Movies Till Dawn: Fun Size Sour Shriekers (Halloween 2021)

“Roh” (2019, Film Movement) The arrival of a strange little girl with a dire pronouncement sets in motion a chain of terrible events for a rural mother (Farah Ahmad) and her two children. Deceptively simple but deeply disturbing Malaysian supernatural chiller from first-time feature director Emir Ezwan refuses to play by traditional horror rules: strange and grisly phenomena occurs without explanation, forcing you to sweat out the film’s icy pace until the final, awful reveal. An impressive and promising debut; “Roh” is available now in theaters and virtual cinemas, as well as VOD and digital platforms.

Mill of the Stone Women” (1960, Arrow Films) Reporter Pierre Brice travels to Holland to visit sculptor Herbert Bohme’s Chamber of Horrors exhibit devoted to infamous women in history. He woos and abandons Bohme’s daughter (Scilla Gabel), who promptly drops dead; the real horror, however, lies in the secret behind Bohme’s sculptures. Italy’s first color horror film (co-produced with France, Spain and West Germany) – their first in color – from director Giorgio Ferroni is a riot of Gothic imagery and warped science played against an impossibly lush canvas that draws equally from “House of Wax” and “Eyes Without a Face.” Arrow’s two-disc Blu-ray set offers four versions of the film, including the original Italian theatrical and export versions, a 90-minute French version and the shorter US version, along with commentary by Tim Lucas, visual essays, alternate titles, and archival interviews with the cast.

Frankenstein’s Daughter” (1958, The Film Detective) A descendant (Donald Murphy) of Frankenstein carries on the family business by building his own monster while also finding time to turn teenage Sandra Knight (who later married Jack Nicholson) into a goggle-eyed, buck-toothed fiend. That these two pursuits are only tenuously connected should in no way take away from your enjoyment of this logic-free but entertaining creature feature from director Richard E. Cunha (“She Demons). Everything you desire from a ’50s monster movie is present in “Daughter”: a bizarre-looking monster (actor Harry Wilson), John Ashley in teen idol mode, overripe dialogue, two bopping songs, knucklehead comedy from Harold Lloyd, Jr., and even a smattering of gore. Film Detective’s Blu-ray presents “Frankenstein’s Daughter” with commentary and liner notes by Tom Weaver (who’s joined on the track by Larry Blamire) which detail the production length (six days) and locations (Layton Street in West LA), though I could have lived without Weaver’s jokes about “kung flu” which devalue the track. Archival video interviews with Cunha (filmed in the ’80s at his video store in Oceanside) and a featurette on Ashley’s acting and producing career round out the set.

Castle of the Creeping Flesh” (1968, Severin Films) A gaggle of libertines stumble upon the home of count Howard Vernon, who is elbows-deep in forbidden science in order to revive his deceased daughter. Flashbacks reveal that the count’s misfortune is due to a family curse; footage of a real open-heart procedure and a man in a bear suit fill out the gaps in plot logic. Eurocult madness from Adrian Hoven (“Mark of the Devil”), who borrowed many of Jess Franco’s repertory players (Vernon, Janine Reynaud, Michel Lemoine) and let them loose in Austria’s Castle Kreuzenstein (featured in “The Witcher” and Bava’s “Baron Blood”). Severin’s uncut, restored Blu-ray includes interviews with Hoven’s family, alternate opening credits and titles.

Homebodies” (1974, Kino Lorber) Forced eviction spurs desperate seniors to fight back by slaughtering city planners and construction workers in baroquely inventive ways. Offbeat (to say the least) black comedy makes excellent use of its veteran cast (which includes such prolific players as Ian Wolfe, Peter Brocco, and Paula Trueman) and Cincinnati locations that were apparently being demolished during production. The murders are nor gruesome but morbid in a Gorey-esque way; Kino’s Special Edition Blu-ray includes commentary by director Larry Yust (whose 1969 short “The Lady and the Tiger” you undoubtedly saw in school) and an interview with producer Marshal Backlar, who oversaw the Oscar-nominated “Skaterdater.”

An Angel for Satan” (1966, Severin Films) The transformation of innocent Barbara Steele into a deadly wanton coincides with the retrieval of a centuries-old statue of a distant relation by her highly suspicious uncle (Claudio Gora). In her final appearance in an Italian horror film, Steele confirmed her otherworldly, almost fetishistic appeal among the horror faithful with a full-bore performance that is equally alarming and alluring; though her presence is the film’s chief selling point, director Camillo Mastrocinque infuses it with an appropriately dream-like quality that helps underscore her frequent shifts in personality. Severin’s Limited Edition Blu-ray – the first official US release – features commentaries by Steele (with David Del Valle) and historian Kat Ellinger, and critic Ado Kyrou’s 1967 short “Barbara & Her Furs,” which positions Steele at the axis of high fashion, underground art, and downtown dungeon tastes.

The Werewolf” (1956, Arrow Films) The arrival of an amnesiac (Steven Ritch) in a snowy Montana town coincides with a rash of attacks on residents that appear to be the work of a large unknown animal. Unique take on werewolf pictures which filters the monster through atomic science rather than superstition: Ritchie’s lycanthropy is the result of “irradiated wolf serum” administered by a pair of tunnel-vision-minded scientists to help humanity survive a nuclear war (or something like that). The serum also turns its subjects into werewolves (makeup by Clay Campbell, who reuses the appliances he created for 1944’s “Return of the Vampire”), though as in “The Wolf Man,” the transformation is more tragic than terrifying. Director Fred F. Sears (“The Giant Claw“) makes excellent use of the Big Bear Lake locations and keeps the action at a brisk clip; Arrow’s Blu-ray, part of its “Cold War Creatures” set, features an introduction to Sears’ career by Kim Newman, commentary by historian Lee Gambin, a video eassay by critic Alexandra Heller-Nicholas about the female characters in the set’s four films, and a 8mm digest version of “The Werewolf.”

Eye of the Devil” (1966, Warner Archives Collection) Vineyard owner David Niven and wife Deborah Kerr discover that he may fall afoul of the family’s sacrificial practices designed to preserve the grapes in times of trouble. Witchy vibes abound in this visually striking British thriller by J. Lee Thompson, due in no small part to the presence of Sharon Tate as one half of a sinister sibling duo with mod icon David Hemmings, though Donald Pleasance as a sinister priest and rituals conducted by hooded figures also contribute. Plays well as a precursor to “The Wicker Man”; Warner’s Blu-ray is remastered.

Thank you to Warner Archives Collection for providing a free Blu-ray for this review.

About Paul Gaita

Paul Gaita lives in Sherman Oaks, California with his lovely wife and daughter. He has written for The Los Angeles Times, LA Weekly, Variety and Merry Jane, among many other publications, and was a home video reviewer for from 1998 to 2014. He has also interviewed countless entertainment figures, but his favorites remain Elmore Leonard, Ray Bradbury, and George Newall, who created both "Schoolhouse Rock" and the Hai Karate aftershave commercials. He once shared a Thanksgiving dinner with celebrity astrologer Joyce Jillson and regrettably, still owes the late character actor Charles Napier a dollar.
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