Feb 28, 2013


According to a set of Facebook photos, this eel-like creature was caught in the Raritan River, somewhere in northern New Jersey.

Perhaps most frightening, the rings teeth of displayed in the photo have a very clear purpose: Sea lampreys latch onto their prey, then secrete digestive fluids that slowly eat away and break down the host. The Great Lakes Fishery Commission reports a sea lamprey can be expected to kill upwards of 40 pounds of fish over the course of its life. Survival rates for particular species of host fish can be as low as 15 percent.

Unfortunately, we can't be completely certain this photo really does depict a sea lamprey. "The photo doesn't allow counting of gill openings (seven per side for sea lampreys), but based on size alone, this does appear to be a sea lamprey,” a New York Department of Environmental Conservation spokeswoman told Outside Magazine, according to the New York Daily News.

The species typically grows to 2.5 feet in length, but some sea lampreys have been documented at sizes of up to 3 feet long, reports the Gulf of Maine Research Institute.

Sea lampreys are a native to the Atlantic Ocean and are found along the U.S. Eastern Seaboard and the coast of Europe, as well as in the Great Lakes, where it is considered an invasive species.

The New York Daily News adds that appearances of sea lampreys in New Jersey have increased recently, as officials have begun to remove old dams, thus easing the creature's progress upriver.


Feb 27, 2013


Filmmaker Lawrie Brewster of New Age Film was kind enough to reach out to provide us with some information on his new film, Lord of Tears, which is currently in the midst of a very successful Kickstarter campaign.

Brewster describes the film as:
...a British Chiller in the classic tradition of films such as The Wickerman, The Innocents, and The Haunting. Our story concerns a man trapped in a crumbling mansion, stalked by Owl Headed monster in the misty highlands of Scotland, on a mission to piece together a childhood broken apart by repressed memory and dark secrets. It takes inspiration from classic mythology, ancient history and modern legends such as those of - Slender Man! 
The script is written by Sarah Daly (the music artist Metaphorest, and cousin of Kate Bush), stars David Schofield (of Pirates of the Caribbean, Gladiator) and is directed by myself whose (past collaborations with Sarah Daly) has included works with Joseph Gordon Levitt and Channing Tatum, that have featured at Sundance and SXSW.
Click here for info on the film's Kickstarter campaign, Facebook, and the ever popular Tumblr. I am looking very much forward to checking this one out.

Lord of Tears Official Trailer from Lawrie Brewster on Vimeo.

Feb 26, 2013


In the wake of her mother's death and her father's suicide, Sarah Black is being besieged with awful nightmares. Images of her rotting, black-eyed father are so haunting that she sees them whenever she closes her eyes, even when she's awake. Naturally she begins to think she's cracking up - that the things she is seeing are more than just a byproduct of her emotional state. 

In a defensive move, she buries herself in her job at Whispering Pines, a convalescent home, hoping to get her mind off everything...but her horrors follow her wherever she goes. And she attracts the attention of two homicide detectives after one of her patients goes missing and dies at the hospital. They see a tenuous connection to a ten-year-old murder case that they were never able to put to bed, and so they find reasons to always hang around.

Naturally, Sarah begins to slowly piece together all that she has seen and dreamed.  She begins to realize that it's not all just in her head. There is a very unnatural force plaguing not just her, but also her friends, who begin to fall victim one by one. 

Visually, there is a lot to admire about Stricken. The most effective methods to scare your audiences will always be the easiest: misdirection, sudden movements, darkness, etc. In this regard, writer/director Matthew Sconce is able to overcome his limited budget. Though we've seen many of these types of scares before - a character stoops to reveal a ghostly figure behind her, or a phantom arm reaches into the frame, nearly touching our lead before she turns to reveal...nothing - there's a reason filmmakers still fall back on them: because they work. While some of the techniques are old school, there is a fine mixture of the nu, taking its cue from J-horror of the last decade, but not completely aping it.

It's refreshing to see emphasis on character as well, and that goes beyond our lead and encompasses our two detectives, including Detective Aro. He and his partner are older, bitter, hardened, and haunted by their years on the force. Again, this is familiar territory because they've become dependable techniques with which to tell a story. Oftentimes your detective character isn't just trying to solve a crime because it's his job - rather he's trying to fix within himself the thing that broke long ago. Redemption of self, salvation of soul, etc. 

The story is certainly engaging enough to keep you interested. The film never shows its hand too early and there's a constant genuine sense of intrigue. 

Unfortunately the remainder of the production is severely indicative of said budget. Our lead played by Stephanie French stumbles through most of her role, concentrating too hard on being an actress and not enough on acting. Certain scenes have her forcing her performance instead of allowing it to feel organic and results in occasionally taking the audience out of the moment. The supporting cast, in addition, simply isn't up to the task. Some actors look completely bored with their roles while others are simply distractingly bad.

When checking out something made on a shoestring budget, I try to be as generous and painless as possible. A person should not critique a film like Stricken in the same manner they would a film like, say, the recently released Mama. Stricken does not have a major studio, millions of dollars, and Guillermo Del Toro. It has an independent production, maybe a hundred thousand, and a bunch of amateur filmmakers working with the resources they have available to them. Unfortunately this often includes the usual pratfalls: weak actors and techies eager to show off their skills and end up going overboard. (I'm speaking more in generalities than I am specifically about this film.)

Despite all that, some of the visuals present in Stricken aren't that far off from that of last year's Sinister - a film I happened to love, by the way. And I would love to see what Matthew Sconce could do with several million dollars and access to a more experienced cast. If I'm lucky, perhaps one day I will. 

Feb 25, 2013


My husband, and our two-year-old son and I went to a used bookstore about two hours from our house in Tucson, Arizona this last Saturday (04/23/2011.) I followed my son as we walked back into the children's area.

He rounded the corner to the aisle with the books. I saw a girl stand, not moving, a little ways down the aisle staring in our direction. Then my husband walked up to us. As he came closer, she did as well, following behind him.

My son ran off toward a table and my husband followed. The girl walked up and got right next to me within inches, almost touching. I started to feel extremely uneasy and moved away to where my husband and son stood at the table. They were both looking down at a Mickey Mouse doll which I tried to talk to my son about.

