Thursday, October 22, 2020

Titles by country: Colombia


Colombia's greatest contribution to pre-1990 horror, perhaps aside from providing fine coffee to keep underpaid actors awake during late night filming, is being the shooting location for notorious Italian shockers like Cannibal Holocaust (1980) and Cannibal Ferox (1981). Yes, I leave no clichés unturned here at BPOH so I'll probably have to also talk about Cuban cigars and Brazil nuts when I get around to doing those countries. But really there's not a whole lot to talk about when it comes to Colombian horror otherwise so I have to talk about something.

The only repeat offender from this time period that I'm aware of is Jairo Pinilla Téllez, who is not well-known most places (actually he's not known at all most places) but apparently is heralded as the king of horror, fantasy and sci-fi in his home country and is the subject of film retrospectives and such. Pinilla made at least four genre films during the 70s and 80s, starting with Funeral siniestro in 1977 (pictured above in between Funeral stars Derly Diaz and Gustavo de la Hoz). Area maldita / "Damned Area" (1980) involves pot harvesters attacked by a killer snake and certainly sounds pretty cool, as does 27 horas con la muerte / "27 Hours with the Dead" (1982) about temporary death pills being used as part of an insurance scam. Extraña Regresión / "Strange Regression" (1985), the only film of his I've actually seen, isn't very good but it's interesting in another weird way. The film was shot in Spanish and then English dubbed and then had Spanish subtitles added to it supposedly to trick moviegoers into thinking it was from the U.S. because American genre films were more popular in South America at the time! Despite actually being in English it wasn't distributed in English-language countries.

Aside from Pinilla's contributions, there are just a few other scattered genre films. Pasos en la niebla (1977) from José María Arzuaga is an old dark house movie. Luis Ospina's Pura sangre / "Pure Blood" (1982) is about a man needing to kill and drain the blood of victims to stay alive. Carne de tu carne (given the English titles "Bloody Flesh" or "Flesh of My Flesh") is a full-blown, award-winning surreal film featuring some kind of supernatural force, possession and incest and was directed by Carlos Mayolo, who was also one of the stars of Pura sangre. There's also the exploitative jungle adventure Remolino sangriento ("Bloody Whirlwind," though best known to English-speakers as Hell in the Jungle); a Colombian / Italian / Spanish co-production that just barely qualifies for the list. The eight films mentioned in the above two paragraphs are the only Colombian horror films made between 1950 and 1990 that I'm aware of at the moment.

A number of recent horror films, like The Boy (2015) and The Belko Experiment (2016), were shot in Colombia though weren't Colombia productions. As far as recent homegrown Colombian horror, there are some (mostly low budget) films being produced there but nothing has really stood out.







- Footsteps in the Fog (Pasos en la niebla) (1977; José María Arzuaga)
- Sinister Funeral (Funeral siniestro) (1977; Jairo Pinilla Téllez)

Hell in the Jungle (Infierno en la selvaSavana violenza carnale) (1979; Roberto Bianchi Montero, Jorge Gaitán) [co-ItalySpain]


- Damned Area (Area maldita) (1980; Jairo Pinilla Téllez)

- Pure Blood (Pura sangre) (1982; Luis Ospina)
- 27 Hours with the Dead (27 horas con la muerte) (1982; Jairo Pinilla Téllez)

- Bloody Flesh (Carne de tu carne; Flesh of Your Flesh) (1983; Carlos Mayolo) ▼

- Strange Regression (Extraña Regresión) (1985; Jairo Pinilla Téllez)



- La Herencia (1973) was a Colombian telenovela. Not sure of the length but it involves ghosts.
- Pinilla also made T-O: Triángulo de oro - 'La isla fantasma' (1985), which seems to be some kind of adventure but supposedly has things like monsters and killer plants in it so I'm not entirely sure if it can be included here or not.
- Both Pura sangre and Carne de tu carne are available with English subtitles. I'm not sure about the rest.

- Luigi Cozzi's Alien Contamination (1980) was partially filmed in Colombia and (according to the director himself) partially funded by Colombian drug dealers! I'm not sure if I should list this or not but I'm leaving it off for the time being.
- Gave Carlos Mayolo's La mansión de Araucaima (1986), which has been described as a "Tropical Gothic," a quick look. It is listed on some websites as horror but I skimmed through it and it doesn't appear to be. If I can find an English subtitled version I'll watch it and decide for myself.


