The 2016 Mad Monster Party! Part 1

Good lord almighty, has it honestly been 3 months since I last posted something here? I could spend a whole paragraph explaining why, but I won’t bother. I’ll just sum it up with one word: COLLEGE.

But, it’s officially summer, and with it comes its own brand of horrors; summer camp maniacs…shark infected beaches…and in my personal experience, the weather in South Carolina, that at this moment has resulted in me sitting in front of a fan, with the window open, hating humanity, but still refusing to turn on the AC because I’m a cheap, grumpy old man now. In that vein, I’m devoting the next 3 months to regular updates here, as we enter into the season that I like to think of as one big opening act to Halloween.

To kick it off, we need to talk about this year’s MAD MONSTER PARTY. Let’s jump in.

This year was a quick in and out. I don’t remember why, but I had to leave town much later than I wanted, which meant I arrived at the venue with about an hour and a half to work with before the whole thing closed down for the day. Folks, that is not near enough time to fully explore this particular convention, but you’ll be surprised what you can do when you have to. Luckily, several years of experience with this con has taught me exactly how to effectively prioritize autograph/picture opportunities.

Every year, there’s always one big guest for me. I just call it, creatively enough, THE BIG ONE. The one person that I would make that 90 mile drive to meet even if there was no one else there. This year, it happened to be George Romero, but his line was WAY too long when I first walked in, so for the sake of squeezing as much into the little time I had as I could, I immediately got into line to see my 2nd choice – Adrienne King! Of course, most of you know her as Alice, the final girl from the original Friday the 13th. She was incredibly nice, and luckily, we had a little time to talk. I was hoping to score a bottle of her wine, but she actually said she wasn’t allowed to sell it at the convention. I do plan on ordering some from her website soon though.

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Adrienne King

We talked for a bit and she mentioned that she was always annoyed at how quickly she got killed off in the beginning of Part 2 and the fact that the phone conversation she had in that scene was entirely ad-libbed and done in one take. I also had her record a station ID for Dark Entries: Goth Radio and scored the autograph above. Great times!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, by the time that was all done, Romero’s line had died down enough so that I wouldn’t have to spend an hour standing in it. In fact, it only took a few minutes. I told you guys, my convention game is tight. I don’t mess around. Unfortunately,  he was not allowed to personalize the autographs, but he did scribble his name on this:

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We chatted for a few minutes before I was shooed away from one of his people, but he was incredibly gracious and every bit as cool as I was hoping. He even agrees with what I’ve been saying for years, which is that Day of the Dead is the most underrated in the series. Straight from the lips of the master. You heard it here.

Next up, I went down the hall and knocked out some other favorites. First, I spoke to Ohgr of Skinny Puppy, who I chat with every time I go to this thing. We talked about the possibility of him calling into Dark Entries: Goth Radio sometime for an interview, which would just be the tits. He was selling a copy of John Carpenter’s ‘Lost Themes’ album on vinyl at this table for $40 and it absolutely killed me that I had to leave it there, but I had a tight convention budget that was getting smaller every minute. Let’s just say getting a George Romero autograph ain’t cheap, kids. I love that I’ve reached this surreal point in my life in which I can walk up to Ohgr once a year and he knows exactly who I am.

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A couple tables down I got to meet another one that I was jazzed about – Louis Tripp! You know him as Terry Chandler from The Gate. At least, you should. If not, rectify that immediately! He’s a super nice guy and we talked a bit about his music, which I’m going to play on the show soon. I’m also going to work on getting him to call in for an interview. It was interesting to find that out that he had zero acting aspirations before The Gate, and after The Gate 2, he had no interest in being in movies again. These days, he focuses his energies toward his music and the way he sells it is fascinating. I saw on his table what I thought was a CD, wrapped in a strange fabric with a sort of small tube attached. It turns out, the delivery system for the album is one of the most interesting ways of selling an album I’ve seen in a long time. I really wish I’d broken down and gotten one now, but like I said before… Romero.

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This seems like a solid place to wrap this up. I’ll be back in a few days with Part 2, featuring Dee Wallace, a cool VHS score, the scariest can of pea soup ever, and much more. Keep it spooky. We’re back, kids!

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I finally delve into Clive Barker’s The Scarlet Gospels

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I’ve been falling down on my writing duties around here, but have a good reason. At the moment, I have two jobs and I’m going to school, so free time is at a premium. But, I have at least been consuming a lot of dark media to be covered here, and tonight I decided to finally fire off a review I’ve been looking forward to for a long time.

I’ve said it several times and I’ll say it again. Clive Barker is one of my biggest creative influences and my favorite author/artist of all time. In short, this site will be pretty Barker heavy. I say “will be” because I plan on covering quite of a bit of his work in the near future. This also gives me an excuse to just cover literature in general, which I haven’t done at all. It’s easy to fall into the habit of making this site weighted toward quick film reviews, but trust me, I’m reading as much as I’m watching. If my eyes aren’t glued on a screen somewhere, they’re usually glued to a page.

