Thank You, Wes Craven (1939 – 2015)

Don’t you hate when you hear that somebody has died and then you go to sleep and later when you wake up you find out that they’re still dead? I do. Maybe I should consider a less passive course of action when confronting life’s unpleasantries but I swear, this sleeping and re-setting plan has worked on several occasions! In any case, I think Wes Craven would understand my logic. If you are a horror fan, I’m sure you’ve heard that yesterday Mr. Craven died. I urge you to seek out the words of those who actually knew him and worked with him. He was a true great and loved by many. All I have to offer is some remembrances of a lifetime of watching his films but luckily, around this joint, that’s what it’s all about. It would be virtually impossible to be a horror fan and to not be affected by his work.


This may not be Wes’ first film but it’s my first film of his. HILLS was a notorious late night staple in my house growing up back when there was six channels to choose from. Here in Philly I’m guessing it played after eleven on either Channel 17 or 48. The title alone would fill me with dread. I’m pretty sure I tapped out long before the end credits threatened to roll and I’m going to cite this movie as an early indicator that I worry about the safety of dogs more than I do human babies. Is that wrong?


As I recall, when this made-for-TV witch flick aired it was called A STRANGER IN OUR HOUSE but the big-boxd THORN EMI VHS tape I rented from STAGE DOOR video at the King of Prussia Mall called it SUMMER OF FEAR. This is one of my favorite Craven offerings and I suspect I’m not alone. Tame though it may be by horror standards this baby kicked off my life long love affair with both witch movies and usurper comeuppance flicks. LINDA BLAIR pouting in a fro with giant red blotches on her face is pretty much exactly what I picture my very soul looks like.


One of my earliest and fondest experiences seeing a horror film in the theater and yes, I snuck in. Full review HERE.


Ack. For years and years this was a very hard watch for me. For some strange reason even though this film is filled with brutal rape and murder the idea of a person being forced to pee in their own pants sticks out in my brain as the height of depravity. I can actually watch this movie fine now because I demystified it by reading a book about its making (by DAVID A. SZULKIN). The POV image used on some ads that featured the three attackers looking down upon the victim inspired a bunch of paintings I did in college (though I may have changed them to aliens) and even a Kindertrauma FULL HOUSE parody.


I had a horrendous drug experience as a teen. I can only pull it about half way out of the cupboard in my brain otherwise I’ll get freaked again. A friend and I were offered some pot and so we smoked it. We were then informed by the laughing psychotic who offered it to us that it was laced with angel dust. What then happened, for what seemed like forever, was hell on Earth complete with hallucinations and promises of death pouring out of the radio. It was an absolute nightmare and I think I got to experience my own death a couple hundred times that day. I tell you this because believe it or not, that experience was what came to my mind the first time I saw ANOES. Maybe I had post traumatic stress disorder or something but I assure you that I did not find Freddy Krueger a cute wise cracking anti-hero when I first met him. He scared the living daylights out of me. Freddy’s ability to bend reality and basically do whatever the hell he wanted (like fitting behind that tree! Like stretching his arms across an alley!), terrified me to no end and I basically half expected him to pop up in my very own, recently made unsafe dimension.


Wrote a review back HERE but mostly see above.

SCREAM and SCREAM 4 (1996 and 2011)

Yikes, that bad memory makes me want to wrap this up. In 1996 the horror genre was crying because it was basically in a boat not unlike the one it’s in today. Sure there’s always earnest and interesting indie fare guppies flopping about but who cares when you’re starving for a humongous game-changing fish? SCREAM was a serious breath of fresh air and even though it probably caused another rut to eventually come about, it also spurred a lot of great stuff too. All I know is that after I saw SCREAM I had to drag friends to see it too and that’s the best review I can give a movie. I don’t have to tell you about that opening scene! You know!

And I love SCREAM 4. The second one is darn good (besides the singing), I’m one of those people who don’t care for the third (Today I’ll blame the cinematographer) but I do love Part 4 (I probably explain why in this old review HERE and here’s an entire SCREAM-a-thon HERE.). I’m just sad (and a little greedy) that it’s his last.

Anyhoo, thanks for all the memories, Wes both good and bad and fond and not so fond. Craven brought so much to horror that nobody else could and he saw the value and meaning beyond the surface and made sure his audience did too. He was a chronically innovative artist and storyteller and he broke new ground and paved the way more times than he is given credit for. When he hit, he hit hard and when he missed he missed hard but the misses never stopped him from moving on and hitting that nail right smack on the head again like nobody else could. How many times did he revitalize the entire genre? What are we going to do without you Wes? Who will save us now?

Sunday Streaming:: Blood Beach (1980)

Thanks to a genius advertising campaign, BLOOD BEACH (1980) looked like it might be the coolest movie ever made before it came out. The poster was sharp as a knife and the tagline threatened a menace with the capacity to sink JAWS. I recall ominous radio spots that would stop me in my tracks and take a look at this TV ad…

I wasn’t old enough to go see it but my older brother was and I couldn’t wait for him to fill me in with details and tell me how great it was like he had with FRIDAY THE 13th. That would never happen because his opinion after seeing it was “It sucks, the monster is a plant.” I’m don’t think I completely believed him but it wasn’t long before it popped up on VHS (everything cool back then was on the MEDIA label) and I was able to watch it myself and verify that my brother wasn’t lying; it did suck and the monster was a plant! Many years later I sought out BLOOD BEACH for nostalgic reasons and to reaffirm what I already knew (that it sucked and the monster was a plant) and it was nowhere to be found. Really, I bumped into just about every other VHS tape I set my mind to eventually but that one (perhaps knowing that I didn’t truly love it) avoided me like the plague.

Times changed, computers took over the world and eventually sneaky movies couldn’t hide from anybody anymore because horror convention bootleggers and good ol’ YouTube don’t play around with coy wallflowers. Unfortunately these versions of BLOOD BEACH have always looked like crap or more accurately, crap’s long lost cousin many generations removed as seen through a screen door while wearing scuba goggles filled with Karo Syrup. In fact, it was just a couple months ago I searched for BLOOD BEACH on YouTube and that’s all I found. But look, some angel saved the day! Somebody posted a respectable version of BLOOD BEACH! It’s even an extended cut, which I assume includes the famous few seconds of extra grossness that was added to appease the German audience! Check it out! I’s like the difference between MASH and AfterMASH…..

Does it make the movie any better? Does it make the monster less of a plant? Maybe a little and nope! For me, BLOOD BEACH the movie will never be as large as BLOOD BEACH the anticipation but I still have a fondness for it because the concept, no matter how poorly executed, still thrills me a bit. Sure, the pacing leaves a lot to be desired (and then some and then some more) but on the plus side, it uses its location well enough, represents its time period fairly well and it’s got your favorite dad from A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, JOHN SAXON and your not so favorite dad from AMITYVILLE II: THE POSSESSION, BURT “You think that’s funny?” YOUNG! If all else fails, it’s a great way to visit the beach without getting sand in your drawers! Let’s watch it below! Hurry up! Labor Day is right around the corner!

Sinister 2 and Summer Wrap Up

I wasn’t the biggest fan of the first SINISTER. I thought it had a few creepy moments and I dug the music but it failed in convincing me of its own reality and I’m a pretty easy mark. Still, I was open to a sequel because I figured all the new installment had to do was have a little more respect toward the audience and maybe not require them to leave every shred of their common sense at the door. Well, jokes on me. Not only does SINISTER 2 double down on the rejection of the laws of the physical world and basic human nature, it abandons what worked in the first installment by jettisoning nearly all traces of artistry, nuance or anything that could be perceived as remotely scary. How did this come from the same guy who did 2012’s nightmarish CITADEL (CIARON FOY)? Was he forced to direct hanging upside down from a tree with a bag on his head? I guess there’s not much you can do with a confused and uninspired script but even on a visual level, nearly every frame is loudly lackluster.

The sad thing is I really liked the two charismatic adult leads (SHANNYN SOSSAMON and a returning JAMES RANSONE). I even found myself wishing they were in a romantic comedy or Lifetime Channel domestic abuse drama or just about anything that didn’t involve wet blanket baddie “Bughuul.” Rather than revving up the fear factor, the films signature demon drags everything down whenever he shows up with his senseless home movies that are less unnerving (or believable) than your average Woody Woodpecker short. Seriously, you could throw a stick at a pile of straight-to-video CHILDREN OF THE CORN sequels and be confident in hitting a smarter, scarier flick than this. On the other hand, if you love a bad movie; SINISTER 2 is in a way, more fun than the original but only because it’s laughably dopey and replaces a morose ETHAN HAWKE with burrowing rats, cartoon alligators and the use of the word “rutabaga” in an unprecedentedly dramatic manner.

Sorry, this is why I don’t write reviews anymore. I don’t want to sound like a stick in the mud. I just can’t help thinking that I might have pursued a career in screenwriting if I had known all you had to do was fill pages with whatever came to your head and none of it had to make any coherent sense. If you can’t believably explain how a small child lynches multiple adults just skip over it! If anyone dares inquire further just shrug and inform them it’s a “supernatural thing.” To be fair, I know I must be a fan of at least a couple horror movies that are less credible than SINISTER 2 (Something Italian? I know, how about the end of HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME? I love that movie and that ending is stupefying) so how come I can buy crap in one movie and not the other? For me, the whole “home movie” element demands a certain amount of base realism. In my mind it’s pretty much the point and if you want to take advantage of that highway you have to pay that toll. Even if you reject being grounded in such a way then at least be creative. SINISTER 2 even drops the ball with a Christmas set massacre. How is that even possible?

Hey, as long as the gloves are off let’s say we take a look at some of the other flicks that came out this summer, that way I can get all my disgruntlement out in one fell swoop! Don’t mind my grouchiness. I promise I’ll write an underrated list in the near future as penance and restore positive karma to the land…

THE GALLOWS is pretty much what you think it is (I’m still regretting not seeing JURASSIC WORLD instead). I can’t honestly say it’s any better than SINISTER 2 (it certainly has less likable characters) but it’s got at least one decent scare (the death of a surprisingly convincing CASSIDY GIFFORD) and I enjoyed that the ending leaned towards bonkers. I have to grant it some leniency for having far less resources at its disposal and not having the luxury of coasting on the good favor of a generally well-received movie that came before it. I guess I’m saying the cheap, home grown feel to it was actually a plus for me because it made me nostalgic for the days when you could randomly catch a shoestring budgeted flick at the cinema and I suppose undercooked tastes better to me than over-processed. It stinks but in an affable drive-in sort of way and I have my fingers crossed that the beyond bizarre denouement effects some poor kid the way the ending of SCREAMS OF A WINTER NIGHT did me. I would have certainly preferred it to have not taken the tired found footage route but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I found the backstory and setting more interesting than that of PARANORMAL ACTIVITY. Yes, I still hate that movie.

INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 3. Let’s face it, Part 3 is “do or die” time for a franchise. Part 3 is when Jason earned his iconic mask and it’s when Freddy became an unstoppable household name. Part 3 is when the makers of HALLOWEEN learned not to overestimate their audience and admit that a certain masked man buttered their pumpkin bread and part 3 is when the world told POLTERGEIST’s Carol Anne Freeling that they were willing to follow her to “the other side” but certainly not Chicago. Part 3, to steal a line from FAME is when you start paying…in sweat! So how did INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 3 do? It did pretty good considering it now must fight against not only the audience’s familiarity with the series itself but also fatigue from the multitude of other films that have attempted to adopt its style and tone.

INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 3 smartly switches its focus to a teen in a more urban setting, takes death relatively seriously and has at least one totally horrifying image in the form of a creepily waving silhouette but there is no denying the true ace up its sleeve is LIN SHAYE who is promoted to Captain of the ship. The noteworthy thing is that she is actually shown earning her footing. She starts out freaked, forges for fortitude and finally delivers a line of dialogue that went over so big in the theater I saw it in that it practically took the roof off. The flick has got some flaws and none of it as fresh as it once was but I left the theater satisfied and that makes for a good Part 3.

POLTERGEIST. Can this movie have another title, please? I don’t accept this as a POLTERGEIST movie. SAM ROCKWELL is extremely talented and can convince me of nearly anything and ROSEMARIE DeWITT is like the second coming of CHRISTINE LAHTI in my book but even they are powerless against the shadows of pointlessness that truly haunt this picture. It’s like they wanted to hook up with POLTERGEIST by impersonating INSIDIOUS and woke up sleeping next to AMITYVILLE 3-D instead.

The movie is far from worthless, it has more than a couple creative set pieces floating around, I admire that they made attempts to ground some of the supernatural occurrences and I’m just the type of shipper to appreciate a HAPPINESS (1998) reunion between JARED HARRIS and JANE ADAMS…and yet…there is zero joy (SOLONDZ pun noted) in this movie, zero wonder, zero awe, zero reverence for the mysteries of life and zero of the carbonation that made the original POLTERGEIST sparkle and bubble. It’s like skunked POLTERGEIST. I wish I could completely dismiss it or set it on fire like one of those failed Ellen Ripley clones in ALIEN RESURRECTION that whisper “kill me” but I can’t help remaining curious to see when the DVD comes out if any of the deleted scenes (the director’s cut was something like 8 minutes longer) give it more of a mutated leg to stand on. In any case it wasn’t a total loss for me because after it was done I needed to cleanse my mental palette and so I went to see….

MAD MAX: FURY ROAD! Yay! I had to see this one in the movie a second time and I can’t wait to watch it again and again because it gave me the feeling that I used to get as a teen leaving the movie theater. It made me feel like anything was possible and that the sky was the limit and there was more to creating than just constantly churning out derivative content to fill space. It reminded me that I could still be amazed and inspired and practically possessed by a movie. Sorry to say but for me, horror movies mostly disappointed this summer (at least the ones that made it to my neck of the woods) and I honestly don’t feel much like covering for their shortcomings anymore. FURY ROAD and pretty much FURY ROAD alone is what kept my faith in (going to) the movies properly kindled.

Truth is, my most fulfilling experience with the horror genre this summer came via the television. One fifty-six minute episode of PENNY DREADFUL entitled “The Nightcomers” pretty much eclipsed every horror film I saw in the theater combined. It was beautiful, scary, thought provoking, tragic, heartening, it had a point of view, it pushed forward rather than pandered and it took full advantage of the potential of the genre rather than taking the easy way out at every turn. So no, my love of horror is far from dead and I’m a full believer in the cyclical nature of things. I know that the perfect time to have your mind blown is exactly when things are at their most stagnant and bromidic. By the pricking of my thumbs…

The End. Thanks for letting me gripe and clean out the gutters. We now return you to your regularly scheduled, far less crabby program.

Name That Trauma:: Tomb on a Public Pool Drowning

Hello fellow, Traumites, freaks, geeks, and all the ships at sea…TomB here with the latest…

Well a couple years ago I submitted a, Name that Trauma with some erroneous clues. Lucky for me those wizards at IMDB solved it within a day. Turns out I wasn’t watching a Made for TV movie; it was a mid 50’s drama called, “Bigger Than Life” starring James Mason, and directed by the great Nicholas Ray. For some reason my memory re-branded it as a made for TV… hmmmm!

Pretty good movie btw.

See a young Walter Matthau as a smoothie chuggin’ Gym teacher… I do not lie. You can Reddit that.

Here’s a new Name that Trauma. Pools always scared me as a child. I had an irrational fear of drowning, and always hated the deep end. Sometime in the 70’s I saw a gritty 60’s urban jungle type movie (ala Elia Kazan) with Peurto Rican or Italian gangs in NYC .. Anyway, in a crowded public pool a group of young teens jump in a pool and start dunking a rival teen. He pleads for them to stop, declaring “I’m not a good swimmer”, then he’s ultimately drowned. Now here’s where my memory gets shaky; I don’t know if he was knifed in the pool, or that was another scene. As stated, this movie had a gritty feel to it like Elia Kazan type films.


Sunday Streaming:: Fright (1971)

Matty from Boston’s mentioning of WHEN A STRANGER CALLS BACK this past week has got me all yearning for some more babysitter in peril horror. Let’s say we check out an early example of the tried and true formula with 1971’s FRIGHT which stars the ever adorable SUSAN GEORGE! If reading stuff is your bag, you can read an old review HERE otherwise sit back and enjoy the out-of-sight FRIGHT before it up and disappears below!

Five Underrated Flicks by Matty from Boston!

Hello Kindertrauma compadres! I’m a longtime reader of your hilarious and insightful site and wanted to share my picks for five underrated scary movies. Like Jessie Spano said, I’m so excited!… I’m so excited!… I’m so scared!

Severance (2006). Here’s proof that dark humor and suspense can actually work sometimes, especially if it’s combined with three-dimensional characters, terrific acting, and a spooky setting. The villains in this film are horrifying and relentless, and Laura Harris as Maggie deserves praise as a strong, level-headed, resourceful final girl who gets put through the ringer by the dastardly bad guys. This is definitely a movie that horror fans should see; it’s smart, witty, fast-paced, and written and directed by the talented Christopher Smith, whose love for scary movies shows through the whole film. Have you seen the ABC Afterschool Special where Helen Hunt takes PCP then jumps out of a second story window? This movie is even more entertaining than that.

When a Stranger Calls Back (1993). Young people of today, imagine a time when there were no cell phones, Twitter, Facebook, or whatever hip device made for communication that I still can’t figure out how to use, and then picture yourself stranded in a house with the biggest example of “stranger danger” you could ask for. It’s a film filled with suspense and mystery rather than gore, as well as a terrifying opening 15 minutes in which the lovely Jill Schoelen is menaced by a faceless stalker. The last time I was this scared was when I watched one of those face exercise videos starring Greer Childers (look it up on YouTube).

Spookies (1986). My love for this one goes all the way back to USA Network’s “Saturday Nightmares”, which showed it about every other weekend. Thanks to the magic of the interwebs (check out the filmmakers’ Facebook page HERE.), you can read all about what a troubled production this was, but in the meantime, bask in the glory of this insane monster/slasher hybrid. People who happen upon a creepy abandoned house and make themselves at home? Here! Farting muck monsters (yes, you read that right)? Present! Hotheaded Duke’s hairy patch of lower back hair above his leather pants? In all it’s splendor. It also boasts terrific special effects, decent acting, and a Linda Blair look-a-like (who gets possessed!). The movie makes about as much sense as Donald Trump’s hair, but it is a lot of fun.

Fragile (2005). On tonight’s very special episode of “Ally McBeal”, Ally fights the ghosts in a decrepit hospital! That’s one I’d set the VCR for. My beloved Calista Flockhart is outstanding as a nurse with a past who tries to protect her charges against a completely batshit crazy phantom. A spooky, creepy, quiet movie with some great scares and no dancing babies in sight, and almost as scary as the Michael Bolton Christmas album. Almost.

The Gathering (2003). The first time I saw this one, I felt disappointed. When I gave it a second chance, I saw an interesting and original mystery unfold. I don’t know why, but religion-themed horror films usually frighten me even if they aren’t that scary (I hope that when I die, if there is a Heaven, that Oprah will be at the pearly gates to greet me). Christina Ricci is her usual awesome self, and there’s a palpable sense of dread throughout the whole film, kind of like the weeks leading up to a visit from an annoying relative. It’s a bit like a Lifetime t.v.-movie in some aspects (which, to me, is never a bad thing) but well worth watching. Plus, how handsome is Ioan Gruffudd? Can I please look like him in my next life?

Thank you so much for reading! May your lives be as sparkly and crazy as the “Cribs” episode with Mariah Carey! xoxo Matty from Boston.

Sunday Streaming:: Scream For Help (1984)

Everybody needs to watch 1984’s SCREAM FOR HELP. There’s no sense waiting for it to come to DVD because you could be hit by a car tomorrow and if you leave this Earth having not seen it, your life will have been incomplete and all the angels in heaven will point and laugh at you. SCREAM FOR HELP is a scream for help directed by the guy who brought you DEATH WISH and THE SENTINEL (MICHAEL “Damn the torpedoes!” WINNER), written by the fellow behind FRIGHT NIGHT and PSYCHO II (TOM HOLLAND) and it even stars the guy who was the non fish monster brother in THE KINDRED (DAVID ALLEN BROOKS).

It starts out like a hybrid of THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF DISNEY and an ABC AFTER SCHOOL SPECIAL and it ends like a sleazy soft-core CINEMAX home invasion thriller. It’s goofy and weird, it has no notion of good taste and yet is surprisingly suspenseful and engaging when the bossy and inappropriate soundtrack allows it to be. It’s about a young girl who figures out her stepfather is trying to kill her by adding up all the times he tries to kill her and it’s dark, campy and mean-spirited enough to have a dude slap his wife across the face and say, “That’s for every time I ever kissed you and wanted to throw up!” Plus it sports an awkward voiceover device! Who can resist that? Not me. Watch below and improve your life!