Official Traumatizer: Author Richard Adams

Very recently (12,24,16) we lost the great and noble inadvertent traumatizer, author RICHARD ADAMS who passed away at the ripe old age of 96. Two of ADAMS’ books, WATERSHIP DOWN and PLAGUE DOGS, both concerning the plight of vulnerable animals in a heartless world, were turned into animated feature films which subsequently have been responsible for more indelible anguish than any less well meaning horror film. I think it’s safe to say that on these pages we have received more traumafessions (HERE, HERE and HERE for example) regarding WATERSHIP DOWN than any flick starring Freddy Krueger. With it’s notorious “shotgun scene,” PLAGUE DOGS makes it clear that it’s just as woke, savvy and capable of shredding viewers every preconception of what animated films were capable of depicting.

I wish I could honestly tell you that I’ve read either of the books mentioned but no, I haven’t and I can safely say that I never will because hey, I know my limitations. I’m sure I told you before that I’d rather see a human decapitated than a bunny with a splinter. In any case, we here at Kindertrauma salute RICHARD ADAMS eternally for fighting the good fight and opening so many minds to the vulnerability and emotional complexity of our four-footed friends. WATERSHUP DOWN and PLAGUE DOGS may have traumatized many an unsuspecting young viewer but sometimes that’s what you have to do to shake a human from his or her cocoon of complacency. Like any great Artist ADAMS changed a lot of hearts. Now go hug the nearest animal in honor of him!

Official Traumatizer:: Suspiria TV Commercial

Now seems like a good time to award the infamous SUSPIRIA TV commercial with the coveted OFFICIAL TRAUMATIZER award! I mean, what could be more 2016 than a benign, almost comforting image that spins around to reveal a shrieking death skull? Seriously- what gives with this evil commercial? You don’t have to be Don Draper to know that television ads don’t traditionally threaten the viewer with their own demise. What’s more impressive is the fact that this TV spot is so wickedly brazen that it doesn’t even deign to derive its power from one of the most visually stunning films in the history of horror! Moreover, by most accounts this seething slap of psychosis was broadcast willy-nilly and any time of the day scarring unsuspecting kids across the country (for which we thank it). Here are just a few choice trauma-testimonials we’ve harvested thus far….

Reader Bilgin:

When SUSPIRIA first came out, I remembered seeing the trailer for it on TV. All you would see is a woman brushing her hair from behind and her singing, “Roses are red, violets are blue, the iris is a flower…..(something, something) SUSPIRIA!! After that, every time it came on, my sister and I would run from the room. Needless to say, since my mom was a horror lover we ended up seeing it at a matinee. I was 9 and my sister was 6.

Father of Tears:

I was “introduced” to this TV trailer back in 1977 during a commercial break for “Welcome Back Kotter”. I first thought it was some surreal shampoo commercial until “she” turned around! It was one of those “heart leap into throat” scares! I was 10 when that came out and every time it was on I would run out of the room while my 7-year old sister would RUN into the room to watch it!

For the above reasons and more the SUSPIRIA TV commercial deserves to be recognized as an audacious, self-standing trauma-inducing device of the highest order and for that we salute it! Of course, words can never do it justice so make sure to watch the menace to society below….

Official Traumatizer: The Day After (1983)

Hey kids! Would you like to render every horror movie you’ve ever seen into a relatively benign, shrug-worthy snore-fest? Just watch THE DAY AFTER (1983)! You’ll wish you were being stalked by a mutant serial killer, tormented by devil worshipers or mercilessly hunted by space creatures when you get a glimpse of the very real devastation of nuclear radiation! Witness how after a nuclear attack, everyday concerns like paying bills, your home team winning the big game or the slavish upgrading of your home media collection take a backseat to worrying about obtaining uncontaminated water while your skin, hair and teeth painfully dissolve into puddles of toxic sludge.

