Godzilla and his timeless reign over our hearts!

Horror fans are always asked what initially got them into the genre, and each one of us has a different answer. For some, it was Jaws, or Gremlins, or maybe Freddy. We all have that one quid essential monster that served as a gateway to the incredible world of beasties. For me, it was none other than the King of the Monsters himself, Godzilla. 

Godzilla may have entered our world in 1954 but he didn’t crash into my life until 1983-84. I was just a toddler and upon seeing the radioactive behemoth my imagination was awakened!

Oh, hells yeah! The time has finally come for me to talk about Godzilla, the Monster of Monsters! I’m lucky enough to remember – all be it briefly – all the way back to some of my earliest days on this planet. I’m like 3 or something and my little Manic nose is glued to the TV screen while TOHO’s giants are tearing one another to pieces over the fate of the Earth. The earliest films I remember ever watching are firstly Godzilla vs Mothra and then soon afterward King Kong vs Godzilla. Interestingly, I was going over this with my mom and she confirmed that Godzilla vs Mothra was one of the very first movies I ever watched and began mimicking. 

I’ve always loved Godzilla – as if you couldn’t tell by now. I mean just look! Look at little me romping around in my very own homemade Godzilla costume! 

image courtesy of Manic Exorcism, ‘Godzilla: Destroyer of Worlds” circa 1984

My Granny spent God knows how many hours at the sewing machine to make this dream come true and my Mom had one Hell of a time trying to get me out of it. Once I had that on I no longer existed. A perfectly harmonies symbiotic relationship between myself and Godzilla was formed while I had that on, the two of us became one, and woe to all who stood in our way. 

Sadly I outgrew that little costume but neither my love nor passion for the King of the Monsters could be diminished. This particular fandom though was not met without its fair share of challenges. One of the chief being the sheer scarcity of these movies back then! 

Image courtesy of Toho, ‘Godzilla vs Mothra’

Things weren’t like they are today. There were no streaming services. We had three channels. Three! If you were a kaiju fan while growing up in the mythical ‘80s you were lucky AF if your local horror host aired one of Godzilla’s movies during their Saturday late-night specials. TV guides were bought primarily so kids could bug the crap out of their parents on whether or not any Godzilla or King Kong movies would be on that upcoming week. Sometimes you’d luck out and there would be a giant monster movie! It felt like some kind of reward for all our patience. 

Thanks to TV special airings I was able to get Godzilla vs King Kong , Godzilla vs Megalon, and Godzilla vs Monster Zero recorded on tape to watch as many times as my psychotic little heart could handle! 

Image courtesy of Toho, ‘Godzilla vs Monster Zero’

And it wasn’t like you could just go to K-Mart and find copies on video. So fans could only rely on the movies they were lucky enough to record off TV. Although, I do remember one Christmas morning very vividly. So there I was greedily tearing away wrapping paper from all the goodies Santa brought me when I came across an obvious shoe box.

I remember being disappointed already before even removing the colorful wrapping paper and just sitting it to the side. What little boy wants a pair of bleeping shoes on Christmas? But my mom – being the psychotic mastermind she is – insisted I open it. Reluctantly I did, but what was awaiting me was not a boring old pair of sneakers, but 4, oh hell yeah, 4 Godzilla movies. I still own them. Among them being Godzilla vs MechaGodzilla and Godzilla vs Gigan! These videotapes were treasures to a fan like me! 

image courtesy of Manic Exorcism, circa 1989

This lack of movies also meant if you found a copy at your local video rental you were about to have a really good weekend. It was almost like a sacred quest and no less ambitious than any adventure Indiana Jones ever went on. We were kinda like paleontologists digging through movie shelves trying to discover just a single copy of a movie we (oh dear God, please oh please) had not already seen.  

I remember my cousin and me storming through one video store to the next just trying to get a copy of one of these monstrous relics. And then one Friday it finally happened! The stars came into alignment, God was merciful, or maybe Cthulhu was having a good dream, but, whatever the reason, there it was! A mother-loving Godzilla movie we had never seen yet – Godzilla vs the Smog Monster!!!

Image courtesy of Toho, ‘Godzilla vs the Smog Monster’

I think we watched that movie every single chance we had. Like soon as it ended we would rewind it just to hit play again. I remember we even tried to get a video camera out and film ourselves making fun of the movie by adding our own little quips and inputs to ‘enhance’ the dialogue and greatly entertain ourselves. Yup, we had the idea for MST3K before Tom Servo or Crow ever sat front row to do what we loved them for. 

Another challenge was, well, just being a fan for the sake of being a fan. Being a Godzilla fan was almost like an underground thing.

There weren’t many people back then who loved the big guy like the few of us did. As result, there just wasn’t a market for it so collecting Godzilla stuff was nearly impossible. 

Today all you have to do is go to Target and you’ll find lots of amazing Godzilla stuff – mostly thanks to NECA. It’s a very different world from the one I grew up in and that’s a great thing!

Image courtesy of Toho

People my age can now easily find copies of these incredible movies to show their own kids and there are so many toys to now collect. We may have grown up but we have every right to play Godzilla with our little ones and spread that love to the next generation. Isn’t it amazing how that turned out?

