Mike Vaughn

International Screams: Birth of Venus (2018)
Directed By: Berk Büyükbingöl
Written By: Berk Büyükbingöl
Starring: Deniz Turku, Berfin Batir, Elfif Gonen
Country: Turkey

International Screams showcases shorts and features from around the globe and helps you discover exciting new talents. This month we have a short from up-and-coming writer/director Berk Büyükbingöl.

Birth of Venus (2018)Birth of Venus tells the story of two sisters who survive a horrific car crash and struggle with the psychological effects that come with it. But what bloody lengths are they willing to go for the sake of beauty?

Discovering a really solid short is always exciting and something that makes my job as a journalist fulfilling. Berk infuses his short with plenty of morbid nightmare-like images and some pretty palpable scares. He does this by focusing on the technical side of things, and it’s clear that he really knows how to not only fill his frame for maximum frightful effect but also to slyly misdirect, leading to some nice jump scares. He also really knows how to put together, and the editing is on point. This is most evident in the surgery scene.

Birth of Venus (2018)

Giving the film the bulk of its mood is the stark black and white photography. Believe it or not, this is not an easy medium to work in as one might think; however, he does it extremely well, and the end result is a dread-filled fever dream. Büyükbingöl isn’t afraid to go into the surreal; for example, the strange dance sequence is pure Lynchian at its finest. If I had to raise a complaint it would be that, even though this is a freer formed narrative, I feel like the story gets lost and certain plot elements could have been a bit clearer.

When asked what inspirations he drew for this project, Büyükbingöl had this to say:

Mainly the black and white French Horror film Eyes Without a Face inspired me to do it. I tried to mix [The] Texas Chainsaw Massacre with it as well. How far you can go to make your most beloved relative happy? This is the question I asked myself when making it.

Despite a few story issues, Birth of Venus is a creative and visually interesting horror short by a talented filmmaker which most certainly has a future in the industry.

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
International Screams: Birth of Venus Short film (2018)

International Screams: Birth of Venus Short film (2018)

International Screams: Birth of Venus (2018)
Directed By: Berk Büyükbingöl
Written By: Berk Büyükbingöl
Starring: Deniz Turku, Berfin Batir, Elfif Gonen
Country: Turkey

International Screams showcases shorts and features from around the globe and helps you discover exciting new talents. This month we have a short from up-and-coming writer/director Berk Büyükbingöl.

Birth of Venus (2018)Birth of Venus tells the story of two sisters who survive a horrific car crash and struggle with the psychological effects that come with it. But what bloody lengths are they willing to go for the sake of beauty?

Discovering a really solid short is always exciting and something that makes my job as a journalist fulfilling. Berk infuses his short with plenty of morbid nightmare-like images and some pretty palpable scares. He does this by focusing on the technical side of things, and it’s clear that he really knows how to not only fill his frame for maximum frightful effect but also to slyly misdirect, leading to some nice jump scares. He also really knows how to put together, and the editing is on point. This is most evident in the surgery scene.

Birth of Venus (2018)

Giving the film the bulk of its mood is the stark black and white photography. Believe it or not, this is not an easy medium to work in as one might think; however, he does it extremely well, and the end result is a dread-filled fever dream. Büyükbingöl isn’t afraid to go into the surreal; for example, the strange dance sequence is pure Lynchian at its finest. If I had to raise a complaint it would be that, even though this is a freer formed narrative, I feel like the story gets lost and certain plot elements could have been a bit clearer.

When asked what inspirations he drew for this project, Büyükbingöl had this to say:

Mainly the black and white French Horror film Eyes Without a Face inspired me to do it. I tried to mix [The] Texas Chainsaw Massacre with it as well. How far you can go to make your most beloved relative happy? This is the question I asked myself when making it.

Despite a few story issues, Birth of Venus is a creative and visually interesting horror short by a talented filmmaker which most certainly has a future in the industry.


Posted by Mike Vaughn in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, STAFF PICKS, 0 comments
EXCLUSIVE: 4/20 Massacre – Interview with Vanessa Rose Parker, 3 of 3

EXCLUSIVE: 4/20 Massacre – Interview with Vanessa Rose Parker, 3 of 3

Well, we held it as long as we could, but it’s time to exhale and enjoy as we finish up our 4/20 MASSACRE exclusive with an interview with Vanessa Rose Parker.
House of Tortured Souls: What was your first impression of the 4/20 MASSACRE script?
Vanessa Rose Parker: Honestly, I have been working on this project in so many forms that I don’t remember my initial thoughts about it. I remember that I got really excited by the prospect of an all-female main cast. I wanted to make sure that we were treating each character with respect and humanity. We spent a lot of time crafting backstories for each character that would give each actor something unique to work with and give each character a moment to shine.
Jamie Bernadette and Vanessa Rose Parker in 4/20 Massacre (2018)

Jamie Bernadette and Vanessa Rose Parker in 4/20 Massacre (2018)

HoTS: Are you a fan of the genre?
VRP: Yes! I am a horror fan. I absolutely love being scared. And there are certain things that will get me every time… demons and scary ghosts, specifically. I don’t know if it is my lapsed Christian upbringing, but the supernatural world scares the shit out of me! Now there are certain sectors of the genre that aren’t my favorite, like torture porn. But even with that, I think there are exceptions that prove all horror sub genres can be done well.
HoTS: I heard you did your own stunts. What was that like?
VRP: Stunts were a little intimidating. But I worked with our amazing stunt coordinator, James Gregory, and he really took care of me. He patiently took me through everything step by step and always made me feel very safe on set. My biggest stunt involved running in the forest, being shot through the leg with an arrow, and falling to the ground. When it came to actually shooting it, my husband/director, Dylan Reynolds, didn’t seem satisfied with my performance. He made me do so many takes of it! Eventually, he seemed to give up and want to move on. Then during the editing process, Dylan came out and apologized for being hard on me that day…. he used the first take!
HoTS: What would you say was the most difficult or challenging aspect of this shoot?
VRP: The most challenging aspect of this project was the budget and time restraint. We only had ten days to shoot. Seriously, I wasn’t sure if I was even going to be able to take all ten off of work because I didn’t have enough vacation time. But the gods of indie movies shown down upon us and everything worked out. So many wonderful and talented people were willing to work with us and added their hearts to our project. I think it really shows.
HoTS: Would you mind recounting one memorable behind the scenes story?
VRP: After long days of shooting, the cast and crew would get together in the cabins’ common room, drink, and play games. One night we split into two teams and played Encore, a singing word challenge game. It was so evenly matched and got so competitive that the game went on into the wee hours, but we were too stubborn to quit. At about 2 am, when we had a 6 am call, we finally called it a tie. Marissa Pistone (plays Michelle) and I were the heads of each team and we were practically crying to stop, but neither of us would back down. Marissa is a beast. Consider yourselves warned!
Justine Wachsberger, Jamie Bernadette, Vanessa Rose Parker, Marissa Pistone, and Stacey Danger in 4/20 Massacre (2018)

Justine Wachsberger, Jamie Bernadette, Vanessa Rose Parker, Marissa Pistone, and Stacey Danger in 4/20 Massacre (2018)

HoTS: What are you working on currently?
VRP: Currently, we are focused on getting this movie out into the world! But then after a little Caribbean vacation, we are going to regroup and see what we’d like to tackle next.
So there you have it, Souls. The final 4/20 MASSACRE exclusive. I’d like to thank Vanessa Rose Parker for her time. Don’t forget to check out my review as well as my interview with 4/20 MASSACRE writer/director Dylan Reynolds.
Posted by Mike Vaughn in EXCLUSIVE, HORROR COMEDIES, INTERVIEWS, STAFF PICKS, 0 comments
EXCLUSIVE: Interview with 4/20 Massacre Writer/Director Dylan Reynolds, 2 of 3

