Category Archives: Editorials

Why 2018 was the Year of Joe Bob

I bought a bolo. That’s how much I adore John Bloom, affectionately known as Joe Bob Briggs. I’m old enough to (at least vaguely) remember his diatribes on The Movie Channel and wondered who the hell was this guy who could rant and ramble about obscure films at the drop of a hat. I was fascinated.

And then he took over MonsterVision on TNT, and I was hooked, completely taken. So cool and composed, funny and intelligent, he made spinning a damn fine yarn seem easy, when I know good and damn well it’s anything but.

He made good movies great and bad movies worth your time. He seemed to know every detail about production and the cast. With stories and experiences that took place in Texas and Arkansas and New York and everywhere in between, it seemed as though Joe Bob was the Alfred Pennyworth of the horror universe—a man who has lived what seems a thousand lifetimes.

Briggs was apt to say that when the network cancelled MonsterVision, the people must suffer, and he was right. For 17 years we missed him and yearned for someone to resurrect the finest of drive-in hosts. What did it matter that he was the only one, we never needed to lay eyes on a competitor to know that he had none.

JBB WhoaWhile Joe Bob still roamed the countryside doing film presentations and conventions, it just wasn’t the same. For all his travels, it would be impossible for one man to hit every town, or even come near enough for everyone who wanted a Briggs fix to get access, so still we suffered.

Then Shudder swooped in, the Jesus to Joe Bob’s Lazarus, and scratched that itch which had been tormenting us for nearly two decades.

The Last Drive-In fittingly arrived on Friday the 13th this past July, but for all the anticipation and publicity, no one could have expected what happened. Joe Bob broke the internet. Now, he commented at the time (a stance he still maintains) that the show didn’t work because there were so many who were unable to see the open or much of the first portion of the marathon as it was happening, but it was truly a moment where the communal experience wasn’t necessary to fully appreciate the magnitude of the event.

The Commodore 64 servers simply proved insufficient for all those who wanted Joe Bob. Though we knew he was loved by horror fans everywhere, it was the first time that we truly realized just how much Briggs means to so many. The demand was simply overwhelming.

The stories were as brilliantly weaved as ever, the jokes were fresh and just as funny, and the knowledge once again left us shaking our heads in disbelief, while we shared our observations and laughter and discussed it in real time on social media.

And that was before he asked Felissa Rose if her dick was deformed.

Briggs RoseIt was hyped as the ultimate last call, that the 13 flicks that began with Tourist Trap and ended with Pieces would be the final opportunity for us to share such time with Briggs. That we obliterated Shudder’s servers, however, and offered so many messages of joy and love and thanks (to say nothing of our Billy Idol-like cries of more, more, more), was all it took for Joe Bob to tweet through Darcy the Mail Girl (Diana Prince) that “The people have suffered enough. Assemble the squad. We’re gonna need more servers.”

Shortly thereafter came the announcement of a pair of holiday marathons—Dinners of Death for Thanksgiving, and A Very Joe Bob Christmas—and if that weren’t enough to leave us collectively giddy, word dropped that there would be a regular show sometime in 2019.

Dinners offered a glimpse of Briggs’ otherworldly appreciation for The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and a passionate defense for its director Tobe Hooper, who horror fans are well aware has never gotten his due outside of our little community. Next was an incredible conversation with Michael Berryman that once again left us wanting more, and resulted in a signed figure that Prince auctioned off to raise money for Florida’s Seacrest Wolf Preserve which had been decimated by Hurricane Michael. Darcy even brought out some of the crocheted figures passionately assembled by Twitter’s @thestichkeeper, further demonstrating that the horror community is as tightly woven as one of Joe Bob’s stories.

BerrymanAnd this past Friday, we sat with drinks in hand and smiles on our faces as the Drive-In Jedi guided us through the Phantasm franchise, complete with an interview with the Ice Cream Commando himself, Reggie Bannister, as well as the oddest and most awesome version of the 12 Days of Christmas any of our ears have ever had the pleasure of hearing.

Before Briggs dug into Pieces for The Last Drive-In, he lovingly spoke about late and legendary horror host John Zacherle. Voice cracking with emotion, Joe Bob said “he knew the journey was not about the stage, it was about the life and the joy that you create while you’re standin’ on that stage.” Briggs added “So John Zacherle, I never got to say this to you, but wherever you are, this one is for you.”

For all the smiles and the laughs and the composure, that was the first and only time we’ve seen that type of sentimentality from Briggs. Though he was speaking about Zacherle, it was obvious to all watching that Joe Bob was also referring to himself. Clearly the joy that Briggs has brought to millions over the course of 30-plus years has never been lost on him, and the love he’s received from us has been heartfelt and appreciated. In that moment, Joe Bob truly believed that he was about to embark on the final film of his television career, and he—like us—was lost in the moment.

Thankfully, we (at least in part helped to) change his mind.

The absolute perfection of Briggs and Prince and Shudder will begin its regular program early next year, which is mercifully just around the corner. For this year, though, the glory that was Halloween (2018) and Mandy, the Oscar-worthy performance of Toni Collette (Hereditary), Robert Englund’s turn as Freddy in an All Hallow’s Eve episode of The Goldbergs, Jordan Peele’s victory for Best Original Screenplay, and The Shape of Water capturing Best Picture, the horror story of the year is, was, and ever shall be the return of Joe Bob Briggs.