As I was looking down, I saw movement coming up behind me out of the corner of my eye. It was the girl. I noticed her clothing looked from about the 1960s and she looked very out of place. She was also overdressed with multiple coats on in a normal temperature environment.

She walked in a circling pattern, with her head down in a predatory way, the way a panther stalks its prey. As I stared at her while, she walked slowly. I distinctly remember she did not make a sound when she moved. Which now I am thinking was odd, because she had a lot of clothing on and a bag with her.

Her eyes were all black, no whites of her eyes, no pupils. She stared coldly, devoid of emotion, and you could feel the evil radiating off of her. I remember as I made eye contact with her, I had the very distinct feeling that she was not human. I had a feeling that she was something evil in a human shell.

I felt the most amount of terror and most threatened I have ever felt. I also felt like I was the food at the bottom of the food chain and I was her next meal. I definitely had a fight-or-flight response after I was able to pull my eyes away from hers. I remember thinking I had to get away and I had to protect my family.

I tugged on my husband's shirt and grabbed my son and started to pull them away. My husband asked why; I said we need to just go. I remember thinking it was very important that she didn't know we were leaving because we were afraid of her. We went to the other side of the store (if we were smart we would have left immediately).

My husband walked off to electronics and my son and I stood in front of a bookshelf full of board games. There was an aisle right behind us for magazines. Then I heard a man that was leaning down toward my son say in a very low tone, "I see you... she can't hear you, but I can."

I didn't turn around; I was too scared. I grabbed my son and dashed away. I now believe he was one of the black-eyed people too and they were there together. I went to the car with my son and just felt this heaviness of evil that almost felt like it had stuck to me until I went to bed that night.

 Origin of source unknown.

Feb 21, 2013


The parking garage in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, looked safe enough when David Jenkins pulled downtown on a winter’s day in 2008. Jenkins drove forty minutes from his home in nearby York, Pennsylvania, into this city of about 500,000 people to meet a friend he hadn’t seen in a year. He didn’t know evil would greet him when the sun went down.

Jenkins wound his way through the crowded garage and found a parking spot on the third floor. Then he walked to his friend’s apartment building. “We hung out and played PS2, bullshitted over old times, had a few beers,” Jenkins said. “I left at about 12:30 a.m. and went back to the garage for my car.”

Jenkins walked through the cold, now-deserted garage, climbed into his car and started the engine, letting it warm before he started home. As he leaned down to slip an “old school hip-hop” CD into the stereo, he discovered he wasn’t alone.

“A tapping on my window scared the shit out of me,” he said. Jenkins snapped his head toward the window and saw two people staring at him through the glass. “They seemingly came out of nowhere.”

Jenkins immediately turned up the volume. “I know this sounds stupid, but I thought maybe if these were thugs they’d think when they heard that music that I was hard, or something, and maybe be more apprehensive about mugging me, if that was the intent,” he said.

Instead of anyone threatening, he found two pale boys about twelve years old standing in the cold, staring at him through the glass. One boy was taller than the other, and both were skinny. They looked out of place. “The first thing that struck me as odd was their attire,” Jenkins said. “It was ‘80s clothing, only it looked brand new.”

One boy wore a new Montreal Expos baseball cap with a logo the team used between 1969 and 1991. The Expos haven’t existed since 2004. The Vision Street Wear skater hoodies they wore were popular in the 1980s. “What they were wearing just didn’t seem to fit with the time period,” Jenkins said.

The fear of the boys drawing a gun rushed through Jenkins mind. His door was unlocked. Hoping the boys didn’t notice, he rolled his window down a crack, and simply said, “yeah?”

The shorter boy Jenkins dubbed The Ringleader spoke first. “Excuse me,” he said in a voice much older and mature than what should have come out of that mouth. “We’ve had a slight mishap, and I was hoping you could help us out.”

The request froze Jenkins in his seat. “Those were the exact words too,” he said. “‘Slight mishap.’” Jenkins knew a twelve-year-old boy in a parking garage in Pennsylvania after midnight would have never said that. “I was nervous as hell,” he said.

The boy said their ride left them and they were now stuck in that part of town, and needed a lift home. “It seemed an innocent enough request,” Jenkins said. “But my BS alarm was going off. Something just felt really eerie about the whole thing. I mean two kids that young in a parking garage at that hour? It just wasn’t right.”

The fact the boys were in the garage also frightened Jenkins. He hadn’t seen the boys when he walked to his car, and when he got in suddenly they were there. The Ringleader’s request also made him nervous. “It just seemed shady,” Jenkins said. “I asked where exactly they lived, and that I was heading back to York. That ‘other end’ of Lancaster was in the opposite direction.”

Jenkins told the boys no. The Ringleader didn’t like that. “He said he’d give me gas money, and pulled out his wallet and took out a crisp $20 bill and held it up,” Jenkins said. “It was an old style one. An old style $20 should not be that crisp, looking fresh from the bank.”

As the strangeness of the encounter grew more in Jenkins’ mind, he started to ask questions. “Everything about this just felt very wrong,” he said. “I asked where exactly they lived.”

The Ringleader again said, “on the other side of town.”

“I asked where, specifically, on the other side of town,” Jenkins said. “I wanted the name of the township, the name of the school district, the name of the street. An exact address.”

The Ringleader balked; the other boy began to look nervous. “They couldn’t give me an answer,” Jenkins said. “This really creeped me out because it was now apparent that they really had no intention of getting a ride anywhere. They just wanted to get into my car.”

Then Jenkins saw something that kept him awake for the next two days. “I noticed something else – completely jet black eyes,” he said. The sight terrified him. Jenkins looked away from the children, trying to keep them from seeing the fear on his face.

The second child spoke to him. “Please,” he said. “Can we please get in the car? It’s really cold out here. I’ll tell you where to go once we get in.”

Panic consumed Jenkins.

“Please,” the smaller boy demanded.

“At this point it was fight or flight,” Jenkins said. “And I certainly wasn’t getting out of the car.”

