We Have a Ghost, Sick, Swallowed, Spoonful of Sugar, Aenigma, and The Face of Fu Manchu
Weekly Horror Bulletin Newsletter 220
We’ve got our usual lineup of four movies and a short film this week— This time, they’re all brand-new, recent-release films!
“We Have a Ghost” from 2023 is up first, followed by a “Spoonful of Sugar” which isn’t as sweet as it sounds, especially before being “Swallowed.” Or might even make you “Sick.”
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For our bonus reviews, we’ll look at “Aenigma” from 1987 and “The Face of Fu Manchu” from 1965.
We’ve got two announcements this week pertaining to our books:
1. NEW! “The Horror Guys Guide to the Films of Peter Cushing” is available now at all the usual places, including our web store: https://brianschell.com/b/cushing. This is one of our biggest books yet, looking at all fifty of Cushing’s horror films and eight of his other influential movies.
2. FREE! ”The Horror Guys Guide To The Halloween Films” is available now, exclusively at our web store, https://brianschell.com/b/halloween. The eBook version is completely free. Enjoy! Note that it’s also available as a paperback, but that one’s obviously not free. Also note, that there are a couple of other free books on the site as well!
Check out all our books!
The Horror Guys Guide to:
• The Horror Films of Peter Cushing New!
• The Horror Guys Guide To The Halloween Films (Free!)
• The Horror Films of Vincent Price
• Universal Studios' Shock! Theater
• Universal Studios' Son of Shock!
• A Sextet of Strange Stagings: Six Surprising Scripts
Here. We. Go!
We Have a Ghost (2023)
• Directed by Christopher Landon
• Written by Christopher Landon, Geoff Manaugh
• Stars Jahi Di’Allo Winston, David Harbour, Anthony Mackie
• Run Time: 2 Hours, 6 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
This was all around pretty awesome. Funny and touching, with great special effects, an excellent cast, and a clever script. The comedy lightens the horror elements very well.
We watch from the street as people run screaming from the house, jump in their car, and drive away. The door slams behind them. Credits roll.
A year passes, and the house needs a lot of work. The Presley family and the realtor go inside for a showing. Frank, Melanie, and their two sons, Kevin and Fulton like what they see, but why is the house so cheap? Melanie asks, “Nothing bad happened here right?” The realtor denies that, “It’s just a buyer’s market.” Kevin, the teenager, goes up to the creepy old attic and thinks it’s a dump. They soon move in.
We soon see that there’s a lot of family tension between Frank and Kevin. Kevin says they’ve had “so many fresh starts that I’ve lost count.” That night, Kevin hears someone up in the attic and goes to investigate. He sees a ghost who “Wooooooos” at him. Kevin giggles and records the whole thing. The ghost wears a shirt that says “Ernest,” and he doesn’t think it’s funny at all.
Kevin meets Joy, their next-door neighbor. She says the neighbors call their new home “The House of Death,” and she thinks that’s cool. After school, Kevin confronts the non-scary ghost and has a one-sided conversation with him. Ernest can’t talk and can’t remember anything about his life. He can become physical with a bit of concentration. We soon see that Ernest is a little protective of his new friend.
Kevin starts watching YouTube videos about ghosts and psychics. His brother Fulton steals Kevin’s camera and sees the video of Ernest, so does dad. They’re both impressed but think they shouldn’t tell Mom. Frank posts the video on YouTube.
Ghost expert Dr. Leslie Monroe does a sparsely attended book signing at the local bookstore. Someone asks her if she’s seen the new viral video of the ghost in the guy’s attic.
Kevin calls for Ernest while Frank and Fulton are there, and they all see him. Melanie comes in, sees Ernest, and everyone screams. She wants to move, unlike all the white families in horror movies who overstay their welcome. Frank, on the other hand, wants to cash in on this with his YouTube videos—this could be a big opportunity.
Ernest soon becomes a viral sensation, and we see lots of imitator and fan videos. There’s the “Ernest Challenge,” where people run head-first into walls. Dr. Monroe watches the story unfold on the Dr. Phil show, and she’s interested. She goes to the CIA and wants to reopen the old department. They throw her out.
