Going through aversion therapy with gay horror author Aaron Eischeid

Through words and illustrations, Aaron Eischeid’s “Aversion: A Zine of Therapeutic Vignettes” is speculative fiction that explores mind and body, sex and soul, religion and politics, young gay awakenings, gay love, and the horror of conversion therapy.

Along with a maze of sexual escape, a literal “eye” doctor, a lady with a thirst for red, and various other monsters of the imagination, the trippy horror takes a turn into mysterious metaphor, the most dominant being comparisons to training, conditioning, and controlling dogs.

Aaron gets deep into the creation of the story and the horror from which it is inspired on his site. But he did take some time to answer the usual probing questions from Boys, Bears & Scares.

BB&S: Hey, Aaron. I’m including the link to your site for further reading, but before the horror quickie questions, I was hoping you could just give us some brief insights into what readers can expect from your writing, why writing gay themes is important to you, and what horror projects you might have in the works now. 

AARON: Fantastical freeform would be the most succinct way to describe my writing. You learn the basic structures of writing as you grow up, take creative courses, reading others’ works, etc. But then, especially in horror, you discover that structure is incredibly, and necessarily, malleable according to what you want to say or what feeling you wish to evoke. So, expect a flow against the grain. I am also a deeply visual thinker. Immersing a reader into a world, a situation, has always been the top priority because that is what unsettles the most: when words plunge you into a picture that you may or may not want to be in…but certainly do not want to leave just yet. 

As for the gay themes, incorporating them is essential to helping bring vital representation of our minority community to what is honestly a minority genre. Fear is the basest emotion of people. We are at our most vulnerable when we are afraid. In that place, there is the possibility to scare and to find power. The monsters of our genre are as much a reflection of ourselves as they are our imaginations. They terrify us because oftentimes they ARE us. Monsters represent the misunderstood, the repressed, or the simply purely evil we face day to day. As a dedicated fan and artist, I look to dissect these beasts to reconcile the truth and have a bloody good time.

Apart from the AVERSION series, there is a flesh-themed collection of short stories creeping to the page, and then a short film about the quite current terrors surrounding private education and queer identity is in development.

BB&S: Okay, are you ready for a quickie…or ten? First, what are your favorite horror subgenres?

AARON: Ten quickies. I like to make it last. J Favorites would have to be slashers, body horror, anthologies, ghost stories, and John Carpenter (we can all agree he’s a subgenre, right?).

BB&S: What scares you most in a horror movie?

AARON: Dread. Sustained atmospheric dread. Nothing frays my nerves like being played like a taut instrument for an hour and a half because it’s going to linger with me later.

Also, spectacularly open endings where the movie isn’t over even if the credits roll. I’ve been watching for Michael Myers outside my window since I was 8.

BB&S: Horror mixed with comedy. Yes or no?

AARON: Yes, but only if that’s the intention through and through. Humor can break a moment of tension but it can also bust an entire mood. Fright Night, Night Of The Creeps, Seed Of Chucky—those are the templates.

BB&S: Sex and nudity in horror. Yes or no? 

AARON: Umm HELL YES. Sex is as natural as death and they both deserve to be played with. We’re humans, we have desire and we need to express them! One of my favorite missions of a horror film was Adam Marcus’ Jason Goes To Hell because with the sex scene in the tent he wanted equal amounts of male nudity because there wasn’t enough in the genre. I’m not opposed.

BB&S: Final girl or final guy?

AARON: Final girl. No question.

BB&S: Who are some of your favorite scream queens?

AARON: Call me rote and old school, but I never tire of Jamie Lee Curtis. She was my first scream queen and will forever be my favorite. Such a winning personality and ability to exhibit real fear and then follow it up with ingenuity. Also, non-horror related, her in A Fish Called Wanda is gold.

Otherwise, Adrienne King, Amy Steel (April Fool’s Day is vastly underrated), Brinke Stevens, Karen Black, and I’m counting Elvira because girl’s amazing.

BB&S: Favorite iconic horror baddie?

AARON: Michael Myers. Nothing matches the boogeyman except maybe the devil or Pinhead.

BB&S: What are some of your favorite horror TV shows?

AARON: Confession: I do not watch a lot of television but out of what I have consumed, Tales From The Crypt, seasons 1-3 of American Horror Story, the short-lived Masters Of Horror on Showtime, and then Ash Vs. Evil Dead.

BB&S: What songs or artists might be on your Halloween party playlist?

AARON: Siouxsie & the Banshees, Tangerine Dream scores, Christopher Young’s Hellraiser soundtracks, John Carpenter, “The Monster Mash”.

BB&S: And finally, who are your favorite horror authors?

AARON: Clive Barker, a man I was lucky to call mentor and friend and to whom I owe so much. Stephen King. Shirley Jackson. Edgar Allan Poe. R.L. Stine (did you ever read his adult novel Superstitious?!) Armando Munoz. So many amazing authors out there.

