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Friday, February 27, 2009

Lovecraft Freaks Take Note: This Web-Comic Is For You!

Ol' B-Sol back at ya with a truly primo discovery. Web-comics have been around for quite a while now, but I've never been that into the phenomenon, preferring the old-fashioned paper variety. Until now.

Larry Latham's Lovecraft Is Missing is a web-only comic/graphic novel that asks the intriguing question, "What if H.P. Lovecraft's stories were based on real life?" The story takes the form of a bizarre mystery, as an occult scholar and a fellow pulp writer follow the trail of the vanished Lovecraft and the strange secrets he's stumbled upon. The art is striking, including some color work that really breaks new ground with regards to the possibilities of Photoshop. The whole affair has a definite Alan Moore/Kevin O'Neill LOEG vibe to it.

Latham has been publishing the work online, page-by-page, since last August. A recent sample, with all due credit to Mr. Latham:

Gear Live currently has an interview up with Latham wherein he talks about the long struggle he's had bringing Lovecraft Is Missing to fruition, from its incarnations as a CD-ROM game, proposed DC Vertigo title, and animated flick. After checking out this quality stuff, I assure you that you, too, will be scratching your head at Vertigo's uncharacteristic lapse in judgment. I urge all fans of Lovecraft and Lovecraftian horror to check it out!

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And while I'm on the topic of discoveries, I'd also like to take the time out to direct your attention to a fine new blog that you would do well to get in on at the ground floor. It's called Day of the Woman, and its author, the lovely BJ-C, is a horror fanatic/aficionado of impressive rigor. The task she has charged herself with is the exploration of the subject of women in horror, and she's already put up a fascinating bunch of posts on topics such as the fixation on creepy little girls, and the morbid fascination with rape. So head on over and take a look--if for no other reason than to marvel at Camille Keaton's iconic posterior.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Icons of Italian Horror to Invade New Jersey

My apologies for two posts in a row on spaghetti horror, but this is a big one. And as a long-time Chiller Theatre patron, I personally couldn't be more excited.

Long-running northeastern genre expo Chiller Theatre, in association with Paura Productions, has announced that this April's Chiller convention will feature the largest collection of Italian horror luminaries ever assembled, including a 30th anniversary reunion of the cast and crew of Lucio Fulci's Zombie (a.k.a. Zombi 2).

"It will be a historic occasion," says Paura founder Mike Baronas, the evil mastermind behind the whole shebang. "It will be a surreal experience to stand in one place surrounded by all these folks I grew up adoring, and I'm certain I won't be alone in that respect."

Scheduled to appear are:


  • Ian McCulloch (Dr. Butcher M.D., Contamination)
  • Richard Johnson (The Haunting, Beyond the Door, Screamers)
  • Al Cliver (The Beyond, Cannibals, Endgame, Demonia, Devil Hunter)
  • Ottaviano Dell’Acqua (Rats: Night of Terror, Cut & Run, Zombi 3)
  • Giannetto De Rossi (SPFX maestro of High Tension, Dune, The Beyond)
  • Mirella De Rossi (Hair Stylist of Dragonheart, Conan the Destroyer)


  • Giovanni Frezza (Demons, Manhattan Baby, A Blade In The Dark)
  • Silvia Collatina (Murderock, Big Alligator River)

Also Featuring…

  • Luigi Cozzi (Director of Contamination, Starcrash, The Killer Must Kill Again)
  • Zora Kerova (Cannibal Ferox, Anthropophagus, The New York Ripper)
  • Malisa Longo (A Cat in the Brain, Fraulein Kitty, Miranda, Way of the Dragon)
  • Beatrice Ring (Zombi 3, Graveyard Disturbance, Interzone)
  • Michael Sopkiw (2019: After the Fall of New York, Devil Fish, Blastfighter)

Quite a bunch. I'm particularly psyched about 82-year-old Richard Johnson, a true horror legend going all the way back to The Haunting in 1963. And the creepy kids from The House by the Cemetery--need I say more?

Chiller Theatre happens in scenic Parsippany, New Jersey the weekend of April 17-19.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Ultimate Argento Rarity Finally Hits Video After 37 Years

It's a tortuous and bizarre story, as much as most of Argento's films themselves are. In 1971, the Italian auteur completed his third film, 4 Mosche di Velluto Grigio, or Four Flies on Grey Velvet. Due to the violent nature of the giallo, he was unable to obtain distribution in his own country. Paramount Pictures picked up the U.S. distribution the following year, but when it hit American theaters in the summer of 1972, it was in edited form.

Since then, unless you were lucky enough to catch a rare theatrical screening, the film has been all but impossible to see, especially in uncut form. Argento himself was reportedly unhappy with the movie. On top of that, the rights are owned by a single anonymous individual, and with the original, uncut print stored in Rome, it was never a priority for Paramount Home Video to pursue. Allegedly, a bootlegged version popped up on VHS in France during the 1990s, but that had been made using the edited American print. Swedish distributor DMEG put out a low-quality VHS in 2004 in Sweden, one of more than 200 horror movies the company released that year. This version was later translated to an equally crappy German bootleg DVD.

