The Rage: Carrie 2 (1999), totally unnecessary

Why Carrie 2 is Worth a Second Look - Wicked Horror
Emily Bergl as Rachel Lang

Remember the iconic 1970s film Carrie? What if it was the 1990s instead? But her name is Rachel. All of the key points are there, plus 1990s visual effects. So… unsurprisingly terrible. So much of it is the same, you think, why bother? The same crazy, religious mom motif (but she’s institutionalised). The same sympathetic teacher role (Amy Irving reprising her role as Sue Snell). The same mean cheerleaders. The same fiery telekinetic revenge sequence. The same jump scare trick ending. They even use footage from the original, just in case you forgot (in a way both distracting and nonsensical).

The changes they made are largely cosmetic (super unflattering 1990s fashion) or clumsy plot choices. I will say, I was impressed that one of the popular girls had glasses and was still somehow considered… hot!?! (GASP) Also, in Carrie 2 she’s an outsider by choice rather than circumstance, a cool, slightly gothy indie chick with a tattoo and everything. Unlike hapless Carrie, she even has a friend, Lisa (Mena Suvari), whose death sets up the whole telekinetic crisis.

The visual effects, as mentioned, are terrible, but not even in a fun way (except maybe when a guy takes a harpoon to the crotch). Somehow she uses telekinesis to make her tattoo grow; visually kind of neat, but makes zero sense. There are also awkward black and white sequences whose purposes are ambiguous; sometimes it’s a dream, sometimes just for emphasis, I guess?

It is interesting to note that they took the female-centric story from the original and replaced it with a story about boys. They even made sure that our telekinetic protagonist, Rachel, is secretly the daughter of the same man as Carrie, because “it’s carried on the male line”. The original was interesting specifically because of the way girls were portrayed: cruel as they are beautiful; this time around it is instead about a pact between football dude bros to have sex with every girl in the school (but don’t worry, also #notallmen because the one football player is a decent guy in with a bad crowd).

So why does this exist? Even the name makes no sense and seems like a jaded marketing move. The trappings from the original are clunky and forced. It is an artifact of its era in fashion and slang, which is usually at least interesting, but where Carrie 2 just rehashes one movie something like The Craft (1996) put a new spin on an old concept . It’s available for free on Tubi, but it probably isn’t worth the time unless you need something in the background while paying bills… dusting… something like that.

Incidentally, the Wikipedia page is so poorly written it is entertaining (possibly more than the film). Someone misused the word “behest” (probably to sound cool) as well as many other peculiar syntax and word choices.

Dagon (2001), straight up Lovecraft

There’s something to be said for a faithful adaptation, but sometimes the changes work out. This movie is pretty true to the original short story except for the setting, and that change of location makes the story even more satisfying. So let’s dive in.

Dagon (Movie Review) | Bloody Good Horror
Macarena Gómez as Uxía Cambarro

The film is an adaptation of the classic H.P. Lovecraft story “The Shadow Over Innsmouth”, wherein a small fishing community is taken over by a sinister cult. Director Stuart Gordon just loves Lovecraft, but as always has adapted the story to modern times and it is wonderful. They made the (probably financial) decision to shoot in Spain, but instead of pretending to be somewhere else like so many low-budget films do, they decided to embrace it, turning Innsmouth into Imboca.

After a boat crash with his friends Howard and Vicki (Brendan Price and Birgit Bofarull), the protagonist, Paul Marsh (Ezra Godden) and his Spanish girlfriend Bárbara (Raquel Meroño), find themselves in the small town trying to find help for their friends. By setting the film there, the protagonist faces a language barrier that only adds to his sense of discomfort and helplessness. Even Bárbara is out of place as a Spanish-speaker in a town that speaks Catalán. At first I was like, “oh cool, representation for the minority Catalán community” but then my husband pointed out “they’re all evil fish people, though”.

So… fish people. Glorious, practical make-up effects. Some of them make dolphin noises. It’s great. But, alas, this is also tempered by some very dodgy CG effects at points, which are completely distracting. Honestly, those effects are the only thing keeping this from being a perfect movie for me. (Also, why do they collect skins, though?) The acting is all good for a low-budget foreign production. Ezequiel (Francisco Raban) is a great old-school wino character, and he even has the acting chops to pull off a huge expository scene. So there’s a good range of humour, drama, and horror.