So, I’m SO INCREDIBLY JAZZED that recently I finally got round to reading last year’s The Scarlet Gospels, Barker’s return to the universe of the Cenobites originally created in The Hellbound Heart. More importantly, it’s the book that finally and definitively kills off Pinhead. This isn’t spoiler material, or at least it shouldn’t be, as Barker never made it a secret that it was to be a major plot point. Folks, this was one of my most anticipated releases of last year and it didn’t disappoint.

In many ways, the book is not only a final goodbye to old guy, but also a love letter to him and to the fans. The plot centers around Harry D’amour, who has appeared several times throughout Barker’s works – first in the short story “The Last Illusion”, then again in the first two books of the Art Trilogy – The Great and Secret Show and Everville (Come on, Clive. FINISH THE DAMN TRILOGY ALREADY. YOU’RE KILLING ME OVER HERE!). He’s also popped up in the Hellraiser comic book series by Boom! Studios, and was most famously portrayed by Scott Bakula in Lord of Illusions, the film adaptation of “The Last Illusion” that was directed by Barker himself.

D’amour, a private detective who plies his trade using all manners of magic, is covered in tattoos, each one serving a specific function, mostly for the purpose of protection against some demon or another. He runs in an elite, underground circle of magicians and serious practitioners of the occult, some of which make up the group that go on to battle Pinhead later in the book. The group is called The Harrowers, a title and concept that Barker had used before in a fantastic Hellraiser series put out by Epic Comics in the ’90’s. That original series deserves its own post and will most likely get it here at some point. I could write one post for each of its individual 20 issues and it still wouldn’t be enough to properly convey how much I loved it.

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The book is a little hard to discuss without giving too much away, but I will say that things have changed since the last time we were introduced to the Cenobites. One thing I loved was that Barker directly addresses the name Pinhead, a name he never particularly cared for. In The Hellbound Heart, he was simply referred to as Priest and in the first Hellraiser film, Lead Cenobite. The original crew stuck him with the name Pinhead, and even in the literary universe in which D’amour resides, he uses the name as a tool to undermine Pinhead’s authority and stature, and essentially annoy (and sometimes enrage) him. In fact, from his first appearance in the book, we finally learn his true, proper name – Hell Priest.

We do get glimpses of other Cenobites, but unfortunately, gone are his original henchmen – the beloved Female Cenobite, Chatterer, and Butterball. Instead, in the last 30+ years, he’s isolated himself somewhat from the hierarchy of Hell, and has his own designs. And yes, in his own way, he has aged. He is much more vicious, and just “nasty” this time around. He’s more physical as well and actually uses his own fists at times to directly dole out punishment instead on only relying on his trademark chains and hooks. Even the nails (and yes, they are nails, not pins), driven at intersecting points on a grid across his face and head, have rusted over time. This is not the same Hell Priest we’ve known before.

Hell itself is also different this time around. Barker never went into too much detail in The Hellbound Heart about how Hell was constructed. In fact, it’s easy to forget that all the backstory and imagery we associate with it came solely from Hellbound: Hellraiser 2. While both the comic series from Epic and Boom! continued the idea of Hell being comprised of an intricate labyrinth of hallways and corridors, ruled over by Leviathan, that concept is separate and much different from Hell’s construction in the universe of the novels. In fact, this time around, Hell is laid out more like a city with its own police force, strict hierarchy, a “government” of sorts, and even slums. It’s also populated by a vast array of demons of all shapes and sizes. Cenobites seem to be in the minority. Oh, and there is one other notable resident who I won’t mention.

I can’t recommend this thing enough. If you’re only familiar with the Hell Priest from the films, I obviously recommend reading The Hellbound Heart first and maybe even check out “The Last Illusion” to get a little back story on Harry D’amour. Both are relatively short and can easily be read in one sitting. For extra fun, check out the audio book of The Hellbound Heart, read by Clive Barker himself. It’s worth it just for the bits where he reads the Cenobites’ dialogue. I loved his take on how he originally thought they should sound.

The Scarlet Gospels was written for the fans and it shows. At one point, a character refers to the Hell Priest as “a sadomasochist from beyond the grave”, a reference to the fact that Sadomasochists from Beyond the Grave was actually Barker’s intended title for Hellraiser, but was shot down by the studio. In a famous story about possible titles getting knocked around, one crew member, a 60 year old woman, even suggested, What a Woman Will Do for a Good Fuck.

Thanks for reading me gush over The Scarlet Gospels. More Barker love to follow. I’ll end things with this picture of one of the coolest moments of my life – the time I met the Hell Priest himself, Doug Bradley. You haven’t lived until you’ve heard him say the words, “And what can I do for you?”, followed by your name.

Chills, guys. Chills.

Me and Doug

Goodbye, David Bowie.

 

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I don’t even know where to start with this one. A couple of days ago, I lost one of my personal heroes.

