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Thursday, July 31, 2008

A Second Season for Fear Itself? Don't Hold Your Breath

In a story that's sort of akin to taking a lame horse out behind the barn, NBC-Universal Co-Chairman Ben Silverman has hinted in an interview with iFMagazine that the network's Thursday night horror anthology will most likely wrap up after the first season is over.

The lackluster series, which debuted in June as the red-headed cousin of Showtime's Masters of Horrorseries, has generally performed in the range of a 1.0 rating--which is not bad if your show is ECW on SciFi, but doesn't quite cut it for prime time on one the Big Three. Not sure about all of you, but I've yet to see a single episode that's engaged me from beginning to end, and that's a bad sign when the season is almost half over.

“We’re still debating,” Silverman told iFMagazine, in reference to whether or not Fear Itself will return next summer. “...You almost can’t lose at the business deal we have [ie. shooting the show in Canada and buying it cheap by selling off the DVD rights]. It’s whether we can do better, which we want to do.”

"Doing better" refers to the in-development Crusoe, a period action drama based on Daniel Defoe's 18th century novel (must admit, a pretty original idea, and that's rare for network TV.)

“We’ll definitely do scripted [programming] next summer,” said Silverman. “Not sure if we’ll do horror anthology again... Crusoe could perform better.”

There you have it, people. Forget vampires, ghosts and serial killers. Come summer 2009, thank God it's Friday.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Trailer: Harry Potter Takes a Turn for the Dark with the Half-Blood Prince

Not strictly horror, I know, but don't you just love it when an established entertainment property dabbles in more sinister territory? The Harry Potter series started out as safe family fare, but this brand-new trailer for the sixth film in the series, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, shows us a much more horrifying side of the mythos. Decidedly grown-up in tone, it focuses on the young Voldemort (as played by Ralph Fiennes' nephew Hero Fiennes-Tiffin), before he became J.K. Rowling's personification of evil. And I'll be damned if that last shot isn't a tip of the hat to The Exorcist...

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Goyer to Adapt H.G. Wells' Invisible Man

I'm specifically saying "H.G. Wells' Invisible Man" for a reason. And no, it's not to differentiate from the Ralph Ellison novel. Rather, it's to differentiate from the 1932 Universal film. Fan-boy fave screenwriter David S. Goyer spoke to SciFi.com yesterday at Comic-Con (last time, I promise) about a new adaptation that he's currently working on which will be much more about Wells' original novel, incorporating Griffin's coveted notebooks containing the secrets of invisibility, which are mentioned at the end of the book, but never found.

Now, I don't know about you, but I've heard this story before. You know, the one about the guy who plans to take a horror property associated with an old Universal flick, go back to its literary roots and make a "faithful" adaptation. And while Francis Ford Coppola's Dracula (1992) and Kenneth Branagh's Frankenstein (1994) might be a bit truer to their sources than their 1930s Universal counterparts, they are both far from faithful (and both largely inferior, although the former is a great film.)

If you read the interview at SciFi.com, it sounds like Goyer's concept will probably fit into the same category. Still, even if it isn't what Wells intended, with Goyer penning, it stands a chance of being quite good.

The screenwriter recently finished up scripts for next year's Magneto movie, as well as 2010's cinematic arrival of The Flash.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Englund and Other Originals Out of New "V" Project

If you can ignore the '80s-hotness of Jane Badler for just a moment, I'd like to pass along some news on everyone's favorite sci-fi/horror TV miniseries. In talking to Cinema Blend at--you guessed it!--Comic-Con, V-veteran Robert Englund stated in no uncertain terms that the proposed new miniseries NBC has been developing for the past three years (!) will in fact be a complete remake, with new actors taking the place of people like himself, Marc Singer and Ms. Badler (pant, pant).

Judging by certain bone-headed complaints raised by peacock execs, it appears some of the hold-up may be over concerns that the new V miniseries will appear to have "ripped off" Independence Day. In other news, the new Dune movie is rumored to be "ripping off" Star Wars...Sigh...

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Groovy! Sam Raimi to Start Work on Evil Dead IV

Yes, the nuggets of Comic-Con goodness just keep rolling in.

