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Tale of three Godzillas Part II: “Godzilla ’98,” The IMPOSTOR

“Godzilla is the son of the atomic bomb. He is a nightmare created out of the darkness of the human soul. He is the sacred beast of the apocalypse.” Tomoyuki Tanaka, Gojira

art by Bob Eggleton

Flawlessly capturing the core essence of who Godzilla is and his irradiated roots, the above quote should be the criteria for any film maker given the task of bringing the world’s biggest monster to life cinematically.

Godzilla’s come a long way since first appearing in Tokyo to leave a radiant wave of horror and destruction in his ineradicable path. The film was handled with effulgent respect and care for it’s subject material. That’s what sets it apart from other monster movies of its time and has given a timeless quality that new generations of fans come to discover and embrace.

Gojira is a masterpiece and cinematic legend.

I covered Gojira, in Part I which you can catch up on by clicking here.

Now the movie we’re talking about today lacks both respect and talent. And even though I’m sure most of us would much rather prefer drinking a big steaming cup of nuclear waste than revisit this film ever again, we’re still going to take a look back at the Godzilla movie that enraged fans, disgusted Toho, and keeps popping up like a turd that just won’t flush.

(Sigh) let’s buckle in and just brace ourselves. Because if I have to do this I’m not doing it alone. You all are coming with me!

But wait. I’m sounding harsh. Let’s get this out of the way. “Do I hate this movie?” I know a lot of my readers are assuming I do and those of you who go way back with me and my early days of writing, you’re probably expecting this to be the newest article of me Manicing Out.

Surprisingly I don’t hate it. It genuinely feels like a ’90s blockbuster. It has that ’90s look and feel. But I’ll save my final thoughts, well, until the end. Let’s Time Warp in the meantime.

Coming of Age

It was the 1990s and us ‘80s brats were nearing adolescence which meant our world was changing. We were growing up and so were our toys as well as entertainment. We were big kids now and it felt like everything we loved was maturing right alongside us. 

image via Super Nintendo, ‘Super Godzilla’

Thanks to McFarlane Toys our figures were going from badass and fun to badass and wicked! Our comics became darker with introductions of new anti-heroes spawned from Hell, The Killing Joke made Joker scary again, and Spidey had to deal with some Maximum Carnage due to an asylum out break in New York. Things were bloodier and more violent and we were not complaining!

Cartoons got edgier too thanks to Ren and Stimpy and Beavis and Butthead. Video games exposed us to Mortal Kombat and Doom where we bathed ourselves in blood.

image via Midway, ‘MKII’

So I still say the ’90s was a great time for coming to age and we were lucky enough to be part of it. 

Everything we loved was getting bigger, better, and way badass(ier). But what about Godzilla? After all, you’d think this decade would have been the radioactive-rich culture for a proper Godzilla resurgence.  

From 1985 to 1998

For us US fans the last time we ever saw any sign of Godzilla was back in ‘85. The movie was released theatrically in US theaters, something that seldom ever happened, and I remember getting a copy of it on VHS and wearing that poor thing out.

image via Toho, ‘Godzilla 1985’

Godzilla 1985 was an updated take on the classic monster and the beginning of the Heisei era. It was darker, bigger, and a brilliant return to formula. Godzilla felt intimidating and, well, scary! I LOVED IT!

Humanity could do nothing against this newly risen (or resurrected) beast of the apocalypse. Godzilla was back and I couldn’t be happier. The effects were updated and the story was dead serious, perhaps to a flaw. But Hell I didn’t care. My Godzilla had returned!

And then … there was nothing!

Without a single rumor of any follow-up films it seemed as if Godzilla would just stay buried at the bottom of the volcano that swallowed him up. Godzilla might as well have been dead.

image via Toho, ‘Godzilla 1985’

Little did I know – during this dry spell – Toho was still actively making Godzilla movies. But with no internet back then fans like me had no idea the King of the Monsters was still around.

In that time my family moved us to Russia and I was completely out of the loop. I still had a copy of Godzilla 1985 though and watched regularly, and introduced my fans to my love for kaiju.

And then dinosaurs walked the Earth!

Dino DNA and Godzilla Comes to America!

We got one helluva great movie that revived dinosaurs for all of us little brats and made kids want to go dig up dinosaur bones. And that movie was Jurassic Park

Kids were excited about dinosaurs again and studios took note. It wasn’t long after we explored that dino-raging park that it was announced a new (NEW!!!!) Godzilla movie was being made with the same special effects that brought those dinosaurs to life! 

image via Tristar, ‘Godzilla 1998’

Please keep in mind I had not seen a new Godzilla movie since the mid ’80s. So I was besides myself when I learned that not only was a new movie in the works but it would have state-of-the art special effects backing it up!

This was the first time an American studio would have the honor to interpret Japan’s greatest monster for, what would doubtlessly be, a fresh new beginning for Godzilla. 

This would be the Godzilla movie to define all Godzilla movies to come. We just knew it… what little we knew though.

The Showa era had ended before many of us were even born but we grew up in the radiant shadow of those films and their greatness. The battles Godzilla had with King Kong, Monster Zero, Gigan, Megalon, and MechaGodzilla were forever branded in our minds.

We were way-passed starved to see the new era of the King of the Monsters…and now looking back it makes perfect more sense why the ’98 disasterpiece left so many of us feeling kicked right between the legs. 

It was a betrayal of our innocent trust. 

This was one of the most anticipated movies of the decade. Toho was thrilled by the deal and couldn’t wait to see their prized monster introduced to a larger audience. For many American viewers, Godzilla was just a rubber suit and bad dubbing so this would be the first time to prove the might and majesty of the Child of the Apocalypse.

This project was a big deal to all of us… and it tripped on its own two feet and fell face-first into a pile of rat dicks. 

Actually, it didn’t trip because that would imply it was an accident. No, this thing purposefully jumped headfirst into that dick pile and then dared to try and convince us it was some misunderstood masterpiece. And we weren’t buying what it was selling. 

image via Tristar, ‘Godzilla 1998’

If you really wanna get mad you should just look and see what the movie almost was. But would I put you through that? I’m Manic Exorcism, of-fuking-course I am!  So come on.

