Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween, guys! Today, I thought I’d just feature a few awesome fan-made music videos from youtube, just to get everybody in the mood for tonight’s festivities. Whether you’re going to a haunted house, taking your kids trick or treating, actively trick or treating, or even just sitting home and watching a movie.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Horror Flick of the Week: Love at First Bite

Every year, my best friend and I gather a collection of our ‘traditional marathon movies’ and watch them like crazy on Halloween. The night always starts with Love at First Bite. Not only is it one of Hamilton’s funniest movies, but he’s also playing Dracula. I’d also like to add that it’s a quote-able movie, with plenty of awesome lines to go around.

The atmosphere at the beginning is great: fog, candle-light, howling wolves and Dracula in tails. In short, they’ve nailed the Tod Browning feel. Renfield is amazingly neurotic, creepy, funny, and…funny. The whole picture is nice and light, like a good appetizer before you sink your teeth into the main dish.

Dracula longs for the company of a woman, Cindy Sondheim, a model in New York. Now Dracula is pretty much always on the prowl, in any and all incarnations he’s ever taken. It’s no surprise then, that Cindy Sondheim is the reincarnation of his true love…Mina Harker. Instead of wasting away longing for her company and reading gossip magazines, though…he’s ousted by the government so his castle can be converted into a training facility for young athletes. This is the perfect opportunity to finally pursue the woman of his dreams.

And what’s an eviction notice without an angry mob of villagers?

He finds her, they spend the evening together, and then-Dracula gets to meet her psychiatrist/occasional love interest…Van Helsing’s grandson. They don't get on.

I’ll leave all the juicy bits out for anyone unfamiliar with this movie to discover on his or her own, but chances are that if you like Tootsie…and if you like Dracula in any form…you’ll probably like this. No, there sadly isn’t any drag, but it really brings Tootsie to mind anyway. I guess it’s the time period…or the setting…or the wig. Not sure. I’ll get back to you on that.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Book of the Week: Bumper Crop

Bumper Crop, by Joe R. Lansdale

I’ve always been a pretty avid reader of short stories. They’re like little tiny books you can swallow in one bite, with plenty of space to spare. They’re like literary hors D’oeuvres, but sometimes…they’re not all good. Sometimes you’ll read one, go to the next, and then find it leaves a bad taste in your mouth. Even Steven King is hit or miss with a fairly large amount of his short stories…

BUT THIS. Every. Single. Story. I loved them all. Deliciously dark, creepy, unpredictable. It’s insanely hard to find anything nowadays that’s written well AND unpredictable. It’s even more difficult to find a book of short stories that score every time in the awesome department. This book is one of the best story compilations I’ve ever read. Don’t read them to children, however, as they’re not nearly as child-friendly as Pet Semetary or Helter Skelter.

Lansdale has a way with words, and manages to create a world I would never want to live in. God of the Razor in particular is incredibly dark, wherein if one is cut by a blade of any kind, the ‘god of the razor’ will come out to take possession of him and transform the victim into a psychopathic murderer in order to feed the god with bloodshed. I wretched just reading this story…that’s no easy feat.

Monday, October 28, 2013

A Tribute to Conrad Veidt

“It is precisely as though I were possessed by some other spirit when I enter on a new task of acting, as though something within me presses a switch and my own consciousness merges into some other, greater, more vital being.”

These words were spoken by a wonderful man, and it blows my mind that today his name is not as well-known as it should be. Conrad Veidt.

Sure, a film buff may recognize the name. But anyone else would be more likely to recognize ‘John Wayne’ than ‘Conrad Veidt’. Born in 1893, the same year of the infamous Chicago World’s Fair, he served briefly in the German army during WWI, but would eventually be discharged due to ill health. Afterwards, his acting career truly began…which is all well and good. Theatre is absolutely marvelous, and Conrad Veidt had the honor of working with Max Reinhardt himself prior to his military service. One can only imagine how brilliantly he must have shined onstage.

In 1920, Mr. Veidt played one of the darkest characters in cinema history. I really mean that, because he was all in black and a dominating character in the most influential expressionist film of the silent era, ‘The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari’. I don’t believe anyone else would have brought justice to the role of Cesare, not like Conrad. Seriously. Just look at him!

He was also in ‘Waxworks’, and ‘The Hands of Orlac’, proving further with each role that Conrad was a character actor, and a powerful one at that.

