Let’s talk about Norman J. Warren.
He’s someone who I’ve yet to really feature on this blog, but I will be correcting that big time from this point forward. He’s a British filmmaker who was always into the movies growing up. His films were often deemed part of British “New Wave” Horror. Basically, taking what Amicus and Hammer did with sexuality and gore and pushing it a little further for the end of the 70s and beginning of the 80s.
His movies are really interesting – and, in my opinion, actually fascinating and fun to watch, if not good. He seems to have ideas, even if what he starts with isn’t that groundbreaking. Want to tell a ghost story? Well, he’ll tweak it here and there and include a time element and give you Bloody New Year. Want to tell a story about an alien coming to Earth? Well, how about we throw in abuse and a lesbian couple and a sinister reason for the alien to be here and give you Prey. How about yet another alien story, but this time include impregnation and have the mother of the new alien/human hybrid become murderously protective of the monster? Yeah, we’ll call that Inseminoid.
That brings us to this week’s feature, Terror. I have to believe the idea here comes from his own love of movies and then getting behind the camera. Basically, we follow a filmmaker whose family is cursed. When a long-lost cousin comes to town, murder follows. It’s got a little of everything – high society/celebrity, curses, ghosts, slasher killer, British people, etc. It’s fun for the whole family!
In fact, at your next family get together, put this in and just let it play. Trust me, you’ll be doing a favor for both the young and old in your family.
The movie begins in what seems to be old timey times as angry villagers chase after a woman, affectionately named Mad Dolly, with torches and such. Another group of villagers lay a trap for her with one of those ouchy bear trap things that just seems like fucking hell to step on. And… Well, the poor girl agrees. The villagers are able to catch up with the girl and take her to be burned at the stake. An upper-class bitch, notified of the girl’s capture, is real excited to see this poor girl get killed over some harm she had caused the bitchy lady or the whole village… I’m not sure, but I kinda don’t typically agree with someone who is favorable toward burning a human being while tied to a wooden poll.
Oh, and guess what? The girl cries for assistance from the Devil which causes a big wind to gust up and light one of the guys on fire who planned on lighting the stake. Despite that poor son of a bitch getting roasted, there are still enough guys with torches to defeat nature’s winds and lights the poor lady on fire while the bitchy lady watches on with an almost giddy look on her face.
The lady, married to Lord Garrick who is the big wig of the village, returns home to find her husband murdered and Mad Dolly, still kind of smoking from the stake, entering with a sword. She curses the Garrick family and cuts that bitch’s head off. I’m not sure how I really feel about it all. That’s because I don’t condone the black arts, but I really don’t condone burning people on stakes. I’d have to say I’m conflicted over what I should care about in this opening sequence.
But I guess I shouldn’t be that conflicted because it was just a movie we were watching. It was made by James Garrick who wanted to make a movie about his family’s supposed curse. After watching the movie, Garrick throws a party for all his friends. One of which, Gary, jokes about the movie, and is a “mesmerist”. I’m not sure what the difference between a mesmerist and a hypnotist is, but he hypnotizes Carol, a hot blonde at the party.
A couple people think he’s full of shit since that was his girlfriend he did his trick. So Ann, James’ cousin, basically threatens Gary to try it on her while she grips his arm so hard she nearly breaks his wrist… Hmm… Forceful, hot, wears chokers, violent, probably possessed by an evil spirit… I’m in love!
Anyway, James doesn’t give a shit that Gary and Carol was bullshitting everyone before but seemingly actually hypnotized Ann. James is more concerned about there being broken glass in several rooms (Gary’s first trick was ended by a branch breaking a window in the same room as the party). Gary attempts to wake Ann up, but she instead goes over to the fireplace where Mad Dolly’s sword is hanging and picks it up.
Gary, completely useless as a so-called “mesmerist”, is incapable of waking Ann up. She walks over to James with that fucking sword and nearly kills him with it. She doesn’t wake up until James gives her a fresh one across the face.
Ann runs away and James seems completely unconcerned by these goings on.
Carol leaves and is nearly blown over by heavy winds. The same winds that blew when Mad Dolly was burned at the stake and that broke all sorts of glass at the party. She eventually loses her footing and is attacked by someone carrying a knife. She is able to run away and a chase goes on through a little wooded area on the Garrick property. She finds a shed and attempts to get inside to hide, but the killer busts through some boards covering a broken window. However, the killer doesn’t enter. In fact, Carol is a moron and believes the killer has left or trying to enter a different way than the completely compromised window, so she runs off. She sees the highway and attempts to get to it, but the attacker returns and kills her.
James has been looking for Ann, but can’t seem to find her. However, Gary, driving home from the party himself, finds Carol’s body stuck to the tree with a knife through her throat. Meanwhile, Ann returns to the hostel she is staying with her friend Suzy. Ann has blood all over her hands and she seems a little confused and a little concerned that her friend has seen all this.
News of Carol’s murder has already gotten to the BBC and James is rightfully pretty fidgety over his name being splashed across the world as having an actress friend found dead on his property. That’s gonna be pretty bad for his film’s box office take. James is also a little concerned that Ann is somehow involved. “Why is that?” you ask? “Isn’t Ann James’ cousin?” you say?
Funny you ask. James only met Ann like a week or two ago. James tells his assistant, Phillip, that no one who has ever lived in his house died normally. Everyone, including James’ own father, died under suspicious circumstances.
At the hostel, Suzy asks Ann about the night she came home from the party at her cousin’s. Ann claims she simply cut her hand and is a little insulted that Suzy is questioning her and thinking she might be involved in Carol’s death. Suzy leaves for an audition, but her car stalls and breaks down on a dark patch of road during a terrible thunderstorm. When she is not able to fix her car, she makes her way to a house. She goes inside and no one seems to be at home. She phones for assistance and a strange voice gets stranger when she learns Suzy is alone. A lanky man wanders about outside and enters the house to freak Suzy out. You think he’s some sort of killer man but he’s actually just the mechanic.
But it ain’t no normal mechanic… It’s actually Chewbacca himself, Peter Mayhew! The funny thing is, I recognized his voice and manner of speech before I recognized his appearance. Considering all those times he fixed the Millennium Falcon, I’d say Suzy is in pretty good hands.
Ann, despite telling Suzy she wasn’t going to work over a splitting headache, shows up at the gentleman’s club where she works as a waitress – because sure. I mean, having Ann work at a titty club means you can have more titties in a movie that has not yet had any titties in it.
It’s almost like someone sat around and watched the dailies of the movie and was, like, “This is a British horror film. The Hammer films had lots of blood and sometimes lots of boobs!” Then all of a sudden, Ann works at a strip club and gets sexually assaulted by a weirdo Frenchman who wants her to suck his cock while the strange lab experiment that spliced Annie Lennox and Marilyn Manson’s genes into a really scary looking woman dances around with a whip. Sure. That all lines up.
I will say that Ann’s Pat Benatar look is rather fetching… No matter how much my compliment makes her weep or roll her eyes at me.
The drunk Frenchman who was trying to get a blowjob from Ann gets bounced from the titty club (how embarrassing). He gets sent home where he stumbles around and gets a garrote wire to the fucking throat before being tossed onto the iron fence and impaled. Oh, and then he’s tossed into garbage where the garbage truck grinds his ass up.
The next day, one of Ann’s co-workers at the titty club, Viv, is working on a softcore porn at James’ studio when a stage light falls onto the movie’s director and burns him to death. You know what’s odd about this? Well, I mean other than the weird subplot with this softcore porn movie being made that has been the focus of two scenes? James just watched the light loosen and fall and did nothing to help or warn anyone. He also saw that Frenchman do untoward shit to Ann… Hmmm…
Ann may be the person who just kinda showed up when all this stuff started to happen, but James is kind of a weirdo too.
At the hostel, Viv plans to move out, warning some of the other girls that she thinks Ann is somehow connected to all the bad shit that has gone down in the last week. Naturally, Ann overhears this, which only adds to some of Viv’s paranoia. Soon, she and Suzy find a blood spot that starts leaking from the empty room upstairs. Suzy investigates, but only finds a spilled can of red paint. When Viv goes to find out where Suzy went, she is attacked by a knife and stabbed multiple times until she dies.
Ann goes to the studio and speaks to Phillip. She tells him that she doesn’t know what’s happening to her and also confesses to memory loss the night of Carol’s murder. She tries to connect everything that’s happened back to James’ party. She claims when Gary hypnotized her, things are all fucked up. Phillip has to tell her about how she tried to kill James with the sword. She has no idea where all the blood came from when she got back home from the party. She leaves after cryptically saying that she and James are the end of the family line and when they are gone, “she will have succeeded.” She leaves and weird noises instantly start happening around the studio to freak Phillip out. He’s attacked by an unseen force that throws things at him and starts a fire out of nothing at all. He’s even attacked by a swirling whirlwind of film – maybe one of the cleverest things I’ve ever seen in a horror movie. He’s killed Argento style when he falls into a window frame an a piece of glass slices into his throat.
Considering Phillip was just done in by some sort of crazy unseen thing, and James was at home trying to call him, I guess that death isn’t on him. However, Ann was there – even if you can’t really buy into her being the cause of supernatural shit. The police are looking for her in connection to Viv’s murder. She flees, and one of the cops is killed by his own car driving itself. I kind of feel like that we’ve reached the stage of the movie that any pretense of being a thriller, or even a murder mystery, is now getting tossed for straight up murders and spooky stuff.
And so here we are, Ann is on the train going… Well going anywhere the cops ain’t. She sees a man riding with her and approaches him kind of sexily and just gets off when the train comes to a stop and the doors open. I kind of expected her to either fuck him or kill him or fucking kill him with the look she was giving, but this will tie to one of my favorite things about this movie when I get to my conclusion. Ann wanders about until the winds kick up again. She finds an abandoned car that she uses for shelter, but the unseen force that killed Phillip starts rocking the car and picking it up several feet off the ground. She eventually hops out and runs away.
Ann gets to James’ house, but that’s just a fucking nightmare too. She starts seeing snakes and things are breaking around her and moving on their own. She picks up a battle ax that was just chilling on a wall (I assume all British homes have battle axes as decoration), and uses it for defense. Unfortunately, she accidentally kills James with it. Mad Dolly appears and has a pretty good cackle over all this shit. She causes the sword to fly off the wall and it impales Ann.
If this movie teaches us anything, it’s movie producers are weirdos, your hot cousin is probably a weirdo and the cause of all the horrible shit that is going to happen to your life, and everyone wants to be famous, work at a strip club, or tries to hypnotize women for party tricks. Actually, I’m not sure what the moral of the story is, but I like it.
Remember I said I’d tie my conclusion back to that weird moment on the train when you think some fat idiot who actually appeared to be reading a coloring book (no shit, it looked like he was) was about to get lucky? Or dead? Or dead lucky? Well, it still, after all this time, was still trying to tie the supernatural and/or murder shit to Ann. It’s like we are meant to think that, yeah, she’s utterly bonkers, and can’t control herself. We also maybe, kinda think she is possessed by Mad Dolly? Because when she was hypnotized? She tried to kill James…? I dunno.
Anyway, that’s a very Italian giallo thing to do. I kind of feel like Norman J. Warren was heavily influenced by other European genre films – particularly Italian. This movie has misdirects and you don’t really know if you like anyone, but I will give it one thing over many of the giallo contemporaries of the time. Terror seems to make a whole lot more sense. Sure the plot is super simple, but it doesn’t try to twist and turn you into a knot. “Hey, there’s this family curse thing! See! There actually IS a family curse that will kill us all!”
Yeah… It’s that simple. It told you in the first fucking five minutes what was going to happen and, sure enough, it delivered. I honestly can recommend Terror as a legitimately good movie. Not one of those “so bad it’s good” types, but a real deal enjoyable flick. Run out to the nearest cinema and see it! Or… I guess just go to Vinegar Syndrome and get your hands on one.
Next week, it is a true milestone. B-Movie Enema turns 150 posts old! Holy goddamn fuckshits I don’t know if that makes you as sexually excited as it does me, but here we are. This is where my life has brought me – the guy who just asked if you are as sexually turned on as I am for my own blog’s 150th post. But since we are talking about sexual stimulation, let’s talk about next week’s chosen 150th B-Movie Enema. It’s a 90s flick about a porn movie production that gets attacked by fish monsters. Yup, fish monsters again. It also brings director Brett Piper back to the blog as well. It’s the movie that has a title that also doubles as a built-in joke.
Join me next week for B-Movie Enema #150 – They Bite!