Martin Nodell, creator of one of the most enduring American comic book heroes, Green Lantern, has died at the age of 91. I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Nodell about 15 years ago at the Dallas Fantasy Fair, and he was good enough to sign an autograph for me. The character has evolved significantly since Nodell first drew him, and in the pages of DC Comics many characters have worn the emerald power ring. The guy you see pictured here is a modern interpretation of Nodell's original Green Lantern, Alan Scott by artist Alex Ross (I think). You can read the AP obituary here.
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
I love horror films and the first movie I ever saw in a theater was Mary Poppins. For me, it was only a matter of time before the two met. A gentleman named Chris Rule has edited together scenes from Mary Poppins and added sound effects and music to create the greatest trailer for a horror film that never was. I found the link to this Youtube video on Boing Boing this morning, and it rocks. I imagine if, in some parallel universe, Mario Bava had been given the chance to direct Disney's Mary Poppins, the trailer would have looked exactly like this:
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
As regular readers of this blog have probably noticed, posts have been rare as of late. I'll wait now for you to stop laughing at the notion of me having regular readers.
All set? OK.
Rat-faced bastard that I am, I've been blogging behind Omega Channel's back, for the last few months. I'm a contributing writer over at Cinematical.com, which is part of AOL's Weblogs, Inc., and I have to say it's a pretty cool gig. Of particular interest to folks who like the kind of movies I write about here on Omega Channel, I've just started an ongoing feature on Cinematical called Killer B's on DVD. Please feel free to check out the first two installments in which I examine the six new DVD releases of Elvira's Movie Macabre, covering the likes of Frankenstein's Castle of Freaks, The Devil's Wedding Night, Werewolf of Washington, Count Dracula's Great Love, Legacy of Blood, and the magnificently awful Doomsday Machine. Here's the link to Part 1 of the piece, and here's Part 2. Stop on by and feel free to leave a comment if you're so inclined.
I've come across a tale of cinematic lycanthropy whose title is sheer genius. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Werewolf in a Women's Prison. It's a title that unabashedly gets to the point, melding two classic exploitation genres, in much the same way that Werewolves on Wheels (1971) combined horror movies and biker flicks.
When Sarah and her boyfriend Jack are attacked by a werewolf while camping, Jack is killed and Sarah is badly mauled. Since no one believes her story, Sarah is convicted of Jack's murder and sent to a third world women's prison for the criminally insane. The usual women-in-prison movie staples follow -- lesbianism, catfights, gratuitous nudity, etc. -- but Sarah brings something new to the mix; having been bitten, she is now a werewolf herself. Jack isn't completely out of the picture as, in a bit swiped from An American Werewolf in London, his mangled corpse appears to Sarah and tells her that the only way to break the curse upon her is with her own death. Man, what a negative Nancy.
The trailer (which, I should stress, is not safe for work viewing) looks about as low-rent as you might expect -- like something Fred Olen Ray (Bad Girls From Mars, Scream Queen Hot Tub Party) would have produced. Costumes and sets are minimal, though, in the case of the costumes, this is a sexploitation film after all, so less is more, if you get my drift. The film seems to deliver on the gore too.
Sadly, I'm 95% sure the movie will suck.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Yet another sequel that completely misses the point of the original. You know that old joke about the guy who claims he owns the hatchet that George Washington used to chop down that cherry tree? "It's the original all right, although it's had two new heads and three new handles since then." That's pretty much how I feel about Creepshow 3. The original film adapted several of Stephen King's short stories and was directed by George Romero. The whole reason for Creepshow to exist was to showcase these two horror icons, though obviously the film's success relied more heavily on King's mainstream appeal. Since neither is involved in the third installment, what's the point?
There are three trailers available at the Creepshow 3 website, one each for three of the five stories from the anthology. Graphics and sound effects don't appear to be complete, but I don't see how polishing these things any further will make them any more palatable.
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Over at Night of the Living Podcast (the coolest podcast on the Net, by the by) they have an ongoing feature called "Straight to Video Russian Roullette." That's kind of how I feel every time I check out one of these direct to video horror titles. These are the modern equivalents of drive-in movies, so this is where tomorrow's B-movie classics will come from. Every time I watch such a film, though, I run the serious risk of taking a bullet to the head (calm down, people, that's a metaphor). Let's face it, during the drive-in era, for every Night of the Living Dead or Texas Chainsaw Massacre there were twenty films like Movie House Massacre or Curse of the Screaming Dead. I doubt Voodoo Moon is in any danger of being called a classic, but it didn't fire hot lead into my brain pan (metaphorically or literally) and despite a few disappointments it's actual a fun little bit of B movie hokum.
Twenty years ago a young brother and sister were the sole survivors of a demonic slaughter in a small town. The brother, Cole, has spent the years since fighting Daniel, the demon responsible for the murder of his parents and hundreds of others. His sister Heather (Charisma Carpenter) is a successful artist with a habit of sketching things before they happen. When Cole learns that the entity that killed their parents has resurfaced, he recruits Heather, as well as a handful of others who have helped him fight the demon in the past. Cole and his followers congregate at a boarding house near where the mass murder took place, though Cole and Heather's home town is now at the bottom of a man made lake.
Watching Voodoo Moon gave me a sense of deja vu. At first I assumed I had watched the trailer, but I eventually realized I'd actually seen the movie before, or at least parts of it. Voodoo Moon ran on the Sci Fi Channel awhile ago, and I watched several minutes one day while channel surfing. This seems odd, premiering a film on basic cable before releasing it on DVD, but it's become a common practice for the Sci Fi Channel.
