Poe-Vision (Two Evil Eyes, 1990)

two_evil_eyes_poster.jpgTwo Evil Eyes is a double feature from George A. Romero and Italian horror icon Dario Argento.  The two tales are Poe inspired tales The Facts in the Case of Mr. Valdemar and The Black Cat.

Romero’s tale is a pretty straight forward.  Jessica Valdemar married Ernest Valdemar for his riches.  She has to keep him alive, but he is nearing death. She is trying to keep her affair with his doctor, Robert Hoffman, secret.  Hoffman is a practitioner of hypnotism and has been hypnotizing Mr. Valdemar.  He dies during one of these sessions, presenting a problem for Jessica.  His will specified he must live to a certain date for her to inherit his money.

Jessica and Robert concoct a plan to freeze the body so they can claim he died after the necessary date.  But there is a hitch.  Valdemar may not be dead.  Moans come from the basement freezer…and eventually they are able to converse with him. Mr. Valdemar warns of others who want to use him to get into our world.  Robert is obsessed with learning more…and it is not meant to end well.

Argento’s the Black Cat follows crime scene photographer Roderick Usher.  He is following a series of murders seemingly inspired by the stories of Edgar Allen Poe.  Meanwhile, his girlfriend has adopted a stray feral cat.  When he kills the cat in a fit of rage, in spite of lying about it, his girlfriend kicks him out, certain of his guilt.  But the cat keeps coming back.  What ends up playing out is a gruesome telltale heart story.

Both stories have a great cast of horror veterans.  Harvey Keitel is particularly good as the unlikeable cat obsessed Usher.  The Black Cat has far more unnecessary gore than Romero’s story, but overall, they both are fairly effective stories.

Comics Are Rotten (Creepshow, 1982)

Creepshow_Poster

The Horror anthology has always been risky.  There are few true classics.  Mostly what you get are movies with a couple good tales among some duds. George Romero and Stephen King teamed up to create Creepshow.

The five stories included here are all pretty strong.  The first is Fathers Day, the story of a somewhat rotten family gathering to celebrate the birthday of the late patriarch.  This year, he intends to get his birthday cake.

The second story is the Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill is about a simple-minded farmer who discovers a meteor on his land. After touching the meteor, Jordy finds frass growing uncontrollably, consuming his body.

Something to Tide You over features an adulterous couple who are discovered by the woman’s husband.  He seeks to take revenge trapping them on the beach (so to speak).

The Crate follows an older professor who is constantly belittled by his alcoholic gossip wife.  His respite is his fellow professor, Dexter.  Dexter is called to the school by a janitor who finds a mysterious crate tucked away.  The crate seems to be decades old…but to also contain something still alive.  And hungry.

Finally, They’re Creeping Up on You is about an old man obsessed with cleanliness finding his home seems to be under siege by cockroaches.

The film is framed as a comic book, with art by Jack Kamen (an E.C. comics artist, which is the inspiration for Creepshow).  As each story begins and ends, we see comic book art that fades into the live image (or Vice Versa).  The art is great and provides a unique look to the film.  The film also has an extra framing device of a story about a young boy (Played by King’s real-life son Joe) whose father (played by veteran character actor Tom Atkins) is angry when he finds him reading a horror comic book.

Tom Savini provides a great series of effects, with visuals that mimic the color of comics. The gruesome visuals are not interested in realism, rather in being lush and colorful.

The cast is really terrific.  You have veterans like E.G. Marshall and Hal Holbrook along with upcoming stars like Ed Harris and Ted Danson.

Most of the film has a tone of cartoonish horror.  The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill struggles the most in this regard because at times it gets absurdly comical.  But overall, Creepshow is still one of Romero’s straight up most fun works.

Fear of Santa Clause TV Edition Pt 1 (Tales From the Darkside, S3: Seasons of Belief, 1986)

tales-from-the-darkside-seasons-of-belief-1986Tales from the Darkside was a creation of George Romero.  It ran for four seasons, with each episode being half an hour.  It was a more horror themed take on the Twilight Zone.

The episode Seasons of Belief is about a family in which the kids express no Christmas spirit.  They are upset that they cannot watch TV on Christmas Eve.  They are bored, speak ill of Santa and so on.  The parents start telling their children a story about “the Grither”. He is an angry Christmas Spirit who seeks out anyone who calls his name.  The parents start weaving in odd folklore and songs about the Grither.  Of course, the kids (already not believing in Santa Clause) keep calling his name after the parents tell them he will come to find them.

The kids become more and more frightened of the made up monster.  The parents, instead of calming the fears keep making them worse.  The twist calls into question the nature of the story.  Is the intense fear of the children giving the story life?  Is it truly old folklore, speaking to something very real?

This is a really well done holiday episode, anchored by a good performance from E.G. Marshall.  In spite of facing a very limited budget, the story is effectively told so as to overcome those limitations.

 

 

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