Archive for Pete Walker

House of Long Shadows (1983) Review

Posted in House of Long Shadows with tags , , , , , , , on November 25, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

20140207-205002.jpg
HOUSE OF LONG SHADOWS

** Out of 5

Tagline- Room for Every Nightmare. A Nightmare in Every Room

Release Date- June 17th, 1983

Running Time- 102-Minutes

Rating- PG

Screenplay- Michael Armstrong

Director- Pete Walker

Starring- Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Desi Arnaz, John Carradine, Sheila Keith

Released in 1983 House of Long Shadows is a semi-forgotten film, but has retained some notoriety due to the cast, which includes iconic horror actors Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and John Carradine. The cast also includes the wonderful Sheila Keith who sadly seems sort of forgotten. Lastly, House of Long Shadows was also the last film directed by Pete Walker best known for his genre classics House of Whipcord and Frightmare, which are my two favorite Pete Walker films. With such a great cast, perhaps the best casting for any horror picture and a great filmmaker in Pete Walker, House of Long Shadows should have been epic and the film was also produced by Yoram Globus & Menahem Golan, but instead the end result was simply an average film that was a nice attempt, but ultimately extremely lackluster.

House of Long Shadows is in many ways a throwback to the Universal horror films of the 30s and is often compared to the James Whale classic the Old Dark House, which was later remade by William Castle in the 60s and Castle was a filmmaker Vincent Price had plenty of success with. Unlike many of Pete Walker’s films of the 70s, which could be graphic at times and of course 80s horror were often quite gory, House of Long Shadows relies more on atmosphere just like the horror films of the 30s. As much as I love 80s horror I also adore horror films from the 30s as it was a much simpler time. I have zero problems with nudity and gore, but when it becomes a cheap gimmick to cover up subpar filmmaking I do have as issue so I appreciate what Pete Walker was attempting it just again was lackluster. Getting a copy of House of Long Shadows is quite difficult and pricy. I saw the film on Amazon Instant Video and it had to be from a VHS since at times its far too dark to make anything out and maybe in someways it also hindered my enjoyment. As I read reviews I see a lot of perfect scores or nearly perfect and while I understand we’re all gonna have a different opinion, but would you really rate this as highly as something as Dawn of the Dead? When a film is long OOP or a seldom seen film it seems to me as if reviews are often overly kind and I can’t help except think people rate films like this higher since they’re tough to come by and aren’t well known.

Kenneth Magee (Arnaz) a successful author makes a 20-grand bet with his publisher he can write a classic novel in only 24-hours. He heads off to a remote manor to get started, but upon arriving he finds the manor inhabited by a strange family harboring a dark secret.

House of Long Shadows is based off a novel from 1913 titled Seven Keys to Baldpate by Earl Derr Biggers and is also based off a play by George M. Cohan of the same name as the novel. Since I never read the novel or saw the play I have no idea how true to the script sticks to the original material. The Old Dark House was also based off a novel from 1928 titled Benighted by J.B. Priestly. So I really couldn’t tell you if any of the novels are a like or if House of Long Shadows has more in common with one than the other. I love the idea behind the film, but the script by Michael Armstrong just isn’t as interesting as the plot. Characters are fairly decent, but also not interesting enough to carry the film despite having a truly terrific group of actors. I think many of the problems of the film boil down to the script. While not poorly written per se its just again never as interesting as the plot.

Director Pete Walker gained a cult following with his films in the 70s such as Schizo, House of Whipcord, Frightmare, the Confessional and the Comeback. House of Long Shadows was quite a departure from those films for two reasons. The first being all those films have a decent amount of violence however they aren’t body count films and Pete Walker really knows how to stage a great death scene and along with Dario Argento are my two favorites in that regard. Walker is also no stranger to controversy as such films as House of Whipcord, the Confessional and Home Before Midnight caused a bit of a stir and if released in modern times they would still be controversial in particular the last two films mentioned. House of Long Shadows however features very little violence and there’s no controversy either. Most of the deaths aren’t seen and the most graphic is a woman who has her face burnt, but we don’t actually see it happen we just see her face afterwards, but its nothing graphic and the PG rating is warranted unlike films such as Jaws and Grizzly, which are quite violent for PG rated films (of course those two as well as this came before PG-13 it wasn’t until 1984 with Red Dawn though Red Dawn was the 2nd film rated PG-13, but first to be released). As much as I like Pete Walker his films can at times have some pacing issues and I found the pace to House of Long Shadows quite slow and while there is some decent suspense at times this would easily rate at my least favorite film he’s made with this being the 6th film I’ve seen by him.

