Feb 27, 2014

HITCH

Aquatic Hitchcock. Cannes, 1963.

PHANTASM EXHUMED: AN INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR DUSTIN McNEILL


When someone says the word “franchise” or “series” to a horror fan, inevitably that fan will immediately think of Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Halloween. Jason, Freddy, and Michael have been infamous horror genre boogeyman for approaching forty years. They are the next generation’s Dracula, Wolf Man, and Frankenstein’s Monster. But they are also, with all due respect, half-ideas and whisper-down-the-alleys. Their imperfectly perfect originals (each film for different reasons) have been fleshed out, explored, expanded upon, and exploited with multitudes of sequels and remakes, none of which had the input from the creative team responsible for bringing the groundbreaking original to screens. Their tangential mythologies have traversed such differing directions that they eventually no longer embodied what their original creators had established.

That cannot be said for the Phantasm series, which has seen the same writer/director on all four films, as well as most of the cast. In 1979, series creator Don Coscarelli unleashed upon the world an absurd and bizarre fever dream called Phantasm. And its main cast of A. Michael Baldwin, Reggie Bannister, Bill Thornbury, and the immeasurable Angus Scrimm have been along for the ride ever since. (I suppose we can “forgive” the presence of James LeGros as Mike in Phantasm II, but no forgiveness is necessary, as he was great in the role.)

Getting back to those aforementioned horror franchises, they have been lucky enough and beloved enough to receive respectful and definitive retrospectives with an assemblage of books (Crystal Lake Memories; Halloween: The Complete History) and video documentaries (Halloween: 25 Years of Terror; Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy).

Up to this point, beyond special features on DVD releases, no such attention has ever been paid to the Phantasm series, consisting of the original, Phantasm II, Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead, and Phantasm: Oblivion.
 
Enter Dustin McNeill, owner of the Phantasm Archives, moderator of the Phantasm Community, longtime Phantasm fan (er, phan, as we're often called), and now author, who has penned Phantasm Exhumed: The Unauthorized Companion, which streets late March from Harker Press. In the author's own words, Phantasm Exhumed is "a meticulously researched look at the chronological day-by-day making of the four Phantasm films from script page to world premiere as told through the stories and anecdotes of cast, crew, producers and effects makers. In addition to the four film sections, Phantasm Exhumed contains a Primordium chapter that covers in less detail the making of Don Coscarelli's first two films, Jim the World's Greatest and Kenny & Company...The book also benefits greatly from the inclusion of rare and unpublished journals by Angus Scrimm and Kristen Deem that collectively span all four films."

To quote the book's author, let's do a little more digging...



Tall Man in Desert: Guy Thorpe
The End of Summer (TEOS): At what age did you discover the weird and wild world of Phantasm? Where were you, and which film was your first?

Dustin McNeill (DM): I was fifteen when I happened upon the original at my local video store. I thought it was terrific, but never gave any thought to there being sequels. When I discovered two years later that sequels existed, I very quickly tracked them down and thought they were just as great. Phantasm: Oblivion is my absolute favorite sequel. Parts II and III I dig almost equally, with a slight edge going to Phantasm II.

TEOS: What was it about the Phantasm series that drew you in?

DM: The Tall Man! What a great horror villain! He barely spoke, but when he did I hung on his every word. I immediately recognized that the series wasn't spoon-feeding the audience answers about him or the other weird goings-on. The mythology required that you figure out certain things for yourself. I loved that.

TEOS: I recall reading your excellent Phantasm article in a 2009 issue of HorrorHound Magazine. Was this you testing the waters for a run at a potential Phantasm book? Or did writing the article parlay into the idea that you could potentially write an entire series retrospective?

DM: Thanks for the kind words. It came together very quickly and I would've loved to have had more time on it. In 2009, I was just beginning work on my book when the HorrorHound opportunity presented itself. I wasn't really sure what the focus of my book was yet, though I sensed there was a huge demand for it. That the issue completely sold out and is now only available from collectors reinforced to me that there is a major audience waiting. That doesn't happen to every HorrorHound issue.

TEOS: Though Phantasm isn't as well-known a horror franchise as, say, Halloween or A Nightmare on Elm Street, phans have had the opportunity over the years to delve into publications like Fangoria, or your HorrorHound, or the expansive documentaries found on special edition DVD releases, to access a wealth of information on the making of the Phantasm films. What will your book be offering that previous sources have not?

DM: Great question. Everything you've read or seen about Phantasm so far has been in a general sense. Everything. My book is going to take a very detailed, chronological look at the making of these four films… meaning I take you back to March 20, 1977, when they shot the Tall Man chasing Mike through Morningside Mortuary for Phantasm. Or January 5, 1987, when they filmed Mike and Reggie raiding the hardware store for supplies for Phantasm II. Or February 23, 1993, when they filmed the Demon Nurse's attack on Mike and Reggie for Phantasm III. Or November 22, 1997, when the Tall Man tried to remove the sphere from Mike's head in Phantasm: Oblivion. Basically, this book is really digging deep with the details.

