Monday, October 31, 2016

You Can’t Kill the Boogeyman, or Thoughts on John Carpenter’s Halloween

In addition to defining an entire genre of horror, John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978), was also the first movie to actually have the word “Halloween” in the titles.  John Carpenter always had his name before the title, a deliberate effort to establish himself as a brand in the tradition of his favorite directors, Howard Hawks, Billy Wilder, John Ford and of course, Alfred Hitchcock.  The actual title of the movie is not “Halloween,” it's “John Carpenter’s Halloween”; a minor detail for the audience but those little details matter in this innovative film that has since become the gold standard for slasher movies.
The original title was The Babysitter Murders, and featured the film debut of a very young actress with famous parents by the name of Jamie Leigh Curtis as Laurie Strode, the titular babysitter, future Scream Queen and Final Girl.  Her casting was a deliberate reference and homage to Psycho (1960), with the added benefit of generating free publicity and promotion for the microscopic budget of $325,000 budget ($25,000 of which went directly to Donald Pleasence).
But economy in the best of cases fosters creativity, and the first 4-minute single take tracking scene in Panaflex (Panavision’s answer to the Steadicam), is an excellent set-up for what’s to come.  It’s a smooth tracking shot from the killer’s POV; dreamlike and above all, cinematic, and a perfect introduction for the updated Hitchcock tribute with supernatural overtones that followed.
Michael Myers emerges fully formed once he escapes from his asylum; and although everything will be explained over the next 10 sequels and reboots, in this movie he is a supernatural force, an October storm, listed in the credits as The Shape, a dark shadow with a blank, expressionless face.  There’s no explanation for his fixation on Laurie, except for the fact that he saw her first and follows her home, and the fact that it’s so random only adds to the terror.
The casting of Donald Pleasence as Dr. Sam Loomis, (another Psycho reference) was intended to add an air of legitimacy and class to what was initially a drive-in horror movie.  With hi quiet, mournful intensity and ties to The Great Escape (1963), Fantastic Voyage (1966), THX 1138 (1971), and inspiration for Dr. Evil as Bond villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld in You Only Live Twice (1967), Donald Pleasence along with Jamie Lee Curtis contributed to the cinematic pedigree of Halloween, and became a role both actors would revisit in the subsequent sequels.
It’s ironic that 5-year-old Brian Andrews as Tommy Doyle and Dr. Loomis are the only ones who really know what’s going on, but nobody believes a kid and Dr. Loomis is a British crackpot.   Dr. Loomis is convinced that Michael Myers is pure, unthinking evil, like the shark in Jaws (1975) while to Tommy he is simply the Boogeyman hiding in the closet. 
John Carpenter’s iconic and haunting score, powerful in its elegant simplicity, helps to set the tone and establish mood, especially when juxtaposed against the lighting and cinematography.  The music becomes a character, just as ominous as Michael Myers, and is critical to the success of the film.
Watch out for P.J. Soles from Carrie (1976) and Rock ‘n’ Roll High School (1979) as Lynda, and Kyle Richards from Little House on the Prairie (1975), and current Real Housewife of Beverly Hills (2010) as Lindsey.



my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hour diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).


