On a snowy Christmas Eve, a young brother and sister quietly sneak downstairs to hopefully get a fleeting glimpse of Santa as he leaves presents under the christmas tree. But they actually discover that ol’ Saint Nick is a grotesque-looking, raw-fleshed, toothy creature!
ALL THROUGH THE HOUSE is a 7 minute episode from the second season of Netflix’s animated anthology series LOVE, DEATH + ROBOTS and it wonderfully mixes cuteness with creepiness.
Directed by Elliot Dear, this animated short from Blink Industries first hints that we’re not going to see your typical Mr Clause when a long, prehensile probe-tongue snakes onto the screen to suck up the milk and snatch away the cookies that’ve been left out for hungry Santa!
The gift-giving creature is a marvellous creation: it has a toothy maw reminiscent of the eyeless, tooth-faced alien from THE DEADLY SPAWN (1983), mixed with some overlong forelegs that make it look a little like the critter in CLOVERFIELD (2008). Actually, this festive beastie also reminds me quite a bit of the large, pink-skinned thing featured in METAMORPHOSIS: THE ALIEN FACTOR (1990). This santa-beast also possesses human-like arms & hands that it uses in an amusing, expressive way!
Anyway – regardless of exactly which previous movie monsters reminded me of this episode’s cool, novel-looking creature – ALL THROUGH THE HOUSE proves to be a short, sweet, semi-scary treat that reveals how we actually get our presents: a xenomorph-like monster vomits-up the perfectly-wrapped gifts in a stream of saliva!
At the end of the story the creature growls the children’s names as it coughs-up their presents, tells them that they’re good, then crawls up the chimney. Once the beast has gone the sister is left to ask the question: what would’ve happened if they hadn’t been good?
A passenger (resembling H.P. Lovecraft) leaves his carriage to have a smoke when the train he is travelling on briefly breaks down in a field of tall grass.
Disregarding the train conductor’s request not to wander from the train, the man walks into the prairie and notices strange lights amongst the grass… so he treads further into the field and he finally encounters a white-skinned humanoid creature with a featureless face.
More of these pale-fleshed beings crawl out of the dirt within the field and they chase the passenger through the grass! We now see that the faces of the creatures are not totally featureless: big, gaping mouths full of masses of sharp teeth can be seen as the beings close-in on the terrified passenger.
The man is dragged to the ground and is overwhelmed by the creatures, but the train conductor intervenes, saving him. When both men manage to get back onto the train, which is finally heading away from the prairie, the conductor says that he believes this area of grass is some kind of portal to another world – and these humanoid creatures are transformed people who became lost there in the past.
A satisfying 11 minute horror short, this episode from season 2 of the Netflix animated anthology series LOVE, DEATH + ROBOTS has a unique animation style that I prefer to the more photorealistic animation seen in other episodes in the series.
Based on a Joe R. Lansdale short story of the same name, this is a straightforward, simple but effective tale, made by Axis Animation, that is full of mood, mystery and monsters.
17 year old Mark Grayson is the son of Omni-Man, the world’s most powerful superhero. With Mark’s own superpowers emerging, his father decides it’s time to start training his son, who is given a costume and assumes the name Invincible.
INVINCIBLE is an animated Netflix series based on Robert Kirkman’s comic of the same name. The world of this show is inhabited by the kind of characters you’d also find in Marvel or DC universes (heroes, secret identities, villains, super teams, robots, alien races, monsters, shadowy organisations, etc), but this series handles things rather differently, with fights that are brutal and often deadly, involving characters who are willing to carry out shockingly terrible things they believe to be the right thing to do.
Just a warning that there are going to be spoilers ahead, though the conclusion of the first episode probably lets you know where the story is heading.
The aforementioned episode 1 ending shows us Omni-Man, this story’s Superman analogue (a ‘good’ being from another planet), wiping out the superhero team Guardians of the Globe in an extremely savage manner. From now on you know this isn’t going to be a typical superhero cartoon.
