In addition to the usual reviews and comments you would find on a horror movie blog, this is also a document of the wonderfully vast horror movie section of the video store I worked at in my youth.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Short of the Week #75: Belial's Dream

Here's the 2017 short Belial's Dream from the incomparable Robert Morgan that up until now was only available on the Arrow Blu-ray release of Frank Henenlotter's Basket Case.

Yep, surreal and nightmarish as per usual! Morgan's partnership with Arrow appears to be ongoing as he most recently created a short film for the Blu-ray release of Jörg Buttgereit's Schramm entitled Tomorrow I Will Be Dirt.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Turkey Indeed.

With Thanksgiving upon us this weekend, I watched a holiday horror VHS from 1981 entitled Home Sweet Home.

An escaped mental patient (Jake Stanfield) crashes a family's Thanksgiving dinner party.

Man, there's no way to sugar coat this. Home Sweet Home was legit terrible. It started with a cold open where Stanfield murdered some dude for his car and then celebrated by injecting PCP into his tongue. Is that how you do that??? Then, after a lengthy credits sequence where he drove around in a station wagon, he promptly ran over an old lady. I thought, oh, this is a like a Troma film? Nope, I'd have been lucky if that were the case. At least those movies are halfway entertaining.

While our killer puttered around, I got to meet a handful of insipid characters, including a talking mime named – I shit you not – Mistake who ran around with his guitar annoying everyone. It took so long for this guy to get offed, I actually started to wonder if he was supposed to be the hero of this piece. 

Was there a script for this movie? It seemed to me like every interaction inside the house was ad-libbed. “Okay guys, this scene you're going to look for the peas. Just mention peas. A lot.”

Eventually our killer, shitty Lou Ferigno – I shouldn't be mean, apparently he was a fitness guru back in the day, but as an actor he's the least performative slasher I've ever seen – finally started knocking people off, but the kills were pretty lazy. Although Don Edmonds did get crushed under a car hood. Geez, I just saw someone else die like that the other day. My low coolant light has been coming on in my car, and now I'm doubly afraid to check the level. 

I digress. It is hilarious to me that I consider Edmonds to be slumming here and this is the cat who made the first two Ilsa flicks. Also of note, the little girl, the one who seemed to have no idea what was going on, was Vinessa Shaw who later went on to work with the likes of Kubrick, Soderbergh and Bigelow.

So yeah, Home Sweet Home blows. It's boring, it's not shot well and even the kills aren't particularly memorable. If you're looking for some filling Turkey Day horror, you are much better off with John Grissmer's Blood Rage. Another bad movie to be sure, but miles better than this, just for Louise Lasser's bonkers performance alone.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Splatter Matters

Check out this new video from Rue Morgue TV about the 1986 Canuck faux doc Splatter: Architects of Fear where Canuxploitation's Paul Corupe tells the story about how the filmmakers put one over on the censor board.

While I was watching this video, the only thing I could think of was, “how have I never heard of this?!” However, when I was subsequently looking it up on Imdb, I immediately recognized the coverbox.

I always thought this was some shitty sub-Troma flick so I never looked into it. Damn, what a missed opportunity. Oh well, live and learn I guess. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Short of the Week #74: Deathbox

This week I give you my pal Mike Pereira's newly posted short Deathbox from 2015.

Look out for his upcoming debut feature Shout For The Devil to be unleashed next year.

Friday, October 4, 2019

My Top 25 Twilight Zone Episodes (#5-1)

Okay so here we are, these are TZ's top episodes in my book.

Season 5, Episode 3 / First Broadcast Oct 11, 1963
Written by Richard Matheson / Directed by Richard Donner

My favourite of Matheson's contributions, this episode was so iconic, they even decided to re-use it for the 1983 theatrical version, as well as arguably the best segment of The Simpson's Treehouse of Horror. Due to this, a case could be made that this is the most pervasive episode of the Twilight Zone, as much like open water is to Jaws and showers are to Psycho, have you not ever, while on a flight, looked out onto the plane wing to see if there was a gremlin staring back at you?

