Article: Halloween (1978) Vs Halloween (2007)

Article

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Rob Zombie’s remake of John Carpenter’s Halloween is not only a prime example of a remake done right; it’s a prime example of how a remake can surpass the original.

Now before I go on to discuss why I much prefer Rob Zombie’s much maligned take on Carpenter’s beloved classic, I’d just like to clarify that I’m a huge John Carpenter fan.  I like most of his films, including some of his more scorned efforts.  In fact, I even defended ”Ghosts of Mars” here.  So understand that this isn’t a criticism of one of the greatest filmmakers in the history of American cinema.  This is merely my opinion and I hope you’re not upset if you’re part of the majority who are going to disagree with me.

Carpenter’s ”Halloween” was a revolutionary horror film that paved the way for the slasher boom that was to follow.  It’s one of the most influential genre films of all time and nothing will ever change that, especially not my opinion.  Rob Zombie’s version will never be held in high regard; even though it is a better movie.

The appeal of the original Michael Myers is his mystery.  He’s The Boogeyman: an unstoppable, supernatural force of nature who could pop out at any time.  He’s supposed to be an inhumane embodiment of pure evil.  I respect that and I can see why people find it effective.  Rob Zombie on the other hand, gave Michael a backstory of growing up in a broken home and being bullied in school.  I’ll be the first to admit that Zombie’s backstory doesn’t tread any new ground.  In fact, on paper it’s fairly generic. However, I’ve always loved Zombie’s depiction of Myer’s upbringing from a white trash background and feel it added meat to the bones of a story that was severely lacking in substance originally.

Personally, I’ve always been fascinated with backstories in horror films.  I like to see the origins and motivations of my villains and Zombie’s ”reimagining” of Myers is one of the best.  Furthermore, regardless of which version of Myers you prefer, did you want to see the exact same portrayal in both?  Aren’t remakes better when they do something different?  The original wanted us to fill in the blanks ourselves; the remake done it for us. It was the right approach to take in my opinion.  Some movies are bogged down by needless exposition; but if it wasn’t for Zombie delving into the life and psyche of Michael Myers he’d have remained one of the dullest characters in horror lore.

Dullness is my main issue with the original version.  Many fans I talk to praise it for being a prime example of Hitchcock’s pure cinema; this is where a story is told through visual composition, editing and the use of sound and images.  It’s very minimalist, and it’s been used to great effect in a lot of movies.  When done well, it can be awe inspiring.  However, ”Halloween” failed to build suspense, tension and that sense of dread we need to evoke a fearful response.  Fans of the film will counter my statement by saying it has all of these things, and who am I to argue?  It certainly aims to accomplish them, but for me it came out feeling flat.  For others, it’s the exact opposite.

Zombie’s also fails to capture the aforementioned characteristics.  He uses brutal violence as a substitute for suspense and creating a foreboding sense of doom.  Does this make it an effective horror film? I don’t think it does; horror needs more than blood and gore to be effective. However, I don’t for one second consider the remake to be an effective horror film.  The violence is just one aspect that makes it entertaining; the original had absolutely nothing happening and it was tedious.  Give me entertainment over boredom any day.

If your film isn’t going to scare us, at least make it engaging in other ways. Zombie has enough respect for the original and its fans to approach it from a new perspective; his fresh perspective just so happens to be an improvement on the original, where he takes it’s template and adds elements it was severely lacking – a story, interesting characters, entertainment and violence.  Of course the original wouldn’t have needed any of these things if it was successful in other departments – like causing the fear it tried to create.

Rob Zombie’s ”Halloween” isn’t a masterpiece of cinema.  It’s an interesting violent slasher with some layers the original lacked.  In comparison to Carpenter’s, it is a masterpiece.  The backstory is a white trash soap opera, but it’s handled in such a way you can see why it would turn Michael into a psychopathic killer.  In summary: the remake is a fine piece of entertainment and the original is a tedious bore which fails to accomplish the effective horror it tries for.

Zombies sequel, however – now that is a masterpiece.  But more on that some other time.

This is all just my opinion.  The consensus is I’m in the minority, but I can’t change how I feel, folks.  I state it with respect for the original as it inspired filmmakers and movies I love, but I don’t consider it to be a good movie. Feel free to berate me in the comments below or on Facebook.  These are 2 movies that always create some fun conversations when compared.

Movie Review: House of 1000 Corpses (2003)

Horror, Horror Comedy, Movie Reviews

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When it comes to 21st century horror directors, very few have been as polarizing as Rob Zombie up until now.  The general consensus with his films tends to be a love them or loathe them affair; those who enjoy his work do so for the same reason his critics hate it, and vice versa.  But when a new Rob Zombie movie is announced, people pay attention and that’s all that matters.

I remember when ”House of 1000 Corpses” was first announced; it was anticipated with a mixture of hype and dread.  Rob Zombie’s music always had a cinematic quality and his love for all things horror and exploitation has been evident in his songs and music videos his entire career.  Like me, many believed this would translate well to film.  Others were more skeptical.  Regardless of preconceived notions, the hype surrounding ”Corpses” was huge.  However, for awhile it was looking like it would never see the light of day: Universal, who owned the rights initially, had absolutely no desire to release it due to its content being too ”immoral for their studio” and it lay collecting dust for over a year until Lionsgate picked it up. When it was released eventually, it was a critical failure, but a modest commercial success and has since gone on to develop a strong cult following throughout the years.  But it did set the tone for Zombie’s divisive career in film, which remains split down the middle to this day.

”House of 1000 Corpses” is a strange movie.  If there was an episode of ”Scooby Doo” where the gang stumbled into ”The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and got brutally murdered then it would look something like this. It’s as camp and cartoonish as it is violent and deranged; another way to imagine it is as a retread of Tobe Hooper’s seminal classic – if it were directed by Oliver Stone.  When I first saw ”Corpses”, I had no idea what to make of it.  I wasn’t sure whether I loved it or despised it with every fiber of my being.  However, it possessed a strange allure which always made me revisit it – and I now consider it to be a heavily flawed masterpiece.

The story takes place on Halloween night, 1977, where a group of teenagers who are travelling cross country stumble upon a roadside freak show attraction run by a clown who goes by the name of Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig).  It’s here they learn about a local legend who goes by the name of Doctor Satan, a mad scientist who conducted horrific experiments on mental patients nearby and, according to legend, still lives.  Naturally, the foolish idiots demand to know where and Spaulding draws them a map to Dr. Satan’s supposed location.  On the way, they pick up Baby Firefly (Sherri Moon Zombie), a hitchhiker on her way home who just so happens to live close-by to where they’re headed.  When their car breaks down, she invites them into her home for Halloween festivities with her estranged cannibal family; this includes a living room pantomime with a musical number.  Long story short: torture and terror ensues.

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With this being Zombie’s first film, he just threw all of his movies into a melting pot and this was the results.  A 70’s grindhouse movie throwback, with a ”Texas Chainsaw Massacre” template mixed with the surreal carnivalesque nature of Todd Browning’s ”Freaks”, sprinkled with Marx Brothers and baked in surreal fluorescent imagery.  Yet, despite his obvious odes and nods, this is a film only Rob Zombie could make and would set the benchmark for a style he’d go on to hone to and make grittier with his following efforts.  Zombie has always favored his villains and he makes his films mean spirited, nasty and uncompromising; ”Corpses” laid the foundations and offers insight into what was to follow.

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The protagonists in ”House of 1000 Corpses” are overshadowed by the murderous and quirky Firefly Family.  Otis (Bill Moseley), Baby (Sherri Moon) and Mother Firefly (Karen Black) are the stars of the show, but fellow family members include the rude and crude Grampa Hugo (Dennis Fimple), the human giant Tiny (Matthew McGrory) and the imposing Rufus (Robert Allen Mukes).  This is a film that not only presents its villains as strong, well written characters – it celebrates them.  They’re the main attraction and Zombie dares us to root for them as they torment, torture and slaughter innocent victims, who are portrayed as arrogant douches.  But did they deserve to die?  Absolutely not.  Was I happy when they did?  Well, I enjoyed watching it happen.

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”House of 1000 Corpses” is an experiment of a new director finding his style and voice, while celebrating the movies that inspired him.  It might not be entirely original, but at the same time there really isn’t else like it either. Rob would follow this up with a much better sequel I consider a flawless classic, but ”Corpses” is a viciously camp masterpiece in its own right; albeit for those of an acquired taste.  9/10

Director: Rob Zombie

Writer: Rob Zombie

Starring: Sid Haig, Sherri Moon Zombie, Bill Moseley, Rainn Wilson

Genre: Horror, Comedy

Running Time: 90 min

Movie Review: Premutos: Lord of the Living Dead (1997)

Comedy, Horror, Horror Comedy, Movie Reviews

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”Premutos: Lord of the Living Dead”, also titled ”The Fallen Angel” was the first fallen angel, according to legend in Olaf Ittenbach’s cult classic. Long before Lucifer had his little hissy fit, Premutos was rebelling against Gods decree because he wanted to rule the world with his army of the dead.  Throughout the ages, the son of Premutos has been reincarnated in different forms and through the dreams of a young man, we see the demon throughout different times in history slaughtering humanity.  When the young man finds a mysterious book, it turns him into the monster he was always destined to be and the son of Premutos is reborn once again.

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”Premutos: Lord of the Living Dead” is a film with lots to admire, appreciate and enjoy.  For a start, it’s excessively violent and gory, with a body count that’s well past 100 – all of whom die in fun, graphic ways.  The special effects are cheap and charming and the aforementioned gore is top notch.  Furthermore, the plot, in all of its simplicity, is interesting – especially when it bounces between different eras of history, which includes World War II and the middle ages.  There is a lot going on which will keep you entertained for the most part, but the filler in between is tedious.

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Splatter movies are at their best when they’re wacky, but so much of the humor in ”Premutos” is falls flat.  The moments madcap madness and bloody carnage are a joy, but waiting for them to come is tedious at times. Granted, when they do arrive it’s worth the wait; but movies like this need interesting filler if they’re going to run for 106 minutes, and ”Premutos” lacks in that department.  To put it bluntly: it gets boring.

With some trimming around the edges, ”Premutos: Lord of the Living Dead” could have been a trashy masterpiece of its kind.  Instead what we get is a film with a see-saw effect of highs and lows.  Pirates had to do some digging before they found the treasure; if you’re willing to stick around with this movie you’ll find gold in the end.  6.5/10

Director: Olaf Ittenbach

Writer: Olaf Ittenbach

Starring:  André Stryi, Christopher Stacey, Ella Wellmann

Genre: Horror, Comedy

Running Time: 106 min

Movie Review: Conjoined (2013)

Comedy, Horror, Horror Comedy, Movie Reviews

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If you read my article on 5 Great Romantic Horror Movies, then you’ll know I’m a fan of a great love story – especially when there’s murder between hugs, smooches and coitus.  When it comes to relationships, you have to accept the baggage of your significant other if it’s going to work.  In a lot of cases, said baggage often involves imposing family members.  I’m sure you’ve accepted the faults of your other half by now, but if you haven’t then take a minute to compare yourself to Stanley – maybe you’ll feel better afterwards.