I've always loved Charisma Carpenter's name. It sounds like it should belong to an exotic dancer who can build a wicked awesome set of bookshelves. Carpenter was one of the stars of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its spin-off series Angel, and her character of Cordelia was an important part of the Buffy-verse. That's why it's so dissatisfying to see her in this role. She's got plenty of screen time, but aside from functioning as a confidant to the hero, damsel in distress, and eye candy, the part has no substance.
Eric Mabius is a bit hard to swallow as Cole, with his soap opera star prettyboy looks and scar over one eye. It makes him look like a comic book character. Rik Young as Daniel seems a bit too young for the role. Sure, I suppose a demon can take on any form it wants, but I think an older actor could have better portrayed a sense of ancient malice.
In the plus column, Reanimator and Star Trek vet Jeffrey Combs is terrific as Police Detective Frank Taggert who is murdered before he can answer Cole's summons, but doesn't let a little thing like his own demise stop him from helping his friend. John Amos, best known for his participation in The Beastmaster and 70s sitcom Good Times plays a biker named Dutch. Amos is one of those actors whose presence can only improve a film and he does not disappoint here. There's also some decent zombie action, killer corn stalks, and the expression "a murder of crows" will take on a whole new meaning after you've watched this. As I said, not a classic, but an enjoyable time-killer.
Sunday, October 15, 2006
The whole YTMND concept is pretty new to me, and I doubt I could describe it without cribbing from somewhere else, so here's the Wikipedia definition as quoted on the "About" page at YTMND.com.
"YTMND, an acronym for "You're The Man Now, Dog!", is a website community that centers around the creation of YTMNDs, which are pages featuring a juxtaposition of a single image, optionally animated or tiled, along with large zooming text and a looping sound file. YTMND is also the general term used to describe any such site."
So go to the site and check it out the infinity of weirdness that awaits. More specifically, though, you have to check out Godzilla Goes All the Way. It's a brief loop consisting of footage from Godzilla Vs. Megalon showing a highly energetic and motivated Godzilla running his scaly ass off. The music that accompanies it is both strangely appropriate and completely addictive. It will be stuck in your head for days. Check it out.
Thursday, October 12, 2006
Halloween is my favorite holiday, and one of the best parts of it is all the horror flicks that will be showing up on TV between now and the end of the month. Back in those dark days before affordable DVD I would often mark the occasion by purchasing a bulk quanitity of blank VHS tapes and recording as many of those bad boys as I could. Now, even with the American Movie Classics tenth annual Monsterfest approaching, I find myself wondering why any self-respecting horror buff would want to watch these edited for broadcast versions of films that are so easily accessible in their uncensored format. The schedule, which you can view at the Monsterfest website and/or download in PDF format, represents the big franchises well enough (Halloween, Hellraiser, Child's Play) but I'm betting these will be played to death on the other cable channels before the end of the month. Is there anything to set Monsterfest above other basic cable offerings? Yes, but you'll need to know how to program your VCR or DVDR as the good stuff is scattered throughout the schedule.
- The 1962 version of Phantom of the Opera
- The Devil's Rain
- The Amicus anthology film The House That Dripped Blood
- The Innocents
- The Undying Monster
- A Name For Evil
- The Curse of the Fly (with Quatermass star Brian Donlevy)
- And nearly all the classic Universal Monsters films
Monday, October 02, 2006
The Queen of Softcore Smut versus the King of the Undead? Emmanuelle Vs. Dracula is the winner of the 2006 Omega Channel Award for most promising title for a film that you just know will suck in at least three senses of the word.
Premiere broadcast on 9/25/06. Series broadcasts Mondays at 9:00PM Eastern/8:00 PM Central on NBC and is rebroadcast the following Friday on the Sci-Fi Channel at 7:00PM Eastern/6:00PM Central
The wish fulfillment angle of the Harry Potter books and films is pretty obvious. An orphaned boy forced to live with his abusive aunt and uncle finds out that he's not the unwanted nobody he always thought himself to be, but in fact a wizard, and one with a special destiny at that. What child doesn't want to believe he's special, that there's more to him than it seems?
Heroes follows a similar path with the difference here being that the desire to be special doesn't end after adolescence but carries on into adulthood. Using some of the basic concepts of super hero comics (particularly X-Men) and presenting it in the formula of contemporary TV drama (with Lost being a particularly obvious inspiration) Heroes tells the tale of a handful of individuals who have developed super powers. No radioactive spiders or cosmic storms at work here. Much like the abilities of the characters in X-Men, the powers granted to the cast of Heroes are a natural result of evolution.
This first episode shows the "awakening" of handful of characters whose paths cross briefly, if at all. Peter Petrelli (Milo Ventimiglia, formerly of Gilmore Girls) is a nurse with recurring dreams of flight, an ability that he believes he can manifest in reality. Niki Sanders (Ali Larter from Final Destination 2 and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back) a single mother, Vegas stripper, and internet porn entrepreneur seems to have a dual personality, with her darker half demonstrating superhuman strength. Hiro Makamura (Masi Oka) is a Japanese office worker and comic book geek who can teleport by using his ability to bend time and space. His first name can't be a coincidence. Claire Bennet (Hayden Panettiere) is a troubled high school cheerleader who can survive seemingly any form of physical trauma. I suspect we will learn that she discovered her ability during a suicide attempt. A heroin-addicted artist named Isaac has the ability to paint images of the future when he is high. It's one of these paintings, shown chillingly at the episode's climax, that apparently defines the long-term direction of the series.
What I suspect will eventually bring all these characters together is Mohinder Suresh (Sendhil Ramamurthy) an university professor from India who intends to resume the research his father had been conducting before his murder. Many of the characters seem to represent comic book archetypes. Peter is noble and selfless, Claire is the angst-ridden teen, Hiro is the fanboy, and Niki's alternate personality is a form of secret identity. Several interesting sub-plots are weaved into the story, including Peter's Machiavellian brother who is running for congress, and the fact that Niki owes a lot of money to some very dangerous people. The characters even have what I suspect will become an arch nemesis, though little has been revealed about him so far.
One of the great ironies of television is that you can't really judge a series based on its pilot episode, even though the purpose of a pilot is to see if the concept warrants a series to begin with. While the premiere episode of Heroes didn't wow me as much as I had hoped, it did grab me nonetheless. I felt more should have happened, but it looks like future episodes have some interesting things in store. I liked what I saw enough to ignore the idea that a solar eclipse could occur simultaneously in New York and Tokyo.
Saturday, September 16, 2006
Where is the baby, Holland?
Based on a novel by Thomas Tryon, The Other was an early entry in the creepy little kids sub-genre that dominated horror movies and novels in the 1970s. On a more personal note, I remember it scaring the hell out of me when I saw it on television as a kid, and its recent release on DVD represented my first chance to see the film in several decades.
The setting is rural Connecticut in 1935. Niles and Holland Perry (played by Chris and Martin Udvarnoky in their only film appearance) are living on the family farm with their mother and extended family. Diana Muldaur, veteran of two generations of Star Treks, plays the twins' mother. She remains traumatized from an event sometime in the past, leaving her emotionally distant and unable to fulfill her duties as mother, though for a bed-ridden depressive, her hair and makeup are oddly perfect.
With their mother emotionally absent, Niles has bonded with his Aunt Ada. The two are fond of playing The Game, which Ada believes to be an exercise in imagination, but Niles regards as something more. While playing The Game he seems to find himself in the body of a bird flying overhead, and he uses it to learn a trick being performed by a carnival magician. Niles compulsively carries a small tin box containing a ring that should have been buried with his late father and a mysterious little item wrapped in cloth. Director Robert Mulligan obviously wanted the viewer to remember the box because it is constantly heard rattling around whenever Niles is onscreen. Niles is apparently the only one of the pair born with a conscience, with Holland usually getting both of them in trouble. When bad things start to happen like the twins' tattletale cousin being "accidentally" impaled on a pitchfork, Hollands true nature becomes evident.
As one might expect, the creep-o-meter didn't go nearly as high as it did when I nine. The acting is consistent with the style of TV melodrama from the period, which is probably why I incorrectly assumed for many years that this was a made for TV movie. Mrs. Rowe, the old bitty from next door who runs afoul of the twins' mischief, is played ridiculously over the top, reminding me of Una O'Conner's comic relief character in Bride of Frankenstein. This kind of silliness makes it harder to appreciate Mrs. Rowe's ultimate fate. The twins, particularly Niles, are played with often nauseating sweetness (when Niles asks his Aunt Ada for a butterfly kiss I nearly hurled). Most importantly, though, I can now see that the big twist late in the film is obviously telegraphed early on.
Still, this is a movie worth seeking out. The Other represents the more subtle horror of its time. Gore and exploding heads have their place, but this movie scares more with what it implies than what it actually shows.
Thursday, September 14, 2006
Yet another cool bit of pop culture flotsam I found on YouTube.com. While the original Japanese version of Gojira (and to an extent its U.S. release version known as Godzilla: King of the Monsters) showed the dark, brooding potential of what the Japanese giant monster film genre could have been, King Kong Vs. Godzilla better represents the path the Godzilla series followed. Guys in rubber monsters suits whaling the tar out of each other. It's a thing of beauty.
Clocking in at 3:23, Battle of the Kings distills all the action of King Kong Vs. Godzilla down into a highly concentrated dosage of Kaiju kitsch set to a the music of Linkin Park, Disturbed, and Slayer. Let's watch, shall we?
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
A bleak view of the not-too-distant future. It's the year 2027 and the world is shocked to hear about the death of the youngest person on Earth. He was 18 years old. The human race has lost the ability to procreate, and humanity can do nothing but wait for extinction. All may not be lost, though, as an inexplicably pregnant woman may hold the secret for mankind's salvation. Clive Owen plays a former activist who must transport the woman to a safe haven in an increasingly chaotic world.
The glimmer of hope in the face of extinction reminds me of The Day the Earth Caught Fire which, for my money, is the best end of the world movie of all time. I'm definitely looking forward to this one. Check out the trailer:
Monday, September 04, 2006
George Romero is scheduled to begin shooting his next film Diary of the Dead in Toronto on October 11. The film is reported to be a cross between Romero's own style of zombie film and The Blair Witch Project. A group of college students filming a horror movie stumble upon a zombie outbreak and endeavor to record the incident on film. In essence Romero will be returning to the very start of the zombie plague, with this new film taking place concurrently with the series' initial entry Night of the Living Dead. Perhaps the most surprising news, though, is that the film may go direct to video.
Romero was recently interviewed by Dreadcentral.com. Given the fact that Night of the Living Dead has often been praised for its straightforward, almost documentary style approach, Romero's comments are particularly interesting. "I want to do this from a subjective kind of view with no music," he told Dread Central. "You know, something really raw. So it's kind of a stylistic experiment, a low budget, under the radar kind of thing that's just sort of from the heart."
