"QUITE SIMPLY, THE BEST HORROR-THEMED BLOG ON THE NET." -- Joe Maddrey, Nightmares in Red White & Blue

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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Classic Horror Makes the National Film Registry

The Library of Congress has announced its annual list of films to be included in the National Film Registry, and Universal's original 1933 version of The Invisible Man, starring Claude Rains, has been included.

This is happy news for fans of Universal horror. James Whale's classic will now be included with other Universal gems like Dracula, Frankenstein, The Bride of Frankenstein and Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein that are already on the registry.

The National Registry is a listing of films that have been deemed worthy of being indefinitely preserved in the Library of Congress. Check out the complete list here.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Requiescant in Pace 2008: Part 2

Ben Chapman

Don LaFontaine (voiceover pitchman)

Bill Melendez (animator)

Ray Ellis (composer)

Forrest J. Ackerman

Nina Foch

Michael Crichton (author/screenwriter)

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Let the Right One In: Find a Way to See It

For the second year in a row, the best horror movie I saw was a foreign language film. Last year it was the Spanish film [REC], and this year it's Tomas Alfredson's Swedish gem Let the Right One In.

Unfortunately, for reasons that have been discussed and debated at length, the film got only a very limited release in the U.S., and is, of course getting a ridiculous English language remake, just like they did for [REC] (Quarantine). But the original will be hitting DVD next year, and whether you catch it that way, or any other way, I just urge you to make sure you see it. Period.

Swedish cinema has long had a reputation for quality. But not since the heyday of Ingmar Bergman has Sweden produced such a bona fide horror classic. Equal parts vampire movie and coming-of-age movie, it's the kind of flick that comes along once in a while and proves that there are still new stories to be told.

Based on John Ajvide Lindqvist's novel of the same name, Let the Right One In tells the story of an introverted 12-year-old boy who makes friends with the quirky girl who has just moved in next door. What he doesn't realize is that she's actually a bloodsucker, complete with a Renfield-like assistant who goes on nightly hunts to provide her with the plasma she so craves.

Lina Leandersson is remarkable as the ratty vampire child Eli, infusing the role with a sense of wisdom beyond her years, providing just enough pathos to make it all the more shocking when the film's potent blasts of violence smack the viewer in the face. Kare Hedebrant plays Oskar, the strangely ethereal boy who at times seems almost as otherwordly as his supernatural friend.

There is a cold, icy edge to the cinematography here, which provides a stark contrast to the paradoxically warm relationship that we watch unfold between the boy and his undead eventual "girlfriend". Amazingly, Alfredson manages to portray a pure and beautiful friendship, while at the same time maintaining an aura of menace over the proceedings. There is subtlety and nuance here that one rarely gets in either vampire films or coming-of-age films, and it's a joy to behold.

The movie becomes a classic by choosing not to dwell on the fantastic, but on the real, on the characters, their emotions and interactions. It is this approach that defines the best in so-called "speculative fiction"--whether it be horror, sci-fi or fantasy. And it's because of this that it becomes all the more shocking when we are reminded we're watching a horror film by the moments of graphic gore that punctuate the picture.

Yet there's also a respect for previously established vampire lore that's sure to interest fans. The story's take on how vampires spend the daytime hours is fascinating, and if you've ever wondered why vampires can't enter a home unless they're invited in, this movie will finally answer the question for you.

Ideas of good and evil are challenged as we watch what appears to be a little girl, but what we know is not; a character who undoubtedly has a dark, even murderous side, yet possesses the capacity for genuine affection. Can we blame her for killing to survive? Do we blame a tiger for preying on antelopes? Besides, the bullies who present Oskar's central narrative obstacle are far more psychological terrifying to the viewer than Eli.

In addition to the Eli-Oskar story arc, there's a tense subplot involving one of Eli's victims who is unfortunate enough to survive and become a vampire herself. Unaware of what's happened to her, she faces a horrifying plight indeed, and one which provides some of the film's more arresting visuals.

A picture of complex emotional ups-and-downs, it gives us a climax that epitomizes the nature of the movie itself--a feel-good, stand-up-and-cheer moment despite its sinister edge and horrific violence. And I defy you not to be haunted by an ending that's not quite what it appears to be at first glance. I won't be the one to spoil it, but safe to say, it will have you wondering whether its an upbeat or tragic conclusion. Whatever it is, it's one you won't forget.

