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Posts tagged “Rob Zombie

Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: HALLOWEEN (2007)

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Imitation is often seen as a tribute to an artist; other times it is seen as a mockery and a laughable attempt to establish, oneself, in a world of other artists.  A question that should be asked, what separates the good imitations from the worst?

The answer is a little more underlying.

A work of imitation can branch off and become something different, something appreciated by others.  The difference is—Appreciation for the original work and artist—nothing more.

In 1978, John Carpenter set out and defined the slasher genre.  Many fans were introduced to their first masked serial killers: Michael Myers.  The original story was enough to send millions of fans into a terror filled adventure, murder and mayhem a-plenty.  Man escapes mental institution after murdering his sister twenty years prior and begins slashing and stabbing his way through Haddonfield, IL.  Continue Reading


Creature Features in Review: Slither (2006)


Again I find myself mesmerized by the complexity of the creature features subgenre. And as a first, thus far in our little series, we find ourselves in the midst of a horror-comedy within the creature feature mythology. The gory ridiculous atmosphere of Slither (2006) is no doubt the responsibility of its creator, directed no less than by Guardian of the Galaxy symphonist James Gunn. Now, as most already probably know but I’ll mention it here again, Gunn has an interesting repertoire of cinematic exploits. He was the director who took on the remake to Dawn of the Dead (1978), keeping certain elements whilst still maintaining itself as a stand alone movie ALL THE WHILE pleasing not just audiences, but fans of George A. Romero’s beloved classic. But Gunn is not without question…he did have a hand in those live-action Scooby-Doo movies and the not so cult-classic Tales from the Crapper. This weekend, apparently The Belko Experiment, in which Gunn wrote the screenplay, will finally be released to theaters, having started playing trailers off and on as far back as November of 2016, has already come under fire from critics. So where does that leave Slither? Well…I think I’ll leave that explanation on the shoulders of our esteemed guest contributor, Jonny Numb.


By: Jonny Numb


Universal’s decision to let James Gunn direct Slither was an act of faith that spoke to the studio’s appreciation of how his Dawn of the Dead screenplay – coupled with Zack Snyder’s direction – led that film to box-office success.

The result – a 1950s-styled creature feature that combined practical FX with CGI – was a pastiche with a disparate cast (including cult favorites Nathan Fillion and Michael Rooker, and rising star Elizabeth Banks) that had a mercilessly short theatrical run.

I get it because I wasn’t a fan of Slither when I first saw it on DVD. I can’t remember why it didn’t click for me – maybe because it leaned on “backwoods redneck” character types too much (and that specific type of humor); maybe because my taste in sci-fi is maddeningly specific; and maybe – just maybe – it was because I had yet to be exposed to the wonders of Captain Mal on Firefly.

In any event, I revisited the film last year (for the first time in a decade) and was surprised that my feelings toward it had improved. While problematic in places (mostly in the wobbly, tone-setting early going), Slither grows into a bizarre and sneakily subversive take on the sci-fi it’s paying loving homage to:

The Blob (either version). The Thing (Carpenter version). Invasion of the Body Snatchers (mostly the ‘50s version).

There are also subtle-to-obvious references to the works of David Cronenberg and Roman Polanski, as well as Gunn’s former tenure as a screenwriter for Troma (including a Lloyd Kaufman cameo); and keep an eye on the Main Street storefronts during the opening credits for more sly Easter Eggs.

Grant Grant (Rooker) is a macho sleazeball in cheesy glasses who’s married to trophy wife (and elementary-school teacher) Starla (Banks). Spurned by his wife’s refusal to fulfill her duty as willing sex object one night, Grant meets up with local bar girl Brenda (Brenda James). In a bit of cosmic irony, they find themselves in the woods, and Grant has feelings of remorse before he can consummate any carnal desires. More ironic still, this leads Grant to the discovery of a translucent egg-sac with a symbolically vaginal opening, one from which something shoots out, infecting him with an extraterrestrial parasite. After the transformed, meat-craving Grant impregnates Brenda, she becomes the “mother” to the alien invasion.

Once the parasites explode (literally), Slither really kicks into gear. Gleefully grotesque practical effects – and some CGI that hasn’t aged as well – ensue.

To make a hard right turn: does anyone really talk about Kylie (Tania Saulnier), and how she’s probably the smartest, most resourceful character in the movie?

Only on my most recent viewing did it occur to me that we see her not once (in the high-school classroom), but twice (in the crowd at the town’s “Deer Cheer” event) before being properly introduced around the family dinner table (where she makes reference to the “Japanese” design of her painted fingernails (tentacles much?). Her character is at the center of a great setpiece midway through, during which she’s taking a bath with her earbuds in, and winds up fending off a parasite with a curling iron. Even more so than the scene’s well-taken stylistic nods to A Nightmare on Elm Street and Shivers, notice how Gunn allows Kylie to react as rationally as the situation will allow, without turning it into an excuse for T&A or a gory money shot. When the tub parasite nearly shoots down her throat, Kylie briefly taps into the aliens’ shared consciousness – and the glimpses of havoc on an unnamed planet far, far away certainly foreshadows Gunn’s eventual segue into the world of high-budget comic-book blockbusters.

Rather ingeniously, the DVD cover for Slither – that of Kylie in the tub, being descended upon by thousands of squirming parasites – represents the film more accurately than most video-art concepts (which tend toward hyperbole). It’s unsubtle without really giving anything away, and Gunn subverts expectations for the scene itself by guiding it to a surprising conclusion. The sequence of events that follows the tub encounter is brilliantly rendered, and reminded me of Barbara’s full-moon escape from the farmhouse in Night of the Living Dead (yes, the 1990 remake).

There are other things, as well:

The comic relief of Mayor Jack MacReady (played by Brian De Palma regular Gregg Henry), who – in look and demeanor – bears an eerie resemblance to a certain boorish ex-reality-TV star. He’s paranoid, perpetually angry, casually misogynistic, and at one point asks if the town’s being “invaded by the Russkies.” Gunn’s smart handling ensures that we’re always laughing at this clown, and Henry is definitely in on the joke.

Meanwhile, Starla transitions from Grant’s doormat to a model of marriage to, eventually, a woman who wakes up to the fact that her husband’s internal ugliness has manifested on the outside in a way that’s rather poetic. Their final confrontation is a fine demonstration of Beauty no longer tolerating the Beast’s shit.

So maybe, finally, the film resembles Bride of the Monster (but in title only. Thank God).

One nagging question, though: even with the padlock on the basement door, how did the stench of all those dead pets not make its way through the vents in the Grant household?

Jonny Numb’s Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Jon Weidler, aka Jonny Numb, is no stranger here on Machine Mean. He has contributed for us Abbott and Costello Meet The Mummy (1955) AND Clean, Shaven for our Fright Fest month back in October. Mr. Weidler works for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania by day but is a podcast superhero by night. He co-hosts THE LAST KNOCK horror podcast under the moniker “Jonny Numb,” and is a regular contributor to the Crash Palace Productions and Loud Green Bird websites. His archived movie reviews can be found at, and his social media handle is @JonnyNumb (Twitter & Letterboxd). You can read his review of A&C Meet Mummyhere.

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Fright Fest: House of a 1000 Corpses (2003)


Growing up, I developed a love very early on for movies. I loved the magic of the visual experience and the big, grand storytelling on the screen at the theater. I felt a strong connection to the narrative form and from a very early age, I had a sense that this was something that I would want to do. And for as much as I loved movies in general, there was one particular genre, one type of film that reached out and took my by the collar, forced me to sit back and pay attention.

I love horror movies.

I think that early on, this largely came from the feeling of taboo I had while watching the movies. You really felt like you were watching something that was bad for you, something you shouldn’t be allowed to see. This was augmented quite a bit by the most prevalent use of practical special effects. This was a pre-digital age in which everything on the stage had a physical presence. If you wanted to show someone being shot or hacked to pieces, that action had to be shown while the scene was filmed. You couldn’t just add it in post-production, it had to happen right there. And as a result, I think that movies had a more intimate and immediate feeling of danger and dread to them.


This is not going to be a diatribe on why I think CGI is awful, it’s just a different kind of filmmaking. But I have always felt a particular fondness and affinity for the style of horror movies in the eighties as the place where I got started.

It was with this mental framework going through me that I saw House Of 1000 Corpses for the first time.

I don’t want to give the impression that I don’t think modern horror movies are scary. There have been plenty of examples of horror done right. But I do often feel like horror movies in the digital era have a feeling of looking too clean, almost sanitized. It’s ironic because digital effects make it possible to show things that would have been inconceivable twenty years ago, but there is an art form to using that technology effectively. The more extensive and intrusive the effects get, the more separated I tend to feel from the story.


House Of 1000 Corpses had none of these problems. I was taken in, pretty much from the start and I was not turning off that film for anything. There haven’t been many of the newer horror films that have held my interest as much, and taken me right back to that place where I was at the age of eleven.

The story of the movie is simple enough, which I think is essential for good horror. I think it’s a common pitfall to think that you have to be constantly re-inventing something and striking out to find new ground. Any story told well is going to be good, regardless of how stale you might find the form it takes. In the film, two couples are out on a road trip, exploring local urban legends and locals when they end up being drawn into the clutches of the worst kind of backwater sadistic family you could imagine. All of these are devices that have been used before, to be sure, but Rob Zombie still manages to take them and turn it all into a hell of a film.


One thing that really got me was the characters of the film. On paper, characters like Captain Spaulding, Mother Firefly, and Otis might come across as silly or stereotypical. But on the screen, those actors transformed them into something fresh and amazing. I loved the sense of dread that the film evoked from the opening scenes, a feeling that held true all throughout. In a way, there are moments in the film where I found myself more engaged by the monsters than I was with the heroes. Oh, and as a side note, for those of you who get a kick out of seeing famous actors in roles before they hit it big, you get a chance to see Dwight Schrute from the office in a pretty radically different role.

House Of 1000 Corpses has an incredible feeling of danger, of foreboding that the heroes of the story are clearly oblivious to. It’s the kind of film that has you wincing the whole way through, mostly in anticipation of what you fear is about to happen. And while there are some bizarre elements to the film, there was no point where I felt like Zombie lost control over the direction of the story. It all felt extremely tight and well-crafted to me.


This is the kind of movie that makes you feel like you need to take a shower after you see it. It is an intense and gritty film and while tons of studios will use language like that as a tagline, in this case, I feel that it is actually well earned. Personally, I think that the true home for horror films is in the low budget, independent film industry. To each their own, but the big budget glossy horror flicks just don’t work as well for me. They can be entertaining for what they are, almost like summer blockbusters with some jump scares added. But what I really love is a horror film that grinds into you and forces you to keep thinking about it, long after you leave the theater. As far as I’m concerned, this is what any great art should do. It should challenge you and make you think. This film has all of that and more.

It’s interesting that as Rob Zombie’s film successes have led to him getting larger budget productions, I have actually come to like his work less and less. I was excited to see him do a sequel to this film, The Devil’s Rejects but in the end, I wasn’t really blown away by it. I enjoyed it but much less so than the original. I actually enjoyed his re-boot of Halloween but I couldn’t make it through the second. For me, my feelings for Rob Zombie’s films are always going to be tied directly to this movie. If he had never made it, I don’t know if I would feel the same about his overall body of work. Regardless, what I do know is that House Of 1000 Corpses stands for me as one of my favorite horror films of the last twenty years.



Chad Clark – Has reviewed for us before with commentary on House of Dracula (1945). Mr. Clark is a midwestern author of horror and science fiction. His artistic roots can be traced back to the golden era of horror literature, Stephen King, and Robert McCammon being large influences. His love for horror began as well in the classic horror franchises of the eighties. He resides in Iowa with his wife and two sons. Clark’s debut novel, Borrowed Time, was published in 2014. His second novel, A Shade for Every Season was released in 2015, and in 2016 Clark published Behind Our Walls, a dark look at the human condition set in a post-apocalyptic world. His latest book, Down the Beaten Path, released in September 2016. You can keep up with all of Mr. Clark’s works by following him on Amazon here.

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