Apr 30, 2013

MASTERPIECE

I've been lying down for hours now. It's 5:35 a.m. and there's not much I can do. You know what the worst part about my situation is? I'm in the same room as my parents. They keep looking at me, and I can't help but look back and try not to cry or scream. Their eyes are focused on me and their mouths are wide open. There's a strong scent of blood and I feel paralyzed with fear. 
Here's the thing: The second I make any hint that I'm not asleep anymore, I'm completely fucked. I will die and there's nobody around to save me. I've been trying to think of a way out, but the only idea I have is to rush for the front door and scream for help, hoping any neighbors hear me. It's risky, but if I stay here, I'll surely die. He's waiting for me to wake up and see his masterpiece. 
You're probably wondering what's going on. I do tend to get ahead of myself sometimes. 
About three hours ago, I heard screaming from the other side of the house. I got up and went to check on the noise before realizing I had to use the restroom. Instead of doing the smart thing and investigating, I used the bathroom first. I could've gotten myself killed right then for my stupid actions. I did my business and took a peek outside the bathroom. There was blood on the carpet. I got very worried and ran back to my room, hiding under the sheets like the pussy I was. I tried to convince myself to go back to sleep - that it was just some really vivid dream or something. 
But I heard my bedroom door open. Like the terrified child I was, I peeked out from under my blankets to see what was going on. I could see something dragging my dead parents into the room. It was not human, I can tell you that. It was hairless, with no eyes or clothing. It walked like a caveman, with its back slouched as it dragged my parents. But this thing was much smarter than any caveman. It was aware of what it was doing. 
It propped my Dad up on the edge of my bed and made him face me. It then sat my mother down in the chair and positioned her towards me as well. It then started rubbing its hands on the walls, staining them with blood, and then drew a circle with the devil's pentagram in it. This thing had made what it would probably call a masterpiece. To finish it off, it scribbled a message into the wall that I could not read in the darkness. 
It then positioned itself under my bed waiting to strike. 
The scariest thing now is my eyes have adjusted to the darkness since then, and I can read the message on the wall. I don't want to look at it, because it's terrifying to think about it. But I feel I need to see, before I'm killed. 
I peek at the creature's masterpiece. 
"I know you're awake."


Source unknown.

Apr 29, 2013

REVIEW: STRIPPED


I suppose if it had been a bigger hit, or if someone had thought of it, Stripped would have been marketed as "Project X meets Hostel." Because that's pretty much what we have here: "found footage" of a group of horny frat-boy types hauling ass to Vegas for a weekend of debauchery, but finding themselves victimized and stalked by a group of black market organ traffickers.

It is Graham's 21st birthday, and so it's off to Sin City with his BFFs Luke, Cameron, and Tommy. They like to smoke weed and drink booze. They make an awful lot of jokes, some involving puke and some involving mothers. They call each other "fag" and make fun of Twilight. Because, you know, kids.

Along the way they pick up Capri, who crashes the party to hitch a ride so she can meet up with her boyfriend, Jake, who lives in Vegas. Once that happens, drama ensues when it's revealed she once had some kind of romantic tryst with Luke. But the kids quickly get back to their jokes and the social awkwardness is left behind for the time being. After stopping off at a gas station bathroom, they discover a business card promising "women willing to do anything to make you happy." (That means hookers.)  And we have a catalyst!


"Mind if I fornicate?"

The minute we meet out first character, you can immediately tell he, and all his cohorts, are going to be obnoxious and unlikable. That's a huge problem, especially in this genre. For Stripped, it's genuinely hard to tell if this was a conscious choice to make the eventual bloodletting all the more satisfying, or if the desire to make our kids "realistic" and "fun" didn't really work out that way. They fart, talk about fucking constantly, and make references to having sex with babies. (Seriously.) Either way, I don't care about any of these kids, at all.

Stripped, as a "story," takes entirely too long to get going. Except for the rather cheap and brief cuts of debauchery and torture soon to come (foreshadowing, only far less subtle!), the first 40 minutes is nothing but watching handsome and/or pretty young people hang out, high five, test your patience, and hold beer bottles. It is around the 40-minute mark when the kids finally get to the shady, out-of-the-way place where the strippers/hookers hang out.

Oddly, it is around the 45-minute mark where director J.M.R. Luna abandons the found footage aesthetic altogether and begins to shoot the film traditionally, which is jarring, to say the least. There is an attempt to maintain the style using surveillance cameras (which make no sense existing in an incredibly illegal and murderous operation), but all this does is make the brief, traditionally-shot sequences stick out all the more. Adding to this confusion is they seem to have used the same camera for every shot - the "found footage" amateur stuff as well as the real-movie, traditional stuff. So, take your established inconsistency, add this newer confusion, and you have Stripped: the feature film that dares you to figure out what's happening.

And finally, it is around the 50-minute mark when anything the least bit resembling a horror film finally begins to occur. This in a 75-minute film.

There is absolutely no attempt at coherence in Stripped. Although it's plainly established there is only ever one camera in use for most of the trip, suddenly, when it's essential to the plot, Capri randomly has her own camera. And speaking of, there's absolutely no reason, once Capri attempts to find her friends in a seedy whore house and becomes understandably scared, that she would hold her camera out at arm's length and film her own face as she walks around - especially when it's been established the filmmakers are willing to switch perspective to  traditional shooting, which easily could have been employed here. The most damning aspect to this is that Capri clearly has a camera - speaks directly into it at one point, like a diary - but then when she walks by in a "surveillance camera" shot, is obviously not holding a camera. This doesn't happen just once, but repeatedly.

I mean, what the fuck?


Honestly, there isn't much I can say about Stripped that's positive. The acting is decent, but only because it's not hard to get a bunch of kids to act obnoxious and silly. The girls were pretty and the boys were handsome. Everything shot was in frame and in focus. The strippers showed off their cleavage and sometimes their goods (if you're into that sort of thing). When the kids are killed and harvested (spoiler?), smile in relief, because it means the end is coming. 

I mean...that's it.

Look, if you always wanted to see the guys from "Jackass" get sliced up to rock/rap, all mixed with a lot of nudity, AND a scene where a naked boy fist-fights a crazy surgeon, now's your chance. Normally I'd feel guilty trashing a film this bad, but I don't this time. Maybe because this isn't even really a film. To call it such is an insult to filmmakers actually trying.

Apr 28, 2013

FINAL REPORT


Ash, can you hear me? Ash?

Yes, I can hear you.

What was your special order?
You read it.
I thought it was clear.

What was it?


Bring back life form.
Priority One.
All other priorities rescinded.

The damn company.
What about our lives,
you son of a bitch?

I repeat,
all other priorities are rescinded.

How do we kill it Ash?
There's gotta be a way of killing it.
How?
How do we do it?

You can't.

That's bullshit.

You still don't understand
what you're dealing with, do you?
Perfect organism.
Its structural perfection is
matched only by its hostility.

You admire it.

I admire its purity.
A survivor...
unclouded by conscience,
remorse,
or delusions of morality.

I've heard enough of this,
and I'm asking you to pull the plug.

Last word.

What?
I can't lie to you about your chances, but...
you have my sympathies. 

