Mike Vaughn

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.
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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.
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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 TELEVISION 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.
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COMING SOON: Spawn (UNK)

COMING SOON: Spawn (UNK)

Spawn (UNK)
Written and Directed By: Todd McFarlane

Spawn the anti-hero, literally and figuratively from Hell, has had a long rough ride to being translated successfully to the big screen. First, (em)HBO(/em) produced the fairly faithful (and enjoyable) adaptation to the small screen and then sadly 1997 gave us the lackluster Spawn starring Michael Jai White. Despite an amazing performance by White and John Leguizamo the movie failed to strike a chord with fans, as it watered down the source material and worst yet strayed too much from the comics. And while the film is something of a guilty pleasure for me personally, it is still a far cry from what hardcore fans truly deserve.
But fear not, with the hugely successful DeadPool franchise making studio execs see green we once again are hearing rumblings that the undead caped hero will be resurrected once more. In a recent interview with SyFy Wire, creator Todd McFarlane once again stoked the rumor mill by saying he has written a script with an estimated 10 million dollar budget. Seems that McFarlane wants to write, produce, and direct the film. He has remained firm on this issue which seems to make studios nervous and not willing to back the pet project. He says,
“It’s slowly moving forward, just trying to put all the pieces together both from an artistic and a financial side. The intent is trying to finance as much as possible internally and then finding partners who will help in the production of it as we move forward. I can argue getting the money might be harder than getting everybody signed off on the story.”
He also assured fans that it would indeed be a hard R rating and would use less CGI (a major problem with the 90s film) and more on good old practical effects. He goes on to say,
“I’m going for the same crowd that horror film releases go for. People who want to take their boyfriend or girlfriend or go out with the girls and go to the movies and get spooked.”
All this sounds pretty amazing and, as a fan of the comics, I really want to see it done properly this time. It seems you just can’t keep a good undead hero down.
Posted by Mike Vaughn in Categories, COMING SOON, 0 comments
Happy Birthday Blacula Director William Crain

Happy Birthday Blacula Director William Crain

The name William Crain might not be familiar to a lot of horror or exploitation fans; however, his short but intense filmography has left a lasting mark on pop culture. Before Crain rolled an inch of celluloid, he broke ground on the small screen as the first African American to direct episodic television. The show in question was the ultra groovy hit The Mod Squad, then in its third season. Of course it wasn’t easy to break into a white dominated profession, but with hard work and grit, William made his dreams a reality. Shortly after his small screen debut, Sam Arkoff at American International Pictures came knocking with an idea – an African American twist on a classic movie monster. William wasn’t thrilled with the title, Count Brown is in Town, but with a title tweak and a stellar cast that included Shakespearian trained William Marshall in the title role, Blacula was set to go before in the cameras. With a blend of genuine horror, humor, and lots of seventies groove, Blacula thrilled audiences and AIP had an unexpected hit on their hands. After Blacula, surprisingly Crain returned to the small screen to do Starsky and Hutch, SWAT, and The Rookies. He finally returned to the big screen with yet another blaxploitation horror hybrid entitled Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde. To date it was his last feature film.
I had the extreme pleasure to do several interviews William for an upcoming book and I found him to be a witty, smart and interesting person. He shared many great stories about the making of his cult classic as well as hinted at a return to the big screen. While he only made two feature films, their lasting legacy in pop culture is undeniable, so I raise my glass of blood to you, Mr. William Crain, on your birthday!
Below is a complete filmography.

Director

  • 2016 Nothing as It Seems (Short)
  • 1990 Designing Women (TV Series) (1 episode)
  • 1984-1985 Matt Houston (TV Series) (2 episodes)
  • 1979 The Dukes of Hazzard (TV Series)
  • 1976 Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde
  • 1974-1975 The Rookies (TV Series) (3 episodes)
  • 1975 S.W.A.T. (TV Series) (1 episode)
  • 1975 Starsky and Hutch (TV Series) (2 episodes)
  • 1971 The Mod Squad (TV Series) (1 episode)

Second Unit Director or Assistant Director

  • 1971 Brother John (intern director – uncredited)

Producer

  • 1976 Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde (associate producer)
Posted by Mike Vaughn in CELEBRITY BIRTHDAYS, 0 comments
COMING SOON: The Houses October Built 2 (2017)

COMING SOON: The Houses October Built 2 (2017)

The Houses October Built Retrospective
and The Houses October Built 2 Announcement

the houses october built 2With the big news of a sequel to The Houses October Built, I thought it was time I wrote a nice little piece about this sometimes misunderstood film. I’m one of those horror fans that don’t automatic hate on the found footage sub-genre. The Houses October Built is one that actually nails it pretty well!
Bobby Roe (l), Zack Andrews (r)
Bobby Roe (l), Zack Andrews (r)
Now some hardcore fans seem to simply write this off as a lazy and a bit clichéd, and while I enjoy the film immensely, I have to agree that it is guilty of some horror pitfalls. Still, I think the film has an above interesting plot with some genuinely creepy moments and a decent ending (even though it sorta cribs the original The Vanishing). The very fact it’s already gaining a fast and loyal cult following with a sequel on its way means I must not be alone. Returning Houses writer/director/actor Bobby Roe uses the found footage not nearly as clunky or unrealistic as some in the genre, and in a lot of ways it amps the suspense and creep factor, which is how found footage should be utilized. The follow up, simply titled The Houses October Built 2 (for now, anyway), was penned by Roe and Zack Andrews and will, by all accounts, pick up from the last film and reunite Roe and Andrews with fellow cast members Brandy Schaefer, and Mikey Roe. I only hope that they build and expand the mythos of Blue Skeleton instead of simply remaking the first film, but the synopsis indicates it could go either way.
SYNOPSIS:
Five friends try to recover from the trauma of being kidnapped last Halloween by the Blue Skeleton – a group who takes “extreme haunt” to another level – by facing their fears in order to move on. As they go back out on the road to experience more haunted house attractions, signs of the Blue Skeleton start appearing and a new terror begins…
RLJE Films has picked up the North American rights to The Houses October Built 2 and plan to release the film in theaters and On Demand in September 2017.
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Netflix – Play or Pass: XX

Netflix – Play or Pass: XX

Directors: Roxanne Benjamin, Karyn Kusama, St. Vincent, Jovanka Vuckovic; Writers: Roxanne Benjamin, Karyn Kusama, St. Vincent, Jovanka Vuckovic; Stars: Natalie Brown, Ron Lea, Melanie Lynskey, Peter DaCunha, Shelia Vand, Seth Duhame, Michael Dyson, Sanai Victoria, Peyton Kennedy; Rating: R; Run Time: 80 min; Genre: Horror; Country: USA; Language: English; Year: 2017
I always been a huge champion for women in horror, a group I feel like is sorely underrated and sadly ignored. So when I heard about XX a female based horror anthology, I was pretty stoked to say the least. The film opens with a brilliantly creepy Jan Svankmajer inspired stop motion animation which perfectly fits this anthologiy’s tone, that of a beautiful and stylish yet off-putting bit of horror. XX opens strong with “The Box”, based on a Jack Ketchum story about a mysterious man with a box that leads to a disturbing chain reaction to one woman’s family. This is by far the best segment with a strong concept that doesn’t get too carried away and strikes a perfect less-is-more disturbing quality. Next is “The Birthday Party”, which I thought was one of the weaker entries. While I can totally get on board with the dark humor, the plot seemed a bit aimless and not as well developed as the others; however, I do give it bonus points for starring Melanie Lynskey. “Don’t Fall” is the next feature and, like “The Box”, had a simple yet effective concept highlighted by great moody cinematography and well done creature FX. Finally, there is “Her Only Living Son”, a kind of unofficial sequel to Rosemary’s Baby. I`m guessing it was changed just enough to avoid legal action, but true fans of the genre will put two and two together. I have mixed feelings about this segment; while the concept is great, the ending felt rushed.

Play Or Pass:

Play

Final Thoughts:

Overall, the film has its highlights and its weak points but altogether makes for an enjoyable watch. XX is stylish and spooky in equal measure and proves that women can dominate the horror landscape just as well as men. Play this one in the dark with a group of friends.
Posted by Mike Vaughn in Categories, MOVIE REVIEWS, 0 comments
John Carpenter to Helm TV Series Tales for a Halloween Night

John Carpenter to Helm TV Series Tales for a Halloween Night

Legendary Halloween director John Carpenter will be giving fright fans a whole new reason to scream with a new show he is developing for the Syfy network. It was confirmed earlier today that Carpenter indeed does have a overall deal with Universal Cable Production to helm a show titled Tales for a Halloween Night based on his graphic novel of the same name. The graphic novel is a horror anthology written by John, Steve Hoveke, and Trent Olsen. Additionally, the horror icon is also hard at work on a show entitled Nightside, based on a series of books by New York Times best-selling author Simon Green, with Scream series writer Jill Blotevogel, but no network has been announced.
Of the partnership with Universal Cable Production, the man who brought us The Thing, Halloween, They Live, Prince of Darkness, Escape from New York, and Big Trouble in Little China,said:
“I’m excited to partner with Universal Cable Productions on this venture into television. On one hand, it’s a return home to Universal, where I have fond memories, and on the other, it’s a step into the future with great new creative partners in programming.”
A writer has not been announced yet for Tales for a Halloween Night, and House of Tortured Souls will update you with any additional breaking news on both projects.
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Cult of Chucky Trailer Hits the Web!

Cult of Chucky Trailer Hits the Web!

Red Brand rolls Out Cult of Chucky Trailer

Director (rumored)/Writer: Don Mancini; Stars: Jennifer Tilly, Brad Dourif, Fiona Dourif; Rating: Not rated; Run Time: Not listed; Genre: Horror, Thriller; Country: USA; Language: English; Year: 2017
Tiffany - Cult of Chucky / Fair use doctrine.Fright fans got a treat yesterday as the Red Band Trailer for Cult of Chucky was unleashed upon the Internet. The struggling horror franchise got a jolt of new life the surprise hit Curse of Chucky, which perfectly blended Gothic Old Dark House style with campy doll killing mayhem fans have come to expect. Considering this reunites not only series creator Don Mancini but also has appearances by Brad Dourif (Chucky), Jennifer Tilly (Tiffany), and Alex Vincent (Andy Barclay), it should be another slam dunk for the horror saga.
Cult Of Chucky slashes it way on DVD/Blu and On Demand just in time for the Halloween season on October 3, 2017.
Check out the Cult Of Chucky exclusive Red Band trailer below and then let House of Tortured Souls know what you think.
Summary (from IMDb):
Chucky returns to terrorize his human victim, Nica. Meanwhile, the killer doll has some scores to settle with his old enemies, with the help of his former wife.

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COMING SOON: Eli Roth’s Death Wish (2017)

COMING SOON: Eli Roth’s Death Wish (2017)

Director: Eli Roth; Writers: Joe Carnahan (screenplay), Brian Garfield (novel), Dean Georgaris (screenplay), Eli Roth (screenplay) ; Stars: Bruce Willis, Vincent D’Onofrio, Elisabeth Shue ; Rating: No info; Run Time: No info; Genre: Action/Horror; Country: USA; Language: English; Year: 2017
A mild-mannered father is transformed into a killing machine after his family is torn apart by a violent act.
Eli Roth / Image: Jeff Vespa courtesy WireImageHorror director Eli Roth (Cabin Fever, Hostel, The Green Inferno) has announced he has directed a remake of the 1974 revenge classic Death Wish. The film boasts a stellar casting including action star Bruce Willis (Die Hard, Looper) in the lead, character actor Vincent D’Onofrio (Full Metal Jacket, Jurassic World), and 80s mainstay Elizabeth Shue (Cocktail, Leaving Las Vegas) just to name a few. So far the film is slated to be released November 22nd of this year and will be released by MGM/Annapurna Pictures.
Charles Bronson - Death Wish / Fair use doctrine.As you might recall, the original 1974 film starred screen icon Charles Bronson playing a mild-mannered father pushed to his limits and out for revenge. Based on the 1972 novel by Brian Garfield, the film was a mega hit and spawned other successful sequels. I am very curious to see how Mr. Roth will tackle this subject but I think its safe to say it will be wall to wall blood and guts. The remake has been a long time coming, having been in development since the early 2000s. Originally, Taken star Liam Neeson was to star with Smokin’ Aces director Joe Carnahan at the helm. Only time will tell if the wait and hype will be worth it.
Eli Roth / Image: Jeff Vespa courtesy WireImage
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PREVIEW: Gremlin (2017)

PREVIEW: Gremlin (2017)