But at the end of 2008, at long last, after failed attempts by genre distributors like Blue Underground, Mya Communication somehow secured the rights and got their hands on that print. And so, Four Flies on Grey Velvet receives its first official video release today, making this the first time anyone has ever seen it in its original, uncut form. It isn't often that fans get to witness an early, completely lost work from an acclaimed director. This is one such opportunity.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Snubbed at Oscars, Let the Right One In Racks Up Another Prize

The Dublin Film Critics Circle has selected Tomas Alfredson's Let the Right One In as Best Film at the Dublin International Film Festival. It's become a familiar refrain:

Best Foreign Language Film:

  • Boston Society of Film Critics
  • Broadcast Film Critics Association
  • Calgary International Film Festival
  • Chicago Film Critics Association
  • Florida Film Critics Circle
  • Kansas City Film Critics Circle
  • Online Film Critics Society
  • Phoenix Film Critics Circle
  • San Diego Film Critics Society
  • San Francisco Film Critics Circle
  • Satellite Awards
  • Southeastern Film Critics Association
  • Toronto Film Critics Association
  • Washington DC Area Film Critics Association

And yet, you will not see Let the Right One In mentioned tonight at the Oscars in the Best Foreign Language Film category. No, it hasn't even been nominated. That's because of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' bizarre rules when it comes to foreign flicks. Apparently, the Academy cannot evaluate any movie it chooses when it comes to deciding nominees. Rather, they can only consider the films each nation has deemed worthy of being submitted for consideration. This has caused many worthy films to be excluded over the years, whether it be for political reasons, or because said nation doesn't feel that it wants to be represented by what it deems to be a "lowly genre film".

And so, alas, Sweden did not submit Let the Right One In for consideration, leaving a movie good enough for a Best Picture nomination to be left out in the cold completely. Shame, really.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Austen Zombie Author Talks to EW

Seth Grahame-Smith's Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the book in which he interpolates Jane Austen's actual novel with scenes of undead mayhem, has been getting a whole lot of coverage lately. Now, you can head over to Entertainment Weekly's website and read an exclusive (albeit brief) interview with the writer.

Grahame-Smith talks about the origin of the idea for the book, as well as his feelings about the coincidental (?) emergence of the upcoming film project Pride and Predator, about murderous aliens who suddenly descend on Jane Austen's mannered English characters.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Female Partier Turns Tables, Attacks Jason

Some strange news today related to the release of the new Friday the 13th. The New York Post's Page Six, that bastion of idealistic journalism, reports that Warrington Gillette, the first actor to portray Jason Voorhees the killer, wound up in the hospital after being wounded with an axe.

Gillette was on hand at a Hollywood party celebrating the new movie, dressed up like the murderous character he played 18 years ago in Friday the 13th Part II. Unfortunately, he also saw fit to wield a real axe in order to make the costume that much more convincing, and a woman at the party seems to have taken his performance a bit too seriously.

According to Page Six, the woman jumped the hockey-masked actor (you'd think he'd at least have had on the burlap sack for accuracy's sake) and tried to wrestle the axe away from him, in the process accidentally slashing his hand.

"It was straight out of a horror movie," a source told Page Six. "Lingerie-clad models were running and screaming, as a blood-soaked Jason ran off the runway to get to a hospital."

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

What Goes Bump In the Night…….? Chapter II

(We join our regularly scheduled blog post, already in progress.)

While still young, I did succumb to more than one “devil movie.” The two most famous were of course The Exorcist and The Omen. While The Exorcist was one thing all to itself, The Omen was rather the flagship to a genre of ‘70s devil movies. While The Omen was creepy, mostly because of that chubby little kid, there was one titled Devil Dog, Hound of Hell. Now this sounds stupid, like a Drake’s cake gone wrong. But to the ten year old me who decided to watch it on either the “Five Star Movie” or “Drive in Movie” on channel 5 one Saturday afternoon, it was a little more than that.

Now that lousy movie “Devil Dog…” was one of those poorly shot, poorly produced, poorly scripted ‘70s horror endeavors where the film is so bad that it is dark during the day time. And I think it was this poor film quality coupled with a fairly decent devil story. Now, why were devil stories so effective? I think it can be summed up in that a) the devil (or Devil), is all consuming evil, way more evil than just a zombie or slasher, and b) the devil always came in the package you were least expecting: a little girl, a little boy, or, in this case, a little puppy. It is the destruction and the perversion of the innocent into something diabolical that really makes devil movies, and their related genre scary. The same effect can be applied to other stories of a similar vein, like Children of the Corn, and for its part, Pet Semetary’s Gage.

I won’t say much about The Exorcist, as it is like a 5 tool player in baseball (it scares for average, scares for power, etc…), except that a) some of the really scary parts are when you just see the shadows of the demons, and b) when Regan bends over backwards to scuttle down the stairs – whoa, that’s a bad 3 seconds of film. Why? Because it is friggin’ weird, and weird is scary.

A few weeks back B-Sol was good enough to do a post on Hieronymous Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights, and in particular, the Hell portion of the triptych. The thing is, while the Hell portion is obviously terrifying, the other two panels, one of Eden, and the other of Earth, are both so weird (and ahead of their time, for purposes of fantasy and science fiction), that they border on the scary. Scary in the sense of making no sense, the horror of a topsy-turvey world. In the Eden Panel, there are the naked Adam and Eve with a clothed Jesus (ok, nothing weird yet), but the surroundings are filled with never-before-seen animals, and a really strange castle in the center. The middle portion of Earth is even worse, with a multitude of nude figures with an enormous amount of oversized birds, fruit, strange vehicles, and in the far background, even stranger creatures and weirder architecture. And the Hell portion is, well, Hell. What is all the fuss? Well, what I am saying is that the weird can be scary, and this triptych is friggin’ weird.

A recent example as to the frightening nature of the weird is the video from The Ring. There really isn’t anything scary about it. But it is shot in that off-color, with strange set pieces (ladder against a wall, centipede running through a living room, the silhouette of the tree), weird sounds, and doesn’t make much sense. But there is a malevolence running through it that is expressed via its strangeness, which fills one with unease. Unease is the first level of fear.

Mr. Hungus cited David Lynch’s Lost Highway as an example of unnerving cinema. I agree, and put forth that another Lynch classic, Blue Velvet, while also not a horror movie by any stretch, is also disturbing as the characters are nearly alien in their various versions of madness. It has always turned my insides how the characters seem to choose to follow the wrong path at every turn, how it almost doesn’t make sense.