EXCLUSIVE: Interview with 4/20 Massacre Writer/Director Dylan Reynolds, 2 of 3

Smoke ’em if you got ’em because it’s time for the interview with 4/20 MASSACRE writer/director Dylan Reynolds.
House of Tortured Souls: What I really admire about 4/20 MASSACRE is that it has a lot more depth than one might expect, were you afraid of alienating fans expecting just a mindless slasher?
Dylan Reynolds: Yeah- that’s always been a bit of a concern. In many ways the movie is a “Trojan Horse” and we sneak in elements of an indie drama within the framework of a campy slasher flick. I wanted to do that because I knew it would be something “a little different” and therefore it might be more memorable. On the other hand — the audience we’ll probably attract may not be into those elements — and the audience who might actually appreciate what we did wouldn’t necessarily watch a movie called 4/20 MASSACRE.
HoTS: I read in an interview where you had some nice Easter eggs for die-hard slasher fans?
DR: Yeah- there’s a number sprinkled throughout- including some shots/sequences that mirror The Burning and Friday the 13th Part 2. Jamie Bernadette’s character is named Jess — who is the Final Girl in Black Christmas. There’s a line where they say they are going to “Higgin’s Creek”— which is a nod to the location in Friday the 13th Part 3 [“Higgin’s Haven”]… plus a number of others — I tried not to be too blatant.
HoTS: Would you say this is homage to holiday horror, 4/20 being a holiday of sorts?
DR: Most definitely — this was my contribution to the long and proud tradition of “holiday slashers” lol.
HoTS: Let me ask about your process as a director for a moment. How open are you to suggestions from cast/crew and do you allow actors to improvise lines?
DR: I try to give a general framework/ blocking and allow the actor’s the freedom to “play”. The best thing I figure I can do is create the atmosphere for creative people to do their thing. I encourage what I like to call “improvisation between the lines” — meaning, of course, there’s written dialogue but I like to allow takes to go on a little longer or give them a little head — I think this gives the scenes a more natural flow and feel. I also try to encourage actor’s to “give me some options” so I can cherry pick the moments in the edit.
DR: I of course have a shot list — some storyboards- an outline etc. but often you have to be flexible on a low budget film. I think the old adage is that you spend months making a plan only to get to set and have to throw it all out the window. Therefore a production is ultimately a collaborative effort with the crew. I try to communicate what I envision and we all collectively try to accomplish the goal — which is to tell a story and get all the shots we need to tell said story.
James Gregory in 420 Massacre (2018)

James Gregory in 4/20 MASSACRE (2018)

HoTS: How hands-on are you as a director, for example do you give them much guidance or do you allow them to find the character themselves?
DR: For this film- after we secured our cast I met with each of the actor’s individually to discuss the character… a general discussion of what I was thinking- what ideas or questions they had etc. Then like I said- I just tried to allow them the freedom to be creative and bring the character to life.
HoTS: What was the most difficult or challenging aspect of this production?
DR: It was a low budget film shot in 10 days out in the middle of nowhere… so about all the stress, you can imagine with no budget — no time — and the all-around lack of resources would create. But those negatives were countered with a lot of positive… namely it was a bunch of adults who went camping and “played make-believe” during the day and drank and shared some laughs at night.
HoTS: The stuntman coordinator James Gregory actually taught the actors to do their own stunts is that correct?
DR: Yeah, and James also played the killer (The Shape) and designed the costume. We did a “stunt rehearsal day” where we brought in all the actors to go over their individual “falls” and/or “taking punches” and what the game plan was for the scenes involving their “stunts”. Jamie Bernadette had the most work because she had some extended fight sequences during the film.
HoTS: Was it fun directing a stunt-heavy feature such as this?
DR: For sure- there’s a lot to plan out and it’s ridiculous how much coverage you end up having to get just to cut an “action” scene together. And truth be told we weren’t doing anything super complicated in 4/20 MASSACRE — and even then it got pretty involved. Therefore the experience did give me a stronger appreciation of directors who can direct action well… it’s probably the most “director reliant” form of filmmaking.
HoTS: What would you say was the weirdest or most surreal moment during this shoot?
DR: Hmmm… I can’t think of any one “surreal moment” really. I guess there were times after a long day of shooting when I was walking around decompressing and/or thinking about the next day’s schedule and I would have a “moment of clarity” and realize how awesome the whole experience was. We were all out here making a movie, and I was fulfilling my dream. I can’t think of anything much cooler than that.
HoTS: Any scenes that didn’t make the final cut? If so, I’d love to hear about them.
DR: I don’t think any full scenes got axed actually. For the most part. the cuts came “within the scenes”… usually because I wrote too much dialogue that needed to be trimmed back or “tightened”.
HoTS: Do you plan on hitting any of the conventions this year and if so feel free to plug them?
DR: I don’t have any plans for a “horror convention tour”! That may change… I was thinking of going to Monsterpalooza in April and try to hand out some postcards… maybe bring some 4/20 MASSACRE DVDs along with me.
HoTS: Can you at all hint or talk about a follow up to 4/20? Also, what are you working on at the moment?
DR: I have ideas for a 4/20 MASSACRE Part 2. I have a general plan to do a different slasher sub-genre with each installment. Part 1 was a “backwoods slasher”, and with Part 2, I wanted to make a Gialloesque “slasher mystery”. Hopefully, this film will do okay and I can make some money back and “flip it” to make another one… we’ll see.
And that’s the word on 4/20 MASSACRE from writer/director Dylan Reynolds. Don’t forget to check out my review, and stay tuned for the final part of my 4/20 MASSACRE article triolgy.
Posted by Mike Vaughn in INTERVIEWS, STAFF PICKS, 0 comments
EXCLUSIVE: 4/20 Massacre (2018), 1 of 3 – Review

EXCLUSIVE: 4/20 Massacre (2018), 1 of 3 – Review

4/20 Massacre (2018), 1 of 3

Director: Dylan Reynolds; Writer: Dylan Reynolds; Stars: Jamie Bernadette, Stacey Danger, Jim Storm, Vanessa Rose Parker, James Gregory, Justine Wachsberger, Marissa Pistone; Rating: N/A; Run Time: 84 min; Genre: Action, Horror; Country: USA; Language: English; Year: 2018

I have to admit when I got the screener for 4/20 Massacre I was um…how to put this nicely…skeptical of its quality. But hey I am anything but a film snob and while I love all classics in the genre I love a good B-slasher romp. A group of friends goes camping to celebrate a friend’s birthday which falls on — you guessed it — April 20th. Little do they know that they are venturing into pot growing territory or terror-tory in this case, as a killer is dispatching anybody getting near his patch. 4/20 Massacre feels like a film rift with camp however to my delight (not that I don’t love some campy goodness) and, surprise, it didn’t. It actually manages to inject some solid drama to the stab genre. My one complaint would be some of it gets a bit heavy-handed. I do however have to give Reynolds huge props for giving his characters more depth something I think few other directors would have bothered with. Also having a female-dominated cast is a fun and interesting way to subvert genre troupes. The scene where two female characters play out a scene just like a man/female would in a standard slasher is clever and drives home that point. In a film filled with wonderful dunk smelling pot smoke, it’s a defiant breath of fresh air.

Justine Wachsberger, Jamie Bernadette, Vanessa Rose Parker, Marissa Pistone, and Stacey Danger in 420 Massacre (2018)

4/20 Massacre also does something pretty clever which is, pardon the pun, takes pot shots at holiday-based horrors which were a pretty awesome element. It’s very clear that despite its shortcomings,Reynolds knows how to craft a film and it has slick editing, great camera work (that aerial credit scene is impressive) as well as a nice soundtrack. Another thing that was impressive was the cast that is damn good. Jamie Bernadette, Stacy Danger, Justine Wachsberger, Vanessa Rose Parker, and Marissa Pistone do a fantastic job at bringing a real element to the film and in turn, it really gives it a more polished feel. Even veteran actor Jim Storm (TV’s Dark Shadows, Trilogy of Terror) makes a fun appearance as a sleazy, beer-guzzling park ranger aptly named Rick. Storm has a ball in the role and sure its hammy but damn it’s so entertaining to watch. This being a slice and dice film you live or die with good FX and thankfully this has some well-executed splatter gags especially considering that this was on a modest budget. So many movies rely on a gimmick to get fans talking about a movie, this is as true for Hollywood products as the indie people. And it’s no wonder I was skeptical, to say the least about a movie entitled 4/20 Massacre, however, I am happy to admit I was proven wrong. Sure it tends to be a bit heavy-handed and uneven at times however there really is a solid film in here and I’m not just blowing smoke here…Okay, that was bad.

Bottom Line: Support this filmmaker and rent, buy, and follow 4/20 Massacre on Twitter. Like a good jay, this one should be passed around with a group of friends.

Check back for my exclusive interviews with writer/director Dylan Reynolds and the cast of 4/20 Massacre.

