Saturday, October 13, 2007

From Beyond the Grave

For those of you who aren’t diehard horror junkies, let me provide a bit of backstory to this. Back in the 60s and early 70s, there were a lot of really good horror movies coming out of England, often starring the likes of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. The main film company responsible for these was Hammer studios, which had reinvented itself in the late 50s by remaking old Universal horror stories, with a then-modern British twist to them. While they were the top company, they did have some competition from a company called Amicus, who couldn’t really compete well enough on the standard horror films, so they began to specialize in anthology films, where they’d throw three or four (or even five, as in the case of Tales From the Crypt and The Vault of Horror) horror stories into one film, loosely held together by some goofy framing story. This is one such film, the framing story here being that Peter Cushing is an antique shop owner who has four people come in and rip him off, each paying the price for their greed.

As with every other anthology out there, not all the stories are of equal quality. In this case, the final story, about a man who gets an antique door that opens a portal to an evil nobleman from the past that wants to sacrifice the man’s wife, is the weakest (odd, since they usually tend to bury the weakest story in the middle of these things). The others all work better, particularly the first and third stories, the first, about an antique mirror that is home to an evil spirit that forces its owner to bring home young women and kill them (a prelude to Hellraiser), being the bloodiest and scariest of the bunch to kick the film off right, and the third, about an "elemental" that sits invisibly on the shoulder of the main character and tries to kill his wife, being what essentially amounts to an outright comedy, complete with a hysterical exorcism scene that completely exposes how nonsensical haunted house movies tend to be. The second part, while not great, has its moments, and features Donald Pleasence in a great role as a seller of shoelaces and matches who gets a little too close to the protagonist, and has the greatest closing line out of all four stories.

As it stands, it’s not one of Amicus’s best anthologies (that honor would be reserved for the likes of Asylum and The House That Dripped Blood), but I have yet to see one from them that wasn’t at least good. It’s another fine addition to the Twisted Terror Collection, helping to make that one of the best horror box sets to come out this entire year.

Rating: ***

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