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Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Vault of Horror's Ultimate Christmas Gift Guide '09

In the midst of America's yearly tribute to gluttony and greed, the Thanksgiving/Black Friday weekend, I bring to you my second annual holiday season gift guide. This year, I've tried to focus on the items that might not be among the most obvious, but deserve attention. In other words, you don't need me to tell you to run out and grab Hellboy II or I Am Legend. But here are some ideas that you may have overlooked:


Resident Evil 3-Pack - DVD, $29.95 (Blu-Ray elitists got this set earlier this year, but this is the first time DVD luddites can own the nu-zombie trilogy of RE, RE: Apocalypse & RE: Extinction. Available 12/9.)
Vampyr Special Edition - DVD, $39.95 (Not my cup of tea, but this last gasp of German Expressionism is a revered early favorite, with its first deluxe DVD treatment.)
Night Gallery Season 2 - DVD, $59.98 (The newly released second installment of Rod Serling's other landmark horror/sci-fi series.)
Oasis of the Zombies - DVD, $9.99 (This piece of Nazi/zombie trash, reissued for the first time since 2001, is worth seeing for a laugh. And wisely priced at under $10.)
Lights Out, Vol. 3 & 4 - DVD, $7.98 each (The long-awaited follow-up installments of one of TV's earliest horror series, based on the classic radio series of the '40s. Each DVD contains four episodes.)
Dark Shadows: The Beginning Vol. 6, DVD $59.98 (For the stark raving Dark Shadows fanatic in your life, this is the final collection of DS episodes from the earliest era of the soap, before Barnabas Collins showed up and changed the course of the series. Contains episodes 179-209, from the spring of 1967.)
The Terror - Blu-Ray, $11.98 (On Blu-Ray for the first time, it's Roger Corman's classic. See Boris Karloff and Jack Nicholshon on screen together!)
The Beyond - DVD, $24.95 (It's the spiffy new edition of Lucio Fulci's masterwork. Having just caught this gem for the first time, I can't recommend it highly enough to fan's of exploitation horror.)


Sookie Stackhouse Boxed Set - Paperbacks, $55.93 (The seven books of Charlaine Harris' Southern Vampire Mysteries, the inspiration for HBO's True Blood. Available for $39.15 at bn.com!)
Wolves at the Gate - Graphic novel, $15.95 (The third collection of Joss Whedon's history-making "Season 8" of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, told in comic book form.)
The Living Dead - Paperback, $15.95 (An excellent anthology of zombie fiction featuring stories by the likes of Stephen King, Joe Hill, George R.R. Martin, Clive Barker, Neil Gaiman, Harlan Ellison and Poppy Z. Brite. The hottest horror anthology on shelves today.)
Let the Right One In - Paperback, $15.95 (By Swedish author John Ajvide Lindqvist, translated into English by Ebba Segerberg. The novel that led to the movie of the same name.)


Flesh Eating Zombies - Action figures, $17.99 (A nine-piece set of hard vinyl, 3 1/4-inch zombie figures. Fun for the whole family!)
Cthulhu Plush Slippers - $36.99 (The price may be a bit steep, but what do you expect? Wearing Lovecraft's undying beast from beyond on your feet doesn't come cheap!)
Michael Myers Head Knocker - Bobblehead, $12.59 (It's a Michael Myers bobblehead. 'Nuff said.)

Friday, November 28, 2008

Crowley Flick Hits DVD

It hasn't made any waves yet here in the states, but the interesting little indy flick Chemical Wedding, in which Simon Callow plays the literal reincarnation of the infamous Aleister Crowley, has recently come to DVD after a successful theatrical run in the UK over the summer.

Blabbermouth.net reports that Iron Maiden lead singer Bruce Dickinson, who wrote and produced the film, was in France on Wednesday to promote the release there. He held a screening and a press conference, in which he also talked about the new distribution deals attached to the picture. For one, Anchor Bay will be handling the U.S. distribution, which I assume means it'll be  straight-to-video. Whatever the format, expect it in early 2009.

Here's the UK commercial for the DVD, which hit there in September:

Looks kind of cheeseball, but in a potentially classic way.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

"CBE" Update: The Ones That Didn't Make the Cut

Yes, I've taken to abbreviating "Cyber-Horror Elite"--partly to diffuse the tensions caused by that phrase, and partly because I just love acronyms.

In response to the lively and passionate debate that's arisen as a result of my last blogosphere-rippling post, I thought it might be a good idea to list all the other films which were in consideration, yet didn't make the final list of fifty. So here, for your edification, and to answer a lot of the "Hey, what about _______??!" comments, are all the other flicks that received votes from our venerable panel of blowhards:

The ones that almost squeaked through, but not quite:

  • Dagon
  • Peeping Tom
  • Cat People (1942)
  • Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956 & 1978--the original came out ahead, for those keeping score)
  • The Ring
  • Dr. Jeckyll & Mr. Hyde (1932)
  • Sisters
  • Horror of Dracula (highest-ranking Hammer)
  • 2000 Maniacs
  • Donnie Darko
  • Hellraiser
  • The Blood-Spattered Bride
  • The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)
  • The Silence of the Lambs
  • Don't Look Now
  • Island of Lost Souls

Yet more also-rans:

  • Tenebrae
  • Gojira
  • Alice, Sweet Alice
  • The Devil's Nightmare
  • The Werewolf vs. The Vampire Women
  • The Cave of Demons
  • The Cat and the Canary
  • The Uninvited (1944)
  • The Old Dark House
  • Re-Animator
  • Vampire Circus
  • Creepshow
  • The Curse of Frankenstein
  • Halloween IV: The Return of Michael Myers
  • Scream
  • Vampyres
  • Eyes Without a Face
  • Pan's Labyrinth
  • Deliverance
  • Manhunter
  • Dead Alive
  • Night of the Werewolf
  • The Abominable Dr. Phibes
  • The Wicker Man (1973)
  • Cloverfield
  • Toby Dammit
  • The Birds
  • Ginger Snaps
  • Bloodsucking Freaks
  • Uzumaki
  • Plague of the Zombies
  • Halloween III: Season of the Witch
  • Vampyr
  • M
  • Picnic at Hanging Rock
  • Repulsion
  • This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse
  • The Howling
  • Carnival of Souls
  • Lost Highway
  • Burnt Offerings
  • Rabid
  • Werewolf of London
  • The Omen
  • Freaks
  • The Lost Boys
  • The Descent

And finally, the lonely little films that got only one point, by virtue of being the bottom choice on a single list:

  • Looking for Mr. Goodbar
  • The Funhouse
  • Vampire Lovers
  • Ringu
  • Shocker
  • Sleepless
  • Urotsukidoji
  • Night of the Hunter
  • I Walked with a Zombie

There you have it, list completists! You see, we're not as "populist" as we were originally accused of being. Old and crotchety, perhaps, but certainly not populist!

