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HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day Eighteen – 10/18/18

10/18 – 2004: SHAUN OF THE DEAD/DAWN OF THE DEAD

What the hell do you do with a year that not only gave us one of the best remakes ever of a George A. Romero masterpiece, but also the great horror dramedy that was inspired by the original version of said film?  Why, you review them both, of course!

The now-famous horror-comedy team of SIMON PEGG and NICK FROST, together with their frequent partner-in-crime, director EDGAR WRIGHT, had long since been fans of Romero’s entire body of work, when they began to cook up their own impossibly nutty take on not just that film, but the entire zombie genre, SHAUN OF THE DEAD. Think of what would have happened if the MONTY PYTHON group had gotten hold of the original script for DAWN, and put their own special “stamp” on it, and you’re pretty much there.

 

Pegg plays the titular electronic store clerk Shaun, of course…a rather ordinary bloke living a rather ordinary existence, save for a few unfortunate things…like his strained relationship with his mum, and his girlfriend, who’s now his ex. And like every guy who’s been through this, even though he has his best bud and roomie, Ed (FROST) who has his back like always, nothing is going to be the same for him, until he has his girl, Liz (KATE ASHFIELD) back.  But there is the bothersome matter of a zombie apocalypse to deal with, right in the middle of his “get my ex back” campaign.

  

There’s plenty of action in this, in between the guffaws and gaffes, not to mention enough bloodletting to satisfy gorehounds who might otherwise be inclined to skip it.  But as writers, Pegg and Wright never forget to give us fully-realized characters, and some stunning and memorable setpieces, including a look at Shaun’s daily routine in before-and-after apocalypse mode, which even with repeat viewings is still as funny and frightening as it was the first time.

A dead-on (pun intended) skewering of everyday British life, pop culture and the human condition (not to mention the condition of the undead who were once your family, friends and neighbors) SHAUN is never less than a brilliantly-conceived, funny-as-hell, sometimes gory and sometimes even touching tribute from two absolute super-fans of not just George Romero, but the sub-genre of horror that he singlehandedly created. In fact, the mutual admiration society they had going on was so intense, that George actually gave both Simon and Nick cameos in LAND OF THE DEAD!

Which brings us to the ‘new and improved’ version of DAWN. If it had been any other writing/directing team, I could imagine this remake of a classic would have sunk from the multiplexes without a trace. Until you consider that the writer and director in question are JAMES GUNN and ZACK SNYDER.  Now we’re talking!

The original DAWN opening, somewhat picking up from NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, was pretty scary stuff, and you’d think that there wouldn’t be too many ways to make it scarier. But that’s where Snyder and Gunn say “Here, hold our beers.”

A family morning wake-up call has never been more horrific.  In the blink of an eye, the drowsy family morning routine of Ana (SARAH POLLEY) goes from being blasé, to a total bloodbath, when their infected daughter bites and kills her husband, turning HIM into an undead flesh-eater. The shocking sequence where she escapes, only to witness her entire neighborhood descending into mayhem is as unforgettable as anything Romero ever pulled off.

  

That’s not the only place where Gunn as a screenwriter stuck to the original Romero story beats, but still brought his own vibe and dark sense of humor to the proceedings. As Ana takes her chances with a group of survivors who decide to hole up in a local mall, just like in the original, the story pulls in the rest of the outstanding cast including VING RHAMES, JAKE WEBER, MICHAEL KELLY, TY BURRELL and MEKHI PHIFER.

And Phifer’s other half in the film, Luda (INNA KOROBKINA) is very, very pregnant, soon providing us with the horrific answer to a question we didn’t exactly get from, say, THE WALKING DEAD: what happens to pregnant women in the zombie apocalypse, who give birth to…well, you fill in the blank.

Not the biggest ‘feel-good’ zombie film in the bunch by a long shot (and those who have seen it multiple times know exactly why), this DAWN remake still stands tall as one of the better ones in the scads of Romero tributes, knockoffs and wanna-be’s.

POST-MORTEM SCRYPT: SAW, THREE…EXTREMES, SHUTTER, THE VILLAGE and GINGER SNAPS II: UNLEASHED were just some of the other goodies dropped on horror fans in 2004.


Posted by Samuel Glass in EDITORIALS, FAMILY HORROR, FEATURED CONTENT, GORE OR EXTREME HORROR, HALLOWEEN, HORROR COMEDIES, MONSTERS AND CREATURES, OPINION, THRILLER, TRIBUTE, ZOMBIES, 0 comments

HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day Seventeen – 10/17/18

10/17 – 2003: HIGH TENSION (a.k.a. SWITCHBLADE ROMANCE)

Ah, yes…HIGH TENSION; the film that had me hating on director ALEXANDER AJA and writing/producing partner GREGORY LEVASSEUR so much, that I categorically refused to watch anything they put out for years. The movie was that good…and the ending that infuriating. (They eventually won me back with their remake of THE HILLS HAVE EYES.)

It was only in English class in school, that I was ever introduced to the concept of the “unreliable narrator.” I don’t remember ever having seen it in film before HIGH TENSION, and once I did, I decided I really didn’t like it. And from the response of the audience I was with, I knew I wasn’t alone in that sentiment.  Maybe it had so much to do with the first two thirds of the movie being one of the best, bloodiest, most nail-biting slashers that had come along in a very long time. Being strung along in that context does not work well for those who invest heavily in the characters and the scenario.  And how could you not?

The film opens with two young college girls traveling through the beautiful but very remote French countryside. Marie (CECILE DE FRANCE) and Alexia (MAIWENN, a.k.a. MAIWENN LEBESCO of THE FIFTH ELEMENT), are on break, of course, and going to spend their time off at the farmhouse of Alexia’s parents. It’s supposed to be the most tranquil, ideal getaway. Which is going to become an absolute fucking nightmare.

Because not all that far off, a deranged killer (PHILIPPE NAHON) is on the loose, and from the stunningly gross first shot we see of him, we know that anyone in his path is in for a world of hurt…and worse.

We get the usual welcome home as the girls reach their destination, Alexia’s parents welcome them, and they get settled in.  Everything is fine…until Alexia’s father answers the doorbell in the middle of the night. Bad move, dad.  What follows that knock is two acts’ worth of some of the most bloody (literally) brilliant, harrowing and horrific scenes of suspense and carnage this side of De Palma. The first time I saw this, I just knew I was watching a modern classic unfolding before my wondering eyes.

After viciously laying waste to the family, The Killer snatches up Alexia and takes her hostage..for  Gawd only knows what.  And Marie, who has managed to duck him at every turn, goes to save her best friend, and you root for her to succeed every step of the way.

Then…along comes the final act.

It wasn’t that long ago that I hated this movie so much, that in a purposefully vindictive act of sabotage, I would have spoiled the entire film for you, here and now, just to spare you from the feeling of outrage and betrayal that I felt when it was all said and done.  But no, I’m not going to do that – I’ll take the high road.  I’ve a better understanding now of what Aja and Levasseur intended, and though I still may not like it, I do respect it with some time gone by.

So I will just let you do the viewing, and you can decide how you feel about the film as a whole. But De France and Maiwenn are fantastic, playing their roles the way they were directed to, and the audience’s investment in them and the other characters really helps with the shock value, when the blood, bone and brains start to fly.

To sum it up with just my opinion: HIGH TENSION is a film with bite, that also sucks. Depending on how you look at it. And I guess, taking into account the definition I used before about what ‘art’ is, it’s also a very ‘artfully’ realized piece of horror cinema.

POST-MORTEM SCRYPT:  Also terrifying audiences that year: A TALE OF TWO SISTERS, GOZU, IDENTITY, DEAD END, OPEN WATER, DARK WOODS, thr remake of WILLARD, and the remake of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE.

Posted by Samuel Glass in EDITORIALS, FEATURED CONTENT, GORE OR EXTREME HORROR, HALLOWEEN, OPINION, SLASHERS AND BAD HUMANS, THRILLER, TRIBUTE, 0 comments

HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day Sixteen – 10/16/18

10/16 – 2002: MAY

“If you can’t find a friend…MAKE ONE.”

Not the exact tag line, but it does capture the main idea behind what I have come to regard, as the best film that writer/director LUCKY MCKEE and his main muse, ANGELA BETTIS, have ever collaborated on. And we’re talking about a duo who also gave us the excellent MASTERS OF HORROR episode, “Sick Girl”, and the movie that almost ran people out of the theater, THE WOMAN, McKee’s excellent team-up with late, great horror author JACK KETCHUM (THE GIRL NEXT DOOR).

I have always been of the half-joking opinion, that there should be a law that states that Angela never be allowed to do movies with any other director but Lucky, and MAY is the reason why. It’s a brilliant, horrific and heartbreaking meditation on loneliness, self-hatred and just that overall feeling of “not being able to fit in.” What would have happened in CARRIE, how would the story have played out if she’d still been bullied, maligned and ostracized, but she had no telekinetic powers to lash out with? MAY provides one truly unsettling and yet also depressingly dark answer to that question.

Bettis, of course, plays the title character, but before that, we see her as a young girl – lonely and isolated, and her condition with a lazy eye doesn’t help things at all.  Her mother gives her a “friend’ to keep her company: a doll in a glass case. But not just any doll.  This is one of the creepiest dolls I think I’ve ever seen in film history – it makes ANNABELLE look like Raggedy Ann!

The grown-up May, some years later, loves to sew and make things. That aptitude translates into what she does for her day job, working for a veterinarian, helping with the animals and even with some surgeries.

Her lesbian co-worker, Polly, (ANNA FARIS with one of her great, subtly funny turns) has something of a crush on May, but things between them stay mostly in the ‘friend zone’.

It’s only when she meets a hunky mechanic named Adam (JEREMY SISTO), that May begins to see the possibilities of having a life beyond her mostly solitary existence. It’s her ‘uniqueness’ that draws both Adam and Polly to her, who consider themselves to be equally “weird” people, but there’s more than a bit of miscommunication going on here.  While their own “off-beat-ness” is something of an affectation, what they’re reading as “quirky” and “interesting” about May is a whole hell of a lot more than that: May’s sanity is hanging on day-by-day, by the slenderest of threads, and it wouldn’t take much at all for it to snap like a rotten twig.  As Adam and May begin to date, he soon realizes because of certain behaviors she exhibits, that this poor girl just simply isn’t ‘all there’ and breaks it off with her.

Then, Polly decides that it’s the perfect time for them to take their friendship to the next level, until she, too, begins to see and sense what Adam did, and she also shuts May out of her life.

Remember what I said about her sanity, and about how it wouldn’t take much for her to lose it? Seems like bald-faced rejection is what finally does the trick.

I don’t want to say anymore than I have to, except that it all leads to an inevitable, bloody and devastatingly sad conclusion. All this girl ever wanted was a true friend, and even at the climax, she never really gets one.  If there were any justice in the cinematic world, Bettis should have gotten an Oscar nod out of this singular and unforgettable performance, but I doubt that the Academy, even though they recognized a movie like THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS – they weren’t quite ready for a film like MAY.

McKee knows at all times exactly what kind of audience he’s aiming for, and he hits the bull’s-eye every time. He does character-driven pieces like no other filmmaker I know, and MAY offers a seductive promise of a neo-Gothic brand of horror, to those fans who are always hungry for something that ventures pretty far off the beaten path of “mainstream” thrills and chills. He likes to examine the human condition in a way that is unapologetically blunt and in-your-face. You can see these attributes in most of his work, but not as sharply defined as it is in MAY.

