Friday, May 28, 2010

...On Vacation...

...be back eventually...

--J/Metro

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Imprisoned with the Pharaohs by H.P. Lovecraft

Imprisoned with the Pharaohs
by H.P. Lovecraft
(written as Harry Houdini)

Notorious Anglophile and anti-Semite H.P. Lovecraft, never afraid to contradict himself, was both a fan and a friend of the Jewish Harry Houdini.  I imagine he was drawn to the illusionist's aura of mystery and dark mastery, like a character who had stepped out of the pages of one of his short stories.  So when the opportunity arose to ghostwrite a supposedly true story for Houdini, Lovecraft jumped at the chance and threw himself into his work.

"Imprisoned with the Pharaohs" is a tall-tale that Houdini crafted during one of his tours of Egypt.  Lovecraft took Houdini's story, and having realized that it never actually happened, turned it into a wild fantasy that fits somewhat comfortably in the author's larger body of work. Casting Houdini into a role of pulp adventurer (imagine Indiana Jones in Lovecraft Country), Lovecraft describes the magicians supposed Egyptian adventure--in which he is assaulted and bound by angry natives and dropped into the secret bowels of the pyramids--as if he were there to witness it first hand.  It is extremely detailed and informative, so much so that at first you wonder if you're being entertained or educated.  Which is both distracting (I did not come here looking for a history lesson) and impressive (Lovecraft had never actually been to Egypt, but he obviously did a ton of research).

There are, of course, the usual Lovecraft elements on display here: crazy visions, angry gods, and otherworldy creatures.  In a subtle way, what he has managed to do is weave Egyptian mythology into his own Cthulu mythos, making it seem even more expansive than it ever had before.

On a strictly technical level, this may be some of Lovecraft's best work to date.  But from an entertainment standpoint, this isn't my favorite of his work.  Maybe that's because it was Lovecraft speaking, but he was doing so with Houdini's voice.  Or maybe it's because the story is a hoax on top of a hoax.  Whatever the reason, it just didn't seem as authentic as maybe it could have.

It did, however, contain one of the greatest, strangest lines that I have ever read:
"Hippopotami should not have human hands and carry torches… men should not have the heads of crocodiles…"
Very true, HPL.  Very true...
--J/Metro

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Dust Devil: The Final Cut (1992)

Dust Devil: The Final Cut


Written & Directed by Richard Stanley

Dust Devil...Robert John Burke
Wendy Robinson...Chelsea Field
Mark Robinson...Rufus Swart
Ben Mukurob...Zakes Mokae
Captain Beyman...William Hootkins

A mysterious stranger in an even more mysterious trench coat seduces a woman, snaps her neck just before her sexual climax, and then burns her house down to the warbling strains of a radio preacher. Wendy is a suicidal woman who finally decides to leave her abusive husband Mark, and hits the road in search of freedom. Their paths cross for the first time at Bethany, a “shit-hole” town deep in the desert of Africa. When she sees him hitchhiking a short time later, she offers him a ride, never realizing what she’s getting herself into. It would seem that her new passenger is not just a killer. As the tagline goes, he’s much worse: a shape-shifting supernatural being of the desert that the superstitious locals refer to as the Dust Devil.


The Dust Devil character looks (and is scored) like a neo-western throwback. He is deceptively complex, and you’re really not ever sure what to make of him, especially when he shows his vulnerable side. Is he really evil, or is he just a victim of circumstance, doing only what must be done to insure his own survival?

Ben Mukurob is the obsessive detective chasing the killer, who learns that the mutilation of the body and the symbols drawn on the walls of the crime scene all point to one thing: witchcraft. He’s not much of a believer in magic, but in order to catch his man, he may have to change his views. On top of this, we have Mark trying to track Wendy down, although we don’t know for sure what he’s got in mind once he finds her. The two men of course wind up joining forces.


It’s a grim, atmospheric film with stunning visuals and heavy symbolism that are just as important as the actual story. Rock solid performances are put in by Robert John Burke as the Dust Devil and Zakes Mokae as Ben Mukurob, two characters who are (pardon the pun) as different as black and white. The initial release of the movie was butchered down to 87 minutes by the fine folks at Miramax, but for the full experience, be sure to track down The Final Cut. The truly obsessive, however, may be interested in forking over a little extra scratch for the 5-disc set.

Visual-oriented horror fans—as well as fans of Rescue Me who want to see Burke in a role decidedly different than his Father Mickey Gavin persona—will definitely want to check this out.


View the trailer below!


1992
R
103 minutes
Color
South Africa/United Kingdom
English

--J/Metro

Sunday, May 23, 2010

I'm HUGE in California...

...apparently.

According to Google Analytics, the vast majority of my visitors are coming from California, and in a distant second, New York.


Hawaii, North Dakota, and Idaho?  They couldn't care less about me, it seems.  There hasn't been a single visit from any of these states.  It is my goal to change that, right here and right now through a little something I like to call Keyword Manipulation.  (insert maniacal laughter here)

hula dancers, big kahuna, barack obama, pineapples, potatoes, and, umm...North Dakota

Take THAT, Google!

--J/Metro

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Rats in the Walls by H.P. Lovecraft

The Rats in the Walls
by H.P. Lovecraft

Our narrator is only half nameless this time around. We know that he hails from the de la Poer bloodline, and in an attempt to reconnect with his ancestral roots, he moves into his long abandoned family home known as Exham Priory, located in a small English town.

After much time and even more money, the Priory is restored to all its previous glory. Throughout the renovations, de la Poer has heard gruesome rumors regarding not only the supposedly haunted nature of the house, but also regarding his family's past.  The tales of hauntings don't concern him much, and indeed there seems to be little truth to those rumors--unless having nightmares and the occasional rat scurrying through the walls counts as a haunting.

But as the nightmares grow worse, and the infestation gets out of hand, curiosity about the source leads de la Poer and a number of his compatriots into the sub-cellar, where they discover the terrible reason for these aged rumors.

Some claim that this story is the pinnacle of Lovecraft's art. Now, while I'm not quite ready to make that claim, this is a hell of an effective story that combines many of the author's benchmarks: first person narration, damned bloodlines, hidden horrors, nature taken to unnatural extremes...and of course a little racism.

There are elements from a hodgepodge of Lovecraft's other works here, including but not limited to "The Alchemist" and "The Statement of Randolph Carter". To put it in more modern terms, though, imagine if Clive Barker channeled the spirit of Poe and combined the more accessible components of House of Leaves with the more outrageous aspects of his "Midnight Meat Train".

And if that ain't enough to grab you, I don't know what is.