Let the Right One In is a tough movie to track down. But it is worth your while to seek it out. It is a reminder of what a truly great genre film can be capable of. It's the kind of "gateway movie" that can be thoroughly enjoyed even by those who think they don't like horror movies. This is the kind of film that will show them it isn't all just about Rob Zombie, torture porn, or gorgeous teens getting hacked apart.

The Year in Horror: Stuff I Forgot to Mention

A couple of weeks ago, I put together a year in review, but wouldn't you know it? 2008 was such a multi-faceted year for horror that I simply couldn't fit it all in one post.

For one thing, I neglected to mention The Strangers--which just so happened to be the best American horror film I saw this year. Certainly not what I'd call an all-time great, but a solid little flick based around a tried-and-true, lean-and-mean formula. A worthy addition to the home invasion horror sub-genre--and if the Oscars had a category for Best Actress in a Horror Movie (now there's an idea!) it would definitely go to Liv Tyler.

As for best horror film I saw all year, period, that accolade would have to go to Let the Right One In. While I had yet to see the so-called "Swedish vampire movie" at the time I wrote the first "Year in Horror" post, I've now had the pleasure of experience, and can confidently heap such praise on it. I know I've written this before, but I will be posting a full review of that exquisite picture in the very near future.

But 2008 wasn't just about the new. As the DVD format has taught us, there is great joy to be gained in reliving the treasures of the past. Last time, I didn't even touch on major video releases, so let's remedy that, shall we?

After a long struggle, fervent fans of the original 1932 classic The Mummy got their wish, as Universal finally gave the film the deluxe "Legacy" treatment given to Dracula and Frankenstein. What, no Wolf Man? Maybe in time for next year's remake.

And speaking of the Universal Legacy series, Psycho also got the deluxe treatment. Believe it or not, it's the first such "special edition" DVD release for Hitchcock's seminal work.

Finally, high on my list in case there are any generous Vault Dwellers reading, Sony put out a spiffy new box set containing the Hammer flicks to which it owns the distributions rights. Called Icons of Horror: Hammer Films, it includes The Curse of the Mummy's Tomb, The Two Faces of Dr. Jeckyll, Scream of Fear, and The Gorgon. That should fit nicely on my shelf, alongside the previous Warner Bros. and Universal Hammer releases.

Oh yeah, and did I mention Lucio Fulci's The Beyond got a much-needed re-release? Once again, generous Vault Dwellers take note!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Requiescant in Pace 2008: Part 1

Maila "Vampira" Nurmi

Brad Renfro

Roy Scheider

Richard Widmark

Charlton Heston

Hazel Court

Kay Linaker (screenwriter)

Julie Ege

Harvey Korman

Stan Winston (special effects)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Seasons Greetings from The VoH....

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Newsweek Picks Horror Movie as Best Film of 2008

In the latest issue of Newsweek, one of America's most-read weekly news magazines, noted critic David Ansen lists his ten favorite flicks of the year. And the number one movie on that list is none other than the Swedish vampire film Let the Right One In. (I've seen it to, and it's remarkable--VoH review to come.)

Here's what Ansen has to say:

"Stunning from first shot to last, Tomas Alfredson's mesmerizing Swedish coming of age/love story/horror film redefined the vampire genre."

That's major praise, from a mainstream American movie critic. And the movie is deserving of that praise. I wouldn't be surprised if Let the Right One In even gets an Oscar nom for Best Foreign Language Picture.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Rosemary's Baby Remake Dead! The Birds Remake in Question!

Platinum Dunes head honchos Brad Fuller and Andrew Form dropped a bombshell today that's sure to please those, like myself, firmly planted in the anti-remake camp. During the press conference for the upcoming Platinum Dunes production The Unborn, Fuller & Form indicated firmly that the previously touted redo of Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby is no longer happening. Here's what they said over at Collider.com:

"We went down that road and we even talked to the best writers in town and it feels like it might not be do-able. We couldn’t’ come up with something where it felt like it was relevant and we could add something to it other than what it was so we’re now not going to be doing that film."

Score one for reason. Huzzah!

