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Month: February 2021

They Came From Within / Shivers / Parasite Murders, The (1975)

They Came From Within / Shivers / Parasite Murders, The (1975)

“Why not breed a parasite that can do something useful?”

Synopsis:
When a researcher (Rollo Linsky) informs a doctor (Paul Hampton) that his insane colleague (Fred Doederlein) has implanted parasites in his young lover (Cathy Graham) and then killed her, Dr. St. Luc (Hampton) and his girlfriend (Lynn Lowry) begin an investigation, quickly finding that an increasing number of residents in their apartment complex — including a businessman (Alan Migicovsky) whose wife is friends with a lonely neighbor (Barbara Steele) — have become infected.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Barbara Steele Films
  • David Cronenberg Films
  • Horror Films
  • Mad Doctors and Scientists
  • Zombies

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary notes that this “first of David Cronenberg’s low-budget horror films to play in the United States” “quickly established his cult”. Shivers presents an “intriguing setting” — an “isolated, sterile apartment complex which is a planned, self-contained community” — wherein a parasite with “the power to drive its carrier violently insane” is travelling “on its own from apartment to apartment through the plumbing”, and can also “be transferred from its carrier through sexual contact.” He posits that the “film has some tension at the beginning when the initial people are infected”, noting that the creepiest moment comes “when the parasite crawls between unsuspecting Barbara Steele’s legs while she bathes” (ewww!), then transfers from her throat to her lover’s while kissing — but he argues that the “story, character development, and the film itself go out the window when almost everybody in the building” (except Hampton) “becomes infected and runs through the halls looking for people to attack.”

Peary writes that while this “exploitation picture is too violent and crude”, the “special effects (i.e., creatures moving beneath the skin) by Joe Blasco anticipated those that would appear in future big-budget SF and horror films” — like Alien (1979). Because the sub-genre of “sci fi body horror” films isn’t a personal favorite, it’s hard for me to comment on whether Cronenberg’s film goes off the rails or simply continues along its own perversely logical trajectory; I can say that things certainly build to a tense fever pitch by the end, leading to a sense of claustrophobia and despair.

As Richard Scheib of Moria writes, “Shivers is Night of the Living Dead construed as a satire on the 1970s swinger lifestyle” — a very apt analogy indeed.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Some effectively creepy moments on a low budget

Must See?
No, though of course Cronenberg fans will be curious to check it out.

Links:

Full Moon High (1981)

Full Moon High (1981)

“I know all about werewolves and their little problems.”

Synopsis:
When a high school football player (Adam Arkin) travels to Transylvania with his father (Ed McMahon), he’s turned into a werewolf. Twenty years later, he returns to his high school and attempts to get help from a pretty vegetarian (Joanne Nail) in filming his transformation so he can get caught.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Alan Arkin Films
  • Comedy
  • High School
  • Larry Cohen Films
  • Werewolves

Review:
This “no budget werewolf comedy” by cult director Larry Cohen — best known for helming It’s Alive (1974), God Told Me To / Demon (1976), and Q: The Winged Serpent (1982) — was originally meant to be a comedic take on I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957), but turned into its own cheesy brand of juvenile satire. Unfortunately, the humor on display here is exceedingly silly, and will only appeal to a certain type of audience member. With that said, I enjoyed all interactions between Arkin and Nail, whose plucky can-do horniness reminded me of Elizabeth Banks’ character in The 40 Year Old Virgin (2005).

Watch for Alan Arkin (Arkin’s real-life dad) in a bit role as an “insults-based” therapist called in to try to help.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Joanne Nail as Ricky
  • A few mildly amusing lines: “Someone has broken in, and I may not like him.”

Must See?
No; you can skip this one unless it sounds like your cup of tea.

Links:

Company of Wolves, The (1984)

Company of Wolves, The (1984)

“A wolf may be more than he seems.”

Synopsis:
A young teen (Sarah Patterson) dreams that she’s left her parents (David Warner and Tusse Silberg) to go stay with her advice-filled grandmother (Angela Lansbury), who tells her tales of a werewolf (Stephen Rea) who runs away from his bride (Kathryn Pogson) and then attacks her years later for remarrying, and a young man (Vincent McClaren) given a hair-sprouting potion by the Devil (Terence Stamp). Soon Rosaleen (Patterson) is telling stories of her own — including one about an impregnated witch (Dawn Archibald) seeking revenge on the nobleman (Richard Morant) who abandoned her, and one about a young she-wolf (Danielle Dax) receiving assistance from a kind priest (Graham Crowden).