--J/Metro

Friday, May 21, 2010

Bloodmyth Vs. Babysitter Wanted

Separated at birth?

Special thanks to Sarah for pointing out the similarities.

--J/Metro

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Bloodmyth (2006)

Bloodmyth

Written & Directed by John Rackham

Ray Morris...Henry Dunn
Nick Wilson...Keith Eyles
Holly Corman...Natalie Clayton
Juliet Corman...Shelley Halstead


A group of business associates venture into the wilderness for a Survival Seminar of sorts, a team-morale building exercise lead by survivalist and television personality Ray Morris. Boss Nick Wilson is a pompous ass and sexual harassment suit waiting to happen (imagine an infinitely less-likable Bradley Cooper); Wesley Barker is the geeky object of ridicule; John Carpenter is the kind-hearted tough guy; Kristen Caro is the requisite damsel-in-distress; Holly Corman is the beautiful and resourceful sister of Juliet Corman, who, along with ex-military badass James Brierly, are meant to teach these city folk a thing or two about surviving in the wild.


They're a motley crew to be sure...one just right to be picked off one-by-one by a mysterious madman hiding in the woods. Like you didn't see that one coming.

For the most part, this is pretty standard stuff, a slasher flick in the woods, or one of those new-fangled survivalist films with a whole cast of characters you either dislike or are completely ambivalent to. The murders were not particularly inventive, and more of a variety in styles would have been appreciated. But it wasn't all a disappointment.

The fact that the first part of the film consisted mostly of the characters' survival training made their games of cat-and-mouse with the mysterious madman at least somewhat more believable than in your typical slasher movie. (That limping sixteen year old girl killed a rabid supernatural serial killer with a baseball bat? Really?) And, out of character for this sort of film, an actual motive for the murders is given, although whether you think its credible or not is up in the air. I, for one, found it quite interesting and original, and wished that it had been played up a little bit more.


The cover of the DVD promotes this as Hannibal Lecter meets Survivor, while the website claims that it is Halloween meets Deliverance. That may be stretching it a little bit. Remember those scenes in Friday the 13th Part 6: Jason Lives where Mr. Voorhees was stalking those paintballers? It's kind of like that.

For 90 minutes.

Over all, not a bad entry for your low-budget horror library, and if you find it for a reasonable price, it would fit pretty nicely between your copies of Wolf Creek and Haute Tension.

2006
Not Rated
96 Minutes
Color
English
United Kingdom

"And this too has been one of the dark places of the earth."
--J/Metro

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Roadwork by Stephen King

Roadwork
by Stephen King

The year is 1973, and 1974 is rapidly approaching, but that's not what is bothering laundry manager Barton George Dawes. What's bother him is the rapidly approaching deadline for both his business and his family to be relocated. Thanks to an 'imminent domain' claim, they're all being forced to leave in order to make room for a new highway. Most everything and everyone else has already cleared out, but Dawes has been dragging his feet, much to everyone's dismay.

He already lost his son years ago, and now he's about to lose his home. His procrastination and circles of lies next cause him to lose his job, and then his wife. So he's a man with nothing but memories of things that he no longer has; a man with nothing to lose; a man on the edge. And that makes him a very dangerous man.

Dawes plots his own little rebellion against the status quo, which slowly steamrolls into a war against the establishment. And I mean, slowly. But no matter what synopses of this book may want you to think, this book isn't about that. It's about one man's inevitable and gentle descent into madness.

Richard Bachman and Stephen King are often discussed together--they are, after all, the same person. But Stephen King and Kurt Vonnegut? Not so much. And yet I couldn't help but feel that this story was written by an eager, fledgling author who had Breakfast of Champions and thought to himself, 'This would be much better if they took away all the humor', and so he decided to do it himself. There are a few other Vonnegut tropes that pop up along the way as well, and the author even merits a mention early on.

But Vonnegut without humor is, as you would expect, not quite a good thing. This being 'early' King, it's denser and darker and more realistic than much of his later output, but even believability doesn't necessarily translate into entertaining. Of all the Bachman books, this one was the most difficult for me to wade through, as it was practically all build-up with an apex that seemed it would never arrive. And by the time it finally did arrive, I found myself no longer caring, and just wanting to be somewhere else.

Like Castle Rock...

--J/Metro

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Mutant Vampire Zombies from the 'Hood (2008)

Mutant Vampire Zombies from the 'Hood

Written by George Saunders and Thunder Levin
Directed by Thunder Levin

David...C. Thomas Howell
G-Dog...Tyshawn Bryant
Latiifa...Rachel Montez Collins
Dragon...Robert Wu

A pair of Los Angeles detectives staking out a warehouse move in for the bust when two rival street gangs converge for a tense exchange of hostage-for-drugs. Things go sour when the cocaine turns out to be powder sugar, and as the bullets begin flying an astronomical anomaly in the form of a solar flare presents itself, causing everyone to fall unconscious for a good, solid cat nap.

When they wake up the next morning, the world has inexplicably changed. For starters, vehicles no longer function. Not to mention the streets are all but deserted. But the real kicker? Over night, the majority of L.A.'s population (and presumably the population of the world) has been transformed into members of the shambling undead, hungry for flesh...and horny for ass.


That's right, these zombies don't just want to eat you. They desperately want to get their rocks off, as well.

The prerequisite ragtag group of survivors, including members of G-Dog's African-American gang, members of Dragon's Asian-American gang, Caucasian officer David, and old Hispanic man Jorge, have to get past their differences and work together to make their way across the city to a safehouse where their prospects of making it out of the city alive promise to increase ten-fold.

It calls to minds the immortal words of Rodney King: "Can't we all just get along...and kill some fucking zombies?"


This is obviously a low-budget production, so the special effects are passable but aren't about to win any awards.  The script gets a little weak in some areas (especially in the instances when the filmmakers seem to think that the terms 'vampire' and  'zombie' are interchangeable), but the acting is relatively strong.  The pseudo-science explanations given for the zombie plague surely don't make any sense, but they offered the illusion of logic, and really, that's all that I ask for. The musical score is fitting, and the action keeps things moving at a pretty good clip.  Many of the zombie scenes feature a color palette so muted and washed out that they almost appear black and white, which calls to mind Night of the Living Dead...sort of.

Now, you don't go into a film called Mutant Vampire Zombies from the 'Hood expecting classic Romero. You go into it expecting something more along the lines of the painful Zombiez or the equally painful Vampiyaz. And really, that's the major problem here.  The title is more than enough to turn off all but the most rabid of fans, and it suggests a hokeyness that isn't actually present in the film.  It doesn't take itself too seriously, and it doesn't make a mockery of itself.  It actually walks that dangerous line quite well.  It's content with what it is, staying within the parameters of the genre without being merely a rehash of a thousand other low-budget zombie flicks we've already seen.

