Movie Review: House of the Devil

by  on Apr.26, 2012, under horror movies, Retro Horror Movies

Ah the 1980’s! The era of big hair, happy non-threatening metal bands, tight jeans, and satanic panic! Back in the 1980’s I can still remember the panic over anything that seemed satanic. whether it be music, movies, or people the parents were all over it like white on rice. Even in my home town we had the usual rumors that every small town no doubt had about satanic cults that met under bridges, in cemeteries, or in the darkness of the woods. Looking back on it now 20 years later it seems really surreal that we actually worried about that kind of thing. The Satanic panic fizzled out in the 90’s and is pretty much dead today. For all the rumors and speculation there was little to no proof that such practices in worship of the devil ever occurred anywhere. Nor that anyone was ever hurt or killed because of it. Its in this world that Ti West (The Roost, Trigger Man) has set his latest film, House of the Devil. A film that captures the look and feel of every satanic panic film from the period so well that you’d be excused if you thought it was a long lost gem from the 80’s! (more…)

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Retro Slasher Movie: Night School (1981)

by  on Jan.26, 2012, under horror movies, Retro Horror Movies, Slasher Movies

I’m a huge fan of 70’s and 80’s horror movies and I still run across the occasional retro flick I haven’t seen. Recently I came upon a great forgotten slasher gem called Night School starring the very beautiful Rachel Ward. Someone is beheading women and leaving their heads in some strange places. A detective assigned to the case soon finds a link between the victims, they all attended night school at a local girls college. Suspicion falls upon a college professor who apparently spends all his spare time having affairs with as many students as possible. He’s also diddling his research assistant played by Rachel Ward. The story takes some twists and turns and has some amazing kill scenes. You’ll probably see the twist ending coming long before its revealed but its still well worth your time.


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80’s Horror Cheesefest: Freddy’s Nightmares

by  on Sep.24, 2011, under horror movies, Retro Horror Movies, Slasher Movies

Like most hardcore horror fans I have a big spot in my heart for bad, cheesy horror flicks. Movies that the occasional horror viewer wouldn’t waste 5 minutes on are often some of my favorites. Being a kid of the 80’s there were a lot of great cheesy horror films for me and my friends. On TV we had quite possibly the pinnacle of bad horror television called Freddy’s Nightmares.

By 1988 New Line Cinema was trying to squeeze out every drop of marketing blood they could out of the Nightmare on Elm Street Franchise. They had posters, games, toys and even a talking doll, which I still have. It was crazy how much they tried to make a child killer appeal to kids. So the next logical step was a tv series for Freddy. Thus was born Freddy’s Nightmares which saw Freddy acting as a crypt keeper of sorts presiding over 2 stories per episode that were loosely connected to each other. (more…)

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What the Nightmare on Elm Street Remake Should have been

by  on Aug.23, 2011, under nightmare on elm street, Retro Horror Movies, Slasher Movies

Last year about the same time as the Nightmare on Elm Street Remake came out I came across the trailer below. A long time NOES fan took it upon himself to make a new vision of Freddy Krueger that was familiar yet different enough to feel like a new take on the character. Chris Johnson basically came up with the concept that a bunch of Hollywood writers and producers couldn’t and provided us with a glimpse of how you can breath new life into Freddy. View it then read my further comments below:

Its pretty impressive for a fan made trailer. Chris Johnson has been playing dress up as Freddy since he was a kid and has apparently made multiple fan films when he was a teenager so its pretty amazing he’s taken that passion so far. The concept of Freddy still smoldering and on fire is a pretty amazing one as is the glowing hot finger blades. Those would have been very interesting additions for a new version of the character. Chris plays Freddy in the trailer as well but I don’t think he’s the right body type for the character. Freddy should be a skinny emaciated figure, not a bulky monster.

I didn’t hate the remake that platinum dunes release in 2010 but It didn’t feel like a Freddy movie that I grew up with. They changed the characters back story but removed that part about him being a “child killer” so why does he have a glove with knives on it? Instead he’s a full on child molester this time out and entirely unsympathetic. They brought in a director that apparently didn’t have any real passion for the character so we got a story that looked great but had pretty dull characters. More than anything though they sucked out all the humor. Sure Freddy became a total joke by the time Nightmare 3 hit theaters but the remake took out all of Freddy’s humor and made him totally despicable and that didn’t really work for me that well. I still see some things I like in the remake but upon a couple additional viewings since it was released It just doesn’t hold up well and it definitely fails to reboot the character.

Platinum Dunes has already said they’re getting out of the horror game entirely so I don’t think we’ll see a continuation of the Remake anytime soon nor will we see a part 2 of the one movie Platinum Dunes did get right, Friday the 13th. Oh well. Lets hope that next time these character see screen time they get someone like Chris Johnson to direct who will bring the love of the character with him and give us a remake we deserve. Wishful thinking…

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Childhood Nightmares: Unsolved Mysteries

by  on May.03, 2011, under Childhood Nightmares, Retro TV

This will be the first of no doubt several posts I make on what scared the poop out of me as a child. Of course we all grow out of our childhood fears but its always interesting to revisit them and try to remember what it was like to truly be terrified by something we saw on TV or elsewhere. Its certainly not a feeling I’ve been able to experience since. As we grow up reason and clear heads usually prevail and beat our silly child hood fears into submission. So lets revisit our Childhood Nightmares…

The 80’s were a weird time when I think back on it. Urban legends were pretty rampant since there was no to tell us different. There was no internet, no 24 hour cable channels or reality TV so we didn’t get bombarded with a lot of information as kids. We had basic cable and the big 3 networks were what you watched every night. It was mostly sitcoms in those days with a peppering of news and magazine shows and of course the terrifying series called Unsolved Mysteries. Hosted by Robert Stack usually donning a Trench coat, Unsolved Mysteries was a series that did stories on true crime, hauntings, UFO’s, Bigfoot, monsters, and missing persons. Each week the show would feature several stories that would likely make any child under the age of 8 fill his pants. For me it was like a car crash, I was scared to look but I dare not look away!

Even the opening theme song was terrifying!

Watching the show now it will feel like a mediocre series with bad reenactments and synthesizer music but back in the late 80’s the show was the source of most of my nightmares. Just the opening music of the show would make me avoid any dark rooms like the plague for the rest of the week! The true crime segments were scary but once in awhile they would have a segment where the only image they had of a suspect was a police sketch. For whatever reason the police sketch literally would make me hide my head under the blankets. If I looked at it too long it would burn into my brain and be there every time I closed my eyes that night. I’d wonder if that man in the sketch was waiting outside my house to get in after we all fell asleep.

I didn’t fare any better with the ghost stories or UFO’s either. Those seemed to get me just as bad. The one that sticks out most is the story of the haunted bunk bed call Tallmans ghost. Which you can watch below. Its another example of how badly the show has aged. The special effects are laughable, the acting horrible, and the allegedly “real” eyewitness accounts are complete bullshit but to an 8 year old its more nightmare fuel. No ghost is ever shown in the segment, when the little boy says he saw a burning witch behind his bedroom door the show doesn’t really dwell on it long and they don’t show it. But in my mind I imagined terrifying laughing witch on fire and watching that little boy in his room. I’m pretty certain that I spent the whole night under the covers just because of that image.

Unsolved Mysteries featured a plethora of devil worshiping cults it seemed. The 80’s had satanic panic going on big time. I can name at least 3 locations in my home town that were allegedly the meeting places of satanic worshipers. I’m sure every town had the stories and mine was no different. There were allegedly cults everywhere that had well to do business people and pillars of the community as members. On occasion there would be a segment on Unsolved Mysteries where a cult would be thrown out there as a suspect adding more fuel to the satanic panic fire. It was a weird time.

Unsolved Mysteries didn’t meet a nutjob they didn’t like. They managed to make even the most ridiculous stories at least plausible to my child mind. UFO’s and Alien abductions were no different. I think all kids go through a phase where they openly believe conspiracy theories hook, line and sinker and I was the same. UFO’s, alien sightings, gov’t conspiracies were all important subjects for me and thankfully unsolved Mysteries was there to provide me with lots of “true” stories. Whether it was Roswell, Country wide sightings in Belgium or a woman that claimed she spoke to lights in the sky, Unsolved Mysteries would bring it to you and do it in a terrifying way. The scariest one for me is the story of the Allagash Abductions.

Its been pretty much proven at this point that the group made up the whole thing in order to win a contest but back when I watched the story in the 80’s it literally scared me to the point that I was deathly afraid i was going to be abducted if I shone a flashlight in the sky. I can remember nights laying awake in bed and being worried about aliens coming into the window to get me while I slept!

My sister and I always had chores we had to do each night such as feeding the dogs outside and later the horse that my sister had. So we often would put this off till after dark especially in the winter months. I can remember on at least a few occasions when we put it off til after watching Unsolved Mysteries and being almost too scared to go outside. We usually had to have one of our parents at least stand outside by the back door so we could get our chores done without collapsing and curling up in the fetal position because we heard a noise or saw a light.

Thanks Unsolved Mysteries for Contributing to my Childhood Nightmares.

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Halloween 3 Season of the Witch

by  on Sep.13, 2010, under Halloween, horror movies, John Carpenter, Retro Horror Movies, reviews

After the success of 2 Halloween films starring Michael Myers John Carpenter grew tired of retreading the same story. So He and producer Debra Hill decided to continue the Halloween series in name only by making more films that centered around the holiday in some way. It was a noble idea and so the hired Nigel Neale who wrote the Quatermass films to pen a screenplay. However the studio thought it too cerebral and wanted more horror and scares so Tommy Lee Wallace was eventually brought in to rewrite the screenplay and was tapped to direct as well. The story about a mask company called Silver Shamrock that has a sinister plan for the children who buy their masks was far removed from that of the slashing Myers and not surprisingly audiences rejected it outright.

The Trailer above certainly gives a bit of a false impression that its a slasher movie which couldn’t be further from the truth. My first introduction to the film was the mid 1980’s on VHS and I had much the same reaction as everyone else. However about 3 years ago I went back and revisited the film and was very surprised by how much I liked it. Its a silly story about a crazy mask maker named Conal Cochran that wants to punish kids for stealing Halloween away from its Celtic roots by murdering them with evil masks. The film opens with a man being perused by 2 others. He manages to escape and collapses in a gas station clutching a pumpkin Halloween mask. The attendant brings the man to the hospital where the Great Tom Atkins, playing drunk doctor named Challis, stabilizes the man. Soon after one of the man’s pursuers arrives at the hospital sneaks into his room and crushes the mans skull. Challis gives chase but the stranger exits the hospital, gets in a car, douses himself in Gasoline and lights a match resulting in a huge explosion. The next day the man’s daughter Ellie enlists Challis to help her make sense of why her father was running and what the Halloween Masks had to do with them setting them on the trail of Silver Shamrock.

The films storyline is pretty thin and the actors all seem to be trying to compete with each other over who can chew the most scenery. Mr Rafferty the owner of the only motel in Santa Mira where the Silver Shamrock company operates, is bigger than life with his Irish accent. Tom Atkins proves to be quite the ladies man when Ellie coyly asks him where he’d like to sleep he responds with the smoothest of lines “That’s a stupid question Ms. Grimbridge”. Leading to a night of passionate sex. That’s why he’s the silver fox.

What sets the film apart from so many other 80’s horror films is the direction. Tommy Lee Wallace, an art director on the first Halloween makes his directorial debut here. He’s very inspired by Carpenter and with Dean Cundey as the Cinematographer you have a film that looks and feels very much like a Carpenter film. The shots are wide and take advantage of the anamorphic widescreen giving the film a bigger feel than its meager budget would suggest. The lighting is very reminiscent of the Halloween films and of Carpenter films in general. The music, composed by Carpenter and Alan Howarth is the best of the series after the original film. The dissonant rumblings and electronic noises matched with the more typical timings of Carpenters music makes for a great spooky soundtrack that manages to find its way into my playlist this time of the year.

The movie fails only because it promises Halloween and delivers a creepy little tale about a insane Halloween Mask company instead. Had the film been released on its own without the Halloween banner I think it would be much more fondly remembered today as a stand out 80’s horror flick. If you can go into Season of the Witch on its own merits and forget about the Halloween series then you’re in for a good time. So give it a shot if you get the chance this Halloween, I don’t think you’ll regret it.

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Retro Halloween – Garfield’s Halloween Adventure

by  on Sep.12, 2010, under Childhood Nightmares, Halloween, Retro TV

When I was a kid Garfield Television specials were just about the coolest seasonal specials on TV. Back then Garfield didn’t have a regular tv series or any movies so the only way to enjoy Garfield was through the daily comic strip in my local paper. That’s why it was the best thing ever when the first Garfield Holiday special aired on TV. Garfields Halloween Adventure found our favorite weight challenged feline experiencing Halloween for the first time. Other people will tell you that Peanuts Halloween Special was the best but they’re just wrong. Garfield’s take on Halloween was filled with about as much wonderment as any kids first trick or treating experience and it culminated with the classic haunted house filled with vengeful ghosts. How can you go wrong with that? Not to mention the music of Lou Rawls.

Its a little sad that TV is so different now then when I was a kid. With 900 cable channels showing whatever you want plus the internet its hard to explain to today’s kids what it was like to have to wait for a holiday special to appear on one of the 4 channels we had as a kid. We had to wait till Saturday morning for cartoons and so when a cartoon came on during prime time as a holiday special we were delirious with excitement. Ah, simpler times…

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A Spooky Short film called TiM

by  on Sep.11, 2010, under haunted house commercials, horror movies, Retro Horror Movies

With The Halloween Season just around the corner I thought it might be fun to start featuring some cool Halloween related finds as the weeks progress. The first is a great short stop motion film about a boy that wants to be like Tim Burton called “TiM”. Its very much in the vein of “Vincent” a short film Tim Burton did when he was in film school about a boy obsessed with Vincent Price. Check it out below

TiM from Ken Turner on Vimeo.

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