It’s a horror comedy creature double feature, and one of them features comic duo Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. So which of these two films would I prefer to have in my private collection?
BOOK OF MONSTERS (2018)
Book of Monsters is such a teens vs. monsters gory comedy party flick that it is only somewhat hindered by horrible sound mixing that leaves everything—dialogue, sound effects, music—sounding flat and presented at the wrong volume levels, which tends to spoil the effectiveness of the non-stop action.
Getting past that issue, this is still worth a watch if you appreciate practical monster costumes and makeup.
Especially notable is that the main girl, who is celebrating her eighteenth birthday, is a lesbian looking for love.
With a quick setup introducing the main players, we get right to the birthday party—and a male stripper. Wahoo!
Unfortunately, he doesn’t get a chance to take much off or play with his toys because…
All hell breaks loose within minutes! Hellish monsters crash the party, body parts fly, kids run screaming, and it becomes a roller coaster ride of kids, creatures, and kills.
There is an occult book, demon possession, axe fights, and a backstory concerning the main girl’s family, but really, it’s all about the monster madness with this one.
SLAUGHTERHOUSE RULEZ (2018)
You would think Simon Pegg and Nick Frost in a movie about underground creatures coming up from a sinkhole to terrorize kids at a private school would be like, I don’t know, maybe…Shaun of the Dead with underground creatures instead of zombies.
It happens eventually….59 fricking minutes into the film. I don’t understand how anyone involved in making this film did not decide while screening the finished product that it needed to either be edited or have more scenes shot to prevent the agonizing first hour from happening. There isn’t even a lone monster kill teaser in that time, such as some throwaway character coming across the sinkhole and getting pulled in to give us a taste of what’s to come.
It’s merely an hour of dealing with the students and their issues, and not in a fun, entertaining way.
I was afraid my hubby was going to call it a night and go to bed rather than see it through with me.
It does finally kick in big time, in a good Attack the Block way, with kids being torn apart in over-the-top massacres by cool four-legged monsters.
But don’t expect Pegg and Frost to take the lead in the fighting. They are both minor characters used to draw name recognition, Frost even less present than Pegg.
The first hour of this film should have been edited down to 30 minutes to bring on the monster party earlier. There’s no reason for it to run an hour and 43 minutes.
I blind purchased Slaughterhouse Rulez on DVD to add to my already kick ass Pegg/Frost horror/sci-fi comedy collection, but if they weren’t in it and I had seen both of these films before deciding to purchase one, I would have gone with Book of Monsters.
Me being me, I probably could have assessed what I would think of each of these three films before even watching them, but I gave each one a chance anyway. So here goes.
SHELLMONT COUNTY MASSACRE (2019)
Start a movie with a hot redneck sheriff and deputy brother team and you’ve definitely got my attention. While Shellmont County Massacre does a great job of painting (what I assume is) an authentic feeling of rural life, I definitely think the filmmaker should have refrained from having one of the characters make a Jew joke within the first few minutes…and then a little while later referencing someone as a retard. I braced myself for more bigoted language to follow, such as homophobic and racist comments. While I was relieved it didn’t happen, if you want to attract a wider horror audience, it’s better not to set that tone unless there’s a reason behind it…such as intentionally wanting to create an unlikable, bigoted character.
That aside, I was super impressed with the various components of this indie film. It’s sort of a horror/cop-hunts-serial-killer hybrid. The kills are brutal with practical effects (yay!), and the guy playing the killer is absolutely fantastic in his cackling insanity.
However, there were definitely some missed opportunities to extend kill sequences to include prolonged suspense—for instance, a scene in which a mother is killed and then the killer goes after her son. At the same time, there’s another scene of the killer absolutely terrorizing a family that is…dare I say it…perfectly executed as he slowly and cruelly mind fucks them.
This isn’t a scarefest. It’s more a dramatic gorefest. The film smartly focuses mostly on the sheriff and his family, not distracting us with too many extraneous characters. You rarely see family dynamics so well-defined in an indie film, and their relationships become the driving force behind the sheriff’s determination to catch the fucker responsible for slaughtering the people of his town.
There are some questionable aspects to the plot. In a small town, you’d think it would be hard for a dude as weird and psychotic as this killer to slip by unnoticed, especially since he most often does his killing during the day and walks around brazenly (even if it is in like fields and shit). And despite the shocking nature of the kills, the locals don’t really seem to adjust their behavior and live more cautiously to avoid being the next victim.
Some twists really take the film to some deliciously unexpected places, there’s an awesomely bizarre final chase between the sheriff and killer (I can’t reiterate enough how great the killer’s performance is), and, well, the sheriff is a wrestler type who does us the favor of getting shirtless.
THE UNWILLING (2016)
The Unwilling is a pretty standard supernatural thriller, but it’s not without its charms. Just don’t expect any mind-blowing horror or scares and you can have some fun with it.
Lance Henriksen plays a curmudgeonly old guy who dies…then sticks around to complicate matters when they have a will-reading party at the house of his agoraphobic son.
It’s one of those films in which a bunch of people comes together in a house, there are clashes and drama, and then the supernatural takes over and people start dying.
Is that a pen in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?
Among the cast at the gathering is Elm Street 2 and Vamp cutie Robert Rusler (who has a brief gay moment) and Dina Meyer of the Saw franchise. They and the rest of the group discover a creepy black box on the front steps.
Foolishly, they decide to follow the directions that come with it, and then each person begins experiencing supernatural shit, some seeming to become possessed to cause more extreme trouble.
A simple, familiar plot, it still manages to entertain for a while, but I did feel that instead of ramping up as it draws to a conclusion, the film fizzles out, with a twist that doesn’t help make it any more intriguing.
MERCY BLACK (2019)
The director of the horror party film Blood Fest delivers what is essentially another Slender Man plot by a different name. This one might be best saved for a tween slumber party…
This is a typical mainstream supernatural horror, so absolutely nothing here was new or unique to me. Or scary, for that matter.
Janeane Garofalo as a therapist is about the most unexpected thing you’ll find here. As for the plot, a young woman gets released from a mental institution, having performed a ritual to unleash the urban legend of Mercy Black as a child…which included using another young girl as a sacrifice.
She goes to live with her sister, whose son becomes obsessed with the legend, which has gone viral since the main girl was a child. And the son is convinced Mercy Black is in their house.
The first sign that this is going to be as desperate an attempt at a scary movie as can be is that the first scares are nothing but a dream. Ugh.
So it’s up to the main girl to save her nephew from Mercy Black. Cue the kid drawings mysteriously depicting the legendary creep in perfect detail, a library trip, a visit with someone affected by the legend in the past, and flashbacks revealing how it all works. And of course, Mercy Black starts making appearances. Honestly, Mercy looks like a scarecrow…minus the scares.
Don’t go into this video game named after the Brad Pitt movie expecting some sort of sequel, prequel, or canon side story. Don’t even really expect much of a story. In the style of Dead Rising(or a third person version of Dead Island or Left 4 Dead), World War Z is all about being surrounded by hordes of zombies that you must annihilate before being eaten alive. And like those games, it’s all daylight and not meant to have creepy or scary atmosphere. This is all about the nonstop action.
The game has been hyped for its co-op mode, but since that is online only, as is pretty much every game these days because apparently society no longer wants people to be sitting in the same room together anymore, I played the game in single player offline mode.
Trying to navigate to offline mode through the menu is as challenging as the game play. The first menu only has a co-op mode. Turns out you have to choose co-op, which then causes a screen to pop up telling you a Playstation Plus account is needed to play. WTF? It then pushes you to the Playstation Store when you hit “accept”, the ONLY option. Then you have to back out of that and finally get a message that you can’t play online without an account before being taken to a menu that lets you choose offline mode.
Next you get to make some choices. Number one for me? Easy mode. This game is fucking hard even on easy. I almost gave up after failing the first mission, but then I did some research on the game mechanics and did better the second time.
You get to choose one of four characters, each with unique strengths and different starting equipment. I think. Much of this is very confusing, because there’s a “class” menu that gives you a variety of traits to pick that apply to whichever character you choose (personally, I always picked the most daddy bear type guy).
Each class focuses specifically on a particular specialty (medic, gunslinger, etc.).