Ninety minutes ago, if you were to tell me that I was going to say this, I would have called you crazy and/or possibly brain damaged.  But...here goes:

My name is Jonny, and I enjoyed Mutant Vampire Zombies from the 'Hood.


View the trailer below!

2008
Not Rated
90 Minutes
Color
English
United States


Don't judge me!
--J/Metro

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Hound by H.P. Lovecraft

The Hound
by H.P. Lovecraft

This short story varies from most other Lovecraft tales in its morbidly descriptive and baroque nature.  Although written with tongue in cheek as "Hebert West: Reanimator" was, the wild and darkly humorous aspects of that story are missing here.  "The Hound" takes itself more seriously, or at least it pretends it does, and so it reads like genuine Lovecraft...albeit Lovecraft heavy on the Poe.

Two rather sick and twisted men, our Nameless Narrator and his friend St. John, have taken up the sickening habit of grave robbing. They steal not only whatever valuables they may find entombed, but in some instances even the bodies themselves--or at least parts of them--for display in their secret underground death museum.

Observe:
"Around the walls of this repellent chamber were cases of antique mummies alternating with comely, lifelike bodies perfectly stuffed and cured by the taxidermist's art, and with headstones snatched from the oldest churchyards of the world. Niches here and there contained skulls of all shapes, and heads preserved in various stages of dissolution. There one might find the rotting, bald pates of famous noblemen, and the flesh and radiantly golden heads of new-buried children."
One such grisly expedition uncovers an almost perfectly preserved corpse, and around that corpse's neck an odd little amulet which our pair of ghouls instantly know they must have.

But why is that dog howling in the distance? And why can it continue to be heard, even after they make their way home? It's almost as if...it were following them!

This story is a gruesome experiment in horror, and I love the result. Lovecraft himself later all but disowned it, calling it a 'dead dog' (pun intended?), just as he did with "Herbert West", and in both cases, those tales proved to be among my favorites. As I stated in my review of that previous story, it seems hard to believe that Lovecraft didn't like these works.  He seems to have take such glee in his gory descriptions that such a claim seems almost ludicrous.

Me thinks he dost protest too much.

My theory--based on absolutely nothing, mind you--is that Lovecraft really did love the grue, but his Anglo worship caused him to think that taking enjoyment in such things was improper. Kind of like a Catholic school boy shamefully masturbating in the bathroom, liking the way it feels but knowing full well that his god does not approve.  And so Lovecraft, in the wake of his blood orgies, was so overcome with guilt and shame that he pretended to have never liked them, simply because he could not deny that they never actually existed.

Well ain't he a dandy?

Whatever the case, the man's got a way with the colour red.

It should be noted that this story features the first time that Lovecraft's Necronomicon is mentioned by name.

--J/Metro

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Sorry Hipsters...

...I've been out of town on a business trip, with pretty much no contact with the outside world, hence my complete and total silence here for the past few days.  Fear not!  Tomorrow I'll be returning to the fold with all new reviews and psychotic ephemera!  In the meantime, surf the archives.  It's not like you have anything better to do.

--J/Metro

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Horror Explorer (Sneak Peek): 1917-1920

On the first day of 1917, director Rex Ingram released his film Black Orchids in which a devil-may-care woman is scared onto the path of the straight-and-narrow by her father, who relates to her a story in which another careless woman is entombed alive.  This was the first credited appearance of actor John George, who would later go on to appear opposite such luminaries of the genre as Lon Chaney (The Road to Mandalay, 1926; The Unknown, 1927), Bela Lugosi (Island of Lost Souls, 1933; The Black Cat, 1934), and Boris Karloff (Bride of Frankenstein, 1935). Ingram went on to remake this film in 1922, although the title was changed to Trifling Women against his wishes. 


July 9, 1917 saw the release of The Brand of Satan, directed by George Archainbaud, who would make the transition into television with 1952's "Hopalong Cassidy" and continuing with mostly-Western themed shows until 1959.  This movie must have been a bit controversial during its time, as it tells the story of a woman who is impregnated after being raped by an escaped convict.  Her son grows up to be a respected prosecutor, but learns that he has a split-personality and his other-self is a murderous strangler.  This melodramatic medical take on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was written by some poor soul known as J.F. Looney.

At some point in 1918 (no one seems sure of the exact date), a Hungarian film called Alraune was released, written by Richárd Falk and directed by Michael Curtiz and Edmund Fritz. It was based on a 1911 novel of the same name by Hanns Heinz Ewers, which in turn was based on a folk tale that dates back at least to the middle ages.

The tale revolves around the superstition that the alraune (German for mandrake) which grew beneath gallows were created by the semen of hanged men, as their seed and the earth combined to create this strange, man-shaped root. Women who had sex with the alraune root were said to later give birth to emotionless, soulless children, a concept that appealed mostly to those who claimed to be witches.

The novel Alraune changes the folk tale a bit, as a scientist impregnates a woman with the actual semen of a hanged man through artificial insemination rather than having her copulate with the plant. The child this produced had no concept of love and grew to become a sexually-obsessed being, finally learning of her origins and seeking vengeance against the doctor who created her. Whether this adaption went with the notion of the root or the semen, it's impossible to say as this film has long been considered lost.

Michael Curtis went on to direct such non-genre classics as Casablanca (1942), The Jazz Singer (1952), and White Christmas (1954), while novelist Ewers had previously written the script for 1913's The Student of Prague. Alraune was remade in 1928, 1930, and 1952.

Notably, there was another film released sometime in 1918 (again, the exact date is unknown) entitled Alraune, die Henkerstochter, genannt die rote Hanne, which hailed from Germany. Many people have claimed that this film is also based on the 1911 novel, while those who have seen it (a print of this movie exists at the George Eastman House's International Museum of Photography and Film) say that any connection is superficial at best. Until a print of this film is released to the general public, we'll just have to take their word for it.

On November 5, 1919, director Richard Oswald released Unheimliche Geschichten (AKA Weird Tales; Eerie Tales; Tales of Horror; Tales of the Uncanny; Five Sinister Stories, etc.). This German film is a curiosity in that it is quite possibly the first horror anthology film to be made, laying the groundwork that would make such latter day movies as Tales of Terror (1962), Creepshow (1982), and Trick 'r Treat (2009) possible. The framing story here features the figures of Death, the Devil and the Harlot stepping out of oil paintings on display in a bookstore, and reading aloud to each other stories in which they take part. (View the 'trailer' here.)

