Demons and vampires from the ’70s

The newly risen Caleb Croft (Michael Pataki) snacks on a suburban housewife in John Hayes' Grave of the Vampire (1972)

A pair of recent Blu-rays from Shout! Factory bookend ’70s horror with John Hayes’ Grave of the Vampire (1972), a too-little-known cheap exploitation feature which revitalizes vampire mythology and William Girdler’s The Manitou (1978), a low-budget studio movie with a better-than-average cast which plays a variation on demonic possession but fails to find an effective tone.

An evening with ’50s monsters

... and the mantis meets a traditional end amidst the trappings of urban civilization in Nathan Juran's The Deadly Mantis (1957)

Blu-ray technology is lavished on a pair of cheap 1950s sci-fi/horror movies with Shout! Factory’s The Deadly Mantis (1957) and Kino Lorber’s The Maze (1953), the latter is superbly restored 3D. Both movies get informative commentaries and other extras – and both probably never looked this good even in their original theatrical releases.

Giallothon!

A sadistic killer (Michele Renzullo) stalks Venice in Mario Landi’s Giallo a Venezia (1979)

Severin’s box set of Sergio Martino’s All the Colors of the Dark (1972) and Federico Caddeo’s documentary All the Colors of Giallo (2019) provides a masterclass in the poetically sordid Italian genre which flourished so briefly from the late 1960s to early 1980s. The collection of eighty-two giallo trailers with a four-hour commentary by Kat Ellinger are alone worth the price, but there’s a lot more – including two CDs of giallo scores and several informative interviews, as well as a supplementary disk which surveys the German krimi genre.

Hammer on Blu-ray from Indicator, part two

Tallulah Bankhead as Mrs. Trefoile, a religious fanatic obsessed with her son's purity in Silvio Narizzano's Fanatic (1965)

Indicator’s first box set of Hammer films on Blu-ray is an uneven selection of the studio’s mid-’60s output, including two of their best along with two of their weakest releases. Alongside Michael Carreras’ mediocre Maniac (1963) and The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb (1964), we get The Gorgon (1964), on of Terence Fisher’s finest Gothic horrors along with Silvio Narizzano’s debut feature, Fanatic (1965, aka Die! Die! My Darling!), the best of Hammer’s psychological horrors, all sporting excellent transfers and informative special features.

More late winter viewing, part two

An experimental serum revives and mutates dead soldiers in Julius Avery's Overlord (2018)

Style trumps substance in several recently viewed movies: from Stefano Sollima’s troubling depiction of mythic threats on the U.S. southern border in Sicario: Day of the Soldado (2018) to Julius Avery’s disappointing exploitation of World War Two horrors for cheap thrills in Overlord (2018), from Drew Goddard’s ersatz Tarantino-like narrative play in Bad Times at the El Royale (2018) to Kenneth Branagh’s glossy rehash of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express (2017).

More late winter viewing, part one

Be scared or laugh? Walking alien slime mold in Kinji Fukasaku's The Green Slime (1968)

Entertainment knows no bounds in terms of style or quality: recent viewing ranges from Walter Hill’s gripping Vietnam allegory Southern Comfort (1981) to Kinji Fukusaku’s pulp sci-fi The Green Slime (1968), from Richard Franklin’s Ozploitation horror Patrick (1978) to Robert Amram’s perplexing End Times “documentary” The Late Great Planet Earth (1979).

Adapting Clive Barker

Tony Todd's killer ghost schemes to destroy Helen (Virginia Madsen)'s complacent life so she'll have to join him in Bernard Rose's Clive Barker adaptation Candyman (1992)

Clive Barker’s distinctive prose style, while it creates vivid and highly visual stories, is difficult to transform into movies because the themes and meanings of the stories are strangely abstract. While Barker himself has been his own most successful adapter, there have been many attempts to capture his vision on film – some better than others. George Pavlou’s Rawhead Rex (1986) misses the mark, but Bernard Rose’s Candyman almost succeeds but is diverted by moving the story from Liverpool to Chicago.