Monday, 22 September 2014

From Beyond the Grave (UK, 1974)

Amicus seemed to like anthology horror movies, this was their last picture in a series of six including the original 'Tales from the Crypt'. The basic outline is as you would predict, the common theme of four spooky tales sandwiched between a bookend plot which is kinda hosted by an eerie narrator type.

The main character throughout the whole film is the horror maestro Peter Cushing who plays the owner of a small antiques store in London. One by one customers enter the store for bits of objet d'art but each one wrongs the shop owner in one way or another. Naturally this causes each person to suffer some kind of nasty cruel fate which appears as though the shop keeper may or may not be behind it...or at least knows of their fate.

The first tale sees David Warner tricking the shop keeper into selling him an expensive mirror cheaply. When he then holds a seance (as you do) he is visited by a spirit from within the mirror who sort of brainwashes him into killing people so he may materialise and travel 'beyond the ultimate'. This is probably the most curious of the tales and is nicely spooky, not much is explained so you're left to make up your own minds which is cool...sorta. Personally I really wanted to know more about the background but the looping twist in the tale is smart.

Up next is a strange one, a nice married man buys some matchsticks from an ex-serviceman (Donald Pleasence) to help him out. He then sees some shiny medals in Cushing's antique shop and wants to impress the serviceman by pretending to be ex-army himself. Unable to buy the medal because a certificate is required to prove you are a real ex-serviceman the man steals the medal. Impressed with the medal the serviceman invites the gent to tea and to meet his daughter (Angela Pleasence). Over time the gent has an affair with the young girl who seems to be some kind of witch. Eventually the kind gent and young girl end up cursing and killing his dominating wife then marrying, but the twist revolves around the gents young boy.

I didn't really understand this one, the gent is a nice guy trying to help the ex-serviceman, he's bullied at home by his wife and gets no respect from his son, his life is a misery. It seems he finds happiness trying to mix with the poorer man, yeah sure he stole the medal but it wasn't a malicious act. He just wanted to make the ex-serviceman happy, feel comfortable around him...he just wanted to be one of the lads really, felt sorry for him. The whole thing with the daughter was just weird and ended up making no real sense, very off the wall, I'm still not really sure what she was, how, what her father had to do with it and why the pair did or do what they do.

The elemental is based around demons or gremlins perhaps. Another posh well-to-do gent tricks the shop keeper into selling him something cheaper than it should be. On the way home a little batty old witch warns him of the elemental sitting on his one can see this creature but animals, small children and...errr other witches or crazy people. In time things happen that are totally out of the man's control and he seeks the assistance of the eccentric 'Madame Orloff'. I liked this short tale because the idea of an invisible little gremlin type thing perched on someones shoulder like a gargoyle and taking control is cool. I also think the short is boosted brilliantly by Margaret Leighton as Orloff who comes across like a character straight out of a Disney movie like 'Bedknobs and Broomsticks' or 'Mary Poppins'. Must just add that the ending is kinda evil though, the whole thing goes from a quirky olde worlde English country witch casting spells to a much darker place.

Finally there is another almost charming ghoulish tale about a young man buying a very old highly detailed carved wooden door from the antique shop. This door of course opens up to another dimension or world where an evil occultist is trying to lure people so he can collect their souls? I think. Again the plot doesn't make much sense and isn't explained too well but its another visually fun tale in that typically old English manner with a large well decorated olde worlde house...suit of armour on display etc...This time the twist ending isn't a gloomy one though, that in itself is quite unique with these films.

Overall its a good little collection of horror tales, three I liked with their old school visuals, quirky characters and stereotypically English gents (although not stereotypical at the time of course). The stars add much gravitas to the whole affair, what old 70's horror flick is complete without Cushing?! and on the whole the special effects aren't too bad considering. Charmingly old fashioned whilst not being too horrific, perfect Halloween fodder and great fun.