A huge inspiration for me in taking this direction was J.W. Rinzler's fantastic books on the makings of Star Wars and Indiana Jones. Being able to excerpt Angus Scrimm's unpublished Phantasm set journals also help set this book apart from everything that has come before. I think phans are going to really enjoy seeing those.

Liz and the Creature: Mark Shostrom

TEOS: Have you managed to attract previous members of the Phantasm phamily who have never before shared their experiences working on the films?

DM: Yes, very much so. I was surprised to be the first person to interview a number of people associated with the series. Ken Jones, the original sphere victim, has never had the opportunity to speak publicly about Phantasm. There are also people who've shared their experiences before, but not often and not in a long, long time, such as Kevin Connors and Gloria Lynne-Henry (Tim and Rocky from Phantasm III).

TEOS: You've previously shared that series creator Don Coscarelli is not involved with the book. Why did he refrain from participating?

DM: I can only speculate. I know he heard about the project years ago before I approached him, which did not bode well. Prior to the book, my main communication with Don were emails asking that I remove information or videos from my website, the Phantasm Archives, when I was posting news too early or something they wanted to save for a future DVD release. So I was never tight with him like I was the cast. Obviously, it would have been incredible to involve him. I imagine he will eventually read it and I hope he will like it. It is, after all, a warm tribute to his work.

TEOS: Besides Don, were there any other individuals from Phantasm history who proved elusive that you wish you could have interviewed?

DM: Willard Green, father of the original silver sphere! I grabbed a local fortuneteller and attempted a séance in hopes of getting an interview, but nothing came of it. Sadly, Green died before the original Phantasm saw release. He never had the opportunity to see his work on the big screen.

TEOS: Just out of personal curiosity, did you manage to score an interview with Kenneth Tigar, who played Father Meyers in Phantasm 2 ? I love that guy!

DM: Yes, Father Meyers is in here. Kenneth was terrific and had some great things to say about making Phantasm II. Of his character's silver-sphere demise, he said, "It was one of the most interesting things I've ever done in my entire career." I was excited to see him appear in The Avengers shortly after our interview. He played one of the few mortals that ever stood up to Loki!

TEOS: The book will be including rare and never-before-seen photographs from the productions of the Phantasm films. Where did you obtain them?

DM: The crew! A handful of interviews I did ended with someone saying, "Hey, I think I have some photos in storage somewhere if you want them." I wound up collecting more than a thousand unpublished photos from these films. Phantasm Exhumed is set to include more than 200 of them. The great thing is that a majority of these images, such as those from makeup effects creator Mark Shostrom, were digitally scanned in from their original negatives and look fantastic.

Mike Hanging: Guy Thorpe
TEOS:  Will you be delving into the unproduced script by Roger Avery, referred to as Phantasm: 1999?

DM: Yes, the book has an entire section dedicated to just that project. I don't want to say too much here because it's all there on the page - the multiple drafts, the changes, the cast reactions and the different reasons for it ultimately not being made. Exhumed also has sections dedicated to the aborted remake that New Line Cinema attempted and the Phantasm V project from a few years back—the one that generated the infamous cast reading.

TEOS: The trend seems to be, first, publishing the massive retrospective book, and then turning it into a video documentary, as was the case with Crystal Lake Memories, and Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film. Have there been any preliminary discussions about that?

DM: Not at all. I've been so engrossed in the book that I can hardly see anything beyond it. I was happy to have been involved in the Phantasm II blu-ray documentary a year back, but I think that will mark the extent of my documentary contributions to Phantasm. Not that there isn't ample footage/material out there with which to make a new documentary.

TEOS: Being that you maintain a close relationship with the cast, you would be privy to certain details that the general public are not. The possibility of a Phantasm V has existed for going on two decades. While I'm certainly not asking you to spill the beans on anything you may or may not know, instead I am asking, do you think phans will ever be blessed with a Phantasm V? 

DM: Yes, absolutely. You will totally see it. I've been saying on the Phantasm Archives and Phantasm Community that the official Phantasm camp have been filming it since 2008, but no one seems to pay attention to that. Heck, I even debuted the first photo from the project of Reggie on the Archives. It's been a grueling wait, but you will eventually see it. Can't spill any more beans on it than that.

TEOS: Why do you think the Phantasm series endures?  

DM: I think it endures for a number of reasons. So many elements come together to make these films work. You've got endearing performances from a terrific cast, a wonderfully intriguing story, solid direction, dazzling special effects, top-notch makeups, and unforgettable music. This is a franchise that, despite having gone direct-to-video, has yet to compromise itself. Few horror franchises can honestly claim that. There's also a timeless quality to the series in that these films don't really date themselves all that much. It endures for these reasons and more.

Mike and Tall Man: Mark Shostrom



Phantasm Exhumed purchase details are still being worked out, though it will likely be available via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, directly from the publisher, and from the usual dotcoms. For the time being, keep an eye on the Phantasm Exhumed site for the latest details. That is, if you've got the...balls? (Yep, I did that.)

