Friday, October 31, 2008

HORROR EPICS: Night of the Living Dead

NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968)
As far as this blog is concerned, Night of the Living Dead is the original Horror Epic. Not because it was actually the first (which it is obviously not), but because it changed the face of horror movies as we know it. It’s been said more than once that people didn’t exactly take most horror movies seriously prior to Night of the Living Dead. Instead, they were mostly seen as kid’s stuff. Guys in rubber suits stomped on toy cars pretending to be “monsters,” or tripped over obviously cardboard headstones while wearing a cape and speaking in the cheesiest Germanic accent you could think of. But Night of the Living Dead was something different that audiences in 1968 hadn’t expected. I know it’s a cliché to say it now, but it’s still the truth—without this movie, there would be no Texas Chainsaw Massacre, no Halloween, no Evil Dead, you name it. Zombies killed people and ate them, and you could actually see what they were eating. The young couple got burned alive while trying to escape. And there wasn’t even a happy ending—even the hero got killed. Audience of both kids and adults were stunned into silence by the carnage. If my memory serves me correctly, I’d seen most of the classic Hitchcock movies first, but none of them compared to the nihilistic ugliness captured on film here. I first saw it at my dad’s house when I was probably twelve or thirteen; by the time it was over, I couldn’t rewind the tape to watch it again fast enough. At the time, it was just the most unrelentingly brutal movie I’d ever seen. A few movies that have usurped that title in the years since then, but it’s safe to say that none of them are going to top Night of the Living Dead as the sentimental favorite. It was a movie passed down to me from the previous generation, and filmed just outside of Pittsburgh, the area I was born in. My uncle even tells a story about getting picked up by George Romero while hitchhiking home from work. Apparently Romero offered him a part as a zombie extra, but my uncle had to turn him down. Seems he’d just started this job and didn’t want to get fired for missing work. Damn! For anyone out there who is into Pittsburgh trivia, the reporter following the reinforcements is Bill “Chilly Billy” Cardille, who was the host of “Chiller Theatre,” a popular local TV show dedicated to—what else?—old horror movies. I’ve been endorsing the VCR a lot this month, and this review is no exception. You’ll always be able to find a cheap VHS copy of Night of the Living Dead; those things will be right there with Twinkies and cockroaches after the apocalypse. You can find that shit in the supermarket! Actually, I think that’s where my dad got my copy! And it’s great on tape—looking a lot like an old documentary with natural lighting and the fucked up, blown-out print quality. Longtime fans are used to it and if you just crawled out from under a rock and still haven’t seen this, you should get used to it too. Once you’ve already become a fan, then seek out the “Millennium Edition” DVD. No, I’m not kidding. Sometimes DVD really does breathe new life into a movie, and the Millennium Edition is one of those times. Made from the original 33mm negative, it was like seeing the movie for the first time all over again. Except this time, I didn’t have to wait for it to rewind so I could watch it again. Followed by two great sequels, Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead. I’m perfectly fine with not acknowledging the two more recent sequels, and so should you.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

HORROR EPICS: Psycho

PSYCHO (1960)
More than a few horror fans I’ve known write off Alfred Hitchcock as old-fashioned, but as far as I can tell, he was one of the few that took the art of scaring film audiences seriously in his day. And what’s a better movie to feature here in Horror Epics besides the one that drove my late grandmother screaming from the theatre? True story! Psycho has managed to stand the test of time where a lot of other horror/suspense movies from the same time haven’t. This is where I give the Hitchcock haters some due—it’s hard to relate to the obviously well off characters in most of his movies. Forget about the shower scene and all that for a minute; Psycho is about real people who actually have to work for a living. Marion Crane is a hot woman who deserves better than what she’s got at the moment. She works at a real estate office where sleazy rich fuckheads have no qualms about hitting on her. Her long-distance boyfriend Sam probably won’t get out of debt until he’s on his deathbed, and their relationship amounts to nothing more than fucking away Marion’s lunch hour in a cheap hotel whenever he comes to town. When some rich sleazebag pays $40,000 cash for a new house, Marion skips town with the money to bail out her loser boyfriend so they can get married. But a heavy rainstorm forces her to take a detour to the lonely Bates Motel, where things definitely take a turn for the worse. Janet Leigh (Prince Valiant, Touch of Evil, Manchurian Candidate, Jamie Lee Curtis’ mom) is the doomed Marion Crane, and Anthony Perkins defines his career as Norman Bates, the mother of mad killers. I think Hitchcock shows up waiting for a bus, and his daughter Pat has a bit part as Marion’s co-worker. Psycho may not be bloody and gory like many of the movies reviewed here, but it continues to deliver the thrills after who knows how many viewings and hold a permanent spot in my top five favorites.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

HORROR EPICS: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974)
This one has been a favorite of mine since my mom started to allow me to rent rated R movies on my video card. In fact, whenever I go down Memory Lane, I can still taste the spaghetti and meatballs I gorged myself on when I watched this movie for the first time. You say they did a remake, eh? Not according to the world I live in! The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is as good as it gets, and the very idea of a remake is tantamount to blasphemy. (And I hear the remake is exactly that.) One of the key factors in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is the raw and uncompromising look to the film; hopefully the DVD re-releases haven’t brightened it up too much. Yes, I am old-fashioned and still watch my old VHS copy, although the sound is getting ready to drop out any day. My fingers are crossed in the hopes that I won’t be sorry when I have to replace it. I’m sure anyone reading this has seen this movie numerous times, but let’s take another ride in the van with our hippie friends anyway. Let’s watch as they walk, one by one, into a strange house inhabited by a psychotic cannibal family, most menacing of which is a corn fed, chainsaw-wielding lunatic wearing a mask made of human skin. Relive the classic scene when the girl gets hung on the meat hook, or when the geeky guy screams like a little girl at the sight of Leatherface advancing towards him. Take guilty pleasure in the handicapped guy getting a chainsaw in the torso if you must. Enjoy Leatherface doing something of a dance with the saw as the film closes. Still a mesmerizing tale of brutality to this day. That’s John Larroquette from TV’s “Night Court” narrating the beginning, but you probably knew that already.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

HORROR EPICS: Battle Royale

BATTLE ROYALE (2001)
I don’t think I can find the words to do proper justice to Battle Royale, but I’m going to give it my best shot anyway. Quite simply, Battle Royale is the best horror movie I’ve seen released in this decade. Everything else I come across either ranks a distant second, or doesn’t even come close. There is a chance that someone could release a masterpiece in 2009, but considering that most modern horror movies are remakes of semi-obscure ‘70s movies, I’d say that’s highly unlikely. The story is like the TV show “Survivor” residing in the depths of hell. In an effort to curb teenage rebellion, the Japanese government signs the BR Act, in which high school kids are forced to kill each other off in a brutal game of survival taking place on a deserted island. Each student is issued a backpack with minimal supplies and only one weapon, some of which are completely useless in a fight to the death. Bomb-enabled collars have already been attached to their necks to ensure that they’ll do as they’re told. Let the games begin, indeed. Some of the kids band together trying to conceive a way out of this, and others simply try to avoid killing anyone. Of course there are also those who give in and use the game as an opportunity to extract revenge on their classroom enemies. Battle Royale was reportedly quite the controversial film in Japan due to the openly anti-adult and anti-establishment statements expressed within the story and characterization. The BR Act itself is in part the result of adults dodging their responsibilities in dealing with the widespread problem of rebellious kids boycotting school. Believe me, there is NEVER a dull moment in this film. It’s as violent as you’d expect it to be. My standards for what constitutes gratuitous violence may differ from yours, but I personally never thought it went over the line. The carnage is realistic (mostly) and effective. Dare I say the shootout in the lighthouse was perversely beautiful in a way? The cast becomes their respective character, at least the ones that aren’t killed almost instantly. Watch it in the right frame of mind, and you feel like you’ve been through hell with them when it’s over. Based on a book (which also caused quite a stir in Japan) that became a manga comic; and followed by an inferior and overblown sequel. Forget the new; call this the true ultraviolence.

