Sherlock Holmes and the House of Fear (1945, Directed by Roy William Neill) English 6

Starring Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce, Dennis Hoey, Aubrey Mather, Paul Cavanagh

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Sherlock Holmes (Rathbone) is called in with his earnest sidekick, Dr. Watson (Bruce), to investigate the deaths of two members of a secretive club, whose deaths were preceded by threatening letters. The remaining five club members fear for their lives, while it becomes clear that one of them is likely behind it all. Rathbone and Bruce, who played the iconic pair, more times than anyone are in their element here. Rathbone always looks amused and one step ahead of the rest, while Bruce provides the comic relief and every now and then stumbles on to some important clue. The film, short and sweet, wraps up with a very satisfying conclusion. Suspenseful. Assured. Solid.

The Bird with The Crystal Plumage (1970, Directed by Dario Argento) English 7

Starring Tony Musante, Suzy Kendall, Eva Renzi, Mario Adorf, Enrico Maria Salerno

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An American tourist, Sam (Musante), in Italy witnesses a near fatal attack on a woman in an art gallery, but failed to get a clear look at the would-be assassin. Local police believe the attack is part of a string of recent murders, and hold Sam as a key witness, hoping that he’ll recall some important detail that will lead to the killer. Director, Argento, works in almost exclusively in this genre, with several variations of this same plot. His talent lies in his staging, framing, and elegant camera movement, which is on full display in this, his debut. Incredible mise en scène.  Most notably in the key early scene in which Sam witnesses the attack, with its snow white interior, wall of glass, and the night time merging to delirious effect. Dialogue, acting, and character development are of little importance in his films. I will say The Bird with the Crystal Plumage offers a solid mystery plot with an excellent conclusion. Surprising. Striking. Lurid.

Boo! A Madea Halloween (2016, Directed by Tyler Perry) English 4

Starring Tyler Perry, Cassi Davis, Patrice Lovely, Diamond White, Liza Koshy, Bella Thorne

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Brian Simmons (Perry) worries about leaving his rebellious daughter alone for Halloween, especially since there’s a frat house party going on next door, so he calls his Aunt Madea to come and watch over her. I’ve never minded any of the Madea movies. They’re crass and not very good, but I end up laughing at least 3 or 4 times. That’s not enough to recommend any of them, and A Madea Halloween is par for the course with a bevy of ignorant behavior and sporadic sermonizing.  Predictable. Witless. Heavy-handed.

Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959, Directed by Ed Wood) English 2

Starring Bella Lugosi, Vampira, Gregory Walcott, Duke Moore, Tom Keene, Paul Marco, Tor Johnson

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A U.F.O, grave robbing aliens that look like humans, and zombies that look like vampires fill the scattered narrative of Ed Wood’s infamous film, but basically it’s about evil invaders from a more advanced planet who want to wipe out humanity. Besides being amateurish and inept in several aspects of filmmaking, Plan 9 is also awfully hard to follow. There’s no discernible character development, introduction, or suspense to speak of, and only towards the end do we get a sense of character motivation. Ed Wood was just as woeful at script writing as he was at directing. Incompetent. Silly. Confusing.

And Then There Were None (2015, Directed by Craig Viveiros) English 8

Starring Aidan Turner, Maeve Dermody, Charles Dance, Miranda Richardson, Noah Taylor, Sam Neill, Burn Gorman, Toby Stephens, Douglas Booth

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10 strangers meet on a secluded island for different reasons, or so they think, since the real reason becomes clear soon after arrival: someone has brought them there to pick them off, one by one. Each of the ten strangers has an alleged crime they got away with, some admit to their crime, some don’t, and after searching the island for their killer and finding no one, they realize that the killer has to be one of them. Not the first adaptation of Agatha Christie’s classic, and I might give the edge to Rene Clair’s 1945 version for its sense of style, but this is easily the closest adaptation to the feel of Christie’s novel. With the number of times I’ve read or seen this story, it’s an incredible achievement that this 4 part miniseries had me hooked as if I didn’t know what was coming. Genuinely scary and exceptionally performed, and the flashbacks offered to slowly establish the characters are a very nice touch. Wicked. Haunting. Engrossing.

Nightmare on Elm Street (1984, Directed by Wes Craven) English 6

Starring Robert Englund, John Saxon, Heather Langenkamp, Johnny Depp, Ronee Blakley, Amanda Wyss

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Tina Gray (Wyss) dies a horrific, bloody death under bizarre circumstances one night, with all signs pointing to her boyfriend as the culprit. Only her best friend, Nancy (Langenkamp), believes he’s innocent. She’s having bizarre nightmares featuring a scarred man with razors on his hands, and knows her friend’s death and these dreams must be related. It would be silly to quibble about reason and logic in a surrealistic film invoking dream-logic. What works are the impressive visuals and effects which have aged well, and the horror icon, Freddy Kruger himself, who’s hilarious and terrifying in equal measure (his licking Nancy through the telephone is a prime example of this).

The Evil Eye (1963, Directed by Mario Bava) English 6

Starring Letícia Román, John Saxon, Valentina Cortese, Dante DiPaolo, Luigi Bonos

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Nora Davis (Román), apparently an American, though played by an Italian actress, arrives in Rome to care for her sick Aunt. She meets her Aunt’s attractive doctor, Marcello (Saxon), an Italian played by an American, and the two are instantly attracted to one another. Later, after a bad episode where her Aunt’s health fails, Nora runs out to the streets and witnesses a murder, or at least she thinks she does. The police believe she had a hallucination brought on by trauma. Slick, incredibly lithe camera movement highlight what was an early example of the Italian giallo genre( horror or thriller). Beautiful visuals and star in hand, the film gets by, but is never truly thrilling or surprising. Still, very entertaining.