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...:::General Horror:::...

Cult of Chucky (2017)

October 10th, 2017 · 6 Comments

I’m a huge fan of 2013’s CURSE OF CHUCKY. It reestablished my favorite killer doll’s innate creepiness, introduced me to the phenomenal FIONA DOURIF and works splendidly as a rainy night, old dark house flick. I’m pretty sure I’ve watched it every year since it came out because that’s how I do. One of the great things about the CHUCKY series is that it is both remarkably consistent (every installment is penned by original creator DON MANCINI) and wonderfully inconsistent (every installment past the original three changes the game in a creative way). I can’t say my love of newest stab — CULT OF CHUCKY — eclipses my love of cozy CURSE but it certainly delivers a bevy of its own horror delights. We get to reunite with Chucky’s now-grown original patsy Andy Barclay (ALEX VINCENT), spend some time in a surreally sterile mental hospital and most gratifyingly, we get more FIONA DOURIF as Nica Pierce. DOURIF makes it clear she’s every bit as talented as her legendary dad BRAD. She’s truly mesmerizing and reminds me a bit of JESSICA HARPER if JESSICA HARPER found herself frequently possessed by JUDY DAVIS. Plus you get more of the irascible Tiffany Valentine played to the hilt by JENNIFER TILY who has reached an almost CRUELLA de VIL level of hilariously flamboyant madness.

MANCINI has taken over the directing reigns for CHUCKY’s last three outings and I couldn’t be happier. He’s got a superb eye for visuals and he’s able to get great performances from his actors, both flesh and plastic. With CURSE he seemed to be taking some cues from Italian masters like ARGENTO and BAVA and now with CULT, his hat appears tipped to KUBRICK and De PALMA (complete with split- screens). There’s a kill in this movie involving shattering glass that is every bit as beautiful as it is ultimately gruesome. There are some lapses in logic, no mental hospital on Earth would run the way this one does, but the incongruities tend to add to the dreamy, hallucinatory atmosphere. Maybe it’s not a good idea in real life for a hospital to proudly have it’s own graveyard but it sure looks pretty as hell especially in the snow! Plus I’m OK with giving a possessed killer doll-flick a whole lot of leeway in the realism department. From it’s first sequel, the franchise has had the not always easy task of finding a balance between horror and its unavoidable humor and I think the last two installments have got the formula down pat and all thanks to FIONA DOURIF. No matter how off the wall, wacky or self-referential (Chucky laments the cancelation of HANNIBAL– a series MANCINI lent his writing talents to) Chucky behaves, DOURIF’s Nica is there to ground things with her convincing portrayal of a woman unable to convince others of her outlandish predicament.

I hope the series continues in this direction and CULT’s unpredictable ending certainly opens up a plethora of possibilities. It’s pretty darn cool to see a writer granted so much control over his creation, especially one who tends to steer toward uncharted territory rather than knee-jerk expectations. I doubt a big screen, big budget excursion would allow our favorite killer doll such ample room to play, so it feels like a blessing to see what the little guy can get up to unchained from the box office. If you want to check out the unrated version complete with an after credit cameo (which is worth its wait in gold as far as I’m concerned) you can order the Blu ray/DVD combo pack (which includes commentary by DON MANCINI, deleted scenes and bonus features) HERE. The rated version of CULT OF CHUCKY will be on Netflix soon followed by Halloween-timed multiple showings on AMC’s Fearfest. I’m guessing there are VOD and Redbox options as well. One thing’s for sure, a certain possessed killer doll is going to be hard to escape this October and I’m all for it. I’ll always have this troublemaker’s back for his non-conformist stance. Sure he’s evil but I empathize with his struggle to escape a brittle body built for smiling servitude. He reminds me of a time when horror icons were still rebellious and counter-culture rather than neutered to appeal to the largest possible audience. Chucky is my friend till the end and he’s a gift that keeps on giving (the finger).

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Tags: General Horror

Terrifier (2017) (Via PUFF 2)

September 25th, 2017 · 1 Comment

If your first thought after seeing the recent hit IT was “Gee, I wish that evil clown savagely mutilated more people” then DAMIEN LEONE’s TERRIFIER may be right up your blood strewn alley. The killer clown in this movie truly isn’t playing around. In fact, I think I might have even been offended by a particular obscenity he orchestrated but luckily I don’t mind being offended too much. It’s kind of thrilling to take the less safe path with horror on occasion and to find yourself worrying that the film will push its violence across the border of your comfort zone. There are no subtle chills or elaborate backstories in TERRIFIER, this is a stripped down, back to the basics stalk and slash, heavy on the slash. Old school gorehounds willing to overlook the absence of good taste (or even much of a plot) for a down and dirty haunted attraction type crawl, chock full of sometimes alarmingly convincing practical make–up effects should be particularly satisfied. It doesn’t exactly break new ground but it certainly seethes with genuine menace. Sweetening the pot further, TERRIFIER takes place on Halloween night and even though it’s not able to muster the autumnal ambience of your average HALLOWEEN sequel, I’d still recommend it as premium party viewing for folks looking to celebrate OCT 31st.

TERRIFIER’s formidable killer “Art” may look familiar to some as he has ravaged through LEONE’s earlier anthology ALL HALLOWS EVE (2013), both in a segment and the wrap around tale. LEONE not only wrote and directed TERRIFIER but also supplied the impressive make-up effects, which may explain why they are exhibited with such gruesome reverence and twisted glee. I have to say this clown is pretty darn nightmarish. His silent sneer and uncanny movements rather remind me of “the gentlemen” in the classic BUFFY episode “Hush” and I have to tip my tiny hat to DAVID HOWARD THORTON for his wickedly ghoulish performance, I also rather enjoyed the film’s lead JENNA KANELL (THE BYE BYE MAN) because she looks like STACEY NELKIN in HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH but talks like MIRA SORVINO in ROMY AND MICHELE’S HIGH SCHOOL REUNION. She’s put through the wringer in this movie and she’s easy to root for but I should warn you that this isn’t the type of movie that cares about heroic redemption and untapped powers within. If it has any message it is that you should trust your instincts rather than your friends when you surmise the clown waving at you is a murderous maniac.

