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.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Horror Debates Part II

Last Wednesday, The popular Black Museum Debate Club returned with four teams arguing which of their chosen flicks was the best horror sequel.

Like before, each team consisted of two speakers;

Returning champions Tal Zimerman (Writer, Rue Morgue Magazine) and Steve Kostanski (Director, Manborg) were Team Dawn of the Dead.
The new duo of Alison Lang (editor-in-chief, Broken Pencil Magazine) & Simon Borer (musician, Entire Cities) made up Team Exorcist III.
Less Lee Moore (Writer, and Shaun Hatton (TV's The Electric Playground) comprised Team Aliens.
Alexandra West (Writer, Famous Monsters of Filmland) and J.M. McNab (Rewatchability podcast) were Team Evil Dead II.

Like last time, the debate was broken up into six rounds, after which returning judge Stuart “Feedback” Andrews awarded points based on performance. The first two rounds consisted of opening statements followed by a prepared six-to-eight minute video supporting their case. Here are some highlights;

Team Dawn of the Dead's three main points were scope, gore effects and the music.

Tal Zimerman: “Dawn of the Dead is the greatest sequel ever. It is the greatest movie ever. George A. Romero took his end of the world scenario, the likes of which no one had ever seen before, to levels unimaginable by audiences of the day.”

“Dawn offers bang for the buck unlike any other movie. There are so many gore gags and effects – exploding heads, flesh torn from necks, arms and legs, entrails pulled from body cavities, heads lopped off by helicopter blades and swords, heads blown off by shotguns, rifles handguns, split in half by machetes and dented by hammers, zombies run over by trucks, blown up by Molotov cocktails, and thrown off balconies.”

Steve Kostanski: “From the title card which explodes in a burst of guitar and synth, to the throbbing serenade that comprises Dawn's main theme, this action-packed funk workout – yes I actually just said funk workout – underscored the film's sequences and would be Goblin's most accomplished musical effort to date. No small feat considering the amazing soundtracks for Profondo Rosso and Suspiria that had come before.”

Team Exorcist III's three main points were atmosphere, the acting and that their film was the only true horror sequel of the quartet.

Simon Borer: “You know what's not scary? The evils of consumerism. You know what's not scary? Space. Nobody here is going to space, it's going to be fine. And if you find a book bound in human skin in the basement of an abandoned cabin? Don't read from it. You know what is fuckin' scary? Old people. This movie is about getting old, it's about seeing your friends embalmed, it's about seeing your friends succumb to dementia and it's a fear we're all going to have to face and that's why this has the scariest atmosphere of any movie.”

Alison Lang: “George C. Scott gives this amazing performance (as Detective Kinderman) and we have also have Brad Dourif as the Gemini Killer, who we all know is one of the best character actors out there. And he fuckin' acts the shit out of that role! He's so fucking scary! And he doesn't need any prosthetics, he doesn't need any gore, he's just Brad Dourif. He just looks like a man possessed!”

Team Aliens' three main points were escalation, that the film works as a stand-alone, yet also has callbacks to the original.

Shaun Hatton: “Aliens raises the stakes of the first film, which is something that sequels should do. In Alien, there was a small crew aboard the Nostromo trying to fend off one alien. In Aliens, however, there is a colony of people who have been destroyed by a nest of Aliens. The situation is so bad that a special group of marines are sent in along with Ripley, the only human survivor of the first film.”

Less Lee Moore: “Ripley takes charge in Aliens, an equal of the men in the film instead of being saved by them. That makes her one of the first female action heroines, beating out Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2 by four years.”

“It is still scary like its predecessor, but it also adds action and comedy into the mix in the form of the marines, especially Private Hudson, played by Bill Paxton, whose scenes have become iconic.”

Team Evil Dead 2's three main points were ingenuity, Bruce Campbell and its creation of a universe.

J.M. McNab: “What's great about Evil Dead 2 is that it takes these formal building blocks of cinematic storytelling and really propel them to new creative heights. We've got these crazy tracking shots, stylized edits, the assaultive audio mix and the crazy prosthetics and make-up effects. This style was widely copied in this movie, and never equalled in our opinion.”