Soon, there are news crews and a mob of fans outside. Kevin and Ernest work on jogging Ernest’s memory. Joy helps Kevin research property records to figure out if Ernest actually lived or died in the house. He bought the house in 1965, but there’s no death certificate.
TV psychic Judy Romano comes to the house for an episode. Kevin shows Ernest a bunch of horror movies to show him what’s scary. She interviews Frank on TV, but as soon as the cameras are off, all Hell breaks loose. He terrifies the production crew, but Judy isn’t falling for it—until she does. The video of that goes super-viral. CIA Director Shipley finally comes to see Dr. Monroe. Her job is to find and apprehend a ghost.
Joy does more research and finds out that Ernest isn’t the man who used to own that house; the ghost’s name isn’t even really Ernest. The real Ernest is still alive. Who is he? Dr. Monroe comes to talk to Frank and Melanie. Monroe says that all ghosts are dangerous and evil, and Kevin is in great danger. Frank throws her out. We see that the CIA is preparing a whole containment facility for Ernest.
Kevin talks Ernest into trying to go outside, and the crowd outside chases him down the street with comedic results.
The CIA raids the family house, but Ernest, Kevin, and Joy are out on a road trip. They’re trying to track down Ernest Scheller, the former owner of the house, who probably knows the identity of the ghost. The CIA makes Frank report Kevin and Joy as being abducted. The sheriff soon finds the kids, but they escape with a little supernatural assistance after a car chase.
When Kevin and Joy stop at a motel for the night, Ernest tries to play matchmaker.
The next morning, Kevin finds the real Ernest Scheller, now an old man. Scheller was expecting him. He tells how he lost his old bowling shirt, the one the ghost wears. His name was Randy, and he’s his brother-in-law. Randy’s wife died, leaving him alone with his daughter June. One day Randy took June to Ernest Schelling’s house and just vanished. He sold his car, stole Ernests’s shirt and identity. Ernest says Randy wasn’t such a great guy in life, and maybe he deserved what he got.
Suddenly, the ghostbusters arrive with Dr. Monroe in charge. They shoot Ernest with some kind of gun, and they take him away. Kevin is reunited with his family, and it’s clear that there’s more tension there. Frank and Kevin talk about parenting, and maybe things are going to be better between them now.
At the super-secret high-tech ghost lab, Monroe and the CIA director talk about their new subject. She’s glad to have proven her theories, but now she’s starting to have doubts about the CIA’s intentions. Ernest/Randy starts to have some memories while in custody, and the story doesn’t match what old Ernest said earlier. Ernest murdered Randy. In the fastest about-face ever, Dr. Monroe releases Ernest. Ernest takes an Uber home.
Meanwhile, old man Ernest breaks into Kevin’s house with a gun. He’s kept his secret for fifty years, and wants it kept that way. Frank and Fulton hear someone downstairs and come down with bats to find Ernest holding a gun to Kevin. Ernest admits that he wanted baby June, so he killed Randy.
Kevin runs to the attic with killer-Ernest right behind him. Randy appears, and he’s not happy. Between Randy and Frank, they push the old man through the stained-glass window to his death.
The CIA Director interrogates Kevin about ghost-Ernest’s disappearance. Kevin shrugs. With the murder all resolved, maybe the ghost didn’t need to hang around anymore. The director doesn’t believe it but can’t do much.
The family goes to find June, Randy’s grown daughter, and there’s a reunion between the two. His memories of her all come back, and she remembers him as well. A little later, Ernest starts to glow and dissolve; he’s moving on, but not before giving Kevin a hug goodbye. Later, the family sells the house and moves away.
It’s long, but it could have stood to be longer still; this would have been a great miniseries. The production values are high, the acting is good, and it never really slows down. It’s a mystery, a comedy, an action film, a family drama, and a horror story all combined. It’s got a lot going on. All questions are answered, and everything gets resolved.
It’s funny and fun—I liked it a lot!
Spoonful of Sugar (2023)
• Directed by Mercedes Bryce Morgan
• Written by Leah Saint Marie
• Stars Morgan Saylor, Kat Foster, Myko Olivier
• Run Time: 1 Hour, 34 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
Strange is a good word for this one. Something will seem strange, but is that the only thing? Nope. This is a good one with an excellent script and great cast.