The Movie That Almost Was

Tristar purchased the film rights from Toho in 1992 with an elaborate plan to make a three-part Godzilla saga. Ambitious but not unobtainable. Today we’re seeing Legendary building a successful Godzilla trilogy of their own and fans praise their efforts.

GODZILLA! HOW WE NEEDED (A) KING OF THE MONSTERS!
GODZILLA! HOW WE NEEDED (A) KING OF THE MONSTERS, image via Legendary, ‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters’

The difference is Legendary, unlike Tristar, has respect and appreciation for the colossal task of bringing Godzilla to life. Their movies feel like fan-made monsterpieces and Tristar’s movie was nothing but a cash grab. One that never saw any future after its first film. 

Originally the picture was set to release in 1994 with a lore steeped in Atlantian mystery. Godzilla would have been a magical product of Atlantis, a creature created to be the protector of the Earth.

concept art of Godzilla, image via Tristar

Godzilla would have battled a brand new terror to the planet, a shape-shifting beast from the depths of outer space called the Gryphon. 

One can imagine the Gryphon undergoing different evolutionary stages that would challenge Godzilla’s wits and might to find a way to ultimately defeat his newest foe. It sounds like a classic Showa Era showdown. 

concept art for The Gryphon, image via Tristar

I especially like that Godzilla would have dealt with aliens again. Some of his greatest enemies come from other planets. So far so good.

It would seem the project was in safe hands with Jan de Bont set to direct. Godzilla may have gotten away from his atomic roots but overall the movie sounded like a hit waiting to happen. 

The man in charge of bringing Godzilla to life was none other than Stan Winston!

Stan Winston and his beasties. We see his vision for ‘Godzilla’ behind him

That’s right. That guy! The man who brought the Alien Queen to life in Aliens. The artist behind the menacing presence of the T-800 from Terminator. And the very guy who made dinosaurs walk in Jurassic Park.

Stan Winston was going to design Godzilla and bring him to life for Western audiences. This was a big fucking deal!

Luckily concept art and designs still exist for this lost project.  

image via SciFiJapan.com

And looking at the Godzilla designs Winston had in mind, well he looks damn good. You look at this and know you’re looking at Godzilla.

image via Stan Winston’s School of CharacterArts, ‘Godzilla’

This movie would have worked and most likely would have inspired a franchise. This could have been just what we all needed. 

(I wish it could at least have a comicbook adaptation. I would still like to see this project come to life somehow. It just sounds cool.)

So what went wrong? It really boiled down to budgetary issues. The project cost more than the studio was willing to pay and a new director and a new story were demanded.

Stan Winston’s ‘Godzilla’ and a very lost opportunity

And that’s where it all goes to shit. 

Roland Emmerich was called in as director and since he had no more ideas as to how he could rip Star Wars off anymore (at least at that particular moment) he took over the most ambitious monster movie of the decade….yaaaay…. 

It was later announced that Emmerich had not grown up with Godzilla and admitted he had no passion for the project.

image via GojiPedia, Roland Emmerich

No passion and no respect. That’s a real nice attitude to have while directing a franchise that’s adored by millions across the globe.

A studio wanted money and the director wanted the same thing.  What could possibly go wrong? 

The New York Lizard 

Whereas the Gojira serves as a catastrophic warning of impending doom at the hands of mankind’s carelessness, the 1998 film serves more like some big-budget sitcom episode. It has no political statements to make, there’s no philosophy behind it, and the human characters aren’t facing any kind of  judgement-day peril at the hands of a beast born of atomic energy.

image via Tristar, ‘Godzilla 1998’

It’s only recurring message is French people can’t find good coffee in America. That and we see a lot of tuna as if any one of us gave a shit. 

Ok, so I get it. It’s not always easy (I suppose) to have a powerful message driving your movie project. It could be argued that all the best ideas have already been used up. Gojira’s message was powerful and frightening.

So if it doesn’t have a message it had better have some badass destruction, right? And…no it doesn’t. Whenever the monster is on the screen it’s not ripping a path through New York’s plenteous skyscrapers. It’s not crumbling businesses, endangering lives, or burning the city to the ground. You know, like we’ve come to expect out of Godzilla movies! 

image via Tristar

In fact, the damage that is done is caused mainly by the military as they chase the big lizard through New York. That’s right, the monster doesn’t even fight the military but runs away like a wimp! 

Such wasted opportunities! Could you imagine seeing the monster wreak havoc across New York? It was a chance to bring Godzilla to the States to do what Godzilla is known for. But instead, we got a scared lizard who was too busy laying eggs than actually living up to its titanic name.

Now let’s talk about the look. Yeah, there actually was some thought put into this thing’s appearance. Like they tried extra hard to fuck this up.

image via Tristar

So ya know how Stan Winston was originally behind the project? Yeah, they let him go and Patrick Tatopoulos was brought in. Tatopoulos says Emmerich gave him specific direction for the monster’s look too.

Firstly, the monster was to run really, really fast. You know, like Godzilla always does. I mean you look at Godzilla and just think fuck! He must run so fast! Like I always think of Godzilla as a big-time runner. Like I mean Godzilla must jog, right?

Emmerich was also adamant that this wasn’t a monster but an animal. I mean it’s not like the guy was directing a monster movie or anything. And not just a monster movie but the most famous monster of all time! But Emmerich in his brilliance decided we deserved a movie about a very big animal lost in a bigger city.  OooooOOOOoooooOOOOoooh!!!!

image via American Godzilla wiki, Taco Bell Godzilla cups. Perfect to fill with delicious booze and re-watch ‘Independence Day,’ or ‘Star Gate,’ or ‘2012’

Not only that, but the monster’s stupid looking jawline was based on the tiger’s face from Disney’s The Jungle Book

(Moment of silence) *pouring drink*

So never mind the fact there was a rich library of films to base your Godzilla movie on. Not to mention all the creative hands behind the Toho legacy who gladly would’ve aided their advise and input to help further this big-budget project.