Feb 26, 2014

CRAPPYPASTA: VOO DOO DOCTOR

It was a cold winter day I was walking through the forest and I heard screaming. I looked around but nothing was there I just kept walking suddenly I felt dizzy I tried to keep my balance but fell over I looked up and I saw a small toy next to me I ran away from that place I ran to my house and locked the door

The next morning I was sitting in bed I was about to brush my teeth but I looked in the mirror and I saw a lot of scars on my face

I was running to my parents room but they weren’t there

I opened the door and saw two dead bodies on the floor

I fell back and screamed suddenly something stabbed me in the back it was a needle

It was in my hand though

Did I just stab myself

I remember a few days before there death my mom and dad were arguing they would have killed each other I felt like killing myself

I felt madness going through my veins I didn’t fell like the sporty girl that I used to be but know I feel like a mad person

I was walking in the forest because I was trying to run away (or at least see if slenderman would take me) but I had to go back

CURRENT DAY
today the police are seeing who did this they could tell it was a murder but they don’t think it’s possible for them to kill each other

Cop: we’ll we have the fingerprints and it says that it’s you

Me: how is that possible I was asleep the whole time

I was crying

Cop: I’m afraid that you’ll have to go to a mental hospital

Me: this isn’t  fair it wasn’t me

Again I felt rage and madness I suddenly grabbed a kind and stabbed the cop they all had there guns to me I had about three knifes and I threw them all at them

While I was running away from all the dead bodies I tripped over a rock and cut myself

As I was running I saw a note on a tree I just kept running I stabbed every live thing I saw I kept a smile in my face the whole time

Eventually I got tired and at down there was a lot  of blood on my hands this madness in my head wasn’t going to stop I was a monster people feared me I have dolls of everyone including you

And everywhere I go there will be blood


Source.

Feb 23, 2014

REVIEW: BIRDEMIC 2: THE RESURRECTION


Though I am madly in love with the first Birdemic, I did not even attempt a review for it once it hit video – not for inclusion in Shitty Flicks, nor in any kind of general review capacity. There are some films you simply cannot review. Some films need to be experienced instead. A review saying that Birdemic is legitimately and unironically good does not exist. That’s science. The reviews for the film that do exist call it the biggest piece of shit ever made, or the biggest piece of shit ever made that has caused mountain-sized smiles and non-stop gobs of unintentional delight. I rest proudly in that latter camp. Birdemic makes me feel like I can soar, as if I am being held ever-so-gently by Leonardo DiCaprio on the bow of the Titanic. To attempt a review about Birdemic, which would be heaped in painstaking recreations of my favorite parts, would’ve been simply foolish. When I review films for my Shitty Flicks banner, my goal is to amuse you with carefully chosen verbiage as much as I was amused by the actual films. I want you to be as entertained as I was. With Birdemic, I didn’t even bother. It simply just is. And if you haven’t experienced its madness yet, it’s waiting for you.

Writer/director/master of the romantic thrillerTM James Nguyen was likely not expecting the type of response Birdemic received. The director, who famously covered a van in rubber birds and played bird screech noises through a loud speaker as he drove around Utah theaters when his film was not accepted for submission to the Sundance Film Festival, likely did so not because the festival refused to acknowledge his purposely bad, tongue-in-cheek film, but likely because he thought he’d made something great, and the Sundance committee simply did not know what they were missing.

With this, Birdemic 2: The Resurrection, Nguyen is both somehow just as innocent and wide-eyed as he was, but also in on the joke. His direct sequel to his previous film about a flock of birds (specifically eagles and vultures) destroying Half Moon Bay, California, brings those birds back in all their animated .GIF glory. Nearly every person from the previous film returns, either playing his or her original character, or a brand new one. Even Damien Carter, singer/songwriter who serenaded our main characters’ first date, makes another appearance – on the tiniest stage in the world.

Let’s just get this out of the way right now: Birdemic 2: The Resurrection is every bit as entertaining as the previous film. The awful plot, awful acting, awful bird effects, awful characters – the awfulness is back in a big way. But also along for the ride this time is Nguyen’s willingness to go along with his film’s “so-bad-it’s-good” reputation and attempt to aid the audience into having even MORE unintentional fun. In an interview with Empire Oline, Nguyen said, “For Birdemic 2 I took what people loved in the first one and delivered it again. It's just my way of building the romance. People seem to like it. Like James Bond or any other franchise, you have to give the people what they want.”


If you enjoy bad movies in the same way I do, then you know this wasn’t the best idea. At several points, Nguyen sends up his own film – he recreates the unending clapping scene, or the numerous scenes in which a character approaches a dead body, examines it, and says, “he’s dead.” There’s a scene where the characters stop to grab some Pepsi product sodas from a vending machine, all so he can insert some purposely bad continuity so they are suddenly consuming Coke products. (Although if he managed to receive sponsorship financing from both Pepsi and Coke, then good for him – he might be the first filmmaker in history to pull that off.) There's even a scene involving fucking cavemen – literally.

Despite my misgivings about the tongue-in-cheek approach, Birdemic 2: The Resurrection is fucking fantastic.

You want more scenes of people swinging hangers (and now camera tripods) at flocking birds?

You got it.

You want more scenes of people walking endlessly?