Sisto, Faris, as well as indie fave JAMES DUVAL and WILL ESTES, all give great performances as friends or friends of May’s ‘friends’, but the responsibility for reaching out and touching the audience most profoundly, rests on Bettis’s slender shoulders, and she is more than capable of handling that task. I don’t hear too many people discussing this movie anymore, which is a damn shame. If any film is deserving of a much wider audience, MAY is definitely one of them.

POST-MORTEM SCRYPT:  This is also the year that gave us RED DRAGON, DOG SOLDIERS, BUBBA HO-TEP, JU-ON: THE GRUDGE, THE RING, DARK WATER, SIGNS, THE EYE and 28 DAYS LATER.

Posted by Samuel Glass in EDITORIALS, FEATURED CONTENT, HALLOWEEN, OPINION, SLASHERS AND BAD HUMANS, THRILLER, TRIBUTE, WOMEN IN HORROR, 0 comments

HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day Fifteen – 10/15/18

10/15 – 2001: FRAILTY

When the world lost BILL PAXTON, it didn’t just lose an endlessly talented, gifted actor. It turned out that he was one helluva director as well, whose abilities behind the camera will now never be fully realized. But at least we have one great example of what we could’ve expected, in the only film he helmed before his untimely passing: FRAILTY.  If you love thrillers with premises and endings that will keep you up with the lights on, and talking about it with friends and family for weeks after seeing it, FRAILTY will be more than happy to oblige you.  There have been similar films about faith, religious mania, and how someone affected by both could have trouble separating the real from the unreal. But this is a movie that goes a whole lot farther than that…

Fenton Meiks (MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY in one of his best performances), walks into an FBI office one night and announces that he has important information on the man known as the “God’s Hand Killer”, a statement that immediately grabs everyone’s attention. But Fenton also states that he won’t speak to anyone but the lead investigator on the God’s Hand case, one Agent Wesley Doyle (POWERS BOOTHE).

Doyle immediately turns all of his attention to Fenton, who confesses on the spot that he just finished burying his brother, Adam, in the family rose garden, “just like he promised”, since it was Adam he fingers as the killer the Feds are looking for.  After confirming this by contacting the office of the sheriff of the town Fenton is from, he asks exactly how Fenton knows that Adam was the “God’s Hand” Killer.  Rather than answer him directly, Fenton shifts gears, and by way of explanation, begins to tell the agent all about his dark family history.

It was up to widower Dad Meiks (PAXTON) to raise his two sons alone. But things begin to careen off the rails, when late one night, Dad wakes up his sons to tell them that he has received a message from God, via an angel: he and his family have been chosen to become “God’s Hands”, and to rid the earth of demons – demons disguised in human form. Where the younger boy, Adam is psyched to have been given such a task – kind of like a superhero – the older Fenton had pretty much determined that his father’s cheese done slid off his cracker, (as Stephen King would say.)

As much as Fenton hopes this is just a crackpot idea that Dad has that will eventually be forgotten…no dice. Dad soon starts collecting things that he was ‘shown’ he should use to prepare for their ‘holy mission’: an axe, some rope, a length of pipe – things a serial killer would use. And not long after that, things get even worse: now, Dad has an actual list of people that “God” has tasked them to take out.  To Fenton’s growing dismay, things begin to escalate – especially when Dad brings home the first victim. It’s then that a battle of wills begins between father and son, with the youngest caught in the middle.

The story alternates between Fenton’s flashback tale, and the uneasy bond he forms with Agent Doyle. The resulting climax isn’t just jaw-dropping, you will want to see this twice, maybe three times, just to confirm what this movie is asking you to do at its very core – more of an act of suspension of belief, rather than disbelief.

A labor of love for Paxton, BRENT HANLEY’S incredible script offers more of a reversal/”fake-out” version of THE SIXTH SENSE’S stunning climactic twist reveal, and you can tell from the way that he crafted the picture, Paxton was looking forward to the intense shock to the system that audiences would experience at the end. And he was right, because I have only seen FRAILTY once, yet that ending still haunts me.

He is amazing as Dad Meiks, so surefooted and iron-willed, armed with this “mission from God”, while MATT O’LEARY and JEREMY SUMPTER as the younger Fenton and Adam, respectively, give very well-modulated performances for child actors.  McConaughey portrays Fenton as one cool customer, and Boothe does a wonderful job of portraying the blinkered Doyle, who is so determined to get answers about the identity and whereabouts of the “God’s Hand” Killer, he never contemplates for a second that getting the answers may not be the triumphant achievement he’s expecting.

FRAILTY is part of the legacy that Bill Paxton left us, of a talent he was only beginning to explore. I’m saddened by the fact that we won’t get any new films from him as a director or actor, but grateful that we have things like this to remember him by.

POST-MORTEM SCRYPT: 2001 was also the launchpad for THE DEVIL’S BACKBONE, THE OTHERS, PULSE, ICHI THE KILLER, SESSION 9, JOY RIDE, FROM HELL, BROTHERHOOD OF THE WOLF and THE HAPPINESS OF THE KATAKURIS.

Posted by Samuel Glass in EDITORIALS, FAMILY HORROR, FEATURED CONTENT, HALLOWEEN, OPINION, PARANORMAL, SATANIC/DEMONIC, SLASHERS AND BAD HUMANS, THRILLER, TRIBUTE, 0 comments

HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day Fourteen – 10/14/18

10/14 – 2000: PITCH BLACK

When RIDLEY SCOTT’S ALIEN threw down the gauntlet for other filmmakers who braved exploring the sci-fi genre, and all the sub-genres therein, there were a lot of misfires that fans got out of the deal; a lot of copycat wannabes, and ideas that were tremendous on paper, but they just didn’t pan out.  Luckily for us, PITCH BLACK happens to be one of the ones that did.

Carolyn Fry (RADHA MITCHELL – SILENT HILL, THE DARKNESS) is a pilot on a routine trip, hauling cargo and passengers, including a group who are off to start a settlement on another planet.  When a freak meteor storm cripples the ship and makes it necessary to ‘lighten the load’, she has two choices: eject the cargo or the passengers. But before she can make the most damning call of the two, the ship crash-lands on an unfamiliar planet that happened to be nearby.

Two problems quickly become apparent: the first is that two of her passengers happened to be a bounty hunter named Johns (COLE HAUSER, OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN), and his ‘cargo’…a legendary dangerous convicted criminal named Richard B. Riddick (VIN DIESEL, THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS). And now Riddick has disappeared, and is out there…watching, waiting to make his move.

The second problem? They quickly find out that they’re not alone, the hard way. Vicious, carnivorous alien creatures live on this planet, just underground…and because the light is death to them, they only come out at night to hunt and to feed, when it gets dark.

The planet, once site of its own settlement is now desolate, with not a soul to be found. And Carolyn and the survivors of the crash soon find out why.  Every number of years or so on the planet, a total eclipse occurs, leaving everything in complete, utter darkness. And lucky them…they just got stranded not long before the next eclipse is set to happen. They may have been travelers before…but now, they’re about to become snacks.

Working from a screenplay crafted by director DAVID TWOHY, with JIM AND KEN WHEAT (THE SILENT SCREAM, LIES), PITCH BLACK is a clever, nerve-wracking thrill ride with a damn good scenario, that almost bests what are considered to be the top sci-fi horror classics – even ALIEN itself.

Plus it has a fantastic supporting cast that includes KEITH DAVID (THEY LIVE, John Carpenter’s THE THING), CLAUDIA BLACK (FARSCAPE) and LEWIS FITZ-GERALD (BREAKER MORANT, THE WOLVERINE).

Twohy has a knack for working with modestly-budgeted, well-scripted sub-genre films, as he proved all too well before with WARLOCK, (starring JULIAN SANDS in the title role,) and the underrated, underwater ghost chiller BELOW. He keeps the pace brisk, the suspense taut and follows the Golden Rule of never showing the audience too much of the creatures, designed by master effects artist PATRICK TATOPOULOS (STARGATE, DARK CITY).

Though some characters here are better developed than others, everyone gives memorable performances, particularly Mitchell, Hauser and David.  But it’s Diesel’s Riddick that you walk away from the film remembering most. A murderous convict who barely considers himself to be human, PITCH BLACK becomes as much about him trying to locate some shreds of humanity left in his blasted soul, and actually doing it, under the direst circumstances that anyone could possibly imagine.

So unforgettable was his portrayal, that Universal attempted to cash in with a sequel, THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK, which is still being debated today as to whether or not it was a worthy follow-up. (It has DAME JUDI DENCH in it, so call me biased.)

In any case, it’s yet another great choice for your upcoming ‘Halloween Horrorthon’. In fact, if you really want to get a good group debate going, double it up with ALIEN and see which one comes out the victor!

POST-MORTEM SCRYPT: 2000 also gave us AMERICAN PSYCHO, GINGER SNAPS, BATTLE ROYALE, SHADOW OF THE VAMPIRE, FINAL DESTINATION, THE GIFT, JU-ON (a.k.a. THE GRUDGE) and WHAT LIES BENEATH.

Posted by Samuel Glass in EDITORIALS, FEATURED CONTENT, HALLOWEEN, HORROR HEROES, MONSTERS AND CREATURES, OPINION, SCI-FI HORROR, SLASHERS AND BAD HUMANS, THRILLER, TRIBUTE, URBAN DECAY/DYSTOPIAN FUTURES, 0 comments

HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day THIRTEEN – 10/13/18

10/13 – 1999: THE SIXTH SENSE

How in the wide, wide world of sports could it be possible to make and break your career right out of the gate, with your first smash box office hit? Ask extremely controversial director M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN, because that’s exactly what happened with THE SIXTH SENSE, one of the best paranormal ‘mind-fuck’ chillers ever made. And there had been some really good ones that came before, and that followed it. But none had quite the same impact that this did, only the third film he’d made.

BRUCE WILLIS, whose last big film the year before, THE FIFTH ELEMENT, didn’t exactly set multiplex box offices aflame (although now it’s a beloved sci-fi cult classic) stars here as Dr. Malcolm Crowe, a disillusioned child psychologist. Tragically attacked by one of his former charges, who then commits suicide, Malcolm considers himself a failure, and is looking for redemption from the horrific debacle.

His potential chance comes in the form of Cole Sear, the role that defined the career of HALEY JOEL OSMENT, although he’d done some films and TV before, including a small role in FOREST GUMP. As the famous line goes, Cole sees “dead people”, who don’t seem to know they’re dead, and worst of all – they all want to talk to him, though he has no idea why he has this connection to the spirit world.

It’s Malcolm who finally seems to be the most helpful adult that Cole can confide in, as he advises him to listen when the spirits communicate with him, to see what it is that they want. And as it turns out, they want many different things. Perhaps the second most stunning sequence in the film is Cole’s encounter with the ghost of a young girl named Kyra Collins, (future star of “THE O.C.” MISCHA BARTON), whose untimely death via a mysterious illness, turns out to be a lot more than her family knew about.

