Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!





Go out and have a good time but don't eat too much candy. And remember to let the Jack O'Lantern candles burn throughout the night.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Stephen King's BATTLEGROUND - animated short film

As October approached this year I got the urge to revisit some of the old horror fiction I read in my youth. OK. I actually get this urge most years around October but this time I got the specific urge to re-read Stephen King's first collection of short stories 'Night Shift'. Doing so was a wise decision. I really enjoyed the entire book and was impressed all over again by how damned good a writer the man can be. I was surprised by how many of the stories had stuck so firmly in my memory that I remembered small details even when I might have forgotten which tale had which odd turn or clever twist. One that I had almost forgotten was the story Battleground. It plays more like a bizarre science fiction story or Twilight Zone short but horrific elements are there as well.

I was alerted to the existence of this Ukrainian animated version of the story recently and found it an amazing adaptation. Check it out and prepare to be impressed.



Saturday, October 29, 2011

HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH poster art







I love this film with a burning Halloween season passion but I haven't been able to squeeze in a viewing of it this year. I might have to watch it on the 31st. I've never actually watched it on the big day and that could be fun.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Well Carved Pumpkins




I wish I had the knife skills to pull off something this impressive.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

WHISPERER IN THE DARK (2011) trailer

This is exciting! Here is the trailer for the new movie from the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society. They are the fine folks that brought us the fantastic 45 minute silent film THE CALL OF CTHULU back in 2005. Their method is to carefully adapt H. P. Lovecraft stories in the style of the time period in which the story was originally published. That means that their second cinematic effort is being done with the same look and (I hope) feel of a 1930s Universal Studios horror tale. From what I can see in this short teaser they may have another winner. I can’t wait to see it!



Wednesday, October 26, 2011

GHOSTS comic book cover gallery






GHOSTS was always a welcome sight on the spinner rack when I was a young comic book fanatic but I rarely bought an issue. Now I hunt 50 cent boxes at comic stores trying to find every one of them I can possible locate. Even the least interesting issue has at one fun tale at minimum. Plus the artwork is always fantastic.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Madness of George Zucco




For years I've been a fan of George Zucco's work in horror films of the 1930s and 40s but it was just recently that I noticed the oddest thing. Because I watched THE MAD GHOUL and THE MUMMY'S HAND within a week of each other (and I've watched each film half a dozen times) I spotted Zucco's right hand and became curious. It looks as though he had arthritis or some other ailment that kept his ring and pinky fingers from extending completely. A quick question on Facebook and a friend reported that he thought his hand was the result of a WWI injury. All this thinking and web hunting about Zucco had me wondering if there was a biography of the actor and from what I can learn the only real book on his life is called 'Hollywood's Maddest Doctors: Lionel Atwill, Colin Clive, George Zucco'. Looks like I've got to add another to my ever growing list of books to acquire and read.

For a fun dose of Poverty Row Horror with Mr. Zucco at center stage here is THE FLYING SERPENT (1946). Under an hour in length and as crazy as a jail cell full of clowns it's well worth seeing!

Follow the LINK!

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow radio play


One of my favorite scary stories of all time is Washington Irving’s classic tale ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’. Most years I’m content to watch the wonderful, funny Disney animated version of the tale narrated by Bing Crosby for my annual fix but this October I had an itch to dig deeper. I re-read the story for the first time since grade school and then went in search of old radio adaptations to see how it had been converted to the format by different producers. By far my choice for best radio rendering is this show from Favorite Stories hosted by Ronald Coleman. Broadcast in 1946 it stands up today as one of the best re-tellings I’ve run across yet. Get a cup of hot cider, turn the lights down low and take a listen to this entertaining tale of the Headless Horseman. You can download the MP3 at this LINK or just listen to it through the player embedded below.



Sunday, October 23, 2011

Halloween image No. 5



Well- two images actually. But who is going to complain?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

SLEEPWALKERS (1992)


In short, everything I’ve ever heard about this damned thing was correct. Nearly nothing is done well in this film. From the opening scene I knew we were in shit-ville because once again someone (that would be director Mick Garris) didn’t understand that Stephen King is not a scriptwriter. Mr. King is a novelist and, like many novelists, he can’t seem to understand that film/TV is a visual medium. This means you don’t need to have the characters onscreen laboriously tell us what we are seeing. We actually watch a corpse fall into frame (cheap scare), observe clearly that there is a rose tucked behind its left ear and then have the two characters in the scene tell us that there is a rose behind the dead woman’s ear. We freakin’ know! We can see the damned thing. This kind of detailed writing is necessary in a written story but in film it is annoying as hell. Novelists often seem not to be able to grasp that if we see something, having someone tell us what we‘re seeing accomplishes the opposite of what is intended. We are distanced from the story because be are being spoon fed information and the spell is destroyed. In King’s case I suspect that during this period of his stormy relationship with the film industry he tended to not trust that his ‘vision’ would reach the screen properly if he didn’t overwrite. I think he must have felt that if he piled on the detail surely the director would know how to make the movie in his head appear in theaters. The trouble is that, unless you go the voiceover route, the only way to communicate some ideas is through dialog. But trying to get across ALL such ideas verbally is a huge mistake. This is a stumbling block even a great novelist can hit as he struggles to convey concepts to move a screen story along and this film is a perfect example of failing hard. So, much like the similarly disastrous MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE, when you couple this spoken excess with a director willing to simply transcribe his pedantic script to screen you have an accidental Stephen King comedy masterwork. You can have a lot of fun with everything in SLEEPWALKERS that is ham-fisted, badly staged, poorly thought out and just dumb or listen to that little voice in your head that says ‘There are better things to do with my time’. Even the moments that are clearly supposed to be comedic are so braindead and idiotic that you can’t imagine how an adult could think it was going to work. I mean, come on- death by corn on the cob? That’s not even trying.


Amusingly, there are a number of horror celebrity cameos in the film and when I saw John Landis and Joe Dante pop up in one scene I just kept thinking how much better the film would have been with either of them at the helm. They both know how to craft a script for a horror movie spiced with comedy. Neither Garris or King can manage this task.

Friday, October 21, 2011

House of Mystery cover gallery







Because of comics like House of Mystery I knew I was interested in dark, scary tales long before I could see the really frightening movies the future held in store for me. Creepy, terror filled tales of ghosts, haunted places, demons, and vengeance seeking skeletons were my secret passion after dark when I had to read under the covers with my trusty penlight. I wore a groove in my thumb holding the on switch down long enough to finish a story.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Happy Birthday Bela Lugosi

On this day in 1882 Béla Ferenc Dezső Blaskó was born. Later rechristened Lugosi he became famous for playing Dracula but my favorite of his horror film roles can be found in the dark THE BLACK CAT (1934) and the wonderful THE RAVEN (1935). Celebrate the day by watching one of his best.




Or you can watch the entirety of his Poverty Row horror classic THE DEVIL BAT right here!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Trick 'r Treat - Making Friends

This delightful new short film from TRICK 'R TREAT director Mike Dougherty demonstrats that everyone needs a friend on Halloween- even if you have to make one.



Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Monster Cereal time!

Its that time of year again when Fall has arrived, horror movies get watched by everyone and Monster Cereals are available in stores. For a few short weeks each year Boo Berry, Frankenberry and Count Chockula can be found on select shelves around the country and poor bastards like me have to fight the urge to eat an entire box in one sitting. Making things even more difficult for us Boo Berry-a-holics is the addition of this extremely cool artwork by Jason Edmiston in which the link to our beloved Universal Monsters is made stronger.

Nice! And if you're wondering if this was a one off by a guy uninterested in the subject just check out this---

Yeah- he's pretty awesome. The beauty of his monster art is so great it has distracted me from my usual whining about the two missing flavors of cereal I wish they would bring back. I'm not sure I ever got to really try them at all when I was a kid. What would Yummy Mummy taste like anyway?

Monday, October 17, 2011

DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE (1968)

DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE (1968) – Because my podcasting partner Troy named this as one of his favorite Hammer films I decided to revisit it and found it to be extremely good. I had good memories of it from past viewings but it turned out to be even more entertaining than I thought it would be. Director Freddie Frances might be reprimanded for his use (overuse?) of oval colored gels for certain scenes but I found it added wonderfully to the mood of gothic horror. The story moves along briskly and the entire affair feels solid and dependable – like a well crafted tale meant to be enjoyed for decades to come. I had forgotten that this is a direct sequel to DRACULA- PRINCE OF DARKNESS with the surprise benefit of Christopher Lee actually deigning to speak dialog in the titular role this time out.
The cast is good, Veronica Carlson is gorgeous, Drac is vicious and even if the revenge plot is a little silly the film plays very well. The graphic death of Dracula in this film is one of the best destruction scenes the character ever met onscreen too. Fantastic stuff! This was just what I needed for a Halloween-time Hammer horror.



Sunday, October 16, 2011

Short Halloween cartoons

One classic from Disney featuring my favorite pissed off duck and one impressionistic, spooky vision of death from John McCloskey. Enjoy!



Saturday, October 15, 2011

Friday, October 14, 2011

Corman Poe film caricatures




I want to watch all of the Roger Corman directed Poe films this October. I wonder how many I'll actually get to.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

EDGE OF THE AXE (1988)


I watched Jose Ramon Larraz’s 1988 horror film EDGE OF THE AXE the other night and was pleasantly surprised. I wasn’t surprised because I don’t expect to like a movie made by Senor Larraz. In fact I have generally loved the horror efforts of that Spanish director with his VAMPYRES (1975) being a truly amazing erotic horror film that stands up to repeated viewings. I was surprised because EDGE OF THE AXE was made so much later in his career and I generally expect such efforts to be less than great if not bad. Adding to my trepidation was the knowledge of it being an 80s film- a period during which the huge success of the slasher genre tended to smother the production of any other kind of horror film. I’m not against watching a fun slasher now and then but I wasn’t in the mood for one which is why I decided to finally see this film. Well, of course, it turns out that this is Larraz’s entry in the slasher cash-in craze and it may be only one of his stabs at the genre in the 1980s as the descriptions of a couple of other titles on his IMDb page sound suspicious. I might have been disheartened except that by the time I realized my mistake I was already fascinated by the film.

Don’t get me wrong- this is not a great movie but it has so many elements that I find entertaining I could not have stopped watching it if you had threatened me with gunfire. The film is one of a number of movies made in the United States by an independent production group with Spanish ties. I’m not sure if any of the movie was shot in Spain but the exteriors were mostly done in rural California. This location work and the 80s fashions on display were of interest to me as I find that decade’s popular clothing and hairstyles to be hysterically awful. I was also intrigued by the two cast names that I recognized from my viewing of Spanish horror cinema. The lovely Patty Shepard plays an aging wealthy woman who has married a much younger man and the mighty Jack Taylor plays a church choirmaster friend of Shepard’s character. As this is a slasher film neither makes it to the closing credits but at least their deaths are entertaining. Both Naschy cast alumni acquit themselves brilliantly with Miss Shepard even getting to be chased through the woods by the masked killer.

And about that masked killer. The film opens strong with something I have never seen before in any movie- an axe murder inside a carwash while the car is being washed! How this white masked, axe toting madman managed to get in and out of the place unseen in broad daylight is beyond me (or the screenwriters) but I loved every second of it. The look of the mask reminded me of the one used in Bava’s excellent BLOOD & BLACK LACE with the only difference being eye-slits. The killer cuts a very imposing figure and the attacks are very well staged with us being able to see the axe striking the victims and leaving bloody marks each time. This is old school special effects and extremely effective stuff. Another plus is that the story throws so many possible killers into the mix that guessing who it really might be is virtually impossible but when revealed the identity still feels satisfying. The film also sports a great final image for the credits to roll over.
It should be understood that this is not a classic horror film destined to be rediscovered and acclaimed by the general populace. The film has the usual faults of European productions shot in the States in this period- dialog that often sounds like is was poorly translated by the cheapest available computer program; odd leaps in logic; bizarre ideas that don’t make sense beyond the dizzy plot; etc. For me these are the things that make such Euro-trash horror movies irresistible and even riveting but I’m aware that not everyone will respond as favorably. I’m not going to pretend this is a great movie but I have to admit I got a big kick out of it. I was smiling throughout the entire running time and I can’t say that about every horror film I watch. How can you not enjoy a movie from this period that has two people getting to know each other romantically over computers hooked up to an embryonic internet system? In 1988! Craziness.