"QUITE SIMPLY, THE BEST HORROR-THEMED BLOG ON THE NET." -- Joe Maddrey, Nightmares in Red White & Blue
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Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Monday, August 30, 2010
- I'll freely admit that True Blood was losing me a bit this season. Yeah, I know I say that every season. But ever since the Russell Edgington storyline really picked up steam, I have been back on board in a big way. Great character, and great performance by Denis O'Hare.
- Did you ever notice that nearly all classic animated shorts in the old days, particularly those involving animals, are obsessed with characters who keep trying to eat other characters? Pretty damn terrifying if you really think about it. Well, not really. But kind of bizarre, no?
- So The Last Exorcism captured the number-one spot at the box office over the weekend, huh? Very interesting. OK, I'll definitely be checking this out at some point during the week...
- While on the subject of things that creep me out, I don't think I've ever gotten too far into it, but I'm thoroughly fascinated by very old graveyards, and will stop and have a look almost every time I pass one. Something beautiful about the ornate stones, and melancholy about how utterly forgotten everyone is who's buried there. For those interested, the most captivating one I've come across is a sprawling 19th century cemetery in Manchester, New Hampshire, right across the street from the Verizon Wireless Arena.
- Whenever I watch Taxi Driver, and get to the part where DeNiro drives past the movie theater showing The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, I always wish that he had taken Cybill Shepherd to see that, rather than that lame Swedish porn flick...
- So apparently James Cameron (you know, director of Piranha 2: The Spawning) is trashing Piranha 3-D for "cheapening" the 3-D medium. Yes, because there's nothing that screams "refined cinematic taste" like a 3-D movie. Or a James Cameron movie, for that matter. Can we cut the bullshit already, please? The sooner we can all admit that the 3-D "renaissance" is nothing more than a cynical racket to relieve you of more of your movie-going dollars, the better.
- John Cusack playing Edgar Allan Poe? Can't say I saw that one coming. What's next, will Jon Cryer be portraying Bram Stoker?
- Congrats go out to the delightful Jovanka Vuckovic, former editor-in-chief of Rue Morgue, for landing none other than Guillermo del Toro as executive producer for her debut short film, The Captured Bird. Also congrats on her recent birthing of one of the cutest babies I've ever seen in my life.
- Alright Twilight Zone fans, what's your favorite celebrity guest appearance? I could be all predictable and boring and say either William Shatner or Burgess Meredith, but there's something about Telly Savalas and "Talky Tina" that really stands out, too...
- I'd like to spread the word about two breathtaking film festivals happening on the same day on opposite sides of this great nation of ours. One is Horrible Imaginings: The Horror Film Festival of San Diego. The other is the Hudson Horror Show, happening in Poughkeepsie, New York. Both occur on Saturday, November 6, and there is a very real chance I shall be at the latter. More info to come on these events as we get a little closer...
Friday, August 27, 2010
Juggling a collection of impressive projects at any given time, the main happening that Cruella is currently involved in is a zombie crawl known as the Village Invasion, coming to Saugerties, New York on Saturday, October 16. She discussed the event at length with me, in addition to the many other things with which she has been and is currently involved...
Let’s talk a bit about the zombie walks. The one you’re involved in promoting right now is the Village Invasion in Saugerties. Tell me a little about this. How did you get involved in all of it?
It’s hard to describe, actually. I’ll tell you one thing, I would never have been able to really get it going the way I have without utilizing social media. It helped me organize everything, and make the project a reality.
It’s your project, though, right--from the ground up?
Yes, it’s completely my own. This zombie crawl means a lot to me. Actually, organizing events like this in general is what I live for. It’s something I’ve always done; it’s in my blood. My family has been putting on a fundraiser now for 12 years, raising money for juvenile diabetes through a, “Car Show for a Cause”. We raise a great deal of cash in one day in just a few hours. It draws thousands of people.
So what is it about zombies that made you want to organize this whole event?
Nothing. I’m just good at it and I am very fond of all things related to horror, evil and Halloween. I found at an early age that I was different than other people. The ordinary things that others did were extremely boring to me, so I created my own entertainment. Besides, people are easily led—well; I suppose they like to call it, “willing participation.”
What is it that motivates you?
It’s just a great experience, to be able to pull off something successful like that, especially in my hometown. I consider it a success if 50 people show up, or even five, for that matter. It’s not really about me, it’s about the event and the people who come and enjoy in what I’ve created. What can I say; I’m a very complicated person, Brian. My desire is to create something where people can lose their inhibitions and have fun.
Tell me about some of the other events you’ve been involved with.
I rented an art studio and a gallery for three years in Kingston. I had art exhibits that would change monthly. One month the theme was, “Obsession and Fetishes”. The artwork ranged from the typical fetishes one can imagine just from the title of the show all the way to someone being obsessed with food. I pulled some strings and had some close friend who dabble in S&M come in their domme gear , that really shook up the town. Another memorable theme at the gallery was one where I covered the space in assorted shapes and sizes of mirrors. I called it the, “Reflection of the Flesh”, where YOU were the art. I set up paint stations with assorted non-toxic paints and let people at themselves with a photographer capturing the moments it was fantastic! That’s same day I orchestrated a local salsa band to play on the street, the date was Cinco de Mayo. Dancing painted people everywhere, the energy was amazing! I also have been very involved in the Kingston’s Artist Soapbox Derby and have won every year that I have entered into it.
I understand you also have done a lot of work in movie makeup?
Yes, I worked for a company called Aesthetic Creations. I was an assistant makeup artist, in the special effects department. I met a lot of interesting and talented people; most of them had worked or were working for Universal Studios. I really learned so much. I worked on the tail end of Beloved, creating silicon molds and prosthetics. I also got to do that for Bringing Out the Dead, directed by Martin Scorsese. Who is kind of a pompous jerk, by the way. But I got to do a lot of prosthetics for that movie, for Nic Cage, Marc Anthony and other character actors.
I also worked on Jim Jarmosh’s Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai, in which I created prosthetics for faces, a fake forehead, for a character who was going to be shot in the head. It was definitely interesting to come into work for a company everyday where the props from the jail scene in Silence of the Lambs were hanging overhead.
On the other end of the spectrum, you also currently do a lot of work with floral arrangements. How did you get into that?