Monday, October 27, 2008

HORROR EPICS: Maniac

MANIAC (1980)
I’ve mentioned this movie in previous reviews this month, but the truth is that Maniac deserved to be included here well before any of those other films. Although Maniac is something of an obscurity, it is by far the best cinematic rendering of a serial killer that I’ve seen as of yet. Frank Zito is an overweight rat of a man, lonely and tormented by memories of an abusive childhood at the hands of his mother. When his trauma becomes too much to bear, Frank stalks and kills women on the streets of New York. He then scalps them and takes their clothing, adding them to his collection of department store mannequins at home. Frank introspectively expresses his guilt over the murders, but the desire to kill is far too strong for him to stop. Not the most technically sound at times, but that can be forgiven due to a nearly nonexistent budget. In fact, to raise money, they expanded Catherine Munro’s (The Spy Who Loved Me) role as Frank’s would-be love interest. Unfortunately, his courtship of the fashion photographer starts to drag the movie down and comes off as an effort to fill time. (The most recent video and DVD release actually trims two minutes from their dinner scene.) But what they managed to achieve with the money they did have is impressive. Most impressive is early on when Frank jumps onto the hood of a car and blows the driver’s head off with a shotgun, a cameo by special effects master Tom Savini that is worth the price of admission. As the killer, Joe Spinell proves that he had more up his acting sleeve than portraying wiseguys in The Godfather and Rocky movies. His performance is three-dimensional, allowing you to understand Frank’s motivations and maybe sympathize with him even though he’s slaughtering hookers and nurses and whatnot. Mainstream horror fans can have their Silence of the Lambs, which I was never a particularly big fan of in the first place. You can keep your stylized modern slasher retreads too. Maniac is a gritty, nasty piece of trash that makes you feel dirty when it’s over—and is a must-see. Since it sometimes plays like a porno, it’s no surprise that ‘70s porn starlets Gail Lawrence (aka Abigail Clayton) and Sharon Mitchell have bit roles as nurses in this film. Now what’s this I hear about “Maniac” from Flashdance originally being written as the title track for this movie?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

HORROR EPICS: The Fly

THE FLY (1958)
One of the all-time classics, although I have to wonder if audiences in the ‘50s found The Fly as campy as we do fifty years later. They couldn’t possibly have taken this movie seriously. But surprisingly, it was better than I was expecting. Vincent Price co-stars in this sci-fi/horror saga of a scientist experimenting with a teleportation machine when he should be paying attention to his family instead. He doesn’t fit the mad scientist type, but I’d say killing the family cat while attempting feline teleportation is an early indicator. Using himself as a test subject is another, and this is when things go horribly wrong. When our doomed scientist gets into the teleportation chamber, a housefly joins him without his noticing. Their atomic patterns intermingle during the teleporting process, leaving the guy’s poor wife with the burden of dealing with this obvious dilemma. And you thought YOU had problems. Since these are dignified folks running around trying to catch the right fly to reverse the experiment, you really have no choice but to sit back and laugh at their predicament. It’s cheesy and melodramatic, even more so because the actors play it straight. The actual unveiling of the half-human/half-fly is priceless. And just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse...well, just listen for the words “...help me...help meeeeeeeeee!” Biological horror specialist David Cronenberg did a remake of The Fly nearly twenty years later, but it’s safe to say that he doesn’t exactly take the same approach with his version. Completely silly and not scary in the slightest, the 1958 original serves as an appropriate reminder of what horror movies used to be, and still are in some ways.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

HORROR EPICS: The Stepford Wives

THE STEPFORD WIVES (1975)
Have you ever come across a movie that sounded so great, but fell completely flat in execution? The Stepford Wives is one of those movies, despite its standing in the pop culture lexicon. And what a sinister little story it is, sinking its teeth into the Women’s Liberation movement at a time when radical feminism was still a new thing, and a hot topic. When a pretty young wife and her jackass husband move the kids out of New York City to the town of Stepford, they almost instantly notice that there is more to this place than meets the eye. The picturesque suburb may be devoid of crime and the nasty minorities who commit them, but the values are transplanted straight from the oppressively square 1950s. The men all seem relatively normal and have their own human idiosyncrasies, but the women are all cut from the exact same one-dimensional cloth. None of them retain any sense of individuality—they each have the perfect smile, wardrobe, cooking skills, and figure. Their only goals in life are to please their husbands and maintain a nice home for the kids. They used to be more involved with the community, but when the ladies get together for a discussion group now, the only topic they can cover with any extensive detail is a comparing and contrasting of household cleaners. It’s like everyone became Donna Reed on happy pills. Obviously there’s something rotten in Denmark...er, Stepford...and our fair city maiden is determined to get to the bottom of this. As you might expect, she would be better served to just keep her blinders on. I would imagine that The Stepford Wives was quite effective in its day, but three decades have not been kind to this movie. When I finally saw it a couple of years ago, it felt like I was spending a lot of time waiting for something to happen. When it ended, I literally said, “That’s it?” like how a lot of the Stepford women probably felt about their husbands at one point, if you get my drift. I couldn’t understand why they never quite went all the way, or gave themselves opportunities to with the script. The book, written by Ira Levin, is the same way. Perhaps he was still coasting off his fame from the classic Rosemary’s Baby. The one thing that keeps me from totally writing off The Stepford Wives is the remake, which starred Nicole Kidman and wasted the talents of Christopher Walken. It is an absolute atrocity, turning the story into a comedy and going to great lengths to insult the audience’s intelligence. I’m not kidding when I tell you that the remake was one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. The original Stepford Wives may be boring, yet it’s fucking brilliant in comparison. Your mom would probably appreciate this movie a lot more than you would, so rent it for her and get a good gorefest for yourself this Halloween. Features a seven-year-old Mary Stuart Masterson in her debut, as well as...wait for it...Dee fuckin’ Wallace.

Friday, October 24, 2008

HORROR EPICS: I Spit On Your Grave

I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE (1977)
One of the most notorious out of all the horror movies reviewed this month, and definitely the most unpleasant. I think the Brits would label this a “video nasty,” and with good reason. A woman from New York rents a cabin out in the woods intending on finishing the book she’s writing, but some of the local boys have plans of their own. They descend upon the cabin, and what follows is probably the longest rape scene ever on film. Unlike most movies that almost seem to depict rape as a typical sex act, the twenty-five minutes in which these subhumans repeatedly stalk and assault this woman is a truly sickening display. But they don’t kill her, which proves to be their undoing. After cleansing her conscience with the Lord, the girl finishes her novel and sees to it that each and every one of those guys pays the price. In the most talked-about scene, she lures the main instigator back to her cabin under the guise of giving him a bath, and then castrates him. Of course you don’t actually see any penis removal, but the sound effect ensures that you feel it. Unflinchingly graphic without fancy camera work or state-of-the-art special effects involved. I Spit on Your Grave had to have been one of the most hated movies of all time when it was originally released. Some of the greatest bad reviews I’ve ever read were written about this movie. But the critics got it wrong all those years ago. This movie doesn’t celebrate misogyny. You hate the rapists for what they’ve done, and your sympathy remains with the victim for the rest of the film regardless of what brutal methods she employs for payback. If anything, I Spit on Your Grave destroys misogyny and has a place as the ultimate feminist revenge movie. Wimps cheer on Thelma & Louise as those two drive off a cliff to their deaths. Radicals root for I Spit on Your Grave as Jennifer rides her outboard off to wherever she sees fit, having gotten away with extracting her revenge. Also known as Day of the Woman.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

HORROR EPICS: The Story of Ricky

THE STORY OF RICKY (1991)
I don’t know that The Story of Ricky necessarily fits the horror movie genre, but decided that it warranted an entry here in Horror Epics after all. The fact of the matter is that The Story of Ricky is one of many movies from Hong Kong that doesn’t just blur genre lines; it tramples the very notion of such distinctions. Ricky’s hyper-violent story takes place within the walls of an ultra maximum-security prison, in a future (2001, to be exact) where housing criminals is just one government job run by the private business sector. He’s been incarcerated after running wild on a gang of drug dealers who played a role in his girlfriend’s death, and absorbs multiple gunshots to the chest to gain a measure of revenge. Seems he’s perfected the breath-control style of martial arts taught to him by his uncle. Ricky runs afoul of the Gang of Four, the thugs who control the prison population at the warden’s behest, in which kung fu ultra violence and bloodshed is the result. One by one, Ricky disembowels his foes in ways that would make Herschell Gordon Lewis smile. Fists punch through stomachs, eyes pop out of skulls like ping-pong balls, intestines are used for strangulation; and Ricky even ties his own severed tendons back together, which somehow continue to work as normal. But really, the plot exists only to provide some continuity to the carnage. And the carnage is spectacular. Obviously not for those with weak stomachs; but once seen, this movie is never forgotten, regardless of the viewer’s opinion. The Story of Ricky might not exactly qualify as purely horror, but it is definitely epic in its own way. You HAVE to see it at least once. Also known as Riki-Oh, or some variation of both titles.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