BB&S: Thanks for taking the time to chat, Aaron!

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STREAM QUEEN: back to the dead

I’ll always be a fan of zombie films, but at the moment it’s safe to say the genre needs to be buried for a while. It’s seriously becoming overkill. So did any of the six from this latest streaming raid of the undead work for me?

RAVENOUS (2017)

When a zombie film begins with a fast running little girl zombie attacking a couple at a car race, I get sucked in.

This film then turns into…well, you know how you sometimes watch three episodes of The Walking Dead in a row filled with scenes about human emotions, an occasional exciting zombie incident, and a lot of roaming around the woods and driving from one deserted location to the next trying to survive, but it feels like the plot is going nowhere? That’s what Ravenous feels like.

For me there are two things about this movie that I’ll remember. First, there’s a running side story about an asshole who keeps purposely jumping out and scaring the main characters that brings some oddly out of place humor to an otherwise somber and serious film.

Second, the zombies seem to be building…um…a chairway to Heaven.

I don’t know what it means, but the zombies are stacking chairs in a field and it becomes a major focal point of the second half of the film

ONE LAST SUNSET REDUX (2015)

As far as I can garner from IMDb, this “redux” is an expanded version of the original, with more scenes and new characters, but I’m not totally sure if it is just a re-edit, if the film was actually reshot, or if this is a sequel.

When the film begins, it focuses on two African-American sisters (one former military) struggling to survive after the zombie apocalypse. It then sporadically jumps to a story of a white blonde girl (yawn!) who I believe was a married lesbian based on her daydream flashbacks.

In the end, this low budget film is mostly scenes of strong women kicking both zombie and man ass (my favorite parts), interspersed with meaningful conversation about women’s feelings (my least favorite parts). And it’s all filtered through a sort of daylight sepia tone.

If “redux” is just an extended version of an original cut, it may have been a more concise film before. For instance, the last 20 minutes consist of just one character moving from place to place and being contemplative about all that has transpired. I simply can’t handle that much character development, especially for the final quarter of a zombie film.

QUADRANT 9EV9 (2016)

Whenever a zombie movie opens with a cheesy, low budget undisclosed military bunker scene, you know what to expect.

Quadrant 9EV9 takes that expectation to a new level. It is not only a low budget film, it is slow as fuck until something finally happens, when it at last becomes a little better.

A bunch of kids sneaks onto an old military base to camp. And then they talk and talk and talk. They also sit by a campfire, get warned away by some creepy old dude, find and break open a trap door in the ground, do something awful…then continue talking.

Eventually they hear noises outside their tent and are soon being chased by guys in jumpsuits with zombie faces, making this sort of like a low budget version of 13 Eerie.

There aren’t a lot of zombies, but they do give the main group a good fight.

Its not super gory or anything, and these aren’t traditional gut munching zombies, but the action is pretty fun for a while if you can get through the first part of the film.

THE TRIP (2018)

I was feeling this movie when it starts with our hunky hero boxing at the gym.

He doesn’t get that there’s a zombie apocalypse until an old man at a bar saves him from death (and subsequently, undeath).

The hunky hero joins a bunch of survivors hiding out in the building and then…they talk, talk, talk. It’s character development overload. It’s a zombie movie. How much do we need to know about inevitable zombie chow?

They plan to go to a safe place in the mountains, and are forced to before they can set the plan into motion. In the best sequence in the film, zombies infiltrate their building.

Despite the zombies just being people with some gray-green face paint and blood around their mouths, intense action and gnarly chomping make this a hard scene to top, and the movie never does.


Am I the only one who kind of sees a blueberry pie?

The group gets to the mountain, there’s a lot more talk, they battle with another group (even more characters to develop), and zombies eventually chase them through the woods during the day. This final act feels so much more low budget than the first act.

ALMOST DEAD (2016)

Now this is a unique premise for a zombie film. It’s sort of Cujo with zombies.


WOOF!

A woman wakes up bound and gagged in a crashed car.

The driver is dead, there are zombies outside, and the main woman keeps getting calls from her sister, who sounds almost as concerned about her as she is about the antidote the main woman apparently made but doesn’t remember anything about. She also doesn’t remember her own child, who her sister keeps mentioning.

While the setup is intriguing and there are quite a few intense and atmospheric zombie attack scenes, this film can definitely start wearing on you, particularly the phone calls. The voice on the other end just sounds way too melodramatic, and it infects the overall tone of the non-zombie parts.

Even so, it’s a polished production that’s well worth a watch if you want something a little different from the zombie genre.

EMPIRE STATE OF THE DEAD (2016)

Empire State of the Dead is so my kind of indie zombie flick I ordered the DVD before I even finished streaming it. As I said earlier, if you’re going to do a zombie flick these days, you have to bring something new to it …or at least make it a nonstop joyride.

