Hail there bad movie brethren! Oh what delights we have in store for you this fine morning…

Amazon optioning Consider Phlebas

Imagine Firefly reimagined by Frank Herbert on strong mushrooms, and you get Consider Phlebas, the first in the late Iain M Banks’ series of science fiction novels featuring the Culture, a super advanced civilisation of utopian space communists.

Now comes the news that Amazon is to adapt the novel for their Amazon Prime streaming service. The series is to be written for the screen by Dennis Kelly and produced by Plan B Entertainment. Anyone who has read Bank’s complex work will be aware of the challenges in pulling off an adaptation successfully. Despite this, we are officially excited! More news as we get it!

 

The Reel Talk Podcast
We’ve been checking out this rather spiffing film review channel on YouTube, and thought it would be remiss if we did not bring it toy your wider attention! Check out their top ten films of 2017 and other videos here –

https://youtu.be/Cy9LVaUq8lI

The Reel Talk can also be found on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Spread the love fellow cineastes!

 

Fangoria
In other exciting news, the much loved and missed horror movie magazine, Fangoria is to rise from the dead. Cinestate has purchased the rights to the magazine and all associated brands from previous pulisher The Brooklyn Company. With new Editor in Chief Phil Nobile already installed, the first issue of the revived mag is due to hit the newsstands this Halloween. How appropriate. Cinestate is already working hard to recompense pevious subscribers who were left out of pocket when the mag last seized publication.

According to nerdist.com, Cinestate is also planning on expanding the Fangoria brand to produce movies, podcasts and horror novels.

For more news on all the above go to http://fangoria.com/

 

Halloween sequel

Blumhouse Productions have wrapped filming on director David Gordon Green’s Halloween movie set for release in October 2018. The film will be a direct sequel to the classic 1978 original and ignore all other previous films in the franchise. Please be good…

 

Skeleton Cop

‘He’s got a bone to pick… with crime!’ Check out the preview trailer for the frankly amazing sounding Skeleton Cop! This indie short has been funded through Kickstarter and looks worth every penny! And thinking about it, I don’t think there has been a bad movie made that had ‘Cop’ in the title. Robocop, Maniac Cop, Samurai Cop…

And finally –  to any aspiring independent filmmakers, podcasters or film related writers out there out there reading this, let me know if you’d like me to publicize and/or review your projects, The Stricken Land is always happy to promote new talent and ideas! And as ever, please feel free to share this post and any others on here that you like, far and wide.

Watch the Skies,

Ian

Good morning film fiends! Read on for the latest round up –

The infamous 80’s nuclear aftermath docu-horror Threads is getting a brand new blu-ray and DVD release. Remastered from the original BBC 16mm prints, this re-release of Threads coupled with a host of brand new extras is available in the US via Severin Films , and is scheduled for release in the UK from Simply Media on April 9th. You can pre-order from Amazon’s UK site here. What once seemed like a fascinating time capsule of Cold War era fears now feels frighteningly relevant again, so have a stiff drink ready while watching.

The UK edition special features include:

Disc 1

UK 2k Remaster from BBC CRI prints

DVD Audio Commentary with Karen Meagher (UK Exclusive)

DVD Audio Commentary with Mick Jackson

Disc 2

PDF of Radio Times articles and letters (UK Exclusive)

Documentary: Shooting the Annihilation

Documentary: Auditioning for the Apocalypse

Documentary: Destruction Designer

Documentary: Stephen Thrower on Threads

An infinitely more fun experience is listening to two of the horror film related podcasts I’ve gotten into. Horror of the Remake and Invasion of the Remake are, as their titles suggest all about the film industry’s penchant for revisiting past glories (or not, as the case may be.)

Both podcasts take a compare and contrast approach to each pair of films, each going into some depth on the merits or otherwise of each.

My own pet bugbear regarding a remake concerns the adaptations of Richard Matheson’s classic inversion of vampire tropes I Am Legend. Three versions down and the world is still waiting for a halfway satisfying version of the source material.