This movie altogether lived up to my expectations for the creator of Re-Animator (1985) and From Beyond (1986). It’s not perfect, but it is fun and makes the most of its status as an adaptation rather than being too cute with the source material. If you like Lovecraft, I would say this is essential viewing. It’s free on Tubi! But be forewarned, the subtitles don’t translate the dialogue in Catalán so if you don’t know that language and/or Spanish you will have a hard time.

The Lair of the White Worm (1988) horror comedy… mostly comedy adventure

Lair of the White Worm - Home | Facebook
Amanda Donohoe as Lady Sylvia Marsh

Imagine, if you will, Doctor Who fighting a snake person with the power of bagpipes. This movie is not trying to be a horror film, it’s an old-school adventure story and if you take it on that level, it’s super fun. It’s based on an original Bram Stoker short story, and the film itself is an homage to swashbuckling serials from the 1930s, with larger than life characters, big accents, and beautiful women in danger. Pure camp. Elevating it, there are some great trippy dream sequences where you go “Oh yeah, he directed Altered States (1980)”. So, altogether, it’s massively entertaining.

I don’t want to reveal too much of the plot because it’s very simple. There is an ancient town where a local lord once killed a great dragon, the white worm of the title. Now, in the 1980s, there is still one acolyte of the serpent, facing off with the lord’s descendant, James D’Ampton (a smarmy Hugh Grant), and a plucky archaeologist, Angus Flint (a very Scottish Peter Capaldi). Amanda Donohoe dominates as Lady Sylvia Marsh, chewing all the scenery while the other female characters, Eve and Mary Trent (Catherine Oxenberg and Sammi Davis), do a fine job but don’t contribute much (and that’s okay in this genre).

It’s currently on Tubi, but leaving soon, so catch it if you can.

Vampire Circus (1972) a hidden gem

Everybody knows Hammer Horror, right? They were a mainstay of 70s British horror. The first thing you probably think of is Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing as Dracula and Van Helsing, it’s a classic combo! I especially adore Dracula A.D. 1972 for its crazy 70s twist on the character. And yet, I would argue Vampire Circus is more creative and fun to watch. Hear me out, okay? You can even watch it for free on Tubi.

Drive-In Dust Offs: VAMPIRE CIRCUS (1972) - Daily Dead
No, it cannot be! Better than Christopher Lee?!? (Anthony Higgins as Emil)

Rather than your typical Dracula adaptation, this movie builds its own vampire family lore. It begins with Count Mitterhaus (Robert Tayman), who lives in a castle outside of the town of Stetl in what can loosely be described as the 19th century. The town tires of him seducing women and eating children, so they decide to attack with torches and some pretty nice pyrotechnics. Piercing his heart with a stake, the Count’s last words are to swear vengeance against the town. His human lover, Anna (Domini Blythe), hides his body and flees. 15 years later, the townsfolk are suffering from an unknown plague and superstitiously blame it on the murder of the Count., while the local doctor seeks a rational explanation. The town has been placed under quarantine, so anyone who attempts to leave is shot and misery abounds.

Somehow, a circus makes its way into town, with its leader “Gypsy Woman” (Adrienne Corri) laughingly declaring that that they have “come to steal the coins from the eyes of the dead”. Their act is a delight to all, as the townspeople return every night even as some of their number start to disappear. Interestingly, the performers are not just vampires, they include humans like a little person barker, Michael (Skip Martin) and a mute strongman (David Prowse) as well as the mysterious Gypsy Woman. Rather than just bats, the vampires can transform into a variety of exotic animals. Emil (Mitterhaus’ brother), for example spends most of his time as a black panther when not seducing women in his sparkly collar and pink blouse. The circus performances are all beautifully shot. The plot is pretty thin, but nice visuals (especially a bit with a magic mirror) are enough to keep a viewer engaged. Of course, it helps that the main characters are all incredibly gorgeous. I was totally surprised by how fun this film was.

Vampire Circus (1972) Robin Sachs and Lala Ward | Hammer horror films, Vampire  circus, Robin sachs
Vampire twins Heinrich (Robin Sachs) -somehow selling a shag haircut- and Helga (Lalla Ward) -just naturally stunning

Basket Case (1982) puppet rating: 8.5/10

Do you like puppets? Gross puppets? Consider watching Basket Case (1982). It’s the madcap tale of a young man, Duane Bradley (Kevin Van Hentenryck), and his parasitic twin, Belial (puppet in basket). Separated without consent, the two team up to take revenge on the doctors that tore them apart, Dr. Lifflander (Bill Freeman), Dr. Needleman (Lloyd Pace), and Dr. Kutter (Diana Browne)… who is now a veterinarian. Along the way he meets the sympathetic medical receptionist Sharon (Terri Susan Smith), who falls head over heels for him for no reason apparent to the viewer. All of this takes place in a sleazy, early 1980s New York which is always a good time (think Muppets take Manhattan but icky).

