Mar 31, 2013


"Mom," said the little girl, rubbing her eyes and standing in the doorway to her mother's room. "Mom, the Easter Bunny is eating my candy." 
"Nonsense, baby," the woman replied. "The Easter Bunny gives out candy, he doesn't eat it..."  
The woman lightly shook her covers and continued to speak, halfway into her pillow and halfway to her daughter. "Go back to sleep, baby..." 
"But, mom," the girl said. "The Easter Bunny is eating candy!" She now spoke in a more serious tone, almost as if she were going to cry. 
Her mother sat up and opened her arms. "Baby, I just told you. The Easter Bunny doesn't eat candy, he hands it out to little children. Besides, it's not even Easter yet. Go back to sleep," she said in her kindest voice. 
"Okay, mom," the child sighed as she turned to walk out the room. 
The woman smiled and thought, 'Crazy kid with her lively imagination,' and went back to sleep on a whim. 
Out in the hallway, the little girl stood for a while staring at the Easter Bunny eating her candy. She then sighed. "Mommy said I should go back to bed." 
The Easter Bunny smiled. "Good idea, child. Turn around and don't look back."  
He flicked a shiny metal pendant at the child. She picked it up and cried as she saw what it was: it was a dog tag, and it read 'Candy.'

Mar 30, 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.

If you were to me ask me if there was one filmmaker out there who has consistently avoided falling into the Hollywood system and continued to create films his own way, I could think of a few possible names: John Carpenter, George A. Romero, even David Cronenberg.

Now, if you had asked for a filmmaker who had worked primarily in tits-and-ass cinema, and who had directed one single non-porn film that managed to smell worse than green shit, well, I would tell you that filmmaker’s name: Paul Norman. Yes, Paul Norman, the director of such films as Sperm Bitches, Cry Babies: Anal Scream, Bitches in Heat: Pt. 1-Locked in the Basement, The Boneheads, and roughly 100 other movies that have those kinds of icky titles.

The point is, Paul Norman, director of all those wonderful flicks of debauchery, is a master of his craft. He knows how to make a great dick film. He knows how to light deep penetration and parallel the conflicts of humanity with some serious hard anal love. He knows how to fill a scene with tension and terror just like he knows how to fill a mouth know. He knows how to zoom to the inside of a woman's love hole as it's invaded by the coach, just like we wish he would zoom out from Clint Howard's face, which looks like it's been hugged by a cactus monster.

Yes, there is a movie beyond the man’s typical resume staggery; it’s a movie made from the heart, a story compelled to be told, driven by true passion for the cinema. Ice Cream Man is to Paul Norman as Plan 9 from Outer Space is to Ed Wood. Ice Cream Man was Paul Norman’s chance to mark his presence in Hollywood, to storm the red-carpet premier of his first mainstream film and say, “Shall no one celebrate my career...shall no one ever give thought to me after I pass on, let it be known that I was here…that I held my head up high…and that I crafted a movie that captured the imagination!”

Paul Norman was delirious. And oblivious. His choice to temporarily halt his porn career to make a lousy, stupid horror movie starring Richie Cunningham's brother will mystify me long after I am boringly staring at the lid of my coffin.

Paul Norman, up to the year 2001, had directed 120 films. 119 of those were pornography. One was Ice Cream Man.

"It's OK to cry when you're sad, Billy. I cry every night
before I go to sleep."

Ice Cream Man was released in the fall of 1995 and was greeted by many a head-scratching critics and probably the ignorant love of 12-year-old boys. And it’s a bad, bad film.

So why do I fucking like it so much?

Is it the masterful scenery-chewing performance, delivered by the scary looking Clint Howard?

Is it the dopey, twinkle-box music that distractingly sounds like a pornographic soundtrack better suited to play during scenes of awkward foreplay leading up to ass-slapping and dirty name calling?

Is it the “oh, I’m on camera?” acting techniques of Jan Michael Vincent?

Or is it all of the above?

Have you ever watched a movie that was bad and jokingly asked, “Jeez, did this guy used to direct PORN?” Well, you know what, fuck you, because Paul Norman seriously used to direct porn, and it’s so prevalent at several parts in the film that it’s distracting.

Ice Cream Man did for ice cream men what Jaws did for the ocean, what A Nightmare on Elm Street did for sleeping and what Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 did for garbage day. It gave pause to people considering on embarking on what used to be typical, every-day behavior; in this case, children buying ice cream from a leering man who looked anything like Clint Howard.

Ice Cream Man begins with flash back to a young Gregory Tudor, who sees the Ice Cream King get ICED (ROF) right in front of him by a passing mafia caravan spraying machine gun bullets. His mother rushes to his aid, but it’s too late, as Gregory Tudor dumbly asks, “Who is going to bring the ice cream now, mommy?” Gregory is hospitalized for the rest of his young life, and many years later, he is released after being treated by a pair of totally insane staff members. He picks up where The Ice Cream King left off.

A group of neighborhood children, who call themselves The Rocketeers for no good reason, begin to grow wise of the ice cream man’s impending insanity after one of their friends, Small Paul, goes missing. Surely this is the work of the ice cream man. Or wait, could it be the town pervert who creepily spins the children on the park tilty-whirl as he reiterates the story of the Pied Piper?

It’s OK to think that for a few minutes before the ice cream man kills him.

You know you're in the presence of a cinematic master when he introduces a red herring and then immediately kills him off.

It wasn't the giant man-head-cone that Darla objected to,
but Clint Howard's face.

The Rocketeers assemble and begin their conspiring.

Member # 1: Johnny, (who will grow up to be the guy that shouts MILF at the portrait of Stiffler’s Mom in American Pie) pisses off the ice cream man with his constant indecisiveness involving the texture of his cone.

Member # 2: Heather, a girl whose mother is possessed by a demon, plays the potential cooties interest.

Member # 3: Tuna, the “fat” kid (who is fat merely because of a fat pad placed in his shirts—notice the thin legs).