Posted by Mike Vaughn in EXCLUSIVE, MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, STAFF PICKS, 0 comments
Gruesome Twosome: An Exclusive on Chris Alexander’s Two Upcoming Features

Gruesome Twosome: An Exclusive on Chris Alexander’s Two Upcoming Features

Chris Alexander is no stranger to the horror genre and this year he has not one but two projects in the works. The massively talented former editor-in-chief of Fangoria Magazine stopped by to give me the skinny on his two latest projects and what fans can expect.

Chris Alexander - Space Vampire (2018)Space Vampire (2018)
Director: Chris Alexander; Writer: Ali Chappell; Star: Ali Chappel; Rating: UNK; Run Time: UNK; Genre: Horror; Country: USA; Language: English; Year: 2018

Plot: An alluring space alien falls to earth with the mission to drain women of their life energy making her unstoppable. This film wonderfully harkens back to surreal dreamscapes of Rollins with a dash of Hopper’s Lifeforce for good measure.

Chris has this to say about the project:

Space Vampire is my fifth feature and once more functions as a vessel for both my music and my obsessions with more dreamlike, psychological and experimental strains of horror cinema, specifically the personal, meandering works of Rollin, Franco, and Herzog. Rollin especially, with his fixation on tragic female vampires. This picture takes its title nod from Colin Wilson’s novel The Space Vampires, which was, of course, adapted for the screen as Tobe Hooper’s Lifeforce but the movie itself is more informed by films like Under the Skin and the opening stretches of The Man Who Fell from Earth. I love the idea of following unnatural characters lost in familiar landscapes, almost child-like and driven by whatever addiction they are chained to. I make these movies for me and all my movies are – for better or worse – interconnected by theme, mood, style, sound.

And when asked what stage it’s in, he added:

I’m still editing. Its very abstract. But I am getting the “feel” of it….finding the rhythm.

Chris Alexander - Underneath An Anthology of Terror (2018)Underneath: An Anthology of Terror (2018)
Directors: Chris Alexander, Andre Becker, Cory Ivanchuk, John Nicol; Writers: Chris Alexander, Andre Becker, Cory Ivanchuk, John Nicol; Stars: Brent Baird, Nicholas Koy Santillo, Nichole Kawalez, Ali Chappell, Colin Bailey, Rebecca Kilburn, Tammy Stewart, Mike McMurran, Joshua Kuchma; Rating: UNK; Run Time: 95 min; Genre: Horror; Country: USA; Language: English; Year: 2018

Plot: In the vein of Creepshow and the more recent VHS series comes Underneath an anthology featuring five exciting voices in the horror genre.

I always love a good horror anthology and Chris, along with other talents – including Andre Becker, Cory Ivanchuk, and John Nicol, are sure to conjure up some fun and scares. Chris had this to say:

Underneath is the new anthology feature from my good friend and colleague John Nicol. Similar tastes in more abstract cinema. So when he asked me to contribute a segment I agreed. My short is really about how we have perverted our connection to the natural world with endless distraction and illusion. It’s about a woman becoming undone by the fixation on finding “nature”. She eventually regresses fully to an animal state. So, in the context of the short, it is a happy ending! Unsure what John will be doing release wise with Underneath but Space Vampire is the second film from my Castle Films imprint that I operate with filmmaker David DeCoteau, creating more artful and expressive micro-budget genre films.

I for one am very excited for both of these films and will be eagerly awaiting them later this year. Of course, I like to give a huge thank you to Chris Alexander for taking the time to talk to chat about his amazing new projects.

Posted by Mike Vaughn in COMING SOON, HORROR NEWS, STAFF PICKS, 0 comments
International Screams: Wekufe aka Wekufe: The Origins of Evil (2016)

International Screams: Wekufe aka Wekufe: The Origins of Evil (2016)

Director/Writer: Javier Attridge; Stars: Matias Aldea, Paula Figueroa; Rating: Rating; Run Time: 80 min; Genre: Horror, Mystery, Thriller; Country: Chile; Language: Spanish; Year: 2016

Wekufe (2016)This week in International Screams we take a look at an exciting new director from Chile. Currently he is working on an exciting project called Wander Tales a horror anthology with other talented directors, including Todd Nunes (All Through the House), Nick Hunt (The Dark Heart of Jason Voorhees: The Making of The Final Friday), Stu Jopia (Good Tidings), and Bill Pon (Circus of the Dead, Doll Boy) just to name a few. Wekufe is Javier’s first feature and he digs deep into some frightening local history.

Wekufe (2016)A student named Paula (Paula Figueroa) and her filmmaking boyfriend Matias (Matias Aldea) travel to a remote village in Chile to get to the root of a local boogeyman in connection with a series of ghastly crimes including rape, incest, and pedophilia. But is it really a mythical terror or is this just an excuse to justify these horrible acts? Wekufe starts by cleverly referencing the found footage genre, but sadly it doesn’t go far enough to actually subvert those troupes and sometimes falls into the same trappings as others. The other problem with the film is that it’s dull in spots, and at a scant run time 80 minutes, parts of it feel like padding. I really wish the film could have amped up the tension as much as the end does.

Wekufe (2016)Wekufe does have its strengths, and Attridge plays the eerie local myths for all its worth, giving the film a nice unnerving quality. It’s also very interesting, especially if you know nothing about the culture or the legend which the film is steeped in. This is certainly a movie that builds to a great ending which is chocked full of creepy atmosphere and has a nice grisly pay off at the end. The filmmakers also take advantage of the great locations and the cinematography adds to its otherworldly feeling. Flaws aside, Wekufe is a solid found footage horror film, and it’s clear that Javier has a passion and drive for the genre which will take him very far in it. Even more impressive though is the fact that this is his very first feature and though its rough around the edges shows the start of a bright future. Very excited for his next film.

Posted by Mike Vaughn in MOVIE REVIEWS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
MOVIE REVIEW: My Friend Dahmer (2017)

MOVIE REVIEW: My Friend Dahmer (2017)

Director: Marc Meyers; Writers: Marc Meyers (Based on the novel by Derk Backderf); Stars: Ross Lynch, Alex Wolff, Anne Heche, Dallas Roberts, Harrison Holzer, Cameron McKendry, Liam Koeth, Vincent Kartheiser; Rating: R; Run Time: 107 min; Genre: Biography, Drama, Horror; Country: USA; Language: English; Year: 2017

Ross Lynch in My Friend Dahmer (2017)

High school is a weird and awkward time for most people, and Marc Meyers’ starkly eerie adaptation of Derk Backderf’s best selling graphic novel My Friend Dahmer, takes us through the early years of Jeffery Dahmer, the infamous serial killer and cannibal who shocked the latter 20th century with his crimes. High school student Derf (Alex Wolff) befriends loner Jeffery (Ross Lynch) and joins him in his small circle of friends. At first, they think Jeff is just a quirky dude in the pot-hazed 70s counterculture; however, they quickly realize it goes much deeper and darker then what any of them expect.

Meyers brilliantly shows the horrors and disturbed inner life of Dahmer but masterfully humanizes him and showcases his everyday horrors, such as his bizarre home life and grim hobbies. Refreshingly, the director never gets too carried away and eschews over the top horror style tropes to craft an utterly scary and, at times, heartbreaking portrait. I know a lot of you dig ultraviolent flicks (which I do too), but what really gets under my skin are the more psychological aspects, and Meyers manages to ratchet up the tension to the max without the aid of blood or gore.

Ross Lynch, Tara O. Horvath, and Jack DeVillers in My Friend Dahmer (2017)

The final scene between Jeffery and Derf (Alex Wolff) is bone-chilling and extremely well done. What surprised me the most was how even though this is a dark film, Meyers manages to let some morbid humor combined with frightening foreshadowing bleed into the film. For example, during a chicken dinner, Jeff tells his mother that he likes the dark meat (which is undercooked and blood red in the center further driving the point home) is darkly comical mixed with bitter irony. Also, the scene with Jeffery and an African American bunkmate is awkward and tense but also kind of amusing. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the outstanding cast. Lynch, previously known for cheery Disney outings, gives a star-making performance and completely loses himself in the layered role. His performance as Jeffery is haunting but never feels hammy or over the top, and he conveys worlds of emotion much with a look or body language. Playing Jeffery’s psycho mom is Anne Heche, and I cannot believe I’m writing this, but damn she does a pretty fantastic job. Equally good are the young actors that bring an honest realism to high school life.

