Willing Sacrifices (Bloodtide, 1982)

Set on a small greek island, a young man, Neil, and his new wife Sherry have arrived looking for his missing sister Madeline. He discovers she is staying with some nuns restoring art and hanging with a gruff treasure hunter named Freye.

The Island locals are secretive and not very friendly. As the film goes on, we discover that there is a dark secret… the locals still sacrifice virgins to a creature that lives under the island. Freye has disturbed the creature from a long slumber. Madeline’s art restoration reveals ancient art of the creature, and the discovery of coins seems to infect the locals with a madness reaching even the children. Meanwhile the visitors are all becoming obsessed with their own goals.

For some reason I always thought this was a killer crocodile film. But while it is a creature feature, it is more of a monster flick. You never see much of the monster, even in the few reveal shots. Otherwise you usually see everything from the monster’s perspective. Thankfully, this actually benefits the movie as you get some absolutely beautiful underwater scenes. This movie makes great visual use of it’s environment.

While a slow moving film, I found myself drawn into the mystery and the characters. Bloodtide has a couple moments that left me scratching my head (a passionate lover’s kiss between brother and sister for example). But really, I enjoyed the film a lot of a visual level and seeing James Earl Jones in a not Darth Vader role was fun.

Bloodtide is a film that got relegated to the bargain DVD bin for years, which is a shame as I found it rather interesting and engaging.

Overwatch (The Sentinel, 1977)

The_Sentinel_PosterModel Alison Parker is looking to get a bit of space in her relationship with lawyer Michael. Her apartment search leads to an old building with furnished apartments that affordable.

After moving in she starts to have fainting spells while on photo shoots. She is also getting to know her rather eccentric neighbors. There is Charles, who tells her about the other tenants, Gerde and Sandra and the old priest they never see who lives upstairs.

In one very uncomfortable scene, Sandra starts masturbating as Alison tries to avoid watching. This scene is as awkward for the viewer as much as Alison. The police are investigating Alison’s situation, with an eye on her boyfriend, who they suspect may have killed his wife. MeanwhileMichael is looking into her neighbors and makes a disturbing discovery…but not quite as disturbing as the one Alison makes when speaking with the woman who showed her the apartment. She and the priest are the only two occupants.

Michael Winner, director of several Charles Bronson films (including the first three Death Wish movies) both wrote and directed this supernatural thriller. And it is pretty good.  The film has some genuinely solid scares. In one scene, Christina is walking through her building in the dark when suddenly a creepy pale and neatly naked figure walks past her unexpectedly.  She is horrified to realize it is her abusive father, who is recently deceased.

The film is a bit infamous for using people with very real deformities in the grand finale, and while it is startling, it also feels incredibly exploitive. Burgess Meredith make a fine creepy old guy who seems harmless and kind (if odd) when we first meet, only to discover he had sinister and cruel motives all along.

The film is also kind of notable for early film roles for Jeff Goldblum and Christopher Walken.

Winner has created a (very) minor horror classic in the vein of an old haunted house movie. It has some real chills and has a rather interesting ending.

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