Oh no, Emmerich thought it much too bothersome to look into the lore, look, and temperament of Godzilla. His team chose Disney as inspiration instead.

image via Tristar, ‘Godzilla 1998’ …duuuh me ist tiger! Grrrrrr!

And those assholes knew the look sucked. They kept that shit hidden as best they could before the movie was released. Even though the advertisement for this film was ridiculous they only dared to show us the monster’s eye, or foot, or hands and claws. They knew they made a big mistake and it was way too late to take it back. 

A week before the movie released I remember opening a magazine and seeing the first full glimpse of ‘Godzilla’ and thinking to myself, ‘are you fucking kidding me?!’ I thought maybe I was seeing a monster the real Godzilla would fight in the movie. But oh no, I was seeing a thing Emmerich thought was Godzilla.

If you’re disappointed in the monster’s stupid look you’re not alone. Every veteran Godzilla suit actor hated the Emmerich look. Haruo Nakajima, the original suit actor, said “Its face looks like an iguana and its body and limbs look like a frog.” 

Shusuke Kaneko, the Heisei Gamera director had to say about it: “it’s not Godzilla, it doesn’t have his spirit.”

Bottom line: none of the kaiju masters of the past approved of ’98. 

This monster can’t even breathe fire. It doesn’t rampage across New York City. It runs away from the military. It’s just a useless kind of beast. It is not Godzilla and Japan took care of that for us.

The Final Nail in Zilla’s Coffin.

Toho, the studio who owned the rights to the Godzilla franchise, was appalled by the movie Hollywood puked out. Toho was so pissed off by this American embarrassment that they set the record straight and removed the God from Zilla.

They even went out of their way to address this.

In the movie Godzilla, Mothra, and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001), it’s mentioned that a monster attacked New York and Americans confused it for Godzilla. But the monster who hit New York was a different monster called Zilla, not Godzilla. I’m hammering this in I know, but you get the picture.

Toho further erased Zilla’s dignity by forcing it to fight the real Godzilla in Godzilla: Final Wars (2004). In that film, Zilla is straight away hit by a radiant blast of Godzilla’s atomic breath and explodes into little fried atoms. The end. 

I know you want to see that. Here you go.

The worst part about this imposter film is for many this is the one and only Godzilla movie they will ever watch. This was a monumental opportunity to introduce new viewers to the world of giant monsters and it failed so fantastically.

Gone are the scenes that echo the results of atomic weapons melting a city as the Beast walks slowly along the glowing skyline. Gone is the desperation of man battling a nightmare of his own making.

art courtesy of Bob Eggleton

Perhaps as a direct result of Emmerich’s stupid movie Toho began making all-new Godzilla films which are now known as the Millennium Era. And one of my all-time favorites is part of this section, Godzilla Against MechaGodzilla!

And thanks to Legendary we’re getting quality American-made Godzilla films in the MonsterVerse.

The ’98 film was a missed opportunity but great things have come out of it.

It makes me wonder what kind of American Gojira remake we could have had if the team behind it had taken the project seriously. You can tell they were mimicking the original movie straight away. It’s opening credits show us atomic bombs blowing the Hell out of an island and an iguana basking in the neon light. We all knew where that was going.

Then a fishing ship, reminiscent of the Lucky Dragon and the opening of Gojia, suffers a fatal collision with the monster made of radiation. The monster later arrives on land and accidentally breaks up the harbor and fishing district, kinda like when Godzilla brought a typhoon to the village when he first set foot on land.

Was this an attempt to remake Gojira? Yes, even if it was nothing more than a subconscious one. It could have been great but the damage it caused is thankfully contained. And Japan would later give us the true successor to the movie that started it all.

Final thoughts

I don’t hate the movie. Oh it’s a helluva lot of fun to hate on it, sure. But It has a stupid kind of charm about it. I can look back on it now (and with so many newer Godzilla entries since then) and nod with nostalgia at it.

As a Godzilla movie it’s just awful. It doesn’t work at all. It sucks, it sucks, it blows donkey balls. But as a monster movie it’s not all that bad. If you can view it as only a monster movie then you’ll have fun with it.

It’s good to watch for some ’90s feels I guess. But I strongly recommend any and all of the Hesisei era Godzilla movies to this one if you want GODZILLA from that decade!

So stick with us and stay tuned for Part III as we take a look at the award-winning Shin Godzilla.

In the meantime I know what you all want.

Long Live The King!!!

Why Anjelica Huston is the Most Horrifying Movie Witch… Ever

WHY ANJELICA HUSTON IS THE MOST HORRIFYING MOVIE WITCH… EVER

There’s just something wickedly amazing about Anjelica Huston peeling off her humanoid face in The Witches that makes you want to squirm and throw holy water all over the place. If you were a horror kid in the 90s’, chances are you’ve seen Anjelica Huston in all her genre glory as she so brilliantly took on the coveted role of a lifetime, Morticia Addams in the Addams Family movies; and nailed the shit out of it staking her claim as the modern babe in black we both wanted as a wife and mother. She was a goth goddess and we loved her for it.

However, before she was clipping off heads of rosebuds in her gothic garden, she solidified her spot in history in 1990 with her terrifying portrayal of Roald Dahl’s Grand High Witch.

Adapted from the 1983 Dahl book and sadly, the last movie the great Jim Henson produced, The Witches brought just the right amount of intensity to the screen for young viewers without going over the PG rating. That’s quite an impressive feat considering the main antagonist of the film was in so many words, the Charles Manson of the witch world ordering her disciples to get rid of every last child on Earth through what else?

Chocolate, of course.

Chocolate that turns the repulsive, dogs’ dropping smelling, little brats into mice. While the premise alone is something that could give any small kid a few nightmares at bedtime, it was Huston’s performance in The Witches that scared the literal crap out of kids back at the beginning of the ’90s decade.