Saturday, October 29, 2016

When in Doubt, Reach For the Re-Agent, or Thoughts on Re-Animator

Director and writer Stuart Gordon’s Re-Animator (1987), based on H.P. Lovecraft’s updated Frankenstein series, Herbert West: Re-animator (1922) remains the gold standard of Lovecraft adaptations while adding both a welcome undercurrent of morbid humor and visualizing the actual nuts and bolts of reanimating dead people and the consequences of those actions.  Jeffrey Combs stars in a career-defining role as Herbert West, the twitchy, arrogant medical prodigy and madman who theorizes that life is a chemical process, with the help of his trusty glowing green re-agent, which he keeps injecting any dead flesh he can find.
Herbert West and his roommate Dan Cain, as portrayed by Bruce Abbot, are Miskatonic University medical students, presumably in Arkham, Massachusetts, though the filmmakers never explicitly state the location.  Dan gets dragged headfirst into Herbert’s experiments and the movie progresses fast, they’re expelled almost immediately and quickly raid the morgue for the freshest corpse.  The re-agent works best on “fresh” corpses, which seems counter-intuitive, (I mean why kill someone just so you can bring them back to life), but that’s part of the absurdist fun of the movie. 
The reanimated retain memories and rudimentary speech, but they’re violent (aren’t they always).  An interesting side effect on the re-agent is it works on body parts, which makes for some gory slapstick.  In fact the Re-Animator is surprisingly funny, the absurdist gallows’ humor is one of the reasons the movie has held up so well over the years.  Much like Peter Jackson’s Braindead (1993), horrific scenes are pushed so far they spin around and become humorous.  How can you not find it funny when you accidentally kill the dean who just expelled and your first response is to reanimate him?
With a sweeping, very non-80’s Bernard Hermann-inspired soundtrack by Richard Band, (in fact the only reference to the 80’s that you’ll find in this movie is the Stop Making Sense Talking Heads poster in Dan’s room) and impressive special effects for the 80’s, all analog prosthetics, animatronics, stop motion, latex molds and blood squibs.  Also starring Barbara Crampton as Megan Halsey, the (reanimated) Dean’s daughter and Dan’s girlfriend, and David Gale as Dr. Hill, the equally arrogant professor and academic rival of Herbert West.
Director Stuart Gordon has arguably made the best (and in many cases the only) Lovecraft adaptations, including From Beyond (1986), Castle Freak (1995, inspired from The Outsider) and Dagon (2001), in addition to cult favorites including Dolls (1987), Robot Jox (1989), Fortress (1992) and Space Truckers (1996).  Jeffrey Combs went onto enjoy a career playing quirky weirdos and multiple Star Trek characters including the Vorta Weyoun, the Ferengi Brunt (FCA) and the Andoran Shran.  He also featured in Peter Jackson’s The Frighteners (1996), revisited his signature Herbert West character in the sequels, Bride of Re-Animator (1990) and Beyond Re-Animator (2003) and played Lovecraft himself in Necronomicon (2003).
H.P. Lovecraft has always been problematic for me; his casual racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism are well documented in his short stories and published letters.  While I admire his writing and his works are a particularly sentimental favorite of mine from high school, I can’t help but think that he wouldn’t have liked me if we’d met, and he’d have based his opinion on my skin color and the shape of my eyes.  But the author isn’t here to defend himself and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend him; every sentence he wrote is a lyrical work of art.  Just skip the mean parts.




my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hour diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).

Friday, October 28, 2016

The Red Army vs Undead Steampunk Nazi Super Soldiers, or Thoughts on Frankenstein's Army

A clever update to the Frankenstein mythology, Frankenstein's Army (2013) is told from the viewpoint of a Russian platoon at the end of WWII who are being followed by a film crew, presumably for Soviet propaganda.  The monsters, or zombots, as they are called in the credits, are the most interesting part of the movie and the real stars.  Boris Karloff’s version had bolts in his neck, these new creations are even more cyborg; steampunk Nazi super soldiers with chainsaw drill arms, propeller heads, full body armor similar to Iron Man’s Mark I suit but with a head chomping face mask, and my favorite, giant metal crab arms. 
The Soviets hated the Germans, so the squad’s brutality against the local population makes historical sense, but doesn't do much for audience empathy, and like all Frankenstein movies, the monsters become the most likeable and sympathetic characters.  Once they reach the underground lab the movie turns into a first person shooter game in a human abattoir straight out of Silent Hill (2006) or Hellraiser (1987), while Dr. Frankenstein makes a Soviet Zombot with hammer and sickle hands and has time for one last experiment; grafting a Nazi and Soviet brain together in order to foster world peace.
Watch out for Czech actor Karel Roden, Rasputin from Hellboy (2004), and also appearing in Blade II (2002 and Orphan (2009) as Victor Frankenstein, and Luke Newberry, Kieran from In The Flesh (2013) as Sacha, a particularly brutal soldier.
A couple excellent examples of the horror/war movie crossover are Dead Snow (2009, Nazi zombies!), Dog Soldiers (2002, British SAS werewolves!), but for the most part the genres remain separate.  Maybe war is horrific enough or too close to reality to make a comfortable setting for a horror movie.




my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hour diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).

Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Bride of Frankenstein vs The Killer Rats, or Thoughts on Willard

Absolutely not for the musophobic, Willard (1971), tells the tale of a lonely, Norman Bates-esque 27 year-old bachelor living in a rat-infested Victorian mansion with his poor sainted mother, as portrayed by Elsa Lanchester, who you know as the Bride of Frankenstein (1935), and also Mary Poppins (1963) and Murder by Death (1976).  From director Daniel Mann of Our Man Flint (1966), Willard is played by Bruce Davison, who went on to portray Senator Kelly in X-Men (2002), feature in The Lords of Salem (2013), and also George A. Romero’s anthology TV series Tales From the Darkside, the original V (1985), Star Trek: Voyager (1996), Seinfeld (1996) and LOST (2006).
The plot is almost Shakespearian (almost); Willard is the overworked and underpaid rightful heir being cheated out of his father’s company by a deceitful uncle or in this case, his father’s business partner as played by Hollywood legend Ernest Borgnine as Al Martin, Willard’s churlish boss.  Fortunately Willard has a natural affinity for rats, they become his surrogate friends as he trains them to do his bidding and attack on command.
Being a movie from 1971, you can be assured that you are watching analog, actual non-CGI rats that had to be trained and wrangled, scurrying around the sets and swarming all over the actors.  Ernest Borgnine claimed in interviews that he had to overcome his fear of rats prior to filming, and the rat performers get just about as much screen time as the humans.
Watch out for a pre-Clint Eastwood Sondra Locke as Joan, a friendly co-worker.  You may remember Ernest Borgnine as the voice of Mermaidman in SpongeBob Squarepants, and also classic movies including Bad Day at Black Rock (1954), Marty (1955), The Dirty Dozen (1966), Ice Station Zebra (1968), The Poseidon Adventure (1972) and a stellar IMDb page with over 200 credits that spans over 60 years.
There was a sequel named after one of the rats, Ben (1972), with a  theme song by Michael Jackson and a 2003 remake with a perfectly cast Crispin Glover.




my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hour diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Russian Mutants Chase Privileged Americans, or I Watched Chernobyl Diaries, So You Don’t Have To

Produced by Oren Peli of the Paranormal Activity (2007, and boy do I still hate Micah so much) franchise, Chernobyl Diaries (2012) follows a group of young Americans in Russia who, along Yuri, their ex-special forces tour guide, decide to explore the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, deep in the Ukrainian forest.  It’s a radioactive 80’s Soviet ghost town, much like Roanoke Island or the Mary Celeste, but unlike those mysteries, we know exactly why these people evacuated Pripyat.  After a jump scare from a radioactive bear they return to find their van sabotaged because they’re not alone, but you knew that as well.  Events escalate as they’re savaged by mutant wolves straight out of a Resident Evil movie and finally get to meet the remaining Chernobyl residents.
It’s an almost mythological premise, a haunted forest with a sci-fi origin, wrapped around historical events, but it does seem insensitive as you know very well that there are actual Chernobyl mutants and long range effects including radioactive wolves, birth defects in livestock, and long-term health consequences for the surrounding population.  You can almost gain a new appreciation for the American backwoods cannibal mutant families in movies like Wrong Turn (2003) or the gold standard, Wes Craven's The Hills Have Eyes (1977) for surprisingly having more sensitivity than this film.
Thankfully not a found footage film, Chernobyl Diaries does employ similar POV shaky-cam techniques to keep the viewer in the action and (minimally) invested in the characters.  However neither the filmmakers nor the characters in the film appear to have any respect for Chernobyl or the historical circumstances, as if this town exists simply as fodder for another Instagram post, FaceBook update or a YouTube video.  And without that precious audience sympathy, we as an audience will naturally gravitate towards the mutants, who are in shadows and off camera for most of the movie.  It makes for a confusing and disappointing experience, and Chernobyl Diaries currently holds a rating of 18% on Rotten Tomatoes.




