Apr 30, 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.

They don’t make ‘em like this anymore.

Directed by the esteemed Jim Wynorski (Chopping Mall, The Devil Wears Nada), Sorority House Massacre 2 is filled with all the breasts, blood, and big hair that the late 80s had to offer.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: a group of raunchy teen girls settle into an old, abandoned house, despite the murderous events that took place there in the past. One by one, the girls begin to die off in painful ways. In between, there is a lot of giggling, drinking, and random undressing.

Wynorski at this point already knew what kind of movie he was making. Though this was Sorority House Massacre 2, it was, in essence, Slumber Party Massacre 5. The tropes for these films were already so set in stone that while Wynorski may have placed an obvious joke here and there, for the most part he played it very straight. It was a wise choice that adds to the movie’s charm. “We know this is bad, but we’re pretending it’s not,” etc. Additionally, while its title clearly indicates it is a direct sequel to the ho-hum Sorority House Massacre, it’s more of a ret-conned sequel to The Slumber Party Massacre. You see, footage from the last act of Slumber Party is shown, but all of its characters are redefined not as high school friends and their random basketball coach, but rather two teen sisters and their mother—all of whom are inexplicably murdered by their father/husband, Clive Hockstatter (the first movie’s driller killer). 

I’ve seen footage from a previous film used in its sequel to fill in the gaps. 

I’ve even seen a plethora of this footage used to pad out its sequel’s running time. 

But I can honestly say I’ve never seen footage from a movie that was entirely retconned by onscreen narration. This is like making a sequel to Ferris Buehler’s Day Off, but showing footage from Batman, as someone off screen says, “And then Ferris punched the Joker off a building, and the Joker’s laughing bag laughed at Pat Hingle.”

It doesn’t matter, really. Let’s just move on and meet our girls.

Linda: She’s British and kind of a scaredy-cat, and is the closest thing we have to a final girl.

Jessica: She wears skimpy outfits, but really shouldn’t, as every inch of her could be described as plentiful. Extra skin leaks out from between her midriff top and high jean shorts. She has a boyfriend who looks like her father.

Janey: She’s hot in that Betty Page sort of way and I’m pretty sure she’s the one who causes all this trouble in the first place with that stupid Ouija Board.

Suzie: She has big hair and even bigger panties, but in general she is quite short. Watch as our characters talk down to her throughout the movie…literally!

Kimmy: Whichever girl is the last one I haven’t mentioned yet. She’s mousy and kind of forgettable. She looks like Suzie, but is taller. She may or may not exist.

"Hey boys...got any donuts for me in that van?"

The girls meet outside the house they have bought—it’s to be the new headquarters of whatever sorority they’re in.

“When are the movers coming?” someone asks.

“6 a.m. in the morning,” Jessica answers, repeating and reiterating herself.

While unpacking, they meet Orville Ketchum, their new next-door neighbor. He is the most unsightly man anyone has ever seen, and the movie goes far out of its way to make you think he is the killer. At this point, I honestly can’t say if it was purposely over the top or accidentally so, but it doesn’t matter, because either way is fine with me.

He goes on to explain that he’s been keeping an eye on the place for all the time it’s been abandoned—sort of a glorified landlord.

“So all you girls are going to be living here? Guess you’ll be needing this,” he says and reaches directly inside his pants and fumbles around his cock area. As much as I don’t want to encourage the movie, I laugh anyway.

Instead of his fat man cock, he removes a key. “For the basement,” he says, grinning.

"I'll answer it; it's probably just the pizza gu--OH MY GOD."

The minute he leaves the girls begin to undress, one at a time, and we see pretty much every pair of potential breasts—even the main girl. (Thanks Jim.) Once the clothes come off and the nighties go on, the Ouija Board makes its appearance.

“Put your fingers on the divider,” someone orders.

“No one puts their finger in MY divider,” someone says back, which is weird, because all of these girls are clearly whores.

Suddenly the Ouija Board flies across the room!


The girls are suitably creeped by this until someone suggests that it was static electricity. I guess they believe it, because one of the girls begins to give another a massage. (Thanks Jim.) It doesn’t last, however, as they begin to fight over a boy. The girls separate as really bad music you’d hear in a Halloween store – the one with the robotic voices impossibly changing octaves – fills the screen with trademarked terror.

Janey grabs a bottle of tequila, sucks on the spout, and is then killed by a sloth hook. And in the lower right hand corner of the screen, check out the obvious hand that squeezes a bottle of fake blood all over the wall. (Thanks Jim.)


The girls split up to try to find Janey within the apparent labyrinth of their new home.

Susie goes up to the attic and steps into a bear trap (?) before being sloth-hooked.

Oh no, what will happen next?

Tits, that’s what. I guess we’ve spent too much time without some tits, so we cut immediately to a strip club to take a gander at a few. Look, there’s some. Oh, there’s some more. (Thanks Jim.)

Our two cops I forgot to introduce – Lt. Block and Sgt. Shawlee – sit at a booth and literally clap after one of the dancers finishes her act, which I'm pretty sure is not usual strip club decorum. (Also, Sgt. Shawlee is a she.) As the next stripper begins her act, Lt. Block looks pleased to be exactly where he’s at.

A stripper comes over to their table and sits down. She is Candace Hockstatter, one of the sisters who survived her father’s random and denim-jacketed massacre. She tells the police that their old neighbor, Orville Ketchum, always gave the family the creeps, and she believed he had something to do with the original murders.

No time for any more exposition, though, because we’re back at the sorority house as more girls get murdered. As someone gets a metal point shoved into her person, Linda screams for way too long, most likely waiting for the prop guy to shoot a load of fake blood into her mouth.


“Oh my god, our clothes!” screams one of the girls. “They’re still upstairs!”

Deciding that living > clothes, the girls fling open the door and run outside just long enough to get nice and wet, making all of their clothes see-through. (Thanks Jim.) Then they see Orville Ketchum standing outside in the street, so they run back inside.

“I knew he wasn’t firing on all his cylinders!” someone shouts, not quite getting the expression right.