Here you go!

You want more too-long scenes of people dancing?

Get ready.

You wanted full-frontal nudity this time?

Enjoy!

You wanted to see what that wacky beach scientist has been up to since the first film?

You will.

"Here I am!"

Though Nguyen revisits these mainstays from the first film, luckily he gives us plenty of other brand-new mind-boggling additions to enjoy this time around.

Among the best is a scene featuring a swimmer being attacked by a giant jellyfish, who in reality is an actress plopped in front of a green screen and kicking her legs to feign she were treading water in the ocean, all while a very Pixar-ish jellyfish attacks and rubs its tendrils all over her. Said girl is soon rescued and eventually put into the back of an ambulance, which when driving way, is somehow just as Pixar-ish as the jellyfish. (Could you really not hire an ambulance for a fifteen second shot?)

Look for yourself:


Returning cast members Alan Bagh as Rod and Whitney Moore as Nathalie certainly seem to be in the joke this time, especially the latter, who grins and mugs for the camera at every possible opportunity.


Whitney Moore: Adorable.

Birdemic 2: The Resurrection is every bit a worthy successor to Birdemic, though I guess that depends on how you define "worthy" in this regard. If you enjoyed the first film, you'll enjoy this one. And if you enjoyed this one, you'll likely enjoy...Birdemic 3: Sea Eagles.

Think I'm kidding?

Straight from the director's beak:

"The subtitle for Birdemic 3 is going to be Sea Eagles...The script is being developed right now, but I can tell you that it's going to take place in New York. There are islands there, the Statue of Liberty, Time Square - it's the perfect scene for a birdemic."

Get ready for wonderment.


Feb 20, 2014

MYSTERIOUS STATUE

A mysterious statue placed quietly at a construction site has employees of a New York Library asking a lot of questions, and appealing to the public for help solving the mystery.

The director of the East Hampton Library, Dennis Fabiszak, told Patch that the strange statue was left on an old fountain in the library’s construction area sometime in the wee hours of last weekend, but they haven’t the slightest clue who it could have been or why. It’s fairly light for a statue, weighing in at about 50 lbs, and seems to be made out of red clay that has been painted over. It’s not a particularly new creation either, as at one point a piece had broken off and birds made a nest in the back. It could also be hollow.

But perhaps the most intriguing part of the odd find is the inscription on the back of the statue, a well worn and barely visible cursive scrawling of the words ”My Wife Forever Della Penna”.

The library staff have reached out to the public via their Facebook page in an effort to see if anyone might have any clues about the disembodied gift, and one of the possible answers is certainly an eerie one.

Local man Steven Rothman pointed out that the name Della Penna matches the victim in a grisly murder that occurred just a few hours away in the 70′s, a murder that to this day has not been solved. 

From wikipedia:
Dolores Della Penna (December 13, 1954 – July 1972) was a 17-year-old Philadelphia schoolgirl who was tortured, gang raped, murdered by dismemberment and beheaded in the Kensington neighborhood in July 1972. Della Penna’s torso and arms were later located in Jackson Township, New Jersey, while her legs were found in neighboring Manchester Township near the border with Jackson. 
The young girl’s head is believed to be located within a wall in “Turtles” former home in Tacony and the house has yet to be searched by law enforcement, and no bikers have yet been arrested in the case.
Official police reports state that Miss Della Penna was killed by drug dealers who believed that her boyfriend had stolen some of their drugs, but as the crime has remained unsolved this version of events will not be verified by law enforcement and is hotly contested.
Please note the fact that the girl’s head is still missing. The library might want to go ahead and have that statue x-rayed before they decide to put it up for display. Maybe it’s a stretch, but bodies encased in statues are nothing new.


Story and images source.

Feb 16, 2014

UNKNOWN CHILD

Recently, my town (a city in Northern Kentucky, just across the river from Cincinnati, Ohio) started “ghost tours” during the month of October. Until the late 1950s, my city used to be full of gangsters, mafia, and gamblers, so there were plenty of murders, suicides, and other weird happenings going on to ensure a history full of tragedy.

Last month, my wife, my parents and I went on this particular walk that consisted of walking around a few blocks of the city, looking at old buildings and listening to stories that took place at these locations. My parents grew up on one particular street that was included in the walk, so they were able to verify most of the stories for us. When we got in front of the building my mom grew up in, the woman guiding the tour told us a really creepy story that I’ve been trying to verify for over a month now, but I can’t seem to find any information online about it.
 
As the story goes, three or four years ago in the dead of winter (I think it happened on Christmas Eve, but I’m not sure) the police found a young boy around age 10 standing outside the door of the building that used to be my mom’s apartment. A couple of murders have taken place in that building, but that’s another story for another time. Anyway, the young boy that the police found was wearing only a thin pair of shorts and nothing else. No shoes, no shirt, despite there being snow on the ground and temperatures below the freezing mark.

The police tried to ask the boy questions about where he had been, who his parents were, why he was standing there, etc., but the boy either refused to answer or said he couldn’t remember anything.

The police ended up taking him to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, and posted police bulletins throughout the county in an attempt to locate the boy’s parents and bring him home. Oddly, no one ever showed up to claim him.

