Wednesday, October 31, 2012

My Favorite Era: Dawn of the Dead (1978)

We reach the end of our Halloween Countdown with not only my favorite George Romero zombie film, but also my favorite horror movie in general.  Dawn of the Dead is quite simply one of the best horror movies ever made.  Good acting, great Tom Savini f/x, a plot that manages to deliver the horror goods while still acting as social commentary (Romero tends to be a little heavy handed in this regard but here it works fine) and a great score by Italian rock group Goblin combine to make one hell of a two hours.
  • This is the first collaboration between Romero and Italian director Dario Argento whose brother Claudio co-produced the film.  Their next collaboration, Two Evil Eyes is...Not as good, to put it politely.  Actually, it's not that bad but the difference between Argento and Romero circa 1978 and them two of them in 1990 is pretty glaring.
  • First off, there are three cuts available: the 127 minute U.S. version that I'll be going from; the 137 minute extended cut that played in foreign market and the Dario Argento edited 118 minute Italian cut.  All three have their merits but I love the 127 minute version as it's what I grew up watching.
  • The first few minutes are great at showing just how chaotic a zombie apocalypse would be.  What's brilliant is that it is done from the perspective of the media trying to cover the events rather than having our characters just get attacked by zombies from the beginning.
  • Francine (Gaylen Ross) and Stephen (David Emge) make for a fairly likable couple.
  • The next stretch of film is awesome as it not only sets up our other two main guys, SWAT officers Peter (Ken Foree) and Roger (Scott H. Reiniger), but also gives us a heavy dose of the in your face f/x Tom Savini delivered.  Exploding heads, gory zombies, I'm so glad Romero decided to release this into theaters unrated.  It did well too, earning around 5 million which in 1978 for a movie that couldn't have a lot of advertising thanks to the lack of a rating is pretty amazing.
  • Matters of storytelling and gore aside, the sequence is also just a damn good action scene by itself.  Romero has always between good at this sort of thing and in fact, I consider his 2005 flick Land of the Dead to be basically just a post apocalyptic action movie with zombies.
  • The sequence leading up to the mall is great as a lean, fast form of character building.  This might be the best paced two hour long horror film I have ever seen, especially considering you are basically thrown right into the action.
  • The mall is just plain cool as a location.  It's a great, huge 70's mall...disgustingly 70's, in fact which was probably Romero's point.  What makes this movie so great is that it works great as a horror/action film but also as social commentary.  In this case, Romero is taking on consumerism and I won;t get too deep into it since there are other places you can find that sort of thing and it will be done better than I ever could.
  • The thing that hooked me on this film is the long "cleaning out the mall" section which takes up a good portion of the film, nearly an hour.  Savini really shines with his legendary machete to the head; screwdriver to the ear, the f/x work is just awesome and it's simply a horror fan's dream.
  • Romero handles the change in tone well as this section of the film goes from fun action to grim contemplation as the outside world is falling apart.
  • Roger's death and return as a zombie is wonderfully tense, heightened by a TV broadcast as a scientist type is speaking to an angry audience.
  • The quiet idyll the film settles into works well, especially the end when the biker gang (led by Tom Savini who also did stuns for the movie) comes in and lets the zombies back in.
  • The finale is gruesomely awesome.  My favorite is the one gang member who for some inexplicable reason keeps going back to a blood pressure test machine...Oh yes, he does get munched real good.
  • David Emge makes a great zombie in terms of his physicality.
  • I love the music at the end when Peter decided he wants to live and fights his way to the roof to escape with Fran.
I honestly don't have much more to say.  The film is simply fantastic.

Happy Halloween.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

My Favorite Era: Fright Night (1985)

Fright Night is a great example of a good old fashioned fun house style horror movie done 80's style.  William Ragsdale plays Charley Brewster, a young man who has found out that his neighbor Jerry Dandridge (Chris Sarandon) is a vampire.  His girlfriend Amy, played by Amanda Bearse thinks he's crazy, the cops think he's wasting their time and even his weirdo best friend Ed (Stephen Geoffreys) thinks he's got a screw loose.  After some fretting, he enlists the aid of washed up horror actor Peter Vincent (Roddy  McDowall) who eventually learns that the things he fought in the movies can also turn up in real life.

Fright Night is just plain fun with great acting, great f/x from Richard Edlund (who also did the stuff for Ghostbusters the previous year)  and great directing from Tom Holland.  Let's take a closer look...
  • I love just how bad the Peter Vincent movie Charley is watching in the beginning looks.
  • Maybe it's just because I've seen a ton of Married...With Children episodes but it's harder than hell to not watch Amanda Bearse in this film and not just picture Marcy yelling at Al Bundy.
  • The first act is essentially Rear Window with a few differences.  Voyeurism, something bad going on next door, give William Ragsdale a broken leg and a stutter and he's pretty much Jimmy Stewart.
  • Stephen Geoffreys is both annoying and amusing in his role.  Ed is a true weirdo outcast and it;s no shock he ends up being controlled by Jerry.
  • Chris Sarandon and Johnathan Stark are great as Jerry and his buddy Billy Cole respectively (a bit of subtext revolving around that guy to be sure).  Sarandon has always been good and he makes Jerry both charming and creepy.
  • Jerry's first scene threatening Charley is a real showstopper as we get a good idea of just how strong and ugly this particular vampire can be.
  • Roddy is great as Peter, snide and sarcastic, realistically scared (as anyone with half a brain would if they learned vampires were real) but also brave when he needs to be.  It's a wonderfully hammy bit of work that fits perfectly with the rest of the film.
  • Another good Jerry scene is the nightclub scene...because nothing impresses quite like ripping one bouncer's face open and choking the life out of another one.  Making off with the hero's girl is just icing on the cake.
  • While the first seventy minutes of the film are very good, it's the last half hour that really makes this film a classic.  A dissolving ghoul, a werewolf, Jerry taunting our heroes and turning into a bat.  It's just nearly thirty solid minutes of spectacular horror and special effects.  Great stuff all around.
  • Also, gotta love Amy's vampire makeup at the end.  Very scary.
  • The song by The J. Geils Band at the end is a great, kind of cheesy way to end the movie.
Fright Night is, as I said earlier, just plain fun.  Good acting, great f/x, it's a real winner.  Heck, even the sequel is worth checking out...though I'd avoid the recent remake.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

My Favorite Era: Phantasm (1979)

Now this one is really special for me as it's one of my favorite horror films of all time.  I first saw this with my brother and it is, quite simply one of the best surreal horror films I have ever seen.  Written and directed by Don Coscarelli, it tells the tale of two brothers who live alone in a small town in Northern California that is being slowly wiped out by a creepy old dude known only as The Tall Man (Angus Scrimm).  We've got brotherly bonding; blood spewing, yellow goo, flying silver spheres that drill into heads and shoot blood out, killer Jawas, everything a horror movie should have.

The film came out in 1979, one of the best years for the genre as it saw not only this but the release of Alien and the first issue of Fangoria.  Using a cast of unknowns (Okay, he knew most of them from other films he had done), Coscarelli managed to create a movie with an almost dream-like atmosphere as Mike (Michael Baldwin) and Jody (Bill Thornbury) try to figure out what the hell is going on as The Tall Man and his gang of robed dwarfs harvest the local cemetery.