Susie was overjoyed to be making a film where
it was a hook touching her nose instead of testicles.

The girls run up the stairs to the attic and the camera makes it a point to linger on each of their asses as they do so. (Thanks Jim.)

Ketchum bursts into the attic and Linda stabs him for being fat, hideous, and probably the killer. She flees into the bathroom and sees one of the girls dead in the blood-filled tub. Then Orville Ketchum bursts into THAT room and she slams his head into the toilet because he is probably still the killer.

Eventually Linda finds herself in the basement with Jessica, who it turns out IS the killer because she had gotten possessed by the spirit of Clive Hockstatter while the girls fucked around with that darn Ouija Board.

Linda screams and runs from the room, her breasts swaying hypnotically through her thin t-shirt.

“Too bad I’m not in a man’s body!” Jessica says. “We could have some fun!”

Linda looks terrified as I grin.

Hey, know who’s still alive?

Orville Ketchum.

Though he has knives sticking out of his body, he lunges into the room and fights Jessica, but he gets stabbed AGAIN and thrown to the opposite wall. Linda takes this time to stab Jessica in her thick body, thus ending the terror.

The cops rush in just in time to be useless, as one of them asks, “Wasn’t this the old Hockstatter place?”

Linda looks all googley-eyed and creepy, since I guess she’s possessed now, and then Orville Ketchum wakes up from death and steals a gun to blow her to smithereens. Then the cops unload all their bullets into the fat hero, who STILL survives.

The end.

This was a fun movie. My favorite part was all the shameless nudity and killing.

Apr 28, 2012


In 1969, America was glued to their televisions as news of Charles Manson and his murderous family hit the airwaves: Manson’s maniacal followers had slaughtered the very pregnant Sharon Tate (actress and wife of famed director Roman Polanski) amongst others in her own home. Following this crime, never was the generational gap between flower children and baby boomers more insurmountable. Americans just didn’t know what to do with this. How could this happen? In America? This kind of thing simply didn’t happen here

And ever since then, Charles Manson has been a pop-culture phenomenon. Idolized by shock rockers Rob Zombie and the name-stealing Marilyn Manson, the man’s face can be found on t-shirts, posters, bongs, and other paraphernalia sported by awesome, mall-dwelling teens. Even Manson’s music (Charles, not Marilyn) received a very underground release. (He was a musician, did you know that? And a shitty one, at that.) 

More than forty years later we have The Fields, a very unique and brooding film from directors Tom Mattera and David Mazzoni. A combination of Zodiac, The Strangers, and steeped in America’s shock and mourning over the Sharon Tate murders, The Fields is very much a different beast from your usual serial killer movie fare. Because this is not a serial killer movie. Yes, Charles Manson and his family play a large part in the events of this film, but this isn’t a blood-and-guts affair. It’s very much an examination of small-town life in 1973, and the effect that news of Manson’s possibly imminent parole has on its citizens. 

Steven, a young, curly-haired kid, is shipped off to the isolated farm owned by his grandparents (Tom McCarthy and Cloris Leachman) after a very ugly domestic dispute goes down between his parents (Faust Checho and Tara Reid). The parents need to sort out their issues, and both agree Steven should not be around to witness it. The Fields is told through his eyes, and his fear of Charles Manson being released from prison begins to take hold of him. Very strange and suspicious characters are scattered throughout the film, including Eugene, a farm hand with not too much going on upstairs. His first appearance is very unsettling, and with Manson-like floating arms and lilting voice, your immediate first thought is that young Steven’s fears have come true – that Manson has been paroled after all, and has come for him. 

But this isn’t that kind of movie. It’s much smarter than that. It’s very much about the duplication of evil in our world. It suggests that evil is cyclical, and that it’s born at home, in basements right beneath our feet. It is Steven’s fear of Charles Manson that drives the film, and because he is your narrator, you immediately question the things he is seeing – like the demented carnival he discovers after crossing through his grandparents’ cornfield, or the body of the young girl in this same field so very close to their front door… 

Cloris Leachman plays an absolutely wonderful part, embracing her role as Gladys and infusing it with equal parts Bad Santa and Barbara Bush. She brings a lot of heart to the film, and people less familiar with her dramatic side (I’m one of them) will find themselves very surprised. While tabloid/human mess Tara Reid delivers a typical Tara Reid performance, her screen time is limited, so her so-so performance is lost in a sea of great ones and does not up-end the film (though her awful wig threatens to). 

The film was produced by Tommy Lee Wallace, known to most horror fans as the director of Stephen King's IT miniseries, as well as having worked side-by-side with John Carpenter on some of his earlier films, most notably Halloween and The Fog.

As for the events of the film experienced through Steven’s eyes, you might find yourself asking: What’s real? What’s not? Unlike other films of its ilk, The Fields does answer those questions. And because of this, the audience might find their reaction to the film divided. Some like to have things spelled out for them (even if they don’t like the chosen path) while others like to use their own imaginations to determine what they have just witnessed. This may be The Fields’ only shortcoming, depending on what camp in which you tend to find yourself. Then again, this isn’t so much a shortcoming on behalf of the film as it is of the audience and their inability to allow themselves to go where the movie takes them. It’s certainly not for everyone; it has an established pace and it takes its time telling you just enough to wonder what the hell you’re being told in the first place. Despite this, it’s never a frustrating view, and for me was a pleasant surprise. 

Fans looking for something grislier should look elsewhere, but those looking for a meditative slow burn should seriously consider a trip to The Fields.

