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Monday, November 30, 2009

TRAILER TRASH: Stephen King Edition!

Zombelina's Greatest Hits

Happy Birthday wishes go out today to VoH contributor and B-Sol progeny Zombelina, who is now eight years young (born on Mark Twain's birthday, naturally). In recognition of this auspicious event, here are links to her recent appearances here in the Vault:

Zombelina compares old-school Creepy magazine to the new Dark Horse version...

Zombelina and B-Sol take Manhattan!

Zombelina and I review Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell...

And while I'm at it, don't forget to check out the little lady's very own kid-lit blog, Book Town!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Random Ramblings from the Vault...

  • It sure is a good thing I decided to do away with the bikini portion of Ms. Horror Blogosphere, wouldn't you say?
  • Pride & Prejudice & Zombies: The Mini-Series? Count me in. Anything has to be better than the new V, which I've decided stands for Very Boring.
  • High Anxiety is one hell of an amazing Hitchcock homage. Recently rediscovered it. Blog post to come...
  • If Fermat's Room has taught me anything, it's that it's probably not a good idea to make a horror movie about math. Review to come...
  • A tasty tidbit for those who know they're rasslin: Looks like The Undertaker may be getting his own origin feature to take place in the Old West. Well, it's got to be better than See No Evil, right?
  • I don't think Edward Van Sloan or Peter Cushing would be too thrilled about those stake-guns we see in movies like Van Helsing and From Dusk Till Dawn. Kind of cheapens the whole affair, don't you think?
  • So I'm starting a new job next week, in a town which is reported in urban legend to contain a bizarre family of monstrous inbreds. Rest assured, I will be investigating on my lunch breaks...
  • Add The Fly to the list of remakes I once thought were way better than the original, but have since come to appreciate the original much more than I ever did. Anyone else?
  • Totally forgot about the kick-ass fight with the giant octopus in King Kong vs. Godzilla. Hot damn, that had to be some of the finest special effects in the entire Toho series!

A Quarter-Century of Krueger: Can We Talk About Ronee Blakley?

I created the QCK feature here on the Vault to celebrate the 25th anniversary of A Nightmare on Elm Street. Make no mistake about that. And that's usually what I do on here. But after a recent re-viewing of the original classic, there's a matter that I feel I have to address. I've always felt this way, but this last viewing was really the straw that broke the camel's back:

Ronee Blakley, the actress who plays Nancy's mother Marge, is terrible. Absolutely dreadful. So bad that she almost distracts from how great the rest of the movie is.

As Wes Craven himself says in a very telling moment during the DVD commentary track, she seems as if she's in a completely different movie from everyone else. That's right, even Wes himself cannot help but poke fun at Ronee's performance, which he does throughout the movie, along with Heather Langenkamp, who joins him on the commentary. That really speaks volumes.

Not to say that Langenkamp is going to win any Oscars anytime soon, but her performance fits nicely within the context of the movie--as does that of the young Johnny Depp, or the terrific Robert Englund and the always-badass John Saxon. Clearly we don't expect Shakespearean level acting in a film like this, but at least no one else in the cast can be accused of stopping the proceedings dead like Ms. Blakley does.

I swear, there are times that I believe she really was drinking vodka throughout her scenes. Or maybe popping ambiens or something. That vacant stare. Her almost surreally melodramatic delivery of most of her lines. Even her movements are exaggerated and hackneyed. Check out that moment when she steps into frame and lights a cigarette, as she informs Nancy that she's locked her in the house. It's like she imagines she's Bette Davis or something. Only this isn't Mr. Sceffington; it's a 1980s slasher flick.

Even her look is wrong, and listening to the commentary, I finally understood why. Wes and Heather have a laugh at one point about how Ronee was never satisfied with the makeup and hair people on set, and would always disappear before shooting to fiddle with everything herself. This might explain why she often looks like something out of Madame Tussaud. I really believe she's trying to channel some kind of old-school Hollywood thing, but I have no idea as to why.

One wonders how she wound up being cast for the part. Everyone else seems at least adequate for the role they've been given--oftentimes far better than adequate. Yet Blakley sticks out like a sore thumb, almost ruining each scene she's in, taking away from the tension with her performance--which somehow manages to be simultaneously overdone and trance-like. I don't even know how she pulled that off. And worst of all, one even gets the sense listening to the commentary that Craven himself regrets casting her. Of course, he never comes out and says that, but take a listen like I did, and you might come away with the same impression.

And yet, unlike Heather Langenkamp, Ronee Blakley actually was nominated for an Oscar--Best Supporting Actor 1975 for her role as country singer Barbara Jean in Robert Altman's Nashville. She didn't win, but it's still baffling to think that the same person who turned in such a painfully bad performance in NOES could have garnered such acclaim less than a decade earlier. Amazing. Maybe it speaks to Altman's better way with actors than Craven. Who knows. All I do know is Ronee Blakley is really bad in A Nightmare on Elm Street.

And that's really all I need to say. It's something that's bugged me for years, since I really like the movie and respect it's importance amongst '80s horror movies. I also know I can't be alone in this opinion.

See, just because NOES is a classic of the "horror canon", doesn't mean it doesn't have its flaws, or that we shouldn't point them out and discuss. And Ronee Blakley is definitely one of them.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Disenfranchised Millennium Junkie? Here's How to Bring Back Frank Black!

One of the more fervent cult TV viewer followings in recent years has amassed around the short-lived Millennium--you know, that other show from Chris Carter. Featuring Lance Henriksen as a psychic former FBI profiler, the show lasted all of three seasons. Not too bad, but most definitely not long enough for its many rabid followers. After all, Star Trek only lasted three seasons too, and that didn't sit well with fans, either.

Anyway, it just so happened that the fans decided to do something to right this wrong, and bring back the late 1990s genre TV standout in the form of a movie continuation. Especially one fan in particular--Troy L. Foreman, editor of BacktoFrankBlack.com, a website campaign begun last year, which has been getting a bit of buzz as of late. Foreman took some time out recently to answer some questions regarding the Millennium crusade:

Tell me a bit about how the campaign first got started.
Lance appeared at the Collectormania Convention in Manchester, England in 2008. When questioned if he had a role in the then unreleased second X-Files feature he hinted to the audience that he did. As a result of this, speculation spread like wildfire on the internet that Frank Black was coming back, and Millennium became a hot topic once again. When Carter officially denied this, excited fans were disappointed, and during an interview with Spotnitz, the interviewer asked if there would ever be a Millennium movie or a return of Frank Black. Spotnitz said this was unlikely, and the more time passed the more unlikely it became. If the idea was ever to stand a chance the fans of the series needed to light a pretty big fire under the folk at 20th Century Fox.
We took this as a direct appeal to fans to begin making noise. It became apparent that the folks at TIWWA wanted a campaign, so a team was selected and roles were assigned. Graham P. Smith agreed to allow BTFB to function as part of his online Millennium network and BTFB was born. It took a small team of us (about eight, maybe ten) to go from nothing to having the bare bones of a website and campaign in action in just over a week. The rest is history.

What has the reception been from FOX thus far? Any interaction?
There has not been an official response from FOX as of yet. We were sending our letters and postcards initially to Michael Broidy of FOX, but after a while, we found out from Frank Spotnitz that he was not the person to send them to. After doing some digging around, we were given the name Steve Asbell, and that is who we are focusing our attention on right now. The people behind XFN (Xfiles News) who are trying to get a 3rd X-Files movie made, were lucky enough to get a meeting with Michael Broidy and during the meeting, he stated that he had been receiving many postcards from fans of the show Millennium. So at least we know they were getting there!

How did Lance get involved personally with your cause, and what is his personal stand on all this?
Lance has been nothing short of fantastic as far as our campaign is concerned. We contacted him initially about BacktoFrankBlack, and he is 100 percent behind us. Anything we need from him, he said just ask. He wants a Millennium movie made, because he thinks there are things that need to be tied up that weren’t in the Millennium episode from X-Files.

Where does Chris Carter stand on this? Has he been receptive?
We had been trying to get in touch with Chris Carter since the beginning of the campaign. There had been a statement or two from him over the years that he would possibly like to do a Millennium project. We were finally able to get Chris on our podcast, and we asked him if he thinks there will be a Millennium movie. He said it depends on FOX and that he would be interested in doing something, it would just take him sitting down with Lance and talking about it.

At what point did you realize that there was actually a lot of support out there for your cause?
After the show went of the air in 1999, a group of fans got together and created a fourth season of Millennium, a virtual season. When I came across this, I did some more digging and found several forums and websites dedicated to Millennium. The one that stands out is a website called Millennium – This Is Who We Are, which is run by Graham P. Smith. Never had I seen such a comprehensive, in depth website like this before. If you are a fan of Millennium, you should definitely check out that website. There is also a forum called TIWWA, also run by Graham. There you could see that Millennium still had many fans who wanted to see more Millennium!

What's been the most encouraging sign thus far? The toughest obstacle?
I think one of the most encouraging signs for the return of Millennium has been the response from the cast and crew, from Lance, the writers, directors and actors, they would all like to see Millennium return to the big screen. Whenever we approach anyone about doing something for the campaign, they are more than happy to help in any way they can. We have been approached by director Brett A. Hart, who directed Lance in the movie Bone Dry. He has offered to direct a Millennium movie for free. Although we have the support of all these people, our biggest obstacle is FOX Studios. They hold the rights to Millennium and right now, they have no plans to do any Millennium project.

Give me your ideal scenario for the return of Millennium.
I would like to see Millennium return as a theatrical release, that would be the ultimate goal. If not, a straight to DVD or even an HBO movie would be great as well. Lance has stated that he does not want to do another series as it was very hard on him, but a movie would be the best option. We also approached Big Finish about possibly doing an audio adaptation of the series. We found out from one of the people behind the company that they did approach FOX about obtaining the rights to do an audio version of the show, but that the price was too high. We posted a story not too long ago were Lance was approached by several independent film investors who were looking to put money behind a movie, we posted this on the web and it completely went viral. In just over two days, it was posted on over 150 sites. It was crazy.

What do you think caused the show to disappear in the first place?
I personally think Millennium was definitely ahead of its time. It was also a very dark show and that did turn off not only viewers, but sponsors--which didn’t help its position with FOX. The main reason it was canceled was the ratings. It was given the kiss of death time slot of Friday nights at 9pm. Also, each season is different due to show runners and writers coming and leaving the show. There was no continuity to the series, and that may have hurt it as well.

From your informed perspective, what would you say are the chances of success at this point?
To be honest, if I didn’t think that we had a chance to get this movie made, I would not have joined this campaign. I believe 100 percent that we will either get a theatrical release or a straight to DVD film. Our campaign is a little over a year old and we have made great strides in such a short time. We know that FOX is aware of us and the big names behind the show are supporting us, I truly believe that this will happen. When? Only FOX knows that answer, but you can bet that BacktoFrankBlack will still keep pushing for a Millennium movie!

For more information on the cause, visit BacktoFrankBlack.com

Friday, November 27, 2009

VAULT VLOG: So What's Next After Ms. Horror Blogosphere?

Retro Review: King Kong (1933)

So there I was, banging my head over how to tie in Thanksgiving somehow here at the Vault, when none other than Mrs. B-Sol pointed out a connection so obvious I'm still kicking myself for missing it. I don't know about you, but when we were kids growing up in the New York area, the airing of King Kong on syndicated television each Thanksgiving was a bona fide holiday tradition. I never quite got the relationship, but you can be damn sure I was glued to the TV every Turkey Day immediately after the big meal to catch this, the granddaddy of all giant monster flicks.

And that is why this week's Retro Review is for Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack's timeless 1933 masterpiece.

It is almost impossible to fully imagine the kind of impact this film must have had for movie audiences at the time. Virtually nothing like this had ever been seen before, and the sheer spectacle of it cannot be overstated. In our own age of overdone CGI effects blockbusters, some may find it quaint--yet for my money, the skill with which this movie is executed, particularly form a technical standpoint, has always been and continues to be breathtaking.

Naturally, the true star here is Willis O'Brien, the genius responsible for pioneering stop-motion animation in film, and the man who brought the Eighth Wonder of the World to life. Kong is a living, breathing character, with pathos and depth of personality. He is brought to life in a way few animated characters ever have been, before or since.

The scenes with the monster are all pure joy to watch. His encounters with other fantastical creatures on Skull Island, in particular, stand out. One can't help but get the impression, watching something like the legendary battle with the T-Rex, that the filmmakers were profoundly confident in their work, and so wanted to showcase it as strongly as possible. The attention to detail is staggering, especially when we consider that the labor involved far exceeds anything undertaken in the field of CGI today. It should also be mentioned that the fine work of Hollywood sound effects man extraordinaire Murray Spivack goes a long way toward bringing these creatures to life as well.

The acting is a bit stilted, even by early 1930s standards (when stage-style delivery was still often the norm), but after all, we're not here to watch the actors. Nevertheless, it needs to be pointed out that Robert Armstrong is magnificent as the master showman/filmmaker/entrepreneur Carl Denham. His awesomeness is only further highlighted in the wake of the catastrophically bad performance of the hideously miscast Jack Black in Peter Jackson's well-intentioned yet disappointing 2005 remake.

And then there's Fay Wray. Although she would never again attain the level of prominence this role gave her, she will forever be etched into the annals of Hollywood immortality as Ann Darrow, the stunning "Beauty" to Kong's "Beast". Her screen presence is truly remarkable, exuding a certain aura that only comes from the demure and ethereal leading ladies of this era. It should also be mentioned that the gal could scream like a champ, and manages to get across an impressive amount of understated sexual charisma during her scenes with her decidedly wooden and uncharismatic leading man, Bruce Cabot.

Max Steiner, the go-to guy for Hollywood film scores during much of the 1930s and 1940s, provides one of his absolute gems for this film. Particularly memorable is the plaintive motif I like to call "Kong's Theme", which Kong fans will instantly recognize when they hear it. A simple melody, it nevertheless puts over the tragedy of the monster so very effectively.

But once again, it's the special effects that are the stars of this film. Decades before Lucas and Speilberg put the concept of special effects movies on the map, here is this 1933 black and white film that still has the power to dazzle with some incredible set pieces. The Stegosaurus; the log scene; the destruction of the native village; the New York rampage; and of course, that iconic Empire State Building battle with the bi-planes.

What a testament it is to the work of Cooper, Schoedsack and O'Brien that we feel so deeply for this creature by the time he's gunned down at the end. Watching him fight off those fighter pilots, who can help rooting for the big guy? And seeing him take bullet after bullet, desperately hanging on all the while as his life slips away, gets me every time. Very rarely has a CGI creation moved me to this degree.

You don't need me to tell you that King Kong is a classic--perhaps the classic of golden age genre cinema--but I can tell you that I definitely rediscovered that fact today, as I showed it to my kids, nieces and nephews on DVD to continue the tradition I myself enjoyed as a child. Long live Kong, the Eighth Wonder of the World.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Ms. Horror Blogosphere: An Explanation

Hey folks, B-Sol here with what I guess is an explanation of sorts, and one which I feel is important and necessary. Earlier today, The Vault of Horror's Ms. Horror Blogosphere competition was the subject of a very angry post by Heidi Martinuzzi of Pretty-Scary.net, which is basically the epicenter of the female online horror world. I was taken aback and saddened a bit by this, and thus the need to explain myself.

Firstly and most importantly, I wish to humbly offer my sincerest apologies to anyone who has taken offense at the contest or found it to be demeaning toward the contestants. Particularly the actual contestants, but also to readers in general, whether male or female--and also to those who declined participation, such as Bloofer Lady of the excellent blog Horror Crypt, a great writer who bowed out over some very valid concerns regarding this very issue.

In her post, "New Annoying and Unnecessary Women's Contest", Heidi described the competition as "a truly nauseating attempt at attention grabbing and women-judging." She goes on to write, among other things, that "despite being a contest amongst bloggers, who are writers and journalists, each entry requires a photo of the lady and a bio. Which begs the question - why aren't they just being judged on the quality of their blog and writing? Answer: because it is never too late to judge women based on their looks."

Again, I'm saddened that my idea could be construed in this way by anyone, and it's upsetting to think that this was the unwitting result on my part. This was the farthest from my intention--rather, my intention was to break up the boy's club that online horror writing can very often be, and to bring some attention to a very talented group women bloggers and the sites they run. Simply put, I was trying to give props to these women, not tear them down, and it's unfortunate that it would instead be taken in such a way. For this, once again, I apologize.

The bottom line is, that when it comes to online horror journalism from a female perspective, Pretty-Scary is basically the gold standard. And so to be judged so harshly from a source I so greatly respect, is quite a blow, I won't lie. To be honest, I very much considered inviting Heidi herself to participate in the competition, but decided against it since her site is on a completely different level, and quite beyond the concept of a "horror blogosphere" in my opinion. Heidi and Pretty-Scary, quite simply, are much bigger than my little contest.

I have tremendous admiration for Heidi and Pretty-Scary. Thus it's confusing to read, for example, on her Facebook page, when mentioning my contest: "While I hate promoting things I hate, I like to promote 'hate'"--when my own intention was never to promote any kind of hate at all, but rather to give attention and credit to talented female bloggers.

I feel the need to address some specific concerns here. Firstly, it seems that much has been made of some of the questions I chose to include in the interviews, specificially the "Bang, Marry, Kill" question and the "Whose baby would you most want to have" question. These kinds of questions were included to add a little levity, and prevent things from being taken a little too seriously. After all, the spirit of the competition is fun, first and foremost, and I wanted to lighten things up so as to avoid the whole thing getting too pretentious or heavy. After all, this is a blogger competition; we are not selecting a new Pope here.

Further, very similar counterpart questions would certainly have been included by me should the contest have been among male bloggers. In fact, I should point out that the winner of the contest has the option of hosting a Mr. Horror Blogosphere competition, and should she choose to do so, I encourage her to include those very questions.

Again, I apologize if such questions were construed as sexist. I was a bit worried at first that some might think this, and I fully respect that opinion. My intention was only light-hearted fun to take the piss out of the proceedings a bit, but I fully concede I may have been a bit naive in this regard.

Now let's talk about the whole "picture" issue. Yes, I asked participants to submit pictures of themselves to go with their interviews. Let me explain why. In putting this contest together, part of what I was trying to accomplish was to get each of these writers across as personalities, as people--quite literally, to put a face to the words. I did not ask the contestants to sex it up, or anything like that. All I did was ask for pictures they were comfortable using, and that's what I was sent. My intention was never to objectify these woman, and quite frankly it does them all a disservice to suggest that simply by their posting pictures of themselves with their entries, it suddenly becomes some kind of meat market.

More to this point, Heidi specifically calls out one of the contestants, Aleata Illusion, for suggesting that sexuality and aesthetics may possibly play a role in the perception of female bloggers more than male: "Aleata," she writes, "if you want anyone to take you seriously as a writer, it is a bad thing. If you want to be an Internet blog celebrity, which many people do, go right ahead. This will make it easier to separate the women from the girls when we get all that sorted out." The validity of Aleata's statement aside, I can't help but feel that there is more demeaning going on in this comment than anything going on in the actual contest. Again, I only wanted to build these writers up, not tear them down.

Does sexuality play a part here? Are aesthetics involved to one degree or another in the proceedings? I'd be a patronizing liar if I said no. Of course they are, to a certain degree. Although the contest is about the women as bloggers first and foremost, yes, some voters may be motivated partly by appearance, and yes, some participants, to varying degrees, took advantage of their feminine sexuality to help add to their advantage.

But isn't sexuality part of who are as human beings? And if women--or men--choose to play a bit with it, to have some fun with it, isn't that their prerogative? Especially within this crazy genre we all love so much, in which sexuality plays such an undeniable role (hence the double meaning of the name "Pretty-Scary" itself)? But alas, these are questions that feminism itself has been struggling with for generations, and I have no illusions of being able to settle them here.

While my apology is sincere for those who have taken offense, I do not find the Ms. Horror Blogosphere competition to be sexist or demeaning. Nor do I find Pretty-Scary.net's Scary Stud of the Year competition to be sexist or demeaning. It's all in good fun, and helps bring attention to some talented individuals in the field.

The Scary Studs concept spotlights a different man in horror every month or so. At the end of the year, one of the men is selected as the "Scary Stud of the Year". The participants come from all areas of horror, and although mainly focusing on those directly involved in the movie business, there are occasionally others like Shock Till You Drop writer Ryan "Rotten" Turek, the October 2008 Scary Stud.

Turek's entry comes with photos, including this one, accompanied by the caption, "It's all the heavy axe-wielding that gives his shoulders their excellent tone and musculature."

Of Ryan, Heidi writes, "He’s super sexy and knows a bunch of stuff about horror films... Ryan proves that with a 'can do' attitude, any horror reporter can make the women swoon!... Whether he’s hosting a panel at a Fangoria Convention... or hanging out at local Los Angeles hot spots... he does it being Tall, Dark, and Handsome. Check out our awesome new Mr. October: Ryan Rotten Turek, who graces our site with his awesomely studly and genuinely enjoyable presence."

Ryan is asked questions like, "What is your sexiest quality? Describe in detail..."; "What's your workout routine? I.E. How did you get such nice arms?"; "People often speculate on your hair care activities. How long does it take you to do your hair, and in detail, can you describe for us what you do and any product you may use?"; "Say something totally nondescript and diplomatic about other major horror websites... with an underlying tension about how you really think your site is better than everyone else’s"; "When female horror fans see you, would you say there is more of a 'weeping' effect, or a 'screaming' effect because of how much they love you?" and "What's the sexiest thing a woman has ever done for you?" At the conclusion, she encourages readers to "Give Ryan some sugar, baby" at Shock Till You Drop, or his MySpace page.

Again, it's all in good fun, and it helps give some exposure to a talented online horror writer. I do not take offense at this or any of the other entries for Scary Stud of the Year. I can only hope that the Mr. Horror Blogosphere competition, should it take place, will be anywhere near as cool.

In closing, I'd like to hear what you fine folks think of all this. Was this whole thing a colossal misstep on the part of ol' B-Sol? Are you getting a kick out of discovering a bunch of great horror blogs, or getting sickened to your stomach? I sincerely hope it's the former, as that was all it was intended to accomplish. Making it a contest only adds to the interest and draws even more potential readers to these sites, which was the idea all along. I hope it continues to happen, and again apologize for any offense caused.

Boris Karloff's 10 Best Roles, Besides You-Know-Who

Astute Vault-Dwellers (I know you're out there) will note that I usually do top 10 lists on Tuesdays, not Thursdays. However, this is a special occasion--namely the Boris Karloff Blogathon, hosted by Pierre Fournier of Frankensteinia. And since I wasn't able to do it on Tuesday due to Ms. Horror Blogosphere duties (polls now open, by the way, please vote), I'm breaking the rules and doing a Thursday Top 10.

You're probably reading a lot of posts about Karloff's portrayal of the Frankenstein Monster in James Whale's 1931 masterpiece. And rightfully so, this being the week of Karloff's birthday, and that being his most deservedly famous movie role. It made his career, and stands as perhaps the single greatest pantomime performance in the history of cinema. Yet Karloff was a fine actor who did so much more in later years, and that is why I'm dedicating this list to the "best of the rest" of his legendary career...

10. Gruesome
For someone with his "unique" look, it was only natural for Karloff to play one of Dick Tracy's trademark rogue's gallery, which he finally did in Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome (1947)--the fourth and final of RKO's Dick Tracy movie series (and generally considered to be the best). While not one of his finest movies, it's notable for the novelty of Karloff as a comic strip villain.

9. Prof. Morlant
The Ghoul (1933) is often referred to as the film that kicked off the British horror film tradition, and what better way to do so than with Karloff as a vengeful Egyptologist back from the dead. Amongst a stellar cast including Cedric Harwicke, Ernest "Dr. Pretorius" Thesiger and a young Ralph Richardson, Boris still stands out.

8. Dr. Fu-Manchu
Politically correct, shmolitically shmorrect. Karloff shines as the devious Mandarin mastermind in The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932). Unlike Christopher Lee, who played the part several times in the 1960s for Hammer, this was Karloff's only appearance as the good doctor--Paramount's answer to the successful early 1930s MGM series starring Warner Oland.

7. Master George Sims
For the last of his Val Lewton trilogy, Bedlam (1946), Karloff plays the corrupt, sniveling director of the titular mental institution. By turns sadistic, manipulative and cowardly, he excels as the true highlight of one of Lewton's drier efforts. Plus, it's just very cool to see him stomping around in 18th century garb.

6. Dr. Gustav Niemann
The least known and appreciated of Karloff's parts for Universal's monster series, which is unfortunate. As the proverbial "mad scientist" in House of Frankenstein (1944), Karloff is deliciously evil, proving--more than a dozen years after kicking off the series in the role of the Monster--that he still had it. He also gets a kick-ass hunchback assistant in J. Carrol Naish.

5. The Grinch
You had to know it was coming, and no, this is not a mere sentimental favorite from childhood. Anyone who's seen Chuck Jones' immortal animated TV special How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966) can vouch for just how remarkable Karloff is as the voice of the green guy. So much so, that Jim Carrey hamfistedly aped him in the abysmal 2000 live action adaptation.

4. Hjalmar Poelzig
With a name like that, he better be good--and Karloff is much more than that in The Black Cat (1934) arguably the greatest of his team-ups with fellow monster legend Bela Lugosi. Boris plays a sinister Satan-worshipper (with a very rad haircut, I might add)--quite a daring part which would soon become dicier territory thanks to the rise of the Hays Committee.

3. Imhotep/Ardath Bay
Karloff's "other" great Universal monster role, and you might be surprised that it's not my number one here. As excellent as he is in the dual starring role of The Mummy (1932), I would argue that this particular Uni effort is one of the studio's more overrated. In particular, there are two other Karloff roles I personally prefer. And they are...

2. Jonathan Brewster
This one's kind of tricky. The unforgettable role was written for Karloff, who played it on Broadway in 1941 to rave reviews. Preferring to support the stage production, however, he declined to play the part in the film version. He did, however, play it in three different TV versions in 1949, 1955 and 1962. I love this character, and rank it high based on the legendary word-of-mouth regarding Karloff's performance. Had I been fortunate enough to see it live, I would have easily placed it at number one.

1. Cabman John Gray
Having said that, the role I do choose for number one is this one, from the first of his Lewton films, The Body Snatcher. As I elaborated in my recent review of the movie, Karloff is simply awe-inspiring as the menacing John Gray. But this is no two-dimensional villain part--rather, it's a complex and nuanced performance which Karloff digs into with great gusto. For my money, this is his finest hour outside of his iconic role as the Monster in the first three Frankenstein pictures. Simply puy, it is classic Karloff.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Ms. Horror Blogosphere 2009: Let the Voting Begin!!

After weeks of spotlighting the candidates, the time is finally here. Voting is now officially open for Ms. Horror Blogosphere! Please find the ballot containing all the nominees at the very top of the right-hand sidebar.

The voting period will be ten days, ending on Friday, December 4. Voters are limited to one vote apiece. The top five vote-getters will then advance to the next level of the contest. A new vote will then be held, lasting five days, after which the official winner of Ms. Horror Blogosphere 2009 will be announced.

For anyone who may be interested in directing voters to the poll from their own site, feel free to grab the official voting banner above the poll, and link it to The Vault of Horror (http://thevaultofhorror.net).

Also, I have an extra added incentive to announce. The winner of the contest not only gets bragging rights and the right to display the nifty Ms. Horror Blogosphere 2009 on her site--she will also get to choose an honest-to-goodnes prize. It will be her choice between the excellent coffee-table book Hammer Glamour, or the Max Brooks graphic novel The Zombie Survival Guide: Recorded Attacks.

Thanks again to all our very talented entrants, as well as to all you voters out there. Once again, here are the links to each of the nominated blogs are below. You can find the spotlight interview for each of the nominated bloggers by scrolling down to previous Vault posts...

Ms. Horror Blogosphere: Entry #21

Blogger: Jennifer Golden
Blog: Zombies Are Magic!

I'm a mild-mannered working girl (not that kind) from Palo Alto, California. I have loved horror since I was a little girl. My parents were horror fans, and I would throw a fit if they didn't let me watch whatever nasty VHS they had brought home for the weekend. I grew up on Hellraiser, Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, and any zombie film my parents could get their hands on. Being a class-A scaredy cat I also had numerous dreams about these monsters I grew up with, especially Romero's Zombies (hence the name of my blog: Zombies are Magic--because they are). Two discoveries let my inner horror geek blossom as an adult: Universal Monster Movies and the work of H.P. Lovecraft. Since then, I have started to embrace the monsters that once (and still do) haunt my dreams. When I grow up I want to be a horror writer, but for now I am content writing reviews for films like Cannibal Holocaust.

Are significant others generally freaked out or psyched by your horror proclivities?
My husband is very supportive, even though he doesn't care for horror himself. Others are more surprised than freaked out, probably because I look like a librarian.

Why is it that there seems to be more female horror fans than ever before? Are more women watching horror, or are more women admitting to watching horror?
Women have always loved horror, but now that more of us are "out of the closet" so to speak, we are letting our horror freak flags fly. Horror lets people experience emotions that we normally wouldn't. It's exciting, and for me that is the appeal.

How would you best describe your blog?

Is image more important for female horror bloggers than male? If so, why?
Only if you insist it be. I think it would be hard to tell if my blog was written by a man or woman if it wasn't for the cat pictures or constant apologies to my husband.

If you could have the baby of one figure in the world of horror, real or fictional, who would it be? Not including Bruce Campbell/Ash…
David Cronenberg, Clive Barker, Sam Raimi, Joe Hill, Neil Gaiman, Dr. Frankenstein as played by Colin Clive... Obviously I have never thought about this before....

Why do all of you like Campbell so much, anyway?
Pretty simple. It's the chin.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Ms. Horror Blogosphere: Entry #20

Blogger: Kitty LeClaw
Blog: Killer Kittens from Beyond the Grave

"A cat as black as blackest coal is out upon her midnight stroll. Her steps are soft, her walk is slow, her eyes are gold, they flash and glow. And so I run, and so I duck. I do not need her black-cat luck."
KKFBTG is a sexy scream dream of horror hotness, chock-full of tasteful T&A and gore, movies, comics, poetry and more... a juicy blog for anyone possessing a serious taste for all things pussy gato.

What initially drew you to the horror genre?
I love the feeling of being scared. The rush of adrenaline, the pounding of the heart, the quickening of the breath--all of these are sensations which I have a profound level of appreciation for. I have never been particularly sporty, so I guess I need to get the blood pumping, somehow! I've always loved watching scary movies, and devoured books on the paranormal when I probably should have been reading Nancy Drew novels. It came as a complete surprise to me that not everyone shared my affinity for the things that go "bump!" in the night. I always took great pride in being the sort of kid who could outlast all her friends in a late-night horror movie marathon.

Are significant others generally freaked out or psyched by your horror proclivities?
I tend to discriminate against people (significant others included) who aren't into horror, thus robbing them of the opportunity to discriminate against me because I am!
I guess you could say that I'm very "out" about my interests in the spooky stuff. My apartment is nowhere near child safe. It's not even parent safe! Oh, all the unholy things my poor, Catholic parents have to see when they come for a visit! I have found that it's not just my Mom and Dad who are a little freaked out by my horror sensibilities, but the general public, as well. The Repair Guy always has to make a rude comment before fixing the furnace...
As a rule, I don't think that guys really like it when a girl is scarier than they are. Draw your own conclusions.

What made you decide to blog?
I love writing, and I love horror, so joining the "Blogosfear" was a good, natural fit for me. It's definitely a step up from the horror/mystery novel I wrote out in longhand when I was 12! I churned out notebook after notebook of a scary story that I pretty much made up as I went along. A group of my friends were reading it as I wrote, so it was really great to get feedback while still in the writing/development process. In that respect, blogging is very similar. It's the readership and feedback that bloggers crave. Otherwise, we'd all just keep our own, private diaries.

Who is your biggest inspiration?
In terms of me becoming a depraved gore junkie, I have to give my parents full credit. Having no idea what they were getting themselves into, they fostered my love of horror from an early age. I vividly recall watching the movie CARRIE with my Mother, who thought it was strange that the jolting final scene didn't send me sobbing into her bosom. Over the next couple of weeks, she brought home all sorts of harrowing titles, in the hopes of achieving a "normal" reaction from her young daughter. By the time we watched THE EXORCIST, it was too late to turn back. I was hooked on horror.
(For the record, The Exorcist scared the living daylights out of me. I slept with a crucifix under my pillow for weeks, and couldn't look up at a second storey window without feeling like I was going to puke.)

How would you best describe your blog?
My blog's subheading is: "A kitten's perspective on horror in film, music, art and literature," and I think my blog provides precisely that--my perspective (meow!) Admittedly, I'm not keen enough to be hip to what's happening in horror headlines most of the time. For the most part, I think my blog is like an esoteric ride down a slightly more demonic version of Willy Wonka's chocolate river. I rarely plan posts in advance. I write 'em up as I watch 'em, and I call 'em as I see 'em.
I apologize to the English language for the final sentence of the above paragraph.

Bang, Marry or Kill: Freddy, Jason, Michael. Please explain your answer.
I'm only answering this question because it's a bona fide FREDDY VS. JASON-style trivia question! I'd bang Freddy, because viciously tormenting people through their dreams is HOT. I'd marry Jason, because, of the three of them, I think he has the softest heart. I would kill Michael Myers, because it's been a really long time since someone made a good HALLOWEEN movie, and it's a shame, because it was once a proud continuing saga.

Intrigued By Chemical 12-D? But It Now--One Week Only!

Several days ago, you may recall my review of the amazing little underground zombie short film Chemical 12-D, which I so blithely referred to as "Seven Minutes of Zombie Heaven". The flick screened a little over a week ago at the Zombie Outbreak festival in Chicago, and the buzz has been growing ever since. It's just now wrapping up a screening at the Tromadance festival in New Mexico.

And now, I've gotten word from the filmmaker, Mac Eldridge of Water Cooler Productions, that Chemical 12-D is on-sale beginning today on DVD, for just a one-week period. So if your interest was piqued by my review and you've been curious about seeing the movie for yourself, this is your chance. I've gotten lots of requests from people asking to find out how they can see it--well folks, now you can.

The DVD is being sold directly from the Water Cooler Productions website, so head over there if you're so inclined and support this very rare gem, a low-budget indy horror short that is actually very good and made at mainstream professional standards. Reportedly, the proceeds from the sale will be used to help fund the boys' next film--which sounds like a damn worthy cause to me.

Ms. Horror Blogosphere: Entry #19

Blogger: Monster Scholar
Blog: Monster Land

I’m an aspiring Ph.D. student in English with a penchant for monsters and horror films. I wanted to be Anne Baxter as Nefertiri in the Ten Commandments when I grew up, but when that didn’t work out I turned to studying literature. I teach composition to college freshmen, and in my spare time I watch horror movies, blog, lurk and write seminar papers.

What initially drew you to the horror genre?
I’ve always been drawn to monsters ever since I was little and Where the Wild Things Are was one of my favorite books as a child. I began identifying with monsters in high school when the rigor of social pressure made me feel like an outcast. It wasn’t until later that I realized monsters are powerful in their difference. No one can stop Frankenstein, and the Phantom of the Opera will have his revenge. Monsters and horror helped me to see my own difference as a strength, and it’s something that has empowered me ever since.

Are significant others generally freaked out or psyched by your horror proclivities?
I am blessed with a husband who gets me and supports my fanaticism for the genre. After we started dating, he took a class with me on monsters in literature, which earned him brownie points from the beginning. We have an agreement: If he watches horror movies with me, I’ll watch kung fu movies with him.

What made you decide to blog?
I was doing research for a bibliography paper on Frankenstein when I stumbled across Pierre Fournier’s blog Frankensteinia. Before then, I thought blogs were for lonely people who wanted to update the world on what their cat had coughed up that morning. It wasn’t until I saw Frankensteinia that I realized a blog could be a medium for something more serious than the vagaries of day-to-day human existence. I blog about horror because it forces me to watch horror films and have an opinion about them. Also, there are few horror blogs that look at the genre from a critical and/or academic standpoint. Some that come to mind are I Love Horror, The Gore Gore Girl and the Tomb of the Headless Werewolf. I saw a niche where I could contribute my own point of view, and jumped at the chance.

Who is your biggest inspiration?
My best friend Stacy. We met when I was a senior in high school and she was in college during a production of Major Barbara. We were backstage and she was reading a copy of Poppy Z. Brite’s Lost Souls. The director of the play took an interest, and asked to see what she was reading. Stacy handed over the book, calm as anything, at a time when I was ashamed to be seen reading Laurell K. Hamilton in public. The director was promptly horrified at the detailed description of some guy’s throat being torn out, to which Stacy replied nonchalantly “Yeah, they’re vampires. It’s what they do.” She was so fearless, and that inspired me to be out in the open about my love of monsters.

How would you best describe your blog?
My blog is a critical examination of monsters with a feminist slant. I am by no means a feminazi, but I can’t ignore how being a woman affects my reading of horror texts. I’m primarily interested in how monsters function as an expression of society’s fears. Horror is a unique genre, because it embodies a return of what is consciously repressed in mainstream culture, from the sci-fi horror films of the 1950’s that represent fears of communism during the Red Scare, to the horrors of Vietnam represented in the monstrous family of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Bang, Marry or Kill: Freddy, Jason, Michael. Please explain your answer.
I would have to marry Freddy because he has the most personality of the bunch. I appreciate his flair for the theatrical, and I could see myself having long conversations with him about Freud and the meaning of dreams. I would kill Jason because he’s been brought back from the dead one too many times and he has mommy issues. That leaves Michael. He’s the strong silent type, and I think I could help him overcome his psycho-sexual issues with a little sexual healing.

Ms. Horror Blogosphere: Entry #18

Blogger: Tara Judah
Blog: Midnight Movie Reviews

I'm a film librarian at 20th Century Flicks in Bristol, UK and also a columnist (known as Videodrone) for DVD Snapshot, as well as a reviewer for The 405. I holds a BA in English Literature & Language with Film Studies, and a Masters degree in Contemporary Cinema Cultures (both from King's College London). Prior to entering the world of academia, I tried my hand at acting and have appeared in a small number of shorts, features and television.
- Photo (c) Kelly Humphries -

What initially drew you to the horror genre? Though this may sound strange, it probably begins with gangster films. As a child I wasn't allowed to watch horror films and, as a direct result of my parents' paranoia, was too scared to watch them with my friends at sleepover parties. But as my love for film grew, I developed a small passion for American gangster films. After a while I decided that if I could enjoy watching that level of violence in the gangster genre without compromising my ability to disavow, then horror really couldn't be all too different.

Are significant others generally freaked out or psyched by your horror proclivities? No, I don't think so. I'm of the opinion that viewing is an active cognitive process, and as my significant other knows, it doesn't necessarily mean that I'm personally interested in acting out any of the things I take pleasure in watching.

Why is it that there seems to be more female horror fans than ever before? Are more women watching horror, or are more women admitting to watching horror?
I don't actually think that it's specific to women. I think the overarching change is that the horror genre is enjoying a revival right now. Horror has a strange and complex history, and there have certainly been times when horror fit into a cult cinema category. But as the mainstream broadens its conditions and envelops much of what once was cult, people feel more at ease in enjoying, or perhaps just admitting to enjoying, what it has to offer. Similarly, as genres change and adapt to their audiences over time, crossing into genre hybridity, as we see with the emergence of many horror/comedies, horror/thrillers, horror/dramas and so on, it is only natural that horror would enjoy a wider and more popular reception--though I do think this is relevant to both male and female viewers.

What made you decide to blog? I was so enraged when I saw Danny Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire at the cinema earlier this year that I felt the need to write it down. I had a lot of time on my hands, so I thought I might as well start up a blog and see what happened with it.

How does it feel to be a female horror blogger in a world where it seems necessary to have a beard to write about horror movies? Do you find that you’re not taken as seriously? I have no interest in writing for people who are concerned about my gender, or any other personal identity politics, for that matter. Assessment of written material should always be based on that which is written first and foremost, so if people don't take me seriously because of my genitals or lack of facial hair, then I can't say I'd be interested in how they might respond to my work anyway.

Is image more important for female horror bloggers than male? If so, why? I don't think image is at all an important factor in blogging, though I imagine a great deal of other people do. Personally, I think the content is what matters.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Ms. Horror Blogosphere: Entry #17

Blogger: Ms. Harker
Blog: Musings Across a Continuum

Who is Ms Harker? By day a professional bleeding heart, by night (and lets face it, that's the only time that counts) a blooming blogger and horror enthusiast. How did this come to be? I have my Dad to thank for my macabre leanings. We used to sit up at night and watch Twin Peaks together. He indulged my love for all things Palmer, buying me Laura's diary and the soundtrack. We had running jokes about the owls not being what they seem! He convinced me one night--I think I was about fourteen--to stay up with him to watch the Exorcist. And although I barely slept for a week afterwards, I had caught the horror bug. From there, I devoured the Anne Rice books and sought out vampires and ghosts where I could find them. However, I do have a particular weakness for Asian horror, and of course those of the fanged persuasion, as long as they don't god damn sparkle in the sunlight!

What initially drew you to the horror genre?
It was a combination of David Lynch and Anne Rice. I was fascinated by Lynch's ability to highlight the obscurity of daily life but also explore the darkness and sensuality of the 'other' and of evil. Anne Rice's novels introduced me to the more gothic, supernatural side of horror. Although not as hardcore as, say, your Stephen Kings and Clive Barkers of the literary genre, the lure of the supernatural and the dynamics of Rice's characters and their covens are responsible for my being the fangbanger I am today!

Why is it that there seems to be more female horror fans than ever before? Are more women watching horror, or are more women admitting to watching horror?
Interesting question. I could get all hairy legged feminist on you (by the way, I wax regularly) and say that women are increasingly doing a lot of things that are not typically seen as 'female' roles due to breaking through a variety of glass ceilings, shredding our heads in the process and emerging in bloody glory, pieces of skull showing, shaking off the penile oppression we have suffered for years. But I won't. I have many female friends who have enjoyed horror from an early age and still do. Perhaps it's a generational thing. Maybe its the phenomenon of blogging that has allowed women to have a voice on what has typically been a male domain. You have to admit that production companies are onto it--things like Twilight (disgustingly), The Vampire Diaries and True Blood are not pitched at the fellas!

Who is your biggest inspiration?
If we are talking graphic novels, it would have to be fellow Aussie Ben Templesmith. If we are talking writing, I still have a huge respect for Anne Rice despite her going into the light, shall we say. However, the obvious legend of all things fanged is Bram Stoker's Dracula, of which I have one normal copy and one illustrated by the aforementioned Ben Templesmith! With films, it's a tie between David Lynch and Tim Burton. All have created images and worlds of darkness, of the obscure or the supernatural; all in ways that have influenced what I read, watch and even how I write.

How would you best describe your blog?
My blog looks at whatever tickles my fancy or has me reaching for my smelling salts in the horror genre. It has at times a little bit of sass, a little bit of raunch, and sometimes it bites. Its a horror blog with a little bit of slap and tickle!

Is image more important for female horror bloggers than male? If so, why?
I think it is. However, if you don't have the content, the horror knowledge and a well rounded argument to back up that ample bosom (placed in a tightly strung corset), then no matter how good your rack is, I don't think the horror community will pay attention for long. Sex and horror have always been intertwined, so I don't feel any need to justify the use of feminine wiles or sensuality, and would welcome those bloggers of the male gender to do the same, as long as it's done tastefully and with class. Maybe trim the beard though... a little man-scaping never hurt anyone did it?

If you could have the baby of one figure in the world of horror, real or fictional, who would it be?
See, now this is a conundrum. I think there are two figures I would be caught between, or would like to be caught between--Johnny Depp and Eric Northman.
Even writing that, I need to take a minute!
However, I don't really want a half-ling baby, so it would have to be Johnny Depp. Handsome, suave and a bit of a kook, what's not to like?

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