February 29, 2012

The Ghosts of Motley Hall (1976-1978)

"The series relates the adventures of 5 ghosts who haunt Motley Hall. Each ghost is from a different era and all with the exception of Matt are unable to leave the confines of the building and Matt himself is unable to travel outside the grounds of the Hall."

I just thought I'd post this little piece of nostalgia from my childhood up as I'm sure that there are some people who have never even heard of "The Ghosts of Motley Hall".

It used to be on ITV on Sunday afternoons when I was far too young to really understand it but I watched it anyway. I think it must have helped to warp me into what I am today.

Some of you may recognise Arthur English as Bodkin since he was also in "Are You Being Served" which appears to have a huge American following for reasons which I can't quite fathom. Maybe it's all about Molly Sugden's use of the word "Pussy" and the hilarity which ensues.

Freddie Jones was another very recognisable face from films and TV, but the real big player was Sheila Steafel in the role of The White Lady. I honestly can't even tell today if she was actually pretty or just pretty scary but, either way, she was my favourite character in the series.

I didn't like any of the other actors particularly and absolutely hated the stableboy, Matt, for possibly no other reason than his Northern accent. Being a Southerner tended to create that prejudice in England and I've never really got over it.

Anyway, since some kind soul has uploaded all the episodes of "The Ghosts of Motley Hall" onto YouTube, there's quite a lot there to entertain you should you be in the mood for some rather juvenile British comedy.

The scenario is much like "Beetlejuice" (without the titular character) and even more like a comedic version of "American Horror Story" if you think about it. I wonder if either of those productions was inspired by this one?

February 28, 2012

Building a horror DVD collection

No matter how many horror films you watch on television, Netflix, or the various movie sites on the internet, there will always be some which you have to buy on DVD. Sometimes it's because there is no other choice, but, more often than not, it's because you really like the film and want to own a physical copy of it.

Even if you have a limited budget, before long you will find that you have amassed considerably more DVDs than you realised and then storage will become a problem. Here are some tips.

February 27, 2012

The cost of being a horror fan

If you are new to the horror genre and you start poking around YouTube looking at all the videos of people with huge horror collections then it will undoubtedly make you wonder how much all that stuff is worth. You may start to think that ever being in the same position is beyond you and it will probably make you extremely jealous and discouraged as well.

The truth is that it doesn't really have to cost you anything to be a horror fan. All you have to do is read a few books and watch a few movies and, with the advancements in technology, you can do all that online for free.

Obviously, to be a "horror collector" is another matter. I am not a huge horror collector myself although, yes, I do have a massive horror DVD collection, a few books, toys, autographs, posters and other merchandise which I've acquired over the years. I never set out to do it but it just sort of happened.

In the middle of the 1990s, long before eBay existed, I admit that I went a bit mad at all the car boot sales in England. I bought books and VHS tapes with every penny that I had but it certainly wasn't all horror. I just loved movies of all kinds and, fairly quickly, I went from owning 4 pre-recorded VHS tapes to 40, then 400, until, finally, ten years later, I had around 3000 tapes. The cost wasn't so much financial, as I didn't pay more than a few pounds for each one, but the time and space needed to store everything.

Of course, moving to America meant that I had to let most of that go. I bought a lot of replacements on DVD, gave stuff away left, right and centre, and even burnt some of it. Yes, I can imagine how much the thought of destroying collectibles may horrify you but, trust me, some of the things I had really should never have existed in the first place.

Over the last four years, I tried to avoid collecting again. Collecting is a sickness which isn't far from hoarding except that it usually involves a desire to organise and catalogue everything. Essentially, you become a museum curator of a load of crap which is really only of interest to you.

Anyway, I was almost free of surrounding myself with junk when I discovered Big Lots and their $3 DVDs, and then pawn shops with 4 for $10 deals. The temptation was too great to resist and so I began buying again but certainly not to the same extent as before. I limited myself to one or two DVDs a week and things were fine.

But, sometimes, I've started to want it all again. Rather, I want it all but I don't really want the same things which I already got rid of. Basically, there are some horror movies which I absolutely loathe and have no desire to ever watch again but, if I was ever to become a serious collector, I'd have to buy them for completeness. So I've stopped myself before it got out of control. I even sold 150 of my DVDs at a yard sale.

It's bad enough watching horror movies compulsively without having to hunt down every single title for a tiny moment of satisfaction when the DVD goes into its place on the shelf. That's a bit sad really and even I can see the madness in it.

I have worked out that during my entire life, I've probably spent close to $100,000 on my horror obsession. I probably spent four times that amount smoking so it's not a big deal really. If I'd had to spend it all in one go though, it would have been crippling.

Nowadays, I've noticed that a lot of younger horror fans have collections of what appear to be every horror DVD and VHS in existence and I wondered how that was even possible. Remember that I had to wait for most of these movies to appear in cinemas and then get a VHS or DVD release. Kids today are spoiled as they can buy the whole back catalogue of horror movies in one go if they have enough money and, let's face it, it's a finite collection as there aren't any good horror movies coming out anymore.

So what does it cost to acquire every horror movie ever made? Depending on where you shop, I estimate that you could now have all of them for $1500 to $2000. Books are a different matter but, then again, nobody reads books anymore anyway. For another $500 or so, you could buy enough little dollies, posters and t-shirts to really make yourself look hardcore and therein lies a problem.

I don't believe that the new generation of horror fans are really into the genre as much as just buying all the props to make it look as if they are. They have no discernment and there's far too much of what I call "hipster bullshit", praising the lamest films they can find just because the titles or artwork on the DVDs amuses them. I don't get it.

We've all seen the collectors with their unopened action figures, shrink-wrapped comic books and such, but what never ceases to amaze me is the number of them with still sealed DVDs of movies which they have never watched and, in all likelihood, will never watch either. It's one thing to be a horror collector but it's another thing entirely to actually have watched every horror movie and read every horror book.

When I see some 20-something horror fans showing off on YouTube with all their gear, I feel a bit sorry for them because it will take them another 20 years to have been entertained by it all. The true cost of being a horror fan is time.

If, by some fluke, I suddenly had $3000 to waste recklessly on horror movies, you can be sure that my own collection would magically transform itself into something that would make video rental stores envious instead of being made up of only the best films which I have sifted out from the chaff. The big difference between me and a horror collector is that all my stuff is nothing more than a reflection of things which I've used to entertain myself. Horror is not my life although I've certainly spent enough of my life on it.

Okay, so I'm getting a bit ranty about things here, but the point I'm trying to make is that if you want to be a serious horror fan then you have to invest more than a couple of thousand dollars into a room full of DVDs and VHS tapes. You should choose your movies carefully, watch them, enjoy them and toss the ones you don't like.

My advice is to watch and read everything but only keep the things which you know will entertain you again later on. Horror books and movies aren't some great works of art, they are just entertainment. Making them out to be anything more than that will cost you not only your time and money but also your credibility as well.

February 26, 2012

Superstition (1982)

(AKA The Witch)

"A witch put to death in 1692 swears vengeance on her persecutors and returns to the present day to punish their descendants."

Although this was quite a popular video to rent back in the early '80s, I thought of it as just another Amityville clone with a clichéd story about a witch coming back from the dead. Having seen the far superior "Black Sunday" (1960), I was not impressed.

As you know, I've been looking at a lot of VHS collections recently to see what people are still into since new horror movies have dried-up completely. One of the titles which VHS fans all raved about was "Superstition" but I took it with the same huge pinch of salt that I usually reserve for anyone talking about crappy Dario Argento movies.

Having watched it again last night to see if I had been missing anything, "Superstition" was actually worse than I remembered. It's essentially little more than a predictable slasher film with laughable special effects as well.

