Horror


The Sinful Dwarf: Eurosleaziest

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The Sinful Dwarf directed by Vidal Raski

Film buffs who are curious as to what the whole Eurosleaze genre is all about could not find a better exemplar than The Sinful Dwarf. A 1973 picture from Denmark, of all places, the film conflates soft-core porn elements, deformed characters, scenes of ultracamp, and considerable doses of drugs and depravity into one of the sleaziest confections any viewer could possibly hope for.

In this truly one-of-a-kind outing, the viewer meets Lila Lash, a drunken, scar-faced ex-entertainer (played by Clara Keller), who, with her grotesque dwarf son, Olaf (the remarkable Torben Bille), runs a boardinghouse in what we must infer is London. The Lashes' main source of income, however, comes from somewhere else. Olaf, using windup toys as an enticement (I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried!), lures young women back to the house, where they are knocked out, locked in ... Read More

City Of The Living Dead: “Things that will shatter your imagination…”

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City Of The Living Dead directed by Lucio Fulci

The second installment of Lucio Fulci's so-called Zombie Quartet — coming after 1979's Zombie and preceding 1981's The Beyond and The House By the Cemetery — City of the Living Dead (1980) finds the Italian director near the very top of his form, confounding his audience with borderline senseless plots and repulsing viewers with an array of awesome gross-out effects.

In this one, a priest named Father Thomas (Fabrizio Jovine) hangs himself, for reasons never explained, in the cemetery of small-town Dunwich, Massachusetts (an homage here to the fictional town created by the great H.P. Lovecraft; the picture would more accurately be entitled Village of the Living Dead). T... Read More

The Small Hand: I’m giving it a big hand

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The Small Hand by Susan Hill

Susan Hill’s first ghost novel, 1983’s The Woman in Black, had recently surprised this reader by being one of the scariest modern-day horror outings that I’ve run across in years. Thus, I decided to see if lightning could possibly strike twice, and picked up her more-recent The Small Hand (2010). This latter title is the fourth of Ms. Hill’s five ghost novels to date, following The Mist in the Mirror (1992) and The Man in the Picture (2007), and preceding her recent Read More

The Beyond: All Hell busts loose

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The Beyond directed by Lucio Fulci

In the 1977 film The Sentinel, a character played by Cristina Raines moves into a Brooklyn Heights apartment building that, as it turns out, sits above the gateway to Hell. But as Italian director Lucio Fulci shows us in the third picture of his so-called Zombie Quartet, 1981's The Beyond (which picture followed 1979's Zombie and 1980's City of the Living Dead and preceded that same year's House By the Cemetery), there are actually SEVEN gateways on Earth that lead down to the infernal nether regions! Here, a NYC-based woman named Liza Merrill (beautiful English actress Catriona MacColl, who stars in the final three films of the Quartet) inherits a run-down inn called the Seven Doors Hotel, in Louisiana. After a series of gruesome accidents transpires around the property, Liza is warned by a mysterious blind girl, Emily (Cinzia Monr... Read More

Tokyo Gore Police: “Once upon a time there was an engineer…”

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Tokyo Gore Police directed by Yoshihiro Nishimura

Those viewers who thought the pyrotechnic gore FX of Yoshihiro Nishimura in the 2001 cult item Suicide Club to be a bit too over the top may want to hold on to their seats and wrap themselves in a full-length rubber coverall as Tokyo Gore Police begins to unspool. Living up to its title in spades, this 2008 offering does indeed give us a look at the cops in Japan's capital city in the near future, and ladles out more of the red stuff than The Wild Bunch, El Topo, The Evil Dead AND Dead Alive (four films once deemed the ne plus ultra of violence) put together ... and then some!

