The Cellar, The Frighteners, Crimson Peak, and Exorcismo
Reviews for Week 167
This week, we’ll watch the usual four films and short: We’ll begin with “Crimson Peak” an unusual ghost story from 2015. Then we’ll look into “Exorcismo” a Spanish film about an exorcism. We’ll talk about a fun short, and then look into “The Frighteners,” a classic that starts out as a comedy, but doesn’t stay funny for long, and “The Cellar,” a deadly serious tale about a missing girl and a haunted house.
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where this week, we cover:
“A Bucket of Blood” from 1959
“Little Shop of Horrors” from 1960
“Puppet Master II” from 1991
Next week, we’ll be back with a little less screaming!
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Crimson Peak (2015)
Directed by Guillermo Del Toro
Written by Guillermo Del Toro, Matthew Robbins
Stars Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain, Tom Hiddleston
Run Time: 1 Hour, 59 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
We start out the movie with the statement that ghosts are real. But it’s a little more complicated than that when there are multiple ghosts with multiple motives. It looks good, it moves well. It’s interesting how it starts at the ending, and then we see how things get to that point.
“Ghosts are real,” says Edith narrating. She talks about her mother’s funeral when she was ten years old. “There were no goodbyes… until the night she came back,” she adds. We watch a black, ghostly thing talk to her in her bedroom late at night. It’s not a friendly visit. Credits roll.
Fourteen years later, in Buffalo, New York, Edith runs into Dr. Alan, who has returned to town to set up a new practice. We see that Edith is an outsider in the local cliques. She’s a writer, but the publisher doesn’t like ghost stories. She thinks it’s because she’s a woman, so wants to type her story to disguise her feminine handwriting.
Thomas Sharpe arrives to talk to her father, Carter Cushing, about investing in his digging machine invention. He looks at her story and likes it, which impresses Edith. He likes ghost stories, and she suddenly likes Thomas. Carter refuses to give him money because he’s not a working-class man. Dr. Alan is very much into Edith, but she just likes him as a trusted friend.
Not long after, Edith sees the woman in black again. It tells her to beware of Crimson Peak, whatever that is– she’s never heard of it. Thomas Sharpe arrives downstairs to talk, and he invites her to the party that she had declined to attend with Alan. Edith meets Lucille, Thomas’s sister. Thomas dances a waltz with Edith, which shows up everyone else in the place, annoying them all, especially Dr. Alan.
Edith’s father doesn’t approve either and orders Mr. Holly to investigate them. Alan, trying to impress Edith, demonstrates spirit photography, which allows a camera to photograph ghosts. Lucille creeps out Edith with her apparent obsession with death. Carter confronts Lucille and Thomas about their poverty; Carter thinks Thomas is a gold-digger. He pays them to leave and break it off with Edith. Thomas is mean to Edith at Carter’s command; he does as he’s told.
The next morning, Carter is murdered. We don’t see the non-ghostly killer, but it could be Thomas. Thomas sends a letter to Edith explaining what happened last night. Edith runs to their hotel, but they’re already checked out. She soon runs into Thomas, who still hasn’t left town yet, and they immediately make up.
The police come, they think Carter’s death may have been an accident. He slipped. Thomas is right there for Edith, which she… appreciates. Things go quickly from there and he takes his new wife home to Allerdale Hall, a big, old place that’s falling apart. There’s a giant hole in the roof, and the wood is rotting. The red clay has gotten into everything. The wind howls, the water runs red, and the whole place is just a ghost’s dream house.
Edith gets several glimpses of something dark wandering the house. Thomas shows her his workshop, he’s a bit of a tinkerer and inventor. Every time Edith and Thomas start to get close, Lucille interrupts with tea or something.
A ghost leads Edith to some old recordings. She sees it clearly this time, and it’s a nasty old dead thing. When Thomas refers to the area as “Crimson Peak,” which Edith clearly remembers from her previous visit from the ghost. Meanwhile, Dr. Alan is still questioning how things went with Carter’s death and Thomas’s strange actions. Mr. Holly gives him additional information – Thomas was already married before he came to town.
