Tales from the Crypt, Vault of Horror, When Animals Dream, and The Undead
Horror Bulletin Week 158
This week, we’ll watch four movies and a short as always!
We’ll start out with an old 1957 film, “The Undead,” Then we’ll look at a pair of classic anthologies from 1972 and 73, “Tales from the Crypt” and “Vault of Horror.” Finally, we’ll look at a little-known werewolf film from Denmark, “When Animals Dream.” Fun stuff!
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The Undead (1957)
Directed by Roger Corman
Written by Charles B. Griffith, Mark Hanna
Stars Pamela Duncan, Richard Garland, Val Dufour
Run Time: 1 Hour, 11 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
All you have to do to time-travel to the past is get hypnotized very deeply. At least that’s the driving premise of this movie. Once they get there it’s a tale of witches, devilry, action, and romance. It’s got some bright spots, but it’s not a really great one.
Satan introduces the story. He brags about how talented he is in his torments, then he laughs maniacally.
We cut to Diana Love, a prostitute. A “John” takes her to the psychical research institute. The man, Quintus, talks to the professor; he wants to invade the depths of the mind. Quintus wants to hypnotize her and use that power to send her back in time. She charges by the hour, so why not?
He does it; he hypnotizes her right there in the professor’s office and the professor looks on. It takes a long time, but she eventually finds herself in another place. She starts speaking in French. He wants to check out her other lives.
We flash back to when she was Helene, locked up, accused of being a witch. Gobbo the jailer taunts Helene and tells her she’s about to die. Diana talks inside Helene’s mind. Apparently Diana is inside the woman of the past’s own mind. She helps the woman escape.
Livia and her Imp appear to speak with Pendragon. He thinks Helene is innocent and wants to free her, and Livia agrees with him. She’s a witch herself, and she knows Helene isn’t in the club. Livia wants either Pendragon’s heart or his soul.
Helene hides inside Smolkin the gravedigger’s coffin. He recognizes Helene but helps her anyway.
Livia goes to see Scroop the barkeep, and he’s preparing for the witches’ sabbath, when they kill three witches. Livia tempts Pendragon, but he still holds out hope for Helene.
Meanwhile, Helene goes to hide at a real witch’s house. This witch, Meg, says that Livia was the one who enchanted Smolkin. Meg goes to see Scroop and Pendragon and tells them that she has Helene. Meg and Livia have words; they are enemies.
Pendragon goes to Helene; he needs to protect her until morning when the Witches’ Sabbath activities are over.
Back in the modern world, Quintus and the Professor listen to Diana’s story as she tells them what she’s experiencing. Quintus mentions that given time, he could follow Diana into the past. He wants to go back in time and undo the changes that Diana has made.
Livia needs a severed head for her ritual, so she takes Scroop’s. Pendragon agrees to sell his soul to the devil to free Helene, and Livia is ready to make the bargain. The witches converge on the cemetery, and there are a lot of them. Livia summons Satan, who says he wants dancing and singing. Several dead women get up and do a spontaneous interpretive devil dance— in matching costumes.
Satan’s offering boons for those who sign his book. A leper is healed. An old man is given a bag of gold. Pendragon is ready to sign, but Quintus tells him to stop. The devil knows Quintus is from another time. Pendragon agrees to go with Quintus and rescue Helene from the tower.
Meanwhile, Helene isn’t even in the tower; she’s waiting safely at Meg’s house with Smolkin. Pendragon arrives and is surprised that Livia lied to him. Helene/Diana recognizes Quintus, but can’t quite place him.
Quintus goes to see Meg and explains that he’s from the future. He explains everything. Everyone converges on the cemetery, where Satan offers to judge them all. Can they convince Helene to die now in order to save Diana in the future or stay where she is and erase Diana and all her future lives?
Helene decides to die now so she can live over and over in the future. Pendragon chases after her, and when Livia tries to stop him, he kills her.
Back in town, they behead one witch, then a second, and then Helene shows up to lose her head. She gets down on the block and gets beheaded as the sun rises.
Back in the modern day, Diana wakes up. The professor is still there, but Quintus’ body has vanished.
Back in the past, Satan explains to Quintus that he can’t go home. He laughs maniacally some more and vanishes.
I loved Smolkin the gravedigger’s nursery rhymes. The imp who was the witch’s familiar was fun, and the rivalry between different kinds of witches was interesting.
When Quintus traveled back in time, he was naked but still had his wristwatch. Diana, on the other hand, appeared fully clothed.
The faux-old-style English sounds like they’re trying to “do” a Shakespearean drama. This ain’t Shakespeare. There are way too many witches, and the only person who was arrested for being a witch… wasn’t. The fake bats and spiders don’t really support a lot of suspension of disbelief. That and no one gets particularly upset when Satan himself just shows up and hangs around.
Between the time travel, the witches, Satan, and the romantic angle, there’s a lot going on here. The fact that Helene/Diana is from the future doesn’t really seem to affect much. Other than Diana giving Helene advice immediately upon arrival, there’s not much sign of Diana during the past-activities.
Quintus was educated and studied in Tibet for seven years and clearly had a lot of knowledge of the occult. Then he found himself standing right next to Satan himself and didn’t even offer to have a conversation with the ultimate in supernatural answers.
It’s… a mess.
Short Film: Samantha (2022)
Directed by Joshua Carley
Written by Joshua Carley
Stars Luke Edwards, Laura Cayouette, Melissa Saint-Amand
Run Time: 9:17
Henry interviews a woman about her experiences. He seems pretty new at doing interviews. Jody starts her story. Her daughter died of a brain aneurysm, and her husband had dreams about her where she talked about heaven and the afterlife. Then he started seeing her in the bedroom. Not long after, he killed himself. And that’s just the start of the story…
It’s really well done. It’s mostly just two people talking in a room, but the cinematography and audio is really good.
Of course, not everything is as it’s portrayed in the beginning, but the story evolves well and is really good.
Tales from the Crypt (1972)
Directed by Freddie Francis
Written by Milton Subotsky, Al Feldstein, Johnny Craig, Bill Gaines
Stars Joan Collins, Peter Cushing, Ralph Richardson
Run Time: 1 Hour, 32 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
It’s an anthology of short stories from the old comic books and they all hold up pretty well. Don’t be bad is the lesson here. Bad people get their comeuppance. The stories are entertaining and still relevant.
We wander through a cemetery as credits roll, finally settling on a crypt. A group of people take a tour of the catacombs, and the tour guide warns them all not to stray from him; it’s easy to get lost down here. Five people soon get separated from the group. They get trapped in a room with the cryptkeeper. He asks them what their plans are for when they leave here…
And All Through the House
Joanne answers him first. It’s Christmas time, and her husband has gotten her a nice gift and gotten everything ready for their celebration. Joanne kills him with a fireplace poker. She cleans up the blood while her daughter calls from upstairs wanting to know if Santa has come yet.
The radio alerts her that a homicidal maniac has escaped from the asylum, and he may be wearing a Santa costume. Sure enough, he starts rattling the doorknobs and peeking through the window. She can’t call the police because her husband's body is still lying in the living room. She runs around locking all the doors and windows; finally, she’s safe from the maniac. She poses her dead husband’s body to make it look like he fell down the stairs.
At least, all the blood is gone and the evidence is set up. She then notices her daughter is missing; her daughter has let “Santa” into the house. And of course Santa punishes the naughty.
Reflection of Death
Carl goes next. He’s packed up and needs to drive all night to his appointment in the morning. He goes to his girlfriend’s house; he and Susan are leaving together. He’s abandoned his family for her. She drives while he has nightmares in the back seat. The car crashes and burns.
Carl gets out of the car, but everyone he runs to for help is terrified of what they see. He goes to Susan’s house and finds her there. She’s blind now after the crash; it’s been two years since Carl was killed in the crash. Carl wakes up from the nightmare and the crash happens again…
Elliot tells his plans next. His elderly neighbor, Grimsdyke, is very popular with the local children. Elliot doesn’t like the old man; he’s just a junk collector. The old man’s wife died not long ago, and Elliot wants him to move out. Elliot destroys another neighbor’s garden and blames Grimskyde’s dogs. The police take away the old man’s dogs.
Grimsdyke talks to his dead wife with a Ouija board. “Danger,” it says. Elliot arranges for the old man to lose his job just short of getting his retirement pay. One of his dogs comes home, which makes the old man happy. Elliot turns the local mothers against Grimsdyke, who forbid their children from going near the old man.
No visitors. No work. No children. Grimsdyke is getting depressed. Elliot makes fake Valentine cards, looking like they came from everyone in town, telling how much they all hate Grimsdyke. Several days later, they find Grimsdyke’s body; he has hanged himself in despair.
Exactly one year later, on Valentine’s Day, old man Grimsdyke rises from the grave and comes after Elliott. Now Elliott is really heartless!
Wish You Were Here
Jason takes his turn. He’s gone bankrupt from bad investments. He’ll have to start selling his possessions. His wife brings up the little Chinese statue they bought on a trip. It’s got an inscription that says it will grant three wishes to its owner.
He warns about “The Monkey’s Paw” when his wife wishes for a lot of money. A man in a skull mask follows his car on a motorcycle and causes him to fatally crash. The lawyer tells Jason's wife that he had lots of insurance money coming. She remembers the wish. She wants to wish for her husband to return, but the lawyer tells her the Monkey’s Paw story. She wishes for him to come back exactly as he was immediately before the accident.
There’s a knock at the door. Men in suits bring in a coffin. He died of a heart attack before the accident, so he was already dead before the accident. She wishes for him to come back to life, and he wakes up screaming. He’s already been embalmed. She cuts him to pieces with a sword, but he won’t die. She wished him alive forever.
Major Rogers goes last. He’s been put in charge of a hospital full of blind men, and he goes to talk to the patients. Mr. Carter glares at Rogers as he leaves. There’s no heat in this hospital; everyone suffers in the cold. There aren’t even any extra blankets. Carter goes to Rogers to complain, but Rogers says there’s no money for heat or blankets.
Carter explains that blind people aren’t soldiers; their other senses are sharpened. This means that they suffer more in the cold, they taste the bad food more, they hear the bugs crawling on the walls. Rogers is not sympathetic. He cuts their rations, but he eats well himself.
Carter and several others confront Rogers, but the major sics his attack dog on them. That night, the man in the bed next to Carter dies because Rogers won’t call the doctor.
The next day, the blind men all donate a bit of their food, and Carter takes a plate to lure Rogers’ dog. They lock the dog in a storage room. “It’s our turn to give the orders now,” says Carter ominously. They lock Rogers in the room in the basement next door to the dog. Days pass. Rogers begs Carter to feed his dog. “All in good time,” he answers.
Finally, the door opens and Rogers goes outside to find himself locked in a cage lined with razor blades and his own starving dog. One of them’s going to eat the other…
Back in the crypt, the cryptkeeper explains that these visions are not of the future, but of the past. These stories all tell how these five people died before sending them to Hell. “Who’s next? Perhaps you?” he asks.
The stories had all previously appeared in the Tale from the Crypt, Vault of Horror, and The Haunt of Fear comics books.
They’re all good stories, but that last one did seem to drag on a bit too long with all the construction and building. The others, on the other hand, were well paced and a lot of fun.
This one was so successful that they did a sequel, “Vault of Horror” the very next year. In my opinion, that one was better than this, but it never achieved the success of the first film.
Vault of Horror (1973)
Directed by Roy Ward Baker
Written by Al Feldstein, William M Gaines, Milton Subotsky
Stars Curd Jurgens, Terry-Thomas, Tom Baker
Run Time: 1 Hour, 27 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
It’s a very good anthology of five horror shorts showing the fates of five different men brought together in the tie-together. Each one is well done, with a strong cast and high production values that still hold up after nearly fifty years.
Five strangers take a defective (or cursed) elevator and get trapped in a basement vault. “A strange situation, this. Almost like a dream,” says one. For some reason, they decide to share their recurring nightmares. Yes, it’s an anthology.
The first tale begins. Rogers hires a private investigator to track down his sister and then when the PI reports back, Rogers kills him and takes his money back. He goes to the town where his sister lives, runs into a man on the street who warns him to get inside before it gets dark. He goes to a restaurant, but they close before dark; “They come out after dark,” says the waiter.
He goes to his sister Donna’s house. She says there have been seventeen cases of bodies drained of blood. Rogers came for her because their father died and left her everything… for as long as she lives, which turns out to be just a few more seconds.
He chuckles to himself as he leaves her body and goes outside. He goes back to the restaurant that was closing earlier, and now it’s packed with people. The food all tastes strange. He realizes all the entrees are blood. Once the other patrons realize that he’s not a vampire, they all come after him, including his undead sister…
The Neat Job
Critchit tells his dream next. He’s planning to get married soon to Eleanor. He gets annoyed that she’s moved the furniture. It really bothers his OCD; everything must be precise in its place. He flips out when she switches his underwear drawer to make some room for her own things; “We’re living chaos!” he whines. He lectures her on the value of neatness.
She complains to her friend that she only married him for his money. He goes to cook dinner, and then he freaks out when she forgot to replace the spaghetti sauce. The next morning, she has everything in perfect order, and he’s completely pleased with her. She tiptoes around the house all day, terrified of doing anything that will set him off again.
She has a little comedy of errors and accidentally destroys his workshop. He flips out again, and she puts a hammer through his skull. She cuts him up and puts all his body parts in jars on a shelf, carefully labeled. She did that neatly!
This Trick’ll Kill You
Sebastian tells his nightmare next. He and his wife were vacationing in India, and they watched one of the mystics doing a magic trick. Sebastian ruins the trick and shows how it’s done; he’s a magician himself.
Later, Sebastian watches the girl make a rope rise out of a basket by playing a horn. She then climbs the rope. Sebastian can’t explain that one and wants to know how it’s done. She swears there is no trick; the magic is in the rope. He offers to buy the rope, but she turns him down.
He lures the girl to their hotel room and has his wife pretend to be sick. The girl starts playing her horn, and the rope rises as before. Sebastian stabs her in the back and stuffs her corpse in the closet. The evil duo checks out the rope and horn. He plays the horn, and the rope rises. His wife climbs the rope just like the girl did. It works! She goes up– and vanishes! With a scream.
Then the rope whips and strangles Sebastian. The next day, the old magician, and the not-dead girl do their act in the square…
Bargain in Death
Maitland’s story begins in a graveyard. He’s been buried alive. We flashback to him taking pills and a drug to slow his heart; he plans to fake his own death for insurance money. His friend, Alex, will dig him up within twenty hours of his burial, and they’ll split the money. He plans to kill Alex after that. But Alex has his own plan; not digging up Maitland. What great friends.
A pair of medical students lament that they never have enough cadavers to examine. They sneak out to the cemetery to dig up Maitland, who ought to still be good and fresh. Meanwhile, Maitland’s oxygen is running low.
Alex on the other hand is driving through town, right past the cemetery; he had no intention of rescuing Maitland.
Maitland sits up, scaring the medical students who run out into the road, causing Alex to crash and die. Meanwhile, the gravedigger has beaten Maitland to death with his shovel. “Sorry about the head,” he laments. He just wanted to make sure the medical students got their money’s worth.
Drawn and Quartered
Mr. Moore says that his dream happens on the island of Haiti. He’s a starving artist. His friend Bob comes around and reveals that others have been selling Moore’s paintings for a small fortune, but he had no idea.
Moore goes to see the local witch doctor. He wants revenge on those who wronged him. The witch doctor tells Moore to put his hands in the boiling pot. Moore now has magic hands; everything he paints becomes real.
He packs up the painting he did of himself and flies back to London to confront his agent, who has been stealing from him. Knowing the value and danger of having a self-portrait, he locks it in a safe for protection. The agent, the critic, and the gallery owner who cheated him meet and gloat about what they did to Moore. They laugh when he says he’ll have revenge.
He goes home and starts painting. He does really accurate portraits of the three men. He cuts out the eyes on the art critic’s painting. Across town, the man’s wife throws acid in his face. The art dealer’s painting loses his arms. He goes to see the third man, the agent, in person the next morning. He draws a bullet hole on the man’s painting and the agent kills himself.
Moore suddenly has trouble breathing. He remembers that his painting is locked in an airtight safe. He opens it, just in time. He then goes back to the agent’s office to retrieve his wristwatch. Meanwhile, a billboard painter above Moore’s studio drops a can of paint thinner through the skylight, right onto Moore’s self-portrait. Across town, Moore’s head gets run over by a truck.
All five men come to the conclusion that these nightmares they all had are memories of their own actual deaths. The elevator door opens, and they see the cemetery beyond…
This was the sequel to “Tales from the Crypt” from the previous year, and it’s a very similar style. It’s a little harder to find today, so it must not have been as popular. Still, I really like it.
The segments are all fairly short, and none drag out at all. They have their little stories, and they all work pretty well. These were stories adapted from comic books, and they have a similar feel, with some establishing stuff, something happens, and then usually they end with a twist.
When Animals Dream (2014)
Directed by Jonas Alexander Arnby
Written by Rasmus Birch, Christoffer Boe, Jonas Alexander Arnby
Stars Sonia Suhl, Lars Mikkelsen, Sonja Richter
Run Time: 1 Hour, 24 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
A sweet, romantic coming of age story of a young woman finding her way in a small fishing village. Well, she is coming of age and there is some romance. Also lycanthropy, plenty of drama, angst, and people being violently killed. This one is a real winner that we both liked a lot.
As the credits roll, we see lots of scenes of a very rainy, dreary, small town and shots of an empty house and dark beaches.
We open on Marie, a young woman at the doctor’s office. He looks at her teeth, gums, and fingernails. He doesn’t have much to say but wants to see her again next month. She goes home and takes her wheelchair-bound mother out for a roll walk on the beach. She lives with her parents; her father seems normal, but her mother is nearly comatose and needs to be spoon-fed. Later, she takes her shirt off, and we see that she has a small red rash on her chest.
Later, Marie starts her new job at the fish processing plant. Felix and Daniel are a couple new co-workers who seem friendly. She’s one of the few women there, certainly the most young and attractive, and the male workers notice. When she takes out the waste leftovers, one man pushes her into the watery dumpster full of fish heads, and they all gather around to applaud and laugh. When she gets out, the boss gives her her own knife. She’s been initiated. She goes home a little early and finds Dr. Larsen there talking to her father. Marie takes his package of X-Rays and notes and begins reading. He has photos of a scratched-up dead man. Later, she gets a peek of her father shaving her mother’s back.
That night, Marie has scary, animalistic dreams. Esben is the bully at work, and he picks on Marie. Daniel, on the other hand, likes her. She’s sexually assaulted with a dead fish at work by two other coworkers. That night, she finds that her rash has grown hair, and she starts to have a strange seizure before her father knocks on the door.
Marie yells that she doesn’t even know what’s wrong with her mother. She shows the rash to her father, who is speechless. She overhears her father, Thor, and Dr. Larsen discussing “not being able to keep it a secret much longer.” Larsen says that soon, Marie is likely to grow hair all over her body and become more aggressive unless she takes his medicine. She refuses to take his meds. Apparently that’s what’s keeping her mother like she is.
Marie next goes to an old boat that she saw in one of Larsen’s photos. The hold of the ship is covered in scratches as if a wild animal had been locked inside. She asks Felix about the boat, and he explains that people were always afraid of her mother, just like they’re afraid of Marie. The Russian owners of the boat have been missing a long time.
Felix then takes her to a dance club. Daniel is there too, and she whispers to him “I’m transforming into a monster, and I really need to get laid before. Do you think you can help me?” They go off to some abandoned building to do the deed, but when he touches her, she gets hairy in that spot. Her eyes turn yellow in the middle of sex. But he seems to be completely on board with it all.
She wakes up at home when her father and the doctor pin her down and try to inject her with the drug. She fights hard, but they don’t get to finish because Mom leaps and attacks the doctor, werewolf-style, killing him. Marie and Thor bury Larsen in the backyard. Marie asks Thor if that’s what happened to the Russians, who must have done something to her mother.
Next morning, the doctor is missing, and the townspeople think Thor’s wife had something to do with it. They need to look at Mom, naked, to be sure. They check her fingernails and gums. It seems the whole town is in on Mom’s little secret. Thor plays it cool and so does Marie.
When Marie comes home from work the next morning, she finds her mother drowned in the bathtub. Could it have been suicide, or did one of the townspeople do it to her?
At the funeral, Marie notices that her fingernails are bleeding. Everyone there stares at her, and it seems they realize their problems aren’t over. She refills everyone’s coffee with her bloody hands to make some kind of a defiant statement, literally waving it in their faces. She goes to work the next day, hairy chest and all. That night on the way home, she’s chased by a bunch of guys on motorcycles.
One of the bikers gets his throat torn out. Daniel finds her and warns her that the others are coming for her. He offers to get a boat while she goes home to pack her stuff - they will run far away together. Thor catches her leaving and lets her go. He tells her not to take any crap from anyone. The goons from work catch her before Daniel returns, but he does see them dragging her away.
The others load her aboard a fishing boat and lock her in one of the holds. The guys on the boat plan to tie her up and throw her overboard, but Daniel gets aboard and opens the hatch. Things go badly for the kidnappers and Felix, who betrayed her to the others.
Daniel comes out and hugs Marie. As the sun comes up, only she and Daniel are left. What now?
It’s all super-bleak, dreary, and washed-out, as every scene is depressing and morose. Didn’t Thor ever realize that a little communication goes a long way? Most of what happened and the angst involved could have been avoided had he not been in denial for so long. But on the other hand, he was conflicted by loving a woman who was a killing machine. He didn’t want to have to keep her drugged, but he felt like he had to.
Daniel suspected, then knew, what Marie was going to become. He was not only okay with it, but fully embraced it. An interesting choice.
At first, the condition appears to be genetic, but later on, there’s mention of the Russians doing something to Marie’s mother, so we don’t really know what caused all this. It’s definitely a disease, so the full moon, silver bullets, and the like don’t really apply here, but it’s clearly a lycanthropic condition of some sort.
Marie never really turns into a werewolf of the usual sort, but she gets a hairy face, claws, and big teeth. It’s a little different, and a slow, dramatic burn more than a straight-up monster movie, but it’s really cool.
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