And for someone who idolized the man growing up, and later got an opportunity to host an ode-to-Joe-Bob horror movie program for a television station, nothing could be better.

SignSo at the end of November when I traveled north for Briggs’ How Rednecks Saved Hollywood show at the Parkway Theater in Minneapolis, I did so wearing that bolo. The only other thing I had with me was the piece I’d written thinking (at the time) that The Last Drive-In was a farewell.

When my turn finally came to meet the only other man rocking a bolo, he smiled and shook my hand. We made small talk, and I asked if he’d be good enough to sign my article. He glanced at it and asked if he had read this before, to which I simply replied “You shared it on your Facebook.” He smiled and said, “If it made it to Facebook, I definitely read it.” As he leaned down to scribble a message, my heart soared at the memory of that share, because it was done with just a single word: “This.”

Writing has been a passion of mine for as long as I can remember, and in that moment, I knew that what had come from my heart had resonated with a man I’d adored my entire life, and had received the seal of approval from Joe Bob Briggs.

This is just one story, and one reason, why 2018 is the year of Joe Bob Briggs. All the other stories, shared and unshared about three marathons, 21 movies, and countless laughs and memories that brought us all together are why no other event from this year can offer even a meager challenge if you know what I mean…and I think you do.

Santa

Still Hooked on Teri McMinn Four Decades Later

It is perhaps the most iconic scene from one of the most iconic franchises horror has ever known. Yet the lasting wound inflicted upon TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE audiences forty-four years ago had more to do with a meat hook than a chainsaw.

While director Tobe Hooper and stars Marilyn Burns and Gunnar Hansen have enjoyed most of TCM’s notoriety since 1974, the most indelible images (and sounds) came not from Leatherface, but Pam, a character created by a then 22-year old actress from Houston, Texas named Teri McMinn.

What McMinn was able to accomplish in less than one minute is by any standard, underrated. McMinn went from sheer dread at the sight of Leatherface (Hansen) to crazed desperation in efforts to escape his clutches, before the horrified recognition of what was to come and finally (and as odd as it may seem to say), the subtle performance which followed Pam being plopped onto a hook designed for slaughtered animals.

That fleeting minute offered much to digest, and because its intensity was so unrelenting, it felt like a landed sucker punch that to this day, still takes this writer’s breath away.

Rather than over-the-top writhing shrills, McMinn communicated what our collective imagination was too frightened to conjure—incomprehensible pain—and as such, her reaction was almost one of disbelief.

McMinn hookDisbelief of what was happening to be sure, but also the agony that would have undoubtedly been coursing through Pam’s body. Truly study McMinn’s face and the whimpers which emanated from her throat and you won’t witness a contrived portrayal of misery, but rather an honest performance from an actress who dared to take a momentary glimpse at torture.

Hooper’s decision to deliver a quick, almost home movie style shot of McMinn’s feet as they hovered above a bucket to collect droplets of blood, then quickly panned to capture Pam’s excruciating and immobilized terror served as the icing on the proverbial cake.

It was heart-pounding and almost too real, and we have McMinn to thank for that.

For as much as Leatherface means to horror, memories of McMinn’s minute are what flood through this writer’s mind when conversations turn to THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE.

That we’ve lost Hansen and Burns over the past few years is all the more reason to embrace the fact that McMinn owned a scene like few before or since.

McMinn German

Joe Bob and ‘Dinners of Death’ Redefined Family

Before signing off on The Last Drive-In for what we believed to be the final time this past summer, Joe Bob Briggs noted that the Shudder marathon, as well as his Drive-In Theater and MonsterVision programs “tried to be the place to hang out for the weirdos and the misfits, and the people who felt left out of mainstream culture,” before touching on the myriad people who had shared tales of how he had saved their lives by giving them something to look forward to.

Some of it had to do with “horrible home” lives, and the ability to “lock the doors of their room when our silly show came on, and it would make ‘em feel able to face the next week.” Ever the gentleman, Briggs added that it was a “wonderful by-product” of shows intended to make people laugh and expose them to forgotten films. He then added, “I can’t take credit for that.”

I’m here to stump Joe Bob by saying yes. Yes, he can.

A common theme of both The Last Drive-In and Dinners of Death was the idea of communal experience, that stories were intended to be viewed together, to be shared and discussed with friends and strangers alike. In other words, like family.

The horror community is a small one, in many ways like a family, and that is exactly what I want to discuss here.

Be it because of depression or absence of actual family, the holidays can be a difficult time for people. I know—I fall under each category—and also know that I am not alone, not by a wide margin.

Whether direct or extended, Thanksgiving is a day for family, to gather around a table for a meal, to talk and laugh and love. Not everyone is fortunate enough to have that opportunity. Maybe they’ve moved and can’t return home for the holiday, they don’t want to burden their friends by “tagging along,” or their loved ones have passed away, or they simply don’t speak with family members anymore. Whatever the reason, it can leave people feeling worthless, and very alone.

But that’s where Dinners of Death and Joe Bob Briggs and Diana Prince come in.

DarcyThe concept of giving folks something to look forward to still rings true, because for many (myself included), waiting for the clock to strike nine and Shudder’s Thanksgiving marathon provided those who were feeling alone something to hold onto, something to share.

