Alice, Sweet Alice
If you survive this night, nothing will scare you again.
Director: Alfred Sole
Writers: Rosemary Ritvo, Alfred Sole
DVD Availability: Anchor Bay
Linda Miller: Catherine Spages
Mildred Clinton: Mrs. Tredoni
Paula E. Sheppard: Alice Spages
Niles McMaster: Dom Spages
Brooke Shields: Karen Spages
If you like your slasher films filled with Catholic imagery and well-developed characters, this movie is for you. Two sisters-Karen (Brooke Shields), the beautiful one, and Alice (Paula E. Sheppard), the strange and twisted one who likes wearing her school's yellow slicker and a translucent mask-are about to take their First Communion. Alice is extremely jealous of Karen, steals her doll, and locks her sister in an abandoned building. As those about to receive their First Communion file into the church, a masked character in a hooded school raincoat suddenly grabs Karen and strangles her. The killer pulls off her crucifix before setting her on fire. Smoke fills the church and panic sets in.
Catherine (Linda Miller), the girls' mother, is naturally devastated, and her ex-husband Dominick (Niles McMaster) soon arrives to help her. Alice and Karen's aunt Annie, who hates Alice, believes the girl is the killer. Other characters in this truly riveting movie include Father Tom, his suffocating housekeeper Mrs. Tredoni, and a repulsive fat guy named Alfonso who lives downstairs and eats cat food.
All suspicion turns toward Alice, who begins to have sordid encounters with Alfonso. Alice is certified as schizophrenic and violent, so when Dominick receives a call from his niece to meet her in an abandoned building so she can return Karen's crucifix, we immediately suspect that Alice is striking again when he is met and slashed by someone in a mask and yellow raincoat. Scenes of violence continue, including a character being beaten with a brick, another being thrown out a window, and brutal stabbings. However, the most terrifying image throughout this film is that of the yellow school raincoat and translucent mask with a hint of lipstick underneath. More can't be said without giving away the shocking and surprising conclusion.
Alice, Sweet Alice is a first-rate thriller, evocatively set in working-class New Jersey, that raises many strange questions, keeping viewers firmly planted in their seats. Paula Sheppard gives a fantastic performance as Alice. The fear and horror of the film are augmented by the omnipresent Catholic imagery. This is thinking person's horror, with a dash of blood and mystery, and a tense, suspenseful accomplishment.Terror Trivia
Prior to Alice, Alfred Sole directed the X-rated Deep Sleep, which got him hauled into court on archaic obscenity charges in New Jersey. Sole plea-bargained, and the case led to the abandonment of these morals laws-but the director was excommunicated from the Catholic Church, which inspired Alice's antireligious bent.
The movie was rereleased in 1981 as Holy Terror, with new poster and ad art playing up Brooke Shields's role (she had Endless Love in theaters at the time).Alone in the Dark
They're out-for blood! Don't let them find you . . .
Director: Jack Sholder
Writer: Jack Sholder, from story by Jack Sholder, Robert Shaye, and Michael Harpster
Dwight Schultz: Dr. Dan Potter
Donald Pleasence: Dr. Leo Bain
Jack Palance: Frank Hawkes
Martin Landau: Byron "Preacher" Sutcliff
Dwight Schultz (Lieutenant Reginald Barclay from both the Star Trek: Next Generation and Star Trek: Voyager series) plays Dr. Dan Potter here, a psychologist and straight-arrow family man who is starting a new job at an insane asylum, and who just moved his wife and young daughter into a new home. He feels privileged to be working with the hospital's head doctor, Dr. Leo Bain (Donald Pleasence), well-known for his untraditional yet effective methods of working with psychotics. Dr. Bain is a far-out, pot-smoking shrink who acts more like a friendly fellow inmate than a medico. Bain's philosophy is that nobody is insane, just on a "journey." In Alone in the Dark Pleasence carries the same intense aura displayed in his performance as Halloween's Dr. Loomis, the hunter of Michael Myers.
Unfortunately for Dr. Dan, he is replacing a doctor who was popular among a particularly dangerous clique of psychotic killers. In the paranoid mind of Frank Hawkes (Jack Palance), the leader of this group, Dr. Dan has killed their former psychiatrist to gain his new position. Inciting the motley crew of nuts, which includes Martin Landau, Frank hatches a plot to take sweet revenge. All they need, he says, is to wait for the right moment.