Apr 27, 2013

HELLMOUTH

Being that I am a big fan of 2005's Pontypool and an even bigger fan of 2011's Exit Humanity, I am very, very excited about the following:
From the Press Release:
Foresight Features, the studio behind Monster Brawl and Exit Humanity, has teamed up with acclaimed writer Tony Burgess (Pontypool) for a 1950's style throwback entitled Hellmouth. Directed by John Geddes (Exit Humanity), the film stars Stephen McHattie (Pontypool, The Watchmen) as Charlie Baker, a dying gravekeeper who’s forced to take one final job. The film also features an eclectic cast including female lead Siobhan Murphy, Julian Richings, Boyd Banks, the star of Exit Humanity, Mark Gibson, and some iconic cameos including Bruce McDonald (Pontypool). An ode to classic horror and fantasy, Hellmouth is a VFX spectacle that chronicles Charlie Baker's dark descent through Gothic landscapes, demonic worlds, and medieval realms as he journeys to discover the secret behind a mysterious cemetery.

"I wanted to create a story-driven film with fantasy and horror combined. Something that was directly inspired by the era of Hitchcock and even Ed Wood. Working with a writer like Tony Burgess was a pleasure as we both love the simplicity in many of the old classic films of the 50's and 60's, and even earlier in films like Nosferatu and Faust. We worked really hard to make Hellmouth something fresh." - Director, John Geddes

The Visual Effects Supervisor and Lead Artist roles are helmed by Toronto's Nick Flook, who has assembled a team of A-list artists who are working around the clock to complete the hefty workload.

"The imagery and style of this film is exactly the type of endless creative opportunity I’ve been wanting to work on for a long time. Dark and moody with dashes of wild fantasy, I can’t think of any artist that wouldn’t want to work on something this cool." - VFX Supervisor, Nick Flook

Apr 26, 2013

MARLBORO SLAUGHTERHOUSE

The Slaughterhouse is located on land, which used to be a farm, but was long ago incorporated into the property of the nearby asylum. How this land became hospital property is where this chilling tale begins. Apparently there used to be a farmer named Mr. Allen who once worked the land, raised and slaughtered livestock there, and generally lead the life of a normal, rural New Jersey farmer. His family, I've been told, had owned and farmed the expansive tract of land for generations. 
Then, one day the State came along and seized his land, telling him that they needed it for the mental institution, and that they had the authority to take it under their right of eminent domain. So they forced the farmer off of his own property, and began using the fields that he had cultivated to grow food to feed the asylum's inmates. 
Naturally the farmer was furious, and did not vacate his property without a fight. He would often be seen wandering the fields he once worked, hollering threats and cursing at any hospital employees who came into his sight. After hospital officials padlocked his house, he would repeatedly break in and continue to live there. When they called the police on him, the authorities had to drag the farmer away kicking and screaming. In a rage he vowed revenge against the hospital staff, and anyone else who dared trespass on his land. 
Eventually, out of sheer anger and frustration, the farmer went completely insane. Then, in an ironic twist of fate, Mr. Allen was committed to the very mental institution, which he so despised and had sworn vengeance against.
As the story goes, the farmer spent many years at the asylum, keeping pretty much to himself. After awhile, the aging Mr. Allen seemed to no longer be a threat to himself or anyone else. He had even gained enough of the trust and confidence of the orderlies to be allowed to join inmate work details outside the asylum's walls. Being a farmer by trade, it was not surprising to any of the officials at the hospital that he volunteered for duties in the institution's gardens and greenhouses, and he even tended to the institution's livestock.
Then one day, after working in the same fields, which he had once owned, the old farmer was nowhere to be found. The overseers rounded up all of the inmates to go back to the asylum, and Mr. Allen was just gone. A massive manhunt ensued, but after several weeks of searching, there was still no sign of him. It was as if he had just been absorbed back into the landscape that he was once so much a part of. Now at this point in the story you might be thinking "good for him, he sure showed them." But the legend doesn't end here, in fact it is really just beginning. You see, apparently farmer Allen had never really forgotten what the State had done to him, nor had he forgiven them for stealing his farm. 
Several weeks had passed since the old farmer had made his escape, and things around the asylum grounds had pretty much gone back to normal. Then people started to report hearing horrible animal noises coming from the Slaughterhouse late at night. Witnesses said that the unearthly racket sounded like the death squeals of pigs being butchered. Although people at the hospital were used to hearing these noises during the day when the Slaughterhouse was operating, it was quite unusual to hear them at night when no one was supposed to be there. Patients were starting to become disturbed due to the ghastly sounds, and many inmates had to be restrained or sedated at night to keep them from totally freaking out. 
Although the hospital sent police out to investigate the Slaughterhouse, no one was ever found trespassing. However, it was soon discovered that some of the farm animals were missing. Then one day something happened that would change the course of everything at the institution forever. 
Workers arriving at the Slaughterhouse early one morning were shocked when they entered the building to find the carcasses of various pigs, sheep, and calves strewn around the killing room floor. To make the gruesome discovery seem even more eerie, the walls were smeared with the blood of the animals. Scrawled across the white brick walls were warnings like "I SEE YOU" and "TONIGHT ALL WILL DIE."
The butchers at the Slaughterhouse notified the superintendent of the hospital, and a decision was made that that night an armed guard would pull an all night security shift at the Slaughterhouse, just in case the unknown intruder returned. That evening the blood curdling squeals of dying pigs once again echoed over the fields of Marlboro, yet no call was made to police from the night watchman, so everyone at the asylum felt confident that all was well. 
The next morning all seemed quiet and normal as the butchers approached the old Slaughterhouse for another day at work. There were no dead animals laying around, and no new bloody graffiti, but there was no security guard to be found anywhere either. The men called for him, but there was no answer. Then, one of them saw something unusual – a small stream of blood, which ran across the killing room floor, then trickled down the drain in the middle of the room. The men followed the tiny red river into the next room, then traced it right under the huge steel door of the meat freezer, which was still locked. 
I can only imagine what went through these men's minds when they swung back that enormous door and caught their first glimpse of the grisly spectacle within. There, hanging by a hook from an overhead meat rack, was the blood soaked body of the night watchman, still in uniform, frozen solid, with the decapitated head of a large pig where his own head used to reside. All around the wall of the freezer were writings on the walls – ramblings about greed, and pigs, and revenge. 
Around town the gruesome discovery was kept as quiet as possible, but in a relatively small community such as Marlboro it is hard to keep such a thing a secret for long.  No one was ever convicted, or even charged with the crime, yet everybody around here had a pretty good idea who the killer was, though nobody will talk about it openly to this day. The Marlboro Psychiatric Hospital has since closed its doors for good, and the old Slaughterhouse has stood abandoned and open to the elements ever since the whole incident took place. Crazy farmer Allen was never heard from again, though legend has it that he still roams his fields in search of trespassers. I was told that he even goes back to the old Slaughterhouse at night, where he sits in the attic staring out over his land through a hole in the building's crumbling roof. I've been told that sometimes people who live close to the old farm still hear the faint sounds of animals in their death throws emanating from the ruins of the Slaughterhouse.



Apr 25, 2013

REVIEW: SICK BOY


Slaving over this blog for the past couple years has resulted in one pleasant realization: I really enjoy hearing from burgeoning filmmakers and being given the chance to review their newest independent offering. Films like It's In the Blood, and I Am A Ghost before it, consistently make me hopeful and enthusiastic for the future. That's not to say there aren't filmmakers out there working on their first feature right now who may not honestly be told they never should have picked up a camera. But they have to learn that the hard way: through bitter pricks like me and my fellow horror bloggers.