If you live in Philadelphia, TERRIFIER will be playing on Thursday, September 28th at 9:30PM as part of PUFF (THE PHILADELPHIA UNNAMED FILM FESTIVAL) at the one and only Drake Building (more details HERE). Seeing this untamed horror movie with a screaming and squirming audience is sure to be an excellent way to kick off your Halloween season. I know you might be thinking that you’ve been killer clowned to death this year but in the words of one Dr. Loomis, “You don’t know what death is!” (P.S. I’m also hearing very strong word of mouth about TRAGEDY GIRLS, which is being described as MEAN GIRLS meets SCREAM and will be playing on Friday, September 29th at 7PM and will incorporate a prom theme party with shots for anyone over 21- and that means me – be there or be square!).

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Tags: General Horror

For the Love of:: The Slayer (1982)

September 19th, 2017 · 1 Comment

ARROW VIDEO is really hitting them out of the park lately. I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited for a release than their new 2-disc (one Blu, one DVD) offering of THE SLAYER, which until now has only been available on hard to find VHS. I have an extended history with this movie. It was one of my very first horror rentals (from a kiosk in the mall) and it both stuck in my head and seemed to disappear entirely. For decades, no other video store I visited (and there have been many) ever seemed to carry it. I finally did find it on a double feature, big box with SCALPS but I still yearned to unearth the original version with the cover that enthralled me featuring a demon silhouette in a doorway framed by fire. Over the years I’ve spotlighted on these pages the multiple times this movie has appeared on YouTube only to watch it disappear in a puff of smoke shortly thereafter. Well, all those days of THE SLAYER being a slippery fish are now over. I’m happy for myself and I’m happy for all the fortunate folks who can now add this unique film to their collections.

I attempted to share why I’ve been intrigued for so many years by THE SLAYER in this full review back HERE (short version: I admit it has its flaws but the atmosphere of constant dread is memorably powerful). Today I’m going to focus on this new slobber-worthy Blu-ray. Let me tell you, it’s quite the revelation seeing THE SLAYER suddenly not look like it was filmed through a screen door. This is the visual equivalent to slurping down an oyster; your peepers can practically taste the salty ocean air while you take it in. In my previous review, I mentioned that in my head I like to think of THE SLAYER as a seaside sibling to favorites TOWER OF EVIL, THE FOG and DEAD AND BURIED and never has that coastal connection been stronger; I may have even been left with sand in my shorts. I’ve mentioned before that I’m not militant when it comes to upgrading physical media but in this case, it’s an absolute no-brainer. The difference between THE SLAYER on VHS and on Blu-ray is substantial. I’ll spare you the technical specs and just say I can now finally determine that hapless victim Brooke spends her last hours on Earth reading a paperback of TOM ROBBIN’s EVEN COWGIRLS GET THE BLUES; a crucial detail sadly indecipherable on VHS. She’ll never know how it ends!

I’ve heard tale that some folks find THE SLAYER’s pace a bit too leisurely but I disagree, especially now that I’ve seen it in its full glory. The devil is in the details and the more you re-watch this well-crafted flick, the more you realize that it’s consistently dropping clues, foreshadowing future events and messing with your head with subtle shadows and meaningful cutaways. It’s like a puzzle that falls apart every time you’re just about to snap in the last piece. Furthermore, I think the film’s slinking patience only adds to its throttling final moments. It’s gear shifting personality makes it stand like a bridge linking grounded n’ gritty late seventies horror to surreal n’ unreal eighties fare.

Nearly as essential as the film itself is a brand new documentary entitled NIGHTMARE ISLAND: THE MAKING OF THE SLAYER. This documentary provides a treasure trove of trivia (as does the new commentary by director J. S. CARDONE, actress CAROL KOTTENBROOK and executive in charge of production ERIC WESTON). There’s been scant information available on THE SLAYER for decades and ARROW’s determination to fix that is downright heroic. Poor SLAYER was really handed a random and undeserved raw deal that so many less interesting horror films were able to avoid. It never got a proper distribution on screen or on home video and it does my heart good to witness that corrected. If you are familiar with the film you know that some of its most memorable scenes take place in a dilapidated theater. Happily that same theater has since been renovated and better still, was able to proudly host a screening of the film. How cool is that? Imagine watching a movie in the theater it was filmed in! ARROW not only gave this fine flick a leg up, it also saved a piece of this town’s history. What a noble deed especially considering the film’s modest (for now) fan base. Other supplements include a fun commentary with THE HYSTERIA CONTINUES, additional documentary shorts, trailers, stills, liner notes by the always insightful LEE GAMBIN and a reversible sleeve with classic and newly commissioned (and very cool) artwork. Geez, BLOOD RAGE, THE MUTILATOR and now THE SLAYER; I genuinely want to give the folks at ARROW a round of applause for going far beyond the standard catalog title puppy mill and kindly rescuing and nurturing such lovable and deserving strays. Bravo!