Hell, this film runs a ridiculous 112 minutes long and I never complained. Part of the reason it keeps moving is because it’s sort of like an anthology film all set in the same post apocalyptic universe. Each vignette is unique with a different feel to it, but they’re all entertaining and well executed.

Loosely tying the tales together is the story of a military team hunting down a gangster who wants to overturn the government…using the zombies as his army. This seemingly momentous plot is mostly incidental and isn’t even necessary, especially since it only comes into play during short segments featuring the military or the gangster.

Here’s a breakdown of the segments:

  • We first meet the gangster in a funny, Tarantino-esque dialogue scene in which he talks to a guy he’s holding captive about a run-in with his dog while naked, his love for Stallone films, and how the guys he kills keep coming back to life.

  • One of my favorite segments from a horror standpoint, this is an atmospheric short about a drug addict on the streets who is fucking creepier and scarier than the zombies.
  • This playful segment has a burnout getting lessons on how to shoot zombies from a hunk. The hunk is the leader of the military team, and we next meet his two soldiers, a guy and a girl who bring some humor as they bicker about what they should call thezombies since they are forbidden to call them zombies.

  • Two dudes step into backwoods territory and encounter a naked muscle hunk with an insatiable sexual desire…who demonstrates that he’s more concerned with wearing a condom when he fucks a guy up the ass than when he bangs a zombie.

  • This next quickie is a goodie, with two guys freaking out over the fact that there are zombies everywhere, and it’s all viewed from the POV of a zombie.

  • Another fun one, this tale is about a trio of crazies dressed in goth costume that get a thrill out of killing zombies, but then take a break to play a hunting game with a couple of survivors they come across. The tall goth dude with long hair steals the show, but the fight scenes are a little rough, with no sound effects and timid choreography.

  • Yet another fun one with a cute dude delivering supplies to a doctor who believes he has a cure. There are some funny moments when the cute guy encounters two military guys who make gay jokes while patting him down. When the zombies attack there’s plenty of gore, and the cute guy nails the cheesy tone of an 80s horror flick.

  • it’s a bit jarring to suddenly get a black and white segment, but this is a really unique twist on the moral dilemma of having to kill a loved one that turns zombie.

The “wraparound” finishes things off, with the military facing the gangster and his army of zombies in an old warehouse for an action and gore packed finale.

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All dark places in hell have scary clowns and shirtless hunks

This was a sort of fun double feature on Prime, due in part to the man meat on display. As for the clowns on the poster art, just forget it. These aren’t exactly clown slashers, and in one of them the clown is virtually nonexistent.

ALL DARK PLACES (2012)

This one starts with a straightforward story about a husband and wife trying to work out their marriage for their son.

But the dad pretty much starts to lose his mind, dreaming of encounters with a menacing clown…the same clown that seems to talk to the son in his room at night.

The wife gets frustrated with the husband falling back into his old habits, like partying with his musician friend.

I have a feeling these two want to do more than just drug and booze it up while rocking out in the basement…

There are actually some curious hints dropped throughout the film suggesting something deeper and darker is going on with the dad. The dream clown at one point says to him “I’ll pull your cock out through your nose!” Who says that??? (outside of a sex dungeon)

The “buddy” brings up Gacy when the dad tells him about his dreams, which he doesn’t even know are for some reason extending to the son. And the dad apparently assaulted a birthday party clown he was convinced was being inappropriate with his son. Hm….

I’m starting with the man in the mirror, I’m asking him to change his ways…

The wife seems to come and go—one minute she’s taking the son and leaving him, the next minute she’s still in the house going about her daily business. And she parties with the dad even though she’s furious that he’s hitting the bottle and the drugs.

Or at least I think she is. After a while I wasn’t sure what (if anything) was real. The movie begins to feel like an excuse to film the dad shirtless as much as possible…and get me to blog about it on Boys, Bears & Scares.

The clown does eventually terrorize the family outside of the dad’s dreams…I think. No joke, I didn’t understand this movie.

But hey, there’s a shirtless daddy, plus a scary clown chases people. I’m good.

A PLACE IN HELL (2018)

 This one is more fun if you’re just looking for a simple little slasher. Students are assigned to make videos around the theme “What does horror mean to you?” One group decides to head to an old Halloween haunting attraction to film theirs. It’s not Halloween though—it’s the middle of the winter and snowy.

Meanwhile, the awkwardly melodramatic side story is about a burned out detective who worked on the case related to the killer…the killer being a studly dude who #MeToos his dead victims. Why do the hot ones always have to be dead girl fuckers?

“Now just lie there and don’t move. Man, I’m funny.”

A delicious angle of the film is that the killer is believed to be innocent. The detective even mentions that black guys are never serial killers and that this guy looked like an underwear model. I guess underwear models are never serial killers either.

The killer only wears a mask once, for one of the best scenes in the film.

And the only time a clown costume comes into play is for a scene in which two girls are looking at the front of the clown-themed part of the attraction.

The bimbo of the group, who thinks she’s a star, keeps us quite entertained until the killer finally starts slaying.