While I was subletting the gallery and studio space from a florist I would be there late every day either painting or working on the next event for the studio, and helped her out with the shop from time to time. The shop eventually closed, but I never stopped doing that kind of work. It turned out I was really good at it and I enjoyed being surrounded by flowers, who wouldn’t? People started seeking me out, and pretty soon I was doing arrangements for all kinds of events, from weddings to funerals.
So do you have any trouble at all balancing these two worlds, zombies and floral arrangements?
Not at all, I’m always busy. I am more creative in chaos. As I said, I’m a complex person. I’m from two worlds. As a child, I was very confused as to who I was supposed to be. Whenever I was told I couldn’t do something that was like a challenge to me. And it became a challenge to do as much as possible, and to be good at whatever crossed my path.
So what’s the next obstacle to be conquered? What does the future hold for Cruella Moxham?
I’m thinking the world and then maybe the Vault of Horror…yeah, sounds about right.
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To find out more about the Village Invasion, check out the official event page over at Crawl of the Dead. Also, be sure to connect with Ms. Moxham via Facebook!
It gives one pause to think that not a single member of the cast and credited crew of The Cat and the Canary is still alive. This contributes to giving the film the feel of a genuine relic of a bygone age. This is a motion picture made literally a lifetime ago, and this only adds to the rich, thick atmosphere already layered upon it by the deft direction of the German-born Paul Leni (who would do The Man Who Laughs for Universal the following year), and especially the camera work of cinematographer Gilbert Warrenton.
I say "especially", because one of the things that most recommends The Cat and the Canary is the endlessly fascinating cinematography. During a time when film-makers were still discovering their art, and learning how to use the new medium to its fullest advantage, The Cat and the Canary emerges as a lot more than simply a filmed play--which technically it was, since it was based on the very successful early 1920s stage production by John Willard. The movement of the camera is brilliant, vibrant and only further enhanced by the expert use of tinted color film stock.
In fact, in order to fully appreciate the film with the colors in place, I'd recommend the excellent Kino DVD edition of the film, since many public domain prints of silent movies don't include them. The Kino edition also replicates the original score, as composed by Hugo Reisenfeld. Yes, for those who don't know, many silent films had specifically composed scores, written to be played lived when the film was shown.
While the epitome of the classic "old, dark house" horror movie trope, The Cat and the Canary also typifies the manner in which American horror cinema was not yet ready to embrace the supernatural--that would come just a couple years later with Tod Browning's Dracula. This is more of a murder mystery than anything else, but it is so stylized and has such delicious ambiance, that it crosses confidently over into terror territory.
Yet there's also comedy, and plenty of it. The whodunit-style cast is populated by actors and actresses who defy the very unfair stereotype of the silent film actor, emoting both broadly when needed, and subtlely when the moment calls for it. The intoxicating ingenue Laura La Plante is our put-upon protagonist Annabelle West; Creighton Hale nearly steals the proceedings as her cousin Paul, bringing an irresistible pathos and comic presence to the role; Flora Finch is the stuffy Aunt Susan; Martha Mattox plays the inappropriately named Mammy Pleasant. It's an ensemble cast that comes alive on screen in a way that may surprise those not so well acquainted with silent cinema.
Yes, the storyline, with all its twists and turns, is the stuff of genre cliche. But the thing to note here, is that these devices were already cliche in 1927. The fun of the movie is the way it plays with them, the way it takes all the ingredients we're familiar with, and can still dazzle us with something unique. It's a visually beautiful film, which is only enriched by the intervening 83 years, allowing it to be further appreciated as a snapshot of a time and place in genre film history.
The Cat and the Canary is an important film. I'm extremely glad I stumbled across it and gave it a chance. And I strongly encourage you to do the same.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Sunday, August 22, 2010
Every girl wants her first time to be special, but for Arlana Flaherty, “special” doesn’t even begin to describe the first time she made love to her boyfriend, Martin Cleary. Unfortunately for this beautiful Irish lass, the Flaherty clan are the keepers of “The Chill”, an old and powerful magic that grants immortality to a select few for the price of innocent men’s lives. And Arlana’s father has a taste for everlasting life.
More than 40 years later, a serial killer is on the loose in New York City, and as the number of sadistic, ritualistic murders begins to add up, the NYPD and FBI hone in on a suspect: a beautiful young woman named Arlana. The problem? Every witness provides a different description of Arlana, a fact that makes sense to no one save a beaten-down Irish cop named Martin Cleary.
Award-winning novelist and screenwriter Jason Starr’s first foray into the world of comics has resulted in the 192-page graphic novel The Chill, first published in 2009 by Vertigo Crime, a sub-imprint of DC Comics’ Vertigo imprint. The Chill is a gritty, noir-style thriller illustrated by Mick Bertilorenzi. Like the silver screen adaptations of Raymond Chandler and other authors’ original noir fiction, Bertilorenzi brings Starr’s story to life in high-contrast black and white perfect for modern crime fiction like The Chill. The graphic novel’s visual style is reminiscent of newsprint, even down to the texture of the paper, and the result is a tableau that compliments Starr’s writing without detracting from the progression of his story.
Starr’s background as a novelist shines through, and is evident in the extent to which the characters are developed, the complexity of the story, and the twisted, unexpected ending. Even readers who believe they know how it will end as they make their way through the graphic novel will be surprised by the grotesque nature of Starr’s ending, which is so deeply disturbing as to be virtually unpredictable. The Chill is far from tame, as readers will discover as soon as they begin reading. It's rife with graphic nudity, gore and sex, but it is the fact that Starr addresses the subject of ritualistic murder, intrigue and sexual manipulation in such a head-on manner that sets The Chill apart from other graphic novels I have read.
While it is possible to read The Chill in a single sitting, this is not a light graphic novel. As previously mentioned, The Chill is 192 pages long, and the action doesn't stop for a second, even when Starr's characters are laying out exposition. Fans of horror comics and thrillers certainly will enjoy Jason Starr's crime drama, and I highly recommend picking up a copy, either directly from Vertigo Crime or from another comic book retailer.