Furthermore, here's what the boys had to say about another frequently poo-pooed remake they've been attached to, that of Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds:

"Martin [Campbell] has been working on the script and we’re expecting a script in the next 2-3 weeks, but... its not like Drew, Michael [Bay] and I think that we’re just going to crap all over Alfred Hitchcock’s movie. I mean, Alfred Hitchcock, in a company-wide opinion, is probably the greatest director of what we do, and other things too... Michael and I studied [him] in college, and there’s a reverence for him. So that’s not a movie that we’re just going to step up and just go have birds attacking people and trying to throw that into the box office. If we can’t make that movie unique or add something to it, I don’t think we’re going to make it."

Hmmm. Could it be that the glut of remakes is finally causing some to come to their senses and respect the sanctity of classics that shouldn't be remade? Well... let's not get carried away. But at least Rosemary's Baby is officially off. Spread the word.

Special thanks to fervent reader Gord for passing along this scoop!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The "Cyber-Horror Elite" Strike Again: Presenting the Top 25 Horror Films of the Modern Era!

Call me a glutton for punishment, but here we are again. About a month ago, I polled a number of prominent online horror bloggers and writers, asking each to send me his/her own personal list of the top 10 horror movies. My purpose was to determine the 50 best horror films as judged by a sampling of intelligent and well-written folks who are passionate about the genre--in response to HMV's polling of more general, casual fans.

The results raised a veritable sandstorm of discussion, debate, name-calling, and lots of other stuff. And like the consummate puppet master I am, I watched the proceedings with great interest. One of the legit complaints that was raised about the original list was that we had neglected flicks of recent years in favor of more time-honored "classics" of earlier eras. And while I felt there were definitely some explainable reasons for this, I also couldn't help but agree, since the vast majority of our picks went back 20 or more years.

So, I thought, why not attempt to remedy the situation by putting together another poll--this time focusing strictly on horror's "modern era"? For the purposes of the poll, I chose to define "modern era" as 1990 to the present. I was tempted to restrict it strictly to this century, but I decided that would steal the thunder of any "Best of the Decade" lists that are sure to pop up among my peers and I at this time next year.

As I did last time, I compiled the list using a points system. If a participant ranked a movie number one, it received 10 points, 9 points for number two, etc. Now, to diffuse some expected critiques, let me say this: Yes, there are some interesting anomalies. For example, The Mist, which was the only movie from the 21st century to make the all-time list, is here ranked below two other 21st century movies, neither of which made the all-time list. On the flipside, The Addiction made the all-time list, yet paradoxically did not make this list. My best explanation for this is that this time, our participants were slightly different, with a couple of folks dropping out, and a couple of new pundits taking part for the first time.

But enough of this palaver! Let's get on with the show:

1. The Descent (2005) dir: Neil Marshall
2. The Blair Witch Project (1999) dir: Daniel Myrick & Eduardo Sanchez
3. The Silence of the Lambs (1991) dir: Jonathan Demme
4. The Ring (2002) dir: Gore Verbinski
5. Scream (1996) dir: Wes Craven
6. The Mist (2007) dir: Frank Darabont
7. 28 Days Later (2002) dir: Danny Boyle
8. Braindead (Dead Alive) (1992) dir: Peter Jackson
9. Inside (2007) dir: Alexandre Bustillo & Julien Maury
10. Shaun of the Dead (2004) dir: Edgar Wright
11. Saw (2004) dir: James Wan
12. [REC] (2007) dir: Jaume Balaguero & Paco Plaza
13. Audition (1999) dir: Takashi Miike
14. Ginger Snaps (2000) dir: John Fawcett
15. American Psycho (2000) dir: Mary Harron
16. Session 9 (2001) dir: Brad Anderson
17. Dawn of the Dead (2004) dir: Zack Snyder
18. Army of Darkness (1993) dir: Sam Raimi
19. Dog Soldiers (2002) dir: Neil Marshall
20. Cabin Fever (2002) dir: Eli Roth
21. Let the Right One In (2008) dir: Tomas Alfredson
22. Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992) dir: Francis Ford Coppola
23. Eyes Wide Shut (1999) dir: Stanley Kubrick
24. Halloween: 20 Years Later (1998) dir: Steve Miner
25. Dellamorte Dellamore (Cemetery Man) (1994) dir: Michele Soavi

Some other prominent vote-getters: Ringu, Hostel, Jacob's Ladder, The Orphanage, Candyman, Jack Ketchum's The Girl Next Door, The Sixth Sense, Jeepers Creepers

The inevitable stats:

  • Earliest movie on the list: The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
  • Most recent movie on the list: Let the Right One In (the only 2008 entry)
  • Only five of the 25 were made in the last five years (further supporting the theory that movies need time to ferment in the mind)
  • Director listed the most times: Neil Marshall (2)

Eleven movies from outside the U.S.