Skipping forward a bit, Conrad left Germany for England when the Nazi party began to take control in Germany. Eventually he was off to Hollywood. And lots of Nazi roles. But there’s one more movie I’d like to talk about, I also believe it was one of his greatest roles: ‘The Man Who Laughs’. A melodrama, a romance, and…perhaps a horror movie? A young boy is kidnapped, sold to gypsies, his face is mutilated to give him a permanent grin, he grows up to be a circus act, and then is practically drug kicking and screaming to take his proper place in ‘society’ when his identity is discovered. The horror wasn’t in the face of the man, but those he faced…

For those of you who love film, for those of you who love horror, and for those of you who love acting…do not pass up the chance to see the movies I mentioned, and anything else with Conrad Veidt in even a minor role (-cough- Casablanca -cough-), for he is one of the most powerful onscreen presences I have ever seen.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Halloween Hotties: Vintage Pinups for October

Halloween isn't just a time for...y'know, doing all that stuff I talk about all the time. It's also a great time for awesome photography. Spooky trees, interesting tombstones, ghosts...and Bombshells. From Betty Davis to Dusty Anderson, and everyone in-between. Chances are, if there's a beautiful model or actress from the golden age out there, she's had her own little October photo shoot. The following are a selection of my favorites.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Drive-in Trailers: The Faust and the Furious

Often times, people just want to get ahead. Sometimes they’ll make very questionable bargains in order to do so. The essence of the Faustian deal is that in exchange for one’s soul, a man may get what he truly desires. But the demon in question can come in any shape. He can come in the form of the devil himself, or simply a man. But we all know who he really is…and ultimately the price is far more than anyone wants to pay.

Honorable mention goes towards the fantastic ‘Kanashimi no Belladonna’ (1973) which I decided not to post a trailer for, due to the fact that the content in question may be construed as a little ‘mature’.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Vintage Comics: Chamber of Chills – The Ghost of the Rue De Morte, How Death Valley Got Its Name, Weird Worlds (29-36)

Finishing up the final portion of this ‘Chamber of Chills’, the first story focuses on that age-old saying…curiosity killed the cat. Sometimes it seems being a skeptic is far more dangerous than it’s worth, especially when it comes to investigating an apparent ghost in a shady area of the city late at night. You’d think the man would have at least had a gun to defend himself with.

Then we get some fun facts about a group of people who struggled to get across Death Valley, and a bit of mythology. The ancient Greeks and Romans sure could be brutal with their stories. Anyway, it was fun to read this issue, but I still can’t let go of the nagging fact that there’s a serious case of excessive exposition…

Thursday, October 24, 2013

2013 Halloween Playlist

Originally, I had considered making this a post about burning the perfect Halloween dvd for a party, but I debated with myself too much. SO, instead, I used that amazing resource called 'grooveshark' to compose what I believe is an absolutely essential list of horror tunes for any spooky party.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Horror Flick of the Week: Student Bodies

Don’t let the online ratings fool you! This movie is terrible. Wait, that’s exactly what the online reviews say…okay, let me rephrase this. Don’t let the online ratings ‘deter’ you, or the fact that almost every single cast member involved with this movie didn’t want to receive any credit whatsoever for it.

It’s cheesy, raunchy, stupid, funny, at times painful…and fantastic. Fantastic in that everyone pretty much knows what they’re in is stupid, and they’re all adults…but they aren’t above acting like children, or milking DUMB gags until they’re crying for mercy. Believe it or not, this was pretty unique for it’s time. Way ahead of Scary Movie, with considerably less drug jokes. It’s a direct parody of Slasher, which wasn’t a completely formed genre yet. Coming out of the age of Grindhouse ‘masterpieces’, this film was made at the perfect time.

Honestly, completely sober, I feel drunk when I watch this. So if you think about it, I saved a lot of money sitting through Student Bodies. You could too! Unless you prefer to appreciate films merely for the sake of art and brilliance, or you’re too highly evolved for juvenile humor and pre-marital sex.