The series progresses with Mark (who is quite Peter Parker-like) trying to juggle life as a teenager, navigating a world of first dates, etc, whilst also taking on the commitments of a superhero. Various characters, meanwhile, try to discover what part Omni-Man played in the massacre of the Guardians of the Globe. These people include the Hellboy-like demon detective Damien Darkblood, scar-faced Director Cecil Stedman (who oversees the secret Global Defense Agency) and even Omni-Man’s wife, Debbie.
Omni-Man’s motivation will ultimately be revealed when he announces to his son later in the show that he is ‘guarding’ the Earth to prepare it for invasion by his own people, to make it part of the Viltrumite Empire.
In INVINCIBLE a fight between various powered heroes and villains will always result in injury, and often death, with the villains REALLY wanting to kill their adversaries: there’s no pulling of punches or easy wins.
Where most shows and films feature super-powered battles with very little human collateral damage, INVINCIBLE doesn’t shy away from showing what it’d be like if such conflicts erupted in a heavily populated environment. In episode 2, for instance, a race of extra-dimensional aliens called Flaxans enter a city via portals and many bystanders are cut down by lasers or crushed as the invaders launch their attack.
But definitely the most outrageously pitiless example of this is in the final episode, when Omni-Man shows his son just how little he really thinks of the humans around him by punching Invincible so hard that his son smashes into a Chicago street at such speed loads of civilians are killed. Then Omni-Man follows this up by forcing his son to hover in front of an oncoming tube train, resulting in the bloody deaths of all the passengers, who are smashed apart as the train ploughs into Invincible.
The series’ plotting keeps you guessing about the motivations of different characters (such as Robot), there are great set-pieces and there’s a decent amount of emotional impact too. It’s pretty upsetting for Debbie, for instance, when she watches footage of her superhuman husband telling his son that he regards his wife fondly… like a pet.
As this is the Monster Zone blog, let’s look at some of the monsters, aliens and beings that inhabit the show…
The green-faced alien Flaxans are vicious would-be invaders who age quickly on Earth due to the way time flows in their own dimension.
There’s a cool-looking, tentacle-headed monster that resembles Cthulhu, which the Global Defense Agency send to attack Omni-Man after he’s revealed to be a bad guy.
Titan is a super-powered thug who can coat himself in a golem-like stone outer covering.
Reanimen are cyborgs built from corpses by twisted scientist D.A. Sinclair. They are later mass produced by the Global Defense Agency.
Thokk, the Battle Beast, is an extremely powerful lion-headed being who kicks superhero ass and exits if he feels his adversaries are not worth the effort.
Sequids resemble starfish with external brains and are parasites that Invincible encounters on Mars. These critters, if not kept in check, can rapidly multiply and make whole civilisations their hosts.
The Martians are a race who will do anything to stop the spread of the Sequids, including considering the execution of visiting Earth astronauts.
The muscled, blue-skinned Mauler Twins are not actually twins: one is a brilliant scientist and the other is his clone. The thing is… both of them claim to be the original!
INVINCIBLE boasts a great voice cast, including J.K Simmons as Omni-Man, Steven Yuen as Invincible, Sandra Oh as Debbie and Mark Hamill as Art Rosenbaum, a superhero suit tailor.
Check this superhero show out: it’s well-plotted, well-paced, shocking at times and full of interesting characters.
Just in case you need a reminder that this is not a kids show…
Over the years I’ve seen a lot of Paul’s concept work posted online either by himself or featured on various sites. He is a sculptor, fine artist, illustrator, resin kit designer and movie concept artist.
Anyway, I thought I’d post a selection of his concept designs here as I love the look of his illustrations, which very often almost have the feel of classic Leonardo da Vinci drawings.
Paul’s concepts for the flying creatures in KONG: SKULL ISLAND were pretty otherworldly. It’s a shame these didn’t find their way into the film as they’re very striking.