Apr 25, 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. Lesley Manning
United Kingdom

"This is Orson Welles, ladies and gentlemen, out of character, to assure you that War of the Worlds has no further significance than as the holiday offering it was intended to be; The Mercury Theatre's own radio version of dressing up in a sheet and jumping out of a bush and saying "Boo!" Starting now, we couldn't soap all your windows and steal all your garden gates by tomorrow night, so we did the next best thing: we annihilated the world before your very ears and utterly destroyed the CBS. You will be relieved, I hope, to learn that we didn't mean it, and that both institutions are still open for business. So goodbye everybody, and remember please for the next day or so the terrible lesson you learned tonight. That grinning, glowing, globular invader of your living room is an inhabitant of the pumpkin patch, and if your doorbell rings and nobody's there, that was no Martian; it's Halloween."
- Orson Welles' on-air apology following
 his War of the Worlds broadcast; 
October 30, 1938

Running BBC's 1992 Ghostwatch program for this entry of Unsung Horrors is kind of a cheat for several reasons. First, while I try to feature films reasonably recent, Ghostwatch will turn twenty years old this coming Halloween. Second, its notoriously hard to find. If you've got a region-free DVD  player and deep pockets, then you should be able to order the DVD from Amazon UK fairly easily. Finally, Ghostwatch isn't very unsung. Considering its extremely limited audience and near impossibility to find, it has a wealth of fans. People who have seen it love it and eagerly share stories of how it left them utterly terrified. It's because of this that I couldn't resist running an appreciation of this incredibly eerie and effective film. 

Shot and edited weeks in advance to its air date, Ghostwatch is presented as a live on-air special that spotlights an alleged haunted house on Foxhill Drive in London. The host of this show is Michael Parkinson, a well known (and quite real) British journalist. Next to him sits Dr. Lin Pascoe, a parapsychologist who fervently believes that the spooky events occurring at Foxhill Drive are genuine signs of a haunting. And in the cursed house live the Early family; mother Pam and daughters Suzanne and Kim. Much like modern ghost-hunting shows of today, a camera crew enters the house to investigate the events the Early family claim to have been dealing with for months. Leading this crew is Sarah Greene, another well-known British personality. Sure enough, the house is haunted for real, and as the investigation unfolds, the events within the house steadily increase into utter chaos.

While the crux of Ghostwatch is built around the events occurring inside the house at Foxhill Drive, the power of the story comes from all the different sources of information used throughout the film. Michael Parkinson and Dr. Pascoe provide much of the exposition and background on the investigation, and because they are on a "live" on-air show, they frequently patch in phone calls from "audience members" who share either their own ghostly encounters, or provide even more information about the Foxhill Drive house previously unknown. What this does is add to the legend of the specter haunting the house, and with each new detail, the events become more and more creepy. Think Blair Witch: The first half of that film is the kids gathering information, and the only spooky goings-on are married to stories told by locals and experts. Ghostwatch operates the same way.

The awful thing causing all this havoc is Pipes the ghost, the name derived by the Early children after the first few times their mother had claimed the weird noises they were hearing were caused by their water pipes banging beneath their walls. Over the course of the last few months, Pipes made his presence quite well known, focusing most of his wrath on young Suzanne. The few scarce sightings we have of Pipes, along with eyewitness accounts of the young children, paint a very chilling image of him in our mind, but it's at the very end when Pipes' true origins are revealed is when the film is at its most frightening. The filmmakers do a great job of teasing you with brief sightings of Pipes, but never long enough to give you a full, detailed glimpse of how he actually appears. Brief images of him are scattered throughout, and while the film today can be paused, or slowed down frame-by-frame, twenty years ago the audience had no such options; they watched it unfolding "live" on their televisions, and the brief sightings of him were made to induce moments of "did I just see that?"

Pipes is described as having a skull-like and bald head, a scratched face, and one bloodied eye. He wears a black dress with large buttons running down the middle (the explanation for which is eventually provided), and sightings of him seem to be accompanied by the shrill howls of cats. The image enough is unnerving on its own, but once we find out the ghost's real name, his origins, and how he possibly might have come to be, it becomes much more so.

Your pranksters.

Ghostwatch plays out in real time, darting back and forth between the live feed in the house and the studio. Every actor handles their part with ease, from those playing different people to those playing versions of themselves; all the performances come across as very genuine. Despite the more lurid attacks young Suzanne endures, or the terror Sarah Greene finds herself facing, it's Michael Parkinson that has the most interesting role; his performance is incredibly realistic, in that it suggests he doesn't take much of what Dr. Pascoe and the Early family are telling him all that seriously, but is willing to go along with it for the sake of journalistic objectivity. Being a real journalist, he knows he cannot let his own prejudices cloud his attempts to tell a story.

Ghostwatch remained unavailable on home video for ten years after its airing for quite an interesting and unfortunate reason: Despite the film running during the same time slot that a popular (and scripted) BBC series called "Screen One" usually ran, despite the program being preceded by a "written by" credit, and despite the call-in number provided during the program stating that the program callers were watching was a work of fiction, certain members of Ghostwatch's viewing audience thought it was real, and it really fucked with their minds; from the revealed origins of Pipes to the in-studio phone calls made by "audience members" experiencing weird occurrences in their own home seemly caused by the events in the program - they bought it all: hook, line, and sinker. 

And while any writer who crafted such a project might say, "Then I've done my job!" he probably didn't count on, hope for, or expect the effect it would have on some lesser-stabled viewers:
18-year-old factory worker Martin Denham, who suffered from learning difficulties and had a mental age of 13, committed suicide five days after the programme aired. The family home had suffered with a faulty central heating system which had caused the pipes to knock; Denham linked this to the activity in the show causing great worry. He left a suicide note reading "if there are ghosts I will be ... with you always as a ghost." His mother and stepfather, April and Percy Denham, blamed the BBC. They claimed that Martin was "hypnotised and obsessed" by the programme. The Broadcasting Standards Commission refused their complaint, along with 34 others, as being outside their remit, but the High Court granted the Denhams permission for a judicial review requiring the BSC to hear their complaint. (Wiki.)
And so, following such controversy, any future broadcasts of the program were pulled, and for ten years it remained unavailable on home video. A ten-year anniversary VHS and DVD were issued but are now out of print.