my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hour diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

When You Summon a Day-Glo New Wave Devil, or Thoughts on Night of The Demons

Night of The Demons (1988) has ALL of the Halloween movie tropes; candy apples with razor blades, teen costume parties in abandoned mortuaries, séances, and demonic possession.  With bad jokes, worse acting, and lots of exposition in a range of accents from the Valley to the Jersey Shore, it’s a movie that starts out as an 80’s teen sex comedy but quickly morphs into something sinister and much more darker.  Essentially, a diverse group of New Wave teen stereotypes who would never be friends in school (hey, like The Breakfast Club) find a haunted mirror, hold a séance, and release a demon who simultaneously possesses them and kills ‘em off one by one.
Amelia Kinkade from Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo (1984) and Road House (1989) portrays Angela, the proto-goth bride in black that invites the teens to the doomed party while 80’s Scream Queen Linnea Quigley stars as Suzanne, the sassy new wave best friend who turns into a killer demon.  It’s an old-fashioned gothic supernatural horror movie dressed up in 80’s neon pink, think Jem and the Holograms (the 1985 cartoon, I never saw the remake) and A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) with a dash of Porky’s (1981).  Look out for Angela’s Stigmata Martyr Bauhaus dance, and the crazy, non-titillating, confusingly un-scary boob job prosthetic scene with Suzanne.
Linnea Quigley is arguably most fondly remembered as Trash in Return of The Living Dead (1985), but she also starred in Creepozoids (1987), A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988), and of course, Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama (1988).  Director Kevin S. Tenney of Witchboard (1986) went on to direct the 2009 remake, which starred Diora Baird and also featured a Linnea Quigley cameo.




my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hour diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).


Monday, October 24, 2016

Ignore the Silver Shamrock Halloween Countdown, or Thoughts Halloween III: Season of The Witch

Similar to the Exorcist III (1990) in the sense that there were no head spinning exorcisms, Halloween III: Season of The Witch may have had a moody electro John Carpenter soundtrack without the signature theme song but Michael Myers was noticeably absent.  Written and Directed by Tommy Lee Wallace and produced by John Carpenter and Debra Hill, the movie was a sci-fi horror mashup with killer androids, haunted microchips in Halloween masks and an evil mind control TV signal, a theme John Carpenter would explore further in They Live (1988). 
Part of an original vision of John Carpenter’s on an anthology series of Halloween-themed films, Season of The Witch starred John Carpenter favorite Tom Atkins from The Fog (1980) and Escape From New York (1981) as Dr. Daniel Challis, who discovers the Halloween mask conspiracy by the Silver Shamrock Novelty Company.   Tom Atkins had non-traditional good looks and a mid-century manly-man vibe that always reminded me of a young Gene Hackman or a heavier Steve McQueen, but he didn’t make a very convincing doctor.  However once he leaves the hospital and starts fighting those killer androids he’s in top form.
The masks were created by Hollywood mask maker Don Post, who was also responsible for the iconic William Shatner/Captain Kirk mask that was spray-painted white and transformed into Michael Myers in Halloween (1978), and the movie has gained an audience over the last 30 years and enjoys a well-deserved cult status.
A supernatural Videodrome (1983), Tommy Lee Wallace would go on to direct TV shows including Max Headroom (1987), Baywatch (1989), Stephen King’s IT (1990) and another John Carpenter lateral sequel, Vampires: Los Muertos (2002, with Jon Bon Jovi!).




my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hour diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).