It's all in the super-preliminary stages right now, but Sam Raimi made some very interesting comments last night at the panel for his upcoming project, Drag Me to Hell, with regards to the future of his most beloved franchise. And if you think I'm talking about Spider-Man, then you're reading the wrong blog, pally.

According to the Geeks of Doom, Raimi stated that he planned to begin work on the script for a fourth Evil Dead film next week, along with his brother Ivan (who collaborated on the previous three pictures.) He also said he'd love to work with Bruce Campbell again, which sounds like he hasn't officially got him on board yet. But, come on now, how could you do an Evil Dead movie without him? I mean, it's not like he hasn't appeared in every single movie Raimi has ever made, anyway.

That said, Raimi is also involved with Spider-Man 4, although it's not known yet if he will direct. Should that happen, Evil Dead IV will no doubt slip down the list of priorities. Also, where does this leave the announced Evil Dead remake that Raimi is producing?

I'd be tempted to think the director was simply waxing nostalgic, but his comment about starting work next week seems awfully specific and premeditated. Let's hope he really is returning to his roots. Then we can start praying for Peter Jackson to get to work on Dead Alive II...

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Suspiria Remake May Not Suck

I've sometimes been criticized for being overly optimistic when it comes to movies, but something I read today about the impending remake of Dario Argento's Suspiria (yes, it's happening) has me in a hopeful mood. Or, it could just be the Effexor.

Anyways, ShockTillYouDrop managed to corner the remake's director David Gordon Green at Comic-Con today, and what he had to say makes it sound like maybe, just maybe, we can expect a little more out of the new Suspiria than, say, the myriad soulless reboots currently being spit out by Michael Bay's Platinum Dunes company:
"The script is finished. We're out trying to find the right supportive financial institution who wants to take a risk and make a really bold, distinctive and unique horror film. It's not the obvious... it doesn't slip naturally into the niche market of contemporary horror movies. It's something that I think has the potential to be classic and a lot more artistically-inclined than a lot of the contemporary horror stuff."
In other words, it sounds like Green has some genuine respect for the original, and is actually trying to craft a remake that at least attempts to recapture what made it so good in the first place, instead of trying to fit a square peg into a round hole (of course, that begs the question of why do you need to remake it in the first place--but then the obvious answer is, as it always has been, money.)

Interestingly, Green also notes that it's an Italian production company that's spearheading the project, so at least it isn't a case of an American company trying to cash in on a foreign classic it doesn't understand (ie. Godzilla or The Wicker Man). An American distributor will be found once the film is complete.

Maybe it's that optimistic streak, but count me in on this one. True, the horror remakes have gotten out of hand and need to stop. But this one and The Wolf Man could wind up being for this decade what The Thing and The Fly were in the 1980s.

Universal Screens Wolf Man Footage at Comic-Con

As the promising remake of The Wolf Man grows steadily nearer, it has been reported that those who attended its panel for the film Friday afternoon at the San Diego Comic-Con were treated to some highlights.

Quint of Ain't It Cool News has filed an eyewitness report from the panel, which included makeup master Rick Baker, as well as Benicio "Larry Talbot" del Toro and his leading lady Emily Blunt. Quint describes gory scenes of assorted werewolfery, as well as Anthony "Sir John Talbot" Hopkins brandishing the same silver-headed cane seen in the 1941 original.

Unfortunately, he also reports on Baker's apparent frustration that although the actual Wolf Man is his own creation (“What I did in this film wasn’t all that different from what Jack Pierce did in the original”), the transformation scenes will be handled with CGI.

This remake really could go either way at this point, but I continue to be hopeful (what can I say, I'm just built that way.) In the meantime, check out the entire description here.

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In other news, I've just discovered that my post from a few days back containing the leaked pix of the new Jason Voorhees has mysteriously vanished from The Vault of Horror. Lest you think I've backed down in the face of studio pressure, dear reader, let me assure you that the removal occurred without my knowledge or permission. I'm assuming it's something Blogger did either preemptively, or in response to some kind of cease & desist order from New Line. Well, well, well, I suppose I'm not as "under the radar" as I supposed...

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Has London After Midnight Been Found??