The first tale features Conrad Veidt, and it seems to be an original story, revolving around a pair of young lovers, one of who disappears in the middle of the night, the locals having covered up her death. The second is called "The Hand", in which a strangler is haunted by the ghostly hand of his victim. The third tale is based on Edgar Allan Poe's "The Black Cat", the fourth on Robert Louis Stevenson's "The Suicide Club", and the final story, "The Spook", was written by Oswald himself, and depicts a husband who fakes a haunting to frighten the baron whom his wife has been flirting with.

Strangely, this film was sort-of remade by the director in 1932, also known as Unheimliche Geschichten.  This time around, he revisited Poe's "The Black Cat" and Stevenson's "The Suicide Club", while melding them both together with another Poe story, "The System of Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether."  All of these tales were compressed together into a single story, abandoning the anthology format.  It starred Paul Wegener, formerly of The Student of Prague and The Golem.

Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari) was released in Germany on February 26, 1920, although it wouldn't make its way to American shores for 13 more months. It follows Caligari, a magician, who hypnotizes an associate of his into committing murder. Often viewed as the most important film in early horror, it is also a prime example of German Expressionism.  While there is plenty to say regarding a film of this caliber, that also means that there are plenty of other sources where all has already been said, so I'll leave further expounding to the professionals.


March 18, 1920 saw the release of another Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, this time directed by John S. Robertson and starring John Barrymore in the Dr./Mr. role and Ziegfeld Follies showgirl Martha Mansfield as his love interest. Even today, Barrymore's performance is considered by many to be the definitive version of the character split by his own nature.

Only one month after Barrymore's version, yet another take on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde appeared, directed by J. Charles Haydon and starring Sheldon Lewis. This version, overshadowed by Barrymore's, is practically forgotten today. The ending is the all-too-common fake out in which Jekyll awakes in his chair, having dreamed the whole ordeal.

August saw the release of a delightfully twisted Lon Chaney vehicle entitled The Penalty. Written by Charles Kenyon, directed by Wallace Worsley, and based on a novel by Gouverneur Morris, The Penalty follows a gangster named Blizzard (Chaney), whose legs were mistakenly amputated as a child. Driven mad, Blizzard plots a sick revenge against the doctor who performed the amputation: kidnap the doctor's daughter, amputate the man's legs and graft them onto Blizzard's stumps. Although perhaps not strictly a horror film, there are enough macabre elements to justify its inclusion here. In 2009, Empire Magazine named it as #17 on their list of "The 20 Greatest Gangster Movies You've (Probably) Never Seen".

On August 26 (or September 17, according to some sources), there was once again another variation on the Jekyll and Hyde story. This one, called Der Januskopf (The Head of Janus), was scripted by Hans Janowitz and directed by F.W. Murnau, who would later go on to infamy with his production Nosferatu. This movie, perhaps an "illegitimate" version of the Stephenson novel as Nosferatu was of Bram Stoker's Dracula, changes the names of the main characters to Dr. Warren and Mr. O'Connor, both of which were played by Conrad Veidt. The transformation here is not brought about by means of a scientific formula, but rather through a cursed bust of the mythological Roman god Janus. No footage of this film is known to have survived, but the script and related production notes have, from which the majority of information is gleaned. Some theorize that The Head of Janus was the first film in history to feature moving camerawork (as opposed to a static point of view throughout the length of the shot) as a note on the script dictates that camera "follows him up the stairs". Of course, unless a copy of this film ever emerges, we will never know for sure.

Genuine: The Tale of A Vampire was released in Germany on September 2, 1920. Written by Carl Mayer and directed by Robert Wiene, follows the character of Genuine (played by Fern Andra) who winds up being sold as a slave and "sheltered" from the dangers of the outside world by her conservative keepers. Little do they realize that Genuine is just as dangerous to their way of life than anything outside their doors. Once again, the 'Vampire' in question is of the femme fatale variety, not a supernatural bloodsucker. Another German Expressionist film from Wiene, this one is obviously outdone by his previous effort The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, although many of the set pieces are beautifully done by Expressionist painter César Klein. A condensed 43 minute version of the film can be seen as an extra feature on the Kino DVD of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, but in order to see the uncut version, one must visit the Munich City Film Museum archive in Germany.

October 29, 1920 marked the German release of Der Golem, wie er in die Welt kam (The Golem: How He Came Into The World), by director Paul Wegener who had already released two Golem films previously--The Golem in 1915 and The Golem and the Dancing Girls in 1917. This is actually a prequel to the 1915 film, and is the one readily available today.

--J/Metro

_______________________
Well, hipsters...that's it for your special "Sneak Peek" at the project I'm currently working on.  Now it's up to you to let me know what you thought.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Horror Explorer (Sneak Peek): 1913-1915


Less than a year after the Henderson version, writer/director Herbert Brenon released his own adaptation of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with King Baggot in the lead on March 6, 1913 (watch clip here).  This version is also notable, as a complete print is said to survive in the UCLA Film & Television archive, and for being designated as the first horror film from the then-fledgling Universal Studios who would, over the course of a single great decade, give us the definitive Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923), Phantom of the Opera (1925), Dracula (1931), Frankenstein (1931), Mummy (1932), and Invisible Man (1933).

December 26, 1913 saw the release of Le Systeme du Docteur Goudron et du Professeur Plume from famed French director Maurice Tourneur .  Released in America as The Lunatics, it was adapted from a one-act Grand Guignol play that was in turn based on Edgar Allan Poe's short story "The System of Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether". 

The book Maurice Tourneur: The Life and Films by Harry Waldman says that the film:
"deals with a young reporter, accompanied by his attractive wife, who goes on assignment to investigate a new and apparently effective approach to treating asylum patients...Inside [the asylum] they quickly realize that the tables have been turned--that the inmates, led by 'Dr. Tarr'...have taken over."
Dr. Tarr and his partner in medical crime Professor Fether tells the visitors that they can 'cure' insanity by gouging out the eyes of a patient and slitting his throat--a job that takes two people to do effectively--and they fully intend to perform the miracle cure on the journalist.

