Category Archives: Editorials

Monsterpalooza 2018 – A Celebration of Horror at its Finest

Welcome back my lovely ghouls and grizzlies, you just couldn’t stay away, could you? I’m touched. And what great timing on your behalf. I’ve just freshly returned from the long trek back from Pasadena. What compelled me to brave seven hours on the road? What led my nocturnal steps so far south where the sun shines hot and bright? Monsterpalooza of course!

That’s right. My annual sojourn to be with my fellow monsters, freaks, beasts, and family has once more come and (so sadly) gone, and from it, I am loaded down with so many more fond memories. Each year the convention offers us, visitors, a rich diabolical alchemy of old-time fuzzy feelings that hit all the right spots as we relive our favorite horrors from times past. The convention also provides plenty of encouragement as we stand witness to the future plans for our beloved genre and are reminded that horror is thriving. Monsterpalooza masterfully balances the nostalgic tug with the modern progression of horror.

 

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In short, and in case you’ve never had the pleasure of attending yet, Monsterpalooza has something for everyone.

The Featured Guests

As with any convention you can expect to meet a favorite celebrity or two. Although many fans have complained about the cost of autographs I still argue the worth of the experience alone. For example, I’ve now had the chance to meet Kane Hodder (Friday the 13th 7-X, Hatchet 1-3, Deathhouse) a few times now, and each time is a blast. You’ll not meet a better man anywhere. He’s very much all about the fans and is all-too-happy to take the time to talk to each one of them.

Funny enough this year I got Kane to sing for me. I almost told him that Bruce Campbell (Evil Dead, Maniac Cop, Army of Darkness, Ash vs Evil Dead) called him an asshole last I met up with the Chin, but I felt it might be better kept for a future conversation.

Now among all the celebs I met this year, I have to say one of the highlights was meeting with Judith O’Dea, Barbara from Night of the Living Dead. What a glamorous lady.  A true star, and so very personal and warm.

 

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As far as the stars all go though I’ve never once had a bad experience with any of them, and this marks the 5th year I’ve attended Monsterpalooza. But that goes for any star I’ve met at all the conventions I’ve now attended. So is it worth standing in line and handing over your hard-earned cash just to say hi and get a signature? Yes, because they will treat your time with respect.

Panels

To my shame, I don’t attend these as much as I probably should. I’m usually in line to meet someone or busy with my friends and haunting my favorite vendors ( and saying goodbye to my money). I just miss the panels. That being said though, I did hit the tale-end of the Full Moon panel and heard their upcoming announcements. Of course, most know about the imminent Puppet Master reboot. They said the film will have a theatric run, so if you’re a fan be sure to follow them for updates. Full Moon also announced that – and with Stuart Gordon’s blessings – they will be rebooting Castle Freak in the near future.

The Monsterpalooza Museum

This is a must for everyone who attends. This museum features the best talents that our genre has to offer. You’ll see the painstaking work of some insanely gifted artists who brought our favorite movie moments to life in full-size replication straight out of the scariest movies out there! In this house of wax, you’ll stand eye to eye with creatures all-too lifelike. The museum alone is worth the price of admission.

 

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Something To Look Out For

A new Halloween themed movie will be released on home video this coming September. I’m very excited to get my hands on this one. It’s a creature feature that prides itself with some beautiful practical effects and sports the talents of Doug Jones (The Shape of Water, Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth) once more.

 

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Criticism

I only have one complaint about this year’s convention. They overbooked weekend ticket sells, I was one of the unfortunate souls, and Saturday became a big ugly hassle for many, many visitors. And I mean ugly, like dead hooker rotting in the bottom of a dumpster bin’s maggot bed ugly.  I would urge the great minds behind Monsterpalooza to be better organized in the years to come. This convention proves to grow bigger each year, and they need to plan more accordingly to suit the demands. They need to figure out a better way to handle the lines. For example, prepaid ticket holders should get in quicker rather than being stuck waiting outside half-an-hour after the convention opens it doors.

 

Pretty simple. And best to not overbook next time. The last thing we want is for people to have a miserable time and spend most of the con standing in line. There are already a lot of those to put up with.

The Vendors

But let’s end on a positive note. Let’s hear it for the vendors! These guys are out there all weekend, they’ve shelled out $500 for a table and they are selling us some of the finest horror merch we’ll ever get our hands on. So take it from me, if you’re planning for a horror con be sure to save some money. You will see things you will want to buy.

Obscure and rare movies (VHS, DVD, Blu-ray) are one of my favorite obsessions. If you want nostalgia for those little movies or Halloween specials you’ve not seen in a long time, this is your stop. This year I bought a DVD that’s just a bunch of extras from Freddy’s Dead that were never released on either DVD or Blu-Ray. It even comes with some old promos for Call Freddy! Awww memories.

I also picked up some brilliant artwork! Soon there will be no wall in my study, only masterpieces of the macabre. I couldn’t be happier.

I’d like to send a personal shout out to a great store, Time Tunnel Toys. These two have never failed to impress me over the years. They are regulars at Monsterpalooza and the nicest couple you’ll have the pleasure of meeting. Time Tunnel Toys is what Nightmare Nostalgia lives off of: those happy blasts from the past and warm memories of Saturday Mornings. TTT thrives on all of that and gives us a way to relive those happy days.

Finally, this year I had the pleasure of picking up a Gates of Hell comic from Eibon Press. I do not exaggerate when I say I now have a new obsession. These comics have won my dark heart over and I cannot get enough of them. Luckily, we have the option to order online, but I really enjoyed meeting the madman behind the macabre. I love seeing horror fans giving fellow fans what they want. That’s what Eibon is in the business of doing. How to explain these comics, hmmm? Ok, think the raw violence of Crossed with the gritty art style of early Spawn. I’m not making it up, it’s that amazing!

