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Fulci Film Choice
Another terrifying Italian shocker from the legendary Lucio Fulci. A family move into a creepy old house and are unaware that living in the cellar is the flesh-eating zombie of a 19th century surgeon. The little boy is soon a friend with the ghost of the late doctors daughter who warns them to stay away, but to little effect. The creature gruesomely kills and dismembers a variety of estate agents, copulating teenagers and babysitters leading to a terrifying finale in the corpse-strewn cellar. The Lucio Fulci trademark of graphic gore is abundant as ever but it is the atmosphere that makes this movie stand out. Bumps in the night and the ominous crying of children coming from the cellar are just some of the factors that assault and disturb the viewer. This is a truly amazing movie that relies on shock and terror rather than revulsion. The gore just adds to what is already a truly chilling little tale of cannibalism and depravity that will linger in the mind long after you've forgotten about the illogical plot and poor dubbing. One of Fulci's best films. Deserves its cult reputation. My Rating 9 out of 10. Well worth a watch and a place in any genre enthusiasts collection. Don't listen to the negative reviews, they know not what they say!
Godfather of Gore: The Most Influential Lucio Fulci Horror Films
Herschell Gordon Lewis earned the moniker “godfather of gore” in the early ‘60s when he created the splatter subgenre in horror with Blood Feast. But it didn’t take long before another director would earn and share the title; Italian maestro Lucio Fulci. Fulci began his film career as a documentary director before switching gears and shifting into comedy screenwriting. The screenwriting eventually gave way to producing, acting, and directing feature films. With an extensive career that spanned almost five decades, Fulci dabbled in all genres, from spaghetti western to musicals to exploitation, but it was his work in horror that earned him international success.
Fulci earned notoriety in his home country of Italy in the ‘70s due to the graphic violence depicted in his giallo films. The graphic violence and gore would become his trademark with the international breakthrough hit Zombi 2, or Zombie. Of course, the gore meant his work often ran afoul with censors and critics, and as a result Fulci’s horror filmography took much longer to reach classic reevaluation than the likes of Mario Bava and Dario Argento. It wasn’t just his use of gore that makes Fulci a vital pillar of Italian cinema, but his ability to craft atmosphere. Fulci’s work is fearless and with a distinct style that earned him a massive following from the horror community. You could count on Fulci to be unafraid to push the boundaries of bad taste. Moreover, Fulci’s horror films have played a major influence on Americam and European filmmakers, and still continue to inspire today. Though his lengthy catalog is full of films worth seeking out, these horror classics are his most influential.
Don’t Torture a Duckling 1972
Though Zombie was the film that really revved up Fulci’s use of gore, it began with this giallo. A remote Southern town is plagued by a string of child murders, and a reporter and a promiscuous woman team up to discover who’s responsible. The problem is that the town is superstitious and mistrustful of outsiders. Heavily themed around repression and guilt, the film’s hefty criticisms of the Catholic Church meant the film was essentially blacklisted for a period. It was the earlier stages of Fulci’s experimentation with close up violence, and a giallo that leaned into the political. As such, it’s a film that played a major influence on filmmakers like Tarantino and French husband and wife team Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani (Let the Corpses Tan).
Lizard In A Woman's Skin 1971
Trippy psychothriller about a rich housewife who has erotic dreams about her neighbour. When one of these dreams turns violent, she wakes up the next day to find out that her neighbour had been killed and she's the lead suspect. It's a race against time to find out the true identity of the killer and prove her innocence before her fate is sealed.
As wild as A Lizard in A Woman's Skin is, it's fairly restrained for a Fulci film. None of his trademark zombies or eye popping gore are on display here and the script is tighter and more involving than some of his other films. It's definitely one of his more accessible films, but the slow pacing and psychedelic quality of some of the scenes might turn more mainstream and genre viewers off.
Seven Notes In Black 1977
Definitely worth seeing and a great gateway into Fulci's work for the uninitiated. Fans of European horror cinema often label Lucio Fulci’s Seven Notes in Black (Sette Note in Nero, also known as The Psychic and Murder to the Tune of Seven Black Notes) as an oddity in the director’s career, pointing out that this strangely placid piece is never quite sure whether it wants to be a giallo, a supernatural horror movie or a character piece. Certainly it contains many elements that differentiate it from the other three giallo-themed titles Fulci directed prior to embracing full-blown horror in the 1980s with Zombi 2 and its equally gory counterparts. However, the more one investigates Fulci’s disparate filmography, which in addition to murder mysteries and visceral horror movies also contains spaghetti westerns, science fiction, two children’s films and even a period drama, the clearer it becomes that he was an extremely diverse filmmaker, capable of turning his hand to virtually anything. As such, Seven Notes in Black is more remarkable for its bringing together of different elements of his career than any inherent uniqueness.
Also known as Zombi 2, this film was intended to serve as a sequel to George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (Zombi in Italy). Fulci was hired for the project based on his work in his giallo The Psychic, and it changed the trajectory of his career. Though he never set out to be a horror director, the international success found in Zombie paved the way for his most widely adored 'Gates of Hell' trilogy. The gore put this film in the crosshairs of the video nasty craze in Britain and marked a trend in Fulci’s affinity for ocular trauma. In a way, Zombie serves as inspiration for Fulci’s future work in horror. But on a bigger scale, Zombie directly influenced the work of filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino, who mimicked shots straight from the film for his own film Kill Bill: Volume 1.
City of the Living Dead (The Gates of Hell) 1980
In the style of Romero and a precursor to Raimi, Fulci bridges a gulf and pushes the envelope like no one else. This movie is no exception. He touches briefly upon many Lovecraftian themes, but leaves the movie open enough to engage those that are not even passingly familiar with the works of the mind that brought us 'The Call of Cthulhu'.
A reporter (Christopher George) saves a psychic (Catrina McColl) from being buried alive, then teams up with her in a race against time to close the gates of Hell after the suicide of a priest causes them to open and allow the dead to rise from their graves. This is Italian horror auteur Lucio Fulci's grizzly ode to H.P Lovecraft (it is set in the fictional town of Dunwich, a nod to Lovecraft's The Dunwich Horror). City of the Living Dead is part of Fulci’s Gates of Hell Trilogy along with The Beyond (1981) and The House by the Cemetary (1981). It is one of Fulci’s greatest classics and in my opinion, maybe his darkest film. Truly a masterpiece of surreal horror cinema, but as with many of Fulci's films, not everyone into the genre will get it.
The Beyond 1981
Easily the most celebrated among Fulci’s horror films, and the second entry in his unofficial 'Gates of Hell' trilogy, The Beyond also is the director’s most influential. Set in Louisiana, a young woman inherits a hotel and discovers it was built over one of the gates to Hell. Bleak, surreal, and dreamlike in its storytelling, The Beyond toes the line between beauty and horror. Essentially, The Beyond is what happens when you cross Fulci with H.P. Lovecraft. That it played a vital influence for Tarantino is no surprise at this point, but it also inspired notable directors like Sam Raimi, who lifted a shot from The Beyond when creating Spider-Man. Even horror films as recent as The Void pay homage to this Fulci classic.
The House by the Cemetery 1981
The final entry in the “Gates of Hell” trilogy is also the only one that doesn’t have that same dreamlike quality that its predecessors had, and it’s smaller in scope. The plot follows a family who recently move into a New England home that’s been host to a series of murders in the past, unaware of the dark secret lurking in the basement. Does that plot sound familiar? Ted Geoghegan’s 2015 feature debut, We Are Still Here, draws inspiration from many films, but at its core is a heartfelt homage to Fulci and The House by the Cemetery. It’s not just the story in which Geoghegan drew inspiration, but the characters’ names as well.
The Black Cat 1981
A professor with the psychic ability to communicate with the dead uses his powers on his pet cat in order to take vengeance upon his enemies. This is a huge change of tone from what we experienced previously from the Italian 'Godfather of Gore', and shares more in common with the Hammer film studios output and the various Roger Corman adaptations of Poe's work.
The name Lucio Fulci brings forth images of extreme gore, zombies, and frequent ocular mutilation. Lucio wasn’t exactly noted for his subtlety. But not every film of his was a crimson love affair, as evidenced by the relatively low key The Black Cat , loosely based on Edgar Allan Poe’s story of the same name. Here, Fulci relies on atmosphere and tension to bring the frights. There is a wealth of style to be found in this entry and is at times, beautifully shot, but the script isn’t terribly strong, which may be one reason why this film isn’t nearly as celebrated as some of Fulci’s other works. What makes The Black Cat worth watching are the Gothic overtones, a strong cast of some notable British character actors, and glimpses of that instantly identifiable Italian splatter FX work.
The New York Ripper 1982
Anyone expecting a low grade, squalid video nasty is going to be sorely disappointed. This is one of those films that's much better than its reputation suggests. What we actually have here is a highly intelligent and articulated thriller. The film also utilises some great location shots in and around New York, and the camera work and editing is top notch. 'Lo squartatore di New York' is a masterpiece of horror, a perfect film that mixes the giallo and the slasher in a well written and fluent script, one which is full of suspense. A great music score, amazing performances, spot on direction, atomospheric cinematography and fantastic filming locations. An Italian classic from Fulci. The New York Ripper is a horror film of excellence, one that goes too far and makes the spectator complacent if not complicit in what they are viewing. Featuring haunting location photography of a Big Apple in the early 80's, much of which no longer exists, Fucli's film is perhaps the ultimate examination of urban decay and individual isolationism, exacerbated by modern metropolitan living.
Manhatten Baby 1982
An archaelogist opens an Egyptian tomb and accidently releases an evil spirit. His young daughter becomes possessed by the freed enity and, upon arrival back in New York the murders begin.
Most genre fans haven't seen this one, due to the negative publicity associated with it. It's true that Manhatten Baby isn't a film that succumbs to everyone's taste. This is simply because in most Italian films, it's usually style over substance, which in some cases can leave an unseasoned viewer totally confused at the apparent inept plot line. Not a film for everyone, but there a lot of redeeming qualities to talk about in this film. Manhattan Baby is a dreamlike masterpiece. Director Lucio Fulci all but abandoned gore in this film, instead giving us surreal visuals, an oneiric atmosphere and a story told totally with dream like logic. Fulci's obsession with eyes is well in evidence here, the main difference being that they're generally not being skewered this time around. This does require a lot of patience and isn't one for the genre gorehounds. This isn't Fulci at his best, but if you like Dario Argento's films and don't mind plot incoherence give it a view, or two.
Murder Rock 1984
Lucio Fulci's Murder Rock is often lambasted by both Fulci and Giallo fans and although it can certainly be seen why, it is a successful attempt at blending the tacky eighties style dance phenomenon like 'Flashdance' with the familiar tropes of the Italian Giallo. Nowadays it stands up as an amusing slice of kitsch nostalgia.
It was released in the wake of a series of exceptionally violent movies directed by Fulci, but this one is considerably tamer and not one of his films to be received well critically upon it's release.
The story is about a series of murders committed at a dance school in New York. and is one of several early 80's productions that Fulci set in America. In keeping with its Italian giallo roots though, there is a strong emphasis on the whodunit aspect. This ensures that the story retains some points of interest and the keeps the audience engaged. There are some moments of giallo surealism too, such as the recurring dream that the female protagonist has about a sinister stranger trying to assault her.
Murder Rock is still not very popular among gore fans (largely because of the lack of eye gougings and disembowellments usually assiocated with his films). At the time, Fulci expressed his opinion that the days of ultra-violent horror films were over. He may have been disillusioned by the criticism The New York Ripper recieved and been mindful of delivering less graphic (and presumably more saleable) films because of the increasing puritanism and censorship that was prevailing at the time of the so-called 'video nasties' hysteria. It is ironic then that this softer Fulci flick never got a UK release, whereas all of his more graphically violent films have.
Aenigma is one of the lesser known horror flicks made by Lucio Fulci and It has some creative and bizarre kill scenes including death by snails and gruesome decapitation via window. The plot of Aenigma somewhat imitates Suspiria, Carrie and Patrick, but the film is still unique and stylish. If you are into gore and over the top violence you may be a little disappointed with Aenigma, which Fulci produced in the twilight period of his career. With its skeletal story and generally weak technical execution, the film is easy to dismiss as a failure. There’s an inventiveness to it which has always distinguished the works of Lucio Fulci from those of his genre peers. Though reportedly suffering from ill health during the film’s production, Lucio Fulci still has the eye for ethereal visuals. Fulci does his best to deliver on a severely reduced budget here. Stretching well into the third decade of a notorious career, Lucio Fulci’s output began to wane considerably past the late ’80s and although the quality of those productions saw a noticeable decline, the films themselves remained interesting, if nothing else. For Aenigma Fulci and co-screenwriter Giorgio Mariuzzo crafted a story involving psychic possession and revenge from beyond the hospital bed! I can’t claim this is a great film, but Fulci proves he still knows how to stage scenes and jolt his viewers with unexpected shocks. His craftsmanship is a saving grace and even if Aenigma can’t reach the highs of his best works, this late career entry is worth watching.
Touch of Death 1988
Shot on 16mm film with a budget of little more than a 100.000 Euros, Lucio Fulci's underappreciated 'Touch of Death' aka 'Quando Alice ruppe lo specchio' (1988) while ostensibly being a shaded comedy of serial killing errors, is in fact a far more warped cimematic creation. 'Touch of Death's psychotically schizoid narrative is far more outrageous than anything Fulci's glossier peers, such as Martino and Argento would ever have dared to create. His frequently transgressive, taste trashing, boundary obliterating oeuvre is unapologetically unleased upon the viewer with no remorse. Brett Halsey's sleazily grotesque Les Parson remains to this very day, one of the more appallingly asinine midnight movie maniacs to hit our screens. Fulci's ferocious 'Touch of Death' certainly doesn't paint a pretty picture, as both thematically and aesthetically it's somewhat rough edged, subtlety layered with sudden, unexpurgated savagery, and it is this innate 'wrongness', along with the stark, concentrated ugliness that makes 'Touch of Death' such a surrealistically sick headed, politically incorrect, morally miasmic, opinion dividing psychedlic nightmare that it is. This flick might even be too much for the hard core Fulci fan, but I have added this to the list for exactly that reason. Seeing is believing, apparanty.
The House of Clocks 1989
Originally made for Italian TV, this film is toned down compared to many in the the Fulci horror collection, but he still was able to work most of his favourite and famous visuals into the film. With that in mind, this is a very middle of the road movie, neither bad nor good, but entertaining enough to watch. While it probably will leave some of the hardcore gore hounds wanting more, the effects were adequate enough. The lack of Fulci's over the top gore and the straight ahead storyline may even make this film more accessible to fans of the genre who are not familiar with Italian horror or are put off by gratuitous use of sheep intestines! The story is incoherent and absurd, but I am rather fond of this kind of narrative. However, this won't be to everyone's taste (as I am personally aware of this type critique myself) and may confuse and put some viewers off. Overall the film still manages to work due to the eerie atmospherics and the occasional trademark piece of Fulci schlock.
Ultimately, House of Clocks will always be remembered amongst genre fans as one of his lesser films. In the twilight of his career, Fulci seemed to be just going through the motions on his films, and this one isn't really an exception. There are however, flashes of inspiration in the film and it does have moments that will remind the viewer what the maestro was capable of in years gone past.
A Cat in the Brain 1990
One of the director’s final films, released in 1990, A Cat in the Brain also happens to be one of his most personal films. In addition to co-writing and directing, Fulci stars as himself. It’s a meta film in which Fulci plays a filmmaker driven mad by his experiences behind the camera of his goriest films. Fulci assembled much of the film from clips of his previous horror films, and as such wasn’t a favorite among fans upon release. But his health was fading during production and A Cat in the Brain was reflective of his depression. It was also his response to the criticisms he’d received for much of his work in horror. As for its influence, this film was ahead of the curve in terms of the wave of meta-horror that would follow in the latter half of the 1990s.
Also released in 1990 is Demonia. As with many notable genre directors whose glory days were behind them, Lucio Fulci spent the final few years of his career making mediocre films that occasionally had moments that reminded you why they were held in such high regard in the first place. 1990s Demonia is one such film, combining elements of Fulci’s gory late ‘70s/early ‘80s heyday and the more surreal and ethereal tone of his mid 80s output, but somehow not hitting the same highs as either period.
Demonia does however bear all the hallmarks of Fulci’s work; gorgeous location scenery, plenty of gore special effects, and the usual questionable English dubbed soundtrack. The location, a looming accursed monastery in which most of the film takes place, is a true highlight; its walls, lined with cobwebbed skeletons, to the intimidating gothic presence of its very structure, Demonia’s location feels so authentically dusty and decrepit that you barely notice the film’s incredibly low budget; it was never released theatrically, like much of his later work, it went straight to DVD.
Demonia may very well be one of Fulci’s weakest offerings. its Gothic facades and nunsploitation elements lack the ingenuity of Fulci’s better, earlier body of work. However, it still has enough of the 'Fulci' elements to make it interesting enough to watch.
Voices from Beyond 1991
This is one of those films that rarely gets a fair review, as it is often compared to Lucio Fulci’s horror masterpieces. This is kind of ridiculous, since few horror films can keep pace with The Beyond and Zombie, so it should be judged own its own merit, and not in comparison with his other classics. Voices from Beyond is about a rich man who dies under strange, painful circumstances and his spirit remains behind, in an effort to make his killer face some justice. This film has elements of Fulci’s horror technique, but is more of a mystery at heart and that seems to disappoint some viewers. I think the mystery angle works and is stronger thanks to the horror elements, especially the vivid visions the spirit evokes in those still alive. I like the surreal, dreamlike texture the film has at times, as well as the fevered and disjointed moments and imagery. It all combines in a way that is interesting to watch. I wouldn’t rank this as one of Fulci’s best by any means, but it does get some unfair criticism from genre fans. I certainly think there’s enough bizarre moments and horror threads to make it worth a look, for fans of Fulci, horror, or surreal cinema enthusiasts in general. Keep an open mind people and view it for what it is and not want you expect it to be.
Lucio Fulci 1927-1996
Obscure British Horror
Lost and Found
The Appointment 1981
The British horror film saved from extinction
Written and Directed by Lindsey C. Vickers
As if possessed by the strange forces that control the events of the film, the prints disappeared, snatched into the ether like the unfortunate young girl in the opening sequence. However, in 2022, the BFI finally found a copy of the film in the Sony Pictures archive, allowing the film to be restored to its full potential. It was released as part of the company’s ‘Flipside’ series, a collection of British titles that haven’t received the attention they deserve.
The Appointment is a bizarre film, with action being substituted for nightmarish tension building. The looming sense of terror lingers long after watching, and you’ll be left wondering whether these images have come from a film or a strange half dream that occurs in the moments before you awake in a dark room.
The film follows Edward Woodward as a well to do middle class father and husband, Ian, creepily adored by his 14-year old daughter Joanne, a violin aficionado. When a last minute business trip prevents Ian from attending Joanne’s recital, events spiral towards the unexpected as prophetic dreams turn into reality. Cars and dogs become the main antagonists, there are no masked killers in sight and barely any violence and gore are shown on screen. An unknown entity haunts the film, yet an explicit resolution is never given, making for a highly chilling viewing experience.
Creeping slowly, the film is perhaps not for horror fans who want quick, easy scares and grotesque imagery. Instead, The Appointment is a masterclass in creating an atmosphere, with the film playing out like a sizzling fuse on the precipice of exploding into flames.
Interestingly, Vickers’ film was created for British television, forming part of a series, A Step in the Wrong Direction, which never came to fruition. The director was set to helm several more productions as part of the series, paid for by the National Coal Board Pension Fund, yet all plans were eventually dropped due to issues within the production team. The Appointment is well worth watching, with its minimal plot and characters giving it a hauntingly isolating feel.
The Orchard End Murder 1981
Written and Directed by Christian Marnham
Written and Directed by Saxon Logan
The Lake 1978
Written and Directed by Lindsey C. Vickers
A genuinely creepy ghost story
This is a very effective exercise in minimalist suspense and sunlit horror, Incredibly simple in concept.
Vickers only made this and The Appointment but he certainly did have some talent with the supernatural and menacing elements of filmmaking. It's a simple premise of a couple going to a lake for a picnic at a farm where the owner murdered his family and animals and then disappeared. But as they while away the hours, they soon realise that something far more sinister is happening. As they enjoy the idyllic setting, we get the sense that someone or something is watching them, something with a malevolent purpose.
Vickers's constant use of a creeping camera prowling through the woods is proto Evil Dead, especially with the jangly synth score, but it's far less manic, more elegantly evil. He has a masterful understanding of tone and the building of tension through silence and visual cues, including an ending that makes your eyebrows raise for the sheer number of implications it presents. The Lake feels quite similar in set up to one of the Ghost Stories for Christmas series, in its measured tone and rural English countryside setting, though it differs through its addition of a sexual relationship between a couple at the centre of the narrative, instead of the single, solitary heroes of those films. It really is such as shame that Vickers only wrote these two slow creepers, a real talent was lost here, as I believe he had so much more to offer, but due to circumstance, it just wasn't to be.
He did work on several Hammer productions as second and third assistant director (these roles were all uncredited) such as Lust for a Vampire, Blood from the Mummy's Tomb and Scars of Dracula, but after completing The Appointment, which had a very limited cinema release in England, he very unfortunately faded from the British filmmaking industry's sight.
Although both his films were thought of being lost in the annals of time, they were found in a film storage unit and have now been restored by the BFI. At least his influential legacy and style can now live on, to inspire those that love an alternative approach to genre filmmaking.....gore free horror filmmaking.
The films of Norman J. Warren
The films of Norman J. Warren are as much a window on the fortunes of independent film making in 1960s and 70s Britain as they are an insight into the creative imagination behind some of the country's more individual genre titles. Starting out in 1959, Warren perfected his craft in professional studios at a time when British productions were supported by Hollywood money, but his chance to direct came at the opposite end of the budgetary scale, as independent film making began to flourish.
Born in West London on 25 June 1942, Warren was a cinema fan from an early age and began making amateur films in his teens. He was determined to enter the business and was taken on as teaboy and runner for producers Anatole and Dimitri de Grunwald. He soon graduated to trainee in the cutting room of their cinema advertising arm, ScreenSpace, where he learned editing skills. Frustrated by the lack of opportunities to direct, Warren decided to make his own 35mm short film; the result, Fragment (1965), was screened by Richard Schulman at the Paris Pullman cinema in South Kensington, which meant that it could be registered with the Board of Trade and thus gain 'professional' status.
At that time, Schulman was teaming up with distributor Bachoo Sen to form a production company and they were on the look out for a director for their first film. So Warren was signed up to make Her Private Hell (1967), which was shot in two weeks on a tiny budget. Promoted as Britain's first narrative sex film, it brought in massive profits for Sen and Schulman. The following year they asked Warren to make another 'sexploitation' film, Loving Feeling, the cautionary tale of a successful disc jockey who sleeps around behind his wife's back but finds himself alone by the closing credits. A further indictment of the 'free love' ethos of the period, this film was also a money-spinner, and Warren was offered the chance to direct further adult titles. However, he had become bored with the limitations of the genre and returned to editing to await a more fulfilling project.
After several prospects fell through, Warren decided to move into a new genre. He had always been interested in horror films and was aware of the imaginative opportunities and commercial possibilities they brought. Britain's horror boom was starting to wind down but there was still a demand for films with something new to offer. Satan's Slave (1976), although influenced by Hammer, was an attempt to bring a more modern, everyday feel to the genre, as well rendering the violence more graphically. Its success encouraged Warren to remain with the genre for his next production, Prey (1977).
Also made independently (this time for Terry Marcel, who went on to make Hawk the Slayer, UK/US, 1980), Prey tells the story of an alien who comes to earth in search of new food sources and finds himself living with a lesbian couple. Meanwhile, Satan's Slave was still making money and, with the profits, Warren embarked on Terror (1978), which was heavily influenced by Dario Argento's Suspiria (Italy, 1977), particularly in its sound and lighting effects. Again, it was a huge financial success. The tale of a man whose friends are killed off one by one by an unseen force, Terror is essentially a collection of horror 'set pieces', including one which takes place in a deserted film studio where a character is suffocated by thousands of feet of celluloid.
Warren turned next to science fiction, with Outer Touch (aka Spaced Out, 1979), which took a comic view of the genre, followed by the much darker Inseminoid (1980), in which Judy Geeson plays a female astronaut impregnated by an extra-terrestrial. Comparisons were made between the latter and Ridley Scott's Alien (1979) and 20th Century Fox demanded to see a print, which flattered Warren given the budget differential of the two films. Inseminoid was one of the last independent films to get a wide distribution in the UK; home video had by now become the chief medium for low-budget genre films and neither of Warren's later productions, Gunpowder and Bloody New Year (both 1987), got a UK cinema release. His career had flourished during a period when it was possible for independent producers to compete with the studios but, with fewer screens willing to take a chance on such films, domestic titles were squeezed out by the more graphic horror coming from America and Italy.
Norman Warren's filmography, although short, does demonstrate that genre cinema can be effective even when made under difficult circumstances. '"Big budgets really aren't an attraction to me,'" he has said. '"They don't help creativity.'" For Warren, collaboration with an enthusiastic, talented crew able to find creative solutions to technical challenges was the key to successful independent filmmaking.
Satan's Slave is a 1976 supernatural/occult horror directed by the one and only Norman J. Warren. It is written by David McGillivray and features Candace Glendenning, Michael Gough, Martin Potter and Barbara Kellerman. The film was produced by Les Young and Richard Crafter with their own money and shot almost entirely on location in Pirbright, Surrey and Shepherds Bush, London in late 1975.
The plot follows a young woman who, after surviving a car accident that kills her parents, stays in the remote estate of her uncle and cousin, unaware that they are both necromancers who intend to sacrifice her to in order to resurrect the a supernaturally gifted ancestor.
This will not be to everyone's taste, but definitely worth a look if you enjoy low budget British occult horror.
Prey is a 1977 British science fiction horror film directed by Norman J. Warren, produced by Terry Marcel and written by Max Cuff and Quinn Donoghue. The plot revolves around a carnivorous alien named Kator who lands on Earth with the mission to evaluate humans as a source of food. He befriends a lesbian couple, Jessica-Ann and Josephine, as part of his mission. The film features Barry Stokes, Glory Amen and Sally Faulkner.
The film was shot in under two weeks on a budget of less than £60,000 using locations near Shepperton Studios in Surrey and only had a limited distribution upon release.
Critical response to the film has been mixed, with verdicts ranging from odd, bizarre, eccentric, ambitious and experimental, while the film's claustrophobic has drawn both praise and criticism.
Pray has also been compared to the vampire and zombie genre, as well as been cited as an example of the exploitation and sexploitation sub genre of filmmaking.
Needless to say, like all of Norman J. Warren's films, this will not be to everyone's liking. It has however, drawn a cult following over the years,
Terror is a 1978 Supernatural horror/slasher film written By David McGillivray, directed by Norman J. Warren and produced by Les Young and
Richard Crafter. It features John Nolan and Carolyn Courage as two cousins who fall victim to a curse that a witch placed on their ancestors, and filmed at locations around London and Surrey. Although it was a box office success in the United Kingdom, it has drawn a mixed critical response for its storytelling and visual style, both of which were inspired by the Italian giallo horror film Suspiria (1977).
Terror was produced in four weeks during the summer of '78. Both Warren and producer Les Young noted that due to the multiple locations, the filming logistics were more complicated than they had been for Satan's Slave. The filming location for the Garrick residence was the house of the Baron and Baroness DeVeuce in Pirbright; this had previously served as the main location for Satan's Slave. Many of the woodland scenes were shot on the surrounding estate.
Terror was a commercial success in the UK, where it spent a week as box office number one.
With lighting and sound effects inspired by Dario Argento's Suspiria, Terror is effectively a series of horror 'set pieces' built around a fairly traditional tale of a family doomed by an ancient witch's curse. The prologue, in which this tale is told, turns out to be a film made by the protagonist, the first of several anti-climactic moments in which tension is built up, only to be defused when the perceived threat evaporates. However, when the moments of actual horror do come, the effects work extremely well for a low budget film.
The production of Terror was funded using the takings from Warren's hugely profitable film, Satan's Slave and was itself a financial success, topping the British box office chart for a couple of weeks. This was a period when the plethora of London cinema screens could find space for low budget independent films, which could do as well as, or even better than some mainstream releases.
Inseminiod is a sci-fi horror film made is 1981. It was directed by Norman J. Warren and written by Nick Maley and Gloria Maley. The film was produced by Richard Gordon and David Speechley, with funding from the Hong Kong based Shaw Brothers Studio. It has been reviewed that Inseminoid is a cheap Alien rip-off, an 'obvious' cash in on the lucrative Sci-fi horror market of the time. Well, from the filmmakers themselves, Inseminoid was always intended as sci-fi horror, it was developed before Alien was released, and no one involved with it had even heard of Alien. Even the producers of Alien themselves, after reviewing Inseminoid, were satisfied that there was no similarity. So why then does this persistent comparison keep cropping up? Honestly, I don't know, the similarities begin and end with both films containing an alien, and both films have penetration of a human by said alien. That is it. Where as Alien went on to become one of the best sci-fi horror, if not horror films of all time, Warren's film remains parked on the low budget exploitation bench. There is, however, much to admire in Inseminoid, not least Geeson's performance as the alien controlled protagonist. She goes through numerous emotive states as she struggles to control the alien within her, and when it comes to the birthing scene, this does remain really quite harrowing. The sets within the Chislehurst caves are impressive considering the budget. Though there are a few gruesome moments in the film, these are rather tame, even compared to Warren's own earlier work, and there is an awful lot of running around corridors towards the latter part of the film. Finally, John Scott's electronic score, though maybe innovative in 1980, now sounds rather dated. So, inseminoid has good and bad points, but its inclusion here is necessary, it being Warren's last good piece of genre filmmaking.
Norman J Warren’s final feature as director is also one of his most unclassifiable. The film was produced by Hayden Pearce and filmed in Wales in May, 1986. It focuses on a group of young people who find themselves stranded on a island while on holiday. The island is home to a deserted hotel, where it’s no longer the summer of 1986, but New Year's Eve 1959, cueing a series of Warren’s famed horror set pieces, involving ghosts, zombies, dismemberment, decapitations and much more. Bloody New Year filters the classic haunted house tropes through an ‘80s lens and copious special effects.
Norman J. Warren directs from a script by Frazer Pearce, who never wrote another film script after this. He also served as Bloody New Year’s set designer.
David Williams supervised the special effects, which range from impressive to very cheap and camp. Despite the title, New Year’s only plays a small role in the film, in the way of leftover Christmas decorations. Some would say this film is flawed, but it definitely fun to watch and has a very unique style. You're unlikely to see another festive season film like this!
The films of Pete Walker
Pete Walker was born on the 4th July 1939 in Brighton, England. He is an English film director, writer and producer, specialising in horror and sexploitation films, frequently combining the two.
There are several parallels between the careers of British directors Pete Walker and Norman J Warren. Both started out making adult films before switching to horror. Both moved away from the traditional Gothic favoured by Hammer to much more contemporary genre pieces, several written by ex-Monthly Film Bulletin deputy editor David McGillivray. Both men's careers foundered by the 1980s, when European exploitation out gored domestic productions. However, Walker's films eschewed Warren's supernatural themes, focusing instead on the evil in people, making them much more akin to American independent horror films of the early 1970s.
The son of musical comedy performer Syd Walker, Pete himself started as a stand-up in a Soho strip club. After acting in low budget British programme fillers, he set up his own company in the early 1960s, producing 8mm glamour films. Using the money from this highly lucrative enterprise, he graduated to 35mm feature productions, making films like Strip Poker (1968) and Cool it Carol! (1970), which marked Robin Askwith's soft porn debut. Under his own Peter Walker Heritage brand, he even experimented with 3-D technology, in The Four Dimensions of Greta and The Flesh and Blood Show (both 1972).
Finding the adult film genre repetitive, he moved to horror, although he preferred the term 'terror films' as he didn't feel any particular affinity for the genre, despite being aware of its potential. Exploring the themes of abuse of authority and the widening generation gap that he perceived in society, Walker's best films were scathing indictments of British institutions: in House of Whipcord (1973), a couple running a corrective prison torture the inmates. Frightmare (1974) saw a couple released from a mental institution luring people to their farm and murdering them, while The House of Mortal Sin (1975) depicted a Catholic priest terrorising a young girl. While most critics savaged the films, the Monthly Film Bulletin found more in them than just exploitation, comparing House of Whipcord to Michael Powell's psychological thriller Peeping Tom (1960).
Despite varying reviews, the films were hugely successful at the box office but Walker's career was waning by the late 1970s. His only non independent film was also his last:, the Golan Globus production House of the Long Shadows (1982), an adaptation of the classic Seven Keys to Baldpate, was a fitting final production. A nostalgia piece starring horror veterans Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and Vincent Price. After abandoning filmmaking, Walker went into property development.