Jug Face, Hagazuusa, Frontier(s), and Prince of Darkness
Horror Bulletin Reviews for Week 164
This week, we’ll watch some weird stuff. We’ll start out with the classic “Prince of Darkness” from 1987. Then we’ll go back in time for “Hagazuusa,” a strange one that may or may not involve witchcraft. Frontier(s) is up next, a crazy torturous visit to France. Then we’ll go into the deep South for “Jug Face” and hope we don’t end up in the pit.
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where this week, we cover:
“The Mask of Fu Manchu” from 1932
“The Ghoul” from 1933
Next week, we’ll be back with a little less screaming!
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Prince of Darkness (1987)
Directed by John Carpenter
Written by John Carpenter
Stars Donald Pleasance, Lisa Blount, Jameson Parker
Run Time: 1 Hour, 42 Minutes
We start off at a university, where Brian Marsh spots Catherine on campus and stares at her on the way to a lecture. A nun finds an old man dead in his bed with a strange box on his lap. The Priest wants to know what was up with the box and reads about it. “The sleeper awakens,” says the book; the box itself holds a big key. Professor Birack notices the sun and moon are really close together, as if an eclipse is imminent. Birack talks about the flow of time and how reality breaks down on the subatomic level. Brian watches Catherine at night with her boyfriend, and he seems to be a stalker. The priest writes a letter asking for assistance. A nun goes to see Birack and takes him to see the priest. The priest shows him the old dead man’s diary and asks for his help.
Meanwhile, credits roll.
The priest takes Birack to an old church in a run-down part of town. The old dead man lived in this church for thirty years and everyday he went down to the basement catacombs. Even the Vatican didn’t know about this place. On an altar is a glass cylinder filled with a strange, glowing, swirly liquid. The priest calls it “a secret that can no longer be kept.” They can feel the power of the thing, and it’s been growing for a month now.
Birack tells his students to cancel their plans for the weekend and work on a special project for him. The priest and Birack talk about quantum physics and philosophy. “No prison can hold him now,” says the priest. Brian and Catherine bond over numbers and have sex. We see that there are a lot of very strange homeless people in the neighborhood around the church.
The students, along with Dr. Leahy, arrive at the church, but none of them really knows why they are there. Still, they unpack and set up all their equipment. They spot the homeless people outside, just standing there staring at the building. The priest arrives, and he notices both the homeless people and the strange conjunction of the sun and moon. Finally, they all go down to the basement to look at the swirling stuff. They’re all creeped out just being near the stuff, and then they notice worms are appearing all over the building’s windows.
They examine the container and find that it can only be opened from the inside. One of the students who isn’t spending the night leaves and gets impaled by the homeless folks.
Brian explains that the stuff in the tube is becoming a life form. Nothing should be able to do what it’s doing. Lisa translates the book that was in the basement and it’s full of religious stuff that also involves an extraterrestrial visitor. Evil is a tangible substance. Brian and Catherine come to the conclusion that the tube of liquid can influence things in the outside world through telepathy and telekinesis.
Meanwhile, liquid from the tube shoots into the mouth of Susan, one of the students, who was down there alone. She starts walking around under the control of the liquid. Mullins goes looking for her, but she finds him first.
Birack and the priest talk about a “universe of mind” that we all take as God. There must also be an equal but opposite version of the same thing: an anti-life version of an evil God or Anti-God.
Frank goes outside for a break, and the homeless kill him too while Susan watches approvingly. Night falls, and everyone starts having the same dream, something about transmitting through dreams. The priest says this is a known thing for people too close to the container. Susan shoots Lisa full of goo, and it takes her over as well. The two of them kill Calder.
Frank’s body outside tells them all to “pray for death” as he is eaten by insects. Possessed-Calder kills himself in front of everyone. All the doors are barricaded shut from the outside, trapping them inside. The dead rise and start coming after the living. Kelly seems to have something growing in her belly, but she wasn’t pregnant earlier today.
The sun comes up, but even if they could get outside, the homeless are still out there. Walter is trapped in a closet, and he watches Kelly decompose as the thing in her belly develops. Kelly wakes up, and Walter panics.
Kelly goes to a big mirror and calls for her father. The mirror turns into a portal, and she reaches in. The priest cuts off her head with an ax, but she just picks it up and puts it back on. Kelly starts to pull out the claw of the Prince of Darkness, but Catherine tackles her from behind and the both fall through the portal, shutting everything down. All the dead fall down actually dead now.
The homeless people wander off, and the surviving humans leave. Birack, the priest, Brian, and Walter get away. “We’re safe, but he’s waiting on the other side,” explains Birack.
John Carpenter has said that he was mostly aiming for a feeling of impending dread with this one. The pacing, soundtrack, and slow buildup make that happen.
Carpenter also specifically wanted to make a film incorporating the ideas of quantum mechanics and their relationship to religion, but that kind of thing is way too complex to really explain in a horror film, so most of the ideas presented just sound like nonsensical horror movie blather. The problem is, they try to explain it so hard, that there’s just a lot of talking, and most of it borders on incomprehensible. It might work on paper, or in a book, but it gets to be too much here.
It’s good, but the explanations are just too much. This one flopped at the box office but has become a bit of a cult hit in the following years. It tries hard, and there’s a lot to think about with it, but there’s a lot more suspense than action, and I suspect many will find it boring.
Directed by Lukas Feigelfeld
Written by Lukas Feigelfeld
Stars Aleksandra Cwen, Celina Peter, Claudia Martini
Run Time: 1 Hour, 42 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
It’s beautifully filmed, sad, creepy, and atmospheric. There’s a slowly unwinding plot in there somewhere too, though it’s a little hard to piece together.
It is the 15th century in Europe.
An old woman and a child walk through the snow, dragging a sled behind them. This is Twelfthnight, and they need to get home before dark. Suddenly, they stop. It’s dark, and there’s a weird sound in the woods. Anyway, they make it home and have dinner. Three men wearing animal masks and carrying torches arrive. They bang on the doors and windows, terrorizing the woman and child inside. “You should be burned down, you witches. We’ll get you!” one shouts.
The next morning, Albrun, the little girl, is gathering sticks outside and hears a bell ringing in the distance. The old woman, her mother, then grabs her heart and collapses in the snow. Auburn takes her back home and cares for her, but it doesn’t look hopeful. A very dour-looking doctor arrives and examines her. She’s got a big growth or tumor on her side, and the doctor just leaves silently; there’s nothing to be done. That night, Mother develops a taste for blood and eats their cat and then runs off.
The next morning, Albrun goes looking for her mother and follows her into the woods. She finds her, dead and covered in snakes.
Years pass. Albrun is grown up and has a baby. The local children think she’s a witch too. Swinda is nice to her, but no one else is. Albrun raises goats and sells milk and cheese. Swinda wants Albrun to go see her priest, who lives in a church full of skulls. He finds her willingness to live all alone to be suspicious, and probably sacrilegious. He gives her a painted skull, which she takes home with her.
Albrun enjoys milking the goats. She enjoys it a little too much, touching herself as she does it. Swinda comes by for a visit; she brings an apple. She sees the skull in the cabin, and she thinks that’s strange but doesn’t ask about it. That night, Albrun has naughty dreams.
The next day, Albrun and Swinda get together again. Swinda says Albrun has nothing to fear from her. “They come at night and like animals, they take you,” she warns. “And a few months later, you bear a child.” We don’t know who baby Martha’s father is, so Swinda is assuming some things. Swinda introduces Albrun to her husband, and the three of them lay in the field and eat apples. When they have her alone, Swinda holds Albrun down as her husband rapes Albrun.
When Albrun recovers enough to go home, she finds one of her goats has been killed and cut open. In retaliation, she taints their source of drinking water with a dead diseased rat. Later, we see one of those “Bring out yer dead” guys dragging a cart with corpses across the field to a burning pit with many other bodies. Albrun smiles at Martha.