So...how does Sick Boy fare?

Lucy (Skye McCole Bartusiak) cannot hold a job to save her life, much to the chagrin of her fiance, Chris (Marc Donato). She eventually ends up hating every single one of them, as we all do, but instead of grinning/bearing it, she ups and quits them all. (She also listens to way too much rap.) A pretty bad argument between soon-to-be husband and wife leaves Lucy reeling, desperate to show Chris she's willing to work, and to contribute to their future. This leads to her taking on a babysitting job for a rather well-off family, whose matriarch, Dr. Helen Gordon (the non-stop Debbie Rochon), requests that Lucy watch over her very sick son, Jeremy. The rules are simple: Basically, don't go near him, as she's concerned someone may accidentally pass on additional germs to him. As the money is pretty fantastic, Lucy agrees and takes the job. If you've seen any "evil kid" films of the sub-genre, you know it can only end badly.


Technology has been both a blessing and a curse for the arts. Self-publishing has boomed for writers, and Deviant Art accounts are free for artists desiring to show off their paintings, sketches, etc.; ergo, we have seen explosions in people distributing their own work with the subtle proportions of cannon fire. The same can be said for film. The slow move to digital has allowed anyone to pick up (and afford) a video camera. Computer software, like Final Cut Pro, has enabled nearly anyone to edit video files on their home computer. This is how supply and demand works, folks. Flood the market with product and everything already available cheapens by default. It becomes more difficult to wade through all the garbage for that diamond in the rough.

That's where Sick Boy comes in...because it's quite good.

The story is very simple and contained, similar to another fine offering in the zombie sub-genre Zombie Honeymoon. The script is smart, and rewarding if you pay attention to the smaller details it offers. A radio broadcast early on mentions "strange flu-like symptoms" that seem to originate from South America; later, Lucy looks at photos taken during a family vacation to Venezuela. Additionally, allusions made to Lucy's younger brother, for whom she cared in her youth, insinuates a reason beyond her rather baffling desire to help the infected child well beyond what movie logic should allow. Speaking of, the cute and baby-faced blonde Bartusiak presents a likable heroine, despite our frustration with some of her choices.

Sick Boy has been compared to House of the Devil, in not only similar plots, but also in the slow, unfolding build-up to the inevitable horror for which the '70s were well known. As such, homage is paid to legendary films like Phantasm and Halloween, in the form of a red-on-black opening credits sequence and a very Carpenter-ish synthy score, respectively. (I also liked the random shout out to Throw Momma from the Train, which was completely unexpected.)


Made on a shoestring budget of $50,000, writer/director Tim Cunningham has accomplished a lot. The special effects used aren't going to win any awards, but when compared to complete gluttonous films like the Evil Dead remake, the restraint is refreshing and welcome. The direction is just fine, and the few "gotcha moments" work as well as they were intended to work. But luckily the film doesn't rely on these moments so much as on the impending dread that begins at Night one, seemingly comes to a head with Night two, but throws all the blood at the screen on Lucy's final night as babysitter for the Gordons.

Sick Boy isn't reinventing the wheel, but it doesn't want to. It exists as a zombie film in a sea of other zombie films, but stands head-and-shoulders above many of them. Will it stand a chance against something like World War Z? Probably not. But it could very well be better.

Not bad for a do-it-yourself approach.

You can grab your own DVD of Sick Boy here.

Apr 24, 2013

CARGO

Stranded in the midst of a zombie apocalypse, a man sets in motion an unlikely plan to protect the precious cargo he carries: his infant daughter.

Directed by Ben Howling & Yolanda Ramke

Produced by Ben Howling, Yolanda Ramke, Marcus Newman, Daniel Foeldes

Tropfest Australia 2013 Finalist

TSI "Balloon"



This is so good.

Apr 23, 2013

NODS

You volunteer at the mental health clinic. Given the dangerous nature of the residents, they assigned you the rooms of the less violent patients. The suicidal. Those who hear voices. Those that don’t say anything at all. 
You become close to a mute man named Arthur. He is a rapt listener, willing to nod his head for hours as you tell him the story of your life. You mention your past, your present. The people involved in both. Your hopes for the future. 
Arthur just nods. 
After several months of listening, you figure that you owe it to Arthur to get him out of the clinic. He can’t be happy sitting in a room by himself nodding at interns everyday. You talk to the supervisor of the clinic. You argue that he isn’t harming anyone. That he grooms and feeds himself with no problems. That perhaps his condition is a physical aliment. 
The day comes when your arguing pays off. The supervisor has agreed to let Arthur go. You rush to his room to tell him the news. “You’re free!” You shout. “Isn’t that great?” 
Arthur just nods. 
You write your name and address on a piece of paper. Hand it to him. “I’m going to miss having someone to talk to.” You say. “But now you can write me. I can learn all about you. Like why they were so insistent in having you in here, pal. I had to fight Dr. Thanner everyday to get you out.” 
He looks at you and takes the paper. Just nods. 
You go home, feeling good about yourself. You brag to everyone you can tell, friends, family, classmates, co-workers, about how you came through for Arthur. You even fall asleep with a smile. 
That night, your eyes snap open. Screams, unearthly screams wake you up. 
Then you see them. Your mother. Your father. Your friends. Your classmates. Your co-workers. Lying on your floor, their blood soaking into your carpet. Your walls stained with carnage. Their heads bashed in, their eyes missing from their sockets. Everyone you know dead or dying. 
You whimper and see a man standing in the doorway. 
It’s Arthur, holding the piece of paper you gave him. 
Your entire body shaking, you choke out. “Are you here to kill me?” 
Arthur just nods.

Apr 21, 2013

1340 KAB: THIS IS STEVIE WAYNE, YOUR NIGHT LIGHT


It had been a long day for Al Williams. With the April heat suddenly coming on in full force, all he had wanted to do was stack the Sea Grass with a few twelve-packs and head out into Bodega Bay with Dick and Tommy. Making this difficult was Kathy, his well-meaning but neurotic wife, who had been driving herself crazy – along with Al by default – trying to organize the town’s Centennial. “Had the statue been finished? Had the candles been ordered? Would the dark and somber Father Malone remember he was to perform the benediction?” That’s right, their town of many years, Antonio Bay, was turning one hundred years any minute, and while many townspeople seemed excited at the prospect, he could only scoff and wonder if he should be so lucky to live that long. But he had finally managed to escape, and after handing off the final case of beer to Dick and Tommy, who waited impatiently on the Sea Grass, they shoved off from the docks and motored for a while – far enough away where the only sign of life from town came in the form of some phantom dog barks, but close enough that they could still pick up the signal from the KAB station lighthouse off Spivey Point.

He needed this – bad. Good friends and cheap beer, and sure, maybe they’d try to catch a fish or two. His old vessel creaked and cracked like she were about to fall apart at any moment, but she was sea worthy, alright – he'd been taking her out for years.

