Archive for the ‘Monsters’ 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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dogsoldiersA good werewolf film is hard to come by these days. Aside from the obvious Universal monsters, Wolfman there have been arguably three effectively scary films featuring the furry bastards throughout film history, An American Werewolf in London, The Howling, and the subject of today’s post, Dog Soldiers.

Directed by Neil Marshall, (also responsible for the stellar, The Descent) Dog Soldiers follows six British Army soldiers on a training mission in the Scottish Highlands who face off against a family of ravenous werewolves.dogsoldiers2

The special effects are amazing, the werewolves themselves some of the best ever created for the screen, and the cast, including everyone’s favourite Onion Knight, Liam Cunningham are fantastic as well.

If there’s one complaint I have, it would be that I’ve been waiting since 2004, for its sequel Fresh Meat!

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I love Clive Barker. There’s something about the man’s seamless blend of the morbid, and erotic that I’ve always been attracted to.

Hellraiser was one of the first true horror movies I watched as a child, and I still remember the experience vividly. Sneaking out from my bed, and creeping downstairs. Peeking out from behind the wall that separated the living room from the entryway in my childhood home, and listening to the blood-curdling screams as a leather-bound man with pins embedded in his head summoned chains from the pits of hell to dismember those unfortunate enough to stumble upon the gateway to his realm. I instantly fell in love, and peed a little, but mostly the love.

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It wasn’t until many years later that I discovered Nightbreed, an adaptation of his horror-fantasy novel Cabal that was released in 1990.

The film nightbreed2follows Aaron Boone, a mentally unstable man who dreams of a supernatural world that exists within a cemetery called Midian, and is led to believe by his psychotherapist, (David Cronenberg in a thoroughly terrifying role) to be the serial killer responsible for the murders of several families. After escaping Doctor Philip Decker, (who we soon discover is the serial killer, surprise, surprise) Boone takes refuge in Midian, and discovers its denizens are an ancient race known as the Nightbreed who were driven to near extinction by humans. Once there he must lead the Nightbreed in a defence against Dr. Decker who intends to destroy them all.

Nightbreed is another example of  studio mistreatment, in this case 20th Century Fox. The studio barely promoted the film, and much to Barker’s chagrin, released a handful of misleading posters, and trailers that marketed the film as a slasher, and not the unique horror-fantasy that it was. They also refused to screen it for test-audiences, and critics, arguing that the people who watch horror don’t read reviews, causing the film to be sold to the lowest common denominator.nightbreed3

Unsurprisingly the film tanked, regaining only 8.9 of its 11 million dollar budget, and quickly faded into obscurity, but has since found a new audience thanks to Scream Factory’s release of the director’s cut on bluray.

Nightbreed is quirky, grotesque, and rich with as much homosexual undertones as you’d expect to find in a Clive Barker piece of art, and I love it.

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Do yourselves a favour skiddies, and check out Nightbreed.

Midian awaits you.

 

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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

 

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Over the last few weeks I’ve focused on horror mainly in film, television, and literature, but today I thought I’d shake things up a bit, and take a look at a medium I’ve always found to be a fertile ground for the genre, video games. There’s something effective about placing people in control of characters surrounded by danger, and terror, and developers have been trying to capture that magic for nearly forty years.

I could talk to death about mainstream titles like Resident Evil, Doom, and Silent Hill, and their impact on horror gaming, but everyone knows them. Instead I’d like to take a gander at a few obscure titles.

Monster party.

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Monster Party is one of the most  brilliantly nutty 8-bit gems on the NES. The game follows Billy, who after being confronted by a sentient gargoyle requesting his help sets off on a quest with his trusty baseball bat to save its world. Along the way Billy battles punk-rock zombies, singing plants, cow hurdling minotaurs, and…floating breaded tempura shrimp, and onion rings? I get the feeling drugs were consumed during development, (Billy transforms into a gargoyle after picking up a pill for Christ sakes!) because the whole game is a gleefully dark, and bat-shit experience. Monster Party is about as scary as you’d expect an 8-bit title to be, (not very) but credit however must be given to the atmospheric soundtrack, and imaginative first stage of the game, which effectively sets an eerie tone right from the get go. Also, the cover art was the stuff of nightmares, guaranteed to mortify any child unlucky enough to stumble upon it while shuffling through the game rack of his local video store during the eighties.

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Just look at this shit. LOOK AT IT!

                                                           Zombies Ate My Neighbours

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Lucasarts made a name for themselves in the late eighties, and early nineties developing point and click adventure games like Monkey Island, Maniac Mansion, and Day of the Tentacle for the PC, but during the 16-bit era they ventured into the action-adventure realm with a little horror gem called Zombies Ate My Neighbours.

ZAMN as it will be called for the duration of this post, because the title has too many damn letters for me to keep typing, is a top-down, co-op, run-and-gun game that tasks players with rescuing their neighbours in a variety of horror inspired settings while trying to survive an onslaught of horror-movie monsters like werewolves, mutants, giant babies, squid men, blobs, aliens, and of course the titular zombies. To progress through each level players are required to rescue at least one neighbour, and if all of them die, it’s game over. To do so, players have a number of inventive weapons at their disposal, such as dishes, UZI water guns, weed-whackers, Soda-pop grenades, and many more.

ZAMN is a noteworthy title, because of the heavy censorship it received upon release. Nintendo, having a strict policy against excessive violence in their games ordered all depictions of blood, and gore to be replaced with purple ooze, a similar fate that befell the original Mortal Kombat when ported to the SNES. Many European nations censored even more of ZAMN, changing its name to simply, Zombies, and replacing the chainsaw wielding enemies with lumberjacks sporting axes.

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                                                                 The Souls series

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I know I said I was going to avoid mainstream titles for this post, but I couldn’t help myself for the last entry on the list. No series captures what makes a horror game effective so much so as FromSoftware’s Souls titles, Demon’s, Dark, and the most recent, Bloodborne. Each entry contains a dark, and atmospheric world with little reason given as to why you’re there, adaptable monstrosities lurking around every corner, limited resources at your disposal with which to slay them or survive their relentless attacks, and death actually matters, serving as a method of increasing the game’s difficulty.

You are never so close to sheer terror as you are while playing a Souls game, and that’s why it rounds out this list.

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That’s all for today skiddlets. Please feel free to comment, and share some of your favourite horror titles.

I’m always up for a new scare!

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Creature features are a tough sell these days as we’ve seen pretty much all there is to see in terms of monsters gobbling up humans like the earth is an all you can eat buffet. Wolf-men, vampires, creatures from the Black Lagoon, check, check, check. Radioactive dinosaurs, ants, ticks, check, check, check. Flesh-eating plants, intergalactic porcupines, Killer Klowns from Outer Space check, check, check. Sharknados, telekinetic tires, and Ron Jeremy’s penis… sadly another triple check, and so on in infinitum. Do you see a trend? It would appear that as the years progress filmmakers are attempting to make things that aren’t scary, well, scary, (not counting Ron Jeremy’s penis of course. That thing is terrifying). So it’s always a pleasant surprise when a creature feature comes along that brings something unique to the sinner table, without stumbling into the absolutely ludicrous.

Take 2008’s Splinter, for example. On paper it has a fairly simple plot. A couple on route to a romantic camping trip in the forests of Oklahoma, (words I never thought I’d put together) are car-jacked by an escaped convict, and his junkie girlfriend. After suffering a flat tire the four end up seeking shelter in an abandoned gas station, and soon find themselves attacked by a parasitic fungus that reanimates the flesh of the dead in creative, and disturbing ways.

Splinter works because of its simplicity. There’s no complex backstory explaining the origin of the fungus, no end of the world type scenario, there’s just a handful of people in a small environment doing the best they can to survive.

Co-Writer/ director Toby Wilkins, did an excellent job with the relatively small budget he had to work with by focussing more on the characters, and less on the creature itself. Also praise is due for one of the most brutal amputation scenes I’ve ever witnessed.

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The creature itself is splendidly grotesque. It’s essentially a zombie with notes of John Carpenter’s Thing, and a little Cabin Fever flesh-eating disease tossed in for fun, and the mix of practical, and CGI really bring it to life.

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Splinter is definitely worth a watch, and is ranked high on my list of favourite horror films from 2008.

That’s all for today my dearest darklings, and as always stay scared!

monsters

In honor of Thankskilling, (er giving) this weekend I’ll be doing things a little differently. Instead of offering the usual bite-sized horror appetizers I’ve been bringing to the sinner table, I’ll be serving a veritable smorgasbord of grizzly treats. A Stake-Out dinner, so to speak. So slap on your barf bags, and prepare to delve into the idiot-box for today’s feast of fears. The items on the menu come courtesy of Chef, Richard P. Rubinstein, one of the masterminds behind Tales From the Darkside. I do hope you’re hungry, because the portion sizes are monstrous.

Monsters, an anthology series that ran from October of 1988 to April of 1991 was a spiritual successor of sorts to Tales From the Darkside, but whereas Darkside often ventured into the realm of science fiction and fantasy, Monsters remained firmly rooted in horror.

Much like its older sibling, many of the stories were written by genre veterans like Stephen King, Robert Bloch, and Michael McDowell, (for those unfamiliar with McDowell, he’s the man responsible for creating the ghost with the most, Beetlejuice). The episodes were generally mean-spirited affairs, with a rotating cast featuring cameos from a slew of now famous actors as well as genre mainstays like Linda Blair, Ashley Laurence, Billy Drago, and Meatloaf. Believe me, there’s nothing quite like watching Tony Shalhoub, Matt Leblanc, David Spade, and Jerry Stiller slumming it before becoming household names.

The bread and butter of the show however were the monsters themselves, putrid grotesqueries ranging from unsettling, (Holly) to completely ludicrous, (Bee-Woman)  but all wonderfully unique, and memorable thanks to the prosthetics, and animatronics common at the time.

There are three seasons worth of episodes, but the ones I’ve selected for today’s post all come from the first, and best in my opinion. Monsters suffered a fate similar to those of its kind like Tales from the Darkside, and Crypt, in that the longer they went on the more they dipped in quality. There are a few diamonds in the rough in the later seasons, such as Stephen King’s The Moving Finger, Talk Nice to Me, and The Farmer’s daughter, but they don’t have quite the lasting effect as the ones I’ve chosen for you today.

That’s enough history, let’s get started, shall we?

                                                                         Holly’s House.

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There’s something inherently creepy about children’s programming, puppets in particular being the worst offenders, especially those that resemble little girls, and are suffering from a killer case of separation anxiety.

Holly’s House follows Katherine, actress and star of a popular kids show who controls a child-sized robot named Holly via a remote control system attached to her central nervous system. Stressed after discovering her costar Mike the Mailman has gotten her pregnant, Holly begins to say awful things to Katherine, and lash out at members of the cast without her control. Is Holly alive? Or is Katherine in the middle of a violent identity crisis?

Holly’s House is an impressive slice of television considering the budget they had to work with. Holly, herself is a technical marvel for the time, and the set of the titular show has a tremendously unsettling quality about it. The storyline also has a surprising amount of depth when compared to other members of the inanimate objects come to life subgenre of horror.

                                                                          Pillow Talk

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This episode is the reason why I adore Monsters. No idea was too bizarre for the show, and Pillow Talk is about as bizarre as they come.

Author Miles Magnus has a secret, his bed is an ancient creature that hungers for human flesh. Viki is Miles’ latest victim, a romance writer, who has a secret of her own.

The monster is a bed, A BED!!!! That’s pretty much all that needs to be said.

                                                                         Mannikins of Horror

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Mannikins of Horror, based on the Robert Bloch short story of the same name follows Dr. Collins, a once brilliant surgeon who now resides in an insane asylum, and spends his time sculpting anatomically correct little clay men with which he shares a special bond.

This is the second time the story has been adapted, the first having been a part of the 1972, Amicus Productions anthology, Asylum.

Watch it for the jaw-dropping stop-motion animation used to bring Dr. Collins’ creations to life, and the gruesome twist ending!

I don’t know about you skiddies, but I’m stuffed! Hopefully you veracious animals saved a bit of room for tomorrow though, because we’ll be moving on to the second course of our thankskilling weekend feast.

Until then killdren, stay scared!!!