THE DAY AFTER aired on November 20, 1983 and was watched by so many viewers that, to this day, it remains the highest watched TV movie in history. Many folks who were too young to watch the initial broadcast were later shown the brazenly kindertraumatic reality-check in school (like your Aunt John for example). No matter where they caught it, a generation was forever changed by the searing nightmare scenario that hit a little too close to home. THE DAY AFTER has been brought up too many times on these pages to count them all but feel free to revisit these two classic traumafessions HERE and HERE!

And watch the movie below! I know it seems like it could never happen but trust me, lots of things that seem like they could never happen, do. I mean, you wouldn’t think a movie that features the super talents of both JOBETH “Get away from my babies!” WILLIAMS and STEVE “Get away from my VILLAGE PEOPLE!” GUTTENBERG could ever happen but lo and behold, here it is…

Sunday Streaming:: Something Evil (1972)

It’s time again for Sunday Streaming! This past weekend has put me in the mood for SOMETHING EVIL! This made for television movie from 1972 stars our dear departed friends SANDY DENNIS and DARREN McGAVIN and features JOHNNY WHITAKER of A TALKING CAT? fame! It was directed by that guy who did DUEL! You can read more about it in THIS post from 2007 but maybe you shouldn’t because look how I used to write in big giant mounds of indecipherable goobledegook that today, even I can’t decipher! What the hell?! Best to just to enjoy the fine movie below!

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!

Kinterview :: Candle Cove Creator Kris Straub

The other day while trying to hunt down a “Name That Trauma!” I came across several mentions of a local television show from the early seventies entitled CANDLE COVE. The show seemed to have left a hefty impression on the unfortunate young souls who made a habit of watching it. CANDLE COVE was about a little girl named Janice and her interactions with a group of pirates that were portrayed by cheap looking puppets. For a kid’s show, CANDLE COVE was dark and twisted in a way that only a seventies show could get away with. There was even a villain named “The Skin Taker” and his cape appeared to be sewn together pieces of-you guessed it… skin. How had I never heard of CANDLE COVE before and why did it sound slightly familiar anyway? Finally I found a conversational thread that seemed to verify the existence of this highly kindertraumatic creation. Please take a moment and read it HERE.

…Did you read it? Don’t lie to me. Okay, so it turns out that CANDLE COVE was never really a show at all but spawned from a work of short fiction written by one KRIS STRAUB. Something about KRIS’ creation stuck a cord with the Internet and now CANDLE COVE is beginning to crystallize into a modern urban legend of sorts right before our eyes. Some refuse to believe that it never existed and some believe that they have witnessed it themselves. You have to admit after reading that thread that it doesn’t sound too far off from the conversations we have here at Kindtrauma, with different people remembering different bits until finally something solid takes form. I think the last comment that closes KRIS’ piece is brilliant. It captures just how diabolical and intrusive these vague memories from childhood can sometimes feel. I’m happy to say that I was able to track down KRIS for a short interview for you guys so here it is!

UNK: I almost didn’t want to reveal CANDLE COVE as a work of fiction but then I realized that no matter how many times that fact is put out there, some people refuse to believe that it’s not real. What’s it like to know that something you created has taken on a life of its own and in such a relatively short amount of time?

KRIS STRAUB: At first I wasn’t aware that it had happened at all. I had a horror fiction site, ICHOR FALLS, where I posted CANDLE COVE initially, and it ended up shared without my knowledge at much more popular horror fiction sites, where it reached a much bigger audience. I know 4chan helped to spread it around. The first time I saw people re-enacting the story, post for post, to scare an unsuspecting forum, I was so gratified. I kind of wrote it just to get the idea out of my head.

One of the things that I think let it take on a life of its own is how vague it is, and how earnest the show seems to be before all the scary stuff is revealed. So many things that scare us as kids start from this innocuous desire to entertain children, but it’s produced carelessly, or some special effect comes out way more ponderous or ugly than the creators intended, and it lingers as we, as children, try to make it fit with our limited understanding of the world. I think we have all been disturbed by shows and movies that have failed us in that way.

UNK: CANDLE COVE has inspired fan videos, fan fiction, music and a Facebook page promising a future movie. What addition to the CANDLE COVE legend have you been most taken aback by?

