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Horror

Days of the Dead Indy 2018

Conman36114282_1980663205311426_3951822988420055040_nI’ve always said that the advantage Days of the Dead has over a lot of other conventions is the emphasis on programming – they’re not interested in just taking your money and letting you go shopping, they put on a show. There’s always more than one thing going on at once, and I decided this year to check out some of the events that I’ve never been to before.

Mind you, I still jumped in line to meet Ernie Hudson and chat with Ted Raimi… I’d passed on Ray Wise at the DotD show in Chicago because quite frankly, the joint was just too crowded and I was short on time that day. I made sure to remedy that oversight this time around as well as stopping by Danny Lloyds table. The Shining is an old favourite of mine and I can’t believe I haven’t started on poster for this sooner.

While Hudson and the cast from Nightmare 3 had good panels, I was really fascinated by the freakshow this year. Captian and Maybell put on a sword swallowing demonstration 36086927_1980663045311442_4233078088574959616_nand later hosted a panel on clowns. These two are hilarious and great showmen. I also poked my head in the film room. I think I’ve always been aware that this goes on, but unlike Motor City Nightmare or Horrorhound, I don’t think I’ve ever actually popped in to sit through the movies.Just like Cinema Wasteland, they begin Saturday off with cartoons, then move on to a lot of shorts. I noticed Bong of the Dead was laying here (I caught most f it at Motor City a couple months ago) and they had dropped brownies with thier name and screening time on the flyer table. BEST PROMOTION EVER.

It almost seems like there were more  props and photo areas set up for people to snap pictures at this year. These are great set us and I actually grabbed photos of them not only with me posing, but also empty so I can use them later as background plates. Of course it makes sense to have these places set up, because Days of theDead is increasingly drawing amazing cosplayers with it’s costume contest on Saturday afternoon.

The main downfall here is how expensive everything has gotten. More folks than not are charging $40 now, and extra for a photo at the table. Pricing still seems just a bit better than at Horrorhound, but the gouging has arrived in full force and it really sucks a lot of my enthusiasm away. This used to be more fun, back when the price points didn’t make me feel a little resentful.

Still, as far as bigger horror shows go, DotD is still the way to go. It’s well run by fans and I never fail to have fun here.

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They

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From IMDB : “A psychology student finds all her childhood fears and phobias becoming real after a traumatic event. ”

They was one of the reasons I picked up this box set in the first place. It seems like a good opportunity to consolidate my DVD collection a bit. I have seen this film before, it’s probably one of the biggest profile releases on this set! Still, I understand why it was collected here. They has gotten a lot of flak over the years, people seem to really, really hate this film – and I don’t understand why. Is it the “Wes Craven presents” conceit? A backlash or a disappointment that it’s not up to the quality of other Craven films? Objectively speaking, let’s face it – Craven’s involvement in this film was probably limited to cashing a check.

It’s a strong story to me, I remember the commercials being intriguing but I simply never made it out to the theatre in time. Sitting at home watching it on my television, the film scared me. It genuinely frightened me.  It immediately sets the tone for this film and the kind of things that were going to start seeing here. It’s got the look and feel of a lot of films from this era, things like Jeepers Creepers and Darkness Falls. The fact that they never really show you the monster is brilliant – you see enough of it to know that there is something there, something exists in that space and is stalking you but man, the fact that we never get a good full-fledged reveal makes it far creepier than anything – whatever these things are just thoroughly creeps me out.

Of the films in this volume, this may well be the scariest and if I wern’t reviewing it for this column, it would almost certainly be a “in defence of “. I love this movie and if you haven’t caught They, it’s really worth a second look. It’s one that seems to have gathered more appreciation of a time, although it’ll never be a classic it certainly deserves to be more than just a footnote in an eight pack of horror movies.


The Ritual

boxmheaderThe cover for this one is misleading – and that’s really a shame! The creepy little girl over the blue washed out background is a great image but its got nothing to do with the story (though I’d sure like to see the story that image actually does represents!)

