This Is Not the Black Cat Movie You’re Looking For


One of my favorite discoveries in my college library was the volume Universal Horrors: The Studio’s Classic Films, 1931–1946 by Tom Weaver, Michael Brunas, and John Brunas. The 1990 book was one of the first to look at the entire canon of Universal’s horror and mystery pictures from their Golden Age and treat them as something more than the “kiddie TV entertainment” they were once relegated to. I grew up watching these movies on weekend afternoons, but until Weaver et. al I knew little about the behind-the-scenes tales of their making.

I must’ve kept the book checked out of the college library for a straight year, constantly renewing it. It gave me a huge uptick in appreciation for classic horror and instilled in me a hunger to dig up the more obscure movies the authors covered. And they covered everything: The Sherlock Holmes movies; the Inner Sanctum mysteries; the supernatural comedy Ghost Catchers; films such as The Secret Key that only count as horror because a star like Boris Karloff appeared in them; historical epics with gruesome content, like Tower of London; plus obscurities The Mad Ghoul, House of Horrors, and the film I’m writing about today.

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Pass Those Runes, Please: Night of the Demon


Happy October! I’m resurrecting horror movie articles from my old blog and revamping them. This article is reworked from a 2008 post.

British Horror doesn’t begin with Hammer Film Productions, as much as it might seem to. The same year Hammer released their Gothic breakthrough, The Curse of Frankenstein, another influential UK horror film reached screens and helped ignite the British terror flood: Night of the Demon (released in the US in an edited version as Curse of the Demon).

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The Good Intentions and Failures of Exorcist II: The Hereticu


Happy October! I’m resurrecting horror movie articles from my old blog and revamping them. This article is reworked from a 2013 post.

John Boorman has directed a number of classics, including three personal favorites: Point Blank (1967), Deliverance (1972), and Excalibur (1981). But lying like an oily stain in the middle of his career is the 1977 box-office disaster and audience-loathed sequel, Exorcist II: The Heretic.

It’s not universally loathed. Martin Scorsese has expressed admiration for the film: “I like the first Exorcist, because of the Catholic guilt I have, and because it scared the hell out of me; but The Heretic surpasses it. Maybe Boorman failed to execute the material, but the movie still deserved better than it got.” Genre critic and historian Kim Newman acknowledges the film isn’t a success but that it does manage to be interesting.

I lead toward Newman’s perspective. Exorcist II: The Heretic contains fascinating ideas, wonderful visual moments, and an excellent score. It’s also weirdly off-kilter, unevenly acted and scripted, and edited on a bad glue-sniffing trip. It’s no surprise audiences in 1977 laughed it off the screen.

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