It’s A Horror To Know You: Jeff Allard of Dinner With Max Jenke!
What is the first film that ever scared you?
I can’t remember the exact first film – something random on TV most likely – but I do vividly remember seeing both Food of the Gods (1976) and Empire of the Ants (1977) in the theater within what felt like mere months of each other and being seriously traumatized by each of those early excursions into big screen terror. The laughably chintzy (even by mid-‘70s standards) FX didn’t put any kind of dent in the experience for me. Neither film came across as corny or cheap to my eyes. For older horror fans, the ‘70s were about having their minds blown by the likes of Romero or Carpenter or Hooper or Craven but as a kid being unaware of (or not allowed to view) the more seismic genre events happening at the time, Bert I. Gordon became – for awhile, at least – the #1 horror god of my childhood.
What was the last film that scared you?
I’d have to go with I Saw The Devil, even though I don’t know if “scared” is the right word to describe my reaction to that movie – it made me feel more disturbed and unsettled than frightened per se. Whatever the case, it was the most all-around impressive horror movie in recent memory for me. On a very different level I also really enjoyed the old-fashioned chills of The Woman in Black. I get the impression that it wasn’t so well received by a lot of fans but I thought that for what it intended it hit the mark just fine.
Name three horror movies that you believe are underrated.
Hands down the best killer rat movie ever made is Deadly Eyes (1982). It’s the absolute last word in rodent rampages.
For whatever reason, Pete Walker’s grim cannibal tale Frightmare (1974) doesn’t get mentioned that much but I think it’s one of the most upsetting horror movies of the ‘70s – which means it’s one of the most upsetting horror movies ever. The big horror heavyweights like Michael Myers, Jason, and Freddy look benign next to the batshit old lady played by Sheila Keith here.
The snarling killer poodle with a pink bow in its hair that’s featured on the box art might have understandably caused many horror fans to pass on The Boneyard (1991) over the years, encouraging prospective viewers to assume it to be a goofy waste of time but this is a movie that deserves more notoriety. Writer/director James Cummins (who passed away in 2010) crafted an energetic – and at times emotional – creature feature and I love that he bucked convention by having his female lead not be the usual nubile young thing favored by horror fans but instead be an overweight, middle aged, depressive woman living in squalor (excellently portrayed by Deborah Rose).
Name three horror movies that you enjoy against your better judgment.
I can’t say I enjoy any of these movies against my better judgment because I really do like them and don’t feel like it’s a mistake to do so but I know that they’re questionable choices to most fans so here you go:
The Mangler (1995)
Tobe Hooper’s latter-day films get trashed by a lot of fans and while I agree that not all of them are winners, I will stubbornly, shamelessly defend The Mangler. What I most love about it is the total conviction that Hooper brings to the material. Most directors, if tasked with making a movie about a possessed laundry presser, would have made it very tongue in cheek but Hooper plays it as seriously as if he were making The Exorcist and I love that. This is a bleak, nasty little movie (with Robert Englund chewing more scenery than he’s ever chewed before or since) and it’s clear that Hooper was trying to make something special out of the slim source material. So yeah, I dig The Mangler. In fact, I liked it so much that I saw it twice in the theaters and would’ve probably gone again if it hadn’t vanished so quickly.
Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (1992)
The Americanization of the Hellraiser franchise didn’t strike many people as an especially great development but I hold an enduring affection for this entry in the series. I think there were so few horror movies released to theaters in the early ‘90s that I tended to greet the ones that did come out with more warmth than they may have deserved. That said I like that director Anthony Hickox went for a popcorn-styled entertainment here, making Hell on Earth bigger, slicker, and more action-orientated. Prior to Hell on Earth, you wouldn’t turn to the Hellraiser films to see stuff blow up but Hickox brought it there. It lacks the seriousness of the previous two films but the sight of Pinhead and his newly assembled Cenobite gang boldly striding down a city street, causing destruction and taking on an outmatched police force is just too fun. This may be a disparaged movie in most quarters of fandom but Hell on Earth remains a small slice of Heaven for me.
I have an irrational soft spot for failed attempts to create new horror franchises (don’t get me started on Dr. Giggles or Shocker) and Brainscan is a true hall of famer in that regard. It’s hard to imagine anyone with the least bit of sense ever thinking that the madcap ghoul known as The Trickster had the potential to be the next Freddy Krueger but I’m forever grateful that all involved with this film’s inception followed through on their every misbegotten impulse because if they hadn’t, I wouldn’t have Brainscan to enjoy. I only hope that one day Fright Rags will decide to immortalize this movie with a T-shirt.
Send us to five places on the internet.
Arbogast on Film . The mystery man known as Arbogast may have closed shop back in December of last year but the back catalog of five years worth of insightful posts means it’s still the most indispensible horror blog out there.
Chuck Norris Ate My Baby. Matt House doesn’t update as frequently as he once did – a real epidemic around the blogosphere these days – but it remains a great, good humored blog, well worth checking in on.
Heart In A Jar. Steve Senski doesn’t post often but when he does, it’s always with a degree of knowledge, literacy and critical insight not commonly found in horror bloggers.
Mr. Peel’s Sardine Liquor. Like Arbogast on Film, Mr. Peel’s Sardine Liquor is also headed up by a mystery man. Unlike Arbogast, Mr. Peel is thankfully still active, continuing to sharing his thoughts on a wide range of movies. As with Arbogast on Film, every post makes me wish I could write so well. Mr. Peel has a knack for making every review read like a window into his personal thoughts (without being self-indulgent) as well as being an astute analysis of the film in question (without being overly academic).
Radiator Heaven. J.D. Lafrance’s blog is one of the most enthusiastic and informed sources of film criticism out there. He covers all genres equally well but has a clear and frequently demonstrated affection for horror, fantasy and sci-fi. And if that doesn’t make someone a good egg, I don’t know what does.