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Friday, October 31, 2008

It's the Mummy!

A bloody good Halloween to one and all, from the one and only Vault of Horror!

P.S. For an extra All Hallow's treat, be sure and check out my rundown of the Top 10 Scariest Paintings of All Time over at Examiner.com!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Halloween Memories

When it comes to Halloween, I was a lucky kid. Certainly a lot luckier than kids since then—and that’s not just the bitter grumblings of an aging GenXer. You see, I grew up at the tail end of the Golden Age of Halloween, when October 31st was all about kids. Unlike today, when adults—perhaps longing for their childhoods—have co-opted it, and a paranoid media has robbed it of its innocence.

During the period stretching from the 1950s to the early 1980s, Halloween was a veritable Autumn Wonderland, rivaling even Christmas itself as the best time of year to be a kid. For all you youngsters out there, this meant that the entire holiday existed solely as a means for children to dress up and get free candy. No one was afraid to open their doors, everyone had a giant bowl of treats by the window, and the streets were teeming with hordes of tiny people in cheap plastic masks and jumpsuits.

My heyday of trick-or-treating encompassed 1975 through 1986, a little longer than I’m comfortable with admitting (yes, I was a bit of a nancy boy). Those were the closing years of Halloween’s Golden Age, and fortunately I just made it under the wire.

Although my parents suited me up from my very first Halloween, the earliest one I can remember is Halloween 1977, when, at nearly three years of age, I paraded down Bensonhurst’s 67th Street in one of those classic old-school Ben Cooper Superman costumes, the kind with the masks that you couldn’t see or breath through, with elastic bands that snapped with the slightest amount of pressure.

Those cheapo 5-and-10 store costumes were the standard back then. In fact, I can remember the first year I didn’t wear one. That would be in the first grade, when I got decked out in a homemade Dracula costume, complete with vampire makeup applied by my mom. I made a deal with my best friend, who was going out as a giant bat. At the school Halloween party, we pretended to be the same person—I’d disappear, then he’d pop up out of nowhere, as if I had simply transformed myself. Pretty clever for six-year-olds.

That was the same year I got into a schoolyard argument with another friend of mine. We were telling each other what our costumes were going to be. Problem was, the kid came from an Italian household and could hardly speak English. On top of that, he had a speech impediment. Naturally, he became exasperated when I had no idea what “The Oak” was. He even gave me a clue: it was a superhero. Batman, I asked? “No, the Oak.” Spider-Man? “NO. The Oak!” I think it took a good 15 minutes before I figured out it was the Hulk.

But by far, my greatest Halloween regret came the following year, when my mom took the initiative and—knowing my love of Star Wars—tried to surprise me by picking up a costume on her own. What she didn’t take into account was that I had only seen the original. For whatever reason, I had missed out on going to see The Empire Strikes Back the year before. So when she came home with a Yoda costume, I was reduced to tears, since I had no idea who the little guy was! Even worse, she took me down to the store to exchange it, at which point the clerk recommended I go as some obscure character called Boba Fett. I wound up picking C-3PO, which isn’t all that bad, but if I knew then what I know now…

By the fifth grade, I kind of knew I was starting to push it. As I pulled on my Ben Cooper He-Man getup, I’ll be honest and say, for the first time, I felt a little bit silly. That silly feeling, however, was still outweighed by the promise of Runts, Nerds, Pop Rocks, Bottlecaps and Jolly Ranchers by the handful.

But my level of maturity wasn’t the only thing undergoing noticeable change. More and more, there began to creep into the popular consciousness a certain wariness about Halloween. Stories of candy being tampered with, apples containing hidden razorblades and so on had been around long before I was born. But for a variety of reasons, they gained a lot more traction in the early to mid 1980s. I think it had something to do with the infamous rash of Tylenol poisonings in 1982, as well as a rising level of crime in urban centers like New York, where I grew up. Parents were fearing for their kids’ safety, and the media was happily feeding into that fear, perpetuating the myth that trick-or-treating was somehow unsafe.

Still, the good times weren’t quite over yet. I managed to drag the whole costume thing out for another two years. For some reason, I just never felt the urge to take part in that other Halloween activity so many of my friends were hanging up their costumes in favor of by that point, a tradition among kids going back a lot further than the modern commercialized concept of trick-or-treating. We called it “bombing”—pelting property and each other with eggs and shaving cream, mainly. I found it repulsive then, as I do now.

There were more Halloween parties going on in those later years, as we approached being what would now be known as “tweens”. My fondest memory of those was one I attended in the sixth grade—when, dressed as Zorro, I spent most of the afternoon talking over the loud music with the younger sister of one of my classmates, who I developed something of a crush on. Sadly, she died of leukemia less than a year later. To this day, I can’t hear A-Ha’s “Take on Me” without thinking of that party.

When I think back to those days, I can’t help but feel a little sad for my own kids. Now, when we dress them up in their much-better-quality costumes, my wife and I almost feel like we’re in the minority in our neighborhood. Almost gone are the wandering crowds of basket-carrying children. Many parents don’t even bother. Those who do confine their trick-or-treating to the local stores, no longer trusting their own neighbors—who in turn, are more than a little nervous about opening their own doors. It’s much more controlled and confined now. The fear-mongers have won.

Today, it’s the grown-ups who seem to get more excited, tramping around from one masquerade party to the next. It’s as if we’re living in some kind of post-modern Renaissance. Some spend much more time pondering this year’s costume than I ever did as a kid. And yes, I’m not above taking part in it myself. But more than anything else, that’s because I miss those days when Halloween was the most fun day of the year. I guess deep down, we all do.

This post was my contribution to a much more extended article on the topic of Halloween Memories by The League of Tana Tea Drinkers that was published yesterday. Read it here.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Watch Joe the Plumber's Gruesome Demise on DVD

No, I'm not talking about John McCain's infamous campaign gimmick--but rather the unlucky horror film character who happens to very amusingly bear the exact same moniker. You see, Joe features prominently in the Lucio Fulci masterwork The Beyond, which returns to DVD today in its most deluxe edition yet.