He put the car in gear and told the kids “no” through the crack in the window. “Please, don’t go,” the Ringleader said, desperation creeping into his voice. “We’ll be stuck out here.”

“Sorry,” Jenkins said and started to pull away from these black-eyed children.

The tenor of the Ringleader’s voice changed. “Now, perhaps realizing their fate was sealed, they no longer held back,” Jenkins said. “The talkative shorter one’s voice changed now. No longer like that of a desperate little boy, it had a nasty snarl to it.”

The Ringleader started cursing at Jenkins as the car pulled away from them. Before Jenkins drove onto the ramp down to the lower level, he chanced a look in the rearview mirror. Terror stabbed at him anew, but it had nothing to do with the strange eyes of the boys. His fear came from something more human. “There was no trace of them,” he said. “I wasn’t thinking, ‘oh wow, they vanished,’ I was thinking, ‘shit, they’re gonna try to head me off at the next level down.’”

Worried the boys might run in front of his car at every turn, he hurried to the ground floor and shot onto the street. The black-eyed boys weren’t there. Three blocks away, his heart pounding in his chest, he stopped for a red light. “I kept looking back, scanning for them,” Jenkins said, but the strange boys weren’t behind him.

He sat in his car, still shivering from fear; the light stayed red. “It seemed like it was taking an unnaturally long time to change,” he said. “In fact I think now that those intersections are even supposed to be flashing red and yellow lights at that time of night.”

The minutes crawled by, and the light refused to change. Then he saw the black-eyed boys standing on a street corner he’d looked at not ten seconds before. “Sure enough, there they are,” Jenkins said. “I’d been looking around everywhere the entire time and didn’t see them coming. There’s just no way they could’ve gotten right on top of me without me seeing them coming.”

The Ringleader made eye contact with Jenkins and snarled. The second boy looked apprehensive “Even apologetic,” Jenkins said. “Like a good cop/bad cop routine or something.”

The boys started walking toward Jenkins’ car, and the panic again rose in his chest. The light still shown red. “There was nothing coming the other way and I just gunned it through the red light. I was hoping to God there’d be a cop.”

He didn’t encounter one police car on his fear-fueled drive home, running every red stoplight on his way. Once he reached the highway, he began to relax, but nothing went back to normal. “I didn’t sleep for like 48 hours after that, and didn’t sleep without a night light on for quite some time after,” Jenkins said. “When I finally did sleep they were in my dreams. I kept thinking that maybe my mind was just playing tricks on me that night, but after seeing other accounts, there are just too many similarities to write off. These things are very real.”

Source: Jason Offutt.

Feb 20, 2013


The Tri-State Crematory was founded by Tommy Marsh in the 1970s. Located in northwest Georgia, near the city of LaFayette, it provided cremation services for a number of funeral homes in Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee. When Tommy Marsh's health deteriorated in the mid-1990s, his son, Ray Brent Marsh, took over operation of the business.

In 2001, a propane delivery truck driver named Gerald Cook contacted the Walker County Sheriff's Department and reported having seen dead bodies strewn about outdoors on the Marsh property. A deputy sheriff responded to the call but didn't find anything out of the ordinary.

Frustrated by the lack of results, Cook told his aunt what he had seen - that human remains were not being disposed of properly at the Crematory. His aunt, who worked for the FBI as a secretary, contacted the US Environmental Protection Agency field office in Atlanta with the information. EPA agents were sent to investigate the property and discovered a human skull and bones on the premises.

On Feb. 15, 2002, investigators returned and a more thorough search was conducted. They found piles of rotting human bodies in a storage shed, in vaults and scattered throughout the property. The search ultimately recovered 339 bodies in various states of decay.
A federal disaster team was brought into the area along with a portable morgue shipped from Maryland. The team began trying to identify the remains, a process made difficult because many of the corpses were in advanced stages of decomposition. Some were little more than skeletons. Of the 339 bodies that were discovered, 226 were identified.

At some point after Ray Brent Marsh took over the business, he claimed that the cremation oven, or "retort," was broken and that was why the 339 bodies had been buried, stacked in the storage shed or left in the woods instead of being cremated. Families had received concrete dust instead of the cremated remains of their loved ones. Later, the oven was tested and found to be in working order.
Ray Brent Marsh was arrested on over 300 criminal violations and was ultimately charged by the State of Georgia with 787 counts, including theft by deception, abusing a corpse, burial service related fraud and giving false statements. Marsh pled guilty and is currently serving a twelve year sentence.

Feb 19, 2013


I didn't catch Texas Chainsaw 3D when it was in theaters. Based on the surprising success it enjoyed at the box office, I guess I'm one of the few who opted to stay home and...watch something better. The promise of seeing a Chainsaw film directed by the guy who made Takers, produced by the guys who made multiple Saws, and starring a rapper named Trey Songz didn't exactly lure me into theater lobbies to slap my hard earned cash down on the counter.

Look, I can sit here and pretend to be better and above it all, but I know I'll be checking it out when it hits Redbox, so I'll stow my pompousness for the time being.

Strictly by happenstance I stumbled across this very cool concept art by artist Jerad Marantz (I Am Legend, Rise of the Planet of the Apes). Because I haven't seen the film, I have no idea in what context these images might have been used, but I find the idea of an older, grayer Leatherface intriguing: 

Feb 18, 2013


"The fruit and the feather fall at the same rate.
One is crushed, and one is tickled by its fate."
The world of fiction is currently saturated with vampires. I know it and you know it. And we can blame all that Twilight nonsense, which took our undead, blood-sucking creatures of the night and made them play baseball and willingly go to high school for some reason, even though they're technically corpses and can't do much with a diploma. 

So when someone goes out and makes a low budget vampire movie, I groan. How can I not groan? How can I maintain enthusiasm when someone thinks they can bring something new to the formula? How about you just go make a spoof version of Paranormal Activity with a really punchliney title? I'll wait here. 

But The Caretaker proves there's still blood to be sucked out of the old sub-genre yet. It is a clever, bleak, and even thoughtful film about the ties that bind us - and how we're better off trusting a mortal enemy than our own neighbor.

