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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
HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day Two – 10/02/18

HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day Two – 10/02/18

10/02 – 1988: THE VANISHING

It was another banner year for horror aficionados, in which several strong sequels took their bow and launched mainstay franchises, including PHANTASM II and HELLBOUND: HELLRAISER 2. In fact, British director Bernard Rose, who would go on to direct one of the most celebrated movies based on Clive Barker’s work, CANDYMAN, took his bow in the genre with the wildly imaginative and deeply unsettling PAPERHOUSE.


But it was late Dutch director GEORGE SLUIZER, who would deliver the most shattering blow to audience sensibilities, with his unforgettable psychological chiller, THE VANISHING. And he achieved it without spilling a single drop of blood on-screen.

The chilling story begins with a road trip, during which a bickering couple, Rex (GENE BERVOETS) and Saskia (JOHANNA TER STEEGE), take a break from the snarking and sniping to stop at a gas station convenience store, at a point where it seems that their argument might be on the verge of some kind of positive resolution. But then Saskia goes into the store for drinks…and never returns.

Years pass after Saskia’s disappearance, but Rex has managed to do everything except let it go. Then, a mysterious man named Raymond Lemorne (BERNARD-PIERRE DONNADIEU) introduces himself, and intimates to Rex that he knows exactly what happened to her. But if Rex wants to find out what happened to his former lady love, he can’t ask any questions…Raymond insists that he must trust him, and just do whatever he says, in order to finally have the answer he’s been seeking.

Sounds absolutely fucking nuts, doesn’t it? Wait until you see the ending.

THE VANISHING has rightfully gained more stature, respect and a devoted following since its release than most films deemed “arthouse fare.” Sluizer “out-Hitchcocked” Hitchcock with this one. The script does such a brilliant job with its exploration of loss, grief, obsession and the frighteningly banal face that true evil can wear, that you don’t even realize that it’s in a different language (the subtitles are there, but you may be too busy cringing at that notorious ending to notice.) A psychological suspense classic that fans will hopefully continue to discover and re-discover for many, many more years to come.

Posted by Samuel Glass in EDITORIALS, FEATURED CONTENT, HALLOWEEN, SLASHERS AND BAD HUMANS, THRILLER, TRIBUTE, 0 comments
HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Intro And Day One – 10/01/18

HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Intro And Day One – 10/01/18

As long as there have been movies, and as long as there have been Halloweens, Hollywood and the independent denizens who scrape and scrounge outside of the system, have been more than happy to exploit the holiday, by presenting crowd-pleasing, creepy creations of the killing kind. The offerings have been as diverse and diabolical as anything the human mind has been capable of whipping up, and for this particular occasion, HOUSE OF TORTURED SOULS – and Yours Cruelly – have devised a diversion of devilish delights just for you, dear readers!

Starting today, and for the days to come, we dug back into the dusty archives, going back THIRTY-ONE YEARS, and will be presenting to you, reviews of films that served as “fright fulfillment” for the spookiest night of each.

Hopefully, no one’s going to feel insulted or that I’m being condescending, but I’m going to talk about each one of these as if none of you readers have ever seen or heard of these before and at thirty-one years and counting, believe it – there are quite a few of you who have not.

I’ve relied on IMDb.com for the suggestions here, but I made each selection in terms of what film I found meant THE MOST to me for that year. That will make it easier, even though some time periods made it a lot harder to choose than others!

10/01 – 1987: HELLRAISER


In a year that was literally ‘an embarrassment of riches’ for die-hard horror fans, which saw the release of EVIL DEAD 2, THE LOST BOYS, THE HIDDEN, ANGEL HEART, NEAR DARK and PREDATOR, choosing the best film would seem like a daunting and impossible task. Filmmakers were transcending boundaries, going deeper into imaginative scenarios. There seemed to be no limit to what could be done to refresh what audiences recognized as the “tried-and-true” stories that were quickly  becoming established horror tropes, but it was writer/actor/artist/poet CLIVE BARKER, who struck out to give fans something totally new: a vision of horror not seen before in any previous effort. But HELLRAISER would certainly become highly influential for many, many years to come.

So here’s the skinny on HELLRAISER in a nutshell…think of it as a more arty, intimate version of THE GATES OF HELL, THE DEVIL’S RAIN or THE BEYOND.  Based on the Barker novella, “The Hellbound Heart,” it’s the heart-freezing story of the Cotton family: stepmonster Julia (CLARE HIGGINS), husband Larry (ANDREW ROBINSON) and daughter Kirsty (ASHLEY LAURENCE) and the house they’ve just moved into.

Nobody knows that Julia was seeing Larry’s brother, Frank (SEAN CHAPMAN) on the side, but that would be the  least of their worries even if they did know. Frank was into some pretty intense, weird occult shit, which included a certain ornate Chinese puzzle box, that once solved, opens the doors to Hell and summons a group of demonic entities known as the Cenobites – devotees of a brand of eternal torture and suffering undreamt of by mortal men…well, most of them.

In any case, Frank didn’t just solve the damn thing, but he did it in this very house.  And now, having suffered a fate worse than death, he’s looking for a way – any way – to escape.
Enter Julia. She loves (well, actually more lusts after) the disappeared Frank as much as she loathes mealy-mouthed Larry, but that’s not the point. The point would be that there’s not a lot that she wouldn’t do to have her lover back, as she discovers when a drop of blood on the floor of the room where Frank was taken, begins to bring him back to earthly life (and the special effects are something you’ve got to see to believe, courtesy of a crack English FX team, lead by legends BOB KEEN and GEOFF PORTASS).

Things begin to get really complicated, when Kirsty stumbles over what they’re up to, and she decides to strike her own deal with the satanic emissaries, to stop Julia and hopefully save her father.  The rest of the movie is devoted to revealing whether or not she’s successful.  Not saying this is a spoiler, people, but there are about a half-dozen HELLRAISER sequels now at the very least, so you can pretty much figure out the answer to that one.

Up to that time, no one had seen anything like HELLRAISER, and it would raise the bar for so many horror films to come, not just in the occult sub-category of horror, but horror in general. Barker really let his art school roots show with this one, as the creature designs, the amazing, atmospheric photography by ROBIN VIDGEON, and CHRISTOPHER YOUNG’S dark, chilling score combined to complete a vision that could only belong to him, and was introduced by the cult favorite “Books Of Blood” (also destined to provide some other film adaptations, none of them as much of a hallmark as this.)

