Baby Cart at the River Styx (Color, 1972) AKA Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart at the River Styx, Sword of Vengeance II, Kozure Ôkami: Sanzu no kawa no ubaguruma ("Perambulator of the River of Sanzu")
Much of the footage was later used in the American dubbed release, Shogun Assassin. Second Lone Wolf and Cub film, in which Itto Ogami is hired to kill a man protected by three brothers known as The Gods of Death. Unfortunately, Ogami is also the target of a clan of female Yagyu ninja who try to hypnotize him with colored cloth, throw razor-lined hats at him, and even attack him with radishes. With the help of Daigoro and the infamous baby cart of doom, he gets past them, but is left near death from blood loss. After some touching scenes with Daigoro resourcefully caring for his comatose father, Ogami's enemies kidnap the child and almost toss him down a well. After getting through this pitfall, Ogami boards a ship carrying the Gods of Death, each of whom uses a unique weapon - one uses a metal claw, one mailed fists, and one a spiked club. The ship is set on fire, but Ogami escapes to face the Gods of Death in a desert showdown. One of the best in the series: existential, dark, beautiful, and very, very bloody. Don't miss a chance to see this, or any of the others in the series. (This film is more commonly known in America as Shogun Assassin, but in that form it's re-edited to include footage from the first Lone Wolf and Cub film, Sword of Vengeance. Narration by Daigoro was written & added as well.) -zwolf

Baby Cart In the Land of Demons (Color, 1973) AKA Kozure Ôkami: Meifumado ("Crossroads to Hell") Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart in the Land of Demons, Sword of Vengeance V
One of the best in the Lone Wolf and Cub samurai film series. Assassin Ogami Itto and his toddler son Daigoro meet several men on the road who will each pay a fifth of his fee and tell him a fifth of his assignment; the catch is, he has to kill each of them in battle to prove that he's the man for the job. One of them even falls into a fire and relates his story while he's burning to death. On the way to his mission (which is to kill an abbot and recover a document that would destroy a clan), Ogami loses track of Daigoro, who gets mixed up with a female pickpocket. It's a very well-done subplot and perhaps the most powerful episode in the series: Daigoro takes a beating in order to teach the pick-pocket a lesson and turn her away from crime. Ogami does his job, even though he's got to go through a couple of small armies to do it. There's a little less blood than usual, but the fights are still amazing - brutally violent but at the same time artistically beautiful. -zwolf

Baby Cart To Hades (Color, 1972) AKA Kozure Ôkami: Shinikazeni mukau ubaguruma ("Perambulator Against the Winds of Death") Lightning Swords of Death (the dubbed American version), Lupine Wolf, Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart to Hades, Baby Cart in Hades, Sword of Vengeance III
Ogami is contracted to get revenge on a governor who had betrayed a clan lord in order to gain control himself. This governor tries to trap Ogami, but he underestimated him - a whole army isn't enough to take down the Lone Wolf, as long as he's got that baby cart handy. The third film in the series addresses a new problem facing the bushido system - guns - and set the trend of having Ogami take on an entire army at the climax. The finale here is probably the most memorable action sequence in the series, and the body count is astronomical and very graphic (one of the decapitations is one of the best such effects I've ever seen). There's also a powerful subplot with Ogami defending a girl who killed a pimp, even if he must endure a beating and water torture at the hands of the Yakuza in her stead, and another subplot detailing Ogami's respectful dealings with a samurai who worries that he's been disgraced. -zwolf

Badlands (C, 1973)
Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek turn in some of their best performances in this one-of-a-kind film based on the Charlie Starkweather murder spree. Charismatic (and weird) garbageman Sheen runs off with his girlfriend Spacek and they go on a killing spree that manages to be both chilling and strangely poetic. One of those movies you can't see enough times, so don't miss a chance to see it. Terrence Malick's direction is very unique and close to perfection. -zwolf