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Angela Lansbury Films
  • Coming of Age
  • David Warner Films
  • Fantasy
  • Folk Tales, Fairy Tales, and Mythology
  • Strong Females
  • Terence Stamp Films
  • Werewolves

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that this film by “Irish director Neil Jordan… and his co-writer, Angela Carter, on whose short story the film is based” is “thematically and visually unlike any other movie”, defying “genre classification”. He adds, “It’s not really a horror movie, although it contains horror elements, such as dramatic men-into-werewolf transformations”:

— and while “it could be called a ‘suspense’ film or a ‘terror’ film,” it’s “more accurately… a film about sexual anxiety and a young virgin’s fear of and fascination about crossing the sexual threshold.” He notes that Jordan and Carter “have brought new sexual meaning to the fairytale” of Little Red Riding Hood:

… “by making the girl-wolf relationship a metaphor for all male-female relationships and by having the girl’s fairytale walk through the woods to Grandma’s house be the centerpiece of a frenzied dream of a young girl.”

Peary describes the movie as “wondrously photographed (its ‘look’ is unique)”, representing a “netherworld” that “is magical, enchanting, yet mysterious and foreboding. It’s a world filled with insects, snakes and toads, and warm-blooded animals; twisted trees, spider webs, and all kinds of sexual imagery.”

While Rosaleen is warned by her grandmother (in “a delightful bit by Angela Lansbury”) to “stay away from men”:

… and she “believes her grandmother speaks the truth about men and fears sexual contact”, she “does not run from the stranger she meets in the forest.”

Peary adds that “even more than Picnic at Hanging Rock, this film expresses the painful and confusing sexual yearnings of young girls.”

He ends his review by noting that while this movie is “not for all tastes”, it’s “definitely worth a look” — and in the years since Peary’s GFTFF was published, it’s developed a cult following, as has his phenomenal thriller The Crying Game (1992) (which happens to be one of my top-ten personal favorite films — but my review of that will have to wait until I have time to resume writing about post-GFTFF must-see titles…) What most impresses me about The Company of Wolves (other than its incomparable other-worldly sensibility) is how strongly it empowers females: while Peary focuses on Patterson’s sexual development, I see this as primarily a movie about a girl daring to venture out into the (admittedly scary) world on her own, imagining the worst that might happen to a female at the hands of men (dealing with an insistent suitor; being attacked; being impregnated and/or abandoned) and also how she might handle and survive such a fate.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Sarah Patterson as Rosaleen
  • Angela Lansbury as Granny
  • Highly atmospheric cinematography

  • Anton Furst’s sets
  • Impressive special effects

Must See?
Yes, as a cult favorite.

Categories

  • Cult Movie

Links:

Brood, The (1979)

Brood, The (1979)

“The law believes in motherhood.”

Synopsis:
When he picks up his daughter Candy (Cindy Hinds) from a weekend visit with her mother (Samantha Eggar) at a controversial therapeutic clinic and notices welts on her back, Eggar’s husband (Art Hindle) confronts Eggar’s doctor (Oliver Reed) and tries to determine what’s going on. Meanwhile, a rash of mysterious murders by a dwarf-like creature ensues, as Frank first leaves Candy with her grandmother (Nuala Fitzgerald) and then with her sympathetic schoolteacher (Susan Hogan).

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • David Cronenberg Films
  • Father and Child
  • Horror Films
  • Mental Illness
  • Mutant Monsters
  • Oliver Reed Films
  • Psychotherapy
  • Samantha Eggar Films

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that this “complex, chilling horror film by David Cronenberg advances two of his major themes: there is nothing more frightening than sudden unexplained changes in our physical compositions” and “sterile institutions meant to promote health are often responsible… for destroying a person’s physical and mental well-being.” He notes that “this was the first Cronenberg film in which his characters are sympathetic”, with “the relationship between Hindle and Hinds… truly touching” (agreed).

While he feels the “film often has repulsive imagery and much in the climactic scene is illogical,” there “are several terrifying scenes” and he posits that the picture has “a cold, other-worldly feel” which is “heightened by the fact that many of the characters’ surnames… can’t be found in your local telephone book” (!).