Tuna eventually ends up as the ice cream man’s target after the fat little miscreant catches him inexplicably dancing in the middle of the night for no explained reason. Once realizing he has been caught during his dance, Tudor shouts after the fleeing child, “You little turds are gonna have to realize you can't run from the ice cream man! I know where you live! If you tell anyone, I’ll get your mom and dad!”

Subtle, ice cream man. So subtle.

As the movie progresses, ice cream man kills more and more people, like Tuna’s cheating father and the town whore with whom he adulterates.

Two cops, Detectives Maldwyn and Gifford (played by the son of Lee Majors and seasoned wife-beater Jan Michael Vincent, respectively) show up to begin their investigation. Maldwyn then orders ice cream and ignorantly tongues a sliced eyeball around in his mouth as Gifford looks like he couldn’t give any less of a shit to be in this movie. There's "phoning it in," and then there's Jan Michael Vincent.

"Miami Vice" at the hands of Robert Altman.

The movie is peppered with odd behavior from our beloved Ice Cream Prince (his self-anointed title), weird flashbacks from the wacko jacko things that went on during his hospital stay, and a million shots of shoes, as Converse was a heavy sponsor of the film.

Maldwyn and Gifford eventually subpoena Ice Cream Prince with a search warrant and then rape the shit out of his ice cream headquarters. Pictures frames, little jars of sprinkles and other very small places where missing children couldn't possibly be hidden are smashed haphazardly on the floor, as Ice Cream Prince helplessly looks on.

Not finding anything, the two detectives leave, with Gifford spotting a bed of fake plastic daisies, the petals of which spin in the wind.

"Those are beautiful daisies - how do you get them to bloom like that?" (He's 100% serious.)

"I use dead policeman," says Ice Cream Prince, for reasons unknown. Gifford walks away, accepting his answer without the slightest hint of worry.

Later, as the two detectives investigate Gregory’s history at the mental hospital (and see that it’s a hellhole where the insane literally have control of the asylum), you’ll get to witness the fine acting chops of Jan Michael Vincent.

In a scene in which I am 100% confident that he was just being an asshole on the set that day and didn’t want to cooperate, we see him and his fellow detective walk through the hallway of the hospital as a large horde of the insane follow them - screaming, pawing at them, and threatening them with makeshift weapons.

As Lee Majors II attempts to act and look threatened as he fends off attacks, Jan Michael Vincent simply walks, completely and totally calm, if not a bit bored. He literally looks like he couldn’t care less about being there.

It would be rather insulting if it weren’t so fucking hilarious.

When Clint Howard handed over his 'head-shot',
the producers laughed...out of pity.

Nearing the end of the film, we unearth a shocking discovery: Small Paul, whom we thought was dead, was just cooling his jets at the Ice Cream Prince's hangout.

So, wait, why didn't the detective find him when they trashed the place?

Moving on!

Small Paul realizes that the Ice Cream Prince is an asshole and pushes him into the giant ice cream mixer and kills him.

The end.

There. I just spent more time and effort on Ice Cream Man than its own director.

Mar 28, 2013


I am conflicted about the release date for this film. Part of me wants it to come out in the fall instead, as horror always plays better then. But then the other part of me realizes I'd have to wait an additional three months for that to happen.

I think the first part of me needs to STFU.

Mar 27, 2013


A priest has been called to a farm near the town of Antwerp in Victoria, where he has been told an exorcism has entered a difficult phase. Inside the house, he finds the body of Joan Vollmer decomposing in the bedroom, her fluids leaking into the bedclothes and onto the floor, while the three "exorcists" – including the dead woman's husband – are in the kitchen, in an extreme state of denial, fixing themselves some sandwiches. 
The priest politely declines their invitation that he join them for lunch.

Mar 26, 2013


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.

Dirs. Lars Jacobson & Amardeep Kaleka
Allumination Filmworks
United States

Sometimes all you need to sum up a film is one simple sentence. But just because that sentence is simple, it doesn't mean the film is – either technically, or thematically. Films with the easiest synopses can often be the most dangerous. To sum up Baby Blues, using my own words: A young mother suffers a nervous breakdown and begins to systematically murder her young children, one by one. Such a simple sentence should hopefully be a sucker punch to the gut. It should hopefully cause a trifle bit of unease in even the most jaded horror fan. I knew very little about Baby Blues when I sat down with it. I knew it was about a mother chasing after her young child in an attempt to kill him, and I knew it was given favorable reviews by some horror pubs when it hit disc way back when. I sat down and watched, expecting a decent but forgettable romp. But what I saw knocked me back.

Mom (the eerily good Colleen Porch) is clearly not well. Her four children, including newborn Nathan, seem to be running her ragged. Cooking and cleaning and keeping an eye out – all of her duties as a mother are really taking their toll. Not helping matters is that Dad (Joel Bryant) is away from home almost constantly, due to his job as a truck driver. Anyone could take one look at Mom’s tired eyes beaming their thousand-yard stare and see that she needs help. Even when she begins to break down and cry when it comes time for Dad to hit the road again, he simply insists that everything is going to be all right. But it’s not. And as soon as he hits the road, things get real bad real quick. Their son, Jimmy (Ridge Canipe, who has played both young versions of Dean Winchester in “Supernatural” and Johnny Cash in Walk the Line), may be the oldest of the four children, but he’s no more than twelve years old. While he may still be wet behind the ears, he knows something is very wrong with Mom…but not until it’s too late.

Honestly, I was not prepared for Baby Blues. As a horror film fan, I like to think that I’ve seen it all, but that’s not even remotely true, and I’m glad it’s not, for two reasons: One, that would be awfully boring going forward, wouldn’t it? And two, there is stuff out there I haven’t seen and never want to see, because at one point filmmakers begin to straddle that line between entertainment and triathlons involving grimy basements and sexual perversity – shock for shock’s sake, etc. Filmmakers like Tom Six (Human Centipede), Srdjan Spasojevic (A Serbian Film) and even the lame Nick Palumbo (Nutbag) have absolutely nothing of merit to say with their films. I’m sure at the end of the day they can sit down and concoct some bullshit reasoning for sewing one girl’s lips to another’s asshole, or for including actual 9/11 footage in their film’s opener to attempt some tenuous connection between real world terror and their lamebrain lead character. But these guys just want to push the boundaries for no other reason than to elbow you in the side later on and say, “See what I did there?” That kind of cinema isn’t my cup of tea and it never will be. But that doesn’t mean you still can’t shock your horror-loving audience – it just has to come from a pure place. It has to shock you with its themes as well as its on-screen violence.

