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Steel City August 2021

I wasn’t really feeling it this weekend. I honestly wasn’t in the mood for a long drive to Pennsylvania, and my map completely turned me around and added both time and mileage. Still, I was really just coming in to grab a few Elm Street victims, almost everybody I needed to complete my scrapbook.

Brooke Theiss and Toy Newkirk were both supposed to have come to steel city con last year, but the plague shut everything down. Even now, there’s still a certain degree of trepidation and both arrived this time, but masked. It certainly put a damper on things, and I declined photos with them. Still, Toy had some interesting photos with her. Her mother had been on set when she was doing make up tests and getting her lifecast and and taking dozens of photos that she never knew about. She only discovered them a couple of years ago, and had a really interesting collection that gave her a good excuse to talk about the whole process there.

I was particular excited for Breckin Meyer though. I enjoy him in a variety of things, not the least of which are the Garfield movies. I have an unreasonable lot for these. But he’s also fun and stuff with the robot chicken crew and things like rat race. One of his early performances was in Freddys dead… He looks completely different and his voice and dropped yet. It was always strange to see him, and I assumed you with one of the guys I was never going to get in person. It was a great deal of fun to head up and chat with him and get my photo signed. I pulled down my mask and headed in.

“Gahhhhh!” Meyer exclaimed as he jumped back startled. I pulled up the Freddy hockey mask I was wearing, as we laughed over it.
“That is so %$#@&* cool!“ breathed Meyer. “So thanks for coming out and terrifying me today! “

I noticed Tom Arnold didn’t have any line so I decided to run over and see him too. He’s one I’ve been debating on, he doesn’t really get killed by Friday, but he does have a look at cameo in the film and some genuine achievements in his filmography.

Costumes were out in full force as Sunday is the costume contest for the show… The place had violently erupted in anime characters. But there is also a stunning Mothra floating through the place, as well as some interesting bits and pieces… A brilliant J Jonah Jamison and a dead on Hulk Hogan. For my part, I was phoning it in – my freddy/jason top, along with a Hockey mask I had done up in a Freddy theme. It was actually king of fun – people (especially the crafters in the artist alley) kept asking where I had gotten the mask, and I got to walk them through the process of making them!

I ended up sticking around a little bit longer than I had expected because I kept running into friends who wanted to hang out… Some of which I haven’t seen since before the plague started. It made for a longer day, and by the time I left I was wiped. I still insist that steel city is not going to be a regular stop on my route. For the most part I’m trying to avoid the big meat market autograph shows, but it’s nice to know its there, just within reach to sneak out to. Maybe next time I’ll slip over to Evans cemetery on the way home.

 

 


NEO Comiccon 2021

So, it would be accurate to say that there were no quarter bins of comics this year at Neo comicon. It would be accurate to say that. It would NOT however, be accurate to say if there were no quarter bins at all…

We hit Neo comicon lite just as soon as the doors opened this weekend. We had another appointment on the east side of Cleveland so we were going to be very limited in our time here and knew we’d have to be judicious in our browsing. Still, in the two hours we were there, I can’t see me or Maddie having lasted much longer than that.  It’s a small show this year. No programming, no costume contest, no out of town guests. We’re easing back into conventions. Still, it was nice to see old faces and the new acquaintances. One of my buddies from Heroes United ran up to me shook my hand while another just flat out embraced me. He mentioned that he forgot to bring my Flash box set that Chris has… I was confused.

“Wait, I loaned that to Rocky!”
“Yes,” he replied and “Rocky loaded to Chris. And then Chris passed it on to me since I do more Heroes United events than he does these days! But I totally forgot today…”

I love this stuff, it’s nice to be back on the convention circuit.

I caught up with Josh and Steph and Jennifer as well, who I just seen the previous night at our birthday parties… (We did all the July birthdays together at a new restaurant in Cleveland). I haven’t seen Jen in costume in a long time, and that’s kind of cool. Josh on the other hand has pushed Deadpool to a new ridiculous level. He’s got a Deadpool version of the Mandalorian, complete with a baby carrier for the child… Except the child is Detective Pikachu. Also for no reason, there’s an alligator Loki involved in this costume. It’s glorious.
Despite the lack of a costume contest, Cosplays were in full force here. Maddie decided to pull out her Clementine outfit from The Walking Dead again. Both of us were looking for quick and easy costumes that we could get around with no problems in, stuff that wouldn’t get us stopped for photos frequently, although to be fair, Maddie got recognized repeatedly as her character. In fact she was recognized just as often as my Shadow was. Always gratifying. It makes her day, especially considering we’re both showing Up in outfits that (as one of her favorite tik-toker‘s says )
“there is absolutely no demand for this character!”

Maddie bought a sketch from one artist booth that she instantly fell in love with, and immediately dropped her entire convention allowance (and then some of her own money) on it. I love that my kids buy art. I know I’ve said that before, but they still do it and it’s consistent. The fact that they support local artists is one of the things that just makes me proud as a dad. She also grabbed some hero clix with me and then stared longingly at a lot of the Pokémon stuff!

Remember when I said there were no Quarter comic bins? I’m not lying. There were only dollar bins.  Sure, I dug through some of the dollar bins and found a few interesting bits and pieces, but what I really hit hard, were the toys. We found about half a dozen long boxes filled with hero clix, a quarter each or five for a dollar. I dropped five dollars. That doesn’t sound like much, but it sure does look like a whole ton when you have an arm load. Some were OP prizes or FCBD specials that nobody actually carries, as well as dozens of characters that we really like and wanted to play with. I got a new penguin and I got a rocket raccoon, I even got a gladiator hulk! Superman and wonder woman and Batman, or the one I thought was a USAgent that was actually the captain… Steve Rogers while he was in exile. Great figures, and it almost makes me wanna play again!