The acting was particularly bad and the story served only as padding between the various gore scenes. I admit that the amusing gore was welcome but, as I've often said, if you don't care about the characters then it really has no value.

A lot of people moan about this film not being on DVD when in fact it has been out in the UK (uncut) for ages. I'm not sure about the Anchor Bay US release since I'm not part of the loop and they don't send me any free DVDs to review (unlike some of the even crappier review sites on the internet). I assume that it must be out of print again now like so many others.

I've actually reached the point where I'm so bored that I wouldn't mind a few screeners especially from Lionsgate who seem to be sitting on a huge back catalogue of crappy '80s horror movies. I'm sure they would go down really well as some kind of compilation set even in this age of people downloading everything for free and not buying as many films on physical media anymore.

If "Superstition" was part of a "4 horror movie multi-pack" along with "The Witch Who Came from the Sea" (1976) and a couple of other witchcraft-themed "video nasties" then I'd actually recommend it as cult viewing, but alas, on its own, it's just a bit too dated and average.

February 25, 2012

The biggest collection of horror VHS tapes ever!

Quite by accident, I found this collector on YouTube. He estimates that he has over 2,200 horror VHS tapes (a lot of them are duplicates of the same films). I think he probably has a lot more than that.

If you ever wondered what that number of VHS tapes would look like in the flesh, check out the rest of his videos at KandJHorrordotcom.

Strangely enough, I don't feel at all jealous when seeing a collection like this. In 2005, I had a similarly sized VHS collection which, before I gave all the tapes away, was a huge burden to me especially when I had to keep finding new places to store it all in. I've lost count of the number of bookcases and storage cabinets which I bought over the years.

Storage space is obviously an issue if, like "J", you just collect every horror title with no discernment between good or bad movies, although with VHS tapes being practically worthless nowadays anyway, there's no good reason not to do exactly the same thing if you feel like it.

My only suggestion, should you decide to start collecting, is to buy all your shelving first and dedicate a whole room to your tapes and/or DVDs. Go floor to ceiling all the way around and BE VERY SELECTIVE with the films you choose to buy.

Ten reasons why Halloween 5 sucked!

Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989) sucked!

1. It looked cheaply made like a TV movie and had numerous continuity errors.

2. It completely wasted the potential of the setup at the end of "Halloween 4".

3. Rachel (Ellie Cornell) was killed off way too early and then replaced by the annoying Tina (Wendy Kaplan).

4. Loomis (Donald Pleasence) was tired, unstable and really unlikeable.

5. Jamie (Danielle Harris) was a mute for most of the film.

6. There was no point whatsoever to the "Man in Black".

7. Michael Myers cried!

8. The bumbling cops accompanied by clown music were completely unnecessary as comic relief.

9. The few kills were badly done and very unimaginative.

10. The ending was piss-poor.

On the plus side, at least it had kittens in it.

February 24, 2012

Miami Horror (1985)

(AKA Miami Golem)

"A Miami TV reporter is sent to a local university to do a story on a professor who is cloning a cell from DNA found inside a meteorite."

Since I'm sure that a lot of you who read my previous post have wondered what "Miami Horror" is all about, here's a quick review.

Basically, it's a low-budget, sci-fi/action film with David Warbeck in it and it isn't a good one either.

As you can hear in the clip which I posted above, the theme music sounds a bit like Jan Hammer's "Miami Vice" and threatens to become even more like Harold Faltermeyer's "Axel F" from "Beverley Hills Cop" at any moment.

Obviously, the box artwork (right) also reflects the same style as "Miami Vice" just to fool stupid people (like me). Yes, I admit that I bought this because I thought it might be some kind of parody/horror version of that classic '80s TV show too. I was misled.

Other than being set in Miami, there was no similarity whatsoever between this and the antics of Crockett and Tubbs. Instead, it was all just a really crappy Italian produced and directed combination of "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" and "E.T." (yes, even crappier than those two which are already utter crap themselves as far as I'm concerned).

The only horror came in the form of a telekinetic, pickled alien foetus in a jar which, of course, isn't scary at all unless you are actually a pickled alien foetus with claustrophobia. Somehow it was controlling people like some shrivelled-up Jedi and growing in power, but what it's ultimate goal was is anyone's guess. The whole story was so confusing and badly written that I really have no idea how to explain it to you.

Between all the terrible acting and dialogue, the rest of the film was nothing but chases, shoot outs, and more terrible acting. There was even a brief bit of nudity from David Warbeck's psychic sidekick, Laura Trotter, who wasn't all that hot to be brutally honest. She wasn't as horrible looking as some people might say but she just wasn't my type and I didn't like her character.

Since someone else has posted the only good part of the entire movie on YouTube, I'll include it below so you can say that you've seen this rubbish.

For some reason which I can't get my head around, a mint condition copy of this crapfest is worth $50 to some collectors. The box on mine isn't in the best condition (there's a bit of the top flap torn off) but the tape inside is perfect (just in case some nutter wants to buy it from me). I bought this for 50c and I deeply regret spending that 50c.

I don't recommend "Miami Horror" to anyone except those hipsters who try to make out that such lameness is cool. In fact, I encourage anyone who believes in their guff to watch this film and then come back to me and argue why they think it's good just so that I can call them a moron.

February 23, 2012

My tiny VHS collection

A lot of you may wonder how I live. A few nasty buggers may even wonder why I live. I have nothing much to say to the latter, but the first answer is carefully. I've never had a lot of money after all the bills have been paid each month, so sometimes I've bought movies on VHS (for $1 or less each) rather than on DVD.

In the last year, I have acquired almost 120 movies on VHS which I would never have even bothered watching if the now obsolete media hadn't fallen to such a low price. Often, when I go to my local pawn shop to see what horrors have turned up there on DVD (especially in the 4 for $10 section), I find myself distracted by the boxes of VHS goodness and bring a few home with me. I don't always buy horror VHS, so without further ado, here's a look at my collection.

I bought the bookcase from either Family Dollar or Dollar General (I can't remember which it was) for $19.99 just under 4 years ago. I wish they still had them, but I've searched all over for another one without any luck. I now have twice as many VHS tapes as will fit on one bookcase and I can no longer display them upright like books. VHS collecting purists would have you believe that "like books" is the correct manner (and you also have to rewind them). Yeah, right. I used to keep my British VHS collection in special drawers from Argos and Woolworths, and nothing bad ever happened to them, so storing them this way round isn't a problem. Storing them flat would, however, be another matter.

As you can see, I have them in alphabetical order... mostly. I also don't have a lot of horror VHS tapes, which may come as quite a surprise. My VHS collecting philosophy has been to only buy movies which I would never, in my right mind, ever buy on DVD. So, crap like comedies, romances and throwaway Summer action movies are never going to be double-dipped (as entertaining as they may be). The stories aren't going to improve by seeing them a bit clearer, and I'm never likely to watch any of these films again anyway.

I'll briefly go through why I bought some of them, but I'm not going to list them all as you can just click on the pictures themselves for an enlarged view.

Top Shelf

I have no idea why I bought "2001: A Space Odyssey" because it bores me to tears and I don't get it. Maybe I hoped that it would make more sense now that I'm older, but it doesn't.

Obviously, because I'm British, I had to have the Austin Powers movies, but I still don't have the third one for some reason. I thought I had it, but obviously not.

I thought about getting "Basic Instinct" on DVD, but it's one of those films where you only need to see it once. I actually saw it in the cinema when it came out, so it's just in my collection for nostalgic reasons. The same can be said of "Cliffhanger", "Demolition Man", "Face/Off", and "The Fugitive".

I also have the best Connery Bond film, "From Russia with Love", even though I have the whole collection on DVD anyway, and a couple of crappy horror movies. No, I don't mean "Bride of Chucky" which I actually quite like.

Middle Shelf

There are a few horror films among all the horrible films on this shelf which I might buy on DVD one day. Obviously it won't be either of the "I Know What You Did" films because they suck. They sucked when I saw them at the cinema in the '90s, and they suck even more now.

I only bought "Jurassic Park" and its sequel, "The Lost World", because I like dinosaurs. The effects were great at the time but the stories themselves were a bit weak. The kids in the first one make me cringe, especially the girl with her embarrassing, "I know this, it's a Unix system!" line.

I also have "Psycho" and "Psycho IV" still on VHS because I prefer them that way. I don't think I'd get anything more out of either movie if they were upgraded to a higher definition. One is in black and white anyway while the other was made for American (4:3 ratioed/Fullscreen) TV.

I wish that I hadn't even paid a dollar for "Run Lola Run" because it's dubbed not subtitled. I hate that more than anything else when it comes to foreign movies. It's a good job that I watched it on Channel Four years ago. It's not a bad film, but ultimately, it's still only worth watching once... or not at all since it's dubbed.

Bottom Shelf

And, finally, on the bottom shelf, there's the "Scream" trilogy. I don't even acknowledge the fourth movie (in the same way that "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" or the Star Wars prequel trilogy will never exist in my world either).

I have two copies of "Shattered Silence" due to the ridiculousness of the first one I bought being in EP mode. I'd never encountered such a thing before and assumed all retail VHS tapes to be in SP. Obviously, it was too fuzzy and unwatchable so I bought another one.

There are a few "classics" on this shelf including "Speed", "Starship Troopers", "Total Recall" and "True Lies", but there are also some which should never have been made in the first place such as "Series 7", "Star Crystal" (which is turned the wrong way round to remind me to actually finish watching it one day), and "Werewolves on Wheels". In spite of the amusing title, at no point do you get to see hairy werewolves riding motorcycles, which is a shame.

I have a few good horror movies on this shelf which, again, I may upgrade to DVD one day, but only if I get them cheaply enough.

So there you have it, my tiny VHS collection as of 2012. I used to have nearly 2000 VHS horror movies when I was in Britain, but I gave them all away before moving. I don't miss them (or the fear of one day dying in a pool of melted plastic if there was ever a fire), and I've already replaced them with the DVD equivalents.

Do you still collect VHS?

February 22, 2012

The Woman in Black (1989)

"When a friendless old widow dies in the seaside town of Crythin, a young solicitor is sent by his firm to settle the estate. The lawyer finds the townspeople reluctant to talk about or go near the woman's dreary home and no one will explain or even acknowledge the menacing woman in black he keeps seeing. Ignoring the towns-people's cryptic warnings, he goes to the house where he discovers its horrible history and becomes ensnared in its even more horrible legacy."

As you may have already guessed, I have no absolutely no interest in watching Harry Potter in the 2012 version especially since it's another remake by the new incarnation of Hammer. Haven't they done enough damage to the Hammer name by remaking "Let the Right One In" and "Pet Sematary" (yes, I mean "Wake Wood")?

So, instead of getting myself ripped-off at the cinema by watching a story that I've already seen before (when it was shown on television over 20 years ago), I decided to watch the ITV version again. I wasn't stupid enough to pay over $125 for a DVD or VHS tape of it either since it's all over YouTube (at least for now).

I don't have a lot to say about "The Woman in Black". It's a ghost story, as you already know, a bit slow for most people's tastes, and it reeks of ITV trying to clone the more successful BBC's "Ghost Stories for Christmas". It even aired originally on Christmas Eve in 1989.

The way it was filmed made it look a lot like the M.R. James stories in particular, but it was just sort of soulless in comparison. Having a lot of recognisable TV faces probably didn't help much either especially David Daker who played the comedic Harry in "Boon" (1986) which I'm sure everybody watched religiously back in the day.

The acting was okay so the fault lies more with the story itself not really being all that interesting. Apart from one scene, it wasn't all that scary either but "that scene" is certainly up there with the little Glick boy floating through the window in "Salem's Lot" (1979) in terms of shit-yer-pants-scariness.

It appears that "The Woman in Black" was based on a book (and a stage play) by Susan Hill. I've never read it or heard of Susan Hill either before or since so I have nothing to say about that at all. Nigel Kneale of "Quatermass" fame wrote the screenplay and, to be fair, it's about as good as anything else he ever did.

The bottom line is that if you are in the mood for a period ghost story which looks a bit like "The Others" (2001) and even more like "Whistle and I'll Come to You" (1968), "The Treasure of Abbot Thomas" (1974) or "A View from a Hill" (2005) then you'll probably enjoy this one too.

February 21, 2012

Why do I have two copies of Asylum on VHS?

"A young psychiatrist interviews four inmates in a mental asylum to satisfy a requirement for employment. He hears stories about 1) the revenge of a murdered wife, 2) a tailor who makes a suit with some highly unusual qualities, 3) a woman who questions her sanity when it appears that her brother is conspiring against her, and 4) a man who builds tiny toy robots with lifelike human heads."

"Asylum" (1973) isn't exactly my favourite Amicus film or anything. In fact, I've fallen asleep three times trying to get through it because it's actually rather boring. Not even Peter Cushing can save this one.

I just have two copies because I bought one from the local pawn shop and somebody where I used to work gave me their copy. I'm not surprised that they didn't want it either. The rating on the IMDb is 6.4 but I would only give it half of that.

Amusingly, the second copy starts by announcing that it is a Criterion release. As somebody who has never bought into those overpriced Criterion DVDs, I now own a Criterion VHS tape. I have no idea if it's the same company or not though. It says "Interglobal Home Video" on the box and my research shows it to be from a Canadian company which was notorious in the '80s for badly transferred, low-budget films.

I have a suspicion that the Prism version may actually be some kind of collectible due to its artwork having virtually nothing to do with the movie itself. It can't be worth more than the $1 that I paid for it though as the cardboard is creased and torn. I still can't get my head round why American VHS tapes came in such ridiculous and easy to damage packaging rather than the proper plastic cases like we had in the UK.

February 20, 2012

Felidae (1994)

"After his owner relocates, the cat Francis in involved in a series of cat murders in the new neighbourhood. Francis tries to solve the murder cases with others - including Claudandus, a very knowledgeable and old cat."

Although the subject matter belongs on my horror cats blog, it's an adult German cartoon so I've decided to say something about it here instead.

Containing a lot of film noir elements and some very weird looking cats, "Felidae" was an amusing way for me to waste 82 minutes of my life especially as the most horrific thing about it was that, in spite of a lot of hype on certain forums, it wasn't actually very good.

The dubbing was okay but the dialogue was awful in places and the story wasn't much better. It was all a bit too ridiculous. When the cats were actually behaving like cats, it was almost great. Overall, though, it was a little bit too far-fetched and poorly animated to be enjoyable.

The best part was the theme song by Boy George:

At least it didn't cost me anything since I watched the whole thing on YouTube but "Felidae" isn't something which I would recommend to anyone except the very curious. We all know what curiosity did to the cat.

February 19, 2012

At last, some new horror - Eurovision 2012

I'm baaa-ack!

Well, I finally gave in and have decided to start blogging on here again. I haven't watched any new horror movies and have no interest in the latest Harry Potter ghost story or any of that faux found footage crap, but it's nearly time for the Eurovision Song Contest! Yes, this is real horror!

My favourite to win so far is Gaitana with "Be My Guest".

Ruslana was the last Ukrainian entry who I remember winning and the trumpets in the opening bars of this song homage "Wild Dances".

If Gaitana doesn't win, my second favourite is Ivi Adamou with "La La Love". She's gorgeous.

Don't you think that she looks like a really good mixture of Michelle Rodriquez and Liv Tyler?