Jason Voorhees (presumably Kane Hodder) appears on The Arsenio Hall Show to promote Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan. This ranks right up there with Pinhead’s appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
Mar 13 2009
Feb 18 2009
Although his name might not be as recognizable as Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, or Robert Englund, Duane Jones is one of the most important people in American horror cinema.
Jones is best known for his role as “Ben,” a man who faces many difficulties while trying to lead (and save) a group of people trapped in a house besieged by zombies, in George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968). Due to the social commentary in Romero’s “Dead” films, many have assumed the character of Ben was specifically written for a black male in order for his struggles to comment on race relations. However, it is noted in Elite Entertainment’s Night of the Living Dead: Millennium Edition DVD that the role wasn’t written with a specific ethnic group in mind. Duane Jones got the part because he gave the best audition out of those trying out for the role. According to Karl Hardman, who portrayed Ben’s rival in the film, the character of Ben was originally written as an uneducated trucker. Being a well-educated man and not liking the characterization, Duane Jones chose to alter the character’s dialogue.
Although the fact that he was in a classic horror film (which popularized the concept of flesh-eating zombies) alone would have made him an important figure in the history of horror cinema, Duane Jones did so much more. Positive portrayals of an African American in a horror film were few and far between during that period of American history. Usually when black people appeared in horror movies, it was either in small roles as servants, jungle natives, or as cowardly and supposedly “comedic” characters. However, his character in Night of the Living Dead was a brave, calm, and intelligent man (due in part to changes Jones made in the character’s portrayal).
It is often said that Duane Jones was the first African American actor to have a leading role in a horror movie. Not knowing about how black people were cast in horror films made in other countries and knowing that some horror films with all (or mostly) African American casts existed before Night of the Living Dead, I’m not sure if that claim is 100% accurate. The films in question include Drums o’ Voodoo (1934), The Devil’s Daughter (1939), and Son of Ingagi (1940). Judging from what I could find about those films, the protagonists all appear to be females and they seem to have been shown in theaters that catered to black audiences. By contrast, Night of the Living Dead was given wide theatrical distribution. Even if some other actor was the first black actor to star in a horror movie, Duane Jones would still the first black actor to have a starring role in a mainstream American horror film.
In a 1988 interview included on the special features of the Night of the Living Dead: Millennium Edition DVD, Jones expressed concern that people would only see him as “Ben,” despite his roles in other films. While researching his filmography in preparation for this blog entry, I was surprised to see that the bulk of his acting work was in horror films. Not counting his two non-horror film roles, Duane Jones appeared in Night of the Living Dead (1968), Ganja and Hess (1973), Vampires (1986), Negatives (1988), Fright House (1988), and To Die For (1989, filmed in 1988).
However, his work wasn’t limited to acting in films. His Wikipedia article says he taught acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, served as executive director at the Richard Allen Center for Culture, and taught theatre at the State University of New York at Old Westbury. Interestingly enough, there’s a recital hall there which is named after him. Although he died of cardiopulmonary arrest in 1988, his legacy still lives on. Even though he disliked how his first horror role overshadowed his other work, I hope that he took pride in the fact that the traits he gave the character made such a positive impact in the history of American cinema.
Feb 17 2009
Some poor schmuck went on “The Opie & Anthony Show” in order to promote his low budget horror movie, Gap. Although the hosts got some licks in, comedian Louis CK took it upon himself to brutally rip apart all aspects of the film as its pretentious creator tries (and fails) to defend himself. Here’s part one of this gloriously not safe for work masterpiece:
The other six parts are available on Pestz4Evah’s Youtube channel.
Thanks to Jasonayeiter, you can listen to the complete, unedited beating as a single video OR watch clips of the film synched up to the hilarious running commentary:
Feb 12 2009
Get this: the movie I reviewed immediately after Winterbeast also has a connection to Massachusetts! This time, it’s a gory horror flick set in Boston called Pieces.
The movie opens in 1942, with a mother catching her son diligently working on a puzzle depicting a naked woman. Furious with her son taking after her lecherous husband, she trashes the room and prepares to burn all of his porn. The boy’s response? Ax murder. Flash forward forty years, the little boy is all grown up and feeling remorseful about the whole “dismembering mom” thing. After a co-ed skateboarding into a sheet of glass reminds him of his mom trashing a mirror, he sets out to recreate his mom using parts from unwilling donors. As the body count at an unnamed college campus keeps rising, Police Lieutenant Bracken and undercover officer/tennis champion Mary Riggs (played by 70’s TV regulars Christopher George and Lynda Day George) take up the case. They also team up with the lover of one of the victims, Kendall James, in order to find out the killer’s identity and end his chainsaw rampage. Is the murderer the nervous comparative anatomy professor, the burly groundskeeper, or some other person?
Originally released in Spain under the title “Mil Gritos tiene la noche” (roughly translated as “One Thousand Cries has the Night”) in 1982, Pieces plays out exactly like an over-the-top stereotype about what a slasher movie is like. In other words, a flimsy plot coupled with wall-to-wall nudity and gore. What separates Pieces from the typical horror film is all the hilarious (and often bizarre) moments randomly distributed throughout the movie. There’s a completely random sex scene, an out of nowhere appearance by Bruceploitation legend Bruce Le, a topless chase sequence, a victim wetting herself, the “who cares if it doesn’t make sense, it’s scary” ending, and so much more. Interestingly enough, the urination wasn’t a special effect. You see, the chainsaw got a little too close for the actress’ liking and the director chose to leave the embarrassing shot in the final product.
Grindhouse Releasing’s two disc set marks the first official American DVD release of Pieces. The widescreen transfer from the original negative blows away all the cropped, VHS-sourced transfers offered by cheap DVD labels. It’s a testament to the quality of the special effects that they still hold up even after the film was digitally remastered. As for the audio, the English and Spanish mono tracks are both clear and problem-free.
I highly recommend watching both the dubbed version and the English subtitled version. This is due to how the Spanish version is edited slightly differently at the beginning and has an original soundtrack, whereas the English version uses stock music that wasn’t prepared for the movie. Also, the English subtitles reveal that there are several differences in dialogue between the original and dubbed version. It seems like the person who put together the English dub’s script inserted humorous material to amuse themselves. The people at Grindhouse Releasing seem to feel the same way about wanting people to see both, since they included a link to the Spanish opening sequence in the “Features” section of disc one.
The other special features on disc one include animated menus, chapter stops with the murder scenes marked in red, and the “Vine Theater Experience.” Selecting that option plays a short film of people at a recent showing of the film and then plays the audience’s reactions along with the movie in 5.1 stereo. Oh, and hitting up when the cursor is on “Play Movie” will lead you to a hidden icon that will play Eli Roth’s (and others’) comments on the film when clicked on.
Moving on to disc two, there are two interviews that clock in just under an hour each. The first one is with director Juan Piquer Simón, who discusses the making of the film and his career. The second features Paul Smith (who played the groundskeeper), who details his life and film career along with a few insights on his role in Pieces. Simón’s interview is subtitled while Smith’s is in English. The “Cast & Crew” section provides filmographies and/or biographies for several people involved in the film. Each entry has bonus content, either in the form of an interview segment or a preview for another film that the person was involved in. The numerous still galleries show production stills, publicity photos, and box art from various video releases. One of the galleries, titled “Juan Piquer’s Still Show,” is actually a video of the director showing off various publicity material, the original puzzle prop, and even the magazine whose cover art he licensed to use in an alternate Spanish poster for Pieces. Rounding out the special features are the numerous previews for current and future releases from Grindhouse. Two Easter eggs, one featuring Paul Smith and the other dealing with nudity and the casting process in Pieces, can also be found on this disc: One can be found by hitting up when the cursor is on the “Main Menu” option in the “Interviews” menu and the other can be found by hitting up when the cursor is on the “Main Menu” option in the “Galleries” menu. Just click the chainsaw icon that appears and you’re all set!
Also worthy of mention are the liner notes, written by Deep Red’s Chas Balun. When unfolded and flipped over, the liner notes form a small reproduction of the film’s American poster. Be warned that the notes, like many of the special features, contain spoilers.
My only real complaint about this otherwise flawless release is how there’s a missing English subtitle about one hour, seventeen minutes, and thirty-four seconds into the Spanish language version of the movie. Thankfully, I (and anyone who took high school Spanish) could tell the unsubtitled line was to the effect of “Get the car, quickly!” and could still enjoy the movie. Some may dislike how the packaging overlaps the DVDs in such a way that you have to remove both discs in order to get to the second disc, but others might just swap it with another DVD case and think nothing more of the issue. To anyone interested in checking the film out, I say this: please do not let these small matters keep you from getting this DVD.
Jan 30 2009
As a fan of hilariously bad horror movies, I have a special fondness for “regional” horror films. Regional films are independent movies made in small cities and towns, often incorporating touches of “local color.” So when I found out that portions of such a movie were filmed in my old stomping grounds (Waltham, Massachusetts), I was ecstatic and vowed to track it down.
Although I succeeded in getting a copy of Winterbeast, I’m still at a loss as how to properly describe it. I’m tempted to just say that it’s like lower budgeted, more insane version of Equinox and leave it at that. But seeing as how that wouldn’t be of any help to anyone who has never heard of that movie:
The plot involves Forest Rangers investigating a series of mysterious murders. As time goes on, it’s discovered that the murders were caused by Native American demons freed from a series of portals. However, their attempts to warn the public and prevent the final portal from opening are constantly hindered by the owner of the Wild Goose Lodge, who wants the killings hushed up so the tourists aren’t scared away.
After semi-obscure 1992 VHS release, Winterbeast is finally back to take its rightful place as the greatest bad movie ever made. Part of the film’s charm stems the sheer variety of monsters in it, including (but not limited to) a cross between Bigfoot and a Sleestak, a living totem pole, a creature I’ve nicknamed “hell chicken,” and the titular Winterbeast. From what I can tell, the Winterbeast originally played a more active role in the film, but most of the footage of it attacking people got misplaced during the editing process. Since the film couldn’t be completed without those scenes, the filmmakers put together new stop-motion monster sequences to replace them. But the problems didn’t end there. For example, the lead actor shaved his mustache off during a lull in filming and had to wear a fake mustache for the rest of the movie. Unfortunately, this resulted in the size and shape of the mustache changing from scene to scene. These, the “homemade” nature of the special effects, the laughable acting, and the other surreal touches sprinkled throughout the film are sure to please b-movie fans.
The transfer used on the DVD is quite acceptable considering the all the horror stories about the film’s production. Unless a millionaire takes a shine to it and pays for a restoration, this is the best Winterbeast will ever look or sound. The special features include a commentary, deleted scenes, a photo gallery, a “Making of” featurette, and a “soap opera” version of the film. You see, there was an attempt to shoot some scenes with a TV crew, but the videotaped footage was deemed unusable. Noticing that the scenes looked like something out of a cheap daytime drama, the people behind the DVD edited them together (and dubbed in some dramatic organ music) to give it the proper soap opera feel. Also, an easter egg of sorts can be found by highlighting a red symbol to the left of the “Soap Opera” icon. Clicking it will play a slideshow of sorts where the film’s composer, Michael Perilstein, discusses the upcoming soundtrack CD and other movies he’s composed the scores for.
The commentary, done by Mark Frizzel (producer) and Chris Thies (director/writer), is equally informative and hilarious. Rather than try to spin the film as being better than it really is, both men are good humored about its reputation and gleefully poke fun at their creation. Not only does the commentary reveal why a movie called “Winterbeast” is set in autumn and has very little snow in it, but it also notes the film’s connections to Nickelodeon and The Corpse Bride!
If you want some more information about the movie, or just want to order the DVD, please visit the official Winterbeast website.
UPDATE: I noticed how the FlickRocket profile for Winterbeast notes how the film is “back to take it’s rightful place as the best bad movie of all time.” It’s been so long that I forget if my comment on how the film was “finally back to take its rightful place as the greatest bad movie ever made” was a play off that line or if they decided to paraphrase my review. It’s hard to say now that the website only exists in incomplete archival form and my contact at Winterbeast Entertainment Group passed away in 2015. May he rest in peace and hopefully his final horror movie Hooked will eventually see release.
Special thanks to Winterbeast Entertainment for the review copy!
Dec 22 2008
I’m sorry for the lack of updates in November and December. The reason for this is because my computer got infected with a nasty type of malware known as a “krueger.” Yes, as in “Freddy Krueger.” Due to its ability to replicate itself no matter how many times I tried to remove it, I was forced to reformat my computer. Unfortunately, I was in contact with the other members of the GdL, so they were at risk of infection. For obvious reasons, we chose not to do any more posts until we were completely sure that all our computers were uninfected. Here’s hoping that we’ll be able to do more updates in 2009.
As a special gift to our loyal readers, here’s a clip from Christmas Evil:
Nov 08 2008
I’ve been nursing a Halloween Hangover for the last two weeks. Weird Jon and Atomic Mystery Monster were good enough to post a few things but we’re going to put the CLOSED sign up for about a week. So, on 11/15, we’ll relaunch this site into something that looks a little better.
Nothing stays dead forever, though. See you in a week.
Oct 31 2008
I’ve got to make this quick since I have some last-minute Halloween preparations to make. Some of you might be a little baffled as to why I chose to post a video of someone in a silly costume singing a cover of a Frank Zappa song, but I hope that the message at the end makes it all clear.
Oct 30 2008
Back in the early 90’s, the company behind “Dungeons & Dragons” created a line of “Choose Your Own Adventure”-type audio CDs called Terror T.R.A.X. The idea behind them was that you were an operative for a secret organization (Trace, Research, Analyze and eXterminate) that investigates 911 calls involving the paranormal and that you’d switch audio tracks on the CD instead of turning pages in a book. According to this site, the concept only lasted for two CDs, a PC game remake of Track of the Vampire, and a proposed (but never made) TV movie. Aside from an unofficial fan-made game called “Track of the Undead,” the series was largely forgotten since then. At least, until Noah “Spoony” Antwiler did some laugh-out-loud hilarious video reviews of Track of the Vampire and Track of the Werewolf:
The reviews had to get split into multiple parts on Youtube, but you can find the original, full length reviews at the review section of his website, The Spoony Experiment. As a special added bonus, here’s the opening movie for the Terror T.R.A.X. PC game:
UPDATE: According to Spoony, the Track of the Mummy and Track of the Creature CDs were advertised, but never made. I have edited the article to reflect this.
Oct 29 2008
It seemed to lessen a bit, but the Halloween spirit has come back to kick me in the eye socket. With a black eye of live, I’m back to rocking Halloween spirit; seems appropriate, being as we’re two days until the big day. I figured to avoid another orbital fracture, I’d give a treat to those of you who keep coming back here.
[edit Nov.1 – all gone. Happy Halloween! See you next year.]
Taking up the mantle of Svengoolie originally, Jerry Bishop passed the title to Richard Koz who took the name ‘Son of Svengoolie’ during his initial run on Chicago television. After a near-thirty year career, Koz’s character is referred to as Svengoolie. Along with musical partner Doug Graves, Tombstone the talking skull and a barrage of rubber chickens, Svengoolie is still on today despite a period of being off the air (allowing for a spin-off, the “Koz Zone.” ‘Koz’ rhymes with ‘nose.’)
Two years ago, thanks to a random passing-by of an odd YouTube video, I found Svengoolie. Not having the pleasure to grow up in Chicago during the seventies/eighties of the first round, I’m glad that technology allows for access of some of the classic Sven clips. Most of them have left YouTube and gone over to FuzzyMemories, the official home for old Chicago TV.
What the above link, the ‘Trick or Link,’ is to a compilation of audio bits taken from Fuzzy Memories. The sound quality is a bit rancid, I’ll admit, but if you are someone who can listen to pops and crackles on a record player, then you won’t mind. ‘It Came from Berwyn’ features a few songs from the original Svengoolie, since I think they were funny. Hopefully, this won’t be the Mary Jane equivalent of your Halloween downloads; perhaps one of those strange candy skeletons in the oddly colored box, with the candy not tasting all that great but the experience not lessened for it.