Monday, November 24, 2008

The "Cyber-Horror Elite" Have Spoken: Presenting the Top 50 Horror FIlms of All Time!

Before anyone jumps to any conclusions about my horror snobbery, let me just take the piss out of myself here and make it clear that this is nothing more than a fun little exercise, and "Cyber-Horror Elite" is a tongue-in-cheek term, at best. Nevertheless, it does represent the composite opinions of the some of the most high-profile writers/critics in the online horror community, so take it for what you will.

Just to get everyone up to speed, some days ago, HMV put out the results of their highly flawed survey of the top 50 horror movies of all time. After I replaced the lunch I had lost going over their atrocity, I set about putting into a motion a plan to retaliate with a list of my own. A list that I hoped would be representative of the opinions of those who actually love horror, and for whom the genre is a genuine passion.

Invitations went out to some 32 cyber-horror notables (the full list can be found below). Each contributor was asked to select his or her personal top 10. What I did next was assign points to each movie selected, based on where they were ranked on each individual's list (10 points for a number-one pick, 9 points for a number-two pick, etc.) The totals for each movie were then tallied, and a list of the top 50 scoring movies was put together. In several instances, there were two or more movies whose scores were tied; in these cases, I put it to a run-off vote. Any ties which still remained after that would be decided by me (I only made use of this prerogative once).

And so, without further ado, here is the list of Top 50 Horror Films of All Time, as chosen by some of the shining lights of the online horror community:

1. Halloween (1978) dir: John Carpenter
2. The Exorcist (1973) dir: William Friedkin
3. Psycho (1960) dir: Alfred Hitchcock
4. Night of the Living Dead (1968) dir: George Romero
5. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) dir: Tobe Hooper
6. Frankenstein (1931) dir: James Whale
7. The Shining (1980) dir: Stanley Kubrick
8. The Thing (1982) dir: John Carpenter
9. Alien (1979) dir: Ridley Scott
10. Nosferatu (1922) dir: F.W. Murnau
11. Dawn of the Dead (1978) dir: George Romero
12. Bride of Frankenstein (1935) dir: James Whale
13. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) dir: Wes Craven
14. Jaws (1975) dir: Steven Spielberg
15. The Blair Witch Project (1999) dir: Daniel Myrick & Eduardo Sanchez
16. The Haunting (1963) dir: Robert Wise
17. King Kong (1933) dir: Merian C. Cooper & Ernest B. Schoedsack
18. Rosemary’s Baby (1968) dir: Roman Polanski
19. Dracula (1931) dir: Todd Browning
20. The Evil Dead (1981) dir: Sam Raimi
21. Poltergeist (1982) dir: Tobe Hooper
22. Black Sunday (La Maschera del Demonio) (1960) dir: Mario Bava
23. The Phantom of the Opera (1925) dir: Rupert Julian
24. An American Werewolf in London (1980) dir: John Landis
25. Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) dir: Jack Arnold
26. Friday the 13th (1980) dir: Sean Cunningham
27. Evil Dead II (1988) dir: Sam Raimi
28. Alucarda (1978) dir: Juan Lopez Moctezuma
29. Carrie (1976) dir: Brian DePalma
30. Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) dir: Francis Ford Coppola
31. The Fly (1986) dir: David Cronenberg
32. The Fog (1980) dir: John Carpenter
33. The Wolf Man (1941) dir: George Waggner
34. House on Haunted Hill (1959) dir: William Castle
35. Night of the Demon (1957) dir: Jacques Tourneur
36. Frankenstein (1910) dir: J. Searle Dawley
37. Dellamorte Dellamore (Cemetery Man) (1994) dir: Michele Soavi
38. Thriller (1983) dir: John Landis
39. The Addiction (1995) dir: Abel Ferrara
40. Aliens (1986) dir: James Cameron
41. Phantasm (1979) dir: Don Coscarelli
42. The Thing from Another World (1951) dir: Christian Nyby
43. Zombi 2 (1979) dir: Lucio Fulci
44. The Mist (2007) dir: Frank Darabont
45. Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983) dir: Jack Clayton
46. The Living Dead Girl (1982) dir: Jean Rollin
47. The Brain That Wouldn’t Die (1962) dir: Joseph Green
48. The Return of the Living Dead (1985) dir: Dan O’Bannon
49. Suspiria (1976) dir: Dario Argento
50. Salem’s Lot (1979) dir: Tobe Hooper

Some items of note:

  • No movie in the top 12 was made in the last 25 years.
  • No movie in the top 14 was made in the last 10 years.
  • Only one movie in the top 26 was made in the last 20 years.
  • Four of the top 10, and 3 of the top 5, were made in the 1970s.
  • Most recent film: The Mist (2007)
  • Earliest film: Frankenstein (1910)
  • Directors listed most times: John Carpenter & Tobe Hooper (3)
  • Three silent films: Frankenstein, Nosferatu, The Phantom of the Opera
  • One TV movie: Salem’s Lot
  • Two non-feature length films: Frankenstein (16 min.), Thriller video (14 min.)

Decades breakdown
  • 1980s: 15
  • 1970s: 12
  • 1960s: 6
  • 1930s: 4
  • 1950s: 4
  • 1990s: 4
  • 1920s: 2
  • 1940s: 1
  • 1910s: 1
  • 2000s: 1

Eight movies from outside the U.S.
  • United Kingdom: Night of the Demon
  • Italy: Zombi 2, Dellamorte Dellamore, Suspiria, Black Sunday
  • France: The Living Dead Girl
  • Mexico: Alucarda
  • Germany: Nosferatu

And in the interest of full disclosure, here's a complete list of the brave souls/pontificating pundits who were polled for the list...

