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Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: Wolf Creek (2005)

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Instead, I looked at the others I’d purchased back when I was going to do like seven or eight reviews this year for Machine Mean—still would have, but some personal issues caused me to scale it back and also skip the Vampire-oriented MM Fright Fest October event, sadly—and I’d already watched PIECES (and loved it) and my former-Troma-employee wife had already seen Graduation Day because they distributed it at some point or just because she’s always been a horror fan. I had Wolf Creek too, and neither of us had ever seen it…so here we are.

I’d heard a lot about this over the years and it seemed to have a bit of a reputation. Was it earned? Let’s unpack it, shall we?

[THERE WILL BE SOME SPOILERS BUT WILL NOT BE NEEDLESS AUSTRALIA JOKES] Continue Reading

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Reviews In The Machine : Monster (2018)

Monster1The names Matt Shaw and Michael Bray should come as no surprise to anyone. The both of them have certainly been putting fiction of a high quality into the world for some time now. But at some point, the desire to spread out into new mediums clearly took hold and the two authors grabbed the steering wheel to embark on a journey. To shoot a film based on their own work. And what we have before us is the result I was finally able to watch on this side of the Atlantic.

Monster.

I’ll be totally honest and admit that I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I watched in real time as Matt and Michael departed on this endeavor, watching the various fund drives and updates that were posted to the project. I had no doubt in either their passion or their creative drive but making the jump from one medium to the other isn’t just something you do. You don’t just wake up one day and decide to shoot a movie instead of writing a book. Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: The Collection (2012)

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The Collection follows the normal path of horror sequels. There’s a lot more gore than there was in the original. New characters are introduced, usually to be killed off quickly. But there is something bizarre and exhilarating about The Collection; it feels like a last-ditch effort, but without the fetid air of desperation that normally surrounds such second slashers. It is as if writer/director Marcus Dunstan realized he wasn’t going to be able to create a franchise based on his masked killer. He was lucky to get the sequel made. What if he just crammed every blood-drenched set-piece he could think of into one movie?

Beginning not long after the conclusion of the first film in the duology, The Collection follows Arkin (Josh Stewart). He was the final boy in The Collector, and he’s healing from his physical wounds in the hospital. After he learns that a girl, Elena (Emma Fitzpatrick), has been kidnapped by the mysterious murderer known as The Collector, Arkin is pressed into service by Elena’s rich family. A group of paramilitary specialists, led by enforcer Lucello (Lee Tergeson), is out to rescue Elena from the black-gloved clutches of The Collector, and only Arkin can lead them to the killer’s lair.  Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: Happy Birthday To Me (1981)

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Happy Birthday to Me

Release year: 1981

Starring: Melissa Sue Anderson; Tracey E. Bregman; Glenn Ford; Matt Craven; Lisa Langlois and Lawrence Dane.

Directed by: J. Lee Thompson

Review by: Kim McDonald 

Lee Thompson’s film, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME, is one of many slasher flicks that came out of the 80’s. However, screenwriters John Saxton and Peter Jobin manage to create some interesting twists through misdirection. The film also has some of the most gruesome deaths of the slasher sub genre. It’s a fun movie that seems largely overlooked, despite 80’s horror nostalgia.  Continue Reading

Reviews in the Machine : Mad Dog, by JR Park (2017)

Mad DogMad Dog is the 2017 release from JR Park. I went into this unprepared and blind, save for the knowledge of the general quality of work put out by the Sinister Horror Company as being top shelf.

To start off with, I’ll be honest and admit that I was generally skeptical of the style of delivery of the narrative. Mad Dog details the events surrounding a prison riot. And the book is a direct recalling of events from the characters involved, in the form of snippets from interviews, intercut with each other. I often listen to books at work in the morning, using the text-to-speech feature on my phone. But I quickly realized this would not be a good idea with this book as the voices of the characters transition very quickly.

Despite my misgivings, the voice of the story ended up working quite well. Where I thought it was going to be messy it ended up being a perfect way to really build the tension in the pacing and made me want to read on to find out what had ultimately happened that these people are talking about retrospectively. It reminded me quite a bit of the foreshadowing that Stephen King layered into his novel, Carrie.

The physicality of the text moves quickly, jumping from person to person and it really augments the flow of the book, lending momentum to what could have been a dry recitation of historical events. Were I to have read all these interviews separately, I don’t think the book would have had the same impact.

It’s a tough decision to make and even harder to execute. When I see stories that are structurally designed in such a unique way, you can get something that’s really cool or a narrative that feels overly gimmicky. In this case I felt like this was a fantastic way to present the plot. It takes a lot of game to deliver a story of this length in expository fashion and Park pulls it off brilliantly.

This is an appropriately brutal story but there was no point where I felt it was crossing a line or was just going for shock value. This is a quality story, told with care. The plot and twists are such that aren’t completely new, but the way the story is told and the depth of the characters make it feel fresh and unique.

Mad Dog himself is enigmatic as a character. His presence is felt all over the story and the mystery of what he is or could be provides a ton of emotional drive to the plot. The viciousness of his crimes are disturbing and the air of possibility of something paranormal makes him highly effective as a character.

And in the end, we build up to a twist that is satisfying to the overall story. And again, as with the mechanics of the plot, Park takes an oft overused device and makes it work. It’s one thing to throw in a twist for the sake of it. Park does as it should be done. The turn taken by the narrative is a surprise but as it is laid out before you, and after looking back over the story, you can see how you could have come to this conclusion if you had properly put the pieces together.

Mostly what I can say is that I’m sorry it took me so long to get around to this one. I have also read Park’s book, Punch, and enjoyed that as well. And taking the two books together I can see what we have here is a fresh author who lends a unique voice to his projects. I’ll be curious to see what other offerings we get from him, either in his existing catalog or from titles yet to come.

