Archive for the ‘Drive-in’ Category

the-blob-film-1988There is one film in my vault of horrors that I watch every Halloween, regardless of what my yearly theme may be. It’s a film I associate with the holiday, (despite having nothing to do with it) starting way back to when I was fresh out of diapers, and stumbled across it for the first time on cable. Now I’m sure many purists out there will scream blaspheme when they discover it’s a remake, but it’s one of the best, and a prime example of how they should be done. Taking what worked from the original, and building upon it while omitting the kitschy bits that kept it from achieving greatness.

The film in question is a mortifying one, responsible for my outright abhorrence of a certain Cosby marketed gelatinous treat that makes me gag just thinking about it. The crusty film that spreads across its surface if left to fester in the fridge for too long. The way it jiggles upon a spoon as it creeps toward your mouth, and how it slurps, and slithers down your throat like an edible slug. I’m of course talking about Jell-O, and its amorphous acidic older brother, The Blob.blob-4

Released in 1988, The Blob is director Chuck Russell, (known for A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors) and writer Frank Darabont’s, (of Shawshank Redemption, The Mist, and spawning the now beloved Walking Dead series) loving remake of the Steve McQueen led 1958 classic.

The film follows the citizens of Arborville, California as they’re attacked by an organism that devours, and dissolves anything unfortunate enough to cross its path, while growing to astronomical proportions in the process.

blobThe major divergence from the original was making the creature a biological weapon, rather than an extraterrestrial organism, which provides a terrifying political subtext that’s much more effective than the outer space craze so rampant in films from the fifties, and sixties.

The gruesome special effects, provided by the legendary Tony Gardner, (Army of Darkness, Michael Jackson’s Thriller) are extraordinary for the time the film was released, and hold up exceptionally when compared to what we see today.
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The Blob, is hands down one of the top three best remakes of all time, the other two being Carpenter’s Thing, and Cronenberg’s The Fly. It’s gory, it’s scary, and it’s a hell of a good way to kill an hour and change.

A fun fact to end on, Tony Gardner has been investigated two times by authorities. The first, by the FBI, then again by the Arizona State Police, and Missing Persons Bureau for his work on .

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fred-dekker

The eighties in a single picture.

I’ve touched briefly upon director’s in my previous posts, greats like Romero, Carpenter, Cronenberg, Hitchcock, Jackson, as well as a few lesser known names like Henenlotter, Solet, and Craig.

Today I’d like to introduce you to another relatively unknown name, a man responsible for two of my all time favourite horror films, and a handful of episodes from the groundbreaking HBO anthology series, Tales From the Crypt. The one, and only, Fred Dekker.

Fred Dekker was born in 1959, in San Francisco, California. A comic book fanatic, cinephile, and horror nerd from an early age, Dekker applied at USC, and UCLA for film studies, and was subsequently rejected by both. He attended UCLA,  majoring in English instead, and it was there where he met frequent collaborators Shane Black, Ed Solomon, and Chris Matheson.

His big break in the movie industry came after writing the Steve Miner directed, Sean S. Cunningham produced horror-comedy House, and from there he went on the write, and direct the two cult classics I’d like to talk about today, Night of the Creeps, and Monster Squad.

     Night of the Creeps.

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Released in 1986, Fred Dekker’s directorial debut is a loving homage of B-movies that mixes the best bits of zombie, slasher, alien invasion, and creature feature films into a unique, and thoroughly enjoyable picture.

The film follows a couple of loveable university dorks, who unwittingly release a horde of alien slugs after stealing a cadaver in an attempt to join a fraternity. Aided by a haunted detective, the three must fend off an army of zombie-like creatures infected by the slugs before their quaint little own is overrun.

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Night of the Creeps is one of those rare films that makes you smile from start to finish no matter how many times you’ve watched it. The chemistry amongst the cast is wonderful, with a standout performance from the legendary Tom Atkins as Detective Ray Cameron, who chews up every scene he’s given, and the creature effects hold up surprisingly well, thanks in part to Dekker’s reliance on prosthetics, and practical effects.

Although I’ve never seen him admit it out loud, or in an interview, Slither, by James Gunn can be seen as a spiritual successor of sorts to Night of the Creeps, and if you haven’t seen it either, I recommend you watch it immediately, and note the similarities between the two.

Monster Squad

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To put it plainly, Monster Squad is essentially the Goonies meet the Universal Monsters.

The story is every child whom grew up loving horror’s fantasy come true, and follows the Monster Squad, group of preteen friends who idolize monsters, and get more than they bargain for when Dracula aided by the Wolfman, Mummy, and Gill-man show up in their picturesque town searching for an amulet capable of helping him take over the world.

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Monster Squad is an important film to me. Back when I was fresh out of diapers my grandmother taped it off cable, and I’d watch it for hours while visiting the old farm house where I was born, eventually playing the damned thing into oblivion. It wasn’t until 2007 that I’d get a chance to watch it again after the release of the 20th anniversary DVD, and little has changed since those early days of my youth. Like all of Fred Dekker’s work there’s an inherent playfulness at work, almost as though conceived through the imagination of a child.

Unfortunately Dekker hasn’t written or directed anything like his first two films in quite some time, thanks in part to their lukewarm critical reception, and box office returns, but if the 2010’s have taught me anything it’s that nostalgia is a goldmine, and there’s always the possibility that the long talked about sequel to Monster Squad might be just around the corner, provided his work with Shane Black on the new Predator film is successful.

So I ask of you this Mr. Dekker,

thrill-me

 

event-horizon

Ridley Scott’s Alien redefined the sci-fi/ horror movie in 1979, with its tense atmosphere, and reliance on isolation and paranoia to evoke a sense of terror in the viewer, themes that were later explored in John Carpenter’s The Thing, a film I feel expanded on the groundwork laid by Alien.

Until then science-fiction had been a relatively one-note genre: aliens invade earth, humans band together to stop them, roll credits, a trope popularized by the Drive-in classics of the fifties, and sixties in titles such as War of the Worlds, When Worlds Collide, The Day the Earth Stood Still, and Invaders from Mars. Sure, there were a few exceptions, notably, Invasion of the Body Snatchers that veered more into the realm of horror than science fiction, but most were generally tame affairs.

Unfortunately Alien’s sequels ditched the these darker themes in favour of action, after James Cameron’s Aliens was an overwhelming success, and for years we saw a draught of truly scary sci-fi/ horror films.

Enter 1997’s Event Horizon, a return to form of sorts to the genre, directed by Paul W.S. Anderson, (known for his adaptations of Mortal Kombat, and Resident Evil) and starring Sam Neill, and Laurence Fishburne.

The film follows members of the rescue vessel Lewis and Clark, tasked with answering a distress call from the starship, Event Horizon that disappeared during its maiden voyage to Proxima Centauri. The Event Horizon, was designed to test an experimental gravity drive capable of generating artificial black holes to reduce time travel across astronomical distances. Once onboard the ship, the crew of Lewis and Clark find evidence of a massacre, and soon discover that the gravity drive worked, and has opened a portal to a hellish dimension.

Event Horizon has a bit of a bizarre development history. After the success of Mortal Kombat, Anderson was offered the job by Paramount, but it required him to make the film before a set release date, a deadline that would severely reduce the length of the post-production period. Anderson, who wanted to make an R-rated film, agreed, and ended up editing the film in six-weeks, rather than the typical ten-week period.

During a test screening of Anderson’s rushed, rough-cut of the film, members of the audience apparently fainted due to the extreme amount of gore, which then caused Paramount to demand a shorter cut of the film with most of it taken out.

The final product released to scathing reviews, and tanked at the box office regaining only 47 of its 60 million dollar budget, with many critics siting the lack of a cohesive plot as the film’s biggest issue. Anderson, has since gone on the record saying that, although the original cut was justifiably long Paramount forced him to make one that ended up being too short, and could have benefited from restoring around ten minutes of the missing footage. These deleted scenes, although graphic, offered more backstory to fill in the plot holes left in the final cut, many of which can be found on the two-disc special edition DVD of the film.

Event Horizon is an enjoyable film regardless of the shortcomings inflicted by studio meddling. It’s a homage to the films that inspired it, namely the aforementioned Alien, and The Thing, but it also borrows heavily from H.P. Lovecraft as well. The practical effects are wonderfully grotesque, and credit needs to be given to Anderson for using real-life amputees during the scenes where the crew is being mutilated to help intensify the realism.

Hopefully one day we’ll get to see Anderson’s original vision for Event Horizon. He stated in a 2012 interview that he’d tracked down a VHS tape containing the rough cut of the film, and would love to release a director’s cut provided Paramount shows interest.

Severed fingers crossed, skiddies.

 

 

chillerama

If you haven’t noticed over the past few days, I’m a huge fan of anthologies. It probably stems from my love of short stories, an adoration born in my Tweens while digesting the work of Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov. H.P Lovecraft, and Poe. There’s something special about a short story, like a kiss in the company of darkness or a chilly breeze on a humid summer day. There for a moment, but not easily forgotten,

Anthologies are no different if done right. I could talk endlessly about the classics, titles such as Trilogy of Terror, Dead of Night, Asylum, Creepshow, From a Whisper to a Scream, and Trick’R’Treat to name a few, but despite my love for these films, I’ve never really been one to go the mainstream route. Instead I’d like to take a look at another hidden gem conjured by the twisted minds of Adam Rifkin, Tim Sullivan, Adam Green, and Joe Lynch, a film like no other, (mainly because it’s too bat shit ridiculous to come from anyone else) Chillerama.

Conceived while Rifkin, and Sullivan were working on Detroit Rock City, after the two discovered they had a mutual love for drive-in B-movies, creature features, and horror, the film was originally entitled, Famous Monsters of Filmland, a nod to a magazine they grew up reading.

Chillerama is split into four segments tied together by a wraparound story about a drunken, theatre employee who digs up his dead wife to commit necrophilia and is subsequently bitten by her on his genitals. Yep, you read that right. Each of the segments, (played out as different movies during a marathon screening at the theatre) pays homage to a different era in film.

wadzilla

Coming soon to a Uterus near you!

Wadzilla, a spoof of the drive-in monster movies from the 1950’s, follows a man who undergoes a procedure to increase his sperm count, but instead creates a single giant sperm that terrorizes New York City.

The creature effects were provided by the Chiodo Brothers, the boys responsible for creating the Critters, and Killer Klown’s from Outer Space to name a few.

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Fun Times in the locker room.

I Was a Teenage Werebear, is a musical riff of Grease, Twilight, and Rebel Without a Cause, that follows a closeted teen who meets a group of boys who, when aroused turn into Werebears.

The short was later adapted by Sullivan, and Sean Abley as a stage musical.

annefrankenstein

Es Lebt!!! Es Lebt!!!

Diary of Anne Frankenstein is pretty much exactly what you expect
it to be, a combination of The Diary of Anne Frank, and Frankenstein. The story follows Hitler during world war II as he attempts to build an army of unstoppable killing machines.

The always amazing Joel David Moore, (from Hatchet, Grandma’s Boy, and Dodgeball fame) hams it up as Hitler, and Jason Vorhees himself, Kane Hodder plays his Jewish monster.

zom-bposter

Zom-B movie is a spoof of 70’s, and 80’s zombie flicks that I’d really rather let you watch for yourselves!

I will say that the soundtrack for the segment was composed by the legendary Bear McCreary, who most will surely recognize as the man behind one of the few consistently amazing aspects of AMC’s The Walking Dead, its soundtrack, and theme song.

Chillerama is the kind of film that needs to be seen to be believed. It’s ludicrous, offensive, never takes itself too seriously, and is a shitload of fun! It’s also a treasure-trove of all things horror for fanatics like myself, featuring several cameos, and neat little winks to the films that inspired it.

Until next time skiddies.

Stay Scared!