On an interesting side note, this wasn't the first time that Poe's "The System of Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether" had been crafted for the screen. It seems that the Edison Company released their own version of the film entitled Lunatics in Power. The filmmakers went for a drastically different approach to the subject matter, however, and replaced all of the horror elements with slapstick comedy. Most sources state that this film was released in 1909 (which it very well may have been), but I located a review of the film in the May 15, 1908 issue of Moving Picture World (view here). It was surmised as follows:
"An Edison picture illustrating what might happen if lunatics in an asylum were accorded the power of running the place themselves.  They are about serving up a visitor as a chicken when the keepers, who have been locked up by the lunatics, are released and the crazy persons are hurried back to their cells.  The advisability of using any affliction as serious as lunacy as a basis for sport is questionable, though aside from that the film is lively and not unattractive.  To make irresponsible persons the target for fun will not appeal to a majority of a manager's audience, unless he is located in a peculiar portion of the country.  Certainly the theme is novel, but is not handled to the best advantage."
On December 29, 1913 yet another version of the Jekyll/Hyde story was released. Entitled A Modern Jekyll and Hyde, it featured Robert Broderick as Jethro Smith, the "modern" version of the schizophrenic title characters. So little is known about this take on the familiar tale that not even a director can be pinpointed.


August 24th, 1914 saw the release of D.W. Griffith's The Avenging Conscience, in which he freely melded two works by Edgar Allan Poe--the short story "The Tell-Tale Heart" and the poem "Annabel Lee".  In the movie, a young Poe fan (who calls his love interest 'Annabell')  murders his uncle and hides his corpse in the bricks that compose his fireplace.  To avoid capture, he hangs himself, following which Annabel throws herself from a cliff.  In a cop-out ending that was used too often in these days of melodrama, the young man awakens in the safety of his own home to discover that the whole ordeal was only a nightmare.  This film is still in existence, and has been made available on DVD by Kino International (purchase here).  Although certainly not the first horror film, in many people's eyes, this is the first masterpiece of the genre.


With the beginning of 1915 came the German film Der Golem (The Golem or The Monster of Fate) from Henrik Galeen and Paul Wegener.  This adaptation of the Jewish legend is still widely debated today regarding whether or not a complete print of the film still exists.  It has long been thought of as a Lost Film, but many times over the years someone has declared it to be "Found".  However, each time such a claim is made, it turns out that the "found" print is actually of a different film.  Such confusion stems from the fact that Wegener also directed another film called Der Golem und die Tänzerin (The Golem and the Dancing Girl) in 1917 (also thought lost), and Der Golem, wie er in die Welt kam (The Golem: How He Came Into The World) in 1920.  The 1920 film still survives, and is in fact readily available on DVD, and it is this version that most people are watching when they believe to be viewing the 1915 film.  To add to the confusion, a 1916 film directed by Urban Gad, also entitled Der Golem was announced, but whether or not it was ever produced, much less released, is yet another topic that is up for debate.

The Haunting Fear from director Robert G. Vignola was released on June 11, 1915.  All of the usual sources came up blank for this title, and practically no information could be ascertained.  Only a synopsis, by
Janiss Garza of All Movie Guide, could be located--and where she located her information, I do not know.
"Katherine, your standard naive country girl (Alice Hollister), is lured to the city by the worldly Diana (Anna Q. Nilsson). She falls for the even worldlier Mace (Harry Millarde), and thinks he returns her feelings until she's finally informed of his true character. Disillusioned and angry at this turn of events, she stabs him. Since she believes she has committed murder, she seeks refuge in a convent. While he recovers, Mace resolves to hunt Katherine down and kill her. He traces her to the convent where he finds her in prayer. He is moved by the sight and doesn't shoot her. When she realizes she isn't a murderess after all, Katherine believes that her prayers have been answered. The film apparently had two ends -- in one version she becomes a nun and remains at the convent. In the other, Mace repents, gives up his wicked ways, and marries Katherine."


November 1915 brought the premiere of the now-possibly-lost Life Without Soul.  It was only the second known adaptation of Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein (following Edison's version), and predated the Universal version by more than fifteen years.  In it, a Manhattan man falls asleep while reading Shelley's novel and dreams that he is the Victor Frankenstein character.  The creation of the monster this time around is less a matter of science than of mythology, as it is crafted out of clay much like the Jewish tale of the Golem.  'Victor' witnesses his loved ones murdered by the creature, and pursues him across the Atlantic Ocean before finally being able to entomb him for eternity beneath the rubble of a cave-in. (For further information, please read my Cryptopopology post on this film.)

--J/Metro

Friday, May 7, 2010

Horror Explorer (Sneak Peek): 1910-1912

Following close on the tail of 1909's The Sealed Room was the silent version of Frankenstein produced by Edison Studios. This film, running approximately 15 minutes, was the first film adaptation of Mary Shelley's novel and was released on March 18, 1910.  It was once thought to be lost, but a print resurfaced in a private collection sometime in the early 1970s. The most startling change from what we are used to is the creation of the Monster. Here, there is no patchwork corpse strapped to a table, no lightning rod with which to give life. Instead, he is grown in a vat in a rather lengthy sequence. The monster that emerges is not familiar to us, as he does not appear similar to any of his other famous film incarnations, but rather like a misshapen cro-magnon with stringy hair and spindly legs.

Edison's Frankenstein has since been released on DVD (purchase here), and can even be viewed for free at the Internet Archive.

Later that year, two more adaptations of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde made their way into theaters. The 17-minute Den skæbnesvangre opfindelse (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; or, A Strange Case), an import from Denmark, was written and directed by August Blom and premiered on September 24, 1910. Close behind that was the five-minute (or ten-minute, depending on which source you believe) The Duality of Man from the UK.  The survival status of both of these films is sadly unknown, and presumed lost.

In March 1911, an Italian film entitled L'inferno was released.  Deemed the first full-length Italian motion picture, it is also noteworthy for being loosely based on Dante Alighieri epic poem "The Divine Comedy".   In the poem, Dante travels through the three aspects of the Christian afterlife: Inferno (Hell), Purgatorio (Purgatory), and Paradiso (Paradise, or Heaven).  Many artists have used this poem as inspiration for their illustrations, perhaps most notable among them Gustave Doré, whose etchings graced the 1857 edition of the poem.  It was this edition which inspired the film. (view the etchings here)

Understandably, the first segment of the poem offers the most horrific concepts and it grows less so from there.  But the time spent in hell is truly what horror is all about, and so I'm including L'inferno here for your consideration, as it is concerned only with the Inferno cantos of "The Divine Comedy".  In recent times, this movie has been restored and released on DVD, complete with a controversial new soundtrack composed by Tangerine Dream.  (More info here)


October 21, 1911 saw the release of Der Müller und sein Kind (The Miller and his Child), currently believed to be the oldest surviving Austrian film. Although it was based on a romantic melodrama written by the dramatist Ernst Raupach, it contains enough supernatural elements to be included here. The plot concerns a poor miller's son who wants to wed a rich miller's daughter, but her father is vocally against the romance. A dramatic turn of events sees the death of the girl and her father, both of which are foreshadowed by the appearances of the bird of death and a ghost appearing in a gothic graveyard. Interestingly, the same production company (Kolm/Fleck) had made the same movie the previous year, but none of that footage is believed to have survived.