Shyamalan’s greatest gift isn’t just the cleverness of the storytelling. He has real empathy for all of his characters, even the unlikable ones, and therefore you become equally invested in them.  So much so, that until you’ve seen this multiple times, you don’t realize how he’s setting you up for one of the most stunning ‘reveals’, not just in horror film history, but film in general.  And that’s how he also managed to make and then break himself all at once. Not unlike ORSON WELLES did with CITIZEN KANE, Shyamalan made one of the most audacious debuts to come from a fledgling director up to that time period, and in the films that followed, audiences expected every “Shyamalan twist” to be just as gasp-inducing as the first time. But he soon discovered that the hardest act to follow was himself.

Willis gives one of the best performances of his career outside his usual forays into action blockbusters, (DEATH BECOMES HER has the other great turn). HALEY JOEL OSMENT seemed destined for super-stardom, as one of the least saccharine, real little kids ever to break into cinema. OLIVIA WILLIAMS has what amounts to a cameo as Malcolm’s wife, Anna, but what she does is effective and vitally important to the story, and she’s perfect for it. DONNIE WAHLBERG as the distraught former patient, whose horrendous act of violence sets the plot in motion, shows where the acting chops in that family really are.

But the one to really watch here is TONI COLLETTE, as single mom Lynn Sear. I would go as far as to put her performance right up there with ELLEN BURSTYN’S in THE EXORCIST. As a mother desperately trying to understand what’s going on with her kid, and feeling nearly powerless to help, she neither overplays or underplays it, hitting the sweet spot particularly in a scene that is a tear-jerker: when she truly comes to believe in her son’s abilities, as he reveals something to her that he couldn’t have possibly known about otherwise. (Everyone who’s seen it remembers that scene.) In fact, watching it back again, it comes as no surprise that THE SIXTH SENSE was nominated for – you got it – SIX Oscars, including nods for Osment, Collette and of course for Shyamalan’s directing.

After a rough period of diminishing returns on his features, that seemingly began with LADY IN THE WATER, going rapidly downhill from there, “Night” has made a considerable comeback with THE VISIT, SPLIT, and the soon-to-be-released GLASS. (I wonder if that one holds any interest for me? Hmmm…)  But THE SIXTH SENSE is that one that every director wishes they had in their arsenal, but also fears…because it’s that ‘lightning-in-a-bottle’ that you can only really capture once, and never again.

POST-MORTEM SCRYPT: This was the same year that also gave us RAVENOUS, AUDITION, THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, STIR OF ECHOES, SLEEPY HOLLOW, and existenZ.

Posted by Samuel Glass in EDITORIALS, FAMILY HORROR, FEATURED CONTENT, HALLOWEEN, OPINION, PARANORMAL, THRILLER, TRIBUTE, 0 comments

SID HAIG Turns Dreidels Into “DREAD-DLES” In The New Holiday Shocker HANUKKAH

Remember the old joke about holiday slasher movies eventually covering every holiday on the calendar? (People still want to know what happened to Eli Roth’s plans to make his GRINDHOUSE ‘fake trailer’, THANKSGIVING into an actual film!)

Well, it really isn’t a joke anymore! Beloved cult icon SID HAIG is now starring in the upcoming slasher HANUKKAH, co-starring CHARLES FLEISCHER (WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT?, ZODIAC), P.J. SOLES (HALLOWEEN, CARRIE, ROCK AND ROLL HIGH SCHOOL), CAROLINE WILLIAMS (THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2, TALES OF POE) and writer/actor JOE KNETTER (ZOMBIE BUKKAKE).

The sophomore feature of writer/director EBEN MCGARR (SICK GIRL), HANUKKAH’S plot goes a little something like this:

“Obediah Lazarus is the son of Judah Lazarus, the original Hanukiller. In 1983, Judah terrorized NY for seven nights and was preparing to sacrifice his eight-year-old son, Obediah, on the eighth night. Judah was convinced it was God’s will, like Abraham and Isaac, to sacrifice his only son to God. Luckily for Obediah, police tracked Judah down and stopped the sacrifice, but Judah was gunned down in the process. Warped by hatred with no guidance, Obediah Lazarus becomes a religious extremist, intolerant of non-Jews, “bad Jews”, and those he perceives to be enemies of the Jewish faith. He is about to unleash eight nights of horror. A group of Jewish teens are getting ready to party for the holidays, but are in for a Festival of Frights. With the help of a wise Rabbi, they deduce that the murder victims have violated Judaic law and that their only chance at survival is to embrace their faith.”

Does this mean that we’ll be seeing a menorah used as a blunt instrument? Watch for the release of HANUKKAH to find out!

Trailer For HANUKKAH:

Posted by Samuel Glass in CAST AND CREW NEWS, COMING SOON, HORROR NEWS, NEW RELEASES, SLASHERS AND BAD HUMANS, 0 comments
HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day Twelve – 10/12/18

HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day Twelve – 10/12/18

10/12 – 1998: FALLEN

When you look at the filmography of an actor like DENZEL WASHINGTON, you don’t see a lot of missteps.  Lots of different, fascinating, captivating performances in a wide range of projects, in various genres. You know what else you don’t see? A lot of horror/sci-fi/fantasy films.  That can’t be coincidental. Denzel doesn’t seem to be the kind of actor that gravitates towards monster and slasher films by choice.  In most cases, one could hardly blame him.  We know there’s a lot of trash out there…because we have to watch it.  So it has to be one special script that can attract the attention of a Denzel Washington (or someone of his type). Something so amazingly different, that once he read it, he was immediately on board with doing it.  FALLEN just so happened to be that story.

Written by NICHOLAS KAZAN (FRANCES, AT CLOSE RANGE, REVERSAL OF FORTUNE) and directed by GREGORY HOBLIT, (a TV director known mostly for HILL STREET BLUES, L.A. LAW and N.Y.P.D. BLUE, until he directed 1996’s PRIMAL FEAR, which introduced movie audiences to EDWARD NORTON), FALLEN isn’t your average script by any definition of the word. Skipping much of the blood and gore that a film like this would usually rely on and goes for the psychological chills instead.  Not to mention – it takes a ROLLING STONES tune not known for being inherently creepy, and changes all that in the blink of an   eye.

FALLEN casts Denzel as Detective John Hobbes. Every good detective has his nemesis, and John’s was the notorious serial killer Edgar Reese (a fantastic turn by THE PROPHECY’S ELIAS KOTEAS). It’s been Hobbes’ determined efforts that finally landed Reese into the gas chamber seat he so richly deserves.

But on the day of Reese’s execution, as Hobbes sits with the other witnesses, Reese does something unexpected…and chilling. As they’re strapping him in, he sings directly to the cop – The Stones classic “Time Is On My Side”.  An attempt by a deranged psychopath, to make one last show of braggadocio? You would think so.  Not so fast, though. When dead bodies start turning up, killed in the same manner that was Reese’s M.O., and John starts getting hang-up calls in the middle of the night – something that Reese loved to do to taunt him – John starts to get the feeling that even though he saw Reese die, none of this is really over.

Then, suddenly, random strangers begin singing “Time Is On My Side”…to HIM. And that’s where shit really starts to get real.

Reese was ‘nice’ enough to leave him several clues, which lead John to articles about a celebrated cop named Robert Milano, who was not only eventually disgraced, but ended up committing suicide. His boss, Lt. Stanton (DONALD SUTHERLAND) balks when he hears Milano’s name and warns John to drop it, but hey, would any cop that Denzel plays drop anything?

His sleuthing eventually leads him to Milano’s daughter, Gretta (EMBETH DAVITZ), a student of theology who has even more dire warnings about this case than Stanton did. Still refusing to turn it loose, John hikes up to the old Milano family vacation cabin, out in the middle of nowhere, where Robert decided to air out his head with a bullet.

Kind of ironic that Koteas, who played a good guy in THE PROPHECY, plays the baddie in FALLEN, which is headed in almost the same direction as the previous film.  Do I mean…ANGELS again? Why, yes, I do, and not the good ones.

Meet AZAZEL.  

If Pazuzu from THE EXORCIST had an evil older brother, Azazel would be it. Possessing people by the power of touch, he’s one of the FALLEN (get it?) who has a bone to pick with both mankind and The Deity Who Made Them, and for him…payback’s a bitch. He doesn’t exactly care about John Hobbes, but since the cop came after him while he was hiding out in Edgar Reese’s body, why not have a little “fun” destroying his life, the same way he did Milano’s?

And so the battle of wills begins between a man and the demonic angel who has it in for him.  Will it be a win, a loss, or a ‘draw’? Check out FALLEN and see!

Besides Sutherland and Davitz, the cast also boasts ROBERT JOYJAMES GANDOLFINI and AIDA TURTURRO (in a small cameo), both pre-SOPRANOS; GABRIEL CASSEUS as John’s sweet, mentally-challenged brother, Art, and giving one of his best and most frightening performances – JOHN GOODMAN as Jonesy, John’s partner of over a decade. Goodman wasn’t known for playing baddies yet, though the Coen Brothers gave him wackadoos to play that were pretty close, (especially in BARTON FINK). The real douchebags he would eventually play in films like DEATH SENTENCE were far off yet, but you can see hints of that in his performance here.

DP NEWTON THOMAS SIGEL seems to have a gift for making Philadelphia look creepy, and he uses that talent to full advantage here. And TAN DUN’S dark, ambient score is never intrusive, which is a good thing for a movie that’s heavier on creeping dread and unease, than buckets of brains dashed across the screen.

All-in-all, FALLEN is one more excellent recommendation one can make to that person that hates horror films, but loves Denzel Washington movies.

POST-MORTEM SCRYPT: 1998 was also a year that included BLADE, RINGU, THE X-FILES, THE FACULTY, APT PUPIL, and JOHN CARPENTER’S VAMPIRE$.

Posted by Samuel Glass in EDITORIALS, FEATURED CONTENT, HALLOWEEN, MYTHS AND LEGENDS, OPINION, PARANORMAL, SATANIC/DEMONIC, SLASHERS AND BAD HUMANS, THRILLER, TRIBUTE, 0 comments

HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day Eleven – 10/11/18

10/11 – 1997: LOST HIGHWAY

For viewers who are about linear, sensible, relatable storytelling with the whole ‘beginning-middle-and-end’ thing going on, DAVID LYNCH has always been a tough nut to crack. If you cannot accept that it’s about his own unique vision, and just go along for the ride, then it’s best to avoid his body of cinematic work. Even his more accessible films like WILD AT HEART and BLUE VELVET, still never stray far from his strange sense of playing with time, identity and very unreliable narrators and narratives. And nowhere is this more true than in his seemingly undecipherable horror-melodrama, LOST HIGHWAY.

Some critics and Lynch fans have called it a meditation on the creative process itself; others have called it yet another chronicle of dissociative identity disorder, as in Adrian Lyne’s JACOB’S LADDER, or Alexander Aja’s macabre murderfest, HIGH TENSION (a.k.a. SWITCHBLADE ROMANCE). In any case, a film where BILL PULLMAN suddenly morphs into BALTHAZAR GETTY, isn’t going to be something you casually pull up on Netflix for date night.

Fred Madison (PULLMAN) is a musician by trade, specifically a sax player.  He and his wife, Renee (PATRICIA ARQUETTE) have been having problems of late, with Fred convinced that she’s having an affair, while he’s out working. Meanwhile, they experience the kind of random weirdness that any couple in a David Lynch film would – with one of the most startling things being the tapes.