It Came From the '80s] Belial is a Total 'Basket Case' - Bloody Disgusting
Belial, or “BeLyle”, as Tubi subtitled it

There’s even a bit of a weird Canadian trivia for those keeping score: the first evil doctor who is killed, Dr. Lifflander, is played by a writer of Canadian historical fiction, Bill Freeman.

Now. The puppet. Sometimes he’s stop motion. Sometimes he’s a real person’s face in a prosthetic. Sometimes he’s rubber gloves, like it’s filmed from his perspective. But most of the time, he is a hand puppet in a basket. I would argue that the fact he is all of those things is what takes this movie from garbage to glory for most of its run time. The gore effects? Surprisingly competent.

But then… I started getting a bad feeling when he tries to feel up Duane’s raunchy neighbour, Casey (Beverly Bonner). And, finally, there’s no two ways about it, he kills and rapes and Sharon. It’s so very tragic because I really did love that puppet. The film ends when Belial strangles Duane before they both plummet to their deaths. And because the world is a terrible place there are sequels. Sequels which I don’t think I’ll watch.

Legacy of Satan (1974), hits that sweet spot

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Maya (Lisa Christian)

There are a lot of terrible films out there. Many are on Tubi, bless their hearts. The 70s were a heady time for film, with the technology becoming more accessible and an interest in experimental film. At the same time, this era became a nexus of schlock. Legacy of Satan (1974) is garbage, but it’s entertaining garbage.

In essence, Maya (Lisa Christian) is a sexually repressed housewife. Her husband, George (Paul Barry), loves her but is having a hard time dealing with her mood swings and lack of desire. Their friend, Arthur (James Procter), becomes involved in a sexy blood cult. Cult leader Dr. Muldavo (John Francis) becomes fixated on Maya. His cult worships Rakeesh (not Satan?), and they plan to lure Maya in with a costume party. Maya starts having strange visions; one is a pretty cool painting that’s bleeding from the eyes, but then she gets attacked by a guy in a crummy rubber mask, so… kind of unsatisfying.

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Got some schmutz there…

When the couple goes to the cult compound, they are drugged and separated. Maya seems fine with her fate; in fact, when George tries to rescue Maya with the help of a mute cultist, Aurelia (Anne Paul), and a magic sword, Maya turns on him. This twist was really unexpected and fun, but the film kind of fizzles out from there. Dr. Muldavo has been injured during the attempted escape, resulting in some kind of skin condition (with terrible makeup appliances) and Maya tries to nurse him back to health with increasing amounts of blood, but to no avail. The film ends with Maya crying out to Rakeesh for help as she too succumbs to whatever skin disease was afflicting Dr. Muldavo.

Even though this film is not by any means successful, it is a fun watch if you like bad movies. There is something very particular about bad films in this era, distinct from other decades, and boy does this film deliver.

1. Re-using footage. You know what you’re in for almost right away, as the same line shot from two angles is repeated in the same scene. Not a flashback, literally a minute after Maya says the line she says it again. She is reacting to Arthur quitting his job to follow the cult. “Now, George, don’t be so obstinate. He’s a grown man and I’m sure he’s got his reasons”. Astonishing.

2. That budget, though. Despite its limitations, the fashion and interior design are cutting edge, like the painting of two hot dogs on a cube, the monochromatic rooms, the diaphanous silk caftans… So good. The cultist all have sweet crescent moon necklaces which they use to scratch for blood (and look like they may have been made from pie tins). The film takes a really strange turn close to the end, which feels like they maybe ran out of money or time with their extras and sets, where they start using furniture and entire rooms from the couple’s house on what is ostensibly now the cult set, and all of a sudden there are only three people in the cult.

3. Morality restored. What is the objective of the story? Is it a condemnation of free love and the danger of syphilis? I kind of think so. That’s all I could come up with for the strange skin condition. But, in the end,, the real horror is their very, very mauve house.

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Maya and George, living that 70s decor dream.