Considering how disappointed I was with Romero's last film, Land of the Dead, I'm glad to see him getting back on the horse so quickly--or at least the reanimated carcass thereof. While I consider myself a fan of his work, Romero is not the flawless artisan that his apologists seem to think he is. Shortly after Land of the Dead came out, a lot of posters on horror message boards were either (in my mind) unjustly praising the film or blaming its flaws on interference from Universal. Romero has made bad films before including Day of the Dead--the third entry in his zombie series--and the crushingly dull Season of the Witch, a.k.a. Jack's Wife. The notion that blame for Land of the Dead's failure resides with Romero is not inconceivable.
That said, he has also made two of the greatest horror films of all time (Night and Dawn), as well as three films I would describe as damn good (The Crazies, Martin, and Creepshow). I'm not sure if Universal or Romero is to blame for Land of the Dead turning out as badly as it did, but the evidence says he has the talent to do better. It seems obvious that Romero works best with a modest budget, so this scaled down low budget approach may be just the ticket.
Sunday, August 27, 2006
"What are you gonna do now, Chuck?"
Of all the mythical childhood icons, the Tooth Fairy is the hardest to pin down visually. Bunnies are easy enough to visualize, and Santa has pretty much every retailer in the Western Hemisphere working as his PR agent. As a child I would visualize the Tooth Fairy as a variation on the Disney rendition of Peter Pan's Tinkerbell. The restraining order I received from Disney's legal department put a stop to that, effectively bringing my childhood to an end at the tender age of thirty-seven. To realign my visualization of the Tooth Fairy, the Disney folks sent along an eight by ten of Bea Arthur in a leotard, tutu, and wings. I have not been quite right since.
The Tooth Fairy we meet in this film is quite a different take on the character. More of a witch than a fairy, she's riddled with tumors and murders children. TRY TO TAKE THAT AWAY FROM ME, DISNEY!
Peter Campbell (Lochlyn Munroe) is fixing up an old country home into a bed and breakfast with the aid of hunky young handyman Bobby (Jesse Hutch). Peter's former fiance Darcy (Chandra West) and her daughter Pamela (Nicole Munoz) come to visit for the weekend. Pamela makes friends with a little girl named Emma (Jianna Ballard) that no one else can see. Emma warns Pamela about the evil witch that used to live in the house and was known for taking the local children's last baby tooth and delivering gory lawn and garden tool death in return. She places the children's teeth in her magic music box, condemning their souls to wander the earth. After a spill on her bicycle, Pamela loses her last baby tooth and becomes a target for the witch.
The Tooth Fairy doesn't seem quite as selective as the legend would lead folks to believe. She starts whacking characters left and right--starting with Bobby who telegraphs his own demise when he says he can get that old wood chipper working again--then working her way through the cast. Genre vet P.J. Soles plays Mrs. MacDonald the next door neighbor who gives Peter and Darcy the secret to defeating the witch, and Peter's freeloading rock star wannabe pal Cole is played by Steve Bacic who played the pre-blue-furred Hank McCoy in X2.
Now, I've seen a lot of bad movies in my day. A film can go wrong in just about any area, but The Tooth Fairy commits probably the worst sin that a film can commit: it's cripplingly mediocre. Nothing is cringe-inducingly bad, which would at least make it memorable. Instead we have a cluster of reasonably talented actors playing some not terribly interesting characters in a film that I really find it hard to care about. Further whittling away at the film's credibility are a series of missteps, including an ultra dorky dinner montage sequence with cheesy pseudo pop music on the soundtrack, the fact that Darcy's near rape experience is practically ignored, and perhaps worst of all the use of one of film and television's most cliched lines used by an estranged couple, "we always did make a good team." Come on, people, who the hell says that?
The clunky use of expository dialogue trades believability for brevity. Pamela describes Peter as, "Peter Campbell. He and my mom used to be engaged. He was a doctor then. Now he quit. He just writes short stories." And when Stephanie (Carrie Fleming) introduces herself to Peter she tells him, "I used to dance down at the Grease Monkey in town, but I've saved up enough to retire from show biz so I'm going to veterinary college." To reinforce this she spots some humming birds and recites the Latin name for their species. Characterization that has been distilled into concentrated pill form does things to my gastrointestinal tract that one doctor told me was reminiscent of the Ebola virus.
Add to it all an historically inaccurate interpretation of the Salem witch phenomenon, and you've got another direct to dvd film that needs to be purged from your Netflix queue.
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Yes, recent seismic activity in the Los Angeles area has been the apparent result of Peanut's creator Charles Schulz turning in his grave. Repeatedly.
That last animated short reminded me of the Peanuts parody from the first season of Cartoon Network's brilliant Robot Chicken. Marginally less twisted than Bring Me the Head of Charlie Brown, this one still kills me.
Back when South Park first appeared on Comedy Central I recall one reviewer describing the show as a Peanuts cartoon gone horribly wrong. As apt a description as that was, here is an animated short that fits the bill quite literally. I found this over on Boing Boing which may well be the single coolest place in all the blogosphere. According to Boing Boing this grotesquely violent and utterly hilarious treatment of Charles Schulz beloved characters was a student film from animators who later went on to work on The Simpsons.