Recently I found out fellow SLAYER fan AMANDA REYES was able to get to see our beloved pet flick on the big screen! In order to do something constructive with my abject jealousy –I asked her if she’d be so kind as to report back on the experience and she sweetly obliged! Take it away, AMANDA

The Slayer on the Big Screen (Amanda Reyes)

I first discovered The Slayer sometime back in the early 1990s when I rented the infamous Continental Video double feature VHS, which featured this oddball flick alongside that other quirky slasher, Scalps. While I enjoyed both, there was something so nightmarish about The Slayer, and it quickly became one of my favorite horror films.

It may be important to serve up those original memories with a bit of context. Continental’s version of The Slayer didn’t have proper credits, nor did the film itself actually feature any recognizable actors. Because there was nothing particularly identifiable about anyone involved, it morphed into something akin to a supernatural snuff film in my fairly impressionable brain. I’ll admit it is almost a disappointment when I watch the film now and see that it was indeed made by real filmmakers! Almost. But that’s merely a quibble, as The Slayer has yet to lose its luster with me, and has aged quite well.

Since that first viewing, I’ve seen The Slayer in all kinds of incarnations, with credits, and without as I mentioned, but I never thought I’d have a chance to see it on the big screen. This past year, Arrow got together with Texas Frightmare for a once in a lifetime screening of the film. It was the first thing I marked off on my program for the weekend. I was excited to see what kind of remaster trickery Arrow did with this mythical terror tale, and I was thrilled that horror fans were given a chance to check it out in a far larger scope than we’d probably ever had the chance to experience before.

But that experience proved to be bittersweet. The Pros: The work Arrow did was amazing. No complaints. The film looks more gorgeous than ever, and while I love the graininess of my old VHS (which certainly added to the fear factor for me), I was finally able to see the real artistry that went into putting The Slayer together. Directed with a sure hand by J.S. Cardone (who would go on to make both good and not so good horror films throughout his career), the film has a real lushness to it that was lost in its original home video release. It’s colorful and drab, if you can imagine that, with exquisite sets, and a few absolutely unsettling set-pieces.

It is also competently acted by a small but interesting cast of unknowns. It’s one of the few slashers from the heyday of the genre that features mature characters with grown up careers and adult problems. There’s an actress, a commercial director, a doctor, and an artist. They look to be somewhere in their early thirties, and I appreciate being able to see a slasher film now where I can see myself (which only ups the terror in some ways). The protagonist, Kay (Sarah Kendall) suffers from an instability that comes from life long woes, and not just teen angst, playing heavily into what I find so timeless about her horrifying ordeal.

But let’s get to the bittersweet part. The Cons: Living in a post-MS3K universe has its disadvantages. All movies are up for so-bad-it’s-good-grabs, but that doesn’t mean that every film, even those released in such a maligned genre, are ripe for picking on. The Slayer is certainly humorless, and looks like it was made sometime in the late 70s – early 80s, complete with the requisite fashion and moustaches, but does that make something funny? If you have to think about that answer, then you may need to check your misplaced sarcasm at the door if you are going to truly get something out of this wonderfully creepy film.

The audience at the screening was, frankly, abhorrent. They laughed at unfunny moments, and acted like they were smarter than the film (the guy in front of me kept cartoonishly shrugging his shoulders and pointing to the screen in case we didn’t get that point). Other people were eating loudly and talking through its entirety, laughing whenever the audience keyed them in on some joke that wasn’t actually there. Afterwards, I got on the elevator and a woman said to her friend, “That’s a movie I don’t mind talking through because no one liked it.”

Ex-squeeze me?

This is all to say, yes, not every film is going to work the same way for everybody. Personally, that’s something I love about horror… it’s so subjective. My Slayer is your Frankenstein, and that’s cool. But, there should be some modicum of respect for those around you because you know, that person next to you might actually be enjoying the film. In the end though, the screening only served to make me love the film more. Both Arrow and Vinegar Syndrome, who aided in the remastering had tables at the convention, and were truly ecstatic that I enjoyed the hard work they put into making this the best release The Slayer has ever seen.

We live in a time where the word on the street proclaims that physical media is dying, yet, we’ve got great little companies putting heart and soul into their DVD and Blu-Ray releases. And I’m tickled that we can see these movies outside of the pan and scan treachery that had previously kept them from joining the classic status they so richly deserve. The Slayer is certainly a so-good-its-great movie, and should be embraced by any self-respecting slasher fanatic! Yeah, says me!

Thanks Amanda, you’re the best! Speaking of lovingly celebrating worthy titles deserving of a bigger audience, SCREAM FACTORY just released a Blu-ray of the fantastic TV movie THE SPELL (1977) starring LEE GRANT! Even cooler, they got Amanda to lend her unrivaled TV movie expertise for an exclusive commentary! You can get yourself a copy of THE SPELL HERE and don’t forget to make an appointment with THE SLAYER HERE!

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Tags: General Horror

IT (2017)

September 9th, 2017 · 8 Comments

IT (2017) is a blast from its first moments to its last. It’s as moving as it is freakishly frightening and thanks to a multitude of outstanding performances and consistently keen direction, I’m comfortable calling it an instant classic. I don’t want to spoil the experience by dissecting it too much, so I’m just going to use this space to celebrate a few of my favorite things about the film. I don’t think I need to hard sell this movie to you guys; anyone who enjoys these trauma-filled pages is likely to be already raring to see it. And really, has there ever been a better time for a movie about fighting an obnoxious clown who uses fear to divide and conquer the downtrodden?