It’s a good time to be a Godzilla fan. What with the new movies being released by Legendary that gives us a faithful upgrade to the Showa Era monsters we grew up with. 

image courtesy of Legendary, ‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters’

The Criterion Collection just recently released the entire Showa Era Godzilla collection on Blu-ray meaning all those movies that we might have missed out on seeing are now available!  

And I can’t believe that I now own a bona fide Godzilla figure from the very movie that got me into this whole giant monster craze, Godzilla vs Mothra. The details of the figure are uncanny. It’s like it was taken straight out of the classic film. I now own 6 different NECA Godzilla figures alone! It’s a new sickness that I’m convinced my loved ones will initiate a well-planned intervention for me soon. 

So here we are. Nearly 40 years later and still I’m a fan of the King of the Monsters, a title he has rightfully earned over the years. The greatness of Godzilla isn’t simply found in one movie, or even in a series of movies. It is how one single idea about identifying the nuclear age in the body of a new cinematic monster has gone above and beyond TOHO’s wildest dreams.

image courtesy of Toho, ‘Gojira’

Godzilla is a cultural phenomenon and unites people from all walks of life. He’s such a big deal in Japan that there’s a place for him at the Museum of Japanese History. 

So he might not have been the first giant monster to awe audiences but ever since his appearance in ’54 he’s taken the world by storm. He’s inspired a massive franchise that is still ongoing to this day.

The latest TOHO installment was Shin Godzilla back in 2016 and returned Godzilla back to his destructive roots. He’s seen as a plague of sorts upon a world of carelessness towards nature. 

Image courtesy of Toho, ‘Shin Godzilla’

This time around Godzilla appears in three evolutionary stages. The third and primary stage gives him this sickly macabre look some fans call ‘Zombie Godzilla.’ It’s a dark commentary on Japan’s politics during times of crisis and is a special effects masterpiece. A must-watch for hardcore fans!

Currently, on Netflix, there is a three-part Godzilla anime for fans to enjoy. Though there have been other animated representations of Godzilla this is in fact the first anime he’s ever had. 

I already mentioned how Legendary has given the Godzilla universe a very respectful and epic American update to the King of the Monsters. There are currently 3 movies in this new MonsterVerse:  Godzilla (2014), Kong: Skull Island (2017), and Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019).

Image courtesy of Toho and Legendary, ‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters’ and ‘Godzilla vs King Ghidorah’

As someone who’s been watching Godzilla movies since before I had a fully formed vocabulary I can say I genuinely love what Legendary is doing with these big guys. We’re all waiting for the next installment, Godzilla vs Kong which was slated to show this year but with COVID19 we’ll have to wait and see what happens. 

Godzilla has been the representation of nuclear terror, an unstoppable force risen against all humanity, a monster without pity or compassion. He has also stood tall as a symbol of hope as he withstood the odds and protected the Earth from extraterrestrial invaders bent on destroying the planet.

Over the years he’s been our reckoning and our protection, a destroyer and a savior, two sides of the same coin. He’s starred in over 30 movies and shows no signs of slowing down. 

image courtesy of Playmates Toys, ‘Godzilla vs Kong’

In some cases, he is a nuclear-enhanced dinosaur. Sometimes he’s a mystery risen from the sea. And he’s even been a surviving titan come back from a prehistoric time to face the newly awakened challenges threatening our world today. He even has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. 

Ok I know, I know! I gotta stop already or this could go on forever. People familiar with my writing know how much I love Hellraiser and Dracula, but had it not been for Godzilla I have to wonder if I would have as much admiration for Pinhead or the vampiric Count? Godzilla was my gateway monster and has remained a trusted constant in my life.

Godzilla is timeless. 

image courtesy of Toho, ‘Godzilla vs the Astral Monster,’ victory dance

So hey if you crave all those warm retro feels and want more Godzilla goodness stay tuned and follow us here where nightmares and nostalgia are explored.  

Have a favorite Godzilla or kaiju memory and would like to share with us? Let us know down in the comments below.

Manic Exorcism

From “Market Monsters” To Rotten Hot Dogs; 5 Fun Facts About Supermarket Sweep!

FROM "MARKET MONSTERS" TO ROTTEN HOT DOGS; 5 FUN FACTS ABOUT SUPERMARKET SWEEP!

Attention shoppers! If there’s one game show that most people remember from their 90s’ childhood, it’s most definitely Supermarket Sweep. The show wasn’t made for kids per se, but who the hell didn’t think running around a faux grocery store throwing mass amounts of gourmet golden hams and 4 foot long salamis into a grocery cart looked like fun? It made that boring weekly trip to Smiths with your mom a little more exciting. Admit it. When no one was looking and the aisles were clear you ran down that son of a bitch slam-dunking Planters Cheez Balls in the cart fantasizing that you owned every single cool sweater David Ruprecht owned.

Ok. Maybe that was just me. But in all seriousness, and from the mouth of the man himself, Ruprecht was the Imelda Marcos of 90s’ sweater fashion.

FROM "MARKET MONSTERS" TO ROTTEN HOT DOGS; 5 FUN FACTS ABOUT SUPERMARKET SWEEP!