The cast as I mentioned was terrific and Price, Cushing, Lee and Carradine like always are wonderful too bad they didn’t have better material. Sheila Keith at least to me is just as iconic in the horror genre as the other actors in the film and she deserves far more attention than she gets. Her performances in Pete Walker’s other films such as House of Whipcord, Frightmare and the Comeback are amazing. Desi Arnaz, Jr is of course the son of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz and he’s gotten some negative reviews here, but I think they’re off base as he was actually quite good and it really isn’t fair to compare him to the other actors as they’re icons for a reason.

Overall I really wanted to like House of Long Shadows as a fan of the cast and director, but after a decent start I found the middle sections a little too slow before getting better in the final act, but by this time the film lost me. Perhaps on another viewing I’ll warm up to it, but I just wasn’t feeling it. As I mentioned this was the final film made by Pete Walker.

Frightmare (1974) Review

Posted in Frightmare with tags , , , , on October 7, 2013 by Last Road Reviews

20130628-205833.jpg
FRIGHTMARE

**** Out 5

Tagline- What Terrifying Craving Made Her Kill and Kill and Kill

Release Date- November 6th, 1974

Running Time- 83-Minutes

Rating- NR

Screenplay- David McGillivray (Story Pete Walker)

Director- Pete Walker

Starring- Rupert Davies, Sheila Keith, Deborah Fairfax, Paul Greenwood, Kim Butcher

Released in 1974 Frightmare has often been dubbed the UK version of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre and while these two films have a couple of things in common they’re also very different. As I write this review this is the 4th film by Pete Walker that I’ve seen. Schizo and the Comeback were ok films that had potential, but were a little sluggish in pacing and in the end were simply ok films that didn’t reach their fullest potential. The House of Whipcord was an excellent film and that’s the film that really made me a fan of Walker. Frightmare is one of those sneaky good films. It starts off ok and as the film goes along there really isn’t anything special about it, but by the end I was totally hooked.

In 1957 Dorothy Yates (Keith) and her husband Edmund (Davies) were sent off to an insane asylum for a series of brutal murders. Now released they live in a remote village, but soon Dorothy is back to old ways luring people to her house and killing them.

The screenplay by David McGillivray based off a story by Pete Walker is as much a drama as it is a horror film. For the good majority of the first half the focus is more on Edmund’s daughter Jackie (Fairfax) who is looking after her younger and rebellious sister Debbie (Butcher). Jackie also checks in on her father and stepmother and like I said the script is very much a drama early on and while in someways this does slow things down, but it also adds a lot of depth to the characters as well. For the most part, Frightmare is cleverly plotted and well written.

Thus far of the 4 films I’ve seen by Pete Walker the biggest problem I’ve had is the pacing can sometimes be a little sluggish with the exception of House of Whipcord. Sometimes a films biggest asset can also be its biggest flaw. In Schizo it mixes horror and drama and the same can be said about the Comeback and the horror elements themselves are a mixture of slasher and ghost story. I guess what I’m getting at is I like the fact Walker attempts to add more depth to his films, but they can sometimes lack an identity. Frightmare follows in tune with that as its very much a family drama through the first half and even the 2nd half it still plays a large part. The pacing of Frightmare can be a little sluggish in some spots, but never boring and with that said though there are moments where you might wonder where this is all going. The first onscreen murder doesn’t happen until the 54-minute mark. However be patient because when the final act comes all the family drama is very much worth it as this really adds to the intense final act, which featured some great suspense as there were plenty of tense moments with a total shocker of an ending.