But the single purchase that I was the most excited for…..

I actually just bought a couple of comics from this vendor, then went around the corner and spied a small box of twenty five cent toys. When I looked in, there were tons of old Star Trek micromachines. I love the Star Trek micromachine series. I grew up reading ads for the FASA wargame miniatures, and these things one for $10 for each ship in the 80s. When this series of Micro Machine starships came out, these were five dollars for three of them. I bought most of them when they ere first on sale about twenty five years ago. In the bin I saw a deep space nine that I immediately grabbed, because The one that I bought years ago, had actually lost a pylon. Snapped right off. Replacing it for a quarter was a treat. a new borg ship, a Klingon D7, and then I looked down and I saw it. It was a saucer. I almost thought it was Miranda class… Maybe the reliant itself but it was completely round, and the lines were sharper… And I saw the registry. NCC-1701-A. My jaw dropped and I frantically dug through the rest of the bin. The saucer section, the primary hull, had broken off of this figure… I dug desprately. Finally, in the corner of the box I found the secondary hall, the body of the ship with the engines…

I see the look on your face. I realize you don’t understand.

I came into Star Trek during the movie era. Not necessarily the wilderness period, but definitely before Star Trek the next generation. For me, Star Trek is the DC comics written by Peter David and Mike W Barr. It’s the maroon wrap around tunics, and the white starship with the blue dish on the front. It’s my single favorite ship in all of Star Trek. But micro machines, in their infinite wisdom, only ever released this ship as part of a large set that I could not afford at the time. Besides, that set had every ship that I’ve already bought in it…

I have always wanted this starship and I don’t care if this one’s broken, I have superglue at home. And at $.25 been this was the single most exciting discovery I had all day. Serious biz, I can’t even tell you how happy this find made me.

So amused that I still hit 25 cent  bins as hard as ever, but today it was all about toys, rather than comics. Nevertheless. I came home with some new reading material, a lot of toys to play hero clicks with my kids, and some really fun memories of what is generally the best comic convention in the area. I’m hoping they’re back to full speed next year.
 
 
 
 

 


CW Film appreciation society July 2021

Wait, what do you mean that last week was the season finale of The Flash?? Also, Cisco, how can we miss you if you won’t leave? I swear, this dude has been talking about quitting for years, actually left the show three times, and keeps coming back. Still, a satisfying conclusion to the Godspeed war… And actually, it feels a little bit like the comics again. That moment where Jay and Barry and Bart all line up with Iris and XS as a speedster ensemble… This is a trend we started seeing in the comics midway through Wally’s run, and it’s always a fun feeling to get.

I could do another paragraph gushing about Superman and Lois, but I’ve already done enough of that. And really, TV wasn’t the big event this weekend, it was the One day show that Cinema Wasteland was putting on. It’s an event that grew out of those film appreciation society screenings Ken was putting on at the local Eagles Hall, he’s expanded it moved it to the hotel that usually posts wasteland. For some reason I missed the last one before the plague, so this was my first time hitting one of these events.

The vendors room is small, smaller than some of those Harper shows I’ve been going to, using approximately a third of the space Wasteland takes up… With only 30 vendors instead of 100. There’s an hour and a half between the time the vendor room closes and they transform it into a screening room, so I decided to swing by around lunchtime, while I was doing other errands, with the plans on heading back that night for the films (My real interest). The shopping was lightly attended, and you could do that dealers room in 20 minutes, 30 if you really dug in. With hours going from 10 to 5, the room would never fill up too much. Thankfully they were a great deal more people showing up for the movie later that night. It was a double feature of the Human Duplicators and Mutiny in Space, both on 16mm film. The human duplicators was particularly fun, as you can see Richard Kiel and Hugh Beaumont in the same film. That’s like the greatest Jeopardy question ever.

Wastelanders were happy to be out of the house and back talking with like-minded folks. Guys were even chatting me up in the bathroom about the movie we just seen, how the one actress could’ve been a Bond girl and what do you think their reaction was one they needed life cast of everybody even though they weren’t doing make up? It’s different in a women’s restroom, and a guys bathroom it’s generally considered gauche and uncomfortable to talk between The stalls, but Wastelanders family. Even family that you don’t know.

Most of the out of towners skipped this event, understandably. There are a few among the vendors, like Dirk Manning or happy club picture is and it was nice to catch up with Mike and Amy and Dirk. I ran into my buddy Jim and his new wife Amy, and they introduced me to their friends, and with patches of people just standing around and hanging out in black T-shirts, talking about monsters and tattoos and hobbies, it felt like Wasteland again. Like were easing back into the scene, and I for one cannot wait for October.

 


The Graveyard : Bloody Murder 3

index.jpgThe Graveyard is not necessarily a direct sequel to the Bloody Murder films, although it was planned as one. As it is, the film is more of a sidequel, taking place in the same town and at the same camp but not necessarily with the same character as a killer. Nevertheless, you can tell even within the opening minutes that it shares a great deal of the DNA from the previous two films and it very much belongs as a part of the series.