Vincent Kartheiser and Ross Lynch in My Friend Dahmer (2017)

My Friend Dahmer isn’t as glossy or shocking as other depictions of the infamous cannibal (as this doesn’t show any of his murders), but for my money, it’s the most honest, unnerving, and compelling journey into the heart of darkness I’ve seen in a long time. Meyers and company take away the sensationalism of the serial killer and strips it to the bare bones, showing us just how this monster ticks. My Friend Dahmer is an incredible film and should not be missed.

Ross Lynch in My Friend Dahmer (2017)

Posted by Mike Vaughn in BRUTAL REALITY, MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, SLASHERS AND BAD HUMANS, 0 comments
MOVIE REVIEW (RETRO): Love me Deadly (1973)

MOVIE REVIEW (RETRO): Love me Deadly (1973)

Love Me Deadly (1972) / Fair use doctrine.Love Me Deadly is a bewildering film as I’m pretty sure it shouldn’t exist, but it does anyway. Lindsay Finch (Mary Charlotte Wilcox) has style, beauty, and money, but behind all that perfection lies a dark secret. Because instead of having any hot hunk she wants, she prefers them cold and dead. Soon she becomes mixed up with a crazy cult that is also interested in the loving dead. Take an early ’70s melodrama, mix in some hammy acting, throw in some half-baked horror elements and a light sprinkle of sleazy necrophilia and you have the makings of something…surprisingly unremarkable in every way.

Love Me Deadly (1972) / Fair use doctrine.

Love Me Deadly has everything an epic so-bad-it’s-good outing should have; however, not even the terrible credit music can prepare you for this incredibly unwatchable celluloid mish-mash. Basically what you have is a dime store soap opera that for some baffling reason makes a half-assed attempt at the sleaze/horror genre. It’s like all the pieces are right there, but they just do not fit together. The film, as suggested by the title, explores necrophilia, a subject that is guaranteed to make you squirm… Except, of course, for this movie, because the material is handled with kid gloves for whatever reason. And this is really where the film lost me because why even bother going that route if you can’t deliver something disturbing and edgy? And maybe worst of all, fellow bad cinema junkies, it’s so painfully dull it will have you bored stiff. (Sorry couldn’t resist the bad pun.) I will give the film some credit for having a few nice twisted touches, but sadly it’s not nearly enough to save the film from collapsing into itself. I’m not even sure who this film is supposed to be aimed towards as it’s too strange to be a straight-up drama, yet it lacks the punch to even really be considered a horror/exploitation film. I so wanted to like this movie, but it is really lacking in virtually every department — from the wooden acting to the lazy and often times overdrawn plot (which is also pretty predictable).

Love Me Deadly better left on the shelf along with your Stretch Armstrong doll and your bell-bottom pants. Truly for the brave hardcore trash fan, but you might as well just watch Nekromantik instead.

Love Me Deadly (1972) / Fair use doctrine.

For more help exploring some little-seen oddities, my fiends, check out my new book The Ultimate Guide to Strange Cinema, and let me know what you think.

The Ultimate Guide to Strange Cinema (2017) by Mike "Gorehound" Vaughn

Posted by Mike Vaughn in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
Horror and the Oscars

Horror and the Oscars

Horror and the Oscars?

The history of genre cinema (horror, fantasy, science fiction) and the Oscars have been a spotty one at best. For example, in 1931 Fredric March took home the golden statue for his masterful duel role in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (and my personal favorite adaptation). It wouldn’t be until Anthony Hopkins portrayed the cannibal Hannibal in 1991’s Silence of the Lambs that another actor would win for a horror movie in that category. The Oscars have always looked down on genre films, most specifically horror and science fiction, with most of the awards going to dramas or indie darlings. However, it seems of late that maybe this is a trend that is slowly changing and voting members are finally taking the horror genre seriously. It’s not totally unheard of for the genre to get some love though. On the technical side, films like for example Alien and Aliens won both Oscars for visual effects. The Fly, An American Werewolf in London, and Bram Stoker’s Dracula and won Best Makeup (just to name a few). In addition, Sleepy Hollow won for Best Art Direction, and Ruth Gordon and Kathy Bates won Best Actress awards.

Daniel Kaluuya in Jordan Peele’s Get Out

he Shape of Water poster

Guillermo Del Toro’s The Shape of Water

However, when you realize The Exorcist never won Best Picture but did win for Best Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium. Get Out the psychological satire horror film kicked down some doors not only in its frank and sobering commentary on race relations but proves that a genre film can be smart, meaningful, and scary as hell. The 90th Oscars were very genre forward in many ways. Guillermo Del Toro mentioned The Creature from the Black Lagoon and Julie Adams, and on the red carpet, clips from various horror films were shown in a montage including most surprisingly a chainsaw swinging Leatherface from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. And of course, the break out horror hit Get Out from Blumhouse won for Best Screenplay. In addition, trailblazing filmmaker George A. Romero was paid tribute at the Oscars in Memoriam, though sadly Tobe Hooper was left off for some baffling reason. It’s no shock that a lot of people in the horror community don’t like the Oscars, and I totally get that. When I look back at the countless great horror films to get snubbed, it’s hard not to be bitter. But this year proved that a perhaps a new attitude is emerging within the Academy, after all, this year also saw a greatly diverse group of nominees and winners. Sure we are unlikely to see a Halloween film win any golden statues, but I really feel like Get Out and The Shape of Water are great starts in showcasing the importance of genre cinema.

Mad Monster welcomes George Romero

George Romero

Posted by Mike Vaughn in EVENT REVIEWS, HORROR NEWS, REVIEWS, STAFF PICKS, 0 comments
Altered Carbon, S01E01 [Spoiler-Free Review]

Altered Carbon, S01E01 [Spoiler-Free Review]

Starring: Joel Kinnaman, James Purefoy, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Chris Conner, Kristin Lehman

High concept science fiction set in the future is tricky to do and to do well; no, not tricky damn hard. You have to walk a fine line between establishing a well-grounded world that feels organic and realistic and also set it hundreds of years into the future. Netflix’s newest original series Altered Carbon hits the ground running with a wildly creative future neo. Set in the distant future, prisoner Takeshi Kovacs (Joel Kinnaman) returns in a new body called re-sleeving and must help a rich man named Laurens Bancroft (James Purefoy) to solve his murder in return for money and freedom. Altered Carbon’s first episode does a nice job of providing a lot of information and world-building, and it does it in a way that doesn’t feel forced or even worse of all, through terrible exposition. This isn’t as easy as it seems especially when you have so much backstory and information to get across to the audience, but it does this in a really fresh and organic way.

Besides great writing, the show as a host of great actors including Joel Kinnaman (Suicide Squad), James Purefoy (The Following), and Renée Elise Goldsberry (Star Trek Enterprise) just to name a few. Netflix has given this series the gold treatment and the budget is used to provide us with a wonderfully trippy, neon blazed, future landscape that feels realistic even though it is fantastical. I cannot say enough great things about inventive the visuals are, they truly set the stage for a cool high brow sci-fi, action mystery. The first episode also had some fun nods to the literary world, such as Edgar Allan Poe and The Raven Hotel and the actor who bears a wonderful likeness to the late great author. I will warn viewers that this is extremely sci-fi heavy so if that is not something you get into, then you may like this. Also, it goes pretty quickly so you have to pay close attention and even then a second viewing might be required. My one complaint is that the show plays a bit fast and loose with its almost overly complicated plot and hopefully, they reign that in as the show progresses.

Overall, my impression of the first episode of Altered Carbon is that it’s an engrossing, highly creative, well-acted, future noir that has a strong element of mystery that will most certainly have me watching till half my day is gone and the other 9 episodes are burnt through.

Posted by Mike Vaughn in REVIEWS, SCI-FI HORROR, SERIES REVIEWS, THRILLER, 0 comments
WiHM: Lori Lethin

WiHM: Lori Lethin

Lori Lethin in Bloody Birthday (1981)Lori Lethin, I suspect, is not a name known to a lot of horror fans; however, I think it’s high time we celebrate her brief but interesting career. Like most actors, Lori got her start doing guest spots and in a short amount of time was on everything from Charlie’s Angels and The Dukes of Hazard as well as the infamous After School Special turned short film The Wave, based on a horrifying real-life experiment in an American High School. It was in The Wave were she began to flex her dramatic muscles, but it would be Bloody Birthday released at the height of the slasher craze which would provide her most memorable role. It’s clear from the start that Lethin exudes a natural charm and embodied the perfect girl next door, and the perfect final girl. It was this sweet, innocent demeanor that played well against the three murderous kids in Bloody Birthday and a deformed man in The Prey.

