Mike Vaughn

My ‘trip’ to the Back Woods

The Underground Classic You’ve Probably Never Heard of…
But Should’ve

I am willing to bet a large percent of you have never even heard of the underground film entitled Back Woods — made with love and no money by a group of young people and released in 2001. I personally came to know this movie by finding it on eBay, and being a lover of the weird dime store oddities, I took a chance and bought a copy (which David later told me was a bootleg to my shock and embarrassment). Back Woods tells the simple and twisted story of Luther (David Hayes), a baby born fully grown with a beard. All is fine and dandy until Mama is killed in a hit and run by a bunch of reckless teens. Now Luther, guided by a woods spirit named Mangina (Joseph Patrick Buck), goes on a killing spree, making the teens pay the ultimate price. Even as the film’s unofficial #1 fan, I can admit it’s not a good movie by any means. But I am sure nobody making this thought they were making an epic. So, yeah, when I watch it, I see the flaws, but I also find it genuinely humorous, and it seems like everybody is having a blast making this ridiculous movie. At a scant runtime, the filmmakers throw enough sleaze, raunchy humor and blood to keep the whole demented family glued. Of course, David cross-dressing and dancing around covered in fake blood makes for good wholesome fun. After my first viddy, I was a fan. Yes, I drank the Kool-Aid and was praying to Mangina to smite my enemies.

Fun little trivia: I actually bought a screen used prop from it – which is either really awesome or sad depending on who you ask.

I got to know its star David Hayes, who is an extremely smart man who teaches and has a series of books under his belt despite looking like a redneck butcher. His acting credits include Bloody Bloody Bible Camp (which is a film that NEEDS to be seen by everybody), Werewolves in Heat, and Blown, the tender love story about a killer blow-up doll. When I asked David about a part 2 I got a firm hell no, but I still held out hope. To my delight, I got a message one day asking if I wanted to see a sequel that was filmed a while back but never released. Of course I jumped at the chance, and I was not disappointed. From the opening, Back Woods 2 takes a meta approach and, of course, has a lot of fun ripping on the first film. But it wisely doesn’t simply remake the first film, introducing a host of new characters and situations. In fact, part 2 can almost stand on its own. Like the first film, however, it retains its sick demented charms and throws plenty of blood and some nudity (mostly David’s ass) at viewers. A redneck cannibal Lego man and a porn star with daddy issues are just some of the insane treats viewers have in store for them.

Back Woods 2 (2015)

It’s a really exciting time for people who haven’t seen the original Back Woods as both part one and the sequel are being re-released in one set. With that said, I really hope this finds a loyal following. And who knows… It could be as widely loved as Plan 9 from Outer Space, Troll 2, and The Room.

Michael Vaughn is a cult film historian and has been featured in magazines such as Scream (UK) and Fangoria as well as websites like Films in Review –Currently he has a book coming out entitled The Ultimate Guide to Strange Cinema. Instagram castle_anger https://www.amazon.com/Ultimate-Guide-Strange-Cinema/dp/0764354280
MOVIE REVIEW: Back Woods (2001) and Back Woods 2 (2015)

MOVIE REVIEW: Back Woods (2001) and Back Woods 2 (2015)

My ‘trip’ to the Back Woods

The Underground Classic You’ve Probably Never Heard of…
But Should’ve

I am willing to bet a large percent of you have never even heard of the underground film entitled Back Woods — made with love and no money by a group of young people and released in 2001. I personally came to know this movie by finding it on eBay, and being a lover of the weird dime store oddities, I took a chance and bought a copy (which David later told me was a bootleg to my shock and embarrassment). Back Woods tells the simple and twisted story of Luther (David Hayes), a baby born fully grown with a beard. All is fine and dandy until Mama is killed in a hit and run by a bunch of reckless teens. Now Luther, guided by a woods spirit named Mangina (Joseph Patrick Buck), goes on a killing spree, making the teens pay the ultimate price. Even as the film’s unofficial #1 fan, I can admit it’s not a good movie by any means. But I am sure nobody making this thought they were making an epic. So, yeah, when I watch it, I see the flaws, but I also find it genuinely humorous, and it seems like everybody is having a blast making this ridiculous movie. At a scant runtime, the filmmakers throw enough sleaze, raunchy humor and blood to keep the whole demented family glued. Of course, David cross-dressing and dancing around covered in fake blood makes for good wholesome fun. After my first viddy, I was a fan. Yes, I drank the Kool-Aid and was praying to Mangina to smite my enemies.

Fun little trivia: I actually bought a screen used prop from it – which is either really awesome or sad depending on who you ask.

I got to know its star David Hayes, who is an extremely smart man who teaches and has a series of books under his belt despite looking like a redneck butcher. His acting credits include Bloody Bloody Bible Camp (which is a film that NEEDS to be seen by everybody), Werewolves in Heat, and Blown, the tender love story about a killer blow-up doll. When I asked David about a part 2 I got a firm hell no, but I still held out hope. To my delight, I got a message one day asking if I wanted to see a sequel that was filmed a while back but never released. Of course I jumped at the chance, and I was not disappointed. From the opening, Back Woods 2 takes a meta approach and, of course, has a lot of fun ripping on the first film. But it wisely doesn’t simply remake the first film, introducing a host of new characters and situations. In fact, part 2 can almost stand on its own. Like the first film, however, it retains its sick demented charms and throws plenty of blood and some nudity (mostly David’s ass) at viewers. A redneck cannibal Lego man and a porn star with daddy issues are just some of the insane treats viewers have in store for them.

Back Woods 2 (2015)

It’s a really exciting time for people who haven’t seen the original Back Woods as both part one and the sequel are being re-released in one set. With that said, I really hope this finds a loyal following. And who knows… It could be as widely loved as Plan 9 from Outer Space, Troll 2, and The Room.




Posted by Mike Vaughn in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
INTERVIEW: Original Pennywise Designer Bart Mixon

INTERVIEW: Original Pennywise Designer Bart Mixon

You may not know his name, but if you are a horror fan, you’ve seen his work. Bart Mixon is best known for creating the now iconic makeup for Tim Curry’s dancing clown Pennywise. Among the other movies to his credit are RoboCop, Killer Klowns from Outer Space, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, Rings, and the Netflix film Bright. Bart, along with Heather A. Wixson, Steve Johnson, Michele Burke, Gabe Bartalos, Tom Woodruff, Jr., Jennifer Aspinall, John Goodwin, and Rick Lazzarini, will be doing a book signing at Dark Delicacies this Saturday, and I was granted an exclusive interview with Bart Mixon about his epic career.
House of Tortured Souls: I read in an interview that the hardest part of the job is just getting it. With your amazing resume, does the work ever just come to you now?
Bart Mixon: When I did that interview, I owned my own shop so I was trying to bid on shows, and I think that was more in reference to that. Lately (in the past twenty years), I have been doing mainly set with application work for other guys, such as Rick Baker on The Grinch, Planet of the Apes (2001), and Men In Black 2 and 3, so I’m not key in the show as much anymore. But yeah, I get work from a lot of my friends these days. Like I was just doing Bright a year ago, but it just came out, and I got that job from a friend Chris Nelson whom I’ve known for twenty years. When he got that show, he was like, “Hey, wanna help me apply it?” So it does seem like a lot of it these days is more either contacts I’ve made or I guess I have enough of a reputation that the work comes to me. It’s not to say if something cool is going on that I won’t make a few phone calls or make a few suggestions, but yeah, it doesn’t seem like I have to beat the doors down like in the 80s or 90s.
HoTS: How much interaction with the directors do you have? For example, you just did Guardians of the Galaxy II by former Troma alumni James Gunn. I could see him being a fan of your past work.
BM: Actually I didn’t have much contact with him. Depending on the show I’m working on, for example on Men in Black 3, I was doing the main villain Boris for Rick Baker, so I was with Rick and Barry Sonnenfeld and others. But a show like Guardians, I was on it for about 12 weeks or so but pretty much I was just doing midground and background characters, so I really didn’t have a chance to interact with Gunn that much. I mean, Legacy was in charge of the prosthetics for part two, and they put the teams together for who was doing the Nebula or Drax. By the time I got on set, I was just doing mid ground characters. But no, I didn’t have much contact with Gunn. However, in that same vein, when the new IT came out, Chris Nelson (who I did Bright with) was doing a virtual reality promotional film for the film (IT), and he (Nelson) asked me to apply the Pennywise makeup. Then, when the director heard that one of us had done the original Pennywise, he was very interested in talking with me. He was a fan of the original and was like, ‘Oh cool you worked on the first one’, so I showed him my notebook with all my Pennywise photos – that sort of thing. So in that instant, he was a fan and that was flattering.
HoTS: Your first big project was A Nightmare on Elm Street 2. Where you did the Freddy coming out of Jesse’s body? Do you recall how long that sequence took to pull off?
BM: I think we had about 11 weeks from start to finish – when we did our first meetings and storyboards and what not to when we shot. Most of our effects were shot were on the last two days of filming the movie because it was all the Freddy bursting out of Jesse, and we had so much to build that we basically told him that it had to be the last stuff they shot because we needed every day that we could get. I recall staying up 40 hours straight getting everything ready for the first day of that two-day shoot.

HoTS: Did you work on anything else or just that scene?
BM: We also did the mechanical tongue that Jesse has when he’s making out with his girlfriend, so things like that we did earlier in the shoot, and there might have been one or two other little things that worked prior to that transformation, but 99% of what we built was that sequence.
HoTS: You’ve worked on bigger budget films and lower ones. Would you say having a bigger budget is easier or do you have more freedom in the small production?
BM: Defiantly on a small shows either time or money can certainly be more of an issue, but I guess you have to be a little more creative, like when I was doing stuff in Texas before I moved to LA, I might have known the right way to do something, but I maybe couldn’t either find the material or have the money to do it that way, so I would have to come up with an alternatives. I guess it forces you to be more inventive and resourceful, but sometimes too if they don’t have the time or money to do it, then it doesn’t get done at all and that can be frustrating. I think I’ve become a little spoiled working on the number of Rick Baker shows that I did because he always saw to getting things scheduled and having the time and budget to get do the project right. And, of course, after you get used to doing things the correct way and you get thrown into other situations where you don’t have that luxury, it can be frustrating. For example, the prosthetics that came out of Rick’s shop or other shops, like Vincent Van Dyke, they make beautiful prosthetics, and when you are on set applying their stuff, 99% of the time it’s going to be a nice piece, whereas, and I can’t name any names (laugh), but some other shows things might not be good such as the edges might not be what they should be or whatever and your kind of like, ‘Why is this made this way?’ And that can be frustrating – like being handed a pile of ‘whatever’ and trying to make it work. Like I said, I don’t want to name any names because a lot of these guys I’ve worked with are my friends and whatnot. But sometimes that’s due to budget and sometimes it’s just how things are designed, and you don’t always have input on how things go together. That was one of the nice things on Bright. You’ve seen Bright?

Bright (2017)

HoTS: Yeah. I really liked it.
BM: Oh good, I did too. Well, the initial test that they did on that, everybody wants to do everything in silicone these days. That’s just like the go-to material. But it would have been very impractical to do that movie with silicone, and when Chris did the first test, he made the prosthetics out of silicone and quickly realized that this was going to be more of a headache. Then whatever advantage you might have been getting from silicone, which I don’t know if there really was any. So after that first test, they decided that foam latex would be the better way to go, so thankfully the shop listened and that’s what we did. So when you get into a show early enough and where you can have input on the ways things should be executed, that’s always preferable. Again, some shows will afford you that luxury and other shows don’t, quite frankly. So, like on Bright, there was enough time to retool their thinking to go to foam latex and, again, when we did a couple of tests, for example, the way we were doing ears on Joel [Edgerton], we changed those after the second test just to make them more user friendly. They were very concerned about not getting the makeup applied in a certain amount of time, so we came up with suggests which would expedite it whereas the makeup might not have been originally designed that way. So some shows you know you have the schedule and budget to try things and rethink things and other shows you don’t.
But in general, yeah, it’s great to have a budget. Another example: I had the job of (the character) Vision on the new Avengers movie, and we had the time and the budget to rework the cowl that Paul Bettany wears because there were some comfort issues on Civil War that we were able to address in this new Avengers movie. But, then again, some of the most fun I’ve had, like A Nightmare on Elm Street 2, were smaller budgets – especially compared to things I’ve worked since then (laughs). Or the Rob Zombie movies with Wayne Toth. I had a pretty good time because I was working with friends.
HoTS: Speaking of iconic 80s films, you worked on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. How did you get hired for that job?
BM: I was part of Tom Savini’s crew and I was living in Houston at the time. I had been corresponding with Savini since before Creepshow, so I was trying to get on the show but wasn’t having much luck. But my brother was living in California at the time and knew some of the people on Tom’s crew, and they’d already been in Austin for a week or two setting up, and I believe it was John Vulich who suggested that, “Tom isn’t going to hire you over the phone, but if you go to Austin and have a meeting with him, he’ll hire you”.
HoTS: What specifically did you do for that job?
BM: By the time I came on, which was a week or two into it, the main characters like Chop Top had already been doled out to various artists, so I was doing lab work. I ran a lot of foam latex, made some molds. In the film, somebody gets their hand cut off. We did a prosthetic on an amputee, and we sculpted the pieces for that. The guy had recently lost his hand, so when John Vulich applied the severed stump to him, the guy freaked out and literally ran away so we weren’t able to shoot him for the movie. I also helped Shawn McEnroe  apply makeup to Chop Top, and I also did a lot of set work. Probably the most visible thing I did in the movie was on Leatherface, doing work above his eyes and mouth before we put the mask on him. I was mainly watching set, so I would do the day to day makeup like the sores on his lips. That was like an out of the kit makeup, this material which is like a scar plastic you can build up wounds and stuff.

Tobe Hooper on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2

HoTS: This was the first and, I believe, only time you worked with Tobe Hooper. Any special memories of working with him?
BM: I remember he said I looked like Stephen King. I thought that was cute (laugh), and at the time, just the length of his hair and goatee, I thought he looked like Rick Baker. So we were like, “Hey, you look like Stephen King” and “Oh, you look like Rick Baker”. I remember I was removing the Chop Top makeup once, and I was working a brush under the prosthetic to loosen it, and Tobe was there, I guess talking to [Bill] Moseley and watching what I was doing. And I remember poking the brush through the prosthetic and it looked like it punched through the skin, and Tobe was kind of grossed out by that. I was like, “Really? Out of all the stuff we are doing in this movie (laugh), this seems odd that this would affect you.” I also remember there was this one shot where we were doing a scene where the girl (Caroline Williams) was tied to a chair at the end of the table and her makeup artist was coming in and giving her water in between takes because she was screaming so much. She left a cup of water on the table for one of the takes, and Tobe was really pissed off, understandably, about that. I remember him telling the script supervisor, “Make a note to the editor that his preferred take was the one with the cup in it” just to emphasize how displeased he was with it left in. I try to remember anything else, nothing more specific. I remember Dennis Hopper had a birthday on the set, and the little cake and a mini chainsaw that he was cutting the cake with was spitting oil all over the place, and nobody wanted to eat the cake because it had oil all over it. I think Dennis Hopper might have been a little high once and awhile. I remember the makeup girl trying to do his makeup, and she comes at him with the sponge and he flinches like kind of recoils, and he said “What are you doing?” and she was like “I’m doing your makeup”. He was like, “Oh, okay” and settles down. And she goes to do it again, and he flinches and again said, “What are ya doing?” and again she says, “I’m doing your makeup” (laughs), and he’s like, “Ohh, okay”, and this must have gone on for 15 minutes. (Laughs) I was thinking, ‘Yeah Dennis might be smoking something before he came to the trailer’ that day. But yeah, Tobe was a cool guy and seemed to know what he wanted. I was impressed with him and how he handled the set and whatnot, so it was defiantly a good experience.
HoTS: Now the thing you probably get asked about the most is designing Pennywise for the 90s miniseries. I read you started designs before Curry was cast?
BM: Yeah as much as I could. I mean, once I read the script, I started just kind of doing some doodles and some rough conceptual stuff. I know there are some pictures that showed up online of some of my early sketches. But I quickly found that without having the actor’s face that you are working on, it was kind of pointless at least in terms of specifics. I think I might have gotten some board strokes before Tim was cast, but a lot of that, especially a makeup like that, much is dictated by the actor’s face. So you can sit there and draw for weeks, but once you get your actor, you’d be like, “Okay, this isn’t going to work on him”. Again, I did a few just board strokes, concept type things, but luckily they cast Tim fairly early on, and I was able to focus my attention on making it work which is the features.
HoTS: And Curry wasn’t the first choice if I am remembering that correctly?
BM: Tommy doesn’t remember this, but maybe he wasn’t yet on board, but originally this was going to be a three-part six-hour miniseries, and at that time, I remember going [to] Fantasy 2 and asking who was going to be Pennywise. I remember at the time saying it was either going to be Tim Curry, Malcolm McDowell, or Roddy McDowall being considered. Tommy has since said in interviews he doesn’t recall that, but again it might have happened before he got on board. But certainly, I never did any design work for anybody but Tim Curry.

Bart Mixon concept art for Pennywise in 1990 IT miniseries

HoTS: Curry was not a big fan of prosthetics from what I read?
BM: He previously did the character Darkness (for Legend) and wore more prosthetics. I guess, yeah, he probably wanted to keep it as simple and as little as possible. I know at one point he was saying that he wouldn’t mind just having a rubber bald cap instead of the foam latex cranium that I had for him. I guess his whole concept of Pennywise was a little different than mine. For example, he was okay with the edges showing on the bald cap, like he was a guy wearing a clown makeup. But for me it was never a guy wearing a makeup; it was an illusion this creature was projecting, so it didn’t make sense to me to include flaws like that. The makeup that we used in the movie had a headpiece and a nose, and then, in additional tests there were cheekbones also. We tested both of those, and I could tell that Tim wasn’t too thrilled about wearing the cheeks, and again in hindsight I think it was the right decision, but I thought he looked good with them in the test. At the time, I sculpted the battery acid, he was going to be wearing those, but once we tested, we decided not to use them. And we didn’t have time to re-sculpt the makeup, and, for a while, they weren’t going to use it anyways. So yeah, he wanted to wear as little as possible. We had to have the headpiece on him, and plus I wanted the light bulb head, and Tommy Wallace wanted that, too. So we needed to build up his head a little bit. Also, to his credit, the whole battery acid look… we almost didn’t shoot that. When we did principal photography, we didn’t have time to put it on him, so we shot the scene without it and used the regular Pennywise look, and then Tim expressed some disappointment and said, “Well, you did this beautiful prosthetic. It’s a shame we aren’t going to be able to use it”, so they scheduled a day of additional photography at Fantasy II and Tim said if we could get it all in one day, that he would wear the battery acid look so we could do the inserts for that sequence. So it wasn’t that he was totally flat against prosthetics, otherwise he wouldn’t have volunteered to wear that, and the only reason that’s in the movie is because he graciously offered to wear it for that day. And I am forever grateful to him for that and, of course, that is a very memorable piece in the movie. Its almost as iconic as Pennywise himself, and that came very close to not being in the movie. Tim was a great guy, and I cannot say enough nice things about him. I’m glad they choose him.

Tim Curry as Pennywise in IT 1990 miniseries

HoTS: Had Curry not minded a lot of prosthetics, would you have gone another direction in the look?
BM: I did three designs, or what we call clay sketches, once we had Tim cast. Then we did a head cast of him, and I did three different designs. One was very heavy and almost covered his whole face. It was almost like one of those tramp or hobo clowns with the sculpted frown, and it had a lot more character in the face. The second was the one that we went with, and the third was somewhere in between, and just in conversations with the director, we choose the one we went with. Of the three looks, that’s the one that was picked, but it was originally supposed to have cheekbones to the chin. It was like a stylized Lon Chaney from The Phantom of the Opera, which is what I was going for. So had Tim been more open, we would have gone with the cheek and the chin, but we already eliminated the heavier makeup in the design process.

 

HoTS: King, I heard, wasn’t on set.
BM: I don’t know why he wasn’t on set. I’m not sure if nobody invited him or he didn’t want to go. And I know he was around The Stand and some of these other miniseries of some of his books, so I’m not really sure why he didn’t show up on ours. Maybe he was busy at that time. I don’t know.
HoTS: Did you meet him prior to IT?
BM: I never met him.
HoTS: So, I am dying to know what you thought of the new IT and the design of Pennywise.
BM: It was cool. I’m certainly fond of mine, but I thought they did a nice job. I did get to apply that one day for the promotional thing, and there were certainly some similarities to my makeup which probably couldn’t be avoided [with] it being a clown, but I thought it was different enough. I don’t envy [Bill] Skarsgård just having to follow Tim Curry. That must be a pretty daunting task for him, but yeah, I thought it was interesting as a makeup. I’m glad they did their own take on it, that they didn’t just copy mine even though I have friends that thought they copied it a little too much. I guess it has the bulbous head like mine, but that’s where the similarities end. Just as a movie, I thought they did a pretty good job. Mine was a TV movie from 1990; theirs is an R-rated feature in 2017, so obviously they can do stuff we weren’t allowed to do. For what I did, I think it was about three hours and five minutes long. By the time they do part two, it will probably come into about four and a half hours to cover the same territory, so I am kind of envious that they got another hour and a half to tell the same story and they are not restricted by the 1990 TV censorship as I was. But I’m really looking forward to part two. I got a lot of crap on mine for the spider at the end of ours, so I’m kind of curious to see what they do or if they are even going to do a spider, or if they are gonna chicken out and not do it at all. (Laughs) I have a feeling with all the references to the turtle in the first one, we are going to see the spider and turtle fight. That was in the book. So I wish them luck with that, but yeah, I’m looking forward to the second one. Actually, after the director met Chris and I, he said, “Oh maybe we should get you to do part two”, and I was like, “Hey you know where to find us”. So [we] will see, but I thought they did a good job. Some of the visuals in there I thought were really cool, like the scene with Georgie in the flooded basement and he’s standing in like ankle deep water and Pennywise comes up out of the water, which I thought made a nice supernatural element since obviously the water wasn’t deep enough for him to be completely submerged and yet he was. Or like when he was working Georgie like a hand puppet or when he ripped Georgie’s arm off – which is a scene we could only hint at. In our version, he is missing an arm but you can’t really tell.
HoTS: You’re doing a book signing at Dark Delicacies on Jan 13, 2018. The book is entitled Monster Squad about the art of monster makeup. Is this going to be a reunion for you with the other guests?
BM: Well, it depends. I’d have to look at the list to see who’s on there. Like I think Tom and Alex from ADI are going to be there, and I just saw them recently at Creature Features for a promotional thing. But most of these guys I’m certainly casual friends with but, unfortunately, with everybody’s schedule, we probably don’t see each other as much as we would like to. Certainly, there are some people that I’ve seen more recently than others.

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

You can meet Mr. Bart Mixon at the Dark Delicacies book signing Jan 13, 2018.
Posted by Mike Vaughn in INTERVIEWS, MONSTERS AND CREATURES, 0 comments
MOVIE REVIEW (SHORT): Shriekfest: Miscast (2017)

MOVIE REVIEW (SHORT): Shriekfest: Miscast (2017)

Miscast (2017)

Venue: Shriekfest

Director: Carsten Kurpanek; Writer: Matt Katzenberger; Stars: Nina Daniels, Brea Bee, Kade Pait; Rating: UNK; Run Time: 10 min; Genre: Short, Comedy, Horror; Country: USA; Language: English; Year: 2017 Blood SIsters (2017) / Fair us doctrine. Halloween may be over and the Jack-O-Lanterns have long been blown out for the year but it’s really never too late to review a holiday short. Miscast comes from Carsten Kurpanek who is no stranger to short films with an impressive 11 under his belt. On Halloween night, an office party turns into bloody chaos after the seemingly normal April (Brea Bee) puts a spell on everybody. April takes her friend May (Nina Daniels) to safety, and the two begin in a wily battle of witchy wits. Miscast manages to take a pretty basic plot and inject plenty of delicious dark humor and frights. Because how could you not love seeing a great witch duel? The strongest aspect of this film is its look. Visually the film is great and Kurpanek really knows exactly how to fill a frame while also crafting a palpable mood with lighting and camera techniques. All the props and set dressings really help create the creepy vibe and give the overall film a much more expensive look. Miscast is certainly not miscast in this case and Brea Bee (Silver Linings Playbook) and Nina Daniels (Shameless) really shine. They also seem to play off of each other nicely and the chemistry really works in the film’s favor. Miscast really put a spell on me with its great story and its attention to detail. As far as Halloween themed shorts it may just rank up there as one of my favorites. I really am excited to see what the filmmakers have in store for the future.

Posted by Mike Vaughn in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
MOVIE REVIEW (SHORT): Shriekfest: Blood Sisters (2017)

MOVIE REVIEW (SHORT): Shriekfest: Blood Sisters (2017)

Blood Sisters (2017)

Venue: Shriekfest

Directors: Caitlin Koller, Lachlan Smith; Writer: Hannah White; Stars: Emma Gladwell, Hannah Vanderheide; Rating: UNK; Run Time: 11 min; Genre: Short, Horror; Country: USA; Language: English; Year: 2016
Blood SIsters (2017) / Fair us doctrine.
Hello, fiends! Still working my way through the Shriekfest shorts, and this one, Blood Sisters, is by award-winning director Caitlin Koller and Lachlan Smith. Two best friends plan a carefree night of TV watching and, oh, some witchcraft. It’s all just silly fun; however, they soon learn that some things are best not meddled with. When your movie ends with a massive blood puke, you earn a special place in my heart. However, Blood Sisters just happens to be amazingly written, directed, and acted. Blood Sisters manages to take a paper-thin plot and make it work on different layers. It's high spirited fun and a gross-out. Most importantly, the comedic elements really hit the mark without feeling hammy or corny. Blood Sisters relies solely on two actors, and both (thankfully) do a fantastic job carrying the film.

Both Emma and Hannah have a natural ease in front of the camera, and the chemistry between the two is very believable. On the technical side, the film is well crafted with sharp editing, nice camera work, and has a healthy dose of visual flair to further give it polish. Blood Sisters is an outstanding horror comedy short which delivers devilishly good laughs and lots of red kroovy in equal measures. Koller and Smith know how to manage a well-balanced script that doesn’t outstay its welcome and also have a keen eye for creating a mood. Horror comedy is tricky to pull off but Blood Sisters does it extremely well. I cannot wait to see what else these talented filmmakers might puke up in the near future.

Posted by Mike Vaughn in ANTHOLOGY, MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
MOVIE REVIEW (RETRO): Beware, My Lovely (1952)

MOVIE REVIEW (RETRO): Beware, My Lovely (1952)

Beware, My Lovely:
The Forgotten Noir Christmas Nightmare

Director: Harry Horner; Writer: Mel Dinelli (based on his 1950 play The Man); Stars:
Ida Lupino, Robert Ryan, Taylor Holmes, Barbara Whiting, OZ Whitehead; Rating: UNK; Run Time: 12 min; Genre: Crime, Drama, Film-Noir; Country: USA; Language: English; Year: 1952
I recently did my Naughty and Nice list of fairly well known Christmas time horrors, and it got me to reflect on this often forgotten gem. Sure, when we think of alternative festive movies, we might pop in Die Hard or The Ref – and those are both perfect choices. However, if you are looking for something black and white (and a bit off its rocker), allow me to take you down the shadowy, hellish streets of noir for a neglected classic. RKO wasn’t a small studio, but they weren’t big, either. That meant that their films, especially the noirs, were grittier and altogether more edgy. They tackled subjects that many of that many of the studios weren’t and, in the case of Beware, My Lovely, take a raw look at mental illness with a seasonal backdrop.Ida Lupino in Beware, My Lovely
The film opens in 1918 (an oddly specific time) in a small Norman Rockwell-type of town during the holiday season. A kindly war window, Helen Gordon (Ida Lupino), hires a handyman to do some work around her apartment building. It just so happens that somebody is a deranged man named Howard (played to the hilt by Robert Ryan) with a murky past. Ms. Gordon soon finds herself menaced by the shady-looking character and unable to escape his clutches.
Robert Ryan in Beware, My LovelyI believe I first saw Beware, My Lovely on TCM and was floored as I, a noir lover, had never heard of this before. And it even starred one of my favorite Hollywood heavies – Robert Ryan, who never really got the kind of iconic status as somebody like Robert Mitchum or James Cagney despite being in many great films. For me, nobody plays a bad guy quite like him. Beware, My Lovely is a wonderfully creepy character study of a person clearly suffering from mental disease, and Ryan plays it brilliantly. Howard’s character is a complete mystery, and the movie isn’t interested in spoonfeeding us what fuels him. This lack of motivation is actually pretty off-putting. The whole thing plays out like one strange, unending nightmare with a head-scratching opening which is never explained. In fact, a lot of this movie doesn’t really make sense, but it’s so barking mad that it really doesn’t matter. It’s even weirder because it takes place around Christmas. In fact, that theme is played up and not simply relegated to background dressing. The fact that this movie got made baffles me, but to make it a sort of Christmas movie is just incredible.
Sadly, I don’t believe this movie was ever officially released on home video except for VHS, and the one a found on Ebay was $30. But if you search, you might be able to find a copy somewhere. TCM also plays it, so if it comes on, please DVR it. So snuggle up with your best fellow or dame, grab a stiff drink, and enjoy this very Noir-Christmas film. Maybe the only one ever made.

skeletal santa in snow

Posted by Mike Vaughn in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, STAFF PICKS, 0 comments
Gorehound Mike’s 2017 Naughty and Nice List

Gorehound Mike’s 2017 Naughty and Nice List

Christmas time is finally upon us, and just as we put away our favorite Halloween movies, we also get out those classic yuletide classics. Or clas-sicks as the case may be. Instead of a rehash of all the countless holiday horror films, I thought I`d give you my rundown of favorite and least favorite. Or my Naughty and Nice list.

NAUGHTY

Elves (1989)

Elves (1989) / Fair use doctrine.I have oft heard of this VHS era film, and I finally decided it was high time to check it out. And seeing how I was making this list — and checking it twice — what better excuse? Elves is interesting in that it takes the horror holiday movie in a different direction than just a killer Santa, and I respect that a lot. The plot as insane as it also attempts something just a little bit more creative as well. However, sadly, the film takes itself far too seriously, and the lack of the titular elves is disappointing. Mix this with an all over the place plot, bad dialogue, and even worse acting, and you have a film you wouldn’t want to give to your worst enemy.

Silent Night (2012)

Silent Night (2012) / Fair use doctrine.Silent Night, Deadly Night (1980), if we are being totally honest with ourselves, wasn’t a stellar movie. However, I love it for its over-the-top camp and intentional tongue-in-cheek humor. For me, those are the main reasons it’s a cult classic that really deserves the love it gets from fans. Silent Night, however, is pure garbage. It lacks any of the fun, dark sense of humor that made the original a fan favorite. This time around we get a cold, joyless movie which muddles through its confused plot just to get to a kill scene. The real horror is seeing a once great actor like Malcolm McDowell reduced to this bottom of the barrel crap.

Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 (1987)

Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 (1987) / Fair use doctrine.And speaking of Silent Night, Deadly Night, Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 is bad despite its cult infamy. “It’s Garbage Day!” Yes, Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 has some fun moments, but it recycles a huge chunk of the first film, so much so that I feel like the director of the first should be credited as co-director. Talk about lazy. After the film is done “recapping”, the rest is just lazy, cringe-worthy dialogue and a rather dull plot. Once you get past its “cult status”, it’s really just part one with a small amount of crap added to fill out its runtime.

To All a Goodnight (1980)

To All A Goodnight (1980) / Fair use doctrine. I don’t mind a good killer Santa movie, but one thing a movie shouldn’t be is dull. To All a Goodnight seems to follow the slasher pattern but forgets to inject anything original, interesting, or compelling. Despite a few good kills, the film is essentially a snooze fest and seems to get lost in its own inept plot.

NICE

Krampus (2015)

Krampus (2015) / Fair use doctrine. It’s rather fitting that I’m writing about Krampus for two reasons. One is that December 5th is Krampus day, and the second is that two years ago I saw this gem in theaters. The Krampus trend has been incredibly popular for a while now, and it was only a matter of time before someone made a movie to fill the void. Thankfully, we got Krampus, a wildly creative black horror comedy, that (surprisingly) has a heart in its dark twisted center. Many have compared it to Gremlins as it acts as both a legit horror movie with moments comedy and yet actually sneaks in a message (without being heavy-handed or sappy). I really implore anyone who hasn’t seen it to do so ASAP as it’s a really fun movie and something that has future cult classic written all over it.

Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)

Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984) / Fair use doctrine. NAUGHTY! Of course, no holiday horror list would be complete without this trashy but fun horror gem. Silent Night, Deadly Night isn’t what you’d call a great movie; however, I love it — flaws and all. It wisely doesn’t take itself too seriously and plays up its camp status. It’s the black comedy that really keeps this from being too clichéd or too depressing. And when you’re dealing with kids in horror, it’s a good route to go. Some films have cult status that I feel isn’t really deserved, but I have to say this one truly is an enjoyable film, and it’s awesome that it is as beloved as it is.

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010)

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010) / Fair use doctrine. Looking for something from a different country? Look no further than Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale, a highly clever film from Finland. Instead of killer Santas or little elves, Rare Exports takes a totally different spin on the holiday horror and the end result is fast-paced, creative, and (most importantly) engaging. You really invest in the characters, and the film’s childlike perspective really helps sell the fantasy and horror of the piece. I can’t say enough great things about this movie, and if you are looking for something completely different, you will not be sorry. Not a slasher, but a damn clever little movie that deserves to be more praised.

Christmas Evil (1980)

Christmas Evil (1980) / Fair use doctrine.Christmas Evil may just be my favorite on this list. It has more of a special meaning to me since the star, Brandon Maggart, gave me an exclusive quote for my book The Ultimate Guide to Strange Cinema, which follows my review of the film. For anybody who has never seen Christmas Evil, it’s not a traditional slasher like Silent Night, Deadly Night; rather, it is more psychological. To me, this makes it more disturbing and interesting – think Santa Claus meets Taxi Driver. This is not to suggest it doesn’t have any bloody moments, but the fact that they are used sparingly makes the impact all that more shocking. Anybody willing to give it a chance, Christmas Evil is a masterfully done movie and well worth checking out.

Black Christmas (1974)

Black Christmas (1974) / Fair use doctrine.The granddaddy of all slashers is often cited as Halloween (1978); however, as much as I love and respect that film, Bob Clark’s Black Christmas did it first. Black Christmas is a wonderful whodunnit slasher that really grips you from the very first frame and doesn’t let up until your nerves are shattered by the twists and turns. Its setting and tropes would be often copied, including its killer point of view, the setting of girls alone in a dorm, and the mystery surrounding the slaughter. I will even say I enjoyed the remake a lot though not as much as the classic 70s version.

That is my Naughty/Nice list -I hope you all enjoyed it, and I hope everybody has a very Horrifying Winter Holiday and a Scary New Year.

Posted by Mike Vaughn in FEATURED CONTENT, MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, STAFF PICKS, 0 comments
MOVIE REVIEW (SHORT): Shriekfest: Remnants (2016)

MOVIE REVIEW (SHORT): Shriekfest: Remnants (2016)

Remnants (2016)

Venue: Shriekfest

Director: David Ugarte; Writers: Eric Joel La Fuente, Corey Schubert; Stars: Hugh McCrae Jr, Terrance Roundtree, Reavis Dorsey, Corey Schubert; Rating: UNK; Run Time: 16 min; Genre: Short, Horror; Country: USA; Language: English; Year: 2016

Hugh McCrae Jr. in Remnants (2016)

Gorehound Mike here bringing you yet another short film entry from last month’s Shriekfest and this time around we have a short from a talented newcomer David Ugarte. His fourth and latest film, entitled Remnants, tackles the tried and true subject of demon possession. Two cops are called to a scene of a grisly double murder but things start to get strange as they begin to investigate further. Seems that a priest was performing a ritual upstairs and the cops may not be alone. At first I was not sure about Remnants as it seemed to fall back on some horror clichés and a little bit too familiar demon possession tropes; however, it actually seems to rise above it. It’s clear that Ugarte really knows his craft and employs some great expressive camera work, slick editing, and visual style to help both build a nice amount of eerie vibes as well as move the story forward. However, for me, what really saves this short from becoming too standard is the incredibly creepy makeup work that is nothing short of awe-inspiring considering its low budget. The gore effects were also nicely done, and Candy Domme really has a future in the business. Sure, I would have liked a nice clever twist or two, but I gotta say Remnants was a great little horror ride that totally did the trick. I can honestly say I am very excited to see what these guys have in store in the future.

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MOVIE (SHORT) REVIEW: Megrim (2016) at Shriekfest

MOVIE (SHORT) REVIEW: Megrim (2016) at Shriekfest

Megrim (2016)

Venue: Shriekfest

Director: Stuart Valberg; Writer: Stuart Valberg; Stars: Max Physer, Pascal Yen-Pfister; Rating: UNK; Run Time: 13 min; Genre: Short, Comedy, Horror; Country: USA; Language: English; Year: 2016
Hello, this is your fiendish reporter reviewing the entries from the Shreikfest horror film festival, 5-8 October 2017. The next film is entitled Megrim written and directed by Stuart Valberg. An unnamed artist (Pascal Yen-Pfister) wants to create a masterpiece, but instead of using oil paints, he decides to choose an unknown man (Max Physer) to donate his blood. From frame one, it's clear that director Stuart Valberg has a nice visual flare, drenching the film with mood and tension. His use of tightly framed medium shots gives an almost unbearable feeling of dread and claustrophobia as does his use of atmospheric lighting. I really enjoyed the stripped down one room stage feel, and its simple and effective plot is clearly having a bit of fun with films like Saw (the artist's reasons seem very Jigsaw-like). This, indeed, is where this short shines, as it is eerie and moody yet has a dark sense of humor which makes it more interesting than a simple bloodbath. The film is just two actors, and both do a fantastic job. Actor Pascal Yen Pfister really shines in this film, and he plays with the razor-thin line of having fun with the role yet not going too hammy and he walks the line brilliantly. While I enjoyed Megrim, I really wished it would have pushed the black comedy just a little further while also providing a little more cat and mouse between the two very talented actors. However, this leads me to my next point, which is that (and I rarely say this with shorts) with some clever writing, I feel like this could easily be translated into a full feature. With a great sense of style and solid writing, Valberg provides an interesting darkly comic spin on the torture porn sub-genre and does it with skill and that will no doubt take him incredibly far as a writer-director.
Michael Vaughn is a cult film historian and has been featured in magazines such as Scream (UK) and Fangoria as well as websites like Films in Review. Currently, he has a book coming out entitled The Ultimate Guide to Strange Cinema due out in November, 2017.
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MOVIE (SHORT) REVIEW: Tethered (2017) at Shriekfest

MOVIE (SHORT) REVIEW: Tethered (2017) at Shriekfest

Tethered (2017)

Venue: Shriekfest

Director: Daniel Robinette; Writers: Daniel Robinette, Jeff Cox, Aaron Sorgius, Kayla Stuhr, Jeremy Tassone; Stars: Jared Cook, Grace Mumm, Kayla Stuhr; Rating: UNK; Run Time: 12 min; Genre: Short, Drama, Horror; Country: USA; Language: English; Year: 2017
Hello, again, your fiendish reporter here giving you the low down on the films from Shriekfest. This time we are looking at a short by Daniel Robinette entitled Tethered. A blind boy named Solomon (Jared Cook) is left by his mother in a harsh land. He is tethered to a rope and left a recording by mother explaining the rules on how to survive, the most important being to never ever go beyond the rope. Daniel Robinette turns out a wonderfully bleak yet beautiful horror short that takes a simple premise and milks it for everything its got and then some. He builds a world that is steeped in reality yet has an otherworldly feeling and features a finale that is oh so effective. Cinematographer and co-writer Aaron Sorgius paints an eerie and gorgeous picture with his camera and the location and sweeping camera shots really give this short a more epic and wider scope. Jared Cook does an incredible job and, with little to no dialogue, gives a stellar, almost silent star-like performance. Equally great is Kayla Stuhr in a short but unnerving role. I was really impressed with what Robinette was able to pull off with a paper-thin plot and modest budget. It just goes to prove my point that a scary movie can be made without flashy gimmicks or buckets of blood. And it's refreshing to see a crop of new horror filmmakers that are focusing on plot and visuals to tell a story instead of falling back on tired clichés. Tethered is a tension-filled harrowing and creepy short and I would love to see this expanded into a full feature film.
Michael Vaughn is a cult film historian and has been featured in magazines such as Scream (UK) and Fangoria as well as websites like Films in Review. Currently, he has a book coming out entitled The Ultimate Guide to Strange Cinema due out in November, 2017.
Posted by Mike Vaughn in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
MOVIE (SHORT) REVIEW: Play Day (2017) at Shriekfest

MOVIE (SHORT) REVIEW: Play Day (2017) at Shriekfest

Play Day (2017)

