No Monkey Business
Incarnate Works on the Theory That Horror Fans Are Dumb and Will Watch Anything
I wasn't willing to give The Exorcist a shot at first
October is the perfect month for watching horror movies. In fact it's the month when a horror nerd can almost feel “normal”, as millions of people temporarily become horror fans. But hey, horror has always been welcoming, and I;m not knocking anyone who gets into the Halloween spirit. Horror is a big blanket and and we can all hide under it during the scary scenes. So for a whole month of spookiness, how could I only suggest five films to watch? So I asked and begged if I could do a second “five horror films to watch in October”.
After asking, of course I had problems picking out the five films. The problem being picking five out of all the great possible Halloween viewing. However after deep thought, head scratching, and perusing my personal collection, I picked my next five. In my first five I set rules for my selection. No zombies, no serial killers and it had to be supernatural. Which I kind of broke the last rule with The Wicker Man. Fuck the rules tho, amirite? So no rules on this one, other than I like the film and think it would be a fum Halloween watch. While I wouldn't call the list “family friendly” I did shy away from any extremely gory or disturbing films. As always make your own decision on your family's viewing, and hope you enjoy the list!
Event Horizon is probably the best example of horror and sci fi crossing over near seamlessly. It stars Laurence Fishburne and Sam Neil and is the story of a rescue crew sent out to investigate the reemergence of the interstellar ship Event Horizon. Event Horizon has rightfully been called a haunted house story set in space, which is why I'm making it a must see during the Halloween season. I've also argued it could almost be set in the Hellraiser Universe as it deals with self mutilation and inter-dimensional travel to “hell”. It's also the goriest film on this list
Way back in 1960 the horror world was introduced to Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) by director Alfred Hitchcock. The film was groundbreaking in the horror genre, featuring what was assumed to be the main star being killed early in the film. It was also responsible for, or helped define horror tropes such as the “slasher” and the “scream queen”. Not only that it made people afraid to use motel showers.
So far Psycho has spawned three sequels, a remake, a TV pilot (Bates Motel) in 1987, and an ongoing series (Bates Motel, not connected with the 1987 pilot) on A and E Network. While it doesn't have a supernatural element, it is a horror classic, and perfect for October viewing.
3.Tombs of the Blind Dead
Amando Ossorio's 1972 Spanish horror film was my first introduction to the Knights Templar. Since then I have, luckily discovered more about the legendary Templars, but this movie still holds a special place in my black heart, and it can still give me chills. In real life the Templars were accused of witchcraft, arrested, and executed, Tombs of the Blind Dead takes it further. In the film the Templars, guilty of human sacrifice and turning their backs on god, have returned from the dead. Since ravens pecked out their eyes while they hung from the gibbet, they are now blind and hunt by sound. It's a great gimmick, and twist on the still new zombie genre and provides some incredibly tense moments. Tombs of the Blind Dead is an old film and at first might not seem to hold up well. However pop it in the DVD player (or VCR) late Halloween night, turn off the lights, grab a blanket, and I bet it will still give you a chill or two. It's OK, blame it on the cool October air, I wont tell.
4. The Witchfinder General
The legendary Vincent Price enters the list with Witchfinder General. Honestly Vincent could have had five movies on this list, and probably five in my last list. However, in trying to spread the love I decided to pick one, and I picked Witchfinder General. One because this is a list for the Halloween season and witches play such an important part in Halloween, so why not a film about the persecution of witches? Witchfinder General, also known as The Conqueror Worm, showcases Price at his most nasty. For those who only remember him from more lighthearted roles, or as sympathetic characters, this may be a shock, but it's still a must see. The film is very, very loosely based on the real life story of Matthew Hopkins, the self appointed Witchfinder General of East Anglia during the English civil war.
The gruesome and disturbing content led to critical panning, even while it was a box office success. Over the years, opinions have changed and many critics now consider it a classic. It has always been one of my favorite film from Price, but it still manages to disturb me. It's the perfect film for a dark, cool, October night.
