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

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Monday, May 30, 2011

Random Ramblings from the Vault...

  • So, apparently Tom Savini is returning to makeup duties after years of pretending to be a movie star, lending his considerable skills to the upcoming Australian horror flick Mary Doe. While that's an amazing coup for the Aussies, will someone please tell me why George Romero couldn't coax him to do the same? It certainly would've saved us from the horrendous CGI of the last three Living Dead films...
  • True Blood Season 4 is fast approaching, which means it's time for ol' B-Sol to renew his HBO subscription. Don't get me wrong, it's fun going over my parents' to watch the highly addictive Game of Thrones, but I need to be settled into my own comfy couch for the further adventures of Sookie and Bill. Witches this season, too? Bring it on.
  • The sequel to Piranha 3D--brilliantly titled Piranha 3DD--is reportedly going to be far more "over the top" than its predecessor. Because of course, that film was the picture of restraint. One can only imagine what will be unleashed come November. I, for one, had a blast with the first one, so I'm sure I'll be there, hands partially covering my eyes like last time...
  • I finally caught Let Me In, Matt Reeves' American adaptation of the Swedish novel Let the Right One In, previously adapted by Tomas Alfredson in 2008. The original is very near to my heart, but that did not prevent me from enjoying this new version. It's more horror-based, which also means it lacked some of the emotional gravitas of the superior Swedish version. And while a well-made film, I could not shake the notion that it was completely unnecessary, from an artistic standpoint.
  • Is there anything more delightful than sharing the wonders of The Abominable Dr. Phibes with someone who's never seen it before? I think not.
  • What is it about Lucio Fulci's films that continue to draw me in and make me defend them to those who just don't understand his greatness? Granted, he was no Dario Argento (when Argento was at his best, at least), but I do feel he was a far better filmmaker than he generally gets credit for.
  • It's not entirely horror, but I'd like to pass along the name of a pretty nifty little sci-fi thriller I'm reading at the moment--Hunter's Run by George R.R. Martin (of Game of Thrones fame), Gardner Dozois & Daniel Abraham. I'm about one third of the way through this gripping little page-turner, in which the human race, attempting to branch out to other worlds, finds itself ghetto-ized by the far more advanced species already out there. Good stuff.
  • I've asked this question before, but it bears repeating: Who is our top modern-day horror movie icon? Past generations had the likes of Lon Chaney, Boris Karloff and Vincent Price. Who, in your humble opinion, dear readers, do we have now?
  • Still not sure how I feel about this whole Toho Godzilla reboot for next year. A CGI 'Zilla? Doesn't that make Toho into hypocrites, after (rightfully) ridiculing the American version in Godzilla: Final Wars?
  • For those who don't already know, the Avon Theatre in Stamford, CT is the place to go for some amazing old school horror cinema on the big screen. It's been a distinct pleasure to host their Cult Classics series along with Captain Cruella, and we will be returning for the following engagements: John Carpenter's Halloween (June 16), Alligator (July 7), It Came from Outer Space - IN 3D! (July 21), David Cronenberg's Rabid (August 4; to be shown as a double-feature with another top-secret Marilyn Chambers movie. Do the math.), and Troll 2 (August 11). See you there!

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Vault of Horror Commemorates the Vincent Price Centennial!

It would be an understatement to say that Vincent Price helped shape my development as a horror fan. Rather, for me, as for so many fans of the genre, Vincent Price epitomized horror. He was the genre. No other personality before or since (and that is not to say there have not been many great ones) has so perfectly captured the essence of horror as Price, combining genuine terror with outrageous fun at every turn. A true original, his work continues to inspire us, and today we remember it in particular because he would have been 100 years old.

Price was born 100 years ago today in St. Louis, Missouri, and the world is certainly a better place for that occurrence. He has enriched us, entertained us and delighted us, and I thank him for it from the bottom of my heart. In honor of this momentous day, please enjoy the little Price pastiche I've put together below, consisting of links to some of the many Vincent-related posts the Vault has featured over the years. You can also check out Brutal as Hell for some stupendous coverage...

The Tuesday Top 10: Favorite Vincent Price Roles - From The Tingler to The Brady Bunch, and all points in between!

The Many Faces of Vincent Price - A visual tribute. Egghead included!

The Many Faces of Vincent Price, Vol. 2 - More amazing Price shots...

Vincent Price Day: Sweet Dreams - A fantastic fan tribute video I posted on the anniversary of Mr. Price's death.

Trailer Trash: Vincent Price Edition - Clips for The Invisible Man Returns, House of Wax, Dr. Phibes and much more!

Retro Review: House on Haunted Hill (1959) - The legend at his campy best. Remake be damned.

Retro Review: Theater of Blood - My absolute favorite Price film. Well, maybe tied with Phibes...

Retro Review: The Last Man on Earth - The finest adaptation of Matheson's I Am Legend, in my humble opinion...

The Priceless Vincent Price - Another most excellent Price fan video...

Monday, May 23, 2011

TRAILER TRASH! Robert Quarry Edition...

Saturday, May 21, 2011

A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 4, as Reviewed by a 13-Year-Old B-Sol

Once a writer, always a writer, I suppose. That's the conclusion I've come to after having gone through piles and piles of stuff that had been previously cluttering my basement for years, and coming across a mother lode of scribblings from my youth. Not only was it proof positive that the writing bug had bitten me very early in my existence, but I also found further proof that my fixation on horror is certainly nothing new.

Case in point: Printed out in dot matrix fashion from my Commodore 64, I found a homemade "movie magazine" entitled "CINEMAG"--created by yours truly in the summer of 1988, at the tender age of 13. Even then, I was driven to share my opinions on motion pictures in printed form--go figure. To scan through the pages of CINEMAG (there was only one issue ever made) is to peer into the adolescent mind of a developing cinephile, with articles on Tucker: A Man and His Dream, A Fish Called Wanda, Young Guns and Clean and Sober.

But what caught my attention in particular was my review of A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 4: The Dream Master. NOES 4 was the first R-rated flick I had ever seen in a movie theater, and one of my earliest experiences with modern horror. I can remember having very well-defined opinions on it, and it was quite something to find those opinions preserved in this way. It inspired me to share those opinions with you--and so, without further ado, I bring you the transcript of that very article, taken from the stapled pages of CINEMAG...

A Nightmare on Elm Street 4 - Are You Ready for Freddy?

He has been the most commonly known movie monster since Dracula. A classic cult figure since he first appeared on the screen almost a half decade ago. He is the villain of three high-budget horror films, the fourth of the series just released. The character is Freddy Krueger. The movie series--A Nightmare on Elm Street.

When one thinks of a slasher film, one thinks of a low-budget, blood and guts, no-plot, piece of garbage film, as the Friday the 13th series has proven [Ed. note: Even then, I hated Friday the 13th!]. But one notices a definite difference in these films. First of all, these films are considered by most to be genuinely scary, and not just bloodfests. They even border on the realm of science fiction, for the special effects are highly acclaimed. Overall the past three (the original, Freddy's Revenge, and Dream Warriors) got pretty satisfactory reviews from major critics. And the public obviously likes them, for they have a combined gross of close to $200 million.

But most horror film series have a tendency to become repetitious after a while. Can this happen even with such a successful series as Elm Street, especially upon the current release of the latest episode, A Nightmare on Elm Street: The Dream Master? One redeeming factor is the fact that the special effects become more common and more spectacular in each film, since Freddy becomes more powerful with the more children he kills. I mean, in the beginning, the extent of his powers would be to pull someone into a bed, where now he actually turns a kid into a roach (upon trapping her in a roach motel, he sneers, "You can check in, but you can't check out!") The acing, as usual, is far from top-notch, so we may see Freddy as a movie critic back from the grave for revenge. Most critics share my view that the series is becoming tiresome, and the suspense and fear element is almost completely gone in this film, giving way to pure gore.

This movie, though, is presently the number-one movie in America, but this is almost certainly because of the popularity of the last three films, and so it may not be top for very long.

Personally, though, having seen the film, I see it simply as a rush job made to tie up any loose ends presented in the last sequel. But you don't have to take mine or anybody's word for it--go to the theater, buy some popcorn, cuddle up to your girlfriend, and get ready for Freddy...

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Retro Review: Maniac (1980)

One of the very best things to come out of this whole Vault of Horror experience has been the opportunity to host films at the historic Avon Theatre in Stamford, Connecticut. I've been doing it since last fall along with the amazing Captain Cruella, and even though the good Captain could not be with me last week, I'd have to say that it turned out to be one of the most fascinating Avon experiences of them all.

The reason I say this is that it was my first chance to see William Lustig's grindhouse classic Maniac, starring one of my favorite character actors, Joe Spinell. I had come very close to seeing it a couple of years ago at a special screening at the Tribeca Film Festival, but meeting up with fellow blogger extraordinaire Tenebrous Kate and her Baron for drinks beforehand resulted in a whole lot of drinks, and very little moviegoing...

And so, I was quite intrigued to find that the Avon was going to be showing it, and jumped at the opportunity to be a part of it. Especially since this would be more than a simple screening--rather, director/producer William Lustig himself would be present, and would be participating in a post-film Q&A. It truly was an honor to stand on the same stage as Mr. Lustig, and to join with my felow horror geeks--such as the one and only Chris Alo (pictured, left), impresario behind the Hudson Horror Film Festival--to take in a true exploitation "classic", if that word can really be appropriately applied here.

It was quite ironic to meet a man like Lustig; so pleasant, clearly full of a zest for life and quick to joke (he was surprised to learn I was the guy behind the Vault of Horror, since I "looked like a banker")--and then sit down and pay witness to such a grim cinematic exhibition as Maniac truly is. To call it a finely made film might be a stretch, but it certainly was a gripping experience, and one that I'm very pleased I sought out.

One of my favorite aspects of Maniac is the time and setting. As a native New Yorker who grew up during the Koch years, I remain fixated on the era of New York in the 1970s and early 1980s--such a different time than now, when Manhattan was a much more lurid, and downright scary place, filled with crime, and every depravity imaginable. A far cry from the Disney-fied NYC of today, it's a city that comes to life in Maniac, warts and all. It might be paradoxical to wax nostalgic for this era, but I do--and I can tell that Lustig does, as well.

Through the lens of Lustig's cinematographer Robert Lindsay, Manhattan is presented in a perpetually grimy, sleazy, grainy haze. This is the era of Son of Sam and hookers on every corner. This is the world through which Spinell's Frank Zito wanders, stalking beautiful women on a rampage of wanton destruction.

In the main role, Spinell is a veritable tour-de-force, and no, I don't find this to be an exaggeration. With a career filled with memorable roles as the asthmatic bookie Mr. Gazzo in Rocky, the shady Willi Cicci in The Godfather ("The family had a lotta buffers..."), and the dispatcher in Scorsese's Taxi Driver, this one stands out without question as the defining moment. Exploitation film or not, this is a performance that is quite literally worthy of an Oscar nomination, and one of which Spinell was rightfully proud.

Portraying the murderous Zito as a classic Freudian disaster, Spinell is at times chilling, at times darkly humorous, and always effective. The actor breathes such life into him, that we feel we are getting a glimpse into the world of a real-life serial killer. The script, co-written by Spinell and collaborator C.A. Rosenberg, presents Zito as a psychologically ravaged human being, part Norman Bates, part giallo-style slasher, part Berkowitz--a killer with a shocking level of depth. And the film, told from his perspective, becomes a dark journey into the depths of the human mind.

The lovely Caroline Munro shows up as Zito's highly unlikely love interest Anna, a photographer who represents for him the ultimate, unattainable image of femininity--the closest embodiment he has yet found of his long-gone mother--the woman whose perceived neglect and abuse set the young Frank on the path to his misogynistic killing spree. There's a lot of Hitchcockian influence to be felt in her presence in the film, as well as in her interactions with Spinell. As Lustig himself said during the Q&A, Hitchcock influenced every filmmaker who came after him--and even though Lustig may not be someone typically mentioned in the same breath as Hitch, the pronounced influence is there, nonetheless.

The production may have been notoriously shoe-string (made for under $100,000), but that only adds to the film's effectiveness. Lindsay, along with production manager Andrew W. Garroni, join forces to provide Lustig with settings that are often jarringly lit, and a climactic cemetery scene is so filled with fog as to be almost a parody. These over-the-top aspects make Maniac a delirious fever dream of a film, as does the gruesome makeup effects work of Tom Savini and Rob Bottin.

Those two men--the former fresh off Friday the 13th and the latter poised to begin work on John Carpenter's The Thing--drench this picture in blood and guts, ensuring that the MPAA would have much to gripe about. And even though an R-rated cut was made, this was the glorious unrated version that once unspooled in grindhouse dives all across America--including the Avon itself, during a previous lifetime.

As for the Q&A, it had to be one of the finest Avon Q&As I've ever been a part of. Lustig was gracious and genuinely engaged, answering every question that was posed to him both by the audience and Adam Birnbaum, the Avon's Director of Programming. No topic was off-limits, and Lustig was more than willing to take the viewers all the way inside the filmmaking process, sharing anecdotes and technical secrets without hesitation. Here's just a brief taste of the highly engaging session:

Maniac is a standout example of the B-grade exploitation cinema of a time in movie history which is long gone, and will not be coming back any time soon. In today's era of glossy, safe horror, it is a seedy blast of stale subway air, and I mean that in the most complimentary way possible. I cannot believe it took me this long to discover it, but I'm glad I did. And if you're an aficionado of grindhouse cinema, than William Lustig's Maniac is without question something well worth experiencing.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Many Faces of King Kong

Friday, May 13, 2011

In Honor of Friday the 13th--JASON GOES SHOPPING!

Happy Friday the 13th, Vault dwellers. I've never been very superstitious, so I've never really attached bad luck to it. As a matter of fact, it's a day close to my heart, because I was actually born on one. I know, not much of a shock there. Anyway, in recognition of the day, please enjoy this marvelous fan film by Sean Dillin, featuring a certain Mr. Voorhees.

You know, I think I may have actually been behind the big guy at the Stop 'n Shop checkout a time or two...

Saturday, May 7, 2011


Aliens. Pumpkinhead. Near Dark. Millennium. The list goes on and and on. Lance Henriksen is a legend whose work has inspired me since I was a child. And last night, I got to interview him. In a career filled with celebrity interviews, I have to honestly say that this was one of the absolute biggest for me. A fanboy moment, if you will.

With today being the conclusion of the epic Lance Henriksen Blogathon hosted by John Kenneth Muir, what better time to unleash this, perhaps the proudest moment in Vault of Horror history? I'm very excited to present the VoH Lance Henriksen interview, in honor of the publication of his new autobiography, Not Bad for a Human, co-authored by Joe Maddrey.

You may listen on the embedded player below, or proceed to the Vaultcast page and download it for listening at your leisure!

Check out my review of NOT BAD FOR A HUMAN over at Fangoria.com...
From the Vault Archives! The Many Faces of Lance Henriksen...

Special thanks to Rebecca Feldbin of Nancy Iannios Public Relations for helping to make this interview possible.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Chiller Theatre Strikes Again!

Those of you who have been following my exploits here in The Vault of Horror for some years now have come to expect my (somewhat) annual report from Chiller Theatre, the Northeast's premier horror/genre convention. And I'm proud to say that I made it once again this year, progeny in tow as usual, prepared to bestow upon them all the wonders of geek culture. And this time we really outdid ourselves, because we were joined by the other half of the Terror Team, the one and only Captain Cruella of the Carnivorous Cadavers!

So there we were, the Terror Team along with Zombelina and Skeleton Jack (a.k.a. Wee-Sol), taking in what had to be the best thing happening in Parsippany, New Jersey on this particular day. Getting into the spirit as always, Zombelina was resplendent in Bride of Frankenstein white streaks. The boy simply had to get in on the act as well, and a quick on-site makeup job made him such a dead ringer for Zacherley that when we once again crossed paths with the Cool Ghoul himself, he couldn't help but be impressed and bestow a free autographed pic (not to mention agree to an interview--but more on that later, dear Vault dwellers...)

As for the Captain--well, it's not every day that one gets to attend a horror convention with a real-life zombie. As we plastered the place with VoH cards and took in all the sights, Cruella became one of the sights all to herself, attracting the usual attention and adoration with her unique, undead regalia.

Just as it is every year, Chiller was jam-packed with the kind of celebrities that make the average fanboy quiver with anticipation. So, of course, it was no surprise that we would run into the likes of Susan "Cindy Brady" Olsen and Butch "Eddie Munster" Patrick. However, imagine my shock and bliss when the Captain stopped and pointed out to me that none other than Ernest Borgnine, one of Hollywood's greatest living legends, was seated just a few feet away. Now I'm not one to lose it for just anyone, but this was indeed a treat--to meet the man who won an Oscar for Marty, starred alongside Sinatra in From Here to Eternity and survived The Poseidon Adventure. Not to mention, as I pointed out to the kiddies, is the voice of Mermaid Man on Spongebob Squarepants.

But in terms of photo opps, it got no cooler than P.J. Soles, my very favorite slasher movie victim of all time. We all took turns having our picture taken with this unforgettable scream queen, who once met her bitter end at the hands of Michael Myers in the original Halloween.

And of course, Chiller would be nothing without oceans of wondrous stuff on display, to tempt the hearts and empty the wallets of the faithful. This year, we walked away with a complete DVD collection of the ultra-rare Tales from the Cryptkeeper animated series (I didn't even know the show existed), as well as a vintage (OK, vintage reprint) issue of The Vault of Horror comic book--picked out by Zombelina herself (what can I say, she's proud of the old man.)

We all enjoyed a leisurely outdoor lunch, as the little ones took turns reading macabre stories from our VoH comic book. After the Captain and I did a little networking with artists and other creative types, and we enjoyed a few other celeb run-ins (Jack took pleasure in scowling at the evil Johnny from The Karate Kid), it soon became clear that the spawn were hitting the wall and it was time to make an exit.

But it didn't end there, because thanks to the resourcefulness and sense of adventure of my zombified counterpart, we soon found ourselves continuing the excursion in a most appropriate place--the supposedly haunted Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, situated about halfway between Chiller and Vault headquarters in idyllic Connecticut. Slipping in just before the gates closed, we wandered the graves with fascination, and even managed to stumble upon (well not literally, that would be disrespectful) the grave stone of Samuel Gompers, noted founder of the American Federation of Labor, and hero to the working class.

All in all, our Sleepy Hollow stopover was a perfect capper to the annual Chiller Theatre outing. And as always, it is one of the unique joys of my life to pass along all the nerdy goodness to my children, just as my parents did with me. This year, that experience was made even more thrilling by being able to share it with my lovely consort. It marked the first time that the Terror Team took Chiller Theatre by storm, and I look forward to many more such incursions to come.

Chiller will be returning in October, and we will certainly be making our best efforts to make it once again, or at least to return by next year's spring installment. I've been coming now for over a decade, and I've been privileged to share it with those special to me. It's a must-have experience for any genre fan, and even if it's gotten just a little smaller and maybe not quite as grandiose as in previous years, it still remains a pilgrimage that any Northeast horror fan worth his or her salt must make.

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