Acting is about what you would expect with Scrimm and Bannister as Reggie, a guitar playing hippie who owns an ice cream truck standing out from the rest of the cast.  Bannister is quite funny and laid back as the voice of reason and it's no shock he's since become something of a favorite amongst horror fans.  As for Angus Scrimm, he turns in an utterly creepy performance along the lines of something Boris Karloff would have come up with.  Appropriately since Karloff was a primary influence on the man's performance.  The Tall Man has become an iconic figure of horror, right up there with Freddy and Jason.

The other great iconic thing from the film is the flying silver sphere.  A very cool element of the film, this little ball of death and mayhem features in the best scene as it chases Mike around a mausoleum before embedding itself in the head of one of the Tall Man's goons.  It drills in and proceeds to exsanguinate the poor schmuck, making for a very memorable moment in modern horror.

What really makes me love the film even today is the sheer surreal nature of it all.  You're not exactly sure if Mike is dreaming all this or not, even a scene at the end where he wakes up is a bluff.  Surreal horror is pretty hard to pull off but Don Coscarelli manages it on a level that would make Lucio Fulci nod in approval.  It's a great little mind-screw of a movie and the sequels, for the most part are equally solid.

Phantasm is awesomely creepy, surprisingly smart and a little touching in places.  It also achieves a very nice balance between creepiness and gross-out moments which makes for a fantastic viewing experience.

Friday, October 26, 2012

My Favorite Era: Halloween (1978)

Not really sure how much more I can say about this one as pretty much everything that can be mentioned has been covered so this may be a briefer piece than I would normally throw out.  Then again, that never stopped me from trying so let's take a closer look at one of the best slasher films of all time to say nothing of one of John Carpenter's best films as well as one of his best collaborations with producer Debra Hill.  Odd that I've waited this long to do a full review of one of his movies since he;s one of my favorite directors but there you go.
  • Sort of odd to realize that I am the same age as this movie.  And by odd, I mean soul-shatteringly depressing.
  • Even now, the main theme is still one of the creepiest compositions I've ever heard.  John Carpenter is just as good a composer as he is a director.  The rest of the score is equally solid.
  • Speaking of the man's directorial skills, that one opening tracking shot is simply awesome.  It just works and is still amazingly suspenseful.
  • I have to say here how much I love Donald Pleasence as Dr. Loomis.  The man was always a brilliant actor who could play hysteria like few others and here he does a bang-up job of playing an obsessed, determined, probably slightly unhinged man.  It also helps that he gets all the best lines.
  • The scene where Michael Myers escapes is another well done bit of business.
  • As with the remake of The Blob I wrote about the other day, the town and main characters are set up nicely and the characters are, most importantly, likable.  Of course Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) is sweet given that she'll end up being the hero of the piece but Annie (Nancy Loomis) and Lynda (P.J. Soles) are quite likable, though a bit on the smart-assed/horny side.
  • On a more personal note, part of the thrill of this film for me is that most of it was filmed in Pasadena, CA and South Pasadena, CA which by sheer coincidence is where I live.  The thrill I felt when I watched this and recognized my high school as well as the street I've walked down hundreds of times was quite strong.
  • I've always been impressed by how well Carpenter was able to make Southern California look like rural Illinois.
  • I love how Carpenter keeps Myers more or less hidden to where you don't get a really great look at him for the most part (aside from a few profile shots and lower torso angles until the second half) but always a presence, even in the daylight.
  • I appreciate how the kill scenes are geared more towards suspense than anything else.  Annie death, the great double kill of Lynda and her boyfriend, all three are set up and executed for the maximum level of suspense.  Contrast this with Friday the 13th two years later which focused more on gore (though there was a little suspense here and there).
  • I do get a morbid kick out of how Annie's babysitting charge Lindsay goes through most of her scenes staring blankly at a horror film on TV.
  • I also enjoy the irony of Carpenter having The Thing From Another World playing in the background considering what movie he made four years later.
  • The entire last twenty minutes or so with Laurie vs. Michael is one of the best extended suspense sequences in horror history.  Jamie Lee Curtis is fantastic as usual and she plays being scared out of her mind quite well.
  • One last bit of fun before we end this, the film was one of the earliest VHS releases, put out by Media (initially Meda as Charles Band named the label after his wife).
It's been said before and I'll say it again but Halloween is a landmark in horror cinema and film in general.,  Well directed, well acted and still effective, it spawned legions of fans and cinematic knock-offs to say nothing of its own sequels and remakes.  It's still one of the great horror films.

Fangoria Flashbacks: 1994

And now we come to a run of full years.  The next three editions of this series will cover the full run of issues Fangoria put out.  1994 was a bit of a slow burner in terms of good horror films.  There was a little in the first half and things pick up the last quarter but for the most part, it was a another slow year for the genre.  Lots of low budget stuff is covered along with a little more in the way of television coverage.

As far as the magazine goes, there was a bit of downsizing as 1994 saw the last of the Bloody Best... and Horror Spectacular special issues.  They still did the occasional special movie magazine but for the most part, it's just Fango all by its lonesome from here on out.  I may get into a little of the special stuff at some later date.

Issue 130 starts us off and it's not too bad considering the drought the genre was in at the time.  A nice cover story on Phantasm III and a tribute to the recently departed Vincent Price highlight this one.

Other good articles are another retrospective piece on The Exorcist, an interview with Danny Elfman and a look at Spanish horror flick Accion Mutante.  Overall, a decent start to the year.
Thing stay on a fairly even keel with 131as while the upcoming Wolf starring Jack Nicholson and Michelle Pfeiffer may get the cover, the bulk of the issue is given to small productions and other side aspects of the genre.

Highlights are an interview with Brazilian horror icon Coffin Joe; low budget flicks such as Skeeter and Body Melt, the aforementioned first look at Wolf, an article on Leprechaun 2 and a retrospective of an early Tom Savini outing called Deranged, based on the real life story of Ed Gein.  We also get the debut of a new column on horror video games.  Essentially a video game-centric version of the Dr. Cyclops section, the debut reviews a few Dracula tie-in games as well as the second in the Splatterhouse series.

Issue 131 is a good template for how the rest of the year will go.  More of a focus on smaller films as the big studios are taking a bit of a breather; a wide variety of articles covering the entire width of the genre and an overall polished feel that really makes for a great issue.

Issue 132 could easily be called the ultimate low budget Fangoria issue.  With the exception of news on The Stand (the massive 4 hour mini-series that's quite good) and a retrospective on The Hills Have Eyes, all of the articles are on smaller films and the issue is still a knockout.  No honest to god highlights as the entire issue is just plain solid.  Good stuff.
133 is pretty much more of the same with some good coverage of The Stand and The Crow (Brandon Lee's last film) along with more articles on smaller films.  My favorite is an article on the f/x house used by Charles Band's Full Moon Pictures.  Another solid issue.
With the summer now in full force, the magazine goes a little mainstream with its big 15th anniversary issue.  Another werewolf special, this has coverage of Wolf; a look back at Hammer's Curse of the Werewolf, Howling VII (dear lord) and of course, an interview with Spanish werewolf star Paul Naschy.  In terms of non-werewolf content, there are filler articles on the underrated The Shadow and an interview with Phantasm co-star Reggie Bannister and first news on the new Nightmare on Elm Street flick.  It's very good issue.

135 is a return to the style of the first few issues of the year as we have an impromptu second Lovecraft issue as the new John Carpenter film In the Mouth of Madness (great movie sadly delayed until early 1995), Charles Band production The Lurking Fear and the anthology Necronomicon which stars Jeffrey Combs.