Season 2, Episode 6 / First Broadcast Nov 11, 1960
Written by Rod Serling / Directed by Douglas Heyes

Yet another episode that it is synonymous with The Twilight Zone that has been parodied and re-appropriated over the years. It still remains one of the greatest twists in television history. Also, watching it again recently, I was able to really appreciate the artistry in filming in such a way to hide everyone's faces for most of the episode.

Season 1, Episode 8 / First Broadcast Nov 20, 1959
Teleplay by Rod Serling / Directed by John Brahm

This episode really freaked me out as a kid and my go-to when I think of the real “gut punch” episodes. I concur with Albert Brooks' when he speaks of that episode during the opening of the 1983 movie. I too have a back-up pair of glasses, especially since my vision is now starting to rival that of Burgess Meredith's. This was the best realization of TZ's popular theme of “be careful what you wish for.”

Season 1, Episode 22 / First Broadcast Mar 4, 1960
Written by Rod Serling / Directed by Ronald Winston

Paranoia and mob mentality was always an oft-used theme in The Twilight Zone, but it was never better utilized than here. It's just as poignant now as it ever was, although we still don't need alien interference to get riled up. I also have a soft spot for this one because it was heavily sampled by Skinny Puppy for their song, Monster Radio Man.

Season 3, Episode 14 / First Broadcast Dec 22, 1961
Teleplay by Rod Serling / Directed by Lamont Johnson

This episode, based on a story by Marvin Petal, may likely be a contentious choice for number one, but it holds great significance for me. I first discovered The Twilight Zone in the eighties while it was in syndication. When I was about twelve or so, I got a TV in my room, but the rule was that if I went to bed at ten, I could watch TV for an hour – which consisted of reruns of Benny Hill and Bizarre – and then it was lights out! However, one time I kept the TV on and this episode came on. I was immediately transfixed and I remember turning the TV real low so I wouldn't get caught because I absolutely had to see the end. And then my mind was blown. I have dabbled in fiction over the years and nothing has inspired me (save maybe Stephen King) more than that story, which I feel is still one of the greatest twists ever.

So that's my list. Hopefully, this inspires you to go back and watch some old Twilight Zone episodes because they really are fantastic. It's also fun to see early appearances of some big stars, which are too large to count in number, but the one where Burt Reynolds (doing his best Brando impression) get punched out by William Shakespeare is certainly a gas.

Anyway, have a good weekend and I'll see you in the fifth dimension.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

My Top 25 Twilight Zone Episodes (#15-6)

Welcome back! Let's continue with my countdown of favourite Twilight Zone episodes, starting with an “alien” invasion.

Season 2, Episode 15 / First Broadcast Jan 27, 1961
Written by Richard Matheson / Directed by Douglas Heyes

This was the first episode I watched when CBS started releasing TZ episodes on VHS back in the day. Serling performed this particular switcheroo a few times over the course of the show (the episodes Third From The Sun and the aforementioned Probe 7 come to mind), but it was never better accomplished than here.

Season 3, Episode 8 / First Broadcast Nov 3, 1961
Teleplay by Rod Serling / Directed by James Sheldon

You can gauge whether a Twilight Zone episode really “made” it, if it eventually wound up in an episode of The Simpson's Treehouse of Horror. Serling based this on a 1953 story by Jerome Bixby so it further illustrates that he was aware of his contemporaries. What I found especially unique about this episode was Serling's assertion during the end narration was that the Twilight Zone was an actual place with inhabitants and not just a realm to be visited or passed through.

Season 3, Episode 26 / First Broadcast Mar 26, 1961
Written by Richard Matheson / Directed by Paul Stewart

This was another episode that later found its way into Treehouse of Horror. I find falling out of bed a lot more relatable than kids with godlike powers so that's why I ranked this one a little higher. I also wonder – because I'm too lazy to look it up – if this wasn't one of the first instances of “wormholes” on television.