But no matter how big a fan you are, there’s still some fun things about the beloved show that might come as a surprise to you! Let’s dive into some behind the scenes facts you may have completely forgotten, or didn’t know all.

Supermarket Sweep is older than you think

Sure we all know the nostalgic, Lifetime aired 90s’ version. However, it wasn’t the first! Supermarket Sweep actually dates back all the way to 1965 first airing on the ABC network. With host Bill Malone, the premise was the same of three pairs of contestants running around like madmen. Men being the keyword here as typically the females handled the trivia part of the show while their male counterparts did all the messy shopping. Gotta love that 1960s’ stereotype bullshit.

Anyways, instead of being filmed on a set like the version we all know and love, the 60s’ game show was shot in actual grocery stores! And they actually got to keep their groceries! If they didn’t win top dog in the game, at least they ate good for a while!

Some of the food on the shelves were rotten and spoiled

nightmare nostalgia

Albeit most of the food used in the popular show was indeed fake as fuck. Oh yes. Those golden yams were just plastic blobs of plastic my friends. However, it didn’t start out that way. According to former host Ruprecht, those hot dogs in the sweet sweep were absolutely disgusting in an interview with Great Big Story.

“We shot for about five months, six months every year, and they used the same food over and over again. So by about the third month, the hot dogs had sort of started to ferment in the package and the package swelled up. And a lot of the food, having been thrown in and out of carts for three, four months had gotten pretty beaten up.”

Maybe it was after someone finally blew chunks from the smell from some of this stuff, they ultimately did away with any and all real products. Even though you and I know nobody was packing hot dogs in their cart as that would be fruitless in advancing your cart score, someone had to have noticed that nastiness at some point.

Those sweet contestant sweaters were offered as consolation prizes

Listen. I can say with full certainty that I would take one of those sweet Dad style sweep sweaters over a lame cash prize day any day! I hate to call them “losers”, because I’d be winning all day in that damn thing. However, contestants that didn’t move onto the $5,000 big sweep game, had that choice to take a cash prize or keep that sweaty, cheap sweatshirt that may or may not have reeked of spoiled hot dogs.

Who cares. Give me that high fashion rag please.

That supermarket was a lot smaller than it looked on TV

nightmare nostalgia supermarket sweep

Well honestly, I was definitely fooled upon learning this myself. A former contestant spilled the beans to the A.V. Club that the actual market was “very tiny.”

“A little bit bigger than a bodega in the city. It’s very tiny. It looks huge, but it’s small. Even in the aisles, you had to be careful if you and your cameraman were running and another group was coming down that aisle. You had to make sure you were all the way to the side or there could have been an accident.”

Supermarket Sweep had it’s own Monster Squad

No, it wasn’t a Halloween special. This went on for a few episodes! I’m not sure of how long it lasted but in the earliest days of the Sweep, producers thought it would be hilarious to insert these wild characters deemed “market monsters” into the grocery ransacking shenanigans to scare the shit out of the contestants.

From the likes of giant gorillas, Frankenstein, and a fellow called Mr. Yuk that actually kind of looks like a Kroger rip-off of the Pale Man in Pan’s Labyrinth (seen above), these guys made another goofy addition to the game show that ended up getting scrapped entirely. Below is a full episode from the glorious Youtube that features a Market Monster that I can only best describe as the ugly offspring of The Gobbeldy Gooker. *You can check him out at around 13 minutes in.

Now if you’ll excuse me, full episodes of this majestic game show are indeed streaming on Amazon Prime for free. So I’ll be down that nostalgic rabbit hole for the next three days. So the next time you’re at the market register and you hear that beep, think of all the fun facts you learned from Nightmare Nostalgia’s article on Supermarket Sweep!

[Hot Take] Why Not Release “Halloween Kills” on VOD and Then Theatrically Next Year?

[HOT TAKE] WHY NOT RELEASE "HALLOWEEN KILLS" ON VOD AND THEN THEATRICALLY NEXT YEAR?

I should probably start off by saying this is purely an opinion piece on what I believe would be beneficial in this far from perfect world right now in regards to the push-back on Halloween Kills. Furthermore, I stand my ground on these words in light of the fact I do not bow down to any studios or anyone involved in the entertainment industry as I don’t take part in the so-called ass-kissing train to save face in order to continue to receive any free promos, screenings, or goodies. That’s not what I, or Nightmare Nostalgia is about.

In other words, I am a PR’s worst goddamn nightmare. No fucks given.

Ok, this is a little blasphemous for a Myers centered piece- but how could I resist?!

Now that the PSA is out of the way, let’s get down to brass tacks. Surely by now, you’ve all heard about the long-awaited sequel in the newly revived Halloween trilogy Halloween Kills, has been pushed back an entire year to October 15, 2021. The announcement made by John Carpenter himself on social media kind of threw a lot of fans for a loop. The film is cut and done; ready to go. And while one can certainly understand why maybe, possibly, going to the theaters in 2020 might be a bit of a gamble, there’s clearly always the VOD option. An option in which, some studios are using to their advantage, and others, well, are really not wanting to go that route.

