Five Underrated Horror Films By Dante Tomaselli Director of Torture Chamber

The Night of the Devils (1972)

This is one of my favorite horror movies. Growing up, I don’t know how I ever missed out on it. Definitely triggers the same feeling I got when I finally experienced Suspiria for the first time in my late twenties. A magical feeling. A sweet horror rush. It aligns with my taste buds perfectly. Very moody, Night of the Devils is a beautifully constructed tale of madness. Simplicity is its greatest strength with the woods as its main backdrop. It’s the kind of film that unfolds like a disturbing nightmare. The mirage hints at the same vampire-like entity featured in one of the segments of Mario Bava’s Black Sabbath. This is a criminally underrated psychological horror shocker. Definitely worth seeking out for all horror fans.

A Reflection of Fear (1973)

Wow, what a genuinely strange film. I remember a friend loaning this to me around 2000 and it’s still wadding around my subconscious. The less said about the plot the better but it involves a rich, isolated girl reuniting with her Dad (Robert Shaw of Jaws). There’s something peculiar about this child who talks to a doll that seems to be alive. Or is it a projection of her off-kilter self? St. Michael, the warrior icon is chillingly conjured. This slow-burn film is so well made and not surprisingly it was directed by the cinematographer of Polanki‘s lush Rosemary’s Baby. I can see that very clearly! Dreamlike imagery galore. Any adventurous horror fan should appreciate this odd unsettling chiller.

This Night I’ll Possess Your Corpse (1967)

Here’s a true independent horror film with the stamp of its creator all over. It’s such a macabre and bizarre concoction that it just needs to be seen to be believed. I can only imagine how shocked and mystified audiences were back in the late ’60s. I like to watch it through their eyes. The sequence where our anti-hero is sucked into a multi-colored hell is creative and outrageously eye-popping. Imagine a hazy nightmare that unfolds while you’re lying on your back in a coffin with a black cloth over your eyes and a tarantula approaching.

Frightmare (1974)

This fascinating ’70s low budget classic features a cannibalistic mother played by one of my favorite performers, Sheila Keith. I love every scene she’s in and would have given anything to work with her. Rest in Peace. As the enigmatic, flesh-eating Dorothy, she’s truly bloodcurdling. In the film, her daughter Jackie is trying to help her get better. Dorothy’s days in the insane asylum are behind her. So we hope. But lately she’s been reading tarot cards again and there are corpses in a room off to the side

The Visitor (1979)

I remember being 9 years old and seeing the black and white newspaper ad and staring at it endlessly. I cut it out and taped it on the refrigerator. This was around the same time The Godsend was being advertised too. I didn’t see The Visitor in theatres but experienced it a year later on cable TV. I was 10 years old. I really had no idea what to expect and was startled by its strong imagery. The pictures presented on screen were bold and stylish. It’s a sci-fi/fantasy horror mutation. The Visitor is confusing, crazy and a lot of fun…Visually, it’s a sensation. This film is a completely unique viewing experience and for that it’s gold.


THE VISITOR [Trailer] – Now In Theaters from Drafthouse Films on Vimeo.

UNK SEZ: Thanks Dante! It’s always an honor and a pleasure when you stop by Kindertrauma! I love your taste in movies and what an excellent list! You mentioned a couple of my favorites and even better, a couple I can look forward to seeing for the first time.

Folks, get ready because pretty soon we’ll all be able to check out the new film from one of the most original imaginations in horror! I’m talking about DANTE TOMASELLI‘s TORTURE CHAMBER! Make sure you stop by the official website HERE and prepare yourself for the trailer below! I can’t wait!

USA’s Saturday Nightmares:: By John Sullivan

I was an ‘inside kid’.

Sure, I went to school and rode bikes and journeyed to 7-11 to pick up comic books and Slurpees.

That was my afternoon. But my night?

Movies. Lots and lots of movies.

My parents gave me a TV time limit. I had a few hours a week. It was sort of an allowance. I had to be smart, and budget my presence in front of the tube.
I used all those hours on Saturday. Here’s why:

USA’S SATURDAY NIGHTMARES.

Saturday Nightmares was my youthful gateway into horror films. In an environment where my parents were permissive enough to let me watch some TV, but not permissive enough to let me rent R-rated horror films, Saturday Nightmares provided a mainline fix that my pre-teen (and early teen) self desperately needed.

USA’S Saturday Nightmares was a prime-time (8 PM – East Coast – old school USA network) non-hosted weekly horror movie feature forum that consisted of several elements:

0 – The Intro. As I mentioned, this was an un-hosted venue for horror films but the intros were awesome. In the early days of USA’s Saturday Nightmares, it was a little more commando. They were stark black and white shots of grotesque monster movies. It looked cheap, and felt cheap and that informed the scariness of whatever film the show was threatening to air. After a few years, they amped up the budget and it became an early CGI ‘tour’ through a museum of horror icons. Regardless of which intro or bumper I preferred, they were atmospheric and foreboding. In other words, even if the movie sucked – I was still scared to watch it.

1 – The Horror Movie. This was usually some semi-obscure thriller that was molding in a VHS bin somewhere. I’m not industry adept enough to guess where the USA network programmers got their material, my guess is it was whatever they had access to. I mean, ‘Bloodbath in the House of Death’? ‘Scared to Death’? ‘Devil Times Five’?, ‘Up From the Depths’?, ‘The House Where Evil Dwells’, ‘Spookies’?, ‘The Being’?, – I can go on. And I will. But this show dredged up some of the most lesser-known, cheap thrill horror movies that could ever be IMDB’d. For a kid who was only exposed to ‘Salems Lot’ and ‘Gremlins’, Saturday Nightmares was a goldmine. R-rated horrors edited for television. Therefore, parent-friendly.

2 – The Anthology Shows. It wasn’t just a horror feature showcase. Oh no. It had frosting on the cake. Following the movie, Saturday Nightmares wasn’t done with you. They aired three different syndicated horror anthology shows. Among them: The Ray Bradbury Theater, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and The Hitchhiker.

The Ray Bradbury Theater’ was more of a slow-burn horror anthology. The stories were generally fantastical and had a more broad nature. Not all of the stories presented were from the mind of the great Ray Bradbury, but many of them kept the tone of some of his earlier works. I remember one called ‘The Playground’ with a young-ish William Shatner that haunts me to this day.

Alfred Hitchcock Presents’ had a more crime-oriented atmosphere and a typical just-desserts twist ending. I’d compare the stories presented akin to EC Comics’ noir books.

The Hitchhiker’ was probably inappropriate for a kid my age. It was a port from an HBO series, and consisted of a lot of sex and murder. A lone, scruffed Hitchiker tells stories of lust and death. It was heavily edited for TV, so the impact was lost on me. I do remember some of the stories were compelling, but they had to cut out all the naughty stuff.

3 – The Short Films. Oftentimes, one of the Saturday Nightmares features would end early, and they would have to stick in a mysterious short film to fill out the run time. Short films are commonplace these days, especially on YouTube – but in 1988, it was rare to see a cool, scary short flick. Somehow, the USA Network was able to find some frightening brief bits to pad out the run-time. I remember one was about a man engineering a gigantic mouse-trap…for himself. It was his method of suicide. Dark, right?

I WAS 10!

The first film I ever saw on USA’s Saturday Nightmares was ‘The Loch Ness Horror’. It involves – you guessed it – a bunch of people running away from a rubberized Loch Ness Monster puppet. It’s…garbage. However, the nostalgia of gunning my BMX bike back from the comic book store to make it home before sundown to watch ‘The Loch Ness Horror’ stays with me.

I think I bought a Hulk comic that day. Memories fade…

My parents had to endure my love of USA’s Saturday Nightmares. We weren’t a rich family. We had a modest house on Long Island with one TV. So, if I watched something – they had to watch that thing. In a strange way, my parents are well-versed in horror movie trivia because of that environment.

-‘Hey Dad, remember ‘Demonwarp’?

-‘Is that the one with the murderous Sasquatch and George Kennedy, and the zombies you made us watch’?

-‘Yup’.

-‘Why couldn’t have you been a doctor’?

I was a weird kid. I lived for Saturday Nightmares. Whenever my parents had a dinner party, they knew I’d be out of their hair watching something like ‘Jaws of Satan’. Just to be clear, that’s a film about a king cobra possessed by the Devil.

My Dad’s buddy, after wandering into the TV room:

‘What are you watching’?

Jaws of Satan. Killer king cobra movie’.

‘What the hell is Fritz Weaver doing in this crap’?

As low-grade as many of the movies shown on Saturday Nightmares were, they did expose me to a world beyond the A-list ‘thrillers’ that masquerade as horror movies.

Later on, as USA became more mass-audience oriented, the films became more commercial. ‘Demons of the Dead’ was replaced by ‘Nightmare on Elm Street 3’. ‘Girls Nite Out’ was replaced by ‘Friday The 13th V’. Not that there’s anything wrong with those particular films, but I could see them anywhere. I respected the unavailability of the unknown titles.

Soon after…

Saturday Nightmares was kicked. USA rolled into original programming, and became the home of ‘Psych’ and ‘Burn Notice’. I’m sure those shows are fine, but I miss the ‘go for broke’ programming of the 80’s. What is ‘Burn Notice’ about, by the way?

I got older and discovered eBay and Amazon and YouTube. I was able to find a lot of my favorite niche horror films on that landscape.

My Saturday nights got booked with grown-up things. Girls, life, girls.

I work as a screenwriter now. I’ve written the (self-proclaimed) B-movie classics ‘Fear of the Dark’, ‘Prophecy: Uprising’, ‘Prophecy: Forsaken’. ‘Recoil’ (not a horror film but Steve Austin is kinda scary).

I’ve got a few new thrillers in the pipeline.

I like to think that USA Saturday Nightmares contributed to my silly career.

I leave you with the Wiki link for USA’s Saturday Nightmares.

Every flick is a classic. Sorta.

Now, I’m off to find a VHS copy of ‘The Loch Ness Horror’…

JOHNNY BLACKOUT (John Sullivan)

Valerie Harper Blogathon:: Don’t Go To Sleep!!!

When pal Amanda by Night (of Made For TV Mayhem) invited Kindertrauma to join in on the VALERIE HARPER BLOGATHON she was orchestrating, we could not possibly refuse. Fact is, although she is better known for many other gigs, HARPER starred in what is simply the best (and most kindertraumatic!) made-for-television horror flick of the slash-happy eighties. Yes, once again I am talking about DON’T GO TO SLEEP! If you’re not familiar with that title then I beg you to yank your horror-head out of the zombie sand and give it a look-see. You will not be sorry. Having covered this one before you may think I have nothing more to say, but you’d be wrong because I have yet to give this gem the “five favorite things” treatment. Here are my five favorite things about DON’T GO TO SLEEP

THE OPENING CREDITS! Right out the starting gate DON’T GO TO SLEEP is humming it’s own quirky tune. Black and white title cards flash and they’re so low-tech shaky you might think you’ve stumbled upon a home movie of a camping trip. Lullaby music box chirpings blast and then are cut off indiscriminately by the sound of whooshing traffic. This happens again and again throughout the prelude. I’m sure that somebody missed the effect that they were going for by a couple of miles but the resulting awkwardness of the overreach must be superior to what they were aiming for anyway. It’s slapdash, makeshift and yet still sets an appropriate mood. This movie is all about the treacly chimes of childhood being upset by jagged blasts of harsh, startling reality.

THE DIRECTION! Made for TV movies have their own set of advantages and disadvantages compared to their theatrical counterparts. Sometimes the unavoidable restraints can result in a static affair or the director not having as much leeway to express himself visually. This is not the case here. RICHARD LANK (who also steered 1978’s effectively eerie NIGHT CRIES) has a field day playing with bizarre angles, distorted perspectives and unusual POV shots. I think he may even have invented the flying lizard cam and the rolling pizza cutter cam. Prime time doesn’t allow for much gore but LANK moves ahead undaunted. Rather than show a head smashing into the driveway, he quickly cuts to a watermelon being dropped and bursting apart upon the kitchen floor. Message received loud and clear!

