Category Archives: Horror Nostalgia

Why John Shepherd is the Best Tommy Jarvis

“Let’s think beyond the legend, put it in real terms.”

Only twice since Ginny Field (Amy Steel) applied her child psychology training in FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 (1981) has the Crystal Lake saga embraced those words: with Derek Mears in the 2009 reboot, and through John Shepherd’s performance as Tommy Jarvis in A NEW BEGINNING (1985).

Tackling a role that had already been fulfilled by other actors—particularly well-known actors—can prove a difficult endeavor, and Tommy Jarvis was no different. For John Shepherd in the fifth installment of the Friday franchise, that fact is and was compounded by a series of issues, not the least of which was timing.

To begin, Corey Feldman was not only the original, but easily the biggest name to have ever portrayed the character. Though THE FINAL CHAPTER opened in April of 1984, less than two months later Feldman would appear in the massively successful GREMLINS, which was closely followed by THE GOONIES, another blockbuster the following year. STAND BY ME hit theatres the year after that, by which time Feldman had become a household name and as a result, towers as the epitome of Tommy Jarvis in the eyes of many fans.

Jarvis glasses

What’s more, a large portion of those fans regard THE FINAL CHAPTER as the finest of Friday films, whereas A NEW BEGINNING is widely viewed as nothing more than the bridge between Part IV and JASON LIVES, another beloved franchise installment that saw Thom Mathews pick up the Tommy torch, and who already enjoyed cult status for his part in RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD (1985).

While one would be hard-pressed to claim that continuity has been a series strong suit, that Mathews’ Jarvis no longer appeared to carry any of the burdens of the trauma he’d endured as a child (or even shortly before the events of Part VI) is a point rarely contended. The fact that JASON LIVES moved at breakneck speed while also embracing the absurdity and humor inherent in the franchise not only endeared it to Friday followers, but made the latter point an easy one to forgive or forget—to say nothing of the fact that Jason wasn’t really even Jason in A NEW BEGINNING. In short, when it comes to the Jarvis trilogy, Shepherd suffered the misfortune of being bookended by a pair of actors seared into the minds of Friday fans as the Alpha and Omega because they happened to helm two of the franchise’s most popular entries.

Key factors all, and components that have relegated Shepherd’s Jarvis to Crystal Lake purgatory. However, it would be a mistake to overlook what Tommy 2.0 brought to the table.

One aspect of Shepherd’s performance that made it so spectacular was that it fittingly followed in the footsteps of Jason from the standpoint that every tortured nuance was offered with nary a word. Writers Martin Kitrosser, David Cohen and Danny Steinmann fashioned A NEW BEGINNING’s screenplay in such a way that the elements of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder were not only on full display, but peppered throughout as though boxes to be checked off. It was in what Shepherd did with those opportunities, however, that left it feeling like anything but a laundry list put to film.

Jarvis mirrorWhat’s more, how many performances have the Crystal Lake saga really given us? For as beloved as Betsy Palmer is, her Pamela Voorhees was over the top—for effect to be sure—but over the top, nonetheless. So we’re talking Amy Steel from Part 2 (1981) , Lar Park-Lincoln from THE NEW BLOOD (1988), and Shepherd’s Jarvis from A NEW BEGINNING. So why not celebrate it?

Our first glimpse at Shepherd as Tommy found him waking in an Unger Institute of Mental Health transport van, sweaty and wide-eyed after waking from a nightmare where Jason rose once more. Unable to shake the ghastly events that led to the death of his mother and near murder of his sister at the hands of the Crystal Lake marauder, it was a re-introduction that could have easily fallen into camp, but Shepherd played it with purpose, an effect he wouldn’t relinquish for the duration of the film’s 92-minute runtime.

We bore witness to a character drowning in the symptoms of PTSD. Shepherd’s Jarvis avoided contact and interaction with others whenever possible, and suffered unwanted and intrusive memories of Jason of both the auditory and visual variety. Recurring nightmares made sleep nearly impossible and he was easily startled by nearly everything that crossed his path. Those instances of alarm led to angry outbursts of aggressive behavior because subconscious though they were, whatever figure plagued Jarvis in the moment wasn’t Voorhees, so it served as an outlet for frustration, a punching bag that could be beaten.

True to character, though, Shepherd never ventured too far and instead stayed the course, his fright morphed to resentment and finally to anger, played in such a way that outward reaction was an involuntary response. When Tommy body-slammed Eddie (John Robert Dixon) at breakfast, he was almost immediately pinned to the wall by the head of Pinehurst, Matt (Richard Young), where Shepherd brilliantly conveyed the briefest moment of recognition. As Jarvis snapped back to reality, he glanced at Matt and closed his eyes in remorse, his chest heaving as he collected himself. Later, after he went Chuck Norris on Junior (Ron Sloan) at the trailer park, Tommy was again roused back to the present by Pam (Melanie Kinnaman) and fled at the sad, desperate realization that in those moments, he was unable to control himself.