For instance, in the Troma film Beware: Children at Play, scores of kids are shot down and massacred in the finale—and, in addition to pretty much the rest of the film, is the reason it fails as any kind of experience rather than one of utter superficiality. The film wants to shock you in only vapid ways, but all it does is end up looking completely pedestrian and immature of the filmmakers to even try. Killing one hundred kids with no emotional build-up will never be as shocking as killing just one, so long as the appropriate development has taken place, and the conflict realistically and unpretentiously built.

I’m not giving anything away when I say that this young mother, under a tremendous amount of stress as well as suffering from post-partum depression, does indeed kill most of her children. That much is stated right in the film’s synopsis. But even though it’s right there in black and white text, you never quite actually believe it. Because you convince yourself there’s no way a filmmaker would ever resort to such techniques to tell a story. Reading such a synopsis might allow you to dismiss the words you are reading and concoct your own explanation: Perhaps the children are already dead once the film begins, either recently or in the years prior. Or maybe there’s some third-act twist revealing that the mother is just a psycho and it was all in her head.

Even as the children die, one by one, you think, “This isn’t happening. Or if it is, they only want to shock you with one child death. The other children will be saved.”

But you soon realize this is not the case.

And that’s why Baby Blues works as well as it does. At no point does it ever feel exploitative. At no point does it seem like the filmmakers have absolutely nothing to say about the on-screen events rather than, “This is fucked up, ain’t it?” All of the violence committed against the children is committed off-screen, but you will feel every hit and stab, that much I will guarantee.

The horror genre is immensely diverse, just like any other genre. But horror tests you in many different ways. I consider this film, as well as, say, The Thing, Phantasm, and Insidious to be great—but all in different ways. The Thing wants you to question the evil inside yourself, Phantasm wants to mess with your mind, and Insidious just wants to have fucking fun. Baby Blues wants to test you, too—but not in any of those ways.  It wants you to face one simple fact: what you’re seeing happens. Often. Because people do not receive the kind of mental attention they need—either by their loved ones, by their physicians, or by society. And that has never been more relevant than right now, what with the current gun control debate taking place on the public stage. Some argue to ban automatic assault weapons while others state the problem isn’t the guns, but the lack of attention to those with mental and emotional problems. If our government’s recent output is any indication, it’s yet one more debate that will become so watered down by both sides that inaction surely would have been the easiest conclusion in the long run.

Co-directors Lars Jacobson (also the writer) and Amardeep Kaleka have an awful lot to say: about religion, about family values, and about mental illness. And it’s all included in such subtlety that viewers actually force themselves to realize those themes at film’s end. Because to have experienced what you’ve just experienced cannot go unanalyzed. The idea that Baby Blues was made for the sole purpose of shocking you just isn’t enough. You will demand to know why you were shown what you were just shown, and you will insist on knowing why such a film exists.

Speaking of subtlety, there’s also a moment in the film’s first act where Mom finds a rather racy matchbook in Dad’s pants – one that suggests perhaps Dad has certain hot spots he likes to hit while out on the open road for weeks at a time. And we never find out for sure if Dad likes to visit those kinds of places…perhaps drink a little too much…perhaps get a little too handsy with the dancers. Dad is certainly painted as a good guy – a good provider to his family. But even the best men are flawed, and maybe Dad is visiting these joints while no one is looking…or maybe, instead, he’s curiously fishing them out of a fishbowl at the truckers’ warehouse, where he often picks up or drops off another load, and living vicariously through the fantasies swimming around inside his head.

Perhaps the most famous horror film to feature a parent trying to dispatch their child is The Shining, and Baby Blues is quick to throw out a nod here and there to its cinematic ancestor. Either by lovingly recreating iconic shots, or including in its story the use of a CB radio that Jimmy uses to reach the outside world while fleeing from his murderous mother, Baby Blues is sure to pay its fair share of homage to one of the big daddy films of the genre. Obviously Jack Nicholson’s Jack Torrance was thirty kinds of insane, but Colleen Porch’s performance is nearly as riveting, just for different reasons. Torrance is a man possessed by ghosts of the past, but Porch is a woman taken hostage by her own demons spurred by her unsteady mental state. And though she may utter lines of dialogue from time to time that might be wrongly considered puns, they’re not meant to be quirky or ironic. When she threatens her children with a cleaver and tells them it’s past their bedtime, it’s not the same as Chucky killing someone with a ruler and saying “This rules!” (or something to that effect) – because Mom is delivering her lines through tears. Somewhere inside her she knows she is sick. She isn’t taking sinister joy in her carnage with a clownish grin on her face. She knows she didn’t want to do what she did and is still trying to do, but she is taken hold by her growing insanity and there’s no way she can stop herself.

Naturally I won’t get into the film’s ending in detail, but I will say this: Baby Blues’ conclusion looks you right in the face – you, the offender, in a sea of a million offenders – and says you will never learn your fucking lesson.

Mar 24, 2013


Doctors at a Canadian hospital found a shocking image staring right back at them as they were scanning the testicles of a 45-year-old paraplegic man. The image of one of the testicles looks like a man's face grimaced in agony.

"It was very ghoulish, like a man screaming in pain," Dr. Naji Touma of Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario told The Toronto Star. "His mouth was open and it looked like one eye was gouged out."

"The residents and staff alike were amazed to see the outline of a man's face staring up out of the image, his mouth agape as if the face seen on the ultrasound scan itself was also experiencing severe [pain and swelling]," read the entry.