So on this day, which also happens to bethe films’ 30th anniversary, we celebrate why the almighty Grand High Witch was and still is, the most horrifying witch on screen. 

The Grand High Witch Revealed 

As stated at the top of this jam, not sure there’s anything more horrifying to a child than watching someone as beautiful as Huston peel the skin of her mug like a Mary Kay face mask to reveal her true hideous self.

It always bugged me how she was able to mask that enormously elongated nose underneath her disguise, but I suppose The Grand High Witch has her ways and I probably shouldn’t question it otherwise I may end up a pile of ashes. Which leads us into the next example.

The Grand High Witch doesn’t like smack talk

See here’s the thing: if you’re a low-ranking witch in the same room as your superior, you should probably keep your opinions to yourself. And for fuck’s sake don’t mutter crap under your breath within ears reach of the most powerful woman in the world. Even though the comment was a mere observation and harmless, the Grand High Witch made it painfully clear even the slightest apprehension from her subordinates will cost them dearly.

Bye, Bye Bruno!

Holy hell, does the Witch Queen hate children or what?! During the little witch convention, your scabby Highness shows off her latest, and very gweatest invention- Formula 86. The very potion to be diluted into candy bars that are to be dispersed to children worldwide. So she brings in a visual demonstration of what to expect to see once the formula goes into action. Looks like Conal Cochran has some serious competition here.

She outright tries to kill a baby!

The Grand High Witch shows no mercy even towards infants. That’s some pure evil shit right there ladies and gentlemen. Luckily our flick’s protagonist little Luke intervenes and saves the day because I’m not so sure I could deal with that kind of baby killing fuckery in a supposed family friendly film.

She’s even terrifying as a damn mouse!

The Skeksis have nothing on the Grand High Witch in pure rodent form.  When plans backfire, the Witch of all witches finds herself in quite the predicament. If you didn’t have a phobia of mice and rats before, you might have one now because the Grand Highness’ rodent transformation is the ultimate in sewer rodent nightmares. And then what happens? She gets squashed by Mr. Bean.

Mr. Fucking. Bean.

This guy right here killed the Grand High Witch. I guess not even the head of the witches can compete with this kind of mojo. Hmm. Maybe Bean ole’ boy should have taken her place.

Godzilla! How We Needed (a) King of the Monsters!

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

The ground beneath you cracks at the approach of an immortal titan returned from a bygone era of raw strength and savage power. The monster’s colossal might is felt in the air like electricity passing between each mote of dust falling on your face. The heavens clamor at the sound of his battle cry and nature itself is swept up in awe at his magnificence. Godzilla has returned and there is nothing that can stop the age of the King!

We have entered a brand new era, fellow believers. An era only thought possible in dreams of childhood imaginations.

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

As children, we didn’t see rubber suits or miniature sets. Back in those happier times of delicate innocence and sitting in front of the glow of our TV’s Godzilla was simply larger than life. We didn’t pay attention to bad dubbing or notice wires holding Monster Zero’s heads up. We believed in what we saw and to us, it was entirely realistic. 

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

Those monsters came to life before our eyes and no matter how silly it could get at times (Yeah, I’m looking right at you Godzilla vs The Smog Monster) we never stopped believing… at least for a time that is. 

And then the inevitable happened. Innocence came to an end and child-like whimsy had to be set on a shelf with the coming of age.

courtesy of Toho, ‘Godzilla vs Megalon’

In other words, we had to grow up. 

Do you remember how it happened? I don’t actually. I mean there was a time when I believed in fantasy: like I made my figures come to life every time I played with them. I saw a dinosaur on TV and felt how real it looked. I watched Godzilla knowing he truly existed, if nowhere else than in my heart. He was real. 

Image courtesy of Toho, ‘Godzilla vs MechaGodzilla’

And then as if overnight all of my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles figures were little plastic pieces sitting around gathering dust. I stopped playing. I quit running around outside pretending to be a giant monster destroying cities and battling other kaiju.

image courtesy of Manic Exorcism, little me in my Godzilla costume.

I no longer ran around in the weeds imagining myself to be the Predator hunting down prey. 

I stepped out of the hazy fog of childhood and had grown up before I knew it. And that’s just nature. It’s life and how it should be. But, no matter how old I got, I never stopped believing in certain things. In fact, as I matured it dawned on me that these guys could be larger than life itself! 

courtesy of Toho, ‘Godzilla vs King Kong’

Just because I could suddenly see the strings and knew about an actor being in a suit didn’t make the magic any less enjoyable to me. I just started dreaming bigger.

Like what if they made a Godzilla movie that could prove the enormity of these monsters we loved so much? 

 Godzilla approaches his ancient enemy, a lofty golden dragon with three vicious heads. About the heads of this rival king is a crown of blistering storms shattering the blackened skies above. If Godzilla is god then this is the devil, menacing and wrathful. He has come to our world like a fallen star and will stop at nothing until all life on the planet is under his hellish command. Or eradicated. An ancient battle between old enemies is about to take place over the fate of the world.  

This is what Godzilla fans expect to see. This is what we were given.

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

This is a love letter to the classic Showa Era we all grew up on and dreamt of seeing someday. Thanks to Legendary we are being given the films fans deserve. 

And that’s how it truly feels: Legendary, through the three fantastic monster movies they’ve given us via the MonsterVerse, has written a love letter to fans of the classic movies.

The scope of imagination and attention to detail given to each project has not let us down. The people behind these movies have proven to be true fans of the genre and treat the kaiju with the titanic respect they each deserve. 

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

It doesn’t matter if these are modern-day movies, these films embody exactly what we expect from kaiju cinema. One tiny example among hundreds: Kong. In Kong: Skull Island, fans are not given another remake of the classic King Kong story. We’re given a Kong who is truly a kaiju. 

This Kong has more in common with Toho’s concept than it does the Empire State Building climber from the ‘30s. Even looking at the color of Kong’s fur, a reddish-brown hue, matches closely to the one seen in both King Kong vs Godzilla and King Kong Escapes. 

image courtesy of Legendary, ‘Kong: Skull Island’

Yeah, they know what they’re doing. 