Bang (C, 1996)
This extremely low budget (I'd be kinda surprised if it was into four figures) shot-on-video crime drama is like a poor-man's Reservoir Dogs with a few low-brow comedy elements thrown in. Four police officers are kidnapped by some Crip-like gangsters with bandanas on their faces (but with holes cut in 'em so they can still smoke!) They're beaten up with nunchuks (wielded by co-producer El Timo, who's a really sinister-looking long-haired black man) and once an hour the masked guys come in, play some really bad rap song about "Little Boy Blue," and shoot one of the cops (I don't think they could even afford blanks - the shots are mostly sound effects). In the meantime the cops reflect on what bad things they did that may have brought them to this impasse (one stole some drug money, another messed with a married woman, one humiliated a motorist by making him wet his pants, etc.) - turns out they're all wrong. It's very amateurish but it's not all bad - it'll keep you entertained for 90 minutes despite its serious shortcomings (like pickup trucks that have to stand in for cop cars, etc.). The acting is decent, but the climactic kung-fu fight between co-producer El Timo and writer/director/producer King Jeff is one of the most absolutely hilarious things you'll ever see. El Timo and King Jeff also did the music and editing. Overall it's not bad at all for a home-job, really. I was never bored, and these guys make up for a lot with their obvious enthusiasm. The opening (reminiscent of the long waiting-for-a-train sequence at the beginning of Sergio Leone's Once Upon A Time In The West) is pretty funny and at least shows you that you're in the hands of guys who care about what they're doing. JeTi Films is based in Louisiana and also brought you another short movie called The Murder Men, which is also worth a look. Both are available on DVD in a box set called Livin' Da Life, which gives you ten movies on DVD for 'bout twelve bucks, so you can't go wrong. -zwolf

Baron Blood (C, 1972) AKA The Torture Chamber of Baron Blood, Chamber of Tortures, The Blood Baron, The Thirst Of Baron Blood, Baron Vampire, Gli orrii del castello di Norimberga
This is a Mario Bava horror film and that's the main thing you need to know, because all Bava is essential. A young man named Peter visits his ancestral home, "The Castle of the Devils," in Austria. His ancestor was the notorious Baron Von Kleist, who tortured to death hundreds of villagers, often impaling their bodies on the roof of the castle. Peter brings an old manuscript containing an incantation written by a witch named Elisabeth Holley, whom the Baron had burned to death. She left it as a curse to resurrect him from the dead. Just as a joke, he and Elke Sommer go to the castle and perform the ritual. When bells start tolling and something rattles the door, they revoke the spirit. Later they find a hidden room with a ruined portrait of the baron, and they try the incantation again. The manuscript is blown into the fire afterward so they can't revoke it, and a wheezing, pain-wracked thing in a black cloak and a slouch hat crawls from a grave outside. Von Kleist was subjected to a lot of torture before death, so he's in bad shape, broken and bleeding. He gets medical attention from a local doctor, then kills him and sets out on a rampage, killing several more people by hanging and iron maiden. Soon afterward a wheelchair-bound Joseph Cotton buys the Castle of the Devils and Sommer goes to work for him, restoring the castle while being stalked through its halls by the baron. They go to a local witch for help in sending the Baron back, and she invokes the psychedelic spirit of Elisabeth Holley, who says he can only be destroyed by his own victims. In a beautifully-atmospheric sequence, a little girl gets hunted through forest paths near the castle - in one brilliant shot she drops an apple and the camera tracks it down the hill until it ends up with a shot of the Baron's tortured hand gripping a tree. Joseph Cotton (doing his best Vincent Price) gives them a tour of the castle and springs a few surprises on them. Beautiful, authentic locations, a little gore (although rather restrained when you remember that just before this Bava had filmed the splatter-laden Bay of Blood), and a welcome throwback to Bava's earlier supernatural horror films. Baron Von Kleist is, of course, based on Vlad Tepes, the real-life Dracula. The Baron's makeup (by Carlo Rambaldi, who also made E.T.) and outfit are a nod to Vincent Price's in House of Wax. -zwolf

