SLEEPAWAY CAMP II: UNHAPPY CAMPERS — A REVIEW

Cover

“I don’t like being the Wicked Witch of the West, but I know what happens when things get out of control.”

Angela speaks these words immediately after a good old fashioned panty raid, something that well, you just don’t see any more in cinema. Or in life, really. Panty raids, much like so many other things going on in Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers, are incredibly dated, but it doesn’t matter. This thing knows exactly what it is and what it set out to be. And I love every bit of it.

I’ve had a devil of a time trying to finish this post. I’ve been working on it on and off for over a week, but real life has gotten in the way. I’ve also struggled to find an angle for how to tackle this one. One thing I knew I wasn’t going to do was ramble on for 37 paragraphs about how I spent my childhood in my grandma’s laundromat. So, I’ve decided to kind of go a different way. I’m just going to give a very cursory plot synopsis and run down some of my favorite bits as they jumped out at me in no particular order at all. There are so many kills in this thing that I’ll have to skim over some of them, but the ones I will cover… hoo-boy, were they fun!

So grab a guitar and some bug spray. It’s time for the second part in my new series for the summer where I review the entire Sleepaway Camp series: SLEEPAWAY CAMP II: UNHAPPY CAMPERS!

After the events of the first film, Angela went off and got herself a lot of therapy, had a proper sex change, and now she’s back as a counselor in a new camp. We’ve all been there. But the important thing is she moved on, got back on that horse, and I’m sure she’s fine now.

She’s now playing the role of the morality police to it’s farthest extreme. She gleefully hacks her way through the camp, taking just enough time give a mini-sermon about how the victim has cheapened themselves or should have been a good girl or stayed away from the dope. She’s like a young Pamela Voorhees, only without the revenge trip.

Angela

This time around, Angela is played by Pamela Springsteen (sister of Bruce), and while she doesn’t look exactly like Felissa Rose, I love her portrayal. While Felissa had a quiet, deadly shyness, Pamela is just full on bonkers. One of my favorite scenes is when she tests out various potential murder weapons while an unwitting victim is carrying on a conversation with her from across the room. After testing out the give of a clothes hanger and the bluntness of a hairbrush, she finally settles on a guitar string for strangulation. She does this with the casualness and wonder of a child finding just the right crayon.

After the first kill, we’re quickly introduced to this film’s crop of eventual victims. All the stereotypes are on display – the slut, the virgin (read: Final Girl), a pair if stoner sisters (aka The Shit Sisters), a guy called Sean who I’m calling “Not Ashton Kutcher”…

NAK

It also doesn’t take long before we get our first dose of T&A from Susan Marie Snyder (aka Mare). I’m pretty sure she spends more time in the movie topless than fully clothed, not that anyone is complaining.

Let’s cut to the chase. Rather than bore you with my take on the entire plot summary, I’m going to go a different way. Instead, I’m just going to highlight some of my favorite parts.

MULLETS

MULLETS! It’s 1988!

panty raid

PANTY RAID! I mentioned this earlier, but what ever happened to panty raids? They were all the rage in the era of Porky’s, but as soon as the 1980’s ended, we as a nation collectively forgot about them.

Now, we get to the best part. THE KILLS. I’ll split these into two categories: SLASHER TRIBUTES and EVERYTHING ELSE.

We’ll start with Slasher Tributes. You get a hint to this on the cover art up top. At one point, Angela picks off a couple of unwitting victims incorporating some very familiar tools.

glove

A Freddy glove! Two campers are hanging out in the woods dressed up to…honestly, I don’t know why they’re dressed up like this. One kid’s in a fedora and “burn makeup” and the other in a hockey mask and machete. “Freddy” gets it first after Angela steals his glove and slits his throat.

hockey mask

Next up, we knock out two tributes at once. Leatherface v Jason! Angela takes out the “Jason” kid with her own chainsaw and Leatherface-esque mask, that she just happens to be carrying around with her at camp. I mean, I don’t personally remember doing that at camp, but the one I went to was a church camp, so they were a little more strict about things.

It’s hard to get a good panty raid going at church camp.

Let’s run down some of my other favorite kills. EVERYTHING ELSE:

BBQ

The Shote Sisters BBQ! (aka Shit Sisters). After finding the sisters out in woods, high and passed out, Angela decides to punish them for their transgressions, an MO she demonstrates repeatedly throughout the film. One sister awakens to find the other charred to a crisp and immediately gets the same treatment.

