Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Two Front Teeth (2008)

Dear Santa, 

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.

Yours truly,
Fatally Yours

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!

Interview with Photographer Paula Burr

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

Book Review: Curse of the Tarantula by Mike Segretto

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

Poultrygeist (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

Cottonmouth (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

Interview with Museum of Death Co-Founder Cathee Shultz

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

Book Review: Vampire Zero by David Wellington

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!

Return to Sleepaway Camp (2008)

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!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Let the Right One In (2008)

I’ve never been a big fan of vampire movies. Their typical storylines about sexy, beautiful, rich vampires never really appealed to me…they just weren’t scary and most of them feel like you’re watching a trashy soap opera instead of a horror flick. I like my vampires grimy, I like ‘em to have some pathos, I like ‘em feral and violent…not trussed up in black leather, lounging about mansions drinking blood martinis. So, I was a bit hesitant about seeing Let the Right One In, a Swedish vampire film. Yet, right from the silent opening credits I knew I was in for something completely different…

In 1980′s Sweden, 12-year-old Oskar is a loner. He hardly sees his divorced parents, he is bullied at school and spends most of his free time alone, collecting newspaper clippings of violent crimes and murders. One snowy night Oskar sees a girl his age moving in next door. He meets her one night out in the snow-covered courtyard outside of their drab apartment building and she introduces herself as Eli. First the two are wary of each other, but both live such lonely lives that they gravitate towards one another and become friends. Eli seems to have odd habits, such as only coming out at night, needing to be invited into a room before entering and always being cold to the touch, but even though Oskar deduces just what she is, the bond of their friendship and love is too strong and nothing can separate them.

Let the Right One In is a very beautiful, quiet and subtle film that takes an interesting approach to the vampire myth. It is the antithesis to Hollywood’s sexy, rich and sophisticated vampires, instead focusing on the cold emptiness of a vampire’s life. There is a real humanity infused into all of the characters, and the situations they are trapped in are what make the movie horrifying.

The film is based on a book written by John Ajvide Lindqvist, who also wrote the screenplay. Lindqvist has said that the tale is partly autobiographical about his childhood, which really explains why the film feels so intimate and personal. Lindqvist also does a wonderful job tapping into childhood fears of alienation and being alone. His characters also carry with them tons of emotional depth, which can still be seen and felt on-screen. It’s not so much what the characters say as it is how they react in their environment that gives us a true sense of who they are. Both Oskar and Eli long for companionship, though neither of them would readily admit it. It’s to the credit of Lindqvist who gives these characters their depth that they feel so real to us.

Of course, praise must also be lavished on the two child actors that portrayed Oskar and Eli, Kare Hedebrant and Lina Leandersson. Both their performances were absolutely spectacular! You felt for and sympathized with their characters throughout the entire movie, even when Eli was ripping out people’s throats and Oskar continued to stand by her. With just a glance either actor could portray more heartfelt emotion than Miley Cyrus has been able to muster in her entire career! Both complex performances by Hedebrant and Leandersson are near flawless.

The pacing of Let the Right One In is slower than most films horror fans are used to, but the direction by Tomas Alfredson and the gorgeous cinematography by Hoyte Van Hoytema will keep you interested. I enjoyed the humor that Alfredson (I’m told he’s known for his comedy movies in Sweden) injected into the otherwise somber tone of the film. There are some genuinely funny moments that help to considerably lighten the mood of the film and help you enjoy it that much more. Of course, the austere cinematography by Van Hoytema definitely keeps your eyes glued to the screen as well. His shots of the snowy Swedish countryside will have you burrowing a little deeper into your winter coat.

Also keeping your attention are the genuinely unexpected moments throughout the film. There are some pretty shocking scenes that come out of nowhere and really surprise you, like Eli scaling the side of a building, her first attack, the awesome finale in the pool and so on. These shocks are few and far between, so when they actually do happen you’ll be pleased as punch because they are well worth the wait!

The one detraction in the film was an unnecessary CGI shot of a group of cats reacting violently to a vampire in their midst. The whole scene felt awkward and out of place in an otherwise restrained film. It also didn’t look too great with the obvious CGI’d cats. Still, this is but one complaint throughout the entirety of one very excellent film.

Let the Right One In definitely isn’t your typical horror movie, and some people have hotly contested that it shouldn’t even be grouped into the horror genre. True, the horror here is much more subtle than most films, but the horror is still there. Instead of having a villain running around slaughtering everyone, the real horrors in Let the Right One In are the desperate situations Oskar and Eli find themselves in. They are both outcasts and must try to survive. For Oskar, it’s surviving the bullies at school, whom he wants to kill to seek revenge. For Eli, it’s surviving the monster inside of her needs to kill to live. Both seek to survive the isolation and loneliness of their respective lives…and when they find each other, surviving becomes a little easier.

Let the Right One In is a bittersweet, tender, funny and almost heartbreaking story about finding that one person that accepts you for who you are, no matter what, and who would do anything for you.

Available from Amazon!
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