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  • 05/21/13--11:00: The Unseen - 'Tenement'

    tenementI love any movie that opens with its own personalized rap song. This was commonplace during the 1980s and early 90s as soundtrack sales proved to be just as lucrative as the movies themselves. Many films were made greater by their cunning use of personalized rapster tunes - for example Ghostbusters 2, Police Academy 4: Citizens of Patrol, The Addams Family, and Kenneth Branaugh’s Hamlet (I think, but I may be confusing it with Wild, Wild West). And 1985’s Tenement (also known as Game of Survival) is no exception, opening and closing with the not-so renowned hit “Tenement” featuring some wicked beats with a rapper occasionally saying the word “tenement.” The song is surprisingly upbeat and rather perky for the disturbing carnage that is about to unfold. Yet, somehow is it is the perfect opening to this flick.

    I’ll also begin by professing my love for Roberta Findlay. She made oodles of exploitation flicks with her husband Michael until his death from a helicopter accident in the late 1970s. After that, Roberta continued to film wonderful sleaze on her own, as both a cinematographer and director. Yet, regardless of her long career, many are very apt to leave ladies like Roberta Findlay and Doris Wishman out of discussions of female filmmakers simply because of subject matter. 

    Tenement was one of Roberta’s later films, shot in 1985, and it focuses on a dilapidated apartment building in the South Bronx. Suffering from urban decay, the area is plagued by drugs, murders, rapes and endless amounts of other crimes. The tenants of this particular building have discovered that a gang of junkies has taken residence in the basement of their building, using it as a hangout to do coke off the blade of a knife, shoot rats, and arm wrestle. A resident calls the police, and the gang is picked up. But in a pointed commentary on the NYC legal system, the gang is back on the street in a few hours. In retaliation they decide to kill everyone in the building- an idea which the gang’s leader received as a satanic message through his heavy metal music. Hey, it was the 80s  and everything was satanic. Starting with the first floor and working their way up, the gang takes siege of the building, slowly killing off the tenants that cross them and forcing the others to continually battle, leading to final showdown on the roof. 

    Tenement is vile. It’s one of those films that make you question why you enjoy watching it, or, in my case, have watched it at least five times. Filled to the brim with bloody stabbings, beatings, a rape, and even a castration, this one may seem like a hard and rather stabby flick to swallow, but it does have some charm to it as well. 

    The concept of “the siege” is not a new one. Certainly this same “trapped and pushed into a final showdown” concept was happening decades prior in films like Night of the Living Dead and Assault on Precinct 13. This same concept is still proving to be a hit-maker today with flicks like The Raid, District B-13, and even the Judge Dredd remake. But there is really something endearing about the characters in Tenement that set it apart from similar movies. 

    This building is a rainbow of races and types. There is the elderly Jewish woman, the Puerto Rican landlord, the Mexican grandmother, the single black mother, the rich white girl forced to live there, and even a blind guy. And since this is an exploitation film, the racial slurs fly constantly. Don’t worry though, this film is an equal opportunity exploiter, slurring everyone with the same racist fervor. But what stands out about Tenement is that even though it is an exploitation film, the characters are not stereotypes. All are just people. They may call each other names, but not one person performs the implied stereotype which is what makes Tenement stand out from many other exploitation films. The tenants also band together and work as a team in the confusion. Think of it as Batteries Not Included with a broom rape. Even the street gang (whose costuming is straight out of MJ’s Beat It! video) is equally diverse - like a Benetton ad with a lot of murder and rape instead of bored models. 

    The film is also a strange amalgam of comedy with a shockingly violent horror chaser. This was also fairly standard in films of the time, but it can be a little awkward and uncomfortable to view today. Take for instance the original Last House on the Left. Amidst all the deplorable acts of violence, there are scenes of comically bumbling Keystone-esque cops trying to find the escaped criminals. Tenement follows this same unnatural blending of comedy with unrelenting carnage. In this movie, the comedy is more subtle - a drunken boastful landlord, people dying with their eyes crossed like a cartoon, and the gang leader’s bizarre spiritualistic speeches where he refers to himself repeatedly in the third person. All of this draws the viewer out of the violence momentarily, which only makes it more shocking and unpleasant when the next scene re-submerges him.

    Though much of this column focuses on films that have been hard to see because of distribution reasons, Tenement is one that is available but never got much attention. Quentin Tarantino also took notice of this little film, later casting the most insane (and often blood-covered) gang member, Paul Calderon, in Pulp Fiction. Tenement is available on DVD through Media Blasters. It was also released by Shriek Films as part of a triple feature alongside Cop Killers and Don’t Go In the House. But I highly recommend the Media Blasters edition for its inclusion of an interview with director Roberta Findlay. This film is not a date movie, nor one to pop in some night when your parents are visiting. It’s brutal, intense, and supposedly was given an X-rating (though my DVD shows it as unrated). This film is totally 80s and is a surprisingly smart commentary on the social and economic problems of New York City during this time. But don’t get too attached to the neighborhood. This area would now cost you 6-figures for a studio. 

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    In March we shared the news that a remake of the 1982 horror classic Poltergeist was in the works, with Gil Kenan (Monster House, City of Ember) slated to direct. According to a new report from Bloody Disgusting, it's confirmed the reboot is now fully underway. BD reports Kenan has begun casting the film, with plans to shoot in Toronto as early as this September. Sam Raimi, Rob Tapert and Roy Lee are producing.
    The script, credited to David Lindsay-Abaire but with previous contributions from Juliet Snowden and Stiles White, suggests some departures from the original. It tells the story of Eric and Amy Bowen, who move to a new town after Eric loses his job and must confront supernatural forces surrounding the disappearance of their daughter Madison. New twists in this version include Amy's ability to communicate with the dead, and a character named Carrigan Burke who hosts the TV show Haunted House Cleaners. Burke's parapsychologist ex-wife, Dr. Brooke Powell, brings in her team to investigate the Bowen house and help them find the missing girl.
    More news to come... stay tuned!