Director: Ryan Bellgardt; Writers: Ryan Bellgardt, Andy Swanson, Josh McKamie; Stars: Adam Hampton, Katie Burgess, Christian Bellgardt; Rating: Not rated; Run Time: 90 min; Genre: Horror; Country: USA; Language: English; Year: 2017
First off, let me say I was pretty excited to get a screener for Gremlin as I was a huge fan of Ryan’s previous film Army of Frankensteins, which was a balls to the wall action horror which played like old school Doom(and that is more than OK with me). But sometimes that excited joy can turn to disappointment. Gremlin, not to be confused with Joe Dante’s seminal horror comedy Gremlins is about a mysterious box hiding a nasty little surprise inside. If you are unlucky enough to receive it, you must pass it along to someone you truly love or it will destroy everyone in its path. As much as I hate to bash Bellgardt, I just have to be honest. Gremlin tries hard to be a family drama wrapped in a high concept monster movie but sadly it struggles to do it right. But to be far this is a tricky thing to pull off correctly but is possible, films like Stake Land and the more recent (and brilliant) The Monster (2016) really mesh the two genres seamlessly.
The film gets weighed down in poorly written dialogue, all over the place acting (and I’m using that term very loosely mind you), and plot holes and contrivances that boggle the mind. And then there is the creature… I mean elephant in the room – that being the really poor CGI (think made for SyFy movie) which takes the audience right out of the film. Part of what I loved about Ryan’s previous film was the fact that it for the most part he used practical effects (and damn well, I thought) so why he would choose to follow it up with a hacky CG film is beyond me. But I think what hampers this project the most is in the painfully earnest way it forgets to have a bit of fun with the monster genre and we, the viewers, are left to wade through tired melodrama. Again, as I mentioned above, marrying the drama and horror genre together really is a hard thing to do successfully, so if you know you can’t, why not have some fun with it?
I will give credit where credit is due and say the film is well shot and Bellgardt clearly knows the technical side of film and he frames and lights things to their upmost effectiveness. It also sports a great score. I so wanted this film to be as creative and enjoyable as Army of Frankensteins, but instead of maturing, Ryan traded in his steampunk Indie cred for something altogether unremarkable. I know I beat this film up, but I can see Mr. Bellgardt was really trying for something different and for that I give him huge props. I am still looking forward to his next film – a mash up of Jurassic Park and The Hunger Games as it seems like a return to Army of Frankensteins style madcap fun.
Posted by Mike Vaughn in Categories, MOVIE REVIEWS, 0 comments
BLU-RAY REVIEW: Brain Damage (1988) from Arrow

BLU-RAY REVIEW: Brain Damage (1988) from Arrow

Brain Damage

Arrow Limited Edition Blu Review


Frank Henenlotter’s LSD-laced mind muncher Brain Damage (1988) savagely lampoons Nancy Reagan’s “Just say No” while also belonging to that rare category of seriously weird horror films from the late 80s to early 90s. They were high energy, candy colored, whacky, splattery, nudity-filled romps with pretty damn good screenplays tying the madness all together. And unlike horror movies of today it’s not depressing. What makes movies like Street Trash, Body Melt, and Peter Jackson’s Bad Taste gems of the genre is that they are over the top and go for the gross out but still retain light entertainment status without getting too dark and bleak. Brian (Rick Hearst) finds a mysterious creature named Elmer (voiced by the late, great Zacherle) who gives him the ultimate high. The only catch is the little parasite feeds on brains and demands his new host provide them for him…or else.
  • Picture/Sound: The picture is presented in a 1:85:1 aspect ratio and restored from a master, meaning the print is crisp and clear and even slightly better than the previous release. Like always Arrow provides a Mono track along with a new 5.1 soundtrack. And like the picture it to is a improvement over Synpases DVD release.
  • Package: Unlike Donnie Darko and the House: Two Stories, Brain Damage has a simple slipcover, but it still looks great sporting brand new artwork (and of course reversible cover featuring original artwork for those purists among you) and a booklet. Simple and effective wins the day here.
  • Special Features: The real gem of this set is the almost hour long documentary titled Listen to the Light: The Making of Brain Damage. The interviews are solid and entertaining. It’s odd that Frank himself isn’t interviewed for it, but it’s still worth checking out. The other highlight is the feature The Effects of Brain Damage, an in-depth chat with effects genius Gabe Bartalos on making the creature Elmer. If that weren’t enough, you also have a featurette Animating Elmer, Karen Ogle: A Look Back, and Elmer’s Turf which documents the shooting locations. But wait, I’m not finished. Tasty Memories: A Brain Damage Obsession is a fun mini doc about super fan Adam Skinner as well a director Q&A, trailers, and, for you Zacharely fans, a short film (and final onscreen credit) entitled Bygone Behemoth. Sadly Arrow was unable to bring over Synapses’ commentary with Frank and writer/legend Bob Martin. I can’t fault Arrow for this, however, as I’m sure it was a rights issue. But, fear not, because a brand new commentary by Frank was recorded just for the release.
  • Overall: I was excited to hear that Arrow was tagged to re-release the film because they always take great pains to bring fans a product that is really worth their hard earned cash. Not only is the package well done with some great new art work, but there’s also a wealth of new features. And, of course, you get the film itself looking better than it ever has. This makes my short list of best release of 2017 (so far). Just Say Yes to this Blu!
Posted by Mike Vaughn in BLU-RAY REVIEWS, MOVIE REVIEWS, 0 comments
EDITORIAL: 6 Horror Movies That The New MST3K Crew Needs to Tackle