I consider my first real introduction to David Bowie to be the time I heard “The Heart’s Filthy Lesson” on the radio way back in 1995. I was in high school and my musical tastes were just coming into their own, but I knew the second I heard it, I was on to something. It tapped straight into the dark, layered aesthetic that I already had swimming around in my head, but couldn’t articulate. I rushed out and got Outside, which would go on to become one of my favorite albums of all time, and followed that up by snatching up anything and everything I could find with his name on it, starting with Low.

I went very much out of order, but I didn’t care. I devoured his discography, and it quickly became apparent that this alien who I’d known only by name and reputation had written song after song that spoke directly to me. It was like someone had reached into my brain and set my mind to music. He both saw the world as I did and somehow gave me a whole new way of looking at it. It wasn’t just music. It was a distant kinship.

I was one of those stereotypical artsy misfits in high school. I never scored the pretty girls or hung out with the popular kids, but I had my own identity that I cultivated and guarded. I soon took a certain private pride in being the only kid in school who could recite every lyric to every song on Hunky Dory. I was a loner and a weirdo and Bowie let me and the rest of us loners and weirdos know it was ok.

I could go on further about his importance and relevance, but it in the coming days and weeks, the internet will be full of those types of tributes, written by people who are much more eloquent than me. I will say though that he was not only my personal favorite musician of all time, but also one of my biggest influences and obsessions. He managed to create and transcend style, always managing to stay three steps ahead of anyone else. Just when you thought you’d finally solved the slippery riddle of what it took to be “cool”, he reminded you that he’d already redefined the word twice while you weren’t looking.

You simply can’t escape his influence. Hell, my best friend named her daughter after him. That kid’s going to be the coolest kid in school one day.

We can take solace in what he left behind – over thirty years of pure genius. Yes, there were a couple of missteps along the way (you don’t put out that kind of volume without having a few misses), but cousin, when the hits hit, they hit. My only regret is that I never got to see him perform live.

Thank you, David Robert Jones (Bowie). Thank you for literally changing my life and leaving behind one of the greatest musical legacies since the inception of rock and roll. And thank you for the parting gift of Blackstar, an album that not only acts as a fitting goodbye to his fans, but a flawless and poignant reflection of a man at the end of his career and life. You had a good run, buddy. Thank you for all of it.

 

R.I.P. Angus Scrimm

 

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This past weekend was not how I wanted to start off 2016. This is the first of two tributes I’m writing tonight and I’m not exactly thrilled about doing either one.

A few days ago, we lost a true gentleman of horror. I had the pleasure of meeting Angus Scrimm a few years ago and it was one of the best celebrity encounters I’ve ever had. It was in 2012 at the Mad Monster Party in Charlotte, NC. Those of you do conventions know how it goes. Upon arriving, you have your sights sets on your priority guests and make a bee line straight to their tables, then kind of get around to your own personal b-listers, and so on. So, even though I saw Mr. Scrimm sitting at his table on and off, I kind of took my time to get around to him. I’ve always really enjoyed his work, but if I was being completely honest with myself, he wasn’t at the top of my list that night.

The day went on, pictures were taken, autographs were collected, and before I knew it, things were wrapping up and everyone was packing up their tables. I decided to do one final sweep and hit all the ones I hadn’t visited yet. As I approached his table, I felt a little bad about ignoring him all day (surprisingly, he never had much of a crowd), but it would turn out that my timing was perfect.

I’d spent my total budget on autographs, so I asked him if I could just get a picture. He said he hated to charge me, but it would be $10, and as much as he would love to do it for free, his “people” would get angry, even though they’d stepped away for a few minutes. I was totally tapped out, so I asked him if we could just talk for a minute.

What followed was one of the best convention experiences I’ve ever had. He asked me to sit next to him and for the next 20 minutes or so, we exchanged brief life stories. He seemed much more interested in me than I was in him. He was incredibly kind and soft spoken and a truly gracious gentleman. The guy couldn’t be more different than his character in the Phantasm series.

After discussing me for a bit, I shifted the focus to him and we discussed how he first got into acting, the convention experience, and a little about his home life. I’ve had some really positive experiences with celebrity encounters, and a few not so great ones, but he was all class and his encounter definitely ranks now as one of the most memorable. I can’t say enough good things about him, and from the tributes I’ve read from celebrities and fans alike in the last few days, everyone echoes that sentiment.

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Just before he had to leave, he gave me this flyer for Satan Hates You, a film he had just finished, which sadly I haven’t seen yet. I plan on doing something about that this week.

Angus Scrimm scared the living hell out of me as a kid and I literally had nightmares about him looming over me, yelling, “Boooyyyyyy!” Who didn’t? But, meeting him was one of the best highlights of that weekend, and of every convention since. R.I.P. Tall Man. You’ll be missed.

A Long Day — A Creepy One-Minute Exercise

I hope everyone had a great Halloween! I’m still suffering from a serious case of Halloween Hangover, so I’m not ready to hang it up just yet, even though Christmas Creep has officially taken over. Hell, I’ve still got my decorations up. I should probably do something about that.

As I type this, I’m watching Jason X. Today was Friday the 13th and I wanted to do something to capture the mood. I was shooting for Part 4, but I don’t happen to own it, couldn’t find anywhere to easily stream it, and didn’t feel like waiting for it to download, so this was the next best thing. I say “next best” because I’ve always wanted to give it another go since I’ve actually only seen it once and barely remember it.

Let’s get down to business. In an effort to continue the Halloween spirit longer than society dictates, I’m dropping off a class project. I’m currently enrolled in a video production/editing class wherein I recently had an assignment as part of my midterm that allowed me to have a little fun. The assignment was to shoot an object of your choosing and edit it into a one-minute video. The only requirements were that you had to light it properly and all the sound used had to come from the object itself and nowhere else. You could manipulate those sounds however you wish, but the object itself had to provide the sound (by tapping it, rubbing it, pouring something into it, whatever). Also, it couldn’t be anything mechanical or living that would normally make a variety of sounds anyway (don’t shoot your cat purring).

Of course, as with all things, I had to go creepy with it. I’ve had this guy since I was a kid, and over the years it’s developed a steady leak, which worked to my advantage here. The leak is responsible for all its settling and drooping on its own, with the exception of the last shot, in which I’m slowly pulling it off the chair myself.

The sound is a result of three concurrent tracks. One is the sound of air escaping out the blow hole in the back. I took a snippet of it and looped it throughout. The second is just the sound of me tapping on his chest, and the third is me scratching the plastic after it was deflated. Since the leak is fairly steady, I spent a lot of time blowing it up, shooting it while it deflated, and blowing it up again. I actually shot a good 6 or 7 minutes worth of footage, but the assignment specifically called for it to be exactly 60 seconds, so I had to do a lot of picking and choosing. The lighting could have been a tad better in parts and I probably should have gone with a different ISO setting a couple of times to prevent it from being so grainy, but I personally prefer the graininess, even though I have a feeling my instructor won’t.

So, I present to you this one-minute short titled ‘A Long Day’.

HOT SAUCE REGRET: A Halloween Tragedy

Kids, it’s almost here! As I write this, Halloween is TOMORROW.

I’ll say it again for those of you in the back row. HALLOWEEN IS TOMORROW.

I haven’t done quite everything to harness as much as much spooky feeling as I would have liked out of the season (this will be the first year in memory that I won’t have time to visit a haunted house), but I really can’t complain. I did a LOT, and it’s not over yet.

But, the most notable so far is hanging out and shooting videos with two of the coolest guys in the scream scene you’re likely to meet. An Infernal Internet Conference was held recently wherein we TOOK CARE OF BUSINESS (that is, if business entails eating weird snack foods, playing video games, and watching bad horror movies).

I’ve got 3 vids to share involving me, Bill/Will of Veggie Macabre, and Brian of Review the World, If viewing these isn’t enough to make you regular readers of their sites, then Satan help you. Oh, and they improve in quality as you go along. Trust me, I saved the best for last.

ZOMBIE JERKY! Watch us eat jerky of the undead that I found online somewhere. “CORAL!”

UNIVERSAL MONSTERS SODA! Watch three grown men discuss in detail the nuances of sodas based on Frankenstein, the Wolfman, and the Bride of Frankenstein… oh, and Bill gets mauled by a cat.

I SAVED THE BEST FOR LAST! We tackle chips, salsa, and I make the horrible, horrible mistake of eating hot sauce that I had no business eating. It’s right around the 10:55 mark that I pretty much have a stroke, cry, and beg for relief.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!

On Saturday, October 24th, I did the 2015 Halloween Edition of Dark Entries: Goth Radio. Check it out to hear 3 solid hours of Halloween themed goth/industrial music, horror movie samples, and classic Halloween themed commercials. It’s the perfect soundtrack to your party this weekend.

Hopefully, I’ve got at least one more post in me before the big day, so watch this spot. And if we don’t meet up here, have a solid holiday!

Oh, and P.S. I carved a punkin and it looks like this.

2015 Punkin

Another 3 Mini-Reviews! — Slashers and Incest and Werewolves!

Something great happened last night. Here in Columbia, SC, a town that literally has the slogan, “Famously Hot”, I stepped outside and it was cold. I mean legitimately chilly. Fall is OFFICIALLY, officially here, folks. That means it’s time for three more Mini-Reviews! This one’s kind of a Good News/Bad News edition. Let’s get the Bad News out of the way.

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The Town that Dreaded Sundown (1976)

As I’ve mentioned before, the goal for this season is to see as many spooky films as possible before Halloween that I haven’t seen already (I’m making an exception for the Halloween franchise for obvious reasons, and I may throw in one or two that I may have seen once so long ago that I don’t remember it anyway). To that end, it occurs to me that there are quite a few cult films from the ’70’s and ’80’s that got past me somehow. I’m going into some of these based on reputation alone. The Town that Dreaded Sundown is one of them.