On the way home, Albrun stops and eats some mushrooms; these aren’t the portobello variety, and she doesn’t wake up until nearly dark. She walks through the woods in a daze and then wades out into the muddy swamp. She drowns baby Martha in the swamp. She then goes under herself, and there’s blood: lots and lots of blood. Eventually, Albrun climbs out of the swamp, not dead.
That night, she hears sounds coming from the skull in her cabin. She finds the corpse of her dead baby and cries. She puts the dead baby in the boiling saucepan and makes dead baby soup. Then it’s dinner time!
After eating dead baby soup, Albrun hallucinates seeing her long-dead mother and runs out into the woods. By morning, her eyes have turned white, and her cabin burns down.
There’s bunches of really cool scenery and fun sets. There’s also very little dialogue. It’s subtitled, but there’s so little said that even if you hate subtitled films, this is bearable. On the other hand, it’s very, very slow, and it’s never quite clear what the actual plot is about. It’s just plain weird.
It is also a very dark film. Literally dark. We made the mistake of watching this one on a bright and sunny afternoon, and there were several scenes where we couldn’t quite tell what was going on due to the low contrast on the TV screen. Save this one for late at night.
There are themes of superstition, loneliness, and insanity, and it also has lots of old-timey witchcraft allegories thrown in, but very little actually happens. If you’re looking for a super atmospheric film that’s sure to creep you out, this might be your film– if you don’t go to sleep in the middle first.
Short Film: The Fisherman (2022)
Directed by Jacob Arbittier
Written by Jacob Arbittier
Stars Olivia Rand, Donald Cluff, Justin Gubersky
Run Time: 4:01
Watch it here:
A little girl talks to her father; they both have strange red marks on their bodies. “It’s worse than before. He’s really close,” she says. He doesn’t get up and says, “It’s not real, go to bed.”
Except she can see the fisherman in the backyard. She hides under the covers, but we all know how well that’s gonna work…
Very nice. It’s super short, and doesn’t go where you expect it to. The opening quote alone is really creepy, and the story just makes it worse!
Directed by Xavier Gens
Written by Xavier Gens
Stars Karina Testa, Aurelien Wiik, Patrick Ligardes
Run Time: 1 Hour, 48 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
It’s grim, very violent, and really bloody. If you’re looking for a good gorefest, you’ve come to the right movie. Well made, with good acting, lots of action, twists and turns. It doesn’t make you want to visit France.
Yasmine tells us that she is 3 months pregnant, but the world sucks. She’s decided to save her baby from the worst of the world. Credits roll as we see scenes of civil unrest and violence throughout France.
A young couple runs from the violence. There’s a shootout on the street between the police and a bunch of bald criminals, including Alex. Yasmine calls Tom and exclaims that Sami has been shot and is bleeding out. The group all comes together in an abandoned warehouse. Sami is Yasmine’s brother, and she’s angry at Alex for causing all this. Tom has a suitcase full of money and wants to know what to do about Sami’s share, but Sami isn’t dead yet. Alex and Yasmine drop Sami off at the hospital. Sami tells Yasmine to keep the baby with his dying breath.
Meanwhile, Tom and Farid take the money and leave town, out to the country. Tom stops the car and tells Farid to get out; he’s keeping all the money. He’s just joking. They head to a little motel way out on the frontier. When they go inside, they hear from Gilberte, the woman on the counter, that all rooms are free. She calls for Goetz, a big guy who is gutting an animal in the back room. Tom and Gilberte start making out right away. Klaudia is less enthused at “taking care” of Farid, but complies with Goetz’s orders. They group heads to their room for sexy time, then they all get together for a family-style dinner.
Meanwhile, Alex and Yasmine are on the road trying to find the motel. Farid is a Muslim, and he won’t eat the pork, which offends Goetz. They force feed the food to Mother, who’s strapped to a chair in the corner. It’s all very weird and awkward.
A policeman comes to talk to Tom, who says they’re on their way to Amsterdam to meet friends. They had nothing to do with the riots, really. The cop pulls a gun and tries to take the money, but the guys run. Goetz beats Tom nearly to death with a big hammer. Farid stabs the cop and they make a run for it. Suddenly, they’re in a car chase with Goetz right behind them– until they run off a bridge and the car falls a hundred feet straight down into an old mineshaft. Farid pulls Tom out of the wrecked car, but Tom’s in pretty bad shape. They start making their way through the mine shaft. They have to crawl through a tiny, claustrophobic tunnel. Farid sees something crawling after them. Something gets them both.
Back at the motel, Alex and Yasmine show up as the others are cleaning up the mess in the kitchen. Gilberte tells them that Tom and Farid are at the hotel down the road, so they leave. In the back room, Klaudia complains about the way she’s treated by Gilberte. Gilberte leads Alex and Yasmine to a big, isolated compound even further off the road.
The family in this new place welcomes them, and they’re a creepy bunch too. The old man speaks with a German accent and has Nazi memorabilia hanging on the wall. Alex goes into the slaughterhouse and finds Tom hanging there, upside-down like a piece of meat, but he’s not dead.
Alex runs inside to grab Yasmine and go, but the old man calls for Karl, who turns out to be the “cop” we saw earlier. Karl shoots Alex. The old man and Karl talk about Yasmine, but the old man whines that she isn’t pure enough for them. Still, she’s Karl’s now, they will have to make do with what they’ve got. Hans the butcher drags them both to the slaughterhouse, where he makes sure to finish off Tom.
We soon see that Farid is still on the run in the basement of the place. and finds a warehouse full of bodies and body parts. It seems that Hans has a bunch of deformed mutant children that live in the cellars beneath the house; that’s what Farid ran into earlier. Farid hides in a steam processing room, and Hans… cooks Farid.
Yasmine swims through pig poop to escape, but Alex can’t break his chains. The old man, Von Geisler, comes in and cuts Alex’s Achilles tendons. He’s not going anywhere. Yasmine gets out and flags down a car on the road. It’s Goetz, who beats the crap out of her and takes her back to the old Nazi’s slaughterhouse. Von Geisler shoots Alex in the head; now it’s only Yasmine, and one of the girls figures out that Yasmine is pregnant.
They clean her up, and she wakes up in a normal-looking bedroom, but in chains. “Soon, you’ll be one of us,” says the littlest of the girls. She’s the one who made the mutant “children” down in the cellar with Hans.
There’s an uncomfortable dinner scene where they eat what’s left of Alex and drink a toast to pure blood. Yasmine grabs a knife and threatens the old man. Hans is tired of the old man’s bullshit and shoots him, but then Karl shoots Hans, which angers Hans’s tiny wife. Karl and Goetz grab machine guns and chase Yasmine down into the mines beneath the house.
Goetz catches her and beats her up some more. He turns on a huge rotary saw, and you know what’s gonna happen– Goetz gets gory. Karl’s still out there, and Yasmine doesn’t know the way out of the mines. He catches her in the elevator. Suddenly, his head explodes when Hans’ little wife shoots Karl from behind.
She makes a beeline for her car, but still has to contend with Gilberte and Klaudia, who both have Nazi machine guns. Yasmine shoots a propane tank, which blows up all the evil daughters and wives. Or not, because it’s a horror film. Giberte comes out and fights with Yasmine while the little wife watches and screams a lot. Yasmine tears out Gilberte’s throat with her teeth. The little wife (who doesn’t seem to have a real name) decides to stay behind with her children as Yasmine drives off.
She eventually comes to a police roadblock and surrenders. She’s a wanted criminal, remember?
It’s got vibes from Hostel, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, High Tension, with just a hint of Saw. Really, it’s just one damned thing after another in this unrelenting gorefest.
I don’t think I’ll be planning any French vacations anytime soon. Still, it had a great soundtrack, lots of action, and lots of twists and turns. It’s intense, but it’s a good one!
Jug Face (2015)
Directed by Chad Crawford Kinkle
Written by Chad Crawford Kinkle
Stars Sean Bridgers, Lauren Ashley Carter, Kaitlin Cullum
Run Time: 1 Hour, 21 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
This one was great, even better than we expected. We step right into a full blown mini-religious that is fully influencing and controlling a community. But when strong-willed people have a mind of their own, clashes can happen. The casting, script, setting, everything was excellent. It’s one to check out for sure.
As credits roll, we get an animated segment showing human sacrifice near a big hole in the ground.
Jessaby and Ada chase each other through the woods. They roll around in the dirt and then have sex near a big hole in the ground. Ada tells Jessaby that his skin feels different. When Ada goes home, she’s told that she’s going to marry Bodey soon. She wants to go to the pit and pray about that.
Elsewhere, Dawai, a man making pottery, seems to be possessed; his eyes turn white.
Ada goes to Dawai’s shed and puts red paint on her underwear to fake a period. She sees that Dawai has fired a clay jug with a face on it. Is that her face? She buries it in the woods. Her mother points out that Ada’s period has come late this time. That night, everyone gets together and has a hoedown. Her brother, Jessaby, tells her not to tell Pa what they done, and he’ll deny it if she tells.
She tells her grandfather that she’s going to be the next jug face. She asks her father if the pit has ever taken a baby, and he responds that it has. The two of them go into town to sell some moonshine and buy a few things. Ada steals a pregnancy test.
Later, Dawai notices his jug face is missing, and right then, Ada has a weird vision. At the same time, something tears her friend Eileen apart. Dawai says the pit hasn’t spoken to him at all; there is no jug face this time. Dawai says he felt funny yesterday, but he must not have made a jug face, so it must not be the right time. When he makes a jug, he has no memory of doing it or who the face will be ahead of time.
It would appear that the pit randomly takes over Dawai to make a jug face of the next sacrificial victim. In return the pit will heal, guide, and protect. If they don’t do the ritual, the pit will just kill whoever it finds. By stealing the jug, Ada has screwed the whole community. Ada finds a jug of a baby in Dwight’s shed that he says he made a couple of weeks ago, but nobody’s got a baby right now. Ada tells him to just make another jug face of whoever comes to mind; he wonders what if he gets the wrong face?
Ada tells Jessaby about the baby. Dawai makes a new jug face, and this one is Bodey. As the whole community gathers, Bodey leans over the pit and Pa cuts his throat, spilling the blood into the hole. A spirit comes and tells her that Ada’s grandfather once hid a jug face as well. When the people found out, they poisoned him. It says that she needs to produce her jug and go through with it.
She starts to return the jug but then changes her mind. Jessaby is sick with a fever, but Pa says the pit will heal him. Jessaby climbs down into the hole, and it starts bubbling. Instead of healing him, it eats him. They demand to know why Dawai’s latest creation didn’t work when they obeyed and sacrificed Bodey. Dawai confesses he didn’t create that one from a vision. The community decides to kill Dawai in retaliation; the pit will choose a new potter.
Ada releases Dawai, and the two of them run off to town. They take some moonshine to the man in town for money, but Ada has another vision. Someone else back home has been taken into the pit. The man calls her Pa, and they come for her. They take them home, hang them from a rack, and whip them both. Still, they haven’t figured out who the jug face was for. She loses the baby, and finally does tell her parents whose baby it was.
The pit is hungry; it takes Pa. Ada comes clean and tells all. She shows them the jug face. They tie her and Dawai up right next to the pit. Night falls, and the spirit-boy comes to untie Ada. She chooses to stay so that Dawai can be spared; it’s what she should have done in the first place.
Morning comes, and the locals all congregate around the pit. They do the ritual, and they cut her throat, bleeding her into the hole. Dawai goes home with her jug. He puts it on the shelf with the others.
The pit wants what the pit wants.
Living in the South looks like a lot of fun, doesn’t it? The incest angle is barely even mentioned in passing; that’s the most normal thing in this film. Really though, the pit probably isn’t the most unpleasant thing going on in this town.
This is really good. It’s a well-thought-out and more or less believable mythology. Ada’s mistake has real consequences, and it’s all pretty logical. All the performances are near-perfect, the cinematography, soundtrack, and everything else is great as well.
It’s really uniquely interesting. Very cool!
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