I'm hesitant to report on this, but on the chance that it might be the real deal, I felt compelled to spread the word. Someone out there is claiming to have actually discovered an honest-to-goodness print of the 1927 Lon Chaney vampire film London After Midnight--perhaps the most notorious lost film of all time.

Believed lost in a 1967 warehouse fire, the movie was supposedly found in a massive MGM warehouse under its British release title of The Hypnotist. A gentleman calling himself Sid Terror has posted the entire exhaustive tale on The Horror Drunx message board, where he claims to have first come across it ten years ago.

According to Mr. Terror, his pleas that something be done about it fell on deaf ears amongst ignorant studio execs. Then, in 2004, he got in touch with someone else who had allegedly spotted the exact same print. He then goes on to say that the print has been lost again, since the warehouse he originally found it in has been sold, and the old nitrate prints were transferred to several different holding locations.

A lot of people are doubtful, and for a number of reasons. Firstly, this wouldn't be the first time a hoax was perpetrated in which someone claimed to have found this movie. Also, one would think that if this guy--who claims to be a rabid film buff--really did find the thing a full ten years ago, he wouldn't have waited until now to post the story on some message board.

Nevertheless, the story made its way to the "Head Geek" himself, Harry Knowles of Ain't It Cool News, who is now fully championing Terror's cause, and calling for someone within Time-Warner to do something about it. Thickening the plot further, Harry went on to post a correspondence today from a trusted source who corroborates the story.

Can it be? Is London After Midnight--the "holy grail" of horror films--close to seeing the light of day for the first time in 80 years? Time will tell, I suppose. In the meantime, judge for yourself.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Sneak Peek at Marvel's Adaptation of Stephen King's The Stand

Ain't It Cool News isn't usually a place that breaks comic book-related news, but in this case they have something very cool, indeed. It's some finished artwork from Marvel Comics' upcoming adaptation of Stephen King's 1978 end-of-the-world novel The Stand. Here's a look at the cover of issue #2, by series artist Mike Perkins:

King's original tale is being adapted by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, who recently revamped the Man-Thing for Marvel with the superb Dead of Night limited series. Aguirre-Sacasa and Perkins promise to play up the horrific aspects of the novel, as can be glimpsed in this little panel which depicts the effects of "Captain Trips", the devastating epidemic that wipes out much of Earth's population:

Pretty grody stuff. Personally, I could do without the baby--what with Robert Kirkman's notorious infanticide in The Walking Dead and now this, there seems to be a weird trend going on in horror comics. Anyway, Marvel's The Stand hits stores in September, dead babies and all!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Official Poster for HBO's Upcoming Vampire Series

HBO released this snazzy little poster today for its new vampire TV series. I don't know about you, but it kinda reminds me of Frank Quitely's cover for the first issue of Vertigo's Bite Club comic from a few years back. Incidentally, Anna Paquin (Rogue from X-Men) is the star.

As the poster proclaims, the upcoming show comes from the mind of Alan Ball, creator of Six Feet Under and director of American Beauty. Ball supposedly claims to have never seen Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Angel, and considers Near Dark the best vampire movie of all time (whether that's good news or bad is a matter of opinion.)

I'm really looking forward to this show. In fact, I'm even going to re-subscribe to the channel for the first time since Tony Soprano shamefully winked out of existence to the over-wrought falsetto of Steve Perry. HBO has a pretty solid track record, and Ball's Six Feet Under is right up there amongst the highlights.

If you head over to HBO's official site for True Blood, you can check out some pretty entertaining viral marketing to prepare viewers for the show, including a fictional blog, a vampire dating site, and a site for a blood-substitute beverage that's all the rage in the fanged community.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Billy Connolly Talks X-Files

There's a great interview up at the UK's Independent with Scottish comedian and sometimes-dramatic-actor Billy Connolly, who talks at length about his role in The X-Files: I Want to Believe, coming to theaters next month.

The usually hysterical Connolly plays it straight this time around, taking on the part of a disturbed Catholic priest--despite his real-life atheism. Incidentally, Connolly also played the title role in Fido, in case you didn't recognize him under all that makeup (and yes, he was also Howard Hesseman's replacement on Head of the Class.)