The unforgettable roles portrayed by acting vets Robinson, Higgins and Chapman and the then-‘unknown’ Laurence made a lasting impression upon the young minds of blossoming horror fans and seasoned horrorphiles alike, but it was DOUG BRADLEY, BARBIE WILDE, NICHOLAS BURMAN-VINCE and SIMON BAMFORD, once relative unknowns to mainstream moviegoing audiences, who all became household names as the “angels to some, demons to others”, the S&M-by-way-of-Bosch infused Cenobites – a mouth-watering future challenge to cosplayers everywhere.

Posted by Samuel Glass in EDITORIALS, FEATURED CONTENT, HALLOWEEN, HORROR HEROES, MONSTERS AND CREATURES, MYTHS AND LEGENDS, PARANORMAL, SATANIC/DEMONIC, SLASHERS AND BAD HUMANS, TRIBUTE, 0 comments
MOVIE REVIEW: American Guinea Pig: Bloodshock (2015)

MOVIE REVIEW: American Guinea Pig: Bloodshock (2015)

American Guinea Pig: Bloodshock (2015) / Fair use doctrine.American Guinea Pig: Bloodshock is the second installment in the American Guinea Pig film series, a tribute to the original Japanese Guinea Pig film series started by Hideshi Hino. Bloodshock is directed by special effects guru Marcus Koch and written by Unearthed Films’ CEO Stephen Biro.

American Guinea Pig: Bloodshock is a black and white arthouse extreme horror film with a run time of an hour and thirty-eight minutes. It follows two patients, Male Patient (Dan Ellis) and Female Patient (Lillian McKinney), who are captured by a deranged doctor and subjected to extreme torture. The doctor also collects their blood during the experiments for his own personal use to get high. This is a very bleak and disturbing film, and you’ll find the patients exchanging nihilistic notes between the padded walls.

American Guinea Pig: Bloodshock (2015) / Fair use doctrine.Even though the majority of this film is in black and white, the gore is still extremely graphic. Some scenes include pulling out teeth with pliers, using a wire to saw bone, getting punched repeatedly in the face, and being cut all over. Hats off too OddtopsyFX for the incredible special effects as it all looks and feels real. The atmosphere is another memorable part of Bloodshock, and throughout the whole film, you experience a dark, hopeless feeling. The cinematography is well done with lots of close-ups on the shocking imagery. The soundtrack also plays a huge role with its ambient noise sounds at all the perfect moments. My favorite and most memorable part is the ending.

Spoiler
The End
American Guinea Pig: Bloodshock (2015) / Fair use doctrine.They end up taking revenge on the doctor and start having sex with each other covered in blood while ripping each other's wounds open creating more carnage — all while it changes from black and white into color.

American Guinea Pig: Bloodshock (2015) / Fair use doctrine.It's an extremely beautiful and mesmerizing scene. It's one you have to see to believe, and it will definitely keep all the gorehounds satisfied.

Overall Bloodshock is a refreshing second entry to The American Guinea Pig series, its something more than just a torture porn flick because there's a lot of heart and feeling behind it. If you haven't seen American Guinea Pig: Bloodshock, I highly recommend it as well as the other three films — Bouquet of Guts and Gore, Sacrifice, and The Song of Solomon — in the American Guinea Pig series.

Posted by Jazmin Peters in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
HoTS EXCLUSIVE: Nightmares Unleashed (2018) – A Short Film with Lots of Talent

HoTS EXCLUSIVE: Nightmares Unleashed (2018) – A Short Film with Lots of Talent

Creeper Film Fest: Nightmares Unleashed (2018) / Fair use doctrine.In high school, I took a communications class. Growing up, my concept of what filmmaking was was almost an Orson Welles level of perfection, not accepting anything less. We were just teens in high school writing goofy scripts and shooting films with expensive cameras and editing tools. Believe me, I wish I knew back then what I know now. It wasn’t easy at times sitting in the editing room hearing and watching the same footage repeatedly, but it was all worth it and, honestly, it’s such an adrenaline rush. Believe me. Therefore, most directors go to the premieres or screenings incognito focusing on the reactions of the audience instead of the premiere. They see what works, what doesn’t work, and who laughed at what part.

Creeper Film Fest: Nightmares Unleashed (2018) / Fair use doctrine.Creeper Film Fest: Nightmares Unleashed (2018) / Fair use doctrine.

Creeper Film Fest: Nightmares Unleashed (2018) / Fair use doctrine.I heard about an upcoming local film festival in my town called Creeper Film Fest. Working for House of Tortured Souls, I do my best to attend as many cons, expos, and film releases — even the local stuff — to get exclusive info, exclusive showings, or just meet some nice people. Recently, I talked to award-winning director Matthew Mark Hunter from MMH productions. We had a nice talk about his upcoming movie Nightmares Unleashed, and I explained that I’ll do my best to make it to the screening and review his movie. He was nice enough to send me a link to the movie, and I finally got time to watch it, so here’s my honest and fair review. After years of learning the craft and wearing others’ shoes, I learned to see their movie from their vision or their heart from their vision.

Creeper Film Fest: Nightmares Unleashed (2018) / Fair use doctrine.Nightmares Unleashed is a short film and runs just under 15 minutes. It doesn’t need a whole lot of time to get to the point, but it does a great job getting there. Some would say, “Oh, you used cheap FX and cheap tactics”, and, sure, you can say that if a film has a huge budget but cuts corners. Instead, Matthew uses some great practical and effective ways of getting shots and FX for his movie. The official plot is as follows:

A young girl loves watching horror films but always gets nightmares from them. She gets grabbed into the TV one night and must escape her worst nightmares through the movies.
As I stated before, Matthew didn’t have a big budget, doesn’t have movie stars, and doesn’t even have a huge crew. Nightmares Unleased is all guerilla filmmaking with a lot of heart from friends and family.

Creeper Film Fest: Nightmares Unleashed (2018) / Fair use doctrine.Another piece of info he was glad to share was that he tried to make the film as real as possible, so the worms from the worm zombie’s (Chris Wiggins) mouth, are real worms. That’s right. He had real worms put in his mouth. That’s hardcore! And that’s the level of dedication this movie gives to the audience.Matthew also revealed that all the tools on and around the workbench are real, so our corpse (John Polace) had real saws and knives hanging above him. Matthew further told me:

Creeper Film Fest: Nightmares Unleashed (2018) / Fair use doctrine.When the little actress (Autumn Johnson) first saw the Joseph makeup — she was always scared of — clowns, so when we did the scene of Joseph the Jester (Matthew Mark Hunter) jumping out of the closet the first time, she got really freaked out.