After raids both panty and jock, Mare flashes her taters a whole bunch more times, which leads to one of the most memorable kills in the series thus far:

portopotty

Death by porta potty! It’s the worst swirly ever, complete with leeches. Even that kid at the beginning of Shindler’s List thought this was a bit much.

shack

A few more kills take place and things lead up to a climax taken straight out of Friday the 13th Part 2. Angela’s got a shack out in the woods where she’s been keeping all the bodies.

TV

Molly (aka Final Girl) and Not Ashton Kutcher end up there, some shit goes down, Not Ashton Kutcher gets decapitated, and his head ends up in a TV.

We then get a face off between Molly and Angela wherein Molly falls down and bangs her head on some rocks, presumably dead. Angela gets away, hitches a ride with some daffy woman in a car, kills that woman (shocker), and then takes off in the car. Molly gets up, makes her way to a road, flogs down a car, and you-know-who is driving. “Howdy, partner!” THE END!

I loved it. I know I breezed through and may have spoiled a few things, but it’s still worth a watch if you’ve never seen it. It’s got T&A, inventive kills, mullets, stoners, a panty raid, slasher references, a batshit crazy killer, and a lot of fun.

Next up, I tackle Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland. I’m buying the newly released Blu-ray for this one and may also cover the commentary and features. Before starting this project, I’d only ever seen the first two films, so from here on out, we’re going into all virgin territory. Come back and join me! This is a special time in our young lives and we’ll experience it together.

Oh, one more thing. You’ll notice a new link at the bottom of the home page for the site. It’s simply called, “THE SLEEPAWAY CAMP SERIES”. That’s a handy place you can go to find links to all these reviews. I’ll keep it updated as we go along.

Sleepaway Camp — A Review

DISCLAIMER: Spoilers regarding plot and well, you know. And if you don’t know, go watch the damn movie before you read this. Seriously. You don’t want to hear it from me first.

Starting at about the age of 7 or so, I was a latchkey kid. I spent a lot of time alone after school, waiting on my mother to come home from work. She was a single parent and couldn’t always find a babysitter, but it was ok, because we lived within walking distance of the school, and I had a couple of aunts who lived in the neighborhood who would check in on me. As an only child who spent a lot of time alone, I had a lot of free time on my hands. Most of it was spent thinking about and drawing monsters.

But I had to leave the house sometime, and my mother was also wise enough to realize that there was nothing more mind-numbingly boring to your average little boy than to go shoe shopping with this mom. So when it was time to run errands, she would sometimes arrange to drop me off at a laundromat, where my grandmother happened to be the manager.

Mom would get her shopping done and I’d get quality time with Grandma. There was a Ms. Pac-Man machine there, and sometimes she’d let me go round to all the dryers and clean out the lint filters. If I found any spare change, it was mine. For a while there, I got really good at Ms Pac-Man.

The laundromat was in the same shopping center as a Pic-A-Flick, which was, at one time, one of the biggest video store rental chains in this area. This particular Pic-A-Flick was pretty massive and when I wasn’t foraging for quarters, I was sneaking over there and scoping out the extensive horror section. Always the horror section. Fast forward years later, and I would go on to work there while in high school.

For you kids who never had the pleasure of basing your movie watching choices solely on the artwork of a VHS box, I cannot begin to express the depth of my pity for you. It’s incredibly tempting as I type these words just past the witching hour on a Tuesday night, to take a different path here. A path where I spend paragraphs avowing my love for the VHS experience and what it’s meant to me over the years, but I’m going to hold back. That’s another post.

Down the rows of boxes, I scanned titles like Hellraiser, Phantasm, Halloween, and Puppet Master. A lot of slashers, demons, and knives caught my attention. I would spend hours meticulously examining the artwork and screen grabs, looking for any clue as to what would lay inside. And of course, there were always the descriptions.

I was always a little more transfixed by the series. I dreamed of jumping into them, marathoning them either in an afternoon, or intentionally spacing them out over the course of a week in order to build anticipation for the next installment. The good thing about being that age in the mid ’80’s is that so many of the best horror series had already hit their stride and were waiting for me to jump in and get their claws into me. For a budding horror fanatic, it was a golden age of gore.

One box I would always return to was Sleepaway Camp. I was a few years away from my own summer camp experience, although I’d heard stories from my friends about what it was like. I knew that the series wasn’t the only one that explored the notion of a camp killer. A few rows back, all those boxes with the hockey masks on the covers got there first, but this one stood out in a few ways. First of all, check out that cover!

Cover
The bloody knife! The frightened letter home! Not a single still from the actual movie. I just knew that some seriously scary shit was going down at camp.

By the way, despite having been raised in a very religious family, there were no restrictions on what I watched. I can’t explain it, but I got away with murder when it came to my video rentals. I just had to wait for Mom to show up, pick out some blood covered boxes, and she took care of it. For some reason, she was much more concerned about the music I listened to than people getting slaughtered on camera. I could watch Black Sabbath. I just couldn’t listen to Black Sabbath.

But, when it came time to actually pick a flick, I somehow always avoided the Sleepaway Camp series. I can’t explain it. Maybe I was intimidated by the number of installments (there couldn’t have been that many then) or maybe I was just more intrigued by whatever was going on with those Hellraiser boxes, but for whatever reason, I put it off. I mean, I REALLY put it off.

How far off?

Last year, when I first launched this site, I teamed up with Bill of Veggie Macabre to make this video, proclaiming all this rad stuff I was going to do, including finally making my way through the entire series…for the first time ever. I don’t know how I’ve come this far and haven’t marathoned it yet, but to this day, I’ve only seen the first two, and even that was in a failed attempt to actually start this project a year ago, and then promptly abandon it.

Well, it’s summer, I’ve waited long enough, and it’s time to light this candle. This is the first of many installments in which I will spend the next month or so REVIEWING THE ENTIRE SLEEPAWAY CAMP SERIES, naturally starting with the first film.

I kind of agonized over how I was going to tackle this. What fresh angle can I apply to something that’s been discussed so many times already? I guess the only one that I know – just that I’m an adult, life-long horror fan and I’m coming to this with brand new eyes. As I watched it, I jotted down some thoughts. Ok, a lot of thoughts. Keep in mind, I knew nothing about this film other than it has a reputation and of course, the big twist. This won’t be a complete summery. We’ll just hit some highlights along the way, we’ll probably go off on a few tangents, and we may not stay in order. Let’s go.

Aunt Martha
I’m going to start where most people do, I suppose; Aunt Martha. Good lord, I love her. She’s bonkers as all hell, isn’t she? I’m not sure exactly what the thinking was in that performance, but Desiree Gould really brings something and I kind of want to check out the rest of her work now.

Angela
It’s also in this scene that we get our first glimpse of Angela. At the risk of getting into dangerous Artie-esque territory here, it’s worth noting that we can already see that Felissa Rose, who was only 13 at the time she was cast for the role, was already incredibly beautiful, and she conveyed a shy vulnerability to the role that I don’t think anyone else would have offered.

Let’s go to camp! Immediately after the arrival of Angela and her cousin Ricky, we get introduced to the aforementioned Artie, the pervy cook, and Judy, the queen bee bitch. I immediately played a game with myself called, “Who gets it first?” There’s no way either one of these folks are going to make it to the end. They may as well just split off from the group, go smoke some dope, and make out with each other in the woods.

Artie
And it’s Artie, by way of boiling water! It was a fun first kill and demonstrated a trope that we’re all used to by now; the faceless, silent killer that we only know through the occasional pair of hands, popping into frame just long enough to dispatch the next victim.

A little while later, we see some camp hijinks including a baseball game, a fight, and someone’s face going into a butt. Around this time, something kind of becomes apparent. The kids at Camp Pottymouth over here all have the mouths of sailors. I hardly have a delicate disposition and have been known to get a little colorful myself, but I don’t remember this kind of language flying around summer camp when I was a kid. Granted, I went to church camp, but still. Someone should have a word with their parents.

I soon started to notice the nuances of Felissa’s performance. I suppose an argument could be made that she got a easy gig, not having to speak a word for most of the film, but she has a way of holding herself and conveying quite a bit with just an expression all throughout. There’s something very deep and deadly going on behind those big, dark eyes.

After the second kill – some horny teenagers on a boat – Angela finally opens up to a female camp counselor. This is the first real conversation we’ve heard out of her so far. Meg, another resident, gets frustrated at Angela’s refusal to speak, freaks out on her, and shakes her. This leads to Meg getting into a spot of trouble. That bitch Judy then rails on Angela, and speaks the best line of dialogue in the entire film:

Judy
“She’s a real carpenter’s dream! Flat as a board and needs a screw!”