Season 5, Episode 31 / First Broadcast May 1, 1964
Written by Martin M. Goldsmith / Directed by Robert Butler

In a 1959 Mike Wallace interview, Serling stated that he was “not going to delve into current social problems dramatically” due to being tired of battling sponsors over perceived controversy. We all know he was either fibbing or changed his tune, as the opposite was never more apparent than here. This two-man (Neville Brand & George Takei) bottle episode was so provocative that it was pulled from syndication after its original air date. Something like this episode proves that the Twilight Zone did not fizzle out and was still offering up strong television right up until the end.

Season 1, Episode 21 / First Broadcast Feb 26, 1960
Written by Rod Serling / Directed by John Brahm

This was another terrific one-location piece starring the lovely Vera Miles (1960 was sure a good year for her!). Birthed from an encounter where he thought he saw his double from across an airport terminal, Serling wrote what would become one of TZ's most persistent themes. I really love this episode – as does Jordan Peele, as it apparently inspired Us – and if the final moments weren't so kooky, I might have placed it higher on the list.

Season 3, Episode 24 / First Broadcast Mar 2, 1962
Teleplay by Rod Serling / Directed by Richard L. Bare

Based on a 1950 story by Damon Knight, this is another episode that can identified by its climactic phrase “It's a COOKBOOK!” One of the few episodes to break the fourth wall, and perhaps the inspiration for the eighties TV phenomenon V, this is my favourite episode featuring aliens – ones that appear front-and-center anyway. It also has the unmistakable Richard Kiel in one of his earliest roles.

Season 1, Episode 1 / Oct 2, 1959 (60 years ago, less a day!)
Written by Rod Serling / Directed by Robert Stevens

This was the pilot episode for the Twilight Zone and it beautifully encapsulated what viewers could expect from the series in the future. Serling put forth the fantastical, but also very human elements into his storytelling. It is why his work continues to endure today.

Season 1, Episode 5 / First Broadcast Oct 30, 1959
Written by Rod Serling / Directed by Robert Stevens

Tales of time travel were the Twilight Zone's bread and butter, covering sojourns to and from the age of the dinosaurs (The Odyssey of Flight 33) to pioneer days (100 Yards Over The Rim & The 7 Is Made Up of Phantoms) to far into the future (The Rip Van Wickle Caper). However, this one tops the list of these narratives by being the most personal and thoughtful of the bunch by echoing the sentiment that “you can't go home again”. It also features a young pre-Mayberry Ron Howard in a small role.

Season 1, Episode 34 / First Broadcast Jun 10, 1960
Written by Rod Serling / Directed by Douglas Heyes

This one represents my favourite kind of Twilight Zone episode that skirts the line between horror and suspense. It was the mystery that kept me hooked and the payoff was as satisfying as the build-up. The only time I think I was more mesmerized by an episode was the one that ultimately topped this list.

Season 1, Episode 16 / First Broadcast Jan 22, 1960
Teleplay by Rod Serling / Directed by Alvin Ganzer

Based on a fourties radio play from Lucille Fletcher, but a variation of Ambrose Bierce's 1890 story An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge that I feel is one of the most important pieces of genre fiction that exists – Twilight Zone would later air a 1961 adaptation by Robert Enrico during season five – this was another iconic episode of the show. This device has been used so often since, it's almost shocking when similar scenarios don't end with this revelation.

That's it for now. Come back tomorrow to see me crack the top five. Can you guess what they are?

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

My Top 25 Twilight Zone Episodes (#25-16)

Sixty years ago today, Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone first aired on CBS. You don't need me to tell you how important this show was to the genre and pop culture, but it was exceedingly influential to me and my interests. In celebration, I am counting down my favourite twenty-five episodes of the original series that ran five seasons and one-hundred and fifty-six episodes. Let's get to it, shall we?

Season 5, Episode 15 / First Broadcast Jan 3, 1964
Written by Earl Hamner Jr. / Directed by John Brahm

Just cracking the list is this story about guilt from the final season. It was rare that the Twilight Zone mixed its comedic and dramatic undertones together, but it was done successfully here. I am also a sucker for stories featuring vehicles that have minds of their own, something that would later become a staple in horror with films like The Car and Christine.