The film offers some fresh kill setups that come fast and furious…and all in daylight! Awesome. But eventually the remaining survivors head into the haunted attraction for the final chase scene.

Like I said, it’s simple but entertaining enough for sure.

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Deranged arranged marriages have never been this much fun

Betrothed reminds me why it is so important that I ignore the star rating averages on the Internet; I would have missed this hilarious dark comedy horror if I had.

Betrothed rules! I feared I was in for yet another torture porn aimed at targeting and mutilating pretty young woman. Sure, there’s some of that misogyny here, but it is so tongue-in-cheek that I had no problem digesting it (It’s always easier to do when it’s cut up into smaller pieces).

Our family of Trump cultists…I mean…hillbilly crazy Christian rapist/murderers is comprised of a campy mom, her big scary hunk of a son, and the more gullible son who looks like a burnout from Dazed and Confused.

Hunky hillbilly Adam Dunnells is horror hottie goodness, and has appeared in quite a few films (Hoodoo for Voodoo, The Woods Have Eyes, Mega Shark vs. Kolussus, I Spit On Your Grave: Vengeance is Mine), some of which I’m immediately adding to my must-see list…as in, I must see how much flesh Adam Dunnells shows in each of these films.

 

The family is busily trying to find Dazed and Confused a nice wife, because Dunnells already has one—who is resistant and miserable. If I got kidnapped by a murdering, raping psycho hillbilly family and got stuck being the subservient bitch Dunnells tries to impregnate on a daily basis…

…Dunnells would be like, “Bitch, how many times do I have to tell you to get off the floor and take off the gag ball and ropes? It’s no fun forcing myself on you if you keep tying yourself up.”

Anyway, the family simply kills the slutty ones after Dazed and Confused fucks them in front of mom and brother, and it’s gory good (not the slaying, not the sex).

But then they finally think they’ve found the girl of his dreams…

Since the Olsen twins refuse to play Michelle on the Full House reboot, they might as well cast main girl Mikayla Gibson. She’s adorable, both on her own and during her interactions with her mom and sister in their  full house…I mean…loving home.

But when she runs to the convenience store, she wakes up chained to a bed.

The crazy mom steals the show in the humor department (no surprise considering her name in real life is Bunny Gibson), but our main girl eventually encounters others while trying to escape who bring plenty more humor to the action, including an unexpected gay guy!

Also funny is the sexy black detective searching for her and wiping up the floor with any cracker trash that gets in his way.

And complicating matters is a load more hillbillies. Even horror king Bill Oberst Jr. gets in on the action by the last act.

Betrothed is midnight movie perfection if you ask me.

 

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STREAM QUEEN: Teens encounter all kinds of backwoods trouble

Horny, thirsty, and vengeful. I always enjoy watching kids terrorized in the woods, but this triple feature only delivered in small doses.

THE HONOR FARM (2017)

The Honor Farm is a movie I couldn’t stop watching, even though it makes very little sense in the end—or all the way through for that matter. There’s just a dreamy quality to it right from the beginning with a dream pop track capturing the essence of the title credit sequence. The soundtrack is modern wave awesome in general, featuring songs by Tamaryn, Moving Panoramas, The Black Angels, Mogwai, Still Corners, and more.

Generally themed around a teen who wants to lose her virginity on the night of her prom, it takes us away from the prom after she and her friend have major problems with their dates. A group of cool kids invites them along for a trip to an abandoned prison to do shrooms.

After the kids tell stories of death, horror, and satanic worship at the prison, they hit the shrooms, immediately launching us into a chain of events that is never possible to decipher as being either real or hallucination. Enhancing the trippy tone is the fact that the cast is perfectly immersed in the unfolding events.

They find animal corpses, they explore underground tunnels, they witness a satanic ritual (baby goat and all), they’re attacked by something in the water, the main girl sets her sights on the really cute guy who supplied the drugs, and…that’s all that really matters because all the promising horror moments seem to mean absolutely nothing in the end.

BEWARE THE LAKE (2017)

An unnecessarily subtitled opener sets up the notion of a curse that can bring back to life people who drown in a lake.

In the present day, a teen named Tabatha moves into a new home with her Romanian aunt. (I guess they were speaking Romanian in the first scene). She befriends the boys next door, catching the eye of all grown up Jonathan Lipnicki of The Little Vampire.

This makes his cheerleader ex jealous, so the cheerleaders lure her up to the lake to go “swimming.”


I’m an Ivanka Trump clone…what’s not to trust?

What transpires is a low budget Tamara…only with Tabatha instead. Tabatha’s dripping wet corpse in a bikini soon starts appearing in the cheerleaders’ rooms to scare them, eventually stepping up her game and killing them off.

I mean, she’s kind of creepy in an Asian horror girl rip-off way, but the movie takes a weird shift into “comic” territory (like a goofy cop obsessed with taboo sex acts).