Sunday, August 20, 2006
This was my first Mexican wrestler/monster movie. I've read about the genre and seen clips here and there, but this was my first chance to partake, and I must say I was truly not prepared. In strictly clinical terms, it's pretty whacked.Santo, the Man in the Silver Mask, is one of Mexico's greatest wrestlers, and has starred in countless films, often alongside his fellow Luchador Blue Demon. In this adventure Dr. Bruno Halder, a recently deceased scientist, is returned to the land of the living by his hunchbacked midget assistant and a small army of green-faced zombies. The good doctor wants revenge against Santo and Blue Demon for some reason or other. To accomplish this he creates an evil duplicate of Blue Demon and revives a pantheon of classic movie monsters to do his bidding.
The monsters themselves are a wonder to behold. Frankenstein (sic) sports the classic Universal Monsters look with a bad case of bed-head and facial hair presumably to add a Latin look to the creature. The vampire (not sure why they shied away from calling him Dracula) strongly resembles the John Carradine take on Stoker's character, despite a pair of ridiculously oversized bat ears. The mummy resembles an emaciated old dude who has had a tragic accident with a very large roll of gauze, while the wolf-man is little more than a befanged gentleman with an overgrown beard. The Cyclops bears a slight resemblance to the Ray Harryhausen creation of the same name from The 7 th Voyage of Sinbad, but swap the awe-inspiring stop motion animation for a big guy in a foam rubber suit. There's also some little bug-eyed guy with an exposed brain running around Halder's lab.Halder's master plan is never made clear. He sends his creatures out to do away with Santo. They engage our hero in pro-wrestling style fisticuffs, get their asses kicked, and return to Halder's lair… repeatedly. Now and then the monsters prey upon random innocents. The order of the scenes seems almost arbitrary, and rearranging them would probably not alter the film in the slightest.
For some of the U.S. import versions of these movies Santo was renamed Samson, but Santo y Blue Demon Contra Los Monstruos retains the original Spanish soundtrack. The DVD menus are entirely in Spanish, and my unfamiliarity with the language required some trial and error before I could find the subtitles. Frankly, the movie probably works better without them, adding an additional layer of confusion to an already incomprehensible movie.It's interesting to note that even though this film was made as recently as 1968, it apes much of its style from the Universal monster classics of the 1930s and 1940s. It's silly as hell to be sure, but after a fairly slow couple of reels, the pace rarely falters. A few beers certainly couldn't hurt, but even sober Santo y Blue Demon Contra Los Monstruos is a fun experience and worth seeking out.
Thursday, August 10, 2006
Tim Lucas just reported the passing of actress Candice Rialson over on Video Watchblog. She starred in a number of drive-in era flicks, but I know her best from the Roger Corman produced Hollywood Boulevard, a hiliarious movie built around action scenes cannibalize from previous New World Pictures productions. Having long ago left the public eye, her death last March at the age of 54 has gone unmentioned in the media. Lucas invited Hollywood Boulevard directors Joe Dante and Allan Arkush to share their thoughts on Rialson. There's also discussion on the topic over at Code Red DVD Blog.
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
The single funniest program on television today is Cartoon Network's The Venture Bros. Imagine Johnny Quest growing up to be a total failure and fathering two idiot sons. Add in a muscle bound secret agent/bodyguard voiced by Patrick Wharburton and numerous homages to cartoons and comics and you've got comedy gold.
As revealed in the second season premiere, the Venture Bros. die more often than Kenny and Jean Grey combined. Here now are the many deaths of the Venture Bros.:
Equinox was recently released on a two disk set by The Criterion Collection. A fantastic example of zero budget horror, and one of my all time favorite horror movies. Watch for Frank Bonner of WKRP in Cincinatti as one of the young people who stumble across an Evil Dead-esque book of evil. There's some terrific stop-motion animation too (in your face, CGI).
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
Paul DeCirce posted a response to my posting regarding his old zine Temple of Schlock. I decided to post it here to give it better exposure.
Hey Matt, Paul DeCirce here. Thanks for the scan of the old issues. I've got pretty much all of them myself, mostly for posterity. Truth is, between Chris and myself, we really managed to hammer in on a lot of sleaze, and I often refer to our own reviews for refreshment.Book deal? This looks like a job for lulu.com.
TEMPLE OF SCHLOCK was published from July of 1987 to about 1991 or so. We managed 24 issues with (At one point) about 150 subscribers (cripes, for 75c who wouldn't?) Our zine featured a lot of amazing stuff: interviews with Fred Olen Ray, overviews of hammer's films, so much more. Quite complete and well rounded, if you ask me. One cat I wanted to mention was DAVE SZUREK, we gave him a column called the "Szurek Zone" and he wrote massive 30 page missives in straight printing, listing scads of films. Me and Chris would howl over this unbelievable dedication. Anyway, just thought I'd go back to the old days of Syracuse for a bit. Cold winters and warm VCRS, ya know? Chris was right, I am in music now (http://www.myspace.com/peacejon
esband) and living in the Asheville NC area. So; who's going to offer me and Chris a book deal, binding all 24 issues? First copies go to those angry subscribers, eh ???
