Pulse (Kairo) - Ghosts on the Internet

“Pulse” (“Kairo”) (2001): A Creepy Modern Classic of Terror, Isolation, & Dread

The impersonality of modern society can lead some people to feel absolutely alone even when they are in the midst of a crowd. Writer/director Kiyoshi Kurosawa infuses this idea into his super creepy and disturbing modern horror tale Pulse (Kairo) (2001). Visitors to a mysterious website find themselves haunted by shadowy figures and subsequently lose the will to live. Can a group of young people find out what is happening before they end up dead […]

An injured woman lies on the floor and reaches up toward the camera pleading for help

The Bird With the Crystal Plumage: A Near Perfect Giallo From the Genre’s Golden Age

Noted Italian director Dario Argento’s directorial debut, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (L’uccello Dalle Piume di Cristallo) (1970), is not the first giallo, but it is one of the prime examples of that genre. An American author in Rome witnesses an attempted murder in an art gallery, which may be tied to a serial killer stalking the city. He has seen a vital clue but cannot recall it. Now, as he mounts his own […]

Madhouse

“Madhouse” (1981): Unusual Giallo Featuring Death by Rottweiler

Madhouse (1981) is an unusual thriller that is a hybrid of an American slasher and an Italian giallo and which features an unconventional murder weapon — a Rotweiller. A young teacher is frightened for her life when her deformed twin sister, who tormented her as a child, escapes from the local mental institution. Their twenty-fifth birthday is approaching, and many people close to the main character are either disappearing or being found dead. Though it is […]

Wolf Guy

“Wolf Guy” (1975): Funky Werewolf Film Without a Werewolf

The film Wolf Guy (Urufu gai: Moero ôkami-otoko) (1975) is pretty hard to classify. The lone survivor of a werewolf clan investigates murders reportedly committed by an invisible, phantom tiger. As he delves deeper into the mystery, he finds himself in the clutches of a shadowy organization that has other plans for him. The film is evocative of its era, feeling like a mid-1970s cop/detective drama. Starring martial arts legend Shin’ichi Chiba (better known as […]

Aylmer the monster from "Brain Damage"

“Brain Damage” (1988): Social Commentary Served With Gore, Laughs, & A Brain-eating Monster

Writer/director Frank Henenlotter’s Brain Damage (1988) is a thoughtful and powerful exploration of the dangers of drug addiction. It also happens to be a gory horror-comedy featuring a singing, dancing, phallus-shaped, brain-eating monster. A young man awakens one day to find a strange creature somewhat attached to his body. The monster provides him with hits of its drug-like venom, but it demands to be fed human brains in exchange. Combining puppetry, stop-motion animation, practical effects, […]

Caltiki: The Immortal Monster - header

“Caltiki: The Immortal Monster” (1959): Boring Blob but With Bits of Bava

There is a certain charm to 1950s low-budget monster flicks, though that charm can only take one so far. Caltiki: The Immortal Monster (1959) is an Italian riff on The Blob (1958). Scientists investigating possible causes for the fall of Mayan civilization discover a hidden cavern filled with treasure — and occupied by an amorphous monster. After one of their number is killed and another member maimed by the creature, they take a sample back […]

Dead or Alive: Final

“Dead or Alive: Final” (2002): Lackluster Sequel Proves 3rd Time Is NOT the Charm

Sometimes, it can become painfully obvious when a filmmaker loses interest in a particular series. Dead or Alive: Final (2002), the third film in director Takashi Miike’s action series featuring Shô Aikawa and Riki Takeuchi, appears to suffer from lack of interest. Set 300 years from now in a run-down city in a post-apocalyptic world, the population is kept in check and under control by forced birth control. With the help of an android fighter, […]

Dead or Alive 2: Birds

“Dead or Alive 2: Birds” (2000): A Return to Innocence — With a Touch of Violence

Mention the name of director Takashi Miike and bizarre visions of violence and depravity come to mind for many fans of his films. While Miike’s body of work certainly is filled with more than its share of unusual and disturbing imagery, it also has its softer moments. In Dead or Alive 2: Birds (Dead or Alive 2: Tôbôsha) (2000), Miike shows that he is equally skilled with displaying touching and emotional scenes as he is […]

Dead or Alive - Jojima

“Dead of Alive” (1999): Depravity, Violence, & Social Commentary

Director Takashi Miike is known for his often bizarre and violent films, but, as with George A. Romero’s zombies, the more exploitive aspects of Miike’s movies are generally in service to a broader social commentary. In Dead or Alive (1999), Miike throws his audience headfirst into the Tokyo underworld, where a gangster is waging a private war against both the Chinese Triads and the Japanese Yakuza. A police lieutenant with problems at home is investigating […]

Donnie Darko

“Donnie Darko” (2001): Enigmatic & Slyly Funny Existential Classic

When it comes down to it, life and death can be quite funny, enigmatic, and hard to classify. The same can be said for writer/director Richard Kelly’s existential comedy, mystery, science fiction thriller Donnie Darko (2001). A teenage boy begins having disturbing visions, including ones of a six-foot skull-faced rabbit that tells him that the world is ending soon. Are these simply hallucinations brought on by improper medication, signs of a mental breakdown, or is […]

House II: The Second Story

“House II: The Second Story” (1987): Good-natured Comedy Sequel Swaps Horror for Adventure

Not all film sequels share strong ties to their predecessors. Sometimes, the only connection is thematic, resulting in an anthology-like feeling for the series. Such is the case with House II: The Second Story (1987), the sequel to the horror-comedy House (1985). House II: The Second Story takes the audience to a completely different haunted abode than the first film. A young man and his girlfriend move into an old mansion he has inherited, which […]

Torture Garden

“Torture Garden” (1967): A Horror Sideshow Where All the Acts Are Worth Catching

The fun thing with horror anthology films is that they are a bit like carnival sideshows — one is guaranteed to see a variety of oddities. Even if not all of the acts are hits, one almost always finds something one likes. With Amicus Productions’ Torture Garden (1967), director Freddie Francis and screenwriter Robert Bloch present a sideshow where all of the acts are worth catching. Five strangers enter the sideshow tent of Dr. Diablo […]

The Creeping Flesh - Painting

“The Creeping Flesh” (1973): Classic, Creepy, & Emotional Period Horror — With a Monster, Too

A healthy amount of fear is a good thing. It can help keep one out of dangerous situations and keep one focused. Unreasonable fear, on the other hand, can be a destructive force in one’s life. In director Freddie Francis’ The Creeping Flesh (1973), a man’s excessive fear leads to reckless actions and eventually tragic consequences. A Victorian scientist is investigating a prehistoric skeleton when he discovers a biological basis for evil. To protect his […]

“Invasion of the Bee Girls” (1973): A Fun, Silly, & Sexy B-Movie (Bee Movie?)

Not all exploitation movies are created equal. While many are pure trash, there are those that are smarter than they need to be. Invasion of the Bee Girls (1973) (aka Graveyard Tramps) is one such gem. A small California town is experiencing a rash of strange deaths, men are being found dead from sexual exhaustion, and a federal government agent is sent it to track down the cause. Little does he know, the killers are […]

“Don’t Look in the Basement” (1973): Drive-in Classic Starts Slow but Redeems Itself With a Brutal Finale

A good ending can often redeem what would otherwise be a less-than-stellar film. Such is the case with S.F. Brownrigg’s drive-in classic Don’t Look in the Basement (1973) (also known as The Forgotten and Death Ward 13). Based on a lesser-known story by Edgar Allan Poe, it is the tale of a young nurse who finds her first days at a small psychiatric hospital disrupted by the fact that the head doctor was recently accidentally […]