THE CLOSING! What better gift to leave your audience than a final image branded into their horrified brains for all eternity? DON’T GO TO SLEEP does just that in a seemingly effortless way without resorting to bells and whistles and elaborate effects. Much like SATAN’S TRIANGLE (in my mind, the greatest made for TV movie of the supernatural seventies), DON’T places its final winning card on the preternatural power of one enigmatic Cheshire smile. The maniacal faux-sweet image actually appears several times throughout the film but its final presentation is so gruesomely uncanny that it’s difficult to shake or even interpret why it’s so effective. I seriously believed for years that a skull was superimposed upon the image a’la Norman Bates in PSYCHO, but I guess that was my imagination! True cinematic alchemy!

THE STRAIGHTJACKET! I’m sorry but it’s satisfying to see anybody who was in the movie ANNIE wind up in a straight jacket!

THE CAST! Are you kidding me? DUEL’s DENNIS WEAVER, ROSEMARY’S BABY’s RUTH GORDON and POLTERGEIST’S OLIVER ROBINS! It’s a horror fan’s dream team! Both ROBIN IGNICO as Mary and KRISTIN CUMMING as Jennifer excel where most child actors would have failed. And then there’s VALARIE HARPER who we are specifically honoring today. I’m thinking DON’T GO TO SLEEP may not exactly be the highlight of her long career but yes, of course, she brings everything she’s got regardless. I love her and WEAVER together tackling screaming matches like they’re in WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? and ad-libbing under their breath whenever they damn well feel like it. I’m sure some folks have a hard time seeing past the campy surface but to me, that’s just one layer out of zillions. They don’t make ‘em like this anymore and what a shame.

DON’T GO TO SLEEP is a lively watch but it never shirks from the subject of death and grieving, topics that the horror genre is especially fit to explore. It’s easy to forget that as modern horror continues to be corralled toward action/comic book power fantasies instead. I say don’t feel bad for VALERIE HARPER; she’s not going anyplace you’re not going too. As she faces whatever is next (total recovery says me), I stand more impressed with her wisdom than her bravery. She knows its not how you die but how you live that matters. “We’re all terminal” she says and there’s nothing truer than that. I think I’ll save my sorrow for someone less vividly alive, less admirably “awake”.

Dash O’ Trivia: Guess what VAL‘s last name is in DON”T GO TO SLEEP! Answer: Hogan! Wha-wha-what? This calls for some back up from Turnidoff!

The Ring (2002) Anniversary Guest Post by Father of Tears

October 18, 2012 is a milestone anniversary in horror. Ten years ago “The Ring” was released in theaters.

The movie was an American remake of the classic Japanese horror film “Ringu“. In fact, this would be the first of many controversial “J-Horror” American remakes (“The Grudge“, “Pulse“, “Dark Water” etc). Of that whole group “The Ring” would get the most favorable reviews. The basic premise of the film is a mysterious videotape that, when viewed, shows disturbing grainy green tinted black and white images. After the tape ends the viewer’s telephone rings and when it is answered a girl whispers “seven days”…which means you will DIE in seven days! After several teens die mysteriously one of the kid’s mothers has her younger reporter sister named Rachel go out and investigate. The reporter (Naomi Watts, fresh from her breakthrough role in “Mulholland Drive“) hears about the “killer videotape” after her niece’s funeral from one of her friends. Early on Rachel goes to a cabin where her niece Katie and her friends stayed at seven days before they died. While chatting with the innkeeper she learns he keeps a bunch of videotapes for the guests as the TV reception is bad (no cable?). Rachel notices a black VHS tape with no label and she takes it to her cabin. She plays the tape and gets the phone call…and the fun begins!

The Ring” had a gloomy atmosphere that was noted for not relying on gore and violence. There was a great slow building tension to this film as the main characters, Rachel and her ex Noah , were racing against the clock to solve the mystery of Samara and the “Killer Videotape”. When the climax to the film happens you are scared….but you are not subjected to blood splatter. Certain horror directors may use a specific color to enhance the film’s overall mood. Dario Argento used saturated reds in “Suspiria” to a great effect. “The Ring‘s”director Gore Verbinski used the color green in many of the scenes. In fact many of the outdoor scenes, especially those in rainy weather, had a murky green tint (the film does take place in the Pacific Northwest) to enhance this moody feeling. I am positive those green tinted scenes in “Twilight” were influenced by the outdoor scenes in “The Ring“. By the way, Hans Zimmer‘s music was also great for the film’s soundtrack. That haunting sad piano, those quiet bells and those deep sounding orchestral strings!

I have the soundtrack and when I want a break from my usual stash of 70’s prog-rock, Nine Inch Nails & St. Vincent I’ll play the CD. Hell, I used it to break in my Polk tower speakers!

The Ring” did have the obligatory sequel in “The Ring 2” which, despite having big name stars Elizabeth Perkins and Sissy Spacek, was weak when compared with the original. Still, “The Ring” would be the movie that would make Naomi Watts a household name. Amber Tamblyn, Rachel’s doomed niece Katie, would star in “The Grudge 2” and TV’s “Joan of Arcadia“. Also, the Samara character would become a horror film icon. It also should be noted that a younger Pauley Perrette would be in this movie playing Beth, the assistant to Noah in his video and photo workshop. Who’s she? Well, a year after being in “The Ring” she would be part of the hit TV show “NCIS” playing the goth forensics specialist Abby Sciuto! Not a bad legacy!

Now for those who have Blu-ray players “The Ring” was released in that format back in the Spring. The sequel, however, is not out in Blu-ray as of this writing. Oh, and that song heard in the background of the “Cursed Videotape”? It’s sampled from this Kindertrauma favorite:

“Born on the Night of the Living Dead” :: (An Excerpt) by David Young

From out of the Chimney:

I guess the weird music finally got to me. Or maybe it was all those voices that didn’t belong to Peter Falk or Raymond Burr. Heck, maybe I finally got sick of not knowing. All I know is that one night I got out of bed to see what was on TV. And it was the worst mistake I ever made.