Its been six years since the movie generally regarded as the gore-meister's best last surfaced on disc as part of Anchor Bay's Lucio Fulci Collection. But now, thanks to Sage Stallone's Grindhouse Releasing--the same company that brought you the recent deluxe edition of Cannibal Holocaust--the surreal picture is getting quite the nifty little re-release.

For one thing, it's got a brand-new digital anamorphic transfer of the print and a surround-sound remix which were not available on previous editions, as well as a rare on-set interview with the director, and interviews with the stars and crew. Although it features the same commentary from Catriona MacColl and David Warbeck included on the film's initial 2000 DVD release, it does have an exclusive introduction by Ms. MacColl as well. Plus, it has a subtitled Italian language option, which I don't believe has ever been offered before.

I spotted the DVD over the weekend being offered for early sale at Catriona MacColl's table at Chiller Theatre, and cheaped out on picking it up--which I now regret. This looks like a terrific release for a movie that defines cult classic. And how awesome is it that it actually has a guy named Joe the Plumber in it? Fulci was a visionary, man! By the way, here's poor Joe's big scene:

Sunday, October 26, 2008

God, I Love Chiller Theatre

You can keep your San Diego Comic Con, with it's condescending Hollywood snobs and velvet ropes. For me, the epicenter of genre fandom will always be Chiller Theatre. And this weekend's Halloween '08 edition was particularly sweet for me, since it marked my return to the New Jersey-based horror con for the first time in seven years (coincidentally, that also happens to be how long I've had kids!)

But now, after years of patient waiting, both children are finally of an age to appreciate all the creepy delights Chiller has to offer. Plus, they get in free. And so I loaded them up in the car and made the longer-than-expected trek out to Parsippany, NJ--they used to hold it in much-closer East Rutherford, for all you Northeasterners.

I have always loved going, stretching back to my days of meeting Tom Savini and tracking down Godzilla bootlegs. But this time, I got the added bonus of vicariously enjoying the event through the incredulous eyes of the young. They got to meet folks like David Hedison, who portrayed the original Fly, so my son could show him the custom-made Fly action figure I made him. My daughter got to meet the daughter whose daddy played the Frankenstein Monster and the Mummy, Sara Karloff. And of course, we all got to meet the sadly quiet and aloof Ricou Browning, who played the Creature from the Black Lagoon--giving my daughter a chance to show off her nascent photographic ability.

Plus, I got to show them just how much cool stuff has existed in pop culture years before they were born. Thanks to Chiller, my daughter now has the complete 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo, and my son is the proud owner of Marvel's entire 1960s run of Iron Man cartoons. It's really amazing how you can find bootlegs of just about anything (I walked away with the complete MGM Tex Averys and Fleischer Betty Boops, for those who may be wondering).

In terms of brushes with horror celebrity, the highlight of my day was meeting the still-lovely Catriona MacColl, leading lady of Lucio Fulci's infamous trilogy of gorefests, The Gates of Hell, The Beyond and House by the Cemetery. Ms. MacColl was both charming and down-to-earth, basically encompassing the utter antithesis of Fulci's gruesomely disturbing films. As my daughter giggled, she explained to her how, while filming The Beyond, they would pour jam on the heads of the zombie extras between takes to make them look even more gross. That's about as close to a Vault of Horror Kodak moment as it gets, people.

Unfortunately, the original TV series Batmobile never showed up, but that was only a temporary damper to the festivities. After all, my son got to soak in compliments on his Spider-Man costume from some female American Gladiators, and I got to catch up with Terri Runnels, one of the former WWE Divas from my old days in the grunt 'n' groan biz.

It's all about moments that simply don't happen anywhere else: Uncomfortably ushering my children away as they blatantly gaped in awe at Beetlejuice, whom they seemed to believe was some type of gnome-like being; eavesdropping on Richard Hatch trying diplomatically to profess his love for the new Battlestar Galactica in the face of badmouthing old-school fans. The list goes on and on. Oh yeah, did I mention how I also met the incredibly tall Jim Krut, a.k.a. Dawn of the Dead's Helicopter Zombie? Punk rock!

I'm sure there are those out there who will deride my weekend geek-fest. So be it. I know there will also be those who appreciate the joy of the genre convention, made even more enjoyable by sharing it with the next generation. As the saying goes, for those who don't understand, no explanation will do; for those who do understand, no explanation is necessary.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Satellite Radio Gets Into the Halloween Spirit

As a proud XM subscriber, I'll try not to be too biased here... hell, who am I kidding? Both companies are the same thing these days, and that's only going to be more and more the case over time. But in any event, Sirius XM (boy, am I having trouble getting my head around that one) is offering a whole bunch of very cool satellite programming to help you get in the right spooky state of mind.

For example, starting Sunday, Sirius serves up Scream 113, and XM offers Gore 134. Both will be "uninterrupted channels devoted to all things Halloween." That means Halloween-themed interviews and features, and on Halloween itself, 24 hours of creepy sound effects perfect for parties or trick-or-treating. Kind of like those cassettes and CDs that are always for sale at discount stores around this time of year.

Perhaps most interestingly of all, Sirius channel 119 becomes Alfred Hitchcock Radio starting Wednesday, hosted by Hitch's granddaughter Mary Stone. It will play vintage radio dramatizations of the director's classic films, including The Birds starring Herbert Marshall and Suspicion starring Cary Grant.

Sirius 118, already a Radio Classics channel, will present the Halloween Spooktacular, boasting some of horror's all-time legends in gripping old-time radio dramas. This includes the likes of Orson Welles' Mercury production of Dracula, Boris Karloff in the Inner Sanctum Mysteries and Peter Lorre in Mystery in the Air. And of course, you better believe they'll be broadcasting Welles' 1938 War of the Worlds on Halloween, 70 years to the day from its original broadcast.

Fan-favorite XM channel Cinemagic will be turned over completely to horror movie clips and music starting tonight, so you can tune in right now. And there's plenty of other stuff going on, too: XM Kids gets into the act with "trick-or-treating music" all afternoon and night on Halloween; even XM's Hair Nation poser metal channel will be cranking out cheesy horror-themed rockers on Halloween and beyond.