- I'll be damned if I can remember the last time I saw a "mainstream" theatrically released horror film with as much balls-to-the-walls gore as Piranha 3-D. It even had me getting a bit queasy at times, which is a good thing. And that opener with Richard Dreyfuss? Worth the price of admission, even with the horrendous CGI.
- Recently had a chance to pop in The Brain That Wouldn't Die during one of my late-night battles with insomnia. Never realized how much lurid, sleazerific stuff that flick had going on. 1950s stripper catfights? Sign me up.
- Speaking of stuff you miss on first viewing, after a re-viewing of A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge, I can't believe they were ever able to get the movie made, what with all the gay subtext going on. I've said it before, and I'll say it again--that's a daring, egregiously underrated horror sequel if ever there was one. Sure beats the hell out of soul pizzas, I can tell you that.
- My excitement levels continue to rise for AMC's The Walking Dead. I literally have seen nothing thus far that would lead me to expect anything but greatness from the new series, set to debut in October (I'm assuming as soon as Mad Men finishes up.) I'd love to do a week-by-week episode review, but I'm assuming everyone and their mother will be doing the same thing. Hear that, blogosphere? I call dibs on the Walking Dead episode reviews! Ahem, glad that's settled...
- If anyone's looking to get me a birthday/Christmas present this December, might I suggest the book Final Exits by Michael Largo, winner of the 2006 Bram Stoker Award for best non-fiction book? Cool, thanks.
- Am I the only who still has trouble getting through the opening credits for Tales from the Darkside in a darkened room all by myself? Just wondering.
- My most recent sidebar poll, regarding which vampire you would allow to bite you, has really got me thinking. That's got to be one of the most fascinating aspects of the vampire legend, don't you think? That a victim would be so under their power as to allow themselves to be bitten, regardless of the risk involved. Quite a fascinating concept, no? I think the morbid drive toward self-destruction is one of those themes at the very heart of much of horror.
- One upcoming project that has certainly piqued my interest is Guillermo del Toro's Don't Be Afraid of the Dark. The recently released trailer has me more intrigued than ever. The original is easily my favorite horror TV movie of all time, but there's certainly a lot of room for improvement, especially with someone with the proven genre chops of Del Toro involved. Bring it on.
- A recent Facebook debate got me thinking (I'm really doing far too much thinking these days)... I think the world can be divided into those who think Alien is the superior film to Aliens, and those who prefer James Cameron's sequel to Ridley Scott's original. As for me, I've always been in the former camp--Aliens is a terribly entertaining action flick, but Alien...ah, that's just sublime film-making right there. I also take the same stance with regard to the Terminator films. The first one is a taut little sci-fi thriller that has stood the test of time; the sequel, a bloated, dated cheesefest.
- Are you a zombie in the general New York vicinity? Well, there just so happens to be a zombie crawl coming up in October that you might want to be a part of. It's the Village Invasion, descending on Saugerties, New York on the evening of October 16. Organized by the demonically delightful Cruella Moxham (an upcoming Visceral Visionaries victim/subject), it's sure to be a brain-munching bonanza. Get more info here...
- Speaking of demonically delightful, I'd like to thank the amazing Kristy Jett of The Blood Sprayer and Fright Rags, who despite having a blast all weekend at the Monster Mania convention in New Jersey, still managed to find the time to randomly put me on the phone with Joe "Mark" Seely and Erika "Greta" Anderson of Nightmare on Elm Street 5 fame. Possibly my most surreal experience since riding around Cleveland in a rental car with Mr. Perfect and the Big Boss Man...
Saturday, August 21, 2010
Friday, August 20, 2010
Thursday, August 19, 2010
Well, that's all changed now, thanks to UK video distributor Arrow Films. See, Arrow is the official UK distributor of a whole bunch of American genre titles, including, you guessed it, Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead. And on Monday, August 30, Arrow Films will be re-releasing both films on DVD, except this time adding on a host of special features previously included only on the Blu-ray releases. Yes, this is a UK distributor, meaning that both releases will be in PAL format, but most U.S. DVD players these days are all-region, and will support PAL. Just be sure before you buy these--don't come crying to me if they won't play, ya whiny Americans.
These are two of my favorite horror films of all time, and I approve of any excuse to check them out one more time. For more info on the Dawn and Day releases, as well as more very cool titles, check out the official Arrow Films website, as well as Arrow's official forum site, Cult Laboratories.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Joining me is fellow pop-culture obsessed Gen-Xer Bryan White of Cinema Suicide. He and I had begun conversing recently on Twitter about our shared enthusiasm for one of comics' most underrated movements and eras, and now, it's turned into all this. For those of you horror fiends who are also comics nerds, you're in for a treat. If you beat up guys like us in high school, kindly come back next week. We promise to have our lunch money for you then.
Take a listen to the embedded link below--or proceed directly to the Vaultcast page and download it.
Cinema Suicide: http://www.cinema-suicide.com
Sunday, August 15, 2010
Personal bias: Slashers have never been a favorite of mine. In this, I often feel in the minority. That said, even I freely admit to being impressed and surprised at the level of diversity within this sub-genre. Perhaps it's time I give it a reappraisal. Take a look at this final collection of favorites, and judge for yourself...
B-Sol on A Nightmare on Elm Street
One of my biggest issues with slashers is the relative lack of imagination I often find in them--the slavish loyalty to formula. Perhaps this has a lot to do with my preference for supernatural horror. Knowing that, it would come as no surprise that the slasher film which has always had the most appeal to me would be Wes Craven's jewel, A Nightmare on Elm Street--undoubtedly the most successful and popular horror film of the 1980s.
Craven takes the slasher motif so far into supernatural territory, in fact, that some may even question whether or not NOES is a slasher film at all. But it is. We have the single-minded murderer stalking morally ambiguous teens with sharp objects. The ineffectual parental and authority figures. The tenacious and virtuous final girl. The killer with an origin out of classic urban legend. It's all here, only wit far more imagination, and thus far of an opportunity to frighten and disturb.
Freddy Krueger is a classic movie monster right up there with the likes of Dracula, Mr. Hyde and the Wolf Man. He is timeless, particularly in this first installment, after which the purity of the terror would be increasingly watered down. Stalking us in our dreams, he is the embodiment of the intangible fear from which we can never truly escape. Craven had been growing steadily more potent as a horror film-maker, and this, I believe represents him at the apex of his powers. It's a powerful little gem which he has yet to equal.
