Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Darkness—The Vampire Version

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

Wednesday 13 - I Walked With a Zombie

I wasn't familiar with Wednesday 13 before I found this video on, 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

Room 6

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.


Thanks to, here is a look at the box cover for the Two disk Gojira DVD I mentioned a few days ago. Click on the image for a larger view.

Kaiju Playing Cards

I found this while perusing I found it here, but there was no explanation for it. In any case, I think this rocks.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Zombie Playground

I believe this cartoon is Russian, but there are English subtitles. A quick creep out to start your day.

The Descent

Click on the image to your left for a closer look at the poster for Descent. A fairly simple but clever and effective design. I know nothing else really about this flick other than it's being release by Lionsgate on August 4. I've seen quite a few Lionsgate releases lately, and frankly I've grown leery of the lion. Here's the movie's official site.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

They Say He's Got To Go Go Go Godzilla!

By September 5 summer will be essentially over, but you'll be able to console yourself with the first ever official U.S. release of Gojira, the film that was drastically edited into Godzilla: King of the Monsters for American audiences. Forty minutes of the original film was excised, with twenty minutes of Raymond Burr spliced back in.

Even after all these years that just sounds weird.

Both versions of the film will be presented in a two-DVD set in all their black and white zipper-down-the-back ostentatiousness.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Night of the Living Podcast

I have to give a shout out to the guys over at Night of the Living Podcast. I was listening to their latest episode the other day during my morning commute. It's basically a spirited discussion among friends about horror movies that manages to be both funny and slightly out of control. It was cathartic to hear them dump on the execrable Fear of Clowns, a film whose badness I'm sure will become legendary. I suffered through this flick awhile back (see the upcoming summer issue of Phantom of the Movies Videscope for my review). However, I could have done without having the song that closed the podcast, "Send in the Clowns," stuck in my head for the rest of the day. Truly, these guys are in league with the forces of darkness.

The real horror, though, is that the sequel to Fear of Clowns is already in production.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


Roman Coppola's CQ from 2001 is one of those films that I don't think enough people have seen. Utter dreck like The Break-Up gets a huge theatrical release while this smart and original film played a few cities before heading to DVD. Jeremy Davies plays Paul, an American film editor living in Paris in the late 1960s. He gets his big chance to direct when he's asked to finish a film called Codename: Dragonfly, a film much in the vein of Mario Bava's Danger: Diabolik (right down to the mid-title colon). Paul struggles to find himself both as an artist and a person. Description does not do it justice. The film's official website is still active. Check out the trailer:

Jay's Paranoid Fantasy

I'm sure you've noticed the Clerks 2 poster off to the right there. I have have real high hopes for this one. The return of Jay and Silent Bob to the big screen got be thinking about one of my favorite scenes of their's from Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, and lo and behold look what I found on

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Mexican Monsters on the March

BCI Eclipse, a subsidiary of The Navarre Corporation is the company responsible for those genre specific 10 packs (10 horror movies, 10 science fiction movies) you've been seeing over the last few years. A few of the films in these sets--notably their copies of House on the Edge of the Park, and Sonny Chiba's Streetfighter--are mastered from high quality source materials, though most obviously come from VHS masters. Quality aside, BCI's 10 packs were a great way to sample a ton of obscure movies dirt cheap. The last few horror entries in the series started running out of steam, featuring low end direct to cable films from the nineties. Apparently the well had run dry.

BCI Eclipse is back in the horror game with a forthcoming set of foreign double features under the umbrella title Crypt of Terror (thanks to a report from, with the first two releases focusing on flicks from south of the border. No word yet on picture or sound quality, but the films Cemetery of Terror and Grave Robbers in the first set, followed by Night of the Bloody Apes and Curse of the Doll People, are all flicks I've heard of and wanted to check out, but never had the opportunity to see. If BCI's previous buckshot approach to programming holds true, at least one of these--hopefully more--should be worth the effort.

The first sets release on August 8.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

This is Just Creepy

OK, I was at the local multiplex last night and I saw something that disturbed me right down to the marrow. I went to see X-Men: The Last Stand, and my brother pointed out to me that X-Men was playing in the theater right next to the remake of The Omen.



This has tic tac toe of the damned written all over it. Someone please check the Book of Revelations and get back to me.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Stuart Gordon's FROM BEYOND

It's never been on DVD, and even the theatrical version had to be trimmed to satisfy the moral guardians at the MPAA, but at long last the digitally restored director's cut of Stuart Gordon's From Beyond makes its bow on Monsters HD. Since I don't subscribe to that particular channel, this would be even better news if there was word of a DVD release, but I have to imagine that's not too far off. The premiere is this Saturday, June 10 at 8PM. You can see the promo here.

