This piece was originally published October 15th, 2012.
It’s that fun time of the year again.
A time when the shadows get a little darker, the wind howls a bit more mournfully, and those creeps that have been lurking and glaring at you from around corners get a bit creepier.
Halloween is a special time of the year not only for the Trick or Treat kiddies on the alert waiting for their special day, but it’s also a great time for adults who are able to enjoy the entire month with a mindset filled with desire for all things spooky and scary.
So what better a way to pass your leisure hours than to bask in the warm glow of your friendly viewing screen and watch a few movies or TV shows that go well with the season.
For myself, I am typically not so enamored of the usual slick, CGI film re-make of the moment, and nothing reeks of dull for me as much as most of the re-made horror movies that tumble out of Hollywood.
I grew up with drive-in double and triple bill schlock and exploitation films from around the world.
For me these NOT critically acclaimed works are filled with ineptitude, low budgets, Swiss cheese scripts, and often questionable acting, thankfully! They are also often the work of single minded, visionary auteurs (albeit with a tweaked vision) and were made with far fewer cooks in the kitchen making decisions by committee, something that ruins many Hollywood films.
To use a term coined by the great Michael Weldon, these Psychotronic Films are a few of my favorite things.
Here then is a fun Mystery Box triple bill Halloween film recommendation for you to enjoy this month.
It is a recommended program (the first of many I want to share with you) filled with only non-American made films that you will have to seek out yourself (some are mighty rare) and then program into your viewing schedule to enjoy whenever you see fit. Hopefully, there will be at least one you are discovering for the first time. There is no numerical order to listing these films, so you can shuffle them in any order and even look for any sequels or accompanying films…
At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul (1963)
José Mojica Marins created the character of Coffin Joe for this, Brazil’s first horror film.
Completely amoral and intensely driven by evil, Coffin Joe is one of the more unusual and complicated of all cinematic horror creations. Cutting a striking look in all black with his trademark top hat, cape and long curled fingernails, Coffin Joe is sharply menacing.
The film’s plot involves Coffin Joe as a small town’s undertaker with a disdain for religion and anything decent who looks for the right woman with which to procreate a “superior” child at any cost. Murder and devious mayhem never seemed so wildly off-kilter then it does in this surreal film.
So atmospheric is the film and so weirdly compelling is Coffin Joe’s demeanor and his antics that this was just the beginning of what made Coffin Joe into a national treasured iconic horror legend in Brazil. His popularity continues to this day with more constant films, TV, comic books, and radio appearances. Marins has often used his Coffin Joe character in other worthwhile films, but the actual Coffin Joe Trilogy according to Marins contains At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul (1963), This Night I’ll Possess Your Corpse (1967) and Embodiment Of Evil (2008).
Tombs of the Blind Dead (1971)
Spanish director Amando Ossorio decided that everyone loves to think about how nefarious secret societies can be and took this idea as a basis for this film originally entitled La Noche del terror ciego or Night of the Blind Terror.
Here, debauched Knights Templars (in the film they are called Knights of the East) during the 13th Century run amok committing atrocities and are eventually captured, executed and cursed. While hanging in the desert, crows pluck the eyes out of their corpses and when the curse kicks them back to life in the Seventies, they arise as the Blind Dead seeking out new victims.
Ossario flatly stated that his Blind Dead were not mindless zombies but more thinking, reanimated corpses that resemble mummies. They operate seeking out sound.
There is something about Ossorio’s extremely slow pacing of the film and his creations, plus there’s the somewhat groovy Spanish teenagers who are trying to escape the creeping Templars and some very colorful surreal scenes that make this such a classic and unusual horror film.
The other films that complete the series are Return of the Blind Dead (1973), The Ghost Galleon (1974) andNight of the Seagulls (1975) and all are well worth seeking out.
Santo and Blue Demon vs. The Monsters (1969)
This film might be a bit less serious and grim (ok it is downright goofy) than the other two but it is no less an inimitable and a stylized colorful oddball that would work wonderfully as the final film for this triple bill.
You’ll have a difficult time finding a bigger fan of all things that inhabit the universe of Mexican Masked Wrestling a.k.a. Lucha Libre, than me, and this film is what I happily present to you, dear reader, in all its whacked out, colorful glory.
If you are new to Lucha Libre, El Santo, the man with the Silver Mask, is Mexico’s legendary all time greatest sports hero and Mexican Luchadore enmascarado. Not only was he a famous wrestler, he was more like a superhero, their Superman, who was never, ever photographed without his mask. In fact he was buried wearing his trademark mask. He was the subject of endless comic books, magazines and wrestling bouts.
Santo made dozens of feature films in many different types of genres throughout the decades that he wrestled (the 50’s to the 80’s) but few were as astoundingly entertaining as the ones that involved monsters, and this particular film is the one that takes the proverbial cake.
A dead evil scientist is brought back to life by his faithful hunchback servant and becomes bent on revenge against his brother and niece, who objected to his lifetime of devious experiments. He has some green-faced zombie henchmen to help him, but knows they are no match for the great do-gooder Santo, the niece’s celebrity boyfriend, so he brings some long dead monsters back to life to assist him.
He also puts Santo’s wrestling partner/best friend Blue Demon into suspended animation while he creates an identical evil Blue Demon zombie robot clone.
The monsters are ridiculously poor variants on the famed Universal Monsters, with a few additional creatures added for the ultimate in head-shaking absurdity. There’s plenty of wrestling/fight scenes and the entire film has a quality that makes it the quintessential insanely out there film in a genre that even at its less crazy, was always still pretty out there.
Hopefully these very bad…uh, I mean very entertaining films will endear themselves as your heart as they have mine, and with head held high, you can proudly proclaim their worth in all their stupefying wonder.
Because my friends, isn’t that what the spirit of Halloween is all about?