After a balloon fight, Angela decides to pass out some more camp justice (oh, did I spoil anything by saying it’s actually Angela doing the killing?) by beehiving the shit out of someone while he sits on the toilet.

Paul, one of the few guys to be nice to Angela, manages to get to first base with her, and then some of the other kids decide to throw her in the lake. Mel, who’s in charge of the whole camp, is convinced that the killings are the work of Angela’s cousin Ricky, and nearly beats the crap out of him. Has no one made the connection yet that every time you piss off the new girl, someone ends up dead?

Knife
And in the case of Meg, it’s by getting stabbed through the wall while taking a shower. Interesting note here: In this scene, and in all others in which we see Angela’s hands doing the killing, we’re actually seeing the hands of Jonathan Tiersten, who played Ricky. This was done for 2 reasons: 1) Because Felissa Rose’s mother forbid her actual hands be used, being only 13 and possibly impressionable, and 2) To throw off the audience. Since Tiersten played Ricky, maybe the audience would think it actually was Ricky the entire time, or anyone else.

curling iron
And finally, the moment we’ve been waiting for. No, not THAT moment (hang on, we’ll get there). It’s time for whore Judy to get it. Angela walks in, decks her, covers her head with a pillow, and proceeds to do…something…to her with a curling iron. All we know is we see the silhouette of the curling iron raise, then lower. We then hear a scream as Judy throws her hands in the air. The gory details happen entirely off camera.

There has been some speculation that Judy gets curling-iron-raped, but upon first viewing a year ago, it didn’t read that way to me at all. I just thought Angela slipped it under the pillow and shoved it down her throat or something. But, after a recent second viewing to refresh myself for this post, no, Judy straight up got screwed by that curling iron, you guys.

Mel
We’re in full on kill frenzy mode now. Angela wastes no time in proceeding to take out Mel with an arrow to the neck after he beats up Ricky again.

There is a point in every slasher movie that I refer to as the “Shelley’s Dead Moment”. I named it after the scene in Friday the 13th Part 3, when Chili finds Shelley dead, at first thinking it’s another one of his stupid pranks. After realizing it wasn’t, she runs upstairs yelling, “Shelley’s dead! Shelley’s dead!” It’s at this point in the film that there is no doubt we’re in the third act. People are no longer screwing. They’re just finding the bodies.

Meg
They found Meg’s body! Well, technically, Mel found it earlier, and just…left it there? I guess? I’m not sure.

Cop
Anyway, another group finds it, and I can’t dwell on possible plot holes because I’m too distracted at this point by this cop’s astonishingly realistic mustache. The wardrobe department went all out on this one, didn’t they? Good hustle out there, fellas.

Alright, here we go. It’s been a long ride. We’ve had some ups and downs, we’ve seen a lot of over the top acting, and things got a little date rapey there for a minute, but at last we’re here. THE BIG TWIST! I wish that his hadn’t gotten blown for me years ago because I would have loved to have not seen this coming. But it was pretty unavoidable. You know what I’m talking about.

mouth
And here’s THE SHOT. The campers come upon Angela stroking the decapitated head of Paul, she stands up, and we see her in her full-on, full frontal glory (I’ll spare you the full shot. You’ve seen it). Turns out Angela’s got a peter! No, she was Peter! She’s actually been a boy this entire time, but was raised by Aunt Crazypants to be a girl named Angela! It’s one of those Crying Game deals! Spoiler!… I mean about The Crying Game… Um, sorry about that.

In case you’re curious, the “long shot” was pulled off by having a slender 18 year old guy wear a mask modeled after Felissa’s face. Simple and effective. And of course, the close up is all Felissa.

She hisses in a most creepy fashion, we fade to green, and THE END. I love it. I absolutely love it. That was some out of left-field nuttery. Such a great, unexpected take on the slasher genre.

Sleepaway Camp, written and directed by Robert Hiltzik, was released in 1983, and while it was hardly the first to break ground in the world of slashers, the last two minutes have gone down as one of the biggest twist endings in not only the world of horror, but in cinema.

Felissa Rose went on to keep up a solid career in the horror genre and is probably one of the coolest celebrities you’re likely to meet. I’ve met quite a few, and I will say not all interactions have been positive (looking a you, Danny Glover). But, the few that I have had with Felissa online have been really fantastic. She’s incredibly grateful for her fans (whom she refuses to refer to as fans, but rather friends) and is one of the friendliest and foxiest scream queens around.

I recommend this interview with her over at Killer POV, and Killer POV in general. Seriously, quit your job and just sit at home listening to every single episode. I love those guys.

But we’re not done yet, kids! Remember Judy? She came back! Sort of. Karen Fields reprised the role later in the series (we’ll get to that in another installment), and also in well… this.

This was also a thing that happened. Think that was the only time you’ll get to see Felissa reprise her role as Angela? Nope. It happened in canon… much later. We’ll get to that in due time. Next up, Angela’s back (sans Felissa) in Sleepway Camp II: Unhappy Campers. More super weird deaths to come! Come back for it!

I Saw Rob Zombie Live!

Last week, I finally got to cross another entry off my concert Bucket List: Rob Zombie. I actually can’t believe it’s taken me this long to see him. He’s come round a couple of times in the last few years and something always got in the way, so when I heard about this one, I put it on my calendar.

But, I actually kind of drug my heels on buying a ticket. I’m nothing if not a procrastinator, but it paid off in the end. I snagged one for general admission (the concrete area directly in front of the stage) for $75 online and actually printed it off just minutes before heading out the door to drive to the show. I thought the website said it started at 7:30, so my plan was to arrive at least an hour and a half early to try and make my way up front. I’ve become spoiled in recent years when I kind of followed Nine Inch Nails all over the southeast with my friend Donna, standing pretty much right at the rail for every show.

Unfortunately, I got held up and couldn’t arrive as early as I would have liked. I was worried when I drove up at about 6:50 and saw three massive lines stretching pretty far, and one really short one, comprised of maybe 10 or 12 people. At first I assumed that must have been for VIP passes or something, so I avoided it. Then I figured, what the hell? The worst that could happen was I’d sneak into the back of it, get kicked out, and have to get to the back of one of the other massive lines. It kind of didn’t matter if that happened now or later, because getting into one of those other lines meant that I didn’t have a snowball’s chance of getting anywhere close to the stage anyway.

So, I snuck on into the back of the short one, clinging to my George Constanza-esque belief that if you just act like you belong somewhere, people will believe you. After all, it’s not a lie, if you believe it.

Guess what, it paid off.

All the lines opened at the same time, and it turns out, it didn’t matter which one you were standing in. As long as your ticket was valid, you got through, so I skipped my happy ass on down to the 2nd row, surrounded by people wearing VIP passes, which allowed them to get in a tad earlier. It also meant they paid something like $200 a ticket. Suckers.

The tickets actually said 8:00, but Zombie and the band didn’t actually hit the stage till well after 9:00. First, we had to endure quite possibly one of the worst DJ’s I’ve ever heard. I don’t want to be a snob about it, but I’ve been DJ’ing radio and clubs for over 15 years, and after three songs, I just wanted to hop on stage and show him how it was done. He came out wearing a mask and ran around the stage while “DJ’ing”. The quotations mean that he basically just hit “PLAY” a bunch of times on his laptop while we all put up with song after song of mediocre cock rock.

After getting boo’d off the stage, he finally lifted his mask a couple times, flipped off the crowd, and ran off. Turns out, he was actually Ginger Fish, Rob Zombie’s drummer (formerly of Marilyn Manson)! So, we waited the requisite setup time for the stage to get sorted. You’ve been to shows. You know how it is. As the mics were being put into place and the set decorations were being raised, I took this picture.
1

I love his setup and this got me totally amped for what was about to happen. John 5 (also formerly of Marilyn Manson), hit the stage first, wearing a cool gas mask. I’d include a picture, but all the ones I took came out blurry. But I did snag this one of Rob himself when he came to the mic.

2

3

They opened with “Teenage Nosferatu Pussy”, which honestly wasn’t one I was familiar with. Right away, I noticed how much fun the bassist was. He seriously played up to the crowd and you could tell how much he enjoyed it. I wish I’d taken more pics of him, but you will see a couple more later on.

4 & 5

They then went on to “Superbeast”, followed by “Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine”. Yes, the James Brown song. Didn’t see that one coming. It was the first of several unexpected covers they would do that night. You’ll see Rob doing his “Sex Machine” strut here. And yes, that’s Ginger Fish in the back, doing a much better job as a drummer than a DJ.

6 & 7

A couple of more shots as they played a couple more songs, including “More Human Than Human”. It was during that song that THE COOLEST THING EVER HAPPENED. I didn’t get a picture of it because it was one of those moments where I could experience it as it was meant to be experienced, through you know, living, or I could be one of these idiots who experience the best moments of life through a tiny rectangle.

I mentioned earlier that I was incredibly close to the stage (obviously, from these pictures). During the song, Zombie comes down to the wooden barricade between the crowd and the stage, walks along the barricade, and gets right in the faces of the first two rows. As he made his way toward me, everyone around me was holding up their hands for him to hold. He grabbed the hands of the guy next to me, then put his face right into mine as he belted out the song. I tried to get the hand-hold, but the best I was managed to do was awkwardly grab his leg and pat him on the back as he went on by.

Still, I grabbed Rob Zombie’s leg as he screamed “More Human Than Human” into my face!

8 & 9

You guys, John 5 has the coolest guitars. He swapped his guitars as much as they swapped out wardrobes. It think these were taken during “Sick Bubble-Gum”

10

Further evidence. You can’t see it too well in this pic, but do you see that purple-ish, lit up rectangle on the guitar, right behind the strings? That was actually a screen that was playing The Haunted World of El Superbeasto. I kid you not. He held it up to the crowd and showed it off a bit as the movie played on this guitar, as Rob made his way to the NEW, AWESOME SKELETON MIC STAND, seen here:

11

Why a new AWESOME SKELETON MIC STAND? Because it was time for “House of 1000 Corpses”, one of my favorite tracks! I had no idea they ever played that one live. It was one of the major highlights of the show, but the best was yet to come. After this, the timeline gets a little fuzzy for me, but here are a few more pics covering the next couple of songs:

12

13

14

And then came the one I was waiting for. It was around this time that a massive black cloud started to form just to the left of the crowd. It really looked like a huge storm was about to open up. Rob talked to the crowd a little, mentioning that if it rained enough, they’d have to cancel the show. He then called to the crowd for requests. Of course, people yelled out a bunch of titles, and he singled out one guy who was just to the right of where I was standing. I can’t remember the song that was requested, but when he motioned to John 5 to start playing it, John 5 started playing and singing “Jessie’s Girl”. For a minute, I honestly thought they’d go all the way with it. But, Rob stopped him and said something like, “We don’t have a lot of time! Play the damn song!” And that was when I heard the opening guitar bit I’d been waiting all night to hear. The one song I would have shown up to hear, even if it was the only song they’d play that night – “Thunderkiss ’65!”

15 & 16

And man, did they not disappoint. They got about 3/4 of the way when John 5 and Ginger Fish stretched it out into an extended guitar solo, seen above. They finished up and that was pretty much the end of the song. Rob then took to the stage again and gave a cool little speech, talking about how much of a fan of The Ramones he was back in the day. He then said something along the lines of, “Most of you never saw The Ramones live, but if you had, it would have sounded something like this.” Then they fucking played “Blitzkrieg Bop!” And not just that. At the end, they seamlessly transitioned right back into a reprise of “Thunderkiss ’65!” It was the best way ever to present my favorite Rob Zombie track. Time to leave the stage.

17

Actually, no. Time for the first encore and another costume change. Rob came back out in this America themed getup, complete with star spangled top hat, and played “The Star Spangled Banner” and “We’re an American Band”, yes the Grand Funk Railroad song. Didn’t see that one coming either. They then left the stage for a second time.

Encore 2! They came back out with another costume change and played “What Lurks on Channel X” and “The Lords of Salem”. I thought for sure when they walked off after that, it was all over. Nope.

Encore 3!… “Dragula!” As it started up and the crowd cheered, Rob announced it would be the last song. After it was over, all four of them lined up at the front of the stage, took a bow, and that was that. Here is the last pic I took, as Rob walked off, saying his final goodbyes.

18

I only had two complaints: 1) My friend Cyndi, who I thought would be going with me, wasn’t able to make it, and 2) They didn’t play “American Witch”, which I was really looking forward to hearing. But, if you’d like the full set list, here you go:

1. Teenage Nosferatu Pussy
2. Superbeast
3. Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine (James Brown cover)
4. Living Dead Girl
5. Dead City Radio and the New Gods of Supertown
6. Drum Solo
7. More Human than Human
8. Sick Bubble-Gum
9. House of 1000 Corpses
10. Meet the Creepr
11. Never Gonna Stop (The Red, Red Kroovy)
12. Jessie’s GIrl (Rick Springfield cover – snippet)
13. Thunder Kiss ’65
14. Guitar Solo
15. Blitzkrieg Bop (Ramones cover) (Followed by “Thunder Kiss ’65” reprise)

ENCORE:
16. The Star-Spangled Banner (John Stafford Smith cover)
17. We’re an American Band (Grand Funk Railroad cover)

ENCORE 2:
18. What Lies on Channel X?
19. The Lords of Salem

ENCORE 3:
20. Dragula

It was a seriously SOLID show. I can’t recommend seeing them enough, whether you’re a fan of horror, sci-fi, or just damn good rock and roll. Between the theatrics, the interplay with the crowd, and the tightness of their playing, these guys seriously know how to put on a performance. I’ll even forgive Ginger Fish for that Dj’ing thing.

A Bad Week for Horror

This week, the horror world took some hits.

First, we got news that Betsy Palmer, who we all know for playing Jason Voorhees’s mother, passed away at the age of 88.

Betsy Palmer

I can count on one hand how many scenes in horror films genuinely scared me as a kid, which now that I think about it, would make a great idea for a post. Excuse me while I go jot down some notes…

The first Friday the 13th film I saw all the way through was Part 3, which as a result, will always hold a special place in my heart as my favorite of the series. It actually has nothing to do with the fact that it’s the one in which Jason gets his iconic mask, but more for the creative kills and Richard Brooks’s body language and overall portrayal. Those were the days when Jason moved like a shark, and not so much like a lumbering linebacker, no disrespect to Kane Hodder intended.

It did scare the living daylights out of me though, but mostly for the scene near the end when we see him without the mask for a few seconds, clawing at the window. Jason’s de-masked scenes have always been my favorite scenes of the series.

But even though Part 3 is technically my favorite, it’s not the one that scared me the most. That honor would go to Part 2, more specifically this shot.

Pamela's head

That shit MESSED ME UP. I had nightmares of the camera zooming in on Ms. Voorhees’s head, with her voice over on top, telling the story of what happened to Jason. And of course, at the last minute, her eyes would pop open.

I was a weird kid. I chased that high whenever I could, whether through books, film, and later on, through music. This naturally lead to a love of practical makeup effects. While other kids were outside sporting it up, I got off on scares – being scared, and more importantly, scaring others. I wanted to make monsters. Hell, I wanted to be one.

I spent a lot of time reading up on it. I had subscription to both Fangoria and Gore-Zone. I devoured every bit of industry media I could find, and it was obviously much harder back then, which is is exactly what made it special. Getting that issue of Fangoria in the mail every month was like Christmas. And it was through those pages that I discovered names like Dick Smith, Rob Bottin, Steve Johnson, Tom Savini, Stan Winston, Jo Blasco…and Rick Baker.

Rick Baker

Baker announced his retirement from the effects world this week and it’s one of the biggest blows to the industry that we’ve seen in a long time. The eclipsing of practical effects by CGI has been happening for a while now, but seems to have exponentially increased in recent years, to the point that guys, no MASTERS OF THE CRAFT, like Rick Baker, haven’t been able to get work. Their treatment is a major black eye on the industry.

You don’t need to look any further than the debacle of 2010’s The Wolfman, in which Baker’s very competent, beautiful makeup effects (his return to werewolf cinema) were covered up by cartoonish CGI, to see the direction we’ve headed. I remember being angry just watching it in the theater.

But the biggest shame is the loss of the next generation of practical makeup effects artists. Yes, as long as there is cinema, there will always be a need for makeup, but will there be a need for the kid sitting in his basement, creating creatures by hand that look better on camera than anything Hollywood is putting out there now? We’re not just losing one of the greatest artists in cinema, were losing the craft as we know it, and all the potential it could hold. For more on this, I recommend this great piece by John Squires over at Halloween Love. I both love him for what he does over there and hate him for almost always doing it faster and a little better than I do.

So, let’s rewind a little bit. Back in the days when you could reliably make a living in monsters, I decided somewhere around the age of 14 or 15, that was exactly what I was going to do. I remember being about 12 and doing a lot of werewolf makeup for Halloween. I’d apply hair to my arms and face, and come up with ways to do “prosthetics” by using any cheap trick I could find in magazines, crafting snouts and brows out of paper mache, rubber, and spirit glue. To this day, I can remember the smell of the glue stuck to my face and arms, and how hard and painful it was to yank all that hair off.

Somewhere around 1992 or 1993, I decided to get serious and started looking into schools. Welcome to this post’s third act.

envelope

THE JOE BLASCO MAKEUP CENTER!

