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FEARNET.com News and Reviews

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    Its scientific name is Triaenops persicus, but you can call him the Chewbacca bat. Scientists in Mozambique found Chewy nestled deep into the heart of the Gorongosa National Park, a wildlife preserve that conservationists are fighting to bring back from the brink of destruction after decades of civil war destroyed the forest and decimated its wildlife.

    The Chewbacca bat is named for its discoverer, John Chewbacca. No, of course it isn't - it is named for its resemblance to the Star Wars Wookie. Personally, I don't really see it - the bat is missing Chewy's kick-ass bandolier - but he is damned cute. Chewy is one of 1200 new species of plants and wildlife that were discovered during a four-week biodiversity study that took place in April.

    Other notable creatures discovered in Gorongosa include a kind of frog that runs instead of hops; a species of ants that are physically incapable of walking or standing on flat surfaces; and giant beetles (some of which emit farts the likes of which humans have never experienced).

    Source: CNN


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    NECA's 8-bit Jason Voorhees was a hit at this year's Comic Con (I got mine!) so naturally the toy company is going to release another one. This time it is an 8-bit Freddy Kreuger, based on his 1989 Nintendo video game. Like Jason, Freddy will get his own special video game packaging. I would tell you to grab him and then re-enact Freddy vs. Jason as an old-skool video game... but then the toys would no longer be mint-in-box!

    8-bit Freddy is due in November. Keep an eye on the NECA page to find out when you can buy.


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    Deliberate StrangerHonestly, I have never been much for serial killer films. Though I will gladly watch a supernatural being chop his way through endless campers, and I’ll cheer while a giant monster wipes out half of the eastern seaboard, serial killers just seem a bit too real to feed my larger-than-life horror lust. Whereas I rarely find myself fretting over giant monsters or supernatural being, serial killers scare me. Yet, I totally understand the appeal and fascination behind them. And occasionally, I find my own interests tweaked towards the serial killer fare.

    In my brain Mark Harmon had always been a comedy actor. Sure his roles may require drama on shows like Chicago Hope and NCIS. But Mark Harmon’s primary role in my mind was as Gym/English teacher Mr. Shoop in 1987’s Summer School. This great 80’s flick not only was hilarious, but it gave the horror world two notable icons- Chainsaw and Dave. Imagine my surprise when FEARnet’s own Rob G, told me on our podcast KILLER POV about how just one year earlier in 1986, funny man Mark Harmon had played one of America’s most frightening serial killers- Ted Bundy. I knew I had to hunt down this hard to find flick.

    The Deliberate Stranger was a made-for-TV movie based on the 1980 book by Richard Larsen.  It aired in two-parts on NBC during the 1986 “sweeps”. No doubt hoping to attract fame from the news coverage on Bundy who was sitting on death row by then, NBC aired the serial killer’s tale in a primetime slot.  Much of the film focuses on Ted Bundy’s early days while still living in his home town and his travels through a number of states including Utah, Florida, and Colorado. What is perhaps most fascinating about the film is that for the first two hours, it is not even made clear that Bundy is doing the killing. I mean, of course he is doing the killing. Everyone knew that before the movie began, but the filmmakers took great care to establish Ted as a charming and likeable character before they ever show him actually doing any dirty work.

    The film primarily cross-cuts between Ted’s life including his first time murders and pair of detectives who are assigned to catch a serial murder they know only as “Ted”, examining how the paths intersect and how the cops perceive the scenes Ted leaves behind. The majority of the film does not feature Ted killing, but rather shows what a normal life he had. This is where the beauty of Mark Harmon comes in. Harmon plays Ted as handsome, witty, charming, and at the same time rather upright and stiff, very much like the descriptions that were given of Bundy in real-life. Harmon actually received a Golden Globe nomination for the performance.

    Horror fans may turn away from this one because of its rather wholesome nature (if you can use that word in conjunction with a serial killer flick). The Deliberate Stranger aired on network primetime long before violence and bloodshed became commonplace. The film stays focused on Ted’s stalking rather than the act of killing not only as character build but also as a means of keep the screen sanitary and blood-free. It leaves out some of the more grotesque and fascinating acts reported to be part of Bundy’s M.O. including his necrophilia and dressing of bodies. But, even though you shouldn’t be expecting an action-packed thriller, I really recommend this movie. It is a fascinating look into the mind of a real-life killer, and many of the folks who knew Bundy closely (including his lawyer) felt Harmon channeled him with perfection.

    I will also give a word of warning about the soundtrack. It was the 80’s. Everything was synth. Being that this is a movie about the serial killer, the soundtrack gets a bit aggressive as times. In the words of one of my friends who joined me for the viewing of this film “it feels like the soundtrack hates me”. It can be a bit off-putting during scenes where Ted is picking up dry-cleaning and buying coffee, but it makes much more sense when you realize that even during these mundane activities, his mind was fast at work scanning and stalking potential victims.