Monday, August 07, 2006
Combining Hellboy's tongue in cheek Lovecraftian antics with what is being called "steampunk adventure," the pilot episode for The Amazing Screw-On Head aired with little, if any, fanfair on the Sci Fi Channel a few weeks back. The show tells of a secret history of The United States. The title character is a disembodied mechanical head, moving from one artifical body to another as necessary, and answering only to President Abraham Lincoln. The pilot sees Screw-On Head, voiced by Oscar nominee Paul Giamatti, matching wits with his former manservant and arch Nemesis Emperor Zombie. Zombie has made a habit of doing away with all of Screw-On Head's subsequent manservant's, much to the concern of Mr. Groin (and yes, he IS a bit crotchety), the current holder of the position.Based on the comic book by Hellboy creator Mike Mignola, the show displays great promise if picked up for additional episodes. David Hyde Pierce, who voiced Abe Sapien in the Hellboy movie, is hilarious as the foppish Emperor Zombie. The animation is less than fluid, but the choppiness seems to work with look of the show, which nicely apes Mignola's distinctive drawing style.
Missed the broadcast? Don't panic. Put down the toaster and step away from the bath tub. The pilot can be viewed in its entirety here at the Sci Fi Channel's website. What's more, The Sci Fi Channel is looking for feedback and ask that viewers fill out a brief survey.
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
This series of Flash cartoons has been around for awhile but this was the first time I'd seen this particular installment. I was kind of surprised that The Texas Chainsaw remake was the template rather than the original, but it's still a hoot. Check it out here.
While you're at it, these are pretty good too:
Bloody-disgusting.com has ammended its statement regarding the cast of the new Day of the Dead. Mira Sorvino will not be starring, but Mena Suvari will be playing Sarah, a role originated by Lori Cardille. It's fairly easy to see how that mistake could be made. Ving Rhames will still be starring, but rather than reprising his character from the 2004 Dawn of the Dead as I had hypothesized, Rhames will be playing Captain Rhodes, a role originally played by Joseph Pilato in the 1985 original. Pilato's inability to give the character any depth beyond his one note "military a-hole" performance was one of the original's greatest weaknesses. Rhames seems an excellent choice to add dimension to the character.
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
As I said regarding Day of the Dead, remakes aren't automatcially a bad thing. I will reserve judgement on Night of the Living Dead 3-D until I've seen it, but I have to say the trailer (which you can view at the above link to the film's official website) doesn't WOW me. Taking advantage of the public domain status of George Romero's original film, this new version is being billed as a "reimagining" of the tale. Sid Haig's participation lends promise, but the production values don't look all that impressive, and I've never thought 3-D added anything of value to a film. It's a gimmick and and a fairly intrusive one at that.
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
I blogged about the poster for The Descent awhile back, but my interest in the film increased significantly when I realized the film was written and directed by Neil Marshall, the filmmaker responsible for Dog Soldiers, one of the best werewolf films in recent memories. The trailer is claustrophobic as hell. I've noticed the films released by Lionsgate vary HUMONGOUSLY in quality. Maybe with a little luck we've got a winner here.
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
Contrary to popular belief, remakes are not inherently evil. Admittedly I was up in arms when the Night of the Living Dead remake was announced. How dare they attempt to recreate the movie that defined the modern zombie film? The final product, however, turned out to be pretty cool. When I first heard of the Dawn of the Dead remake I was again overcome with reluctance, but guess what? Also a cool flick, even though it still bugs me that you had to be bitten to become a zombie. I prefer my walking dead to be more spontaneous.
If you're going to remake a film, though, I suggest one might be better off redoing a film that didn't work perfectly the first time around rather than a classic. 1985's Day of the Dead, the third entry in Romero's Dead series, has its admirers, but I am most definitely not one of them. I rewatched Day not long ago, and while the action and gore are well done, the script is overly talky, the characters are flat as an Olympic gymnast, and it's all topped off with a lead actress who cannot act. If ever there was a movie that needed a do-over it was Day of the Dead.
Due for a 2007 release, the new Day of the Dead is being directed by Steve Miner, director of Halloween H2O, and Friday the 13th Parts 2 and 3. The screenplay is by Jeffrey Reddick who penned Final Destination.
What's even more interesting, though, are the casting announcements recently posted on BloodyDisgusting.com. Academy Award winner Mira Sorvino is joining the cast as is Ving Rhames. Rhames, of course, starred in the Dawn of the Dead remake, and BloodyDisgusting.com claims he has been cast in order to link the two films. It was my initial understanding that the Day remake was to be a standalone film and not a sequel to the 2004 Dawn. It's not clear if Rhames will be reprising his roll as Kenneth or if he's playing another character entirely.
Sunday, July 09, 2006
A film version of Gilbert Shelton's Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers? I always treat news releases like this with cautious optimism. The Freak Brothers along with Shelton's Wonder Warthog were my favorite characters from the underground comic book movement of the seventies. Yeah, Robert Crumb is the guy everyone talks about, but give me Shelton's stuff any day.
Thanks to a report on Boing Boing, word is spreading about a stop motion animated film featuring Fat Freddy, Phineas, Freewheeling Franklin, and of course Fat Freddy's Cat. Production appears to be in the very early stages, as the Grass Roots Films website provides info for potential investors. There's a teaser trailer there too. It doesn't show much, but it's enough to get you thinking about the possibilities. Can the adventures of three drug-addled lowlifes find a mainstream audience in this day and age?
Meanwhile, over at the official Freak Brothers website, Shelton has posted his first Freak Brothers strip in 10 years.
One of the many things that has always impressed me about Stephen King is that he is equally adept at penning short stories as he is at novels. It's been my experience that few writers can master both forms consistently. Some of King's best books have been his short story collections including Night Shift, Skeleton Crew, and Everything's Eventual.
The King anthology Nightmares and Dreamscapes is being adapted as a mini seres for TNT in what is being touted as a Four Week Television Event. Eight King stories are being presented in a one hour format not unlike The Masters of Horror series. Presumably this format will better suit the story than a full length film treatment. Movies like Maximum Overdrive and Children of the Corn were hard pressed to expand the story to feature length.