Lori Lethin in The Prey (1984)But her range wasn’t limited to just episodic television or horror and she turned in a great performance in the now cult classic The Day After, a highly unnerving depiction of nuclear fallout at the height of the Cold War. She continued to do guest spots throughout the 80s, and she once again went back to her queen scream roots in the meta-horror film Return to Horror High (1987), a film most notable for starring a relatively unknown George Clooney. Again Lethin stretches her talents by not only playing multiple characters in the film within a film by playing against heavyweights like Alex Rocco. She would only do one other film and a few more guest spots before retiring from acting.

Lori Lethin in The Day After (1983)After bowing out of the limelight, she worked hard to earn her degree in clinical psychology and works with recovering addicts. Though her filmography isn’t huge, the films she did appear in are better because of her and you can’t deny she had a way of lighting up a screen. So let’s raise a toast to this unsung scream queen and truly Lori Lethin can have her cake and this time eat it too!
Lori Lethin in Bloody Birthday (1981)

Posted by Mike Vaughn in EDITORIALS, TRIBUTE, WOMEN IN HORROR, 0 comments
INTERVIEW: Land of the Dead & The Hills Have Eyes star Robert Joy

INTERVIEW: Land of the Dead & The Hills Have Eyes star Robert Joy

Robert Joy is a name that might not be instantly familiar to cult/horror fans but he has over 100 film and TV credits and has been in such classics as George Romero’s Land of the Dead, The Hills Have Eyes (2006).

Robert Joy

Currently fans can see Joy as Polonius in an excellent production of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet starring Michael Urie (Ugly Betty), Alan Cox, Madeleine Potter (Red Lights), Oyin Oladejo (Star Trek Discovery), Keith Baxter, Ryan Spahn, Kelsey Rainwater, Chris Genebach, Gregory Wooddell, Avery Glymph and directed by Michael Kahn at the Shakespeare Theatre Company DC. I saw it, and it was very impressive.
Joy has taken time out of his busy schedule to talk to me about his craft and the genre films he is beloved for as well as the play he is currently in and what he has in store film-wise.
House of Tortured Souls: You got your start on the stage, were you exposed to many theatre productions as a child?
Robert Joy: I didn’t have an opportunity to watch much theater. When I was older I saw a few things, I remember my mother took me to a musical of The King and I that was done really well. And when I was in my late teens, I worked at a canoeing summer camp for kids in Northern Ontario, and three of us from the staff went down to Stratford. We hitchhiked for adventure, and then after that summer, when I got back to St. Johns Newfoundland, I got involved with the amateur theatre scene which was really sophisticated. And I started doing Gilbert and Sullivan and Shakespeare and a wide range of other things.
HoTS: Your first huge break was starting out in the play The Diary of Anne Frank (1979) with heavy hitters like Eli Wallace. What was he like to work with?
RJ: That was an amazing experience I had admired his work on television and I had seen a movie of his called The Tiger Makes Out and it was Eli Wallace and his wife Anne Jackson. It (the film) was very funny but it was also very emotional; the comedy was mixed with heartbreak. And I was floored by their acting, and it was amazing years later I got to act with them in The Diary of Anne Frank. Its only because of him and his family that I’m in the United States at all, really, because he invited me down to New York when The Diary of Anne Frank came from Toronto to New York.

Robert Joy

HoTS: The film Ragtime was an early breakthrough role where you worked with the legendary Milos Forman (One Flew Over a Cuckoos Nest, Amadeus, People vs Larry Flynt) What was he like as a director?
RJ: He was an amazing guy, he’s not with us anymore is he?
HoTS: I believe so, yes.
RJ: He’s an amazing fellow; he’s very smart and very fun loving, so the atmosphere on this huge production, the logistics of which were daunting, the sense that it was all a big party was palpable (laughs). He had bought a puppy. I think it was a lab. The puppy was on the set the whole time, pooping and peeing (Both laugh). There was this atmosphere you were living in some very big-hearted fun-loving guys’ home (laughs) shooting this enormous movie. But yeah it was a lot of fun to work with Milos Forman. He wouldn’t hesitate to sort of indicate any way he could what he was looking for, and you had to be careful not to do exactly what he did because he would sort of act the scene for you. Like he’d say (in a Czech accent), “More eyes! More crrrazzy”. Stuff like that. It was almost like being directed by one of the Muppets and you had to take one he said and interrupt it into what you knew he wanted. He was a very wonderful and supportive director.
HoTS: It’s an incredible film with an incredible cast. What memories do you have of that shoot in regards to the cast?
RJ: James Cagney wasn’t in the best of health, and he couldn’t take airplanes. I can’t remember exactly why, but a friend of his came over on I think it was the Queen Mary from New York to London because he shot it in London. All my scenes are in London and Oxford that part of England. Donald O’ Conner, Pat O’ Brien, and Pat O’Brien’s wife, and what I remember most is how down to earth everybody was and friendly and approachable. It was very moving to see these old friends being old friends, and, you know, they were open-hearted about including a young actor like me. In the film, Pat O’Brien plays my lawyer, and I had admired him, his movie career was amazing. His wife, whose name I’m sorry I can’t recall (Eloise Taylor), she played my mother (laughs) in that movie. I couldn’t believe my luck.
HoTS: I watched an old interview with youon YouTube actually – it must have been mid-eighties – for TV, and you mentioned you turned down Amityville 2: The Posession on grounds of the violence. I’m guessing you’ve softened you’re stance since, with being in films such as The Hills Have Eyes and Land of the Dead?
RJ: Well that’s interesting I didn’t realize I had done that, I was in an Amityville film it was Amityville 3D.
HoTS: Yeah.
RJ: So had I turned down Amityville 2, I guess. I very rarely turn anything down so I might have had another job at the time. As an actor, especially early in your career, you can only really afford to be fussy about what you expect when you have income. It might have been I was disturbed by the excessive violence. I’m not a fan of really violent movies, and as you say The Hills Have Eyes was probably the most violent I’ve ever been in. I have mixed feelings about it, I think it’s very skillfully made and ultimately I think it makes a very interesting premise behind it and as a cautionary tale  about what happens when people are marginalized or when things go bad and human beings are so separate from each other that they almost mutate away from each other. It had that kind of parable element to it. I remember reading the script of The Hills Have Eyes, and when the father character is crucified on the flaming cross, I thought this was too much, but I did it. It was one of those things I did because my daughter was about to go to university, and I didn’t have the luxury of picking and choosing. But I’m proud of it. It wasn’t an easy part to play, and there were a lot of challenges in the making of it. I’m proud we all pulled together an made what turned out to be in its own way a high quality of example of that kind of movie. The director, Alexandre Aja, the principal director, would say, “It has to be brutal and uncompressing”. And that’s what it was.

