M: Mary, Mary, Bloody Mary (1975)

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Hey, you remember what I keep saying about my unconscious tendency to access director’s careers in reverse? Starting at a recent point or movie and working my way in reverse like a dunderhead? Well, I sort of foiled my own motif, this time around. Sure, I reviewed Juan López Moctezuma’s third flick, Alucarda a couple of years ago, but I also did his first movie, Mansion of Madness (better known as Dr. Tarr’s Torture Dungeon to us gringos), back in the halcyon days of the first Mondo Macabro releases. So it was high time to watch senor Moctezuma’s sophomore effort, especially since I had been low-key obsessed with its ad art since its first-run drive-in days. I mean, just look at it. Best woman-being-turned-into-a-skeleton-making-a-horror-geek-really-want-to-see-what’s-going-on since Scream and Scream Again.

I am pleased to report I was nowhere near as disappointed in Mary, Mary, Bloody Mary as I was in Scream and Scream Again.

We first meet Mary (Christina Ferrare) while she’s having engine trouble with her van outside a creepy abandoned mansion in Mexico. As rain begins to pour down, she finds an open door and tries to find a phone, only to find herself stalked by a shadowy figure. After the standard running and screaming, we find out the figure is Ben (David Young) a drifter who is also seeking shelter from the rain. He promises to sleep upstairs while Mary stays downstairs and has a flashback.

Mary, we find out, is a successful artist who just sold one of her paintings to a guy from the American Embassy in Mexico City. This guy is also quite set on seducing Mary, with some success – at least until she pulls out a dagger disguised as an ornate hairpin and cuts his throat so she can drink his blood.

“What a waste of a perfectly good morgue attendant.”

This isn’t your typical low-budget vampire movie. Mary doesn’t do the traditional movie vampire stuff; she walks around in daylight, sleeps in a bed – at night – and has no fangs. But every so often she has to drink blood, and at those times she uses knockout drops in her necklace’s pendant to render her victim unconscious, so obviously she’s been doing this for some time. Mary is attracted to Ben, and the feeling is mutual, which is going to complicate her predatory lifestyle. There’s also the fact that the Mexican police are starting to notice the number of exsanguinated bodies, and the death of the Embassy guy has brought in the FBI. And, oh yes, there’s another vampire out there trying to track down Mary, and it’s her father… John Carradine!

If you like your vampire movies offbeat, Mary, Mary Bloody Mary is worth checking out. Some folks point to it as an inspiration for George Romero’s Martin, but I think that’s stretching a point. Mary isn’t deluded, but she has a very definite pathology, what her father refers to as “a disease”. There is one heartbreaking point where Mary’s need for a blood fix coincides with gallery owner Greta’s (Helena Rojo) pushy lesbian seduction. It’s the one time her careful searches for someone “I didn’t know or care about” has fallen through, and the first time she tearfully apologizes to one of her victims.

Yeah, yeah, it’s 1975 so there’s plenty of nudity and blood. I can see that after the surreal, Jodorowsky-influenced excesses of Mansion of Madness, it was brought to Moctezuma as a case of “Okay, can you make a normal movie?” which he does – though his penchant for creative editing and visuals is still evident. The seduction and eventual murder of Greta is shot in a lush bathroom with mirrored walls and is quite stunning. But it’s also 1975 and this is a very low budget movie, so be prepared for some slow spots, though Moctezuma tries to minimize those, and to reward you with things like unexpected car chases when you make it through them.

And now, here’s the trailer for the Code Red blu-ray, featuring a couple of my favorite bits: a newspaper with the headline NIXON CHEERED and, apropos of nothing, some dudes stabbing a dead shark to further death in shallow waters.


J: Jug Face (2013)

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After the last two less-than-satisfying (to me, anyway) horror movies, it was nice to find one that hit a number of sweet spots for me: well-made, novel, compelling, and unnerving.