According to The Independent, the part of Father Joe was specifically written by Chris Carter with Connolly in mind. Check out the interview here.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Look Up "So Bad It's Good" in the Dictionary...

Today, because there's not much going on, and also because I feel like it, we celebrate the 36th anniversary of one of the crowned jewels of schlock cinema--The Thing with Two Heads.

That's right, it was on this day back in 1972 that American International Pictures (AIP) released this anti-classic into theaters. Starring Ray Milland--an Oscar-winner fallen on some seriously hard times--and L.A. Ram-turned-actor Roosevelt "Rosey" Grier, it's the touching tale of a wealthy ailing racist who has his head transplanted onto the body of a black death row inmate. Think The Defiant Ones meets Re-Animator.

Both catastrophically awful and incredibly hysterical at the same time, The Thing with Two Heads was directed by Lee Frost, who incidentally was also the writer/director of the '60s weird softcore classic Mondo Bizarro (he also worked as a key grip on Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo, which I couldn't have made up if I tried.) Furthermore, I bet you didn't know this was also makeup wizard Rick Baker's first movie.

Tried-and-true B-movie titan AIP distributed the flick, and it was just part of the company's summer of '72 lineup, which also included Blacula, Dr. Phibes Rises Again, Hammer Films' Blood from the Mummy's Tomb and Boxcar Bertha, the debut film of Martin Scorsese. Now, I wasn't even born yet, but anyone who tells you that those weren't the days is a fool.

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I'd like to briefly go from the ridiculous to the sublime (and off-topic, if you'll forgive me), to mark the sad passing of Jo Stafford, one of the last remaining superstar vocalists of the golden age of popular song.

Dexter and Pushing Daisies Rep Horror at the Emmys

The nominations for the 60th Primetime Emmy Awards were (rather quietly) announced yesterday, and horror faves Dexter and Pushing Daisies featured prominently on the ponderously endless list.

Season 2 of Showtime's excellent serial killer drama received five nominations:

  • Dramatic Series
  • Lead Actor in a Drama Series (Michael C. Hall)
  • Sound Mixing (one-hour comedy or drama)
  • Art Direction (single-camera series)
  • Cinematography (one-hour series)

Very gratifying to see Dexter get the Dramatic Series nod. Now if only they had also recognized Battlestar Galactica...

ABC's new smash horror/fantasy/comedy scored an impressive 12 nominations for its debut season:

  • Directing (comedy series)
  • Lead Actor in a Comedy Series (Lee Pace)
  • Supporting Actress in a Comedy (Kristin Chenoweth)
  • Writing (comedy series)
  • Art Direction (single-camera series)
  • Picture Editing (comedy series)
  • Casting (comedy series)
  • Costumes (series)
  • Hair-styling (single-camera series)
  • Makeup (single-camera series)
  • Prosthetics
  • Original Score (series)

I've not checked out this show, but it's from Bryan Fuller, creator of Showtime's woefully under-recognized and short-lived Dead Like Me, so I might have to check it out. Any opinions?

Additionally, Anjelica Huston's role on the supernatural thriller series Medium landed a nomination for Guest Actress in a Drama Series, and the CW's Supernatural was recognized for Sound Editing.

The Emmys air Sunday, September 21.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Whatever Happened to Rosemary's Baby?

MovieMaker magazine is holding a very clever contest to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Roman Polanski's groundbreaking horror film Rosemary's Baby. Called "Whatever Happened to Rosemary's Baby?" (after the forgettable made-for-TV sequel), the contest asks readers to postulate who Rosemary's baby may actually be today.

Basically, you pick a person in the public eye you think might be the spawn of Satan, presumably of roughly middle age to fit the bill, and send the response to rosemary@moviemaker.com. Two winners will be selected at random--one receives a Rosemary's Baby lobby card signed by cinematographer William Fraker (guess they couldn't lure ol' Polanski back for this one), and the other gets a poster signed by Fraker. Winners will be announced 9/1.

My choice, you ask? That's easy:

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Fear Invades the Living Room: A History of Horror TV, Part 1

Although often overshadowed by the older and less limited tradition of horror in theatrical motion pictures, the horror genre has nevertheless been a constant and important part of the history of television dating back to its very beginning as a commercial medium. It might be a more confined format in terms of running time, and in recent decades in terms of content, but horror television has benefited from something that all TV shows benefit from to one degree or another: intimacy.

It's an intimacy that the more communal movie experience doesn't allow (even more true in the pre-VCR age). And when it comes to a genre whose purpose it is to get under your skin, to exploit that which unsettles and frightens you, that level of intimacy is a major advantage.

Even though the phenomenon of TV didn't take root until after World War II, the concept of horror entertainment within the privacy of one's own home wasn't quite novel even then--after all, horror programs had already been a staple of radio stations going back decades. Perhaps that was why, in the beginning, horror was able to get its footing on television by drawing directly on that earlier medium.

It was Lights Out, a hugely popular horror/thriller anthology radio show of the 1940s, that was the first to make the transition. In 1946, the first of four Lights Out specials aired on American TV, the nation's first real taste of the boob tube's power to send a tingle down the spine using both audio and video components. They were followed in 1949 with a regular Lights Out series that ran for two seasons, presenting tales of the supernatural, some even based on the horror stories of authors such as Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edgar Allen Poe.

Once Lights Out was a hit, the door was open for a slew of anthology series, most based on the old radio format. In those early days, TV programmers were eager to fill their schedules with whatever they could get their hands on, and further radio adaptations such as Suspense (1949-53) in the U.S. and Appointment with Fear (1949-55) in the U.K. fit the bill. Even horror movie legend Boris Karloff got into the act with a short-lived anthology he hosted called Mystery Playhouse (1949).

The format of presenting a different tale of terror each week proved a stalwart of the early years of television, and Karloff wasn't the only cinematic luminary to benefit from its potential. In 1955, understanding how a TV series could act as the greatest form of self-promotion possible, director Alfred Hitchcock, best known for his suspense thrillers, kicked off his very own anthology show: Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Enormously popular, it ran for nine seasons, giving viewers a condensed TV version of Hitchcock's trademark blend of dark humor and murderous mayhem.

Aside from anthology programming, the other distinguishing feature of horror TV in the '50s was an obvious one. After all, what easier way for content-crazed programmers to fill their slates than by showing previously released movies? B-grade horror films were among the most easily acquired, and thus soon became a late-night staple. Across the nation, hordes of "horror hosts" sprang up. These campy personalities were hired by TV stations to introduce the movies, as well provide entertaining segues to run before and after commercial breaks. The first of these was Vampira, whose 1954-55 program out of Los Angeles set the standard. Among later hosts, New York's Zacherley--"The Cool Ghoul"--was the epitome.

The biggest windfall ever enjoyed by these types of programs was the 1957 leasing to TV by Universal Pictures of its impressive library of 1930s and '40s horror classics. Packaged as "Shock Theatre", the collection of movies that included Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, etc., managed to repopularize those moldy oldies with a whole new generation of youngsters that ate them up with relish. An explosion in monster movie popularity resulted, producing the generation that would forever after be lovingly known as "monster kids".

Meanwhile in the U.K., there was some experimentation going on with presenting horror material in a format other than the ongoing series. The 1955 BBC presentation of The Creature starring Peter Cushing, for example, was an early example of a successful horror TV movie. And true to the British concept of limiting a "series" to a single season--more akin to what Americans would call a miniseries--the BBC also produced the landmark Quatermass Experiment in 1953. It would be followed by two other series, Quatermass II (1955) and Quatermass and the Pit (1958), and later inspired the earliest theatrical successes of Hammer Films.

Nevertheless, the Americans stuck to their anthological guns. In 1959, the series One Step Beyond debuted, showcasing paranormal tales based on supposed real-life accounts. Although a well-produced program, it would be totally eclipsed by another anthology which debuted the very same season, and which ironically did take horror TV one step beyond.

Or more accurately, to another dimension. One of sight, and sound.

Other major shows:

  • The Clock (1949-52)
  • The Web (1950-54)
  • Danger (1950-55)
  • Topper (1953-55)
  • The Veil (1958)

Soon to come: Part 2 - Terror Comes of Age

Monday, July 14, 2008

Scream 4 Announced - Neve Campbell Rejoices; Rest of World Mourns

Just when you thought it was safe to go to the movies and not see David Arquette, Dread Central is reporting today that the Weinsteins have officially announced Scream 4.

The announcement was made in a pretty much off-hand way, as part of a press-release detailing the Weinsteins' deal to distribute their 2009 theatrical slate to Showtime's pay-TV service. It just so happens that one of the films the release mentions as part of that slate is the long-rumored fourth installment of horror's most unnecessary series.

No further details are known yet, including whether or not Wes Craven will direct (unlikely) or whether or not the trinity of Neve Campbell, Arquette and Courtney Cox--who miraculously survived the original trilogy--will be returning (likely).

Starting off as a clever idea and a fresh new take on the slasher genre (not to mention a shot in the arm for Craven's faltering career), the series went rapidly downhill as soon as it became a series. The drop-off in quality was immediate, and what was at first a great concept just became pointless and repetitive. Nevertheless, they did make a hell of a lot of money, so it looks like Ghostface is off to the races again, kids!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Hatchet: Nostalgia for Crap

Not since the days of The Blair Witch Project have I been so thoroughly hoodwinked by the phenomenon of internet hype. For months, I had read all the raves about Hatchet, seen the glowing praise heaped upon it at places like Ain't It Cool News and Bloody-Disgusting (sorry, Brad!), as well as various message boards. "Old-school horror is back," seemed to be the general consensus.

Imagine how shocked I was then, to rent the damn thing and be confronted with one of the most amateurish, wrong-headed, derivative and falsely trumped-up pieces of horror cinema it's ever been my sad displeasure to endure? But I've got to hand it to the marketing gurus behind this one--they took a grade-A turd, polished it up real nice, sprinkled on some herbs and spices, and served it up as choice tenderloin. Just don't count me among the fooled any longer.

Old-school horror? No offense, Adam Green, but old-school horror is Boris Karloff tossing little girls into lakes; Fredric March getting wasted on cheap wine and man-handling prostitutes; Max Schreck stalking the deck of the Demeter like a panther. Hatchet, on the other hand, is nothing more than a sad, masturbatory aping of a dated '80s subgenre that was never that great to begin with (humblest apologies to my LoTT D crony Vince Liaguno of Slasher Speak).

Ever the optimist, I somehow got it into my head that Hatchet might be an inventive, sinister new take on great exploitation horror like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Last House on the Left, like the best of Rob Zombie is. But what I got was a film literally devoid of imagination, with nothing fresh to say at all; rather, it's content to mimic all the worst cliches and stereotypes of '80s slasher movies, trying so hard to be like them that it only succeeds in resembling the very worst of them.

If that was your goal, Mr. Green, you succeeded. Congratulations. All the standard tropes endlessly churned out by the slasher purveyors are mindlessly followed, including most noticeably of all, those filmmakers' depressingly sociopathic disdain for their own protagonists.

Green raises the slasher movie, in its day viewed as the ultimate nadir of the horror genre, to the status of great movie-making, idealizing it to a ridiculous degree. Hey, everyone's allowed their guilty pleasures, and slashers definitely have a trashy-cinema appeal. A handful of exceptions, like the original Halloween and Nightmare on Elm Street, might even be damn fine flicks. I'm not saying there's no pleasure to be gotten from them. But I question any horror fan who limits himself to them, and considers them, without irony, to actually be quality pictures.

Hatchet is the filmic equivalent of "The Chris Farley Show". "Y-y-ya remember that time...in Friday the 13th Part VII...when that bitchy camp counselor opened the door...and Jason was standing right there? A-a-and he smashed her in the face with the axe...?? That was awesome...." It's disappointing that Green would content himself to be a filmmaker with such limited ambition--much like guys such as Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez, who can't get over their adolescent fascination with one hackneyed subgenre, and continue mindlessly paying tribute to it for the rest of their careers.

Oh, of course, it's not purely an '80s-style slasher flick, because you also have your requisite post-modern irony thrown in for good measure. Telegram for Mr. Green: That was already done more than a decade ago in a movie called Scream. Even that's old hat now.

The only area in which Hatchet isn't lacking in imagination is the gore. Victims are sliced and diced in impressive fashion, with no regard for the pesky MPAA. If that's all you ask from your horror movies, if that's your top criterion for greatness, then you'll probably love Hatchet. Seek it out immediately. If you require more than the fetishistic presentation of serial dismemberment, look elsewhere.

The acting is terrible. The script is painfully bad, with dumb joke after dumb joke. At times, it feels like you're watching a Sci-Fi Channel original movie. "Ah," you may say, "But that's what it's all about, man. That's what those movies were like! Green nailed it!" Well, yes, I guess he did. Once again, congratulations. You succeeded in making a bad movie that's a tribute to bad movies. Only in the 21st century could this be considered a positive. See, the difference here is that back then, the people who made movies like Chopping Mall, Slaughterhouse and The Slumber Party Massacre made them because they weren't capable of making anything better.

On the DVD's main documentary, Green spells out that the entire concept for the movie came to him at the age of eight. And man, does it show. Unfortunately, Green never bothered to rethink any of it since then. He also repeatedly talks about how amazed he is that anyone backed him, and that the movie got made at all. So am I.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

A Plea to the Lovecraftians

OK, I have a bit of a dilemma going on. For a while now, H.P. Lovecraft had remained a great undiscovered country for me. While aware that he is the single most influential force in modern horror, I had only glimpsed bits and pieces of his actual writing--I had yet to really delve into it.

And now that I have, I've got a real problem to deal with. And that problem is the fact that H.P. Lovecraft was a passionate racist, white supremacist and anti-Semite, and his work readily reflects it.

My recent foray into HPL comes as a result of the essay submitted to The Vault of Horror some months ago by RayRay, a devout fan of the author since our days in high school together. And while I can't deny the raw and attractive power of his horror writing, I'm having a hard time with the aforementioned issue.

I plan to write a more deeply considered piece on the subject when I've read more of his work and can feel comfortable fully commenting on it. For now, I merely ask those who enjoy his work to help me out. Am I over-reacting?

See, my problem is complex. Yes, racism was more acceptable and rampant in Lovecraft's day, but his level of virulent hatred goes above and beyond even the acceptability such opinions enjoyed in a pre-Nazi world. Not only that, but it's all over the place in his fiction--you can't escape it. Richard Wagner may have been one of history's most famous Jew-haters, yet I can enjoy his music because he never wrote operas about it. But one need only browse through a handful of Lovecraft's pieces to come across his deep-seated hate for blacks, Jews, Asians and immigrants of all kinds. Don't even get me started on his private writings. Saying, "Well, that's how people thought back then," doesn't quite cover it.

So what do I do with this? I invite anyone with an opinion on the subject to leave a comment. Is it possible to enjoy Lovecraft in spite of his racism? Is it right to?

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Blob's Golden Anniversary

This weekend marks the 50th anniversary of the release of the classic 1950s B-horror flick The Blob--and to celebrate the occasion, Phoenixville, Pennsylvania is kicking off Blobfest 2008, a tribute to everyone's favorite extra-terrestrial ooze.

Site of much of the action filmed for the 1958 movie, including the famous climactic scene in which moviegoers at Phoenixville's Colonial Theatre flee the acidic gelatin, the town has been holding Blobfest for years now, but naturally, this year's event is extra-special.

A party at the theater will kick off the festivities on Friday night, according to the Phoenixville News. Other events will include a reenactment of the Colonial Theatre scene, as well as a retrospective hosted by Kris Yeaworth, son of the film's late director Irvin "Shorty" Yeaworth. Naturally, the movie itself will be screened several times over the weekend, and so will two other '50s B-classics: Universal's Creature from the Black Lagoon and William Castle's The Tingler. Ricou Browning, the swimmer who portrayed the Gill-Man in his underwater scenes, will introduce Black Lagoon. Also on hand in the theatre will be makeup effects master Tom Savini.

For more info, go to thecolonialtheatre.com. Sounds like a fun time. Although there's no mention of it, I hope there is also some kind of plan to honor The Blob's co-screenwriter Kay Linaker, who passed away earlier this year.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Batman's Scarecrow as Slasher?

That's the angle being used by Joe Harris, writer of DC Comics' The Joker's Asylum #4: Scarecrow, set to hit newsstands and comic shops on July 23.

"Anytime I can do something even slightly 'horrific' with spandex super-heroes and their rogues gallery, I'm a happy guy," Harris told Newsarama. "I was raised on a steady diet of movies like Friday The 13th as well as other slashers, along with higher-concept movies like April Fool's Day and the A Nightmare on Elm Street series. I treated Scarecrow like a slasher movie threat...a masked maniac in the mold of Michael Myers or Freddy Krueger, but with a pathology known to Batman readers."

Harris has a background of sorts in horror cinema, having written the bizarre 2003 twisted tooth fairy tale Darkness Falls, as well as the 2006 David Arquette political slasher The Tripper, one of the original "8 Films to Die For."

Illustrated by Juan Doe (can that possibly be a real name?), the one-shot issue sets deranged psychotherapist Jonathan "Scarecrow" Crane loose on a houseful of teenage girls, in classic slasher fashion. As with the rest of the series, the Joker acts as a sort of "Crypt Keeper" style narrator.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Thanks to Fans, The Mummy Special Edition Is a Reality

Universal wasn't going to release a special edition DVD set of The Mummy. That's right, the red-headed stepchild of the Universal Monsters canon was deemed unworthy of the double-disc treatment recently afforded both Dracula and the Frankenstein Monster. That is, until a vocal outcry from monster kids far and wide changed the studio's collective mind.

Upon hearing that Universal wasn't confident in the demand for a deluxe treatment of the 1932 classic, lovers of the film banded together via publications like Scary Monsters Magazine and websites like the Classic Horror Film Board to let the company know that they would indeed support said release. And so, the decision was made to put out The Mummy Special Edition as part of the Universal Legacy Series, and today was the day it finally hit stores.

Granted, this isn't the first DVD release of the movie, but there's plenty of new stuff to keep Mummy-heads very happy, including a bunch of new docs highlighted by a special look at makeup wizard Jack Pierce. There's also a brand-new commentary track that includes one of Pierce's greatest admirers and followers, Rick Baker.

Congrats to the fans who made this possible. You can now officially pat yourselves on the back!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Feedback from Cronenberg's Fly Opera Premiere

Ain't It Cool News has a report from a lucky German horror fan who made the trip to Paris to catch the premiere of David Cronenberg's new opera The Fly (gotta love that logo!), which was discussed here some days ago. Check it out here.

Our Teutonic friend makes a couple of mistakes you should be aware of though, including crediting the opera's composer Howard Shore with the script, which was actually written by librettist David Henry Hwang. He also doesn't pick up on the fact that the opera is supposed to be set in the 1950s, the era of the original motion picture version The Fly.

Speaking of which, the AICN correspondent also recounts a screening of both the 1958 and 1986 versions of the film the following night, hosted by Cronenberg himself. This is definitely a good week to be French.

The Horrors of Disney

No, there's really nothing horrific about Disney (despite the crazed rants of ultra right-wing nutballs to the contrary)--but that headline is certainly an attention-getter, no? Having just gotten back from Orlando's famous Walt Disney World Resort, I can firmly attest to the fact that it is a warm and fuzzy, family-friendly wonderland of mind-boggling complexity and scale. Heck, there ain't even anything horrifying about the Haunted Mansion ride--aside from the Eddie Murphy movie it inspired, but that's an entirely different kind of horrifying.

Pluto's a dog...What the hell is Goofy??

Genuine, 160-proof old Anglo-Saxon, baby!

I may have been out of it for a little while, but don't everybody go getting delusions of grandeur. The vacation is over, so you can expect regular posts again from here on in. See ya real soon!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Uncle Sam Wants You....Dead!!!

Happy Fourth of July, from The Vault of Horror....

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Hellboy Visits the Actor's Studio

Some hilarious stuff here, which I stumbled across on Ain't It Cool News. Thought I'd pass it along:

Pretty classic. I remain in major Hellboy II expectation mode.

Alright, back to my decidedly un-horrific Walt Disney World family vacation. Don't ever say I didn't look out for ya, Vault Dwellers!
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