Now I can understand a movie such as Halloween obviously begs to be seen the RIGHT way as a perfect cinematic experience. However, Universal and Blumhouse has opted out of the notion of releasing the movie this year to streaming platforms in the middle of a pandemic so that US, the patrons, can view it in the way that it’s meant to be seen. Because Goddess forbid we have anything nice this year.

K.

[HOT TAKE] WHY NOT RELEASE "HALLOWEEN KILLS" ON VOD AND THEN THEATRICALLY NEXT YEAR?

Honestly, I think that’s a bit of a cop-out. A monster franchise such as Halloween should be giving fans the choice. I mean, who is to say things will be better a year from now? I would certainly hope they would be, but as it stands now Halloween as we have always known it, will be a far cry from normal in 2020. And given the mental state of the world slowly chipping away, it really would be nice to have SOMETHING to look forward to.

Now I also know some of you make look at this and say, “What a selfish bitch.” “REAL Halloween fans could wait an entire year.” Or the oh so clever and obvious, “There’s a whole world of horror out there to be discovered, focus on that.” I mean, those are all cute and all but here’s my point- now this might sound crazy:

HOW ABOUT RELEASING IT ON VOD IN 2020; AND THEATRICALLY IN 2021????

Fucking wild concept there, eh?

I can also make the argument that REAL HALLOWEEN FANS, such as myself and many others would be more than happy to pay for it twice. There are so many people suffering greatly on the other side of this pandemic in the mental health arena and it would be such a nice goddamn thing in this shithole year we’re experiencing right now to have something to look forward to that’s coming SOON. Not another year from now. For those arguing otherwise, the term selfish is being thrown around quite a bit, so let me oblige by throwing it right back your way in the face of those horror fans struggling mentally right now. I am their voice. Which often gets stifled not just in the midst of chaos, but anytime really as people still don’t like to talk about it.

This leads me into another proposal since we’re supposed to be practicing compassion and empathy for each other’s health needs; why on Earth is this not a viable option always for people who physically CAN’T attend the theater? Should they have to wait six months later than everyone else because they are either physically or mentally unable to have that cinematic experience? In the face of a world that’s changing, I think it’s definitely time to stop and think about not just one, or two groups of people. But the collective as a whole. This planet is so incredibly diverse with all walks of life and no one should be made to feel any certain way about this until you know their story. I just really feel like this was an opportunity for a franchise that I love dearly to do something really great for not only the collective in this isolated world we must live in right now, but for the unheard fans as well that suffer greatly from both physical and mental distress. It really would have been an erm.. trick or treat for them!

Alright enough of my Ted Talk. Here’s that little cockteaser they put out.

Sigh. Anyways, I would love to hear from anyone who feels the same, or hey, if you just want to tell me to get bent feel free to comment below!

Sylvester Stallone Confirms A Director’s Cut Of Rocky IV In The Works

SYLVESTER STALLONE CONFIRMS A DIRECTOR'S CUT OF ROCKY IV IN THE WORKS

News so exciting it makes me wanna eat snails! Fan-favorite sequel, and personally speaking mine as well, ROCKY IV has been long overdue for a knockout Director’s Cut. Now, we have confirmation from the Italian Stallion himself that it is indeed coming.

While promoting an exciting extended cut version of RAMBO: LAST BLOOD being released on Apple TV over on the Stallion’s official Instagram, an enthusiastic fan posed the question of a possible Director’s Cut of Rocky Balboa being released in the future. Stallone answered shutting down any plans of any new cuts of the 2006 comeback classic. However, he had THIS to say instead:

SYLVESTER STALLONE CONFIRMS A DIRECTOR'S CUT OF ROCKY IV IN THE WORKS

I think amazing might be the understatement of the century.

In addition to being a mighty fan-favorite of the franchise, ROCKY IV was also the most successful installment financially speaking; raking in over 300 million worldwide back in 1985 setting a record on the highest-grossing sports film of all time before 2009’s THE BLIND SIDE took the crown in that arena.

While no official date of release has been announced other than a confirmation of being in the works, I can only speculate that it will probably be ready in time for the film’s 35th anniversary this coming November. In the meantime, there’s a pretty sweet deal over on Amazon for the entire Blu-Ray set which you can check it out here!

Also, if there’s an extended version of the most glorious montage in montage history, I’m going to lose my goddamn mind.

[Creature Features] ‘JAWS’ – The Birth of the Blockbuster and Galeophobia

In the banner year of 1985, 10 years after the initial blockbuster smash release of the holiest of shark films JAWS, I had seen thine shining light they call Bruce for the first time in my tiny life.

I was three.

THREE-FUCKING-YEARS-OLD.

One could argue my Dad was a sadistic fuck in showing me what I absolutely consider, one of the top three scariest films of ALL TIME. Especially given the fact I wouldn’t even set a pair of feet on any beach for close to seven years after. True story: Having family in the Long Island area, Summer Beach days were very much a thing. However, I would make my Dad carry me across the sandy threshold to a spot I felt comfortable and far enough away from the water. The answer is yes: In my youthful way of thinking, I had concluded that JAWS was smart enough to get me even in the sand. But as long as I was on a towel and far enough away from the shore, all was ok. The answer here is also YES: It makes zero sense, I realize but hey, I was a kid so don’t judge too harsh!

