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Posts tagged “scary

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


Book Featurette: The Exchange


Unemployed and out of ideas, Jake and his friends head into town for something to do. But before long they are in over their heads. Determined to get their friend back from the clutches of a lethal and shadowy group, the teenagers find themselves in possession of an object with mysterious powers. With their sanity crumbling amidst a warping reality, the gang is cornered on a wasteland in the middle of the city, caught in a bloodthirsty battle between criminal underlords, religious sects, and sadistic maniacs. Nightmares become reality as the stakes begin to rise. Who will have the upper hand and who will survive this deadly encounter as they bargain for their lives in this most deadly exchange.

What readers are saying about The Exchange:

“The Exchange is the stuff of nightmares. J.R. Park takes us on a fast-paced ride of warring factions in competition for the most coveted prize in existence. We are thrust in and out of fantastically hellish realms, as the protagonists struggle to survive the exchange. An engaging story that will leave you in wonder– highly recommended.” -Lydian Faust

“This book had a lot of action. I felt it was almost like a run-on sentence, seemed to me the action was running at full speed with no end in site. But overall good book.” -Thomas Hobbs

“The Exchange thrusts the reader into the heart of the action from the first page. Our story begins with two groups facing off against each other in an abandoned building site, each holding something the other group wants. As I was reading I kept waiting for the ‘6 hours earlier’, ’12 hours earlier’ or ’24 hours earlier’ flashback that would delve into everyone’s backstories explaining who they were and how they all got into this mess. Wisely, the book NEVER does this. You get a few lines here and there helping to fill in the blanks, but you’re never yanked away from the action as more and more characters with their own motivations drop in to complicate things further, never letting the plot get onto an even keel. As a result, it can be discombobulating and perplexing. There’s a cosmic puzzle at the heart of The Exchange and occasionally it feels like the author is going far out of his way to deny the reader all the pieces. Thankfully, the action surrounding the central mystery is fantastic. The book is at its best when people are dying in extraordinarily gruesome ways, being tormented by fantastical visions or being transformed into monsters. There’s a level of detail and originality in the descriptions that sets the writing apart from that of others in the current horror field. There were certain inconsistencies in the final pages, along with a conclusion that felt more like a set-up for a future book, that kept this from being a 5-star work for me, but even so, it’s still the most purely entertaining horror novel I’ve read this year. And it has unicorns! (N.B. The book has its own soundtrack, listed in the opening pages. I wasn’t able to listen to it all, but I played it along with the first few chapters and it’s pretty good. I recommend it.)” -Amazon Reviewer

“Park is a much-needed shot in the arm for gritty pulp horror.” – DLS Reviews

You can get YOUR copy of The Exchange on Amazon for $2.99



Justin Park is no stranger to Machine Mean. He has reviewed for us both Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948), Werewolf in London (1935), and The Beyond (1981). Mr. Park draws from the crazy worlds of exploitation cinema and pulp literature for his literary inspiration. His family are both equally proud and disturbed by his literary output dragged from a mind they helped to cultivate. He resides on the outskirts of Bristol in the UK and hopes one day they’ll let him in. Mr. Park is the author of several twisted tales of morbid doom, including Upon Waking and Terror Byte and Punch. He was also featured with a horrifyingly wonderful short in the horror anthology The Black Room Manuscripts. Besides giving his readers terrifying nightmares, Mr. Park is also one of the founding members of the up and coming UK Publishing team, The Sinister Horror Company, active in promoting other writers and attending numerous conventions. You can read his review on A&C Meet Frank here.

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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Night of the Living Dead: celebrating 47 years

RELEASED this day in 1968, George A. Romero’s epic, groundbreaking classic, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD hits theaters, recounting the tale of a group of disparate individuals who take refuge in an abandoned house when corpses begin to walk in search of fresh human bodies to devour. The pragmatic Ben (Duane Jones) does his best to control the situation, but when the reanimated bodies surround the house, the other survivors begin to panic. As any semblance of order within the group begins to dissipate, the zombies start to find ways inside — and one by one, the living humans become the prey of the deceased ones.


There are few movies out there that represent the feelings of the era in which the film was made as honestly and brutal as Night of the Living Dead. 1968 America was very chaotic, with the deaths of charismatic leaders such as MLK and JFK, post Tet, and the furious antiwar protesters took over in colleges across the nation, including Columbia University in New York. And of lest no forget, Tricky Dick’s infamous call for the GREAT SILENT MAJORITY to stand up and be recognized. Night of the ?Living Dead was very much an subversive answer to the late Presidents speech. And was interesting invoked one of the greatest Civil Rights speeches made, when Dave Dennis stood up in front of those mourning the loss of James Earl Chaney from Meridian, Mississippi, and Andrew Goodman and Michael “Mickey” Schwerner from New York City, when he said, “I’m not here to do the traditional things most of us do at such a gathering…what I want to talk about right now is the living dead that we have right among our midst, not only in the state of Mississippi but throughout the nation. Those are the people who don’t care, those who do care but don’t have the guts enough to stand up for it, and those people who are busy up in Washington and in other places using my freedom and my life to play politics with…”

Not only does Night of the Living Dead hold historical clout, but also became the predecessor to an entire sub-genre in horror. Think about it. Before Romero, zombies were still in the realm of voodoo witch-doctors and crazed plantation owners, space alien mind control, or even atomic aged ghouls. Not saying those sub-genres aren’t good in their own right, cause anyone whose seen The Serpent and the Rainbow can attest that voodoo zombies are still scary. But Romero created something new, a new monster in the lineup of Frankenstein’s, Vampires, Werewolf’s, Mummy’s, fish people, and the like. Without Romero we wouldn’t have The Walking Dead, Fear the Walking Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, Resident Evil, Zombi3, The Beyond, and a laundry list of films that benefited from George’s take on walking flesh eating ghouls. 

And besides all this, Night of the Living Dead is a damn fine horror movie. Low budget and gorilla in nature. The story was plausible and the characters felt real: we know these people; they’re us, we’re them. Romero’s take on zombies is fundamentally about the people who are trying to survive and how they react given certain situations. How we ultimately take sides and are not quick to listen to the ideas of others. Our fight or flight response forces us into making poor decisions, instead of working together as a group. And then in the end, much how Ben met his fate, we needlessly die. 

One of the best reviews I read on Night of the Living Dead wasn’t really a review, but rather a review on the audience during a screening in 1969. The unknown reviewer noted the following: 

“The kids in the audience were stunned. There was almost complete silence. The movie had stopped being delightfully scary about halfway through, and had become unexpectedly terrifying. There was a little girl across the aisle from me, maybe nine years old, who was sitting very still in her seat and crying. I don’t think the younger kids really knew what hit them. They were used to going to movies, sure, and they’d seen some horror movies before, sure, but this was something else. This was ghouls eating people up — and you could actually see what they were eating. This was little girls killing their mothers. This was being set on fire. Worst of all, even the hero got killed. It’s hard to remember what sort of effect this movie might have had on you when you were six or seven. But try to remember. At that age, kids take the events on the screen seriously, and they identify fiercely with the hero. When the hero is killed, that’s not an unhappy ending but a tragic one: Nobody got out alive. It’s just over, that’s all. I felt real terror in that neighborhood theater last Saturday afternoon. I saw kids who had no resources they could draw upon to protect themselves from the dread and fear they felt.”