Jarvis breakfastAnd finally, when Jarvis once more found himself standing face-to-face with “Jason,” Shepherd’s Jarvis was frozen, unable to move until threatened with his own demise. Stabbing his nemesis in the leg, he made his way to the barn loft where he lost consciousness. When he came to and laid eyes on Pam and Reggie (Shavar Ross) in imminent peril, Jarvis, as though having an out of body experience, leapt to action to protect a young woman and child in danger. Thoughts of Shepherd tearfully gazing at the photograph of his mother and sister earlier in the film flood through the audience’s collective mind as they watched Tommy, in a way, save the family he had lost, sending “Jason” / Roy (Dick Wieand) plummeting to his death.

Shepherd’s Jarvis was lost and tormented, and even when his actions were heroic, they emerged reluctantly and never escaped the fractured framework of a younger self who had seen things that could not be unseen.

With the simple decision to follow the path laid by Ginny three films prior, John Shepherd’s turn as Tommy provided FRIDAY THE 13TH more than its finest achievement of the Jarvis trilogy, but the single greatest performance the franchise has ever known.

For a series short on performance, that Shepherd thought beyond the legend and put it in real terms deserves respect, and 34 years on, it’s about time he gets it.

Jarvis window

A Year after ‘Ash vs Evil Dead,’ That Scene Still Resonates

“That’s the key,” Bruce Campbell noted on the DVD commentary of the Ash vs Evil Dead series finale, “give the actors something appropriate to do.” In the end, the lasting image of the EVIL DEAD franchise was not a one-liner or practical effect or or even gallons of blood, but the connection shared between a handful of performers and the audience which followed them on a journey that came to an end one year ago today.

Ash vs Evil Dead offered a surplus of splatstick, but over 15 hours of series life, it also provided a peek behind the curtain at who Ashley J. Williams (Campbell) truly was. Perhaps its greatest achievement, though, was getting a die hard fan base to fall in love with characters it had never known before 2015.

THE EVIL DEAD premiered in Detroit, Michigan on October 15, 1981, with origins that stretched back even further, but didn’t introduce Pablo Simon Bolivar (Ray Santiago) and Kelly Maxwell (Dana DeLorenzo) for 34 years, and it would be another two before Brandy Williams (Arielle Carver-O’Neill) entered the fray. By the time “Mettle of Man,” came to a close, however, they were just as beloved as El Jefe, a testament to the writing team that brought the show to life.

James Eagan was responsible for 11 episodes, while Nate Crocker, Zoe Green and William Bromell all had a hand in penning 10 chapters. DeLorenzo was and continues to be a champion of the team effort responsible for making Ash vs Evil Dead what it was, and never was that more evident than the series finale. Campbell, Santiago, DeLorenzo and Carver-O’Neill assembled in the back of a military truck, armed only with Rick Jacobson’s words (Jacobson wrote and directed the final two episodes), and provided EVIL DEAD fans with the farewell we needed, but didn’t deserve.

On that same commentary track, Campbell said “This is very potentially the last time you will ever see these characters, and story-wise, we’ve been through too much to give them short shrift, as they say.” A concept Jacobson understood as well as the most ardent of AVED fans.

With a six-story, Kandarian demon looming in the distance, the Ghostbeaters all remained true to character.

Amid chaos and gunfire, Pablo rushed to rescue a frightened little girl cowering on the street, Kelly picked up a weapon and defended the soldiers facing off with oncoming Deadites, and Brandy held tight to the ride or die stance that put her firmly at Ash’s side.

Ash vs Evil Dead Season 3 2017And as the Godzilla-like monster roared and the blades of a helicopter whirled overhead, the Prophesied One glanced at the faces of his family and “finally, for once, own(ed) up to who the hell [he] was.”

Brandy questioned what he was doing and Kelly barked “Ash, come on. Get in the fucking truck!” but Ash knew that nearly four decades on, the time had come. And Campbell, along with his partners in crime hit every note Jacobson had poured onto the page.

“My father always said I ran from my fights, Brandy. I’m not runnin’ from this one.”

As NYPD Blue methodically unveiled the soul of Andy Sipowicz (Dennis Franz) over 12 seasons, so too did AVED reveal that Ash was not only the hero we always believed him to be, but that he was no longer a caricature, rather a human being willing to lay down for those he cared about.

As Jacobson commented, “[Ash] knows that most likely, [his decision] was going to be a one way trip.” For the first time, it was not one-liner that left tears in our eyes, but the heartfelt emotion Campbell exuded saying goodbye.

Like a father stingy with a compliment, Ash picked the perfect time to show the Ghostbeaters how he truly felt about them.

“Kelly, people are going to need a strong leader. Someone they can depend on, someone they can believe in. That’s you.” Maxwell, the focused leader to Ash’s reluctant, fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants Chosen One, finally knew that she didn’t have to be like Ash, that who she was was exactly what the world needed.

PabloTurning to El Brujo Especial, “Pablo, you’re the Jefe now.” A quick cut to Ash’s right-hand man found his orbs moist with sentiment, but he said nary a word, just pursed his lips with a pained smile and nod of understanding. Nothing needed to be said. Perfectly written and perfectly acted. I’m not ashamed to admit that for all the times I had to pause Ash vs Evil Dead because I was howling with laughter, that reaction shot was the only time I paused it because I was overwhelmed. It was a good minute or two before the tears had stopped.

“You save them.” Once more, it was no longer about Ash or even those he held most dear, but the citizens of Elk Grove and the world at large, because the savior of humanity was finally ready to fulfill his destiny.

But not before parting ways with the daughter he’d only begun to know, but loved deeply.

“You said you wouldn’t leave me.”

Holding back tears, Ash responded “I’m doin’ this for you. I’m doing it for all of you.” Brandy placed her hand on the window, and Ash answered in kind, his head bowed, and a gentle, loving double tap of his fingers on the glass. As the truck pulled away, we saw Ash standing alone as the camera widened the distance between them.

“Now Rick, you know I’ve butchered dialogue before, I’ve butchered mercilessly,” Campbell said. “I didn’t change anything in that dialogue because I really liked it.”

It’s been a year since we said farewell to Ash vs Evil Dead, but much like Ashley J. Williams, those final fleeting moments when Rick Jacobson’s words were shared between the Ghostbeaters will stand the test of time.

DeLorenzo silhouette

 

 

 

Kim Greist: MANHUNTER’s Burning Source of Light

“What are you dreaming?”

Audiences spend the entirety of MANHUNTER (1986) in the wake of a dream world conjured from the imagination of a man who housed a genuine taste for killing, with only the briefest of glimpses at what danced before the closed eyes of his purposeful pursuer sprinkled throughout. Make no mistake, however, the dream world of Will Graham was every bit as integral to Thomas Harris’ story as the Tooth Fairy’s.

Francis Dollarhyde (played to steely perfection by Tom Noonan) envisioned the Leeds and Jacobis, Reba McLane (Joan Allen), and a third family who would never know they were spared; but for the fascinatingly intense Graham (William Petersen), it was a beautiful blonde sipping a Dos Equis on a boat deck in Florida.

Both needed their dreams to survive—to exist—but despite our long enchantment with the Harris universe and the exploits of MANHUNTER’s characters, the time has come to celebrate the incredible performance of Kim Greist, who was far more than just a beautiful blonde whose sole purpose was as muse for her husband.

Director Michael Mann has a history of devoting far more time, attention, and development to the men of his pictures, and MANHUNTER was no exception, but on its surface, it would appear that Molly Graham was nothing more than someone for Will to live for. While that’s true to an extent, one must delve deeper into the quiet strength Greist injected into the character despite limited screen time.

Though our first cinematic exposure to Will Graham didn’t find him manipulated by Jack Crawford (Dennis Farina), the man was driven by empathy, his conscience unable to erase the images of the Leeds and Jacobis, factors that allowed Graham to—as Dr. Sidney Bloom (Paul Perri) would say—“do a good job of getting [himself] all bent out of shape.”

Enter Molly.

Greist dreamTo say she was Graham’s moral compass would be an over-exaggeration because Graham held clear perspective on right and wrong, but he respected his wife’s enough to discuss helping Crawford on the case. Molly called Graham’s bluff—a recurring theme—pointing out that he had already made up his mind and wasn’t asking. When he posed it as a question, though, Molly responded that he should stay with his wife and son, but quickly noted that such a sentiment was selfish, and she knew it. However, Molly did offer that “we have it more than good,” planting the suggestion that there was not only more to life than hunting killers, but that once more immersing himself in that world could pull him away from all that mattered, his family.

Though Graham held tight to that family, his empathy had a tendency to plunge him into a sensibility where Molly and Kevin (David Seaman) fell into the landscape of his consciousness, so driven that he would lose sight of what it would mean should he never return home.

The beauty of Greist’s performance, the glowing intensity of her quiet strength, was that she never passed on an opportunity to jolt Graham out of his dream-state and back to reality.

Though Graham flirtatiously joked that hotel rooms “elicit romance” and “we have to stop meeting like this,” in MANHUNTER such locations also dripped of symbolism. An unfamiliar place one inhabits for a short while, just as Will found himself entrenched in the world of Francis Dollaryde, and to an extent, Dr. Hannibal Lecktor (Brian Cox) throughout the bulk of the film.

The first time we see Graham in a temporary home, he’d grown weary of watching home videos of the families slaughtered by Dollarhyde and moved to the phone to make a late-night call to Molly. Despite the fact that his wife was groggy (for the record, no one plays half-awake like Greist) and doesn’t even engage in a real conversation with his partner, just hearing her voice, reacquainting himself with the warmth of his love as she dreamed was all it took for Graham to have an epiphany about what fueled Dollarhyde’s fantasies, foreshadowing to “smell yourself.”

“What are you dreaming?”

Greist blue

Later, this time Molly sharing a room with her husband, she stared into his eyes with an intimacy and understanding that only those who know someone completely are capable, and declared “Time is luck, Will.” Molly sensed that her partner was losing the battle with his imagination—the empathy of his dreamscape—and needed a reminder that risking his life to find one man would come at an expense that they couldn’t afford to pay. The ferocity of Will’s gaze communicated that the message had hit home. Graham was once again centered, if only momentarily. Molly was that magnet to Graham’s core which drew him out of depths from which he would otherwise be helplessly confined, without whom he would be doomed to nothing more than the task at hand.