KRIS STRAUB: I like that people are excited about the story, but I get nervous when I see someone trying to make a film or their own CANDLE COVE books and stories. One of the good and bad things about how quick the story became an urban legend is that people really do think it’s an urban legend with no origin and no author. Fan work is great, but I’m very torn about balancing the fact that it is copyrighted and I do own the story, with the idea that it is in the nature of the story to be spread, namelessly, in dark corners of the internet. I know that serves the mythos way more than me being a litigious dick about it.

As far as being taken aback, I never know how serious Rule 34 is. The rule of the internet that states that if it’s a thing, then there’s porn of it on the internet. So there’s some sexy CANDLE COVE stuff out there that I hope was made as a personal self-challenge, and not a real, living desire to see Horace Horrible get it on with the Skin-Taker.

UNK: Can you tell us a little bit about your website ICHOR FALLS and the inspirations behind CANDLE COVE?

KRIS STRAUB: ICHOR FALLS is a collection of stories revolving around a fictional West Virginia town of the same name. I started writing them out of a love of Lovecraftian horror — not horror where someone gets chopped up, but where someone is made to realize that they don’t really understand the forces that drive the world, but they’ve seen too much of the truth. I also came to love the short stories of STEVEN MILLHAUSER, who doesn’t write horror per se, but creates these little universes where one good idea is taken too far, and then he takes it even further. Most of them are really unsettling.

Believe it or not, CANDLE COVE was specifically inspired by an old article on THE ONION: “Area 36-Year-Old Still Has Occasional Lidsville Nightmare.” It’s so accurate. I don’t know what dark entities SID & MARTY KROFFT spent time in the thrall of, but everything they made to entertain kids is tinged with this unearthly, utterly alien sensibility. I looked up the call letters for a TV station in that area of West Virginia and the names of nearby towns, and it lent the story a little verisimilitude.

UNK: I feel like you could take this idea as far as you like. Do you have anything in store for the future as far as CANDLE COVE and its burgeoning mythos?

KRIS STRAUB: It’s tough! I started to get really excited in continuing the mythos, but I think CANDLE COVE works because it is brief and vague and interrupted. I think to put a name or face to whatever is behind the making of the show is to spoil the magic. I always appreciated THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT for never showing us the witch. A CGI monster can never be as scary as what we invent in our own minds as a placeholder.

I have an idea keeping with the forum-post format, that involves someone asking around an auction site like eBay for the original tapes. There have also been some fan attempts to debunk CANDLE COVE (which always happens quickly, especially if people see this interview), but I’d like to write a whole meta-novella where someone decides to publish their attempts to expose CANDLE COVE and finds more than they were expecting.

UNK: Last but not least, I’ve got to try and get a traumafession out of you. What was the first movie, TV show, etc. that you remember being truly terrified of as kid?

KRIS STRAUB: I think I have a good one. There was an ABC AFTERSCHOOL SPECIAL from the ’80s, “Cousin Kevin,” about this little bespectacled kid whose imagination was too real for the babysitter. There’s one sequence where Cousin Kevin is imagining that they’re in the Arctic, and they’re attacked by “30-foot-tall carnivorous killer penguins.” They were stop-motion-animated by the Chiodo Bros., I remember that. All the effects were.

So Kevin and his babysitter escape and hide in a tiny igloo, and the penguin breaks it open easily, and Kevin says “watch out for their acid saliva!” and this huge fake penguin beak oozes steaming slime on the babysitter as he struggles and screams and begs for Kevin to end the fantasy. The whole scene is so nightmarish and claustrophobic! It wrecked me for months. There are more moments like that I’m sure, but it’s the only one I can remember. I would give anything to find that episode again.

UNK: Thanks KRIS for the interview and for CANDLE COVE. I have to admit that somewhere in the back of my mind I’m still not convinced that it wasn’t real either. Kids, Make sure you step insde KRIS‘ permanent residence KRISSTRAUB.COM to see all the other cool stuff pouring out of his head!