After he was taken to Children’s Hospital, he began to exhibit strange and disturbing behavior and was taken to a psychiatrist where he underwent some form of psychological testing. This is where the story gets even weirder, but being as though I’m not a psychiatrist, I don’t know the exact names for terms, etc. On this particular test that he underwent that diagnosed psychoses, he was found to have scored a level of 7. Our guide then told us that Ted Bundy had undergone the same test and scored a level of only 4.

Despite being in the system now for a few years, the child has never been claimed by anyone, and has in fact begun to exhibit stranger and more disturbing behavior as the years go on. In fact, the tour guide told us that the county who has custody of the now teenager is so disturbed by his behavior that they have recommended keeping him in custody until the age of 18, and afterward transferring him to a secure location because they’re so concerned that when he is released he will harm someone.

Granted, this could have been a great spooky story that was merely intended to scare willing patrons, until a member of our group spoke up and told us that he was a psychology student at the University of Cincinnati, and that his class had been discussing this child’s case.

Last but not least, let me add one more detail. The street that we were on is reported by some paranormal societies to be one of the most “evil” streets in America, due to the number and nature of some of the deaths that have occurred there. Does the fact that this child was found in one of the most “evil” locations in the USA have anything to do with his disturbing mindset?

Story source.

Feb 15, 2014

REVIEW: MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN: THE GRAPHIC NOVEL

 

Perhaps I'm not the best person to lend his opinion on a graphic novel. I can't say it's a format in which I've invested myself too much over the years. Except for the occasional Batman adventures a chum insisted I read (and despite my devouring of EC comics in my youth, which, before you slap me, I know do not count), I just never paid that much attention to this mode of artistic expression.

Still, I was given the chance to take a look at the graphic novel version of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, and being I am so smitten with those damned kids, I jumped at the chance.

I hope you're not thinking that my confession-like intro is a disclaimer I'm using to segue into complaining for the rest of this review, because I surely have no intentions of doing that. It's just that I likely won't be able to properly praise this new version of the story the way it deserves.

Obviously the biggest change is the prose. Gone are huge, massive chunks of text from author Riggs' original narrative. Well, no shit. That's the nature of the graphic novel. It's the text that drives the story, but it's the images that bring it to life. Yes, I do recall recollecting certain passages from the original text when stumbling upon their drawn-upon counterparts in this new version, sadly seeing its demise in this form, but now it's artist Cassandra Jean doing the heavy lifting and transferring all the novel's emotions into these re-realized characters. It's time for the text, however essential, to take a backseat to this new visualization of the story.

And speaking of, sometimes the most obvious choices are the ones that can still surprise you and bring a smile to your face.

The original offbeat and absurd vintage photographs that peppered Riggs' novel are still here and accounted for; each peculiar child has his or her photograph alongside their first emergence in the text. And though I suppose it was inevitable and likely unavoidable, to see the images of these children then realized again and again throughout the story, painstakingly recreated in ink and color as they appeared in their photos, was surprisingly rewarding. Though Riggs did a fine job of fleshing out his inspired creations in the novel, the consistent visual representation of the kids reinforces your image of them as you reinvest in this new version of the story. (The character of Olive, especially - a tiny urchin with a slight frown in her levitating photo - has been recreated with her same stature and her same outfit, but now bearing that full-blown smile her character must often sport in this make-believe landscape. The nature of her bubbly and idealistic personality nearly defies you to picture the lemon-faced grimace shown in her vintage photo.)


Do I miss some of Riggs' original narrative? Sure, I do. Some of the best suspense comes not from the monstrous wights or hollowgasts, but the burgeoning relationship between Jacob and Emma. But it's the art by Cassandra Jean that's made me see these peculiar children in an all new light.

The book ends with a teaser look at the graphic novel version of Hollow City.

I can't wait.

Feb 11, 2014

FACT

When you wake up around 2-3 A.M. without any reason, there's an 81% chance that someone is staring at you.

Feb 10, 2014

TEOS RECOMMENDS: THE CANNIBAL: THE CASE OF ALBERT FISH


My unintended marathon reading of true crime books continues with The Cannibal: The Case of Albert Fish. This non-fiction account of Albert Fish's cannibal crimes against his adolescent victims was written by Mel Heimer, a former reporter. The book itself is quite slim 150 pages or so and a breeze to read, technically. However, it does delve into some pretty graphic descriptions of Fish's crimes, using both his own words and those of the author, so it can be difficult to traverse, depending on your own icky scale.

Neighbors, friends, and families of serial killers more often than not describe them as quiet, friendly, unassumingly, and nice. Ed Gein was looked at as a harmless old hermit. John Wayne Gacy was a clown at children's parties. But Albert Fish has the distinction of being among the oldest serial killers ever caught. It was his elderly and distinguished appearance that led so many people to instantly trust him. Though he claimed responsibility for at least a hundred murders, police work and his own confessions totaled a solid number of five lives taken. He was given many nicknames once news of his crimes hit the media, chief among them being the "Werewolf of Wysteria" and "The Grey Man."

