Sunday, October 31, 2010

Spatter Analysis: The Horror Magazine YOU Wrote #1


The cover image was graciously donated by Jeremy of iZombie fame.

There's no doubt about it:  the publishing world is floundering.  In this internet-connected world, fewer and fewer people are purchasing physical copies of publications, especially those that release on a daily, weekly, or even monthly basis, i.e., newspapers and magazines.  Book sales are suffering as well, but it is much more feasible that they will bounce back in time, as their content tends to be more "exclusive"--that is to say, any magazine can write an article about Stephen King, but there's only one (legal) outlet for Stephen King's latest novel.  Beyond that, newspapers and magazines, generally speaking, have an inherrent disposable quality to them that lead a reader to think, why purchase information that I can find for free elsewhere, especially when it's just going to end up in the trash bin later?  For the publisher, fewer sales mean less money.  This, coupled with the rising prices of physical printing, translates for the customer as higher cover prices and a lower page count.  It's almost a mathematical formula that proves itself each and every month.  As much as I try to support endeavors that I believe in, it has become harder and harder for me to justify spending more money on a magazine--upwards of ten dollars in some instances--than I would spend on a paperback book.  I have recently had to let my subscriptions of certain genre-related magazines, which will remain nameless, lapse.  One of these publications has just announced that they are adapting to the changing world in a simple but innovative way--by offering subscriptions to digital editions of their issues at a lower and more affordable price, tempting me to rejoin their ranks.  This is the next great step in publishing, but until the rest of the industry catches up with the times, there are plenty of free alternatives available on the so-called blogosphere.  This is just my attempt to demonstrate that one need not shell out their hard-earned dollars in order to access fun, intelligent, and entertaining genre journalism.  Browse through the pages, and enjoy.--J/Metro

NOTE:  This is not necessarily an endeavor that I intend to undertake on a monthly basis, however if there is enough favorable response, I may consider it.  Also, none of the articles below are hosted on my blog, they are merely links to some of my favorite blog postings from the month of October, so I have not felt the need to ask permission from their respective authors.  Free publicity and public acknowledgement = good, right?  If, for whatever reason, you would like a link to your blog removed, let me know, and it will be done post-haste.

Table of Contents

True Crime: America's First Serial Killer?:  CRWM from And Now The Screaming Starts opens our eyes to the possibility of a serial killer pre-dating even H.H. Holmes.

A Brief History of Backwoods Horror: Aaron Mason of Dread Carcosa gives us a twisted history lesson that dates back much further than you might expect.

You Are My Lucky Star:  Aylmer from Unflinching Eye waxes poetic about the H.R. Giger design for the creature feature Alien.

Fact or Fiction? The Infamous Heidi Saha Magazine: Was Forrest Ackerman really a dirty old man obsessed with a very young girl? Gilligan at Retrospace intends to find out.

FOUND:  Deathday:  Richard of Cinema Somnambulist finds his (admittedly impulsive) Holy Grail of Horror, a forgotten novel by Shaun Hutson.

Dracula by Bram Stoker -  The Red King Dreams:  Joe Monster of From Beyond Depraved gives us an in-depth account of the classic blood-sucking novel.

Monster Mags!  Horror Movie Magazines In 1970s England:  Mark of Black Hole Reviews takes us back in time and across the pond as he reminisces about the pulpy pages of the mags he grew up with.

Disco! Monkeys! Puppets! How Netflix Instant Watch Replicates the Video Rental Store Blind Watch Experience:  Tenebrous Kate wades through the wasteland that is Instant Watch, and resurfaces with some surprising non-genre offerings.

The Paul Lynde Halloween Special:  Doug, of Dougsploitation, recounts one of the most bizarre Halloween specials of all time.

Some Rules For Dealing With Horror On The Open Road:  Chris Hallock at All Things Horror offers his partner Mike a smattering of advice for staying safe while on the road, all culled from horror films, of course!  (*Dead Link*)

The Truth About Candy Corn!:  Pax Romano from Billy Loves Stu loves candy corn so much that he's willing to create an entirely ficticious history for the sugary little bastards.

The Top Twenty Best Cameos In Horror History:  Counted down by the ever-fanatical Johnny of Freddy In Space.

The Ten Most Overrated Horror Films Of All Time:  Shaun of The Celluloid Highway kicks up some dust with what is sure to be a controversial list.

Human Centipede: First Sequence


Human Centipede: First Sequence
Written& directed by Tom Six

Dr. Heiter...Dieter Laser
Lindsay...Ashley C. Williams
Jenny...Ashlynn Yennie
Katsuro...Akihiro Kitamura

I have to admit that I was looking forward to this movie more than I had looked forward to any genre film in quite some time.  It didn't really have anything to do with the hype surrounding it--I'm usually pretty good at insulating myself from that sort of thing.  It was just that the basic concept was so sick and twisted that it brought me back to my younger days.

Growing up, I didn't have the internet.  I didn't have access to mailing house catalogues or grindhouse theaters.  If I wanted a horror film, I had to rent it at one of the three mom & pop video stores in my tiny hometown--thinking back, it baffles me that a town with such a small population could even support three video stores, so I guess in that respect I was lucky.

I remember what a thrill it was to read the synopsis on the back of the oversized clamshell boxes after spending much time studying the artwork on the front.  My friend Jimmy Retro and I had a theory that the bigger the box, the more illicit the feature.  The biggest ones we referred to as Big Box Productions.  It's difficult to describe the feelings I had when I brought home Blood Feast for the first time, or Lunch Meat, or Microwave Massacre.  It's even more difficult to capture that feeling these days, living as I am in a world of instant gratification and media overexposure.  But a glimmer of that old feeling came creeping back as I received an e-mail notification from Netflix alerting me that Human Centipede was on its way.  It's the type of movie that would not have seen a wide release a decade or two ago.  The type of movie that your older, cooler cousin would have sworn he had seen, but you really didn't know if you should believe him.  The type of movie that I would comb the shelves for, ultimately disappointed with the result.

Namely, this is the type of movie your mother warned you about.

Dr. Heiter, a retired surgeon once famous for his skills at separating conjoined twins has discovered a new passion.  Forget separating, he's all about combining these days, and the experiment that he has been undergoing with his canines is now ready for the next step in evolution:  human subjects.