Official Traumatizer :: Tom Holland

Hey remember when we used to give out “Official Traumatizer” titles to worthy folks? Why’d we ever stop doing that? Was it because nobody cared? That’s no reason to stop doing stuff! With the remake of FRIGHT NIGHT right around the corner wouldn’t this be a swell time to send some gratitude toward the man responsible for writing and directing the classic original? I’d say so.


HOLLAND wrote PSYCHO II and what an incredible accomplishment that is. Personally I can’t imagine a better handling of the material and stand even more impressed knowing it was done under what had to be the most cynical of scrutiny. I’d like to strangle QUENTIN TARANTINO for stating that he prefers the second PSYCHO to the first on account of I wanted to say that myself. Sure, HITCH’s take is brilliant and genius and a cinematic landmark and all that but PSYCHO II is my idea of the perfect movie. People should rip it off more often. You guys know I love my semi-gothic, creepy-antique-y social reject films and you know that I love the type of movie where somebody may get a butcher knife crammed in the back of their skull till the tip of the blade appears in their gaping pie hole right? Well, you almost never see both of those wonderful elements in the same movie. Yes, a rich psychological character study with satisfying kills is doable. All you “Back Stories Ruin the Horror! “ people take a hike. HOLLAND adds many a layer to our understanding of Norman while maintaining apt space for sympathy and fear (or empathy and unease) to collide like gangbusters. Respect is paid toward the original while still moving forward into fresh territory. Good sequels are possible and I present you with this “Exhibit A.”


Aw, who doesn’t have a soft spot for FRIGHT NIGHT? From wolf toe to burnt-by -crucifix forehead it’s all about the love of the genre. HOLLAND probably had the most creative control on this picture, as both writer and director, and the outcome speaks for itself. Exemplary special effects, genuine scares and thrills, comedy that doesn’t make you cringe, a notable cast of players and bad guys as intriguing as the good. It’s no wonder this movie is so beloved, it’s got a rare adventurous spirit, it celebrates its rag tag eccentric’s foibles and as frothy fun as its willing to be, it’s not afraid to go dark and get its paws messy with real horror and even pathos. Admit it, some of it is rather touching. It’s a real shame HOLLAND wasn’t required (or pleaded and begged with) to participate in the sequel because FRIGHT NIGHT had the makings of an epic series of films. I know the HOLLAND-less FN:P2 has its supporters but to me, it’s quite the pale shadow.


If public perception of CHILD’S PLAY is that it is a wacky parody cheesefest of some sort then the public have not watched the original film lately. It’s mostly a restrained affair, all things considered, and boy does it know what to show, plus how much to show of it and when. The killer doll storyline is inherently humorous but that doesn’t dilute CHILD’S PLAY’s ability to hit the nail on the head expressing parental fears about the limits of being able to keep a child from harm and bad influences. From a child’s perspective, we’re talking Kindertrauma gold here. What child hasn’t had the horrific fantasy of their smiling toys coming to life and isn’t one of the scariest parts of growing up learning that some people may only pretend to be your friend? Chucky would go on to be a towering figure in the world of horror, but much of that is due to the fact that the first floor of his skyscraping presence is sturdy as hell.


As if the above three slabs of awesome were not enough, HOLLAND had his hand in two of my favorite trash treasures… CLASS OF 1984 and THE BEAST WITHIN. He wrote the little seen and underloved home invasion flick SCREAM FOR HELP (1984) (which was directed by DEATH WISH’s MICHAEL WINNER and is tons of tacky fun), he directed CLOAK & DAGGER which inspired a traumafession HERE and his output includes two above average/serviceable STEPHEN KING adaptations with THINNER and the T.V. miniseries THE LANGOLIERS.

Speaking of television, HOLLAND was behind the classic made-for-T.V. movie THE INITIATION OF SARA, directed THE STRANGER WITHIN (which we received a traumafession for HERE) and has put his stamp on stellar episodes of TALES FROM THE CRYPT, AMAZING STORIES and a very Kindertraumatic killer clown episode of MASTERS OF HORROR entitled “We All Scream For Ice Cream” (review HERE.)