Barood (C, 1998)
Bollywood revenge flick in which a woman's husband was killed by a mob boss who's so ruthless he even puts hits on people who cut him off in traffic. For years this woman carries on a vigil, praying for revenge. Meanwhile, the gangster's daughter Neha is a pop star, but she's bratty and shows up late for a show, so the revenge-crazed woman's son, Jai (Akshay Kumar) - who, through a stroke of only-Bollywood-would-have-the-balls-to-try-to-suspend-your-disbelief-this-far luck, is also a pop star - shows up and does the show instead, dancing around with his pants on fire (and that's not hyperbole - I mean, the guy's pants are literally burning) to a song that cops riffs from "Smoke on the Water." Neha has her up-and-coming gangster (and son of a corrupt police captain) boyfriend Sanjay try to kill Jai, but they screw it up, resulting in some insane car antics (some of which you can tell are inspired by Mad Max - the rest are just madness, period!). Then some guy imitates M.C. Hammer and Michael Jackson to open for Neha... who, much to her chagrin, is teamed up with Jai. Even though Neha tried to kill him, Jai thinks she's kinda cute so he tries to strike up a romance with her. She plays along and goes skiing with him... but only so some more of her gangster buddies can try to snuff 'im. Jai kung fu fights a guy and there's a crazy ski-and-motorcycle (on snow?) chase, followed by a snowmobile explosion fest where Jai saves Neha's life. She regrets all those assassination attempts and tries to lure him back with some musical number that seems based on that "Hush little baby, don't say a word, mama's gonna buy you a mockingbird" song. Jai is a dope, so it works. His mom finds out that his girlfriend is the gangster's daughter. Also, the gangster has promised Neha to Sanjay. And if these weren't complications enough, Jai becomes a policeman and swears to avenge his father's murder, unaware that his fiancee's father is the killer. It's a completely impossible and unbelievable situation that'll make orphans of damn near everybody before it's over, but what the hell, it's a movie and they can get a lot of drama out of this kinda thing, so just shelve your disbelief completely and go along with it for the entertainment factor. Remember: Oedipus Rex ain't exactly plausible, either, and that's a classic. Plus, the crazy plot results in lots of explosions, kung fu, automotive mayhem, broken glass violence, double-crosses and frame-ups, gunfire, a dance number with people dressed in bug costumes, and plenty of ruthless vengeance. It's slowed up by the melodrama and musical numbers in some places, and there are spots where you may scream "we get the idea already, Jesus Christ, give it a damn rest!", but overall it'll probably kick yer chubby ass. If nothing else, check out the last 20-30 minutes, which is a very-ridiculous nonstop battle between Jai and a bunch of wrestlers and kung fu experts in a fiery RDX factory. It's some of the craziest action you'll see anywhere. Seriously - Ringo Lam would look at the last reel of this thing and go, "Well, that's a little excessive, isn't it?" -zwolf

Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (C, 1993)
This animated feature (an outgrowth of the TV cartoons) is much better than any of the live-action movies. While Bruce Wayne has personal troubles of his own (he's in love), Batman is wanted by the cops for bumping off gangsters. 'Cept the one really doing the gangster-snuffing is another caped figure called The Phantasm, who moves around in a mist and has a big blade for a hand. The Joker is all mixed up in it, too. Intelligent and well-written script and dramatic, atmospheric artwork... even though it's fine for kids, adults will enjoy it, too... maybe more than kids, since the plot is pretty complex and serious. The cartoon series did a better job with the Batman character than the "real" movies ever did. -zwolf

The Battle of the Bulge (C,1965)
One of those big-ass all-star war movies, this one serving up Henry Fonda, Robert Shaw, Robert Ryan, Dana Andrews, Charles Bronson, George Montgomery, and Telly Savalas, and its epic look demands to be seen in letterbox format. It's rather slow going for a war film at first, and sometimes kind of artificial (poor backscreen effects during driving or flying scenes, German soldiers breaking into song during inspection, phony German accents). It takes about an hour before there's any action, but then you get some fairly decent tank battles. Panzers are rolling in, crushing all resistance, and when the Americans try to blow up bridges to halt their progress, German spies ruin the plans. Then the railroads try to rush in some artillery to handle the tanks, and the Panzers put the quietus on that plan, too, making things look pretty bleak for the good guys. But, o' course, you know the Allies won that one, so the suspense ain't gonna kill you, unless you want to see what Hollywood solution they come up with. You may not believe it when you see it... Still, this manages to be some solid entertainment, even if it's not one of the WW2 masterpieces and not all that historically accurate. -zwolf

Bay Of Blood (C, 1972) AKA Carnage, Twitch Of The Death Nerve, Last House On The Left Part 2, New House On The Left, Bloodbath Bay Of Blood
Paranoiac gorefest by Mario Bava that's not his most polished work, but still may be his most influential, since it's the direct inspiration for all those Friday the 13th movies, which not only took the basic idea - the stalking and slashing of thirteen victims - but copied some of the killings to the letter. Victim-fodder includes four goofy vacationing college students (including one big silly German girl named Brunhilda who's like the human equivalent of that girl rabbit who always wants Bugs Bunny to "give to me large kiss!"), a guy who collects insects (and makes friends with them), his tarot-reading wife, a guy who fishes for squid, and others. The killings (which spare nothing - this is groundbreaking gore) include machetes in the face, throat-slashing, two bodies speared while having sex, stabbings, stranglings, decapitations, and more, all in close-up and with Bava's wonderful sense of color and lighting. The plot is scant - people are basically snuffing each other over a piece of prime real estate - but the film usually catches criticism for overuses of the zoom lens. Eh... it's not a problem. All this... and a funny surprise ending. Not Bava's masterpiece (for me, that'd be Kill Baby Kill), but definite must-see stuff for splatter fans. -zwolf

