Mother’s Day (1980)

October 24, 2016

I love my mother. I have been on record stating that before and I do not think is a very controversial statement. I think most people love their mother even if they do not actually like their mother as well. I not only like and love my mother but I trust her. Thankfully, she never abused that trust as I grew up and never told me to do things that I should not. However, there are plenty of people who grow up without learning right from wrong. Their parents, if they were present, plant hate in their hearts instead of love and they grow up trusting that hate more than human kindness. If they were born with empathy, it can be dulled by being taught that only your family’s feelings matter. I have met these people who feel they are right no matter what and even if they were wrong, they still would hurt people. This is a scary notion to think that just down the block or even over your neighbor’s fence, there are people who just do not care. The worst thing is, you cannot spot these people by sight alone.

This movie is written and directed by Charles Kaufman but it is not the Charles Kaufman who wrote Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Adaptation. Instead, this Kaufman is the brother of Lloyd Kaufman who founded Troma Entertainment. You might remember Troma from the Toxic Avenger movies and Cannibal: The Musical. If you are familiar, you know that Troma is one of the most tasteless yet strangely popular film studios in history. Today’s selection is an exploitation film. This means that the violence and gore are usually increased a lot. This movie also has quite a bit of rape in it. Obviously, rape is an unforgivable act and the people who commit it in the movie are evil. They also kill a lot of people. I thought long and hard about including this review but I decided that if I can watch Law and Order: SVU, I can watch this. If you want to refrain from watching this movie or reading this review you would be in good company. Roger Ebert gave this movie zero stars.

As the IMDB description says, this movie is about an elderly mother who raises her two sons to kill. The movie is set at the dawn of the eighties when disco was dying buy cocaine was still on the rise. Thankfully we get a rest from teenagers and college kids as the usual targets of horror movies, especially in the Eighties. Instead, the killers are after women who are at least in their late twenties if not mid-thirties. It also takes place in one of the nicer areas of New Jersey although they definitely make sure to highlight a lot of the crummy parts. They use a lot of fictional place names but some of the areas are definitely familiar or similar enough to the area I lived out in the middle of nowhere in Jersey. The main characters are kind of stupid. Like the grown up characters in It, they have not grown up much. There is a lot of bad Eighties humor and slapstick leading up to the violence.

This movie uses a lot of popular horror movie tropes in it. It has your spooky synth music to mimic Halloween and Friday the 13th. It has the old man warning the victims before they head into danger. It has the tight group of friends who like to play pranks on each other. It has the jumpscares that lead to nothing, jangling your nerves so that you are already unsettled when the bad stuff starts. It has a lot of naked female breasts. It has masked killers and killers with mutated faces. It has vulnerable people out in the wood away from any possible help. All of these familiar elements are both played straight and parodied. There are plenty of moments played for comedy even after the crap hits the fan. The same comic timing is applied to the horror elements but it is not funny. It is all the more terrifying that these people are having a really good time.

Overall, it is not a great movie. However, I think it was worth watching. The rape scenes were mercifully short considering movies like I Spit on Your Grave and Last House on the Left. That does not make them any less disgusting or horrible. The movie is supposed to be scary and awful and it definitely succeeds at that. The actors playing the villains are actually pretty good and terrifying. The titular mother is especially unnerving with her horrible smile and cheery demeanor. The movie is cheap and dirty and that serves it well in some places but not in others. By trying to parody horror movies, it falls into similar traps but there are some new bits that I did not expect. The movie did succeed in its mission as a horror movie and it did provide scares and horror. I would recommend it but only to horror connoisseurs with strong stomachs.

Top 11 Favorite Horror Villains

October 22, 2016

The following villains are my favorite horror villains mostly from film franchises. There are three that were also in books and one that was also in a play. These guys are my favorite villains and, on a sidenote, I wish there was more than one woman on the list. However, instead of talking about them generally, I wanted to talk about their motivations and how I identify with them somewhat. No matter what I say, I cannot condone or excuse anything these characters did. You should not respond to personal tragedy with violence or supernatural terror.

11 Jack Torrance

Jack is a great example of how the human mind can break if you apply enough of the right kind of pressure. He is arguably one of the most sympathetic characters on this list while still being incredibly sadistic and violent. He is a writer who just wanted to get some work done before his inner demons came out to play. It is hard to fight against that anger and resentment inside even if it is for the sake of people you love. When you lose yourself, anything can happen in the midst of that rage. Added to that, he was being egged on by a vortex of murderous ghosts. I definitely understand how powerful that anger is.

10 Hannibal Lecter

Lecter was a cannibal and a serial killer and you really can’t get past that. However, Dr. Lecter was also incredibly intelligent and had a personal code of honor he adhered to. More often than not, the people he killed or maimed were rude or jerks. They were assholes. Dr. Lecter had a clear picture in his head of what a good, useful person is. Personally, I can’t stand a bully. I would never kill or even physically harm anyone, though. I definitely have a lot of things that people can do that cause me to instantly lose respect for them. I wish a lot of the people who commit these things could disappear from my world but I would never actually act on that.

9 The Woman in Black

Regrettably, she is the only woman on this list and she might just have the saddest story of anybody here. She was not always a homicidal ghost. She was once a trying to get back to her baby when she drowned in the swampy land within a stone’s throw of her child. Now, anyone who sees her loses their child to the Grim Reaper’s bony hands usually by some impossible accident. It is horrible to feel cheated. That feeling gets even worse if being cheated hurts both you and your loved ones. You just want to burn the world down for daring to be so unfair. It is hard to accept the bad places we are put in.