HORROR EPICS: Nightbreed

NIGHTBREED (1990)
I was supposed to get this on tape as part of a friend’s collection...but alas, Nightbreed had been replaced by Nice Dreams instead. But a NetFlix rental confirmed that Nightbreed is as bizarre of a movie as the preview made it out to be when I saw it on TV years back. Unfortunately, it also confirms a well-founded belief that Clive Barker is at his best when he sticks to the script and leaves the direction to someone else. For another example, see Hellraiser, which is a rare case of the sequel surpassing the original. Based on Barker’s novel Cabal, the story is an interesting one. A serial-killing psychiatrist frames one of his patients for the crime, a guy who is having nightmares of an ancient tribe of monsters called the Night Breed. When the doc's deception results in his patient's death, he returns from the dead and enters the Night Breed’s mythical underworld of Midian, residing underneath a cemetery in western Canada. The confrontation between living and dead is inevitable, but us living and breathing types get a chance to play the bad guys for once. As you might expect from the wild imagination of Clive Barker, the monsters look awesome and so does the underground sanctuary they live in. But Nightbreed always feels like a movie where those behind the camera are holding back for whatever reason, and it never fully engaged this viewer as a result. Craig Sheffer isn’t terribly convincing as the new (dead) kid on the block leading his fellow Breeders against a siege of the heavily armed living. (Ironically, he showed up later in Hellraiser: Inferno.) But David Cronenberg steals the show as the psycho shrink out to kill the dead once and for all. Although he’s great in his role, it’s not enough to warrant a recommendation on my part. Like Hellraiser, Nightbreed would have been much better with a different director calling the shots. How frustrating.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

HORROR EPICS: Halloween (2007)

HALLOWEEN (2007)
Since I had no interest in seeing either of Rob Zombie’s previous forays into horror films, I was less than thrilled when I heard that he was at the helm to remake the John Carpenter 1978 classic. But I gave it a chance, and it came out better than I’d expected it to. Zombie’s Halloween is as watchable as any of the current Generation ADD horror movies. I liked that this version went into a back-story more, as I always thought it’d be cool if the original Halloween series had a prequel chronicling Michaels’ descent into madness. That’s fulfilled to some degree here as we watch Dr. Loomis fail to penetrate the twisted mind of Michael Meyers. The murder scenes deliver appropriately, and another four-eyed jackass gets pinned to the wall. Much of the cast reads like Horror and B-Movie Trivial Pursuit, including Dee Wallace (E.T., The Howling, The Hills Have Eyes), Brad Dourif (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Child’s Play), Udo Kier (The Story of O, Suspiria, Blade), Ken Foree (Dawn of the Dead), Danny Trejo (he’s in everything...seriously...), and William Forsythe (American Me). Even Sid Haig has a bit role. Malcolm McDowell is in the Donald Pleasance role of Dr. Sam Loomis. It’s got a killer soundtrack that includes hits from KISS, Nazareth, Blue Oyster Cult (“Don’t Fear the Reaper,” natch), Rush, and the Misfits’ “Halloween II,” which was a nice touch. They certainly pulled out all the stops for this remake...to distract the viewer from how generic Halloween often is. Michael Meyers’ abusive white-trash upbringing is predictable, as is his propensity for killing animals. In a major 1970s cultural gaffe, there’s not a cigarette to be found anywhere in the Meyers household. Not even a crushed-up pack of Pall Malls. There’s no need to interpret Michael’s murderous intentions or ask questions—the answers are all laid out nice and neat in case you were having any trouble figuring it out for yourself. When Michael finally escapes from the sanitarium nearly an hour into the film, business starts to pick up. It’s ironic that people complained about the pacing of the original Halloween and how long it took for anything to happen. Laurie Strode and her cock-hungry friends are cute, but don’t give Jamie Lee Curtis, P.J. Soles, or Nancy Loomis any competition. I didn’t mind renting it, but ultimately the Zombiefied Halloween is a predictable retelling of the original story that is viscerally lacking despite a bigger budget.

Monday, October 20, 2008

HORROR EPICS: Swamp Thing

SWAMP THING (1982)
I think just about anyone who has an affinity for comic books and monster movies has a special place in their heart for Swamp Thing. Apparently Troma is fond of claiming the Toxic Avenger as the first comic book hero immortalized on celluloid, but considering that Swamp Thing was released some four years before, I’d say they’re way off base with that one. I seem to recall the original 1970s DC Comics series being more violent than this admittedly watered-down film adaptation. But don’t let that deter you if you’ve never seen this before, because Swamp Thing really does bring the fun if you allow it to. Adrienne Barbeau is Cable, the sexy government agent who travels to an unchartered swamp to assist at a top-secret government laboratory. Dr. Alec Holland is hard at work developing formulas for plant/animal crossbreeding, and hits upon a solution that could seemingly end world hunger and change civilization as we know it. Unfortunately super-criminal Arcane wants the formula for his own nefarious use, and breaks into the lab to try to steal it. Holland gets doused with the formula in the fray, in which the last anyone sees of him is diving into the swamp while burning alive. Cable manages to get away during the chaos, taking with her Holland’s last notebook, which has the notes for this radical new formula. When Arcane realizes that he’s got an incomplete set of books, he goes to whatever end he can think of to get Cable and retrieve those notes. But standing between Arcane and Cable is a big guy in a green rubber suit...uh, I mean a half-man/half-plant mutated swamp monster with superhuman strength. Swamp Thing is disappointing to some because director Wes Craven would have been able to do so much more with the story if he had an adequate budget to work with. It probably would have been much more violent with more money for special effects. But to me, Swamp Thing is good if you look at it as a throwback to those schlocky horror and monster movies of the 1940s and ‘50s. Then this movie becomes a killer modernized big-budget take on the old style. Who knows how many different Swamp Thing re-releases exist, but I did happen to get the one that features topless swamp bathing from Adrienne Barbeau. On that note, you get no complaints on my part!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Rudy Ray Moore RIP


RUDY RAY MOORE
3/17/27-10/19/08

Press release:
Los Angeles, CA, October 20, 2008 – Comedian Rudy Ray Moore, aka Dolemite, passed away yesterday evening at age 81 in Akron, Ohio, of apparent complications due to diabetes. He is survived by his daughter, Yvette, sister, Geraldine, brother, Gerald, and his 98 year old mother, Lucille. “Rudy was an entertainer’s entertainer and a self-made man that fans of all generations embraced,” commented Donald H. Randell, Rudy’s producer. “In the 60’s and 70’s, he broke new ground and paved the way for comedians that followed like Richard Prior, Eddie Murphy, and Lisa Lampanelli. Rudy’s cult comedy continues to break through into today’s mainstream.”

Hailed as the king of the party record and the world’s greatest X-rated stand up comedian, Rudy Ray Moore is no stranger to the rap music community. Excerpts of his comic recordings have been sampled by the likes of Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eazy-E, Eric B. and Rakim, Ice-T, Big Daddy Kane, 2 Live Crew, ODB, Busta Rhymes, and dozens of other platinum selling rap artists. “The man, the myth, the legend, Rudy Ray Moore…without him there would be no rap community,” commented Snoop Dogg in a recent interview with Moore.

Rudy Ray Moore attained cult status as a pioneer of racy inner city and ghetto humor. He has inspired three generations of comics and a whole new generation of rap practitioners. From the late 60's through today, his “party records” have become classics to many nightclub goers and CD buyers. Moore in the 1970’s also made his mark in the film world. During the “Blaxploitation” movie era, he produced and starred in seven films as Human Tornado, Monkey Hustle, Petey Wheatstraw, Disco Godfather, Penitentiary, Rude, and most notably, Dolemite, which became an instant inner city classic.