He wasn't sure where to set his sights: Whateley or Arkham Reefs, maybe. But he knew the where didn't matter; all he wanted was to kill his engine and drift along with the tide. The journey to the docks where the Grass was tied had been a long one – figuratively and literally – and the evening had grown dark and late. But everything was perfectly in place now, and hopefully, nothing would come along to ruin it. The water was calm, softly lapping at the Grass’ hull, and the sky was clear – not a bad patch of ominous looking weather in sight. And the men had all night to fish – Nick couldn't make the trip, but had said he'd meet them back at the dock at 7:30 the next morning for breakfast.

Al settled into his cot, snapped a beer, and flipped the switch on his ancient radio.

And Stevie Wayne’s show was already in full swing…






Notes:
1 In order to present all the source music heard in The Fog, I had to play around with the film's timeline. Technically, 1340 KAB transmits on two separate nights, so in order to recreate these two shows as one uninterrupted program, I had to do some combining.

2 Only one track from the film does not appear, as far too much of it was talked over, chopped up, and impossible to isolate. I was unable to locate its title or artist to secure a clean copy, so I replaced this missing track with "The Charleston," which is a pretty good doppelganger. Additionally, I added "Moonlight Serenade," which does not appear in the film whatsoever, but I needed one more track to end the show, and it seemed in keeping with the station format, especially alongside the Lindup/Moorehouse stuff.

3 Three of the songs found in the track-list have made-up names, as ID information on them is non-existent. The song titles are phrases lifted from the film, and the artist names are bits of John Carpenter-related trivia (for extra dorkiness).

For all of these artistic liberties, I would normally say I'm sorry, but I'm not, because this was really, really hard.

Apr 20, 2013

THE TAPE

During the summer of 1983, in a quiet town near Minneapolis, Minnesota, the charred body of a woman was found inside the kitchen stove of a small farmhouse. A video camera was also found in the kitchen, standing on a tripod and pointing at the oven. No tape was found inside the camera at the time. 
Although the scene was originally labeled as a homicide by police, an unmarked VHS tape was later discovered at the bottom of the farm's well (which had apparently dried up earlier that year). 
Despite its worn condition, and the fact that it contained no audio, police were still able to view the contents of the tape. It depicted a woman recording herself in front of a video camera (seemingly using the same camera the police found in the kitchen). After positioning the camera to include both her and her kitchen stove in the image, the tape then showed her turning on the oven, opening the door, crawling inside, and then closing the door behind her. Eight minutes into the video, the oven could be seen shaking violently, after which point thick black smoke could be seen emanating from it. For the remaining 45 minutes of video, until the batteries in the camera died, it remained in its stationary position. 
To avoid disturbing the local community, police never released any information about the tape, or even the fact that it was found. Police were also not able to determine who put the tape in the well, or why the height and stature of the woman in the video didn't come close to matching the body they'd found in the oven.


Image source.

Apr 18, 2013

REVIEW: EVIL DEAD

 
(Spoilers abound.)

With the release of Evil Dead, the umpteenth remake of a beloved horror property, I think it’s safe to say the redo/reboot/reimagining craze might be coming to an end. After all, every hot title from the ‘70s and ‘80s has been modified for newer audiences, with a range of quality from excellent to downright maudlin. Our remaining and untouched heavyweight titles are The Exorcist and Jaws, and despite having said the same things about Halloween and A Nightmare on Elm Street, I doubt studios have the balls to try.

In the case of films like Halloween, a remake wasn’t at all necessary. Halloween, while not perfect, is damn near, and remains probably the greatest slasher movie of all time. However, in the case of Children of the Corn or Prom Night, there wasn’t too much outrage. Fans of those films or not, no one could argue they were perfect, or even good, and so there was massive room for improvement.

And then you have 1981’s The Evil Dead, a near-impossible film to recreate. Not because it’s flawless – far from it – but because of the circumstances under which it was made, and how those circumstances crafted the film and made it something extra special. To sit down and watch The Evil Dead for the first time (if it was the remake that led you there) is a fool’s errand. Quite frankly, the remake would be just that much better by default. A certain level of appreciation for guerilla-like film-making and no-budget improvisation are the direct result of The Evil Dead’s fan love. Sam Raimi and Co. had very little skill and even less money. And it shows, by god. The Evil Dead, as far as “should it be remade?” criteria goes, falls somewhere in the middle between the high watermark Halloween and lower titles like Mother’s Day or Night of the Demons. It was, simply, great and fun, and it skated by on its can-do attitude, but it also had massive room for improvement.

So Evil Dead 2013 (dropping 'The," because time is money) is finally arriving in theaters after years and years of speculation. And what a mixed affair it is. A twist on the old concept is a good one, to be fair: a group of friends are assembling in an old family cabin deep in the woods to take part in a drug intervention for Mia (Jane Levy), sister of David (Shiloh Fernandez). These two have history, involving a dead crazy mother and feelings of abandonment when one sibling couldn’t deal with all the goings-on and peaced out. But after Mia’s last overdose, which was nearly fatal, she’s decided enough is enough. She tosses her junk down a well and announces it’s now or never.

Then someone finds that damned book bound by human flesh and inked in blood, reads it, Mia is raped by a tree, and all hell breaks loose. Hey, sound familiar? It should, because except for a few million more dollars used directly on special effects and production design, you’re not going to be seeing anything new.


Last year’s Cabin in the Woods was successful in not only lovingly sending up the horror genre, but in rendering this remake completely irrelevant before it ever existed. After all the insane mythology that Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard created in that super-fun and meta blast, kids in the woods getting mutilated simply isn’t enough anymore. Cabin in the Woods was a “game changer,” a term I abhor using, but one that is absolutely imperative to use here.

The script for Evil Dead isn’t real because there is no script. It’s filled with the kind of lazy exposition that I’ve grown to hate in films: when one character manages to shoe-horn information about the person to whom they are speaking: “Why, hello, Hairy Bearded Man! I see you have taken time off from your career as a high school teacher to be with us at this, my younger sister’s intervention!” Give me a fucking break.

The prologue, involving a witch, a group of inbred creepsters, and a father burning his own possessed daughter alive, promises something different and new. It promises a fleshed-out history of the Naturum De Montum, and a dabbling in everything that has come before the events soon to unfold. But after the opening, it’s the same story involving the same archetypes. Oh, only one of them is black now. How fine. And one of these characters is so terribly underutilized that you’d be hard pressed to remember her name (if it’s ever even spoken aloud). At least every other character is given some kind of trait or background to flesh them out them just a little, but for this one in particular, she’s clearly there to die horribly (after nonsensically cutting off her own hand, because hey, remember when the older movies did that??).

Evil Dead is 90 minutes of one character walking from one room into another, seeing something fucked up, and becoming possessed/mutilated/killed because of it. That’s… basically it. Watch as Girl goes into the bathroom and begins cutting off her own face, and then watch as Boy goes into that same bathroom a few minutes later to see what’s taking Girl so long. Say, what’s Girl # 2 doing? Oh, nothing – just walking around as everything goes to shit around her. Guess she’ll go into the cellar, where she gets stabbed and threatened with demon cunnilingus.

Oh, speaking of, can we please have a moratorium on foul-mouthed, sexually explicit demon talk going forward? Yes, The Exorcist did it. Yes, it was effective…forty years ago. Let’s just stop. A demon threatening to give you a blowjob is not scary. Not whatsoever. It makes audiences laugh, as it should. If that’s your idea of scary, then Evil Dead is for you. Try to fit it somewhere in between your viewings of "South Park."


