Cooties is a fictional childhood disease used in the United States of America and Canada as a rejection term and an infection tag game (such as Humans vs. Zombies). – wikipedia
“Don’t Move, this beast is fierce.”
The sword and sandal genre is a long line of marginally decent too horribly bad films. When done halfway decent a semi-epic adventure story set in the bronze or silver age is a helluva lot of fun. Watching muscle bound men in loincloths swing ornate long swords while sorcerers raise stop motion skeletons and giant monstrosities is a large part of any adolescent boys film education. For those of us who first discovered film in the 1980s we have a unique perspective on sword and sandal films. Conan the Barbarian set a bar to which all movies that came behind it tried desperately to see, let alone rise above. Some films were successful in holding their own, others failed miserably. The Beastmaster is great example of the former. Released in 1982 the movie by all accounts was a box office flop. If IMDB is to be believed, the movie cost approximately $8 million to make. the U.S. gross three weeks after release at just under $11 million. For a lot of movies this return on investment would bury the film under the mountain of Hollywood failures never to see the light of day again. We aren’t just talking about any old film though, we’re talking about a sword and sandal film.
The Beastmaster isn’t a perfect movie. It isn’t even a particularly good movie in many aspects. The dialogue is passable at best. The names of the animals are downright silly. Ruh? Koto and poto (I’m not even sure I spelled those correctly)? Marc Singer’s acting is rather bad throughout the film. I could go on but fortunately there are some many other things to love about the movie it’s easy to give it’s failures a pass.
First, the premise is cool. A king whose son is stolen away in the belly of a cow, via magic. The boy later grows up with the ability to control animals. Twin ferrets that play the role of the thieves (super cleaver). An army of black leather, deathmetal band looking, killer that do little more than look badass. Rip Torn looking like a hollowed out crack addict with cool skull adorned braids. What’s not to like!
Second, The Beastmaster has a decent story. By today’s standards any remake would need to be at least three hours long. The movie suffers from a noticeable lack of large battle scenes. Other than the village raid in the first act there isn’t another major battle in the film. Dar storms the temple and saves the day, leading to the return of the Jun horde, but neither battle involves anyone other than the four primary protagonists. Dar, Kiri (the sexy Tanya Roberts), Seth (awesome John Amos), and Tal (Joshua Milrad) do all the fighting through the last half of the film, and although they are faced with what appear to be insurmountable odds they prevail each time.
Finally, and this goes to my last point about the battle sequence, the movie has the best use of deus ex machina ever used in a movie. The Winged Devourers are awesome. Possibly one of the most original creations in sword and sandal, they inject a huge amount of mystery and dread into the Beastmaster’s world. Take it or leave it, they make the film. So is The Beastmaster worth the time of day? Most of you have seen it before, of that I’ve no doubt, but if you’re actually reading this and haven’t see this film I highly recommend you do. I’ll add this caveat – 1982 was an era of practical effects. An era of multiple takes, over and over and over, until they got one right. An era of movies with grand ideas and small budgets. Take this into account, free your mind, drink several beers and you should be good to go.
Horror movies never had a greater champion than Fangoria magazine.
Interviews with Robert Bloch and Richard Matheson. Prophesy, Phantasm, War of the Worlds, art by Carl Lundgren and a bonus Dr. Who poster! Awesome stuff!
IT Happened At Lakewood Manor a.k.a Ants!
If the 1980s was the golden age of the slasher horror film, the 1970s hold the honor for insect horror. The 1977 made for TV movie Ants may not be the best of it’s era but it’s still a fun little micro-horror that boasts some genuine skin […]
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Here is the official trailer for Infected. Looks like a lot of #zombie #apocalyptic fun!
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Welcome to Ireland! Potatoes, Whiskey, Vampires?
From the Dark is a single location horror film from Irish writer/director Conor McMahon (Stitches). Set in the Irish countryside the premise is simple enough:
Unaware of the fact that digging holes on Irish farms is an extremely dangerous activity to engage in, a farmer (Gerry O’Brien) discovers a body while digging a hole on his Irish farm. The body turns out not to be dead (but rather undead) and shenanigans ensue. Meanwhile a young couple (Niamh Algar and Stephen Cromwell) out for holiday happen to wander into the wrong place after their car gets stuck in the mud. From there it’s simply a matter of survival for the couple while the creature stalks them throughout the night. We learn quickly the monster is allergic to light of any kind (the brighter the better), then watch as the couple try to figure a way off the farm with what little illumination they can find.
The reviews I’ve seen online focus on the limited scope and simplicity as reasons for disappointment. The general consensus is that From the Dark takes a basic horror plot and does almost nothing with it, leaving audiences underwhelmed and frustrated.
I disagree. From the Dark’s simplicity turns out to be a hidden strength. McMahon keeps a nice steady pace throughout the film, never letting it drag but also never rushing too quickly from one scene to the next. The film is shot almost entirely at night making it a dark film on screen which works well to set the atmosphere and environment through which the creature lurks in and out of the shadows. A technique I rather enjoyed. Not seeing the monster up close, but rather outlined in the background keeps the focus on the couple and their ordeal. As a viewer it helps create a feeling that you’re standing next to the couple, trapped in the same situation.
The monster (which may or may not be a vampire) looks very familiar. Most genre fans will see some resemblance, especially when it’s hands splay outward from it’s hips, long nail-like claws glowing in the moonlight. It’s creepy and fun.
So why are the reviews online lukewarm to crapfest? I have no idea but I’ll speculate. Horror film fans and critics can be ruthless when it comes to critical analysis of the genre. Genre fans understand that most horror films are formulaic or derivative so they look for uniqueness, style and over-the-top antics to set one film apart from it’s predecessors. Makers of horror films know this and often get caught up in trying to set their movie apart and forget the basics. I feel for the filmmakers. It’s difficult to create original spin on rehashed ideas but fans hope for that each time a new slasher, zombie, monster, murder, mayhem, creature feature film gets released. This is why From the Dark deserves a lot of credit. McMahon doesn’t do anything flashy. Doesn’t throw in a twist for shock value. Doesn’t worry about backstory, exposition or details. He focuses in on the nuts and bolts of what makes good horror good horror – simplicity.
From the Dark is available on Blu-ray for $10 and I recommend you take a look.
Horror Movie gifs are always cool but these title card animations are outstanding.
Thanks to Vixens and Monsters over at tumblr for sharing some fantastic John Carpenter gifs! We love the hell out of these.
Behind the scenes of Halloween (1978)