The Horror Of:: Mazes & Monsters (1982)

The other day 2 Warps To Neptune posted a TV GUIDE ad for 1982’s MAZES AND MONSTERS and reminded me that I’ve been sitting on a cheap-o DVD of that TV movie for years. It was finally time to revisit it again as I hadn’t seen it since the night it first aired. All I could remember was being really excited about it before it came on and really disappointed afterward because there was only one monster in it. The fact that the teleplay, based on Rona Jaffe’s novel of the same name, was not exactly a glowing endorsement of DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS (my favorite game at the time) never occurred to me back then.

MAZES involves a group of college friends who get thoroughly immersed in a role playing game. One (played by a young TOM HANKS) gets so into it that he looses his mind forever just like those poor kids who ate LCD-laced Halloween candy in the ‘70s and are screaming their heads off in an insane asylum to this very day. (Oh how those poor nonexistent kids haunt me, they must have nonexistent arthritis by now). This movie is all about stoking fears and why shouldn’t have folks been afraid of DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS? It promotes community, cooperation and using one’s imagination and so it is obviously the work of Satan. Man, Satan not only has the finest tunes, he has the finest games and movies too! Why am I not a Satanist again? Anyway it’s easy to forgive MAZES’ hokey paranoia now and there’s plenty of fine horror goodness to be found within its paper mache walls, so let’s take a look inside…


Check out this bounty! TOMHE KNOWS YOU’RE ALONEHANKS, WENDY CREWSON of SKULLDUGGERY & THE GOOD SON notoriety, DAVID WALLACE who set the world on fire with THE BABYSITTER (1980), mega-hit HUMONGOUS and the double GEORGE infused MORTUARY, CHRISVAMPMAKEPEACE, scowly SATAN’S SCOOL FOR GIRLS star LLOYD “one take” BOCHNER, ANNE FRANCIS who stole your heart in FORBIDDEN PLANET, MURRAY HAMILTON who double dunked in JAWS and JAWS 2, VERA MILES who owned PSYCHO and PSYCHO II like a monkey owns a banana, SUSAN STRASBERG who single handedly prevented my suicide with THE MANITOU and apparently CHRIS HIGGINS the king of FRIDAY THE13TH: THE SERIES as well, though I can’t find him without his beard, try as I might. That my friends is what we call an embarrassment of riches.


Look at this crazy rubber suit monster with glowing eyes. It’s not scary…except it kind of is. It’s so fake looking and so alarmingly out of place that it somehow becomes freaky. It reminds me of when CHRISTOPHER WALKEN sees all those folks wearing insect masks while on the bus in COMMUNION. In both cases the creatures only exist within the mind of the character seeing them and so who cares if the effect is sorta iffy. The point is, these guys are going coconuts like an OSMOND and therefore can hallucinate whatever they please! Hey, the special effects in my figments of insanity are sub par too; that doesn’t make them any less disturbing!


Halloween parties in movies are always a plus. How cool are these kids that they have both a ROAD WARRIOR (released May 21) poster and a BLADE RUNNER (released June 25) poster hanging on their dorm room walls? And just consider that both of those classic movies had only been released months earlier that same year. (MAZES & MONSTERS premiered on Dec. 28).


Get ready to drool all over your keyboard! If you are electrocuted, don’t sue. At the start of the picture MAKEPEACE is driving around some town called New York and he speeds by a movie theater playing CREEPSHOW (Nov. 12)!

And then later when HANKS has taken a turn for the deranged he hits the streets to stumble into a marque boasting a showing of my beloved THE SLAYER (October)!

Then like a shameless seductress, HANKS saunters by a movie palace playing AMITYVILLE 2: THE POSSESSION (Sept. 24). Wha? All of my needs have been met.


I guess Rona Jaffe thought as long as she was throwing DUNGEONS & DRAGONS under the donkey cart she might as well cast aspersions on TOLKIEN too.(Hey, writing a novel in a couple of days ain’t easy! What was she supposed to do, make up her own mythology?) Turns out the M&M game features two castle towers and so when HANKS’ character is having a psychotic breakdown that could have been prevented by any educated adult treating the actual source of the problem rather than blaming a game, he heads to the World Trade Center. He’s under the delusion that he can fly just like all of those poor kids who ate LCD-laced Halloween candy. Seeing the interior of the trade center, the size, the multitude of people rushing about on their daily business, is haunting. Because you know, an actual REAL horror took place there, a horror that incidentally cannot be blamed on either LCD-laced Halloween candy or role playing games. And really isn’t that the chattering mob’s big cowardly secret? That by focusing on benign phantoms they can avoid the uglier, more troublesome problems of the world?