The cheese factor is strong by the time the kids band together and return to the lake to try to stop Tabitha. Really, there are better versions of this story you could be watching.

PARCHED (2017)

I’m usually hard on found footage films that are rather generic. For instance, in Parched, kids go to a house in the woods, drink water from a natural spring, then start (barely) attacking each other.

It’s definitely no Evil Dead or even a good knock off, but one thing completely makes this film for me: this guy, the cameraman.

This isn’t really even a comedy, but right from the car ride, when he talks about two brothers that transitioned and became sisters, and how he is in touch with his own feminine side, I knew he was going to be fun.

Granted, he’s no fun when he’s filming tons of nature footage to pad the running time, but eventually he starts to see his friends, high on water, out in the woods acting strange.

Being the only one who didn’t drink the water, he ends up having to take on all the angry friends. They don’t have demon eyes, they don’t have gnarly infected face, there’s very little blood.

This is a bland film, but there are signs of what it could have been if it had spent more time on the kids being wild and attacking each other…and the cute camera guy reacting to all of it. This is a kid who’s forced to stab one girl to death with a pitchfork, then cries, “You’re too hot to die!”

I laughed out loud at this line and several of his others when he gets to shine in the last few scenes. The old man he runs into as he’s trying to get away also delivers lines in a way that’s really humorous. They’re both more entertaining than even the big twist at the end.

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STREAM QUEEN: Killer children double feature déjà vu

I’m a sucker for killer kids movies, even if they’re derivative…as long as they’re good. These two from 2012 give us the good and the bad.

CITADEL (2012)

This is a dark and sinister slow burn horror that owes a lot to killer kiddie classic The Brood.

Smart, effective style is apparent from the start. A guy leaves his pregnant wife upstairs in the hall of their apartment building while he goes to put stuff in the car, and if you pay attention, you’ll notice three hooded kids shuffling by in the reflection in the car door. It only gets worse when he gets back up to his wife…

The baby is born, the man becomes agoraphobic, and then the hooded kids start terrorizing his home.

His nurse does her best to help him get outside, leading to one of the scariest scenes in the film…in a tunnel.

Eventually, he teams up with a bullish priest who asks for his help in killing the kids, leading to a suspenseful and creepy journey through the killer kids’ lair.

COME OUT AND PLAY (2012)

A great title is wasted on Children of the Corn on an island. For starters, it begins with literally ten minutes of a man (Marnie’s musician man on Girls) asking where he can rent a boat.

During their trip to an exotic location, he and his pregnant wife take another trip to an exotic small island. All they see are children. They can’t find any adults. This goes on for 20 minutes.

 

I was horrified next when they see a little girl beating something around a corner because I thought it was going to be a stray dog the husband saw earlier. I was so relieved it was just an old man. The other kids then drag him, stab him, and stone him. So glad it wasn’t the dog.

Now that the couple knows what they are up against, the husband still leaves his pregnant wife alone while he goes exploring, which he’s been doing all along. And as the children continue to heinously kill any stray adults they find on the island, the couple finally decides to head back to their boat. Naturally, it’s too late.

Then the couple gets in a jeep and continuously avoids plowing down blockades of children, even crying for them to move out of the way.

Maybe it’s some sort of hetero parent mental illness, but I would plow down a row of psycho brats without hesitation…even if it was just an old man and not a dog I’d seen them murder.

The generic predictability continues from there, until the husband finally finds his balls in the last 5 minutes.

I’m sorry, but **SPOILER** they didn’t reshoot the scene in which the dead husband is floating in the water and BLINKS???

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Tell The Carpenter to bring his saw because it’s Bloody Wednesday

This double feature brings me right back to my days working at the video store—I systematically watched every horror movie that had a display box covered in thick layers of dust because no one ever rented them. I really have been OCD since forever.

BLOODY WEDNESDAY (1987)

Consider it a marketing ploy that this film is touted as being based on the McDonalds massacre of the 80s, because it’s really just a story about a guy who sees ghosts and eventually becomes the poster child for today’s NRA.

The main guy is undeniably cute as he snaps—loses his mechanic job, goes to church naked, and is then left to live in abandoned hotel by his brother.

Essentially what you have here is a low budget The Shining concept. A bellboy warns him to avoid certain rooms he immediately visits, encountering people who aren’t really there.

In one awesome hallucinatory scene, he has a confrontation with a snake that has a thing for his snake.

A snake in the crotch is worth two in the bush…

He converses with his talking Teddy bear and has an imaginary relationship with his psychiatric doctor.

Hey mister, can I climb up your fire escape?

And he battles a gang of thugs who, like members of all gangs in 1980s movies, look like Menudo dressed as Rambo for Halloween.

Did you piss your pants or are you just really happy to see me? 

There’s an impressively long and detailed final scene in which he shoots up everyone in a diner.

And in an amazingly topical moment, a good guy with a gun stays in hiding until everyone is already dead and then finally pops up to get a clear shot at the gunman. A true American hero.