THE PERFORMANCES. Nobody could ever eclipse TIM CURRY in my heart as Pennywise but BILL SKARSGARD certainly brings something of equal value to the table and there’s no law that says I can’t love both interpretations (torn between two killer clowns, feeling like a fool, loving both of you is breaking all the rules). SKARSGARD’s Pennywise has got a slippery, slobbering serpentine streak and he’s interestingly more child-like which makes him connect to and interact with the kids (and the bullies he mirrors) in new ways. All of the kids, parents and bullies are perfectly cast. In fact, I’d like to thank the casting director for somehow finding out what my bullies looked like and scouring the country for their exact doppelgangers-well done! I have to especially spotlight SOPHIA LILLIS as Beverly Marsh because she is phenomenal and apparently incapable of even one false note. Her Beverly is truly the heart and glue of the Losers Club just as she should be.

THE SCARES. I’ll never forget walking home from our local theater (at the Valley Forge Sheraton) after seeing THE THING and AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON and feeling like I had to push my eyeballs back into my head. IT brought back that great feeling. I thought I knew exactly where each scare was going to end and kept consistently finding out I was dead wrong. It’s like putting a quarter in a gumball machine, expecting a lone gumball and watching the entire machine pour into your hand (and then, just when you think it’s over, your hand falls off). It’s really an eye-popping spectacle at times and many of the surreal goings-on have an off-kilter and uncanny edge to them almost like a hypnotic optical illusion. It brought me back to the early days of the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET series when you couldn’t trust anything that was happening and your sense of reality would actually be slightly weakened by the time you left the theater. No matter how familiar you are with STEPHEN KING’s novel or the previous miniseries, this IT knows how to pull the rug out from under you even if you are standing on wall-to-wall carpet.

THE SOUND. I don’t know much about the technical aspects of sound design but whoever is responsible for the evil children singing and laughing directly above my head and the music box chimes rising from the floorboards deserves either an award or a kick in the shins. Thank God I don’t partake in recreational drugs anymore. I feel like my movie theater was in cahoots! Before the movie even started they were flickering the lights and forced us to look at the flat image of an IT Snapchat ad for an ungodly amount of time and I’m pretty sure they were utilizing (highly illegal) subliminal messages to make me antsy and desire a Coke (maybe not). Anyway, the sound effects and score of this movie were ace and I’m thinking my theater is going to need an exorcism when this mad circus of a movie skips town.

THE SETTING. What a great job recreating the late eighties! Who do I kiss for not lazily placing a Rubik’s Cube on a coffee table and calling it a day? Who do I buy a beer for involving THE CULT, THE CURE and XTC in these twisted shenanigans? Who wants a hug for not overdoing it with wardrobe and dressing every bystander like CYNDI LAUPER? I really dig how the town of Derry is represented and how it feels lived in and real and like a place I’ve been to before. It really helps this movie feel like a full satisfying meal rather than the usual throwaway, fast food, horror stopgap.

THE VIBE. Early on, IT excellently establishes Derry’s dark and dirty undercurrent. As charming as the town may be on the surface, the anguish, alienation and dejection felt by its young residents feels thick as knee-high mud. Loved ones are lost without reason, parents are sleazy or overbearing monoliths, librarians are mean-spirited, pharmacists are shifty, cops are abusive, and I don’t even want to talk about the incomprehensibly grim things Mike (CHOSEN JACOBS) is expected to do to helpless sheep. Mike’s grandfather clarifies the horror of adulthood standing before these kids as they leave their childhood behind, it’s time to make a choice, are you going to be the butcher or the meat? Maybe you have to be a loser yourself to appreciate how on point IT’s depiction is of the pain and fear that comes with being an outsider and how accurately it displays the priceless joy of being an outsider who is lucky enough to meet kindred spirits. I am that loser! This movie reminds me so much of my (on-going) awkward years and yep, my eyes got misty on more than a few occasions. I could go on and on (and I’m sure I will in the years to come) about just how smitten I am with this film that juggles terrifying and touching with the greatest of ease but not today. It’s beautiful outside. I want to walk in the sun and I’ve got long-loved fellow weirdo friends I think I need to spend some time with.

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Tags: General Horror

Annabelle: Creation (2017)

August 12th, 2017 · No Comments

I thought the previous ANNABELLE (2014) movie was an entertaining enough diversion but I can’t say I remember much of it. I may have passed up its new prequel ANNABELLE: CREATION altogether but then I heard they were showing a 4-minute sneak peek of IT introduced by STEPHEN KING himself and that sealed the deal (btw, I was mesmerized by every frame of the IT preview). Did I just say I almost passed up ANNABELLE: CREATION? That’s a total lie. If someone makes a killer doll movie, I’m going to go see it. That is my duty and I will beg, borrow and steal to accomplish my goal. In any case, my expectations were not the highest but I ended up thoroughly pleased. I’m not saying you should grab your coat and keys right this second and run out the door to see it but if you are looking for solid late summer chills, it’s super generous in handing them out. There’s some seriously spooky business gong on in this movie and that freaky looking doll is only the tip of the iceberg. If you enjoy a good haunted house or possession film this baby delivers both. Not to spoil anything but they also throw in a damn animated scarecrow as if there weren’t enough satanic shenanigans going on. Really, it’s like watching five horror films at once and I’m completely down with that. It gets a little too chaotic for its own good at some points but I’m not one to look a demonic gift horse in the mouth.

What really elevates this film from the standard franchise extension is its setting and characters and the obvious talents of its director DAVID F. SANDBERG (LIGHTS OUT) and cinematographer MAXIME ALEXANDRE (HIGH TENSION). Director SANDBERG really knows how to torture you with silent, empty spaces and ALEXANDRE makes half of this movie resemble a gorgeous painting. The heart of the film is a friendship between two young orphan girls (TALITHA BATEMAN and LULU WISON) and the actresses are both super effective at convincing you of their tight bond. There’s a scene in which the two trade dolls when they realize they will be separated and it’s really rather moving because the acting is so real and unaffected. Plus, I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before here but I can really get into a horror house and this movie not only offers up a glorious, painstakingly detailed gothic wonder but also a miniaturized dollhouse version that likes to light up on its own from time to time. Before I make this all sound too precious, let me tell you there are some seriously alarming monsters roaming these halls. I’m talking clawed, glowing-eyed demons that shapeshift, melt into the darkness and burn into your noggin like the cover of an early eighties horror paperback. Even if you’re not a fan of ANNABELLE’s first outing this one is a pretty safe bet and if the lady who sat behind me screaming was here, I’m pretty sure she’d say the same.