It is the very beginning of a sudden outbreak of vampirism occurring across Australia. What's believed to be the flu turns out to be something much more vicious and deadly. Soon, a group of strangers find themselves fleeing to the countryside in an effort to leave the madness of the city behind. At an isolated house in a distant rural area, a wine salesman, his ailing mother, and her doctor are already hunkering down, trying to make sense of what they are hearing about the outbreak. Our fleeing humans are surprised to find out, however, that the good doctor is actually inflicted with the vampire disease. Though the humans don't have much of a choice, the agreement is forged: the doctor will protect the humans from other vampires by night, if they will protect him from revenge-seeking humans by day.

You should have known it was all going to end very badly. 

The Caretaker effectively presents what George A. Romero has been saying in his zombie films for years: us humans are worse. Because we are selfish, and greedy, and willing to do anything to survive. At first all seems as well as it could be. Certain characters are dicks and bitches, but besides being irritating, no one seems up to anything nefarious. But that doesn't last. 

For a low budget, the ensemble cast are frighteningly good. Special mention must be made of Lee Mason, who I swear I've seen in something else, but whose filmography says otherwise. This doppelganger of C. Thomas Howell proves himself to be a domineering and strong figure - he assumes the role of leader without even trying. 

The direction by Tom Conyers is also confident. His handling of the powers vampires possess are unnatural enough to be unsettling, but never becomes cartoonish as they would have in a multi-million dollar film. The make-up effects are basic, but effective - again, just what's required is utilized. The most striking aspect of The Caretaker is Conyers' insistence that the concept be taken seriously. This is a surprisingly introspective film, filled with characters struggling with their own mortality, and with their own ruminations on what kind of life they lived leading up to this moment in time. An especially nice scene in which one of these characters unhappy with the person they have become plays a simple melody on the piano, and as each character hears her playing, they are all connected - however briefly. Perhaps because its a singular moment of peace in otherwise non-stop chaos, where people aren't to be trusted, and new bonds destroy and replace old ones.

Unfortunately, the musical score can be intrusive and even exhausting at times, as there doesn't seem to be one frame without a theme or a sting. And it doesn't help that the mournful strings you're hearing are clearly the result of a synthesizer, either. It does the film a disservice at times, reminding the viewer just how cheaply made it was. I'm always of the mind that if you're making a low budget feature, use music sparingly, unless you have access to a musician with a wealth of resources and willing to work cheap as a favor. I should stress that the score itself isn't bad...there's just too much of it, and after a while, you can't help but hear the flaws.

I also have to point my finger at its ending. Without giving anything away, let's just say it more than liberally borrows from the ending of another vampire film with a gimmick from the last decade. But, a good ending is a good ending, so I'll allow it.

Overall, I dug this undead flick. Similar thematically to Jim Mickle's Stakeland (but not nearly the same scope), it is an interesting character piece - a realistic observational experiment on what would happen in such an event, and how humanity would react. Sadly (and depressingly), The Caretaker might just be spot on.

Once again, my jaded and cynical self has been proven wrong by a film from which I expected little to nothing. It's so easy to look at a shoddy poster or video artwork and make a snap judgment, and if you did that in the case of The Caretaker, you'd be missing out like I almost did.

Feb 17, 2013

Feb 16, 2013


"Spirits surround us on every side... they have driven me from hearth and home, from wife and child."

Image source.

Feb 15, 2013


A group of us are sitting in my friend's living room playing Xbox (Halo, nothing scary) and everyone's having a old good time. There's a couple of lamps on, but for the most part the room is dark, save for the screen glare. He lives alone, too, so there's no one about in the house, but he likes to keep the door closed to stop people's cigarettes from stinking out the rest of the place.

All of a sudden the door bursts open. There's no wind, but you could feel a sudden burst of atmosphere. One of the guys starts screaming and falls off the sofa. He then scrambles to his feet and presses himself up against the wall furthest away from the door uttering, "no... no..."

He was shaking quite badly and there were tears running down his face. We were mostly still laughing, thinking he was reacting to the game, but it became quickly apparent something was seriously up - it took about 20 minutes to calm him down after that. When we got him talkative, he says that a headless, limbless female torso was at the door when it opened and in his words, "came towards me. It wanted to kill me."


Feb 14, 2013


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.

The saga of Pieces begins in 1942 in Boston. We meet Little Boy, who loves puzzles and reciting “Humpty Dumpty.”

Get it?

His loudly-dressed mother walks into his room, ready to tip her head, exhale happily, and watch her young son assemble a puzzle—a puzzle of... a naked woman?!

How did this young son get this puzzle?

Do puzzles of naked women even exist?

Where can I find said puzzles?

No time for questions as the mother freaks out and slaps Little Boy. Then she takes her craziness one step further and smashes the boy's mirror with a picture frame, and then kicks the puzzle o' tits to...pieces?

"That's NOT how you dance, son..."

"...THIS is how you cut a rug!"

While she begins rifling through his drawers, she orders him to go fetch a bag with which to discard and burn these smutty puzzle pieces, also being sure to call him "stupid," because she is a good mother.

As she busies herself in his toy chest, looking for more forbidden objects, Little Boy walks up behind her and wields a large axe. She turns and gasps as Little Boy bounces the obviously rubber axe against her head a few times, opening up her face like a Rutgers gal opens up her vagina.

The phone begins to ring, which Little Boy promptly ignores. There are pressing matters at hand, after all: matricide.

Meanwhile, a nosy busy-body has grown tired of ringing the doorbell and calling the house with her touch-tone phone (wait, isn't this 1942?) in a vain attempt to keep some sort of appointment with the now deceased vagina-faced woman, so she goes to fetch the police.

But don’t worry!

Little Boy has plenty of time to slowly handsaw his mother’s body into…pieces?

Two cops, one sporting an awesome caterpillar mustache, bust into the room with the old busy-body close behind them. They see that the room is covered in bloody blood, and an axe lies on the ground in the sea of gore. The cops see the mom’s mutilated body and, instead of pulling out their guns, they opt to walk directionless around the room, touching all the evidence. Mustache man opens one closet to reveal...the mother's head!

"Johnson, what the fuck is that on your face?"