THE CARPENTER (1988)

This bad 80s direct-to-video garbage magnifies my perpetual state of grief because the 1980s ended.

After a woman has a nervous breakdown, she and her husband buy a new house. They hire a bunch of sizzling hot 80s guys to work on the place.

Yet the wife befriends and feels drawn to Wings Hauser, who only seems to show up in the middle of the night to work.


My Roseanne daughter is taking on Michael Myers this year,
and I’m a direct-to-video ghost carpenter hooking up with a mad woman.

Pretty soon, Hauser starts using various carpentry tools to kill anyone he thinks wrongs the wife.

His special style of crazy is always welcome, but I have to say, the wife is more of the focus, and as she descends into crazy town herself, she does a great job of it, completely upstaging him for a while.

The final chase and battle when the wife realizes Hauser’s killing is getting out of hand—and what she needs to do to kill him—is as cheesy good as 80s horror gets.

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Nature triple strikes back in the early 80s

Digging through my archives (aka: my movie collection) for an 80s break from the endless “stream” of modern trash I bombard myself with, I decided to make it an early 80s marathon of 3 horror films themed around wildlife gone…wilder…

ALLIGATOR (1980)

Before directing Cat’s Eye and Cujo, Lewis Teague rode the coattails of the late 1970s Jaws craze by bringing a 30-foot alligator to the streets. He did it so damn well this film actually still holds up…and without CGI.

It starts in Trump cult America, at an alligator wrestling competition. A little girl is so horrified by seeing a man get chomped that she convinces her parents to get her a baby alligator as a pet. Before long, her dad flushes it down the toilet (with absolutely no buildup showing why he flipped out on it).

Our leading man is always charismatic veteran actor Robert Forster, who plays a detective trying to accept the onset of middle age. He looks pretty good in 80s tight jeans if you ask me.

He’s also coping with the fact that his partner died on the clock, as well as investigating bodies showing up in the sewer system.

As more and more people find a reason to go down into the sewer, there’s alligator POV and Jaws rip-off music, awesome scenes of alligator attacks, and a camera left at the scene of an attack that finally reveals what they’re actually contending with.

Meanwhile, it doesn’t get more old school horror than the detective hooking up with the female scientist he’s working with. Seriously, the message in all 80s movies is that you just bang the broad helping you out on a case simply because she’s there.

The film really kicks into gear when the fricking gator smashes up through the sidewalk and starts roaming the streets, taking dips in pools, crashing weddings…

It even eats a child in a scene that has always stuck with me since I was a kid…and is the reason I wouldn’t go in the pool until all the floats were removed so I could be sure there was nothing under them.

The final chase and battle in the sewer rox, plus we get a glimpse of…a young Freddy Krueger?

CAT PEOPLE (1982)

This remake of the 1942 film came at a time in the early 80s when shapeshifting and erotic horror (American Werewolf in London, Altered States, The Hunger) were playing in heavy rotation on cable alongside loads of slashers. I can definitely appreciate this one more now than when I was a kid…but I still like slashers better.

It opens with an ancient desert scene featuring a tribe and leopards on a tree for a mythological, artistic visual effect. I’m surprised I was able to get into this movie back when I was fourteen considering I did an eye roll even watching my DVD now as a semi-mature adult.

In the modern age, Nastassja Kinski reconnects with her long lost brother, Malcolm McDowell, and we learn that after raising Blanche Devereaux, Mammy Watkins went to work for him.

Malcolm disappears for a while and a black leopard terrorizes the town.

Actually it terrorizes Lynn Lowry, playing a prostitute who isn’t a very good whore, considering she doesn’t recognize a huge puddle of spooge when she sits in it…touches it…and smells it.

John Laroquette and Ed Begley, Jr. have small background roles (Ed’s screen presence eventually gets smaller).

John Heard is the curator at the zoo where Kinski gets a job, and Annette o’Toole is a coworker she befriends.

The real fun (after Lowry’s cum play) is when Malcolm gets naked…I mean, returns, and the truth of his and Kinski’s relationship unfolds.

She begins to explore her animal side—especially when she finally gets a transformation scene near the end.

The best creepy scene in the whole film has O’Toole being hunted while swimming in an indoor pool.

And the truth behind Kinski’s erotic connection to Malcolm is so filthy good for the early 80s (incest and beastiality, wahoo!).

And of course, we have the David Bowie/Giorgio Moroder theme song recurring in various forms throughout the film…

 

…except for the form in which it appeared on Bowie’s Let’s Dance album a year later.

 

OF UNKNOWN ORIGIN (1983)

Before the monstrous Leviathan in 1989, director George P. Cosmatos made this little critter feature. Having always weird actor Peter Weller as the star was a perfect choice, because you’d have to be weird to go through what he does.

Weller plays a man who built his home from the bottom up, so he takes it personally when he gets a leak and it’s determined he has rats. He becomes obsessed with the rodents. He researches their every move, consults a rat expert on how to combat them, and then battles the one super rat that is terrorizing his home.

The title says it all, because this is no ordinary rat. It’s smart. It outwits him. It outwits his cat. It turns the traps he sets against him! And yet Weller persists, stays in his home, and slowly helps the rat destroy it as they use it as their fighting arena.

What makes this film so mesmerizing is that Cosmatos gets so up close and personal with the rat it just skeeves you out.

I’m talking right up in its mouth as it chews wires, under the bottom pad of its paw as it walks over glass tabletops, through the shredded insulation of the walls it’s tunneled.

On top of that, it gets all up in Weller’s most intimate personal space, there are plenty of jump scares, and there are a couple of gruesome dream sequences. Now that Of Unknown Origin is out on Blu-ray and I watched it again for the first time in decades, I can see why it was one that stuck with me when I originally saw it as a teen in the 80s.

 

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STREAM QUEEN: these six slash, but do they satisfy?

Holiday slashers, supernatural slashers, silly slashers. I got a bit of all of it with this streaming marathon, but which ones tickled my slashy bone most?

COTTONTAIL (2017)

 

Damn me for feeling obligated to watch every holiday horror film in existence.

Seriously, just watch any one of the other bad Easter selections on my holiday horror page.

This film is virtually all talk, and most of that is narration by the killer. We never see his face, but we do see his rocking bod during an exercise montage.

While planning his annual “Easter egg hunt” with his fans (called Honey Bunnies) helping, he starts to fall in love with one girl, which realty cuts into his killing time.

So much in fact that there are virtually no kills in the film.

Even the clever setup of Cottontail painting his victim’s body parts like Easter eggs and leaving them in baskets on the steps of the victim’s relatives is quickly forgotten.

FRIENDS DON’T LET FRIENDS (2017)

This is one of those movies that begs the question—is a ruthlessly unlikable main character and a head-spinning chain of events in a film excusable if it’s all explained in a simple, tidy clarification scene at the very end?

The bigger question…will you be able to sit through all those issues to make it to the end? That is the danger for a filmmaker when pulling this kind of plot stunt.

In Friends Don’t Let Friends, a young woman kills her boyfriend, and your first frustration will be that he was a big guy sitting on this wobbly chair, yet when she started choking him from behind, he never bothered to just tip off the chair to take her with him so he could get the upper hand.

In fact, as hard as she’s pulling backwards to choke him, she would have pulled him and the chair over. Well…it’s all excusable if you make it to the end.

She calls three friends to help her come bury the body in the desert, treats them like shit, and won’t give them any explanation as to what happened. Again, excusable if you make it to the end.

After tons of talking, the film actually gets quite creepy for a while as they are hunted down by some sort of mutated version of the dead boyfriend.

But even that simple plot becomes a confusing mess. And you guessed it…it will only be excusable if you make it to the end.

NAILS (2017)

Having just recently seen Cursed to Kill, about a woman trapped in a hospital room where she’s terrorized by a supernatural presence, I kind of wished I’d known this movie existed so I could have made it a double feature blog.

The Nails woman is paralyzed and left voiceless in an accident, so she finds it infuriating when she can’t communicate with anyone that a tall goon is coming out of the closet in her room at night to try to kill her.

The suspension of disbelief blocker for me is…why is this woman in a hospital that looks like it should be in Silent Hill? Don’t they have any lights in this place?

This is total run of the mill supernatural horror for most of its running time. FINALLY, at the very end, the woman’s daughter tries to get her out of the hospital in a wheelchair, and they are chased by the creepy killer, who also slaughters a few other people along the way.

In other words, the entire thrilling supernatural slasher this could have been is jam-packed into the last ten minutes. Although, I did laugh when the killer levitated the paralyzed woman and started rolling her around the walls. That shit looked hilarious.

The main woman in this film looks exactly like Toni Collette when she cries, to the point that I should have just gone to see Hereditary.

 

WHAT LIES BEYOND… THE BEGINNING (2014)

Going into this, it’s helpful to know that the first hour has more of a chill Meatballs comedy feel than horror.

There’s some talk about kids dying a year before on the same excursion a group of college students is going on, but that’s it.

After some dull setup scenes before we actually get to the camp, the film becomes entertaining mostly because the guys are so cute and natural in their banter as they all hope to hook up with some girls…and take care of things themselves when they don’t…

There’s a slow mo dance montage, a major lesbian couple storyline, and the boys getting into adolescent trouble, like stealing one guy’s clothes while he’s showering.

We get hints that someone is filming intimate moments (and we don’t blame them).

55 minutes in, the masked, hooded killer appears. The kills come swiftly and are well shot, but they aren’t particularly scary.

The biggest issue with the film is that after a good surprise twist with the killer, there are fifteen minutes of flashbacks revealing a motivation that has absolutely nothing to do with everything that preceded it. Argh!