Anything to add? Drop me a note down below.

Films by country: Czechoslovakia


What is now Czech Republic and Slovakia was previously Czechoslovakia and it's had a number of changes in both government and land size over the years. One thing that remained fairly consistent is its strong film industry. Though Czechoslovakia didn't gain sovereignty from the Austrian-Hungarian Empire until 1918, film activity was present in the area going as far back as 1898 and the shorts of Jan Kříženecký. There were even a few genre films produced way back then, including Jan Arnold Palous' macabre black comedy short Nocní des / "Night Terror" or "The Nightmare" (1914), which involved the disposal of a corpse. Other genre films popping up in the silent era after Czechoslovakia was established include Jan S. Kolár's Príchozí z temnot / "Arrival from the Darkness" (1921), involving alchemy and a man being brought back to life, Theodor Pistek's Svatební kosile (1925), which involved a boyfriend back from the dead and Kolár's Mrtví zijí (1922; aka The Dead Are Living or The Mysterious Doctor of Prague) and Alfons Bohumil Stastný and Drahos Zelenský's Sílený lékar (1920), both of which involve the exploits of mad doctors. For most of these titles, all that still exist are stills and / or film fragments.

Barrandov Studios, the countries largest film studio and also one of the largest in Europe, was formed in 1933 (and still exists to this day). However, there would only be the occasional genre film in the 30s (like the 1936 French / Czech co-production Le golem directed by the French Julien Duvivier) and 40s (Jiri Slavicek's Podobizna / "The Portrait" [1948], involving a cursed painting), and none that I'm aware of from the 50s. A lot of that had to do with World War II and the aftermath. Many of the top artists fled during that time while some others were killed by Nazis. Following a communist coup in the late 40s, the Czech film industry became nationalized, which also had a detrimental effect when it came to pure artistic freedom. After a period of Czech New Wave in the 1960s, the country then faced the Warsaw Pact and Soviet control and even more censorship, which prompted other top directors to leave. One of those was Milos Forman, who ended up in the U.S. and found great success with One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975), which won him a Best Director Oscar, and subsequent films.

With all that said, it's rather surprising then that there's a decent amount of Czech horror over the course of the next few decades. Even when live action horror was frowned upon, horror remained well represented through the dark, adult-themed stop motion animation of artists like Jirí Trnka (below, left) and Jan Svankmajer (below, center). Animation also served as an ideal platform to hide various politcal and social messages that likely wouldn't have otherwise passed censors at the time. The much better-known Svankmajer, who tackled everything from Lewis Carroll to Edgar Allan Poe along with his original stuff, even cultivated a strong global fan following for his work.


Another director that certainly needs singled out is Juraj Herz (above, right), who gained international recognition with his extremely bleak and creepy The Cremator (1969), which centered around a deranged mortician and his highly-disturbing thoughts. According to the director, his next genre offering Morgiana (1972) was deemed so eerie that he was "forbidden" from making any other films for the next two years as punishment from the government. Nevertheless, he continued on with the Gothic horror spin on Beauty and the Beast (1978's The Virgin and Monster), which features a unique bird-like "beast," Ferat Vampire (1982), which involved a race car that runs on human blood, and other genre films.

A number of other Czech horror films from this time have went on to a large following, most especially Jaromil Jires' surreal coming-of-age fable Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (1970), which started gaining traction with mid-2000s DVD releases in the U.S. and UK before becoming even more famous after Criterion Collection took it under its wing. It is now easily one of the most popular and most viewed of all of the films listed below, only really rivaled by two stop motion films: Jirí Barta's The Pied Piper (1986) and Svankmajer's Alice (1988) . However, there are a number of seldom-viewed gems that deserve to be better known than what they are, including notable New Wave director Vera Chytilová's unique Wolf's Hole (1987) and Jirí Svoboda's visually stunning Uncle Cyril (1989). I'm hoping to discover more of these.

It wasn't until I started making this list that I realized that I've either liked or loved every single Czech genre film I've seen from this time period. Note: I've seen a lot more than what I currently have reviews up for but that'll be changing here soon.



- Vodnik (1955; Václav Sklenár) [short] [puppets]

- Of Things Supernatural (O věcech nadpřirozených) (1959; Jirí Krejcík, Jaroslav Mach, Milos Makovec) [anthology]


- Cybernetic Grandma, The (Kybernetická babicka) (1962; Jirí Trnka) [animated short]

Mysterious Mr. Hyde, The (Záhadný pan Hyde) (1964; George Skalenakis) [TV]

- Hand, The (Ruka) (1965; Jirí Trnka) [animated short]
- Invisible, The (Neviditelný) (1965; Jirí Belka) [TV]

- Punch and Judy (Rakvickarna) (1966; Jav Svankmajer) [animated short]

Sir Arne's Treasure (Poklad pana Arna) (1967; Václav Bedrich) [animated short]

- Confectioner (Cukrář) (1968; Ivan Lev) [short]
- Flat, The (Byt) (1968; Jan Svankmajer) [short]
- Revenge (Pomsta) (1968; Jirí Brdecka) [animated short]

- Cremator, The (Spalovac mrtvol) (1969; Juraj Herz) ▲
- Meze Waltera Hortona (1969; Jirina Pokorná-Makoszová) [TV short]
- Prague Nights (Prazske noci) (1969; Jirí Brdecka, Milos Makovec, Evald Schorm)


- Feminine Carnivores (Die Weibchen) (1970; Zbynek Brynych) [co-France, Italy, WG]
- Great Unknown, The (Velká neznámá) (1970; Pavel Hobl)
- Konečná (1970; Jaroslav Soukup) [short]
Ossuary, The (Kostnice) (1970; Jan Svankmajer) [short]
- Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (Valerie a týden divu) (1970; Jaromil Jires) ▼
- Witchhammer (Kladivo na carodejnice) (1970; Otakar Vávra)

- Count Dracula (Hrabe Drakula) (1971; Anna Procházková) [TV]
- Short Night of the Glass Dolls (La corta notte delle bambole di vetro) (1971; Aldo Lado) [co-Italy, West Germany, Yugoslavia]
- There Was a Miller on the River (Jsouc na řece mlynář jeden) (1971; Jirí Brdecka) [animated short]

- Morgiana (1972; Juraj Herz)

- Crabs, The (Krabi) (1976; Václav Mergl) [animated short]

- Castle of Otranto (Otrantský zámek) (1977; Jan Svankmajer) [animated short]

- Sorcerer's Apprentice, The (Carodejuv ucen) (1978; Karel Zeman) [animation] [co-WG]
- Spectre's Bride, The (Svatební kosile) (1978; Josef Kábrt) [animated short]
- Virgin and the Monster, The (Panna a netvor) (1978; Juraj Herz) ▼

- Ninth Heart, The (Deváté srdce) (1979; Juraj Herz)


- Bloody Lady, The (Krvavá pani) (1980; Viktor Kubal)
- Mystery of Frey Abbey, The (Záhada Freyského opatství) (1980; Petr Hvižď)

- Mysterious Castle in the Carpathians (Tajemství hradu v Karpatech) (1981; Oldrich Lipský)
- Visitors from the Galaxy (Gosti iz galaksije) (1981; Dusan Vukotic) [co-Yugoslavia]

- Fall of the House of Usher (Zánik domu Usherú) (1982; Jan Svankmajer) [animated short]
- Ferat Vampire (Upír z Feratu) (1982; Juraj Herz)
- Turn of the Screw, The (1982; Petr Weigl) [TV] [co-West Germany]

- Down to the Cellar (Do pivnice) (1983; Jan Svankmajer) [animated short]

- Grandmothers Recharge Well! ('Babicky dobíjejte presne!') (1984; Ladislav Rychman)
- Pit, the Pendulum and Hope, The (Kyvadlo, jáma a nadeje) (1984; Jan Svankmajer) [short]

- Pied Piper, The (Krysar) (1986; Jirí Barta) [animation] [co-West Germany]

- Freckled Max and the Spooks (Pehavý Max a strasidlá) (1987; Juraj Jakubisko) [co-Austria, France, Italy, Spain, West Germany]
- Last Theft, The (Poslední lup) (1987; Jirí Barta) [short]
- Lokis (1987; Anna Procházková) [TV]
- Wolf's Hole (Vlci bouda) (1987; Vera Chytilová) ▼

- Alice (Neco z Alenky) (1988; Jan Svankmajer) [animation] [co-Switzerland, UK, WG]
- Virile Games (Manly Games; Muzné hry) (1988; Jan Svankmajer) [animated short]

- Canterville Ghost, The (Strasidlo cantervillské) (1989; Vít Olmer) [TV] ▼
- Ghoulash (Guláš) (1989; Aleš V. Horal) [short]
- Uncle Cyril (Prokletí domu Hajnù) (1989; Jirí Svoboda)
Vampýr (1989; Jaroslav Hanus) [TV short]

- About a Hungry Babe (O babe hladové) (1990; Jitka Nemcová) [TV]
- Witches Cave, The (Podzemelye vedm) (1990; Yuriy Moroz) [co-Soviet Union]



- Petr Schulhoff's Po stopách krve / "On the Trail of Blood" (1970) involves a serial killer of children and may qualify.
- The short Fantom opery (1987) sounds like a version of Phantom of the Opera but the credits claim it's based on Arthur Conan Doyle. I'm actually not quite sure what this is. Throwing it on here so I can keep tabs on it.

- Howling II: Your Sister Is a Werewolf (1985) was mostly filmed in Prague but I could not find Czech producers or a Czech production company attached. However, many of the crew people and some of the supporting actors were locals. Not entirely sure if this belongs on the list or not.


Anything to add? Drop me a note down below.

Films by country: Guatemala


An IMDb search of Guatemalan films from 1890 to 1990 turns up just nineteen titles, the earliest of which - 1950's El sombrerón / "The Man with the Giant Hat"  - also happens to be horror. More specifically, it's a technically crude ghost tale based on local folklore the you can read more about on my review. It's also the earliest listed Guatemalan film on both Letterboxd and a Wiki list of films from the country and appears to be the earliest surviving Guatemalan sound film period. Not that there were a lot of others before it. If there were, I'm not aware of them.

El sombrerón would actually be the only Guatemalan genre film from this time period if not for co-productions. All of the 70s films listed below were co-financed by the production company Tikal Internacional (called Cinematografica Tikal after 1973), which appears to be Guatemalan. While I'm not 100 percent sure about the origins of this company, every film in their catalogue was shot on location in Guatemala (mostly in and around Antigua) and most were either directed or produced (sometimes both) by Guatemalan-born Rafael Lanuza. However, Mexican directors Arturo Martínez and Tito Novaro also worked on these and most of the stars were Mexican wrestlers like Mil Máscaras and Blue Demon. In other words, it's rather hard to tell here so I'm making a concession until I know better. The "Champions of Justice" and most of the "Mummies of Guanajuato" series' were made by this particular production company, along with a number of Superzan adventures. Another production company called Acuario Films produced several genre films in Guatemala as well, though without the presence of Lanuza as producer I'm leaving them off the main list.

In recent years there's been a number of Guatemalan horror shorts as well as two features that I'm aware of: Rodrigo Estrada Alday's Exorcismo Documentado (2012) and Jayro Bustamante's La llorona (2019); the latter being a French co-production.



- Man with the Giant Hat, The (El sombrerón) (1950; Guillermo Andreu, Eduardo Fleischman)




- Robbery of the Mummies of Guanajuato, The (El robo de las momias de Guanajuato) (1972; Tito Novaro) [co-Mexico]

- Castle of the Mummies of Guanajuato, The (El castillo de las momias de Guanajuato) (1973; Tito Novaro) [co-Mexico]

- Macabre Legends of the Colony (Leyendas macabras de la colonia) (1974; Arturo Martínez) [co-Mexico]
- Triumph of the Champions of Justice (El triunfo de los campeones justicieros) (1974; Rafael Lanuza) [co-Mexico] ▼

Mummies of San Angel, The (Las momias de San Ángel) (1975; Arturo Martínez) [co-Mexico]

- Mansion of the 7 Mummies (La mansión de las 7 momias) (1977; Rafael Lanuza) [co-Mexico]






- Alfredo B. Crevenna's filmed-in-Guatemala La satánica (1973) is a melodrama involving a gold-digger and isn't horror.
- However, Crevenna's La mujer del diablo / "The Devil's Wife" (1974) and Pesadilla mortal / "Deadly Nightmare" (1980) ARE horror and both were filmed in Guatemala. I'm just not sure if the production company - Acuario Films - is Guatemalan or Mexican so they're being left off for now.


Anything to add? Drop me a note down below.

Re-Animator (1985)

... aka: A Hora dos Mortos-Vivos (The Hour of the Living Dead)
... aka: H.P. Lovecraft's Re-Animator
... aka: Resurrección satánica (Satanic Resurrection)
... aka: Zombio

Directed by:
Stuart Gordon

Re-Animator basically came about because Gordon (then mostly associated with stage productions and founding the Organic Theater Company) wanted to make something Frankenstein-like to counter the overabundance of vampire movies being produced. That led him to H.P. Lovecraft's previously-unfilmed 1922 six-part serial Herbert West, Reanimator, which he first considered turning into a stage adaptation and then a TV pilot before being convinced by eventual producer Brian Yuzna to go the feature film route instead. It was eventually filmed in Hollywood over the course of 18 days in the winter of 1984 for around 900,000 dollars.

What probably came as a surprise to most involved, especially in a decade where many were coming down especially hard on gory horror films, was that the film would become a huge success with critics despite the fact it was bloodier and gorier than most of its competition. It hit the Cannes Film Festival to rave reviews and won a special award there, before heading to other film festivals and replicating its success. Critics for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Village Voice (who selected it as one of the Top 10 films of the year) and other major magazines doled out praise and even many of the stuffier critics like Pauline Kael and Roger Ebert jumped on board. The positive word of mouth was enough to turn this into a box office success and it doubled its budget back in U.S. theaters alone. The film likely would have been an even bigger hit had the MPAA not slapped it with an X rating, which forced the distributors to release it unrated instead.

When it was time for a VHS release, original U.S. distributor Vestron opted to release two versions: An R-rated cut and an uncut / unrated one. I'm sure you can guess which version was more popular! Oddly, the R-rated version runs 93 minutes while the uncut version runs just 86. That's because the cut version contains more dialogue scenes, which were removed from the gorier version to improve its pacing. A 105-minute "integral cut" was later assembled utilizing all of the footage. All three versions are now available on various DVD and Blu-ray releases.

Re-Animator's success ended up leading to a lot of other things, starting with opening the door for many more Lovecraft film adaptations (or Lovecraft "inspired" films) plus a resurgence in the author's popularity. Gordon and Yuzna both became top genre directors over the next few years while both male star Jeffrey Combs and female star Barbara Crampton became genre mainstays. If anything, the film's cult reputation has only grown stronger in recent years. It was name dropped in 2000's Best Picture Academy Award winner American Beauty and is now a frequent fixture of Top Horror Movies of All Time lists. A critic's poll done for Time Out placed it at #93 while Rotten Tomatoes methodology has it listed as the 58th best reviewed horror film of all time. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

We're first introduced to two very different third year students at Miskatonic Medical School in Arkham, Massachusetts. The first is Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott), who's bright, clean-cut, well-respected, studious, compassionate and conscientious. He's the type of guy who actually feels something if he loses a patient, just as he later feels something when he loses his cat. Dan's the exact type of person who should be pursuing a career as a doctor and it's not because he's still young, idealistic and hasn't had the time to get completely burnt-out and desensitized yet. It's because he seems like a genuinely good guy. On the flip side there's Herbert West (Combs), who's much more into the research side of the medical profession. West is intense, brilliant, short-fused, socially off-putting, more than a little bit arrogant and something of a sociopath. Once he puts his mind to something, there's just no stopping him. Ethics and morals be damned.

Herbert has just transferred to the school from Switzerland, where he was doing some kind of "independent research" with the renowned Dr. Hans Gruber (Al Berry)... only Gruber ended up dead at the end of it. He immediately manages to get on brain researcher / teacher Dr. Carl Hill's (David Gale) bad side by calling his work outmoded and accusing him of plagiarizing his late mentor's work. Dan puts an ad on a school bulletin board looking for a roommate to share expenses with. Guess who shows up at his door? Despite Dan's fiancée Megan (Crampton) picking up bad vibes from the sketchy-acting Herbert (he seems more interested in the home having a large basement than anything else), Dan takes his money and reluctantly allows him to move in.

Megan's initial feelings prove to be correct. Herbert keeps himself locked up in his room at all times and doesn't interact with anyone outside of school. She finds Dan's cat, Rufus, dead in Herbert's refrigerator alongside a bottle of dayglo green liquid of unknown origin. Herbert claims that the cat got its head stuck in a jar and suffocated. Megan doesn't believe him. Still, Herbert knows she and Dan have been sleeping with each other and if Alan Halsey (Robert Sampson), Megan's puritanical father and the school Dean, finds out about it he very well could expel Dan from the program. Late one night, Dan is awaken by strange noises coming from the basement and discovers his new roomie has somehow managed to bring Rufus back to life. The cat's now out of the bag. Literally.

Herbert explains to Dan what he's been experimenting on all this time: reanimation; bringing the dead back to life. He's already been successful in resurrecting various animals using his patented reagent (the green stuff), which is injected directly into the brain. The problem is that the revived animals have all been vicious and violent and had to be put down soon after. Herbert is convinced it's because he hasn't had a fresh enough test subject... yet. Understandably concerned, Dan goes to Dean Halsey and reveals what he's discovered only to have the Dean immediately expel Herbert from the program and threaten him with expulsion and losing his financial aid. Nevertheless, Dan sneaks Herbert into the morgue so they can try out the reagent on a fresh corpse. It's resurrected as a zombie, goes on a violent rampage, kills the Dean and then things spiral further out of control from there.

Though perhaps lacking in more substantive qualities that would have really put it over the top, Gordon does such a commendable job with the pacing and balancing the bloodshed with black humor it hardly even matters. It's pretty easy to see why this became so popular in the 80s and why it's continued to endure as a top cult title over the years. Gorehounds get exploding eyeballs, brains extracted from heads, a bone saw thrust through a chest, a shovel decapitation, eyes gouged out, fingers bitten off, arms axed off, attacking intestines (later copied by Peter Jackson for Braindead), zombies and much more. Most famously of all, Gale's character spends about half of his screen time carrying his own still-living severed head around in a dish and then has a memorably tasteless scene with Crampton as she's tied down to a slab and sexually violated. The make-up and special effects from Anthony Doublin, John Nualin, Everett Burrell and John Carl Buechler are great.

Combs and Gale have received the lion's share of praise as far as the cast is concerned and, while it's true they're both memorable in the showier roles, Abbott and Crampton are just as deserving of praise for their contributions if you ask me. Both get to show a lot of emotional range here and, without them keeping things grounded and giving the more unhinged, outrageous characters something believable to play off of, the film wouldn't be nearly as successful. Sampson does a great job, too. The cast also includes Gerry Black as a security guard who really enjoys his breaks, Carolyn Purdy-Gordon (the director's wife, who appeared in most of his other films) as a doctor, Peter Kent (formerly Arnold Schwarzenegger's stunt double) as a naked zombie and Ian Patrick Williams, who'd go on to star in the director's Dolls (1987), along with Gordon's wife.

Richard Band's score is often criticized for copying Bernard Herrmann's famous Psycho score, which is understandable once you hear it. What I don't see mentioned is that there's a passage near the end that's just as much a rip-off of Jerry Goldsmith's score for The Omen! Either way, it's noticeable but not a deal breaker. Mac Ahlberg did a nice job shooting it and the art direction is from Robert A. Burns (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre).

Two official sequels followed: 1990's Bride of Re-Animator, which was directed by Yuzna and had Combs, Abbott and Gale all reprising their roles, and Beyond Re-Animator (2003), which was filmed in Spain, also directed by Yuzna and starred Combs. In 2011, there was also the stage production Re-Animator: The Musical.

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