Special Halloween Edition

It's that spooky time of year again and here we offer a handful of horror films, both new and vintage, to scare the daylights out of you and your friends. Screen these at your Halloween party or turn out the lights and grab some leftover Halloween candy and view them after the party is over.

"The Retaliators" - Better Noise Films - Directed by Samuel Gonzalez Jr, Michael Lombardi and Bridget Smith

This new film begins with a familiar horror movie trope, a scene where girls are stuck on a country road when their van breaks down and they're attacked by zombie-like people. That is the only indication for the first half of the movie that this is a horror film. Otherwise, the film follows pastor John Bishop (Michael Lombardi) as he seeks the person responsible for his daughter's death; after seeing something relating to a meth deal she is run off the road by a thug involved in the drug deal. While not horror this portion of the film is horrifying as gruesome violence ensues while thugs fight thugs and fight Bishop. A detective (Mark Menchaca) enters the picture and swears to Bishop that he will catch the responsible party. Eventually he does and he gives Bishop a chance to torture him in a dungeon built just for that purpose. As you can imagine things go sideways and here is where the film moves back into the horror genre. Viewers are treated to two twist endings, both of which are pretty gory. A fun aspect of watching is trying to spot all of the rock star cameos; Tommy Lee appears as a strip club DJ and Jacoby Shaddix of Papa Roach, Jaya of the Hu, members of Five Finger Death Punch and Spencer Charnas of Ice Nine Kills among them. The film's hard-hitting soundtrack is also an all-star affair.

"Satan's Little Helper" - Synapse Films - Directed by Jeff Lieberman

Douglas Whooly is a nine-year-old boy and he's obsessed with a video game called Satan's Little Helper. When Halloween rolls around Douglas dresses as, you guessed it, Satan's Little Helper. While prowling the neighborhood before trick-or-treat time Douglas meets an adult dressed as the Devil (Joshua Annex), a non-speaking masked entity that Douglas sees posing dead bodies that he assumes are just Halloween props. The boy wants to tag along with the person in the Devil costume and he is allowed to, following the killer to an especially campy scene in a grocery store parking lot. As the Devil mows down a pregnant woman and a lady with a baby carriage Douglas shouts out point values as if it is all part of the video game. Eventually it becomes clear that the violence is real and the rest of the film is spent trying to avoid Satan and a similarly horrific end. Also featuring Katheryn Winnick (currently starring in the ABC television show "Big Sky") as Douglas' sister and Amanda Plummer as the pair's mom, "Satan's Little Helper" is scary good fun. Originally released in 2004.

"The Kindred" (Special Edition) - Synapse Films - Directed by Jeffrey Obrow & Stephen Carpenter

What could possibly go wrong when molecular scientist Dr. Amanda Hollins (Kim Hunter) conducts experiments to find ways to alter human evolution? Plenty could go wrong and it does. As the film begins the experimentation is already over and Dr. Hollins lies in a hospital bed where she summons her son John (David Allen Brooks) and directs him to go and destroy the evidence of her ill-fated work. Upon journeying to his off-the-beaten-path childhood home with a group of friends, the lot of them start to uncover Dr. Hollins' research. And it starts uncovering them! Besides the tape recordings, paperwork and other evidence of the experimentation, a tentacled creature lives in the house and starts picking people (and a dog) off one by one. To make matters worse, Dr. Philip Lloyd (Rod Steiger) shows up and he wants to see the experiments continue. Havoc reigns as the tentacled creature, intent to survive, goes on a gory killing spree. Will it be the creature or the colleagues that win out in the end? Renowned for its use of special effects back in the day (1987) this film also stars Amanda Pays and Talia Balsam. Appended Special Edition bonus material includes a new 52-minute "the making of" documentary, TV spots, original theatrical trailer, a compilation of creature effects with never-before-seen on-set footage and more.

"Demons at Dawn" - Black Coppice Films - Directed by Randy Kent

This new film begins with a set-up that many will find familiar as "retired" hit man Mickey Santini is forced to come out of retirement and "do one last job" in order to satisfy a substantial gambling debt. With that the viewer might get the idea that the film will not be too original as it progresses. Wrong! Mickey sets out after his target only to find him lying outside, already dead. In retrospect Mickey will regret not just leaving at that point. Instead he enters the dead guy's house where a woman, seemingly a raving nut, holds him at gunpoint. Warning Mickey not to mess with her and not to try to go outside until the sun comes up the next day, it is a mystery at this point what the problem is outside. The film uses suspense to build up a sense of danger rather than any overt reason to be frightened. As the film progresses various characters suddenly appear at the house, including the woman's husband who is argumentative with his wife and threatening to Mickey. Finally Mickey goes outside and runs into a cult or coven of creatures who are apparently sacrificing people for food. They are hideous and very frightening and here the film gets gory through the end when the situation is completely explained. For those seeking something different in a horror film.

"Gothic Fantastco: Four Italian Tales of Horror" - Arrow Films - (Various directors)

Here's something for horror aficionados; a box set of four films from the Gothic Italian era of horror films in the 1960s. All films are black & white and all are presented with English versions or the option of watching with English subtitles. They are tame compared to today's gory standards but they are terrifying in the same way a story by Edgar Allen Poe might be. All are on Blu-ray for the first time ever.

"Lady Morgan's Vengeance"

This is the story of a woman who moves home to the family castle, about to be married. And while to all appearances she is welcome, someone begins to harass her in a way that today would be called gaslighting. Ultimately she falls off a high castle balcony and dies. Her vengeance begins when she comes back as a spirit.

"The Blancheville Monster"

Emily returns home to the family castle where her brother Rodrigo rules the roost and where a spooky Bride-of-Frankenstein type housekeeper actually calls most of the shots. And there's a doctor involved too. But the spooky housekeeper might not be as evil as she appears; the same can't be said for Rodrigo and others.

"The Third Eye"

No, this film is not about a monster with three eye. The film's title comes from a line spoken by Nino, who is into taxidermy, "It's as if I had a third eye that sees only violence and death." Nino is responsible for lots of the aforementioned violence and death, and you got the taxidermy part, right? So guess what happens to his victims.

"The Witch"

Sergio keeps seeing an old woman following him and he finally confronts her. She admits that indeed she has been following him and offers him a job, ostensibly to look after manuscripts, which are in her home in which he must live. Eventually Sergio takes the job where a perk is the woman's nubile daughter. Mild, non-nudity erotica ensues but there is something, well, witchy about the whole set up. Which one is the witch, the old woman or the daughter, or both? Viewers will find the answer at the film's frightening and also amusing end.

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