Iloc Zoc of Zombos' Closet of Horror
Wes Fierce of Horror Film Magazine
Vince Liaguno of Slasher Speak, horror novelist
Max Cheney of The Drunken Severed Head, 2007 Rondo nominee for Best Website
Kim Paffenroth, author of Gospel of the Living Dead
Karswell of The Horrors of It All
Casey Criswell of Cinema Fromage and Bloody Good Horror
Stacie Ponder of Final Girl and AMC's Horror Hacker
The Vicar of VHS & The Duke of DVD from Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Movies
Ryne Barber of The Moon Is a Dead World
Brad Miska of Bloody-Disgusting
John W. Morehead of Theofantastique
Carnacki of The Mystery of the Haunted Vampire
The Lightning Bug of The Lightning Bug's Lair
Sean T. Collins of Attentiondeficitdisorderly Too Flat, Marvel.com and Maxim
Jeff Allard of Dinner with Max Jenke and Shock Till You Drop
CRwM of And Now the Screaming Starts
Paul Bibeau of Goblinbooks, editor at Maxim, author of Sundays with Vlad
The Horror Guy
Justin of Send More Cops
Gary D. Macabre of Blogue Macabre and The Many Faces of the Frankenstein Monster
Garg the Unzola of The Necro Files
Pierre Fournier of Frankensteinia, Canadian Comic Book Creator Hall of Famer
BC of Horror-Movie-a-Day
Peter Hall of Horror's Not Dead
Chad Helder of Unspeakable Horror, writer of Vincent Price Presents
Unkle Lancifer of Kindertrauma
John Kenneth Muir, horror critic (Booklist Editor's Choice)
Pax Romano of Billy Loves Stu
Curt Purcell of The Groovy Age of Horror and Cinema Nocturna
Tenebrous Kate of Love Train for the Tenebrous Empire
And yours truly, of course.

There you have it. Digest. Discuss. Debate. Distribute.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Wolf Man Remake Gets Pushed Back

Yet another twist on the long and winding road of Universal's lavish new take on The Wolf Man, just about the only remake I have any interest in whatsoever. Fangoria is now reporting that the Benicio del Toro flick will no longer hit theaters on April 3, as was originally planned. Instead, we have to wait until some time in fall 2009 to see Larry Talbot in all his furry glory once again. Hopefully this extra time will be used to further polish the movie, and isn't a bad sign for the production. Keep your clawed fingers crossed.

* * * * * * * * * *

On the Cyber-Elite Horror Survey front, I'm proud to announce that the results have been completely tallied. And, I must say, it's a most impressive and thought-provoking list. Some expected choices, some less so. And number one is bound to raise a few eyebrows (I know it did mine). But I want to do this right, and not just slap up the list and call it a day. I plan to cross-reference the results and provide a little analysis, plus I want to give proper recognition to all the online luminaries that took part. I fully expect to be able to post the whole shebang tomorrow.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Uninvited and Its Great Symphonic Theme

I'm taking advantage of a rare opportunity today, and trying out something a little bit different. As some of you know, horror is not my only bag, baby--and, in fact, I have another blog entitled Standard of the Day, which celebrates the classic pop tunes of the Great American Songbook.

Predictably, there isn't too much of an overlap between these two areas. Especially not in recent decades, when the music of horror films has been of a decidedly different nature. However, one shining point of intersection is the superb 1944 Lewis Allen movie The Haunting, starring Ray Milland, Ruth Hussey and Gail Russell.

Possibly cinema's second-best ghost story--behind only the original The Haunting (1963)--The Uninvited is a classic haunted house movie, generating a unique mood of eerie melancholy that it's able to sustain from beginning to end. Unlike The Haunting, which opts for outright terror, The Uninvited has a sad, dreamlike quality to it that links it to some of the film noir pictures of the same period.

One of the devices used by Allen to create this mood is the film's theme song, "Stella By Starlight". In the movie, it's composed by Milland's character Roderick Fitzgerald, who plays it for Russell's Stella Meredith. It's quite literally a haunting tune that becomes much more than a leitmotif. Rather, it builds to become the driving thematic force of the entire film.

During the 1930s-1950s, it was extremely common for pop songs to be specifically written for movies, and then marketed off the movie's success and vice versa. Kind of a proto-cross marketing technique. Yet it wasn't common at all for this to be done with a horror movie. In fact, to my knowledge The Uninvited represents the only time this was done, at least successfully.

In reality, the song was composed by popular orchestra leader Victor Young. Although it has no lyrics in the movie, the decision was made to give it lyrics on paper, so that artists would be more apt to record it and make a hit out of it. Young's collaborator Ned Washington was brought in to do the honors (the duo had previously worked together on "My Foolish Heart"--which, not so coincidentally, can also briefly be heard in The Uninvited.)

Over the years, "Stella By Starlight" has gained so much prominence as an American pop standard that it has almost completely lost its association with the film from which it originated. In fact, it may even be better known--a possibility sadly supported by the fact that The Uninvited has yet to be released on DVD.

The Uninvited possesses something few horror films of recent decades do--beauty. It is a truly beautiful film, and its theme is suitably beautiful as well. This is why, although at first it may seem odd that a horror movie would feature a timeless American standard as its theme song, after viewing the film, you understand. Of course, unless you have it on VHS, you'll have to wait for it on Turner Classic Movies in order to do that...

For more on "Stella By Starlight", check out Standard of the Day.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Is Dead Rising a Dawn of the Dead Rip-Off?

The answer, according to a U.S. magistrate judge, is a resounding no.

You may recall some months back that Richard Rubenstein's MKR Group, the company that owns the rights to George Romero's Dawn of the Dead, had brought a lawsuit against Capcom, the makers of Dead Rising. Their contention was that the zombie horror video game represented a direct copyright infringement on their intellectual property, since--like DOTD--it is set in a shopping mall and features humans fighting to survive a zombie uprising.

However, Judge Richard Seeborg, according to Gamespot, has ruled that the game is sufficiently different from the movie that no copyright infringement is evident. To quote the good judge:

"[MKR] has not identified any similarity between Dead Rising and any protected element of Dawn of the Dead. Rather, the few similarities MKR has alleged are driven by the wholly unprotectable concept of humans battling zombies in a mall during a zombie outbreak."

Bet Judge Seeborg never thought he'd be writing those words back in his law school days.

Furthermore, the judge determined that Dead Rising possesses none of the social commentary inherent in Dawn of the Dead. Yay, score one for mindless zombie killing!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Triumph of the Tube: A History of Horror TV, Part 5

It becomes more difficult to judge a certain period in history the closer one actually is to it, which is why covering the recent history of horror on television can present something of a challenge. Nevertheless, most observers would agree that the past several years have seen a promising resurgence of the genre on the small screen, as it has proven more resilient against the competition of the movies than was previously thought possible. In fact, an argument can be made that horror TV over the past dozen or so years has been superior to horror film.