  • United Kingdom: The Descent, 28 Days Later, Shaun of the Dead, Dog Soliders
  • New Zealand: Braindead
  • France: Inside
  • Spain: [REC]
  • Japan: Audition
  • Canada: Ginger Snaps
  • Sweden: Let the Right One In
  • Italy: Cemetery Man

(Very interesting that while only eight of the top 50 of all-time were non-American, eleven of the top 25 of the modern era come from outside the U.S.)

Yearly breakdown:
  • 1991: 1
  • 1992: 2
  • 1993: 1
  • 1994: 1
  • 1996: 1
  • 1998: 1
  • 1999: 3
  • 2000: 2
  • 2001: 1
  • 2002: 4
  • 2004: 3
  • 2005: 1
  • 2007: 3
  • 2008: 1

Our participants this time around included:

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
Karswell of The Horrors of It All
Stacie Ponder of Final Girl and AMC's Horror Hacker
Ryne Barber of The Moon Is a Dead World
Brad Miska of Bloody-Disgusting
John W. Morehead of Theofantastique
The Lightning Bug of The Lightning Bug's Lair
Sean T. Collins of Attentiondeficitdisorderly Too Flat, Marvel.com and Maxim
CRwM of And Now the Screaming Starts
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
BC of Horror-Movie-a-Day
Peter Hall of Horror's Not Dead
Unkle Lancifer and Aunt John 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
Scott Weinberg of FEARnet, Cinematical, Horror.com and
Rotten Tomatoes
Brian Matus of FangoriaOnline
Jo of Nightly Accounts
Nate Yapp of Classic-Horror.com
And yours truly, of course.

Digest. Discuss. Debate. Distribute.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Dexter Among SAG Nominees

The venerable Screen Actor's Guild released its nominees for the 15th annual SAG Awards this morning, and everyone's favorite lovable serial killer was on the list.

Michael C. Hall earned a nomination for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series, but I think he's got some stiff competition against Jon Hamm of Mad Men and sentimental favorite Bill Shatner of Boston Legal. Dexter was also acknowledged with a nom for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series. However, I would think that one would be a lock for Mad Men.

But I'm glad Dexter is getting this kind of recognition. I also think it's unfortunate that Battlestar Galactica, and Edward James Olmos in particular, were ignored in the same categories.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

All the Coraline You Can Handle

If you're like me, then you're anxiously anticipating the February release of Henry Selick and Neil Gaiman's Coraline. Of course, if you're like me, you're also afraid to wash your hair in the shower, have an affinity for pink Neccos, and are obsessed with Yma Sumac. But let's stay on-message. Coraline looks to be an excellent adaptation of a lauded Gaiman novel by the director who gave us The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Last night, the film's official website went live with loads of quirky content. This includes plenty of info on the movie itself, most of it in video form. There's also the requisite wallpapers, etc.--although unlike most movie-themes wallpaper, these are actually unobtrusive and don't suck at all. Plus, who wouldn't want to turn themselves into a creepy button-eyed person? I sure did:

Just try going back to sleep tonight when that sucker pops into your head at two in the morning, Vault Dwellers.

Anyway, my point is, if you're interested in the flick, check out Coraline.com. It's cooler than most movie websites. Catch you tomorrow. I've just been blown away by Let the Right One In, and hope to put up a review soon. Plus... the "Cyber-Horror Elite" will soon be making more elitist pronouncements... Stay tuned.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Stephen King Picks His Ten Favorite Movies of 2008

The ever-eccentric and mind-bogglingly prolific Stephen King has selected his suitably eccentric ten best film picks for the past year. As part of his regular column for Entertainment Weekly, Maine's master of the macabre has selected a batch of flicks ranging from the expected to the... well, unexpected, to say the least:

1. The Dark Knight
2. Slumdog Millionaire
4. Tropic Thunder
5. Funny Games
6. The Bank Job
7. Lakeview Terrace
8. The Ruins
9. Redbelt
10. Death Race

Not that he's expected to only like horror movies, but for the record, it's worth noting that King chose Funny Games and The Ruins as his only two horror picks. His top four are solid, and I'd agree, for the most part (although I haven't seen Slumdog Millionaire yet). From there it gets... kind of... quirky...?