Part of me wishes I had been a London native while watching Ghostwatch for the first time. I'm sure the power of the film's realism is enforced when seeing the likes of Michael Parkinson, Sarah Greene, Mike Smith, and Craig Charles all dealing with the paranormal activity in very different ways - because they are all real people; very well-known television and media personalities playing victimized and scared versions of themselves. An American equivalent of the cast might have Regis Philbin (but perhaps someone with a bit more esteem) as the host, with any assortment of other well-known personalities filling out the cast of the studio crew. Perhaps Kelly Rippa as Sarah Greene, since I just opened that door. Then again, the familiarity of them might destroy the illusion that what we're seeing is real. Maybe it's best that I had no idea who any of these TV personalities were until after I watched the film and did a bit of research.

I love Ghostwatch for many reasons, but most of all, I love it because it was planned, written, and executed simply to have something fun to play on Halloween night. Normal scripted shows will often incorporate Halloween into one of their plots, much like "The Simpsons" continues to do with their annual Treehouse of Horror episodes; "Ghost Adventures" and "Ghost Hunters" will perform a "live" investigation to honor the dark night. But you hardly ever see a program being created from scratch to pay tribute to October 31st. It feels like a perfect melded concoction of paint-by-numbers television and reality - and all to give viewers something a little spooky to watch as they put to bed another Halloween night. I'd love for a major network to put something like this together - to concoct a Ghostwatch of their own. Found footage has never been more popular than it is right now, and with the format being applied to television with the likes of "The River" and "The Lost Tapes," I'm surprised this program hasn't been snapped up for some kind of Americanization. Is it because we've become jaded towards Halloween? Do American studios instead want to focus on seeing a Halloween-themed episode of "The Kardashians" as each of the spoiled divas dress like a slutty witch and say something inherently racist?

Ghostwatch has become annual and essential Halloween viewing in my home. If you're able to find it, I'm sure it'll become a part of yours, too.

Read a retrospective article on Ghostwatch and its legacy - recollected by the cast and crew.

Apr 20, 2012



Kane Hodder was the first actor whose career you could say I "followed," this being when I was very young and after I had gotten into the Friday the 13th series. Hodder, who played Jason in Parts 7-X, immediately became my favorite incarnation of the character. For whatever reason, his name became embedded in my brain. I began to keep an eye out for him like someone else would keep an eye out for movies starring George Clooney or Al Pacino. This continued for years, recognizing him in his brief roles in Daredevil and Monster and becoming almost giddy, wanting to poke someone next to me and ask, "Do you know who that is??" Because of my young age, and because I had barely scratched the surface of everything the entertainment world had to offer, Kane Hodder at that time had become my favorite actor. And I don't intend on demeaning him by implying I just didn't know any better or have more knowledge of film. Rather, it's that I was young enough to avoid all the baggage that I would later affiliate with the Friday the 13th series (the critical thrashings; the cynicism of the producers who saw the films only as cash cows; the studio who was embarrassed of the series and its success; that "normal" people looked upon the series as a joke) and just enjoy the films on their own merits...and because whoever this guy was that was playing Jason Voorhees scared the shit out of me. That was enough to get me to pay attention to his career.

In less-informed communities, horror movie actors develop a reputation as being sick, depraved, or completely out of their minds, due in no small part to the roles they play or the films in which they take part. And the exact opposite of this has been stated so much that it's almost become a cliche that the people who work in the horror genre are among some of the nicest and most down-to-earth people you could ever meet. They have problems, fears, and weaknesses just like everyone else. It could be easy (and maybe simple-minded) to think that the guy who has murdered legions of teenagers in his four performances as Jason Voorhees has no fear or weakness. How wrong you would be to think that.

In Unmasked: The True Story of the World's Most Prolific Cinematic Killer, Hodder lays it all out on the table. He gets into the deepest, most painful experiences of both his life and his career. And you get the mask, the machete, the whole damn thing. The book is very much conversational in tone, thus making it an easy read, but don't take that to mean there isn't an awful lot of content. Unmasked begins with his childhood, ends at Hatchet 2, and includes everything in between. He talks about the burn that ravaged much of his body. He talks about the disappointment of being denied his role in the long-gestating Freddy vs. Jason (which featured a very Frankenstein-like performance from new Jason Ken Kirzinger). He talks about the severe beating he suffered as a child at the hands of a bully, something that remains with him to this day, and how it shaped him into the person he is. He talks about his family, friends, career, Jason Voorhees, and Victor Crowleyhe leaves no stone unturned.

It's easy to "get to know" a celebrity by seeing the projects in which they star, reading about them in interviews, and observing them in on-set situations on DVD supplements. And if you're really intrigued by any specific person, there are multitudes of ways to find out even more. Sitting down to read Unmasked, I was curious as to how my view of him would change, if it even would. I'm happy to say that while the book delivered largely what I suspected I already knew about Kane Hodder, the other layers to his personal life didn't so much change my view of him as they did enhance it.

Kane Hodder, the man who has strangled you (and me) at horror conventions, is a human being. "No shit," you say. But no, I mean it. He's a living, breathing, fucking human being. He has his likes and dislikes, his moments of darkness and light, and very real fears and life-changing traumas. This becomes painfully evident when he relives the day of his horrendous burn incident, which occurred early into his career as a stunt man. In Unmasked, he explains that he had lied for years about how that incident came about, blaming it on an on-set incident while shooting a television pilot he had completely made up. In Unmasked, he confesses to his years of lying about the incident and for the first time ever lays down the real story behind what happened. Out of respect, I won't reveal the "real" story here, but I do want to share with you one specific and powerful part from Kane's painful recollection of the incident (which makes up a large bulk of the book's second act):
Though it was less than a second, it was like a giant steaming hot, wet blanket was wrapping around my entire body, pinching and pulling at my skin. The haze from the heat blurred my eyes and forced me to shut them tightly and bring a hand over my face—instinct I guess. The same reason I didn’t do the one thing you are told to do when you are on fire. Stop, drop, and roll is a good theory, and great for kids to know. But I’m sorry; your first and only instinct when you are suddenly on fire around your head is to run. Of course it’s not the correct thing to do, but it’s a reflex. Not a decision. If your body is the only thing on fire, you can have the presence of mind to stop, drop, and roll. When your head and face are on fire, everything is different. You hear your face burning. You hear your hair singeing. You are breathing in the flames. There are no words to describe how terrifying it is.
Kane's play-by-play of his burn is deeply disturbing, unsettling, and graphic. Seeing people catch fire in movies, no matter how graphic it may seem, cannot hold a candle (that's not a pun, believe me) to reading about it in explicit detail. He pulls no punches when he relays the incident, as well as his nightmarish four-month stay in what must have been the most incompetent hospital since the days of Dr. Howard, Dr. Fine, and Dr. Howard. The incident left Kane with some psychological issues, which he again reveals in Unmasked for the first time. All the credit in the world goes to him, as the details he shares about his personal life will definitely give readers pause. What he admits to in this section are things most people would rather bring to their grave than ever utter aloud.