Missy Yearian of Chickapin Parish on Black Christmas
It’s a fact among film writers that our favorite films are the most difficult to write about. And when I sat down to write exactly what it is about Black Christmas that makes it so damn special, well, I just had no idea what I’d say. I could go on about the eye behind the door, the Glass Menagerie murder (which is a highlight of the film), the inclusion of the always welcome and totally awesome John Saxon, or the presence of a drunken Margot Shitter—excuse me, Kidder. But all this would be a horror nerd’s reasons for loving the film, and that’s not all there is to love with Black Christmas. Simply put, Black Christmas is effing scary.
It’s Christmas holidays for the ladies of the Pi Kappa Sig house. The girls have been receiving obscene phone calls from an anonymous male who wants to… well, do dirty things to whichever girl answers the phone. As each of the girls embarks on their plans for the break, the house thins out, and the few girls left are forced to fight for their lives from a psycho who’s holed up in their attic.
The fact that Black Christmas is a slasher will bring up certain images and ideas, but it does something that most films of the sub-genre can’t seem to do. It follows the formula very well, and it does so four years before John Carpenter would wow us with Halloween and even longer before Wes Craven would revive the dying sub-genre with Scream. Black Christmas is a benchmark film. It’s a standard by which we can compare all other slasher films, but for some reason, most people outside the horror community don’t know about it. Perhaps it’s that My Bloody Valentine became known as the Canadian slasher. Perhaps it’s that it was released the same year as Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chain Saw Massacre.
Whatever the reason for mainstream ignorance of this film, it should be recognized as the genesis point of an entire sub-genre. It’s a slow-burner, and that makes for one of the most frightening experiences you’ll have as a viewer.
Hey, if you disagree, you can always reach me at “Fellatio 2-0-8-8-0.”
Brandon Sites of Big Daddy Horror Reviews on Night Warning
If I had to pick any one sub-genre as my favorite, it's the '80s slasher. It's what I grew up on. It's what formed my love of the horror genre. It's the one sub-genre I can revisit over and over without ever tiring of it. With this week's post I not only get to tell you about my favorite slasher, I get to tell you about my favorite '80s horror film, period.
Night Warning (aka Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker) was one of those unfortunate films that fell by the wayside, because it's distributor had no idea how to market it. Campaigns suggested it was a teen slasher, and while it is indeed a slasher mixed with elements of mystery, there's much more to it than that. Susan Tyrell turns in the performance of a lifetime as the over-protective Aunt Cheryl. See, she's got the community in a bit of a tizzy after murdering the local TV repair man claiming he was trying to rape her. However, Lieutenant Carlson (Bo Svenson) doesn't buy her story and thinks that the orphaned teenage nephew (Jimmy McNichol) that she raised is the guilty party. As Carlson digs around, he doesn't realize he's about to set off a chain of murders, and he just may end up as the next victim.
Night Warning was one of those films that was ahead of its time as it mixed story threads involving racism, the nearly incestuous relationship between an aunt and her nephew, and the bigotry of a small town towards the homosexual population. With a lesser director, these story elements would have probably come across as ridiculous, but William Asher shows assurance and conviction with the material. All the more surprising, considering the bulk of his career was making beach blanket films and TV directing gigs during the '60s.
As for the performances- when you think of a lineup that includes McNichol (Kristy's brother), Svenson (Walking Tall), Julia Duffy (TV's Newhart), and Broadway actress Marcia Lewis, you really wouldn't expect much, but they're all terrific. It's as though everyone involved had to prove their worth as either director or actor, because they've never been better then they were here. Night Warning is one of those films that as I watch it over and over, I always pick up a new little detail or nuance. It's also one of the rare times when the movie is actually better then the book.
Code Red, a company facing tough times right now, has been promising a release of this film for the longest time. They have even put together special features for it, and conducted interviews with several of the people involved. Here's to hoping that the winner of the Best Horror Film of 1982 from The Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films gets it's proper due one of these days, and gets a chance at a wider audience with a proper DVD release.
Fascination with Fear's C.L. Hadden on Halloween
The premise, simple. A crazed killer stalks a babysitter on Halloween night. Seems rather elementary, right? But Halloween is easily one of the most, if not the most influential movie in the history of slasher films. So what makes it so special?
Originally using the working title 'The Babysitter Murders', John Carpenter and Debra Hill co-wrote a screenplay that allowed the most basic elements of fear and anticipation to wreak havoc on the viewer's nerves. The point-of-view technique used to let us watch young six-year-old Michael murder his older sister in cold blood without a scratch of remorse catches our attention in the first five minutes, immediately dragging us into the psyche of a madman. The scenes of a desperate Dr. Loomis at the institution and the outrage and anxiety he projects at the Michael's escape only worsen with every moment he tracks him closer to Haddonfield.
Michael Myers is the most fundamental of slashers, wielding a kitchen butcher knife while sporting his Shatner mask and lumbering along like a zombie at best. And yet he is at his most menacing when we see him in subtle and sometimes quick shots: behind the laundry clothesline, outside Laurie's school, stepping out from behind the sidewalk hedge. Moments of unexpected lurking and outright stalking that take the viewer by surprise.
Halloween also is home to one of the genre's most beloved final girls, Laurie Strode. Selfless, virginal Laurie, always one to take in an extra ward on a babysitting job so her horny friends can get laid. A girl who has no idea (yet) why this escaped lunatic is dead-set on killing her, and yet fights back with all the gumption and determination of an alley cat in heat.
A moment to also thank the incredibly multi-talented director for his score contribution. In the same way John Williams is to Jaws, Carpenter is to Halloween. A distinctive, simple few notes that resonate throughout the film and create an atmosphere of terror and creeping doom. Without that recognizable score, the film would not succeed on the same level.
Taking more than just a few cues from the undisputed godfather of all slashers, Psycho, all in all Halloween is the perfect slasher film: Low on gore, high on suspense, setting the standard and watching (nearly) all replicas go down in embarrassing flames.