If I were still in high school, then I would call Evil Dead “fucking cool, dudes!” I would have been easily swayed by the film’s cameos – of the Oldsmobile, of Bruce Campbell’s post-credit one-liner, and of the original film’s audio recording that details the history of the Naturum De Montum. And I admit to laughing out loud during the end credits when seeing the “Fake Shemps” list. But watching this film with mature eyes, after a previous decade of horror remakes actually trying new things with old concepts, all of this so-called love and reverence for the original seems like nothing more than pandering. Yes, the violence is gruesome, near cartoonish, and certainly holds up its gnarled middle finger at its baffling R-rating. Yes, a demon broad gets chain-sawed through the head and blood flies in massive clouds as the infamous cabin becomes an inferno in the background. High School Me’s boner would have penetrated the silver screen; even as a more mature viewer I’ll say it was an awesome, over-the-top moment. It just would have been that much more effective had it been preceded by something a little more in-depth and intriguing beyond “kids go to the woods, kids find evil book, kids get dead.”

People seemed very optimistic about Sam Raimi’s involvement and I have to wonder why. Obviously the original film was his baby, and if anyone was going to take care of it, it would be him. But goodness, have you seen Ghost House Production’s filmography? The Grudge series? The Messengers? Boogeyman, for fuck’s sake? Let’s just say the double-team of Raimi and Tapert don’t exactly have the same luck and eye for talent as Jason Blum, who has produced much better horror fare (Insidious, Sinister). Raimi himself hasn’t even directed a decent film since 2000’s The Gift; his bizarre and stupid Drag Me to Hell has pretty much insured that I will never care about a potential Evil Dead 4/Army of Darkness 2, which is likely to carry forward the goofy "we're in on the joke now!" tone begun in Evil Dead 2.

All of the above sounds very embittered, I know. So let’s end with some positivity. Evil Dead still remains one of the better horror remakes – certainly the best since 2009’s My Bloody Valentine. There’s nothing inherently terrible about it. Lazy script and bland characters notwithstanding, Fede Alvarez’s direction is solid. Two things that were essential in the realization of this remake were kept in place: the eerie, dreamlike and almost surreal tone of the original, and the understanding that the new film not rest on humor, which too many people incorrectly associate with the original. (Funny it may have been, it certainly hadn't set out to be.) Additionally, the first scene showing a girl wandering through the woods filled with fog, lit from above by the sun, is gorgeous, as is much of the violence soon to unfold. And in the aforementioned prologue, in which a young possessed girl gives up on trying to charm her way out of the ropes that bind her, and in her sweet, innocent voice, tells her father she’s going to rip out his soul (sounding almost conflicted about it) – before she changes into the demon that has taken hold of her – it works. It’s eerie, and it’s effective in that way a remake should be: It remembers, fondly, the source material, but attempts to try something new. It’s just a shame this wasn’t attempted for the remaining 88 minutes of the film.


If you enjoy the original The Evil Dead for what’s presented on-screen, with no reverence for the behind-the-scenes struggles the filmmakers endured in getting that bastard into theaters everywhere, then there’s no real reason why you shouldn’t enjoy the remake. It is beautiful looking and superficial entertainment at best. But if what you appreciate about the original – much like I do – is all the hell Raimi and Co. endured in getting the film made and managing to do so under the worst conditions, then there’s no reason you shouldn’t be disappointed. The tale of a 22-year-old amateur filmmaker creating a no-budget feature filled with demons, levitation, tree rape, stop-motion effects, claymation, innovative camera techniques, and oceans of blood, and driven by his love of schlock and movie-making, is far more interesting than a multi-million dollar remake funded by a major studio and produced by the guy who made Spider-Man (even if it is that same amateur filmmaker many years later).

Something special was lost in translation, and that isn’t groovy at all.

Apr 17, 2013

ELMER THE MUMMY

Elmer McCurdy (January 1880 – October 7th 1911) was an outlaw killed in a gunfight in the Osage Hills in Oklahoma. A newspaper account gave Elmer’s last words as “You’ll never take me alive!” His body was taken to a funeral home in Oklahoma. When no one claimed the corpse, the undertaker embalmed it with an arsenic-based preservative and allowed people to see “The Bandit Who Wouldn’t Give Up” for a nickel, placed in Elmer’s mouth, which the undertaker would collect later. Five years later, a man showed up from a nearby traveling carnival claiming to be Elmer’s long-lost brother wanting to give the corpse a proper burial. Within two weeks, however, Elmer was a featured exhibit with the carnival. For the next 60 years, Elmer’s body was sold to wax museums, carnivals, and haunted houses. 
The owner of a haunted house near Mount Rushmore refused to purchase him because he thought that Elmer’s body was actually a mannequin and not lifelike enough. Eventually, the corpse wound up in “The Laff in the Dark” funhouse at the Long Beach Pike amusement park in California. During filming of the The Six Million Dollar Man shot in December 1976, a crew member was moving what was thought to be a wax mannequin that was hanging from a gallows. When the mannequin’s arm broke off, it was discovered that it was in fact the mummified remains of Elmer McCurdy, who was finally buried in the Boot Hill section of the Summit View Cemetery in Guthrie, Oklahoma on April 22nd 1977, with 2 cubic yards of concrete over his casket so his remains would never be disturbed again.


Apr 16, 2013

SEVEN STEPS

There was an apartment that had one room where no one stayed for very long. Everyone left within one week of renting it. The room was on the first floor in the corner of the building and you could reach it by climbing a flight of stairs with seven steps. The landlord felt uncomfortable about the whole affair and it bothered him a lot, but one day he got a tenant who stayed well over a week. That made the landlord happy, but just to make sure everything was alright, he went to the room to check on the tenant. But no one responded to the landlord's knockings. The landlord felt something was amiss and he rang up the police. When the police arrived they broke into the room together. Inside, they found the tenant's dead body.  The cause of the death was unclear and to find out what had happened the police then went around asking for information. They managed to talk to some of the previous tenants of the room but none of them was willing to talk about the room. However in the end they managed to get one person talking. His story went like this: 
Every night a child's voice was heard. On the first night after the tenant moved in, the voice said: "Oooone step Iiii've cliiiimbed..."  
He wondered what it was but nothing else happened and so he just ignored it. But the next day he heard the same voice say: "Twooo steps Iiii've cliiiiimbed..."  
On the third day it said: "Threee steps Iiii've cliiiiiimbed..."  
And so it went on the same way, on the fourth, the fifth and the sixth day. The voice was clearly getting closer. There were only seven steps on the stairs. All previous tenants ran away fearing what might happen if it reached the seventh step.  
And it appears the only person who knows the answer to that is the dead tenant.

 

Image source.

Apr 15, 2013

SHITTY FLICKS: SHARK ZONE

Shitty Flicks is an ongoing column that celebrates the most hilariously incompetent, amusingly pedestrian, and mind-bogglingly stupid movies ever made by people with a bit of money, some prior porn-directing experience, and no clue whatsoever. It is here you will find unrestrained joy in movies meant to terrify and thrill, but instead poke at your funny bone with their weird, mutant camp-girl penis.

WARNING: I tend to give away major plot points and twist endings in my reviews because, whatever. Shut up.