But, as Ron Popeil said, that's not all. There's even more stuff going on, and it's all included on the official press release, which you can read here.

* * * * * * * * * *

The Vault of Horror continues to spread its icy tentacles across the cultural landscape, dear readers, and in the latest example, I'd like to direct your attention to my Barnes and Noble's Quamut.com, where you'll find my Halloween viewing guide to great, underrated horror flicks. It's called "How to Scare Yourself Silly", and just keep in mind that it's written for a mainstream readership--meaning not a bunch of depraved horror lunatics like all of you. So for all you cool people, many of these titles may be old hat. But hey, it helps me get credit among the "normals". So check it out.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Time to Kick Ass for the Lord!

After months of anticipation, tonight is the night that the beautifully refurbished Avon Theatre (it's all about transposing the "r" and "e", people) here in Connecticut will be unspooling its pristine, brand-new 35mm print of Peter Jackson's Dead Alive. You can call it Braindead if you like, but I've been calling it Dead Alive ever since I first spotted that unforgettable direct-to-VHS box cover in the new release section of my local mom-and-pop video store some 15 years ago, back when such places existed.

I was astonished by the ingenious vision at work in the film then, as much as I was surprised that the movie was then almost completely unknown. In those pre-web days, I felt like I had discovered a great horror secret that wouldn't remain secret for long. Thankfully, the situation was remedied after a couple of years, and the rise of the internet has also helped make this flick into the cult classic it deserves to be. It's no surprise at all to me that Jackson has enjoyed the mainstream success he has since then. This movie is more brilliant than it has any right to be--indeed, I've always said that if Monty Python had ever made a horror movie, this would've been it.

Barring the unforeseen interjection of mature adult responsibility, yours truly will be on-hand personally tonight at 9PM to witness the glory of the Sumatran rat-monkey as it was meant to be witnessed. And best of all, the Avon is located in downton Stamford, right near my old job--meaning that if anyone wanted to drop by to assassinate me, it would be the perfect location, since the carpets are already red!

While I'm at it, I also wanted to mention that I'll be attending the venerable Chiller Theatre (there it is again) convention out in New Jersey this coming Sunday, should there be any Vault Dwellers planning to attend, as well. It's always a major blast. I'll be the guy trying to prevent his two little kids from being crushed to death by the maddening throngs.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Small-Screen Revolution: A History of Horror TV, Part 4

With the onset of cable television over the course of the 1980s, horror TV underwent something of a transformation. For some time, the increasing brutality on the big screen had posed a challenge to those working on the little screen, who were bound to far more stringent restrictions. But cable, free of the censoring influences of sponsors, would allow them at last to compete on an even playing field.

As it would a decade later in the area of straight drama, HBO led the way. They had given the public a taste of what they could do with The Hitchhiker (1983), an intriguing cross between Twilight Zone and Hitchcock, but even that wasn't enough to prepare audiences for what they were about to unleash at the end of the decade. While the networks continued to churn out popular yet tame material like the vampire cop series Forever Knight (1989-96), HBO took a gamble by infusing sinister new life into a potent old horror franchise.

With Tales from the Crypt (1989-96), horror fans finally got everything they loved about modern theatrical fright films, right in the comfort of their own homes. Using stories--many taken from the legendary EC comic book of 30 years prior--introduced each week by the grisly Crypt Keeper, the show took full advantage of HBO's wide berth, never skimping on the violence and gore, and relishing every minute of it with typical Gaines-ian glee. It was everything the old anthology series of the past had been, taken to a bold and horrifying new level. Plus, it was funny as hell, which made it HBO's first smash hit series.

There was still horror to be found on traditional channels, to be sure, but the old guard almost seemed to have given up trying to keep up, knowing their hands were tied. Instead, the focus switched to the juvenile, and a mini-phenomenon of horror shows for kids emerged. With series like Are You Afraid of the Dark? (1991-96), Eerie, Indiana (1991-92) and the animated Beetlejuice (1989-91), producers no longer had to worry about pleasing an adult horror audience that had grown tired of TV's limitations. Perhaps the best example of all was the wildly successful Goosebumps (1995-98), based on a line of kids' novels by R.L. Stine that were huge back when J.K. Rowling was still a schoolteacher.

When it did try and deal with more grown-up horror, it seemed like broadcast TV was still stuck in the rut of tried-and-true formulas. You had attempts to feed of the success of the past, such as the ill-fated relaunch of Dark Shadows (1990), as well as made-for-TV sequels like Psycho IV (1990) and The Omen IV (1991).

A spate of Stephen King adaptations made the best of network restrictions with mixed results. While some, like The Tommyknockers (1993), proved largely forgettable, others, like the miniseries It (1990) and The Stand (1994) proved quite chilling, if flawed. Some have even argued that the first of the two, featuring the nightmarish clown Pennywise portrayed by Tim Curry, could be one of the finest adaptations of King's work shown on screens of any size.

After spending years taking a beating against the ropes, conventional broadcast TV finally rebounded in 1993 with its first mega-hit in years. Inspired by Kolchak: The Night Stalker of two decades prior, Fox's The X-Files became a hit of massive proportions, helping to propel the fledgling network to major status, and creating a passionate, loyal fan base. The cryptic, supernatural adventures of Agents Scully and Mulder captivated, with their hints of alien invasions, vast government conspiracy and the thin veil of normalcy that protected the regular world from the perils of the unknown.

The series ran for 10 seasons, and attained a popularity rivaled among sci-fi/horror TV only by the likes of Star Trek and The Twilight Zone (and like them, it also made the leap to the big screen). Best of all, it was intelligently written, providing the genre's first breath of fresh air in decades. Nevertheless, for the most part, it would prove to be the exception.

When it came to boob tube scares, the cutting edge continued to be on the pay channels. Showtime threw its hat in the ring in 1993 by teaming directors Tobe Hooper and John Carpenter for the anthology movie Body Bags, and later by reintroducing audiences to an old property with the vastly underrated New Outer Limits (1995-02), as well as Poltergeist: The Legacy (1996-99). Even a commercial cable channel like TNT was able to get into the act, bringing beloved genre commentator Joe Bob Briggs on board to host a series of theatrical horror films packaged as "Monstervision" (1993-00). Nothing like that had been attempted on regular TV since the heyday of the "horror hosts".

By the middle of the 1990s, the entire continental United States was wired for cable. The rules had changed. But that didn't mean that the lower channels on the dial were ready to give up the ghost, if you'll pardon the pun. Although the future of televised horror clearly lay in pay TV, another one of those fledgling broadcast networks was about to pull off just what Fox had done with The X-Files. But this time it would be a show set even more firmly within the scare genre, and as such would become arguably the most successful and beloved "pure horror" TV series of all time.

Other major shows:

  • Jeckyll & Hyde (1990)
  • Sometimes They Come Back (1991)
  • The Langoliers (1995)
  • Kindred: The Embraced (1996)

Soon to come: Part 5 - Triumph of the Tube

Part 1: Fear Invades the Living Room

Part 2: Terror Comes of Age
Part 3: How to Scare Without Losing Sponsors

Monday, October 20, 2008

Get Ready for the Next Generation of Children's Horror

For those who grew up loving Goosebumps and Are You Afraid of the Dark?, I have some good news. If you yourself have kids now, get ready to scare the crap out of them the very same way. The Hollywood Reporter today broke news of Barry Yourgrau's popular and acclaimed series of children's horror stories, NASTYbooks, getting turned into a series for Cartoon Network.

Composed of a combination of live-action and CGI, the series will be created by Worldwide Biggies, the company responsible for Nickelodeon's The Naked Brothers Band. Described as a sort of "Twilight Zone for kids", it's hosted by a creepy and mysterious character whose actions are intertwined with the stories he introduces.

Check out that cover blurb--Neil Gaiman, no small potatoes. Remind me to add these to the kids' Christmas/Hannukah list.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

"Let the Right One In" Director Talks Swedish Vampires, Child Actors and the American Remake

Since starting up The Vault of Horror, I've discovered that most of the best horror films today are being made outside the United States. And one of the foreign fright flicks I've championed is Sweden's Let the Right One In, a tale of a shy young boy who befriends the little vampire girl next door. Today, ShockTillYouDrop has an exclusive interview with the movie's director Tomas Alfredson, and I suggest you check it out.

Happily, Let the Right One In is getting a limited American release starting next weekend, well before the inevitable English-language remake next year. Unfortunately, I don't think it will be anywhere near me, so I may have to seek out... other means. I haven't been this pumped to see a new horror movie since [Rec].

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Watch Horror Flicks Online for Free this Halloween Season

Those of you who are already aware of the free video-on-demand website Joost may have already seen this, but for those who haven't, they're doing a cool little promotion this month called Special Effects not Included: Halloween Movies.

Basically, Joost offers videos--including films--that are in the public domain, which is why they are able to offer them for free. This month, they've gathered together a wildly erratic, though fun, group of horror movies for your enjoyment.

For example, included in the bunch are Nosferatu, Night of the Living Dead and Ghidorah the 3-Headed Monster, all available completely free in their entirety. But in addition, you also have some of the most howlingly bad schlock ever committed to celluloid. Such as: Attack of the Giant Leeches (bottom-of-the-barrel atomic age radiation flick), Class of Nuke 'Em High (the movie that put Troma on the map), Fear Chamber (one of Boris Karloff's last films), Dracula vs. Frankenstein (pictured; from '60s/'70s master hack Al Adamson), The Devil Bat (obscure 1940 Bela Lugosi B-movie) and Creature of the Haunted Sea (an early Roger Corman effort).

Definitely worth a look, whether it's to enjoy a genuinely good monster movie at your computer desk or laptop, or to partake in the guilty pleasure of a so-bad-it's-good turkey. This is a pretty nifty service.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Rob Zombie to Host AMC's Monsterfest--er, Make That Fearfest

AMC is one of those many cable channels that has gone through a dramatic transformation over the years, for better or worse. Even Monsterfest, their signature October event, has not been immune. This year, in fact, it will become known as Fearfest. And Fangoria announced last night that rocker-turned-horror-director Rob Zombie will be hosting the week-long scary movie marathon.

More than 175 hours of horror films will be shown on the network between October 24 and 31, mainly in the evenings, but all day long on Halloween itself. Zombie will be providing unscripted introductions and interstitial commentary, along with interviews with some of the filmmakers whose work will be shown.

Zombie will also be prominently featured on AMC's website, which will include lists of the directors favorite flicks, as well as DVD giveaways and an amateur horror movie contest. 

In general, I have mixed feelings about the whole thing. While I appreciate some of Zombie's films and his love of the '70s horror aesthetic, part of me misses the more fun, kitschy approach to AMC's Monsterfest in years past, which will be surely be jettisoned in favor of an overly earnest, taking-itself-a-little-too-seriously approach from Mr. Zombie. Maybe it's a generational thing. 

And while some of the old Monsterfest standbys like The Bride of Frankenstein, The Mummy's Hand, The Invisible Man, the original Fly and The Curse of Frankenstein will be shown, they will be sharing the bill with the likes of The House on Haunted Hill remake, Constantine and Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday. The one good thing that has come from the Monsterfest "update" of recent years is the inclusion of more modern classics like A Nightmare on Elm Street, An American Werewolf in London and Motel Hell, but even that perk is wrecked by the fact that AMC now shows its movies edited and with commercial interruption.

Personally, I'm waiting for Turner Classic Movies' Halloween marathon. Now if only they'd do a week-long event...

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Adults-Only Horror DVDs Sold to Tweens in the UK

You may have noticed over the months that I have a tendency to look into stories about minors being exposed to horror movies, and I guess it is a pet subject of mine. As much as I love modern horror films and revel in the gut-wrenchingly repulsive imagery they present us with, I also firmly believe that--unlike the scare flicks of yore--they are not at all for little kids. And I believe parents have a responsibility to take the issue seriously, and at least be aware of what their children are watching. It's kind of a pet peeve of mine, which I guess you can chalk up to one too many torture porn spectacles spent distracted by the disturbing amount of soon-to-be traumatized youngsters seated next to lowlife moms and dads.

Well, I'm about to get on my little soapbox again, so be warned. A story published earlier this week in Northern Ireland's Ballymena Times reports the results of a survey of retailers in the region which indicates that children as young as 11 were able to purchase DVDs rated "18"--the UK equivalent of "R". Among the DVDs bought were horror movies like Saw IV.

Belfast's Department of Enterpise, Trade and Investment's Trading Standards Service (TSS) conducted the survey, sending kids age 11-13 to various retailers in the surrounding towns. It was found that the children were able to buy the DVDs in question in one of four shops they visited, which included major chains.

Warning letters have been issued, and the investigation is ongoing. Keep in mind that this is the country that gave us the infamous "video nasties" back in the '80s, so they don't fool around. 

I'm not surprised by the findings--far from it. I can remember my 11-year-old sister and her friend successfully renting Faces of Death from the video store around the corner years ago. In my mind, that was no different--if not worse--than allowing them to rent a porno, and I marched around the corner to give the owner an earful. Sadly, not much seems to have changed. I'm sure the same thing goes on all the time in America as well.

It's one thing if a parent is OK with their kid seeing the stuff. I may disagree, but that's their prerogative. It's another when the kid is able to procure the stuff without their supervision/knowledge. Again, this would never happen with a XXX DVD, which just goes to once again demonstrate our society's bizarre mentality when it comes to this kind of thing. 

And don't give me the whole argument of, "Hey you were that age once, wouldn't you have tried to rent those movies too?" The answer is yes, but that's completely not the point. I've matured since then. One's personal judgement at 11 is a little different than it is (or should be) as a grown parent. There was a time when I probably would have also thought eating my own snot was a good idea. That doesn't mean I should let my kids do it.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Top 20 Romero Zombie Moments

In honor of The Vault of Horror's 1st birthday today, I'm revisiting one of my old favorite stomping grounds--a series that's near and dear to my heart, and probably more responsible than anything else for my being the died-in-the-wool horror fan I am today: George Romero's "Living Dead" films.

So let's cut through all the preliminary b.s., shall we? Join in The Vault's anniversary celebration, sit back and enjoy as I present to you the most memorable moments of all the Living Dead movies.

20. The Doctor Is Out (of His Mind)
Day of the Dead
Sarah's visit to Dr. Logan's grisly lab is one of Day's most unsettling scenes. When one of the good doctor's zombie experiments breaks free of its bonds, she looks on in disgust as the poor devil literally spills his rotting guts all over the lab floor.

19. The Dead Pool
Diary of the Dead
The most maligned of Romero's series nevertheless produced the bizarre and unforgettable image of a horde of ghouls wandering around the bottom of an indoor swimming pool completely filled with water. Right after eating, you'd think they'd be worried about cramps...

18. Down Goes Cooper!
Night of the Living Dead
Perhaps no other character in the history of cinema deserved a few good fist-pounds to the cranium like that ultimate tool, Mr. Cooper. After the cowardly wretch weasels out of letting Ben back into the house, our protagonist lets him have it, causing chocolate syr--er, blood--to flow from his nose.

17. And So It Begins
Diary of the Dead
For decades, fans wondered about what the very start of the zombie uprising was like, and in this year's fifth installment, we finally got to see it. Even more gratifying was the fact that it was a local news crew that was among the first victims.

16. Hell on Earth, Meet Hell on Wheels
Land of the Dead
The awesome Dead Reckoning was the visual centerpiece of Land of the Dead (in fact, it was also the original title). And the first time it really unloads on an unsuspecting village of undead pedestrians is quite a sight to see. Hopefully, the zombie marching band survived. I love those guys.

15. Amish Ass-Kicker
Diary of the Dead
Who knew that Mennonites could be so bad-ass? And a hearing-impaired one, at that. Simply put, Samuel rules. Such a shame he got wasted so soon.

14. I Talked with a Zombie
Day of the Dead
Recalling the epiphanic apes of Kubrick's 2001, Bub's poignant phone call to his Aunt Alicia is the first (and only) time a Romero zombie ever speaks.

13. Insert Lame Head Pun Here
Dawn of the Dead
Prior to 1978, you just didn't see people's skulls exploding in movies. But thanks to Dawn of the Dead, George Romero, and that crazy SWAT guy with the shotgun, cinematic history was made. Orson Welles, eat your heart out.

12. Suffer the Little Children
Dawn of the Dead
Ah yes, the infamous zombie kid massacre. Ken
Foree was quite reluctant to shoot the scene in which he mows down the undead tykes at the gas station, and it's undeniably one of the series most gut-wrenching moments. Worst of all, they were Tom Savini's niece and nephew!

11. Here's Johnny!
Night of the Living Dead
Barbara spends the majority of NOTLD whining for her lost brother Johnny, and in the climactic scene, she finally gets her wish. Too bad he isn't quite the way she remembered him. He's coming to get you, Barbara!

10. Duck, You Bloodsucker!
Dawn of the Dead
For all of Savini's makeup mastery, you knew something was up when this zombie shows up in the helicopter scene with a suspiciously flat head. And sure enough, the former human being walks right into the rotor blades, doing Roger's work for him.

9. Ain't No River Wide Enough...
Land of the Dead
Proving he still had it in him, Romero managed to produce this truly iconic image--one of the series' most indelible--of the flesh-eater army crossing into Fiddler's Green. Obviously, Big Daddy and his gang had seen Lucio Fulci's Zombi 2.

8. Urban Decay
Day of the Dead
Sarah and her crew descend on a seemingly abandoned Florida town in search of possible survivors, only to rile up a veritable zombie Thanksgiving Day parade. Fortunately, they managed to lift out of there before they wound up playing the part of the turkeys.

7. Karen Kills Her Mommy
Night of the Living Dead
A nightmarish scene that works for so many reasons. The ominous lighting. The repulsively realistic sound editing. The nifty nod to Hitchcock's Psycho. One of the moments that literally helped usher in the modern age of horror.

6. Family Food
Dawn of the Dead
Savini's first volley of graphic gore. When audiences first watched Dawn of the Dead, and within the initial ten minutes witnessed a husband explicitly chowing down on his screaming wife, they knew this was not their father's horror movie.

5. First Floor: Ladies' Underwear, Glassware, Undead Cannibals...
Who among us didn't cringe in terror as poor, hapless Flyboy tried his best to scramble out of that elevator, only to have it fill up with J.C. Penney's-browsing zombies? Watching Steven turn to the blue side makes for a very tough scene to get through.

4. The Music of the Night
Night of the Living Dead
Many might disagree with my ranking this moment so high, but the shot in which Barbara ponders the music box has been cited by many--including Romero himself--as one of the best in the movie. Remembered by anyone who sees it, it represents a single oasis of calm in a world gone completely insane.

3. Cold-Blooded Killer
Day of the Dead
You can keep Darth Vader destroying the Emperor--my top jump-up-and-cheer moment is this one right here. Bub becomes the first zombie hero by taking up arms to put down his evil air-breathing oppressor Cap. Rhodes. Who's a pile of walking pus now??

2. Another One for the Fire
Night of the Living Dead
In the ultimate bummer ending, Ben survives a harrowing night battling zombies, only to wake up the next morning and take one in the head from the local good ol' boy militia. Sometimes it just doesn't pay to get out of bed.

And speaking of getting out of bed... here's your number-one Romero Zombie Moment:

1. Roger Rising
Dawn of the Dead
Roger tries not to come back, but not hard enough--giving new meaning to the film's title. This simple, yet awe-inspiring bit of film-making produces the single defining moment and image in George Romero's landmark series.

And there you have it, Vault Dwellers. I hope you've enjoyed the list, just as I hope you've enjoyed the past year of The Vault of Horror. I plan for it to be the first of many.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

MORE TRUE BLOOD SPOILERS! How Will the Season End?

We're only halfway through the first season of HBO's moderately successful True Blood vampire series, but synopses for all the remaining episodes have already leaked to the web. If you want to get a vague idea of the goings-on for the rest of the installments from tonight right up until the November 23 finale, here you go:

Episode #6: "Cold Ground"
Numbed by tragedy, Sookie looks for refuge from the cacophony of her friends' and neighbors' inner voices. After lashing out at his sister and decking Andy, Jason wrestles with withdrawal symptoms from his V juice habit. Tara resists the overtures of her mother Lettie Mae (Adina Porter), who's trying to rid herself of a demon and needs her daughter's help. Sam and Tara make a connection in their mutual search for "something real."

Episode #7: "Burning House of Love"
Sookie's painful childhood revelation about her Uncle Bartlett spurs Bill into action. Despite her skepticism, Tara agrees to pay for an exorcism to purge Lettie Mae of a demon. In search of V juice, Jason travels to Fangtasia, where he bonds with an adventurous young woman named Amy (Lizzy Kaplan). A trio of rednecks decide to exact vigilante justice on a pack of vampires who crashed Merlotte's in search of their wayward mate Bill.

Episode #8: "The Fourth Man in the Fire"
Sookie tries to hold herself together in the wake of another possible tragedy. Tara is amazed by Lettie Mae's turnaround, and considers similar therapy for herself after lashing out at Sookie and Sam. Jason's new squeeze Amy charms the crowd at Merlotte's, but shows a darker side to Jason when their V juice well runs dry. Rene (Michael Raymond James) pops the question to Arlene (Carrie Preston) while Sookie is baby-sitting her kids. Later, at Bill's request, Sookie agrees to use her gifts to help Eric (Alexander Skarsgård), a powerful vampire sheriff, root out a thief at Fangtasia.

Episode #9: "Plaisir d'Amour"
Bill (Stephen Moyer) breaks a vampire taboo in protecting Sookie (Anna Paquin) - and must pay a steep price as a result. Jason (Ryan Kwanten) and Amy (Lizzy Kaplan) break their own taboo by kidnapping a vampire named Eddie (Stephen Root) in order to harvest his blood. With Lettie Mae (Adina Porter) apparently cured, a skeptical Tara (Rutina Wesley) consults with Miss Jeanette (Aisha Hinds) about exorcising her own inner demon. Sookie returns home to yet another horrific tragedy, prompting Bill to enlist an unlikely bodyguard - Sam (Sam Trammell) - to protect her while he's away.

Episode #10: "I Don't Wanna Know"
Caught in a compromising position, Sam shares a secret with an incredulous Sookie. Thinking she's been purged of her demon, Tara celebrates with Lettie Mae - but goes off the deep end when she uncovers Miss Jeanette's true intentions. Sookie has a disturbing revelation during Arlene (Carrie Preston) and Rene's (Michael Raymond James) engagement party at Merlotte's; Jason and Amy debate what to do with Eddie; and Tara speeds into a bizarre roadside encounter that lands her in jail. At a vampire tribunal to decide his fate, Bill faces a harsh penalty for his offense, but the magister (Zelijko Ivanek) decides on a more creative sentence involving a young human named Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll).

Episode #11: "To Love Is to Bury"
Bill fulfills the conditions of the tribunal's sentence, although he and Eric (Alexander Skarsgård) find that Jessica doesn't quite turn (out) as expected. Trying to solve the mystery behind her most recent vision, Sookie heads to a pie shop with Sam and later puts the squeeze on a philandering police officer to get info. Jason helps clean up Amy's mess, worrying about their future, but unable to break away. Tara's anger over Lettie Mae's refusal to bail her out of jail is tempered when Maryann Forrester (Michelle Forbes), a wealthy "social worker," comes to her rescue. Disgusted by the hypocrisy of a vamp-bashing state senator, Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis) decides to pay him a visit on the campaign trail. In Bill's absence, a vulnerable Sookie finds comfort in Sam. A distraught Jason finds himself in hot water with Bud (William Sanderson) and Andy (Chris Bauer), again.

Episode #12: "You'll Be the Death of Me" (season finale)
Sookie finds a link to the string of killings in Bon Temps - and ends up in the murderer's crosshairs. Tara decides to make the most of her second chance with Maryann; Jason finds a new calling after anti-vampire zealot Orry (Michael Bofshever) visits him in jail; Bill tempts fate during his latest attempt to save Sookie; Sam is perturbed by an encounter with an old acquaintance; Lafayette finds himself in the wrong place at the right time.

I'm surprised to see both Jason and Sam surviving to the end of the season! Also, what's up with that secret revelation of Sam's? Could the internet rumors about his being a werewolf be true? I'm betting he's some sort of low-level vampire hunter. We shall see, fellow fangbangers.

Friday, October 10, 2008

ABC Greenlights "V" Remake

This is all very reminiscent of when Battlestar Galactica returned to TV five years ago. In spite of rumors last summer that original writer-producer-director Kenneth Johnson was close to securing a new sequel series to the classic '80s mini-series, it now appears that Johnson has been pushed out.

Instead, Warner Bros. TV, which owns the rights to the alien invasion franchise, has enlisted veteran TV producer Scott Peters (The 4400, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles) to develop a remake miniseries, and according to Variety, ABC is officially on board.

The original miniseries, along with its first sequel miniseries and spin-off ongoing series, aired on NBC and told a tale of deceitful extraterrestrials who hide their true selves from us while secretly plotting the downfall of the human race. Although at the time it was an allegory for Nazi Germany, Peters plans to move away from that idea, while still focusing on the dangers of blind faith in leadership.

The remake will still follow the same basic premise, although the actual details of the storyline will be completely different. None of the characters will be the same, with the main plot focusing on a Homeland Security agent and her son, who becomes enamored of the aliens, much to the chagrin of his fed mommy.

There are also plans to develop a video game based on the miniseries, and I'm assuming the door will remain tentatively open for an ongoing series. It's a good day to be a V fan, but I can't help but feel sorry for poor ol' Kenneth Johnson, who had been working on his V sequel for NBC since 2005. Maybe they'll throw him a bone just like they did for Richard Hatch, and give him a supporting role in the new show...

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Kevin Smith Drops More Info on Red State

Kevin Smith's dream project, the straightforward horror film Red State, is one of those projects that have been floating around the rumor mill for some time now, with his fans hoping that it will actually come to pass. The director sat down with the folks at Ain't It Cool News today, and touched on it a bit, indicating that in a perfect world, it's what he'd like to be working on soon, now that Zack & Miri Make a Porno is finished up:

"I'm still trying to find money for Red State, though, admittedly, I haven't been looking that hard yet, since it's not something I'm gonna get to till March, the earliest. Early prospects, however, look dim. Problem is, the flick is bleak. Beyond bleak, even. Remember how bleak Dark Knight was? This makes... that flick seem Beverly Hills Chihuahua bleak. Sadly, while the flick's bleaker than Dark Knight, it's also not nearly as good as Dark Knight. Or as commercial... So when you go down the checklist--overtly bleak, unlikable characters making horrible decisions, unhappy ending in which everyone dies, a director of questionable talent who's never worked in this genre before--you can see why folks aren't whipping out their check books."

Very typical of the self-deprecating Smith. And there is some truth to what he says--after 15 years, he still hasn't proven he can make anything other than Jay and Silent Bob movies. Still, the very concept of a Kevin Smith-written and directed horror movie is very intriguing. Hopefully someone has the vision to pony up the dough.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Return of Linnea Quigley

If you were a true horror geek during the 1980s, then there was one movie starlet who ranked above the likes of Phoebe Cates, Leslie Easterbrook and even Kelly LeBrock when it came to all-time fantasy babes. That's right, I'm talking about Linnea Quigley, the cult scream queen who became a haunted-household name thanks to unforgettable appearances in flicks like Silent Night Deadly Night, The Return of the Living Dead and Night of the Demons.

It's long been known that that last one is currently being remade. And now, the always reliable Shock Till You Drop, on the set of the movie, has uncovered an exclusive scoop: the lovely Ms. Quigley will be returning for a cameo appearance. Says director Adam Gierasch:

"She does something familiar for the fans. It's a huge homage to the first movie. She's totally cool. We shot a lot of video of her reciting her lines from Night of the Demons that are going to come out sporadically online and as DVD extras."

The new Night of the Demons also stars Edward Furlong and Shannon Elizabeth. Principal photography just recently got underway.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

A DVD Bonanza for Fans of Classic Horror

If you own a DVD player, and you have a love of shock cinema made prior to 1961, then today is a very big day for you. Not sure why, just one of those lucky coincidences I guess, but a veritable windfall of classic terror "drops" today, as the kids say. I'm talking not one, not two, but three major releases. Let's get right into it.

The Picture of Dorian Gray
Warner Home Video is finally making this 1945 gem of an Oscar Wilde adaptation available on DVD for the first time, believe it or not. I'm thinking maybe news of another version being mounted may have been the motivation. Check out Angela Lansbury back when she was hot. Oh yeah, and she was nominated for an Oscar, too.

Psycho - Special Edition
Believe it or not, this is the first time Hitchcock's most famous film has ever gotten the deluxe "special edition" treatment as a stand-alone. It's part of Universal's Legacy Series, and even without the inevitable treasure trove of bonus features, it would be worth seeing, simply because it's still one of the finest movies ever made.

Ray Harryhausen Gift Set
You may recall that a Harryhausen gift set came out from Sony a couple years ago, featuring special editions of 20 Million Miles to Earth, It Came from Beneath the Sea and Earth vs. The Flying Saucers. This is the same bunch, except this time both black-and-white and newly colorized versions (supervised by Harryhausen himself) are included. Not quite worth $80, I say. Sure, you fancy-shmancy Blu-Ray people also get a fourth flick, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad--but do you get the adorable Ymir action figure? Huh? Do ya?? Didn't think so.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Bill Murray Ready for Ghostbusters 3

Happy Monday, Vault Dwellers! And a happy Monday it certainly is, especially for all you fans of everything ectoplasm out there. For months now, ever since the announcement of that new Ghostbusters video game with the voices of all the original actors, rumors of a new GB sequel have been swirling about like so many free-floating, full-torso vaporous apparitions.

And according to SciFiWire, on Friday, the one and only Dr. Peter Venkman himself, Bill Murray, stated in no uncertain terms during a press conference for his new movie City of Ember that he is completely open to donning the proton pack another time for the new flick, currently being scripted by Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky of NBC's The Office.

"It's a great idea that they hired these two guys to do it," Murray said. "It could be a fresh look at it. And it could be funny."

Murray, like most fans, was let down by Ghostbusters 2 (1989), and it left a bad taste in his mouth as far as the franchise was concerned. I know I can remember walking out of the theater from it feeling like I had been mugged, and I know I'm not the only one:

They had this idea [for Ghostbusters 2], but it didn't turn out to be the [same] idea when I arrived on the set. They'd written a whole different movie than the one [initially discussed]. And the special effects guys... got their hands on it. And it was just not the same movie. There were a few great scenes in it, but it wasn't the same movie. So there's never been an interest in a third Ghostbusters because the second one was kind of disappointing... for me, anyway.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Children of the Corn's Original Director Unsure of Remake

I happened upon a rather obscure little interview today, and thought it deserved a wider audience. Fritz Kiersch, director of Children of the Corn (1984) was interviewed in the Oklahoma City Community College Pioneer of all places (apparently Kiersch is a former film professor there), and had a few things to say about the Sci-Fi Channel remake currently being made by Donald Borchers, his producer on the original.

"Donald is on his own on this one," Kiersch says. "I wish him the best of luck but the 'Children of the Corn' franchise already exists."

Kiersch also manages to take a swipe at the endless sequels to his movie, explaining the reason they didn't work was that the original Stephen King story wasn't meant to be continued.

Strangely, Kiersch still declares his support for the remake, despite such backhanded praise as, "It is wonderful that someone wants to spice up something I did a quarter of a century ago." Brrrr.

The director admits that he had very little budget to work with, and looks forward to seeing what Borchers will be able to do with the new one. Obviously, Mr. Kiersch is not familiar with the Sci-Fi Channel.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Stoker's Descendant to Pen Official Dracula Sequel

In one of the strangest and most unexpected developments I've come across since starting this site, literary management and motion picture production company AEI has announced that Bram Stoker's great-grandnephew Dacre Stoker and vampire scholar Ian Holt are hard at work on a sequel to Uncle Bram's famous 1897 novel.

It will be called Dracula: The Un-Dead (derived from Stoker's original title), and it isn't the first time a sequel has been attempted. In fact, some 11 years ago, a purported Dracula sequel came out with the exact same title. The difference here, however, is that the work is being branded "official" since it has the blessing--and is in fact coming directly from--the author's actual family. It is expected to be published in October of next year.

But that's not all, folks. See, you might have noticed that AEI is also a movie company. That's right, you guessed it, there will be a movie, also. Not only that, but, in the grand tradition of Thomas Harris' Hannibal, the movie deal has been made simultaneously with the book deal. In fact, if we're to believe the press release, the film will actually begin production four months before the book is officially published!

After digging a little deeper, I found that this isn't the first time this whole thing has been bandied about. Variety first broke the story 17 months ago, back when the book and movie were to be released by the end of 2007.

Dracula: The-Undead picks up in 1912, 25 years after Van Helsing, the Harkers, et al vanquished the Count in the Carpathian Mountains. Back home in jolly old England, someone or something is stalking our heroic vampire-hunters (gee, wonder who it could be!). Interestingly, this is very similar to the aforementioned "unofficial" Dracula sequel (left, penned by Freda Warrington).

Thanks to the family's access to Stoker's original manuscripts, elements of the original novel which were removed will be included in the new story. It is even rumored that AIE may seek to re-publish the original Dracula novel with these deleted elements restored for the first time as Stoker intended before his editor excised them.

I'm tempted to be excited by these developments, but something seems... I don't know... just a little shady and off-kilter here. Is there plagiarism going on? Is it shameless exploitation? Well of course it is, but what I mean is, is it being done with respect, and will anything of any merit come of it? Kind of reminds me of when H.G. Wells' descendant directed that Time Machine remake a few years back. Yeesh...

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Want to See The Midnight Meat Train?

Clive Barker fans who were outraged at the way in which Lions Gate shafted his latest film The Midnight Meat Train now finally have the opportunity to see it. Starting today, FEARnet is offering the brutal serial killer pic as part of its cable VOD service. If you don't have FEARnet with your cable package, don't worry, it gets better. On October 30, for one day only, FEARnet has announced you will be able to watch the movie for free on their website.

Adapted from a Barker short story, the film version of Midnight Meat Train was the subject of much controversy recently when Lions Gate raised the ire of fans, and of the author/director himself, by making the last-minute decision to consign the movie to an extremely limited theatrical release, then dump it straight to DVD.

FEARnet is currently carrying an exclusive promo clip from the increasingly unhealthy-looking Barker introducing the film.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

I Give You... The First-Ever Zombie TV Series

Surprisingly, this has been getting relatively little coverage, but there is a fine little company, appropriately called Rising Productions, which has worked with writer/director David Sasich to create Lifeless--the first episodic TV series about a zombie apocalypse. Though popular in film for decades, especially in recent years, no one had tried adapting the concept to a weekly format, probably due in large part to the restraints imposed by TV.

But these intrepid souls put their heads together and actually filmed three episodes of the series, which were recently screened in New York at the Independent TV Festival. They also released a new full-length trailer last month. Check this out, people:

Mind-blowing, yes? The definition of must-see TV, right? Ah, but here's the catch: The show has yet to find a distributor. Meaning, not one network thus far has bellied up to the bar to greenlight the project. Sasich and company are still shopping it around, and according to a recent report on DreadCentral, they are making some promising headway. But nothing as of yet.

Mind-boggling, isn't it? Maybe it's because of the zombie over-saturation as of late. Or maybe it could just be squeamish network execs. I mean, a show like this probably wouldn't work running on FOX after House. But there are a lot of other options in today's TV landscape. Tell me this show wouldn't be a perfect fit for HBO, for example. I've long held that Robert Kirkman's Walking Dead comic book is a prime candidate for HBO adaptation, but this would certainly fit the bill as well. Maybe Sci-Fi Channel. Maybe Showtime. Maybe AMC. But someone has to come to their senses and make this thing happen. Hopefully.
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