The tapes? Yep – mysterious video tapes in plain brown envelopes that just appear on the Madisons’ doorstep. And each time they play them, it’s a view of their house, with the ‘cameraman’ coming in a bit closer each time. Strange, for sure, and you’d think they’d be more alarmed about it.  But they don’t feel the need to get the cops involved…until one of the tapes turns out to have been shot not just inside the house, but in their bedroom…while they were sleeping.

But things are about to get even more effed up. At a party, Fred meets a “Mystery Man” (probably the strangest and most unsettling role that ROBERT BLAKE ever had in his career), who seems to know Fred…very well. Something this man does during their encounter plays like a party trick…or is it a warning? A way of explaining events that haven’t happened yet?

You won’t have time to think too hard about that, because shortly after that party, Renee Madison is found brutally murdered, and Fred goes up for it immediately.

But wait. If you thought things were strange before, here, hold David’s beer. While Fred is locked up in jail, awaiting arraignment, weird lights flash in the cell, Fred seems to have one hell of a headache, and then suddenly…he’s just not there anymore.  He’s been replaced by a much younger guy, named Pete Dayton (GETTY). Completely flabbergasted, since Fred Madison is their alleged perp and not Pete, the cops have no choice but to let him go.

While Fred played music, Pete’s a mechanic, and he works for a very volatile gangster who goes by the name of Mr. Eddy (the late ROBERT LOGGIA, adding another great role to his already impressive collection.) Eddy has a stunning blonde girlfriend named Alice Wakefield, and isn’t it rich, that except for the platinum blond hair, Alice could be Renee Madison’s twin sister?

Pete is immediately smitten with Alice, of course, and a dangerous affair begins between the two of them. But as if Pete didn’t have enough problems already, there’s the ‘small’ matter of how the hell he managed to wake up in Fred Madison’s cell. Pete’s parents (GARY BUSEY and LUCY BUTLER) seem to know all about how that happened, and it has something to do with a “mysterious man” they met.

Starting to get it now? No? That’s probably intentional, as it seems to be with most Lynch films.  You always seem to be just on the edge of figuring out what the hell is going on, and then the answer is snatched away again by another weird, random event or characters.

The rest of the film is just like that: feeding you clues and hints about how Fred’s and Pete’s lives intersect; their connection to Renee/Alice, and the part that the Mystery Man plays in all of it – someone whom even Mr. Eddy seems to know. And yes, Fred does eventually come back into the picture, but how it happens and what it means, takes a whole lot more time and ink to ponder than what we have here.

If the ambiguities of TWIN PEAKS were a major turn-off for you, and/or you just don’t care for Lynch’s work, anyway, you might want to stay as far away as possible from LOST HIGHWAY. It makes it more than a little difficult to judge the quality of the performances, if you have absolutely no idea what the hell the characters are supposed to be doing in the first place. But the cast – at least to me – seemed to be doing pretty well.  And there’s the usual raft of cameos from a diverse range of actors that goes from HENRY ROLLINS, to GIOVANNI RIBISI and NATASHA GREGSON WAGNER. Hell, even RICHARD PRYOR (in his last screen appearance) turns up for a hot minute!

Technically, as with Lynch’s other films, it’s damn near perfect. DP PETER DEMING, who shot all of the SCREAM sequels after the original, THE CABIN IN THE WOODS, and would shoot MULHOLLAND DRIVE for Lynch after this, does his part to…enhance the weirdness, I guess? And of course, no Lynch film would be complete without the presence of composer ANGELO BADALAMENTI, who does one of his best jobs creeping out viewers since the TWIN PEAKS score, while NINE INCH NAILS’ frontman TRENT REZNOR kicks major ass on putting together the soundtrack, one of the best ever for a Lynch film (it introduced me to RAMMSTEIN, SMASHING PUMPKINS and a LOU REED cover I’d never heard before!)

They say that if something is a piece of art, it’s not going to be a thing that everyone can agree upon, which I guess means that LOST HIGHWAY is definitely art.

Back in my video store clerking days, I issued a challenge about HIGHWAY, to co-workers and customers alike: I would come out of my own pocket to pay $100 to anyone who could sum up the plot of this film, in a way that made complete sense as a straightforward, logical narrative.

Take this as a recommendation, a warning, or whatever you like…I never had to pay up.

Other “HONORABLE MAYHEM” of the cerebral kind released that year included CUBE, EVENT HORIZON, FUNNY GAMES, THE KINGDOM, THE DEVIL’S ADVOCATE and SCREAM 2.

Posted by Samuel Glass in EDITORIALS, FEATURED CONTENT, HALLOWEEN, OPINION, PARANORMAL, SLASHERS AND BAD HUMANS, THRILLER, TRIBUTE, 0 comments
HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day Ten – 10/10/18

HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day Ten – 10/10/18

10/10 – 1996: SCREAM/FROM DUSK TILL DAWN

1996…It was a draw for me; too tough to narrow down the list of all the great flicks I had to choose from. I finally managed to whittle it down to two: SCREAM, and FROM DUSK TILL DAWN, and even then, I just couldn’t bring myself to choose between them. Both are as important and influential to the genre during this time, yet both are certainly unique: one redefined what fans had thought of the teen slasher genre, while the other took vampire lore to a whole new place unconsidered up to that point.

Legendary director WES CRAVEN had always been an innovator of modern horror, re-establishing himself in several sub-genres over the course of many decades. With LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, THE HILLS HAVE EYES, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET and THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW, he’d done things that most directors in the field never achieve over the course of their entire careers. So when he was looking for the next big thing, he wasn’t even considering sticking with horror, when he crossed paths with a brilliantly subversive script by DAWSON’S CREEK scribe KEVIN WILLIAMSON; a nicely-nasty little number called “SCARY MOVIE”, which was soon to beretitled…SCREAM.

Snarky, self-reverential, almost to the point of being a bit too “nudge-winky” at times, nevertheless, SCREAM never once forgot to bring the laughs, the scares AND the gore in ample supply.  A slasher of teens begins to decimate the youth population of the little bedroom community of Woodsboro, but if that wasn’t bad enough, said killer seems to be every bit as smart as the “Scooby Gang wanna-be” group of horror-loving kids, who soon realize that their stalker not only knows the ‘rules of horror’ as well as – if not  better than they do, and he’s not only using the playbook to take them out one-by-one, but he (or she?) is even bending and changing the rules! Much like Williamson’s TV creation, the cast couldn’t have been more suited as an ensemble, even though the standout was DREW BARRYMORE, if only for the mere fact that she pulls a “Janet-Leigh-in-PSYCHO” on the audience in the first few moments of the film – a shock that has since become legendary, even though people still remember where the idea came from!

NEVE CAMPBELL, SKEET ULRICH, ROSE MCGOWAN, JAMIE KENNEDY, MATTHEW LILLARD, W. EARL BROWN, LIEV SCHREIBER, COURTNEY COX and DAVID ARQUETTE (who married and divorced over the course of the franchise); JOSEPH WHIPP (who could’ve been playing the same character from A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET – and probably was!), plus unexpected cameos from LINDA BLAIR and HENRY WINKLER going way out-of-typecasting as an asshole of a principal…It didn’t get any better than this! Plus Craven’s direction, with tongue firmly-in-cheek the entire time, could have you rolling your eyes and chuckling one minute, and yes, SCREAMING the next! This film helped usher in a new age, where the movie and the characters were as smart – if not smarter than the audience that eagerly made SCREAM a box office smash!

Meanwhile, thanks to buddy and sometime collaborator QUENTIN TARANTINO, cinematic ‘one-man-band’ ROBERT RODRIGUEZ was having fun playing “Dr. Frankenstein”, by smashing two unexpected sub-genres together, if not three: serial killers, true crime…and vampires.  FROM DUSK TILL DAWN is the kind of film you never expect…until it bops you upside the head from seemingly out of nowhere!

The notorious Gecko brothers, handsome and sarcastic Seth (GEORGE CLOONEY) and ‘quiet, reserved’ Richard (no less than TARANTINO himself) are cutting a swath of robbery, assault and murder across the Southwest.  The “murder” part of their spree is owed mostly to Richard, who just can’t curb his impulses to kill and rape people. Well, to be a bit more specific, he kills and rapes womennot the men, let’s be clear on that (as Richard would probably say himself.)

Their antics – but especially Richard’s body count – has made it necessary to hotfoot it South of the Border, and maybe lay low somewhere in Mexico, until things die down…If they do. Along the way, as they change vehicles, they hijack an RV and the vacationing family inside it and skip town.

The intent was to just keep on going until they reached their objective, but all that changes when they make a fateful detour to a truck stop on the way.  But not just ANY truck stop: The “TITTY TWISTER.” A blood-and-guts dive that definitely lives up to its name…in more ways than one. And its hours of operation are…well, you know the title.

The bar has some of the most gorgeous dancing girls you ever saw, but they’re all woofers compared to the luscious, insanely beautiful main attraction, a hypnotic dancer who goes by the name of ‘SANTANICO PANDEMONIUM’.  No one into women could possibly resist her, and all men should, as Seth and Richard quickly discover, along with the rest of the hapless ‘Twister’ patrons, when the girls, the bouncers, the bartenders, everyone who ‘works’ there, finally reveal their true faces.  They’re all flesh-and-blood hungry vamps, and less the TWILIGHT variety than the FRIGHT NIGHT kind.

Rodriguez knew exactly what the fans wanted from Quentin’s script, and together, they sure gave it to us…stylish, sensual, sexy and soaked in red. And the Tarantino/Rodriguez combo attracted a cast that was instant boxoffice catnip, right down to the cameos: HARVEY KEITEL, JULIETTE LEWIS, FRED WILLIAMSON, TOM SAVINI; the stunning SALMA HAYEK as “SANTANICO”; everybody’s favorite badass, DANNY TREJO, plus CHEECH MARIN, MICHAEL PARKS, JOHN SAXON, KELLY PRESTON, MARC LAWRENCE; even a special appearance by Robert’s favorite “Hell House band”, TITO AND TARANTULA…Hell, you just knew that if he wasn’t already starring in it, Quentin would have probably directed this one, too!

The “Titty Twister” sequences – especially the gore-soaked fight scenes – are now a thing of legend, (check out Savini’s “special weapon” and the reason why his character’s nickname is “Sex Machine”!) and the closing shot is as breathtaking as any iconic final scene from the best and most unforgettable horror films, (I’d compare it for impact to the last shot of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT; in fact, DAWN’S final shot is probably a tad better.)

But for thrills, chills and maximum blood spills, whether you’ve seen these movies a hundred times or not even once…you can’t go wrong with these choices for a monumentally successful Halloween Night of Frights!

Posted by Samuel Glass in EDITORIALS, FEATURED CONTENT, GORE OR EXTREME HORROR, HALLOWEEN, MONSTERS AND CREATURES, OPINION, SATANIC/DEMONIC, SLASHERS AND BAD HUMANS, THRILLER, TRIBUTE, VAMPIRES, 0 comments
Life of Agony 9/30/18 Baltimore Soundstage

Life of Agony 9/30/18 Baltimore Soundstage

For Nearly 30 fuckin years……damn, I have been a fan of Brooklyn based hardcore band Life of Agony. When I heard they were coming to my town, and then found out it was on a Friday night…OH WE ARE GOIN!I spent many of my younger years, listening to , and going to as many shows that i could when ever the band came around, well its a few years later and I sure as hell didn’t want to miss it!

