Dec 29, 2012


I love when stuff like this is unearthed from seemingly nowhere...

This comes from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, which is currently hosting The Stanley Kubrick Exhibit. The below comes from an attendee:
“One of the coolest parts, especially for a designer like myself, was these sketches by Saul Bass for the film poster of The Shining. Previously I had no idea that Saul Bass had created the original poster so this was a really cool surprise. I’ve read online that Kubrick made Bass go through at least 300 versions of the poster until finally ending on the extremely alien looking version we now know.”

Every single one of these, in my opinion, is better than the final, infamous yellow version. That first one with the hand/trike is tops. You can click each image to embiggen and read Kubrick's own criticisms.

All was stolen with love from Dread Central.

Dec 27, 2012


On May 24th, 1964, Jim Templeton, a fireman from Carlisle in North England, snapped some pictures of his young daughter out to the marches overlooking the Solway Firth. Although it was an uneventful outing, Templeton and his family noticed an odd "aura" to the area there - as if there was an electric charge in the air before a storm. No storm came, but Templeton did observe that some nearby cows seems overly upset and spooked. A few days later, after the film was developed, Templeton was shocked to discover that a strange man appeared in one of the photos of his daughter even though they had been alone on the marshes. The man appeared to be wearing a space suit like an astronaut! Kodak offered a reward for anyone able to give a rational explanation for the space man picture, but no one was able to. Experts concluded that the picture was not the result of a double exposure, nor was it the result of tampering with the negative.

The mystery didn't end there. Templeton reported that shortly after the picture became public, he was harassed by men in dark suits who asked him odd questions about the weather conditions on the marsh, bird behaviors, and what Templeton was doing out there on the first place. They then tried to make him admit that he had faked the picture and, when Templeton refused to, they became angry and left.

Dec 23, 2012


Krampus is a beast-like creature from the folklore of Alpine countries thought to punish bad children during the Christmas season, in contrast with Saint Nicholas, who rewards nice ones with gifts. Krampus is said to capture particularly naughty children in his sack and carry them away to his lair. Krampus is represented as a beast-like creature, generally demonic in appearance. The creature has roots in Germanic folklore. Traditionally young men dress up as the Krampus in Austria, southern Bavaria, South Tyrol, Hungary, Slovenia and Croatia during the first week of December, particularly on the evening of 5 December, and roam the streets frightening children with rusty chains and bells.

Dec 22, 2012


Ah, Christmas. The time to suffer the obligations of gift-buying, family-seeing, traffic-enduring, and other such unavoidable traditions that go along with said day. And after the turkey or seven fishes or whatever Christmas food staple nestles warmly in your tummy, the inevitable will happen: You will plop on the couch, flip on the tube, and you will have three options: watch 24 hours of A Christmas Story, 24 hours of Scrooged, or 24 hours of It’s a Wonderful Life.

Or…you could try something different. Consider these five alternative films to enjoy during the Merry Yuletide whatever.


It’s Christmastime in Gremlinstown, and the snow is falling like insane crazy. So much snow falls in this film that it almost feels like it takes place on another planet, and when poor Zach Galligan is unable to start his VW Bug that looks like a gigantic marshmallow, you can almost feel the biting cold nipping at your nose…and every other part of you. But it is Christmas, after all, and one present in particular is going to change his life: Gizmo, the adorable Mogwai who can purr, sing, dance, and spawn monsters out of his back.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: A traveling salesman buys a mystical animal from a funny little shop for his son for Christmas. The animal, a Mogwai, is not to be fed after midnight, is not to touch water, and is not to be exposed to bright light. If any of those things happen, all hell will break loose. Well, hell does break loose: Old crippled women are thrown out windows and science teachers are stabbed to death with syringes.

You know! For kids!

Here’s the thing about Joe Dante: While he and his colleagues Spielberg and Lucas became famous for their films that danced in the nether regions between PG and R (it was Temple of Doom that gave the world the PG-13 rating) before moving on to a more distinct age group, Dante never really left. His films have consistently been way too dark for PG/PG-13, yet still lighthearted enough not to be saddled with the R. The 'Burbs, Gremlins, and even his most recent effort The Hole all exist in such an unsellable place (by Hollywood standards) that studios don’t even know what to do with him. In this day and age, films that should be R are neutered down one rating lower. The Die Hard and Alien series come to mind. Because it’s easy to market films with a clear idea of a rating. But Joe Dante consistently blows the lid off that establishment, almost with mischievous glee, happy to remain in that oblivion-like rating of PG-15½.

People die like whoa in Gremlins. And the gremlins themselves are boiled, burned, fried, exploded, and chopped into bits. Chunky gore flies every which way, and you can't help but feel conflicted that you're enjoying a film with so much viscera juxtaposed against the fucking adorable Gizmo.

But this is Dante's playground, after all.

Christmas Lesson: Don’t buy mystical animals from the Chinese.



This is one I appreciate more and more every time I watch it. The first time I saw it, I knew very little about it. I was expecting a cheesy flick about a stupid gimmicky killer riding the coat tails of Michael Myers, a la April Fool's Day or New Year's Evil. I expected heads rolling down steps and candy canes shoved into eyes. I was ready to love it because of the so-bad-it’s-good mentality.

But Bob Clark’s 1976 Canadian thriller (pre-dating Halloween by two years) is actually pretty classy, not terribly violent, and especially eerie. Simple and uneventful though they may be, the opening credits as the camera hovers on the front of the sorority house, and as a very somber choral version of “Silent Night” plays, it’s so effortlessly ominous that it always sticks out in my head. This is one title I make sure to watch every year, and when I slide the DVD into my player and let it rest on the main menu for a tad, that same eerie rendition of “Silent Night” fills my house and gives me goosebumps.