8 Jason

When you take away all of the dead teenagers, Jason is hard not to feel sympathy for. He feels slighted for dying while those who were responsible for his safety neglected him. He wants revenge for this slight but cannot really go to a lawyer and file a wrongful death suit. Eventually, he just doesn’t want people in his territory and yet they keep invading his space over and over despite the danger. On top of all of that, they killed his mother. Sure she was murdering teenagers but you just don’t kill a guy’s mother. Really, he combines the motivations of Dr. Phibes and Jerry Dandridge strangely enough.

7 Pennywise

While Pennywise is probably the least scary clown in the history of horror clowns, I still like him. Pennywise is a great example of turning symbols of childhood into symbols of hate and fear. Pennywise just does not like kids. I often feel uncomfortable around children and sometimes I joke that I ‘hate’ children but they’re alright in small doses. Still, as uncomfortable as I can be around them, I really like some of the stuff that kids like. It is kind of a weird feeling sometimes to like all ages material but not really get along with all ages. Of course, Pennywise hates adults too so maybe we are pretty much alike.

6 The Leprechaun

The Leprechaun is a happy little fellow who lived with anger issues in Ireland. The trouble starts and the whole franchise is pretty much put into motion by people taking his gold. Unfortunately, he does not call the authorities to track down his stolen property and instead decides to kill for it. Unfortunately, I understand that impulse. I am fiercely territorial when it comes to my property. I get really upset when people enter my bedroom without asking. I get antsy when people handle my phone or go near my car. So I understand that impulse to get people away from my stuff. I do not believe that violence is the answer, though.

5 Dr. Anton Phibes

Phibes was undoubtedly a very smart person who suffered a horrible tragedy. He loved his wife and only wanted to hurt the people who had hurt her. I can understand that instinct. I don’t like it when people hurt me but I really don’t like when people hurt the ones I love. It can be too easy to lash out to protect or avenge the people you love even if it won’t actually help you. I don’t actually take action against those perpetrators but I find it nearly impossible to forgive. It is really hard to let go of that anger because letting it go feels like somebody is getting away with something.

4 Jerry Dandridge

He is possibly the most Eighties-tastic horror villain in film history. Jerry Dandridge moves into a peaceful Iowan suburb. He’s got a great big house, great furnishings and his buddy Billy Cole who lives with him. The only problem is that Jerry is a vampire and Billy is a… something else. They are killing people but they are really discreet about it. As far as we knew, he did not want to rule the world or anything. They just wanted to be left alone to do their own thing. While Jerry was indeed evil, I can definitely identify with that hunger for privacy. Thankfully, I do not also share his hunger for blood. I think a lot of us just want to be left alone.  I also wish I was as smooth and confident as Jerry Dandridge and of course I am talking about Chris Sarandon.

3 Evil Ash

In the entirety of the Evil Dead franchise, it is hard to pinpoint many actual villains with names and faces but the biggest one is Evil Ash. Evil Ash, for lack of a better name, is born two different times during the franchise when Deadite magic gets into Ash’s body. He literally splits from Ash’s body like an amoeba and looks and sounds just like him. He is a fairly intelligent deadite (undead) creature. Really, when he is born, he is stuck on the side of the Evil Dead. As with all deadites (except Sam), Evil Ash is immediately drafted into the dark side and is tasked with fighting for the Deadite army. Throughout his appearances, he is only playing the cards he is dealt. To a certain extent, it is hard to blame him for being evil since that is the way he was made. He has all of Ash’s positive and negative qualities, he just ends up on the wrong side of the fight.

2 Chucky aka Charles Lee Ray

Sometimes, I think that Charles Lee Ray is my spirit animal. By that, I don’t mean that I am confessing to being a killer doll who dabbles in voodoo and wisecracks. Well, I do like a good wisecrack. What I mean is that I think Chucky and I might share a similar trait in our brain chemistry. I was born with Attention Deficit Disorder and I think Chucky has it too. He has a lot of the symptoms, at least. During the Child’s Play films Chucky usually has one goal and that is to transfer his soul into a human body. Sure, he makes a lot of assumptions about how or why he can do that but it is still his stated goal. However, he is constantly diverting from his task to kill somebody else. Hell, in Child’s Play 2 he takes the time to murder a non-sentient doll and then buries it. He has a deadline but he just loves killing too much to get it done.

1 Freddy Krueger

Imagination is why I love and identify with Freddy Krueger. He puts so much thought and work into each and everything he does. It is not just the killing either. His taunting is so well laid out that it’s a good thing the dead don’t sleep or else he would never get it all done. He tailors each death individually like some weird boutique/concierge murderer. Usually, his only audience for these morbid art projects are the victims themselves who are going to be dead in a minute anyway. That shows dedication. He must have files on everyone in Springwood because he almost automatically knows how to kill just about anybody he meets in the most poetic way.

The Host (2006)

October 21, 2016

The environment is becoming a bigger and bigger issue these days. As we explore more and more about it, we learn a little bit more and realize that there is still so much to figure out. Especially deep in the water, there are things that are incredibly alien to us. Some of them are as strange and terrifying to us as any extraterrestrial we might meet from space. These creatures do not know anything about direct human contact and it’s easy to see that they would not fear us. Of course, they should be angry at us at this point. Our species has caused untold devastation on the planet’s ecosystem with development and pollution. We have seen the impact we have had on the parts of the oceans we can explore. What have we done to the parts we can’t see? How would these strange alien creatures respond to our chemical compounds? Would we be prepared to deal with that? All of these are scary questions to consider.