Weird first scared me when I saw the Beatle’s Yellow Submarine. While the Beatles are about the least scary rock band in history, Yellow Submarine, with the Blue Meanies, can scare any little kid. Why? In part because the story is really weird, with really strange creatures, and makes little sense, and also because the Blue Meanies are really weird as well, and in addition, they are cruel for cruelty’s sake. Now, I don’t think Yellow Submarine is scary as an adult, it does bring me to my next observation – cruelty is scary.

Cruelty has a tremendous effect on me. That otherwise normal human beings are capable of the most inhuman acts is the terrifying part of being human. Not to wax political, but we in America are often given to the illusion that all we have wrought is good because we are good, and only the bad people have done awful things. Things that the Communists did in Russia, China, or Cambodia. Things that the Nazis did in Germany, Austria, or Poland. Or the Japanese did in the Pacific.

What is lost in this worldview is that the awful occurrences did not happen outside the purview of good people, but rather despite them, or with their assistance. Horrible human acts by otherwise normal people are not impossible. Cruelty has, more often than not, been the norm. And it percolates just below the surface of all of us. All it might take is one act, or one person, one event to bring it all up, and terrible deeds will come to pass.

Torture porn, a genre of which I am not a great fan, attempts to use cruelty for this sake, to get at us under our skins. Like in Hostel, where there is systematic kidnapping/torture/murder, the scary thing isn’t the torture itself, but that people want to torture, to maim, to kill, and even videotape it, like in Vacancy. It is scary because we are all, in the right time and place, capable of some very awful things.

For instance, the most horrible scene of cruelty in the classic Texas Chainsaw Massacre comes not when Leatherface is chasing anyone with his saw, but when he suddenly appears from a corridor, smashes a fellow human on the head with a mallet, and then, while the body is violently twitching, drags it inside, and then slams the door closed. It is the casual nature of the act which reinforces the cruelty. On the other hand, over time, other slashers, like Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers, are rendered less scary in that they only do what they do but for no other reason than that’s what they do. They do not do it out of any cruelty – they are essentially knife/axe/machete wielding zombie automatons.

Sometimes annihilation comes from large groups. Being faced with the overwhelming force of a community bent on my own destruction, like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, is a form of group cruelty, in that it seeks the end of my person, if not my torture. The scary aspect isn’t that they are alien plants, but that it is everyone but me. Body Snatchers is about being the last free thinking man amongst the Nazis, the Bolsheviks, or the Khmer Rouge.

The Shining is a similar dynamic, but instead of human cruelty, or reeducation via seedpod, the overwhelming forces arrayed against the Torrance family is that of ghosts through the transmitter of a sentient building, the Overlook Hotel. But that malevolence is something more seething than apparent, and only is truly manifested in the third act of the film. But it is its cruel nature, wanting sacrifices of blood, that makes the Overlook such a scary hotel.

In that vein, I think we begin to return to the unseen. I wrote my first post about The Thing by John Carpenter, and state unequivocally that it was the scariest horror movie of all time. I think that the horror from this movie is that, like Body Snatchers, the monster lurks within, with other factors elevating the terror. This is no longer an anti Communist, anti-intellectual screed (as was its titular predecessor, as well as Body Snatchers). Rather, the fright is of the psychological nature, when the civilization of the men involved breaks down (fear of madness), when they realize they no longer know each other, or truly know themselves. What could be more frightening than not knowing if you continued to be you? Couple this with the thought that if in fact you are you, at best one of your colleagues is harboring a very slimy and malevolent monster under his skin. The isolation of each character, from himself, from his friends, and from the rest of the world, is total. Personally, I think I would have flipped my lid like the character Windows, and beat a hasty trail right to the arsenal (I often think how the shotgun would vitiate most horror movies plots, but probably not The Thing).

Well, that’s about it for now, gentle reader. As Mr. Hungus asked: What scares you?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

What Goes Bump In the Night…….?

Recently, my co-contributor Karl Hungus posted a great piece on what turns the screws of his fears. I could not help myself, and have decided to return the favor.

My earliest fears - that is, the first movie to really scare the bejeezuz out of me – was a mixture of The Hand with Michael Cane, and Sasquatch. I can recall these movies being on a television when I was very young, and I was not able to understand them. They may have been playing on what would by now be an antique movie player, either an early VHS or maybe some sort of laserdisc system (anyone recall “Selectivision??”). In fact, for a long time (whatever a long time is to a 4 year old) I conflated these two movies together. But what was it that scared me? The autonomous hand? The concept of some monster named ‘Sasquatch’ roaming the dark woods? I think that it was just that these movies were scary, and therefore I was scared by them.

Not too long after the Hand/Sasquatch caper there was a television showing of the first true fear I would experience on film. This was different than the abstract experience from above. Rather, this was something I perceived could happen to me, and it continues to affect me. The movie was Spielberg’s “Jaws” and I am still afraid to swim in any body of water alone, much less swim in any body of water, alone or otherwise, at night. This includes shallow, above ground swimming pools.

What was it about Jaws? Well, it did have the advantage of at least being essentially plausible – people had really been attacked and eaten by sharks, most gruesomely by the infamous white shark. That both the robot shark and the real life versions are so awesomely built to inspire human fear they border on a parody of the form – huge mouths in a dreadful smiley-face, with mandibles that can diabolically disengage for larger bites, filled with row about row of symmetrically triangular razors – it is almost too much, like a child’s drawing. Further, it was not unusual for me and mine to spend a good deal of time in the water, as we loved swimming and beaches (still do).

Well, I can chalk a lot of the fear about Jaws, in addition to the plausiblilty, up to that there was a) the prospect of being eaten alive – which has got to be painful in the extreme, and b) that it came from nowhere. That is, you never saw it coming until it wanted you to see it coming. While the shark does reveal itself at times by the fin, whenever it went in for a kill, it came from underneath. I think that the two most terrifying “kills” are the opening scene, where the shark essentially comes out of nowhere to take the skinny-dipping girl, and the later scene, when the boy on the raft is killed.