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Tags: General Horror · Traumatots

Blu-ray Review:: Madhouse (1981) (Arrow Video)

August 2nd, 2017 · 3 Comments

I don’t always upgrade from DVD to Blu-ray but when I do, it’s for a movie that I especially enjoy on a visual level. MADHOUSE is just such a film. I’ve already fawned all over this underrated gem way back HERE so I’ll try not to repeat myself by focusing on this particular release from the always impressing folks at ARROW VIDEO. Not surprisingly, the movie (and its star TRISH EVERLY) looks more gorgeous than ever before thanks to a brand new restoration from the original camera negative (I usually don’t remark much on something as superficial as an actress’s looks but EVERLY is the most beautiful lady I ever did see and her character Julia should be sainted for the sweet way she delivers bad news to deaf children). My eyes can barely handle all of this candy: MADHOUSE’s nights are darker, its stain glass windows shine brighter and suddenly tiny details I’ve missed before are popping up like daisies.

All of this beauty comes to a head in the film’s final scene; the strings of glowing Christmas lights at Julia’s gruesome birthday party look positively stunning and suddenly I’m spying a shelf of creepy baby dolls that I’ve somehow never noticed before. This is why I love MADHOUSE so much; it really digs the juxtaposition of beauty and ugliness, the sacred and the profane, the cheery and the dismal. Plus I think it has something interesting to say about how organized religion may not always be rooting for the righteous team and how family ties can be excruciatingly difficult to sever. It rather neatly falls into the Kindertrauma spectrum since Julia was cruelly abused in her youth and no matter how she tries to spin a positive life for herself, that original bite continues to gnaw. I can almost see Julia’s plagued twin sister Mary as a less scary precursor to PET SEMATARY’s twisted Zelda as she is able to conjure up feelings of familial guilt and pity along with the terror.

Plus there’s a commentary from the THE HYSTERIA CONTINUES! I usually shy away from commentaries because I hate to demystify a favorite film but this particular commentary was more like watching the movie with fellow horror fan friends. Actually, I was left with a strong feeling of camaraderie because they went and mentioned our old pal Amanda (buy her book HERE!), referenced my current new wave obsession CHINA CRISIS and spent time discussing their distaste for onscreen violence towards animals and their relief that MADHOUSE’s dog death is clearly realized through puppetry. I’ve read they’ll also be providing the commentary for ARROW’s upcoming release of THE SLAYER and now I’m looking forward to that even more (if that’s possible).

There is also an anecdotal interview with charming character actress EDITH IVEY (who went on to work with DAVID FINCHER), cinematographer ROBERTO D’ETTORRE PIAZZOLI who delivered MADHOUSE’s sleek, glossy look and an informative short featuring producer/director OVIDIO G. ASSONTIS who reveals his three main inspirations were THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE-DAME, THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI and THE SHINING. In addition, there’s an alternate opening sporting OVIDIO’s preferred title, THERE WAS A LITTLE GIRL. I do seem to appreciate this movie more than some of its creators (it’s certainly not PIAZZOLI’s cup of tea) but that’s what being a fanatic is all about.

And finally I have to give a special shout out to MARC SCHOENBACH’s fetching new cover artwork! It’s usually a fool’s errand to try to improve upon the classic eighties poster art that we’ve all grown fond of but somehow he did it. Am I just a sucker for dark silhouettes with glowing eyes? I love this illustration! It reminds me of the poster art for THE CHILD (1977) or CHILLERS (1987). If MADHOUSE had this artwork on its VHS sleeve, I’m sure it would have been difficult to keep on the video store shelves. It really does do a superior job of conveying the movie’s mood over previous attempts. I’m so glad I indulged myself with this ultimate upgrade. Now I can visit my lovely Southern Gothic MADHOUSE in its best possible condition whenever I like.

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Tags: Blu-ray Review · General Horror

In Memoriam:: George A. Romero

July 17th, 2017 · 5 Comments

It’s a pretty good bet that I’m going to spend the entire day thinking about GEORGE A. ROMERO and the better part of the evening watching his remarkable, groundbreaking films. If a bomb dropped across the street it would be of secondary interest. Like many in the horror community I’m sure, I feel shell-shocked, it feels like a favorite teacher, mentor or spiritual Godfather has departed. I have never met Mr. ROMERO but he surely had a big impact on my life. I was born the year NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD was being filmed, DAWN OF THE DEAD rammed right up against my adolescence and DAY OF THE DEAD knocked me upside my teenage head. I don’t have any personal anecdotes to share about him but allow me to indulge myself with some memories of some of the many times he fueled my love and (and genuine fear) of horror films. (The following is in the order of my own viewings rather than when the films were released).

DAWN OF THE DEAD

Somehow I saw DAWN OF THE DEAD before NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. It was in the earliest days of the VCR and nothing could prepare me for it. It certainly terrified me but it was also the coolest thing on earth! I was probably about 13 or 14 at the time and a big part of me was super ready for the entire world to drop dead and for me to live in a mall in which everything was free for the taking. You can probably see it coming a mile away these days but at the time, the helicopter zombie decapitation absolutely blew my mind and inspired many a rewind.

NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD

For (I believe) several years, early MTV showed NOTLD on Halloween night. I was addicted to slashers at the time but it made it very clear to me that black and white movies could be just as frightening as the then modern fare I was devouring. Geez, that little girl (Karen) in the basement! The echoing screams of her mother! It’s horror at its purest. In addition, NOTLD still has one of the strongest opening sequences I can think of and I feel right at home inside the screen having spent my earliest days on this planet right outside of Pittsburgh (shout out to Allison Park!).

KNIGHTRIDERS

I didn’t have HBO as a kid but my friend did and it was always a blast to check out salacious flicks like TATTOO and VICE SQUAD while guzzling sodas that don’t exist anymore and chomping on bags of garbage. I’m going to say that the ground zero of my puberty occurred sometime while watching KNIGHTRIDERS and leave it at that. This is yet another great example of ROMERO being completely original and marching to the beat of his own drum.

CREEPSHOW

This movie was a damn big deal in my house and my younger brother was an even bigger fan of it than myself. We collected horror movie posters at the time and that CREEPSHOW poster was certainly one of the most striking and I’ll always be obsessed with that little rat crawling through the ghoul’s burlap looking cape. CREEPSHOW is known for being a lot of fun but it sure as hell scared the bejesus out of me too. I will forever and always be freaked out by TED DANSON’s submerged gurgling undead voice when he returns to exact his watery revenge. I need to also mention that the cover of FANGORIA with E.G. MARSHALL’s bug filled face bursting on it is one of the best things ever and I still remember greedily reading that issue in our screened in back porch. The cover has separated itself from its staples but I still proudly own that poor mangled thing.

TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE

ROMERO’s creatively creepy anthology series always had a knack of appearing at times when my brain was most susceptible to its shenanigans. Its opening narration and theme music were like a dog whistle alerting me that normalcy was about to jump out the window and be replaced by total unpredictability. Would it be funny, scary, weird, thoughtful or confounding or all of the above? You never knew what you were going to get, you just knew it would be far off the beaten track and a freaky good time.

MARTIN

I felt exactly as weird and ostracized as Martin as a teenager but looking back, he probably had it more together than I ever did. I was a big new wave music fan around this time and was so happy when I bought a SOFT CELL album that included a 12-inch song entitled MARTIN written in tribute to the film. I actually saw it a couple of weeks ago at a record store and I’m now going to hit myself in the face for not picking it because it may be the perfect song to annoy the neighbors…

DAY OF THE DEAD

Ack! Between you and me and the lamppost, I may own a copy of DAY OF THE DEAD and I may think it is brilliant but I’ve only truly watched it from beginning to end once (as far as I remember). My little brother and I happily went to see a midnight showing of it in Texas when it was first released and it left me with such a dire, hopeless soul-killing feeling that I never dared to watch it again. Maybe I was having mental problems at the time but it really clung to me like a morose, unshakable grimy cloud. I hereby promise to force myself to break the curse and watch it again soon to see if it still murders my precarious sense of well-being.

MONKEY SHINES

Aw, here’s the perfect cure for DAY OF THE DEAD. I love this movie. Is it bad that MONKEY SHINES may well be my favorite ROMERO film? I can’t help it.I‘ve got a soft spot for psychological thrillers and an even softer spot for that adorable monkey, Ella. Listen folks, there are very few movies that properly capture the complexities of an animal’s personality or the intricacies of the loving relationship between a human and their pet. What ROMERO did with this movie and how he presents Ella is incredibly impressive. I don’t care if there was more than one monkey; this has to be one of the greatest animal performances of all time. Also the strong emotional tie that is depicted in this movie totally reminds me of how I feel about my cats and how my cats (surely) feel about me so…now I know the power of representation!

LAND OF THE DEAD (plus DIARY and SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD)

By the time LAND OF THE DEAD came out I was a full grown fully dysfunctional semi-maybe adult (sorta, if you squint your eyes). Frankly after my experience with DAY OF THE DEAD I had some true trepidation mixed with my excitement to return to ROMERO’s vision. I wasn’t disappointed and I remember feeling particularly anxious during its zombies on the waterfront scene. DIARY and SURVIVAL came out over the last ten years while we’ve been doing this site. They are certainly stranger, more idiosyncratic takes on the DEAD and whether you like them or not, they also feel more personal. I’m so glad ROMERO got the chance to really experiment in his sandbox and I admire him for not taking the easy, more commercial route. He gave us horror fans, SO MUCH (and he gave us so much even after he was royally screwed on his rights to his unfathomably influential first feature film). He cut his own path and told us things that only he could. He made real art that whispered truths about humanity and culture that we’ll be happily deciphering and unraveling for decades to come. He generously entertained us while making us think and if you don’t agree, well then I’ll just have to quote my pal Barbara, “You’re ignorant”.

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Tags: Caution: I break for geniuses! · General Horror · Kinder-News

Friday The 13th: The Game

July 8th, 2017 · 6 Comments

I almost forgot to tell you fine folks that I got an opportunity to play the mind-blowing FRIDAY THE 13th video game! No, I’m not fancy enough to have a state of the art PS4 but I have a friend who is that fancy and we all know it’s not what you know but who you know that counts these days. I’ve been hearing a lot of stories about glitches and impossibly long waiting/loading periods but the night I played everything ran smooth as silk and the only glitch I ever caught was a rifle oddly floating in space and I kind of thought it looked cool anyway. Personally I found the game to be fun as hell. I know not all of our readers are into games but this is one that I think you should check out for kicks anyway if you get a chance. It’s basically like being thrown into one (or more) of the films and it tends to be as much fun to lose as it is to win. You can actually visit your favorite Crystal Lake hot spots like the staircase that poor Mark rolled down after he got an undeserved machete in the face, Jason’s sloppy shrine shack and even cozy book-filled Higgins Haven. It’s really a nice place to wander about in when someone isn’t trying to kill you.