The film opens with a group of stupid teenagers sneaking into the Placid Pines cemetery through a broken gate. I say stupid teens, by the way, not because they’re teenagers but because they are really acting dumb and half drunk announcing their entry and competing for the most interesting entrance to the cemetery. The whole party is overdubbed by a miscellaneous rockabilly song as they run in between the tombstones. While they don’t specifically state that the game they’re playing in the cemetery is “bloody murder” it is set up the same… One person is it and has to go find the others. However the person counting down doesn’t notice the masked killer behind him – and when he opens his eyes a white mask and a knife are coming straight at him. That’s enough for him, game index2or not he takes up running – but the mast killers pursues him, scoring a victim along the way. He wasn’t looking – and impales himself on the broken fence, it’s only then that we discover our masked killer is one of the dumb teenagers – it was all a massive fake out (just like it has been in every previous film) – one that ended up tragic.

Five years later, the masked teen, Robert,  is getting paroled after being charged with manslaughter for this incident. One of the girls from that night is taking him back to town, where they hang out at the campsite from the previous two bloody murder films. We get a melancholy shot of the cemetery as they drive past in Roberts pensive mug staring at the windows. The gangs all coming back to the camp now that Robert is out.

During the getting to know you sequences we get a couple of jump scares with the groundskeeper – someone who is not part of the reunion going on here. Everyone seems to be in fairly high spirits except for Bobby gloomy-McWet-blanket. Perhaps he’s just tired of hearing the couple in the cabin next door have sex. He ominously warned them index3.jpgthat the woods aren’t safe.

The rest of the group has a quick power in the dining room where they discuss whether or not it safe to be around body – turns out his family was murdered while he was in jail, an incident involving arson – the plot thickens. One of the girls freaks out and runs to the cemetery, convinced that karma will follow her and the only way out is to beg forgiveness… In the darkness, a masked killer stalks. He’s not just following her though, he seems to be everywhere – his reflection showing up in the mirror as one of the others heads to the bathroom for an obligatory shower scene.

Back at the graveyard, the dead friend’s grave is empty – dug up.

While they’re investigating the graveyard, shower girl gets it. The group hears screaming but by the time they arrive, the shower is empty. Everyone tries to figure out what happened – her bags are still there and her car is still there. Bobby tells them if she went to the woods, she’s gone. He believes it retribution for what they did five years ago… It doesn’t matter the group decides to head up to the woods to search for her.

In the words we run into an angry ex-girlfriend – this might of actually served as a nice misdirect if they didn’t kill her off as soon as she storms away. We get some squabbling as they wander aimlessly through the effectively lit woods, complete with another fake out– not only a mask but also a retractable blade. They laugh it off, despite the fact that the caretaker warns them once again – these woods aren’t safe, and one of their people are still missing.

index4.jpgBack at camp, the cars have all been tampered with – slashed tires, missing batteries and cut gas lines. That should be ominous, but the pacing feels off and the tone hasn’t built up enough dread. While the boys try and fix the cars, the girls smoke pot and pontificate – that is until the killer shut up again, this time with a severed head in hand (Possibly the best gore in the entire film). The camp is lit beautifully, with that light blue mist we’ve become so used to in the Bloody Murder films and the sight of the killer walking across the field to stalk his victim feels iconic.

Gore signals the beginning of the third act, and now the remaining campers know they’re in danger.

It’s about this time that the cop shows up… He catches Bobby with a bloody knife that the killer used on someone in the woods and he finds himself back in custody. Morning index5.jpgcomes and our survivors gather together in one of the dorms, while the cop throws Bobby in a jail cell. Meanwhile, at the cabins the remaining campers think they have figured out who the killer is.

While it’s clumsier than the two Bloody Murder films, The Graveyard still throws us twists, turns and enough fake outs to keep you wondering through the third act who the killer actually is. Truly the only thing keeping this from being a fully realized Bloody Murder film is the absence of the series slasher, Trevor Moorehouse… And even without him, we still have a masked killer who looks like a natural evolution from that stalker. The white mask this killer wears could just as easily be a weathered and patched up version of the one from Bloody Murder 2. It’s definitely worth watching with the other films and absolutely deserves its place in this trilogy.


Steel City Con and Pulp Fiction

Look, I knew when I was getting into. I’ve been avoiding Steel City Con for a few years now, because it’s just too big. It looks like a cattle call, a meat market… One of those large autograph focused conventions that I’ve been increasingly dropping for my schedule. However, my buddy Mike has been bugging me to ride along to a show with him for a while now, and he and his buddy had an open seat in the back of the car.

And William Shatner was coming.

I’ve been going to Star Trek conventions for a long time, and I even have Shatner‘s autograph through his fan club, but we never actually crossed paths. He made it to Cleveland a couple of times with wizard world, but we all know how I feel about that show. Being able to camp out in someone’s backseat and not have to worry about navigation or parking, it kind of changes the equation. So does the fact that Shatner is 90. This felt like my best chance, now or never. So I ponied up for the photo op… Something I generally consider to be gouging, but again… This is really my best shot, then I gathered up my Shadow costume and met the guys drive down to Pittsburgh Pennsylvania.

Steel City Con is actually held at Monroeville convention center… A suburb of Pittsburgh, and also right across the street from Monroeville mall. This is a bonus. I was going to check two boxes off my bucket list, meet Shatner, and finally visit mall where Dawn of the Dead was filmed.

The fan community in PA is just as starved for conventions as what I’ve been noticing in Ohio. The show was packed, shoulder to shoulder. The prices were high, and other than Shatner, I was really only interested in meeting two people. Comedy legend John Lovitz was signing at his first convention ever here, and I’ve loved him in everything I’ve ever seen him in. He seem to be in a bit of a mood though, he smiled brightly and cheerfully for photos, and that smile would fade as soon as the camera went down. His panel was half hearted, he still delivered some fun lines, but he really didn’t seem into it.

