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My Judgement on Hellraiser: Judgement (2018)

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Not very often we review a horror movie that’s been out less than a decade. And for good reason perhaps. Not to say that there are no good modern horror movies. I believe Get Out and Conjuring prove that decent horror is still making its way to theaters and into our living rooms. Yet, as a whole, the horror community clings to the hey-day, so to speak, of better times. Due to this habit, it feels like some movie makers get the notion that all we want to see are rehashed classics. While i have no problem digging deeper into an already established horror universe, but i’d much rather see something new than something old with a new wig, if you catch my meaning. Case in point, last night’s screening of Hellraiser: Judgement (2018).  Continue Reading

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SLASHERS & SERIAL KILLERS IN REVIEW : HENRY : PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER 1986

Henry1In June 1983, drifter Henry Lee Lucas was convicted of 11 murders. Later, he confessed to over 3,000, but retracted many of these over time. Today, most believe that Lucas was responsible for about 40 separate killings, including his sex worker mother, and Becky Powell, the intellectually-impaired 15-year-old niece of his close friend and lover, Ottis Toole.

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986) is as much a biopic and crime drama as it is a horror film. It is as far from the territory of Jason, Michael and Freddy as an 80s serial killer movie can be, and its uncompromising violence and dread-soaked atmosphere ensured controversy and a release plagued with censorship issues. These problems set its American release back by 4 or so years, while in the UK, the uncut version of Henry was only made available in 2003, a full 17 years after it was made.  Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972)

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If a friend asked me, “Hey, Tommy, can you recommend a good slasher movie?” Off the cuff, I’d typically guide said friend to one of the many wondrous titles under the Friday the 13th franchise or Nightmare on Elm Street. If they wanted obscure but tasteful, I’d most likely say The Prowler or The Burning. Those looking for something for date night, I’d recommend Scream or perhaps Silence of the Lambs. If I wanted to sound like an intellectual or one of those real classic film guys, I’d suggest Psycho. But if I were really brave…if i wanted to take the risk, if not in losing a friend and all credibility in recommending slasher movies, but also risk being looked at (at worse) like some weirdo pervert, well…if i didn’t care about that, then I would totally recommend THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972).

This isn’t to say that THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (TLHOTL) is a horrid movie. Its not. Its actually quite amazing. Raw. Brutal. Shocking. And truth be told, not entirely that fun of a film. Just how slasher flicks really ought to aspire. TLHOTL doesn’t wear a mask to scare you, it removes the mask, and in so doing is utterly terrifying. There is no pleasure in the depravity, except for perhaps towards the end when the protagonists’ parents exact revenge (more on that later). In Friday the 13th or Nightmare on Elm Street or even Halloween, we’re (mostly) rooting for the killer, “Yeah! Murder those dumb stupid teenagers!” But in TLHOTL, those very scenes are sickening and uncomfortable to watch.  Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: The Strangers (2008)

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On one hand, I think that The Strangers typifies what can be the brightest and most brilliant executions of the horror genre. On the other, I also think that The Strangers is a perfect example of some of the worst kind of tropes that are pounded to death like so many coffin nails.

Let’s start with the positive because it’s a new year and I’m trying to focus on such things. The premise for the film is as simple as can be which, as an aside I think is actually essential for great horror. The films and books that perform the best for me are about creating a visceral experience for the reader and the characters. If you need to draw a flow chart in order to find the horror, you might not be doing it right.  Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: American Psycho (2000)

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American Psycho is a satirical novel written by Bret Easton Ellis and published in 1991. It is an unreliable first person narrative, in the present tense, given by the main character, Patrick Bateman, who is a yuppieliving in 1980s New York City. It is an extremely controversial novel, given its depiction of increasingly brutal violence against women; this issue led many feminists to protest the novel.

movie version was made in 2000, the screenplay written by Guinevere Turner and Mary Harron (the latter also being the director), and starring Christian Bale in the lead role. The movie removed or mitigated the novel’s violence, and rearranged much of the material: apart from that, the film was reasonably faithfulContinue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: Halloween (1978)

halloweenStarring: Donald Pleasence, Jamie Lee Curtis, P.J. Soles, and Nancy Loomis. With Nick Castle and Tony Moran portraying Michael Myers.

Written By: Debra Hill and John Carpenter

Directed By: John Carpenter

Synopsis: On Halloween night of 1963, six year old Michael Myers brutally murders his seventeen year old sister, Judith. He was sentenced to a mental hospital but on October 30, 1978 he escapes and a string of murders begin in his hometown of Haddonfield, Illinois.

Halloween isn’t just a good story; it’s a film that demonstrates an unprecedented understanding of it’s very media. It’s a story that could only be told cinematically, a true folktale for the 20th century and beyond. Light, shadow, silence and good sound form into an experience both tangible and transcendent. It’s a wholly immersive work of art, a rare instance of pure cinema. Like it’s antagonist, it will never die.” -Stef Hutchinson, taken from the 35th anniversary Blu-Ray.  Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

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I wish to start my review by saying that while I was alive in 1984, I led a mostly sheltered life (read: my parents were NOT going to let me as a tender 12-year-old go see a HORROR (gasp!!) movie.)  So, I didn’t see A Nightmare on Elm Street until I was late into my teens. That being said, there are movies that transcend the era in which they first appeared.  Dracula, Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein despite being made in the 1930’s still hold sway over generations not even considered then.  Night of The Living Dead, Rosemary’s Baby and dozen’s more still thrill us fifty or more years later.  For every Jigsaw (2017) there must be a Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974).   My point is that even though it was not a current or hot movie when I saw it, it still held as big a punch for me as if I were a starry-eyed tweenager in 1984.  Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: The Burning (1981)

The Burning

Starring: Brian Matthews, Lou David, Leah Ayres, Brian Backer, Larry Joshua, Fisher Stevens, Ned Eisenberg, and Jason Alexander

Written By: Bob Weinstein, and Peter Lawrence

Directed By: Tony Maylam

Synopsis: After a prank goes wrong, setting the caretaker of Camp Blackfoot on fire and leaving him horribly scarred, a group of teen campers begin to be picked off one by one.

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The 1980’s, what an amazing and glorious decade for the horror genre. Specifically, slasher films were on the rise during this time. Chances are fairly high that if you are reading this review, you grew up on the films of this decade or are actively seeking out reviews for films to watch from this amazing time in the genre. Whether you are in the mood for some good practical gore effects and deaths, or are seeking out some of the films that helped to shape the slasher film, Tony Maylam’s The Burning is a classic film that helped set the stage and hone the elements that are now considered staples in the horror genre. I recently had the pleasure of giving this classic flick another watch and these are my thoughts on The BurningContinue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: JASON GOES TO HELL (1993)

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WELCOME friends to a new year of “In Review.” As you no doubt have guessed, this year we’re running the gauntlet with Slashers & Serial Killers. To say we’ve got our work cut out for us would be an understatement. Thus far the review count looks to be well over 150 different movie reviews all spread throughout 2018 with our usual break in observance of the holiest of horror holidays, Freight Fest. Why such a high review count? There’s the love of course…the utter romanticism of this particular horror sub-genre–knowing the killer in us all by living vicariously through onscreen murderers and villains. Beginning as early as Psycho in 1960 and continuing on all the way into 2018, slasher and serial killer movies are alive then as they are today with hundreds of different movies to choice from. To kick things off, my movie of choice may seem a bit odd…allow me to explain.  Continue Reading

[REVIEW] Day of the Dead: Bloodline (2018)

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What’s the worst that can happen? That is what I had said last night before renting the yet to be released remake of George A. Romero’s DAY OF THE DEAD (1985). Deep down, I knew…I knew it wasn’t going to be good, and yet there I was, pushing select and paying $6 despite my better judgement. I try to be fair. I know I am very particular about zombie movies. Deep prejudices, you might say. Being a Romero-purist makes it really hard to get into anything other than Romero. I understand that the late great grandfather of the zombie genre wasn’t perfect, we need only look at Survival of the Dead to realize that, but still…there has to be something. Story. Acting. Gore. The trifecta, no, the algorithm to making a solid zombie movie. So, did Day of the Dead: Bloodline make the cut?  Continue Reading

We did it AND other thoughts on 2017

This final wrap up post for 2017 isn’t about one individual or even two, this is about our collective achievement. Machine Mean may have started with one nerdy guy talking about horror, history, politics, and whatever else crossed his mind, but it has GROWN way beyond that. From guest posts and interviews to a full on partnership between myself and Chad Clark, we have watched this little horror movie and book review site flourish. In 2017, we had over 17,000 readers, leaving over 200 comments, drawn in from all over the world–predominately in the United States, the UK, Canada, and France. Our most popular post was Chad’s article The Dark Tower And Toxicity in Modern Nerd Culture, ringing in nearly 2,000 reads. In 2017, we posted 137 articles totally nearly 190,000 words. But we couldn’t have done this alone. We’ve had a lot of help from some 31 really awesome contributors.  Continue Reading

Thomas’s Top Reads: 2017

Now, I’ve never claimed to be a world champ reader. Truth is, i’m probably the world’s slowest reader. I have no shame at being slow, at least i’m reading, right? Any how. As we near the end of 2017, I thought it would be fun to share some of the books I’ve read throughout the year, not including some titles such as Salem’s Lot that I re-read every year. Being a fan of both fiction and non-fiction/history, you ought to find a great assortment here to look through. I’ve been trying to be more diverse in the genres I digest. Maybe that can be a goal for 2018, to read more of everything, not just horror. I’ll also include a short review of each book from myself. Well then, lets get this started shall we?  Continue Reading

Creature Features in Review: The Toxic Avenger (1984)

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The eighties were weird time in cinematic history. Teenage werewolves who’ve found the need to fit in and become all-star athletes, a transgender serial killer who has a disdain for camping and boating, lastly, a man wearing a fedora who finds enjoyment by tormenting teens through their dreams, a weird time for films. And if you could take one of those films and use it to describe the cinema from that particular era—The Toxic Avenger, would be your best bet.

A lot of questions can be raised, in regards, to what makes The Toxic Avenger a great movie. Is it the story? No.  Is it the special effects that will make Predator shake in shame? Not necessarily.  Continue Reading

Creature Features in Review: The Relic (1997)

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I was a freshman in college when The Relic came out, and I remember sitting in the theater with my friends watching the film.  I have a special place in my heart for creature features.  I just love how creative and awesome some of the creatures turn out to be.  I’m a huge fan of creatures created by Stan Winston, so I just had to see this film.

The Relic is still one of my all-time favorite creature features.  Apparently my memory was a bit hazy and I didn’t remember that the audience saw as much of the creature as they did.  I remember it being shown in bits in pieces in the dark, but it gets shown in all its glory—albeit in the dark, but that just adds to its awesomeness.  It deserves its time on the screen.  Continue Reading

Creature Features in Review: Gremlins (1984)

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There are only three rules.

Any time a character is told something like that in the movie, it’s pretty much always a recipe for disaster. It’s right up there along with, here take this ancient book but don’t ever read anything out of it. It’s pretty much a guarantee that no matter what, something is going to go wrong and it’s going to be because somebody didn’t follow the rules.

This isn’t exactly a new narrative device. We are all pretty familiar with it, but I identify one movie as being the original, the best and shining example of this type of story.  Continue Reading

Creature Features in Review: Day of the Animals (1977)

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The Seventies were packed to the brim with animal attack movies. Name your critter. Snakes, bears, earthworms; all creatures, great and small, had their own chance at cinematic revenge against the human race for mucking up the environment. Film lovers had a tendency to root for the animals, which was justified. We were destroying the planet with Aqua Net fumes and pollution. We were killing ourselves, never mind the woodland creatures around us. Hell, the Cuyahoga River caught fire and the response from those responsible was a resounding, “Well, that’s weird.” The eco-horror genre was always meant to hammer out a warning about the dangers of botching the biosphere. However, using just one kind of animal wasn’t hitting a wide enough audience. If you lived in a high-rise, then you weren’t going to be too worried about chemically imbalanced grizzly bears mauling you on the eightieth floor on your way home after work.  Continue Reading

Creature Features in Review: Trollhunter (2010)

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Like the slasher sub-genre of the late 70s and early 1980s, the found footage style was a formula that required little expenditure for vast returns. 1999’s The Blair Witch brought the fledgling sub-genre to the attention of the mainstream, and importantly, to film producers.  Continue Reading

Creature Features in Review: Spring (2014)

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What is the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime love worth? Is it worth the embrace of a monster, or death? SPRING is not just any monster movie, no typical vampires or werewolves here. What remains is the inescapable drive for connection that goes beyond emotional need.

SPRING, directed by Justin Benson and Aaron Morehead and written by Benson, is the story of Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci,) a young man who has just lost his mother and his job. His life has been on hold, taking care of his dying mother and his father who has also passed. He is an adult orphan, alone in the world with no direction. He makes an impulsive decision to head to Italy, a trip he and his father always talked about. He arrives with no clear idea of what he is looking to find.  Continue Reading

Creature Features in Review: Swamp Thing (1982)

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Swamp Thing

Starring:  Ray Wise; Adrienne Barbeau;

Louis Jordan; Dick Durock

Written and Directed by Wes Craven

One of the great joys of being a cinephile is that moment when an entertaining film quietly emerges as a great one.  In Wes Craven’s 1982 cinematic adaptation of the classic DC comic Swamp Thing,  that moment occurs about a half an hour into the proceedings.  More on that in a moment.  Continue Reading

Creature Features in Review: Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988)

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The Blob, but with clowns. That will get you close to understanding what this film has in store if you haven’t seen it yet, but it doesn’t quite cover it. In fact, despite the Chiodo brothers’ stated intent to pay homage to The Blob, as well as the 50s alien invasion film in general, chalking it up to a simple homage would be a disservice. Killer Klowns from Outer Space is such a great movie in so many ways, but one of its most important features is its originality.  Continue Reading

Creature Features in Review: Castle Freak (1995)

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Today’s offering borderlines what we’d define as a “creature feature.” The monster isn’t some radiated beast nor is it (he) cosmic or multidimensional. Castle Freak is without a shadow of a doubt human. Not subhuman nor extraordinary. He’s not unkillable (such as Jason or Freddy) or super strong. But I wouldn’t categorize Castle Freak as a slasher or serial killer or mass murderer either. In fact, when researching some info on Castle Freak I was shocked to find that it was labeled as a mystery slasher film. I think perhaps that’s because the people doing the “labeling” didn’t understand what it was they were looking at. The “monster” in Castle Freak isn’t out for revenge or to score a high kill count, in fact, there’s not a heck of a lot of death in this movie, not if it were indeed a slasher flick. No. Castle Freak isn’t a slasher, its a creature feature, and I’ll tell you why…  Continue Reading

Creature Features in Review: Species (1995)

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We’re back with a brand new review for our soon to be concluded “In Review” series, Creature Features. We put the monsters on hold last month for Fright Fest as the zombie horde took center stage. But as the saying goes, the show must go on. And what an odd 90s movie to begin our trek. Species as I an recall was among those last great VHS rentals at Blockbuster. I remember really liking it back then because of…well…the nudity. Seriously, come on, its a super hot alien hybrid looking for a man to mate with. Of course, this was teenager me thinking about few things other than boobs. As a great disappointment (I’m sure) few things have changed. Still…as an adult now enjoying the boobs is honestly highly important, but perhaps there’s something else going on behind the film. We all know what hormones does to a teenage boy, but what about the ladies? Species makes me wonder, the way it was written, is it perhaps allegory for femininity gone wild?  Continue Reading

Fright Fest: DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978)

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Francine Parker: They’re still here. 
Stephen: They’re after us. They know we’re still in here. 
Peter: They’re after the place. They don’t know why; they just remember. Remember that they want to be in here. 
Francine Parker: What the hell are they? 
Peter: They’re us, that’s all, when there’s no more room in hell. 
Stephen: What? 
Peter: Something my granddad used to tell us. You know Macumba? Vodou. My granddad was a priest in Trinidad. He used to tell us, “When there’s no more room in hell, the dead will walk the Earth.” 

Dawn of the Dead is among many things a very quotable movie. The scene above is probably everyone’s favorite, and for some there are more selective scenes to nibble on. Scientists arguing on what remains of the news broadcast. The SWAT incursion of the Philadelphia apartment building. The refueling scene, the dock scene, the shopping montage. The raiders and ensuing firefight. There are plenty. And if you were to ask me, I can’t really say if I personally have an all-time favorite scene, I mean let’s be honest here, there are so many to choose from. From the very beginning, Dawn of the Dead lures you in and keeps your attention rooted into the story. The pacing couldn’t be more perfect.  Continue Reading

Fright Fest: Burial Ground, The Nights of Terror (1981)

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Zombie fans come from every walk of life and every zombie fan has their own tastes when it comes to zombie movies. In fact, you could say that there are even sub-genres within the sub-genre of flesh eaters. Just this month alone during this year’s Fright Fest we have seen a wide variety of zombie flicks (saving the best for last, which will be tomorrows review). The only sub-genre within the sub-genre we did not allow into the mix were voodoo curses and “anger” viruses, like 28 Days Later which is not technically a “zombie” movie at all, just like The Crazies were not zombies, they’re “mad, insane, and otherwise still living.” Feeling very much like a bouncer at some classy (or not so classy actually) nightclub, we’ve allowed in a certain clientele. “Are you dead and are you eating the flesh of the living? Yes. Okay. You’re cool, come on in.” That’s right folks, we’ve got standards at this joint.

Be that as it may, even folks who consider themselves “fans” of flesh eating walking corpses are not necessarily all that well versed when it comes to the cabinet of zombie movies. Nowadays I’d say that’s a fair statement given the popularity of The Walking Dead and Z-Nation (not sure if that’s still popular, but I tossed it up anyway). There are some zombie fans who watch TWD and that’s about all she wrote. And there are others who delve into the Romero films, such as Dawn of the Dead, Night of the Living Dead, Day of the Dead, Land of the Dead, Diary of the Dead, and I shall’t not name that dreadfully last one made. And some Romero fans haven’t even seen all the named and unnamed movies. And then there are the truly indoctrinated flesh eating fan, those who’ve peered into the depths of foreign film and came back to tell the tale. You think only the Americans have zombies in the bag, well…you are sadly mistaken. As Winston Zeddmore so aptly put it, “I have seen shit that’ll turn you white!”  Continue Reading

Fright Fest: Land of the Dead (2005)

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In 2005, my interest in the undead had officially been reclassified as ‘Mildly Addicted’, due in no small part to the Romero trinity of Night, Dawn and Day. By now I had branched out, and was working my way through any zombie film I could get my distended claws into. Then the news broke that Romero was making a new zombie film, Land of the Dead. To say I was a little excited would be an understatement. I remember watching it at the time and whilst I enjoyed it, it was not a patch on the originals, or most of the films I had been watching during that period.

So, looking at it objectively now and giving it another (overdue) viewing, has my opinion changed? Well…get comfortable, and I’ll begin.  Continue Reading

Fright Fest: [REC] (2007)

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[REC] (2007)

Directors: Jaume BalagueróPaco Plaza

Writers: Jaume Balagueró (screenplay), Luiso Berdejo

Release Date: 23 November 2007 (Spain)

Since its release back in 2007, REC has since become something of a modern horror classic, and is no doubt destined to be in the pantheon of greats in the many years to come. Like it’s found footage forebear The Blair Witch Project it elevates its limitations to enormous strengths – creating a building and palpable tension throughout that will have you creeping closer, and closer to the edge of your seat as it reaches its horrifying conclusion.

Co-written and directed by Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza, REC presents itself as ‘real’ footage recorded when a local TV reporter Angela Vidal (Manuela Velasco) and her cameraman Pablo (Pablo Rosso) cover a fire crew about their day-to-day lives, and join them when they respond to a vague emergency call about an elderly lady in a local apartment building.  Continue Reading

Fright Fest: Train to Busan (2016)

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Let me start off by saying that the film cover for “Train to Busan” is so eye-catching that it made me want to watch it, even if it is a zombie movie. I wanted it NOT to be a zombie movie, because frankly, I hate zombie movies. I love trains though, and couple that with a thriller or horror movie, you’ve enticed me right there. I was happy to sign up for another year of this October Fright Fest and review a film, but silly me, I thought it would be something classic. I freaked out after I signed up, when Thomas, the host, said the theme was zombies. CRAP! What kind of zombie movie am I going to be able to watch? The only one I had seen before was “World War Z,” which wasn’t bad, but it may have been the eye candy.  Continue Reading

Fright Fest: Invisible Invaders (1959)

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From another planet comes the Invisible Invaders!

How can you stop what you don’t see?

The dead will destroy all the living!

The living dead threaten all life on earth!

I know, Invisible Invaders? you say. Aliens, you must be joking. Certainly, Tommy, anything Romero-esque would be post 1968 and here you have a review for Fright Fest: Zombies with a film released back in 1959. What gives? Well, I’ll tell you. Yes, the rules still apply, though truth be told this one does kinda skirt the line a bit. The reason I wanted to include Invisible Invaders is due to the ambiance of the film and how obscure it has become in recent years despite its obviously forgotten importance to the history of zombie lore. As per the “rules” and as per the formula of Romero films, the zombies or ghouls or walking dead are not living persons controlled through magic or voodoo, though I do enjoy that variation, it doesn’t quite fit within the spectrum of Romeroism. The rule is simple enough, a person dies, they get up and attack the living, that living person dies and they get up and attack the living, etc. etc.  Continue Reading

Fright Fest: DAWN OF THE DEAD (2004)

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I love horror movies. I love zombie movies. But more specifically, I love one very specific part.

I love the beginnings of zombie movies.

I love the inherent sense of dread at what we all know is coming. If the sequencing is done right, it’s a thrill to watch, with a few disparate, seemingly unconnected events and soon enough, it’s all going to shit. It’s quick. It’s brutal. It’s total. And best of all, you are never told why it is happening.

Zombies have often been painted as a metaphorical criticism of our own over-consumerism but I think it also functions as a demonstration of our own existential shelf life. That at any given moment, anything can turn on us and bring about a cruel and uncaring demise. The frailty of our own condition is really highlighted in the terrifying opening moments of any great zombie film.
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Fright Fest: Zombieland (2009)

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Zombieland: The Best Zombie Movie

Yep, you read that right—it is my assertion that Zombieland represents the best the genre has to offer. And yes, I will present proof of my claims. But first, the synopsis.

When we meet our intrepid main character, Columbus (survivors go by place names rather than their actual names), we’re post zombie apocalypse. Columbus devises a list of rules to remain un-undead, which becomes a running joke throughout the movie (i.e. Rule # 31: Check the back seat; and my favorite, Rule # 17: Don’t be a hero—which changes into “Be a hero” by the third act. But I digress.). He meets up with another survivor, Tallahassee, who is on a quest for Twinkies (priorities, man).  Continue Reading

Fright Fest: Diary of the Dead (2008)

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Where will you be when the world ends? When it comes to apocalyptic movies, the beginning has always been my favorite part. Sure, its fun to see the aftermath, what the world looks like when the dust settles, but what I find absolutely intriguing is what happens in those defining moments when normalcy if flipped on its head. This is a huge reason why I’ve always enjoyed George A. Romero’s films. Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead (arguably) are about how the world ends in the moment. Day of the Dead and Land of the Dead are films about how people are doing after-the-fact. Good movies, but they’re missing that special punch. The defining factor which begs the question: What will you do when the world ends?  Continue Reading

Fright Fest: Dead & Buried (1981)

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The Art of Death in Dead and Buried

What if someone’s arrogance took the act of dying to the extreme for artistic purposes? This is the cornerstone of Gary Sherman’s Dead and Buried, written by the team of Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett (though apparently O’Bannon’s writing efforts had been edited out) based upon the Chelsea Quinn Yarbro novel.

The story takes place in mythical Potters Bluff, Rhode Island – one of those out-of-the-way seaside communities where everything appears to be quaint, but what happens at night or behind closed doors is a different kind “The Twilight Zone” story. Daniel Gillis (James Forentino) happens to be the local sheriff investigating bizarre murders that seemingly spring out of nowhere, and William G. Dobbs (Jack Albertson), the town’s old-time undertaker who can’t even speak until a Big Band tune ends, helps in providing clues left behind by the bodies of the recently departed. But Sheriff Gillis is having a hard time navigating the evidence that may prove the involvement of his neighbors as well as his wife, Janet (Melody Anderson).  Continue Reading

Fright Fest: City of the Living Dead (1980)

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Don’t you hate it when a zombie pulls your brain out the back of your head and squishes it between his fingers like Gak? Are you curious what that would look like? Give the first installment of Lucio Fulci’s Gates of Hell trilogy, City of the Living Dead, about sixty minutes of your time, and you can see for yourself.

The film opens with a séance, during which a psychic, Mary, envisions the suicide of a priest and the subsequent rise of the dead. She gets fairly riled, foams at the mouth, and dies. Only she’s not dead and is almost buried alive but for the intervention of a dashing reporter, Peter, who nearly brains her with a pickaxe in the process of removing her from the casket. It turns out that by committing suicide, the priest of her vision has opened a gateway to Hell in a town called Dunwich. Mary and Peter team up to find the town and close the gate before All Saints Day, when the dead will rise.  Continue Reading

Fright Fest: The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue (1974)

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Which is better: walking zombies or running zombies? What about the 28 Units of Time series? Do you consider the monsters to be zombies or ragers? These are the two biggest arguments among horror folk about zombie flicks, but I would like to introduce another, for I am a rabble-rouser.

While George Romero invented the modern zombie film in 1968, he also reduced the genre down into a formula ten years later with Dawn of the Dead. The suburban apocalypse, leaving small pockets of survivors, some of whom retain their basic humanity while others revert to savagery and animalistic behaviors. Meanwhile, the rank and file of the undead grows with each passing moment, spreading through cities and towns. In one case, Lucio Fulci’s Zombi, the dead are seen walking over the Brooklyn Bridge, an obscene rag-tag army staggering their way through the five boroughs.  Continue Reading

Fright Fest: Nightmare City (1980)

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Nightmare City

Director: Umberto Lenzi

Also Known As: City of the Walking Dead

Runtime: 

Are you bored of zombies yet? I am. I am thoroughly fed up of them. Sick to death. If a zombie horde wanted to kill us, they could just wander around and re-enact parts of 90% of the zombie films released in the last 10 years. We’d die of brain fatigue, being forced to watch the same troupes re-trod time and time and time again. I’m not saying all new zombie material is terrible, it’s just that the sub-genre is so flooded it’s harder to find.  Continue Reading

Fright Fest: Tombs of the Blind Dead (1972)

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[ SPOIL-O-RAMA, GUYS—DON’T CRY ABOUT IT—HAVE FUN WITH IT… ]

I’d been meaning to check these films out on my own for a while and had a set in my amazon wishlist waiting and ready when I saw this title in the list of choices of films to review. I called dibs and went immediately to amazon to grab this. So, just so I’m clear on what I’m working with, the set I now have is the Blue Underground set of all four Blind Dead films (and that Ghost Galleon that popped off its holder in transit better be watchable when I get to it…) and there is a decent amount of conflicting information (hence, the 1971/2 up top). This film is generally referred to as Tombs of the Blind Dead, but the disc in this set has two versions of the film—the first one I watched, La Noche Del Terror Ciego (The Night of the Blind Terror) is the original Spanish/Portuguese production title and cut; and The Blind Dead. Nowhere in the actual video material does it say the title I’ve always heard this film given, other than the box. Also, on the box it says it came out in 1971, but most other places say 1972.  Continue Reading

Fright Fest: Day of the Dead (1985)

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Day of the Dead is the third installment of the ‘Dead’ series from the late, great George A. Romero, and the final movie in what many consider the ‘original Dead trilogy’. It is, in every way, a masterpiece.

As the second sequel to Night of the Living Dead and part of a series, it is the perfect final third act. As a standalone horror movie, it is fantastic. As a zombie movie, it is divine. The special effects alone set this movie apart from most others, rivaled only by those in John Carpenter’s The Thing and Ridley Scott’s Alien (and okay, maybe also Tremors, directed by Ron Underwood).  Continue Reading

Fright Fest: Night of the Living Dead (1990)

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What? Were you expecting a Friday the 13th Jason Voorhees review? Keeping with tradition, with Part 3 playing in the background, I’ll do my best and not yarn too much over the movie I give credit as starting my entire fascination with not just horror, but zombies too. No, not Friday the 13th Part 3, come on people, stick with the program. I’m talking Night of the Living Dead. Imagine, if you will, that you’re a twelve year old boy and you have a big sister who by all accounts ought to be hanging out with her much more mature friends but instead decides to watch movies with you. That was me. And while not every Friday (because my sister did have a life), but on most Friday nights we would have a Friday Movie Night. I’m talking pizza, popcorn, soda, candy, and whatever other junk we decided to indulge ourselves with. We’d order Pizza Hut and drive down to the local video store (Blockbuster) and rent whatever we wanted. While I cannot recall every movie night, I certainly recall the night my sister rented Night of the Living DeadContinue Reading

Fright Fest: Shock Waves (1977)

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Shock Waves (1977)

[85 minutes. PG. Director: Ken Wiederhorn]

(It’s 40 years old, but I’ll give a SPOILER WARNING anyway)

There are literal and figurative streams of consciousness at work in Shock Waves, Ken Wiederhorn’s most well-remembered film.

It’s not a great film – at least not as great as my childhood mind remembers – but makeup designer Alan Ormsby’s suggestion on the Blu-ray commentary track, that the film is possessed of a “dreamlike quality” is not inaccurate. And that’s arguably where it acquires its power.

It’s a film that takes place primarily on water, with the midsection set in an abandoned hotel on a desert island.

There are scenes where characters paddle toward escape – through narrow, knotted thickets; through shallow ocean waters on the way out to sea – and don’t say much. They don’t need to, really – they know their situation is inexplicable and absurd, so what’s the sense in fevered rationalizations? By the end, the lone survivor of the ordeal, Rose (Brooke Adams) has been rendered catatonic by what she’s seen, reduced to writing gibberish in a journal.  Continue Reading

Fright Fest: Night of the Comet (1984)

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I’ve often written or talked about the first ever zombie film I saw, the eponymous Dawn of the Dead, by the legend that was, George A. Romero. The second was Return of the Living Dead II, the line, “His brains, they smell so spicy,” still sticks firmly in my head. The third, though unknown to me at the time, would probably have as big an impact as the first. It was Night of the Comet.

The film is basically a 50s/60s B-Movie, made in the eighties. It has a cheesy voice-over at the beginning which would not be out of place in Invasion of the Bodysnatchers or War of the Worlds. The setup is remarkably similar to Day of the Triffids. A once in a lifetime meteor shower promises an amazing light display, so the entire world and their dog hold street parties to have a few beers and take in the sights. Unfortunately, thanks to the heavy handed introduction, we learn that this very comet also made an appearance just as the dinosaurs disappeared.  Continue Reading

Fright Fest: DEAD SNOW (2009)

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The first time I saw the trailer for Dead Snow, I knew I wanted to watch the movie. It looked fun, exciting, and familiar. When I finally watched the movie, I wasn’t disappointed. By the end, I was giddy. Dead Snow had all the horror elements in it that I enjoy: carnage, blood and guts, and a super cool villain. As an added bonus, it also had humor.  Continue Reading

Fright Fest: Fido (2006)

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What’s Wrong, Boy? Is Timmy Being Eaten Alive?

What if Lassie hadn’t been man’s best friend but instead, a flesh eating zombie? In this post zombie apocalyptic world, director Andrew Currie, re-imagines not zombies, but society’s place for them. “Fido” tells a campy tale about a family needing to fit into suburban life in an over-the-top 1950’s satire.  Continue Reading

Fright Fest: Zombi (1979)

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George Romero is the father of the zombie movie, but Fulci’s ZOMBI takes the monster to it’s most gruesome level. ZOMBI is glorious with scene after scene of rotting, putrid flesh being ripped off, and pumping blood geysers. And, of course, there’s the shark vs. zombie scene. This film is all about imagery.

ZOMBI  is also known as ZOMBI 2, without Fulci’s consent. It was called that not because it’s a sequel, but to cash in on Romero’s DAWN OF THE DEAD, released a year earlier. The closing scenes filmed in New York, with the radio voice over, were added because of the earlier film. It was originally released with an X rating, and later labeled “a video nasty” in 1984 by the Video Recording Act.  Continue Reading

Fright Fest: The Video Dead (1987)

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The Video Dead

Director/writer: Robert Scott

1 Hr 30 mins.

Release Date: November 1987

An unlabeled crate from an unknown source is delivered to a house in the woods. The homeowner unwisely accepts the delivery, only to discover it contains a TV set that starts spewing giggling zombies all over the place. When a new family moves into the now-abandoned house, the son discovers the haunted television and is soon told what he needs to do to send the zombies back where they belong. Knowing and doing, however, are two very different things, and the zombies are not likely to go quietly. 

Continue Reading

Fright Fest: PLANET TERROR (2007)

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One of the best things about the Zompoc sub-genre is how widely diverse it is. You can go old school with some classic black and white voodoo hexes, such as White Zombie, I Walked with a Zombie, or The Plague of the Zombies, to name a few. There are the comedies, such as Shaun of the Dead or Zombieland or Return of the Living Dead. And there are the more serious minded zombie movies such as the works of the late great George A. Romero and all those wonderfully directed Italian zombie flicks (a good number of which will be reviewed during this year’s Fright Fest). But then you’ve got those Zompocs that are a bit harder to classify. Take for instance today’s morsel, PLANET TERROR. Upon my first screening it was hard to understand where this movie was coming from and where it was taking me. I mean, was it satire? Not completely. Was it serious? Not entirely. Was it expressionist, like those gritty foreign-made horror flicks? Not absolutely. Well, for crying out loud, what precisely is PLANET TERROR?  Continue Reading

Fright Fest: Dead Alive/Brain Dead (1992)

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The most brutal lawn mower ever filmed: Deal Alive.

When I was a child I watched the original Night of the Living Dead one Fourth of July and totally regretted it. We parked out in the desert to watch the fireworks show taking place over at a local high school, something I usually enjoyed, but I couldn’t help but cower in fear wondering if a pack of flesh eating zombies were going to come eat my entire family. For years after that I shied away from watching zombie flicks because they scared the shit out of me. When I became a teenager I decided to stop being a wussy and began educating myself in the world of the walking dead.  Continue Reading

Fright Fest: Return of the Living Dead (1985)

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Return of the Living Dead

by D. S. Ullery

Released August 16,1985.

Screenplay by Dan O’Bannon

Story by John Russo, Rudy Ricci and Russell Streine.

Directed by Dan O’Bannon

Starring Clu Gulager; Thom Matthews; James Karen; Don Calfa

There’s a moment about midway through Return of the Living Dead wherein several humans (who are  trapped inside of a funeral parlor as waves of zombies run rampant outside)  tie the writhing half-corpse of a long dead woman to an embalming table.  Continue Reading

Fright Fest: Night of the Living Dead (1968)

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Though zombie is never said in Night of the Living Dead, this 1968 horror film set the standard for all following zombie films: radiation raises the ghouls (as they’re called in the film) to life (though, as of this film, radiation as a cause is only speculation), they move in a slow, plodding manner, they eat the flesh of the living, and the people they kill turn into zombies.

What makes George A. Romero’s Dead films so important, though, isn’t the thrills and chills they provide, as generous as that providing assuredly is. It’s the social and political commentary, hidden beneath the piles of corpses, that distinguishes him from his imitators. The following is my interpretation of that commentary, a theme of mindless, pitiless killing, and a killing not limited to what the zombies commit, by the way.  Continue Reading

Interviews In The Machine : Amy Cross

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I love discovering new authors. In this craft that I have devoted so much of my life to, it is a thrill to find artists out there who are like-minded and to see their approach and their process. My introduction to the work of Amy Cross came via her book, The Farm. I was immediately attracted to the great cover and as it was posted as free at the time, I had no reason not to try it. And when I finally got around to checking it out, I was instantly impressed at the quality of her prose. The story was intriguing and paced perfectly. The characters were sympathetic and dynamic and the book had just the right balance of atmosphere and elements that were more extreme.  Continue Reading

Datsue-Ba, by Chad A. Clark

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The last thing Lorenzo remembered was being on the boat. That his own death could have happened so quickly, and that he had taken so little note of it was astounding to him.

He was now standing in a small group of people, none of whom he recognized. They were of various ages and sizes, different ethnicities. They might have been fellow passengers from the boat, but there was no way to know for sure. They all milled around, waiting.

In the clearing ahead, there was a wide, raging river, and standing next to it was one of the oldest women he had ever seen, dressed in rotting rags of clothing and waving a large walking stick around at the crowd. One by one, members of the group would come forward to face her. He had no idea what she was saying, but she shrieked at them and gestured at a small, pathetic looking tree growing along the river’s bank. The people would then disrobe and hang their clothes from the branches. The woman scrutinized the clothing as it hung and the punishment would soon follow.

One man had held out his hands, as if in offering. She had taken hold of them and twisted as she crushed, snapping both of the wrists as well as his fingers. He screamed out in agony, clutching his hands to his chest as the woman jerked her head back, gesturing for him to cross the river. Another person was burned until their eyes were nothing but charred flesh. Still another was beaten cruelly by her walking stick until he was left huddled and quivering on the ground.

“She sits in judgment over all of us.” The man on his right had spoken, sensing Lorenzo’s confusion at the scene. “In order to cross over the Sanzu river, you must first be judged for your sins in life. She uses your clothes, examines how much the branches bend under the weight of your sin and punishes you accordingly.”

He couldn’t help but laugh at the revelation, now recalling the fiery explosion on the boat that had burned his clothes away. She would have nothing to use for him. When the woman gestured for him, he stepped forward quickly, ready to be permitted to pass over the river.

His confidence quickly slackened at the caricatured expression of joy he saw on her face as she began to cackle and leap around the riverbank, as if in celebration. He looked back at his source of information in the crowd, the man who was now avoiding eye contact and shifting uncomfortably.

“Datsue-ba says that, since you are lacking clothing, she will be happy to use your skin as a substitute.”

 

For more short fiction, check out Chad’s books : A SHADE FOR EVERY SEASON (available in paperback, eBook and audiobook) and TWO BELLS AT DAWN (available in paperback and eBook)

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D3mini

Chad A. Clark is an author of horror and science fiction. For more information on his literary universe, check out his official website or take a peek at his Amazon author page

Ciguapa, by Chad A. Clark

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Hidalgo tossed the empty wine glass to the side and took the walking path, down from the plantation, along the winding bend, and up the slope that led to the mountains looming above. It was when he passed the thick grove of trees that he heard the sound of the woman singing. The rich tones floated out to him like sweet perfume and he felt like he had been tethered, drawn forward for a closer look. The woman had her back to him and at first he couldn’t tell what she was doing, but it looked like some kind of exotic, sensual yoga. He admired her body as she twisted and contorted herself into various positions, evidently oblivious to his presence.

He took another step forward and stepped on a branch, the sound filling the grove and shattering the moment, or so he thought. She turned to look back at him and in an instant, his entire universe could have been contained within those two giant, glistening eyes. She was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen, and even as he tried to speak, he knew that his vocal cords wouldn’t be up to the test.

While she was clearly naked, she had somehow wrapped her long strands of hair around her body to give the illusion of clothing. He felt himself stepping closer, drawn in by his need, his desire for her. Her lips seemed to turn up into a smile of invitation and possibility, while the swell of her breasts made his breath start to run short. She held her arms out to him and there had never been any place that he wanted to be as badly as this. He wanted to pull her to him, sweeping aside the voluminous hair as he pressed his body against hers.

His fingers were just about to brush against that smooth skin when, in an instant, the whites of her eyes blazed and were replaced with the bright blow of unearthly rage and vengeance. The lips that had looked so soft and seductive now peeled back to reveal a row of razor sharp teeth, already stained in what looked like crusted blood.

The thing was on him in an instant, shrieking so loudly that it looked like the trees themselves trembled from the sound. The hands that had once seemed so soft, were now claws, ripping into his arms, taking flesh and tissue with them as they pulled. He screamed, knowing full well that there was no way anyone at the plantation could hear him over the din of the party.

He screamed again, regardless, as the pain pushed away all rational thought, and the darkness in the shadows around him started to swell. Taking one long, distorted look at the woman as she crouched over him, tearing into the meaty part of his thigh, all he could hope was that he would pass out before she got much further into her meal.

 

For more short fiction, check out Chad’s books : A SHADE FOR EVERY SEASON (available in paperback, eBook and audiobook) and TWO BELLS AT DAWN (available in paperback and eBook)

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D3mini

Chad A. Clark is an author of horror and science fiction. For more information on his literary universe, check out his official website or take a peek at his Amazon author page

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