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    UK director Ben Wheatley first picked up major praise among genre fans for his fascinating and challenging thriller Kill List, and followed with the “U is for Unearthed” segment of The ABCs of Death and the darkly comic Sightseers (which was released in the US earlier this month). His latest film, the black & white period horror tale A Field in England, will be premiering soon, and you can watch the eerie new trailer below:
    Set in 1648, A Field in England focuses on a group of deserters from the English Civil War who are forced to assist an alchemist in his search for buried treasure in the title field, where they fall victim to bizarre phenomenon – which may be triggered by the strange mushrooms the men have consumed, or by more diabolical forces.
    A Field in England is set to premiere in the UK on July 5th. The North American rights were recently picked up by Drafthouse Films, so stay tuned for updates on a stateside theatrical and VOD release.

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    The chair creaks as you settle onto it. The candlelight flickers. All around you the ravenous faces of your so-called friends twist in delight as you slowly open the box laid out on the table. Welcome to Dangerous Games! Each week, we'll feature a horror/thriller/monster tabletop game you should be playing. Don't be scared… roll the dice… what's the worst that could happen?
    The Werewolves of Miller's Hollow

    You are a resident of the small hamlet of Miller's Hollow. You live a simple, workaday life in the quaint country town. Everything is peaceful in your town, you have a role to play just like everyone else, and all is as it should be. Until the werewolves attack! That's the setting for this card-based party game from 2001. Published by Asmodee games, The Werewolves of Miller's Hollow is a bluffing and deduction game about surviving through the night in the world's most dangerous small town.

    Game Mechanics
    Werewolves of Miller's Hollow is a game for a lot of players. The box suggests that anywhere from eight to eighteen players should partake in this party game. Here's the basic run-down. Each player is given a secret identity card. Those cards range from "Ordinary Townsfolk" and "Werewolf" to "Village Elder" and "Village Idiot" among others. One player plays the role of narrator, outside of the game, who describes and adds flavor to the action as it happens.
    WMH2The game is divided into two parts of a turn. There is a "Day" part and a "Night" part. The narrator explains what the town is like, sets up the problem of the werewolves attacking, and generally introduces the game to the players. Then the game begins.

    The two players who are chosen as "Werewolves" silently convene with each other and decide which other player they kill during the night. In the morning that player (victim) is removed from the game and the other players vote on who they think the werewolves are. The suspected villager is able to make a case for himself, but when the vote is tallied if he's on the chopping block he's executed for his suspected crimes and removed from the game. The game continues on until either the werewolves have killed all the villagers or the villagers have removed the two werewolves.

    Replay Value

    WMH3When you're dealing with a  party game that can accommodate up to eighteen players there's bound to be a lot of replay value. The game also incorporates a fair element of change based on the alternative player cards. Apart from "Werewolf" and "Ordinary Townsfolk" there are options like "Cupid" who matches up two players as lovers and "Fortune Teller" who can learn one player's secret identity each night. These are just a few of the numerous roles players can take part in, and the expansion to the game offers these and even more secret identities!

    This type of party game has been going around for years now. Sometimes it's simply explained as a bunch of rules called "Werewolf" - or maybe you've heard of a similar game called "Mafia." This is a classic party game and my friends and I pull it off the shelf over and over again.

    Overall Impressions
    This is a raucous game of blaming, bluffing, deception, and deliberation. It's meant to be played and played again. You never know who's trying to help you and who's out for blood. I can't tell you how many times I've been wrongfully accused of being a werewolf (and how many times I've looked my friends in the eyes and lied to them, saying "no, I'm not a werewolf, I swear!) You may begin to start hating and distrusting your friends… but hey, that's half the fun of it.

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    Evil Dead was Bruce Campbell's first film, so you may be asking, "what could have come before?"

    In 1972, Bruce Campbell appeared in a short film directed by school chum Josh Becker. Becker would go on to work on all the Evil Dead movies with Campbell and Sam Raimi, as well as writing/directing movies like Lunatics: A Love Story and Stryker's War.

    But at the age of 14, Bruce Campbell appeared in Becker's first short film, "Oedipus Rex." Based on the Greek tragedy, the short was shot on a lunch break at school (evident by the chalkboard title cards and the auditorium background). It is a silent film, and is pretty much what you would expect a 14-year-old to shoot during his lunch period.

