3 Spooky Mini-Reviews

Since we’re running out of weekends until Halloween and opportunities to do as many spooky things as possible, I’m squeezing every single bit of horror out of the season that I can. As I write this, it’s late on a Saturday night and I don’t even want to think about the fact that there are only 5 more of these, up to and including THE BIG DAY.

So, I’ve actually vowed to watch something horror related every single night until then. Granted, I’m cheating a little bit and watching a little True Blood some nights, but that still counts. My friend Donna has finally gotten me into watching it, and while it’s absolute ridiculous trash, I have to admit I’m kind of hooked. I’m about halfway into Season 4, for those keeping track at home.

Squeezing the season for all the spook I can get could easily tempt me to write full reviews of all the movies I’m watching, complete with loads of analysis and screen shots, but I just flat out don’t have the time for all that. So I’ve decided to knock out some mini reviews. Just a few short paragraphs covering some things I’ve seen latey. Trust me, full reviews will still be coming of some of the more notable selections. Enjoy my first round of Mini Reviews!

wolf creek 2

WOLF CREEK 2 (2013)

I was actually really looking forward to this one and don’t know what really took me so long to get to it. I thoroughly enjoyed the first film and was impressed that something so effectively brutal could be shot on such a relatively small budget and a 25 day shooting schedule, all while actually succesfully having me invested in the characters. Also, John Jarratt, over the course of both films as Mick Taylor, has solidified himself to me as one of the best of the new crop of horror villains.

I’ve kind of got a bit of a soft spot for this particular sub-genre of horror. There is something a little primal about stories that revolve around a group of people who are far from home and run afoul of the wrong guy. I’m not sure if there is a proper name for the sub-genre, but I immediately think of films like Duel, The HItcher, and Joy Ride. I suppose you could lump in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but I’m more thinking of films that involve a lone psychopath. The other requirement would be that there is no supernatural element – just a mysterious stranger on the road, looking to stalk and toy with his next victim(s).

Back to this one. It’s a competent follow-up. I didn’t know what to expect, but Greg McLean returns to the director’s chair to amp up the action. He knows what works and takes some of the more horrific aspects of the first film and ratchets them up here. The first kill was incredibly unexpected and gory, and it kicked things off with quite a bang, resulting in giving me the “oh shit!” moment that I’m always craving. You know what I mean, the moment when you literally yell, “Oh shit!” at the TV.

The “head on a stick” is back and Mick Taylor is as brutal and psychotic as ever, toying with his victims and showing not a shred of remorse. Yet, he manages to be strangely likable. I can’t quite describe it and it may just be a matter of McLean deftly creating a tone of both terror and fun, but as much of an insane bastard as Taylor is, I’m rooting for him. It would be very easy to play him as a horribly unlikable bastard, but I’m just not getting that. Bottom line: Wolf Creek 2 isn’t reinventing anything, but if you want fun, action based gore with a great performance, it’s recommended. I hope we get more installments.

Prowler
THE PROWLER (1981)

See, this is exactly what I was looking for when I decided to do these. Not only am I trying to see as much horror as possible in the next month or so, I’m trying to find hidden gems. Well, hidden to me anyway. By that, I mean films that either fell through the cracks as I was growing up (my way of saying that I unfortunately ignored them) or things I’d somehow gone my whole life as a horror hound but hadn’t heard of. My first experience with this kind of thing was when I was doing a similar experiment a couple of years ago and decided to intentionally watch some old horror slasher I’d not ever seen. I cruised Netflx and stumbled upon The Burning. It was PERFECT. That night, I popped some popcorn, lit a pumpkin candle and discovered a lost classic. I think I managed to do it again with this one.

Featuring special effects by Tom Savini (also of The Burning, and well, nearly everything), The Prowler tells the story of a killer clad in WW II army fatigues stalking a New Jersey town in an effort to recreate a double murder which occurred immediately after the war. In terms of its place among ’80’s slashers, it’s a solid fit. I’m not going to go into too much detail (I’ve already stretched the definition of “mini” as it is in this post), but it’s got all the requisite elements of boobs, blood, and a decent twist ending. Savini was approaching the top of his game here and it shows. I still prefer The Burning, but this one is definitely recommended.