5. Last Shift
I really had a hard time picking recent films for these lists. Not that there haven't been recent horror films that I enjoyed, it's just none seemed right for this list. Then I re-watched 2014's Last Shift by director Anthony Diblasi. The film is set, appropriately on the during the last shift at a police station on the last night before it is shut down. A rookie officer is assigned to work the last shift, and comes face to face with supernatural forces. The time of year is never specified (That I noticed) but damn if it doesn't feel like it's Halloween. Think of it as a twist on Carpenter's Assault on Precinct 13, but with the assault coming from within and being supernatural. Throughout the film we come face to face with ghost, re-animated cultists and a the spookiest homeless person since Alice Cooper in Prince of Darkness. The end leaves you wondering just how much of what we seen was real, and what was in the protagonist's mind. Last Shift is perfect for Halloween viewing, just expect to have a few nightmares after watching it.
So that's my second five for October. Hope you get some ideas and enjoy some horror this Halloween.
What’s up? House of Tortured Souls LIVE is back with a new episode. This week HoTS live has a special pre-recorded interview with actor Jason Vail. Jason is one of the stars of the new award winning indie horror film Family Possessions. Jason will also be starring in the upcoming Hunting Grounds (formerly Valley of the Sasquatch), as well as Dollface (formerly Dorchester’s Revenge: The Return of Crinoline Head) by Family Possessions director Tommy Faircloth. He can currently also be seen in Boo! A Madea Halloween.
Jason will talk about his films roles past, present and upcoming. He will also talk about what it’s like to work with director Tommy Faircloth, being a full time actor and more. The interview was recorded two weeks ago, but due to unforeseen circumstances we were just able to get the whole show published. Thus this was before Family Possessions won best overall feature at Nightmares Film Festival. Congrats to Jason, Tommy and Leah Wiseman and everyone else involved.
But before we get to Jason, your hosts Lord Dixie (Allen) and John discuss their own take on horror. Included talk about the Walking Dead Season premiere, was it a home run or foul ball? They also talk a little about the Madea Halloween special, Chinese finger traps, Spooky Empire, Cher and other insanity
Part of the House of Tortured Souls
Staff Pick October 2016
Halloween is upon us. Halloween a time of trick or treats, bright costumes, women dressed in sexy attire and of course, The Great Pumpkin. But Halloween is an ancient celebration, and it wasn't always so happy and cheerful. Halloween was the harvest festival. Leaves were falling, plants dying, the days were getting shorter and the nights longer. And there was something lurking in those nights. Death. As winter approached, so did hardships, cold, lack of food and always on the periphery, death waited for the weak.
Halloween was a time when the veil between living and dead was particularly weak. A time when the people appeased the spirits, or tricked them, in order to hopefully survive the coming winter. Winters no longer hold the same dread as they once did, thus Halloween has lost some of its power. But we still celebrate, and when the air first starts to chill, sometimes, we can feel a little of that old fear that’s imprinted in our souls.
So when I was asked to pick my five favorite films for Halloween viewing, I wanted my list to reflect those old fears. I wanted movies that held some fear, movies of the supernatural. Also I wanted movies that “felt” like Halloween, or at least the fall and encroaching winter. So I made some rules, for one, no zombies. Zombies, as we think of them now, are a modern creation, and honestly they aren't very scary anymore. So sorry Walking Dead and/or Romero fans, no zombies. No slashers. Slashers for the most part aren't supernatural or at least didn't start that way, and again, they aren't that scary. Rule three, I wanted films that were scary and supernatural. No comedies or serial killers (see the last rule). So, with that in mind, I bring you my picks for Halloween viewing.
The Legend of Hell House (1973)
Long before Paranormal Activity there was a movie about a supernatural investigation that was actually scary. That movie, The Legend of Hell House, is hands down the best haunted house movie of all time. It's a movie that has stood the test of time and, over 40 years later, it is still scary, creepy and a perfect movie for the Halloween season. The movie, based on the book Hell House by Richard Mattheson, revolves around four investigators paid to investigate the possibility of life after death. To do this they prepare to stay a week in the Belasco House, reputed to be the most haunted place on earth and referred to as Hell House. The house is indeed haunted and doesn't take well to the interlopers.