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    Even casual horror fans are familiar with the silent Universal classics The Phantom of the Opera and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, which starred the legendary “Man of a Thousand Faces” Lon Chaney, Sr. in his two most iconic screen roles. The box-office success of those two films led the studio in 1928 to adapt The Man Who Laughs, a story by Hunchback author Victor Hugo, into one of their first sound productions, with music and sound effects (but no recorded dialog). While Chaney did not return for this one (he was under contract to MGM by that time), the lead role was taken on by another screen legend, Conrad Veidt – best remembered by horror fans as the creepy sleepwalker Cesare in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.
    Just as in Hunchback, the title character here is not technically a “monster,” but a sympathetic figure who happens to be horribly disfigured... but like the grotesque Quasimodo, Veidt's protagonist Gwynplaine is chilling to look at, having been horribly maimed as a child in retaliation for his father's offense against England's King James II. He is taken in by a criminal named Ursus (Cesare Gravina) along with a young girl named Dea, and he later earns a living performing in plays which exploit his horrifying disfigurement, all the while concealing his feelings for the lovely Dea (played as an adult by Mary Philbin). It is eventually discovered that Gwynplaine is an heir to nobility, which sets a complex set of events in motion, including a romantic entanglement with a woman who finds his bizarre appearance strangely attractive.
    Universal's co-founder Carl Laemmle sought out German director Paul Leni after seeing his 1926 expressionist thriller Waxworks (also starring Veidt), and sank over a million dollars into the production, which was a blockbuster-scale budget at the time. While it wasn't a huge hit like Phantom or Hunchback– the absence of Chaney might have played a hand in that – the film is still a landmark of gothic cinema, and was almost certainly an influence on the appearance of Batman's most notorious nemesis. One look at Veidt in his “Laughing Man” makeup, and you'll make the connection instantly: he's totally The Joker. It's also no coincidence that a 2005 spinoff of Frank Miller's acclaimed comic Batman: Year One bears the same title as this film.
    The Man Who Laughs is available on DVD from Kino Entertainment. Here's a memorable scene from the film, depicting one of Gwynplaine's creepy stage performances...

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    GrimmGrimm Episode 222
    “Goodnight, Sweet Grimm”
    Written By: Jim Kouf and David Greenwalt
    Directed By: Norberto Barba
    Original Airdate: 21 May 2013

    In This Episode...

    Let’s start in Austria. Frau Pech is mixing up a heinous-looking elixir. She has a bellhop dose Adalind’s room service, then sneaks in when Adalind passes out. Frau Pech draws some spinal fluid from Adalind, then puts it in her elixer (from a box marked “Doppelganger”) and drinks it. This switches the women’s bodies. Pech is now the crumpled woman on the floor, while Adalind is awake and plotting. This only swaps the outward appearance; the woman on the floor is still the one with the fetus. Stefania calls “Adalind” and asks her to meet. She has figured out a way to get her powers back. “Adalind” meets with her, and Stefania lays out the plan. She eats up the details hungrily - then Stefania enacts the plan. One of her sons chokes “Adalind” and gets her to the ground, while Stefania cuts out her still-beating heart. The heart of a hexenbeist is necessary to restore Adalind’s powers. Back in her hotel room, Adalind returns to being Adalind, and wakes up, refreshed and pleased to see that all went according to plan.

    Now zombies. Baron Samedi has unleashed a half-dozen zombies on Portland. These are 28 Days Later zombies: fast, violent, and not too different than someone on PCP. With a number of uniformed cops missing or on the injured list, Wu needs all the help on the streets he can get, so Nick joins him in trying to immobilize some of the wackos. One of them attacks, biting Wu’s ankle, then nose-diving out a window when she lunges at Nick and he ducks. A three-story fall does nothing to slow her down, and it takes three cops to finally take her down. On his way out, Nick is attacked by another zombie. This one he knocks out, handcuffs, and smuggles him away from the fray.

    At the spice shop, Rosalee finds a potential cure for their trance disease, one that can only be administered when the victim is in the violent stage of zombification. Nick leaves Alan, the unconscious zombie, handcuffed in the spice shop. He wakes, violently, as Rosalee finishes up the serum. Monroe holds down Alan while Rosalee administers the cure with an almost comically-huge injector. This knocks Alan out again, but when he does wake, he is human.

    Nick returns, with Juliette in tow. She insists on learning about Nick’s Grimm life, and Nick is in no position to argue. Alan remembers very little of his ordeal. He was the tow guy who answered Baron Samedi’s call, so he is able to ID him. He remembers lots of green before being sealed into darkness, and a horn of some kind. Nick remembers seeing lots of green shipping containers on the docks (which is where Baron had dumped his car). Nick, Juliette, Monroe, and Rosalee head down there with as many doses of antidote as Rosalee can make.

    It quickly becomes apparent that this is a trap. As our foursome arrives, Baron is unleashing a crateful of zombies. They manage to give antidotes to two before another wave of zombies hit, and they run for safety.  Juliette, Monroe, and Rosalee hide in the car (which quickly becomes overrun with zombies, Dawn of the Dead-style). Nick separates from the group to go after Baron. The two men chase each other across shipping containers parkour-style, trade punches, even engage in a little light swordplay - all while Baron is cackling evilly. Nick chases Baron into one of the containers, where he finds a coffin. Inside is nothing but paperwork - the passport and official forms that were in Eric’s office, with Nick’s photo and a false name. Baron surprises him,  spits poison in his face, and puts him in the coffin. Eric arrives - it’s time to leave the country. Good thing Nick had asked Rosalee to hold onto his key earlier in the episode.

    Dig It or Bury It?

    Ah, the cliffhanger is back! Once upon a time, almost all TV seasons ended with a cliffhanger. The cliffhanger fell out of vogue a few years ago, replaced with stories that were tied up, but with questions to be addressed in the next season. But Grimm is bringing it back! Respect for the end tag: “To be continued... oh come on, you knew this was coming.” I laughed. 


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    The third installment of Adam Green's cult hit Hatchet is nearing release, and we have the exclusive debut of the theatrical poster.

    hatchet iii

    Whaddya think? Victor Crowley looks a little annoyed. Hatchet III hits VOD and limited theatrical release on June 14th.