Below is a drawing Paul did for a resin model kit of Nyarlathotep: an Outer God in the Cthulhu Mythos…
Daisuke Manno sculpted the Gecco garage kit that was based on Paul’s design…
Here’s a glorious Cthulhu illustration Paul did for another Gecco model kit design…
Some shots of Paul’s Cthulhu resin model kit…
Paul designed this Great Race of Yith creature, which was then sculpted by RYO (nendoseizin) and painted by David Dill…
Here’s a great illustration Paul did for ACRO Co. Ltd, showing his design suggestion for Gan-Q (a Kaiju that first appeared in Ultraman Gaia)…
Here’s a pic of Paul sculpting a Swamp Thing maquette…
…and here’s a sketch of Swamp Thing Paul did before he began sculpting the maquette…
The 1/1 scale/proportion drawing for the Sideshow Swamp Thing…
Professor Heitz (Michael Goodliffe) travels to Vandorf to prove that his bohemian artist son, who has committed suicide, is being used as a scapegoat to cover up the fact there is an ancient evil prowling the area, turning people to stone. Unfortunately, the professor himself falls victim to this creature but, before he becomes a stone corpse, he manages to send a message to his other son, Paul (Richard Pasco), asking him to look into this mystery.
The local police (led by Patrick Troughton), along with Dr Namaroff (Peter Cushing) of the Vandorf Medical Institution, try to obstruct Paul as he attempts to solve the mystery. Paul has a narrow escape when he catches sight of the prowling gorgon’s reflection, which physically ages him and makes him ill, but he is aided by his tutor Professor Meister (Christopher Lee), who also travels to Vandorf to help out his pupil. Matters become more complicated when Paul falls in love with Namaroff’s beautiful assistant, Carla (Barbara Shelley)…
Some of my favourite Hammer movies are their standalone films like THE REPTILE, PLAGUE OF THE ZOMBIES and THE GORGON. The latter is a production that I will go back to enjoy again and again because it is such a wonderful, tragic concoction.
The film has an interesting plot structure, introducing a succession of characters, who arrive at the town of Vandorf looking for answers: first Professor Heitz, then Paul and then Professor Meister. This could have given it a repetitive feel, but it doesn’t, and the story moves along nicely, with Dr Namaroff acting as a constant obstruction to the enquiries made by the various visitors.
Peter Cushing is very good in this: as Namaroff he remains impeccably well-mannered throughout, as he covers up the facts behind the deaths, never admitting to outsiders that each victim has become a corpse-statue. His love for Carla adds extra depth to the character, as he becomes jealous of Paul’s burgeoning relationship with Carla, whilst also wrestling with the knowledge of just who is transforming into the gorgon.
The identity of the possessed person isn’t too hard to fathom, but this doesn’t harm the film because Carla’s predicament adds to the tragic nature of the story. With Paul and Namaroff trying to do what’s best for Carla (even if Namaroff’s solution ultimately involves killing her), the stage is set for a final clash between two men besotted with the same woman.
James Bernard’s score has its usual bombastic elements, as heard in many Hammer productions, but it also features haunting female vocals that add immeasurably to the atmosphere. The tattered Borski Castle interior set, by Bernard Robinson, also adds to the mood of the film, as does the ultimately sad resolution to the story.
The whole cast, including Richard Pasco and Barbara Shelley, inhabit their doomed roles well, with Christopher Lee providing somewhat lighter relief as the brusque, no-nonsense, says-it-as-it-is Professor Meister.
Memorable moments include Professor Heitz struggling to write a letter as he slowly turns to stone, Paul’s encounter with the gorgon that results in him suffering badly from glimpsing her reflection in a pool, and the finale in Borski Castle.
The depiction of Megaera the Gorgon in the film is, admittedly, a distinctly low tech affair, but Terence Fisher’s direction compensates for this by keeping the snake-haired woman in shadows, in the background, behind pillars and glimpsed in reflections. As portrayed by Prudence Hyman, the gorgon is still a memorable Hammer creation, lurking menacingly in her green robes, awaiting her next victim.
With its tragic ending, sombre fatalism and fine acting from the whole cast, THE GORGON is a top-notch Hammer production.
A gigantic, frozen Tyrannosaurus Rex is discovered in the arctic. The creature is shipped over to Metropolis, where it is housed in a massive, refrigerated building attached to the city museum. After an accident wrecks the generator, the ice melts and the huge dino awakens, breaks free, runs amok, but is eventually stopped by Superman.