For those not in the know, Black Christmas tells the tale of a sorority house assaulted by perverted and threatening phone calls from an unknown person. Though the first phone call of the film is shocking to us, seems as if they’ve been getting them for some time. Most of the girls, including the incredibly cute Olivia Hussey, thinks it's disturbing, but another – a very young and pre-insane Margot Kidder – acts indignant about the whole thing. Plus she drinks a lot.


My favorite thing about Black Christmas, other than the very confined setting and actual attempt at setting up as many motives as possible, is the ending. Ambiguous endings often rile up audiences, but us horror fiends hardly ever get one. More than anything we get cheap, last-second “twists” that insinuate the problem our protagonists spent the last 90 minutes trying to solve hasn’t actually gone away. And the end of Black Christmas isn’t just ambiguous, but it punches you in the face with how unresolved the story is left.

Take that, ADD-addled modern audiences. Speaking of, see the remake! I think heads explode or something! (I’m just kidding – don’t see the remake.)

Christmas Lesson: If someone calls you on Christmas, tells you it’s Billy, and then calls you a fucking cunt, just tell them you’re Jewish.


If I had a nickel for every time an insane women tried to break into my apartment and cut my baby out of me with a pair of scissors…

The French, man. We like to laugh at them and call them frogs and make fun of their fey men, but they do not fuck around when it comes to horror. I have seen an awful lot over the years. I am not the type of hardcore splatter fiend in that I will watch Z-grade gore films where people are disemboweled, but I like to think I have a pretty strong stomach. After all, I came out of Cannibal Holocaust somewhat disturbed but relatively unscathed.

Inside, though…is fucked up. It’s so absurd and gonzo that it transcends violence into cartoon territory before heading back to violence again. You don’t know whether to laugh, scream, or physically hold yourself as you witness the torture bestowed upon poor Sarah by her attacker.

It’s Christmas Eve. Sarah, recently widowed, is at home and very pregnant. There are rioters in the street setting cars on fire and creating all-around havoc (for reasons never made clear, though the country in actuality was besieged by “civil unrest” at that time). Unfortunately this will keep the police rather busy when Sarah begins to call for help…when that mysterious figure makes their appearance and begins to terrorize her…getting worse with each attack.

It builds to something very bloody, very disturbing, and very fucked.

Though I love Inside, I’ve only watched it once. Part of me believes I don’t have the balls to sit through it again. Maybe that will change this Christmas…but I doubt it.

Christmas Lesson: Don’t be pregnant at Christmas.



As a child, I knew Child’s Play 2 and 3 by heart. It wasn’t soon after when Bride of Chucky came out, and I adopted it into the “watching them over and over” club, which also contained several chapters of Friday the 13th and Savini’s remake of Night of the Living Dead.

So then what to my wandering eyes should appear, a commercial for TNT’s now-defunct "Monstervision" airing the first Child’s Play the approaching Saturday night. Somehow never having seen it, I popped in my tape to add it to the collection and off I went, expecting bad puns, Chucky’s way-too-quick footsteps running all around, and his use of very unorthodox weapons to dispatch his victims.

I can’t say I was prepared for what I saw. And now, as an adult who can appreciate the craft and suspense of the genre over the cheap thrills and animatronics, I really wish I had seen the first film…you know…first. Because while it still is an effective and well-done little movie, the “more is more” approach the later sequels would take have rendered the original a little less surprising.

Child’s Play, again, take its time. You’re well into the second act before Chucky the doll commits his first doll murder, and we’re damn near into the third before he comes to life before our very eyes. Up until then, the movie tries its hand at suggesting that Karen Barclay’s son, Andy, is the one responsible for the murders and mayhem occurring in wintry Chicago. Of course, even though this was not a concept the film ran with long enough to make it a significant plot point, insofar as cluing in the audience but not the characters as to the “real” killer, knowledge of the later sequels in which the doll is very much alive renders this red herring pretty much obsolete. Still, it’s a nice touch, and showed an attempt to do something different. Chucky spends much of the pre-murders portion of the film waving, nodding, and asking if someone wants to play, using his fake Good Guy voice. This is all well and good and only minorly creepy in the sense that Chucky is fucking ugly, but after Andy’s constant claims that Chucky is responsible for all the wrongdoings, his mother tears open the hatch on Chucky’s back to see there are no batteries (OMG run!). It’s very creepy, and made even creepier when the doll’s head spins a 180 in her arms as she threatens to throw him into the roaring fireplace.

Child’s Play might have one ending too many, but it’s a minor classic that, like many iconic films which spawned a franchise, can sometimes be misremembered as being like all the rest.

Christmas Lesson: Don’t buy Christmas presents from the homeless. Seriously, I don’t care how much your kid wants something. Leave it be.




Not horror, I know, but…try telling Chuck Norris he’s not welcome here. Besides, there are many reasons to include Invasion U.S.A. One, above all else: it is violent. Not in the sadistic sense (though the film pulls no punches) but in the sense that it’s constant, and hard-edged. Chuck Norris, while playing the hero, goes very much against type here. He doesn't defeat bad guys with a wink and a smile. Though he is doing the country a remarkable service and fighting back against terrorist oppression, he has, in a sense, become the killer. Like Michael Myers hiding in the shadows, he lunges out of nowhere and offs whoever’s nearby. In Commando, you see Arnold run up to a man to stab or shoot. In Invasion U.S.A., you see the opposition only. And then you see Chuck pop up and dismantle them permanently. It very much turns the table of the action hero and makes him very atypical. In one particular scene, in which a small group of terrorists tucked away in an alley is trying to detonate explosives inside a nearby church, it would seem they are experiencing some kind of technical difficulties...because the suitcase of explosives has somehow gone missing from the church's front steps, even though every single one of them had their eyes trained on that same spot. Chuck appears above them on top of a building.

“Not working, huh?” he asks and drops the explosives he has retrieved down on top of them. With barely restrained maniacal fury, he grits, “Now it will.” (Cue explosion.)

The look in his eye is near sociopathic. In fact, he looks completely out of his mind, as if there is no humanity left in him at all.