As an actor, TOM HOLLAND is the only person on Earth who can lay claim to performing alongside both INGRID BERGMAN (A WALK IN THE SPRING RAIN) and master thespian VICTOR CROWLEY (HATCHET II). I started this post to spotlight HOLLAND’s artistry and position as a true traumatizer, but I have come to realize that he is the CHUCK NORRIS of horror. Dude even got some training from BRUCE LEE and took on THE INCREDIBLE HULK (Okay well, he didn’t actually get to fight the green one in the season two episode “Another Path” but almost!) There are careers and then there are careers. He may not be the household name that some of his contemporaries are but one thing is indisputable, TOM HOLLAND has had a hulkian effect on cinema and consequently, the pages of Kindertrauma.

Official Traumatizer :: Vincent Price

AUNT JOHN SEZ: Hi kids, your Unk and I have to shuffle off to Saskatchewan for a belated Boxing Day barbecue. Despite the short notice, we managed to rope in REDBOY for a third babysitting engagement. So everyone, please be on your best behavior for REDBOY, and be sure to check out all of the great yuletide tuneage he has been featuring on BLUES FOR THE REDBOY.

blues for the redboy

“I don’t play monsters. I play men besieged by fate and out for revenge”


Now, when I say I love VINCENT PRICE, I mean I love VINCENT PRICE in the strictly platonic/borderline obsessive way you love VINCENT PRICE; that is to say, I think of him as an artist whose contribution elevates otherwise tasteless fare with a modicum of respectability; not to mention a dry, malevolent, Prospero-like wit (MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH is both PRICE an CORMAN’s masterwork).

That is, for all intents and purposes, an accurate description, no? He did manage to class up the MUPPETS for Christ’s sake.

Someone had to; Lord knows it wasn’t gonna be JOHN DENVER.

Then there are PRICE’s cultural contributions, of which they are many. There is his vast private art collection and affordable signature line of paintings marketed through Sears; his endowment of priceless (pun firmly intended) works to the East L.A. College in an effort to establish California’s first and only teaching art collection.

Talk about contributions…have you ever even listened to the intro to ‘Black Widow’ off of ALICE COOPER’s ‘Welcome to my Nightmare’ album?

No? Seriously? Travesty! Were talking several years before Thriller, man…Thriller!

Most people don’t even know that PRICE is the first person to trip-face on LSD in a major studio film (Hint: The Walls! The Walls!). Even LUGOSI never managed that and he was a morphine addict.

But, you see, that’s the essence of VINCENT PRICE: He’s like the thespian equivalent of a throw pillow or a giant ceramic statue of a Great Dane…he classes up the joint, but that’s not to say PRICE can’t be campy.

My childhood introduction to PRICE was such; His Mephistophelean goatee jutting out of my T.V. screen in 3D; the multicolored glasses generously donated by my local 7-11 for their WPIX broadcast of THE MAD MAGICIAN (that saw blade came right out of the f%$kin’ screen, man!).

I say introduction for lack of a better word. I know I was aware of PRICE in the larger sense that I understood the peculiar service he served on the seventies variety circuit: a creepy ringer called in to sub (more often than not, when LON CHANEY JR. was too drunk,) as some melodramatic “ham-pire”, chewing the scenery like the alabaster curves of a virgin’s nubile young neck, but I’ll get to PRICE’s turn as Dracula in a moment…

Having come into this world, as I did, at the tail end of flairs and plaids, yet well before neon and shoulder-pads leveled the fashionable playing field, my most lingering memories of PRICE are perhaps his ‘70s / ‘80s input, understood by many to be the twilight of his acting career; PRICE’s regular appearances on HOLLYWOOD SQUARES being any indication.

Man, that show sure was the kiss of death for ones acting career; just ask PAUL LYNDE (wait, you can’t; he OD’d on amyl nitrate in the company of a male prostitute. Oh well…)

Anyway, PRICE had been making his rent for some time staring in a series of low budget features; the most memorable, at least to my impressionable young mind, being the made-for-T.V. ONCE UPON A MIDNIGHT SCARY and the equally entertaining, if not overly melodramatic HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS.