Based on the short story by H.P. Lovecraft, the first ten minutes of the film is quite faithful to the source material. The balance of the film is Gordon's expansion on Lovecraft's idea featuring some classic 1980s gore. With a cast like Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton from Gordon's previous Lovecraft adaptation Reanimator, as well as Ken Foree from the original Dawn of the Dead and more recently The Devil's Rejects, how can you go wrong?

Thanks to the folks at Horror Channel for posting the info.

Monday, June 05, 2006

The Devil's Tramping Ground

The Devil's Tramping Ground has been a favorite of mine for years. Plenty of people think they can do Flash cartoons, but Ed Bain is an honest to God filmmaker working in the Flash medium. The whole site is worth purusing, but I especially recommend The Banshee. Turn out the lights, click on the link, and make sure you have fresh underwear at the ready. This one's a genuine creep-fest.

Zine Week Post Script

The smoke of Zine Week is still clearing here at Omega Channel. I want to thank everyone who emailed and/or posted comments. The traffic last week was by far the highest I've gotten since the site's launch. The whole thing was such a big success that I can pretty much guarantee a sequel. Stay tuned.

I also want to give a special thank you to the sites that linked to my Zine Week posts. In no particular order they are:

Thanks, guys!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

FACTSHEET FINALE - Zine Week Part 15

By late 1996 I had started a new job that was requiring a great deal of my time. I was more than happy to accept overtime pay, but it soon became clear that a few things had to change. I continued writing reviews for Factsheet 5 into 1997, but it was hard to find time for it and at some point it stopped being fun. When it stops being fun, and you're barely making any money from it, it's time to move on.

Wanting to give Publisher Seth Friedman as much notice as I could, I called him and told him that I could write for the next two issues, but that would be it. He seemed disappointed, mentioned that a few other people had recently left, and said that he was thinking about selling the magazine. I'm not sure when the mag ceased publication, but I think within a year or two I was no longer seeing it on the shelves at Barnes and Noble. I assume the prevalence of home computers and easy access to the internet changed zine culture to the point where Factsheet 5 could no longer make a go of it. There has been an announcement of a new version of the magazine, however that web page has remained unchanged for some time and I've received no response to my email.

My contact with zine culture has been pretty much non-existent in recent years, but it must be radically different now. Those who in the past would have published a typewritten photocopied zine can now publish a blog, reaching a huge potential audience at a cost of nothing. With cheap and easy to use desktop publishing applications, those who do choose to print can make a much more professional looking publication quite easily.

My time with Factsheet 5 was both a blast and a privilege. I didn't make a lot of money, but I did get a lot of cool stuff in the mail, and that's the whole point. Thanks for listening.

Click on any image for a closer look.

Click here for: Zine Week Part 1 | Zine Week Part 2 | Zine Week Part 3 | Zine Week Part 4 | Zine Week Part 5 | Zine Week Part 6 | Zine Week Part 7 | Zine Week Part 8 | Zine Week Part 9 | Zine Week Part 10 | Zine Week Part 11 | Zine Week Part 12 | Zine Week Part 13 | Zine Week Part 14 | Zine Week Part 15

Zine Week Part 14

Here it is. The culmination of the form. All previous examples of the printed word were rendered obsolete once this baby hit the streets. Johann Gutenberg, inventor of movable type, once said about HORRENDOUS! ...

[Insert sound of writer being doused with cold water and struck with something heavy, possibly a Gutenberg Bible to heighten irony]

OK, I have to admit I'm far more likely to come up with a quote from Steve Guttenberg than Johann Gutenberg. HORRENDOUS! was, in fact, my own humble attempt at zine publishing. When I started writing for Factsheet 5 I was bucking the trend as most of F5's zine reviewers were also zine publishers. In 1995 I took my first stab at self-publishing. I've always regretted that it only lasted two issues, but as any zine publisher will tell you, it's a LOT more time consuming than you might think.

My format consisted of an introductory editorial, a bunch of horror movie reviews, and a list of recommended zines–a common feature in most zines, similar to a Blogroll. I'm looking at that list of zines now for the first time in years, and it's interesting to note that most of them have been mentioned here during Zine Week.

The first issue was laid out on a PC with a 486 processor, a machine which even now slouches in my hall closet, functional, but obsolete, and waiting for it's opportunity to pounce on me the next time I reach in there for the snow shovel. Text was typed out in Word Perfect 5.1 and imported into my very first desktop publishing program, a $25 gem called Compuworks Publisher. Quark Xpress it was not, but I had nothing to compare it to and it did a decent job. Scanning was well beyond my technical and financial capacity at the time, so the only illustrations in that first issue were pieces of clipart I had found on that new fangled thing people were calling "the Internet." I printed out a master copy from my brother's ink-jet printer and then I was off to the copy shop.