Now that being said, my story is just one of thousands that were scared absolutely shitless after seeing the film, inducing GALEOPHOBIA into the minds of many. Proving without a shadow of a doubt, that JAWS is indeed, one of the scariest films of all time. We define horror as something that scares us. It’s a very versatile genre as what scares one, may not necessarily frighten another. Collectively, JAWS pretty much hit the nail on the head and caused quite a bit of both panic and interest in the beautiful monsters of the deep.

The following vintage clip from NBC NEWS uploaded by Youtube user COW MISSING showcases a little snippet of what ‘The Summer of JAWS’ looked like as far as the cultural impact the film had with its audiences.

Now on the other side of the coin, JAWS ultimately caused an almost global catastrophe for the creatures of the deep in the form of fear and panic; something humanity is very much guilty of with the most recent example given is the 2020 shortage of toilet paper. We are very much guilty of acting out in emotions first, and logic later. And these poor animals have suffered immensely for it. Mind you, I don’t place this blame on the book or film itself as that’s complete BULLSHIT. Every one of us is responsible for our own actions, thoughts, and doings. I only place blame on those who have chosen to use their own fears as an excuse to execute these wonderful animals for either sport, food, or pleasure. As a matter of fact, Peter Benchley’s 1974 novel shadows the event dubbed “The Twelve Days of Terror”, that served as inspiration for what we know as Bruce today.

In 1916, a series of shark attacks were recorded over on the New Jersey coastline killing four people and injuring five others. Also, interestingly enough, during a Polio Epidemic. So of course, under the duress of a record-breaking heatwave and pandemic, the media then fueled an already stressed populous into panic mode. Reports and analysis also suggest that the nature of the attacks were by a lone shark. Later, a Great White was caught during a shark hunt that was found to have human remains in its stomach. Was this shark the culprit? Possibly. I mean, hard to argue if there’s a human limb hanging out inside the belly of the thing.

Anyways, the release of JAWS just helped to reignite a surging fear and interest in the mysterious beast. As time heals all things however, the humanoids have become much more sympathetic and educated about our friends of the deep. Regardless of how many horribly cheesy SY-FY shark attack movies have been churned out year after year, piggybacking off the back of the ultimate shark movie…. 45 years later and counting.

Now, I can’t simply talk about JAWS without mentioning the John Williams score. It is one of the most recognizable tones in cinematic history that Goddess forbid, you ever hear that shit playing somewhere on the beach while your legs are dangling in the water, I’ll place a hefty bet you’re gonna crap your swim shorts. Per the Film Music Society, Williams described the malicious two-tone theme as “so simple, insistent and driving, that it seems unstoppable, like the attack of the shark. The music could be loud and fast if he was attacking, soft and slow if he was lurking, but always menacing in tone.”

Goddamn right Mr. Williams. I mean, every time I have an anxiety/panic attack, that fucking theme song pops into my anxious mind as the perfect accompaniment as an indication of a roller coaster of impending doom.

[JAWS theme] John Williams with the Boston Pops Orchestra

While I myself, and many other 80s’ babies’ grew up in the JAWS VHS era, we were terrified as kids but evolved into adults with a healthy understanding of the nature of the beast with education along with a healthy dose of lovely Shark Week programming provided by the Discovery Channel. However, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I didn’t still ’til this day go to the ocean, dip in, and the thought cross my mind, “Is today the day my leg gets bit off by Sir Great White of Shark?” All thanks to one of the most horrifying scenes of all time.

Thanks for the memories and the trauma Bruce.




Also, this is totally worth picking up! You can get your 4k Ultimate JAWS experience here through Amazon!

‘Rocky’ Documentary With Sylvester Stallone Premieres On-Demand Streaming In June

I truly can’t think of another way to start the Summer heat other than with a nice cold egg yolk smoothie and the long-awaited premiere of 40 Years of Rocky: The Birth of a Classic, narrated by Sly himself and streaming on-demand beginning June 9th, 2020.

Released by Virgil Films & Entertainment with writing and producing credits via Derek Wayne Johnson, the definitive ‘Roc Doc’ offers a heart-felt journey into the making of the original Rocky film as the Italian Stallion himself takes us back to the streets of Philly and the true underdog story of the century.

According to the official Facebook page, the doc was meant to be released back in 2016 in conjunction with the film’s actual 40th anniversary. However, due to unknown delays the project was shelved for a few years.

Official Release Per Social Media:

In 1976, a low budget movie written by an unknown actor was released, inspiring audiences around the world to go the distance. Rocky became the ultimate underdog film. Over forty years later, Sylvester Stallone recounts the making of the beloved classic through rare home movies provided by Director John G. Avildsen and Production Manager Lloyd Kaufman. Sylvester Stallone pitched the idea for “40 Years of Rocky: The Birth of a Classic” (2019) to director Derek Wayne Johnson and producer Chris May of AJ16 Entertainment after a private screening of their documentary John G. Avildsen: King of the Underdogs (2017), in which Stallone is also featured.