Venue: Shriekfest

Director: Greg Mazzola; Writer: Sophia Rose; Stars: Sophia Rose, Thomas Downey, Jim Nieb, Craig Tate, Harrison Samuels; Rating: UNK; Run Time: UNK min; Genre: Short, Horror; Country: USA; Language: English; Year: 2017
Your fiendish reporter bringing you another offering from the 2017 Shriekfest. In this short, a lonely man named Steve (Thomas Downey) is looking for that special somebody on the Internet. Nothing wrong with that except instead of a dating site he has chosen an online service called Play Day. Little does he know his payment for this might just be in blood. Writer Sophia Rose and director Greg Mazzola manage to take the premise of online love something terribly routine and totally turn it on its head and the end result is incredibly different. The core concept is explored just enough to give the audience a clear idea of what's going on without feeling the need to over-explain things. Also, it tapped into a psycho sexual-dark web theme which I did not expect and was impressed with. On the technical side, Mazzola gives the low budget film a professional gloss with nice visuals, good editing, and a nice score. My one complaint with this short was actor Thomas Downey. While I think he's a solid actor he defiantly went a little too campy which in a certain context is alright but it doesn't help when it somewhat undercuts the creepy vibes the film is building. When Downey starts to go really barking mental I thought the short totally went off the rails but thankfully a good ending helped save it. Play Day may have some issues however I couldn't hate it because it's really interesting and it takes a familiar troupe and completely remixes it, which is something I love to see. I very much hope that Greg Mazzola and writer Sophia Rose expand this into a feature even if it was just 80 mins or so. Overall, Play Day is great little film, and I look forward to seeing what else they have in store.
Michael Vaughn is a cult film historian and has been featured in magazines such as Scream (UK) and Fangoria as well as websites like Films in Review. Currently, he has a book coming out entitled The Ultimate Guide to Strange Cinema due out in November, 2017.
Posted by Mike Vaughn in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
MOVIE (SHORT) REVIEW: Conduit (2017) at Shriekfest

MOVIE (SHORT) REVIEW: Conduit (2017) at Shriekfest

Conduit (2017)

Venue: Shriekfest

Director: Tim Earnheart; Writer: Tim Earnheart; Stars: Corrie Fleming, Matt Dy, Tyler Totten, Ayuba Audu, Reeve Bareceloux, S Joe Downing; Rating: UNK; Run Time: UNK min; Genre: Short, Horror, Thriller; Country: USA; Language: English; Year: 2017
Hello, again! Your fiendish reporter coming at you with another short film presented at this year's Shriekfest. Conduit is written and directed by Tim Earnheart whose previous shorts include Working with Damien (2016) and 180 (2015). The FBI is set into an upscale cabin to rescue a little girl who was kidnapped. Little do they know that something far more sinister is waiting for them inside. Conduit is really a brilliant little horror film, and Earnheart takes the ghost film and turns it on its head, taking the tropes and tossing them right out the window. The added action of the FBI raid further gives this an altogether different spin on the supernatural subgenre. With strong and eerie imagery, slick professional editing and a great score, it struck all the right cords with this film critic. Thankfully the audience isn't hit over the head with backstory and I love how things are purposely left vague. In fact, I hope Conduit gets expanded into a feature film because I`d love to be filled in on the mysterious aspects. This feature is effects driven and thankfully the FX expert, HM Grandy, does a great job crafting some truly grisly and realistic make-up - especially when you consider this was done on what I am guessing was a modest budget. Supernatural films are tricky to make effectively and without clichés, but Tim Earnheart and company go into it with an above interesting premise and keeps it fresh with great visuals, gore, and a fantastic ending.
Michael Vaughn is a cult film historian and has been featured in magazines such as Scream (UK) and Fangoria as well as websites like Films in Review. Currently, he has a book coming out entitled The Ultimate Guide to Strange Cinema due out in November, 2017.
Posted by Mike Vaughn in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
MOVIE (SHORT) REVIEW: Ghosted (2017) at Shriekfest

MOVIE (SHORT) REVIEW: Ghosted (2017) at Shriekfest

Ghosted (2017)

Venue: Shriekfest

Director: Sevgi Isabel Cacina; Writer: Sevgi Isabel Cacina; Stars: Asger Folmann, Shandel Love, Tony Nevada; Rating: UNK; Run Time: UNK min; Genre: Short, Comedy, Horror; Country: USA; Language: English; Year: 2017
Hello, again, from your creepy correspondent coming at you again with another short film review from LA's Shriekfest earlier this month. So far I've really enjoyed every short from this film festival -- which is pretty darn rare. However, all good things must come to an end, and that end here is with Ghosted. A woman named Sandy (Shandel Love) goes to a shrink with a strange problem, namely that she is haunted by a jealous ghost (Asger Folmann). Written and directed by Sevgi Isabel Cacina, Ghosted is definitely the first weak link I have come across (so far). The biggest issue is a sloppy plot which is not compelling and has aspects that seem needless and, in the case of the ending, confusing. This is labeled as a horror comedy and also a "Fable" (according to the Vimeo link), but, honestly, I didn't get any horror or comedy. And that's a shame because I think the set up is an interesting one. Sadly, the acting, while not terrible is not at the same level as the previous fest entries. It's not all bad as the film is very well shot, and it makes the most of a modest budget. It is also clear Cacina knows how to put together a film with a nice flow editing-wise. I really hate to dump on a movie because even short films take a great amount of time and energy to make, but this one just didn't have a strong, focused screenplay, and it greatly suffered for it. I still would like to see what else Sevgi Cacina has to offer in the future.
Michael Vaughn is a cult film historian and has been featured in magazines such as Scream (UK) and Fangoria as well as websites like Films in Review. Currently, he has a book coming out entitled The Ultimate Guide to Strange Cinema due out in November, 2017.
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MOVIE (SHORT) REVIEW: The Armoire (2017) at Shriekfest

MOVIE (SHORT) REVIEW: The Armoire (2017) at Shriekfest

The Armoire (2017)

Venue: Shriekfest

Director: Evan Cooper; Writers: Evan Cooper, Brodie Cooper; Stars: Hannah Barlow, Strange Dave, Evan Cooper, Bradley Rose; Rating: UNK; Run Time: UNK min; Genre: Short, Horror; Country: USA; Language: English; Year: 2017
Hello! Your fiendish reporter here kicking off my Shriekfest viewing with The Armoire, an impressive little gem by newcomers Evan Cooper and writer Brodie Cooper. I watched a lot of short films and, frankly, most of them are terrible. But, to be fair, it's much harder in some ways to make an effective short film because you have to perfectly nail the story theme and mood in a brief amount of time. So when I viewed Evan Cooper's debut The Armoire, I was pleasantly surprised. Emma (Hannah Barlow) is an aspiring actress who just moved into an apartment in LA and must find cheap furniture as she is on a shoestring budget. She seems to hit the jackpot when she finds a wonderful old armoire. Has she made the find of the century or does something sinister dwell within? Cooper skillfully avoids the pitfalls a lot of filmmakers make by telling a simple story yet allowing the true horror and suspense to slowly build and build like a tightrope until the frightening finale. His methods for creating this are equally simple, utilizing great camera work and creepy sound design rather than flashy gimmicks or MTV quick cuts -just pure old-fashioned storytelling. I also love the fact that Evan and writer Brodie Cooper didn't feel the need to overexplain things, giving it a kind of wonderful and scary simplicity. He also doesn't shy away from having some mystery and it leaves you thinking about it after the credits roll. The bulk of the film centers around one actor, Hannah Barlow and thankfully she has what it takes to carry the film. Her acting is solid and she has a natural ease that is both refreshing and also makes her relatable. The fact that this is the filmmakers' first short film is even more impressive, and I cannot wait to see what wonderful tricks they have up their cinematic sleeves. Watch this in the dark if you dare. I am okay with admitting it made me jump.
Michael Vaughn is a cult film historian and has been featured in magazines such as Scream (UK) and Fangoria as well as websites like Films in Review. Currently, he has a book coming out entitled The Ultimate Guide to Strange Cinema due out in November, 2017.
Posted by Mike Vaughn in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
EDITORIAL: Six Things That Will Make the New Halloween Amazing

EDITORIAL: Six Things That Will Make the New Halloween Amazing

Horror fans all over lost their collective minds over the news that Jamie Lee Curtis will once again return as Laurie Strode in the new Halloween film, and while fans patiently wait I had my own ideas on what needs to happen for this to be awesome. In the extremely off chance a studio executive is reading this please take notes.
1. Make it a direct sequel to Halloween II
This is largely considered what will happen and indeed it makes the most sense. When I first heard this I thought, wait H20 was a very good follow up to Halloween II — and indeed when I watch the films I make it part of the Laurie trilogy (and I ignore Halloween: Resurrection because it's terrible). This also brings me to the number two entry…
2. Set the timeline in the early 80s NOT in modern times
There are conflicting reports about the timeline. Some are saying they are setting it in modern times while others are predicting it will literally pick up where Halloween II left off. I, for one, would love this movie to be set in the 80s, and with nostalgia filled projects like Stranger Things and It making huge waves, it just may. And as I mentioned above H20 basically already did the modern Laurie and her struggles — and brilliantly I might add. There really isn’t anything new to bring to that.
3. Ignore the other sequels
If, in fact, this picks up where Halloween II leaves off the problem of sequels disappears nicely. It also doesn’t ignore them (because they simply didn’t happen at this point) but it doesn’t highlight them either. In a way it’s a nice comprise for both lovers of the sequels and those who only liked the first two. Again it just makes things easier and makes more sense writing-wise.
4. Avoid gimmick casting
No LL Cool J, and no Busta Rhymes; keep it simple while casting it. This doesn’t mean you can’t throw in a familiar face or two but try and be classy about it. Since it might be set in the 80s maybe even shock rocker Alice Cooper in a fun cameo?
5. Handle Dr. Loomis carefully
Dr. Sam Loomis is such a beloved character that if this film indeed will pick up where Halloween II ended they want to pay close attention to exactly how the Loomis character is handled. After all, we saw Peter Cushing's Grand Moff Tarkin come back for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story with mixed results so, hopefully, they can bring Donald back with more success.
6. Be careful with fanservice
Fanservice for a popular film can both help and hurt — Cult of Chucky, to me, felt like it suffered from bad fan service, adding the Andy character which did nothing to help the already confused plot. However, in H20 fans were treated to some great moments that hearkened back to the series yet felt organic to the plot. Hopefully, this can be handled with some measure of restraint.
Posted by Mike Vaughn in EDITORIALS, HALLOWEEN, 0 comments
BLU REVIEW: Hack O Lantern – Just in time for Halloween!

BLU REVIEW: Hack O Lantern – Just in time for Halloween!

Hack-O-Lantern
Massacre Video Blu Review

The leaves are changing, there is a crisp chill in the air and every die-hard horror fan is gearing up for the greatest holiday of all: Halloween. Every year I try to buy at least one Halloween-themed Blu to add to my collection, and this year it just so happens that Hack-O-Lantern slashes its way in HD. This is super exciting news as this boasts not only a brand new transfer but a host of new features. Truly we live in a golden age of home media with weird little gems like this getting the special edition treatment. Lets me be totally real for a second Hack-O-Lantern is awful…I mean god-awful but I still love it. Yes, the plot is all over the place. Yes, the dialogue is laughable with an ending that frankly makes zero sense, yet it has just the right amount of 80s cheese-tastic nostalgia that makes it endearing.
  • Picture: Horror fiends that grew up watching the crappy VHS or a VHS rip off Youtube will be totally blown away but the new print. As per Massacre Video, the original film elements were found using a 2k scan completely restores it to all its trash glory. I can honestly say that this film will never look as good as it does. Colors are natural and thankfully aren’t blown out like some 2k scans. The scenes at night really take advantage of this new scan.
  • Sound: As with the picture, the sound is great and includes a 2.0 mix and for those purists, an original Mono is included.
  • Special Features: Hack-O-Lantern thankfully isn’t bare bones and fans of this seasonal favorite aren’t tricked but treated to a host of new goodies. The highlight is a wonderfully entertaining interview with stars Gregory Scott Cummins and Katina Garner. And as I’m a huge commentary fan, I was delighted that one was recorded with producer Raj Mehrotra. Other features include some great behind the scenes stills, a rare public access interview with the cast/crew and trailers. Oddly, though, the trailer for this film is not present, and I find this is strange to leave out. Minor complaint though.
  • Overall: Massacre Video did a bang-up job on one of my favorite VHS titles. Not only does it look and sound amazing but it features some great extras. You won’t find any tricks only treats with this Blu and should be considered a must on any collector’s shelves. I`d even say this makes my short list for best Blu of 2017.
Posted by Mike Vaughn in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
MOVIE NEWS: Islamic Exorcist (2017)

MOVIE NEWS: Islamic Exorcist (2017)

After witnessing all the possessions and exorcisms, it's time to check out Islamic exorcism. Yes! We are now face-to-face with a movie called Islamic Exorcist. Cinema Epoch acquired the distribution rights for this Indian international horror film and released it in July on Direct to Video and VOD (Video on Demand) . The film is written and directed by controversial Indian film maker Faisal Saif and is in English.
The film has definitely arrived during an unprecedented level of xenophobia, and it likely to exposes the issues in Islam. The maker's life was threatened during filming from his community.
Filmmaker Faisal Saif noted:
I got lots of life threats from the Muslim and Shia Muslim community to not to make this film or if already made, not to showcase it anywhere. It is my honor to be associated with a studio like Cinema Epoch which gave me a huge freedom on my creativity and my film.
As per the official synopsis, the movie talks about the lives of an Indian couple getting devastated when their adopted daughter becomes possessed by a demonic force. The father shoots the daughter to death; however, an investigative journalist does not believe their story and becomes determined to know the real truth by diving much deeper into the couple's sketchy past. The makers claim the film to be inspired by a true story that happened somewhere in India.
Islamic Exorcist stars Kavita Radheshyam who is tagged as India's own version of Kim Kardashian.
Tagline:They thought it was Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. What communicated with them, will scare the hell outta you.
Director and Writer: Faisal Saif; Stars: Nirab Hossain, Kavita Radheshyam, Meera; Rating: UNK; Run Time: 83 min; Genre: Supernatural Horror; Country: India; Language: English; Year: 2017

Posted by Mike Vaughn in HORROR NEWS, 0 comments
EDITORIAL: In Defense of: Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 (2000)

EDITORIAL: In Defense of: Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 (2000)

Hello, horror fiends. In my new series “In Defense Of...”, I look at movies often loathed, you know, those fugly, redheaded, stepchildren in the genre. But are they really worth the hate? After all, a lot of now classic horror films were once looked down upon by other like-minded genre fans. Day of the Dead (1985) is a prime example. So all I ask is your time and open mind because you never know, you might just see a movie in a totally new light.
Oscar nominated director Joe Berlinger seemed like an interesting choice when it was announced he would helm the sequel to the mega hit The Blair Witch Project. Berlinger is known for award winning documentaries such as Brother's Keeper and the hugely successful Paradise Lost trilogy. He is currently directing a project about Ted Bundy (Zac Efron is slated to play Bundy).

Opening Statement or Sequels Don't Always Suck

For my first film, I want to look at the ill-fated sequel to the smash hit The Blair Witch Project (1999). Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 was looked at by many fans as a quickly slapped together film to keep the Blair Witch money train chugging along. But it's really not the cinematic turd we unfairly dismiss it as. I’m going to use the term ballsy a lot because that is exactly what the Joe Berlinger was when attempting to tackle the sequel to the huge runaway hit the first Blair Witch was. He could have taken the easy route and simply sent another batch of kids in the woods screaming and looking into the camera and sobbing etc., but he didn’t. Instead, he chose to take the template of the first film and do what a good sequel should do, which is expand the mythos and take the series in a different direction.

Studio Interference

When defending Blair Witch 2, you have to have some context. The director’s vision of Blair Witch 2 is totally different than what we see in the final product all thanks to studio interference. For example, key scenes were re-arranged along with additional violent scenes, etc. It was further confused by adding Book of Shadows to the title when, in fact, there is no book in the movie. That, my friends, was - you guessed it - the studio suits’ bright idea and not the director’s. On a side note, I’ve heard of fans making their own “director’s cut” versions using details from the shooting script and listening to the commentary. (SERIOUSLY, the commentary is amazing. You must listen to it. ), and (surprise, surprise) it's much better. Sadly, the odds of seeing an official director's cut is slim because Artisan (now Lions Gate) doesn’t really do a lot to cater to fans. Even The Blair Witch Project (1999), a film that put them on the map, didn’t get a tenth-anniversary release because I guess they figured why bother.

What Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 Got Right

After viewing last year’s stinkfest which was Blair Witch, it only reinforced the idea that Blair Witch 2, for all its flaws, at least attempted to explore interesting themes and ideas. Not only does it all but ditch the whole found footage concept, which is pretty ballsy in and of itself, it is a clever take on Luigi Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author. Each character in Book of Shadows represents an aspect of the film. Jeff is the opportunist cashing in on the film; Kim is the goth girl who was drawn into the film’s dark themes and subject matter; Tristine and her husband are the brainy skeptics; and Erica is the Wiccan who found the film to be offensive to the witch community. Again this is so much more interesting than simply another batch of kids going off into the woods... God, I hate Blair Witch (2016).
In short, Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 is much more lofty than the remake/rehash we got last year. With the filmmaker's background in documentary film, he explores blurring the lines between fiction and reality and the very real danger in doing so. Also, the cliché imagery throughout is purposefully placed because the young people are so steeped in media that it’s the only way they relate to things once shit gets weird. The fact that The Blair Witch Project exists (in the sequel’s context) as a work of fiction rather than a part of its own universe is another incredibly ballsy move and helps to further echo its core theme while also giving an interesting slice of meta. Its cast is solid and the pacing moves at nearly breakneck speed. It also has a pretty good soundtrack which is now nostalgic for people of my generation.

Closing Statement or Before You Pass Judgment

I'm the first person to admit Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 is flawed largely due to studio tampering, but it doesn’t deserve the 4.0 rating on IMDb! It attempted to give the audience something a little more challenging than simply a run of the mill cash grab remake (which, AGAIN, Blair Witch (2016) totally was) by introducing interesting themes and concepts. Thankfully, I’m not alone in my respect for this film, and it seems other fans are coming out of the woods and proudly reclaiming Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2. I still hold out hope that Lions Gate will release a director’s cut to allow fans to see the film as the filmmaker intended.
Michael Vaughn is a published genre writer and has appeared in Fangoria, Scream (UK) in print as well as sites like FilmsinReview.com. He also owns the blog “Gorehound Mike's Weird Cinema”. Currently, he has a book coming out entitled The Ultimate Guide to Strange Cinema, which compiles over 300 reviews spanning films from all over the globe and covering multiple genres.
Posted by Mike Vaughn in EDITORIALS, MOVIE REVIEWS, PARANORMAL, REVIEWS, 0 comments
Piece of My Mind: Is There Room for Fun Horror Anymore?

Piece of My Mind: Is There Room for Fun Horror Anymore?

Is There Room for Fun Horror Anymore?

Brain Damage poster / Fair use doctrine.Frank Henenlotter's seminal 80s horror film Brain Damage made its Blu-ray debut this past spring, it further remained me of those bygone days when horror films were fun and not bleak and frankly depressing. Sure, I’m glad that the genre is maturing, and films like Baskin are, in part, brilliant for their stark brutal and sobering aspects. But along the way have we lost the fun in these films?
Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 poster / Fair use doctrine.Why does everyone love the 80s? If you ask any fan why they recall so fondly the horror of the 80s they`ll most likely say because they had a fun, even wackiness, to them. They were horrific without being mean spirited. Just imagine Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 without the over the top humor and gore mixed with biting satire? And when you stack Chopping MallChopping Mall poster / Fair use doctrine. up with say Martyrs, I know which one I`d like to visit again and again. Even when filmmakers dealt with heavy subjects, they kept things enjoyable. House poster / Fair use doctrine.A prime example is House the movie. House tackled the subject of Vietnam and PTSD but added an almost cartoon like element which balanced it and kept it enjoyable to watch. It didn’t lessen the impact of the central themes, i.e. war and its effects on the participants; it just made it entertaining.

The Cabin in the Woods and the Return of Fun Horror?

The Cabin in the Woods poster / Fair use doctrine.Thankfully, I see a return to horror with a spark of light heartiness. The Cabin in the Woods was a breath of fresh air, because not only was it a smart sardonic take on the genre it also let itself have that 80s snarkiness. Another great example is the 2015 heavy metal horror gem Deathgasm poster / Fair use doctrine.Deathgasm. With its Sam Raimi-esque style, it straddles the line between horror and way out gags (some gross out, of course), and it makes me misty-eyed for those bygone days. Even the wonderful surprise hit Get Out deals out equal thought-provoking satire and topical issues with humor, giving the film a great balance and a better rewatchable trait.
In closing, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for horror that takes itself seriously because it’s a genre that all too often gets scoffed by alleged serious film buffs, but when it’s so grueling I feel like I want to slit my wrists, maybe it’s time to lighten up a bit. Thankfully, though, I see a return to less brutal (subject wise) films and more of what I loved from the 80s and early 90s, which is horror that was gory, goopy, and sometimes neon-tinted but not really mean-spirited. But that’s just a Piece of My Mind.
Michael Vaughn is a published genre writer and has appeared in Fangoria, Scream (UK) in print as well as sites like Films in Review.com. He also owns the blog Gorehound Mike’s Weird Cinema. Currently, he has a book coming out entitled The Ultimate Guide to Strange Cinema which compiles over 300 reviews spanning films from all over the globe and covering multiple genres.
Posted by Mike Vaughn in OPINION, 0 comments
PREVIEW: Stranger Things, Season 2

PREVIEW: Stranger Things, Season 2

Like most of you horror junkies, you have a huge monkey on your back and that monkey is named Stranger Things. For those of you living under a rock, the mega hit Stranger Things is a series that masterfully fuses pulse pounding horror and humor, all wrapped in a warm blanket of 80s nostalgia. And now us hooked rabid fans must wait until October before we get more ST goodness. But just to keep us semi-slated a brand-new trailer was premiered at SDCC.

The New Cast:

Along with the returning cast we are in for an array of new faces joining the upside down! Sean Astin: This one is pretty cool bit of casting considering Sean Astin was an original Goonies member. His character will be Bob Newby a boy from Joyce’s (Winona Ryder) past who just so happens to manage the local RadioShack. Another genius stroke because not only does this play into the sci-fi tech angle of the show, but it offers another sadly bygone slice of 80s culture.

*SMALL SPOILER*

Spoiler title

About Paul Reiser...

And now from a former Goonies to a fellow Aliens cast member, Paul Reiser joins the gang. It’s not known whom he will be playing apart from a high ranking member of the shadowy front known as Department of Energy. Its sounds like his character will be similar from Aliens. It is unclear at this point if Reiser will be indeed a villain or a hero and the actor has been understandably tight-lipped on the subject.
Other new cast members include Linnea Berthlesen, Brian Gelman, Sadie Sink and Dacre Montgomery. The little info me know thus far: Spoiler Free. Creators and show runners the Duffer Brothers told Entertainment Weekly that this season will be more James Cameron inspired (echoing the casting choice of Paul Reiser). It is also said to reveal more info about the upside down and the creatures within it. Rumors have it the fright factor will also be getting amped up leaving many of us fans even that more excited about it.
I guess I’ll have to be happy with new Rick and Morty to keep my inner nerd child happy until I can get my Netflix fix.
Stranger Things season 2 will premiere on Netflix October 27, 2017.
Posted by Mike Vaughn in MONSTERS AND CREATURES, REVIEWS, SCI-FI HORROR, SERIES REVIEWS, 0 comments
TRIBUTE: George A. Romero (6 of ?)

TRIBUTE: George A. Romero (6 of ?)

My Moment With George A. Romero

Like many doing this tribute, I didn't know Mr. Romero on a personal level, but, like many - if not all, I feel like I did because of how deeply his work has touched me and, indeed, changed my life. There are certain movies I can remember vividly the first time I've seen them and George's seminal Night of the Living Dead was certainly one of them. One faithless evening I was at the mall with some school friends (I was in middle school at the time) and I of course found myself scouring the video store. The iconic image of Kyra as the pint-sized zombie on the cover beckoned me and soon I was in its undead clutches. After popping in the clunky VHS in my machine I stood in awe of the black and white nightmare and ninety odd minutes later I was a lifelong fan. What struck me was how stark and nihilistic it was, something I had seldom seen before. And I still consider the ending a milestone in not only the genre but of all cinema.
Of course, after that I raced to my local mom and pop rental shop to pick up Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, Creepshow and later lesser known but brilliant stuff like Martin, The Crazies, etc. I couldn't get enough. It was when I attended a Monster Mania Con when I got to meet the zombie king in the flesh and boy was I nervous. I decided I wanted to give something back so I created a sketch of George's portrait popping up out of a cemetery with a few brain munching zombies. I framed it and waited in line, all while trying to keep my cool. We met and I had some posters and prints signed and with shaking hands I presented the legend with my modest tribute to his body of work. He seemed utterly taken back in a good way and I always like to think he displayed it in his home.
Yes, I didn't know George as a friend, we didn't share long talks about important things like life and love but the shadow of his work has always followed me and the iconic images he produced continues to have a last impact on me not only as a film buff but as a person as well. We will miss you, Mr. Romero, and we take comfort in knowing you left us a legacy that, like your zombies, will never die.
Posted by Mike Vaughn in EDITORIALS, TRIBUTE, 0 comments