Archive for the ‘Television’ Category

disturbing

Freaks all week.

Most kids of my generation, (late eighties/ early nineties) couldn’t wait for Friday nights to come around. It was the start of the weekend, two days school free, one of which was reserved for sitting in front of the idiot box munching Cap’n Crunch, while absorbing Saturday morning cartoons, and the other bumming around with our friends playing Goldeneye, street hockey, and trading comic books. It was also when ABC aired their TGIF lineup, with shows like Boy Meets World, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Step by Step, and Teen Angel, you know the hip, family friendly shit they thought we actually enjoyed.

I was not most kids. Friday night for me meant heading to my grandmother’s house to watch the X-Files, a series that terrified, and fascinated me, and still stands as one of my favourites of all time.

Created by fellow canucklehead Chris Carter, X-Files was the perfect blend of science fiction, camp and horror, and a revolutionary show that launched the careers of many popular names in the industry.

One such name, David Nutter went on to find success directing pilots, and episodes for other popular shows such as Millenium, (another Chris Carter series) Band of Brothers, Supernatural, Arrow, Shameless, The Flash, and probably the most well known, the infamous season three episode of Game of Thrones, The Rains of Castamere.

In 1997, Nutter directed his first Hollywood film, (before then his work in film had been limited to direct-to-video features such as Trancers) the Scott Rosenberg penned, Disturbing Behavior.

The film is essentially the Stepford Wives for the Kevin Williamson generation, and follows high-school senior Steve Clark, who, after moving to the picturesque coastal town of Cradle Bay, discovers the town’s clique, the Blue Ribbons, are mind-controlled teens who’ve taken part in program led by school psychologist Dr. Caldecott, and berserker rage every time they get turned on.

Disturbing Behavior has all the nasty cliches of the late nineties horror film: troubled teens played by a cast of A-list twenty-something’s, (in this case Nick Stahl, James Marsden, and Katie Holmes) consisting of the bad-girl, the intellectual-stoner, and the reluctant hero, an alt-rock soundtrack, and more edginess than Sonic the hedgehog dual-wielding dual-bladed lightsabers.

What makes this movie interesting isn’t the fact that it’s a moving billboard of all that was hilariously wrong with the nineties, but rather it’s troubled history. After submitting a version of the film that Nutter likened to a feature-length Monster-of-the-week episode of the X-Files, MGM basically shredded it like an eight-ball of blow at a Charlie Sheen house-party, reducing it to the 83 minute monstrosity released in theatres that was so bad, Nutter wanted to have his name removed from the credits.

I’ve seen the fan-made cut of the film circulating the interwebs, (which is supposedly closer to Nutter’s original vision) and it’s much better. It’s still more nineties than an Image comic book illustrated by Rob Liefeld, with dialogue written by Will Smith, but most of the issues ascertaining to the plot, and lack of character development are ironed out.

Despite all its flaws there are a few aspects of the film that are enjoyable, namely the eerie, and atmospheric music composed by another legendary X-Files alumni Mark Snow, which is way better than the movie deserves, and a brilliantly hammy performance by the always enjoyable, William Sadler.

As it stands, Disturbing Behavior is a curio that falls into the, so bad it’s good, category of films. It’s a shame we’ll never see Nutter’s director’s cut of the film, because somewhere, hidden beneath all the nostalgic nineties refuse, and Hollywood tampering is what could have been an interesting film.

mastersofhorror

This is it skiddies, the final day of our three day Thankskilling weekend extravaganza, and I saved the best for last. A cold scoop of frozen blood nestled atop a slice of scary-pie for you to sink your fangs into.

I mentioned Mick Garris yesterday in my Nightmares and Dreamscapes post in a less than pleasant manner in regards to his Stephen King adaptations, but that doesn’t mean I loathe all of his work. In fact, he’s responsible for many cult classics I adore, such as ‘batteries not included, Hocus Pocus, Critters 2: The Main Course, and the subject of today’s post the 2005 anthology horror series, Masters of Horror.

Conceived during an informal dinner hosted by Garris in 2002 for his director friends, John Carpenter,  Larry Cohen, Don Coscarelli, Joe Dante, Guillermo Del Toro, Stuart Gordon, Tobe Hooper, John Landis, and Bill Malone the name originated when Del Toro told a woman at a neighbouring table that the masters of horror wished her a happy birthday.

The dinner turned out to be such a satisfying experience for the directors that Garris began organizing them regularly featuring more esteemed members from the horror community including Fred Dekker, Dario Argento, Eli Roth, David Cronenberg, Tom Holland, Ti West, and many more.

These dinners laid the groundwork for the series, and many of the members in attendance went on the either write or direct their own episodes of the show.

Masters of Horror is rough stuff. There are no happy endings, there’s buckets of gore, and viscera on display, and no taboo is left untouched. There are even a few episodes that make me cringe, and I’m not one who cringes easily, (I’m looking at you Imprint).

Masters of Horror lasted for two seasons on Showtime, before being cancelled, but that didn’t stop Garris, who went on to make a quasi third season/ spiritual successor in NBC’s Fear Itself. Unfortunately due to network regulations, Fear Itself paled in comparison to its predecessor, lacking the punch that made the original run so successful, and was axed after just one season.

It’s difficult to pick favourites as the twenty-six episodes are all incredibly well made, but for the sake of this post I’ve chosen, Takashi Miike’s Imprint, Dario Argento’s Jenifer, John Carpenter’s Cigarette Burns. Believe me, picking three was no easy task.

