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Da Sweet Blood of Jesus (2014)

Directed by Spike Lee
Written by Spike Lee and Bill Gunn
Starring Stephen Tyrone Williams, Zaarah Abrahams, Rami Malek, Elvis Nolasco, Felicia Pearson, Katherine Borowitz, Joie Lee, and Naté Bova

For a long time, it wasn’t easy to see Ganja & Hess, especially not as originally released. The distributors pulled it from theaters, recut it (removing around a half an hour from its run time), and re-released it as Blood Couple. A complete print was donated to MoMA and has had a few releases, most recently though Kino Lorber. I mention this because because by doing a remake of the film as Da Sweet Blood of Jesus, Spike Lee essentially brought Bill Gunn’s version to a wider audience.

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Qualcosa striscia nel buio (1971)

aka, Something Creeping In the Dark
Written and Directed by Mario Colucci
Starring Farley Granger, Lucia Bosé, Giacomo Rossi Stuart, Stelvio Rosi, Mia Genberg, Gianni Medici, and Dino Fazio

I have a high tolerance for Italian horror cinema. Incoherent plots and terrible dubbing are par for the course, but stellar locations, inventive set pieces, and the occasional flair for lighting and cinematography are the rewards I often get for overlooking those failings. Yet every now and then I trip over a dud like Qualcosa striscia nel buio that leaves me face down in the poop juice, questioning my commitment to Sparkle Motion.

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The Hitch-Hiker (1953)

Directed by Ida Lupino
Written by Daniel Mainwaring, Robert L. Joseph, Ida Lupino, and Collier Young
Starring Edmond O’Brien, Frank Lovejoy, William Tallman, and José Torvay

On December 30th, 1950, Billy Cook began a crime spree in the American southwest that left several motorists dead. It ended in Santa Rosalia, Mexico where he had forced hunters James Burke and Forrest Damron to drive him. Local authorities recognized the criminal and apprehended him, sending back north of the border to face trial and swift execution. Within a year of his death, the last leg of Cook’s run became the basis for a chilling thriller.

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Ganja & Hess (1973)

Written and directed by Bill Gunn
Starring Duane Jones, Marlene Clark, Bill Gunn, Sam L. Waymon, and Leonard Jackson

Vampires are associated with Eastern Europe in American film, despite the rich world culture of similar mythologies. Even in the classic blaxploitation horror Blacula, African prince Mamuwalde is turned into a vampire by a very traditional Dracula. Almost as though in answer to the Euro-centrism of Blacula’s origin, the following year saw the release of Bill Gunn’s Ganja &a Hess. The importance of this film cannot be understated, as it presented a very different model of black filmmaking amidst a glut of crass cash-ins.

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Curse of the Black Widow (1977)

Directed by Dan Curtis
Written by Robert Blees and Earl W. Wallace
Starring Anthony Franciosa, Donna Mills, Patty Duke, June Lockhart, June Allyson, Max Gail, Jeff Corey, Sid Caesar, and Vic Morrow

In the annals of Western cinema there are many monsters that take a human form, revealing their true nature only to kill. Perhaps the most tragic is the werewolf. Victim of a communicable curse, the lycanthrope is an unwilling servant of evil chained to the lunar cycle. But there are other beasts whose transformations are tied to the Moon: weremoths, werepanthers, and in Curse of the Black Widow a werespider.

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Arachnid (2001)

Directed by Jack Sholder
Written by Mark Sevi
Starring Chris Potter, Alex Reid, José Sancho, Neus Asensi, Ravil Isyanov, and Luis Lorenzo Crespo

It feels like most of the time we see giant spiders in the wild, they’re in caves. Certainly when they’re the focus of the plot, they’re in or approaching population centers. The one in Arachnid is an outlier in a number of respects, but primarily for spending the entire film on a tropical island.

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Spiders (2000)

Directed by Gary Jones
Written by Boaz Davidson, Stephen David Brooks, Jace Anderson, and Adam Gierasch
Starring Lana Parrilla, Josh Green, Oliver Macready, Nick Swarts, Mark Phelan, and Leslie Zemeckis

Ever since H.G. Wells wrote The Food of the Gods, scientists have been creating bigger spiders. Usually it’s in the pursuit of better nutrition, but every now and then it’s a straightforward attempt to weaponize arachnids. The film Spiders is the first entry in a series of movies based on this inadvisable weapons program.

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