Alexandra West: “Bruce Campbell aka Ash really gives one of the most iconic performances in the entirety of the horror genre. Ash starts out as this smarmy guy, who loses his girlfriend to demons, has a mental breakdown, he fights with his own body, and eventually he emerges to become this crazy awesome, anti-hero with a chainsaw for a hand. There are very few films that have this kind of range. It speaks to the amazing relationship that Campbell and Sam Raimi have that they can push each other's limits.”

“This movie really builds the mythology and creates a wonderful world to play in. They make something really bold and exciting and new, while still respecting the horror genre. You can tell from this film that is a genre and they really love and are passionate about.”

After the supporting video segments, came the trivia round which consisted of five sequel-based questions. When the dust settled, Team Dawn and Evil Dead 2 were tied with ten points, with Exorcist III and Aliens following behind with, eight and six points, respectively.

Then after an intermission, the debaters returned with their rebuttals. Here’s what went down when the claws came out;

Team Dawn of the Dead on Exorcist III;
TZ: “We have a problem with you saying that Exorcist III is the only horror sequel up here. That might be the case relative to Aliens, but come on. Dawn of the Dead's a horror film, Evil Dead 2's a horror film. They may have comedic elements, but yours is certainly not the only horror sequel.”

SK: “And is this movie even a sequel? The exorcism in the movie wasn't in the original cut. The one scene that ties this movie to The Exorcist directly, the exorcist scene, was added after the fact. It was added into the film against the director's wishes, so it's not supposed to be there.”

Team Dawn of the Dead, Tal Zimerman (left) & Steve Kostanski.

On Aliens;
TZ: “We don't feel the stakes are raised, because they are ARMED TO THE TEETH!”

SK: “A good example of this is the chestburster scene in both films. In the original when it happens, that's the most horrifying scene in the movie. But in Aliens when it happens, their immediate response is to blast it with a flamethrower which kind of diffuses the scene. It takes away from it being a horror film.”

On Evil Dead 2;
TZ: “Creating a world? The world that's created in Evil Dead 2 is... Evil Dead plus Bugs Bunny. It's not so much a world as it is a cabin. It's basically a world that was already there. It was Evil Dead, plus slapstick comedy. I'm sorry, a world does not that make.”

“They pulled back on the horror element quite a bit, here's what Bruce Campbell said, and I quote 'we didn't want to create a movie that would cause kids to have nightmares. We wanted to have a wider appeal so we took out some of the real gore and put in some Three Stooges type gags.'”

Team Exorcist III on Dawn of the Dead;
SB: “When I said we were the only horror sequel, I meant that nobody else was both horror and a sequel. I don't feel Dawn of the Dead is the true sequel to Night of the Living Dead. It doesn't have the same tone, it has none of the same actors. John A. Russo retained the rights to 'The Living Dead', so the Return of the Living Dead is the film we should recognize as the sequel.”

Team Exorcist III, Simon Borer & Alison Lang.

On Aliens;
“Okay. What do the movie NBC sitcom Mad About You and Aliens have in common? The answer is they're not horror movies. Alien was a horror movie. It was an awesome haunted house movie. Aliens was an action movie, a trial run for Avatar.” 

On Evil Dead 2;
AL: “Ash is an action movie hero. He's not necessarily a horror movie hero. He's sort of a gunslinger, a buffed-up wise cracking, womanizing guy. Horror I relate to people who are disturbed or beleaguered, fighting their way to some sort of resolution. Ash to me always seems like a winner from beginning to end. To me that qualifies more as an action movie, not a horror movie.”

Aliens on Dawn of the Dead;
SH: “You talked about bang for your buck. There is a lot of various gore, but no mention of many scenes of people arguing, and the main characters playing 'house' for a very long time. Nothing particularly horror about that.”

Team Aliens, Less Lee Moore & Shaun Hatton.

On Exorcist III;
“The only reason it was directed by Blatty was because John Carpenter passed on it. That is a sleight. John Fucking Carpenter is like, 'no!'. Imagine how awesome The Exorcist III would have been with like, Jack Burton in it. Fucking great!”

On Evil Dead 2;
“You mention that the cinematic ingenuity was often copied since. Yes, it was copied mainly by... Raimi. He keeps using the stuff he used in Evil Dead 2 over and over again.”