Shark Zone (originally given the much better title of Jurassic Shark), is a smörgåsbord of what we love about shark movies: attractive and untalented lead actors/actresses, recycled footage that looks a little narrow because the logo for the Discovery Channel had to be cropped out, and of course, little-to-no realistic violence.

Oh, and roaring sharks. Yes, the sharks here roar and roar aplenty. As I write this, I can picture the sound designer on this film staring at dailies of swimming sharks and asking himself, "After I'm finished this bag of candy worms, what can I do to make this shark scarier than the one from Jaws?"

But, I digress.

Let's get on with Shark Zone: A Return to Form for Dean Cochran (Motorcycle Villain from Batman & Robin).

"Jimbo, watch this! Grab that little doll. I'll put that
 in my mouth."

Our movie begins in the past with a pirate ship and men wearing Halloween costumes (of pirates). In a sequence that left even The Goonies laughing hysterically, badly created lightning strikes and the waves force the ship down into Davy Jones' locker. All the swashbucklers drown and their precious precious chest of diamonds sinks to the bottom of the sea.

God rest ye, merry gentleman.

CUT TO closer to the present, but still in the past, where our handsome hero, Dean Cochran, is introduced. I forget his name. Maybe it was Jimbo. Anyway, we find Jimbo to be charter-boating on the ocean with two couples and his father, Jimbo Sr.

What a party.

They're all there to search for the lost diamonds lost by pirates in the movie’s prologue.

This is funny, because the only ones who knew the diamonds were on that ship were the pirates. (The ones that died.)

But no matter. Delightful banter ensues between our divers, and boobs are flaunted. When it's time for Head Boat Guy to explain the dos and don'ts of scuba-diving, he tells one of the members that his shiny chain will attract sharks.

Shiny Necklace Guy almost makes the choice to live, but then gives a Curly wave and does not remove his necklace.
"I'd remove that necklace if I were you. If you don't, sharks might rip your fucking arms off."
"I'm good."
Up next, a completely unexpected and crazy-ass thing happens.

They all dive and they're all killed. Even Jimbo's father, whose last words were "Swim, Jimbo! Swim!"

Finally, we cut to the present: 10 years after this attack. Our hero hasn't aged whatsoever, but now he's married to a hot girl and has a disgusting kid.

Jimbo's loss of father and attack of sharks has left him permanently embittered by the water, and his bitterness has begun to rub off on his ugly son, who doesn't eat fish because he's terrified of the ocean.

Despite Jimbo's hate/fear of the ocean, he is apparently a lifeguard or coastguard or color guard or something having to do directly with the water. Sometimes, people are attacked by sharks. And when they are, the mayor (for some reason, the same actor who plays the father) refuses to close the beaches.

That subplot never gets old.

Jimbo attempts to kill the sharks. How? Not sure, since you never actually see how.

Come to think of it, he really never verbally discusses his plan, nor does the movie ever show you how he would plan to carry out the sharks' demise.

All you see is what you'd expect: a boat and some shark cages. But oh man, when his friends are sitting in the cages under water, and the sharks start bumping the cages a little bit, but in no way endangering their lives, Jimbo yells for them to "Swim to the boat!" They do, and of course, since they are idiotically vulnerable in the open ocean, they're all eaten. And when they are, Jimbo literally gives one disappointed pound on the rail of his boat, as if to say, "You've won this round, Zone of Sharks!"

Fact: Vending machines kill more people per year
than sharks kill Captain America.

Somehow, the Russian mob shows up and demands that Jimbo dive and help them find the missing diamonds lost in the beginning of the movie. Lead Villain Guy, Mr. Bulkhead, makes him dive by taking his ugly son hostage, threatening the "sleep with the fishes" routine.

Jimbo takes control of the situation by punching and kicking men and throwing them overboard, where, of course, the sharks eat them.

So how does this glorious movie end?

The sharks eat everyone, are not defeated, and nary a clue ever reveals any kind of hint as to why they are huge and all of a sudden attacking everything in sight.

Jimbo and his ugly son get away, because they're virgins, and virgins always live.

Apr 13, 2013

RUGRASCALS

Remember "Rugrats," that show on Nickelodeon? What you probably don't know is that the creator of the show, Gabor Csupo, originally planned a late night version of "Rugrats" called "Rugrascals," to be played at night, with more adult humor.

Because every major channel thought the pilot was too disturbing, they refused to air the show, and as a result no-one has really heard about it. However, one station in Wellington, New Zealand mistakenly played it in the morning, thinking it was a regular "Rugrats" episode.

The pilot and only episode of the show that was seen was called "Chuckie's Mom." The intro played like normal, but at the end when Tommy shoots the milk at the screen, the sound effect is much louder, and the milk simply stays there for about 10 seconds, then the name of the episode appears. The episode played out like normal, with the babies playing in the playpen. They are all talking about their moms when Chuckie has a flashback.

It had Chuckie in hospital standing next to his mother in bed, who was dying from an unknown illness. She was singing "You are my sunshine, my only sunshine" to Chuckie in a very weak voice, as if she were about to die, but when she sang the second verse the song started playing in reverse. A shot of Chuckie appeared in front of a live action footage of a toad being dissected, said to represent death by fans. Chuckie turns around and screams, and when he looks back at his mother, her face has a live action man's mouth pasted on it saying, "Don't worry, Chuckie, it's time for me to move on," in a man's voice. A flurry of random live action clips were shown, said to represent death, like a cow walking into a box with "slaughterhouse" crudely drawn on the side, and actual footage of a man suffering AIDS being killed. You can hear Chuckie screaming the entire time. A shot of Chuckie's mom appears again, this time with a chickens beak crudely pasted onto her face, saying, "Don't you remember where it all started?"

The episode then cuts to live-action footage of childbirth mammograms. After about one minute of these mammograms, you hear Chuckie's mom say, "Arent you a lucky ducky, Chuckie?" A harlequin fetus appear. At this time, you see Chuckie come out of the flashback, having a seizure. Tommy, Phil, and Lil are crying, and an ambulance worker calms him down, saying, "Chuckie? Chuckie? Can you hear me?" in a stern voice. Eventually after coughing up blood and vomiting, Chuckie comes to his senses. We then see a point of view shot of Chuckie, seeing Tommy, Phil, Lil, and the ambulance worker as having live-action chicken beaks on their faces, clucking away. A photo of a kid that looks just like Chuckie screaming appears, and the camera zooms into it.

After this, the regular credits played, followed by 15 minutes of static as the station had nothing else to play. Surprisingly, although the episode was watched by many children, only one adult who was watching (me) has spoken about it until now. I was confused to find out that children suicide rates went through the roof in New Zealand that year.
 

Apr 12, 2013

DANCING PLAGUE OF 1518

In July of 1518, Frau Troffea of Strasbourg, France (then part of the Holy Roman Empire), began to dance frantically in the streets.  Within a month, 400 people began to do the same, eventually collapsing and dying of heart attack, exhaustion, and stroke. 
Doctors at the time were at a loss. Notes from the city council revealed that the cause of the dancing was unknown, only that the victims were not dancing willingly. 
Then, as suddenly as it began, in August, the Dancing Plague of 1518 was over, leaving almost 400 dead, a population baffled, and a mystery that has lasted half of a millennium. 
Some have blamed the dancing plague on mass hysteria, the result of eating contaminated bread, or even religious ecstasy. 
Although the plague never reappeared in France, a similar case of the frantic dancing cropped up in Madagascar in the 1840s.  In both cases, the cause was never found.