Jug Face starts with the neat trick of giving us the backstory during the opening credits (in my experience, only used heretofore in The Boogens, Screams of a Winter Night, and The Incredible Hulk). Presented in Grandma Moses-style rustic art, we’re given a backwoods community being ravaged by some sort of pox. One fellow makes an urn out of clay from a nearby pit; the urn bears the face of the local clergyman, who is sacrificed bloodily to a nearby pit, and everyone is cured.

Which brings us to the present day, in that same backwoods community. Teenager Ada (Lauren Ashley Carter) has sex with similarly teenage Jessaby (Daniel Manche), and not for the first time. This is going to cause problems for her later because by the cult rules of the community, she has to be a virgin when “joined” with another local youth, the doughy Bodey (Mathieu Whitman). And only Ada knows she is pregnant – she keeps stealing paint from her friend Dawai to make it look like she is till having her period.

The rather simple Dawai (Sean Bridger) is the village’s potter. Every now and then The Pit demands a sacrifice by possessing him, and while in a trance he makes the jug which bears the face of the chosen sacrifice. So Ada’s other problems recede to the background when she looks in Dawai’s simple kiln and finds out the next jug face is hers. Panicking, she steals the jug and hides it, but The Pit is not to be denied, and starts killing people randomly, while Ada, in a trance similar to Dawai’s, sees the bloody murders. She uses Dawai’s longtime love for her to cause him to make another jug face, this time with Bodey’s face – which only makes things worse for everybody.

There’s a certain understated, otherworldly realism to Jug Face‘s portrait of a community controlled, somewhat willingly, by a malign entity. Before you ask, no, we never see exactly what it is that lives in The Pit, and we don’t need to. The conviction of the cast that says things like “The Pit wants what It wants,” is often horrific enough. Ada’s parents are played by Sean Young and horror legend Larry Fessenden, and their experience and professionalism prove to be the mortar that glues the movie together.

Jug Face can be read as a more demonic, southern variation on Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” with a feature-length signaling to the ending, now not so much shocking as inevitable and tragic. Even at a trim 81 minutes, though, it feels a bit stretched at times, but not unworkably so. As a portrait of fear-based religion and as a horror movie, it is fairly unique and well worth checking out.

G: Gui si (Silk) (2006)

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Somewhere in my questionable writings about questionable media I was about to write that the key to Japanese genre movies is that you are asked to accept one extraordinary thing, and the story moves on from that basis. I believe that was about the original Battle Royale – then I realized this was true of almost all genre fiction, and put that in the Stupid Stuff You Came Up With file, and didn’t say it. (This why I would never make it in the world of political punditry, and also why I still have a shot at getting into heaven.)

In any case, the Extraordinary Thing this time around is the Menger Sponge, an artificial substance that traps electromagnetic energy. In a sequence of newspaper clippings, it is revealed that the Sponge’s developers were hoping to use it to achieve anti-gravity, but that production of a large-scale Menger Sponge failed.

However, that is only after a sequence where a Canadian photographer (Kevin S. Smith) is given an envelope of money to take photos with Menger Sponge-treated Polaroid film in a deserted apartment in a dilapidated building. It’s not the first time he’s done this, but this time he is surprised to find an image of a ghostly child in a corner where there should be none. He dies almost instantly with a look of terror on his face.

The crippled scientist Hashimoto (Eguchi Yôsuke) has been heading the Menger Sponge development team for several years, and the Director (Tsukayama Masane) has had enough of his wasting funds, until Hashimoto reveals he has made the largest Menger Sponge ever – although it will still fit in his pocket. What the Director doesn’t know is that Hashimoto has spent the last few years ghost hunting – and he has finally found one, in that apartment. He asks the Director to pull some strings to assign the Special Forces operative Tung (Chang Chen) to his team.

Hashimoto wants Tung because he has exceptionally sharp vision and the ability to read lips – both necessary as he has trapped the ghost of a young boy in that room with Menger Sponge material. The teams has also developed Menger Sponge eye drops allowing people to actually see the ghost, but only Tung can see an eerie strand of energy – the silk of the title – that connects the ghost to other locations. Hashimoto hopes that Tung can discover the boy’s identity, how he died, and where he is buried – because, of course, Hashimoto has other goals beside developing anti-gravity.