The cops barely react and open another closet to reveal Little Boy, caked in blood. 

“Mommy!” he calls, easily fooling the policemen into thinking he had hidden from the “real” killer. 

One cop comforts the blood-douched boy as we…flash forward FORTY YEARS LATER.

The killer still lurks, only now he is old and wears gloves. He’s also still infatuated with the same naked woman puzzle. When his murderous ways are re-awakened, he'll routinely add...pieces?...to it after each murder. While I’m not sure why, I am sure that I don’t care, because this movie is too hilarious.

The killer's thirst for bloodshed is awakened by a stupid college girl accidentally skateboarding through a large mirror being schlepped by two movers ('member? Cuz his wacko jacko mother smashed his mirror after seeing his masturbatory puzzle?). Upon seeing his reflection shatter to...pieces?...he immediately makes a long over-due kill, decapitating a girl with his chainsaw.

Crusty Lieutenant Bracken and Sergeant Holden show up to investigate this bawdy murder of a girl in broad daylight with a loud weapon that no one managed to witness. But don’t worry, despite the murder, a group of students still find time to stand around and discuss the new waterbed recently installed on campus(?). One strange girl takes it one strange step further: "The most beautiful thing in the world is...smoking...pot and...fucking on a water bed at the same time."

Said girl goes on to harass one Professor Brown, seemingly blazed out of her skull as she asks him if her breasts are funny looking.

Oh gosh, looks like we have our first red-herring: Professor Brown, a boring man made uncomfortable by the sexuality of girls.

Later, Professor Brown answers questions, lobbed at him by the suspicious Bracken and Holden. When Brown questions the motives behind some of the cops’ inquiries, Holden responds, “We’re just buying clothes without labels here, trying them on to see what fits.”

Holden is deep.

Willard's decision to up his masturbation to three
times a day did wonders for his disposition.

Then we meet our next red herring: Willard, the landscaper. He is a large, beefy man with a thick beard who grins deviously and polishes his chainsaw out in plain view of everyone, even after the chainsaw murder of a girl.

But that's not important, because we have to gear up to meet the coolest guy on the planet; the cream of the crop, the big man on campus: KENDALL. He's so cool that his name cannot merely be said, but SHOUTED.

KENDALL wears tacky sweaters and somehow manages to gets his dick wet more than Michael Phelps.

A random girl, Susan, throws KENDALL a note across the table, but then says aloud anyway, “I want to fuck you under water, meet me at the pool,” and leaves the library.

Does KENDALL go and “tap that?” No, he slips on his glasses and goes back to studying. But you know who does go and "tap that?" The killer, who opts to "tap that" girl's face against his chainsaw.

Susan catches up with her friends on the way to the pool, and in order to remind you of the initial red herring, decides to harass Professor Brown with her friends as he walks by…again.

“HOW’D YA LIKE TO MAKE IT WITH HIM, SUSAN?” one of her bitchy girlfriends asks, loud enough to wake the dead.

Susan waves them away and descends to the pool, where she tediously strips down and dives in. The killer then uses a pool skimmer to ensare Susan's head (haha) and pulls her out.

He picks up his trusty chainsaw, taking up so much time to do it that she could have easily escaped, and cuts her to...pieces?

He then carries his prize in a wet, bulgy sat back to his lair and places them in his walk-in freezer.

Like all true puzzle masters, he was saving the vagina for last.

In a sudden and unexpected turn of events, Willard has been pegged as the killer and is captured in some kind of sting operation by Bracken and Holden. Incidentally, KENDALL gets wrapped up in this himself when he opts to go take Susan up on her hot fuck offer after all, and goes to the pool. And while it usually doesn't take long for the K-Man to find the vagina, this time he probably slipped on it. Eww, like, OMG.

Once Willard is in custody, Bracken and Holden ask Professor Brown if the blood-caked chainsaw found right next to the dead girl who was chainsawed apart was, indeed, the weapon that the killer used.

Professor Brown states, “I’m no pathologist…”

For those not in the know, Bracken + Holden + Brown = 3 boners.

Bracken and Holden enlist the help of college stag man KENDALL and Mary, a tennis pro and cop to keep an eye out for more piecery. KENDALL remains undercover as a horny college student and Mary agrees to go undercover as a tennis instructor.

And just when you think the excitement quota has been met, we meet the dance troop! These girls love to wear leotards and dance in formation.

Are they just doing aerobics?

Are they choreographing a new dance number?

Is this hot in the least?

The answers are: probably, who knows, and not at all.

But you know who does think it’s hot? The Killer, and he shows up to watch, his shadow a spitting image of Dick Tracy’s, which takes away drastically from his ominous presence.

The girls take a break and one of them uncharacteristically tells her instructor that she “has to go to the john.”

Later, said girl will practice by herself late at night. Also, later, she’ll be sawed apart.

"Thank God for these murders," declared Dr. Jones,
knowing his bullwhip-swinging antics would now go
unnoticed by the Department of Archeology.

It's worth noting that each time there is a simulated chainsaw attack, the saw itself is never actually running, so really, the onscreen action consists of a man dressed in a black hat knocking stiff, dumpy limbs off girls with a smoking but motionless chainsaw. It’s still terrifying, though. Terrifying in the sense that it’s ridiculous.

Speaking of a chainsaw attack, Girl from Dance Troupe decides that there is more to life than dancing, and she packs up her dance bullshit to leave. She steps onto the elevator and is about to ascend until Darkman himself shows up, wearing his typical garb and gets on with her. She stands awkwardly as the killer literally hides his chainsaw behind his back. He then stops the elevator and reveals his intentions to her.

Dumpy limb-flying ensues.

Bracken and Holden show up to the crime scene, mutter some eighty-year-old cop expressions ,and continue their long running joke of the latter denying the former a match because he doesn’t smoke. The only problem with this joke is that this entire movie is a bigger joke, so it passes by largely unnoticed.

KENDALL, meanwhile, has found another girl with whom to have sex, and as he leaves her bed to investigate some strange goings-on outside the window, she begs him in an ungodly manner to have even more sex. She even offers to be gagged after KENDALL tries to shush her by telling her that she's "too god damned loud."

Jesus, KENDALL, what is your secret?

Meanwhile, Mary stumbles across the dark campus, as if waiting for someone to jump out and attack her. Someone does. BRUCE LEE!! Or at least someone who looks drastically like him. Lee performs a series of “secret chink stuff,” aka ass-kicking kung fu!

Mary, helpless despite the fact that she is a cop, throws herself to the ground to try to ward off this unwarranted and completely baffling attack. Just as Lee is about to open up a rice container of kick-ass moves, letting out the usual "whoops" associated with martial arts, KENDALL shows up out of nowhere, confused and handsome. KENDALL quickly explains that Lee is just Chow, the campus “kung fu professor.” Yes, a professor of kung fu. 

Upon being asked about his attack, Chow claims to have eaten “some bad Chop Suey.” He then descends into the darkness, allowing the thick cloud of horribly offensive stereotypes to whither and diffuse into the night air.

Why did that scene just take place?

I'll tell you why!


"And hanging from the door handle was a TURD."
"God, Gary—tell it right."

Later, marching band fanfare blasts from the campus audio system, a ploy the killer used to muffle the sound of latest attack.

KENDALL finds the poor girl sawed to bits and waits outside the locker room crime scene for Mary to show up. Mary goes in, sees the ooey-gooey mess and comes back. She then delivers the most overly-dramatic and overly-cheesy monologue I’ve ever seen in a movie. To watch it is to be convinced that it’s some kind of joke:

KENDALL, pitching in when needed, helps Holden go through files in the campus basement as the two snack on food from Wendy’s. In fact, every scene these two share together has either or both characters grasping a Biggie with the Wendy’s label clearly visible as they discuss crucial plot points, though I sincerely doubt a family restaurant contributed money to a movie about a killer who mutilates girls and is obsessed with vaginas.

But, whatever, it’s good for a laugh, because, what the fuck—Wendy’s?

Oh crap, looks like the Dean is actually the killer. Seeing as how he was the only character in this movie not to be painted as cartoonishly evil or overly aloof (or given any kind of development at all), this comes as the kind of surprise that I like to call "not a surprise."

"Sorry boys, auditions are over.
We gave the part to Eric Stoltz."

The Dean, seeing that Mary is asking him increasingly meddling questions, poisons her coffee, and she drinks it. Then Mary asks more questions.

The Dean, not knowing what to do now that his few drips of poison have failed him, spastically offers Mary more coffee...and adds even more poison.

Jeez, the Dean; done this before?

The poison finally works and it paralyzes her. Unable to move, Mary must be forced to watch as the Dean stares at her and then removes her shoes to heavily pet her feet and moan.

Bracken, Holden, and KENDALL break into the Dean’s office, themselves finally realizing that he is the killer. The Dean hides behind a curtain as KENDALL tries to move Mary around the room to stimulate her paralyzed muscles.

Bracken and Holden, the worst cops ever, unrealistically leave the room, because unbeknownst to them, the Dean is there still, hiding, and Mary can’t say shit about it!

Don’t worry, though, because Bracken randomly walks back in the room and shoots the Dean in slow motion as he is trying to stab KENDALL.

The end.

Or is it?

While I usually just give away major plot points and resolutions in movies because I just don’t care, the very end of this movie is magically bizarre and no one should ever ruin it. For a spoilery description of the end of this film, highlight the black patch:

Sergeant Holden makes a wise comment as he leans on a bookcase, which he inadvertently pushes in to reveal a secret nook. The other side of the bookcase spins out, revealing the dean’s true jigsaw puzzle: a dead puzzle girl. A little later, the dead puzzle girl, clearly dead, lies on the ground under a coroner's sheet. Seems to signify the end of the movie, doesn't it?. But wait! As Kendall reaches over the dead puzzle girl’s body for his jacket, her hand suddenly shoots up from under the sheet and rips KENDALL's dick and balls off for absolutely no reason. 

And thus ends Pieces, the first of what will eventually be many weird, unintentionally hilarious offerings from Juan Piquer Simón, aka J.P. Simon. Yes, years before your Jigsaw/Saw bullshit, the Dean was making puzzles of his own.

Puzzle girls.

Or something.

Feb 12, 2013

Feb 11, 2013



I have not seen Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters. I likely never will. But I welcome any film that brings me a new score by one of my favorite composers: Atli Örvarsson. While he basically picked up where Hans Zimmer left off, that doesn't make it any less good.

Feb 10, 2013


The Historic Houses Trust opens special exhibitions at different venues in its native Sydney, Australia. The below is a sample of one of their current exhibitions. The below photographs are:
"...a series of around 2500 'special photographs' taken by New South Wales Police Department photographers between 1910 and 1930. These 'special photographs' were mostly taken in the cells at the Central Police Station, Sydney and are, as curator Peter Doyle explains, of 'men and women recently plucked from the street, often still animated by the dramas surrounding their apprehension.' Doyle suggests that, compared with the subjects of prison mug shots, 'the subjects of the Special Photographs seem to have been allowed - perhaps invited - to position and compose themselves [for their photographs]...' "



Title: Mug shot of Alfred Ladewig. possibly Central Police Station, Sydney.
Creator: New South Wales. Police Dept.
Date: [192?]
Format: [Picture] Glass plate negative
Subject: police detainees and suspects; mug shots
Description: An entry in the Police Gazette, 15 September, 1920 reads "Alfred Ladewig, alias Wallace, and John Walker, alias Atkins, charged on provisional warrant with stealing by trick the sum of $204 AUD, at Brisbane (Q), the property of Alfred Walter Thomlinson have been arrested by Detective-constables Matthews and Jones, and Special-constable Bladen, Sydney Police. Both remanded to Brisbane." 


Title: Mug shot of De Gracy (sic) and Edward Dalton. Central Police Station, Sydney.
Creator: New South Wales. Police Dept.
Date: [c1920]
Format: [Picture] Glass plate negative
Place: Central Police Station (Sydney, N.S.W.)
Subject: police detainees and suspects; mug shots; fedoras (hats)
Description: A cropped print of this photograph appears in a police photo book from the 1920s, annotated in pencil "magsmen," with no further information offered.