Anyway, if you'd like to read the author's own explanations for his choices, check it out on EW.com.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Year in Horror: One Blogger Looks Back

Maybe it was because it was my first full year blogging, but I have to say that 2008 was a pretty solid year for scary entertainment. Certainly a lot better than 2007, at least in my experience. And when it comes down to it, this is all about personal experience. It's all subjective, people, and I can only write based upon what I actually experienced over the course of the past 12 months in horror. There are a lot of great flicks and shows that I need to get to, most notably Let the Right One In, which I will watch via vaguely illegal means sometime in the next few days.

That said, I feel it's with good reason that I claim 2008 to have been a highly satisfying year for terror. For one thing, we kicked off the year with Cloverfield, a bona fide mainstream American giant monster movie that opened in the midst of an earth-shattering multimedia marketing campaign. And while it may not have been the life-changing experience many apparently were led to believe it would be, it was an enjoyable flick, and it was a pleasure seeing a kind-of-horror movie grip the imagination of the entire nation like it did.

And speaking of the nation, if 2008 was anything, it was the year that domestic horror took a trip to the woodshed, courtesy of foreign horror. Yes, fans, our fear-loving brethren from across the seas put America to shame this year.

Apart from Let the Right One In, which I haven't even seen yet, you had Juan Antonio Bayona's The Orphanage reaching U.S. shores--a sublime film which rightfully received the blessing of Guillermo del Toro. Frenchmen Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury shocked the holy hell out of us with Inside, the first knockout French gore flick since the days of Jean Rollin. And J-horror took a backseat to K-horror thanks to Black House, a DVD releases from South Korea which it was my pleasure to review some months ago. Of course, there was also the god-awful The Wig from the very same country, but who's keeping score?

But the granddaddy of 'em all was the flick that was, for this blogger's money, the best horror movie of the decade thus far--Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza's [Rec]. Although criminally withheld from U.S. theaters this year so as not to steal the thunder of the American remake Quarantine (no, I haven't seen it), that couldn't stop those curious and industrious enough to get their hands on it and discover that a horror movie can still have the power to terrify even the most jaded veteran fans.

I'm thankful that starting up the VoH has helped me gain access to a greater world of horror out there, beyond the beaten path. Without the Vault, I might never have had the pleasure of catching Ryan Spindell's Kirksdale, a festival-favorite short that yielded some of the highest quality 20 minutes of horror you'd be likely to find all year.

I also had the privilege of catching George Romero's Diary of the Dead during its extremely limited and brief theatrical release. And yes, I am a defender of that film, and I will continue to be as long as I have breath to pontificate. It was a joy to see Romero's zombie saga continue this year, with an installment I found much more fresh, innovative and powerful than 2005's Land of the Dead.

I can't really say the same for Steve Miner's pitiful Day of the Dead direct-to-DVD remake/fiasco. I was really convinced that that would be the lowest I'd sink all year. And then I saw M. Night Shyamalan's latest stop on the painful descent to oblivion, The Happening. I can honestly say I can't recall the last time I saw a movie that bad. For real.

What else? Oh yeah, well, I guess there was another Saw movie that got wheeled out in time for Halloween. Watched it. Not bad. Not great. Slightly better than the last one. Whatever. Next.

On the small screen, I was treated to a third season of Dexter that maintained the same level of excellence that the first and second season set in place. And HBO rolled out True Blood, a very good, if not quite great, vampire series that restored TV horror to a place of respectability after the lameness that was NBC's sad anthology series Fear Itself.

In the realm of fine literature, Marvel Comics went old school with the extremely well-done EC-style Dead of Night miniseries, starring one of my all-time favorite underused characters, the Man-Thing. Dark Horse gave it a go with a new, painted Evil Dead series that, despite attempting to do something interesting with the narrative of the original film, failed to make much of an impression on yours truly.

