All posts by Manic Exorcism

There is a method to my madness. I've just not figured out what it is yet.

‘Maniac 2’ Comic Review -The Gory Story Continues!

Fans of the exploitation cult classic Maniac (directed by Bill Lustig) have a lot to look forward to thanks to the macabre talents over at Eibon Press. The gruesome exploits of deranged serial killer Frank Zito continue in this carnage-strewn comic sequel no one knew they needed. And you won’t want to miss out, my Nasties. 

Now fans of the original movie will note (SPOILERS! If you’ve not seen the movie skip to the next paragraph…and go watch Maniac!) Frank ends up with his guts spilled all over his scummy bed at the end of the film. So questionably, and rightly so, how could there be a sequel? The answer lies in the fact that Eibon not only gave fans a page-by-page adaptation of the film but included lots (and I mean a fuck ton lots) of extra stuff in their sensational adaptation. 

Eibon Press is gifted with grotesque imaginations. Not being content to just retell the Maniac story they included the goddamn New York Ripper into the story which leads to a blood-soaked showdown between two of the Big Apple’s most disturbed serial killers! If for nothing else that is worth it alone to own this modern horror-comic masterpiece. 

But the comic also features some exceptional artwork that is pure eye candy for gore fiends. That same nasty beauty is continued in this sequel. So after faking his own death Frank sets out on the open highway to Hell itself as he hunts down that one special lady, the one who got away. By issue 2 (which goes on sale this week) we learn that the open road has way more deviants out there than one might want to think. 

In ish 2 the unholy creep factor gets cranked up on a meth ride into pure sadism. It’s a pungent resemblance to exploitive motifs of past horror on-the-road staples. Not so much Texas Chainsaw Massacre as it is The Hills Have Eyes, which, let’s face it, is horrifying. It makes ya think twice about that cross-country joyride you had planned. You just might not make it back in one piece if Eibon has anything to say about it. 

By now Frank has gained some notoriety for his crimes of sadistic passion. He’s also amassed a fan club of the worst sorts of people. Human degenerates who would just kill to meet their idol. Frank learns he’s not the only maniac out there and his world proves to be a very unforgiving place. The level of violence splashing across each page is what I’ve come to gladly expect out of Eibon Press, but, if we’re being honest, I really think they’ve outdone themselves. They really want you to know that, like Pieces suggests, you don’t have to go to Texas for a chainsaw massacre. 

Oh, there is chainsaw massacring a plenty here. The pages literally run red as Frank gets himself kidnapped by a deviant family of psychos who waylay unsuspecting travelers along the road only to bring them back to their little house of horrors. Some may say that Frank is about to get his comeuppance for all the dirty little things he’s done in life as he finds himself now the victim of sexual assault and sadism. 

Like its predecessor, this is a must-own for horror collectors, fans, and lovers of exploitation. But let’s be honest, I could say the same thing for anything published by Eibon Press.

These guys are fans who live for horror. With each new release, they prove their passion for the genre by giving us the best fucking horror comics this side of Hell. So don’t miss out and be sure to order your copy here

The Scandalous VHS Artwork of Exploitation Horror

The subject material you’re about to encounter has vehemently been condemned and is strictly considered immoral by nanny courts. These images are bound to exhort nothing short of moral panic.

They depict excessive amounts of blood, guts, violence of the most enthusiastic sort, lots of sexy filth for the sake of making people blush, and, in short, are certainly enough to make your grandmother feel ashamed of you for enjoying this kind of stuff. You may enter at your own risk, my Nasties, but let’s face it. I already know you want it. So grab a shovel because we’re gonna dig deep into the shocking world of exploitation art!

They were criticized upon their release, made people feel very icky in the gutty guts, and were considered to be the precursor of an oncoming collapse of society.  That collapse though never happened, as if anyone was surprised. But in a quick panic the leading authorities rushed to ban each of this movies due to the explicitness of their covers and their lurid titles. I mean each one promised an apocalyptic orgy of violence and indecency for Heaven’s sake.

This banning was for your protection. And of course, those of us from all aspects of the horror community, be it the Drive-In Mutants, the Slasheristic Gore Fiends, or, oh yes, you, my lovely Nasties, all join together to flip a fervent middle finger right in the smug face of the censor boards. 