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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

Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: From Hell (2001)

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Released Date: Oct 2001

Director: The Hughes Brothers (Albert & Allen)

Starring: Johnny Depp, Heather Graham, Ian Holm & Robbie Coltrane

Brief Synopsis: Based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore & Eddie Campbell. A clairvoyant detective investigates the Jack the Ripper murders in turn of the century England. The investigation leads him to an unspeakable conclusion.

Review by: Feind Gottes

I have to start out by telling you From Hell is one of my favorite movies. It’s right up there with Se7en when it comes to crime thrillers that dip a toe or two in the horror waters. If somehow you have not seen this movie you need to correct that mistake immediately! So to start, everyone should know about Jack the Ripper, at least, in a general sense – a serial killer who stalked the streets of London from August 1888 to November 1888 credited with killing five known prostitutes in the Whitechapel district of London. The case stands as the most famous unsolved murder case in history. That may change soon but I’ll touch on that at the end. The film From Hell explores a conspiracy theory that is interesting to explore though has about as much chance of being correct as I have of being Bigfoot in disguise but it is fun to think about. The film makes this theory seem far more plausible than it is but then it comes from a graphic novel written by one of the most brilliant writers of our time, Alan Moore (if you don’t know who Alan Moore is go look it up! NOW!) Continue Reading

Reviews In The Machine: Chasing Ghosts by Glenn Rolfe

Chasing GhostsChasing Ghosts, by Glenn Rolfe is a serious book. It goes at you quickly and hits you hard. For as much as I have loved the works of the likes of Stephen King, I am becoming more aligned with the idea that the novella as an art form is the place where the horror genre really shines. It’s so great to be able to get there and experience the meat of the story in as few sittings as possible. I read this book in a day and I think the only reason why it wasn’t in one go was because I was at work and couldn’t rightfully justify taking an hour long break.

Chasing Ghosts takes place in Maine where a disparate group of strangers is drawn together, where they are confronted by a dark presence residing within the woods. A number of different abbreviated story threads weave in and out of each other in this book as it winds its way down to the exciting conclusion. Continue Reading

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

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Nostalgia’s a funny old thing. Looking back over past events, with or without rose tinted glasses, distorts the memory, plays havoc with the senses, even drive people to despair. It can also make bad films seem like Oscar winning works of art. Back when I was a youth (complete with a full head of hair but still equipped with a cheeky endearing smile), there was this thing known as the ‘Video Nasties Bill’, a slice of legislation obviously designed to keep impressionable youngsters like myself free from the corrupting influence of films like The Beast in Heat, Driller Killer and of course The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The fine Whitehall mandarins who crafted the bill didn’t take into account the craftiness of adolescents, pirated videos and the long dead Betamax format.  Continue Reading

Farewell To A Legend

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I had every intention of posting a book review today. But then the news dropped and I felt like it was incumbent upon me to take note of the loss of one of the biggest and most important names of our modern popular culture.

I can’t bring myself to call the loss of Stan Lee “tragic”. To be sure, the news makes me sad and the weight of his departure is going to be felt for a long time to come.  Still, to say that he led a long and successful life would be the understatement of the year. Ninety-Five years is a long time and we were definitely the benefactors from a long career that almost ended before it really began. For a man who was at the end of his rope, ready to leave the industry far behind in the rear view mirror of his life, Stan Lee ended up defining the landscape of a generation, setting off an industry that has generated more quantities in money than we probably have names for. Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: Friday the 13th part 8 (1989)

 

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Directed By: Rob Hedden (The Colony, Alien Fury: Countdown to Invasion)

Starring: Jensen Dagget (Asteroid, Major Leagues: Back to the Minors), Peter Mark Richman (The Naked Gun 2 ½ The Smell of Fear, 4 Faces), Scott Reeves (Edge of Honor and for those Soap Opera fans out there he was Steve Webber in General Hospital), and Kane Hodder once again playing Jason.

Released By: Paramount Pictures and Horror Inc.

Release Year: 1989

Release Type: Theatrical Release

MPAA Rating: Rated R

Review by: Andy Taylor

I have a very strange habit, one that sets me apart from my fellow humans, and that habit is, I try to let people enjoy the movie, television show, or musical act they love without chiming in about how much I might hate it. There are so many different varieties of entertainment, and within each of those varieties, a plethora of genres to pick from, so I fail to see the point in ruining someone else’s time by letting them know how wrong their opinions are to me. Continue Reading

Reviews In The Machine : An American Werewolf In London (1981) by Roger Keen

werewolf1An American Werewolf in London

Watching An American Werewolf in London now, one of the first things that strikes you is how long ago 1981 was, and how much the world – specifically England – has changed since then. This is partly due to the observational eye of American director John Landis, achieving a detached touristy perspective on the closed community of East Proctor in rural Yorkshire, with its shifty paranoid locals who talk in broad accents and fear strangers; and also taking in the sights and sounds of swinging London – Tower Bridge, Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, and not forgetting the seedy crepuscular interior of a Soho porn cinema. Notable too is the appearance of Jenny Agutter as love interest Nurse Alex Price, then still at the height of her nubility and fantasy material for legions of young men after a string of scantily clad roles in movies such as Walkabout, Equus and Logan’s Run. Seeing Ms Agutter in contemporary roles is another indicator of that gulf of time that has elapsed since the early 1980s.  Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: Texas Chainsaw Massacre/ The Hills Have Eyes Remake Double Feature!