On the other hand Alanna Masterson and Chandler Riggs from The Walking Dead we’re both in fine form. They were happy and friendly, and just generally fun to be around. Alana walked out and looked over the attendance… And just breathed “ look at all the people! I haven’t seen this many people in ages!” She is bouncy and happy and steals the show even when people are asking questions specifically of Chandler Riggs. She’s every bit of fun in person as she always was on talking dead, and that’s a nice thing. The panels themselves though were really lackluster. There is no moderation, no one up there asking questions guiding the conversation and bring us something new. They brought the actors onto the stage, and let the audience just ask questions. The problem is, when you do that, you just get the same dozen questions that you’ve heard in every other interview, convention panel, or talk show. I was actually a little disappointed, because I’ve always loved the entertainment and programming portions of these sort of shows.

The other person I was there to meet was Larry Thomas, better known as the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld. He was strictly a target of opportunity, I wanted to meet him because he was there, and also The least expensive autograph and photo! Thomas is having a great time. He loves seeing the fans he loves mugging for the camera, he just seemed genuinely happy to be there, even down to a snarky “master of my domain shirt”, he was possibly the most fun guest that I interacted with that day.

Back in the dealers room I was saddened by the lack of comics. I guess they don’t cal themselves a COMIC con, but that’s what it is… Or at least what it started out as. Best you can do for bargain bins were dollar bins… Although I found one that was swimming full of trade paperbacks. I grabbed some Hell blazer and ultimate, some titles that I always meant to get around to like bite club, and even a strange looking ultimate Spiderman trade. I checked the volume number, it wasn’t on my list… I should’ve looked a little closer though. It’s about three or four issues, all translated into what appears to be Norwegian. I’ve got those issues in English elsewhere, so it’s just kind of a trip to see this thing. Not what I was looking for, but not a complete waste of a dollar bill.

I grab some blind bags of Doctor Who figures to open up with the kids when I got home, as well as digging through a huge box full of Disney park pins. Each, I grabbed a handful for the kids, as well as a bunch of superheroes to pin to the back of my comicon bag.

All in all, I still managed to have a fun day, the guys introduced me to Indian Food, and I got to meet Captain Kirk – really the one that started it all. Still, it was hot and crowded, and in a lot of ways exactly the sort of imagine that I don’t enjoy going to. They could probably still get me back with certain guests… For instance, a couple of the Elm Street girls are coming in the fall, and I’m tempted to make the trek back out just to grab them. But it’s definitely not gonna be a stop on my normal rotation.

Of course because I’m just that masochistic, I decided to make it a doubleheader this weekend. There was a small Jeff Harper show going on in my backyard (and God bless Harper for keeping the con scene alive through the pandemic), back at the Westlake double tree where they did the spring comic show, and where they held Retro Invasion convention back in fall of 2019. The hotel has been getting a lot of traffic with these kind of shows, and it’s nice to have some of the stuff showing up within a quickie 15 minute drive. This one was the pulp fiction show, and really I was just going to find out what it would be like. I have no idea what to expect, other than a strange flea market atmosphere. I once again donned the shadow costume and dove in. When they say pulp fiction convention, what they mean is book sale. All books, a lot of trashy pulp novels from before I was born, as well as more than enough pulp magazines, but also newspaper reprints. A smattering of comics, and a lot more paperback novels from the 70s 80s and 90s than I expected. I loaded up on James Blish Star Trek adaptions as well as Roger Zelazney paperbacks as well as a few odd ducks like a Buck Rogers and a strange zombie for dummies style book. It was an interesting show, and it would probably behove me to go with a list of shadow reprints that I don’t have, and maybe a more informed attack on the paperbacks. It was also a pleasant surprise to discover my buddies Rhonda and Criss there. I haven’t seen these two girls in probably over a year, so it was nice to bump into them, despite my full costume!

There’s talk of making Pulp fiction convention a yearly thing. And I think that’s more than enough. A quick, one day niche specialty feel like this. I’m intrigued enough to show up again if they come back!

 


Bloody Murder 2

index.jpgThere’s pros and cons to Bloody Murder 2… Pro, Tiffany Shepis is in this… Con The mask is different, and is in fact pretty uninspired compared to the hockey mask of the previous installment. It’s just one of those plain white face masks you see at the craft store – and it’s not even the one they feature on the cover of the videotape!

We open to what is pretty obviously a dream sequence, a young blonde woman in a misty woods – I’m pleased to see that they’ve retained that same look from the last film, at least this carries over. It’s the sister of Jason, the final victim from the previous film and she is dreaming of bringing her brother back. It’s a good enough set up and it brings us back to the camp. This time however, they aren’t getting ready to open the camp, but rather they’re closing Camp Placid Pines up for the winter. We don’t get a proper opening kill on this one – the dream doesn’t count – but they do mention a wood chipper… That’s Checkovs gun if I ever saw one!

This time, it’s Tiffany Shepis who suggests the game of bloody murder as the campers set around the bonfire. We get a little bit more of the lore concerning Trevor Moorehouse. It’s a good thing because he was woefully under developed in the previous film. Back in the woods, we get the same fake outs from the previous film – a camper with ketchup and another one in a fake plastic hockey mask.