Oh, the Horror's Brett Gallman on The Burning
When most people think of camp-based slashers, their minds will turn to Camp Crystal Lake and the hockey masked momma’s boy who lives (and kills) there. Somehow, Friday the 13th has become known as the definitive camp splatter movie, which is hard to believe considering the series has only ever featured one fully-functional camp (Camp Forest Green in Jason Lives). Myself, I’d much rather be enrolled at The Burning’s Camp Stonewater any day of the week. Sure, dealing with Cropsey and the sight of George Costanza in short shorts would be terrifying, but it’d be a lot of fun otherwise. It’s got everything you would want from summer camp: pranks, campfire tales, and a group of fun people to hang around with. Just about the only thing missing from these hijinks is Bill Murray rallying the troops against a rival camp.
Of course, it also has everything you would expect from a slasher: gratuitous sex, drugs and death. Whenever Tom Savini’s effects are handling the latter part there, you’re usually in good hands, and The Burning is no exception. The Sultan of Splatter carves the cast up in a variety of ways as they fall victim to Cropsey and his garden shears. The now infamous raft massacre scene is one of the best in any slasher, and is one of the few that manages to be effective despite being set in broad daylight. Body parts get hacked off, throats are slit, and kids are stabbed in a splattery mess that cuts right to the heart of what slashers are all about.
The best slashers often make use of an urban or town legend, no doubt because everyone can relate to the primal nature of such tales. Whether you ever attended camp or not, you surely heard whispers of some sort of local legend that was designed to send shivers up the spines of kids everywhere. Cropsey himself is the ultimate campfire tale brought to life, as stories of a maniacal “Cropsey” have been told around northeast campfires for decades. This particular version is actually the brainchild of the Weinstein brothers and Brad Grey (quite an impressive pedigree), and he’s a gruesome character with a monstrously deformed and melted face.
He’s always been a sort of bridesmaid and never the blood-spattered bride, overshadowed by the likes of Mrs. Voorhees’s baby boy, but I’ll give Cropsey his due. The Burning is not only one of the best camp slashers, but one of the best body count movies the '80s had to offer, period. It’s basically a bowl full of Meatballs with a side of Friday the 13th, and the only thing missing is an endless line of sequels. That’s a shame because it would have been fun to see Cropsey make the shores of other camps run red with the blood of more victims. Of course, if we’re to believe the campfire tale, he’s still out there somewhere--just “don’t look--he’ll see you. Don’t move--he’ll hear you. Don’t breathe--you’re dead!”
From Beyond Depraved's Joe Monster on Deep Red
The giallo is the Italian cousin to the all-American slasher film. Whereas the slasher has become synonymous with images of masked psychos lurking amongst a group of horny teenagers, the giallo is a bit more stylized in its (ahem) execution. One of the masters of this form was director Dario Argento. Having helmed the three films in the so-named “Animal Trilogy” (The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, Cat O’Nine Tails, and Four Flies on Grey Velvet), Argento’s next outing was something that broke the conventions of the standard giallo mystery and thus all of his previous efforts in the genre. With the arrival of Deep Red, Argento delved into a fantastic night world where death was the norm and any hope for good was all but diminished.
Deep Red, along with 1977’s Suspiria, is perhaps the prime example from Argento’s resume that fully displays his artist’s eye for colorful cinematography and composition. The hues and shades in this film are a visual feast for the eyes, their vibrancy and starkness almost too much for our vision to process at times. Nightmarish images crowd the proceedings, from the murderer’s strange den filled with child paraphernalia to the haunting and brooding house, occupied only by a corpse frozen in a silent scream, that lies at the center of the film’s mystery. And as the title most rightfully suggests, Deep Red bubbles to the brim with scarlet colors. It assaults our eyes as it springs forth in a cascade of glowing blood against the charcoal-black of the surrounding environment. It serves as a constant reminder that Death presides over all.
The eerie musical score by rock group Goblin is the perfect compliment to Argento’s mind-bending images. It pulses and pounds in the darkness, matching every thud of your heart against your chest. It’s music that gets you anxious and makes you anticipate the worst… and in the case of this film, that’s usually what you get. The killings sprinkled throughout are sudden, brutal, and leave lingering pictures in your mind for some time. I mean, what is more terrifying than the thought of going to answer your front door and suddenly being at the other end of a meat cleaver? Or groping through the shadows of your own home while a maniac intently watches you? And there is probably no scene more horrifying to those who despise dolls than the one in which a giggling dummy comes dancing across the room straight at the camera! That’s nightmare fuel on the rocks.
Deep Red is not only my favorite film in the slasher/giallo genre, it would most likely get a place in my hypothetical Top 10 of horror films. It evokes such a beautiful sense of strangeness and terror that you forget at times that you’re watching a movie about a psycho in leather gloves slinking around and chopping people up into finger food. Argento’s mastery of film-making elevates it to a level of true art, and it’s one of the more mentally engrossing gialli you will have the pleasure to witness. It’s one of the greatest things to meet a knife’s bloody edge.
The Horror Effect's B-Movie Becky on Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon
Somewhere between the post-modern fallout of Scream and the remake-centric splurge of horror films came one of the most original slashers constructed upon unoriginal concepts. After a brief theatrical stint, Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon flew onto the shelves of Best Buy, Fry’s, and Wal-Mart with barely a flutter in 2006. Half mockumentary, half serious, and all campy, what surprises could this movie bring to the jaded horror fan? Plenty.
I walked past this movie about a dozen times before finally deciding to Netflix it. The cover, sporting a creepy, sunken-eyed face, had always intrigued me. However, I’ve seen a few direct-to-DVD duds boasting a Robert Englund appearance and a psychopath in overalls. Still, I couldn’t resist the plot: a documentary crew follows the moves of a notorious serial killer in-the-making, as he selects his victims and prepares his locations for the ultimate slasher finale. Much to my surprise, the two things that make this quirky plot come together are the actors and the self-referential humor.
Under the direction of Scott Glosserman, the cast is almost too believable. Nathan Baesel as the documentary subject, Leslie Vernon, manages to be simultaneously charming and disturbing. Looking up to the Freddys and Jasons of the world, I found myself cheering Leslie on just as I would the other icons of horror. This happened without decade(s) of sequels and excessive merchandising. He became one of the boys in a completely different way. Supporting Leslie’s hilarious and strangely compelling performance are Angela Goethals as the reluctant filmmaker, Robert Englund as the Sam-Loomis-inspired Doc Halloran, and Scott Wilson as the veteran slasher. Glosserman’s actors effortlessly transition between low-key, docu-style acting and more cinematic representations of themselves at all the right moments.