But it's not all doom and gloom. Those reading Unmasked to find out about his Jason-oriented career will not be disappointed. Myself a Friday aficionado, I thought I'd learned everything there was to know from Peter Bracke's Crystal Lake Memories, the His Name is Jason documentary, the deluxe editions of the Friday the 13th DVDs, and Fangoria Magazine. Unmasked will provide you with even more information and anecdotes you have never heard, and pictures you have never seen.

He shares a lot of stories from his non-Friday career, from on-set mishaps to celebrities he enjoyed working with, to ones he did NOT enjoy working with. Additionally, he pulls no punches in presenting himself as an over-masculine "guy." He likes to drink, curse, fight, and piss in your dressing room. But none of this ever comes across as forced. If you've ever had the pleasure of meeting him in person, and feeling his strong hands gripping your throat, you know he's the real deal bad-ass he presents himself as in his book. Lastly, he's pretty damn funny.

One anecdote in particular made me laugh, which occurred a year or so after his burn incident:
...later that night, someone asked me about how they replaced my nipples after I got burned. I didn’t know what they were talking about so I asked them to repeat the question. They said that this guy, who will remain nameless, told them how they had to reconstruct my nipples with skin from my anus. I was shocked and pissed. Where did this guy get off making up these fucking stories about me? Especially crazy ones like that. Everyone at that party thought I had ass nipples!
The book also includes "intermissions," each which detail particular fights Kane found himself in throughout his life. Some he won, some he lost; some were amusing, some were most definitely not. It's an odd choice to include these stories in Unmasked, but I can only imagine it's because he's been asked about them repeatedly over the years.

The book is co-written by Michael Aloisi, who does an admirable job of putting down Kane's words into a chronological and coherent narrative. The year-long project was obviously one driven by passion, and that is reflected in the pages. Not one sentence of Unmasked is ever superfluous or boring. Any personprior fan of Hodder or notwill find something to like, and most assuredly find Kane's battles especially inspiring.

Lastly, Unmasked has a marvelous forward by Adam Green, director of the retro-slasher Hatchet, in which Hodder plays the killer Victor Crowley. It's a great opening to an even greater book, and while the two men are technically colleagues, what comes across more is that they are friendsand that Green grew up idolizing Kane much in the same way we all did.  

I learned an awful lot about Kane Hodder from reading Unmasked. I've learned that he is passionate, talented, kind of a dick (which he freely admits), incredibly fearless in particular aspects, and as broken and damaged by life as many of us are. But once you read the last page, you'll also feel inspired to go out there and achieve what you always feared was unachievable. Because it's not.
...one day I heard that [Friday the 13th] Part 8 was going to go into production and that they were going to cast a new Jason. Pissed could not explain how angry I was. I had become Jason, he was a part of me, and I wanted to do it again. That night I went home and called Barbara Sachs who had been a producer on Part 7 and worked at Paramount. As calmly as I could, I straight out told her that I wanted to play Jason in Part 8...she responded with a surprised tone. "Really? I had no clue you would want to play him again..." We set up a meeting for me to come in and get the particulars. During that meeting, I was hired to play Jason once again...

There was a major lesson I learned from that phone call. If you want something in life, go after it, go get it, and don’t wait for it to come to you. If I hadn’t made that call, I would not have gotten to play Jason again, and my entire life would have been different. Ever since then, I made sure to not sit around and wait, hoping I would get called back—I went out and made my future.

Apr 18, 2012


If this country weren’t so hung-up on a two-party political system, I would campaign as an independent to have Fireball elected president. And then I would find the hottest, hard-bodied intern for Fireball to bring to the Lincoln bedroom and lay upon her some serious presidential coitus. And then when Fireball’s bastard child loomed on the horizon, I would step up and touch that white-coiled wire thing in my ear and then say, “Our position remains firm that the real father of Bastard Child is Jurassic Park.”

Fireball deserves all of that special attention. What a fucking fun, fun movie.

But why the hell was its 2009 video release so quiet? Is it because the actors’ names are longer than Lawrence of Arabia? (Kumpanat Oungsoongnern plays Muk!)

Why aren’t there hordes of people singing its praises? Why did people shit their pants over The Raid (which was fun, but not nearly as fun as you’ve been told), yet not care about poor Fireball?

For the same reason "Jersey Shore" is a thing. For the same reason The Black Eyed Peas are a thing. For the same reason people thought Titanic was just a movie and not based on, you know, history.

Because people are stupid.

I’m stupid, too, don’t get me wrong—but not stupid enough to NOT know how fucking awesome Fireball is.

I’ll get to the plot in a minute, but the plot itself is so inconsequential that it shouldn’t matter; because while Fireball may be about revenge and redemption, what it’s really about is two bad-ass groups of men beating the ever-loving shit out of each other during chain link fence-surrounded basketball games. The name of the game is simple: Make a basket. Whoever scores the first and only basket wins the game. Oh, and survive the punching, kicking, fire, and chains.

That’s it.

That’s all I need.

That’s all you need.

Even Fireball for this film’s title is an absolute misnomer. It should be called Badassketball. In fact, that’s its name for the rest of this fellating review.

Badassketball is about Tai. After his release from jail, he comes back to town to see that his brother, Tan, is comatose in a bed (because of Badassketball). Tan’s lover, Pang, cries a lot, and explains that back during Tan’s conscious days, he would come home covered with bruises and explain it was from playing basketball. “I wasn’t that stupid!” she cried, proving that she was, in actuality, pretty stupid. Tai assumes Tan’s identity (since they’re twins) and he enters the game. And all kinds of macho fucking beatings take place.