“Again, I would argue that this isn't a horror film, as the other two teams have said, as much as it is a slapstick movie with ridiculous gore and that there is nothing terribly horrifying about it.”

Evil Dead 2 on Dawn of the Dead;
JM: “I find it interesting that one of your main points was the scope of the movie, considering most of the movie takes place in a shitty mall and a TV station. A lot of it is just people wandering around an abandoned department store, it's basically an episode of Today's Special.”

“I do like Dawn of the Dead, but I think in retrospect, it is kind of the American Beauty of horror movies. When I was sixteen I thought, 'people do go to malls, yeah fuck them' and now it's like, 'sometimes I need shoes.'”

Team Evil Dead 2, Alexandra West & J.M. McNab

On Exorcist III;
AW: “That one iconic scene with the nurse that you showed works because it plays itself out, the rest of the movie is this big Blatty wank-fest, with like lightning shots.”

JM: “I thought it was funny one of your main points was acting, considering I was surprised George C. Scott didn't choke on the scenery he was chewing. There's scenes where someone's like 'oh, you should look at the police report', and he's like 'NO, I WILL NOT LOOK AT THE REPORT GODDAMMIT!'”

“Also, I think it is worth noting there is not one shot in Evil Dead 2 that contains Fabio.”

On Aliens;
AW: “It didn't really change from the first one. Ripley always took charge. Even when she wasn't in a position of power, she was always saying what was right, always stating her mind, that's why she's a great character. So to say that's something new and original in Aliens is just plain wrong. They were just aping on that from the first film.”

“You mentioned call-backs? EVERY sequel has call-backs. I pity the sequel that does not have some form of call-back.”

Going into the last two rounds, Dawn and Evil Dead were still locked in a tie with twelve points, with Exorcist III right behind with ten.

Team Evil Dead 2 pulled ahead briefly after the closing statements, but the audience vote surprisingly favoured Exorcist III and put them into a tie for first with Evil Dead 2 with fifteen points.

Following a tie-breaking trivia question about the members of the Sawyer family from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, TEAM EXORCIST III were crowned the victors and took home the Golden Tentacle trophy.

After two debates, it certainly seems like the underdogs flourish in this environment. In this particular instance, a win from Team Exorcist III made sense, as they were the only ones that didn’t make a grievous error over the course of the debate.

Tal of Team Dawn misspoke when he tried to argue that Aliens failed to be scary because there were too many characters in the film, saying that made us not give a damn about any of them.

Alex of Team Evil Dead 2 made the ill-advised statement that Dawn of the Dead was a boring film that she could barely stay awake through.

Team Aliens’ whole argument was inherently flawed in that they didn’t really talk up the horror aspects of the movie. There can be absolutely no doubt that Aliens is one of the best action films – if not the best – of all time, but a horror sequel? That’s a tougher sell, and they shot themselves in the foot by not concentrating on the few horrific elements that it does have.

So, Exorcist III came through with the win, basically by championing that it was the purest horror offering of the bunch. This was another good debate, even if the score keeping was a little befuddling at times.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Laser Blast, Unmasked!

As they are wont to do, the Laser Blast Film Society busted out another VHS oddity last week at The Royal called Unmasked Part 25.

I hadn't even heard of this movie before co-curator Peter Kuplowsky brought it to my attention. That's just another wonderful thing about the home video boom. There were so many movies produced during that period that even with the world having shrunk with the advent of Web, you'll never stop discovering ones that slipped under the radar. I mean, there are still hundreds of B-horror flicks that have never been ported to DVD, right? And Unmasked Part 25 is one of those rare gems.

Jackson (Gregory Cox), a deformed lunatic wearing a hockey mask, stalks the streets looking for unsuspecting victims. Already tiring of the rat race, a chance encounter with a blind woman named Shelley (Fiona Evans) makes him question his life's work.

Unmasked Part 25 was clearly meant to be a Friday the 13th spoof, but it's so much more than that and way ahead of its time. There had been slasher spoofs by 1988 of course, but nothing that had reached beyond Zucker Brothers-style antics. Instead, this movie slipped a weird Beauty & The Beast fable into its mass murder. While it's true The Toxic Avenger played this same card four years earlier, I can assure you that movie was nowhere near as eloquent as Unmasked managed to be.