Jose Blasco’s ads ran quite a bit in Fangoria back then, and not having the luxury of the internet in those days, it was the only school I’d heard of or found that would suit. My logic at the time was that I would go to the Orlando location over Hollywood, purely because it was closer to home. Knowing that college was just a couple of years off, I went ahead and sent off for the information packet to see what it was all about.

packet

Let’s dive in.

opening lettter

Notice that the letter mentions that you can take a tour of the location. I brought that up to my parents, but it wasn’t happening. Once a year, I’d go to Myrtle Beach with my aunt, uncle, and cousins, but that was the only vacation I was ever likely to get. Taking off to Florida to go check out a makeup school just wasn’t something either one of my parents were going to spring for. You uh…can imagine my dad’s reaction. “You want to do what now?”

techniques

I mentioned earlier that I’d messed around with bootleg effects makeup at home, but never anything along the lines of most of what’s listed here. The prospect of this got me more excited than ever. While other people were working at degrees in things like Business Administration and Mass Communications, I’d be taking classes in “Oozing Puss and Bladder Effects” and “Carnage Simulation”! CARNAGE SIMULATION! And my parents didn’t want to take me on a tour…Come on.

Ilsa

The packet is actually quite extensive and includes a lot of ancillary info, but I just had to include this page. Let me digress a second to comment on the charm of the production of the packet itself. Instead of slick, glossy paper with loads of fancy graphics, this thing is bare bones. It almost has a DIY aesthetic to it. All of the pages are cobbled together with black and white photocopies of behind the scenes pictures on regular, plain white paper. it reminds me of old flyers for DJ’ing gigs I used to make, using nothing more than paper, scissors, glue, and a copier.

Turns out, all you need is a a few rough materials and a lot of imagination to make something more charming and effective than a bunch of slick computer graphics could ever do. Imagine that.

Back to business. You’ll see that this page is centered around Blasco’s work on Ilsa: She Wolf of the S.S. I’m well familiar with the cult status of that one and I’ve always wanted to check it out, but I guess now’s a good a time as any to say with great shame that I never have. You better believe I’m doing something about that straight away. I’m also ashamed to say that until some quick IMDB’ing just now, I had it stuck in my head that Ilsa was played by Sybil Danning. How did I make it this far into my life knowing so little about sexy Nazi death camp wardens?

students

This page got me a little excited too. It’s a spread of students’ works. I always like looking at this sort of thing, whether it’s from this school or Savini’s or any other semi-pro work. At the time I sent off for this, it got me jazzed that in a few years, I might be doing the same thing.

Out of curiosity, I checked out the names of the students featured on this page on IMDB, and Matthew Mungle actually went on to some pretty big things. He worked on Schindler’s List, Inception, and a lot more professional work.

So, I guess you’re wondering what happened? Did I follow this dream and go on to be the next Rob Bottin? Sadly, no. I have worked in film quite a bit in various capacities, but near the end of high school, I traded practical effects for a more practical line of work. When it came time for college, I settled on majoring in Film and Video Production and Editing. In my long college career, I’ve worked on everything from cutting 16mm with a Flatbed Steenbeck editor to using Final Cut, as well as interning at the SC Film Office, and doing PA work on a lot of films shot here in the state. (At what point did this post turn in my resume? Sorry about that…)

As for special effects work, I spent years working in the biggest, baddest, scariest haunted house in Columbia, SC and had a blast doing it. I also did some effects work on a shoe string budget film called Head Cheerleader, Dead Cheerleader. The shining point of the entire thing was that it starred scream queen Debbie Rochon, but that was just about the only thing it had going for it. More on that some other time. Trust me, it’s its own post.

I’d love to say that I saw the writing on the wall and got out of the makeup game before it took a downturn, but the truth is I just didn’t have the balls to chase the dream. I kind of regret that now. I have had some great experiences in the industry, and as of this writing, I’m actually working on returning to school in a few months to continue my studies, but it’s for a specialty that’s far less fun and more tedious. While I will be paid to create art digitally, I’d rather be surrounded by liquid latex and animatronics.

Bottom line: Hopefully we, the fans and industry professionals alike, will learn from our recent losses. I’m happy that people my age and younger are still coming to the conventions, getting the autographs of the special effects giants that are still around, and dreaming of being just like them. I’m happy that I, myself have gotten to meet Tom Savini a couple of times and had some great conversations with him. And, I’m happy that a show like Face Off is doing so well. I just hope it’s not too little too late.