With the snow wiping out a chance to go to the flea market this morning, and the estate salefrom yesterday being more of a waste of gas than an adventure full of surprises, my daughter Markie and I broke down and finally put together her Dr. Zaius model from one of her favorite movies (the original) Planet of the Apes .
Sunday, January 31, 2010
Saturday, January 30, 2010
Brenda and the kids gave me a new HD video camera as an early birthday gift so I can work on filming some of the short films I write from time to time. So, as the snow fell outside tonight and Bren watched Twilight (Ugh!), I played around with my sons fetus, Junior, while he sat on his shelf!
Vampire myths have been passed down for generations. These legends of the undead, unfairly based largely in rumor and ignorance, are staples at every fireside chat in every culture throughout the world. In fact, if there is one common thread that bonds every person on earth, it is their fear of the vampire.The modern day stories that have brought the vampire myth into the mainstream were largely based on observations of the mentally unstable or strangely deceased, creating a stigma that many real life vampires deal with today.
I am sure that most people are familiar with Bram Stoker's Dracula, a great romance novel that rightfully captured the populace in 1897. However, Stoker's tale stretched the realities of vampirism and created a false façade that overwhelms the true origins and beliefs of the myths. Stoker was neither the first nor the last author to pen accounts of the vampire. Lord Byron introduced (and maybe influenced) the common elements of vampirism in his 1813 poem, The Giaour. An epic poem the acted as a precursor to the first book on the subject, The Vampyre, penned by Lord Byron's personal physician John Polidori.
These religious differences aren't the only ones that exist in this region of the Adriatic Coast; remnants of pre-Christianity Paganism still stand side-by-side with visions of modern day Catholicism. One journey through the Coastal town of Split, Croatia provides a dynamic snapshot of the culture as identified above and re-enforces the underlying currents of the legends. Split, one of the largest cities along the Adriatic, started as a retirement retreat for Caesar Diocletian, who built a giant fortress along the sulfur hot springs that populate this region in the fourth century. Remains of Diocletian's Palace exist today, housing not only the oldest cathedral known to man, but a combination of early Egyptian statues and other agonistic relics.
Walking along the cobblestone pathways in this city, or in any port along the Western Adriatic Coast, you can almost sense the history and lore that made this region a hotspot of vampiric activity centuries ago. In 1672, one of the first recorded vampire epidemics took place in Croatia. It has been reported that Giure Grando, from Khring on the Istrian Peninsula, returned from the dead to torture his family. Older writings record reports of two different types of vampires in Croatia, the Pijawika and the Kuzlak. Grando would have most certainly been considered a Pijawika, having been decapitated with the remains of his head placed between his legs, the proposed way of killing a Pijawika. The Kuzlak is a bit more interesting. The belief is that one is created when an infant is not breast-fed enough, taking their place with the undead at an early age.
To the North, Yugoslavia is home to an incredible amount of vampiric history, dating back centuries. In fact, in 1725 a similar case to the 1672 Croatian outbreak took place in Kisilovo, part of the Vojvodina Region of Serbia. In this case, Peter Plogojowitz returned from the grave to terrorize his former neighbors. This encounter set the stage for many recorded encounters, introducing the word "Vampire" into the Slavic vocabulary for the first time.
This was followed closely by the introduction of the French word "Vampyre" in 1732 when Arnold Paole was accused of killing herds of cattle and numerous people around the small town of Medvegia, Serbia. Legends state that Paole was actually bitten and turned into a vampire while serving the Turkish front in Kosova. This encounter and the detailed description of the exhumed and then decapitated corpse (Fresh blood stains, full complexion and growing hair), ranks as one of the best selling government reports in Yugoslavian history.
While it is not known who recorded these accounts of vampirism, it is quite possible that famed Croatian historian and writer Marko Marulic (1450-1524) encounter these same legends while documenting his accounts of mythology. Regardless of who captured these interludes into the supernatural, they have left lasting impressions on society as we know it.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Having sat down tonight with little to do, I started to flip through the guide on my television to see if anything caught my eye. There was the usual rotation (at least for this week), there was Twilight on Showtime, The Last Picture Show on Retro and Armageddonon Encore. Then I stumbled onto Peter Benchley’s Creature on Reelz. To be honest, I spent the majority of 1998 travelling the Mediterranean Sea in the Navy and caught this via our half operational satellite television station. So, the quality left a little to be desired (as did most things on the system).
Tonight all I could remember was it was a bit long and the creature (and story line) reminded me of the movie, The Creature Walks Among Us, with the way it acted. What I found tonight was a film that had much better pacing and flow in a continuous feed vice mini-series. I am by no means a fan of sea movies. Hell, I cannot even swim and I despise the beach (I know, I know, how is it possible that a Naval Sailor not know how to swim? Trust me, its not that difficult). Really, I hate the ocean.
I am sure many remember the plot, on a remote island in the West Indies, a top-secret Navy team attempts to genetically engineer a biological weapon...only to find they've instead created an unstoppable monster (Ironically, I could see that – see Montauk). Adapted from the Peter Benchley novel, White Shark (well, sort of, substitute US Navy for the Nazi party). This interpretation starred Craig T. Nelson (Coach) and Kim Cattrall (Sex in the City) as research scientists who visit the island and find themselves being terrorized by a creature bent on destruction.
The novel read very smoothly and Benchley’s storytelling created a lot of flow that the original mini-series lacked. In this version, while not perfect, some of the flow returned making it much more enjoyable and memorable. Nelson and Cattrall both had solid performances (amazingly because of the less than perfect script) and carried the movie. However, I was left a bit frustrated. As a fan of the classics, I felt like much of this was a definite rip-off of The Creature movies of old (as mentioned above), although in watching it again there are too many differences for anyone to make a case for plagiarism.
Monday, January 25, 2010
When Lucio Fulci decided to follow up his 1979 classic Zombie Flesh Eaters with the 1980 release of City Of The Living Dead, little did people realize that the Italian horror master would lead them on an unparalleled masterpiece of violent imagery, atmosphere and climate. Complete with some tremendous visual effects, Fulci definitely transports the viewer into a dark realm of the undead. While the movie does lack some story, the medical, religious and occult overtones add to the landscape of the film. Not to mention the strange and creepy looking zombies that the crew developed for this film.
Originally released as The Gates of Hell, the film is far from perfect; suffering from some slow periods throughout and an ending that appears choppy and rushed. That being said, the brilliance of the movie is not overshadowed by these few flaws. In fact, director of photography, Sergio Salvati, created an eerie feeling throughout the film with the strange ultra-dark settings and the blue and white fog lining the empty streets.
In the end, similar to most of Fulci's horror movies and Italian horror in general, plot and logic take a back seat to gore and stunning visual effects. City Of The Living Dead may not reach the pinnacle of his best work (The Beyond) but apart from a few slow moments it comes closer than you would expect.
Sunday, January 24, 2010
I love searching estate sales, yard sales and flea markets for new items to put into my collection of horror related items and creepy curiosities. Today I found the two original Gremlins from 1984 to add to my home museum and I only spent 50 cents (The original Planet of the Apes model was found in December for $5.00). To me, this was a great find and an awsome buy!
Friday, January 22, 2010
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Having recently purchased a box full of horror movies, I was ecstatic to find that a large portion of the movies involved my favorite undead characters, zombies! Unfortunately, the first one I grabbed, Girolami's Zombie Holocaust, left me a bit depressed. Maybe even a bit appalled in the likeness to the Lucio Fulci Classic, Zombie, which is one of my favorites?
In some ways, I should not be surprised as I see many movies today in the horror genre, that are clearly rehashed versions of movies that struck a cord with the audience, and directors are quick to copy in hopes of capitalizing on the similarities. However, in this case, it may have been to an extreme.
Ironically, besides sharing an almost identical plot, both movies were released in 1979, have matching sets, have the same star (Ian McCulloch), and even share some supporting cast members. Unfortunately, that is where the similarities end. Originally released in the United States as Dr. Butcher, M.D. (after adding in some local footage), the film drifts from the true zombie tale into a weird combination of zombies and cannibalism (yes, complete with natives set on consuming multiple organs). To me, this combination does not work.
While, the violence and gore was interesting and in some cases, very well done and conceived, like the mangling of a flesh eaters head with a boat motor or the exposed brain on the scientist lab table. However, much of the film misses. Making it very difficult to focus on and stay entertained. One of the biggest disappointments was the lack of the flesh eating zombies that the title projected, with the first appearance of a zombie showing up well into the movie. Even then, there maybe five or six in the entire movie, and their presence was virtually invisible in comparison to the tribes of cannibals looking to preserve their island paradise (Keto). In fact, I do not believe that a zombie actually killed or ate anyone in the entire movie. Bummer!
When you couple all of those inadequacies with the blatant plagiarism, the almost non-existent score, sub par film quality, and poor acting and you one of the most forgettable zombie movies of the era. Honestly, skip it and make a Jell-O brain, it is definitely more worthwhile.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Honestly, I have been hooked on his movies since I saw The Elephant Man, and told my mother (an art major) that it was the most beautiful movie I had seen (since The Fog - OK, my vision of beauty in cinema has been skewed for a while now). The next thing I remember was seeing a picture of the ear from Blue Velvet in my Fangoria Magazine. From there, I couldn’t get enough of his movies and television efforts.
It is strange but I often feel like many horror fans have overlooked his work. Yes, the surrealistic elements and confusing story lines can be difficult to follow to a casual observer, but, on a deep level, some of the characters and terror elements are genius. The scene with Robert Blake in Lost Highway is amazing (as is that entire film), the character development and story lines in Twin Peaks and Mulholland Drive is incredible and his latest film Inland Empire may be the best of them all.
Monday, January 18, 2010
The films of the 1970s and 1980s are such a breath of fresh air in comparison to the new CGI entries that populate the movie landscape. This especially evident in films that involve insectual plagues running over society. Remember those flicks, they had ants attacking, killer bees attacking, and even spiders attacking. Of course, many of these films were created to “instruct” the populace on what to do when and if these monsters attacked. Fortunately, these fears were never realized and the movies fell by the wayside.
Today, January 19, William Shatner’s 1977 Kingdom of the Spiders will again gain popularity with a fresh special edition DVD release by Shout! Factory. As one of the more memorable films of this genre, the rebirth is justified. Shatner plays a small town veterinarian that discovers a giant problem when his town is overtaken by a giant swarm of pissed off eight-legged beasts. True, calling them beasts may be extreme, but the way they devour the local cattle, it may be justified. OK, back to this, the spiders turn their attention to town once the local cattle just do not satisfy their cravings.
I accidently stumbled across this movie a couple weeks ago on Encore and was amazed at how relevant the movie seemed today. Incredibly, it seems to have stood the test of time, providing just as many chills today as it did when I first saw the movie 20-some years ago (well closer to 30, but I am trying not to age myself). Shot before computer animation and CGI, the effects in this movie may not wow those that have grown-up in this modern age, but they are very realistic for the time. Well, they should be, they were real spiders, creeping and crawling. That thought alone still makes my skin crawl and shiver throughout the film.
More importantly, this movie has much more character development than many of the animal rampage films of the era and it definitely plays to a larger audience. With solid performances and a sound script, a strong combination of actors and with the use of real spiders, this movie has every element needed stand the test of time. It does just that and more, surviving when other films of the same origin fail miserably.
Shot on a low budget (roughly $500,000 with $50,000 going to spiders), the film occasionally feels campy and made for television. However, with a variety of grisly scenes and the random appearance of an exposed female breast, it definitely was more than television would allow (even in the less conservative 1970s). In all, Kingdom of Spiders is the total package and remains the best spider invasion flick ever made. That being said, I would not run out and pay full price ($19.99) for this special edition DVD, while the movie is great finding it at a bargain price would be greater (Amazon has this for as low as $1.99 used )!
Sunday, January 17, 2010
White Zombie is one of the great unheralded horror classics of the 1930's and unfortunately, it is almost forgotten today, overrun by the modern flesh eating creatures that cloud the true history of zombie lore. In fact, White Zombie may be the first and oldest surviving zombie movie ever made. Unlike the modern movies of the genre that we grew up on, or can see today, these traditional zombie characters are not evil in themselves craving brains and devouring everything in their path. Instead, they are mindless wanderers, controlled by an evil shaman, who must be destroyed to save the zombies from their helpless slumber.
Actually, the characters in this movie do a great job at portraying the creepy zombies that were created in this masterpiece. They set a dark and uneasy mood throughout the film, a perfect backdrop for the voodoo-like overtones and rituals that take the film to another level. Unfortunately, the years have not been kind on this movie. For many years the film sat, tucked away, lost like many classics of yesteryear, making restoration a tough task.
Still, White Zombie, is a must see for fans of early classic cinema and historic zombie ventures. The story is very intriguing and sad, yet, told in an extremely attractive way; especially the ending, which I found fantastic and actually quite tense. In the end, it is everything that Revolt of the Zombies, is not. One more of a reason that so many people are disappointed by that specific effort put forth by Halperin Productions, who worked magic with a tiny budget on this film, creating an atmosphere full of flair and imagination.
Some of the visuals created in this movie, like the opening scene of the burial on the road or the sugar mill worked by zombies, stand tall as tremendous accomplishments on film. One of my favorite settings was the hillside graveyard, a perfect set for any movie of the period or today and the music crafted by Xavier Cugat is absolutely perfect for the mood and countenance.
Bela Lugosi is marvelous in his role as the dark voodoo prince, Murder Legendre, the supernatural force that controls his followers’ every move. Personally, his performance is at least on par, if not better than his role as Count Dracula. To me, Lugosi was at his best playing a villainous role, or at least a devious role like in the 1944 horror classic, One Body Too Many. always at his best in roles like these and just like in "Dracula" he is once Throughout this movie, the Halperin’s do a great job, focusing and cutting in split screen shots of Lugosi’s infamous stare, a trademark that transcends generations. For the Lugosi fans this movie is an absolute must!
What is happening out there?
These people…These depraved creatures
Plaguing us like the locusts in Babylon
My mind cannot, will not comprehend what I have witnessed tonight
This ordeal glistening like a surreal testament from Argento
This nightmare cannot be real
I shake, trembling from the fear
I must stay strong
The others are counting on my vigilance
For generations it had been passed to me to have faith
Faith in what I ask
Truths and lies, heaven and hell
Depends on your perspective, doesn’t it?
I remember my grandmother enumerate scripture and verse
Words I saw promulgated by the corrupt and pretentious
In my mind, I can hear her now
It was allowed to fight against God’s people and defeat them
And it was given authority over every tribe, nation, language and race (Rev 13.7)
Are we in the midst of the 42 months of deceit?
Or has god finally forsaken us at last?
In my mind, the answer is clear
He did fuck all with these sins of torment
I must survive to find the truths trapped in this desperate visage
What has caused the dead to rise against us?
To crave our flesh?
I will never give in to their torture
I will face my destiny with my shotgun in my hand
They will not have me
At last, the brightness of the new day severs the crack
Time to wake the others
Time to regroup
Our night in hell is over
For now, we are safe
Friday, January 15, 2010
The following is a poem inspired by one of my favorite mysterious creatures, The Mothman:
Mysterious lines cross the sky
Did you see them?
Did you see them?
He was there upon the bridge
Staring into the chasm before the despair
Shaking the mortal landscape
Their foundations cracked
Apparent only to the blind
Did you see him?
His return prophesized in scripture
At least forty years have past since the last encounter
The signs were all around
A moth flew across the clouds weakening the rafters
Blinding the populace with dissent
At last, his message revealed
Did you hear him?
Mass destruction followed
The past rises from the ashes
With the meek again standing guard
More disasters abound
Two more if the legends are true
Those eyes burn with laughter
Did you see them?
The grand wings unfurled
His presence feared
The moth again takes flight
The locations planned
Remember the point
His rise to immortality
Will this time end the same way?
Will the innocents’ death be in vain?
They bled for him
Their souls sacrificed for the good
Look at the bridge again
Do you see him?
For the longest time, great works of science fiction by acclaimed authors Jules Verne and Edgar Rice Burroughs only popularized the theory. Even my favorite author of all time, Edgar Allen Poe, ventured into this realm in his tale The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. Amazingly, I had never drawn that conclusion until I discovered it paying homage to Poe on the bicentennial of his birth. At that point, I started to pay more attention to my surroundings and realized how often this subject comes up, and it comes up quite a bit.
Even here in New Jersey, I have discovered two links to the state that have both, in some ways, discussed Hollow Earth Theory. Unfortunately, they have both passed on and cannot pass anymore of their secrets. These men, Admiral Richard Byrd (whose secret diary supposedly contains detailed information) and Cryptozoologist and USO researcher Ivan Sanderson all ventured into strange lands and came up with many theories on the possibilities that exist. Could this be true, could the Earth be hollow? As mentioned above, practical thinking says no. However, a closer look at some of the possibilities raises some interesting questions.
To start, let us explore the strange coincidence of increased Bigfoot sightings in locations of UFO sighting. Some researchers have documented that there is an increase of activity between these seemingly unrelated phenomena during times of high sightings or flaps, like the 1973 Pennsylvania Bigfoot/UFO Sighting Flap (documented by researcher Stan Gordon). When you combine this idea with a location such as Mount Shasta, the connection is clear. Mount Shasta in a fascinating location. This snow-capped peak could be the Mecca of potential Hollow Earth active, there are Bigfoot sightings, UFO sightings and even legends of strange young men with piercing blue eyes venturing out of the wilderness.
For some, this is just lore to draw tourists, to the locals; this is life near the famed mountain. This thought is not unusual in the Hollow Earth arena. Even Admiral Byrd claimed to have witnessed brown, giant, and hairy creatures residing in the upper area of Hollow Earth. In fact, as his grandson has pointed out, he saw many different creatures and vast technologies that we could only dream of. With a civilization full of knowledge and strange beings all around, there is no ceiling onto what could exist.
It is that thought, which reportedly drew Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party in search of the opening to Hollow Earth, an idea that may be surprising to some people. However, it is also easily believable when looking at the different locations that the party ventured to during his reign. Two such locations, Antarctica and Brazil, are rumored to contain entranceways into this realm. In fact, like Mount Shasta, the Brazilian Mountains are known for UFO and strange sightings. Coincidence, possibly, but I do not believe in coincidence. Other famed locations that are rumored to hide entranceways are in Mammoth Cave (Kentucky) and The Himalaya Mountains (Tibet), both locations that seem to have some type of strange activity that exists within there confines.
In looking at Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, it raised an intriguing thought. Could the Dogman of Kentucky be a similar creature to Bigfoot that exists in Hollow Earth? To me, the possibilities are endless. With so much land being virtually unexplored, how many entrances could exist? Even here in New Jersey, the famed Pine Barrens sit here uninhabited by humans (but, we do have the Jersey Devil). Could the different creatures that Cryptozoologists search for be hiding inside the Earths crust, could the UFOs or USOs be doing the same?
The thought of those questions reminded me of a story I heard of the closing of the famed Montauk Complex in New York. Legend states that the government was testing a long-range mind control weapon utilizing a high-powered antenna and a psychic in their underground facility, when something went terribly wrong. Evidently, the psychic projected a creature into the minds of the workers and hysteria commenced and many ended up dead. The next day the facility was closed forever and the underground lair was cemented in. Not long ago, a researcher on the Montauk facility actually, discovered spent shell casings that traced to that timeframe (mid 1980s) just before he was run-off by a security detachment on a state park. At first glance, that was just something that happened, but the casing proved that something was there and something was set free. With the facility being underground, and some of the black projects challenging the grounds of physics and reason, maybe the government made contact and were working with the creatures of Hollow Earth.
While that might seem like a stretch, understand that Captain John Cleves Symmes, a war hero of the War of 1812 believed in Hollow Earth and convinced millionaire James McBride of the possibility. McBride, and friend (future Vice President) Richard Johnson, together petitioned Congress for funding to explore the region, a little known fact that brings the potential cover-up of Hollow Earth into perspective.
While there is, so much information on the subject circulating the globe, documenting all of the possibilities may take forever. However, if you listen closely when people start talking about strange happenings, you may too find a connection to the Hollow Earth Theory, and maybe another hint at the power that lies beneath the depths of the planet.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Last night I was watching the movie Madhouse, a movie about a typical crazy person loose in an institution with death and destruction on his mind. I actually felt right at home watching this flick, it had all of the elements required to make horror movies at least watchable: Blood, Gore, Sexy Women, Breasts, Death, and the crazy doctor that is only interested in making money. While the movie was far from perfect, it did capture my attention for more than a few minutes.
Of course, my suffering through the movie last night was only because I couldn't focus on anything relating to any project that I am involved in. My writing was at a standstill and none of my creations were talking to me, crying to come to life. To complicate matters last night, I couldn't sleep and I spent the night tossing and turning. That bout of insomnia got me thinking about some of the other asylum movies that out there. There are a ton, and some of them aren't that bad. However, for every good one, there is one that really just doesn't live up to expectations (for me, and my horror fetish, that is most of them). Unfortunately, this trend is a big part of the horror genre in general.
No place is it more evident than in films based on stories by Edgar Allen Poe. For every movie that is good, decent and watchable, others just make you want to puke because of the way the directors of script writers intepreted Poe's genius. The following movie is one that sits somewhere in between these two extremes. Dr. Tarr's Torture Dungeon (or the Mansion of Madness) is not really a horror movie, it is actually more of an artistic imprint, yet it can be pretty scary and disturbing. So, without further fanfare here is the 1973 Poe interpretation for you to formulate you own opinion.
BTW, one of the great things abouth this film is it sits in public domain and is available as a free download if you enjoy it as much as I do at Dr. Tarr's Torture Dungeon .
Into Minds Eye
I looked for, but haven’t yet
Felt philosophies forbidden by deceit
Felt philosophies forbidden by deceit
In time, my visions clear
A soul hostage to a glance
A mind captured by a smile
A life lost in your eyes
Suddenly, clarity shines through
Swaying fate in showers of desire
With pleasures trapped beneath a shroud of darkness
Ideas of rebirth within the visage of bliss
Simple signs line the pathways to fulfillment
A spiraling signature waiting on the quill
A delicate flower in the dismal abyss
A gentle rhyme to complete the verse
Destiny awaits reality
Truth awaits providence