M&M is not too impressive but it’s pretty awesome anyway. It’s mind blowing how stupid and alarmist it is until you remember that people act the same way today only about different stuff. So maybe we can learn something here. The next time somebody blames a video game or a pop star or a violent movie or a different lifestyle or whatever the scapegoat de jour is, for the decline of morality, tell them they look like a Gorvil and that the zipper on their rubber suit is showing.

A Grand Daddy Traumafession:: Michael Bennett, Ph.D (“Doctor Future”) on “A Short Vision” (1956)

I have particularly been fascinated by traumatic media products from the Cold War era, particularly those which traumatized entire generations of Baby Boom youngsters with warnings of imminent death – often traumatizing their parents as well. Just yesterday I first came aware of such a film on a small-time digital television channel – the 1963 film “Ladybug, Ladybug” about the heart-rending choices made by some school teachers and the children when they think an atomic attack is imminent. I was unaware of this amazing and influential film of its era, which evidently traumatized a whole generation of viewers.

I mentioned this film to a former boss of mine, who grew up during the peak of the Cold War, and in turn he recounted to me another such seminal event which amazingly had slipped through my awareness, but not from his generation, even after 58 years.
It all surrounded a little harmless 6 minute short film, shown to 50 million or so viewers by no less than Ed Sullivan. On May 27, 1956, he decided to show his vast live audience an animated film produced by a British husband and wife, entitled “A Short Vision”, to show the futility of war, and in particular to commemorate the dropping of the first H-Bomb by American warplanes a week earlier. Given that the subject matter for his show normally entailed acrobats and men spinning plates on poles, this insertion at the end of the show truly came from left field. After a very mild warning to the viewing audience that suggested that they send the children out of the room, he aired the animated film to a stunned studio audience, and television audience nationwide…

The music and images, and even droll British narrative truly create a brief nightmare scenario, where even animal predators and their prey suddenly flee together to hide from the menace overhead they now sense. Audiences in 1956 could not have been prepared to see Caucasian people, overnight in their sleepy town, awakening to have their eyes and faces melt in the glow of a thermonuclear blast, as life on earth is quickly extinguished. Obviously, this created a sensation in the papers the next day, as they described the “shocking” film Sullivan had unleashed on the public. The outcry was so massive, that Sullivan aired the movie a second time, two weeks later, but with a more stringent warning for young people. However, by various means, many young people did glimpse it, and evidently were never the same afterwards.

My boss, 58 years later, remembers being sent to his room by his parents when it was being aired, but heard the film’s audio through his bedroom wall – a memory still vivid in his mind. Others were not so lucky. One blog page (HERE) devoted to the movie notes one responder at the site who not only viewed the traumatic piece, but had met another baby boomer who as a child had watched A SHORT VISION alone when it aired, and it was medically determined that his hair began to permanently turn white in response to fright from seeing it. Now I call that a traumafession!

I am curious to know how many more of these long-forgotten productions that suggested the imminent nuclear destruction of earth and had imprinted upon a generation are still waiting to be discovered. I caught the tail end of such movies before the collapse of the USSR, when my church youth group left the Sunday night service to watch the well-publicized national airing of “The Day After” in 1983, resulting in our stunned silence, as well as the subsequent discussion shows on air concerning nuclear destruction, featuring commentary by “concerned parents” and other figures (ABC even ran 1-800 numbers then for viewers to call in and talk to counselors, as well as books people could get on nuclear war; even Mr. Rogers had a series of shows on nuclear war afterwards, to help calm youngsters). Later in 1987, another miniseries Amerika was run, where the United States had been overtaken by the USSR, prompting yet more citizen-led discussion groups – also, I vaguely recollect, leading David Letterman the next evening to hold citizen-led discussion groups concerning the other movie shown during the “Amerika” time slot that night – “The Facts of Life Down Under”.

Do any of you recollect other “end of the world”, nuclear holocaust movies or shows that caused sleepless nights for you, or your parents?

Sunday Viewing:: Kirkland vs. George

Here is the only sporting event anyone should ever give a hoot about (besides BATTLE OF THE NETWORK STARS and THE LAFF-A-LYMPICS)… It’s GRADUATION DAY vs. FATAL GAMES and YOU are the judge! Are you team SALLY KIRKLAND or team CHRISTOPHER GEORGE? Which film has the more grating and therefore superior soundtrack? Who will survive and what will be left of your brain cells? Watch them both today, back to back and YOU will be the ultimate winner!

Traumafession:: Tim from Russia on Little Raccoon & The Thing in the Pool

Hello there, Kindertrauma-keepers!

First of all, I would like to thank you for all the great work you do; your online-storage of children’s fears is a great source for psychological studies and opportunity to have new thrilling experience.