“We are saddened by the loss of one of shock comedy’s true originators,” said Warrior Records president, Jim Ervin. Warrior’s release of Moore’s 1972 cult classic, Dolemite for President, is scheduled to be in stores nationally on Tuesday, November 4, 2008 (Election Day). Dolemite for President has never before been issued on CD and was prepared over the summer, featuring the original album’s materials, along with additional previously unreleased tracks from live Moore standup performances.

“The other presidential candidates promise everything. If you elect me President, I promise you nothing!" proclaimed Moore, also known as Dolemite, who was running on the “I Ain't Lyin' Platform”:

Reporter: Mr. Dolemite, why do you want to become President?
Rudy Ray Moore: “For the only reason the other two candidates do…to make dough!”
Reporter: How will you solve the current financial crisis?
Rudy Ray Moore: “I will legalize stealing.”
Reporter: How do you stand on unemployment?
Rudy Ray Moore: “At the end of the line baby, to hell with a job!”

“The greatest influences in my career were the late, great comedians Red Foxx and Moms Mabley,” reflected Moore. “I’m ready to run this country,” continued Dolemite, “Eddie Murphy will be my Vice President and Lisa Lampanelli will serve as First Lady. Now, Lampanelli and I won’t get married, we’ll just shack up in the White House! So, November 4th, write in the only real choice on your ballots…Dolemite for President!”

Politically incorrect, surely, but in an era of crisis and uncertainty in Washington, Rudy Ray Moore continued to speak his mind, breaking new ground and striking a comedic nerve within the stand-up community. For more information, visit
http://warriorrecords.com/rudy, http://www.Dolemite.com, or email RudyRayMoore@warriorrecords.com.

JEFF CLAYTON (Antiseen vocalist):
"Somehow, in the early 90's I got a hold of Rudy Ray Moore's private phone number. I never dared call him......until I was drunk one night!!! This happened quite a bit actually. He never seemed annoyed and was always friendly. When we (Antiseen) toured the West Coast in '92 I had arranged to take Mr. Moore out to dinner on the night we played LA. Unfortunately a "little" riot broke out that afternoon and we high tailed it out of town. I called home to let my wife at the time know we were ok and she said that Rudy had called to make sure we got out of town ok. I lost touch with him over the years but I never stopped being a fan. His movies and party albums never get old to me. I'll be playing them all day today. Rest in peace funny man, you'll never be forgotten."

From Wikipedia:
Rudy Ray Moore (March 17, 1927–October 19, 2008) was an American comedian, musician, singer, film actor, and film producer. He was perhaps best known as Dolemite, the uniquely articulate pimp from the 1975 film Dolemite, and its sequel, The Human Tornado. The persona was developed during his earlier stand-up comedy records.

Moore is from Cleveland, Ohio. Moore began his entertainment career as an R&B singer and continued singing through his comedy career. He developed an interest in comedy in the Army after expanding on a singing performance for other servicemen. Rudy Ray Moore released many comedy records throughout the 1960s and 1970s, developing a rude and explicit style similar to Redd Foxx and Richard Pryor. This kept him off of television and major films, but cultivated an enduring fan base.

He appeared on Big Daddy Kane's 1990 album Taste of Chocolate and 2 Live Crew's 1994 album Back at Your Ass for the Nine-4.

In 2000, Moore starred in Big Money Hustlas, a movie created by and starring the Insane Clown Posse, in which he played Dolemite for the first time in over 20 years.

In 2008, Moore reprised the character Petey Wheatstraw for the song "I Live for the Funk" featuring Blowfly and Daniel Jordan. This marked the first time Blowfly and Rudy have collaborated on the same record together and the 30 year anniversary of the movie Petey Wheatstraw, and was also the final recording Rudy made before his death.

On October 19, 2008, Moore died of complications from diabetes.

HORROR EPICS: Maniac Cop

MANIAC COP (1988)
One of those movies where I like how the title tells you exactly what it’s about. Maniac Cop is the first of a trilogy; I believe the rest went straight to video though. If Dirty Harry went rotten, this might be how he turned out. (The movie’s tag line: “You have the right to remain silent...forever.”) Bodies begin to pile up when a new serial killer hits the streets of New York City. Eyewitness accounts state that the murderer was wearing a police uniform, and a motorist shoots an innocent officer in the head during the public outrage. The NYPD finds a suspect within their own department, but the real killer is an ex-cop who has obviously gone past his onetime shoot-first-ask-questions-later methods. But as far as anyone knows, that cop had been hung out to dry by the city and imprisoned, before dying at the hands of his enemies. Yet he is alive and on a murderous rampage. Maniac Cop is a movie that could have just been a routine cop flick with generic characters and dialogue, which often happens with promising movies like Colors or Fort Apache—The Bronx. But there are superior minds at work here—it’s directed by William Lustig of Maniac, and written by Larry Cohen (It’s Alive, Q—The Winged Serpent, God Told Me to Kill, etc.) in one of his best efforts. Tom Atkins (Lethal Weapon, The Fog, Halloween III) is the cop investigating the serial murders, while Bruce Campbell is the police suspect trying to prove his innocence. The support cast includes Richard Roundtree, Victoria Catlin from “Twin Peaks,” Jake LaMotta, and Sam Raimi in a bit role. Unfortunately, Maniac Cop loses much of its grittiness on DVD. But my VHS tape retains the ability to properly convey the movie’s ominous nature. Some movies are just like that, so act accordingly if you’re interested in seeing this for yourself.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

HORROR EPICS: Suspiria

SUSPIRIA (1977)
Suspiria is a classic to many horror fans, and nine out of ten would say that it is the definitive offering from Italian director Dario Argento. Having seen a number of his movies myself, I can't say I disagree. If I’m honest, Suspiria and Deep Red are the two movies that people stake Argento’s reputation on. Tenebre ranks a distant third, and the rest I’ve seen are nonessential. Jessica Harper is Suzy Banyon, a dancer from New York who arrives in Germany to hone her ballet skills at their most prestigious academy. The staff is a menagerie of people who probably should have never been released from the mental hospital, including a dance instructor who’s only missing the riding crop and swastika armband in her wardrobe. Joan Bennett from British TV’s “Dark Shadows” oversees the nutball staff as Madame Blanc, the owner of the academy. The presumably high tuition rate isn’t the only price the students pay, as the school is a front for a coven of witches who trim their roster in bloody fashion. For example, one girl is stabbed repeatedly in the heart and then hung by her neck with a telephone cord in the front lobby of an apartment building. When young Suzy begins to discover the truth, the coven turns their focus towards removing her from the picture too. The plot has its share of holes. Some may wonder why none of the students think to try changing schools when the bodies start to pile up. Others may find Dario Argento’s propensity for relying on hidden details as a plot device to be annoying. Suspiria ranks as Argento’s best because it’s where his vision comes together in the best way. It’s a luridly colorful piece of film, aided by great camera work and an excellent soundtrack by “the Goblins.” If nothing else, you’ll dig the theme song. On a smaller TV screen, Suspiria might not have much impact, but it’s downright creepy on a big screen. If you’ve got access to a video projector, I highly recommend watching Suspiria that way. Talk about chilling and effective!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Levi Stubbs RIP

LEVI STUBBS
6/6/36-10/17/08

[Pictured above, second from the left.]
From Wikipedia: Levi Stubbles (June 6, 1936–October 17, 2008), better known by the stage name Levi Stubbs, was an American baritone singer, best known as the lead vocalist of the Motown R&B group The Four Tops.

Stubbs began his professional singing career with friends
Abdul “Duke” Fakir, Renaldo “Obie” Benson and Lawrence Payton to form the Four Aims in 1954. Two years later, the group changed their name to the Four Tops. The group began as a supper-club act before finally signing to Motown Records in 1963; by the end of the decade, the Four Tops had over a dozen hits to their name. The most popular of the Four Tops hits, all of which featured Stubbs on lead vocals, include “Baby I Need Your Loving,” “I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch),” “It's the Same Old Song,” “Reach Out I'll Be There,” “Standing in the Shadows of Love,” “Bernadette,” “Still Water (Love),” and “Ain't No Woman (Like the One I’ve Got).”Although Stubbs was a natural baritone, most of the Four Tops’ hits were written in a tenor range to give the lead vocals a sense of urgency. Stubbs and the other Tops remained a team until Payton died in 1997, at which point Theo Peoples took his place. The Four Tops were elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990. Benson also died on July 1, 2005. Levi Stubbs passed away after a long illness on October 17, 2008.

As an
actor, he provided the voice of the carnivorous plant “Audrey II” in the movie version of the musical Little Shop of Horrors (1986) and the voice of Mother Brain in the animated TV series "Captain N: The Game Master" (1989). Stubbs has also guest starred in a number of TV shows as himself.

Stubbs and his wife Clineice were married from 1960 until his death, and had five children. In 1995, Stubbs was diagnosed with
cancer, and later, a stroke, and stopped touring. Since 2000, Theo Peoples has taken Stubbs' place as the lead singer of the Four Tops, with Ronnie McNeir taking the place that Payton originally held. Levi Stubbs died in his sleep on October 17, 2008 at his home in Detroit from his ailments. Abdul “Duke” Fakir is the only surviving member of The Four Tops original lineup.

Stubbs was a cousin of soul singer
Jackie Wilson. He also had a brother, Joe, who was a member of The Falcons, The Contours and The Originals, who died February 5 1998.

HORROR EPICS: The Hitcher

THE HITCHER (1984)
Here’s what will probably be the sleeper hit of these posts, as far as my humble opinion is concerned. Somehow, I never noticed anyone in the cast up until I slid the tape into the trusty ol’ VCR (yes!). But once I saw that fucking Rutger Hauer was the title character, I just knew that there was no way The Hitcher could be anything else but good. In fact, I can quote one of my old movie guides as saying “If you thought The Terminator was too violent, this one will redefine the word for you.” Although there are plenty of movies out there that are more violent than The Terminator, it’s not a bad comparison to make at all. C. Thomas Howell plays Jim Halsey, the California-bound motorist who takes sympathy on the lone figure hitching a ride in the desert on a rainy night, and instantly regrets his decision. What happens from there is every reason why your parents always told you never to pick up hitchhikers in the first place. This particular hitcher has a funny way of showing appreciation for the hospitality—he kills everyone who picks him up. Jim is able to avoid death by shoving the lunatic out of the car, but don’t think for a minute that his ordeal ends there. Instead, it’s an unpleasant game of cat-and-mouse on the desert highway that gets completely out of control. The cops get involved, as does Jennifer Jason Leigh as a truck stop waitress who looks mighty cute with that little Dixie haircut of hers. No one emerges unscathed in this traumatizing tale. Reminiscent of movies like Duel and maybe a little bit of The Hills Have Eyes, and the script does a great job utilizing its sources of inspiration here. The Hitcher is surprisingly intense and evokes that continual sense of dread very well. The suspense starts early and doesn’t let up. C. Thomas Howell is great as the poor kid forced to walk the same path as the deranged killer, when all he was doing was being a nice guy. Rutger Hauer is downright menacing in the antagonist’s role, like a much more violent version of his Roy Batty character in Blade Runner. This movie more than likely languishes in obscurity at your local video store (which is probably why it got remade not too long ago), but you should do yourself a favor and avoid passing it up the next time you’re looking for something to rent. You just might find a new favorite like I did.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

HORROR EPICS: White Zombie

WHITE ZOMBIE (1932)
Not only is this where Robbie and friends got their band name, but is also more than likely the first zombie movie ever made. That in and of itself makes White Zombie worth seeing, although it obviously doesn’t live up to modern horror standards. Supposedly loosely based on a “nonfiction” account of Haitian voodoo published in 1929, we begin our tale with a young couple planning to get married on the island. But the lonely rich guy they’re staying with wants the bride for himself, so he works out quite the underhanded scheme with a nearby plantation owner to kidnap her from her fiancé. Fresh off the set of Dracula, Bela Lugosi plays the devious plantation owner who uses black magic to resurrect dead natives for slave labor. Oh, the racial implications! Oh, the awful attempts at blackface! Bela’s black magic renders the poor girl effectively dead as far as anyone can tell, which completely defeats the purpose for kidnapping her in the first place. Obviously, our conspirators were not on the same page here. Someone’s plans are going to change, and it won’t be Bela’s if he has anything to say about it. Not only does he have to deal with his partner in crime, but there’s also her fiancé trying to get to the bottom of the situation. It’s safe to say that after nearly eighty years, White Zombie doesn’t retain whatever impact it might have once had. You also might be disappointed to find out that the zombies aren’t exactly of the flesh-eating variety, although I think it’d be unrealistic to expect that from an old movie like this. But if you’re in the mood for a truly “old school” horror epic this Halloween, Bela Lugosi’s piercing eyes and sinister facial expressions are enough to carry it off. Shot in eleven days for $50,000; with sets left over from both Dracula and Frankenstein.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

HORROR EPICS: Critters

CRITTERS (1986)
I think a lot of ‘80s children will remember this old school HBO favorite well. Hell, I probably haven’t even seen Critters since 1987 myself. And holy crap, I didn’t remember ANYTHING about this movie aside from the title and what the Krites looked like! The Krites are a litter of carnivorous aliens who narrowly escape imprisonment and set their course for the nearest planet that can sustain food. I’ll give you three guesses as to which planet they’re heading for. They land in the middle of Kansas and launch an attack on the nearby family, who are forced to defend their farm and lives against the nasty little Krites. But the Krites are not alone. A pair of intergalactic glam rockers (oops, I meant bounty hunters) is just two steps behind with space-age weaponry, looking to eradicate the little bastards once and for all. Critters isn’t exactly a four-star movie on the same level as any of the true classic horror films reviewed this month. But it is good fun, and typical of most action-packed ‘80s movies—meaning it’s explosive, noisy, and profane in that way that only an action-packed ‘80s movie could be. Would you believe that Siskel & Ebert gave Critters two thumbs up? Familiar faces from various movies from that decade include Dee Wallace Stone, Scott Grimes, and M. Emmet Walsh, letting you know that you’re in good company. For those of you who have not seen this movie before, to fully appreciate Critters, it’s best to host a sleepover with a bunch of your wiseass friends to watch it. Order the greasiest pizza you can find in the phone book. Vegans need not apply, because it is necessary to have cheese on the pizza for the proper experience at the very least. Since you’re not ten anymore, you can apply copious amounts of herb and/or cheap beer in place of two-liters of soda if you want. Hell, you might even enjoy it more that way. At no point will you pay any attention to the dialogue or the story, nor will it matter in the slightest. Should you fail to follow these directions to the letter, you would be depriving yourself of seeing Critters in its proper context and will more than likely think this movie is completely stupid. But no, the movie isn’t what’s stupid here—it’s you, for not doing as you’re told.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

HORROR EPICS: Creepshow

CREEPSHOW (1982)
1982 was a great year for hardcore punk records, and apparently was a pretty good one for horror movies too, as this is the third one in a row that came out that year. One of my all-time favorites, ranking second in the George Romero library to the original Night of the Living Dead. When I was a kid, I loved reading the reissues of 1950s horror comics like Tales from the Crypt. Director George Romero and writer Stephen King cut their teeth on those comics back in the day themselves, and I honestly can’t think of a more appropriate pair to team up and bring those great comics to cinematic life. If you’ve got a better idea, I’d love to hear it. Romero and King paid a lot of attention to details to make this authentic. The beginning and end of the movie is a direct nod to the McCarthy-esque hysteria that took place in the early ‘50s over horror and crime-themed comic books. Child psychologist Fredrich Wertham was convinced that these comics would unravel America’s moral fabric by corrupting the minds of impressionable young kids, and even published a book about his ridiculous theories titled Seduction of the Innocent. When Wertham was able to take his case to the courts, he caused a lot of trouble for Bill Gaines in particular, who ran EC Comics—the publisher of Tales from the Crypt, The Haunt of Fear, Crime SuspenStories, and Mad. Yes, as in Mad Magazine, which was actually a comic book then. Can you imagine that? Am I wrong that Mad Magazine deserves American cultural icon status? Someone actually wanted to stamp that out of the picture completely, along with the horror comics. It’s actually a very interesting (and downright maddening, no pun intended) story to read up on. Even if you don’t look it up, just think about that the next time you watch Creepshow, or any gory piece of horror cinema for that matter. This is what America is all about, people. Revel in your right to watch a patriarch come back from the grave to finally have his Father’s Day cake in bloody style. The backwater bumpkin turning into a walking, talking piece of grass after touching a crashed meteor. Or the hotshot actor buried up to his neck in sand as the tide starts to come in. How about offering up your overbearing bitch of a wife as food for that scary monster locked in the box under your stairs? Who doesn’t like watching the millionaire with an attitude and a fear of insects get his from more cockroaches than New York City? All lovingly presented with the great macabre sense of humor that made those original EC comics such a wonderful read. Creepshow is one of those movies that’s great to break out once every couple of years and revisit like you’re looking up an old friend. Fortunately, the old bastard’s doing better than ever.

Monday, October 13, 2008

HORROR EPICS: Poltergeist

POLTERGEIST (1982)
The last time I saw Poltergeist was probably fifteen years ago, and I’ll admit that I absolutely HATED it. But the same rings true for a lot of horror movies I first saw as a teenager, and then revisited many years later. I’m talking about movies like Re-Animator and the original Dawn of the Dead, both of which now occupy a comfortable space in my DVD collection. Times have changed and so has my taste for horror movies; and I think it’s probably obvious already that my opinion on Poltergeist has changed too. I can’t imagine that there are very many people reading this who haven’t seen this suburban horror classic at some point during their childhood. Most kids I knew weren’t even ten years old the first time they saw this movie, and it scared the everlovin’ SHIT out of them. Like Gremlins and Indiana Jones & the Temple of Doom, Poltergeist also has the distinction of being yet ANOTHER movie with the name “Steven Spielberg” in some way attached to it that gave much credence to the necessity of the PG-13 rating, which had yet to exist at this time. What happens when you let the TV raise your kids, and your planned community rests on a burial ground? Ghosts take over your house, cause trouble, and suck your youngest daughter into the otherworld. Craig T. Nelson (from TV’s “Coach”) is perfect in his role as the suburban father, as is JoBeth Williams playing the hot young mom. Oh, and am I the only person that noticed the not-so-distant age difference between Mom and the oldest daughter? Poltergeist is great for the little Halloween horror marathon we’re having here. It doesn’t get much better than watching the suburban dream turn into a nightmare at the hands of the supernatural. I’ll definitely be adding this one to the collection soon. This movie is also notable because Heather O’Rourke, the little girl who is the central character in Poltergeist, died at the ridiculously young age of twelve in 1988 under controversial circumstances. Poor kid.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

HORROR EPICS: The New York Ripper

THE NEW YORK RIPPER (1982)
Longtime readers might remember that I’ve reviewed The New York Ripper in the past, but that’s the beauty of these posts never actually making it to legit print media. I can go back and review ‘em again if I want to! Plus, I don’t think I’ve actually watched this movie since reviewing it about four years ago, so there. When most horror fans think of the late Italian director Lucio Fulci, the movie that most often comes to mind is Zombie. Others might mention The Beyond, but they’re just trying to fit in by saying that. Humor them, but look at this serial killer chiller instead. Women are getting sliced and diced on the streets of New York, and whoever is responsible has some serious issues. The killer enjoys ringing up the cops and taunting them by talking like a goddamned duck, which is certainly bizarre. It’s also difficult to understand at times, but I don’t think I was supposed to bring that up. The plot thickens when the Ripper screws up and lets a potential victim get away, introducing this strange sub-plot involving a character’s amputee daughter who is more or less waiting to die in a hospital. Bad acting and worse dubbing are abound, but whatever. It’s a B-movie and such things are to be expected. The New York Ripper is dark and creepy most of the way through, although it falls apart at the end. Apparently this is also something to be expected from a lot of Italian horror movies in general. I read somewhere that Italian directors don’t concern themselves with endings that do stupid things like tie up loose ends and make sense, citing some kind of “artistic freedom” type of excuse. Yeah, I think you can come up with a better rationale for just having a character spurt out a killer’s motivations in badly dubbed hysteria during the last thirty seconds of the damn movie. It’s too bad they had to flub the ending, because everything leading up to it made for a perfectly fine serial killer movie. I liked it better than I did, say, Silence of the Lambs. Some of the murder scenes—particularly the ones involving razor blades—are gruesome. They do things with the sound effects that make it necessary to watch The New York Ripper with some kind of surround sound setup. So despite the lame ending, I can still at least recommend the first 90 some-odd minutes of this movie as being second best in the Lucio Fulci filmography.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

HORROR EPICS: 30 Days of Night

30 DAYS OF NIGHT (2007)
This movie was a bit of a pleasant surprise when I first saw a bootleg of it, since I honestly wasn’t expecting much out of it. Although I do enjoy some of this current crop of horror movies, the fact remains that I’m judging most of them by lesser standards than normal. Most of them really aren’t that good, for reasons that I covered when reviewing Automaton Transfusion earlier. But 30 Days of Night manages to stand out from the rest by actually being a good movie for more reasons than just special effects, at least as far as my opinion is concerned. I love the concept of a town that’s accessible only by airplane, where most sane people take off during the month in which the sun doesn’t shine. Those that are left are forced to deal with a pack of vampires who arrive, and begin their killing spree by attacking sled dogs and cutting off the town’s power supply. The vampires are fucked up and crazy-looking, having more in common with Nosferatu than Bela Lugosi. They even have their own brutal pseudo-German language, rather than some cheesy “I vant tu sock yor blooooooooood” kinda shit. Fortunately, the Generic Y2K Horror Movie Cast doesn’t exactly apply to the setting of a small Alaskan town, and there’s no fucking “hockey moms” in sight either. Maybe it’s just been a long time since I’ve seen a good vampire movie, but I really enjoyed 30 Days of Night. Much darker (duh) and more creepy than what passes for a lot of today’s horror fare. That said, it’s also not excessively violent like the unrated versions of, well, any of those other new movies. In fact, I don’t think an unrated version of 30 Days even exists. Not to say that this movie lacks intensity and is without its moments. But it is good enough without having to go there as often. It has the elements that these other movies sorely lack. I think 30 Days of Night will be one of those movies that ages well, where I’ll be able to go back to it in 5-10 years and still enjoy it as much as I do now. The other horror movies that have come out in this decade thus far have yet to achieve that distinction.

Friday, October 10, 2008

HORROR EPICS: Jaws

JAWS (1975)
Out of the friends that I talk about horror movies with, not one of them ever brings up Jaws. They don’t even have a copy in their collections. Although that surprises me, I suppose it makes sense. Jaws is probably more of a suspense action vehicle than a blood-and-guts horror movie, and it’s admittedly more on the mainstream tip than what most expect from the genre. Yet no movie has ever scared me the way Jaws has. Since you don’t live under a rock, I’ll assume you’ve seen Jaws and know what it’s about by now. I was already scared shitless of the ocean and deep water in general; seeing Jaws at the age of nine only reaffirmed that position. It didn’t help that I’d read the book (which is much more graphic) at least a year earlier, but that’s beside the point. I know it sounds silly to think that someone might have actually been psychologically affected by a mere motion picture in this day. But it is the truth, and a testimony to just how well this movie works. When I watch Jaws now, I find that I appreciate the understatement. It’s not terribly graphic in its depiction of the havoc wreaked by the killer shark, although a remake would certainly solve that “problem.” (Uh, maybe I shouldn’t have said that. They might think it’s a good idea.) Wasn’t it Alfred Hitchcock who said something about it being more effective when the violence is in your head? Save the gore for a movie that needs it; Jaws is fine without any of that. Not much more to say other than this is a classic that’s worth revisiting occasionally. “Dude, last time you talked about Gremlins, which takes place during Christmas. Now you’re talking about Jaws, which happens during the fuckin’ SUMMER. Just what in the hell is wrong with you?” Again, shut the fuck up, asshole.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

HORROR EPICS: Shivers

SHIVERS (1975)
The Swinging Seventies takes a bit of a beating in this biological nightmare, directed by David Cronenberg in his (mainstream, commercial, whatever) debut. There are some good ideas going on in this story, in which a quack doctor is working on a surgical procedure in which dying organs would be replaced by a parasite that would then take on the organs’ normal functions. Might be a cheap alternative to a transplant, if nothing else. The good doctor uses a teenage girl as his guinea pig, and the little whore goes and fucks just about every guy that lives in her building. Even the married men...hell, even the OLD men! After both doctor and patient die in bizarre fashion, it’s discovered in the doctor’s notes that replacing internal organs wasn’t on the agenda after all. No, instead this parasite is a lethal combination of an aphrodisiac and a sexually transmitted disease. All hell breaks loose when everyone in the building gets infected and goes on a sex-and-violence rampage. Men, women, and children alike fulfill their innermost desires for homosexuality, S&M, rape, and incest, and threaten to take over the world in a massive orgy. It’s hard to beat a story like that, but I must admit that Shivers sounds more entertaining than it actually is. Not a bad movie once it gets going, but you’re in for a LONG 90 minutes regardless. Lots of talking. Lots of killing time. Dare I say it gets boring waiting for the shit to hit the fan? No wonder I had this on tape for at least two years, and always managed to fall asleep before it even started. David Cronenberg would go on to revisit some of the themes explored in Shivers with more favorable results with movies like Rabid. Unless you’re filling a blank in the Cronenberg library or curious to see where he started out, I’d say you could pass this up and not regret it. Also known as They Came from Within, The Parasite Murders, and Frissons, although I’d add Attack of the Flying Mutated Cockturd since that’s more or less what the parasite resembles.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

HORROR EPICS: Halloween (1978)

HALLOWEEN (1978)
I've seen Halloween a whole buncha times and you probably have too, but it's dumb to exclude it given the theme being covered here and all. Like with Gremlins, the impact has lessened with time. But it's still good to pop this in the ol' VCR (uh huh, that's right!) and pay another visit to the town of Haddonfield, Illinois every once in a while. I still love seeing the four-eyed jackass get pinned to the closet door. When poor Laurie finds the dead bodies of her friends and Michael's face suddenly looms out of the darkness, it's still a killer scene. I used to have a huge crush on Jamie Lee Curtis, and will probably always have a thing for Nancy Loomis, who usually plays "bitchy" roles in John Carpenter movies. So I guess this movie will always be good to me. There are also the small touches—like the driving scene where the girls are smoking a joint in the car, oblivious to the fact that Michael Meyers is following them in his stolen vehicle. As they shoot the shit and get high, "Don't Fear the Reaper" plays on the radio. If there are still doubts, there is always the melodramatic performance on the part of Donald Pleasance in his vigorous pursuit of the escaped killer. What I found most interesting was going back and watching this after seeing Dario Argento movies like the classic Suspiria. It's clear (and I think director John Carpenter has actually said this himself) that Halloween was influenced by some of those Italian horror flicks, although it isn't as artsy or stylistic. At least Carpenter comes up with a proper ending. I thought it'd be funny if I tried to cover all of the Halloween movies in these posts, and I might still do that anyway, but the original will always loom over the rest of them with good reason. I could mention the Rob Zombie remake too, but I'm going to save that for its own review in the near future.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

HORROR EPICS: Alligator

ALLIGATOR (1980)
I remember seeing Alligator on TV when I was about nineteen and liking it, and a recent rental of the DVD confirmed that I still get a kick out of it ten years later. Older folks will probably remember the urban legends about oversized alligators residing in city sewers, and you might guess that this movie deals with that theme. Daddy gets pissed off at his daughter for some reason and flushes her pet gator down the toilet as punishment. The cute lil' fella survives down there by feeding on the discarded bodies of dogs used in genetics experiments, and grows to monstrous proportions. Problems occur when the guy in charge of dumping the dead animals becomes gator feed. Leave it to b-movie king and man's man Robert Forster (the token white guy in Jackie Brown), in the Roy Scheider role as troubled cop David Madison, to rid the city of this most troublesome menace. With the assistance of a cutie pie redhead reptile expert, Madison descends into the muck and takes on the gigantic carnivorous beast. There's something of a social/political message going on here courtesy of screenwriter John Sayles, but it's nothing that beats you over the head or distracts from the fun of watching that awesome overhead shot of the near forty-foot alligator walking the streets in search of prey. My one friend from Florida informed me upon her initial viewing that while the alligator in this movie would growl in loud monster-like fashion when attacking, this would not in fact be the case in real life. However, she did mention that the model used in this movie looked and moved convincingly, at least whenever it was actually on camera. Looking at the time in which this movie came out, it's obvious that this was inspired quite a bit by the Jaws franchise, but they were smart enough to blatantly rip off a scene from the lame sequel that nobody probably remembered in the first place, rather than overtly referencing the original box office smash. But honestly, ask yourself: could this movie possibly be a bad one? The answer is that if simply knowing what it's about sounds appealing to you even in the slightest, then there's no way it could be. If not, well, I guess your favorite movie is Sophie's Choice. Not really a horror movie per se, but since we sometimes like it when overgrown representatives of the animal kingdom attack people, it stays.

Monday, October 6, 2008

HORROR EPICS: Gremlins

GREMLINS (1984)
It's hard to believe that it's been almost a quarter-century since Gremlins clawed its way onto the silver screen, but this was a HUGE box office draw in its day. Somewhere in a box, I may still have my plastic figurine of Gizmo the Mogwai that I got back in the day that I had to settle for in lieu of the more expensive stuffed animal version. The book even has a place on my shelf, which of course was stolen from my older sister. As well, this and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom were the two main reasons for the invention of the PG-13 rating. How many of you older folks remember the news reports about kids nuking the family cat in the microwave after seeing the same thing happen to a gremlin in this movie? Man, those were the days, weren't they? I remembered all of this and more as I watched Gremlins recently and while the impact has lessened over time, it's still more memorable than many other horror movies that are more intense and violent. It's hard to beat the classic scene where the gremlins take over the local dive bar and prove that they know how to party, before heading to the movie theatre for an impromptu showing of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves' fourth reel. Gremlins joins the list of "mainstream movies from the '80s that allowed some aspect of punk fashion through their filter (see: Blade Runner and The Road Warrior)" when lead gremlin Stripe is named as such due to the white mohawk he possesses. And hot damn, could Phoebe Cates be my girl next door what with her anti-Christmas cheer and a smile that could make the snow melt. Can't forget the great Dick Miller in the supporting cast, or the fact that his onscreen character is married to Jackie Joseph, both of whom worked together on the original Little Shop of Horrors from 1960. While I don't watch any of those "remembering the '80s" kinda shows, I'd bet that Gremlins gets mentioned at least once on those, and with good reason. "But Gremlins takes place on Christmas Eve, not Halloween!" Shut the fuck up, asshole.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

HORROR EPICS: Motel Hell

MOTEL HELL (1980)
I've always wanted to see this movie, which occupies a warm place in the horror section of any self-respecting video store. And after seeing Motel Hell, it's possible that it's been mislabeled as a horror movie all these years. It's more of a black comedy take on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre if anything. More funny than intending to be scary, and there's a distinct lack of graphic violence. Farmer Vincent's smoked sausages are free of preservatives and sound like the South's best-kept secret, since they're only available within a hundred-mile radius. But there's another secret to Vincent's success, and the answer lies in the nightly car wrecks that happen on the road near the motel he owns. Throw in a girl that survives an accident and convalesces at the motel, and shit starts to get out of hand. Motel Hell has a great concept and aspects of the movie are definitely cool—like the hidden garden—but it's not that great when executed. However, the saving grace is Rory Calhoun becoming the character of Farmer Vincent and elevating the movie to where it's at least passable. In fact, I plan on watching Motel Hell again just to watch him chew up the scenery with his slogan "Meat's meat, and a man's got to eat!"

Saturday, October 4, 2008

HORROR EPICS: Phantom of the Paradise

PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE (1974)
Regular readers of these posts might recall a review I wrote of a video titled Terror in the Aisles, which was a string of different clips from a variety of horror movies over the years. One of the more bizarre clips was of a guy with a wacky metal facemask attacking another dude in the shower while ranting some nonsense about his music and shit. Well, after some detective work, I figured out that said clip was from Phantom of the Paradise and I of course had to see what this metal face thing was all about, so here we go. And man, talk about an hour and a half of my life that I wouldn't mind getting back! Directed by Brian DePalma, this is a movie that has a hard time figuring out if it's supposed to be A) a horror movie, B) a glam rock Phantom of the Opera, or C) some kinda retarded knockoff of The Rocky Horror Picture Show a year before it actually came out. Nerdy songwriter guy Winston Leach comes up with an opera, but his work gets stolen by Swan, who intends to add a glam rock theme and not give Leach his due credit. Swan also has total control over the music industry and public taste due to a deal he cut with the devil himself, so Leach can be as pissed about not getting a royalty check as he wants and it doesn't really matter. Leach somehow gets his face stuck in a record press (don't ask me how, I stopped paying that much attention well before then), puts on the wacky metal mask, and goes about haunting Swan's music house, the Paradise. There's also a subplot that involves Leach being head over heels in love with a singer played by Jessica Harper from Suspiria, but whatever. As bad as this movie is, there are some aspects that are okay, if not legit hilarious. All I will say is that the character known as "Beef," is by far the biggest glam fag since I don't know when, and his unveiling is quite priceless. Unfortunately, you have to sit through a lot of garbage to get to him, so I'd recommend that you get as drunk as I did when watching Jaws: The Revenge on TV years back if you're going to check this out. You might enjoy it then, which is probably why the only people that seem to get into Phantom of the Paradise are jackass irony hipsters.

Friday, October 3, 2008

HORROR EPICS: Automaton Transfusion

AUTOMATON TRANSFUSION (2007)
My friend lent this to me as a joke, thinking that I'd hate this movie as much as he did. Instead the joke backfired, because I actually liked it. I've seen a fair amount of newer horror movies, all of which have weird cinematography for that "raw" and "gritty" look, and the Generic Y2K Horror Movie Cast that isn't particularly likeable or memorable. I've come to accept that this is the new standard and since I rarely pay to rent new movies, it's all good. Another new standard I've had to accept is the idea of zombies having the capability to run. I think I've seen at least three zombie movies where this happens, so I guess it's the new twist on the old form. Fine, whatever, I'm not paying good money to see the shit anyway. If I were, I'd probably hate the fuck out of all of those movies except maybe for 30 Days of Night, which was actually really good and creepy and shit. But since I'm not, my standards aren't exactly high. If it's violent, bloody, and at least watchable by whatever standards I still have left, I'll watch this shit at least once. Automaton Transfusion fits somewhere in that category, although the camera work is headache-inducing at times and the soundtrack is definitely vomit-worthy. High school kids—including some Blink 182 emo fashion-core fuckhead—fight off a massive zombie attack in their small suburban town. Since the town has been sectioned off for a military experiment that's obviously gone horribly wrong, nobody's on their way to help. This experiment is somewhat similar to the one described above in Zombie Strippers, so there's not much point in my trying to explain it all over again. But this movie is much better, as is the explanation. The zombies are crazy and fucked up, which is really all I could have asked for, but then one of them gets to perform a no-frills abortion in a hilarious (to me, anyway) "holy SHIT" moment that's worthy of the rewind button. For that alone I'll recommend this, even though you might hate me for it later.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

HORROR EPICS: Hell's Ground

HELL'S GROUND (2007)
I gather that Zibahkhana, aka Hell's Ground, has the distinction of being the very first horror movie to emerge from the country of Pakistan. It deserves a place here just for that alone, although this is a blatant ripoff of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre with a few zombies thrown in. But since the Pakis have nearly four decades of slasher film history to catch up so, I say have an open mind and give it a chance. Pakistan's biggest rock band is playing a show, and there are five rebellious teenagers that lie to their parents about their evening plans so they can be there. One of the girls looks a helluva lot like Maria Conchita Alonso, and one of the guys is a major league stoner and horror movie buff. Dude even has a Maniac poster hanging up in his bedroom, so he knows the deal. Oh, and the van they drive has to be seen to be believed—worst paint job ever. En route, stoner dude convinces everyone to stop off at a rural teashop that's apparently world-famous. The weirdo shopkeeper claims that Brangelina came by earlier in the week, presumably taking a break from trying to adopt half the country. (Wait a minute: Brangelina have showed up in two consecutive horror movie reviews here, and they're not even in either cast. If this isn't a sign that things are getting out of control, I don't know what is. In any case, carry on.) While stocking up on chai and pastries that are apparently spiked with herb, our protagonists are informed by the shopkeeper that they are in fact traveling on the road to hell. Unfortunately, he is not referring to the name of the venue where Pakistan's biggest rock band is playing. Nothing bodes well for these kids if they choose to keep moving forward, but of course, they don't listen to him. Oh, and there's something of a subplot too. The nearby rivers are polluted and disgusting, resembling Lake Erie or maybe the Ohio River in Western Pennsylvania. But people drink out of it anyway, because they have no choice. This is where the zombies that I mentioned earlier come in, and a group of them swarm on the van. This may be a bit of a spoiler, but you can expect to see this scene culminate in...wait for it...zombie dwarf tossing! That is NOT a typo. Now, the subplot doesn't actually mean a whole lot within the actual story. But since there are zombies and dwarves and zombie dwarves and zombie dwarf tossing involved, who am I to argue? Then along comes the crazy shaman dude who looks kinda like a homeless Coffin Joe, and has an affinity for severed heads. If he isn't enough, there is also a badass motherfucker in a bloodstained burqa running around the woods swinging a HUGE FUCKING MACE around in the air. Don't even try to deny that visual. A friend of mine made the observation that Hell's Ground was what Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez were trying to go for when they made Grindhouse. I can't say I disagree. It's an apt comparison because Hell's Ground is the genuine article—shitty and lo-fi, making up for budget limits with atmospheric lighting and creepy backwoods locations, and a fucked up library music score that could easily place it at an old '70s drive-in. (The opening/closing theme FUCKING RULES!) Grindhouse was never going to be authentic no matter what kind of tricks they pulled. Too much money and finesse for it to be the B-movie it wanted to be, although I actually enjoyed Planet Terror for what it was worth. I imagine that a lot of people would watch Hell's Ground and laugh at this review, saying that this movie is silly and predictable. This is true, but you want to see this because the idea of a horror movie taking place in Muslim society appeals to you...not because you're looking for technical proficiency. The standard for Pakistani horror has been set, and hopefully they continue in the genre. It'll be nice to see something new besides the stylized big-budget remakes of the old classics.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

HORROR EPICS: Zombie Strippers

ZOMBIE STRIPPERS (2007)
Robert Englund and Jenna Jameson co-star in this occasionally amusing flick that combines a fun aspect of horror movies with the kind of women I seem to have the most fun dating. It has to be better than that horrible zombie porn that I saw a while ago. This movie takes place in 2012, and I'd let a goddamn zombie eat my right arm for a movie that promises a bright future. To give some ideas of how fucked we are, Bush is in his fourth consecutive term as president, and Arnold is the veep. The 87th largest army in the world defeated the US military, and Brangelina have adopted the entire country of Ethiopia. To help fight wars successfully, the government has been working on a virus that re-animates the dead. The idea is that they can use it on their deceased soldiers and get them to keep fighting. As you might expect, the government releases the virus into a small Nebraska town and sends a military unit in to investigate or whatever. None of this really matters anyway. Zombies attack the unit; the biggest jerkoff in the group takes a bite from one of them, and runs off to avoid getting killed by his fellow soldiers. The guy blunders into an underground strip club, and manages to bite a chunk out of the one dancer with her own dressing room. She comes back as a zombie, yet is no less dedicated to her profession. Being a zombie apparently breathes new life into pole dancing (the chemo-virus affects women differently than it does men), and the customers are just dying to throw their money at her. This is one competitive industry, so of course her co-workers begin to struggle with whether or not to give in and become zombies themselves. Fortunately, I don't think this is a question many women working for Mitchell Brothers would ever have to ask of themselves. I wasn't expecting much from Zombie Strippers, but it was nice to see that they went for the old school approach of trying to develop the story before getting to the blood and guts. Along the way, I got a few laughs, some neat gore, and a few hot naked women out of the deal. So no real complaints on my part. In a good way, this is a movie that I'd probably get really drunk to, if I still did that sort of thing.