EDITORIAL: 6 Horror Movies That The New MST3K Crew Needs to Tackle

MST3K-Share-Image
Fans of bad cinema can rejoice because the new season of MST3K is upon us. Here is my list of movies Jonah and the bots can rip a new one. Also don’t take offense if we mention a movie you like; it’s all in good fun. In fact, a lot of these are favorites of mine (minus The Outing), and, as the theme song goes, “it’s just a show you should really just relax”.
We’ve got movie sign!

6. Blood Rage (1987)

06_MST3K_Blood Rage (1987) / Fair use doctrine.True, MST3K never really tackled the slasher genre in the past but couldn’t you picture the incredibly campy, sleazy and fun of late 80s Blood Rage as an episode? I mean actress Louise Lasser boozing it up, not to mention the scene in which she sits spread eagle by the fridge, binge eating would have the guys rolling! Drive-In Massacre is another film that would easily bridge the slasher-MST3K divide.

5. The Prey (1984)

05_MST3K_The Prey (1984) / Fair use doctrine.An older, low budget, slice and dice movie about six wide eyed campers getting picked off by a mysterious killer. Bad acting, bad production values, and a so-so story would equal MST3K gold.

4. Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare (1987)

04_MST3K_Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare (1987) / Fair use doctrine.Seeing how the original crew did Jon Mikl Thor’s Zombie Nightmare it only seems fitting that the new guys tackle Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare a wonderfully bad film that is enjoyable in its own right. Of course, the infamous shower scene will have to get axed, but it would be worth it to see how the guys react to Thor’s spiked underwear and glam rock makeup as well as a whole host of laughable monsters. Truly a classic episode in the making. Seeing how Thor himself is a fan of the show, a cameo might even be possible.

3. Creep (1995)

03_MST3K_Creep (1995) / Fair use doctrine.This shot on video “epic” by director Tim Ritter has all the elements for a great episode. Its amazingly awful in all departments yet it still retains enough “so bad its great” charm that would make this perfect for the riffed treatment. I could also see Ritter’s Killing Spree riffed, but, honestly, Creep just has something extra special. Maybe it’s the hacked together plot, the cringe worthy acting or random things like a close up of a fly…Whatever it is I`d love to see it featured.

2. The Outing aka The Lamp (1987)

]02_MST3K_The Outing (1987) / Fair use doctrine.I reviewed this PAINFULLY bad late 80s horror film for my upcoming film guide, and I couldn’t help but wish I had Mike or Joel or now Jonah and the bots could have helped me through the trauma. The Outing is a lame duck mishmash of horror and drama that fails on every level. Never heard of it? Well, neither had I until Scream Factory (Shout Factory) released it on DVD and later Blu.

1. Troll 2 (1990)

01_MST3K_Troll 2 / Fair use doctrine.The one, the only, the infamously bad Troll 2 should be, NO, needs to be featured on an episode. Sure we got a Rifftrax from Mike, Kevin, and Bill to slake our thirst, but truly this is a job for the good folks at the SOL. In fact, I think that with the right jokes, this could easily be the new crew’s Manos (Joel era) or Werewolf (Mike era). I can just imagine the epic skits that could go with it.
Honorable Mentions: The Giant Claw, Black Roses, Scalps, Troll, Ghostkeeper, and Robo Vampire (yes, that movie really exists).
Posted by Mike Vaughn in EDITORIALS, STAFF PICKS, 0 comments
BLU-RAY REVIEW: House: Two Stories from Arrow

BLU-RAY REVIEW: House: Two Stories from Arrow

House: Two Stories
Limited Edition Arrow Blu Review

House (1985)

House / Fair use doctrine.
Remember when horror films were fun and not bleak and gloomy and made you wanna slit your wrists? Oh the 80s… House and its sequel, House II: The Second Story, are prime examples of blending horror with screwball comedy and somehow making it actually work. What makes House brilliant is not only can it seamlessly blend the two genres (which is incredibly difficult) but it also shows the horrors of war and PTSD (a term not yet coined at the time) in a clever and harrowing way-yet still retains its goofy fun. Not an easy thing to balance but somehow it does. The film isn’t perfect with some writing that could have used more polish but, all things considered, it’s a highly creative wild horror ride from the decade that gave us a lot of scary and just plain fun outings. Holy rotten corpse, Arrow has really rolled out the blood red carpet for the first two films, and the end result is pretty amazing!