In this film, Nishimura has developed the "human blood fountain" to a fine art, a concept that I believe Akira Kurosawa initially used to great shock effect at the tail end of 1962's Sanjuro. Viewers with any sort of aver... Read More

Inferno: A “mater” of life and death

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Inferno directed by Dario Argento

In Dario Argento's 1977 masterpiece, Suspiria, the viewer learns that the ballet school known as the Tanz Akademie, in Freiburg, Germany, was the home to a coven of witches led by a being later revealed to be the Mater Suspiriorum, Latin for "Mother of Sighs." And three years later, in Argento's semisequel, Inferno, the viewer learns something even more disturbing. The Mother of Sighs, the oldest, was apparently only one of three sister entities; living somewhere in Rome, there exists the Mater Lacrimarum (Mother of Tears), the most beautiful of the three (we DO get a look at her in Inferno, I THINK, in the guise of a music student played by Ania Pieroni), while in New York City abides Mater Tenebrarum (the Mother of Darkness), the youngest and cruelest of the bunch. Together, the trio has caused woe to mankind for untold ages.

And when a young ... Read More

The Bloodstained Shadow: Eerie canal

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The Bloodstained Shadow directed by Antonio Bido

A practically goreless giallo coming fairly late in that genre's cycle, The Bloodstained Shadow (1978) yet manages to provide all the requisite thrills that Eurohorror fans might reasonably expect. This was the second picture from director Antonio Bido, whose initial giallo entry, The Cat With Jade Eyes (aka Watch Me When I Kill), released the year before, seems almost forgotten today. Drawing liberally from 15 years' worth of giallo tropes and conventions preceding it (Bido, on this Anchor Bay DVD, acknowledges his debt to Dario Argento during a modern-day, informative interview), the film remains a very worthwhile contribution to the genre.

In it, the viewer meets a pair of brothers, Stefano and Paolo D'Archangelo. When Stefano, a college professor (played by Lino Capolicchio, who some may recall as the leading man in P... Read More

Crimson, the Color of Blood: Brain trust

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Crimson, the Color of Blood directed by Juan Fortuny

Fans of actor/screenwriter/director Paul Naschy who rent out the 1973 film Crimson, the Color of Blood hoping to get a good solid dose of "the Boris Karloff of Spain" may be a tad disappointed at how things turn out. By necessity, Naschy's role in this picture is severely limited, he doesn't make much of an appearance until the film is 2/3 done, and even in the final 1/3, his thesping abilities are only minimally utilized.

In this French/Spanish coproduction, Naschy plays a jewel thief named Surnett, who flees from the police, along with his gang, after a botched robbery attempt near the French city of Nancy. Surnett is shot in the head two minutes after the film begins, and spends the next hour of the picture in a virtual coma, while his gang scrambles to find a doctor to help him. Ultimately, it is decided that Surnett needs nothing less than... Read More

Exorcismo: For Naschy completists only

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Exorcismo directed by Juan Bosch

The notion has often struck me that one of the hallmarks of truly great screen stars is their ability to render even the most egregiously shlocky films highly watchable and interesting by dint of their very presence. This idea occurred to me again several months back, as I caught the 1957 film Voodoo Island for the first time; a picture that might be close to unwatchable, had it not starred the always fascinating Boris Karloff. And this thought struck me again the other night as I sat before the 1975 Spanish horror outing Exorcismo, which stars and was co-written by the so-called "Boris Karloff of Spain," Jacinto Molina, who is more popularly known as Paul Naschy. A slow-moving, talky affair, the film is most assuredly rescued by Naschy's always interesting presence.

Here, for a change,... Read More

The Hunchback of the Morgue: Hot rats

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The Hunchback of the Morgue directed by Javier Aguirre

From the jaunty circus music that plays during its opening credits to the closing shot of a steaming, bubbling pit of sulfuric acid, The Hunchback of the Morgue, a Spanish offering from 1973, literally busts a gut to please the jaded horror fan. Co-written and starring "The Boris Karloff of Spain," Paul Naschy, the film is a wildly over-the-top, cheesy affair that yet succeeds in its primary intentions: to stun and entertain the viewer.

