Mike “Gorehound” Vaughn

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

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

Beware, My Lovely:
The Forgotten Noir Christmas Nightmare

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

skeletal santa in snow

Posted by Mike Vaughn in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, STAFF PICKS, 0 comments
MOVIE (SHORT) REVIEW: Megrim (2016) at Shriekfest

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

Megrim (2016)

Venue: Shriekfest

Director: Stuart Valberg; Writer: Stuart Valberg; Stars: Max Physer, Pascal Yen-Pfister; Rating: UNK; Run Time: 13 min; Genre: Short, Comedy, Horror; Country: USA; Language: English; Year: 2016
Hello, this is your fiendish reporter reviewing the entries from the Shreikfest horror film festival, 5-8 October 2017. The next film is entitled Megrim written and directed by Stuart Valberg. An unnamed artist (Pascal Yen-Pfister) wants to create a masterpiece, but instead of using oil paints, he decides to choose an unknown man (Max Physer) to donate his blood. From frame one, it's clear that director Stuart Valberg has a nice visual flare, drenching the film with mood and tension. His use of tightly framed medium shots gives an almost unbearable feeling of dread and claustrophobia as does his use of atmospheric lighting. I really enjoyed the stripped down one room stage feel, and its simple and effective plot is clearly having a bit of fun with films like Saw (the artist's reasons seem very Jigsaw-like). This, indeed, is where this short shines, as it is eerie and moody yet has a dark sense of humor which makes it more interesting than a simple bloodbath. The film is just two actors, and both do a fantastic job. Actor Pascal Yen Pfister really shines in this film, and he plays with the razor-thin line of having fun with the role yet not going too hammy and he walks the line brilliantly. While I enjoyed Megrim, I really wished it would have pushed the black comedy just a little further while also providing a little more cat and mouse between the two very talented actors. However, this leads me to my next point, which is that (and I rarely say this with shorts) with some clever writing, I feel like this could easily be translated into a full feature. With a great sense of style and solid writing, Valberg provides an interesting darkly comic spin on the torture porn sub-genre and does it with skill and that will no doubt take him incredibly far as a writer-director.
Michael Vaughn is a cult film historian and has been featured in magazines such as Scream (UK) and Fangoria as well as websites like Films in Review. Currently, he has a book coming out entitled The Ultimate Guide to Strange Cinema due out in November, 2017.
Posted by Mike Vaughn in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
MOVIE (SHORT) REVIEW: Tethered (2017) at Shriekfest

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

Tethered (2017)

Venue: Shriekfest

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

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

Play Day (2017)

Venue: Shriekfest

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

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

Conduit (2017)

Venue: Shriekfest

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