House II: The Second Story (1987)

House II / Fair use doctrine.
Wisely the filmmakers choose to not simply remake the first but go in a totally different direction, this time a western action adventure…and somehow it actually works. And like the previous outing it not only retains its goofy/cartoon charms but ups the stakes tenfold. Honestly, as much as I enjoyed House with its over the top gags a la Evil Dead 2 and social satire, I prefer the sequel. Sure, it’s flawed with needless subplots that drag the film down; it’s still a fun adventure horror film that makes a great starter for any budding horror fan. And really how can you not love the dog creature?

House / House II

  • Picture: According to the insert both this and House II are presented in an exclusive 2k scan just for this release using original 35mm material. The picture is crisp and clean with very little noise distortion and thankfully is not blown out color wise.
  • Sound: Both films feature an original uncompressed mono 2.0 and a new 5.1 track and they never sounded better. House 1 really benefits with Harry Manfredini wonderfully done score.
  • Extras: The real highlight are the feature length documentaries Ding Dong You’re Dead and It’s Getting Weirder produced by Red Shirt Pictures. Both come in at over an hour long and cover every aspect of the production. Thankfully, it features the main players not only in the cast but the crew as well, and the interviews are lively and entertaining. Each film also has feature length commentaries and rounding out the extras are vintage making of’s still galleries and of course trailers.
  • Package: House and House II are housed in a great box featuring outstanding new artwork done by Justin Osbourn. Both individual films also feature new art by Osbourn and for purist out there you can reverse the cover with the original poster art. The House Companion a booklet written by Simon Barber (the cover also featuring new art) is well written, packed with trivia and a great addition to this set.
  • Overall: Yeah it’s still early in the year but I feel perfectly OK with putting this on my short list for best release of 2017. Both films have never looked/sounded better but of course Arrow goes the extra mile for fans giving a wealth of new features with some vintage ones. The new documentaries alone are worth the price not to mention everything else. So time travel to a less depressing time in horror, when filmmakers actually had a bit of fun with its carnage! Worth your money!
Posted by Mike Vaughn in BLU-RAY REVIEWS, MOVIE REVIEWS, 0 comments
FILMS IN THE ATTIC: The Sinful Dwarf (1973)

FILMS IN THE ATTIC: The Sinful Dwarf (1973)

Films in the Attic

Films in the Attic showcases strange and little talked about cinema gems from around the globe. So sit back, relax, and allow me to dust off some nearly forgotten relics — the good, the bad, and the downright unwatchable. Either way you`ll be entertained.

The Sinful Dwarf (1973)

My fellow horror hounds, have you ever watched a movie so sleazy, so filthy you actually felt like you wanted a shower afterwards? Well that’s just what you might want to do after filling your glazzies with this strange Grindhouse from the 70s. The nutty Lila Lash (Clara Keller) and her pint-sized psycho son Olaf (Torben Bille) run a boarding house. But they don’t just earn their living renting out rooms. Their side hustle is simple: They kidnap young girls, get them hooked on heroin, and pimp them out to sleazy johns in a secret room. Oh, and they are in the drug trade just because, why not? A young writer and his wife are desperate to find an affordable place to live. They have the misfortune coming along Lila’s place and, as you might have guessed, she and Olaf have their eyes on the young Mary. For those seeking truly strange 70s cinema, consider The Sinful Dwarf required viewing. The film opens with a girl (dressed young but clearly in her early twenties) playing a child’s game and being savagely attacked and abducted by Olaf. It perfectly sets the stage for a brain melting and at times unsettling mini-sized masterpiece.
As with the subject of my previous review, The Pit, it’s a flick I enjoy a great deal but it’s not without its issues. It’s paper thin plot isn’t exactly groundbreaking with an ending which could have used an overhaul. Also, the acting is pretty much what you’d expect for this kind of outing. However, what it lacks in those departments, it more than makes up for in sheer WTF moments and unrelenting filth that coats every frame of celluloid. The film thankfully never takes itself too serious and it doesn’t just cross the line of good taste, it gleefully dances over. My favorite moment has to be a bizarre vaudeville-like musical number performed perfectly over the top by Clara Keller. Also, how can you not love the drug kingpin kick named Santa Claus? He smuggles the drugs in children’s toys, keeping with the theme set up in the opening scene. What also keeps the film interesting is the production design which does a great job at maintaining an icky feeling. For example, the inside of the boarding house is so grimy looking you might fear you will catch something just gazing at it. They also add nice little subtle touches. For example, old posters for Lila Lashes’ shows can be seen hanging up on the decaying walls. I have to take a moment and mention the incredible performance by actor Torben Bille who is extremely skin crawling as Olaf. His on-screen presence really gives me the creeps, and I don’t say that lightly. Honestly, he is a big reason why this film works so well. Fans of ultra sleaze will find this endlessly watchable with very few dull moments. The Sinful Dwarf may not have the greatest plot and the ending is a bit limp, but going into this you shouldn’t expect high art .You might be wondering where you can find this wonderful “little” gem? Well, you are in luck because Severin Films has released a great looking Blu-ray loaded with new features. I highly recommended it.
Posted by Mike Vaughn in FILMS IN THE ATTIC, RETRO REVIEWS, 0 comments