Let’s meet the Badassketball team The Good Guys.

The team is “managed” by Den, a low-level crime figure with a heart of reasonable gold. He seems pretty emphatic on remaining involved with crime, but he also wants to be a good guy. It’s enough to make you root for him.

Iq is a young hipster. He plays Badassketball to pay the rent for himself and his family.

Muk is the sole black man in all of Thailand and his wife is preggers. He’s pissed off most of the time and REALLY does not like this next guy:

K has a shady past. Muk frequently accuses him of purposely throwing a past match for financial gain. K loves whores, but won’t kiss them.

Zing sells TVs during his off time, and during his on time, punches large burlap bags filled with grain, and men.

Now let’s meet The Bad Guys.

Tun is the main bad guy, and his screaming blonde hair is the only thing keeping him from essentially being Henry Bowers from Stephen King’s IT. He’s the one who put Tai in a coma, so obviously he becomes Public Enemy # 1.

Yong is an old man mob boss. He’s been whoring Pang out to various people and attempting to fix games of Badassketball for his own personal gain.

The rest of the bad guys kinda blur together, but it doesn’t matter.

So many people are punched and kicked that even Bobby Brown became uncomfortable watching it (too soon?). Blood sprays in the air as men roll across the floor in total fucked pain, holding their stomachs and faces. Luckily these guys get right up at the end of matches as if a reset button had just been hit.

The film overloads on chaos cinema, thrashing the camera and zooming in and out like Michael Bay discovering his first boner. But it’s all in good fun. The violence looks painful, but also entertaining (like violence should be). There’s an especially useless scene where Den (the coach!) spies a far-off basketball court from a high rooftop. He tosses The Good Guys a basketball and tells them the first one to get the ball through the court’s hoop will win some cash money.

The Good Guys then literally beat the shit out of each other in an effort to be the one who sinks that money-awarding shot. They all grin and go about this like they are having a huge amount of fun, even as guys bicycle kick each other in the chest and jump out windows and across rooftops. They might as well literally scream, “We’re friends, but we’d kill each other for money!”

During a match, The Good Guys and The Bad Guys beat the shit out of each other. Things get hairy when lead pipes are slid through the fence. The Bad Guys grab them and advance on The Good Guys, grinning and touching the pipes against The Good Guys' spines. The Good Guys don't use the pipes, even though they could, because they’re the good guys, and homies don’t play that.

I guess they should have, because one lead pipe becomes a lead-pipe-with-pointy-end, and one of The Good Guys does not make it off the court. As much as my praising of the movie may sound sarcastic, it’s not; the death of this one Good Guy was pretty telegraphed, and when I saw it coming, I shouted, “Oh no!”

The Good Guys make it to the finals, and this game takes place at an old military base. This game (though illegal) is quite an event, bringing in a huge crowd of people as well as armed military guards to (I guess) keep things in order, even though murder is absolutely allowed on the court.

The game escalates fairly quickly; especially after The Bad Guys rip the basketball hoop off the backboard and throw it aside, as if to say, “Fuck you, The Good Guys. This game is about murder-blood, not basketball.” Well, (spoilers) Tai strangles Tun with the hoop, cracks his neck with it, and then throws his body aside like a piece of garbage. It gives me broners. The Good Guys are victorious, but at what cost?

Now, as for the (scant) bad things...

The music in this is pretty bad. It would even be bad for video game music. In fact, if this were video game music, someone playing that video game would be like "I thought video game music was supposed to be getting a lot better? This is terrible."

Lastly, the awesomeness of Badassketball is almost derailed by a post-credits sequence in which The Good Guys’ team is reformed, but one of its survivors says, “Forget this hoops stuff,” and insinuates that his life will now revolve around shooting guns instead of shooting basketballs. What a boring sounding sequel.

Internet doesn't have much to say about Badassketball, sadly. Its trailer is posted on some blogs for kitschy purposes, but most people don’t seem to care. It currently sits on IMDB with a lame 4.7 rating, which I find a little puzzling, as I can only assume the sole reason these low-raters set out to watch this movie in the first place was because they read or someone told them it was about martial-arts fighters beating the shit out of each other as they played basketball. Apparently this movie, about martial-arts fighters beating the shit out of each other as they played basketball, didn’t quite scratch that itch.

What idiots.

In 2012, vote Fireball!

Apr 17, 2012


"The idea had been growing in my brain for some time... true force. All the king's men cannot put it back together again."

If we don't, remember me.

Apr 15, 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. David Koepp
Artisan Entertainment
United States

In a previous Unsung Horrors post, I lamented the fact that Copycat had been completely overshadowed its debut weekend at the box office after falling victim to the similarly-themed but heavily star-powered serial thriller Se7en. A similar fate also befell this film from Spielberg stalwart/go-to screenwriter David Koepp, adapting Richard Matheson’s simple novel of the same name to the big screen. Released by the now defunct Artisan Entertainment, Stir of Echoes had the extreme misfortune to open against soon-to-be juggernaut The Sixth Sense. And while M. Night Shyamalan’s film debut was nothing more than a rip-off of an "Are You Afraid of the Dark?" episode, Stir of Echoes was based on a book already forty years old at that point. Frankly I find that a little sad, given the high prestige only one of these spooky films would go on to enjoy. While The Sixth Sense is not a bad film – not at all – would anyone remember it if not for the pushing-it twist ending? The jury’s still out on that one.

Tom Witzky (Kevin Bacon) is your every man. And he knows it. And he doesn't love it. He has a wife, Maggie (the adorable Kathryn Erbe), and son, Jake (Zachary David Cope), he clearly loves, but also a job where he "clips wires all day; a monkey could do it." Even when his wife tells him she's pregnant, his happiness is genuine, but delayed. His initial reaction? "Bummer." And again, it's not like he doesn't love and want his family, but his presence in his little-mentioned band suggests he may have wanted more for himself. He betrays this notion by admitting to his wife that he had wanted to accomplish more with his life – that he didn't expect to be so ordinary. And with this news of his wife's pregnancy, what is supposed to be joyous news instead reinforces the idea that his chances to be anything more than a husband and father are slipping away. "I'm a happy guy," he says, but doesn't altogether mean it, and it's a little saddening. This isn't just idle chatter, nor an attempt to garner false sympathy for our lead. This is important to know about Tom Witzky right up front, because it will ultimately determine how he reacts to the change that is soon to come.

Despite Tom's misgivings, life isn't so bad for the Witzkys. Their rented house, owned by their neighbor and friend Harry Damon (Conor O'Farrell) is clean and cozy. They are surrounded by good friends, including Frank McCarthy (Kevin Dunn) and his wife, Sheila. They live in Chicago, but despite the elevated train and police officers' uniforms, it feels like Boston. (It could be the tight knit community and the seemingly constant outdoor block parties, or the extra enthusiasm for the local high school football team that gives off more of a Boston vibe. Or maybe I just don't know shit about Chicago.)

At a party, Lisa begins to tell her friends about her experiences with hypnosis, and the things she has witnessed for herself. Tom, feeling good with his gut full of beer, challenges Lisa to hypnotize him, even going as far as to antagonize her into it. Lisa, wanting to show off, takes Tom up on his offer and puts him into a trance. She tells him to close his eyes and picture an old-fashion movie theater with black walls, floors, ceiling, and seats. Tom soon falls under before immediately (to us, anyway) waking right back up, disturbed, but unaware of the remaining experience of his hypnosis. Apparently while under he had admitted to certain buried secrets previously deeply hidden within his subconscious. We know right off the bat that Lisa has successfully put Tom under, and unbeknownst to him, Lisa has opened a door inside his mind, implanting a suggestion to be more open-minded in the future.

This new open-mindedness allows Tom to see the ghost that is haunting his family's house. She appears to him in nightmarish hallucinations, waking nightmares, and even in reality. Her image is pale, translucent, and flickers before him like a character in a flipbook held by unsteady hands. (Oddly, these visions of her cause Tom to become immensely thirsty, who starts off throwing back water like it's his job before moving on to stocking his fridge filled with orange juice. This odd little detail isn't quite rationalized in the film, but it's interesting nonetheless, and also makes for one particularly humorous scene later in the film.)

Stir of Echoes  is about growing up. It's about facing the fact that you're not going to live forever – and I speak not of the spirit haunting Tom Witzky, but Tom himself. He bemoans what life could have been had he been dealt different cards. And once he gets a taste of these new cards, he definitely straddles that line between intrigue/obsession and self-destruction. It's an interesting theme that Koepp injects into his film, only because it's less glamorous than one might expect. Other directors, such as Romero and Carpenter, have used the horror genre in the past to share big, dangerous ideas with you – harsh criticisms of American culture and/or government. Wes Craven's Last House on the Left was a direct response to the Vietnam War –  the violence we do, unnecessarily, to people we have never met, and who haven't wronged us in any way. By comparison, the ideas in Stir of Echoes seem pretty small – small ideas for a small man and what he deems his small life. And what might Tom learn, whether or not he survives his ordeal? Was he right to pursue these extraordinary circumstances? Would he be/feel justified? Or was he wrong to want for something more, failing to see the family before him is all he would ever need? As always, smart movies are subjective, and what you think and feel is the only message that matters.

Stir of Echoes draws interesting parallels between another similarly-themed horror novel-cum-film, The Shining. (Perhaps you've heard of it?) Like Danny Torrance, Tom's son, Jake, has the uncanny ability to communicate with spirits around him. In fact, the film begins with Jake talking with the very ghost that will soon turn its attention to Tom. And like Jack Torrance, the part of Tom that is also able to communicate will be woken up by the change he undergoes (in The Shining it was the Overlook; here, it's Tom's new-found ability to "see"). And lastly, like Wendy Torrance (more so in the book than the Kubrick film), Maggie Witzky is a fighter. She sees for herself that this radical change in Tom is causing him to lose his mind. She doesn't like the strange kinship he begins to share with his son about the ghost, and even her own "witch" sister can't provide much help. Maggie ends up on her own journey, finding help in Neil (the movie's version of Dick Halloran, if you will), a perfect stranger with the same uncanny abilities shared by her husband and son.

He tells her:
It comes and goes. Some people have it for five seconds, some their whole lives. He's a receiver now. Everything's coming in. He can't stop it; he can't slow it down; he can't even figure it out. It's like he's in a tunnel with a flashlight, but the light only comes on every once in a while. He gets a glimpse of something, but not enough to know what it is - just enough to know it's there.
And Tom knows this. He knows the change that's occurred in him. He knows there is a spirit in his house reaching out to him, and while he's reaching out to her, he's ignoring the signs she is giving him. His son communicates with her out in the open. He hums "Paint it Black" by The Rolling Stones. He even teaches his father how to play it on his guitar, pushing him closer to realizing what song it is he is unable to get out of his mind  – the significance of which he won't understand until the climax of the film.

"You're awake now, Daddy," Jake tells his father. "Don't be afraid of it." Eventually Tom begins to follow the signs, and the pieces start to come together. This isn't like The Sixth Sense in which Haley Joel sees random ghosts walking around; while creepy, they are not a part of "the big picture." In Stir of Echoes, every hallucination, every sign, every random development has everything to do with "the big picture." They are all leading Tom to one specific destination – nothing that he sees or experiences is superfluous. 

With Jake's help, along with the increasingly angry signs from the ghost, Tom follows the journey before him, but not out of fear or obligation, but because as he finally admits to his wife in a heated exchange, "This is the most important thing that's ever happened to me in my whole stupid life." He finally feels extraordinary. He finally feels like he is doing something with his life that is of value.

If Richard Matheson is a name with which you aren't at least a little bit familiar, there's nothing anyone can do for you. The man is a literary legend, and his work is still being adapted for audiences (most recently being Real Steel and The Box, based on short stories, and the Will Smith I Am Legend, based on his novel). He's inspired the likes of Stephen King, George Romero, and Neil Gaiman. It's been a while since I read the original novel A Stir of Echoes, but I do remember the movie veering off the main skeleton of the book after a while (but with thankfully positive results). Loving homage is paid to the man in the film, from a character reading his novel The Shrinking Man to the film Night of the Living Dead playing on television, whose own writer/director, George Romero, always openly labeled as an I Am Legend rip-off.

Writer/Director David Koepp hasn't found himself behind the camera for too many films. While Stir of Echoes was not his first job as director, or last, it remains his best. He's worked steadily as a screenplay writer and fixer since 1988, contributing to such films as Mission: Impossible, Jurassic Park, Carlito's Way, and Panic Room. Subsequent directorial projects for him included the disappointing Stephen King adaptation of Secret Window, as well as the humor-injected supernatural farce Ghost Town, starring Ricky Gervais (an oddball version of Stir of Echoes considering its plot). Koepp manages to inject several creepy and shocking moments in the film, such as Tom's hallucination of Frank's son, Adam, shooting himself and maniacally grinning as he smears blood all over his own face; or the tired mirror trick, in which someone quickly closes a mirror, revealing the reflection of something standing just behind them – but this time with a twist: we can see the spirit, but our character cannot, which adds an extra level of creep to the proceedings.

Kevin Bacon never spends too much time away from our genre, diving back in from time to time as if checking in. With roles in Friday the 13th, Tremors, Flatliners, and Hollow Man, it's good to know he's one of us. And Stir of Echoes ranks up there with the best of his performances. Kevin Bacon is a great actor, but he's been relegated to supporting work for most of his career, willfully and partially disappearing into ensemble films. In Stir of Echoes, the movie begins and ends with him in the lead and he takes seriously a premise through which other actors might have slept-walk. You feel for him in the film's opening when he confesses to his wife that he'd always yearned for his life to have a bit more meaning. And during the scene where he sits alone outside on the front porch of a house in which a party is occurring, with the baby monitor by his side, there's a suggested sadness present. Sure, he may have wanted more for his life than what he was given, but that didn't mean he wouldn't die for his son, either. 

Kathryn Erbe as Maggie is thankfully fleshed out and fully dimensional. The role of "the wife" is often underwritten and included in genre films just so there is one more person around to disbelieve the ensuing ramblings and claims of our lead character. But she gets in on the spooky business from the very beginning, close enough to recognize the change that's occurred in her home, but far enough removed that she can approach it with an open mind and a clear rationale. Tom might be the one suffering through the increasing anger of the ghost, but it's Maggie who puts herself in real physical danger by descending to the seedier city streets to search for the mysterious Neil, the perfect stranger who might be able to shed light on just what the hell is happening to her family.

Illeana Douglas is goddamned fun in this. She was given the best part in the film and she knows it. She plays a witch and a kook and has almost every best line in the film. She provides great comic relief when the film needs a chance to breathe, but she also seems quite real. She's dry and flippant one moment to her sister, but then immediately apologizing to her the next - and meaning it. She's a well-rounded character who starts this whole thing in the first place, but never comes off vindictive – just more of a new-age, hippie liberal. Added to that is the very subtle dislike between her and Tom – it's not overbearing like your typical cinematic sister/brother-in-law dynamic, but it's definitely present. Tom doesn't respect Lisa because she seems like a grown up child, and Lisa doesn't like Tom because she considers him close-minded and small-dreamed – something he dislikes even about himself. They make a good, if at-odds, on-screen pair.

Kudos must absolutely be given to Kevin Dunn as Frank McCarthy. Most assuredly an audience will see Kevin appear on camera and say, "hey, it's that guy!" It's because he's appeared in literally everything over the years – from "Seinfeld" to Hot Shots to the Transformers films, and most recently 2011's brilliant Warrior. Again, Dunn has found himself in supporting character work for most of his career, but it's in Stir of Echoes where he shines. This underrated actor gives a career-best performance, rattling off rambling and comedic dialogue one minute and switching gears and becoming morose and somber the next, leading to an extremely powerful performance in the film's climax. He'd never before been given the chance to express so many different emotions within one character, and his performance displays his eagerness to show all that he is capable of as an actor.

The more cynical out there might say that Stir of Echoes isn't an entirely original premise; after all: main character sees ghosts + twist ending = standard Hollywood fare. But let's not forget Richard Matheson wrote the core concept back in 1958, when it was a little less standard. And don't misunderstand my argument; I don't intend to make it sound like Stir of Echoes should be grandfathered in just because its now-cliched concept wasn't so cliche in '58. Instead, it's like I've always said: I don't care how many times I've seen the same premise in a genre film – if you come at it with a passionate and well-told story, and so long as you're backed up by talented folks in front of and behind the camera, then that's good enough for me. And it always will be.

Apr 14, 2012


In my experience, not many movies live up to the hype. And Cabin in the Woods was built on years of hype - not just because of the amazing reviews it is receiving, but because this movie was announced, shot, and completed immediately after Cloverfied hit theaters, which was written by Drew Goddard, Cabin's co-writer/director. It was then shelved by MGM due to its woes. (Early teaser posters are below, baring the MGM logo and the movie's original release date.)

Cabin in the Woods, now coming to you courtesy of new owner Lionsgate Films, is so completely worth the hype. Normally I would post a trailer, but I won't. You need to go in fresh. And you need to go in knowing that this movie was a love letter to horror fans. It was written by us, for us. As a friend of mine put it, Cabin in the Woods pokes fun at the familiar tropes of the horror genre, but never in a mean-spirited manner.

Some folks are saying Cabin in the Woods does for the supernatural/"cabin in the woods" genre what Scream did for the slasher genre. In my mind, Cabin in the Woods is the superior film, because unlike Scream, it never falls victim to the traits it is trying to lampoon.

Plus it has a fucking wicked cameo.

I'm curious: if you saw it, do you think it was worth the hype? I'd love to know.