Mar 23, 2013


One school day, a boy named Tom was sitting in class and doing math. It was six more minutes until school let out. As he was doing his homework, something caught his eye. His desk was next to the window, and he turned and looked to the grass outside. It looked like a picture.
When school was over, he ran to the spot where he saw it. He ran fast so that no one else could grab it. He picked it up and smiled. It had a picture of the most beautiful girl he had ever seen. She had a dress with tights on and red shoes, and her hand was formed into a peace sign.

She was so beautiful he wanted to meet her, so he ran all over the school and asked everyone if they knew her or have ever seen her before. But everyone he asked said "No." He was devastated.

When he was home, he asked his older sister if she knew the girl, but unfortunately she also said "No."
It was very late, so Tom walked up the stairs, placed the picture on his bedside table and went to sleep.

In the middle of the night Tom was awakened by a tap on his window. It was like a nail tapping. He got scared. After the tapping he heard a giggle. He saw a shadow near his window, so he got out of his bed, walked toward his window, opened it up, and followed the giggling. By the time he reached it, it was gone.

The next day he asked his neighbors if they knew her. Everybody said, "Sorry, no."
When his mother came home he even asked her if she knew her. She said "No."
He went to his room, placed the picture on his desk and fell asleep.

Once again he was awakened by a tapping. He took the picture and followed the giggling. He walked across the road when he was suddenly hit by a car. He died instantly, picture in hand.

The driver got out of the car and tried to help him, but it was too late. He saw the picture and picked it up.

He saw a beautiful girl holding up three fingers.

Mar 22, 2013


My god do I love this album. It is everything a dark-stuff loving weirdo like me could ever hope for. It is a complete embrace of everything spooky and ghostly and murderous and haunted. Brought to you by Lonesome Wyatt and the Holy Spooks (also responsible for the similarly dark, but more country-flavored Those Poor Bastards), Ghost Ballads is thirteen tracks (naturally) of creepy, atmospheric, and sometimes even graphic music. But not screaming, death-metal graphic, mind you. I've seen this artist's genre described as Gothic Americana or Dark Folk, and both are certainly appropriate. 

The stand-out track is definitely "The Golden Rule," which seems plucked right out of an Edward Gorey tome. The story of Mary Moore, a woman once murdered and brought back to life, who, with the help of two children, ax-slaughter anyone they come across. Other stand-out tracks are "Terror on the Ghost Ship," in which a sailor is thrown overboard and devoured by ocean creatures, and "Curse of the Poltergeist," in which you can use your imagination...

But what made me fall in love, truly, with this album was the inclusion of "Skin and Bone," which should sound familiar to anyone who grew up reading the often-praised Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark collections. The lyrics are ever in place as you remember them, now set to the perfect and eerie music. "Old Woman All Skin and Bone"is a traditional song and has been around forever, but it's safe to say Scary Stories popularized the song with young readers. Based on some of the music videos I've watched for Lonesome Wyatt's songs, I'd hazard a guess he was certainly a fan of those ghastly dripping books (as we all were/are).

The full track list as as follows:

1. The Golden Rule 
2. Curse of the Poltergeists 
3. Terror On the Ghost Ship 
4. Dream of You 
5. Skin and Bones 
6. Boy With No Shadow 
7. October 1347  
8. The Mouldering One Returns 
9. Midsummer Fair 
10. Haunted Jamboree 
11. Death of Me  
12. You Cannot Be Saved from the Grave  
13. Bone Orchard Rise

Given its odd-ball subject matter, Lonesome Wyatt's discography won't be found at Walmart, but the usual online retailers have this and the other albums (Heartsick, Sabella, and the first album Moldy Basement Tapes - extremely low-fi recordings made on cassette in a basement). You can also snag them directly from the band's website to support them directly


Lonesome Wyatt is perfect for Halloween, late-night listening, and when the rain is coming down. Though it may sound like I'm pushing it, it's not often when I'm able to find something like this that's not only well-realized and well-executed, but manages to appeal directly to tenets of my personality. This is not something I'd share with casual music fans, but only with those who I feel are...let's call it I am. I have a feeling I'm going to be listening for a long long time.

I leave you with the official video for "The Golden Rule." There's really nothing I can say about it


Mar 20, 2013


I never once claimed to be mature. (Click the bat.)

Thanks, Laura.

Mar 19, 2013


You know how Fox has a weird way of counting "Simpsons" episodes? They refuse to count a couple of them, making the amount of episodes inconsistent. The reason for this is a lost episode from season 1.

Finding details about this missing episode is difficult, no one who was working on the show at the time likes to talk about it. From what has been pieced together, the lost episode was written entirely by Matt Groening. During production of the first season, Matt started to act strangely. He was very quiet, seemed nervous and morbid. Mentioning this to anyone who was present results in them getting very angry, and forbidding you to ever mention it to Matt. I first heard of it at an event where David Silverman was speaking. Someone in the crowd asked about the episode, and Silverman simply left the stage, ending the presentation hours early. The episode's production number was 7G06, the title was Dead Bart. The episode labeled 7G06, Moaning Lisa, was made later and given Dead Bart's production code to hide the latter's existence.

In addition to getting angry, asking anyone who was on the show about this will cause them to do everything they can to stop you from directly communicating with Matt Groening. At a fan event, I managed to follow him after he spoke to the crowd, and eventually had a chance to talk to him alone as he was leaving the building. He didn't seem upset that I had followed him, probably expected a typical encounter with an obsessive fan. When I mentioned the lost episode though, all color drained from his face and he started trembling. When I asked him if he could tell me any details, he sounded like he was on the verge of tears. He grabbed a piece of paper, wrote something on it, and handed it to me. He begged me never to mention the episode again. The piece of paper had a website address on it, I would rather not say what it was, for reasons you'll see in a second. I entered the address into my browser, and I came to a site that was completely black, except for a line of yellow text, a download link. I clicked on it, and a file started downloading. Once the file was downloaded, my computer went crazy, it was the worst virus I had ever seen. System restore didn't work, the entire computer had to be rebooted. Before doing this though, I copied the file onto a CD. I tried to open it on my now empty computer, and as I suspected, there was an episode of "The Simpsons" on it.