There’s been criticism towards GKOTM, but as an OG Godzilla fan, after seeing the movie I walked away with my expectations exceeded.

I expected a really good time but had no idea it would hit me in the feels as it did. It transported me back to my childhood, back to before I noticed the strings and rubber suits. 

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

The film embodies both the magic and awe that the classic Showa films inspired in me. It felt like a reward for being patient and loyal to the franchise. 

I think that’s something we all could use.

Sure we grow up and have responsibilities, but it’s important to not let all that adulting stuff erase the simple joy of being a kid at heart. It’s important for parents to get down on the floor and play with their kids. It’s important to just have fun sometimes. 

And these movies I’m talking about are pure fun. 

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

It’s important to let yourself be enchanted by things from childhood. For me that’s Godzilla. 

Godzilla For A New Generation

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

The Legendary MonsterVerse is one helluva great way to introduce our loved ones to these monsters. 

Just a few weeks ago I showed Godzilla: King of the Monsters to a girlfriend (who had never seen a single Godzilla film before in her life) and she loved it! That weekend we wound up watching Kong: Skull Island and Godzilla (2014), and in that order too. 

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

A new fan was born.

Now she comes over and asks if we can watch not only KOTM again, but she wants to see all the Godzilla movies I grew up with. 

Our world is changing. We’ve entered the proper age of the kaiju.

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

One that has its foundations laid down by pioneers like RKO and Toho. Jurassic Park furthered it and, in its own idiot way, so did Godzilla (1998). Pacific Rim introduced Western audiences to the word kaijuGodzilla (2014) gave us our first glimpse into a big-budget Godzilla film done right with the real Godzilla and not some radioactive iguana. 

The rest is history you could say. 

The age of monsters is in full force and there’s no sign of slowing down in sight. They come to us from the heavens above and the depths below. All we can do is stand in awe-struck wonder and enjoy the rapturous spectacle. 

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

For more love for Godzilla be sure to check out my previous article here. If you want those nostalgic feels be sure to check in with us and add us on all your social media fixes.

And be sure to keep checking in for even more GIANT MONSTER MANIA! We’re nowhere near being done. 

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

So if there are any Godzilla/kaiju topics you want to see us explore be sure to leave your suggestions in the comments below. Give us a like and a share and we’ll see you in the shadow of the titans next time, 

Manic Exorcism out!

LONG LIVE THE KING!

Godzilla and his timeless reign over our hearts!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image courtesy of Toho, ‘Godzilla vs Mothra’

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

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

Image courtesy of Toho, ‘Godzilla vs Monster Zero’

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

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

image courtesy of Manic Exorcism, circa 1989

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image courtesy of Toho

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

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

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

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

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

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

image courtesy of Toho, ‘Gojira’

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

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

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

Image courtesy of Toho, ‘Shin Godzilla’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

image courtesy of Playmates Toys, ‘Godzilla vs Kong’

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

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

Godzilla is timeless. 

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

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

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

Manic Exorcism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

K.

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

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

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

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

Fucking wild concept there, eh?

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

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

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

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

Our Need for Joe Bob is Unmistakable

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unmistakable.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Much More Than A Nightmare: “Dream Warriors” and the Mental Illness Stigma

Real talk: My horror blogging journey began about seven years ago, quite by accident. Was it fate? I think so. It was also around the time shortly before my internet rambling escapades that I was officially diagnosed with  Generalized Anxiety/ Panic Disorder along with Depression. Not that I didn’t know I had it all my life anyway. In any regard, through an opportunity presented by a dear friend who suffers as well, I gave it a shot and turns out I have a little knack for it. For the past several years, I’ve written on this subject a few times for different, popular outlets. And now, in a very stern Neil voice, it’s long overdue that I hit the lights here on this very dear to my heart subject here at NN in a very anxiety-induced state as I’m writing this.

How goddamn appropriate!

Much More Than A Nightmare:

It began in my teens with a horrific bout of Anorexia/ Bulimia. Which was on and off again until my late twenties with a suicide attempt in-between. *I’m recovered now with support from my family and using my own inner strength. However, after this, and a long conclusion to some other traumatic events, it manifested itself into a giant monster that made me worse off than I ever was. I was in and out of the hospital. I would hyperventilate to the point of paralysis. And of course, every doctor I saw wanted to shove zombie antidepressants down my throat. Not that I don’t have a thing against zombies, but you get the idea.

Alas, none of this was the answer. Now mind you, I realize they work for some people. Everyone is unique. But I am not “some people”, as I also have a hypersensitivity to a good portion of medications. That being the case, I have to rely on simply breathing through it all. This sounds easy- but sometimes it can be hell when you’re having an attack. And for those who don’t understand why I, and possibly others, who choose to get through this naturally, I’m making an example of one my favorite films that doesn’t shy away from some real mental illness issues that kids and adults alike face with a lot of misunderstanding.

Let’s take a “nice stroll” through Westin Hills Dream Warriors.

Much More Than A Nightmare:

Much like Freddy’s Revenge held a ton of sexual metaphors, Dream Warriors repeats the pattern with struggling within our own brains- mental illness. Dream Warriors does a really magnificent job, even if unintentional, of bringing some very real issues about mental health to light that might make someone mull over any previous conceptions about it. Mental illness does not discriminate- as we see in the film all walks of life are affected. Various types of disorders are addressed ranging from self-harm, PTSD, depression, anxiety, and of course, suicide.

At the time of the film’s release, there hadn’t been too many on-screen interpretations of mental illness that painted the disorder in any type of positive light. Well, none that I had seen anyway. Everything I had seen prior or even after, depicts sufferers as crazies in an asylum. Something dirty and to be feared. Dream Warriors gave us very real characters for people who suffer from similar ailments we could associate with. They came across as real kids. Normal kids. Smart as hell kids. With some problems that doctors still to this day can’t seem to figure out entirely. Or for that matter, care to really dive into and just like to throw the dice, prescribing an antidepressant that may or may not make you feel better, or worse even. As science can’t be argued, we are each unique and hold different DNA than the person standing next to us. What works for one, does not for another. And no two anxiety disorders seem to act the same. Everyone seems to have individual symptoms that vary from one patient to another. It would be nice if one magic cure exists for all. But it unfairly isn’t so. And just as art imitates life, the Dream Warriors’ fears and concerns about the one thing they have in common, Freddy, are swept under the rug as “crazy talk”. But here- let’s roll the dice on this non-approved drug Hypnocil and see what happens!

