The embers on the fire are barely aglow. Night settles like a dark shroud o’er the endless Arctic tundra outside.

I say endless, even though I’m actually trapped in a force-field a mere matter of miles across. But I reckoned explaining all that would be a bit less poetic than just saying ‘endless’.

Anyway, it’s late. Too late for a film to come tonight, surely?

But I’m wrong. The TV crackles into life as the clock strikes midnight. The Witching hour.


Witchfinder General was the fourth and final film of Director Michael Reeves tragically short life and career. He died aged only 27, less than a year after filming was completed. Having made one of the best British horror films of all time...

Witchfinder General is imbued with such cynicism and world-weariness that it seems all the more amazing that such a young director could have made it. There are obvious Vietnam parallels to be made, as an innocent, pastoral way of life is despoiled by an inhuman and corrupt enemy. The opening scenes where Richard (Ian Ogilvy) the swashbuckling hero professes his love to his beautiful Hilary is heavy with foreboding...

... as something wicked this way comes...

Clippety-clop! Clippety-clop!

That was supposed to be a horse (sorry, I only had coconuts). For hark yonder! Here along this very country lane comes Matthew Hopkins, self-styled Witchfinder General (based on a very real life person) played with rare restraint by Lord Vincent of Price.

Ah, Vincent Price. That face. That voice. Where did it come from?

Oh, I've not doubt that he may have merely started cooing and gurgling like a normal child before saying "Mama!" at around 9-months of age, but I prefer to think of his mother waking up one day to find a 9-month old baby Vincent - with the head of the adult Witchfinder General - sitting at the foot of the bed and speaking in a fully formed Vincent Price voice: "Greetings, mother. As you've no doubt noticed I shall be speaking from now on. I shall breakfast shortly on your breast milk."

I guess we'll never know which of those two scenarios it was. Maybe that's for the best.

Although Michael Reeves managed to elicit one of finest ever performances from Vincent Price in Witchfinder General, he was fought almost every step of the way by the veteran actor. The behind-the-scenes battles between the two makes for great reading. On one occasion, a frustrated Price is reported have told Reeves: "I've made 87 films. What have you done?"

Reeves responded: "I've made three good ones."

Price plays the part of Hopkins in such a way that we're never entirely sure of his true motivation. Does he actually believe in what he is doing? We know he's corrupt, for sure, but is that the reason for his work or merely a by-product of it? How deep is this man's heart of darkness? How empty the pit of his humanity?

The history books are unclear whether the real Hopkins died from an illness in bed (possibly Tuberculosis) or whether he was subjected to his own swimming test by an enraged mob of villagers. Let's hope it was the latter. The guy was obviously a dick.

The fictional Hopkins meets his maker in a more clear-cut way. After an orgy of burnings, drownings and hangings, he is stopped from torturing the lovely Hilary with an axe delivered swiftly to the bollocks by the heroic Richard. A happy ending it is not though, as Richard continues to beat Hopkins to a bloody pulp, only to be stopped by a soldier who dispatches Hopkins with a mercy shot.

"You took him from me! You took him from me!" howls a crazed Richard as a traumatized Hilary screams in anguish. Downbeat is not the word.

Great trailer:



Day #45

You know, lying on my bunk listen to the wind moan endlessly outside the igloo, I often think about who might be reading these very scribblings.

What about you, reader? Do you have the time to listen to me whine about nothing and everything all at once?

I am one of those melodramatic fools. Neurotic to the bone, no doubt about it!

Sometimes, I give myself the creeps. Sometimes my mind plays tricks on me.It all keeps adding up. I think I'm cracking up - am I just paranoid?

Anyway, enough of such musings. Here comes a completely unrelated and unexpected film:


As Basket Case ends, the only possible reaction is to laugh incomprehensibly, shake your head and say “What the f…?” quietly to yourself. It’s essential viewing for any sicko. Any depraved and semi-intelligent mind. Any murderous, cretinous individual. I loved it.

Sure, there’s no budget (there’s an in-joke that the roll of cash that belongs to our hero Duane was the film’s entire budget), the acting is piss-poor and some of the stop-motion special effects look like they could have been made by a 6-month old Ray Harryhausen – BUT! To compensate, we’ve got enough imagination, passion, wit and outright depravity to make it the classic that is.

Duane Bradley turns up at the Broslin Hotel, with a fabulously post-punk mop of hair and checks into room 7 for a 'few days'. I almost forgot – he’s carrying a wicker basket. What’s in the basket?

It’s the soul of Marsellus Wallace!

Only joking. It’s his Siamese twin. A hideous mutant.

And together, they’re gonna get medieval on the asses of the group of doctors that performed the operation to detach them!

Luckily, Duane’s brother is incredibly bloodthirsty and pretty nimble for a… for his height, and in no time at all, blood is flowing thick and fast and the bodies are mounting up.

Unluckily, Duane’s brother is also pretty hard to control. And the guests and managers of The Broslin Hotel aren’t too happy with his room-trashing, moon-howling and guest-murdering antics.

In between plotting his revenge, Duane finds time for a little romance as he catches the eye of the ladies. And it's great to see that the women in Basket Case are fabulously chunky. Without exception they’re all carrying some extra poundage which has the strange effect of making them woman shaped and not like skinny adolescent boys. Modern film-makers take note. Woman have curves. What I’m trying to say is:

The end comes all too soon, when Duane’s brother wanders off to find Duane’s love interest Sharon. He creeps into her room and does something fairly unspeakable to her. This puts a terrible strain on the brothers’ relationship. A strain that leaves both of them dangling from the Hotel Broslin sign… is it too late to make amends? Will brotherly love overcome adversity?

Yes and no. They fall and die.

Or. Do. They?



BLACULA (1972)

Day #Whatever

Another blizzard. The whiteout contrasting completely with my dark, dark thoughts.

My depression - deep and black - takes hold swiftly and I find myself questioning my very existence.

Who was I? Who am I? Why am I The Igloo Keeper?

Do I even exist at all, or am I merely the result of someone else's imagination - a lame, half-hearted pastiche of The Crypt Keeper and the premise of MST3K?

Who knows. But hallo! I see the TV flicker on, and my hopes are raised! What I need is something to make me forget these dark thoughts and my black, black mood...

BLACULA (1972)

I think I like the idea of Blacula more than the movie itself. It’s a great concept with a truly righteous and iconic title and yet… it’s kinda clunky. Clunky but funky. Put it this way - the trailer is much more fun than the film itself.

Forgive me Blacula, but at times I became distracted by having to dodge the plot-holes and illogical behaviour of the characters as they struggled to move the plot along to the next stage. Now, plot holes and illogical behaviour don’t actually bother me a great deal. All I’m saying is that they do prevent Blacula from being a bona fide classic – and from me giving it a 5-star rating (which reminds me, I don’t actually do ratings. Forget I mentioned it).

Although Blacula’s funkiness ultimately transcends its clunkiness, I still think they coulda and shoulda have turned up the funk-o-meter a couple of clicks.

Blacula himself is great, and is portrayed as a rather noble, sympathetic creature by the renowned, classically trained actor William Marshall. Not sure about his hairy cheekbones though.

Dr. Gordon Thomas - the hero - is not so great. For my Blacula hero, I want a hard-living, hard drinking, wisecracking dude that would give Shaft a run for his money, with threads so sharp they’d make Bootsy Collins cry and a line of chat so jivetastic that he causes booties to bounce at the mere mention of his name.

But what we get instead is a slightly humourless, miserable, rude and brooding hero. You’ll remember my reservations on brooding heroes from my review of The Tattooist.

Anyway, none of this really matters because we’ve got some gorgeous chicks with awesome Afros to enjoy. I’ve always been in awe of Afros – If I wasn’t a short, fat bald honky I’d probably get one – and the ones on display througout Blacula are great. None more so than that on the drop dead gorgeous Denise Nicholas. I mean, just look:

The plot is fairly recognisable to us horror movie buffs - Blacula turns up in the modern day and just happens to bump into the spitting image of his long lost love. He wants her. He makes her want him. But the hero wants her and wants to stop him. He wants the hero to stop wanting to stop him. And she wants to stop the hero from stopping him. All this makes for a thrilling finale, aided and abetted by those wonderful trigger-happy cops from the LAPD. Who kill her. But not him. So he tries to get her to be him, erm, to be his… I’ll shut up now, I’m actually starting to annoy myself.

Dig the trailer:



Day #73

Earlier today I lost all track of time staring into the shaving mirror. I was there for an age, lost in a trance. Christ, this place is boring.

Anyway, this led to me reminiscing of the last time I tried a spot of hypnotism. Namely, on the foreman of the jury at my trial, as he stood up and prepared to deliver the verdict on me.

Previously I had been swinging my solid silver pocket watch to and fro, and it had caught his eye several times.

“Not guilty! Not guilty!! Not guilty!!!” I commanded in silence as our eyes met once again.

Staring intently at me, he stood and paused, seemingly lost for words. Then, as if in a daze he falteringly said: “Guilty! On 20 counts of murder! Guilty on murder #1. Guilty on #2. Definitely guilty of #3 and #4. Oh, and of #5 certainly. As for #6, #7, #8 and #9, guilty. Guilty on #10…”

“Bollocks.” I muttered and put away my solid silver pocket watch as he droned on and on…


Ventriloquist dummies are a fine subject for a horror movie. They’re scary. Scary as hell. But there’s something much scarier, my friend! Look again. Look at the bigger picture – look at who is pulling the strings…

Okay, so ventriloquist dummies don’t have strings – but what I'm trying to say (without being too graphic) is look carefully at the one with his hand up the dummy’s arse - the ventriloquist! For a man who has devoted his life to making a wooden dummy look like it’s talking is far more scarier than a wooden dummy. No matter how freakily the eyebrows have been fashioned.

Or as Charlton Heston would say, Dummies don’t kill people. Ventriloquists do.

Devil Doll – a very classy, noirish looking British horror from the 60’s - illustrates my point beautifully. Hugo (great name for a dummy) is a spooky little fecker but he’s not evil, far from it. He’s merely an innocent soul trapped in a dummy’s body by the real baddy – The Great Vorelli!

The Great Vorelli is a wonderful baddy, with a voice uncannily like Sideshow Bob. Bryant Haliday is the fine actor playing the part, and I was quite surprised to read that he didn’t really act a great deal after this, as he gives a very enjoyable and accomplished performance.

William Sylvester plays the good guy, an American called Mark English (a name that Alanis Morrissette would no doubt call ironic). The fact that he's American does at least allow other characters to deliver lines like, “I’ll certainly try and keep – as you Americans would say - an open mind.”

And let’s not forget Yvonne Romain as the gorgeous love interest with wonderful 60s eyes that they don’t make anymore.

Vorelli – being a complete dickhead – puts lovely Yvonne into a trance as part of his diabolical scheme to marry her, steal her cash and then transfer her soul into a female dummy.

And he would have got away with it too, until Hugo leaps into action (okay, maybe not leaps. This is a wooden dummy we’re talking about here) and battles Vorelli in a wonderful climactic fight scene which rather coolly ends in a freeze-frame that turns into a negative. Far out!

There's a final twist that wraps things up rather neatly, and if you don’t jump up and shout “Hurrah!” then you must have a wooden heart. And - it follows - a psychopath’s hand up yer bum.


THE SWARM (1978)

Day #180

Today I made a new friend. A beautiful bumble-bee landed on my igloo window ledge!

The poor little mite was shivering with cold as I picked it up and bought it over to the glow of the fire for warmth. Tenderly, I wrapped it in a tiny blanket and gave it several drops of medicinal brandy with an eye-dropper.

“I shall call you Basil.” I declared, “We shall go on such adventures together you and I Basil! Why, with you at my side I shall…”

Suddenly Basil leapt up and stung me slap bang in the middle of the gangrenous wound where my nose used to be.

“NNNYYYAAARRRGGGHHH!!!!!” I continued, as I beat Basil to death with a nearby frying pan.

“Shame on me!” I wailed, “I’ve killed my only friend!”

That’s the fourth best friend I’ve killed in less than 5 years, come to think of it. Is this one of the reasons why I’m still igloo-bound?

THE SWARM (1979)

Brad Crane: “We've been fighting a losing battle against the insects for fifteen years, but I never thought I'd see the final face-off in my lifetime. And I never dreamt that it would turn out to be the bees…” (petulantly) “They've always been our friend!”

The Swarm raises an interesting question – for a film to be considered truly bad, does it need to have big stars and a huge budget?

If the answer is 'yes', then The Swarm delivers, with Michael Caine in the lead role (as Dr. Crane), supported by the likes of Henry Fonda, Richard Chamberlain and Richard Wydmark. Not to mention Olivia De Havilland. And the one that wasn't Mrs Robinson from The Graduate.

General Slater: “Houston on fire. Will history blame me, or the bees?”

I have a theory. Namely, that the problem with The Swarm is that it tries to be a disaster movie rather than a monster movie. If it had taken it’s cue from 'Tarantula' rather than 'Towering Inferno', things woulda, coulda and shoulda been a whole lot better:

John Agar wouldn’t take 156 minutes of The Swarm’s ridiculously elongated running time to save the world. He’d grin, wisecrack, smoke endless cigarettes and beat the monster to a pulp without breaking into a sweat in barely over an hour. And he’d still make some time to get the girl.

Roll on 20 years and we’ve got a strange Michael Caine performance where he alternates between speaking ever so slowly and quietly – like he’s on valium – and shouting hysterically and jabbing his finger whenever he speaks to General Slater (Richard Wydmark).

Major Baker: “Can we really count on a scientist who prays?”
General Slater: “I wouldn't count on one who doesn't.”

Caine just mooches around without a plan as the death toll rises to an impressively ridiculous level. And he muses a lot. He mooches and muses. "Tut! Who could have guessed that the first alien invasion of America would be by bees?" he mutters without a care in the world as news of 30,000 fatalities – caused solely by his lack of coming up with an Agar-esque plan - comes over the radio.

Brad Crane: “Bees! Thousands of ‘em!”

Eventually – after lots of mooching, musing and a few pointless sub-plots (like an octogenarian love triangle that goes off the rails in spectacular fashion) Caine/Crane stumbles upon a winning plan and saves the day. At least… for the time being… will The Swarm ever be back?

Actually, yes they will if new of a remake comes to pass. Let’s hope the dialogue remains intact. And that Clint Eastwood napalms The Swarm’s sorry ass in the closing shot.




Day #84

A strange dream last night.

I was looking at myself through some sort of screen. Some sort of monitor. Then I noticed other screens...

Hundreds of other screens looking at different igloos. Different people.

I saw a clown watching a comedy film...

A young couple watching a romantic comedy...

Then it all went black and I heard a voice saying, "Shut down sector 7, psycho-kinetic breach! He's got panoramic vision!"

But anyway, that's not the dream I meant. I had this one right afterwards where I turned up for my first day at a new job, looked down and I was just in my underwear! How embarassing - what can it all mean??


Watching The Tattooist was about as pleasurable as getting red hot needles stuck under my skin for an hour and a half. If this is what the director intended – some sort of hard hitting allegory to the tattooing process itself - then he’s very clever. If that wasn't his intention, then he’s just made a really shit film.

My suspicions were aroused when I first laid eyes on the unsmiling, brooding hero played by someone called Jason Behr.

An unsmiling, brooding hero invariably means one of two things:
1)That the hero is deeply in turmoil and has faced hardship and tragedy in his life that has forced him to focus on things other than his personal happiness and well-being.
2)The guy playing the hero can’t act. And has gone for the brooding look to save him having to show any emotion.

Guess which one my money’s on? Oh, and he's also wearing eye-liner. The last horror film I saw where the hero appeared to be wearing eye-liner for no apparent reason was John Cusack in '1408'. And the less said about that the better.

The director has given this film a sickly glossy sheen that is horribly reminiscint of one of those ‘classic’ Whitesnake videos of a bygone age... or perhaps even an episode of the wonderful but-now-strangely-dated erotic TV series that was Red Shoe Diaries - in fact, a David Duchovny voice-over telling us how he couldn't wait to get his leg over the mysterious Maori girl would not have felt out of place.

What I thought sounded like a promising, original premise turned out be nothing more than the old 'guy steals something/gets involved with a girl from an ancient tribe/bad things happen to him' routine. It’s a classic horror formula that can usually be done and dusted within the confines of a half hour 'Outer Limits' episode. Or 'Buffy', who used to do stuff like this for fun - usually to Xander Harris's misfortune (his penis got diseases from a Schumach tribe).

From the opening salvo of: “He needs a doctor”, “No, he needs a tattoo”, The Tattooist's stilted dialogue is delivered by an array of mediocre actors. Thank God then, that the monotony is finally broken by a laugh-out-loud moment where a chubby psychic kid communicates with the spirits by going into a trance.

How does he go into this trance? Dancing round a camp-fire? Drinking peyote?

No. He sits in the back of a speeding sports car and asks for his favourite Hip Hop track to be played as loud as possible. I haven’t checked yet, but I’m pretty sure this isn’t a standard ancient Maori ritual.

The Tattooist isn't all bad though – actually it is – but I did quite like the look of the black inky demon at the end. However, that might just have been because I was still feeling generous after crying with laughter at the chubby psychic hip-hop kid.

Here's a trailer that makes The Tattooist look better than it is: