#31DaysOfHorror: Oct 31

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I was a Monster Kid. Shouldn’t come as any kind of surprise…And to every Monster Kid growing up in the 80s and 90s, there was no movie cooler than Monster Squad! Imagine if all the classic Monsters showed up in Suburbia to wreak havoc, and the only ones who can stop them are a group of wise-assed, swearing(sort of) adolescents. What Monster Kid wouldn’t go nuts for this?

The film centers around a group of friends who have a Monster Club, and by that virtue alone are thrust right into the center of a centuries old conflict between the forces of good and evil. De Facto leader, Sean is gifted an old book by his Mother…and it just so happens to be the Diary of Abraham Van Helsing…which she bought at a fucking Garage sale! About this time, Dracula literally mails himself and Frankenstein to Sean’s town (Eightiesville?), where they meet up with a Werewolf, a Mummy from the museum awakens to join them, and a fucking Gillman just happens to be living in the local waterways. After overhearing his cop dad talking about reports of a Werewolf, and a missing Mummy, Sean notices his mom has left a note saying someone named Mr. Alucard(read it backwards), called about the Book. OK…so a few things are sticking out for me right now. How the fuck did Dracula know Sean had the book? When did Dracula learn proper telephone etiquette, let alone how to use a goddamn phone? Why the actual fuck would he use such an obvious alias? And why…OH FUCKING WHY…does Dracula look the way he does? He doesn’t look like Dracula. He looks like somebody’s bad-joke cracking Dentist who thought it would be a hoot to dress as Dracula for Halloween. Maybe this movie isn’t quite as awesome as I remembered it.

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Anyway, Sean calls a Monster Club meeting to inform the rest of the kids of his suspicions and to formally name their group The Monster Squad. They decide to visit the local Scary German Guy to get help translating the diary. They learn that there is a mystic medallion thingy that keeps the balance between good and evil, and once every 100 years, the amulet can be destroyed. If Dracula can get ahold of the Amulet (and he does, it was hidden in the basement of some creepy house), He and his Creatures of the Night will be able to rule the world and Blah Blah Blah…Fuck!

I’m not sure if it’s just that I’m still full of Piss and Vinegar over the questionable use of the Universal Monsters, or if this film hasn’t aged well or what. Did I just never notice these flaws before? Or did I overlook them simply because this is a Monster Movie. How often have I forgiven or even praised a truly awful film, simply because they were Horror films? Am I such a slave to the genre that I’ll forgive anything?

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So, the Squad rounds up supplies to fight Monsters, prints up business cards, and sends a crayon written note to the US military (Army Guys)asking for help. Along the way, Sean’s little sister Phoebe makes friends with Frankenstein’s Monster proving once and for all that the creature was always just a big softy. On the big night, the boys sneak into Dracula’s lair, kick Wolfman in the Nards, steal the amulet and rope a few virgins into reciting a spell that will propel the Monsters into Limbo. Finally the film starts to pick back up! Fat Kid and Rudy are the real hero’s as between the two of them, they take out The Mummy, 3 Vamp bitches, The Gillman, and the Wolfman! The details of exactly how they do it, I’ll leave for you to see.

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Fuck it, I changed my mind. This Movie does hold up. In fact, it still kicks ass! The effects are pretty decent, but in more of a Halloween party sort of way. It’s funny, insane, totally saturated in the 80’s, has completely unnecessary gun play, foulmouthed kids, and Iconic Movie monsters! Sure, the film has lots of flaws, but then again so does just about EVERYTHING in the genre. If you’ll permit me to get philosophical for a minute…we’re all Misfits. Each one of us is weird, broken, or “flawed” in our own way. Sometimes it’s the flaws that make us so wonderful and unique. So there we have it, That’s the Monster Squad, and that concludes the 2014 edition of #31DaysOfHorror. As weird as it may sound, after all that I feel somewhat renewed. I have plenty of new ideas, and plans to expand my output and content with Audio and Video. The Documentary I was a part of, called Retail Of The Darkest Kind should be available for download soon, and I have a few other surprises up my sleeve. Thanks for reading!

Retail of the Darkest Kind Trailer: http://youtu.be/EkRoyjo4bjQ

#31DaysOfHorror: Oct 30

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At what point does our fiction become our Mythology? When does our Mythology become passe? The Universal pantheon of monsters is firmly entrenched in pop culture to the point that not only have these properties been re-made, re-imagined, co-opted and assimilated into virtually every medium, but the Monsters themselves have become…loveable.

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Horror Icon Boris Karloff captured the imaginations and nightmare of generations of Fright Fans by bringing Frankenstein’s Monster, as well as The Mummy to life. We all know the images, most of us know the stories, but do they hold up?

It seems almost every time someone mentions The Mummy, they are talking about the remake starring Brendan Fraser. Now I’m all for paying respect to the classics, but as much as I hate to admit it, the remake is a vastly superior film in just about every way you care to name. Sure, it may have some really awkward CG effects, but the original has almost NOTHING happening in it! Aside from Karloff using a truly chilling stare to pierce its way into our nightmares, the film is a total bore. Yes, I know that the standards and expectations for Horror films were much different back then, however this film just does not hold up. Full stop.

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Similarly the Wolf Man was also treated to a modern remake (which I reviewed here:  ), yet perhaps has a richer legacy the the Mummy. Lon Chaney Jr plays the cursed Lawrence Talbot, along with other Horror Icons as Bela Lugosi, and Claude Rains. Thanks to the Crestwood series of Monsters books (the ones with the Orange logos that you always tried to take out of the Library at school), I knew all about the story of the Wolf Man, as well as the rest of the Monsters, long before I had seen the film. I knew that Chaney’s character is meant to be portrayed as cursed, his affliction being a tragedy. When I finally did watch the film I was somewhat surprised at how so many aspects seemed cliche. The slow transformation, the Gypsy, the Tormented protagonist, etc. These tropes had been incorporated heavily into pop culture to the point that seeing them in their original context was almost humorous. Two things really stood out to me though, the setting and atmosphere and overall look is phenomenal. To be fair, ALL the Universal Monster films have this in common.

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What I’m getting at is these films have a legacy of greatness, reputations that precede them, and have kick started the Nightmares of Movie-Goers for generations…yet when I first viewed them, I was bored. Could it have been that I had already watched more frightening films? As filmmaking has evolved, so have the tactics used to scare us, so by the time the late 80s/Early 90s rolled around I wasn’t too concerned with Drac, Wolfie and Franky…I was more worried about Jason, Freddy and Chucky! Or maybe it was because by this time, I had already seen these monsters reduced to Saturday Morning Cartoons. Scooby Doo, Looney Tunes, the Flintstones and others have all featured the iconic Monsters, and always seem to portray them in an unflattering light. Sure, they are established as supposedly scary, but they end up being bumbling boobs. When the Dracula character is bested by Barney imitating a Rooster crowing, then something is seriously wrong. I know these are intended for children, but our Monster Gods deserve a bit better than that!

Over the years, there have been several attempts to re-launch the Universal Monsters, and with the exception of the UKs Hammer Films(Full article forthcoming), and the Francis Ford Coppola produced remakes of Dracula and Frankenstein, the attempts have fallen flat. Either the films were plagued by turmoil behind the scenes, or the films drew poorly at the box office, or the films were successful for the wrong reasons. The Brendan Fraser remakes of the Mummy are a prime example of success for the wrong reasons as the films were moved away from Horror and into Action/Adventure. As I mentioned previously, I actually enjoyed these films more than the original Mummy, but it gave Producers the notion that taking the Monsters away from Horror was the right choice. As a result we got garbage such as Van Helsing, and the newly released Dracula Untold. Both are overly CGI heavy and employ little to nothing in the way of scares.