Still, I can’t complain because it does lead to the first kill – and I gotta give these guys props… It’s a lot more graphic than what we saw before. At its heart, Bloody Murder couldn’t decide if it was a slasher or a mystery, but Bloody Murder 2 goes straight for the gore and does so before we even hit the 18 minute mark. They need to go hard on the scene as well, because it’s the films set piece. They’re still creative kills and blood splattered throughout the film, but none as flesh rippingly intense as this one. Best to go in knowing what to expect.

images4.jpgThe next morning, we are still following the structure set down by the first movie – that first kill isn’t missed because they believe he’s left the camp for the year. In the meantime, the local cook gives us an idea of just how pervasive the Trevor Moorehouse urban legend is around these parts. It gives us a better feel for it and makes it more real than what we had seen previously. They mix it with some of the Meta dialogue that scream had made so popular – a discussion of who gets killed first in horror movies, the black dude or the women, then top it off with a little nookie so we can be reassured about who is going to die next.

After the next kill, the skeptical sheriff shows up to address ingenue Tracy’s concerns that she saw Trevor Moorehouse. It doesn’t matter, with the body count piling up, she is increasingly suspicious and decides to take the remaining campers to go search the campsite. Tiffany by the way, isn’t having it and storms off. It’s early in her career though which means this is just a good excuse to get her naked.

The rest of the campers searching the campus don’t find anything, but Tiffany certainly does – a desiccated corpse with an arrow through its neck lies on her path and her screams bring down the cast. At least it’s enough to convince the sheriff there’s a killer amongst us.

index5.jpgWhile the sheriff searches, it’s time to hit the showers to clean off some of the blood, right? Of course, as we all know, the shower scene is like a dog whistle for a slasher and our killer shows right up, hiding in in a new stall to lure his victim out. There’s a clever twist here, and for all of my complaining about them changing from the hockey mask, the blood splatter really does look good on this plain white face – especially under the high contrast of the overhead fluorescent lights. Needless to say, the cops are not pleased.

The plot thickens when our ingenue discovers a video camera pointed at the dorms, potentially revealing the identity of the killer! This leads to the rest of one of the campers, and yet, surprise! The killer is still out there! (after all, we still have about a half hour left) meanwhile, it’s time for another spooky dream sequence.

The head counselor admits that the camp is over and offered to send the girls home, but they’ve got just a little bit more investigation to do – checking pagers, figuring alibis, and getting murdered in the woods. There is still more twists before the killer is revealed as images3.jpgthe third act ramps up.

It’s curious, the first time I watched this movie years ago, my initial thought was how much it was like an early Friday the 13th film… Now I’m struck by just how much this movie is like the first bloody murder film. They both have very similar structures, very similar beats – they’re not just checking off elements of the slasher film this time, they’re also checking off beats from the first movie, down to the final surprise appearance by Trevor Moorehouse. There is also a sort of backhanded attempt to create continuity – rejiggering the timeline and connecting the ingenue to Bloody Murder’s final victim.  It’s a blatant attempt to wedge this in line with the previous film – I’m not complaining, but it’s obvious that The continuity was invented after the bag rather than being planned out from the first film, and I’ve got to say it would be a lot more convincing if they were using the same mask in both movies. The radical changes a bit jarring. Still its interesting to see how they work it and it practically guarantee is that if you like the first one, you’ll like the second one, but there’s not much going on here that’s new or that pushes the franchise forward any. Bloody Murder 2 is a good, solid slasher that you can enjoy as part of the series or on its own.


Bloody Murder

index.jpgI can’t believe that Bloody Murder starts off with the old running out of gas gag, but it sure does… It starts right off on a good note though, – the husband walks over to a darkened van to ask for a lift to get some gas… Out of the van steps our killer complete with hockey mask and chainsaw, and a chase ensues!

It’s actually just a fantasy, as a couple of new camp counselors talk over the urban legend of Trevor Moorehouse, the area’s local bogeyman, but it’s still a good start.

We get a pleasant 10 minutes of getting to know you fare, complete with a doomsayer in the woods and a fake out with one of the boys peeking into the girls dorm while wearing a hockey mask.

The title of the film comes from a game that the campers play where one person hides in the words, and then tries to tag the others as they separate to search for him. The game is images3.jpgcalled bloody murder, it is pretty much the best scenario ever for a campfire serial killer. The woods are filmed beautifully, well lit so you can see the green in the trees, with blue mist Low to the ground, contrasting the dark and cloudless night sky. It’s here that we get our second fakeout, ketchup blood on the shirt and our counterfeit mask scaring one of the campers.

Elsewhere in the woods, we hit all the slasher trope checklists – one girl smokes weed, another couple gets naked. The filmmakers definitely did their research on the formula, but let us down a little bit because the first murder happens off screen. The missing counselor is noticed the next day, but people blow it off as him just abandoning the camp and taking off on the road. 23 minutes in is way too early to start panicking , after all.

That night, or killer infiltrates the camp and we get an eerie moment when one of the campers notices a knife missing, just before it used to slash her to death. Ritz crackers in highly reflective blood is a nice artistic touch. The head counselor decides it’s to time to images4.jpgcall the sheriff in. The sheriff is understandably skeptical, even moreso when the Trevor Moorehouse urban legend is mentioned. One of the campers has his own theory on how the second murder happened, and that’s an interesting addition to the formula, but ultimately a misdirect.

We get another long talky stretch, where we repeatedly reference the legend of Trevor Moorehouse but don’t actually add anything to the story. When the killer appears there are a lot of shots of shoulders and hands, a sort of giallo feel like we got in the first Friday the 13th, which is weird because we’ve already seen this character is hockey mask. Still, the next kill serves exonerate our first suspect, he was in police custody at the time – now suspicion falls on the first camper killed, after all he is missing!

images5.jpgOur next appearance of the killer has him chasing the engineer across the field in broad daylight Before slicing the throat of one of our other unhappy campers. It’s genuinely surprising how much of this film occurs in broad daylight, but fortunately the powder blue jumpsuit and edgy hockey mask look pretty good in full light.