The issue is another winner as besides the aforementioned articles, we also get some international goodies such as an interview with legendary composer Ennio Morricone; pieces on New Zealand and Australian horror and some other goodies.

136 is a blend as we get a little more mainstream content.  In the fall of 1994, two big studio films were put out: Mary Shelly's Frankenstein (directed by Kenneth Branagh) and the adaptation of Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire starring Tom Cruise.

We get first news on Frankenstein here along with more on In the Mouth of Madness; a first look at God's Army (retitled The Prophecy), news on a fourth Texas Chainsaw Massacre film, a chat with character actor Richard Lynch and a major highlight in the form of an interview with the legendary Jack Nicholson.  It goes without saying but this is easily the best issue of the year.  Hell, I haven't even mentioned the X-Files coverage that also turned up last issue.  Simply a fantastic issue of Fangoria.


137 brings in the Interview with the Vampire coverage but the real big draw is the return of Freddy Krueger in Wes Craven's New Nightmare.  Also on tap is more coverage of Frankenstein; news on the Tim Burton bio-pic Ed Wood, a little on The Shawshank Redemption and a look at an Italian horror movie called Dellamorte Dellamore which is an oddball take on the zombie film.  Overall, a very good issue.

Aside from the continuing coverage of Interview with the Vampire, New Nightmare and Frankenstein, we get more on Ed Wood, the beginning of a production diary on Clive Barker's Lord of Illusions (yes, just like Nightbreed they're going to ram this one down the reader's throats with similar results) and a huge retrospective piece on the John Carpenter classic Halloween.  Another very good issue.
We close out 1994 with another strong issue as 139 brings us more Interview with the Vampire coverage in the form of an interview with Tom Cruise and a chat with Stan Winston on his f/x work for the film; more Lord of Illusions and Frankenstein, news on the direct to video Darkman sequels plus some other goodies such as an interview with Robert Englund and a tribute to the recently departed Peter Cushing.

1994 was a very, very good year for the magazine as the genre had a bit of a rest for most of the year.  Longer articles, more variety, this is a great year of Fangoria.

Coming Soon: Fangoria 1995

Thursday, October 25, 2012

My Favorite Era: The Blob (1988)

There are some movies in this series that are legit classics and some that are just plain fun.  The 1988 remake of The Blob falls into the second category as it takes the premise of the 1958 original and amps it up with some awesome special effects, a likable cast and a nice no holds barred attitude to the storytelling process.

Kevin Dillon and Shawnee Smith star as Brian and Meg who will end up being our heroes and Donovan Leitch is also on hand as Meg's boyfriend Paul.  I'm also happy to see Art LaFleur back on the site as Meg's father and Joe Seneca, improv legend Del Close and Paul McCrane are also good in supporting roles.  It's a truly solid movie, let's take a closer look at what makes this sucker tick.
  • The first thing I love about this film is the script by Frank Darabont and the film's director Chuck Russell.  As I said earlier, they take the original movie and tweak it enough to where it fits in its time period but not so much that it's a remake in name only.
  • Another great thing is how well the small town feel is set up.  It just plain works and gives the movie a sort of retro feel to it.  It's one of those movies that's interesting to watch with the color turned down on your TV so it looks like a black and white film.
  • A cool thing the film does it to set up Paul as our male lead only to have him be one of the Blob's first victims.  It's a real great shock scene too as Tony Gardner and Lyle Conway did great work creating the f/x for the film.
  • Equally cool is Kevin Dillon playing essentially an 80's version of Marlon Brando in The Wild One.  He has great chemistry with Shawnee Smith and they make for one of the more likable 80's horror movie couples.
  • That's the key to why this movie works, the characters who need to be likable are just that.  There's nobody in the film who is disagreeable just for the sake of bring a prick.  Hell, even Paul McCrane as the jerky deputy has some redeeming qualities.
  • I appreciate how the film takes its time in setting things up.  The scene with the bum getting attacked comes after most, if not all of our main characters have been set up.  Hell, the monster doesn't really kick into action until about twenty six minutes in.  When it does though, the film really takes off.
  • The attack scenes are very nicely done with my favorite being the guy at the diner who's trying to fix a clogged sink...only to get pulled into the drain (ouch!) after which there is a nice chase scene (in the remake, the monster is fast) and another good kill as a nice waitress gets stuck in a phone booth.
  • Del Close is quite good as the local reverend and his gradual mental breakdown is pretty effective.
  • Equally effective is the redux of the movie theater attack scene as Meg races to save her kid brother and his friend.  The brother makes it.  His buddy?  Well, I did say this movie had a no holds barred attitude.
  • I like the twist of the monster actually being a bio-weapon the military has lost control of.  Joe Seneca is good as the slimy team leader willing to sacrifice an entire town and like any good bad guy, you really want to see him get munched in the worst way.
  • If I can complain about anything in the film, it's that the f/x towards the end are a little dodgy here and there.  The technology wasn't quite good enough to have the monster oozing down the main street eating folks but what we get is good enough.
  • Shawnee Smith is quite good in an uncommonly strongly written role.  Cute and tough, she definitely is easy to fall in love with.
  • I also appreciate that the usual "Nobody believes the kids" routine is dialed down to a bare minimum.  That's always been a thing that's bugged me as it requires too many characters to be stubborn idiots for too much screen time.
The Blob is a fun, cheerful 80's horror film that takes everything that was great about the original and enhances it.  It's well thought out, well made and definitely worth a look.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

My Favorite Era: Poltergeist (1982)

I love a good ghost story and Poltergeist is easily the best one to come out of the 80's.  An awesome pairing of Steven Spielberg as writer/producer and Tobe Hooper as director, it's a marvelously tense and creepy tale about a family in a small California housing tract beset by ghouls.  Good acting, fantastic special effects from ILM and a few moments that still legitimately scare the crap out of me make this one of the horror flicks of the 80's.  Let's take a closer look.
  • First off, just to get this out of the way, I believe that Tobe Hooper was the sole director of this but Spielberg did have quite a bit of input.
  • To the movie, I love how Hooper sets up the television right off the bat, giving it an almost spooky quality...not hard when you're just looking at a gigantic closeup of indistinct images.
  • The first act is very well done as you really get a comfortable, suburban small town feeling that lulls you into a false sense of security very well.  You really want to live in that house...pants-wettingly-terrifying haunting aside.  We get a nice, normal family in a nice, normal house...just the right set of folks for the audience to sympathize with as they get the ever-loving crap scared out of them.
  • Before we get too deep into things, I just want to point out how great Jerry Goldsmith's music is, especially the creepy main title theme.  The fact that it is so mellow and sweet makes it even more creepy than it should be.
  • The first act, as I said does a great job setting the tone and as a nice bonus, every single scare comes from something seen during this stretch of time.  God, early Spielberg just rocked!  Even when not directing!
  • I love that it;s a full 23 minutes before anything overtly supernatural happens.  It's nice to see a horror movie that takes its time and uses that time well.
  • All the acting is great here from Craig T. Nelson and JoBeth Williams as the parents to the kids.  Hell, even the dog has good screen presence.
  • I get a kick out of how casually Williams takes the supernatural stuff at first.  Having a laugh at the kitchen chairs arranging themselves, the floor turning into essentially a gravity hill, it's a nice (though to be honest, really dumb if you stop and think about it) detail.  Equally fun is Nelson taking charge.
  • The scene almost immediately after this where the son is nearly eaten by the tree is just a marvel of effects, music and cinematography, as is the concurrent sequence of the little girl being pulled into the closet.
  • I'd like to say you can tell which stuff came from Spielberg (the sweet family stuff) and which stuff came from Hooper (the gut punch horror stuff), but you need to remember Steve decided to end Raiders of the Lost Ark with exploding heads and melting faces not to mention the rather high level of blood in the entire film...And he got a PG rating for the flick.  As far as gore goes, Hooper has dabbled a bit here and there but not that much at this point.  I think his highest gore level was in the second Texas Chainsaw Massacre film and in that case, he had Tom Savini on hand.  Well, you don't hire Savini and not let him throw some blood around!
  • That being said, this is one of the most messed up PG rated films I have ever seen.
  • Back to this movie, the entry of the paranormal investigators into the film is rather amusing when seen today with the glut of ghost hunting shows on cable now.  If I can find any flaw with the movie, it would be that it takes the subject a little too seriously.  That being said, this element does help the scare scenes.
  • Nelson's unimpressed reaction to one of the investigator's stories and his subsequent reveal of why they keep the kid's room locked is both funny and creepy.
  • A little over an hour in, we get the one scene that absolutely freaked me the hell out when I was a kid: the guy hallucinating that he's tearing his face off.  I think between that and the arm wrestling scene in The Fly, it's a wonder I became a fan of horror later on.  Great scene, though.  These days I'm more impressed with the steak moving across the counter.
  • I enjoy James Karen as Nelson's boss.  He brings just the right amount of smarm to the part (given that he built a housing project over an old Indian burial ground, it's needed) but he never becomes so bad you want to see him dead.  It's a nicely nuanced piece of acting.
  • Zelda Rubinstein as Tangina is one of the best things in the movie.  She takes what could have been a ridiculous character and makes her someone who when she shows up, you know she's there to take charge and get the job done.  It's sort of like Tommy Lee Jones' first scene in The Fugitive in an odd way.
  • Speaking of which, one of the most amusing things concerning the vaunted "Poltergeist curse" revolves around the late Ms. Rubinstein.  I saw a documentary on the subject a few years ago and pretty much everyone gave their take on the subject in slightly wordy but thoughtful sound bites.  Zelda though?  She just looked into the camera and intoned "Bullshit" when asked about the curse.  Priceless.
  • I tend to agree with her statement as well.  It's an interesting theory to talk about but at the end of the day it's slightly disrespectful to the dead if you really start buying into it.  And given what the plot of this movie is about...
  • The first climax with the rescue is a really great light show with one nice scare when the giant skull pops out.
  • The second one is ever better as we get nasty ghosts, creepy clown dolls, decaying bodies and a house imploding on itself.  Good stuff.
  • The joke at the end with Nelson moving the TV set out of the motel room is a nicely funny way to end the movie.
 Not much else to say, really.  I love this movie, it's one of the best horror films of the 80's and still works today.

Gorgon Video Magazine (1989)


6/10

Here's an interesting little oddity courtesy of video label Gorgon Home Video.  Made in 1989 as the label was vanishing (MPI came out of it and is still running today), it's a video magazine that I can only describe as "Fangoria in video form only nowhere as good".  Charles Band did something similar as he began putting brief Video Zone segments on the end of his releases when he began Full Moon Pictures (in 1989 by sheer coincidence) and this follows a similar format...though it covers more than one movie naturally.

Given that this isn't a formal movie, it's rather stupid to do an actual review so here are some general thoughts.
  • Your host is Michael Berryman from The Hills Have Eyes (wearing a less extreme version of his getup from that movie) and the first thing I have to mention is the awesomely cheesy late 80's production values.  Bad synthesizer music, cheesy graphics, you name it and it's there.
  • Michael Berryman is cool as always, doing a good energetic hosting gig, though he does ham it up quite a bit.  I think he's been taking lessons from Robert Englund.  As far as his attire goes: I hope he was paid well and I hope it was warm in the studio.
  • First up is a look at Wes Craven and his new film ShockerShocker is not one of his better movies (though I enjoy its cheesy finale) but Wes is classy as usual.
  • The guys at KNB EFX are up next and as always, they're funny and insightful about the way they talk about their craft.
  • Up next is an interview with the lovely Linnea Quigley.  Linnea has always been cool and here is no different.
  • We now get a retrospective piece on Troma films, the b-movie production company responsible for stuff like The Toxic Avenger as well as a piece on shock rock group GWAR towards the end.  Both pieces are decent (though the GWAR piece sort of drags and has no real point) and not for those with weak stomachs.
  • We also get a slew of reviews for stuff like Cameron's Closet; the truly unsettling Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, Peter Jackson's fantastic debut Bad Taste plus several others.  I have to say the guy reviewing them is someone who probably should have been given some tips for appearing on camera from Mr. Berryman.  At least then he might have some semblance of a personality.  Another problem is that the reviews are just a few brief clips of some of the shock moments from each movie followed by Captain Charisma droning on for a few seconds.
  • There are also a few promotional plugs for video labels like Sinister Cinema and some trailers for upcoming movies to finish us off.
Overall, this isn't a bad video but 70 minutes was probably more than it required given how fluffy the pieces are.   If you're into nostalgia it's worth tracking down but otherwise, you can probably give it a pass.  A second volume was made but never officially released.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Fangoria Flashbacks: 1993

Another shorter than I would prefer article but after this one there will be a few full runs.  First, we have to get past 1993.  We're looking at seven issues today and one of them is very, very special to me.

1993 gets off to a great start with issue 120 and at last, Army of Darkness has been released.  It had a few delays, going from being a Dino DeLaurentiis production to a Universal release but it's well worth it as the film is just plain fun as is the coverage provided by the magazine.

Other goodies include a nice long piece on The Creature from the Black Lagoon; a look at one my personal favorites-the comedy Freaked (with a different title), more Dracula coverage courtesy of interviews with Gary Oldman and Winona Ryder and a little on horror comics.  Issue 120 is a little on the sparse side in terms of quantity of articles but it makes up for it in terms of quality.

Plus, one slight correction from the last installment, I believe this issue is the last one with a gold out poster.  It's a shot from Dawn of the Dead, an excellent way to end the feature.

Issue 123 is another theme issue, this time it's on bugs and unlike the last special issue there is coverage of other stuff outside of the theme which gives the issue a better flow.

First off is a huge piece that covers the entire history of bugs in cinema.  Yep, everything from giant insect flicks to stuff like The Fly this alone would make the issue a classic.  But wait, there's more!

We get a retro article on the 70's flick Squirm; British paperback horror novels, the new Joe Dante film Matinee, plus new stuff with Stuart Gordon's sci-fi flick Fortress and the obligatory Stephen King coverage.  This is just the tip of the iceberg as issue 123 is an easy choice for best of the year.  I've only mentioned half the articles in this one, it's really jam-packed.

After the mega-issue that we just looked at, almost anything would be a little disappointing but #124 does a pretty good job of keeping the ball rolling.  Granted, it helps when you're revving up coverage of Jurassic Park.

In addition to covering the big hit of the summer, we also get an interview with star of the original The Thing Kenneth Tobey; a look at Dario Argento's latest film Trauma (with f/x from Tom Savini), a bit on Robocop 3 (Hey, they covered the first two, why the hell not), a look at the Roger Corman produced Carnosaur plus a few other goodies.  It's a very good issue.

And now it's time for the main event, the one thing that sent me on the road to horror fandom.  Ladies and germs, this is the first issue of Fangoria I ever owned.

Of course, the huge closeup from Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday got my attention and the coverage of the movie is, as you would expect, quite good.   Other highlights are a nice piece on the career and techniques of Lon Chaney (Sr., not Jr.); more on Jurassic Park, a nice look at the new Stephen King adaptation Needful Things, plus a few other tasty treats.

Issue 125 may not be the best issue ever, but it's still pretty damn good.  Hell, it was good enough that I've been reading the damn magazine for almost twenty years.

#127 is a bit of a step down (though still good) with more Jurassic Park and Friday 9 coverage with effects articles covering Stan Winston and the guy behind the visual effects from Jason Goes to Hell.  We also get some zombie movie coverage with a little retrospective on Night of the Living Dead; Return of the Living Dead 3 coverage, a chat with the production design team for most of George Romero's films and we also get an interview with the director of Needful Things to wrap up an okay, but not great issue.

#128 is another decent but not outstanding issue with coverage of Pumpkinhead 2; the rather crappy Man's Best Friend (Jaws by way of Cujo), a chat with British producer Tony Tenser, a look at Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas, interviews with directors Brian Yuzna (Return of the Living Dead 3) and Dario Argento and finally, a report on the second annual Chainsaw Awards.

Issue 128 is decent enough but late 1993 was pretty damn thin in terms of films worth writing about.

Another special issue finishes off the year as for #129, it's all werewolves.  Like the bug issue, we get a huge history of werewolves in cinema, accompanied by looks at An American Werewolf in London, werewolf horror fiction, and the HBO film Full Eclipse.

To fill things out,we get coverage of the second Addams Family film (they covered the first as well); a piece on Spanish horror icon Coffin Joe and a great interview with Lance Henriksen.  The Tony Tenser interview concludes in this issue as well, making this a very good edition.

1993 was an interesting year for the genre and the magazine.  The genre found itself being relegated to backup status again with a few high-profile outings like Jurassic Park standing out.  Due to this, Fangoria had to struggle a little to fill out their issues but they did a pretty damn good job of it.  1994 will be more or less the same with a few differences.

Coming Soon: Fangoria 1994

Monday, October 15, 2012

My Favorite Era: Re-Animator (1985)

Today we examine the single greatest film to ever sport Charles Band's name in any capacity.  Re-Animator is based on a serialized tale by H.P. Lovecraft that is essentially Frankenstein only with med students and lots more blood and nudity.

The debut for director Stuart Gordon as well as the film that brought attention to genre fave Jeffrey Combs, Re-Animator is a fast, funny, gory romp that is one of the few horror comedies that is genuine funny.

Combs plays Herbert West, a young man obsessed with conquering death to the point where he has invented a day-glo green serum that can, in theory, bring the dead back to life.  He meets Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott), a med student at Miskatonic University and essentially press gangs him into helping out, much to the consternation of Dan's girlfriend Megan (the lovely Barbara Crampton); the dean of the school/Megan's father Dr. Halsey (Robert Sampson) and unethical creep Dr. Hill (the late, great David Gale).

Herbert goes about his task with messy consequences, killing Dr. Hill at one point and bringing his head back to life and it all ends with a gruesome, tragic finale.  Stuart Gordon does a great job balancing the humor and horror and his cast also does well.  Combs and Gale are the easy highlights.  Combs plays West as a cold, brilliant young man who you still kind of route for if only because the alternative is David Gale's supremely nasty Dr. Hill.  Hill is not only unethical, but he also apparently has an unhealthy attachment to Meg (which pays off with the awesomely sick-yet-funny "head gives head" bit) and mind-controlling powers to boot.

Gale, as always is brilliant and you also have to give him extra credit for playing half of the movie as a disembodied head.  It's a really great effect (though obviously done) and comes off as utterly believable thanks to the talents of Gordon, Gale and f/x artist John Buechler.  The rest of his stuff is good too as he proves once again that you don't need a huge effects budget to come up with convincing stuff.

As for the rest of the cast, Abbott is solid; Crampton is cute and likable, Sampson is good and it all comes together to form a fantastic movie that combines the usual Lovecraftian elements of exploring the unknown with a huge amount of 80's gore and nudity.  Gordon, Combs, Crampton and producer Brian Yuzna would team up again with Charles Band's Empire Pictures in From Beyond (which I'll get to later) and all four have gone on to have fairly successful careers.

Re-Animator has also spawned two sequels, the first one in 1990 which was decent and the third a few years ago that I have yet to see.  It still holds up as a great movie today.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Fangoria Flashbacks: 1992

Another short edition here as I only have five issues to talk about.  Like the year before, horror was in a bit of a drought until the end of the year when it picks up a little.  Let's take a look.

We begin with a solid issue in #111 with the highlights being a few articles on new Stephen King films The Lawnmower Man and Sleepwalkers. Some other neat bits are the second half of an interview with the man behind I Was a Teenage Werewolf; looks at Leprechaun with Warwick Davis and Chris Walas' The Vagrant and a few other eclectic treats.

One treat I want to highlight is the poll for the first Chainsaw Awards.  Whereas the magazine generally did a best of poll at the beginning of each year, this was the first time they decided to put on an actual awards show.  More on that later.

The best word for Fangoria in 1992 is eclectic.  With the genre in a slump, it was necessary to branch out into other realms of the genre only instead of the hokey wrestling stuff from the early years, we get the usual well done articles and columns.  Issue 111 is quite good though one little oddity is the green bug that pops up on the cover and hangs around for a few more issues.  It was an idea the publisher had and needless to say...it didn't work.

Issue 113 continues the eclectic goodness with a nice selection of articles on Alien 3; the upcoming Army of Darkness, more Stephen King stuff in the form of part 1 of an interview with the man himself (I really need to track down 114 to read the rest of the damn thing), Anthony Hickox talks Hellraiser III and Waxwork 2, an interview with Karen Black and some horror comics stuff.

We also get a new segment that I would guess debuted the previous issue called Raving and Drooling.  Written by author David J. Schow, it is a refreshingly frank look at things from a man who knows what he's talking about.  It's an entertaining read and will stick around for a few years.

Really, the only major flaw with this issue is the Alien 3 coverage but that's due to the troubled nature of the production which gets mentioned in the editorial column.  Outside of that, this issue proves that Fangoria doesn't need a strong stack of horror movies to put out a good product.  In fact, I'd say they're at their best when things are a little slow.

Issue 116 is another special issue, this time focusing on vampires.  In a great example of perfect timing, this came out just as the fall was about to dump a ton of vampire flicks on the general public such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer (back when Joss Whedon was unknown); Innocent Blood from John Landis and the big one that we'll get too later, Bram Stoker's Dracula directed by Francis Ford Coppola.

And the cover is truth in advertising as we get articles about the three films I already mentioned, an interview with author Anne Rice as well as some stuff on low budget vampire films, an interview with Hammer director (part 1 of 2) Roy Ward Baker and vampires in books.

Issue 116 is, to be honest, a bit of a step down as the theme makes it less free flowing than the other issues discussed here but it's still a pretty damn good issue.

Issue 117 brings us another solid issue with stuff on the South African flick Dust Devil; Clive Barker's Candyman starring Tony Todd, the conclusion of the Roy Ward Baker interview, a little more on Hellraiser III plus some other goodies.  If any issue in this article can be said to be a placeholder, this one would probably qualify as it comes right between the end of summer and the big glut of Dracula related stuff that begins next month.

And we end things with a bang as issue 119 gives us the magazine as will be for the next few years.  More pages (82 instead of 68), the fold-out poster is gone and in general a sleeker feel that has been there for a while but now really starts to show.

We get Dracula coverage of course with some stuff on the new movie (an interview with Anthony Hopkins who plays Van Helsing) and an interview with Lupita Tovar, the female lead of the Spanish 1931 version that was shot at the same time the Lugosi one was being made, on the same sets.

We also get chats with the stars of Dawn of the Dead; an in depth examination of the Hellraiser trilogy, some other random goodies and a report on the Chainsaw Awards ceremony.  Hosted by Bruce Campbell it sounds like it was a blast and we will get a few more reports like this as the years progress.

Issue 119 brings 1992 to a rousing close and preps us for the cheerful goodness that will continue for the next few years in the magazine.  1992 was a very good year for the magazine and it will only get better...though the genre will have its ups and downs.

Coming Soon: Fangoria 1993

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

My Favorite Era: Alien (1979)

We hit our first entry from 1979, maybe the best year for horror movies of all time.  Fangoria started up that year, most of the big names had releases and our subject today was an unexpected smash hit.  Directed by Ridley Scott, Alien is a wonderfully sparse, tense little monster movie that grabs you by the throat from the beginning and never lets go until the end.  Let's take a closer look.
  • First off, I'm going with the 1979 theatrical release.  In cases where there are alternate cuts, I will mention them but take notes from and make comments on the version released to theaters.  In this case, I also recommend getting the Blu-Ray of the movie, it's worth it.
  • I think I was eight when I first saw this movie.  Kind of explains a lot, really.
  • We begin with the opening credits with Jerry Goldsmith's creepy music and the title slowly appearing piece by piece as the credits roll.  It's a great intro as is the completely silent manner in which we are introduced to the ship and crew.
  • As usual, Ridley Scott gives us a intensely detailed setting.  The interior of The Nostromo has a great "lived in" quality to it.
  • The cast is awesome as well with everybody turning in good work.  Hell, even Veronica Cartwright doesn't annoy me that much...and she usually gets on my damn nerves.  Maybe not to the degree Teri Garr does (I'll get to her later, believe me) but you could make a wicked drinking game based on how many films she ends up crying and terrified in.
  • Of all the performances, my favorite might be Ian Holm as Ash.  You just get the feeling something is a little off about the guy, making the reveal that he's an android very satisfying.  Hell, it even works when you know it's coming after having seen the film a dozen times.
  • The script by Dan O'Bannon is very good (as one would expect from the guy) and it's a prime example of how to make lean and efficient storytelling work.
  • I love how Scott drags the movie out.  The pacing is quite good, especially when you consider not a hell of a lot really happens for the first twenty minutes.  The crew of a ship wakes up, gets orders, lands bad at their objective and is stranded.
  • John Hurt and the egg still works today.  Actually, knowing it's coming makes it worse in a way.
  • That being said, you do have to be quite the idiot to hover right over a weird egg after it opens and starts pulsating.
  • The chemistry between Yaphet Kotto and Harry Dean Stanton is fantastic as they take two guys who are pretty much cannon fodder (as is pretty much everyone except for Ripley) and make then likable, relatable guys.
  • The face hugger falling on Ripley may be a cheap scare but it still works.
  • Tom Skerritt has always been a solid, laid back character actor which makes him a great choice for Dallas.  It's interesting to have a captain who pretty much delegates most, of not all of his authority to subordinates.
  • Speaking of things that still work, the chest bursting scene is still one of the best gory shock moments in horror history.  John Hurt is good as usual in this movie and what a way to go out on!
  • Now is as good a time as any to mention the awesome creature designs by H.R. Giger.  It really says something that 33 years after the movie was released, the monsters still is creepy and unsettling to look at.
  • As much as I love the film, I do admit the cat is a pretty blatant plot device.  Still works though, can't argue with that.
  • Having Dallas offed a little more than halfway through is a good, though in hindsight rather obvious move.  Generally in this sort of film, the strong assertive leader type is the one who makes it to the end of the movie.  It just so happens that in this case, the survivor is Sigourney Weaver.
  • I love how well Scott uses simple silence as a way to build tension.
  • As I said above, the big reveal of Ash's true nature is very effective and of course, Ian Holm plays it quite well.
  • It's rather interesting to note that the film has both a hyper-competent female character in Ripley...And a virtually useless one in Lambert.  To her credit, Veronica Cartwright projects and enunciates quite well when crying.
  • Having the last twenty five minutes or so virtually free of real dialogue is a pretty neat move on the part of the filmmakers as it increases the tension and just lets Sigourney Weaver act her ass off...Which she does very, very well.
Alien is a B-movie done with an A-movie budget, cast and crew.   It has impeccable acting, music, effects, production design and an iconic monster that still works even today.  A true classic in every way.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Fangoria Flashbacks: 1991

Bit of a quickie edition here as I have only six of the twelve issues.  When I'm through all the issues I have I'll go back and do fill-in articles if I come across ones I missed the first time around.

1991 saw a few minor cosmetic changes to the magazine as the contents page now has a red border as opposed to black and the ad pages are given a similar red/pink hue.

 We begin with issue 102, a special "Women of Horror" issue.  Starting this year, we began to get theme issues every now and then, generally a sign the slate of horror films is somewhat lacking.  It's good though as Fangoria has always been at its best when doing retrospective stuff.

As for the actual issue, it's pretty damn good with an emphasis on the theme over everything else (which is to be expected when the best you can do for a cover shot is from a crappy Child's Play rip-off.  Highlights are interviews with Caroline Munro, Barbara Steele and a look at female horror authors, a guide to scream queens like Linnea Quigley and one or two more tidbits to fill things out.  #102 is a solid, if somewhat unexceptional issue.

#103 kicks off with a pretty good interview with Cameron  Mitchell (the man has done so many films he's actually forgotten about quite a few of them) as well as a piece on the lull the horror genre was in at the time.  It's an interesting piece, as is a report on a film sales event on Los Angeles.

As far as film coverage goes, well...There isn't a hell of a lot outside of  a look at Silence of the Lambs a few months after its release and the first part of a look at the films of Paul Naschy.  Despite the rather lean lineup of articles this ends up being a pretty solid issue.

#104 places us right in the middle of summer so of course, we get a good amount of Terminator 2 coverage here and in the next issue to bump up sales.  In this case, it's a chat with screenwriter William Wisher.  Other highlights are the second part of that Paul Naschy article as well as a look at the third season of Tales Form the Crypt plus a few retro articles on 60's/70's exploitation and the first part of a Bride of Re-Animator set diary.  Issue 104 is another solid issue.
Issue 105 is a solid issue highlighted by a bunch of Stephen King stories, a bit on the rather iffy flick Body Parts and a tribute to The Omen.  The Bride of Re-Animator article also wraps up making for a pretty decent read.
The highlight of the year, issue 106 is highlighted by a nice big stack of articles on author H.P. Lovecraft and the various attempts at putting his works on screen.  That makes up roughly three quarters of the magazine as the only other two big articles cover Child's Play 3 and f/x artist Gordon Smith.  Smith is, to put it mildly, a bit of a cranky jerk in the piece as he comes off as an artist first who prizes realism over everything...which makes his being hired for a horror flick like Graveyard Shift rather odd since it features a huge mutant rat with wings.  Like Hammer artist Phil Leakey in issue 50, he has a rather dim view of some of his work coupled with a perfectionist streak and it unfortunately makes him look somewhat pompous and stuck up.  Still, good interview and a fantastic issue.

We end this fractured journey with issue 108.  Highlighted by an article on the cheesy but fun Wes Craven flick The People Under the Stairs, this is a perfectly good issue of the magazine with a Robert Englund interview on Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare; previews of Waxwork II and Basket Case 3, a look at the Addams Family film and a nice piece on Asian horror.

Issue 108 is solid but unexceptional and this brings our look at 1991 to an end.

1991 was a down period for the genre and Fangoria had to adjust things a little to fill ten issues.  It worked out pretty well and we'll see them refine themselves a bit in the next edition.

Coming soon: Fangoria 1992

Sunday, October 7, 2012

My Favorite Era: The Fly (1986)

David Cronenberg's The Fly is the best in several ways.  It's the best horror remake aside from John Carpenter's The Thing; the best horror movie of 1986 and it's also David Cronenberg's best and most accessible movie.  A stunning revision of the 1958 original, it stars Jeff Goldblum as an eccentric scientist named Seth Brundle who falls fore Veronica (Geena Davis) and involves her in his teleportation experiments.  Naturally, something goes wrong during one test and Seth begins to turn into a horrific fly/human mutation.  That's about all you need to know so let's get to the cool stuff.
  • The film gives an idea of how it's going to be paced by throwing us right into the Seth/Veronica meeting as soon as the opening credits are done.  Goldblum and Davis have great chemistry together.
  • Within the first the minutes we already have the telepods shown off and the relationship between the two leads is built.  Lean, effective storytelling at its finest.
  • As good as the two leads are, John Getz is equally good as Veronica's jealous ex and boss.  He comes off as an obsessive ass but no so much so that we hate him by the time the end of the film comes around.
  • The great thing about this film is how deftly Cronenberg plays with the audience.  For roughly the first thirty five minutes or so, the film is basically a romantic drama with a sweet reporter falling for a brilliant, eccentric scientist.  You know something is going to happen just from knowing about the original but the way it's drawn out almost to the point of silliness is quite cool.  Cronenberg has always been a smart filmmaker who makes smart movies and this is no exception.
  • Of course, this being a David Cronenberg movie, his idea of a romantic drama does have a baboon being turned inside out.
  • I love that Seth makes the fateful trip with the fly out of impulse while pissed off.  It works for the character.
  • Jeff Goldblum has quite the tricky part here as we have to both feel for Seth as his body begins to break down and change but also fear him as his grip on sanity follows suit.  It's very deft piece of acting that he is more than up to the challenge of.
  • One of the things I've always dug about Cronenberg is how he makes smart films in a genre generally thought of as dumb trash.   The ideas in his work are pretty deep and complex, to the point where I honestly wouldn't know where to begin with a discussion.
  • As good as the acting is in the film, the f/x by Chris Walas are even better.  Using a mix of extensive prosthetics and animatronic puppets, he makes you truly believe you are seeing a man gradually, horribly turn into a giant fly.  It's quite the tour de force.
  • The arm wrestling scene is a nicely chilling bit and one that definitely sticks in the mind...especially if, like me, you first saw it when you were nine.  Yeah, I know.
  • Same goes for Seth removing his fingernails.  Ick pretty much covers it, I think.
  • I get a kick out of how even though he's falling apart and clearly losing it, Seth still has Goldblum's usual quirky delivery and mannerisms.,  Hell, even after he's turned completely into a fly there's still a little Jeff in the beast.
 David Cronenberg made one hell of a great movie in The Fly.  It's smart, creepy and at times gross.  Good acting, stellar f/x and great production design and music help to make one of the best horror films of the 80's.  In 1989, Walas directed a sequel that turned out okay if you like gory special effects.

Fangoria Flashbacks: 1990

If 1989 was more of the same, 1990 was the year that Fangoria had to diversify just to fill out an issue.  We get more crossover material with Starlog, a trend that will continue into 1991 and the end result is an interesting if somewhat bland run of issues.  1990 was a mild year for the genre as the big boom of the 80's fizzled out the previous year.  Let's take a look...

We kick things off with issue 91 and a nice selection of new stuff and retro articles covering such films as Tremors, Bride of Re-Animator, Basket Case 2 and of course, more Nightbreed.

There is also a nice interview with low budget filmmaker S.F. Brownrigg who made Don't Look in the Basement along with a few others.  The thing about Fangoria I've always loved is that they more or less equal attention to the low budget stuff as well as the big studio productions.  Another nice piece is an interview with actress Hazel Court who did a bunch of films with Vincent Price in the 60's.

All in all a solid issue.
92 is a decent enough issue with good pieces on Tales From the Darkside: The Movie, Tobe Hooper's frankly terrible Spontaneous Combustion, yet more Nightbreed coverage, and best of all an interview with Frank Darabont.  It's the best article in the magazine and allows a rather bland issue to end well.
Things start to pick up a little as we move into the summer as the main course for this issue is Gremlins 2.  The rest of the issue is given to smaller films and while the coverage is good, outside of a look at Peter Jackson's Meet the Feebles there isn't much in the way of memorable stuff to be found.
Issue 94 is a little better with more on Gremlins 2 in the welcome form of a Christopher Lee interview; a look at the third Exorcist movie, TV terror with stuff on the second season of Tales From the Crypt and Monsters, and a few other things.

One oddity is a brief article on a Lon Chaney Jr. appearance on live TV in an adaptation of Frankenstein from the 50's.  Written by the makeup artist who worked on Chaney, it's an interesting look at the perils of live television in the early days...Though less than flattering towards Chaney.

Not a bad issue overall.

Issue 95 is quite a bit better with good coverage of Rob Bottin's work on Total Recall; Robocop 2 (though it's more 'horrible' than 'horror'), a nice interview with character actor Brad Dourif, plus a few more summer horrors such as Arachnophobia and the George Romero/Tom Savini/Dario Argento team-up Two Evil Eyes.

In addition, we get a Rick Baker interview about his Gremlins 2 work and a look at the Sam Raimi superhero flick Darkman.

We also get another first person account of show business as Blood Salvage director Ken Sanders reports of his battles with the MPAA.  Around this time there were generally quite a few articles like this in the magazine and this one is pretty good though his description of the tactics he used do sort of make one realize why he had such a hard time.

Issue 95 ends up being one of the best of the year.


96 is maybe my favorite of the year as it was deep into summer and quite frankly, the mainstream stuff had been covered to death in Starlog.  As a result, this issue is an eclectic mix of Darkman coverage and looks at low budget fare such as the entertaining Syngenor (reviewed on this very site last year); the bizarre monster movie The Boneyard (Phyllis Diller and mutant poodles), the first part of an interview with A.I.P. vet Louis Heyward plus a welcome return of Fango fave Dick Miller.

Issue 96 is another winner.

97 is a slight step backwards as most of the films covered ended up being rather middling at best.  There is good stuff to be found tho9ugh with coverage of the Tom Savini directed remake of Night of the Living Dead; early coverage of Child's Play 2 and the Stephen King adaptation Graveyard Shift, more from the Heyward interview and a few other goodies.

It's not a bad issue, just sort of there.
Issue 98 is a definite step up as we get into a rather enthusiastic pack of fall horror movies.  Child's Play 2, Jacob's Ladder, Graveyard Shift, Predator 2, this is a nicely packed issue.

We also get a good Linda Blair interview and a little taste of things to come next month with a look at the TV miniseries version of Stephen King's It.  An interview with f/x whiz Kevin Yagher is the cherry on top of this very good issue.
1990 comes to an end with decidedly Stephen King-centric issue.  Kins talks Graveyard Shift, It, Misery as well as a few other things in a section that takes yup at least half the magazine.  It's all good stuff, though as 1990 may have been the most prolific year for the man as a franchise.

The rest of the issue is basically leftovers on Predator 2, Child's Play 2 and Jacob';s Ladder but the end result is a great issue.

1990 was a bit of an odd year for the genre and Fangoria in general which necessitated a change in tone, a trend that will continue for the next few years as we see more studio films covered and a set formula for the layout of articles.

Coming Soon: Fangoria 1991

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988)

The Serpent and the Rainbow is one of Wes Craven's better movies though it's fallen through the cracks to an extent.  It's loosely based on the experiences of  an ethnobotanist named Wade Davis who spent some time in Haiti investigating a case of a man who apparently was turned into a zombie.

Bill Pullman stars as Dr. Dennis Alan who is a scientist in much the same way that Indiana Jones is an archaeologist.  A little action than research, if you know what I mean.  We first meet him in the Amazon where he is given a potion that connects hm to his protective totem (a jaguar) and after this bit of strangeness we find him being sent over to Haiti to investigate the mysterious reappearance of a man thought dead.

He gets assistance from Marielle (the lovely Cathy Tyson) and a local witch doctor named Mozart (Brent Jennings) but is opposed by Dargent Peytraud, a nasty piece of work who works for the government and is played very well by the late Zakes Mokae.  Things get a little convoluted towards the end but the bad guy is defeated and good triumphs.

This is a fascinating zombie movie in that rather than having hordes of undead flesh eaters chasing our heroes around, the threat comes more from the human element while the zombie aspect is downplayed and made more eerie than gory.  To give you an idea of what I mean, the scariest scene comes when Peytraud interrogates our hero and convinces him to leave Haiti after nailing a spike through his scrotum.

Yeah.

Performances are solid across the board with the standout being Zakes Mokae.  Mokae was a fantastic South African stage and screen performer and here he just oozes malice, giving us one of the nastiest little shits in film history.  Paul Winfield is also good as another man who helps Pullman and Michael Gough puts in a cameo as one of the men who sends Alan on his quest.

The Serpent and the Rainbow is a great throwback to the older zombie movies that came out before Night of the Living Dead like White Zombie.  With voodoo featuring heavily into things, it gives the film a different feel, a surreal quality that makes the film about ten times creepier than it would be otherwise.

That being said, the film does get confusing at points and lacks energy, though this doesn't hurt it to the point of making it not worth your time.  It's definitely worth a glance.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

My Favorite Era: Creepshow (1982)

1982 was a fantastic year for horror that saw some really classic movies.  My second favorite of the year (we'll get to #1 later) is this fantastic collaboration between George Romero and Stephen King.  Creepshow is an epic five story anthology film that takes cues from the old EC comics from the 50's.  Loaded with great actors, great f/x and a colorful look it stands as one of the best anthology films ever made.
  • The wraparound segment is probably the only real weak link in the movie, in spite of the presence of Tom Atkins.  It makes sense as what better place for an abusive comic-hating parent to be than in a film like this but given how cheerfully outlandish the rest of the film is it comes off as a little too starkly realistic.  That being said, the segue to the opening titles is fantastic.
  • As a side note, my older brother had the comic adaptation of this movie and of course, I snuck a look at it whenever I could.  I think I was five at the time...I'd like to say it didn't affect me but then again I do maintain a blog where I write about horror movies quite often.
Segment 1: Father's Day
  • This is maybe the most atypical of the five stories.  Revenge from beyond the grave, jealousy, despicable characters, it's all there in a sparse take about a murderous past and a snobbishly rich family.
  • The real standout in this segment is the late Swedish actress Viveca Lindfors.  Playing a woman who several years earlier killed her decidedly unpleasant and very rich father, she pouts in a tour de force performance in both the flashback to the murder and a monologue she does by the old man's grave right before he rises from the dead to throttle her to death.
  • I also get a kick out of Ed Harris as the husband of one of the family members.  And no, the fact we share the same name has nothing to do with it.
  • The way the film is shot is simply wonderful, evoking a true comic book feel with panels, wild colors during big payoff moments and just the overall tone.  It works very, very well.
Segment 2: The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill
  •  The comic interlude segment stars the screenwriter and master of horror himself Stephen King as a country bumpkin who gets hold of a meteor and...Well, the title of the segment should tell you how it all ends up.
  • King isn't much of an actor but he hams it up well enough to get the job done.
  • The real highlight here, as with the rest of the film is the f/x work from Tom Savini.  Savini was somewhat pigeonholed as a guy who just did gore but he also creates some fantastic monsters which we will see later and here, he gradually turns King into a giant shrubbery or something.  Pretty cool and creepy.
Segment 3: Something to Tide You Over
  •  My favorite segment, this stars Leslie Nielsen and Ted Danson in a tale of marital infidelity, sadistic drowning and of course, gruesome revenge.
  • Nielsen is great as the jealous husband who also happens to be a rich, sadistic bastard.  Considering how funny the guy was, he makes a very creepy low key villain.
  • I always loved Cheers (I like it more than Seinfeld, actually) and it's fun to see Danson here right before he started the show (the show premiered two months before this was released to theaters).
  • Burying someone up to their neck below the tide line...There's yet another way I would prefer not to die.
  • The long sequence that sees Nielsen get his comeuppance is classic EC.  Romero has always been good at building tension and I especially love the way he holds off on showing the waterlogged corpses of Danson and his lover coming back from the dead to get their revenge.  Great zombie design from Savini too.
Segment 4: The Crate
  •  The best acted of the five segments, this stars Hal Holbrook as a college professor with a shrewish wife (the beautiful Adrienne Barbeau) who finds a way to get rid of her thanks to a discovery made by a rather hysterical friend of his played by Fritz Weaver.
  • The acting on display here is great: Holbrook is his usual reliable self (the man has always been good at playing nice guys who can get dark at when the need calls for it); Adrienne Barbeau is so nasty she almost becomes unattractive (well, almost) and Fritz Weaver does a good job of portraying gibbering terror.
  • Savini's best work comes here in the form of the improbably alive creature found in the crate.  Looking like an exceptionally pissed off baboon, it's all teeth and claws and the film gets really gory here.
Segment 5: They're Creeping up on You
  • The last segment is another one man show essentially as E.G. Marshall plays a reclusive millionaire obsessed with cleanliness and keeping bugs out of his hermetically sealed apartment as well as a miserable racist prick.  Naturally he gets a swarm of cockroaches as company one evening.  Not really a hell of a lot to say here as Marshall is great and Savini really outdoes himself with the way the old bastard is offed.  Add having an army of roaches burst from my chest to the list of ways I'd rather not die.  Brr!
Creepshow is an outstanding, darkly funny and sometimes creepy film that still holds up fairly well thirty years later even if the stories are obvious (come to think of it, they were sort of predictable in the 50's as well).   George Romero does his usual assured job of directing, the production design is awesome and Tom Savini does a fantastic job on the f/x.  It's a real gem.

About Me

I've been a huge fan of action, horror and comedy for as long as I can remember.