I also love the visual look of the film towards the end with the bluish tint used outside of the farmhouse as this really adds a layer of tension. Frightmare though is most noted for its graphic violence and sure there is plenty of carnage on display and of all the films by Pete Walker I’ve seen this is probably his most violent, but its not as graphic as most cite. I suppose for 1974 there is a lot of carnage, but I can think of many films far more violent around this time or even before it. Though some deaths are nice and brutal with almost a meanness behind them, which in part makes them a little more shocking than they actually are. House of Whipcord is still my favorite Pete Walker film, but Frightmare is very close behind. Like I said through some of the film you might be wondering where all this is going, but just be patient as its all worth it at the end.

All the performances are quite strong, but Sheila Keith is brilliant as Dorothy Yates; she’s amazingly creepy and she’s also worked with Pete Walker on a few other films and she was great in those as well, but this was by far her creepiest role and its a shame she’s sort of forgotten. I’d rate her as one of the great horror actresses who deserves far, far more credit than given. The rest of the cast is also excellent in their roles with Kim Butcher besides Sheila Keith being the standout.

Overall Frightmare is an excellent film and the film is sometimes dubbed a Texas Chainsaw Massacre knockoff is way off base and for the record both films were released the same year. In someways, Frightmare can be a little slow and like I said before you might wonder where this is all going, but when it gets there you’ll better appreciate the first half of the film. Frightmare is creepy with a brilliant and chilling final act.

Frightmare like many European films goes under many different titles. Alternate titles were a little more common in non-English speaking countries, but Frightmare also goes under the title Cover Up, Once Upon a Frightmare and even Frightmare II. Back in 1983 there was another film titled Frightmare and its common sometimes for distribution companies to bill one films as a sequel even if unrelated. Peter Walker’s Frightmare pre-dates the 1983 production by 9-years!

20130628-205851.jpg

20130628-205855.jpg

20130628-205900.jpg

20130628-205905.jpg

The Confessional (1976) Review

Posted in Confessional with tags , , , on July 19, 2013 by Last Road Reviews

20130519-162614.jpg

THE CONFESSIONAL

*** ½ Out of 5

Tagline- Tortured by Desires His Vows Forbid, Master of a House of Mortal Sin

Release Date- February 1976

Running Time- 103-Minutes

Rating- R

Screenplay- David McGillivray & Pete Walker

Director- Pete Walker

Starring- Anthony Sharp, Susan Penhaligon, Stephanie Beacham, Norman Eshley and Sheila Keith

Released in 1976 The Confessional, which also goes under such titles as House of Mortal Sin, The Confessional Murders & The Confessional: House of Mortal Sin is a solid film, but like some of Pete Walker’s films the execution could be slightly off at times. The Confessional is much more of a thriller, but the graphic murders are what links it to the horror genre. The 70s are my favorite for cinema and the horror genre was at its very best with some truly frightening films and a lot of these films were as much drama as they were horror and this is very much the case with a good portion of Pete Walker’s films. 1976 was quite the year for religion themed horror as besides The Confessional we also had The Omen and Alice, Sweet Alice. The Confessional was a solid film, but doesn’t hit the highs of Pete Walker’s House of Whipcord and Frightmare both released in 1974, but in the end its a solid enough effort despite the somewhat sluggish pacing.

After Jenny Welch (Susan Penhaligon) attends confession Father Xavier Meldrum (Sharp) becomes obsessed with her and resorts to blackmail and murder.

The screenplay by David McGillivray based off a story by Pete Walker is well plotted and well written with some solid characters. While the script isn’t perfect and can be a little too wordy at times it does make for a tense drama/thriller. The script also has some homages to Psycho, which was a nice tough even if a little cliched even for the time. I think the problem is at times the script does lose direction and some scenes feel as if they’re fillers; overall the script does have some flaws, but it still works well for the most part and is generally well written.