Robert Joy

HoTS: You also have a great role in George Romero’s adaptation of The Dark Half. Had you read the book before filming?
RJ: No, I hadn’t read the book, but I feel like the opportunity to work with George Romero was one of the great opportunities in my life. The Dark Half has violence in it, but you have a mixture of Stephen King and George Romero, and the range of the material in it is wide and deep. And I was very happy to do it based on the screenplay, but, no, I did not read the novel.
HoTS: So safe to assume you were very familiar with his body of work?
RJ: Yeah. I was most familiar with Night of the Living Dead. It was one of those one-of-a-kind kinds of movies because at the time it hadn’t really spawned that much of a collection of movies by the time I did The Dark Half, at least not that I was aware of. It just seems like subsequently that zombie genre has exploded. But back then it was like he was a one of a kind artist and it was such an interesting role. Like that scene where I come in and basically come in and try to extort Tim Hutton’s character and it’s one of the most interesting scenes. The character on the surface is so playful but under the surface menacing, and the politics of the scene goes up and down. One person has the power, then you wonder maybe the other person has the power, and its really good screenplay writing. And, of course, it’s beautifully directed by George. And when I met George in Pittsburgh, I was struck by courtly he was; it made me think of this old-fashioned gentleman. And he was so welcoming. I didn’t feel like I was just being hired to be in a movie; I felt like I was being welcomed into a community. That’s very important in a profession that is very gypsy-like where often you’re just hired, and when the job is over you never see the people again, so it was very special to be a part of his team.
HoTS: The character of Fred is so wonderfully cocky. Is a role like that enjoyable because it seems like you’re having a ball playing him. Do you enjoy those types of roles?
RJ: Well, you know that was the first role of that kind I had ever played. The other thing based just on the audition I did, I guess I auditioned for him in New York, and I didn’t have the reputation for playing that kind of part. I was so appreciative of George for saying, “Oh yeah, he can do it”. Whereas a lot of other people try to keep you in a pigeonhole, so he’s an actor’s best friend.
HoTS: Was George a fan of rehearsing his actors?
RJ: Yes. It was very interesting. It started before rehearsal with George, and it happened again with Land of the Dead. It starts with the audition in a funny way. You start to get an idea what he’s after, and he’s very involved in the costume and makeup, the costumes, in particular. The costume becomes a kind of rehearsal even though you’re not doing the scene at all. But you get an impression of George’s input where every visual detail that you’re going to present to the camera goes through the filter of his vision. Take Land of the Dead for example. He thought that Charlie should have a cap – you know a wool watch cap they call them – and then when they put one on me, he said, “Ah, no, but it should have a hole in it. Here is where the hole should be” (laugh). So every visual detail had a significance – a storytelling significance, and then in the rehearsals he would have on the shooting day, I don’t think we had separate rehearsals like on other days, but he would rehearse on the day. And for the most part, what I appreciated was that he would respond to what the actors brought and support what the actors brought. Every now and then he would just have just one thing to say, a detail or one turning point in the scene, and he would give his one note that would be an enormous contribution. He wasn’t a control freak. He wasn’t a puppet master. He was wanting to know what you brought, and then he could help you take it a step further.
HoTS: So he gave you the freedom to find the character yourself?
RJ: You gotta remember that during the auditions he saw basically what he wanted, but then when he would see it on the shooting day, he could refine it, improve it, and enhance it. He was a real connoisseur of what the actors brought. He was one of those people who would be really encouraging. His contribution and his notes were in the middle of a kind of cheerleading capacity, like a great coach really.
HoTS: Speaking of Charlie from Land of the Dead you give the character of a real depth and pathos, I was wondering if you drew inspiration from anything specific?
RJ: Not really, no, but the character is written beautifully, and he has a backstory that was very easy to get behind. I mean it was painful, but the idea that to go through a trauma and then come out the other side with a loyalty to the person that saved you, I never had that kind of experience but it was easy to get behind it. It’s weird somebody asked… You saw Hamlet the other night, right?
HoTS: Yes.
RJ: So somebody asked the actor playing Hamlet, Michael Urie, how do you feel those feelings? He said, “Well, you know, it’s what we have to do as actors. I never killed a king or seen my father’s ghost or anything like that, but you have to imagine what it would be like”, and that’s how I feel about Charlie. He wrote a backstory and situation for Charlie that was so rich that it was so easy to get behind it. It’s what we do when we read a novel or see a movie. We, as an audience, as readers and viewers, we enter that situation. And as actors, it’s an extension of that same thing. We go there, and the material takes you there.
HoTS: You’ve done several make-up heavy movies. Do you feel like it informs your character similar to a costume?
RJ: Oh my god, yeah. Because the makeup alters your face, it’s even more significant than a costume. I remember when I’d be sitting in the chair for three or four hours with Chris Nelson who applied the prosthetics and painted them. What a genius. He’s an actor as well. He’s in Kill Bill. He plays The Groom in the wedding scene. While I was in that makeup chair watching it happen, it was incredible. It’s incredibly helpful to the actor’s imagination because you’re watching it [take shape] in the mirror. You are becoming something else, and it takes a lot of the burden off of the actor because the makeup is doing much of the work. I mean I certainly don’t have to ask my way into communicating Charlie’s history if half of his face is a burn scar. That trauma is there, and it’s enormously important. Same with The Hills Have Eyes. That mutation is present. There’s so much less effort required. It’s still a lot of work in the acting, but there is such a thing as bad effort as when a performance becomes effortful instead of natural, and what the makeup does is let the extraordinary be natural.
HoTS: How long did the makeup take on Land of the Dead, and can you walk us through the process?
RJ: It took about four hours. It was two large pieces on the right side of my face, and when they go on in a kind of an approximate pinkish flesh color. The application is very important and takes time. The first thing is you have to have your hair plastered back under a cap, but the painting is amazing. With the painting, he would paint red and blue first. Then cover it with the kind of skin tone and add layers of paint so that even though all you see is flesh color underneath, it is hints of veins and arteries and such. It took a long time.
Robert Joy and Tess Harper in Amityville 3D
HoTS: You are currently playing Polonius in the Shakespeare Theatre Company of DC’s amazing production. First of all, I saw you in this and thought you were incredible, as was the entire cast. What did you think of the modern re-imagining?
RJ: I am totally excited by this re-imagining because sometimes a modern re-imagining doesn’t fit a classic play but Michael Kahn has imagined this play. Not only does it fit, but it enhances the text. You know that scene where I enlist my daughter to spy on Hamlet. Classically that’s done where Polonius and the king are watching behind a curtain, but to have a listening device in the book she’s reading… I mean, Shakespeare put the book in the scene and somehow that book was going to be a clue I imagine. Because he doesn’t put props into his scenes very often, so 400 years ago that book would have been some kind of a clue to Hamlet that she is spying on him. But to have a listening device in it makes it relatable, and that is just one example. Some of in the play lends itself to this depiction of a surveillance state and authoritarian kind of East German State.
HoTS: Yes. I thought it was really interesting how they dealt with the politics which is rife in the play. Now you are, of course, no stranger to performing Shakespeare. In fact, I read you and Ruby, your daughter, acted in The Tempest together?
RJ: That’s right. That was really the highlight for both of us, I think. She had been auditioning in Canada and got the role of Miranda in The Tempest, and as they were talking to her after she was hired, they asked her about her last name and if, by chance, she was related to me because they knew me from CSI: New York. She said yeah he’s my dad, and they asked if it would be alright if we asked him to play Prospero. It was a miraculous turn of events because it turned out to be one of the most amazing things each of us ever did. And it’s so rich with implications for our current world as well. The weird thing is Ruby and I were just talking about it last night because she is working with a group of academics in Toronto. Even now they are doing this kind of symposium about The Tempest, and its implications on colonialism and immigration and the attitude having different cultures in the one place. Like Caliban, Ariel, and Prospero were like different species of humans. But it was a fascinating play and we had a great time doing it.
HoTS: Do you think you’ll ever do a film together?
RJ: We are always looking or possibilities. We keep imagining it will happen on stage maybe playing King Lear and she could play one of King Lear’s daughters or any combination where I get to play her dad again or just be in the same project. But you know, these things can happen, but they are hard to force. But we certainly both want to work with each other again.
HoTS: Great! Finally, I wanted to ask about your latest film, Crown and Anchor, and if you could tell us what it’s about and a bit about your character in it?
RJ: Yeah. I really like this film. You’re introduced to this a police officer in Toronto, and he has rage issues. He gets a call from his hometown that his mother has passed away, so he goes back to his hometown and you realize where all his rage issues come from. It’s a very complicated family with a father who’s in prison and a brother who is going down the wrong road and getting involved with drug dealers. My character is his uncle, the imprisoned brother’s father, who is trying to be a leader figure in the family but can’t quite manage it because he’s a drinker and has flaws of his own. It’s a fascinating character because on the one hand there are comedic elements. He’s a bit of a mischief maker and an eccentric character, but then it becomes clear he is really trying to save a very bad situation. It’s a complex and nuanced film, and I loved playing that part. I just got another part you might be interested to hear about. I don’t know if you know of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Gold Finch?
HoTS: Yes. This is filming now or in post-production?
RJ: Yes. It just started filming last week, and I am playing the part of Welty in that. Jeffery Wright plays the part of Hobie, a man who has an antique shop and antique restorer in Manhattan. I play his partner who goes through trauma at the beginning of the film. I don’t want to give too much away, but the part of Welty will involve a wound in makeup. I did the fitting, and when you were talking about prosthetic makeup, I thought about that because I had to do one of those life casts. It’s going to be a horrific head wound.
Asia Argento, Simon Baker, Joanne Boland, Robert Joy, Shawn Roberts, and Pedro Miguel Arce in Land of the Dead (2005)
I once again want to thank Mr. Joy for his time and sharing insights into his craft and touching on some of his amazing and varied body of work. Also a big thank you to the fine people at the Shakespeare Theatre Company DC.
If you are in the area its an incredible production with a brilliant cast and director. It runs now until March 6, 2018. Please visit the website below for more info.