The episode started off like any other episode, but had very poor quality animation. If you've seen the original animation for Some Enchanted Evening, it was similar, but less stable. The first act was fairly normal, but the way the characters acted was a little off. Homer seemed angrier, Marge seemed depressed, Lisa seemed anxious, Bart seemed to have genuine anger and hatred for his parents.

The episode was about the Simpsons going on a plane trip, near the end of the first act, the plane was taking off. Bart was fooling around, as you'd expect. However, as the plane was about 50 feet off the ground, Bart broke a window on the plane and was sucked out.

At the beginning of the series, Matt had an idea that the animated style of the Simpsons' world represented life, and that death turned things more realistic. This was used in this episode. The picture of Bart's corpse was barely recognizable, they took full advantage of it not having to move, and made an almost photo-realistic drawing of his dead body.

Act one ended with the shot of Bart's corpse. When act two started, Homer, Marge, and Lisa were sitting at their table, crying. The crying went on and on, it got more pained, and sounded more realistic, better acting than you would think possible. The animation started to decay even more as they cried, and you could hear murmuring in the background. The characters could barely be made out, they were stretching and blurring, they looked like deformed shadows with random bright colors thrown on them. There were faces looking in the window, flashing in and out so you were never sure what they looked like. This crying went on for all of act two.

Act three opened with a title card saying one year had passed. Homer, Marge, and Lisa were skeletally thin, and still sitting at the table. There was no sign of Maggie or the pets.

They decided to visit Bart's grave. Springfield was completely deserted, and as they walked to the cemetery the houses became more and more decrepit. They all looked abandoned. When they got to the grave, Bart's body was just lying in front of his tombstone, looking just like it did at the end of act one.

The family started crying again. Eventually they stopped, and just stared at Bart's body. The camera zoomed in on Homer's face. According to summaries, Homer tells a joke at this part, but it isn't audible in the version I saw, you can't tell what Homer is saying.

The view zoomed out as the episode came to a close. The tombstones in the background had the names of every "Simpsons" guest star on them. Some that no one had heard of in 1989, some that haven't been on the show yet. All of them had death dates on them. For guests who died since, like Michael Jackson and George Harrison, the dates were when they would die. The credits were completely silent, and seemed handwritten. The final image was the Simpson family on their couch, like in the intros, but all drawn in hyper realistic, lifeless style of Bart's corpse.

A thought occurred to me after seeing the episode for the first time, you could try to use the tombstones to predict the death of living "Simpsons" guest stars, but there's something odd about most of the ones who haven't died yet. All of their deaths are listed as the same date.


Story source.

Mar 18, 2013


(You can find a more in-depth review of this doc here.)

Screaming in High Heels: The Rise & Fall of the Scream Queen Era is somewhat of a misnomer. Yes, the film is ultimately comprised of interviews with three lovely ladies - Brinke Stevens, Linnea Quigley, Michelle Baur - but overall it is a retrospective of schlock cinema from the early 1980s. It embraces the wonderfully weird change that occurred in the horror genre once direct-to-video distribution became a thing. I love this period of film-making, even if I haven't seen much of what it had to offer, and even if nearly all of it is terrible. I consider Screaming in High Heels to be a little keepsake that memorializes this moment in time that is grossly overlooked. 

The special features of the DVD are especially geared towards the horror crowd. You would think that goes without saying, considering the doc itself not only chronicles the careers of these three women who worked in a very specific sub-genre (schlock), but a bulk of the special features include interviews with each of the ladies performing Q&As at Flashback Weekend, just one of the many re-occurring horror conventions, which can be found all around the country. I bring this up because these interviews are pretty indicative of the cons themselves and make you feel like you're there. I've been to a couple of these cons and, though I don't make it a habit of going anymore, they will forever remain a playground for horror fans. The guests, the swag, the autograph sessions - it's certainly a great experience. These Flashback Weekend interviews serve as a nice reminder that these cons are out there and able to unite actors and fans in an environment free from formality. 

Not every question lobbed at the ladies are pure gold, but that's all part of the experience. I can only imagine Brinke Stevens has been asked what is her favorite role from her career a million times, but it doesn't make her answer any less interesting. And hearing her say she would love to one day do a film with Christopher Walken makes me like her even more.

Additionally, director Jason Collum, during Brinke's Q&A, actually mentions that many more ladies - including Halloween 2's Pamela Susan Shoop and Phantasm 2's Samantha Phillips - were supposed to be involved, but could not due to various conflicts. That makes me a little wistful for what could have been. 

During Linnea Quigley's Q&A, in which the lovely lady shows no signs of having lost her spunkyness, someone asks her, "Throughout your long career, what are you most proud of?" to which she responds, without missing a beat, "Spawning all of you." It's moments like these that bring a smile to your face and reinforces this idea that the horror crowd really is a community. No other genre boasts the level of mutual appreciation present here and it's nice to see this reaffirmed by icons like Linnea.

Michelle Baur, sadly, did not have a Flashback Weekend Q&A, but her extended interview provided some additional insights into her career. She delved into how her past affected her present, especially where her teenage daughter and her ever-curious friends are concerned. Her concerns about her past brought a real humanity to her interview as well as her contribution to the doc, and I'm a little disappointed that this bit was not included in the main portion. But I'm glad it was included, as it  helped her become a bit more real.

I cannot recommend Screaming in High Heels enough. Too often this era gets swept under the rug as an embarrassment, so it's nice to see it get the kind of appreciation it deserves. I only have one complaint: it's too fucking short. I could have watched two more hours of these ladies and their directors openly and honestly discussing their careers.

The DVD has been available for a few months now. Do us all a favor: buy, don't rent. If you have any appreciation at all for this era of the horror genre, this is something you'll definitely want on your shelf.

Mar 16, 2013


Known as “La Isla de la Munecas” by the Spanish, The Island of the Dolls is perhaps the creepiest tourist attraction in Mexico. Located within an extensive network of canals, south of Mexico City, the island is a place of mystery and superstition.

Almost every tree growing on the island is decorated with old, mutilated dolls that give anyone the feeling that they’re constantly being watched. The story behind the Island of the Dolls began when a hermit by the name of Don Julian Santana moved here. Although he was married he chose to live the last 50 years of his life alone.