I suppose one could further count PRICE’s roll as spokesperson for the Milton Bradley’s Shrunken Head Apple Sculpture kit’ -a feather in any aspiring actors cap, to be sure- but that would be showing my age, being about half way to a shrunken head myself.

ONCE UPON A MIDNIGHT SCARY premiered on basic CBS in the 1979, having been developed for T.V. in the midst of the ‘70s anthology film craze (TRILOGY OF TERROR, anyone?). SCARY features three tales adapted from American folklore and young-adult novels of it’s time, of which PRICE had been commissioned to slather his ghoulish charm on deliciously thick as the narrator and host of each segment.

The first tale, told from the fireside glow of PRICE’s Victorian library, is based the young adult novel ‘This Ghost Belongs to Me’ by Richard Peck (1975). ‘Ghost’ concerns a young boy and the disembodied tenant living in his barn; a specter who has a thing for extremely vague prophecy.

Having read the book, let me assure you that the production company spared every expense in this lame ghost’s production, though to be fair, it is rather hard to establish any useful narrative in less than ten minutes. However, the video editing machine employed must have been working overtime to crank this disappointing segment out cause I seen better screen-wipes on New Wave Theatre reruns.

Of the three tales, ‘Ghost’ should cross over, if not be passed over. Lucky for us, it is the exception to the rule.

The second tale is a brief (one might say ’Fat Free’) retelling of Washington Irving’s famous American Folk tale ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.’ This is where the film hits its stride.

Being no stranger to the headless ghost angle, I had previously put the paces on a video copy of Disney’s telling from the ‘50s narrated/crooned by BING CROSBY, not to mention suffering through a seventies version staring JEFF GOLDBLOOM and DICK BUTKUS in the titular roles. But there was something inherent to PRICE’s version which freaked me the hell out where those other versions seemed tame…now what was it… Oh, I know! Perhaps it was the Horseman’s severed HUMAN head being thrown at the T.V., laughing maniacally as it strafes towards ole’ Icabod (RENE AURBERJONOIS).

Sure. It seems corny now, but whereas the innocuous pumpkin proved the defacto stand-in for a freshly lopped top where families were concerned, this rotten, meth-mouthed head w/ it’s tri-cornered hat, hollow eyes and tussled hair really got to me…though not as much as the dead witch screaming to life in PRICE’s third tale.

‘The House w/ a Clock in It’s Walls’ (1973) is adapted from the book of the same name by celebrate children’s author John Belairs. ‘Clock’ deals w/ young Lewis Barnevelt and his strange Uncle Jonathan (played by exploitation film veteran SEVERN DARDEN), a mysterious man who spends his nights listening to the ticking within the walls of his house in order to find a cursed clock (assembled by the home’s previous owner; a powerful warlock named Isaac Izzard) designed to strike and bring about doomsday. That generally wouldn’t be a problem (Doomsday, quite unlike Christmas, being a ways off), but when Lewis accidentally uses black magic to summon the dead wife of the clock’s inventor, Selena Izzard, Lewis and uncle Jonathan must race against time (again, pun firmly intended) to stop Mrs. Izzard from carrying out her husband’s evil plan.

Having been a huge fan of Belair’s Lewis Barnevelt series, particularly the first editions illustrated by Edward Gorey, I was sufficiently creeped out as a child seeing Mrs. Izzard use the ‘Hand of Glory’ (an alchemical charm derived from a hanged man’s hand and the rended fat of a black cat) to paralyze the Barnavelts while she decides the most horrible way to dispatch them. Equally unsettling is the scene in the graveyard where Lewis and his friend Tarby (whom Lewis is trying to impress) perform the resurrection spell as outlined in Uncle Jonathan’s Grimoire; the Ghost of Mrs. Izzard bursting out of her Mausoleum from behind them with a flash of thunder and lightening.

I won’t ruin the ending of this last story, sufficed to say that once PRICE has finished spinning his final yarn in this trifecta of tales, he very leisurely slips on his cape, bids the view adieu and takes to the skies as the literary icon Dracula, tying the whole affair together with a nod to Bram Stoker’s groundbreaking novel.

PRICE’s absence would not be for long, however, as he soon would return to haunt my Saturday afternoons with one of his most offbeat, and as fate would have it, last motion picture roles, short of voiceover work, before his death in ’92.

THE HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS (1983) saw a lot of airplay in the early eighties, thanks in no small part to the USA cable network and their four-hour Commander USA’s Groovie Movies programming block on Saturday afternoons (I still have my membership card). Incidentally, Commander USA regularly aired another 1980’s PRICE vehicle, the subtly titled BLOODBATH AT THE HOUSE OF DEATH.

SHADOW’s was adapted from the 1913 book ‘Seven Keys to Baldpate’ (pronounced: Baldpator), later reworked into a popular stage play the same year. The plot deals with a wager between a writer (DESI ARNEZ JR.) and his agent, the latter who maintains that his charge could not write a novel of ‘Wuthering Heights’ proportions in under twenty-four hours. In order to accomplish this feat, the author procures the only known key to an abandoned country estate in England so he can write in solitude. Problem is, once settled in, the author is beset upon by several visitors, each more mysterious then the next and all with their own key to the estate; their purpose: to check up on their criminally insane little brother whom they very thoughtfully entombed alive in the house forty years prior.

Seems like a totally reasonable reaction, right?

SHADOWS is interesting on several fronts, as is evident by the casting. The film remains the first and only time VINCENT PRICE, CHRISTOPHER LEE, PETER CUSHING, and JOHN CARADINE have all shared the screen together and, in an even more unfortunate turn of events, marks the last time both CHRISTOPHER LEE and PETER CUSHING would appear on screen as a pair, as was customary during their tenure at Hammer Studios.

SHADOWS, though slow moving, is incredibly atmospheric, bringing to mind the films of TOD BROWNING (OLD DARK HOUSE) and sharing more than a passing resemblance to Agatha Christies ‘And Then There Were None.’ However, just because the film is atmospheric, does not mean it does not have its share of gore. There are hangings, battle ax eviscerations, poison and the odd eye-bulging strangulation once the pawns are all in place.

In a particularly gristly scene, a wash basin filled with sulfuric acid manages to disintegrate the face of a beautiful boarder as she freshens up, dissolving the skin down to the very visible bone. My favorite scene, however, is the discovery of murderous brother Roderick’s empty cell, inhumanly clawed about the moldings, littered with the rotten corpses of recent victims and moldy, maggot-ridden children’s toys.

These scenes are still just as strong today, the film as a whole being rather graphic for it’s time (it was rated PG!).

As with any competent suspense story, there is a twist, or rather, several; but unlike M. NIGHT SHAMALAN’s hackney eyed self-aggrandizing plot contrivances (BRUCE WILLIS is dead; water kills aliens; etc…), these twists are genuinely strange and ultimately works for a film which prides itself on it’s offbeat casting and plot.

PRICE would go on to other appearances, mostly T.V. before his final and much deserved star turn in EDWARD SCISSORHANDS, but for my money (and perhaps I am biased), nothing touches his later work; even though the scripts might not have been top notch, PRICE, again, was able to bring a touch of charm and malevolence to his roles that very few actors could nor would for fear of invoking that most dreaded professional misfortune: typecasting. But typecasting can be deceptive, for whereas it can turn a perfectly good actor into a second stringer, when under the right circumstances, it can turn a perfectly great actor into an icon.

I believe this is something PRICE struggled with, but ultimately embraced before his death; and lucky for us that he did so, as yet another generation was afforded the opportunity to enjoy the company of an actor whom ROGER CORMAN billed as a “Titan of Terror” and who of himself once remarked:

“I sometimes feel that I’m impersonating the dark unconscious of the whole human race. I know this sounds sick, but I love it.”

We love it too, VINCENT. Thanks

The RedBoy.