Vinessa Shaw, Emilie de Ravin, and Robert Joy in The Hills Have Eyes (2006)

Posted by Mike Vaughn in INTERVIEWS, STAFF PICKS, 0 comments
MOVIE REVIEW: The Cloverfield Paradox (2018) [SPOILERS]

MOVIE REVIEW: The Cloverfield Paradox (2018) [SPOILERS]

Cloverfield Space Station in The Cloverfield Paradox (2018)Director: Justin Onah; Writers: Oren Uziel, Doug Jung (Story by); Stars: Gugu Mbatha Raw, Chris O’Dowd, David Oyelowo, Daniel Bruhl, Ziyi Zhang, Roger Davies, Elizabeth Debicki; Rating: TV-MA; Run Time: 102 min; Genre: Horror, Mystery, Sci-Fi; Country: USA; Language: English; Year: 2018

Netflix blew all our nerd minds when they announced The Cloverfield Paradox would drop right after the Super Bowl. Everybody was excited to see where the series would go and if, indeed, it would be a more direct sequel than the brilliant but not very connected 10 Cloverfield Lane. The Cloverfield Paradox is set in the near future where energy is scarce and a ragtag group of astronauts tries desperately to resolve the problem but, of course, only makes things worse. What audiences get is a mixed bag. On the one crawling hand, you have an enjoyable eye candy sci-fi flick but it really doesn’t do justice in terms of the Cloverfield franchise (such as it is).

The Cloverfield Paradox (2018) conspiracy theoristAt times, The Cloverfield Paradox is awkward and falls back on contrived space clichés, and the exposition is a bit clunky. The plot literally is summed up by a character at the beginning of the film. It can get a bit heavy-handed and uses the paradox/multiverse to “explain” away some pretty big leaps of logic even for a sci-fi film. What saved the film was that it fully embraced its own plot for better or worse and also injected some much-needed levity to keep things from getting too depressing. Chris O’Dowd seems to exist solely for comedic moments which is just fine by me. The somewhat disjointed plot is also anchored by some great performances.

Aksel Hennie as Voilkov in The Cloverfield ParadoxAs a middle-of-the-road fun sci-fi film, its good. You know the kind – it’s enjoyable to watch on a lazy Sunday while you’re still hung over. And forgive me if I might sound like a screaming fanboy, but as a Cloverfield movie, it just doesn’t cut it. Rumor has it the film was not meant to be a part of the franchise but was rather repacked with the infamous monster added in after the fact. After watching it, that seems plausible. My problem – and I think what other fans took issue with this – is that the Cloverfield element felt tacked on rather than an integral part of the film that would give the audience a true sequel to the modern classic monster film. At the end of the day, The Cloverfield Paradox is a flawed but very watchable movie despite its writing problems, but as a third entry in the canon, it sadly doesn’t live up to what audiences wanted or expected.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Ava Hamilton in The Cloverfield Paradox (2018)

Posted by Mike Vaughn in MONSTERS AND CREATURES, MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, SCI-FI HORROR, URBAN DECAY/DYSTOPIAN FUTURES, 0 comments
Amazon Primed for Horror: February, 2018

Amazon Primed for Horror: February, 2018

The Best Horror/Thrillers and Cult Films on Amazon Prime

As much as I LOVE my physical Blu-rays and DVDs, I am perfectly fine embracing streaming services as well. Netflix, Hulu, and the more horror-geared platform Shudder, are all fine choices for at your fingertips, on-demand movies. But, surprisingly Amazon Prime should also be considered when looking for great, weird, and wonderful movies. One of my friends described Prime as a mom and pop video store for on-demand gory goodies. And you know what I have to wholeheartedly agree with him. Recently, Fright Night 2 was rolled out widescreen and even sporting a restored print. Listed Is a guide to some great movies that people with Prime can watch right this minute and the titles might actually surprise you. Items listed in totally random-ass order but three categories: Classic Horror (20s-90s), Recent (00-Now), and Non-Horror (but still worth watching).

Amazon Prime Horror

Classic Horror:

Murderlust! (1985)
A grimy low budget slasher that is more in tune with Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer and its lead, Eric Rich, does a great job playing the disturbed killer.

Chopping Mall (1986)
In the mood for killer robots in a mall, then look no further. Plenty of gore, nudity, and action in this classic 80s horror romp.

Spider Baby (1967)
Jack Hill’s seminal love letter to classic horror is a must view and a totally bonkers film.

Fright Night 2 (1988)
As mentioned above the long OOP Fright Night 2 is now on Prime widescreen and in a nice restored print. Now is the perfect time to revisit this cult classic.

Fade to Black (1980)
Currently, long OOP this fun trashy and entertaining gem is now streamable!

Blood on Satan’s Claw (1971)
I consider this one of the best British shockers, and now there is no excuse not to give it a try.

Body Melt (1993)
Melting bodies and insanity from the good folks in Australia, this cult classic has been out of print off and on but now is readily available to view.

Prom Night 2 (1987)
Prom Night 2 is a great follow up to the original but doesn’t simply remake the first. Make a date with this movie now!

Island of Death (1976)
Not for the easily offended or disturbed this whacked out import is a must-see for brave cult film viewers.

Splatter University (1982)
Flaws aside this 80s splatter film is great for those wanting a nice mindless way to “kill” some time.

Three on a Meathook (1972)
This proto-slasher that pre-dates Texas Chainsaw Massacre/Halloween may have a lot of cheese and flaws but for slasher fans, it’s a guilty pleasure.

Death Spa (1989)
Outrageous late 80s horror fun complete with spandex, killer machines and Ken Foree, and that is even before the killer fish come into the picture. Needs to be seen.

Recent:

Them (2006)
Not to be confused with THEM!, the 50s giant ant movie, this tense and brutal home invasion film is an underrated film from France and every horror fan should give it a chance.

The Neon Demon Standard/4k Ultra (2016)
This is a very polarizing film but its visuals are top notch and it breaks taboos without skipping a beat. Those of you with 4K TVs will be in luck as they offer it in 4k as well as standard.

A Ghost Story (2017)
Like Neon Demon, this movie divides fans but one thing I think we can agree is it is a totally different take on the supernatural genre and is more about loss and change than boo scares.

The Blackcoat’s Daughter (2015)
This thriller directed by Oz Perkins (son of Anthony Perkins) directs this outstanding atmospheric Gothic horror film.

The Monster (2016)
One of my favorite horror films of 2016 wasThe Monster, a minimalist monster movie that perfectly fuses drama/horror seamlessly. Not to be missed.

Green Room (2015)
Green Room is a nonstop tense thriller that keeps one on the edge of his/her seat and doesn’t let up until the end credits. A bloody punk fest and one of the best films of 2015.

Frankenstein’s Army (2013)
This movie is a lot of fun and plays like a live action video game. It also uses the found footage in an interesting way. Check it out!

We are Still Here (2015)
Ted Geoghegan takes an interesting spin on the haunted house genre with this highly creative and tense horror flick. Fan favorite Barbara Crampton stars in this prime ready thrill ride.

What We Do in the Shadows (2014)
In the mood for a side-splitting horror/comedy? What we do in the shadows is a hilarious film and with rumors of a show spin-off and sequel, it’s high time you check it out.

Hannibal (2001)
Despite Jodie Foster not being in it, Hannibal is still a tasty macabre horror/thriller that, like a good wine seems to get better with age. Dig in.
Honorable mentions: Sleep Tight, Afflicted, Rare Exports, Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon

Not Horror (but still worth watching):

Paradise Lost Trilogy
This disturbing yet engrossing true-crime drama is not for everybody but, for those brave enough it’s a really worthwhile documentary.

Swiss Army Man (2016)
This is sure to split fans but it’s a really worthwhile drama, black comedy with great performances.

The Lobster (2015)
The Lobster takes a crazy premise and runs with it and is a totally engrossing black comedy that really keeps you glued. Not for everybody but its free on Prime so give it a chance.

That’s my list. I am sure I missed some movies but this will get you started. Thanks for reading.

Posted by Mike Vaughn in STAFF PICKS, 0 comments
WiHM: Suspiria (1975) 4k Restored

WiHM: Suspiria (1975) 4k Restored

Suspiria is without question ranks as one of my favorites not only in horror but films in general. And that is really saying a lot because I have seen thousands of films. Its mixture of pulse-pounding terror, beauty, gore, and fairytale-like rhythm instantly drew me in and had a huge impact on me upon viewing. So you can imagine how excited I was to hear that not only was the film finally getting a beautiful new 4k Blu but also that the print was touring the country. It was a huge undertaking for Synapse and it took a whopping four years to complete. But let me tell you it was well worth the wait. Twentieth Century Fox currently owns the theatrical rights and have allowed select theaters to exhibit it.

