all so we don't become disquieted. The killer in his typical bank robber cotton mask isn't intimidating. And while a good job is done of spronkling red herrings about who the killer is, when you see who it is you're left wondering why Curtis's life was in danger at all.

If you want good Jamie Lee Curtis, stick with Halloween or The Fog and skip her role as Kim Hammond in this film. I'm going to check out her role in the lesser known Terror Train with a plot very similar to Prom Night with 6 friends responsible for a prank gone wrong find themselves victims of a masked killer.

It was interesting seeing Leslie Nielsen pull off a decent performance as Kim's father and principal of the school, especially considering you could also see him that same year in Airplane!. But Neilsen also appeared in the 1977 horror Day of the Animals in which hikers encounter a chemically imbalanced forest.

Casey Stevens did a nice job as Nick McBride, the boy caught between Prom Queen Kim Hammond and Queen Bitch Wendy Daniels. Unfortunately, this was Stevens's last hollywood film.

Anne-Marie Martin was fun to watch as the manipulative Wendy Richards. She reunited with Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween II.

Hopefully the remake will be better.

Related Movie Trailers

Prom Night Remake starring Brittany Snow

Terror Train starring Jamie Lee Curtis

Day of the Animals starring Leslie Nielsen

Halloween II starring Jamie Lee Curtis with Anne-Marie Martin

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Horror Movie Review Preview: Prom Night

Coming Soon...Prom Night. A masked killer stalks four teens, responsible for the accidential death of a child six years earlier, at their high school's senior prom.

Prom Night

If you're not back by midnight...You're not coming home.

...Some will be crowned, others will lose their heads.

A prom queen's dreams turn to screams.

This year Prom Night will be a scream.

A killer waits at the high school dance.

The night someone came to the prom alone.

For some, it's the end of innocence. For others, it's the End!

Starring Jamie Lee Curtis, Leslie Nielsen, Casey Stevens, and Anne-Marie Martin, Prom Night was nominated for Best Achievement in Film Editing and Jamie Lee Curtis was nominated for Best Performance by a Foreign Actress in the 1981 Genie Awards in Canada. It has received a 5 star out of 10 rating on IMDB and 3.3 out of 5 stars on Netflix.

Join us soon to discuss Prom Night and find out...if we get lucky...