I went into this one on sheer reputation. I’ve seen it critically lauded in Fangoria and other magazines and articles that mention classic slashers, so I was jazzed to finally get round to it. Plus, I kind of wanted to pretend that the killer was basically an alternate-dimension Jason Voorhees from Friday the 13th Part 2.

If there is one thing that horror nerds like to do (or nerds of any stripe, really), it’s debate and argue about all the things we love and hate, so it’s not like we collectively agree on everything. But, when a site or magazine I trust praises or jeers something, I actually usually find myself agreeing with them. So, I thought I was in for a long-lost treat here.

Yeah, I was wrong.

It all came down to tone, really. This thing had no idea what it wanted to to be. For most of the film, it never actually felt like a horror film. The film of course centers around a series of mysterious murders done by a masked maniac, but it felt like the killings themselves were just shoehorned into a southern fried cop comedy. Between police chases set to banjo music, to bumbling, goofy cops firing off dialogue that sounds like it came straight out of Smokey and the Bandit, I felt like I was just watching a gory episode of The Dukes of Hazard. Even in one particular scene where the killer is stalking a girl and she’s banging on the doors of strangers, trying to get help, something straight out of Halloween, what should be an intense, ominous vibe gets destroyed by lazy, almost pleasant music. It’s the kind of thing you would expect to hear as Andy and Barney are sitting on the porch, pickin’ the guitar, waiting for Aunt Bea to finish supper.

Pair that with a completely unnecessary narration that pops up throughout, redundantly explaining every little point of exposition, and I have to say the whole thing was a giant disappointment. Bottom line: Don’t waste your time on this one unless you’re just some sort of slasher completest and need to see someone get killed with a trombone.

As a side note, I followed it up that night with 2014’s sequel/remake/reimaging/rewhatevering. It was a little on the boring side, and I honestly tuned it out about halfway through, but I will give it points for trying to something original. It takes the meta route and does something along the lines of Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, in that it completely recognizes that that the first film was in fact, just a film, but that there is a copycat killer out there, mimicking what he saw on the screen, at times recreating some of the major kills, but with a new twist. At least this time they dropped the narration, kept the tone serious, and attempted to bring something new to the table.

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Society (1989)

Alright, here’s another one that came recommended by a trusted source, and luckily, it paid off. I’d seen the boxes for it at video stores as a kid and heard it mentioned quite a few times on Killer POV, one of my favorite horror podcasts, so I thought I’d give it a shot. It’s a little hard to discuss without spoilers, but I’ll do my best.

Bill returns home after being away for a while to find his family, a clan of one-percenter yuppies, very concerned about his future. He’s got girl trouble, he’s running for class president, and he can’t quite fit in with the cool kids at school. Plus, he’s tempted by what appears to be the school slut, but who will turn out to be one of his few allies. What follows is a slow revelation that not only are his parents and sister not quite what they seem, but neither is most of the town, as you find out in a scene that I can only describe as one of the most “WTF?” and surreal visuals I’ve ever seen in a horror film.

The overall tone is kept somewhat light, somewhere between Gremlins and Night of the Comet, but it has its serious moments, and it does manage to work in quite a bit of conspiracy, incest, social commentary about classism and social hierarchy, and a good deal of body horror elements that border on being Cronenbergian. Not quite, but almost. All told, I recommend it if you’re looking for a bit of fun with a gross-out climax.

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Late Phases (2014)

Now we’re talking. I decided to finish strong. I’ve made it no secret that my favorite classic monster is the werewolf, and I’m constantly on the hunt for the next good werewolf flick. Unfortunately, that’s a long, hard hunt. The fact of the matter is, we got spoiled early. We have the legacy of Lon Chaney and Paul Naschy with all their early charms, and then in the ’80’s, during the glory days of practical effects, we got hit with the two greatest werewolf films ever made – An American Werewolf in London and The Howling (my personal fave), pretty much back-to-hairy-back. There have been a couple decent standouts here and there since then (Ginger Snaps, Being Human, etc), but for the most part, it’s been downhill. The thing is, it’s just not easy to pull off. It is one of the few genres that is completely dependent upon convincing, involved effects. With ghosts, vampires, witches, and even zombies, you can half-ass it, but the rules got set up pretty early on that if you don’t have a decent looking creature, and most importantly, A GOOD TRANSFORMATION SCENE, don’t even bother. The bad news is, a lot of people…well, still bother. Badly.

And when I say a decent looking monster, I don’t mean a CGI cartoon or a pretty, muscular teenager jumping into the air and morphing into a giant dog.

So, when I saw the trailer for Late Phases, I was intrigued and it paid off. Nick Damici plays Ambrose McKinley, a blind, grumpy vet who is getting shuffled off to a retirement community by his son. While there, he gets to know some of the residents and survives a “dog attack”. There have been a few of those lately, but we all know what that’s about. The film does a decent job of not falling back on too many tired werewolf film tropes though. It was also good to see Tom Noonan show up as Father Roger Smith, only because he also played the Frankenstein Monster in The Monster Squad, one of my favorite horror films of all time, which also contained its own pretty rad werewolf.