Finally, you get to choose your mission. Unlike most games, all missions are available from the start and you can play whichever you want. However, they do increase in difficulty, so until you really get a grasp of the game, you’ll want to take them in order. The breakdown consists of choosing from 4 different countries (the fourth country is add-on DLC included in an update), and each country has 3 levels. There is definitely a chronological “plot” in each country, so it flows naturally if you play the three levels in order. However, each country is like a reset with its own unique plot and four completely different characters.
The game is very repetitive as you move through the different countries. All that changes is the scenery: derelict buildings, a mall, subway tunnels, a snowy city, a ship, etc. Each level simply has you on a mission to get to a destination, with various challenges to tackle along the way. You may have to guard an area for a certain period of time until a gate unlocks. You sometimes need to escort someone or something (like a bus) a certain distance while keeping zombies from getting them. Or you might have to hunt down a series of items—say bombs or fuel—to then deliver to a particular spot so you can move on to the next section. Oddly, an on screen arrow literally directs you to exactly where you need to go to find these things, so the biggest challenge is to do it without dying from a zombie onslaught. The most annoying thing about it? You can only pick up one at a time, so you have to go drop it off, then go back out to get the next one, etc. This means you are repeatedly subjected to an onslaught of zombies with each journey.
When you play the game solo, you are accompanied by three AI characters. The AI is pretty damn efficient in helping you clear out zombies, but not much else. You have to do all the heavy lifting. You have to follow whatever instructions you are given, and you end up feeling like you aren’t a part of the actual action and simply the errand boy at times. I’d be trying to accomplish something, and when I finished I would turn around to discover the AI guys had killed all the zombies. Normally I would be thrilled about that except for the fact that in this game you score points to level up when you actually do the killing.
The other thing is, you are responsible for healing each teammate (their health bars appear on screen at all times). This is frustrating because you can only carry one health at a time. Most often, health and other items (grenades, ammo, weapons, etc.) are all found together in supply hubs you come across in each area. You rarely stumble upon individual items to pick up, which means it’s usually pointless to explore areas that branch off instead of just following the arrow to exactly where you need to go. There are also doors to supply closets that you can only get into with explosives, but the amount of explosives you can find is minimal, so you rarely get to take advantage of a supply closet.
There’s an even worse catch to health…and every other time for that matter. Every action you take, whether picking up supplies, healing, or interacting with a keypad, requires you to hold down a button until a little circle prompt gets fully outlined on screen, and this always happens in real time, so you can get your ass kicked by zombies while you’re trying to pick up a damn health. WTF? In real time, it doesn’t take like five seconds to pick shit up. So annoying, and it only gets worse when the game grows harder and you are swarmed by zombies. You can’t do anything but die!
While you need to refill ammo periodically at supply hubs, luckily you never have to hook up your AI friends, who don’t seem to run out of ammo. They also will lend you a helping hand if you are downed by zombies…provided they can get to you. Seriously, when the various mega zombies attack and knock you down, you have no way to fight them off yourself as in most games. You literally have to just lie there and take it, hoping one of your teammates will come to your rescue before it’s too late. And the same happens to them when they’re knocked down. If you all get downed, it’s game over, so it’s always recommended that you stick close to them so they can come to your rescue quickly. They are pretty smart and usually stick close. Unfortunately, it’s during big battles that they get a mind of their own and totally split from you to go fight somewhere else! WTF?
The major drawback of the otherwise comforting and helpful teamwork is…friendly fire! NOOOOOO! WHY? I can’t believe they didn’t offer an option to turn it off or at least have it disabled on easy mode. In the heat of battle when you can barely tell what is what, you can fricking shoot your teammates and get hit yourself if you pass in front of their gunfire! What the hell? I could cry.
There are a multitude of weapons with which to kill your teammates…I mean…zombies. Sadly, you can only carry a primary weapon, secondary weapon, and heavy weapon (which only gets a few uses before you need to pick up another one). You can also carry two grenades at a time, and you get a melee weapon as well, which is limitless. The melee weapon is to be used with caution, for while it does quick damage, the nearness of the zombies does quick damage to you, too. You come across weapons constantly to switch out, but there’s a catch; the only way to unlock upgrade levels for a weapon is to use it. So if you keep picking up every new weapon you come across, you are barely making a dent in the upgrade opportunities of any one weapon. And the upgrade system sucks, because while you are unlocking upgrade abilities for weapons by using them, you don’t actually acquire the upgrade. You just unlock it so that you can buy it with points you make from playing a level. And on easy, the most you can make by completing a level is 150 points, which is exactly how much a lower level upgrade costs! It will take forever to upgrade to the powerful equipment, which means multiple plays of the game. Not to mention, those points are also what you need to upgrade class attributes. Ugh! Honestly, I totally don’t understand the class levels, because they don’t seem to be selectable once you upgrade to them. I tried to pick particular ones from the hierarchy, but I could never tell in game if they actually applied. And class is independent of character, so you can choose any class to play with any character at whatever level you’ve built that class up to. Same goes for the weapons you’ve upgraded. The upgrade is permanently saved and applies to whatever character you choose for a mission.
My personal favorite primary weapon is the crossbow, because it’s an explosive crossbow! Awesome! It’s a great way to take out multiple zombies at once, especially when they do the wall climb. Cool. The wall climb is the one aspect of the movie that is visible in the game and is definite eye candy. When you are on one level and zombies start climbing up a wall below to reach you, the goal is to take out the lower zombies at the base of the stack, which brings them all tumbling down.
There’s one more type of special weapon used during major battles that have you backed into a corner. You’re warned they are about to take place and get a short period of time to prepare for them. This requires quickly searching the area to find as many of these special weapons as you can and placing them in allocated spots to do their own fighting for you. There are auto machine gun turrets, barbed wire blockades, pipe guns, and electric floors you can place. There just never seem to be enough of them in the area to make a well-armed fortress against the insane amount of zombies that finally come flooding in. And the waves of zombies per battle get impossible in the final levels. And it’s important to note that even though you never have a chance to notice in all the chaos, turret machine guns have limited ammo, and you are expected to find time to run over to them and fricking refill the ammo (with the old circle outline trick).
One last thing to note about weapons. Supposedly there are guns that have silencers, so you can use them without alerting other zombies. Bullshit. Even using silenced weapons, every time I shot a zombie, all the other zombies would turn around and rush me.
So what kind of zombies must you contend with? Aside from typical gut munchers, there’s a hulking military zombie that rushes you, picks you up, and slams you repeatedly into the ground until either a teammate kills him or you die. The only way to kill him is to take him down from behind, and melee weapons are actually most effective. Annoying screamers hide and scream continuously to send tons more zombies at you. Hunt down that bitch and kill him to stop the madness—he’s actually outlined on the screen to help you head toward his hiding spot. There’s a lurking zombie that hides behind shit and lunges at you when you turn a corner. Although he knocks you to the ground, a teammate is usually on hand to kill him instantly. A hazmat guy releases acid gas that fucks up your vision temporarily, and in the final level there’s another zombie that spits a poison that has the same effect, but now you have to hold down and fill the circle in order to disinfect. Ugh.
It’s astounding how hard the fourth and final DLC addition is—Tokyo. I honestly haven’t completed any of the three Tokyo levels yet. There are multiple “defend the area from the incoming swarm” battles in each level, with multiple waves of zombies in each. Plus, there’s less health and ammo to find, as well less heavy weapons available to pick up. Having to replay an entire level multiple times just to get back to the battles only to fail again was tedious and not fun at all. I imagine I’ll only be able to conquer them all if I replay the easier levels like fifty times in order to get enough points to build up my class and weapons. But seriously, it’s neither class nor weapon levels that make it hard, it’s the endless number of unmanageable zombies.
I’ve currently seen just about everything I wanted to blog about on all the streaming services, so I dug a little deeper on Prime to find Eat Locals (vampires), Monsterland 2 (horror anthology), and Stallo Awakens (backwoods slasher).
EAT LOCALS (2017)
The title, the poster art—I was anticipating a vampire romp full of humor, action, and perhaps some fun gore.
Eat Locals had little of any of it, so as a horror fan, I am not sure what I was supposed to take away from it.