Peary elaborates upon his review in his first Cult Movies book, where he admits to being “intrigued by the premises of all of Cronenberg’s film” but questioning “his judgments and directorial maturity”, given that he gets “juvenile pleasure from trying to jolt viewers by repelling them with blatant, often ridiculous images”, and gets “kicks trying to disgust us.” (In a “making of” documentary about this movie, Eggar concedes that it was hard not to laugh while filming the infamous scene in which she reveals her deformed body to Hindle…) Peary writes that among the “terrifying sequences” are “the murders of Julianna [Nuala Fitzgerald] and Barton [Henry Beckman]” (Eggar’s parents); he accurately notes that “when Julianna enters her mysteriously ramshackle kitchen, looks up toward the ceiling, and spots a little crouched figure in red atop the cupboards about to leap on her, or when Candy sees the hooded figure (who may remind you of the dwarf assassin in Don’t Look Now, 1973) hiding on the stairwell, you are likely to jump.” Meanwhile, “the most chilling” scenes are when two of the dwarf-like creatures “brazenly enter Candy’s classroom pretending to be her classmates:

… and when they walk with Candy hand in hand along the highway in the snow.”

Peary writes that “perhaps what is most remarkable about The Brood is the sinister quality that Cronenberg establishes,” by “staging intense psychodramas between Raglan and Nola” (and, in the opening scene, with another troubled patient):

… as well as “by creating a restrictive atmosphere around the Psychoplasmics Institute; by making his characters humorless and setting the picture in cold, snowy weather (where everyone wears coats and scarves, and walks under gray skies)”:

… “by giving the autocratic Raglan a henchman; [and] by making us aware of the history of child abuse in Nola’s life.” While Peary doesn’t think the final sequence makes sense, he concedes that “at least it’s spooky, lively, and comes after about an hour and a half of absorbing, solid cinema.”

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Art Hindle as Frank
  • Oliver Reed as Dr. Raglan
  • Samantha Eggar as Nola
  • Fine cinematography and direction


  • Many creepy moments

Must See?
Yes, as an eerie and still-powerful cult horror flick.

Categories

  • Cult Movie
  • Important Director

Links:

Hunger, The (1983)

Hunger, The (1983)

“You said forever — never ending. Do you remember?”

Synopsis:
A centuries-old vampire (Catherine Deneuve) seeks a new partner (Susan Sarandon) when her current companion (David Bowie) finally caves in to old age.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Catherine Deneuve Films
  • David Bowie Films
  • Horror Films
  • Lesbianism
  • Susan Sarandon Films
  • Vampires

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary argues that this “disappointing, pretentious horror film set in contemporary New York” eventually “becomes downright stupid and repulsive”, noting that Tony Scott’s “direction is stylish in the wrong way” and that “the picture comes across as an exotic commercial or sexy music video”. He points out that in this “vampire chic”, there is “loads of sex, including the much publicized lesbian scene between Deneuve and Sarandon,” but he writes “it’s so tiresome that the whole thing should have been in Polish” (!!!). He ends his review…

(SPOILER ALERT)

… by positing that “the trite, horrible scene in which all of Deneuve’s former lovers rise from their coffins and revolt against her is the worst horror-movie finale since the ghost attack in The Sentinel.”

I’m less disappointed by this highly stylized cult vampire flick than Peary obviously is. While some aspects of the screenplay — i.e., nearly everything taking place in Sarandon’s laboratory — are insufficiently explained, the overall mood is (appropriately) one of sensuous horror amidst grandeur and deception. Deneuve and Bowie are perfectly cast as (nearly) ageless vampires who live for seduction (and classical music), and Sarandon is both sexy and believable as a doctor strangely attracted to Deneuve. The ending works okay for me, though (again) I wish some elements were explained more clearly, and I’m not sure what to make of the (deliberately?) ambiguous coda. Meanwhile, Denny Jaeger and Michel Rubin’s score makes excellent use of music by Ravel, Schubert, and Delibes (I’m a sucker for his “Flower Duet”).

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Catherine Deneuve as Miriam
  • Susan Sarandon as Sarah
  • David Bowie as John
  • Highly atmospheric cinematography and sets

  • Good use of NYC locales

  • A fine musical score (borrowing heavily from classical music)

Must See?
No, but it’s recommended if you’re interested.

Links:

Fright Night (1985)

Fright Night (1985)

“I have a vampire living next door to me — and he’s going to kill me if I don’t protect myself.”