As soon as Joe Bob opened the festivities with a crack about Wild Turkey only needing to be aged eight years and “do not make me tell you this again,” a smile found our lips, perhaps for the first time all day, and the stress of said day began to fade.

And as the drive-in Jedi began to regale us with tidbits about The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and vehemently defended the career of Tobe Hooper, we felt connected to what he was saying (not just because it was true goddamn it), but because we too felt discredited and forgotten. All it took was a few short minutes of impassioned twang from a man we all adore to feel peace for the first time all day.

And it was shared. Not only on the screen, but on Twitter and Facebook. Not just with fellow fans who may or may not have been or felt alone that day, but thanks largely to Darcy the Mail Girl, otherwise known as Kinky Horror. She spent the entire marathon, nearly 10 hours, interacting with us as we watched. She laughed at our observations, shared images and stories (even the Drinking Game Fu I came up with while downing a turkey dinner at a restaurant by myself), answered questions, and just…kept us company as we enjoyed what was unfolding in and outside of Joe Bob’s “trailer.”

Many felt alone for most of Thanksgiving, but from nine o’clock on, we were anything but. Briggs and Darcy made sure of that. They gave us something to look forward to. Joe Bob and Prince gave us something to share. With a Drive-In Mutant family. They made what would have otherwise been a sad day one to smile about.

Briggs had said he couldn’t take credit for such things back in July, but to be honest, that burns my bacon. Yes he can. And he should. As should Prince.

A professor of mine once said that when it comes to art, if a person takes something away from it that its creator had never intended to be there, it’s still real. It still matters. Briggs and Diana gave something to all of us that can never be taken away, intended or not.

Maybe Joe Bob and Darcy hadn’t set out to give folks who were feeling alone a sense of inclusion and peace and family on Thanksgiving, but that’s exactly what they did. Something for which I, and many others shall be forever thankful .

For all those who feel as I feel — please — take credit for that.

JBB

Book Review: “AD NAUSEAM” Is The Holy Grail of 80’s Horror Newsprints

Once upon a time before the wild world of the interwebs, you had to turn to that black and white rolled up bunch of papers that magically appears in your driveway every morning to observe the latest movie premieres and listing showtimes. Plainly speaking, living in an advanced age of technology has spoiled us from giving in that extra effort as any and (almost) all information is literally at our fingertips. And with the entrance of Google, the exit of what is now considered a lost art occurred.

As with horror-based VHS art, newsprint graphics for film announcements became an entity in its own with not only promoting said picture but influencing audiences into seeing the movie with the alluring black and grey art attached to the information. Former Fangoria Editor-in-Chief and presently, one of Rue Morgue’s head-honchos’ Michael Gingold has taken this long-lost pastime and breathed new life into the forgotten advertisements with his new book, “AD NAUSEAM: NEWSPRINT NIGHTMARES FROM THE 1980s”.

I recently had the opportunity to gleefully gawk at the 245-page book and holy Nicolas National Treasure Cage- it is as glorious as the retro sunbeams beaming off a neon synthwave.

Book Review: "AD NAUSEAM" Is The Holy Grail of 80's Horror Newsprints

With all retro advertisements seen within, some extremely rare or never-before-seen all from Gingold’s personal collection, compiled into yearly chapters that range from 1980-1989, this truly is a must-have for not only lovers of 80’s horror, but ALL genre enthusiasts. From a historical standpoint, this nostalgic book certainly serves as an opened time capsule from a time where horror was both beloved and misunderstood by the general public- (If you’re questioning that last bit, check out this little diddy from 20/20). So whether you’re reliving that era or discovering it for the first time, the feeling you get as you flip the pages through these newsprint nightmares can easily be compared to watching your very first horror film. And that my friends, is such a rare experience to come across in the modern days of the interwebs.

Book Review: "AD NAUSEAM" Is The Holy Grail of 80's Horror Newsprints

In addition to the glorious spread of page after page of retro goodness, snippets of reviews are matched alongside select films. It goes without saying this was a time where Rotten Tomatoes and online reviews were years ahead in the future. That being said, in a time where horror didn’t harbor the respect it has accumulated from critics over the years, you’ll find a few of these snippets might just trigger your horror senses into a flight or fight reaction. As explained in the book, these reviews were posted at the time of release, and I’m just taking a shot in the dark here, from a few snooty film advisers.

However, I can overlook those very real reviews with an extensive introduction from Gingold explaining what had compelled him to save all these clippings to begin with. If you hadn’t already taken the hint or looked around at my website here, I kind of really love reminiscing about my journey in and around the horror genre and the influences it had on me as a child; but hearing it from the mouth of someone who is hugely respected here, and around the horror writing community is pure gold. And I highly urge everyone in this business that picks up this gem to resist the temptation and read what Gingold has to say before going balls deep into the ads. VERY IMPORTANT HERE.

Towards the end of the retro 80’s horror ad road, you’ll find an intriguing closing entitled “The Art of the Sell”- which includes conversations with Terry Levine (President of Aquarius Releasing), and longtime partner and artist Wayne S. Weil who dive into the drive of these ads and putting “asses in theater seats” via these said newsprints.

As you may have gathered already, this book is a definite must-have centerpiece for your house of macabre’s coffee table for any collector of physical horror media. It is both highly stimulating for your retro horror senses, and a wonderful journey of film history through the decade where horror shined like no other era. The book drops tomorrow on Amazon Prime and you can pre-order it here at a discounted price, or directly from 1984 Publishing to obtain a signed copy.