Beach Red (C, 1967)
Engrossing, action-packed war film following soldiers landing on an island in the South Pacific and slugging it out with the Japanese, who make them work for every inch they gain. Pretty gory for its day, showing limbs torn off and some pretty unpleasant deaths, making the point that war is hell. First they land on the beach under heavy fire, then fight their way through the fields and into the jungle. There they get a little rest, giving us a chance to see flashbacks (be sure to look for the romantic encounter that gets broken up by a father he's probably the absolute worst actor I've ever seen - he only has about three lines and fucks every one of them up). The captain (Cornell Wilde, who also directed) has to try to keep everyone human and on track. They find out the Japanese number in the hundreds and plan to attack dressed as American troops to cause confusion, and they have to find some way to put a stop to it. Not a whole lot of plot, but other than that it's all you could ask for out of a war movie. At times it's artsy (lots of still pictures pop up to illustrate memories or fantasies) and at times it looks a little bit cheap, but I was never bored, and for that I have no reservations about recommending this one. -zwolf

The Beguiled (C, 1971)
Moody Southern gothic psychological pseudo-horror featuring the classic team of Don Siegel directing and Clint Eastwood starring. Clint's a wounded Union soldier who's taken in by a school full of Southern belles during the Civil War. They hide him and take care of him because he's stringing them along, using their loneliness to manipulate them. It works well as long as he's able to juggle them, but he's a little too horny for his own good (thanks to that hussy Carol, who's pretty hard to resist) and he gets caught by one of them. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, and his little Shangri-la turns into a nightmare pretty quickly. Dark-themed and beautifully shot, with some surprising twisted stuff (Clint kissing a 12-year old, school mistress Geraldine Page using one of his injuries as an excuse for some sick vengeance, etc.) Very well made and packs a chilly cumulative effect, partially due to the very underplayed theme song which Clint sings (or mutters, really). Not Clint's usual action flick, for sure, but definitely worth checking out. -zwolf

A Bell From Hell (C, 1973) AKA The Bell of Hell, La Campana del Inferno
Obscure Spanish horror about a sociopathic guy who's released from the asylum and comes home. He takes a job at a slaughterhouse, then soon quits, saying he's "learned enough." Then he begins playing a series of evil pranks. The first is a weird riff on Saki's story "The Open Window" (look it up and read it, 'cuz I'm not gonna tell ya 'bout it). Then he sets in on his aunt and his cousins, who had him committed. Supposedly he wasn't really insane and they just framed him to get access to his money, but his behavior makes you wonder if perhaps the madhouse was where he belonged. He tells one woman that he hooked a microphone to her bed, then says he'll tear out his eyes out of guilt... then does it! But it's just makeup effects to horrify her. When she faints he takes off her underwear to make her think he raped her while she was unconscious. Then he rescues a girl who actually is about to be raped, so maybe he's not all bad. But he probably is, since he soon starts outfitting his basement as a slaughterhouse and then sprays attractant on her face and unleashes a swarm of bees. While she's being stung he terrorizes her daughters. For this, one of the townspeople sets up vengeance against him involving a new church bell. The movie's great but was apparently cursed, because on the last day of filming, director Claudio Guerin Hill fell (or possibly jumped - stories vary) from the bell tower used in the film, and that may be part of the reason this has slipped into obscurity. It was once a part of WOR's great "Fright Night" package, before their station turned to crap, and the videotape (also apparently containing an edited-for-TV print) could occasionally be found in out-of-the-way video stores. Sinister Cinema currently carries it on DVD-R, which is good, because it has some creepy moments - especially at the end - and deserves a look. -zwolf

Below (C, 2002) AKA Das Haunted Boot, U-5666, Run Screaming Run Deep
Basically, a ghost story movie set on a submarine during WWII. An American sub picks up three survivors from a torpedoed hospital ship: a British sailor, a British nurse, and a wounded German who doesn't last very long. They're going along, hiding from German warships, and deciding that the sub just might be haunted... as if it's not scary enough avoiding sonar and grappling hooks and depth charges, they also have to deal with record players turning themselves on, lots of bad luck, the ship deciding to steer itself, and mysterious crew deaths. The submarine-movie aspects overwhelm the ghost stuff and some of the situations seem lifted directly from Das Boot (which may be unavoidable; U-571 also cribbed heavily from it) but the dialogue is good and it keeps moving. Not terribly original but effective and well-handled. -zwolf