I’m planning a full length blog on all the film related podcasts I’m following, but in the meantime check out these two shows and lend them your support by subscribing if you like what you hear. Both are available on iTunes and most other podcast subscription services.

And finally –  to any aspiring independent filmmakers, podcasters or film related writers out there out there reading this, let me know if you’d like me to publicize and/or review your projects, The Stricken Land is always happy to promote new talent and ideas! And as ever, please feel free to share this post and any others on here that you like, far and wide.

Watch the Skies,

Ian

Horror Express aka Panic on the Trans-Siberian Express (1972) UK/Spain Dir: Eugenio Martín (as Gene Martin) Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Alberto De Mendoza, Telly Savalas

During an expedition to China in 1906, British anthropologist Professor Sir Alexander Saxton (Lee) discovers the frozen corpse of an ape like creature. Believing it to be the Missing Link in human evolution, he has the cadaver packed into a crate aboard the Trans Siberian Express ready for transport back to England. When the ‘corpse’ thaws out the creature springs to life and begins butchering various stock euro actors. Refusing to believe it at first Saxton is spurred into action by the mounting body count, aided by rival scientist Dr Wells (Cushing). Nowadays, this would be the setup for the whole movie, but this being a visually lush bonkers Euro co-production from the early 70’s, matters do not rest here. Soon after offing several of the passengers, the ape creature is seemingly despatched, only for it to be revealed that it was merely the vessel for a malign alien intelligence that arrived on earth millions of years ago. Possessing the body of the Rasputin like priest Father Pujardov (a great scene stealing turn by Alberto de Mendoza), a companion and spiritual advisor to fellow passenger Count Petrovski, a Polish aristo. The alien seeks to utilise the Count’s metallurgical expertise to construct a craft to escape earth in. Of course…

Based very loosely on The Thing from Another World (1951), Horror Express is every bit as crazily wonderful as it sounds, firmly underpinned by the presence of horror generalissimo’s Cushing and Lee playing the whole thing straight (no mean feat given some of the hilariously bad ‘science’ uttered by the actors), de Mendoza’s Grand Guignol performance as the priest pledging allegiance to the alien intelligence believing it to be Satan(!), and a scenery chewing late entrance by Telly Savalas as police officer Captain Kazan, convinced that the whole imbroglio is a revolutionary plot to overthrow the tsar.

A graveyard schedule regular on the BBC in the 80’s and early 90’s, Horror Express exhibits the lush and decadent visuals unique to euro productions of the era, and is one of the last glorious gasps of the stylised old world horror period kicked off by Hammer studios in the late fifties. Produced between more visceral and immediate films like Night of the Living Dead (1968) and auteur horror The Exorcist (1973), it’s strange to think that only a couple of years separate this delightfully old fashioned romp from the likes of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974).

A must see for fans of Cushing and Lee and a respectable addition to any horror fan’s collection.

Dark Forest (Canada 2017) Dir: Roger Boyer

Dark Forest is an ultra low budget Canadian horror flick that riffs of those well worn staples of 80’s stalk and slash pictures, namely woods, twentysomething girls and a mad killer. Playing of these tropes, the first half of the film is a very slow burning affair that takes its time introducing the four main female protagonists, who are planning a ‘get away from it all’  weekend camping trip. Concentrating on character and dialogue is unusual enough for this kind of fayre, but the film also takes an unexpected turn when revealing that one of the girls, Emily, is feeling trapped in an abusive relationship with her controlling boyfriend Peter. After a confrontation between Peter and her friends, Emily and the girls head off into the country.

Brooding, and feeling humiliated that Emily has disobeyed his wishes, Peter sets off in pursuit, determined to exact revenge…

What at times seems to verge on becoming a run of the mill slasher is saved by strong performances, particularly from Laurel McArthur as Emily and Weronika Sokalska as her plucky mate Jolene. Dennis Scullard puts in a strong performance as the controlling psychopath Peter, even managing to lend the monster a hint of pathos in the climactic stages.

It’s also refreshing to see the female leads fighting back, and not merely being required to do the cliched scream queen thing of running through the dark in their smalls before meeting their inevitable demise. The domestic violence angle also lends the film relevance, reminding us that the horrific often occurs in everyday life, often behind closed doors and thus going unnoticed.

While the male characters are all universally unlikeable and are somewhat stock archetypes, this doesn’t much detract from proceedings as it’s pretty clear from the start that the film is the girls show. All in all then, a decent first feature from director and writer Roger Boyer, with a likeable ensemble with the four main protagonists, naturalistic dialogue, and some well done and restrained gore effects on what was clearly a tight budget.

Dark Forest is currently available to buy on DVD, Blu-Ray, or can be streamed via Amazon Prime.

Good morning fellow film fiends! This week’s bulletin will be a tad shorter than previous posts as life has been a bit hectic in the past week, which has impinged on my viewing time. I have however been able to watch the first episode of new Netflix show, Altered Carbon, based on Richard K Morgan’s body swapping sci fi novel of the same name. Rest assured I’ll be posting up a review when I get to the end of the series.

I’m currently reading The Steel Remains, the first book in Morgan’s ‘grimdark’ fantasy trilogy A Land Fit For Heroes, where the author has fun messing with a lot of the stock tropes of the fantasy genre. Check it out if you are a fan of George R R Martin or Joe Abercrombie.

In other news, during a tram stop sojourn on to YouTube, I came across two engaging little short horror films – Last Bus Home and Mimic. The former is a nicely put together and atmospheric urban ghost story, while the latter is a creature feature that deftly builds a sense of dread in the viewer. Check out the links below:

And finally –  to any aspiring independent filmakers, podcasters or film related writers out there out there reading this, let me know if you’d like me to publicize and/or review your projects, The Stricken Land is always happy to promote new talent and ideas! And as ever, please feel free to share this post and any others on here that you like, far and wide.

Watch the Skies,

Ian

 

Get Out (US 2017) Dir: Jordan Peele

Daniel Kaluuya, Alison Williams, Bradley Whitfield, Catherine Keener

The explicitly political horror film is a rare beast. Over time, the genre has justifiably gained fame as a vehicle for societal allegories, even if these were attached to certain films in hindsight by critics looking to give their copy more resonance. I’m thinking of the underlying social conservatism prevalent in the slasher sub genre (so memorably lampooned in the Scream franchise), and the alleged critique of western consumerism as the underlying theme in Romero’s original Dawn of the Dead (1979). Personally I like to think of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) as a treatise on the horrors of unemployment, a sort of Boys from the Blackstuff with a darker heart.

The two horror films that best exemplify an intentional socio/political commentary in this reviewer’s opinion are the original Night of the Living Dead (who can forget its shocking nihilistic ending?), and Bryan Forbes’ excellent 1975 second wave feminist chiller The Stepford Wives adapted from the Ira Levin novel of the same name.

It is this latter film that Get Out owes a debt to. Jordan Peele’s directorial debut begins as a taut, slightly unsettling tale centring on the angst of meeting the parents of one’s other half for the first time. Along the way it also weaves in an examination of the disparity between the level of media exposure that missing black people receive in the US as opposed to cases featuring whites (particularly females) that disappear.

Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya), a young black photographer is taken to meet his girlfriend Rose Armitage’s (Alison Williams) parents Dean and Missy (a pair of splendidly restrained performances by Bradley Whitfield and Catherine Keener respectively), and her passive aggressive brother Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jone) at their spacious country pile.

The Armitage family employ two black people, groundsman Walter (Marcus Henderson) and maid Georgina (Betty Gabriel), both of who display curiously affected behaviour. Conscious of how this domestic setup may look, Rose’s neurosurgeon father Dean reassures Chris that ‘he would’ve voted for Obama a third time if he could’. This case of protesting too much is soon compounded at a weekend gathering of the Armitage’s friends and family who all make disparaging, passive aggressive racist remarks towards Chris, with the exception of Jim Hudson (Stephen Root), a blind art dealer, who tells Chris how much he admires his work. After Missy tricks Chris into being hypnotised over curing his smoking habit, matters quickly go south for the young man.