Attributes that culminated in the couple sitting on a dock to discuss what came next, where Graham revealed that he would go to Atlanta, alone. Molly again called him out, this time for doing exactly what he said he wouldn’t. Though Graham was forceful in sharing that the killing had to stop, Molly didn’t storm off or become demonstrably upset because she knew that Will’s heart was in the right place, so she simply poised herself in thought, eyes searching for words that would resonate. Disbelief, disappointment, and fear radiated from Greist’s expression before she opened her mouth, but in the end, she countered with a jab which she knew would register, “William, you’re going to make yourself sick or get yourself killed.”

Molly had a foot in each plane—the dream world and physical—and it was Greist’s character who fueled all things Will Graham. She provided him with nourishment of the body and soul, but also incentive and inspiration, and the one thing which no one else was capable: telling Graham what he needed to hear and immediately putting whatever chaotic situation he found himself into real terms, a much-needed reminder that decisions and their subsequent actions had consequences.

Molly was the antidote to the “ugliest thoughts in the world,” and the reason Will returned home—not as a shell of himself—but the same man as the morning he departed.

Kim Greist’s abbreviated yet amazing performance as Molly Graham was a dream realized.

Greist beach

A Thin Line Between Love and Hate

The first time I watched HELLRAISER (1987), I actually blurted, “Looking forward to whatever happens to that fucker.” Julia Cotton’s pool of loathsome deeds ran deep—a strained relationship with her daughter-in-law, unfaithful to Kirsty’s (Ashley Laurence) father with her uncle Frank (Sean Chapman), luring numerous men to their death—all so that she could help said uncle return to form after his dance with the Lament Configuration. To say nothing of plotting to murder her husband so that his brother could inhabit his skin and they could live happily ever after.

In short, Julia was deplorable. And played to poisonous perfection by Clare Higgins.

When summoned back to Earth in HELLBOUND: HELLRAISER II (1988), Julia quickly proved that old habits die hard, leaning on murder and mayhem as means to an end. This time, she led Dr. Phillip Channard (Kenneth Cranham) and his morbid curiosity around by the nose, to say nothing of his psychiatric patient who possessed an aptitude for solving puzzles. The good doctor simply felt compelled to understand the secrets and power of the box, and the hidden world it housed.

Nearly two feature films in, Julia had a moment of redemption.

Not that she had an epiphany or did the right thing. No, no, no, Julia finally embarked on a mission so deliciously sinister that I couldn’t help but smile at the similarities between her endeavors and the story I hold most dear, Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado.”

Dr. Channard’s thirst for knowledge and power were the elusive barrel to Julia’s impunity; and much like poor Fortunato, by the time the physician realized that what he desired wasn’t worth the asking price, it was too late.

“But this is what you wanted! This is what you wanted to see. This is what you wanted to know. And here it is.”

Higgins 2Julia, in full, smirking Montresor could not help but point out that what her lord required was souls, and she had brought him one to celebrate the symbolic retribution of hell—a doctor to impale with needles and probe with disgusting tentacles.

Backing the doctor into a box where immediate invasion was met with screams, Julia smiled “And you wanted to know.” Moments before razor-sharp wires wrapped themselves around Channard’s skull, digging deep into his skin, again Julia delighted “Now you now.”

Though she stopped short of imploring the doctor to touch the damp nitre, Julia couldn’t help but taunt the fettered Channard with the painful reminder that he had found exactly what he’d been seeking.

With a grin, Julia offered “Goodbye, doctor” as the box began its descent, hauling the doctor away for eternity.

Not unlike my reaction to Melisandre (Carice van Houten) resurrecting Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) in Game of Thrones, all was forgiven.

For as despicable as Julia was, I couldn’t help but smile at the parallels between Poe and Pinhead, and revel in the powerful arrogance of Higgins’ performance.

If you’re going to be evil, at least do it with a little flair. For one delectable moment in HELLBOUND, Clare Higgins was downright flamboyant.

And I kind of loved it.

Did You Guys Here the One About: Joe Bob’s Best Jokes from ‘The Last Drive-In’

We’re all sad that the blissful days of October have once again come to an end, but that doesn’t mean we can’t find something to smile about.

HALLOWEEN (2018) is still ripping it up in theatres everywhere, SUSPIRIA (2018) opens tonight, and we’re not allowed to forget that Joe Bob Briggs returns to Shudder with the Dinners of Death Thanksgiving marathon on November 22, “because there are two things in life you should always binge on, horror flicks and Wild Turkey.”

See? Plenty to be giddy about.

We don’t need to remind any of you that no one spins a yarn quite like the drive-in Jedi, and with that in mind, it’s time to revisit some of Briggs’ best jokes from July’s The Last Drive-In.

Get ready to laugh. And when you inevitably share one or five of these with friends or co-workers later today, don’t thank us, thank Joe Bob.

TOLD AT THE CONCLUSION OF BLOOD FEAST

“So did I tell you guys the one about the history professor and the psychology professor at the nudist camp? The history professor and the psychology professor are sittin’ on a sun deck at a nudist resort, and the history professor turns to the psychology professor and he says ‘Have you read Marx?’ And the psychology professor says ‘Yeah, I think it’s from the wicker chairs.’”

THE PROWLER

“That actually reminds me of the one about the man who comes home from work and he’s greeted by his wife, and she’s dressed in spiked high heels and lingerie. And she says ‘Tie me up, sweetie. You can do anything you want.’ And so he ties her up and goes golfin’.”

Crew

SORORITY BABES IN THE SLIMEBALL BOWL-O-RAMA“evidence that in the ‘80s you could basically write a script on Tuesday, film it on Wednesday, and have it in the video store by Thursday.”

“Alright, man goes into a bar (laughs), man goes into a bar and he orders a drink. The bartender’s a robot, so this robot serves this perfectly prepared cocktail and then the robot says ‘What’s your IQ?’ and the man says ‘150.’ And so the robot proceeds to make a conversation about global warming and quantum physics and nanotechnology and string theory and Jungian psychoanalysis. And the customer is very impressed, but he decides, ‘Ya know, I’m gonna test that robot.’

So he walks out of the bar, turns around, comes back in for another drink. Robot serves a perfect cocktail and then he says ‘What’s your IQ?’ This time the man says ‘About 100,’ so immediately the robot starts talkin’ about football, NASCAR, baseball, supermodels, fast food, guns, and enormous hooters. Now the guy’s really impressed, so he leaves the bar again and he turns around and he decides to test the robot one more time.

So he goes back in, gets the perfect cocktail and the robot says ‘What’s your IQ?’ ‘Uh, it’s only about 50, I think.’ Robot says ‘So are you gonna vote for Trump again?’”

DEMONS

“I was watchin’ The Bachelor the other night, and it reminded me of this guy in Arkansas who was wantin’ to get married but he was havin’ trouble choosin’ among three likely candidates to marry.

So he decides to give each woman a present of $5,000 and watch what they do with the money. So the first woman does a total makeover, she goes to a beauty spa, she gets her hair done, new makeup, buys several outfits, joins a spa, gets toned, tells him she’s done all this to be more attractive for him because she loves him so much, and he’s fairly impressed by that.

Second woman, she goes shoppin’ to buy him a bunch of gifts. She gets him a new set of golf clubs, walk-in humidor for his cigars, some expensive clothes, and she presents all this stuff to him and she says she spent all the money on him because she loves him so much, and he’s fairly impressed by that.

The third one invests the money in the stock market, she earns several times that $5,000 back. She gives him back his $5,000, she re-invests the rest in a joint account, and then she tells him she wants to save for their future because she loves him so much, and the man is very impressed by that.

So he thought for a long time about what each woman had done with the money, and then he married the one with the biggest boobs.”

JBB Bowling

TOURIST TRAP

“Did I ever tell you guys the one about the Irish girl who runs away from home? I feel like we need an Irish joke in honor of Chuck Connors, this is Chuck Connors’ night. So, this Irish guy’s daughter disappears, she doesn’t come home for five years. She finally comes home and her dad cusses her out, ‘Where you been all this time? Why didn’t you write? What were you doin’? You know what you put your mum through?’ They call it ‘mum’ in Ireland.

Well, the girl’s cryin’, she says ‘Dad, I’m so sorry. I became…a prostitute.’ And the dad says ‘What?! Go back where you came from. I don’t ever wanna see you again.’ And the girl says ‘Okay dad, I will, but I’m gonna leave all this stuff I brought for you. I have some fur coats for mom and I have a deed to this mansion I bought, and I have a savings account for five million euros, and I also got a gold Rolex for my little brother. And for you there’s a limited edition Mercedes outside, and if you want it, there’s a yacht, I parked it on the Riviera.’

And so her dad thinks for a minute and he says ‘Tell me again how you got this money,’ and the girl says ‘I became a prostitute.’ And dad says ‘Oh Jesus, you scared me for a minute. I thought you said Protestant. Come give you old man a hug!’”

BASKET CASE a film presentation that remembered Gerald the security guard, who was released on weekends to work (at the Highway 183 Drive-In in Irving, Texas), and would always have words of drive-in wisdom like, ‘Never walk up on a baby blue El Camino with two men inside unless you wanna see things described in the Old Testament.’”

“Girl goes into her doctor’s office for a check-up, as she takes off her blouse the doctor notices a big red ‘H’ on her chest. He says ‘How’d you get that mark on your chest?’ She says ‘Oh, my boyfriend went to Harvard and he’s so proud of it that he never takes off his Harvard sweatshirt even when we make love, so I guess it leaves an impression.’

Couple days later, another girl comes in for a check-up, takes off her blouse, there’s a big ‘Y’ on her chest. ‘How’d you get that mark on your chest,’ asks the doctor. ‘Oh, my boyfriend went to Yale and he’s so proud of it he never takes off his Yale sweatshirt, even when we make love.’