Don Julian used to say he was haunted by the ghost of the little girl who had drowned in one of the canals around the island. Some say he used to fish the dolls from the water because he though they were real children, but the truth is he was collecting and placing them around his home as a shrine for the spirit that tormented him. At one point he even traded home grown fruit and vegetables for old dolls.

Ironically, in 2001 Don Julian Santana was found dead by his nephew, in the same canal that he said the little girl drowned in. Now his Island of the Dolls is one of the world’s weirdest tourist attractions. Some tourists who visited this place claim the dolls whisper and you must offer them a gift upon setting foot on the island, to appease their spirits.

Story and image source.

Mar 15, 2013


Once you have seen her, you are never the same.

She may seem like an ordinary antique doll, but she is much more than that.

Mandy came to live here at the Quesnel museum in 1991. Her clothing was dirty, her body was ripped, and her head had cracks in it. What can be said for a doll that has seen a good ninety years?

Some say that Mandy has been given unusual powers. Strange things happen when Mandy is about. The donor of Mandy told the museum that she would wake up in the night and hear a baby crying from the basement and upon investigation, she would find a curtain blowing in the breeze from an open window. She told us later that after the doll was given to the museum, she no longer heard a baby crying.

Now the museum staff and volunteers were saddled with weird and unexplained events; lunches would disappear from the refrigerator, and be later found tucked away in a drawer; footsteps were heard when no one is around; pens, books, pictures, and who knows what else would go missing, some never to be found and others which would turn up later. Of course it was passed off as the staff being more absent minded than usual.

Mandy as yet did not have a "home" within the museum. As she sat facing the public entrance-way, visitors would stare, and talk about this doll with the cracked and broken face, and sinister smile. With time, Mandy was moved to another part of the museum and carefully placed in a case by herself because rumor had it that she should not be placed with the other dolls because she would harm them. Since that time, there have been many many stories surrounding Mandy.

In 1992 the Curator, Ruth Stubbs, was asked if she knew of any ghost story surrounding the museum. Never thinking that so much publicity would result when the book
"Supernatural Stories Around British Columbia" was released, she wrote the Mandy story. When the book hit the shelves in January of 1999, the story of Mandy became known across Canada within weeks. The first article appeared in the Prince George Citizen newspaper and soon radio and television stations were scrambling to get a hold of this strange, exciting and now popular story. Ruth was flooded with calls from all over Canada wanting information and interviews and visitors started coming in droves. Some of these people have had strange experiences with Mandy again. One visitor was videotaping Mandy, only to have the camera light go on and off every 5 seconds. As soon as the camera was on another exhibit, the light on the camera stayed on. Some say that they have seen Mandy's eyes follow them around the room while others say they have seen Mandy's eyes blink.

Story source.

Image source unknown.

Mar 14, 2013


Like it or not, Bates Motel is back in business. Based on the four-film Psycho series beginning with Alfred Hitchcock's legendary original, itself based on the novel by Robert Bloch, Norman Bates is about to go off his rocker...again.

"Bates Motel" explores the early years with Norman (Freddie Highmore) and his domineering, over-protective mother, Norma (Vera Farmiga). After the untimely death of his father, mother and son pack up their car and head to the prime piece of California real estate Norma was able to buy at a steal. It's not long before the Bates begin to meet the locals...including one Keith Summers (W. Earl Brown), whose family had built and then subsequently owned the Bates' new property for generations, and is none too happy to see it under the care of outsiders. Couple this with the girls at school showing Norman a sudden interest, and Norma begins to feel like she is losing control. Her plan for a fresh start is threatened by the unhinged Keith and her control over Norman looks as if it's slipping.

This being a prequel to the prequel to the original Psycho, naturally the blood starts flowing...before Bates Motel checks in its first guest.

This was tried once 1987 (between the third and fourth Psycho entries.) Starring Bud Cort and Tank Girl from Tank Girl, Bates Motel tried its hand as a pilot but ended up being a one-off TV movie due to audiences' sheer disinterest in the subject matter. In the movie, a fellow inmate from Norman's insane asylum (Cort) apparently inherits the former Bates Motel and accompanying house from his crazy friend and attempts to re-open it for business. Who knows why. Murders happen. Blood flows. Moses Gunn is there, having an awesome name. I guess other stuff. Attempts to watch the 58th generation VHS rip posted on Youtube is a Herculean task of patience, so I can't say I was ever able to sit through the whole thing.

But that's all moot, seeing as how "Bates Motel" is being tried again...only we're going back in the present(?).

I chose to call this a "reaction" rather than a review because it's tough to review the very first chapter of what has been planned as an ongoing series. Not a miniseries, mind you, but an honest-to-gosh television show. We've barely scratched the surface of where the show-runners plan to go, so it's tough to pass judgment on what's essentially a nugget of an idea soon to materialize.

So, what was my reaction?

I was hesitant upon realizing the show was being set in modern times. It's strange to see a modern-day prequel to a film made - and which very much reeks of its year - in 1960. But already I can see what the show-runners are attempting: with Norma's collection of somewhat antiquated dresses, Norman's rather drab ensemble and outdated puffy haircut, and with all the very old house furnishings that came with the house, and which Norma claims they'll toss as soon as they can afford to get some other things (but will likely be sticking around), there is going to be more to this show than a fish-out-of-water, the boy-next-door-is-a-killer pulp tale. It's going to be the old culture clashing with the new. Hitchcock's original film played up the isolation of Norman and his mother, especially after "they moved away the highway." So since we're technically not at that point yet, we need to find another way to isolate the Bates - and if not geographically, than culturally. Oh, sure, Norman already has an iPhone upon moving to their new home (a mistake, if you ask me), but beyond his own mother, who also has one, who do you think he ever called with it? Because of this culture clash, I find the modern updating a little more forgivable  The Bates exist in the modern world, but in their own time. It's too early to tell how this will play out, but it's an interesting choice.