    The Deliberate Stranger is available through the Warner Archives on their made-to-order DVD system. It is not hard to find, but just one I fear time may have forgotten. It stands up nicely over time and is still just as chilling today. It also makes you wonder about the person sitting next to you on the bus or that guy who serves you your coffee. This one is definitely worth the hunt and viewing!


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    The likable vampire seems like somewhat of a paradox. Since the earliest incarnation of count Dracula, the vampire has typically been somewhat of a reviled species. However, over time, it has been scientifically proven (no it hasn’t) that audiences find vampires irresistibly sexy and dangerous but charming.  

    Contemporary vampire fiction has forever changed the landscape of vampire cinema and television. We now see vampires cast as the protagonists and antiheroes in movies and TV, as opposed to being almost exclusively cast in the role of the villain. Anne Rice was a pioneer of vampire fiction in her heyday and still continues to be. She was undoubtedly a huge inspiration for L.J. Smith (The Vampire Diaries Books) and Charlaine Harris (The Sookie Stackhouse Novels). Both authors have further changed the light in which vampires are portrayed, both in fiction and on the big and small screens. We didn’t forget to mention Stephanie Meyer. Her book series, while wildly popular, was not really a pioneering effort as both the Sookie Stackhouse books and The Vampire Diaries novels came before any entry in the Twilight saga. 

    So, in light of the rebranding of the vampire population as sexy, playful, and only a little dangerous, we bring to you our selections for eight of the most likable onscreen vampires from film and television. 

    Lestat from Interview with the Vampire

    Lestat was one of the earlier examples of an onscreen vampire that audiences were able to identify with. Though, he was no saint, we couldn’t help but dig him. Anne Rice was way ahead of her time for many reasons: she was writing about vampires before we had been introduced to the sparkly variety and she wrote about vampires with at least some redeeming qualities years before vampire fiction was commonplace on bookshelves everywhere.  

    Lestat represents one of Tom Cruise’s last truly great roles. Due to an unfortunate incident on Oprah’s couch, Cruise has become somewhat less marketable and considerably more difficult to take seriously.  

    Pam from True Blood

    Pam is a perfect smartass and a great deal of fun to watch. Her mad face is the same as her happy face, so it’s frequently difficult to tell what she’s thinking. For instance: when she procured Tara a food whore, we initially thought she was upset with young Tara, but as it turns out, Pam believed that the food whore had it coming and the vampirical duo “drained a bitch together”. In everything Pam, does, she looks good doing it; moreover, she looks good whilst doing it in six-inch heels. The unique thing about Pam is that she is likable because she displays almost no redeeming qualities. On paper, she isn’t really someone audiences would gravitate towards. So, the real praise goes to Kristin Bauer van Straten. Without a strong performer like Ms. Bauer van Straten to bring Pam to life, she could just as easily be a two-dimensional character that no one really took any interest in. 

    Angel from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel

    Angel is an early example of a reformed vampire. We have seen numerous instances of his kind since; from True Blood to Twilight to The Vampire Diaries, it has almost become expected to see vampires going against their most bloodthirsty urges and living the more responsible mainstream lifestyle. Mainstreaming served Angel well, as he managed to secure a spinoff that ran from 1999-2004. 

    Michael from The Lost Boys

    Since he was actually tricked in to becoming a vampire, he automatically gets a vote of sympathy from the audience. He also had well toned abs, so we also have to give him credit for that. It was kind of an unusual move to feature likable vampires in a film in 1986 So, The Lost Boys was sort of a pioneering picture in that sense, as well as serving as one of the gold standards for vampire films to this day. 

    Abby from Let Me In

    Chloe Grace Moretz turned in a performance that was absolutely beyond her years in Let Me In. The way that she attacked the man in the tunnel was absolutely horrifying and impossible to look away from, all at the same time. The amazing thing about Moretz’s performance is that she was only 13 9approximately) when she donned her fangs to portray Abby.  

    It will be interesting to see how Moretz tackles the role of Carrie White in the forthcoming reboot of the Stephen King classic. If she pours her heart and soul in to the role in the same manner she did in Let Me In, she should have absolutely no problem bringing the character to life. 

    Jessica from True Blood

    The reluctant vampire has slowly embraced her place in the ranks of the bloodsuckers. But, she has never fully lost her humanity. That is thanks in part to her maker, Bill, being a vampire that once seemed to wholeheartedly embrace the mainstreaming lifestyle and at one point still possessed a modicum of humanity himself. Jessica has a conscience and she still recognizes that there are consequences against her actions. She has some hilarious dialogue throughout the course of the series and has become increasingly easy to like as her character has grown in to her personality. 

    David from The Lost Boys

    David was a bit of a dick, but who can resist Keifer Sutherland with a mullet? Especially when he has Bill from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure as a sidekick. David’s struggle with Michael for Star’s affection is epic, especially since both David and Michael are likable in their own way. The original Lost Boys film still stands as a classic entry in the vampire film genre. Unfortunately, I can never get back the time I wasted watching the sequels: Lost Boys: The Tribe and Lost Boys: The Thirst

    Selene from Underworld

    Death Dealer Selene is an easy protagonist to get behind. She is a strong woman who can take care of herself. In a world where vampires and lycanthropes coexist, it is extremely important that she always wear skintight clothing because, really, how is she supposed to fight lycanthropes in loose fitting garments? Hmmm? 

    We extend honorable mention to:

    Marlow in 30 Days of Night 

    Katrina from Vamp

    Damon Salvatore from The Vampire Diaries


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    the exorcistIt worked for Psycho with Bates Motel. Could an Exorcist TV series be far behind?

    According to Deadline, Morgan Creek, the company who controls the rights to The Exorcist property, and producer Roy Lee, whose massive list of genre credits includes Bates Motel, The Woman in Black, The Grudge, The Ring, and their assorted sequels, is shopping around a script, and has interest from both network and cable channels. Last year, the pair took out a limited-series Exorcist script from Sean Durkin (Martha Marcy May Marlene) but it never got picked up. This time, the project is a traditional series (read: lotsa seasons) written by Jeremy Slater (who is writing the upcoming Fantastic Four reboot) and is said to be a "brand new take" from the first version of the project. 

    Perhaps the success of film-to-television projects like Bates Motel and Hannibal spurred the newfound interest in the project. Perhaps this new take on the story is just that compelling. Either way, I think an exorcism TV series is a great idea. I cannot think of another TV series whose focus was on exorcism (though I think I heard a reality show is in the works).


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    “These Things We Have Always Known” is a creepy, methodical Southern Gothic tale about a small town called Cold Rest. The casual style of the first-person narrative is interspersed with lyrical, poetic phrases that fit seamlessly within the story. It is featured in The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror #20, edited by Stephen Jones.

    The narrator, Neil, goes into detail about how unusual the town is, how people are always waiting on some unnatural thing to make its presence fully know. And strange, wonderful and yet sinister things happen in Cold Rest. For instance, Neil is a sculptor – and the things he creates literally take on life of their own.

    Living in a house with his wife, daughter and visiting brother, Neil begins to notice that things are heading to a place he's not sure he wants to go. He works on his normal art of birds and woodland creatures, but he also has a creepier project. Something dark and twisted, metal and glass. He can feel it stirring to life beneath his hands, but, despite his brother's protests, he won't stop working on it.

    Soon his daughter leaves, sneaks off into the night with her boyfriend. And from there, things only get worse.

    This was a great story, slow-paced but with a sinister nature that can hold the reader captive until the very end. And I enjoyed how lyrical the last line was: “We have obliged it with our reticent ways; we have nurtured it in our guarded, secret souls; we have made it potent with our lies; and now it is upon us all, all of us dreamers, whispering of promises we didn't mean to make, and cold as the stars.”

    A well-written piece, perfect for reading on a stormy night.
     

    Nancy O. Greene started writing at the age of nine. Her short story collection, Portraits in the Dark, received a brief mention in The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror 2007. Other works have appeared or will appear in ChiZine; Lovecraft eZine; Cemetery Dance; Tales of Blood and Roses; Haunted: 11 Tales of Ghostly Horror; Shroud Publishing's The Terror at Miskatonic Falls; Dark Recesses; Flames Rising; Smile, Hon, You're in Baltimore!; and others. She has a BA in Cinema (Critical Studies) and a minor in English (Creative Writing) from the University of Southern California, and is a Fellow of Film Independent's Project: Involve.

     


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    I am unapologetic about the fact that Hannibal was my favorite new show of the year, so I was elated when the show got picked up for a second season. Elated - then frustrated, because now I had to wait months for more episodes. (I'm never happy.) Luckily, the crew from Hannibal was at Comic Con this year, so we got some hints for what we will see in season two.

    Producers Bryan Fuller, David Slade, Martha DeLaurentiis, and star Hugh Dancy spoke about the violence in the show, the murder tableaus, and Will Graham's time in prison. And, importantly, Fuller tells us, "Will Graham remembers."


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    In recent months, we've showcased some cuddly horror-themed designs from Horror Decor (including those awesome customizable VHS-styled pillows), but today we're excited to announce that Freddy in Space, the pop-horror-culture blog run by FEARnet contributor John Squires, is teaming up with Horror Decor to launch a series of pillows based on the popular “Madballs” toys from the '80s... but instead of using that line's original characters, artist Patrick Carson Sparrow has created new original Madballs designs based on your favorite horror villains.
     
    Madballs1
     
    The upcoming designs are part of the “Freddy in Space Childhood Nostalgia Line,” which began last month with a “My Pet Monster” themed pillow also designed by Sparrow. That item was so popular it sold out in a matter of hours, so they decided to team up on a new project, and thus the "Freddy in Space Horror Madballs" pillow concept was born.
     
    Madballs2
     
    John says the seven new original character designs, which include the ones shown here, will be released in a couple weeks – not only as individual round pillows, but also as a limited edition (25 units only) larger-size pillow featuring all the characters together.
     
    If you want to see more previews of these designs, follow the links and keep watch at the Freddy in Space Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr pages in the next couple of weeks!

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    Blumhouse Productions, the company behind this summer's dystopian horror flick The Purge, revealed they will be bringing that movie's nightmarish future scenario to life for an interactive event in Los Angeles this Halloween season.
     
    Purge1
     
    Beginning on September 27th, L.A.'s historic Variety Arts Theater will play host to The Purge: Fear the Night, an “immersive live experience” in which patrons will play delegates to a convention of the “New Founding Fathers” – the leaders of the dystopian America depicted in the film where all crime is made legal for one night per year.
     
    Purge2
     
    The theater was the site of last year's successful “Blumhouse of Horrors” attraction, and Blumhouse founder Jason Blum was determined to “build on what we learned and take it to the next level," and promises that this year's event “goes way beyond theater or movies or even haunted houses.” To that end, Blum joined forces with the creators of the notorious Blackout haunted houses in L.A. and New York to design the event, in which “delegates” will explore all six floors of the historic building “and suffer the potentially terrifying consequences of their decisions.” The duration of the experience is expected to last between 90 minutes and 2½ hours.
     
    The Purge: Fear the Night will run each Thursday, Friday and Saturday night beginning on September 27th, with expanded hours on Halloween Week. Tickets go for $65 a pop (available for ages 18+ only), and can be purchased either at Purgelive.com or at the Variety Arts Theater itself, on 940 S. Figueroa St. in Los Angeles.
     
    Blum talks more about the event in the clip below...
     

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    Today's real-life sea monster is not as dangerous to humans as some of the aquatic horrors we've showcased lately (we hope Tuesday's deadly microscopic monster didn't spoil your summer swimming plans), but he makes up for it with a handle that's damn sure to pop up in a SyFy movie sometime soon: ladies and gentlemen, we bring you Vampyroteuthis infernalis, which literally translates as “Vampire Squid from Hell.”
     
    Squid2
    This vampire doesn't actually suck blood; its awesome name is instead inspired by the webbed “cape” that ranges from blood-red to black in color, and a pair of “wings” that give it a bat-like appearance. Some specimens even have demonic red eyes and emit clouds of glowing fog! Sounds like the perfect pet for a horror fan... if not for the fact that it's a very rare species, and lives at depths where most sea life would die from lack of oxygen. It's also in danger of extinction due to global warming and over-fishing.
     
    Squid1
    As if its looks weren't spooky enough, this squid can also do something really disgusting to trick potential predators: he can turn himself inside out, in what appropriately enough is nicknamed the “pumpkin posture.” (Seriously, this guy is like a mobile Halloween party.) National Geographic posted this video from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, which demonstrates this skeevy defense mechanism in action...
     

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    Director Jackie Kong, whose low-budget horror flicks Blood Diner and The Being have become cult favorites among fans of '80s horror, has stepped behind the camera once again for the romantic horror feature CoExistence– which also marks the screen reunion of Blade Runner stars Rutger Hauer and Daryl Hannah.
     
    Kong_Hauer
    Kong dropped off the horror map for many years to work as an activist for the non-profit group Asian-American Media Development (AAMD), but has finally returned to filmmaking with this vampiric twist on Romeo & Juliet set in California's Sonoma wine country. The modern-day retelling involves a bitter rivalry between two wine-making clans intensified by a forbidden love affair between teens from both families (played by Nick Krause & Bella Thorne), which also threatens to expose a shocking family secret.
     
    Coexistence2
    Despite the teen/vampire romance element, Kong is quick to downplay comparisons to the Twilight franchise. “I’m not just catering to teenagers,” she says, “but because Romeo and Juliet are in their teens, teens will watch it. But I have seasoned performers like Rutger Hauer and Daryl Hannah, and their parts are really juicy.” The veteran cast also includes John Savage (Deliverance, Bereavement).
     