Official Traumatizer :: Reverend Henry Kane

Isn’t it time that the character of Reverend Henry Kane was made an Official Traumatizer? He has been spoken of several times before on these here pages (for example: THIS early traumafession from kinder-pal Ralphus), and he is likely to appear many times again. Not bad considering he owes his existence to one much maligned sequel (POLTERGEIST 2: THE OTHER SIDE) and one even more maligned sequel (POLTERGEIST 3.) Regardless of the end result of either movie, Kane persists and even those who talk smack about POLTERGEIST 2 have to admit that his presence, (especially the scene where he tries to gain entrance to the Freeling’s home) is supremely memorable. His staying power is even more impressive when you consider that different actors portrayed the character in each film (JULIAN BECK in PART 2, NATHAN DAVIS in PART 3 with voice assist by an uncredited COREY BURTON.)

Undoubtedly, the more indelible take on Kane is the introductory one provided by poet/painter/theater legend JULIAN BECK in POLTERGEIST 2: THE OTHER SIDE. BECK was suffering from colon cancer during the filming, which might partially explain an authentic aura of illness and decrepitude that hangs over the character. Unfortunately BECK died before the film was completed and Kane’s final assault on the Freeling clan was in the form of a special effects driven creature known as “THE BEAST” designed brilliant by H.R. GIGER, but poorly executed within the film. (Check out some of GIGER’s amazing work for POLTERGEIST 2 HERE.)

POLTERGEIST 2 may have left some fans disappointed by replacing the original’s roller-coaster vibe with a pungent cloud of morbid navel gazing, but it’s not without its effective moments. One should not allow its corny “Grandma angel” conclusion to erase the well-orchestrated set pieces involving Kane. The reverend’s shopping center overture towards the young Carol Anne (HEATHER O’ROARKE) is, quite simply, every parent’s (and every child’s for that matter) nightmare.

I’ve always been a bit confused by the term “interesting failure,” if something is interesting then, in my book, it cannot be considered a failure. Take POLTERGEIST 3 for example; sure, it’s a hot mess but I can’t get enough of it. I know it’s about as subtle as a Tourette’s sufferer with a bullhorn and more annoying than a local theater production of ANNIE and yet I adore its over the top clumsiness and am fascinated with its physical effects and mirror-play. (Plus director GARY SHERMAN, DEAD AND BURIED, VICE SQUAD, just sort of rules.) Kane’s presence here is more of a spectral trickster with the power to alter reality than the evil JIM JONES messiah of PART 2, but he is still a great stand in for the grim reaper and he can still work that hat.

NOTE: The above picture, which inspired this post, was sent by our pal Dave over at the exhaustively informative site POLTERGEIST III. It is from the originally filmed ending of PART 3 (notice a frozen Carol Anne in the background.) Check out Dave’s awesome reconstruction of that lost scene HERE.

Reverend Henry Kane’s identity as a horror icon was hard won but thanks to repeated television airings of the POLTERGEIST sequels, home video, DVD and the power of the Internet he has gained some pretty secure footing as a titan of terror. He has appeared on an album cover for the band ANTHRAX, made a cameo in the SOUTH PARK episode “Imaginationland” and even shows up to fight in the game MORTAL COMBAT. With his lanky frame, sinister persona and predatory disposition, he is the rightful heir to one point in a horror troika that also includes PHANTASM’s TALL MAN and the ever popular FREDDY KRUEGER. His sickly, debilitated appearance gives rise to primal fears of aging and death, while his slithery soft tone and toothy grimace evoke memories of the candy-baiting creepy stranger we were all warned about in our youth. Upping the fear quotient further is the fact that Kane was once a beloved leader of a religious flock who twisted his disciples’ faith to cause their own ruin. He represents the unrepentant fanatical zealot, a figure that can partake in evil and never suffer the arrows of self-doubt or feel remorse. He’s not evil…YOU are! What’s scarier than that?

If you are still not convinced that reverend Kane deserves the honor of “Official Traumatizer” imagine this; your doorbell rings RIGHT NOW, you open your door to find him standing there, smiling from ear to ear. He says, “Let me in.” When you say, “No” he screams “You’re all gonna die!” I don’t know about you but, I just succeeded in creeping myself out. Now THAT’S a Traumatizer!