Black Lives Matter go to Stepford is perhaps too crude a label to give the film, and Peele goes for more of a straight horror/thriller angle than the satire of Forbes’s classic. We are cleverly wrong footed near the start of the film with a skilfully navigated confrontation with a local traffic cop, and the film resists the temptation to play up the victim angle (the climax to the third act shows that Chris is anything but). In fact it is this climax to the third act that is the weakest point of the film, seeming rushed and splatter heavy where a subtler, more nuanced and sinister denouement would have been more in keeping with the overall mood and tone of what has gone before. One half expects there to be a coda to events at this point, to rob the audience of reassurance and show that all is not well in this world despite the hero’s survival. Perhaps Peele was wary of sequelitis, and who can blame him? Given the film’s success and capturing of a particular moment in the zeitgeist, one wouldn’t put it past the studio to float the idea of a follow up.

In summary then, Get Out is an interesting and well made horror with great performances, even if the material is not quite as fresh and original as some of the hype has made it out to be. In the wake of this success, Peele has been linked to the long gestating live action Akira project, which he may be wise to stay clear of given Hollywood’s track record with Japanese properties. Resist the siren calls of sequels to your debut feature though Mr Peele, few recall the follow ups to The Stepford Wives, and with good reason.

Hail movie brethren! What fresh terrors have stalked the grey wastes of The Stricken Land in the week past? Read on…

  • Do you feel suitably let down by the really not very good Alien prequels? Sate your disappointment by watching Life (2017), a great little outer space chiller from the makers of Deadpool. Ignoring the golden rule of film that extra terrestrial organisms should be left well alone, the crew of the international space station propagate a globule of Martian bacteria with predictably malevolent results. It’s not going to win any prizes for originality and trite comparisons with Alien are inevitable, but this well crafted horror takes its vintage more from classic fifties paranoid sci fi like the Quatermass films and X the Unknown by way of the novels of John Wyndham, than it does from man-in-a-suit creature features.

  • Next up is The Raven, a stylised period manhunt thriller centred on the conceit of having the father of the detective novel, Edgar Allen Poe investigating a serial killer inspired by the grisly deaths featured in Poe’s gothic masterworks. John Cusack does a great scenery chewing turn as Poe, but the film’s great weakness is its abundance of hard to like characters, not least the drink sodden Poe himself. Director James McTeigue (V for Vendetta) does his best with a basic potboiler plot, but the languid pace and lack of sympathetic protagonists meant this struggled to keep this viewers attention. There is probably a great film waiting to be made about the life of this giant of American literature, unfortunately, The Raven isn’t it.

  • Audible have recently released Bafflegab Productions audio drama version of the 1971 British folk horror film Blood on Satan’s Claw, featuring the voice talents of the ever excellent Reece Sheersmith and Mark Gatiss. I’ll be posting a compare and contrast review of both productions in the near future. Watch this space…

 

  • Spotted on Twitter is this crowdfunded British horror from Ash Mountain Productions and director Richard Rowntree. Scheduled for UK home viewing release in April 2018, Dogged was the 4th most successful UK based horror feature film to receive funding from Kickstarter according to the IMDB. Go to http://www.ashmountainfilms.com  for more info, meanwhile, check out the trailer –
  • Also peaking our interest is Lords of Chaos, the latest flick from Jonas Åkerlund, an account of the Norwegian Black Metal scene of the late 80’s-early 90’s based on the book of the same name. Focusing on the band Mayhem,its founder Euronymous and his subsequent murder in 1993, this looks to be a dark and disturbing look at the lives and time of some very f**ked up individuals.
  • And finally, the documentary Unearthed and Untold: The Path to Pet Sematary gets a Blu-Ray release on March 13 2018.This looks like a must for fans of the film as well as Stephen King fans and all those fascinated by what goes into making a film.