My main traumatizer is the audio performance I had on vinyl, based on L. Moore‘s tale “Little Raccoon & The Thing in the Pool“. It is definitely one of the most disturbing records I’ve ever listened to and it always causes the same effect: my heart aches & I cry involuntarily. Even positive heroes there sound like monsters, music is unbearably scary (just check intro after the first line of the narrator — “Little Raccoon lived in the forest with his mother…”), the atmosphere is full of suspense & latent anxiety.

One of the most unpleasant moments on the record is the conversation between Little Raccoon & Fat Rabbit (6:50 — 7:50); fright in Little Raccoon’s voice and wicked exaltation of Fat Rabbit, accompanied with increscent music. Here’s my free translation of their dialogue:

(PUSH PLAY) [sc_embed_player fileurl=”″]

Fat Rabbit (FR): And what would you do if he attacks you?
Little Raccoon (LR): Who is “he”?
FR: He is… is just he.
LR: B-b-but… what about you?..
FR: Me? I’d run away. You see my big feet? I’d run away — and that’s it. But you — you are going to Fast Creek… well, well, well — and you are not afraid of him?
LR: Tell me who is “he”, tell me!
FR: He is the thing who sits in the Pool!
LR: Where?
FR: IN THE POOL! HE SITS IN THE POOL! IN THE POOL! I… I am afraid of him myself.

I believe that one day I overcome my fear; maybe, this sharing will help.

Yours respectfully,

Tim (Saint-Petersburg, Russia)

UNK SEZ: Thanks for the wonderful traumafession Tim! I found an animated version of “Little Raccoon & The Thing in the pool“. Check it out!

And it looks like that tale is told in this neck of the woods too. It’s a small (and kindertraumatic) world after all!

Five Underrated Stephen King Flicks by Unk


I was less than smitten with this one when I watched it upon its video release way back in the olden days. I found it sorta lame, tired and dull. Now that I’m sorta lame tired and dull myself, I totally get it! Thanks for being patient NEEDFUL THINGS! Young folk don’t like to hear it but there really are some things that you can’t fully appreciate until you’ve got some miles on you. A few broken dreams under your belt might be required to empathize with the desperate actions of the townsfolk of Castle Rock. Scares are scarce but there’s plenty of pitch-black social commentary in this Faustian consumer nightmare and what a perfect cast. You couldn’t possibly do better than MAX VAN SYDOW as the devilish Leland Gaunt and if you’re not of fan of ED HARRIS our friendship is over. Who among us can resist the fascinatingly unhinged savoir-faire of AMANDA PLUMMER? Who?

Observant viewers will catch a creepy glimpse of LISA BLOUNT (R.I.P.) of PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1987). It seems her role was severely cut from the theatrical version of the film (She makes a bigger dent in the three hour long TV edit apparently) but she still makes a brief, strangely haunting appearance in a crowd scene toward the end. I have to bow down to the BLOUNT, she etched a permanent scar on my brain with her memorable role in DEAD AND BURIED (1981). Truth told this particular KING tale would have been better served as a miniseries in the first place, where each character might have gotten a fairer shake but it’s still a nice if short visit and if you’re in the right state of mind, it’s funny as hell.


KATHY BATES was soooo good in MISERY that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences had to give her an Oscar or else they’d look like total jackasses. But then a couple years later when BATES did DOLORES CLAIBORNE they were all like “Back for seconds so soon, are we Kathy? You might want to slow it down on the STEPHEN KING material, if you want another one of these gold dudes.” Here’s the thing though, the truth that nobody can bear to hear without losing their mind to madness…BATES’s performance in DOLORES CLAIBORNE is ten times better than her performance in MISERY. Sorry, it’s just so true and somebody had to say it. I apologize if I just made you spit coffee on your laptop screen. It’s a much more complicated and challenging role and she’s so seamless and smooth in it. I guess the difference is DOLORES makes you feel sad and guilty and real empathy for those who struggle silently in this world and that’s no competition for the crowd-pleasing condescension that MISERY allows. (I love me some MISERY but let’s be real.).

And what the hell Academy? You didn’t think maybe you should nominate JUDY PARFITT for best supporting actress for her role as Vera Donavan? Are you insane? She only travels from steely witch to sympathetic confidant to heartbreaking crone throughout the course of the film. Oh, I see, you had to give that award to MIRA SORVINO. That makes a lot of sense. What a joke. I don’t know how Academy voters are able to look themselves in the mirror without ripping their own eyes out in a shame rage induced by the realization of what unscrupulous frauds they are. That’s right, I call shenanigans!