Upcoming Book "Ad Nauseam" Highlights Newsprint Nightmares from the 1980s

Sight Unseen — The Lasting Images of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer

Tobe Hooper once said “I don’t believe in using too much graphic violence, although I’ve done it. It’s better to be suggestive and to allow the viewer to fill in the blanks with their minds.” The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) is not one of the finest horror experiences ever put to film because of on-screen slaughter, but rather the suggestion of bloodshed. The long-lasting effect of Hooper’s direction was borne from the simple presentation of a scenario, the resulting (and very personal) nightmares were conjured entirely within the headspace of whomever laid eyes on it.

The concept isn’t exclusive to TCM, but certainly applies to John McNaughton’s tense tale of a week in the life of a sociopath, 1986’s Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. Though it made its way around film festivals for years, the Motion Picture Association of America’s inability, or unwillingness to give it a straight R-rating delayed its limited theatrical release for 4 years.

As legendary film critic Roger Ebert noted, however, “This film deserves to be seen,” and over the course of more than three decades, it has become essential viewing for horror aficionados everywhere. And not for overt violence, although like Hooper, it had its fair share, but rather for what wasn’t seen.

Make no mistake, the reasons for suggestion in this case were partially due to budgetary and time constraints. However, McNaughton wanted to truly explore the inner workings of Henry’s (Michael Rooker) mind, as well as his relationship with Otis (Tom Towles) and Becky (Tracy Arnold), which meant that on-screen violence would have to be dispersed carefully, but to offer a true glimpse at the danger housed within the protagonist, the film would need to be littered with other misdeeds.

And that is where the power of suggestion entered the equation, in part through the utilization of brilliant music cues strewn throughout by film editor Elena Maganini. Portrait of a Serial Killer’s main theme is composed of the simplistic yet powerful piano chords of Ken Hale, Steven A. Jones and Robert McNaugton that matched Rooker’s icy glare, begging the question, what truly resided beneath the surface.

The horrors left in Henry’s wake were revealed through a series of pan shots, offering a peek behind a veneer that should never come into focus. Again, the issues of budget and time factored into McNaughton’s decision-making, yes, but ultimately the road followed was that which would make the greatest impact, and that avenue was paved by sound editor Cory Coken and post-production sound mixer Ric Coken. The audible screams of victims blended with Henry’s angry commands to “shup up!” underneath ghastly visuals painted a picture that turned blood cold, as viewers were burdened with whatever terror played before their mind’s eye thanks to the macabre melody dancing through their heads.

All which set up McNaughton’s final stroke of genius.

BeckyAfter Henry returned to the apartment to find Otis raping his sister, and the ensuing scuffle that resulted in Otis’ death, Henry’s instinct took over and he dismembered his friend’s body in the bathtub before hitting the road with Becky.

In a wink to the audience, another music cue foretold Becky’s fate, as “Loving you was my mistake” sprang from the radio before the pair reached their roadside motel.

The following morning, pulling to the side of a desolate road in the middle of nowhere, Henry exited his vehicle and waited for cars to pass before he opened the trunk. When it had reached its apex, it was accompanied with a single, ominous piano chord. To that point, there may have been hope that Becky had already been in the car when the vehicle pulled away from the motel, but in that moment, the audience knew.

Henry waited for another car to pass, then glanced over his shoulder to ensure no others were coming, lifted Becky’s blue suitcase, now her tomb, and laid it at the top of a ditch beside his car. Once again, the terrified shrieks of one of Henry’s victims echoed as the luggage connected with the earth below. McNaughton had cinematographer Charlie Lieberman hold the shot, and slowly zoom to the blood-smeared bag, a grotesque exclamation point on a film that has always carried an unsettling tinge of documentary.

As Henry pulled away and the camera closed in, all that was left were the curdling chords of Henry’s theme, and the remains of the one person it appeared Henry may have had the slightest sentiment for. Uncaptured and unpunished, the sounds perfectly encapsulated the unknown of where Henry, or those like him—who unquestionably exist—would head next.

The visceral images of McNaughton’s masterpiece proved too much for many audience members to endure when it first reared its head at film festivals decades ago, and abandoned it to what Ebert described as “the purgatory between [an] R and X [rating].” The film was too powerful and too well done to be contained for long, but for the violence we witnessed, including the devastatingly difficult to digest home invasion segment, it was the intonations left unseen that made Portrait of a Serial Killer so indelible.

They were haunting in 1986, and haunting today.

Henry luggage

You Just Can’t Keep a Good Guy Down: Why the Child’s Play Franchise is Anything but Stale

All honesty, I’ve never been one for rebuttals when it comes to writing about horror. I respect the opinions of others and understand that we won’t all see eye-to-eye very often, if at all. Who’s to say who’s right and who’s wrong?

However, a recent article from 1428 Elm wondered whether the Child’s Play franchise was not only spreading itself thin, but if it was in danger of getting stale.

I cannot abide. So here we go.

Having recently spoken with Child’s Play 2’s (1990) Christine Elise, she used a phrase that struck me, “Don Mancini’s empire.” Though I had never thought of it quite so succinctly, it’s no less true, because it is Mancini who drives the franchise, not Chucky, he’s merely the vehicle.

