Ratings Key



★★★★
= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
★★★
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Two Faces of Evil, The (1980)

... aka: Hammer House of Horror: The Two Faces of Evil

Directed by:
Alan Gibson

[Please feel free to skip this paragraph if you've already read it, as I've copied and pasted this little explanation before every episode in the Hammer House of Horror series.] *Even though I usually don't cover TV shows here, I've decided to include all thirteen episodes from the short-lived British TV series "Hammer House of Horror" on this blog. There are two reasons for this: 1.) Each of the thirteen episodes runs 52 minutes and is in essence a feature (short films technically clock in at less than 45 minutes). 2.) More importantly, in the mid-1980s all but one of the episodes was released in the United States separately as a feature on VHS by the ThrillerVideo label, which were further padded with commentary from horror hostess Elvira. Since these were very well distributed titles, and in keeping with the video-store feel of the blog, I felt it important to keep these in the database and review them all individually. The one and only episode that was not released by ThrillerVideo was "The Mark of Satan," which I'll review here eventually anyway just for competition's sake. The entire series is now available on DVD through A&E.* So moving right along...





While out on a country driving excursion with her husband Martin (Gary Raymond) and young son David (Paul Hawkins), Janet (Anna Calder-Marshall) spots someone wearing a yellow raincoat and matching hat ominously standing off by the side of the road. Soon after it starts storming and the same man steps out in front of their car. Against his wife's wishes, Martin decides to give the guy a lift. Once they get going, the man suddenly attacks Martin, causing him to flip the car. Janet awakens in the hospital with vague recollections of the incident and learns that her son is uninjured but her husband has had to undergo an emergency operation on his throat and hands, but is expected to be fine. The hospital staff seem a bit apprehensive about discussing the incident and make no mention of the mysterious stranger who was also in the car with them. Janet remembers he had one abnormally long, sharpened fingernail that he used her cut her husband's throat with and whoever it was took it upon themselves to open up their suitcases and destroy all of their belongings AFTER the crash.





Janet is called into the morgue to identify a fresh corpse they have on hand as being the man who attacked them. Though she didn't really even see the assailant (his hat concealed most of his face), she definitely didn't expect the body to look like a dead ringer for her still-living husband, who's still in the hospital recovering! Even stranger, the body is missing its right hand so Janet can't even i.d. who it is based on the fingernail. Trying to put this horrible incident behind her, Janet goes on ahead to their rented country home, burns everything that was destroyed and waits for her husband to be released. When he is, Janet realizes he isn't quite the same man she married. His demeanor is a little off, he's short-tempered and has something of a violent streak. She also notices that he is in possession of something else... something long, sharp, pointy and at the tip of his finger.





Boasting one of the more enjoyable storylines of all the Hammer House of Horror episodes (though still clearly derivative of Invasion of the Body Snatchers), this one keeps the intrigue level high throughout, provides several genuinely creepy moments and has a great jolt at the end. Photography, score and the performances are all very good.

★★1/2

Rude Awakening (1980)

... aka: Hammer House of Horror: Rude Awakening

Directed by:
Peter Sasdy

[Please feel free to skip this paragraph if you've already read it, as I've copied and pasted this little explanation before every episode in the Hammer House of Horror series.] *Even though I usually don't cover TV shows here, I've decided to include all thirteen episodes from the short-lived British TV series "Hammer House of Horror" on this blog. There are two reasons for this: 1.) Each of the thirteen episodes runs 52 minutes and is in essence a feature (short films technically clock in at less than 45 minutes). 2.) More importantly, in the mid-1980s all but one of the episodes was released in the United States separately as a feature on VHS by the ThrillerVideo label, which were further padded with commentary from horror hostess Elvira. Since these were very well distributed titles, and in keeping with the video-store feel of the blog, I felt it important to keep these in the database and review them all individually. The one and only episode that was not released by ThrillerVideo was "The Mark of Satan," which I'll review here eventually anyway just for competition's sake. The entire series is now available on DVD through A&E." So moving right along...





Interrupted while in the middle of feeling up his bimbo secretary, real estate agent Norman Shenley (Denholm Elliott) has a new customer. Mr. Rayburn (James Laurenson) wants to unload a piece of property known as Lower Moat Manner as quickly as possible. The property's former owner didn't quite die, she just disappeared and has been missing so long she's been legally pronounced dead. As chief executor of the woman's will, Mr. Rayburn is in change of selling it. He leaves a paper with directions on how to get to the estate, but strangely enough hasn't left an address or phone number where he can be reached. Norman heads out to the secluded country mansion and soon after entering the doors, an electronic voice coming through the intercom device threatens "You shouldn't have done it. You shouldn't have killed your wife." Suddenly, two suits of armor come to life and his wife's body drops from a dumbwaiter. Turns out that was just a nightmare. Norman awakens in a cold sweat with his shrewish wife Emily (Pat Heywood) nagging him. She tells him she suspects he wants to kill her and insinuates that she knows about the affair he's having with his secretary.





Norman goes to work, where his secretary Lolly (Lucy Gutteridge) has transformed from blonde bimbo to punk smart ass; her first of many identity transformations throughout. He tells her about his awful dream, but begins to wonder if it really was a dream when he pulls directions to the manor out of his pocket. She suggests he go, but when he returns to the spot there is no manor, just a telephone box by an empty field. He goes in to call his secretary and finds the directions have changed into a threatening note, the phone box won't open and it starts filling with smoke. Lolly shows up in a beret and speaking with a French accent and the two start making love. Just another nightmare. Norman tells his wife he wants a divorce, but she refuses and the nightmares continue. In one, he and Lolly are trapped inside a condemned building while it's being demolished. In another, he goes to visit the manor house and converses with the home's owner, who turns out to be a ghost who hangs him with help from his staff.





The cast is very good but they're let down somewhat by weak writing. The film constantly mixes up nightmares and reality (in one instance having a dream-inside-of-a-dream-inside-of-a-dream), and tries to disorient and confuse the viewer in the same fashion the central character is confused and disoriented, but it's all really for naught since the ending is completely predictable right out of the gate. Still, there's some good black comedy in here and enough amusing moments to justify seeing it.

★★1/2
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