A citywide blackout comes upon them almost like an act of the devil, inciting their plan into action and a bloodbath to come. Controlled by electricity, the locking mechanisms at the asylum fail, freeing our group of gruesome buddies. Finding themselves in the midst of mass civil looting and burning on the outside, they take full advantage, entering a shopping mall and arming themselves to the teeth with knives, crossbows, guns, and baseball bats. Emerging out of the darkness, they surround Dr. Dan, his family, and some friends inside his home, and the murderous siege begins.
At its essence, Alone in the Dark is about an otherwise nonviolent and vulnerable family who must join together in self-defense and are forced to kill for survival. The film includes a scene where the mother must stab a psycho to death, and she does so with all the disgust and hesitation any normal person would feel. We feel her horror as she penetrates with the knife. The tension runs high as we watch Dr. Dan, who must embrace murderous rage and kill the very people he was intent on curing, and his visiting sister, who works to hold together her already weakened nervous system.
Though released on the heels of landmark slashers such as Friday the 13th and Halloween (and obviously inspired by the same), watching this otherwise mundane American family having to embrace their primitive sides, the several nice plot twists, and so many good actors in one place makes Alone in the Dark a memorable viewing experience.Terror Trivia
Alone in the Dark was the first horror film produced by New Line Cinema, which had previously found success distributing genre fare. It paved the way for such productions as the Nightmare on Elm Street series, for which Alone director Jack Sholder helmed the second installment.
Sholder made his directorial debut on this film after working as an editor on projects like the slasher cheapie The Burning. In his original concept for Alone in the Dark, the villains were mafiosi.
Tom Savini (Friday the 13th) was called in to provide a last-minute effect for the nightmare scene.Apt Pupil
If you don't believe in the existence of evil, you have a lot to learn.
Director: Bryan Singer
Writer: Brandon Boyce, from novella by Stephen King
DVD Availability: Columbia TriStar
Ian McKellen: Kurt Dussander
Brad Renfro: Todd Bowden
Bruce Davison: Richard Bowden
Elias Koteas: Archie
Joe Morton: Dan Richler
Apt Pupil was a recipe for quality right from the start, directed by Bryan Singer (coming off the success of The Usual Suspects), adapted from a novella by Stephen King (from the Different Seasons collection), and starring such a high-caliber actor as Ian McKellen, whose credits include The Keep (see later entry in this book), Gods and Monsters, and most recently the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
McKellen plays Kurt Dussander, a Nazi who committed atrocities and has been hiding in an American suburb for forty years, now nothing but a frail, old alcoholic. Teenager Todd Bowden, played by Brad Renfro (The Client), is studying the Holocaust in school when he recognizes the Nazi from a picture in a book. Todd has a dark side, and instead of turning in the old man, he blackmails him, forcing him to share the deeds of his horrible past in gruesome detail.
Apt Pupil is an examination of evil, how it can spread and develop a life of its own. The stories of the Nazis have a profound effect upon Todd's thinking, and he begins to transform, becoming evil himself. Encouraging the Nazi and feeding off his anguish, Todd brings him an old SS uniform, forcing Kurt Dussander to put it on and march the way he once did. When the elderly Nazi objects, Todd replies, "What you've suffered with me is nothing compared to what the Israelis would do to you. Now move!" It is a chilling moment.
Director Bryan Singer creates a thick, suffocating atmosphere, while Ian McKellen gives an authoritative and powerful performance. Apt Pupil is a study of the dark side of humanity and delivers its fear through the exposure of what can lie inside mankind.Terror Trivia
Stephen King's novella ends with Todd going on a shooting rampage, but the movie opts for a more subtle ending. (This decision had nothing to do with current events, as the film opened several months before the Columbine tragedy.)
The critically acclaimed movies Stand by Me and The Shawshank Redemption are also based on stories from Different Seasons. From this collection, only The Breathing Method remains to be filmed.