Gui si is a well-developed mystery wrapped in a ghost story with some remarkable horror movie moments, since it is discovered that if you look a ghost in the eyes, they can then see you, and inevitably kill you – and the eye drops make that much more likely. Although the eye contact’s not really necessary if a ghost suddenly turns vengeful – and the events of the movie will ensure that a really ticked-off ghost will start tracking down the members of the team with murder on its spectral mind.

An extra layer of meaning is laid on by Tung’s backstory – his mother has been in a coma for years, apparently, but Tung refuses to turn off her life support, even if the doctors say she is suffering. Like Hashimoto, he, too, needs some questions answered about the afterlife.

It’s these layers in Gui si that surprised me, and the fact that the climactic ghost sequences launched into the operatic, and even the heartbreaking, that completely sold me. I had to make an effort to seek this movie out, and having now seen its quality, that surprises me even more.


F: Found Footage 3-D (2016)

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Found Footage 3-D starts screwing with you right from the beginning, with a cliched opening graphic and Blair Witch sound effect:

I especially appreciate the typo.

Which is immediately followed by the director complaining about how cliched it is.

Here is your setup: Derek (Carter Roy) is producing and starring in a low-budget found footage horror movie. The aforementioned director is Andrew (Tom Saporito) and the cameraman shooting all the behind-the-scenes making-of footage we’re watching is Derek’s brother, Mark (Chris O’Brien). The Amy alluded to in the graphic is Derek’s now-ex but still co-star, Amy (Alena von Stroheim). While we’re meeting characters, let throw in the PA, Lily (Jessica Perrin) who seems to be Derek’s current squeeze (not that this will cause any drama or tension, nooooo) and the sound man, Carl (Scott Allen Perry).

As you can tell, the script for our movie-within-a-movie, as it stands, calls for Derek and Amy to go to a spooky remote cabin and have strange stuff happen to them. In a pre-production meeting with Andrew and Mark, Derek makes his pitch: since they have no real budget for hyping their production, their only hope at making a splash is to be the first at something. To which end, he reveals that this will be the first found footage movie to be shot completely in 3-D! Ta-daaaah! Skeptically, Andrew asks, “Whyyyyy are they shooting their vacation footage in 3-D?” After the briefest of pauses, Derek brightly replies, “Because he’s a 3-D enthusiast!”

This is typical of Found Footage 3-D‘s sense of humor. Not laugh-out-loud funny, but observational stuff that ultimately rings true, especially if you’ve ever been involved in shooting a low-budget movie. Then you get to say, “It’s funny because it’s true” multiple times. In fact, this is one of the best movies about shoestring film production I’ve seen an a long time.

There’s still quite a bit of friction between Derek and Amy, though the two obviously still have some feelings left for each other. Which is wearing on Mark, who has a not-so-secret thing for Amy. Andrew will be wondering increasingly why Derek even says he is the director as his producer/star overrides him more and more as the shoot progresses.

And, oh, yeah: that remote cabin with a spooky bad history? They’re shooting in an actual remote cabin with a spooky bad history. I was on Team Carl the Sound Man from the beginning, but I was willing to buy the T-shirt when he goes ballistic upon finding out that Derek has brought them all to an actual haunted house. This also leads to one of the most awesome scenes when, stopping for gas and supplies in Gonzales, they ask a couple of old coots sitting in front of the general store to be in their movie, saying old coot things. Quite funny, until the camera stops rolling and one asks where they’re headed. When they’re told which cabin they’re filming at, the two old guys get genuinely freaked out and warn them away from it. Doran Ingram and John Daws, you may have literally been two locals pressed into the job, but you did outstanding work.