Monsterpalooza is my favorite con to attend and very much worth a visit for any horror fan. It’s the event of the year for many of us. It’s certainly one I am always happy to go to but sorry to have to leave. To me, it’s like returning home in a way. I have friends there who are just family. With that said: Frank, thanks for a great weekend! Our paths can’t cross again soon enough. Love ya, buddy.

This has been yours truly, Manic Exorcism. I’ll be catching you again next time, lovelies.

The Only Word Worthy of Kelly Maxwell

WARNING: If you have not seen “Tales from the Rift,” turn back now. There are spoilers afoot.

Twenty-six episodes. More than two-and-a-half seasons of Ash vs Evil Dead have brought me to the realization that I still lack the vocabulary to capably describe Dana DeLorenzo as Kelly Maxwell.

Thoughts of Ambrose Redmoon’s declaration that “courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear” danced through my head, but soon faded because that too, was an insufficient concept.

Do I go with brave or tough, intelligent or loyal? Perhaps referring to her as a leader, vigorous or formidable?

How could a single word encapsulate one of the strongest women in horror history, when so many adjectives apply?

It was a challenge, to be sure, but inspired by Friday the 13th’s finest final girl (Amy Steel), I came to the conclusion that I had to “think beyond the legend,” and “put it in real terms.”

Dana DeLorenzo’s Kelly was uncompromising.

From our “El Jefe” introduction to her epic showdown with Ruby (Lucy Lawless) in Sunday’s “Tales from the Rift,” we watched a young woman grow from grieving daughter to unyielding warrior, and never give an inch.

What set Kelly apart was that she was anything but one dimensional. A badass to be sure, but one who never veered from the deepest vestiges of who she was – loving and loyal to her boys Pablo (Ray Santiago) and Ash (Bruce Campbell) – and always willing to do what needed to be done. Maxwell was the personification of Redmoon’s maxim, tossing fear aside because her new family and the fate of the world were more important than the uncertainty of her own survival.

DeLorenzo stood face-to-face with evil, the cabin, militiamen, cops, demon spawn and finally Ruby, and never blinked. And though Maxwell’s own sense of revenge was the catalyst to forging her own path, that swelled over time.

While ridding the world of Deadites, Kelly took the time to comfort Linda Emery (Michell Hurd), offer tough, motherly words that Brandy (Arielle Carver-O’Neill) needed to hear, and inspire Pablito to believe that he was, in fact, the powerful vagina he was destined to become.

And in the end, with Ruby at the height of her ruthless power, it was Kelly who bore the weight of protector on her shoulders, and her shoulders alone. With no guarantee that she’d endure the day, Maxwell decided to take the battle to Ruby for Pablo. And Ash. And Brandy. And her parents. Because to Kelly’s thinking, no one, not her loved ones or anyone else’s, should have to suffer the pain of loss ever again. And if she could stop it, then she would not hesitate to embrace the opportunity, while sparing those she cherished the danger of putting their own lives on the line.

That was Kelly Maxwell’s identity. An uncompromising fighter and friend, who never altered who or what she stood for, or how she lived her life — for anything or anyone — not anguish, adversity, or evil. She lived, loved and laughed, with an eye forever on the prize of end game; the focused leader to Ash’s reluctant, fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants Chosen One.

She went out on her terms, doing everything within her considerable capability to save those who had her heart, while the Evil Dead fandom watched through teary eyes as an uncompromised, almost imperceptible smile turned her lips before she breathed her last.

It was a good death.

Controversy of ‘The Last Temptation of Christ’

“The Dual Substance of Christ… has always been a deep inscrutable mystery to me. … In order to mount to the Cross, the summit of sacrifice, and to God, the summit of immateriality, Christ passed through all the stages which the man who struggles passes through. That is why his suffering is so familiar to us.”

– Nikos Kazantzakis, The Last Temptation of Christ

 

In honor of the current holiday, I thought I’d take a moment of reflection for one of the most emotionally charged films in my entire library – The Last Temptation of Christ. Filmed by Hollywood’s legendary Martin Scorsese, this movie dared to take on one of the most violently hated novels of our modern era. Based on the imperial book written by Nikos Kazantzakis, The Last Temptation of Christ tells us the beauty of the Gospel through an entirely new and never-to-be-repeated manner. For that reason, I feel this movie has earned a tremendous cult attraction among thousands while also offending devout practitioners of the evangelical Christian persuasion.

 

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image via Nolan Fans

 

Rest assured, I may be a theologian, but this will not be a religious discussion. You have no worries of me evangelizing to you through this. I merely want to praise the daring work of a magnificent film, one that manages to stir the souls of believers and nonbelievers alike. Which, if we’re being honest, is one hell of an accomplishment.

 

Daring. Bold. Controversial.

These all three manage to describe this film’s immense merits.

 

Beautiful. Heart-rendering. Tragic.

These are also the great weights of the movie’s glory.

 

Solemn. Celebratory. Triumphant!

This journey of the Christ instills in the viewer a mighty swell of victory once we reach that final heart-pounding moment. It is a victory summed up with a humble smile and three sacred words.

“It is accomplished.”

Words which echo across Time and have marked their place in History as deeply spiritual landmarks for millions of souls.

The movie accomplishes its goal in a steady and determined march, and that’s what this movie really does feel like – a march, a defying-all-the-costs parade of Christ and twelve other individuals who would have their names etched upon the pillars of mankind’s religious history. This was ultimately a death march though, and no matter how many of them might try, there would be absolutely no wavering from that looming imminent finale. The march began with one single individual who inspires others, and they soon join and follow him. The march leads them to Jerusalem where, for a time, the following grows and becomes a multitude. But all too soon it dwindles to just four – the Christ and his three Apostles – in Gethsemane, and , ultimately, becomes only one – the very same one who started the movement three years previously, who will find himself beaten, abandoned, and alone to face death as he is lifted up, stapled between Heaven and Earth, the essential totem of Grace, a sacrifice for those he loves.