Three people, one digestive tract.  That's basically the premise here.  Two American girls and a young Japanese male are stitched together ass-to-mouth to form the titular human centipede.  It's fairly obvious that being the head of the centipede is the ideal location, as the two at the back are left consuming their partner's feces.

I believe the word you're looking for is...gross.

And that's really what it has going for it.  It doesn't have a great plot.  It doesn't feature your favorite actors, and it's not from your favorite director.  But it is gross, and it is a grossness that you have never seen before.  Unless there's another mouth-sewn-to-asshole movie that I'm forgetting, and if there is, I'm sure one of my loyal readers will let me know.

There's also a disturbing sexual element to the festivities that few people touch on, most evident in the scene where Dr. Heiter prances around in his knee-high leather boots, swishing a riding crop like an S&M scat queen.  There's a reason few people touch on it, though.  It's too disturbing to even think about, and so I'm going to be just as guilty of skimming over the implications here.

It should be noted that Dr. Heiter cuts a pretty intimidating figure, with his sharp facial features, his long white surgical coat, dark sunglasses, and tranquilizer rifle.  It's because of people like him that I stay away from hospitals, no matter what the cost to my physical well-being.  He is the modern offshoot of the classic mad scientist, and perhaps we will see a second wave of that now mostly-missing character trope.

Torture porn?  With the Saw franchise on its final throws, that's yesterday's news.  Welcome to surgery porn.  It's Nip/Tuck meets Hostel, and everyone's invited.  But not everyone will want to come.

One hell of a fucked-up film that will make even the most-jaded viewer cringe in his seat, and possibly  one of my favorite horror flicks I've seen this year if for no other reason than its sheer bizarro originality.  The only real problem that I have with Human Centipede--and I know this is going to sound odd--is how easily accessible it was.  Hollywood horror films are abundant, and most of them are not-so-good.  Indie horror films are easy to find--and that's great. 

But Human Centipede belongs in an underground that no longer exists.

Rated R
92 Minutes

"Feed her.  Feed her.  Swallow it, bitch!"

(Don't trust my opinion?  Visit Screen Grab! with J. Astro to see what my fellow J has to say)

Rue Morgue's 100 Alternative Horror Films


A few years back, Rue Morgue magazine released a list of 100 Alternative Horror Films, each entry chosen for both its quality as a genre picture and the fact that it is rarely seen on other horror lists.  I'm not trying to step on any copyrighted toes, so what follows is just the list of titles chosen.  If you want to see the reasoning behind those choices or learn more about the films, you can read the original article at the Rue Morgue website by clicking HERE.

I've included Netflix links to the titles when available, and will attempt to include Amazon links at a later date.

Rue Morgue Magazine Presents
The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971)  NETFLIX / AMAZON