Cast a Deadly Spell
CAST A DEADLY SPELL (1991)

Now this one was fun. I first discovered it when looking for something else on YouTube years ago and bookmarked it for future vieweing. I’m glad i finally got round it. It’s a supernatural, film noir made-for-TV movie that follows Detective Harry Philip Lovecraft (I’m not kidding) as he’s hired by an old eccentric to find The Necronomicon. The world that Harry lives is an alternate version of 1948 in which everyone uses magic and has access to it, but Harry refuses to, arguing that it’s cheap and basically just cheating. Essentially, the tone they’re going for with this one is Dick Tracy by way of Lovecraft (the real one),

They threw everything at the wall with this thing. You’ve got a random werewolf, a cross-dresser, and a fairly unknown-at-the-time Julianne Moore, who demonstrated back then that she could hold her own. She plays the sultry, mystrious long-lost love of the hard drinking detective, hitting all the film noir stereotypes. It’s at times silly and has a flimsy plot involving a virgin sacrifice that has to happen every…666 years (again, not kidding), but it knows exactly what it is.

Gremlin 1

One of my favorite parts is when Harry has to interview a mechanic who straight up complains about GREMLINS HIDING IN OUR CAR PARTS THAT SNUCK IN DURING THE WAR. And we get to see them!

pumpkinhead

There’s also this monster that’s an obvious Pumpkinhead ripoff.

cthulu

Oh, and here’s your final big-bad monster at the end – Cthulhu, complete with mouth protrusion…thing! Seriously, check out this train wreck, even if you just put it on for background fun. I find the film noir genre lends itself really well to being infused with the supernatural, and until I found this, Lord of Illusions was the only film I knew of that pulled it off well. It prompted me to do a little research, and it turns out there are quite a few lesser known offerings out there with that particular genre combination.

That’s it, kids. The next one will be a proper long review centering on one film. I’m glad that I’m sticking to my Halloween goals so far and it’s not even October yet. People talk about early burnout with these things, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s not even possible. Trust me, we’ll be bitching about the fact that it’s all over before you can say, “Target’s Christmas section”. Yes, it’s already out. Now go eat something pumpkin spiced and enjoy this time while we have it.

The Confession of Fred Krueger — A Review

VERY MINOR SPOILERS TO FOLLOW, JUST SO YOU KNOW.

I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve become a complete holiday hypocrite in recent years. While I loath the fact that with each passing year, Christmas feels the need to stick its frosty little nose in sooner than it should, I love the fact that Halloween has grown from just a fun thing that people do the last week of October to an entire season that goes for at least two months. Well, we’re halfway into Month 1 and I’m in full on spook mode, even more than usual.

To celebrate that, I’m trying to watch something horror related almost every night from now till the big day. That may seem like overkill, but trust me, it will be here sooner than you know it, and I’m trying to ride this pumpkin scented high as long as I can.

Tonight’s selection was a REAL treat. I’m a big fan of expanded universe material. When it’s done well, I absolutely love it. There is nothing like being able to revisit your favorite film through someone else’s eyes, whether through a novel, a cartoon, a comic, or anything else. It kind of gives me the same thrill as watching a special feature on a DVD that I’ve never seen or discovering some long-lost stills or deleted footage. I love the idea that my favorite worlds and visions just don’t ever have to end.

Unfortunately, while sci-fi has done an excellent job in that area (Star Wars and Star Trek especially), the horror genre has fallen a bit short. In recent years, I’ve really gotten into buying novelizations of my favorite films, and you’ll find a few gems in terms of comics, but expanded universe horror novels in general are a little harder to find. They’re there and the hunt does make it fun, but it’s not like you just pop down to your local book store and find shelves of A Nightmare on Elm Street novels.

While I’m on the subject, I can’t stress how fantastic Epic Comics’s 20-issue Hellraiser run from the ’90’s was. Seriously, it’s the best expanded Hellraiser stuff out there and opens up the mythology like nothing else, completely blowing away the later films in that franchise. Boom! Studios is doing some great stuff with the property too at the moment, but that Epic run is where it’s at.

But, back to task. Search for expanded universe content long enough and you’ll eventually find yourself walking down the path of THE FAN FILM. Oh, lord. There certainly is no lack of content there, but it is a serious quantity over quality situation. Look, I’m a horror hound through and through, and I feel that with all the crap that the genre and its fans get, we need to support each other. I fully support the passion and enthusiasm that goes into some of these projects. But oh man, are there some stinkers out there.