Make no mistake, every action star has their one film in which they kill a ridiculous amount of people in a ridiculous manner while truly epitomizing what we love about the bygone action genre, before, of course, Jason Statham and gigantic alien robots came along and changed the genre forever. For Arnold, that movie is Commando. For Van Damme, it’s Hard Target. And for Norris…Invasion U.S.A.

As far as our plot, Richard Lynch leads what appears to be the entire Russian army (and some Cubans!) across America, intent on invading and taking over the entire country on Christmas Eve, when most people will be saddled with food and drink, and completely distracted. I suppose because Russians are communists, and communists hate consumerism, and King Consumerism = Christmas?

No idea, really. But it doesn't matter – not when Lynch is firing a fucking bazooka through an outdoor Christmas tree and blowing up its occupying house...and then another...and another.

All seems to be going quite well, and it would seem taking over America is pretty easy stuff.

Not so fast.

What these Russkies didn’t count on…was Chuck Norris.

Invasion U.S.A. is directed by Joseph Zito, the man who brought us Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, The Prowler, and another Norris film, Missing in Action. Zito brings the unrelenting, slightly grimy edge to Invasion U.S.A. present in his other films. And from what I have read, Invasion U.S.A. has sold more video units for MGM to date than any other of its library titles…second only to Gone with the Wind.

My personal favorite part of this film is when main baddie Lynch suffers nightmares in which Chuck Norris kicks him in the face. He does not fear being killed or tortured by Chuck, mind you...but is terrified of being kicked directly in the face.

It's good for a laugh.

Christmas Lesson: Don't be Russian, anti-Christmas, and near Chuck Norris.

Dec 21, 2012


Because First Blood went on to create a franchise in which the character of John Rambo's muscles and guns got bigger, it's easy to forget that his very first adventure was not an adventure at all. When we hear the name Rambo, we picture the head-banded Lothario running through jungles with assault rifles or AK-47s shooting holes in any manner of ethnic groups. But First Blood, the first film to feature the character of John Rambo, was not such a film. It was actually a very political morality tale about the horrors of the Vietnam War and how it completely fucked up the minds of many soldiers, either on the battlefield or in the years to follow their arrival home. 

And First Blood once had a very downbeat ending, one that I believe reflected the ending of the novel by David Morrell, upon which the film is based. And, had this original ending been the one used (the new ending having caused Kirk Douglas, the original Col. Trautman, to quit the shoot), we never would have had further adventures with John Rambo.

Dec 19, 2012


 01. The Journal (1:13)
02. The War (1:41)
03. A Fresh Grave (3:45)
04. Searching for Answers (3:30)
05. Seeking Family (2:10)
06. Attack! (0:38)
07. A Bitter Reunion (1:42)
08. The Funeral Pyre (1:31)
09. A Bad Dream (1:00)
10. Collecting Ashes (2:10)
11. Russian Roulette (1:52)
12. Looking Back (1:17)
13. Moving On (1:46)
14. A Fatal Bite (3:03)
15. Seeking Rations (0:49)
16. Edward Meet Issac (1:01)
17. A Tale of Rebels (2:40)
18. Edward and Isaac Bond (1:53)
19. The Last Good Man (1:39)
20. Enter The General (4:26)
21. Emma's Escape (3:32)
22. The Witch (2:22)
23. Defenses (1:49)
24. Looking Forward (3:21)
25. Emma's Immune (1:37)
26. Nightmares (1:03)
27. Eve Tells a Tale (2:15)
28. The Ritual (2:47)
29. I Found One (2:03)
30. Ashes On Waterfall Pt.1 (2:47)
31. Ashes On Waterfall Pt. 2 (3:38)
32. Eve's Death (1:36)
33. Ed's Ass Kicking Death (7:57)
34. Showdown (1:53)
35. Chase (3:46)
36. Reunion-Ending (3:42)

Finally, indeed: the soundtrack to Exit Humanity. Grab it right now from the composers' bandcamp page. Tell them The End of Summer sent you.

Dec 18, 2012


His name might not be household by nature, but the mark he left on the horror genre was undeniable.

The man whose name you might not recognize is Danny Steinmann, and he was responsible for the sleaziest, but perhaps the most fun entry of Friday the 13th - that of The New Beginning. (Yes, the one with the copycat killer.)

While the Friday the 13th brand is not one lauded for its contributions to high art, I think it's safe to say that Steinmann's entry was the first to fully realize the sleazeball environment in which those films thrived. It was The New Beginning that eschewed any attempts at psychological fear and went right for the throat. It was the first and last attempt to merge Jason Voorhees with a grindhouse aesthetic - a genre in which Steinmann was more than comfortable working.

It's safe to say that Steinmann's face will not be appearing at the annual "In Memoriam" roll call of the dead that the Oscars like to run every year, all so the rich 'n' famous can dictate via their applause whose corpse is their personal favorite. But beauty is in the eye of the beholder, someone once said, and one man's trash is another man's art. While calling Steinmann an artist is probably pushing it, the canvases he left behind are still celebrated today.

Steinmann is the second Friday director to leave us, the first being Jason X's James Isaac. (2012 has not been a good year for Friday fans). 

Let's hope he'll be the last for a very long time.

Dec 15, 2012


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.

There’s one thing you need to know before watching Hard Rock Zombies: It doesn’t care what you think, and it doesn’t fuck around. It’s not going to lead you by the hand and slowly explain things to you. It’s not going to care if you can't follow the mile-a-minute, incomprehensible mess called a plot.

It’s just going to be.

It’s going to rock

And it’s going to blow your mind.


The movie opens wide on a road flowing fast and furiously underneath you. Hard rock jams start to thunder, and a fun-loving kid picks up a hot (in the '80s sense) hitchhiker. The blonde canoodles the driver for a little bit before they pull over. For no reason, the girl immediately begins skinny dipping in a lake as three men (two of them tiny, demon-suited midgets) watch enthusiastically from the shore.