The first – the girl killed at night, gets to me because she cannot possibly see the shark, and was trusting of the ocean to not send something wicked her way. And there she is, a fragile human full of the belief nothing can go wrong, until suddenly she is without a leg. Oh, the horror. And you pretty much don’t see the shark, either. In the end there is barely enough of her left to fill a bedpan.

In the second scene, where the boy is killed in broad daylight, you again don’t really see the shark, except as it completes a “death roll” as the rest of the swimmers run for it. Now, this scene got to me young because that could have been me on that raft. But, as I have gotten older, it has turned more into the instinctual “protect the young" fear. While I am not a parent yet, I am the oldest in my family, and have a very developed protective streak, and the idea of being unable to prevent a child in my charge from harm, much less becoming a snack for a giant fish, is unconscionable. When the camera closes in on the poor mother in her sun hat searching the surf for her son, it is almost unwatchable for me now.

Finally, there is a third scene, which is the death of the character of Quint. He is an implacable foe of the shark, bent on vengeance, clearly cast as a latter day Ahab. But in his final scene, when the shark has breached the transom and all but sunk his Orca, he is kicking and squealing like a baby, all for naught. Even the toughest succumb to the Leviathan is the unspoken moral.

Notwithstanding that I was already damaged goods from Jaws, my good ol’ Uncle Pat decided it would be a great idea to take me and my cousin, Jenn, to see the brand new adventure film at the local drive-in in New Jersey. We had gone to this drive-in before, having seen both The Muppet Movie and The Empire Strikes Back there. This time, though, with Raiders of the Lost Ark, we were in for fare a little more suited for adults. Frankly, the only scene that got to me was the melting faces. It didn’t get to me at the time, only later, when I tried to go to sleep after an extremely satisfying movie going experience. I closed my eyes and all I saw was the wire rimmed spectacles falling from the disintegrating face of Major Arnold Toht, over and over again. As for Jenn, to this day she never got over the chamber of the serpents.

I am unsure why, beyond the obvious, this got to me. I suppose it had a lot to do with the idea of the pain of a melting face, coupled with the idea of being so bad that God is that mad at you. It’s worse than the Devil being mad at you, I guess.

I appreciated Mr. Hungus’ inclusion of the film “Pet Semetary” in his piece. Being a precocious child, as well as always trying to prove myself to the adults in my family, I read the novel as a 3rd grader (it took me a long time to get through, though – most of a year, if I recall). I was blessed with the type of parents that would permit me to read just about anything, including Stephen King, and this one looked good. Well, let me tell you…………

Pet Semetary might be the all around scariest King book, and was by far the scariest King I ever read. As a kid it was mind-bendingly terrifying. It had it all – reanimated zombie cats, ghosts coming without warnings, children’s deaths, reanimated zombie children, and a twisted sister locked in the attic. There was a blackness in the horror of Pet Semetary that most horror books lack. And somehow this blackness translated into the film.

I suppose, at the outset, Pet Semetary has an advantage of being scary as it threatened the well being of children. As can be seen by what I related above, in addition to my own safety, as I got older there developed in me the fear of harm to the helpless. To be unable to save Gage from the truck is unimaginable; the fear of being a parent and losing a child is only moreso.

In addition to this, though, is that the dead return to life rather surly. They aren’t slothful, moaning zombies, but actually motivated agents of great evil. Churchill the cat was not pleasant after his stint in the Micmac burial ground, and Gage literally brings the voices of Hell. Mr. Hungus had it nailed with his analysis of the showdown between Gage and the old man, Jud. It was scary in the book, and this was faithfully translated into the film version. And while the Achilles severing was awful, the part that got me was when Gage swipes the corners of Jud’s mouth with the scalpel. (Fans of Asian cinema might see shades of this in the character Kakihara from the incredible Ichii the Killer.)

To be continued.....................

Monday, February 16, 2009

Bluewater Artist Previews the Impending Leprechaun Comic!

These days, up-and-coming comic book company Bluewater Comics has become a horror fan's best friend. With titles like Vincent Price Presents and the recently spotlighted The Pit and the Pendulum, they've managed to corner the market on horror comics in short order.

Next up is the Bluewater comic series Leprechaun, based on the notorious-yet-beloved film series of the late '80s/'90s starring Warwick Davis. First announced last fall, the first issue is soon to finally hit newsstands (whatever happened to deadlines, all you fancy-pants 21st century comics artists??)

Head on over to Ain't It Cool News' always-entertaining comics column "Shoot the Messenger" for a pretty unique look at the upcoming book. Artist Kris Carter provides exclusive pencil artwork from the first issue, accompanied by his own "DVD commentary" on each panel. Very cool stuff. I never even cared much for the Leprechaun movies, but I may just pick this book up.

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As most of you know, I don't usually make this blog about myself, but something very exciting has happened, which means a great deal to me. The Vault of Horror has been nominated Best Horror Blog in the 2008 Rondo Hatton Awards. Since 2003, the Rondos have been the web's premiere fan-voted genre awards, and last year, when the Vault was brand-new, I made it a conscious goal to land a nomination in the Rondos the next time around. Now it's happened, and on top of that, this is the first year the Rondos has included a separate category strictly for blogs.