By early 1912, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was adapted yet again by director Lucius Henderson, starring James Cruze in the dual lead. Sources say that it ran approximately 12 minutes, but only a partial print remains today (watch here). Although this was at least the fourth time this particular tale had been adapted, it remains notable for being the earliest version of which any footage is known to still exist.

May 21, 1912 saw the release of a French horror film by writer-director Abel Gance entitled Le masque d'horreur (The Mask of Horror). The synopsis sounds intriguing as given at the Turner Classic Movies Film Database (see here):
"A mad sculptor, searching for the perfect realization of "the mask of horror", places himself in front of a mirror after smearing blood over himself with the glass of an oil lamp. He then swallows a virulent poison to observe the effects of pain."
This is perhaps the first of the curious 'mad-artist' sub-genre of films which would go on to include Vernon Sewell's Latin Quarter (1945), Roger Corman's Bucket of Blood (1959), Herschell Gordon Lewis' Color Me Blood Red (1965), and other lesser-known fare.  Unfortunately, beyond the synopsis, no other information could be found, and the survival status of the film remains unknown.

July 15th, 1912 saw the release of the Vitagraph short entitled Conscience (alternate title: The Chamber of Horrors).  The movie follows a woman in financially dire straits who steals a bottle of milk to feed her hungry child.  She hides from the police in a wax museum's Chamber of Horrors exhibit, unknowing that her estranged husband has also decided to take refuge there, and her presence causes him to drop dead with fright.  While the premise may not seem terribly horrifying, this is an early example of a wax museum setting that would become a bit of a staple for the genre.

Der Student von Prag (The Student of Prague) was released in Germany on August 22, 1913.  The story follows a young student who becomes obsessed with a beautiful and wealthy woman.  In order to gain her affection, he signs a contract with a powerful sorcerer who promises him infinite wealth.  It is, in essence, a version of the Faust story (only here the student's soul is represented as his reflection) and seems to have been inspired by the 1839 Edgar Allan Poe story "William Wilson" (read here).  Originally running approximately 85 minutes (an epic at the time), only a portion of that footage remains.  The surviving fragments of the film, roughly half, were released on DVD in 2004 by Alpha Video (purchase here).  


This film has curious ties to Adolf Hitler, beyond it being from Germany.  Screenwriter Hanns Heinz Ewers--who was more well known for his horror-tinged literature--would later have a brief association with the Nazi party and was commissioned by Hitler himself to write a biography (Einer von vielen) of Horst Wessel, Nazi martyr and author of their anthem "Die Fahne Hoch" ("Raise the Flag").  It should be noted, however, that Ewers did not agree with the party's anti-Semitism, and that this, coupled with his latent homosexuality, would lead to a falling out with the Nazis and the eventual banning of the majority of his work within Germany.  Still, this association has lead to his works being shunned and avoided by most circles today, but The Student of Prague continues to command some respect as being the forefather of the German expressionist film, the likes of which would be best represented by 1920's The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.  This movie was remade at least three times--in 1925, 1935 and as late as 2004.

Incidentally, some sources state that 1912's The Student of Prague was the first horror film.  If nothing else, hopefully this series of articles has proven that notion wrong.

--J/Metro

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Horror Explorer (Sneak Peek): The First Horror Film

The films of Georges Méliès, as discussed previously, were certainly amongst the first to contain fantastical elements and with them a plethora of imagery that can be related to the horror genre. But to call them horror films is perhaps pushing the envelope a bit, as they were obviously made to simultaneously impress the viewer with his trick photography and amuse them with the onscreen comedic antics, but rarely, if ever, to horrify.

Similarly, 1907's Le Spectre Rouge (The Red Spectre) was a 9-minute short film from France that hearkens back to some of Georges Méliès films.  In it, a demonic magician performs his tricks until a good spirit arrives to thwart him.  Although not particularly frightening, and really just another example of a director showcasing their special effects, it is quite interesting and entertaining and well worth a look.  (Watch here.) 


Casting aside the plentiful instances of horror imagery used in these 'Trick Films'--which also include the work of George Albert Smith (1897's The Haunted Castle, 1898's Photographing a Ghost, not to be confused with the unrelated 1903 film Photographing a Goose, etc.) and Edwin S. Porter (1898's The Cavalier's Dream, the Uncle Josh series from 1900-1902) among countless others--that still begs the question, what, then, qualifies as the the first horror movie? An internet search for that question will pull up a plethora of answers, certainly all but one of them wrong. It's easy to weed out many of these answers as false--one only needs to compare the release dates.

Assuming that a true horror movie has to tell a story, then the first true horror film probably could not have been released any time before 1899, the year that Méliès released his film Cendrillon (Cinderella), which is said to not only be the first adaptation of the fairy tale, but, according to Tim Dirks at AMC's Filmsite, also the first film used to "tell a narrative story."  But it was still years before that became the standard.

My research has lead me to believe that the first horror film to meet these requirements, debuting in 1908, was the William Selig produced silent adaptation of Robert Louis Stephenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.


More accurately, the movie was based on a stage play (scripted by George F. Fish) that was based on the Stephenson novel. Fish also wrote the script for the film version, that was directed by Otis Turner and starred Hobart Bosworth as the titular leads. It ran only 16 minutes, and is said to have followed the book quite closely, especially considering that it was boiled down to a mere four acts--each act opening and closing with a stage curtain, just as if you were watching it be performed live.

There are those rare people who insist that The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde doesn't qualify as horror, but all of the elements of the genre are there: Mad Science, murder, and a terrifying, almost-supernatural villain to name a few. And, beneath it all, this is a tale of the werewolf, only this wolf doesn't wear fur. And none can deny that the werewolf is a staple of the horror film, so fuzzy coat or not, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde IS a horror story.

Sadly, there are no known copies of Selig's film left in existence, so any intrinsic value that this film may have once held is a moot point.  Unless, against all odds, it happens to resurface at some point in the future (which has happened more often than one would expect), it no longer exists, meaning that, for our purposes, it never did.