The ghosts start warning Edith to get out of the house. Thomas and Lucille try to dissuade her from leaving. “How would she know about mother?” asks Lucille. Thomas and Edith get trapped in a motel in town during a snowstorm, and they finally have sex for the first time. While they’re in town, Edith gets a letter addressed to Enola, Thomas’s other wife. She then learns about two more wives. How many has he had? Could they have wound up in the bottomless pit of thick red mud in the basement? All signs point to ‘yes.’
Edith just won’t drink the damned tea that Lucille keeps trying to give her. How infuriating! Edith finally listens to the recordings and learns that Thomas has been burning through the rich wives; they’ve been drinking poisoned tea! She tries to leave, but the snowstorm is too much.
Thomas seems to be changing his mind; he warns Edith not to drink the tea. Edith talks to the ghost; she wants to know what they want. Are they trying to kill her, or are they trying to help her? Edith catches Thomas making out with his sister. Lucille throws Edith from the third floor as someone bangs on the front door; it’s Alan, who patches up Edith.
Lucille demands that Thomas kill Alan before he can steal away Edith. He has evidence that Lucille killed her own mother when she was 14. Lucille stabs him on the way out. She then makes Thomas finish him off, but he may have fudged the job on purpose. Thomas tells Alan to get Edith out through the mine shaft. Lucille admits to killing Carter, so then Edith stabs her with her fancy pen. When Thomas tries to talk Edith into just leaving the rotted old house, she stabs him in the face. He dies quickly.
As is always the case with good haunted house films, Edith and Lucille get into a knife fight. They migrate from one room to the next and end up in the basement next to the mud-well where Alan still waits. Lucille upgrades to a huge meat cleaver and they go outside to chase each other around Thomas’s digging machine prototype. Finally, Thomas’s ghost distracts Lucille so that Edith gets the upper hand.
I don’t care how ornate or beautiful the house once was, that place is simply uninhabitable. There’s mold everywhere, leaves and snow falling through a huge hole in the roof into the living room and water damage everywhere. Even without ghosts, it’s just a deathtrap.
Visually, it’s a very pretty movie, with lots of oversaturated, high-contrast colors but still managing to be a “dark” toned horror film. The costumes and acting are good. The CGI monsters don’t hold up terribly well, and this film is only a few years old. The story is… a little generic. It’s a haunted-house tale, and it doesn’t go much beyond what’s expected of it.
Other than cryptic and ominous warnings, the ghosts don’t really do anything. All the evil here comes from the messed-up siblings. Still, it looks good, it’s not draggy. Overall, I do like it, but don’t come here looking for a straight-up monster movie.
Directed by Juan Bosch
Written by Juan Bosch, Jodi Gigo, Paul Naschy
Stars Paul Naschy, Maria Porsche, Maria Kosty
Run Time: 1 Hour, 30 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
This one was a slow burn, but a little too slow. Things pick up at the end, but overall there’s not much here that improved on “The Exorcist” that came out two years before. It’s fine and certainly watchable.
We begin at a black mass at the beach. The hippies all pass around the goblet, and they all drink. If they weren’t all high before, they were after that. The woman in charge puts the goblet back on the altar and cuts herself, bleeding into the goblet.
The next morning, Leila and Richard, one of the couples we saw last night, are in an auto accident. She tries to twist his head around backward, but she passes out first. Later at the hospital, the doctor says she’ll be fine. Her friends tell the doctor that Leila is acting strange. Leila’s brother John blames Richard for the changes in his sister.
Leila has changed; she’s randomly mean and violent now. John goes to see Father Adrian Dunning for help. He tells the priest the whole story. “They are taking drugs and meeting in heretic circles,” John accuses.
Father Dunning goes to see Patricia, Leila’s mother. She dismisses it as just that John is jealous and bitter; he’s not being objective about Leila. Deborah, Leila’s sister is there as well. Leila is pretty rude to the priest, but he just laughs it off. Meanwhile, John and Sandra the maid are making out in the greenhouse. When Dunning goes into the greenhouse, John warns him about some dangerous plants. Dunning doesn’t see there’s a problem, choosing to believe Patricia.
Deborah goes out to the pool house to change for a swim and finds John with his head twisted around backwards. Everyone attends the funeral, including Richard and the police inspector. The next morning, Leila attacks Sandra for no reason. We see that the chauffeur, Udo, has naked photos of Leila. Sandra finds the photos later.
Deborah goes to Father Dunning again, and this time, she wants his help. Now, he wants to talk to Richard. He goes over there and finds many creepy masks and decorations; clearly, Richard is into some weird stuff. Then Dunning finds Richard in bed, with his head turned around just like John’s.
Patricia talks to Dr. Lewton, and Dunning goes to see Leila. At Leila’s birthday party, Dunning talks to Lewton. Leila has a sudden hateful outburst and verbally attacks everyone in the room before storming out. Deborah thinks Leila should be put into a sanatorium, but Patricia is still in denial. Their father died in a sanitorium, and it’s possible that it runs in the family.
The police inspector tells Dunning all about demons and Satanists. He thinks the murders were ritualistic. Dr. Lewton cannot explain Leila’s case; none of the doctors can. Deborah thinks her sister is possessed.
Leila goes missing, and Deborah and Dunning go to find her. Deborah tells him that Leila has been going to the black masses and other things. They head over to the abandoned castle, where a ritual/party is going on right now. Leila is there at the center of everything. Udo is there, and he attacks Dunning. Suddenly, every cop in town rushes in to break up the party and arrest Udo. They take Leila home, and Doctor Lewton does a serious exam of her mental condition.
Everyone thinks Udo killed John and Richard. The doctor reports that there are no drugs in Leila’s system. Lewton hates to admit it, but it might be possession. Dunning explains that he did assist in an exorcism a few years ago, and he describes the case. Dunning doesn’t really believe it; he thought it was drugs at the time, and he suspects that Leila’s situation is the same.
Udo confesses to the murders and then commits suicide. Back at the house, someone kills Sandra. Leila calls upon her master and has an orgasm alone in the room. Cuts and wounds start to appear all over her body. She walks into her mother’s room, looking a bit like Linda Blair from “The Exorcist.” She speaks with her dead father’s voice. The servants rush in and stop Leila from killing Patricia.
The family and even the doctor all insist that Dunning do an exorcism. He looks in on Leila, and she’s a mess, so he finally agrees to do the ritual. Dunning hears howling downstairs; Bork the dog has found Sandra’ s body. They can’t blame that one on Udo.
Father Dunning starts having hallucinations and visions. He and the demon have words. Lots of words. Stuff flies around the room, the bed levitates, Leila writhes, twists, and squirms in bed as Dunning reads from the book and splashes her with holy water. The two of them roll down the steps, and Leila dies. Bork the dog, however, seems to have acquired the demon. The dog attacks Dunning until the priest stabs the dog with a fireplace poker.
This was released two years after “The Exorcist” was a big hit. It’s not the same story, but there are obvious similarities, especially at the end.
Leila’s demon makeup was really good, and her contact lenses were especially good here. Other than that, there wasn’t much in the way of makeup or special effects.
It was fairly slow. It started well, but the priest took a little too much convincing in this one before he got to the good stuff. The characters and actors all do well here, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen many times and many ways before.
Short Film: Stuck (2022)
Directed by David Mikalson
Written by David Mikalson
Stars Nicola Lambo, Dave’s Johnson, Tara DiNinno
Run Time: 14:08
Watch it now:
A woman sits in her car and notices a strange man sitting in another car who waves at her. Why is he in this lot? It’s a private lot! He says he’s waiting for his daughter, but she knows better. It’s a gymnastics school for teenage girls, but it’s a different group of students every day and she saw him there yesterday. The man acts creepy and then drives away. But we see that he doesn’t really leave. Credits roll.
One of the girls spots the man outside, but when she looks, she only sees his car. The police aren’t helpful, so she searches the building for him. She is very paranoid about it, but we soon find out that she isn’t wrong. What can she do about him?
As one of the students says, “Dang!”
I noticed the music on this one during the credits; it’s very good. It’s well filmed and it takes a few minutes before you know where it’s headed. It’s good. It’s really good.
The Frighteners (1996)
Directed by Peter Jackson
Written by Fran Walsh, Peter Jackson
Stars Michael J. Fox, Jeffrey Combs, Jake Busey
Run Time: 1 Hour, 50 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
This one has a lot of really dark humor to it. It starts out pretty frivolous and gets darker as it goes along. Great performances from Dee Wallace and Jeffrey Combs really stand out along with the rest of the cast doing a fine job. The effects are cool and still hold up well. This is one worth seeing for sure if you haven’t already.
The camera zooms through an old house as we see bad things happening. A woman screams as the walls themselves grab at her. An old woman shoots at the ghost. Credits roll.
We hear a reporter reading an article he’s written discussing a long series of sudden heart failure deaths. Dozens of people have abruptly died in town. Could the Grim Reaper be stalking them? The Shadow of Death? What’s the angle? The boss tells him to quit referencing Death as a person.
There’s a funeral. Frank Bannister, a psychic investigator, hands out business cards. He wrecks his car into Ray’s fence because he’s the worst driver ever. Across town, Lucy makes a house call to the old mental institution - now a residence - and Old Lady Bradley lets her in. She’s the old woman we saw earlier, and the injured younger woman is Patricia, who never leaves the house. Lucy is a doctor, and she notices the bruises all over Patricia and suspects abuse. She wants Patricia to come to the hospital, but they both say no. Later, at home, we see that Lucy’s married to Ray.
John Charles Bartlett was a mass-shooter who was captured. Patricia was his girlfriend and was implicated in the murders. He was sentenced to death and executed.
Ray and Lucy talk about their day, and suddenly, the house goes crazy with stuff flying around. Lucy immediately calls Frank, since he’s an expert. He’s got a squirt gun full of holy water, and he’s not afraid to use it. He’s a big fraud, and Ray knows it, but Lucy is all in on his nonsense. As he leaves, Frank sees the number “37” glowing on Frank’s head.
As Frank gets home, several ghosts get out of the trunk. He sees them and talks to them; they’re friends of his. They help him fool the rubes - they “haunt” a place and Frank comes in and chases them away. Stuart and Cyrus are the ghosts and also comic relief. There’s also an old gunslinger, the Judge, and his ghost dog. They’ve all got problems. Frank’s about to lose his house, and he needs money fast, so he tells them to pump up the scare factor.
Cyrus and Stuart go into a big old house with wealthy people and do their thing. Of course, Frank is called to help, so he goes over to “exorcise” the house. The Judge says the town is in trouble; “Death is amongst us.” When Frank gets there, the owner shows him a newspaper article about him being a con man.
We then get a quick Peter Jackson cameo as Frank walks through town and runs into Ray, who is now a ghost. Ray is a little hazy about what happened to him. Ray wants to go to his own funeral, so they make a quick trip to the cemetery, which is full of ghosts including a drill sergeant who beats up Frank and yells a lot. The sheriff talks to Frank about the mysterious deaths. It doesn’t seem quite natural, but the experts can’t explain it.
Lucy is at the funeral, and she still believes. She goes to dinner with Frank that evening, acting as a mediator between her and Ray. He explains that he gained his abilities after a traffic accident. While there, he sees a man with “38” on his forehead in the restroom. He also sees a dark, cloudy shape in one of the stalls. He watches as the figure kills the man by plunging a ghostly hand into his chest. Another death from sudden heart attack..
Frank follows the creature in his car, while Lucy tells the sheriff about her dinner with Frank and the ghost. Milton comes to the police station. He’s a Special Agent from the FBI, and also a psychic and paranormal expert. He says Frank is a suspect. He’s very strange and goes into excruciating detail about how Frank had a traffic accident that killed his wife. Milton says it was intentional. His wife had the number “13” on her forehead.
The Judge says that creature was “the soul collector,” and he tells Frank and the other ghosts about it. Franks finds victim #40, and the Judge fights the creature off. Frank is arrested but escapes with the help of the ghosts. The soul catcher kills the Judge, and Frank kidnaps the next victim, the editor of the newspaper, Magda. The soul-catcher does his job, and she dies in the same place as Frank’s wife did. He then goes to the police station to turn himself in.
Milton and Frank talk about the 28 dead people in town. Milton thinks Frank is responsible, but the sheriff disagrees. Frank explains what he’s seen and what he can do, but Milton thinks he’s a psychopath.
Lucy goes back to the mental hospital, and Ray, who is still following, sees what an evil house it is. Lucy goes in and looks for Patricia, and the two have a long talk. She had nothing to do with the murders, but her mother has been keeping her prisoner in the old house. As she tries to sneak back outside, the house attacks Ray. When she comes to visit Frank in jail, we see the number “41” on her forehead.
The soul catcher kills Stuart, but Cyrus fights him off long enough for Frank to escape.
Frank decides he needs an out-of-body experience to see what’s happening on the other side. Lucy locks him in the meat freezer until he freezes. Milton finds them and wants to let Frank die, so he arrests Lucy. Meanwhile, Frank’s soul climbs out of his body and becomes a ghost. Frank fights with the soul catcher as Milton and Lucy go to the cemetery, where Milton rambles how he spent six months as Charles Manson’s sex slave. And a myriad of other horrible cults and groups he spent time with.
Frank steals Milton’s car and goes after Lucy again. Frank steals the drill sergeant's machine guns to fight the creature. Frank recognizes the creature as Johnny Bartlett, who is trying to increase his kill count.
Frank’s ghost tries to fight Bartlett, but before he can win, Lucy revives him back in the meat locker. He tells her about Bartlett, so Lucy rushes over to Patricia’s house to warn her. When Patricia hears about Johnny, she reverts back to her former murderous self– she really was involved in the old murders. Johnny tells Patricia to finish off Lucy. Lucy finds old lady Bradley dead and then has to fight Patricia.
Frank arrives and fights with the ghost of the house as Lucy runs from Patricia. They find Johnny’s ashes, and Frank says that they need to get them to a church. As they run around the old hospital, Milton arrives on the scene, and Frank gets flashbacks of Johnny and Patricia’s murder spree many years ago. Milton grabs Lucy and the two of them fight.
Frank makes it to the chapel, but Milton ends up with the ashes and dumps them out, which is really bad. Milton shoots Frank, and Patricia kills Milton, turning him into a ghost. Patricia and Johnny kill Frank, who grabs the soul right out of Patricia and drags her into the light. Johnny follows and gets her back.. Except the two of them go somewhere different and much less pleasant…
Stuart and Cyrus welcome Frank to Heaven, where he reconnects with his wife. However, it’s not his time to die yet, so they send him back. Frank wakes up in Lucy’s arms. Some time later, we find out that now Lucy can see dead people now too.
The stretchy-face-through-the-wall gimmick must have been new when this came out, as it’s heavily used here, even in the movie posters. It’s a fun effect though and still holds up pretty well.
It’s really hard for me not to make a joke about how Frank drives like a guy with Parkinsons, but that would be in poor taste. Still, there’s no explanation for his awful driving.
If you removed all the comic elements from this film, it would still stand up really well as a serious horror film. Still, if that had happened, we would have missed out on one of Jeffrey Combs’s best roles. Michael J. Fox pretty much plays the same character he always plays, just this time with psychic abilities. The other actors do fine, with Dee Wallace in a rare appearance as a villain for once. The comedy more or less vanishes about 45 minutes before the end, but makes the setup of the story more interesting.
It’s a little different, but it’s absolutely worth watching.
The Cellar (2022)
Directed by Brendan Muldowney
Written by Brendan Muldowney
Stars Elisha Cuthbert, Eoin Macken, Dylan Fitzmaurice Brady
Run Time: 1 hour, 34 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
This movie is when bad things happen to beautiful homes and happy families. It’s creepy, well acted, and has good effects. It builds nicely, gradually filling in what’s going on. All in all a thumbs up.
Keira and her family are moving into a huge old home. Daughter Ellie says it’s gross and creepy. Ellie acts like a jerk, because that’s what moody teenagers do in movies. They all go down into the filthy cellar, and Ellie gets locked in by accident. She hears something down there and panics. By the time they use the key to open the door, she’s screaming and banging. She does not want to stay in this old dump. She’s one of those teens that hates literally everything.
Parents Keira and Brian have a work meeting that night, so they leave Ellie and Stevie alone in the big house. Her boyfriend calls, and she talks about going to live with him. Steven finds an old cow skull in his playroom. Steven says his friend told him the house was owned by a witch who made a pact with the devil. Ellie plays a record that seems to be just a man reciting math.
Then the power goes out. Ellie calls Keira, who tells her to go into the basement and check the breaker. She goes down there, carrying a candle. She’s obviously terrified, but goes down anyway. There’s more steps than there should bem which freaks out Kiera.
They rush home, go downstairs, but Ellie is nowhere to be found. They call the police, but Ellie has run off before, so they think she’ll turn up at a friend's house in a few days. There’s a search party in the woods the next morning, but still nothing. They start putting up “Missing Persons” signs in the area.
Keira still doesn’t think she ran away. “Something happened in the cellar.” She searches the cellar with a UV light. She finds math symbols inscribed in the floor and walls– and many skeletal faces painted there as well. The police check it out and say that the skulls are just painted on the walls.
Keira notices that there are strange symbols above each of the doors in the house. The letters are Hebrew and spell “Leviathan.” She looks up Leviathan and sees pictures of a big dragon-like sea monster. She plays the math record, and at the same time, little Stevie starts reciting the numbers as well– as he walks into a secret door. She stops when she hears him counting numbers.
She goes into the basement, and the door gets stuck for her as well. They really need to get that thing fixed! She hears something growling down there as Stevie fights to get the door open from the other side. The ominous music intensifies until Brian comes and opens the door. Everyone is fine. She insists that she heard something, but Brian thinks she’s starting to go crazy. Kiera tells him that the family who used to live here all disappeared too.
Keira goes to see a math professor to show him the formula from the cellar floor. It seems to represent something having to do with multiple dimensions. He also explains that old man Featherston, who used to own that house, was also a math professor. Fatherston and the rest of the family did vanish, but his daughter survived.
Keira does more research and starts telling all this to Brian, who is more and more convinced that Keira is obsessed with nonsense. He goes downstairs to break up the inscriptions. He can’t do it, and then the record player starts on its own and then Stevie sees something appears in the secret room that looks like the rotted corpse of Ellie but it vanishes. They find Ellie's phone in there. Brian’s a believer after that.
Keira tracks down the last Fetherson woman in a nursing home. She tells Keira that Leviathan is one of the seven princes of Hell. Her father brought it into the world with his mathematics. “It’s not just the cellar, it’s the whole house!” she says.
Brian meanwhile, has been doing his own research and tells Keira that the symbols indicate that Baphomet, a demon, is involved. The whole house has been designed around his influence. They play the record again, on purpose. Stevie sees Baphomet in the basement and all Hell breaks loose in the house.
They find Stevie, but he’s clearly not himself. Neither is Brian. They both start counting down to zero, and then “It’s here.” Something wants through the cellar door. Keira hides and watches as something with horns and goat legs starts clomping around the house. Then she sees the rest of it and runs into the basement to rescue Ellie. The stairs now go way, way down and there are tunnels.
She eventually enters Hell itself, or maybe the outskirts anyway, which is made up of vast numbers of dirty gray people shuffling in the same direction counting. Keira far-too-easily finds Ellie and grabs her, but Ellie is a zombie now. The two go back up the stairs with the demon following all the way.
Once upstairs, Ellie wakes up. All four of the family try to head outside to their car, but the door out now opens to the down stairway. Brian, Ellie, and Stevie all start counting and walking away. This time, Keira joins them.
It’s pretty good. There’s just one mystery after another, and the creepy factor is turned way up on this one. It’s not exactly a haunted house. It’s more like Amityville Horror; a demon-infested home.
The acting was decent, the sets were well-done, what we saw of the creature looked good. There was a bit of pseudo-scientific babble about Schroedinger’s Box and mathematics of other dimensions that try to make things make sense. The simple explanation about why this all happened is that old Mr. Fetherston released something while trying to save his ailing son, by using math to solve and invoke magic. I guess that’s a good enough reason. It works well enough here, but it seems that the characters made wrong decisions at every turn, some of which were just beyond reasonable.
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