A year of foreign language triumphs, American kaiju, Romero controversy, M. Night's latest debacle and horror on premium cable. Nothing if not interesting, 2008 was a great year to begin this little Vault of Horror adventure, if I do say so myself...

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Want to Know Just How Many Horror Remakes Are in the Works?

Are you sure you want to know? The Den of Geek has culled a list of all the remakes that are officially greenlit at the moment, totaling a mind-numbing 55 in all. And of those 55, here are the 13 horror remakes we can all so joyfully look forward to in the next couple years...

They Live In the very early stages, from the people who brought you the admittedly terrific Dawn of the Dead redo.
The Crazies Thankfully, Uncle George has at least been invited to the dance as an executive producer. Timothy Olyphaunt of Deadwood fame will star.
The Incredible Shrinking Man Richard Matheson's intense sci-fi thriller, previously adapted in the 1950s, will be turned into a comedy vehicle for Eddie Murphy. You know, 'cause those are doing so well lately.
The Last House on the Left This one (pictured) has just finished filming, and will hit next year.
The Thing Wrap your head around this one: A remake of a remake. Based on a short story. Yowza...
The Birds Expect it in 2011, with George Clooney and Naomi Watts filling in for Rod Taylor and Tippi Hedren.
Hellraiser This one is now in the directorial hands of Pascal Laugier, after fellow Frenchmen Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury of Inside infamy got the axe.
Poltergeist Will most likely reach the public next year, despite a resounding, collective "Why?" from fans everywhere.
Child's Play Brad Dourif will return as the voice of Chucky, and original writer Don Mancini will script.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show Hey kids! It's a gelded MTV re-imagining of the most popular midnight cult classic of all time!
Rosemary's Baby Michael Bay is behind this sacrilege, set for 2010.
Near Dark Speaking of Michael Bay, he'll also be spewing forth this one, from music video director Samuel Bayer. Luckily, it seems to be in development hell.
Angel Heart Not quite a remake of the Robert DeNiro/Mickey Rourke '80s classic, this one will instead re-adapt the source novel, Fallen Angel.
The Host Just when you thought the Asian remake craze was over...
* * * * * * * * * *

I bring you an amusing VoH anecdote today. My sister, a raging, long-time fan of The Howard Stern Show, took it upon herself to send an email to Stern Show prankster Richard Christy--a well-known horror junkie--informing him of my blog. Turns out Mr. Christy was already in the loop. His response: "That's so cool that The Vault of Horror is your brother's blog! I'm very aware of it and I read it all the time! Tell, him I'm a big fan!"

There you have it, folks. Some rare confirmation for my delusions of grandeur. Thanks for the kind words and support, Richard. You're welcome in the Vault anytime! And thanks for the guerilla marketing, sis!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

VAULT EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Victor Miller, Writer of Friday the 13th

I had the distinct pleasure on Monday of speaking with the man largely responsible for one of the most famous and influential horror movies (hell, movies period) of all time. As a result, I bring to you my very first Vaultcast.

In 1979, at the behest of friend/associate/fellow Connecticut resident Sean Cunningham, Yale graduate Victor Miller would write the screenplay for a movie called Friday the 13th. Having never written a horror script before, Miller had no way of knowing that the film would literally alter the course of horror history, introducing the iconic Jason Voorhees along the way (although not as he originally intended).

I invite you to take a listen below to the half-hour discussion I had with Mr. Miller. In it, he touches on subjects that would be of interest to many fans of the genre, such as:

  • Why he won't watch any of the sequels
  • His falling out with Sean Cunningham
  • The "mother issues" that led to the creation of Mrs. Voorhees
  • Ripping off Halloween
  • His debt to Hitchcock
  • His thoughts on the remake (the script of which he's already read)
  • How to interpret Friday's infamous "stinger" ending
  • And much more...

If you prefer, you can also visit the official Vaultcast page, where you can download the file in its entirety to listen to at your leisure. Special thanks to Tracy MacMath for making this interview possible.

