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Vampire Hunter D, White Zombie, The Dunwich Horror, and Dust Devil
Horror Bulletin 173
We’ve got some classics this week. Bela Lugosi’s 1932, “White Zombie” and 1970’s “The Dunwich Horror” are both important classics, while “Vampire Hunter D” and “Dust Devil” are both interesting as well. Not only that, but we’ll have a book and a graphic novel review as well. Good stuff!
Bonus reviews at https://horrorbulletin.com this week:
“Idle Roomers” from 1944
“Last Woman on Earth” from 1960
“Creature from the Haunted Sea” from 1961
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Graphic Novel: Night Cage, Vol. 1
By C. Michael Forsythe, Vincenzo Pietropaolo
Published by Freedom’s Hammer Productions
Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B095SW26DF/
What’s it About?
What happens when a newly-turned female vampire is sentenced to do time in an underground prison? Pretty much exactly what you think’s gonna happen...
It’s a black-and-white graphic novel that does a great job of setting up the story. We meet all the important characters and move right into the action. It’s kind of like “Orange is the New Black” only with vampire women. Surprisingly, the women in this wear a lot fewer clothes than on that TV show. And there’s a real prevalence of hot physiques. You’d think it’d be colder in an underground prison...
I liked it a lot, but keep in mind that it’s just Vol. 1 and it leaves you wanting more. It ends nicely by more or less wrapping up the current phase of things while setting up the next chapter to go. There’s lots more adventure to be told. Volume 2 will be coming soon, and the author currently has a Kickstarter for helping out with that:
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/nightcage2/night-cage-volume-2. Note that at the time of this writing, his goal has already been met, but more support and encouragement never hurts.
White Zombie (1932)
Directed by Victor Hugo Halperin
Written by Garnett Weston, William B. Seabrook
Stars Bela Lugosi, Madge Bellamy, Joseph Cawthorn
Run Time: 1 Hour, 7 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
Classic, slow zombies and a sinister Bela Lugosi are a winning combination. It’s a little slow and tame by today’s standards, but it was groundbreaking at the time. And it’s an interesting watch seeing how things were done 90 years ago.
In the West Indies, a carriage containing a young couple, Neil and Madeline, rides down the road and comes across a bunch of black people digging a grave in the middle of the road. There’s someone stealing corpses, so they bury them in the middle of the road where there’s always people.
They drive on and soon meet “Murder” Legendre standing in the road, who is creepy. The driver sees zombies coming out of the woods and rides away. Legendre is left holding Madeline’s scarf. He smiles and leads the zombies away. The carriage driver explains zombies to the couple. They’re the walking dead, and they’re following them to the Beaumont house right now.
Dr. Bruner meets up with the couple at the Beaumont house, and he says zombies are a common enough thing in Haiti. Bruner has been sent for to perform a wedding ceremony for Neil and Madeline, but he doesn’t know why. It’s not like old man Beaumont to be so generous.
The butler talks to Beaumont, and we see that he is indeed up to something. He’s working with “that man,” and the butler is afraid of him. “I’d sacrifice everything I have in the world for her,” he explains. Does he mean Madeline?
A carriage driven by a zombie comes for Beaumont, and he goes the the driver to the sugar mill, which is staffed by the living dead. Beaumont walks through the operation, and no one speaks until he comes to Legendre, the man in charge. “They work faithfully; they do not mind work for long hours,” he explains. Legendre shows Beaumont the scarf; he knows what they want. All Beaumont wants is a month to seduce Madeline, but Legendre says he couldn’t do it in a year.
“There is a way, but the cost is high,” Legendre states. Beaumont says he’ll pay anything. Legendre gives Beaumont a vial of something to feed to Neil, and that’ll solve his problems. “Send me word when you use it,” he commands.
Back at the big house, everyone is ready for the wedding. Beaumont tries to convince Madeline not to go through with the wedding, but she’s not listening. He gives her a rose, and she sniffs it. Outside, Legendre does a spell with a candle and the scarf. Inside, Madeline drops dead.
They have a funeral, and Neil goes to the bar to drink heavily. He hallucinates seeing Madeline in his drink and then freaks out. Legendre introduces Beaumont to his favorite zombies in the graveyard, all of whom used to be his enemies. “What if they regain their souls,” he asks. Legendre says that can never be. The zombies pick up Madeline’s coffin and take it home to Beaumont’s place. Outside, they hear a drunken Neil running around screaming her name. He shows up in the tomb and finds it empty.
Dr. Bruner comes clean and tells Neil his suspicions. He thinks that Madeline may actually still be alive. He says that zombies aren’t really dead; they just have no mind or soul. He reads from a book about “lethargic comas.” Beaumont wouldn’t have been able to do this, so it must have been the natives.
Elsewhere, Madeline plays the piano for Beaumont. She plays pretty well for a dead girl. He puts an expensive-looking necklace on her, and she doesn’t even notice. He sees that she’s just a brain-dead, soulless zombie and regrets what he did. He can’t bear to look at her anymore.
Beaumont wants Legendre to give her back her soul, but Legendre says that’s impossible. Legendre gives his drug to Beaumont so that he can take Madeline from him. The zombies carry away Silver the butler.
Neil and Bruner go looking for Pierre, an old witch doctor. Pierre warns them to turn back before it’s too late. Pierre says he’s the only man who ever came back from being a zombie. The pair head to Legendre’s castle, where, inside, Legendre gloats over his control of Beaumont.
Neil staggers in and sees them, but he passes out before he can say anything. Legendre controls Madeline, who picks up the knife and walks over to Neil. She drops the knife and comes back downstairs as Neil wakes up and embraces her. Legendre calls in his zombie crew, but Dr. Bruner sneaks up and whacks Legendre over the head. The spell broken, one by one, the zombies all jump off the cliff, preferring suicide to following Legendre’s orders.
Neil goes to Madeline, and she wakes up. Legendre wakes up and makes his escape— at least until Beaumont grabs him from behind and they both go off the cliff as well. Legendre’s pet vulture will eat well in the morning...
Ah, the “real,” classic semi-historical Haitian-style zombies, not the plague-ridden, flesh-eating monstrosities of Romero and the Walking Dead. We don’t get enough of those.
Why would Madeline and Neil go to Beaumont’s house, knowing full well that he had a crush on Madeline and would do anything to win her over; what kind of judgment is that?
Bela Lugosi looks suitably evil here, and he glares at the camera a lot. There are some other actors here too, but they aren’t subtle or particularly noteworthy. It’s decent enough, and probably very original at the time, but it’s a little slow-paced for a modern viewer.
Vampire Hunter D (1985)
Directed by Toyoo Ashida
Written by Hideyuki Kikuchi, Yasushi Hirano
Stars Kaneto Shiozawa, Michie Tomizawa, Seizo Kato
Run Time: 1 Hour, 20 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
It’s a cartoon.
“This story takes place in the distant future, when mutants and demons slither through a world of darkness.”
A woman walks through the countryside carrying a big gun. She’s hunting some kind of dinosaur-like creature. The thing kills her horse, but she uses her electro-whip to stun it and then blasts it with her gun. A werewolf attacks but runs off after pulling her cross off her neck. She then sees one of the Nobles, a red-eyed man. She shoots him as well, but he ignores it. He bares his fangs; he’s a vampire. Credits roll.
A man rides in on a cyborg horse. The girl we saw before is waiting for him on the road. “You’re a professional hunter, aren’t you?” She uses her whip on him, but he breaks the whip and rides on. She begs him for help, so he checks out her neck under the collar and asks her name; she’s Doris. She takes him home and we meet her brother Dan.
The mayor’s son, Greco, wants to know what happened to Doris after she was “nibbled on by the Count.” He hits on her, but she hits back. He then tells the whole town that Doris was bitten by a vampire, which is why she hired the hunter. The sheriff wants to take Doris to the camp. The doctor disagrees, but the law is the law. The last time this happened, fifty years ago, the Count ended up killing thirty people. The townspeople start avoiding Doris.
The hunter’s talking hand taunts him; it says he’s falling in love with Doris. His name is D, just the letter. Count Magnus Lee is the vampire who attacked Doris, and she explains what happened. He might be as much as 10,000 years old.
The mutants and werewolves approach the house at night. The Count’s daughter Lamika threatens D, and her helper, Rei, attacks D. D stabs Rei, but the blade goes through D; Rei can warp space. D’s wounds heal, so Lamika gives it a try. He sends them both packing.
D uses his flying ability (or may a super jump) to enter the Count’s castle, which is filled with all manner of bugs and monsters. His hand warns him that it’s a trap, but he’s aware of that. He fights off a ghostly werewolf and several other creatures.
He wanders through ruins from the great wars 10,000 years ago. He finds three “Snake Sisters” or Lamias, who plan to sap his life essence.
Meanwhile, Rei and a band of demons come for Doris, Dan, and the doctor. They easily capture her and take her to Count Lee, who plans to marry her tomorrow. Doris sees D, who is being drained by the Sisters. The Count reveals that D is a half-breed mix of human and vampire. On the other hand, D has so much life force that he overwhelms and eats the sisters.
Lamika looks in on the sleeping Doris and doesn’t approve. She tries to stab Doris in her sleep, but D comes in and steals Doris away just in time, killing several more demons on the way out. He takes Doris home.
Meanwhile, back in town, Greco listens in on Rei talking to some demons about the “Time bewitching incense.” Dan is kidnapped, and they want D to turn himself into the nobility. D fights Rei and cuts off his hand; the incense doesn’t work.
The doctor knows of a safe place where vampires can’t enter, so he and Doris go there. They’re ambushed by Lamika, and the doctor isn’t what he appeared to be. Lamika kills the doctor, but passes out when Greco shows up with the time-bewitching incense, which he stole from Rei. He plans to use the kidnapped Lamika to lure in the Count. D and Dan show up and get rid of Greco, who is soon captured by Rei.
Doris offers D her blood, but he resists. Rei shows up, this time with the real incense, and he uses it against D. Rei then stabs D and cuts off his hand. The Count doesn’t give Rei the reward he was hoping for.
Count Lee tells Lamika some uncomfortable truths; her own mother was human. He puts her into stasis until the wedding is over.
D’s dismembered hand crawls back and reconnects to the body. D finally wakes back up.
Count Lee and Doris are getting ready for the wedding. Rei interrupts, using the incense to— nothing, because it doesn’t work. The Count kills Rei. D shows up to kill the Count, but it’s not that easy.
D and Lee fight. It turns out, D is more than meets the eye, stabbing Lee through the heart, which only wounds him. Lee recognizes D as their long-lost original ancestor from 10,000 years ago. Lee dies, and Lamika volunteers to die as well.
Doris, Dan, and D watch from safety as the evil castle sinks into the ground.
Later, D rides off into the wilderness as Doris and Dan wave goodbye.
There are so many monsters and creatures you have to wonder how the town has been untouched for the last thirty years. How are there any people left at all? For the viewer, the wide assortment of creatures and monsters is interesting. Several of the demons bear more than a passing resemblance to some of the villains in “Ninja Scroll,” which came out long after this. I suspect some of the same creative team was used in that latter film.
This is the year 12000+, but there’s a surprising lack of technology in this world. They have robot horses, but not much else.
It’s very fast-moving, but D just doesn’t have any real disadvantages. He just moves from one situation to the next, killing everything. Nothing challenges this overpowered hero. It’s an interesting world, and I’d like to know more, but I really just wasn’t that impressed with this now. It was super influential back in the day, so maybe I’ve just seen too much stuff that was cribbed from this, but it just didn’t do much for me.
Short Film: Terrible Things (2022)
Directed by Ciaran Hickey
Written by Ciaran Hickey
Stars Claire J. Loy
Run Time: 9:54
We watch someone in a gas mask and contamination suit wandering through a cloudy wasteland as they find a lonely grave. They go inside a house and look around. There’s a mummified body, a note, and some pills. That evening, she takes off the suit and makes a fire. She has a one-sided conversation with the body, and she hears alien noises outside…
Nothing here is explained, and yet you know exactly what happened. It’s an atmospheric, moody, desolate world, and her talk just worsens it. This could easily be a segment of a full-length film, but this is what we get. The creature at the end is fine, but the star of the film is really the hopeless dread of the whole thing.
The Dunwich Horror (1970)
Directed by Daniel Haller
Written by Curtis Hanson, Henry Rosenbaum, Ronald Silkosky
Stars Sandra Dee, Dean Stockwell, Ed Begley
Run Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
It’s an okay telling of a Lovecraft tale. Awesome house and settings. Decent, though kind of talky, adaptation. Watchable, but overall pretty middling.
A woman moans in pain surrounded by strange old people and mystical symbols; there’s one on her forehead. Some very cool animated credits roll.
Dr. Armitage hands over the Necronomicon to Nancy Wagner, one of his students. Wilbur Whately walks up and asks her if he can take a look at the book. At first, she refuses, but she looks into his eyes and gives it over to him. Wilber reads the book, and it’s about how to release the Old Ones. Armitage confronts Wilbur, and when he finds out who he is, he wants to get together in Dunwich. Armitage refuses to allow Wilbur to borrow the priceless book, but Wilbur decides to get close to Nancy instead.
He misses his bus home, so Nancy volunteers to drive him to Dunwich. He invites her inside, and it’s a really cool old place. He’s nice enough, and normal-looking, but also just slightly creepy. While Nancy goes to the bathroom, he runs outside and sabotages her car.
Nancy gets a jump scare from old man Whately, Wilbur’s grandfather. When Nancy’s car doesn’t work, she stays in the guest room and has weird nightmares about tribal rituals and sacrifice.
Elizabeth talks to Dr. Armitage about Nancy, who didn’t come home last night. They drive up to see if everything’s all right. They shoo them off with assurances that she’s fine, but the old doctor is concerned. Armitage knows all about their family history. Meanwhile, Armitgae does more research on the Whately family. He looks up Wilbur’s parents and the doctor who assisted in Wilbur’s birth.
Wilbur tells Nancy all about his father, who was hanged by an angry mob who caught him doing some kind of ritual they didn’t like. Armitage goes to see Dr. Cory, who helped every baby in town being born. Elizabeth talks to Nurse Cory, who explains some of the bad stories about “Weird Wilbur '' and the old Whately House.
Armitage warns Cory about the Necronomicon and the thought that he might believe in the magic. We flash back to the pre-credit sequence, which was the birth of Wilbur. There were twins, and one of them was supposed to have died, but Cory never saw the body. The mother, Lavinia, lost her mind, and still lives in the local mental hospital.
Nancy and Wilbur have a picnic, and she’s wobbly on her feet afterward. He takes her up the mountain to an old, isolated altar atop a cliff. It’s called “The Devil’s Hopyard.” It’s obvious that he has some kind of hypnotic influence over her. He wants to bring “Yog Sothoth” and the other Old Ones back into the world. The two have hallucinogenic sex (I think) on the altar.
Elizabeth comes back in a panic to get Nancy, and knocks the old grandpa down. She goes upstairs and opens the ominous locked door. Things get positively “colorful” as the tentacles and flashing colors attack her from within. The old man says that Wilbur will fail, but Wilbur says he can do it. The old man then falls down the stairs to his death.
Nancy stands next to Wilbur at the funeral as he does another ritual over the old man’s open grave. A bunch of the local people charge in and put a stop to the non-christian ritual. There’s no death certificate, so the sheriff impounds the old man’s body. Later that night, Wilbur breaks into the library and steals the Necronomicon, killing a security guard in the process.
Armitage and Cory go to see Lavinia, who is dying. She’s quoting something from the Necronomicon, so Armitage rushes to the library.
Meanwhile, Wilbur is wearing his dark cloak and has prepared the ritual to sacrifice Nancy and release the Old Ones. Something gets out of that upstairs bedroom and starts terrorizing the neighbors, mutilating the bodies. The locals do the “Let’s go get ‘em!” routine.
Armitage tells them not to kill Wilbur, as he’s the only one who might be able to stop the monster. The monster then kills nurse Cory. The police arrive at the Dunwich House, which is in the process of burning to the ground. They can all hear the monster in the woods, which seems to be invisible.
The invisible monster of many colors kills several of the hunters in the woods. Armitage arrives at the altar, and Wilbur says magic words and shows his power. These two men have a battle of powers, and things go really badly really fast for Wilbur. We get a very brief view of Yog Sothoth as he fades from reality. Armitage explains that the monster, Wilbur’s twin, took after his father, and the father was not of this Earth.
Then we get a shot of the baby growing inside of Nancy...
I really liked the music during the opening credits, but then they repeated the same ten-note theme about every ten seconds throughout the film, and it got old within ten minutes. It’s like they could only pay the composer for two minutes of music and really made it stretch.
Other than a couple of weird false-color negative images, there aren’t any special effects here, but the story could really have used some. There’s way too much evil-talking and not enough evil-doing. The acting is mediocre at best, with Dean Stockwell trying really hard to look menacing, and Sandra Dee trying to revive her failing career. Neither were particularly successful here.
It’s a nice attempt at an H.P. Lovecraft story, but the budget and effects just weren’t there. This really could use a remake, and we’re going to get one, according to Hollywood rumors. This is to be the sequel to 2020’s “The Color Out of Space.”
It’s not great, but if you’re a Lovecraft fan, it’s a must-see.
Dust Devil (1992) The Final Cut
Directed by Richard Stanley
Written by Richard Stanley
Stars Robert John Burke, Chelsea Field, Zakes Mokae
Run Time: 1 Hour, 27 minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
It’s a beautiful and atmospheric film. We watched the final cut version that had additional footage. It’s a slow moving film that requires patience, but it’s worth the watch.
We get a voiceover explaining a legend about how a man became able to fly and then became a hunter. He is the “Dust Devil.”
A man walking down a desert road lays down in the road to listen. A car stops, and inside is a woman who picks him up and takes him home. That evening, the two have sweaty sex in the way you only can in the deserts of South Africa. He snaps her neck halfway through the act. Elsewhere, Ben Mukurob gets a strange phone call. Back in the desert, the Dust Devil does some kind of ritual and paints her house with weird art— all painted in blood. He packs her fingers in ice, burns down her house, and steals her car.
Back in civilization, Wendy Robinson breaks up with her husband Mark. Ben is a policeman, and he gets a call to check out the burning farmhouse, as it might be a murder. The house isn’t completely destroyed, and he looks at the strange paintings. They find the missing car, deserted, and he investigates that as well. Both the Dust Devil and Wendy make their way separately to the little dying town of Bethany.
Ben talks to the medical examiner about the case, and she says it looks like some kind of witchcraft. Neither of them believe in magic, but it’s clear the perpetrator does. Wendy continues driving through the desert and finally stops to pick up Mr. Dust Devil. They talk about the afterlife.
Ben chews out some underlings for torturing a witness, and the captain backs up Ben. The captain says the UN wants to take over jurisdiction of this case, so Ben is off the case as of tomorrow. The captain has records of similar murders going back to the early 1900s and hands those over to Ben. Crazy old Joe tries to explain the magic to Ben, but Ben’s not a believer. Joe says The Evil One has come to the dying town to gather souls, but until he’s finished his job, he’s trapped in human form. Joe explains a way to strip the creature of his powers by binding him with a magic stick.
Wendy decides they are driving in circles and stops next to a huge cliff. She kisses the hitchhiker, and later they dance. We see that husband Mark is in his car trying to find Wendy. He gets beat up at a bar at the same moment Wendy and the stranger have sex. The stranger doesn’t kill Wendy, but instead, bares his soul to her.
Wendy finds the stranger’s weird Polaroid photo collection and also his box of fingers. He swears those people all wanted to die; they came to him. He gets ready to stab her, but she knocks him out and drives away. She gets run off the road and runs away.
Ben comes to Mark, who is now in jail for getting beat up so many times. They pick up the trail and continue to search for Wendy. It doesn’t take long before Mark turns on Ben, who has the upper hand and leaves Mark handcuffed to the car in a dust storm.
The stranger finds her first. She is “attacked” by a windstorm in the desert. The next morning, she finds a small village in the desert, but it’s abandoned except for— Ben. They hear a phone inside one of the buildings, and Ben gives her his gun. Ben answers the phone, and it’s his dead wife calling to him.
Ben continues on and finds himself in an abandoned movie theater that isn’t completely abandoned. The still-nameless bad dude stabs Ben rather thoroughly.
Wendy points Ben’s gun at the stranger, but it doesn’t work. Ben drops his magic stick in front of the stranger, which binds him until Wendy blows his head apart with a shotgun. Ben and the magical stranger both die, leaving Wendy in the desert all alone.
Wendy walks through the desert until she comes across Mark, still cuffed to the police car. She points the gun at him, but then turns around and continues on through the desert; he won’t last very long out here.
Wendy walks along the desert road. Then she gets down on the ground to listen for a car...
The voiceover narration is poetic, but doesn’t mean much other than to set the mood. The visuals are really cool. If you want to see life in 1990’s South Africa this is your film. There’s a lot of current events going on in the background news, and it looks like not a good place to be. It’s a different flavor of “folk horror,” but it definitely qualifies in that sub-genre. Sometimes the stranger seems like he wants to kill Wendy, and at other times, he appears to want to help her. He’s an inexplicable force of nature.
We get a few creature shots of the thing when it doesn’t look human, but they are brief flashes. Other than that, there’s not much in the way of monster special effects that are noticeable. There are some good gore effects though.
There’s a lot of really nice visual imagery and cinematography here, but it’s definitely style over substance, however, as the story plods along between cool scenery.
It’s slow. It’s atmospheric. It’s just plain weird. Some would definitely call it boring. Still, if you’ve got patience, it’s a really unusual film.
Book: Criminal Macabre: The Complete Cal McDonald Stories (Second Edition)
By Steve Niles
Published by Dark Horse Books
What’s it About?
This book is a complete anthology of the Cal McDonald Stories and includes two new stories as well as an introduction by John Carpenter (which, to be honest, is three short paragraphs that summarizes the back cover of the book).
Cal McDonald is a private investigator, beginning the book in Washington DC and then moving to L.A. in a later story. He’s not just a normal PI, he recognizes the undead for what they really are, and they seem to be everywhere. Check and see, your postal letter-carrier is probably a ghoul. Anyway, some of the supernatural creatures are friendly, like Cal’s partner Mo’Lock, a really helpful, but annoying ghoul. Together they solve crimes, at least in the few pages where Cal isn’t strung out on drugs or passed out in the bathroom; it’s tough being Cal.
This book is a compilation of thirteen stories revolving around Cal and Mo’Lock and the weird underworld they inhabit. The first story, “Savage Membrane,” is the longest, and in my opinion, the best, and the following stories get shorter and shorter as the book progresses. These are from Peter Niles, probably better known for creating “30 Days of Night.” I am mostly unfamiliar with his comics work, but apparently Cal McDonald has been in a lot of comic adventures before this compilation.
I liked it a lot more than I thought I would, but I have to admit the further it went on, the less interesting the stories became. It was almost as if the writer was just cranking out stories because his fans demanded it, not from the love of the character. The first half of the book is really good, and since they’re all just short stories, you can stop at any time.
Overall, if you like Urban Fantasy, or maybe Supernatural Mysteries, this is pretty cool!
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