Oh and TAYLOR HACKFORD’s direction! Holy crap! It’s so beautifully expressive and so painterly and emotionally vivid. And the way he orchestrates the different time periods with opposing film stocks and visualizes the character’s mental states with finely tempered doses of MAGRITTE-inspired surrealism. I mean, c’mon people! O.K. I admit the inquest scene is a total wet noodle that robs the conclusion of the bite it deserves but too late- I already love the movie.

SALEM’S LOT (2004)

This one isn’t so much underrated, as it is vehemently hated. People who don’t dig it REALLY don’t dig it. I don’t get the furor. It’s certainly not as scary as TOBE HOOPER’s original stab and it pales to the experience of reading the mesmerizing novel but it’s hardly the worst adaptation. Maybe I’m just a sucker for getting lost in a miniseries. I love the town, the ominous Marsten house and the coldness of it all. Plus RUTGER HAUER! Maybe I’m wrong. That’s fine by me. I can be wrong and happily watch this again.


I know we were just talking about this one but it’s worth repeating, THE NIGHT FLIER is one under the radar gem of a flick. It’s like this great mysterious adventure and then when it gets down to business and (literally) opens its jaws, it’s some kind of wonderfully scary. I know it doesn’t look good. It is.


It’s KING’s directorial debut! It can’t possibly be as terrible as its reputation would have us believe? Right? As someone who just recently watched it, I can tell you- yeah, it is pretty crummy…but therein lies the fun. It’s a trash-tastic B-movie salute to ‘50s drive-in flicks and maybe even a mechanical parody of THE BIRDS. Let’s just call it a mess with a middle section that makes even me yawn but what a hilarious hoot in places too. So much of what made it a dud when it came out in the ‘80s makes it a gloriously delicious time capsule stuffed with abysmal head scratchy dialogue today. For all of its faults, I can’t resist the AC/DC score and the hilarious performance by THE SIMPSONSYEARDLEY SMITH. Isn’t that enough? Would folks rag on this so much if somebody else directed it? I doubt it. All you need to enjoy this is a sense of humor and maybe more alcohol than your doctor would approve of. In any case, this flick represents one of my favorite things about the author. No matter his success, he never gets so highfaluting that he forgets the low brow sparks that got his imagination roaring in the first place. When we talk of STEPHEN KING and horror movies, “Who made who?” is a valid question.

Name That Trauma:: Reader Michelle D. on a Haunted House PC Game


I Just thought of another thing that scared me as a child. The only problem is, I don’t know what it’s called! It was a game for the PC from the ’90s and in the game you are trapped inside a haunted house. The only way to get out was to search the house to find thirteen keys before the clock in the house struck thirteen o’ clock. If it struck thirteen, the game was over. Characters would appear in the room you are in now and again and you could give these characters an item and they will give you one in return (sometimes a key). There was a two headed monster, Frankenstein, a female vampire, a hunchback, a little boy, a mad scientist and a genie or ghost named Graeme (only character name I can remember). Characters weren’t the only thing to appear, but monsters would also appear every now and then. These monsters weren’t friendly as they would attack you if you didn’t leave the room in time. My older brother thought that some of the monsters were wimpy, but they did scare me. Especially the hangman victim who grew long fingernails and clawed you! That affected me for ages afterwards.

If anyone can help me figure out the name of this game that will be great.

Thank you!

UNK SEZ: Thanks for writing in Michelle! I believe I found your game. You were very close on the ghost’s name but it was actually “Gahan” as he was named after the man who inspired the game, kindertrauma legend Gahan Wilson! The game is called GAHAN WILSON’S ULTIMATE HAUNTED HOUSE. You can read up on it HERE and HERE and there are plenty of videos on Youtube to check out if you want to revisit some haunted memories!

Sunday Viewing:: The Night Flier (1997)

Look at this nice thing I found for you dear people. It’s THE NIGHT FLIER, which is based on a STEPHEN KING story and it’s looking pretty sharp! This is seriously one of the better adaptions of KING‘s work, so it’s really a shame that it has become so hard to come by lately. Maybe you can help change that by signing the petition HERE to have it released on Blu-ray! It is truly is a outstanding flick. It’s almost like a lost X-FILES episode and not only is it suspenseful and funny, but I think it hits a pretty horrific and disturbing note as well! It is sure to leave you with three giant questions: Why doesn’t MARK PAVIA direct more?, Why don’t we have more movies with JULIE ENTWISLE in them? and Why don’t people throw awards at MIGUEL FERRER every time he leaves his home? Be kind to yourself today by watching THE NIGHT FLIER below….

Also: Check out this oldy moldy list of SEVEN UNSUNG VAMPIRE FLICKS!