The Skull Review

Whenever you have one of these old horror films with Peter Cushing you can expect a lot of drama and tension. He doesn’t scare easily from the villains but they do give it their best. Having a villain be an actual skull is definitely a bold move for sure. It’s not every day you have a skull floating around like this is some kind of Youtube fan video but it works rather well.

The movie starts with a guy running home because he finally got this skull he was going for. He’s so focused on the skull itself that he even tells his friend to go away after she went to the trouble of preparing for his arrival. When he tries melting the skull, it quickly takes him down for the count. It proceeds to mind control another guy to destroy the friend.

In the present, Christopher is competing in an auction with Matthew on a bunch of items. He ends up losing on a batch of evil looking dolls since Matthew overbid for them by a large sum. When asked why, the guy says he has no idea. Ah well, Christopher heads back home to his business of writing about the occult and accepting odd gifts from suspicious characters. This time the guy has brought him a skull belonging to the most dangerous murderer in existence. This could be the break Christopher has been looking for, but will it only bring him doom and despair? Only time will tell.

The film isn’t afraid to get rather crazy as well. At one point, a group of fake police show up and kidnap Christopher. They take him to a church where these guys are having a crazy ceremony and force him to play Russian Roulette several times. Fortunately luck is on his side so Christopher is able to escape and live another day. Things definitely could have been a whole lot worse for him so he should really consider himself fortunate.

Now, he does make some dicey moves like keeping the skull even once he knew it had been stolen. It seems like he’s not very particular about where he gets his objects from so long as it helps is research. So in that respect it’s not like he’s a hero or anything. Still, he is a fun character in large part due to how confident he is. Nothing shakes him in the slightest. Even as he sees multiple dead bodies he keeps it moving.

At one point he even notices that the Skull seems to keep being in a different place but he just rolls with it. The skull stares at him all night and Christopher doesn’t really care. In fact, they even have a staring contest at one point and you could argue that Christopher won that one. Of course, ultimately you get the feeling that he’s probably doomed but at least he put up a good fight.

As for the Skull, well it’s not very scary. You have doubts on if it is even alive for most of the film. It seems like it emits negative aura or something which is why anyone associated with the skull starts going around murdering people. You can make a strong case that this doesn’t have to mean that it’s sentient though, but that it’s cursed. Of course, all the stare downs do give the impression of it being alive of course.

Then by the climax it is clear as the skull is able to fly around with some retro special effects and even summon a book. So, I have to give the film kudos for making one of the most surreal villains of all time. Being unique doesn’t always mean good though. I’ll take most creatures over this guy but as a one time adventure it works well enough.

I would say how effective the film is will really depend on how much you enjoy the suspense. The characters are very slow to do much of anything. The movie is on slow burner mode the whole way through with only a few jump scares to break things up from time to time. The writing is really solid though which helps. It’s why a modern remake would have a hard time matching up to this one. At least here you get the solid dialogue between the characters and everyone talks in a rather distinguished way.

It would have been nice if Matthew had appeared more. A lot of the best scenes in the film are the dialogue scenes between him and Christopher. For example, the auction scene was handled really well. Both of these guys are rich and used to winning. So when it becomes a bit of a challenge none of them back down. They also seem to have a good working relationship when they aren’t competing. It’s part of what makes the climax rather emotional, or at least as emotional as this can get.

You can kind of tell how this film is going to play out from the start though. In these kinds of films where the villain relies on mental hypnosis to take the heroes down, they ultimately never end up standing tall against it. Without fail you can always count on the hero succumbing to the darkness which is unfortunate. Otherwise you can applaud their determination about not believing in such superstitions. It just falls flat once they actually lose to it.

Overall, The Skull is a pretty solid horror film from back in the day. The whole thing is built around a lot of suspense as each scene is played quite dramatically. The score is good with each tune underscoring how scared you’re supposed to be. Even Christopher’s character goes from being absolutely confident to slowly starting to feel some terror as he knows that the Skull cannot be beat. The very final scare scene is almost a bit humorous in how over the top it gets. So next time someone tries to give you a skull that is supposedly haunted and lets you know that it has also been stolen, you should probably stay on the side of the law and refuse it.

Overall 7/10

The Brides of Dracula Review

The Dracula movies have a pretty negative reputation and it is admittedly one that it has earned. They typically just aren’t all that fun and forget to be engaging. This one doesn’t even have Dracula in it. Now that could be a good sign, but it barely even matters since a new Dracula has surfaced in the town. It’s essentially the same story as always, but with a different cast for Van Helsing to deal with. He barely escaped from his last confrontation so does he even have a chance here?