And while another suited man snaps pictures from behind some bushes, the hitchhiking blonde kills the driver and feeds his dismembered body to her tiny, demon-midget friends.

Seriously folks, we’re four minutes in, and we have tits, demon midgets, mutilation, and '80s hair band music.

When the brothers were young, Manny was severely ostracized
by the other children because of his unsightly eye patch.

Suddenly we’re in a sweaty club, jamming hard with the titular band. There’s gyrating and leather, and good times are rolling.

After the performance, the band hits the road in their bus as their nervous wiener manager drives.

During the drive, the band leader, Jessie, lazily plays a song on his guitar. Its weird vocals attract the attention of another band member, and Jessie explains, “I got it from a book. It’s a spell to raise the dead.”

Then they stop and pick up that mysterious blond hitchhiker.

Incantations to Raise the Dead
+ Murderous Blond Hitchhiker
The Best We’re Going to Get for a Plot.

The blonde leads them to her castle, where one of her suited-demon henchman helps the band unload.

“Hey, can I give you a hand?” asks the midget.

And he does…one of those hands recently cut from the movie’s opening title victims.

Everyone laughs, and no one is really concerned.

Before you can say mullet death, we’re right smack in the middle of a dance sequence, with the band linedancing and doing fancy moves on skateboards set to one of the band’s rockin' jams.

Tens of adoring fans stand around to watch them perform random bullshit everywhere in this Podunk town, and if I don’t miss my guess, I think it's Chinatown, based on everyone's high amount of Chinese features.

Honest to God, I really don’t know what the fuck is going on, but I’m hanging on, because there’s a picture of Hitler on the back of the case and I gotta see how that comes into play.

"And THIS ONE's for the boys!"

After the dance number, one of the friendly town locals tells Jessie to “get the fuck out of town, pecker,” and the band is then locked up by the town constable for absolutely no reason.

Oh my God, we just met Hitler and he's fucking his wife as he screams furiously in German!

Holy shit!

Then the midget demons came in the room!

Holy shit!

Hitler is still fucking his wife even though the demon midgets are in the room watching him!

Holy shit!

The band is freed from their jail cell thanks to their blond hitchhiker friend and they set up their instruments on her front lawn to pad even more running time with their bad hair rock. The music is so good that the midget demons, murderous hitchhiker, and even the Hitlers have a seat to watch their performance. The creepy photographer is also there, as well as some bald gentleman who looks a lot like Dr. Cox from "Scrubs."

Hitler really seems to be enjoying the music, and he enjoys it so much that he bends over, plugs a wire into an outlet, and electrocutes the entire band is half-to-death. Luckily they don’t die, which leads me to wonder why that even happened in the first place.

Meanwhile a town meeting takes place which features a room full of people voicing their concerns about the presence of the band, and rock music in general.

“My reader’s digest says musicians cannot play a single note unless they EAT DRUGS first,” says a concerned woman.

“Rock music causes sex,” says another woman.

A concerned man stands up and cautions that some of the town’s kids listen to their rock music as they beat off. (How he knows this remains deliciously creepy.)

What a fun town meeting!

The concert, as voted by the board, is hereby canceled, which ultimately ends up banning all rock 'n roll of any type in town.

Let’s pause for a bit of real trivia, courtesy of IMDB:
Originally, this movie was only meant to be about 20 minutes long and solely used as the feature movie in American Drive-In (1985). At some point during production, the decision was made to invest a little bit more money and come out with two full length feature films instead of just one.
Does it show, ladies and germs? That a movie that would have been pushing it at 20 minutes in length then had an extra eighty minutes fucked into it? I’ll leave that up to you.

Back with the band, Jessie continues to practice fingering, running his hands up and down his smooth wood, but then all of a sudden spies a large spider, which he smashes. He goes back to playing, and wouldn’t you know it, the spider comes back to life!

As does the disembodied hand in the jar behind him!

Could it be the incantation he had read about in his book and transformed into a song?

Or could it be…anything else at all?

(It’s the first one.)

The movie figures it’s been a while since we had some, so we get a bitty more titty, courtesy of the blond hitchhiker. A band member then figures that since this girl is taking it upon herself to shower in her own home, it would be okay for him to just get in the shower and have immediate sex with her.

Well, it works. For a little. Then she stabs him a million times with a handy dagger as that weird photographer shows up conveniently to take even more pictures.

And in another room, Mrs. Hitler turns into a dog and uses her switchblade hand to disembowel a couple more band members.

Jessie, meanwhile, receives a warning from one of the townsman’s daughter, Cassie, that they are planning on raiding the house to kill the band. They are then chased by the bald Dr. Cox-looking guy with a buzz saw until Jessie is nailed to a tree and crucified Jesus style and sawed in the chest.

Take that, rock and/or roll!

After the band’s multifuneral (which we don’t see and is only mentioned), the band manager has dinner with the Hitlers, the blond, and the midgets. Why he remains at the house remains to be seen, but all I know is, this movie has Hitler in it, so it’s automatically fantastic.

 Hitler Fun Facts:
1. Terrible flatulence
2. Vegetarian
3. Tremendous ballroom dancer

Speaking of Hitler, he gets up and rips off his Old Hitler costume to reveal his Young Hitler self underneath, which shocks the band manager who is just now suddenly realizing he has been living with Hitler.

Outside, the forlorn Cassie plays some of the band's music over their graves as a tribute, but the music causes the dead band to reawaken from their earthly resting place to stumble about earth while wearing white face make-up.

Then Hitler flips out, bellows in German, and belts out a few "zieg heils." And because the band manager refuses to work for him, he is tied to a work bench for some death.

Before anything else happens in this god forsaken movie, the band enjoys their first post-death reunion choreography before taking bloody revenge on the people that have wronged them, one by one.

The first to go is the bald man, who has a spike slowly inserted into the side of the neck not visible to the camera. Next is the photographer; he gets his comeuppance by being drowned in a pond, along with the blond hitchhiker. As for the midgets, their tiny heads are clunked together and thrown aside like anyone would a dead midget.

