Sunday Streaming:: Extinction (2015) (Via Crackle)

I gravitated toward EXTINCTION not because I’m a huge zombie fan but because I have a warm spot for snowbound horror. I caught the icy trailer on a random DVD and I couldn’t understand why I had never heard of it before and then fortuitously, a couple weeks later, it popped up at a yard sale because I’m the luckiest person in the world. Now EXTINCTION is on CRACKLE and I am strongly urging you to check it out. It’s one of my favorite finds of the last ten years and it’s the type of movie I’ll watch again and again. If I had to make a list of underrated horror films, I think I’d put it smack on the top. I want this movie to be my pet so I can pat it on the head and it can sit in front of my fireplace. Do you know how many zombie movies I don’t care about? I’d say about 97%. This one is particularly unique and it has interesting characters and the atmosphere is through the roof. You have to see the shot of an abandoned, snow-covered movie theater with a marque that reads “AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS.” It’s so darn beautiful…

The less you know the better so I’ll just throw a couple selling points at you and hope it will be enough. The bulk of this movie takes place about ten years after a zombie-type outbreak wipes out most of civilization. The tale follows two adult survivors (MATTHEW FOX, JEFFREY DONOVAN– both excellent), a little girl (QUINN McCOLGAN) and a faithful doggie. These folks are holed up in a couple of adjacent houses in the middle of nowhere covered in ice and hoping never to see a zombie again (in truth, the creatures are never called such and are referred to as simply “monsters”). The two men have had a falling out but they both feel responsible for the little girl and eventually they have to reconcile in order to persevere. Slowly we learn the details of the slight that divided them and it becomes a genuinely compelling character driven drama. Of course the monsters return, as they always do, and there are some real nail-biting action sequences as this likable group fights to survive. In some ways, it’s more faithful to the homebound isolated terrors of RICHARD MATHESON’s I AM LEGEND than previous official adaptions. Plus, I kinda just want to live in this movie were modern culture is dead, everything is covered in snow and I’m in a boarded up house filled with books eating beans out of a can.

Watch EXTINCTION right HERE for free thanks to the folks at CRACKLE.

Annabelle: Creation (2017)

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.

Name That Trauma:: Maria M. on a Shocking Cartoon

Hello. I am from Spain and I just discovered you. I was looking up the hot sauce scene from SpongeBob and found a trauma confession about it. I do not believe people got scared about it. I thought it was funny.

However there was something I was scared about when I was a little girl. I do not remember which cartoon it was in.

It was the early 1990’s and I was on a vacation to America with my parents. We stayed at hotel in Massachusetts and I wanted to watch cartoons. So I turned on Nickelodeon. At the time, I believe it was America only.

They were showing a cartoon about a cute animal with cute voice but I did not understand a lot of it because it was all in English. The episode I watched had him trying not to touch a button. As time passes, he can not take it any more and touches it. At first nothing happened but then he had his eyes closed and opened them to reveal hideous red spiral eyes. Accompanying it was noise that sounded like a burst of electricity if someone interpreted it on synthesizer.

When I saw his eyes, I screamed and turned the channel. I did not have nightmares but I remember thinking Massachusetts was little creepy for the rest of the stay. I also felt very sad for the poor animal because he looked very cute and I wondered what kind of person would do that thing to him. I’m 29 now and I hope it won’t be that scary as I remember it to be.

-Maria M.

Traumafession:: Miyamoto Y. on Fatal Frame and Bimbo’s Initiation

Hi there! I am Miyamoto from Japan and a friend in the US told me about this site. I must say, there’s a lot of good stuff on here! Glad you know about Matango and “Kinderpal Bigwig on Pigmon” was f*cking funny! I used to watch Ultraman reruns as a kid here in the country the show originated, and I can’t believe people were freaked out by Pigmon. I always found him stupid. (“He spoke Monster.” I CANNOT BREATHE)

Growing up in Japan I don’t believe it that nothing scared me, as a child and now. I was always fearless and the closest I was to ever being scared was when a bat flew in my window when I was 11.

I think I played some games that scared me, though! Fatal Frame was one of them. But it wasn’t a lasting trauma.

Ha Ha, It’s Burl!’s post was very hilarious, especially “the Maurice Sendak bedroom forest” (excuse me while I develop asthma).

I recommend that Unk and John watch “Bimbo’s Initiation“, that’s my Kindertrauma Recommendation for today! I see you covered “Pigs is Pigs” which was another inspiration.

See you around!

Sunday Streaming:: Tobe Hooper’s Eaten Alive (1977) (Via Viewster)

TOBE HOOPER’s EATEN ALIVE knows how to creep me out. The opening music alone is a swirling miasma of otherworldly chirps and moans that can turn any hour of the day into half past midnight. I know some folks have a hard time digesting its fluorescent fever dream atmosphere after THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE’s gritty and grounded approach but I love the contrast. It’s like the difference between ROB ZOMBIE’s neon hallucination HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES and his earthy neo-western THE DEVIL’S REJECTS but in reverse. What I love most about EATEN ALIVE though is HOOPER’s mad genius decision to film the movie entirely on a soundstage complete with an indoor pool masquerading as a swamp. The end result is that everything that occurs has a surreal and artificial aura about it. I’m guessing the prevalent tone of vague falseness is enough to turn some viewers off but I love it. It feels like old Hollywood mixed with that terrible (or relieving) moment in a nightmare when you realize you’re not in reality. It’s eerie, strange and bonkers and I wrote a longer review probably using many of the same adjectives HERE. More importantly, EATEN ALIVE is available to watch for free over at this joint that calls itself VIEWSTER right over HERE. If you’re in the mood to inject some raving mad lunacy into your day, it’ll certainly do the trick.

Name That TV Guide Ad! (Featuring: Are You in the House Alone? A TV Movie Compendium: 1964-1999 Edited by Amanda Reyes)

NOTE: Today’s images come courtesy of our dear chum, TV movie historian extraordinaire Amanda Reyes. Amanda’s new book ARE YOU IN THE HOUSE ALONE? A TV MOVIE COMPENDIUM: 1964-1999 is available now and that strange weeping noise you can’t identify at night is probably your bookshelf begging for it. This book is the ultimate tribute to the TV movies that have had such a profound effect on our psyches and I’m not just saying that because I contributed a few pieces (You know I had to call out SALEM’S LOT for delivering me many a sleepless night). This book is jammed packed with TV movie goodness from the legendary to the obscure and Amanda’s retrospective to the small screen horror films of the late, great WES CRAVEN is worth the price alone. Buy this beauty HERE and plan to be fully occupied with essays, reviews and plenty of cool TV GUIDE ads for a long while.

Name That Trauma:: Bridget N. on a Creepy Cult

Hi! My brother and I have been trying to search for an older movie that scared the crap out of us when we were children. We both remember it might have been made anytime between the 70’s to the early 90’s. It was about two guys travelling by bus in a foreign country and they get stranded in a small poor village. All the villagers are devil worshippers and the two guys witness a sacrifice and ritual one night and are terrified. One of them, we think, was captured and tortured. That is all we remember, but we would really like to find out what that movie may be! Any ideas?? *Note this movie is NOT Race With the Devil or Midnight.

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

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.

Dark Shadows (The Revival 1991) shouldn’t have been cancelled! By Mickster

UNK SEZ: Hey, it’s our old pal Mickster! She’s got some viewing advice and an axe to grind concerning a show she loved getting the hook! Take it away, Mickster

MICKSTER: Twenty-six years ago, a show was canceled before being given a fair shake. Had the Internet, as we know it, existed at the time, no doubt people would have expressed their outrage at NBC for letting this gem go far too soon. I remember seeing the promos for the show and being thrilled because I felt cheated that I missed the original show. Darn being born too late! My older siblings spoke of it fondly. I was lucky enough to catch House of Dark Shadows on cable when I was about ten.

The revival of Dark Shadows did not disappoint me, and a big reason for that was Dan Curtis, who created the original show, produced it. The atmosphere and acting were spot-on. I will share a few of my favorite things about the show, and if you haven’t seen it, I strongly suggest you head over to Hulu and watch all 12 episodes.

#1-Ben Cross as Barnabus Collins-Ben Cross had some big shoes to fill when taking on the role of Barnabus since Jonathan Frid made the role iconic. However, I found Cross’s version to have the sex appeal that Frid lacked. I could completely understand all the women of Collinsport, including straight-laced Dr. Julia Hoffman, going wild over him. Dear Barnabus, I suggest picking victims at least a couple of towns over so not to throw suspicion in your direction.

#2 Barbara Steele as Dr. Julia Hoffman-Barbara Steele is very familiar to fans of the horror genre. She portrayed Dr. Hoffman as strong-willed and intelligent. She didn’t allow herself to be intimidated by Barnabus, but at the same time, she showed vulnerability when she developed feelings for him. Dear Dr. Hoffman, Betraying a vampire is NOT good for your health!

#3 Joseph Gordon-Levitt as David Collins-A very young Joseph Gordon-Levitt displayed his acting chops early with his disturbed portrayal of David Collins. He was the ultimate “creepy kid” who scared away all his governesses before Victoria Winters came to Collinwood. Dear Governesses of Young Master Collins, Don’t climb into your bed without checking it thoroughly first…you’re welcome!

#4 Jim Fyfe as Willie Loomis-Now I adored John Karlen as Willie Loomis, but Jim Fyfe just melted my heart. I am a southern girl so I will say, “Bless his heart!” It is true that it is his fault that Barnabus was freed from his vault to wreak havoc on the people of Collinsport, but dang it, his simple-mindedness made me feel bad for him. Dearest Willie, When Barnabus yells, “WILLIE!” Run like hell because he is about to pound the crap out of you.

#5 Joanna Going as Victoria Winters-Now, I feel Joanna Going’s Victoria Winters was far superior to the original. I enjoyed her as a wide-eyed innocent thrust into the chaos of Collinwood in the present and then the past. She made it all believable. Dear Victoria Winters, You look EXACTLY like the portrait of Josette du Pres. Coincidence? I think not!

#6 Lysette Anthony as Angelique-Okay, Lysette Anthony’s Angelique was the epitome of the woman scorned. Unfortunately for Barnabus, she was a woman scorned with supernatural abilities. Dear Barnabus, You should have kept your pants on all those years ago! It became Fatal Attraction circa 1790!

#7 Time Travel-I love time travel, and on Dark Shadows, the time travel was most effective. Victoria Winters was thrown back in time when a séance to contact Sarah Collins (sister of Barnabus) went terribly wrong. Victoria found herself in 1790. Accusations of witchcraft soon plagued Victoria, and her life was in danger. The viewer also was able to witness the events leading up to Barnabus’s transformation into a vampire. Dear Victoria Winters, Hide your clothing labels as the symbols for laundering may be misconstrue as signs of the Devil by a nosy bitch, um, I mean Collins family member.


UNK SEZ: Thanks for the tip Mickster! It looks like I’ve got some watching to do. Kids, as Mickster said above, the DARK SHADOWS revival is available on HULU for free! Watch it HERE before it disappears in a puff of smoke!