The film recounts the emotional depth and challenges of an, at the time, struggling actor with a golden script giving fans a real emotional grip on what this film means for not just Sly himself, but for the people that hold this movie close to their own hearts. I truly think now, more than ever, people need to hear these tales of rising from the ashes into something beautiful and positive that touches all our souls while conjuring up feel-goodness nostalgia. These films have been a part of my life as long as I can remember- growing up in an Italian-American family, it was almost like a right of passage. And now, we finally get the behind the scenes look we’ve been craving all these years.

Our Need for Joe Bob is Unmistakable

Folks of a certain age understand compulsion better than anyone. And I’m not talkin’ about overindulging in food or alcohol or even aardvarkin’. No, this is far more specific: an absolutely animalistic compulsion to see a film based entirely on its video store cover art if you know what I mean, (and if you grew up in the eighties) I think you do.

As a lad I just had to know what treasures lay beneath the fascinating covers of THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE (1974) and THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN (1976), as well a film that for whatever reason always caught my eye but my family had never rented.

For years as a child I spent weekends at my grandparents’ house. It was in the country, I could grab my baseball glove and tennis ball and toss it against the house steps and visualize owning my friends the next time we squared off (it never worked, by the way), and my grandpa would always let me drive the John Deere riding mower while their dog Pete followed me around the expansive yard. It was comforting to be there with them and the hound, an unmistakable slice of heaven.

Neither of my grandparents were movie buffs, but my grandma always made a point to grab a bottle of Pepsi and glass of ice during the 10 o’clock news so she could get caffeinated and stay up with me.

Like clockwork, my grandpa would turn in right after that broadcast, then she and I would settle in to watch whatever B-movie fare the local affiliate had secured for that week. The only one I remember, however, was the one repped by cover art that had caught my eye but eluded my view — IT’S ALIVE (1974).

IMG_6324

I remember leaning in as the screen transitioned from the WKBT nightly news to a quick preview for Larry Cohen’s weird tale of a killer baby. Thoughts of that cover art’s cradle with and a claw peeking out played through my mind as I watched in riveted terror (for perspective, I wasn’t quite 10 years old). But there was an odd comfort in that fear, because I knew that my grandmother was right there beside me and grandpa was sleeping in the next room. Though frightened, I was safe, and that sense of security was unmistakable.

In that moment, I knew that a lifelong devotion to horror was set into motion, which led to THE SHINING (1980) and FRIGHT NIGHT (1985) and later, midnight soirees with a cowboy hat-wearing, beer-guzzling smartass on The Movie Channel.

Drive-In Theater turned to MonsterVision and when I found myself working at a television station years later, I asked the high sheriffs if I could resurrect their collection of public domain films into a B-Movie homage to Joe Bob Briggs. They said yes, and for three years my delight was unmistakable.

As Briggs is apt to say, movies are intended to be enjoyed with an audience, a communal experience. A stance proven time and again through the connectivity of The Movie Channel and TNT and the fact that two of the people I worked with at the TV studio had previously labored at another — WKBT.

So, when Joe Bob made his triumphant return to Shudder with The Last Drive-In just shy of two years ago, that unmistakable sense of safety and the nostalgia that came along with it flooded over every nerve in my body.

IMG_6015

What was supposed to be a last, 24-hour hurrah for the Drive-In Jedi quickly turned into Friday night double features that not only obliterated Shudder’s server but unwittingly triggered a silent alarm that drew every Drive-In Mutant who had watched Briggs alone in their youth into a larger family that they never knew they had. That communal sense of acceptance and love was also unmistakable.

Shortly after the death of IT’S ALIVE’s writer and director Larry Cohen last March, Joe Bob selected Q: THE WINGED SERPENT (1982) from the Shudder library to celebrate the life and talent of one of the most uniquely talented filmmakers to ever walk the Earth. But before the picture rolled, Briggs shared something that has stayed with me every day since:

“You can be half-drunk and just woke up and turn on the TV and if it’s a Larry Cohen movie you instantly know it,” continuing “the characters talk in this rhythm, it’s just unmistakable.”

Unmistakable.

Cohen’s singular skill and the gorilla filmmaking that brought it to fruition, to say nothing of the millions who believed they were alone in their love for films like Cohen’s only to find that they were part of something much bigger years later. The experiences may have been individualized in our youth, but we later discovered that those memories were unmistakably shared.

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From a late night horror film on WKBT to working with friends who’d called that station home, from the compulsion of video store cover art to the Drive-In Theater to MonsterVision to Shudder, all experiences that were part of something much bigger, a larger safety net that only togetherness can create.

And now we find ourselves firmly entrenched in the quarantine-shelter-in-place-social-distancing of the coronavirus pandemic. Many of us find ourselves ripped from loved ones and the routine of our daily lives, feeling lost and lonely. We need our safety net now more than ever, and just as we feel our sanity starting to slip, we are less than a fortnight from the fright.

Joe Bob and Darcy the Mail Girl will give us Season 2 of The Last Drive-In on the evening of April 24 and it could not come at a better time. We need family, we need friends, we need the safety net of the loving acceptance that only a Briggs-led communal experience can provide.

When the curtain goes up on that first episode, whether it serves as a distraction or makes you feel normal again, however momentary, we will all be reminded of our own similar but unique late night horror movie experience that set our collective journey into motion.

We will be compelled to watch. It will be much needed. It will be therapeutic. But above all, every emotion it evokes will be unmistakable.

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Stuart Gordon’s DOLLS: The Film That Opened the Door to a Little Girl’s Horror World

Australian wildfires. Devastating earthquakes. Tragic plane crashes. A terrifying global pandemic. Now Stuart Gordon. The man that I think very well set in motion full blast, my exploration into (at the time) lesser-known horror films. I’m pretty confident that it’s safe to say 2020 can eat a big hairy dick.

On March 24th, 2020, the horror world received the news that legendary filmmaker Stuart Gordon passed away at the age of 72. According to a source that had spoken with someone close to the family, Gordon had been sick for some time, (from what I don’t know). The grand visionary of independent horror and theater aficionado lit up the 80s’ VHS section with such works as Re-Animator, From Beyond, and of course, the film I really want to talk about right now- DOLLS.

 

If you’re familiar at all with my internet ramblings, you already know my love of horror history watching Halloween in my diapers with my father. Around the time I was eight-years-old, I was well versed in the Slasher and Universal Monsters Genre; with A Nightmare on Elm Street 1, 3, and 4, Friday the 13th films, Halloween movies with almost a nightly visit from Stephen King’s Silver Bullet all in pretty heavy rotation in my Pioneer VHS cassette player. What can I say- creature of habit. Until one day on our Tuesday night visit to our local Mom and Pop video rental store, something had caught my eyes that changed my comforting rotation of horror flicks forever.

 

Stuart Gordon's DOLLS: The Film That Opened the Door to a Little Girl's Horror World

 

As an eight-year-old little girl, I was completely enamored with the VHS cover alone. You see, I had already had a fascination with creepy dolls. Mainstream popular films like Poltergeist and at the time, a recently released Child’s Play had only fueled that curious fetish further.

Squirlling off for a sec, again, just another grand example of how powerful good ole’ VHS box art had and continues to have with such online retailers as Shout! and Arrow preserving that beautiful legacy of horror home video art.

Anyway, I grabbed it off the shelf to show the Mother and disgusted as she was looking at it with an attempt to push me into another rental from the “kiddie” section, she gave in. Upon our return, I settled in with a nice juice-box of Hawaiian Punch, (if you remember those boxed 10-packs- fist bump to you buddy) a can of Sour Cream and Onion Pringles and rode the Full Moon journey into this crazy ride of killer yet somehow weirdly compassionate dolls, witches, and straight to the point moral warnings to humanity. Or at least in this version- be a decent human or a witch might turn your dumbass into a creepy as fuck decorative dolly porcelain.  And you know what? It’s been one of my all-time favorites since then.

Stuart Gordon's DOLLS: The Film That Opened the Door to a Little Girl's Horror World

DOLLS is sort of a dark and twisted fairy tale with just the right amount of gore and goofiness. The film starts with a shithead Dad, the even bigger shithead Stepmom, and a young girl Judy clutching her favorite toy “Teddy” getting stranded in the middle of creepy backwoods nowhere England with a severe thunderstorm approaching. In an attempt to seek shelter, the family heads out on foot to a spotted castle-like mansion that just so happens to be sitting close by- it’s like none of these guys had ever seen a horror movie in their entire life. Little Judy, lagging behind annoys the evil step-mother played by Stuart Gordon’s wife Carolyn Purdy-Gordon, snatches Teddy and tosses it in some bushes setting up one of the most glorious scenes in the film.

Big kudos to special effects supervisor and head honcho make-up artist Gabe Bartalos (TCM 2, Basket Case) for this magnificence that runs consistently throughout the film.

Moving on, the trio makes their way to the mansion, breaks in because why not, and gets met by an elderly toymaker couple at gunpoint played by Guy Rolfe and Hilary Mason; who then takes pity on them upon seeing the presence of a child in the mist. They take them through the endless hallways in the home to see the place is filled with hundreds, maybe thousands of nightmare-inducing dolls. Then we throw in two criminal punk rock hitchhikers with a bumbling but loveable man-child also seeking asylum and hot-damn we got ourselves a movie now!

The dolls themselves pretty much do the couple’s bidding. Giving people a chance to basically just not act like a dick and be respectful. It seems like these really are the only rules in this home filled with little homicidal plastic terrors. But, we wouldn’t have a movie if that were the case, so of course, some of these people cross the dickhead line and pay the ultimate price. According to the Blu-ray from Scream Factory, Stuart Gordon reveals his inspiration behind the look and story of  DOLLS involving being accidentally locked in a room full of Victorian-style porcelain horrors for a period of time.

Yep. Big bag of FUCK NO for me.

Dolls, usually overlooked by such films in Gordon’s Rolodex like From Beyond and Re-Animator, has gained a monumental cult of popularity over the past ten years thanks to the multiple horror internet outlets dedicated to this sort of thing. To me personally, the story of what is actually a pretty damn abused girl by the hands of her asshole father and his new wife partnered with her pure innocence and love of toys remains extra special and a cautionary tale at its finest. It also opened up a whole new world of 80s’ horror shortly after as I began to expand my genre curiosities based on VHS box art alone.

Thanks for the memories and the movies Stu. Rest in peace toy soldier.

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Nostalgic Toys, Wrestling Legends, and Iconic 80s’ Faces Invade Las Vegas Toy Con!

So you’re telling me- an entire weekend con, (not just one night) featuring the best of 80s’ toys, wrestling legends, Garbage Pail Kids artists, and for the love of the best damn cinematic American patriot Apollo Creed, Carl Weathers, all together at once in my hometown?

This GIF is a big mood, guys.

Nostalgic Toys, Wrestling Legends, and Iconic 80s' Faces Invade Las Vegas Toy Con!

Because you know, it’s clearly not like I dedicate a part of my life to this or anything.

Anyways, YES- the 12th annual Vegas Toycon is back and better than ever with an entire weekend full of childhood fuzzies that will take you through a time warp of wonderful childhood memories including a slew of celebrity guests that are sure to make even the manliest of men shed a tear of nostalgic joy.

Held at the Las Vegas Cannery, March 13-15th, 2020, Toycon is breaking out the red carpet for such guests as Carl Weathers (The Mandalorian, Predator, Rocky Films Saga), Ryan Hurst (The Walking Dead, Sons of Anarchy), Jimmy Vee (R2D2-Star Wars), Dominic Pace (The Mandalorian), along with Optimus Prime and Megatron themselves Peter Cullen and Frank Welker!

Appearing alongside these screen gems are a couple of WWE legends prepared to sign autographs with photo ops as well! The attendance roster includes Scott Hall (Razor Ramon), Kevin Nash (Diesel), Sting, Jon Moxley, and Fred Ottman (Tugboat, Typhoon)!

So much machismo.

Nostalgic Toys, Wrestling Legends, and Iconic 80s' Faces Invade Las Vegas Toy Con!

 

If that’s enough to rattle your inner 80s’ kid, the cast from Steven Spielberg’s E.T. and a select slew of the Netflix giant Stranger Things will be on hand as well and if that’s not enough for you- then I honestly should just stop right now and kind of give up. Let’s get real- Dee Wallace is an absolute treasure beyond her E.T. fandom, i.e Cujo, The HowlingCritters and more.

Ok, that’s the fangirl talking. Let’s move along.

Nostalgic Toys, Wrestling Legends, and Iconic 80s' Faces Invade Las Vegas Toy Con!

 

And for all the Garbage Pail Kids fans out there, (everyone am I right?!):

Nostalgic Toys, Wrestling Legends, and Iconic 80s' Faces Invade Las Vegas Toy Con!

 

Beyond the overwhelming appearances, and honestly, there are so many more but I could be here all day, are tons of family-friendly activities. Funko Pop giveaways and scavenger hunts, custom toy contests, original artwork, cosplay, and tons of awesome toy and comic vendors!

Tickets are available here directly through the TOYCON website. Check the website thoroughly for days and photo-op times of celebrity appearances and kids 12 and under are free!

I will be there covering the event for Nightmare Nostalgia so if you see a tiny girl in an Apollo Creed shirt covered in tattoos, run up to me with the password phrase “I WANT YOU CHUMP!“, and I MIGHT just have a little gift for you! Happy hunting and see you at Toycon folks!

 

 

Let’s Be Thankful Stephen Gammell Illustrated a Thanksgiving Poems Book

Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark made him a household name to kids in the ’80s, and public enemy number one to the Karens’ of School Public Libraries all over America.  Gammell’s illustrations captivate, excite, and leave us uneasy with his unique interpretations of art imitating life. If one is familiar with his work, he’s pretty easy to spot in other literary and exhibit endeavors; and the “Thanksgiving Poems” book is no exception as that accustomed awe-inspiring creep factor captures the very essence of Autumn and Thanksgiving through visual imagery.

Let's Be Thankful Stephen Gammell Illustrated a Thanksgiving Poems Book

First published in September of 1985, the “Thanksgiving Poems” book collected and sorted by Myra Cohn Livingston is a collection of 16 poems and songs from various storytellers’ including musical excerpts from the Osage and Navajo nations. Ranging from contemporary, comical, to a little preachy, (there are some King James verses in this thing). The book is a short 32-pages and the poems discuss trees, turkeys, families, and food; giving thanks, what happens when families congregate during thanksgiving, and the history of thanksgiving can all be found in this little diddy.

However, Gammell is the clear winner here as he blows out a vessel of watercolor hues of orange, white, and blue with powerful illustrations accompanying each entry. I could go on, but hey, a picture is worth 1000 words so here you go!

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Fantastic. For those interested in adding this unique piece of work to your library, you can get it from Amazon here!

I truly hope anyone reading this has a wonderful and Happy Thanksgiving! Whether you choose to celebrate or not, whether you’re with family or alone,  I don’t know you, but you are a wonderful human and deserve all the wonderful things this beautiful life has to offer. Thanks for being on this nostalgic trip with me for the past year and a half!