Apr 11, 2013

REVIEW: K-11


You know how everyone has that one friend who, no matter what kind of story you're telling, somehow has a story even more amusing or ironic? Well, god forbid you ever begin a story with "I had the WORST day recently...!" around K-11's Raymond Saxx, because he would respond, "Well, one morning I woke up from a really fucked-up drug and booze binge, found myself accused of murder, and discovered I was locked up in a special transgender wing of a prison ruled by a deviant security guard and a tranny named The Queen."

Yeah, he'll always win with that one.

Goran Visnjic ("E.R.") is the unfortunate and aforementioned Raymond Saxx being dragged through the dingy halls of an ominous looking prison. He has no idea what he's done to find himself in such a place, but there he is all the same. After being held in isolation along with a fellow inmate named Butterfly (Portia Doubleday, the upcoming Carrie remake), he is eventually added to the gay and transgender wing. You see, the malicious and perverted Sgt. Johnson (D.B. Sweeney, Fire in the Sky) finds Raymond rather attractive, and with him locked up in his domain, he can wait until just the right time to...you know...strike.

While locked up in K-11, we meet its inhabitants: Mousey aka The Queen (Kate del Castilo), the head honcho who makes the rules; her bitch Ben (Jason Mewes, Clerks), who runs a mini drug operation; and Detroit (Tommy 'Tiny' Lister, The Dark Knight), an irreformable child molester, among many many other flamboyant characters. The prisoners of K-11 are colorful, to say the least, and though there is some drama from time to time, mostly these cellmates seem to get a long. But the arrival of Raymond has shaken the wing's establishment, both in front of and behind the locked cell doors.


K-11
's own marketing describes it as The Shawshank Redemption meets John Waters. That's a fairly accurate representation, especially when taking the former into consideration, as we have seen this kind of story before: Before Shawshank there was One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and before that, Cool Hand Luke. A new inmate shows up, unites other inmates thanks to his intelligence, non-conformity, and human spirit, and leaves everyone changed just from his existence. K-11 attempts the same thing; the problem is it's nowhere near the magnitude of those other films.

K-11 is, except for Visnjic's Raymond, extraordinarily well-acted. del Castillo as Mousey is scarily good. Apparently quite the heralded actress in her native Mexico, a quick glance at her filmography confirms I am not familiar with any of her past work. Because of this, having nothing previous to go on, I found her especially convincing. She seemed dangerous and intimidating, but also conflictingly beautiful. All except for the bulge beneath her tiny underwear. Alternately, Portia Doubleday's Butterfly seems simple-minded but good-hearted. Her and Raymond become fast friends, and he soon develops a paternal protection of her. But, like previously mentioned, Visnjic seems rather flat and unconvincing. When he's playing a muddled mess he does just fine, but otherwise it feels like anyone could have played the role. His character is also maddeningly inconsistent. He seems to alternate between being a drug-added sweating mess, desperate to get out of K-11 by any means necessary, to a smiling, just-fine inhabitant, taking delight in Butterfly's bubbly personality, or the prisoners' ...er...fashion show.


The most frustrating aspect to K-11 is that it's impulsively watchable. The interactions between all the characters are very good, and D.B. Sweeney is especially effective as the very slimy Sgt. Johnson. The interplay works; the everyday-life of such a place seems genuine and realistic, though at the same time surreal and foreign. The things that occur are oftentimes so crazy you almost want to believe they are real, because in all honesty, what the fuck do you or I know about the transgender prison populace? But the reason I chose the word "frustrating" is because when the movie's conclusion happens, and the film ends, your immediate question will be "so what?" If co-writer/director Jules Stewart wanted nothing more than to shed some light on such places in a docudrama fashion, then mission accomplished. But if there was supposed to be more to it - if Raymond Saxx was supposed to learn where his life went astray and become a better person for it - if his character was supposed to "grow" - it certainly wasn't earned. There was no epiphany. Whole scenes of inmate camaraderie or catharsis seem to be missing. And the film doesn't end so much as it stops happening, and it sadly makes the journey up to it a little irrelevant. 

The DVD comes with commentary by director Stewart and producer Tom Wright. It's an okay listen, but I'm surprised that Stewart didn't have more to say about her odd choice for a directorial debut. She points out a little trivia from time to time, like explaining that the color of jumpsuit K-11 inhabitants wear are purposely different from those of the general population, but we never get anything meaty or useful. The track starts off with energy, but soon devolves into "and this is what's happening now"-type observation which is audio commentary suicide.

K-11 was an interesting watch, and one I don't regret. I feel as if a curtain has been lifted on a world on which I never gave much thought - whether it exists or not - but it's a shame that this world wasn't utilized to its maximum potential. At the end of the day, K-11 feels like nothing more than a really compelling missed opportunity.

K-11 streets on DVD and Bluray on April 23. Pre-order the DVD here.

Apr 10, 2013

SS OURANG MEDAN

In February, 1948, distress calls were picked up by numerous ships near Indonesia, from the Dutch freighter SS Ourang Medan. The chilling message was, “All officers including captain are dead lying in chartroom and bridge. Possibly whole crew dead.” This message was followed by indecipherable Morse code then one final grisly message… “I die.” When the first rescue vessel arrived on the scene a few hours later, they tried to hail the Ourang Medan but there was no response. A boarding party was sent to the ship and what they found was a frightening sight that has made the Ourang Medan one of the strangest and scariest ghost ship stories of all time.

All the crew and officers of the Ourang Medan were dead, their eyes open, faces looking towards the sun, arms outstretched and a look of terror on their faces. Even the ship’s dog was dead, found snarling at some unseen enemy. When nearing the bodies in the boiler room, the rescue crew felt a chill, though the temperature was near 110°F. The decision was made to tow the ship back to port, but before they could get underway, smoke began rolling up from the hull. The rescue crew left the ship and barely had time to cut the tow lines before the Ourang Medan exploded and sank.

To this day, the exact fate of the Ourang Medan and her crew remains a mystery.


Image source.

Apr 9, 2013

SHADOW PEOPLE

Emerson County has had reports of strange shadowy creatures/people since 1957. In August of 1997, roughly 2 miles from where the first reports originated, a video camera was found and turned into local authorities. What they saw on the old tape was scary, mysterious, and remains unexplained to this day. Some people refer to this "shadowy creature" as a "Shadow Person."


 

Apr 8, 2013

THIS IS SOME SPOOKY SHIT WE GOT HERE


Do you own a video camera?

No. Fred hates them.

I like to remember things my own way.

What do you mean by that?

How I remembered them.
Not necessarily the way they happened. 