RETURN OF THE SCARECROW (2018)

If you’re going to do a low budget comedy slasher, it’s always a good idea to bring something fresh to the mix, as Return of the Scarecrow does time and again.

Yeah, yeah. The plot—kids go camping, killer scarecrow starts hacking them up—sounds as cliché as it gets. But it’s the execution that makes this one a hoot.

After an intro kill and cool scarecrow POV opening credits accompanied by old school 80s style synth horror music, we meet kids heading for a camping trip. Everything seems as predictable as can be…

Then comes a devilish, awesome twist I won’t ruin for you.

We also have some local rednecks that decide to dress up like scarecrows, adding a slapstick comedy duo angle to the situation and complicating things for the scarecrow, as well as a sexy silly sheriff.

The final confrontation with the scarecrow—a lynch mob with pitchforks—had me giggling, plus there’s a great tag after the closing credits, featuring the last person you’d expect…

DEAD END 2 (Dead End Demon) (2017)

Damn. I gotta hand it to director Jordan F. Ghanma. As I wrote here, I liked both the supernatural and slashers elements of his Valentine’s horror Dead End  despite some issues with them fully melding as one.

Not only does he bring the killer from that film back, but he sets this one on Halloween and delivers a tighter slasher…along with some more fun bit silly supernatural stuff.

The first scene alone is perfectly executed and chilling (you just have to overlook the part when the ghost girl blinks).

It could stand on its own as one of these cheap thrill quickie horror shorts you see all over YouTube.

Then we get right into the killer’s return. He is thwarted by a ghost girl, and even though the special effects are a little rough, the gist comes through and it’s pretty dang clever.

Meanwhile, a bunch of girls getting in the mood for Halloween remind us of what happened in the first film. It’s so uncool when one girl bad mouths Halloween III

There are actually several references to classics, including the killer not taking kindly to a dude mistaking him for Jason. The death scenes are all presented well, as long as you’re okay with the fact that many of them are not integral to the main characters, just random people being killed on the streets on Halloween as they encounter the masked psycho…to a Halloween rip-off score.

Finally, we get to our main girl and main detective on the case. A medium helps them track down the killer, and the final confrontation is a goodie, with a rockin’ battle and several clever surprise elements thrown into the killer’s booby trap.

Not to mention, the killer is unmasked and he’s a hottie.

The third film is already on the way, and I’m so there.

 

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Actors in peril: a pseudo slasher and a Giallo

I discovered two films in my Prime watchlist focusing on thespian protagonists, which meant it was double feature time! Jack Rio and Masks are very different films, though. So which did I find more entertaining?

JACK RIO (2008)

The beginning of this film is intriguing enough; Matt Borlenghi (Bloody Mary) plays a man sick of being “Jack Rio,” the character he is known for on a popular TV show. But his agent won’t let him break his contract.

While Rio is grudgingly attending a Hollywood party with industry friend, played by Sean Kanan (Hack!), a bartender is slaughtered (off camera), his face removed.

Pretty soon, others lose their lives (and faces) to a killer, and people begin to suspect Jack Rio. As he gets more and more frustrated with not being able to escape his career, we see nothing much beyond the killer wearing face trophies and a blonde female wig.

It’s simply not as macabre or creepy as it could be.

In fact, there’s only one good horror scene, when Rio goes up to a hotel room to party with a couple that is super excited to party with their TV hero.

The movie needed more of this.

Problem is, we learn the identity of the killer early on, making this feel like a cheesy made-for-TV melodrama. It also runs about 20 minutes too long at 100 minutes and has a pretty absurd twist at the end…at least the way the scene is executed.

For what it’s worth, Brian Krause of Charmed is needlessly cast in a small role that could have gone to any no name actor.

MASKS (2011)

If you want to get in the mood for the new Suspiria, don’t hesitate to see the Giallo homage Masks. Also don’t hesitate if you want to watch a much better thespian horror than Jack Rio.

A young woman who blows an audition (as she apparently has all of them) is directed toward a special secret acting school.

Naturally it’s in the middle of nowhere. And…your cellphone is confiscated when you enroll…to keep you focused, of course…

As with any Giallo, there are confusing cuts to seemingly disjointed scenes…happily, there are some gruesome kills within them, as well as a rainbow of neon lighting.

The killer uses a fencing sword, and the piercings of various body parts are FUCKED! There are also mysterious paranormal elements, resulting in intriguing Giallo perfection.

Mysterious details and situations pile up. The head teacher at the school is a bit overly appreciative of the main girl’s potential as an actress. There’s an old building where classes used to be held, but it’s now off limits.

The founder committed suicide and was known for using some unorthodox methods to teach acting. The main girl befriends (and sucks face with) another female student who seems to know more than she’s letting on….

And finally…she learns “the method.” Clear plastic tapestry abounds in the final act…because nothing says trippy, terrifying Giallo horror than victims screaming their way through a maze of plastic shower curtains.

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