Imprint

 

imprint

Imprint follows an American journalist, Christopher, (played by the inimitable, and ever creepy Billy Drago) searching for a lost girlfriend who he promised to rescue from prostitution. After landing on an island populated by whores, and their masters, Christopher meets a badly disfigured girl who shared a deep connection with his beloved, and offers him the dark truth of her whereabouts.

Like most of Miike’s body of work, Imprint is hardcore, so hardcore in fact that Showtime shelved the episode for fear of offending people with its disturbing, and extremely graphic content.

Jenifer

jenifer
Jenifer, based on a black and white graphic novel by Bruce Jones, and Berni Wrightson follows police officer Frank Spivey, who, after saving a horribly disfigured girl from a crazed man wielding a meat cleaver finds himself drawn to her. As his attraction for her grows Frank soon finds his mundane, yet happy existence torn to shreds.

Argento is fantastic at blending the erotic, and repulsive with captivating imagery, and Jenifer is no exception.

Cigarette Burns

cigarette-burns

First off, I love John Carpenter, the man makes up one third of the unholy triumvirate of my favourite horror directors, (the other two being David Cronenberg, and Alfred Hitchcock) but for many years he evaded the Limelight. That is until Masters of Horror of course.

Cigarette Burns, is a return to form for Carpenter, who after the under-performing misstep, Ghosts of Mars had soured from making big budget films, and faded into relative obscurity for most of the 2000’s.

The story follows a pre Walking Dead Norman Reedus on his journey to find a copy of an infamous film that apparently turns its viewers into savage, blood thirsty madmen.

This episode has everything a diehard Carpenter fan could ask for, an eerie synth soundtrack, unsettling imagery, and tension thick enough to cut with a knife.

That’s all for the Thankskilling weekend. I do hope I’ve offered you enough organs, and entrails to satiate your appetites.

Until tomorrow my dearest darklings, stay scared!

nightmares1

It’s no secret that I’m a Stephen King fanatic. It, was the first adult book I read at the tender age of seven, and I’ve been hooked on his work ever since. Until that point the darkest stories I’d come across were Hans Christian Andersen’s grimm fairy tales, and the collected works of Roald Dahl, and I hungered for more. As luck would have it, (or fate if you’d prefer, I know I would) my cravings for the bleak would soon be satiated after I found a copy of It tucked between the alarm clock, and lamp on my uncle’s nightstand. I stealthily scooped the encyclopedia sized tome, glancing over my shoulders to ensure I wasn’t caught, and proceeded to devour it over a two week period, reading its terrifying passages whilst hidden beneath the sun-deck of my childhood home. It changed me, sparked my desire to write, and lured me into the dark side of fiction where I’ve spent the better part of my thirty years trying to craft something as equally horrifying.

Sadly, his adaptations have been a mixed bag, ranging from the fantastic Shawshank Redemption, and Misery to the mediocre, Pet Semetary, and virtually everything by Mick Garris, (fret not Mr. Garris, I respect your work, and I’ll be honouring it tomorrow, but Stephen King adaptations are not on the list) to the abysmal Silver Bullet, and Cell.

Perhaps there’s something about King’s work that makes it difficult to adapt. Maybe it’s because his brand of horror is far more effective played out in our heads than it is on a screen, or maybe the studios behind them are more concerned with the money that comes from his name, rather than making an adequate film. Whatever the case, many of King’s stories deserve better.

Next year, It will be making its way to the big screen for a second try, this time with a much needed R rating attached to it, and Pet Sematary soon after. From what I’ve seen, and heard about both films they appear to be faithful adaptations, made by filmmakers who respect, and adore the source material. Hopefully, should they be successful, it’ll start a trend of other less than savoury works being re-adapted, but we’ll have to wait and see.

In the meantime, I figured we’d take a look at an oft overlooked adaptation- or rather anthology of adaptations in TNT’s, Nightmares and Dreamscapes.

Released in 2006, Nightmares and Dreamscapes sees a number of King’s stories from the aforementioned novel brought to life for the small screen, as well as a couple exceptions, namely The Road Virus Heads North, and Autopsy Room Four from Everything’s Eventual, and Battleground from the Skeleton Crew. The stories chosen from Nightmares are, Umney’s Last Case, The End of the Whole Mess, You Know They Got a Hell of a Band, The Fifth Quarter, and Crouch End.

To put it bluntly, Nightmares and Dreamscapes does everything the typical Hollywood Stephen King adaptation doesn’t, and that’s not a slam. The creators went to great lengths to do justice to the source material, and the special effects provided by the Jim Henson Creature Shop are excellent by network standards. Brian Henson, son of everyone’s favourite muppet manufacturer even directed the pilot, and standout episode of the series Battleground.

battle2
Normally I’d pick a few of my favourite episodes, and summarize their plots in as few words as possible, but every episode of the series is worth watching, and vary just enough from one another to each stand out. This is more of a case of which was my least favourite, and if forced to pick from the lot I’d have to go with Crouch End, but that’s more so because I’ve never been a fan of the story, and not due to any fault of its own.

Nightmares and Dreamscapes ran for just one season, eight paltry episodes, and it’s a damn shame we never got a second considering Haven just wrapped up its fifth, and final season this past December. Not that I have anything against Haven, I’m actually quite fond of its campy charm, but it simply doesn’t carry the same chill factor, and level of prestige found in Nightmares.

If you haven’t seen this series, I implore you to track down a copy, they sell for relatively cheap on amazon, I think I forked out fifteen bucks for mine brand new, and I’d have gladly paid double.

That’s all for today my dearest darklings. Do come back tomorrow for the final course of my Thankskilling extravaganza. I saved the best for last, a nice bloody slice of dessert for all you gore-mongers out there.

Until then, 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.

hollyshouse

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

pillowtalk

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

mannikins-of-horror-4

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!!!