15 November 2017

Gothic Ladies and Ghostly Thrillers

Gothic Ladies and Ghostly Chillers
by Kristin Battestella

Though some are better than others are, these retro monsters, avante garde witches, and not so nice ghosts provide for some unusual humor, bleak atmosphere, and gothic allure – all with a decidedly feminine touch. 

The Love Witch – Artist, witch, and murderess Samantha Robinson's (Doomsday Device) romantic spells go awry in this 2016 comedy written and directed by costumer/producer/Jill of all trades Anna Biller (Viva). Rear projection drives and teal eye shadow establish the tongue in cheek aesthetics while cigarette smoke, colorful lighting schemes, purple capes, and nude rituals accent flashbacks and sardonic narrations. Magic has cured our dame Elaine's nervous breakdown after her husband's death, and she's starting fresh in a quirky tarot themed apartment inside a sweet California Victorian complete with a bemusing chemistry set for making potions with used tampons. Kaleidoscopes, rainbow liners inside dark retro clothing, blurred lenses, and spinning cameras reflect the “vodka and hallucinogenic herbs” as magic bottles, local apothecaries, and pentagram rugs set off the pink hat and tea room pastiche. Our ladies are so cordial when not plotting to steal the other's husband! Her dad was cruel, her husband had an attitude, and her magic guru is in it for the sex, but she's spent her life doing everything to please men in a quest for her own fairy tale love. When is Elaine going to get what she wants? She's tired of letting the childlike men think they are in control, but she puts on the fantasy each man wants nonetheless, impressing a literary professor with her libertine references as the to the camera elocution and intentionally over the top Valley acting mirrors the courting facade. Psychedelic stripteases tantalize the boys onscreen, but the actresses are not exploited, winking at the customary for male titillation while instead providing the viewer with a sinister, if witty nature and classic horror visuals. Different female roles as defined by their patriarchal connections are addressed as ugly old eager dudes tell matching blonde twins that stripping or a rapacious sex ritual will be empowering – because a woman can't be content in herself or embrace sexuality on her own terms unless there is a man to ogle her – while our man eater must break a guy down to the emotional baby he really is for her gain. It isn't Elaine's fault if men can't handle her love! A man not in love can be objective while one wanting sex will excuse anything, and the shrew wife or female black subordinate are put out to pasture for an alluring white woman – layering the women in the workplace and racial commentaries as similar looking ladies must switch roles to keep their man. Tense evidence creates somber moments amid police inquiries, toxicology reports, and occult research – so long as the casework doesn't interfere with their lunch order, that is. Is this woman really a witch or just a bewitching killer in both senses of the word? Is it batting her eyelashes lightheartedness or is she really an abused, delusional girl masking her trauma as a blessed be? The serious topics with deceptive undercurrents and feminist statements will be preachy and heavy handed for most male audiences with uneven pacing and confusing intercuts. However the fake blood in the bathtub, renaissance faire ruses, and melodramatic humor combine for a modern Buffy trippy satire dressed as a retro gothic That Girl homage that takes more than one viewing to fully appreciate.

The ReptileMysterious notes and silent pursuits open this 1966 Hammer tale amid thunderstorms, turn of the century antiques, Oakley Court locales, and villagers not surprised to find another hastily dumped dead body. Scaly attacks and foaming at the mouth fatalities lead to last rites, meager funerals, and tolling bells, but the deceased's brother doubts heart failure as the cause of death on a fit and healthy man. Of course, these townsfolk are not hospitable to strangers, and the inherited cottage is ransacked before the local barkeep suggests the inquisitive newlywed relatives of the departed sell it and move on from these moors instead of poking into unexplained deaths. Carriages, hats, capes, and trains accent the suspicious gothic staples, monstrous secrets, and charming pip pip Englishness as a creepy neighborhood doctor snoops and the amphibious twists escalate. There's a mystique to his daughter Jacqueline Pearce (Blake's 7) and questions on what the titular monster afoot actually is as prowlers lurk, shocked hermits beg for whiskey after an encounter, and horses fear to cross its path. Frothing at the window, leathery skins, greenish hues, and swollen tongues add to the fang bites on the bodies, exhumed corpses, and wild bug eyes when we do glimpse the monster – but it's all excused as epilepsy from the doctor of theology who admits to knowing nothing of medicine. Eerie hear tells of exotic India pasts and cult vengeance create unique Eastern motifs alongside saris, sitars, and mute Indian manservants while harmful flowers, pets in cages, cats in peril, and slicing the bite wounds to drain venom invoke natural dangers. The awkward culprits just want to be left alone, but they can't escape the consequences of the flaky skin, shedding husks, swampy moors, and moist, bubbling nests under the manor. Though similar to The Gorgon, there's a sadness to the ladies and bittersweet explanations justifying the case. The suspense, sword work, fires, and one on one battles are also well done. This may proceed on the gothic formula expected from Hammer, but the unusual mysticism makes up for a lack of bigger Hammer names. My only real complaint is that we don't see Jacqueline Pearce enough. I mean, she's Servalan, people, Servalan.

