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Thursday, January 24, 2019

Forgotten Horror Gems Vol. 1 - The City of the Dead

As most of you know, this blog was started primarily because I wanted to promote my book The Wash.  It's a horror novel and as a gigantic fan of horror, I've recently found myself speaking to different book clubs and writer's groups about the genre.  I'm almost always asked questions that require me to call upon films to illustrate my point.


Well, most of these people may have never read a book in that genre, but have likely seen a horror movie or two in their lives even if they don't realize it at first.  

Case in point, ask someone if they've ever read a horror book and they'll say no.  Ask them if they've ever seen The Silence of the Lambs and there's a good chance they'll say yes.  While that film isn't horror per se, there's no arguing that Hannibal Lecter's escape scene is pure horror with gore thrown in for good measure.  

All of this has pointed out something I've known for a while.  I've seen a ton of horror movies and the older they are, the more I tend to love them.  So, I've decided that in 2019, I'm going to seek out the obscure titles that I've missed.  Some of them may have been on my radar but I've never had occasion to check them out.  Others will have been complete surprises that I stumble upon while looking for content.  

The best part though is that I'll be watching the vast majority of them with Karen and Lil.  They actually volunteered for this!  So without further ado:

Forgotten Horror Gems Vol. 1 - The City of the Dead  (1960)

The City of the Dead stars Christopher Lee, Dennis Lotis and Patricia Jessel.  It tells the story of a young college student (Venetia Stevenson) who visits a quaint New England town while working on her senior term paper on witchcraft.  When her brother and boyfriend don't hear from her, they follow her trail in an attempt to find her.

The City of the Dead is incredibly atmospheric.  The town drips with dread and mystery.  Thick fog and rundown buildings populate the streets and the townsfolk are obviously not exactly normal.  That said, the plot does leave something to be desired.

Here, I'll let the girls explain.

Karen:  This has to be one of the stupidest movies ever!  Every single thing was laid out with gigantic clues.  If someone reads that a witch needs a personal item to curse someone, the very next line is literally, "Oh, by the way, I seem to have lost my pendant."

Lilith:  And the girl doing the paper is completely clueless.  Everyone does exactly the opposite of what you would do in real life if weird stuff like this happened.

I did ask each of them to give me one thing they liked about the film though.  After all, shitting on a movie is easy.  For me, the good thing is definitely the atmosphere.  There are scenes where a hapless driver will pick up a mysterious man by the crossroads and they're incredibly effective.

For Karen and Lil, well, let's just say the task of saying something positive was more difficult.

Lilith:  I liked the one girl's hair.  I also liked the priest and I liked how snooty the lady who ran the inn was.

Karen:  In the opening scenes with the college professor lecturing, I liked the snarky comments the boyfriend was making.  Usually those scenes in these movies are from the professor's perspective so seeing it from the student's viewpoint was refreshing.

Both good insights, but to be honest, I really had to press them for those.

As it turns out, I had seen this one years ago.  I'd just forgotten about it and that's pretty much the only thing you need to know.  It's fun if you want something predictable and creepy but ultimately forgettable.  Not a bad way to spend 74 minutes late at night but not anything you'll dream about later on.

One down, and at least 49 more to go.  I can already tell, this is going to be fun!

See you next week!

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