One of the most challenging aspects of creating a post-modern horror film is capitalizing on the referential humor without stepping all over the genre. Behind the Mask brings homages, cameos, name drops, and plenty of genre sarcasm to the table, but always manages to stand on its feet as its own unique film. The spirit of the movie is captured in its tagline: “Jason, Freddy, Myers. We all need someone to look up to.” Reverence for the slasher is weaved into the very structure of the movie. It is a world where these icons exist in reality, not fiction. Vernon emulates their work, while having a sense of humor about it—the same way a slasher fan does. From the brief view of Kane Hodder on 1428 Elm Street to the scene of Vernon scoring tree branches to break when his victims inevitably attempt to escape from the second story, Behind the Mask lives, breathes, and bleeds slasher.
2006 may not be the year of the slasher. And it may not be the year the slasher was reinvigorated. But sometimes you have to sort through a lot of things in the ol’ junk drawer before you find what you’re looking for. It’s not a rehash of familiar slasher territory. It’s not a subversive look at the rules of the masked stalker. It’s not a modernized gored-out splatterpiece. Behind the Mask is simply an innovative slasher produced in a time when the trite outweighed the true.
Vault dweller Angela Howeth on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
I love slasher films; they make up a vast majority of the movies that came out during my childhood. I remember the first time I laid eyes on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre; I was about ten years old. My cousins where babysitting my brother and I, and had brought the movie over. From that moment on, I will never forget Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen) opening that large metal sliding door and pulling his prey into the depths of hell. You know that anyone who walks through that old screen door is doomed to be chopped, sliced and diced by Leatherface. He is not your typical slasher, he does not lurk in the shadows, wielding a knife. Instead, he is like an inbred linebacker armed with a chainsaw, seeing his victims as a large chunk of meat. The fact that his character was based on true life slasher Ed Gein is enough to send an eerie chill down anyone’s’ spine. The scene in which he takes Pam (actress Teri McMinn) and places her on a meat hook, then proceeds to cut up and dismember her friend right in front of her is pure terror. Leatherface simply goes about his duty to get the meat ready for BBQ.
Leatherface is a monster; he hides behind his mask made of human skin and a slaughter house apron. He is a slasher that holds many weapons: carving knives, meat hooks, cleavers and his favorite, the chainsaw. Although many slashers in other movies are portrayed in an undead demonic sense, Leatherface is alive, a kind of twisted Frankenstein that was created by his family. All of the bloodshed and screams of terror make up his meal ticket; he is a relentless killing machine. To him there is no humanity, only the thrill of the kill. This is what makes him one of the most memorable slashers to this day; in fact, Texas Chainsaw Massacre is one of my favorite movies. To this day, I get creeped out about stopping at gas stations in the middle of nowhere out here, whether it’s Iowa or Nebraska. After all, you never know who is watching you! But that’s a whole different story!
Without Obsession There Is Nothing's Emily Church on Slaughter High
Slaughter High, where do I begin? I've loved you since I was young enough to fall in love with movies; I can remember the first time I saw you vividly. I was fifteen, and my dad had got me my first-ever TV set to have in my room. My teenaged self was so excited, I could hardly wait. Through having that TV set I learned that all the best movies are on after midnight, and Slaughter High was no exception to this. As soon as I heard the heavy metal theme tune (that I swear can be heard at least 10 times throughout the movie's duration), aptly named 'April Fools Day', I fell head over heels into obsession with Marty and his murderous ways.
So let's cover the basics, shall we? Because I know you're probably thinking, if you haven't already seen it, wow this Slaughter High sounds interesting, I wish I could find out more about it! Our murderer in this movie is Marty Rantzen, your Grade-A typical nerd. He's sweet and lovable, but weak, so he's the victim of severe bullying from his peers. In the first scene, this real bitchy girl called Carol pretends to be into Marty--she's all like "Oh Marty, will you have sex with me?" Marty, being a little desperate, agrees, even though I'm pretty sure he knows in real life Carol will never sleep with him. Anyway, they trick him, do all sorts of mean, cowardly things that only bullies do and they all get punished, but it doesn't stop there--it gets worse. These sick kids give Marty a joint to smoke, but it's poisonous, and they also rig up a chemistry set to explode in his face, and as his face is burning, Marty walks into a brilliantly placed shelf that has a jar of acid perched on it. I mean literally this shelf could only exist in the movies.
Then in true slasher movie fashion, Marty comes back. He's got 3rd degree burns and he's pissed--really, really pissed. So pissed, in fact, that Marty invites everyone back to the now-desolate and abandoned school where they tortured him so he can have a little bit of fun himself. I won't spoil the movie for you, but it's a slasher, so people die in some really incredibly funny ways. OK, I said I wouldn't ruin it for you, but I have to talk about this one guys death. He drinks a can of beer which has clearly been tampered with, and his stomach literally explodes. I'm talking a shed-load of intestines and obviously fake blood, complete with girly high-pitched screams and panic.
Slasher movies don't get any better than Slaughter High. The theme song is brilliant, the acting is mediocre and the deaths are ambitious and hilarious. To put it simply, I'm still in love with this movie and I think I probably will be for eternity. Marty lives on inside of me, his half-burnt face etched into my memory forever.
Cinema Suicide's Bryan White on Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter
It didn't take long for Friday the 13th to descend into sequel hell, did it? Part 2, though not what the producers imagined it would be, turned out to be a strong sequel; a movie that I happen to think is better than the first. Part 3 loses its footing, however, poorly utilizing 3-D, and if it weren't for the first appearance of the hockey mask, it would be a forgettable sequel, entirely. But you can't argue with numbers, and the box office dictated that the fans wanted more. This is pretty much how Friday the 13th dominated the first half of the '80s. There's a simple formula in Hollywood that determines if a movie gets sequelized: How much did it cost vs. how much did it gross. If the box office gross exceeds its budget while in general release, it's a strong indicator that there will be more of the same. Friday the 13th flicks cost nothing to produce and pulled in tremendous box office. It was this series that crafted the endless sequel horror paradigm.
The Friday movies were rushed into production time and time again, year after year, each featuring a similar plot to the prior, and producer Frank Mancuso, Jr. was ready to move on to other projects. To put the Friday movies to rest, he crafted a script with an ending that he felt Jason Voorhees couldn't return from, and planted it right at the end of your average slasher flick. It's the usual story: Randy teens party in the woods near Camp Crystal Lake, completely unaware that they're doomed, much to our delight. But where the previous Fridays were happy to leave it at that, The Final Chapter adds a remarkable dynamic to the bodycount. By Friday standards, the script for The Final Chapter is one of the most sophisticated in the Friday canon. Jason becomes less a shadowy figure in the woods who steps out at the right moment and becomes a hulking terrorist that makes a lot of noise and advertises the fact they you're all going to die; and if the previous victims are any measure, your death is assuredly going to be gory.
This is a flick that starts so slow, though, and that's the downside; but while Jason is making his way back to the lake, we're entertained by Crispin Glover's dancing, a true sight to behold. There's also the matter of endless slow-mo out-the-window stunt shots. Whether you're being thrown through the window by Jason or the dog is abandoning his master and beating a hasty retreat through a closed window, the slow-mo window gag never loses its appeal. It's hilarious every single time. Honestly, Peckinpah and John Woo combined never used this much slow-mo. Also, I always felt that Part 2's final girl, Ginny, was the gold standard for the survivor girl. The Final Chapter's Trish, however, takes on Jason in the final showdown with the unprecendented use of her bare hands! Friday 4 seems to be the most colorful of the early series and for that, it wins out in my contest of preference. I love this movie more than any in the series and more than any other slasher flick. The only thing I want to know is where did Jason get a speargun and who the hell needs a spear gun on the edge of Crystal Lake?
From Midnight With Love's The Mike on April Fool's Day
When the topic of slasher films came up, I had a small argument with myself. This wasn't the normal argument that occurs when someone asks me to pick a favorite in some genre/subgenre; this was an argument that went something like “If Halloween's already been picked, there's not really anything I feel is worthy of a list like this”. The slasher genre and I have had many disagreements over the years, despite my stubborn refusal to leave them for dead (I wish I knew how to quit them, maybe?), and it's gotten to the point where I often argue that Halloween doesn't even belong under the “slasher film” label. (This argument often is vocalized by me pointing out that film's lack of blood and supernatural/philosophical message, though inside I'm usually just thinking that Halloween is far too good to be downgraded into the slasher genre.)
As a point of protest against a majority of the entertaining but mind-numbing films that make up the slasher canon, I decided that I'd talk about another film that exists on the fringe of that universe; the 1986 anomaly April Fool's Day. I've never quite been sure what to make of the film, which could be read as a loving spoof of or as a giant middle finger toward the slasher craze, which had been eating up cinema screens for half a decade in the wake of the first Friday the 13th film. What I do know is that it's a complete blast, regardless of its intentions.
In retrospect, it's relatively safe to say that the plot of April Fool's Day--which I won't divulge on behalf of the unfortunates who've not experienced it yet--is among the most ridiculous things ever filmed. And, unlike most slasher films of that era, the film is relatively tame, playing like an R-rated Scooby Doo at times.
But there's an incredible amount of charm in the film thanks to the cast (the lovely Deborah Foreman, the strong Amy Steel, and the dependable Clayton Rohner all shine) and the execution of the film's plot, which never takes itself seriously. The result, in my eyes, is the perfect slasher experience for someone who loves the silliness of the slasher and wants a film that embraces the movement's flaws. In a sub-genre that has become a parody of itself, April Fool's Day is a breath of fresh air. (Even if it is air from a Whoopee cushion.)
Day of the Woman's BJ-C on I Know What You Did Last Summer
While I pride myself on being a horror fangirl chock full of movie preferences far beyond my years, I have no problem admitting that I was born in 1990. In my short 20 years on this planet, I've discovered the wonderful films of yesteryear, and fully understand the lack of staying power the majority of horror films that have come out in the past 20 years possess. The slasher genre is by far one of the most prevalent in horror films, and the '90s were all about trying to spark the fire of slasher films that had previously taken over the horror genre. My personal favorite, was I Know What You Did Last Summer.
IKWYDLS is in no way/shape/form a quality horror film. However, the film followed the outline for a slasher film to a T, and had a power packed cast that drew me in instantly. The typical "teens in trouble make their lives even more complicated" scenario follows a group of friends that hit someone with a car and presumably, kill him. Instead of notifying the authorities, they throw the body into the water and vow to never speak of it again. A year later, the friends find themselves stalked and attacked by an unknown assailant with a fish hook.
The film is ridiculously silly and borderline laughable, but for some reason, I can't look away. Maybe it's the grace of Jennifer Love Hewitt in a babydoll T or Ryan Phillipe's character having the last name of "Cox", but I can't stop watching it. The kills aren't that gory nor original, but like every slasher film...there's plenty of them. Much like most slasher films, there are scenes running through closed quarters, steamy showers with words written in the fogged mirrors, and the main characters turning on each other. I Know What You Did Last Summer was easily the first slasher film I saw on my own, without the guidance of my horror obsessed parents. And for that reason, I'll always cherish it.
The Blood Sprayer's Kristy Jett on Pieces
I didn’t even finish Pieces the first time I saw it. I remember turning it off about 15 minutes in, just thinking it was one of the most ridiculous things I had ever seen. It was, and it still is, but now in hindsight I wonder if I would’ve liked it more if I would’ve just waited through? Maybe it did take seeing it in a theater full of people to fully appreciate it. Let me explain.
I had the great opportunity to see Pieces in its 35mm glory this past May at the Hudson Horror Fest in Poughkeepsie. From the first few minutes I could tell that this was going to be a different experience than the one I had watching it alone. There were muffled giggles from the first swing of the ax, maybe even before.
For those unfamiliar, Pieces is a unique slasher in the sense that the slashing comes by way of a chainsaw. There are a series of murders on a college campus that show that only certain pieces (ha! Get it?!) of the female co-ed’s bodies are missing from the crime scenes. From the beginning we can see this is a slasher based on a psychological premise. The film starts with a young boy being caught with a pornographic puzzle, and once his mother lashes out at him, he hacks her in the skull with an axe. Then the film swiftly cuts to 40 years later as we see an almost giallo-like touch, as gloved hands paw a bloodied shoe and the puzzle, which is also bloodied. From here on out, there is so much unintended hilarity it’s almost too much to handle, and this is why Pieces can hold my heart the way it does.
From the awkwardness of the suspect professor, to the macho man suspect gardener Willard, to the “ladies man” Kendall driving a girl to beg him to gag her so she’ll be quieter while he ravages her, there are so many gems. That doesn’t even start to scratch the surface of the premise, in which a famous tennis player is also a cop who goes “undercover” at the university. The scene in which she meets Kendall’s kung fu professor is worth the price of admission alone. To be fair, the gore in this film is great. And the ending will leave you in stitches…literally. I have grown addicted to this film. I seriously find myself watching it at least once a week since I bought it a few months back. I try to show it to any new friends I am meeting to gauge their sense of humor and see how compatible we are as compadres. So far they have all passed with flying colors.
Pieces is most definitely an acquired taste, and perhaps you’ll be like me and find it unwatchable at first. If you let it play on, you too could find the subtle…I mean, blatant charm of J.P. Simon’s Pieces.
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A deeply heart-felt thank you goes out to all those writers who contributed pieces to the Lucky 13 over the course of the past 13 weeks. It's been one hell of a ride, both here and over at Brutal as Hell, where another group of exceptional scribes has been hard at work chronicling their favorite horror flicks, as well. This whole thing sprang from a very simple notion hashed out on Twitter, and I'm certainly glad it did. I hope you've all enjoyed reading it as much as I've enjoyed putting it together.
And so, adieu to the Lucky 13. Although, perhaps not. For, just as the slashers discussed this week, I have a distinct feeling it may come lurking back one day in the not-too-distant future, stronger than ever and out for more blood...
Week 1: Grindhouse & Exploitation
Week 2: Creature Features & Monster Movies
Week 3: Demons, Witches & The Devil
Week 4: Gore!
Week 5: Horror Comedies
Week 6: Vampires
Week 7: Psychological Horror
Week 8: Werewolves
Week 9: Serial Killers
Week 10: Ghosts, Haunted Houses and Psychic Phenomena
Week 11: Zombies!
Week 12: Sci-Fi Horror
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
The Houston transplant was kind enough to speak to The Vault of Horror recently about her many endeavors...
You describe yourself as having been a "serial artist". Explain.
As an artist, I've experimented in a wide variety of artistic mediums--pencil, charcoal, paint (and again, gone through a variety of paint types: acrylic, oil, watercolor, etc.), and of course my main love, ink. Furthermore, I've ventured into photography, website & graphic design, sewing, writing, a bit of sculpture... pretty much everything! Hell, I even dance--though I still haven't got the guts to perform. Basically, if it's creative, I have, or have had, an interest.
What items were the first you created?
For The Zombified? Well, I started working on the Hallowhaus comic before I'd actually planned on doing art as a career, but I think the Halloween scene is the oldest design I have prints of available through The Zombified.
Which are you the most proud of?
I'm proud of myself for not giving up on the comic after a couple of pages! I'm easily distracted, and that thing's a lot of work. That aside, I'm usually most pround of whatever I've most recently completed, though I'm not sure if it's because I'm evolving as an artist, or if it's just because I've had less time to pick out all the flaws.
Why do you feel that drawing in ink is your favorite method?
I'm not sure, I just feel most comfortable with a pen in my hand. I like the contrast, the crispness of the lines. I'm not sure if I like that the permanence of it (you can't exactly erase ink that easily) leaves very little room for mistake or not.
Who are some of your inspirations?
I'm hesitant to use the word 'inspire', but there are artists whose work I adore, and perhaps inspires me to try to become more awesome at 'what it is that I do'. But the inspiration for 'what it is that I do' seems to come from somewhere else. I get most of my ideas when I'm supposed to be asleep, perhaps the secret is in the insomnia. I digress. Artists I admire include Gris Grimly, Chad Savage, Keith Thompson and Ben Templesmith.
How did you get into creating comics? Which artists inspire you as far as that medium?
As a kid I said I wanted to become a comic book artist, even though I didn't really have any ideas for a series or anything. Eventually, I decided that since I'd been saying that for ages, I should probably just go for it. I was never planning on showing it to anyone, it was just to sort of challenge myself and see if I could do it. I wasn't even planning on doing more than one issue.
I'm deeply inspired by anyone else who's doing their own thing, creating their comic from the ground up all by themselves, regardless if the quality or content is actually my 'thing'. As I mentioned, creating a comic is a hell of a lot of work, even if the artwork or story is fairly simple. In terms of my personal favorite comics, I'm particularly in love with Hellboy and, a bit more recently, Wormwood: Gentleman Corpse.
Tell me a little about the genesis of the story for Hallowhaus.
I'm making it up as I go along, honestly. Which is another part of the reason there's a large gap between issues. I have a couple future projects in mind for after I've finished the Hallowhaus series, that might (hopefully) be a bit more planned out, but there's still the chance that I'll just grab a new idea and run with it again.
When and why did you first realize that this was something you could turn into a business?
I was close to finishing the first issue of the comic when I learned of the glories of print-on-demand (yes, I know. But I have complete control of my work and can slack off when I'm not actually feeling inspired). I figured what I'd created wasn't entirely awful, started working on a few separate original designs, and just went for it. It was terrifying, since I had (have) the typical artist modesty (insecurity), but it's also been immensely rewarding.
What are some of the most popular items on your site?
The mirrors seem to be most interesting to people, but it's the prints that sell the best. In terms of my designs, everyone loves the Mummy (which was actually one of the very first designs I did with The Zombified in mind), though at the moment my most 'favorited' one on DeviantArt is one of my newest, 'The Dead Will Dance'.
What does the future hold for The Zombified?
More art, more comics, more awesome conventions like Texas Frightmare Weekend and Comicpalooza. A lot of the more interesting plans are a secret until I actually unveil them.
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In addition to The Zombified and the aforementioned DeviantArt, Krystal's artwork can be found on MySpace, Flickr and LiveJournal, among other places.