Title: Clara Randall. State Reformatory for Women, Long Bay, NSW.
Creator: New South Wales. Dept. of Prisons
Date: 12 November 1923
Format: [Photograph] glass plate negative
Place: State Reformatory for Women, Long Bay
Subject: police detainees and suspects; mug shots; prisoners
Description: Clara Randall worked as a travelling saleswoman for a jewelry company. She reported to police that her Bondi flat had been broken into and a quantity of jewelry stolen. It was later discovered she had pawned the jewelry for cash. A career criminal, Randall was sentenced to 18 months with light labour. DOB: 1884.


Title: Kate Ellick. State Reformatory for Women, Long Bay.
Creator: New South Wales. Dept. of Prisons
Date: 17 February 1919
Format: [Photograph] glass plate negative
Place: State Reformatory for Women, Long Bay
Subject: police detainees and suspects; mug shots; prisoners
Description: Kate Ellick had no family to support her and no fixed address. In the early 20th century employment options were limited for women of her age and there was no aged pension. Ellick was homeless when arrested in Newcastle and was sentenced under the Vagrancy Act to three months in prison. DOB: 1860, Murrurundi.


Title: Dorothy Mort. State Reformatory for Women, Long Bay, NSW
Creator: New South Wales. Dept. of Prisons
Date: 16 October 1929
Format: [Photograph] glass plate negative
Subject: police detainees and suspects; mug shots; prisoners
Description: Mrs Dorothy Mort was having an affair with dashing young doctor Claude Tozer. On 21 December 1920 Tozer visited Mort's home intending to break off the relationship. Mort shot him dead and then attempted to commit suicide. She was released from jail shortly after this photograph was taken and disappeared from the public eye.


Title: Janet Wright. State Reformatory for Women, Long Bay, NSW
Creator: New South Wales. Dept. of Prisons
Date: 16 February 1922
Format: [Photograph] glass plate negative
Subject: police detainees and suspects; mug shots; prisoners
Description: Convicted of using an instrument to procure a miscarriage. Janet Wright was a former nurse who performed illegal abortions from her house in Kippax Street, Surry Hills. One of her teenage patients almost died after a procedure and Wright was prosecuted and sentenced to 12 months hard labour. Aged 68.


Title: Emily Gertrude Hemsworth. State Reformatory for Women, Long Bay, NSW
Creator: New South Wales. Dept. of Prisons
Date: 14 May 1925
Format: [Photograph] glass plate negative
Subject: police detainees and suspects; mug shots; prisoners
Description: Emily Hemsworth killed her three-week-old son but could not remember any details of the murder. She was found not guilty due to insanity. Hemsworth was to be detained in custody until judged fit to return to society - it is unknown if she was ever released. Aged 24.


Title: Phyllis Carmier, alias Hume. State Reformatory for Women, Long Bay, NSW.
Creator: New South Wales. Dept. of Prisons
Date: 1 April 1921
Format: [Photograph] glass plate negative
Subject: police detainees and suspects; mug shots; prisoners
Description: British-born Carmier was known as 'Yankee' Phyllis because of her peculiar accent. She stabbed her 'bludger', or pimp, to death during a violent altercation in Crazy Cottage, a sly-grog shop in Surry Hills. Carmier attracted much sympathy in the media, who labelled her crime a justifiable homicide. Aged 32.


Title: Eugenia Falleni, alias Harry Crawford. State Reformatory for Women, Long Bay, NSW
Creator: New South Wales. Dept. of Prisons
Date: 16 August 1928
Format: [Photograph] Glass plate negative
Place: State Reformatory for Women, Long Bay
Subject: police detainees and suspects; mug shots; male impersonators; prisoners
Description: Convicted of murder. Eugenia Falleni spent most of her life masquerading as a man. In 1913 Falleni married a widow, Annie Birkett, whom she later murdered. The case whipped the public into a frenzy as they clamoured for details of the 'man-woman' murderer. Aged approximately 43. Part of an archive of forensic photography created by the NSW Police between 1912 and 1964. 


Title: Ruby Furlong. State Reformatory for Women, Long Bay, NSW
Creator: New South Wales. Dept. of Prisons
Date: 15 November 1920
Format: [Photograph] Glass plate negative
Place: State Reformatory for Women, Long Bay
Subject: mug shots; prisoners; prisoners of war
Description: Petty thief Ruby Furlong was involved in an altercation with a drunk musician at Newtown. She pulled out a razor and slashed his face, leaving an ugly scar. Furlong was a feared criminal who had a string of convictions in the early 1920s. Ruby, aged 34, was serving time for malicious wounding when this photograph was taken. Part of an archive of forensic photography created by the NSW Police between 1912 and 1964.

Links and text stolen with love from the Historic Houses Trust. So many more.

Feb 9, 2013


Dear Mrs. Budd: 
In 1894 a friend of mine shipped as a deck hand on the Steamer Tacoma, Capt. John Davis. They sailed from San Francisco for Hong Kong, China. On arriving there he and two others went ashore and got drunk. When they returned the boat was gone. At that time there was famine in China. Meat of any kind was from $1–3 per pound. So great was the suffering among the very poor that all children under 12 were sold for food in order to keep others from starving. A boy or girl under 14 was not safe in the street. You could go in any shop and ask for steak—chops—or stew meat. Part of the naked body of a boy or girl would be brought out and just what you wanted cut from it. A boy or girl's behind which is the sweetest part of the body and sold as veal cutlet brought the highest price. John staid there so long he acquired a taste for human flesh. On his return to N.Y. he stole two boys, one 7 and one 11. Took them to his home stripped them naked tied them in a closet. Then burned everything they had on. Several times every day and night he spanked them – tortured them – to make their meat good and tender. First he killed the 11 year old boy, because he had the fattest ass and of course the most meat on it. Every part of his body was cooked and eaten except the head—bones and guts. He was roasted in the oven (all of his ass), boiled, broiled, fried and stewed. The little boy was next, went the same way. 
At that time, I was living at 409 E 100 St. near—right side. He told me so often how good human flesh was I made up my mind to taste it. On Sunday June the 3, 1928 I called on you at 406 W 15 St. Brought you pot cheese—strawberries. We had lunch. Grace sat in my lap and kissed me. I made up my mind to eat her. On the pretense of taking her to a party. You said yes she could go. 
I took her to an empty house in Westchester I had already picked out. When we got there, I told her to remain outside. She picked wildflowers. I went upstairs and stripped all my clothes off. I knew if I did not I would get her blood on them. When all was ready I went to the window and called her. Then I hid in a closet until she was in the room. When she saw me all naked she began to cry and tried to run down the stairs. I grabbed her and she said she would tell her mamma. First I stripped her naked. How she did kick – bite and scratch. I choked her to death, then cut her in small pieces so I could take my meat to my rooms. Cook and eat it. How sweet and tender her little ass was roasted in the oven. It took me 9 days to eat her entire body. I did not fuck her tho I could of had I wished. 
She died a virgin.

Feb 8, 2013


I have absolutely nothing of merit to say about this film. I've never even seen it.

But that artwork is beyond fucking beautiful.

Good on you, Criterion.

Feb 6, 2013


Overcoming one's fears is a huge and reoccurring theme in the horror genre. Whether directly or indirectly, our protagonists will only find victory if they learn to confront their tormentor head on, with eyes up. In A Nightmare on Elm Street for instance, Nancy literally vanquishes her demon by saying, "You're nothing." In Citadel, this theme is the forefront of our protagonist's conflict. Quite literally, he must overcome his fears...or die.

Tommy (Aneurin Barnard) and his wife, Joanne (Amy Shiels), are moving out of their apartment. With Joanne ready to give birth any day, it would seem the time has come to vacate and find a bigger or nicer place to raise their daughter. Out of nowhere, a faceless group of hoods attacks Joanne, beating her and stabbing her in the stomach with a syringe. She is rushed to the hospital where she falls into a coma, and her baby is surgically removed, luckily having survived. Tommy, because of his limited means, has no choice but to move into a ghetto duplex in the middle of a wasteland sporting signs promising a "regeneration project." The sign itself is so worn and faded that it's obvious this project is not happening any time soon - if at all. And so this complex remains tattered and torn, with eviscerated cars littering the parking lot.

In the wake of Joanne's attack, Tommy is left with a terrible case of agoraphobia. Leaving his house is tantamount to torture, and he can only do so after coaxing himself out with his eyes squeezed shut. Self-help groups don't seem to be helping at all, and he has no one in which to confide except for Marie (Wunmi Mosaku), a nurse at the hospice center where Joanne has been for nine comatose months. After Tommy euthanizes Joanne by releasing her from her life support, Marie tries to help Tommy regain control of his life. But soon, familiar faceless hoods make an appearance, intent on finishing what they started. They kidnap baby Elsa, and the multitudes of missing child fliers hanging all over town suggests that Elsa is just one of many taken by these mysterious figures. With the help of an eccentric priest (James Cosmo) and his blind adopted son, Danny (Jake Wilson), Tommy must enter his former high-rise tenement building where the hoods seem to live, take back his child, and put an end to their terror for good.

Somewhere between all the early buzz and positive reviews, and my having seen the film for myself, I saw the plot loosely described somewhere as a man being terrorized by a bunch of hooded youths. That instantly bummed me out. I wanted something creepy and unnatural. Ghosts or demons or freaks or something. I didn't want a bunch of annoying mall teens. 

Still, I watched the film for myself, figuring it would be good for at least one scare or two, what with all the high marks it received during its film festival run. 

I was pleasantly surprised. And creeped out. Turns out that plot description I saw elsewhere was wrong. The figures were hooded, yes, and they were definitely of a kid height...but that's about where our antagonists stop being kids. They are something much more dangerous and terrifying. 

With film, but within the horror genre especially, you are asked to suspend your disbelief. But we're pretty willing to, so long as the film has earned it. Citadel asks you to refrain from asking hundreds of questions you probably should be, and which you'd be right to. Being as vague and non-spoilery as possible, those might be:

"How is it this priest knows what he knows and never told anyone?"


"How is it this building filled with these little monsters has sat for so long and no one has done anything about it, or even noticed?"


"How is it we readily accept Tommy not calling the police whenever he is terrorized because, according to him, 'they won't come here.' "

There are many more of these types of questions that might pop up as you watch, but all of them are rendered irrelevant for one simple reason: because the film is too well made and well acted to have to answer to these questions. Sometimes it's better not to explain everything to death. Sometimes it's better to just place your trust in the filmmakers that you're being told everything you need to know - no more, no less.

Strong performances by Bernard as Tommy and especially James Cosmo ("Game of Thrones," "Sons of Anarchy") as the unnamed priest propel the film forward, hurtling us through the moments where lesser actors would allow us to stop and question what it is we're seeing and noting why the vagueness of certainly details might be a weakness. 

The script by Ciaran Foy is simple but clever, and at times feels even personal. And that's because it is. Foy himself suffered an unwarranted assault as a youth, perpetrated by a bunch of hooded miscreants who beat him and stabbed him in the throat with a syringe. It left Foy a shell-shocked, suffering agoraphobic who never found the strength to leave his home until he was accepted for film school. 

Considering its budget, the make-up and visual effects are astounding. You can't really know how good of a job the the filmmakers did until you watch the behind the scenes featurette on the DVD, which is refreshingly informative, and not just your usual glad-handing and blanket congratulatory praise for every single person involved in the production.

There's an underlying warning about a society's and/or government's disregardance of lower income areas. We, as that society, sometimes like to pretend those areas don't exist and that they're not a problem. But the longer they sit and fester, the worse they will become. Their poverty will lead to desperation, which will lead to crime. Children will be born into this environment and grow in a household where crime is perfectly acceptable, and this wicked cycle will continue. One character describes the tenement building featured in the film as having been "abandoned" - not in the sense that only vagrants live there, and the place is otherwise in shambles, but that at one point whoever was living there was trying to make a life...and it was they who were actually abandoned.

Citadel is original, and surprisingly emotional. And to watch a man confront his fears, quite literally, has never been creepier.