 

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image via Blu-ray.com

 

This is only some of the heart of Scorsese’s gripping masterpiece of love, death, and ultimately unyielding life.

 

In The Beginning

On the Criterion Collection’s release of the film, Scorsese admits he always wanted to make a big-time biblical epic about the life of Jesus of Nazareth. Originally, Scorsese says he was heavily influenced by the larger-than-life works of Cecil B. DeMille. With movies like The Ten Commandments in mind, Scorsese dreamed of matching that level of grandeur someday.

 

 

Scorsese also says he wanted it to be a black and white film, something that (I can only speculate now) would have looked like a Gustave Dore work of art come vividly to life. Undoubtedly that would have been breathtaking, but, admittedly, there already was a black and white Jesus epic out there – King of Kings, which is another Criterion Collection release.

Scorsese’s original vision for his future Passion work was later redefined upon seeing Pier Paolo Pasolini’s critically acclaimed The Gospel of St. Matthew. Yup, that means Pasolini, the director of Salo: 120 Days of Sodom, indirectly influenced what we now have as The Last Temptation of Christ. The work of one fervent visionary sparked the inspiration of another and maybe there was something in the air, but people were just damn creative back then.

 

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image via IMDB

 

Scorsese changed his epic into a powerfully humble character study and focused that study on the Son of God. He didn’t have his core story until Barbara Hershey (Black Swan, Damien, The Entity) gave him a copy of Kazantzakis’ mystical novel and told him he needed to film this story, and (kindly) demanded to play Mary Magdalen, a role she fills dramatically.

The movie was a go. Paramount greenlit the work, but then the Moral Majority of America got wind of the project and threw a fit. The studio feared some very ugly protests and on Thanksgiving Day, 1983, Scorsese was told his Jesus movie was canceled. The film wasn’t even out the door and its protesters were already screaming blasphemy. Scorsese had to cut the budget back if he wanted his passion-project to see the light of day. Universal would later pick up the rights and the movie was a go once again. But people still fought it tooth and nail.

 

The Great Controversy

So was the controversy of the film justified? Honestly, the subject matter of the movie has always been a subject of controversy – Jesus. In the Gospel record itself, the Son of God is tremendously controversial. In Jesus, we have a Prophet who claims to be Incarnate God and vows to bridge the gulf between humanity’s soul and the divine by using only three nails and two pieces of wood. It is an outrageous claim, one only the God-Man could fulfill. Jesus does just that.  Society didn’t know what to make of Him. And, if we’re being real, society still doesn’t.

 

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image via metacafe

 

There is a definite idea of who the Messiah needs to be, and if that idea doesn’t match people’s preconceived expectations there is going to be an uproar. And an ugly one at that.

So is the film justifiably controversial?

 

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When you have a Jesus film that opens with Jesus building a cross for another man to be crucified, yeah that is going to ruffles some feathers. Well, Jesus was a carpenter after all, and seeing him build a cross that will hang a man guilty of sedition is somehow amazing. This movie presents us with a Christ who is just doing his job. Before he was called Messiah he was just a regular guy making a living. Therein lies the key genius of this movie.

Christ was like one of us. He felt fear and then proved his strength by facing fear. In this movie, he didn’t want to be Christ, but he couldn’t deny being the Son of the living God. It’s a horror story in a way. Think of it: what if you woke up one day and learned God was your father? You were meant to be the Savior of all mankind, but in order to do that, you had to die as a sacrifice. Oh! And you couldn’t just die, but you had to be crucified, the most horrific and painful death invented out of man’s most heinous imaginations.

 

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image via FictionMachine

 

That’s scary! That’s the story behind Last Temptation. A Jesus who is God become Man. God, Eternal Almighty Jehovah, the I AM, become flesh, beautifully and wonderfully human. One of us, just like we are told in St. John 1:14. This film explores the sacred (and often overlooked) humanity of the Savior.

As a man, all he wants is to live a happy life. Marry the woman he loves, drink with friends and laugh in a good company. He wants to build a home and raise a family. He wants to kiss his grandchildren on the head and close his eyes in death knowing he has led a full life – just like a man. That is his greatest Temptation. The amazing drama of the Christ is the fact he is BOTH Man and God, so as a man he wants to live with those he loves, but as God, he must die to redeem their eternal souls.

 

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image via IMDB

 

That is the heart of this movie. It is real and raw human emotions springing from the Gospel record. I stress this is not the Gospel, and the filmmakers make that known from the opening title. But this is a celebration of the Gospel’s triumph.

I say that because I grew up in a home that discouraged me from seeing this movie. My parents were missionaries over in Russia, and so I grew up in a very religious home. We did watch religious-based films, but Last Temptation was on the forbidden list. This and The Omen were the top no, nos. Well, shit if those two films weren’t the very ones I had to see though!

I was expecting to see a gross depiction of my Savior, something that would mock up the Christian faith and damage any one’s personal belief upon viewing it. My first reaction though was admiration for how tenderly they depict Jesus. Willem Dafoe steps into the Messiah’s shoes (sandals) and presents us with a very real and very likable Christ. He doesn’t feel far away and distant, but all too real. Someone you could approach without fear of being denied. Before seeing this film, Dafoe isn’t a top choice I’d think of for such a role, but now I can’t imagine anyone else playing this pivotal part.

 

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image via Criterion

 

I can’t neglect to mention the other roles mastered in this film. As I said, Dafoe is wonderful for his part, but he is joined by some other titanic performances. Harvey Keitel joins us as Judas Iscariot, the man who will be forever marked as the Traitor of Christ. Unlike any other Jesus movie though, Judas is very close to his Rabbi. At times it feels as if he alone gets what Jesus’ mission has to be. The others are ready to take over all of Jerusalem and (eventually) overthrow their Roman conquerors. Judas, on the other hand, is listening and asking questions.

 

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image via Cinema Viewfinder

 

One of the most powerful moments from the movie transpires between both Jesus and Judas. Jesus knows his fate is at hand, that he must be crucified. He takes Judas aside and tells Judas that he has to be the one who turns the Son of Man over to the soldiers. Judas weeps when he realizes his role in this eternal epic is to ‘betray’ his Master.

In a minor role (but incredibly impactful) David Bowie becomes our Pilate. His interaction with Dafoe’s Jesus was filmed in one day but you’d never know any different. “You’re more dangerous than the Zealots, do you know that?” he asks the condemned Christ with an air of cynicism in his gestures. The confrontation is short but it somehow lingers in our memory. It’s also a scene that then leads us into one of the most emotionally charged Passion scenes depicted on film. Peter Gabriel’s score, something that elevates this movie a hundredfold, simply outdoes itself during this entire painful process. When Jesus is shouldering his cross you’ll feel as though the weight of the whole world is on his shoulders.

Have a listen for yourself.

 

Finally, the movie is a work of art come to life. Scorsese admits that he used lighting to try and accentuate the visuals as best they could to harken back to some of the finest art of the Reni séance Age.

 

Final Thoughts

The movie is a masterpiece. It’s a Jesus story unlike any you’ll ever see. Sure, we all feel as if we know the saga of the Messiah, but this film does offer us a story angle we’ve never been introduced to yet. We see the heart of God through the humanity of Christ Jesus. This movie may not be the Gospel account, but it does manage to present us a lot of that self-same heart. Personally, this and Gibson’s own controversial film Passion of the Christ are two common staples to watch each Easter. Both movies offer my inspiration something unique, disturbing, and remarkable.

If you’ve not seen this movie (or if it’s been a while) let yourself taste a little bit of spiritual inspiration and give this one a watch. This has been Manic Exorcism. Have a Happy Easter, a Great Passover, and I’ll be catching you all soon enough. Try not to eat too many tasty chocolate bunnies. That’ll make you sluggish and too easy to hunt, and where’s the fun in that?

March to the Grave: The Vision of Romero and Fulci

Welcome back, my little creepies! Just can’t get enough of the dearly departed, now can you? Well, that’s perfectly alright with me. I love the dead too, you know.

Today we’ll be delving even further into the dripping depths of this rancid crypt of the living dead. The worm dieth not here as we expound upon the very threshold of Hell’s widening maul. The lights are dim and Death is restless as we take a look back at two extraordinary horror masters and the connection between both of their nightmarish visions. The original infection that began in the mind of George Romero would spread across the globe and finally mutate in the fetid imagination of Lucio Fulci, and zombie mania became unstoppable thanks to both men’s fiendish contributions.

In The Beginning, There was NIGHT

 

The late George Romero managed to do something few creative minds in the field of horror ever have the good fortune to accomplish. He invented a new monster, a monster that tore away taboos and desecrated the sanctity of the restful grave. Without explanation, the dead rose from the cold soil and stalked friends, lovers, and family without prejudice. We, the unfortunate living, were prey for a fresh new nightmare, a nightmare that took the globe by storm and essentially gave way to an entire sub-genre. That same sub-genre persists to this day with no sign of hesitation in sight.

It should be noted that Paw Paw Romero was well aware that zombies had already appeared in cinema. However, those zombies were worlds apart from what we now know them as. Growing up, Romero saw movies involving Haitian zombies, men or women, unfortunately, who have fallen victim to some very dark voodoo magic. They were will-less slaves lumbering about with wide-eyed abandon to serve their master’s beck and call.

Did Romero intend to reinvent these helpless creatures? Aw hell no, and he would be the first to correct us should we argue any differently. George Romero did not set out to create a zombie movie, but rather he wanted to create a whole new kind of monster – ghouls! Being the learned man that he was, Paw Paw Romero was quite aware that ghouls in folklore were known to haunt mist-shrouded graveyards and feed their sensational gluttony among the dead. It was his genius to bend the rules (just a  little bit) to his own liking and make the ghouls of his movie be the actual dead freshly risen from the graves and set about with an insatiable craving for warm human flesh.

With that idea in mind Night of the Living Dead was made and a new genre was begotten. Romero’s ghouls were an instant hit as audiences screamed their lungs out and watched under a veil of tears as the victims on screen desperately fought a hopeless battle for their very lives, with increasing fever to just survive the dire night of merciless carnage.

Audiences embraced Romero’s monsters, but with one condition. By and large, people accepted them as zombies and not as ghouls. Ask most people today and even still they’ll say it’s a zombie movie. I’ve never really heard Romero had any qualms with that either. His vision was a success and he did accomplish creating a new type of nightmare to scare us shitless.

With the insistence of fellow horror genius – Dario Argento (Suspiria, Deep Red) – Romero was invited to Italy where he would sit down and lay the groundwork for what many (even still to this day) consider the greatest horror movie of all time – Dawn of the Dead. For many fans, Dawn of the Dead became their favorite scary movie, and for good reason. The movie includes a little bit of everything for anyone.

 

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Relentless, cruel and still good-natured, this was Romero’s answer to his original vision of dread. The movie would be in color this time around meaning all the blood would be quite noticeable. It would also feature the ingenious work of special FX legend, Tom Savini who has spent a lifetime exploring ways to show us death in the most visually violent ways as possible.

Romero welcomed us all to the Apocalypse!

 

Nightmare on Film Street
image via Nightmare on Film Street

 

From the very opening scene, Romero impresses upon the audience a world that has lost all control. We are introduced to the Apocalypse from a news broadcasting room livid with very real human reactions. The movie wastes no time and drops the viewer into this world where you now must follow a band of characters who are ill-prepared to deal with the world’s ending at the hands of the zombie plague.

This isn’t something anyone can prepare for, and it certainly proved to be something no audience at the time was prepared to handle. Savini’s gruesome work splashed across the big screen like foul art, a thing no one wanted to see but nobody could look away. It was a violent array of popping headshots, flesh-eating, and ghoulish fun.

Romero struck gold and genre fans couldn’t get enough of the simple formula he used.

This formula is repeated even still. If you’re a fan of The Walking Dead or Resident Evil you have George Romero and his Dawn of the Dead to thank for that. Once again, the man reinvented himself and the monster he brought to life.

 

The Italian Echo of Living Death

 

When Dawn of the Dead was released overseas, in Italy the movie was simply titled Zombi. The film had a definite impact on one particular viewer – Lucio Fulci.

 

Film International
image via Film International

 

It’s been said that the screenplay for (what would become) Zombi 2 was written before Romero’s classic DotD was released. What is fact though is Lucio’s movie served as the unofficial sequel to Dawn, or Zombi, and hence the name Zombi 2.

 

VHS Archives
image via VHS Archives

 

Fulci’s contribution is brilliant. This is not some half-assed movie either, something quickly cooked upped to cash in on an internationally acclaimed hit. This movie has heart, a swollen, blackened heart beating with putrescent awe and terrible beauty.

 

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image via Amazon

 

A few years ago Shriek Show was kind enough to releases an incredible 25th-anniversary edition of Lucio’s cult classic. This is the edition you’ll want to pick up if you’ve not seen the movie, love zombies, and have even the smallest bit of interest right now. To be honest this is my all-time favorite zombie film. Yup, even though I love Paw Paw Romero, Zombi 2 is my favorite out of all the great many zombie flicks to choose from. When asked why I always refer to one simple reason – this movie has everything I’d expect out of a zombie film. Lots of gore is a given, as well as actual visuals of the dead themselves rising from their graves. And these are rotting zombies too, so foul you can almost smell their ripe decay. Not to mention we get some pretty ladies running for their lives and heroes who don’t really stand a chance. This movie is chilling of its own accord and the slow pace build up is powerfully executed.

 

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The one scene that stands out most to me – and if you know this movie you’ll probably already be guessing which one, but you’d be surprised to find you’re wrong – is what I call the’ zombie picnic’ scene (not the shark scene, although it’s also amazing). It’s just a scene featuring some zombies seated around a freshly dead victim. Her body is in oozing pieces. Blood is pooling everywhere and the living dead help themselves to the meaty morsels of her organs and muscles. Like I said it’s a great (and chilling) scene. One that takes a moment, hits pause on the action and just focuses on why we are afraid of zombies. We fear them because they feed off of us. Your spouse, your children, your best friend, should they die, will come back with a need to feed off of you. Or you, should you go first, will ultimately eat your own loved ones. That is the terror of zombies, that inescapable march to the grave, and not even the grave is safe anymore thanks to them. Weirdly it’s sometimes overlooked in so many other zombie movies.

 

The Series (?)

Now, wait, if we take this seriously, that would make Dawn of the Dead, Zombi 1. Sooo would that mean Night of the Living Dead is Zombi the Prequel? It’s kinda fun to let that be true. To imagine these movies are all connected. (And Disney tries to act like Marvel was first to do a shared universe)

There were follow up movies after Zombi 2 made its mark. We might get into those at a later time, but that’s going to be it for now. I hope you enjoyed our little visit with these flesh eating monstrosities. As always be sure to keep checking in to get all those warm thrills or eerie chills, all right here at Nightmare Nostalgia! I’m Manic Exorcism, and I bid you all farewell for now. Go while you still can, dearies. Hehehe.

March to the Grave – Cemetery Man!

Hello, my sweet gargoyles and ghouls. It’s your dearly demented friend, Manic Exorcism, asking you to join me on a lovely cemetery stroll where the departed, well, they just aren’t content to rest peacefully.  So grab a shovel – or a boomstick, should you prefer – as we unearth the unconsecrated bowels of these crypts and look at this underrated gem – Cemetery Man. Or also known as Della Morte Dell Amore.

The Zombie Genre

Once upon a time zombie films were few to be found. Cemetery Man, much like its festering brothers and sisters of the genre, was a definite rarity. That might seem shocking to our modern audiences today – who have been nursed on The Walking Dead, Resident Evil games, and countless tons of independent flesh eating atrocities – but zombie movies used to be hard to find.

Crazy, I know, right? Today we have too many of them. It’s an over saturation really, as if we’re overrun by hordes of living-dead films. Each one shambling over one another and inseparable in their rotten likenesses.  A drooling mess of celluloid brainless insatiable cravings, each of them clawing at us, demanding our numb attention and refusing to let us escape. A true epidemic and apocalypse. It is a wasteland of lost creativity.

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Wow!  Almost sounds like I hate zombie movies. I don’t, but admittedly I’m not a fan of the current state of them. They’re all too similar. Similar in tone, in style and even in their characters. Honestly I think that zombies were way scarier when they were rare.

The Cemetery Man

Cemetery Man came out during a golden age when film makers dared to take risks and tackled well-established tropes we were familiar with, but added some much-appreciated originality to a subject matter that otherwise would have been left rotting beneath the earth. There were some creative minds that brilliantly brushed away the layers of mold and breathed putrid life into those bones.

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The problem I have with modern zombie incarnations is if you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all. Stop me if this sounds familiar: a band of miss-matched survivors must face the undead legions across a dystopian landscape. Throw in some romantic drama and BOOM you have your zombie flick. CG blood effects will complete the mendacity and your indie zombie movie will get lost in the stinking tide of an over-used gimmick. 28 Days Later was part of the zombie renaissance and it’s formula has been recycled to death with few contributions adding any freshness to the field. But hey, I guess we can praise Zombeavers for its uniqueness. At least it was different!

(That’s not to say I don’t have my modern favorites. Shaun of the Dead is to be praised. So is Planet Terror. However, both of those movies were clear throw backs to that golden age of risky film making I already mentioned.)

On the contrary, films like Creepshow, Braindead, Return of the Living Dead, Night of the Creeps (they’re zombies, right?) and of course today’s subject, Cemetery Man all offered audiences something new, fresh, and (believe it or not) entirely unseen before. Who can forget the mean old bastard who rises from his wormy grave still demanding his father’s day cake? Or who else got hot around the color as our pre-pubescent eyes watched Trash bare it all and dance in a grave yard? (We love you Linnea Quigley!) We also got to see (whether we wanted to or not) zombies have sex  on a dining table and later give birth to a zombie baby who goes on to run amok across a playground. Holy shit! These movies were awesome!

They became instant cult classics and are still highly adored to this very day. There is no replacing them.  Their fandom swells with every new generation and will never lose steam as more audiences are introduced to their ingenuity and creativity.

They weren’t about any catastrophic dystopian society. They were about everyday people having a really bad, bad day. And we genuinely felt a connection with the characters.

Aside from practical effects do you know what each of these beloved movies have in common? They don’t take themselves too seriously. They made horror fun. They’re fun but not stupid, I must stress that. They are serious movies with some hard-core punk flare. They made us squirm, squeal and scream for more! That’s something gravely lacking in the majority of today’s zomb-zomb endeavors. Their tones are too serious for their own good or they try to be funny and just mock it up. (I guess there was a time when talent was a thing.)

If you’re a fan of any of these aforementioned punk-rock flicks then I can assure you that Cemetery Man is one you’ll want to see. The plot centers around our hero who is tasked with killing the freshly buried who rise from their graves. That’s it. What makes this movie remarkable are the scenes and visuals. The filmmakers had a great eye and at moments it feels like grotesque art come to life.

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image via imdb

Honestly this movie is more beautiful than any zombie movie has any right to be. It’s hypnotic and at times you won’t be able to look away. The project was purely a work of inspiration.

The movie is also subtly deceptive. Sure, on the surface you’ll think it’s about a guy who shoots the living dead in the head. But then the film begins to explore intense subjects such as love and all of its treachery and the mysteries of Death itself. It becomes a gradual existential odyssey between the living and the dead.

Our cemetery man is played by Rupert Everett, a surprising role for him but very well done! He is assisted by a mentally challenged fellah, Gnaghi (François Hadji-Lazaro), who is the perfect cross between Curly from the Three Stooges and Uncle Fester. Gnaghi is just too much fun. At one moment he crushes hard on the mayor’s daughter and throws up all over her as a sign of affection. There’s another great scene where he’s sitting down in front of the TV and happily eating some chocolate ice cream all the while his partner is busily fighting off a sudden invasion of the living dead. Gnaghi remains entirely oblivious the whole time.

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image via Nerd Ninja

Just like Return of the Living Dead this movie is damn cool. I mean what other movie will give you a zombie biker bursting out of his grave on his mother-fucking motorcycle? That and the Grim Reaper makes one Hell of an appearance that you won’t soon forget.

It’s been a while since I’ve seen this one and upon a re-watch, I now have a brand new favorite. I really hope that someday Arrow Video will give us a proper Blu-ray release of this sadly underrated cult classic.

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image via villains Wikia

This has been Manic Exorcism thanking you for joining me on another macabre journey into the heart of darkness. Be sure to keep checking in here at Nightmare Nostalgia for all those lovely chills and thrills. I’ll catch you all later, my lovelies. And next time you won’t get away so easily. Heheheh

Cemetery Man (1994)

Check Out This Hilarious Nintendo Training Video From 1991!

When the Nintendo Entertainment System finally made its glorious US debut in the late 80’s, all of us kids just about lost our shit at the video game quality coming from this grey box of sorcery. Retailing at the time for the Action Set (NES Zapper, two controllers, and the Super Mario Bros./ Duck Hunt duel cartridge) for now what seems a mere $149.99 just in time for the 1988 Christmas holiday, sold nearly seven million systems that year. And according to this splendid video below, blowing that number out of the water 2 years later with a whopping 90 million NES systems bought in 1990.

That’s a lot of virtual dead ducks. Fantastic.

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So yeah, one can only imagine the headaches retail workers had to endure concerning the new system that every one of us damn kids HAD to have, (it’s cool, I was one of them). Most likely no different than the average migraine customer service deals with on a daily with those “customer is always right, consumers“. But hey, as time has told over again throughout the past 30 years that when a new system comes out, you better damn well be prepared Mr. Electronics section of Wal-Mart. And after a few years of booming sales from the system, Nintendo thought they would do the retail workers of America a favor and make a proper training video for handling consumer complaints and ridiculous customers involving returns with the NES. This includes any bullshit scammers attempting to nab a refund after some careless kids spilled soda all over the control deck.

Oh yes, that’s actually in there. “What are you supposed to do? Tell them what you really think? Of course not!” 

And that’s why folks, yours truly could never work a successful retail position.

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Anyways, I couldn’t help but laugh especially at the bit about the blank color screen issue WE’VE ALL experienced at one point due to a bit of dust settling inside the deck. Clearly, this guy never figured out the “blow and go” solution. And guess what? 30 years later it’s still 100% effective. Which brings up an excellent point: The Classic Nintendo I have sitting in my house is getting dangerously close to that age bracket and still works like a dream. Just goes to show the highest of quality built into that little sucker.

But hey, it’s 2018 and if you’re having any issues with your NES, all your answers can be answered right here in this handy retro video uploaded by Retro Games TV Commercial HD!

 

Why Jigsaw is my Dirty Dancing

So I’m out with the boys for a few brewskis the other night, and Dustin decides to drop a “Time of My Life” bomb on us. It was only a matter of seconds before someone belted “Nobody puts Baby in a corner!”

Before I go any further, just know that I get songs stuck in my head with incredible ease, and they tend to stay there. I’ve had that goddamn saxophone looping in my grape for days.

Which brings me to sunny point number two: I have had a love affair with the Saw franchise since 2004. It may be no Patrick Swayze, but those annual October trips to the theatre with one of my best friends were bonding moments that I’ll always hold dear.

Now that the table’s been set, I have to come clean – I was so jacked for Jigsaw that I’d built it up like a family function helmed by Clark Griswold — an event that no flick could ever live up to.

And it rang true.

When I made my way to the local movie house, I was disappointed from the outset. In fact, I fell asleep in my seat. Watching Saw. And I know this because at one point my own snore startled me back to the festivities, and I played it off like I was not only coughing, but completely engrossed with Laura Vandervoort’s declaration that “Games can be won.”

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What’s more, after the credits began to run, I remember tweeting something to the effect that for as loyal as I’d been to the world of John Kramer (Tobin Bell), and as long as I’d waited for a new chapter, “It would have been nice to have that faith rewarded.”

So, four-plus months on, and with that sax solo dancing in my head, I decided that I owed it to the franchise I adore another go.

And in the words of the late, great Jerry Orbach, “When I’m wrong, I say I’m wrong.”

Is Jigsaw great? No, but aside from the original, how many installments of this franchise can honestly make that claim?

The issue was that I was expecting an epic continuation of the saga, when I should have just gone into it looking to once again lose myself in that universe, and enjoy the entertaining ride.

jigsaw-2560x1440-tobin-bell-2017-5k-10339Other than Mr. Bell, none of the key players we’d come to know and love were present, and in the theatre, that irked me. Which was complete nonsense, because I knew going in that none were in the cast. That didn’t stop me from hoping there’d be a surprise appearance from Cary Elwes or Costas Mandylor. So yeah, I was the horror equivalent of those Star Wars geeks who got all bent out of shape because their perception of canon was crushed.

Josh Stolberg and Pete Goldfinger were charged with the nearly impossible task of making an eighth film interesting and fresh (sans familiar faces save Tobin), when, to steal one from John Carpenter, the story “had been mined.”

Yes, Detective Halloran was a cliché character, and with respect, Callum Keith Rennie played it that way, and the traps were a bit stale, but let’s focus on what worked.

Regardless of how you feel about any single film aside from Leigh Whannell and James Wan’s brilliant beginning, Tobin Bell has always been worth the price of admission. And though some of us (read me) were hoping one of the finest actors in the genre would play a larger on-screen role, his voice work and brief appearances were as spot on as they’ve ever been. Dude just has a magnetic presence as “Jig-fucking-Saw.”

And while Vandervoort was the one highlight I took away from my first viewing, my take on Matt Passmore’s performance as Logan Nelson has flipped completely.

Cue the sax.

PassmoreI found Passmore to be a bit hammy and over-the-top back in October, but upon further inspection, he nailed it. That’s not to say there weren’t elements of Velveeta and over-acting in spots, but he fulfilled an important role, and for my money, offered a finer contribution to the franchise than Mr. Mandylor ever did as Mark Hoffman.

One thing that Saw has always delivered were convoluted storylines that brought everything full circle when the dust settled, with clues to the truth scattered throughout. Now, keen observers of said universe likely picked them up as Jigsaw played out, but that does not negate the fact that they were well executed, or that we got a little dash of Shyamalan twist for good measure.

Jigsaw was not the epic experience I had hoped for, but that was only because it was not what I’d expected. And that’s just not the way to view cinema. You have to let the creators take you on a journey, and judge it for the adventure they present to you, now rail on it because it didn’t play the way you’d wanted.

So after witnessing Passmore lift Bell with fresh eyes bereft of preconceived notions, I echo Orbach, “When I’m wrong, I say I’m wrong” – Jigsaw is a fine addition to the Saw saga.

Themes dominate each iteration of the franchise, and Jigsaw’s was simple – confess.

So let me own up, I carried a watermelon.

Ryann

Valentine’s Day Poetic Justice with Peter Cushing

Happy Valentine’s Day, my lovelies!

We here at Nightmare Nostalgia truly hope you have a bloody good one today! But we know why you’re here. Wherever you find yourself right now: out to eat, on your way home (or tonight’s big date) or whether you’re a single heart with a party of one you have still found yourself here with us in our happy little private asylum of dark wonders.  So huddle up close and join the Nightmare cast on the most romantic day of the year! And oh boy, does your ol’ buddy Manic have a sticky good treat for you all tonight!

Firstly, holiday horror movies are all the rage during the festive times. We have so many to choose from, and although it sometimes feels as if both Halloween (obviously) and Christmas hog all the spotlight we do in fact have some dark little delicacies to pick from every February 14th! Oh I know many will naturally go to the timeless classic My Bloody Valentine – as rightly you should – but today I want to focus on a little lesser known Valentine’s Day atrocity brought to us by the one and the only, the late great Peter Cushing!

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image via giphy

He and Christopher Lee are my two favorite actors of all time! More than once this dastardly duo starred in some of the greatest horror classics of the ages. Anytime the two appeared in a monster classic you could bet it was going to be grander than life itself!

Today Peter Cushing is best known by modern audiences as the cold-blooded Grand Moff Tarkin of Star Wars, a man who gives orders to annihilate entire planets, snuffing out life, erasing cultures and extinguishing entire histories.

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image via vulture

To me, he will always be revered as Baron Frankenstein, who was not above murder to obtain specimens to further his heinous crimes against Life. However, when he wasn’t building monster he was fighting them as the heroic Dr. Van Helsing, a man who was a superhero long before Marvel pooped out their products over-abundantly nearly every month – and his Van Helsing was more kick-ass than the Avengers combined. Dracula ran from him!

A long while ago there was a Tales From the Crypt movie that worked as an anthology horror film, much like Creepshow. This film featured several segments of the comeuppance of some very unpleasant fellows who get to revisit their ungodly crimes right before they are dropped into the flaming horrors of Hell.

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image via YouTube

One such segment is Poetic Justice. In it, we see our dear Peter Cushing who is a loving man who behaves like the local Santa of sorts. The noble widower finds discarded things among the rubble and makes toys out of their otherwise abandoned parts, giving new life and plenty of joy to the neighboring children. However, hateful eyes are turned against the dear old man and spitefully he is attacked and bullied until he no longer can take it.

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image via The Spooky Isles

It’s interesting because I first saw this movie back when I was a kid and had no earthly business watching such gruesome spectacles at such an early age – but I’d not trade it for the world! I couldn’t have been older than five, and this episode of the movie always stood out to me. So much so that I thought it was a nightmare I had dreamt up because anytime I inquired about it, no one knew what I was talking about. Then last year I picked up a VHS copy of Tales From the Crypt and to my surprise HERE IT WAS! Exactly as I remembered it.

So here you go, lovelies! From Manic with Love! Awwww.

Have a Happy Valentine’s Day and remember it NEVER pays to be heartless to others.

Hehehehe……

Tales From The Crypt / Vault Of Horror [Blu-ray]

“Weekend at Bernie’s II” is the Superior Film

Nothing makes you feel older than the things you loved from your childhood coming back into fashion and being called “retro.” Fuck! It is that time already? The movies I grew up on were some of the funniest, silliest and most entertaining movies and compared to today’s standards seemed more wholesome, even when they weren’t. One of my favorites was the Weekend at Bernie’s movies.

Weekend At Bernie's II

Only two movies in the line, the idea was hilarious. Two poon hounds (Andrew McCarthy and John Silverman) find out someone is embezzling from the firm they work for. Little do they know the embezzler is their boss they reported it to. He invites them to his beach house as a “thank you” (aka come get super murdered) but not before getting himself assassinated by a mafia man for fooling around with his girlfriend. The guys show up, Bernie Lomax(Terry Kiser)is dead, but they pretend he is still alive, confusing the hitman and essentially putting them in the line of fire.

If that wasn’t enough felony fun for you, Weekend at Bernie’s II brings voodoo into the mix. To try and find the money that Bernie embezzled, a cartel hired a voodoo priestess to raise Bernie from the dead to lead them to the money in St. Thomas. However, the voodoo goons fuck up and Bernie only moves when he hears music.

Just re-watching that scene to write this had me howling. This movie is comedy gold, if only for the dead man dance. I can’t count the number of times I have performed the Bernie flop and shake and Kiser is a trooper in this movie, too. The slapstick physical comedy in this movie is pure 80’s/90’s charm. I fucking lost it during the harpoon scene. But why is Weekend at Bernie’s II the superior film? Because the corpse of Bernie Lomax gets the chance to truly be its own character. In the first one it was all about the wacky scenarios that McCarthy and Silverman got into, but in this movie, it’s, “OMG, where the fuck did Bernie go? Shit, he danced into the damn ocean.”

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The first movie was necessary to set the tone and solidify the characters and the second movie was their chance to really have fun with it. It wasn’t silly on the level of Mel Brooks, so it still felt original and not like a parody. Much like with Ghostbusters, I prefer the second movie over the first. Uh oh, I can already hear the angry mob gathering on that one.

When it comes to movies from this time period, Weekend at Bernie’s II is right up there with Captain Ron and The Burbs. And You’ll be hearing from me about The Burbs in the future.

Weekend At Bernie’s II

[Video] Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Coming Out of Their Shells on Oprah

Need 43 minutes to waste? Call up your local Pizza Hut, grab your 20-year-old TMNT pillowcase and let’s get down on some horribly bad costumed Ninja Turtles on the Oprah Winfrey show.

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You’d really have to be living in a sewer back in the late ’80s and early ’90s if you hadn’t seen a single episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Skateboarding teenage amphibians and talking rats along with Bebop and Rocksteady were LIFE. I’m proud to claim my insane devotion to TurtleMania that swept the era of Saturday Morning goodness. However, I don’t know if I can ever have the strength to defend that insanely wacky “Coming Out of Their Shells” album and tour from 1990.

Good God, it’s Magic Mike, Donatello.

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Yeah, I got nothing. No words.

Anyways, on the heels of a successful Saturday morning national treasure, and that first feature-length kick-ass movie, the Turtles moved into the music scene with a live tour and album- sponsored by who else? Pizza Hut, duh.  The “Coming Out of Their Shells” tour was promoted on the original release of the TMNT VHS movie from 1990, (if anyone actually remembers), among countless commercials from the nationwide pizza chain. The show itself, which did air live on PayPer View once, showcased the mean, green heroes dancing, singing timeless hits such as, “Pizza Power” and “Skipping Stones”, and playing instruments because hey, they were a band now.  We had Donatello on keys, Leonardo on bass guitar, Michelangelo on guitar, and Raphael on drums while also making Kenny G envious of his sweet saxophone skills. Of course, the show wouldn’t be complete without the Turtles’ arch-nemesis Shredder. And oh yes, his costume is just as awfully stupendous. The Shred-Head, along with buggy brainiac Baxtor Stockman, invent a device that steals all the music in the world while also weakening the Turtles if they stand too close to it. So there we have an epically staged cornfest of singing turtles saving the day. But man, it sure didn’t seem that way when we were kids. Am I right?

Or maybe not…

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Well in any regard, the power of the Turtle was so strong even the mighty Oprah had to acknowledge it with a full show dedicated to the four mutants and their traveling live album. The audience was PACKED with little TMNT enthusiasts as you can umm, see above. I would only assume that horrified look above may have been from Oprah’s question to the Turtles on whether they wish April was a turtle like themselves. In which good ole’ Ralphel replies, “Well, I’ve been trying to talk her into an interspecies relationship for months now.” That poor woman playing April O’ Neil looks so horrified.

Something tells me there is NO WAY that would fly in this day and age. Ahh, well gotta love the ’90s! Check out the entire show below courtesy of the Digsy channel.