A previous film version of Apt Pupil was attempted in 1987, but ran into financing problems and was shut down. This version starred Rick Schroder (N.Y.P.D. Blue) and Nicol Williamson (Excalibur), and was directed by Alan Bridges.
Ian McKellen plays a Nazi victim in both The Keep and X-Men, his second film with director Bryan Singer.The Asphyx
If it were in your power . . . would you sacrifice your wife . . . your children for immortality? This is the story of a man who did!
Director: Peter Newbrook
Writer: Brian Comport, from story by Christina Beers and Laurence Beers
DVD Availability: All Day
Robert Stephens: Sir Hugo Cunningham
Robert Powell: Giles Cunningham
Jane Lapotaire: Christina Cunningham
Alex Scott: Sir Edward Barrett
Ralph Arliss: Clive Cunningham
Fiona Walker: Anna Wheatley
The Asphyx is set in 1875, a time when monsters and apparitions still seemed plausible, and when the burgeoning of science, technology and experimentation struck fear into the hearts of many. The Cunninghams are a wealthy Victorian family of social conscience and compassion. Loving and happy, they take their cues from their father, Sir Hugo (Robert Stephens). An avid photographer, Sir Hugo has taken up the strange pursuit of photographing people at the moment of death. He has discovered the most amazing of occurrences, a strange smudge that appears near the deceased. This can be nothing else, he believes, but the soul leaving the body after death.
On a picturesque May day during a jolly family outing, Sir Hugo films his son and daughter-in-law as they paddle across the river. In this serene setting, a tragic accident befalls the two, leaving them dead in the water. Compelled to view the images he took, Sir Hugo now notices something different. The marks, he theorizes, do not show the soul leaving the body, but the Greek death spirit known as the Asphyx coming to take it away.
Overcome by sadness, Sir Hugo slowly drifts into the depths of obsession and madness, shedding his social grace and politeness, and rejecting his most valued role as head of the Cunningham family. He reasons that, if a man's Asphyx can be captured before it takes the soul away, then that man will live forever. Driving his adopted son (Robert Powell) with guilt and his daughter (Jane Lapotaire) with threats, he leads his family into his scheme of madness (and into his laboratory) to pursue the most shocking of experiments. Sir Hugo, with the best intentions, manipulates his beloved children into joining his subversive pursuit of immortality. Though he remains a gentleman throughout, Sir Hugo simply cannot shake off the grief of his lost children, as well as the promise of such power that immortality can bring.
The doctor's pursuit is a subversion of the will of God, and as is dictated by the natural order of the universe, he has much to fear in trying to overcome God's will. Our sympathy for all involved adds to the fear factor as the horror inevitably grows.
A 1970s English film inspired by earlier Hammer horror productions, The Asphyx is a psychological ride that provides originality, twists and turns, and a rich Gothic mood somewhat reminiscent of Frankenstein.Terror Trivia
Despite his fine work on The Asphyx, it remains the only film Peter Newbrook directed. He was a producer and cinematographer on Crucible of Terror (1971), Corruption (1967), and other movies and also worked on the camera crews of the classics Lawrence of Arabia and The Bridge on the River Kwai.The Beyond
(a.k.a. 7 Doors of Death)
Behind this doorway lie the terrifying and unspeakable secrets of hell. No one who sees it lives to describe it. And you shall live in darkness for all eternity.
Director: Lucio Fulci
Writers: Dardano Sacchetti, Giorgio Mariuzzo, Lucio Fulci
DVD Availability: Anchor Bay
Catriona MacColl: Liza Merrill
David Warbeck: Dr. John McCabe
Sarah Keller (Cinzia Monreale): Emily
Antoine Saint-John: Schweick
This Italian shower of gore is another gem by the late master of horror Lucio Fulci (Zombie), whose work heavily influenced U.S. horror filmmakers. It begins with a flashback to 1927, when a painter named Schweick (Antoine Saint-John) is attacked by a furious mob that believes he is guarding the passageway to hell in the basement of a New Orleans hotel. Only he can guard the gate, he warns the crowd, but to no avail. We watch as they shred his flesh with chains, burn him alive with acid, and then crucify his body on the basement wall. This unruly mob should have heeded his warning.