The film is about Susie (Jessica Harper) who is attending a famous dance academy but she soon discovers a terrifying secret lurking all around her.

Audio and Visuals: Argento’s films are known for their trademark color schemes of reds and blues and Suspiria is perhaps his most visual work of art and this is really where the 4k shines. The colors are masterfully handled and when the first bit of blood begins to flow you can really tell how it pops. There were also little details in the film that I completely missed which is a further testament to what a bang-up job Synapse did in bringing this classic back to life. It was really breathtaking especially when you consider this is a 40-year-old movie. Of course, the film is as famous for its ear-thumping and unnerving soundtrack by Goblin. In fact, many horror fans consider it the greatest soundtrack of all time and right out of the gate the score hits you. It was just incredible to hear the score which was crisp, clear and really gets under your skin.

Final Thoughts: If Suspiria ever plays anywhere near you or you have to drive a few hours it’s highly worth it. The film has never looked and sounded better and getting to see it up on the big screen is a true event.

Check out some of these comparison images from Synapse films, and let House of Tortured Souls know what you think.

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Posted by Mike Vaughn in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
MOVIE REVIEW: Always Shine (2016)

MOVIE REVIEW: Always Shine (2016)

Films about the harsh world of acting and show business have been a thing since virtually the medium itself. Classic titles like Sunset Boulevard and more recently Maps to the Stars are wonderfully dark, self-reflective meditations on ambitions and stardom and the meaning of celebrity worship. So when I saw the trailer, I was curious what 2016’s Always Shine would bring to the sub-genre. After nearly ninety minutes, very little it seems. The film centers around two young women, Anna (Mackenzie Davis) and Beth (Caitlin FitzGerald), trying to earn a living in the ultra-competitive world of acting. They also use to be close friends. It’s clear that their relationship is extremely rocky, to say the least, so they decide to spend the weekend at Big Sur to reconnect and unwind from the pressures of work. However, as you might have guessed, the weekend isn’t all sunshine and campfire songs as tensions boil over with deadly consequences.

Caitlin FitzGerald and Mackenzie Davis in Always Shine (2016)

Caitlin FitzGerald and Mackenzie Davis in Always Shine (2016)

Sophia Takal (V/H/S, Stephanie (segment “Second Honeymoon”)) tries to give us her take on Lynch’s neo-noir haunted sexual thriller Mulholland Drive but sadly it’s just a pale photocopy. Shine starts out strong, providing decent character development even building some tension, but sadly the film falls flat in the second and third act and limps its way to the end credits. It doesn’t deliver the same knockout punch as the brilliant Starry Eyes (also about an ambitious actress) and feels shallow in its characters. Probably the biggest sin is it lacks any real originality making it utterly forgettable. The one bright spot in this muddled mess is the acting which is solid. Rising star Mackenzie Davis gives a chilling and understated performance, and I have no doubt she is destined for stardom. I love films about the film industry and overly ambitious actors trying to claw their way to the top, but Always Shine feels like a lazy re-working on other better films. Worst yet it feels uninterested in being daring and pushing the envelope like, say, Neon Demon (sort of in the same sub-genre though with models instead of actors). Bottom line: skip it, and watch any of the above-mentioned titles instead.

Posted by Mike Vaughn in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
MOVIE REVIEW (SHORT): Shriekfest: Classified (2016)

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

Classified (2016)

Venue: Shriekfest

Directors: Andy Dylan, Kevin McMahon; Writers: Andy Dylan, Kevin McMahon; Stars: Sean Paul Braud, Matt Cipro, Andy Dylan; Rating: UNK; Run Time: 9 min; Genre: Short, Horror; Country: USA; Language: English; Year: 2016

Hello, fiends! Still working my way through last October’s Shriekfest shorts. This time I’ll be looking at a short by a new coming duo Kevin McMahon and Andy Dylan entitled Classified. During a classified military operation, a group of soldiers storms a creepy building only to find that they are not alone and something unseen is picking them off. Right off the bat, it’s clear that Andy Dylan and Kevin McMahon have a really interesting style and use the location, visual space and camera angles to their best effect and create a nice amount of suspense and tension. Considering the filmmakers were working on a budget, the film has a nice look and uses some really impressive digital effects that give it a more polished look. I also loved how they kept a lot of things a mystery instead of feeling the need to over explain the plot, and for me, it helped draw me in. It would also not surprise me if Andy and Kevin did a lot of research or were in the military themselves as the whole thing felt very real with again really pulled me in the scenario. While I thought overall Classified was strong, the finale (without spoiling) could have used some work, mainly on the makeup job on the mysterious figure. Even keeping said being in the shadows may have helped more. Classified is a great short that uses a nice variety of cinematic tricks to build a nice amount of tension while also having a nice amount of realism to further suck you into the story.

Posted by Mike Vaughn in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
Scream Queen Extravaganza Sunday Jan 28th!

Scream Queen Extravaganza Sunday Jan 28th!

Get Screamin this Sunday with Dark Delicacies’
5th Annual Scream Queen and Kings!

This Sunday, 28 January 2018, at 2 pm, Dark Delicacies will be hosting its 5th Annual Day of the Scream Queens and Kings. Admission is free and fans can meet the following actors and actresses: Linnea Quigley, Brinkie Stevens, Michelle Bauer, Dominique Swain, Rocky Demarco, William McNamara, Ken Horn, Jim Wynorski and the host with the most David Del Valle.

Dark Delicacies owner Del Howison had this to say:

After five years of holding these events (Day of the Scream Queens) at Dark Delicacies there is a real treat in feeling the electricity and excitement that comes with the fan base meeting these actresses. It never gets old.

David Del Valle, a film historian and Emcee of the event, had this to add:

This Sunday will be a Scream Queen extravaganza as I greet and meet the fans at Dark Delicacies the finest genre boutique in Hollywood

Fans will get to meet these legendary horror icons from such films as Return of the Living Dead (Linnea Quigley), Slumber Party Massacre (Brinkie Stevens), and Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama (Michelle Bauer). But don’t forget the gentlemen as William McNamara, best known for cult films such as Dario Argento’s Opera, Copycat, and Surviving the Game. Plus Ken Horn, legendary FX wiz behind The Hills Have Eyes, Halloween 4, and more will also be on hand. And if that wasn’t enough, Jim Wynorski the director behind such grindhouse classics as Chopping Mall and Return of the Swamp Thing will also be meeting and signing with fans.

Entry is totally free and doors open at 2 pm. From the sound of it, every horror fan in the area should make this part of your plans this weekend. Big thanks to Del Howison and David Del Valle. It’s sure to be a screaming good time.

Dark Delicacies
3512 W Magnolia Blvd.
Burbank, CA 91505
818-556-6660

David DeCoteau's 5th Annual Day of the Scream Queens & Kings

Posted by Mike Vaughn in EVENTS, 0 comments
Help Out Frankenhooker Writer Bob Martin

Help Out Frankenhooker Writer Bob Martin

Who is Bob Martin?

All of us writers have somebody we look up to, and some of those writers worked tirelessly but sadly don’t get the kind of respect or attention that they deserve. Robert Martin, also known as Uncle Bob, is a legend in the horror and cult film industry. His writing credits include fan favorites such as: Frankenhooker, Basket Case 3, and of course, as the original editor of Fangoria magazine. He was even a zombie in George Romero’s seminal zombie film Day of the Dead (1985).

What Happened and Can I Help?

Sadly, a stroke has left this unsung genre hero in a tough spot, and with the government shut down, he is in need some funds to get by. The horror community is awesome, and I like to think we take care of our own. I took it upon myself to write this article and ask for other fans to share this and, if you can, give any little thing. It would be amazing. After all, for the hours of entertainment this man has helped to give, it’s really a small way to pay it forward.

Thanks for reading, and if you cannot give at this time, even sharing this link and getting the word out will be a huge help.

Thank you on behalf of Uncle Bob.

Below is the Paypal link.

Posted by Mike Vaughn in EDITORIALS, STAFF PICKS, 0 comments
MOVIE REVIEW: Back Woods (2001) and Back Woods 2 (2015)

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

My ‘trip’ to the Back Woods

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

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

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

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

Back Woods 2 (2015)

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

Posted by Mike Vaughn in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments