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INTERVIEW: Death House (2018) Director Harrison Smith

INTERVIEW: Death House (2018) Director Harrison Smith

“The Only Way Out… Is Down”

I had the great privilege of interviewing the superb director Harrison Smith on his newest film Death House. Before I get into that, let me tell you a little bit about the film.

Death House poster.There is a Fed-Max subterranean government prison that holds humanities worst criminals known as the Death House. It serves as a medical, psychological, and parapsychological research center aimed at eradicating evil. Two federal agents are granted a tour of the center. While on the tour, the unthinkable happens. There is a power outage that releases all of the prisoners, and the agents must fight their way through all of the horror and violence to try to survive. They soon discover that they are being herded down to the lowest depths of the facility. In those depths are a group of supernatural evil beings known as The Five Evils and they may be the agents’ only chance at salvation.

Cody Longo in Death House.

Cody Longo in Death House.

The movie sounds and looks amazing but before I go on I just wanted to say that the media and many articles have labeled the movie, “The Horror Movie genre of The Expendables“. I have to disagree with that. If it were The Expendables we would have a movie with Freddy vs Jason vs Michael vs et. al. Which, to some, may sound interesting but it would lack any substance. The stars in this movie are so much more than their individual roles that they have portrayed, they are true actors who excel at their craft. Let me tell you some of them:

  • Adrienne Barbeau: Escape From N.Y., Creepshow, Swamp Thing, The Fog
  • Kane Hodder: Jason Voorhees in some of the Friday the 13th films and Victor Crowley from The Hatchet films
  • Dee Wallace: The Howling, Cujo, The Frighteners
  • Michael Berryman: The Hills Have Eyes, The Devils Rejects
  • Barbara Crampton: Re-Animator, From Beyond, You’re Next
  • Sid Haig: The Devils Rejects, House of 1000 Corpses, Kill Bill
  • Tony Todd: Candyman, Hatchet, Final Destination
  • Bill Moseley: The Devils Rejects, Rob Zombie’s Halloween
  • Vernon Wells: The Road Warrior, Weird Science
  • Lindsay Hartley: Nightmare Nurse
  • Cody Longo: Piranha 3D, Nashville
  • Cortney Palm: The Dark Tapes
  • Felissa Rose: Sleepaway Camp
  • Vincent Ward: The Walking Dead

Whew, that is a LOT of talent in one film!

Holmesburg Prison in Philadelphia, PA.

Holmesburg Prison in Philadelphia, PA. The place had a built-in horror film setting, full of dark history and eerie vibes. It really acts as a functioning character in the film.

IMDb provided a great quote:

This is a solid horror piece, dark, nasty and gore-soaked; not satire or tongue in cheek.

And like Harrison told me, he was writing in a local bar when the ad for Jurassic World came on and it hit him that this movie was “Assault on Precinct 13 meets Jurassic World without the dinosaurs”. So… great actors along with an exciting script and skilled direction. Then throw in stupefying makeup and effects by the Roy Knyrim (Sinister 2) and SOTA FX, and a soundtrack by John Avarese that sets the perfect ambiance. We will finally get what we paid for at the box office!

Death House - Cody Longo and Dee Wallace on set at Holmesburg Prison.

Death House – Cody Longo and Dee Wallace on set at Holmesburg Prison.

Cortney Palm in Death House.

Cortney Palm in Death House.

House of Tortured Souls: My first question for Harrison was why the horror genre?
Harrison Smith: My first film, The Fields, was based on what really happened to me when I lived and grew up with my grandparents on their farm. The farm came under attack for a short period of time by an unseen presence. We never understood what caused it and we never understood what ended it, so I had personal experience. But also my grandmother and I used to watch horror movies and the old horror TV show Dr. Shock who hosted Saturday morning shows like Scream-In, Horror Theater, and Mad Theater. The movies were captivating. I loved finding out there was a sequel to Frankenstein and that he didn’t die in the burning windmill. There were more like Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man that continued on the story of Lon Chaney. Like when they killed Lon Chaney in the original Wolfman I was like, “Why? He was a nice man, he didn’t want to be The Wolf Man“. I loved it. They were like Saturday morning soap operas. I loved them as a kid, but that time is gone. That is why I like Tom Holland’s Fright Night. I was watching in the summer of ’85 and knew it was a Valentine to an era that was quickly fading and disappearing. At that time, the threat was coming from cable television and the home video revolution, so Peter Vincent was this aging icon of an era long gone trying to stay relevant. Tom Holland got it, and Fright Night works on many levels. So horror movies, for me, were a real escape from the actually really scary shit that happened to me.

Kane Hodder in Death House. Set piece by PCND/fx.

Kane Hodder in Death House. Set piece by PCND/fx.

HoTS: Then I asked him about the abundance of horror movies and shows seem to be throwing back to the ’80s. Movies like It Follows and The House of the Devil and shows like Stranger Things all reflect that age in horror, and Death House has many actors from that era. Why do you think it is a niche we all still enjoy?

Dee Wallace in Death House.

Dee Wallace in Death House.

HS: Director and actor Eli Roth said that the have-sex-and-die concept behind many of the ’80s slasher films was not as relevant today because millennials look at it and don’t get it. There was a study reported by the L.A. Times in an article by Melissa Batchelor Warnke saying that the millennial generation is the least sexually active, so that concept does not translate well. But at the time when Friday the 13th came around, it was a perfect storm of both liberal and conservative values. We had a very conservative administration with Reagan and yet, at the same time, we were known as the party generation. It was a weird flux of things coming together. So Friday the 13th had fun and parties with lots of boobs and tons of gore but with a moral lesson. See what happens when you fuck in the woods? Jason was like a walking STD. So the ’80s made us nostalgic for the ’50s, and now we look back to the ’80s. We are nostalgic for when we grew up. That is why, when making Death House, we always remembered that we were handling peoples memories and that is very important. The new generation gets to fall in love with it like we did. And with regards to the actors in Death House, they were all smart enough to choose great directors and projects that were just starting out, and their careers flourished from those collaborations so they are all still relevant today.

Death House - Kane Hodder arriving on set.

Kane Hodder arriving on the Death House set pictured with Harrison (dressed as an extra for the ward scene). The guy over his shoulder is producer Rick Finkelstein.

HoTS: I did some research on Holmesburg Prison, where you decided to film the movie. Some extremely monstrous things went on there. Any ghosts try to break into acting for the film?

HS: No, I did not experience anything myself. There were a few reports of the cameras acting wonky, but it was really cold there which probably contributed to that. The place itself was perfect for the mood though. There is a great book called Acres of Skin: Human Experiments At Holmesberg Prison 1998 by Allen Hornblum that tells all about the medical experiments and tortures that went on inside the prison. It really lent itself to what we were shooting. I remember when they gave us a tour and brought us into the warden’s office where he had his throat slit. Nothing paranormal happened but everyone was in tune with what had happened there. Dee Wallace said that it was sometimes overwhelming knowing that you were walking by cells where so much abject misery and torture had taken place. It is a building built on misery.

Harrison also wanted to make sure and give a shout out to the administration and the City of Philadelphia and especially the Philadelphia Police Department, who were more than gracious and just all-around wonderful people.

Death House set design by Joshua Reale.

Death House set design by Joshua Reale.

HoTS: My next question for Harrison was, as a director, what directors influence his work?

HS: Growing up, John Carpenter: Halloween, The Thing, They Live and Tommy Lee Wallace: IT, Halloween III, Fright Night II were major influences on me because they were accessible to me. I used to read Fangoria Magazine all the time and got a subscription to it. I used to read and devour the interviews and not just because of the pictures and oh! there making a sequel to Halloween and I want to see the blood and gore. They did an interview with John Carpenter and he talked about how he made movies and about finding a good crew and sticking with them. And I noticed for the first decade of John’s career he used a lot of the same people in front and behind the camera and that really made an impact on me because Carpenter was very much the founder of the guerilla film movement — that you get a camera, you go out there, and you shoot. That’s what you do, and that really inspired me as a filmmaker. I had a Super 8 silent Kodak camera, and I was learning. I was learning from those interviews in Fangoria and got a really strong base of knowledge. So if you look at my catalog of work so far, you will see many of the same faces. And if you read the credits, you will see a lot of the same names return time and time again. I bring them back because it is like putting the band back together, so to speak, which works for me because it becomes like production shorthand. I would also say Tom Holland of Fright Night and Psycho II fame was another influence because Psycho II made a big impact on me because of the script. I think it is one of the greatest sequels ever made and is very underrated. I wanted to hate it, but 30 minutes into the film I just fell in love with it. When it was over I walked out, called my family to let them know I would be late and went in to see it again. My film Camp Dread is a tip of the hat to Tom Holland. It was more like Psycho II than Friday the 13th.

Barbara Crampton in Death House.

Barbara Crampton in Death House.

HoTS: What is the theme for Death House?

HS: The whole pretext of Death House is evil is evil and good is good, but do they need each other? Because when you try to eradicate evil you are, at most, canceling out good as well. There is no need for good if there’s no need for evil. Bill Mosely has a great line in the film, “True evil is nothingness”. That is true hell. If we were to remove the Holocaust from history we would need a litmus test. Dee Wallace’s and Barbara Crampton’s characters think what they are doing is good. Look at the Nazis during the Holocaust. They didn’t think what they were doing was evil. Dee is like Nurse Ratched. One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest as a social horror film was a snake pit. Louise Fletcher played it so well because there are real nurses like that. That is the banality of evil. How a modicum of power gives rise to abuse of said power. Are The Five Evils in Death House really evil compared to Dee’s character or Nurse Ratched? They aren’t Cenobites they are regular people like you run into in everyday life. How many times in your own life might you have come into contact with real killers? The Five Evils are normal looking people.

Death House - The Five Evils

Death House – The Five Evils: Vincent Ward, Vernon Wells, Bill Moseley, Lindsay Hartley, Michael Berryman.

The original script for Death House was penned by the incredible Gunnar Hansen, who is best known for playing the mentally-impaired cannibal Leatherface in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Gunnar left us on November 7th, 2015, from pancreatic cancer. His agent, Michael Eisenstadt, brought producers Rick Finkelstein and Steven Chase of Entertainment Factory to the screening of Zombie Killers: Elephant’s Graveyard to meet Harrison. Another writer had taken a stab at rewriting the script, but it turned into Texas Chainsaw meets Friday the 13th meets Saw, but that was not what Gunnar wanted. He did not want torture porn but a high concept horror film. Gunnar liked what Harrison did with it, so Harrison finished writing and then directed it. The actors were all there for their friend Gunnar and with Harrison collaborating with Gunnar before his death, I like to think of this as a love letter to an amazing man and actor that we lost too soon.

Gunnar Hansen, 4 March 4, 1947 – 7 November 2015

I was extremely honored to speak with Harrison Smith and pick his brain. To read more on Death House, I have included some links that come straight from the horse’s mouth. Harrison Smith’s Road To Death House articles.

Harrison with stunt coordinator Jaye Greene and his team.

Harrison with stunt coordinator Jaye Greene and his team.

Sean Whalen and Felissa Rose on the Death House set in LA.

Sean Whalen and Felissa Rose on the Death House set in LA.

I cannot even begin to express how excited I am to see this film. It has already won the audience choice award along with best feature film from the Central Florida Film Festival (CENFLO). MPAA said it was gritty, claustrophobic and a hell of a lot of fun. Harrison said it is like a roller coaster ride through a funhouse, and Kane Hodder said it was his favorite film he has worked on. So horror fans get ready for the ride of your life!

I have also included a link to a petition if you want Death House to come to a Regal Cinema near you. It is going to major theaters but I would like to see it in all of them.

So, from myself and the family at House of Tortured Souls, thank you again to the great Harrison Smith and everyone involved with Death House! And just remember readers… “Hell isn’t a word…it’s a sentence.”

Death House - Harrison, Yan Birch and Lauren Compton after filming in LA.

Harrison, Yan Birch, and Lauren Compton after filming Death House in LA.




Posted by Horrormadam in COMING SOON, HORROR NEWS, INTERVIEWS, PARANORMAL, SLASHERS AND BAD HUMANS, 0 comments
REBOOT NEWS: Escape From New York

REBOOT NEWS: Escape From New York

In 1981 a movie hit the big screen that changed my life: John Carpenter's Escape From New York. I was nine years old and living at the time in Woodstock, New York, and my dad took me to a drive-in theater showing Scanners, John Carpenter's The Fog, and Carpenter’s Escape From New York. We arrived and parked with only a few minutes left in Scanners... Then I was introduced to a double feature of John Carpenter, who immediately became – and has remained – my all time favorite film director. The Fogscared the shit out of me, as it still does. After a brief intermission the main event hit the screen.
1997. New York City is a walled maximum security prison. Breaking out is impossible. Breaking in is insane.
This movie opened a part of my mind that I never new was there. Snake Plissken was my hero, and Adrienne Barbeau would never soon leave my mind!
A remake of Escape From New York has been in talks over the past few years. As always, the mere mention a remake sparks a seemingly endless series of debates on the pros and cons of remakes in general. I'm not getting into a giant battle over remakes or, as some are now called reboots. Some films that are remade are pretty damn good, some would have been better left as a thought, and nothing more. But certain films, certain iconic and classic films, need to be left alone, and Escape From New York is one of them.
It was first mentioned a few years back that Gerard Butler was to play the lead role of Snake Plissken originated by Kurt Russell... Nope, not gonna happen. Now, I’m not saying that I haven't enjoyed some of Butler’s roles, but he is NOT Snake Plissken! The way Hollywood is, honestly, I'm surprised I haven't heard The Rock’s or Vin Diesel’s name added to the mix to just glamorize (or, in my opinion, bastardize) a film, just for money, but the roles haven't been filled yet, so I guess I should just shut the hell up.
Now, a few years later, we haven't heard much more talk about this for a while, and out of the blue, I catch wind that Robert Rodriguez has signed on to sit in the director’s chair and that, apparently will be bringing us a prequel. It’s also rumored that John Carpenter himself is going to be lending a big hand and having quite a bit of say so on the film as executive producer. That makes me happy.
Rodriguez is a very talented director who has a style of his own and who has brought us a lot of great films that I have highly enjoyed, such as Sin City, Planet Terror, hell I even liked a few of the Spy Kids films. I don't doubt the man’s talent, not at all. What I do question is his ability to draw you into a story like Carpenter did. The ability to actually make you feel as if you were in the streets of New York, running for your life, feeling your heart thundering as time runs out, and without any CGI. Can you deliver that, Mr. Rodriguez? I certainly hope so. You are stepping into HUGE shoes to fill, my friend.
I had originally wanted to write this and do nothing but cuss and point fingers. However, I do have high hopes for this film. The original is my personal second favorite film of all time. I guess I'm nervous as to what the new film may do to what I hold so dearly as I do the original. So I’ll save up all my cussing for remake of The American Werewolf in London.
Keep It Evil...
Posted by John Roisland in HORROR NEWS, REMAKES AND REBOOTS, 0 comments
WiHM: A Matter of Respect

WiHM: A Matter of Respect

February in my life is a pretty active month. Not only is it the shortest month of the year, we also get to celebrate my birthday, my sons birthday, and geographically this is supposed to be the month where we get the most snowfall and I happen to love snow! But this is also a very special time of year for horror fans as it is Women in Horror Month. As a writer for House of Tortured Souls, I could very easily pick one name of a well-deserved list of actresses and give you a couple of highlights of her career and a quick biography, but as the founder and CEO of House of Tortured Souls, I feel it is my responsibility – and my honor – to generalize the importance of the celebration of Women in Horror Month itself.
From the beginning of horror films women always played a much more important role that people actually give credit for. In the earlier days of horror cinema, the women usually portrayed poor and defenseless women who were attacked by a creature of the night. Usually helpless and seemingly brainless, they almost never spoke back or acted to defend themselves, reflecting society’s view of women at the time.
Through the years, however, the female role and presence on screen became larger as women’s roles in society changed. And as their roles changed, the characters (and even names of the actresses) became iconic, ultimately being being dubbed Screen Queens. At first, these roles were primarily in slasher films, where often attractive buxom young ladies let loose with glass shattering screams while being attacked and murdered – usually topless during a shower or bedroom scene. You always remembered the scene and the face.
As the popularity of the Scream Queens grew, so did the role of women in horror – on screen and off. Female leads became stronger on screen, and women who watched these films were inspired to go into horror. In fact, these immense changes in the way that women were portrayed in horror soon inspired women to branch into other areas of horror cinema. Women no longer went only for on screen roles but also for behind the scenes roles as writers, directors, producers, makeup artists, and virtually ever other aspect of horror filmmaking.
Now, in 2017, many Scream Queens who first started in the industry at a young age are being honored by lifetime achievement awards, and those who stay behind the camera are making groundbreaking films, shorts, and TV shows.
Scream Queens will always have a place in horror cinema, but there’s another change in the on screen female characters in the horror industry. Women have gone from solely being the victim to sometimes being the killer. Along with the other changes in the industry, horror films have again changed up the role of women characters. The tables have turned, and horror movies will never be the same. As for the women in the industry are concerned, from film to TV and all aspects involved, the female presence is very strong and very welcomed.
It’s nice to see these talented women getting their notoriety and respect.
As I sit back and reflect, many names cross my mind, names that helped lay the foundations for what has been built and for what is yet to come. Some of these names are:
These are but a few the iconic women in horror cinema! All of these women have, in one way or another, brought a part of them to the silver screen and made a huge impact on not only me, but also on the world of horror fans.
I'm very proud to be an avid horror fan, and I'm doubly proud to be a supporter of the Women in Horror Month.
You have a lot to be proud of, ladies! Much respect!!
Keep It Evil...
Posted by John Roisland in EDITORIALS, WOMEN IN HORROR, 0 comments
MOVIE REVIEW: Tales of Halloween (2015)

MOVIE REVIEW: Tales of Halloween (2015)

Tales From Halloween ... I have so many mixed feelings on this film. Tales From Halloween is a compilation of ten short stories all woven into one Halloween night.
The film, at first watch, I must admit, was a huge disappointment. I have been wanting to see Tales From Halloween since I first heard of it, so my expectations were really hopeful. For some reason, it first felt like I was watching a made for TV movie. I thought the special effects were extremely low grade and the music was even quirky. I am the biggest fan of the Halloween season and always make it a point to watch any movie based around it. So, sorry to say, I wasn't a happy trick-or-treater!
As the movie went on, I tried to put my disappointment aside and give it more of a shot. As I did, my frown became more of a smirk. I started to see the campy and almost comedic side to Tales From Halloween. In my opinion, the movie isn’t a horror/comedy, but it does have you a campy B movie horror feel.
The film opens with the narration of a local radio disk jockey as the camera pans over a small town. The DJ, who is talking about Halloween and the witching hour, is none other than the sultry voice of movie legend ADRIENNE BARBEAU, and it set the mood for the film. The short stories range from legends of sweet tooth killers, aliens, neighbors fighting over the best yard decorating, children's revenge, and what would Halloween be without a killer jack-o-lantern.
The film does host a very impressive list of names to the cast, Barbeau, being one, obviously, the lovely Caroline Williams (Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, Contracted), Greg Grunberg (Heroes, Star Wars: The Force Awakens), Barry Bostwick (The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Spin City (TV series)), Tiffany Shepis (12 Monkeys (TV series), The Night Watchmen), Lin Shaye (Insidious 1+2, Theres Something About Mary), Barbara Crampton (Re-Animator, We Are Still Here, You’re Next), Pollyanna McIntosh (The Woman, Filth) Pat Healy (Compliance, Cheap Thrills, Carnage Park) and a small appearance by legendary director John Landis ( The Blues Brothers, An American Werewolf In London) Now with a list like this, you would be expecting one of the best horror films ever, but sadly it isn't. To be honest, most of the names on this list have relatively small parts.
In keeping up with recent director compilation films (The ABCs of Death 1 and 2) and other Halloween films (Trick Or Treat), Tales From Halloween falls a bit short. Enjoyable for a non-serious horror film night - or a fun watch with friends.
Sorry, guys, but this is one where I loved the cover art for more than the film.
Keep It Evil...
Posted by John Roisland in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
HALLOWEEN HORRORS: John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982)

HALLOWEEN HORRORS: John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982)

Man is the warmest place to hide.

By Woofer McWooferson

rpenter's The Thing movie poster

Director: John Carpenter; Writers: Bill Lancaster (screenplay), John W. Campbell Jr. (short story "Who Goes There?"); Stars: Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, Keith David; Rating: R; Run Time: 109 min; Genre: Horror | Sci-Fi; Country: USA; Language: English; Year: 1982

As most horror fans already know, John Carpenter's The Thing received deeply mixed reactions at its theatrical release in 1982, but has amassed one of the largest cult followings in the decades since. Information on this can be found easily, so this review will not dwell on this aspect. However, it is worth noting that the creature was so groundbreaking that it was nearly impossible to describe without sounding silly – at least at the time. In fact, Rob Bottin's description of his vision for the creature, while intriguing to Carpenter, needed to be set down on storyboards before Carpenter was sold on the idea. For this reason, John Carpenter's The Thing needs another theatrical release to enable people to enjoy it on the big screen. Perhaps it should even be shown in theaters once a decade. Or year.

John Carpenter's The Thing is a watershed film for several reasons, not the least of which are the top notch effects by Rob Bottin. While Stan Winston's group made the dog Thing, he is adamant that all know the effects were Bottin's baby and he was just called in to help. This is remniscent of Howard Hawks insistence that The Thing From Another World was Christian Nyby's direction alone – an apt comparison since Carpenter's masterpiece is, itself, an homage to The Thing From Another World (as well as a more faithful yet modernized adaptation of John W. Campbell's “Who Goes There?”). In addition to the effects, the paranoia and claustrophobic nature of being at a camp in Antarctica in winter is so effective that the audience begins to experience it. We feel as if we are just as trapped and just as helpless as the people at US Outpost 31. We have nowhere to go except to ride this pony to the finish line as we watch pull ahead and watch the others fall away. Having an all male cast was also brilliant. It creates a feeling of pent up frustration. If the movie had smell-o-rama, we would undoubtedly smell exactly what is described in the opening of the original short story, which begins with the Thing already in camp:

The place stank. A queer, mingled stench that only the ice-buried cabins of an Antarctic camp know, compounded of reeking human sweat, and the heavy, fish-oil stench of melted seal blubber. An overtone of liniment combated the musty smell of sweat-and-snow-drenched furs. The acrid odor of burnt cooking fat, and the animal, not-unpleasant smell of dogs, diluted by time, hung in the air.

Lingering odors of machine oil contrasted sharply with the taint of harness dressing and leather. Yet, somehow, through all that reek of human beings and their associates—dogs, machines, and cooking—came another taint. It was a queer, neck-ruffling thing, a faintest suggestion of an odor alien among the smells of industry and life. And it was a life-smell. But it came from the thing that lay bound with cord and tarpaulin on the table, dripping slowly, methodically onto the heavy planks, dank and gaunt under the unshielded glare of the electric light.

Added to this, of course, would be the unmistakable smells of ejaculate and marijuana, for there is no way those men were stationed up there that long without masturbating. We see marijuana being smoked in the film, but the greenhouse that Childs (Keith David) and Palmer (David Clennon) tended was cut from the final release for a number of reasons.

John Carpenter's The Thing dog creature

The cast. It's difficult to convey just how perfect this ensemble is. Every character is perfectly cast, with each actor bringing pathos and realism to his role, thereby creating characters which feel thoroughly developed even though we only see them for a couple of days of their lives. R.J. MacReady (Kurt Russell) is a strong, no-nonsense, tough helicopter pilot with whom everyone wants to have a drink. Dr. Blair (Wilford Brimley) is the scientist able to put the good of Earth first. Dr. Copper (Richard Dysart), who is determined to help the Norweigans at the nearby camp, feels like a real doctor – and one that someone might actually want to visit. Skating cook Nauls (T.K. Carter) brings youth and freshness to a cast full of older men. Clark (Richard Masur), the dog handler, is more than sympathetic, and the audience truly feels his pain when the something happens to the dogs. Likewise Vance Norris (Charles Hallahan), George Bennings (Peter Maloney), Captain Garry (Donald Moffat), Fuchs (Joel Polis), and radio operator Windows (Thomas Waites) all seem like real people, people who might live next door or go to the same gym as you do.

The Siberian Huskies. Siberian Huskies are some of the most, if not the most, majestic and handsome dogs. While all of the Huskies in the film are well trained, Jed, who plays the lead Husky in the film, is the unequaled stand out. Jed was a wolf-dog hybrid, with the wolf side dominant, so his owner/trainer remained on set whenever Jed was being filmed. In fact, when Jed was acting, sets would be closed and this wolf intensity shows through as the Dog Thing, amping up the creep factor geometrically.

John Carpenter's The Thing Norweigan camp thing

John Carpenter's direction cannot be dismissed as it is what brought all these elements together to create the perfect horror movie. There is not a single note out of place, from Copper's nose ring and full frontal in the hall to Let's Make A Deal on videotape, from the Norwegians to the Huskies, and from MacReady to Garry to the Thing itself – this movie is a not only a phenomenal horror film, it's a damn good movie all the way around.

Man is the warmest place to hide.

By Woofer McWooferson

rpenter's The Thing movie poster

Director: John Carpenter; Writers: Bill Lancaster (screenplay), John W. Campbell Jr. (short story "Who Goes There?"); Stars: Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, Keith David; Rating: R; Run Time: 109 min; Genre: Horror | Sci-Fi; Country: USA; Language: English; Year: 1982

As most horror fans already know, John Carpenter's The Thing received deeply mixed reactions at its theatrical release in 1982, but has amassed one of the largest cult followings in the decades since. Information on this can be found easily, so this review will not dwell on this aspect. However, it is worth noting that the creature was so groundbreaking that it was nearly impossible to describe without sounding silly – at least at the time. In fact, Rob Bottin's description of his vision for the creature, while intriguing to Carpenter, needed to be set down on storyboards before Carpenter was sold on the idea. For this reason, John Carpenter's The Thing needs another theatrical release to enable people to enjoy it on the big screen. Perhaps it should even be shown in theaters once a decade. Or year.

John Carpenter's The Thing is a watershed film for several reasons, not the least of which are the top notch effects by Rob Bottin. While Stan Winston's group made the dog Thing, he is adamant that all know the effects were Bottin's baby and he was just called in to help. This is remniscent of Howard Hawks insistence that The Thing From Another World was Christian Nyby's direction alone – an apt comparison since Carpenter's masterpiece is, itself, an homage to The Thing From Another World (as well as a more faithful yet modernized adaptation of John W. Campbell's “Who Goes There?”). In addition to the effects, the paranoia and claustrophobic nature of being at a camp in Antarctica in winter is so effective that the audience begins to experience it. We feel as if we are just as trapped and just as helpless as the people at US Outpost 31. We have nowhere to go except to ride this pony to the finish line as we watch pull ahead and watch the others fall away. Having an all male cast was also brilliant. It creates a feeling of pent up frustration. If the movie had smell-o-rama, we would undoubtedly smell exactly what is described in the opening of the original short story, which begins with the Thing already in camp:

The place stank. A queer, mingled stench that only the ice-buried cabins of an Antarctic camp know, compounded of reeking human sweat, and the heavy, fish-oil stench of melted seal blubber. An overtone of liniment combated the musty smell of sweat-and-snow-drenched furs. The acrid odor of burnt cooking fat, and the animal, not-unpleasant smell of dogs, diluted by time, hung in the air.

Lingering odors of machine oil contrasted sharply with the taint of harness dressing and leather. Yet, somehow, through all that reek of human beings and their associates—dogs, machines, and cooking—came another taint. It was a queer, neck-ruffling thing, a faintest suggestion of an odor alien among the smells of industry and life. And it was a life-smell. But it came from the thing that lay bound with cord and tarpaulin on the table, dripping slowly, methodically onto the heavy planks, dank and gaunt under the unshielded glare of the electric light.

Added to this, of course, would be the unmistakable smells of ejaculate and marijuana, for there is no way those men were stationed up there that long without masturbating. We see marijuana being smoked in the film, but the greenhouse that Childs (Keith David) and Palmer (David Clennon) tended was cut from the final release for a number of reasons.