Vera Farmiga is one of her generation's most unfairly uncelebrated actresses. The Departed likely put her on the map, as well it should have, because she's great in the Boston-set crime piece, but she's been holding her own since and struggling somewhat to be re-recognized. She's certainly not a stranger to playing the mother of a somewhat...aloof child (see Joshua and Orphan), but this time she gets to show off her own brand of crazy. Not that we've yet to see any of this craziness per se - this is, after all, only the pilot episode - but something is there, simmering just under the surface. It's handled perfectly subtly, and Farmiga seems to be doing a good job of playing her role right down the middle - she's not all there, and you can somewhat tell, but we're not rooting against her yet (if we're ever meant to.)

The jury is still out on Freddie Highmore as Norman. He seems, at best, adequate for the time being. This might be the most high-profile project he's been a part of since 2005's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. That coupled with the jump to television has made the struggling thespian a little too willing to show off his chops. Some of it works, but some of it borders on embarrassment. Not helping him any is the sometimes awkward dialogue (ie, "There's a man on the floor lying in a lake of blood! What do we do, mother? We have no idea what to do!") 

Confessing my ignorance on details of the actual production, the show creators have either opted to film exteriors on the original Universal black lot to include the infamous house and motel, or they have done an admirable job of recreating it - including the house and motel interiors. Either way, good on them. The mere idea of updating the Bates house, forever sitting atop its perch, is blasphemous, and I'll definitely cop to some movie geek chills seeing the Bates house and motel again after all these years.

Oh, and for the record, does Norman seriously meet five gorgeous girls and is taken out for a night on the town by simply sitting on a bench and listening to classical music? The fuck?

Only in the world of make-believe...

Surprisingly, A&E seems to be going ahead with the suggestive incestuous undertones that were only alluded to in the original film, and which became more and more direct in each successive sequel. Nothing too obnoxious - at least so far - just a mixture of slightly unnatural mother/son closeness and a couple suggestive glances... although the soliloquy Norman delivers to his mother to close out the episode might blow the lid off my usage of "nothing too obnoxious."

And that is where my main point of contention comes into play: The relationship between Norman and his mother is essential - it is the driving force to both of their madnesses, and it will make or break how the show plays out moving forward. All during this pilot episode, Norman has made it a point to act out, defy his mother's wishes (and orders), and attempt to forge his own identity. He meets new people rather easily considering the show wants us to buy he is an outcast, and for the most part, the girls swoon to him like crazy (which will likely rile up the "jealous and angry boyfriend" character trope we've seen so many times before). And yet...after Norman experiences a taste of this new life, in which gorgeous girls give him the time of day and he effortlessly makes friends and nothing remotely traumatic happens to him...why does he just opt to leave it all behind for his mother? There's no catalyst - no clear reason why he does so. There's no reason present why this new life just isn't for him. Arcs like this hinge on a moment for a character to realize they were wrong to think they could leave it all behind, but we just never understand why Norman does, and it was a rather weak way for the episode to end.

So what would Alfred Hitchcock think?

Hitch, who is back in a big way recently with this, his titular bio pic, and his less than flattering portrayal as a misogynistic prick in HBO/BBC's The Girl, would appreciate the casting of Highmore - at least in theory. Like Anthony Perkins in the original, Highmore is a handsome if somewhat awkward looking kid; rather unassuming and least on the surface. For anyone familiar with Robert Bloch's original novel (it's been ten years since I last read it), Norman Bates was not a primp, skinny, and handsome fellow, but rather described as fat and hideous - a man who no woman would ever consider a feasible partner in any sense. It was Hitch who decided to cast the handsome but plain Tony Perkins in the role, changing not just the character's face, but his dynamism and his drawing power. (As an aside, while the novel does contain a motel room shower murder, it's not dozens of stabs as depicted in the film's iconic scene, but just the one - in which Marion Crane is decapitated by Norman's blade.)

Additionally, citing one particular scene featuring a urinating cop, let's just say Hitch would appreciate the black humor as well, of which he was a master. From a director's standpoint, however, he would appreciate nothing. (Granted, we're in television, here - not film - but even "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" showed a little creative flair from time to time.) Nor would he appreciate the pilot hitting the ground running without taking time to build the Bates' madness. If anyone could milk the inevitable, it was him, and he would call the show's attempt to get right into it cheap and unsatisfying.

As a show free from its lineage and judged on its own merits, it's a decent first trek into scripted narrative for A&E. There's already enough ongoing drama to engage viewers not looking for growth to a previously established character, and there's enough grue to keep horror fans satiated, along with some not-so-subtle shout-outs (Coach Carpenter! Sheriff Romero!), and, of course, plenty of pretty faces. As for me, I'll tune in from time to time to see what's going on with Norman and his mother, but regardless of where they take this show, and regardless of how realistic or fantastic they make it, there's one thought that will always be looming in the back of my mind: Norman Bates' monologue to Marion Crane in the original film is all the back story we ever really needed - summed up neatly and effectively in just a matter of minutes. Because of that, I fear that "Bates Motel" was already irrelevant before the opening credits ever rolled.

Make up your own mind when "Bates Motel" premieres this Monday on A&E

Mar 12, 2013


In France, a young ambient musician by the name of Charles undertook an interesting new project. He was going to record the sound of himself sleeping, and release it under the name “La Nuit” (The Night). Charles lived alone in a rural area, which would remove things like car alarms, traffic, and such from being recorded. He planned his project for many months, acquiring the sensitive equipment to capture all outside noises as well as his own during sleep.

Finally, on the 27th of September, he decided to execute his plan. He set up all his equipment, and fell at sleep at midnight.

The next day Charles reviewed the recording. For the first hour, the recording played his own tossings and turnings as well as some distant dog barks and a few car alarms (So much for his plan to distance himself from cars.) These continued throughout the 2nd hour as well, until Charles heard something that horrified him.

At exactly 3 hours and 24 minutes in, the recording played the sound of his bedroom door opening.

Mar 11, 2013


So a few years back I was visiting some friends in a nearby city. The night went well; it was good to catch up with them again, as I hadn't seen them for a while. As the hours wore by, we began to walk towards one of their houses.