It starts off with Marianne deciding to take a carriage through a forbidden part of town. She is going to become a school teacher and doesn’t want to be late so this is the quickest route. Unfortunately her driver leaves right away so she is forced to spend the night at a bar. The owners don’t want to take her in though and they seem pretty scared so she accepts a shady old lady’s offer to stay at her mansion. There she sees a guy being tied to his room so she frees him and then faints in the road. Van Helsing finds her and takes her to the school, but the vampires aren’t done with her yet. She has released the most powerful one yet and he aims to convert all of the people in the town. Can Helsing put an end to this?

The film’s very convenient a lot of the time and especially in the opening. It seems like the old couple knew something about the vampires or at least that the family couldn’t be trusted. I can understand that, but why were they so vague about it the whole time? Why did it take hours to rent a cot? If they know that the old lady has been kidnapping previous tenants then shouldn’t they tell the cops? The family owns the whole town so that’s a little iffy, but based on how isolated they are the whole time, I like to think that they don’t have complete dominion over the whole place. Ah well, this leads Marianne to go to the castle. Naturally, everyone keeps on lying to her so she decides to just pick one of them to trust and she picks the captive. Turns out that he couldn’t be trusted, but the old lady would have likely murdered Marianne anyway since she had been feeding sacrifices to the vampire anyway.

This is where Van Helsing should come in, but honestly it takes him a real long time to show up. When he finally does pop in he isn’t as impressive as you’d expect. He tends to go into battle unarmed except for a small cross which the vampires always overpower. After that he just looks shocked and dazed as they toss him around. Van Helsing really can’t hold his own against any of the villains and he certainly looks out of his league. Fortunately for him, the vampires basically end up destroying themselves by lighting the castle on fire and being too slow to escape it. One of them basically just falls down and dies. Van Helsing got lucky and this should increase his reputation, but his luck is bound to run out sooner or later.

He can be an annoying hero because it almost feels like he is helping the vampires at some points. For example, after one of the victims has been terminated by the vampires, he knows that she will rise at night. The plan is for him to be there in wait so he can stab her as soon as she wakes up. Unfortunately it seems like he forgot to set the alarm or something so he arrives there 20 minutes to late which gives her time to escape. The same thing happens again later on as another victim appears and Van Helsing decides to make a few stops first. By the time he gets there the situation had already been resolved in the vampire’s favor. You had to wonder what he was doing the whole time? Certainly this should have been his top priority right? He was probably posturing and stroking his ego though so I guess we’ll just have to let it slide.

Marianne isn’t likable because she’s rather gullible and oblivious to everything. That makes it really hard to root for her since she is practically begging to be bitten the whole time. The vampire isn’t any good either as he just seems like a guy who can’t control his own bloodlust. He just wants to drink and he would be your average “It’s Miller Time” Budlight character if he wasn’t a vampire. I did like how he was kidnapped early on though. I guess an old lady can put up more of a fight than Van Helsing sometimes.

The film gives a lot of time to various subplots and characters that are ultimately pointless as well. One really random scene introduces a doctor who likes to smell mystical water and use a lot of pills to keep himself from getting sick. He’s a comic relief character who likes money, but vanishes as soon as he appears. What was the point of the scene? I dunno and I guess you just have to leave that part to your imagination.

Beyond that, the film commits to all of the typical tropes of a Vampire film. They drink people’s blood and keep on building an army. Everyone is too stunned to do anything about it and the vampires take a lot of victims before they finally go down. Blood sucking has always been pretty wince worthy and certainly doesn’t get any better here. None of the villains are likable in the slightest and I didn’t like any of the heroes either. When you have a bad cast there is not much that can ultimately help the film. You need a likable cast.

Overall, This film is just like any other Dracula film. You could watch another version and swear that it was the same film. There is nothing even remotely original here and everyone seems to have a higher opinion of themselves than the reality. To keep things in perspective…Van Helsing lost to an old lady. She rushed him and stole the cross so that the vampires could take him down. That was just plain embarrassing and she was definitely an odd character. I’ll assume that she was mind controlled for most of the film and then got turned into a vampire because most of her behavior just doesn’t make sense otherwise. Unless she was just plain crazy I expect. I advise you to stay far away from this film. You’re better off watching a classic title like Scooby Doo or something. Even Batman vs Dracula is a big step up if you really need to see something with a vampire. This film will just leave you trying to fill in all of the holes in the writing to make the movie more interesting, but all you’ll be left with is pieces of ineligible paper.

Overall 2/10

The Mummy (1959) Review

It’s time to look at another take on The Mummy franchise! I’ve seen quite a few Mummy films at this point and he’s probably my favorite horror icon when compared to the other classics like the Werewolf, Dracula, and Frankenstein. The Mummy isn’t as strong as Dracula or potentially the Werewolf, but he defeats his opponents in more honorable ways. Slow and steady is typically how you want to fight against opponents and that’s just how The Mummy works. This film was actually decently good.