What makes Unmasked Part 25 so bizarre was that it worked when it shouldn't have. The movie was rife with dry British humour, with some scenes, like Jackson & Shelley experimenting with S&M, stretched so long they ultimately succeeded through their sheer commitment to the joke. The same goes with the dialogue, of which there was a surprisingly large amount. Jackson laments often about his lot in life, half of the time through a hockey mask and the rest through extensive make-up, so it's really a testament to Cox's performance that this whole thing doesn't go south. I mean how many slashers do you know that bust out Byron and Shakespeare without batting an eyeball?

Gregory Cox (right) & Fiona Evans as Jackson & Shelley in Unmasked Part 25.

So, with all this levity and introspection, you might think that this film would be light on the gore. Not so! Quite the opposite, as the kill scenes were actually quite brutal. Jackson's first kill involved him peeling off some poor dude's face, then ripping out his heart with his bare hand. The effects were provided by Image Animation, who had just come off Hellraiser II at the time, so that should give you an idea of what was on tap here.

It is amazing to me just how little information there is on Unmasked Part 25. Sure, there's a shitty rip on YouTube, but no trailer anywhere. I find it hard to believe this film didn't make a bigger splash, as there's no way, once you've seen it, that it will slip your mind. It was a UK production, so it's possible it's more popular across the pond, but I would have thought its connection to the most prolific horror franchise ever would've at least given it some traction here.

Whatever the case, this was a great little movie. We were lucky to have the writer, Mark Cutforth in the house at the screening and he seemed as surprised as anyone that people came out to watch his little film twenty-five years on. He was also super chuffed about the VHS cover that was made (by Steve Manale) for the screening as he was never happy with the official one on its release.

Unmasked Part 25 was solid fun, and a great lead-in to what came next. But more on that tomorrow...

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Trailer Tuesdays: The Ripper

After posting about the VHS slasher Spine, I was reminded of some other eighties shot-on-video titles, including this one.

This one's a stinker folks, but at least, unlike Spine, it actually has some decent gore in it. However, far from what the trailer would have you believe, Tom Savini appears in this thing for like five minutes.

And how does Savini feel about his participation in this movie? Well, at a Weekend of Horrors in 1991, I witnessed him get down on his knees and apologize to anyone who had watched it. That should give you an idea of what you're dealing with. Oh well, we all make mistakes. At least it was a fairly harmless one.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Viddy Well!

A few weeks ago, the Stanley Kubrick exhibit launched at the Lightbox. I'd been waiting to check this out, since its inaugural run in Los Angeles, and boy did this thing not disappoint!

It's a really comprehensive exhibit of the man's staggering achievements, and even the in-house bar has gotten in on the festivities.

The exhibit spans his entire career, starting with his early photography for Look magazine all the way through to 1999's Eyes Wide Shut, for which he passed away right before it was released. The exhibit was broken into rooms, with each one representing a title in his filmography.

I didn't want to be one of those people that snaps pics of everything instead of enjoying the moment (I really only pulled out my camera for my two faves, which you'll see below), but rest assured, there were lots of things to keep your eyes busy, like a 12-foot obelisk from 2001: A Space Odessey and a miniature War Room from Doctor Strangelove.

The A Clockwork Orange room was pretty spectacular, which, in addition to costumes and international posters, had these iconic pieces from the Korova Milk Bar (flanking the penis sculpture that Alex uses to bludgeon the Catlady)

The Shining, you might imagine, had the most props, including these goodies.

I also couldn't resist snagging a pic of this display of these masks, as well.

The exhibit continued on the fourth floor inside the TIFF reference library, where all of Kubrick's old camera lenses were on display, the most impressive of which was the one used to shoot Barry Lyndon. For those who don't know the story, Kubrick insisted on shooting all the interior night scenes by candlelight, which required special lenses - one NASA used to capture the dark side of the moon - to work in low light conditions. As you can imagine, this camera was a huge beast and your eyes went to it as soon as you walked into the room.

The other main draw of this area were the materials from the three unproduced films that Kubrick worked on during his career. There was a wall of beautiful storyboards for his vision of A.I. (which Steven Spielberg took over after Kubrick's death) as well as exhaustive research into a Holocaust project called The Aryan Papers, which was scrapped when Spielberg went into production on Schindler's List. 

The third project was Napoleon, which was abandoned after 1970's Waterloo performed poorly. I'd always heard about the exhaustive research Kubrick put into that project and, much to my delight, his research card-catalogue cabinet was part of this exhibit. Kubrick not only recorded every day of the French conqueror's life, but also colour-coded his interactions with every other significant historical figure.

If you live in the GTA and have any interest in film at all, this is a must see. TIFF is playing all of Kubrick's films during its run, so you can catch one of those, plus the exhibit for just twenty bones. That's a super value, any way you cut it.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

DKTM 240

Hey folks. Please take a look at these tasty treats, while I try to forget it is snowing outside. Remember when you wouldn't hear the term “polar vortex” outside of a science fiction movie? I miss those days. Anyhoo...

Three-Minute Slasher.

Here's a cool little short from Nathan Crooker called Playback.

I like the simplicity of this piece and the single take (or at least the successful illusion of such) doesn't feel gimmicky. I also love the score, for it's substantial enough that you notice it, but doesn't overpower the visuals.

Vamp It Up.

Here's the poster for Víctor Matellano's remake of José Ramón Larraz’s classic film Vampyres.

Rather provocative, wouldn't you say? And here's the newly released trailer.

Well, that's the definition of a trailer that goes from zero to one hundred pretty quickly. I think the Elizabeth Bathory-inspired marketing was definitely the way to go, as I'm definitely in.

Local Boys.

Lastly, I just want to plug a couple of projects made by some friends of mine. First, if you happen to be in NY, the new anthology flick Late Night Double Feature is premiering tonight at the New York City Horror Film Festival. Here's the trailer.

There's a ton of familiar faces in this short, including Jeff Sinasac (who has appeared in several of my projects) and up-and coming actress Raven Cousens.

Speaking of Cousens, she is also starring in an upcoming short made by my buddy Mike Pereira. Here's the trailer.

Neveldine is premiering at the Blood In The Snow Film Festival in two weeks. If you're in the GTA that weekend, there is a ton of great stuff playing. Click here for the schedule.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Charles In Charge.

A few days ago, I rolled out the trailer for one of my recent acquisitions, Fred Olen Ray's Deep Space.

I've got stacks and stacks of unwatched VHS in my collection, so I've recently been making an effort to go through some of them.

Wow, Deep Space has got some personality to it. I mean, like I said, it's definitely an Alien rip-off with a low-rent version of James Cameron's Queen front and center, but it still looks pretty darn cool. There's even plenty of reverse-camera tentacle action to boot. I also sensed some Night of the Creeps in the plot too, but that might have just been a coincidence.

Charles Napier pretty much carries the movie as Det. McLemore, your typical loose cannon cop. He's tough as nails, if only because he gets shot in the first scene and barely acknowledges it for the rest of the movie, save for a teeny tiny bandage. Veterans Julie Newmar & James Booth show up for scenes that don't have any real relevance to the plot. Bo Svenson at least gets to play the Sergeant who spews out the obligatory stuff to McLemore like, “I want your gun and your badge!” and “you gotta real bad attitude, McLemore!”

Deep Space gives new meaning to the term “smoking gun”

Speaking of which, the dialogue is priceless. It's stuff like this that really makes me miss the eighties. For instance;

In response to seeing the meteor crash nearby;

Guy: “Let's check it out!”
Girl: “Are you kidding? I don't wanna get raped by some martian.”
Guy: “You should be so lucky!”

Later, after McLemore has bedded Carla, one of his co-workers (played by Ann Turkel) - who he, I shit you not, managed to seduce by dressing in a kilt and playing the bagpipes - there is some of the best pillow talk I've ever heard.

Carla: “Can I ask you a question? How close are you to solving these murders?”
McLemore: “I thought you were going to ask me if it was my first time?”
Carla: “Come on, you can level with me. We both work for the same boss.”
McLemore: “Boss? My boss is the street. Who's yours?”
Carla: “Why, you're a hard guy, aren't you?”
McLemore: (motioning to his penis) “You oughta know.”

Yes, this movie has a bit of everything. It might be lesser than some other creature features of the time, but at least it kept me entertained enough not to care. A Fred Olen Ray specialty, wouldn't you say?

Tuesday, November 11, 2014