Despite the title, don’t expect all the locals in a small town being terrorized by vampires. The plot: a bunch of vampires hangs out in a cabin, and a team of military men closes in to get rid of them once and for all.
The hottie who plays Marvel’s Daredevil is in the cast, and just like everyone else, spends most of the film talking.
A few vampires flash their fangs, there are a few standard shootouts, and I just kept sitting and waiting for it to be over.
Like, if a cute, little old lady coming out with a big gun and dropping a one-liner before shooting up a bunch of guys is your idea of unique humor, you haven’t seen Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot.
MONSTERLAND 2 (2019)
While this sequel is short (only 73 glorious minutes), has less stories than the first Monsterland, and no wraparound, I was feeling the dark style and tone of each tale. Here’s a quick rundown:
1st story – This might be my favorite tale in the movie. A brace face gets delicious revenge, and the twist is just as scrumptious.
2nd story – A man comes to a small town to fight his inner demons, but fails miserably. I appreciated the sinister creature feature pay off.
3rd story – This one begins with a fun comic edge when a guy swallows a bug while in bed. But then he starts to experience some serious parasitic issues and the tale takes a dark turn.
4th story – a very dark and gruesome twist on home invasion horror, with a cool 1970s vibe.
5th story – The story line-up shouldn’t have saved this one for last…or anywhere else IMO. It’s a horror trial story that didn’t pull me in at all.
6th story – a surgery quickie with a creepy twist.
STALLO AWAKENS (2018)
This Norwegian film runs a beautiful 65 minutes long, and while it’s as cliché as backwoods horror gets, it delivers the goods and saves us about 30 extra minutes we usually don’t need in slashers anyway.
A group of friends goes camping in the woods. There’s some drama between characters. They meet a creepy old dude who tries to warn them of what they’re in for. Then they start getting sliced and diced.
I think what makes this a little different than other films in this subgenre is the incorporation of some rather intimate situations in the scares. And I don’t mean sex scenes. I’m talking a surprisingly long and detailed piss scene, an intrusive impalement, bloody menstrual issues…. It sets the film apart from other backwoods horror so distinctly that I would have welcomed more of it. Holy crap, I think I just admitted wanting a film to be longer.
There’s a splash of gore, dark atmosphere, an ominous, hulking and hairy killer figure, and a great chase sequence at the end that has everyone moving practically in slow motion for a series of reasons. It’s the most bizarre and unforgettable part of the film, and if you love backwoods horror slashers, it makes it worth the watch—especially since the movie is only 65 minutes.
As more and more 1900s horror of my childhood (damn, I’m old) makes its digital disc debut on Blu-ray, I give my brief thoughts on four recent releases that come from the 80s. Are they worth a buy even for diehard 80s horror fans (I know, isn’t all 80s horror?).
THE BRAIN (1988)
Brought to us by horror director Ed Hunt, who made Bloody Birthday in 81 then this film in 88 before disappearing from the radar for almost 30 years, returning with Halloween Hellin 2014, The Brain is the epitome of 80s sci-fi/horror camp. It even takes place at Christmas, landing it on my holiday horror page.
The opening scene tells you just what kind of 80s goodness you’re going to get. Whacky David Gale of Re-Animator is a psycho scientist using television commercials to brainwash people, beginning with a girl in her bedroom who hallucinates everything from a bleeding Teddy bear to attacking tentacles. Best of all, we meet the BRAIN. It’s huge, and looks like a mashup of the Freddy snake from Elm Street 3 and the Fiend Without a Face.
David Gale is surprisingly underutilized here, but his madness permeates the life of a high school prankster who seems impervious to his brainwashing.
The main kid is soon being chased by the scientist’s axe-wielding assistant and the brain, which floats around gobbling people up in spurts of bloody fun. Meanwhile, those who are effectively brainwashed commit murders of their own.
It’s midnight movie fun from start to finish, complete with a car chase. And the icing on the cake for me is that the final moment of the film brings the holiday to an end with a Christmas tree sitting out at the curb. Realism in horror is everything.
Richard Franklin, director of Patrick, Road Games, Psycho II, and Cloak & Dagger, brings us a deadly monkey movie two years before Monkey Shines.
This monkey cheesefest comes complete with hokey, campy, 80s synth style circus music, and it turns into a fun slasher with a monkey killer before all is said and done.
Young Elizabeth Shue is a college student who takes a job working at her college professor’s mansion, which is filled with super smart monkeys/apes. She creates a special bond with one called Link, but eventually Link becomes unhinged.
At first his behavior is protective of Shue, but eventually she pisses him off. And just when the movie seems like it’s running out of steam and has no clue what to do next to keep up the momentum, Shue’s boyfriend and all his buddy’s show up at the mansion to deliver a last minute body count.
While the movie tries to be serious and suspenseful, it’s mostly just a series of laughable situations, but it’s definitely entertaining enough if you stumble upon it on cable (which will probably never happen these days).
NIGHT BEAST (1982)
If you loved how goofy Rawhead Rex was but never saw Night Beast, you need to. It’s one I’m thrilled to add to my 80s horror collection.
The film wastes no time. Hunters see an explosion of light in the woods, they go to check it out, we get the full monster Monty, and then there’s a laser gun battle of Battlestar Galactica 1978 quality.
Super gory practical effects that usually look super fake add to the charm, the rubber monster rocks, and the poorly staged interactions between characters make this one a hoot.
I especially loved when a cop fixing the booboo on her partner’s leg serves unashamedly as foreplay to a sex scene.
Adding to the random character “development,” there’s a white trash dude who beats on his woman…and then gets brutally punished for it.
It’s amazing how easy it is to overlook such an inept “script” when there’s so much that is great about bad 80s horror movies in place.
TRAPPED ALIVE (1988)
This new array of 80s horror finally hitting Blu-ray ends as good as it began—and on the same holiday!
Trapped Alive is like Wrong Turn with all the 80s absurdity you could hope for.
Cameron Mitchell’s daughter leaves their Christmas party to go out with her BFF. The girls get stuck on a snowy road at night, three escaped convicts jump in their car, and it crashes through the ground into an old mine.
Before long, the group is locked inside a dungeon cell by a monstrous cannibal, who occasionally sends down his fricking crane game hook to snatch one of them up out of the cell to join him “for dinner”.
It might not be as gruesome as Wrong Turn, but Trapped Alive definitely has a great monster man, some vicious scenes…and a goofy final twist.
I’m not going to go into depth about The Howling from 1981, because it’s a classic, and shame on you if you haven’t seen it. Yes, I’m totally horror shaming!
It is director Joe Dante’s horror masterpiece, stars Dee Wallace, has her hunky hubby Chris Stone as her man, and gives us a brief glimpse of part of his ass—just enough to make my adolescent hormones rage back then. Being a teen gay in the 80s called on desperate measures.
The terrifying werewolf moments broke new ground in werewolf transformation scenes, also delivering a blueprint for werewolf design that is still used today in the most effective lycanthrope films. Could any sequels ever live up to the legacy of such perfection? Let’s find out.
HOWLING II: YOUR SISTER IS A WEREWOLF (1985)
Look, I have nothing against a travesty of a Howling movie (that’s why I have all of them in my collection), but this abomination should never have been green-lighted as a direct sequel to the original game changer.
It comes to us from the director of The Beast Within and Communion…so it really should have been better. Meanwhile, Gary Brandner, author of the original The Howling novel trilogy, apparently started working on the screenplay, but things didn’t work out so he was relieved of his duty.
The film begins at the funeral of the Dee Wallace character—with the body in the coffin played by a different actress, where her brother—the hottie from Sssssss—and a reporter Dee worked with are approached by Christopher Lee.
Maybe if I close my eyes they won’t be able to tell that I’m not Dee Wallace…
He tells them she was a werewolf and therefore the werewolf pack will be coming for her body since she can’t be buried in hallowed ground.
There are actually some promising werewolf moments in the first half of the film, but once the trio heads to Transylvania to hunt werewolves, the film gets trashy, with Sybil Danning bringing in the 80s sexual sleaze as the queen of the werewolves.
Let the hairy orgies begin. Ugh. Maybe if this had just been a movie called Orgy of the Werewolves or something, but not in a sequel to The Howling.
The characters seem to just meander through the scenery with little in the way of plot beyond humans hunting goofy looking werewolves.
It’s said that the director was accidentally sent ape costumes and was forced to alter them as much as possible to make them look like werewolves. It can’t be stressed enough that this obscene downgrade in costume design is a slap in the face of the official’s reputation.
At least the final battle between men and wolves is filled with cheesy practical gore effects. There’s even a brief moment set on Halloween in the final scene.
Steve Parsons & Babel, who performs the new wave theme song (the reason I own the soundtrack) appears as a band in a club scene, which gives us something you thought you might never see…Christopher Lee wearing 80s new wave glasses.
And to add to the silliness (in a good way), Sybil unleashes some deformed bat creature on a priest’s face. Classic shlocky 80s gore.
HOWLING III: THE MARSUPIALS (1987)
From the same director as the second film, the third installment is perhaps one of my favorite pieces of trash in the series because it’s a bit of an 80s mess that feels as wickedly absurd and disjointed as the best Euro horror of the decade.
A dude working on a horror movie called Shape Shifters Part 8 hires a young woman he meets on the street to star in it. She’s never seen a horror movie, so he takes her to a werewolf film, which gives us a perfectly campy transformation scene. After the film, she tells him the transformation was all wrong, and that she should know…
Meanwhile, a scientist is on the hunt for a rumored werewolf.
There’s also a female dancer who suddenly turns werewolf in the middle of a performance, in an artsy, stylized segment that turns out to be entertainingly laughable. Awesome.
There’s also another guy who the scientist experiments on to get him to transform.
And since it’s Australia and these are “the marsupials,” a baby crawls from a hairy werewolf pussy into mommy’s…kangaroo pocket???
What an awesome disaster, complete with plenty of cheesy werewolf scenes, generic 80s pop music, and even a masquerade party.
Unfortunately the director rehashes the last act of the previous film, with werewolves and humans roaming through the wilderness hunting each other (in the Australian outback this time). The horrible, happy ending wrap-up goes on forever, but we do get a throwback to the original with an on air television transformation. Unfortunately, that transphobic bitch Dame Edna is the host of the show on which it happens.
HOWLING IV: THE ORIGINAL NIGHTMARE (1988)
John Hough (The Legend of Hell House, Escape to Witch Mountain, Return from Witch Mountain, The Incubus, American Gothic) is credited as directing the fourth film, but apparently it was heavily recut after he was done. It is also referred to as “the original nightmare” because it sticks closer to the original novel than the first film. Ironic considering this film feels like a low budget remake of the original movie because the plots are so similar.
The leading lady this time is an author who goes to stay in a cabin with her hot husband (Michael T. Weiss of the gay film Jeffrey) after she has a bit of a breakdown. They meet an exotic shop owner, who eventually seduces the husband.
The leading lady befriends both the town’s doctor and a young woman who is doing some investigating into the town. And eventually it becomes clear it’s an entire community of werewolves.
Yeah, same movie as the original. Difference is, until the very end, we get actual wolves instead of werewolves, attacks in which we don’t see beyond the wolf POV stalking the victim, and another studly male friend who serves as secondary support whenever the leading lady’s husband doesn’t come through.
The final few scenes finally bring the horror with a disgusting werewolf transformation scene that also doesn’t really make sense.
The human completely melts into a puddle of goo, out of which the werewolf forms. As absurd as it is, it is some nasty horror goodness that saves the whole movie, along with the appearance of the big bad lead wolf, which is an 80s monstrosity to the max.
And why not one more shot of Michael T.’s hair pies?
HOWLING V: THE REBIRTH (1989)
While the fifth film goes for the “it’s what you don’t see that’s scariest” approach, it’s such a throwback to the Peter Cushing/Christopher Lee era of gothic Hammer films that I have a soft spot for it.
Accented with dramatic, Omen-esque choral cult music, the film takes place in an old castle, where a bunch of strangers has assembled.
Tales of historical werewolf attacks get told, and the group soon figures out something very strange is going on in the cold and creepy castle.
Much of the film takes place in a maze of torch-lit catacombs, where victims are chased by werewolf POV. Seriously, the entire movie consists of only two flashes of werewolf face in the dark, a werewolf paw reaching in from off-screen, and one full werewolf body silhouette flash. Everything else is left up to your imagination.
Most of the unexpected gore comes when the group determines one of them is a werewolf and begins offing each other with sharp weapons as distrust grows. There’s something very House on Haunted Hill about the situation.
Despite the disappointing lack of werewolf, there’s plenty of atmosphere. The only thing missing is Christopher Lee, who should have been in this installment instead of the second.
HOWLING VI: THE FREAKS (1991)
To get to the good stuff, I just had to get past the bad twanging country western vibe in the first few scenes of this one—including a country music montage when our main man, a drifter, comes to a small town and takes a job helping to renovate an old church.
I was feeling it once it shifted into Something Wicked This Way Comes territory. A traveling carnival comes to town, and the evil carnival leader keeps a bunch of sideshow freaks captive and exploits them, convincing them that he’s saving them and giving them a life because they’d be rejected in society.
The main man and his love interest get a first-hand look at the freaks after they go through the carnival’s creepy fun house.
I definitely appreciate the style of this installment, and it only gets better when our main guy turns into a werewolf and has to prove that it is not him but another monster that is killing people in town.
Aside from the transformation scene, which is a cool rip-off of An American Werewolf in London that unfortunately cuts away for the best part, the other bullish monster is the highlight. To me, the werewolf looks like a gothic death metal singer.
Not to mention, I didn’t particularly like the way a cat was handled in one scene.
HOWLING VII: NEW MOON RISING (1995)
While I appreciate what director/star Clive Turner is attempting to do with this final original sequel in terms of tying parts 4, 5, and 6 into an actual cohesive plot, what he mostly does is make this an absolutely self-indulgent ode to himself.
If all the trivia about these films is true, it’s no surprise that Clive wanted to take someone else’s creation and make it all his own. Apparently Clive, who produced a bunch of the sequels, made the lives of each director a living hell, and in the end, changed everything they did, rewrote scripts, did reshoots, and sometimes even took directing credits for himself. The man literally hijacked more than half of the franchise and made it all about him.
This disaster has him playing a drifter who comes to a small town just before locals begin getting slaughtered.
Legend has it that Clive filmed the movie in a real small town and cast all the locals…as themselves. A good chunk of the movie features him just hanging out in a local bar with everyone as they chat, square dance, sing country songs, piss, fart…. Seriously, dude? This is the fucking Howling legacy you’re shooting in its heart with a silver bullet.
When we’re not living the small town dream with these non-actors, a couple of guys are investigating the characters from the previous films in a series of flashback footage from parts 4, 5, and 6.
The leading lady from part 4 returns to relate her story, and the final girl from part 5 is also on hand. Thanks to very specific footage used from part 6 accompanied by an explanation, you actually get to notice that the final girl from part 5 made a barely noticeable cameo in it, something most (including me) wouldn’t have noticed when watching 6.
Clive’s character also plays a major role in tying the movies together (because the franchise is all about him, of course). He has a cameo in part 4, then plays a different major role in part 5, so those two factors are brought together here by explaining that he was both of those characters…event though he now has a different name with no explanation.
What else to say? Kills consist simply of oversaturated red wolf POV.
Clive’s hair looks absurd, so when a local calls him a red-headed faggot, I hate to side with a homophobe, but Clive kind of deserves it.
Also of note, although it’s never mentioned, apparently part 7 was filmed at Halloween time, because there are Halloween decorations and Jack o’ lanterns at the bar.
When we finally find out who the werewolf is in the last scene, there’s a terrible, thankfully brief CGI transformation, and then we just see the werewolf face.
THE HOWLING REBORN (2011)
I guess the Teen Wolf brand had already been acquired for the MTV series before Reborn went into production. There is no reason to have brought The Howling name back to life with an awful teen werewolf melodrama that completely fails to define its characters or their motivations as it drags along.
Landon Liboiron from the TV show Hemlock Grove gets to warm-up as a werewolf, yet not really, because despite being the teen who finds out he’s descended from a bunch of werewolves, he never bothers to turn into one, even during the final battle.
Instead his “girlfriend” comes to his rescue, a character he flirts with just a few times before she decides she’s in love enough with him to let him turn her into a werewolf…even though he never does so himself. What a fucking mess.
As in Teen Wolf, he has a goofy best friend who helps him cope with his new puberty problem…even though they also get only a few scenes together that barely establish their closeness.
And his mother, who he thought died, comes back on the scene, but somehow his father doesn’t recognize her.
With about 15 minutes to go, the main characters finally discover on graduation day (night actually) that the werewolf clan is conveniently living in the basement of their high school. The brief werewolf action is a blend of practical makeup and CGI, most of it cloaked in shadow either way.
As the credits role, the film finally echoes the original movie, with him live streaming a transformation to show the world that werewolves really do exist.
Not even a soundtrack that includes “The Killing Moon” by Echo and the Bunnymen, Alison Moyet performing a solo version of her Yazoo song “Ode to Boy”, and an acoustic version of “Don’t Fear the Reaper” can make Reborn any better. Just binge the entire Teen Wolf series—great soundtrack, lots of shirtless hotties, and gay stuff.
That is some seriously festive Halloween horror movie poster art. I couldn’t ask for anything better (especially anything that reminds me more of It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown). Of course, I could ask for something better in terms of the movie that accompanies that art.
Damn me all the way to hell for doing something I rarely do these days—blind buy. Look for Boo! 2019 on ebay in a day or two if you must own it. I thought I had taught myself a while back never to trust that horror filmmakers are guaranteed to take me for a thrill ride. I guess I slipped this time.
Not to be confused with the 2005 Boo, which takes place on Halloween in an old hospital, this Boo! takes place in a home on Halloween.
Let’s get the Halloween atmosphere issue out of the way immediately. The opener promises plenty of it, with the streets loaded with trick or treaters at night on Halloween 1980.
That’s about the extent of the Halloween spirit you’re going to get.
We meet a family in the modern day on Halloween night. It’s a mixed race family consisting of a white dad and daughter and a black mom and son, so I’m not sure what the deal is here. Is this a new millennium Brady Bunch situation or did the couple magically give birth to one white and one black kid? Does that happen?
The drab house definitely sets the tone of just how drab this movie is. As if we don’t have enough of it going around right now, the dad is a religious wing nut. Ugh. Yet somehow everyone else in the family isn’t. The daughter shows off her new tattoo. The son believes in the supernatural. And the mom comes across as the only realistic character, because she’s a depressed mess. Why did she even marry this dude in the first place? It just seems totally unfathomable that a father of a household could believe in an imaginary spirit in the sky so deeply, yet everyone else basically dances circles around him mocking his beliefs just by being normal. Either this entire family would be a bunch of submissive religious freaks, or the dad would have killed them by now for not living by the Bible.
It’s Halloween, the doorbell rings, and dad finds a “boo bag” on the front steps. It’s like a chain letter; do what it says or suffer the consequences. The son spirals into a state of paranoia when dad decides to burn the bag of tomfoolery instead of heeding the warning.
Of course dad hates Halloween, so…he goes to an absurdly dark library, the daughter basically flips mom the finger and says she’s going out to have fun (she sits in a car with her boyfriend the whole night—they have sex to make at least something interesting happen), mom goes out to walk the streets, and the terrified son is left alone in his bedroom to panic while waiting for the boo bag curse to get him.
For a good stretch of the film, NOTHING HAPPENS. I wish I could call it a slow burn, but it’s just a depiction of a bunch of unhappy people that aren’t well drawn enough for us to feel anything for them.
Eventually they each start experiencing some weird shit, all of which turns out to be just hallucinations—but to satiate horror fans, there’s a good dose of gore—you know, hallucinatory gore. Seriously, almost everything that happens in the film is a hallucination, so bye bye fear factor.
The family at last reunites in the home for the final act, dad and son have a brief discussion about the “urban legend” from which the boo bag stems, which clears up nothing, and then everyone begins hallucinating more. The only thing that isn’t a hallucination is the completely unnecessary thing that happens to the dog. Why can I suddenly not get away from harmed dog situations in horror since I lost my little Miss Fine a month ago?
Boo! feels like a typical modern day haunting movie without any of the haunting actually being real. This mainstream trend of cliché haunting movies is painfully unscary when the hauntings are real, so why go the nothing is real route for a majority of the film?
There’s a much praised creepy scene involving a View-Master (what current day family still has a View-Master laying around? I’m the queen of having all my old toys around me all the time, yet I don’t even have my View-Master anymore), then something genuinely supernatural apparently happens in the very last moment. Nothing that comes before it explains it, and I simply can’t be frightened by it because it had 90 minutes to scare me but didn’t even try. That shit might work in a 5-minute short you find on YouTube, but it’s simply not enough pay off after giving a film 5×18 minutes of my life.
Basically, this is a movie about an miserable family that finally gets put out of that misery by a demon we never see at the end. I think.
A second revised post about my life in gay horror that originally appeared on my former publisher’s website, which I am reposting on Boys, Bears & Scares so it will have a permanent home. This time I’m scared stiff and possessed by my own demons.
If you’re like me, you know there’s nothing like a good bump in the night to get the heart racing and the nerves tingling. The thrill of it causes your pulse to pound, starts the adrenalin flowing, leaves you saturated in sweat, and has you looking over your shoulder to get a good glimpse of the seductive devil who’s back there, about to slip inside your soul….
Isn’t it amazing how one paragraph could be describing either an incredible sexual encounter or a horrifying experience with the supernatural? While the psychological ramifications of exposure to one or the other are totally different, the physical responses are virtually the same. So is it any surprise that the horror genre has always crossed the line between titillating and terrorizing?
For starters, the monster is most likely to desire the innocent and virginal—while preying on the promiscuous and sexually active. Hey, it’s rare for me to focus on the innocent and virginal, but I stepped out of my comfort zone and did so when evil St.Ick targeted the boys of Comfort Cove in Scaring Up St.Ick & Arousing QPD, the Christmas and Valentine’s Day installment of my gay horror series.
Also, horror imagery often takes the sensual and perverts it with disgusting twists: demons with slimy, pus-squirting tongues they insert between supple human lips in order to possess the unwilling; creatures with grotesque, phallic appendages they use to savagely penetrate and poison beautiful human bodies; alien species with gaping, oozing, teeth-lined orifices resembling pulsating vaginas and anuses, which need to fill their void by sucking on flawless human flesh.
And possibly the most important reason sex is almost obligatory in horror? We are most vulnerable when we’re naked: in the shower as the knife-wielding masked killer stands just on the other side of the curtain; skinny-dipping in the middle of the night, unaware of the man-eater swimming just beneath the dark surface; making love in the backseat of a car at Lover’s Lane as the hook hand latches on to the door handle. Well, all that, and because of, you know, the obvious: sex and the satanic are often linked and are both considered taboo. So how better to draw in an audience than by serving up a whole lot of bare boobs to the beast?
Ironically, when I was an impressionable teen in the 1980s, there was a disconnect as I was bombarded by visions of curvaceous, scantily clad women being sacrificed to vicious specters on the covers of the plethora of horror paperback books and VHS boxes that lined my local bookstore and video store shelves. Upon digesting the media, I was never particularly upset when the lusty busty babe got the axe—I was too busy hoping her boyfriend would be the last man standing.
The horror genre is marketed to the straight man—particularly straight male adolescents. But this isn’t simply sports or cars we’re talking about. There’s something incredibly metaphorical about horror. It’s the big bad monster trying to punish those who partake in the natural acts of lust and love. And who better to relate to a relentless outside force trying to stop their desire for instinctive, impulsive passion than gay men?
In my time as a writer of gay erotic horror fiction, I’ve discovered something the heterosexual male horror community doesn’t fully comprehend: many gay males are voracious devourers of horror books and films. We’re not merely the prissy, disposable first victim or the psychosexual-woman-hating-cross-dressing killer they’ve always presented us as (hint hint: toss in a little hairy man buns now and then!).
Thanks to the niche communities the internet creates, I’ve connected with readers who are just like me. They love men, they love sex, and they love horror—but are generally required to subject themselves to woman parts in order to get to the scary parts (I know, there’s a gay joke in there about how the woman parts are the scary parts). As if the feedback to my gay erotic horror stories isn’t sign enough that there is an audience for it, I’ve found another very interesting gauge—the stud stalking page on my site. It’s a detailed list of every horror movie I come across that features even the slightest glimpse of scrumptious man epidermis. The response to the section has been overwhelming from gay horror fans, from requests for more recommendations to other titles I need to add to the list.
I love writing erotica. I love writing horror. My first published strictly erotic stories appeared in jerk-off magazines, and I told myself it was just a way to get my foot in the door and that eventually I’d be able to get mainstream horror stories published. Then I began to realize that every time I went to write a horror story, it was with a gay man’s perspective. I didn’t want to write about women in peril (the market is flooded with that approach), and it didn’t make sense to try to put on the straight man beard. Sure, those options would sell more books to more people, but I really wanted to write horror I would like to read myself. I’d simply enjoy writing it more, which would most likely mean better, more genuine storytelling. For that reason, I’ve been astonished at how many aspiring gay male horror filmmakers have an extreme aversion to making gay horror, instead opting for completely heterosexual casts of characters and the usual final girl formula.
Not me. I don’t fear never reaching mainstream success, which so few do anyway, so I’m not going to waste my creative energy on it—there are plenty of straight horror filmmakers to make straight horror. I strictly pen horror stories “starring” gay men. I say starring because when I write, I try to make the story feel and flow like a horror movie. I want the read to be fun and fluid, not bogged down by excessive “smart” prose and philosophical thought. That’s just not the kind of horror that grabs me by the throat and squeezes until I can’t breathe. And so I incorporate whacky and sexually charged situations into my Comfort Cove gay horror series, like the creepy-crawly electrical sparks that possess the men of the city in the fifth installment Don’t Megalick the Power Cord in the Dark…by entering their bodies through their bung holes.
Because horror has always gone hand-in-hand with sexual content, and because the only thing that truly distinguishes gay characters from straight characters is that they—to put it bluntly—love and lay others of the same gender, it felt so natural for me to go balls-to-the-wall with the sexual situations (often literally). But to be clear, in the world of my characters, I don’t want all my men to be raped and ripped apart by heinous monstrosities, although it does happen occasionally. What can I say? It’s a classic horror convention. I want them to be happy, horny men who find love, score some ass, and get themselves into ungodly situations—like their excursion into a satanic death metal club in Don’t Megalick the Power Cord in the Dark.
My stories and novels are not intended to be torture porn, where the implication is that the consumer is getting sexually aroused and stimulated by gore and extreme violence. I’ve simply combined two of my favorite things—scares and sex—with each having its own place in my stories. The horror is there to give readers the willies, with the erotica as the tension relief—a chance to get off. Basically, an emission intermission. I guess you could even call it the horror-gasm.
And that’s the way the fun and fear unfold in my novels. Or, at least, I think they’re my novels…
Have I been possessed by my own inner demons?
I’ve created a monster, and it might be in me. And I’m scared (stiff). It feels like the right time to exorcise my Dan demons; the way my fingers have been dancing across the keyboard to spell out stories is like the involuntary movement of a planchette across a Ouija board.
I don’t think of myself as an author. I don’t even think what I’m doing is writing. I consider it relating a story; I’m a storyteller. I’m not saying I’m a liar, but I do make shit up. I’m cursed with an overactive imagination. For instance, in second grade, I drew a detailed picture of a ghost in chains rising from a grave then told my classmates this was a nightly occurrence in the cemetery next to my house. Granted, my house wasn’t next to a cemetery, but it was haunted. It’s just that, back then, Mom told us not to talk about it to anyone. So I fudged the truth. But now Mom’s gone, so I’ve recounted the happenings in detail on my horror house page. It’s not like Mom can reprimand me from the beyond. Or can she…?
Since I was a kid, I’ve had stories scratching and clawing at the inside of my skull to get out. Yet when someone says to me, “Oh, you’re an author,” I can’t bring myself to respond in the affirmative. I always reply with, “I have some books published.” I just can’t see myself teaching workshops on the creative process, giving lectures on being an author, penning essays on the art of writing, running in literary circles, or winning any prestigious award. I think I’m too beneath it all.
I have simple tastes. I like what I like—correction. I love what I like—regardless of its worldwide recognition or disdain. I appreciate that erotic photography celebrates the beauty of sexuality, but I’d rather see perverted porn loaded with funky fluids and sloppy sounds. I get the brilliance of Edgar Allan Poe, but I’m more freaked out by a fatalistic urban legend whispered around a campfire. I think The Exorcist is a timeless masterpiece of tension, terror, directing, special effects, and thespianism, but I’d rather watch Night of the Demons over and over again for its 80s cheese, excessive cheap jump scares, low-budget demon gore, awful acting, and the unforgettable moment when b-queen Linnea Quigley sticks a tube of lipstick into her luscious silicone…I mean…prosthetic breast.
My tastes are reflected in the types of stories I get off on telling. Friends advise me to stop with the gay horror and write a mainstream novel. “You have such a limited audience,” they argue. An audience that likes the same kind of raunchy, gruesome, campy crap I do! What more could I ask for? I’m thrilled when I hear from a reader who appreciates one of my stories, particularly because I didn’t write it to win his acceptance. I wrote it because it was the story I wanted to tell and the story I would want to read. I’m not aiming to be brilliant, poetic, or a master of prose. If occasionally I am, it’s totally accidental and I apologize (to myself).
I have no fear of aiming low. Poking around the internet, one thing becomes apparent quickly; no matter what the general public thinks, there is an audience for EVERYTHING. Those who contact me aren’t just readers of my books…they’re me. We live in the same twilight zone. We are obsessed with the same shlock. First thing I learned in Creative Writing 101 was “write what you know.” I write what I know (sex and horror), and certain readers know what I write.
But do I really write it?
I truly can’t explain where the stories come from. The ideas take on a life of their own as soon as they are conceived. For instance, Combustion, the first novel in my Comfort Cove gay horror series, turned into something I never expected when I began typing it. Take the city of Kremfort Cove. I made it up for one of my previous stories, yet before I could start location hunting, there was no question in my mind that it needed to be the setting for Combustion. It also became so obvious that for many of the characters from my other stories, their final destination would be Kremfort Cove. As Combustion began to unfold, I realized that Kremfort Cove is where most of the stories still clogging my brain were meant to take place. In the year that Combustion was moving toward its release date, the next four installments of the series were already finished in their first drafts.
And this is where the possession rears its ugly head…in my head. Sometimes I wake up with a start at night and just lay there for about an hour, my mind filling with specific plot points, scenes, and word-for-word dialogue for “upcoming” novels. I learn how each novel will begin, how each is going to end. I am informed of what happens in the middle; I might not know the exact path, but I don’t worry. I sit at the keyboard during the day, my fingers begin tapping away, and the stories unfold as if I’m watching a movie. I don’t have to stop and think about what’s supposed to happen next. It’s almost like it is being told to me and I’m just repeating it on paper. It’s supernatural, I tell you! I’m nothing more than a portal (which my husband has been saying for years).
This method (of my madness) is haunting me. During the waking hours, thoughts pop into my brain out of nowhere, distracting me from what I’m doing (such as listening to my husband tell me about his day). These probing thoughts explain how certain scenarios are going to play out, why point A is going to lead to point C, and the reason I introduced a seemingly irrelevant character in a book. I’ll find myself in need of a particular type of character for the novel I’m currently transcribing and immediately realize something along the lines of, “Oh, he already exists. A main character two books back had a minor exchange with him!”
This is why I’m convinced I couldn’t possibly be an author. I’ve seen writers say they have an idea for a book but can’t find the motivation to sit down and start it, don’t know how it begins, and aren’t sure how it ends. Huh? I would think that if you are compelled to write something, starting would not be a stumbling block! I’ve had friends enthusiastically say, “We should write a book together!” Tried that once, ended up writing the whole thing myself, and then got this feedback: “this is cool but it’s not what I imagined.” So, friend, what exactly did you imagine, and why didn’t you write it? Needless to say, my standard answer to such suggestions ever since is that, unfortunately, I’m not a writer, merely a guy who tells naughty, gnarly stories.
And I will continue channeling these sexy spooky stories until the overarching plot connecting them all is ready to be laid to rest. I’ve already been clued in to how the series is going to end. Right now, I don’t know how many tales need to be and are going to be told before that end comes. I don’t actually have the time to stop and think about it because the Dan demons are running the show (they’re kind of pissed I stopped as long as I did to write this). I don’t question them. I don’t doubt them. They’ll tell me what’s ahead when the time is right. I just continue to follow my spirit guides on this journey toward the unknown.
Those who have been reading my stuff for a while are familiar with my monster muse’s playful approach to sexy scary horror. If Combustion, the premiere Comfort Cove book, is the first of mine you pick up, you’ll soon be getting very cozy with the boys, beasts, men, and monsters—and hopefully staying up all night to reach the graphic climax….
To celebrate horror pride, I’ve revised several of my posts about my life in gay horror, which originally appeared on my former publisher’s website, and I am reposting them on Boys, Bears & Scares so they’ll have a permanent home. No better way to start things off than with my “Calling all gay horror whores” post…
As a gay guy who has been obsessed with horror since I was a little kid, I never searched for any correlation between the genre and the orientation. I just thought horror fans were horror fans. But because horror over the decades has been so heterosexual male-oriented, when I began writing my own horror fiction, I decided it made sense to do it from the all-male perspective while modeling it after the tried and true traits of the genre: scares and sex.
My first erotic horror collection Closet Monsters included five erotic horror stories and the novella Zombied Out, which had some sexual situations but was not erotica. I used the same formula with my second collection, Horny Devils. This time the novella, entitled Scream, Queen!, was a gay slasher—which has been reprinted as part of a Halloween double feature in Wet Screams, the fourth installment of my Comfort Cove gay horror series. It was easy to sex up Scream, Queen!, because the slasher genre lends itself to “gratuitous” sex. That was when I realized I would never write a sex-less horror novel. For me, just like humor, injections of sex into horror help to awaken the senses and totally screw with your mental state. It’s part of the ride: I’m scared. Now I’m horny. I just peed a little from laughing. I almost shit my pants from fear.
Sex in my writing is not necessarily always an “integral part of the plot.” Just like in real life (and straight horror), when the opportunity seems right, in it goes. If a given moment guarantees the characters would be having sex, I’ll be damned if I’m not going to go into explicit detail rather than cut away! But I don’t consider my writing erotica. It’s not written solely to get readers off, so it’s not like you’re reading a sex story labeled “erotic horror” simply because the guys are having sex on Halloween night. These are actual horror stories, albeit loaded with naughty sex.
Unfortunately, gay horror often targets the “erotica” market rather than the horror market, which does it a great disservice. There’s a good chance when an erotica reader sees a sexy guy on the cover of a gay horror book, he’s in for something he didn’t bargain for: gratuitous horror along with the sex. When the cover also captures the horror elements (something I strive for on the covers of my own novels when I come up with the concepts myself–see the Closet Monsters cover above), the erotica reader may be repelled by the horror. However, the horror fan—the true market for the genre—will be intrigued. And unless he’s a horror reader who finds that sex gets in the way of the story and wasn’t tipped off about its inclusion in the book by the half-naked guy on the cover, he’ll be right at home with every gory gay, horny homo detail.
Two great tastes…but do they really go great together?
Hey! You got sex in my horror! No! You got horror in my sex!
What’s all the bickering about? Isn’t that a delicious combo? Does the inclusion of sex in horror fiction automatically make it “erotic” horror? It seems in the world of publishing, heavy sexual content scores you an “erotica” label, just like we expect a penis in a movie to get slapped…with an NC-17 rating, that is. But isn’t there a distinct difference between sex and erotica depending on its purpose within the context of a story and its effect on the reader?
Either way, you would think that in the world of LGBTQ fiction, expressing our sexuality openly in our stories would be embraced. Hell, it should be encouraged! Instead, we need the prudish “erotic” warning label to protect our virgin minds from unsavory adult content!
It often seems that the inclusion of sex in a book has readers holding crossed fingers up to it as if they’re warding off a vampire with a crucifix or stamping an X rating on the book. And so fiction that features sexual situations gets the old “erotic” subgenre attached to the true genre: erotic horror; erotic romance; erotic mystery; erotic fantasy (that last one sounds the dirtiest of all).
I don’t know how it works with the other genres, but I personally cringe every time I see the word “erotic” attached to the “horror” classification on my fiction. Just the fact that “erotic” leads the classification creates an assumption about a book; before even getting to the “horror” part, the mind has already sent the wrong signal of terror loud and clear: “EEK! This is a sex book!”
I would prefer to call my fiction grindhouse horror comedy or exploitation horror. As in those types of movies, the sex in my books is most often presented as over-the-top, absurd, and funny. For instance, a man’s expulsions taste just like dairy when he’s “milked” in my first Comfort Cove gay horror novel Combustion, and a young man who practices the black arts pleasures a big red bear with a dildo using only his mind in the second installment, No Place for Little Ones.
Occasionally, there’s a “romantic” sex scene (because my characters do have hearts!), but generally, the sex is there as a prelude to the horror, to place characters at their most vulnerable when the horror shows itself, or even to just go for the good old gross out.
These are all purposes that go hand-in-hand with horror. Sex isn’t meant to arouse; it is intended as foreplay to awaken the senses and emotions and to enhance the intensity of the climactic moment of fear. And, hey. If sex in horror does turn some readers on, that’s a result of their warped ids. Some people are that sick and twisted—my readers, for instance. I’m fine with them calling my stuff erotic horror. For the rest of you, it’s simply horror. Just have an adult cover your eyes during the dirty parts.
When I started my writing journey, I just assumed horror and eroticism a logical fusion for gay horror fans. Imagine my surprise when some reviews expressed appreciation for the…um…meat of my stories but then made comments about the sex being a distraction. As someone who grew up at a time when sex was mandatory in horror, I’m going to guess these readers weren’t properly raised on sex and violence.
I’ve even seen the equating of the sex in my horror fiction to “sexual assault.” That’s far from the same thing as doing something sexual with a man because you want to be forced into doing it with him, as is usually the case in my stories. Sexual situations involving an unwilling participant are a complete turn off for me—I’ve read that kind of erotic fiction with no enjoyment and watched it go on to win literary awards. Which means I won’t be winning any awards any time soon, because you won’t often find a Deliverance moment in my writing. When you do, the point is absolutely not to arouse; it is to horrify—as when a bunch of crazed dockworkers shove a little man up the ass of a 15-foot man in The Rise of the Thing Down Below, the third novel in my Comfort Cove gay horror series. I can’t be responsible for where the mind wants to go, but isn’t it possible that what might be making readers uncomfortable is that they are left questioning whether or not a scene is supposed to be turning them on?
Perhaps it’s easier for a gay reader to assume such scenes in my books are intended to be sexual because, unlike a heterosexual male, who is most likely repulsed by the idea of butt fucking (as depicted in Deliverance), gay men generally expect it to be a positive experience. Look at it from the reverse perspective. A gay man watching I Spit on Your Grave is not likely to see the rape scene as sexual at all, but the protective anonymity of internet message boards shows time and again that there are heterosexual men who do find it stimulating. Does that mean they are sick individuals, or does it mean that horror is succeeding in making them uncomfortable about the darkness within themselves? Maybe that’s why the sex in my books unnerves gay readers; it makes them contemplate what they never had to when female T&A was being splashed needlessly across the screen through twelve Jason movies.
Either way, whether sex is in place to arouse or to disturb, of all people to express distaste in its presence I never imagined it would be gay men. Could it be true? Straight male horror fans are more in touch with their sexual selves than gay horror fans? Was I going about writing gay horror all wrong?
Thankfully, for every comment about the supposed unnecessary sex in my writing, there is appreciation of it. It was nice to have someone tell me that my story “Woof!” proved to be the first time werewolves made him hot. I often get nods for writing horror stories that feature piggish, hairy, burly bears instead of vanilla, smooth, pretty boys. Not all gay men want sex in their horror, but there are definitely those who aren’t complaining. Still, it’s hard to find the community of gay sex and horror lovers. General horror message boards aren’t bringing them out of the closet. I began to wonder just how niche the market was for my writing.
Then a friend turned me on to a Greenwich Village bear establishment called Rockbar NYC, where a couple of horror-loving gay guys hold a horror trivia night a few times a year. Before I know it, I’m co-hosting the trivia night and doing a reading/signing of my books. I had a blast. Here was a bar full of gay men who could answer the question: How many people did Cujo kill? That night, my erotic horror anthologies were bought and given away as prizes. But did that mean gay horror lovers would actually like them? I didn’t know.
With the release of Combustion the first in my Comfort Cove gay horror series, I returned to Rockbar NYC and something wonderful happened. What was clearly a regular crowd at horror trivia night remembered me as much as I remembered them. And they had actually delved into my books. I witnessed one friend tell a couple that when he read my novella Zombied Out, he pictured them as the bear couple in the book. Another reader told me that whenever anyone peruses his bookshelves, their eyes are drawn immediately to my books. Yet another horror fan told me that he won my book in the trivia contest the first time I was there, loved it, and read it out loud to his adora-bear hubby. He specifically referenced my story “Monstrosity” about a man suffering from a case of “gargantuanism.” He said the ending was horrific—but readily admitted that he also thought it was so hot he took care of business to it more than once. Good news for him. That huge man becomes a main character in the novels in my Comfort Cove series.
And there it was. Evidence that my kind of gay erotic horror fan is out there. I’d been in contact with one occasionally over the internet, but to be in a bar full of them was not only an honor…it was hot as hell. And so I created Boys, Bears & Scares, dedicated to everything gay horror, from movies and books to art and graphic novels. Doing so has connected me to lovers of gay horror, from the men who create it to fans who devour it. It’s a place where gay horror fans can find an exhaustive and ever-growing list of what’s out there. And in the years since I launched the site, it’s a thrill to see how many other sites, social media accounts, and podcasts have popped up focusing on horror from an LGBTQ perspective.
Actually, I do know why. The Fly legacy rules and has haunted me since my childhood. So let’s get into all five films.
THE FLY (1958)
The pure simplicity of The Fly makes it such a classic of the 1950s. While it freaked me out as a kid, the truth is, this isn’t a monster movie in which the fly is a creature to be terrified of beyond how he looks. Instead it’s a tragic tale of nature gone wrong–the fly is, in a sense, the victim of the horror here, sort of making this a play on Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis” concept. But alas, the man seals his own fate here by messing with science.
In essence this is a tale of a scientist who creates a “Beam me up, Scotty!” machine. He figures out how to teleport physical matter from one chamber to another in his lab by pulling the molecules apart then reforming them. You would think after the sick bastard sends his pet cat into thin air, never to return, he wouldn’t fuck around anymore.
Instead, he gets in the machine himself…not knowing a fly buzzed into the chamber. The results of the teleporting is a mashup of the two life forms. So, while the scientist keeps his face hidden from his wife, he instructs her and her son to try desperately to hunt down and capture a fly with a white head. Eek.
I only have dozens of eyes for you, honey. Now find that fly!
The suspense of the entire film is based around a) seeing what he looks like under the towel, and b) seeing what the white-headed fly looks like. And it’s worth the wait.
The classic final scene with Vincent Price discovering the fly in a horrific predicament in the garden still gives me the willies when I see and hear it and remains one of horror’s most disturbingly effective moments for me.
RETURN OF THE FLY (1959)
It’s always fascinating to look back at just how long horror has been pulling the cash-in stunt of rushing out sequels, not to mention doing the old rinse and repeat while just making sure to add more horror.
Released only a year after the original classic, Return of the Fly gives us a jolting surprise; it’s black and white! I love me some black and white horror, but I prefer continuity, so this regression to a then dying film format is disappointing. But seeing as to how much more cartoonishly monstrous the fly head is this time, it’s probably better it’s camouflaged by the gloom of the colorless format.
Vincent Price is back, and the son from the first film is an adult he warns away from continuing his dad’s scientific work. Lucky for us he doesn’t heed the warning.
There are more animal/human crossovers this time to horrify us, and when the scientist finally ends up getting accidentally mixed up with a fly that gets in the machine (what are the odds?), wouldn’t you know he coincidentally switches the same exact body parts with the insect that his dad did?
The fly with a human head looks ridiculous this time, but at least the big man fly is much more of a monster than a tragic figure, and goes around killing people. There’s even a good jump scare. Awesome.
CURSE OF THE FLY (1965)
It seems virtually pointless to continue the franchise name six years later in a movie that has no fly monster at all. Hell, this could have cashed in as a sequel to Freaks instead.
Very loosely tied to the previous films, the family experimenting with teleportation is poorly linked by a family tree that isn’t really possible based on the first two films, so you just have to go with it. Also, the detective has the same character name, but is played by a different actor.
You’re really best off watching this as a pretty creepy standalone film. A woman escapes from a mental institution, meets a man, marries him, and goes to live at his home, unaware that his failed experiments with teleportation are leaving behind a collection of deformed humans he keeps locked away and under the watchful eye of a woman who is freaky herself.
There really isn’t much more to it than that. The ignorant woman who is destined to discover and be terrorized by her husband’s dirty secret, all the while being told by him and his family that she’s imaging things.
Atmospheric and eerie, this one does benefit from black and white film. Unfortunately, it falls apart at the end with a very sloppy denouement.
THE FLY (1986)
If you’re going to remake and reimagine a horror classic for a modern audience (30 years ago), you need to do it the way David Cronenberg did The Fly. A virtual rewrite beyond the core premise, the 1986 film deconstructs the deconstruction of man and fly, making a gradual transformation the factor that carries the plot.
Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis are both at the top of their game, and their performances as virtually the only characters in the film add to its strength.
Jeff is a scientist, Geena is a reporter. They hit it off then he shows her his experiment. You would think once he tries his teleportation on a monkey and the machine turns the poor thing inside out, he would never even consider getting in the machine himself. Idiot.
Gone is the swapped body parts, so there’s no man with a fly’s head and no hunting for a white-headed fly. Instead, the two completely fuse structurally into one, so Jeff slowly begins to change.
He becomes more agile, he becomes virile, he becomes angry, and he becomes strong. I didn’t know flies were virile, angry, or strong. I also didn’t know that if you go to a bar with bad skin, then snap a guy’s bone out of his skin during an arm wrestle, you could just walk out with no repercussions and some bimbo will still go home with you.
Jeff’s slow metamorphosis delivers the gruesome, disgusting horror. I mean, I love a hairy guy, but if coarse bug hairs started growing out of his back, I’d start having second thoughts. And once my guy began puking on his food before devouring it, I’d be out of there. Brings a whole new meaning to having your ass eaten out.
The acid puke is definitely the kicker in this remake, with Jeff eventually taking out his jealousy on one character in one of the most heinous ways. Plus, we finally do get to see a fly version of Jeff, and it’s a nightmare.
And let’s just say it’s a good thing Geena doesn’t live in one of those states that would make her carry a fly larva to full term.
THE FLY II (1989)
Cronenberg doesn’t return to make the sequel, which is a pointless rehash that sticks to the formula of the original sequel–more monster, more murder. As ridiculous as it is as a sequel, it’s definitely a good, gory creature feature.
The son of the fly is born to a pretty good Geena Davis lookalike. As he grows to become Eric Stoltz…in a lab…a scientist who acts as his father figure continues to experiment with teleportation and urges him to continue his father’s work.
It’s a struggle for Stoltz, who secretly sneaked into the lab as a child and saw the scientist experiment with his beloved dog with tragic results.
Having just lost my own Miss Fine, the little puppy love of my life, only a month ago, the segment about the dog was excruciatingly long and heartbreaking during the revisit of the film, and I ended up fricking sobbing non-stop for like fifteen minutes. Since the movie runs fifteen minutes longer than the first one and begins to drag, I vote that much of the dog part should have been cut.
The film really does drag as it goes into recycled territory. Stoltz begins a relationship with Daphne Zuniga (who I still think is the same person as Justine Bateman) in a montage set to a KD Lang song. Then he begins to change, realizes he is his father’s son, gets angry, and unlike his dad, goes on a massive killing spree through the lab.
Although the “fly” looks nothing like a bug, it makes excessive use of its acid puke as it takes down lab workers left and right. It’s not the fly, but it is definitely a creature feature good time. It also end with a mean-spirited revenge twist.