    Concluding the saga begun in Adam Green's hit 2006 thriller, Hatchet III follows the vengeful Marybeth (Danielle Harris) as she continues seeking out a way to destroy Victor Crowley (Kane Hodder), a hulking, seemingly-invincible sociopath rampaging through a sleepy Louisiana swamp. 

    While a heavily-armed team of mercenaries takes to the bayou surrounding Crowley's home, Marybeth finds herself begrudgingly teaming up with a local policeman (Zach Galligan) and his ex-wife (Caroline Williams) - an expert on the maniac who may have uncovered the secret to ending his murderous rampage once and for all.

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    Fred Dekker’s 1986 horror-masterpiece Night of the Creeps changed my life – and it probably change yours, too.  It was the horror film that brought aliens, parasites, axe-murders and zombies together in one grand, hilarious and terrifying masterpiece.  It was the horror film that wed John Hughes’ teenaged life with George Romero’s on-earth death-walkers. 

    night of the creeps

    Back in 1959, a meteorite crashed into Earth, bringing with it a type of parasite that feeds on human brains. When the first victim of the parasite is put into deep freeze, no one expects two teenagers, Chris and J.C. (Jason Lively and Steve Marshall) to inadvertently release these slug-like aliens onto their campus when they unthaw an infected man who has been cryogenically frozen since the fifties. Now with the help of a sorority girl that Chris is crushing on and an aging, cynical detective, they must stop the slugs from infecting their friends before the whole campus turns into murderous zombies. These zombies can only be killed by intense heat, which gives the film license to introduce a flame-thrower and various firearms into the film for extreme gore and awesome explosions. The script, also by Fred Dekker, is witty and extremely self aware, making reference to the plot's own silliness.  Dekker’s dialogue is infused with infectious glee, especially during the gratuitous nudity and gore scenes. Even better, the gore is (of course) all practical effects - eaten-away skulls, face damage, intestines, bodily explosions, gun shots to the head and so many finer touches here are utilized with relative ease – it is the 80s, after all! Horror fans will also appreciate the nods to various genre luminaries, even amongst the characters’ names (Cynthia Cronenberg, Sgt. Raimi, etc).  Night of the Creeps is a love story to the horror genre, and it isn’t to be missed.

    Released by HBO Cannon Video in 1989, and CBS FOX internationally, a new copy of Night of the Creeps on VHS will run you $30.00, which isn’t bad as far as most collectors are concerned.  You can get a used tape for even less on eBay and  You may prefer to pick up the DVD/Blu-Ray from Sony Pictures Entertainment, since it’s the director’s cut and it includes several great extras such as cast and director commentaries, behind-the-scenes footage, deleted scenes, trivia and more.

    FEARnet caught up with Dekker himself to chat about Night of the Creeps, as well as Monster Squad, House, and the details of his filmmaking career.

    You started making movies at a very early age – some as early as 12 on your 8mm camera?  Do you have any memories about a favorite childhood film you made?

    One of my first 8mm films was called “The Deadly Chase.”  The only thing deadly about it was the acting and the shaky camera work.  After college, I made a “sequel” starring Shane Black.  This one had actual car stunts and was a vast improvement.  Ten years makes a big difference.

    You attended UCLA as an English major because you were rejected from film school – did having this heavy literature and English background help you when writing House?  How did you come up with the story?

    Being an English major really only taught me how to construct a critical essay.  As for House, it was conceived as my directing debut.  I wanted to shoot it at my parents’ Victorian house in Marin County.  Very cheaply, probably in black-and-white.  I had a storyline but never got around to writing the script, so my college roommate Ethan Wiley asked if he could take a shot at it.  It was much more cartoony than what I was thinking about but I gave the script to Steve Miner, who loved it and said he wanted to make it.

    House not only opened second to Pretty in Pink when it was released in theaters in 1986, but it also spawned three sequels.  What was this success so early like for you?

    I was barely paid on the first one, and had nothing to do with sequels (for which I was also not paid!).  So apart from my first screen credit, and a great relationship with Steve, its impact on my life was minimal, although I did meet the editor, Michael Knue, who I subsequently hired to cut Night of the Creeps.

    When it helpintWere you on the set of House during production?  It’s pretty cool that William Katt, who played Tommy in De Palma’s Carrie also played the lead in House!  

    Yes, I was there for some of the Vietnam scenes and some stuff in the house.  Both the house interiors and the Vietnam jungle were built on sound stages at Raleigh Studios across the street from Paramount Pictures.

    The Monster Squad is an all-time favorite (for many).  I read that you originally wrote a huge script for this film?

    Shane Black wrote the first draft by himself while I was making Night of the Creeps.  And yes, Shane is nothing if not, er…  extravagant when it comes to putting scenes on paper.  The original prologue was a movie all by itself!

    Were you part of a Monster Squad growing up?  There is so much horror love in this film, from the posters on the wall in the club house to the homages played to the Universal monsters and Stan Winston’s Wolf Man.  I’m guessing Monster Squad was your labor of love?

    Very much so.  I had an older friend who turned me onto Famous Monsters magazine and the Don Post masks and all that, so us talking monster movies in a little fort he built in his backyard was the real-life inspiration for the Squad’s clubhouse.  During one sleepover in the fort, my dad brought us sandwiches after dark and he did his terrible Lugosi Dracula impression before he knocked.  I’ll never forget that.

    What was it like working with Ashley Bank, who was so young at the time?

    She was great.  Kid actors are so open and easy to work with.  They don’t have any of the overthinking and “method” stuff that older actors have, so it was just a matter of telling (or showing) her what to do.  In some scenes, I’d actually crouch by the camera and act the scene out for her, and tell her to copy what I was doing.  Try that with an adult actor and they’ll throttle you.

    I’m sure you’ve been asked this a million times, but are there any stories behind “Wolfman’s got nards!”?

    That was Shane’s line.  Any lycanthropic genitalia obsession would be his.

    Liam Neeson played a role, but it was later cut?

    Yes.  In the original script, the kids meet a mysterious man in the scary mansion.  When Horace notices the man’s reflection in a mirror – and sees that the only thing reflected is a latex mask floating in the air, they realize it’s actually Dracula!  I didn’t want the audience to guess the twist, so rather than put Duncan Regehr in unconvincing make-up, we hired Liam as a diversion. When we ran into scheduling and budget restraints, we decide to cut the scene before we even shot it. 

    Are you surprised by the staying power of Monster Squad?

     Absolutely.  It’s very gratifying, but I wish it had been as popular on release as it is today.  Let’s just say it did not help my career.

    Night of the Creeps was a unique and fun take on the zombie genre at the time. And the sci-fi and slasher genre!  Plus, it’s hilarious! I also love that all the characters in the film are named after some of the best horror directors of the time. In writing the script, where did this idea come from?

    I was paying tribute to the directors I admired who had started out in low budget genre pictures -- because that’s exactly what I was doing!

    Night of the Creeps has two endings – which do you personally prefer and why?

    The graveyard ending – in which we show the alien ship from the opening of the film presumably looking for their “experiment” -- was always the intention.  Unfortunately, I showed the picture to an audience before the special effects shot was finished and the preview audience was confused (nothing scares movie executives more than a confused audience!.  The theatrical ending with the zombie dog was a compromise, but I always hated it. It was a cheap scare, and suggests that the creeps are infecting our heroine, which feels like a violation of any goodwill toward our heroes. The graveyard ending is much more evocative and spooky.  That’s the real ending.

    The great makeup effects artist Howard Berger worked with you on this film – what was he like to work with?  You also had Greg Nicotero play a zombie!

    Greg was actually the only founder of KNB who isn’t in the movie.  Howard and Rob Kurtzman both worked on David Miller’s FX team, and both played zombie frat boys.  Greg and I had dinner a while back and he told me he came to the set – but it was news to me. I didn’t remember him being there at all!

    After The Monster Squad, you went on to write several episodes of Tales From the Crypt, and you directed one as well.  You wrote the screenplay for Robocop3 with Frank Miller – and directed the film as well.  Then you kind of disappeared from the industry – was this because of the difficulties with the Orion company and the film, or did you just need a break?  You haven’t directed since (which is heartbreaking for us all)!

    The truth is, Robocop 3 was so loathed that my directing career simply lost its traction.  I’ve been trying to get a picture up and running ever since, and have had a few in various stages of development, but the whims of fate have conspired to keep me out of the director’s chair.  Believe me, it’s not by choice, and I’m always hoping the wind will blow in a different direction so I can make another picture.  Cross your fingers (or call your rich friends).

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    Formed in 2011 by Sal Abruscato, co-founder (with the late, great Peter Steele) of the gothic metal giant Type O Negative and drummer on many of Type O's most legendary releases like Bloody Kisses, A Pale Horse Named Death carries over many of that band's themes of gloom, doom and darkness... and death, obviously. Sal joined forces with Matt Brown, guitarist for Seventh Void, in a partnership he described as a “murdering evil version of Lennon and McCartney,” and the colossal result was the band's debut album And Hell Will Follow Me. Accompanied by an ominously beautiful art booklet created by acclaimed artist Sam Shearon (whose credits include illustrations for H.P. Lovecraft's Call of Cthulhu and promo art for Rob Zombie and KISS), that record was a haunting showcase of low, heavy and horror-infused hard rock with a classic horror vibe. 
    While the lyrical themes were steeped in grand-scale horror imagery, Abruscato says the songs still "have a line to reality… things that could and do happen every day." In a way, that makes the music even more haunting. The sequel to that first cinematic experience, entitled Lay My Soul to Waste, just dropped this week, and I dare say it's even darker than its predecessor.
    This band knows how to serve up a somber, shadow-cloaked mood with style – much like Type O always did, but where that band often dosed the recipe with bitter irony and deadpan satire, Pale Horse instead offer a richer, more cinematic atmosphere that pulls you into a collection of macabre tales. The intro/title track is case in point; it's nothing but back-masked incantations amid nocturnal forest sounds, and it'll make your flesh crawl. From there we march deeper into darkness with the beefy, coarse rhythms of "Shallow Grave," the first single and a truly stunning kickoff to the record (be sure to give it a spin at the end of this review). Sal's vocals fall in the middle range, setting them apart from Peter Steele's vampiric bass-baritone – and closer to those of another fallen rock hero, Alice in Chains' Layne Staley; they are tracked and treated in a similar style to both bands, giving the songs a gritty urgency, backed by dangerously heavy instrumentation. 
    The guitars whine menacingly in "The Needle in You,” in a serpentine time signature; when Sal delivers the line “I am Lucifer,” it's pretty damn convincing. Creepy tremolo effects and a crushing opening riff make "In the Sleeping Death" one of the doomiest tracks; that tremolo returns for "Cold Dark Mourning," played against clean guitars for a musical eulogy, and (in my mind, anyway) a fitting memorial for the legacies of Steele and Staley. Not surprisingly, a funereal vibe permeates most of this album; church organ lends a somber dirge feel to "Growing Old," and blends with guitar for one of my favorite hooks. Beginning appropriately enough with thunderstorm effects, the ominous "Day of the Storm" is much in the mode of down-tempo Type O dirges like “Haunted,” and the pensive acoustic guitar piece "Dead of Winter" is the most evocative of Alice in Chains, but with a ghostly edge all its own.
    It's not all gloom and doom, suprisingly: a tough sleaze-rock vibe permeates "Killer by Night," thanks to bluesy double-tracked riffs and gravel-voiced verses, although it's ironed out by smooth vocal harmonies on the chorus; that gritty grind gets a kick in the ass with "Devil Came With a Smile," the most mischievous and fun song here, putting the band's own spin on the sell-your-soul scenario. "DMSLT" is a more straightforward rock track, but sports some mighty guitar chugs that keep the dark energy going.
    I hate to keep drawing comparisons to other bands, but it's just too fitting to overlook... and I'm also saying it's a good thing: if you want to explore the same landscape of ominous, urgent tones and themes that Type O Negative and Alice in Chains charted so expertly, then I recommend you take a ride on this Horse. I'd also love to see a video or other visual accompaniment come out of this project, just to see Sam Shearon's amazing imagery brought to life alongside the music and let the story unfold further... but for now, we'll just have to unite those elements in our imaginations. Here's the track “Shallow Grave” to help get you started.


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    There are two very broad, distinct, and (fine) obvious types of horror stories being told in the new indie thriller from After Dark Films (Originals). In one corner we have the "happy family in a creepy house they just bought to get away from the city" stuff and in the other is the "evil female specter who may or may not be real but definitely seems to covet the couple's infant" material. Adding to the patchwork feel of the premise are some touches, characters, and ideas that are inspired by a wide array of recent (mostly indie or foreign) supernatural thrillers...

    In other words, Dark Circles will be thoroughly familiar (perhaps even predictable) to anyone who watches a lot of horror movies, but that's not to say you won't find some creepy moments and worthwhile assets scattered across the flick. For example, writer/director Paul Soter seems to actually care about his central characters. As conventional as the story might be, leads Pell James and Johnathon Schaech do a strong job of creating basic but compelling characters. As the couple welcomes their new baby and gradually settles into their new home, we actually grow to like them. That alone makes the movie at least slightly novel.
    To its credit, Dark Circles is in no big rush to get to the scary stuff, and when it does, it focuses on the inner turmoils that any young parent must feel: the pressures of a baby who won't stop crying; the inability to get any work done; the feeling that you're now just a support system for a baby instead of a complete person of your own. And while it's certainly not as powerful or memorable as movies like Grace or À l'intérieur, Dark Circles is interesting in that it's a full-bore "post-natal depression" horror story -- and therefore something that a lot of viewers can relate to.
    What's most interesting about Dark Circles is how it shows that fear for one's own safety is instantly dwarfed by the fear for their baby's safety. Thanks to some nifty special effects, the poor baby in this film comes close to all sorts of terrible "accidents," and let's face it: nobody wants to see a little baby get scalded or sliced. At its best moments, Dark Corners digs into our fears about the fragility and helplessness of babies, and how it can turn any strong grown-up into a quivering mess.
    Ultimately it'd be easier to dismiss Dark Circles as a whole lot of "been there, seen that, cute baby though" stuff, but between the film's unexpectedly mature tone and earnest attempts at character-building, it slowly becomes a surprisingly decent little psychological chiller. (A small but colorful performance by Jenn Foreman as a good-natured babysitter also helps a lot.) This is not a slam-bang, white-knuckle horror film or even one you'll rave about to your friends, but it's a quietly satisfying little ghost story all the same. Especially if you have a baby in the house.

    Interesting note: writer/director Paul Soter is a member of the Broken Lizard comedy troupe, but Dark Circles has only the smallest moments of light humor and no silliness whatsoever. Even given the two-level conventional nature of Dark Circles, I applaud the comedian for taking his horror movie seriously.

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    The world is ending this summer, according to movie studios. Before fall, we can look forward to This is the End, The World's End, and Rapture-palooza, three comedy/sci-fi hybrids about the apocalypse.

    The new, red-band trailer (for language) for Seth Rogan's This is the End has just hit the interwebz. Celebrities like Rogan, Paul Rudd, Jason Segal, and Michael Cera are attending a party at James Franco's house when the apocalypse begins. Seems about right. The new trailer focuses on giant demons and a possessed Jonah Hill. Color me intrigued.

    This is the End hits theaters June 12th.

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    Yahoo! Movies has launched a trailer for the upcoming feature Metallica: Through the Never, featuring a filmed performance by the metal legends... but make no mistake, this isn't your usual concert documentary; instead, Metallica's music accompanies a sweeping apocalyptic fantasy adventure focusing on the wild escapades of a young roadie named Trip (Dane DeHaan of The Place Beyond the Pines, Kill Your Darlings and Amazing Spider-Man 2) on an urgent mission for the band during a sold-out concert. 
    Written and directed by Nimród Antal (Predators, Kontroll), produced by Charlotte Huggins (Journey to the Center of the Earth) and shot in 3D with some scenes employing up to 24 cameras at once, Through the Never follows Trip as he tries to recover a mysterious item needed for the show; along the way, he gets into a car crash, finds himself in the midst of a clash between protesters and riot police, and must evade a masked horseman determined to kill him. In other words, a typical day for the average roadie.
    Metallica: Through The Never will be released by Picturehouse in North America on September 27th in over 300 IMAX® 3D Theatres, before expanding into additional theaters on October 4th. Check out the trailer!


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    The appropriately macabre-named Last Rites Gallery in New York City invites horror fans and fine art aficionados alike to “get your zombie on” for a new exhibit beginning this Saturday: titled simply Zombie, the show will put the exclusive spotlight on the living dead, as interpreted by dozens of artists in various types of media, with a focus on the zombie in history, folklore, films, games, shows and modern pop culture in general.
    “It seems everywhere we look, people have zombies on the brain,” the gallery states at their official site. “With this art show, we asked 50 artists to interpret the word 'zombie.' What is it about living dead that intrigues us? Is it the idea that they were once like us? Are the masses really consumer 'zombies' programmed to receive and carry out the demands of commerce, by going out and shopping for the latest things they've been convinced that they need? Or is the zombie sensation just another popular culture craze?”
    The opening reception for Zombie will be held on Saturday, May 25th, from 7pm to 11pm Eastern at the Last Rites Gallery, 511 West 33rd Street, 3rd floor, between 10th and 11th avenues, New York, NY. Visit their site and Facebook page for more info.

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    This just in from the fine folks at Scream Factory (via their Facebook page): Norman Bates and "Mother" are coming home to Blu-ray & DVD this fall in two Collector's Editions.
    Both films feature the original Norman – played, of course, by the legendary Anthony Perkins – continuing the Bates saga over two decades after Alfred Hitchcock's immortal classic: Richard Franklin's excellent Psycho II (1983), and the 1986 follow-up Psycho III, which picks up almost immediately after part 2 left off, with Perkins in the director's chair as well.
    Scream Factory have posted no other details as yet, but rest assured we'll keep you updated!

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    We're trying something a little different for today's cryptid feature:'s history blog “The Vault” shared this historical curiosity regarding the legendary Yeti, or “Abominable Snowman” – an apelike creature of Nepalese folklore and the subject of many legends and alleged sightings in the Himalayan Mountains. 
    I'm sure you've heard all the good Yeti stories, but probably not this one: apparently the prospect of Yeti-hunting in Nepal was of some concern to the U.S. Government back in the day, enough to merit this 1959 Foreign Service memo from the newly-established American Embassy in Kathmandu titled “Regulations Governing Mountain Climbing Expeditions in Nepal – Relating to Yeti.” Following sightings of Yeti tracks by legendary explorers Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in 1953, Yeti hunting became quite a phenomenon, with highlights including a 1954 “Snowman Expedition” to Mount Everest sponsored by the UK Daily Mail and a later mission financed by American oil tycoon and cryptid-hunter Tom Slick.
    The memo, shown above, lays out the Embassy's ground rules (first set up in 1957) for would-be Yeti hunters: they must pay the Nepalese government for permits; they may photograph, but not kill, any Yeti they find, and must hand over the photos to Nepalese officials; and any new findings must be filtered through Nepalese channels before going public. It doesn't confirm or deny the U.S. Government's opinion on the creature's actual existence (it was established more out of respect for Nepal's sovereignty), but it's kind of cool that they went into this kind of official detail – something very rare in the world of cryptozoology.
    Outside magazine has a cool timeline of Yeti sightings and trivia at this link, so check it out!

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    Director Edgar Wright reunites his Shaun of the Dead leads Simon Pegg and Nick Frost for another literally apocalyptic comedy, The World's End, and you can watch the U.S release trailer below. Plus there's a new poster:
    The World's End centers on five long-separated childhood friends who reunite for an epic twelve-stop pub crawl called “The Golden Mile,” leading to their favorite hometown watering hole “The World's End.” Those plans develop a slight complication... that beingthe actual end of the world, in the form of an invasion of killer robots.
    The film is set to premiere on August 23rd. Check out the new trailer!

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    Techland has made their mark on horror gaming with the Dead Island duo, and they look to keep their streak going with the upcoming Dying Light, set to be published by WB Games in 2014 according to a press release issued today.

    They’re certainly keeping with what they know: Dying Light is billed as “a first-person, action survival horror video game with a portentous day-night cycle set in a vast open world.”  Players will craft weapons to use against the omnipresent undead threat…sounds a helluva lot like Dead Island, right?

    However, Techland has a few other tricks up their sleeves to flex the next-gen muscle of the next wave of consoles, including that aforementioned day-night cycle which offers some truly gorgeous and moody lighting.  The daytime is spent scavenging supplies to prepare for the night, which promises more aggressive ghouls and “predators which only appear after sundown.”  However, the typical FPS controls from Dead Island have been beefed up, offering up “inventive free-running mechanics [which] allow for nearly unrestricted exploration.”  Sounds kinda like parkour to me, which would certainly change the creeping-running binary choices of typical horror FPS games.

    Dying Light will be released in 2014 for Xbox One, Playstation 4, Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and PC.  Phew!

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    hannibalHannibal Episode 108
    “Trou Normand”
    Written By: Steve Lightfoot
    Directed By: Guillermo Navarro
    Original Airdate: 23 May 2013

    In This Episode...

    Abigail has decided to let Freddie tell her story. Neither Hannibal nor Will think this is a good idea - especially since it is Freddie who would be writing it.

    Someone has dug the body of Nick Boyle out of the frozen ground. Jack insists that Abigail ID the body, and that only Alana may accompany her. Jack still thinks Abigail is involved in her father’s killing spree, and that she killed Boyle. Alana disagrees strongly with Jack’s methods, but accompanies Abigail anyway. She identifies Boyle, then Jack grills her, turning it into an interrogation. She insists that she hasn’t seen Boyle since that night he attacked her in her house (“I thought I would die in that house after all”) and had no prior relationship to him. The girl is a mess and Jack finally relents. Alana is furious. Hannibal later speaks with Abigail alone. He knows that she was the one to dug Boyle out of the ice, and he feels betrayed. She defends her decision because now she doesn’t have to live her life worrying about if someone finds the body.

    Will goes to see Hannibal. A lucid nightmare he had tells him that Abigail killed Boyle. Hannibal knows, and wants to know if Will told Jack. He hadn’t - he was hoping it wasn’t true. Hannibal admits that Abigail killed Boyle in self defense, and that he helped her dispose of the body. He didn’t tell Jack because he knew Jack would persecute her for her father’s crimes. Hannibal asks if he needs to call his attorney, but Will agrees that it needs to remain a secret. Abigail is no more a murderer than Will is for killing her father, or Hannibal is for killing Tobias (at least, in the official version of his story).

    Hannibal has Abigail, Freddie, and Will over for dinner. Freddie is a self-righteous vegetarian, which, as far as I’m concerned, means she won’t make it to the end of the season. (I don’t think Hannibal has a problem with vegetarians; it is the self-righteous part that he takes exception to.) After dinner, Abigail is helping Hannibal clean up the kitchen, and she asks if Will knows about Boyle. Hannibal confirms that he does know, but assures her that he will keep their secret. Abigail isn’t comforted by this, so Hannibal continues. “No one will know the truth you are trying to avoid, the one you can’t admit, even to yourself.” She finally breaks down: Abigail knew what her father was and what he did to those girls that “looked just like me, girls that could have been my friends.” Abigail was the one who met with the girls, talked to them, laughed and joked with them, all in an effort to find out where they lived and when they would be alone. “I couldn’t say no to him. I knew it was them or me.” She sobs into Hannibal’s arms. He holds her, stroking her hair fatherly. “I was wondering when you would tell me.” He assures her she is not a monster, but a victim, and promises that he and Will will protect her.

    But there is a murder tonight, too. On a beach in West Virginia, authorities have found a human totem pole. According to Will’s deconstruction, this was a monument, planned with precision. The body on the top of the totem, Joel Summers, is the only fresh kill; all the others had been dead for significant lapses of time. Seven of the dead came from unmarked graves on the beach, in which the totem was centered. Back at the lab, 17 different bodies were used in the totem. Except for the recent kill, all the bodies were apparently taken from graves. Each had died of a “natural” and unrelated cause: suicide, car accident, carbon monoxide accident, heart attack. But it seems that the first victim on the totem, Fletcher Marshall, was killed in a “crime of passion.” Much of this case was glossed over in favor of focusing on Abigail’s story, but Will puts together that all of these victims were in fact murdered. Fletcher Marshall is Joel Summers’ father - yet there is no DNA match. Four years after Fletcher died, his wife Eleanor was killed in a car accident, and Joel was put up for adoption. Again, we don’t see how they came to this conclusion (maybe my mind is too used to Law & Order-style procedurals) but Jack and Will pay an elderly man, Mr. Wells, a visit. He is waiting for them. He killed all 17 of those people, including Joel, and doesn’t have the fight in him anymore. Mr. Wells does not offer any reason for his kills, other than “I had every reason to kill them, but they had no reason to die.” With no kids and no wife, this totem of death is his legacy. So his face falls when Will informs him that Joel was his biological son. Eleanor had an affair with Mr. Wells, but decided to raise Joel with her husband, Fletcher.

    Also: Will’s mental state is deteriorating rapidly. After he visits the totem crime scene, he does his crime scene deconstruction, but when he blinks, he is in Hannibal’s waiting room. He has no memory of how he got there. Hannibal is concerned. Will is sleepwalking - when he can sleep - and now he is blacking out and losing time. He worries that Will will hurt himself or someone else, and again wonders if Jack isn’t pushing him too hard. Will insists that he is saving lives. 

    Dig It or Bury It?

    I think Hannibal is at odds with itself. On the one hand, it has all these beautiful - but heinous - murder tableaus. But the focus of each episode is on Hannibal, Will, Abigail, Jack, Alana, and their relationships. The murders each episode are secondary - tertiary, even - to the story. Tonight is another example. This totem of body parts would make a fascinating story in and of itself, but it gets pushed aside to deal with the Will-Abigail-Hannibal story. I was totally engrossed with that story, but the human totem interrupted the flow. Similarly, the human totem was a fascinating story, but I feel like it was half-assed in order to focus on the Will-Abigail-Hannibal story. I will chalk this up to season one “jitters” - the overarching story is just trying to find its way.

    Bon Appetit

    While dining at Hannibal’s house, Abigail takes a bite out of a thin slice of dark meat. There is almost a hint of recognition on her face, like she has had this kind of meat before....


    The “monsters” under the bed are killing people - could Will have finally snapped?

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    the walking dead

    At the Barclays Global Technology, Media and Telecommunications Conference, AMC Networks CEO Josh Sapan had this to say about The Walking Dead:

    "We hope that zombies live forever, and we’ve just begun to find out what the post-apocalyptic world is like, so that we’ll be sitting here at the Barclays conference in 2022 discussing the fact that Walking Dead is not over … at that point, I think any one of the companies will have replaced the United States government and we’ll be in a complete free enterprise world in which there are no nations."

    I think I just had a brain aneurysm. 

    Here's hoping that Sapan is being genuine in his love for The Walking Dead (especially because things really got good in season three) and not just feeling a little hormonal because the network's other two cash cows (Breaking Bad and Mad Men) will both be ending in the next couple of years.

    Source: Hollywood Reporter

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