Director Pete Walker delivers some nice suspense, but like some of Walker’s other productions the ideas are there, but at times certain things can lack. The pace was strong early on, but as the film goes on pacing can be a bit of an issue at times and while I was never bored the film might have been better served with some editing. The one thing I love about Pete Walker’s films are the death scenes; once again Walker stages some terrific murders and quite honestly outside of Dario Argento, Walker’s films feature some of my favorite murders. Overall the direction is strong as is the film, but only brought down by some sluggish pacing at times. Films like Schizo and the Comeback while nice efforts were brought down by the pacing, but here despite the problem with pacing, the Confessional still turns out well. Don’t expect anything on the level of House of Whipcord or Frightmare, but in the end it’s a good film, but could again have used some editing in the middle.

Sheila Keith is a bit underused here and while she’s creepy it seems she was cast for the sake of it as she never really gets to show off her talents like she did in past Pete Walker films House of Whipcord and Frightmare. With that said though Sheila Keith is great despite being underused and towards the end she gets a little more to do, but when you have an actress of her caliber you must take advantage of that. Also look for Kim Butcher of Frightmare in a small role in the opening act.

Over the Confessional was a solid entry in the career of Pete Walker and again the middle sections can lack at times, but when all is said and done this was a solid enough film that should please fans of Pete Walker. What it may lack in pacing, it makes up for in atmosphere and death scenes. Like I said just don’t expect House of Whipcord or Frightmare and take the film for what it is.

20130519-162627.jpg

20130519-162633.jpg

Schizo (1976) Review

Posted in Schizo with tags , , , on February 9, 2013 by Last Road Reviews

20130209-132913.jpg
SCHIZO

** ½ Out of 5

Tagline- Schizophrenia. When the Left Hand Doesn’t Know Who the Right Hand Is Killing

Release Date- November 11th, 1976

Running Time- 109-Minutes

Rating- R

Screenplay- David McGillivray

Director- Peter Walker

Starring- Lynne Frederick, John Leyton, Stephanie Beacham, Jack Watson, John Fraser

Released in 1976 Schizo, which also goes under the title Amok is an early example of the still developing slasher film, while I wouldn’t really label this a slasher flick for the most part, it does feature many elements we would later see in slashers and had this been made a few years later it probably would have turned out a lot different.

Samantha (Frederick) and Alan (Leyton) are set to be married and when William Haskins (Watson) finds out he grabs a knife and gets on a train to where Samantha is. Not long after arriving he begins to follow Samantha and soon the bodies begin to pile up. Samantha tries to tell people about possible danger, but no one seems to take her concerns seriously.

The screenplay by David McGillivray has the right ideas, but it just takes a little too long before it gets into more detail; the characters are mostly faceless and barley developed and in general not the most interesting bunch. While not poorly written it just seems as if there was more that could have been done with the plot. The twist ending I sort of figured out from the beginning and I can’t say why since I don’t wanna spoil anything, but it was a pretty good twist and the ending strays from the typical ending we get in these films. We’ve seen movies like this before and done better, but its just the first half of the script that kinda sinks this.

Director Pete Walker delivers a sluggishly paced movie and from the start, Walker never really sets any kind of tone for the movie. The stalk scenes fall flat since it takes too long to establish the history between the the characters and while this may be more on the writing than direction, but regardless Walker doesn’t really get much out of the stalk scenes at least in the first half of the film. The pacing is always an issue, but does pick up a bit in the 2nd half and Walker also delivers some excellently staged murders with some nice suspense, but its just a whole the pacing is a little too sluggish and outside of the death scenes the suspense falls a bit flat. The death scenes as stated are well staged and quite violent and this does slightly make up for the sluggish pacing.

Overall Schizo isn’t by any means a bad movie and don’t let my rating fool you. The 2nd half of the film is actually pretty good, but the film gets off to such a sluggish start I did kind of zone out at times. Upon another viewing I could easily change my rating to a 3 or even higher since I think this might be a film that grows on me. The death scenes are actually very well done with some brutality and suspense, but again its just the other areas where the suspense kind of falls flat. Schizo is a decent watch, but could have been a lot more.

20130209-132936.jpg

20130209-132958.jpg