The show originally was slated for Friday September 13th, the same night we were supposed to get hit with a hurricane. Just my damn luck! Luckily the tour rescheduled for the 30th…a Sunday….SUNDAY, REALLY?!?! Fuck it, I’m still there!Baltimore Soundstage here we come!

The night started off being fortunate enough to have been able to schedule a video inter with bands bass player, Alan Robert, who talked with us about being on the road, meanings behind many of the lyrics, his artwork and him doing laundry! We spoke and hung out for close to 30 minutes. My wife Steff and I had such a great time talking with him, very hospitable, genuine good person! I must also admit, having been such a huge fan of the band, i was actually a bit shaky when he first entered the room with us.

As the show got under way, local Baltimore Hardcore band End It All kicked things with a short, but very powerful set! These guys are doing a few shows in the west coast soon so show support and get your ass to see them, they are so worth it!

Next on stage, and pretty much arriving and jumping on stage due to car issues, Silvertomb. Many of you were or like me still are fans of the once great goth rock band Type O Negative. Silvertomb is comprised of guitarist from Type O Negative Kenny Hickey and drummer Johnny Kelly as well as Joseph James from Agnostic Front. I knew of the band, but sadly hadn’t actually heard their work yet. I’m here to tell ya, after the somewhat short set, I am a fan! Kenny fronts Silvertomb so perfectly, and the band is just tight as hell!! Great emotionally strong sound and lyrics with a very strong stage presence made for a very memorable show. It was also great to see the guys playing again since TYPE O Negative was such a huge part of my life.

Then the time came for the moment we were all waiting for. Now mind you, this is now on a Sunday, the crowd about 1/3 its capacity , so that was kind of upsetting, but they were true fans and were just glad to see the band! The band came on stage and everyone went nuts, even the band. The band kick it right in to high gear from the get go. Playing such a perfect mix of old school, and all thru the years. We were up front for a while then slowly made our way back so we could just relax and take in the show it self.

The energy pouring out on stage is incredible! Many bands after this many years of playing just start slowing down. Not the case with Life of Agony! They were all over the stage, and totally giving love to the fans, and further most, to each other. You can easily see that after so many years together they are so much more than just a band, they are family and that made the show even that much more enjoyable! But still, when they played River Runs Red, the place still goes nuts!!

 

This was the last show of this leg of the tour, everyone was going home, then they were off to conquer Europe . So that made it kind of a special show. What really made it though, was when Silvertomb came out on stage while during ‘s. Life of Agony set with a birthday cake with lit candles and all to sing Happy Birthday to Alan. The entire crowd  joined in as we all wished Alan a Happy Birthday!

 

 

All and all do i wish there had been a larger crowd, only for the band’s sake. As far as I was concerned it was perfect, a more intimate show if you will, and the guys are just as good now if not even better live than they once were! They killed it!!!

Be sure to take a minute, actually 15, and check out the great video interview that Alan Robert did with us prior to the show! Thanks again Alan!!!

www.lifeofagony.com

 

John and Steff w/ Alan Robert of Life Of Agony

 

Keep It Evil

 

Posted by John Roisland in Categories, EVENT REVIEWS, INTERVIEWS, MUSIC REVIEWS, 1 comment
HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day Nine – 10/09/18

HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day Nine – 10/09/18

10/09 – 1995: THE PROPHECY

First ROSEMARY’S BABY, then THE EXORCIST, then the blockbuster success of THE OMEN opened the floodgates for religious-minded, Satanic-tinged thrillers.  They were always lighting up cinema screen with varying degrees of quality and success (THE DEVIL’S RAIN, anyone?), but for the most part, they were well done and managed to bring the chills and keep the creepiness factor turned up to “eleven.”  One of the better entries into the “Sweepstakes of Sin” was THE PROPHECY, brought to us care of filmmaker GREGORY WIDEN, (HIGHLANDER, BACKDRAFT), with a different spin on things than usual, and a solid cast to bring as much gravitas to the story as any of the better films about the anti-Christ and mankind facing possible Armageddon.

The scenario here takes the “What If?” approach about the Bible. Angels are not only real but battling with each other. Just as the story goes, God’s Once Most-Favored Creations aren’t real happy with Sky Daddy throwing them over, to concentrate all his love and care on his other Most-Favored Creations: HUMANKIND. In fact, it’s caused a rift between them. On the one side, there’s the angels like ‘Simon’ (ERIC STOLTZ of MASK, THE FLY 2 and KILLING ZOE), who aren’t all that fond of humans, but are willing to “go along to get along” with their Father, while on the flip side of things, you have Gabriel (CHRISTOPHER WALKEN, delivering one of his usual delicious, balls-to-the-wall performances), who would love nothing more than to see mankind obliterated, and will go through as many of his winged brethren as he needs to, in order to make it happen.

 

A series of “strange and deadly occurrences” stemming from this “angel war” engulfs several unsuspecting humans: Detective Thomas Dagget (ELIAS KOTEAS of CRASH, ZODIAC, GATTACA and FALLEN), a failed priest-turned-cop; Katherine (VIRGINIA MADSEN from CANDYMAN, DUNE and ELECTRIC DREAMS), a teacher at a small Southwestern school for Native American children, and Mary (MORIAH “SHINING DOVE” SNYDER in her first major movie role), one of Katherine’s students.

The “prophecy” of the title is all about this centuries-long war of angels, which has been at a draw so far, but it has been said that if the ‘anti-human’ angels can take possession of humankind’s most evil soul, they can use that evil to win the war, bring about the “End Of Days” and destroy “the talking monkeys”, as Gabriel and not a few of the other angels derisively refer to them. The Holy War comes to Earth as Simon finds the owner of that ‘black soul’, one Col. Hawthorne, and takes the soul, hiding it away inside the body of innocent little Mary, before dying at Gabriel’s hand.

Eventually, the ‘strange case’ that Dagget is now working and the sudden strange behavior of Mary brings him and Katherine together, just as Gabriel is looking for all three of them. It means nothing at all to him, to kill anyone who gets in the way of his search for the little girl, and he’s not above raising the dead to help him with that search. ADAM GOLDBERG (SAVING PRIVATE RYAN) and AMANDA PLUMMER (PULP FICTION) portray Jerry and Rachael, respectively; two of the unfortunate souls who end up in Gabriel’s brutal clutches.

And just as it looks like it’s really about to become ‘crunch time’ for mankind, who should show up, but Lucifer himself! What role he plays in all of this is up to you to find out – I won’t spoil the terrific ending – but just knowing that VIGGO MORTENSEN plays him, should have you sprinting for wherever you get your movies from, to grab this gem. It’s only a cameo, but at least for me, that performance packs every bit of the punch he had as Aragorn in THE LORD OF THE RINGS franchise.

The special effects might seem a little on the primitive side these days, considering, but the kind of ambitious canvas that Widen loves to paint his stories on will never be out-of-style. See it for the performances, for the thrills of the story, and for a totally different perspective on angels…especially on the fallen one that “God favored above all others”…

Posted by Samuel Glass in EDITORIALS, FEATURED CONTENT, GORE OR EXTREME HORROR, HALLOWEEN, MYTHS AND LEGENDS, PARANORMAL, SATANIC/DEMONIC, THRILLER, TRIBUTE, 0 comments
HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day Seven – 10/07/18

HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day Seven – 10/07/18

10/07 – 1993: BODY SNATCHERS

 

 

 

Of the approximately half-dozen remakes there have been, since director DON SIEGEL first terrified the world with INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, based on Jack Finney’s timeless sci-fi terror tale, two standout versions are, for me, the smartest of the bunch. The first is PHILIP KAUFMAN’S dark satirizing of the San Francisco “self-awareness” scene back in 1978, and BODY SNATCHERS, the often-unsung version directed by genre favorite ABEL FERRARA (MS. .45, KING OF NEW YORK, FEAR CITY, BAD LIEUTENANT).  Ferrara’s ferocious, take-no-prisoners sensibility and dark sense of humor was a glove-like fit for an adaptation worked on by no less than five writers, which included STUART GORDON, DENNIS PAOLI and LARRY COHEN.

The oft-told story was still very flexible in terms of where it could be set and how it reflected the times in which it was being re-told. And what better place to set a story about assimilation, blind compliance and loss of identity, than on an ARMY BASE? Brilliant.

 

 

 

 

 

GABRIELLE ANWAR (SCENT OF A WOMAN) plays Marti Malone, the oldest daughter of the Malone family, along with dad Steve (TERRY KINNEY of HBO’S OZ), and little brother Andy (REILLY MURPHY).

As good as everyone is in the cast, though, the must-see performance of the film comes from…MEG TILLY as mom, Carol Malone. Yeah, the same Meg Tilly you knew from THE BIG CHILL is here to deliver a “bigger chill” of a totally different kind, with a monologue that’s as chilling as any pivotal “possession” scene in the other versions, including the original.

Filming at an actual base as well as the surrounding areas in Selma, Alabama, Ferrara and DP BOJAN BAZELLI (PUMPKINHEAD) were able to infuse this version of Finney’s story with the same sharp sense of dread and paranoia that is inherent in the other successful versions.

  

Other interested parties who become involved in the nightmarish events that begin to engulf both the soldiers on base and civilians alike, include characters played by BILLY WIRTH (THE LOST BOYS), CHRISTINE ELISE, (CHILD’S PLAY 2), R. LEE ERMEY (FULL METAL JACKET) and FOREST WHITAKER (THE CRYING GAME, A RAGE IN HARLEM).

There’s so much more I want to say about this ‘hidden’ gem, but once again, it’s one of those cases where the less I spoil for you, the better it will be if you’re seeing it for the first time. In fact, try doing a ‘double’ with this and the Kaufman version!

Posted by Samuel Glass in EDITORIALS, FAMILY HORROR, FEATURED CONTENT, HALLOWEEN, SCI-FI HORROR, THRILLER, TRIBUTE, 0 comments
HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day Eight – 10/08/18

HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day Eight – 10/08/18

10/08 – 1994: INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE

INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE was the novel that crowned High Priestess of Gothic Horror ANNE RICE as the “Doyenne of the Dracula Set.” A lot of excitement and buzz swirled around the news that Warner Brothers was out to transform it into a feature film, with no less than THE COMPANY OF WOLVES and THE CRYING GAME director NEIL JORDAN at the helm.  There was absolutely no way they could go wrong.  The story of “Louis and Lestat” seemed primed for absolute success.

And then…they cast it. Uh-oh.

   

BRAD PITT as Louis. Okay, not what I had in mind when reading the book, but I could buy it. STEPHEN REA. ANTONIO BANDERAS, in a cameo that made you want to see a movie just about his character. THANDIE NEWTON, in a small role that eventually would put her on the path to that magnificent performance in HBO’S series version of WESTWORLD. CHRISTIAN SLATER as the “interviewer” the title refers to. And as Lestat…TOM CRUISE.

WHO…????

I’m sure anyone who remembers being there, recalls the absolute eruption of anger that piece of casting news caused. And no, I wasn’t exactly jazzed about it, either. Tom Cruise has always been good at being…Tom Cruise. RISKY BUSINESS. COCKTAIL. TOP GUN. That guy. The one time I could see him giving his all to really disappear into a role was playing Ron Kovic in BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY, which admittedly was quite the departure for him. But a horror film about the eternally high-falutin’ undead? Especially a character familiar to fans of the books (and many who opined that DAVID BOWIE should’ve had that role)? Before a single frame of film was shot, it was pretty much a sure bet for deeply invested Louis-and-Lestat fans, that this flick was destined to tank at the box office.

Here’s the thing, though: once Anne Rice gave her own ‘seal of approval’ to Tom’s casting, the furor died down.  Well, at least a little. I remember reading that book at least a dozen times and thinking of either Bowie or someone like, say, JULIAN SANDS in the part, and that I’d have to hold my nose and go see it anyway, in order to support not only Neil Jordan and Anne, but ‘take one for the team’, for horror’s sake across the board.

Here’s the other thing: Tom wasn’t terrible.  It didn’t seem to me as if he completely botched the role, but I don’t think he gave it the “oomph” that the absolute right actor could have. (Unfortunately, perfect possibilities like AMERICAN HORROR STORY’S EVAN PETERS, or GAME OF THRONES’ HARRY LLOYD (“Viserys Targaryen”) hadn’t been discovered yet.)

Besides, between his ‘not bad’ performance and Brad Pitt’s good one (I always wonder what would’ve happened if they’d switched roles), nobody anticipated that the relative newcomer, KIRSTEN DUNST as a century-older-than-her-years Claudia, would steal the movie away from everybody! If the casting of the leads was somewhat problematic, there was NO question in anyone’s mind about her. She was Claudia.

The New Orleans setting for the story of the eternally youthful, eternally sorrowful Louis, and his dysfunctional “vampire family” couldn’t have been more suitable for Jordan’s dark sense of vision, gorgeously photographed by legendary DP PHILIPPE ROUSSELOT (BIG FISH, CONSTANTINE, THE BRAVE ONE), along with stunning visual and makeup FX helping bring Rice’s characters and situations to unforgettable life.

And it’s all helped along by a captivatingly baroque and sometimes thunderous score by ELLIOT GOLDENTHAL (IN DREAMS, PET SEMATARY, ALIEN 3), who at times seems to be trying to “out-Zimmer” HANS ZIMMER, and yet with a tale this outrageous, the cues and themes never seem to be overwhelming or out-of-place.

If anything, I hope if you’ve never seen this, that you’ll take the book for a spin first. (Yes, for my taste, the books are always better than the movies.)  Even if you aren’t a Tom Cruise fan – and it will work better for those who are – there’s much to discover, and eventually fall in love with about this movie.

Posted by Samuel Glass in EDITORIALS, FEATURED CONTENT, HALLOWEEN, HORROR HEROES, OPINION, THRILLER, TRIBUTE, VAMPIRES, 0 comments
Local Legends and Creatures of North America Part 2

Local Legends and Creatures of North America Part 2

I hope you all enjoyed part 1 of my exploration of creatures and legends of North America. If you missed it find it here: Lets take a look at 5 more of my favorourites from this continent before crossing the Atlantic.

#1 Bigfoot or Sasquatch

Bigfoot can be found in many forests across North America, but the most sightings have been reported along the Pacific coast, especially Oregon, Washington and British Columbia.
Bigfoot is described as a tall, upright or bipedal, ape-like creature. Not quite man not quite ape, with a body completely covered in fur and in some cases reported to be as much as 9 feet tall. There are different variations of his temperament, some claiming that the bigfoot is simply a large animal, probably nocturnal and most likely a herbivore. Other legends suggest he’s a blood thirty beast and even uttering his name will cause him to come and take you away.

The modern-day Bigfoot’s legend originated in 1958 as a simple article in a small local newspaper. Andrew Genzoli of the Humboldt Times did a small write up on some large footprints found near a logging site in California. He jokingly wrote that “maybe we have a relative of the abominable snowman”. People loved the article and rolled with it, inventing the name “Bigfoot” and the rest is history.

Books to read: The Bigfoot Book: The Encyclopedia of Sasquatch Yeti and Cryptid Primates by Nick Redfern buy it here: https://www.amazon.com/Bigfoot-Book-Encyclopedia-Sasquatch-Primates-ebook/dp/B0110IBO9Q. Monster by Frank E. Peretti check it out here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/65684.Monster

Movies to watch: Exists see trailer here:https://youtu.be/vNKqNBey9MQ,Willow Creek see trailer here: https://youtu.be/QPlc9UY2iuQ, Abominable see trailer here: https://youtu.be/mtpF7bWAnts, and Primal Rage see trailer here: https://youtu.be/m_c-G_6JKzA

#2. Bloody Mary

Who hasn’t played Bloody Mary? You light a candle stand in front of a dark mirror and chant her name 3 times (or more depending on the variation) in hopes that a scary witch will appear covered in blood and cause you bodily harm. It’s actually a pretty bizarre thing to do, now that I stop and think about it. Looking at it as an adult made me curious as to where the legend began.

Originally the ritual was meant to show a young unwed woman her future husband. The young girl was supposed to walk up the stairs backwards holding a candle and a hand mirror. The goal was to catch a glimpse of her future lovers face, but if for some unfortunate reason she happened to see a skull it meant she would die before ever being wed.

Whether you want to see a bloody apparition or your future husband, there is actually a pretty good chance that you will. It’s actually a proven scientific phenomenon coined the “strange face illusion” by Giovanni Caputo. If you stare at your face in a mirror in a poorly lit room for a prolonged period of time it will cause hallucinations. The brains facial recognition system goes haywire thus causing us to see something other than ourselves, sometimes something scary.

Book to read: Mary: The Summoning check it out here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17661402-mary by Hillary Monahan

Movies to watch: Urban Legends: Bloody Mary watch the trailer here: https://youtu.be/kKWa-voJcR0, Mary, Mary, Bloody Mary (1975)

#3 The Montauk Monster

This is an especially interesting legend to me because it’s current, plausible and there is actual HD colour photographic evidence.

In July of 2008 an unidentifiable creature washed ashore on the beach of Montauk New York. It was discovered and photographed by 26 year old Jenna Hewitt. She was at the beach with friends and saw a small gathering of people standing around something. At first the creature was thought to be a racoon (seriously that isn’t a damn racoon!), but there is no way to find out since the body mysteriously disappeared. Several unsubstantiated claims stated that “a guy came and took it” no one knows who or where though.

There is a possibility that it was an animal from Plum Island. Plum Island is the animal disease center of New York. There has been speculation that unethical animal testing is still continuing to happen there. During the cold war biological weapons were tested on livestock and the facility still remains a place of mystery and controversy. Maybe the creature was the result of some horrific experiment gone wrong. One thing is for sure the public will never know what really happened.

Book to read: The Montauk Monster by Hunter Shea check it out here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18371375-the-montauk-monster (honestly anything by him is good)

#4 La Llorona or The Weeping Woman

The legend of La Llorona takes us to an unnamed rural village in Mexico, where there once lived a young woman named Maria. She came from a poor family, but was well known for her exceptional beauty. One day a wealthy man of status was passing through her village and was said to have been stopped in his tracks by her beauty. He fell in love with her and proposed marriage. While her family was thrilled that she was marrying a wealthy man his family was extremely disappointed in his choice. The young couple chose to stay in Maria’s village away from his father. After some happy years passed Maria gave birth to twin boys. Maria’s husband was always travelling and had very little time to spend with his family, he slowly began to fall out of love with her and finally left one day never to return. Some time later as Maria and her boys were walking along the river she spotted her husband with a younger more beautiful woman in his carriage, in her frustration and shame she tossed her boys into the river where they drowned. Once she realized what she had done she dove in after them and drowned herself. At the gates of heaven, she was asked where her children were and not permitted to enter until she found them, so she roams the earth for eternity searching for her dead children.

She can still be heard crying and searching for her children, but if you do hear her wailing run the other way! Her cries bring great misfortune and even death. Keep your children close so she doesn’t steal them confusing them for her own.

Books to read: Hell House: & Other True Hauntings from Around the World by Allison Vale check it out here: https://books.google.ca/books/about/Hell_House.html?id=ih0-CZ8XF-IC&redir_esc=y (awesome book, one of my personal favourites), Prietita and the Ghost Woman by Gloria E. Anzaldua

Movies to watch: The Curse of La Llorona… coming soon. Watch the trailer here:https://youtu.be/jjSShe-0AwM
#5 Marie Laveau


Marie Laveau was a real person said to have done extraordinary things, whether she did perform any magical feats or not she is still one of my personal heroes.

She was born in 1801 in the French Quarter of New Orleans a free woman (fairly uncommon in that time and place for a woman of colour). Not much is known about her early life except who her parents were and where she lived. What we do know and what makes her interesting is that she grew up to be the voodoo queen and was said to have “walked the streets like she owned them”. Marie was also a devout Catholic and attended mass regularly. She began her career as a hairdresser and became a nurse during the yellow fever epidemic. She was very skilled with medicine and healing and knew how to prepare and use medicinal herbs. Concerned with the welfare of people’s souls Marie often stayed with people for their last moments and served them their last meal. She even helped criminals condemned to die at the gallows.  She was said to be an extremely beautiful and benevolent person, unless crossed.

Marie was believed to be clairvoyant knowing everything about everyone. She prepared some of the most potent grigri bags (talismans) that were said to cure any disease or make people do whatever she wanted them to do. She was rumored to own a large snake named Zombi. Due to her persuasive personality and political connections she was allowed to perform voodoo rituals inside the Saint Louis catholic church, a practice that anywhere else or done by anyone else would be considered blasphemy. One of her most important accomplishments as a voodoo priestess and the case that convinced even the skeptics was freeing a man on trial for murder. His father came to her begging for help and offered her a house in exchange for his sons freedom. She is said to have prayed for days and even suffered physical torture. She placed 3 Guinea peppers (extremely hot peppers) in her mouth and held them there for hours. She snuck in on the day of the mans sentencing and put the voodoo peppers under the judge’s chair, it was believed that In exchange for her suffering the voodoo spirits set the man free. She was rewarded with a beautiful home on St. Anne’s or so it’s said and now had proven her ability to sway even the justice system. It’s said that all voodoo needs to succeed is for people to believe in it.

People still travel to Laveau’s grave in hopes of getting wishes granted. It’s believed that if you draw an x on the gravestone, turn around 3 times, knock on the tomb and yell out your wish it would be granted. If the wish was granted you needed to return with an offering and circle the x. You can only visit now on a guided tour that is definitely on my bucket list. You can take the tour here: https://freetoursbyfoot.com/new-orleans-tours/walking-tours/st-louis-1-cemetery-tour/
Books to read: Voodoo Queen: The Spirited Lives of Marie Laveau by Martha Ward buy it here: https://www.amazon.com/Voodoo-Queen-Spirited-Lives-Laveau/dp/1578066298, Voodoo Dreams: A Novel of Marie Laveau by Jewell Parker Rhodes
What to watch: The History channels: Voodoo Secrets, watch it here:https://youtu.be/TIPzaDRjCVc

Thanks for reading my follow up on North American legends, we’ll travel to Europe next and scope out their creatures and folklore.