On an interesting side note, the Selig-Polyscope company released A Modern Dr. Jekyll towards the end of 1909.  Because very little information on the film was forthcoming, and because the company had released a version of the story just a year previous, it was for years believed that A Modern Dr. Jekyll was simply a re-issue title of their 1908 Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  However, according to Mark Griep at the Chemistry Movies Blog of Oxford University, he has found proof that the 1909 film was a separate entity.  Beyond that, it was the first version of the story to be filmed as a comedy, and the first version to portray a male-into-female transformation (read here).  This version, sadly, is also lost, and his information comes from secondary sources and reviews from the era.

So perhaps we must amend out original question: what is the first horror film still in existence?

There was a 1908 film entitled Sherlock Holmes In The Great Murder Mystery, which was based on Edgar Allan Poe's "The Murders in the Rue Morgue", while strangely transposing Arthur Conan Doyle's detective character into the lead. That film is presumed loss, and regardless, its source material from Poe is considered the birth of the detective genre, not horror, although that is the genre that the author is predominately known for.

Speaking of Poe, the very next year, the Biograph Company released a biopic of the author entitled, Edgar Allen Poe (Sic).  He lingers at his beloved Elizabeth's deathbed, trying desperately to give her some comfort.  As she fades from this world, a raven flies through the open window and lands upon a bust of Pallas, inspiring him to write his most famous poem.  Although this may be of interest to fans of the genre, it hardly qualifies as horror.  (click here to read more about it.)


Another Poe-inspired film, 1909's Le puits et le pendule (The Pit and the Pendulum), would definitely have been considered horror, but this French import has gone the way of too many other films and is presumed lost.  The same is true of the 1912 French film Une Vengeance d'Edgar Poe (The Vengeance of Edgard Poe [sic]), which was apparently a non-horror film that depicted the author taking hallucinogens and going insane.

Also in 1909, what is widely thought to be the first vampire film debuted.  It was called Vampires of the Coast, and aside from the fact that it was said to have premiered on March 15th, there seems to be little to no information about the movie available.  In actuality, though, the titular vampires were more than likely not of the undead bloodsucking variety (which would qualify it as a genuine member of the horror canon), but rather vamps in the manner of the sexual and seductive femme fatale, such as in 1912's Vampyrdanserinden (The Vampire Dancer), Mauritz Stiller's 1913 Vampyren (Vampire: A Woman's Slave), 1913's Vampire of the Desert, William Selig's 1910 The Vampire and 1915's A Fool There Was--the latter three all being inspired by Rudyard Kipling's poem "The Vampire" (read here), which, in turn, was inspired by the Philip Burne-Jones painting of the same name (view here).  So, Vampires of the Coast may be an interesting aside, but does not qualify as horror.  Besides, with so little information about this film available, one can only assume that it is lost, if it ever truly existed at all.

In September of that same year, however, the Biograph Company released an eleven minute short entitled The Sealed Room.  It is about a jealous man of power and stature who entombs his cheating wife and her love alive within the walls of his castle.  A fair share of sources claim this to be based on Poe's short story "The Cask of Amontillado", but closer scrutiny reveals that it was actually based on portions of the novel  La Grande Breteche by Honoré de Balzac, which shares a similar plot device.  This film predates even Edison's Frankenstein (often cited as the first horror film), and it is still in existence so modern audiences can continue to see the expressions of terror on the faces of the wife and lover as the last of the bricks are set into place.  If the notion of being entombed alive doesn't qualify as horror, I don't know what does.  (click here to watch part 1, and here for part 2)


So it seems that we may have found not only the first horror film, but also the first filmed biography of a horror author, as well as the first horror film that can still be enjoyed today.  Where does the Horror Explorer go from here?

Deeper into the abyss.

--J/Metro

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Horror Explorer (Sneak Peek): Georges Méliès

The birth of the motion picture dates back to 1878, when English professor Eadweard J. Muybridge used a network of 24 still photo cameras to capture the gallop of a horse. All 24 images were then strung together and projected onto a screen to give the illusion of movement. This short film, now known as The Horse in Motion is shockingly short, almost too brief to appreciate, but shown in a loop (as in the case below), one can understand how this concept captured the minds of millions.




The first horrifying film was actually one of the earliest to be screened to a mass audience.  In December of 1895, the Lumière brothers, Auguste and Louis, premiered their short film L'Arrivée d'un train en gare de La Ciotat (The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat Station) to an eager audience.  Legend has it that the sight of the train barreling toward the viewer caused a bit of a panic, and some were even said to have passed out in their seats.  There are many people out there who refute this claim, thinking it just a publicity ruse (similar in vein to the tagline for Wes Craven's infamous Last House on the Left:  "To avoid fainting, keep repeating:  It's only a movie...It's only a movie..."), but I prefer to believe the myth.

Similarly, the 1903 film The Great Train Robbery shocked its audience by having a close-up of the bandit pointing a pistol at the viewers.  While it may be difficult to believe that such stunts could have then been considered shocking and frightening, one must remember that the film medium was still a new and burgeoning artform.  People as a whole were not used to seeing these scenes played out before them in such a manner, and to the untrained eye this must have appeared to be as much witchcraft as science.  The modern viewer has become too jaded to be so easily horrified.

But there are a lot of things that are horrifying that can not be classified as horror. The evening news, for instance. So where do we go to find the first horror film? Not too far, it turns out.


Georges Méliès--who was in the audience the night that the Lumière brothers debuted their impressive film--is sometimes credited with being the grandfather of the horror film. If nothing else, he is at least the grandfather of the Special Effect, which is the lifeblood of the horror film.  Until he came along, the medium was used primarily to capture moments of real life, mini-documentaries of a sort, such as the aforementioned train arrival, or factory workers heading home for the day.  Méliès is responsible for bringing imagination to the forefront of the motion picture. 

Méliès is probably best known for his 1902 film Le Voyage Dans la Lune (A Trip to the Moon), which received a brief burst of popularity when the Smashing Pumpkins used it as the inspiration for their music video "Tonight, Tonight".  This is tentatively a science fiction film, although perhaps more of a fantasy film, but in all reality the majority of Méliès' works are less stories than they are showcases for his innovative camera work and trick shots. (Click here to watch)

A magician himself, many of Méliès' movies highlighted stage magicians in ways never seen before, as in the 1899 short L'Impressionniste Fin de Siecle (An Up-To-Date Conjuror) shown below.


Many of his works, regardless of their purpose, did utilize some horrific imagery.

1896's Le Manoir du diable (The House of the Devil) has elements of vampirism, with Mephistopheles showcasing his ability to transform from a bat into human form, and being staved off with a crucifix.