Liza Merrill (Catriona MacColl) later inherits the hotel, which she considers her last chance to be successful in life. As she is busy preparing for the reopening, strange things begin to occur. One of the painters falls off a scaffold and, though badly hurt, is able to mutter, "The eyes . . . the eyes." Later, a service bell rings in one of the rooms, even though there are no guests. The basement fills with water, even though not a drop comes out of the faucets upstairs. A plumber is called in, who enters the basement and knocks through a weak, leaky wall. He unearths a hidden room. It's too late for them all; the plumber has opened the gate to hell.
For those who revel in explicitly gory scenes of mutilation, innards, and blood, The Beyond is for you. Director Fulci stays true to his well-known style, with close-ups and zooms into the hardest-to-watch stuff, such as tarantulas eating a man's lips and eyes, acid melting flesh, and undead creatures tearing apart their victims. However, Fulci creates feelings of unease even when there is no gore, building tension that is finally released with shock and horror when the time is just right.Terror Trivia
Posters and newspaper ads for The Beyond's original, mangled U.S. version, 7 Doors of Death, boasted rave endorsements by Texas Chainsaw Massacre's Tobe Hooper and Kim Henkel-quotes that were invented by the distributor!
Film maverick Quentin Tarantino took a liking to this Lucio Fulci masterpiece and rereleased the film in 1998 under his boutique distribution label, Rolling Thunder, partnered with Cowboy Booking and Grindhouse Entertainment. The latter company is headed by Bob Murawski, who has edited Sam Raimi films including Army of Darkness and Spider-Man, and Sage Stallone, son of Sylvester.Beyond the Door
Beyond this door the most terrifying event in the history of mankind is about to occur!
Directors: Oliver Hellman (Ovidio G. Assonitis), Richard Barrett (Roberto D'Ettore Piazzoli)
Writers: Oliver Hellman, Antonio Troisio, Richard Barrett, from story by Oliver Hellman, Antonio Troisio
Sequels: Beyond the Door 2, Beyond the Door III (see trivia)
Juliet Mills: Jessica Barrett
Richard Johnson: Dimitri
Gabriele Lavia: Ken/Marco
David Colin Jr.: Robert Barrett
Richard Johnson (The Haunting, Zombie) is Dimitri, a man who has sold his soul to the devil for a little more time in life. As his car heads over a cliff, sailing toward the rocks below, his timeline is frozen so he can carry out the devil's orders and hopefully renew his life. Dimitri's mission: to make sure the child inside Jessica Barrett (Juliet Mills) is born.
Jessica, pregnant wife and mother of two, is disturbed when her doctor informs her of her baby's due date. The timing just doesn't seem possible. Repeated visits show that the baby is developing at an unheard-of rate, and the medical community has no answers. Jessica begins to lose control of her emotions and to do strange things-like eating a rotten banana peel off the street. She is afraid her baby wants to hurt her and very much wants an abortion. It's too late, however, as the evil power within soon possesses her completely, transforming her from a pretty housewife into a rotting, vomit-spewing conduit of evil. Finally, the mysterious Dimitri comes on the scene to carry out his pledge to the devil. Little does Dimitri know, however, that a disturbing twist awaits. . . .
For a low-budget picture, Beyond the Door contains some impressively executed special FX. Levitation, moving dolls, superhuman strength, and rotting flesh, plus some scenes that are genuinely scary and original, make this a great find for those who enjoy possession movies.
Beyond the Door was produced in the wake of The Exorcist and was both creatively and financially inspired by it (in addition to borrowings from Rosemary's Baby). Spinning heads, green vomit, and a deep demonic voice from the mouth of a petite woman all turn up in the mix. In fact, Warner Bros., the makers of The Exorcist, took legal action in an attempt to thwart the distribution of this film. However, Beyond the Door does feature its own unique moments and even laid groundwork for movies like Poltergeist (note the scene where the children are trapped in their bedroom with flying dolls and furniture). In the end, Warner Bros. lost the case.Terror Trivia
Neither of the movie's so-called sequels had any connection to this film. Beyond the Door 2 was the 1979 American release title of Mario Bava's Shock, while Beyond the Door III was unrelated to either (though it was produced by Ovidio G. Assonitis) and concerned a supernaturally possessed train.
The film found actress Juliet Mills (daughter of Sir John Mills) a long way from wholesome TV fare like Nanny and the Professor.
Beyond the Door didn't only imitate The Exorcist; it was advertised in the United States as being presented in "Possessound," an attempt to ride the coattails of the Sensurround process that had made 1974's Earthquake a hit.Black Christmas
If this movie doesn't make your skin crawl . . . it's on too tight!
Director: Bob Clark
Writer: Roy Moore
DVD Availability: Critical Mass
Olivia Hussey: Jessica "Jess" Bradford
Keir Dullea: Peter Smythe
Margot Kidder: Barbie "Barb" Coard
John Saxon: Lieutenant Kenneth "Ken" Fuller
This film is a cult horror classic and deserves to be. It is eerie and frightening, though it features no real gore. Still, it creates the type of fear that lingers long after the movie is over. A psychopath creeps into the attic of a sorority house around Christmas vacation and makes terrifying phone calls to the residents. At first the girls believe it is the "moaner," a character who has previously made obscene phone calls to them. But as these calls intensify, the caller becomes more and more out of control, shrieking at the girls in increasingly weird tones. The creep also uses different voices, so that they cannot be sure if different people are calling. He eventually threatens to kill, and it's not an empty threat. A member of the sorority goes missing. The remaining members search for their friend, having no sense that the killer is there in the house, watching their every move. Finally the police step in as the female students' numbers decrease one by one. The first is killed with a bag over her head and lugged up to the attic, where she is put in a rocking chair with a doll in her lap, and on and on.
The characters are interesting and the performances all worthy. Olivia Hussey plays Jess, who is pregnant and tells her boyfriend Peter that she wants an abortion. Another sorority sister, played by Margot Kidder (Superman), is lewd and alcoholic. We're never quite sure about the boyfriend, Peter, a volatile musician. John Saxon (A Nightmare on Elm Street) plays the police chief and gives an admirable performance as well. The ending is extremely well done, throwing in some twists the audience never expects. The score is also unusual, adding to the fear and dread. Most interestingly, the sorority house itself is so peculiar that it becomes a character.Terror Trivia
Numerous people were responsible for voicing the frightening phone calls, including director Bob Clark, actor Nick Mancuso, and even a few women.
Clark claims that he was planning a sequel to Black Christmas called Halloween, in which the killer is captured but escapes on the titular night, in 1975-three years before John Carpenter made his horror landmark of the same title.The Blob
Scream now, while there's still room to breathe.
Director: Chuck Russell
Writers: Chuck Russell, Frank Darabont
Original: The Blob (1958)
DVD Availability: Columbia TriStar
Kevin Dillon: Brian Flagg
Shawnee Smith: Meg Penny
Donovan Leitch: Paul Taylor
Jeffrey DeMunn: Sheriff Herb Geller
Candy Clark: Fran Hewitt
Joe Seneca: Dr. Meddows
The setting resembles any Middle American small town, with football games, home-baked apple pie, and teens coming of age. A space capsule crashes on earth, and from within it comes a creature-a gooey, jellylike, carnivorous mass that slithers about, squeezes through tight spaces, and attaches itself to human prey. Once it gloms on, this creature won't let go, absorbing its victims and growing bigger and faster, until it eventually becomes an unstoppable, Titanic-sized mass. To make matters worse, the Blob is the result of a biological experiment gone bad, and a military containment squad that considers the townsfolk expendable shows up and quarantines the area. It's up to the local teenagers to try and vanquish the Blob. Does it have a weakness?
Kevin Dillon (Platoon) stars as the rebel loner who becomes a leader in the fight against the monster, leading a cast that includes young actors Shawnee Smith, Erika Eleniak, and Donovan Leitch. Character actors like Paul McCrane (RoboCop), Jeffrey DeMunn, Joe Seneca, Bill Moseley (Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2), Jack Nance (Eraserhead), and Full Moon vixen Charlie Spradling also make appearances.