Slowly, our ingenue discovers the camps terrible secret – a young man named Nelson Hammond went mad and committed murder there decades ago… Back when her father was a camp counselor there.

Later that night she’s startled by her ex-boyfriend Jason, the guy we thought was the first murder back at the beginning! Since he is the murder suspect, he’s taken into custody, but there is still half an hour left so we know this ain’t over yet…

Using a photograph she found in a hidden cabin, Julie the ingenue discovers the identity of the killer and it’s not who you would expect. Or maybe it is, this thing manages enough twists and turns to keep you guessing. I actually really dig this – it has all of the bits and cues of Friday the 13th movie, but manages a twist at the end that generally satisfies me. Even with that knowledge, it’s still a nice average slasher with everything you could possibly expect from the genre.

But what about the sequels?


Dominique is Dead

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indexDominique is dead it’s one of those movies that’s full of people that I feel like I should at least be peripherally familiar with, folks like Simon Ward and Jenny Agutter and Cliff Robertson. It starts off on the eve of dinner party, with the wealthy couple that are obviously having friction. The husband just fired the chauffeur and the wife is in a generally bad humor.

That evening, the wife, Dominique is depressed and scared and pleads with the new chauffeur driver to help her, but he’s just kind of weirded out by it and sends her back off to her room. She plays piano a lot. Her husband wakes up, and heads out to the patio to find her hung by a noose in a blue moonlight.

Watch Check; we’re nearly a full half hour into this thing! This chick better start haunting us, and quick like!

Husband comes home, lights a cigar and sits back, very satisfied. He does a quick check of the house before heading to bed and just stares at the piano. I’ve got a bad feeling about that piano.

index1The next day, a gravestone is delivered to the cemetery… It’s a gravestone with his name and the date of death is… Soon. He tracks down the manufacture, who talks about it being ordered by a woman in black, and said she was a mourning for her husband. She paid cash so there’s no trace, but when the husband comes home the piano is playing by itself and distant echoing footsteps ring out through the gloom of the house. Indeed, there is a figure and black walking through the halls, figure that disappears just as swiftly as it manifested.

Over the next day or two similar events occur, and it’s enough to send the husband after the cemetery to dig up the grave and discover whether or not his wife is truly Dead. Dead or alive, the grave is empty.
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I figure in black. In the house, outside the house, outside the office, in the street. He has a vision of his wife hanging again conservatory, but he’s convinced it’s a plan… a conspiracy to drive him mad.

Soon, the grave has a death date etched in its stone surface, and that date is tomorrow. The piano place itself as the husband rises from sleep with a gun in his hand and stocks the house, shooting at the ever present spectral figure. The bullets miss of course and the driver comes out to find out what’s wrong. Wracked with guilt, the husband admits he drove Dominique to her death, then fires the chauffeur.

Now he’s all alone.

I don’t think I will spoil the ending here, because this is a genuinely good film that I’d really like you to seek out and watch. I’ve noticed it in several places, not the least of which is YouTube.
The thing is, the movie is so understated that there are times when I could almost mistake this for a TV movie. It’s not, it’s just the way things looked in 1979 when you’re dealing with this sort of Gothic thriller, but despite the sometimes slow and sometimes flat delivery, it’s a masterful mix of classic mystery and ghostly horror. They get the mix just right, and managed to keep up a sense of dread through a lot of the movie. The trick is to get past that slow first half hour, because the last 2/3 of this film are stellar.

Cruel Will

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indexCruel Will starts with a news report at the scene of a gruesome murder before flashing us back two weeks earlier. A man sits alone in his apartment, smoking and going through bills before having a sudden heart attack. The credits roll, and I still know nothing more about where this song is going and I did when I pushed play

It turns out he’s the father of a young woman, Lily, who has just moved into a new home with her husband Paul. She’s already behind on her exams, and this is only gonna push her further back. It’s also causing a strain on her relationship, considering there was bad blood between Paul and the father. Indeed, we have a kind of bait and switch here as we focus more on paul now, who starts having visions. Visions of the white Lilly possessed, and strange things happening

Out of nowhere, a mysterious man drops off a package for Lilly, it’s a recording from her dead father promising that he’ll come back for her.

Paul thinks he’s going crazy, and gets pissed at his shrink that he won’t prescribe him anything. The doctor is convinced that it’s all in his head and that everything was OK. Nevertheless Paul finds himself sinking into madness, the more he feels as if his father-in-law to haunt him.

It doesn’t help Lily’s teacher has the hots for her and is slowly trying to move in on her. It all culminates into a violent confrontation between Paul, now fully crazy and everyone else as he siezes the urn with the father‘s ashes and runs away, plunging his entire life into an unraveled mess.
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It’s a very personal haunting, a very personal madness. I keep using both words because even by the time I hit the end of this movie, I’m not entirely certain what happened. I’m not sure if Paul was crazy, possessed perhaps, or genuinely being haunted and tormented by a ghost. Same goes true for the wife Lily. It’s not nearly as pronounced with her, for most of the film she’s just trying to cope, but once in a while we see something crack.
Ultimately though, the film is slow and that combined with it’s ambiguous nature, is a bit of a turn off for me. I’d like to have more answers at the end, and the entire movie plays like a CW show… brief moments of action punctuated by long stretches of attractive people talking about their feelings and hallways. It almost feels padded in this way, and this particular subject matter might’ve been better served in a short film that could’ve better made use of what is a thin plot. This one probably would’ve been a pass if it weren’t part of a set like this. However this sort of collection is exactly work in the midst of. A strange curated collection.


Dracula 2000

lussierindex2I’ve spent way too much time trying to figure out why this film is so hated. I’ll admit, the font used on the titles is a little over the top and the use of classic Dracula protagonists names for modern characters is a little irritating, but honestly – look at that opening shot of the Demetre… The blue cast that contrasts with the red blood on the people and on the sails. It’s amazing. The footprints in the sand where we slowly see animal turn the human, it’s marvelously understated and yet perfectly effective.

We get a good bit of establishing banter with our characters. It’s perfectly clear who Van Helsing is, but Johnny Lee Miller himself still charms as well. I feel a little heartbroken when Selena turns down his date.

Downstairs, the thieves are quick and efficient. Omar Epps actually does a marvelous job images4.jpgbeing sinister. He has a cultured style to him that underlies his efficiency. I could actually really dig a pure heist movie featuring this crew… it’s almost a shame that they won’t live long enough for a sequel.

In a gothic cave chamber below Van Helsing’s office (Setting off a few traps to give us some fun, spiky kills) The chamber itself, adorned with vampire skulls, almost feels like a hammer film set. It’s more of an homage than anything else, because the rest of this film will do its best to be slick and modern.

Across the pond in New Orleans, our heroine Mary, he is having bad dreams. Flashes of Dracula, armor, and strobe lighting mix with her face until she awakens terrified. It’s a reasonable bit of foreshadowing considering Dracula is on his way to her in the thieves airplane. The first attacks from Dracula are fast and brutal, and more than once it’s succeeded in making me jump. Gary Tunicliff wields fake blood effectively, though I’ll index.jpgdmit I wish Dracula’s de-ageing were a little less sudden. Then again, when you got Gerard Butler  in your cast, you want to get his shirt off and have him looking pretty as quick as possible.

We effectively sidestep skepticism by having Johnny Lee Miller follow Van Helsing and almost immediately witness the vampires firsthand. They’re well done too, Gary Tunnicliffe chose to make them gruesome more by virtue of blood spatter rather then the physical deformity we see in Carpenter’s Vampires or Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Still, there is no mistaking the red eyes and fangs for anything less than monsters. Lussier delivers us a kinetic action scene before Van Helsing takes Miller aside to explain the plot. There is a new twist to the vampire legend here, the idea that Dracula is patient zero – the first vampire, and that the methods that destroy other vampires simply don’t work on him. It’s a logical, organic addition to the mythology. We get additional foreshadowing as silver Mardi Gras coins are dropped from a balcony while Dracula wanders the streets of New Orleans. Foreshadowing is actually something Lussier is good at and the general confusion and massive activity that we get from this admittedly small-scale Mardi Gras celebration provides a colorful and acceptable challenge to our vampire hunters. It’s no challenge for Dracula though, as he finds Mary‘s roommate Lucy to images3.jpgcontinue the game of cat and mouse that he is playing with her and her father.

Lussier creates an almost Suspiria like atmosphere to introduce the brides and finally give us our first real confrontation with Dracula. We get great wolf and bat imagery as Miller savers Mary and they race after the Church for sanctuary.

We get bloody scripture, exploding bibles and massive cemeteries, not to mention one of the best crucifixion scenes I’ve ever seen and as we finally discover the origins of the first vampire.

images55.jpgThere is some cringe here, brilliant dialogue like “we are also much more complicated than our names aren’t we? “Are undercut by goofy dialogue like “I don’t drink… Coffee”. The ever present Virgin Records marketing can get on your face a bit as well and the name itself is admittedly a bit hokey. Still, the imagery, the twist and the action all serve to make this one of my all-time favorite vampire films, second only to the Lost Boys. It’s an incredibly fun vampire romp, not overly grotesque like Fright Night or John Carpenters Vampires but still free of the over-the-top romanticism that Anne Rice and the later Twilight stories would infuse into the genre.

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Kill Baby Kill!

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indexAs Kill Baby Kill starts, I have no idea what’s going on, a young woman running out of a gothic environment and somebody getting skewered while we get little girl laughing in the background… Even if this wasn’t a bava film, I’d pretty much be on board from this point.

A doctor arrives in a desolate patch of Italian wilderness, surrounded by gorgeous ruins. In the distance people carry the coffin to its final destination as a doctor finds the local pub to meet up with the local inspector so he can perform the duties of coroner.

It’s a superstitious village, and the inspector suspects a murder, but the investigation is going to be an uphill battle.

And autopsy determines that a coin had been inserted into the dead girls heart, it follows local legend about those who die vilently. Still, it doesn’t actually help them figure out whether it’s murder or suicide.

On his way home, the doctor is attacked by two gravediggers who object to the exclamation. The assult is stopped by a mysterious woman who vanishes as suddenly she appeared, leaving the doctor weary and broken to stumble into the inn he is staying at.

Elsewhere, the mysterious woman performs a rite on a young girl, lashing her so death will not touch her. She declares to the doctor that the entire town is under a curse. It index1certainly looks like it, with the foggy ruins, and atmospheric cemeteries. She directs him to the third household to discover his answers.

The house is old and sprawling in empty, covered by cobwebs. He finds a cranky old woman who demands he leave, as well as a ghostly child and bouncing balls floating in the halls. Meanwhile, his assistant is haunted by nightmares and visitations of a creepy doll. Across the street, the bell tolls in the abandoned Church and the assistant is convinced that the devil is here. They’re all bad portends, because the curse of the town is anyone who sees the dead little girl is the next to die, if they’re not buried immediately, the rise like a zombie.