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Fresh from Fright Fest we’re resuming our annual In Review series with a special double slasher feature with the remakes of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Hills Have Eyes. Yes. Okay. First off, I understand that reboots and remakes are typical fodder for heated debate. Often, i would agree with the naysayers and who much rather prefer new stories instead of rehashed ones. HOWEVER…sometimes a reboot or remake is just what the doctor ordered, no? Consider Cronenberg’s 1986 The Fly versus Kurt Neumann’s 1958 original staring Vincent Price. Or Don Siegel’s 1956 take on Invasion of the Body Snatchers versus Philip Kaufman’s 1978 version. While these originals were themselves fantastic films, the remakes added to the story for a new generation of moviegoers. Today’s double feature films are not necessarily better films than the originals nor are the above mentioned movies, but they weren’t totally unnecessary. Right? Let me explain myself.  Continue Reading

Fright Fest 2018: 30 Days of Night (2007)

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And here we are. We made it through yet another 31 days of Fright Fest. This was our third year running, and with each I think we’ve gotten better, adding more and more really cool movies. We could not have done this without the amazing writing from some stellar contributors. And we certainly appreciate readers such as yourself, taking time from your day to read our thoughts and ramblings on dark and twisted movies. So, without further ado, let’s get into this final review for 2018’s Fright Fest. As for vampire films, in the early to late 2000s, it seemed as if they had lost their bite (pun totally intended). The vampire as a monster had somewhere along the way from Dracula to Edward lost its sensibility of being in fact a monster. For me, 30 Days of Night was an answer to my lament for the return of scary vampires.  Continue Reading

Fright Fest 2018: Twilight (2008)

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Twilight

Release year: 2008

Staring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Anna Kendrick, Peter Facinelli, Billy Burke, and Elizabeth Reaser

Directed by: Catherine Hardwicke

Review by: Justin Park

When Thomas S Flowers announced his annual Fright Fest review series would be themed around vampire movies, I scrolled down the list of potential films to see such classics as Martin, Near Dark and The Hunger. But I was surprised not to find Twilight amongst the titles.

The book series became such a hit I don’t really need to introduce them. Whether you’ve read them or not, you are all probably aware they were written by Stephanie Meyer, you’re all probably aware of the name Edward Cullen, and you are all aware, like it or not, that when exposed to sunlight the vampires in this series sparkle. The reason we all know this is the books became a massive hit, spawning a series of successful films and cemented themselves in popular culture. And isn’t that the goal for most writers and film makers? Isn’t that the success people dream of?  Continue Reading

Fright Fest 2018: Bordello of Blood (1996)

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Bordello of Blood

Released: 1996

Staring: Angie Everhart, Erika Eleniak, Dennis Miller, Corey Feldman, Chris Sarandon, and Phil Fondacaro

Directed by: Gilbert Adler

Review By: Pembroke Sinclair

I’ve watched this movie several times, and each time I do, I hope that I’m going to like it. It hasn’t happened yet. The older I get, however, the more I recognize the not-so-subtle choices made throughout the film.

The first of these is casting. There are a variety of actors in this film that have been in vampire movies before, including Corey Feldman (The Lost Boys) and Chris Sarandon (Fright Night). The irony for Bordello of Blood is that these characters play opposite roles. For example, Corey’s character doesn’t defeat the vampires in Bordello like he does in The Lost Boys, he becomes one. Chris’ character isn’t a vampire, but an incredibly religious televangelist. For anyone who is versed in their vampire films, these changes can be viewed as amusing. Continue Reading

Fright Fest 2018: Dracula (1979)

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Dracula

Release year: 1979

Starring: Frank Langella; Laurence Olivier; Donald Pleasance and Kate Nelligan.

Directed by: John Badham

Review by: D.S. Ullery

Whether or not an adaptation of Dracula succeeds – and there have been many – comes down to the actor playing Bram Stoker’s legendary Count.  Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee each put their own, definitive stamp on the character, as did Gary Oldman in later years. Even Jack Palance delivered a memorable turn as the vampire in a terrific 70’s- era television movie. Continue Reading

Fright Fest 2018: Fright Night (1985)

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Fright Night (1985)

Written & Directed by Tom Holland

Starring: Chris Sarandon, William Ragsdale, Amanda Bearse, Stephen Geoffreys and Roddy McDowall

The Gist: A horror-obsessed teenager discovers that his next door neighbor is a murderous vampire. He attempts to convince the police, his family and friends to no avail. Seeing no other option, he takes matters into his own hands.

The Review (ish):

It was 1985. I was twelve going on thirteen, finally I was about to be taken seriously as a teenager! If you believe that I also have a vampire living next to me. In 1985 when Fright Night was originally released I would still consider myself a fledgling horror fan well on my way to a lifetime trudging through the wonderful world of blood and guts. It was a time when many local stations all over the country had some sort of Horror Host on late night usually on a Friday or Saturday night who did goofy gags, related movie trivia and usually showed low budget, B Horror movies. Horror Hosts kind of died out for a while though they’ve made a nice resurgence in recent years thanks to the internet where any horror fan can get a show started provided they have a camera or hell, just a phone these days. Why bring this up? Have you seen Fright Night? If you answered no and consider yourself a horror fan then you may want to just stop here and go correct that. Seriously, stop reading dimwit! Go watch Fright Night! Then grab some coffee and we’ll talk. Go on… I’ll wait.  Continue Reading

Fright Fest 2018: A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)

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Starring: Sheila Vand, Arash Marandi, Mozhan Marno, Marshall Manesh, & Dominic Rains

Written By: Ana Lily Amirpour

Directed By: Ana Lily Amirpour

Synopsis:  In the Iranian ghost-town Bad City, a place that reeks of death and loneliness, the townspeople are unaware that they are being stalked by a lonesome vampire.