Synopsis:
A teenager (William Ragsdale) who is convinced that a pair of vampires (Chris Sarandon and Jonathan Stark) have moved in next door struggles to get his girlfriend (Amanda Bearse) and annoying best friend (Stephen Geoffreys) to believe him. They humor him by going to visit the “vampire-killing” host (Roddy McDowall) of a TV show known as “Fright Night”, asking McDowall to convince Ragsdale that his fears are unfounded — but are they?

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Horror Films
  • “No One Believes Me!”
  • Roddy McDowall Films
  • Vampires

Review:
This affectionate homage to Hammer Studios’ horror films of the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s starts off on a somewhat corny note, but builds to an appropriately gruesome conclusion. Sarandon is sexy, seductive, and scary in the lead villainous role, perfectly cast as a sultry vampire who can easily charm his way through life; it’s not hard to see how/why:

(MINOR SPOILER ALERT)

… both Geoffreys and Bearse ultimately fall under his spell.

Much less convincing is McDowall, who displays only a couple of different expressions throughout the film, seemingly stuck in a perpetual state of shock and disgust (and his terrible hairpiece is awfully distracting):

To the film’s credit, it’s highly atmospheric, and features a number of pretty spectacular special effects for the time. It was followed by a sequel, a remake, and a sequel to the remake, and has maintained a small cult following — but it isn’t must-see viewing for all film fanatics.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Chris Sarandon as Jerry
  • Atmospheric cinematography

  • Fine special effects and make-up

Must See?
No, though it’s worth a look if you’re curious.

Links:

Dead Zone, The (1983)

Dead Zone, The (1983)

“That is your dead zone — the possibility of altering the outcome.”

Synopsis:
On his way home from visiting his fiancee (Brooke Adams), a man (Christopher Walken) is involved in a terrible car accident and goes into a coma for five years. Upon finally awakening, he learns from his doctor (Herbert Lom) that he’s developed psychic abilities, which he eventually puts to use helping a police detective (Tom Skerritt) solve a horrifying case and trying to prevent future tragedies.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Brooke Adams Films
  • Christopher Walken Films
  • David Cronenberg Films
  • Horror Films
  • Martin Sheen Films
  • Psychic Powers
  • Stephen King Films

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that this “exceptional, exciting psychological horror film” — “smartly adapted from Stephen King’s novel by Jeffrey Boam, and directed with surprising control (and taste) by David Cronenberg” — features Christopher Walken playing “his most sympathetic screen character”.

Peary notes that the “film’s theme is that a man should face up to his moral responsibilities”: in this case, while Walken originally “feels that he should live as an outcast”, he eventually realizes he “must come out of his self-imposed exile and use his rare power to help humanity” — first by exposing “the identity of the Castle Rock Killer”, and later in outing a politician (Martin Sheen) with diabolical intentions.

Peary writes that “both sequences are extremely atmospheric and build to gripping conclusions”, and that the picture as a whole “is strongly acted… and full of unusual moments — including a great, inspired, tasteful scene which has Adams and Walken finally consummating their love.”

Peary ultimately argues that this is “Cronenberg’s best film” and “also the best screen adaptation of Stephen King” — assertions which many fans of both Cronenberg and King will likely take issue with, but he’s right in naming what a satisfying tale this remains.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Christopher Walken as Johnny
  • Fine direction and cinematography

Must See?
Yes, as a surprisingly powerful supernatural thriller.

Categories

  • Good Show

Links:

Curtains (1983)

Curtains (1983)

“If I’m going to play a madwoman, I’ve got to know what it’s really like!”

Synopsis:
An actress (Samantha Eggar) and her director-husband (John Vernon) agree Eggar should check herself into a mental asylum under false pretenses, to prepare for an upcoming role as “Audra” — but when she learns that Vernon planned to leave her in the asylum and audition six other actresses (Deborah Burgess, Lynne Griffin, Linda Thorson, Anne Ditchburn, Sandra Warren, and Lesleh Donaldson) for the part of Audra, she vows revenge.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Actors and Actresses
  • Horror
  • Mental Illness
  • Mistaken or Hidden Identities
  • Revenge
  • Samantha Eggar Films
  • Serial Killers

Review:
What would people “kill” for? Landing a coveted role in a high-profile show might evoke such urges in disturbed actors, as we’ve seen play out (metaphorically) in films such as All About Eve (1950) and Mephisto (1981). However, this Canadian slasher flick takes the sentiment to its literal bloody conclusion, with the entire screenplay centering on numerous young women unknowingly putting their lives at risk for a role. At first the movie seems to be flirting with the dangerous territory covered in Sam Fuller’s Shock Corridor (1963), as a “sane” woman (Eggar) foolishly commits herself to a mental asylum (not a good idea!!!!).

But we fairly quickly shift to a more serious variation on Murder By Death (1976), with a group of individuals all invited to a big, dark house for a specific purpose.

We’re kept in reasonable suspense about the identity of the killer, and there are plenty of unnerving twist and turns. As described in the Canuxploitation review:

By the time animated curtains fall on the final bookend scene — a performance in front of a handful of drooling asylum inmates — the film has supplied enough black-gloved killings, whodunit red herrings, terrorized beauties and theatrical set pieces to qualify it as more of a snowy giallo than anything else.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • A clever screenplay with some effectively handled chills
  • John Vernon as Jonathan Stryker

Must See?
No, but fans of the genre will want to check it out. Listed as a Personal Recommendation in the back of Peary’s book.

Links:

Daughters of Darkness (1971)

Daughters of Darkness (1971)

“Love can be stronger than life — stronger, even, than death.”

Synopsis:
When a sadistic man (John Karlen) and his beautiful new wife (Danielle Ouimet) stop at a nearly deserted Belgian inn on their way back home, they meet a mysteriously ageless woman (Delphine Seyrig) and her loyal companion (Andrea Rau), who seem deeply interested in befriending the couple.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Horror Films
  • Lesbianism
  • Newlyweds
  • Vampires

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that “Belgian writer-director Harry Kumel’s English-language lesbian vampire film is among the most stylish of horror films and probably the most perverse.” He argues that this “cult film is flawed, yet it masterfully combines traditional horror elements with outrageous, often ludicrous wit; and no other horror film can match the eroticism that pervades every scene.” He adds that “it’s a rare horror film with social relevance: it more than expressed feminist themes — it actually had a decidedly anti-male attitude, despite being made by men.”

The film centers on Seyrig’s character, who “claims to be Elizabeth Bathory — the name of the ‘Bloody Countess’ who lived and murdered scores of virgins for their blood three centuries before” and is played by Seyrig “with the sense of irony and melancholia that we associate with the roles of Seyrig’s friend Marlene Dietrich”.

Peary notes that “like Stephanie Rothman’s similarly plotted The Velvet Vampire, this vampire film shows that female vampires can win over a woman completely through the unbeatable combination of willpower, mind control, and sex appeal.”

Peary goes on to write that the “film contains horror-movie conventions — mist, too-loud suspense music, bloody violence, vampires who cast no reflections, don’t drink alcohol, and peer into bedroom windows from balconies — but Kumel (influenced by former friend Josef von Sternberg) handles nothing conventionally”, instead cleverly using “sound, music, his wonderful sets, colors (especially red):

… clothes, character placement, and weird camera angles (often he shoots from above, or at a great distance to convey the terrible isolation each character feels).” Peary elaborates upon his GFTFF review in Cult Movies 2, where he notes that the “film can be intentionally silly”, “downright horrifying”, or “utterly outrageous, in a macabre sort of way” — then shift to being “surreal, as in the magnificent shot of Elisabeth surrounding Valerie [Ouimet] with her cape as they stand on a cliff, the full moon shining behind them.”

He argues that while this “may be a wicked film”, and “it is no gem”, he finds it “sexy, imaginative, amusing, and undeniably fun.” While I acknowledge Peary’s appreciation for Daughters of Darkness, I can’t say I feel the same way. This films seems to me to be all style and no substance, and I honestly don’t understand the “point” (which I know is probably asking too much of a vampire film). Very little actually happens, other than ongoing seductions and killings. Intriguing narrative threads — i.e., Karlen calling home to his “mother” (Fons Rademakers) — are introduced, then dropped:

… and the lead characters are either unlikable or not particularly sympathetic (i.e., we don’t learn enough about Ouimet to relate to her). While fans of vampire flicks will surely want to check this one out, it’s not must-see viewing for all film fanatics.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Delphine Seyrig as Elisabeth Bathory
  • Fine cinematography and set design

Must See?
No, though fans of the genre will of course want to check it out.