In The Hunchback of the Morgue, Naschy plays the title character, Wolfgang Gotho, a hunchbacked janitor in the morgue of the Feldkirch Hospital, in what the viewer must infer is Germany, in modern times (although the film, with very minor revisions, could just as easily have been set 200 years ago). Shunned, reviled and even stoned by the town's populace, Gotho's only joy in life is bringing flowers t... Read More

Vengeance of the Zombies: Naschy X 3

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Vengeance of the Zombies directed by Leon Klimovsky

Psychotronic-film buffs who watch the Paul Naschy films Crimson (1973) and The Hanging Woman (also 1973) may come away feeling a bit shortchanged regarding the amount of screen time allotted to the so-called "Boris Karloff of Spain." In the first, Naschy plays a jewel thief who has been shot in the head following a botched robbery, and thus lays in a near coma for the film's first hour, while awaiting a brain transplant; in the second, he plays a necrophilic grave digger whose screen time is brief in the extreme. No such drawbacks for the eager Naschyphile crop up in Leon Klimovsky's Vengeance of the Zombies (1973 again ... quite a year for Paul!), fortunately; in fact, in this one, Spain's leading horror icon plays no less than three (3!) roles, and is marvelous in all of them.
... Read More

A Blade in the Dark: “I don’t want to hurt you … I only want your blood…”

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A Blade in the Dark directed by Lamberto Bava

Lamberto Bava's first film as a director, 1980's Macabre, was supposedly a bit too tame in the violence department to satisfy all the gorehounds out there, so in his next picture, 1983's A Blade in the Dark, the son of the legendary "Father of the Giallo," Mario Bava, created a bloodbath that might well have made papa proud. Filmed on the cheap in only three weeks at the country villa of producer Luciano Martino, the film is yet surprisingly effective and looks just fine.

The plot centers around a young composer named Bruno (appealingly portrayed by Andrea Occhipinti) and the four stunning-looking women in his life. Sandra, a film director (Anny Papa), has just hired him to compose the score for her latest horror film, and has ensconced him in a secluded country villa to get the job done. Bruno, as the viewer soon learns, in not untalented, a... Read More

Blood Sucking Freaks: Entertaining, but as sick as they come

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Blood Sucking Freaks directed by Joel M. Reed

A film that seemingly has no other goal than shocking and offending its audience, Blood Sucking Freaks (the lack of a hyphen is annoying) must be deemed a complete success. From first scene to last, this is a picture that gleefully parades its repugnant, gross-out set pieces and depraved characters for the viewer's questionable delectation. Initially appearing in 1976 under the title The Incredible Torture Show (a better, more apropos appellation, I feel; Blood Sucking Freaks suggests that a vampire type of story will be unreeling, which this film most certainly is not), it was later renamed by those wackos at Troma, which released the film on VHS and DVD with the memorable admonition "Warning: This film contains scenes of freaks sucking blood." Something of a legendary bad-taste cul... Read More

Beyond the Door: A mash-up of Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist

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Beyond the Door directed by Ovidio Assonitis

“I am waiting for you inside the guts of this whore!”

A somewhat effective mash-up of Rosemary's Baby and The Exorcist, Ovidio Assonitis' Beyond the Door (1974) yet has little of the class and sophistication of the first or terrifying shocks of the latter. Released a year after The Exorcist kicked box-office tuchus (garnering $89 million; the No. 1 highest earner of 1973, if the book Box Office Hits is to be trusted), the film suffers from an aura of déjà vu, but still has much to offer to the dedicated horror fan.

In it, Juliet Mills (daughter of John, older sister of Hayley, but perhaps best known to American viewers as Phoebe Figalilly from the early '70s sitcom Nanny and the Professor) plays Jessica Barrett, a wife and mother of two. She lives in Sa... Read More

Of Unknown Origin: Rat attack

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Of Unknown Origin directed by George P. Cosmatos

