Our October Countdown of Halloween Horrors old and new, famous and forgotten, begins this weekend, with the end of September, and continues, oh, you fans of the fanged and frightening with:

September 30: Lemora: A Child’s Tale of the Supernatural (JD)

October 6: Suspiria (Alex)
October 7: The Seventh Victim (JD)

October 13: Friday the 13th-a “Make Me Watch It” Podcast (Blaine)
October 14: Hereditary (JD)

October 20: Hausu (Alex)
October 21: Eye of the Devil (JD)

October 27: A Quiet Place (JD)
October 28: Alone in the Dark (JD)

October 31: Halloween 2018 (JD)
Return of the Living Dead (JD)

We begin with a fiendish flashback flick that found a cult following, after initially being swallowed by the shadows of The Exorcist.

Title: Lemora: A Child’s Tale of the Supernatural (1973)

Cast and Crew

Director: Richard Blackburn
Writers: Richard Blackburn, Robert Fern.

Cheryl Rainbeaux Smith as Lila Lee
Lesley (Gilb) Taplin as Lemora
William Whitton as Alvin Lee
Hy Pyke as the Bus Driver
Maxine Ballantyne as the Old Crone
Steve Johnson as the Ticket Seller
Richard Blackburn as the Reverend.

Premise:

In the early 1930s, a thirteen-year-old receives a mysterious letter with information concerning her estranged gangster father, and makes a night journey to the mysterious town of Astaroth. Of course, if you name your town Astaroth, you have to expect that things there will take a dark turn.

Things there have taken a very dark turn indeed….

High Points:

The bus ride, taken largely from “Shadow Over Innsmouth” (Lovecraft casts shadows on Lemora) works fairly well. Lemora makes for decidedly uneven viewing, but portions are definitely creepy.

Low Points:

A confusing, flashback-ridden battle sequence leads to the film’s uncertain ending. I understand that certain things happen because of a larger plan, but I nevertheless wondered, when Lila was being chased by vampires, how she lost them so easily. Did they stop and ask for directions?

The final scenes work, but I could not describe adequately all the events that get us there.

The Scores:

Originality: 2/6 The film combines Lovecraft with the kind of traditional horror Lovecraft was trying to supplant, most notably Dracula and Carmilla—or, rather, Carmilla via the then-recent Hammer adaptations. However, Lemora adds its own fairy-tale/dream layers that give it a distinct haunting mood. These elevate it a little above the poor production values and entirely derivative monsters.

Effects: 3/6 The film’s effects, make-up, and a good deal of the acting come straight out of a Haunted Halloween Hayride on Old Man Snyder’s farm, just outside of Platsville.

Acting: 4/6 The film features a compelling Queen Vampire, and Cheryl Rainbeaux Smith does reasonably well as the imperiled adolescent. She would have a long career in B-movies and B-parts.* The old crone (Halloween make-up notwithstanding) manages to be very creepy. Especially memorable is her first scene opposite Lila, where she sings a rather disturbing child’s song. Of course this film would have a disturbing child’s song.

The rest of the acting, alas, runs the gamut from mediocre to bad.

Production: 3/6 The filmmakers saved even more on production costs by filming most of Lemora in darkness.

Story: 4/6 A good story exists here, marred by jumpy editing. An original cut may have been better; scenes were cut and remain unrestored (they may no longer exist).

Emotional Response: 3/6

Overall: 4/6 The film drips with uncomfortable sexual subtext, and not just because of the titular Lemora. Absolutely every character leers over, comments on the sexuality of, or directly hits on the 13-year-old protagonist. The actress was some years older when she made the movie, but that does little to mitigate matters.

In total, Lemora: A Child’s Tale of the Supernatural receives 23/42

*Smith’s film work includes several horror and exploitation films as well some mainstream movies (including a small role in Logan’s Run). She also played very briefly with the Runaways during their final days, and posed for Penthouse. She made her last film appearance in 1983. Smith struggled with heroin addiction and ultimately died in 2002 from liver disease and hepatitis.