I'd like to congratulate Gary D. of Blogue Macabre, Max Cheney of The Drunken Severed Head, Stacie Ponder of Final Girl, Pierre Fournier of Frankensteinia, August Ragone of The Good, The Bad and Godzilla, Curt Purcell of The Groovy Age of Horror, Karswell of The Horrors of It All and Iloc Zoc of Zombos' Closet of Horror, fellow bloggers and friends in horror also nominated in the category. Should you feel inclined to vote in the 2008 Rondos, here's the ballot.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Clive Barker Praises New Hellraiser Director, Trashes New Pinhead Design

Ryan Rotten over at ShockTillYouDrop has an exclusive up with Clive Barker that is pretty interesting. Kudos to Ryan for getting the notorious opinionated Barker on the horn.

The writer/director had much to say about the upcoming remake of his most famous work, Hellraiser. Firstly, he commented on the addition of another writer/director, Pascal Laugier (nominated for a Cyber Horror Award for his work on Martyrs), who replaced Alexandre Bustillo & Julien Maury of Inside fame:

"I fuckin' love Martyrs... it's a movie that has courage and commitment. [Pascal] is someone who really, really cares about horror movies. I'm supposed to be seeing a treatment soon. I'm not certain, but I believe he is going to back to the first movie, but not with an obsessed loyalty. He's taking the first movie as a launching board, a rock model, but there are things you can obviously do now both visually and sexually... It's a different time, so I'm excited."

Conversely, when the topic switched to the controversial redesign of lead cenobite Pinhead that surfaced on the web a few days ago, Barker was a little less enthusiastic/complimentary:

"The whole point about Pinhead is that he is geometrically severe. Very measured, and the energy of the character comes out of the fact that you have surgical precision which is part of a much larger, sadistic, maybe masochistic, design. Turning the bloodless cuts or scarifications into bloody, irregular gashes removes the point of what made the character interesting in the first place."

Ironically, the new design was created by Gary Tunnicliffe, makeup artist for the sequels to the original Hellraiser.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Descent 2 Teaser Trailer!!

Has kind of an "Aliens" vibe to it. Could be intriguing... Check it out now, before Lions Gate catches up to me:

Friday, February 13, 2009

Poe's Work Adapted to Comic Book

Since debuting at Harry Knowles' BNAT film festival last summer, Marc Lougee's stop-motion animated version of Edgar Allan Poe's The Pit and the Pendulum has been making the rounds at literally hundreds of film festivals (unfortunately, the main outlet for short subjects these days). It has generated quite a bit of positive buzz in the process.

Now, Bluewater Productions, the same comic book company responsible for Vincent Price Presents (the first issue of which was written by The League of Tana Tea Drinkers' own Chad Helder) will be bringing the film to the sequential art medium.

The comic book has been put together without hand-drawn art--in a clever stroke, it is instead using actual stills from the animated film, which is sure to give the book a unique look indeed. If you don't believe me, just check out these sample pages at Where the Long Tail Ends.

The first issue hits comic book stores February 25.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

An exploration of fear, what disturbs me.

Greetings once again Vault dwellers, it is Karl Hungus of karlhungus.com here, so do not adjust your set, I am now in control of the transmission. It's amazing how much excitement can be derived from exploring our own anxieties in this way, with a good Horror film, we come face to face with so many negative emotions, and come out thrilled at the end. The genre itself is a multi-headed beast, and there are so many different feelings it can stir, many films have to many different ways to scare, disturb, unsettle, sicken, repulse or otherwise tap in to our subconscious. I'd like to talk to you about my own fears and what strikes a nerve with me when I'm deep in the experience. For me, it's not always the things that go bump in the night.

One thing that's always sure to creep the bejesus out of me is Body Horror. Films like The Fly or Tetsuo will always unsettle me deeply, no matter how many times I've seen them, the physical transformation that the main characters go through set my skin crawling every single time. I don't quite know why, perhaps it's an innate or subconscious fear of disease, of something malignant that's going on beneath the surface, the notion of helplessness that our own bodies could betray us. Whatever it is, this frightens and sickens me very deeply.

Maybe it's not something innate though, maybe this is a fear that was set in early? In which case, Ron Howard has a lot to answer for, because the scene in Willow where the evil Bavmorda turned everyone into pigs was pretty horrific for a kid's film. Or it could be earlier than that, I remember watching re-runs of The Incredible Hulk as a child and hiding behind the couch whenever Dr. Banner turned into a green Lou Ferrigno.

I suppose that also has to do with why I find there are very few good Werewolf movies. An American Werewolf in London was the pinnacle merely because of the chilling and amazing shapeshifting scene, and I've never seen another that has effected me so much. I feel kind of cheated sometimes when a film depicts someone turning into a werewolf as a quick change, or where it will happen offscreen. AAWiL set the standard, and if it's not a horrifying change, it just isn't a proper Werewolf movie.

Now, I don't really believe in desensitization, at least not to a huge degree. What's scared me for many years before still scares me now. I don't mean that I'd watch Willow and be as freaked out as I was when I was just a wee nipper, but that Body Horror still effects me as it always has. British Sci-Fi series Doctor Who has had some pretty creepy moments, the episode Blink was one of the most genuinely terrifying things I've seen on TV in a long time ("Don't blink, blink and you're dead!"), it was creepy stuff. But it wasn't that episode that freaked me out the most, it was a later episode called Planet of the Ood, and towards the end, one of the characters was turned into a grotesque cthulhu-like alien lifeform. True to form, I was utterly creeped out and the scene left me with a knot in my stomach. I'd say the old fears just don't leave us.

One film that certainly left it's mark on me was Stephen King's Pet Sematary, it effected me two-fold. First of all, the scene with Rachel's sister Zelda, just looking at her had my senses screaming, it was horrific. I later found out that the character of Zelda was played by a man, because they couldn't find a woman skinny enough for it, and that made a lot of sense. I'd say it's because a man has a broader frame, this made the character look that bit more emaciated, the bony shoulders and elbows that bit more exaggerated than if it had been a woman playing the role. A recent horror film pulled the same trick (I won't mention which as it's a bit of a spoiler, but if you've seen it you'll know the film I mean) of having an extremely thin man playing a female character, and it still had the same unedging effect on my senses.

The other thing in Pet Sematary that effected me was the scene where Jud Crandall gets his achilles tendon cut. The very thought of it makes me wince, it really unsettles me, and no matter how many times I see a scene of tendon-trauma in various films, it's something that I have never gotten used to. That's another reason that I don't truly believe in the idea of desensitization, I just can't see myself ever getting used to violence to that particular area, it cuts through me and sets my teeth on edge. There's a scene in Hostel where one character's achilles tendons are cut, and we don't even see it happen, we see is a reaction shot and the aftermath, but to me that was by a vast margin the most disturbing scene of the entire film.

That's not to say that any old scene of body horror or scene of physical violence against the ankle area will make a good horror for me. I would say that to make a truly great horror film, it can't just contain something that will scare or unsettle you. Pet Sematary is a great film in its own right, even without the scenes I've mentioned, and I've seen elements of what scares me in other films and they've fallen completely flat. I think a film has to engage you first and foremost, and that's why The Fly or An American Werewolf in London are absolute classics. If it doesn't have interesting characters that you care what happens to, then the film will fail.

I know it's not exactly a popular choice, but Hostel: Part II was an absolute triumph for me, and I think Eli Roth is a far better director than people give him credit for. The whole bloodbath scene was something that left me absolutely shaken, it was one of the most downright horrific things I've seen in a film in recent years, and it worked so well because Roth starts off with the characters. It was because he wrote Lorna (played so sympathetically by Heather Matarazzo, who was by far the best actor in the film) to be someone we empathised with, not some cut-out cheerleader that nobody cared about. When the above scene finally comes, it has all the more impact because we're emotionally invested in the character. The gore itself was very disturbing, and just thinking about the sound of the blade against her skin sets my teeth on edge, but it's not why the scene has such impact, and seeing it again it doesn't get any less disturbing, simply because of the character of Lorna.

Violence and gore certainly isn't everyone's bag, but I think in the right context it can be extremely effective and provide for a truly powerful film experience. That's not to say I don't love the more traditional ghost story, because the likes of Don't Look Now and Ringu count as some of my all time favourites. There's simply nothing like a good horror that piles on the atmosphere and doesn't really on cheap shock-tactics to scare the audience. The Others and The Blair Witch Project were two films that built up the tension slowly, and they were truly fantastic horror films.

Atmosphere is one of the hardest things to put your finger on. David Lynch is one of my favorite directors by far, and you couldn't really call any of his film Horror exactly, yet some of them can be so wholly unnerving and disturbing, more so than many Horrors. Lost Highway (above) is a perfect example, so much of it can be greatly unsettling, and watching it can really set me on edge. A lot of the time I can easily see why something disturbs me, I can point it out and say it's that, but here I don't know quite what it is, whatever magic Lynch works just gets to me. It was the same with Mulholland Dr. and Inland Empire, something just had me on edge. Roman Polanski's The Tenant is another film that had me very unsettled throughout, much in the same way that Lost Highway did, something I can't quite explain, but very potent none the less.

I hope this has been an interesting read. It's been fun for me trying to lay out my fears, to relate what disturbs me, and what makes a powerful Horror experience for me. I'm sure that just as everyone has their own preferences when it comes to the genre, we've all got different things that will scare and disturb us, things that we've never gotten used to in films and things that can still freak us out. I'd love to hear from you, what is it that effects you most in a Horror?

What scares you?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Announcing the Nominees for the First-Ever Cyber Horror Awards!

Dear readers, I'm a simple man, with simple dreams. One of those dreams was to create the first horror film awards ever determined by the online horror community. And now, thanks to the associations I've made via the VoH, that dream is soon to become a reality.

It's simple, really. There has never been a set of awards recognizing excellence in horror, as voted upon by the writers/bloggers whose passion it is to cover the genre on the internet. With our world transforming the way it has, online writers and bloggers have gained an amazing level of visibility in mainstream culture--some would say even supplanting the role enjoyed by traditional film critics. They have their awards, why shouldn't we have ours?

To that end, I have assembled some of the best and brightest of those who dedicate themselves to all things terrifying, many of which have taken part in the past in the Vault's "Cyber-Horror Elite" lists. As I write this, in fact, they are deliberating the list of nominees you're about to read. The results will be tallied at the end of he month.

It's an idea whose time has come: The web's first horror movie awards.

2008 Cyber Horror Award Nominees

Val Lewton Award for Best Film
Eden Lake, Rollercoaster Films
Let the Right One In, EFTI
The Midnight Meat Train, Lions Gate
The Strangers, Rogue Pictures
Tokyo Gore Police, Fever Dreams/Nikkatsu

David Cronenberg Award for Best Director
Tomas Alfredson, Let the Right One In
Bryan Bertino, The Strangers
Ryuhei Kitamura, The Midnight Meat Train
Matt Reeves, Cloverfield
James Watkins, Eden Lake

Jamie Lee Curtis Award for Best Actress
Jennifer Carpenter, Quarantine
Mylene Jampanoi, Martyrs
Lina Leandersson, Let the Right One In
Kelly Reilly, Eden Lake
Liv Tyler, The Strangers

Vincent Price Award for Best Actor
Simon Callow, Chemical Wedding
Kare Hedebrant, Let the Right One In
Andy Serkis, The Cottage
Keifer Sutherland, Mirrors
Jonathan Tucker, The Ruins

Dwight Frye Award for Best Supporting Actor
Anthony Head, Repo! The Genetic Opera
Vinnie Jones, The Midnight Meat Train
O’Connell, Eden Lake

Linnea Quigley Award for Best Supporting Actress
Morjana Alaoui, Martyrs
Julie Benz, Saw V
Lizzy Caplan, Cloverfield

Curt Siodmak Award for Best Screenplay
Jeff Buhler, The Midnight Meat Train
Pascal Laugier, Martyrs
John Ajvide Lindqvist, Let the Right One In
Scott B. Smith, The Ruins
James Watkins, Eden Lake

Karl Freund Award for Best Cinematography
Maxime Alexandre, Mirrors
David A. Armstrong, Saw V
Michael Bonvillain, Cloverfield
Hoyte van Hoytema, Let the Right One In
Peter Sova, The Strangers

Bernard Hermann Award for Best Score
Charlie Clouser, Saw V
Johan Soderqvist, Let the Right One In
Darren Smith & Terrance Zdunich, Repo! The Genetic Opera

Tom Savini Award for Best Makeup
Paul Hyett, Eden Lake
Greg Nicotero, Diary of the Dead & Mirrors
Yoshihiro Nishimura, Tokyo Gore Police

Albert S. D'Agostino Award for Best Production Design
David Hackl, Repo! The Genetic Opera
Tony Ianni, Saw V
Grant Major, The Ruins

Ray Harryhausen Award for Best Visual Effects
The Ruins

Monday, February 9, 2009

Theater Full of Kids Subjected to My Bloody Valentine

A whole bunch of parents who had expected to enjoy the wonders of Disney animation with their little tykes were instead made to witness nubile teens being impaled with a pick-axe. British website ThisIsHampshire.net reports that workers at Southampton's Odeon Cinema mistakenly loaded My Bloody Valentine 3-D into a projector that was meant for Bolt, the animated flick about a cute and cuddly dog who thinks he's a superhero.

Apparently, it took a whole ten minutes for what had to be some of the densest parents in the history of parenting to realize that the wrong movie was being shown and raise a fuss, many of their kids obviously shaken up by the R-rated mayhem onscreen.

The Odeon refunded customers their tickets, and gave them comp passes to a movie of their choice. Would love to know if any of them sent the kids home and used the passes to see My Bloody Valentine.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

James Whitmore 1921-2009

Another of the great post-World War II generation of actors has left us. James Whitmore, best known to horror fans as the unflappable Sgt. Ben Peterson of the classic giant ant picture Them! (1954), passed away last Friday at the age of 87.

In addition to his role in Them!, Whitmore also starred in the beloved Twilight Zone episode "On Thursday We Leave for Home", and one of his last film roles came in 1997 in the monster flick The Relic.

After a few years in Hollywood, Whitmore became known mainly as a TV and B-movie actor of the 1950s and 1960s. He did extensive work on stage as well, including the show Give 'Em Hell Harry, in which he played the title part of President Harry S. Truman. In fact, his starring turn in the 1975 motion picture version earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor.

Many younger fans best remember Whitmore for his memorable supporting performance as Brooks in The Shawshank Redemption (1994). I'll also never forget his starring role in the 1986 TV production of Arthur Miller's All My Sons.

Frank Darabont, who was honored to direct Whitmore in both Shawshank and The Majestic (2001), sent in a heartwarming remembrance of the actor to Ain't It Cool News, which you can read here.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Return of the "Cyber-Horror Elite": Presenting the Top 20 Foreign Horror Films of All Time!

Once again, I, the most stat-crazy horror blogger on the web, have culled the collective wisdom of cyberspace's gurus of gore in order to give you, the readers, another list to nitpick! This time, I've chosen to take a closer look at another area which many felt was underrepresented in our original Top 50 Horror Films of All Time--namely, movies originating outside the United States.

It was quite telling that this time out, I received dramatically less participation than the previous two times. While I got over 30 submissions before, this time I only received top 10 lists from 14 participants. Now, it could be that ol' B-Sol is just wearing out his welcome, or it could very well be that this is a decidedly tougher area to consider, and many didn't feel confident enough in their knowledge of foreign horror to take part.

That said, I believe this to be a very solid list, compiled using the same points system as before, incorporating everyone's top 10 list into a final Top 20. For the third time in a row, I find myself surprised at the number-one vote-getter--this time more than ever before. Not because it isn't necessarily worthy, but rather because it is a movie that is so extremely recent. Judge for yourself:

1. Let the Right One In (2008) – Sweden
2. Suspiria (1977) – Italy
3. Cemetery Man (1994) – Italy
4. Nosferatu (1922) – Germany
5. Diaboliques (1955) – France
6. The Descent (2005) – United Kingdom
7. The Wicker Man (1973) – United Kingdom
8. Horror of Dracula (1958) – United Kingdom
9. 28 Days Later (2002) – United Kingdom
10. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) – Germany
11. Audition (1999) – Japan
12. The Host (2006) – South Korea
13. Zombi 2 (1979) – Italy
14. Dead Alive (1992) – New Zealand
15. Ringu (1998) – Japan
16. Inside (2007) – France
17. [REC] (2007) – Spain
18. Shaun of the Dead (2004) – United Kingdom
19. Wolf Creek (2005) – Australia
20. The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) – United Kingdom

Some others that missed it by that much: Heavenly Creatures, The Vampire Lovers, Jigoku, The Orphanage, Don’t Look Now, Ju-On, Riget

Country-by-country breakdown:

United Kingdom: 6
Italy: 3
Germany: 2
Japan: 2
France: 2
South Korea: 1
New Zealand: 1
Spain: 1
Australia 1
Sweden: 1

(Worth noting that only 12 of the 20 are in a language other than English.)

Our participants this time around included:

Wes Fierce of Horror Film Magazine
The Lightning Bug of The Lightning Bug's Lair
Sean T. Collins of Attentiondeficitdisorderly Too Flat, Marvel.com and Maxim
CRwM of And Now the Screaming Starts
Justin of Send More Cops
Peter Hall of Horror's Not Dead
John Kenneth Muir, horror critic (Booklist Editor's Choice)
Pax Romano of Billy Loves Stu
Scott Weinberg of FEARnet, Cinematical, Horror.com and Rotten Tomatoes
Brian Matus of FangoriaOnline
Nate Yapp of Classic-Horror.com
Carnacki of The Mystery of the Haunted Vampire
Corey of Evil on Two Legs
And yours truly, of course.

Digest. Discuss. Debate. Distribute.

* Top 25 Horror Films of the Modern Era

Friday, February 6, 2009

Happy Weekend from Hieronymus Bosch!!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Repo! Sequel Still a Possibility?

Repo! The Genetic Opera has proven to be one of the most divisive genre films of recent years, with some flocking to it as a cult classic, and many others calling it one of the worst movies ever made. However you feel about it, there may be more of it on the horizon.

In an interview with Moviehole.net promoting the movie's DVD release, star Alexa Vega hinted that prequel/sequel talks are still alive despite the film's limited release and lackluster box office:

"[F]rom the very, very beginning, we always talked about a prequel or a sequel to this movie. And it’s hard, because as of right now, we all want to do it, but... it didn’t really do as we hoped. And we didn’t really have a lot of support. But we’re hoping that the fans will come back, and it will be an underground cult classic that will grow, and that will eventually spark us to do either the prequel or the sequel to this film.

"The story’s not yet finished. There’s so much left... to wonder. 'Okay, what happens to GeneCo?' Or, 'How did they get here?'... there’s so many questions that still need to be answered."

Director Darren Lynn Bousman's grassroots "Repo tour" has done a lot to drum up support for the flick, and indeed, a kind of "Rocky Horror" buzz has slowly built around it since its release last year, so a limited-release or direct-to-video sequel is certainly well within the realm of possibility.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Chats with My Bloody Valentine Composers, Past and Present

A treat for you horror movie music lovers today. Ain't It Cool News correspondent ScoreKeeper has done something very cool indeed. If you click here, you can check out a pair of interviews he/she has conducted.

The first is with Michael Wandmacher, composer of the score for My Bloody Valentine 3-D (as well as Punisher: Warzone and the recent flopped revival of The Night Stalker TV series). The second is with Paul Zaza, composer of the score for the 1981 original My Bloody Valentine, in addition to other horror faves like Popcorn and the Prom Night series.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

VAULT EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Dawn of the Dead's "Helicopter Zombie", Jim Krut

Last October, I had the pleasure of meeting Jim Krut at the always-fun Chiller Theatre convention in New Jersey. Most horror fans would best know this extremely tall and friendly gentleman as the infamous "helicopter zombie" from George Romero's Dawn of the Dead. That's right, Jim was the unforgettable flat-top ghoul who gets his cranium chopped in the chopper during the airport scene.

Needless to say, I was dying for a chance to talk to the man who had become such a beloved icon of horror history. Jim was kind enough to give me some of his time, and the result is the interview I bring to you today, my second Vaultcast.

I apologize for the annoying feedback buzz that accompanies a lot of the audio, it won't happen again in future Vaultcasts. But if you bear with it, the interview is a very worthwhile listen, as Jim talks about things like...

  • Accidentally stabbing Tom Savini in the stomach
  • His kids' reaction to watching their dad's head get sliced open
  • The camaraderie between DOTD zombies
  • The reasons Dario Argento cut his scene from the European version of the movie
  • And much more...

If you prefer, you can visit my official Vaultcast page and download the interview to listen to whenever. It consists of two separate files, so when you listen, make sure to listen to part one first!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Horror Artist Puts His Talent to Work for a Good Cause

Not long ago, I put together a post on the unique work of Chris Zenga, creator of the ZomBears. Today, I'm devoting some space on the Vault to talk about Chris' very worthwhile support of BRAFF, the Baikal Region Adoptive Family Fund.

Chris has illustrated two completely new ZomBears especially for BRAFF, with a portion of the proceeds from both going to the organization which helps orphans from the Baikal region of Russia and Mongolia to find homes, and helps improve the lives of those who can't. I strongly urge you to check out the following links, and if you can manage it, buy one of Chris' prints and donate to this worthy cause:





Below are the two brand new ZomBear prints, "Dr. Tekyll" and "Tedd the Ripper":

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Today's post took priority for me today, but check back tomorrow for my podcast interview with Jim Krut, the Helicopter Zombie!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Leatherface Hanging Up the Chainsaw for Good?

After 35 years, a sequel, a prequel, and three different reboots, it could finally be the end of the road for the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise... at least for the foreseeable future.

Brad Fuller of Platinum Dunes (the company responsible for the last two TCM entries) told ShockTillYouDrop yesterday that there is no interest on either their part, or Warner Bros.' part, on making another one:

"I think the original rights owners now own those rights. I haven't heard anything for over a year now, but I think they want to go out and make their own Texas Chainsaw. While I used to always hope and pray that we could do another one, I don't feel that anymore."

Fuller and his partner Andrew Form go on to indicate that they want to distance themselves from the "torture porn" aspect of horror that TCM (at least their version of it) represents. With Friday the 13th hitting theaters next week, the Nightmare on Elm Street remake--set to start filming in 12 weeks--is next up for them.

Could this mean that the torture porn subgenre is finally petering out? In any event, we may have seen the last of everyone's favorite redneck cannibals. As for those "original rights owners" Fuller was referring to, I'm not sure if he's talking about Tobe Hooper, who formed the company Vortex Inc. in 1973 for the specific purpose of producing The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. A new TCM flick from Hooper himself would certainly be an item of interest.

* * * * * * * * * *

A heads-up to all you loyal Vault Dwellers: Look for my second Vaultcast tomorrow, when I plan to upload the phone interview I just conducted with Jim Krut, better known to you folks as Dawn of the Dead's "Helicopter Zombie"!
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