It turned out mom and Sue were watching a movie. By then I knew that certain movies and TV shows only came on late at night cause they weren’t for kids. I couldn’t imagine what was so bad that kids couldn’t look at it. Mr. Voight at Voight’s Party Store kept magazines behind the counter that had pictures of big booby women on the covers and a sign that said “ADULTS ONLY.” Every time I asked what was in the magazines, mom would tell me they weren’t for kids. I figured it was the same with movies that came on past bedtime. There were either monsters or big boobies in them. Only this didn’t look like a big booby movie. And it didn’t look like a monster movie cause it was in color and Uncle Charley from My Three Sons was in it. Hey, what the heck was this?

“This is a crazy movie,” said mom. “You’d better not watch or you’ll have bad dreams.” I trusted mom. She told me there was no such thing as ghosts. She told me that Heaven was for good people and that bad people made their own hell right here on earth. So if she said that the movie on TV would give me bad dreams, I believed her. And then there was my sister, Sue. She was sitting all scrunched up on the sofa with half her face hidden behind her knees. That’s when I thought, uh-oh.

The first thing I did was cover my eyes. I wanted to watch, but I was afraid of seeing something that would give me nightmares. So, mom and I worked out a system. She told me when and when not to look. For the moment, everything was all right. I could look. There wasn’t much going on. There were some people dressed up for a dinner party. A husband. A wife. Then some whispering and – “Don’t look!”

Up went the hands. I heard freaky electronic music and creepy voices. I heard the scariest sounds that ever came out of our television set. Still, I trusted mom. When she told me it was safe to look, I looked. Same people. Same dinner party. Again I asked, what the heck was this movie about?
“Don’t look!”

Systems like these never really work, but I was too young to know that. Whether mom came in too late or I uncovered my eyes too early doesn’t really matter. The point is that I looked when I wasn’t supposed to and saw something I shouldn’t have seen.

First I’ve got to tell you about my grandmother. My grandmother was pretty old but she could do a whole bunch of stuff. She sewed quilts. She baked really good bread. And she made dolls. I didn’t mind the quilts or the bread, but grandma’s dolls really freaked me out. What she did was take an apple and let it dry in the sun until it got all brown and wrinkly. After that, she pinned these small eyes on it. She added hair, glasses, and sometimes a hat. Then she put the head on a miniature body that was dressed in miniature handmade clothes and placed it in a display case. There were display cases in grandma’s kitchen, display cases in the living room, even a display case in the bathroom. Every time we went to grandma’s there was a new apple-head doll in one of her display cases. And grandma would say, “That’s my farmer,” or “That’s my princess,” or “That’s my hobo.”

People like mom and Aunt Nora thought they were cute and funny but I’ll tell you something; since the day those dolls started to appear, there was no more spending the night at grandma’s for me. I hated the things. I hated their wrinkly faces and their fake hands and their beady eyes. Plus, there weren’t any locks on the display cases. There was a lid but there weren’t any bricks on top. Seriously, how hard would it be for those things to come to life and climb out? Especially when it got dark.

With that in mind, I’ll give you one guess as to what I saw on TV when I should have had my eyes shut. Yep. It was one of grandma’s apple-head people. Only this one wasn’t “farmer” or “princess” or “hobo.” This one was “monster.” It was the same size as one of granny’s dolls only it had the body of a hairy black gorilla and facial features that were bigger and scarier than the kind grandma attached. Oh, yeah, and it was alive. Specifically, it was under the dinner table, pulling a napkin off Kim Darby’s lap in a movie called Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark. I happened to look right when Kim did, and both of us went “Huhh!” when the thing looked up at us. I didn’t stick around to see what Kim did next. I bolted for the bedroom and bawled my eyes out. With the light on, of course.

Mom spent the next hour and a half trying to calm me down. There was no calming down. I was hysterical. I didn’t know where the thing came from, or what it wanted from poor Kim Darby, but none of that mattered. I was frightened out of my skull. This wasn’t the sorta scare Abbot and Costello got when they met Frankenstein. This felt like somebody took a hot poker and burned the image in my brain. Every time I shut my eyes, I saw that freakin’ apple-head monster staring back at me.

But there wasn’t just one. There was a whole bunch of them and they came out of the chimney at night. Maybe if they lived in some dark castle in a foreign country where people still rode around in horse and carriages and didn’t have electricity, I wouldn’t have been so scared. Only they didn’t. They were in regular peoples’ houses, in regular peoples’ chimneys (we had a chimney). They could hide behind heater vents (we had a lot of heater vents). Or they could wait inside of closets (ditto). And if I listened hard enough, I swear I could hear them whispering.

Suddenly the rules were different. Before, I could watch something on TV and switch it off and that’s where it would stay – off. Only now, seeing something on TV brought that thing out of the TV and into my world. Seeing something gave it existence in reality. On the same note, this meant that I could be sucked into the reality of what I’d seen. I wasn’t clear on the physics, I just knew that if I got scared enough, reality was pretty much up for grabs.
The dark would never be the same.

UNK SEZ: For more BORN ON THE NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD just jump right on over HERE! If you are someone whose life has been strongly affected by movies you are sure to devour it like a zombie would a brain or a shark would a foot or an ape would a banana. I could not get enough of it!

“Oh, That’s Them-The Little Horrors!” (Guest Post by Peter Gutierrez)

I know it took place earlier this month, still at some remove from Halloween, but I can’t help feeling that the new DVD release of Hammer House of Horror must be one of the genre’s home video highlights of the season, maybe the year. Synapse Films has done its typical bang-up job in terms of the transfer, with the result that this 1980 TV series (it ran for but a single season) now looks and sounds better than ever.

Does that mean it’s so pristine that it has lost some of its late-‘70s feel? Hardly. In fact, I think the overall me-decade vibe and its particular brand of horror is one of the main virtues of the series, at least for anyone who’s savvy enough to be a regular Kindertrauma reader. And of course a big part of that period’s aesthetic was its depiction of children in all their creepy, other-ly glory.

Perhaps the best known episode of Hammer House of Horror in this regard is “Children of the Full Moon.” Despite its title telegraphing the monster du jour, the story still manages to go places that you don’t see coming—and very nasty places at that. The kids themselves are the very image of courteous British youngsters, apart, of course, from all those eerie off-screen noises they make. “Oh, that’s them—the little horrors,” exclaims Diana Dors, part of a memorable performance that plays exquisitely with the Kindly Maternal archetype. Ultimately, the kids aren’t central to the actual action but, interestingly, they become increasingly important to the episode’s themes about the nature of humans and animals and how we ignore any overlap at our own peril.

Another notable episode also seems to make its lone child character fairly tangential to the main plot. At first, that is. By the conclusion of “The House That Bled to Death,” however, there can be no doubt regarding that character’s importance; in fact, what makes the lurid script so brilliant is the way that the narrative kind of ignores her because that means that the audience does as well… until she comes back to haunt us. Well, I don’t mean haunt us literally—or wait, maybe I do: I’m being coy because I don’t want to give away too much. And for that same reason I certainly don’t want to dwell too much on a scene at a kids’ birthday party that may be the most celebrated sequence of the entire series. In terms of sheer logic, sure, what happens is more than a bit nonsensical, but that just adds to the fun.

My favorite episode that features kids prominently, and one of my favorites overall, has to be “Growing Pains.” Honestly, though, I can’t tell how many of its neat psychological effects are intentional and how many are the result of some storytelling incoherence mixed with paranormal elements drawn from the making-up-the-rules-as-we-go-along school. But who cares? The episode sports tragic deaths (that might still prompt giggles), weird science, stuffed animals, and a supremely ambiguous, and therefore effective, turn by child actor Matthew Blakstad. “Growing Pains” thus feels like The Turn of the Screw filtered through schlock… which is precisely what makes it so wonderful.

Of course the series has plenty of reasons for one to like it apart from its kid-centric episodes. “The Silent Scream,” with Peter Cushing and Brian Cox, is justifiably praised for its unnerving originality, and I’m personally quite fond of the demented surrealism of “Rude Awakening.” But check out the thirteen episodes for yourself, and discover your own favorite. You really can’t go wrong.

Peter Gutiérrez writes on horror for Rue Morgue and Firefox News, and blogs on film and pop culture for School Library Journal.

Time After Time (1979) by Kinderpal Mickster

Is TIME AFTER TIME a thriller, a romance, or science fiction? The answer is yes! TIME AFTER TIME (1979) delves into all three genres. I distinctly remember watching TAT on HBO at my older sister’s apartment back in 1980. My clearest memories of the film involve Jack the Ripper, of course. I have been fascinated with Jack the Ripper as long as I can remember (see my JACK’S BACK post), so this movie was right up my alley. I received the movie on DVD a couple of years ago and finally got around to revisiting it this summer.

Mickster’s Memorable Moments:

*Jack’s special pocket watch with his tune for murder.

*Wells finds a young boy (Corey Feldman) at the museum is staring at him.

Final Exam (1981) by Chris Moore

As the final days of my collegiate career dwindle down, it’s got me thinking about how I used to perceive college life back when I was a kid. I always assumed, due to my love for college farces and slasher films, that I’d be surrounded by tons of fun loving, big breasted, bubble-headed bleach blondes and beer guzzling, dumb as rocks frat guys on their way to a midlife crisis. Since I go to an art school, there are no sports teams, sororities, or fraternities. I’m a little bitter that I didn’t get the authentic college experience. Thankfully, I have a little movie called FINAL EXAM to help me pretend I did.

Ask any slasher film fanatic and they’ll tell you that FINAL EXAM is not on the top of their list of great ‘80s slash ’em ups. In fact, it probably rates more towards the bottom of the barrel, right next to EVIL LAUGH and BOARDINGHOUSE. I’ll admit it, FINAL EXAM marches to its own (slightly off tempo) drummer and I salute it for that. The film begins with a rather unimaginative murder scene involving two horny co-eds parked on lover’s lane and then thrusts us head first into a tension filled exam week at Lanier College, an institution populated by every early ‘80s and slasher film stock character known to man.

We have the smart, bookish, huge haired Courtney (CECILE BAGDADI) stepping in for Laurie Strode (guess she was still recovering from her previous ordeal). Her BFF, Radish (did his parents hate him or what?), played by JOEL S. RICE, spews out factoids about serial killers, all the while, clearly having the hots for Courtney. There’s also Courtney’s sex kitten roommate, Lisa (DeANNA ROBBINS) and their friend, Janet (the adorable SHERRY WILLIS-BURCH, who you may remember from KILLER PARTY). The real scene stealer is the eternally wasted Wildman (RALPH BROWN) who, I guess, is supposed to be some sort of JOHN BELUSHI in ANIMAL HOUSE clone. He spends the majority of the film drinking beer, shouting, and feasting on anything he can find.

FINAL EXAM takes its sweet time, letting us get to know its colorful cast of characters before starting the carnage around 50 minutes in. It’s a risky move – one that most viewers don’t seem to care for; however, I always find these characters so fun that I forget I’m in a slasher movie. One of the more memorable (and dated) sequences in the film involves the entire frat staging a fake terrorist attack in the quad just so one of their own can find some time to tamper with his exam. It’s gloriously over the top and could never be pulled off today without someone bitching and moaning about it being socially irresponsible.

The killer is always drenched in shadows, but no effort is made to disguise his face. He’s bulky and imposing, but never very scary. We never find out who is or why he’s doing what he’s doing. I have my own theory, but I’m sure you don’t want me to bore you with all that nonsense. Still, I sort of like the vague and mysterious quality of the killer’s identity (or lack thereof). It’s certainly something different from what was going on the glut of other HALLOWEEN clones out around the same time. Also, Radish talks an awful lot about the randomness of serial killers, so perhaps there’s more to this particular killer than we really think.

Most cite its lack of anything remotely resembling suspense, scares, or gore as being its downfall, but I find the film oddly refreshing. FINAL EXAM is what I liken to a movie version of comfort food. You know it’s not really good for you and has very little nutritional value to offer, but it’s like an old friend you just can’t say “No” to. It’s light on the gore and scares, but I still enjoy it for its quirky characters and am not afraid to say so.

Interestingly enough, FINAL EXAM was shot only an hour or two away from my university in North Carolina. I think that’s pretty neat-o (yes, I just used the term “neat-o”). FINAL EXAM was just recently released on a brand new DVD by Scorpion Releasing (who are doing the Lord’s work as far as I’m concerned!) Give it a shot!

The Cabin in the Woods: A Second Opinion by Chris Moore.

UNK SEZ: I’ve been telling anyone who will listen and some who won’t that I think CABIN IN THE WOODS is a must see. I know a few folks though who not only did not care for the film but hated it passionately! How could it be? One such person is kinderpal Chris Moore (who I tend to agree with especially when he’s singing the praises of MATILDA). I asked Chris if he would write up a post sharing his thoughts on CABIN and he graciously agreed and boy are the gloves off! Take it away Chris! We’ll always have MATILDA!

I’m always championing the underdog. Most of my favorites films are those that were bombs, critically loathed, or simply just came out at the wrong time. To put it into perspective, one of my favorites this year was JASON REITMAN and DIABLO CODY‘s YOUNG ADULT, a film loathed by most of America. I almost always love the original, unique, and avant-garde. Hell, I applaud and enjoy FINAL EXAM for its hour-long collegiate character study as opposed to its slash ‘n stalk-y denouement. Also, I have a shockingly high tolerance for crap. From PIECES or TROLL 2 to STV garbage like AX ‘EM or the CAMP BLOOD series, I can usually find something worthwhile in anything. All I ever ask for is a little entertainment. Make me laugh, cry, or scream and I’m ready to sing your film’s praises right away.

For me, there’s nothing worse than a film stuck in the middle of the road. Those are the kinds of films that leave you feeling like you wasted two hours of your life. Even in a typically bad film, there could be something unintentionally hilarious, whether it be an inept line reading, a campy performance, or a delicious lack of understanding of the cinematic language, that makes the viewing experience a little worthwhile.

I’d been hearing about THE CABIN IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD (oops, meant WOODS) since its inception a few years back. Being a casual BUFFY watcher, I was certainly curious to see what JOSS WHEDON would come up with. Once the film went into production, it was masked in a veil of secrecy. No one knew anything about the movie. In this day and age, that’s quite the feat and I was proud of WHEDON and co. being able to keep a film under wraps like that.

Once the trailer was released, I was underwhelmed. It didn’t really interest me very much. It looked predicable and about as dull as the trailer for SHARK NIGHT 3-D (which I still do not plan on seeing. Ever.) Could this really be the film everyone was waiting for?

Then, the reviews came in. All glowing. As horror fans, we don’t like to admit it, but we sort of love it when a horror film gets such great reviews. It feels like our beloved genre has finally found acceptance in the mainstream and people finally “get it.” Plus, as a hardcore horror fan, I’ll usually always go see a new original horror film, foolishly hoping that maybe this will help stop the glut of horrible remakes and over produced, braindead 3-D “epics” from getting the greenlight. Clearly, now, I HAD to see it, so I got a group of my friends together and we sat down, about a week ago, in our local multiplex and…well, something didn’t go as planned.

The story of CABIN IN THE WOODS centers around a rather typical assortment of college students going to the titular cabin in a dense forest for a little R&R and God knows what else. For a film that seems to think it’s rather unique and original, the characters are cookie cutter as can be (which is the point of the film, but still…), but that’s not always a bad thing. Sometimes, it can be fun knowing all the archetypes and what to expect, I mean, there has to be SOME reason why all the FRIDAY THE 13TH films were so successful, right? The problem here is that not many of the characters are very likable or relatable, even in a humorous or satirical way. The film’s lead female “virgin” Dana (KRISTEN CONNOLLY) is amiable enough, but the rest of the crew leave a little be desired, especially the token stoner Marty (FRAN KRANZ).

Let me just talk about Marty for a little while, because I truly feel that a lot of what’s wrong with this film can be summarized with his character. He’s annoying, shrill, un-funny, and doesn’t know when to stop. From the first moment he appears on screen, I was eagerly anticipating his death.

Intercut in between all the cliched EVIL DEAD inspired hi-jinx, there’s a group of people controlling and supervising what these hormonally challenged 20-somethings say and do? BRADLEY WHITFORD and RICHARD JENKINS, two fantastic actors who I always enjoy watching, play the two leads in this sub-plot, but they have little to work with. Their jokes are painfully unfunny and as interesting as this concept could be, it more often than not, falls flat.

Look, I love humor with my horror. From SCREAM to DRAG ME TO HELL, I enjoy horror comedies if they are done correctly and feel balanced. Even last year’s deliciously spooky INSIDIOUS kept me interested and entertained when it went of the rails into WILLIAM CASTLE/camp-ville mid way through. THE CABIN IN THE WOODS feels like a concept concocted through a cloud of pot smoke at a wrap party for one of WHEDON‘s other shows. It’s like walking into a conversation that’s already been going on for days and not getting anything the other people are saying. CABIN is the cinematic equivalent of an in-joke.

If there is any humor to be found, it’s at the expense of the audience. I don’t know about anyone else, but I was a little offended by how rude the humor was to horror fans. They might as well just cut to a shot of WHEDON giving us the finger. It’s clear that WHEDON is not the horror fan people think he is. One would think he’d have been at least a little more reverent with his digs at the genre, but, instead, it almost feels as if he’s mocking the audience that goes to see this kind of movie by saying “Gah! Don’t you know how stupid these movies are?” At least SCREAM‘s digs at the genre were never at the price of the film itself and were always in good humor.

There is one admittedly hysterical scene mid way through involving our films “hero,” a motorcycle, an epic speech, and an unexpected outcome that had me in stitches for a little while, but other than that, the film’s humor never landed for me. I got what they were trying to say, but I feel like it’s been done so many times now (and WAY better might I add) that it just felt tired.

Also, the film is still going by the same old set of crusty old horror movie “rules” set out by SCREAM almost 20 years ago. The virgin always lives. The jock is a braindead horn dog. The stoner’s the wise comedic relief. I feel like, if they were true horror fans, they would have figured this out by now. HE KNOWS YOU’RE ALONE and MY BLOODY VALENTINE both feature heroines who, while mostly kind and sweet, are probably neither virgins. Hell, do we even know if Laurie Strode was really a virgin? Maybe she just had a lot of homework to do and didn’t care too much about the dudes. Alice, Ginny, Chris, and Trish from the first four FRIDAY movies were certainly no virgins, either. Where does this stuff come from? Although, honestly, this always bothered me in SCREAM, too.

Some people are telling me the humor isn’t supposed to be funny, because it’s “satire.” I’m all for satire, in fact, it’s my favorite kind of humor. HEATHERS, DROP DEAD GORGEOUS, NETWORK, and most of JOHN WATERS‘ films, are some of my all time favorite movies, but those were actually funny. They at least made me chuckle. I’m not expecting SCARY MOVIE-style slapstick, but c’mon! CABIN, besides said motorcycle speech scene, failed to ever even make me so much as grin during it’s hour and a half run time.

So, if it’s not funny, is it at least scary? Far from it. In fact, I believe a four-year-old could take this movie. Without scares or laughs, what am I supposed to make of this movie? It’s middle of the road. It’s just there. I’m not worse for wear after watching it, but I’m not going to remember it in a few weeks either. Even a surprising (if useless) last minute cameo by a member of horror/sci-fi royalty in the middle of the horrendously bad CGI fest of an ending that even the SyFy Channel would disown (hope that’s not what took them so long to get this released) can’t save it from “been there, done that” syndrome. It just felt like a waste of time.

By my (admittedly low) standards, the film fails. It didn’t make me laugh, cry, or scream.

I’m already aware that most people will say that “I just didn’t get it!” and I’m prepared to take the heat. There are always a few movies every year that a lot of people love that I don’t get. AVATAR and PARANORMAL ACTIVITY are the most recent examples. So, I don’t understand what the big deal is about them, but if you enjoy them, that’s all that matters.

My friend, Nina, who saw the film with me (we both loathed it) put it best. She said it was like a “hipster horror film.” The more I think about it, the more I realize she’s right. God knows those goobers love their irony. All the people praising the film seem to take pride in the fact that they somehow cracked the code and feel smarter than everyone else. Sorry, but there is no code to crack. A bad movie is just a bad movie, folks. OR maybe I’m just not “sophisticated” enough to get it. You guys be the judge.

Dante Tomaselli’s Top Ten Horror Scores

UNK SEZ: You guys remember our pal the multi talented DANTE TOMASELLI (Interview HERE). Well, DANTE has just concluded scoring his latest film TORTURE CHAMBER so I asked him what movie scores were his favorites and influenced him the most. Below are his favorite top ten scores alongside some fresh images from his forthcoming film (Check out the official site HERE)! Thanks for sharing this with us Dante, You’ve got great taste!

1.) HALLOWEEN

I experienced Halloween in theatres at my birthday party in 1979. I just turned 10. My childhood friends were petrified and some of are still traumatized. It’s hard to describe the impact of this movie to the younger generation because you really had to experience Halloween in theatres. It had a ferocious grip on audiences. I haven’t seen anything match its power. To this day, most critics and fans declare Halloween the ultimate horror film and I wholeheartedly agree. The music is 50% of the film’s equation. Halloween’s heart-pounding, anxiety-inducing theme is so powerful. It’s become the anthem for classic horror films, and definitely something you can’t escape around October. I can’t escape it. It’s been the ringtone on my phone for years. Analogue synthesizer music was popular during the 60’s and 70’s in sci-fi and horror films but Halloween took that kind of sound design to a whole new level. This is a landmark horror soundtrack. Flickering and glowing like a devilish jack-o-lantern, the music is sinister and playfully evil. I’m forever influenced by this motion picture and its soundtrack. Thank you, John Carpenter.

2.) SUSPIRIA

I saw this film in my late twenties, during post production of my first feature, Desecration. How did I not ever see it? I remember the commercial on TV when I was 7-years-old. There was a seductive woman brushing her hair…her back to the camera. We hear her child-like voice. Roses are red. Violets are blue…She’s telling a poem. She swings around. Her face is a skull. Then a man’s voice says, ‘You can run from Suspiria…but you cannot escape…Suspiria.’ It was a whispery, evil voice…S-U-S-P-I-R-I-A. Somehow, where I lived in New Jersey, Suspiria wasn’t distributed. Eventually, though, I do remember seeing the title in video stores, and oddly ignoring it. I guess I was in my own fog at the time. When I finally watched the film, I felt like it was a religious experience. The same feeling I got while watching The House with Laughing Windows. It’s the kind of movie that must be properly viewed at night, in darkness, in stereo. Any other way diminishes it. The music by Goblin is so dense and multi-layered. Synthesizers, rhythm guitars, real instruments, all kinds of drums. You can get lost in its labyrinth design. Especially the beginning of the Suspiria theme. It starts off with a child’s lullaby, actually beautiful and soft but then these obscene whispers crash in and the drum beats more insistent.

3.) THE FOG

My mother and I saw The Fog in theatres in 1980. I was 10. We were already fans of Carpenter’s Halloween. The theatre was called Totowa Cinema on Route 46 in Totowa, New Jersey. My father owned a Jewelry and Bridal Store in the mall where the movie played. I remember my mother was slightly disappointed by The Fog, I guess because she was comparing it to Halloween, but I absolutely loved the film. Everything about it. I was electrified. I was completely obsessed with the images and sounds and murky ghost storyline. The Fog. I’d illustrate the title, in its own special font on my grammar school notebooks. I always loved typography. The music in this film totally jumped out at me…just like Halloween…and there’s a mysterious knocking at the door. TAP. TAP. TAP. TAP. I used to mimic that all the time on different doors….There was a wood burning stove in our garage and I used the stoker to strike the door, pretending I was one of the ghouls. Around this time, I played an electronic organ. I’d sit home and fantasize. Low tones. Also, I played the pounding beat on electronic drums in my basement. I’d pound the drums, in a trance, over and over. It’s that section of the film where the fog is chasing everyone through the streets. Ahhhh. I love that. Nothing beats the Moog synthesizer analogue soundscape. It just pushes my button. When I purchased the soundtrack to The Fog I listened to it non-stop. You get the feeling that something is chasing you…and it’s coming closer and closer….The film has state-of-the-art moody electronic sound design.

4.) HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH

It was 1982. I was 12 and I couldn’t wait for its release. The commercials on TV were striking with a spider crawling out of an old hag’s mouth accompanied by nightmarish music. I was so excited. The Night No one Comes Home. Perfect tag line. Then I saw the film. I already read the tie-in book, so I knew what to expect…Robots. I liked the film but didn’t love it. Still, I admired its fresh approach and loved its Dean Cundey widescreen cinematography. Mostly, mainly, I was ecstatic about the music. What perfect electronic horror music! I bought the album and listened to it endlessly. I still do. While nothing beats the theme to the original, overall as an album, this is definitely a better listening experience…and with the widest selection of doom-laced worlds. To me, it sounds like it would be a very dark solo album from Greg Hawkes, the imaginative keyboardist from The Cars. For example, Drive to Santa Mira…it has the distinct John Carpenter low toned vibe while incorporating a new dreamy organ with lots of reverb. Every single track stands out as an example of haunting mood music. John Carpenter and Alan Howarth created magic here. This is synth horror heaven and should probably be number one on my list. I could just listen to Halloween 3: Season of the Witch until the end of time.

5.) SOUNDS TO MAKE YOU SHIVER

This is actually not a movie but a horror sound fx album. It was played around Halloween in the 70’s and 80’s…and in many different funhouses as background music. Halloween was every day for me, so I’d listen to Sounds to Make You Shiver all the time, especially from 1st to 6th grade. The album consists mainly of moans and screams and thunderstorms. First we hear a woman groaning in pain and a man sadistically laughing with a chain clanging in the background. You feel like you’re in a dungeon. I got lost in the howling wind and thunderstorms and creepy, thick atmospheres. In a trance, I would listen…My imagination lighting up. Side 2 has variations of screams, witches cackles, cats, growling dogs and more moody and violent storms. Midway through, the sounds morph into an ambient, almost experimental piece with dreamy piano, guitar and bells…mixed with echoed footsteps…and a chain dragging on a castle floor.

6.) THE SHINING

At times you can hear devils giggling. I used to scare my younger brother just by playing the music. This spine-tingling score by Wendy Carlos, a pioneer in electronic music, has an almost demonic power. I swear it’s transmitted straight from hell. The opening theme is expertly constructed…so delicately woven…It’s bone-chilling. Atmospheric, psychedelic, macabre and surreal…It floats on another plane. There is nothing like this Moog synthesizer music, it creates its own space. I love Wendy’s score for A Clockwork Orange too. Her sound is so otherworldly….

7.) ALICE, SWEET ALICE

My cousin, Alfred Sole’s film, doesn’t have a soundtrack that’s released and it should. Stephen Lawrence conjures one of the most dreamily sinister themes I’ve ever heard. I’m referring to the sparkling lullaby mixed with the menacing tones and breathy vocals. It’s cold and sleek and evil as can be, just like the movie. The swirling violins are unnerving and in-your-face. I love all the small interludes with haunted piano and reverb. The opening titles music is surprisingly reserved and reminds me of a warped version of The Godfather. Very Italian…family tragedy….On the DVD copies, you can find a montage of the film’s old stills…and the music playing over these images is the breathy, ice-cold theme to Alice, Sweet Alice…extended. I loop it over and over….

8.) SCANNERS

Howard Shore scored The Brood and Videodrome, also favorites. He’s an expert in somber, deadly serious soundscapes. You don’t just hear them, you feel them. The trancelike electronic music here is percolating, staccato, moaning in pain. He captures emotional violence. In fact, my first short film was called Emotional Violence. It got me into Pratt Institute, the film department. It was a non-linear montage about a suicidal girl with an abusive boyfriend and mother. My mother, an actress, played the mother. I had Scanners music throughout. How could I resist? I know I could never sell it. I can’t find the film now.

9.) THE THING

This soundtrack reminds me of being in high school and listening to the cassette on my walkman. I’d get completely lost in this gorgeous, classy horror music. It’s amazing how Ennio Morricone was channeling John Carpenter, intentionally or not. Sometimes it really sounds like him. I love Morricone’s The Bird with the Crystal Plumage too. That should be on this top 10 list. The Thing’s theme, with its pulsating electronic tone, is genuinely hypnotic. I can play it over and over and over. There’s something off-kilter, almost avant garde in its repetitiveness. It’s minimalist. But not all of the soundtrack is like that. There are violin compositions that are spacious, warm, lush and eerie. There are also some screeching violins that are all-out terrifying.

10.) CHRISTINE

Cold and pristine, John Carpenter’s Christine score is embedded in my psyche. Just like the soundtracks to Halloween, Halloween 2, Halloween 3, The Fog and Prince of Darkness, Christine has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. A bit clipped, which makes for a jumpy listening experience. But it’s not really meant to stand on its own, even though it does. John Carpenter is all about scoring to picture. It’s thin and glacial and it works. The throbbing baritone employed throughout is pure old-school Carpenter. I love it. The scene where Arnie says, ‘Show me’ and that electronic bell pierces through the atmosphere…followed by the galloping low tone…cinematic magic. It takes my breath away and sometimes brings a tear to my eye. I’m in awe of the way the music changes the environment, how it completely elevates and transforms the scene. The chase compositions are melodic. There’s that propulsive beat that feels like all early Carpenter themes wrapped into one.