Millicent wakes up on the bus. She goes to a house and rings the bell. Rebecca asks Millicent some questions interviewing her to be babysitter. Millie wonders about little Johnny’s astronaut outfit. Millie has no family, so she can be Johnny’s “family.” She doesn’t have much experience but claims to like kids. Johnny doesn’t speak, but he likes her. He’s allergic to just about everything, so it sounds really complicated. Fortunately, his medication knocks him right out, so he sleeps a lot. Millie likes Johnny’s shirtless father, Jacob, a lot too. Rebecca is weird and bossy, but Millie says she can handle the job.
Millicent, on the bus again, hallucinates a naked man with devil horns leaning against her. When she gets off the bus, she takes a drop of some kind of drug. Credits roll.
We cut to Millicent at the psychiatrist’s office, and he talks about her micro dosing with LSD. He wants to cut back on the dosage, or she’s going to start hallucinating. We hear that she was in the foster system for her whole life, and she has daddy issues. She tells Dr. Welsh that all she really wants is to be a better mother than the ones she sees in the park. She hallucinates some things right there in the doctor’s office.
Rebecca is immediately jealous of Millicent, but Jacob thinks maybe she’s too innocent. They soon have kinky sex, but he stops the kink because she’s a mother now. They stop even that when Johnny has a crazy seizure. Rebecca blames Jacob for giving him chocolate. Jacob insists that Johnny doesn’t have allergies; Rebecca’s just in denial about Johnny being sick in the head. He needs to be institutionalized, not coddled for imaginary allergies. He’s even found and talked to a place, but she doesn’t want to abandon him to strangers.
Millicent drops some more acid. Then she’s called down for breakfast with a strange man who seems to be her father; she denied having family to Rebecca. We gradually realize he’s not her father, he’s her “Daddy,” and he’s infatuated with her. He cries at the thought that she might leave.
Later, Millicent works with Johnny in his astronaut suit. He digs up a dead rabbit that was buried out there. She cuts off its foot and promises to give it back to him later as a lucky keychain. He brings her another dead rabbit, and she teaches him how to skin it. Where is he getting all these dead rabbits?
Millie takes more LSD and masturbates to a picture of Jacob. She hallucinates him killing Rebecca and making crazy love involving them both. She wakes up bloody.
Jacob gets a call that Rebecca’s not coming home as scheduled, and Millie overhears. The two of them give Johnny a very weird birthday party. They start to get romantic, but Johnny interrupts. Rebecca comes home and cuts herself with a razor blade.
Millie and Johnny bond in the park. She takes her time with him, and he does show signs of improvement. He lets her cut his hair, something he’s never done for his mother.
Millie notices that she’s out of LSD, so she goes to see Dr. Welsh again. He calls her “Mary Beth,” and she cries and acts up so he’ll prescribe more. Actually, she knows where he stashes it, so she just distracts him and steals it. She mixes it with Johnny’s pills—what could go wrong?
Jacob and Rebecca go out to dinner, and he sees that she’s been cutting herself again. She distracts him, and they almost run over Millie and Johnny in the road. Johnny calls Millie “Mommy” – he’s never spoken a word in his entire life. Rebecca doesn’t react to this well; he won’t call her mommy.
Rebecca wants to fire Millie, but Jacob says what she did was wonderful. Millie and Jacob get naked in his car. When Millie goes home to “Daddy,” he calls her “Emily” and talks about their deal. She starts getting all sexy with him, but she chokes him to death with his own belt. Then she dumps his body with… others. She reads diary entries about the men who have taken advantage of her in her big book of revenge.
Millie overhears Rebecca and Dr. Welsh talking about Johnny. The next time Jacob makes a move on Millie, Johnny stabs him in the leg with a knife. “If you want me to be part of your family you have to do something for me,” she tells Johnny as she hands him a pocketknife. “You won’t have to hide your rabbits anymore if I’m your mommy.”
Rebecca notices that Johnny starts drawing pictures of Millie and his father having sex. She screams “Do you like her more than Mommy?”
Millie has a long, crazy conversation with Dr. Welsh and herself in her mirror, and her instability becomes apparent to us when it pans back, and we see she’s killed him.
Rebecca fires Millie, and Millie reacts… badly. Millie runs to Jacob out in the woodshed and tells him to fix things—after they have more sex. Meanwhile, Johnny stabs Rebecca right through the hand, and he hallucinates rabbits until she locks him in the closet.
Rebecca comes out to the shed and stabs Millie in the back. Millie runs to Johnny, who finishes her off—repeatedly, as Rebecca and Jacob watch. Jacob cuts her up with her tools and buries her in the backyard as Rebecca says, “If Johnny keeps this up, we’re going to run out of room; we’ll have to buy the lot behind us.” And we see a number of young women are buried back there.
Johnny still won’t call Rebecca “Mommy.”
Murder, like everything else, is all about using the right tool for the right job. Sometimes a psycho child is that tool.
It’s very weird. Between the weird sex things and the weird drug things and the weird murder things, we almost let the weird child things slip by us. The ending is an interesting twist, but not necessarily out of the blue.
It’s very weird. I liked it a lot!
Short Film: Catch Your Breath (2022)
• Directed by Matt Sears
• Written by Matt Sears
• Stars Samson Oliver, Toby Oliver, Renee Sears
• Run Time: 9:04
• Watch it:
Two brothers explore a “haunted house” on a dare. Andrew expects his brother to pull some kind of prank to scare him. He pulls out some candles and explains how you are supposed to do a chant over the bathtub to see the ghost. “As long as you hold your breath for one minute, she can’t hurt you.”
Andrew is scared but wants to impress a girl, so he goes through with it. What could go wrong?
It looks good and has excellent pacing and music. It’s short, with nothing unnecessary and no filler scenes. The creature effects are thoroughly creepy, and the breath-holding concept is rather unique as well.
• Directed by Carter Smith
• Written by Carter Smith
• Stars Cooper Koch, Jose Colon, Jena Malone, Mark Patton
• Run Time: 1 Hour, 36 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
You might think you know where things are going at the beginning, and you will be right. But it’s stranger than that. It’s got a good cast and script and was very entertaining.
Ben and Dom talk at the dance club. Ben’s leaving soon, and they’re going to miss each other. The company he’s working for in L.A. is paying all the expenses for the move—he’s going to be a porn star. They leave the club and go to see Alice, a friend of Dom’s cousin, Dee; Dee’s messed up on some kind of drugs.
Alice is hiring Dom for “a run,” and she explains the directions and location they’re heading for. She gives him a whole bunch of drugs in condoms; Dom must swallow them the get them over the border. Dom says it’s a financial gift for Ben, who had no idea this was going to be a thing. Dom refuses, but Alice pulls a gun, saying it’s too late to back out now. She warns him about not tearing or damaging them when they “come out again.” She also mentions some odd temperature restrictions. Dom swallows them, one by one. Just to keep Ben quiet, she makes him swallow a couple as well. Dom doesn’t even know what’s in the little bundles. What could go wrong?
Dom and Ben drive on to the border station. They pass through without any problem at all.
They stop at a rest area, and Dom goes in to see if he can poop out the drugs. Ben waits outside as a truck drives up and a guy goes inside. Ben comes inside to see how Dom’s doing, and the redneck comes back inside. He starts accusing them of doing gay stuff in the restroom, but it’s obvious that they’re just talking. Dom argues with the man, who punches him in the gut—hard. The man then goes outside and slashes their tires.
Within a minute or two, Dom starts having stomach pains. Ben wants to call 911, but Dom refuses to let him do it. He poops out one of the little packages, and it’s—moving. It’s not drugs, it’s something alive. They go back out to their truck, and Dom says he can’t feel his legs.
Alice shows up, and she knows something is wrong. Ben tells her what happened. They all get into her car; she says they’re going to a hospital. She says that they’re some kind of bugs that people use to get high. It soon becomes obvious that they are not going to a hospital. She says that Dom’s pains will wear off in an hour or two anyway.
They park in the isolated woods and load the mostly paralyzed Dom into a wheelbarrow. They need to get the rest of the bugs out of Dom for Alice’s boss. Alice says this whole thing was Dom’s idea—he wanted a bunch of money fast. She points out that Dom’s in love with Ben, but Ben didn’t even realize Dom was gay.
Alice’s boss calls, and she says they have to get the bugs out of Dom “Right now!” She pulls out the Vaseline bottle. “You don’t want them hatching in there.” Ben reaches up and pulls one out of Dom—the hard way.