Saturday, October 22, 2016

A Goth Mae West for the 80’s, or Thoughts on Elvira, Mistress of the Dark

How can you not love Elvira, the wise cracking, yours cruelly, buxom ghost host with the most with her pink punk rock mohawk poodle and her custom black 1959 Ford Thunderbird with the leopard print interior?  Cassandra Peterson, who made her big screen debut as a dancer in Diamonds Are Forever (1971) before creating her Elvira personae in 1981 and finally unleashing her considerable assets on an unsuspecting public in Elvira, Mistress of the Dark (1988).
The plot is relatively straightforward and dovetails nicely with Footloose (1984); Elvira inherits a mansion in Fallwell Massachusetts from her great Aunt Morgana where she locks horns with the conservative townsfolk while concurrently winning over all of the teens.   Of course she’s ultimately (not to spoil a 28 year old movie here) put on trial for witchcraft. 
With sight gags, double and triple innuendos and more boob jokes than a Russ Meyer film, Elvira comes across more like an 80’s hair metal rock star than some moody gothic Britpop vampire.  With her Southern California Valley charm she’s closer to Kiss than Bauhaus, and Elvira, Mistress of the Dark is a sentimental and largely forgotten tribute to that decade.
Look out Susan Kellerman from Beetlejuice (1988, she was in the Day-O scene), Death Becomes Her (1992) and The Devil’s Advocate (1997) as Patty, the only lady in town who measures up to Elvira.  And save room for the sequel, Elvira’s Haunted Hills (2001).




my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hour diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).

Friday, October 21, 2016

When Kill Bill and Rocky Went on The Fury Road, or Thoughts on Death Race 2000

Like those dystopian alternate futures where the christian-fascist government keeps the population passive and distracted with blood sports on TV?  Look no further than the Roger Corman's original Death Race 2000 (1975), featuring a cross-country race with armored cars and a point system for killing pedestrians (teens are 40 points but killing a senior is worth a 100).
David Carradine at the height of his fame is Frankenstein, the nation’s favorite driver, so named because he’s rumored to be hideously scarred from all of his car crashes, when in fact he’s merely David Carradine in a black vinyl gimp suit.  There’s also Mary Woronov from The Lords of Salem (2012) and The House of The Devil (2009) as Calamity Jane, in a western themed car and a pre-Rocky Sylvester Stallone as Machine Gun Joe, stealing every scene he’s in.  And watch out for the underground movement (there's always an underground movement) sabotaging the race with Wile E. Coyote detours, led by Thomasina Paine as portrayed by Harriet Medin, who went on to have bit parts in The Terminator (1981) and The Witches of Eastwick (1987).
With Hunger Games/Purge-esque distractions on national TV with a dash of The Running Man (1987) and Escape From New York (1981), Death Race 2000 was subversive and ahead of its times and received 0 stars from Roger Ebert in 1975.  There’s also a surprising amount of skin for a dystopian action thriller (you can thank Roger Corman for that), and if you’ve ever wanted to see David Carradine in Speedos, this is the movie for you. 
Legendary B-movie producer Roger Corman was responsible for The Little Shop of Horrors (1960), the original The Fast and the Furious (1955) and The Saga of the Viking Women and Their Voyage to the Waters of the Great Sea Serpent (1957), in addition to kick starting the careers for Ron Howard (Grand Theft Auto, 1977), Francis Ford Coppola (Battle Beyond the Sun 1962), Martin Scorsese (Boxcar Bertha 1972) James Cameron (Battle Beyond the Stars, 1980), Peter Bogdanovitch, Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women 1968), Jonathan Demme, (Angels Hard as They Come 1971) and Gale Anne Hurd.



my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hour diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).