**UPDATE** Thanks to the incredible efforts of diligent Vault-Dweller Gord, you can now download a transcript of the entire interview in Microsoft Word, if you so choose. My humblest gratitude to you Gord, for painstakingly transcribing the entire bloody thing!!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Will Smith on Future of I Am Legend Franchise

There's been a lot of speculation and rumors flying around lately as to whether there will be a follow-up to Will Smith's smash hit I Am Legend. Most recently, an unconfirmed rumor had it that a direct sequel was in the works. However, Smith himself recently spoke out at a press conference for his new movie Seven Pounds, and here's what he had to say on the matter:

"We have a fantastic prequel idea…we’re still trying to work through a couple of bumps in the story. It’s essentially the fall of the last city – the last stand of Manhattan. The movie would be…within the body of the movie D.C. and then Manhattan would fall as the last city. It’s a really cool idea trying to figure it out…there’s a reason why we have to take a small band and we have to get into D.C. So we have to make our way from New York to D.C. and then back to New York."

So it looks like it will, in fact, be a prequel, which, I have to admit, makes a lot more sense, and has a little more appeal to it. While I wasn't the biggest fan of the first one (I much prefer the Vincent Price version), I'm a bit intrigued at exploring territory that was previously only hinted at in Richard Matheson's novel and previous film incarnations.

* * * * * * * * * *

I'd also like to report that my interview with Victor Miller, screenwriter of the original Friday the 13th, went extremely well yesterday, and you can look forward to it in the very near future (most likely in blogcast form). Miller talks about everything from admittedly ripping off Halloween, the origin of the name Jason Voorhees, and Friday the 13th's indebtedness to Psycho, to his refusal to watch any of the sequels, his falling out with Sean Cunningham, and his thoughts on the upcoming remake. Very interesting stuff. Stay tuned.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

An Amazing Tribute to Horror's Greatest Movie Legend

Recently, VoH reader and proprietor of Single Image Toys John Hadlow put together this superb video montage tribute to the one and only Vincent Price, which he shared on both his YouTube and Facebook pages. I've never done this before, but I'm sharing that video today right here. It's on the level of any Oscar telecast tribute montage I've ever seen, and John should be proud of his work. Check it out:

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Forrest J. Ackerman 1916-2008

One of the giants--if not the giant--of genre fandom has finally shuffled off his mortal coil. The venerable Forrest J. Ackerman; Uncle Forry; Dr. Acula; 4SJ; The Ackermonster--is no more. Last Thursday night, he slipped peacefully away, surrounded by friends, at the age of 92.

If you're reading this blog, you probably already know this, but Ackerman was the quintessential, original "fanboy", in 1958 founding the legendary magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland that ran for nearly a quarter century and literally gave birth to the modern phenomenon of horror/sci-fi/fantasy fandom as we know it. In fact, it was Forry who coined the term "sci-fi" in his early issues of FMOF. He inspired generations of "monster kids" in the '50s, '60s, '70s and '80s, and his influence continues to be felt.

Additionally, Ackerman had gathered together over his almost century of life the single most impressive collection of genre memorabilia on the planet. He enjoyed the friendship of everyone from H.P. Lovecraft to Harry Knowles. The man was literally a pop culture phenom all too himself, and the world is poorer for his passing.

For a truly amazing tribute, I direct you to Knowles' Ain't It Cool News, where you can check out tributes from Phil Tippett, Rick Baker and Paul Dini, as well as a moving final farewell written by Ackerman for Knowles five years ago, in anticipation of his death.

Most of Ackerman's heyday occurred before my time, but even though I grew up more in the era of Starlog/Fangoria, his was a name I always knew and respected--the godfather and president emeritus of the entire fan community. 

R.I.P. Uncle Forry.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Nazi Zombies! In Norway!! Watch Now!!!

How could you not love this? Looks like the ultra-niche Nazi-zombie sub-sub-genre is back, thanks to Norwegian filmmaker Tommy Wirkola and his promising-looking film Dead Snow. It's the story of a bunch of snow-boarding millennial types who stumble upon some Nazi gold in the mountains of Norway, thus incurring the wrath of a horde of undead krauts. Check out the awesomeness:

I especially love the look of the zombies--kind of video game inspired without looking CG. And an Indiana Jones reference, no less!