Speaking as a native New Yorker, I would hazard a guess that the two things my fellow residents here fear the most, when it comes to their apartment or dwelling place, are (a) bedbugs and (b) rodents. Those bloodsucking little insects were on the wane for many decades, but have unfortunately made a comeback in recent years, and while not disease carriers, are notoriously difficult and expensive to eliminate. As for the latter, well, the sight of a scurrying mouse in the house is surely enough to startle even the toughest of Big Apple dwellers. But the thought of a rat — the larger-size rodent that most New Yorkers only see on the subway tracks underground — getting INSIDE one's residence is one that is certain to engender nightmares. This fear was only made worse a little while ago, with the online emergence of a video showing how easily the whiskered horrors can clim... Read More

The Strangler Of Blackmoor Castle: Sehe Es Wegen Karin

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The Strangler Of Blackmoor Castle directed by Harald Reinl

It was back in mid-June 1967 when I — and millions of other baby-boomer boys, I have a feeling — first developed a crush on beautiful, redheaded Karin Dor. With the opening of the fifth James Bond blowout, You Only Live Twice, Dor, already a long-established actress in her native Germany (although few of us realized it at the time), was revealed to an international audience ... one that could scarcely fail to be impressed by her turn as Helga Brandt, S.P.E.C.T.R.E. agent No. 11, whose demise in Ernst Stavro Blofeld's piranha pool is one of the series' most memorable moments. Over the intervening 47 (!) years, this viewer has endeavored to see a lot more of Dor, but with only scant success. Her role in Alfred Hitchcock's Topaz (1969), playing the brunette widow of a Cuban revolutionary, was easy enough to see, but other than that, I had to w... Read More

Madhouse: Mary, Mary, quite contrary

It's Shocktober! Sandy will post a horror movie review every day this month!

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Madhouse directed by Ovidio G. Assonitis

Not to be confused with the 1974 Vincent Price/Peter Cushing movie entitled Madhouse (a fun, underrated film, by the way) and certainly not with the 1990 John Larroquette/Kirstie Alley comedy sporting that same name, the 1981 Italian horror outing called Madhouse is another story entirely. I say that the film IS Italian, although the average viewer might never realize it. Despite being an Italian production, with an Italian crew and composer, the picture was shot in English, features an American cast, and was filmed in Savannah, Georgia, although the filmmakers could certainly have included more of that city's picturesque charm, had they chosen to do so.

In this film (perhaps inspired by Brian De Palma's 1973 classic Sisters Read More

She Said Destroy: A good introduction to Bulkin’s beautiful, creepy prose

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She Said Destroy by Nadia Bulkin

Nadia Bulkin’s horror stories are surreal, subversive, often political. 2017’s short story collection She Said Destroy offers 13 stories, some set in our world, some set in worlds almost exactly like ours and some set in strange, feverish landscapes unlike what we’ve seen before.

“Intertropical Convergence Zone” and “Red Goat, Black Goat,” are set in an imaginary country that looks more than a bit like Indonesia. (Bulkin writes many stories set in this place.) “Intertropical Convergence Zone” follows the country’s dictator, the General, as he ingests more and more magic. In the opening passages, he eats a bullet — literally. He eats a bullet that was used to shoot a man in the heart; it protects the General from bullets. The narrator, a faithful member of the inner circle, distrusts the dukun... Read More

SFM: Marshall, Campbell, McBride, Hawthorne

Short Fiction Monday: Our weekly exploration of free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Here are a few stories we've read that we wanted you to know about. 


“Red Bark and Ambergris” by Kate Marshall (Aug. 2017, free at Beneath Ceaseless Skies99c Kindle magazine issue)

Sarai is forcibly taken from her paradisiacal island home by the queen’s men when they discover that the young girl has the magical ability of a scent-maker, one who can concoct fragrances that will powerfully affect people, evoking memories and calling forth emotions. She is sent to live permanently o... Read More

THE ASSASSIN SERIES: Three horror novellas by Tim Lebbon

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Dead Man’s Hand, Pieces of Hate, A Whisper of Southern Lights by Tim Lebbon

The three novellas Dead Man’s Hand, Pieces of Hate, and A Whisper of Southern Lights make up Tim Lebbon’s ASSASSIN series. They were originally published in 2004, 2005, and 2008 by Necessary Evil Press but were reprinted by Tor.com in 2016. Tor packaged the first two stories together under the name Pieces of Hate.