Every now and then, a film comes out that manages to fly under the radar a bit. A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night is one of these movies. It made its waves upon its initial release but unfortunately, many people have yet to hear of this one. The film is writer/director Ana Lily Amirpour’s first feature film and it is one hell of a way break out!  Continue Reading

Fright Fest 2018: Daughters of Darkness (1971)

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Since its inception, American Horror Story has subsisted on pulling from decades’ worth of great genre fare for inspiration. The results run the gamut from highly entertaining to desperate and cynical. Take, for instance, the show’s worst season –  Hotel – in which Lady Gaga plays an eternal Countess presiding over the titular Los Angeles establishment. Despite bright spots from ensemble regulars like Sarah Paulson and Denis O’Hare, Hotel had a meandering, improvised quality that led to a plodding narrative. The creative team miscalculated by leaning on the stunt casting of Gaga more heavily than the quality of the writing. In the end, one gets the impression that series creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk passed Gaga a copy of Harry Kümel’s masterful vampire film, Daughters of Darkness, and instructed her to do a campy impersonation of Countess Bathory (Delphine Seyrig).  Continue Reading

Fright Fest 2018: Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter (2012)

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Genre: Action

Director: Timur Bekmambetov

Starring: Benjamin Walker, Dominic Cooper, Anthony Mackie

Supporting actors: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rufus Sewell

Movie review: Erin Lee

***Contains spoilers***

Step into a Twisted Legend with “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”

If “history prefers legends to men,” this movie hit the mark. Dark and packed with action and predictable blood-thirsty violence, this movie might at first come across as your average vamp hunt flick. Quickly, though, this complicated historical fictional tale’s plot begins to thicken – making it a movie for both vamp gurus and those who aren’t as vamp-savvy alike. Frankly, this is one of those movies where you just know it had to have been based off a book because its plot is so well-developed. (In this case, by Seth Grahame-Smith and one I may pick up just to get more of the back story I suspect was left out).  Continue Reading

Fright Fest 2018: Salem’s Lot (1979)

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Until recently, Stephen King movie adaptations were dreadful. And not in a good way. His first adaptation was good, the 1976’s depiction of Carrie, which may have had more to do with Brian De Palma’s version and not the journal styled storytelling from King. Some adaptations, mostly spanning through the 90s, where just down right embarrassing. Both made for TV movies IT and The Stand were nauseating to watch. In fact, it was only through a sheer force of will that i was able to finally watch the entire 90s IT movie. Without Tim Curry I wouldn’t have made it. But nowadays, King movies seem to be doing alright. The new IT is actually creepy and fun to watch. Adaptions of his newer work such as 11.22.63 was great. And i’ve heard nothing but good things surrounding the new Castle Rock show. But before all these newfound home runs, solid adaptions were slim pickenings. However, there was one that was and still is arguably the best Stephen King inspired movie, and that would be Tobe Hooper’s take on Salem’s LotContinue Reading

Fright Fest 2018: Martin (1978)

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Martin is a 1978 psychological horror film written and directed by George A. Romero. While Romero is best known for his Dead movies (of which the first, Night of the Living Dead, I wrote up an analysis), Martin was his avowed favourite.

Martin Mathias (John Amplas) is a vampire…or is he? He lacks the fangs, using razor blades to cut the wounds from which he drinks the blood. Sunlight bothers his eyes a little, and neither crucifixes nor garlic have any effect on him.

Still, he insists that he needs to drink blood; he also maintains that he’s eighty-four years old, though he looks like a teen, or at the oldest, a man in his mid-to-late twenties (i.e., Amplas’s age at the time of shooting the film). Finally, his “cousin”?/great-uncle, Tateh Cuda (Lincoln Maazel), following the superstitions of the family, is as convinced that Martin is a vampire as he is.  Continue Reading

Fright Fest 2018: The Monster Squad (1987)

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Directed By: Fred Decker (Night of the Creeps, Robocop 3)

Starring: Duncan Regehr (V, 1988’s The Last Samuri, Zorro Television Show), Tom Noonan (The House of the Devil, Late Phases, The Alphabet Killer), Jon Gries (Skinwalker Rancher, Napoleon Dynamite, Fright Night Part 2), Tom Woodruff Jr. (Pumpkinhead, Tremors, Mortal Kombat), Michael Reid Mackay (Highway to Hell, Sleepwalkers, X-Men 2), and Stephen Macht (Graveyard Shift, Trancers film series, The Legend of Galgameth)

Written By: Shane Black (Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout, Last Action Hero) and Fred Dekker (House, Night of the Creep, Robocop 3)

Release Year: 1987  Continue Reading

Fright Fest 2018: The Last Man on Earth (1964)

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Directors: Ubaldo Ragona (as Ubaldo B. Ragona), Sidney Salkow

Writers: William F. Leicester (screenplay), Richard Matheson (screenplay) (as Logan Swanson)

Stars: Vincent Price, Franca Bettoia, Emma Danieli

You can credit Richard Matheson’s 1954 novel, I am Legend, for many things. George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead borrowed heavily from I am Legend. In tone and visuals, mostly. But it’s interesting to note that Romero changed the landscape of his tale to reflect the mindless eating machine known as the zombie (a monster he completely retooled that many have appropriated) while Matheson choose a primitive form of vampiric new breed of civilization. One with a secreted illuminati who were also at war with the savage cattle that obeyed only its bloodlust.  Continue Reading

Fright Fest 2018: From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)

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Starring: George Clooney, Harvey Keitel, Quentin Tarantino, & Juliette Lewis

Written By: Quentin Tarantino

Directed By: Robert Rodriguez

Synopsis:  On the run from a bank robbery that left several police officers dead, Seth Gecko (George Clooney) and his paranoid, loose-cannon brother, Richard (Quentin Tarantino), hightail it to the Mexican border. Kidnapping preacher Jacob Fuller (Harvey Keitel) and his kids, the criminals sneak across the border in the family’s RV and hole up in a topless bar. Unfortunately, the bar also happens to be home base for a gang of vampires, and the brothers and their hostages have to fight their way out.  Continue Reading

Fright Fest 2018: The Brides of Dracula (1960)

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I have fond memories of watching the original Dracula as a child. I wasn’t actually supposed to watch it, but I crawled out of bed and slithered down the hall like a creep, so that I could see the living room TV and catch bits and pieces of the strangely sexy, strangely funny film. 

Brides of Dracula, although released nearly 60 years ago, is completely new to me. I didn’t even realize that it was technically “Dracula 2” until I did a little research before watching. 

I chose this as my movie to review because I MISS VAMPIRES, there I said it! As a writer in the thriller and horror genres, I feel like vampires have gotten a bad rap over the last few years and I really want more vampire books and movies in my life. I also liked the word “Brides” in the title – anything that contains female villains is my jam. Is this film a feminist’s dream come true? I don’t know, probably not. But there were some fabulous females in this film and they truly made the movie, in my opinion.  Continue Reading

Fright Fest 2018: Nosferatu (1922)

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Silence is terrifying.  Sure, screams and loud sounds will make you jump; there is something eerie about the silence. When moving pictures were first introduced in the late 19th and early 20th century: sound was absent.

For most movies this added little benefit and a lot to the imagination, what did the character sound like, were birds singing in the background? Sound is important for the very survival of creatures of all kinds; it allows for prey to hear the predators approaching from the distance. The lack of silence allows the predator to kill, unnoticed.

Vampires in all accounts are the perfect predator, they blend in among us, hunt from the shadows and use the noise of the metropolis to stay silent.  At least, the modern interpretations, but what if we take a look back in cinematic history, where sound was absent and the darkness could only be cured by the grace of light.  Continue Reading

Fright Fest 2018: Vampire in Brooklyn (1995)

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Vampire in Brooklyn wasn’t the vampire movie we wanted, but as far as 1995 goes, it was the vampire movie we needed. Nor is Vampire in Brooklyn the most notorious on our vampire movie lineup everyone loves to trash–that honor has been reserved for another movie you’ll see in the weeks to come. While not the most hated, Vampire in Brooklyn certainly doesn’t doesn’t deserve the hate it does get. 10% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, 2 stars on IMDb, and 1 star from Roger Ebert, I’m not feeling much love out there. 1995 produced some really great movies, Se7en for one. Braveheart also came out that year, as well as Apollo 13HEAT, and Batman: Forever (yes, I included Batman Forever, get over it). Those are some heavy hitters. But as far as horror (Se7en should be in that category), the pickings were slim. We had maybe four or five good ones, including Lord of Illusion, Tales from the Hood, Demon Knight, The Prophecy, and Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh. All great. All super dark in material and context. Horror is by nature dark and heavy and somber, but between real life horrors, the Oklahoma City Bombing and OJ being found innocent, we needed a break from reality. For me, Vampire in Brooklyn was a welcomed break from the real world.  Continue Reading

Fright Fest 2018: The Hunger (1983)

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The vampire has been a popular recurring theme since movies began. Even before the most iconic bloodsucker, Bela Lugosi, appeared in DRACULA (1931), there was NOSFERATU (1922). Every generation has created its own image of the monster, either as a new adaptation of Stoker’s novel, or, more interesting, as some new twist on the theme. The vampire seems to be unique among the classic monsters in that it is simultaneously feared and desired. The vampire can be seen as some existential romantic figure who promises victory over death, or as a parasite spreading eternal damnation. In one figure is wrapped all our obsessions with love, sex, death and disease. Each subsequent vampire movie ends up being a reflection of the current generation’s phobias and desires.  Continue Reading

Fright Fest 2018: Shadow of the Vampire (2000)

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I don’t expect you to understand.

I’ve discussed Shadow of the Vampire – at some length – with some excellent podcasters, all of whom have considerably better insight into this movie than I. To find that full conversation, please click here. What follows truncates some of what you’ll hear there, along with some additional thoughts of my own. Standing on the shoulders of giants, etc. Thanks to James, Jack, and Daniel.

 What follows contains spoilers. Go watch the movie.

 Shadow of the Vampire is a seriously strange movie.

Made in 2000, directed by E. Elias Merhige and written by Steven Katz, Shadow of the Vampire is a fictionalized account of the filming of 1922’s Nosferatu. It stars John Malkovich as Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau, the driven director determined to create his masterpiece vampire movie at any cost, and Willem Defoe as Max Shreck, the theatre actor Murnau has discovered to play the titular vampire.  Continue Reading

Fright Fest 2018: Stake Land (2010)

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Starring: Nick Damici, Connor Paolo, Michael Cerveris, Sean Nelson, Kelly McGillis, and Danielle Harris

Written By: Nick Damici & Jim Mickle

Directed By: Jim Mickle

Synopsis:  After a plague turns America into a realm of vampires, a hunter (Nick Damici) of the depraved creatures travels cross-country with an orphan (Connor Paolo) he rescued, searching for a safe haven.