Can you believe I survived the first two times I played? I believe I accurately behaved very closely to how I would in real life in such a situation. In other words, I hid a lot, ran in circles fretting and then jumped into the back of a car that a smart person or persons was able to fix. When Jason came after the car I watched the occupants jump out and bravely attack him as I looked to see if the car was old enough to have an ashtray in the door. I know that sounds cowardly but let me tell you, as soon as I started getting brave is as soon as I started to have my head crushed in. Oh, the things I’ve seen! Oh, the humanity! You really get a front row seat to shady human behavior when you’re playing online with random people. The cool thing is that after you are dead you can spy on the remaining players (or wait to be re-spawned as Part 6 Tommy Jarvis). I watched a person fix a boat only to have their pal jump into said boat and roar away without them! The betrayal! And once when I had gun I decided to help some folks when Jason jumped in front of their vehicle only to have them back up and run me over! The injustice! Ah, memories that will last a lifetime. Anyway, I had a blast and I can’t wait to play it again and check out any and all updates (a single player version and new maps/locations are promised) and I hope it inspires many more slasher movie tie-in games (my fingers are currently crossed for HELL NIGHT: ESCAPE FROM GARTH MANOR).

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Tags: General Horror · Toy Chest

Alien: Covenant (2017)

June 29th, 2017 · No Comments

Hey, I wrote this review right after I saw ALIEN: COVENANT opening day but I didn’t post it because I thought it sounded a bit too much like an Annie Wilkes nerd-tantrum. Plus, the movie got some decent reviews and I didn’t want to be a wet blanket or something. As it turns out though, it’s really not all that negative especially now that I’ve edited out the part that made me sound like I belonged in a mental hospital. So here it is, here’s me being all disappointed…

RIDLEY SCOTT is one of my favorite directors. He’s got a keen visual style and his explorations into the horror and science fiction genre have resulted in two of my all time favorite films (ALIEN and BLADE RUNNER). I’m point-blank grateful that he has chosen to delve deeper into these mesmerizing worlds. No matter how many times he revisits these cinematic arenas you can bet I’ll be standing in line opening day, giddy as all get out. I couldn’t resist if I tried and wild Xenomorphs couldn’t drag me away. It will always be an honor and a privilege to be invited to witness what currently intrigues a great artist like RIDLEY SCOTT. That said, I’m not exactly over the moon with ALIEN: COVENANT. It may work a shade better than PROMETHEUS as a monster movie but it’s got nothing on its predecessor in the compelling character department and it sorely lags behind its elder sibling in delivering a profound sense of awe. Honestly, it left me slightly peeved. Perturbed even! Downright hexed! But mostly I feel mournful- surprisingly mournful.

Am I being a baby? I know I have to go in the direction that SCOTT points me but darn it, I really want to stay with (possible spoiler) Elizabeth Shaw (NOOMI RAPACE). The weird thing is, I was aware that she might not be present in this new outing and I didn’t give it a second thought. SCOTT decided to switch gears and drive the bus more into the original ALIEN zone and how could I argue with that? I guess I just assumed some new character would rise up (a’ la Ginny Field) and be equally interesting and that didn’t happen. Did they really think they could just shake a tall brunette with an unflattering haircut like a set of keys in front of my face and I’d coo, “Ripley!”? It doesn’t work like that. Really, none of the new crew registers fully and although most (or all) of them are couples they strangely don’t seem to click with each other properly either. I’m going to optimistically assume that future viewings (or an extended cut) will help them gel (BILLY CRUDUP is actually pretty great but he’s trapped in a sad sack Schleprock role). Of course MICHAEL FASSBENDER’s David continues to be an exquisite creation but I kind of resent him for taking over the whole show and for his being shoved down my throat like a rolled up magazine. (Hey, who’s the coldest, most sterile, least emotive character? Let’s double him!) An image of Shaw appears in the film and it’s like salt on a wound. I care about her. I don’t care so much about persnickety androids and people who are torched before they even have a line of dialogue.

That’s my beef. I don’t mind the wonky science or the dumb decisions made by the crew but I do care about the absence of good characters (and specifically Ellen Shaw). The good news is that ALIEN: COVENANT does indeed bring the horror so if you’re just craving monsters in space (nothing wrong with that) you might prefer this to PROMETHEUS. I have to say I dig the old-school shadowy stalking humanoid creature that lurks in the first two ALIEN films a lot more than the spazzy lizard-y beast that whips around in this newfangled flick. Maybe my eyes are too slow but the damn thing reminded me of HALLE BERRY in CATWOMAN and that’s never a good thing. I’m also not completely on board with a late in the game shower-kill that feels like it’s lifted from the phony slasher film at the beginning of BLOW OUT. It’s so out of place and shoehorned and what kind of person wants to have sex in a shower right after all of their friends have been slaughtered? Just like skin-job David’s claims that he loves Elizabeth Shaw while he attempts to exterminate all of humanity, it doesn’t pass the believable behavior/motive smell test.