Links:

Basket Case (1982)

Basket Case (1982)

“I’ll never desert you — not after all we’ve been through.”

Synopsis:
A young man (Kevin Van Hententryck) living in New York City with his deformed twin brother Belial in a wicker basket hatches a plot to seek vengeance on the doctors who separated them; meanwhile, Van Hententryck falls for a pretty receptionist (Terri Susan Smith), which causes Belial to feel increasingly jealous.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Horror
  • Jealousy
  • Mutant Monsters
  • Revenge
  • Twins

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that “in the year of E.T., midnight movie audiences were equally enthusiastic about B.C. [Basket Case], a very creative little horror gem” (by first-time director Frank Henenlotter) “about another peculiar-looking, waist-high, long-nailed creature who must remain hidden in our hostile world.”

He notes that “the original distributor… trimmed the gruesome gore scenes, not realizing that the excessiveness of blood and violence is what made such scenes cartoonish”, and argues that the inclusion of the deleted footage is fortunate given that “in addition to being a first-rate fright film, this is an outrageous black comedy that uses excessive violence for comic relief.”

Peary adds that while he “detested seeing one more despicable monster-rapes-girl scene”, the “film has many qualities to compensate: the truly clever script; the offbeat characters, even down to the smallest parts; the fascinating on-location photography in a flea-bag New York hotel; and some nifty special effects, model work (two proteges of Dick Smith [Kevin Haney and John Caglione] made Belial from latex and foam), and stop-motion photography that was very ambitious for such a miniscule budget.”

Peary posits that “best of all is Belial, who, when not ripping people apart, is in his own way as endearing as E.T.”. (Nope — but I can understand how fans of monster flicks might feel this way.)

In his Cult Movies 2 book, Peary elaborates on the history of this ultra-indie film’s creation and distribution, noting that producer Edgar Ievins “didn’t want to reveal exactly how low the budget was until he had sold the film to cable.” Suffice it to say that the crew (who apparently had a blast working together) was cutting corners in every way possible, stretching the filming out over six months simply to take advantage of whatever meager funding, supplies, and access to location sites they had.

The result is a movie that won over many cult movie audiences (including Peary), who writes that what he finds “most impressive about Basket Case is that it never loses momentum. Scene after scene of this oddball story is interesting, well written for tension and humor, cleverly directed, and well acted” (well… it’s sufficiently acted). He notes that “adding to our enjoyment, Henenlotter has assembled one of the strangest groups of actors/characters to ever grace a horror film”, with Duane (Van Hententryck):

… and Belial seeming “almost normal in a world of mad doctors and lowlifes of the type who occupy the Hotel Broslin…”

He points out that the “three positive influences on the twins are their kindly aunt [Ruth Neuman] (young Belial sits in her lap while she reads out loud):

… prostitute Casey (played by cult favorite Beverly Bonner):

… and Sharon [wig-wearing Smith]:

— and even they are peculiar.”

Finally, Peary writes that “no one can match little Belial. There have been a lot of strange hotel/inn/boarding house boarders in horror movie history — Claude Rains in The Invisible Man (1933), Henry Hull in The Werewolf of London (1935), Laird Cregar’s Jack the Ripper in The Lodger (1944), and Michael Rennie’s alien in The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) immediately come to mind — but none are as weird as Belial,” who, “when he paces back and forth plotting his next crime” reminds Peary “of gangster Edward G. Robinson, cigar in mouth, pacing while plotting his next heist.” He points out that “for almost the entire film, we sympathize with Belial because a great wrong was done to him in his youth” — and we “don’t mind his doing away with such despicable characters as [Dr.] Lifflander [Bill Freeman]:

… [Dr.] Kutter [Diane Browne]:

… and [Dr.] Needleman [Lloyd Pace]:

… or even thief O’Donovan” (Joe Clarke).

Again, I’m not personally a Belial fan, but I can appreciate the effort that went into humanizing this ultimately monstrous being.

Note: Fans of Basket Case will surely want to check out the 2012 documentary What’s in the Basket? (about the entire Basket Case trilogy), which features interviews with most of the key players — but, sadly, not Smith, who seems to have disappeared off the cinematic radar completely.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Good use of location shooting throughout New York
  • Impressive low-budget special effects

Must See?
Yes, as a cult favorite.

Categories

  • Cult Movie

Links: