Nightmare on Elmo Street

“Nightmare on Elmo Street” is the latest creation brought forth from the mind of indy flimmaker and “King of the B Movies,” Bill Zebub. Bill Zebub is a metalhead, a magazine editor, a radio personality, a social commentator and a self proclaimed clown who has been making movies since the early 2000’s. Such movies include comedies like “Indie Director” and “Stereotypes;” sexually explicit works like “Loving a Vegetable;” documentaries like “Death Metal: Are We Going to Watch You Die;” and straight up horror movies like “Night of the Pumpkin” & “Holocaust Cannibal.”

So what is “Nightmare on Elmo Street” about? In this film, you have a world where puppets and humans are living together but not necessarily in harmony. You see, some people don’t like puppets and treat them as second hand citizens. But some people do like puppets and have relationships with them. Like Lydia. Lydia, portrayed by Lydia Lael, is a starving artist who has recently hooked up with a puppet but her lesbian roommate, portrayed by Erin Brown, isn’t too keen on the idea as she is not a fan of puppets and also has a major crush on Lydia. Most of the movie revolves around these ladies relationship and it’s ups and downs. By the way, one particular puppet Erin doesn’t care for is Jesus. Yes, in this movie, Jesus is a puppet. Oh and don’t forget about the cable guy, Barbara, who is played by Bill himself. Barbara is a felon who installs cable as part of his community service. But Barbara also has a dark secret; one that gets revealed at the end of the movie. Just be wary of anytime Barbara asks if you don’t like puppets because if you don’t, something is going to happen to you and you won’t like it. There is a lot more to it, but I don’t want to ruin anything or give spoilers away. That’s not what this is for.

Simply put, Bill Zebub makes fun movies. Sure they are full of weird, quirky humor; they are loaded with gratuitous female nudity; and there is a lot of anti-religious dialogue, but overall….they’re fun. “Nightmare on Elmo Street” has all these things and more. A lot more. What you ask? How about Teddy Bear rape, girl on puppet sex and a ton of pussy………cats. Oh and it has a message. Wait….what? A message? Yes……A MESSAGE! Now basically, this movie looks like a weekend project for a film class. Some of the camera shots are static, the editing is not very tight and a few of the acting performances come off as rushed. Not to mention it also has a fecal matter consuming puppet called “The Cocky Monster.” Get it? Instead of “The Cookie Monster?” Yeah it’s got all that. Now don’t get me wrong, I like Bill’s movies. But there are some things you’ll probably end up fast forwarding through. Like the fight scenes for example. The fight scenes in this movie, and several of Bill’s other films, are usually produced in slow motion which drag them out in my opinion. Plus there are some scenes which seem to move the film away from it’s main focus. But  if you can get through all that, you get to the message. And what is the message you ask? Well I’m not going to tell you. You’ll have to see for yourself. But trust me, when you get to the message, it will be a big WTF moment.

You see above the editing and the slow mo fight scenes, that’s the thing I really enjoy about Bill’s movies. He has all these weird things happening on the surface that normal people will turn their noses up at and ignore but just under the surface is some intriguing dialogue that indiscreetly exposes religious hypocrisy and also engages in breaking down our common American English language for it’s inconsistencies. What a concept? A movie featuring a woman having oral sex with a puppet also includes these highly thought-inspiring themes. Well, not to mention, the lovely ladies that adorn this film like, Lydia Lael, Erin Brown, Scarlett Storm, Vanna Blondelle & Dangrrr Doll.

So if you don’t have the attention span to make it through the 2 hours and 7 minutes of this movie to get to that message I mentioned, don’t bother. If you want to look at some beauties in little to nothing, go for it. If you want to have a film that you and your friends can let roll while you polish off a few bottles of Jack, Jim & Crown, this is for you. Or if you’re like me and can appreciate the time, work and effort it takes for an indy film to be made and want to see how the director did it with very little resources, then you should see this movie.

If you want to see it, go to Bill’s Vimeo page where you can rent or buy this movie and stream it online: https://vimeo.com/billzebub/vod_pages

As of this writing, Bill has an Indiegogo page up to help fund his next project, “Dickshark.” https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/dickshark#/story. I made my donation so why don’t you.

Here is one final clip for you. It’s an outtake featuring Bill and Dangrrr Doll. And as a former Pro-Wrestler, Bill, my advice to you is learn how to bump. It will still hurt but not as much.

The Maxx Axe can be found on line on Facebook.com/TheMaxxAxe and Twitter @themaxxaxe.

The Paradox of TERMINATOR GENISYS

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I remember seeing the first James Cameron TERMINATOR film as a young man, 17 years old. We had heard the scuttle on the film, mind you this is an era with instant news and the internet, and advance word through magazines indicated the film was revolutionary and would make a star out of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Now, we all loved Arnie in CONAN: THE BARBARIAN from a couple years before, so he was fast becoming a genre action hero. Knowing how excited we were, my friend’s Mom felt we should see it, and sneaked us into the R rated flick. The deal was we never tell. I think the statute of limitations has expired on that, some thirty-one years later. Needless to say, I was amazed at what I saw. THE TERMINATOR told a simple story, the themes engaged me and the special effects amazed me. I’d already been exposed to the nihilistic, post-apocalyptic fair of ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, THE ROAD WARRIOR and BLADE RUNNER during the preceding few years. But as the opening sequence of THE TERMINATOR unfolded with a tank tread crushing a road of human skulls, my life changed. From that moment forward, nothing could top THE TERMINATOR or my adoration of the film. It also encouraged my interest in time travel, something we’ll do through out this essay. Starting… then…

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Last night I watched TERMINATOR GENISYS. IMAX 3D, of course. If the advance word I had on this entry into the venerable series held any truth, I would need the 3D. The theater was empty, for the most part. I blame that less on critics panning the film than the actual advertising campaign. Here’s where we add TERMINATOR GENISYS to a select group of films that aren’t actually bad, but suffered from a marketing faux pax, ala JOHN CARTER, and are now prejudged to be awful in advance. The advertising for TERMINATOR GENISYS has been off the mark since day one. Couple that with revealing the “twist” of the story three months prior to its release, and you have a recipe for disaster. Now, I can picture the pitch to the studio, “In this one, John Connor is the Terminator!” And the studio heads approved the film. It looks good on paper, right? When initial reactions to the first trailers were met with fanboy hate, an unwise marketing rep decided to make an executive order to cut the infamous twist-reveal trailer. If it worked with the studio, it will work with John Q. Public, right? Wrong. When people watched that trailer, they shook their heads, proclaimed, “John Connor is a Terminator?” And checked out. Why bother watching it, we found out all we needed to know in the trailer. And that’s a shame. TERMINATOR GENISYS isn’t exactly a horrible film, it’s certainly flawed without a doubt, but it doesn’t deserve the vehement hate it has received. At least that’s how I felt after watching it and during my ride home. Time to go… there…

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I got home and started making notes for this review. What I liked, what I didn’t like. Something didn’t sit right with me. So I watched THE TERMINATOR again. This wasn’t good for TERMINATOR GENISYS. I found myself very unhappy with TERMINATOR GENISYS for the same reasons I dislike 300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE. Someone, and I’m not sure if it was director Alan Taylor or writers Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier, forgot what made both THE TERMINATOR and TERMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY, work. The blame does not lie with Arnold, oh no.  He plays the Terminator like a pro. He’s the most refreshing thing of the film, and he’s oldest part of the franchise! The in jokes surrounding this are abundant. Part of the blame lies in the casting of Jai Courtney as Kyle Reese. Courtney is a solid actor, but he’s not the right actor for this part. Kyle Reese, as given life by Michael Biehn, is an embodiment of The Man With No Name, he’s gritty and flawed, a man of few words. Jai Courtney transforms Reese into a wise cracking motor mouth and he’s not very likable. His presence on screen often took me out of the film, wishing for Biehn. By contrast, Emelia Clarke’s Sarah Connor is done very well, but it’s almost over the top, she’s less morose than Linda Hamilton, and acts somewhat like a spoiled teenager. Yet it’s not either of those that bring the film down. It’s the dick whipping Terminator count and time traveling run amok.

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More Terminators doesn’t mean better, and this is where they forget what made both T1 and T2 work: the Terminator films are horror films, simply put. The Terminator is a scary, unstoppable force. It is supposed to frighten you. Yet in TERMINATOR GENISYS, they’re plentiful and get knocked off left and right. It’s like a porn convention of Terminators. Everyone is a Terminator. Even John Connor. And that is the ultimate problem with TERMINATOR GENISYS. Starting with TERMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY, John Connor became the series protagonist. He was the hero we bonded with. Making him into a Terminator caused a disassociation with the audience, predicating the film’s imminent failure. Yeah, it looked good on paper, but it didn’t play out that way on screen. It also doesn’t help that Jason Clarke has played the least likeable John Connor since the franchise launched.

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Just as more Terminators are bad for business, so is more time traveling. It’s a cop out plot MacGuffin when you answer your problems with a hop on the time travel machine. But more so, the time traveling issues are an ironic representation of the movie’s inherent pacing problems. There’s no sense of urgency in the narrative, no suspense. We aren’t given an opportunity to build any, and that’s due in part to the plot line. There’s so much going on, we can’t waste a moment for any development. This is evident from the opening credits, as we get story from the opening frame. Which leads us to… now.

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TERMINATOR GENISYS has come out, people are hating on it. There’s no doubt that the TERMINATOR franchise has hit some bumps in the road, and TERMINATOR GENISYS is one more but as a film on its own, it really isn’t that bad. It’s certainly better than TERMINATOR 3: RISE OF THE MACHINES, which can be machete cut out of your viewings of the saga. TERMINATOR SALVATION is solid stand alone film, albeit misguided in its McG-ness, and I would say TERMINATOR GENISYS is a notch better. But when comparing modern films to classic cinema such as THE TERMINATOR and TERMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY, the bar is already set so high, it is nearly impossible for the newer film to achieve any positive notoriety. Plus, keep in mind that THE TERMINATOR ascended its B-Movie status to become much more than it was intended to be. So give TERMINATOR GENISYS a chance. You might enjoy it for what it is, a B-movie homage. I did.

Edgar Rice Burroughs, Starlord & Raptors

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They say in advertising that if you have a boxom, bikini clad lass holding a baby and walking a puppy dog that you can sell people deep-fried cat shit and they won’t care.  Why?  Because the advertising had a sexy, bikini clad lass, holding a baby and walking a puppy dog. That’s mostly true for any product in general, except for fiction. With fiction’s mediums, be they on the page or the screen, we’ve got a broader field. They’re all imagination stimulators that bring forth immediate recognition, allowing the audience to bond with the narrative. Your choices include Knights in shining armor, Vikings, Pirates, damsels in distress, Cops & Robbers, Cowboys & Indians, flying machines and automobiles, and, of course, dinosaurs.  

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With me it has always been the latter, the dinosaurs. They’ve caught my imagination since I was a little boy. My earliest recollections all link back to two sources: KING KONG and Edgar Rice Burroughs. Kong put a sympathetic face on the giant monster, and yes, he fought dinosaurs. The works of ERB took me to outer space and back to our inner earth, with stops at lost islands and hidden valleys along the way. One of those places was the aforementioned lost island, called Caprona, the titular THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT. The adventure story of the survivors of an U-Boat attack and how they end up on a lost island jam packed with dinosaurs is one of my favorite, ever. In 1975, a theatrical adaptation of the book hit screens, and I was enamored. The next year, a modernized KING KONG came out. There wasn’t a comic book, View Master or coloring book I didn’t have that was somehow tied to one of those properties. This is because dinosaurs are cool.

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Jump forward 20 some odd years from 1975 and author Michael Crichton once again captures my imagination with JURASSIC PARK. The hard science behind the book allowed suspension of belief and I suddenly felt like a pre-teen again, awash in the prehistoric glory of dinosaurs. The movie adaptation that followed a few years later did not disappoint me in any manner, well, unless you include that little issue with Muldoon. Nitpicking aside, the dinosaurs were amazing and far removed from the puppets and back screens of THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT. Special effects had reached a pinnacle in achievements with the Stephen Spielberg movie. Travel another 20 or more years, while circumventing a pair of sequels that failed to live up to the awe and wonder of the first, and we find a new entry into the JURASSIC PARK franchise. This past weekend, JURASSIC WORLD defied the average critical response, which has been a resting bitch face “Meh,” and opened to record box office receipts and smiling moviegoers by the boat load. Making over half a billion dollars at the multiplex was a feat unheard of, until last weekend. I happily contributed to its coffers and I’m about to happily tell you why I enjoyed the movie as much as I did.

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I’ve finally accepted that we won’t get a proper remake of THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT, thanks to JOHN CARTER’s marketing team.. Edgar Rice Burroughs has a stigma attached to his estate, one that says the movies won’t be very good.  It’s not a slight on the source material at all. Burroughs’ stories were action packed pulp adventures, he was a superstar of his time, a pop culture phenomenon. Shit, Tarzana, CA, is even named after his most famous creation. His characters were smart, the good guys good, the bad guys bad and the women, be they antagonists or protagonists, were strong. And sexy. But time and time again,  Burroughs adaptations fail at the box office. I’m fine with that, because, you see, JURASSIC WORLD is every bit as much an Edgar Rice Burroughs story as it is the fourth film of the JURASSIC PARK franchise.

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You see his influence throughout not only JURASSIC WORLD, but through JURASSIC PARK, as well. From the remote island setting to the dinosaurs themselves, the JURASSIC franchise is ripe with Burroughs-esque Easter Eggs. The intelligence of raptors is a modern incarnation of the evil Mahars from AT THE EARTH’S CORE, for example. The themes of conflict between the military and civilians can be seen in any ERB story, and is often established by having our protagonist be a member of the military itself. And that’s what makes JURASSIC WORLD the most Burroughs of all the films, its lead male star, Chris Pratt, and the character of Owen Brady. You see, Owen Brady is the quintessential Burroughs hero. He is brave and intelligent, he has a sense of humor and is he ever a ladies man. You can even see a slight Burroughs take on his character name, Owen Brady easily translates into Tyler Bowen, the hero of THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT, as well as nearly every other ERB protagonist from John Carter to Tarzan. Owen even channels Tarzan himself when he communicates with his “trained” raptors. Brady is an archetypical throwback to the heroes that have endured through time. Even Bryce Dallas Howard’s Claire Dearing could be ripped straight out of any number of Burroughs narratives. She is strong, yet she is also beautiful, and alluring to our hero, making her Jane Porter or even Deja Thoris in a power suit.

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Word has it that there are already talks for a fifth film in the franchise. As long as they bring back Chris Pratt and his portrayal of Owen Brady, I’ll be on board, too. Nothing spells a good time like Starlord and the Raptors.

WE ARE STILL HERE: HP Lovecraft and the Taste of Snow

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If there is something I hate about most modern movies, it’s winter. You see, growing up in the North East, you know snow. You simply know everything about it. You are as intimate with it as you would be with a lover. You know how it sounds, how it feels, how it looks, how it tastes, how it smells. This is because winter isn’t simply snow. It’s cold and salt and dirt and ice and dog piss, as well. All of these factors add up to one of the biggest pains in the ass that God ever created. Winter. It’s a bitch to drive in, shrivels your balls and makes your nipples hard for no reason other than to test your hardiness. In movies, they try to fake snow and winter often and I never buy it, I always know when it’s on a set. There are the rare exclusions to this rule, but, typically a movie fucks up winter and it will often pull me out of the narrative, in turn ruining the flick for me. Ted Geoghegan’s first feature length film, WE ARE STILL HERE, embraces snow and all of its attributes. You see, winter is also desolate and often leaves you with a sense of hopelessness, especially once you been cooped up inside for close to 6 months. From the opening frames of WE ARE STILL HERE, you can taste the elements of the often harsh New England winter, immediately establishing the tone for the movie as it sucks you in to its moody, slow burn.

Screenshot (620) WE ARE STILL HERE may at first seem like the same old haunted house/ghost story that has been told in every major studio release the last 5 years. And this means most anything from James Wan (THE CONJURING). The tag line, “The House Needs A Family,” even reinforces this. A middles aged couple, played by Andrew Sensenig (POWERS) and Barbara Crampton (RE-ANIMATOR, YOU’RE NEXT), has moved into a home in rural New England after losing their son in a tragic car accident. Shit immediately gets weird, leading the mother to believe their dead son’s spirit has come with them. We’ve seen this movie before, right? I hate to disappoint you, but this is about where it stops being a cliché.

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You see, WE ARE STILL HERE goes someplace else and borrows its inspiration from a well deeper than the glossy, CGI infested fair we’ve been force fed by the big studios. Pulp is the secret here, both from the printed page and the silver screen, and you can smell the influence of their respective mildewed pages and melted celluloid as clearly as you can the snow. Ted Geoghegan hasn’t made a mass market frosted affair with WE ARE STILL HERE, but he certainly has beaten Guillermo Del Toro to the punch with the best Lovecraftian horror movie in recent memory. By further including a smoking dash of the classic drive-in Italian zombie B-movies, Geoghegan has created something old, yet new, and certainly not typical of our current screen scares.

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The town at the center of the narrative, Aylesbury, even sounds Lovecraftian. In fact, WE ARE STILL HERE has the grocery list of ingredients required for a classic HP Lovecraft story. New England setting? Check! Creepy townies with a hidden agenda? Check! An ancient, un-named evil? Check! A sense of paranoia and hopelessness? Hell yeah! The film moves like a New England winter, slow and prodding, establishing the mood. Adding to this, the period is hard to nail down, and as a result, we are not forced to endure the wasted scenes often prevalent in modern movies, wherein we spend 10 minutes of valuable screen time disabling the electronic devices. Is it the 70’s (the cars and TVs)? The 80’s(the phones)? Now (digital dart board in bar)? You don’t know, and that lack of knowledge only enforces the isolation of the characters, while giving us added character development in the story. Seemingly in spite of this tense build, the movie is surprisingly gory, something you wouldn’t expect from a moody piece, ala THE BABADOOK or IT FOLLOWS. Instead, the film finds itself embracing blood and guts throughout the third act as much as it does Lovecraft. In any other film, the blood and gore presented here would be over the top and comical. But WE ARE STILL HERE never once lapses into the ridiculous or comedic, despite how absurd the spraying blood may be.

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The cast looks the parts, too. Barbara Crampton, a veteran of HP Lovecraft inspired cinema, plays the wife to veteran character actor Andrew Sensenig, the latter stepping up to the forefront in a lead role. As surprised as I was by his appearance, it ultimately became the keystone that allowed me to bond with the film. Sensenig has that common man appeal, something required for a Lovecraft tale to work. Scream Queen Lisa Marie (THE LORDS OF SALEM) as Crampton’s conveniently psychic friend, and TV veteran Monte Markham, playing a creepy townie, round out the required Lovecraft character archetypes. Markham channels the X-FILES Cigarette Smoking Man for David, a town patriarch who knows more than he is leading on to.

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WE ARE STILL HERE will bind to you like a New England winter, holding you in its icy grasp, giving dual meaning to its title. You will wake up one day, tomorrow or six months from now, and you will taste the salt and dirt of its snow and smell the mildew and feel the despair. Yes, WE ARE STILL HERE will remain with you, long after the credits (which you do not want to skip!) close, much in the same manner as Room 237 might disturb a hotel guest or pea soup may make you cringe. Ted Geoghegan’s suspenseful homage to the scares of his youth joins IT FOLLOWS as one of the best examples of horror cinema to be released this year. WE ARE STILL HERE is currently playing in theaters and on VOD.

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Slish, Slash, It’s a Blood Bath! A Look At The Slasher Sub-Genre

Chapter 2 of The Necrocasticon aired last night, and if you missed it, you missed out.  Check out the show here http://www.projectiradio.com/shows/necrocasticon/

On the horror side this week, the guys talked slasher films, so I’m taking this opportunity to take a leisurely stroll through the dark woods of memory lane, and revisit the evolution of the slasher film genre through the years.

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Real Life Slasher – Ed Gein

There is an old question.  Does life imitate art, or does art imitate life?  In the instance of the slasher film, the answer clearly is that art imitates life.  Alfred Hitchcock’s classic, Psycho(1960), is considered to be the first major slasher film.  The one that started it all!  Norman Bates was a disturbed owner/operator of an out of the way motel.  Norman Bates was loosely based on real life mama’s boy, Ed Gein.

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Norman Bates – Psycho

Gein was so close to his mother, that once she died, he dug her body up and lived with her corpse, much like Norman Bates did in Psycho.  Like Norman, Gein tried to become his mother.  Norman’s transformation was a mental one, but Gein’s was a physical one.  Ed Gein would kill women, and dig women’s bodies up and used their flesh to make a suit, so he could transform into his mother.  Psycho was a huge success and it’s shower scene is considered one of the greatest cinematic scenes of all time.  Despite the success of Psycho, it took 14 years for another major slasher film to hit the movie theaters.

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Leatherface – Texas Chainsaw Massacre

If Psycho examined the psychology of Ed Gein, it was The Texas Chainsaw Massacre(1974) that depicted his sheer brutality.  Like Norman Bates, Leatherface was based on Gein.  Leatherface wore a faces stitched together from his families victims, as did Ed Gein.  The furniture in the home of Leatherface was made of human body parts, such as bone and skulls, the same was true for Ed Gein’s home.

The slasher genre began as two vastly different films based on the same person.  One was a psychological study, the other chose to depict the grisly brutality of the subject.  These two films would set the stage for what was to come.  Slasher films can further be divided into two sub-sub-genres.  The “who done it” slasher (Psycho), and the “monster” slasher (Texas Chainsaw Massacre).  In a “who done it” slasher film, the identity of the killer is unknown.  Typically the killers are human, and when the identity of the killer is revealed at the end, it is a surprise. Examples of “Who done it” slasher films are Psycho, Friday the 13th, April Fool’s Day, Scream.  In a “monster” slasher film, the identity of the killer is known pretty much from the beginning.  The appeal of the film is the brutality of the monster/killer.  The killer is usually supernatural.  Examples of the “monster” slasher film are Halloween, A Nightmare On Elm Street, Candyman, Child’s Play, Friday the 13th sequels.

From here, the slasher film exploded into the ’80s, each film and fell in one of the two categories mentioned above.

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Michael Myers – Halloween

In 1978, John Carpenter arrived with his masterpiece, Halloween.  Halloween was a “monster’ slasher, and introduced horror icon, Michael Myers. Michael is the physical representation of pure evil.  The Boogeyman. This is the film that really solidified the formula for the slasher film.  A group of people, usually teenagers, are introduced to the audience.  The main character is typically a female, and she is ‘pure’.  She’s still a virgin, doesn’t smoke, or drink.  She will be the ‘final girl’.  She is the film’s Laurie Strode.  A killer stalks these characters, and kills them one by one, until the ‘final girl’ is left.  Only the ‘final girl’ can overcome the killer because she is the only one that is really good, and good always defeats evil.  Of course, in Halloween, Laurie had help from Dr. Sam Loomis.  Slasher movies for decades, and still now would follow the outline that Halloween set forth.

Friday the 13th

Friday the 13th

In 1980, a movie came along that perfected the formula that Halloween created.  Following in the footsteps of Psycho, the original Friday the 13th was a “who done it” slasher.  Camp counselors attempt to reopen a summer camp, that has been closed for many years due to a few tragedies.  One by one, the counselors a picked off in various ways by an unknown killer. The at the end, it is revealed that the distraught mother of a boy that drown at the same summer camp, Pamela, is behind the killings.  She would do anything to keep the camp where her boy died from being re-opened.

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Jason Voorhees – Friday the 13th Part VII

The many Friday the 13th sequels, however, are more of the ‘monster’ variety slasher films.  Pamela’s son, Jason, is now hell bent on revenge, and killing anyone who enters his domain.

After Friday the 13th, many copy cats flooded the movie theaters and movie rental shops.  Many tried to top Jason and Michael, but they all failed.  It was evident that you can’t do the “masked killer” routine better than Jason or Michael, and that forced film makers to get more creative with their slashers.

Enter Wes Craven.

A Nightmare On Elm Street

A Nightmare On Elm Street

In 1984, teacher turned filmmaker flipped the slasher genre on it’s head with one of the most creative ideas of all time, A Nightmare On Elm Street.  Craven chose to go the “monster” slasher route, and gave us Freddy Krueger.  A sadistic psychopath with the power to kill his victims in their dreams.  Armed with a self made razor glove, and the limits of his own tormented imagination, Freddy made it difficult for an entire generation to sleep.

Filmmakers took inspiration from A Nightmare On Elm Street.  They knew that if they wanted to compete, they had to get creative.

Chucky

Chucky

So, one killer was a doll.  Child’s Play (1988) introduced Chucky.  Chucky was a Good Guy Doll, based on the real life doll, My Buddy.  The doll was possessed by killer, Charles Lee Ray.

Candyman

Candyman

One killer was a vengeful spirit, similar to Freddy.  Candyman (1992) leaned heavily on the Bloody Mary urban legend, but created something more terrifying.   Candyman also deviated from the typical slasher staple of killing a group of teens.  Most of Candyman’s targets were adults.

Finally, in 1996, a film came along that, once again put the killer behind a mask.

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Ghostface – Scream

Wes Craven returns, this time taking a shot at the ‘who done it’ side of the slasher films.  Scream took the formula that Halloween established, and dumped it on it’s head.  Not only did the ‘final girl’ have sex and survive, but there was two killers!  Scream was the beginning of the parody era.

Once again, there was a flurry of copy cats.  I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997), Urban Legends (1998), and more.  These copy cats were endured until 2006, when another very inventive film came along.

Behind The Mask - The Rise Of Leslie Vernon

Behind The Mask – The Rise Of Leslie Vernon

Behind The Mask: The Rise Of Leslie Vernon (2006) took the parody concept that Scream teased, and ran with it.  Shot mostly as a documentary, we follow a film team as they record Leslie Vernon, a serial killer, explain the secrets to being a serial killer.  It’s brutal, disturbing, and hysterical all at the same time.

Since Behind the Mask, there really hasn’t been a strong slasher film.  The horror community is ripe for a new creative slasher icon.

Thanks for joining me on this journey through slasher film history.  I know I’ve left a lot of great slasher films out, but there is only so much time.

From The Lord of the Pitts, see ya next time!

George Miller, Heavy Metal & the Simplicity of Story

The weekend box office has come in and PITCH PERFFECT made something like $70 million. A pop song singing fest with mass broad appeal, it edged out the weekend’s second place offering by just over $25 mill, MAD MAX: FURY ROAD made a respectable $44 million. But it seems to have created a rift in the fanboy and critics circles. I don’t see how or why it would or should. One is a PG pop song, the other an R rated heavy metal opus, chock full of violence. Of course the pop song is going to sell more date night tickets than the heavy metal act. And being the heavy metal act is not a bad thing at all.

You see, director George Miller is more metal than you. Shit, he’s more metal than metal itself. A single viewing of FURY ROAD is enough to pummel you into concession of my assessment. FURY ROAD is the visual equivalent of the perfect metal album. A note for note masterpiece, perfectly timed in its sequences, each is a ballistic song unto itself. The end result is a surreal ballet of violence that has no parallel in modern Western cinema. Forget about the kinetic impact of THE RAID going forward, after DAREDEVIL, ass kicking in the up close is passé. Allow me to evoke the CGI that allows the FAST & FURIOUS franchise to defy physics before you do. FURY ROAD makes the Vin Diesel vehicle a cartoon in comparison. The bar on action films has been raised, once again, by an innovator of the genre. By breaking FURY ROAD’s story down to the bare bones, Miller has reinvented the genre once again.

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And that’s what makes this such an amazing experience to behold. The simple mindedness of it. Miller has found a way to appeal to today’s attention deficient audiences and tell a compelling tale with three clear acts. As a result, FURY ROAD tells a cohesive story with no plot holes, no bullshit and, most of all, more explosions than Michael Bay has had in his past 5 productions. FURY ROAD also has more story than any of the aforementioned Bay offerings, despite the fact that it’s nothing more than one long chase that goes in one direction and (spoiler!) back the way it came. Along the way shit gets blown up, people die and both heroes and villains find themselves on varying sides of redemption, either receiving or dealing it. Constantly. A simple story, plus complete characters makes for compelling entertainment and FURY ROAD is a classic Campbellian hero’s journey, complete with a trek into the underworld and a rebirth during said portion of the trek. It’s bare bones Hellenic story telling, ripe with visual Easter Eggs and succeeds because of it. With this outline laid, Miller creates a post apocalyptic vision that defies the suspension of disbelief, going over the top to a degree that you can’t help but accept the absurdity and madness of it all. It’s almost as if Miller has laid down tracks on the perfect album, Side A takes us one way, side B goes back again, and never loses its pace.

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The bad guys, under the command of Immortan Joe, form the rhythm section of the movie, figuratively and literally with their thundering bass drums and driving guitar. The antagonists also fill this role in the narrative, as they are the driving force behind the chase itself. Joe’s a sick and poisoned boogeyman with interest only in retrieving his breeding stock of wives. And this is why Immortan Joe works. He’s not a sympathetic villain. In some sense, he’s no different than the killing machine that is Michael Myers, or Jason Voorhees. Like them, Joe’s a driven maniac. Immortan Joe heralds the end of the sympathetic bad guys. Too often we waste precious screen time on justifying their motivations, taking precious character development form the protagonists and their wards. The end result with many modern movies has been an inability for the audience to bond with the intended heroes, because they’re less interesting than the bad guys. All too often this is leading to bland or otherwise uninteresting exercises in film.

MAD MAX: FURY ROAD features a return to the post apocalyptic adventures of the titular “Mad” Max Rockatansky, after a 3 decade theatrical sabbatical for the character. The creation of George Miller and his late writing partner Byron Kennedy, Max wanders the wasteland of Australia in a search for redemption. Max is Miller’s Elric, a haunted but eternal champion. Max and Elric share many similar traits, primarily in the “dead friends” department. But whereas Stormbringer typically ends up feasting on the souls of Elric’s companions, Max’s friends and family die at the hands of others, and live on only to haunt Max’s soul.

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First played by (the then not so bat shit crazy) Mel Gibson in MAD MAX, THE ROAD WARRIOR and BEYOND THUNDERDOME, the role is now in the safe hands of Tom Hardy. With this passing of the torch in FURY ROAD, the character of Max has now reached a level of iconography on a level similar to James Bond. But whereas Bond’s tux and Walther PPK are signatures of the character, a tattered leather jacket and sawed off shot gun are the dog-eared marks of Max. Hardy is Max in the same manner that Gibson was Max. He motivations in the story are clear. It’s his intent to aid his wards in their quest and hopefully end the nightmares of his past.
But Max isn’t the movie’s primary protagonist. He’s more a window dressing in the story, placed there as a convenient plot MacGuffin to drive the story with his frequent super human feats of heroism and survival. Like FROM DUSK ‘TIL DAWN, which is a gangster movie that just happens to vampires in it, FURY ROAD isn’t as much a Mad Max movie, as it is a movie with Mad Max in it. This becomes clear as we close the first act.

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Instead, this story is about Imperiator Furiosa, brought to life by Oscar winning actress Charlize Theron. We haven’t had a female action lead this strong since Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley in the ALIEN franchise. It’s her quest, her goals that further drive the story and are the catalyst to all of the death and destruction that rains throughout the film. Ultimately her story is a twist on Homer’s Helen of Troy. Where as Helen launched a thousand ships, Furisoa’s actions launch a thousand vehicles. But it’s not until we meet the Many Mothers that the narrative takes a noticeable turn, giving the story a prevalent feminist sub theme. That’s not a bad thing. It’s a part of the message that drives the narrative, showing the balance between not only good and evil, but male and female, and life and death. Miller has actually snuck in a bit of neo-pagan symbolism in the story with the three faced goddess representation in the female characters. The fundamental archetypes of the triple goddess are there if you look. The Five Wives of Immortan Joe represent the Maiden in their nativity. Furiosa is clearly the aspect of the Matron, guiding her charges to safety. The Many Mothers are the embodiment of the Crone, whom also heralds life and death. This is less feminism than it is just good story telling providing a positive message, albeit hidden behind vast carnage.

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Combined, Max is our lead guitarist and Furiosa our vocalist. Furiosa channels the aggression of Lzzy Hale in her convictions and softness of Amy Lee when required. Hers is the voice of FURY ROAD. Max’s signature compliments her, melding the technical genius of Randy Rhoads and garage band rough of Sean Morgan, getting the job done at any cost. All played out over Immortan Joe’s backbeat with an end result that is familiar, yet new. Is FURY ROAD a modern masterpiece? Perhaps, perhaps not. One thing it isn’t is a pop song. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD is pure and unadulterated, in your face heavy metal always in tune with an absence of sour notes, even if it isn’t Pitch Perfect.

Celluloid and Cenobites: The Cinematic History of Clive Barker

The first chapter of The Necrocasticon has cracked open, and like Pinhead’s puzzle box, deliciously horrible things were unleashed upon the world.  Token Tom and the gang discussed the HP Lovecraft of Generation X, Clive Barker.

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This will be a tour of Clive Barker’s film history.  Born in England in 1952, Clive Barker grew up with a taste for horror and fantasy.  He quickly established himself as a prominent young horror writer.  One of his themes is hidden worlds within the real world, and that is a theme that will permeate his movies, another prominent theme in his work is sexuality.

Clive Barker first got into film as a screenwriter.  He wrote the screenplay to Underworld (1985) and Rawhead Rex (1986). Rawhead Rex is about a demon that gets released from his prison, and creates a trail of gore, terror, and destruction across Ireland.  The film was released to less than stellar critical reviews, however, as time has gone by, Rawhead Rex has garnered a cult following.

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Clive Barker was not happy with how his vision of Rawhead Rex was portrayed on the screen, so he decided direct his own films.  This decision lead to his most popular film, and arguably the most popular character created by Clive Barker, Hellraiser (1987) and Pinhead.  Based on his novella, The Hellbound Heart, Hellraiser had a 1 million dollar budget, and grossed 14.5 million in the box office.  It made Barker’s first directional outing a financial success.

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Hellriaser is about a man, Frank, who is looking for the ultimate high.  He heard of a box that opened a portal to a world that held extreme carnal pleasures.  The movie begins with him finding the box, and opening it.  Chains immediately rip him to pieces.  The film then jumps and follows the man’s niece, Kristy, who stumbles upon the box.  She discovers that Frank is now a skeleton in the attic who is desperately trying to become human again, by consuming the blood of humans.  The more he drinks, the more his body regenerates.  She opens the box, and makes a deal with the demons who live in the realm on the other side of the portal, The Cenobites.  Their leader, Pinhead, agrees with her deal.  Frank escaped the cenobites, and Kristy offers to deliver him back to Pinhead.

This film really pushes the envelope of sadomasochism.  One common theme that runs through the work of Clive Barker is pushing the limits of taboo issues.

The original cut of the film got an X rating from the MPAA.  Barker had to cut several scenes to make the R rating.

Hellraiser spawned 8 sequels, and one of the most enduring horror icons, Pinhead.  Barker recently announced that he would be writing the screenplay to the remake of Hellraiser.

Nightbreed

After Hellraiser, Barker went on to direct another film that became a cult classic, Nightbreed (1990).  Nightbreed is based on Barker’s novella Cabal.  Nightbreed explored the question, “who are the real monsters?”

The film centers around Aaron Boone, a patient of Dr. Decker.  Decker convinces Boone that he is a serial killer, when in fact, it’s Dr. Decker who is the real killer.

Boone sets out on a quest to find a place where monsters are welcome.  He hears of a place called Midian.  Midian is a city hidden under a massive cemetery, where monsters are accepted.

Once there, the monsters he comes in contact with, don’t believe that he is a murderer, and attacks him.  One of the monsters bites him, and after the police gun him down, Boone wakes up in the morgue, because of the monster’s bite.

Now a true monster, Boone returns to Midian, and is accepted this time.  Tensions build between Boone and Dr. Decker, and a battle for Midian takes place, leaving Boone standing, and charged to find The Nightbreed another home.

Nightbreed was a commercial failure.  Clive Barker has gone on record blaming this failure on the studio, who tired to sell the movie as a standard slasher film, but it is much more complicated than that.

Barker also was not happy with the final edit. After more than two decades, Barker finally was able to release his director’s cut in 2014.

Barker’s experience with Nightbreed and his battles with the studio could explain why he has directed so few movies in his career, and why they are so few and far in between.

Lord Of Illusions

Five years after Nightbreed, Barker decided to try directing again with Lord Of Illusions (1995).  With a budget of 12 million, and only a 13 million gross, Lord Of Illusions was another financial bust for Barker, but it is a fantastic film.  Based on his short story, The Last Illusion, this film features Barker’s signature literary character, Harry D’Amour, in film for the first time.

Scott Bakula plays Harry D’Amour as a private investigator who is hired to investigate a series of disappearances and deaths of illusionists.  D’Amour uncovers an evil plot by demonic cult to harness real magic in the world.  Faced against forces of the occult, D’Amour come to terms with what is really happening and hold onto his sanity, if he hopes to survive and stop the cult.

Again, Clive Barker was not happy with the final edit, and insists that the theatrical version does not accurately represent his vision.  He has released a director’s cut of the film.

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Lord Of Illusions was Clive Barker’s last attempt at directing a feature film, but fear not!  It has recently been announced that a film based on the modern boogeyman phenomena, Slender Man is in the works, and none other than Clive Barker is set to direct.

Slender Man is one of the most interesting concepts to come from the modern social media age.  Born from a few creepy old photo shopped photos originally posted by Eric Knudsen in 2009, Slender Man took on a life of his own.  He is usually depicted as an usually tall, skinny, bald man with no face.  He is dressed in a suit, and sometimes has tentacles.  Slender Man stalks and kidnaps children and is typically depicted as living in the woods.  What he does with the children and his motives are currently unknown.

Slender Man plus Clive Barker is a match made in Heaven….or maybe that’s Hell.  In either case, I’m in! Thank you for celebrating the movie career of Clive Barker with us here at The Necrocasticon! From The Lord Of The Pitts, we’ll see you next time!