Sound familiar? Talk about feeling like the walls are coming down on you… and then you’re halfway devoured by a giant snake.

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Anyways, I can’t completely nail Neil Gordon to the wall for that- even if it did put Joey in a goddamn coma. Good intentions were there and were used in the hope to understand the tormented teens. After all, he does redeem himself later in a gutter match with Bone Daddy Freddy. Which brings us full circle to the grandmaster of fears and anxiety himself.

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Freddy is the manifestation of depression and everything the Warriors’ are afraid of. Much like anxiety and panic, he works off each of their greatest fears driving them to the breaking point; and in some instances, certain death. That theme would continue throughout the franchise but in the second and arguably greatest sequel, would remain the most relevant and alarmingly accurate. For instance, Taryn is a recovering addict. her fears are the drugs that once conquered her life. She secretly loves them but is determined to stay clean. Krueger plays on this of course and drives it home. Freddy is that little shithead voice in the back of our minds that alarms our senses driving us into panic mode. Kind of like Will going all out Wizard Master on Freddy, stepping out of his chair and using all of his mental powers to blast that bullshit into dust,  he is that voice we all know: “You are not enough.”

However, the ultimate metaphor in this installment is that support is needed. The Dream Warriors realized this, and so did Freddy. Which is why when they all entered the dream state together, he made a point to separate them. Fighting the monster of depression and anxiety alone can be quite an uphill battle. And sadly, statistics show that never ends up well for the sufferer.  No matter how tough one might think they are, a good support system is your ultimate weapon against the beast.

I hear the bullshit term all the time about older horror films about how the content doesn’t hold up decades later. In A Nightmare On Elm Street 3, the movie remains maybe even more relevant now than ever before. As we’re hearing of suicide hitting children even before they reach double-digits.

Look. Listen. Be supportive. And if you’re someone who is in dire need of that, I’m opening the lines of communication, free of judgment, for you to contact me. Everyone needs someone. Even an understanding ear can make all the difference. In the meantime…

Rock on Warriors.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

35 Years of Freddy: A Clawed Imprint On An Entire Generation

The year was 1984.  The very first commercial for the revolutionary Apple Computer premiered at the beginning of the year, foreshadowing an irreversible change in the way we live for an entire generation. While one can argue this may very well be, the most significant moment in ’84, (or hell an entire decade), most horror fans may dispute that. 35 years ago today, one of horror’s biggest icons was born from the mind of the late Wes Craven-Freddy Krueger. Robert Englund gave him a body, Craven the brain- see what I did there- and unleashed Freddy Fever unto Generation Y that shows no signs of slowing up all these years later.

Of course, there hasn’t been a relevant enough bootleg Freddy toy to catch my attention over the last 20 years. But, maybe that’s for the best, yeah?

35 Years of Freddy: A Clawed Imprint On An Entire Generation

While I can’t speak for every single child of the ’80s, Freddy Fever rose high and rampant over the course of a decade, introducing an entire generation to the horror genre due to the Springwood’s Slasher popularity. Nancy said it best, “Every kid knows who he is. He’s like Santa Claus.” 

35 Years of Freddy: A Clawed Imprint On An Entire Generation

And even celebrated much more so by the horror fandom than the generous, jolly ol’ dude. With on-screen heroes emerging in the decade like Indiana Jones, Rambo, and pretty much any Arnold Schwarzenegger film, Freddy rose to the ranks of a hero of a generation of horror movie fans by being nothing more than the ethos of pure evil- well with later added slapstick comedy which only BOOSTED all the diehard FredHeads (myself included) to put him on a higher pedestal; rounding out the Holy Horror Slasher Trinity with his buddies Michal and Jason.

I mean, you’ve really made it when MTV (when it was you know, amazing) lets you VJ and just end up doing whatever the fuck you want. That’s some star power.

*upload by Jared Bruni

 

All that being said, WHAT exactly had the youth of our generation so insanely captivated by well, a brutal child-killer? I can only speculate on watching Freddymania evolve throughout the ’80s, ’90s, to today’s hardcore fanbase that follows Freddy and Friends to the ends of the Earth via social media and horror conventions (I’m totally one of those people), and speaking with fellow FredHead buddies. And the answers are pretty quite simple: The children are the warriors of this horror franchise. They are the ones who recognize the evil while the adults stand around with their thumbs up their asses. THEY are the ones who stand together, (just look at Dream Warriors) and face their enemy head-on. So it’s only natural an adolescent would gravitate towards something they could possibly relate to. Society is often guilty of not listening to our youth and A Nightmare On Elm Street made that loud and clear folks.

Another reason and this is personally true in my case being a female, is that each of the NOES films gave us the absolute, most ass-kicking heroines that any young girl would be proud to look up to. First off, let’s just get this right out of the way- Nancy is the goddamn Queen. Even though it was quite clear that she was slowly getting edgier as the film progressed- to be fair she was working on a week’s worth of almost no sleep while Fred was trying to murder her– she really had the most logical and sturdy head out of EVERYONE in that entire film. Including her parents. Not to mention she went full Rambo on Krueger’s ass. I’m not going to sit here and try and argue how she managed to set all those booby traps, fall asleep, and capture Freddy all in twenty minutes film-time. Let’s just appreciate the fact that this girl went balls to the wall, going as far as tackling her predator to the ground WWF style in one giant FUCK YOU to his face. And then she turns her back on him and calls him “shit”.

Goddamn. GIRL FUCKING POWER.

35 Years of Freddy: A Clawed Imprint On An Entire Generation

 

Last but not least, A Nightmare On Elm Street has always been seen by me as a “comfort horror film”. A few years back, I wrote an article over on Bloody Disgusting on how horror films actually soothe my anxiety. And the NOES films are exactly that for me. Comfort in times of stress and the harsh realities of the real world. I refer to films like these in a term I coined, “FANTASTICAL HORROR”. You see, movies like Halloween and Friday the 13th (only the first, after that they became FANTASTICAL), were very much real to me. THAT SHIT COULD ACTUALLY HAPPEN. It’s very plausible an escaped lunatic could go on a killing spree or a deranged childless mother going apeshit on a group of kids. With NOES, mehhhhhhhhh, highly doubt a burnt-faced demon is gonna kill me in my dreams. Not to say one could never die in their sleep, or to take away the fact the movie really is terrifying in other aspects. BUT, it’s not realistic to me. And that’s ok! In times of real-world tragedies, shitty adult issues, and when the world seems so ugly that you want to pack up and move to Mars, Freddy and the gang are here. To take us to DreamLand. To a place that takes us out of reality and into the world of Fantastical Horror.

You know, kinda like Harry Potter but cooler. Don’t you Hogwarts fans @ me.

Happy 35th Freddy and the gang. And to all my fellow sons and daughters of 100 maniacs who keep the fandom of this movie as strong as ever. WE all his children-now and forever.

 

35 Years of Freddy: A Clawed Imprint On An Entire Generation

 

{Watch} Nightmare Nostalgia’s 10 Favorite Halloween Specials

Fruits of the loins from the late ’70s, ’80s or early ’90s, can probably remember that sweet, repetitive October television and all its glory with the magic of Halloween specials that only aired once a year. While yes, television still continues the trend of annual Halloween traditions with certain programs to look forward to such as The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror, The Great Pumpkin, and the beloved repetitive viewings of Hocus Pocus with, of course,  the occasional Primetime sitcom that runs its yearly Halloween episode. However, the issue I have in the modern age of the boob tube is that most of the holiday programming, that many of us looked forward to so fondly has fallen into obscurity in regards to annual airings. There is no rhyme or reason why they have become so obsolete in the world of primetime, and I’m going to be quite frank here- I’m a little pissed off about it. The era of streaming I’m sure has a bit to do with thine predicament. But nevertheless, in so many words- it kinda blows.

During my early writing years, I had compiled a similar list that has since been swallowed by time and ugly Internets. So I’m here to remedy the situation, update the fucker, and daydream of the glory days that revolved around a disco dancing vampire and Gilda Radner as a bumbling animated witch.

And OK… my own as well.

10 Nostalgic Halloween Specials You Can Watch Right Now!

 

10. The Midnight Hour (1985)

Originally premiering as a TV movie on ABC in 1985, The Midnight Hour follows four friends who unwittingly awaken one of their dead ancestors, who just happens to be a witch hellbent on bringing back the dead. With a ’50s cheerleader ghost by their side, it’s up to the group of kids to return things to normal. The Midnight Hour was briefly released on VHS in 1999 and then on DVD in 2000. However, it has long since been out of print and is among a treasured rare film to have in your possession and highly valued among collectors. So start searching your parent’s garage, or hit up your local yard sales. If you find this gem, I suggest you snatch it up! But in the meantime, here’s a pretty clear copy on YouTube.

 

9. Halloween Is Grinch Night (1977)

According to Suessfandom.com, Halloween Is Grinch Night is actually a prequel to the How The Grinch Stole Christmas. And how this has fallen into Halloween special obscurity is about as understandable as pubic hair.  This grinchy tale premiered on ABC in 1977, played for a few years and fell to the wayside. Halloween is Grinch Night takes place one evening when a ‘sour-sweet wind’ blows through Whoville and warns the Whos’ that the Grinch is coming down from Mt.Crumpit to celebrate the much-feared “Grinch Night.” One boy, named Euchariah, is swept away by the wind and comes face to face with the Grinch himself. Now Euchariah must stall the Grinch until the wind dies down, even if he has to face the horrors in the Paraphernalia Wagon. Yeah, you read that right. Paraphernalia Wagon.

Fantastic stuff folks.

8. Mr. Boogedy

Originally broadcast as part of Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color, Mr. Boogedy (and later sequel) was a staple of Disney’s rotated Halloween programming for a number of years up until the mid-’90s. This long-forgotten classic follows a novelty salesman and his family of pranksters that have moved to a town called Lucifer Falls- rad. And 0f course their new humble abode is haunted by a three-hundred-year-old ghost by the name of Mr. Boogedy, known in life as William Hanover before he sold his soul to the devil. With stars such as Richard Masur (Adult Stan inIT), a young Kristy Swanson (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), David Faustino ( Bud from Married With Children) and the legendary John Astin (Gomez Addams), I gotta give Disney a thumbs up for this one. While this one is not available fully for free on the Youtubes, you can absolutely rent this for the reasonable price of $2.99 at Amazon

 

 

 

7. The Worst Witch (1986)

The Worst Witch is a cult fan favorite among many and in my opinion, any film where Tim Curry sings is a delight and a privilege and we should be goddamn grateful this film exists. This Halloween necessity first aired on HBO and the Disney Channel in 1986 for the Halloween season and continued into around the late 90s. The bewitching tale about, duh, a witch academy (move over J.K Rawlings) centers around Mildred Hubble, the school’s “worst witch” her misadventures within, and a scheming plot that threatens the school. Because every great empowerment story needs a touch of drama, right? And with all the Halloween splendor aside, that is exactly why I adore everything about The Worst Witch. The message of self-love and acceptance behind all the dazzling of Tim Curry magnificently banging on tambourines is a lesson that should always be taught to our children.  Based on the 1974 children’s book by Jill Murphy, The Worst Witch stars Diana Rigg, a young Fairuza Balk, the fabulous Charlotte Rae, and Tim Curry as the Grand Wizard. If you got the bones to break out of your wallet, you can get a copy here from Amazon.

 

 

 

6. Witch’s Night Out (1978)

Witch’s Night Out premiered in 1978 on NBC. And AGAIN, aired on the Disney channel in the ’80s through the late ’90s. This personal favorite of mine follows this ridiculous witch ( Gilda Radner) who feels unloved and forgotten. Upon hearing the wishes of two children, Small and Tender, who want nothing more than to scare the jerkoff adults on Halloween, the witch accompanies the pair of Halloweenies and their babysitter (Bazooey) to a Halloween party. Where Miss Witch transorms them into a werewolf, a ghost and Frankenstein’s Monster. Well, the kids get their wish and scare the crap out of the town resulting in a mob them through the night. Also featuring the voice of  Catherine O’ Hara as Malicious, Witch’s Night Out is a fun take me back for kids and adults alike. Also, you gotta love that catchy intro.

 

 

5. Vincent Price: Once Upon A Midnight Scary (1979)

My only question is, why the hell wasn’t there more of these?! I mean the master of horror himself hosting his own Halloween special. It’s a national treasure really. It sort of reminds me of one of those really cheesy but awesome after school specials. But again. VINCENT PRICE. So it makes up for the rest. Originally broadcast on CBS in 1979,  Price introduces three different spooky stories based on children’s books in his own creepy yet flamboyant way that every Vincent fan knows him for: The Ghost Belonged To Me by Richard Peck (1976), The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving (1820), and The House With a Clock In Its Walls by John Bellairs (1973). It was released on VHS, but chances of a DVD release are slim to none. A shame really.

 

 

4. The Halloween That Almost Wasn’t (1979)

Also entitled The Night That Dracula Saved The World, this gem of a tv short aired regularly on The Disney Channel until the late 90s. Notice the trend here?! Time to write a strong-worded letter to that Robert Iger fellow.  This remarkable short centers around Dracula (Judd Hirsh) and his monsters trying to stop the Halloween witch, bitter from not getting top-billing in the monster world, from destroying Halloween forever. This is one of my all-time personal favorites because of all the great monster elements it has to offer. Along with a nice little history of Halloween, it really keeps you entertained with humorous jokes and gags. Also, clearly Adam Sandler took some Hotel Transelyvania notes from the impeccable Hirsh. Although it was released on VHS, it never made it to DVD. I believe I may start a petition for this one. Complete with a monster disco attached.

 

3. Casper’s Halloween Special

I fondly remember this little diddy being one of my favorites’ to watch during the Trick or Treat countdown towards the annual sugar coma. Also, I’m being upfront with you guys here and HAD COMPLETELY FORGOTTEN about this treasured retro gem myself until I sat and thought about what I was going to put into this list.  As a lover of Wendy the Witch- I’m a little ashamed about this, (even though she has nothing to do with this Halloween special whatsoever but hey, she is connected to the Casper fellow). However, it just goes to show how these nostalgic bits of childhood can fall into obscurity. Especially with the stresses of having to adult- and stuff.

Anyways, enough rambling.

“Casper’s Halloween Special” first debuted on All Hallow’s Eve 1979 during NBC’s Halloween hour and serves as a classic Casper tale of the friendly ghost doing what he does best- you know, being friendly and shit. Casper’s fellow dead dudes, Hairy Scary, Screech Ghost, and Winifred Witch are obviously excited about spooktacular Halloween shenanigans they have planned that involve scaring the ever-loving crap out of trick or treaters and invite Casper to partake. But, of course, he declines and decides to take the opportunity to join the living in trick or treat fun. You know, denial and stuff is strong Casper. Regardless, after hitting a few bumps in the road to candy, Casper falls upon a group of orphans who see him for who he REALLY is, and invites him to hang for the night. However, the other ghosts see all this and are hell-bent on ruining the night for them.

 

 

2. Raggedy Ann and Andy in “The Pumpkin Who Couldn’t Smile”

 

Released in the same year as the above Casper special, the stitched iconic duo got their very own CBS Halloween 30-minute block on Halloween night with “The Pumpkin Who Couldn’t Smile”. Later, the Chuck Jones written special aired on Disney (of course) in Halloween syndication alongside many of these treasure troves listed here. We begin with an intro of a deserted pumpkin stand at Halloween dusk where one lone pumpkin is need of some serious Prozac. All of his buddies have been picked by the children while the Eeyore of Jack-O-Lanterns’ remains alone and in danger of becoming pig compost the following day. Across town, the Raggadies along with their pup are severely annoyed by the next-door Halloween Scrooge Aunt Agatha; who is giving her poor nephew a hard time about the glorious holiday. So, of course, they do their due diligence in wanting to cheer the kid up with the idea of surprising him a Halloween pumpkin. Well, you might guess where this going and, SPOILER ALERT, the pumpkin smiles.

 

1. Garfield’s Halloween Adventure

And here we are. In my opinion, the Holy Grail of Halloween specials; from 1985- “Garfield’s Halloween Adventure”! From the catchy tunes that relentlessly get stuck in my head contained within this national treasure, to the aesthetic ambiance of a true ’80s Halloween experience makes it a classic that will NEVER go out of style. Fully equipped with trick or treating in an endless pursuit of candy, ghost pirates, and a creepy 110-year-old man, this 30-minute piece of Halloween Heaven sets the tone for what is to become the scariest night ever for the lasagna lover and his pal, Odie. I remember being a child watching this over and over on a recorded from TV VHS tape, that the scenes with the ghost pirates were actually a bit frightening. But that also illuminates why I watched “Garfield’s Halloween Adventure many times as a kid and returned to it on a regular basis as an adult.

 

 

Well, there you have it. Nightmare Nostalgia’s most memorable and personal favorite Halloween specials! Now gather your spawns around the computer and give them a taste of why ’70s and ’80s Halloween TV was simply spooktacular. And while you’re at it, comment below with your personal favorite! I’d love to hear from you!!

Happy Halloween!

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*And no- I didn’t forget Disney’s Halloween Treat. (Insert maniacal laughter here)