A Better Tomorrow (C, 1986)
A John Woo film starring Chow Yun Fat... and that should be enough to tell you that you should watch this if you get the chance. This was Woo's first big hit (it broke box office records in Hong Kong) and looks cheaper than more-familiar Woo/Fat films like The Killer or Hard Boiled, but it's still a powerful gangland saga with incredible bullet-riddled action sequences. Two brothers - one a cop, one a gangster - get at cross purposes when some mobsters kill their father in retaliation for something the criminal son did. Chow Yun Fat is a criminal friend - he pulls of a hit that's kind of similar to one he did in The Killer, taking out a dozen or so guys, pulling pistols out of potted plants instead of changing clips. There's a lot of tragic melodrama mixed in with the mayhem as the cop brother treats the criminal brother like dirt, even though the criminal brother loves him more than anything and has changed his ways. Things pick up by the climax for sure - total gunfire holocaust. Followed by a sequel - A Better Tomorrow II, also directed by Woo - and a prequel - A Better Tomorrow III: Love and Death in Saigon, which saw producer Tsui Hark taking over directorial duties. A little stiffer than Woo's later films (it sometimes resembles some of those old Italian gangster films, mainly in the editing, I think) but still with all the stuff you watch Woo for. -zwolf

Beware My Lovely (B&W, 1952)
Widow Ida Lupino runs a boarding house since her husband died in WWI (she's not that old - the movie's set in 1918) and her boarder is going on vacation as her new handyman, Robert Ryan, shows up. Her dog is suspicious of him, and for good reason - he's a train-hopping psycho who killed the last woman he worked for and doesn't even remember doing it. He seems like a pleasant-enough guy, but every time he has a minute to himself he twinges with madness, and it quickly becomes obvious that he's a seriously troubled guy - he's very fatalistic and has a persecution complex. Ida's bitchy teenage niece doesn't help matters any by taunting him, and he starts ranting to Ida about how the army rejected him and she figures out she made a bad mistake hiring this guy; he can't even remember where he lives and is just totally unable to function, and he's locked them both up inside the house and is getting increasingly bitter and violent... Very tense film noir plays out in real time for the most part, gets started fast and keeps on building, with stark, claustrophobic direction and a real sense of menace. -zwolf

The Beyond (C, 1981) AKA E tu vivrai nel terrore L'aldilà, L'aldilà, Seven Doors of Death
Considered by many to be Lucio Fulci's best film, this is a catalogue of extreme gore effects. The plot is similar to that of City of the Living Dead: one of the seven gates of Hell (this one under a Louisiana mansion) has opened, causing the dead to walk the earth and various other unpleasant supernatural things to happen. There's really not much to the plot - it doesn't make a lot of sense - but there are some incredible scenes along the way both artistically creepy (encountering a blind girl on the long, empty Lake Ponchartrain bridge, a house full of the shadows of the dead walking in the rooms (looks a lot like the famous "arrival of the exorcist" scene in The Exorcist) and astoundingly gory (eye-gouging - from front and back! - spiders tearing at a man's face in extreme close-up, dogs tearing out throats, chain-whipping avulsions, acid eating faces, zombies being shot in the head, etc.). I don't know if this is really Fulci's best film - Zombie seems to be the one I re-watch most often - but it's definitely a must-see for anyone interested in Fulci or in Italian horror in general. One of the greatest and most extreme gore films. -zwolf

Beyond the Mat (C, 1999)
Well-done documentary on professional wrestling was pretty controversial upon its release because Vince McMahon, owner of the World Wrestling Federation, fought to suppress it. Why, I'm not certain, because it doesn't say anything particularly bad about the business in general, and the days of "kayfabe" are over. The film covers mainly Mick "Mankind" Foley (and is partially responsible for him deciding to go ahead and retire from the ring, because he saw the effect that the brutal beatings he was taking in the ring was having on his loved ones who had to watch it), Terry Funk (whose career just can't seem to find a stopping place even though he's in his mid-50's and his body's wearing out) and Jake "The Snake" Roberts (whose career is on the skids because of his personal hell of drugs (he's a crackhead) and bad family relations). Other stars like ECW's New Jack (ya gotta love this guy... and be terrified of 'im!), Chyna, Spike Dudley, Koko B. Ware, The Rock, Droz, indy star Mike Modest, and other wrestlers and promoters get some camera time as well, and you get to see that even though wrestling isn't completely "real," it's not nearly as fake as you'd think. It's pretty tough to watch Mick Foley getting a huge gash in his head stitched up and not see that there's definitely a reality quotient. Well-done and should be fascinating viewing even for non-fans, although o' course wrestling fans are the ones who'll really mark out over it... as Paul Heyman might say, "This is a shoot!" The DVD also includes commentary tracks featuring Mick Foley and Terry Funk, both of whom offer very entertaining and informative info, as well as coming across as genuinely cool people who just happen to have psychotic jobs. -zwolf