Very much a “kill the outsider” kind of film, as a town is being supernaturally punished for it’s one hidden secret, much like Children of the Corn or the Wicker Man. There’s an undertone of dread and black magic that pervades and feeds right into the highly atmospheric visual style that Mario Bava infuses the film with. It’s worth a watch if for no other reason than just to lose yourself in the lush visuals, and immerse yourself in this dark ghost story.

The Devil’s Partner

boxevilindexIt might be easy to mistake the Devil’s Partner for a redneck, hillbilly film. You got an old mountain man bringing out a sheep in the wilderness, but then we get a good look at the arcane document that he is writing in its blood and see a hand reach over to help him and my faith in the occult thriller is restored.

Our credits go over a bus on the road headed to the flats, and a lone passenger getting off in a rumled suit to pop in to the local café. He’s way out of place in the small town restaurant. And he announces he’s looking for his uncle, the place clears out And the cops show up.

They suspect foul play in his death, he wasn’t very liked in the community.
As our hero Nick inspects the spell written on the floor, the dog mauls the local mechanic Dave, coincidentally opening up a job for Nick so he can stay in town. He takes employment at local garage, catching the eye of the girl who runs the local restaurant. The real horror here though, is that he’s wearing a bowtie in the shop! Also he’s picking up the local drunk for more arcane rituals. He gets trampled by a rabid horse.

It’s really not good to be an animal in this movie.

index2After discovering the body of the dead drunk,the local sheriff pops over to the shack Nick has been staying in, discovers the spell written underneath the rug, while his Yorkie sidekick digs up a goat bone on the side of the building. The sheriff starts to think there’s more going on here than meets the eye, and contrives a way to trick Nick into revealing himself.

Despite being a B feature from 1961, The Devil’s Partner is actually a pretty solid flick. It would be perfect horror host fodder, and I’d be completely content to stick around at a drive-in to watch this after the main feature. It’s flooding around YouTube and has popped up in several collections, it might just be worth your time.


19 Doors

boxevilindex19 Doors starts off with a screen writer meeting with her producer. He’s found her a location for thier next film, an old rooming house above his friends local bar, and it’s perfect for a horror movie. It’s a good efficient preamble and leads into some unique looking credits. Not too flashy not over the top, not the same animation I’ve seen a hundred times befre. That leaves me with a good feeling about this movie despite the shot-on-video resolution.

After scouting a location, the writer locks herself up in a hotel room, and it’s spooky enough to drive her out of her room to go explore some of the rest of the place. She starts to have visions of the place’s brothel history. Ghostly children wander up here and that’s around the time she breaks out the Oujia board.

She brings up a cop, she brings up a priest, but the visions keep coming every time she’s alone, and when the priest comes to bless the building, black cloaked entities command him to leave. The priest suggests about time the writer move out.. before the haunting turns into a possession
The thing about 19 doors  is that it’s just so flat. They try with the lighting, but overcompensate, creating, instead of mood, just a harsh contrast. The music is canned, and none of the scares actually frighten and it just fails to be affective. Good story, with some good ideas, good gags, good characters. I bet this was a great script. However the resulting film is just so bland that instead of creeping you out, it ends up just being boring. Sadly, this one’s not worth your time.

The Backyard Zombie Movie part 13

filmography

 


The Backyard Zombie Movie part 12

filmography

 


The Backyard Zombie Movie part 11

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Charles Craig from Night of the Living Dead guest stars!


The Backyard Zombie Movie part 10

filmography

 


The Backyard Zombie Movie Halloween

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Hack!

Movie bannerindexFormer Wonder Years star (and current Hallmark/Lifetime movie darling) Danica McKellar stars in Hack as a bookworm who just kind of fades in to the background of her local college. It makes her perfect as an envoy for a pair of psychopathic fans who use her to lure a class of film students out of their private island under the guise of  an extra credit project. Once there, the film students, who are all pretty much horror stereotypes are slaughtered one by one until we come up to an ending that will leave you shaking your head.

In a lot of ways, hack is a very meta film. However it doesn’t wear it’s heart on its sleeve, and it still manages to take it self seriously enough that you never feel like it’s about to develop into parody… though it skirts the edge and comes danger close a few times.

In the end, Hack is a great celebration of horror tropes and more than a little bit of bloody fun.


The Backyard Zombie Movie part 9

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The Hospital

Movie bannerindexAs a general rule, I like Jim O’Rear, he’s creepy and off kilter and a generaly fun guy. When I got this copy of The Hospital I was really hoping for a creepy haunted hospital story. The cover gives me a similar vibe as what I get from films like Grave Encounters or Autopsy, and I was really hoping for more of that.

It’s a similar set up, we’ve got a hospital in the middle of nowhere that has a bad reputation and a team of paranormal investigators go to check it out. There’s no ghosts at this place though, however there are a couple of psychopaths that have taken up residency there and One by one pick up the paranormal investigators, murdering and raping them.

It’s a solid enough premise, but unfortunately, rape is one of my triggers… I don’t dig films like I Spit on Your Grave or Thriller. That immediately invalidates this one for me, especially since it’s so prominent and frequent, rape over gore is never a appetizing formula for me. Skip this one and it’s sequel The Hospital 2.


The Backyard Zombie Movie part 8

filmography

 


The Backyard Zombie Movie part 7

filmography

 


The Backyard Zombie Movie part 6

filmography

Guest Starring Troma’s Lloyd Kauffman!