Tag Archives: Creature Features

Halloween III: Season Of The Witch Is The Imperfectly Perfect Halloween Film

If you would have told me ten years ago I’d be writing these following words, I would absolutely say you were out of your fucking mind. HALLOWEEN III: THE SEASON OF THE WITCH is finally recognized by most fans as a worthy entry in the beloved horror franchise; and honestly I couldn’t be more pleased that SOB Colonel Cochran is part of the inclusive horror legends club.

Now, John Carpenter’s Halloween and it’s sequels, particularly 2 and 4, are of course amazing and essential Halloween viewing. However, Season of the Witch is an entirely different bag of dicks in the franchise as we all know and although the fans have been much kinder to the red-headed stepchild of the series in recent years, the hatred still exists for those unwilling to accept a non-Michael Myers Halloween movie.

To that, I just have this to say…

Which brings me to a very good point that we can only watch Myers gut up teenagers so many times before our brain sensors tell us enough; we want something else. Which is precisely what John Carpenter had in mind when studios were pushing for another Halloween film from the director after burning Michael alive in Halloween II. The Shape was dead and Carpenter grew tired of the story- hence Season of the Witch came to be with the idea of a Halloween horror anthology series focusing on different and terrifying urban legends and folklore surrounding the holiday. The main idea of the film would be “witchcraft meets the computer age.” They brought in Joe Dante ( Gremlins) to direct, and hired the remarkable Nigel Kneale (the Quatermass films) to pen the script, which focused on modern-day Druids practicing Halloween in the old-fashioned way. Oh and well, with a couple of androids thrown in. After all, the early to mid-eighties movies focused a LOT on technologic advances; peering into the future with slave robots and such.

Now get Pauley that beer SICO.

Dante dropped out of the project when Steven Spielberg and John Landis offered him a chance to participate in Twilight Zone: The Movie. Even though Halloween III was a box-office bomb, I’d much rather be associated with Season of the Witch than a movie that contributed to the death of three people. Anyways, in stepped in Tommy Lee Wallace to direct who also helped Carpenter coin that Silver Shamrock jingle that is forever imbedded into our brains as some sort of fucked up version of “London Bridge Is Falling Down”; which is exactly what the tune was modeled after.

Halloween III may be the most “halloweeniest” of all the movies in the franchise- yeah, I just made that word up for all intents and purposes. It takes every aspect of the beloved holiday and throws it all together in this film like a delightful bowl of Halloween candy varieties. When you think of Halloween, you think costumes, children, trick or treating- and this installment has it all and then some. Along with aheavy dose of old-world style witchcraft. For the longest time, society has paired witches and Halloween together in an unholy matrimony. It’s sort of problematic to practicing witches, as they are who they are all year round, and they are certainly not evil, but that’s an argument for another day. It’s never been a deal breaker for me so let’s move on.

While, other films in the franchise may have scenes involving Trick or Treating that set the nostalgic Halloween mood, Halloween III focuses on the premise of DEATH by trick or treating and their beloved masks. That’s pretty fucked up and to boot, the film had the balls to kill a kid very brutally in front of us. It was trailblazing at its finest.

As for atmospheric settings, one could never forget the montage near the end with that Silver Shamrock jingle going off in the background like some sort of death march for the children decked out in their Silver Shamrock masks rushing through a night of candy- collecting all in an effort to get home in time for “the big giveaway”. Beyond the opening credits and nighttime neighborhood scenes in Halloween 4, this movie gives off the some of the most Spidey-senses worthy moments of the holiday ever captured in these films. My favorite moment, and maybe the most iconic, is the group of children trekking across a dark landscape, silhouetted against a pumpkin-orange sky. Few images in the Halloween series better sum up the spirit of Halloween night as much as this one moment right here.

It’s a true aesthetic pleasure to say the very least.

Then, there’s Conal Cochran: the most underrated horror villain of Halloween… EVER.

I don’t use the word “underrated” lightly, however, I feel it’s quite appropriate here. Conal Cochran (Dan O’Herlihy), the proprietor of Silver Shamrock Novelties and sworn allegiance to the dark arts of Witchcraft make him for a dangerous enemy to have indeed; especially if you’re a kid. Cochran, presumably has way more kills under his belt than not only his film predecessor Myers, but the holy trinity of slashers themselves – Freddy, Jason, and Michael. And think about this: The ending is open-ended and leaves us to speculate whether the final commercial ran its full course. If it did, then Cochran would have succeeded in committing mass genocide of children across the United States.

What a dick, eh? Cochran, who uses his success of his company to coordinate the largest Samhain sacrifice to appease the Celtic Gods on the glorious night of Halloween, is as evil and terrifying as they come. As if his ominous stare downs weren’t creepy enough, his monologue alone is chilling to the bone (the thrill and absolute madness in his voice sells it completely). Cochran is hardcore. But as tough as he was, he was no match for Tom Atkins: The Man, The Myth, The Mustache. If anyone can save the world from a Pagan madman, beer guzzling- womanizing Dr. Challis was gonna be that guy.