The most infamous of Fish's murders was that of Grace Budd, nine-year-old sister of Ed Budd Jr., who had placed an ad in the paper that he was looking for work outside of the city, and to whom Fish was responding when he contacted the Budd family to explain that he owned a farm and was looking for a farmhand to help out with everyday work. He used the pseudonym of Frank Howard, and to further sell his lie regarding his farm, he had brought with him a small jar of cottage cheese, which he claimed derived directly from his farm's resources. (He had in actuality stopped off at a market before arriving at the Budds.) Once there, Budd made nice with the family, sitting down with them and making polite conversation. His original target being Edward Jr., Fish changed his mind upon arriving, deeming the boy "unattractive" for Fish's purposes. Instead he set his sight on young Grace and managed to convince her parents that he knew of a nearby party that he was considering attending and that Grace should accompany him. The Budds instantly trusted Fish due to his almost statesman-like appearance and agreed to let Grace attend the party with him.

Fish then left with Grace. The Budds never saw her again.

The book then recounts Fish's plan, beginning with taking her to an abandoned cottage, and ending with his method for disposing of her body.

Grace was reported missing, and for six long years, the police turned up many clues and followed up on many suspects, none of which or whom proved to be helpful. Soon the case became stagnant, though not altogether dead, and it was a simple piece of stationary that led the police to finally capture the Werewolf of Wysteria.

The poor family had been deluged over the years with all sorts of crank letters and claims, and it got to the point that they stopped reading them and simply delivered them directly to the police. It was on a piece of unique stationary that Fish had anonymously sent the below letter to Grace Budd's mother.
Dear Mrs. Budd:

In 1894 a friend of mine shipped as a deck hand on the Steamer Tacoma, Capt. John Davis. They sailed from San Francisco for Hong Kong, China. On arriving there he and two others went ashore and got drunk. When they returned the boat was gone. At that time there was famine in China. Meat of any kind was from $1–3 per pound. So great was the suffering among the very poor that all children under 12 were sold for food in order to keep others from starving. A boy or girl under 14 was not safe in the street. You could go in any shop and ask for steak—chops—or stew meat. Part of the naked body of a boy or girl would be brought out and just what you wanted cut from it. A boy or girl's behind which is the sweetest part of the body and sold as veal cutlet brought the highest price. John staid there so long he acquired a taste for human flesh. On his return to N.Y. he stole two boys, one 7 and one 11. Took them to his home stripped them naked tied them in a closet. Then burned everything they had on. Several times every day and night he spanked them – tortured them – to make their meat good and tender. First he killed the 11 year old boy, because he had the fattest ass and of course the most meat on it. Every part of his body was cooked and eaten except the head—bones and guts. He was roasted in the oven (all of his ass), boiled, broiled, fried and stewed. The little boy was next, went the same way.

At that time, I was living at 409 E 100 St. near—right side. He told me so often how good human flesh was I made up my mind to taste it. On Sunday June the 3, 1928 I called on you at 406 W 15 St. Brought you pot cheese—strawberries. We had lunch. Grace sat in my lap and kissed me. I made up my mind to eat her. On the pretense of taking her to a party. You said yes she could go.

I took her to an empty house in Westchester I had already picked out. When we got there, I told her to remain outside. She picked wildflowers. I went upstairs and stripped all my clothes off. I knew if I did not I would get her blood on them. When all was ready I went to the window and called her. Then I hid in a closet until she was in the room. When she saw me all naked she began to cry and tried to run down the stairs. I grabbed her and she said she would tell her mamma. First I stripped her naked. How she did kick – bite and scratch. I choked her to death, then cut her in small pieces so I could take my meat to my rooms. Cook and eat it. How sweet and tender her little ass was roasted in the oven. It took me 9 days to eat her entire body. I did not fuck her tho I could of had I wished.

She died a virgin.


In my previous recommendation of Edward Gein: America's Most Bizarre Murderer, I explained I prefer a true-crime account to be comprised majorly of the subject's own words. In that regard, The Cannibal is equally fascinating, though likely more so. To directly compare, while Gein never seemed quite to know why it was he killed those he did, as well as cannibalized them and even lived with dug-up corpses, it's made quite clear that Fish simply enjoyed everything he did, though he sometimes suggested that he didn't know why he did the things he did. He referred to himself as "queer" (referring to the mid-20th century meaning of the word), and in letters to the few of his children that continued to correspond with him, he often wondered what compelled him to kill and devour.

Once captured for his crimes against Grace Budd, a physical examination of him revealed over 20 needles purposely inserted in his pelvis. His reasons for having done so varied greatly, and soon there were five very distinct explanations he offered, each conflicting with the other.

And it's actually this very random factoid where my only real criticism of the book comes into play: the more unusual facts about the peculiar Albert Fish will stick immediately in your mind, so when this information is repeated later in the text, you'll definitely notice. Several accounts, such as the strange needle story, or the manner in which Fish was finally caught by authorities, appear at least twice  and these are just to examples. It certainly doesn't diminish the reading experience in any way, as you could likely read about a man sticking needles into his pelvis a hundred different ways and never become bored, simply because, god damn, that's fucking weird, but perhaps a more discerning editor would have cut out these reuses so as not to harp on some weird anecdotes in a book already full of them.