Thursday, October 20, 2016

Still Out of Bubblegum, or Thoughts on John Carpenter's They Live

Wrestling star Rowdy Roddy Piper got a pass in any movie he made after They Live (1988), for his portrayal of  “John Nada”, an unnamed drifter who stumbles onto a global conspiracy where all politics and media are controlled by skeletal zombie aliens living among us that you can only see if you wear some bitchin’ 80’s Ray Bans.
There’s a pirate TV station reminiscent of David Lynch’s Videodrome (1983) spreading the truth while sowing the seeds of revolution.  Coincidentally, the signal that hides the alien world from our human eyes is also carried on the TV waves, a theme John Carpenter used before in Halloween III: Season of The Witch (1982).   
Also with Meg Foster, Evil-lyn in Dolph Lundgren’s Masters of the Universe (1987), Sam Peckinpah’s The Osterman Weekend (1983) and currently working for Rob Zombie in The Lords of Salem (2012) and 31 (2016) as Holly Thompson, an initial hostage and then reluctant freedom fighter, and Keith David, Childs from The Thing (1982) as Frank Armitage.  All of the aliens were portrayed by martial arts legend Jeff Imada, fight choreographer for all of John Carpenter’s films and also The Crow (1994), Mortal Kombat (1995), Blade (1998), Fight Club (1999), The Book of Eli (2010) and an impressive IMDb page with over 180 credits that dates back to Blade Runner (1982).
The infamous five minute, 20 second fight scene also remains brutally effective.  It’s a rough, cowboy-style bar room brawl updated for the ‘80s, and it’s just about as painful to watch as it was to film.  Roddy and Keith claim they only pulled punches to the face and the groin, the rest were full impact, and it shows.
One of director John Carpenter’s greatest films, They Live has unfortunately become even more relevant in this divisive election year.  Eerily prescient, the movie predicts the 21st Century collapse of the middle class, the seemingly indiscriminate police brutality and the overwhelming media saturation, even without the convenience of smartphones.   We need those Ray Bans now more than ever, but i bet I'd be too scared to put them on.



my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hour diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

When Your Gravity Drive Opens a Portal to Hell, or Thoughts on Event Horizon

Event Horizon (1997), from director Paul Anderson from the Resident Evil Franchise but also Mortal Kombat (1995), Alien vs. Predator (2004) and the 2008 Death Race 2000 remake, is surprisingly chilling and effective for a sci-fi horror hybrid, though it does suppose that the first moon colony was established in 2015.
Sam Neill, Dr. Alan Grant from that dinosaur park movie and also Damien Omen III: The Final Conflict (1981), Dead Calm (1989), In The Mouth of Madness (2004), and Daybreakers (2009) stars as Dr. William Weir (another doctor), haunted by visions of his dead wife and architect of the Event Horizon, a faster than light space ship that mysteriously vanished 7 years ago.  When the Event Horizon reappears off Neptune Dr. Weir is sent on a rescue mission and that’s where the fun begins.
The exploration of the abandoned ship morphs the movie into a full-on, unapologetic haunted house movie in space.  The ship seems alive, it seeks out the rescue crew’s nightmares, and like all good horror movies, starts killing them off one by one in novel and progressively gorier ways. 
Event Horizon features a crew just as interesting and well-developed as the Nostromo, including Sean Pertwee of Dog Soldiers (2002), and Alfred on Gotham (and also Jon Pertwee’s son, you know, the Third Doctor) as Smith the pilot, and Lawrence Fishburne, 2 years before The Matrix (1999) as Captain Miler.  Not to mention Joely Richardson, Richard T. Jones from Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008) and Jason Isaacs, who you may remember as an obscure character named Lucius Malfoy in an all but forgotten franchise about English boarding schools and trains.
Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979) remains the gold standard for the sci-fi horror movie, though technically Frankenstein (1931) and even Predator (1987) are sci-fi horror movies, or rather, horror or action movies with science fiction elements.  The converse, a sci-fi movie with horror elements, set in space or the future is a rare and confusing sub-genre littered with laughable examples such as Leprechaun 4: In Space (1996), Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996, it was a good year for space horror) and Jason X (2001). 



my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hour diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Summoning The Old Ones Has Never Been Easier, or Thoughts on John Carpenter’s In The Mouth of Madness