MOVIE REVIEW: Get Out (2017)

Squirming in My Seat

Most of you, no doubt, have heard the buzz around the recently released film Get Out and wondered if it lives up to the hype. Well I’m here to say it does and then some. Going into this I went totally fresh not seeing a single trailer or review. As I planted my butt into my seat, theater packed with people I wasn’t sure quite what to expect. Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and his girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) are getting pretty serious. They decide it’s time for Chris to meet Rose’s upper class white family. Chris however is concerned that Rose never disclosed the fact that she is dating an African American. She assures him that it’s not even an issue worth mentioning and they pack for a care free weekend at their picture perfect home. However, as you might have guessed, something strange is going on and soon Chris must fight to survive.
I might sound like I’m over selling here but Get Out is without a doubt the most powerful and creepy horror film I have seen in a long time. Casual horror films use to teen slice and dices will probably not like this film. But for those of you who enjoy more elevated and cerebral fare from the genre, this is the movie for you. Peele takes the high road and pens an incredibly clever screenplay packed with tension filled horror and best of all thought provoking satire. Since it was a Jordan Peele project, I thought it might get a bit silly, but (thankfully) he reins in the jokes and uses the comedy sparingly to help balance out the heavy subject matter. And it does get heavy. In this packed viewing, I admit that I squirmed in my seat as a white guy because the film pulls zero punches in exploring racial tensions in America. I also have to admit that I didn’t like that at first, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it should make me uncomfortable because that’s the whole point. Much like The Stepford Wives shone a spotlight on male chauvinism in the 70s, Get Out places race relations front and center in 2017.
But what saves this film from simply stoking racial flames is its excellent writing, directing, acting, and not to mention its message – brilliantly wrapped in the guise of a horror outing. When I walked out of the viewing, I felt totally wrecked from the film’s blunt and brutal nature. Yet I couldn’t stop thinking about it for days afterwards. And that, my horror fiends, is the mark of a great horror film…It’s not about the bloodshed and the jump scares but about the psychological horror that creeps into your head and stays for awhile. It currently holds an impressive 99% freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and I will say up front that Get Out will divide some fans, but this film has future classic written all over it. I applaud the folks at Blumhouse for taking the risk and giving us a ballsy and unflinching horror that really affected me.
Posted by Mike Vaughn in Categories, 0 comments
COMING SOON (BLU-RAY): Drive-In Massacre

COMING SOON (BLU-RAY): Drive-In Massacre

Drive-In Massacre (1977)
Coming to Blu-Ray

Heads Will Roll

Distributor: Severin
Release Date: 3/14/2017

About the Film:

I have to admit I feel extremely lucky that I have an actual fully functional drive-in that I can go to in the summer time. But I’m sure it couldn’t compare to the wild and seamy drive-ins of yesteryear. So those looking for a slice of nostalgia and gore filled romp should defiantly seek out Drive-In Massacre. The plot is pretty straightforward: A savage killer armed with a sword is slicing and dicing his way through a rural California drive-in. Now it’s up to two bumbling cops to solve the crime before more bodies pile up. The film suffers from horrible over padding and a tepid plot, but fans of Grindhouse sleaze, lots of ultra carnage, and some unintentional hilarity will be able to look past its flaws and enjoy it for its other merits. What saves this for me is it wears its heart on its bloody sleeve, and it doesn’t try to be something more than a fun, by the numbers slasher with some nice quirky moments thrown in for good measure. For example, the one gentleman cop going in undercover drag (and not passable) is an unexpected treat for the audience and something that makes it stick out. Again, it’s not brilliant, but it’s a perfectly serviceable nasty little gem to crawl out of the 70s. One can even forgive the obvious and sadly outdated marketing gimmick.