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What is my point with all this off topic rambling? That these films are classics and should have a rich and respectable legacy, but instead have been rendered little better than Cartoons and Cereal Mascots. Newer generations will never get a chance to appreciate the Monsters for what they were intended to be, they have been de-clawed long before us youngsters ever got a chance to be afraid of them. As a child, I was more afraid of Paul Reubens as a Vampire from Buffy The Vampire Slayer than I was Count Dracula. There is something profoundly wrong with that!

For my final review of October*Editors Note: Yes I know this is coming extremely late, but it’s my life and I’ll be like Dale Keown if I fucking feel like it! *, I’ll be tackling one of my favorite films from childhood. It’s also a film that may be responsible for a bit of the tarnish upon the Monsters Legacy. It’s Nostalgic, it’s funny, it’s dripping in Halloween awesomeness, it’s an 80s bomb that turned into a fantastic, awesome, kick-ass classic…The Monster Squad!

#31DaysOfHorror: Oct 29

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Almost like clockwork, as soon as any form of remake of a Horror film is announced, Horror fans rally behind the older film hailing it as a classic that should be left alone. Even if the film was a somewhat obscure proto-slasher that nobody hated, yet few loved…Suddenly it’s everyone’s favorite film once the remake wagon comes around. Upon viewing the trailer for 2014’s The Town That Dreaded Sundown, I was intrigued. This seemed more than just a remake…was it a sequel?

The end result is that the film is sort of a real-life remake…If that makes sense. The story acknowledges the existence of the 1976 Charles B Pierce film in that it was based off true events that happened in Texarkana. When the Phantom killer re-emerges, it’s unclear whether he is copy-catting the film, or if he has some connection to the original Phantom. It creates an odd parallel between fantasy becoming reality and the past repeating itself. Where is the line between the two? IS there even a line at all?

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The story is largely the same as the original, a killer wearing a burlap sack over his face terrorizes Texarkana with (seemingly) random killings while a less than competent police force struggles to keep up. While the tone of the original is an atypical amalgamation of slapstick humor and straightlaced Horror documentary. Inconsistent in its purpose, the film still has a twisted charm. The new film is a compete alteration. Hard-boiled and edgy, the film is Dark from the get-go. This is a film designed to frighten and shock.

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If there is ever a reason to relaunch a property, it should be to add something new to it…to add to the legend, as it were. This film is neither a remake, sequel or re-imagining yet accomplishes the unique goal of furthering the legend of the original crimes, as well as continuing the legacy of the 1976 film. Even as a stand alone film, this works extremely well as a eerie slasher without any over the top gimmicks. This is a film fast on it’s way to being a modern classic.

#31DaysOfHorror: Oct 28

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Halloween. The franchise that some (including some of the creators) say should never have become a franchise. After the runaway success of the first film, John Carpenter returned to lend a hand in writing the sequel as well as produce, even though he never intended for a sequel to be made in the first place. For the Third installment, Carpenter serves as producer only. The Intention was to drop the Michael Myers story and turn the franchise into an anthology with each film telling a separate story taking place on Halloween. Great Idea! Halloween III: Season of the Witch was ultimately a flop as fans clamored for the return of Myers. Well be careful what you wish for, fuckers…

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The ensuing three film arc was really only good for two things. Starting Danielle Harris on her path to becoming one of this generations greatest Scream Queens, and bringing back the always wonderful Donald Pleasance to reprise his role as Dr. Loomis. The plot involved Michael stalking and attempting to kill his Niece(Harris playing the young Jamie Lloyd) while Loomis tries to foil him. Part 5 sees the introduction of The Curse Of Thorn plotline which was fully explored in part 6 in an attempt to explain why Michael cannot die, and what compels him to kill his family. The concept behind the Curse of Thorn is that Michael had been under the influence of an ancient Celtic curse that drove him to  murder all family members in his bloodline. Once this task is complete, the curse would be passed to another small child. Right from the beginning of production, the film was waylaid by Jackassery on the part of Producer Paul Freeman and Director Joe Chappelle.

These two reportedly rewrote the ending on-set, sometimes even from shot to shot, all with deadlines looming. Freeman would do stupid things like send the crew home when crucial scenes needed to be shot, deleted scripted scenes indiscriminately, rewrote dialogue and action sequences, decided to direct second-unit shots as well as supervise the post production. Eventually his many fuck ups and bonehead decisions resulted in Miramax stepping in to take control of the film, and order reshoots.

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After filming and editing was completed, the film was given a test screening and in the ensuing Q&A, one viewer expressed displeasure at the ending. So Naturally, Miramax decided to excise the intended ending and a new one was shot, an ending which almost completely dropped the Curse Of Thorn Plot Line. Not only that, but 20 additional mins of footage was removed creating several glaring plot holes and resulting in the disappointed piece of shit we’ve known as Halloween 6 all these years.

For years, bootleg copies of “The Producers Cut” have been floating around. This version of the film contains all the cut material as well as the original ending. On Sept 23rd, the Producers Cut finally saw official release as part of the Halloween Complete Blu-Ray collection, and this is the film I watched. Its hard to erase the stink of the original release, however the restored version feels like a much more cohesive story. Things make more sense and the loose ends are tied up. I’ll be the first to admit, I’m not crazy about this ending…But for Fuck sakes, just about ANYTHING would be better than the original release. Even with the restored footage, I still feel it’s a weak film…it’s just better than it was before. I know I’m very much a minority in that I wanted the anthology concept to take off instead of telling more stories about Michael Myers. What made the first Halloween work so well is that we had no idea what Michael was, or why. We were to project our worst fears onto him as he became a living Bogeyman. The more films you make with him, you are faced with a problem: You have to either keep doing exactly the same thing as before, or you have to define what he is. That is what killed the Halloween series to me…and to put it into perspective just how bad this was, the next Halloween film, H20, completely ignored films 4-6, rendering then non-canon! Would I recommend this film? Absolutely! If for no other reason than to see the final performance of the late Donald Pleasance.

#31DaysOfHorror: Oct 27

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Straight from the Grindhouse cinemas of 42nd street! This film is easily one of the most infamous to make it’s way onto the Video Nasties list. Audacious full page adds showing the bloody image of a screaming victim getting drilled in the head were one of the main causes of outrage amongst stuffy Brits. I’ll save the really in depth examination and history for the Let’s Get Nasty write up.

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This film is understandably pretty low on plot and high of sleaze and gore. It can pretty much be summed up as “Creepy looking New York Dirt bag artist can’t pay his rent or bills, and is annoyed by Punk Rock music, so he starts mutilating the homeless with a powerdrill”. Directed and starred by Abel Ferrara, The Driller Killer is a film that perfectly exemplifies the feel and atmosphere of the Grindhouse era. Everything, especially the main character looks sickly and dirty. The Gore is really the only reason to watch the film, and holy fuck, it doesn’t get much more gory than boring a hole in someone’s fucking head!

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This is a film to watch when you just want something violent and sleazy to play in the background, or if you decide that watching and reviewing the 72 most infamous exploitation films of all time seems like a good idea. Don’t watch this movie unless you want something unnecessarily violent, exploitative, sexist and idiotic. And since I know that ALL of you want to watch something like that, I’m posting a link to the full film below.

#31DaysOfHorror: Oct 26

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A Cryptid Crypt Special Report!

As regular readers know, I frequently recommend to check regularly with your local cinemas, and support as many genre events as possible. Not only does it let them know that genre films are lucrative programming, but this also usually gives you a chance to catch local filmmaking as well. Recently, The Rio Theater in Vancouver BC, hosted the Rio Grind Film Festival, an all Genre Film fest. If I had my way, I would have been there every night. Friday night I took in Suburban Gothic (Yaaaaaaay! Kat Dennings!), and the BC premier of the ABCs of Death 2. Saturday I was not able to attend, as I was taking part in the filming of a new documentary about our favorite Lowermainland Haunt, Netherworld Collectibles! The film is called Retail of the Darkest Kind, and I’ll likely be posting the trailer soon. Sunday nights lineup really only had 1 film that interested me, and that was the Braden Croft directed Feed The Gods.

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Right off the bat, I make ZERO apologies for the fact that I will not tell you details about anything not seen in the trailer. Its a new film, a good film, and it deserves to be seen for yourself. What I WILL tell you is that the plot involves two brothers and one fiance traveling to a mysterious, isolated mountain town to track down their roots, but what they find is that the sleepy mountain town is hiding secrets, and the biggest secret of all is stalking them from the woods. Sasquatch-ploitation is definetly becoming a buzzword in the Horror genre. Lost Coast Tapes, Bigfoot County, Willow Creek, and the upcoming Exists each make use of the Found Footage format, while Feed The Gods takes a traditional narrative approach. It may sound insignificant, but this was a HUGE breath of fresh air to me. The story is original, giving us just enough mythology to wonder about events that have come before and what events could still to come…or in Producer-speak, rife with sequel and prequel opportunity. The cinematography is tight, the acting is solid, and this becomes all the more impressive when considering how small the budget was. Ever heard of a shoestring budget? By all accounts, this was even thinner…like one of those super skinny shoelaces in dress shoes, where you almost need tweezers to tie ‘em, and you feel like you’ll snap em if you pull to hard and you’re all like “What even IS this?”. Yeah. THAT’s how small the budget is. Also, I’ve had lots of sugar. Fuck. Go watch this movie!

#31DaysOfHorror: Oct 25

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Clive Barker. Clive Motherfucking Barker. The man is an underappreciated genius. And like many geniuses, he doesn’t get the credit/respect he so richly deserves. For the most part, Barker is regarded as a Horror-Guy, but any close analysis of his work shows his stories are just as rich in fantasy. Several of his stories have been adapted into film with somewhat mixed results (Transmutations and Rawhead Rex being examples of things not working out so great).  The Barker directed Hellraiser was a shining example of the brilliance he could churn out if given sufficient creative freedom. After finishing the novella Cabal, Barker realized it would make a good film, originally envisioning a trilogy of films which had the makings of being the Star Wars of Horror films. This was to be Barkers crowning a achievment in film… Then the studio (Morgan Creek) decided to fuck with things.

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Anyone who has seen Nightbreed can tell you the film they saw was a unfocused, confused mess with a confusing narrative, and poorly defined motivations for the characters. The film has many incredible ideas and plots that seem to go nowhere. We see a fantastical mythology hinted at, a world full of monsters glimpsed, a poorly executed love story, and a slasher plot all crammed together amidst the core story which somehow got lost in the editing.  When Barker saw the initial marketing push for the film, he was aghast to see that his film was being marketed as a Slasher film and the supernatural elements were all but ignored. According to Barker, the head of marketing for Morgan Creek never watched the finished film, saying that it “disgusted and distressed” him. Night breed was a film that was neither understood nor wanted by the studio. The original version ran 2 and a half hours…but after the final bit of studio butchering, clocked in at 102 minutes.

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There is a happy ending though. For years, a bootleg directors cut had been rumored to exist, and even traded amongst diehard fans. After many years, this version was finally released, dubbed the Cabal Cut. Upon viewing this “complete” version of the film, we finally have clarity. Suddenly the relationship between Lori and Boone takes on a new light, Davis Cronenberg’s portrayal of Decker shows clearer motivation and makes his flat portrayal all the more chilling, and the ending is much different. Now the film has a clear direction with potential for the planned sequels. Aside from a far more detailed look into the fantasitcal underground city of Midian, and its denizens, the most significant change from the original release is that the Night breed themselves are portrayed in a far more sympathetic light. The original intent was to depict humanity as the true monster in the film, however that concept did not sit well with the producers, so additional footage was shot to portray the Nightbreed as more aggressive and more threatening, and expanding the role of a masked serial killer to fill the need to have a “villain” to satisfy their need to fit in to the mold. Nightbreed cannot fit into any mold. As you can tell, I’m trying very hard to avoid spoilers. I want EVERYONE to see the Cabal cut of Nightbreed. Do not deprive yourself of the chance to finally return to Midian, to where the monsters live.