Rich walks in—he’s Alice’s clearly unstable boss. He takes one look at Dom, “Is he bit?” Rich is sadistic and tells Alice to get lost. Ben continues “fishing” for little worm bags inside Dom. Alice walks to her car, but she looks conflicted about leaving.
Dom goes into convulsions, but he’s only got one more inside him. They pull out the bag, but the worm has gotten out—inside Dom. Dom soon dies. Alice and Rich go outside to argue, and Ben hears a gunshot.
Rich comes in, and now that they’re alone, he wants to do naughty things with Ben. He watches Ben undress for his bath. Ben goes in the bathroom, but the only “weapon” he can find is a pair of tweezers. Rich awkwardly washes Ben’s body in the tub.
Ben goes outside to pee and searches Alice’s body. Rich offers to give Ben Alice and Dom’s share of the money. Ben stabs Rich in the neck with the tweezers before running off through the woods. He takes Rich’s car keys, but then finds that he can’t start the car.
Rich isn’t dead, and he comes after Ben. He soon gives up and goes back to the cabin to cry and dispose of the bodies. Meanwhile Ben’s gotta poop. It comes out clean and alive inside the package; then he gets an idea.
Rich goes inside, and Ben attacks him from behind. Now in control of the gun, Ben takes one of the worms and makes it bite Rich. Ben then drags the paralyzed Rich out to the outhouse where he drops him in headfirst.
As end credits roll, we see Ben in L.A. at an award show for being a successful porn star, still in Rich’s jacket.
Someone actually made a horror film with “fisting.” Why am I not surprised?
You think you know where it’s going for the first half hour, and then it gets weird. The cast is small, and it all makes sense. Everyone acts realistically, even with the bugs.
It’s very unusual, which is cool. I liked it!
• Directed by John Hyams
• Written by Kevin Williamson, Katelyn Crabb
• Stars Gideon Adlon, Bethlehem Million, Dylan Sprayberry
• Run Time: 1 Hour, 23 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
This was a bit of Scream meets COVID fear meets The Strangers. It was well made and okay all around, but not much we hadn’t seen before. So, it was middle of the road as far as entertainment value.
April 3, 2020. The country is under heavy quarantine for COVID-19. The grocery shelves are empty of toilet paper. Everyone’s in masks. Someone’s texting Tyler repeatedly in the grocery store, but he doesn’t know who it is. He goes home, and someone dressed like a ninja attacks him with a knife. He hides in the bathroom, and they run off—no, they’re right behind him. Tyler is soon dead. Credits roll.
Parker and Miri pack the car so they can go hide out from the plague at Parker’s dad’s lake house. They put on their masks before getting in the car and driving off on the near-empty roads. It’s a huge place, and the closest neighbor is two miles away.
As soon as they arrive, Parker starts getting the same kind of messages as Tyler. It’s almost like the person is watching them. She soon blocks the person.
That evening, a car pulls up outside, but they didn’t invite anyone else. It turns out that it’s DJ, Parker’s boyfriend. They say he can stay so long as he wears a mask. He saw her post on Instagram and knew the house, so he just came.
They talk, smoke, dance, and play all evening. DJ is jealous of Benji, some guy she danced with on Instagram. Parker warns DJ that they were never exclusive as we stop for some relationship drama. She refuses to give him what he wants, and he says he’ll leave first thing in the morning.
As DJ goes out to the car for his clothes, we see someone in the background sneak into the house. We see the same characters standing in the background as Parker and Miri talk later. Eventually, they all go to bed. Soon after, the shadowy figure cuts all the phone lines and steals their cells.
Parker and DJ soon figure out that they aren’t alone. DJ interrupts the ninja just as he tries to stab Miri, and there’s a protracted fight—that DJ loses. Parker and Miri get in the car, but that doesn’t help. Parker fights back, and she ends up beating him to death with an ice bucket. She pulls his mask off, and she doesn’t recognize the face.
Then the other masked killer comes in. This is just Scream with a different wallpaper and theme, isn’t it? Parker rows out into the middle of the lake while Miri crawls back inside the house to patch up her broken leg. Parker ends up running to the neighbor’s house two miles away with the killer right behind her. The neighbor doesn’t live long, and neither do his phone lines.