The creature itself in this wasn’t bad. It wasn’t the best I’ve seen, but it was an interesting take, and the transformation didn’t disappoint. Waiting for the transformation scene in a werewolf movie is like going to a concert and waiting for the band to play their most beloved song. I mean, a Rush show is going to always be fantastic, but you don’t want them to blow their wad early and open with “Tom Sawyer”, even though it has been done. You need that anticipation, and the payoff better be worth it.

Late Phases does make you wait a while, but it does manage to offer a new twist on it that’s somewhere between the ones in The Company of Wolves and The Howling IV. Also, as much as I yearn for the days when transformations were 100% practical and HATE what CGI has done to them (looking at you, 2010’s The Wolfman and your royally screwing over of Rick Baker), I have to admit that Late Phases does offer a successful and nearly seamless blend of practical and CGI. If you have to do it, this is one I can stomach and even enjoy.

I’ve got at least one more of these coming up in the next couple of weeks. God, I can’t believe I have to type the words “couple of weeks”. That’s all we have left before red and green consume orange and black. Let’s do what we can while we can.

Halloween Mood Table

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My vow to do something spooky every night until Halloween is coming along nicely. I’m knocking out a lot of low budget horror films from the ’80’s (my rule is to only watch things I’ve never seen before), marathoning True Blood for the first time (this show is bonkers), and I’ve finally settled on a costume. In fact, this year is a little bit of an embarrassment of Halloween riches. On the night of THE BIG DAY, I’ll be doing the Halloween edition of Dark Entries: Goth Radio, then trying to decide which of two parties to go to.

So yeah, tapping into the spirit this year honestly hasn’t been a problem. I was driving around the other day and it occurred to me that for the first time in a really long time, I felt a bit of the exact same kind of excitement that I felt as a kid. I mean, don’t get me wrong. I live in the pocket of Halloween excitement. It’s just my usual mindset all year round, but that specific feeling we got as kids, that brand of excitement…I’ve felt a diluted version of it in my adulthood, but not the genuine thing. Until this year.

I’m big into decorating every year, but I just moved into a new place that gives me pretty much zero room outside to do anything, aside from a deck on the 2nd floor of the building. My pumpkin’s going to reside there once it’s carved in a couple of weeks, and I am going to put some lights up, but that’s about all I can do that people will actually see. So, I decided if they can’t see it, well, cousin, I will. The important thing is to stay in the spirit, even if you’re just decorating for your own darn self.

So, last night, I queued up a spooky podcast, lit a pumpkin candle, and after a half hour or so, this is the result: Borrowing an idea from one of my favorite haunts on the web, I made my own HALLOWEEN MOOD TABLE! It’s the scariest thing on 4 legs since the Wheelers from Return to Oz.

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There’s a lot going on here, so we’ll break it down in a second.

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The dark and glowy version.

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Let’s get in a little closer. You’ve got some Shrieks and Creeks, a model of The Car from…The Car, a stack of horror DVD’s (and one very good VHS), a Lemarchant box, some candles, and one of my favorite records, the classic ‘Freddy’s Greatest Hits’ by The Elm Street Crew, which I genuinely love with no irony or humor at all. Just check out “Obsession” and tell me you don’t love it.

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Ash made the scene!

Thanks for reading about my Halloween mood table. Try to do something spooky every day for the rest of the month to keep the spirit up, even if it’s just going in blind and watching a horror film you know nothing about. Those are the best kinds. We don’t have too much time left to do it. By the way, this particular table and corner will work well come Christmas time for my tiny tree.

I’m sorry I mentioned the “C” word.

3 Spooky Mini-Reviews

Since we’re running out of weekends until Halloween and opportunities to do as many spooky things as possible, I’m squeezing every single bit of horror out of the season that I can. As I write this, it’s late on a Saturday night and I don’t even want to think about the fact that there are only 5 more of these, up to and including THE BIG DAY.

So, I’ve actually vowed to watch something horror related every single night until then. Granted, I’m cheating a little bit and watching a little True Blood some nights, but that still counts. My friend Donna has finally gotten me into watching it, and while it’s absolute ridiculous trash, I have to admit I’m kind of hooked. I’m about halfway into Season 4, for those keeping track at home.

Squeezing the season for all the spook I can get could easily tempt me to write full reviews of all the movies I’m watching, complete with loads of analysis and screen shots, but I just flat out don’t have the time for all that. So I’ve decided to knock out some mini reviews. Just a few short paragraphs covering some things I’ve seen latey. Trust me, full reviews will still be coming of some of the more notable selections. Enjoy my first round of Mini Reviews!

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WOLF CREEK 2 (2013)

I was actually really looking forward to this one and don’t know what really took me so long to get to it. I thoroughly enjoyed the first film and was impressed that something so effectively brutal could be shot on such a relatively small budget and a 25 day shooting schedule, all while actually succesfully having me invested in the characters. Also, John Jarratt, over the course of both films as Mick Taylor, has solidified himself to me as one of the best of the new crop of horror villains.

