Tag Archives: horror

The Young Cannibals (2019)

The toothy critter
Toothy critter!

In a pre-title sequence two desperate men are shown eating part of a dead colleague on a snow-covered mountain. A third man refuses to take part in this. When the three men walk onwards, the two who had eaten the flesh start acting scared, as if they can see something up ahead. The man who’d not succumbed to cannibalism can’t see what is pursuing the others. This unseen force lifts up one of the flesh eaters, throws him to the snowy ground and bloodily rips into him.

Only those who've eaten human flesh can see the creature...
Only those who’ve eaten human flesh can see the creature…
A victim is attacked
…and it hunts them down and kills them

The movie now switches location to the UK and we watch Ethan (Benjamin Sarpong-Broni) devising a way to get his girlfriend Nat (Megan Purvis) out of the mental health facility she is currently staying in. The couple have planned this escape so that Nat can celebrate her birthday with a bunch of friends on a weekend camping trip.


The land they are camping on is owned by Blackwood (David Patrick Stucky), who we recognise as the surviving flesh eater from the opening sequence. Blackwood generously offers the campers a container of raw hamburger patties. The friends enjoy this free meal, unaware that the burger patties contain human flesh…

Don’t eat the burgers!

Blackwood reappears and tells the group what they’ve eaten – and he explains that the local woodland is inhabited by a creature that hunts and kills anyone who has consumed human flesh. Blackwood’s plan is to use the friends as offerings, hoping that the monster (that has presumably stalked him from the mountains) will gorge on them and will leave him alone for a while.

The creature looms over a victim
The creature looms over a victim
fang-faced monster

The friends must now try to keep out of the creature’s clutches, and this really should’ve provided the film with lots of opportunities to give us tension and action, but there’s a fair bit of running time where not much happens and we get characters having “you weren’t there to help”-type drama moments instead.

Brother and sister have a 'you-weren't-there-for-me' moment
Brother and sister have a ‘you-weren’t-there-for-me’ moment

The movie inevitably ends with a final girl confronting Blackwood and dealing with the pursuing creature.

Nat covers herself in another victim's blood
Nat covers herself in another victim’s blood

This low budget movie looks okay visually, has practical effects and features a decent synth score by Gabe Castro, so it’s a shame a lot of the film is basically a bunch of rather one-note characters walking and running about in the woods.

Nat ignites a signal flare

What I liked most about the movie was the central idea, which is pretty cool: if you eat human flesh you will be hunted down and killed by a creature that ONLY cannibals can see (non-cannibals can only see the victims being attacked, with the creature remaining invisible to them).

The suggestion that the creature can’t see you if you cover yourself with a dead person’s blood doesn’t seem well thought-through, however. Surely most cannibals get covered in a dead person’s blood (because they’re eating a corpse), so this must be a real problem for a creature that only hunts down cannibals!

The guy with the rifle can't see the monster holding up Ethan because he hasn't munched on human flesh
The guy with the rifle can’t see the monster holding up Ethan because he hasn’t munched on human flesh
The creature gets up close and personal
The creature gets up close and personal

This monster is a humanoid creature with a big, tooth-filled mouth, but it is never seen as clearly as depicted in the film’s poster: it is always shot cloaked in shadows, filmed from a distance, or shown in extreme close-up.

The poster showed the beastie far more clearly
The poster showed the beastie far more clearly

In the end the movie just fails to be very memorable, which is a pity, as it had potential.

It's looking out the window!
It’s looking out the window!

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…

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