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Entries from April 2008

The World Beyond a.k.a. The Mud Monster

April 30th, 2008 · 7 Comments


Last week we received a Traumafession on THE WORLD BEYOND, a made-for-television obscurity that I personally had never heard of. A little Google action exposed it as a true Traumatizer contender. This hour long supernatural spooker freaked the living bajeezus out of young viewers to the point of causing visual hallucinations (the mud man is under my bed!) and chronic insomnia. It then disappeared into the television static zone leaving many wondering if what they had witnessed was even real. Alternate titles and VHS unavailability added to the confusion. I was more than intrigued, I HAD TOO SEE THIS MOVIE! It became the latest in a long string of tiny, inconsequential goals. Well, mud monster, times have changed since 1978; the Internet has made it virtually impossible for entities like yourself to hide forever, and it’s time you were drug out into the light.

Created as part of a potential television series THE WORLD BEYOND would actually be the first episode following a pilot entitled THE WORLD OF DARKNESS. Later, in order to present it better as a stand alone affair, it was sometimes listed as simply THE MUD MONSTER (A title card on the version I viewed declared the episode as simply “MONSTER”). The basis of the plot is a popular one currently. The protagonist communicates with the dead in order to solve mysteries and aid the unbelieving. GRANVILLE VAN DUSEN stars as clairvoyant sports writer Paul Taylor (a near death motorcycle accident is the catalyst) and it is clear that if the show were to be picked up, he would take his talents on the road helping unfortunates in various locations ala THE INCREDIBLE HULK series. In this case, the drama begins with Paul being contacted by a decidedly dead Frank Faber. Frank implores Paul to go to Logan’s island and save his sister Marion (a pre-POLTERGEIST JOBETH WILLIAMS) before it’s too late. Paul locates Marion easily and with the help of an ornery oldster (BARNARD HUGHES) and his doggie “Lover,” the three embark toward the island to find out what became of Frank.
Things go from jovial to creep-tastic as soon as they pull into a boathouse on the island. Lover the dog goes bonkers and gnaws on his master’s arm, and an ominous howling wind begins what is to become a near perpetual onslaught. I’m a sucker for water-logged terror, so the boat journey where they discover Marian’s dead brother’s life jacket floating by is a good start. Perhaps my second favorite locale for horror is the isolated cabin and that’s exactly where our tale takes us next. The cabin is boarded up from the inside and brimming with books on the occult. There’s no avoiding that something evil is afoot because we soon hear the howling death cries of Lover the dog having his back broken in the boathouse. The dominoes begin to fall and a humanoid-shaped hole in the ground is discovered. Next we find Marian’s poor dead brother Frank buried in the dirt up to his head (it appears as a decapitation at first). One of the texts in the cabin is the Kabbalah and that, along with the figure-shaped ditch in the Earth, leads Paul to speculate that the problem at hand is being caused by a Golem, a soulless mystical being from Jewish folklore made from clay or dirt.

It’s pretty easy to see why THE WORLD BEYOND left such an impression; its use of eerie sound effects is impressive. The constant ghostly wind and the mud man’s gruff growl weave together to form an unsettling blanket over all proceedings. Shaky point of view shots and erratic camera movements also add to the intensity. A stand out scene for those who remember this production finds the mud man losing his arm. The set up is great, an eye of the storm romantic respite between the two leads is sabotaged when Paul opens the door to leave, and comes face to face with the horrific roaring creation. Slamming the door on the beast, they are left with its severed arm on the cabin floor. Closer inspection shows a still actively aggressive appendage that exits into the basement leaving a MR. HANKY like trail behind. There’s more horror to be found in said basement, not to mention a simple solution to the dilemma in the form of a fortuitously located bag of salt. I won’t reveal the final fate of the mud man, but as the story progresses, we do get to see and hear much more from him. Scenes of his dark form twisting and lumbering through nature brought back fond memories of grainy wooded seventies thrillers like THE LEGGEND OF BOGGY CREEK and SCREAMS OF A WINTER NIGHT.

Due to the limits of the medium and the time period this was made, there is a definite hokey (maybe quaint is a better word) quality lumbering about the island as well. JOBETH’s character, for example, is quick to deny being a hysteric, but is blazingly ineffectual (especially when compared to her tigress in a football jersey role in POLTERGEIST) and the way too explanatory closing bit raises more questions than it extinguishes. Still, THE WORLD BEYOND can stand up next to the best of the seventies television horror output just on memorable atmosphere and originality alone. I doubt it will terrify adult viewers, but it could very well remind them what it felt like to be scared as a child. Heck, the soundtrack alone could do that!

Neither THE WORLD OF DARKNESS nor THE WORLD BEYOND are officially available on DVD (a double feature would be great). Thankfully I was lucky enough to find SUPER STRANGE VIDEO, who were able to get a DVD-R copy of the latter title to my front door in a week (!). Taken from a Betamax tape recording of an original television broadcast, SSV’s version of BEYOND makes up for its 58 minute running time by including all the commercials that aired that night, making it quite the little time capsule. The picture quality is not great, but you’ve seen worse, I didn’t find it a problem as I was too wrapped up in the story to care. In fact, it may have added to the feeling of watching a lost, time ravished treasure. To tell you the truth I think I almost enjoyed the commercials as much as the movie, here’s a few that I thought would be of interest to Horror fans:

The very first time THE WORLD BEYOND aired it was followed by co-traumatizer THE BERMUDA DEPTHS which starred CONNIE SELLACA. Here she is shown shilling Excederin right before her big break along side a giant turtle!

Kinder Bunny ADRIENNE BARBEAU is featured in a commercial for an upcoming episode of MAUDE. She meets JOHN CARPENTER around this time on the set of SOMEONE’S WATCHING ME!
This 7-11 spot features a guy who needs to drink coffee to escape his lycanthropic nature. (If it only were that easy!) In the non-horror arena there is a Leggs pantyhose commercial complete with plastic egg, an AIM toothpaste commercial complete with an inappropriately pushy teacher invading a kids bathroom and, best of all, a bumper for the upcoming Miss Arkansas pageant! I swear I do not own stock in SUPER STRANGE VIDEO when I tell you this was the best 20 bucks I ever spent. By the time it was over, I felt I had traveled through a time tunnel. So thanks to the SSV guys for supplying the goods, reader Joe V. for his inspiring Traumafession and, last but not least, the incredible Roger Miller for taping this incredible wonder on his Betamax three decades ago!!!

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Tags: Telenasties

Someone’s Watching Me!

April 29th, 2008 · 3 Comments

Shortly after live television director Leigh Michaels (Dial soap pitchwoman LAUREN HUTTON) takes up residence in the super-deluxe L.A. high-rise compound Arkham Towers, she finds herself on the receiving end of some odd phone calls. Neither of the heavy-breathing variety nor particularly menacing, the calls are initially dismissed as pranks by Leigh who is more concerned with adapting to life in Los Angeles. She quickly finds a confidant in new co-worker (and sister of Sappho) Sophie (ADRIANNE BARBEAU), and makes use of one of the worst pick-up lines ever to attract the attention of philosophy professor/ singles-bar habitue Paul (DAVID BIRNEY). Unfortunately, things aren’t as hot on the home front. The calls have escalated, and now Leigh finds herself receiving sweepstakes prizes compliments of a mysterious outfit known as Excursions Unlimited. First, she receives a telescope, and then a string bikini. Pretty menacing, as far as unwanted trinkets from a stalker go, no? The police offer little in the form of assistance, so Leigh and Sophie, with the occasional assist from Paul, set out to catch the creep. Using the telescope, they deduce Leigh’s stalker must be somewhere in the high-rise building across the courtyard from hers. Sadly, their amateur sleuthing results in the wrong man being run out of town, and Leigh ends up looking like “The Gap-toothed Live Television Director Who Cried Voyeur” when the calls and threats continue. Directed by Kinder-fave JOHN CARPENTER, SOMEONE’S WATCHING ME! shamelessly riffs on HITCHCOCK’s REAR WINDOW, and includes the obligatory scene where we witness Leigh sneak into the perpetrator’s apartment from Sophie’s telescopic point-of-view. Perhaps the biggest misstep is the absolute last minute introduction of the stalker’s identity which left me saying, “Wait, who?” Even with it’s left field finale, it’s impossible to deny CARPENTER knows his way around a suspense scene. He’s able to wring tension from the smallest of things and once the set up is in place, it’s virtually impossible to look away.
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  • Ever the wise-ass, Leigh admits to Paul that she has always harbored a fear of being raped by dwarfs
  • Leigh’s narrow escape in the parking lot, complete with hiding in a sewer grate so she can look up her stalker’s pant leg
  • Leigh spys the savage demise of pal Sophie through a telescope
  • Leigh’s life is saved by her ugly curtains

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Tags: Telenasties

TRAUMA-SCENE :: AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON’s Nazi attack

April 28th, 2008 · 8 Comments

If you have never seen AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON then there is something seriously missing from your life. It’s only one of the best werewolf movies ever made and it is amazingly equal parts truly scary and darkly funny; the ending is a little too abrupt, but let’s not split wolf hairs. One scene that deserves to be singled out takes place during a dream within a dream, a device that in 1981 had not been exploited to oblivion yet by the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET series. Our hero David Kessler (DAVID NAUGHTON) dreams that his entire family is massacred before his eyes by an extremely unfriendly band of machine-gun-toting Nazi monsters too hideous to describe. To add insult to not just injury but also slaughter, David’s little brother and pajama-clad sister were in the process of watching MISS PIGGY debate the value of violence in art on THE MUPPET SHOW when the attack begins. (If you’ve never see the movie, don’t worry, I haven’t ruined anything. The scene is so abrupt that it’s impossible to prepare yourself for it anyway.) Director JOHN LANDIS had been dreaming up this werewolf tale since he was a mere 19 years old, and this dream sequence reveals a fear that we all can relate to, a home invasion that endangers our entire family. The Nazi uniforms surely carry particular meaning for LANDIS though, being Jewish and born just 5 years after the end of World War 2. It’s no accident that a menorah, one of the oldest symbols of the Jewish faith can be seen being blasted away by one of the attackers before the scene’s close. By taking his own nightmare and throwing it up on the screen, LANDIS does in less than a minute what most directors fail to do in 90, he petrifies his audience. It’s a jolt of real horror and considering that it occurs in a place many consider to be the safest imaginable, the family living room, it’s all the more shocking. There is no way to hide behind the couch from the obvious tone of slapstick black humor involved either, (especially considering it’s proximity to barking mad dominatrix MISS PIGGY!) When mom and pop are blasted they fly backwards with absurd TEX AVERY force. This nightmare fantasy of the destruction of peace in a bourgeois home may be the worst thing imaginable, but I hardly think I’m the only horror fan who has rewound it again and again. LANDIS is actually playing hooky from the narrative, the scene being a dream has no consequence at all within the story. He quite simply presents you with the worst possible scenario he can think of, and departs before he is required to take responsibility for it. It may be sadistic (and masochistic) as hell, but that’s what Traumafessions are made of.

KINDER UPDATE:MIKE FISH reviews a new book on JOHN LANDIS over at our favorite hang out HORROR YEARBOOOK!

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Tags: Trauma-Scene

Official Traumatizer :: The Sleestaks

April 27th, 2008 · 2 Comments

Brothers SID and MARTY KROFT were responsible for creating a multitude of alarmingly psychedelic, trauma-packed universes in several children’s programs televised in the seventies. One suspects LEWIS CARROLL himself would be humbled by their uncanny gift for turning the family television into a rabbit hole to push unsuspecting toddlers through. In 1974 they upped the ante, shelving their previously more colorful and cartoony palette with a Saturday morning offering entitled LAND OF THE LOST. Although L.O.T.L. may look dopey and low tech by today’s standards it was a giant leap forward in sophistication both on a technical and a storytelling level for the KROFTS. Concerning a widower and his two children who thanks to “the greatest earthquake ever known” are propelled into what seems at first to be our world’s past, but later reveals itself to be a alternate dimension altogether, L.O.T.L. was ripe with threats its young audience had never been exposed to before. Its half hour running time was an invitation to an avalanche of prehistoric dinosaurs with diverse dispositions, pre-Wookie, mini Sasquatch beings with formidable brows (and a faux language created by a linguistic) and most notoriously and horribly, the dreaded creature known as the Sleestak. (Note: You do not want to say the word Sleestak to a child of the seventies when they are drinking a glass of water or you will have a spit-take dampened face to contend with, …the word carries that much awesome fright power!)

Sleestak are lizard-skinned, seven-foot-tall creatures with giant insect eyes and three pronged pincher hands. They have a single nubby horn on their head, a little nubby tail, and presumably internalized genitalia. They carry crossbows, slink about in caves (they don’t like light!) and introduce their presence with the most horrible slurpy hissing sound that’s ever been heard outside of a dentist’s office. It has come to my knowledge that the more you learn about Sleestak the more atrocious they become. They sacrifice humans to their gods, they feed live animals to their recently hatched young, they hibernate in cocoons and, perhaps most disturbingly, they communicate with a “library of skulls” which is a grouping of their previous leaders’ heads that death can’t even shut up.

In the interest of full disclosure I have to admit that there is one Sleestak who is polite enough to wear some clothing, speak the mother’s English and can the hissing. His name is Enig (originally spelled Eneg as an anagram tribute to STAR TREK creator GENE RODENBERRY), he’s an “Altrusian” with golden skin, and of a more reasonable height. You have to feel sorry for the guy because he originally believes the barbaric Sleestak are his ancestors but comes to find out that they are his peace loving people’s inevitable future selves instead. (THE LAND OF THE LOST‘s mind-fucky time collage at work once again.) Enig spends a lot of his time in a lost city working on a time matrix table chuck full of shiny stones trying to get the hell home and really, who can blame him? Good luck with that Enig, let us know how that works out.

Go ahead and laugh at the Sleestak, just don’t underestimate the tightness of their pinchers grip on the psyche of a generation. You can find them lurking in paintings, used as icons for rock bands and skateboard hubs, lampooned on ROBOT CHICKEN and infiltrating slang with alternate spellings and meanings. As ridiculous as they sometimes appear, they have an astonishing primal power that viewers respond to immediately. What is that power? Does it come from the fact that with their round dark eyes, non-existent nose and slit grimace mouth, they more than slightly resemble our most innate and ancient symbol for death, the human skull? Or is it their reptilian nature that gets our dander up? Lizard men in general have existed across the globe in many mythologies from the beginning of time. In the present they loom in the form of alien abductee stories and conspiracy theories that claim our leaders are hiding some green scales of their own ala the famed miniseries “V”. Do they represent a primitive version of ourselves or a cold callous being we are afraid we’re becoming? To a kid, the question when seeing these threatening creatures is a simple one: fight or flight? I think we all know the answer that every child of the seventies formed in their heads as soon as they heard that first horrible “Hisssssssss.”

So here’s to you Sleestak, you really don’t get enough respect. Sure you starred on a show that displayed some of the worst and most often repeated blue screen effects in television history and, yes, most of us noticed that there was a limited supply of you on hand (the KROFTS had only 3 Sleestak suits and they had to represent many more) but I can tell you from experience that whenever you entered the television screen in my house you could hear a pin drop. And yes, I admit that the foolish day that I tied a rope onto the back of my brothers bike and forced him to pull me around on my roller skates in the basement that when I inevitably bashed my head into the cement that the first thing I saw was not a circle of chirping canaries but a circle of hissing Sleestak looking down on me (true Traumafession!) You, my dear Sleestak may have been kicked out of the boob tube decades ago, but there is a cave in my and many other peoples’ heads where you still roam hissing, and naked with a crossbow poised and aimed.


KINDER UPDATE
: Here is how the Sleestak will look in the upcoming tongue-in-cheek LAND OF THE LOST theatrical MOVIE starring WILL FERRELL

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Tags: Traumatizers

TRAUMAFESSIONS :: Reader Monica B. on Prisoner Cell Block H

April 26th, 2008 · 1 Comment

prisoner cell block h

I remember my older brother would play the radio in his bedroom non-stop all day and I was forced to hear it. Sometimes they would have horror movie commercials on and they would scare the crap out of me. The all time worst was one summer when they started playing ads for a T.V. show called PRISONER CELL BLOCK H over and over again. One ad was about a woman who buried a baby alive in her garden. Our neighbors had just had a baby and all I would do was picture it buried under the dirt and it would give me the shivers. Once I forced my friend to bury one of her dolls and pretend we were on that show. I still feel guilty about that and remember being worried that she would tell on me!

UNKLE LANCIFER SEZ: Monica, I remember that show, it was an Australian import soap opera that was aired stateside in the early eighties. I was forbidden to watch it, so of course it became my favorite thing to see. There was always something messed up going on and thanks to your TRAUMAFESSION, I just spent a good part of a sunny day watching its insanity on Youtube. I’m sorry I could not find the radio spots you mentioned, but if you want to bring back some bad memories I suggest you FOLLOW SUIT. Thanks for also bringing up radio spots in general. I remember back in the old days hearing that stuff on the radio and those things really made your imagination run wild. Every once in a while you can find a superior DVD that includes them, but in the meantime I dug up THESE and THESE. Maybe you can stick them on your iPod and listen to them while you’re burying dolls!

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Tags: Traumafessions

The Orphanage (El Orfanato)

April 25th, 2008 · 3 Comments

the orphanage

Laura (BELEN RUEDA) has moved into, and is in the process of renovating, the very orphanage that she called home for some time as a child. Along with her practical husband Carlos (FERNANDO CAYO) and adopted child Simon (ROGER PRINCEP) she means to create a place like the one she remembers, a place full of laughing children who spend their days playing games and their nights imagining themselves protected by a nearby lighthouse. Laura is unfortunate enough to slowly learn throughout the course of JUAN ANTONIO BAYONA’s THE ORPHANAGE that her pristine recollections are sorely one sided and that her beloved residence hides a history of (kinder)traumatic events she could hardly imagine. Things appear kosher enough at first with her child seemingly conjuring play pals to keep himself company, but does little Simon have his head in the clouds or his foot in the afterlife? Evidence supporting the latter accumulates to the point where Simon goes missing completely and Laura begins seeing a mysterious child on the grounds wearing a Raggedy Andy meets THE ELEPHANT MAN sack over his head. Concern gives way to obsession as Laura is led like a pull toy through a psychological maze that can only be navigated by shredding everything rational and allowing herself to perceive the world in Simon’s (and her own previous) childlike way. More dark fantasy than outright horror, THE ORPHANGE plays tag with classic ghost story elements while always remaining slickly modern. It has no intention of beating the audience over the head with its shocks, it is content to unnerve at the leisurely pace of a midnight tide (MTV spawn & A.D.D. dudes, you stand warned!) Screenwriter SERGIO G. SANCHEZ admits to being inspired by the maternal anguish that Wendy and her sibling’s mother must have felt in PETER PAN when she discovers her children are missing and off adventuring in Neverland. It’s just that kind of magical fairy tale quality that distinguishes THE ORPHANAGE from your standard shock generator. This puzzle box may not provide constant adrenaline pumping cathartic thrills, but it does provide a wise meditation on how perception rules our lives and the constant tug of war between our past and present selves. By the film’s conclusion a new idea of “home” is established and the viewer is left with a feeling similar to completing a good satisfying book. Bathed in cool aquatic hues, its lullaby tone allows its moments of true, gritty, well-earned terror to shine all the more and don’t worry, there is terror to be found here. I know it may seem like the world needs another “ghost kid” movie like it needs another wedding themed rom-com, but this is a sincere, nearly seamless, effort that offers new sly gifts with each viewing and reminds you what a well thought out, complete film experience feels like.
indelible scenes

  • The dark seaside cave, you may imagine you’re seeing things as well
  • The witchy Benigna (MONTSERRAT CARULLA) makes a house call
  • Our first view of Tomas (OSCAR CASAS) at the animal masked garden party for special children. A perfect playmate for lil’ Jason Voorhees!
  • Laura’s tumble into the tub and her wretched hangnail
  • Benigna catches the bus!
  • Psychic Aurora’s (the great GERALDINE CHAPLIN) painful discovery
  • Laura learns the rules of the game, transforms and is invited into Tomas’ “little house”

the orphanage

clowning around

the orphanage

clowning around

the orphanage

clowning around

the orphanage

clowning around

the orphanage

clowning around

the orphanage

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Tags: Tykes in Trouble

Kinder-Don’ts

April 24th, 2008 · 3 Comments

  1. Don’t read children’s books written by DAVID CRONENBERG
  2. what's inside me?

    [More self-exploration HERE]

  3. Don’t assume sharks are the biggest threat in the ocean!
  4. glurpo

    [More on Glurpo HERE & HERE]

  5. Don’t try to collect every STAR WARS toy!
  6. poor uncle owen and aunt beru

    [Found HERE]

  7. MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL: Don’t put it in your mouth!

  8. [Extended version HERE]

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Tags: Toy Chest

TRAUMAFESSIONS :: Reader Alfred on Changing Channels

April 23rd, 2008 · No Comments

creature double feature

I suffered through an evening alone with several trauma inducing TV shows and commercials. This was the first time my parents allowed me to stay home by myself. I was maybe 10 years old. I wanted to watch WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS on Creature Double Feature (Channel 48 in Phila. in the ‘70s). They agreed, but said, “No company, and you can’t go outside.” I made it through the movie fine. It was what happened next that scared me out of my wits. The next offering on Creature Double Feature was some ghost story. I decided to find something light to take the edge off since it was now getting dark outside.

I flipped channels to find something to watch. I settled on the haunted house episode of WILD, WILD WEST. The one where they wake up in the house and their guns are rusted, like they had been there for years overnight. What are the odds that WILD, WILD WEST would be scary? It was to me, so I turned again. The commercial that was playing on the next station was for the weird magazine, Man, Myth and Magic. The face on the cover was, the devil I guess. Again, scary to me. I turned again, just in time to see JULIET MILLS channeling LINDA BLAIR in the ad for BEYOND THE DOOR. Well that was it! I spent the last half hour out on the front porch. What really scared me was that the shows and ads seemed, to my impressionable mind, to be timed to each twist of the T.V. dial – just like it was done purposely.

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Tags: Traumafessions

TRAUMAFESSIONS :: Reader Joe V. on The World Beyond a.k.a. The Mud Monster

April 22nd, 2008 · No Comments

I saw THE WORLD BEYOND A.K.A. THE MUD MONSTER on the later side of puberty, which meant that I actually wanted to sit through it. For some inexplicable reason, the local TV station sometimes programmed this in place of after school cartoons. I would get get home from school, flip on the tube expecting Tom and Jerry, and instead be treated to this claustrophobic, supernatural thriller about a couple pursued through the woods by a creature made from mud and sticks. I remember turning it on to a scene where the guy comes upon a crude man-shape dug out of the earth: the ‘womb’ of the monster. My mom comes into the room and nonchalantly says, “It’s a mud monster. It has a skeleton of sticks”. I remember thinking. “How the fuck does she know that?” The reality of watching this kind of fare in the long, lonesome, post-school hours was terrifying enough, but what really sticks in my head is the scene where the guy is anxiously carrying a bag of anti-mud monster salt through the forest — and he drops it in a puddle, only to watch helplessly as it melts. This was my defining intro to psychological terror. As I remember it, the monster itself didn’t get much screen time.


KINDER UPDATE: For a full review and more pix of THE WORLD BEYOND a.k.a. THE MUD MONSTER look HERE

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Tags: Traumafessions

Official Traumatot :: Joshua John Miller

April 21st, 2008 · 1 Comment

 

 JOSHUA JOHN MILLER (sometimes just JOSHUA MILLER) worked along side some of the greatest figures in modern horror including TOM ATKINS in HALLOWEEN 3: SEASON OF THE WITCH, CRISPEN GLOVER in RIVER’S EDGE, LANCE HENRICKSEN in NEAR DARK and be still my heart, ZELDA RUBENSTEIN in the rap mangling musical holocaust TEEN WITCH! (Top That!) In addition, his father is none other than JASON MILLER a.k.a. Father Karras in THE EXORCIST, so we’re talking genuine horror royalty here. His first novel THE MAO GAME was published in 1997 when he was just 21 and he went on to direct the film adaptation of it as well. No slouch in his youth and equally productive to this day, renaissance man JOSHUA JOHN MILLER certainly deserves to be recognized around the globe as an OFFICIAL KINDERTRAUMA TRAUMATOT!     

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Tags: Traumatots