Creeper Film Fest: Nightmares Unleashed (2018) / Fair use doctrine.I didn’t see the movie as a cheap, low budget, amateur movie effort. Instead, I saw this as a film done by a director who’s going out and doing what he loves best: making movies. So, if you get a chance check out Nightmares Unleashed, do so. And check out other Indie films and filmmakers. Talk to them, and if they ever start a go fund me, donate. Believe it or not, even your favorite filmmakers were once like Matthew, out in his backyard and making a film with heart and soul and with friends and family.

Polace had real worms in his mouth. Worms. That’s hardcore and, honestly, that’s the level of dedication this movie gives to the audience!

Creeper Film Fest: Nightmares Unleashed (2018) / Fair use doctrine.

Posted by Jai Alexis in HORROR NEWS, MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
RETRO REVIEW: Slugs (1988)

RETRO REVIEW: Slugs (1988)

Enter the nightmare-fueled world of the 1988 Spanish American film Slugs (aka La Muerte Viscosa), directed by Juan Piquer Simón.

Wrong Mike Brady in Slugs (1988) / Fair use doctrine.

No. Not THAT Mike Brady.

Slugs is a film about people who are dying mysteriously and gruesomely, and nobody has a clue what the cause is. Only health worker Mike Brady has a possible solution, but his theory of killer slugs is laughed at by the authorities. Only when the body count begins to rise and a slug expert from England begins snooping around, does it begin to look like Mike had the right idea all along!

First things first! I was left calling out ‘Poor Mike’ at my screen as no one wanted to believe him, despite the mountain of evidence.

We are introduced to a simple small town and a series of disastrous deaths – let’s just say in one particular scene the householder is demonstrating an ‘explosive’ personality. We meet our large slimy villains who bite.

Slugs (1988) / Fair use doctrine.It was after the first death I wondered why no one considered throwing salt on that slug bastard and just being done with it?? Yet these SAVAGE beasts (yes I am using savage jokingly, as the slugs are not at all menacing) avoid an easy eradication. An ingested slug provides some tense “will he or won’t he” moments and some hilarious results, including a dissolving face (which authorities claim is some form of food poisoning – Hmmmm guess we better not eat there again??). It is probably one of the highlights of the film in a combination of “WOW” and “EEEWWW” .

There is no shortness of scantily clad people, sexually charged moments, or comedic love scenes, but they are often halted by the slugs. In fact, the whole film is a hilarious romp of insane proportions and has some of the daftest, most dated dialogue.

Slugs (1988) / Fair use doctrine.Don Palmer is Mike’s only hope for spreading the word on this plague of slugs. This is a much better choice than our ‘English expert’.

The acting in this film is just so awful to watch, but the hilarity of the deaths and the storyline itself kept me watching. I won’t bother naming the actors as that really won’t entice you into wanting to watch it, but I will say it is fun enough.

I will also add however one star really did shine. The most talented member of the cast that displayed the most talent was of course …..the slugs!!!! So, well done, our slimy friends the slugs!

This film will ultimately leave you feeling SLUGGISH (sorry I had to get one bad pun in there) but is actually a really fun watch, despite the cheese factor.

A must-see for any fan of horror, at least once.

Posted by Michelle MIDI Sayles in MONSTERS AND CREATURES, MOVIE REVIEWS, NATURE STRIKES BACK, REVIEWS, 0 comments
INTERVIEW: Writer/Director/Actor Joe Meredith

INTERVIEW: Writer/Director/Actor Joe Meredith

Joe Meredith's Teratomorph - Coming Soon / Fair use doctrine.After watching the short film South Mill District by Joe Meredith, I said to myself, “Holy shit! That was awesome and why aren’t more people talking about this guy?” If I was capable of and ever wanted to make a film, this is what I would aspire to make. Luckily for me, Joe is a super nice guy and was willing to chat with me about the making of his first film and his upcoming sequel Teratomorph.

House of Tortured Souls: Thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview with me and discuss your films. Where did you get the idea for South Mill District? It’s a huge and detailed plot. Was it something you had been formulating for years?
Joe Meredith: It’s actually a continuation of a narrative world I developed as a kid and into my teen years. All of the things like the “alien war” that the character Drennan talks about in the movie actually exist in a shoebox I have under my bed that has comics and sketches and short stories and things I did over a period of years. Recently, I noticed that elements from those stories have been creeping back into my drawings and newer writings, so when I got the nerve up to make a movie, I decided to make it a return to that old saga, which is why the movie is probably really confusing to a lot of people because it has this detailed backstory that nobody really knows but me.

HoTS: I loved the use of lighting in the film and the camera work was so crisp. Did you go to film school?
JM: I never went to film school. I used to make short movies with friends growing up. As a kid, I always had a camera, and no matter how ridiculous the movie ideas were, I was always serious about it. The lighting in South Mill District was all about separating it from a realistic look and making it more like a comic book or cartoon, where the colors in the lighting provided the atmosphere.

HoTS: The FX and gore were also really fun. I especially liked the scene where Cidney Meredith pukes up her intestines. Was it weird “killing” your wife on camera even though you knew it was fake?
JM: I owe it to her for encouraging me to step back into filmmaking after many years of not wanting to do it. She was a trooper about some of the gross things she had to endure, and if I had a director’s cut released, you would see that she went even more savage than throwing up intestines. It was all a process of getting the scene right, so I never felt a moral dilemma from her death sequence. There were probably some moments of anxiety for her, but with me, she was always safe doing whatever scene needed to be done. The more realistic gore FX like the intestines and the heads that the spiders crawl on were all created by James Bell, whose own movies were a huge influence for me to make movies again.

HoTS: The creatures and spiders were the best part of this film by far. Did you make them all yourself? I also loved the stop-motion technique used but have heard it’s a long and slow process. How did you find it?
JM: I made all of the stop-motion puppets myself, and then James Bell created the human gore FX. The alien creature suit used at the end of the movie was made by Toby Johansen. As a kid, I did stop motion videos with action figures. It was much easier to do it with a video camera than the way I did with South Mill District, which was with photographs. The stop-motion could’ve been better, and technically, I didn’t do it the “right” way, but I think it worked for what was needed. The spiders were definitely supposed to be a focal point for South Mill District, and then its sequel is more about the mutations caused by the infectious venom of the spiders.