I submitted that first issue to Seth for review at F5. I don't have that review handy, but as I recall he said some nice things. I also sent copies out to other zine publishers. It was common for most zine folk to accept trades, which meant they would send you a copy of their zine in exchange for a copy of yours. You don't get into zine publishing for the money, you get into it because you like to get cool stuff in the mail. I don't recall what the circulation figures were, though I've still got quite a few copies. One of the high points was when Joe Bob Briggs himself gave HORRENDOUS! a favorable review in his publication The Joe Bob Report.

The second issue took on a somewhat more polished look, thanks in a large part to a very generous birthday gift from my brother and his wife: Adobe PageMaker (thanks again, guys!). This was my first exposure to a professional level graphic design application. Basically it bitch-slapped my old publishing program, questioned its masculinity, and sent it packing. I had been reading up on design theory, and though I still couldn't scan images I was not above swiping them off the 'Net.

Before long, it seemed to make more sense to move HORRENDOUS! onto the world wide web. It was easier and had the potential to reach a much wider audience. I taught myself how to use HTML as there were no WYSIWYG web design apps, and I figured out how to use an image editing program called Paint Shop Pro, a shareware drawing program called Top Draw, and eventually Corel Draw. I've done a few design upgrades over the years, but not recently. This sad, neglected little site can be found here, though I probably should have euthanized it years ago.

Click on any image for a closer look.

Click here for: Zine Week Part 1 | Zine Week Part 2 | Zine Week Part 3 | Zine Week Part 4 | Zine Week Part 5 | Zine Week Part 6 | Zine Week Part 7 | Zine Week Part 8 | Zine Week Part 9 | Zine Week Part 10 | Zine Week Part 11 | Zine Week Part 12 | Zine Week Part 13 | Zine Week Part 14 | Zine Week Part 15

MONSTER! - Zine Week Part 13

Monster! ran for over fifty issues as a xeroxed pamphlet. Issue 55/56 discusses Hamburger Movies, films that the cinephile has only read about but is dying to experience first hand. With obscure films being so much easier to find these days, the Hamburger Movie phenomenon is not as far reaching as it once was. Editor Tim Paxton spends much of the issue writing about films he's dying to see like Frankenstein's Kung Fu Monster (holy crap), Horrors of Spider Island, and the Coffin Joe vehicle Tonight I'll Incarnate in Your Corpse. As one who spent many hours drooling over all those cool looking movies in the Sinister Cinema and Something Weird Video catalogs, this issue really struck a chord with me.

Monster! eventually evolved into Monster International, an ultra slick downright heavy magazine focused on international horror films. The expansion was a bold move, but as I recall the mag only lasted for a few issues. Monster International eventually made it onto the web, but the site has not been updated since 1996.

Click on any image for a closer look.

Click here for: Zine Week Part 1 | Zine Week Part 2 | Zine Week Part 3 | Zine Week Part 4 | Zine Week Part 5 | Zine Week Part 6 | Zine Week Part 7 | Zine Week Part 8 | Zine Week Part 9 | Zine Week Part 10 | Zine Week Part 11 | Zine Week Part 12 | Zine Week Part 13 | Zine Week Part 14 | Zine Week Part 15

THE JOE BOB REPORT - Zine Week Part 12

Yes, THAT Joe Bob. John Bloom, a.k.a. Joe Bob Briggs, the world's only drive-in movie critic, was known at the time for his syndicated column and the fact that he was the host of TNT's Monstervision and Joe Bob's Drive-In Theater on the Movie Channel. The Joe Bob Report was a 16-pager with printing and paper that most zine publishers would have killed for. Joe Bob was one of the first to realize that direct-to-video films were the then modern versions of drive-in movies. Review chores were shared with "Joe Bob's Board of Drive-In Experts."
A favorite feature was "Find That Flick" in which a reader would write in and request that Joe Bob's readership identify some mostly forgotten film from the reader's childhood.

The Joe Bob Report eventually made its way onto the world wide web, and it can currently be found here. Unfortunately updates are not as common as one might hope. More recently, Joe Bob has become known for his books Profoundly Disturbing : The Shocking Movies that Changed History and Profoundly Erotic : Sexy Movies that Changed History.

Click on any image for a closer look.

Click here for: Zine Week Part 1 | Zine Week Part 2 | Zine Week Part 3 | Zine Week Part 4 | Zine Week Part 5 | Zine Week Part 6 | Zine Week Part 7 | Zine Week Part 8 | Zine Week Part 9 | Zine Week Part 10 | Zine Week Part 11 | Zine Week Part 12 | Zine Week Part 13 | Zine Week Part 14 | Zine Week Part 15

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