Couple days later, another girl comes in for a check-up, as she takes off her blouse the doctor notices a big green ‘M’ on her chest. So the doctor says ‘You have a boyfriend who went to Michigan?’ and the girl says ‘No, but I have a girlfriend at Wisconsin, why do you ask?’”

THE LEGEND OF BOGGY CREEK

“Did I tell you the one about the husband and wife don’t trust each other? So the woman doesn’t come home one night and her husband wants to know why, and she says well, she slept over at a girlfriend’s house. So, the man calls his wife’s ten best friends, none of ‘em know anything about it. So he cuts her off, he calls her a liar, he makes her suffer for days.

Little while later, the husband doesn’t come home one night, so in the morning the wife wants to know why not. He tells her, ‘Well, I slept over at a buddy’s house.’ So, the woman calls her husband’s ten best friends. Eight of ‘em confirmed that he slept over, two of ‘em claimed he’s still there.”

Maple syrup

Postmortem and Pulled Pork: A ‘Saw’ Story

For fans of horror, it always comes down to a single film or franchise. You can love them all, most of them, or even just bits and pieces, but in the end, it boils down to the one vehicle that drives that affection. I plan to be a six-foot Billy the Puppet this Halloween, adore Tobin Bell, and have a soft spot for Shawnee Smith. For me, it’s all about SAW, but above all else, the world of John Kramer has always been about friendship.

Each October for seven years, my best friend and I would make our way to the theatre for the latest installment of Leigh Whannell and James Wan’s creation, strengthening a bond already more than three years in the making. While my boy Dan dug the traps—and got a chuckle out of how much they made me squirm—I was happy to lay money down to get the latest dose of Bell, which is always worth the price of admission.

Both of us fall under the massive fandom umbrella of THE PRINCESS BRIDE (1987), and while many a laugh was had at the beauty of Westley book-ending the initial seven chapters of the saga, often times we found ourselves defending our SAW obsession with friends who were not of the horror persuasion. “It’s basically the same movie over and over, why do you keep going?” Our stock answer became a running joke, “We’ve come this far.”

Part of that journey came in 2007, when we met right after work for SAW IV. For as much as I love the genre of blood and guts, I’ve never been big on gore, especially when I’m eating, but my old pal thought it would be fine to pick up some sandwiches, sneak them into the theatre, and get dinner out of the way.

I was a bit hesitant—like I said, the traps are Dan’s thing—and let’s face it, SAW films usually start with a bang. He quickly shot back that we’d most likely have the sandwiches eaten before the trailers were over, but even if we didn’t, it wasn’t like someone was going to have flesh peeled from their skulls right off the bat.

With sandwiches discreetly tucked into our jackets, we took our seats, and dug in.

Saw IV

With a few bites remaining at the close of said trailers, I was hopeful that I’d gobble them down before anything heinous turned my stomach. Moments later, the autopsy of John Kramer began unfolding on-screen, and wouldn’t you know it, Jigsaw’s scalp was being removed from his cranium like a bloody wet suit.

I shot a death stare and “You motherfucker!” in my buddy’s direction to find him doubled over in laughter just one seat over. Safe to say, the sandwich met the theatre floor and those last few morsels went uneaten.

Dan denies it to this day, but I’m still not convinced that he hadn’t seen it already and thought he’d have some fun at my expense.

A friendship that began over a mutual love of movies continues 17 years later, but no one film or series represents our bond more than SAW. Nearly a decade after our shared disappointment with what was supposed to be THE FINAL CHAPTER (2010), both of us were missing our October tradition, unable to believe or accept that 3D was truly the end.

But then JIGSAW was announced for last fall. The franchise we had shared for seven years was returning after seven more, and when I found out, I giddily texted “I want to play a game. Again.”

His response was simple, “We’ve come this far.”

Dan and I have been all-in since SAW debuted on this day in 2004, and we’re willing to go much, much further. Just…without sandwiches.

Whannell Adam

Jackie Gleason on Acid: How Vinny Guastaferro Landed a Role in ‘Shocker’

Long have we been fascinated with behind the scenes stories that detail how certain scenes came to be, or  parts were scored, but few are as genuinely entertaining as how Vinny Guastaferro came to his role in Wes Craven’s SHOCKER (1989).

Forget that Horace Pinker was supposed to supplant Freddy Krueger as Craven’s next franchise villain, because three years after Guastaferro made “Ya-Bang” a household word for horror fans, he was tasked with making a strong first impression on the legendary director.

Apparently that red dot had reach.

On the 29th anniversary of SHOCKER’s release, we share Guastaferro’s story.

“I’ll start out with a disclaimer saying I blame it on myself because I don’t know if I was in a good mood or a bad mood or if I felt like ‘Oh boy, another horror movie and why is my agent doing this and why should I be going out for a horror movie?’ But then I realized it was Wes Craven, and I knew who he was from his earlier movies, which some of them weren’t really that scary.

He was an excellent writer, and I went in the room, and I looked at this role on paper and I said ‘God, wouldn’t you know it, he’s not havin’ me like read some of the more mundane crap that I have to say at the beginning of the movie, he wants me to do the actual meltdown scene,’ the scene where I am possessed.

Guastaffero ShockerVery early in my career I had worked with Jackie Gleason, who was dominant on television during my childhood and was known as one of the best comedians in the business. He had a very broad comedic style, and when he used to yell and go ‘Pow! Zoom! To the moon!’ and all of that, I used that image of Jackie Gleason getting mad at Alice and having him be on acid.

I went into the audition room for Wes Craven and I just went fuckin’ nuts. I kicked over the coffee table, I laid on the floor and (growling, snarling noises), and did everything that probably you saw in the movie. I squirmed, I laid, I yelled, I fake shot, I did everything (chuckles) that I do in the movie in the audition room. And when I was done–I was having such a good time I got immersed in it–I looked up, Wes was smiling and the two casting people were sitting there with a look of fucking horror on their faces (chuckles). They looked like ‘What did this guy just do?’

The only thing that casting ever worries about is did I bring in somebody who’s gonna make me look bad by doing a bad job, or did I bring in somebody that the director’s going to like and hire? And the casting people were sitting there with that ambiguous look on their faces, Wes was already smiling, and then he went over to Gary Zuckabroad the casting director and he said ‘I want Vinny, so what can we do to get out of this session?’

And I swear, I’m just, I’m not bragging, I’m just telling you this is such a Hollywood story—the casting director had to go to the outer room where there are like six, eight other guys waiting to audition and say ‘I’m sorry everybody, something has come up and the director has to leave. We’ll have to call you again and re-schedule you for this,’ and he sent everybody home. I was called back into the room and he said ‘You’ve got the part. You got it on the spot. I want you to start workin’ on this now.’ And that’s how it went.

I mean, it was a fantastic experience for me because, once again to give you another analogy, what an actor likes to do is go into the room, throw their fastball–meaning whatever choices they’ve made, you don’t go in a room with a guy like Wes Craven and say ‘Well, how do I do this? How do I act crazy and possessed and deadly, and at the same time funny?’–ya know? You gotta go show them your variant of it, so I went in and threw my fastball and ended up getting the part. And that for me, was one of the most rewarding experiences in my life. And then to work with Wes was just unbelievable.” 

It’s A BOY Video Retailers! The Rare 1990 VHS Retailer Promo For “The Dream Child”

Long live the days of Mom and Pop video rental stores and the VHS early screener promos that today, serve as a lost art of visual romance. Especially for us horror enthusiasts. Because hey, who DOESN’T want to see Chucky bust out an awful yet incredibly entertaining rap about how great the Child’s Play movie is?

In case you’re not hip to what the hell a VHS screener may be, basically, it’s an early release of a VHS tape sent to video store owners that will ultimately either sway them to stock the shelves with said movie or give it a hard pass. In addition, some of these screeners would be sent to the media for reviews. Hard to imagine a time where critics would have to actually wait on the postman to deliver physical media as opposed to a screener email that can be obtained in under 60 seconds, eh?

Oh, how the world has changed. And Freddy is hard at work here taunting a sleazy marketing rep in this delicious ball of cheese VHS promo for Dream Child.

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In my humble opinion however, that’s what makes these clips so great and a must-see for any movie fan. While it seems as if Robert Englund may have skipped the on-screen promotions for this installment doubled with a not-so-great-look-alike, and it sort of comes across as a second-rate porno without the boner shots, the promo still gives some great info on the film. It also totally reminded me about that gem of a rap, Whodini’s “Anyway I Gotta Sing It” that included a special music video featuring clips from NOES 5- which you can watch here. Trust me, you don’t want to miss that national treasure.

So here it is! The unconventional, yet weirdly awesome VHS promo for A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child! Might want to watch it before Susan gets any ideas…

Special thanks to Youtuber Jason H. for uploading this diddy.

 

 

A Few Things You Might Not Know About “The Exorcist III”

I fondly remember the fateful night in 1990where my father, uncle, my cousin and an eight-year-old Patti made a Saturday night trip to our favorite local movie theater that stood as possibly, one of the last retro looking movie houses in all of Las Vegas. This might sound silly as of course, this was 1990, but I’m talking SUPER RETRO here. The entire building was made of brick, popcorn stands where mere popcorn and hot dog carts inside the lobby with a few cases of candy on the side, velvet red curtains covered the theater screens until showtime commenced, and the GIANT illuminated cinema marquee sign that displayed the featured films playing, could literally be seen from miles away. The place was absolutely beautiful inside and out, (as you can see pictured below of the inside lobby) and served as the place where I had seen most of the movies growing up until its demise and demolition over 15 years ago.

A Few Things You Might Not Know About "The Exorcist III"

*Shout out to ClassicLasVegas.com for this awesome photo!

It’s also the place where I first saw our movie of the day here, The Exorcist III. And yep. I remember peeing my pants a little as I was eight-goddamn-years-old in regards to that one scene. You know which one I’m talking about… And also, yes. The two grown men and older teenage male cousin laughed at the eight-year-old girl who produced a squirt of nature’s lemonade.

Dicks.

*MAJOR SPOILER HERE. DO NOT PROCEED IF YOU HAVEN’T LIVED AND HAVE DONE A DISSERVICE TO YOUR LIFE BY NOT WATCHING THIS FILM.

 

As fun as it is to reminisce about peeing the pants, let’s get to the real topic here. If you’re here and still reading, chances are you’re a fan of the HIGHLY UNDERRATED psychological-thriller based off William Peter Blatty’s fantastic novel, Legion; which of course, serves as the true direct sequel to The Exorcist. So, we’re going to skip all the captain obvious bullshit plot explanations and get right into some shit that you may or may not know about this film. And hell, if you watch it again with a new knowledge and some more appreciation, well stunning. I’ve done my job here.

 

1. The Exorcist III Was Jeffrey Dahmer’s Favorite Movie

A Few Things You Might Not Know About "The Exorcist III"

Well, a film that focuses on another serial killer doesn’t seem far-fetched as a favorite of one of America’s most notorious, eh? According to various old reports, Dahmer would watch the movie over, and over. And even watched portions of the film with some of his victims after bringing them back to his apartment. One of these men was one who had escaped- Tracy Edwards, who claims the film was on at the time he was guided around the apartment by Dahmer. Reports also claim that Dahmer had purchased contact lenses with yellow tint, to mimic The Gemini Killer.

 

2. They Snuck In A Reference To The Fly II

A Few Things You Might Not Know About "The Exorcist III"

As I may have stated in previous articles, my parents had no qualms about taking their young child to the theater for an extreme horror film. Becuase, hey, fuck 101 Dalmations. They didn’t have the patience for that watered down-Disney shit. So, watching this at the theater at the age of eight, I caught this one right away as I had seen The Fly II a year prior with my mother and I left the theater crying after the scene with the dog. Ugh. I still hate it. Anyway, Lee Richardson plays that asshole in that film that got his just desserts for hurting that animal and has a small part as the University President in The Exorcist III. When asked by Father Dyer what his favorite film, he replies coyly, “The Fly.”

*Also worth noting, Brad Dourif who brilliantly portrays the Gemini, references his cinematic alter-ego Chucky during one of his ramblings. In the film, he says, “It’s child’s play”, and we then cut to a scene to a young boy that resembles a Good Guy.

 

3. Both William Friedkin and John Carpenter Were Attached To Direct Before Blatty

john carpenter

Well, it certainly would have been iconic enough had OG Exorcist director William Friedkin at the helm once again, but John Carpenter?! That would have been something to see his vision of legion eh? Blatty originally collaborated with Friedkin and penned out The Exorcist III with Friedkin attached to direct. After Friedkin backed out, the project died and was turned into a novel- AKA Legion. After the success of the novel, Blatty offered out it on the market in the form of a screenplay and Morgan Creek bought the rights to make the film, whom brought on the legendary John Carpenter to direct. However, after seeing Blatty’s passion and visionary input regarding his adaptation, he stepped down to hand the reigns to the rightful owner.

 

4. A Plot Twist Was Suggested Involving Regan Macneil- And A Birth Of Possessed Twins….?!

Regan-MacNeil-From-Exorcist

This has to be the most WTF fact of them all…

Yes, this was suggested to William Peter Blatty as studios were in negotiations to adapt the screenplay by Carolco Pictures. The idea of a grown-up Regan giving birth to possessed twins completely undermines the whole idea of Legion and I don’t blame him a bit for laughing that off and settling with Morgan Creek Productions- even if they still haven’t given us a REAL directors cut of the film, at least that didn’t happen.

 

5. The Alternate Ending We Still Haven’t Seen

exorcist 3 ending

The ending we all know, and even in that Shout Factory edition, was not the intended final vision of Blatty. Reports claim it was scripted AND filmed, but we’ve still yet to see the dramatically different ending to The Exorcist III. But you know, Morgan Creek wanted that exorcism in there, so if moneybags wanted it, by God they were going to get it and the following was scrapped and reshot to their liking:

The novel Legion ends with the Gemini Killer summoning Kinderman to his cell for a final speech and then willingly dropping dead after his alcoholic Christian evangelist abusive father, finally dies from a heart attack. As his motive for killing was always to shame daddy, the Gemini’s reason for remaining on Earth ceases to exist. He then drops dead, thus freeing Karras. Albeit by death, but nevertheless releasing him from all the torture. In Blatty’s original screenplay adaptation, the ending is similar to the novel except that the Gemini’s death is not self-induced but forced supernaturally and suddenly by the death of his father.

 

The Exorcist III remains criminally underrated and if anything to the haters, (and really, who are you?) serves as a beautiful character analysis of different walks of life in the form of one chilling film. Aside from Silence f the Lambs, it stands as one of THE BEST psychological thrillers in cinematic history. Bold statement? Maybe. Perhaps you should schedule a rewatch and come back to comment to challenge me.

That’s me issuing a clear invitation to the dance. Pick up your copy from Amazon here!

 

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