1903's Le Monstre (The Monster) has an Egyptian king asking a holy man to resurrect the skeletal remains of his dead wife.  The holy man obliges, and she returns--briefly--as a ghostly dancing figure.  (Click here to watch)


1904's Le Roi du Maquillage (The Untamable Moustache) showcases a sketch artist with the uncanny ability to transform himself into whatever it is that he draws on his board.  Among the characters he becomes is a creepy clown, and the devil himself. (Click here to watch)


1905's Le Diable Noir (The Black Imp or The Black Devil) featured a mischievous demon haunting the room in which a weary traveler has rented for the night.  A series of practical jokes performed on the traveler by the imp leads into a battle of the wits and comes off more as slapstick than anything else.  (click here to watch)


1906's Les Quatre Cents Farces du Diable (The Merry Frolics of Satan) was a hand-tinted film that followed a pair of travelers on a carriage ride lead by a skeletal horse.  The trip initially takes them barelling through the heavens, but in the end, one of them plummets to hell. (Click here to watch)


As Méliès was the director of more than 550 films, the list goes on and on.  Those interested in seeing more should do a Google Video Search for his name and settle in for a long night.

--J/Metro

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Horror Explorer (Sneak Peek): Introduction

Heya Hipsters!

Some of you have noticed that my blog posts aren't come quite as regularly as they once did.  The reason for this is that I've been busy working on a side project of sorts, which I'm calling "Horror Explorer: A Genrelogical Journey."  In order to gauge interest and garner suggestions from you, my readers, I've decided to give you all a Sneak Peek of the project.  So for the next five days, each post will be dedicated to the Horror Explorer.

What you'll be reading is far from complete.  If anything, it is just the barest of skeletons waiting for a whole lotta meat to be added to it.  But hopefully you'll get the general gist of what I'm trying to create--a chronological journey through the horror genre.

If I'm missing something, or I skipped over your favorite film, or what have you, please let me know--but don't be surprised.  As I've said, there is still a lot of work to be done.  Any other errors, mistakes, general fuck-ups, or complete lapses in logic that you see, hit me up with a comment.  Don't be afraid to call me out.  I'm a big boy.  I can handle it.

Be critical...but gentle.  Beantiks have feelings too.

Stay tuned...
--J/Metro

Monday, May 3, 2010

Psycho II by Robert Bloch

Psycho II
by Robert Bloch

It wasn't long ago that I first read Robert Bloch's Psycho, followed by a repeat viewing of Hitchcock's masterful film adaptation. Those of you who read my review of the book know that I attempted to argue the merits of it, but finally decided upon the notion that it was only a necessary stepping stone on the path of the Psycho-That-Was-Meant-To Be--the one that graced the silver screen.

The merits of the rest of the film franchise are debatable. I enjoyed them, even the much frowned upon fourth installment, but they all lacked the power of the original. When I learned that the Bloch-penned sequel was wildly divergent from the film sequel, I was excited. Not because there was anything particularly wrong with the movie, but because I was looking forward to a brand new story featuring Norman Bates. Sort of a Lost Adventure, or a Secret Origin, if you will.

The opening of the novel proves just how wildly divergent this story is. Norman, still a patient in the mental institution, seems to have been all but cured thanks to the care of Dr. Claiborne. Mother has been exorcised, and all that remains is Norman.

Poor batshit crazy Norman.

When the opportunity arises, Norman brutally murders a pair of nuns (later raping one of their corpses, if you can believe it!) and escapes the hospital disguised in a habit. Stealing their van, Norman heads home to pay Lila Crane and Sam Loomis, survivors from the previous installment, a little visit. But not before he picks up a hitchhiker who seems just about his size...

After the charred remnants of the van are discovered, the world thinks that Norman Bates is dead. Dr. Claiborne is certain that he has survived, and not only that, but that he is on his way to Hollywood to put a stop to Crazy Lady, the upcoming motion picture based on his old killing spree. So just like Dr. Loomis from Halloween, Claiborne hits the road, obsessively trying to stop the proverbial One That Got Away.

If this sounds like a pretty damn good opening, that's because it is, even if it does tread awful close to typical slasher territory. Unfortunately, once this point is reached, Norman ceases to be a character and acts only as a completely unseen menace, one who could be lurking in the shadows but never steps into the spotlight.

Once in Hollywood, the crime spree continues, but it is sadly pushed to the background as Bloch concentrates on the cast and crew of Crazy Lady as they plot against and squabble with one another. In fact, the novel barely becomes recognizable as a horror tale and turns into a biting satire of the movie making machine.

Bloch's Hollywood is filled with drug addicts, sexual deviants, misogynists and deeply unbalanced individuals. The fact that Bloch was something of an insider (he wrote numerous scripts for film and television) gives this little expose a little more credibility. It does the exact opposite when he goes off on diatribes against horror films, however. It's the pot calling the kettle Bloch...so to speak.

On the positive side of things, Bloch has greatly matured as a writer in the years between parts one and two, and has a better developed dark sense of humor and is more adept at penning dialogue. The psychological explorations here seem too forced, though, the result of having a professional psychologist as a lead character, rather than Norman, who was something of an amateur psychologist.

Overall, this slasher-turned-whodunnit is something of a disappointment. It may start out like a Halloween, but it ends like a particular painful entry in the Friday the 13th franchise. You'll know precisely which one when if you ever read this book.

Once again, you're better off sticking to the movies. It's a rare occurrence...but this is proof positive that it does happen.

--J/Metro

Sunday, May 2, 2010

A Moment of Seriousness: 26.2 for Jamie Sue, or: Miles for Momma

It's time to take a momentary break from the usual horror genre jackassery that populates this blog, so that I can perform my own little PSA.

Just recently, my oldest and best friend Jimmy lost his mother Jamie Sue to brain cancer. Rather than merely sit on his haunches and mourn his loss, he's set out to actually do something about it, which impresses me more than I can ever explain. On October 10th, he will be participating in the American Brain Tumor Association's "Path to Progress Marathon"--that's a 26.2 mile run! By sponsoring him (or any other participant), you will be raising money to "support the research and patient/family support programs of ABTA." The best part is that for every dollar you donate, the Chicago Marathon will match it! So ten dollars out of your pocket is actually a 20 dollar donation to this very worthy cause.


I have never asked you, my readers, to donate money to me or to my blog. Everything I do here comes from my love of the genre. But I am asking you, if you enjoy my ramblings and reviews, to please consider making a donation. I couldn't be there with Jimmy when he needed me, so I'm hoping that any assistance I can give in fund-raising will make up for it.

If you would like to make a donation, or just learn more about it, please click here.

Tell 'em Jonny sent you.

Thank you in advance.
"The More You Know..."
--J/Metro

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails