Was 2008 a good year for horror? Some people might argue that the deluge of PG-13 “bubblegum horror” (Prom Night remake, Twilight, The Haunting of Molly Hartley, etc.) damaged horror’s reputation, but the fact can’t be denied that there were also some mighty fine horror movies released this year that scared the pants off people.
Whether you think 2008 was a good or bad year for horror, I’ve
compiled my picks for the best and worst horror films of 2008.
(I’ve tried to be accurate with release dates, but with some
films it’s a slippery slope when trying to pin down an exact release
date (limited theatrical vs. DVD release, foreign releasing, etc.), so
please give me some wiggle room…I'm only trying to showcase the very
best (and worst) films that caught my eye this year.)
10.) The Strangers – One of the only movies that genuinely creeped me out this year! Its
subtle horror gets under your skin and I love the creepy music that was
used. The first appearance of one of the villains in the house (oh, so
subtle) had me holding on to the arms of my chair for dear life! A
tension-filled, expertly filmed horror movie.
9.) Brutal Massacre
– This is just a plain hilarious farce on horror filmmaking. The
dead-pan, dry humor had me rolling on the floor, along with the
situations the characters found themselves in. The actors were
pitch-perfect, including Gunnar Hansen who stole the show as a creepy
8.) Re-Cycle – A whimsical, visually-stimulating piece of fantasy-horror cinema from the Pang Brothers. Re-Cycle
is absolutely stunning to look at, but it also features an engaging,
mysterious and touching storyline. I also love how it skewers the
typical Asian horror film in its opening scenes, but it quickly moves
into its fantastic fantasy world filled with zombies, abortion babies,
ghosts and crumbling, abandoned cities.
7.) Poultrygeist – No movie this year has made me simultaneously laugh and gag as much as Poultrygeist.
It’s ultra-low brow humor, musical numbers, copious gore, offensiveness
and social commentary made it one of the most entertaining horror films
of the year. I’m not even a big fan of Troma films and I think this is
one of their best ever! This is a fowl, gross-out movie that super-sizes the fun and comes with an extra side of AWESOME!
6.) Cloverfield – The most scary monster movie of the year, period. Cloverfield
perfectly captures the immediacy, confusion and emotion of disaster and
really gives us a taste of what have must have been like on 9/11 and
other major, big-city catastrophes. This is the one film of 2008 that
utilizes the hand-held, “shaky cam” technique the best and in a way that
makes the most sense. The monster and its mysterious appearance also
adds to the fear factor.
5.) The Orphanage
– Haunting, unsettling and heartbreaking best describe this beautifully
scary film. If you haven’t seen it yet…do yourself a favor and see it
4.) The Signal
– An intelligent, gritty, comedic love story peppered with intense
bouts of gore. It has three separate “transmissions” (each directed by a
different director) that each focus on a different character and carry a
slightly different tone.
3.) Red Velvet
– I saw this film at Fango in April and was blown away by its
originality, horror-movie smarts and witty dialogue. It also boasts a
killer creation of a horror movie killer…but is he/she real or just in
the imagination of the storyteller? Hopefully more people will get to
see it in 2009…I hear it already has a distribution deal!
2.) Let the Right One In
– This movie is like an otherworldly, transcendent experience. After
watching it you are changed and look at the world in a wholly different
way. Everything from the stark atmosphere to the touching relationship
between the two main characters to the bouts of violence we see
entrances us and pulls us into the film and story even farther.
1.) Midnight Movie
– Both an homage to old “midnight movies” (and horror movies in
general) and an entirely original storyline about a killer in a film
that can move beyond his celluloid prison and stalk and kill the patrons
of an old movie theater. Instead of being a standard hack ‘n’ slash
movie, there is a great supernatural twist to the proceedings that just
adds so much! Everything from the production values to the acting and
the gore is top notch and my eyes were glued to the screen for the
film’s entirety. Not to mention that the film creates an iconic killer
that could stand up there with Leatherface, Freddy, Jason or Michael!
Ever since I saw this movie it has been on my mind and I can’t wait
until more people are able to view it when it hits DVD in January.
10.) Automaton Transfusion
– With the exception of its gore, I felt that this indie film did
everything wrong. Huge inconsistencies, big plot holes, unbelievable
circumstances and overuse of the shaky cam irked me enough to include it
in my worst of. Plus, the fact that it was so over-hyped but failed to
deliver anything new, different or entertaining to the zombie genre
really pissed me off.
9.) Diary of the Dead
– Heavy-handed social commentary and a lame-o storyline with detestable
characters really killed this for me. Incredibly boring with social
commentary about as fresh as the rotting corpses surrounding the
8.) Killer Pad – Feel like torturing someone? Look no further than Robert Englund’s return to directing, Killer Pad. It tries for Dude, Where’s My Car
humor, but fails miserably. It is an embarrassing film to watch knowing
Mr. Englund was involved, especially with the bad 13-year-old-type
dialogue that this turkey is stuffed with, not to mention the unlikable
characters, plot holes and the sheer stupidity of the script. After this
movie, I might be convinced that Englund should stick to acting…
7.) Pathology – Ok, so I wasn’t expecting much from the writers of Crank,
but c’mon! What ever happened to believability in a flick?! This film
shows how a regular good guy can turn tail and become a murdering,
adulterous druggie, throwing his whole life and future career away. Why,
you ask? Because someone triple dog dared him, that’s why! Besides the
ridiculously ludicrous plot, it has bad acting (does actor Milo
Ventimiglia seriously only have one expression?), little gore and
horrible logic. Plus, it lacks the killer autopsy scenes I was expecting
to see…This one is definitely DOA.
– This movie was so forgettable that I’ve had to look at my review
TWICE to remind myself what the hell it was about. Stupid characters
(each with a deep dark secret…how convenient) find out their dorm used
to be some old mental hospital with a craaaaazy doctor performing
experiments….yada yada YAWN. Not even the silliness of the doctor’s
character can pull this one out of the dregs. Totally unmemorable except
for the fact that it’s so forgettable.
5.) Catacombs – I love Shannyn Sossamon, but girl needs a new agent! She was in the awful One Missed Call remake
(luckily I didn’t sit through that one) and this atrocious mess of a
movie. This film had the coolest and creepiest setting ever (the
cavernous catacombs of Paris, though it wasn’t even filmed there –
strike one!), but quickly turned to merde with the most
annoying characters ever created, a predictable plot, zero scares and a
cop-out ending that makes everything you’ve just watched not count for
anything. Shannyn, either stay outta the horror genre or land a gig for a
film that’s actually good!
4.) Women’s Studies – This indie film, about murders in an all-girls college, had me intrigued when I first heard about it. Like Teeth, it seemed to promise strong feminist values, but, again like Teeth,
it failed to deliver. Instead, I was forced to suffer through
stereotypical depictions of “feminists.” According to this movie,
feminists are all man-hating, hippie lesbians. Add a plodding, boring
storyline, more stupid characters and horrendous dialogue and all that
you’ll be studying while watching this film is the ceiling…because the
ceiling is far more interesting than Women’s Studies.
– This movie makes me seething mad. I can’t believe how many people
fell for its “feminist horror flick” shtick when it’s just the opposite.
The storyline may be original, but the execution was all wrong and
downright insulting, especially the end when marriage was presented as a
“cure-all” for the main character’s “problem.” Teeth
took what could have been a strong woman-centric message but instead
decided to shove patriarchal values down our throats instead. Just
pathetic. This movie can bite me.
2.) Lost Boys 2: The Tribe – This movie felt like an episode of The O.C.
with rich kids in a California beach town driving their expensive
motorcycles/cars and throwing massive parties while two outsiders, a
brother and sister (though they seem creepily incestuous), try to fit
in. Little sister falls for the “most popular guy” and big brother tries
to stop this romance…oh, and there are vampires in there somewhere. A
complete and utter letdown…I don’t even think your 12-year-old sister
would be caught dead watching this.
1.) Return to Sleepaway Camp
– I would rather gouge out my own eyes with rusty nails than see this
insulting, unfunny and stupid sequel again! Fans of the original
Sleepaway Camp films will be appalled at this Return,
from the dialogue that sounds like it was written by a five-year-old
that got dropped on its head to the horrible, unlikable characters and
mediocre deaths. Even a last-minute (and last-ditch) appearance from
Angela herself and cameos from actors from the original film couldn’t
save me from the painful experience.
Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Friday, December 19, 2008
Happy Horror-days, fatal fiends! I want to bring you plenty of season’s bleedings, er, greetings, so I’ve compiled a handy list of holiday horrors for this horrendous holiday season!
So grab a glass of egg nog and a slice of fruit cake and settle in for some holiday fear with the following Fatally Yours’ approved Christmas films!
5. Two Front Teeth – This is a campy and tongue-in-cheek indie flick that celebrates the season with killer elves, a trio of nun assassins under an oath of silence called the “Silent Knights,” an evil tooth fairy posing as Santa Claus and “X-mas Files” journalist Gabe Snow trying to piece the mystery of the crash of flight 1225 together. Though this low-budget film has its flaws, its witty Christmas references make it memorable and will put you in a holly-jolly mood!
4. Christmas Evil – A Christmas cult classic, this film came out before the notoriously boycotted Silent Night, Deadly Night, even though it has the similar theme of a man snapping and doning a red Santa suit to instill Christmas fear in anyone who he deems as being “naughty.”
Though the first half of the film is a little slow, the action picks up in the last half as the lead character, Harry, finally snaps and begins taking people out with killer toys that he’s hand-crafted. A stand-out performance from Brandon Maggert (Fiona Apple’s dad!) and the film’s dark tone make Christmas Evil a memorable holiday film.
3. Marcus – Complaining about having to spend time with your dysfunctional family this Christmas? After viewing the bleak and disturbing indie film Marcus, I’m sure you’ll stop your bitching and have a newfound appreciation for your own family. The claustrophobic atmosphere of the film creates a tension that is only matched by the family members’ distrust and deceit.
2. Silent Night, Deadly Night – Poor Billy…he saw his parents get murdered by a maniac dressed in a Santa suit when he was young and has been traumatized ever since. Just a glimpse of Santa can set him off…Years after being raised by nuns in an orphanage Billy gets a holiday job at a toy store, but snaps when he has to play the store’s Santa Claus. He demands “punishment” for all who’ve been “naughty” and chops his way back to the orphanage where he grew up to have his revenge on the nuns.
This is probably the most notorious Christmas movie because of the controversy it generated when it was first released. Though Christmas Evil came years before and had a similar premise of a killer Santa, people still protested Silent Night, Deadly Night because of its portrayal of a killer dressed as Santa Claus. Watching it now you don’t really understand what all the fuss was about, but its still a pretty solid horror film and it even boasts a topless Linnea Quigley in an early role!
1. Santa’s Slay – An over-the-top, action-packed, hilarious holiday horror movie! Not very many people have heard of this film, but it is well worth hunting down. It features wrestler Bill Goldberg as an evil Santa Claus whose 1,000 years of spreading good cheer and delivering presents are up and now he’s in a killing mood…
There are so many great holiday references and gags in the film (death by menorah, Santa taking out a group of carolers, festively dressed strippers, etc.) and the film has an overall black comedic tone that makes it laugh-out-loud hilarious! If you haven’t seen Santa’s Slay before now, it will definitely become a new holiday tradition!
Sarah is struggling through her estranged father’s recent suicide while trying to maintain her relationship with cheating boyfriend Kevin. Unbeknownst to Sarah, Kevin is seeing Denise, who in turn is seeing Kevin’s sister, Carol. Things get complicated in the love triangle when Denise asks something of the siblings that is unfathomable to most people.
Meanwhile, Sarah is falling into despair at Kevin’s neglect of her in her time of need. She falls further into a downward spiral when she starts hallucinating and starts seeing a demon that shows her horrible scenes of carnage. The lines between reality and fiction become blurred as Sarah is tormented by the demon.
Shadows is from South African author Joan de la Haye, and it’s fun to read the Johannesburg slang that pops up in her writing. The rest of the book is just as engaging, making it a quick, nail-biting read that is hard to put down!
I really enjoyed the two storylines, one told from Sarah’s first-person perspective and the other alternating from Kevin, Carol and Denise’s perspectives, but all told in third person. The switches in voice made things interesting and let you know right away whose perspective you were seeing things from.
The characters, while not remarkably likable (the cheating, incestuous Kevin is especially vile), are all very engaging and you can’t wait to see how they will unravel next. The calculating Denise is almost as bad as Sarah’s demon, manipulating both Kevin and Carol at the same time. Carol has her own motives, but follows wherever Denise leads. And Sarah is a needy, dependent woman who gains the readers’ respect later in the book when she decides not to take it anymore and fight back! Sarah’s demon is quite entertaining, though I definitely wouldn’t want to get on his bad side!
The issues in the book are appropriately disturbing as it deals with everything from rape, suicide, incest to poor healthcare systems. Sarah’s demon takes gruesome delight in tormenting her, showing her effectively gory scenes of bloody death of her loved ones. There are plenty of passages filled with grue in the novel, but these never overpower the truly scariest aspect of the novel, which is the cruelty that people can inflict on each other and themselves.
Author Joan de la Haye has crafted a darkly entertaining book with Shadows and I can’t wait to see what she has in store for readers next!
Available from Amazon!
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
The last good vampire film I saw was Let the Right One In, but before that I can’t remember the last good vampire film I saw. I love the mythos behind vampires, but I hate how Hollywood usually translates them as being suave, sophisticated beings that sip blood from crystal goblets and lounge about sumptuously appointed mansions. I miss vampires being vicious, cunning and bloodthirsty!
Yet, even when vampires are envisioned as completely feral beings, things can still go wrong…just see 30 Days of Night, which had a killer concept but failed devastatingly to deliver. Luckily, the Swedish film Frostbitten (or Frostbiten in its native tongue) is a fun vampire film that melds the old vampire mythos (an aversion to garlic and crosses, not being able to see their reflection and not being able to control their blood lust) with the new (a genetically engineered vampire that is superior to both “old” vampires and humans, red pills that turn users into vampires), creating a fresh and entertaining vampire film.
Saga (Grete Havnesköld) and her mother Annika (Petra Nielsen) have moved to a small Lapland town so Annika can work alongside the famous geneticist Gerhard Beckert (Carl-Åke Eriksson) at a medical facility. They’ve arrived at the time of year in winter when the town has 30 days of night, and both must adjust to the continuous darkness as well as being in a new place. Also, when they arrive there are a series of odd deaths that occur. Some seem like accidents, but the victims have puncture marks on their necks.
Meanwhile, Saga makes a quirky new friend at school named Vega (Emma T. Åberg) while Annika becomes intrigued by Professor Beckert and his only patient, a young coma victim whom he treats with mysterious red pills. A young resident, Sebastian (Jonas Karlström), who also goes to Saga’s school, steals a red pill from the Professor, mistaking it for a street drug. When he takes it he get violently ill but has a strong desire for more red pills…so he breaks into the medical facility and nixes a whole box full of the pills from the Professor.
Vega manages to get her hands on the pills after Sebastian fails to score any drugs for an upcoming party. The pills end up at the party where all the teenagers of the town are boozing it up and partying like rock stars. Saga ends up there too, and pretty soon after popping the red pills the teens are transforming into bloodthirsty vamps.
Back at the medical facility Annika has discovered Professor Beckert’s secret after being bit by his patient…
With 30 days of night ahead of them, can mother and daughter unite to stop the vampires before it’s too late?
That synopsis may seem a bit long and convoluted, but luckily the movie doesn’t come off that way. Though the film has wide assortment of characters, it takes the time to develop them just enough so we know who everyone is. The characters are all likable and the film is infused with a contagiously fun energy. There is plenty of humor throughout the film, but also plenty of grue to satisfy! Its films like Frostbitten that really renew my love of the horror genre and prove there still are hidden gems out there!
The script and the pacing of the film are both near perfection. Though the beginning starts a bit slow with not too much blood loss, you are still sucked into the storyline by the characters and their different situations. Writers Daniel Ojanlatva and Pidde Andersson, along with director Anders Banke have created a fluid narrative that encompasses many different points of view from different characters. They also made sure there are laughs a-plenty, from a funny and awkward first meeting between a boyfriend and his girlfriend’s parents as he’s turning into a vampire (the father is a priest wearing a cross and the mother has made some garlic-encrusted fish dish) to the witty banter between teenagers (though perhaps a little dated by American standards). I also loved the backstory that opens the film, complete with Nazi soldiers being picked off by a vampire.
Surprisingly, the 30 days of night theme isn’t really touched on except for a line uttered towards the end of the film, but the night is ever-present and neither the audience nor the characters get any relief from the darkness. The night is used wisely by the director and cinematographer (Chris Maris) in creating a foreboding atmosphere. We are never quite sure what is hiding in the blackness beyond the street lamps, and that tension keeps us on the edge of our seats for the entire film.
The special FX used in Frostbitten are pretty impressive, especially when the red blood is contrasted against the white snow. It’s just bloody gore-geous! The Professor’s “transformation” at the end was also impressive and cool-looking! Usually CGI annoys me, but here it is done right and I barely even noticed it! I also enjoyed Sebastian’s gradual change and the vampire’s blood-red eyes! There were also buckets of blood used towards the end of the film, even one scene where an entire interior of a house is coated in the red stuff! Also, I have to note that death-by-lawn-gnome was one of the most inventive ways to kill a vampire I have ever seen!
With Frostbitten, Sweden has released one of the best modern vampire movies I’ve had the pleasure to see. Filled with witty repertoire, funny characters and buckets of blood, Frostbitten comes highly recommended from yours truly!
Available from Amazon!
Monday, December 8, 2008
Mycho is an independently run production company based in Northern England specializing in low-budget horror, horror-themed events and even their very own horror band, Hockey Mask Heroes. A true lover of horror, founder MJ Dixon runs Mycho not to make money but because of his dedication to the genre.
We had a chance to chat with MJ Dixon about Mycho, the horror genre, his inspirations and much more!
Fatally Yours: How and when did your love of horror begin?
MJ Dixon: I can’t really pin point the moment that it began, as long as I can remember I was always attracted toward anything macabre. But the first time I ever remember being scared was watching Universal Studios’ The Mummy when I was about 7 years old, that when my obsession began, and I spent the most part of my childhood drawing red ink on the TV paper circling the weeks horror movies. It was only when I was about 11 that I saw Halloween and from that moment I knew that I wanted to spend my life making Horror Movies.
Fatally Yours: Can you tell our readers something about your production company, Mycho?
MJ Dixon: Mycho is based in the North of England and focuses purely on creating original, entertaining Horror films. In addition we put on Events like the House Of Mycho as an outlet for the films and music that we create. The most important thing is that it’s all done completely on no money and lots of love.
Fatally Yours: What led up to you starting your own production company?
MJ Dixon: Mycho was created from many factors combined, When I left high school at 16 (Over 10 Years ago) I began to work on small independent productions in my area. There wasn’t a lot going on so I grabbed hold of any opportunity that I could. But it was rare that any of them were Horror films and trying to get my own stuff out there was proving increasingly harder in the North of England where people only wanted to see Kitchen Sink dramas.
I realised that if was going to get to work on Horror Films I would have to make them myself and so I set up a production company and shot my first film Destination. There was a bit of buzz about it on various Horror Boards and I knew I was on the right track. Then money became involved and the people I was running the company with got greedy. They stop thinking about what we would make next and more how much they would get paid, I decided to get out at that point.
I had learned a lot of lessons from that first film and decided that I would create, not only a production company, but a film making philosophy, and so I created Mycho. Mycho was about making movies for the love of movies and focused purely on Horror, my biggest love.
Fatally Yours: What are all the duties and roles that you perform for Mycho?
MJ Dixon: I take care of almost everything, I take on cast and crew as I need them, although I have picked up a few like minded characters along the way who have become regulars. But my duties mainly are putting together every project from start to finish. I spent a long time training myself to edit so that I could take care of that and studied composition and sound design at University as well as screenwriting and anything else you could think of.
Fatally Yours: Tell us about what you‘re working on now…
MJ Dixon: Well at the minute we’re in pre production on Creepsville which will be Mycho’s debut feature film. It’s been in development for years and I decided that now was the time to go for it. The past year or so has been spent tightening up every aspect of Mycho’s productions and I think now its time to take on something big. It’s scary as the film has no real budget, its all based on the “beg, borrow, steal” philosophy, which is nothing really new to us.
Fatally Yours: If you could put together your dream cast and crew for a horror film (or even to host one of your events), who would you choose and why?
MJ Dixon: Well funnily enough I’ve been writing a film with Troma star Trent Haaga in mind for about 6 years and during trying to raise funds we actually shot a micro cameo with Doug Bradley of Hellraiser fame. It’s a high budget affair really so it’s been very hard to ever get it up and running, but I’m a big fan of Trent both as an actor and a writer and well, I grew up as a huge fan of Hellraiser, so trying to get Mr Bradley fully on board would be a dream come true.
As for events well I would love to have Alice Cooper play, I’m a huge fan of the band and Mr Cooper himself. Mycho actually has its own band Hockey Mask Heroes, that record our soundtracks and such, that is very much in the same vein as what Cooper was doing in the 80′s and 90′s.
Fatally Yours: What have been some of your favorite horror films of 2008?
MJ Dixon: There’s been some really strong Horror this year, Inside was one that stands out, the French don’t give us horror very much, but when they do it always hits me hard. Teeth was another, it just had such originality and really entertained me and the string of people I’ve shown it to. I also loved Jack Brooks – Monster Slayer, it just took me back to the first time I saw Evil Dead 2. I hope those guys get a sequel.
Fatally Yours: What‘s your favorite horror film of all time?
MJ Dixon: That’s always a hard question, I get asked that a lot, I would say it’s between Halloween, The Hitcher and Hellraiser. They are three films that I can watch again and again and they never lose any impact. It’s a shame that the remakes of the first two were a little lacklustre, I’ve got nothing against Hollywood remaking films, but I wish they would look at why the originals were so scary. Let’s just hope they get Hellraiser right.
Fatally Yours: What do you think modern horror movies today are doing wrong? What do you think they are doing right?
MJ Dixon: It’s strange, we have grown more acceptant as an audience these days, so what would have scared us many years ago now has little or no impact. I was watching the making of Constantine the other night and the director used the term “Popcorn scare” and I think it’s that mentality that is causing the problem. There’s no sense of dread in most commercial, modern horror, its all just mediocre jump scares that are instantly forgettable on leaving the theatre or turning off the DVD player.
There are people out there getting it right though. All The Boys Love Mandy Lane for example was something fresh and new and I got a lot from it as a viewer. With people like Adam Green and Eli Roth out there I feel that Horror is at least in safe hands. Saw had it right for a couple of years, but I think by now they know that we’ll hand our money no matter what crap they put on the screen.
Fatally Yours: What is the one thing you hope people come away with after seeing one of your films or attending one of your events?
MJ Dixon: I want people to be entertained, that’s why I started doing this and that why I’ve never stopped. I spent a lot of time around people making art films, but of course no one wanted to watch them and these people pass that off as the audience being ignorant. But the simple fact is that film is there to entertain, that’s its main purpose, if you don’t give the audience something for their time they are just gonna be pissed off.
Fatally Yours: You are based in the UK, but do you have any plans to expand into other countries, perhaps even the United States?
MJ Dixon: Yeah, I think with any kind of business you have to look to expand in any way that you can. The move to LA is inevitable, after all the film scene in England is not really geared toward Horror. There have been some classics in recent years The Descent, 28 Days Later, Shaun Of The Dead, but they all still had American studio backing. I plan to do as much as I can here in the meantime, but eventually LA is gonna have to happen.
Fatally Yours: Can you tell our readers about Mycho‘s parties and events?
MJ Dixon: We run an event every month called House Of Mycho, its basically a themed night, always revolving around Horror, for example our New Year’s Evil party on December 31st. We get some awesome bands to come and play, people dress up and we show Mycho movies and play awesome music and just generally have a great time and give Mycho some much needed exposure as a label and as a movement.
Fatally Yours: What are your plans and goals for Mycho in the future?
MJ Dixon: Well after Creepsville, I would want to do a Christmas Horror I think. I don’t really know why, but I’ve always loved Christmas-based Horror films. So I think Mycho could quite possibly be releasing one for next Holiday season. Other than that Hockey Mask Heroes will be releasing our debut E.P this Christmas and we’re planning to tour with that next year and aiming to get some label interest.
Plus the short films will keep coming in the meantime and obviously the House Of Mycho events will keep coming every month. I would really want to keep Mycho independent, that’s probably my main goal. That way we can make Horror that we know people want to see and not this O.C. generation of Horror remakes like April Fools and Prom Night. Mycho’s overall goal though, is to entertain Horror fans and I think we can do that as we’re Horror fans ourselves.
Visit Mycho’s Official Site!
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Poignant zombie novels that really make you think are hard to come by. Most z-books focus on zombie attacks, blood, bodies being ripped limb from limb, blowing stuff up and so on. If any emotion is involved it is usually the gruff and macho kind that lasts only for a few sentences. Not to say that there’s anything wrong with those books. Lord knows I love a violently visceral zombie book as much as the next girl, but it’s nice to come upon a book that has brains as well as zombies!
Dying to Live: Life Sentence is Kim Paffenroth’s second novel in the Dying to Live series. While Dying to Live took place during the immediate fall out from the zombie apocalypse, Life Sentence takes place 12 years later where people, both alive and undead, have begun adjusting to their tough new world. Chapters switch back and forth between the story of Zoey, a child raised in the post-apocalyptic world going through the rites and rituals to become a full-fledged member of her community, and the story of Truman and Lucy, two smart zombies who can understand humans, read, play musical instruments and don’t randomly attack humans. As both Zoey and the zombies grow within their new roles, their paths and fates become intertwined.
The smart zombie storyline was intensely interesting and I kind of wish the whole novel had been focused solely on Truman and Lucy. I loved how they learned things and were able to read and even play the violin! It brought a whole new human element to the zombies and really made you think, just what if zombies had feelings and emotions and memories? The characters of Truman and Lucy had so much dimension and depth that truthfully I liked them more than some of their human counterparts!
Then of course was Zoey, who really grew on me as the book progressed. Though only twelve, she behaved like a well-trained soldier. She was born after the zombie apocalypse (or pretty much smack dab in the middle of it) so she never got to experience the luxuries of the old world, like ice cream and television, many of her elders talked about. Also, she never really got to experience childhood. In a way, she is almost like the zombies because she was robbed of a normal life (or normal death in their case). The parallels Paffenroth draws between her and the zombies elevate the novel into something much more intelligent than the standard zombie gorefest.
Besides the intriguing new characters, Paffenroth peppers the book with characters from Dying to Live, including Milton, Jack, Will and so on. Despite the many returning characters, the nice thing about Life Sentence is that you don’t have to read the first book to comprehend what is going on (though reading the first book helps you understand how much the survivors have gone through and gives you a deeper understanding of each returning character).
The book has a few grisly scenes, but its focus really isn’t on the gore but on characters’ interactions with the world around them. There are quite a few exciting stand-offs between zombies and/or other survivors and even a scary attack on Zoey and other women by a group of bandits that more than make up for the lack of viscera.
Dying to Live: Life Sentence is a satisfying read that you won’t be able to put down! Despite a few typos and the misuse of the word ‘til, I really have no complaints. Kim Paffenroth’s writing transports you to the desolate corner of the world where the book is set and really challenges you to contemplate more deeply on humanity. The message of hope is hard to miss here, but in a predictable pool of zombie novels that think gore is enough to entertain, Dying to Live: Life Sentence’s poignancy is more than welcome.
Available from Amazon!
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
After the ridiculously good time I had with Gingerdead Man, I had to check out this year’s sequel, Gingerdead Man 2: Passion of the Crust. While the sequel kept the Full Moon gags coming, I found Gingerdead Man 2 to be even more disjointed than the first go ‘round. However, I did enjoy how Full Moon, in all their self-deprecating glory, poked fun at themselves by setting the film in a failing independent studio that makes bad horror movies. Of course, all the low-brow, toilet humor helped too.
The enthusiastic Kelvin (K-Von), son of the late founder of Cheatum Studios, is trying to keep the family company relevant by staging a comeback with their latest production, Tiny Terrors 9: Purgatory of the Petite. Besides the Tiny Terrors’ ninth sequel, Cheatum also has several other productions simultaneously filming with hopes they will rescue the company from financial ruin…Except crew members and cast alike are all starting to bitch about not getting paid by the studio. In the midst of threats of revolt, Kelvin must play host to a terminally ill young man whose last wish was to be given a tour of Cheatum Studios. More trouble arrives when the gingerdead man is brought on set (seemingly unharmed from the previous film) in a box of sweets. As the killer cookie cuts his way through cast and crew, Kelvin must find a way to stop him before production at Cheatum Studios is halted…permanently.
Plot-wise Gingerdead Man 2 doesn’t have a lot going for it, though it introduces a big cast of characters (you’ll definitely see some familiar faces like cameos from special FX wizards Greg and Frank Nicotero, John Carl Buechler, Kenneth J. Hall, and directors David DeCoteau and Adam Green). These characters are all pretty broad stereotypes of people within the film industry – we have the effeminately gay makeup artist/hairstylist, the first-time actress who got her role because of a BJ (or two), the slutty, ex-famous actress who is now the caterer, the grumbling crew members, the prima donna directors and so on…
The one-line jokes are pretty corny and usually lame, but I still found myself giggling at some of them. While the first film was witty in parts, the sequel relies mostly on toilet humor or silly gags for laughs. The humor that works has to mostly with the independent film industry and Full Moon essentially poking fun at themselves and their own films. The Tiny Terrors movie, in all its awfulness and hilarity (how can you not laugh at a gross “haunted penis” puppet??), is a perfect example of the films people generally expect from Full Moon.
While there are some laughs to be found, it’s surprising that the gingerdead man takes a backseat to all the gags. It takes him a while to start slicing and dicing again and when he does there aren’t very many memorable kills (except for when the gay makeup artist takes a curling iron up the derriere). Also, this time around the gingerdead man isn’t voiced by Gary Busey, but by Krusty the Clown sound-a-like John Vulich, so the killer cookie loses some of his charm.
Still, despite the fact that the Gingerdead Man 2 is a half-baked, I found myself enjoying it! You’ll find yourself rolling your eyes more than once, but its not as bad as everyone has made it out to be. And, of course, it least it features some self-deprecating humor that lets you know that yes, the filmmakers do realize it’s a crappy movie! Still, it is definitely a film that’s not for everyone. Lovers of silliness, randomness and cheese rejoice, but those looking for something that is cohesive need to look elsewhere!
Available from Amazon!
Monday, December 1, 2008
Looking for a distraction from the baking and cooking that needed to be done for Thanksgiving, I sat down to relax and watch the Full Moon feature The Gingerdead Man. If anything could inspire me to bake, it would have to be a killer reincarnated in a gingerbread man cookie, right?
Well, though I was disappointed that this wasn’t a more Christmas-y film (as the name implies) and it does have many flaws, I still found myself enjoying The Gingerdead Man.
After her father and brother are gunned down by heartless criminal Millard Findlemeyer (the inimitable Gary Busey), Sarah (Robin Sydney) testifies against him and he is sentenced to death. When he fries in the electric chair, he vows revenge on her, even if it means he has to come back from beyond the grave…
Sarah is working in her family’s bakery when she receives a strange package of gingerbread seasoning. She makes a large gingerbread man using the seasoning, not realizing she is bringing back the murderous Millard as a gingerbread man!
He seeks revenge on Sarah by stalking and killing her friends and family. Can Sarah stop him before he kills her? Revenge never tasted so sweet!
To answer your question, yes, this film is cheesy and ridiculous, but it is still entertaining! The biggest plot problem the film has is keeping the victims in the bakery, even though they are free to go get help whenever they please! But do they? Nope, they just sit around, even when a few people need medical attention, intent on stopping the malicious Millard themselves! It’s pretty unbelievable to think that they would just stay there when a frickin’ gingerbread man is stalking and killing them? I would be the first one out the door to try and find a phone to call the police! Despite this major problem, I was able to suspend my belief and just enjoy the film.
Despite the characters’ stupid decisions, they are still inherently likable. Sarah is a strong female lead and she has our full attention and sympathy from the beginning as she deals with her father and brother’s deaths as well as running the struggling family business. Actress Robin Sydney, who I just saw in Wicked Lake, really brings Sarah to life. Though she could have easily been a one-note character, Sydney makes her multi-dimensional and relatable. Busey is also fun to watch as the killer cookie and really hams it up as only he can. The rest of the cast is also impressive and there isn’t one bad actor in the bunch.
The special effects were a bit cheesy at times, especially the look of the gingerbread man, but overall they were decent. The film doesn’t have a lot of gore, but we do get a man sandwiched between a wall and a car, a knife through a head and someone getting baked to a crisp. So not really a lot of blood in the film, but what is shown works.
The Gingerdead Man is only a little over an hour long, but I think it could have been shorter if some unnecessary scenes were cut. Plus, it did get repetitive with the only location being the bakery. I also think it would have made a more lasting impression had the filmmakers utilized Christmas and the holidays into the storyline.
Despite its flaws, The Gingerdead Man is a fun flick that just might make you think twice about what’s in your cookies this holiday season!
Available from Amazon!
Travis Adkins’ After Twilight: Walking with the Dead is his 2008 follow-up to last year’s Twilight of the Dead. Though I haven’t yet read Twilight, Walking with the Dead is a very enjoyable, fast-paced book that can almost stand on its own.
Years after the zombie apocalypse a group of survivors have holed themselves up behind the fortified walls of Eastpointe, which used to be a resort. People live there in relative safety and comfort. The community has its own farmlands, people live in their own houses and they’ve even established a kind of government to keep order. The community utilizes a special ops unit called the Black Berets when they need to go out into the zombie-infested world for supplies. The Black Berets are skilled in combat against the flesh-eaters, but when they don’t come back from escorting a mysterious doctor to retrieve a cure, people start to worry.
Yet one Black Beret is slowly making his way back to Eastpointe…with a plan for revenge against those that nearly cost him his life.
Travis Adkins has a very clear, very direct style of writing that makes reading Walking with the Dead a pure pleasure. The pacing of the novel is very quick and once you start reading it is hard to stop! I also liked the way Adkins introduces the characters and shows us just who they all are. This makes it easy for readers who haven’t read his previous work to familiarize themselves with his characters. I also enjoyed how we get glimpses of different characters’ pasts, which gives us a better understanding of who they are and what they believe in.
Adkins dialogue is very realistic and most of the characters’ actions are believable. With that being said, the only character’s actions I didn’t find believable were Vaughn’s. Since he is such an integral part of the story, this is a huge problem. Perhaps his motivations and his personality were better explained in the first book, but his actions just didn’t ring true in Walking with the Dead.
There were also some plot holes that never got wrapped up, unless of course they were already covered in the previous novel. The storyline involving Vaughn’s sister/lover never really goes anywhere and is dropped towards the end of the book. Perhaps Adkins is waiting for his third book to resolve this and some of the other plot points.
On the plus side, the villainous betrayal of Eastpointe and the infiltration of its walls by the moaning hordes of zombies is quite exciting and will keep you on the edge of your seat! The gore is vividly described and the narration of the fight scenes is expertly done!
Despite its flaws, After Twilight: Walking with the Dead is a highly enjoyable, fast-paced and exciting z-novel that’ll have you drooling for more!
Available from Amazon!
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
This year all I want for Christmas is a new holiday horror movie that actually delivers. I can only watch Black Christmas, Christmas Evil and Silent Night, Deadly Night so many times over the holidays! I want something new, something fresh and something that doesn’t involve horrible acting from 20-year-olds trying to pass themselves off as teens.
Santa, if you bring me this one thing, I promise to be good all next year…no matter how many bad horror movies I have to put up with.
And with that, it seems that Christmas has come early this year, as Santa delivered a shiny new Christmas horror movie to me called Two Front Teeth.
Two Front Teeth may not be all I asked for – it drags at times, has bad pacing and the storyline isn’t as developed as I’d like – but this horror-comedy delivers plenty of laughs.
Gabe Snow (Johnny Francis Wolf) is a timid journalist who works for the X-Mas Files, an Enquirer or sorts that covers holiday-related phenomenon, such as sightings of Rudolph, mutant snowmen, Santa giving the gift of…crabs, a sex scandal involving Mrs. Claus, and so on. While he’s busy working late one Christmas Eve, his wife Noel (Megan Pearson) is busy boinking a mall Santa…when out on the roof arises such a clatter, she and mall Santa spring from the bed to see what is the matter. They don’t find Santa coming down the chimney, but instead some vicious, bloodthirsty elves. It seems that one of Gabe’s stories is actually true, and these evil elves will stop at nothing to find Gabe’s source for the story. Gabe’s source has something of value to the elves and that it is all tied to a story Gabe wrote on the crash of Flight 1225.
Gabe and Noel flee the elves, but end up wrapped up in a Christmas conspiracy involving tooth fairies, evil elves, a vampiric Santa Claus, nun assassins, Rudolph’s red nose and killer fruitcake. Can Christmas be saved before it’s too late?
Two Front Teeth is certainly a fun film, peppered with Christmas references, but it is not without its flaws. Its comedy is superb, with quite a few very funny lines (“They didn’t have any ho-ho’s” or “You’ll shoot your eye out, you son of a bitch! ), but the plot feels lacking, almost like the jokes were written first and the story was cobbled around them. The lack of a well-developed story is the film’s biggest problem and really drags the film down. The reason why the elves are attacking and the story surrounding Flight 1225 are explained briefly (in an animation scene), but I would have preferred more of a focus on this part of the plot. Without more emphasis on the how’s and why’s, the film soon starts to feel like we are just watching Noel and Gabe run from point A to point B to point C, which definitely gets old after a while.
The pacing also feels uneven. When the film begins we are immediately thrown into the action, but as Gabe and Noel try to outrun the evil elves things get repetitive. Things pick up towards the end in a final showdown, but between then things feel a little slow. Also, some scenes drag on a bit too long and the film could have benefited from some tighter editing.
Despite these problems, the film features some truly memorable Christmas gags. My personal favorites include the “Silent Knights,” a trio of nun assassins sent from the Vatican to save Christmas, the 3 Kings Motel, using fruit cake as a weapon and Clausferatu, a vampiric Santa. This kind of humor is definitely the film’s strong point.
Another strong point is the acting. For an independent film, all the actors do a good job with their characters. Even the actors who play the evil elves are creepy! And what great makeup is done on them! The special effects, with the exception of a cheesy severed head, are also decent, though this isn’t a gory film.
Two Front Teeth is by no means a perfect film, but despite its flaws it still manages to be pretty damn entertaining. If you are looking to add a bit of Christmas cheer to your holiday season, all you need is Two Front Teeth!
Ask Santa to stuff it in your stocking!
Available from Amazon!
Paula Burr is the owner and sole photographer of Killer Eye Photography, a company that combines her love of horror with her eye for dark visuals! Paula is well-known in horror circles as not only a killer photographer, but also as a dear friend.
We recently caught up with Paula upon her return from London after she finished up a stint shooting stills for on the film Dread, adapted from a Clive Barker story.
Fatally Yours: Paula, tell us about growing up and how you fell in love with the horror genre!
Paula Burr: I grew up in AZ and moved around a lot with my mom. My parents divorced so I spent most of my time with her. I won’t bore you with those details but she’s the one who introduced me to the lovely world of horror. My early memories are of Bride of Frankenstein, Creature From the Black Lagoon and The Exorcist. After my mom realized that these didn’t bother me, the films just poured in. John Carpenter’s Halloween holds a very special place in my heart. I LOVE that film. I love Freddy and Jason too; slasher films are great fun especially because I live in a forest area. But I have to say the boogyman just gets me, EVERYTIME!
Fatally Yours: You’ve got quite an impressive array of horror-inspired tattoos. Which one was your first? What others do you plan to get?
Paula Burr: The first horror tattoo I got was the Bride of Frankenstein. Really didn’t have any intention to turn it into a sleeve but it crept down my arm and is getting closer to being completed. I’m planning on finishing that this year. The next is yet to be determined. I have a few things I am working on. Skin is seeming kind of minimal so I am choosing wisely. But I definitely see more work in my future.
Fatally Yours: How did you get into photography?
Paula Burr: Photography sort or found me in 2002. I was up on a mountain snowboarding at night in Alaska. A person raced by me and jumped. The snow left this illuminated trail of snow in the light and as I sat there and watched it fall, it just memorized me. I could think about was how could I capture that image.
Fatally Yours: Where did you attend school to study your craft?
Paula Burr: I took a few classes at a junior college in AZ. then decided that I just loved it and I thought hey why not try and take this further. So I moved to Southern CA and went school for photography and film, now graduated, I’m working and living life.
Fatally Yours: What equipment do you use?
Paula Burr: That’s a tricky question; I love film and still use my Hassleblad. But lately with the digital push, I find myself more and more using my Canon 5D.
Fatally Yours: How did you combine your love of the macabre with your love of photography?
Paula Burr: In the beginning, I started in Fine Art Photography. When I started out, my images all had a spooky quality that seemed to be something that would come out of a music video, something that had been manifested dream. I would see things in film and TV that I would try and recreate and put a little twist on to make it original. I dream very vividly so I try and write down what I dream so I can recreate that as well.
Fatally Yours: How do you prepare and get inspired for a shoot?
Paula Burr: Preparation comes from listening to lots of music, watching lots of movies (of all kinds) and searching for concepts. When doing horror inspired shoots, I tend to watch films that put me in a certain mind set. Sometimes I pick a character from a film and try to portray an emotion that is brought on by the film. More times out of any though, I would have to say my dreams drive my final imagery. I love to grab my Ipod and just go. I really enjoy wandering around, exploring and watching the world all while listening to music. There is something very inspirational about listening to acoustic guitar or piano even the violin that just tunes me in. Somehow, I seem to match up my emotions with my surroundings and then something will just pop and there will be my idea for the next shoot.
Fatally Yours: What has been the most memorable shoot you’ve had so far?
Paula Burr: I would have to say the most memorable is the most recent. I just wrapped the film Dread (Clive Barker adaptation) on location in London. I was over there shooting stills, it was my first time to the UK and I absolutely adored it! I also plan on going back.
Fatally Yours: What do you think sets you apart from other photographers?
Paula Burr: Well, I would like to think it’s because I play well with others? Really though, I do have a genuine love for things that are a bit out of the ordinary and the macabre inspired. Surrounding myself with places/people of like minds has given me the opportunity to meet some amazing individuals. I believe working with those people who are involved in the horror community bring me to a whole new level. It’s a blessing to have such a support group. Not only are they my friends, but also they inspire me to be better and push my creativity.
Fatally Yours: If you could photograph a current horror celebrity, who would it be and why?
Paula Burr: Well as far as celeb goes I would love to photograph Rob Zombie. I love his work on so many levels.
Fatally Yours: If you had the option to photograph anyone, past or present/dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Paula Burr: That is one of the hardest questions for me. Can I give you a top 3! It’s a toss up between George Romero and Vincent Price and Tim Burton. As for why? They are all just awesome!
Fatally Yours: What do you like to do in your spare time besides watch horror flicks and photography?
Paula Burr: Snowboard when I can get away, and I love to travel. I also enjoy sleeping in and watching other non horror movies.
Fatally Yours: In your line of work, what (or who) is your #1 inspiration?
Paula Burr: At the moment, my head is completely wrapped around motion picture. Since I have been working on set my mind is a bit distorted. My stills will be pushing the levels of “set pieces” in the future. I also have been watching music videos and films to look at lighting and watching for the little things that directors of photography throw into the mix. Watching cinematography pushes the boundaries for me shooting stills. I’m such a visual person that truly my inspiration comes from learning what I can by watching, looking around and just staying tuned in to my surroundings.
Fatally Yours: What are your hopes, dreams and goals for the future with Killer Eye Photography?
Paula Burr: Well at the moment Killer Eye is doing well! While working in London my site is currently a blog site, rather than an image gallery, but I am building a new web site as we speak! New look coming soon! As far as my goals, I just really want to give the world something different.
Working in the commercial world of fashion and portraiture, I am just bored to death with the same images over and over. As far as the commercial industry goes, I would love to be a photographer who can grab celebrities and twist them into something surreal. I had a friend once say to me, “You could be the next Annie Leibovitz of horror!” I have to admit I loved the sound of that! Creating a fantasy world, dark dreamlike sets that take you away to a place you could never imagine, that is where my head is and where I would love to have people sit for me. Tim Burton for example, when I look at his body of work, I am reminded of how much I want to be a child again. Dreams of falling down a rabbit hole to a world of magic and mystery…I mean, trying to read the Manual for the Recently Deceased, I’d give that a shot. His mind completely blows me away. I would like to keep pushing forward in my imagery to give the world my ideas of bizarre, mysterious and creepy. In the same time hoping that there is some dark soul out there that finds my art beautiful.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
It’s the swinging sixties in Hollywood, but Burton Lazlow is a washed up old actor, best known for his portrayal as “The Tarantula” in the 1940’s horror films. His star has faded over the years, but his drinking has increased. He spends most of his days lamenting his lost career and cursing fellow British actor Arthur Hollingshead for becoming successful. His wife Kandice, sick of his whining, leaves him and all the acting work his agent can get him involves Lazlow donning the black cape and fangs of his Tarantula character for burger commercials. With his life seemingly spiraling down the drain, Lazlow snaps and begins having wild hallucinations. When he kills someone during one of his episodes, Lazlow flees Hollywood and goes back to his home country of England, leaving a trail of bodies in his wake.
Lazlow ends up in London and takes up with a group of mods, who revere him for his newly found infamous status as celebrity murderer. Lazlow ends up taking on the persona of The Tarantula and with the help of the mods, plans to kill his arch-nemesis, Sir Arthur Hollingshead and anyone else he thinks is out to get him.
Curse of the Tarantula is a swinging good time full of memorable characters and zippy dialogue. Author Mike Segretto really captures the feel of the 60’s, whether the setting is glam Hollywood or mod London.
I love how the characters come to life, whether they are in Lazlow’s head or not! I love the characters of the mods, with their Vespa scooters and polished looks, as well as the arrogant character of Arthur Hollingshead that is always pestering Lazlow. As for the character of Lazlow, he’s a very interesting fellow and you just want to keep reading to see what happens to him. Although in the beginning of the book he’s a self-pitying alcoholic obsessed with his past and he commits a few murders, you can’t help but feel sorry for the old chap. It is downright sad to see a character like him, a revered horror actor that has fallen so far. Lazlow brings to mind horror greats like Vincent Price that also spent their golden years in obscurity. The character also progresses from pitiful to powerful as he takes on the persona of the Tarantula. His sinister transformation into monster is quite believable as well, thanks to Segretto’s masterful prose.
Author Mike Segretto manages to weave glamorous Hollywood with the gritty streets of London, overrun at the time by young ‘uns calling themselves mods or rockers. The slang that Segretto uses for the mods is spot-on and really brings you into their world of music and fashion. The lingo adds a lot of color to the book, and while some may have taken it overboard, Segretto wisely uses just the right amount to give us a feel for the characters.
I was also struck by how the book doesn’t read like a typical horror book. There are several bloody deaths, but the gore isn’t the main focus of the book. Instead, the characters are at the forefront of the novel. The quirky characters, as briefly discussed above, are what really carry the story. I kept reading just to see what Burton Lazlow would do next and see how the mods would react to his plans.
The pace also moves at a quick clip, propelling the reader further and further into the madly deteriorating mind of Lazlow as he transforms into the Tarantula. The book is a short one, clocking it at in or around 200 or so pages, but it helps that it is so well-written and paced.
Curse of the Tarantula is a breath of fresh air in the cluttered bookshelves of horror literature. Instead of skewing for an over-abundance of gore, Tarantula creeps under your skin and shows that the madness that inside our own minds is far worse than any cloaked monster.
Available from Amazon!
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Make sure you’ve got your seat belts fastened tightly, because Poultrygeist is one wild ride. Filled with puke, poop, killer poultry, putrescent gore and plenty of bad nudity, Poultrygeist shows Troma at its trashy (and socially-conscious) best!
Arbie (Jason Yachanin) and Wendy (Kate Graham) vowed they’d always be together…but a year after consummating their love in the Tromahawk Indian Burial Ground Wendy has come back to town a changed woman. She is in town protesting the bulldozing of the burial ground and the erection of fast food joint American Chicken Bunker in its place with her militant girlfriend Mickie (Allyson Sereboff). Yep, Wendy has turned into a lipstick lesbian much to the chagrin of lovesick Arbie. He vows to get her back and promptly takes a job at American Chicken Bunker. He joins the colorful group of employees, including high-strung manager Denny (Joshua Olatunde), backwoods dead chicken f*cker Carl Jr. (Caleb Emerson), gay Mexican Paco Bell (Khalid Rivera), and burka-clad Humus (Rose Ghavami) who has her own prayer mat in the kitchen to pray to Mecca every day.
Besides the angry protesters outside, Arbie and his co-workers must also deal with the angry spirits of displaced Native Americans as well as the souls of all the chickens American Chicken Bunker has slaughtered. Soon, people start ending up dead and/or start turning into horrific (and hungry) chicken-like zombies.
Can Arbie and his friends save the world? More importantly, can Arbie win Wendy back in the process?
Troma’s take-no-prisoners humor is readily apparent in this gloriously low-brow film and everyone from liberals to minorities to huge corporations get skewered. I especially liked how no group was left unscathed…as soon as fun was poked at big corporations, they’d switch it around and start making fun of the protestors standing against big business. Of course, this being a Troma film it’s also heavy on toilet humor…dick and fart jokes abound and this definitely isn’t a film for those easily offended!!
You expect the toilet humor (like a guy having massive diarrhea…from the point of view of the toilet bowl, someone adding his own “special sauce” to the fast food, chicken carcasses getting raped, etc.) from a Troma film, but what surprised me was the high quality of the special FX! The budget for Poultrygeist was pretty low, but they still managed to pull off some amazing effects. Highlights included a zombie hand going through someone’s ass and out their mouth, a meat grinder accident with a spectacular spray of blood, someone’s face getting cut into perfect deli slices in a meat slicer, dozens of people throwing up green puke and tons of other gross-out moments. The effects in the film were impressive and by far some of the best shown in any Troma film in the indie studio’s 35 year career!
Also a personal best for a Troma film was the acting in Poultrygeist. The actors gave it their all here, with very enthusiastic performances. Even though the characters were way over the top, you couldn’t help cheer for them anyway. In the wrong actors’ hands, the quirky characters could have quickly fallen flat…Luckily, we get a near-perfect cast that delivers and hams it up just enough without going too overboard in this over-the-top film! They even manage some fun musical numbers!
Yep, I said musical numbers! These will even be enjoyable to those that normally don’t like musicals (trust me, I watched this film with my musical-hating boyfriend and even he loved it). The lyrics, including songs about sex, bodily fluids, love, and more sex (usually of the anal variety), are just so damn offensive that they are plain hilarious. Plus, the audio is great and the actors can really sing! The songs even manage to propel the narrative along and aren’t just there for schlock value (though they do help!). We even get to see Uncle Lloyd (wearing a skirt, no less) join in on one of the musical numbers as he sings and dances!
Poultrygeist also tackles some socially conscious issues and though they are covered in poop and puke (and chicken feathers), the message still shines clear. The take jabs at big business, fickle and hypocritical protestors, consumerism, American’s fast-food addictions and so on. And through it all you’ll be laughing your ass off…unless you’re blowing chunks, that is!
Poultrygeist is the most fun you’ll have with chicken-zombies, Native American spirits (the ghostly kind, not the alcoholic kind), lesbians, skirt-wearing men and fast food this year! This is a fowl, gross-out movie that super-sizes the fun and comes with an extra side of AWESOME!
Available from Amazon!
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Need something to perk you up on this drab hump day? Need to kill some time at work or in-between classes? Looking for a surreal revenge story to watch? Well, I’ve got just the remedy for your case of the Wednesdays…
Christopher P. Garetano follows up his intriguing Horror Business documentary with Cottonmouth, a short film based on Stephen R. Bissette’s (Taboo, Swamp Thing) comic of the same name, which originally appeared in the underground horror comic Gore Shriek in 1986. Garetano read the comic at a young age and Cottonmouth stuck with him all these years.
And how lucky we all are that Garetano finally decided to adapt it for the screen!
Cottonmouth tells the tale of a group of ladies who return from their premature graves to seek revenge on the company executive that put them there with his company’s shoddy products.
Though Cottonmouth is a short film, its surreal visuals and revelation of just why the rotting-away ladies are so pissed make it a fine film! I loved the look of the film, with the wispy fog and ominously-colored background in shades of bruised purples, reds and blacks. The look of the rotting corpses was also very shocking and extremely well-done.
My favorite part, though, had to be the revelation of just what defective, toxic product killed the women! It’s a clever little surprise that you don’t expect but will appreciate!
The best part of Cottonmouth? You can check it out for FREE by going to cottonmouth.tv!! So take a few minutes to add some spark to your otherwise ho-hum day…check out Cottonmouth!!
Cottonmouth’s Official Site!
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
The Museum of Death, located at 6031 Hollywood Blvd in Hollywood, California, is a private museum dedicated to all aspects of death. The museum boasts a large collection of serial killer artwork and correspondence, Victorian mourning items, mortuary equipment, accident/suicide/murder photography and videos of death, a menagerie of taxidermy animals, execution implements and many other curios and death memorabilia, including actual “souvenirs” from Heaven’s Gate cult mass suicide.
The Museum of Death is a fascinating place, owned by the very friendly and enthusiastic Cathee Shultz and JD Healy. With the stories these two could tell, they would make absolutely fascinating dinner guests! So it was my absolute pleasure to visit The Museum of Death and interview Cathee about her love of the macabre, how the museum began and her most shocking and bizarre encounters while working there!
Fatally Yours: How did you two meet and were you both already interested in the macabre when you started dating?
Cathee Shultz: JD and I met working at a French restaurant in Scottsdale, AZ., in 1983 he was baking the croissants and sold the cappuccino’s. It was lust-at-first sight! I went to his house on Sunday and moved in by Thursday. We got married 2 weeks later on “a day that would live in infamy”, December 7, Pearl Harbor Day. Neither one of us can recall being interesting in the macabre prior to meeting. I think together we had common interest of unusual things and we built upon that.
Fatally Yours: When did your fascination with death begin?
Cathee: We opened an art studio in San Diego in 1988 named Tohubohu (meaning an extreme disorder or chaos) through the years it morphed into other entities, the Rita Dean Gallery being one. In the gallery we did shows with the major taboo subjects- Sex, Death, Religion, Drugs, and Money. The Rita Dean was located in an old mortuary built in 1894 so we decided to take that theme and expand upon it and make a museum. This is when our true fascination started with Death! Once we opened and people started asking questions about Death, as responsible museum curators we needed to know the answers so we started our life long quest of DEATH!
Fatally Yours: What was some of the first death memorabilia you acquired?
Cathee: The first items we acquired were some artworks and letters from serial killers. We had an exhibit in 1992 called the Death Row Art Show and we purchased some paintings and drawings by Gacy, Manson and Otis Toole and soon afterwards began writing to assorted notorious killers. We amassed quite a collection this way and started exhibiting our own collection. The year before we opened the Museum of Death we did an exhibit titled “Exotic Weapons” in which JD and some colleagues made life size replicas of execution devices, another collection that would find a home in the Museum of Death.
Fatally Yours: What made you want to found the Museum of Death?
Cathee: It is difficult to make a living with an art gallery especially in San Diego. After doing the gallery for 7 years we wanted to branch out and move forward and we thought a museum was the next best thing.
Fatally Yours: You recently opened a new location in Hollywood after a far-too long hiatus. What happened with the old location and why was the opening of your new location delayed?
Cathee: Yes we did just re-open our new location in Hollywood at 6031 Hollywood Blvd., We had been trying to raise the capital to re-open the MOD for 7 long years and finally met an incredible couple who were willing to help fund the new MOD! We truly anticipated opening sooner but many factors caused the delay. After being closed for 7 long years I can’t really remember one reason that is important enough to mention here. We are just focusing on the future. And pretty much the reason we closed our former Hollywood location was under capitalization and an ASSHOLE for a landlord! Yes, most landlords are assholes but this guy was a hemorrhoid!! He basically put us out of business but once again we would rather just focus on our cool new location! How cool is it that The Wall by Pink Floyd was recorded here!
Fatally Yours: Where did you store all the museum’s items while you were in the process of moving?
Cathee: We had a terrific old house in the Highland Park section of Los Angeles, and it had 3 stories, so we just loaded it up, closets, basement, and we even kept a few things out to enjoy. The electric chair was at the head of the dining room table, the 9 foot giraffe neck and skull were in the office, and our stuffed pets were always in sight!
Fatally Yours: What has been the hardest item to acquire for the museum’s collection and what is the story behind it?
Cathee: I truly cannot think of any specific item that was hard to come by, most artifacts walk through the front door! I guess since I actually had to write letters and deal with asshole murderers, the serial killer art took more time and energy.
Fatally Yours: With displays of pretty controversial exhibits like the serial killer artwork, have there ever been any threats against you or the museum?
Cathee: As a matter of fact there have been threats against us. Not so much against the museum but when we did the Death Row Art Show at the Rita Dean Gallery some one called in and said they were going to “burn us down” and another one said “you will burn in Hell for this” and a few other similar calls. We do get people upset with the museum but generally if I get there anger before they leave the MOD I try and find out exactly what they are upset with and talk them through it. Are they mad at me or the images in the MOD? Are they angry at the fact that serial killers exist? Are they upset at man’s inhumanity to man? Are the pissed off our culture is so lacking in death/life education? Do they really think history should not be told?
Fatally Yours: Have you ever had any artifacts stolen or purposefully destroyed by others?
Cathee: Yes there have unfortunately been some thefts in the MOD. In the War display we had a Nazi dagger with sheath, and unfortunately some asshole took only the dagger and left the sheath! We hate thieves, especially ones that destroy history, the dagger is not as important without the other half but anyone stupid enough to steal from a museum is obviously too ignorant to know that! We used to have a hand in a jar (a schizophrenic cut his own hand off with a circular saw while he read the passage in the Bible “if your hand offends you, cut it off” ) and JD would set it on the front counter with a sign “This is from the last person who stole from the MOD!!” It was quite the deterrent, but we eventually passed it along to a new caretaker but we still have an impressive photo of the hand. Also some other idiot tried to take the TV out of the casket entertainment center and it pretty much fell on him, he ran away but had we actually caught him we might have had our first “Rotting Corpse” display!!
Fatally Yours: How do you go about finding specimens for the museum?
Cathee: We find specimens many places, antique stores, flea markets, swap meets, Ebay, and more than anything, friends that know we collect, find stuff for us!
Fatally Yours: Out of all the pieces in your collection, what is your favorite and why?
Cathee: I think you will get two entirely different answers from JD and I but since I am writing this…you get mine, although I don’t have ONE favorite because there are too many good things! My NEWEST favorite is Chaos the pig our newest taxidermied item! Chaos was our pet pig for 16 years, and we put him down (a nice way to say we killed him) last October (old age) and it took exactly 1 year to get him back! Next would be the memorial photos of the infants. There are 2 photos in particular, it is the same baby in both photos, one is of the baby with its eyes open so still looking alive and the next photo is the baby with its eyes closed, clearly deceased! I’m sure it sounds morbid but to me they are the most beautiful photos we own!
Fatally Yours: Of all the things you’ve seen relating to death, what has been the most shocking, upsetting, and/or morbid?
Cathee: One of the most disturbing things I was exposed to was a photograph of a sexually molested corpse at a body research facility. VERY Disturbing!
Fatally Yours: Is there anything you’ve come across that you refused to exhibit because it was just too shocking?
Cathee: There have been a few items over the years that we chose not to pursue or exhibit. The aforementioned photo and the dress Rebecca Schaefer was buried in. She is the actress who was murdered by a stalker, and many stalking laws were enacted throughout the country based on her murder. The story we know is, when her body was exhumed her mother wanted her re-interred in a different outfit, and somehow the original dress made its way to the MOD. There were questionable circumstances surrounding the dress and JD felt it inappropriate to have. Any item known to be stolen or graveyard defacing items are NEVER welcome at the MOD!
Fatally Yours: Is there anything relating to death that you would never feature in your museum because it “crosses the line?”
Cathee: “Crossing the line” is a broad statement. The line we have set for ourselves at the MOD may be an entirely different line someone whose family was brutally murdered by a serial killer! Once again it would not be because an item is TOO graphic but because there area questionable circumstances surrounding the item.
Fatally Yours: If you could choose how you were going to die, how would you go?
Cathee: That’s easy……SPECTACULARLY!!!!!!!!!!!
Monday, November 10, 2008
Pennsylvania State Trooper Laura Caxton may have won the battle against vampires in the previous book 99 Coffins, but it certainly came at a price. Her mentor and foremost authority on vampires, Jameson Arkeley (who was the anti-hero of the 13 Bullets and 99 Coffins books), took on the vampire curse to protect Caxton and defeat the vampires. Problem is, he liked being a vampire a little too much. Now he’s gone rogue and it is up to Caxton to use everything he taught her to track him down…even when he knows all the tricks she can use. When Arkeley starts killing those that were near and dear to him, Caxton must fight with all he’s got to save his family as well as her own neck.
David Wellington is one of my favorite contemporary horror authors and I always eagerly await his new novels. I definitely wasn’t disappointed with Vampire Zero, an action-packed novel featuring likable characters, a fast moving plot and plenty of surprises.
The character of Laura Caxton, whom you’ll be familiar with if you’ve read the previous two books, is developed even more in Vampire Zero. Instead of the main protagonist being Arkeley, she is now in the spotlight. We also get to see the drive to hunt down vampires that Arkeley used to have transferred over to Caxton. Her sacrifices, both personal and professional, actually shine light on how much Arkeley had given up in the previous two novels in order to save the world from vampires. This was quite an interesting perspective and only goes to show how much humanity Arkeley lost after becoming a vampire.
Of course, there are plenty of new characters, like vampire wannabe Rexroth, who tricks Caxton into thinking he’s a real vamp in the exciting opening of the book. We also get to know Arkeley’s intriguing family member’s quite well – his brother Angus, son Simon, daughter Raleigh and wife Astarte. Some last longer than others, but all give an interesting, personal perspective on whom Arkeley really was when he was alive and human. Along with the new, Wellington brings back familiar characters, like Caxton’s sweet girlfriend Clara, the loyal cop Glauer, and the old vampire Justinia Malvern, who seems to be getting stronger and becoming more of a threat.
Wellington keeps the vampires vicious (just the way I like ‘em) as in his previous works. He even managed to make Arkeley’s transformation from vampire killer to killer vampire believable! One thing I do wish is that more time in the novel had been devoted to Arkeley as the vampire, but the perspective was solely from Caxton’s point of view.
The pacing throughout the book is just about perfect, with the action moving along at a quick clip. I love how the story just keeps snowballing and picking up speed until the big finale, which definitely delivers! Speaking of the finale, Wellington could not have picked a better place for the showdown between Caxton and Arkeley…just read it and see!
The novel is well laid out so that it could be read as a stand-alone novel, but it would help immensely if you read 13 Bullets and 99 Coffins before this one to better understand the complex relationship between Caxton and Arkeley. Plus, both are fine books and will satisfy horror fans’ voracious appetites. All in all, Vampire Zero is an exciting and thrilling new David Wellington novel that delivers the goods in rip-roaring fashion! The finale also leaves us hanging a bit, so I expect another vampire novel to follow this excellent one!
Available from Amazon!
Sometimes you watch a movie and think, WTF did I just watch and why in the hell was this sh*tfest every made?! I usually don’t cuss in my reviews, but Return to Sleepaway Camp is such an insult to horror movie fans that it deserves every curse thrown its way. Their tagline is “Kids can be so mean!” but wait until I’m through with this review…
It’s a pity Return to Sleepaway Camp so horrible…I am a fan of the first three films (and of course hold the original in very high regard), so I was looking forward to see just what they could do with another sequel. The things that made the first three films so great (the kills, the campiness, the tension, the blood and the likable characters) are all missing from this installment. Return to Sleepaway Camp is a sloppy, disappointing mess that I had to force myself to sit through.
Hey, it is summertime and the obnoxious kids at Camp Manabe seem to love spending all their free time torturing each other. Alan (Michael Gibney) is the unfortunate loser of the camp and seems to get the brunt of the abuse, even though he brings it upon himself by harassing campers and counselors alike. (“Kids can be so mean!”) When campers start to go missing, counselor Ronnie, who used to work at the ill-fated Camp Arawak, is convinced Angela has come back seeking revenge. When a prank unhinges Alan, though, people start to suspect he is behind the murders.
Return to Sleepaway Camp is a completely useless pile of crap that’s embarrassing to even watch. Not only is it embarrassing (not to mention insulting) to horror fans, but it is excruciatingly painful to sit through. I wanted to turn it off as soon as the opening credits rolled (they feature music that feels completely out of place in a horror movie) and then when the first scene featured a group of kids lighting farts I knew pretty much it would be downhill from there. Still, I kept pressing on, waiting for some redeeming values to flicker across the screen so I wouldn’t feel like my brain had been raped repeatedly by this obnoxious, pointless film.
No dice…I’d been f*cked. And hard.
First off, the film is atrociously written. It’s been 25 years since writer/director Robert Hiltzik did the original Sleepaway Camp and those long 25 years between gigs definitely show. The writing feels canned, stale and ridiculous. I understand that “camp” is what they aimed for, but all the attempts at being funny fall very, very flat. Also, the actual plot is very sparse and everything feels under-developed. And what happened to the tension and suspense of Hiltzik’s original Sleepaway Camp?
Not only that, but all of the characters are inherently unlikable. Was Alan, the kid who got picked on the most, written as a special ed kid? If so, mentally challenged people everywhere should sue, because his portrayal is just…retarded. Unlike the original Sleepaway Camp, where we cared about the outcast Angela, I just kept wishing the killer (who is obviously NOT Alan) would pop up and off Alan, just to end his whining. Ronnie, the camp counselor from the original Sleepaway Camp returns, but his character is never really developed and all he does is yell about Angela returning and wear short-shorts. The rest of the characters were never fleshed out and half the time I couldn’t tell the kids apart. Also, many of the characters would appear once or a few times and yet disappear for the rest of the film without reason. Overall, I didn’t have anyone to root for and didn’t care at all what happened to any of the idiotic characters.
And, of course, then there’s the wretched acting that makes the already unlikable characters even more loathsome. The lead actor who plays Alan, Michael Gibney, is probably the worst. I know that director Hiltzik probably told him to play it campy and over-the-top (nevermind that the script already can’t carry this because of the bad writing), but good lord was this guy annoying! Wondering if he was mentally challenged and listening to his screechy, whiny voice had my finger itching for the “stop” button on the remote more times than I can count. As for everyone else, they all looked embarrassed to be in the movie (how could you NOT be embarrassed) and their poor performances echoed that sentiment. Poor Isaac Hayes, who appears as the camp’s chef in one scene (hardy-har-har), has the unfortunate distinction of calling this his last role. Even Vincent Pastore of Sopranos fame, who played the owner of the camp, looked embarrassed to be there.
The strikes against this sorry excuse for a horror film keep coming, as the pacing of the story was very ill-conceived. The first half focuses on Alan running around harassing people then running off and whining to his pet frogs whenever people pulled pranks on him. I’m sorry, but following a special needs kid around for the first half of a horror movie yet not establishing him as a likable character (not to mention lack of kills!!) tends to drag a film down (as if this one wasn’t low enough to begin with). Around the 3/4′s mark, it seems the filmmakers came to the realization that, “Oh, shit! This is a horror movie…not a touching movie about how a mentally challenged kid’s dreams came true at summer camp! We gotta throw in some kills!” So, they do…but they are underwhelming at best. Let’s see…a fat girl eats it when a mattress spiked with nails falls on her, some dumb kid gets his eye poked out after repeatedly looking into a hole, a guy gets his precious “winky” ripped off, a guy gets French-fried in a vat of hot oil, blah, blah, blah. Unless you’re in elementary school, you will not think these kills are cool. And if you even get this far into the film without pushing the “stop” button, it’s probably because you fell asleep.
When people waste money on making shitty films like this one, I often wonder what positive uses could that money have gone to instead? Feeding the hungry? Clothing the poor? Protecting endangered species? Cancer research? Donating to charity? Making an Uwe Boll movie? Any of these uses would have been preferable to this trash-bin-bound movie.
Save yourself from an agonizing experience and ignore all the positive “reviews” posted on IMDB and other boards (probably put there by clueless fanboys or those within the production to try and drum up some positive buzz)…Return to Sleepaway Camp is an embarrassing, dated and painful experience that has absolutely no redeeming values. Fans of the original films or fans of horror films in general be warned!
Don’t wait to have your intelligence insulted by this movie…just say, f*ck you, Return to Sleepaway Camp!
I can already hear the filmmakers whining…“Critics can be so mean!”
Find the atrocity on Amazon!