Monday , June 24 2024
"The horror!" Rhino releases two sets of thoroughly cheesy horrorflix. . .

Horrible Horrors, Volume One

What is it about bad horror movies that makes ’em so enthralling? There are plenty of gawdawful movies being foisted on the public every year, after all, but where a bad comedy can be excruciating to endure, an ineptly made scare film is both entertaining and comforting in its own ham-handed way. It isn’t just smug audience superiority at play (though, Lord knows, that can be a large part of the experience), but in a way lame-ass horrorflix give us insight into the way this most visceral of entertainments works on audiences when it’s successful. Good horror films grab the audience and, for the space of the movie at least, make critical thinking irrelevant. Bad ones invite look-behind-the-curtain critical observation: the look-there’s-the-mike-shadow thing.
Which brings us to Horrible Horrors, Volume One, the first of two Rhino collections of Crown International horror cheapies from the 70’s & 80’s. Bargain packaged and priced to contain eight movies (among ’em: Fleshburn, Horror High, and the surreally incoherent Lurkers) on two flipper discs, Horrors provides good value for those who’d rather watch a British babe with a seventies coif bathe in front of the camera in her underwear than listen to Reese Witherspoon attempting to maintain an English accent for a Cliff’s Notes version of Thackeray. If you’re like me, you’ll probably parcel your viewing over time – watch too much of this shit at once and you start hallucinating robot puppets on the couch right next to ya – but, seeing as how I’m writing this in the middle of October, I had to watch at least one of the movies right away.
I selected Terror, a British entry written by David McGillivray and directed by Norman J. Warren. The movie opens up in medieval times with a good old-fashioned witch-burning and a clumsily shot beheading that is obviously done on a dummy. The poor FX shot turns out to be the abrupt end of a historical horror movie being shot in the manor where, folklore sez, a real-life witch performed that decapitation for real. For a few moments, we almost wonder if the bad acting and cheesy effects are intentional (as when DePalma, for instance, opened Blow Out with a parody of the then-current round of slasher pix), but as soon as the phony movie folk open their mouths, we’re set straight. Yup, this cast of unknowns (John Nolan, Carolyn Courage, James Aubrey and others you’ve never heard of in America, though I bet at least one of ’em had a short-term run on British soaps) is just as bad as the folks we saw in the opening. Turns out the witch-burning flick’s producer/director/whatever (it’s never quite made clear) is a descendent of the manor’s owner. From him, we quickly learn that all of his ancestors have died horribly, so we eagerly wait for the witch’s curse to take hold on the new generation.
The rest of Terror revolves around a series of killings – as those in the film crew and a few inexplicably chosen bystanders are killed in fakey gruesome ways. (Lots of stabs at heavily padded dummy limbs in this flick.) Terror‘s creators seem incapable of deciding whether they’re making a maniac-on-the-loose movie (they throw in several unexplained red herrings involving the moviemaker’s “distant” cousin) or a more full-blown supernatural slice-&-dice flick a la The Omen, until the end when we’re shown a ludicrous floating car (hmm, think J.K. Rowling saw this movie as a teen?) and a mansion filled with flying furniture. By the time the witch makes her inevitable appearance, looking exactly like the actress who played her in the movie, we’re ready for Terror to end just as suddenly and unsatisfyingly as the ersatz horror flick that opened it. In that, we’re not disappointed.

About Bill Sherman

Bill Sherman is a Books editor for Blogcritics. With his lovely wife Rebecca Fox, he has co-authored a light-hearted fat acceptance romance entitled Measure By Measure.

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