Of all the true crime books I've read so far, The Cannibal might so far be the most vicious, and this has to do not only with the age of Fish's victims, but the brutality committed against them. Though he tried to feign confusion and even alarm about himself, he never made it a secret that he enjoyed killing and maiming. "I have had kids in every state," he even once bragged, though it was unknown whether that represented murders or rapes (or both). Still, The Cannibal is terribly interesting in the way true crime is meant to be. The accounts of Fish's crimes are presented objectively, leaving no stones unturned. His own words are especially powerful, and the letter presented above is just one example.

Feb 9, 2014

RED

Once upon a time there lived in a certain village a little country girl, the prettiest creature who was ever seen. Her mother was excessively fond of her; and her grandmother doted on her still more. This good woman had a little red riding hood made for her. It suited the girl so extremely well that everybody called her Little Red Riding Hood.

One day her mother, having made some cakes, said to her, "Go, my dear, and see how your grandmother is doing, for I hear she has been very ill. Take her a cake, and this little pot of butter."

Little Red Riding Hood set out immediately to go to her grandmother, who lived in another village.

As she was going through the wood, she met with a wolf, who had a very great mind to eat her up, but he dared not, because of some woodcutters working nearby in the forest. He asked her where she was going. The poor child, who did not know that it was dangerous to stay and talk to a wolf, said to him, "I am going to see my grandmother and carry her a cake and a little pot of butter from my mother."

"Does she live far off?" said the wolf

"Oh I say," answered Little Red Riding Hood; "it is beyond that mill you see there, at the first house in the village."

"Well," said the wolf, "and I'll go and see her too. I'll go this way and go you that, and we shall see who will be there first."

The wolf ran as fast as he could, taking the shortest path, and the little girl took a roundabout way, entertaining herself by gathering nuts, running after butterflies, and gathering bouquets of little flowers. It was not long before the wolf arrived at the old woman's house. He knocked at the door: tap, tap.

"Who's there?"

"Your grandchild, Little Red Riding Hood," replied the wolf, counterfeiting her voice; "who has brought you a cake and a little pot of butter sent you by mother."

The good grandmother, who was in bed, because she was somewhat ill, cried out, "Pull the bobbin, and the latch will go up."

The wolf pulled the bobbin, and the door opened, and then he immediately fell upon the good woman and ate her up in a moment, for it been more than three days since he had eaten. He then shut the door and got into the grandmother's bed, expecting Little Red Riding Hood, who came some time afterwards and knocked at the door: tap, tap.

"Who's there?"

Little Red Riding Hood, hearing the big voice of the wolf, was at first afraid; but believing her grandmother had a cold and was hoarse, answered, "It is your grandchild Little Red Riding Hood, who has brought you a cake and a little pot of butter mother sends you."

The wolf cried out to her, softening his voice as much as he could, "Pull the bobbin, and the latch will go up."

Little Red Riding Hood pulled the bobbin, and the door opened.

The wolf, seeing her come in, said to her, hiding himself under the bedclothes, "Put the cake and the little pot of butter upon the stool, and come get into bed with me."

Little Red Riding Hood took off her clothes and got into bed. She was greatly amazed to see how her grandmother looked in her nightclothes, and said to her, "Grandmother, what big arms you have!"

"All the better to hug you with, my dear."

"Grandmother, what big legs you have!"

"All the better to run with, my child."

"Grandmother, what big ears you have!"

"All the better to hear with, my child."

"Grandmother, what big eyes you have!"

"All the better to see with, my child."

"Grandmother, what big teeth you have got!"

"All the better to eat you up with."

And, saying these words, this wicked wolf fell upon Little Red Riding Hood, and ate her all up.

Moral: Children, especially attractive, well bred young ladies, should never talk to strangers, for if they should do so, they may well provide dinner for a wolf. I say "wolf," but there are various kinds of wolves. There are also those who are charming, quiet, polite, unassuming, complacent, and sweet, who pursue young women at home and in the streets. And unfortunately, it is these gentle wolves who are the most dangerous ones of all.

"Little Red Riding Hood
"
Charles Perrault, 1697
© Sarah Moon
From "Little Red Riding Hood" series, 1983

Feb 6, 2014

TEOS RECOMMENDS: OUTLANDER


I am a huge proponent of blind buying, so long as the price is right. My initial foray into the Netflix service (way back when they still believed in quality control insofar as the condition of their physical discs are concerned), my blind buying technique took a huge nosedive (and subsequently saved me a lot of money). 

But after Netflix's disc service adopted the new name "Enjoy Your New Hockey Puck," I found myself going back to my old ways. A combination of discovering the joy that is Movie Stop, along with the sometimes ridiculous sales that goHastings has on their site at least once a week, allowed me to continue my blind buying nonsense without spending a whole lot of money. You sometimes end up with a lot of duds that get tossed into the trade-in box, but every so often you find a real gem, for which you had no initial expectations beyond, "Sure, I'd watch that."