Another thing I love about Found Footage 3-D is that it also serves as the Scream of found footage movies, codifying the rules of the genre – and then proceeding to use those rules for all they’re worth. For just one example, the big question of “why do they keep filming after everything goes to shit?” – there is actually a reason given that makes some sense.

Online critic Scott Weinberg is a producer, and actually shows up on set as a correspondent for the late, lamented website fear dot net (this was shot back when we could have nice things). I suspect Weinberg also served an on-set consultant – he’s about the only critic I trust on matters like contemporary horror movies. He’s there for the incredibly gruesome climax, and I don’t want to go into spoiler territory, but one of the rules is nobody gets out alive…

Which means that every time I listen to his podcast with Drew McWeeny, 80s All Over, I’m listening to a ghost. AAAAAAAAA!

Anyway. Highly recommended. I loved it.


E: Exists (2014)

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I’ve become a fan of Eduardo Sanchez, one of the directors of the original Blair Witch Project, and whose subsequent work I’ve largely watched within the constraints of the alphabetic format of Hubrisween. E is one of the more problematic letters for horror movie titles, so I was delighted to find that Sanchez had made this Bigfoot movie.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but five young people are headed out to a remote cabin in the Texas Big Thicket for a weekend of (supposedly) doing wacky stunts involving GoPro cameras, a mountain bike, and a ramp into a lake, all for YouTube fame. The two brothers, Matt (Samuel Davis) and Brian (Chris Osborn) lifted the key to the cabin from their uncle, who hasn’t been out to the thicket in years. Along are Dora (Dora Madison), Elizabeth (Denise Williamson) and Todd (Roger Edwards). During the late night drive to the cabin, Matt gets distracted and hits something on the road. That something leaves a lot of blood and some coarse hair on the truck’s bumper.

Though our five friends are somewhat discomfited by strange howling noises from the woods, they settle in and begin filming – particularly Brian, our dedicated video fiend for this outing, who finds really big footprints in the woods and tries to get some footage of what he believes to be a Sasquatch. That turns out to be not such an outlandish theory as something completely trashes their truck and they find themselves besieged in a not-terribly secure cabin by a very pissed-off creature. Apparently there was a reason Uncle Bob didn’t let anybody use his cabin.

Once upon a time, I reviewed Sanchez’s fellow Blair Witch director, Daniel Myrick’s The Objective, calling it “a better Blair Witch sequel than Blair Witch II.” I’m going to plagiarize myself and use that same descriptor for Exists, as it covers so very much of the same territory, right down to questionable (in fact downright idiotic) decisions made by the characters, and the eternal question of why the hell Brian keeps filming (and who manufactures his batteries). If only someone would codify the odd conventions of the found footage movie! (They did, but you’ll have to wait until tomorrow) They even go the route of a missing party member screaming in the darkness again. They find him this time, though.

Exists, I have to say, is a much better movie than Blair Witch. Sanchez is more in control, the dialogue doesn’t seem to be totally improvised (every other word is not “fuck”), the storyline is fairly logical, and best of all, they had enough budget to hire WETA Workshop to make the creature. For most of the movie, it keeps with the tradition of only fleeting glimpses of cryptids in footage, but when we finally do get a good look at it, the suit is well up to the attention.

If you hate found footage movies, Exists isn’t going to change your mind, but it’s a good, solid flick; it’s like Sanchez and co-writer Jamie Nash looked at the last segment of the original Legend of Boggy Creek and said, “Let’s do that, and crank it up to 11.”