HoTS: You’re a fantastic artist, and fans of Phil Stevens will recognize your work on the covers of his films. Do you sell your work or have any plans to in the future?
JM: Thank you. I knew Phil as an artist-illustrator himself before I even knew he was a filmmaker, and we started out gushing over each other’s illustrations, so when he wanted me to do art for his movies, I was really enthusiastic to do it. I don’t sell art usually, but I will at some point soon.

HoTS: I actually learned about South Mill District after seeing posts about its sequel Teratomorph. There has been a lot of hype in the Indie community about it. What can you tell us about it?
JM: Teratomorph is a sequel, but it can also stand alone. It takes place in a more rural area outside of the South Mill District and shows an evolution of the alien virus caused by the spiders. It stars my 8-year-old son Elijah, who plays as a vagrant kid who is infected by the virus, and its effects are unique in comparison to what was seen in South Mill District. It has some creatures that I hope are going to be really cool for people who are fans of creature movies.

HoTS: what’s the hardest part of being an Indie film director for you? Why did you choose to go into such a difficult field?
JM: Mostly just working from nothing is the hardest part, but then again that’s not so fair to say because I have friends and talented people who are all willing to contribute to my projects in any way they can. And that’s something I’m very grateful for. I love creating things. I don’t think I’ve chosen filmmaking as the ultimate means of making things. It’s just a cool outlet I have to work with.

HoTS: Do you have any plans in the future to make feature-length films? Or will you continue to make more shorts?
JM: Yeah, I think I’ll do a feature at some point, especially if I have an idea that I can’t resist turning in to a feature film. And I know I’ll also continue short films as long as I think maybe it’s something other people haven’t seen before.

Art by Joe Meredith / Image: Joe MeredithHoTS: You have such a unique style. What films and directors have inspired you?
JM: I’d have to say among my picks for greatest movies of all time are John Carpenter’s The Thing and James Cameron’s Aliens. Cronenberg’s The Fly is also up there in the greats for me. Video games like Resident Evil also fuel ideas for me. James Bell is an outstanding filmmaker in the Indie realm, and his movies are something I hold in high esteem because the vision he presents is something truly individual. And any other movies that explore surreal ideas are a plus for me. That’s actually a hard question because I could go on and on about all the movies and directors that have blown my mind.

HoTS: Where can people buy your films and when can we expect to see Teratomorph?
JM: Teratomorph will be done soon. I think it could be available by the year’s end if not early in 2019. South Mill District is gonna be available again soon, and Teratomorph will also be available in the same place which is at http://joemeredithart.storenvy.com.

HoTS: Thank you again for agreeing to do this interview! I really enjoyed your answers and look forward to what I expect will be great things from you.

Posted by Candace Stone in INTERVIEWS, 0 comments
MOVIE REVIEW: Cannibal Ferox (aka Make Them Die Slowly) (1981)

MOVIE REVIEW: Cannibal Ferox (aka Make Them Die Slowly) (1981)

Cannibal Ferox (1981) / Fair use doctrine.Any horror fan worth their weight in shrunken heads, has at least heard of Italian director Ruggero Deodato’s infamous carnival of cannibal carnage, Cannibal Holocaust, and how its notoriety set off a mini-explosion of cannibal knock-offs during that same period. Not to be bested, City of the Living Dead helmer Umberto Lenzi wanted to see if he could equal, if not top Deodato’s, claim to ‘fame’, and the result was a nearly identical ‘homage’ to Cannibal Holocaust, Cannibal Ferox (retitled under numerous names as most films of the period were but recognized mostly under the alternative Make Them Die Slowly).

Cannibal Ferox (1981) / Fair use doctrine.You’ve got to hand it to the Italians; when it comes to mixing and matching hybrids, they go for broke, which makes for some of the goofiest, most unexpected plot twists and turns you’ve ever seen! Not content to simply settle for Cannibal Holocaust’s scenario of having ‘students’ going into the Amazonian wilds for anthropological reasons, Lenzi begins his screenplay as…wait for it…A CRIME THRILLER.

The story immediately starts off with a bait-and-switch, with a guy who we think will be a major character, until he’s promptly murdered by two goons in a New York apartment. Turns out they’re looking for a guy named Mike, who swindled them out of a lot of money, and unfortunately for him, they didn’t believe he had no idea where Mike was.

Cannibal Ferox (1981) / Fair use doctrine.Enter the cops, as the murder case is headed up by Lt. Rizzo (Robert Kerman) and Sgt. Ross (Venantino Venantini). If Rizzo looks familiar, he should. Kerman also appeared in Deodato’s Cannibal Holocaust, underscoring the intentional similarities in the two pictures. But just wait…Lenzi encroaching on Cannibal Holocaust’s turf doesn’t stop there!

Cannibal Ferox (1981) / Fair use doctrine.Cut to: somewhere near Bogota, Colombia. (Yeah, the transition is just that abrupt – get used to it!) Gloria Davis (Lorraine De Selle) has come here with her brother Rudy (Danilo Mattei aka Bryan Redford) and her best friend, the model/actress/free-spirit Pat Johnson (Zora Kerova), for something of a dual purpose. It’s for an adventure in the Amazon, sure, but Gloria is also a student of anthropology (shades of Cannibal Holocaust!), who is here to work on a dissertation that will disprove the entire concept of cannibalism and expose it as a myth created by colonialists who wanted to paint indigenous tribes as some kind of evil threat to more “civilized” people and, therefore, justify their extermination.

Cannibal Ferox (1981) / Fair use doctrine.It takes a while for the fun to begin— nearly the entire first act — as Gloria, Rudy, and Pat eventually make their way down the Amazon River and begin their trek into the jungle to find the village that is the center of Gloria’s intended research. The usual ‘antics’ take place along the way: a cute little — lemur? Anteater? I’m not sure what the hell it was, but it was given to Pat by a native on the boat trip— is horrifically crushed to death by an anaconda (and probably eaten later, off-camera); the jeep gets stuck; and they wind up having to make their way to the location on foot.

Cannibal Ferox (1981) / Fair use doctrine.Dying screams of agony lead them to a clearing where they find the slashed and impaled bodies of another native man and woman, and wouldn’t you know it — here’s where our intrepid heroes run into…MIKE! As in the “Mike” everyone’s looking for back in NYC. Mike Logan (Giovanni Lombardo Radice, the iconic star of such Lenzi hits as House on the Edge of the Park and City of the Living Dead, billed here as John Morghen) runs into them with his wounded buddy, Joe Costolani (Walter Lucchini aka Walter Lloyd) in tow.

Cannibal Ferox (1981) / Fair use doctrine.When questioned by Rudy about what happened to them and the two dead bodies, Joe recounts a fantastic tale of looking to score some “really good shit” down here, when they ran afoul of a native tribe that enjoys snacking…on humans. He and Joe barely make it out alive, blah, blah, blah, yadda, yadda, yadda. Having seen enough of these, it’s not hard for the audience to see from the jump that Mike is more full of shit than a livestock farm. Pat, however, is immediately intrigued. (I guess you know where THAT’S going.)

Cannibal Ferox (1981) / Fair use doctrine.The now-enlarged group of five finally does make it to Gloria’s village, but for the most part, they find it nearly deserted, save for a bunch of elderly indigenous men, some women, and a few kids…none of the young men around whatsoever. And things are just about to get a lot stranger…and dangerously awkward.

Cannibal Ferox (1981) / Fair use doctrine.Cannibal Ferox (1981) / Fair use doctrine.

It takes a good little while to get to the “making them die slowly” part, but remember: it’s not about the destination, but the JOURNEY. Mike turns out to be an even bigger asshole than any of them realized, and it’s his actions that bring about the gruesome retribution from the natives, well-deserved or not. And unlike the jaw-droppingly realistic effects of, say, The Green Inferno, the practical and visual work here may elicit more giggles than screams from viewers since a 21st Century audience can’t help but notice how painfully “primitive” the bloodletting is. (Though it was probably anything but for moviegoers of that time period.)

The same thing that has many overly sensitive horror fans concerned about Cannibal Holocaust is present in Cannibal Ferox: the real-time, on-camera killing of animals. The anteater-thing that was Pat’s pet, as well as a large turtle that the natives dismember and eat ‘au naturel’, will probably be more of a turn-off to some than what happens to the humans. Yes, the anaconda sequence seems especially cruel, as it feels more like something set up intentionally by Lenzi in order to get some exploitative footage.

Cannibal Ferox (1981) / Fair use doctrine.But to be completely realistic about it, anyone who’s seen a nature documentary has witnessed everything you’ll see here in the way of animal deaths and worse. The butchering and consumption of the turtle are so matter-of-fact, you can pretty much tell that it wasn’t the first time the tribe had consumed such a meal and probably wouldn’t be the last. Yes, it’s questionable that something so unsettling should have been used as the basis for entertainment, but it’s a bit hypocritical to dwell on this as an issue if you’re going out after the movie for a Wendy’s Triple if you get my drift.

But back to the movie. The NYC/Amazon scenario split keeps you wondering if it’s all going to come together eventually in a way that makes any kind of sense, and I guess it does at the climax.

Cannibal Ferox (1981) / Fair use doctrine.Whether or not Cannibal Ferox one-ups its Cannibal Holocaust predecessor is up for you, the viewer to decide. For my taste, it’s just way too close to call. The very “Seventies” message that the violent nature of “civilized” man is contagious seems rather quaint now, or way too obvious to take seriously from a film that — let’s face it — hasn’t aged very well. As expected, the scenery chewing and horrendous English dubbing job are present as usual, though no one can ever say the cast wasn’t up to Lenzi’s demands. Everyone gives their best, and Radice is especially hissable as the amoral Mike.

Cannibal Ferox (1981) / Fair use doctrine.As for the direction, Lenzi is very similar to his contemporaries — Lucio Fulci, Dario Argento, Lamberto Bava, etc.— in the way that nothing ever stands between him and telling the story. Crappy acting, substandard special effects, iffy locations, hiccups in photography and/or editing — none of it matters. You may scream, cry, puke, be repulsed or tickled pink…entertainment is the main objective, and there’s no way that anyone into the human fast-food sub-genre WON’T be completely captivated. And there’s something to admire in that determination and sense of commitment — even if it’s only good enough for grindhouses and drive-ins.

For never being boring and maintaining its promise of off-beat entertainment at the very least, Cannibal Ferox gets two-and-a-half leg-gnawing stars out of five.

Posted by Samuel Glass in GORE OR EXTREME HORROR, MOVIE REVIEWS, SLASHERS AND BAD HUMANS, 0 comments
BOOK REVIEW: Chris Sun’s ED (2016)

BOOK REVIEW: Chris Sun’s ED (2016)

Exploring the novel ED
by Chris Sun

Chris Sun is known for his work in Australia as one of the leading local filmmakers. His films reach as many fans in the independent horror circuit worldwide, as those of the likes of popular Australian filmmaker Greg McLeanChris has created various independent films and is known for his hit Charlie’s Farm (2014), Daddy’s Little Girl(2015), and the upcoming November 23rd release at Melbourne’s Monster Fest, front-runner BOAR (2017). ED marks Chris’ debut novel and is available for purchase directly from Slaughter FX, along with Chris’ films.
Charlie's Farm (2014) / Fair use doctrine.Daddy's Little Girl (2012) / Fair use doctrine.Boar (2017) / Fair use doctrine.

This is my first review of a horror novel, but once I finally began to read Chris Sun’s ED, I was immediately immersed in the seedy strip club, creative body horror, and sexualized world of Sun’s forward-talking serial killer lead.

In ED, we meet Larry Penklesten, a cocky, self-assured, and handsome car salesman with an incredibly dark and secret world of his own. When Larry isn’t out getting quite literally fucked (or fucking someone) royal, he’s trolling for his next victim. That is because Larry thinks the ghost of the Butcher of Plainfield himself, Ed Gein, visits him and mentors him through his murderous blood lust. Larry has (as described feverishly) a really big cock, that is able to magically pleasure any woman willing to ride it!

The language and atmosphere Sun carves out in those sexual scenes, are enough to make a girl’s thighs sweat with desire. Each sexual encounter is written so vividly that every thrust and gasp of orgasmic pleasure is palpable. The scene between Larry and Evie in a strip club bathroom is imprinted in my mind days after finishing the novel (pages 245-249 for anyone interested). Larry is also great at his job, which creates a desirability within his work place with both males and females on varied levels.

Ed (2016) / Fair use doctrine.We know that Larry loves the ladies, but ultimately Larry loves to fuck and kill so much more. His differing styles and attitudes toward each victim he mutilates made me recoil in both shock and awe. Throughout the novel, Larry kills a series of prostitutes and strippers, or people looking for gay or even group sex in online forums. He selects his victims carefully either online or in person at strip clubs, bars or on the street, and he likes to murder and dismember his victims.

Sun’s careful use of language creates a vivid picture of Larry’s playful rearranging of the bodies as he intriguingly turns humans into various items of furniture. The descriptive prose and first-person narrative Sun employs — through Larry’s eyes — helped me to feel in tune with Larry’s behavior. The reader is immersed in the scene and assaulted by the sights, smells, and visuals of the world that Sun creates, and we are lost within it all.

The reader feels each knife stab, each stitch threaded, each bone crunch; in a dramatic flair, many horror readers are accustomed to when reading books by the largely published writers.

I loved how Sun investigated Larry’s mental instability through his urges.

The scenes with his victims’ ghosts all verbally abusing him in his car was another of the more memorable for me (very An American Werewolf in London) and his interactions with Ed’s ‘ghost’ are just at times hilarious.

The novel’s climax is told through two stories. I will try not go into too much detail to avoid spoiling the read for anyone who purchases ED. as all HoTAs fans know, I am not a fan of spoilers.

Ed (2016) / Fair use doctrine.The first story twists theperspective we have followed all along, switching the core narrative in a strange fashion and varying the events we have witnessed unfolding thus far. This is a technique I have seen before, and although somewhat confusing at first, it became an interesting moment in the book.

The second follows on from the twisted core narrative and draws us back into the original concepts, making us feel Larry’s harrowing anxiety and panic as a wave of confusion floods him. It takes a moment to find itself again, but once it plants its feet firmly in the ground, we are left with many questions regarding a possibility of a continuation to ED.

The open-ended finale was a great turn of events, and I happily await a possible second book…..or will ED become the next written version of an icon like Jason Voorhees, Hannibal Lector, or Victor Crowley? Or even Chris Sun’s next cinematic adventure?

If you enjoy a very Norman Bates-meets-Patrick Bateman style of story, I think ED is a must have for your bookshelf.

Posted by Michelle MIDI Sayles in BOOKS, COMICS, AND PUBLICATION REVIEWS, REVIEWS, SLASHERS AND BAD HUMANS, STAFF PICKS, 0 comments
MOVIE REVIEW: Mandy (2018)

MOVIE REVIEW: Mandy (2018)

You came, I saw, and I love you

In Mandy, Nic Cage takes revenge on a crazy religious cult in the woods with a homemade battle ax. STOP DRILLING YOU HIT OIL! That’s pretty much what sold me on the plot for Mandy, the second film by director Panos Cosmatos whose first film was Beyond The Black Rainbow (2010). Set in 1983, Red Miller (Nicholas Cage) goes after a religious cult that brutally murdered his wife Mandy (Andrea Riseborough). If you have seen his first film, you know what to expect in this; if not, then fair warning — watch the movie with an open mind. Although the film plays out like an 80s-themed slasher movie, it’s almost far from it. Let’s examine this movie further.

Mandy (2018) / Fair use doctrine.

Although set in the 80s, it doesn’t have an 80s soundtrack with well-known music. There is a synthesizer, though, along with a Friday the 13th reference to Crystal Lake from Mandy (Andrea Riseborough of such works as Hidden (2015), Waco (2018) (TV mini-series), and Black Mirror (2017) (TV series)). Admittedly there is a real Crystal Lake, Nic Cage himself said that he drew inspiration for his character from Jason Voorhees, so perhaps he wants to give that nod since his character evolved in the woods.

Mandy (2018) / Fair use doctrine.As may be obvious, Mandy is not like any other Nicholas Cage film. From the picture of Cage all bloody and glimpses in the trailer, one would expect a cheesy B horror movie with over the top gore and one-liners. Not at all! The film plays out like a heavy metal live action movie, and at times, it just feels like a dream as Red goes through moments of despair, guilt, and regret. Cage is complemented by a host of character actors, from Richard Brake (31, Halloween II (2009)) to Linus Roache (Batman Begins) to Bill Duke (Payback, Predator), who definitely deliver. The scenes with the cult aren’t over the top, which is good because not once do the characters trail off and leave the idea of the movie on its own. The bikers, though, don’t dress or sound like bikers. Think something out of Mad Max with a distorted voice that almost sounds animalistic. This raises some interesting questions on the cult’s story because there’s really no back story – for anyone on anything.

Mandy (2018) / Fair use doctrine.I saw the movie at night, and it stuck with me — not in a bad way but almost as if I were dreaming too. This, by the way, got me thinking about the end when Nicholas Cage is driving away, caked in blood caked and looking out of his mind. This is not Hollywood Nic Cage but a genuinely insane Nicholas Cage.

Final thoughts: Watch the movie, and watch it at night with an open mind because this is without a doubt an interesting movie, and I sincerely hope we don’t have to wait another eight years for Panos Cosmatos’ third film.

Posted by Jai Alexis in MOVIE REVIEWS, NEW RELEASES, SLASHERS AND BAD HUMANS, 0 comments
INTERVIEW: Poison Rouge – Director, American Guinea Pig: Sacrifice (2017)

INTERVIEW: Poison Rouge – Director, American Guinea Pig: Sacrifice (2017)

After recently watching American Guinea Pig: Sacrifice, I was so impressed with it that I reached out to the director Poison Rouge. I was surprised and delighted to learn that Sacrifice was her debut film and even more delighted when she consented to an interview. Actor and director Poison Rouge is quite the talent, and if you haven’t watched American Guinea Pig: Sacrifice already, I highly recommend you do so.

Interview: Poison Rouge / Fair use doctrine.

House of Tortured Souls: Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me. I’m very excited to connect with a talented woman who also loves extreme horror. Did you always want to be a director/actor?
Poison Rouge: No, thank you for your time and for supporting Indie films. Actually, I don’t yet know who I am or what I want to be in life, I just want to live it day by day. The fatal meeting with Domiziano (Christopharo) changed a lot of things for me, around me, and inside me. We first met at a tattoo shop where he was working. He did a tattoo for me, and we became friends and have been ever since. Now I see something — and someone — in myself that I didn’t see before. He suggested that I act in his sideshow first, then in his first feature film House of Flesh Mannequins (2009).
House of Flesh Mannequins (2009) / Fair use doctrine.
HoTS: What was your inspiration for this film?
PR: The story was already written. It was originally conceived as a horror comedy that Domiziano wanted to direct as the first chapter in his Trilogy of Death. The lead role was created for a woman, but the actress abandoned the project two weeks before starting. Domiziano asked me to take her place, and later he decided to give the direction of the movie to me so he could follow the second production (Torment). I turned the character into a male and removed the comedic tone to obtain something darker.