The main premise is that a serial killer called ‘Breather’ kills teenagers who have sex, usually with unique methods…like vegetables…and horse-head bookends. Meanwhile, there’s a lot of teenagers having sex all over the place. Don’t forget the janitor, Malvert, who’s actually a lot more funny and terrifying than the Breather (which is saying something. The Breather is hilarious.) The secondary premise is that everyone’s an idiot. Like Airplane…with a serial killer.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Book of the Week: Gil's All Fright Diner

I'm sure you've heard the incredibly over-done phrase 'don't judge a book by it's cover'. Granted, this usually isn't actually referring to books, but people. I have the habit of judging a lot of books by their covers, and these are literal books, not 'people/books'. I'll walk through a library or book store for about an hour, glancing at the the colors, the size, the style of text, and finally...if the book has passed the first 3 tests...the full cover. That's how I discovered this, and someone who would become one of my favorite modern authors. A. Lee Martinez's awesome book, 'Gil's All Fright Diner'.

You've got a burly werewolf, a scrawny vampire, an asian goth teen satanist, a lonely ghost, and...a diner that proves to be the portal to hell. I really don't know what else you could want in literary art. But more than just the basic plot, there's a style to Martinez that shines in this book. He's a lot like Christopher Moore, but without that subtle bitter undertone.

Amusing Sci-fi and Horror has a lot of trouble when it comes to a perfect story. You basically have to keep people on the edge of their seats AND laughing their heads off at the same time. This one? This one does it. I didn't know what was coming, my seasoned horror glands were sated in a pleasant way, and I genuinely laughed a few times.

My final bit of advice: Judge books by their covers. Constantly. That way, you can find cool stuff like this with minimal effort.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Halloween Myths and Misconceptions

Halloween is a kid’s holiday nowadays. Oh sure, some of us more obsessive adults (especially myself) may still enjoy the festivities of dressing up, visiting haunted houses, having horror marathons, summoning the dead…but really, it’s marketed as a day for children. They put on their cute little outfits, grab their buckets and pillowcases, then terrorize local adults by demanding candy or promising pranks if candy is not delivered. It’s a magical time.

It’s also pretty dangerous. But, is it as dangerous as certain stories will have you believe? Do some adults really poison pixie sticks, stick razor blades in their apples, and round up local black cats for mass slaughter? Let’s consider these myths/stories and others, and consider the benefits of these tales.

Legend Number One: Your Kids’ Candy Might be Poisoned/Don’t Trust Strange Fruit

Look, there aren’t really any cases of this actually happening. There are movies, there are yearly articles in the local paper, and there are TV advisories. It’s believable though, because it’s possible. People always like to ‘debunk’ the candy myth, because the evidence is so scarce. There was a guy in ’74 who poisoned his own child with pixie sticks to collect the insurance, and he did indeed try to poison other kids too in order to make it look like there was a local madman doing the deed, but that’s one case…and it wasn’t even from a stranger. The rule of the myth is that it has to be random, not pre-meditated.

That doesn’t mean people don’t stick stuff in fruit, though. But when you consider it, any adult handing out nutritious things or pennies on Halloween is pretty sick. I wouldn’t put it past them to have something sneaky up their dastardly health-conscious sleeves.

The fact of the matter is this: check your kid’s candy. Not because of this myth being true or confirmed (which it statistically hasn’t been), but because someone will eventually decide to do it, and you can never be too careful when it comes from letting your kids eat things random strangers hand out to them. Don’t confiscate it if it’s safe, because that makes you a dick. Just be smart about it. As far as pennies go, don’t let your kids eat those…and the fruit? Wash it, cut it up, check it. That is, if your kid even wants to bother with the bruised apple that was probably sitting in some lazy guy’s pantry for the last 3 weeks.

Legend Number Two: Felix the Splat

If you’ve ever followed your local news, there are probably weekly issues with cats being beaten to death or maimed. Whether teenagers, kids, adults, whatever…some people are just sick. A lot of animal shelters refuse to adopt out black cats in October, just to be on the safe side. Now, online sources I’ve looked into say there isn’t enough evidence to support this…however, I’ve lived in neighborhoods where the black cat tradition proved true. I’ve gone to animal shelters where the people who worked there have seen it first-hand. So it’s either just a problem in the Central Texas area, or it is in some way true in other places as well.

The fact of the matter is this: If you have a black cat, there’s nothing wrong with keeping them indoors on October to be on the safe side. If you don’t like letting him or her inside, keep a kitty carrier, or maybe consider not getting a black cat next time you adopt. Frankly, no matter what the color, indoor cats statistically tend to live longer than outdoor cats anyway.

Legend Number Three: Bloody Mary

Don’t be stupid.

The fact of the matter is this: She doesn’t exist. Period. Believe me, I’ve tried.

