Beware the children of the early 1970s

And I’m not talking Linda Blair. I look at an early Steven Spielberg made-for-TV film and an adaptation of a Daphne du Maurier story.

SOMETHING EVIL (1972)

 something evil cover

Although I wasn’t even 3 yet when this made-for-TV film first aired, it brings back major 1970s memories because my mom was pretty much obsessed with it, so I saw it with her at some point before the decade was through.

One of Steven Spielberg’s first full-length films, it stars beloved A Christmas Story dad Darren McGavin (same month he premiered as Kolchak in the first The Night Stalker movie) and Sandy Dennis (Parents, 976-Evil, Come Back to the 5 & Dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean) as a couple that moves into an old country farmhouse with their children. If you’re old enough, you’ll recognize the red-headed boy as the kid from the TV show Family Affair.

something mcgavin

When the wife notices a symbol etched into the side of the barn, the farmhand that’s included with the house (?) warns her it’s a pentacle used to ward off evil and that she shouldn’t put any stock in it. What the fuck kind of advice is that? Instead, she crafts loads of necklaces featuring the symbol. Soon after, she starts to hear what sounds like a child crying in the barn at night, sees the farmhand beheading chickens in the field out back, and gets attacked by breezes whenever she leaves the house (scary).

something evil sandy dennis

Things finally escalate when guests drive away from the house after a gathering and their windshield is attacked by…evil mosquitoes?

something evil windshield

That’s what it seems. Anyway, the car goes off a cliff, so when Darren and Sandy attend a neighbor’s party a few days later, everyone is all excited to talk about their dead friends (WTF?). The host pulls them into a private room and gives the wife a lesson on drawing pentagrams on the floor to create a protection circle (appears to be made in America, at least).

something evil circle

The wife starts practicing magic with her kids when her husband is not home, sees a crying jar of pulsing red stuff in the barn, and gets attacked by another breeze while looking for her missing son in the yard.

somethng evil jar

This leads to some very brief levitation and demon speak and just the simple words “I love you” to make everything right with the world. Ah, 1970s made-for-TV possession films. To think the director of this film would unleash Jaws on us three years later.

DON’T LOOK NOW (1973)

dont look now cover

Author Daphne du Maurier’s writing has made its mark on horror film history, mostly through Hitchcock’s adaptations of novels Jamaica Inn and Rebecca and her short story The Birds.

In 1973, another du Maurier short story was turned into a film shocker at the hands of Nicolas Roeg, who would go on to make the stuff of childhood nightmares in 1990 with The Witches.

As a full-length film, Don’t Look Now comes across as a story that was a short story elongated into a nearly 2-hour movie. It’s loaded with the kind of visual imagery modern cinema just doesn’t deliver as it explores the grief experienced by a couple after the loss of their daughter.

dont look now drown

An hour and forty minutes of this to get to the big scary twist ending. In other words, from a horror perspective, it’s a great story that would pack an even more powerful punch as an episode of The Twilight Zone.

Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie (whose most recent horror appearance was as Grandmother in Red Riding Hood) lose their young daughter in a drowning accident. So expect loads of water imagery. She was wearing a red raincoat, so expect a lot of red imagery. She fell into the water, so expect a lot of falling imagery. Just before she drowned, their son stepped on a piece of glass, so expect a lot of broken glass imagery. After her death, the couple travels to Venice so the husband can help with restoration of a church, so expect a lot of religious imagery.

dont look now church

And expect major sex just because it was the height of the sexual revolution. The couple has a sex scene that goes on forever. It felt even longer to me not only because it’s a heterosexual scene and because Donald Sutherland gets naked, but because it’s set to some of the worst early 1970s European mellow love-making movie music you could imagine.

 dont look now blind eyes

But let’s get to the important part – the creep factor. The wife encounters two sisters, one of which is blind but clairvoyant. She tells the wife her deceased daughter is happy and safe but has a warning for the husband. When the wife relays the message to her husband and suggests they go see the sisters together, he scoffs at the idea. And yet…he keeps catching fleeting glimpses of a little girl in a red raincoat running around the dark alleys of Venice. Eek!

dont look now redcoat run

It truly is a great and unsettling tale, and the focus becomes solely on Sutherland’s character as he has more and more disturbing visions. But the movie begins to drag and get painfully repetitive…until he at last chases down and corners the little girl.

dont look now corner“JUST WALK AWAY, DONALD! YOU DON’T NEED TO KNOW!”

It is a zinger ending made for an episode of Tales from the Crypt. Which is why it shouldn’t have taken an hour and forty minutes to get to it. Also, for anyone watching the film for the first time, the plot twist will seem quite cliché, because it has been replicated in numerous horror anthology TV shows and movies in the forty plus years since this film was made.

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STREAM QUEEN: zomsicles, woman-hating zombies, classic zombies

It’s so satisfying to have a successful weekend of streaming, especially when it’s all within the same subgenre of horror—and even delivers some variety within that subgenre. That’s the case with this trio of zombie/infected flix I checked out: Attack of the Lederhosen Zombies, On The Brain, and What We Become. Nothing groundbreaking here, so I’ll make this quick, but each film definitely scratched my zombie itch.

ATTACK OF THE LEDERHOSEN ZOMBIES (2016)

 attack of the lederhosen zombies cover

This zombedy is super restrained, as if it fears turning slapstick. I felt like sound effects were missing or some rehearsal footage was used in the final cut, because the energy level seems too chill, almost like the very aspects that make it comedy were put on mute. I rarely ever laughed out loud, yet the film still has its charms.

During a public appearance at a ski resort in the mountains, a really cute professional snowboarder plays a naked prank (we get to see his tight little butt), and then hangs at a local bar with his crew. Within minutes, a zombie outbreak causes chaos!

attack lederhosen bar

This is zomcom lite, with only a few standout moments, including a bear trap scene, the zombies attempting to handle the snowy terrain, and death by ski poles.

attack lederhosen zombie eye

The likeable cast makes the movie work (as does the mere 75-minute running time), and the final battle scene goes all 80s throwback with a fast-paced synth score, the leading man snowboarding his way through the zombies, and the local bar owner getting out the heavy artillery: a snow blower.

attack lederhosen gore

Sure, it’s no Shaun of the Dead, but I had enough fun with this one to add it to my DVD collection.

ON THE BRAIN (2016)

on the brain cover

This one has a noticeably low budget indie feel, but the simplicity of the plot works within those constraints, as does the small town setting. Plus, the limited number of infected have a good “zombie” look with a literal “worm” in their brain, so the horror aspect is pretty impressive.

on the brain truck attack

What at first seems like an isolated incident of domestic abuse soon turns into something more ominous when several similar cases of violence against women occur.

on the brain leading man

The very cute new sheriff in town and his doctor girlfriend intend to find out why men are suddenly going insane.

On The Brain is a pretty fresh take on the infected genre, exploring traditional gender roles against the backdrop of small town life, and how they are magnified by the “infection.” Just as positions of power—the mayor, a doctor, local business owners—are being filled by women, the men begin to turn on them, reminding us of antiquated male/female roles.

on the brain deputy

For instance, a woman being relentlessly pursued by her man as she cowers in a truck with a weapon makes for a great horror scene, yet it plays out disturbingly like an abuse situation. She knows him, she trusts him, and she begs him to stop, screaming, “I don’t want to hurt you!” And because she loves him, she doesn’t hurt him…so you can imagine how that turns out.

on the brain leading ladies

But On The Brain eventually shifts tone, big time. A former love interest of the sheriff’s arrives on the scene like some over-the-top, 80s nighttime soap vixen. You kind of have to go with it if you want to continue enjoying the movie, because suddenly, everything about it feels just like a cheesy 80s horror flick. This may very well be intentional, since focus shifts away from the male sheriff as the hero and onto the vixen teaming up with her archenemy…the sheriff’s doctor girlfriend. Once the film changes course jarringly, their teaming up actually saves it from being a total disappointment.

WHAT WE BECOME (2015)

what we become cover

This Danish “infected” flick is a traditional zombie flick….eventually. At first, it’s kind of like the first season of Fear The Walking Dead meets Disturbia.

A cute young man is just going about his life rebelling against his handsome dad and spying on the pretty new girl that moved in across the street when the news reports of an infectious disease that has begun to spread.

what we become quarantine

There’s an early zombie attack tease, and then all the houses on the family’s street are totally quarantined by guys in Hazmat suits! It’s mostly character development for 45 minutes, with the exception of the son doing the typical stupid thing of sneaking out of the house to see the girl he likes.

what we become leads

But when the first zombie comes a knockin’, it’s classic! Even so, the family and some neighbors continue to build character until the 66-minute mark, when they attempt to leave the house.

what we become outside door

Essentially, the film only runs 80 minutes long without closing credits, so all the traditional zombie clichés take place in 14 minutes, but it’s done quite effectively and intensely, making this one a good modern take on the original Romero formula.

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Multiple maniacs slash through T&A and LGBT to the sounds of 80s new wave

slashermania cover

As a GenXer, I get the distinct pleasure of saying “you had to be there” to those who didn’t live through the 80s.

Well now, you can get a taste of the 20th century’s most totally awesome decade if you missed it, or bask in the memories if you were there, with the graphic novel Slashermania. And I mean graphic. Graphic sex and violence – just the way it was in the days of VHS horror and synthesized music.

slashermania-coitus-cut

Written by Russell Hillman and brought to life visually through the artistic talents of Sergio Calvet, CJ Camba, Jake Isenberg, Ron Joseph, and Harry Saxon, Slashermania catapults us back to 1983 and into a very familiar scenario: a summer camp where teens tell stories around a campfire, do drugs, go off to have sex, listen to new wave music, and get hacked to pieces.

slashermania campfire

However, Hillman’s story incorporates the evolution of horror, pop culture, and society over the four decades since the slasher era exploded to create a unique twist on the genre and put a fresh spin on the often cliché meta experience.

slashermania chainsaw

There are elements of reality TV, the body count is almost as high as the number of pages in the graphic novel, and there are enough killers in this one story to cover a decade’s worth of sequels in one 80s slasher franchise.

slashermania saw

Best of all, Hillman more than makes up for the dismal number of positively portrayed gay and lesbian characters in 80s slashers, because Slashermania is loaded with them!

slashermania gay kiss

But don’t worry. If you’re a purist who likes your 80s LGBTQ characters to be the good old-fashioned threat to society, they’re represented, too—and more fucked up than ever before.

slashermania boys in shower

Yet even with its modern touch, Slashermania is firmly entrenched in the early 1980s. In fact, if you are hardcore 80s, you will appreciate the periodic call-outs letting you know exactly what song is playing in the background as the kids are puffing and blowing, including a soundtrack by the likes of The Go-Go’s, Department S, Toyah, Joe Jackson, The Pretenders, Judas Priest, The Teardrop Explodes, Magazine, and The Clash.

slashermania boys

Slashermania is scheduled for a May 2017 release. For the latest information and updates follow @FreaktownComics on Twitter.

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STREAM QUEEN: holiday horror double feature

Easter is around the corner, Fourth of July isn’t…but it’s always good to plan ahead. So here goes.

EASTER BUNNY BLOODBATH (2010)

easter bunny bloodbath cover

So far, there hasn’t been a definitive Easter horror flick for me, although my holiday horror page has the ones I’m aware of, as well as a bunch that aren’t officially set on Easter but are about killer bunnies (they should all just be set on Easter, because when the hell else would you watch a movie about a killer bunny?).

I must say, I went into Easter Bunny Bloodbath with no expectations because the trailer looked like awful, amateur shot-on-video crap. The movie ended up surprising me. It’s not exactly a holiday horror classic, but in an odd way, it pulls off a slightly campy exploitation retro slasher spoof. It never tries very hard to be any of the above, yet somehow manages to succeed just enough as a bit of all of the above.

easter bunny bloodbath opening

Following the most basic formula, it keeps you watching simply by stringing you along with familiarity, starting by nailing the spirit of the holiday it’s representing. The opening scene has a brother and sister sorting through their Easter candy when someone dressed as the Easter bunny comes knocking on their door…with a cleaver in hand.

Flash to the present (the present being the 80s based on the clothes and the faux metal music). A bunch of friends arrives at a house in the woods, newly inherited by our main guy. Yep, it’s holiday horror with a main guy. And as we get various montages acquainting us with the cast of characters, he keeps catching creepy glimpses of someone in a bunny suit. Cue the eerie music.

easter bunny bloodbath bunny

While there is some humor here, it’s quick and understated without moving into farce, except for the banjo music that plays whenever the local sheriff comes on screen. Has to be one of the most exhausted redneck jokes ever and I can’t believe this otherwise clever movie went there (I much prefer the more original, dark Easter bunny song the main guy sings to his girlfriend while strumming on his guitar). The film is also smartly subtle in delivering all the usual slasher clichés—we recognize them immediately, yet they don’t feel forced just for the sake of inclusion.

easter bunny bloodbath cleaver

The kills are fun, but gore effects are intentionally cartoonish—predominantly CGI blood splatters hitting the camera lens. Even when the Easter bunny sticks a chick’s face into a boiling pot of water, it comes out pretty much unscathed, so the Easter bunny stomps on her head so CGI blood can hit the camera lens! Yawn.

easter bunny bloodbath hot water

However, one fun exploitation moment involves male genitalia. I would have loved a little more of that considering they went there…and considering there’s a lesbian couple in the film that gets off relatively easy (and I’m not talking about during their shower scene).

easter bunny bloodbath impressive

easter bunny bloodbath impressive splat

If Easter Bunny Bloodbath had wanted to go for more of a genuine horror feel, a little post-production reworking, such as some suspenseful atmosphere and jump scares, as well as an effective score (the soundtrack is hokey during death scenes) and editing tricks to intensify the kills, could have made this a holiday horror classic.

YOU ARE NOT ALONE (2014)

 you are not alone cover

I really wanted to give You Are Not Alone a chance because it was going for something fresh, but it went from boring me to tears for 53 minutes to pissing me off from like the 55-minute mark to the end.

To avoid the “found footage” label, the entire film is seen through the eyes of our main girl, a young woman home from college on July 4th weekend. For 53 minutes, we hang around town with her as she reconnects with locals and hangs with her two besties, including a guy with a nice chunky butt.

you are not alone BFF

When they go to a fireworks show at the park at night, a very loud announcement is made that two children are missing – Tommy and Lindsey. I assumed it was going to have some significance beyond those being the names of the kids Laurie Strode babysat, but nope. I guess it was just an Easter egg about Halloween on Independence Day.

After the friends go to a party, the main girl walks home alone and the atmosphere suddenly, finally turns very ominous. The really odd thing is, because we’re seeing out her eyes, it feels like she is the killer POV. Trippy. Anyway, she enters her house, and soon after some nicely dressed young man is standing outside.

you are not alone outside

This film has such potential to be really scary, and it actually is at times, but that’s completely negated by the almost immediate absurdity.

you are not alone mask

See, this is just some normal dude terrorizing her (he wears a mask for like, a second). She runs to the neighbor’s house for help, and he seems annoyed as she’s all like “Call the police! He’s after me!” There’s a knock at the door and she meekly whispers “no” from the other side of the room while the neighbor goes to open it! WTF? Why isn’t she on top of him and dragging him away from the door? That pretty much finished my tolerance for the film.

But the stupidity doesn’t end there. The killer dude gets her, does a little dance performance for her, and then…places the knife on her! WTF? She picks it up and lightly grazes him with it before running off!

you are not alone girl knife

After that, she wanders the town for the rest of the movie. A town on Fourth of July weekend, yet it seems like she’s ALL ALONE. The movie is called You Are NOT Alone. Where the fuck did everyone go after the fireworks at the park? Why doesn’t she go to the police? And why does the killer dude keep finding her? He’s not Michael fricking Myers. He’s just a dude. And why when she goes back to her house does her brother immediately cower behind a couch when she barely manages to tell him some random dude is coming for her? And why when the killer dude comes in the house and starts to fight the brother does she run out of the house and leave her brother to perhaps lose the fight?

you are not alone guy knife

Bitch, the killer dude is just a DUDE and he’s on your turf and there are two of you. WTF? I can’t with this movie. I really can’t.

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The horror of Amazing Stories

amazing stories title card

Way back at the beginning of the 1970s, Steven Spielberg directed a creepy little made-for-TV haunted house movie called Something Evil before breaking into the big time in 75 with Jaws and then moving on to aliens with Close Encounters of the Third Kind in 77. By the 1980s, his touch was magic, whether directing or producing films, and he was a massive force in the horror, sci-fi, and fantasy genres.

And so he brought that magic to the small screen with the anthology series Amazing Stories. Spielberg was just a producer on the show, with many well-known directors of the time taking on individual episodes, which featured plenty of familiar actors of the day. Despite the high production values, the series only lasted two seasons, perhaps because of its inconsistent tone—each episode definitely has that Spielberg magic, but the catch is, Spielberg’s magic spans a wide range. Therefore, Amazing Stories offered a little of everything. There were sci-fi stories, campy comedy, Twilight Zone-ish tales, poignant heartstring pullers, fantastical yarns, family fun episodes, and yes, horror that might be too scary for the kiddies to watch.

It took years, but season 2 was finally released on DVD. Although it’s an Australian release, it is indeed region free. Wahoo! So I can at last do a post about the entire series. Naturally, I’m going to give a brief rundown of only the most awesomely 80s horror/sci-fi episodes of each season.

SEASON 1

amazing stories season 1 dvd

“Mummy Daddy” – While filming a movie as a mummy in a swamp, an actor gets notice that his wife is in labor.

amazing stories 1 mummy daddy

Without time to get out of his costume, he races to the hospital…only to be hunted by the local rednecks, who think he’s a real monster. Bronson Pinchot, aka: Balki of Perfect Strangers fame, plays the director of the film.

“The Amazing Falsworth” – It couldn’t start any more 80s horror than this – neon lights drench an alley as a woman is strangled by a killer in a trench coat…who then strangles a homeless man trying to call the police in a phone booth.Awesome.

amazing stories 1 amazing falsworth

The story focuses on the late great dancer Gregory Hines as a nightclub psychic who picks up the vibes of the killer in the audience.

“Fine Tuning” – Actor Bob Balaban, who would go on to direct horror comedies Parents and My Boyfriend’s Back, brings us this sci-fi episode about teens who make contact with aliens obsessed with American television. Stars Matthew Labyorteaux of Deadly Friend.

“The Sitter” – Mama from What’s Happening!! is a Jamaican voodoo babysitter, so bratty Seth Green and his brother better watch out!

“Boo!” – Joe Dante of Gremlins and The Howling fame, brings us a porn episode! How modern. Actually, a sweet old ghost couple isn’t so happy when a porn star and her sleazy husband move into the house they inhabit. So they try their hardest to be scary and get rid of them.

amazing stories 1 boo

“Mirror, Mirror” – Martin Scorsese directs this creepy story about a horror author – played by Sam Waterson – who doesn’t believe in what he writes…until he begins seeing a gruesome stalker every time he looks in the mirror.

amazing stories 1 mirror mirror

“Hell Toupee” – Irvin Kershner, director of the thriller Eyes of Laura Mars, gets campy, with a tale of a moving, killer toupee!

amazing stories season 2 dvd

SEASON 2

“The Wedding Ring” – Danny DeVito directs and stars in this campy killer episode with real life wife Rhea Perlman.

amazing stories 2 wedding ring

There’s an anniversary gift, mannequins with knives, and Rhea transforming into a bombshell psycho seductress.

“Miscalculation” – Horror director Tom Holland (Fright Night, Child’s Play, The Temp, Thinner) gives Weird Science a darker twist, with Jon Cryer as a weirdo college kid who figures out how to bring women in magazines to life.

“Welcome To My Nightmare” – One of my favorite episodes, this one has a horror-loving teen landing in the most infamous scene from Psycho, wearing a dress and all! Keep an eye out for Christina Applegate, pre-Married With Children.

amazing stories 2 welcome to my nightmare

“The Greibble” – A campy episode about a woman who takes in a big, goofy, troublemaking creature that shows up at her doorstep after a rainstorm…and would you believe it’s from Gremlins director Joe Dante? This one stars Disney child star Hayley Mills of the original The Parent Trap from 1961.

“Life On Death Row” – While not a particular favorite of mine, this one from director Mick Garris (Critters 2, Psycho IV, Sleepwalkers, The Stand, Riding The Bullet, The Shining mini-series) is notable for sharing the same premise as Stephen King’s novel The Green Mile, which came a decade later. Patrick Swayze stars as a man on death row who has the power to heal.

“Go To The Head Of The Class” – This special one-hour episode is another favorite. Mary Stuart Masterson and Scott Coffey, who would reunite for Some Kind of Wonderful, play a couple of teens who use black magic to get back at their mean teacher, played by Christopher Lloyd.

amazing stories 2 go to the head of the class

Things go horribly wrong, with macabre results, and Lloyd rules! Directed by Robert Zemeckis of Back To The Future fame, this one could easily be an episode of Tales From The Crypt (Zemeckis directed some of those, too).

“Such Interesting Neighbors” – When truly bizarre things begin happening at a family’s house one night, they suspect the weirdness is coming from the new neighbors, so they begin spying on them. Things take a very 80s family sci-fi turn, and new waver Adam Ant stars!

amazing stories 2 such interesting neighbors

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STREAM QUEEN: witches, killer imaginary friend, and meta slasher

One is no The Craft, one is no Drop Dead Fred, and one is no—well, I can’t say or it would spoil the third movie a bit. But are any of these flix worth a watch despite the fact that they don’t live up to the films they’re kind of derivative of?

SISTERHOOD OF DEATH (2012)

 sisterhood of death cover

I’m always up for 3 bitchy witchy babes working their magic on unsuspecting dudes. Ivey Bronwen of Run, Hide, Die is perfect as the head witch of a trio that lures men to a warehouse with the promise of a burlesque show. But they’re actually bringing them there to feed them to demons in exchange for more powers. I was really expecting some trashy fun.

sisterhood of death witch

Thing is, this movie is all talk and no action for a majority of its running time! For the first 45 minutes, the first victim tries on different outfits in front of his mirror while the witches are busy doing some magic warm ups (which include a lesbian kiss). When the victim arrives at the warehouse, there’s a lot of boring ritual foreplay before a demon finally comes to chow on him.

sisterhood of death demon attack

At least the pace picks up after that and gets a bit darker. The next victim is disposed of quicker and more intensely, the first victim’s crazy religious fanatic mother visits a psychic medium to try to contact him from the beyond, and the three witches begin to turn on each other. But overall, it’s a very underwhelming movie that doesn’t standout in any particular aspect—it’s not sexy, not campy, not gory, not scary.

sisterhood of death demon

However, whether intentional or not, there’s an interesting, underlying queer element to the witches luring men in, strapping them to a chair, and feeding them to shirtless male demons. Particularly the first victim, who takes almost an hour to pretty up, sees visions of a beefy demon when he looks in the mirror, and lives with a religious mother that still spanks him regularly when he sins or thinks about sex.

MY BLOODY BANJO (2015)

 my bloody banjo cover

I was expecting this one to be a quirky, crass, over-the-top piece of trashy cinema, and the opening scene set my expectations high…a guy’s bitchy girlfriend whips off the condom after sex and pours the contents all over his face (and in his mouth).

my bloody banjo spill

But the film segues into a rather long segment that’s essentially a warped Office Space, focusing mostly on how our protagonist is bullied to the extreme by everyone at work, including his girlfriend and his boss. It’s strictly exaggerated cruelty, and there’s nothing particularly funny, even from a dark humor perspective. And then, the protagonist apparently breaks his dick when being raped by his bitchy girlfriend. There’s blood-gushing crotch galore as the film progresses, and it becomes a chronic problem for him.

my bloody banjo break

Humiliated that everyone at work finds out he broke his dick, the protagonist gets out a Ouija board and summons his childhood imaginary friend. You have to wonder why his imaginary friend looks like an even more demented version of Jim Carrey in The Mask.

 my bloody banjo friend

Anyway, after that, this sloppy film turns into a brutal version of Drop Dead Fred. Really, that’s it. This movie is a more obscene, less cohesive rip-off of Drop Dead Fred. Therefore, it’s not surprising to see Lloyd Kaufman pop up in a cameo and for the movie to end with a shooting massacre in the office.

Just watch Drop Dead Fred instead.

FEAR, INC. (2016)

fear inc cover

We’ve come to the point at which meta horror is referencing meta horror. Fear, Inc. offers plenty of nods to Scream while pretty much referencing all the 80s slashers Scream referenced. Although there are a few more contemporary mentions, like Saw, this is essentially a horror film that will probably speak more to Gen-Xers than younger horror fans.

fear inc breslin

For me personally, after opening with newly anointed scream queen Abigail Breslin in the intro kill, the beginning of the film was a bit slow. Lucas Neff of Raising Hope fame plays a horror junkie. While hanging out with his girlfriend (Caitlin Stasey of All Cheerleaders Die) and their friends (Stephanie Drake of Mad Men and Chris Marquette of Freddy vs. Jason, Infestation, The Rite, and Night of the Living Deb), he calls a company that puts you in a horror movie.

fear inc killer

Before long, a hooded, masked killer shows up at their door. This is where the film becomes fun and funny, with our main man getting a kick out of all the horror clichés, dropping horror references left and right, and playing along with the killer, while his friends are freaking out as they’re chased around the house. Of course, the audience is on to the fact that all of this might very well not be part of an elaborate game, but the work of an actual killer.

fear inc saw

And naturally, that’s when all the twists begin to hit. There are enough to keep things interesting—not to mention, enough to send the film off the rails. But at least they’re the rails of an okay roller coaster ride. The real flaw, if you can call it that, is in the fact that since all the horror in-jokes are aimed at fans who have been dedicated to the genre for at least four decades, it’s pretty much guaranteed that said audience is versed enough in all the tricks of the genre to guess every single plot twist that is thrown at us. Which is why the film feels the need to just keep piling them on.

Like I said in the opener of this blog, there’s a particular film (hint: it’s an 80s holiday horror film) that gave us the kind of twist we get here…and so this film tries to repeatedly outdo that very same twist, which we continually keep guessing will happen because we’ve seen that movie, and we can’t imagine the filmmaker would want to simply steal the same ending.

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#KilljoySoWhite…and…#KindOfGay

killjoys psycho circus cover

Want a prime example of how OCD can destroy lives? Even though I should have stopped after the franchise took a turn for the worse with the third film, I’m still buying Killjoy movies on DVD because I began way back in 2000, and I would go insane if my collection wasn’t complete. But even more psychologically damaging? With this latest installment, I’ve learned that I’ve been lied to almost from the start…

After Killjoy Goes To Hell, Killjoy escapes hell! Now he’s back on earth, and he and his campy crew have their own TV show. Meanwhile, Beelzebub has manned a spaceship to come looking for Killjoy to drag him back to hell.

killjoys psycho circus beelzebub

Honestly, Full Moon Features just doesn’t give a fuck anymore. It spits in the face of horror, horror comedy, exploitation films, and midnight movies by taking the concept of shit cinema and deep-frying it in shit that’s been impacted in the colon of a constipated pig for three months. Killjoy’s Psycho Circus plays out like a (more) demented, (more) adult version of Pee-wee’s Playhouse. It’s mostly just an array of stupid characters in nonsensical skits that aren’t funny at all.

kiilljoys psycho circus electric chair

It’s unfortunate that they can’t seem to write any quality material, because as far as cheesy crap goes, there was some potential here. Beelzebub eventually enlists 6 psychos to hunt down Killjoy. It’s a good plot point that could have carried the film, with each psycho getting a glorified hologram introduction, but it goes nowhere.

killjoys psycho circus psycho hologram

Instead, when the conflict finally begins, after a brief laser gun battle, Killjoy’s clan and Beelzebub’s alien army have a spaceship battle to the death.

killjoys psycho circus spaceship

On the bright side, visually the film looks great. There’s a faux Mortal Kombat techno theme song when two chicks battle it out. And there’s some Full Moon crossover – a common incestuous practice of recent years – with the Evil Bong franchise (and yes, I still have to buy part 5 even though part 4 was a shitfest). Best of all, things get gay when two hotties – a muscle boy, and a full-bodied leather bear – try to sell Killjoy weapons. Their dirty talk and writhing is so sexy I could have listened to it for the entire movie.

killjoys psycho circus boys and bears

killjoys psycho circus bearnip

But now comes the moment that may have killed the Killjoy franchise for me for good. It changes everything I thought I knew to be good and true about Killjoy, and I can’t believe I’ve been scammed since 2002 and didn’t know it.

Here’s the deal. Killjoy got his start as an urban horror icon. The first film is a supernatural slasher. A bullied kid in the ghetto uses black magic on a clown doll, and when he is shot dead by his gangster bullies, he comes back as the clown and begins to kill them off. The urban slasher theme continued in the second film, but by the third film, things began to shift. The cast of victims was predominantly white, and all Killjoy’s ridiculous sidekicks were introduced.

But little did I know, Killjoy himself had been whitewashed beginning with the second film, and the truth is revealed by a meta scene in Killjoy’s Psycho Circus. Fucking Killjoy has been played by a white man since the second film! WTF? One Trent Haaga shows his true color in this film when he appears as himself on Killjoy’s show. Yes, Killjoy (aka: white boy Trent Haaga) plays opposite white boy Trent Haaga, as they bicker about whether or not the guy playing Killjoy since the second film is better than the guy who played Killjoy in the first film.

killjoys psycho circus trent haaga

I would be giddy about the massive in-joke if I wasn’t hit by the awful truth. I’ve been duped. One of my favorite black horror baddies has been a fricking white dude for all but one film. Fuck you, Full Moon Features. I bought a 50 fricking dollar doll of this damn character at a horror convention, and now I find out it’s nothing but a fucking Ken doll in clown makeup.