HoTS: Why did you choose to start with such an extreme film?
PR: Life decided for me, and I always accept the gifts that life gives me daily.

HoTS: I noticed a lot of well-researched references to the Goddess Ishtar. Why did you choose her or what is her significance to you?
PR: I love the fact that she is the goddess of sex, life, and destruction. The heart of motherhood in some ways. She’s a strong female figure that really describes the power of a woman outside stereotypes.

Interview: Poison Rouge / Fair use doctrine.

HoTS: What films and directors are your favorites and influenced your style?
PR: My favorite movies are any ones that involve Sly Stallone; I just love him! Especially Rocky.
In horror, my favorites are all the classics — Carpenter, Polanski, and Friedkin, etc.
I don’t think I really have a style yet. It’s impossible after only one feature, but I have a vision. My passion for art and painting is very visible in Sacrifice.

HoTS: I loved the gore and the practical FX in this one. I heard a rumor that the penis mutilation scene is partially real. Is that true? Please explain!
PR: Haha! You should watch the extras on the DVD to know more about it. I won’t say another word!
The FX are great and very realistic. Domiziano (aka Athanasius Pernath) is a master.

Interview: Poison Rouge with Domiziano Christopharo / Fair use doctrine.

HoTS: It’s really cool that your first film was picked up by Unearthed and is part of the American Guinea Pig series. Was it made specifically to be part four of AGP or was that something that happened after the fact?
PR: It was already in the works by Domiziano to be the first in his Trilogy of Death. He was planning for it to be the first Italian extreme horror saga. The references in the first film Sacrifice are from He Never Dies, the third installment in the Japanese Guinea Pig saga. Stephen Biro noticed us from the start and followed us every step of the way. He found the final result worthy of his American Guinea Pig series, and the rest is history!

HoTS: On a personal note it’s my understanding that you’re quite an accomplished bodybuilder and boxer. How did you get involved in it?
PR: Because I love Rocky and Stallone! He was my inspiration in filmmaking and made me want to act. It was only a natural next step to start fighting for real, too.
Interview: Poison Rouge / Fair use doctrine.
HoTS: I’d like to thank you, Poison, and Domiziano Christopharo again for agreeing to chat with me. You’re both talented artists and lovely people. I look forward to seeing your next film. After this incredible debut, I’m eager to see what you will do next.

Buy American Guinea Pig: Sacrifice at Unearthed Films

Check out the trailer for American Guinea Pig: Sacrifice.

Posted by Candace Stone in FEATURED ARTISTS, INTERVIEWS, STAFF PICKS, 0 comments
REVIEW: South Mill District (2018) (Short)

REVIEW: South Mill District (2018) (Short)

South Mill District is a short film by Joe Meredith. It’s his directorial debut and runs about 25 minutes. He does everything himself including write, film, produce, FX, act, and direct. Simply put: I loved this film. It was an amazing little shocker with tons of class and art.

In a world ravaged by an alien attack, we follow two post-apocalypse survivors Drennan (Joe Meredith) and Luci (Joe’s wife, the lovely Cidney Meredith). After the alien invasion, the EonCorp started experimenting with the havoc virus and used alien DNA in spiders to create a symbiotic relationship between the infected spiders and humans. The infected spiders consume and distort their human hosts until the regeneration process is complete. The EonCorp keeps the infected human hosts and mutant spiders contained in the South Mill District under quarantine.
South Mill District (2018) / Fair use doctrine.
For a first film and an Independent film, South Mill District is an ambitious project. The premise is a bit convoluted, and the film doesn’t have the luxury of a Hollywood budget, but it has a lot of heart. You can see and feel the amount of love that went into the making of this film. It’s beautifully shot in an excellent location that really captures the desolate post-apocalypse feel. The camera work is top-notch, and I adored the use of colored lighting.

What stands out the most is Joe’s artwork and the incredible creatures in this film. The use of stop motion to bring handmade aliens, spiders, fetuses, and other bizarre paper mâché creatures to life in this is gorgeous. Each creature is uniquely detailed, and you can see the painstaking care that went into each one. The crawly, bloody sound effects also help bring them to life, and the creatures definitely have a “Thing” vibe to them that fans will easily recognize.
South Mill District (2018) / Fair use doctrine.
Some of the highlights of South Mill District include Luci puking up her intestines, a walking brain, and many stop-motion spiders eating their hosts or emerging from the human wreckage.

I was really stoked to learn there is an upcoming sequel called Teratomorph, and I will keep everyone posted as I learn the details and watch out for my upcoming interview with Joe Meredith.

Posted by Candace Stone in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, SCI-FI HORROR, 0 comments
MOVIE REVIEW: The Rejuvenator (aka Rejuvenatrix) (1988)

MOVIE REVIEW: The Rejuvenator (aka Rejuvenatrix) (1988)

The Rejuvenator (1988) / Fair use doctrine.Oh, brother. If you love “So Bad It’s Good” movies (or ‘SoBIG’s’, as I usually refer to them), you gotta love the drive-in ‘classic’ and direct-to-video “disasterpieces” from the mid-to-late Seventies, definitely the Eighties, and even some entries from the Nineties and beyond. So, if you’ve never seen 1988’s The Rejuvenator (aka Rejuvenatrix), set your “phasers” on “to be STUNNED!” This is a SoBIG trash wallow at its very finest; a mishmash of all the best aspects of films that actually have gone on to become classics in their own right.

If Death Becomes Her, Sunset Boulevard and David Cronenberg’s remake of The Fly were involved in some kind of horrific car crash, the result, pulled from the tangled, mangled mess of wreckage, would be this little gem. A no-name cast, the community theater-level acting, and some surprisingly good practical effects (for this micro-micro budget), make this a good/bad movie lover’s glistening wet dream.

The Rejuvenator (1988) / Fair use doctrine.The Rejuvenator begins with your garden-variety, B-movie mad scientist, Dr. Gregory Ashton, (John McKay) is doing some, shall we say, unorthodox work in the field of gerontology and biology. Not that he’s actually studying elderly people, but he IS trying to find a way to retard or even reverse the aging process. And naturally, as the movie begins, he’s not having the best of luck in refining said process, as a deformed lab animal kills other test subjects before meeting its own sticky, gooey demise.

The Rejuvenator (1988) / Fair use doctrine.

Ashton’s research is being funded mostly by the vain, petulant, grandiose fading Hollywood actress Ruth Warren (Jessica Dublin), whose agenda for supporting his work is – what else? – to make herself younger again, so she can make her ‘huge big-screen comeback,’ and show the rest of the dime-a-dozen starlets and ingenues how it’s done. It’s not helping matters any that Ashton is constantly being spied upon by his sleazy, unctuous colleague, Dr. Germaine (Marcus Powell), superior sneer and upper-crusty accent included.

The Rejuvenator (1988) / Fair use doctrine.The good doctor and his benefactress aren’t without their own unrequited admirers, though. Ashton is assisted in his research by Dr. Stella Stone (Katell Pleven), a woman who is actually smart and beautiful…not the usual direction that kind of role takes in this kind of picture. Ruth’s not-so-secret admirer is her manservant, Wilhelm, (James Hogue, obviously filling the Erich von Stroheim role from Sunset Boulevard), a former ‘paramour’ from her halcyon days, who is now content to wait on her, hand-and-foot if that allows him to continue to be close to her. (Yes, I see you rolling your eyes, but it’s that kind of movie!)

The Rejuvenator (1988) / Fair use doctrine.

Threatened with losing his funding if he doesn’t come across with the goods, and soon, the harried Dr. Ashton has no choice, but to do what just about all ‘mad-doctors’ do in his situation: he complies. He injects Ruth with the serum he has “almost” perfected, and after the required flurry of surprisingly good low-budget makeup effects, (provided by Ed French, Dan Frye, and Bruce S. Fuller), Ruth magically is converted into…ANOTHER ACTRESS!

You heard me. The stunning ‘new edition’ of Ruth has renamed herself “Elizabeth” (Vivian Lanko, who pulls double-duty here as the “improved” Ruth and as The Thing She Turns Into), whose backstory is now “the young niece of Ruth Warren, who is taking care of her estate, while her aunt goes away on a very long retreat.”

If you’ve seen enough of these monstrosities, (yes, that pun IS intended), you know where this is headed. Being an Eighties film, there has to be enough satisfactory sex and violence, so the sex part comes in when Elizabeth shows Dr. Ashton her gratitude for the miracle he’s worked for her. Wait, don’t leave! There’s so much more…

All the while, in the background, Dr. Stone and Wilhelm skulk around, mooning after their respective objects of desire and imagining what it would be like to finally be with them romantically. (There’s a dream sequence involving all the principal characters that includes a ‘dance number’ you have to see to believe!)

But, back to the ‘youth’ serum. You might recall that I mentioned it was “almost perfected”? Well, it has some pretty disgusting side effects, including the desire to murder random people and remove their brains – Oh, didn’t I mention that? Ashton’s serum is synthesized from human brain tissue, and one of the problems is that the more serum is used, larger and larger doses become required as the body builds up a tolerance to it with each application.

What would an Eighties schlockfest like this be without the opportunity to mix even more sex and violence onscreen? When Elizabeth’s sexual appetites increase with her new youthfulness, she ‘graduates’ from Gregory, moving on to random strangers, and eventually going out on her own to prowl the nightlife, going into the most retro-tastic club you can imagine, where the hot, big-haired, heavy-metal all-girl band called The Poison Dolly’s are playing!

The tunes, which sound like the kind of stuff that The Runaways turned down, are sublimely terrible, and of course, the band is dressed so that not too many people are really paying much attention to the “music.” When the serum begins to wear off and Elizabeth resembles a putrid pumpkin more than Cinderella, this is where the aforementioned murder of some posh poseur happens outside the club…in a phone booth, no less! (Remember those?)

The Rejuvenator (1988) / Fair use doctrine.From here, it’s all pretty much by-the-numbers. Greg Ashton struggles, along with Stella, to try and artificially synthesize the formula in the lab successfully, so that brain tissue from cadavers will no longer be necessary. Meanwhile, the suspicious and jealous Dr. Germaine is closing in to shut down Ashton and his lab for good, snatching the research results for himself. And all the while, Elizabeth’s transformations grow more and more extreme, as does her need to hold onto her newly-found youth – at any cost.

Am I making this direct-to-video hoot sound better than it actually is? If so, my sincere apologies. But this IS entertaining enough that it wouldn’t surprise me if the MST3K/RiffTrax guys or Elvira have already worked their magic with it.

Brian Thomas Jones’ script (adapted from Simon Nuchtern’s original screenplay) and direction, rises above a first-year film school student’s initial project…but not that far above it. Just about all of the actors walk through this like it’s something to pad their resumes with, but not much else, although as the Dollar Store version of “Norma Desmond”, Lanko and Dublin seem to be having the most fun, playing the venial and selfish “Ruth/Elizabeth”. As funny as it plays when the “switch” occurs, Lanko’s not half-bad keeping the continuity going with the character.

It’s probably not even coincidental, the similarities between The Rejuvenator and another film that came out three years before it, Stuart Gordon’s celebrated Lovecraft adaptation, Re-Animator. For all we know, Re-Animator probably had the same level budget but better actors, a seasoned director at the helm, and the ridiculously gory effects of monster master John Carl Buechler.

At the end of the day, just like some of its counterparts, The Rejuvenator makes a great, fun, bad time-capsule worthy window into a crazy-ass decade, as well as a throwback to When DTV Low-Budget Movies Ruled The Earth. The makeup effects guys went on to establish some pretty impressive credentials, even if the cast and creative team did not. But for all the work that went into this, good, bad or indifferent, I feel perfectly fine in awarding it two-and-a-half out of five stars.

The Rejuvenator (1988) / Fair use doctrine.

Oh, and side note: like so many rarities that were only released originally on VHS tapes, I was “lucky” enough to stumble over The Rejuvenator, while surfing YouTube, where it’s one of their free movies. There are other places where you might be able to get it, but I strongly suggest that if you find yourself really jonesing to see this, get to YouTube now while it’s still available.

Posted by Samuel Glass in GORE OR EXTREME HORROR, MONSTERS AND CREATURES, MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, SCI-FI HORROR, VIDEOS, 0 comments