Before I sign off; to any aspiring independent filmakers, podcasters or film related writers out there out there reading this, let me know if you’d like me to publicize and/or review your projects, The Stricken Land is always happy to promote new talent and ideas! And as ever, please feel free to share this post and any others on here that you like, far and wide.

Watch the Skies,

Ian

I love a good list. In true High Fidelity style I’ve decided to make top ten lists a semi regular feature on the site, and to kick off, here is my inaugural top ten horror films.

The criteria for making the cut was that the film had to have had an immediate visceral impact on first viewing and stamped themselves indelibly on my febrile young consciousness.

Let’s dive in…

Jaws (1975) Dir: Steven Spielberg

“Mr. Vaughn, what we are dealing with here is a perfect engine, an eating machine. It’s really a miracle of evolution. All this machine does is swim and eat and make little sharks, and that’s all.”

There’s a lot of waffle talked about Spielberg’s finest hour, namely that it’s a ‘thriller’, an ‘action adventure’ etcetera. Codswallop. Jaws is an out and out horror movie par excellence. Sit through the opening ten minutes again and tell me I’m wrong.

With a story structure lifted straight from a golden age western by way of a classic fairytale (a small frontier town is threatened by a malevolent exterior force, three champions set out to confront and defeat it at high noon), Jaws easily transcends its b movie creature feature progenitors.

Spielberg wisely dropped the soap opera melodrama elements of Peter Benchley’s source novel and presents the audience with a lean man vs nature thrill ride. It’s only in the third act that the shark finally makes an appearance (mainly due to the fact that the mechanical contraption never worked properly in the open sea), and as every sensible person knows, the film is all the stronger for it.

Michael Cimino’s Heavens Gate (1980) is often touted as the film that ended the 70’s auteur period in Hollywood that began with Easy Rider in 1969, but in truth it was Jaws that sounded the death knell, helping to usher in the era of the high concept summer blockbuster. For better or worse Hollywood was changed forever, as was an entire generation’s attitude to the seaside.

 

The Omen (1976) Dir: Richard Donner

“Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast; for it is the number of a man; and his number is 666.”

The story of the coming of the Antichrist could have been pure hokum in the wrong hands, fortunately we got a pure measure of distilled terror in this seventies classic. One of the secrets to The Omen’s scare factor is the marrying of the satanic themes of Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist to the conspiracy sub genre popular at the time in the wake of the Watergate scandal. Except that this time it’s Old Nick himself and his demons in human form directing events rather than evil corporations or shadowy star chambers.

An original spec script called The Birthmark had apparently been doing the rounds in Hollywood since the early years of the decade. Once optioned, screenwriter David Seltzer reportedly excised all of the more explicitly supernatural elements, coming up with a lean psychological thriller that could be innocently interpreted as the worst day of someone’s life. All of the deaths in the film can be explained away as accidental or self inflicted (the satanic rugrat Damien actually does very little), but a series of warnings about his adopted son’s true origins prompts Robert Thorn (Gregory Peck, lending the necessary gravitas) to begin uncovering the truth. Boasting pitch perfect turns from the cast and a memorably ice cold atmosphere, The Omen is the best of the triumvirate of Satan movies that began with Rosemary’s Baby. It also features what is for me, easily the most disturbing death in horror cinema, the ‘suicide’ of Damien’s nanny (Holly Palance, daughter of Jack).

Three progressively mediocre sequels followed and a superfluous remake was released on 2006. A tv series following directly on from this first film and ignoring the sequels was also made in 2015 by US cable channel A&E but cancelled after one season.

Director Richard Donner also got his big break here, and never looked back, going on to direct Superman (1978) and the Lethal Weapon series (we shouldn’t hold that against him though).

 

Halloween (1978) Dir: John Carpenter

“I met this… six-year-old child with this blank, pale, emotionless face, and… the blackest eyes – the Devil’s eyes. I spent eight years trying to reach him, and then another seven trying to keep him locked up, because I realized that what was living behind that boy’s eyes was purely and simply… evil.”

Much imitated, never bettered it’s easy to forget what a masterful nerve shredder John Carpenter crafted on a budget of only $300,000 (the film went on to gross $47m making it one of the most successful independent films of all time, hence the relentless cash ins).

The simple tale of escaped killer Michael Myers returning to his hometown to relive his crime on the neighbourhood’s unsuspecting teens simultaneously spawned the stalk and slash sub genre, launched Jamie Lee Curtis’ career and put Carpenter firmly on the map. Veteran actor Donald Pleasance nearly walks away with the whole thing as the obsessed Dr Loomis, hot on the trail of his deranged patient.

 

Threads (1984) Dir: Mick Jackson

“Jesus Christ! They’ve done it… They’ve done it!”

The Cold War was nearing its denouement in the 80’s, not that we were to know that, and fear of a nuclear war was always in the back of people’s minds. Step forward the BBC then with this utterly harrowing public information style drama documentary showing in unremitting detail the effects of a nuclear strike on the UK through the experiences of two working class Sheffield families. Much of the horror is by implication, as the film really makes you really think about the consequences of such a nightmarish event. As many an 80’s kid will tell you, many local education authorities thought it appropriate to screen this in schools. They’d almost certainly be running for the safe spaces today. The past is a foreign country as someone once said. My advice is to make sure you are in a ridiculously happy mood on a bright sunny day before you settle down to watch this one.

Interestingly, director Mick Jackson went on the Hollywood where he made the somewhat more tonally upbeat The Bodyguard (1992) and Volcano (1997).

 

The Thing (1982) Dir: John Carpenter

“I know I’m human. And if you were all these things, then you’d just attack me right now, so some of you are still human. This thing doesn’t want to show itself, it wants to hide inside an imitation. It’ll fight if it has to, but it’s vulnerable out in the open. If it takes us over, then it has no more enemies, nobody left to kill it. And then it’s won.”

Buoyed by his success with 1978’s Halloween, The Fog (1980) and Escape from New York (1981), Carpenter chose an adaptation of John W Campbell’s 1938 short story Who Goes There? As his next project. The tale of a shape shifting alien terrorising a group of scientists at an isolated Antarctic research station had been filmed one before as Howard Hawks’ The Thing from Another World (1951). Carpenter’s version sticks much closer to the original story though, shot through as it is with mounting paranoia, and some truly memorable practical effects from Rob Bottin (who would go on to work on Paul Verhoeven’s Robocop (1987). The blood test sequence is all time favourite horror movie scene ever.

The film famously bombed on release, going up against a much more cuddly alien in Spielberg’s E.T. (1982). Carpenter thought the film a failure for many years, but like many initial box office bombs the dawn of VHS gave it new life and audience reach, and it is now rightfully regarded as the stone cold classic it always was.

 

The Dead Zone (1983) Dir: David Cronenberg

“The ICE… is gonna BREAK!”

Still the best Stephen King adaptation for my money. Growing out of the moral conundrum posed by the question; ‘is political assassination ever justified?’ the source novel takes place across the tumultuous decade of the 1970’s as the central protagonist, everyman Johnny Smith wakes from a coma with the power to see into people’s future.

In the hands of David Cronenberg (directing his first non original material), the film version deftly condenses the vignette structure of the novel and is topped off by brilliant performances by Christopher Walken as Smith, and Martin Sheen playing demagogic local politico Greg Stillson, who Smith foresees will rise to the highest office and trigger nuclear Armageddon. A tv series starring Anthony Michael Hall of The Breakfast Club and Weird Science fame aired in the early 2000’s.

 

Race with the Devil (1975) Dir: Jack Starrett

“I don’t drive too well when I’m asleep.”

A fantastic down and dirty drive in b-picture that marries the car chase action movie with a folk horror devil worship plot, this sees two middle class couples (Peter Fonda, Loretta Swit, Warren Oates and Lara Parker) on the run after witnessing a satanic sacrifice in rural redneck country. Almost a forgotten movie now, I remember catching this late night in the mid nineties, and I’ve always fondly remembered it as a kind of American Wicker Man, with it’s isolated rural setting and dark religious element. Happily there’s a DVD release that can be picked up on Amazon for a few quid. Get it for the trademark 70’s nihilistic climax (and Warren Oates of course).

 

Witchfinder General aka The Conqueror Worm (1968) Dir: Michael Reeves

“They swim… the mark of Satan is upon them. They must hang.”

In a crowded field, possibly one of the bleakest British horror films ever made. Set during the English Civil War, its a study of how malign individuals can rise to power and incite their fellow men to acts of depravity when the ties that bind society break down. Vincent Price puts in a career best performance, dropping any hint of campy theatrics, as the misogynistic, ice cold sadist Matthew Hopkins, a real life historical character who preyed upon the superstitions of the time and instigated a reign of terror across 17th century East Anglia.

Critically reviled in some quarters upon its release, director Reeves in was only his fourth feature crafts a disturbing portrait of the barbarism lurking just under the surface of civilisation. Tragically he was to die of an accidental overdose of barbiturates just a year after the film’s release.

 

The Vanishing (1988) Dir: George Sluizer

“The best plans can be wiped out at any moment by what we call fate. I confess, that saddens me.”

Adapted from Tim Krabbe’s 1984 novel The Golden Egg, this tale of obsession is most famous for its shock ending, but is equally notable for its superbly written character study of two men Rex Hofman (Gene Bervoets) and Raymond Lemorne (Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu). Hofman is obsessed with discovering what happened to his girlfriend Saskia, who went missing at a motorway services, and after three years of fruitless searching is contacted by Lemorne, a well off family man who claims to know the truth behind her disappearance.

The Vanishing is probably most famous for Donnadieu’s performance of the highly intelligent, yet totally amoral socioopath, Raymond Lemorne. The second half of the film follows Lemorne about his daily life as we learn more of his past, his thoughts and feelings. Most disturbing is Lemorne’s lack of discernible motive, his obvious love of his family and general all round sheer normalness. The viewer is left in no doubt that Saskia’s disappearance could happen to anyone, in fact, Lemorne could be anyone, and by the time such a person were to reveal their true nature it would be far too late…

Sluizer inexplicably remade his own film for Hollywood in 1993 with a disgraceful tacked on happy ending. Avoid this at all costs and seek out the Dutch language original. And don’t have nightmares…

 

The Masque of the Red Death (1964) Dir: Roger Corman

“Why should you be afraid to die? Your soul has been dead for a long long time.”

Like Witchfinder General, this is another period horror (this time set in Renaissance Italy), and the penultimate film in American International Pictures’ Edgar Allen Poe adaptations. Corman regular Price as hedonistic satanist Prince Prospero throwing a big party in his castle while the peasantry outside suffer the ravages of the mysterious plague known as the Red Death.

Poe’s original story is oft though to be a metaphor about human mortality (Prospero hopes to achieve a sort of immortality as one of Satan’s lieutenants in hell), but Corman avoids the rabbit hole of literary pretension and instead crafts a splendidly sinister tapestry pitting the innocence of the captive Francesca (Jane Asher, before the cakes) against Prospero’s waspish depravity. Combining a portentous tone with the trademark lush visuals and rich colours of the previous Poe adaptations, and a great supporting cast in horror regular Hazel Court and Patrick Magee, Masque is probably one of Corman’s best films, and certainly my favourite among his Poe adaptations.

I confess, it’s been a difficult task trying to whittle this list down to just ten films, and there are a lot of excellent scare fests that only narrowly missed out. The great thing about this kind of exercise is that it inevitably stokes (light hearted) disagreement and debate. Let me know your views on my choices and feel free to post your own, either in the comments below or feel free to join The Stricken Land’s very own Facebook group, Movie Babylon. I’m also on Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram (links on the sidebar) if any of those platforms are more your thing.

Till the next time…