Nightmares and Dreamscapes premieres Wednesday July 12 at 9:00 PM Eastern/8:00 PM Central with Battle Ground starring William Hurt, followed immediately by Crouch End at 9:50PM Eastern/8:50PM Central. The following three wednesday nights will bring two more episodes each. Cast and plot synopses can be found at the show's official website.
Lest anyone think Brandon Routh is the first to sport the red, blue, and yellow, here's some pretty cool fan art of nearly every actor to play the Last Son of Krypton. Click on the image for a closer look. Tom Welling has obviously been Photoshopped onto one of the Superboy actors, and I can't identify the gentleman on the far left. Possibly he starred in the broadway show It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's Superman. Notable for his absence is Johnny Rockwell, star of the 1961 unsold pilot episode for The Adventures of Superboy.
Pity the poor Man of Steel. He comes back after a five year mission, boldly going where no earth-raised Kryptonian has gone before, only to find that the love of his life has written a Pulitzer-winning editorial about why the world doesn't need Superman. Oh, and she's shacked up with one of the X-Men. Bummer.
Five years ago astronomers reported they had located what remained of the planet Krypton. In hopes of finding others of his kind, Superman (Brandon Routh) left earth in a ship of Kryptonian design. The ship returns as a blazing meteor, crashing to earth on the Kent farm in Smallville. Martha Kent (Eva Marie Saint) welcomes the return of her adopted son, but he reports that his mission was a failure. Krypton is nothing more than a graveyard, and he is indeed the last son of Krypton. Clark resumes his job at the Daily Planet, where he learns that Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) has moved on. She has a son now, is engaged to Richard White (James Marsden) nephew of Daily Planet Editor Perry White (Frank Langella), and seems to be getting along just fine without Superman.Time has not stood still for Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey) either. Luthor has spent several years in prison, but when Superman was not available to testify at Luthor's appeal, the follically challenged arch villain was freed. Luthor still has a passion for real estate schemes, and he plans on builing an entirely new continent with some help from Kryptonian technology stolen from Superman's Fortress of Solitude.
It isn't long before a crisis strikes that requires some super heroic action. A space shuttle piggy backed on top of a 747 full of reporters (including Lois Lane) runs into trouble, and as one might expect, this looks like a job for Superman.
Director Bryan Singer has crafted an exciting and faithful return to cinematic greatness for a character that he obviously has a great deal of affection for. Superman Returns is essentially a sequel to Superman and Superman II, but at times it also functions as a remake of the first film. The action scenes kick some serious butt, but the heart of the story resides with the characters. Superman must come to terms with being the last of his species and losing the love of his life, while Lois must figure out if life without Superman is really what she wants.
I've long wondered if any other actor besides Christopher Reeve could wear that costume without looking foolish. Reeve played the character with a grace and dignity that made you forget you were looking at a grown man in long underwear and a cape. Lois and Clark star Dean Cain never quite pulled it off, playing Clark Kent far more believably than Kent's alter ego. Brandon Routh studied Reeve's portrayal of Superman and seems to be channeling him quite effectively, carrying a similar degree of believability.
The film is peppered with in-jokes and nods that only Superman fans will get. When Martha Kent tells Clark that his father would never have allowed him to go on his Krypton quest, a photo of Glenn Ford, who played Jonathan Kent in 1978's Superman can be seen on the mantle. When Superman picks up an out of control car then lowers it safely to the ground, Brandon Routh strikes the same pose the Man of Steel held on the cover of Action Comics #1 (June, 1938).
So many summer blockbusters have left a bad taste in my mouth that it's easy to forget the formula can actually work in the right hands. As with the first two X-Men films, Singer proves that he understands the right blend of story and eye candy. A great time at the movies, so long as you can overlook the notion that an award winning journalist like Lois Lane would be fooled by a pair of horn rimmed glasses.
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
Sifting through every horror film that comes out--or even a good chunk of them--is like fishing a wedding ring out of a septic tank. You have to swim through a lot of shit to find that little piece of gold. Leif Jonker's Darkness is indeed that piece of gold, and considering the number of crappy films I've seen lately, it's presence in my DVD player is a truly wonderful thing.
The plot is sheer simplicity. A vampire named Liven is slaughtering everyone who crosses his path in a small American town. His victims rise from the dead with a powerful thirst of their own, and soon there are vampires everywhere. A young man named Tobe has lost his family to the vampire plague, and now his only desire is to destroy Liven. Tobe soon joins forces with other survivors and they find themselves on a path to one of the goriest climaxes in the history of horror cinema.
Darkness accomplishes the seemingly impossible by making vampires scary again. These are not the aristocratic goth chic vamps of the Anne Rice books or the action movie villains from the Blade movies. The undead of Darkness are more like the pack-hunting animalistic vampires of Richard Matheson's I Am Legend. There are no fangs or capes here, just the walking dead with a raw, animalistic thirst. Jonker's vampires are not above using weapons to bring down their prey, and while I'm sure a stake could kill them, a bullet through the heart does the job just as well.