Director John Carpenter’s In The Mouth of Madness (2004), the most Lovecrafty story HP Lovecraft never wrote, stars New Zealand actor Sam Neill, who you know as Dr. Alan Grant from Jurassic Park (1993) as John Trent, cynical insurance investigator searching for Sutter Cane, an author pseudonym so on the nose you might as well call him Stephen Lovecraft or HP King.  Sutter Cane’s novels are causing madness, riots and slipping into the cracks between fantasy and reality. 
John Trent finds hidden messages in the texts and book covers and his investigation leads him to Hobb’s End, New Hampshire, a forgotten New England town that doesn't exist on any map (much like Stephen King’s Derry, Maine), and the inspiration for all of Sutter Cane’s (non)-fictional books.  Sutter Cane is portrayed by German actor Jürgen Prochnow from Das Boot (1981), Beverly Hills Cop 2 (1987) and as Baron Wolfgang von Wolfhausen in Beerfest (2006).
Sam Neill is no stranger to the horror genre, it’s easy to forget that one of his first starring roles was as presidential candidate Damien Thorne in Omen III: The Final Conflict (1981), in addition to the psychological thriller Dead Calm (1989), the supernatural haunted spaceship extravaganza Event Horizon (1997) and the vampire alternate history Daybreakers (2009).  He’s one of the few actors who can easily slip between mainstream projects and horror without being typecast or losing popularity.
With signature John Carpenter elements reminiscent of The Thing (1982), Prince of Darkness (1987) and They Live (1988) but with a Lovecraftian twist, the movie is arguably most remembered for the axe scene in the coffee shop, which should be shown in film class as a master lesson in building tension and telling two stories at once.
Watch out for Charlton Heston as Jackson Harglow, Sutter Cane’s publisher, a 14-year-old Hayden Christensen as paperboy in his big screen debut and David Warner from The Omen (1976), The Company of Wolves https://goo.gl/bvoPrX (1984) and Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes (2001).  Also Bernie Casey from Cleopatra Jones (1973), Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde (1976), The Man Who Fell To Earth (1976, with David Bowie) and Star Trek: DS9 (1994) and Wilhelm von Holmberg, aka Vigo the Carpathian, as an angry villager.



my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hour diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).

Monday, October 17, 2016

One Last Spin on The Murder Roulette Wheel, or Thoughts on Alfred Hitchcock’s Family Plot

Alfred Hitchock’s final film Family Plot (1976) is at its heart a dark comedy, and the best example of the director’s later period.  A breezy California Gothic filmed in both San Francisco and Los Angeles, Family Plot followed the intersection of two criminal couples, the small time Madame Blanche and George running scams on unsuspecting widows and the professional kidnappers and actual bad guys Fran and Arthur.
Madame Blanche and George are played by Barbara Harris from the original Freaky Friday (1976) and Bruce Dern (Laura’s dad, most recently appearing in The Hateful Eight (2015), and with an IMDb page of over 150 credits that goes back to 1960), while Karen Black and William Devane, who you may remember as the President in The Dark Knight Rises (2012) portray Fran and Arthur. 
Written by Ernest Lehman of North by Northwest (1959) but with none of the sly sophistication, the movie is not as mean-spirited as Frenzy (1972) and more along the lines of The Trouble With Harry (1955,) but with the added freedom of swearing and more explicitly adult themes.  The director didn’t entirely benefit from the post-Vietnam, post Watergate demand for more realistic and cynical movies, and struggled to find a new audience and stay relevant.
Hitchcock was always willing to push boundaries as far as the censors were concerned, Psycho (1960) was the first American movie to show a toilet, but the existing Hollywood mores he fought against inspired him as a director to utilize subtlety and nuance to create his signature Hitchcock style.  Once the floodgates of the 70’s were open and he had access to nudity, more graphic violence and stronger language his movies suffered.  All the elegant tools he had developed over his 50-year career were replaced by louder, shinier distractions and an audience who didn’t have the patience or the sophistication for his meticulous plots and twisted romances.
Watch out for Hitchcock’s final cameo, at the Registrar of Births and Deaths.  He holds up two fingers, and it’s up to the audience to decide what he was looking for.



my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hour diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Four Women in Search of a Killer Zuni Fetish Doll, or Thoughts on Karen Black in Trilogy of Terror