Enter Outlander. Have you seen this? It's really fucking fun.

 

A very very loose adaptation of "Beowulf," (but more in common with Reign of Fire), Outlander features James Caviezel as Kainan, an (alien?) soldier whose spaceship crash-lands in 709 AD Norway. If Kainan hails from a more advanced civilization beyond the stars, or if he's actually an alien (I guess technically he would be? I don't fucking know), it's never really made clear. There are a few "you're dressed weird!"-type comments made by the Vikings who capture and imprison Kainan, but other than that, it's not really discussed. John Hurt plays King Hrothgar (one of the few carryovers from the original "Beowulf"poem), and Ron Perlman plays the much-too-brief role of King Gunnar, who's bald and tattooed and pissed off all the time. Jack Huston and Sophia Myles play Wulfric, Hrothgar's nephew, and Freya, Hrothgar's daughter, respectively. 

The first night in which Kainan is held prisoner, something vicious and unseen attacks the Vikings' settlement under the cover of darkness, leaving several people dead. At first these deaths are blamed on a random animal attack, so a small group of men head out into the woods to track down the beast they think is responsible. King Hrothgar is soon nearly killed by a bear before Kainan intervenes, saving the king and killing the bear. He's hailed a hero and welcomed into their society, not quite "one of them," but no longer a prisoner. However, it's soon made abundantly clear that the thing responsible for the attack on the settlement is still out there...and not only that...but that Kainan is responsible for it being there.


Outlander is big dumb fun, and that's okay. Though it wears a serious face, it doesn't take itself all that seriously, and it's fine with side-stepping potential plot complications by requesting the audience simply suspend disbelief. Even in the very beginning, when Kainan crash lands on Earth and then uses his fun computer gizmos to determine what language the planet's occupants use to communicate, "Norse" pops up on the screen, so he downloads the language, and we soon find he's speaking English, instead (which is what all of our characters will use for the remainder of the film). It doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but then again, neither did the characters in Gladiator speaking English. And if you're tempted to say "hey, that's cheating!" then I suggest you take Kainan's first English-uttered word into account:

"Fuck."

Equal parts sci-fi, action, and horror, Outlander is totally fine with attempting to flesh out its important characters so you can see that the filmmakers are actually trying to elevate the film above what it essentially is: Vikings fighting a monster a Moorwen, a ginormous thing that looks like a neon dragon and can glow in the dark.

Typing all of this makes it sound like the dumbest movie on Planet Earth, but it's harmless and infectiously enjoyable. It's well-acted, well-directed, and quite violent. Outlander is a B movie cavorting around with a B-movie concept, an A- cast, and A+ visual effects.

Released in something like fifty venues during its initial run, chances are you did not see this thing in theaters. Being that this was a Weinstein Company release, that should surprise exactly no one, as they have a habit of quietly releasing their better genre stuff (see Below), and marketing the hell out of their garbage (see mostly everything else).

But I enthusiastically recommend Outlander. It's refreshing to see James Caviezel in a rare lead role and it's certainly entertaining to see heads fly off. Give it a chance and enjoy yourself. I certainly did.

Feb 5, 2014

COMING SOON TO BRITAIN: A GHOST SHIP OF CANNIBAL RATS

Lyubov Orlova: Ghost Ship Carrying Cannibal Rats ‘Could Be Heading For Britain’

A ghost ship carrying nothing but disease-ridden rats could be about to make land on Britain’s shore, experts have warned.

The Lyubov Orlova cruise liner has been drifting across the north Atlantic for the better part of a year, and salvage hunters say there is a strong chance it is heading this way.

Built in Yugoslavia in 1976, the unlucky vessel was abandoned in a Canadian harbour after its owners were embroiled in a debt scandal and failed to pay the crew.
...
Experts say the ship, which is likely to still contain hundreds of rats that have been eating each other to survive, must still be out there somewhere because not all of its lifeboat emergency beacons have been set off.


Source.

Feb 4, 2014

NEVER-ENDING ROAD

In Corona, California there once was a road known by most locals as the Never Ending Road. Specifically, the road’s true name was Lester Road. Now, over twenty years later, the landscape of Corona has changed, and the Never Ending Road is no more. However, years ago, Lester Road was an unlit road that people claimed became a never ending road when driven at night. The people who made such a drive were never seen or heard from again.

The legend became so well-known that people refused to even drive Lester Road during the day. One night, like many teens my age, I drove up Lester Road, but only a short distance, and in my headlights it did look like it went on forever. Frightened, I quickly turned around, because if I continued up the road, I thought I might never return again.

Perpetuation of the legend convinced local law enforcement to investigate. Lester Road took a sharp left turn at its end, and there were no guard rails. Beyond the curve lay a canyon, and on the other side of the canyon was another road that lined up so well with Lester Road that when viewed from the correct angle, especially at night, the canyon vanished from sight, and the road seemed to continue on up and over the hill on the other side of the canyon. Upon investigation of the canyon, dozens of cars were found, fallen to their doom, with the decomposing bodies of the victims still strapped to their seats.

Story source.