Legend Number Four: Often, They Come Back

It isn't ectoplasm, it's just a really bad ear infection...

Samhain/Halloween/Dia De Los Muertos/Hungry Ghost Festival, there’s a common theme that the veil between the living and the dead grows thinner. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of scientific studies that confirm this. There actually aren’t really any at all, otherwise it would be a world news sort of thing, and it wouldn’t be relegated to the land of legend and ‘I heard it from a friend who knew a guy who had a cousin’.

The fact of the matter is this: There are exorcists out there. There are mentally unsound people who pretty much believe they’re possessed. There’s no physical evidence of the dead being able to visit you this time of year, but is the risk of becoming a plaything of Satan/nutcase really worth it? That’s really your choice.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

A Tribute to William Castle

You know, there aren’t many gimmicks in movie theatres nowadays. Oh, of course there’s 3d…I’m sorry…’Real D’, and then who can forget the kid’s boxes you pay more for than popcorn, candy, and soda combined? But there was a time when going to the movies was more than just that. Specifically, this would be the time of William Castle, aptly known as the ‘KING OF GIMMICKS’.

House on Haunted Hill was one of my first William Castle films. Actually, it was one of my first horror films in general. His daughter would eventually co-produce the remake of this classic, but sadly without the gimmick (I should know, I saw the remake in theatres when I was ten.) When the film was shown in theatres, there was a climactic moment of a skeleton rising from a vat and pursuing the villainess until she found her own cruel demise. Right at this moment, a skeleton on wires would advance through the aisles to ‘terrorize’ the audience.

Don't let those smiles fool you. They're grins of fear!!!

William Castle was a producer, director, writer, and even occasionally an actor. It’s not surprising he was somewhat influenced by Hitchcock, when you consider the myriad introductions he did to a few films, as well as little conclusions. The one for Mr. Sardonicus is a personal favorite of mine. If you have not seen the film, and do not want to know the ending, forego this video clip. It does somewhat give a few things away. Also skip the next paragraph.

An awful lot of people debate whether an ‘alternate ending’ actually existed, because nobody ever really voted for Mr. Sardonicus to have a happy one. I don’t believe that alternate ending was actually filmed, because the…unhappy ending…is much more suiting.

I believe William Castle was brilliant, and not only for his games and surprises in the theatres, but because his movies were actually good (even without them.) Honestly, you don’t really get that with the few other films who’ve tried to do their own little surprises in theatres. I mean, as much as I love the Nightmare on Elm Street series, I’d be lying through my teeth if I said part 6 was an Oscar winner, with the special ‘3d’ moments, when you’d be able to see the dream demons properly through the magical dream glasses by the dream murderer’s daughter…it’s not dreamy.

Much like Orson Welles, Castle saw his career flourish from the very beginning in Hollywood..which makes sense, because they did work together in radio. Like Korman, he became an expert at making films fast under a budget. He was like Frankenstein’s monster of famous filmmakers.

A few other interesting gimmicks he came up with were as follows: buzzers in random seats for ‘The Tingler’, life insurance policies for ‘Macabre’ ($1000 dollars per audience member), a refund for pansies who couldn’t sit through ‘Homicidal’ complete with a coward’s certificate and an embarrassing march to a special booth, 3d glasses that would enable you to see the ghosts in 13 Ghosts, plastic axes for the audience seeing Strait-Jacket, seatbelts in some seats for ‘I Saw What You Did’…that one kinda falls short for me, but there’s only so many weird things you can do for your movies before the well runs dry.

He knew how to play his audience, whether he could see them or not, and I think when he passed away in 1977…good horror has never been the same.

This has little relevance, but...yeah, I think I can stand behind this political party...

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Vintage Comics: Chamber of Chills – The Chieftain of the Undead, Terror in the Heavens (21-28)

Onto a bit of tribal fun this week, with the continuing stories in Chamber of Chills. After this, there will be one more entry to finish up the issue. Not an original story, but I do like some of the colors in this one...even if I do question the scientific validity of the 'Terror in the Heavens'

Friday, October 18, 2013

Dark Faerie Tales and Nursery Rhymes

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this, but I’m a huge Grimm fan. The third season is premiering Oct. 25, and it got me to thinking about faerie tales. When you look at Disney’s interpretations of the classics, like Cinderella and Snow white, you pretty much know that they’re mixing a crap-load of vanilla into the story, but somehow…they both remain incredibly dark, Snow White especially. I’ll be honest; the scene in the forest freaked me out as a kid, and still gets me today.