The ASSASSIN series tells the story of a man named Gabriel who has, for centuries, been hunting Temple, a demon who slaughtered Gabriel’s family. Gabriel can feel when he is close to Temple and uses this sense to follow ... Read More

SFM: Tambour, Vaughn, Kowal, Larson, Balder

Short Fiction Monday: Our weekly exploration of free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Here are a few stories we've read that we wanted you to know about.


“The Walking-Stick Forest” by Anna Tambour (2014, free on Tor.com, 99c Kindle version)This is an excellent dark and fantastical short story, set in 1924 in Scotland. Athol Farquar is a veteran of World War I who now lives a solitary life as a carver ― or, more accurately, a shaper ― of wooden walking sticks. He has a deep affinity for blackthorn wood and the forests around his home, and an equally profound distrust of people... Read More

The Thief of Always: A delightful children’s horror story

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The Thief of Always by Clive Barker

It’s summer and Harvey Swick, a ten year old with an active imagination, is bored. That’s how he gets lured into Mr. Hood’s Holiday House. It’s a wonderful place that’s fun and exciting, where Harvey gets everything his heart desires, and where he and the other kids who live there can play all day every day and eat delicious food whenever they want. As the seasons fly by, Harvey is happy at Mr. Hood’s house until things start to get a little spooky and it starts to dawn on Harvey that the place seems unnatural. When Harvey tries to leave, the Holiday House gets downright scary.

I was thoroughly entertained by Clive Barker’s The Thief of Always and I suspect that most children and teens will easily identify with Harvey and, ... Read More

SFM: El-Mohtar, Wilde, Zinos-Amaro & Castro, Fallon, Larson, Kingfisher, Zhang

Short Fiction Monday: Our weekly exploration of free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Here are a few stories we've read that we wanted you to know about. 


“Biting Tongues” by Amal El-Mohtar (2011, free at Uncanny, $3.99 Kindle magazine issue. First printed in The WisCon Chronicles (Vol 5): Writing and Racial Identity)

“Biting Tongues” is a speculative poem which slowly reveals the tenaciousness of the character or characters involved, through a progression from social expectations of their voice and bodies... Read More

Graveyard Shift: Unusual protagonist brings new life to urban fantasy/horror tropes

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Graveyard Shift by Michael F. Haspil

With Graveyard Shift (2017), Michael F. Haspil’s debut novel, readers who enjoy a fair amount of horror and blood mixed into their urban fantasy are in for a rare treat: the primary protagonist is a reanimated mummy, though he’s certainly no bandage-wrapped, shambling thing. Rather, he’s a sophisticated and smooth-talking detective in the sun-drenched Miami-Dade metro area, and he takes protecting his city very seriously.

As Menkaure, he once strode along the banks of the mighty Nile, bending the backs of others to his will as easily as one bends a reed, before his eventual death and mummification. Much later, reanimated and rechristened Alex Romer, he slew vampires for the ultra-secret agency known as UMBRA; now, he walks the streets of Miami-Dade as part of the Nocturn Affairs unit, keeping the city safe from supernatu... Read More

SFM: Wahls, Jemisin, Gaiman, Coen, Pi

Short Fiction Monday: Our weekly exploration of free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Here are a few stories we've read that we wanted you to know about. It's an outstanding group this week!

“Utopia, LOL?” by Jamie Wahls (June 2017, free on Strange Horizons)

Charlie Wilcox, after uncounted centuries of cryogenic frozenness, is decanted in a distant future. He’s cheerfully helped to adjust by an extremely ditzy person named Kit/dinaround, who is the assistant of the AI known as the Allocator, which watches over and guides humanity. Through a temporary upload station, Kit shows Charlie the ropes of their virtual society, which humans (who now number in the trillions) experience solely as digital entities, “uploaded consciousnesses in distributed Matryoshka brains.” It’s an immense, and immensely complex, Matrix type of w... Read More