You Make the Call

A Dark Song – Psalm warnings, beautiful skyscapes, and an old house with no heating paid for up front set this 2016 Irish tale amid the train station arrivals and others backing out on this specific plan with west facing rooms, twenty-two week diets, and purified participants having no alcohol or sex. More fasting, dusk to dawn timetables, serious interviews on why, and reluctant rules of the procedure build the cryptic atmosphere as the price for this dangerous ritual rises – speaking to a dead child isn't some silly astral projection, angel psychobabble bollocks, basic Kabbalah, or easy Gnosticism you can find on the internet. The isolated manor with salt circles and invocations feels seventies cult horror throwback, however the metaphysical talk and extreme meditation bring modern realism as tense arguing, religious doubts, and questions on right or wrong match the bitterness toward the outside world. Hallucinations, sleep deprivation, and vomiting increase while physical cleansings and elemental phases require more candles and blood sacrifices. Some of the slow establishing and ritual minutia could have been trimmed in favor of more on the spooky half truths, suspect motives, need to be pure, and distorted state of mind. Black birds hitting the windows and missing mementos don't seem to get the waiting for angels and forgiveness rituals very far for the amount of time that has passed, and heavy handed music warns us when something is going on even as more should be happening. A third character also seeking something he cannot find may have added another dynamic rather than two extremists getting nowhere, and short attention span audiences won't wait for something to appear in those first uneven forty minutes. After all, with these symbols painted on the body and awkward sex rituals, wouldn't one suspect this is just some kind of scam? Untold information, vengeance, backwards baptisms, near death extremes, and knife injuries meander on the consuming guilt and mystical visions before demons in disguise make for an obvious finale treading tires when the true angels, spirits, and goodness revelations were there all along. Maybe more seasoned hands were needed at the helm or a second eye to fix the pacing and genre flaws, for the quality pieces suffer amid the bleakness. This really shouldn't be labeled as a horror movie, but it doesn't capitalize on its potential as a psychological examination and surreal stages of grief metaphor either.

And if you like Horribly Bad Horrors...

Carnage – Writer and director Andy Milligan (The Rats are Coming! The Werewolves are Here!) has his creepy gothic setting for this 1984 haunt with chandeliers, stained glass, old fashioned candles, and wedding music on the record as the bridal veils and white lace lead to revolvers, blood, and tolling bells. A new carrying across the threshold couple moving in adds lighthearted if amateur dialogue, but the sound is poor and the presentation seems even older than the early eighties – that's either a delayed release or really low budget! The out of service phone rings, dishware is moved, music plays by itself, and unexplained gas stove dangers increase amid barking dogs, knife play, and tool mishaps. While some objects moving by themselves and ghostly appearances are spooky, most attempted frights are laughable – complete with a hysterical maid and convenient burglars to pad the body count as the blood goes from weak trickles to absurd splatter. This story is nothing new, and the plot or ghostly actions don't make much sense. Why go after the housekeeper fast and cruel with strangulation and straight razors when the new owners are getting off comparatively easy with phantom paper and pencil movement? Why kill yourselves if you don't want anyone else to live in your house, then kill people who trespass before inviting others to stay? Most scenes are slow with idle transitions, and comical cutaways to cranky relatives are unnecessary domestic spats with no purpose but to waste time. This production is content to be cheap rather than trying for any horror potential, and after all the poltergeist related deaths, they still hold a housewarming party without telling the guests about the fatal happenings. Attempted comedic bathroom perils misfire because what's meant to be scary has already been funny. This isn't so bad it's unwatchable, but it gets worse as it goes on and viewers can't expect something polished or scary. We never spend enough time with any of the couples or the house itself to understand any of this induced til death allure, and I honestly think the constant barking dog soundtrack was just a production inconvenience. ¯\_()_/¯

14 November 2017

Top Ten: Gerard Butler!

Welcome to our new Top Tens series in celebration of I Think, Therefore I Review's Tenth Anniversary! These monthly lists will highlight special themes and topics from our extensive archive of reviews.

This time I Think, Therefore I Review presents in chronological order...

Our Top Ten Gerard Butler Films!

Please see our Gerard Butler tag for even more analysis!

I Think, Therefore I Review began as the blog home for previously published reviews and reprinted critiques by horror author Kristin Battestella. Naturally older articles linked here may be out of date and codes or formatting may be broken. Please excuse any errors and remember our Top Tens will generally only include films, shows, books, or music previously reviewed at I Think, Therefore I Review


10 November 2017

Tales from the Crypt Season Three

Tales from the Crypt Season Three Stands Out
by Kristin Battestella

During Summer 1991, HBO's Third Season of Tales from the Crypt delivered fourteen episodes adapted from the Tales from the Crypt, Shock SuspenStories, The Vault of Horror, and Haunt of Fear comic book canon – and nearly every half hour plot steps up the sarcasm, star power, and scares.

The 'Honey, I'm home!' opening of the “Loved to Death” premiere leads to something saucy in the kitchen but it's just a bad script in progress by Andrew McCarthy (Weekend at Bernie's) when he's not fantasizing about his demanding actress neighbor Mariel Hemingway (Lipstick). Forget the old boombox and shoddy word processor – leather, lingerie, and boobs inspire his creativity and a watching big brother landlord speaking over the intercom braves him to knock on her door. Of course, she's not interested until he's successful, making for a bemusing mix of imagination and real world bitter from writer turned director Tom Mankiewicz (Live and Let Die). Unfortunately, subtle make up and costuming reflect the turnaround when a love potion makes the amorous too much to handle. The Crypt Keeper, meanwhile is smoking in bed with a headless skeleton as the escaped Kyle MacLachlan (Twin Peaks) opens “Carrion Death” with dusty Arizona manhunts, motorcycle chases, and fiery accidents. The desert setting invokes a barren purgatory as a vulture waits amid the echoes, gunshots, race to the border, and loot blowing in the wind. The no water, talking to himself delirium may seem slow for some audiences, however the sardonic trek, gore, and just desserts escalate once the handcuffs are on and there's no key. Back to the Future star Michael J. Fox directs Terri Garr (Tootsie) in “The Trap,” for her nasty husband has a life insurance policy and a coroner brother-in-law who can help fake a death. Bemusing morgue saws, faux dead make up, and a bumbling cover story combine for over the top funeral wailing, cremation mishaps, and tropical hideouts. The askew trials, double crosses, and mistaken identity aren't really horror, but the crime fits the screw here. Likewise, the memorable “Abra Cadaver” opens with a black and white morgue, autopsies, pretty corpses, necrophilia quips, and dangerous practical jokes on Beau Bridges (Stargate SG-1) by Tony Goldwyn (Scandal). The color present has high tech lab equipment and research debts owed for these experiments on brain function after clinical death – studies done with ritual altars, folk medicine, and poisoned scotch. The distorted voiceover and overhead camera angles match this appearance of death as the acute senses remain to experience the meat locker, hooks, saws, embalming, and John Doe toe tags as the warped mix of science and revenge creates blood trickling down the screen twists.

The Crypt Keeper does a little Mashed to Pieces Theatre in “Top Billing” as desperate Jon Lovitz (Saturday Night Love) fails another audition. He won't stoop to commercials like successful sellout Bruce Boxleitner (Scarecrow and Mrs. King), and this is an interesting commentary on the look being more important than the talent. Agent Louise Fletcher (One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest) says it's commerce and product, not art, that sells tickets, winking to the viewer as oft comedian Lovitz is determined to play Hamlet with intense director John Astin (The Addams Family). Will he kill for the part? This little back alley theater at 895 ½ needs a real skull for its Yorick. “The Reluctant Vampire” also begins with a traditional gothic atmosphere – before the alarm clock by the coffin and fang dentures on the night stand add modern humor as blood bank nightwatchman Mr. Longtooth Malcolm McDowell (A Clockwork Orange) dreads Mondays and The Keeper reads Vampirism Made Easy. Manager George Wendt's (Cheers) donation numbers don't add up, so our sensitive vamp – who doesn't drink direct from humans so he can respect himself in the morning – attacks an old lady's mugger to replace his martini makings in the vault. Certainly he asks if his victim has any blood born diseases before filling up the water cooler. He's saving the blood bank and taking a bite out of crime amid newspaper spinning montages, Transylvania soil myths, lighting candles at the snap of the fingers, and dangerous squirt guns with holy water. Van Helsing descendants are on the local talk shows, and Tales from the Crypt manages to be gothic and cute at the same time. Of course, Little CK has a Betty Croaker cookbook while womanizing reporter Steven Weber (Wings) keeps a tape recorder under the bed to get what's off the record when, as they say, pumping a source for information in “Mournin' Mess.” Hard nose editor Ally Walker (Sons of Anarchy) wants the scoop not drunk excuses, but suave spokeswoman Rita Wilson (Now and Then) spins the rhetoric on cleaning up the streets as the homeless murders mount. Dead witnesses and some literal cemetery digging lead to tunnels, coffins, skeletons, and underground revelations on The Grateful Homeless Outcasts and Unwanted Layaway Society, ahem, GHOULS. Although this starts off run of the mill, Tales from the Crypt continues to push the envelope with its grotesque.

As a kid I loved director Russell Mulcahy's (Highlander) “Split Second” and even had it on one of several made 'em myself Tales from the Crypt VHS mixes! Foreman Brion James (Blade Runner) seethes over his sassy waitress with a reputation turned hottie wife Michelle Johnson (Blame it on Rio) while her short shorts and tank top get skimpier for new lumberjack Billy Worth (The Lost Boys, you know, the “Death by stereo.”) Axes, chainsaws, and the inherent dangers on the job immediately hook the audience as the camera reflects the peril, speed, and saucy games people play – leading to new power tools, a violent comeuppance, and plenty of blood splatter. “Deadline,” however, would see drunk newsman Richard Jordan (Logan's Run) clean up his act for particular hooker Marg Helgenberger (CSI). Although the narrative bookends are unnecessary, the newsroom clickety clack adds nostalgic pressure, and his cranky editor wants a juicy murder headline or else. Fortunately – or unfortunately – Jon Polito (The Crow) gives him an exclusive, ironic scoop on a crime of passion gone awry. Tales from the Crypt's tongue in cheek is in full swing for “Spoiled” as bored housewife Faye Grant (V) loves the over the top scandals of her favorite soap There's Always Tomorrow. Her married to his work husband's basement experiments may make medical history, but they interrupt her fantasizing, too. Good thing 'Abel with the cable' repairman Anthony LaPaglia (Without a Trace) is there with all the connection in the bedroom innuendo, drafting a bemusing life imitating art mad science mix and self-aware commentary complete with Tales from the Crypt on the boob tube. Like the soaps, the saucy isn't actually shown – letting the male input and female boxes speak for themselves once the lovers play out their part. Series producer Robert Zemeckis directs the supersized “Yellow” finale with general Kirk Douglas (Spartacus), his lieutenant son Eric Douglas (The Golden Child), loyal captain Dan Aykroyd (Ghostbusters), and gritty sergeant Lance Henriksen (Near Dark) facing the no man's land trenches, explosions, and limbs lost of 1918 France. Battle failures, breaks in the communication line, family expectations, and the titular cowardice risk the chain of command, for this solider son refuses to kill and doesn't want to be killed, undermining his father's position as the enemy nears. Panic on the mission results in more slaughter and church held court marshals layer the religious iconography. It's okay for fathers and sons to be afraid to die, and one's a fool or a liar if he claims he isn't – especially when facing the firing squad. This is a serious parable about real fear and horrors, yet the episode is not out of place. Who says Tales from the Crypt has to be all cheeky all the time? Rather than the expected juicy or sensationalism, this unique choice sells itself with innate intensity and cruelty for one of the series' finest.

Of course, there are several less than perfect entries sagging Tales from the Crypt mid-season, including the late Tobe Hopper's (Texas Chainsaw Massacre) star studded “Dead Wait.” The thieves are arguing over small scale island plantations and pitiful pearl treasures, and should be tense chess conversations fall flat amid red hair superstitions, voodoo talk, and witch doctor suspicions. Jungle fever romance with red king takes black queen quips and sweaty sex with voodoo drums compromise the hanging ram heads and dead chickens in the bed – playing into the very exotical stereotypes that the dialogue warns one to respect. Each eighties era horror anthology series seems to have a problematic voodoo tale, but they are always about a white man looking for something sexy and dangerous with an obvious turnabout. The gore and creepy worms are fine – this isn't a terrible episode, but it doesn't zing as it should. The late night spoof with Whoopi Goldberg (Ghost) as The Crypt Keeper's guest is more fun. Painter Tim Roth (Rob Roy) doesn't get the showing he was promised and fantasizes about killing his agent in “Easel Kill Ya,” but some accidental violence and nearby deaths inspire his art. He channels his darkness into some gruesome canvases and sells the paintings to a creepy buyer, but he can't keep up with the killer demand for his art. Again the fatal twists and obsessive performances aren't the worst, but this tortured artist cum murderer plot is nothing new. “Undertaking Palor” also has obnoxious punks at the movies complaining about being one short in the Milk Duds box before they scare each other and capture it on camera. They break into the mortuary to raise the frights in their amateur film making and unfortunately discover twisted little practitioner John Glover (Smallville) using a Shop Vac for his latest embalming. The ironic classical music and Pepsi with pizza while the creepy mortician works makes for some delightful Tales from the Crypt grossness, but the juvenile found footage Nancy Drew mystery weakens what could have been wild had we seen the morgue conspiracy from the inside perspective. The Crypt Jam music video feature on the Tales from the Crypt Season Three DVD set is also a humorous little rap with babes, gore, and highlights from the year in a fittingly oh so nineties fashion both embarrassing and hysterical at the same time. The features also cheat slightly by listing two panel segments, for the first fifteen minute bonus recounting the history of EC Comics mid-century history and their ongoing relevance in horror is just pieced together from the second feature – which is the full half hour Comic Con discussion with voice of the Crypt Keeper John Kassir, producer Alan Katz, and additional crew telling more behind the scenes tales and answering audience questions. This DVD set also goes right to the menu without the “Kill Intro” theme playing only once per disc as in the previous video releases, and I like being able to see that spooky house opening per episode.

There are less fifties abstract and colorful comic designs for this season of Tales from the Crypt, but the seedy dark palette feels a little more nineties grown up to match the mayhem. Lots of familiar faces in supporting roles lend an extra sophistication with old televisions, rabbit ears, Polaroids, or T-n-A as icing on the cake per the humorous or grotesque plots as needed. That newfangled frivolous cable and HBO freedom allows Tales from the Crypt to exploit many women with then nudity, abuse, and victimizing. However, the series also has numerous working women in positions of power or ladies that give back all the ills deserved and never get naked to do so. Occasionally, the hammy over does it with stunt casting and humor falling flat, but bigger names, chilling stories, plenty of gore, quality production values, and heaps of ironic horror help Tales from the Crypt step up its winking formula for Season Three for a macabre and self referential but no less twisted good time. 


Top Ten: Musicals!

Welcome to our new Top Tens series in celebration of I Think, Therefore I Review's Tenth Anniversary! These monthly lists will highlight special themes and topics from our extensive archive of reviews.

This time I Think, Therefore I Review presents in chronological order...

Our Top Ten Musicals!

Please see our Musicals tag or our Classics label for yet more melodious analysis!

I Think, Therefore I Review began as the blog home for previously published reviews and reprinted critiques by horror author Kristin Battestella. Naturally older articles linked here may be out of date and codes or formatting may be broken. Please excuse any errors and remember our Top Tens will generally only include films, shows, books, or music previously reviewed at I Think, Therefore I Review


31 October 2017

Top Ten: Witches!

Welcome to our new Top Tens series in celebration of I Think, Therefore I Review's Tenth Anniversary! These monthly lists will highlight special themes and topics from our extensive archive of reviews.

This time I Think, Therefore I Review presents in chronological order...

Our Top Ten Witches!

Please see our Horror page or our Witches tag for yet magical analysis!

I Think, Therefore I Review began as the blog home for previously published reviews and reprinted critiques by horror author Kristin Battestella. Naturally older articles linked here may be out of date and codes or formatting may be broken. Please excuse any errors and remember our Top Tens will generally only include films, shows, books, or music previously reviewed at I Think, Therefore I Review


20 October 2017

Top Ten: Horror Television!

Welcome to our new Top Tens series in celebration of I Think, Therefore I Review's Tenth Anniversary! These monthly lists will highlight special themes and topics from our extensive archive of reviews.

This time I Think, Therefore I Review presents in chronological order...

Our Top Ten Horror Television Series!

Please see our Horror page and Television guide for more small screen horrors!

I Think, Therefore I Review began as the blog home for previously published reviews and reprinted critiques by horror author Kristin Battestella. Naturally older articles linked here may be out of date and codes or formatting may be broken. Please excuse any errors and remember our Top Tens will generally only include films, shows, books, or music previously reviewed at I Think, Therefore I Review.

18 October 2017

Another Peter Cushing Trio

Another Peter Cushing Trio!
by Kristin Battestella

Whether he's playing the hero or the villain, there's simply no shortage of old school Peter Cushing frights!

And Now the Screaming Starts! – An amorous and surprisingly fertile ghost reeks havoc for Stephanie Beacham (Dracula A.D. 1972) in this 1973 Amicus period piece co-starring Peter Cushing. The 1795 carriages, antiques, riverside scenery, Oakley Court setting, and 300 year old haunted castle combine for a colonial meets medieval foreboding complete with balcony galleries, sconces, waistcoats, and riding frocks. Unfortunately, the bridal bliss is short lived before disembodied hands, ghoulish faces in the window, and doors opening by themselves lead to a largely unseen assault with plenty of implied terror. Despite sunshine and pleasant outdoor strolls, the darkness is felt with cemeteries, fog, storms, and apparitions causing more screams – which is what it says on the tin. Poor Stephanie must have gotten darn hoarse with the titular minute to minute shouts! Rattling frames on the wall, ghostly choke holds, and falls down the stairs can be bemusing, however phantom winds, cracking mirrors, and evil paintings create enough atmosphere to forgive any chuckles as bodies drop one by one amid family secrets, creepy woodsmen, birthmarks, and blood. Maids are fainting, tonics tossed into the Thames reappear on the bedside table, and the sweet library has a hidden copy of the Malleus Maleficarum detailing this demon sex – but leave it to Dr. Cushing to save the day in one terribly and I mean terribly coiffed wig! The staff says they need a priest not a doctor, and anyone who tries to tell of the family legends and their past debauchery ends up dead before a decadent flashback reveals a nasty noble putting on the unwanted wedding night advances. Grave robbing and cradle shockers are morose fun, but the big secret is kind of obvious, the father and son lookalikes could be explained better, and the violence against women used as supernatural revenge doesn't solve any of the male cruelty that started the hereditary curse in the first place. Although the horror should be tighter and overall there is a certain lacking on the scary panache; the cast, setting, and mood are effective enough to see the screams through for one wild topper.