Bhoot (C, 2003)
The title means "ghost" or "spirit," and that's what this Indian horror film is about. The story is pretty simple (and somewhat similar to the story in Raat, which probably influenced this film): a couple move into a new apartment, where the previous tenant had killed herself by jumping off the balcony. The wife starts seeing her walking around the house, which scares the hell out of her and eventually leads to her becoming possessed by the ghost, who has some unfinished business to attend. The husband doesn't believe she's just mentally ill and calls in a (spookily beautiful) medium to exorcize the spirit. The special effects are minimal (the possession is done with scary acting alone - no pea soup or make up other than dark lack-of-sleep circles around her eyes) and there are some effective shocks caused by ghostly people stepping out of rooms, etc. Use of music, sound effects, and camera angles maintain an ominous atmosphere, and the bit just before the end credits leaves you with a creepy feeling. It also includes (like Raat) a sequence in a movie theatre, which has enough overheard-dialogue from Spider-Man to possibly support a copyright-infringement lawsuit. It's not super-scary (although it probably worked better in the theatre) but is a welcome addition to the post-Sixth Sense ghost genre and hopefully will lead to more Hindi horror. This one - rather bravely for a Bollywood film - didn't include any musical numbers at all. -zwolf

Bird With The Crystal Plumage (C, 1969) AKA Bird With The Glass Feathers, Phantom of Terror, The Gallery Murders, L' Uccello dalle piume di cristallo
Early Argento giallo film, and the first of a trio of animal-titled thrillers (with Four Flies On Grey Velvet and Cat O' Nine Tails) that set off lots of copycat films in Italy. Tony Musante is an American writer who just wants to get out of Italy, but as he's trying to leave he witnesses an attempted murder through the front windows of a gallery. Since he's a witness the cops won't let him leave the country, and apparently the murderer wants to make him leave this plane of existence before he can remember the details of what he witnessed, because (as in Deep Red) something in his memory is nagging at him. Finally discovering the killer's identity obsesses him so much that he risks being killed to uncover it. Not quite the shock-machine that Argento later became famous for, but it's still an effective warm-up for those, and one of the trendsetters for giallo. Mario Bava's influence (especially from Blood and Black Lace) is in evidence, and it's also kinda spaghetti-Hitchcock. There's not much gore, but Argento makes up for that with wince-inducing situations, such as a suggestive knife attack and a razor assault that makes effective use of sound-as-gore. Intelligent plot improves with repeated viewings. -zwolf

Black Christmas (C, 1975) AKA Silent Night Evil Night, Stranger In The House
Bob Clark (who also brought you the excellent Deathdream and the plague-like Porky's) laid the groundwork for the slasher-movie phenomenon with this genuinely creepy horror film about a psycho hiding in a sorority house and terrorizing the girls. He kills a few (there's very little blood; this movie doesn't need it) and acts very, very insane, making a series of truly disturbing and demented obscene phone calls using multiple voices and talking about a baby and somebody named Billy and making awful noises. You can easily see the influence of this on Halloween and especially When A Stranger Calls. The ending confuses everybody, but I like it even though I don't particularly understand it; it adds to the nightmarishness of it all. One of the cornerstones of a horror film education. -zwolf

Black Cobra (C, 1987) AKA Cobra Nero
Some Eurotrash bikers (short-haired, Kawasaki-riding posers who wear studded black leather jackets to the beach) go around robbing and killing for no apparent reason. One of them has pictures taken of him while trying to attack a girl (she wards him off with the camera's flash, even though he's wearing sunglasses... at night). Tough guy makes-his-own-rules cop Fred Williamson is assigned to protect the girl, because even though the pictures didn't turn out, the thugs don't know that. Usually Fred has more trouble dealing with his finicky cat Purvis than he does the bad guys, who give him time to somersault on the ground before every shot he fires. Guys also empty their guns shooting through doors. In other words, it's a stupid-ass by-the-numbers Italian action flick with all the things that entails, including a cheap synthesizer score and - yes - sequels! Definitely nothing special, but Fred Williamson does have a screen presence, and though you won't be thrilled, you won't be particularly bored, either. They oughtta be sued for copyright, though, because Fred pulls a direct not-even-trying-to-hide-it steal of the Dirty Harry "Do you feel lucky...?" speech. (Lead-plated bullets?!?) -zwolf

Black Demons (C, 1991)
Fraudulently passed off as a sequel to the Demons series, this is actually a late entry into the Italian zombie gore-flick genre, directed by Umberto Lenzi. Some students in Brazil are studying the music of voodoo rites, and one records a Macumba ritual. Visiting an old plantation, he foolishly plays it in a cemetery, and graves burst into flame, tombstones bleed, and the rotting corpses of former slaves burst up from the ground and start seeking prey, using axes, scythes, and bailing hooks, gouging out eyes and chopping in heads and pitchforking bellies. This is all great, but the only problem is, between the episodes of graphic mayhem you have to suffer the atrocious combination of some of the worst actors ever struggling to deliver some of the clumsiest dialogue ever penned. And it's not even dubbed this time. Still, fans of zombie epics are used to bad acting, and even though there are only six zombies, the makeup on them is great - it's always important to have creepy-looking zombies. And the gore effects are good. So, you may not mind overlooking the awkward scripting or such things as the zombies being able to sneak up behind people even though they're wearing clanking leg chains and would be reeking to high heaven... -zwolf

Black Gestapo (C, 1975) AKA Ghetto Warriors
A somewhat-militant black organization, the People's Army, is formed to take care of problems in their own community. It does good things at first, detoxing drunks, keeping pushers out, and trying to protect people from racist white gangster scumbags. But under the guidance of Col. Kojah (Charles Robinson) it turns into a violent vigilante organization, castrating white rapists (and flushing their balls down the toilet!) and cracking down on the mob... which soon results in a black vs. white mob war. But soon the People's Army is corrupt, not trying to get the crime out of the community but instead controlling it themselves, and because they've been trained as a military force they're even harder to deal with. One of their generals (Rod Perry, from Black Godfather) who's still dedicated to the original, positive concept has to stop this new incarnation on his own... with help from automatic weapons and explosives. Excessively-violent Blaxploitation from the Nazi-obsessed (and, ironically, Jewish) director of Love Camp Seven, Lee Frost. It's good, the action scenes are strong, but it ain't pleasant. -zwolf

Black Godfather (C, 1974) AKA Street War
J. J. (Rod Perry) and his friend get shot up trying to rob a house, and only J. J. makes it out alive, and only because he's saved by Big Nate Williams, a numbers boss who has plans for him. J. J. learns fast (while the credits are going, apparently) and becomes a big-time operator, wanting to get bigger. He aligns with a black activist who doesn't approve of him but agrees to help him since he says he'll run the drug pushers out of the community, even if he has to go to war with a white crime boss. This, o' course, leads to conflict, much of it violent and exotic, involving spears, blowguns, kung-fu catfights, and meat cleavers. Midline blaxploitation, but that's not bad since most of the genre's films weren't bad at all. Rod Perry was back the next year in the even more violent Black Gestapo. -zwolf 

The Black Raven (B&W, 1943)
Cheapo PRC old-dark-house mystery with always-sinister George Zucco as a criminal called the Black Raven who runs an inn which is also called The Black Raven. During a bad storm, several people get stranded there, including an eloping couple, the bride-to-be's shady-politician father, a bank embezzler, an escaped con with a vendetta against Zucco, and Zucco's brother, Glen Strange (who was also with Zucco in The Mad Monster). When one of them gets murdered, everyone's suspect, and there's also a hunt going on for some supposedly-hidden gold. This results in more killing. Very cheap and creaky, but keeps moving. -zwolf 

Black Sabbath (C, 1963)
Mario Bava's favorite among his films is a trio of horror stories based (supposedly - and minutely at best) on works by Chekov, Tolstoy, and Maupassant. The order they're in depends on if you're seeing a reworked American print (A Drop of Water, The Telephone, The Wurdilak) or the original Italian version (The Telephone, The Wurdilak, A Drop of Water), which is on DVD. "The Telephone" is a somewhat-familiar (nowadays - it was novel in '63) tale of a woman being threatened by a psycho who keeps calling her and who seems to know everything she's doing. "The Wurdilak" stars Boris Karloff as a Russian vampire who preys on those he loves most. And "A Drop of Water" is about a woman who steals a ring from the ghastly-looking corpse of a medium, who returns to get it back... None of the stories are especially surprising or brilliant, but the stylishness of Bava's direction is, and it makes this movie a horror powerhouse that's essential viewing. This is one of Bava's best, and that's 'bout as big a recommendation as any film will ever get. -zwolf

A Blade in the Dark (C, 1983) AKA La Casa con la Scala nel Buio, House of the Dark Stairway
What a cool pre-credit sequence! A kid ("Bob" from House by the Cemetery - he's in every Italian horror movie somewhere) is dared by two other kids to go into a dark basement in pursuit of a ball... You can tell that director Lamberto Bava learned a lot from his father Mario, as well as Dario Argento. And, as shown by his influence on his father's film Shock, he has a thing for Exacto knives. A composer who does scores for horror films moves into a creepy villa to get inspired for his work, but may get more inspiration than he bargained for. Soon after he moves in a woman is slashed to death through a chickenwire fence, and he notices weird whisperings in the music he's been recording. Later another woman is killed (pretty disturbing - not so much because of the gore, though it's strong, but because of the killer's crazy reaction to the event). The composer begins to suspect that killing are going on - he keeps finding evidence - but before he unravels it, he may become a victim. The dubbed dialogue is bad, with bad vocal choices - one woman has sinus problems and the killer sounds like Mickey Mouse - and the pacing isn't so hot (too much time spent watching this guy mix tapes), and the ending is just tossed-off and predictable, but there are still some strong shock scenes and an overall creepiness, perhaps more reminiscent of Dario than of Mario... -zwolf 

Blair Witch Project (C, 1999)
Hey, you really can make a good movie in your backyard! The Most Profitable Movie of All Time (cost like $30 grand to make and grossed hundreds 'n' hundreds o' millions... that's a return-on-investment of... let's see... a real whole bunch!), and you probably already know as much about it as me and I've seen it a dozen times. Basically, it's one of the most original horror movies in years (although the "found footage" concept has been used - anybody remember Cannibal Holocaust? And did anybody watch the even cheaper $900 feature, The Last Broadcast?) and it may save the sagging horror genre 'cuz (A) it's actually scary, not funny, and (B) there are no special effects at all. Unless stick figures and piles of rocks are special to you. Plot is simple: three college kids go out into the woods to research the legend of a witch, and they get lost and stalked by something unseen, and end up... well, let's just say they're never seen again and all they find is the footage they shot, which makes up the entire movie. But, on this one ya can't really stop with just the movie. There's a cool website for info on the legend, a comic book recounting the history of the Blair Witch, a book detailing the search for the missing students, and even a "soundtrack" CD with the goth songs that were on the tape left in Josh's car. (The CD has some extra footage you can watch on a computer - just in case you don't have one, it's just Josh wanting to try to signal planes, and Heather and Mike telling him he's nuts). There was also an "In Search Of"-style mockumentary that aired on the Sci-Fi Channel and another short film called Burkittsville 7 that aired on a cable service (that one's mostly about Rustin Parr). This doesn't quite live up to the hype, but the hype was so heavy that nothing could. And, even though the movie does get a little tiresome with all the "oh damn we're lost in the woods" stuff and only really gets tense in the last ten minutes, this one is a definite must-see. The unsteady camera work caused some sensitive members of the audience to puke, and the intensity of the film caused one girl in the theater I was in to start crying... that's so cool! -zwolf

The Blanchville Monster (B&W, 1963) AKA Horror
A young lady returns to an old gothic castle to find that the father she though had died in an abbey fire is actually alive, but horribly scarred, insane, and out to kill her because he believes an ancient family prophecy that their lineage will end if she reaches the age of 21. He sneaks around at night, hypnotizing her into walking around the grounds, trying to lead her to a tomb and trying to convince her that she's dead. He puts her into a death-like state in hopes that she'll be buried alive, which was enough to get this marketed as being based on a story by Edgar Allen Poe. The pace is a bit too slow, but this Italian/Spanish co-production does manage a lot of gloomy, morbid atmosphere. -zwolf

Blank Generation (C, 1979)
A birth-of-a-rock-star movie about punk (or New Wave, really - Richard Hell ain't all that punk) is kind of a weird concept, given punk's no-rock-stars philosophy, but that's what we've got here. Punk also-ran Richard Hell stars (backed by the Voidoids) as Billy, a down-and-coming punker getting a record contract and rising on the 1979 NYC punk scene while trying to maintain his relationship with waaaaaaay-too-goddamn-pretty-for-him French girlfriend Carole Bouquet. This isn't easy since her temper explodes over absolutely nothing on a regular basis. Both of their careers suffer; he's distracted by being dissatisfied with getting what he wanted, and she's distracted by being too pretty for him, I guess. They break up and she goes on to conduct astoundingly pretentious interviews about cinema, and Richard keeps playing the same three or four punk songs over and over. The film meanders along until it finally gets so pointless that Andy Warhol shows up for a couple of minutes (mainly to just sit there and pretend he's *not* there - how brilliantly artistic of him!), and Richard and his girlfriend make up beause... why not? Directed by Ulli Lommel (The Boogeyman) and not really about much of anything. There's no real story and nothing really happens but I suppose that's the point. Not badly made, though, and the musical numbers are decent. -zwolf