Monday, May 2, 2016

The Creeping Flesh

Clearly I'm on an old school horror kick tonight. The next movie in the marathon is The Creeping Flesh. I'm apparently having a marathon secondary to the theme of old school horror, as I inadvertently chose another Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing film. Which I am ALL ABOUT right now. The Creeping Flesh is from 1973, and although a bit dated, includes very well done special effects. This is another of Dipper's recommendations.

Not going to lie, this movie synopsis has given me the most trouble of almost any that I've written recently. Put plainly, the viewer can tell at the start of the film that any peace and quiet in Cushing's life is the creeping flesh 2balancing on spidersilk, because he can't seem to put anything in order before rushing off to the next project. For example, he has spent the last year in Papua, New Guinea, chasing the origins of mankind and proof of evolution. When he comes back, it turns out that the estate's finances have been dwindling, and his daughter has had to let go of two of the servants in order to make ends meet. To the extent that his brother, played by Lee, has been funding his expeditions. As if that weren't enough, she's distraught and pining for the mother she believed died when she was  younger. She's been struggling to find some scrap to tie herself to the mother she barely remembers. The truth, it turns out, is far worse. Her mother has recently died, in an asylum run by Lee, no less. It would seem that not only is Cushing's life a mess, but so is Lee's. Shortly into the film, one of the asylum inmates breaks free and is on the loose.

In the forefront of all of that chaos, is the discovery that Cushing made while in New Guinea. He has brought home with him a massive skeleton, one that creates more questions than it answers. It's extremely old, but far more advanced. A paradox which intrigues Cushing to the extent that he basically forgets everything else around him. (Including his daughter starting to nose around in her dead mother's locked room - which can't be a good thing by any means! It's worth noting that while poking around in her mother's room, she discovers the truth of her mother's committal in the asylum.) While examining the bones, Cushing decides to wash them off, and takes a wet towel to the hand. He quickly discovers that the flesh reappears on the bones when water is applied. He's curious, so he removes one finger and allows the flesh to regrow.

the creeping flesh 1While reading up on the legends of the region and searching for some clue about the bones, Cushing comes across a legend about a race of giants buried deep. They were supposed to be exposed slowly as the earth eroded around their bones, and a rainstorm was supposed to facilitate their return by fleshing out the bones. They were supposed to be the ultimate evil, and the legend says that by the time they are out and causing havoc, the peoples in New Guinea were supposed to have evolved enough to be able to fight them. (Holy mackerel! Such detail!) Cushing makes the leap that he can develop a serum against evil from the flesh - how the hell he came to that conclusion is kind of foggy - and begins to test it. Meanwhile, a thief enters Cushing's lab and attempts to steal the skeleton, but winds up just exposing the whole thing to a rainstorm.

Cue unspeakable evil amid a backdrop of a deeply dysfunctional family, and you've got one helluva creepy classic! Once again, Cushing and Lee do not disappoint. The film is very well acted, well written, and very complex. If you're looking for a solid creature flick with interesting characters, I would highly recommend that you see The Creeping Flesh.


Dr. Terror's House of Horrors

Tonight is my night off - and I'm spending it in the nerdiest way possible. I'm working on crocheting a temperature blanket and watching horror movies.  (For those that don't know, a temperature blanket is a year-long project, where every day the highest or lowest temperature is recorded, and a row is added to the blanket with a color corresponding to the temperature.) I haven't watched any movie recommendations from my brother lately, so tonight I decided on Dr. Terror's House of Horrors. To be honest, it was an arbitrary pick. I don't remember him specifically recommending it, but it's on a list of movies he has watched, so I figured what the hell. Anyways, it's always good to discuss old horror with Dipper, who is very knowledgeable.

dr terrorI was immediately pleased to see that Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, and Donald Sutherland were in it. (Kid you not - Donald Sutherland looks just like his son, Keifer, in this movie!) I'm sure there's other actors that I'll recognize, but none by name.

Dr. Terror's House of Horrors is an anthology movie, or rather, it's composed of several stories woven together by a central theme. The mysterious Dr. Schreck tells the fortunes of five strangers on a train. Each fortune is a story about their future, and the horrors that will befall them. In the first one, "Werewolf", Jim goes to his former home to make alterations for the family that lives there. While there, he finds the coffin of Count Cosmo Valdemar, and hears a legend that the Count turns into a werewolf hellbent on killing the widow living in the house. The truth, he will find out, is much more terrifying.

"Creeping Vine" is the second fortune, and in it, Bill returns with his family from vacation to their home. Bill's wife asks him to get rid of the vine that has sprung up seemingly out of nowhere, fearing it will overpower the hydrangeas. Instead of overpowering the other plants in the garden, the creeping vine has higher aspirations. Soon the family is trapped in the house, with a homicidal vine covering every window. It becomes a fight for survival between the plant and the family, with only one victor.

"Voodoo" is adapted from a story by Cornell Woolrich called "Papa Benjamin". Biff is playing a jazz gig in the West Indies, where he overhears a voodoo ceremony. Enthralled by the music, he decides to sample one of the songs in the ceremony. He ignores a warning not to steal the song, which belongs to the devotees of the god Damballah, who is portrayed as fierce and not taken to sharing his rituals with nonbelievers for the purpose of entertainment. Biff more than ignores the warning, even incorporating the high priest's mask into the background for his performance stage.

In "Disembodied Hand", Christopher Lee plays Franklin Marsh, a scathing art critic. He publicly humilates artist Eric Landor during a heated exchange at a gallery. Marsh, not to be outdone, hits Landor with his car. Landor loses his hand, and with it the ability to paint. He then kills himself. His disembodied hand seeks revenge.

"Vampire", features Donald Sutherland as a doctor returning to the United States with his French wife. They no sooner settle down when there begin a rash of strange killings. He enlists the help of his friend Dr. Blake, who helps him discover the true identity of the vampire. But that's not the end of Sutherland's problems, as he is soon betrayed by his friend.

I'm incredibly sorry that most of these descriptions are sparse at best. Despite the film's small running time of 98 minutes, each story is absolutely packed with great acting, fast-paced storytelling, and quirky twist endings. That's why I can't divulge the last story, "Epilogue", which is the wrap-around tale for the film. Suffice to say, it's absolutely brilliant.

I had never heard of this film until I saw it in my brother's collection, but I will say this much: this is exactly why I listen to all of his recommendations. I'm also pleased that I'm expanding my horizons when it comes to Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, who until I started watching the old horror movies, were known to me only in their later careers. I'm not going to lie, films like this also cause a certain degree of melancholy. At the risk of sounding cliche, they just don't make horror films like these anymore. Straight-up storytelling with no gimmicks. Well acted. Decent production value. And well-written tales. I'm already sorry for the day I've seen all the older horror films I can, because it really is an experience to watch them for the first time with fresh eyes.