D: The Devil Commands (1941)

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We don’t hear much about William Milligan Sloane III these days. He wasn’t a terribly prolific writer, and most of his output was in the 1930s. He started as a playwright, and eventually published two novels combining science fiction and horror – To Walk the Night  and The Edge of Running Water – that are still being reissued to this day. I first ran across Sloane when I was helping my childhood friends pack, around 1970, I think, and his father had a copy of To Walk the Night. It had a striking cover, and a writer I had never heard of before. I decided to find a copy, but inter-library loans weren’t a thing – it probably didn’t help that I got that novel confused with Running Water. Then I found out that had been made into a movie starring Boris Karloff, which I bought on DVD back in those halcyon days when everything was coming out on DVD, and then I decided to wait until I was 60 years old to watch it. (As we know, I try to do a Boris Karloff movie every Hubrisween)

Dr. Julian Blair (Karloff) Has invited his colleagues to witness his exciting new invention, the EEG. (I kid. The electroencephalogram was first used on humans in 1923 and was only beginning to be experimented with as a medical tool in the 30s, when Sloane wrote this) The device, using a bizarre helmet and a lot of electricity (yay! a jacob’s ladder!) draws the pattern of his assistant’s brain on an enormous graph. Blair tells his impressed fellow scientists that each brain pattern is different, but as individual as fingerprints, as he demonstrates on his wife, Helen (Shirley Warde) who has one of the strongest brain waves he’s recorded.

Alas, that very evening, Helen is killed in an auto accident. Bereft after the funeral and unwilling to go back to their home, he goes to his lab and turns on his equipment, just for distraction…  and Helen’s brain wave begins to etch on the giant graph, even though she was buried that morning. No one believes Blair, not even his concerned daughter Anne (Amanda Duff), except for his manservant, Karl (Cy Schindell) who has been seeing a medium to speak to his deceased mother.

Intrigued, Blair accompanies Karl to a seance run by Mrs. Walters (Anne Revere). Blair easily sees through her fakery, but cannot explain the high voltage he felt through the table, sitting next to her. Experiments find that Mrs. Walters can absorb a high amount of electricity with no harm, and in fact while hooked up to Blair’s equipment (and bolstered by Karl as an extra resistor), Helen’s brain wave does indeed register again – but unfortunately the high voltage cooks Karl’s brain.

Walters realizes that Blair is onto a discovery that will make him very, very rich, and decides she wants in on it. They escape to a remote house near a harbor, guarded by the now brutish Karl, and years pass. The local sheriff (Kenneth MacDonald) comes calling one night because A) people are talking, and B) dead bodies have been missing lately. Mrs. Walters sends him away brusquely, but he prevails on the housekeeper, Mrs. Marcy (Dorothy Adams) to sneak into that forbidden lab and see what’s what. This she does, to find that Blair has moved up to a table with six of his ungainly apparati, he’s upgraded from jacob’s ladders to neon, and those suits contain the missing corpses. In a panic, she accidentally turns on the devices, and a glowing vortex opens in the table, drawing everything toward it. The corpses are strapped down. She isn’t.

Things are really moving to a head now. Mrs. Marcy’s husband (Walter Baldwin) doesn’t buy the evidence planted that his wife fell off a cliff into the harbor and starts putting together a lynch mob, Anne has finally tracked down her father, and… gosh, things just don’t turn out very well.

The Devil Commands is directed by Edward Dmytryk early in his career – he’d later go on to better known fare like Back to Bataan, The Caine Mutiny,  and Warlock. His direction is crisp and clean, and he wisely spends most of his camera time on Karloff and Revere. Karloff is his usual greatness at a role in which he excelled – an utter madman whose mania is absolutely understandable. Even when he is suggesting something dreadful, he seems considerate and caring, and by the final act of the picture he is visibly tortured by the terrible things he’s done. Anne Revere pulls off the neat trick of being a match for Karloff – her Mrs. Walters is one of the great Lady Macbeths of the screen, willing to cut through anything and anybody to make sure Blair will produce the breakthrough that will be her road to riches.

You know. THIS guy.

The most unusual thing is seeing Kenneth MacDonald as the sheriff, who is a calm, collected officer of the law who’s just trying to make sure everything is peaceful in his town. Like me, you’re probably more used to seeing MacDonald as the bad guy in Three Stooges shorts. Blair’s assistant and Anne’s love interest Richard Fiske is called upon to do little more than be concerned and chauffeur Anne around, and poor Anne isn’t even that interesting.

The tone of the movie is a little more elevated, a bit more thoughtful than Universal’s horror offerings. At a brief 65 minutes, it doesn’t have a chance to wear out its welcome, though it does come close. And even as a lesser known Karloff movie, it bears checking out.

Not really a trailer, but what do you want for free?


C: The Color Out of Space (2010)

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“The Colour Out of Space” was my introduction to H.P. Lovecraft, via a thick gray book with the inventive title A Science Fiction Anthology. I was 12 or 13 – reading far beyond my age range – and though I was at first put off by its length, I persevered, and was absolutely terrified. Movie adaptations of Lovecraft are a pretty hard sell for me, with a lot of misses and a few hits (most of those being the obvious ones directed by Stuart Gordon), so The Color Out of Space came as a pleasant surprise.

It’s Arkham, 1975, and Jonathan Davis (Ingo Heise) is looking for his missing father. The investigating officer (conveniently named Ward – Alexander Sebastian Curd Schuster) finds that the man suddenly went to Germany, where he served during the post WWII settlement. Davis hastily flies to the forest region where his father was stationed, to find that the valley is about to be flooded by a new dam, and only the elderly still live in the nearby village. None of them recognize his father – until he literally runs into Armin Pierske (Michael Kausch), who recognizes the photo of his dad in his 1945 uniform.

Armin met the elder Davis when he returned from the Russian front to find the Army appropriating his farmhouse for refugees. He warns the Americans away from the neighboring valley because “It looks like it’s still happening,” which causes the squad to take him along to check it out . Armin is not surprised that his old acquaintance returned to the valley. “Once you see the colour, it is hard to forget.”

The bulk of the movie is Armin’s re-telling of what happened in that valley in the days just before WWII. A meteorite crashes into the Gärtner farm, and the stone’s properties confuse scientists; it radiates constant heat and continually shrinks, despite not producing any gases or ash. All tests are inconclusive, and they continually return for new samples, until they discover an oddly-colored sphere at the center of the bizarre rock, which shatters and disappears once tapped. And so the troubles begin.

Crops on the Gärtner farm begin to grow like crazy, producing huge fruit that is still blighted. Frau Gärtner begins to act oddly, eventually locked up in a room in the attic. One of the boys returns from the well screaming about lights. Trees seem to move on their own, with no apparent wind. The only person who still speaks to the increasingly beleaguered family is Armin, their immediate neighbor – and when he doesn’t hear from them for two weeks, he fearfully walks up to that darkened house.

This is a remarkably faithful adaptation of Lovecraft’s novella. Pre-War rural Germany is a good analog for Lovecraft’s backwoods locale, and the decision to make the movie in black-and-white is effective. I think you can deduce what the only thing in color in the movie is going to be, and it’s perhaps unfortunate that Lovecraft’s protagonists always have to see the indescribable indefinable unknowable, and filmmakers have to show that, and they will never be able to afford what that looks like in our heads.

The only other false note for me is a last-minute attempt to put a twist in the story for those of us familiar with it, which led me to have too many questions, but past that: Good adaptation. Recommended.

B: Below (2002)

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During WWII, the submarine Tiger Shark is ordered to turn around and pick up three survivors from a torpedoed hospital ship: a nurse (Olivia Williams), a merchant marine (Dexter Fletcher) and a German POW (Jonathan Hartman). Things already aren’t too right on the Tiger Shark. Their commanding officer recently died in an accident, and there are several versions of what happened floating around; the senior officers are covering something up, and the junior officer Odell (Matt Davis) is trying to figure out what actually happened. Worse yet, they are spotted by a Nazi warship while picking up the survivors, and it is not about to give up the chase, using depth charges, grappling hooks, and good old German perseverance.

Or, actually, what is even worse: the vengeful ghost of the ex-captain seems to be bent on making sure that the Tiger Shark will not make it to port.

David Twohy made his mark writing and directing genre-blending movies like the Pitch Black/Riddick movies, and Below is no exception. The central mystery and connected ghost story are absolutely essential, but it can also simply stand on its wartime submarine story; equal care and weight is assigned to both. And watching these entwined stories unfurl is half the fun, if not more, which is why this review is briefer than usual – I don’t want to tromp on your enjoyment. It’s worth noting that Twohy’s co-writer on the script is Darren Aronofsky, who was set to direct but decided to do Requiem for a Dream instead.

You are asked from the very start to keep track of a large ensemble cast, but – being a horror movie – you’re pretty sure you won’t have to be doing that for long. Bruce Greenwood, always a solid actor, gives a truly exceptional performance as the guilt-ridden Captain Brice, and it was surprising to see Zach Galifianakis in an early role as the appropriately-named Weird Wally, who gets points for mentioning the urban legend about riveters getting sealed into the hulls of submarines, which was the basis for the One Step Beyond episode I kept having flashbacks to during my viewing.

Good movie that under-performed at the box office. Give it a shot, it deserves it.


A: Arcane Sorcerer (1996)

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Pupi Avati is a director largely known on these shores for a couple of offbeat genre films: Zeder (covered two years ago) and The House with Laughing Windows (which is going to have to wait for the letter H). With typical grace, I stumbled onto this particular movie, and was happy to slot it into the opener for this Hubrisween.

In what appears to be the early 18th century, Vigetti (Stefano Dionisi), a seminary student, makes the double error of seducing a woman, and, even worse, convincing her to abort the resulting child. On the run from Church Inquisitors, he desperately accepts a position acting as a clerk to an excommunicated priest known as the Monsignor, or “The Arcane Sorcerer” (Carlo Cecchi), who lives in seclusion at his ancestral home. The Monsignor was dabbling in forbidden texts, knowledge and rites far too much, but his family is old and powerful, so the Inquisition allows him to live in exile. Merely looking at him will get you excommunicated, too.

And his former clerk, Nerio, has apparently died under mysterious circumstances.

After burying the deceased clerk in unhallowed ground, Vigetti gets down to his duties, which come down to taking coded dictation from the Monsignor, delivering that letter to the nearby House of Lay Sisters (full of failed nuns who can’t go home), from whence it is delivered to some unknown personage – and then assisting Monsignor in some odd, dangerous rites to communicate at a distance with another sorcerer. However, Vigetti has found notes left by Nerio that seem to indicate what the Monsignor has been communicating with is actually a Prince of Hell – and that Nerio seemed to have a plan to magically return from the grave with the assistance of that same devil.

On top of all that, it seems that Nerio had something to do with the disappearance of two of the girls from the convent. Vigetti has a bunch of mysteries to unravel, none of which are made easier by the sudden appearance of an Inquisitor, Don Zanini (Andrea Scorzoni), who aims to use Vigetti’s indiscretion as leverage to discover what dark crimes the Monsignor might actually be committing.

Arcane Sorcerer is long on atmospherics and short on actual shocks – it could be considered possibly the oddest giallo ever. Avati gets a lot of mileage out of actual period locations, and the few studio sets – the cramped interior of the manor, where every wall is a bookshelf, filled to exploding with books, reaching up several stories – are impressive. If you’re looking for an actual horror movie, The Arcane Sorcerer may not fit the bill. But as a rumination on the nature and degrees of sin and forbidden knowledge – and as a weird mystery – it’s pretty good.


If you’ve been with us for any length of time, You know that things get a little hectic this time of year. Several sites engage in the strange behavior called Hubrisween, and we are one of them.

Ask for it by name!

What this means is we go through the alphabet, a movie and a review a day, until we wind everything up on Halloween with the letter Z, and probably lots and lots of zombies. There are other Halloween horror marathons, but this one is ours.

Here’s what you have to look forward to – or dread – tomorrow:

If you can’t wait that long, here’s what we did in 2014, 2015, 2016, and last year. That should tide you over until tomorrow morning, surely.

That is, if we survive until morning.