What you don't see is more frightening than what you do see in Hell House. There are no rotting demonic figures or floating CGI ghosts. But unlike Paranormal Activity, it isn't an hour of nothing but the occasional moving chair and table. There's real horror in Hell House, and we see that through the reactions of the cast. No silly CGI, no jump scares, just a creepy vibe, excellent acting, and disconcerting sound effects. That's what makes it such a great film for Halloween. There's a real sense of menace and doom throughout the movie. This isn't a tongue in cheek, laugh at itself movie. This is a horror movie, and you can almost feel that it's set in the Halloween season. The Legend of Hell House stars the legendary Roddy McDowall (Planet of the Apes), Pamela Franklin, Clive Revill, and Gayle Hunnicutt and was directed by John Hough (Twins of Evil).
The Wolf Man (1941)
With my second pick we go back to the Universal Classics and The Wolf Man. Long before vampires sparkled and werewolves were emo boy toys, there was Larry Talbot and his wolf. The moonlit, mist shrouded English moors are the perfect setting for a Halloween movie. And if you remember the poem, the werewolf transformed not under the full moon, but under the autumn moon. “Even a man who is pure at heart, and says his prayers by night, may become a wolf, when the wolfs-bane blooms, and the autumn moon is bright."
The Wolf Man may seem dated in a lot of ways, and, hey, it was only released in 1941. But watching it today, late at night, alone, with the lights low, that howl can still send a chill down your spine. The Wolf Man starred Claude Raines, Ralph Bellamy, Bela Lugosi and the legendary Lon Chaney Jr.
The Wicker Man (1973)
Okay, so there's no actual supernatural element in Robin Hardy's classic horror tale, but it still is a must see for Halloween viewing. The film stars Edward Woodward as Sgt. Howie, a stern, yet devout police officer and Christian. He answers a call for assistance to a small Island off the coast of Britain. There his investigation leads to paganism, murder and ritual sacrifice. It also stars the legendary Christopher Lee in a role he has called one of his favorites.
So why is this a film for Halloween? Especially since I mentioned wanted films dealing with the supernatural. Well for starters, The Wicker Man is all about the old traditions – sacrificing in hopes for a bountiful harvest. The movie is set on (and just before) May Day but you have a similar feel to harvest festivals and their traditional trappings. The biggest difference being May Day is more focused on rebirth where Harvest is on death. Plus the location, off the coast of Britain is very near where Halloween is thought to have originated. The end of the film is what horror movies should be, unrepentant, disturbing and brutal.
The Lords of Salem (2012)
Okay, time to send hate mail to Dixie. I'm not going to sit here and try and convince you this is a great movie. I wont even go so far as to say it's Rob Zombie's best movie. However, it is Rob's best film for the Halloween season. While I don't hate his take on the classic Halloween, his movie has little to do with the season other than surface trappings like masks and pumpkins. To me it never had a Halloween or even an autumn feel. Lords of Salem has that feel. Watching it I can almost feel the chill in the air.
The more I watch Lords of Salem the more I find I like it. Yes, it's slow and the plot can be confusing, but Rob tends to pay more attention to style and visual than to plot. Just listen to the eerie and unsettling musical score. It puts you into a state of unease early on and never lets you off till the ending crescendo. Plus it's about witches and witchcraft, with goats and weird creatures and nightmares and murder. It's Halloween for Gods sake.
Okay, yeah, just post your hate mail in the comments.
The Witch (2015)
I really had a hard time with the fifth choice. So many movies over so many years, so many choices before I finally settled on The Witch. It's the most recent film on my list, and possibly the second most controversial. It's a super slow burn, but really so is every film on my list with the possible exception of the The Wolf Man.
Set somewhere in New England in Puritan times, The Witch details one family's fight against the forces of Satan. Or possibly insanity. The Witch definitely wont be for everyone with it's pace and at times almost indecipherable Puritan dialect. But it's a great film for adults on Halloween. The true star of the show, the goat Black Phillip, is near iconic already, and let's not even talk about those creepy ass kids. Like the other selections The Witch unsettles the viewers from the first images on the screen, and never lets up, even when the pace seems plodding.
So that's it. My list of five films for Halloween viewing. I hope you like them, or at least give them a chance.