Meanwhile, Miri builds a leg splint that would make Bob Vila proud.
Parker beats the killer over the head and flags down a car. The driver won’t open the car and let her in at first because she doesn’t have a COVID mask. The old woman gives her a mask; Parker puts it on and passes out. There’s something in the mask.
The old woman and the killer drive Parker back to the house, but they don’t realize Miri is still alive and hiding in there. The old woman gives Parker a COVID test up the nose and make sure she’s safe.
The killer takes his mask off, and the man says he’s the dead killer in the kitchen’s father. He shows Parker the Insta video of Benji at the party. “I just made out with some guy at the party.” Benji was one of seven people that Parker had close contact with at that party; he died a few days ago. Parker says she doesn’t have COVID and never has. They killed Tyler because contact tracing says he was the one who gave it to Parker. The test comes up positive; Parker is asymptomatic.
Miri whacks the mother over the head, and they impale the father. Parker and Miri stagger through the field and into the barn, where there’s a small vehicle. The mother runs in screaming with a machete and attacks Parker and splashes a gas can, dousing them both. Miri sets the woman on fire; that’s the end of her.
The police finally come in swarming; Miri sent a text to 911 with her computer.
If we’re just going by the numbers, Parker probably killed more people by spreading COVID than the revenge-murder-family did with knives. On the other hand, Benji and the others took the risk himself by not following distancing recommendations they were warned about. Who are the real villains here, and where does responsibility fall?
It’s the standard “trapped in an isolated place with a killer” with a little bit of COVID-paranoia layered on top for spice. It’s from the same writer who did several of the “Scream” films, and it definitely has a similar vibe- the text messaging, the two killers, and it overall feels like more of the same. The only thing here is that we don’t have any “before time” to meet any suspects, so we know the killer is just some rando in a mask.
If you’re a big fan of the “Scream” series, then you’ll probably like this. I’m not, and I didn’t.
The Face of Fu Manchu (1965)
• Directed by Don Sharp
• Written by Harry Alan Towers, Sax Rohmer
• Stars Christopher Lee, Nigel Green, Joachim Fuchsberger
• Run Time: 1 Hour, 29 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
It stars Christopher Lee, so there’s an element of the macabre, but it’s got more of a James Bond vs Villian or Sherlock and Watson vs Villian feel to it rather than horror. Still, there’s evil, underground lairs, murder deaths, and violence. Overall, an entertaining film.
A group of men arrive to watch an execution. Fu Manchu comes down the stairs and is accused of “crimes without number.” Fu Manchu lays down and loses his head as Nayland Smith of Scotland Yard watches. It starts to rain, and they just leave the body in the courtyard, but carry the head out with them.
Smith is promoted to a desk job in Britain. He talks to his friend, Dr. Petrie, about a crime wave that encompasses all of Europe; there seems to be one mastermind behind it all. It’s not like the old days when Smith hunted Fu Manchu. Elsewhere the same night, Professor Muller goes to the appointed meeting place. His driver is murdered, and the professor is captured.
A policeman finds the driver’s body, and Petrie and Smith are given the scarf used to strangle the man. It’s Tibetan, and Smith says that Fu Manchu studied in Tibet. Carl Jannsen is there at the morgue as well to identify the body. Smith knows about Professor Muller, a biochemist, and Jannsen is his very evasive assistant. Smith knows he was killed by Fu Manchu’s men, and he’s starting to believe the man who was beheaded was an imposter.
Maria Muller, the professor’s daughter, is attacked by an unseen hand at her door; she screams, and Carl Jannsen interrupts things. He runs downstairs and attacks Nayland Smith, who is loitering in the professor’s lab. Smith tells them his suspicions, and Maria knows the name of Fu Manchu.
Carl explains that there’s a special black hill poppy that grows in Tibet. It’s said to be the secret of universal life. It’s really universal death. It can kill any living thing in seconds; a single drop could kill ten thousand people—but only when it’s below the freezing point. The old professor bought his lotus flower from Hanuman at the black market.
Smith and Jannsen go to see Hanuman. Smith almost immediately knocks the man out and rushes off. The man’s secretary was Lin Tang, Fu Manchu’s daughter, and Smith remembered her.