 

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STREAM QUEEN: not exactly your top shelf horror anthology triple feature

I can’t really say there’s any tale in any of these “anthologies” that I’ll remember a few months from now, and only one of the movies is your traditional anthology setup. Here’s a breakdown of each film.

SCARY TALES (2014)

 scary tales cover

I’m beginning with this indie film that follows the traditional anthology format, and actually has a sequel, which I blogged about here a while back. But that’s no Creepshow 2, and this is no Creepshow. The stories just fall flat and don’t deliver anything in the way of chills and thrills.

However, I was liking the wraparound, in which four friends gather at a cabin for a high school reunion, make references to mullets, acid wash jeans, the band Winger, CDs, and cassettes, and participate in some gay banter. And then they start telling scary tales….

1st story – A pretty crazy dude is fired from his job at a factory, and then a demon in the woods teaches him a lesson for being a remorseless bully.

scary tales bully demon

2nd story – A young woman and her cousin are on the run after something awful happens to her abusive stepfather. As fate would have it, they end up running into some occult trouble in a house in the woods.

scary tales witches

3rd story – After a game of poker, the losers kill the winner, so he comes back from the dead for payback.

scary tales poker

4th story – Some kid wants to make it to the other side of an infamous railroad bridge that no one has ever successfully crossed, but even attempting it has deadly consequences.

scary tales train tracks

The wraparound becomes the final story, and while the concept is fun and involves a werewolf, the hairy beast’s transformation is quickly just implied before the credits role. Yawn.

PARANOIA TAPES (2015)

paranoia tapes movie

This is an anthology of sorts in which we are bombarded by seemingly unrelated found footage clips, some of them more interesting than others.

paranoia tapes clown face

The fact that there’s a “wraparound” scenario – a guy watching a bunch of videotapes he finds after his father goes missing – makes it seem like this is all going to tie in together at the end. I think it might have, but if so, I didn’t get it.

paranoia tapes bat girl

Aside from notable horror references – a guy in a creepy mask with a Negan Lucille bat recites the Freddy Krueger rhyme, a chick mixes up The Grudge with The Ring when talking about watching the wraparound guy’s videotapes, some guys in the woods have a run-in with a Slender Man type character – most of the clips involve people killing people they know.

paranoia tapes slender man

I’m sure it all somehow comes together at the end, but I was just too busy looking for a distraction, any distraction, to completely follow it. However, these boys temporarily got my attention.

paranoia tales garage

THE VOID (2016)

 void cover

This movie brings together a bunch of short films as one anthology, so each story has a title card at the beginning and closes with end credits.

void suicidemask

Many of these tales aren’t so much horror as they are fantastical, just plain artsy, or virtually impossible to understand, so I was rarely transfixed. Some of the stories even run less than a minute long.

void guys

One story notably begins with a gay guy talking about the suicide of his boyfriend at the urging of anonymous trolls on a suicide Website, another is a quirky tale of a high school girl using the occult to get revenge on her bitchy peers.

void occult shop

But my favorite, which is the kind of short you would find on YouTube and get a chuckle from, is a comic tale of a little boy’s encounter with a ghost in his house. If only the other tales had been this much fun….

void ghost

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TRIPLE FEATURE TIME: torture porn, creature feature comedy, and backwoods slasher

This trio from 2006-2007 gives us a low budget yet hardcore gore porn experience, some cheesy SyFy slime creature fun, and a crazy backwoods family terrorizing kids at a cabin in the woods. These are probably not movies you’d seek out, but if you stumbled upon them accidentally, you might not be able to look away once you’ve started watching.

THE TRAVELER (2006)

traveler cover

This is a low budget indie take on the craze of torture movies in which a group of strangers is trapped together and forced to play a “Survivor” game of voting on who dies next.

traveler couple

Here, a couple’s car breaks down on a deserted road, so they find an old house in which a group of friends is just squatting for thrills. The place is called the “Death House” because numerous murders took place there. What the group doesn’t expect is for some refined looking gentleman with an English accent to come in, explain to them the killing game he’s about to make them play to see who will be the lone survivor, and then proceed to use supernatural powers to hold everyone in place up against the wall while he tortures and mutilates them one by one.

traveler baddie

To be really clear, this is extremely low budget shot-on-video stuff, the film doesn’t need to run an hour and 44 minutes, and generally, if you’re going to watch this kind of film, you’ll probably want to stick to one with higher production value. However, there is a specific audience that will revel in this film: gore hounds.

traveler mouth torture

The long run time is due to the fact that nothing is left to the imagination. This man absolutely tears these people to bits in grisly, gruesome, and often inventive ways. He may be supernatural, but he uses good old sharp weapons to kill them as painfully as possible.

traveler face peel

Seriously, this feels like a movie made by a special effects master who wanted to show off some major talent.

SOMETHING BENEATH (2007)

something beneath cover

This SyFy movie is just silly and cheeky enough to be more entertaining than it should be. I guess that’s because director David Winning’s long career includes episodes of Friday the 13th: The Series, Are You Afraid Of The Dark?, and Todd and the Book Of Pure Evil.

I mostly had no fucking idea what was going on for a majority of the film. There’s some sort of underground dig where workers are being killed after getting slime on their hands. There are environmentalists clashing with climate-denying businessmen. People are pulled into alternate dimensions and terrorized by a variety of weird and creepy creatures while attending an ecology conference.

something beneath leads

Kevin Sorbo is a priest who teams up with the woman running the event, played by Natalie Brown (The Strain, Dawn of the Dead remake, Channel Zero, Saw V, Being Human, Bitten) to investigate the strange shit that’s happening.

something beneath demon woman

They end up underground with a wacky scientist, chasing a slimy creature that makes people die by experiencing their worst fears. Ah. It all makes sense at last.

something beneath boss

When we finally see the giant creature in an underground facility, not only is it cool looking, it’s like a boss battle from a Resident Evil video game, complete with tentacles and a puckering orifice that resembles a va-jay-jay. SyFy should aspire to deliver this kind of cheesy creature feature fun on a regular basis.

DAY OF THE AX (2007)

day of the ax cover

When you start watching a shot-on-video movie called Day Of The Ax and the killer is wielding a sledgehammer, your expectations immediately adjust to “temporarily out of order.” So, as no budget backwoods horror films clearly inspired by Texas Chainsaw Massacre go, this one does an OK job of capturing that spirit a few times in its 70-minute running time.

It opens with ominous looking black and white footage of a crime scene while a narrator informs us of the killer’s backstory. Then we get our first couple kill in the woods, complete with boobs and beaver, a creepy score, and an effectively threatening killer with a sack over his head.

day of ax killer

Next, we meet a detective investigating the murder, a group of friends heading to a cabin in the woods, and a crazy chick who keeps young women strapped up in an old shed…but does a really crappy job of it because they keep getting away.

day of ax shed woman

Understand, this is all very low budget. The bottom line is, a trio of psychos (crazy shed girl, sack head, and a hillbilly who acts like Chop-Top in Texas Chainsaw 2) kills some random people in the woods before finally terrorizing and torturing the kids in the cabin. Although most parties involved in this production come across as very amateur, the crazies give pretty good performances. While the gore is good in the final scenes, there’s nothing scary or suspenseful here to keep us riveted.

day of ax crazies

It’s a valiant effort at going for that grisly TCM tone, but the truth is, unless you can really deliver the sense of dread created by a film like that, your movie is sure to come across as nothing more than a horror fan’s attempt to live out a dream of being the one responsible for making a classic movie…that’s already been made.

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The gay horrors of What Lurks In Darkness

what lurks in darkness cover

I’m so far behind in my “to read” list that it has taken me over a month after its release to actually cover a gay horror fiction collection in which I myself have two stories! What Lurks In Darkness, edited by David D. Warner, is his follow-up to the gay horror anthology In Darkness Peering, which I cover here.

This new collection features 9 tales of gay characters confronted by the terrifying and the inexplicable and touches  upon a variety of horror subgenres, from supernatural creatures to psycho killers. Here’s a little terror tease of each:

what lurks - david warner

“The Machine” by David D. Warner – A gay man living in a boardinghouse keeps his feelings for one of his housemates to himself…until he becomes obsessed with a mysterious woman who breezes into town.

 

what lurks - dan kelly

“Dead Lovers Quarrel” by Daniel W. Kelly – The socially embraced love of the most popular guy and girl in school takes a morbid turn when they come upon a wickedly vengeful gay classmate’s place of worship in the woods. If you’ve been reading my Comfort Cove horror series, you’ll recognize one of the characters in this story!

“Oozy Bruisy” by Daniel W. Kelly – Gay twin brothers get more than they bargained for when they repeat an urban legend of a disgusting monster that terrorizes kids in their bedrooms at night. Expect these boys to show up in Comfort Cove later in my series of novels!

 

what lurks - guy lozier

“Secrets” by Guy Lozier – Convinced his boyfriend is sneaking off for secret trysts at night, a gay man gets his straight buddy’s help in uncovering the horrific truth of what’s really going on.

 

what lurks - DC Phillips

“Figment” by D.C. Phillips – Things get very Twilight Zone when a man realizes his son has the same exact imaginary friend he did growing up.

“Shattered” by D.C. Phillps – They gay-bashed two young boys years ago and have no remorse about it as adults…so now it’s payback time.

 

what lurks - patrick raith

“Love Nest” by Patrick Raith – After the zombie apocalypse, a gay couple scavenging empty buildings for supplies discovers that making the slightest sound could wake the dead…literally.

 

what lurks - peter saenz

“Survival” by Peter Saenz – This fast-paced tale reads like a backwoods slasher from beginning to end. While on the way to visit family, a gay couple is relentlessly chased by a crazed killer.

“The Wailing Woman” by Peter Saenz – A campfire story about a wailing woman proves to be hauntingly real for a group of gay friends just looking to have a good time during a weekend in the woods.

 

What Lurks In Darkness is now available in paperback.

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