Mike Vaughn

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

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 (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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
Posted by Mike Vaughn in Categories, TRIBUTE, 0 comments
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.
Posted by Mike Vaughn in Categories, COMING SOON, 0 comments
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.
Posted by Mike Vaughn in Categories, COMING SOON, 0 comments
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.

Posted by Mike Vaughn in Categories, COMING SOON, 0 comments
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
Posted by Mike Vaughn in Categories, COMING SOON, 0 comments