This nine minute Fleischer Studios cartoon was the fourth (of seventeen) Technicolor shorts based on DC’s Superman – and it’s my favourite.
THE LOST WORLD (1925) had ended with a brontosaurus stomping through the streets of London and the finale of KING KONG (1933) had the titular beast creating havoc in New York, but these creatures were not too exaggerated size-wise, whereas the Tyrannosaurus in THE ARCTIC GIANT is a truly Kaiju-scale beast, hinting at the kind of monster action that would appear on cinema screens from the 1950s onwards.
The mega Tyrannosaurus in this short makes the most of his brief rampage: he wrecks the museum, stomps on police cars, totals an elevated train track, smashes through a dam, knocks aside firefighter boats, pulls down a suspension bridge and threatens a baseball stadium.
Superman follows after the super-sized critter, quickly filling the hole in the dam with a boulder and temporarily fixing the bridge.
Lois Lane, as usual, stubbornly wants to get in on the action and is almost eaten by the monster at the end, before Superman flies into the dino’s mouth, prises its jaws open and carries Lois to safety.
With story elements that would later feature in THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS (1953), GODZILLA (1954) and many other creature features that involve colossal monsters, this is a very enjoyable short.
Popeye and Olive Oyl are stranded on a raft in the ocean when Popeye spots a galleon called the ‘Sea Witch’. They happily climb onboard but it soon transpires that the ship’s crew are still hanging around… as ghosts.
SPOOKY SWABS was the final Paramount Pictures theatrical Popeye cartoon to be released and, whilst nowhere near as good as the much earlier Popeye cartoons, it is quite a fun affair with such gags as Popeye speedily spinning his pipe in his mouth so that he can use it as an outboard motor, water draining out of Olive Oyl’s eyes so that we can see her pupils again, and Popeye grabbing a sawfish so that he can use it to cut through the ship’s anchor rope.
It would’ve been cooler if the ghosts had been drawn to resemble pirates, rather than your standard white sheet type ghosts, but this does allow for a final sight gag where Popeye knocks all the ghosts flat and Olive Oyl stitches them together to make a brand new sail for the galleon.
This Hindi language period-set horror film was directed by Rahi Anil Barve, with Anand Gandhi serving as the additional creative director and Adesh Prasad co-directing. It starts by telling the legend of the Goddess of Plenty and her favourite offspring Hastar. The reason that nobody has heard of Hastar, it is revealed, is due to the fact he was stricken from history.
Hastar, it turns out, physically exists in our world, trapped in a subterranean ‘womb room’ beneath a derelict mansion. The protagonist figures out a way to get a steady supply of gold from this deity, but there may be consequences…
This is a great-looking, well-told Indian horror tale with lots of cool ideas and visuals…
For instance, there’s a possessed, undead grandmother who has spikes jammed through her face to stop her opening her jaw wide enough to eat anyone – and many years later she is rediscovered with a tree growing out of her rotting-yet-living body!
The idea that an organic chamber beneath the mansion’s old well is actually the womb of the mother goddess is an intriguing concept, as is the crown-wearing, red-skinned Hastar, who is eternally hungry for flour!
The way Vinayak, the lead character, gets hold of Hastar’s gold is nicely done: he knows that Hastar is continually ravenous, desiring flour, so Vinayak climbs down a long rope and uses dolls made from dough to lure Hastar into the centre of the goddess’s womb. Then, while Hastar is distracted by the dough-doll, Vinayak snatches at Hastar’s loincloth containing the gold, causing coins to spill from it. Vinayak regularly repeats this procedure to maintain a regularly flow of stolen coins to make his fortune.
The cinematography is a joy, the mood is well maintained, with the film coming across as a dark cautionary horror tale.
TUMBBAD is a marvellous reminder to always be on the lookout for horror and fantasy stories from all around the world. When you do, you will increase your chances of discovering terrific treasures like this movie.
Also known as DINOWOLF, the story concerns a genetically modified (aren’t they always?) creature, that is half human and half extinct dire wolf, escaping from a lab and going on a bloody rampage in a small rural community.
Directed by Fred Olen Ray (DEEP SPACE, WIZARDS OF THE DEMON SWORD, ARMED RESPONSE), this low budget horror flick has a story that is very typical of this kind of movie, but it is far better than it should have been thanks to the fact it eschews low grade Syfy Channel-type CGI and uses man-in-suit effects instead.
The wolf-creature basically resembles a werewolf with a somewhat simian physique and has a snarling expression throughout the story. The creature suit is nothing special and the monster’s attacks on victims are a little too similar to each other, but these scenes remain watchable thanks to the use of practical effects with lots and lots of blood spraying about the place!
Gil (BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25TH CENTURY) Gerard appears in a small supporting role as a senior military officer in charge of the dire wolf project, but it is Maxwell Caulfield that stands out as the likeable, slightly OCD sheriff. I think the story should’ve given him more screen time, rather than focus on various other characters, and it certainly would’ve been a better film if Caulfield had been given more to do.
This low budget film is no classic, with a quite simple creature suit that has basically one expression, but it is an enjoyable watch nonetheless.
Local villagers fight and kill Count Mitterhaus (Robert Tayman): a vampire who has been preying on the village’s children. As he ‘dies’, the Count curses the village, saying that the surviving children of those who attacked him will all die.
Fifteen years later the village is suffering from an outbreak of a plague-like illness, resulting in the place being quarantined from the surrounding area – if anyone tries to leave they are likely to be shot. But this doesn’t prevent a travelling circus from visiting the village, where it sets up camp to entertain the locals for the next few nights.
Emil (Anthony Higgins), one of the circus performers, is actually the cousin of Count Mitterhaus, and it soon becomes apparent that the circus folk are out to kill those who were cursed by the Count and intend to resurrect his still-preserved body…
The actors playing the vampires in this Hammer production, directed by Robert Young, seem to all really overact when doing their fangs-out, neck-biting scenes and, amongst the various townsfolk, it is hard to see who actually is meant to be the film’s main protagonist.
Robert Tayman, as the Count, lacks the forbidding presence of Christopher Lee and certain plot points aren’t explained: how, for instance, is the female acolyte Anna Müller able to appear in the form of the circus gypsy woman (Adrienne Corri)?
Having said all that, there’s a lot to enjoy…
Typical of Hammer films from this period, VAMPIRE CIRCUS mixes classic elements like a gothic castle, a Bürgermeister (played by Thorley Walters) and a bat-filled crypt with 1970s elements like nudity and some extra gore, such as the scene with the mangled corpses of the Schilt family (ripped up by a vampire panther) that Dora (Lynne Frederick) stumbles upon.
The circus setting is what gives this film its own distinctive feel. We get acrobats, a strongman (Dave Prowse), a dwarf who acts as the master of ceremonies, big cats, a gypsy woman and dancers.
Some of the circus acts involve Emil transforming into a black panther, acrobatic twins seemingly switching from bats to human form, and a sensuous dance routine involving a woman in tiger-stripe body paint. The transformations are conveyed by simply cutting between the actor and the panther (or bats), but the effect is fine, adding a ‘circus trick’ feel of the scenes.
Another interesting element is the small hall of mirrors that houses a ‘Mirror of Life’, which shows people visions of a leering Count Mitterhaus or other vampiric tableaus. At one point the vampire acrobat twins are able to pass through this mirror, taking Dora with them.
There are two entertaining villagers-against-the-vampire fights (one at the start, one at the end), a death-by-falling-giant-crucifix scene, plus a novel end to the newly-revived Count: the vampire’s neck is jammed between a crossbow’s bow and stock and then the trigger is pulled, causing the bowstring to cut off the Counts head!
Oh yeah: the bats are generally handled well in this movie. Whereas earlier Hammer films featured puppet bats on wires, VAMPIRE CIRCUS uses real bats effectively, only using models for shots like a bat on fire (and there’s an animated cartoon bat used for the shot of the final bat flying away at the end).
Despite plot shortcomings and some fuzzy vampire lore, I think this is a watchable, colourful 70s slice of eccentric, quite gory Hammer horror fun.
Devoted to every kind of movie and TV monster, from King Kong to Godzilla, from the Blob to Alien.