    Coexistence1
     
    Funding is currently in progress via a Kickstarter campaign, which you can learn more about at the film's official site. Also, here's Kong herself to talk about the project:
     

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    Last week we took a look at 14 commercials featuring appearances from actors we horror fans are all familiar with... including Bruce Campbell, Jamie Lee Curtis and Anthony Perkins. Thanks to some more digging, and a few helpful tips from you readers, we present to younine more TV ads featuring some of the genre's most familiar faces...
     
    Betsy Palmer (Lux Dishwashing Soap)
     
     
    Who better to give you dishwashing tips than one of horror cinema's greatest mothers: Mrs. Voorhees herself, Betsy Palmer. Nearly a decade before taking the acting job for Friday the 13th that would forever cement her status as a true horror icon, Palmer appeared in this commercial for Lux brand dish soap. My my, what smooth hands you have, Mrs. Voorhees!
     
    Dick Wieand (Advair)
     
     
    Speaking of Friday The 13th... you probably saw this commercial on TV recently and didn't even realize that the actor in it was a part of that franchise's history. That old grandpa who has difficulty breathing is none other than Dick Wieand, who played paramedic Roy Burns in Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning. [Spoiler alert] Roy of course turned out to be the man behind the hockey mask in the film, stealing Jason's identity to exact revenge for the murder of his son.
     
    Danielle Harris (Operation)
     
     
    It was right around the time a young Danielle Harris portrayed Jamie Lloyd in Halloween 4 & 5 that she appeared with a gaggle of other youngsters in this commercial for the board game Operation. If only Jamie had played this irritating little jingle whenever her uncle Michael came around, he probably would've headed back from whence he came!
     
    Alice Cooper (Marriott Residence Inn)
     
     
    Already a horror icon thanks to his legendary stage act, shock-rocker Alice Cooper has also appeared in the Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th franchises, John Carpenter's Prince of Darkness and more. Hell, he plays Freddy's stepfather; what more do I need to say? In 2002, Cooper appeared in this commercial for Marriott's Residence Inn hotels, essentially scaring an ordinary man into taking his family on vacation!
     
    Heather O'Rourke (Rainbow Brite)
     
     
    Before becoming one of horror cinema's most iconic child stars thanks to the Poltergeist franchise, the late Heather O'Rourke appeared in a couple of different commercials, for both Mattel and McDonald's. The clip above is one of her very first commercials for Mattel's Rainbow Brite doll.
     
    Ashley Laurence (Geico)
     
     
    Though she's spent the majority of her time on screen alongside the likes of Pinhead and his hellish Hellraiser minions, Ashley Laurence more recently got to cuddle up with a friendlier little guy: the loveable Geico gecko. Kirsty Cotton on a romantic date with a lizard... bet you never thought you'd see that!
     
    Dario Argento (Eridania Zefiro)
     
     
    You don't need to understand a single word of this one to get a serious kick out of it: promoting a sugar-free sweetener, this Italian ad stars none other than director Dario Argento, who finds himself on the opposite side of the camera this time, bleeding, crying and getting scared like the characters in his films. A taste of his own medicine... along with whatever the hell Zefiro is supposed to taste like.
     
    Laura Ortiz (T-Mobile)
     
     
    If Laura Ortiz didn't win over your heart in the 2006 The Hills Have Eyes remake as the deformed but nevertheless super-cute Ruby, then she surely won it with her role on Holliston as Joe Lynch's hilarious girlfriend with a penchant for drawing really weird shit. Around the time of Hills Have Eyes, Ortiz also starred in this commercial for T-Mobile as an incredibly talkative and overly-caffeinated cheerleader. The character is supposed to be annoying, though I still can't help but love Ortiz!
     
    Elvira (Slice)
     
     
    At the height of her mega-popularity in the '80s, Elvira became the spooky spokeswoman for several different companies, including Mug Root Beer, Coors Light and Slice soda. This commercial for Slice is one of my personal favorites, because it features not only Elvira, but also another familiar face who you'll see at around the 7-second mark. Yep, that is indeed Michael Berryman, star of Wes Craven's original The Hills Have Eyes!
     
    Again we ask, if you know of any commercials we missed in either this post or the first one, please do drop a comment below and let us know!

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  • 08/08/13--18:21: R.I.P. Actress Karen Black
  • karen blackActress Karen Black, star of such films as Five Easy Pieces and Trilogy of Terror died today in Los Angeles. She was 74.

