Our editor-in-chief Nate Yapp is proud to have contributed to the new book Hidden Horror: A Celebration of 101 Underrated and Overlooked Fright Flicks, edited by Aaron Christensen. Another contributors include Anthony Timpone, B.J. Colangelo, Dave Alexander, Classic-Horror.com's own Robert C. Ring and John W. Bowen. Pick up a copy today from Amazon.com!

Series: Lewton Horrors

Review: Isle of the Dead (1945)

Isle of the Dead poster

Death casts a large shadow in all of Val Lewton's RKO horror productions, but never larger than in Isle of the Dead. Characters drop like flies as both science and superstition prove inept against the advances of the Grim Reaper in this foreboding tale set amid war, disease and encroaching madness.

Perhaps the most flawed of Lewton's chillers, this is also one of his most memorable and, in its climactic moments, the most outright frightening. The story was inspired by Lewton's fascination with Arnold Böcklin's painting of the same name, which can be seen under the opening credits and represented in the background as a Greek general (Boris Karloff) and American war correspondent (Marc Cramer) approach a small island where the general's wife is buried.(read more...)

Review: The Curse of the Cat People (1944)

Curse of the Cat People poster

A modern retrospective look at Val Lewton's films reveal a master of suggestion. Lewton's films rarely offered up well-defined horror or blatant supernatural elements. Instead, Lewton skillfully suggested danger, allowing the viewer's imagination to fill in the blank. Using lighting and shadows to create dark, broody atmosphere and shadows to suggest the shapes of threats, Lewton's films played on psychological fears and human emotions, allowing the audience to essentially scare themselves, and laying the groundwork for later horror masterpieces such as The Innocents and The Haunting. However, even a master can have a bad day. The Curse of the Cat People, which exemplifies Lewton's style of horror while failing to actually coalesce into anything resembling terror, probably accounted for a bad week.
(read more...)

Review: I Walked with a Zombie (1943)

I Walked with a Zombie poster

Reportedly, I Walked With a Zombie was producer Val Lewton's favorite out of the nine low-budget horror films he produced for RKO Radio Pictures between 1942 and 1946. Disquieting, ethereal, and powered by shadow and suggestion, I Walked best displays the philosophy of terror that Lewton tried to imbue in all of his films. Perhaps it is this very fact that makes the film his least effective in terms of the horror genre, although it is a beautiful, admirable work in all other things.(read more...)

Review: The Body Snatcher (1945)

The Body Snatcher poster

"You'll never get rid of me that way, Toddy," the sinister cabman Gray intones to his "friend" Dr. MacFarlane, and we believe him. We have to, as it is Boris Karloff's mellifluent voice that delivers the promise, and director Robert Wise has presented Gray up to this point as someone who could deliver on his sinister assurance even after the television has been shut off.(read more...)

Review: Cat People (1942)

Cat People 1942 poster

In 1942, RKO needed to recoup its losses from the financial headaches surrounding Orson Welles' Citizen Kane. They contracted Val Lewton, a Jack-of-all-Trades in Hollywood, to produce a series of B-horror movies with predetermined, audience-tested titles. The plan may have been cheap quickies, but the result was far different: nine complex, modern, and shocking films. Jacques Tourneur's Cat People is the first in this series, and set the standard of quality to which the rest adhered.(read more...)

Review: The Seventh Victim (1943)

Seventh Victim poster

Editor's Note: This review was written well before the Val Lewton Horror Collection became available on DVD.

Okay... could somebody please explain to me why great films like I Walked With a Zombie, The Body Snatcher, and The Seventh Victim aren't in video circulation, while The Devil Bat and The Ape can be picked up fairly cheaply? This just bothers me...(read more...)

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