In part, this has been due to the innovations permitted by cable, but ironically, the most popular horror TV show of the past dozen years was to be found on plain old broadcast TV. And a third-rate network, at that.

Based on a somewhat forgettable theatrical teen comedy, Buffy the Vampire Slayer certainly didn't premiere in 1997 to a lot of elevated expectations. It didn't help that it was one of the tentpole shows of the brand-new WB Network, Time-Warner's low-rent black sheep of the broadcast dial. Yet it soon became a show that defied all expectation. Leaving the memory of its cinematic inspiration in the dust, it quickly built a rabid following using a more serious tone and a slick hipness that appealed to a young audience in a way few horror series ever had.

Sarah Michelle Gellar became the genre's next great female star, and an unlikely action hero in the title role. With the still-young internet hitting its stride, Buffy became an early favorite amongst online fans, who debated its every twist and turn in chatrooms, on messageboards, and everywhere in between. In some ways, it was the fan base of Buffy that helped set the standard of genre fandom in the internet age.

An unfortunate switch to the even more low-rent UPN contributed to the show's eventual demise, but it ran for seven solid seasons, and maintained such a hardcore following that show creator Joss Whedon recently brought about an eighth season in comic book form. In 1999, Buffy even spawned a nearly as successful spin-off, Angel, which itself ran for six seasons on the WB.

Buffy and Angel helped bring horror into the homes of a whole new generation of fans, and also proved that network TV could still deliver a tried-and-true genre phenomenon. A whole new sub-genre of teen-oriented (and even more specifically, teen girl-oriented) horror cropped up, as typified by another WB hit, Charmed (1998-2006)--a show about a coven of young, nubile witches that ran for an impressive eight seasons and boasted high-profile actresses like Alyssa Milano, Shannon Doherty and Rose McGowan.

Stephen King, that old warhorse of made-for-TV horror, certainly continued to be a presence in the network realm, bringing his controversial new adaptation of The Shining to ABC in 1997. Purporting to be far more faithful to the novel than Stanley Kubrick's 1980 theatrical version, which King was unhappy with, the movie divided the fanbase between King loyalists and those who felt that despite its creative licenses, the Kubrick film was a far superior work. Two years later, King would also pen his own original screenplay, The Storm of the Century, which was filmed as a mini-series for ABC as well.

With the turn of the century, however, cable TV programming was kicking off what many consider to be something of a golden age--one that is still going on, as a matter of fact. Originally cable programming like HBO's The Larry Sanders Show, Oz and The Sopranos was demonstrating what was truly possible outside the bounds of traditional TV. And before long, the trickle-down effect began to reach genre programming as well.

In 1999, Universal made waves with the introduction of a quirky, hip show called G vs. E (later changed to Good vs. Evil). Inspired by the edgy material of people like Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez, the show proved to be more of a landmark than its lack of ratings success would indicate. It didn't last more than a season, switching from USA Network to the Sci-Fi Channel along the way, but the show's smart writing and clever premise led to bigger and better things down the road for cable horror.

Before long, cable channels were cranking out more and more home-grown horror and sci-fi productions. Naturally, with the good came some bad, as well. Sci-Fi Channel began devoting itself more and more to original programming, including an Invisible Man series, as well as the never-ending stream of generally basement-quality made-for-cable movies (Mansquito, anyone?) which continues to this day.

There was a lot of experimenting going on, and fans were benefiting. Sci-Fi gave us a series based on the horror comedy Tremors (2003). TNT produced the interesting if short-lived Nightmares and Dreamscapes, a series based on the short stories of Stephen King. USA cast Anthony Michael Hall in the role made famous by Christopher Walken for a successful series version of King's The Dead Zone (2002-07). Bravo even put together the very enjoyable 100 Scariest Movie Moments (2004), a very popular mini-series in the format of shows like VH1's I Love the '80s, which continues to be re-shown every year.

In response, network TV put out the likes of a weak Twilight Zone retread (2002-03), the lackluster ABC movie Kingdom Hospital (2004), and Invasion (2005-06), an ill-fated X-Files knock-off which failed to benefit from having the smash hit Lost as a lead-in. By far, the most successful horror-themed network series to come out of the past few years would have to be the CW's Supernatural (2005-), which has managed to capture the same type of audience that made hits out of Buffy, Angel and Charmed.

But even that moderate success couldn't compete with what the folks at Showtime were cooking up, unfettered as they were with the concerns of sponsors. How best to capitalize on what fans loved the most about theatrical horror movies? Simple: Recruit some of the greatest creators in the business to make their own one-hour mini-movies that gave them everything a cinematic horror experience would.

The result was Masters of Horror (2005-07), a series of short films that featured A-level horror directors such as Tobe Hooper, Dario Argento, Stuart Gordon, John Carpenter and John Landis, as well as writers like Clive Barker and Richard Matheson. Highlights included Gordon's adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's Dreams in the Witch House, Argento's Jenifer, Carpenter's Cigarette Burns, Takashi Miike's Imprint and Hooper's adaptation of Ambrose Bierce's The Damned Thing.

Although the quality was occasionally erratic, the series was the classic example of the possibilities of cable horror. An attempted network TV version of the show, NBC's Fear Itself (2008-09), has only accentuated the difference--with tame, uninspired content that would ensure the show wouldn't outlast its first season.

After Masters of Horror, the floodgates were opened. Showtime followed up with an even-better project, the serial killer series Dexter (2006-), which has proven just as excellent as any highly regarded premium cable dramatic series out there. Not to be outdone, this season HBO unleashed its first genre series in many years with True Blood (2008-), the sleek and sexy tale of vampire-human relations in the Deep South that's steadily and quietly becoming one of the year's sleeper hits.

And beyond the traditional approaches to programming, cable/satellite has taken TV horror in directions previously undreamt of. In 2007, NBC Universal unveiled Chiller, the first major 24-hour horror television channel. The high-definition channel MonstersHD also offers around-the-clock terrors with crystal clear sound and picture. And FEARnet makes use of on-demand technology to offer its subscribers the ability to watch the horror movies they want, whenever they want.

In this day and age of tired torture porn and endless remakes, there are many who would suggest that TV horror has indeed become superior to its silver-screen cousin. With a combination of intelligent, quality programming and network willingness to provide for a voracious and often underfed fanbase, it's pretty hard not to agree. When it come to horror, the boob tube has certainly come a long way--from struggling out of the shadow of radio, to overshadowing its theatrical predecessor.