The horror comedy has been announced as an official selection at this year's Sundance Film Festival, which should help quite a bit with international distribution. Score another one for foreign horror!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Kane Hodder Comments on the Friday Remake

Got a quick hit for today. Kane Hodder, the actor most identified with the role of Jason Voorhees, had a little bit to say about the upcoming "re-imagining" of Friday the 13th over at FangoriaOnline:

“I am definitely going to see it. I’m a fan of the series and of horror in general. But, yeah, of course I was disappointed about not being asked to do the character again. I kept that guy alive for a lot of years, and really loved playing him.”

Nice to see there's no hard feelings, at least. The big guy will be played in the remake by Derek Mears, who was also the hideous Chameleon in the new The Hills Have Eyes II.

And while I'm on the Friday the 13th tip, I just want to put it out there that I'm going to be interviewing none other than Victor Miller, the screenwriter of the original 1980 flick, within the next few days. So stay tuned for that VoH exclusive!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

X-Files Producer Blames The Dark Knight

I feel bad for X-Files fans. I really do. Having never been a follower of the show, I can't say I was very emotionally invested when the sequel no one was asking for, The X-Files: I Want to Believe, pulled a Hindenberg at the box office last summer, raking in a meager $21 million domestic against a $30 million budget. In fact, I would've been surprised by any other outcome.

But this week, Chris Carter's co-producer and co-writer Frank Spotnitz added salt to the wound by going on a delusional rant in an interview with the Toronto Sun. See, it wasn't X-Files' fault that no one came out to see the flick. Whose fault was it? Why, Batman's, of course:

"Our theatrical performance this past summer notwithstanding, I think The X-Files is still a natural for theatrical release. We just opened the wrong week. The week after The Dark Knight, I think, was just not the right week for us.

"I think it was especially brutal to us because we weren't counter-programming. We weren't Mamma Mia! or Step Brothers. We were a little dark scary movie coming in the fumes, in the exhaust, of this mammoth machine that was The Dark Knight. And I don't think we had a chance!"

See, kids? It had nothing to do with the ill will generated among the fan base by a disastrous final season on television. Or with the ten year gap since the last X-Files movie, which made almost ten times as much. Or with the X-Files' almost complete disappearance from the popular consciousness since the series ended. Or with the decision not to make the film about the main storyline that the fans actually cared about. Or with the fact that The Dark Knight was one of the best-reviewed movies of the year, and I Want to Believe...wasn't.

No, they just picked the wrong weekend. I'm sure X-Files 3: The Search for an Audience will do much better.

* * * * * * * * * *

For those who may not yet be aware, the Vault is now firmly entrenched in both of those modern bastions of vain frivolity, MySpace and Facebook. So, should you be so inclined, feel free to stop by and feed my ravenous ego by adding the VoH as a close and personal friend. Take care now!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Curse of The Omen?

A stark raving mad Englishman was shot to death by police yesterday on the grounds of Guildford Cathedral, the very church where, in 1976, actors dressed as police pretended to shoot Gregory Peck in the penultimate scene of Richard Donner's The Omen.

According to The Daily Mirror, the man had been terrorizing people in one of the shopping districts of the town of Guildford, some 30 miles outside of London, when police intervened and the man bolted off. They followed him to the church, where he refused to surrender and was gunned down. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

The Daily Mail is reporting the unconfirmed rumor that the man was committing "suicide by cop", as messages he left behind to friends would indicate he was going to kill himself. And he picked quite the place to do it. Guildford Cathedral was, of course, the very same church at which Damien Thorn threw his infamous Satanic hissyfit, and was also nearly sacrificed by his ill-fated foster daddy. It was also the spot where Father Brennan was impaled by an errant church spire.

* * * * * * * * * *

I wanted to take time out today to acknowledge the explosion of interest that has occurred here at the VoH in recent days, thanks to the celebrated/infamous "Cyber-Horror Elite" Top 50. Thanks to one of our contributors, Brad Miska, the list can now be found on Bloody-Disgusting, the web's most popular horror news site. Thanks, Brad! It has also been featured at FangoriaOnline, where blogger Brian Matus has posted his own detailed response. Cinematical has also jumped on the "CBE" bandwagon. As a result, on Saturday I set a new traffic record here for the VoH, which was nearly triple the previous record. Then, on Sunday, I broke that record.

I'd like to bid a horrific welcome to all my new readers from over the past few days. Stick around, I'm just getting warmed up!

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.
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