Apr 6, 2013

REAL VAMPIRES

In Rhode Island in the late 1700s lived a 19-year-old girl named Sarah Tillinghast. Sarah was a dreamy girl, spending her days wandering small graveyards where Revolutionary soldiers lay. She was known to bring a book of poetry to these places and seat herself on a grave slab and read for hours on end. One day as she returned home from one of her visits she professed herself ill and took to her bed. Soon after she had a horrible fever and within weeks she was dead. 
The Tillinghast family was still grieving some weeks later when Sarah’s brother, James, came down to breakfast looking pale, shivering and complaining of a weight on his chest. He claimed that Sarah had come to him and sat on his bed. Sarah and James’ parents thought it was nothing but his grief playing tricks with his mind. 
The next day James was even paler and could barely breathe. Soon after, James was also dead. 
But Sarah and James were just the beginning - shortly after their deaths two more Tillinghast children died, both saying beforehand that Sarah had visited them. These claims were quite frightening for the Tillinghast parents, for it meant that Sarah was returning from the dead to draw the life from remaining family members. The rumors spread through the town, all saying one word - Vampire! 
Not before too long there were more deaths, and all of the victims claimed that it was Sarah that they saw right before the sickness took hold.  Then finally Honour Tillinghast, the mother of all the dead children, too became sick. Honour lay in her death bed swearing that her lost children were calling out to her. 
This was when Snuffy Tillinghast, the father, finally took a stand. With the help of his farmhand, Caleb, he went out early morning to the cemetery where Sarah was buried. He took with him a long hunting knife and a container of lamp oil. 
The two men reached Sarah’s grave and together dug up her casket and opened its creaking lid. Even though she had been put to rest 18 months ago Sarah looked as if she were asleep, there was no decomposition. Her eyes were open, according to one account, fixed in a stare, and fresh blood was found in her heart and veins.  After seeing his daughter’s face flushed as if with blood he took his knife and cut out her bleeding heart. It is said her body gushed with blood. Snuffy Tillinghast then set his daughter’s heart on fire and burned it to ashes.
After the heart was burned the deathly ill Honour Tillinghast recovered fully and there were no more strange deaths or Sarah sightings in the Rhode Island town again.

Apr 5, 2013

REVIEW: THE PROSPECTOR'S CURSE

 

As I watched filmmaker Josh Heisie's short film The Prospector's Curse, I was struck by just how much the tone and over-the-top nature of the story's events felt as if they had been plucked from the pages of the old EC comic line, or from the Creepshow film series.

After watching the film and checking out the press kit sent by the filmmaker, I saw this:
The Prospector’s Curse will be pitched as the first “chapter” of an anthology horror feature (IE, “Tales From the Crypt” and Creepshow). Each chapter will pay homage to a different genre of B-Movie, including this spaghetti western inspired ghost story, a film-noir thriller, a 1950s style creature feature, and a psychedelic slasher flick.
Glad to see we're on the same page. And I'll even do the filmmaker one better. The Prospector's Curse feels like a lost film from the efforts of Sam Raimi and Co., perhaps made and forgotten somewhere during their other little seen opus Within the Woods. Your plot is a rather simple one: Two fugitive men on the run during the height of the U.S. gold rush come across a dying prospector who begs them to give his gold to his sister, and to give him a "Christian burial." The two men agree, but do neither, intent on finding his stake and picking up where the old prospector left off. Well, in line with the old morality tales that "Tales from the Crypt" made famous, the two men will end up regretting their decisions.


The Prospector's Curse is wonderfully quirky and outrageous, but would benefit more from being surrounded by other short films of its type. As a one-off, I could see some viewers being standoffish with it if they're not "in" on the joke. Some people like their horror straight-laced and serious; some like it goofy. The Prospector's Curse is definitely goofy. One can come away with no other opinion following a scene in which a character thinks he is passionately kissing his long-lost love before seeing that it's actually the dead and bloody prospector...and spitting beard out of his mouth. I hope this anthology idea works out; from someone who misses the format, it would be something to look forward to.

Check out the film's official Facebook



Apr 3, 2013

REVIEW: HAYRIDE


Hayride
opens with a scene in which our main character discusses with his girlfriend the history of his uncle's Halloween hayride attraction. After running through the list of oddball horror characters his uncle has created over the years to fill out his hayride, he adds: "You have to keep it simple. Simpler is scarier. People don't want a compelling story. They want to be scared."

"Sounds like lazy writing to me," his girlfriend says. Mm, boy howdy, don't it, just?

Steven Summers (Jeremy Ivy) has come back home with his girlfriend, Amanda (Sherri Eakin), to see his family for the holiday. That holiday would be Halloween, which while I can fully get behind the idea of supporting, seems weird he would make what seems to be a long trip for such an occasion. But it's because his family takes Halloween very seriously, which includes his Uncle (Captain) Morgan (Kindergarten Cop's Richard Tyson!). Oh, also - a killer is on the loose, bludgeoning people awkwardly with an axe. This is important to note, since, ya know...we need conflict.


Written and directed by T.R. Parsons, who must be an Alabama native based on his ability to capably capture its beauty, Hayride is yet another Halloween-set slasher film about a killer picking off one misguided young adult at a time. How to properly approach the final output depends on your level of prejudice against low budget film-making. I tend to teeter back and forth, as it's unfair to let a low budget affect one's opinion, as what matters was the attempt at transcending that kind of limitation. But if said film simply isn't trying anything new, then it's fair game. Hayride has a lot of neat new features, but once you strip them all away, we're still dealing with the basic model. 

Surprisingly, the film fairly shares time with the kids and the hayride subplot as it does with the killer. But when it wants to be horrific and bloody, it is. The problem is, after a point, it really does devolve into the usual slasher fare that we have seen time and time again. It tries to jazz up the proceedings by including a subplot about the law proactively attempting to hunt the killer down, instead of the usual "you're crazy, so-and-so's been dead for years!" reaction we so often get, but we're still left with the same old thing - our lead attempting to survive against the villain while simultaneously overcoming his own ingrained fears.


The film makes a concerted effort to establish some character development for our lead characters, attempting to flesh them out beyond their typical Abercrombie archetypes. There's a particularly sappy but pleasant scene between uncle and nephew about the latter's possible future - and whether what he considers to be more of a sure thing: a career, or his future with Amanda. None of this is expected to be included in this sub-genre, so it was a welcome surprise.

From a directing standpoint, though I'm not too big a fan of the hand-held movement taking over at every budget level, I rather like the flashback sequences used to help fill in the gaps about the killer's origins. Where most films would simply shoot in black and white, these scenes have been altered in post to give it a nice look - almost that of photographs bubbling and melting over an open campfire. And Hayride, its tongue firmly planted in cheek, has no shortage of homage. The detective hunting the killer is named Loomis; the camera settles in for a close-up of a girl's ass; a scary campfire about the killer's origins ends with a cheap scare a la Friday 2.

The sequences involving the hayride and walk-throughs are especially fun. We've all been to one, and whether it was shitty or fantastic, we remember the experiences, so the inclusion of these sequences work, even if by affiliation.

As usual in films of this manner, the younger portion of the cast's acting isn't tremendous. It's not terrible to the point of distraction, but much of it comes across as clumsy and awkward. Richard Tyson, however, seems to be teetering back and forth between sleepy Nic Cage and over the top lovable Billy Ray Cyrus. Either way, it makes me realized something: I've missed Richard Tyson!

There is bad out there, ladies and gents, and lord knows I have seen it. Seeing what I have seen, I can't in good conscience call Hayride a bad film, or even a missed opportunity - completely overwrought final minutes notwithstanding. It's perfectly and reasonably entertaining, and for a multitude of reasons. If you want an engaging story, it's here. If you want a body count, you've got one. But if you're looking for originality, that's one I can't say you'll find in this old Hayride.