    Born in 1939 in Illinois, she studied acting at Northwestern University until she dropped out and moved to New York. Summer stock and theater were Black's staples, eventually debuting on Broadway in 1961. Her first major film role was in Francis Ford Coppola's You're a Big Boy Now. Black is best known to "mainstream" audiences for her roles in films like Five Easy Pieces (a role for which she was nominated for an Oscar), Easy Rider, and Nashville, which represented a time when independent films were emerging as a viable, respectable segment of the film world.

    Black's career took a "turn" in 1975 when she took the lead in Trilogy of Terror, a made-for-TV anthology film. (The "turn" reference comes from Hollywood Reporter, which to me comes off dismissive, as if she wasted her career. Of course, Black herself admitted it was a "mistake" when, in 2008, she told the Chicago Tribune, "I can tell you what happened, but it was sort of like a mistake. It’s like I went on a bad path and couldn’t find my way back.") And yet, her resume contains a long list of comedies and dramas well after Trilogy of Terror - she has over 150 film credits.

    Of horror movies, Black starred in Alfred Hitchcock's final film, Family Plot; haunted house film Burnt Offerings; Tobe Hooper's Invaders from Mars; Larry Cohen's It's Alive III; Fred Olen Ray's Haunting Fear; and Rob Zombie's House of 1000 Corpses. Other, more forgettable horror flicks include Out of the Dark, Evil Spirits, Mirror Mirror, Children of the Night, Auntie Lee's Meat Pies, Children of the Corn: The Gathering, Soulkeeper, Curse of the Forty-Niner, Oooga Booga, and Dr. Rage.

    Karen Black had been diagnosed with cancer in 2010, and her condition quickly deteriorated. In June she was transfered to a nursing facility in Los Angeles, where she passed earlier today. Her husband, Stephen Eckelberry, announced her death on his Facebook page.


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    Havok_2013b
    In the nine years since their formation, Denver-based metallers Havok have already turned out three fairly successful albums: in 2009, Burn landed them a deal with major label Candlelight Records, and two years later their sophomore release Time Is Up brought the band worldwide acclaim as one of the metal acts to watch for, landing them a choice slot on tours with metal legends like Anthrax, Sepultura and Testament. Their latest release, Unnatural Selection, cracked the Billboard Top 200 list in its first week and solidified Havok as a solid player, indeed one of the premier names, in the hit-and-miss '80s thrash revival – a movement comprised mainly of up-and-coming 21st century bands seizing the flame first stoked by the likes of Slayer, Metallica, Anthrax and Megadeth. From the simple but effective songwriting and tight technical skills to rock-solid production and vintage-style album art, this record comes off like a newly-unearthed time capsule from the Big Four's golden era.
     
    Havok_Unnatural
     
    Time Is Up may have asserted the band's technical prowess (it features some seriously blistering leads), but Unnatural Selection allows them a little breathing room as songwriters, offering a greater variety of song structures and tempos and a slightly looser, more melodically-oriented playing style. But not right away... first they have to knock your teeth through the back of your head with the one-two opening salvo of “I Am The State” and “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death.” Frontman/rhythm guitarist David Sanchez and lead axe man Reece Scruggs unleash hell in these combined shredfests, and the first track showcases the skills of drummer Pete Webber in an explosive break before the climax, while the second features some of Sanchez's most intense, scorching vocals to date.
     
     
    With the following cut “It Is True,” the band seems to make a conscious break from the formula they followed in the previous release, stepping into a lower groove-style tempo with a warped edge, and they never quite return to the caustic nature of those opening cuts until the punkish, Anthrax-style intensity of the title track which closes the album. There's also a dark socio-political theme running through many of these songs (you probably figured that out from the titles alone), something not at all uncommon to the '80s icons which inspired it – Megadeth in particular comes to mind – and while Unnatural Selection is not a concept album, there's a consistent vision of a dystopian police-state future painted in fairly broad lyrical strokes, coupled with a battle-ready intensity that lends a more ominous tone to the proceedings.
     
    The greater emphasis on melodic hooks begins to come through more clearly in mid-tempo cuts like “Waste of Life,” as Sanchez transitions to a clean delivery in the latter's chorus – though the overall energy of that track wanes a bit during those periods, and at over six minutes overstays its welcome a bit. That low-key melodic approach does work well, however, in their rendition of Black Sabbath's “Children of the Grave,” which captures the ominous rolling-death rhythm and haunting mood of the original. One element that distinguishes the lower-tempo tracks is the robust bass laid down by Mike Leon, whose rhythmic union with Webber's drumkit is exact but still still loose and flowing, giving a superb undercurrent to tracks like “Worse Than War.”
     
    Havok_2013a
    Havok haven't exactly reinvented the wheel with this release, but they've found room to explore new ideas within a very well-established genre (which has, let's face it, a pretty damn rigid rulebook) and create some memorable hooks that may stick with you even longer than Time Is Up. While that album was propelled by heart-racing energy, Unnatural Selection draws its main strength from a deeper, more brooding intensity, brought out by the band's songwriting skills – which will ultimately stand up over time against their already impressive displays of technical prowess.

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    The next American Horror Story: Coven teaser is here. "Pins and Needles" features a very real woman who is not too happy about being used as a human voodoo doll. With this season set in New Orleans, the home of voodoo in this country, there isn't a whole lot to decipher - unlike the last teaser, "Detention."

    American Horror Story: Coven premieres on October 9th on FX.


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    gallowwalkersLike most horror movie fans with a spare 90 minutes would be, I found myself slightly intrigued by the new VOD title called GallowWalkers. First off, that's one awful title. "GallowWalkers." Already I'm amused. Then we realize it's one of those rarest of treats: a horror / western combo. Amusement level rising. Upon even closer inspection (aka I read the synopsis) it sure seems like GallowWalkers is a western / horror / Blade wannabe, and yes, GallowWalkers does star Wesley "Blade" Snipes.

    Obviously one is not expecting a master class in genre filmmaking from a film like this. At best a viewer can hope for a simple story, a few colorful characters, a small batch of action, and perhaps some worthwhile moments of horror-type-stuff. At worst... we get movies like GallowWalkers. It would take a team of veteran film critics working around the clock to catalog all the things that are wrong with this outrageously goofy movie, but for the sake of sanity, let's just keep it to the things that make the flick impossible to enjoy.

    A. It makes no freaking sense whatsoever. Apparently Snipes plays a cursed gunslinger whose victims refuse to stay dead, which leads to a bunch of silly villains running around the old west looking a lot like Riff Raff from Rocky Horror. Tossed randomly into this woefully edited junk heap are subplots about A) the gunslinger's now-deceased whore of a mama, B) a dopey sidekick who shoots really well but serves no real purpose in the story, and C) a boss level ghoul bastard who wants the gunslinger's secrets because his son never managed to come back from the dead.

    There are probably four or five more C-grade subplots and speeches I'm forgetting, but suffice to say that in addition to being edited in a blender, GallowWalkers seems to have been written on LSD. Rare is the genre flick that contains this many "howlers," but GallowWalkers is funnier by accident than Adam Sandler is on purpose. The actors look sadly confused beneath their inexplicably fake-looking blonde wigs, the "plot" is a dreary morass of convoluted flashbacks and indecipherable character exchanges, and (aside from a small dose of decent cinematography) the action scenes are beyond all comprehension.

    It's clear that Wesley Snipes has become sort of a "straight to video / VOD" action hero, and it's painfully obvious that the producers of GallowWalkers were trying their best to copy the Blade formula, but that's really no excuse for a film this sloppy, silly, and tonally deficient. If you're like me and you simply have to see what a Wesley Snipes horror western looks like, I respect that. Just don't expect a very good flick -- and be sure to have some recreational substances nearby.


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    While I was aware that both Ed & Lorraine Warren were in fact real people and that the events depicted in James Wan's 'The Conjuring' were based on true events, I never really bothered to look into the actual events behind the movie's inspiration. Hey, I may love horror, but I spook easily when it comes to the supernatural in real life. That said, I was discussing the film with a friend the other night that actually knew the Warren's and had been in their "occult museum," the room where they keep all the trinkets from all their previous cases and was asked if I'd ever seen the real Annabelle doll. The opening of 'The Conjuring' deals with a demonic entity in a doll that tricks it's way into the lives of two female students by pretending to be the spirit of a deceased little girl. And while the design of the doll was tweaked to be more frightening in the movie version, I was curious and looked up the original "Annabelle" case on-line. Below is Lorraine Warren with the real Annabelle doll.

    The Conjuring - Lorraine Warren with the real Annabelle doll

    Want to read more details on the actual Annabelle case? You can visit The Warren's website and read about it here. (The above pictures and this story in general creeps me out!) There's a ton of videos on You Tube telling their own versions of the Annabelle doll story, but instead I'll leave you with this intimate tour of the Warren's Occult Museum in Connecticut. You'll see the real Annabelle at the 5:19 mark!


     

     


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    Would you believe that no one would talk to musician and producer Slash about horror movies? That is what he told us at this year's Comic Con. We were only too happy to talk about horror with the Guns N' Roses guitarist who recently launched his own production company - appropriately enough called Slasher Films.

    Slash was only too happy to tell us about his first project, Nothing Left to Fear. A family moves to a small Kansas town so that the dad can take over for the retiring pastor. What they don't know is that the family was actually lured there to be used in a demonic ritual. Slash told us about some of the real-life mythology around this town in Kansas.


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    Cosplay is nothing new. Cosplay piano is. Russian pianist Sonya Belousova is a breathtakingly talented musician who does cosplay piano. Sonya dresses like characters from the property, and takes her piano to elaborate settings meant to evoke the theme song she plays. It's basically an elaborate music video. She has given the cosplay treatment to themes from Game of Thrones, Batman, and Superman. But the one we are most excited about is The Walking Dead. Sit back, relax, and enjoy this beautiful ode to a zombie masterpiece.


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    The "New French Extremity" filmmaking style has been taking both Europe and the US by storm. The term refers primarily to French horror films made in the early 2000s, known for extreme violence, unflinching excess, visceral visuals, and a transgressive approach to cinema. They're also a bit of an acquired taste; a viewer with no prior knowledge of this style of filmmaking could easily be put off by their ultraviolent nature. But with a little exposure, the films within can be very enjoyable; they take no prisoners and definitely make a statement. Since French Extremity films are not as well known in the States, we've selected five titles which every horror fan should see. 
     
    Ils
     
    Them (Ils)
     
    In Them, we find a schoolteacher and her lover tormented by a group of baddies that will not let up under any circumstances. This film was reportedly a huge inspiration for the American film The Strangers; it’s even been said that The Strangers is somewhat of a loose remake. Them is easily the tamest film on the list; there isn’t an outrageous amount of bloodshed, but the extremity is still there. The story itself, however, is extremely brutal, and the film is mentally taxing, pushing the concepts it explores to the extreme. It’s the first pick on this list because it's a proper introduction to the genre's aesthetic without being so outrageous as to keep more sensitive viewers from exploring other titles within the movement.
     
    Calvaire
     
    The Ordeal (Calvaire)
     
    A musician’s van breaks down while he is on his way to a performance. All he wants is to find an inn, but we know things are never that easy in this sort of movie. The man is in for a real treat when things start to unfold in The Ordeal, which is full of blood, destruction, and forced captivity. It fits perfectly under the French Extremity banner, as it It certainly takes things to the extreme. As a result, a couple parts of the film may be a little hard to watch, but don't worry... it builds character. It’s also tamer than the titles that come after it on this list (making it good practice for what’s to come), and the exchanges between the captive and the tormentors are a little hilarious at times.
     
    Haute_Tension
     
    High Tension (Haute Tension)
     
    After you’ve seen Them and The Ordeal, this is a good follow-up pick. The aptly-titled High Tension follows two girls travelling to one's family home in the country to study for the weekend. They get more than they were expecting when a psychotic creep interrupts their quiet weekend with murderous shenanigans, triggering all the requisite ultra-violent imagery one would expect from a French Extremity film. When I saw High Tension in the theatre, I was glued to my seat for the entire run time. It kicks into high gear about fifteen minutes in and it just doesn’t stop until the credits roll. High Tension is also the most commercially successful of this subgenre, and paved the way for director Alexandre Aja's Hollywood career.
     
    Inside
     
    Inside (L'interieur)
     
    This tale of a pregnant woman stalked by a mysterious stranger who desperately wants her baby is one of the finest horror films to come out in some time. Inside is a phenomenal picture, and functions as more than just a horror feature; it's also a highly suspenseful edge-of-your-seat thriller. The first time I watched it, I was so enthralled I couldn’t believe it was over when the credits rolled. The musical cues, the lighting, the direction, and the performances all work together to provide viewers with an unforgettable experience. Inside is the type of movie you will probably never be able to forget: it's constantly throwing a different feeling, dilemma or emotion at the viewer. By the time it was over, I almost felt like I’d had a workout just from watching it. There's also enough violence to satisfy the gorehound in all of us. If you survive this film, then you will be ready for our final entry... 
     
    Martyrs
     
    Martyrs
     
    Martyrs is the final title on this list for a reason. Of course it's a must-see, but it’s also helpful for the viewer to have an understanding of French Extremity beforehand. There is a great deal of violence in Martyrs, and the whole film is fairly surreal. The first time I saw it, it seemed like an excessively bloody revenge dream. The violence does complement the story, but there are several scenes where the gore is dialed up a little more than was absolutely necessary. However, Martyrs wouldn’t have had the same impact without the excess... and the impact it made was huge. This is the type of movie that, if I'd seen it when I first fell in love with horror films, I wouldn’t have appreciated it nearly as much as I do now. It's an exceptional specimen of filmmaking, and must be seen by any dedicated horror fan.
     
    Once you’ve taken in the films on the list, there is much more to explore... and there are films out there even more extreme than those listed here. This list should provide a good foundation for anyone who wants to seek out films like Irreversible or Rape Me (Baise-Moi), though extreme caution should be exercised on behalf of any viewer who plans to watch either of those.

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