So, it was a major relief tonight when I found out about The Confession of Fred Krueger. Written and directed by Nathan Thomas Milliner, an artist responsible for a lot of Scream Factory’s DVD and Blu-ray covers,  and clocking in at just over 30 minutes, the short peeks in on what went down after The Springwood Slasher got caught and is taken into custody for interrogation.

It’s an extremely clever little talking head piece that was clearly dreamed up by a real fan. Milliner just gets it, and does something that I love to see, which is fills in a lot of gaps and answers questions the fans have been asking for years. We’ve gotten glimpses of Krueger’s past throughout the A Nightmare on Elm Street series, most notably in Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare and the pilot episode of Freddy’s Nightmares, but even so, there have been gaps in the origin that I’ve always wanted to see tackled.

Some of these are addressed to fine satisfaction in The Confession of Fred Krueger. During the span of a 30 minute conversation, we get filled in on his childhood, his motivations, his first kill, and even the origin of the glove. The film is a passion project of MIlliner’s and is based on a short story by Jeffrey Cooper, who has penned the novelizations of the films (I have a feeling I’ll need to find some more room on my bookshelves soon).

But of course, none of this would matter of the production quality wasn’t up to snuff, and of course if the performance didn’t hold up. Luckily, that’s not a problem. Kevin Roach, while not exactly the spitting image of Robert Englund, channels him well, working in hints of his voice and mannerisms. I could honestly see and hear Englund saying those lines. I also like the subtlety of the makeup, both on his face and on the knuckles of the cop bringing him in, hinting that he’d already been “interrogated” before making it to the station.

I also picked up on a little something else. Listeners of my show know that I’m a student of Charles Manson and everything related to his case. He even makes a “cameo” on my show every week in the “Words of Wisdom from Uncle Charlie” segment. So, I was pleasantly surprised when Millisner did a little something. Starting at about the 21:57 mark in the film, Krueger answers the question, “Who are you?” with the following statement, taken directly from Manson himself, as seen in this clip:

So yeah, as soon as I heard that, it was kind of thrill. I SAW WHAT YOU DID THERE, MILLISNER.

Final verdict: Check out The Confession of Fred Krueger. If you’re looking for a solid little origin piece that fills in some nice gaps and has Krueger straight up quoting Charlie Manson word-for-word (thus hitting me right in a few sweet spots), you can do a whole lot worse. With Wes Craven now no longer with is, I’m finding myself wanting to revisit his work. This is a fitting tribute. WELL DONE, FELLAS. Oh, and stick around for after the credits. There’s a nice little surprise there too.

P.S. In related news, Mondo has just announced a new line of horror themed sweaters that have got me 13 kinds of excited. FINALLY, I can own Freddy’s iconic red and green striped one without having to take an extra job to pay for it, not to mention the risk of some dodgy E-Bay purchase. They’ve also got some incredibly rad ones based on Friday the 13th and Halloween, plus a scarf!

Unpacking Halloween

Right, so I’m not going to bore you with all the details, but the last couple of months have been…well, “busy” isn’t even the word. Short version: I reapplied for university, got accepted, quit my job, moved 90 miles away, and started class. I’ve been absolutely swamped, but things are starting to calm down now.

Or are they?

As of this writing, it’s late night/early morning in the middle of September. The hot weather here aside, we seem to be in the last days of Summer. It’s hanging on with life support and has a few good breaths left in it, but it’s about to knock off. I can only speak for where I am, but in every store I’ve been to lately, the Back-to-School stuff has given way to plastic hockey masks, Satanic napkins, and slutty bee outfits. Plus, the best Halloween Countdown on the internet just started up, and that’s all the evidence I need that it’s time to get going with mine.

So, I’ve got some stuff lined up with guest appearances by some of my other favorite online personalities, spooks and kooks, and ghouls and goblins, and all that. Or, at the very least, I’m sure I’ll ramble on about another Sleepaway Camp movie or something.

I mentioned I moved, right? Part of that meant finally cleaning out a storage unit I’ve been renting for the last few years. It’s nice to no longer have to pay for that thing. It’s also nice to find SO MUCH COOL STUFF I forgot I owned. I swear, I’m not exaggerating when I say that I opened that thing for the first time in years and saw stuff I didn’t even recognize (I have a crock pot?). Also, 4 pizza cutters, 4 can openers, and 3 wine openers apparently, and I have no idea how when or how that happened.

bag

And then there was this. When you move in a hurry, as I did several years ago, you get to a point where you start just throwing random crap in bags and boxes, sometimes with no rhyme or reason. Whatever gets that shit on the truck. What has been lying dormant in THIS BAG for the last several years is an assortment of dark wonders that I have absolutely no memory of tossing together, but I’m so glad I did.