Aftermath (1994)  NETFLIX / AMAZON

Alien 3: Director's Cut (1992)  NETFLIX / AMAZON

Alucarda (1978)  NETFLIX / AMAZON

Amityville II: The Possession (1982)  NETFLIX / AMAZON

Angel Heart (1987)  NETFLIX / AMAZON

Angst (1983)  NETFLIX / AMAZON

Anguish (1987)  NETFLIX / AMAZON

Aswang (1994)  NETFLIX / AMAZON

The Bad Seed (1956)  NETFLIX

Battle Royale (2000)  NETFLIX

The Beast Within (1982)  NETFLIX

Black Sabbath (1963)  NETFLIX

Black Sunday (1960)  NETFLIX

Blood of the Beasts (1949)  NETFLIX

The Butcher Boy (1997)  NETFLIX

Calvaire (2004)  NETFLIX

The Changeling (1980)  NETFLIX

Charlie's Family a.k.a The Manson Family (2003)  NETFLIX

Communion (1989)  NETFLIX

Curdled (1996)  NETFLIX

Curse of the Demon (1957)  NETFLIX

Cutthroats Nine (1972)  NETFLIX

Cutting Moments (1997)  NETFLIX

Dead & Buried (1981)  NETFLIX

Deathdream (1974)  NETFLIX

Dellamorte Dellamore (1994)  NETFLIX

Deranged (1974)  NETFLIX

The Devil's Backbone (2001)  NETFLIX

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920)  NETFLIX

Duel (1971)  NETFLIX

The Entity (1981)  NETFLIX

The Eye (2002)  NETFLIX

The Exorcist III (1990)  NETFLIX

Eyes Without A Face (1960)  NETFLIX

Frailty (2001)  NETFLIX

Gates of Hell a.k.a. City of the Living Dead (1980)  NETFLIX

Genesis (1998)  NETFLIX

The Haunting (1963)  NETFLIX

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1990)  NETFLIX

I Walked With a Zombie (1943)  NETFLIX

Ilsa She Wolf of the SS (1964)  NETFLIX

In My Skin (2002)  NETFLIX

Incubus (1965)  NETFLIX

The Innocents (1961)  NETFLIX

Irreversible (2002)  NETFLIX

Ichi The Killer - Uncut (2001)  NETFLIX

Kairo a.k.a. Pulse (2001)  NETFLIX

Lady In a Cage (1964)  NETFLIX

The Last Horror Movie (2003)  NETFLIX

The Laughing Dead (1998)  NETFLIX

Lemora: A Child's Tale of the Supernatural (1973)  NETFLIX

Les Diaboliques (1955)  NETFLIX

Let Sleeping Corpses Lie (1974)  NETFLIX

Let's Scare Jessica To Death (1971)  NETFLIX

Love for Mother Only (2003)  NETFLIX

Lighthouse a.k.a. Dead of Night (2000)  NETFLIX

Lumière (1996)  NETFLIX

Man Bites Dog (1992)  NETFLIX

Maniac (1980)  NETFLIX

Martin (1977)  NETFLIX

The Masque of the Red Death (1964)  NETFLIX

May (2002)  NETFLIX

The Mothman Prophecies (2002)  NETFLIX

Nattevagten a.k.a. Nightwatch (1994)  NETFLIX

Nekromantik 2 (1991)  NETFLIX

The Night of the Hunter (1955)  NETFLIX

Onibaba (1964)  NETFLIX

Opera (1987)  NETFLIX

Paperhouse (1988)  NETFLIX

Peeping Tom (1960)  NETFLIX

Perdita Durango (1997)  NETFLIX

Pin: A Plastic Nightmare (1988)  NETFLIX

Psycho II (1983)  NETFLIX

The Quatermass Xperiment (1955)  NETFLIX

Ravenous (1999)  NETFLIX

Raw Meat (1972)  NETFLIX

Razor Blade Smile (1998)  NETFLIX

The Reflecting Skin (1990)  NETFLIX

Repulsion (1965)  NETFLIX

Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky (1991)  NETFLIX

Rituals a.k.a. The Creeper (1976)  NETFLIX

Santa Sangre (1989)  NETFLIX

The Separation (2003)  NETFLIX

Session 9 (2001)  NETFLIX

The Seventh Seal (1957)  NETFLIX

Shadow of a Doubt (1943)  NETFLIX

Spider Baby (1964)  NETFLIX

Street Trash (1987)  NETFLIX

Targets (1968)  NETFLIX

Tetsuo: Iron Man (1989)  NETFLIX

This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse (1967)  NETFLIX

Tombs of the Blind Dead (1971)  NETFLIX

Two-Thousand Maniacs! (1964)  NETFLIX

Uzumaki (2000)  NETFLIX

Vampyres (1974)  NETFLIX

The Vanishing (1988)  NETFLIX

Wait Until Dark (1967)  NETFLIX

Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)  NETFLIX

The Witchfinder General (1968)   NETFLIX

Kill Theory (2009)


Kill Theory

Written by Kelly C. Palmer
Directed by Chris Moore

Freddy...Daniel Franzese
Carlos...Theo Rossi
Brent...Teddy Dunn
Alex...Taryn Manning
Amber...Ryanne Duzich
Jennifer...Agnes Bruckner

In a typical slasher set-up, eight friends head to the rich kid's isolated vacation home for a weekend of drinking, pre-marital sex, and the usual blend of angsty asshole teenage debauchery. Little do they know that outside lurks a recently-released mental patient with a violent streak and a mind like a steel trap. And when it comes to mental patients, that is one dangerous combination.

Said mental patient (a Jigsaw meets Rusty Nail sort of fellow), who was once convicted of killing his three best friends in order to save his own life, has developed a theory--call it a kill theory--that when it comes down to it, anyone would be willing to do the same thing.  These eight nubile young pretty people are going to serve as his guinea pigs, and he quickly lays down the ground rules, summed up thusly:

"You have the choice of ending someone else's life to save your own."
"Kill your friends...or die with them."

Admittedly, it's a deliciously demented premise.  Any time the victim can become the villain, there's an opportunity for betrayal, bloodshed and psychological examination of the characters involved.  What does it take to push an essentially innocent person over the edge?  This isn't like the final scene in Wes Craven's The Hills Have Eyes, where the survivors give into their primal instincts to defeat their pursuers, as there is at least some iota of honor to be found there.  Here, they are forced to kill the ones they love in order to save themselves, which has the peculiar distinction of being both a sacrifice and an extremely greedy action.

Had Kill Theory taken its time to actually examine this a bit more in depth, it could have been a fascinating film.  Instead, it only paints a picture with the widest of brush strokes and then gives in to frenetic Post-2K pacing without the slightest hint of subtlety--which is fine in its own right, and exactly what I was expecting, but not what I was hoping for.

A gory, flashy, stylish, smart-like and occasionally disturbing but ultimately empty examination, it does have the capacity to keep you entertained--in a guilty, dirty sort of way.  And while that is more than can be said for a lot of flicks, every once and a while, a premise could be so much better if it attempted to do more than that.

Call me crazy.  Just not to my face.

Although, I do have a theory....

Rated R
85 Minutes
United States


Macabre Collectibles


Here's some kick-ass horror collectibles I stumbled across, all of them available from the House of Mysterious Secrets.  Click on the image to enlarge, or the description for ordering information.  And no, I don't get anything if you order, but if I can't afford all the coolest things on this earth, I can at least show them to you.

And hope that you let me play with them.

(goes great with your NOES Nikes!)

[Coming Soon]

[Coming Soon]

[Coming Soon]

Old Movies. New Posters.


A collection of custom-made posters for classic Universal Studios horror films attributed only to "namtab29". Courtesy of

Alive or Dead (2008)


Alive or Dead

Written & Directed by Stephen Goetsch

Maria...Ann Henson
Sarah...Angelica May
Frank...L. Flint Esquerra

Hot young girlies always seem to suffer from bad luck in horror movies, don't they?  Take, for instance, Maria.  She's just trying to get home when her car loses two tires simultanouesly, late at night and in the middle of nowhere.  She doesn't have the necesary number of spares, and her cellphone charger isn't functioning (possibly because it was inside her vagina only moments before--seriously!).  Since there's little else that she can do, Maria decides to investigate the old school bus that has been abandoned nearby.  You know, the one that somebody has written "HELP ME" on in what appears to be blood.

Inside the Bad News Bus, Maria finds evidence of a massacre, with only two survivors: one, an unconscious fat bastard in the Uncle Jesse Duke school of fat bastardism, and the other a young female bound and blindfolded.  Before Maria can offer any real assistance, the madman who performed the dastardly deed returns, plops ass behind the wheel, and they're all off on a roadtrip to hell.

Or a castle in the middle of the desert.  Whichever comes first.

Once escaped from the killer, rather than get the hell out of there, they opt instead to explore his house.  Which pretty much means that they deserve every last thing that they have coming to them--and come it will, because there's more than one maniac in this household.

Is it too much to ask that characters in a horror film act believable?  I mean, at one point, Maria suggests the dumbest thing that I have ever heard someone suggest when attempting an escape: "Come on.  Let's go check out the roof."  Although, to be honest, that's tied with another of her verbal gems:  "You wanna go clubbing after this?"

Slow, dull, and almost unintelligible, this steaming celluloid poop pile only gets points for the bizarre opening and semi-decent finale.  Everything in between was just a mess.  There were countless "shocking" things unfolding on screen, but they failed to shock and in fact just barely broke up the monotony.  The characters were flat and lifeless, with no believable motivation or discernable IQ.  Thinking back, the best thing that I can say about this movie is that the acting could have been worse.