Hitler laments over the loss of his suited-demon midgets and bellows in German fury to the heavens before he is ripped to pieces by the '80s zombie hair band.

That just may be the best sentence ever.

Being that Hitler and all the other adversaries have been killed, and that there is still an hour left to go in this movie, frankly, I’m a little concerned.

A random man walks over to the “dead” body of Mrs. Hitler and rubs her boobs for a bit. Then he gets up, straightens his jacket, and attempts to leave, but oh no! Rubbing the boobs of Mrs. Hitler is what wakes her from the dead and turns her into Doggie Mrs. Hitler!

Who knew!

Hitler then wakes up and rips the man’s head off.

What the fuck—seriously?

This movie should’ve STAYED 20 minutes.

Though Ticketmaster charges an unheard-of $10 Ghoul Smell
fee, Hard Rock Zombies is still the third-best dead guy act in
 town (just after Sergeant Mummy & His Mummies, and
The Rolling Stones).

The dead band sets up for their show despite their deadness, and when a talent agent sits down to see what they’ve got, the dead band plays him a set. The smarmy agent comments on their make-up, saying that the band will have to get someone to “make it more convincing,” which is meant to be a joke, since they’re supposed to really be dead, but it’s actually a valid suggestion, since the make-up really does look like shit.

The recently resurrected townspeople killed by the ghouls begin to wreak havoc on the other living townspeople, all the while the demon midgets eat themselves (with mustard) and bite cows.

If a script for this movie exists, then so do leprechauns.

The townspeople concoct a theory that “ghouls don’t like heads,” which they will say as much as possible throughout the remainder of the film, so they figure their best plan is to hide behind large signs of famous celebrities as they run through town.

The only time this movie is remotely funny is right now, as the marauding zombies instantly tear apart the townspeople hiding behind their celebrity signs, not the least bit hesitant, confused, or stalled by their giant celebrity sign plan.

Meanwhile, the undead band still jams, and now the undead blond hitchhiker dances with them on stage. I guess bygones are bygones. You know, since she basically murdered them all.

It appears that once the band members were finished their rockin’ set, they climbed back into their graves, their mission now over, I guess. Their band manager pleads for them to come back from the dead again in order to save Cassie, for whom the band manager apparently cares a great deal.

“Is that what you want? Ghouls screwing her to death?” he pleads.

Huh? When was that ever a thing?

Anyway, it works, and the band climbs out of the grave to rock out one last time.

"That's what she said!" (Sorry.)

Part of me is tempted to smart-assedly point out that the band, who set up on top of a mountain or some place, are all playing their electric guitars through amps that are clearly not plugged into anything, but then the other part of me remembers that this movie also features Hitler and Hitler’s dogwife who lived with a house of demon midgets whose sole purpose it seems was to defeat rock and roll.

Well, the rock and roll kills all the ghouls, as smoke pours out of their writhing stink flesh. At least this is what I assume happened. No use dwelling on these things, you know.

Then, the midget demon, who has been periodically eating his own body throughout the film, sucks his own face off his decapitated head and eats it, its skull grinning and being sure to let out a healthy belch.


Dec 14, 2012


"And in the dark, the town is yours and you are the town’s, and together you sleep like the dead, like the very stones in your north field. There is no life here but the slow death of days, and so when the evil falls on the town, its coming seems almost preordained, sweet and morphic. It is almost as though the town knows the evil was coming and the shape it would take."
Image courtesy of CVLT Nation.

Dec 13, 2012


As a bad movie connoisseur, I generally avoid Asian films. Most of their stuff tends to be insane right out of the gate, and it loses that luster of being bad "by accident." 

 The Story of Ricky, however....gets a lifetime pass.

Dec 12, 2012


Every once in a while, a genuinely great horror movie—one that would rightfully be considered a classic, had it gotten more exposure and love at the box office—makes an appearance. It comes, no one notices, and it goes. But movies like this are important. They need to be treasured and remembered. If intelligent, original horror is supported, then that's what we'll begin to receive, in droves. We need to make these movies a part of the legendary genre we hold so dear. Because these are the unsung horrors. These are the movies that should have been successful, but were instead ignored. They should be rightfully praised for the freshness and intelligence and craft that they have contributed to our genre. 

So, better late than never, we’re going to celebrate them now… one at a time. 

Dir. Nacho Cerdà
Spain / Bulgaria / UK

The most obvious parable in the horror genre is one’s fear of their mortality. Though not all, most horror flicks off at least one character – sometimes dozens – and these victims fall at the hands of every kind of antagonist imaginable: masked madmen, ghosts, the insane, the resurrected, monstrous animals, supernatural and mythical figures, and even Death itself.  They die quietly, loudly, upsettingly, peacefully—but they die, alright, and into the ground they go. What you don’t see terribly often is what’s presented in The Abandoned, a little-known, little-celebrated supernatural creeper. Our two doomed characters, once trapped in a creepy house in the middle of the Russian wilderness, find themselves fleeing in terror…not from any of the aforementioned threats above, but from their fates, which wear their own faces, and whose bodies sport garish wounds and mutilations that dictate the manner in which they will die. For as our two characters attempt to hide from the bloody ends that await them, it’s not random ghosts or murderers that haunt them, but it’s themselves—walking dead twins with white eyes and destroyed humanity. And there’s no fighting or resisting them: to inflict any kind of trauma upon these unnatural beings is to inflict that same trauma upon the body that those walking nightmares represent. So how do you fight the very thing out to kill you when that thing is yourself?

Let’s back up a bit.

Marie (Anastasia Hille, Snow White and the Huntsman) has received word from the Russian government that after years of having its files and affairs in disarray as a result of the Cold War, the most recent campaign to become organized has unearthed evidence that property in the Russian wilds has been bequeathed to her by her natural parents. Marie, herself a film producer working in Hollywood, has no desire whatsoever to do anything with the property other than sell it and be done with it, as the hazy memories she does have of her childhood in Russia are not that great. And so she sets out to mother Russia and meets with a man named Misharin (Valentin Ganev, Undisputed II & III), who provides her with the necessary paperwork, as well as instructions on how to get to the very remote property.

Marie, following Misharin’s instructions, makes the trek out to the last property that could be considered part of civilization. The man who owns the property seems to be waiting for her, as it’s his responsibility to drive her out to her inheritance. On the way there, some creepy circumstances cause Marie to become separated from her driver, so she completes the remainder of the journey to the house on foot, in the dark, all by her lonesome.

Once there, and after a round of exploring her old homestead, she comes across a very unexpected guest: a man named Nicolai (Karel Roden, who has played the token Russian in numerous films, including Orphan, Wayne Kramer's Running Scared, and The Bourne Supremacy). Stumbling across another human being in the middle of her old, definitely abandoned childhood home is shocking enough—but he takes it one step further as he introduces himself…as her long-lost twin brother. He goes on to explain that he received a similar call from Misharin, hence his presence there. She remains suspicious until he brings her to one of the upstairs bedrooms and shows her two ancient cribs, which sport each of their names.

Marie barely has time to process this revelation when two more uninvited guests show up: while they appear to be exact copies of Marie and Nicolai, it soon becomes quite obvious that something really wrong is taking place in that house. The brother and sister flee after learning the hard way that these monstrous figures cannot be harmed without inflicting that same harm upon the person the thing represents. It is Nicolai who soon deduces what is going on: that they are being stalked by what are commonly called doppelgängers.

Doppelgängers? What the—

Let’s Wiki this bitch.
In fiction and folklore, a doppelgänger is a paranormal double of a living person, typically representing evil or misfortune. In modern vernacular, it is simply any double or look-alike of a person. It also describes the sensation of having glimpsed oneself in peripheral vision, in a position where there is no chance that it could have been a reflection. Doppelgängers often are perceived as a sinister form of bilocation and are regarded by some to be harbingers of bad luck. In some traditions, a doppelgänger seen by a person's friends or relatives portends illness or danger, while seeing one's own doppelgänger is an omen of death.
And so the chase begins, and it’s much more than a case of a killer stalking its prey. It’s not just a random threat, but it’s Marie and Nicolai’s own fates. It is their reckoning, in a way—and to defy these identical creatures coming for them in the dark is to deny the “natural” order of the world. What can they do? Is there a way to escape the apparently inescapable? Will they go down fighting, or simply give in?

The Abandoned, first and foremost, is absolutely beautiful. For a film featuring tons of blood, grime, and muddy pig mutilation, that’s saying a lot. But director Nacho Cerdà has a masterful eye, and The Abandoned is not his first foray into beautiful horror. He first broke out on the scene years ago with three short films:  The Awakening, in which a boy begins to slowly realize that he's dead; Genesis, in which a sculptor mourning his dead wife creates a bust in her image...which begins to slowly come to life; and Aftermath, his absolutely unflinching look at the autopsy well as what happens when a mortician likes to get a little too close to his specimens. Each segment is more horrific than the next, but each also contains an inherent beauty that you ordinarily would not find in such subject matter.

Every scene in The Abandoned is purposely constructed to trigger an emotional response, and it works like a charm. If Cerdà’s intention is to scare you, he’ll scare you; if he wants you to feel sadness, or longing, or desperation, you will. Above all, even more than scaring you, Cerdà wants you to feel uneasy. He doesn’t want there to be a single moment where you can settle comfortably back in your seat and fall into the film’s groove. Even in a rather uneventful scene in which Marie argues with her daughter over the phone, the harshness of their dialogue matched with seeming random close-ups of Marie’s belongings scattered throughout her hotel room have the power to set you at unease…even for a little.

The Abandoned's screenplay, by co-writers Cerdà, Karim Hussein, and the infamous Richard Stanley (a director himself, having made Dust Devil and Hardware), while not a typical slow burn (considering the very jarring sequence that opens the film), does certainly take its time. As usual, that leaves it open to cries of “it’s boring!” and “nothing happens!” by those who think a sequel to The Collector was a good idea. Those with patience will be rewarded, as the events become increasingly creepy until there is literally no way out.

Horror, in its nature, is very good at manipulating its audience into thinking it's interactive. No one shouts "don't trust him!" in the theater during romantic comedies; no one criticizes the hero during action films for running into the bulk of the danger instead of the fuck away from it. But when horror is involved, we become very invested, to the point we think the 2D image on the screen can hear us and consider our advice. And in such films, we like to mentally develop escape plans. We like to make it known what WE would do. "See, if this were me, I would be OUT of there!" Jada Pinkett says in the opening sequence of Scream 2. And for me, personally, I was so enamored by zombie cinema when I was young that I would always keep an eye out for houses I felt were perfect for withstanding a zombie outbreak: something with minimal windows, steel doors, more than one floor, and a fucking basement. But when it comes to The Abandoned, there is literally no escape plan. There is no tactic that Marie and Nicolai are failing to concoct. There isn't a single thing that can be done to salvage them. All we can do is wait for them to accept that there is no way out. And boy oh boy, some audiences do not like that one bit.

Hille as Marie and Roden as Nicolai are, for the most part, our sole characters on the screen. Nearly everything we see will be experienced through their eyes. Hille carries the first third of the film solo before meeting her brother, and so we journey with her, and see the things she sees, and we feel the desolateness and the angst that she feels. Performance wise, she stumbles at times, but never to the point where her role feels contrived or unnatural; likewise, Roden, as far as I'm concerned, put himself on the map with this film. Since seeing him as the haunted, terrified, but accepting Nicolai, I've noticed him each and every time he's popped up in something. He's not afraid to become immersed in a role and completely lose himself. In the aforementioned Running Scared, in which he plays a Russian henchman for the New Jersey mafia, he really cuts his teeth and lets loose for what may have been the first time in an American film. (In America's post-Cold War culture, it's not often that a character of Russian descent will be prominently featured in a film without the men playing a Bond villain or a mafia member, and the women either a prostitute or a total slut. If America's relationship with Russia had to be determined by only how they are portrayed in our films and television shows, one would think that we would happily shake hands with them and smile at the camera, but later, when no one is looking, douse ourselves with hand sanitizer and pray to God for protection. Our iterations of Russians are named Nicolai (hey, look at that!) or Natasha; they love to drink vodka; the women love to wear tight-fitting animal print dresses with pearls and fuck around on their husbands. And the men, well... apparently they're all insane. My god, Mitt Romney was right! Run!) 

Cerdà fills The Abandoned with heaps of well-executed scares. Sightings of the doppelgängers are at first filmed from far off, or made to feel like brief glimpses in our characters' peripherals, in keeping with the myth. But soon the beings grow closer until they're in our face, forcing us to recognize their own. Each sighting of these beings maintains a steady creep factor, even until we've reached the point where we, as viewers, should by now have grown used to their appearance and the shock value has worn off. But it doesn't wear off, not until the very last frame.

The biggest selling point of The Abandoned – and the biggest reason to seek it out – is the atmosphere that Cerdà establishes. Nearly all the critics agree – even those who would go on to slam the film itself – that Cerdà created a more than effective atmosphere filled with dread.

And speaking of, there has always been a measurable disconnect between critics and audiences. Audiences tend to think that critics lose themselves a bit too easily in “artsy-fartsy” stuff and are unwilling to recognize a more harmless and basic movie whose only intention is to entertain (and rightfully so), while critics tend to notice that there is a big difference in an audience genuinely liking/loving a film and said film actually executing expert construction in front of and behind the camera (and rightfully so); they recognize that film-making is an art, and is therefore open to deconstruction and discussion. As long as film critics remain a part of the medium (and with the boom of Internet journalism, it seems they are here to stay), this disconnect will always remain. Because of this, the widest chasm of this disconnect – that between critics and the horror genre – will also remain. It’s no secret there’s a common belief that most critics are unwilling to recognize a legitimately good horror film simply because of the company it keeps. As Bruce Campbell famously once said, horror sits on the second rung from the bottom of the film genre ladder, just above pornography. And he’s right. While there have been obvious horror films released over the years who broke the critical barricade and demanded they be recognized for the masterful works they were, they were also relabeled in an almost spiteful tactic, as if critics were unwilling to praise one of them there “horror” films: Roger Ebert, in his glowing review of Halloween, called it a thriller; Alien was, of course, referred to as science-fiction; Jaws a high-seas adventure; Psycho a psychological thriller; and The Silence of the Lambs a drama! A movie about a serial killer ripping flesh off fat women, all the while another cannibalistic serial killer tears men’s faces off! A drama, for fuck’s sake!

There’s a purpose to my rant, I swear: and here it is. In all these negative reviews – even the ones that praise Cerdà’s talent for creating dense atmosphere – they call the story itself inept, nonsensical, confusing, and purposely vague. Which, I’m sorry, makes me call bullshit, for two reasons: First, look me in the eye and tell me that Kubrick’s adaptation of The Shining makes one goddamned lick of sense by the end, and when all is said and done. Does it make the film any less frightening, effective, or legendary? Fuck no, nerds. And two: why is it that films need to be tied up neatly by their conclusions for them to pass the critic’s test? Why aren’t films allowed to exercise a little bit of mystery and introduce a vague detail here and there in an effort to keep their audiences guessing? Why is it the audience is allowed to know every beat and every piece of reasoning introduced in the film, but meanwhile our characters are stumbling around in the dark trying to figure this all out? Is it not reasonable to suggest that the audience should be just as confused and unsatisfied as our characters, if the filmmaker’s intent was to unify them and make the audience feel what our characters were feeling?

Full disclosure: I have my own questions about the film. I can’t tell you 100% from beginning to end what exactly happens, and why. But that’s the beauty of it. The Abandoned wants you to accept its story at face value.  If you examine every nook, cranny, aspect, hidden meaning, trick, etc., of anything you love, it becomes less special. It’s unmasking the mascot that you’ve seen capering around at sporting events for years. It’s watching Robert Englund or Doug Bradley peel off Freddy Krueger’s or Pinhead’s make-up. The magic is gone. And who wants that?

At the core of The Abandoned is the nagging theme of the past, present, and future. Even if you can wade through all the clues and put together what you think transpired throughout the film, regardless if the director wanted it to be clear, or remain abstract, one thing remains: every film has a "point" or a "lesson" that it wants to bestow upon its audience. Or, if the filmmaker has at least half a brain, there should be. So what's the "theme" of The Abandoned? Perhaps it's that we shouldn't let our pasts define who we are in the present, nor should we ever let it have any of our time and space, as Johnny Cash used to say, in our futures. And a theme like that has a far reach. We all come from different backgrounds and different walks of life. For some of us, that journey has been a little tougher. And while it may have shaped the type of people we have become, we shouldn't ever let it get the best of us. Sometimes the past is exactly that – the past – and, like sleeping dogs, sometimes we should just let it lie.

Dec 8, 2012



In this older post, I discussed the memoirs of a man named Carl Panzram. For those not familiar, he was a sociopathic killer from the early 1900s who spent most of his life either in reformatories or prisons. His non-institutional exploits took him all over the world, and he claimed responsibility for over twenty murders, as well as robberies, rapes, assaults, arsons, and over one thousand acts of male sodomy. While incarcerated, he began writing down his life story, including every (or nearly every) crime he ever committed. What resulted from those was an extremely valuable and insightful memoir, which should be required reading for students of true crime, psychology, and sociology; it’s the most openly intimate account of a killer's life in existence. And not only does Panzram spare no details of his crimes, he laments the fact that he is a product of society, and of an abusive and dismissive upbringing. Within the pages of his memoirs, he is telling you, me, and society itself, how to avoid bringing about another Carl Panzram. It’s one of the reasons it remains a dark but celebrated piece of material, even as it nears 100 years old. To read the book yourself is to know that Panzram isn’t trying to pass the buck, and he’s not trying to gain your sympathy. Because simply put: Fuck you. He’d kill you if you were in front of him, because he knows that if you were reared in the same society as him, you’re not worth a damn. Panzram never declined responsibility for his crimes, and he, by his own admission, never had a desire to reform himself. All he really wanted was to teach society a lesson – one they’d never forget.