Picture/Sound:

Fans are treated to a brand new transfer using a recently discovered original 35mm print. The end result is a near flawless looking picture which is a huge improvement to previous releases. Colors are balanced nicely and skin tones look natural. Thankfully it doesn’t suffer from being washed out. Night scenes are practically good looking. Sound fares pretty Well with a nice 2.0 audio track. Sounds are crisp with little noise distortion — again a much needed improvement from previous editions.

Extras:

Severin has proved they can hang with the big boys of cult/horror blu ray releases and they are kicking off 2017 with some stellar releases. Drive in Massacre features brand new interviews with co-writer/actor John F.Goff, Norm Sheridan and director Stu Segall. The interviews are both fun and informative and are a must for fans of this sleazy 70’s slice’em up. Perhaps my favorite new feature is the feature length commentary with Stu Segall. And rounding out the extras is the infamous trailer with the misspelled title. Put it all together it’s a great collection of new features giving it a complete picture of this sorely over looked, entertaining Grindhouse classic. Also look for a hidden Easter egg on the main menu.

Overall:

While not one of the best slashers of the decade it is a lot of fun and those looking to add this to your slice and dice collection will not feel cheated. Not only is the sound/picture great but a lot of love was put into the brand new extras making this a must own blu release. For a limited time anyone who buys off their site will receive an autographed copy at no extra cost.
Posted by Mike Vaughn in BLU-RAY REVIEWS, MOVIE REVIEWS, 0 comments
MOVIE REVIEW (RETRO): The Pit (1981)

MOVIE REVIEW (RETRO): The Pit (1981)

Please allow me the new guy at Tortured Souls to get a bit misty eyed about a film that is near and dear to my black heart. Back before everything under the sun got the star treatment on Blu only a handful of companies truly were catering to the rabid cinemaphile. One such company believe it or not was MGM who released scores of great films under their label MGM Midnight Movies. Like Anchor Bay the label introduced me to many movies that would go on to be lifelong favorites. But the one I’m going to talk about is a grimy little gem called The Pit, a movie I adore so much I included it in my upcoming film guide.
The Pit follows the story of a disturbed boy named Jamie (Sam Snyder) who ranges from innocent weirdo to sadist sociopath and worse. His bizarre behavior is all guided by his teddy bear aptly named Teddy (voiced by Snyder) who, of course, only Jamie can hear. His parents have to take a business trip and they hire a college student named Sandy (Jeannie Elias) who works with troubled youths. Jamie happens to take an intense liking to her. But things go from weird to downright nutso when he discovers a pit full of hairy creatures. Everyone in the town that’s been mean to him will soon pay.
You will most likely rub your eyes in disbelief after witnessing this out of its mind shocker from the early 80s. Even though I like this film a great deal it does have its share of problems. The Pit suffers from a wildly uneven story which feels like a strange mixture of creature feature, childhood revenge fantasy, and sleazy exploitation. At times it feels like a haphazardly put together jigsaw puzzle. It is also is all over the place tone wise, swaying from dark to playfully comedic. For example a scene depicting Jamie shoving an crusty old bitty into the pit is obviously played for laughs. Even with its technical flaws the film still manages to pull it all together and remain incredibly watchable. Wisely director Lew Lehman balances the dark subject matter (and it does get dark, even strongly hinting at an incestuous relationship between Jamie and his mother yikes!). As I said it does make for wonky tones but it also serves the film by helping to keep things light and even invites us the audience to have a laugh at itself.
The other element that helps hold this manic production together is its top notch cast. Considering this movie largely centers on Jamie, it’s important to get just the right person. Luckily they did just that. Child actor Sam Snyder really nails the role and brings a level of maturity that is rare in performers his age. He ranges from sweet but strange to downright skin crawling, all without going ultra hammy. The lovely Jeannie Elias is also great and the two actors play off each other brilliantly. The Pitvisn’t big bold and splashy like some films of the decade but when everyone was cashing in on the slasher craze it dared to be different for better or worse. It currently holds a respectable 6.0 rating on IMDb. Being a fan you could only imagine how excited I was when the label Kino put out a wonderful blu, featuring a brand new transfer and extras. Anyone looking for truly off beat 80s horror should consider this a must see.
Gorehound Mike signing off.
Posted by Mike Vaughn in Categories, MOVIE REVIEWS, RETRO REVIEWS, 0 comments