In this fast-moving monster picture, no one is safe. Director Chuck Russell (Nightmare on Elm Street 3) breaks convention by killing off many characters we expect to
live-even children. Thanks to outstanding pre-CGI special FX, many are gobbled up in distinctly gruesome ways, including a short-order cook getting sucked down a drain, a waitress obliterated inside a phone booth, a sheriff's deputy broken backward in half, and lots of slimy Blob tentacles squashing screaming townsfolk.
A remake of the 1958 B-movie classic that starred Steve McQueen, this Blob is the type of film that can scare the heck out of kids, while making older viewers cringe at its indestructible high-tech monster. It's a schlock movie in the best sense of the word.Terror Trivia
Chuck Russell and Frank Darabont's first "collaboration" was on Hell Night (see later entry in this book), on which the former was executive producer and the latter was a production assistant.
Makeup FX creator Tony Gardner, just twenty-four years old when he signed on to this picture, drafted his wife, Cindy, to play a victim in the theater scene. He also cast his own face to cameo as a background corpse. In addition, triple amputee Noble Craig (Poltergeist II) appears as a struggling, partially digested Blob snack.
The Blob's special FX were accomplished through a smart, original technique using manipulated silicone-doused weather balloons, dyed silicone, and forced-perspective miniatures on a tilting tabletop-resulting in the Blob's coming to life!The Boneyard
Just keep repeating-it's only a poodle, it's only a poodle . . .
Director: James Cummins
Writer: James Cummins
DVD Availability: Program Power
Ed Nelson: Jersey Callum
Deborah Rose: Alley Cates
Norman Fell: Shepard
James Eustermann: Gordon Mullin
Denise Young: Dana
The Boneyard is a just what the doctor ordered if you're seeking to cure a horrible thirst for gore, flippancy, creepy children, and mutant poodles. Phyllis Diller (of all people) plays a desk clerk who owns the pooch in question and works at the county morgue. The plot is set into motion when the local mortician admits to feeding cadavers to three zombielike children.
The police are soon contacted and brought into the morgue; an old detective (Ed Nelson) and his dopey sidekick (James Eustermann) bring the film a lighthearted laugh. They soon decide to consult with an overweight psychic woman (Deborah Rose), who has a weird past of her own. She has lucid and painful memories about crimes that she has solved, which had to do with none other than-you guessed it-creepy dead children. Pretty soon she discovers an ancient Chinese curse that is causing the "undead problem" at the morgue.
The horror mounts when all the main characters get caught in the morgue trying to escape from the three ghoulish zombie, flesh-eating children. The makeup FX of the little monsters is excellent-guaranteed to make your hair stand up on at least a handful of occasions.
The first part of this film contains a number of well-executed, creepy dream scenes utilizing one of the children. In the second half, the blood and guts break out of the closet, with plenty of mayhem conveyed through quality special FX. In one especially entertaining scene, the overweight psychic, while trying to escape from the giant, mutated poodle, is unable to climb a ladder because her derriere is too big, and she is forced to turn back down to face the monster pooch. This is just one example of the good ol' goofiness that you'll witness while watching The Boneyard.
The really funny and, yes, cultlike feature of this one is the "mutant factor." I dare you to try to forget about a giant aberration of a poodle (of all dogs!). The creepy kids are also surprisingly spooky and contribute a particularly memorable appearance in the second half of the film. The cast of Boneyard execute their roles admirably, providing solid entertainment. The mix of mutants, zombies, goofiness, and gore creates spooky camp at its best!Terror Trivia
This was James Cummins's directorial debut after creating makeup FX for films like Strange Invaders and House.
Director Cummins asked star Phyllis Diller to appear on-screen without wearing one of her trademark wigs.
The producers first sought rocker Alice Cooper and actor Clu Gulager (Return of the Living Dead) for key roles, but eventually hired Norman Fell (Three's Company) and Roger Corman vet Ed Nelson (Attack of the Crab Monsters) instead.From the Trade Paperback edition.
Excerpted from Fangoria's 101 Best Horror Movies You've Never Seen by Adam Lukeman and Fangoria Magazine Edited by Anthony Timpone, Editor in Chief of Fangoria Magazine. Copyright © 2003 by Adam Lukeman and Fangoria Magazine Edited by Anthony Timpone, Editor in Chief of Fangoria Magazine. Excerpted by permission of Crown Archetype, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.