So, I thought for Fright Fest we were taking a look at vampire movies? I watched this film for the first time specifically for this review. I had heard amazing things about this movie, most of which I completely agree with. However, in my opinion, this IS NOT a vampire movie. This is a zombie apocalypse film. Yes, the creatures have fangs and are called vamps. Yes, this is a gruesome, tear you limb from limb kind of take on one of the most famous horror creatures that we know of. However, to me this isn’t about vampires. The creatures barely resemble anything like what we know. This could be good for some, but for me, it didn’t work.  Continue Reading

Fright Fest 2018: Near Dark (1987)

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Directed By: Kathryn Bigelow (Point Break, Strange Days, Zero Dark Thirty

Starring: Adrian Pasdar (Heroes, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Solarbabies), Jenny Wright (Pink Floyd’s The Wall, Young Guns 2, Lawnmower Man), Lance Henriksen (Aliens, Pumpkinhead, Hard Target), Bill Paxton (Aliens, Frailty, Predator 2), Jennette Goldstein (Aliens, Terminator 2, Leathal Weapon 2), and Tim Thomerson (Dollman, Trancers Film Series)

Written By: Kathryn Bigelow (Blue Steel, The Loveless) and Eric Red (The Hitcher, Bad Moon, Body Parts)

Release Year: 1987

Growing up, my dad and I didn’t agree on many films. It might surprise one to know, but a preacher and his horror loving son aren’t going to have a lot in common when it comes to cinematic tastes, or much of anything really. Also, if you spell “Horror” a little different, that sentence takes on a whole new meaning, someone hit the rimshot sound effect for me. Despite the gulf between us, we did manage to connect on a handful of movies, The Last Starfighter¸ Enemy Mine, Predator, and the one you happen to be reading about right now, Near Dark. Maybe it was because the vampires didn’t act like the typical, supernatural vampires, maybe it’s because the western style distracted him from the fact he was watching a horror movie, or maybe he just liked it and I should stop analyzing why to better appreciate that we had one more movie to add to our very short list.  Continue Reading

Fright Fest 2018: Underworld (2003)

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Directed by Len Wiseman

Written by Len Wiseman, Kevin Grevioux & Danny McBride

Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Scott Speedman, Shane Brolly, Michael Sheen and Bill Nighy

The Gist: A war has been raging between vampires and lycans for centuries though there has been peace for many years until lycans come out of hiding once more. Selene, a vampire warrior, and daughter of one of the most powerful vampire lords, Viktor, finds herself in the middle of the war and a mystery when she meets Michael who is wanted by both sides.  Continue Reading

Fright Fest 2018: John Carpenter’s Vampires (1998)

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One thing horror fans love to do is debate which film marked what is historically known as The Decline of John Carpenter. Some believe it began with the final chapter of Carpenter’s Apocalypse Trilogy, In the Mouth of Madness. Others waggle disdainful fingers at his comedy misstep, Memoirs of an Invisible Man. There’s never a right answer to speculation such as this, but one thing practically everyone agrees on is that Vampires does not belong in the conversation when discussing John Carpenter’s classics.

To a certain extent, it’s a salient point. Carpenter’s latter-day career has often been considered inferior by hardcore fans of the director, preferring to focus on his output during the 1980s. The 1990s were a time when Carpenter could have used a monster hit. Vampires wasn’t it, only recouping its $20 million production budget by a few hundred thousand dollars. General audiences were less than impressed, giving the film a Cinemascore grade of D+.

There’s a reason for this, but it may not be the one you’re expecting. That’s because Vampires isn’t a horror movie.  Continue Reading

Fright Fest 2018: Thirst (2009)

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(This review contains SPOILERS.)

In most bloodsucking horror fare, narcissism and vampirism make for logical bedfellows – after all, how wouldn’t immortality place a chip on the inheritor’s shoulder? Even characters as ingratiating as those in Daughters of Darkness hint at an egotism stemming from their ability to live life on their own terms. Whether narcissism is conveyed through a guise of modesty or grandiosity, it all boils down to one unified sentiment: “fuck you – I can do whatever I want.”

Park Chan-wook’s Thirst takes vampiric narcissism to unpredictable places. Three-quarters of the way through my most recent viewing, I jotted down “no likeable characters” in my notes – surprised that it had taken me that long to consciously notice. Perhaps it’s the clever metaphor of vampirism as a stand-in for human relationships – and the ecstasy and pain contained within – that, despite all the gory and surrealistic imagery on display, grounds the plot in a sense of reality.  Continue Reading

Fright Fest 2018: Let The Right One In (2008)

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Starring: Kare Hedebrant, Lina Leandersson, Per Ragnar, Ika Nord, & Peter Carlberg

Written By: John Ajvide Lindqvist

Directed By: Tomas Alfredson

Synopsis: When Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant), a sensitive, bullied 12-year-old boy living with his mother in suburban Sweden, meets his new neighbor, the mysterious and moody Eli (Lina Leandersson), they strike up a friendship. Initially reserved with each other, Oskar and Eli slowly form a close bond, but it soon becomes apparent that she is no ordinary young girl. Eventually, Eli shares her dark, macabre secret with Oskar, revealing her connection to a string of bloody local murders.

I first saw Let The Right One In a little over a year ago. I had heard about it of course, the film received TONS of critical and audience acclaim from its festival runs and initial opening. It was kind of hard to not hear about this new vampire romance film that was (and in my opinion still is) generating quite a following. Unfortunately for the timing of this film’s release, another vampire romance story had been making waves with a much, much wider audience. Yes, I am referring to Twilight (2008). However, we are not here to discuss sparkling vampires.  Continue Reading

Fright Fest 2018: What We Do in the Shadows (2014)

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Starring: Taika Waititi, Jemaine Clement, Jonny Brugh, Ben Fransham, Cori Gonzalez-Macuer, and Stu Rutherford

Written and Directed by: Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement

What We Do In The Shadows is a mocumentary about four vampires who live in a “flatting situation” in New Zealand, and it’s quite possibly the best vampire film in existence. It’s a comedy that mostly centres around friendship and the various bizarre issues experienced through life as a vampire. Each of the main characters is ingeniously based on familiar ‘vampire types’ in popular culture, and are styled and dressed according to the time period in which they were transformed. We have Petyr, an 8000 year-old ‘Nosferatu’ type, resembling Count Orlok. Viago is an 18th century dandy, similar to Louis and Lestat from Interview with the Vampire. Deacon was a Nazi vampire. Vladislav is based on Dracula (the Francis Ford Coppola version). Then we have Nick, who is turned into a vampire during ‘filming’, and is the self-professed ‘Twilight type’. The story centres on the group in their everyday life and leads up to ‘The Unholy Masquerade’, an exclusive supernatural ball. Along the way, we meet side characters such as other vampires, werewolves (“not swear wolves!”), familiars, victims, and Stu, Nick’s human friend.  Continue Reading

Fright Fest 2018: Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)

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The blood is the life….

The movie starts with a tragedy. A suicide and the damning of a soul. How can a church whom the count fights for damn the soul of the woman he loves? Feeding from the blood of God’s precious child he becomes immortal, but at what cost? He lives centuries waiting to reclaim his love which it turns out is Wilhelmina Harker. Is this a love story or a horror story? Blood and wine and evil create a story that isn’t by the  book of the same name. It is in my opinion more along the lines of Anne Rice with the love story. Is this saying that the movie isn’t good? No! Not at all! This is the movie that sealed my love for gothic horror and horror in general. Sadie Frost was possibly my first horror movie crush.  Continue Reading

Fright Fest 2018: Lifeforce (1985)

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Lifeforce

Released: 1985

Directed by: Tobe Hooper

Written by: Dan O’ Bannon and Don Jakoby

Starring: Steve Railsback; Peter Firth; Aubrey Morris; Mathilda May; Patrick Stewart

After  Poltergeist  was released to critical and box office success in 1982, director Tobe Hooper was a hot commodity.*  Having already established himself as a genre master with his debut film The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,  the twisted backwoods horror Eaten Alive   (which featured an early appearance by a very young Robert Englund), a superb television miniseries adaptation of Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot and the underappreciated (and unnervingly creepy) classic The Funhouse, his collaboration with Steven Spielberg seemed to set Hooper on a much deserved and long overdue transition into the mainstream spotlight.  Continue Reading

Fright Fest 2018: Dracula (1931)

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Behold! Dracula, the movie that launched a twenty-three year progression of monster movies we call Universal Classics. Who could have predicted the success despite a rather tremendous stage career of not only the film but also the glowing eyed antagonist, Bela Lugosi? Dracula, the dashing, mysterious godfather of modern horror cinema, released at the Roxy Theater in New York City, on February 12, 1931. Even the cleverly crafted “fainting” rumors and “on-call” medical staff in the lobby orchestrated by nervous executives, hoping to induce some natural sense of morbid curiosity, was unnecessary. According to film historian Michael Fitzgerald, within the first 48 hours of Dracula’s release, the Roxy Theater had sold over 50,000 tickets. Horror had just become mainstream. Dracula’s acclaim paved the way for the other classics we’ve grown to love, our other Universal Studios Monsters, such as: Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Invisible man, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, and The Wolfman, each owing their existence to the success of one film, even if said film wasn’t entirely all that great. There were some issues, on and off stage. But I think, by and large, the success, as it began at first, was due to the period in which the film released. Lets take a look back in time (key Twilight Zone theme).  Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: JASON X (2001).

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There seems to be a reoccurring joke among horror fans. When a franchise goes to die, it goes to die in space. I’m not sure which franchise started it. Maybe when Critters went into outer space in Critters 4 (1991), or maybe it was Leprechaun 4 (1997)…but to be fair, this series died waaaaay before then. Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996) went into space, however brief. And truth be told, that movie was pretty darn good. However the joke started it would seem a fan favorite amongst the slasher sub-genre ALSO decided to venture out into space. Friday the 13th part X upon their 10th film explored where no slasher had gone before. Now, to be clear, the movie was titled Jason X, just like with Jason Goes to Hell (as apposed to Friday the 13th part 9), due to a lack of property rights with Paramount. They were able to snag the characters, or character, but not the franchised title as a true Friday the 13th. Despite that, fans have pretty much just grouped them all together. Not caring for all the boring legality. With all that settled, lets get back to what we’re really here for. Was Jason X good? Or did the franchise die in space? Heaven help us, we’re going to find out together.  Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: FREDDY VS. JASON (2003)

[Probably some spoilers—like you give a fuck, bitch (Freddy voice)]

 

Okay, when this came out, I’d seen every film in the two series this was a crossover of. It would be hard to say which of the two had held up the most, and neither would qualify as serious horror properties by the time this came about. But by then that wasn’t really the point. Not for myself or most fans I knew, at least.

The first few films in each series (well, probably first one or two for Freddy) were pretty serious, dark horror films that happened to be about teenagers frolicking and getting horribly slaughtered. They both became somewhat tongue-in-cheek affairs the further they went on, then eventually each had a remake of some sort, and just before this crossover, Nightmare had what I felt was a very well done return to serious territory that was also “meta”-rrific and a step outside the canon. Craven himself directed that one, and it showed. Actually to this day the only one of these films I haven’t seen is the remake of Nightmare, but I’ve heard I really haven’t missed much. I personally even enjoyed the Friday the 13th sort-of remake reboot-ening, but only saw it once and wasn’t exactly sober, so be gentle.

So, Full Disclosure™—while I have love for both of these characters and properties, I personally would own up to landing pretty squarely in the Team Jason camp—Get It? ‘Camp’? We try to have fun here…

The real question, though, is: does this crossover live up to what people enjoy about each franchise and character and make for an enjoyable film on its own?

Well, heck-a-doodle-doo-doo-muh-bob-a-reeni—let’s find out what I thought, shall we?  Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: Jigsaw (2017)

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The Jigsaw killer strikes again a decade after his death, setting up several traps for five people who need to atone for their sins. This film follows a male and a female forensic pathologist as they help uncover clues as to how the Jigsaw killer has returned from the dead. Meanwhile, a team of detectives suspect that these two are the copycat killers. Find out for yourself whether or not Jigsaw faked his death! I mean… he is the only one able to do something like this, right? Or did he set up enough secret traps before his death to last a lifetime?

First, let’s discuss a little bit about the films prior to Jigsaw. The original film, Saw, was the most unique out of the lot. The budget wasn’t extremely high, and in comparison to the following films it did not nearly have the amount of gore that this series is so famous for. Most of the films follow an ongoing detective investigation trying to find the Jigsaw killer and rescue those still alive while we watch them try to escape the traps that the Jigsaw killer and his accomplices set up for them.  Continue Reading

Reviews in the Machine: The Ridge by Jeffery X Martin

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For those who know me understand, I will never win awards for the worlds fastest reader. I see other bibliophiles and their Goodreads accomplishments and marvel. My own wife can sit down and consume a 800 page mega-novel in the span of a few days. Its insane. I don’t get how its even possible. But hey, to each their own pace, right? So, when a fast read, and I mean a good fast read, comes along, its worth celebrating. Such was the case when I started Jeffery X Martin’s new book, The Ridge on a Saturday morning and finished that night.  Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: Scream 3 (2000)

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What do you get when you take a ghost mask, a voice-changer, and a knife — and then multiply it by three? Scream 3, of course!

This film opens with a scene somewhat mirroring the original opening scene from the very first Scream movie, but with a twist — the whole “Wanna play a game?” scenario with everything starting off somewhat flirty and harmless. This time, though, the killer calls Cotton Weary (Liev Schreiber) saying that he’s outside of his girlfriend’s bathroom. Of course, when Cotton hears this he rushes home to his girlfriend’s rescue… only to find her hiding, and, unknowingly, with the killer still in the house. Shortly after, they are both attacked, and neither make it out alive.  Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: Se7en (1995)

 

While slasher films can be gritty they mostly stay within the realm of hokey, not in a bad way, but in a fun and enduring way. Slashers are those movies we watch when we want to turn our brains off for a while and watch some masked burnt mysterious whatever maniac do horrible things to teenagers. Serial killer movies however, while can be equally hokey, normally tend to lean towards the more serious of the two. Most serial killer movies that I’ve seen are dark and intrinsically layered films that force me to keep my brain working, to watch out for the clues, and to digest whatever metaphor or symbolism packed in bloody imagery that the director is intending for me to swallow. We’re talking Silence of the Lambs, Zodiac, Identity, American Psycho, Henry, and the list goes on. Se7en is no different.  Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: Friday the 13th part 2 (1981)

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A quick warning: this article spoils Friday the 13th Part 2 from hell to breakfast. If you’ve not seen this movie, maybe give this a miss.

“Jason was dead to begin with… this must be distinctly understood, or else nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate” — Charles Dickens.

I know. You’re a horror fan. You love the old school stuff, especially those great iconic slashers from the Eighties. There’s that Halloween Blu-Ray collection on your shelf, complete with the sound-corrected Producer’s Cut of Halloween 6. You’ve got a Freddy Kreuger glove. You use it to scare your little niece on holidays. And you absolutely love Jason. He’s Jiminy Cricket with a machete, the bloody enforcer of all the morals you rebelled against as a teenager. Don’t do drugs. Don’t have pre-marital sex. Don’t be fat or offensive in any way. Conform or be cast out. Jason Fucking Voorhees. He is the physical embodiment of the entire Reagan Administration, and he’s the best, right?  Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers In Review : You’re Next (2011)

next3Starring:  Sharni Vinson, Nicholas Tucci, Wendy Glenn, A.J. Bowen, and Joe Swanberg

Written By:  Simon Barrett

Directed By: Adam Wingard

Synopsis: Aubrey and Paul Davison plan to celebrate their wedding anniversary at their remote weekend estate. Unfortunately, the festivities take a terrible turn for the worse when their home is invaded by a group of masked individuals armed with knives and crossbows.

My favorite sub-genre of Horror are slashers. As we all know, the slasher film had its hay-day in the 80’s but every once in a while a fun modern slasher comes along and hits the world of cinema like a breath of fresh air. I was born at the end of the 80’s so I was really only able to enjoy watching these films on tv or going to my local Blockbuster or Hollywood Video and renting every slasher that I could get my hands on.  Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: The Legend of Lizzie Borden (1975)

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“The Legend of Lizzie Borden” from 1975, directed by Paul Wendkos, was a movie I had been dying to watch, both because I like to stomach anything Lizzie Borden-related and due to actress Elizabeth Montgomery. I’ve always been a fan of hers from growing up watching re-runs of “Bewitched” and she starred in the lead role as Lizzie Borden. “The Legend of Lizzie Borden” came out when I was just one-year-old, so I wasn’t one of those crowded around the TV watching it on ABC Movie of the Week when it aired, but I had read just how much it would have been controversial at the time for how much violence it showed. Violence, by the way, that doesn’t hold a candle to what we watch now, or would back then as the ‘80s approached, in terms of slasher films. If I had a been a bit older, we would have never been allowed to watch it in my house anyway. Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers In Review : Red Dragon (2002)

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Red Dragon (2002) has the unenviable task of following in the footsteps of the instant classic and award-winning The Silence of the Lambs (1991).

The novel of the same name by Thomas Harris was the first in the Hannibal Lecter series and takes place prior to The Silence of the Lambs, even though the movie adaptation came out 11 years later. A previous adaptation of the novel was released prior to Lambs in 1986 under the Manhunter title, starring William Petersen as lead character Will Graham before Petersen went on to be a star on the hit TV show CSI.

While Manhunter has gone on to have a cult following in recent years, it barely made a blip on the radar of most moviegoers, earning just a few million dollars at the box office. So of course someone in Hollywood decided we needed another adaptation of the book starring Hopkins again as Lecter.  Continue Reading

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