I’ve kind of got a bit of a soft spot for this particular sub-genre of horror. There is something a little primal about stories that revolve around a group of people who are far from home and run afoul of the wrong guy. I’m not sure if there is a proper name for the sub-genre, but I immediately think of films like Duel, The HItcher, and Joy Ride. I suppose you could lump in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but I’m more thinking of films that involve a lone psychopath. The other requirement would be that there is no supernatural element – just a mysterious stranger on the road, looking to stalk and toy with his next victim(s).

Back to this one. It’s a competent follow-up. I didn’t know what to expect, but Greg McLean returns to the director’s chair to amp up the action. He knows what works and takes some of the more horrific aspects of the first film and ratchets them up here. The first kill was incredibly unexpected and gory, and it kicked things off with quite a bang, resulting in giving me the “oh shit!” moment that I’m always craving. You know what I mean, the moment when you literally yell, “Oh shit!” at the TV.

The “head on a stick” is back and Mick Taylor is as brutal and psychotic as ever, toying with his victims and showing not a shred of remorse. Yet, he manages to be strangely likable. I can’t quite describe it and it may just be a matter of McLean deftly creating a tone of both terror and fun, but as much of an insane bastard as Taylor is, I’m rooting for him. It would be very easy to play him as a horribly unlikable bastard, but I’m just not getting that. Bottom line: Wolf Creek 2 isn’t reinventing anything, but if you want fun, action based gore with a great performance, it’s recommended. I hope we get more installments.

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THE PROWLER (1981)

See, this is exactly what I was looking for when I decided to do these. Not only am I trying to see as much horror as possible in the next month or so, I’m trying to find hidden gems. Well, hidden to me anyway. By that, I mean films that either fell through the cracks as I was growing up (my way of saying that I unfortunately ignored them) or things I’d somehow gone my whole life as a horror hound but hadn’t heard of. My first experience with this kind of thing was when I was doing a similar experiment a couple of years ago and decided to intentionally watch some old horror slasher I’d not ever seen. I cruised Netflx and stumbled upon The Burning. It was PERFECT. That night, I popped some popcorn, lit a pumpkin candle and discovered a lost classic. I think I managed to do it again with this one.

Featuring special effects by Tom Savini (also of The Burning, and well, nearly everything), The Prowler tells the story of a killer clad in WW II army fatigues stalking a New Jersey town in an effort to recreate a double murder which occurred immediately after the war. In terms of its place among ’80’s slashers, it’s a solid fit. I’m not going to go into too much detail (I’ve already stretched the definition of “mini” as it is in this post), but it’s got all the requisite elements of boobs, blood, and a decent twist ending. Savini was approaching the top of his game here and it shows. I still prefer The Burning, but this one is definitely recommended.

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CAST A DEADLY SPELL (1991)

Now this one was fun. I first discovered it when looking for something else on YouTube years ago and bookmarked it for future vieweing. I’m glad i finally got round it. It’s a supernatural, film noir made-for-TV movie that follows Detective Harry Philip Lovecraft (I’m not kidding) as he’s hired by an old eccentric to find The Necronomicon. The world that Harry lives is an alternate version of 1948 in which everyone uses magic and has access to it, but Harry refuses to, arguing that it’s cheap and basically just cheating. Essentially, the tone they’re going for with this one is Dick Tracy by way of Lovecraft (the real one),

They threw everything at the wall with this thing. You’ve got a random werewolf, a cross-dresser, and a fairly unknown-at-the-time Julianne Moore, who demonstrated back then that she could hold her own. She plays the sultry, mystrious long-lost love of the hard drinking detective, hitting all the film noir stereotypes. It’s at times silly and has a flimsy plot involving a virgin sacrifice that has to happen every…666 years (again, not kidding), but it knows exactly what it is.

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One of my favorite parts is when Harry has to interview a mechanic who straight up complains about GREMLINS HIDING IN OUR CAR PARTS THAT SNUCK IN DURING THE WAR. And we get to see them!

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There’s also this monster that’s an obvious Pumpkinhead ripoff.

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Oh, and here’s your final big-bad monster at the end – Cthulhu, complete with mouth protrusion…thing! Seriously, check out this train wreck, even if you just put it on for background fun. I find the film noir genre lends itself really well to being infused with the supernatural, and until I found this, Lord of Illusions was the only film I knew of that pulled it off well. It prompted me to do a little research, and it turns out there are quite a few lesser known offerings out there with that particular genre combination.

That’s it, kids. The next one will be a proper long review centering on one film. I’m glad that I’m sticking to my Halloween goals so far and it’s not even October yet. People talk about early burnout with these things, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s not even possible. Trust me, we’ll be bitching about the fact that it’s all over before you can say, “Target’s Christmas section”. Yes, it’s already out. Now go eat something pumpkin spiced and enjoy this time while we have it.

The Confession of Fred Krueger — A Review

VERY MINOR SPOILERS TO FOLLOW, JUST SO YOU KNOW.