Corruption – Green scrubs, surgery tables, and swanky tunes open this 1968 for love or horror tale, and it's fun to see suave, convertible driving surgeon Peter Cushing cruising with his younger lady. Sadly, he doesn't quite fit in with the swinging parties or stoned blondes in mini skirts, and the hazy visuals and askew camera angles mirror the congestion as our doc objects to a seedy photographer telling his model gal to take off her dress. The fight over his dame leads to crashing studio lights, burns on her beautiful face, bandages, and skin graphs. Radical new plastic surgeries are to no avail until Big Pete borrows glands from the hospital morgue for his home laboratory complete with microscopes, caged rabbits, scalpels, syringes, and precision lasers. His tender bedside manner belies the medical stress, dabbing the sweaty forehead as he works while pulsing beats and sound effects match the miraculous but temporary healing. His unstable patient wears veils and netted hats, bashing mirrors at her perceived ugliness now that she's said to be washed up after a few months off the fashion scene – when in reality her injuries aren't really that severe. Today make up would easily cover her scars, and they are committing far worse horrors just to maintain her beautiful veneer. She buys her doctor a camera to photograph her, insists his oath to her is more important than his medical morals, and forces this older man to kill to keep her because she is so dependent on his expertise. Our doctor strolls the streets for a five pound hooker – a small price to pay for living tissues amirite – but the newspapers are reporting on his messy crimes and headless victims. The bloody parts are in his medical bag, but Doctor Peter misses killer chances as frenetic editing and askew wide angles reflect his dirty, violent deeds. It's all the guy can take as police, robberies, and pointing fingers botch the operation, and the debonair slips as he's unable to justify each death thanks to interfering hooligans and heady reveals. While different versions of the picture have more skin and gore, some of the pursuits are a bit corny. Beatniks in capes, ladies in pink, and the older Cushing bumbling along the rocky coast – how's a man to work in these conditions? Despite some datedness, the out of control extremes remain an interesting commentary on what a classy older gent is willing to do for his love at the first sign of some younger competition.

Land of the Minotaur Meddling priest Donald Pleasence (Halloween) joins innocent looking but creepy little old cult leader Peter Cushing in this 1976 Greek horror movie with varying versions also called The Devil's Men. Colorful hoods, robed figures, fiery rituals, and titular effigies fit right in with the rustic locales, villas, caves, real ruins, and ancient stonework – but our padre is concerned after several explorers in Winnebagos and hot pants go missing. So what if the archaeologists have no gear to climb nor tools to dig, wear platform shoes, and stumble upon their quarry by chance while letters to the US and flights to Greece happen instantly. Evil Baron Pete is chauffeured about town, casually referring to the pagan history of his family title before laughing at his sacrificial victims' pleas. Old world funerals, shady villagers, uncooperative police, and silenced old ladies add to the bathroom scares, falling chandeliers, and nighttime chases. Tense music accents the strangulations, deserted villages, one on one confrontations, and fatal altars when we hear it. However, the scoring seems largely absent, and in a desperate attempt to be ominous, every single scene has a silent zoom – going overboard with the intercut close ups on everyone's eyes. Restarting with several group disappearances also wastes time, giving the cult away when there was no need for anything before Luan Peters' (Twins of Evil) arrival in search of her boyfriend. Interesting priest and PI buddy aspects – one devout in religion and myth, the other solely about the facts – are undercut by knowing who the cult is and where they are the entire time, and the evil fighters spend more time sitting around doing nothing while the whole town in on it island ritual tries to be The Wicker Man. Poor editing and cut away fates don't create mystery but instead make many things unclear amid poor dialogue and uneven sound. Some of the terrorizing happens for the sake of it, with a lot of tossed in filler delaying the quality attacks in the darkness or dragging the sinister, sacrificial mood. This is certainly flawed, needing both more budget and polish but less runtime and a tighter narrative to compensate for some laughably amateur elements. The good versus evil religious pulls and intriguing character dynamics are wasted by time we get to the freaky finale, yet the fun cast and unique cultural horrors add enough late night entertainment to see the bull to the end.