His most famous quote remains:
In my lifetime I have murdered 21 human beings, I have committed thousands of burglaries, robberies, larcenies, arsons and, last but not least, I have committed sodomy on more than 1,000 male human beings. For all these things I am not in the least bit sorry.
Enter documentarian/filmmaker John Borowski. Previously responsible for documentaries on other early 20th century serial killers H.H. Holmes and Albert Fish, Carl Panzram: The Spirit of Hatred and Vengeance explores the titular killer utilizing interviews with those who have studied the man, his crimes, and even one particular man who knew him perhaps the best of anyone: Henry Lesser.

Lesser, at the time, was a young and idealistic prison guard in a Washington, DC prison where Panzram was remanded at that time. He was also the catalyst for what can be described as Panzram’s reputation as a cult figure. It was at Lesser’s urging that Panzram put pencil to paper (sneakily passed to Panzram’s cell in small increments, as such materials were considered contraband) to tell his life story. The few pages at a time Panzram wrote were soon assembled into a manuscript that would then take forty years to see publication, as most publishers simply did not want to be associated with the material.

Lesser, in an archival interview from the 1980s performed by San Diego State University, is one of the several experts to contribute to Borowski’s documentary. Additionally, the documentary utilizes Panzram’s original handwritten documents, which Lesser had kept in his possession for years before donating them to San Diego State University, as well as prison photographs, a handful of items used in Panzram’s execution, and modern-day footage of the places where Panzram lived, murdered, and died.

A five year odyssey that began as far back as 2007 has resulted in a fantastic and comprehensive documentary on one of the most hardened men who may have ever lived. Borowski crams as much essential information into this documentary as possible, and it never fails to be interesting. His assembly of interviewees with different backgrounds and pedigrees bring a wide range of perspectives and insights on a man whom I can only assume never dreamed he would still be a topic of conversation more than eighty years after his death.

In what may be the wisest decision made on the part of the documentary, Borowski obtained the participation of John Di Maggio, who has worked as a voice actor for the last 25 years (most famously voicing Bender in "Futurama" and a few other robots in the newer Transformers projects).  His incredibly raspy, Lance-Henriksen-sounding voice brings the perfect timbre to Panzram’s memoirs. His words come to life, and when recited with unrestrained anger, make them much more powerful.

Speaking of Panzram's words, the choice to forgo using a more traditional narrator was vetoed in favor of using text lifted directly from Panzram's memoir, retaining that first-person perspective. Because of this, his presence is consistently felt from the first minute until the last. Using Di Maggio’s voice over, Borowski weaves a tapestry of photographs, interviews, and reenactments to construct a truncated version of Pangram’s life story. The more significant and even anecdotal bits of Panzram’s past (he once robbed William Howard Taft!) are included here, as are the more vicious excerpts from Panzram’s memoirs.

Borowski is also objective enough to allow his interviewees to contradict each other: One interviewee emphatically states that a child raised in a loving and nurturing home would grow up to be a loving and nurturing adult (which he prefixes with “fact”) – ergo, Panzram's claims of the abuse he suffered at the hands of his father and other siblings leading him to his murderous life are valid – while another interviewee claims that it wasn’t this abuse, but any number of reasons including possible brain damage, or simply being born that way, that caused Panzram to commit the crimes he did, even stating that Panzram's other siblings all growing up to become productive members of society. Further, this same interviewee alleges perhaps the most interesting question raised in the documentary: Did Carl Panzram really commit every crime to which he laid claim? Did he really burn down juvenile detention centers where he was remanded, or kill over twenty people, or commit 1,000 acts of sodomy? Did he really smash in the heads of children with rocks, or kill men and feed their carcases to alligators? She asserts that contradictions arise from his writing, and Panzram’s own delusions of grandeur are clear signs he is building himself up into something more murderous and virtueless than he actually was. This claim is based on the idea that a serial killer’s main thrill is to feel powerful—so what better way to feel powerful then by tacking on dozens of murders and hundreds of crimes, knowing that his history of using aliases when being arrested would make his past near-impossible to trace?

One thing is definitely for certain: His last will and testament really did bequeath his "carcass" to a dog catcher in Minnesota – to provide meat for the dogs – as well as a curse to all of mankind.

My only real point of contention with the documentary is the use of reenactments. To me they seemed erroneous, and at times even distracting. For a few sequences, the on-screen reenactment actor playing Panzram would exchange dialogue with another “character,” over which Di Maggio’s voice work would be dubbed. In a few instances, this works just fine, but in others, it doesn’t. Other scenes reenacted come across as rather hammy, including a quick silhouette shot of one of the many acts of sodomy to which Panzram alleged. These reenactments are akin to something you would see on the History Channel (maybe not the sodomy), and in some cases aren't even quite as effective.

But calling out the inclusion of these reenactments feels like sour grapes, as they’re a cosmetic complaint at best; the documentary presents a lot of valuable information and brings new insights to this fascinating man and is barely hampered by these narrative scenes.

If you're intrigued by this dark individual – if you’ve read the book and even seen the movie – I don’t think I have to tell you that this documentary is essential viewing.

Copies of Carl Panzram: The Spirit of Hatred and Vengeance are available only through John Borowski’s website, and the first one thousand units sold will be limited editions featuring the filmmaker’s autograph as well as postcards of Panzram’s mug shot and signature.