So the next time you're scouring the listings for a horror flick that's actually worthy of your $11, why bother? With the options available to lucky horror fans today right in their own homes, let them keep their Japanese retreads and PG-13 slashers. Stay home and enjoy!

Other major shows:

  • Spawn (1997-99)
  • Brimstone (1998-99)
  • Blade: The Series (2006)
  • Witchblade (2006-)
  • Moonlight (2007-08)

Part 1: Fear Invades the Living Room

Part 2: Terror Comes of Age
Part 3: How to Scare Without Losing Sponsors
Part 4: Small-Screen Revolution

Monday, November 17, 2008

Friedkin and Blatty Reunite for Exorcist Blu-Ray Special Feature

I'm trying real hard to resist jumping on the Blu-Ray bandwagon, only because I despise the idea of being suckered into buying the same titles over and over again (and really, how goddam clear do I need my picture and sound to be???) That said, it's getting harder and harder.

William Friedkin, director of The Exorcist, is a major fan of the Blu-Ray format, and has been working hard to generate a boatload of special features for the impending Blu-Ray release of his masterwork, despite the release still being nearly a year away.

The National Ledger reports that Friedkin has reached out to Exorcist author William Peter Blatty, and the two men will engage in a walking tour of all the famous locations in and around Georgetown, where the movie was filmed some 35 years ago. The tour will be filmed, and included on the Blu-Ray special edition. I just eat up that sort of thing. As anyone would be, I'm looking forward to seeing that sick staircase. Hopefully it still exists.

This doesn't mean ol' B-Sol is ready to make that switch to Blu-Ray just yet. For one thing, I'm looking forward to DVD prices dropping through the floor in the next couple years once the rest of you saps make the switch!

* * * * * * * * * *

HORROR SURVEY UPDATE: For those wondering, the tallying process for my grand poll of the "Cyber-Horror Elite" is currently well underway. In fact, the first round is done, and I have a list of the fifty. My issue right now is that several of the titles are tied for various positions, so I'm hosting a series of back-room run-off elections to determine the final positioning. When all is said and done, it should be one hell of a list: The 50 greatest horror movies of all time, as determined by some of the web's most prominent horror bloggers and writers. And I'm honored to have folks like Brad Miska of Bloody Disgusting, Stacie Ponder of Final Girl, Kim Paffenroth, John Kenneth Muir, BC of Horror-Movie-a-Day, Pierre Fournier of Frankensteinia, Chad Helder and many others participating. Stay tuned, it won't be much longer now...

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Neil Gaiman Discusses Coraline

Wired.com has some exclusive new footage from Henry Selick's stop-motion animated feature Coraline, based on the Hugo and Nebula award-winning novel by Neil Gaiman. The author also goes into detail on what makes this project so unique. You don't have to sell me on it. The writer of Sandman and the director of The Nightmare Before Christmas teaming up to create a twisted children's horror story? I'm in. Look for the movie in theaters in February. In the meantime, check this out:

Friday, November 14, 2008

Is Pushing Daisies Pushing Daisies?

Rumors are swirling of the imminent demise of the critically acclaimed ABC series Pushing Daisies, ever since filming wrapped on the 13th and final episode of the second season a couple days ago. The network has not ordered any further episodes, although it is believed it is trying to lock in the show's principals should the decision be made to greenlight a third season.

Despite a slew of Emmy nominations, the dark supernatural comedy has experienced plummeting ratings ever since the writer's strike hit during the show's first season. It was never able to regain the momentum it had before the strike, and the second season debuted to significantly lower ratings than the first season.

The show's creator Bryan Fuller was also the mastermind behind Showtime's highly underrated Dead Like Me. More recently, he was responsible for most of the first season of Heroes--ya know, before it started to suck--and it's rumored that he may return to the beleaguered NBC show should Pushing Daises indeed bite the dust.

This is a show I've just never quite gotten around to checking out, although I always mean to. It does have a strong cult following--just not strong enough, apparently, to keep it afloat.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Just in Case You Weren't Sure If Twilight Was Going to Be a Smash...

Yahoo Music reported today that the soundtrack to the upcoming vampire romance Twilight has actually debuted at number-one on the Billboard album chart--more than a week before the film is even released. It's the first soundtrack album to do so since 2002's 8 Mile. It's one of only seven soundtrack's to ever debut at #1, and one of only seven to reach that spot before its respective movie was released (one of which was The Beatles' A Hard Day's Night.)

Clearly, there's a ravenous fan base out there that is prepared to make this movie one of the biggest money-makers of the year--perhaps second only to last summer's The Dark Knight. As I said in yesterday's post, vampires are cool again.

In case anyone's interested (I'm not, incidentally), the soundtrack contains tracks by the likes of Linkin Park, Perry Farrell and Collective Soul (they're still around?), as well as a song performed by Robert Pattinson, who plays the lead vampire Eric. The flick hits theaters on November 21.

* * * * * * * * * *

The Vault of Horror's recent outreach to the horror blogging community on the subject of casual vs. hardcore horror fandom seems to have created quite a buzz of late. For those wondering, I've already received a great many responses, and am in the process of tabulating the submitted lists now. There are still a few precincts left to be heard from, but I think this experiment is going to yield some interesting results.

Also, a reader of one of the participating blogs, And Now the Screaming Starts, claims to have taken part in the original HMV survey, and explained that HMV actually provided voters with a list of 50 movies, and asked them to pick their ten favorites. So basically, HMV asked readers to rank a list of 50 movies which the website had already selected--thus rendering their results even more of a sham than I originally thought. All the more reason to pool the collective wisdom of the cyber-horror elite to provide a list we can all be proud of. In other words, a list that doesn't include the 2004 remake of Salem's Lot.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

True Blood Redeems TV Horror

I've been a fan of HBO originals ever since Tony Soprano first waddled his lovable yet homicidal self into Dr. Melfi's office, but of late the premium cable network has struggled to maintain its audience. The loss of shows like The Sopranos and Sex in the City, as well as their replacement by shows that--despite a continued excellence in quality--failed to connect with a large enough audience (Deadwood, Rome, etc.) seem to have signaled the end of HBO's "golden era".

But Alan Ball's newest creation, True Blood, would appear to be bucking that trend. The brainchild of the same man who also gave HBO the superb Six Feet Under, the X-Men-like tale of vampires and humans struggling to live together in an alternate reality America has touched off a spark with a segment of the viewing audience, and I, for one, can see why.

I've recently been putting out a multi-part series on the history of horror on television, and this has led me to the conclusion that the TV version of the genre has definitely seen better days. This is only reinforced by the fact that the last horror show to hit the airwaves, the anthology series Fear Itself, is a colossal stinker which won't even be returning next season. So there wasn't a lot of prestige to the genre left when Ball was developing his new project. Yet through quality writing, interesting execution and a refreshing respect for the vampire mythos, Ball has managed to pull off a moderate success.

I say moderate because it isn't the barnburner that shows like Oz, and currently Entourage have been for HBO. But it is generating a buzz, with interest increasing with each passing episode. I can tell you from experience, as traffic to The Vault of Horror increases dramatically every Sunday night/Monday morning following a new episode, based off just a couple of posts I have written on the show (What? How dare you accuse me of shameless SEO tactics by writing another True Blood post. That really hurts.) No doubt due in no small part to the phenomenon of Stephenie Meyers' Twilight, vampires are cool again, and True Blood is riding that wave. It was already renewed for a second season after only three episodes.

While not at the level of Sopranos, Six Feet Under, Rome or Deadwood, I have been greatly enjoying True Blood. As horror goes, it's certainly TV's finest offering in years. The always-great Anna Paquin is suited perfectly to the lead role of Sookie, the small-town Louisiana telepath who falls for Bill, the show's lead bloodsucker, as played by charismatic English actor Stephen Moyer. Ball and his writers have injected the show with enough original concepts, such as Sookie's abilities and her boss' recently revealed shapeshifter status, to keep the show fresh and free of vampire cliche.

That said, it's not without flaw. Yes, a lot of this territory was mined thoroughly by Anne Rice decades ago. And I'm still scratching my head trying to figure out exactly what the meandering story arc of Sookie's best friend Tara has to do with anything else on the show. Nevertheless, True Blood has earned a solid spot on my weekly must-see list. If you've despaired of the state of horror on TV, give it a shot.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Anne Rice Speaks Out on Being a Total Nutcase

In a way, I'm a lot luckier than most fans of Anne Rice. I have never quite gotten around to finishing her complete series of vampire novels, and so I have a lot more to enjoy despite the fact that Rice has abandoned writing about the undead to focus on writing about Jesus Christ. As for the rest of her fan base, they've been about as pissed off as Queen Akasha at that Vampire Lestat concert ever since the author re-embraced her Catholicism and became a Christian writer.

Rice has been no stranger to eccentric behavior over the years. She bad-mouthed the film version of her first vampire novel, only to take out a full-page New York Times ad praising it and apologizing. She lashed out furiously on Amazon.com against readers who had maligned her final vampire chronicle, The Blood Canticle. And most recently, she contemplated writing another vamp book in which her hero Lestat himself becomes a practicing Christian. Her once loyal fans heaved a collective sigh when she abandoned that ill-advised idea.

Yesterday, Rice gave a rare interview to ScotlandonSunday in an effort to promote her new memoir Called Out of Darkness: A Spiritual Confession--the book the New York Times described as "a crashing, mind-numbing bore... the literary equivalent of waterboarding."

"Not all my fans like my new work," Rice explains. "But I had a wonderful letter from one recently who said, 'Now I understand, your characters were searching, they were lost and looking for a way back to God.'"

This opinion is not shared by the many former readers who now consider her to be a total fruit loop. Some have even gone so far as to say that her complete 180 reversal has tainted her previous series, The Chronicles of the Vampires and The Mayfair Witches. While that would be taking it a bit far, it's also fair to say that Ms. Rice has always been a few pints low--this recent transformation is just the latest manifestation of her creepy cat-ladyness.

"It was a delayed adolescent rebellion," Rice says of the youthful rejection of the Catholic Church that led her to become a writer of erotica and horror. "I wanted to be bohemian, smoke Camel cigarettes, wear black gloves and know what the modern world was. I felt that if I couldn't be a good Catholic, there couldn't be a God. It was a tragic mistake."

It's ironic that Rice discovered her "tragic mistake" only after making a king's ransom from the hundreds of millions of copies of novels sold to the kind of adoring readership 99% of writers only dream of attracting.

"I'm writing a variety of Christian books, some of which might be appealing to fans of my early work," she says. "In the future, I want to write books about Christmas; Christmas books in the sense of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol; books about early Christianity when people were struggling in the Roman Empire in the early church. I grew up with Ben Hur. I'd love to write a big book like that. I'd love to write a book and have Hollywood make a movie of it, like Gladiator but about Christianity."

If all this is giving you the douche chills, you're not the only one. Look, I don't begrudge Rice her epiphany. But let's call a spade a spade here. Clearly, the woman has been through a lot of pain in recent years, with the loss of her husband and the ravaging effects of Hurricane Katrina, among other things. So she's sought solace in safety, in the world that once represented all that was stable in her young life. But let's at least recognize it for that. And in doing so, I can't help but mourn the loss of a great creative mind to the frailty of the human psyche.

I can't be angry with her the way many other fans are. I interpret this as a sign of weakness, no doubt about it--but I'd be a hypocrite if I didn't point that we're all weak to one extent or another. We haven't walked in her shoes, and we can't know what truly motivated her to this point. I guess I just expected better from someone who once produced such a rich, evocative and subversive fictional world. True, her vampire series was erratic, particularly towards the end, but I always enjoyed losing myself in that world, nonetheless. Maybe it's for the best, as there seemed no escaping their continuing downturn in quality.

But don't let that put you off enjoying the books she already has out there. Then you'd be just as irrational and flaky as she is.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

New Poll Reveals Difference Between Casual and Hardcore Horror Fans

Media retail giant HMV held a poll last month on their website that really got me thinking. As they do every year around Halloween, the UK-based company asked visitors to vote for their favorite horror film of all time. They then compiled the top 50 vote-getters, and published the list on their site on October 30. Here's what they came up with:

1.The Exorcist. William Friedkin (1973)
2.The Shining. Stanley Kubrick (1980) 
3.Alien. Ridley Scott (1979) 
4.The Silence of the Lambs. Jonathan Demme (1991) 
5.Saw. James Wan (2004) 
6.Halloween. John Carpenter (1978) 
7.A Nightmare on Elm Street. Wes Craven (1984) 
8.Ring (Ringu). Hideo Nakata (1998) 
9.The Wicker Man. Robin Hardy (1973) 
10.The Omen. Richard Donner (1976) 
11.The Birds. Alfred Hitchcock (1963) 
12.The Thing. John Carpenter (1982) 
13.Lost Boys. Joel Schumacher (1987) 
14.Dawn of the Dead. George A Romero (1978) 
15.The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Tobe Hooper (1974) 
16.Jaws. Steven Spielberg (1975) 
17.The Blair Witch Project. Daniel Myrick & Eduardo Sanchez (1999) 
18.An American Werewolf in London. John Landis (1981) 
19.Se7en. David Fincher (1995) 
20.Poltergeist. Tobe Hooper (1982) 
21.The Amityville Horror. Stuart Rosenberg (1979) 
22.Candyman. Bernard Rose (1992) 
23.Scream. Wes Craven (1996) 
24.Carrie. Brian De Palma (1976) 
25.Friday the 13th. Sean S Cunningham (1980) 
26.Final Destination. James Wong (2000) 
27.The Evil Dead. Sam Raimi (1981) 
28.Hellraiser. Clive Barker (1987) 
29.Hostel. Eli Roth (2005) 
30.Salem's Lot. Mikael Salomon (2004) 
31.The Descent. Neil Marshall (2005) 
32.The Hills Have Eyes. Wes Craven (1977) 
33.Wolf Creek. Greg McLean (2005) 
34.Misery. Rob Reiner (1991) 
35.Rosemary's Baby. Roman Polanski (1968) 
36.Child's Play. Tom Holland (1989) 
37.The Orphanage. Juan Antonio Bayona (2008) 
38.The Entity. Sidney J Furie (1981) 
39.Nosferatu. FW Murnau (1922) 
40.Night of the Living Dead. George A. Romero (1968) 
41.House on Haunted Hill. William Malone (2000) 
42.The Haunting. Robert Wise (1963) 
43.It. Tommy Lee Wallace (1990) 
44.Audition. Takashi Miike (1999) 
45.The Changeling. Peter Medak (1980) 
46.The Mist. Frank Darabont (2008) 
47.Suspiria. Dario Argento (1977) 
48.The Vanishing. George Sluizer (1993) 
49.Shutter. Masayuki Ochiai (2008) 
50.Planet Terror. Robert Rodriguez (2007)

OK, there are a few things that jump out at me here. First of all, no Psycho. That's just amazing, especially since I'd have guessed it as a possible number-one. This is especially bizarre since The Birds nearly made the top 10. There's also no Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, Dracula--in fact, there is only one film made before 1963 on the entire list.

Instead, you have Saw in the top 5, which, even as a supporter of that movie, I have to say is nothing short of effrontery. And as much as I also enjoy A Nightmare on Elm Street, putting it in the top 10 is a bit of stretch. And The Lost Boys? Really? Top 50 of all time?? Even letting picks like The Blair Witch Project and Hostel slide, how on earth do Final Destination and the remake of House on Haunted Hill make a list like this? And I'm sorry--as unpopular as this might make me--but there's no way Friday the 13th belongs here, either. That movie is a guilty pleasure more than anything else.

There are a couple of things to be commended here. Obviously, The Exorcist is a solid pick for number one, have to respect that. I also greatly respect The Wicker Man making the top 10, which has to be due to the British origin of the list. That same European sensibility surely also led to Suspiria getting enough votes to make it in.

I'm overwhelmed at the vast chasm that exists between the horror tastes of the general public at large, as opposed to self-admitted horror snobs like myself. If anything, being so close to the genre and loving it so much has probably clouded my judgement when it comes to what appeals to those for whom horror movies represent a much more casual interest. Certainly that difference accounts for the lack of representation here for horror movies from the 1950s and earlier. It also explains the presence of films that made it merely because they are fresh in the public's collective mind.

If you're a true horror hound reading this, then I'm sure you've had the experience of having a conversation with someone who's not so into horror movies, and having to humor them as they tell you what their favorites are. You try not to come off as a pompous ass when they extoll the virtues of One Missed Call, Urban Legend, or anything ever counted among the "8 Films to Die For". You shudder at the notion that they've never seen Werewolf of London, Dead Alive, or anything directed by Mario Bava. In short, you are a horror geek.

And don't get me wrong, I love you for it. That's why I've been toying with the idea of conducting a little poll of my own. There is no doubt that there is a contingent of hardcore horror aficionados represented online--spatterati, if I may coin a term. Those bold souls who profess their adoration for the horror genre to their readers each and every day. If they were asked to name their favorite horror films of all time, I wonder what the resulting list might look like.

I plan to do something about it. I plan to find out. That's why I'm going to be reaching out to the cream of the crop of the online horror community to find out what they think. And you guessed it, I plan to publish the results right here on The Vault of Horror.

It's not that I'm saying our opinion is superior to that of Joe Six-Pack. Well, actually, I am. I am a horror snob, after all.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Stephen King, By Way of Lucio Fulci

I confess that up until recently, the only Lucio Fulci film of which I was closely familiar was the infamous Zombi 2, undoubtedly the closest thing to a mainstream horror movie the Italian splatter maestro ever produced. I had yet to really delve into his even more greatly revered trilogy of terrors: The Gates of Hell, The Beyond and House by the Cemetery. 

Well, I did something about that several weeks ago when I received House by the Cemetery in the mail from the fine folks at Netflix--whom I still love, even if this is the only one of the trilogy they currently offer. Now, there's nothing I love more than a good, down-and-dirty 1970s exploitation horror flick, and House by the Cemetery delivered the goods. I was mucho impressed, and pleased as I always am at discovering a horror gem for the first time. That happens less and less these days.

But there was something about the movie I immediately noticed, and after viewing it, I jumped on the internet, only to find that nearly no one else seems to have made much of it at all. But it hit me like a water-logged boxing glove, so I thought I'd share it and see who among you shares my opinion. Simply put, it seems very obvious to me that, as enjoyable as House by the Cemetery is, it's basically Lucio Fulci's attempt to ride on the coattails of The Shining.

Just as he had done in 1979 when he put out the misleadingly titled Zombi 2 to capitalize on the success of George Romero's Dawn of the Dead the previous year, so too, it appears to me, did he crank out HBTC in 1981, a year after Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of Stephen King's novel, as a direct reaction to it.

Let's take a look at this, shall we? Both films focus on families moving into houses that are in the possession of some kind of malevolent force. In both cases, the man is moving in for professional reasons, and has a very young son who is contacted/befriended by an otherworldy spirit. The parents are aware of this, but believe it only to be their sons' imaginary friend. Both stories focus on the father of the family, and his journey of discovery as to the nature of the house and its evil presence. Both also showcase a distraught, put-upon wife who grows more and more terrified as she witnesses bizarre events unfold in the house. The Shining ends with a time-paradox twist involving the father and the earlier period in which the disturbance originated. At the end of HBTC, the son finds himself transported somehow back to an earlier time as well.

Where King/Kubrick and Fulci deviate is that in The Shining the force is far less tangible, and eventually imposes an evil influence on the father, turning him into a killer, while in House by the Cemetery, the entity is much more corporeal in nature, dispatching of its hapless victims directly.

Essentially, HBTC is a haunted house story, with a decidedly Fulcian twist. That twist has to do with Fulci's fascination with the physical, and the horrors of the flesh. Whereas most ghost stories are atmospheric in nature, frightening viewers on a psychological level, Fulci's aesthetic requires that the antagonist be much more of a physical being, able to perpetrate acts of graphic violence to showcase his beloved gore effects for the purpose of causing revulsion. This makes the movie a rare hybrid of the haunted house story and splatter flick.

My observation of Fulci's aping of The Shining may be fairly obvious to some of you, but the fact remains that I've been able to find hardly any mention online of any observed connection between the two movies. Yet for me, it was one of the first things I noticed. The film marks such a departure for Fulci, content-wise, that one cannot help but conclude that he had beheld the enormous success of Kubrick's pic and felt that maybe the writing was on the wall, that horror was returning to its more gothic roots. And so he attempted to get on board the bandwagon, albeit not without leaving his own bloody handprints so no one forgot whose movie it was.

The result makes for a surprisingly entertaining movie, particularly for those with a good old-fashioned attention span, who appreciate having their patience rewarded with properly paced and placed payoffs. Despite the hack editing and flaws of logic inherent in any Fulci picture, it works on several levels, producing more purely atmospheric terror than Fulci was customarily known for, while also punctuating the proceedings with a healthy dose of gut-wrenching grue. Despite its derivative nature, Fulci somehow manages to make it into a fairly unique movie--a paradox if ever there was one.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

It Finally Happened--A Dexter Copycat

One of the first things I thought of when I first got acquainted with the excellent Showtime original series Dexter was, "I wonder if anyone's going to copy this guy in real life?" And lo and behold, someone has.

Canadian news service Canwest is reporting today that one Mark Andrew Twitchell, a 29-year-old filmmaker from Edmonton, Alberta, has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of 38-year-old John Brian Altinger. Apparently inspired by vigiliante serial killer Dexter Morgan, Twitchell allegedly targeted Altinger because he suspected him of cheating on his wife. Luring him to the very garage where he had made some of his short movies--under the false pretense of hooking up with a woman he had met online--Twitchell is accused of killing Altinger, a la his favorite TV character.

How can we be sure he was emulating Dexter specifically? Well, it looks like his Facebook status as of last August was "Mark has way too much in common with Dexter Morgan." Police have also obtained Twitchell's latest unflimed movie script "House of Cards", in which a serial killer kills an unfaithful husband after luring him to an abandoned garage under the false pretense of hooking up with a woman he met online. Way to cover your tracks there, Mark. Geez, if Dexter had been this dumb, it would've been a very short TV series.

The eternal question obviously arises of whether or not a TV show can be accused of inspiring a crime. Now, those of you who have read my posts on this kind of stuff before know that I take a kind of moderate, Devil's-advocate approach to these issues. I'm open to both sides of the argument, and I'm not arrogant enough to claim that I have the definitive answer. I am curious to know what others think, however.

It's far from the first time something like this has happened. Children of the '80s will remember the infamous John Hinckley, a man obsessed with the movie Taxi Driver who shot President Reagan to impress Jodie Foster. Then there was Natural Born Killers, which led to a whole bunch of copycatting yahoos. And most recently, The Dark Knight inspired a couple of Virginia teenagers to make Joker-esque terroristic threats using playing cards. And for anyone who makes the argument that a piece of media can never inspire a person with free will to do crazy things, I direct your attention to a little book known as the Bible.

I tend to lean toward the opinion espoused by many, that works like Dexter don't directly inspire criminal acts, but rather define the manner in which they're carried out. Meaning, people like John Hinckley clearly already have a screw loose and are likely to do something nuts; watching Taxi Driver just helped him formulate a game plan, it didn't put the idea in his head.

But does that absolve the book/movie/show from all blame? After all, one could argue that Twitchell may never have gotten the idea in his head to premeditatedly murder someone for being immoral if he hadn't observed that very specific behavior on Dexter. And let's not forget, this has been one of the very fears behind a lot of anti-Dexter sentiment. Again, I'm not advocating for censorship--hell, I love the show--I'm just keeping an open mind to all possibilities here. What do you think?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Michael Crichton 1942-2008

Although his most notable work is best classified as sci-fi/action, Michael Crichton was a novelist and screenwriter who commonly incorporated strong horror elements in his fiction. He also pioneered the subgenre of medical/technological horror with such books and screenplays as The Andromeda Strain and Westworld, and later Jurassic Park, Prey and Next, among others.

Crichton was among genre fiction's most influential and high-profile authors, with the likes of Steven Spielberg, Robert Wise, Barry Levinson and Jan de Bont among the directors who have adapted some 13 of his novels to the screen. Crichton was also an accomplished director himself, helming several films based on his own novels, as well as the 1978 movie Coma, based on the novel of another medical horror luminary, Robin Cook.

A former medical student himself, Crichton was also the creator of the hospital TV drama ER, now in its 15th and final season, and once the highest-rated hour-long on television.

Crichton died yesterday at the age of 66, after a long, private struggle with cancer.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

See Monsters vs. Aliens Trailer Three Days Early

First of all, how could you not automatically love a movie that's called Monsters vs. Aliens? I'm not usually a big fan of Dreamworks' animated films, but this one, at least from the trailer, looks like it may be nearly as ingenious and funny as anything Pixar has put out there. I can honestly say I laughed out loud, a couple of times. The trailer will be running in theaters along with Madagascar: Back to Africa starting this weekend. But you can have a look for yourselves right now, courtesy of TrailerAddict:

Monday, November 3, 2008

Stan Lee Reads The Raven

Quoth the raven... excelsior!

This was just too awesome to pass up without sharing. The ultimate icon of geek culture reads from the ultimate icon of horror literature as Stan "The Man" Lee presents Edgar Allen Poe's "The Raven". Stan recorded it for QuickStopEntertainment.com in honor of Halloween, but it's something that can be cherished throughout the year--I think Stan's old school Borscht Belt accent is really what puts it over the top...

Part 1:

Part 2:

But of course, nothing will ever top Christopher Walken's rendition for my money...
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