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Remembering Klaus Kinski & Other Tales of Terror

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Welcome to Bay of the Living Dead, a regular column about the horror genre.

In 1979 Klaus Kinski played the title role in Nosferatu the Vampire, acclaimed German filmmaker Werner Herzog’s re-imagining of Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror, the expressionistic silent film which was the first screen adaptation of Dracula. Herzog’s film was a huge success, and so Kinski was sought by Italian director Augusto Caminito’s follow-up film. Not quite a sequel, but another vampire film in which Kinski would appear in as a character referred to as Nosferatu (un-dead). The result, Nosferatu in Venice has just been released on Blu Ray.

Nosferatu in Venice is a strange film. Beautifully shot along the canals of Venice, Italy, it tells the story of Catalano (Christopher Plummer), a professor and vampire hunter who comes to the city in search of an ancient vampire he intends to destroy. Catalano believes that the vampire (a very intense Kinski) is looking for a way to end his immortal existence and finally die. The film follows Catalano on his quest as he searches for the vampire and protects the Venetian family he’s staying with from the vampire’s wrath. Nosferatu in Venice ignores traditional vampire mythology–this vampire is not repelled by sunlight or crosses.

The film has an almost dreamlike quality, but is hard to follow at times because the sound isn’t always clear. The disc offers viewers the choice to watch the film in English or in Italian, with optional English subtitles. About twenty minutes into the English version of the film I turned the subtitles on and found that the subtitles don’t always match the spoken dialogue.

Still, the film is worth seeing for Kinski’s brooding and quite chilling portrayal of the vampire. Kinski, who had quite a cult following during his lifetime, shows tremendous star power in this film. When he’s onscreen it’s almost impossible to turn away from him. He almost seems to float through the streets and canals of Venice as he goes off in search of his next victim. He looks dead, he’s literally a walking corpse.

Just as mesmerizing as Kinski’s performance is Creation is Violent, a feature length documentary included on the disc which explores the last six years of the actor’s life. His extremely volatile personality is recalled by a number actors, directors and crew members who worked with him. They remember a man who was always mesmerizing onscreen but whose explosive persona and often inappropriate behavior made him nearly impossible to work with. Clips of Kinski speaking as himself reveal a person in the throes of wild manias. It’s a fascinatingly sad portrait of a talented man who gave his all on screen but who may have been suffering from mental illness. That illness may have contributed to the intensity of his performances.

In addition to Blu Ray, Nosferatu in Venice is streaming at You Tube and Google Play.

The Craft: Legacy is the sequel to the 1996 teen horror film The Craft. As in the earlier film, Legacy tells the story of four teen girls who form a coven so they can practice witchcraft. One of their first orders of business is to cast a spell on Timmy, the school bully, who suddenly becomes gentle and sensitive, admitting to the girls that he’s bisexual–Legacy was nominated for a GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Film.

Trouble is, the film is on the dull side, devoid of atmosphere and not even remotely scary. The four girls have little onscreen chemistry, though Nicholas Galitzine is quite good as the bisexual Timmy.

Timmy dies, apparently by suicide. But then the girls receive a Ouija board message from Timmy who says he was murdered. Lily (Cailee Spaeny), one of the girls, begins to suspect that her stepfather (X Files’ David Duchovny) may be the killer. What is his motive, and will Lily’s powers save her?

The film had potential, but the story’s dull execution and the lackluster cast sinks it. A shame, because the original was such a fun film. Legacy does offer one surprise during it’s final scene which connects it to the first film, providing you know who the woman in the film’s last shot is. It’s Fairuza Balk, who played one of the girls in the original picture. More of her would have made The Craft: Legacy a better film.

In addition to Blu Ray, The Craft: Legacy is streaming on Amazon Prime, You Tube, Google Play, Vudu and Hulu.

The South Koreans really know how to make creepy films. Newly released on DVD is The Closeta chiller about a distraught father who must cross over into the realm of the dead in order to rescue his daughter, who has been pulled into that world by the ghost of a young girl who disappeared many years earlier. Jung-woo Ha, an established star in Korean cinema, gives an intense performance as the dad, but the film’s top acting honors go to young Yool Heo as the daughter–she couldn’t be more than 10-12 years old, yet she more than holds her own in scenes with her much older co-star.

There are admittedly a couple of holes in the script, but the film moves at a fast pace and offers a few really good scares. If you’re in the mood for something a bit different, then check out The Closet. 

The DVD offers viewers the option of watching the film in Korean with English subtitles or dubbed into English. The Korean with subtitles option is recommended, it’s usually best to see a film with the actors speaking in their own voices.

In addition to DVD, The Closet is streaming at Amazon Prime, You Tube, Google Play and Vudu.

The Widow is a Russian chiller that offers a few good scares. The Blu Ray gives viewers the option of watching the film dubbed in English or in Russian with English subtitles–watch it in Russian, the English dubbing is terrible!

The film is set in a forest where people go missing every year. A search and rescue team is looking for a lost boy in the forest when they stumble upon a nude woman who nearly died. She fills them in about the legend of the forest–a ghostly widow who demands human sacrifices. They attempt to leave the forest but find themselves going around in circles as the forest won’t let them leave. They are now fighting for their lives.

Most of the film is set at night with artificial light, which gives The Widow a real creepy feel. The story moves at a fast pace and the cast plays off each other well–at least they play off each other well when they’re speaking in Russian! The English dubbing is so bad that it ruins the atmosphere of the film and makes the proceedings feel a bit laughable. As long as you watch the film in it’s original language, you’re in for a scary treat, otherwise you’re in for a few chuckles.

In addition to Blu Ray, The Widow is streaming at Amazon Prime, Vudu and Google Play. Only the Blu Ray offers the option of watching the film in Russian, the streaming sites offer it only with the poor English dubbing.

And finally, there’s a new podcast in town. The delightful Penny Dreadful, who once hosted a fun, spooky TV show called Shilling Shockershas launched Terror at Collinwood, a podcast devoted to Dark Shadowsthe now legendary horror themed daytime soap opera which took the world by storm in the late 1960s-early 70s. Penny is a diehard Dark Shadows fan, and a knowledgeable horror film historian, so  Terror at Collinwood promises to offer a smorgasbord of scary delights! The first episode is already up, and it can be found at the Terror at Collinwood  website . Check it out!

Boo!

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David-Elijah Nahmod

David-Elijah Nahmod

I, David-Elijah Nahmod am a Queer, American/Israeli dual national of Syrian descent who has lived in New York City and Tel Aviv.
Currently in San Francisco, my eclectic writing career includes LGBT publications (news and entertainment) and monster magazines. In 2012 I was voted Film Reviewer of the Year at the Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Film Awards.
Look for me in Bay Area Reporter, Hoodline.com, South Florida Gay News, Echo Magazine, Outfront, Scary Monsters Magazine, Videoscope, and, of course, Broke Ass Stuart, (I'm so broke it's SCARY!)
Now, let's watch a horror movie!

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