Directed by Dan Stevens of the original Dark Shadows TV series and The Night Stalker (1972, the TV movie that inspired Kolchak: The Night Stalker), Trilogy of Terror (1974) was a revolutionary ABC movie of the week full of bell-bottoms and oversized collars that has held up remarkably well.  Based on three short stories by Richard Matheson of The Legend of Hell House (1973) and The Incredible Shrinking Man (1958), Trilogy of Terror was an edgier, more adult Twilight Zone for the ‘70s.
All three stories featured Karen Black from Easy Rider (1969), Five Easy Pieces (1970), The Great Gatsby (1974, Alfred Hitchcock’s final film Family Plot (1976), before ending up as Mama Firefly in House of 1000 Corpses (2003) as four different characters.  The first is Julie, the sexual assault of a repressed English lit teacher who turns the tables on her assailant, followed by Millicent and Therese, in a dual role where Karen Black plays the repressed, religious fanatic Millicent (I’m sensing a theme here) and her free-loving, miniskirt-wearing twin sister.  It’s a twisted southern gothic set in a Hollywood mansion.
The longest and scariest of the three is Amelia, a one-woman act featuring the infamous Zuni fetish doll.  Karen Black’s Amelia is not repressed this time but she does have a domineering mother, and most of the dialogue is supplied by one-sided telephone calls.  Arguably the greatest killer doll ever on TV, Amelia is trapped in her high-rise apartment in a fight to the death, with the analog special effects accomplished through stop motion, animatronics and tight editing.
It’s surprising that Guillermo Del Toro hasn’t remade it, given his love for the time period and his history with Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (2010, based on another ABC Movie of the Week). There was a sequel in 1996, Trilogy of Terror II that followed the same format but with English actor Lysette Anthony.  The Zuni fetish doll returned too.



my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hour diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).

Friday, October 14, 2016

Cornelius and The Emperor Fighting 70’s Brit Spooks, or Thoughts on The Legend of Hell House

From the 1971 novel of the same name by Richard Matheson, the author of I Am Legend (1954), The Incredible Shrinking Man (1958), A Stir of Echoes (1958) and of course, the classic Twilight Zone episode Nightmare at 20,000 Feet (1963), The Legend of Hell House (1973) was a modern update on the traditional haunted house movie, with a new generation of more dangerous and adult-themed ghosts.
Two psychics and a parapsychologist explore the “Everest of haunted houses,” the Belasco house, commonly, (or affectionately for the purposes of this review) known as “Hell House”, an atmospheric country estates with bricked up windows and a satanic chapel.  Roddy McDowall, Cornelius from Planet of The Apes, (1968), Fright Night (1985, I still haven’t watched the remake) and an IMDb page of 264 credits that goes back to 1938 portrays Benjamin Franklin Fischer, psychic and only survivor of the previous investigation while Pamela Franklin, Flora from The Innocents (1961) and Satan’s School For Girls (1973) as psychic medium Florence Tanner.
British actor Clive Revill, the voice of The Emperor in The Empire Strikes Back (1980) stars as Dr. Lionel Barrett while Gayle Hunnicutt, Irene Adler to Jeremy Brett’s Sherlock Holmes (1984), his wife and assistant, Ann.  Dr. Barrett is eager to test out his latest invention, an analog de-ghosting machine bristling with dials and levers straight out of a mad scientist’s lab.  The more permanent residents of Hell House of course, have different plans.
The Legend of Hell House was quite explicit for the time period, including a ghostly sexual assault and allusions to the “unspeakable” perversions inflicted by the host when he was alive, but the underlying theme was that ghosts in this house could actually kill you.  There was a physical danger not present in traditional ghost stories, something modern audiences readily accept.  70’s audiences had an expectation of ghostly apparitions, but having them throwing knives and dropping chandeliers on you was completely unexpected.
Watch out for the Michael Gough cameo, who you may remember as Alfred in Tim Burton’s Batman (1989) as the original ghost with the most, Emeric Belasco.



my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hour diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).