The film is about a nurse arriving in Jamaica to take care of a rich man’s younger brother – as voodoo swirls on around them. It’s a genuinely good thriller, and feels very more than a little reminiscent of the Serpent and the Rainbow done it would make a perfect double feature with that film. It’s still fairly simplistic story, greed and betrayal, with voodoo thrown in as the method of vengeance for betrayal instead of more traditional methods like a gun or knife. It’s surprisingly packed with stars -we got Jennifer grey front and center here, although it’s after the plastic surgery so she’s a little bit harder to recognize. Tim Curry is around a great deal.  A lot more than you would expect – I thought it’d be a cameo but no, he’s really one of the supporting players enjoying chewing the scenery in the way that only he knows how.

The other very weird thing about this, is it this is the tales from the crypt film. That took me completely by surprise, and there is no trace of it in the poster art on the box set.  I know if you read the description on the back you’ll see the name in kind of FinePrint. I completely missed that. Seriously, I simply didn’t realise there WAS a third Tales from the Ccrypt movie! I’m a big fan of the Demon Knight, and an even bigger fan of Bordello of Blood – which felt like a good companion piece to John carpenters vampires that but this? I never knew this existed! It was a pleasant surprise, although honestly, the film doesn’t need the tales from the crypt pedigree – It stands on it’s own as a good movie. Still, I hope that it’s got a few more eyes on it during international release becasue of the that. It deserves it

This is genuinely one of the better films of the bunch, and I would kind of like to see this going together in a marathon with something like Serpant and the Rainbow and perhaps even Hatchet two – where Tony Todd is playing a voodoo master. This is definitely one I’m going to have to come back and revisit – soon hopefully.


The Nameless

boxmmv5bmddkmwixzwqtnwewnc00ymriltlmztctnjk5nzk0zta3ntfixkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymta0mju0ng-_v1_ux182_cr00182268_al_The nameless is a study in not enough. It’s a  slow moving story and every element in it (many of which I like) are as underused as that the name is.

It is the story of a woman whose daughter is lost . The first have hour evolves just like any average episode of Law and order or CSI. Police discover the body, theres an investigation, Case closed.

Everything changes when the mother receives a phone call from what sounds like the deceased daughter and she begins to suspect that the body found was not the right one. The story progresses further with the revelation of a  further investigation from both the detective on the case and the reporter from the local tabloid rag. The story really doesn’t pick up though until we’re about halfway through the film – right around the 45 minute mark. It’s a struggle to get here.  Once we start getting into the idea of the cold and investigating the only non-member, things do you start to pick up – there’s an interesting narrative here, it’s just woefully under used. The idea of a cult is inserted at the last minuet… I’m sure it was fleshed out in the writers mind, and we’re told about it, but we see so very little of it – it falls woefully short of the excitement and interest that we get from say, the old 70s Hammer horror where the Satanic cults are in full diabolical display. It seems to me that they’re trying to go for more of the suspenseful atmosphere perhaps, but they don’t quite achieve it – the story just drags, and I feel as if I am watching any procedural cop show on television, just with a teensy bit more blood… Maybe not even that.

Towards the end we get a brief glimpse of one of the characters tortured. It’s the sort of thing that we appeal to the saw crowd, but again it’s just the clips… Not enough of it to be engaging in a torture porn  sort of format. The ending feels like it’s reaching – like it wants to be innovative, esoteric, but it really fails to deliver that I want away from this movie rather disappointing, not because of the bad film, but because I can see t he potential in it for a much better one. This isn’t even as good as the ones on late night TV – it’s perfectly at home in a bundle box set like this, but otherwise nothing to see here, move on…


The Hole

boxmindexDon’t let the cover art fool you, this is not Keira Knightley’s movie. She is a minor character at best here… Well perhaps a little more than that but she certainly not the star of the story!
From IMDB : “Four teenagers at a British private school secretly uncover and explore the depths of a sealed underground hole created decades ago as a possible bomb shelter.  ”

I’m glad that IMDB labels them as teenagers because I wasn’t certian- still not sure if that’s a high school ro a college….

In any event we have the predictable hook ups, booze, jealousy, all of this is standard fare, flashing back to the horrible events of the film. We got through the retelling of the story, and the main character gets out victoriously – it almost feels like the end of the descent that then I checked my watch, only half an hour had passed.  Surely this can’t be it! It wasn’t. The story is from several different perspectives, with the feel of the police procedural going on in the background. In many ways it feels like we’re retelling the story until we get it right – until we get to the truth. It’s an interesting tool but it kills rewatchability…not that I was going to be coming back to this any time soon.

I’m not totally certain that I would classify this as horror or  even suspense. I’m really not sure what it’s doing in this package – the story at its heart, is really more about the breakdown of society – admittedly in a microchasm like this but still, they kind of want to explore the same themes that we see in say, Ramiro zombie films. It’s about what people do to each other in desperate situations. There’s a twist here but you can see it coming 1,000,000 miles away and after a while the repetitive nature of the story makes you wish that they just get to the point already. It’s not a bad film , it does make you squirm a little bit, it makes you uneasy, but it’s not my kind of film that I think it’s time to move along…


Holliston

directorsamv5bmty3nzm4mze2mv5bml5banbnxkftztcwmjc3mjgyoq-_v1_uy268_cr120182268_al_I’ve mentioned before that Adam got his start doing comedy, especially during romantic comedies but also stand up and sitcom kind of work. Holliston is a sitcom that is described sometimes as the big bang theory for horror fans.

It’s semi autobiographical in the way that my Violent Blue is – that is to say a lot of the events and situations happened in one form or another but have been so dramatised and fictionalised dad you can’t rightly refer to it as a non-fiction any longer. Things are tweeked for comedy and heightened for the best plot  – along with certain fictional elements and ideas thrown in out of nowhere.

It’s low budget – man is it low-budget.

It’s  cheesy and cheap and it shows. I stress this, I have to point this out because you have to know this going in. If you expect this thing to look like “Friends” then you are going to be seriously upset. Still, it’s strength isn’t so much in the production values as it is in the characters that you genuinely connect with the characters Adam and Joe and Corey and Laura, and that makes you forget the terrible looking robot cat, or some of the sillier gags, or the extremely clumsy attempts to break the fourth wall. That’s the thing about Holliston, it has so many technical imperfections that are just glaringly obvious, and yet for some reason it endears itself to the viewers despite all of these shortcomings (and it’s definitely DESPITE these shortcomings, not because of them…).

When I met Adam Green at Days of the Dead a few years ago he was on a publicity tour for Holliston. Seriously, I had not even heard of this show. It was nowhere near being on my radar. Even after meeting Adam I wasn’t quite sold – what did it for me was seeing the Holliston panel, and watching Adam along with Derek Mears and Dave Brockie laughing it up on stage and really selling the show. To the best of my knowledge, it was Dave Brockie’s last convention appearance – I am incredibly grateful that I got a chance to meet him. By the time I got on to him, he was out of the Odorous Urungus costume and in some ways that’s a bit of a drag, but in other ways….

See, if it had been Odureus, I would’ve approached him differently. We would have joked and gotten the picture and that would be it.  But I didn’t meet Odorous, I met Dave. We chatted about radio and how Danny Bonaduche  was constantly referring to GWAR as his favourite band – Dave seemed taken aback by that… “I love Danny Bonaduce… “He said in slight awe. Dave was friendly and charming outside of the costume and I’m very glad I got to meet him. He was the epitome of my own philosophy for sitcoms where what you need is a pretty girl some good friends and a smart mouth puppet. Dave was such a smart mouth and could not have been more of a cartoon… Not even in the animated episode – ha ha!

Houston is available on DVD and Blu-ray, and eventually it will be streaming somewhere… But the time you read this it may have already shown up on geek nations website. (remember I write these things months, if not years in advance) it’s definitely worth checking out.I remember I found it a little difficult to get through at first, but it didn’t take long for me to be hooked – waiting each week for new episode (which I would watch legally every week streamed off of fear net website) It’s addicting, and it’s amazing how easy it is to invest in these characters start it’s an even more amazing how the investment in these characters washes over to these people – these actors, and Adam Green himself. That’s important to remember, as we explore Digging up the Marrow next month.


Arcade

gamermaxresdefaultToday’s cinematic atrocity is Arcade! It’s a Full Moon classic starring little Ralphie from a Christmas Story and Q from Star Trek : the next generation. It also features a VERY young Seth Green and is pretty worth watching just for that.

I’ve had to defend the special effects in the past though – if you look there on that old VHS box, you’ll notice it exclaims “virtual reality special Effects”! They may be pushing the definition of virtual reality – they might be pushing the definition of special effects for that matter… Zacherly used to refer to certain SFX as special DEFECTS, and that’s far more appropriate here. There is a lot of primitive CG splashed up against a blue screen – and what’s really frightening is the original set of special effects were even more primitive, to the point where Charles Band put the movie on hold until they could find somebody who could do you something little better.

The original version of the CG villain had no moving parts – he was a far more blocky solid character, where as the finished product as a bit more personality and movement to it. You can get a glimpse of what it would’ve looked like at the beginning of the video zone featurette’s at the end of every full moon videotape. Those graphics have a lot more in common with Tron – not a bad movie, but back in 1993 that look was quite seriously behind the times. You can see huge differences between the two pictures below – the very static face of Arcade, a mask  really with no movement except shadows from the flickering lights behind the mask, transport that looked more like light cycles than liquid metal terminators, and a title font that would look extremely cool in a children’s cartoon but not in an r-rated horror movie. It’s stuff that would pass on VR Troopers or in an 80’s movie, but not in ’93, not after T2 had redefined CG forever (or at least until The Matrix arrived seven years later)

I’ve seen some of those original,and  I can see why they decided to redo the effects. Not just the models, we also go from grids and gradients to textured backgrounds with clouds and atmosphere. Electrical effects and far more detail. The original effects were simpler. They took less time to create (one or two moving pieces and slap a bitmap on it for color) and would take FAR less time to render. The finished effects have multiple textures applied, with great detail, are made up of far more polygons and include more lighting effects. The difference in both build time and render time must have increased by months.

Despite the computer generated FX even worse than those in the Lawmower Man, I’m a fan of this film. The CG does not age well, but it’s not meant to – and you can forgive it because of that.

The story is practically paint by numbers. New game put out, someone developed AI. AI turns evil. The girl who can’t play video games is the one who has to save the day.

Despite that, it has the sense of fun and adventure that Full Moon Films typically have. I really love watching this, and another big selling point here is the cast. These are all kids (at the time anyhow), and you can tell they are all having a genuinely good time with each other. watching the behind the scenes feature in particular REALLY brings this out.

Can I talk a little about the actual video arcade they feature in this movie? Because seriously, this place is awesome. A little basement hole-in-the-wall with black lights and glowing stickers all over? A nice mix of old games and new, man I would have loved this place and spent every dollar I ever made if I’d had one of these joints in the 90’s. The only arcades around here were at the Mall and the Bowling Alley. This however, this feels real. It feels like a teenage hangout and it made me want to be there. It’s little details like this that I’m talking about, this is the stuff that makes a mediocre film come alive and entertain.

Truth is, this is a FUN movie. You forget about the low budget, Even though the effects make you feel like you crawled in to your Packard Bell micro tower to play DOOM  you don’t care. This isn’t T2 or the Lawnmower man. You didn’t pick this up to stare at the pretty SFX. Sure you can see that plot twist coming a mile away, but you’ll find yourself rooting for it anyhow.

You’ll see it on the shelf at the Record Exchange or Flea market sometimes. It’s sure to be on Full Moon Streaming. Seriously, give this one a try some lazy Sunday afternooon. It’s got to be better than watching the Browns lose.


Mortuary

boxdwMy first thought when I saw this, was “cool! Denise Crosby is in this! ”

mv5bmtq1mdu3nzy2ov5bml5banbnxkftztcwntuznzizmq-_v1_uy268_cr50182268_al_I wonder if anybody ever asks her about this one? Her inclusion in the movie actually makes it feel a little bit more like pet semetary– and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I guess Mortuary is basically a stylised zombie story? There is a findish sort of moss that turns people into the walking dead – you don’t necessarily have to be bitten either. I almost feel like we also have a kind of Lovecraft story going on with a vast monster hiding behind the mortuary itself.  This is a solid fun horror film – it’s not going to win any awards and the 90s CG I is actually looking pretty dated, but it’s forgiveable because of the period and because they’re trying to create something that looks otherworldly done kinder in the way that stop motion is forgiveable on monsters because we knows? Maybe that’s just the way they move down there some fun make-up choices here as well – green beans on action faces things that point back to the plant-based nature of this infection doesn’t think kind of the Stephen King segment show. I like this that it’s probably one that upload again or have running at a Halloween party… I’m not convinced that it’s the best offering in this sad, but it certainly one of the highlights.


Night train to terror

boxftdnight_train_to_terror_poster_01For some strange reason, I can’t remember anything about this film except the band. I know I’ve seen it in the past, but honestly as I looked at it and was kind of drawing a blank so I thought I’d throw it in for a viewing while I was watching the rest of this collection. I still can’t believe that I just don’t remember any of this! It’s an anthology film with three stories told against the backdrop of a train ride to heaven or hell – we’re not exactly told which. God and the Devil are examining the lives of certain people and bargaining for who is going to go where.

During these framing sequences, we also get treated to an extremely 80s rock band playing the same song over and over again. It’s not aparticularly good or bad tune but it does get stuck in your head.

There’s stories about the devil trying to recruit as well as tales of mad scientists and doctors of using patients… I can’t believe I forgot Richard Moll is in this! He plays two different characters into different segments! I love Richard, I especially love his exploitation and horror work – and I told him that myself by the way. Of all the people from my favorite Sitcom;Night Court, he has by far had the most interesting career. Night Train to Terror is a fun film, it’s very much a product of its time and also very much a direct to video kind of film. The back and forth between God and the Devil – I can’t argue the conceit, but it does come off as cheesy. So does the band. The vignettes are utterly forgettable, indeed, Not only have I forgotten them once… But even as I attempt to write this article the stories are a little fuzzy. It’s a nice quick watch though – and really good fodder for horror hosts (in fact that maybe where I’ve seen this previously), More than anything and I can say for this, is that it is a fun film – and definately a recommend. I’d even go as far as to say this one is a buy. You can usually find it cheap, and considering I can never remember these plots – it’s a great value because I feel like you’re seeing a new movie every time!


The farm

boxftdthe-farm-survive-the-dead-dvd-cover-fsk-18For a low-budget micro production, the farm sure does feel like it’s got some good production values. he film is shot well and the actors are reasonably competent done the problem with the bar, is that it takes itself way too seriously. This wants to be a serious interpersonal drama with musings on mortality and purpose – but it doesn’t earn it.

Moreover it’s a zombie film that forgotten that it’s a zombie film. The monsters are somewhat alluded to – that is, we know there is a thread out there, but we don’t actually see the zombies until we are well past the half way point here.

This is the story of two brothers that have survived a zombie apocalypse on the family farm, when a girl stumbles into their life searching for her sister – a sister that they had just killed moments before she turned up. The story is actually much simpler than that, it’s looking at the wounded younger brother, the protective over older brother, and let’s go get some supplies so that we can actually shoehorn some zombies into this story. I think this film could work better if they attempted to have fun with that. If they injected some core humour… But the film insists on itself, and this makes it come off as way too heavy handed. It wants to be an art film instead of a zombie film, but in doing so it succeeds it being neither.

The greatest care is given to the brothers make up, which is an interesting scarring along with the missing arm – it’s cleverly pulled off, though it’s fairly simple see how it’s been done and the greasepaint doesn’t always match his skin tone. The zombies on the other hand are far simpler – shambling ragged clothes with blood poured over them. I’m a little less impressed by this. In some ways it almost feels like someone wanted to make the walking dead but didn’t want to put in the effort. Really that’s the perfect way to sum up this film – it’s the sort of thing I’d expect to see at a film festival with dozens of other movies, or in a film class where the student is just a little bit too impressed with himself. This one is definitely a pass.