So, let’s open this dusty old bag and see what’s inside, shall we? It’s time to UNPACK HALLOWEEN!

True Blood

First up, a bottle of True Blood…blood. I know you might think I’m just making this up for effect, but I’m literally watching True Blood as I type this…for the first time. I don’t know how I’ve gone this long not having seen it, but it kind of came and went without me ever taking that plunge. So, a good friend of mine decided to help me out with that, and a few weeks ago, we started watching it from the first episode whenever I’d drop by. But I’m also watching it a little on my own. I’m in the middle of Season 1, Episode 8 and due to some weird cosmic convergence, as I type these very words, Sookeh’s dumb brother just walked in with a six-pack of this stuff and is feeding it to a wounded vampire. IT WAS MEANT TO BE!

heads

Freddy and Jason heads! I’ve got a confession. I think these came from one of my really cool blogger friends when they sent me a care package, but I’m really not sure. It’s been a long time and a lot of things in this bag exist in an orange and black haze of presents, after-Halloween shopping sprees, and leftovers from childhood. These fit in there somewhere, but who the hell knows where? If you’re reading this and you do, please let me know and accept my apologies if I’m not giving you proper credit.

side heads

Oh, and they’ve got cool, gory necks.

candles

Halloween Candles! There isn’t much left of the actual candles here, because after being stuck in an incredibly hot storage unit for years, they melted, oozed out, and fused together. But, there is a little left in each one, and that’s good enough for me. My place is stinking of Halloween right this second.
bat

It’s a Little Rubber Bat! And that’s that.

eek box

Eek Box! I got this many years ago from my friend Tammy. It’s hanging in my bathroom right now, and will continue to come November 1st.

goth box

Goth Box! You should know by now how I spend my Saturday nights. When I first discovered Cleopatra Records and their early Goth compilations, it kind of sent me down a path that I never came back from, but it’s paid off well. One of the earliest ones was the Goth Box box set, which turned me on to a lot of bands that I went on to love. This is the video compilation that acts as a companion piece to the CD box set, only with totally different songs. It’s odd that it’s in this bag though, because I’m kind of anal about organization. I don’t know what would have prompted me to pack this separate from all my other VHS tapes and DVD’s.

garland

Torture Tools Garland! Now this one’s not a mystery. It’s garland made of bloody cleavers and machetes and things. This was sent to me in a care package by my super rad friend Amy years ago, but I never got round to opening it. But, now that it’s the season for demonic decoration and I have a new place to decorate, it’s going to make an appearance.

shot glasses

Freddy and Jason Shot Glasses! This was the result of an after-Halloween sale, which everyone knows is the best place and time to stock up. I don’t think there is another horror franchise out there that has produced better merchandise in terms of quantity and quality than A Nightmare on Elm Street, and I’m kind of a sucker for all of it, even if Freddy looks a little like Grandpa Sawyer here.

screamers

Screamers! I love these guys! You’ve seen a million of these things before. The eyes light up and they make the same horror screaming sound that just about every other screaming toy that hits the shelves around mid-September makes. By the way, do you how long it took to get this shot? Do you know how hard it is to time the squeezing of these things just right so that all the eyes are lit up at the same second, still giving you time to actually take the picture? Well, it was a really long damn time. I hope you’re happy.

skull cups

Skull Cups! I uh, don’t know what to say about these ones. It’s a cup and shot glasses that look like skulls. That’s all I got.

skeleton

Let’s finish strong! Blow-up Skeleton! Why strong? Because, nostalgia. I’ve had this guy since I was a little kid. Somewhere, there are pictures of him inflated and sitting on the living room couch round about 1985. If memory serves me correctly, it may have a tiny pinhole leak in it now though. I think I had some trouble with it when I tried to blow it up a few years ago. I guess I’ll find out soon enough.

Thanks for looking at a bunch of poorly composed pictures of Halloween themed crap that I hastily threw into a bag 5 or 6 years ago and forgot about. I feel we’re off and running now.