Posted by Candace Stone in Categories, HALLOWEEN, MONSTERS AND CREATURES, MYTHS AND LEGENDS, 0 comments
HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day Six – 10/06/18

HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day Six – 10/06/18

10/06 – 1992: CANDYMAN

“It was always you, Helen…”

All you have to do is say that to someone, and then watch as they shudder as if a big spider just moonwalked across the back of their neck. If that’s the reaction they give you, then you know they’re probably a fan of CANDYMAN.  Besides Stephen King, Ira Levin and Dean Koontz, not many writers have had the indelible, undeniable impact on the horror genre that CLIVE BARKER has, and if HELLRAISER had been his only contribution, his legacy would have been set. But the man wrote such compelling, irresistibly addictive stories that begged to be adapted for the screen (though the success of doing so is another thing entirely,) that other filmmakers took the plunge to try and replicate what he did with his touchstone of a film.

 

For my money, the only person who’s been about as successful as Barker has in translating his own tales is British director BERNARD ROSE (PAPERHOUSE), a stunning visual fantasist in his own right, on par with the likes of MARY LAMBERT and GUILLERMO DEL TORO. No one could’ve been a better fit for CANDYMAN than Rose, and it shows in every frame.  Based on Barker’s tale, “The Forbidden”, there hadn’t been a story like this before, that encapsulated the themes of racism, classism, misogyny, poverty, mythology and the supernatural quite like this.

Helen Lyle (the radiant VIRGINIA MADSEN of such cult hits as DUNE and ELECTRIC DREAMS) is a grad student working on her dissertation, about how urban myths affect the landscape and people in impoverished areas, and vice versa. The main target of her research is Chicago’s notorious Cabrini Green projects, where she comes to learn about the ultimate horror story: the gruesome and tragic tale of Daniel Robitaille, a.k.a. “The Candyman.”

An artistically-talented black man who dared to fall in love with a white woman, Daniel payed the ultimate price, losing a hand and having honeycombs filled with live bees shoved into his chest cavity, as a gruesomely fatal form of torture.  And now, he has become legend: say his name three times in front of a mirror, and his vengeance-hungry ghost will appear, to deliver a demise you wouldn’t want to imagine.

Ever the cynical academic, Helen believes less than nothing about the things she actually writes about, so she decides to try and conjure him up. Imagine her shock, terror and dread fascination…when she succeeds.

Now Candyman is laying waste to people in her life (some way more deserving of a brutal death than others), and letting her take the fall for it, trying to break her down physically and psychologically, so that soon she will have no choice but to join him and “be his victim” forever…and become ‘legend’ as he has.

Director Rose’s surrealist sensibilities were the perfect platform with which to elevate Barker’s tale to a whole new level as a film, thanks in no small part to DP ANTHONY B. RICHMOND (DON’T LOOK NOW, RAVENOUS, AUTOPSY).  And the actors were more than happy to tackle and own their roles in this endeavor: Madsen has never been a more beautiful combination of strength and vulnerability – even in DUNE, which hardly gave her as much to do as she has here – and CANDYMAN is the role that finally made genre actor TONY TODD a household name, and with good reason. He slips into the skin and psyche of Daniel Robitaille like it was the role he was born to play, which isn’t far from the truth.

Plus a great supporting cast that includes KASI LEMMONS (THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS) as Helen’s best friend; XANDER BERKELEY (GATTACA, AIR FORCE ONE, TAPEHEADS and way too many other credits to list here) as Helen’s faithless other half; VANESSA WILLIAMS, (a.k.a. VANESSA L. WILLIAMS), TED RAIMI, and STANLEY DESANTIS in an unforgettable cameo as Helen’s condescending headshrinker.

And just when you think it couldn’t get any better, iconoclastic composer PHILIP GLASS contributed what has to be his best and most beloved score after KOYAANISQATSI, a sumptuous, reverent and almost religious musical landscape that intensifies in majesty to match the onscreen horror, (a style of composition that would later be replicated by other composers as diverse as ELIOTT GOLDENTHAL and MICHAEL NYMAN & DAMON ALBARN.)

CANDYMAN isn’t just a piece of horror mastery as worthy and as iconic as A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET or FRIDAY THE 13TH, but a necessary item in every dyed-in-the-wool horror lover’s library.

Posted by Samuel Glass in EDITORIALS, FEATURED CONTENT, GORE OR EXTREME HORROR, HALLOWEEN, HORROR HEROES, MYTHS AND LEGENDS, PARANORMAL, SLASHERS AND BAD HUMANS, THRILLER, TRIBUTE, URBAN DECAY/DYSTOPIAN FUTURES, 1 comment
HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day Five – 10/05/18

HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day Five – 10/05/18

10/05 – 1991: THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS

THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS.  Or “When Starling Met Lecter.” Oh, yes.  The horror film that famously – or infamously – swept the Oscars. And no, I don’t give two shits in a high wind how people have tried to re-classify it: “psychological drama”, “police procedural”, “intense crime thriller.” Bullshit. When people like Larry Cohen, William Lustig and Abel Ferrara have made similarly-themed films, critics looked so far down their noses at those guys and their work, their condescending eyeballs nearly rolled out of their skulls. But because the film had a high-toned pedigree both in front of and behind the camera, they nearly broke their spines bending over backwards to call it anything else but what it is. And what it will always be to me: a very well-made horror film.

Unless you started cave-dwelling at the top of 1991 and hadn’t emerged until now, you know all about this masterpiece from late, great, extraordinary director JONATHAN DEMME: rookie FBI agent Clarice Starling (a peerless performance by JODIE FOSTER) is given a dog’s dinner of a task. An elusive serial killer by the name of Buffalo Bill, a.k.a. Jame Gumb – who got his nickname from the score of women he’s kidnapped, tortured, killed and then skinned (in that very order, if they were lucky) -is on the loose, and to help try and catch him, Clarice has to consult the one brilliant doctor who might know exactly how to find and stop this madman.

But that’s the catch.  That ‘doctor’ is one Hannibal Lecter (SIR ANTHONY HOPKINS in the role that won him the Oscar), and though his IQ is through the roof, he’s even more insane than Bill. Buffalo Bill skins people. Dr. Lecter eats them.  (Your best, snarky “Jack Sprat” comment goes here.)

And did I mention that this film gives you a “two-fer”? Actually, so much more than that. On one level, you have the battle of wills between Hannibal and Clarice, which also has the underpinnings of a creepy yet fascinating kind of ‘love’ story: Lecter’s keen intellect and spooky proclivity for reading and dissecting people and their minds with a single glance, versus Starling’s quiet, almost unflappable reserve and steely resolve. Then on yet another level, you have the whole woman-trying-to-break-the-glass-ceiling, as she has to endure the usual indignities of surviving and trying to thrive in what is essentially an old boys’ club.

And yet still on a third level, you have the harrowing Buffalo Bill story, as Clarice and the Feds race against time to save his latest victim from becoming part of the ‘skin suit’ he is meticulously sewing together, to…transform? Possess women’s bodies in the most extreme way possible? With someone this crazy, who knows?

Adapted by TED TALLY, from the insanely popular bestseller written by THOMAS HARRIS, to serve as the second part of his “Lecter Trilogy” (beginning with RED DRAGON and ending with the controversial HANNIBAL), this one had it all: legendary cinematographer TAK FUJIMOTO on camera; HOWARD SHORE taking care of the tense and unsettling score, and a supporting cast of aces that included Demme’s old mentor ROGER CORMAN, DIANE BAKER, SCOTT GLENN, CHARLES NAPIER, KASI LEMMONS, FRANKIE FAISON, BROOKE SMITH in a career-defining role as a stubborn victim; ANTHONY HEALD as Hannibal’s doctor, who manages to out-sneer even WILLIAM ATHERTON for the “Completely, Insufferably Smarmy” Award.

And most importantly of all, the “shoulda-been-nominated”-worthy turn by TED LEVINE as Jame/Bill, who gave us the chillingly phenomenal and iconic scene with the killer that was composed almost on the spot by him and Demme, (if you’ve seen the movie even once, you know the scene I’m talking about: “Goodbye Horses.”)

And once you’ve glimpsed this top-notch tale of tension, terror and one of the most nail-biting climactic confrontations ever commended to film, director Michael Mann’s version of ‘Red Dragon,” MANHUNTER – the one that really started it all – is more than worth your time to check out, as well as the lesser but still stunning remake, RED DRAGON; the third movie in the trilogy, HANNIBAL, with JULIANNE MOORE subbing for Foster and genre maven RIDLEY SCOTT directing, and even HANNIBAL RISING, the prequel that attempted to tell Lecter’s back story, with a mixed amount of success.

 

Posted by Samuel Glass in EDITORIALS, FEATURED CONTENT, GORE OR EXTREME HORROR, HALLOWEEN, HORROR HEROES, SLASHERS AND BAD HUMANS, THRILLER, TRIBUTE, 0 comments
HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day Four – 10/04/18

HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day Four – 10/04/18

10/04 – 1990: JACOB’S LADDER

 

I was a pretty big Adrian Lyne fan when JACOB’S LADDER came out. I mean, come on! FOXES, FLASHDANCE, FATAL ATTRACTION, NINE AND A HALF WEEKS.  If anyone had the kind of eccentric visual flair that would translate very well into horror, it would be him. Plus, the script was by BRUCE JOEL RUBIN (BRAINSTORM, GHOST, DEADLY FRIEND). How could I not anticipate this movie?

Well, anticipate it, I did.  And hate it, I did, too (sorry for the “Yoda-isms”). But the strong emotions that it evoked in me and the audience I saw it with – who were about as pissed-off as I was by the ending – may have been Lyne’s intention all along. It just took me a decade or two to realize that. And now I kind of see it in a different light than before, because…why? I can relate to it better, now that time has passed, and I have a bit more life experience under my belt? Maybe.  But enough about me. The movie is what’s important here, and if you’ve never seen it before, it’s one of those where you owe yourself the chance to start it at the very least.  As with any cinema, you can always bail if you’re not into it.

TIM ROBBINS plays Jacob Singer, a Vietnam vet affected by a pretty severe case of a kind of dissociative disorder. In English, that means he has an extreme problem keeping fantasies, nightmares and delusions separated from reality, and that’s if he can keep track of when and where they happened.  Or even if they happened to him at all.

He may be back ‘in country’, but it doesn’t appear that he came back alone, as he is constantly bombarded with horrific visions and images that only he is able to see. He literally brought his demons back from the war with him, and they seem ready to skin him alive…and do things much, much worse than that.

Only two seemingly bright spots in his life give him a reason not to go completely fucking looney tunes: his sympathetic girlfriend, Jezzie (ELIZABETH PENA) and a good friend who’s also his “doctor”, Louis (DANNY AIELLO.)

It seems that the harder Jacob tries to run from the apparitions pursuing him, (in a series of eerily shot, terrifying set-pieces), the more intense and terrifying his experiences become, leading to a climax where…well, I won’t say here, but I will give you a hint: think back to when you studied Ambrose Bierce in high school English. And for you more literate types, that is one helluva huge spoiler.

JACOB’S LADDER was, to my knowledge, my first exposure to the concept of an ‘unreliable narrator’, where the lead character you’re invested in either purposefully, or through no fault of his or her own, are caught up in circumstances that convince you that one thing is happening, until you find out at the end that everything you thought you knew was dead wrong.  Which explained the pissed-off audience.  And little did I know – it wouldn’t be the last time I encountered this kind of thing in a film, especially a horror film.

But overall, Lyne, the cheeky bastard, did a splendid job of mind-fucking his viewers, as he should have, following the Rubin script. And it is pretty much one of Tim Robbins’ best performances.  Not to mention that the striking and disorienting special visual FX were the kind of images that no one had really seen at that time – not outside of a weird MTV video, anyway. Now, it’s par for the course for many horror films, and usually considered “tried-and-true.” Whether or not I think it’s Lyne’s best work is irrelevant now.  When people ask about good horror films with a Vietnam theme, I always mention JACOB’S LADDER in the same breath as Bob Clark’s groundbreaking cult classic, DEATHDREAM, or even “ANTHONY M. DAWSON’S” CANNIBAL APOCALYPSE.

Posted by Samuel Glass in EDITORIALS, FEATURED CONTENT, HALLOWEEN, PARANORMAL, SATANIC/DEMONIC, THRILLER, TRIBUTE, 0 comments
HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day Three – 10/03/18

HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day Three – 10/03/18

10/03 – 1989: PET SEMATARY

It would become a trope that casual and die-hard Stephen King fans would get used to hearing in the years and decades to come: the “unfilmable” story or novel that Hollywood would be hot to splatter onto the big screen.  Novels that King himself said were either “too scary”, “too surreal” ortoo personal”for him to ever consider putting out there as movie fodder. PET SEMATARY was one of those many novels, but not only was it ‘filmable’, but it’s one of

the films that stuck the closest to the source material; maybe even a bit more than CARRIE and CHRISTINE did.

Avant-garde director MARY LAMBERT (SIESTA), working from a script by the Author Himself, (which didn’t hurt the quality one bit), ramped up the dread and the dead in this beloved, spooky tale of a family who moves to a house in Maine that comes with something extra…a backyard to the backyard that contains the local “pet sematary”, where all the furry family members go on their way to the “Rainbow Bridge.” Ah, but it’s what lies beyond that patch of ground, that’s a catalyst for the phantasmaGOREical horrors to come.

The way-too busy highway in front of the house is a guarantee that the ‘sematary’ will have plenty of occupants…but

so will the place where the dead go to…well, to quote the title of another famed King tale, “Sometimes They Come Back.” Only in this particular case, when

they do, they’re not your loved ones anymore, human or animal, and they’re always…hungry.

 

STAR TREK alumni DALE MIDKIFF and DENISE “Tasha Y’ar” CROSBY play parents Louis and Rachel Creed, who move to this picturesque but dangerous part of Maine with their kids, toddler Gage (everyone’s pick for “Best Weird Kid” MIKO HUGHES) and pre-teen Ellie (BLAZE BERDAHL).

A near-tragedy involving Gage (foreshadowing and then some) introduces the Creed family to their kindly old neighbor, Jud Crandall (the late, great FRED GWYNNE), who is the local ‘keeper of secrets’, and is also the link between Louis and the “pet sematary.”

Those who have seen it a thousand times (and at least a few more than that) knows where things are going from here. Those who don’t, and who haven’t read the book? The less you know going in, the better, because the scarier it’s guaranteed to be, if you’re “in the dark” about the finer details.

The cast is perfect; great performances from all concerned parties.  But the greatest nightmare fuel comes from two ‘unknown’ actors who play the apparitions that help give the story it’s scrotum-shriveling chills: BRAD GREENQUIST, who plays a hapless jogger that Louis encounters, and ANDREW HUBATSEK, who goes above and beyond, playing a terrifying figure from Rachel’s past.

As a fiercely sought-after video director who helmed concert and song clips for everyone from Madonna and Janet Jackson to Chris Isaac and Bobby Brown, the strong, at-times ethereal visual sense she has made her a perfect match for King’s script. SEMATARY gave her quite the cinematic ‘sandbox’ to play in, and she clearly took every advantage of it, creating set-pieces so beautifully creepy, that I still get goosebumps just thinking about them.

This is a choice you could never go wrong with for a cloudy, spooky Halloween night. And as the perfect companion piece, may I suggest UNEARTHED AND UNTOLD: THE PATH TO PET SEMATARY? It’s one of the most exhaustive and thorough docs about the ‘making of’ a movie that’s out there.

Oh, and “Post-MORTEM-SCRYPT”: Ready or not, asked for or not, a SEMATARY remake is in the works, with JASON CLARKE (WINCHESTER), AMY SEIMETZ (ALIEN: COVENANT) and JOHN LITHGOW (from a list too long to mention) will be taking over the roles of Louis and Rachel Creed and Jud Crandall, respectively…And before you roll your eyes outta your head at the very notion, check this: KEVIN KOLSCH and DENNIS WIDMEYER (STARRY EYES) are directing, from a script by DAVID KAJGANICH (the SUSPIRIA remake).  That certainly makes me want to give it a fighting chance…

Posted by Samuel Glass in EDITORIALS, FAMILY HORROR, FEATURED CONTENT, HALLOWEEN, MYTHS AND LEGENDS, PARANORMAL, SATANIC/DEMONIC, TRIBUTE, 0 comments
Movie Review: UPGRADE (2018)

Movie Review: UPGRADE (2018)

Even if you’re not familiar with the name (and as a horror fan, you should be), there’s a reason why LEIGH WHANNELL is on everyone’s radar at the moment. As a director/producer/writer/actor, together with frequent producing partner JAMES WAN (who I know you’ve heard of), Whannell’s had a hand in the creation of some of the most successful horror efforts from the last two decades, including the franchises for SAW, INSIDIOUS, THE CONJURING and ANNABELLE, be it in front of or behind the camera. (And in some cases, it’s been both.) So it should come as no surprise whatsoever, that this talented man’s ever-creative brain spat out the concept for the remarkable sci-fi/action/horror thriller, UPGRADE.

Grey Trace (potential Tom Hardy stand-in LOGAN MARSHALL-GREEN from PROMETHEUS, SPIDERMAN: HOMECOMING and DEVIL) isn’t just your everyday, garden-variety Luddite in the not-all-that-distant future. He’s not seeking to ‘destroy the system’ that controls this world, but he sure as hell isn’t going to be a part of it. He listens to gut-bucket blues while he works on restoring ‘analog’-based cars, for very rich people who collect them. But he doesn’t love his cars or his music half as much as his beautiful wife, Asha, (MELANIE VALLEJO), and no, he doesn’t mind at all that she’s the “pants-wearing breadwinner” of the family.  Alas, the ‘happy-life’ set up must end, as they all must for a movie like this to work, and thanks to a malfunction in the cab that’s supposed to be bringing them home, the lovebirds instead end up in a really bad part of Grey’s old ‘hood, where a band of thugs decides to kill Asha, and leave Grey permanently paralyzed instead of dead.

Wouldn’t you know it, though: there’s an app for that. One of the rich people he sold a refurbished car to is a Steve Jobs/Elon Musk-type technological wunderkind named Eron Keen (HARRISON GILBERTSON). Yes, his appearance is foreshadowing that’s about as subtle as a Keith Moon drum solo, and yes, he does turn up again after Grey’s ordeal, to give him a way to walk again, but more than that, a means by which avenging his crippling and his wife’s murder will be a breeze.

That way is a computer chip called ‘STEM,’ but calling it a “computer chip” is like calling Mount Kilimanjaro a molehill. STEM not only helps operate Grey’s damaged central nervous system and thereby his arms, legs and the rest of his body, but it can help him do some pretty incredible things…like, kick the living shit out of bad guys. And then we and Grey soon realize…he’s not the only ‘modified human’ running around out there. And when he’s not looking for them, they are most certainly out to get him!
However, as wondrous technological developments always do in movies like this, STEM is not without its own set of problematic glitches and side effects, and to say anything more than that would reveal some devastating Act Three spoilers, including the most important twist of all in the story, which isn’t ‘early M. Night Shyamalan’-badass, but pretty close.

I don’t know how much training Marshall-Green had in physical conditioning and movement before shooting, but however long and/or grueling it was, the end results were more than worth it.  His performance is incredible, especially the way he defines Grey’s bodily control under STEM’S influence as totally and spell bindingly different than it is under his own steam.  And all without the aid of CG or other special visual effects, save for some dazzling angles that Whannell employs, thanks to the amazing camera work of DP STEFAN DUSCIO, and also in no small part to the stunt team, led by coordinator CHRIS ANDERSON, with stunning fight choreography by CHRIS WEIR.

BENEDICT HARDIE (HACKSAW RIDGE, NEKROTRONIC) makes a great anti-heroic counterpart for Grey as Fisk, the ‘bad guy’ seemingly responsible for everything that happens, though you discover in pretty short order, that his motivations are far beyond those of the kind of average thug-villain who’d usually be playing this role.  I also love the obvious nod to the late Douglas Rain’s voice performance as “HAL 2000” in Kubrick’s “2001”. If there’s any justice in this world, the smooth, even and undeniably creepy tones of SIMON MAIDEN’S “STEM” voice will become just as iconic.

There’s no way to herald anyone on this picture without including the eye-popping work by the makeup FX team here.  The impressive key sequences would have come across so much better if they hadn’t already been ‘spoiled’ in the “Red Band” version of the trailer.  Even having said that, they’re still amazing as hell when you see them in context.

There aren’t a whole lot of complaints I have about this one, but there is one aspect that bears mentioning: I know the previews sell this as a testosterone-fueled, dystopian thrill ride for the ‘dudes’, and yeah, I’ll admit that was part of the allure for me. But that also means the female characters get short shrift…again. The death of Grey’s wife, Asha, pretty much propels the entire plot into motion, although Vallejo gets to do little more than look pretty…even when her character is dying.

I can understand the casting of BETTY GABRIEL as Det. Cortez, the cop who begins to realize there’s more to her ‘crippled’ suspect than meets the eye.  Between her spellbinding performance in Jordan Peele’s GET OUT, plus her growing resume of appearances in other genre movies like UNFRIENDED: DARK WEB and THE PURGE: ELECTION YEAR, she’s quickly becoming the next “IT-Girl” for horror and sci-fi fans. But I really wished they’d given her more to do because hers is the kind of character you want to know more about. The antagonistic-yet-empathetic relationship between her and Grey could have been developed much more extensively than it was.

The one place where the minimal development of female characters works comes about, when at a crucial moment in the story, Grey hooks up with a mysterious uber-hacker named “Jamie” (KAI BRADLEY). In their scene together, which probably is all of about three minutes in length, we are completely captivated by her, not just because of the interesting aura she projects, thanks to Bradley’s performance, but because of several things she says to Grey and about him, throwing hints out there about what’s going on – there’s more to this story than we think there is, Jamie warns us. And that has me looking forward to a sequel, which I hope Whannell intended. Which I also hope includes Jamie’s return.

I’m glad that my concerns about Whannell were completely groundless. Though I’ve enjoyed his work as both an actor and a filmmaker, I was wondering if he considered his niche to be splitting time between the writer’s room, producer’s desk, and acting. UPGRADE is only his second film where he took over the director’s chair (his first time was in 2015 with INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 3), but if UPGRADE is any indication of where he’s going with his creative knack, I’m looking forward to the UPGRADE sequel…or wherever he decides to go next. Count me in! And please accept four out of five bone-crushing stars of gratitude!

Posted by Samuel Glass in GORE OR EXTREME HORROR, MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, SCI-FI HORROR, THRILLER, URBAN DECAY/DYSTOPIAN FUTURES, 0 comments