This is a remarkable film for a number of reasons. Predating the no-budget success of Kevin Smith's Clerks by a year, Darkness sprang from a similarly impoverished budget in 1993. Darkness started life as a film with a nineteen year old director who recruited friends as cast and crew (The age range of the players, with one or two exceptions, is limited to late teens to early twenties). Furthermore, the film was never intended to be shown to the general public. It was created as a feature length demo to show to potential investors, much like Sam Raimi's Within the Woods was used to raise funds to produce The Evil Dead. While Clerks went on to become a more or less mainstream success, Darkness became something of an underground film.The fact that it is now available in such a mainstream establishment as Best Buy is quite astounding.The acting ranges from fair to poor and the film never looks slick by any stretch, but that's not the point. The raw look is one of the film's greatest charms. The soft, grainy 8 millimeter image enhances the dreamlike quality of the film, much the same way as black and white photography does. You're not so much watching a movie as you are experiencing a nightmare. The simple but effective synthesizer score usually consists of a melancholy dirge that loops continually, not unlike the kind of music you would hear in a horror-based computer game.
Not all the gore effects work as well as they might--there's a chainsaw to the hand gag that really shows Jonker's reach exceeding his grasp--but the sheer volume and enthusiasm of the gore forgives a lot. The Evil Dead influence is especially obvious when our heroes are doused in the blood of the vampires they dispatch. The red stuff is just everywhere in this movie, and it's done with style.
This two disk DVD set represents The Vampire Version of the film. Jonker has finally been able to make the final cut that budgetary limitations didn't permit back in the early nineties. The image has been digitally remastered, and there are some great side by side comparisons on the disk to show just how profound the difference is. Jonker's original release version of the film, transferred to video from film via a camcorder and a projector in his kitchen, is included on the second disk. There are also several audio commentaries and sundry extras to keep you busy for awhile.
A real triumph of talent, enthusiasm, and perseverance over budget, and one of the best horror films I've seen in quite awhile.
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
The teaser trailer for the film with the coolest title of the summer has finally arrived. Samuel L. Jackson, of course, automatically adds cool as well. Witness the Snakes on a Plane trailer (thanks to Ain't it Cool News).
Monday, June 26, 2006
I wasn't familiar with Wednesday 13 before I found this video on Youtube.com, but the song is catchy as hell. The video features footage from Night of the Living Dead rather than I Walked With a Zombie, no doubt due to the former's public domain status. Check it out.
Sunday, June 25, 2006
Amy Roberts has some issues. Hospitals terrify her, thanks to a childhood trauma, as does commitment. When her live-in boyfriend Nick gets down on one knee to propose she coldly asks him if they can discuss this later.
On the way home from work that day, Nick and Amy's car is side swiped at an intersection. Nick's leg is badly broken and he is taken away by some sinister looking ambulance attendants. Amy is not allowed to accompany him, and the attendants seem to have forgotten to tell her what hospital they're taking Nick to. Lucas, the driver of the other vehicle is unharmed, but his sister is taken away under similarly sinister circumstances. When she can't locate Nick at any area hospitals, Amy and Lucas go to the police, but are turned away on the rather nonsensical assumption that it's all a prank.
Meanwhile, Nick finds himself in a hospital being cared for by several beautiful but obviously evil nurses. They draw blood from Nick and two other patients with uncomfortable frequency, and are evasive when answering Nick's questions.
Amy is a school teacher and Melissa, one of her students, has been drawing pictures of the creatures she's been seeing in her nightmares. These creatures bear a strong resemblance to the one's Amy begins to see in real life. Seemingly normal people will inexplicably morph into nightmarish hellspawn. When Amy asks Melissa for help, Melissa tells her Nick can be found at St. Rosemary's, a hospital that burned to the ground decades earlier amidst rumors of satanic shenanigans.
I've seen a lot of direct to DVD horror flicks lately. These films can be a chore to sit through, but that's the price you pay for being a horror completist. I had some hope for Room 6. The cast is quite competent. Amy is played by Christine Taylor who played Marcia in the Brady Bunch movies. While she seems to have escaped the typecasting suffered by the original Brady cast, my Marcia, Marcia, Marcia alarm goes off everytime I see her. Jerry O'Connell, who has come a long way from being the fat kid in Stand By Me, plays Lucas. Even the smaller roles are peppered with familiar faces. Nick's fellow patients at St. Rosemary's include John Billingsley, probably best known for his portrayal of Dr. Phlox on four seasons of Enterprise, and Jack Riley who has made a career of playing a patient having played Elliot Carlin on The Bob Newhart Show and St. Elsewhere. And, though you won't recognize him without the hockey mask, longtime Friday the 13th star Kane Hodder appears as a homeless demon.
What cripples the film is not the cast but the script. Amy repeatedly sees people turning into demons. These visions seem to be randomly inserted to keep the scares coming, but other than shock value they add nothing to the story and soon become tiresome. The idea of getting help from the police is dismissed too quickly to be believable. Apparently police involvement didn't fit in with the sceenwriters' plans, so the idea is ignored via a flimsy plot device. On principal I have nothing against such things, but the naked lesbian nurse foursome (I am not making that up) just seems forced and out of place.
Characters are drawn with a ridiculously broad brush. Melissa's white trash mother is irritatingly over the top, and the Catholic priest from whom Amy seeks counsel is nauseatingly angelic – at least until he turns into a demon. The notion that a priest in this day and age would address an adult as “my child” is laughable.
The worst is saved for the end. The film's climax is a slap in the face to anyone who dedicated 94 minutes to sitting through Room 6. While the ending theoretically explains away the disjointed nature of the film, it is a cop out of the worst kind, and one of the horror genre's worst cliches.
I suggest viewers skip Room 6 and rent Jacob's Ladder, a film with a similar plot that has the advantage of being infinitely more watchable.