Lin Tang and Hanuman go into the secret room behind the shop and that’s where Fu Manchu has his throne room. She tells him about Nayland Smith, and he orders that Carl Jannsen be eliminated. Lin Tang and her henchman capture Maria that night.
Smith learns that an actor had been hypnotized to take Fu Manchu’s place at the execution. “So, once again, the hunt is on!” He tells Carl about Maria’s kidnapping, and Carl runs out, straight into the waiting arms of more Tong kidnappers.
Lin Tang wants to whip Maria, but Fu Manchu doesn’t want her harmed. So, he drowns some random woman to scare Maria instead. Manchu demands the secret of the poppy from Muller, but Muller says he doesn’t know it, that’s why he’s still experimenting. The old man says the secrets he needs are known only to Professor Gaskell.
Carl overhears Hanuman on the phone, escapes, and tells Scotland Yard their plan to rob Gaskell’s paper in the museum. The police inspector follows all the Asian visitors around the museum, totally ignoring the little old lady in the wheelchair. There’s a small battle in the basement, and suddenly, the professor’s papers are missing. Did the professor take the papers home with him? They explain all this right in front of the old woman in the wheelchair, who is obviously (to us) Lin Tang in disguise.
There’s a car race as everyone rushes to Gaskell’s remote isolated house. Suddenly, Hanuman appears in an airplane, dropping bombs toward Smith’s car. They are not going to be the first to arrive.
Fu Manchu confronts Professor Gaskell and hypnotizes him. He takes the old man and his papers. Back at the secret lair, Muller announces that he’s solved the problem three days earlier than expected. Fu Manchu intercepts the BBC radio broadcast and warns the country that he’s going to make a demonstration of his power in Fleetwick.
Smith and his superiors call in the army and cordon off the whole town of Fleetwick. They all die when the poison gas activates as the temperature drops. Three thousand dead. They figure the village was sprayed from the air. Smith realizes that all the murders are somehow linked to the river Thames. They deduce that Fu Manchu is using old tunnels left over from the war.
Fu Manchu comes on to the radio, warning that he can do it again. He says he will give commands in two days, or else ten thousand will die. He then orders Gaskell to stab himself to death, which he does.
Smith and Jannsen break into Fu Manchu’s lair and quickly get captured. There’s a distraction and a shootout, and Smith, Carl, and Maria get loose.
Smith knows that in order to get more of the special poppy, Fu Manchu will have to return to Tibet. The Grand Lama is all-in on helping and has his men secure a huge quantity of the poppies. We see that Jannsen and Smith are in disguise among the workers there. The box isn’t full of poppies, but nitroglycerin on a timer. They grab Professor Muller and climb over the wall to leave the castle.
Fu Manchu gives orders to shoot to kill, and the chase is on. He asks, “Why did Nayland Smith leave the seeds here?” Then the bomb goes off, killing everyone in the castle.
We easily spotted three Brits in yellowface even before the credits, so we don’t need to harp on that all day. There are two Asian women in the credits and not a single actual Asian man. There look to be a few Asian men in the unnamed extras. Let’s just say a modern remake would be quite a bit different.
It’s more supervillain or James Bond-like than a real horror film, but it’s got a lot of the same elements: Poison, secret tunnels, “alien menace,” hypnosis, and mad scientists. Oh, and Christopher Lee, who always helps.
It’s got a lot of low-budget action, and other than the extreme racism, holds up nicely. I was entertained.
• Directed by Lucio Fulci
• Written by Lucio Fulci, Girogio Mariuzzo
• Stars Jared Martin, Lara Lamberti, Ullia Reinthaler
• Run Time: 1 Hour, 25 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
The science was bad, and there were some inconsistencies that didn’t make sense. But it’s still work by Fulci so it was pretty good and strange. It was more entertaining than not.
We begin with a lingering zoom on St. Mary’s College in Boston. We watch a couple help a girl put on makeup and clothes for a big date as the credits roll.
Finally, the girl is ready. It turns out that her fake friends have an audio device in their car, and they’re all listening to her make out with the handsome new boyfriend. About four carloads of her “friends” as well as the boyfriend are all in on the humiliation. The girl runs away from them down the dark road as they all chase her in their cars. The girl is soon hit by a car and on a ventilator at the hospital. The nurse watches as the girl flatlines and dies. We sort of see her spirit rise out of the hospital and come back down over the school.