John Carpenter's The Thing dog creature

The cast. It's difficult to convey just how perfect this ensemble is. Every character is perfectly cast, with each actor bringing pathos and realism to his role, thereby creating characters which feel thoroughly developed even though we only see them for a couple of days of their lives. R.J. MacReady (Kurt Russell) is a strong, no-nonsense, tough helicopter pilot with whom everyone wants to have a drink. Dr. Blair (Wilford Brimley) is the scientist able to put the good of Earth first. Dr. Copper (Richard Dysart), who is determined to help the Norweigans at the nearby camp, feels like a real doctor – and one that someone might actually want to visit. Skating cook Nauls (T.K. Carter) brings youth and freshness to a cast full of older men. Clark (Richard Masur), the dog handler, is more than sympathetic, and the audience truly feels his pain when the something happens to the dogs. Likewise Vance Norris (Charles Hallahan), George Bennings (Peter Maloney), Captain Garry (Donald Moffat), Fuchs (Joel Polis), and radio operator Windows (Thomas Waites) all seem like real people, people who might live next door or go to the same gym as you do.

The Siberian Huskies. Siberian Huskies are some of the most, if not the most, majestic and handsome dogs. While all of the Huskies in the film are well trained, Jed, who plays the lead Husky in the film, is the unequaled stand out. Jed was a wolf-dog hybrid, with the wolf side dominant, so his owner/trainer remained on set whenever Jed was being filmed. In fact, when Jed was acting, sets would be closed and this wolf intensity shows through as the Dog Thing, amping up the creep factor geometrically.

John Carpenter's The Thing Norweigan camp thing

John Carpenter's direction cannot be dismissed as it is what brought all these elements together to create the perfect horror movie. There is not a single note out of place, from Copper's nose ring and full frontal in the hall to Let's Make A Deal on videotape, from the Norwegians to the Huskies, and from MacReady to Garry to the Thing itself – this movie is a not only a phenomenal horror film, it's a damn good movie all the way around.

Over 9,000/10 claws – I don't even know how many times I have seen this movie. Stop reading right now and go watch John Carpenter's The Thing.

Over 9,000/10 claws – I don't even know how many times I have seen this movie. Stop reading right now and go watch John Carpenter's The Thing.

UPDATE: Looking over this months later, I realize that I paid no compliments to Rob Bottin's SFX in making John Carpenter's The Thing come to life. Bottin's efforts paid off and, in my book, are the measuring stick for creature SFX to many horror fans. Neither Carpenter nor Bottin received the credit they – and everyone involved in the production – deserved. The movie's status as cult favorite and must-have for fans of the genre or SFX in general has done little to erase the effects of the deeply mixed reactions of critics at release – at best it was dismissed and at worst it was panned. John Carpenter's The Thing was a film way ahead of its time.

Posted by Woofer McWooferson in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments

COMING SOON: Tales of Halloween (2015)

Are You Ready For Halloween?

By John Roisland

Tales of Halloween poster

On October 16, 2015, Epic Pictures brings you an all new tale of terror - Tales of Halloween. Eleven directors and ten writers are brought together to each tell a tale of Halloween in an average suburban American town and then tie them all together to bring you one giant nightmare anthology!

Bringing these tales to the screen are such directors as Lucky McKee, John Skipp, Darren Lynn Bousman, and many other well known genre directors. Also on board are writers like Andrew Kasch, Dave Parker, and Mike Mendez. Bringing these directors' stories to life are a long list of Hollywood favorites. There are many talents bringing the stories to light, including Barry Bostwick (The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Helen Keller vs Nightwolves), Adrienne Barbeau (The Fog, Unholy), and John Landis (Quicksilver Highway, Attack of the 50 Foot Cheerleader). Genre favorites Caroline Williams (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, Stepfather II), Barbara Crampton (Re-Animator, From Beyond), and Lin Shaye (The Hillside Strangler, 2001 Maniacs: Field of Screams) are also in the film.

Tales of Halloween jack-o'-lanterns

Tales of Halloween, a horror comedy classic in the making, has a run time of 92 minutes and is rated R for strong bloody horror violence, language, and brief drug use. BONUS: Watch for a kid trick-or-treating as "Snake Plissken", the main character from the John Carpenter movies Escape from New York (1981) and Escape from L.A. (1996).

With titles like "The Night Billy Raised Hell", "This Means War", "Friday the 31st", and "Sweet Tooth", Tales of Halloween promises to be quite the Halloween treat for horror lovers. So get the candy corn and popcorn ready because this Halloween flick looks like it has the potential to be pretty damn good!

Posted by John Roisland in COMING SOON, HORROR NEWS, 0 comments