Halloween Horror: Night Tide

night-tideI stumbled upon a reference to this film while reading Sex and Rockets, a biography of rocket scientist and magician Jack Parsons. Parson’s “elemental,” the woman he claims to have conjured into his life via a magical rite, Marjorie Cameron, appears in the movie, thus earning its mention in Parson’s biography. Half-curious to know what an elemental looks like, I added it to the old watchlist when it became free on Prime. So after viewing it, I can  attest that an elemental looks pretty much like any other 40 year-old white woman in California. Mystery solved.

Night Tide features a very young Dennis Hopper as Johnny, a Navy recruit on furlough along the seedy amusement pier and boardwalk of Santa Monica and Venice Beach. There, he meets a Mora, a young woman who makes a living as a “mermaid” in one of the amusement pier’s sideshows. The two begin a relationship, but before too long, thanks to the mysterious presence of both Marjorie Cameron’s character (credited as “Water Witch”) and Mora’s guardian and employer, Captain Murdock, Johnny begins to suspect Mora may actually be a mermaid–a siren, actually, one of the sea people who lure sailors to their deaths.

The film is more thriller than horror, something you might see on an episode of The Twilight Zone or Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Shot in black-and-white and with a modest budget, Night Tide holds no true scares and only the occasional menace. It’s more a curiosity than a must-see, if only for Cameron’s presence and a very pre-Easy Rider Hopper. I’d normally give it a lower grade, but the movie has the only “Bongos by” credit I’ve ever seen in a motion picture (give it up for Chaino, ladies and gentlemen!). It would also make a pretty good Cthulhu Confidential investigation featuring a Deep One hybrid struggling to make sense of her condition and heritage along the beach of Los Angeles. Those two factors bump it up to an even two skulls out of four.

Halloween Horror: Bride of Re-Animator

reanimatorWe’ll kick of our 31 nights of horror movies with Bride of Re-Animator, a movie that’s been languishing on my watchlist for a few months. It’s sat there largely due to the general disinterest I’ve been feeling towards Lovecraft and the Mythos recently. This is a case of familiarity breeding contempt; with Cthulhu largely becoming a mainstream figure, I’m experiencing some very hipster-like feelings towards the Mythos’ increased market penetration.

Luckily, there’s no Cthulhu or Mythos anywhere in Bride of Re-Animator, which picks up eight months after the events of the first film. West and Cain continue their quest to perfect Herbert’s reagent (or is it re-agent to go along with the movie’s title convention?) in war-torn Central America, but before long they’re back at Miskatonic University Hospital for another round of horror and comedy straight out of the first movie’s playbook. The head of Dr. Hill makes a return and West’s experiments go beyond defeating death and begin to focus on creating life–albeit, in true Frankenstein fashion, from dead tissue.  Things unsurprisingly go awry, culminating in an ill-advised attempt to restore Meg, Cain’s dead fiancée from the first film, to life (in the guise of another actress).

Bride of Re-Animator doesn’t stray much from the formula Re-Animator followed, so if you’ve seen first film, you know precisely what you’re getting into. I did enjoy that the sequel has a few stronger call-outs to the short story it’s based upon (West and Cain conducting experiments in a war zone, their home/laboratory adjacent to the cemetery, and West’s final fate), which the original severely lacked.

I’m not certain how I never managed to see this movie despite viewing the original several times. I’m assuming it was a case of my local video store(s) never carrying it back in the late ’80s and early ’90s. But now that omission has been rectified. It’s equal to its predecessor, earning Bride of Re-Animator two skulls out of four on my Halloween Horror scale of enjoyment.