Dr. Robert Anderson comes in shocks her with the paddles. It doesn’t work.
Eva Gordon arrives at St. Mary’s school. We cut back and forth between seeing her and seeing the dead girl. Could she be the reincarnation of the dead girl?
The headmistress, Mrs. Jones, is very strict. Jenny Clark is her new roommate. We cut to a Dancercize class, because this was the 80s, and it’s the law or something. Everyone flirts with the teacher, Fred Vernon. Eva likes older men, and she’s all over Fred. She arranges a date with him later that night. Fred is the dead girl’s “boyfriend” we saw in the opening scene. The mute cleaning woman, Mary, stares at him with glowing red eyes. Fred admires himself in the mirror until he’s strangled by his own reflection.
Back at the hospital, the monitors all go crazy. Dr. Anderson doesn’t understand it. She’s got no brain activity; in a coma. She was clearly dead before, but now she’s not.
Back at school. Eva says Fred wouldn’t open the door for her last night. The girls talk about Kathy, the weird maid’s daughter. Jenny admits the prank to Eva. Mary listens to the story from outside their door. It’s clear that the whole group are snobby elitist bad girls.
Fred’s death is ruled a heart attack because he exercised too much. From the reaction of the girls at the school, Fred got around—with all of them. One of the girls says he died of guilt from the prank. Virginia avoids the snails at brunch because she hates them and then finds her bed covered with them later. When she looks again, they’re gone. That night, the snails return and crawl all over her. When she tries to scream, one falls into her mouth, and she bites it half. They suffocate the girl.
Back at the hospital, Kathy starts having emotions on the monitor whenever one of the girls dies, and the doctor notices a pattern. Virginia’s cause of death is officially suicide, with no sign of snails.
Eva has a violent outburst and trashes her room, terrifying Jenny in the process. Then she falls and has convulsions. They call Dr. Anderson to look at her. Cathy giggles silently in her coma as Eva wakes up and kisses the doctor. The next morning, she surprises him at the hospital and flirts a bit more. This escalates quickly into the two of them making out in his car. Grace watches them and sneers.
All the girls go on a field trip to a museum, and Grace is creeped out. When they get back to the school, she notices that she lost her earring. She must have lost it in the museum, so she goes back for it. Grace and Eva break into the museum that night, but Eva simply vanishes, leaving Grace alone. Grace sees terrifying things in the museum’s paintings and then she’s surrounded by snakes.
Hospital-Kathy opens her eyes as one of the statues murders Grace at the museum. The headmistress of the school wants Dr. Anderson to work with Eva because she’s become unstable. He asks Eva about Kathy, but she swears they never met. Eva’s supposed to be from Boston, but she doesn’t know any of the landmarks, but she knows all about New Orleans, where Kathy is from.
Dr. Anderson and Eva have crazy sex where she scratches him all up and then eats his face. No, that was just a dream. Mrs. Jones notifies Eva’s parents, and they take her out of the school.
Dr. Anderson starts going on with Jenny since Eva’s gone. We watch them making out Eva writes a long, obsessive love letter to him. Mary the mute maid hears her daughter Kathy’s voice at night. She looks at Eva with red, glowing eyes, and recognizes her as her daughter. Later, both Kim and her boyfriend Tom are killed at school.
Jenny goes to the hospital to make love to Dr. Anderson, but she gets lost in the twisty corridors and lands in the morgue. Eva appears and taunts her. As Anderson beats on the door, Eva closes in on Jenny with a knife. Then she freezes and falls to the floor. We cut to the intensive care room where Mary has disconnected Kathy from life support. She really is dead now.
I’ve very unclear on how a clearly dead girl can be simply brain-dead and in a coma in the next scene. The doctor’s attempts to save her clearly failed. Something must have been lost in the editing.
The death-by-snail was unique and well done. Most of the others were generic and bland.
So apparently, the girl in the coma was getting her revenge on the other girls telepathically by creating Eva. Kathy’s mother was not in on the plan, but we saw her red eyes several times. What was the connection?
This is not Fulci’s best work. There are many parts of the plot that make no real sense, but it’s still entertaining in a weird way.
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