And that ain't saying much.

Rated R
83 Minutes
United States

"Yeah, I jiggled it.  And then did the hokey pokey."

Horror Explorer (Sneak Peek): 1928-1929


Alraune, the second adaptation of the Hanns Heinz Ewers novel of the same name, was released to German theaters on January 25, 1928, and in the United States some four months later. It follows the same basic storyline as the now-lost original presumably did: a crazed scientist artificially inseminates a prostitute with the semen of a man who was hung at the gallows, creating Alraune, a beautiful young offspring who was completely devoid of soul. It was written and directed by Henrik Galeen (1915's The Golem; 1926's The Student of Prague), starred Brigite Helm (from Fritz Lang's 1927 Metropolis) in the title role, and Paul Wegener (from the 1913 version of The Student of Prague and the Golem series of films) as Professor Jakob ten Brinken. The next version of this film was released in 1930.

The Ape, directed by Beverly C. Rule, was released to theaters on March 28, 1928. Very little information is available on this film aside from the plot synopsis given at the Internet Movie Database ("A supposedly tame ape suddenly goes on a rampage in a small town. Based on a true story"), and a slightly longer one from Hal Erickson at All Movie Guide:
"According to studio publicity, The Ape was based on actual police records. The title character is a brutish killer at large in Manhattan and along the Hudson River. Much of film was shot in the dark, partly to sustain its melodramatic mood and partly to disguise its cheap sets. Ruth Stonehouse, the biggest "name" in picture, was given surprisingly little to do. The critical assessment of The Ape boiled down to "five reels of much scurrying about for no particular reason." The film was produced at the old Triangle Studios in Riverdale, New York, which in happier days had housed the likes of Mack Sennett and Douglas Fairbanks Sr"
 The only other bit of information that I have been able to muster up is that, if the filmographies at the IMDB are to be believed, this movie just about killed the careers of everyone involved: Beverly C. Rule never directed again; Gladys Walton didn't appear in another film for 20 years, until 1948's The Red Shoes, and even then she was uncredited; Ruth Stonehouse acted in only one more film, The Devil's Cage from the same year; Basil Wilson's first and last credited role was in The Ape, although he appeared as an uncredited gangster in 1935's Behind the Evidence; and Bradley Barker acted only one more time, in 1928's Inspiration.

This movie is not to be confused with the 1940 Boris Karloff vehicle The Ape, the 1976 King Kong ripoff A*P*E*, or the unlikely 2005 comedy The Ape which paired James Franco with a man in a gorilla suit.

On October 25, 1928, La chute de la maison Usher (Fall of the House of Usher) was released to French theaters.  This version of the 1839 Edgar Allan Poe short story was adapted by Jean Epstein and Luis Buñuel, and starred Jean Debucourt and Marguerite Gance as Sir Roderick Usher and Madeleine Usher respectively. 

This wasn't the only adaptation of the story released in 1928.  At some unspecified point, the 13-minute short The Fall of the House of Usher was released, this time directed by James Sibley Watson and Melville Webber.  It's a surreal and bizarre take on the tale that utilizes dozens of camera tricks within its short running time, and can be viewed as a love letter to German Expressionism.

November 4, 1928 saw the premiere of  Benjamin Christensen's The Haunted House, based on the stage play by Owen Davis.  It revolved around a group of people who were heirs to a fortune, forced to spend the night in a haunted house in order to get their hands on the inheritance (a plot used many times over in these Old Dark House thrillers).  The cast of creepy characters included a mad doctor, a sleepwalker, and a gorgeous nurse.  The entirety of the haunting was a hoax, of course, in an effort to decide who the rightful heir was.  The original print ad stated, "YOU'LL SHIVER WITH SUSPENSE AND SHAKE WITH LAUGHTER AT THIS MASTER MYSTERY!"  Whether that claim was true or not, the world may never know.  This film is presumed lost.

On November 24, 1928, Tod Browning's West of Zanzibar was released.  Lon Chaney stars as Flint, otherwise known as Dead-Legs, a wheelchair bound sociopath and former stage magician who sets up his own kingdom deep in the jungle, utilizing his skills of prestidigitation to control the natives.  Kidnapping the offspring of his former lover and his most-hated enemy (an ivory trader played by Lionel Barrymore), Flint places her in a brothel to be raised by the ladies, turns her into an alcoholic, and then reintroduces this thoroughly used up woman to her father--a truly patient method of revenge.

West of Zanzibar was based on the stage play Kongo, which was quite popular at the time.  It was remade under its original title in 1932, with Walter Huston in the role of Dead-Legs.

At some unspecified point in 1929, the Old Dark House mystery-comedy Seven Footprints to Satan was released.  Based on the novel by Abraham Merritt and adapted by Benjamin Christensen, this movie follows a romantic couple in search of a missing gem, who find themselves trapped in the home of a strange man named Satan.  The house is populated by a number of bizarre characters, and the adventure pushes them to the brink of insanity--despite the fact that it all turned out to be a hoax.

This First-National release was filmed both as a silent (according to An Illustrated History of Horror and Science-Fiction Films by Carlos Clarens, the last silent horror film before talkies completely took over), and as a partial-talkie with sound effects and musical score.  Long believed to be lost, a lone print of the silent version turned up in Europe with Italian inter-titles.  Avid collectors have finally been able to set their eyes upon this movie, but it has yet to see a major re-release to the public.

On April 28, 1929, it would seem that Christensen struck again with The House of Horror.  From what I have been able to gather, the director took plot elements from both his previous works The Haunted House and Seven Footprints to Satan, and then combined them to form an all new film.  A brother and sister are summoned to New York by a mysterious stranger to visit their Uncle Abner, who lives in a spooky house with an assortment of odd characters--including two youngsters who are in search of a missing diamond.  Sound familiar?  It may be that Christensen was being derivative, or it may be that there is a jumble of confusion associated with these particular films.  To further confuse things, an alternate title for The House of Horror is listed as The Haunted House, and the tag-line ("You'll Shiver With Laughter! You'll Shake With Suspense!") is a variation of the one attached to that previous film.  I've seen it stated that these three titles comprise a trilogy, which could explain the similarities in theme, but none of the characters seem to carryover from one to the next.  As this film is also assumed lost (although a number of sound discs are said to have survived at the UCLA Film and Television Archives), much of this is probably just speculation and it may never truly be sorted out.

April 27, 1928 saw the release of The Man Who Laughs, an adaptation of the 1869 Victor Hugo novel directed by Paul Leni (who had previously directed 1927's The Cat and the Canary).  The story revolves around Gwynplaine, a boy who is sentenced to disfigurement after offending the king, and his face is surgically scarred to permanently resemble a manic grin.  Gwynplaine, now a homeless wanderer, discovers a blind baby girl that has been abandoned by her parents, and the two grow up together after being taken in by a swindler who uses Gwynplaine's disfigurement to earn a living.  Although this film may technically be seen as a romantic melodrama, there are enough dark and morbid plot points that it has been embraced by horror fans.

Conrad Veidt plays the fully-grown Gwynplaine.  It is said that he was originally chosen by the head of Universal Pictures, Carl Laemmle, to play the title role in 1931's Dracula which was to be directed by Paul Leni, but the jobs ended up going to Bela Lugosi and Tod Browning respectively. His most famous role was probably that of Major Strasser in Casablanca (1942), but even those who have not seen that film know him in a roundabout way:  Bob Kane, the creator of Batman, copied Veidt's appearance in 1928's The Man Who Laughs as the basis for the homicidal villain The Joker. This was one of the few versions of the character that Heath Ledger studied when bringing the Joker to life on the big screen for 2008's The Dark Knight--one of the biggest movies of all time.

For more rictus grin genre fun, fans should seek out William Castle's great Mr. Sardonicus (1961).

Un Chien Adalou was released on June 6, 1929.  Although the title translates to "An Andalusian Dog", it is almost universally known by its original French title.  While not a horror film, but rather a surrealistic piece of short cinema by Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí, it does contain some truly horrific imagery--most notoriously, a woman's eyeball being sliced by a straight razor (the startling effect was actually created through some clever camera work and the eye of a dead donkey).  It has been stated that this was the birth of the film making style used in most modern music videos, and it could also been seen as a precursor to the mini-film-within-a-film contained on the cursed video tape from Ringu and its myriad remakes and sequels.

Horror Explorer (Sneak Peek): 1927


Metropolis was released in its native Germany on January 10, 1927, hitting the United States in March of the same year. Set in a teeming metropolis during the future year of 2026, society has been divided into two main groups: the Thinkers who have vision but no skills with which to carry out that vision, and the Workers who have skill to fulfill these visions, but no vision of their own. The Thinkers live above ground in hedonistic delight, while the Workers toil away endlessly beneath the Earth. A possible Worker uprising brings the Mediator to the subterranean world where he witnesses the life of the Worker first hand.  While certainly more of a science-fiction film than horror, it has had a long-lasting cross-appeal that defies the boundaries of genre.

Alfred Hitchcock's The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (the director's first thriller) had a UK release on February 14, 1927, and would hit American shores in June of the following year.  This adaptation of the novel by Marie Belloc Lowndes revolves around a serial killer known as The Avenger, based on Jack the Ripper, stalking the streets of London.  A new lodger (Ivor Novello) at a local boarding house owned by Marie Ault (previously of 1923's The Monkey's Paw) behaves strangely, and often leaves his room on dark and foggy nights, making him suspect in the eyes of Joe (Malcolm Keen), a police detective covering the case.  The Lodger was adapted again in 1932 (also with Ivor Novello), 1944, 1953 (as Man in the Attic, with Jack Palance), and 2008.

Tod Browning released The Unknown on June 4, 1927, starring Lon Chaney as Alonzo the Armless, Norman Kerry as Malabar the Mighty, and Joan Crawford as Nanon Zanzi. In case the colorful names haven't tipped you off, this film takes place in a circus, where Chaney plays an armless knife thrower who is in love with Crawford's character, his partner in the act and the daughter of the circus manager. Kerry's strongman character is also in love with Crawford, but because she has a deep fear of being touched, Chaney is the man for her. When it comes to light that Chaney does indeed have arms (they have been tied at his sides all this time), he realizes that he can not marry her if he has those unsightly he visits a surgeon and has them removed. A twisted little ending makes this obsessive act come across as even sadder. Peter Dismuki, a man truly born with no arms, acted as uncredited double for Chaney's character and would appear a year later as 'Armless Man' in Howard J. Green's The Sideshow.

Those looking for further circus fun may want to seek out the difficult-to-find 1916 mystery-thriller Hævnens nat (Blind Justice; Night of Revenge) from Haxan director Benjamin Christensen about a circus performer named Strong John who is falsely accused of murder and vows revenge against the woman who betrayed him, as well as the similarly-themed (and possible remake) 1917 film The Tell-Tale Step from director Burton George.

The Cat and the Canary hit the screens on September 9, 1927.  It was written by Alfred A. Cohn and directed by Paul Leni, based on a stage play from John Willard that had opened in February 1922 and ran for a total of 148 performances.  The movie revolves a group of would-be heirs who gather at the home of the deceased Cyrus West in hopes of claiming the inheritance, where a number of strange and deadly events occur.  Blending comedy, mystery, horror and even twinges of expressionism, this movie was a huge success for Universal Pictures, so much so that it was remade five times.

London After Midnight premiered on December 3, 1927. Lon Chaney starred as Inspector Burke of Scotland Yard in this Tod Browning film, called in to investigate the supposed suicide of wealthy Sir Robert Balfour. The old Balfour home has been taken over by strange unusual sorts that are reportedly vampires, and among them is a disguised Inspector Burke, using his skills as of mesmerism to aid in closing the case. All footage of this film has long been considered lost, but a good many still photographs remain, as does a copy of the shooting script. Using this script and these stills, a slide-show reconstruction of this movie was released in 2002. Browning remade this film as a talkie in 1935 with Bela Lugosi and Lionel Barrymore under the title Mark of the Vampire, with some alterations made to the script. The remake is often panned by critics today (as it was upon its initial release), but unless a copy of London After Midnight resurfaces, it and the reconstruction are the only two options we have.

For a more in-depth account of the film, written by a blogger more talented than I, click here.

Horror Explorer (Sneak Peek): 1925-1926


The Monster hit the theater screens on March 16, 1925. Written and directed by Roland West (later of The Bat and The Bat Whispers), and based on the stage play by Crane Wilbur, this movie stars Lon Chaney as Dr. Ziska, a renegade (and, yes, quite mad) scientist who has taken over an abandoned mental asylum and kidnaps innocents for use in his bizarre experiments--including one which utilized a 'death chair' to transfer a woman's soul into a man's body.  This comedy horror hybrid received mixed reviews upon its initial release.

Tod Browning's The Unholy Three appeared in theaters on August 16, 1925.  Lon Chaney stars as Echo the ventriloquist, Harry Earles as little man Tweedledee, and Victor McLaglen as Hercules the strong-man, three sideshow performers who cook up a strange little scheme:  Echo, disguised in drag as the elderly Mrs. O'Grady, opens up a pet shop full of birds with impressive vocabularies--all actually the work of Echo's vocal talents.  When a customer takes the bird home, only to discover that it has fallen mysteriously silent, they file a complaint.  Mrs. O'Grady and her young grandson (Tweedledee) visit the customer's house and coax the bird into "speaking" again while casing the place.  If they find it suitable, the three of them return later to rob them.  All goes well until a murder is committed while on the job, and an innocent man is blamed for the crime.

This is another example of a macabre melodrama, the likes of which Browning was famous for, that has found fondness in the hearts of horror fans everywhere, even if it doesn't strictly belong to the genre.  The darker elements alone merit its inclusion here.  The Unholy Three was based on a novel by C.A. 'Tod' Robbins, who was also the source author of Browning's Freaks.  It was remade in 1930, as Chaney's first and last, talkie. 

Director Rupert Julian's Phantom of the Opera, released on September 6, 1925, certainly wasn't the first screen adaptation of the Gaston Leroux novel, but it is arguably the most famous.  This version stars Lon Chaney in one of his most famous roles, Erik, the tortured Phantom.  It was re-released as a talkie in 1929, with as much as 40% of the material re-shot with synchronous sound. 

Maciste all'inferno (Maciste in Hell) premiered in Sweden on October 19, 1925, but it did not hit the United States until the late date of June 26, 1931. Based somewhat on Dante Alighieri's portrayal of hell in his epic poem The Divine Comedy, it follows the scrupulous and moral character of Maciste (Bartolomeo Pagano) as he is dragged into hell by the devil in an effort to corrupt him. The original cut ran a full 97 minutes, but the only version currently available on DVD is an extremely truncated 66 minute version.

Fresh off of directing The Monster, Roland West took another stab at bringing a Broadway play to the big screen, this time one written by Mary Roberts Rinehart and Avery Hopwood. The Bat was released on March 14, 1926, and featured a villainous character known as The Bat killing off treasure hunters in an old mansion one by one. West remade this movie as a talkie in 1930 as The Bat Whispers, and it was remade again in 1959 under the original title, starring Vincent Price and Agnes Moorehead. Comic book creator Bob Kane stated in his autobiography that the villain here was a direct inspiration for his most famous creation, Batman, and even the Bat Signal was lifted from the movie.

Faust - Eine deutsche Volkssage (or, in English, simply Faust) was released in Germany on October 14, 1926, making its way to the United States on December 5th of the same year. F.W. Murnau directed this adaptation of the Goethe play, in which Faust (Gösta Ekman) sells his soul to Mephisto (Emil Jannings) in exchange for his youth. This was Murnau's last German film before moving to the United States under contract to Fox Film Corporation. Portions of this film have gone missing over the years, but the scenes that remain still run close to two hours long and have been released on DVD by Kino Video.

October 24, 1926 saw the release of Rex Ingram's The Magician, based on a book of the same name by W. Somerset Maugham. It details an evil magician as he hypnotizes and controls a young sculptress in order to acquire her virginal blood, which he requires to complete a spell used to create life.  The lab scenes toward the end of the film would have looked cribbed from Universal's Frankenstein, if Frankenstein wasn't still years away from being filmed.  There's also a red-tinted vision of hell and plenty of creepy gothic imagery. Paul Wegener filled the role of Oliver Haddo, the magician, Henry Wilson plays his diminutive assistant and the virginal Margaret Dauncey was played by Alice Terry. According to the original ad:
"She had given her heart to the man who had saved her. Then, into her life, stalked the evil, half-mad seeker of mysteries. Powerless under his spell, she forgot the man who loved her."
The model for Maugham's magician character was occultist Aleister Crowley, who read the book and was none too pleased with the depiction.  In rebuttal, he opted not to cast a spell or curse the author, but rather submitted a pointed open response to Vanity Fair for publication.  No word on his response to the film adaptation.

Der Student von Prag (The Student of Prague, sometimes known as The Man Who Cheated Death), a remake of a 1913 film by the same name, was released in Germany on October 25, 1926 and in the United States in February 1929.  This time around Conrad Veidt plays the student who sells his soul in order to get the woman of his dreams, as directed by Henrik Galeen. Galeen was also the man behind 1915's The Golem and wrote the script for 1922's immortal Nosferatu. This same story would be remade next in director Arthur Robison's 1935 version.

Horror Explorer (Sneak Peek): 1923-1924


At an unspecified date in 1923, director H. Manning Haynes and screenwriter Lydia Hayward released the film The Monkey's Paw, an adaptation of the short story by author W.W. Jacobs.  This movie is said to follow the source material quite closely, as a family comes across the magical monkey paw that has the ability to grant three wishes, the third of which involves bringing a deceased son back from the grave.  Some sources claim that this was the first adaptation of the story, but there is some evidence that other adaptations were made in 1915 (directed by Sydney Northcote) and 1919, although very little information regarding these versions could be found.  

The French comedy Au Secours! (Help!) was released on June 17, 1924, and deserves at least a brief mention.  Writer-director Abel Gance sends talented but often overlooked silent era comedian Max Linder (who predated Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton by years) into a haunted house on a dare.  Although it features yet another hoax ending, there are plenty of spooky effects and monster moments throughout that make it noteworthy.  The scene in which Max is about to be beheaded is priceless.  Linder only appeared in one more film, 1925's Chevalier Barkas, before he and his wife died in a suicide pact.  (Watch online here)

Orlacs Hände (The Hands of Orlac) was released in Germany on September 24, 1924 and is considered another classic of German Expressionism with a lean towards horror. Genre stalwart Conrad Veidt (again directed by Robert Wiene, who had teamed up with the actor four years earlier for The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari) plays tormented pianist Paul Orlac who loses his hands in a train wreck, and receives a new pair "donated" by a recently-executed murderer. With the hands come the criminal's desire to kill, and Orlac fears that they are taking on a mind of their own. While this may sound like standard fare these days, it was a pretty fresh idea upon this film's release, although the idea of transplanted hand with a mind of its own own had previously been seen in 1915's Mortmain, and jokingly been foretold even earlier than that by the Vitagraph Company's 1908 short The Thieving Hand (watch online here). The Hands of Orlac was remade in 1935 as Mad Love (starring Peter Lorre) and again under the original title in 1960 (featuring Donald Pleasance and Christopher Lee).

Dante's Inferno was released on September 7, 1924, the second film based (albeit loosely) on part of Dante Alighieri's poem The Divine Comedy (following 1911's L'inferno)--although this version also seems to contain elements of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol.  Written by Edmund Goulding and directed by Henry Otto, this tale follows a greedy businessman whose unsavory tactics cause a man to commit suicide, leading to him being tried for murder.  Upon his execution, he's dragged to Hell by demons, where he is destined to spend the rest of eternity.  Prints of this film still exist in the archive of the Museum of Modern Art.

Das Wachsfigurenkabinett (Waxworks) made its way to screens in Berlin, Germany on November 13, 1924.  Written by Henrik Galeen, with directorial credits divided between Leo Birinsky and Paul Leni, this anthology film revolves around a poet (William Dieterle) who is hired by a wax museum owner and his daughter (John Gottowt and Olga Belajeff, respectively) to write about three of their exhibits, which lead into their individual tales.  The first is the tale of Haroun-al-Raschid from ancient Bagdad;  the second is about Ivan the Terrible, played by Conrad Veidt; and the third about the serial killer Springheel Jack.

Horror Explorer (Sneak Peek): 1921-1922


On New Year's Day 1921, the Swedish romantic horror film Körkarlen (The Phantom Carriage) premiered, written and directed by Victor Sjöström who based it on a 1912 novel by Selma Lagerlöf.  It concerns the legend of the Phantom Chariot that picks up the souls of the recently deceased and carries them into the next world.  According to the legend, the last person to die each year is forced to work as a servant of Death, driving the chariot for the next twelve months.  Körkarlen is considered one of the great works of Swedish cinema, and was a great inspiration to director Ingmar Bergman.  In fact, Bergman directed the 2000 television film Bildmakarna (The Image Makers), which dramatized the production of this movie.  Körkarlen was remade under the same title in 1958 by director Arne Mattsson.

F.W. Murnau's Schloß Vogeloed (The Haunted Castle) debuted in Germany on April 7, 1921, written by Carl Mayer and based on a novel by Rudolf Stratz. This movie is listed as part of the horror genre in multiple sources, but despite the misleading title, it seems to be more of a mystery-thriller film in the "Old Dark House" vein that would soon become a hot Hollywood property (as in 1926's The Bat and 1927's The Cat and the Canary). The Old Dark House film is second cousin to the Haunted House film, only it operates without supernatural influence, instead focusing on shady human characters and their overwrought evil schemes that are usually motivated by greed.

March 4, 1922 saw the release of the classic Nosferatu.  Scripted by Henrik Galeen (director of 1915's The Golem and 1927's Alraune), and directed by F.W. Murnau, this classic film has earned a reputation that extends much deeper than its roots.  It was conceived as an adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula, but being an unauthorized one, certain liberties were taken.  These changes fooled nobody, and Stoker's widow Florence sued the producers for copyright infringement.  The lawsuit bankrupted the production company, Prana Films, before it could ever produce another picture.

Häxan (Witchcraft Through The Ages) debuted in Sweden on September 18, 1922, the work of Danish director Benjamin Christensen. Although it presents a series of dramatizations, it was actually filmed as a documentary, which demonstrates the vast amount of research that Christensen did before beginning work on this film. It starts off as a discussion of demons in medieval cultural beliefs but soon develops into a series of vignettes that showcase the dark goings-on of dark magic across time. Interestingly, the director appears not only as himself during the film's introduction, but also as Satan, and, briefly, even as Jesus Christ. The original cut was 104 minutes long, but in 1968 it was re-released in a 77 minute version with musical jazz backing and narration by Beat Generation author William S. Burroughs. Both the full version and the truncated Burroughs version can be found on the Criterion DVD release.

Der müde Tod (Destiny) premiered in Germany on October 6, 1921. Directed by Fritz Lang, this film concerns a traveling couple who meet up with the personification of Death. This is actually an Expressionistic framing device for an anthology of shorts that owe more to fantasy and melodrama than horror--although the wraparound story and the embodiment of Death makes it worth a mention. The first tale is a Persian story about a forbidden romance; the second involves a love triangle that takes place in Venice; and the third takes place in China, a comical tale involving an army of miniature soldiers.

On November 5, 1922 director Edward D. Venturini released his film The Headless Horseman. Scripted by Carl Stearns Clancy and starring Western star Will Rogers in the lead, this was an adaptation of Washinton Irving's story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" (supposedly last adapted as The Legend of Sleepy Hollow in 1908, although little to no information about that film seems to be available). This version, which follows Ichabod Crane as he faces off against the mythical Headless Horsemen, is generally panned by audiences as "dull" and "lifeless".

Goldwyn Productions released A Blind Bargain on December 3, 1922, based on the 1897 novel The Octave of Claudius by author Barry Pain.  Directed by Wallace Worsely, it starred Lon Chaney in dual roles (the mad doctor Arthur Lamb and his hunchback assistant the Ape Man) and Raymond McKee as Robert Sandell, a struggling writer who has turned to minor crimes to make ends meet and provide care for his dying mother.  The robbery doesn't pan out, but Lamb agrees to perform a life-saving medical procedure on Sandell's mother, so long as he agrees to submit himself to the doctor's experiments at the end of eight days.  As the time for the experiments grows near, he discovers an underground chamber full of deformed people kept prisoner--the failed experiments of Dr. Lamb.

A Blind Bargain received favorable reviews from critics upon its release, singling out Chaney's dual performance as the standout.  Unfortunately, it is now considered lost as the original negative was destroyed by MGM in 1931 after the takeover of Goldwyn Studios, and the last known surviving print was lost in the 1965 fire of Vault #7 that also destroyed 1927's London After Midnight.  However, a "novelization" of sorts was published in 1988 by Philip Riley and Forrest Ackerman, reconstructing the film's storyline as closely as possible by using text and surviving still photographs.  Worsley had directed Chaney the year before in The Penalty, and was only a year away from directing him in The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Ghoul by Brian Keene


by Brian Keene

It's the summer of 1984, and young friends Timmy, Barry and Doug expect it to be an endless season of lazy days and (mostly) harmless mischief.  The last thing that they expect is that this will be a summer full of death:  first, the death of the coolest kids in town, then the death of a close relative, and ending with the death of their innocence (cliche as that may sound).

Well, that may not be entirely true.  The absolute last thing they are probably expecting is that monsters are real, and one of them--a ghoul--is living beneath their local graveyard, feasting on the rotting flesh of the deceased.  This, of course, is one of those situations so prevalent in horror:  a situation so terrible and bizarre that nobody else believes it, and so it's up to the boys to put an end to it themselves.

A publicity blurb from The Celebrity Cafe states that "Keene takes horror to a new level", which couldn't be further from the truth.  In actuality, Keene takes horror to an OLD level, a grand old level which hasn't been seen since the decade this book takes place in.  Ghoul is not only set in the 1980's, but it's also a stellar literary throwback to that era's particular brand of horror flicks, full of latex prosthetics and red-dyed Karo syrup.  It unfolds in a way that makes you wish it was a movie, one that you could watch over and over again.  One that you would keep on the shelf between your VHS copies of The Gate and Basket Case.

A blurb from Rue Morgue calls Keene "One of horror's most impressive new literary talents", and this is definitely closer to the truth.  Not only does he weave a scary tale that utilizes a seldom-seen mythological monster, and does so convincingly in a year now 25+ years gone, but he also evokes a very real terror, one that not even the ghoul himself can touch.

The title of this book may be Ghoul, but he's not the real trouble here.  A ghoul is a monster that can be stopped.  But the real monsters are those that walk secretly among us: the monsters wearing human skin.  These are the monsters that go on forever, the ones that can not be stopped.

Because when one of these human monsters is stopped, another, smaller version just steps up to take its place.


More 1980s Monster Kid Memories


Last year at this time, I listed a few of MY cherished Monster Kid Memories (read HERE).  Well, it's Halloween again, and that means it's time for MORE Monster Kid Memories.  How many of them do you share?


The Boglins were released in the 1980s, and I went absolutely ape shit when I first saw their commercial on TV.  They were rubbery, demonic handpuppets that reminded me, at the time, of Ghoulies--specifically Ghoulies 2, which I used to watch on cable every time it was on.  The packaging (shown above) was killer, and if you were careful when you opened them on Christmas morning, you would still have a neat little cage to keep the bastards in when it wasn't busy scaring your little sister Susie.

Haunted House

When I was a kid, we didn't have the interwebs, and as such we didn't have any fancy-pants MMPORG games like World of Warcraft or Samurai Soldiers of Ape Island.  But what we did have was the Atari 2600, a 2-bit cartridge-based gaming system that made me the coolest kid in the neighborhood.  Well, the coolest kid in my house, anyway.  When my sister was gone.  There were dozens of "scary" games for the Atari, but the one that I spent the most time playing was Haunted House.  I mean, look at those steallar graphics!  Using the squeaky joystick, you would maneuver your way through a dark house, avoiding bats and other creepy crawlies.  You were represented by a pair of floating eyeballs, because Atari games operate in the same world as cartoons, meaning that eyes glow in the dark.  But in order to really see anything around you, you had to light a match, which came in handy for locating the pieces of a broken urn.  For whatever reason.  For anyone interested, you can play this game for free online HERE.

Toxic Crusaders

When I was 11, I was right at the maturity level needed to be a fan of Troma's unique brand of film.  Unfortunately, Mama Metro thought their movies were a bit too extreme for my sensitive psyche, so I was thrilled when Toxic Crusaders hit the airwaves in 1991 (which is past the 1980s threshold, but close enough for government work, as my pappy used to always say).  Sure, it was watered-down and hammered an enviornmental message down my impressionable throat, but it was TOXIE!  On Saturday morning!  And he brought with him a whole legion of mutant freaks!  The series even spawned a series of action figures (which I collected, natch!) and a video game...which isn't bad, considering the network pulled the plug after only five episodes.

Monster Cereal
Franken Berry.  Count Chocula.  Boo Berry.  What's not to love!?  Boo Berry was always a cool cat, with his jaunt hat and happening little bow-tie (Boo-tie?), but his cereal was a bit too putridly sweet for my discerning pallete.  As a child, I preferred the taste of Franken Berry, although I thought it was a travesty that they painted this brute of a patchwork man a very lady-like pink.  That would have been better suited for the Bride of Franken Berry...although I'm not sure that women are really his bag, if you catch my drift.  Mr. Berry is still my favorite character, although in my adult years I have begun primarily to dig the chocolatey goodness of Count Chocula.  And yes, I still I buy some every October, when they return from the dead and haunt the shelves at my local grocery store.

Friday Night Frights
Hosted by the creepy guy above--one Mr. Edmus Scarey--I used to watch this horror movie show on Friday nights when growing up in Phoenix.  He seemed like such a cool ghoul, someone that I would have liked to hang out with...until he went to prison for fondling little boys.  Reading the article detailing this in the local paper really screwed up my head, and made me question everything I thought I knew.  And if my information is right, he's recently returned to prison for violating the conditions of his patrol.  Kind of brings a whole different level of creepy to the proceedings, doesn't it?  I guess all Monster Memories can't be warm and fuzzy.  You sick fuck.



Related Posts with Thumbnails