All Through the House (2021)

The monster looms closer
This certainly isn’t Santa!

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!

The creature lurks behind the christmas tree
What’s lurking behind the christmas tree?

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.

The creature knows if you've been good...
The creature knows if you’ve been good…

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 tongue-tentacle appears...
The tongue-tentacle appears

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!

The weird creature approaches...
The weird creature approaches the kids
Jazz hands!

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!

The creature holds a gift
This is for you…

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?

the creature gets close
Close encounter…
…with a very nice-lookin’ critter

The Tall Grass (2021)

Deathly-white creatures attack!
White-fleshed creatures attack!

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.

The passenger should've listened to the conductor and not strayed from the train
The passenger should’ve listened to the conductor and not strayed from the train…
The passenger walks into the tall grass...
…but he does walk into the field…
The passenger walks through the prairie
…and he paces further into the long grass…
The passenger encounters one of the creatures...
…and he encounters one of the creatures!

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.

So many teeth!
So many teeth!

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.

The creatures close-in...
The creatures close-in
The conductor comes to the rescue
The train conductor comes to the rescue with a flaming torch…
The creatures don't like fire
…because he knows the creatures don’t like fire

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.

Love, Death + Robots logo

Invincible (2021)

Attack of the tentacle-faced beastie!
Attack of the tentacle-faced beastie!

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.

You don’t mess with Omni-Man
Invincible confronts Machine Head
Invincible confronts a villain called Machine Head

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.

The demise of many characters is not pretty
The demise of many characters is not pretty

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.

This never happened in Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends!
Off with his head!
Off with his head!

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.

Damien Darkblood is a demon detective
Damien Darkblood has his suspicions…

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.

The fights are never pain-free
The fights are never pain-free
Gory action
The action gets, let’s just say, pretty gory…

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.

Superheroes in this show can't save everybody
Superheroes in this show can’t save everybody
A bystander is crushed

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 bloody tube train scene
The bloody tube train scene

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.

The Flaxans march to war
The Flaxans march to war

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.

It’s angry!

Titan is a super-powered thug who can coat himself in a golem-like stone outer covering.

Titan: a stone-skinned thug with a secret plan…

Reanimen are cyborgs built from corpses by twisted scientist D.A. Sinclair. They are later mass produced by the Global Defense Agency.

One of Sinclair's savage cyborgs
One of Sinclair’s savage cyborgs

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.

Thokk does NOT pull his punches
Thokk does NOT pull his punches

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.

Parasitic brain creatures!
Parasitic brain creatures!

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 Martian Emperor
The Martian Emperor

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!

The Mauler Twins are totally ripped and totally blue
The Mauler Twins are totally ripped and totally blue

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.

Father/son showdown
Father/son showdown

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…

gory gif

Paul Komoda Concept Art

Gan-Q drawing detail
There’s no mistaking Paul’s gorgeous drawing style

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.


The Thing (2011)
The Thing (2011)
The Thing (2011)
The Thing (2011)
The Thing (2011)
The Thing (2011)
The Thing (2011)
The Thing (2011)
The Thing (2011)
The Thing (2011)
Harpy concept for The Tempest (2010)
Harpy concept for The Tempest (2010)
After Earth (2013)
After Earth (2013)
After Earth (2013)
After Earth (2013)
Horned wolf concept for Kong: Skull Island (2017)
Unused creature design for Kong: Skull Island (2017)
Unused horned tiger creature design for Kong: Skull Island (2017)
Unused flying creature design for Kong: Skull Island (2017)
Unused flying creature design for Kong: Skull Island (2017)

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.

Another of Paul's flying creature designs for Kong: Skull Island
Another of Paul’s flying creature designs for Kong: Skull Island
I Am Legend (2007)

Below is a drawing Paul did for a resin model kit of Nyarlathotep: an Outer God in the Cthulhu Mythos…

Nyarlathotep resin model kit design

Daisuke Manno sculpted the Gecco garage kit that was based on Paul’s design…

The finished Nyarlathotep resin model kit
The finished Nyarlathotep resin model kit

Here’s a glorious Cthulhu illustration Paul did for another Gecco model kit design…

Cthulhu illustration

Some shots of Paul’s Cthulhu resin model kit…

 Cthulhu resin model kit, sculpted by Paul
Cthulhu resin model kit, sculpted by Paul
Side view of the Cthulhu resin model kit
Side view of the Cthulhu resin model kit
Here's a painted version of Paul's awesome Cthulhu creation on display at a NY Comic Con
Here’s a painted version of Paul’s awesome Cthulhu creation on display at a NY Comic Con

Paul designed this Great Race of Yith creature, which was then sculpted by RYO (nendoseizin) and painted by David Dill…

Great Race of Yith prepainted statue - side view
Great Race of Yith prepainted statue – side view
Great Race of Yith prepainted statue - front view
Great Race of Yith prepainted statue – front view

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)…

Design for Gan-Q model
A commission Paul did of the melting Ernest Borgnine from THE DEVIL'S RAIN
A commission Paul did in 2019, showing Ernest Borgnine melting in THE DEVIL’S RAIN
A Yithian drawing from 2017
A Yithian drawing from 2017

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…


The Gorgon (1964)

US poster
Petrifying stuff!

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.

Professor Heitz’s son Bruno commits suicide
A petrified victim
A petrified victim

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)…

Dr Namaroff and Inspector Kanof want to keep the truth behind the deaths covered up
Dr Namaroff and Inspector Kanof want to keep the truth behind the deaths covered up

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.

US poster
US poster

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.

Professor Meister is very feisty!
Professor Meister is very feisty!

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.

Cushing & Shelley
Peter Cushing plays a very interesting, conflicted character

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.

Doomed lovers
Doomed lovers

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.

Borski Castle
Borski Castle

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.

Professor Heitz begins to turn to stone...
Professor Heitz begins to turn to stone…
The professor painfully writes his last letter
…and painfully writes his last letter

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.

The gorgon behind pillars
The gorgon lurks behind pillars…
The gorgon seen in a mirror
…she’s seen in reflections…
The gorgon in the castle
…she stands behind cobwebs…
Megaera roams the castle
…and she roams the castle
The red-eyed gorgon
Don’t look at her!

With its tragic ending, sombre fatalism and fine acting from the whole cast, THE GORGON is a top-notch Hammer production.

Megaera meets her match when Christopher Lee picks up a sword
Megaera meets her match when Christopher Lee picks up a sword
The gorgon approaches...
The gorgon approaches…
The fine, apt, fatalistic ending
…for the fine, apt, fatalistic ending
UK poster
UK poster
Belgian poster
Belgian poster
German poster
German poster
Italian poster
Italian poster
The castle model shot
The shot just screams ‘Hammer’!
The gorgon gif
Christopher Lee creeps up behind the gorgon, sword in hand…

The Arctic Giant (1942)

Does this big reptile remind you of anybody?

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.

The fun begins…

This nine minute Fleischer Studios cartoon was the fourth (of seventeen) Technicolor shorts based on DC’s Superman – and it’s my favourite.

The dino is shipped to Metropolis in a refrigerated tanker

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.

Will this monster thaw out?
The monster escapes!
Of course he will!
Look into my eyes

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.

The museum is wrecked
The museum is wrecked…
…and police cars get squashed…
…and the elevated train track is stomped on…
…and the critter pushes through the dam…
…causing a flood…
The bridge is totalled
…and this bridge must be torn apart too, because it’s in the way!

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.

Superman to the rescue!
Superman to the rescue!

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.

The dino is put on display
The arctic giant is eventually displayed to the public… but did this work out for KING KONG or GORGO?!
Arctic Giant on the rampage!

Spooky Swabs (1957)


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.

The cartoon's title
This was the 231st and final theatrical Popeye cartoon
POpeye & Olive
Popeye and Olive

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.

Happy ghosts
Happy ghosts

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.

The new sail is made from ghosts
A ghostly new sail!
Ye King's Spinach
If this jar of Ye King’s Spinach has been hanging around since 1678 it can’t taste too good…
Popeye the Sailor comic
The ghosts should really have looked like this one featured on the cover of a Popeye the Sailor comic

Tumbbad (2018)

The forgotten deity called Hastar!
The forgotten deity called Hastar!

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.

The film won awards for Best Film and Best Visual Effects at the Screamfest International Film Festival
The film won awards for Best Film and Best Visual Effects at the Screamfest International Film Festival

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…

A place where it always seems to rain...
A place where it always seems to rain…

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 undead grandmother doesn’t like spikes jammed through her face!
The undead grandmother doesn’t like spikes jammed through her face!
The still-alive grandmother with a tree growing through her!
The still-alive grandmother with a tree growing through her!

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!

Hastar is eternally hungry for flour
Hastar always has the munchies

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 red, pulpy-skinned Hastar on the move...
The red, pulpy-skinned Hastar on the move…

The cinematography is a joy, the mood is well maintained, with the film coming across as a dark cautionary horror tale.

The film is great to look at
The film is great to look at

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.

A victim trapped within the fleshy wall of the womb-room
A victim trapped within the fleshy wall of the womb-room
Whatever you do, don't feed the deity more than one dough-doll...
Whatever you do, don’t feed the deity more than one dough-doll…

Dire Wolf (2009)

Dire wolf carnage
Dire wolf carnage!

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 dire wolf likes to snarl!
The dire wolf likes to snarl!

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!

An intestine is chewed by the dire wolf
An intestine: yummy!
The beast attacks another victim
The beast attacks another victim
A hand gets chewed off
A hand gets chewed off

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.

Another dire wolf attack!
Another dire wolf attack!

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.

The dire wolf creeps up
He’s behind you…
The dire wolf attacks
…too late!
The dire wolf attacks yet again
Can a film ever have too many monster attack scenes?
Face-to-face with the dire wolf...
Face-to-face with the dire wolf…
The critter gets zapped!
The critter gets zapped!

Vampire Circus (1972)

Fangs anf blood
Fangs and blood…
Emil bears his fangs
Emil opens wide

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.

Count Mitterhaus
Count Mitterhaus

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.

The dwarf removes his makeup
Beneath the makeup… is more makeup

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…

UK poster
UK poster

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.

Helga (Lalla Ward) shows her fangs
Helga (Lalla Ward) shows her fangs

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…

Dave Prowse flexes his muscles
Dave Prowse flexes his guns

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.

Panther attack!
Panther victim
One of the victims…

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.

The dwarf smiles scarily
Just because he’s smiling doesn’t mean that he’s nice…

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.

Tiger lady dancer!

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!

Brother and sister vampires die
The vampire brother dies from the same wound when his twin sister is skewered by the cross
The crossbow is used as a cross
The crossbow is used as a cross (before it then becomes a handy decapitation device)
A father discovers his dead sons
Children are often victims in the movie, giving it a nastier edge compared to other Hammer films

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).

The staked Count
The Count is staked… for now

Despite plot shortcomings and some fuzzy vampire lore, I think this is a watchable, colourful 70s slice of eccentric, quite gory Hammer horror fun.

US poster
US poster
Belgian poster
Belgian poster
French poster
French poster
Australian poster
Australian poster

Devoted to every kind of movie and TV monster, from King Kong to Godzilla, from the Blob to Alien.