Stanley (Tom Long) is a lonely man; his only worthwhile friendship is with an online cam whore (Deidre Stephens) with amazing boobs, but he pays $2.99 per minute for her ears.  However, thanks to the miracle of online dating, Stanley meets Alina (Michelle Ellen Jones), she’s super cute, their love is real and Stanley is looking forward to spending his life with his potential soul mate, as is Alina. But there’s a problem: Alina has a Siamese twin sister who comes literally attached to her – and she just so happens to be a serial killer, with a drinking problem.

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”Conjoined” is offbeat and quirky, with some crude sexual humor and moments of gruesome violence.  It’s also very heartfelt and occasionally touching, as the budding romance between Stanley and Alina is a heartwarming tale of two outsiders is the core of the story.  Tonally, the combination of these ingredients might sound mismatched on paper; a splatter film, a sex comedy and rom-com is an unconventional mix that could easily turn into a mess. However, here every element blends together effortlessly to create a movie that’s unusual, but all the better for it.

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A good way to imagine ”Conjoined” is like a very twisted sitcom.  For a start, every character – major and minor – has their own little quirks and traits which make them unique and memorable, even if they are only there for a short time until they become a murder statistic.  Every new victim of Alisa’s (Keefer Barlow) killing spree presents a new scenario for them to react to, which provides the bulk of the laughs throughout.  Furthermore, the sets are minimal and mostly consigned to one room, which is understandable due to budget constraints; but, again, it made it seem reminiscent of a sitcom.  I loved this aspect of the movie; it provided hilarious satire of America’s longest running and most beloved television past time, only extended to 90 minutes with some unhinged edge.

My one minor complaint is the subplot of Detective Waters (Sara Gaston), who is investigating the murders only for nothing to really come of it when it could have added an extra element to the story if she posed any real threat exposing the leads as killers.  However, that’s not to say that the subplot wasn’t entertaining; Waters’ inner monologues are the source of some of the films best laughs, so it’s not like it was pointless.  I enjoyed her character, but I wanted her to pose more of a threat to Stanley’s laundry list of problems.

I liked every single character in ”Conjoined” and the script by Chuck and Tim Norton gave them all memorable moments.  It’s a funny script, and the small cast all have their chance to shine, even those who only appear for a scene to have their genitalia bitten off.  As I mentioned earlier, there are some gruesome moments in this movie and it does crossover into some dark territory towards the end, but for the most part it’s an entertaining good time.

So, next time you think your girlfriends sister is annoying put yourself in Stanley’s shoes.  If you would like to enjoy his unfortunate situation, you can rent if from Amazon for $1.99.  Also check out their Facebook for more reviews and information.  This is a funny flick, with enough blood, boobs and severed dongs to cater to your visceral needs, and characters who you’ll remember fondly after the end credits have rolled.  Joe Grisaffi is a filmmaker worth watching.  7.5/10

Director: Joe Grisaffi

Writers: Chuck & Tim Norfolk

Starring: Tom Long, Michelle Ellen Jones, Keefer Barlow & Sara Gaston

Genre: Horror Comedy

Running Time: 90 min

Short Film Review: A Black Heart In White Hell (2015)

Arthouse, Extreme Horror, Horror, Short Film Review

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”A Black Heart In White Hell” is the brand new short film from restless indie horror director Dustin Mills and Crumpleshack Films.  If you aren’t aware of Dustin’s work yet then you’re missing out on one of the most exciting and hard working independent filmmakers working today, whose body of work is of a consistent level of high quality and refreshingly original.  ”A Black Heart In White Hell” sees Dustin in full experimental mode, dragging the viewer into hell with the films victim and – if you dare stick around – forcing us to endure her plight with her.

”Not Sorry” are the words The Woman (Reagan Root) writes on the mirror before she takes her own life in the bath tub, assuming that she’s leaving this world unpunished for crimes we later learn she committed.  However – when she wakes up in a white room, a series of events unfold which force her to face the consequences of her sins.  What ensues is a bloody nightmare involving monsters and tormenting imagery as she’s punished in some gross, unsettling ways.

There were 2 movies which sprung to mind when watching ”A Black Heart In White Hell”: ”Eraserhead (1977)” and ”Begotten (1990)”.  My comparison is not based on the content contained within either of those movies, as they’re both completely different; what I’m getting at is they both share an ability to evoke a strong visceral reaction and psychologically pummel your senses at the same time.  ”A Black Heart In White Hell”, like those 2 movies, unsettled me through imagery, sound and it’s own original content.  I guess another comparison to those movies you could make is that it’s like nothing else out there, but that’s always been the case with Mills’ work anyway.  However, Lynch and Merhige’s movies are ugly experiences which suffer from too much self-indulgence.  ”A Black Heart In White Hell” is a visually stunning spectacle to look at, with an interesting story and additional fun factor.  Sure, it’s gross and distressing, but it’s also highly enjoyable and oozing with immediate rewatch value.

The film contains absolutely no dialogue, but the story is cohesive:  The nightmares of the lead and her crimes appearing on a television screen give us all of the information we need to understand what’s going on and why she’s being punished.  Credit must be given to Reagan Root for being able to portray a convincing character through actions, expression and body language alone.  She’d still be a joy to watch even if she wasn’t always naked.  The supporting cast consist of Dave Parker (with the awesome Youtube channel), Brandon Salkil and Jeremy Ryan, who serve as a reminder of why her soul is being ripped apart.

”A Black Heart In White Hell” is Mills’ best work to date and continues to showcase the evolution of a boundary pushing auteur making a name for himself in the world of underground cinema.  You can pick this up along with Dustin’s other movies over at Dustin Mills Productions, or stream it on VOD for pocket change.  Not only would you be supporting indie film by checking it out; you’d be treating yourself to some unique, original horror.

Writer & Director: Dustin Mills

Starring: Reagan Root, Dave Parker, Brandon Salkil, Jeremy Ryan

Genre: Horror

Running Time: 30 min

Movie Review: Screamplay (1985)

Arthouse, Comedy, Horror, Horror Comedy, Movie Reviews

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Troma, the company which is known for specializing in copious amounts of sleaze, nudity, low brow humour and shock value has been a household name for over four decades now.  So it’s to be expected that some of their releases will float under the radar from time to time.  One such release was ”Screamplay”, the one and only feature from Rufus Butler Seder, who wrote, directed, edited and starred in this offbeat murder mystery.  

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”Screamplay” is a unique entry in Troma’s catalog and a one-of-a-kind movie if there ever was one.  Filmed entirely in black and white, with set designs purposeful recreations of films from the 1920-30’s, it’s all very artsy; especially compared to the trash the company is known and beloved for.  The story focuses on a young writer named Edgar Allen who moves to Hollywood with dreams of writing murder mysteries for the big screen.  But when the murders in his screenplays start happening in real life,  he must confront an odd array of characters ranging from washed up actresses, rock stars, the police and off-kilter tenants as the mystery unfolds.

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While watching ”Screamplay”, I drew comparisons to the early Sam Raimi oddity ”Crimewave (1985)”, as they both adopt the stylings of a classic era of film, with the similar over-the-top caricature characters and set pieces, dialogue and filmmaking techniques.  However, they use them in such a way that hasn’t been done before, to create darkly comic horror films ripe with manic energy and 80’s violence.  If someone told you this was a Sam Raimi creation without prior knowledge, you’d believe them.

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Taking inspiration from German Expressionist cinema, Hollywood’s silent films, Italian giallo, Gothic horror and the classic whodunnit?, it condenses them into the form of an 80’s B movie to create an engaging mystery that is also a satirical commentary on the dark side of Hollywood.  It chronicles the actors and actresses who are hot one day and but a memory the next; the aspiring artists who leave their normal lives behind with dreams of making it, only to find their hopes dashed and dreams broken; the greedy money men willing to exploit anything in order to make a quick buck and the madness that comes with it.  Every character has succumbed to madness in some way and they each provide strange melodrama between murders.

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”Screamplay” is an oddity only a niche audience will enjoy, so if you appreciate the surreal, avant-garde, strange and experimental cinema you’ll no doubt find a special place in your heart – and on your shelf – for this weird little gem.  Rufus Butler Seder has never made, wrote or starred in another film since: let’s hope this isn’t his one and only, but if it is, what an innovative legacy to leave behind.  9/10

Director: Rufus Butler Seder

Writers: Rufus Butler Seder & Ed Greenberg

Starring: Rufus Butler Seder, Katie Bolger, George Kuchar

Genre: Horror, Comedy

Running Time: 90 min

Movie Review: The Tower (2008)

Fantasy Horror, Horror, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi

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Above the city of Detroit, a long abandoned tower rots in the skyline.  The structure appears lifeless, but in the dead of night a bright light shines from the top window.  Doug (Rick Kunzi) becomes obsessed with entering the tower after learning about its mysterious history: According to legend it’s said to be a gateway to another world.  When Doug goes missing, his sister Lucy (Roxy Strickland) is convinced that he’s trapped inside the tower, leading her on a quest to save her brother while coming face-to-face with the mysteries of the tower and the dangers that lurk within it.

”The Tower”, despite its flaws, is a highly ambitious, deeply imaginative low budget gem, where the sheer scope of the storytelling, abundance of atmosphere and creature designs draw you into a world that’s nightmarish and surreal.  This is not your standard horror film with zombies and beasts; the story is complex and full of mystery, where science fiction and fantasy intersect with horror to create something bizarre, engrossing and original.  It’s a journey into hell, where reality is a blur and danger awaits in every corridor.

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The horrors within the tower include an assortment of zombies, demons and spirits, with more other worldly beings introduced as the story evolves at a brisk pace, which never feels like its dragging.  The Clive Barker influence shines throughout; this isn’t your conventional type of horror film and it’s hard to categorize it alongside anything else.  The demons are reminiscent of Barker’s work, whereas the dimensional aspects and sci-fi crossover evoke memories of Don Coscarelli; especially the latter ”Phantasm” sequels.  However, this is its own beast entirely; boasting a nightmarish vision that drags us with its protagonist through a limbo between worlds as she tries to find her brother and a way out before she becomes just another victim of the void.

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The acting is the only gripe I have with ”The Tower”; nobody experts Marlon Brando levels of character portrayal from an independent horror film, but this cast was amateurish and bland.  However, it’s not the worst either and it doesn’t take us out of the story – which is as engrossing as it is haunting. All of the money they had has went into special effects, which are rather impressive – especially the creature designs which you’ll see in the trailer at the end of my review.  What really carries ”The Tower” though is heart and passion: These filmmakers have put their all into this project and it shows.  For fans of this type of cinema, especially myself, that goes a very long way and makes the flaws irrelevant.

One of the main strengths of this movie is how it transports us to another world.  It’s surreal and leaves a lot to be dissected and interpreted, but very few movies have captured the feeling of actually being stuck in a hellish limbo quite like this.  It possesses a strange, dreamlike quality similar very few movies have managed to capture; watching it is like being thrust into the haze of a nightmare.

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The only available DVD copies are Japanese bootlegs and they don’t come cheap, but you can buy it here.  Even trying to find it through more nefarious means will prove to be a challenge unless you’re a member of some exclusive sites which specialize in rare, underground films.  It’s quite heartbreaking to know this will fade further into obscurity as the years go by; there were even points where I doubted it was even a real movie.  There are no reviews to be found online, nor is there any trace of the filmmakers or any word of mouth about the film.  Movies with this much imagination, made by filmmakers striving to be different deserve to be seen.  But alas, the world isn’t fair sometimes.

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I could include spoilers as it’s highly likely you’ll never see it.  But I’m not going to.  If the following trailer sparks your interest enough to buy it or delve into the far reaches of the web to find it, you deserve the joy of experiencing it firsthand.  This is a movie which throws surprises at you and defies expectations.  Highly recommended.  8/10

Directors: Dan Falzone & Dan McGowan

Writers: Dan Falzone, Dan McGowan, Lon Strickland, Roxy Strickland

Starring: Roxy Strickland, Rick Kunzi, Norm Roth

Genre: Horror

Running Time: 90 min

Comic Book Review: Lesbian Zombies From Outer Space: Issue #2

Comedy, Comic Book Reviews, Horror Comedy

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Hold onto your crotches.  Don’t succumb to the charms of horny extraterrestrial bimbos in schoolgirl uniforms – no matter how hot they may look.  ”Lesbian Zombies From Outer Space” continues to warm our loins and fear for our groins, picking up where Issue #1 left off – with our heroes Ace and Gwen running for their lives as the dawn of the lesbian zombie apocalypse unfolds.  Will Ace get home in time to save his parents?  More importantly, will he reach the mom-and-pop store in time to save his prized Captain Hammer video tapes?

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In the first issue, we’re introduced to the characters.  Part 2 is all about action.  From the very first page it’s an unrelenting assault of cock munching carnage that further crosses the boundaries of good taste.  We see the formation of a sub-plot where Ace must find his treasured pornography – for when it comes to dealing with an invasion of this nature, The Hammer has the answers.   Furthermore, we explore that awkward moment when you walk in your parents being… intimate.  The gore sprays off the pages and no penis remains intact, but one.

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”Lesbian Zombies From Outer Space” is shaping up to be something truly special.  Unabashed cheese and debauchery it may be, but it’s one hell of a good time that does its inspirations proud.  It’s also a fresh original take on the zombie and alien sub-genres that reads like an animated television series and camp 80’s popcorn movie with lots of replay value.

Credit must be acknowledged to everybody who brought this story to life. Not only is Jave Galt-Miller a very funny and talented writer, but the artists who visualized this story did an outstanding job.  It takes real talent to make cartoon zombies look sexually appealing to real life grown men, but they manage it.

I’m looking forward to seeing what the next issue has in store.  If it keeps up like this we’re in for some side splitting laughs, with possible leakage.

Movie Review: The Brood (1979)

Body Horror, Horror, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi

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”The Brood” is a science fiction body horror film from David Cronenberg, and is now widely regarded as a horror classic.  However, upon initial release critics were not too kind to it.  Described as Cronenberg’s ”family” movie, ”The Brood” is the artistic manifestation of a filmmaker exorcising his demons; the product of a man going through a divorce and trying to gain custody of his child.  Like most of his films, there was a message to the madness – and the madness ”The Brood” entails is very unpleasant. Roger Ebert labelled it ”a bore” and ”nasty” in his opposing, but much better written review to mine.  For many, it would be boring; not much excitement happens until the final minutes.  However, with time this film has garnered much more appreciation.  Why is that?

”The Brood” is the story of a marriage in ruins: Frank (Art Hindle) and Nola Carveth (Samantha Eggar) are a couple in ruins, with Nola undergoing psychological treatment at the Somafree Institute of Psychoplasmics, where Dr Hal Raglan (Oliver Reed) uses his experimental radical therapy to manifest psychosis through physical symptoms.

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One day, when Frank picks up their young daughter Candice (Cindy Hinds) from a hospital visit with Nola, he’s shocked to find bite marks and bruises on her body.  He suspects his sick wife has been abusing her and revokes visiting privileges – much to the disapproval of Dr. Raglan, who claims it’s a bad idea.  It is.

Through the effects of the mysterious Psychoplasmics and Nola’s ever increasing rage, she starts to give birth to drone children, who then do her murderous bidding without her even knowing.  Once Frank states he’s filing for sole custody of Candice, it sparks a homicidal rage in Nola; she would rather her daughter die than be with him.  So she tries to kill them both, naturally.

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Some criticized the film for being anti-feminist at the time: I see it as more of a statement on the animosity that can occur when a marriage falls apart. Frank’s disgust when he witnesses Nola giving birth to homicidal embryos has been interpreted as a patriarchy seeing child birth as ugly.  When he finally killed Nola, many viewed it as male dominance feeling threatened. To me, I saw Frank’s disgust as a representation of children being used as pawns in a divorce and how it can be damaging to every person involved. The anti-feminism argument may have some merit, but can’t it just be symbolic of resentment towards the one particular woman who was the cause of a stressful time in his life?  This is not a scathing attack of women as a whole; it’s the work of an artist coming to terms with his situation and pouring his soul out on screen.

Cronenberg’s previous work made use of urban landscapes to symbolize society’s growth for the worse; ”The Brood” makes use of rural settings to represent the isolation of its main characters.  The performances from Samantha Eggar and Art Hindle are confrontational and tragic – and the start of Cronenberg’s excellence in working with actors to exude dramatic human prowess in his world’s of science fiction and horror.

The 70’s was also a time of controversial psychological studies.  Cronenberg explores the ethical concerns and potential dangers of them with exaggeration, but he gets his point across in the unsubtle kind of way we know and love him for.

So, to answer my original question.  Why is ”The Brood” now considered a genre classic?  It’s because it’s the beginning of a legendary director finding his voice; an artist at his most open and brave; a filmmaker exploring his own humanity.  It’s also a neat little body horror that’s very entertaining in its own right.  By no means my favourite of Cronenberg’s, but it’s a feature I greatly admire.  7/10

Written & Directed By:

David Cronenberg

Starring:

Oliver Reed, Samantha Eggar, Art Hindle

Genre:

Horror, Sci-Fi, Body Horror

Running Time:

92 min

Article: My Favourite Movies About Cults

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Cults have always fascinated me: if there’s a movie about a group of fanatics out there then you can bet your bottom dollar that I’ve either seen it or have it in my DVD collection waiting to be watched.  I have a special fondness for Satanic cults; the hysteria surrounding them during the 70’s was capitalized by many a filmmaker, and as cheesy as some could be, the image of a group of people in cloaks chanting for the dark lord has always sent a chill down my spine.  Growing up on a steady diet of horror films, I was always suspicious that my neighbours were Satanists, part of a secret sect, sacrificing virgins at the altar of Lucifer.  During my walks into the forest, I used to worry about bumping into a group of nudists dancing around a fire.  But the only naked person dancing around fires was me, I’m afraid.  Not for Satan though: I done it for the ladies.

There have been various cults reported throughout the years; it’s a farfetched notion to acknowledge the existence of extreme sects living on the outskirts of society – or secretly within it.  With all of the ideologies out there, cults come in many shapes and forms.  And so do the movies based on them.  Here are some of my favourites I believe everybody should see at least once if the subject interests you.

Holy Ghost People (2013)

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Mitchell Altieri (one half of indie horror experimentalists The Butcher Brothers) directs this Southern Gothic thriller, which focuses on a religious commune of snake charmers in the Appalachian Mountains, led by the charismatic Brother Billy.  On the surface it looks like a hard working community for healing and worship; but there is something sinister going on just waiting to be uncovered, leading to a twisted finale.

‘’Holy Ghost People’’ is a huge departure for Altieri, whose previous work included genre-bending efforts such as ‘’The Violent Kind’’ and ‘’The Hamiltons.’’  Focusing on a more by the book drama, this is easily the most accessible feature involving The Butcher Brothers – and the best.  Stunning scenery, fractured characters, a constant sense of dread and a thrilling climax makes for a simple but effective experience.

Lord of Illusions (1995)

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‘’Lord of Illusions’’ is a criminally overlooked and underrated chiller from the demented mind of Clive Barker.  Based on his short story, ‘’The Last Illusion’’, Barker also directs this haunting blend of noir mystery and occult horror, which follows a private detective hired to protect an illusionist from a fanatical cult who plan on resurrecting their leader.

‘’Lord of Illusions’’ isn’t a perfect movie like Barker’s previous film ‘’Hellraiser’’, but it’s still one of the golden nuggets from the sea of mediocrity that was 90’s horror.  For the most part, it’s a mesmerising mystery that’s morbid, violent and frightening with a few nightmarish images sure to lurk in your mind afterwards.  Barker mind is a chest full of treasures to be cherished, and this is ample proof that he’s a master of his craft when it comes to storytelling that’s scary, original and large in scope.

Red State (2011)

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”Red State” is the first venture into horror from Kevin Smith.  Inspired by religious hate mongering idiots of The Westboro Baptist Church, it follows a group of teens who accept an invitation for sex online, only to be taken hostage by the Five Points Trinity Church – a group of Christian fundamentalists led by Alvin Cooper, portrayed by the world’s most unappreciated character actor Michael Parks.

What makes ‘’Red State’’ so effective is the notion that it could happen.  Although the Westboro Baptist Church haven’t murdered anybody that we know of (yet), who’s to say they won’t inspire an even crazier bunch of loons in future.  Social commentary aside, ‘’Red State’’ was a huge change of pace for Kevin Smith, which ultimately rejuvenated his career.  It works both as a horror and action thriller, with a career best performance from Michael Parks – who makes monologues of hate speech sound like poetry with how amazing he delivers it.  You might hate the words he’s saying, but he delivers such an impressive acting master class you’ll want to watch it over and over again.

Daniel Day who?  Michael Parks is the world’s finest actor.

Jug Face (2013)

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‘’Jug Face’’ is a horrific coming of age story about a pregnant teenage girl who must escape from a backwoods commune who worship a creature that lives in a hole in the ground.  To appease a supernatural force, a sacrifice must be made to the creature or else the community shall perish and this time, Abby has been chosen.

‘’Jug Face’’ is an offbeat indie feature that puts an interesting and unusual spin on backwoods horror.  Larry Fassenden is outstanding as the clan leader; completely believable in his role as a societal outcast living in the woods, worshipping a hole.  This is one of the best indie horrors in recent memory.

Black Death (2010)

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Christopher Smith’s ‘’Black Death’’ is a period piece set during the first outbreak of the Bubonic Plague.  It follows a young monk (Eddie Redmayne) and a group of religious mercenaries (led by Sean Bean) as they are tasked by finding out the secrets behind a village unaffected by the outbreak, where the dead come back to life.

Part man-on-a-mission adventure, part folk horror, ‘’Black Death’’ is an excellent movie.  It explores themes such as consequences of trying to force your beliefs on others; something which has led to trouble in modern day society which we read about daily in the news.  It also explores the nature of arcane religious concepts which stunt progress.

A shameless homage to ‘’The Wicker Man’’ at times it may be – but that’s no bad thing.  This is the type of film with ambition I’d like to see more of.  It has battles, an array of interesting characters and a splendid climax where beliefs are questioned and violence ensues.

Drive Angry (2011)

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Nicholas Cage plays Milton, a vengeful father who escapes from Hell to hunt down the satanic cult and kidnapped his granddaughter to use as a sacrifice for the Devil.  He is pursued by The Accountant, Lucifer’s right hand man.  Along for the ride with Milton is Piper, a hot waitress he picked up after she left her down and out husband.

‘’Drive Angry’’ is one of the better neo-Grindhouse movies and Cage’s most enjoyable of his career in decline years.  It has fast cars, sex scene shoot outs and Amber Heart sporting a pair of tiny shorts.  What’s not to love?  It’s pure popcorn entertainment, with lots of open road carnage and high octane action.  I love this movie more than most.

End of the Line (2007)

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Maurice Devereaux is arguably horrors most heartbreaking story.  The guy just can’t get any projects off the ground, yet his imagination is just what the genre needs.   In 2001, he made a little known film called ‘’Slashers’’, about a group of Americans on an extreme Japanese reality show trying to survive a deadly game.  It’s well worth seeing if you can track it down.  However, 6 years later he would unleash ‘’End of the Line’’ – an Apocalyptic thriller about a group of religious fanatics on a killing spree in a subway station.  There is much more to “End of the Line’’ though; supernatural evil is present and Armageddon might actually be happening.  It’s an ambitious effort which pays off – and one of the best unseen horror films you’re ever likely to see in your life.

The Manson Family (2003)

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Has there ever been a scarier cult than The Manson Family?  Led by Charles Manson, a group of young hippies committed some of the most notorious crimes to ever hit American headlines; including, but not limited to, the murder of Hollywood actress Sharon Tate while she was two weeks away from giving birth.  Such crimes should never be celebrated, but Manson has become a cult icon in his own right; and the poster boy of the celebrity serial killer.

Jim Van Bebber’s ‘’The Manson Family’’ is a dirty movie; it’s grainy, nasty and downright trippy at times.  A movie like this is always going to be polarizing, but no film about some of history’s sickest criminals should be presented as pretty.  Shot in the style of a quasi-documentary, it shows Manson and his ‘’Family’’ engaging in sex, drugs and violence – as well as discussing their delusional beliefs and the figurehead who inspired them.  It doesn’t glorify them like other movies have done: it’s an ugly, accurate depiction of a group of lost sheep succumbing to the beliefs of a madman.

Some might call it an exploitation movie.  It’s not; it’s a stomach churning account of humanity at its ugliest: a reminder that these are people who should not be celebrated.  I wouldn’t call it a morality tale; it’s just an honest portrayal.

Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

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Rosemary and Guy Woodhouse move into an apartment in a building with a bad reputation. They discover that their neighbours are a very friendly elderly couple named Roman and Minnie Castevet, and Guy begins to spend a lot of time with them. Strange things start to happen: a woman Rosemary meets in the laundry dies a mysterious death, Rosemary has strange dreams and hears strange noises and Guy becomes remote and distant. Then Rosemary falls pregnant and begins to suspect that her neighbours have special plans for her child.

”Rosemary’s Baby” is a stonewall horror classic which has stood the test of time and remains fresh to this day.  Very few films have successfully captured paranoia and fear at every corner quite like Polanski’s blueprint for crafting a perfect horror film.  Although not my favourite film on the list, it’s probably the best.  Very few films have replicated its ability not to trust a single character.  When I saw this as a kid, I did not trust a single person for months.  This is horror which gets under your skin and into your mind.

Race With The Devil (1975)

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Frank and Roger and their wives take off for Colorado in a recreational vehicle, looking forward to some skiing and dirt biking. While camping en route, they witness a Satanic ritual sacrifice, but the local sheriff finds no evidence to support their claims and urges them to continue on their vacation. On the way, however, they find themselves repeatedly attacked by cult members, and they take measures to defend themselves.

”Race With The Devil” is one of the best movies of all time to ever blend horror and action.  Coming out during the golden era of carsploitation films and satanic hysteria, it blends both to create a thrill ride with high speed chases and lots of smashed up vehicles; yet it manages to maintain a mood of dread and paranoia throughout that’s genuinely unsettling.

This is popcorn entertainment that’ll give you the willies.

The Sacrament (2013)

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The journalist Patrick works at the Vice, a company dedicated to cover bizarre news. When his sister Caroline joins a community, she travels abroad with her new family. Out of the blue, Caroline invites her brother to visit her in an undefined country and Patrick travels by helicopter with his friends Jake and Sam that work with him at Vice. They find weird that the men that have come to guide them to the Eden Parish have guns. On the arrival to the camp, Patrick, Sam and Jake find a community of happy people that worship Father. They interview Father but soon they realize that people are not as happy as they seem to be.

Ti West returned to cult horror with this found footage thriller loosely based on the infamous Jonestown Massacre.  It puts the viewer right in the midst of a mass suicide – but don’t think for one second just because it’s suicide that it’s optional.  No one is getting out of this one alive.

This is chock-full of suspense and dread, with a jaw-dropping climax that left me stunned – and in love.

House of the Devil (2009)

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Ti West’s breakthrough hit was a return to the good old days of 70’s satanic horror.  It follows a strapped for cash college student who accepts a babysitting job on the night of a lunar eclipse, which we all know is the night Satan likes to have his followers do nasty things to attractive young woman.  From the moment she accepts the job we know she’s in danger.  It’s all about waiting for it to happen.

What makes “House of the Devil’’ so harrowing is the general likability of protagonist Samantha; from the outset she’s somebody you root for.  Most people who have been to college know how difficult it can be financially; she’s a sweet girl trying to make ends meet.  Therefore, her plight into danger is most unwelcome – but so expertly done it makes for a modern horror classic.

‘’House of the Devil’’ is a very slow film, but it’s wracked with suspense from the start and doesn’t let up; this makes the horrific moments more effective when they do happen.

VHS 2 – Safe Haven (2013)

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If there’s ever been a short film of an anthology series I’ve wished was a full feature, it’s ‘’Safe Haven’’.  Co-directed by Gareth Evans (The Raid) and Timo Tjahjanto (Killers), it follows a group of reporters who infiltrate an Indonesian cult on the ‘’Day of Reckoning.’’  What ensues is a bat shit insane segment involving mass suicide, zombies and a giant goat demon; it’s very violent, thrilling and intense and I really don’t have anything else to say about it.  Just go watch it.

Society (1989)

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Bill is a teenager living in Beverly Hills.  He’s popular at school, an athlete and has a beautiful girlfriend.  However, he feels like he doesn’t fit in: his parents and sister are close, but he suspects he might be adopted.  With his sister about to join the “Society’’, a serious of strange events transpire and Bill finds out his suspicions might not be all that far-fetched at all.

Brian Yuzna’s first film as a director is a social commentary on class divisions with a cult and body horror twist.  It’s a very funny movie; it’s also very disgusting and bizarre, with a climax that you’ll never forget.  I have friends who won’t listen to my recommendations anymore because I made them watch this.  I also know people who are eternally grateful for me putting them onto it.  See it for yourself and make up your own mind.

Martyrs (2008)

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The New Wave of French Horror during the 00’s was one of the best periods the genre has ever known.  Movies like “Inside’’, ‘’High Tension’’ and “Frontier(s)’’ were, essentially, the horror movies fans of the extreme had been waiting for.  However, the best of the bunch is “Martyrs’’ – deemed by many as one of the most disturbing films ever made.

‘’Martyrs’’ is a grim, bleak experience no person in their right mind would ever want to revisit.  It’s incredibly violent, psychologically punishing and uncompromising.  It’s also an intelligent movie which excels beyond the one dimensional torture porn films it shares elements with.  This is horror that is devoid of humour and resolution; the experience is unrelenting and harrowing.  It won’t entertain you, but it’s a true masterpiece in the truest sense of the word.

The Wicker Man (1973)

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Sargent Howie travels to Summerisle in the Scottish aisles to investigate the disappearance of a young girl.  The locals are weird and unhelpful – he’s convinced that they’re hiding something and he’s adamant to get to the bottom of it.

“The Wicker Man’’ is one of very few movies that is as ridiculous as it is scary.  Unabashedly camp, often silly and offbeat in every way, it incorporates strange musical numbers and left field humour into a suspense-filled, paranoid mystery thriller to great effect.  It’s a strange concoction that shouldn’t work, yet it does – wonderfully well.

Christopher Lee gives the best performance of his entire career as the peculiar and imposing Lord of the Isle; his scenes are basically cameo appearances, but they’re so powerful and essential to the film it adds to the mystique of his character.

Chilling.  Enchanting.  Funny.  Bizarre.  Unsettling.  Unforgettable.  “The Wicker Man’’ is a one in a million cult classic that will never be replicated.  This is magic captured on film unlike anything else.

Kill List (2011)

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Ben Wheatley is the most exciting director working today and “Kill List’’ is my all time favourite horror film.  Many would say that it’s three movies thrown into one – a Ken Loach style social realist drama, a hitman thriller and a horror film to put a cherry on top.  Upon my first viewing, I felt this way; but subsequent rewatches have made me realize how it’s all tied together.

The story revolves around an ex-hitman with financial woes.  He quit the business after a past event which is never discussed in detail, but we get the impression it was bad.  Now, in desperate need for a payday, he agrees to help out his old partner in crime who has a lucrative job for them.  It seems run-of-the-mill at first, but the organization who hired them have a hidden agenda for Jay.  As his sanity starts to slip, he gets deep into a situation he can’t escape from.

“Kill List’’ is a movie you have to watch closely to see how the events which transpire are connected.  Nothing is randomly thrown together; every single moment in Jay’s downfall has been premeditated.  To sum it up: he didn’t take the job by chance.  He was carefully chosen and lured without his knowledge.

This is an ambiguous movie, with no exposition to guide you.  You’ll pick more up every time you watch it and make your own evaluations.  It’s a fun movie to research and interpret.

’Kill List’’ is very grim and violent, with occasional moments of pitch black humour.  Neil Maskell delivers a powerhouse of a performance and shows that he’s one of the best around for playing characters with violent tendencies.  All in all, this film is perfect.

What are some of your favourites?