The man not only created this universe we all know and love, but has written all seven installments, directed the last three, acted as executive producer for Bride of Chucky (1998), and as of this writing, is slated to, at the very least produce the television series.

Child's Play TV seriesAt a glance, it would appear that seven features and an upcoming TV project may appear to be a bit much, maybe even spread thin, but not when you consider that the original film hit theatres in 1988, and we have seen gaps of seven, six, nine and four years from Child’s Play 3 (1991) to the most recent effort, Cult of Chucky (2017).

What’s more, the last two films are the very reason Wade Wainio’s assertions are askew.

Mancini has always possessed perfect pitch when it comes to his franchise, not only in tone and atmosphere, but with what is or is not resonating with the fans. After Child’s Play 3, Mancini felt as though he was beginning to tell the same story over and over, and believed it was time to switch things up. And he was right, 3 didn’t have the same energy as the first two, which led to that first seven-year hiatus. Mancini made the decision to fully embrace the badboy one-liners and humor inherent in his demonic doll, and gave us the thoroughly enjoyable popcorn horror thrill ride that was Bride. And the fans loved it. That Jennifer Tilly entered the equation as Tiffany didn’t hurt one bit because Mancini realized that the time had come to give Chucky a wing-man, or wing-woman as it were. And make no mistake, Tiffany is adored by Child’s Play fans, so that particular call was a stroke of genius. And it wouldn’t be the last.

When Mancini attempted to build on the final frame of Bride with Seed of Chucky (2004), it seemed to fall flat, at least in this writer’s estimation, but as previously stated, I could be wrong, I’m sure there are many who dig the fifth film. That said, the injection of a humor focus worked for Bride, but not so much for Seed, so Mancini again took his time before unleashing the next chapter.

Nine years later, we would find Chucky venturing back to his darker roots with Curse of Chucky (2013), and though we would get our first glimpse of a new Mancini trick – the end credits tease – it wasn’t the hint of Andy’s (Alex Vincent) return that made the film, but rather the introduction of a new character, Nica Pierce. Beyond the rare slasher trait of continuity, something that has always set the Child’s Play franchise apart is the sense of family, not only on-screen, but off. Those who have built this “Mancini empire” truly appear to be a tight-knit group, and what could be more familial than casting Brad Dourif’s daughter to play the human lead? And as we all know, Ms. Dourif didn’t just get the part because she’s Brad’s offspring, she has added layers of vulnerability, strength, emotion and depth that has elevated the entire franchise.

Fiona DourifFrom Curse, the most recent foray was with Cult last year, and pound-for-pound, it may be Mancini’s finest effort yet. Not only was Chucky at his hilariously villainous best, he is now legion, complete with Hannibal references that warm the heart. Fiona again delivered a sensational performance, Tilly was involved, Tiffany made an appearance, and of course, Andy is back in the fold. The story was strong, the writing spot on, it had creative kills, and despite a clinical setting, it was visually pleasing, and the climax had fans aching for what’s next.

Truly think about that last statement. We are talking about a franchise’s seventh film. Typically with such scenarios, we’re off the rails, numerous writers and directors have veered so far from the original vision that it’s almost, if not completely laughable. But Child’s Play is not Hellraiser or Friday the 13th or Children of the Corn, because it’s always had Mancini.

The final few minutes of Cult were eye-bulgingly fantastic. Chucky’s chant finally worked, and when Nica rose from her wheelchair and Ms. Dourif gifted us one of the most spot-on mimics in cinematic history, we felt chills. What is Chucky going to do in that body? Where is he going to go? What awaits down the road?

Fiona as Chucky walked out into the snow to Tilly while Andy was stuck in a cell, most likely to be framed for the slaughterhouse inside the mental health facility, to say nothing of the small army of Good Guy dolls ready to wreak havoc at Nica / Chucky’s command.

The fun didn’t end there, however, because Mancini had one last face-breaking smile left in his bag of tricks. He sent a friend to pay a visit to Chucky’s head, left at Andy’s secluded cabin, and when the sliding door opened and Kyle (Elise) walked in, you could almost hear the squeals of delight from every corner of the country.

Kyle CultEvents, intriguing events, that will lead into the television series, and perhaps the next feature, whenever that might be.

When a franchise spreads itself thin, over-saturation is almost always the culprit. A new movie, shoddily pieced together to make a deadline focused less on quality than a cash grab. And if a television series were to be a thing, it would usually fall sometime during the height of its run, not more than three decades after it began.

Thirty years and seven movies on, that is where the Child’s Play franchise stands. It’s not only alive and well and thriving, but almost incomprehensibly improving the further it wanders from the night we met Charles Lee Ray.

And that’s as far from stale as it gets.

Chucky

Underrated Slashers Presents, Frank Zito of ‘MANIAC!’

Horror takes many shapes and assumes various forms in order to affect us. Be it monsters, killers, or simple catastrophes, horror is there to incarnate both our deepest fears and our darkest sense of humor. By far, the Slasher Genre is my favorite kind of horror to watch, and there are hundreds to choose from out there. So much so that too many of them go overlooked and remain underrated. For that reason I, Manic Exorcism, gladly pull back the tattered veil to shed some sinister light upon these underrated slasher killers.

 

MANIAC (1980)

Why hello again. Come and gather around the hobo fire. Have your pick of any select hooker to scalp (they always come in plenty around this side of town), because today on Underrated Slashers we’re heading into some very sketchy places and getting extra sleazy, my little Nasties. Today we’ll be looking at one of the 80’s all-time best slasher films, William Lustig’s MANIAC!

The world of Frank Zito is a vile one indeed. One of the uncontrollable desires, lust, a cruel obsession for the flesh, and – above all else – murder. Brought to us by the larger-than-life performance of Joe Spinell , Frank Zito’s is a tale of atrocities and tragedy. A man controlled by need and ruled by his addiction. An addiction not for narcotics, no, but for something far more seductive. The addiction for perfection and beauty. The lovely victims who fall prey under his serrated knife are not innocent, at least not in his diluted sight. Afterall, they were told not to go out tonight.

The Midwest Film Journal
image via The Midwest Film Journal

The 80’s were the golden years of the Slasher Genre. Ah Hell, that decade gave birth to the genre. That was the golden age of Freddy, Jason, Leatherface and Michael Myers! When the big baddies wet the screens red with the blood of the innocent, and we fucking loved it! That’s also the decade that was pumping out slashers on nearly a weekly basis, so much so that we could barely keep up with them. Sadly, as the bigger names were given limitless sequels as their box office success rose like the smoke off a cannibal pyre, there were single films that got woefully overlooked in the great crowd of murder and mayhem. And by no means does that mean these lesser-knowns were in any way inferior. Quite the contrary, as in the case of MANIAC, often times they were either equal to or superior to the hell unleashed upon Elm Street or Crystal Lake.

rotten tomatoes
image via Rotten Tomatoes

In the case of Frank Zito, the blood was realistic and the outcome was gruesome. As a matter of fact, this may very well be one of the most unpleasant films in the genre to sit through. You can feel the humidity of this film. I swear at times you can even smell it. You get that rancid stench of neglected trash filling the undercity’s gutters, and the odor of cheap cologne mingled with heavy sweat just permeates nearly every scene. It kinda smells like Old Spice and spicy sausage with a hint of uncontrollable BO.

Make no mistake, this is a very dirty movie. Every minute of the film makes damn sure you understand that. It’s a film that makes you want to shower after watching it, and fuck it all that’s why I love it! Few movies can have that kind of an effect on an audience.

Life Between Frames
image via Life Between Frames

We do not simply watch Frank Zito’s life, we are thrust into it. We walk the darkly wet streets with him. We sit in the corner of his dingy flat, and we are up close and personal with his obscenities.

ORIGINS

Every good serial killer must have a beginning, thus keeping that ancient riddle of nature vs. nurture alive – are maniacs born or built? In Frank’s case, we learn that he was constantly abused by his prostitute mother, and honestly, there is a wide-open door left here for us to explore the psychology of a killer through studying our nasty friend, Franky.

scumcinema
image via scumcinema

So, with Freddy we have a child killer who was provoked by his alcoholic father’s sadism, in Jason, we have an innocent child who was bullied, picked on, then left to drown, but who also had an overly-loving mother who was ready and all-too-willing to kill for her beloved Jason. Frank Zito was victim to his mother’s sick perversities. Zito had no supernatural powers, but he kept New York City in a grip of scarlet terror and still proves to be just as deadly as his fellow murderers.

I’ve said it before, but really that’s the kind of killer that makes us all squirm. They live in the flat down the hall, just like Dahmer. They aren’t the type we’d want to spend an afternoon with, but we would never expect to find a hidden museum of the macabre waiting behind their locked doors.

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image via bocadoinferno

And trust me – and without giving anything away – Frank has a grotesque little shrine built out of sin itself. For gorehounds, this is a film you won’t want to pass up! For slasher freaks, this is one underrated hit you have to finally see.

Recently, MANIAC has been enjoying a much-needed revival thanks to my friends over at Eibon Press. They specialize in bringing the crassness of grindhouse classics back to life with new twists and insidious depth. Their first issue of MANIAC is a must-have for any fan of the sleazy classic. And for the truest of sickies, issue 2 promises to pit Frank Zitto against the New York Ripper himself. So holy fuck! It’s a manic dream come true! To read more on the insane awesomeness of Eibon Press please click here and see what you’ve been missing in your life.

Wicked Horror
image via Wicked Horror

So there you have it, my Nasties. Frank Zito is out there in the dark corners of your world. He waits in the shadows and looks out through wild eyes of craven lust. Once he decides to strike there is no escape. So be careful when you walk away from here, and always keep your head turned towards those grimy alleyways, that parking garage you think is empty, or, if you’re really unlucky, outside your front door.

Missing the Jim and Pam of Horror

“For a really long time, that’s all I had. I just had little moments with a girl who saw me as a friend. And a lot of people told me I was crazy to wait this long for a date with a girl who I worked with, but I think even then I knew that, I was waiting for my wife.”

The parallels between the goals relationship of Jim Halpert (John Krasinski) and Pam Beesly (Jenna Fischer) from The Office and Ash vs Evil Dead’s Kelly Maxwell (Dana DeLorenzo) and Pablo Simon Bolivar (Ray Santiago) are staggering.

Both had their fair share of flirtation and near misses, laughs, jealousies, and tender moments, and it even took both couples three years to realize that they were perfect for one another. As DeLorenzo told me in an interview before Season 2, “Just make out already!”

The will they / won’t they approach is not a new strategy in television, but damned if they don’t have audiences pining for hook-ups when done correctly. And if we’re honest, what we miss most about the band of merry misfits from both Scranton, Pennsylvania and Elks Grove, Michigan are not Michael Scott (Steve Carell) or Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell), but watching and waiting as relationships we rooted for came to fruition.

Santiago played the role of hopeless romantic (aka Halpert) from the very moment we heard him refer to Kelly in AVED’s pilot episode. “She haunts my dreams. Just kidding. She does, though.” Much like Pam, however, Kelly saw Pablito as a confidant, saying “You’re like a brother, so sweet. How could I ever look at you that way?”

ash-vs-evil-dead-season-3-pablo-ash-kelly-second-coming-finale-2So it went over three seasons and thirty episodes, but glimmers of hope sprang up throughout the journey. Both Kelly and Pablo got a little jelly in bookend seasons, when Heather (Samara Weaving) showed near the conclusion of its initial campaign, and with the emergence of Dalton (Lindsay Ferris) for the Ghostbeaters’ swan song. It’s a sensation that can only be generated when one feels a profound connection to another, whether acted upon or not. But make no mistake, both Kelly and Pablo (much like Jim and Pam) felt their relationship unique, that they belonged to one another, and others were only temporary obstacles delaying the inevitable. Albeit, such sentiments were a bit more overt from the men.

For years we witnessed the pair compliment one another. Kelly made Pablo stronger, and he was the only person who could wear down her hardened exterior to reveal the vulnerability housed within. They supported one another from (kinda sorta) afar, not unlike our favorite pair from Dunder Mifflin, but when the chips were down, they never came out swingin’ as when they felt someone, or something, was messin’ with their person.

CXUKWhen she felt that Ruby (Lucy Lawless) wasn’t being upfront with Ash’s right-hand man, Kelly offered pep talk after pep talk to instill Pablo with confidence and the belief that he was, in fact, her powerful vagina, the El Brujo Especial. And for as lovable and hesitant as Pablo appeared throughout most of the series, those times he stepped up without a second thought, were to protect Maxwell.

Think back to a scene at the Elks Grove Police Department in Season 2 when Chet (Ted Raimi) wondered aloud if Baal (Joel Tobeck) hadn’t actually commandeered Kelly’s body, to which Pablo immediately turned to walk toward Williams’ lifelong pal and said “Hey Ash, I think you need to tell your friend to shut the fuck up!”

While Jim and Pam dealt with other suitors and the jealousies that came with them,  they never endured life-threatening situations, but the nature of the Evil Dead universe — that loved ones die — was what kept the two apart for so long, and ultimately what brought them together.

The enemy for Halpert and Beesly was Pam’s indecisiveness and inability to realize she deserved happiness and to take a chance on something that was only five feet from her her desk. What finally pushed Pablo and Kelly over the finish line was not the idea of losing their person to another, but of losing them entirely. So why the fuck not?

KissWe waited roughly 26 episodes to finally see that kiss DeLorenzo had ranted about the season before when she was unsure that Pablo would emerge from a vision, and was so overwhelmed with emotion she pulled him in to express her true feelings. Pablo hummed when their lips locked, because even a patient man is human. Lest we forget, Kelly blamed Ruby for nearly losing her man and growled “Fuck with my Pablo, fuck with me. And I am done bein’ fucked with, Ruby.”

And when Kelly returned from the rift, Pablito believing her to be dead, tearfully hovered over her body and shared “Descansa en paz, mi amor (Rest in peace, my love).” When Kelly jolted awake, thinking she had to fight her way out of another jam, Pablo grabbed her to ensure that she was safe, and offered a tender kiss to calm her fears. The two locked eyes with a smile, and in that moment, we knew there was no going back. It was official. Though Ash and Brandy (Arielle Carver-O’Neill) laid the final bricks of a joke the show had been building for three years, “Filthy and not fine.”

Kelly and Pablo made us laugh, they made us cry, they made us yearn for two people who didn’t even exist to get together, because truth be told, there simply aren’t many horror couples that stand out, and damn it, we wanted this one. They began as friends, knowing and trusting one another completely. They cared for one another, they supported one another, and they challenged the other to be the best versions of themselves. In the end, that’s what true partners do.

The magical nature of their on-screen relationship was not lost on Santiago, who took to Instagram after the series finale to say “…my love for [DeLorenzo] and everything you brought to the table will never die. Always a semi in my pants for #Kelly Maxwell!”

Though we won’t be lucky enough to see where Kelly and Pablo progressed from their own version of popping in to interrupt an interview with “OK…it’s a date,” we’d seen enough to know that Pam’s words rang true.

“When you’re a kid, you assume your parents are soulmates. My kids are going to be right about that.”

Stand-up

Dear Mr. Peanut, Where Are My Planters Cheez Balls?

It’s as if for years, I’ve wished and prayed to countless Foodie Gods for the return of my favorite childhood snack only to have it dangled in my face and then ripped away like some cruel joke.

Why you do this to me?

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Last month, I spread the joyful gospel from Mr. Peanut himself about the wonderful, and HIGHLY ANTICIPATED return of one of the greatest snacks from our youths- the greasy, and delectable Planters Cheez Ball! Of course, much like with the limited run of the 2016 Ecto Cooler, it wasn’t readily available anywhere and with that Ghostbusters Reboot publicity stunt, it took a massive effort to get my hands on some. However, my efforts were not in vain and I did manage to enjoy that concentrated childhood relic. Now in the matter of the mighty Cheez Ball that many have attempted to duplicate, and never come close, it seems as if I’ve been duped entirely.

As reported from the Planters website on the whereabouts of said Cheez Balls, there were to be available July 1st at select Wal-Mart stores and through Amazon Prime Pantry. Albeit, you had to buy a case of 12 from Amazon if you went that route, but at $24 for a bundle of twelve, it wasn’t a rip-off and seemed like a good investment for a family of four. Bonus, the spawns would have a treat in their school lunch bags for the next few months. Anyways, with a guaranteed delivery date of July 18th, I patiently awaited once again the joys of orange, dusty fingertips only to be greeted with a dreaded message from Amazon that my order would not be fulfilled with no explanation other than it was not available at this time.

And I’m kind of pissed off about that, Mr. Peanut. Also, you’ve managed to enrage an entire consumer base who had the same experience as yours truly here.

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So what exactly happened here? I’ve made several attempts of reaching out to Planters to get some kind of answer, coming up with nothing but silence from the beloved monocle-wearing mascot that promised cheezy goodness and came up, well, kind of short. It may be the company itself didn’t realize the demand of these suckers and just couldn’t supply enough for consumer needs. However, I have a hard time being convinced this is the case. Seeing as how petitions have been flying all over the interwebs for years clamoring for the snack’s return. I also don’t want to believe this was some sort of PR stunt to get everyone excited only to blue-ball most of America with an extremely limited supply. because really, if you’re searching at Wal-Mart, chances are you’re probably not going to find that wonderful endcap unless you’re extremely lucky and happen to live in the ONE area of your state that is carrying them. In which case, consider yourself blessed. Because the rest of us are totally jonesing over here like a crack-fiend unable to get a fix.

While I’ve yet to get an answer from Planters on whether I’ll actually ever see a delivery or any future plans of bringing these suckers back permanently so we can ALL get a taste of childhood once again, I’ve taste-tested a variety of cheese balls in order to find the closest taste to that wonderful Planters brand. The answer guys are HERRS Cheese Balls. Right hand to the Foodie Gods, these little balls of sunshine are about the closest I’ve ever tasted to the Planters ball of glory. So, if you’re hankering for a decent Cheese Ball, Herrs is the way to go.

In the meantime, I still sit and wait for an answer Mr. Peanut. We’re all waiting.

Old School Kaiju Fans Rejoice! Newest ‘GODZILLA: King of the Monsters’ Trailer and Images Reveal Some Titanic Icons!

When I was like three or four my Granny sewed together a hand-made Godzilla suit. It was AWESOME too! It had dorsal spines and a tail that swayed back and forth with perfect balance as my unsullied imagination took me to far off places where I truly became one with the Kaiju, the very embodiment of Godzilla himself. And it was up to me to battle the three-headed terror from Outer Space, King Ghidorah.

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Godzilla is probably my very earliest (and certainly among my fondest) memories and was my introduction to the roaring world of monsters! I couldn’t get enough. One Christmas all I asked Santa for was Godzilla movies! I squealed like a maniac when I unwrapped the colorful packaging and pulled away the shoe-box lid (because Santa back in Minford, Ohio was just that kind of classy) and saw Godzilla vs Mecha Godzilla AND Godzilla vs Monster Zero! I still own those tapes today, and they continually remind me of happier days.

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I never thought I would get a good modernized Godzilla film. So in 1998, I had my ticket bought and my butt in a seat just dying with anticipation to see a new Godzilla movie…then walked away feeling kicked in the butt. That was not Godzilla, and fuck if we didn’t all know that.

Honestly, didn’t look like we would ever see a modern Godzilla film.

Old School Kaiju Fans Rejoice! Newest 'GODZILLA: King of the Monsters' Trailer Reveals Some Titanic Icons!
image via ComicBook

Then in 2014, Gareth Edwards (dir. Monsters) made the impossible possible! Godzilla, the true-to-life Godzilla we were waiting for, came alive! I loved the movie. Still, though, I was missing my Mothra and Rodan. However, I hoped they may show up in future movies.

You know what? Sometimes life doesn’t suck so bad. It’s those little things that make us smile, and we’re getting one of those moments next May. Michael Dougherty (dir. Trick ‘r Treat, Krampus) is giving fans what we want. He’s bringing the monsters we grew up with to the screen like we’ve never seen before. Dougherty seems like one of us. Judging by his track record I get a feeling he grew up just like we did, watching and loving the same things that made us clap and squeal. So this Godzilla sequel feels more and more like a film made by a fan for the fans of yesteryear.

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image via ComicBook

Next year Godzilla will be joined by Mothra (Eeeeeeeee!), Rodan, and the4 chiefest of all Godzilla’s deadliest foes, King Ghidorah!

I can hardly believe it. Today the latest trailer dropped and we caught glimpses of these beautiful colossi.

Dark Horizons
image via Dark Horizons

All I can say is this looks like it’ll be a battle of the titans that will bring down mountains. And I can’t wait to relive a little bit of my childhood next May.

Thanks for always checking with us for those warm feelings of yesteryear as we look forward to the future.

Manic, out.