A lot of parents don’t let their kids watch scary movies, even some of the tamer classic varieties, because they don’t want their children getting nightmares. That’s fine. Yet many of them will still reach for their trusty Mother Goose or Grimm collection at night to read for bedtime. Let’s be honest here, very few faerie tales and nursery rhymes are light-hearted fancies. Most of them involve poison, curses, spells, deception, murder, resurrection of the dead (or in some cases their talking bones), being eaten alive, or terrible things happening to people whether they’re good or bad.

A good faerie tale or nursery rhyme has a lesson. A lesson rarely comes without a consequence if it isn’t heeded. You don’t let a stranger inside your house when you’re alone, and you certainly don’t trust their food. If your stepmother likes to box your ears on a regular basis, then asks you to stick your head somewhere dangerous, don’t be surprised if she accidentally lops your head off. When you’ve been warned for seventeen years of your life not to do something and you do it anyway? Yeah, that’ll probably turn out bad.

The following are five particularly nasty little faerie tales and nursery rhymes to avoid, if you somehow can’t stomach a good dose of salt with your children’s books. But if you really want a story with a bit of bite, definitely look into them.

1.The Juniper Tree

This one used to give me the shivers when I paged through it as a kid. I guess that’s why it’s my favorite. There’s always an element of an evil stepmother in a good faerie tale, illustrating that the most evil people in your life can also be some of the closest. It makes sense, when you consider that so often the case with a missing or murdered child usually involves someone in the family. The stepmother kills her stepson, and makes it look like her beloved daughter did it. The little girl is of course emotionally scarred when she thinks she killed her own brother, and it doesn’t help when the stepmother butchers him and serves the boy to his father when he comes home. The lesson though, lies in the boy’s spirit when he comes back as a bird to seek revenge.

2.Goosy Goosy Gander

Goosy Goosy Gander, 
wither do you wander?
Upstairs and downstairs, 
in my lady’s chamber.
There I saw an old man 
who would not say his prayers,
I took him by the left leg
and threw him down the stairs.

I'm pretty sure he breaks his neck, too. Lesson here? No matter how old you are, you’d better be a good Christian, or your mistress’s pet bird is going to break your neck. It doesn’t get much darker than that.

3.Blue Beard

There’s a French film about this story with absolutely beautiful cinematography, and it employs something a lot of us can’t seem to stomach. A young girl marrying an old man. In the story, she’s not always a child, but very likely is. This guy practices witchcraft, forces women to marry him, and then lies in wait until they do what he tells them expressly not to do: open one door in his castle with a key he gives them. Of course, this is what he really wants, because he’s a sadistic jerk. Whenever it invariably happens, he butchers them and throws their body parts into the forbidden room. The only lesson I find here is that if you’re going to do what you shouldn’t, either get better at lying, or think on your feet. The nice thing about this story, is that the main character isn’t a brave hero, but a young woman with a brain. That’s pretty rare in your classic stories. Too bad there are a thousand different versions, because in half of them she usually isn’t that bright, and gets saved through the deus ex machina method.


Not the one most of us are more acquainted with, but the one with the incest in particular is the version of this story that gets me. A king loves his wife, and she makes him promise to marry no woman after her death unless the woman is as beautiful as her. So when his daughter grows up and looks exactly like his wife, what do you think that king decides? Obviously his daughter isn’t too hot about the idea, so she flees in a coat of furs. Then she’s found, and nobody knows who she really is. I guess being a servant doesn’t sit too well with her, so she decides it’s way better to do the do with her own dad. The lesson here…well this lesson, I’m going to have to politely disagree with. I do think manual labor is better than incest, sorry.

5.The Death of the Little Hen

The story of the chicken talking about the sky falling always gets me. Why does nobody ever talk about THIS chicken? It’s basically the same concept, but instead of spreading fear through a misunderstanding, it’s one death that turns into a dozen. A chicken chokes on a kernel she tried to greedily eat by herself, and so a procession is gradually made for her. Then everybody drowns. This could be interpreted a thousand different ways. Don’t mourn for those who don’t deserve it, don’t let yourself forget logical thinking when you lose those closest to you, or don’t be a greedy bugger because it’ll only end up destroying yourself and everyone around you.