A few guys wander into a tomb and find a mysterious scroll. It activates the Mummy and puts one of the characters into a coma. Three years later, the old man wakes up and warns the main character that the Mummy will destroy them all. John essentially chuckles at this and heads back home, but he may have underestimated the message. The Mummy begins to systematically take the heroes down and John will have to think of a way to take it down once and for all!

The film plays out like you would expect it too. The Mummy formula is classic and the heroes can only wait for their ultimate demise, but I do appreciate the fact that John tries to fight back. He locks himself up in the study and prepared himself with some blunt objects. The Mummy easily chokes him, but the important part is that he tried. Luckily, he is saved by Isobel twice. The Mummy’s eyesight is failing so he believes that he recognizes her and decides to stop his attack on John. Man, John may have been the big hero in the film, but he definitely couldn’t get the job done when it counted.

The Mummy actually isn’t Imhotep this time, but a guy named Kharis instead. It doesn’t actually make a difference in the end, but it’s worth noting. You may even feel bad for the Mummy by the end since he can barely comprehend what is happening and he just wanted to be reunited with his love once more. Instead, he is simply used the entire time and doesn’t get to be friends with anyone. What a sad way to go. At least he got to show off his slight degree of super strength as the film went on and he used his patented choke attack on everyone.

I didn’t really have any big problems with the film. It all played out fairly well. This isn’t exactly the most exciting film though and it maybe dragged on a little at times, but never that much. It was a fairly short film after all so it’s not like any of the scenes went on forever. I do think that the calm before the storm scenes could maybe be a little dull at times, but it’s a minor issue and not something that would actually hurt the film.

The characters are a little bland, but not bad. John is a decent hero and I do appreciate the fact that he takes the initiative. He enters the home of the suspect who may be plotting to destroy him and he does it very casually with some veiled threats the whole time. That was a fun part in the movie as John wasn’t even pretending to be polite. He was openly insulting the villain and everything that the guy believed in. John is nothing if not bold after all. While the visit didn’t help him all that much, it did utterly prove that the villain was responsible for the Mummy. John succeeded as a secret agent!

Isobel didn’t have much of a role before we found out that she looked like the old Princess. She was able to trick the Mummy that way, but it was mostly accidental and she ended up fainting from the excitement so I can’t say that she was a great character. The Inspector was fun, but he was out of his league the whole time. It was very humorous to see just how unprepared he was the whole time. He really did not act like much of an inspector.

The climax was a lot of fun as a result though. The Inspector had hired several men to protect John, but they were no match. Not against the Mummy, but against the Mummy’s assistant! The human actually ends up taking just about all of them down, which was the funny part. It’s seriously not something that you would have expected. The hired guns just forgot to keep their ears alert for any signs of danger. The climax is more sad than funny though as the Mummy is shot to pieces by the trained professionals. The Swamp helped the intrigue factor I suppose.

Mehemet was the main human villain. He’s fairly generic and prays to a large statue of a cat god. Mehemet is very sensitive about people poking fun at his beliefs and he decides to destroy all of the main characters because they desecrated the tomb. It’s an interesting point of whether we should really be grave robbing or not. Essentially, that’s what is being done when people open tombs right? I actually agree with him that we shouldn’t be doing that because it is just like breaking into someone’s grave. It was his only valid point, but the guy naturally went off the deep end instead of going into that point a little more.

Granted, I doubt that John would have even considered the notion of stopping. He was way too interested in the new findings and didn’t seem to have any doubts about the moral ambiguity of what he was doing. John just wanted to win the fight at that point and he was looking for clues to do so. Luckily, the hero didn’t bring a dog over to the villain’s place like last time, which immediately gave this film an advantage over the original.

This Mummy film certainly beat the original one. I’m not sure how it stacks up against the 1999 version as it’s been a while, but I’m tempted to say that it may beat that one. It’s a tough bout of course, but I’d say that the main character here may be a little more likable. I still can’t get over how he casually went up to the main villain and started trash talking him. That was definitely classic. I was also glad that the heroes left Egypt right away so we got to go to a more city like environment for the duration of the film. Definitely a good move on their part.

Overall, The Mummy was a good film. It was actually better than I had anticipated since these classic Hollywood monsters don’t always have the greatest of reputations. Just wait until I review the Frankenstein film..heh heh heh. The characters are good and the writing is naturally solid as well. While the climax is a little more emotional than intended, this makes for a fun retro film to watch. It’s interesting to see how different the Mummy was back then. Watch a modern version of it and you’ll notice the differences. The new one is made to be more of an action blockbuster, while this one is more subdued. It’s also very short as I mentioned earlier so you’ll breeze through it.

Overall 6/10