But who am I kidding? I’m going to buy ALIEN: COVENANT on DVD and watch the heck out of it for years. I’m just going to have to file in my head in close proximity to the underwhelming ALIEN 3 (which is also visually stunning, has a few indelible scenes and heartlessly betrays beloved characters) and ALIEN RESURRECTION (which is also thought provoking, squirm inducing and fatally miscast. Sorry, WINONA ). Don’t go by me. I know a few folks whose opinions I trust who preferred ALIEN: COVENANT to PROMETHEUS, I myself did not. I know I’m supposed to be judging this flick on its own terms (as a hybrid mutation thinly connected to the animal that inspired it) but I just can’t seem to. Maybe I have an exaggerated sense of loyalty to go along with my heightened sense of betrayal. I don’t know, I’m really A-OK with judging a movie purely from an emotional non-technical level. It’s my prerogative as a red-blooded (as opposed to white) non-synthetic. I’ve already been a good soldier and suspended my disbelief; my common sense and my understanding of human behavior– do I really have to suspend my need for an engaging protagonist too?

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Tags: General Horror

Split (2016)

June 22nd, 2017 · 6 Comments

Holy Toledo, I dug me some SPLIT. And I’ve been suffering a miserable movie track record lately! I found ALIEN: COVENANT to be a profound disappointment, I thought the abysmally titled RINGS was an atrocious snooze-fest and IT COMES AT NIGHT though undeniably impressive, made me want to hang myself. SPLIT is a good time! It’s got what I call “Joie de horreur.” I couldn’t wait to see what happened next and it’s so genuinely entertaining that it’s easy to forgive whatever little (or not so little) lapses in logic might occur. In fact, the film’s overall goofy weirdness tends to automatically transform its missteps and wonky reasoning into campy charm. I don’t know if it was its shameless misrepresentation of multiple personality disorder (see also RAISING CAIN) or its unabashed exaltation of the great BETTY BUCKLEY (see also CARRIE) but this angel of a movie inadvertently gave me the DE PALMA thriller fix I had no idea I was craving so darn badly. If NANCY ALLEN showed up, I could have died a happy man right there on my cat-shredded couch.

Please believe my sincerity when I tell you I mean this as a compliment- SPLIT not only reminded me of a delicious DE PALMA psychobabble sundae, it also made me feel like I was watching an extraordinary new breed of mutant LIFETIME movie (sorta like GONE GIRL). Three innocent teen girls (including bunny-faced ANYA TAYLOR-JOY of THE WITCH fame) are abducted from a mall (KING OF PRUSSIA MALL, the same joint I rented my very first VHS tapes from!) and kept prisoner by a madman with a ton of personalities and an enviable wardrobe. Bring a snack! This is the type of movie that if you caught it on TV, you’d never be able to change the channel or go back to sleep. Yes, it hit me in my LIFETIME zone and I found myself just as trapped as those girls. The only thing that softened the tension for me was the fact that I felt so comfortable in the lunatic’s living space and really related to his decorating style (especially the child alternate’s room with the stuffed animals). I realize now that the absolute perfect window for me is one that is drawn with a crayon. Let’s face it; I wouldn’t try to escape. Is that bad?

Don’t worry, I’m not forgetting JAMES McAVOY, he gets his own paragraph. Who is this guy? I barely noticed him in those X MEN movies and I didn’t make it past 30 minutes of VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN but he’s truly a wonder to behold in SPLIT. I can’t remember the last time I witnessed an actor so gleefully reveling in the boundless possibilities of his craft before. He’s completely free and fearless and you can’t take your eyes off of him. I’m sure somebody with a keener ear than mine could find faults with his delivery but his overall effervescence sold me completely.

And I have to say, even though this film’s representation of a dissociated identity disorder/multiple personality disorder is outdated, cartoonish and bordering on irresponsible, I can’t help being intoxicated by it. Maybe it’s just residual affiliation left over from my preteen obsession with SYBIL but I’m too intrigued by this questionably accurate construct to let it go. Even if multiple personalities don’t exist as this persistent Hollywood trope suggests, I think there is a useful truth about the fluidity of personal identity being represented that we all can relate to and recognize in ourselves. Hasn’t everyone had the experience of seeing different sides of themselves emerge when confronted by difficult situations? Is it uncommon to fear that an emotion might take you over, that if you were to express your anger fully you’d be in danger of becoming a monster? Who doesn’t want to regress back to the simple joys of childhood when reality becomes hideous? I guess what I’m saying is whatever this presentation of mental illness lacks in the accuracy department, I think it makes up for by relaying a bigger truth about the human condition. That’s my rationalization anyway, and I’m sticking to it.

I know I’m super late to the game and get zero cool points for gushing over a highly successful mainstream movie by a popular director six months after its release but this all does my heart good anyway. It’s a solid reminder that people can still surprise you after you have completely given up on them. I not only disagreed that THE VISIT was a return to form for M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN, I also thought THE VISIT was one of the most annoying motion pictures ever made.

But now I’m letting bygones be bygones. I’m even going to join the rest of the world and erase that faux-documentary THE BURIED SECRET OF M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN from my memory banks. It’s a good thing to have a director out there interested in the darker, more mysterious side of life making decent films again. A rising tide lifts all boats! Maybe now some more performance-reliant character driven independent horror films will get made- who knows? Plus, I have to give M. NIGHT his rightful due for consistently showcasing the super glamorous city of Philadelphia, the home of Kindertrauma Kastle, in the most complimentary light possible. In the end though, I’m most happy with the film’s bold conclusion. As we all know, M. KNIGHT is notorious for his twist endings. In this particular case, the ending actually opens the film up and expands its universe, increasing the possibilities. Whereas, I think the lion’s share of his previous rug-pulls do the exact opposite. I guess it could be argued that I enjoyed this because my expectations were low but the reality is, an exceptional performance (and a heaping dollop of BETTY BUCKLEY) goes a long way. Your mileage may vary but for me, SPLIT is just what the doctor ordered.

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Tags: General Horror · If Loving Nancy Allen is Wrong... I Don't Want to Be Right!