Plank Face is the story of Max (Nathan Barrett), a seemingly normal guy with a dark past. While out camping with his girlfriend Stacy (Ellie Church), he kills a rapist and is then captured by a feral family. He is tortured and sexually abused by the clan as they prepare him to be their new leader and provider. Forced to wear the wooden “plank face” of their dying leader, Max is given the choice to abandon his old life or die. And it's a choice that maybe isn't as hard to make as it seems.
Bandit Motion Pictures has quickly gained a reputation for putting out original films. They also have the rep of making films that twist the normal horror tropes. That rep won't take a hit with Plank Face. It's a lot bloodier than their previous film Harvest Lake, which wasn't a shocker considering the story. However, I was a bit shocked to find it's a much more sexual film than Harvest Lake. Or at least the sex reaches out and grabs you harder than Harvest Lake.
Director Shirmer has never shied away from non traditional, uncomfortable and even transgressive sex in his films. Plank Face takes it to another plane. In a time and culture where the presence of rape in films is becoming more controversial, he takes rape and twists it, showcasing female on male rape. In doing so he twists the normal horror trope of the female captured for breeding on its head. Max is no damsel in distress, captured to bear young. He's a strong violent man with bloody tendencies, captured to sire a new generation of cannibals. That, in itself, is a fresh twist on the normal inbreed hillbilly horror.
There's very little dialogue in Plank Face other than grunts, and the cannibals’ twisted version of English. We learn whats up with the cannibals in much the same way as Max, by reading their gestures and body language. Not having everything spelled out or explained might seem annoying but it adds to the immersion, and by the end you find yourself understanding more and more of the feral words. Which isn't always comfortable.
I won't spoil the ending, but I will say, it's not what you usually expect. You will probably see the final “confrontation” coming from early on, but it's still shocking and bloody. Plank Face is a film that will please the fans of Bandit Motion Pictures, and it stands as a good example of an American cannibal movie. While it might not have been as good as Bone Tomahawk, I enjoyed it much more than the over hyped and much bigger budgeted The Green Inferno.
It's not a perfect film, but very few, if any, are. There are small things I didn't like, or didn't seem to work as well, but they were small and I think most can be contributed to budget concerns. While the acting of the leads was effective, especially considering the lack of dialogue (and clothes). Some of the extras came off as forced. But those scenes were a momentary distraction and wont hurt Plank Face overall. It's all compensated for by the main cast, performing with little speech, sometimes with their faces covered, really forcing them to act, and Plank Face is a film that forces them to act. With all it's gore, sex, violence and nudity there is still a story to convey.
While Plank Face will please a lot of fans, it's not a movie for everyone. It's got tons of nudity, full frontal, female and male (ripping another common horror gimmick of only having female nudity). There are multiple scenes of rape, male on female and female on male, as well as scenes of consensual sex (not considering it as a result of Stockholm Syndrome, which I think some scenes could be blamed on SS, others not, but I won't go into reasons here. Comment if you want to discuss it). Plank Face also features explicit scenes of violence, gore, and cannibalism. People who can't handle these images should stay far away. Especially those unable to deal with the depiction of sexual violence.
Overall, Plank Face is another success for Bandit Motion Pictures. At first watch I wasn't sure if I liked it more than Harvest Lake but it's growing on me with every viewing. It's growing on me between viewings. It's a movie that merits multiple watches. It's an original and visceral take on the cannibal family and the legacy of Sawney Bean. Check it out if you have the balls (that will be funny after you watch it)
Plank Face is directed by Scott Schrimer, written by Schrimer and Brian Williams. It stars Nathan Barrett as Max/Plank Face, Ellie Church as Stacey, Susan Martin as Granny, Brigid McCauley as The Bride, Jason Hignite as Old Daddy, and Alyss Winkler as The Bunny Girl.
This week the House of Tortured Souls crew of Lord Dixie, aka Allen, and John Roisland bring you another action packed episode. Our special guest is director and cinematographer BJ McDonnell. BJ is perhaps best know as the director of the horror film Hatchet 3, where he took over the reins from series creator Adam Green. BJ is also the director of a violent trilogy of videos for metal band Slayer, as well as being involved in some of the biggest Hollywood movies ever. Can you say Antman and Avengers 2, children?
We will talk to BJ about the Slayer videos, Hatchet 3, and touch a little on the pros and cons of practical effects versus CGI.
John and Dixie will also bring you up to date on recent HotS activity. This includes the new Blair Witch movie and of course Rob Zombie’s 31, which was just released on VoD. Love him, hate him, or wish you were married to his wife, he is Rob Zombie and he makes his movies bloody. Plus find out if Lew Temple says, “Tits on a boar hog”. Pssst, he totally does.
Want to work for House of Tortured Souls? John will tell you how! Only on this episode of House of Tortured Souls LIVE. Which is, of course, pre-recorded. Ladies and gents, there’s only one way, yes one way to make sure the Creepy Clowns don’t get you, and that is by listening to House of Tortured Souls LIVE. That’s HoTS Live to all the cool kiddies. You got it – HoTS is cool!
As always we have to thank the awesome Rocky Grey for the opening music, and of course thanks to BJ McDonnell for coming on and putting up with us. Until next time, peace out! And somebody bring me a Pepsi!
And Keep It Evil!!
In 1999, movie making changed forever. A new subgenre of horror was born, the found footage shay cam film. It ushered in a wave of jiggly screens, bouncing videos and migraine headaches. It was a hit movie, and filmed in a way that way too many people believed it was real. It was The Blair Witch Project. Now, fifteen years later, a sequel is being made.
Okay, it's a second sequel if you count Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2, which didn’t follow the story line of the first film and may or may not be considered canon depending on which day of the week you ask the creators. But now we have a true sequel, following the storyline of the first film.
The plot of Blair Witch (2016) concerns the brother of Heather (Heather Donahue) from the original film. After scouring the Internet, he finally finds what he believes is evidence to the location of his missing sister.. Gathering a group of friends and video equipment, they trek into the woods in search of Heather. Instead of his sister they find, just like in 1999, the Blair Witch.
Sadly, however, the 2016 version doesn't have much of the magic of the original. Found footage and shaky cam is no longer a novel device but a pain in the ass. Plus, for a POV movie, there are times when you wonder just where the fuck the footage is coming from; there are some shots that are just not possible from one of their headsets. But that's a small nit picky point. I do think the film would have been better to just forget the shaky cam and go with a traditional steady-cam film. Too many times the quick spins were near nausea-inducing, and the dark scenes did little to build suspense.
Which is my biggest qualm with the film. For a movie like this to work, there has to be a build up of tension. The first film, at least for me, managed to build a sense of fear as Heather, Josh, and Mike wandered lost in the woods. When Josh disappeared, we had no clue what happened; in the new film, even with the black outs, we see way too much. We aren't left to wonder if Josh was taken by the witch? Did he just get lost?Kill himself? Here we see the victims dragged away. It's good for a quick jump, but nothing else.
There was also the decision to show the witch. And of course we have to make her creepy and inhuman looking so we can use the CGI budget. So they add to the back story, and now the witch has been hung from a rack so we have a witch that could give Slenderman a boner. To their credit, the witch does look creepy and inhuman and she's limited to a few quick views. So while it's somewhat effective the addition just seems cheap and unnecessary.
But I wanted to try and review this on its own merits and haven't seen the original since it's first release. So I'm going to try and limit it to what I liked and disliked in this film. The main thing that killed my enjoyment was the pacing. The beginning was just too ungodly slow. Slow isn't always bad. If you are building tension or developing characters, slow can be good. But an hour in I still didn’t feel like I knew anything about these characters. Nothing beyond the stereotypical horror movie tropes anyway. Then once things become strange, they try to build that tension too fast - people disappearing, people reappearing, people getting lost - all in compressed time. Add to it headache inducing camera work and shifting perspectives that went on too long before the pay off.
There was also way too much time at the beginning showing the cast goofing off. There was no real reason for this, it didn’t tell us much about the characters and didn't advance the story, It seemed like nothing more than filler to pad out the length.
Once you get close to the end, the action, and tension does finally ramp up. The POV camera works to the films advantage during the chase and hunt through the cabin. The confusion and claustrophobia starts to make the viewer uneasy (and not just in the tummy), but only the cabin scenes had this effect. The filmmakers tried for a claustrophobia-inducing tunnel scene, but it failed pretty miserably for me. The camera shots, from wherever they came from, made the space look too open. Film is all about illusion and those shots broke the illusion. To see claustrophobia done right check out The Descent or Crawl or Die, where you literally feel suffocated.
I won’t spoil the ending, but I will say, even though it felt like a cheap rip of the end of the original Blair Witch, it did manage to build up my level of dread. There's also the hint that the entire film was some type of paradoxical time loop. Which doesn't really do anything for the film, but it doesn't really detract from it. It's more of an Easter egg than anything else. So let’s call it a push.
So my final verdict? The last 20 minutes or so is serviceable and even scary at times. Sadly it takes way too long to get there and very little tension is built up along the way. It copies a few of the more well known scenes from the original, which is good for a nostalgic “ha”. While casual horror fans might enjoy it, most horror fans will be bored to tears before the action starts. As slow and plodding as the original was, it held me. That's not the case here. I definitely don't see Blair Witch (2016) having anything like the cultural impact of the original. And they didn't even try to convince us it really happened.
The Blair Witch was directed by Adam Wingard (You're Next, The Guest) and stars Callie Hernandez (From Dusk til Dawn:The Series) and James Allen McCune (The Walking Dead). I really wanted to like it but unfortunately I just found it too slow, and the pay off, while not horrible, isn't worth the wait.
Crowdsourcing is becoming a more and more popular way to finance films although it was once almost exclusively the territory of low budget and Indie films. Now, however, directors from the likes of Spike Lee to Rob Zombie have used the public to fund the budgets of their films. While there has been some outcry among fans concerning established filmmakers using this avenue, it, nonetheless, remains a lucrative way of funding a film. In addition to freeing filmmakers of studio restrictions, crowdfunding enables them to connect with the fans via special offers for different levels of donations.
With crowdfunding here to stay, House of Tortured Souls has decided to do a “Best of Crowdsourcing” series. It will have an irregular schedule to start, but we hope to grow into a monthly article. HoTS writers will scour the popular sourcing sites, Kickstarter and Indiegogo (and any others that may exist or come to exist), and find horror projects that look interesting to report back on for our followers. We also welcome suggestions from our followers. Just comment on this article as well as the upcoming articles and let us know what hidden gems you’ve found.
I'm going to kickstart this (Heh, heh, heh) with a little movie I found late one recent Friday night. The name of the film is Baphomet, and it drew me in right away. The story concept kept me there. It's still early in the crowdsourcing for Baphomet, so it’s still anybody’s guess on how it will come out. But I'm really hoping this one is successful. After all, I already put my money where my mouth is.
According to the Kickstarter page, Baphomet is
Director Alex Sinesi describes it as a Southern Gothic road movie, and he means Gothic in the traditional way, not the Hot Topic way.
The crucial lead role of Hanna will be played by Hannah Elizabeth Smith, an award winning film and theater actress. Apparently Hannah isn't afraid to get bloody with roles like Carrie (Carrie the Musical), and Lady MacBeth in her past. If that ain’t enough, just check out her photo on Kickstarter.
Along with Smith, Baphomet will star Nicholas Reed and Christopher Marino. All three members of the cast come from East Coast theater backgrounds.
There's a lot that drew me to Baphomet. While the idea of a female serial killer might not be new, it's far from common, and it's relatively fresh ground. Plus, the idea of a Gothic road movie is appealing. I grew up in the South, on Faulkner, and there was always a darkness in his stories. They always made me feel uncomfortable. I think Baphomet may strike that same chord in me, and that makes me excited.
The director promises that it will be bloody, but it wont be cheap gore. Sinesi promises that we will see the effect the killing has, even on the killer. I'm trusting he will have the skill to follow through on those promises, and make Baphomet more than a cheap horror film. So give it a look, and if you agree that this is an interesting project consider giving them a hand. There's more information to be found on the movie's Facebook page or on the Kickstarter page If it looks interesting, consider chipping in and helping what could be a great Indie horror film get made. House of Tortured Souls, and I, personally, will be keeping our eye on Baphomet and updating everyone on any major happenings.