Top 10 List of Classic Horror Movie Villains


When it comes to the horror genre, victims—and even heroes, for that matter—are a dime a dozen. Who can remember everyone Jason has killed throughout the Friday the 13th series or how Michael got his comeuppance in, say, Halloween 4? Sure, everyone knows that Van Helsing has defeated the most famous vampire of all in countless versions of the story, but how many recall who dispatched the monster at the end of House of Frankenstein? Who were the people that Godzilla stomped? Who was it that exterminated the giant ants in Them? Did anyone manage to escape the House of 1000 Corpses? It’s hard to remember!

But the villains—oh those amazing villains!—will live on for all of eternity in horror cinema…

Click here to read Madison Film Guy’s full FROM THE TOMB column–TOP 10 LIST OF CLASSIC HORROR MOVIE VILLAINS–at!




Top 5 Horror-Comedies of the Golden Age


Comedy and horror have been kissing cousins since the early days of cinema. Moments of humor have been the go-to safety valve that horror filmmakers have used consistently to relieve audience tension and to provide a break from the suspense and terror of the moment. Over time, the approach may have changed, but the general idea has remained remarkably consistent from the early days of cinema to today. The dark humor of The Bride of Frankenstein, for instance, eventually evolved into movies like An American Werewolf in London,The Evil Dead 2, and Re-Animator: horror movies first but with a wildly comic spin at the same time. Early full-throated horror satires like The Cat and the Canary and the Abbott and Costello Meet… films eventually became modern classics like Young Frankenstein and What We Do in the Shadows.

It should be no surprise, then, that a separate and distinct subgenre would eventually evolve, fusing the horror film with the movie comedy, and for a brief, glorious period more than sixty years ago, the horror-comedy enjoyed a run of excellence the produced a string of enduring classics…

Click here to read Madison Film Guy’s full FROM THE TOMB column–TOP 5 HORROR-COMEDIES OF THE GOLDEN AGE–at!


Lon Chaney, Jr.’s Trifecta of Terror


During the Golden Age of Horror, Universal Studios was the undisputed king of horror cinema, and its Big Three monsters—Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, and the Wolf Man—remain definitive horror icons nearly a century later. Not coincidentally, the three actors most associated with those iconic Universal monsters—Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, and Lon Chaney, Jr., respectively—also remain the biggest names in classic horror decades upon decades after their final films.

Of those Big Three horror legends, though, Karloff and Lugosi have always enjoyed slightly elevated standing over Lon Chaney, Jr., who—despite a truly prolific career—has always been considered somewhat of a little brother among the Big Three…

Click here to read Madison Film Guy’s full April 2017 FROM THE TOMB column–LON CHANEY, JR.’S TRIFECTA OF TERROR–at!


Karloff vs. Lugosi: Clash of the Horror Titans


After more than one hundred years of horror cinema, reasonable people still disagree about who is the greatest horror star of all time, but most arguments tend to boil down to Boris Karloff vs. Bela Lugosi. While the versatile and inimitable Karloff may have boasted the more robust and impactful career overall, the dark and mysterious Lugosi—despite a legacy that ultimately degenerated into self-parody and forgettable schlock—may have delivered the single most iconic horror performance of all time…

Click here to read Madison Film Guy’s full March 2017 FROM THE TOMB column–KARLOFF VS. LUGOSI: CLASH OF THE HORROR TITANS–at!


31 Films of Halloween – 10/8/15: The Appointment in Sammara

Each day during October, Madison Film Guy will post a new mini-review/recommendation/musing on a contemporary or classic horror film to help celebrate my 31 favorite days of the year: the countdown to Halloween! Today’s topic: The Appointment in Sammara.


The Appointment in Sammara (from Targets, 1968)

First off, in the interest of full disclosure, I’m not a fan of Peter Bogdanovich’s 1968 directorial debut, Targets.  It’s the story of an elderly horror film star–making a personal appearance at a drive-in theater–who gets tangled up with a boy-next-store brand of mass-murdering sniper. It’s uneven, largely uninteresting, and it hasn’t aged well.

However, it does star Boris Karloff as the aging film legend, and he’s terrific, no more so than in this classic scene in which he relates to a group of young fans the story of “The Appointment in Sammara”.

Here is one of Karloff’s finest final scenes of a distinguished horror career:

Classic Karloff. Thanks, Boris.

Black Sabbath



When you or I mutter those words, it might foreshadow an assault on the refrigerator or a quick trip to a favorite gastropub.

But when Boris Karloff utters those words, with his trademark eye twinkle and lip curl, you’d better get yourself and your loved ones inside and lock all the doors and windows.

Such is the lesson of Black Sabbath.

The anthology format has long been a staple of the horror film: bite-size stories strung together either by common source author (1962’s Tales of Terror or 1963’s Twice Told Tales), common creative hook (1983’s Twilight Zone: The Movie or 2012’s V/H/S), some sort of common thread that binds the stories together (1988’s Waxworks or 2007’s Trick ‘r Treat), or some other hook.

1963’s Black Sabbath is neither the first nor the best of that tradition, but in uniting Italian master Mario Bava with horror icon Karloff, the film carves out its own delightful niche in horror history.

In addition to starring in one of the three tales of the film, Karloff “hosts” Black Sabbath in a series of cheesy (some might say unfortunate) introductions that offer a few chuckles but function exclusively to get us from one story to the next.


The first story, called “The Drop of Water”, is set in London and follows the misadventures of an outcall nurse who gets summoned in the middle of the night to prepare the corpse of a witch who died in her mansion home overnight. When the nurse makes the fatal decision to steal the witch’s ring off her hand while she dresses the body, it sets in motion a nightmarish evening of otherworldly revenge. “The Drop of Water” is classic Bava, with gothic atmosphere; sudden, startling images; and a slow march toward inevitable revenge. The first glimpse we see of the dead witch in her bed—crazy eyes wide open, lips curled back in a menacing smile—does send chills up and down the spine, and “The Drop of Water” ends up to be a largely satisfying first chapter of the film.


“The Telephone”, the second of the three tales, involves a French call-girl who returns home from “work” one evening and begins to receive a series of threatening telephone calls that escalate in their intensity over the course of the night. The sexuality of “The Telephone” is pervasive, not only in the long, lingering shots of lead Michele Mercier’s perfect body and her suggestively sensual interactions with the woman she calls for help, but also in the violently sexual overtones of the threats she suffers. In “The Telephone”, suspense and teasing are two side of the same coin, as are fear and titillation, desire and hatred, and sex and violence. And it is all practically incomprehensible. The original Italian version of the film planted this story firmly in the real world; but in adapting this sequence for American release, changes were made to add supernatural elements to the story. Those changes completely muddle the tale and ultimately undermine the segment, making it by far the weakest of the three.


The coup de grace, however, is the third segment, “The Wurdalak”, featuring Karloff as Gorca, an elderly Russian vampire-like creature who must feast on the blood of those he loves in order to survive. Bold and atmospheric, “The Wurdalak” feels like the perfect mesh of classic Italian horror and the sensibilities of American International Pictures (AIP), the famous low-budget American studio that distributed Black Sabbath in the United States. A feast of classic horror tropes, “The Wurdalak” offers up vampires stalking the rubble of ruined castles, a baleful child demon, savagery and seduction, and Karloff. Oh Karloff! The horror icon rumbles through “The Wurdalak” like a force of nature, menacing and tragic at the same time, playful but intense, a vintage performance from a master of horror.

Ultimately, Black Sabbath is a bit too uneven to qualify as a total triumph, but the first and last segments offer enough simple pleasures and jolts and scares to satisfy any classic horror lover’s appetite.

Like Karloff’s Gorca, you may start the proceedings with a gnawing hunger that you can’t quite understand, but by the end of Black Sabbath you will have found yourself well-fed and gratified.