Monday, October 31, 2011

Trick or Treating - 2011 - Lakehurst NJ

Well, my retirement ceremony went off pretty much without a hitch today. As I expected, I had many emotions throughout the day and during the ceremony (especially when Dave read me the letter from Ambassador Rooney, which I never expected).  All-in-all, it was actually the perfect lead into Trick or Treating tonight with the girls and their friends from New Jersey. With the twins and Markie having different friends (for the most part), we split up and I got to hang out with Jolene (Captain Pajama Girl) and Jillian (Zombie with a cleaver) and if we were with Markie she was the Ghostface.  Until next year, here are some pictures from our evening in Lakehurst.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Dr. Jekyll and the Werewolf (1972)

As I was preparing to watch the Steelers game today (which we won), I decided to continue with my Pure Terror Collection. It is funny, with tomorrow being Halloween (and my retirement ceremony), I could not decide on a flick at first. Eventually, I decided on the Paul Naschy entry Dr. Jekyll and the Werewolf from 1972.

Plot/ A man tortured by the curse of the werewolf goes to London with a female companion in search of a doctor with a possible cure. The doctor turns out to be the grandson of the famous Dr. Jekyll and the two men begin researching a possible treatment involving the Mr. Hyde serum. When the lycanthropic man is injected with the serum, it causes a strange transformation in him that risks the safety of strangers and loved ones.

I love Paul Naschy movies. Sure, they aren’t the highest quality, but they are usually pretty interesting.  This one, the sixth time he dawned the werewolf costume, falls definitely falls into that interesting category (as he plays Mr. Hyde as well). There are some very good moments and the story does present a challenging endeavor by taking on two legendary horror figures in a modern setting (nothing like w werewolf showing up at a disco). All is not perfect though as the acting is uneven, the editing in this version is choppy and there just seems like something is missing. In the end, this was entertaining, but I feel that watching an unedited version may be better. Unfortunately, I did not have that version. If I could find it, I would definitely watch it. This version, not so much!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Don't Answer The Phone (1980)

While the sleet and snow fell today and I was waiting to firm up plans for dinner with my family who have travelled in for the retirement ceremony, I sat down to continue on with the Pure Terror Collection. My selection for the early afternoon was the 1980 horror / thriller Don’t Answer The Phone.

 Plot/ A deeply disturbed photographer and Vietnam veteran terrorizes Los Angeles by going around strangling lingerie-clad young women in their homes. How long until the police finally catch-up up with this psychopath?   

So far in this set, there has been some good and some bad, but you actually sort of expect that. Unfortunately, some of the bad is so terrible that I see now why I had never seen it before. This is one of those cases, complete with the signature bad acting, laughable dialogue, terrible soundtrack and a simple yet unrefined plot that makes little to no sense. Hell, even the costuming is bad (even for the 1980s). Really, there is not much worth talking about with this one  (except that there is some random nudity), unless it was truly written as a comedy (which I doubt). In the end, stay away from this one (unless you just love a cheesefest), sure it has a great title, but that is about where the greatness (and any good parts) end!

More Details About Saving A Piece Of Horror Cinematic History

This has been a whirlwind week. It started off with the great Undead Festival in Asbury Park, worked through all of my check-out procedures, and I now I settling in for my official retirement ceremony Monday at 1 o’clock. It is hard to believe that 21 years have passed by so quick and as of Monday (well, really December 31 as I have two months vacation) I will be done with my Naval career. On to bigger and better, right? Well, As I was sitting down tonight searching for more information on the potential West Virginia University move to the Big 12 (Let’s go Mountaineers!), I stumbled upon some more information about the Save the Chapel movement that I blogged about earlier in the week. 

This information was taken directly from their facebook page and stands as a historic look at the chapel that George A. Romero made the world see and a look at how the weather has taken a toll on the future of this iconic horror landmark.  Erected in the 1920s as a chapel (used for one funeral), its cultural status lives on. Unfortunately, a few years after construction, the idea for the chapel changed and it was basically a high-priced storage shed. Over time, the chapel has fallen into a state of disrepair. The windows are shuttered. The roof is leaking. Time and the elements have battered the exterior. Cemetery officials estimate it will take $50,000 in cosmetic improvements to return the structure to its former glory. Fortunately the original sound engineer on Night of the Living Dead, Gary Streiner, created this grassroots effort designed to restore the chapel and as he states, this more than a local project, it is a project that can benefit zombie and movie fans young and old.

“The cemetery is so iconic in the whole zombie-horror world,” he says. “If fans knew they could come to the chapel and see it as more than just a boarded-up building, it would draw a lot more people. It would be nice to see it become a ‘Night of the Living Dead’ museum.” Though the organization has until next fall to get the restoration ball rolling, it is clear by the initial response that the goal can be reached and the vision can become a reality. Fans are already creating zombie walks, movie viewings and art shows to benefit the cause, but there is always room for more, as they are looking for individuals from every walk-of-life or skill set to help.

The organization is building a website and will soon have a Paypal account to aid fundraising efforts, but until then, anyone interested can make donations ICO Fix the Chapel at:

Checks made payable to “Fix the Chapel” can be sent to:
NexTier Bank
P.O. Box A
Evans City, PA 16033

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave (1971)

Today seems like a blur, my Hail and Farewell Breakfast, followed by my retirement ceremony practice. Wow, Monday is almost here, and I can move on to bigger and better things. Since I really have no life lately, I decided to sit back and watch yet another flick from the Pure Terror Collection; this entry is The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave from 1971.

Plot/ A wealthy English lord is suffering a mental breakdown following the death of his red-headed wife, Evelyn, whom he feared was cheating on him. He tours local bars and dives, scouring for lovely red-heads willing to come back to his decaying castle in the country, where he seduces them, then tortures and kills them.

This 1970s combination Gothic Horror / Giallo is quite an interesting flick; full of just enough os these cinematic influences to an enjoyable and creepy atmospheric film. Filmed on a lower budget, the movie boasts solid acting, some disturbing moments, a decent soundtrack, awesome cinematography and decent characterization. Yes, the storyline is simple and there are some pacing issues (especially through the first section of the film), but overall those flaws are rather minor.  Throw in the great combination of some intelligent murders and nudity and you have a winner. In the end, this is not a great film, but it is an entertaining and very good flick that should be watched if you get the chance.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Satan's Slave (1976)

After watching some decent movies, it was time to get myself prepared for this weeks episode of American Horror Story (I am bummed, I missed last weeks and that halted my weekly review – but I will catch up Monday). So, I decided to sit back and watch some Satanic / Reincarnation goodness with the 1976 entry Satan’s Slave (AKA Evil Heritage)

Plot/ A young girl is caught up in a devil cult run by her evil uncle and cousin. She can trust no one and even people she thought were dead comes back to haunt her.

This flick was definitely one that I enjoyed. Any time you get bizarre twists with some mind-provoking imagery couples with equal amounts of nudity and bloodshed, you should have a winner. This one had all of that and more. In fact, other than some minor pacing issues and some strange illogical story twists that were a bit confusing, everything else worked. The acting and characterization were solid, atmosphere was creepy, the cinematography was on point and the effects were decent considering the age of the film (love the head smashing and pin to the eye). More importantly, the ending was quite an enjoyable twist that was not expected. In the end, this 1976 film seems to stand as a marker for the tragic end of the Hammer Horror monopoly, demonstrating that society had tired of the Hammer blueprint, and quality gore, horror and supernatural movies could come from other studio's as well. Overall, I would definitely recommend this one to horror fans or fans of the 1970s, and the great thing is, it is available for less than full price on a few Mill Creek Box Sets… A Win-Win for all!  

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Embalmer AKA Monster of Venice (1965)

Last night after the bizarre Death Warmed up, I continued with the Pure Terror Collection by watching the 1965 entry The Embalmer (AKA The Monster of Venice).

Plot/ A crazed killer is on the loose in the catacombs of Venice, Italy. He stalks beautiful women, drags them to his underground lair, kills them, then stuffs them and adds them to his collection.

I definitely got the idea that this was an early example of what would eventually hit the more mainstream as a giallo. Unfortunately, while that was an interesting twist to discover, the film as it is does not deliver in any way. Truly the movie makes little sense (come on a frogman grabbing women in the canals of Venice). The movie suffers from off pacing, terrible acting and possibly the worst dubbing I have seen since Godzilla. I will admit that there are some suspenseful moments and the manikins do provide some creepy moments, not to mention that most of this was extremely taboo for 1965. While I can say I will not be watching this one again, fans of 1960s murder mysteries may enjoy it more than I did. Do not run out any purchase this one anytime soon!

Yes, You Can Help Save the Chapel from Night of the Living Dead

Last weekend I had the opportunity to meet and talk with some of the cast of Night of the Living Dead, arguably the most influential horror flick of all time. For many, this definitely one of the most loved and classic films of all time and more importantly, it laid the groundwork for the zombie culture that we have in our lives today.

As many know, portions of this masterpiece were filmed in the Evans City Cemetery, and by now, many (even if you are not fans of horror) have seen the quaint little chapel shown in the beginning of the film when Barbara and Johnny arrive. As I found out in talking with some of the cast, this chapel, while still there, has fallen to a state of disrepair and it is in danger of being torn down. Gary Streiner, original sound engineer on the film, has started the Save the Chapel initiative, a grass roots group of Night of the Living Dead fans who do not want to see the chapel in the Evans City Cemetery torn down.

 (Picture by Sheldon Higdon)
Being from the South Western Pennsylvania area, this movement hit home with me as Night of the Living Dead was one of the first horror movies I saw on Chiller Theatre with Chilly Billy as a kid. I am not usually one who blogs about causes, but honestly this is one that can save a true piece of horror cinematic history and one that I plan of becoming more and more active with once I return to Pennsylvania in less than a week. If you would like any further information on the project check out their page at Save the Chapel. A website for this initiative is in the works, keep checking back for all of the details. Please spread the word and help us restore a part of movie and horror history!

This coming weekend, Northern Nightmares presents CHILLER THEATRE at THE STRAND THEATRE in Zelienople, PA where they will be showing the George A. Romero (and all-time) classic NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD to benefit the restoration of the Evans City Cemetery Chapel, as seen in the opening of the movie. All The event runs Friday and Saturday OCT 28-29 at 7:30 and Sunday OCT 30 at 4:00 and feature special guests Russ Streiner (Johnny), Kyra Schon (Karen Cooper), and Gary Streiner (Sound Engineer and Props master). Allseats for this event are $6.00. For more information on the screening go to The Strand Theater website or if you desire to do more, check out the Save the Chapel group webpage.

The guys over at the Corpse O'Clock News have made a great video on this cause, check it out!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Death Warmed Up (1984)

After deciding to take a break last night to watch Monday Night Football and Castle, I decided to jump back into my Pure Terror Collection with the 1984 import Death Warmed Up.

Plot/ Michael is hypnotized by a scientist to kill his parents and ends up in a mental institution. Years later, as a grown up, the boy returns to seek revenge over the scientist.

Honestly, I have no idea where to begin with this flick. It is so weird and incoherent, that even the parts that make sense may not really make any. The storyline is choppy, full of bizarre twists (motorcycles in the tunnels, really?) and enough plot holes to make it like Swiss cheese. Sure, there is a ton of violence and gore (OK, not the best special effects), in fact, some of the killings are actually pretty vicious (shotgun blast to the crotch has to hurt), couple that with a variety of Saw-like brain surgeries and unplanned impalements and you have plenty of blood to go around (and I have not mentioned zombies yet, yes, there are even zombies). Unfortunately, all of those moments cannot save the viewer from the totally unbelievable conglomeration filmed. Sure, there are some interesting camera angles, decent editing and a respectable soundtrack that really work within this one, but the terrible acting, poor characterization and totally laughable dialogue (and did I mention bizarre plot and poor effects?) really bring this one down. In the end, I have to admit that I enjoyed this flick on some levels (especially the ending, I did not see that coming) and I may watch it again to try to understand it. That being said, I cannot recommend anyone running out to buy this one, but if you have it as part of a cheap box set, go ahead and give it a whirl. It may not be perfect, but it will make you scratch your head and laugh at the same time.   

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Eerie Midnight Horror Show (1974)

As many know, I love 1970s exploitation and horror, and sometimes flicks come out that should have / could have been much better. One such flick is the Eerie Midnight Horror Show (AKA The Tormented, AKA The Sexorcist, AKA Enter the Devil)  from the Pure Terror Collection.

Plot/ The story in this horror movie revolves around a strange religious icon and the demonic sexual influence it exerts on a young art student. After a gory dream sequence in which the woman imagines being nailed to a cross herself, the statue eventually comes to life and begins to sexually torment her.

This is one frustrating movie. Created as an Italian rip off of The Exorcist, this film boasts some very good moments and actually some originality. Unfortunately, all of that ends about the halfway mark (roughly 46 minutes into it), that is when the awesome Italian exploitation, horror and originality end and the Exorcist begins. In fact, in those 46 minutes, the pacing, effects, story and acting are so believable and entertaining that you truly expect a masterpiece (the S&M with long stem roses, the crucifix coming to life and the random sexploitation are awesome!). Once the filmmakers lose track of that originality and focus on ripping off the Hollywood classic, the film becomes utter trash killing any interest that had been built by the genius of the first half of the movie. For serious horror and exploitation fans, I truly recommend the first 46 minutes of the movie. Sure, that will leave you wanting more, but so will watching the rest of the garbage that they added onto this one.

The Curse of Bigfoot (1978)

Now that my weekend at the New Jersey Zombie Walk and Undead Festival are done and I started reading the awesome book Silent Invasion by Stan Gordon that my mom picked up for me about the 1970s UFO/Bigfoot Flap in South Western Pennsylvania, I decided to do some Bigfoot watching of my own. Of course, here in New Jersey, it is mostly Jersey Devil hunting (although, that owl last night was pretty creepy here at the office). My selection is the 1978 (or 1858, I am so confused) campy entry The Curse of Bigfoot  from the Pure Terror Collection.  

Plot/ A group of high school students on an archaeological dig discover a century’s old mummified body in a sealed cave. Removing the mummy, it soon comes back to life, revealing itself to be an inhuman beast that terrorizes a small California town.

Incredibly, this made for television Bigfoot flick from the 1970s took almost 20 years to make. Really, this campy and entertaining stinkfest started out originally as the flick, Teenagers Battle the Thing in 1959 before morphing into this mess. Honestly, they should have left the footage alone instead of using it as a crazy flashback. Perfect for the vintage afternoon creature feature scene, this film is just BAD.  The acting is poor, the soundtrack does not match the scenes and the costuming creates probably the worst Bigfoot I have ever seen. Couple that with an unbelievable premise and some poor dialogue and you have the idea; bad, bad, bad. But, to be honest, all of that actually makes an entertaining flick (albeit for all the wrong reasons). If you are a fan of drive-in classics, creature features, camp or horror host specials this movie is definitely for you! All others stay far away!

The Hollows (2001)

One of the things that I love about going to conventions or film festivals is the chance to pick-up some true underground indie horror. These flicks are the true grass-roots, no budget gems that are being done, not for the money or fame, but for the love of the genre. Everyone knows what these are, they are the movies that sit on the table at 5 bucks, and are made with little-to-no budget, with local footage and citizens as extras, and maybe one or two trained actors (this one does feature Suzi Lorraine). This weekend at the New Jersey Zombie Walk and Undead Festival I was psyched to find a few such films from Amplo Films. The first one I have watched and will review is The Hollows.

Plot/ When all is lost and death is near, darkness walks on Halloween. Soon, one discovers blood is like a drug, and the killings just cannot stop.  

Like many of these low-budget / no-budget entries, there are flaws. This one is no exception in the sound quality, lighting and acting. But, to the credit of this film, those are easy to overlook (if you watch with an open mind). To be honest, with a film that features a few trained actors, the performances are not that bad and relatively believable (as is the dialogue). The special effects (blood, lots of blood), the settings (loved the local haunted house), the dream sequences and the storyline really work.  For me, it was easy to see the potential of this flick, and imagine what could have taken place with a bigger budget and such. Sure, there were flaws, but sometimes those flaws should be overlooked due to the simple down-to-earth entertainment value of a flick.

When I am viewing these and now sitting down to write a review, it is more about the vision that I write about than all of the normal items that I would usually blog. Being such a grass-roots indie flick, I should hope that everyone (especially potential viewers) would be open-minded enough to look past the inherent flaws that come with these movies. Unfortunately, I have found in the circle of horror movie reviewers out there that is not usually the case, and that the quality of the flick often takes a greater meaning and that these flaws are pointed out and become the basis of the review. To that, I say Bullshit! This movie had some very interesting dream sequences that featured some surreal scripting and some decent editing and camera work. That was one of the things that made this so entertaining; there were scenes that truly showed a coherent vision in my eyes even if the above mentioned flaws exist.

True indie cinema is what horror was built on through the 1960s and 1970s (maybe the 80s with the direct to VHS boom).  If it was not for these no-budget gems, where would horror be? After all, Hollywood only seems to rehash and redo great films from the past and other than a few picture companies have lost the creative horror touch. Plus, these filmmakers truly do not care if there is a ton of good or bad reviews, hell they could careless if they have any, they are just still plugging away making the movies that they want. When I bought these flicks, I gladly spent the 10 bucks, because I knew that the money would be put toward the next project and isn’t that what this country and horror cinema was built on?

If interested in picking up a copy of the Hollows or any Amplo Film production, it looks like you have to email them through their MySpace Page or get lucky and find one at a horror convention or something along those lines. That being said, I would not recommend this one for everyone. But TRUE fans of no-budget indie horror should check it out if they get the chance.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

NJ Zombie Walk and Undead Festival - Day 2

So, I was able to spend the entire day hanging out with all the guys at Bad Zombie both working the merch table and enjoying the festivities of this great three day event. More importantly, I got to talk with some of the cast members of Night of the Living Dead about saving a piece of horror history (details will follow later in the week). Here are some random pics from the day.

(with make-up artist from Airbrushing Concepts)