Season 2, Episode 5 / First Broadcast Nov 4, 1960
Written by Charles Beaumont / Directed by Douglas Heyes

As Keyser Soze once said, “the greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist” and that adage has never been more succinct than within this episode. Utilizing the talents of H.M. Wynant, Robin Hughes and the great John Carradine, the scope of this went far beyond this largely three-man piece.

Season 1, Episode 13 / First Broadcast Jan 1, 1960
Teleplay by Rod Serling / Directed by John Brahm

Based on a story by George Clayton Johnson, this was one of many Twilight Zone tales where people were gifted extraordinary abilities, but still managed to lead themselves into ruin. What I really dug about this episode was the production design. This show's subject matter lent itself to abstract visuals (the episode Perchance To Dream is another example), but they really went above and beyond in this one.

Season 5, Episode 15 / First Broadcast Jan 10. 1964
Written by Rod Serling / Directed by Robert Florey

So many of the Twilight Zone's episodes dwell on the darker shades of humanity – greed, paranoia, fear etc – so I was really struck by this one that dealt with true love. I really bought into the premise, but unfortunately for me, I momentarily forgot that TZ rarely affords us happy endings.

Season 2, Episode 25 / First Broadcast Apr 28, 1961
Written by Rod Serling / Directed by Boris Sagal

Based in part of Anton Chekov's story The Bet, but of course with a more odious spin the likes of which we'd expect from Serling, this tale is perfect for telling around a campfire. This was also one of the few Twilight Zone episodes that featured a double twist.

Season 3, Episode 7 / First Broadast Oct 27, 1961
Written & Directed by Montgomery Pitman

Much like The Silence, this is perhaps the most effective campfire ghost story – hell I've told it a few times myself, swapping out the cowboys for sorority girls – ever told on the Twilight Zone. Culled from a story dating back to the forties, this episode features a stellar cast including Lee Marvin, Lee Van Cleef and TZ regular James Best.

Season 5, Episode 6 / First Broadcast Nov 1, 1963
Written by Charles Beaumont / Directed by Richard C. Sarafian

This episode is a staple. Telly Savalas versus a seemingly sentient and indestructible talking doll. Got it, great. However, it drove home to me that the most dated thing – and I suppose this came as a surprise to no one – about the Twilight Zone are gender relationships. Sure, I suppose there are still women who marry for security today, but I was shocked how many times an episode would introduce an eccentric loser (Pat Hingle in The Incredible World of Horace Ford and Martin Balsam in The New Exhibit come to mind) and then the next scene would reveal they actually had a spouse waiting for them at home.

Season 5, Episode 9 / First Broadcast Nov 29, 1963
Written by Rod Serling / Directed by Ted Post

In his teaser speech at the end of the previous episode, Serling stated “this particular opus has an unpredictable ending that we doubt that even the most seasoned TZ fan will be able to pick up on before it happens on your screen”. And it turns out he was right, in my case anyway. Well played, Mr. Serling.

Season 2, Episode 17 / First Broadcast Feb 10, 1961
Written by Rod Serling / Directed by Jack Smight

Based on a story dating back to 1906 and one of the six Twilight Zone episodes that were shot on video, this is one of those classic episodes that can be encapsulated into a single phrase, “room for one more, honey”.

Season 3, Episode 10 / First Brodcast Nov 17, 1961
Written by Rod Serling / Directed by Nathan Van Cleave

Before starting into my box set last year, I had seen most of the episodes that appear on this list previously. This one however, was a first time watch and it stuck with me. Not only was the simmering heat perfectly portrayed here – I looked it up and they weren't acting – but Serling once again played the prophet. Except our climate change isn't due to our planet spinning out of orbit, but something much more nefarious, and sadly preventable. Oh, and Serling once again hits us with a double twist.

Check back tomorrow when I continue my list, counting down from #15 to #6.