Which would be when we heard a blood-curdling scream coming from a side-street. Now, normally in a strange city, I wouldn't investigate this - but we were in a vaguely suburban area, it was relatively well lit, and there were a few of us. So, the girls in the group stayed on the main road, and the guys went to take a closer look.

The screaming did not stop. It sounded like it was coming from a nearby house, and it sounded like the screams of a woman. Maybe a child, perhaps. The lights in this house were on, and as we approached it I vaguely considered calling the police.

But the scream was not coming from the house; it was coming from the garden in front of it. In the gloom I could not see anything distinct, but I could now tell that the scream was coming from the branches of a tree. Something inside that tree was rustling violently, although thanks to the darkness I could not tell what. I exchanged glances with my friends, we paused, and suddenly the shaking - and screaming - stopped.

Silence for a moment. My friends and I exhaled.

And then something moved through the trees, rapidly, and before we could react it was gone. Glances exchanged again, but we were quickly satisfied that whatever it was had left. We walked back to the girls, and continued the evening as planned.

The next morning, I walked back past that same street.

On the road, there was a fresh chalk outline of a body.

Creep source.

Image source.

Mar 10, 2013


An alcoholic cop with emotional baggage. Hooker with a heart of gold. 

Low budget zombie movie.

After a while, a concept eventually becomes cliche, regardless of quality. If any one trope gets beaten into the ground enough times, it's very hard to care about a "fresh take." Filmmakers will try, claiming they have brought something new to the table, but at the end of the day, it's all same-old, same-old. 

This is both Dead Gensesis' failure and success (and unfortunately more of the former than the latter). 

Dead Genesis opens mighty fine and goes immediately for the throat. There is no calm before the storm as there usually are in zombie film first acts. We hit the ground running as a man is forced to dispatch his zombified well as the son she had just gotten done eating and turning. Following this is a somber voice-over catching up the audience on the zombie pandemic and what it's done to the world.

It's sad in that it's all down hill from here - for both our characters and the audience.

A very young journalist named Jillian Hurst is assigned to assemble a documentary on the pandemic and ordered to give it a pro-war tone. She hooks up with a militia group called the Deadheads who, through various means, have joined up with each other in an effort to contain the growing threat. They hail from different races and religions, so, you know, conflict. There's also a mix of both men and women, none of them unattractive, so, you know, more conflict. 

Large portions of the film have our characters musing on their current predicaments and to what has led them to join the Deadheads. Zombie action feels constant, but is actually only used sparingly. What Dead Genesis really is about is the effect on society, psyches, and moralities. 

Twenty years ago, Dead Genesis would not have felt generic. And I really hate to beat a dead horse, but George Romero has done all this already - a look at a post-zombie society, parables to real-life international conflicts, the roles of women in such conflicts. We've seen this all time and time and again. And what Romero hasn't done, other filmmakers have - even the outright outlandish. For instance, 2008's Deadgirl has two teen boys discovering a naked zombie girl shackled to a table in an abandoned building. She then becomes a sex slave to one of the boys and some of his friends. It is grimy and wrong and forces us to question at what point a person completely loses their humanity. Dead Genesis tries this, too, only it weaves into the concept a mini-twist so out of left-field that it feels cheap and sensational. 

Dead Genesis is an obvious response to the war in Iraq. This is never more obvious than when all the characters argue back and forth if the "war on dead" (what they call it) is right, wrong, or beyond either label and is strictly necessary. It's one cliche wrapped in another, and it causes the viewer to respond not with "how true!" but "who cares about all this?" We didn't need a low-budget zombie film to make us wonder if the war in Iraq was wrong. It's not a matter of opinion, here - just fact: yes, it was fucking wrong. Not to mention that when Dead Genesis goes out of its way to show soldiers acting obnoxiously and having a grand old time delivering non-lethal gunshots to zombies to make them "dance," the filmmakers aren't trying to be coy and subtle about their own opinions on the matter.

Most of the character interaction feels awkward - not because it's supposed to be, but because none of the actors feel comfortable with their roles. Lead Emily Alatalo as Jillian is adorable, but not up to the task. She's also way too young to be believable. The film attempts to head this off at the pass by having a character tell her, "You're a a journalist? You look like a teenager," to which she responds, "I get that a lot." Sorry, that's just not enough.

As for her performance, she occasionally manages to show signs of life, especially after her discovery of the fuck zombie chained up in the basement, but the rest of the time there is no real conviction on her part. And I won't single out just her - none of the cast seems up to the task. At times it seems more effort was spent on camera work than shaping the actors' performances, and that's a real shame, as there is a concerted effort on the part of the script to make this a post-zombie character study. 

While the tone is mostly consistently bleak and straight, moments of intended levity, in the form of an eccentric bartender, or a fake television interview with the frumpy head of a zombie rights activist group, are jarring and completely uncalled for. They feel foreign in a film that otherwise takes itself seriously, and a bit involving a Youtube video response to the zombie rights movement called "Fuck Pro-Zomb," in which a man pisses on a zombie girl only to have his dick bitten off, feels very cheap and something more appropriate for a Troma production. It feels as if this were something shot independently for another purpose and utilized here for nothing other than to pad out the running time. 

On the pro side, while the handheld shooting style can sometimes go overboard, the film looks great. From a production standpoint, Dead Genesis looks to have five times the budget it likely did. My own personal prejudice against low budget film-making forces me to focus first on the actual look. Once something looks cheap - shot on cheap cameras and utilizing cheap sound - part of me can't help but tune out. But Dead Genesis never looks like that. In all honesty, though it has far less scope, it looks quite similar to 28 Days Later. 

The make-up effects are especially good and grisly where necessary. It doesn't push the boundaries as far as gore gags or good taste are concerned, but it's more than competent and at times even especially well done.

Low budget zombie films don't have to be terrible. Last year's Exit Humanity (a film I would make love to should it ever become human) and The Dead - both which explore the same themes of humanity - prove you can still do it well with good intentions and without pretension. I'm not sure Dead Genesis can say the same. 

Although it's still better than all the Resident Evil sequels.