Long live the nastiness, and long live horror!

BRING ON THE EXTREME! 

Zombies rising from the dead to tear out the throats of the living, chainsaws waving in the early morning air, splintering eye gauging, arterial spray, beheadings a plenty, and oozing guts being pulled out for the sake of self-cannibalism! These are the images splattered across exploitation horror covers like a heavy misting of an open vein.  

This is where the splatter film was bred and given room to mutate. These grotesque visions led way to Death Metal inspirations, influenced the likes of Eli Roth and Quentin Tarantino, and led way for future horror extremists to realize their own wicked visions.

One common thing was shared between these extreme films: a complete disregard for the human body. The imagination behind these titles was to break apart the fragile human shape and leave it (literally in some cases) in messy pieces as some titles suggested. And when it came to exposing the human form there was no discrimination. The male nude body was often thrown before an unsuspecting audience as well as plenty of wang-doodle chopping. Like seriously, that weeny hacking stuff happened alot (and not saying the characters didn’t in fact deserve it) so be ready to cross your legs, fellahs.

They’ve been called filth, exploitation, and Video Nasties. Fans call them classics and consider them a rite of passage as one matures from Psycho to Texas Chainsaw Massacre. These movies are the next step, a slippery slope dipping into a very seedy world of drills, kills, chainsaws, and rusted hooks where our heroes face the ravenous undead, sadistic psycho maniacs, nuns who are anything but pure, and lots, and lots of stabby things with pointed-ends.

In the days long before Google horror fans with a flair for the more extreme side needed to rely on either word of mouth or the images these harsh titles presented on their covers. 

The artwork was what sold these movies

In many, many cases the artwork alone was the only sneak peak we were given to make up our minds on whether to try out a movie or not. You’d hold a copy of I Spit On Your Grave in your hands, and, if you didn’t know anything about the flick, your imagination would swim out into a very dark lake of possibilities to what this film could hold in store. The cover suggested a fair deal of sexuality and, based on the knife in the unknown lady’s hand, plenty of good ol’ violence. I mean I was a kid when I first held this movie in my hands and – in those naïve days – I thought it would have something to do with a graveyard and zombies. 

I was a stupid fucking kid. 

In many cases the cover art alone was enough to earn these daring movies an explicit rating. And, in most cases, the posters left very little to the imagination.

These movies were very upfront about their ghastly content. And you gotta remember these were years before we had Death Metal bands and heavy metal was just starting up. So for the most part culture – as a whole – was not at all prepared for this level of hardgore material. This stuff was crawling out of the crypt whether people were ready for it or not. Now it’s almost old hat, but back then this stuff, (art, keep in mind art alone), was a serrated knife cutting the nerves of society’s disquiet.

Art And Repulse

But it wasn’t like we had the internet in those days. We couldn’t pull up IMDB or watch a trailer on YouTube. We had a brief description on the back and the cover art that lingered in our minds. So it was all up to that cover art to pull us in, and the artwork did a very good job.  

Maybe a little too good actually.

But these movies not only had macabre covers, they also had names that screamed at us, slapped us in the face, and captivated the attention. The Last House on the Left, House By the Cemetery, Isla: Shewolf of the SS, Driller Killer, They Call Her One Eye, Cannibal Holocaust, Make Them Die Slowly, Eaten Alive, Nekromantik, and Zombie Flesh Eaters to name just a few. 

These movies were built on razor-thin budgets and had nothing left over for advertisements. They solely had to rely on the artwork of their covers and their brilliant titles to lure in audiences and make back a profit. And not only did the plan work, it went and worked a little too well.

And in many cases once these films hit foreign markets the grotesque and macabre were both raised to new levels of alarm as even more explicit images came into being to promote the titles. Here’s a small sampling of just one of these movies (in this case Zombi 2) and how it changed (mutated) around the world.

Judging by the different versions of the movie’s international artwork leaves a feeling like you’re gazing at four entirely different films even though it is Zombi 2, yours truly’s favorite zombie flick btw.

And just because, here are a few more examples. The stark difference between home release and the foreign market’s has fans now scouring the internet and hitting conventions hoping to obtain some of these rare and unique posters to add to their horror collections. And who can blame them? This stuff is bragging rights.

The writing was on the wall, written in blood and clear as day. Shock sold. The competition for gore and the grotesque was on. When Deodato released his infamous Cannibal Holocaust Umberto Lenzi followed suit and released his Cannibal Ferox aka Make Them Die Slowly.

Stakes were raised and film makers strove to outdo what came before them. More guts! More flesh tearing! More death! Make it slow and more brutal! More sex, more screams, more everything! It didn’t take long though before this underworld of rebel cinema was discovered and promptly exposed.

Many of these titles were labeled Video Nasties and wound up on the banned list in many parts of the world. It became an insane time when the ultra-right sent police officers into people’s homes if it was even rumored some poor sap owned a copy of the Evil Dead. So the popularity of the films backfired on video shop owners and fans alike. 

It’s a case of an art form working a little too well.

Just how insane did it get, you ask?

Bill Lustig (director of Maniac) mailed a copy of the movie’s soundtrack (the soundtrack mind you) to a friend over in England but custom agents seized the record and kept it due to the Obscene Act. It was only a fucking music record! What the Hell did they think the music could do? Rip the listener’s eardrums out and fuck the ear hole to death? But the Video Nasties paranoia was in full effect and these people were taking shit far too seriously. 

Adult men and women went to storming video fronts and apprehending movies as if they were contraband, and it was all due to the film’s covers and titles. In a stupid mistake (as if the whole Act itself wasn’t stupid enough) the movie Apocalypse Now (Marlin Brando, Martin Sheen) was banned for a quick moment because of its title alone. 

And that’s just it, no one took the time to actually review these movies. They took them at surface level alone. Dolly Parton’s Best Little Whore House in Texas found itself in hot water due to title alone as well. That means a Dolly Parton movie sat on the same banned shelf alongside the Ilsa series! You have to see the humor in that.

These movies struck a raw nerve, more like severed the motherfucker with a rusty pickaxe, and everyday normal people were being threatened with jail time and fines. 

I would have been utterly fucked, my beloved Nasties! My library would have made their toenails curl. 

Fans pushed back and the restrictions just made us want to see these obscene films that much more. And, as it always seems to do, the people who would censor these moves (and their naughty covers) out of existence finally lost the fight and had to shut the fuck up. Even so it took decades before Last House on the Left was legally allowed distribution in the UK.

Today fans can own each of these lurid titles thanks to boutique Blu-ray companies like Synapse Films, Blue Underground, Severin, and Vinegar Syndrome. There are also the large companies, like Arrow and Scream Factory, that make titles available for fans. So we’ve got it made for the most part.

In the end, horror won. If you now want to own a copy of Emmanuelle and the Last Cannibal, well that’s your right.

Art doesn’t mean it’ll speak to everyone. Some will be repulsed by it while others are amazed. That’s how you know it’s done right. 

The world of exploitation not only lives on in the memories of its fans but today is faithfully continued forth and allowed to expand to new depths of visceral art by Eibon Press who capture the spirit and lovingly expand upon many of the classic titles fans love. They aren’t paying me to promote them but they’ve won me over as a fan and I can genuinely say go check them out. Anyone who loves exploitation will love these guys.

But before I go if you have any posters or VHS copies of these titles (or others) be sure to share them in the comments. We’d love to see what dark wonders sit in the crypt of your collection.

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In Memory of Richard Donner – Who Made A Man Fly And The Devil Smile.

Richard Donner passed away at the age of 91 this past week (July 5, 2021). He left behind a legacy of awe, laughter, inspiration, and horror. Few men are able to become legends in multiple fields of various film genres, but our dearly departed Donner achieved just that. 

He Made Us All Believe A Man Could Fly

via the Guardian

Today we are glutted on superhero movies, but this wasn’t always the case. It wasn’t until Dick Donner was brought on board a little project that looked absolutely impossible to do. Someone had to achieve the impossible, bring Superman, the world’s greatest superhero, to life and make it the world’s greatest superhero film of all time.

via Warner Bros

It was nothing short of a master-class work of pure cinematic alchemy that came together. From the actors (after all not just anyone could play both Clark and Kal El), the music, the cinematography, and, most importantly, the man in the director’s chair. 

via Warner Bros

One of the things that really stands out about the movie is John William’s immortal score. Originally, Jerry Goldsmith (The Omen) was brought on to score this legendary undertaking. However, and despite already working with Goldsmith, Dick heard a sample of what Williams had to bring to the film, and, in Donner’s own words, the soundtrack literally shouted SUP-ER-MAN! And that sold him on the idea. Williams took charge of the music and we can all be thankful for that crucial decision. 

And it’s simply a given fact. If it wasn’t for the groundbreaking success of Donner’s legendary Superman there wouldn’t be a Marvel Studios today. Superman was groundbreaking and a pioneer of the superhero film.

Zack Snyder’s ‘Justice League via HBO Max

We wouldn’t have Batman, the Dark Knight Trilogy, or JokerWonder Woman, or Zack Snyder’s imperial Justice League. Dick Donner showed the world comic books were more than worthy to become blockbuster franchises. 

The Day the Devil Grinned

Via Fox

Not a single soul in Hollywood wanted to touch a little film project about a 5 y/o Antichrist. It had been turned down by some of the best-named directors in Hollywood. Fox Studios brought the script to Donner and told him no one wanted it. 

“Why are you bringing it to me then?” he asked with a chuckle. They told him there was a lot of potential in this project. So he gave it a look, saw something in it, called them back, and agreed to take it on with one exception, “Get all that devil stuff out of it.” He wanted it to feel like the worst day of bad luck a man could ever have to deal with. 

via Fox

He wanted audiences to decide for themselves if this was all a coincidence or was Satan really in the background orchestrating events? The original script had satanic images, covens, and cloven hooves in the audience’s face the whole time. By removing this stuff it not only elevated the film from B level to A standard, but he created a horror sensation that flooded across the world and made people believe End Time prophecies were fulfilling in the ‘70s. The subtlety wormed into people’s minds and drove them nuts!

Suddenly people’s asses were going back to church and the Antichrist was a red hot topic. Parents looked at their own children and wondered if they’d given birth to a Hellspawn.

via Fox

It was fucking great!  

Donner was also involved in casting Damien Thorn, the child of Satan. The casting was pretty straightforward. Each kid brought in to audition was given very specific instructions, “I want you to fight me,” he’d tell them. This was crucial to the role because of the freak-out scene involving Damien Thorn not wanting to enter a church. 

In came little Harvey Spencer, a blonde-haired angelic-looking kid. Donner told Harvey to fight him and right off the bat Harvey punched Dick right in the balls and they could not get the kid off him. He was throwing punches like he was auditioning for Fight Club. Once his parents pulled him away Dick’s mind was made up. “Dye his hair black. We’ve found the Antichrist.”

via Fox

There are plenty of moments that stand out in this apocalyptic horror classic. The beheading by glass, the hellhounds in the graveyard, the nanny’s hanging. But the ending seals it. Like the frosting atop a cake, the finale really sells the story and it was by complete accident. 

Due to the chemistry between Donner and Spencer, the moment worked like (black) magic. The scene was supposed to have little Damien turn and look morosely at the audience. So Donner is behind the camera and telling little Harvey, “Harvey, now don’t you smile. Look serious. If you smile I won’t be your friend ever again. Don’t you dare smile.”

image via Fox

The scene became a moment of satanic victory as audiences watch the Antichrist turn and give us a devilish grin. He’s won! Evil triumphed! The little bastard is victorious. That’s not how a movie is supposed to end! It shocked the fuck out of people.

Not at all bad for an accident. Realizing the potential of the moment (and having great taste) Donner used the scene to tremendous effect. 

Donner’s satanic movie made so much money for the studio that they were able to support a little struggling project called Star Wars that was being made at the time. 

Dick Donner’s contribution to our childhoods is limitless. Who didn’t grow up loving Goonies? And Scrooged is my favorite Christmas movie. And know what? Fuck it, I’m gonna say it. I like The Toy with Richard Pryor. But there’s also Lethal Weapon to the man’s credit.

Really, if there’s one man’s career that defined my generation it’s Donner’s. He will be missed but he lives on by his films. 

Let us know which of Donner’s films have the most impact on you.

Be sure to not miss out on our latest about the scares and shocks that got us from the Friday the 13th franchise.

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