While the movie has gained moderate success over the past few years, maybe the key factor in acceptance of the bastard installment is our own maturity and longing for the nostalgia aspect of what Halloween once represented. As children, we hated it. As adults, we embraced it as the perfectly imperfect Halloween film it is. What a grand joke on the children, eh?

Creature Features: Facts and Trivia Behind The Special Effects of Poltergeist II: The Other Side

Whether you’re a fan or not of the follow up to Hooper/Spielberg’s 1982 paranormal pleasure Poltergeist, it goes without saying the special effects are spectacular and well-known throughout the industry as a majestic staple of the effects community. Hell, even the snooty Academy Awards recognized the visual terror of the film when it was nominated for Best Visual Effects during their 1987 award season.

While I can agree some of the plot points in The Other Side are a bit questionable, I’d be lying if I didn’t say it’s probably one of my horror movies period. Most of that credit goes towards Julian Beck’s portrayal of the malevolent reverend, Henry Kane; who basically traumatized a seven-year-old Patti into being terrified of old people for the next three years. Quite a feat and a legacy to leave behind as this was the actor’s last film role, and most likely, his most memorable. Just to refresh, Beck was suffering tremendously during shooting with pancreatic cancer and in terrible pain- which would account for his deathly appearance on screen and twisted look. It’s quite sad to think about it actually. However, at least we can take heart into knowing it wasn’t in vain as his character, at least in my own stupid opinion, is held in the highest regard as one of the most perfect villains’ in the horror universe.

I’m sure he’s smiling with his 10,000 teeth beyond the grave with that statement.

Tentacles seemed to be a recurring effect in the movie.  H.R. Giger, who provided the special effects designs, created several prospects but only two made it into the film, the vomit monster and “The Great Beast”. While I’m perfectly fine with these looks personally, some books on his art report that Giger was “very unhappy” with how his designs were translated to the film.

Before we get into the obvious scenes you’re expecting to see here, there were some other simple things like a dream sequence in which Diane is pulled into the ground by rotting skeletons, or another quick shot of dozens of ghostly spirits appearing all over the lawn that weren’t as recognized but looked visually stunning on film.  Then there was the part where Stephen and Taylor are having their warrior session and the smoke attacks him before entering his nostrils. And of course, the creepy toy scene where all the kids’ toys are possessed by Kane and his minions.

The movie was at one point to have been filmed in 3D. Several scenes such as the appearance of the Beast and the cheesy flying chainsaw during the garage escape were filmed to take advantage of the process. This idea was eventually abandoned after seeing the failures of other gimmicky 3D horror films of the decade such as the likes of Jaws 3-D (1983), and Amityville 3-D (1983), which were previous flops for studios. Speaking of the garage scene, it was originally written to have the infamous clown doll come back for a scare, trying to smash its way through the car windows! Even more cheesy? Maybe. But I’m ok with saying it would have been the most awesome cheese.

Those are all notable mentions, but the effects in the film really kick off with attack of the braces! The orthodontic horror kicks off the tentacle special effects theme throughout the film with poor Robbie getting nailed to a ceiling in a cocoon of metal thanks to his dental genetics.

Boss Film Studios, namely Richard Edlund, John Bruno, Garry Waller, and William Neil, was the design company handling the effects. They animated the magic through a mold that was placed over actor Oliver Robins’ head. The team placed straws inside the kid’s nose so he could breathe properly and a device attached to the mouth that would shoot out the metal tentacles through a remote. In the original script, Robbie was to be attacked by bees. However, the actor noted he had a debilitating fear against the insect. So hence, we get this glorious scene instead.

Moving further down toward tentacle terror, is the most recognizable scene from the film- The Vomit Creature. Kane was able to get into the house by possessing the worm in a bottle of tequila.  When Stephen swallowed the worm, it possesses him briefly until his body rejects the evil spirit. Out slithers this huge, slimy, H.R. Geiger inspired creature that quickly grows into a legless ghoul resembling the preacher.  That part was pretty horrifying.  It continued to grow until it resembled a massive column of evil, complete with monster claws that lifted Stephen off the ground; and then scare it off with that warrior smoke!

The creature, played by Vietnam veteran Noble Craig, was a triple amputee due to his war services. However, Craig is unsung in the horror community as playing multiple roles you might not even know about! Such as what is credited as “The Puddle Soldier” in 1988’s The Blob, “The Sewer Monster” in Big Trouble in Little China, and one of the very few people who got to play Freddy Krueger on the big screen in Nightmare 5: The Dream Child; in the scene where Freddy is bursting out of Alice’s body- that’s Craig.

The final few minutes of the film encounter the vomit creature Kane in it’s final form- The Great Beast. Unfortunately, the battle with the beast was originally much longer as with the rest of the film (a full forty minutes is said to have been cut from the movie), but nonetheless made its impact.

On the script sent to HR Giger, there was a scene in the entrance to the other side that involved a tunnel made with arms, bones and worms; and the Great Beast evolves into a massive living landscape that covers the other side. Which would have been cool to see but I’m guessing production budgets were an issue here. The ‘Beast’ itself was apparently a nightmare build for the team; so I suppose he sure does live up to his name.

Now, those are all fine concepts that looked great on film. But the most horrifying scene for me, was this goddamn transformation of Carol Anne becoming one with the beast.

And for the record, this just as creepy prop is the restoration of the Carol Anne bust that was partly used in that scene.

Tom Spina.com

Creature Features: Celebrating 35 Years Of Practical Effects Werewolves Via STEPHEN KING’S SILVER BULLET

CREATURE FEATURES: CELEBRATING 35 YEARS OF  PRACTICAL EFFECTS WEREWOLVES VIA STEPHEN KING'S SILVER BULLET

Halloween 2020 for many, is looking different this year. Some will go about their own business, and celebrate as per usual. Some will opt to stay home for a family-fun night of horror flicks instead; of which both are perfectly ok mind you! However this year, I have one fantastic selection to add to the typical go-to movies such as Halloween and Trick ‘R’ Treat. A film so perfect that it almost supersedes the novella it was derived from. Piss on Rob Zombie’s Halloween! Piss on the Nightmare on Elm Street remake! This Halloween that coincides with a rare Blue Full Moon- I invite you to hunt up a little private justice with Stephen King’s Silver Bullet!

It’s been a while since we’ve done any Creature Features pieces celebrating our favorite monsters and glorious practical effects; and we’re LONG OVERDUE for a Silver Bullet article. Of which none has been done on this website and being the huge fan I am of this film in particular and this month marks the 35th anniversary of its release, I better get my ass in gear before my Tarker’s Mills card is revoked.

When I say I’m a fan, there’s my commitment status. I don’t fuck around like a virgin on prom night.

Anyway, let’s start with the obvious. I understand a lot of people disregard the Reverend Werewolf final reveal look; comparing it to something that of a dog-bear, (and honestly you aren’t wrong about that). However, it is meant as an insult rather than a critique and I think a lot of these people have An American Werewolf on London on the brain. I will argue till the day I die that THIS look, (not transformation but LOOK) in particular, is far more scary and that is my personal, and firm opinion on the matter.

And I will fucking die on that hill.

Special effects master Carlo Rambaldi, whose notable works include creating the works behind King Kong (1976), Alien, and E.T. The Extra Terrestrial, was tasked as the special and make-up effects head to complete the werewolf looks in Stephen King’s novella turned featured film. The realistic style suit was one piece that was topped with a mask that was operated by a variety of mechanics operated by the crew. Twelve levers to be exact, like that of a bicycle, that could manipulate the wolf’s facial expressions. For long-distance shots, there was a more simple mask that didn’t require all the fancy, tech wires.

However, Rambaldi was only given five executive weeks to pull of this sorcery. Hey, if the master of Queen Alien could do it, anyone can! Still, shooting had commenced even before the final suit and mask were ready. So those little snips of the werewolf leading up to the big reveal, were done with another purpose behind it.

“Ultimately, it looked like a bear,” confesses Attias. “The werewolf was very late in being designed, and Carlo (Rambaldi) was given very little time or money to work on it. In fact, it was so late that we had already started filming before we had the suit, so we starting shooting scenes without it. I tried to make sure the audience would see it as little as possible. – Excerpt from interview with the The Master Cylinder.

Everett McGill wore the suit for most of shooting, who spent a considerable amount of time figuring out the perfect walk for something that was neither man, nor beast. But a man that has been trapped inside an animal who eventually accepted his fate and embraced this dark shadow within him. Resulting in the werewolf quenching his thirst for blood on the “sinners” of the town- as McGill puts it speaking to the Shadow Nation podcast. However, he wasn’t even the first choice! Attias had hired a dancer to wear the suit, but apparently it didn’t work out, resulting McGill to go hairy balls deep in the role playing both the wolf and his not-so-holy counterpart. More demanding stunts in the costume, required a double; which was taken on by Julius Le Flore, the stunt coordinator for the film.

Now. We certainly can’t talk about the effects without mentioning the greatest scene in the movie that brought together a record FORTY werewolves on screen together; the most in any film to date. In lieu of Rambaldi, makeup artist Michael McCracken, Jr. was in charge of the dream sequence that involved a few actors already in the film, and the rest were made of up of Julius Le Flore’s friends of gymnasts and dancers. Clearly distinguishing themselves as different from Lowe’s wolf persona, but were taught the “werewolf walk” McGill had been practicing by the good ol’ Reverend himself.

The congregation of wolves were broken down into three groups. One group had radio transmitting facial features providing movement in the ears, forehead, and mouth. The second bunch had a “tongue device”; allowing the performing to snarl with simply moving the device around with well, their tongue. The third had no special effects at all other than makeup and served as the background werewolves.

And since it’s such a wonderful sequence, let’s give it a watch.

In conclusion, there was a lot of pain-staking elements involved in the productions of these creatures. And while some may mock Rambaldi’s werewolf concept, including that of Producer Dino De Laurentiis, it was the only one that gave me nightmares when I was a kid. That has to account for something!

Silver Bullet [Blu-ray]