One of the scariest things in our human society is the loss of a child or injury to a child. I do not even really like children but hurting a child is an affront to me. I do not forgive those who intentionally hurt children and I cannot abide by that behavior. Maybe it is part of our human instinct to protect the young in order to keep the species alive which is now rather pointless after population explosion. When a baby cries, you just automatically feel bad. Of course, you cannot help it so you get annoyed at the parents for not helping it quicker. It makes little sense but it always happens to me and I have heard similar accounts. We just do not accept bad things happening to children like we accept bad things happening to adults. We are much more likely to turn a blind eye to an adult in peril but a tragedy with a child will stop the world. Because of that, I get extra antsy when there are kids in a horror movie because I do not want anything to happen to them. They have their lives ahead of them and it is unfair for some demon or beast to change that.

Sometimes, I watch things because they are popular. I see it as atoning for my teenage days when I hated everything that was popular out of spite. This movie was number 41 out of 100 of the best horror movies on and it got a 93% on Rotten Tomatoes. However, the movie comes out of South Korea so I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I had not seen any other Korean films (North or South). The acting is very good. For the most part, everybody acts pretty much how people do in real life. I have to give a special shout out to Song Kang-ho who plays the father. He is such a relatable and likable buffoon. His daughter is played by Go Ah-sung and she is such a sweet girl that you want to protect her. There is definitely a comedic spin on the proceedings in places but there is also terror, sadness and desperation as well. A good horror movie makes you laugh here and there so it can scare the bejeezus out of you right when you have let your guard down. This movie does that in spades.

The effects are very good in this one. It has the same CGI team as The Day After Tomorrow which had great special effects even though it was a ludicrously bad film. Of course, the monster effects were done by Weta Workshop so we made it all of two days without mentioning them. At the same time, the monster looks like a lot of things we have seen before but also something interestingly unique. Jon Cox powered the creature with beautiful animatronics on par with any movie monster I have ever seen. When it moves, I really believe that it is a danger and an intelligent creature. The government response was believable as well. In a crisis like the one we see, the government would be mostly clueless but would be quick to do something even if it was the wrong thing. I really liked that element as an additional obstacle for the main characters.

Overall, this was a great horror/science fiction movie. There was plenty of comedy but there was even more tragedy and horror involved which ended up being a very compelling blend. There was also a bit of an adventure quality to the movie as a family sets out to save one of their own. There is definitely some anti-American sentiment in the movie but it is balanced well and not without merit. The US military did dump a lot of formaldehyde down the drain in Seoul. Our country is portrayed as butting in just as we probably would in real life. The South Korean government is also portrayed in a negative light so it is impossible for me to get bent out of shape about it. I definitely recommend this movie, especially to any foreign film buffs.

Media Update 10/20/2016

October 20, 2016

Curse of Chucky
A Quasi-Reboot of Child’s Play

I have to say right off the bat that this is not exactly a reboot of the Child’s Play series of movies. In fact, it continues the naming convention of the last two movies by ending with ‘Of Chucky’. What it is, is a reboot of the tone of the series. The previous two movies in the series were a step up in special effects but they ratcheted up the comedy. They were good but they were not exactly horror movies. In fact, the series was funny from the get go and only got more ridiculous as it went. This movie resets the series a little. This time around they mixed in a lot more horror into the mix. In fact, a lot of the horror aspects are psychological as we get a lot more suspense than cheap scares. Of course, there are a lot of ‘gritty’ reboots these days but this is not one of those. This movie gives the dog its teeth back and I felt more creeped out by the series than I have been in a long time. The movie felt like the original Child’s Play without the hokey Eightiesness of the original. Not to say the original is bad, it just ends up not being as scary as this one is. It still has the sarcastic edge to it and there is no need to worry, Brad Dourif is still great in this one. In addition, we get a great performance from his daughter Fiona Dourif and a whole new cast of characters. This movie breathed new life into the series with the seventh movie. It also finally summed up all of the lore of the series in a way that makes sense. They have promised a sequel that will follow this new course, but it has been around three years. I still hold out hope. I definitely recommend this one for fans of the franchise and newcomers alike.

The Evil Dead (2013)
A Quasi-Reboot of The Evil Dead (1981)

Here is another movie that I thought was a reboot but is actually just another movie in the series. Well, sort of. A little research turned up that the movies are connected by an after credits scene and there were possible plans to connect the two franchises at some point. Heck, that is something that can potentially still happen now that Ash vs. The Evil Dead has entered its second season. The movie follows a different group of young kids who journey to a cabin in the woods (not that one). The backstory really resonated with me on a personal level but I do not want to spoil it. The story is very similar to the original and the sequel. Young people get terrorized by the titular Evil Dead, a kind of undead/demonic/eldritch hybrid that Sam Raimi and Friends came up with in the Eighties. While the three movies are similar, the newer one has some key differences. The new one has higher production values and a female lead which was a good start in differentiating it from the original. The movie is full of similar beats and moments from the original but they happen in a different order or a different way this time. It gives me the feeling that the Evil Dead have a modus operandi, a way they almost always use to end people. Watching the show reinforces that. However, the newer movie lacks the humor of the original movies.  As it stands on its own, the movie is fast-paced and horrifying in all the best ways. I do have one big complaint. They redid the tree rape from the first movie and that really was not necessary. It was still a great horror movie and I definitely recommend it.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)
Reboot of A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

So I thought I would finally check the remake to one of my favorite horror franchises because it was on television and why not? The movie was not endorsed by Wes Craven but neither was Nightmare 2 and, while it was really weird, it was not horrible. The movie is endorsed by Robert Englund for what it’s worth. Everybody else kind of follows Wes Craven’s lead because fans and critics pretty much hated it. I am not in the camp of people that automatically hates reboots and remakes. I can list remakes and reboots that are better than the original. The movie is shot differently than the original series. This movie is shot pretty straight forward with darker tones and really cool CGI effects. Gone are the rock and pop soundtracks and, because the thing is produced by Michael Bay, we get a composed score instead. Jackie Earle Haley is good at being a villain and his laugh and voice as Freddy is appropriately chilling. However, they took away two things with this remake. First, they removed the humor which did a lot to throw you off guard and make things more unnerving. Second, they removed a lot of the dream-like quality of the original series. A lot of the deaths were completely out of left field and had a beautiful symmetry and horror to them. Here, the deaths looked cleaner and a little more realistic. Overall, I think the movie is alright and had a lot of potential but it lacks a lot of the imagination of the original series. This is more of a problem because the movie keeps throwing reminders of the original series at you which only makes me pine for the weird, eighties quality of the original. Check it out if you’re bored but there are definitely better horror movies out there.

Halloween Short of the Week:

JKI Productionz – Not Alone

Music of the Week:

Lizzy Borden – Me Against The World

Meshuggah – The Violent Sleep Of Reason

Three Days Grace – Animal I Have Become

Misfits – Astro Zombies

Oingo Boingo – Dead Man’s Party

Weekly Update:
– I started watching iZombie season 2
– I continued watching Supernatural season 11
– I started watching Arrow Season 4 again
– I tried watching American Horror Story: Hotel again. Not great.
– This week’s theme is “Revisiting Horror Franchises”
– I kept watching Flash Season 2
– I watched more of Legends of Tomorrow Season 1

Bad Taste (1987)

October 19, 2016

Today’s selection is from now legendary director, Peter Jackson. You may remember Peter Jackson from the impressive Lord of the Rings movies and the less impressive Hobbit movies. For the record, I don’t fully blame Jackson for the Hobbit movies being less satisfying. Splitting into three movies was a good idea when you had Del Toro on board to direct the first part. Anyway, enough about another project that horror master Del Toro got pulled off of. This movie was made fourteen years before the Fellowship of the Rings. The movie that convinced me to watch Peter Jackson’s first full-length film is actually The Frighteners. I think I’ve talked briefly about the film but it is a mix of comedy, horror and fantasy that is definitely worth checking out. Michael J Fox is great at being terrorized and put upon in equal measures. That made me decide to see what Peter Jackson could do on a shoestring budget with his friends out in nowhere New Zealand.

Today I was looking at an article that says that we are unlikely to encounter sentient extraterrestrial life. The reason is because any beings that are smart enough to develop interstellar travel will most likely kill itself first much like we’re doing. Is there a word for experiencing both sadness and relief? When I was a preteen, I was terrified of aliens. It had little to do with any movie I saw but more with a movie called Fire in the Sky which I still have not seen. Every time I saw the poster, I would be paralyzed with fear. Every time I went camping with my friends, every shooting star was a reason for a silent panic attack. I was terrified of being abducted and then who knows what would happen? Worse, nobody would ever know what happened to me because aliens were so elusive and there were so many conspiracies. I feared the unknown from beyond long before I developed my mental muscles for critical thinking. Still, I hold those fearful memories forever.

This is probably the cheapest film that I will review this year as it was largely filmed by Jackson and his friends over the series of several weekends. We start this movie in the thick of things, a full-scale alien invasion. Of course, that is not much of a spoiler since that’s what the IMDB description says. We are not sure what the exact threat it is but we know it’s aliens. We are in New Zealand and they take advantage of the beautiful seaside mountains for this fictional town. The sound and picture quality are about what you would expect from a bunch of weekend warriors in the eighties. Like Horror Express, most of the dialogue is dubbed in later and a lot of it does in cartoon voiceover style. The actors were all unknowns to me but they did a good job with the two different tones this movie bounces back and forth between. Although, Peter Jackson himself plays two of the biggest roles and he is great at both a hero and a villain.

The whole movie is very cartoony but it is also very creepy too. Aliens that look like humans is a horror/science fiction device that has been used well many times over to great effect. It is an obvious thing to use if you are working with a limited budget. In this, we have aliens who seem to have turned humans into their slaves. One of the creepiest parts to me was how casual the gore is. One minute a body might be fine but the next half of a person’s head might be gone. That kind of thing freaked me out since it felt like there was not a lot of buildup to it. Also, the gore effects are some of the best I have seen in any horror movie. The special effects are practical and that makes sense as this film is listed as the first film Weta Workshop ever worked on. In a lot of ways, this movie reminds me of the making of Evil Dead and El Mariachi which were obviously cheap but still look great. Also, like the Evil Dead franchise, there is a lot to be creeped out by and a lot to laugh at too. In fact, its comedy makes the horror parts even scarier.

Overall, I think this is actually a must-see movie for any horror enthusiast. Sure it’s cheap and goofy but it’s also still really scary once you get into it. There is kind of a classic rock and roll feel to the movie mixed with the weirdness that permeated the Seventies and Eighties. The aliens look silly but by the time they appear, I was conditioned by the back and forth tone and the excellent synth score to be afraid of them anyway. There is also a whole extended action movie sequence but they do a good job of keeping the tension throughout. This movie was really enjoyable and it clearly shows how Jackson would become so widely regarded in film. I definitely recommend it to anybody out there and you can probably find it for free on Youtube like I did.

Wicked Journals 3

October 18, 2016


“Ritual? Professor, do you think that is wise? No offense, but wasn’t it a ritual that got us into this mess in the first place?” I asked. The pain in my side had dulled but I still remembered the feeling of those things digging into me. I could somehow not remember what they looked like but I could feel the damage.

“It is the only way to put the genie back in the bottle at this point, Mr. Newsom.” Professor Miles said. He was earnest but his tone was dismissive. I could not keep the frown off of my face. On top of everything, the Professor had no injuries. There was no justice in the world.

“Chin up, Caleb,” Melissa said. She smiled and put a hand on my shoulder. My pain faded a little more and I smiled back.

“That’s right. Trust in the power of Academia. Further, if we do not resolve things before school is back in session we will be endangering more than just ourselves.” The Professor said. There was a mountain of parchment between us and we had been trying to figure out the solution for nearly a day.

“What are those things anyway? They were certainly nasty.” I said.

“We don’t know,” The Professor responded with a shrug.

“What does that mean? We have to know by now!” I yelled. “These things have to be ancient!”

“Even with all this text, we still do not know what exactly they are. All we know is that they are old. Other than that there seems to be some reluctance in talking about them in all of the scripts, all of the studies.” The Professor explained.

“Why do you think they would not warn us about the monsters?” Melissa asked.

“Any number of reasons. But it is strange that they would not warn us about the monsters. Maybe they were too afraid to even mention them.” Professor Miles said.

“Not like us. Right Caleb?” Melissa asked.

“No, I’m not afraid at all,” I said and I wanted desperately to believe it.

*          *          *

I was in the hills beyond town before the morning sun rose above the far horizon. I imagined that any moment now, the townspeople might find the librarian that I had shot and killed. Any lawyer might advise to not make that confession in writing as I have just now. I promise it was in self-defense but I have a sinking feeling that the matter will not be tried in court. Something is very rotten in Charming.

Some ideas have come to me as to what caused the hideous change. If I deciphered the clues correctly, then the vault that Melissa was looking for is somewhere in these hills. I had a feeling that maybe something had flowed downhill from the vault and polluted the water in town. It was either that or some portion of the citizens of Charming were stationed there. Perhaps they were kept there to watch over the vault. If this was the case, they would already know which way I ran. They could be preparing to follow even now. The thing in the library was certainly not human. I had to pray that my pursuers were but be prepared if they were not.

It was hard travelling in the rough terrain of the hills. The rocky soil presented a dozen different tripping hazards every few steps. On top of that, I had kept getting my foot or ankle caught in tight, little crevices. My mind conjured up all sorts of creatures that could devour my foot unseen. Dread had a hold of me and I found it harder and harder to breathe. That made it harder and harder to walk.

It was not until my watch clicked to ten that I found the markings I was looking for. There were six-inch-high rounded stones with symbols on them that I remembered from the papers in college. Once again, my own memory failed to decipher the language. Perhaps it was trying to protect me. I delved into Molly’s journal again and things were made clearer. I picked up the path which suddenly swung steeply into the hills and underground. Something had carved this hole into the hills.

At last, I reached an immense circular stone door. I briefly wondered how they had gotten it there in one piece. I realized that I really did not want to know. I wanted to flee. I wanted to find the nearest train station and slip away from this part of the country. I would hope my pursuers would let me alone, knowing I had chosen ignorance. I could be back in my office in under three days.

Then, like a knife to my heart, there it was. Lily flowers growing out of a crack in the stone wall. They had no reason to be there but they were. They had been Molly’s favorite back in college. They had always been in a vase on her desk at school and also in her small dormitory room. For a moment, I wondered if the plant was there as a sign for marking her territory.

Dangling from a lily’s stem was a silken scarf. I recognised the scarf in an instant. It was decorated with the eye of Horus. It came from Egypt and I knew that Molly had one just like it that she had bought on a trip with her family. She had worn it every chance she got after that trip. It was a constant reminder in university to stop and observe because otherwise, I would never beat Molly to the answer.

It was clear that I had to proceed into the vault. Whatever had happened to Molly, I had to know. Beyond that, I felt the familiar flame of curiosity inside of me. I had not felt that flame since those college days with Molly. I had to carry on or the rest of my days would be restless with wondering. It was a curse.

I could not get from the journal how to open the door. I studied the door and looked to match the symbols in the book. Nothing matched although the symbols were close. It was maddening to actually want to continue, to be so close but so far at the same time. I rested and ate a bit of bread and cheese I had been able to bring. I prayed for coffee that never came.

I rose again and examined the scarf. There were symbols written on the edge of the scarf. I realized with a start that some of the symbols matched the door and some matched the journal. She had left the key to the vault outside and she had left it only for me. I shifted a few stones on the door and the thing started to move. The answer came quickly and I watched the door open slowly. The smell inside was ancient and beyond putrid and I fought hard not to gag as my eyes watered. I would have to go in if I am to find her.

Stitches (2012)

October 17, 2016

Clowns. Why did it have to be clowns? Well, it is because I picked this movie because I have always found clowns to be pretty damned scary. When I visited the Ringling Brothers circus with my folks when it rolled into downtown Baltimore when I was little, I was always pretty excited. I mean they had all sorts of tumbling and flashy stuff going on. They also had lions running around doing what I assumed was normal lion stuff. The lions at the zoo were always just lounging around so I never was super excited by them. Here they were jumping through hoops of flame. The clowns always made me wary. They circulated into the crowd before the show and even as a kid I did not like that attention. Something about them made me nervous. They were fine doing their act in the middle of the ring but if they came near me I squirmed. Now, clowns seem even more out of place to me and even scarier. I am fascinated by them but, thanks to Batman and horror movies, I see them more as cool and creepy villains rather than the joyful creatures they are supposed to be.

I wanted to do a clown movie this year. This is the third year I have done reviews around Halloween and the first year I covered a messed-up film called Clownhouse. So, if I was going to do a clown horror movie, the obvious choice was to do the recent horror movie called Clown. However, that was produced by Eli Roth and he is kind of a cancer on the horror genre so I did not want to have a bad time. Instead, I wanted to review the movie Killjoy from Full Moon Pictures. It turns out my brand new copy of all of the Killjoy movies (and all of the Puppetmaster movies) got lost in the mail so it will have to wait until next year. Do not worry, I will be discussing some Full Moon Pictures movies later this month. So, I went back to the drawing board and found this movie on Netflix. I was sure that it was not going to be hard to find another clown horror movie I had not seen yet and the internet does not disappoint. So, we get a more recent horror film that hopefully will fill my nightmares with clowns once again. At least they are better than the than the nightmares about high school.

I was not expecting what this movie would be at all. The first thing that I did not expect is that it is Irish and filmed in Ireland. One of the things I love about Netflix and about this project is that it has opened me up to new opportunities in foreign films. That means that there was almost automatically nobody in this film I would recognize and ends up being the case. This is great because I love diving into a movie full of unknowns so I can go in with no pre-conceived notions. The actors in this movie are all pretty young, especially since most of them are supposed to portray sixteen-year-olds. This is perfect because teenagers are one of the preferred demographics for supernatural killers in horror movies. The acting was good in kind of a punk rock, All Cheerleaders Must Die kind of way. They end up portraying high school as I remember it, petty and emotional but mostly harmless in the end.

When I read the description, I was prepared for a clown that comes back from the dead to kill the kids at the birthday party where he accidentally died. At best, I was hoping for a ghost clown that would haunt them or an undead clown who would savagely murder them. What I got was something somewhere between those two options. It was like Pennywise the Clown if Tim Curry had been directed to be scary. Another comparison I could make is Freddy Krueger if he had been a party clown instead of a Christmas sweater-wearing janitor and was a little more literal. I was not ready for the movie to have so much lore and world-building when it comes to clowns. The movie creates this whole weird occult conspiracy in the first few minutes that I could never have expected in my wildest dreams. The movie used elements from a lot of horror movies I have seen to create something entirely new and scary. The way the villain moves and the unique and terrible deaths they concocted for him are definitely very memorable as well. Most of his victims were decent people for teens and definitely did not deserve to die.

Overall, this was a dark horse of a horror movie just like Horns and The Babadook from last year. This is especially funny since the movie was originally supposed to star Daniel Radcliffe right after Deathly Hallows. The movie is definitely pretty scary but it has kind of a punk rock sense of humor to it as well. That punk rock quality also extends to the violence, though. This movie does not pull any punches with how cruel the deaths are. The practical effects and other special effects are exceptional and that means that the gore is very graphic and disgusting but in a good way. At one point, Stitches delivers a tagline of ‘This Clown Isn’t Funny’ and he’s right. However, he is kind of funny in an extremely dark, offbeat kind of way because he is just amusing himself. In that way, he would probably get along with Charles “Chucky” Lee Ray. It was a great movie and I definitely knew how much it had gripped me when I had to watch something happier directly after so I could breathe again. With all the clown sightings lately, I definitely enjoyed being scared by one that could not actually hurt me. I definitely recommend it.

Root of All Darkness

October 15, 2016

“Did we find the bodies yet, Finch?” Shaw asked. Her words were very sudden over the communications network. It made Finch jump a little bit in his chair even though he had ample experience with Sameen Shaw’s abruptness.

“Yes, Ms. Shaw. Mr. Reese and Detective Fusco found the unfortunate victims in a cellar uptown. They had been drained completely of blood. A horrible fate I suppose the machine should have warned us about. And yet it failed to find the threat before we could neutralize it.” Finch said. His words and tone were professional but just underneath the surface he was obviously wracked with emotion.

“So we’re dealing with some kind of vampire. Is it our number? Is our number a vampire?” Shaw asked. Her voice was level so it was hard for Finch to tell if Shaw was being serious. He hoped she was not.

“While the circumstances seem appropriate now that Halloween is coming soon, it is my theory that their blood was used in some back alley transaction. Perhaps some sort of medical facility for criminals.” Finch said. He then paused for a moment. “I fear what the answer may be but where are you, Ms. Shaw?” He had a sudden dread in his voice.

“I’m the only one on the ball, Finch. I’m closing in on our number.” Shaw said. She drew her pistol from its holster.

“Ms. Shaw, please wait for back up. I have a feeling – ” Finch said before getting cut off. There was suddenly only static on the line. Shaw turned off her comm system for the moment and took her earpiece out. It wasn’t standard protocol but the static was irritating.

The underground chambers Shaw was walking through were not all that different from the old subway system she had been forced to stay in while she hid from Samaritan. It made her a little restless at first but she tried to think of all the positive missions she had completed underground. She thought of the tunnels she had protected Genrika in and touched the Order of Lenin medal in her jacket pocket. She tried to distract herself for a moment by counting the flickers in the lights. She quietly cocked her pistol and prepared to enter the next chamber. She kept her gun low, ready for knee caps.

“Hello, Sameen. I thought I turned off his cellphone.” Root said.

“You did. I had a second tracker hidden in his shoe.” Shaw said.

The number, Mark Bozard, was sitting in a chair which he was tied to. His head was slumped forward and he was not moving. Shaw could not see his face but she could guess what was going on and what had happened.

‘You killed him.” Shaw said. It was not a question.

“I thought we didn’t do that anymore. So, why?” Shaw asked. Her gaze was even, completely unjudgemental.

“He killed a lot of people. He had to be put down. You wouldn’t understand.” Root said.

Shaw frowned. “I think I could understand if you let me try.”

Root stepped around the body and got close to Shaw. She reached out to gently stroke Shaw’s cheek with her thumb. “He was a vampire. He was going to keep on killing.” She said. She reached and pulled back the upper lip of Mr. Bozard and showed off his fangs.

“I can believe it,” Shaw said simply.

“You can. Can’t you?” Root asked with a thoroughly amused, flirty smirk.

Shaw allowed herself a slight smile. “You may be crazy but you’ve never lied to me. Not when it counts.”

“I could never lie to you.” Root said with a look that made Sameen turn away for just a moment.

“Why didn’t you tell the team?” Shaw asked. “They would believe you. You have proof.”

“I couldn’t. They might believe me but they wouldn’t understand.” Root said with a sigh.

“Because you’re a vampire too,” Shaw said. Again, it was not a question and was said with absolute certainty. As usual, Shaw’s face betrayed nothing. On the other hand, Root’s eyes widened in surprise and she glanced at Shaw’s pistol. Finally, somebody had managed to surprise the unflappable Root.

“I am.” Root said softly. She looked away quickly, afraid for a moment of what she would see in Sameen’s eyes.

“If I was going to kill you, Root, I would have done it the first time you kidnapped me,” Shaw said.

“Thank you, Sameen,” Root said. “To be fair, I didn’t take any joy from the killing. We have a code that we keep. Killing like he did is forbidden. I’m different, I only feed from blood banks.”

“Tell me about it,” Shaw said softly.

Root smiled. “I can’t say no to you.” She took a deep breath. “When I ran away from home, I was looking for revenge. That didn’t change as I got older. That anger never really goes away. When that vampire found me in that dark place, both literally and figuratively, he offered me power. With my computer skills and my new supernatural powers, I could punish anybody I wanted to. I was on the verge of killing a lot of people.”

“But you didn’t,” Shaw said.

“No. I did kill but it was not the bloodbath I dreamed of. I found the Machine and my world changed. I had to be worthy of her. I changed. When I met Harold, my ‘life’ changed again. I don’t kill like that anymore. I might still have that thirst but I have a duty to the Machine, Harold and you.”

“And me?” Shaw asked with that same hint of a smile.

“Of course. Always you.” Root said. “Any more questions?”

“Not right now. I suppose I can live with this new information.” Shaw said.

“Good. Please don’t tell Harold.” Root said.

“You think they wouldn’t understand?” Shaw asked.

“I think Harold has a particular worldview that he’s not ready to give up”

“I think we can keep this one secret from him,” Shaw said.

“Just this one?” Root asked. She looked into Sameen’s eyes.

Sameen Shaw smiled slightly.

Horror Express (1972)

October 14, 2016

You might not recognize the name of science fiction author Don A. Stuart. That may because it is the pen name of John W. Campbell Jr. who wrote several books during the 1940s, 50s and 60s. I must admit that I have not read any of Campbell’s works. Apparently, he wrote a lot of space opera stuff and I cannot speak to its quality. However, he was one of the very first inductions into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame so somebody must have thought it was good. I have never read Campbell but I have read exactly one story that Don A. Stuart wrote. It is a novella called Who Goes There. You might not recognize that title either. I certainly didn’t and I actually read the thing. You may recognize it better if I start listing its film adaptations. There was 1951’s The Thing from Another World, 1982’s John Carpenter’s The Thing and also 2011’s The Thing. Yes, this is the tale of aliens crashing in the Antarctic and trying to make its way to civilization. John Carpenter’s version is especially good as it uses a lot of the feelings and paranoia of the Cold War to add to the tension. I guess you could call this movie a forgotten adaptation of the original novella. That is one of the main reasons I decided to check this movie out.

I love to ride trains. In fact, I like to be occasionally taken captive for long periods of sitting. It lets me get a lot of writing or reading done without too many distractions. Jury duty, planes, trains and waiting for class to begin down at Catonsville are all times when I can sit and write comfortably. Trains are one of my favorite ways to travel. They move quickly and you can get up and walk around at any time you want. You can walk for blocks up and down the train if you want to. However, as I got older and learned to drive, I realized the freedom driving a car affords you. It is the same freedom you get by walking but multiplied by a thousand. Then I remember that when I am on a train for a long time, I start getting tired. By the time I reach my destination, I am practically clawing at the door to get out. Although they’re big, there is a sort of claustrophobia that can still happen on a train. You cannot get off the train until it stops. It is not as bad as riding on a plane or a bus but there is definitely a trapped feeling you get when you are riding a train.

This movie was made in the glorious 1970s so I was not expecting a lot in the way of production values. There were a lot of movies that spent a huge amount of money in their budget but they usually did not heavily fund horror movies. Horror movies have kind of always been quick and cheap with a few exceptions. Still, I love them to death. I was right, of course, but what they definitely squeezed every drop of quality out of every dollar they spent. They spent 300,000 dollars in 1972 money which is still chickenfeed for a movie today (aka 2 million dollars). It was a Spanish/British production and I realize I have not seen a lot of Spanish films. The first thing I notice about the movie was how good the foley work and sound recording was. A lot of the movie made me feel like I could have listened to it on a record and still followed the story. The music is interesting, there are definitely some strangely haunting pieces and a particularly creepy whistling effect. The monster itself is kind of interesting. Do not go into this expecting a creature like in The Thing. Still, the makeup effects on the thing are pretty creepy and a lot of its scenes are in the dark which alway helps for low budget horror. After a while, what the thing looks like does not matter anyway. The lighting is particularly good as well now that I mention it, getting a lot out of the play between light and shadow.

Another thing they decided to drop some well-spent money on was casting Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and Telly Savalas. All three are excellent actors who really proved themselves through the years. Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing in particular, are well known as Dracula and Abraham Van Helsing respectively. However, this is not a Hammer film even if it does feel a little like one at times. Everybody else does a pretty good job but it is obvious who the famous actors are in this one. Still, we get some particularly interesting performances from some bit parts. The movie covers horror and mystery on board the Trans-Siberian railroad as a scientist tries to get a specimen back to England for study. That trip obviously becomes a horrific fight for two scientists and a trainload of people. There are similarities between this story and the later stories in The Thing. Particularly frightening to me is the loss of self and absorption into the monster that terrified me while watching John Carpenter’s version. What is particularly interesting is that there is no strapping action hero through much of the film which should not make it scarier but on a certain level it really does. The story had some twists and turns that I did not expect and I was pleasantly surprised and spooked by the atmosphere of the film.

Overall, I liked this movie. By being low budget and a multi-national production, it felt like it managed to ward off a lot of the campiness of the seventies. While I like camp in small doses, I had already watched a campy horror movie this year. It definitely had the color palette of the seventies. They also put a religious plot thread into the movie which ends up being interesting rather than pushy and entitled. I could have done without some of the ethnic stereotypes but they do not get in the way of character development and a fairly interesting plot. I was not going to recommend this one but I changed my mind as the movie progressed.

Media Update 10/13/2016

October 13, 2016

Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master
Sequel to Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors

So last year I watched The Dream Warriors for the first time and that was a great time so I decided to watch the next one since I was still working through the middle of the series. I’ve now seen one, two, three, four and New Nightmare. As I previously stated, the franchise is a lot of fun and I’m glad that I savored it instead of binging all of them a while ago. The second movie is kind of outside continuity and out of the formula but so far, the others each contain a major piece of lore or major event. Each movie adds to the story and introduces a new twist here and there so that they are not just producing the same movie over and over. The series probably also has the most likable victims in it. It is easy to feel empathy for them because the nicer ones (and most of them are the nicer ones) seem like ok people to hang with. This is combined with a strangely funny but horrific and iconic villain. Add that with dream imagery and the idea of lucid dreaming and you have this movie. We start the movie where the last one left off and then it’s pretty much a rollercoaster after that. I felt like this one had slightly more horrific and creative imagery and I really enjoyed the ride. This franchise continues to be pretty amazing in its innovative approach even several decades later. I swear, the writers of these movies are completely insane. I definitely recommend this and all of the Nightmare franchise (though I can’t vouch for 5, 6 or the reboot yet).

Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead
Sequel to Dead Snow

When I saw that this movie was a thing and easily available for me to watch, I just had to jump on the opportunity. The first Dead Snow was a great and unexpected horror movie from Norway that covers a group of medical students on vacation getting attacked by Nazi zombies. The movie was unique, darkly funny, horribly gory but also very scary. This movie reminded me just how bleak and gory the first one was since it starts with a narrated montage detailing the first movie. The opening was clearly an homage to the opening of Army of Darkness and it was successful in getting the right tone right away. This movie is even gorier right off the bat. They stepped up the violence but the movie also feels more self-aware than the last one in its comedy. The production values are also way better as they must have learned to hone their craft a little better. This one is also not completely set in the snow either so we get more vibrant colors in the mix. For me, this movie has a relationship to the first movie similar to Back to the Future and Back to the Future II. I like Back to the Future II better but only because Back to the Future laid in such a good foundation. Creating the Nazi zombies was a great move and we learn a little more about their capabilities in this movie as their role is expanded. However, I would also definitely compare it to the evolution of Evil Dead into Evil Dead 2 where they piled on more comedy without ruining the horror aspect. On a side note, I am definitely thankful that this was shot in Norwegian and English. The English version was very much appreciated especially since it is something they did not need to do. Check this one out if you have a strong stomach.

Maniac Cop 2
Sequel to Maniac Cop

I really enjoyed Maniac Cop when I finally saw it last year so I thought why not try out the sequel? The first movie was one that definitely felt like it was made in the late eighties. It has a similar feel to movies like Evil Dead 2 or Jason Takes Manhattan. There are also elements of the B movies like Soultaker or even non-genre films like Death Wish. This movie follows the continued horror of an undead cop with a grudge against the system that betrayed him. He was innocent but was framed and sent to Sing Sing where he was mutilated and killed. The heroes of the movie are once again stalked by the hulking form of a disfigured Robert Z’Dar who plays Officer Cordell the titular maniac cop. He has very few lines but his actions speak volumes and his unstoppable nature certainly makes him a pretty scary movie villain. When we’ve seen him literally come back from damage that would obliterate a normal human, it’s hard to feel anything but fear for the innocent protagonists. Z’Dar does more stunt work than acting but he is the villain and the characters around him help to describe more of his motivation and the tragedy of his existence. Everybody still doesn’t believe that he exists but that changes pretty quickly as he teams with another killer and wreaks havoc. The acting is pretty melodramatic kind of like an Evil Dead 2. It is a refreshing horror movie because nobody in it is really begging to get killed and a lot of targets are fairly innocent. Still, it’s not quite as good as the first one. The first one had more mystery to it but this one seemed to have a little more spectacle. The sequel was pretty good though and worth watching if you want to see what happens after the first one.

Halloween Short Film of the Week:

Electric Shadow Films – Slender Man

Music of the Week:

GWAR – Madness at the Core of Time

Helloween – Dr. Stein

Warlock – Burning the Witches

Vamps – Inside of Me

Jex Thoth – When The Raven Calls

Weekly Updates:
– This week’s theme is “Sequels to Movies I Reviewed Last Halloween”
– I started watching season 11 of Supernatural
– I started watching season 2 of Flash again
– I continued watching season 2 of Gotham
– I finished season 2 of The Following
– I finished watching season 1 of Penny Dreadful
– FNAF: Sister Location came out this week

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