I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve become a complete holiday hypocrite in recent years. While I loath the fact that with each passing year, Christmas feels the need to stick its frosty little nose in sooner than it should, I love the fact that Halloween has grown from just a fun thing that people do the last week of October to an entire season that goes for at least two months. Well, we’re halfway into Month 1 and I’m in full on spook mode, even more than usual.

To celebrate that, I’m trying to watch something horror related almost every night from now till the big day. That may seem like overkill, but trust me, it will be here sooner than you know it, and I’m trying to ride this pumpkin scented high as long as I can.

Tonight’s selection was a REAL treat. I’m a big fan of expanded universe material. When it’s done well, I absolutely love it. There is nothing like being able to revisit your favorite film through someone else’s eyes, whether through a novel, a cartoon, a comic, or anything else. It kind of gives me the same thrill as watching a special feature on a DVD that I’ve never seen or discovering some long-lost stills or deleted footage. I love the idea that my favorite worlds and visions just don’t ever have to end.

Unfortunately, while sci-fi has done an excellent job in that area (Star Wars and Star Trek especially), the horror genre has fallen a bit short. In recent years, I’ve really gotten into buying novelizations of my favorite films, and you’ll find a few gems in terms of comics, but expanded universe horror novels in general are a little harder to find. They’re there and the hunt does make it fun, but it’s not like you just pop down to your local book store and find shelves of A Nightmare on Elm Street novels.

While I’m on the subject, I can’t stress how fantastic Epic Comics’s 20-issue Hellraiser run from the ’90’s was. Seriously, it’s the best expanded Hellraiser stuff out there and opens up the mythology like nothing else, completely blowing away the later films in that franchise. Boom! Studios is doing some great stuff with the property too at the moment, but that Epic run is where it’s at.

But, back to task. Search for expanded universe content long enough and you’ll eventually find yourself walking down the path of THE FAN FILM. Oh, lord. There certainly is no lack of content there, but it is a serious quantity over quality situation. Look, I’m a horror hound through and through, and I feel that with all the crap that the genre and its fans get, we need to support each other. I fully support the passion and enthusiasm that goes into some of these projects. But oh man, are there some stinkers out there.

So, it was a major relief tonight when I found out about The Confession of Fred Krueger. Written and directed by Nathan Thomas Milliner, an artist responsible for a lot of Scream Factory’s DVD and Blu-ray covers,  and clocking in at just over 30 minutes, the short peeks in on what went down after The Springwood Slasher got caught and is taken into custody for interrogation.

It’s an extremely clever little talking head piece that was clearly dreamed up by a real fan. Milliner just gets it, and does something that I love to see, which is fills in a lot of gaps and answers questions the fans have been asking for years. We’ve gotten glimpses of Krueger’s past throughout the A Nightmare on Elm Street series, most notably in Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare and the pilot episode of Freddy’s Nightmares, but even so, there have been gaps in the origin that I’ve always wanted to see tackled.

Some of these are addressed to fine satisfaction in The Confession of Fred Krueger. During the span of a 30 minute conversation, we get filled in on his childhood, his motivations, his first kill, and even the origin of the glove. The film is a passion project of MIlliner’s and is based on a short story by Jeffrey Cooper, who has penned the novelizations of the films (I have a feeling I’ll need to find some more room on my bookshelves soon).

But of course, none of this would matter of the production quality wasn’t up to snuff, and of course if the performance didn’t hold up. Luckily, that’s not a problem. Kevin Roach, while not exactly the spitting image of Robert Englund, channels him well, working in hints of his voice and mannerisms. I could honestly see and hear Englund saying those lines. I also like the subtlety of the makeup, both on his face and on the knuckles of the cop bringing him in, hinting that he’d already been “interrogated” before making it to the station.

I also picked up on a little something else. Listeners of my show know that I’m a student of Charles Manson and everything related to his case. He even makes a “cameo” on my show every week in the “Words of Wisdom from Uncle Charlie” segment. So, I was pleasantly surprised when Millisner did a little something. Starting at about the 21:57 mark in the film, Krueger answers the question, “Who are you?” with the following statement, taken directly from Manson himself, as seen in this clip:

So yeah, as soon as I heard that, it was kind of thrill. I SAW WHAT YOU DID THERE, MILLISNER.

Final verdict: Check out The Confession of Fred Krueger. If you’re looking for a solid little origin piece that fills in some nice gaps and has Krueger straight up quoting Charlie Manson word-for-word (thus hitting me right in a few sweet spots), you can do a whole lot worse. With Wes Craven now no longer with is, I’m finding myself wanting to revisit his work. This is a fitting tribute. WELL DONE, FELLAS. Oh, and stick around for after the credits. There’s a nice little surprise there too.

P.S. In related news, Mondo has just announced a new line of horror themed sweaters that have got me 13 kinds of excited. FINALLY, I can own Freddy’s iconic red and green striped one without having to take an extra job to pay for it, not to mention the risk of some dodgy E-Bay purchase. They’ve also got some incredibly rad ones based on Friday the 13th and Halloween, plus a scarf!