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The Vault of Buncheness



Being a window into the thoughts and interests of a self-proclaimed entertainment ronin. Commentary, recipes, pop culture reviews...FUN FOR ALL!!! © All original text copyright Steve Bunche, 2004-2017.



Updated: 2017-12-15T12:10:09.227-05:00

 



ME-YOW???

2017-12-15T00:38:56.352-05:00

12:30 am: Not ten minutes ago, while waiting for the B63 bus at the corner of Atlantic Avenue and 4th Avenue, I was approached by a wild-eyed bum with dreadlocks who asked, "Care to help out the homeless?" I politely responded with, "Sorry, man. Broke and unemployed," which usually does the trick, but the guy fired back with, "That's sucks, man. But you know what REALLY sucks? Being broke, unemployed, and homeless while freezing your fuckin' balls off!" He kept his hand held out in hope of alms, but I had none to give and therefore just stared at him blankly. He tried the same move on a massive Asian woman who was seated at the bus stop's bench, but she also politely denied him. As he walked away, he turned and gave me a long and intense stare before stating, "I will SURVIVE, because I am THE CAT! I'll respond to it the next time you see me!!!"
As confused by that as I was, the Asian woman looked at me and said, "You...You didn't say anything! What was he hearing???" I said nothing and merely chalked it up as further evidence that my friend Greaseball Johnny is right. I am indeed a magnet for crazy.



BARBARELLA #1 (2017)

2017-12-14T01:59:40.258-05:00

(cover by Annie Wu)I've always loved the character Barbarella, so I'm glad to see the first issue of her revival series kick off as well as it did. Unlike the Jane Fonda movie in which she's a futuristic secret agent, the new series keeps Barbarella's roots as an interplanetary wander who just happens into her adventures, and this first chapter finds her ending up in the middle of an outer space religious war.Barb is captured by the Parosians, a fanatical allegory for the Religious Right, whose advancements in cloning rendered old-fashioned reproduction obsolete, so their tyrannical church deems all forms of sexual pleasure criminal. So it is that Barbarella is interrogated and sentenced to hard labor in a women's prison for smuggling contraband, in other words possessing a fully-functional vagina. (As Barbarella herself matter-of-factly puts it.) As she is processed for imprisonment, Barbarella's rights to her own body are utterly disregarded and she is relegated to mandatory surgery to "erase and overwrite fully developed organs without damaging the surrounding tissue," a procedure usually performed on children. It's unclear as to exactly what was done to her, but it does not appear that the heinous procedure did anything to reduce Barbarella's capabilities, as she and a fellow convict have sex in front of their fellow inmates, in order to make them realize what a load of bullshit the church's sexually repressive policies are and inspire them by sapphic example. Hopefully the exact nature of the surgery will be explained in subsequent chapters, but for now I'm content to know that not even highly-advanced and painless "genetic weave" technology can put Barbarella's free-minded sexual agency in check. (I'm thinking that due to her adult age, the surgery may merely have rendered Barbarella unable to conceive, which would have come in handy for her during her earlier adventures that were crafted in France by her creator. In one of the latter stories, Barbarella becomes involves with a dashing quasi-villain and after much physical fun, she gets pregnant and gives birth to a son.) Anyway, I'll be back next issue to see what happens transpires.The book is crafted to feel like a European graphic album and it works quite well as such, with the figures looking influenced by the art of Frank Quitely, with the main female faces bearing a Milo Manara-esque aspect. RECOMMENDED.[...]



JUSTICE LEAGUE (2017)

2017-11-17T01:29:32.971-05:00

 The pantheon's seeds are planted.The DC Extended Universe soldiers on in the wake of the poorly-received excesses of MAN OF STEEL (2013), BATMAN v SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE (2016), and the appalling SUICIDE SQUAD (2016), as well as the delight that was WONDER WOMAN (2017), and what it gives us with JUSTICE LEAGUE is yet another very flawed effort.I'm not even going to bother going into great detail on the story since the movie's only purpose is to hurriedly throw the assorted superheroes together. All you really need to know is that Batman (Ben Affleck) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) seek to cobble together a team of fellow super-folk to take on the invading forces of Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds), an extra-dimensional conqueror of worlds who tried to take over the Earth ages ago but was thwarted by the joint efforts of the Amazons, the Atlanteans, and mortal men. As for the nascent Justice League, the Flash (Ezra Miller), Cyborg (Ray Fisher), and Aquaman (Jason Momoa) are recruited and they take the fight to the invaders. It soon becomes apparent that they are seriously outgunned, so they need to revive the deceased Superman (Henry Cavill) — whom you may recall was killed during the final act of  BATMAN v SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE — to grant them the raw power they need in order to kick Steppenwolf to the other-dimensional curb. That's pretty much it.JUSTICE LEAGUE is very obviously intended to fast-track the DCEU into Marvel movie territory, only without the well-planned slow roll-out that allowed moviegoers to get to know the characters and worlds of Marvel over what is as of this writing almost a decade and a total of seventeen interconnected films. Marvel took the time to weave an involved tapestry, a strategy that raked in the cash like a motherfucker, so the Distinguished Competition naturally wanted in on the windfall, but they allowed greed to cloud their judgment when it came to telling coherent stories and having the most basic understanding of long-established iconic characters. Most of the DCEU films are clearly the victims of horrendous editing and studio interference with the vision of a given film's director, and JUSTICE LEAGUE is no different, but in this case the reasons for the film's snags are easy to pinpoint. Director Zack Snyder left the production to deal with a genuinely awful family tragedy, so writer/director Joss Whedon was brought in to take the reins, and his pedigree as the helmer of the mega-hit that was Marvel's THE AVENGERS in theory made him the perfect guy to handle the screen debut of DC's flagship superhero team. Unfortunately, Snyder's "dark" take on the DCEU works in direct opposition to Whedon's more lighthearted and quippy approach to scripting and storytelling, and it's jarringly obvious as to which director handled which sequences. And on top of that, the studio's head handed down a corporate mandate that the film must run no longer than two hours, so it bears all of the earmarks of having a lot of material excised to bring it all in within that time restraint. But enough about the behind-the-scenes mishegoss. Here are some notes that get straight to addressing some key points:The film is entertaining but it is by no means great, and the plot and villain are almost totally irrelevant, as the film's only goal is to throw the Justice League together as quickly as possible. No lie, the plot and the villain are truly beside the point. The audience is there to see heroes that they love banding together onscreen to kick truckloads of ass and we do get that, but it's all just a by-product of a narrative that is merely perfunctory. The heavily CGI-rendered Steppenwolf could not possibly be less-interesting as a threat, and he's arguably the most "Who cares?" villain in a modern superhero movie since Malekith in THOR: THE DARK WORLD, which is saying a lot. The film would have been better served if he had not been in it at all and instead the team got together over lunch and just hung out talk[...]



MORE FUN AT THE LOCAL POPEYE'S

2017-11-03T17:16:19.248-04:00

Beware the eyes that hypnotize...

I had not had Popeye's chicken in a few weeks, so I went to the good one on Flatbush Avenue for a wings combo. I arrived a little after 3:30pm, so the lines were long with people arriving either after school or just as some jobs were letting out for the day. I waited patiently for my turn and I was clearly visible, being my usual shaven-pated and black gi-clad self, but that did not stop a brazen boy of perhaps ten or eleven years old from strolling right past everyone who had waited patiently and situating himself right at the cashier, where I was about to be attended to. He stood there, the very picture of arrogance, cash in hand, and noticed me looking directly at him with disapproval. He looked me up and down and then exclaimed "Whatchoo lookin' at, NIGGER???" 

There was a brief moment when time itself stood still, and rather than say anything by way of response, I summoned my inner Lamont Cranston and met the arrogant little fuck's gaze with an unflinching death glare that bored directly into his frontal lobe and telepathically communicated to him, "You are naught but a dog whose attempts at barking are heard as feeble yips." The tension was thick as all of the adults noted the non-verbal exchange and waited to see what I would do. As has been proven innumerable times in the past, I can verbally throw down with the best of them, however my stare was unrelenting as I waited for the wee turd to open his mouth again and it became quite clear that he had received my mind-to-mind dressing down of him. Finally, his eyes widened, he looked me up and down again, sheepishly swallowed, and slowly backed away. As I moved up to place my order, the other adults on line voiced their approval and vicarious triumph. 

And you had better believe the little piss-ant was as polite as could be when placing his own order.



31 DAYS OF HORROR 2017-Day 31: PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE (1959)

2017-10-31T00:05:19.007-04:00

The dead rise.What more can be said about PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE, the legendarily bad magnum opus of the equally legendary cross-dressing filmmaker Edward D. Wood, Jr.? Long considered to be "the worst film ever made," the film has gone on to become a perennial on late-night TV and in film festivals at revival houses, all thanks to its weighty reputation. Everything you've heard about it is true, such as the nonsensical script, shoddy zero-budget sets, acting that mostly would not pass muster in a junior high school stage production, the infamous "special" effects that feature pie plate flying saucers very visibly suspended from fishing wire, and the tragic fact that this was the final film of horror icon Bela Lugosi, who by this time in his career had been all but forgotten and eked out a living as villains in Grade-Z schlock while hiding his heroin addiction. But is PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE truly deserving of its crown as the worst movie of all time? My own answer to that query is a resounding "no." Allow me to explain.So it ain't THUNDERBIRDS-quality. Eat a bag of dicks.PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE tells the story of the titular extraterrestrial scheme that, after eight previous attempts at contacting us, involves raising the recently-dead in hope that we will finally stop ignoring the aliens' communications and take them seriously. An airline pilot, a number of cops, and assorted representatives of America's military all come together to take the presumed fight to the spacemen, but what they do not expect is that the aliens genuinely come in peace, with the intent to warn us that our current rate of progress with the technology of war could lead to the discovery of a super-weapon that could (somehow) ignite sunlight itself and therefore destroy the universe. Such power should be avoided and must not fall into the hands of a race as immature and "stupid" as ours, but the Earthmen, in a move that basically proves the aliens' opinion of us to be correct, beat the shit out of the alien duo who are running Plan 9 and sabotage their flying saucer, which, after the Earthlings escape, bursts into flames and explodes over Burbank. Thus is Plan 9 thwarted, but a space station full of aliens remains in orbit, possibly readying to launch Plan 10...Sure, it's a cheapjack production that was made with a very dodgy of competency on all fronts,  which admittedly makes the film easy to laugh at, but when looked at with Ed Wood's intentions in mind, the film is not merely another in the endless parade of B-movies fit only for mockery. If anything, it's commendable for giving it the old college try while working with resources that could barely allow one to purchase a KFC family bucket. Wood's sincerity is evident in every frame, and of sincerity automatically translated into artistic talent, Ed Wood would be considered right up there with the likes of Kurosawa or Scorsese. He made a number of films that are undeniable turds, but while many of their contemporaries in the schlock niche were designed solely to be cranked out in order to separate audiences from their hard-earned cash, Wood clearly possessed an artistic vision that was influenced by classic horror imagery and film noir aesthetics.I first became aware of PLAN NINE FROM OUTER SPACE by name at the tail-end of my ninth grade year (1980), when I read Michael and Harry Medved's book on bad movies, THE GOLDEN TURKEY AWARDS. It was a followup to the previous THE FIFTY WORST FILMS OF ALL TIME (1978) — an admittedly fun book that also called the authors' taste in films into question, as the majority of the cited films were nowhere near being worthy of inclusion in so dubious a roster, with several of them being legitimately good — and it was divided into categories voted on by readers of the the previous volume, with the final category being a search for the very worst film ever made. Though still somewhat obscure at the time PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE reportedly won by a l[...]



31 DAYS OF HORROR 2017-Day 30: THE HILLS HAVE EYES (2006) Unrated Version

2017-10-30T00:00:28.056-04:00

The great American vacation gone horribly, horribly wrong.PROLOGUE: Scientists in anti-radiation suits check a barren desert area for radiation levels and are promptly murdered, after which their corpses are dragged away behind a pickup truck, for purposes unknown...The Carter family — uber-Republican ex-cop and manly man "Big" Bob (Ted Levine, best known as Buffalo Bill in THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS), his religious wife Ethel (Kathleen Quinlan), eldest daughter Lynn (Vinessa Shaw), teenagers Brenda (Emilie de Ravin) and Bobby (Dan Byrd), Ethel's baby Catherine (Maisie Camilleri Preziosi) and Ethel's milquetoast cellphone salesman husband and lone Democrat, Doug Bukowsi (Aaron Stanford) — are driving through New Mexico en route to San Diego to celebrate Bob and Ethel's silver anniversary. They stop at a remote gas station run by scurvy redneck Jeb (Tom Bower), who advises them of a shortcut through the local hills that he says will shave several hours off of their journey. What the Carters do not know is that Jeb has been the reluctant ally of a clan of inbred mutants, a group descended from miners who were thought dead after the government destroyed their homes in an area designated for nuclear testing, and when Jeb thinks that Lynn has seen his satchel full of loot stolen from previous waylaid travelers, he directs them into the clutches of the mutants in order to protect his own ass. The Carters drive for a while and their tires are punctured by concealed spikes, which leaves them and their towed camper stranded in the middle of nowhere, with no mobile phone signal and little likelihood of rescue. Thus it is decided that Big Bob and the much-put-upon "pussy" Doug will go off in search of help, with Bob heading back to the gas station and Doug continuing along the alleged shortcut road in search of a hoped-for town.The family's German Shepherds, Beauty and Beast, twig early to the fact that they are not alone, and when Beauty escapes from the camper in pursuit of the interlopers, she is killed and eviscerated, with her corpse displaying all the signs of it having been done by a knife-wielding human and not some desert predator. Young Bobby gives chase and finds the poor dog, but stumbles and falls, which knocks him out for a few hours, during which time he is observed by the shy and terrified Ruby (Laura Ortiz), a sympathetic member of the mutant clan. Bobby eventually comes to and makes his way back to the camper but does not tell the women about the fate of Beauty. As night falls, Bob arrives at the gas station and falls into the hands of the mutants, while Doug returns to the camper and tells the family that he has found an abandoned town in the middle of a huge crater — which was obviously where a nuclear test had been detonated — and the place is crowded with vehicles that we, the audience, realize once belonged to other unlucky travelers. So, with everyone on edge and now aware of what Bobby witnessed, the family settles in and attempts to sleep. And then the mutants arrive, handing out a home invasion marked by immolation, shootings, rape, forced suckling at Lynn's milk-bearing breast, and the kidnapping of the baby for food. Those of the family who survive ready for a private little war, fortifying the trailer should the mutants return, and Doug, the worm having turned, taking Beast into the mutants' town to retrieve wee Catherine.Home is where the heart is...forcibly ripped from your chest and saved for dinner.This update of the 1977 grindhouse classic is one of the rare handful of remakes that's actually an improvement over the original, bringing to the mix a solid budget, far better direction and cinematography, tight acting from all involved, and no padding to fill out the running time (one of the original's biggest flaws), while retaining most of the plot highlights that made the 1977 so shocking and memorable for its era. As for the DVD's unrated content, I di[...]



31 DAYS OF HORROR 2017-Day 29: WEREWOLVES ON THE LOOSE!!!

2017-10-29T13:36:03.449-04:00

DISCLAIMER!!! Folks: we're friends here, right? So honesty is a must, and to tell you the truth. I just got back from a really good, booze-fuelled karaoke party in Midtown Manhattan, featuring two dear friends who moved away a while a ago — and one of whom is recently engaged — and paid for on a corporate tab, so I am fucking smashed on copious amounts of tequila and Sapporo, so I came home in not condition to write a new and coherent 31 DAYS entry. Thus, I  drag out this essay from a few years back. Werewolves are my favorite, so please curt me some slack. And,  jus so you can see it, here's me as my lycanthropic alter-ego, Bunchewolf,  at the aforementioned paty, knocking "Thunderball" out of the karaoke park, complete with the tesiticular crush that allows for the final super-sustained note.Bunchewolf gets his Tom Jones on.So please forgive me for the Curevo-driven diversion from schedule. (Hey, YOU try writing coherently at length while FUBAR on cactus juice! Fred Flintstone, you're not fooling anyone!!_If you're a fan of horror movies you probably have a favorite monster genre that floats your boat, a particular flavor for which you'd be willing to sit through innumerable pieces of outright shit in order to find one halfway decent flick. For many it's vampires and their seductive allure, for others it's the gustatory frisson found in tales of flesh-eating zombies, and still others groove on the slaughterhouse rampages of boogeymen like Jason Voorhees and Michael Meyers. But for Yer Bunche, it's all about the werewolves, baby.What is it that so appeals to me about the lusty lycanthrope? Shit, I think I just answered my own question: the werewolf is a creature of the basest, most primal lusts — the lust for killing, the lust for sex, the lust to protect its territory, the lust to consume warm, bloody flesh — each something clearly identifiable and understandable as the needs of an animal, something wild and untamed that garners its power from nature itself, rather than denying the natural order by being some reanimated corpse with an agenda. Vampires, for all their elegance, are a mostly bunch of aristocratic, poncy douchebags who most people forget are fucking corpses, and corpses are not exactly known for their pleasant bouquet. I always get grossed out whenever I see some horny suckface putting the moves on a hypnotized, heaving-bosomed cutie who's oblivious to his reeking charms, and while the actual bloodsucking can be read as metaphorical Osh-Osh, I'm way too literal-minded for that and can't help but picture Count Douchebagula's fetid member about to go to work in the Good Place. "Yecch," to say the least (although I've gotta admit that Frank Langella's Dracula was a pretty sexy guy).The rapaciousness of the werewolf is far less steeped in treachery and mystical date rape tactics than that of the velvet-caped revenant. No less deadly or without quantifiable side effects, certainly, but far more honest in the way of a dog who dislikes you for no apparent reason taking a chunk out of your ass. The werewolf’s all about the indomitability of nature, and vampires, zombies, and other such critters fly in the face of that, which is perhaps what gives them their power, the threat of the expired refusing to be dead as we understand that state of being, and that animate expression of death seeking either to mind-control us, feed on our lifeblood, or feast upon our living flesh to fuel their aimless, undead march.The werewolf, on the other hand, is as uncontrollable and unpredictable as a natural force while also being a fusion of “civilized” humanity with the primal, and seldom can the two find a harmonious middle ground. The typical protagonist in lupine lore does not embrace the loss of control that accompanies the transformative gift and instead seeks a cure, or, since treatments for lycanthropy are apparently few and [...]



31 DAYS OF HORROR 2017-Day 28: FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE SPACE MONSTER (1965)

2017-10-28T00:00:09.128-04:00

Grade A cheesy 1960's-style weirdness.The horror genre, almost more than any other, is replete with schlocky Grade-Z crap designed to part the consumer from its hard-earned cash, and sometimes flicks of that nature can be a lot of goofball fun. One such example is FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE SPACE MONSTER. It looks and feels like something an eight-year-old would have dreamed up, had they the resources at their disposal with which ti realize it, only after a short while it begins to feel like it's being viewed while in the grip of a high fever.Say it ain't so!The plot, such as it is, involves Martians showing up in Puerto Rico in order to kidnap Earth females in the wake of all but one of their own women dying out due to an atomic war. Them gaw-damn Martians...Stealin' our wimmin...It's stuff we've seen eleventy-jillion times before, only this time the aliens are kinda/sorta challenged by Col. Frank Saunders (Robert Reilly),  a human-looking android astronaut whose brain and the left side if his face are damaged when his spacecraft crash-lands in Puerto Rico. Our Frankenstein, ladies and gentlemen.Now a monster on the (meager) rampage, Frank eventually runs into the alien abductors, kicks their asses, frees the nearly-nekkid chicks, battles Mull, the titular atomic mutation from Mars, and then heroically sacrifices himself when blowing up the Martians' flying saucer. THE END.The extraterrestrial fabulousness of Dr. Nadir (Lou Cutell, later known as Amazing Larry in PEE-WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE).Bringing to mind a more competently-made answer to PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE (1959), this film bears no suspense, scares, or even gore, but what it does have is that certain mid-1060's "camp' flavor that just simply happens and is mostly impossible to pre-plan or replicate. And while horny Martians making off with bikini-clad Puerto Ricans with (sort of) Frankenstein thrown into the mix is goofy enough, the film goes that extra mile by including the Martian leader's right-hand man, Dr. Nadir, as played to fey perfection by Lou Cutell, who would later turn up in Tim Burton's debut feature, PEE-WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE (1985), as the briefly-seen but unforgettable Amazing Larry.Yeah. FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE SPACE MONSTER is as bizarre a departure from the expected Frankensteinian tropes as FRANKENSTEIN CONQUERS THE WORLD (1965) was (though neither as good not as entertaining), but it's a fun way to pass seventy-nine minutes, provided one has a well-packed bong and a few six-packs close at hand.Poster from the theatrical release.[...]



31 DAYS OF HORROR 2017-Day 27: HALLOWEEN (2007)

2017-10-27T00:00:13.614-04:00

"Jesus H. Christ, this movie is a piece of shit... And I was in the live-action FIST OF THE NORTH STAR, so I know what I'm talking about!!!When looking at the international cinema of horror, from Day One of film the viewer has been treated to whatever the culture that created any given movie finds scary. Old creepiness dusted off from an indigenous base of rich myths and legends brought to moving, visceral life on the big screen; the Chinese have their hopping vampires, the Japanese roll out tales of tragic ghosts and hostile nature spirits, the Spanish give us lusty werewolves and the Catholic scares of the undead Knights Templar, Italy expresses a singularly gustatory horror with its epics of flesh-eating, Britain revels in the fairytale-like excesses of Hammer Studios' Gothic monster rallies, and so on. That's all a bit of a generalization, but the point I'm trying to make is that each of these cultures has been around for a loooooong time and have accumulated a deep and resonant bestiary of goblins, golems, vampires, and what have you, while America is still a relatively young country with a culture that mixes and matches its elements from the innumerable races, religions, and cultures that have settled here over the past couple of hundred years, and does not necessarily have the same kind of myth base that other lands possess. Our earliest horror icons, particularly the familiar monsters and miscreants found in the Universal horror cycle of the 1930's and 1940's, were mostly European in inspiration and setting — Dracula, Frankenstein's monster, and the Wolfman being the most prominent examples — but the uniquely American flavor of horror didn't really surface until the advent of Alfred Hitchcock's PSYCHO in 1960.A cinema and genre milestone.Seen by many as the true proto-slasher film, PSYCHO's crawly weirdness and intensely horrifying revelation of what deviant and homicidal behavior might lurk just beneath the placid, "aw, shucks" banality of modern day America struck a chord, especially since it was inspired by the true-life case of infamous cannibal/necrophile/murderer Ed Gein. Gein's arrest in 1957 exposed the nation to an unspeakable horror that absolutely no one at the time was ready for, and thus were sown the seeds of a new, uniquely American bogeyman: the twisted killer who dwells among us, with us none the wiser until it's too late.PSYCHO's success opened a floodgate of would-be copycat shockers, and as times changed and the country had its eyes opened — and to some extent desensitized — by the brutality of the Vietnam conflict, the American horror audience accepted and in many ways embraced an escalating level of gore and gross-out theatrics that shocked minds who could see sights of mind-bending awfulness on the nightly news. The upped ante of mainstream shock reached its early-1970's apex with the religion-driven extremes of THE EXORCIST (1973), and once you've seen an apple-cheeked twelve-year-old girl cuss like a sailor, piss all over the living room carpet, vomit torrents of split pea soup, and — my favorite — sunder her nether regions with a bloody crucifix while screaming, "LET JESUS FUCK YOU!!!," where else can you really go after that?John Carpenter provided an answer in 1978 with the original HALLOWEEN, a lean, taut tale of "the Boogeyman," here named Michael Meyers, that brought back genuine suspense and an overwhelming feeling of impending dread to the horror arena.Phase 2 in the evolution of slasher films.It was scary as a motherfucker and kept the gore to an absolute minimum, all the while providing the simplest of stories. In a nutshell, it can be summed up as simply as "the Boogeyman comes to town on Halloween and kills a bunch of horny teenagers," but that paper-thin setup, in this instance anyway, was used to maximum effect, executed with artistry and intellige[...]



31 DAYS OF HORROR 2017-Day 26: DOCTOR WHO "THE ARK IN SPACE" (1975)

2017-10-26T00:00:09.257-04:00

When the human body becomes an alien incubator.Time: The far future. Location: The Nerva Beacon, a space station orbiting planet Earth.The Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker), Sarah Jane Smith (Elizabeth Sladen), and Harry Sullivan (Ian Marter) randomly arrive via the TARDIS — the Doctor's time/space-traversing vehicle — on a seemingly deserted space station orbiting Earth. The Doctor (Tom Baker) marvels at the frozen survivors of the human race, his favorite species.After exploring  the facility and noting that something had damaged assorted station functions, the travelers discover several hundred cryogenically preserved human beings, along with the long-dead corpse of a large insectoid creature. Upon reviving the station's first med-tech, Vira (Wendy Williams), the Doctor and friends are informed that the Nerva Beacon contains genetically-screened pairs of ideal humans that were placed in orbital stasis in advance of solar flares that would scorch the planet. The plan was for the sleepers to awaken after five-thousand years and reclaim the Earth, but, thanks to the unexplained systems damage, they overslept by several thousand years. The station's captain, Noah (Kenton Moore), is also awakened, but while he warmly greets Vira, his assigned pair-mate, he perceives the Doctor and his companions as threats and treats them with open and uncharacteristic hostility. It soon becomes apparent that the station was long ago breached by the Wirrn, a species of sentient insects that lived in deep space but required planets upon which to establish breeding colonies, and indigenous mammals to serve as hosts for their larvae. While the survivors on the Nerva Beacon slept, other spacecraft were launched from Earth and sent deep into the galaxy in search of other suitable worlds, and some of them chanced upon the Wirrn's breeding ground, which they wiped out. That drove the desperate insects back into space in search of new breeding areas and host fodder, where they found both objectives in the form of the Nerva station. The dead Wirrn was a queen and she managed to infect Noah and another crew member as they slept, and Noah is beginning to metamorphose into something other than human...The insidious reproductive cycle of the Wirrn meets Homo Sapiens.The Wirrn are also revealed to absorb the knowledge of the creatures they gestate within, but until now they only had access to lesser life forms. If the Wirrn succeed in gestating within the station's sleepers, the Wirrn will become technologically capable and seize the Earth as the launching point from which to begin a campaign of interstellar colonization/conquest. Needless to say, the Doctor and the active humans cannot allow that to come to pass...An adult Wirrn.Coming just after the lackluster "Robot" (Tom Baker's inaugural serial as the Doctor), "The Ark in Space" marks the first of several truly great stories from Baker's legendary and lengthy run as our favorite Timelord. The isolated location with no chance for outside help is the perfect setting for this tale, harking back as it does to the "base under siege" trope that became the show's stock in trade during the era of the Second Doctor, and the Wirrn and their creepy reproductive cycle really get under the viewer's skin. (Pun intended.)Noah (Kenton Moore), on the way to no longer being human.The story also brings to mind that seminal work of British sci-fi/horror, THE QUATERMASS XPERIMENT (1955), aka THE CREEPING UNKNOWN (which was adapted to the cinema from an acclaimed 1953 television serial), which dealt with an astronaut returning from a space mission and changing i[...]



31 DAYS OF HORROR 2017-Day 25: TRAIN TO BUSAN (2016)

2017-10-25T00:00:03.761-04:00

Hell on earth, and there's nowhere to hide.Seok-Woo (Gong Yoo) is a workaholic whose obsessive concentration on his job has led to estrangement from his wife (who has left him) and his unintentional neglect of Soo-An (Kim Su-an), his sweet little girl. For her birthday, more than anything else, the depressed child wants to visit her mother in the city of Busan, so her father, racked with guilt over having missed his daughter's recital where she had practiced a song intended for him, takes a rare day off from work and accompanies Soo-an on the long train journey departing from Seoul. But as the train leaves the station, Soo-an looks out of the window and sees people outside acting strangely. One of those individuals boards the train, unnoticed by the train's security officer, and once she's on board she makes her way into the bathroom to apply a makeshift tourniquet to her mauled leg. She eventual emerges from the restroom but it's clear that there's something seriously wrong with her. She collapses in the vestibule between cars and, as a female staffer attempts to help her, the afflicted woman goes into convulsions and rises as a white-eyed, blood-drooling, savage killing machine. She attackers her would-be rescuer, who also turns into an insane, ravening killer, and as the two claw and tear their way through a carload of terrified passengers, the infection rapidly spreads, creating a horde of zombie-like "infected" whose urge to kill is stimulated by them being able to see their prey with their limited vision, and when their ability to visually perceive victims is impaired by darkness or obscuring windows with some form of a shade, they track with their hearing. The implacable hordes of the Infected.To say more about the plot's details would spoil the experience for potential viewers, so I'll merely make a few points and move on:The film works within the same tense parameters as relentless, no-way-out horror classics like the original NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968) and DOG SOLDIERS (2002), and is an intense study of a disparate group of people trying to survive on a train filled with mindless creatures bent on senseless murder.The script, performances, and direction are all top-notch from start to finish, and I dare to say this film comes from out of the glutted zombie genre to earn distinction as an instant classic.Unlike the usual ciphers/cannon fodder that populate most horror films, the people depicted here are all fleshed-out characters whom we get to know, understand, and care about, so their struggle for survival becomes ours by way of empathy, and it is one rough motherfucker of a ride.Though ostensibly a zombie apocalypse movie (despite the monsters technically being diseased and not supernatural in any way) and quite intense in its depictions of victims being savaged six ways to Sunday, the film is surprisingly not the gorefest one may go into it expecting. Believe me, it's so intense that any showers of gratuitous gore would have been utterly beside the point.I've seen TRAIN TO BUSAN twice, in both its native Korean with English subtitles and with the English language dub, and of the two the one with subtitles is the one to go with. I recently ran the dubbed version for some friends — our DVD player for some reason would not allow the subtitles to be seen for the Korean version, so we had no choice but to watch it with dubbing —  and when the film started there were titters at English vocal delivery that made the actors sound like anime characters. Once things got intense, which was early on,  we were able to ignore the fact that things were dubbed and just enjoy the ride, but take my word for it that the native language/subtitled option allows the performances to be experienced as originally intended, and the film is al[...]



31 DAYS OF HORROR 2017-Day 24: NIGHT TRAIN TO TERROR (1985)

2017-10-24T00:00:00.164-04:00

"Everybody's got somethin' ta do...Everybody but YOU!!!"While growing up in southern Connecticut, I spent a lot of time haunting the area's grindhouses in search of cheap and sleazy celluloid thrills, and more often than not such diversion meant horror movies while seated in a theater full of rowdy drunks and junkies. Many was the night I spent being thoroughly entertained by the head-on collision of a crappy movie and the hilarious and profane antics of my fellow moviegoers. It was the ass-end of a golden period in which trashy, zero-budget exploitation flicks were dumped into run-down theaters where they played for a week before vanishing into the ether and one's fond memories. VHS was in full flower at the time and a lot of those shitty movies did make it to home video, but the at-home experience simply could not compare to being at Ground Zero for the big screen release of the latest gore/nudity/profanity-laden attraction that was sure to bring the never-boring dregs of humanity to the theater. Those reprobates managed to liven up even the the least entertaining of time-wasters, so it was an extra-special event when the forces of drunken moviegoerdom collided with a bad movie of undeniable watchability and utter shameless, slapdash cruddiness. Such was the case on the May night in 1985 when I hauled my ass to Wilton Cinema to see NIGHT TRAIN TO TERROR. Wilton Cinema was a weird theater whose programming often defied comprehension, thanks to them running quality mainstream releases one week, and random pieces of cheap exploitation garbage the next, and sometimes they would inexplicably pair respectable pictures with R-rated ultra-violent fare as inappropriate double-features. By the mid-1980's, the theater circuit's programmers finally gave up altogether and the theater morphed into one of Fairfield County's most reliable showcases for garbage cinema and insane audiences, and on the night when I experienced NIGHT TRAIN TO TERROR, the evening was punctuated by a thick haze of other-than-nicotinal smoke, the chime-and-crash of dropped 40-oz. malt liquor bottles hitting the sticky floor, and the merry audience hurling endless rejoinders at the action unfolding onscreen. On this specific night the audience was in rare form, and their wit was given a target worthy of their skills once the night train began its journey.The film immediately gets into the audience's face with a so-bad-it's-awesome musical number in which a bunch of obnoxious faux-MTV types dance around at a party held on a speeding train. Led by a blonde, would-be-cool pretty boy who sings an inane dance tune, the group subjects us to feeble choreography and even some appalling white boy breakdancing as the singer admonishes the viewer with "Everybody's got somethin' ta do...EVERYBODY BUT YOU!!!"One cannot help but admire the sheer nerve of not only foisting this "so '80's it's ridiculous" mess of a dance number upon an unsuspecting general public, but also for the film knowing exactly what kind of movie it is and directly calling out the viewer for having nothing better to do with their time than watch this piece of shit. Well played, NIGHT TRAIN TO TERROR. Well played. (respectful clapping)This hilarious number pops up a few times during the film and I defy you not to fall in love with its sheer awfulness and sing along every time the chorus tells us that "Everybody's got somethin' ta do...EVERYBODY BUT YOU!!!" (The smashed audience at Wilton Cinema sure did, and it was like an enthusiastic revival meeting.)At this point, the audience had no idea what to expect from the film, since there had been no trailers leading up to it in the months before its release, nor were there any commercials on television, and the poster gave away absolutely nothing, seeing as[...]



31 DAYS OF HORROR 2017-Day 23: NOSFERATU, A SYMPHONY OF TERROR (1922)

2017-10-23T00:00:18.232-04:00

Just one of the film's nightmare-fuel images.NOSFERATU, A SYMPHONY OF TERROR is one of the most influential horror flicks ever made, standing tall as one of the crown jewels of German expressionist cinema and sporting one of the most iconic and horrifying vampires ever committed to celluloid. No lie, it's a straight-up masterpiece of chilling, creepy eeriness, and the beauty of it is that it's basically a bootleg Dracula movie. I may love it, but that affection cannot mask the fact that it's a shameless knockoff. No lie, NOSFERATU is an unlicensed adaptation of Bram Stoker's novel DRACULA, and Stoker's heirs sued over the flagrant copyright infringement. The courts decided that all existing copies of the film were to be destroyed, but some survived and it's a damned good thing that they did, because this film is arguably the best Dracula movie ever made.In fact, NOSFERATU is such a bootleg that I won't bother to go into the plot in detail. All you need to know is that it contains all of the basics of the seminal Dracula story, and I make a case for it doing better at it than any other adaptation. While the classic 1931 Bela Lugosi version cemented the image of the Count as more or less a suave undead aristocrat/pimp and Christopher Lee's interpretation was a study in Gothic rage and outright evil, Max Schreck's Count Orlok leaves them both in the dust when it comes to sheer creepiness and malevolence of presence.Count Orlok (Max Schreck). Hand down my favorite cinematic vampire, this guy is a nightmare made flesh.Slender, pale, pointy-eared and markedly rat-like in appearance, Orlok bears none of the glamour of perceived sexiness of the undead suckfaces that came in his wake and has the decency to be simply a straight-up, unapologetic monster. When we first meet him, his bald pate and pronounced ears are obscured by a hat, but as the film progresses he sheds all pretense of humanity and prowls the night with claws that bring to mind the deadliest of scythes.No sex-appeal or sparkling for this vamp.Orlok's menace is immeasurably aided by the silent-era black-and-white imagery and that distinct look of its period's German expressionist aesthetic, which only roots the film even further into the nightmarish. And it should also be noted that NOSFERATU is surprisingly lively for a film of its antique vintage. While many other silent films can come off as too arch or bring due to outmoded early filmmaking aspects, NOSFERATU's 94-minute running time holds the viewer in a tight grip, even if one has seen many of the subsequent Dracula iterations, and it is never dull. This one's a classic for numerous reasons and is a must-see for all horror and vampire enthusiasts. It's a concrete case of one of a genre's progenitors proving not to just be some stolid fossil fit only for scholarly consideration. NOSFERATU is the balls-out real deal and its eerie quality is unlikely ever to fade.Promotional art from the original German release.[...]



31 DAYS OF HORROR 2017-Day 22: HUMAN LANTERNS (1982)

2017-10-22T00:00:00.155-04:00

If this looks creepy, trust me, it is.Lung (Liu Yung) is an arrogant asshole who has gained fame and fortune via his mastery of swordsmanship and general badassery, and he maintains a bitter and competitive rivalry with Tan Fu (Chen Kuan Tai), who's his equal in all ways. After grievously insulting Tan in public, the two vow to compete against one another to win the yearly lantern festival, so Lung seeks out the services of Chao Chun-Fang (Lo Lieh), an artisan of renowned lantern-making skills. Lung hires Chun-Fang and acts all arrogant about it, knowing full well that seven years prior he bested Chun-Fang in a sword duel and stole his woman. The lantern-maker accepts the commission, with the stipulation that Lung not come to check up on his progress during the work process. When Lung goes on his merry assholish way, Chen-Fang embarks on a murderous spree in which he murders and flays three women and an old man so he can use their skin to make the lanterns, the idea for which he got from a tall tale once told to him by the old man over drinks. The butchery begins.Chen-Fang's defeat and the loss of his woman seven years prior has driven him completely and viciously insane, and he has used the years since his humiliation to train himself into a state of nigh-invincible martial arts mastery. Donning a demonic costume, he preys on the notorious local prostitute that Tan both Lung and Tan are involved with (despite Lung being married to Chen-Fang's former squeeze), Tan's huntress sister, Lung's wife — whom he rapes before flaying her alive — and the aforementioned old man. The abductions of their ones cause Lung and Tan to believe each other is responsible, and thus does Chen-Fang sow discord between them that he hopes will make them like him. Their animosity builds to a couple of kung fu throwdowns before they figure out that they have been set up — skilled they may be, but they are none too bright — and take the fight to Chen-Fang in the apocalyptic climax.Collecting art supplies the hard way.HUMAN LANTERNS (also known as HUMAN SKIN LANTERNS) is a very uneven gene-splicing of the horror and Shaw Brothers martial arts genres, and as such it's a very interesting work. On the the one hand it's a straight-up wuxia morality play whose message boils down to "Don't be an arrogant douchebag," and on the other it's a gruesome and gory shocker about a psycho who skins naked women alive, and though both are handled with the quality one expects fro a Shaw Brothers production, the two flavors never quite gel. Instead of the horror and the kung fu blending seamlessly into one another, in one scene it's a lush costumed martial period piece, and in the very next scene things jarringly transition into ultra-dark nightmare fuel. It's never boring, and even the aforementioned rape scene is handled in a palatable manner — what's happening is absolutely clear, though we are not shown any explicit nudity, and the act of violation itself is intercut with shots of the turning cogs in a bloody mill and the crying face of Lung's soon-to-be-skinned wife — but the end result is a film that tries to be please chopsocky junkies and gorehounds, and yet might not necessarily fully satisfy either audience.The unbridled madness of Chen-Fang (Lo Lieh).The film is populated with faces familiar to fans of Shaw Brothers films and other classic martial arts movies, including Chen Kuan Tai (THE FLYING GUILLOTINE, EXECUTIONERS FROM SHAOLIN), Liu Yung (FIST OF FURY, THE WAY OF THE DRAGON), Lo Meng (FIVE DEADLY VENOMS, THE KID WITH THE GOLDEN ARM), and Chien Sun (THE CHINATOWN KID, FIVE DEADLY VENOMS), but the movie truly belongs to the one and only Lo Lieh as Chen-Fang. LO Lieh was a prolif[...]



31 DAYS OF HORROR 2017-Day 21: THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD (1951)

2017-10-21T00:00:14.033-04:00

First contact of the worst kind.A United Sates Air Force team is dispatched to a research station at the North Pole, where the research team have discovered a recently-crashed and flash-frozen extra-terrestrial spacecraft. Though their recovery efforts accidentally cause the flying saucer to self-destruct, the crew manages to salvage a large block of ice containing an 8-foot-tall manlike alien life form. Frozen friend...or foe?The military takes over the situation and enforces by-the-book protocols for handling the frozen alien, much to the dismay of the scientific research team. However, the researchers mostly see the wisdom in caution, so they agree to wait for the soldiers to receive further orders. While they wait, a mishap involving a heat lamp thaws the spaceman, and it's out of the ice, it proves itself to be one seriously tough and aggressive son of a bitch whose presence and continued existence could spell the end of the world as we know it.I first saw THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD when I was ten years old and it played on Channel 9. I watched it with a classmate who was sleeping over at my house that night, and since both of us were fans of sci-fi and horror movies and had both heard of the film, it was something we expected to be little, if at all, different from the many 1950's flying saucer and aliens flicks we'd already seen at even so tender an age. What we absolutely did not expect was an intense shocker made for grownups that featured an intelligent script populated with characters who spoke and acted in a realistic manner. And once the titular "thing" was on the loose, the film became a study in true terror, perhaps the first horror movie I saw that was genuinely scary as hell.Our all-too-relatable heroes.The alien is tall and humanoid and we never really get a good look at it in detail, but believe me when I tell you that the motherfucker is very bad news indeed. It's deduced to be a highly intelligent vegetable-creature — an "intellectual carrot" — that does not contain blood and may not be able to die, as we know of the concept, is possessed of great strength and clawed hands, feeds on the blood of mammals, regenerates lost limbs, and rapidly reproduces via seed pods. In short, it's a formidable being and, unfortunately, we'll never know if it may have been benevolent as it was immediately shot at the moment it emerged from the ice, and was driven into the deadly cold where it lost an arm to a pack of defensive sled dogs, so its hostile actions may have been committed in self-defense. But an answer will never be had, for the soldiers and the research team must fight for their lives as the apparently invulnerable creature goes on a vicious and deadly rampage through the isolated station and its grounds, killing sled dogs and slashing the throats of humans, which it then hangs upside down like cattle in a slaughterhouse (offscreen, mind you).Most man-sized monsters can be vanquished with fire. Not this guy...If not the very first of the 1950's decade-dominating wave of flying saucers-and-aliens movies, THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD early on defined the genre as a showcase in which plucky human protagonists must wage war against hostile invaders from beyond. But while this was a smart and groundbreaking work of great importance to the genre and to cinema in general, most of the Earth-meets-aliens films that followed in its wake focused more on special effects spectacle or shoving bug-eyed monsters in our faces, often minus anything resembling a story with a brain in its head or something that could satisfy adults as well as matinee-attending kiddies. As an exemplar of the smart science-fiction film, THE THING FROM ANOTHE[...]



31 DAYS OF HORROR 2017-Day 20: PIECES (1982)

2017-10-20T01:03:42.247-04:00

Ah, the joys of PIECES...Here's a textbook example of how to open a movie where the audience cares about nothing but graphic murders and naked female flesh:We open in Boston, 1942, where we find a young boy assembling a jigsaw puzzle of a naked woman.The catalyst for 89 minutes of savage butchery.The kid's mother walks in, sees the nudie puzzle and freaks the fuck out, beating the kid, noting how he's just like his father — who is away fighting WWII — and ransacking his room, confiscating his stash of porno mags. (How nasty they could have been back in 1942 is open for debate.) She sends him out of the room to get a garbage bag that she can fill with his filth collection and burn it, but instead the lad returns with a fireman's axe and shows him mom what happens when one comes between a guy and his stroke material.Lesson learned: Do NOT threaten your son's smut collection.After rendering his mother exceedingly dead, the boy breaks out a saw and begins dismembering her corpse. Breaking down the evidence.When the police arrive, they find the kid hiding in the murder room's closet, and he acts as though he were the witness to the killing instead of being the murderer. We then skip ahead to the present day of 1982, where a heavy-breathing P.O.V. stalker of the type common to early-'80's slasher movies embarks on a series of horrific and brazen murders/dismemberments. His first victim is an innocent co-ed who's studying on the sunny lawn of a college campus. She somehow does not hear the loud roar of a chainsaw as the killer runs up to her and divests her of her head in broad daylight (which apparently no one sees or hears)."What a lovely day for studying outdoors...WHAT THE FUCK?!!?"Insert "She won't be going to the head of the class" joke here.All of this happens during the first five minutes of the film, so we, the audience, have a pretty good idea of what we're in for.As per usual with this sort of film, the so-called plot is nothing more than something upon which to hang a slew of gruesome mayhem, so all one needs to know is that it chronicles an un-involving police investigation into the killings, in which they work closely with campus stud Kendall (Ian Sera, best known as the obnoxious band frontman in the MST3K classic POD PEOPLE), who may unwittingly know who the killer is, since the fiend targets hot young girls. You won't give a shit about any of the interchangeable characters and the already flimsy narrative bears all of the earmarks of being padded out to bring the run-time up to feature length. The most glaring examples of this are a "who cares?" tennis match, a couple of "sexy" aerobics numbers in a dance studio, and, most ridiculously, a scene where a random Chinese guy attacks the female undercover cop character with his kung fu skills. This occurs with no provocation whatsoever and the assailant is revealed to be the campus stud's "kung fu professor." By way of explanation, the low-rent Bruce Lee explains away his actions with, "Something I eat...Bad chop suey!!!"Anyway, the killer goes around slaying young women and absconding with select body parts, so he can piece together a flesh jigsaw puzzle of his late mum. The road to that goal certainly does not skimp on the nudity, violence, and gore, and it could easily be read as one of the most misogynistic movies ever, if not for the story's lack of an agenda that has to do with anything other than catering to the bloodthirsty needs of the '80's slasher audience. The admittedly creative water bed murder.Now, over thirty years since that dubious genre's heyday, it may be hard for those who weren't there to witness it to understand just how popula[...]



31 DAYS OF HORROR 2017-Day 19: LATE PHASES (2014)

2017-10-19T00:00:24.272-04:00

An ideal retirement community...NOT.Tough-as-nails blind Vietnam war vet Ambrose McKinley (Nick Damici) is moved into a charming retirement community by his son, Will (Ethan Embry). Ambrose is an embittered and unpleasant sort whose abrasive personality alienates all around him and led him to being a drag as both a husband (to his recently deceased wife) and father, but his son nonetheless does his best to try and be supportive of his dad while getting his own life and marriage underway. Upon moving into the community, Ambrose is greeted by a "charming" trio of resident women (one of whom is Tina Louise, aka Ginger from GILLIGAN'S ISLAND) who act as a welcoming committee, but he acts like an asshole to them, allowing them to glimpse his revolver and stating that he's a weapons expert in spite of his blindness, and immediately gains a rep as a jerk with possible violent tendencies. His only friends in the world are his service dog, Shadow, and Delores (SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER's Karen Lynn Gorney), the sweet neighbor lady whom he meets when moving in and who lives in the closely-connected residence on the other side of his living room wall. And it should be noted that the moment they cross the threshold into the retirement community, Shadow bristles and instantly assumes defense mode as something triggers his animal senses...Ambrose's life in his new home veers straight into weird territory when he feels a torn area on one of his walls and finds a broken claw embedded in it. Then, on his first night there, he hears through the thin walls separating his place from Delores's and bears aural witness to her horrible disembowelment by what sounds like a ravening wild beast. The already on-edge Shadow is instantly up and on guard while Ambrose fumbles blindly for his gun, but the poor, brave pooch is simply no match for the monstrosity that bursts through the front door in search of prey. But Shadow does not die in vain, for he saves his master's life, and Ambrose puts his loyal companion out of his misery with a shot to the head. Once the police arrive and Ambrose relates what he heard, he overhears Delores's grieving daughter note that she'd heard ominous stories about the community and its monthly rash of pest turning up murdered, but did not believe them. Ambrose, being a tough motherfucker and not at all an idiot, pieces the evidence together after being told that it was a full moon the night before, and comes to the very correct conclusion that it was a werewolf that killed Delores and almost did him in. He tells no one of his deduction, probably realizing that saying a werewolf was on the loose would further brand him as a crank and a dangerous loony, so he spends the weeks until the next full moon preparing for Round 2 with the monster that killed his dog and neighbor. As the weeks go by, Ambrose trains himself physically, digs a deep hole in his backyard that is obviously a grave — but for whom? — and has a shady local gun dealer make him silver bullets and a single shotgun shell loaded with silver shot. None of his odd and intense behavior goes unnoticed by his neighbors and, unfortunately, the werewolf is a local and also not an idiot, so counter-measures are set in motion as the next full moon nears...The beast emerges.Werewolf movies are my very favorite flavor of horror story, and genuinely good ones are few and far between, so it was with great delight that I recently experienced LATE PHASES for the first time. It's a werewolf movie, yes, but it can more accurately be described as a tour de force character study about a bitter, alienating old man's handling of the encroaching end[...]



31 DAYS OF HORROR 2017-Day 18: THE MANSTER (1959)

2017-10-18T00:00:22.089-04:00

In a nutshell: An American reporter in Japan encounters an unscrupulous scientist who uses him as a guinea pig for experiments involving evolution, cosmic rays, and shitloads of alcohol. The reporter begins sneaking around Tokyo at night to commit murders and eventually grows an extra head that separates into a hairy "new species" ape monster. Can you stand the sheer terror???THE MANSTER is another flick that I saw during my formative years when it ran on Channel 5's iteration of CREATURE FEATURES., and I mostly watched it because it was a shot-in-Japan American production that looked and felt just like the Japanese films that I learned early to favor. Though not a city-stomping giant monster opus, it was worth watching to see how Americans handled Japanese-style scares, but it comes off like a monster movie as written and directed by a nine-year-old. The story's stupid as hell, not at all scary, and rather mediocre, so why am I bothering to call your attention to it? For one reason: the indelible and genuinely creepy moment when the reporter discovers an eye generating on his shoulder.The best moment in an otherwise idiotic movie.THE MANSTER is by no means a classic, but it's a fun way to kill 72 minutes and it has the decency to not be boring.Poster from the Japanese theatrical release.[...]



31 DAYS OF HORROR 2017-Day 17: TRICK 'R TREAT (2007)

2017-10-17T00:00:23.024-04:00

Obey the rules of Halloween, or you will meet Sam...The horror anthology film goes back at least as far as DEAD OF NIGHT (1945) and continues to this day, with largely uneven results, but one of the better and more fun of the recent crop is writer/director Michael Dougherty's TRICK 'R TREAT. Taking place on Halloween night in an Ohio suburb, the film follows the night's intersecting paths of several characters, connected only by the holiday and the recurring presence of wee Sam, a silent, pint-sized demonic entity whose origins and purpose are never stated, but it's made very clear that he is definitely the enforcer of the night's rules and lore, and may be the physical personification of the spirit of Halloween. Sam walks unnoticed among the legions of trick-or-treaters, observing their shenanigans and availing himself to offered candy, but may the gods help you if you disrespect this sacred night...The tone is set with a short vignette in which a young couple returns home after walking the streets in costume. The husband is clearly into Halloween and has set up their front yard with all manner of spooky seasonal decorations, but his wife openly expresses her disdain for the holiday, much to her husband's sadness, and she demands that he take down the decorations immediately since her mother's coming over the next day, and she knows he'll spend the next day sleeping late and playing videogames. Instead, she lets her husband go inside to relax (in actuality he goes to jerk off to porn) and begins taking down the decorations herself. But her disrespect for Halloween has been noted by Sam, and let's just say that she won't have to endure another October 31st... "Give me something good to eat..."The first of the intertwined tales of terror introduces us to Charlie (Brett Kelly), an obnoxious Jack-o'-lantern-smashing fat kid who also breaks the honor system and takes waaaay more than one piece of candy from a clearly-marked self-service bowl on a porch where no one is at home. Charlie is busted when the homeowner, local school principal Steven Wilkins (Dylan Baker) returns, but the pricipal sits Charlie down on the porch and says he was just like him when he was a kid, offering Charlie a candy bar. After scarfing down the chocolate, the kid falls victim to the principal's poisoned treat, vomiting up seemingly gallons of half-digested candy before he keels over. Wilkins hauls the lad's body inside and what ensues is a comedy of bodily disposal that gets interrupted by the principal's young son and the crotchety old man who lives next door. (More on him later.) Charlie and the chocolate toxicity.And when all seems to be over, Wilkins goes into his house and brings his sweet little boy down to the basement, all the while concealing a butcher knife behind his back...Next, we meet a quartet of very attractive young women who every year choose a different city in which to celebrate Halloween. The youngest of the group (Anna Paquin) is reluctant to join the others clad as she is in a Little Red Riding Hood outfit that she feels makes her look ridiculous, but her older, Cinderella-garbed sister gives her grief about her need to loosen up and the fact that she's still a virgin at age twenty-two. The girls cruise the town, inviting young men to meet them at a drunken bonfire party in the woods, but the youngest does her best to dodge the revelry and instead stays in town to blend in with other revelers. She gets more than she bargained for when she encountered a masked man with pointy fangs that may not be part of his costume...While cru[...]



31 DAYS OF HORROR 2017-Day 16: HEBI MUSUME TO HAKUHATSUMA (1968)

2017-10-16T00:00:10.934-04:00

When the shrine  stares back.Sweet young Sayuri (Yachi Matsui) has been raised in a kind Catholic orphanage since infancy, with fellow orphan Tatsuya (Sei Hiraizumi) acting as her adored more-or-less brother, but now, after years of searching, her biological father has found her and has come to take her home. During the drive home, her father warns Sayuri that her mother (Yuko Hamada) was in an accident a while back that rendered her somewhat mentally ill, so she should keep that in mind while around her. Upon arrival at the house, her mother addresses Sayuri as "Tamami," a gaffe that is swiftly corrected by the father. The mother hazily acknowledges her mistake and welcomes Sayuri to the household, which also includes Shige (Sachiko Meguro), the housekeeper.Just as Sayuri is about to settle in, her father is called away to Africa for a two-week research trip as part of his studies of venomous creatures, many examples of which he keeps in his private study/lab. Once dad's out of the picture, Sayuri tries to sleep but is awakened by a snake being dropped into her bed. Her shrieks bring the housekeeper, but Sayuri's claims about the snake are disbelieved. The next day, her mother shows Sayuri the house's Buddhist shrine and encourages her to pray there (apparently ignoring the fact that the girl was raised Catholic). While humoring her mother's wishes and beseeching the Buddha to be kind to her, Sayuri glances up at the shrine and sees an eerie and none-too-friendly pair of eyes staring back at her. Startled, she tells her mother what she saw, and her mother oddly advises Sayuri not to tell her father of what she saw when he returns. That night, Sayuri leaves her bed upon hearing her mother stealthily wandering around. Her mother leaves food in the shrine and leaves, which Sayuri observes, but when she enters the shrine she notes that the food is gone. She confronts her mother about this and it is revealed that the shrine has a secret room that houses the aforementioned Tamami, whom Sayuri is told is her hitherto unmentioned older sister, and who also bears an unsettling "plastic" aspect to her face....Sibling disharmony.No explanation is given for Tamami living in a hidden chamber, but Sayuri just goes with it and agrees to share her own room with the cold Tamami. Tamami immediately is found to be a mean and vicious little bitch who wields control over her mother and the housekeeper, but the real horrors start once the sisters begin rooming together. As she tries to sleep, Sayuri notices odd things about Tamami, such as her obsessed focus on frogs in a biology textbook, a strange cut on the side of her face, and the fact that Tamami's back is covered in scales like a snake. Night terrors.Sayuri suffers weird nightmares filled with imagery of attacking snakes, and on one night Tamami leaves the house, with Sayuri convinced she's left to search the nearby swamp for frogs. While their mother and housekeeper search outside, Tamami, in a move worthy of any ghost or spirit, manifests inside the house, revealing herself to indeed be a snake, and she savagely latches onto her terrified little sister's neck.Tamami: Snake monster?But when Sayuri awakens and finds herself uninjured, things just get weirder. Was Tamami's monstrous form and attack all just a dream? And what the hell is up with Tamami holding up a large, freshly-caught frog, with one leg held in each hand, graphically tearing it in half down to the crotch, and throwing the gory mess into her sister's shocked face? Whatever the case, Sayuri's recounti[...]



31 DAYS OF HORROR 2017-Day 15: HARD CANDY (2005)

2017-10-15T00:00:19.173-04:00

The start of an unforgettable date.After getting to know 14-year-old Hayley Stark (Ellen Page) during three weeks of flirtation on an internet chat room, 30-year-old photographer Jeff Kohlver (Patrick Wilson) takes her back to his house, where the girl makes them screwdrivers. After a few drinks, Hayley suggests that Jeff take sexy pictures of her and she begins to dance suggestively on his couch. As Jeff breaks out his camera, he begins to feel woozy and soon keels over unconscious. Upon coming to, Jeff finds that he's securely tied to a chair and Hayley's innocent and precocious demeanor is cast aside to reveal a cold and vicious sociopath with an agenda.To give away more would be grossly unfair to curious viewers, so I won't go any further with the plot particulars. What I will say is that as the story unfolds, the audience is taken along on a journey into every man's very worst nightmare. Is Hayley insane? What is her motivation? Is Jeff actually a predator of underage girls? HARD CANDY is a nail-bitingly intense psychological battle wherein the seemingly weaker opponent wields several clear and very strong advantages, so Jeff's situation is a steady descent into hopelessness. Basically a two-character study (though three other characters make very brief appearances), the film is a tour de force of performances from the leads, both of whom are utterly believable in their roles, but Page's Hayley comes from out of nowhere to join the short list of cinema's all-time most terrifying psychos, and she only gets more fear-inducing with each passing moment. She's brilliant, methodical, and veers between overwrought adolescent histrionics and icy coldness as she torments her captive and plays with his mind and body in the most cruel of ways.Believe it or not, this is the relative calm before the storm...Psychological horror is far less easy to pull off than narratives showcasing rapacious monsters or implacable slashers, and HARD CANDY succeeds at its horrific flavor in every possible way. It's a true make-you-squirm thriller, especially for males, and if there is any justice it will eventually be rightly recognized as the classic that it is. This is movie with very, very sharp teeth and you had better believe me when I tell you it is not afraid to go there. HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION.Poster from the theatrical release.[...]



31 DAYS OF HORROR 2017-Day 14: THE SHALLOWS (2016)

2017-10-14T00:00:07.585-04:00

When a surfing holiday goes horribly, horribly wrong.Medical student Nancy Adams (Blake Lively), takes a surfing holiday to Mexico while grieving for her recently-deceased mother. Her mother's death has led Nancy to consider leaving med school, but serious consideration of that decision is put on hold as Nancy, following hours of surfing with friendly locals, is attacked by a massive great white shark that has been feeding on the nearby carcass of a humpback whale. Nancy's surfer athleticism and medical training allow her to survive and make her way to an exposed rock outcropping in the shallows, a mere 200 yards from the beach and safety, where she's just out of the water enough so that the apex predator cannot reach her. But the shark is mindlessly relentless — to put it very mildly — and it's only a matter of time until high tide renders Nancy easily obtainable...Let's face it: When it comes to shark movies, JAWS (1975) was a rock-solid masterpiece of suspense and terror that defined the genre and set the standard, so pretty much every shark movie that came in its wake could not help but come off as feeble or a pale imitation by way of comparison. With that stated, I'll go out on a limb — or an isolated rock — and name THE SHALLOWS as probably the very best of the post-JAWS shark-centric shockers. Its premise is the very model of narrative simplicity, set as it is in one remote location and peopled with an absolute minimum of characters, so what we really focus on is seeing just how Nancy will survive against what is for all intents and purposes a voracious sea monster of the most implacable order."Those goddamned Beach Boys are a pack of fucking liars!!!"Seeming even more consumption-minded than the shark in JAWS, the great white found here just will not stop in its efforts to eat every fucking thing in its path succeeding in devouring three other victims as it awaits its chance at taking Nancy. It's big, it's terrifying, and, thanks to modern special effects, it's a beautifully realized and downright nasty antagonist.And since the other human characters are pretty much ancillary shark-fodder, Blake Lively is given a terrific showcase in which to shine. She imbues Nancy with a relatable humanity and disorientation in the wake of the character's mom's death, which only makes her clearing-the-mind-via-surfing-holiday gone wrong seem all the more terrible. It's also a very physical performance, and while Lively spends the film in a bikini and a subsequent leg-exposing body-glove, the hot chick factor is almost immediately forgotten as the shark enters the picture and Nancy proves herself tougher and more resourceful than you will ever be.I love sharks and shark horror stories, and THE SHALLOWS easily makes it into my roster of Top 5 shark flicks of all time. No small feat, that, so give it a look. And bear in mind that it manages to be riveting and scary as hell with only a minimum of PG-13 gore. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.Theatrical promo poster.[...]



31 DAYS OF HORROR 2017-Day 13: JUJIN YUKI OTOKO (1955)

2017-10-13T00:00:25.356-04:00

Shaq?First of all, this film is more of a monster movie than a straight-up horror outing, but I cite it here for completists and also due to its controversial status and attendant rarity. Known and released in the United States as HALF-HUMAN (1958), Toho's 1955 JUJIN YUKI OTOKO — roughly "monster snowman" — was never given an uncut release here and was yanked from distribution in its native Japan early in its run. That's a shame because it's an okay little creature feature from the legendary director Ishiro Honda, who a year earlier unleashed Godzilla upon the world in the classic GOJIRA (1954). The "abominable" snowman and child.I won't go too heavy into detail, as this is pretty much a standard Abominable Snowman yarn, but all you really need to know is that it's about an assortment of humans who want to find the snowman (and its child) who they believe to be a dangerous menace, and during the course of the story we also meet a community of primitive mountain villagers who venerate the snowman as a local spirit/god. The mountain area where the snowman lives is infamous for no one who ventures there ever coming back, which is assumed to be because the snowman kills outsiders, but the snowman's actually quite mellow and even helpful when push comes to shove, and the villagers are revealed as the murderers of interlopers. Needless to say, some of the humans want to capture and exploit the snowman and that course of action predictably leads to tragedy, while the mountain village's sole hot chick (Akemi Negishi) must redeem herself in the eyes of her people after she rescues an outsider after he suffers a dangerous fall. Anyway, the bad humans kill the snowman's child, which causes him to rampage and destroy the village, after which he pulls a King Kong and abducts the film's answer to Fay Wray (Momoko Kochi, who was the female lead in GOJIRA). And, like I previously stated, tragedy occurs.The snowman. As content goes, the film is not scary, violent, or gory, so why has its un-bastardized version been suppressed by Toho for over sixty years? Well, it's all down to the depiction of the mountain people. Some sources say they are meant to represent Japan's Ainu people, an indigenous ethnic group, or the Burakumin, "hamlet people" who are deemed "unclean/impure" because of their roles as slaughterhouse workers, executioners, undertakers, and other functions that place them in close proximity to death. I'd say the closest American equivalent of the stereotype would be our perception of hillbillies, rednecks, and other "poor white trash" as unsavory, sub-human, inbred vermin, and as such the depiction of the villagers could be considered offensive or insensitive. When Japanese film studios withhold their own works, it's usually for reasons of sensitivity, which is commendable and kind of unexpected when one considers the often outrageous, insane, over-the-top, and offensive material found in a lot of what they unleash on screens. The snowman pulls a Kong.And let us not forget HALF-HUMAN, which was the westernized version. It gave the Toho original the same shabby treatment that both GODZILLA RAIDS AGAIN — re-edited and retitled GIGANTIS THE FIRE MONSTER — and VARAN THE UNBELIEVABLE received when they hit the States. New footage with American actors was shot and inserted into the films while chunks of the originals were excised. (The re-jiggering in VARAN was especially egregious, as most of the movie's giant monster f[...]



31 DAYS OF HORROR 2017-Day 12: GOKE, BODY SNATCHER FROM HELL (1968)

2017-10-12T00:00:01.879-04:00

As Air Japan flight 307's crew faces birds committing suicide by flying into the plane, thanks to an unexplained phenomenon that turns the sky blood-red, they must also contend with sorting out a bomb threat and an armed hijacker (Hideo Ko). But as if all of that were not enough, they cross the flight path of a UFO and are forced to crash land on an uncharted, uninhabited island. An unwanted close encounter.Only nine people survive the crash, with the presumed-dead hijacker suddenly sitting up and bringing the number up to ten. He takes a stewardess hostage at gunpoint and escapes onto the island, only to run straight into a parked flying saucer. He turns to flee but is compelled to approach the ship.As the terrified stewardess watches from behind a boulder, the hijacker enters the spacecraft and immediately has his forehead telekinetically split open. A silver/gray, pulsating, blob-like life form enters his body through the new cranial orifice and possesses him, after which he disappears."You may call me...Vulva-Face!!!"Hearing a radio bulletin stating that no trace has been found of their plane and that all attempts at rescue have been called off, the survivors must work together to stay alive, which is not going to be easy because every one of them, with the exceptions of the co-pilot (Teruo Yoshida), the stewardess, and a cute blonde American war widow (Cathy Horan), are all either idiots or outright self-serving assholes. Among the survivors is a psychiatrist who theorizes that while mankind fights among itself with senseless wars, hostile space aliens will use that distraction and stage a stealthy invasion. That theory is proven true as the possessed hijacker, now more or less a space-vampire, gets to work on draining the hapless humans of their vital fluids.Feeding time.Feigning death, the hijacker/alien allows itself to be brought into the plane, where it feasts upon the film's most obnoxious character (Nobuo Kaneko) and takes the man's wife (Yuko Kusunoki) as the next host body for one of its compatriot invaders.Speaking telepathically through the newly-possessed female, the aliens identify themselves as the Gokemidoro, who hail from "a universe far from Earth." The Gokemidoro have had their eye on our world for some time — previous sightings of UFOs are chalked up to being our first encounters with the Gokemidoro — and are now in the active process of full-scale invasion, with the complete and utter extermination of mankind as their goal. Stating that we have already turned our world into "a monstrous battlefield," the aliens blame us for their choice of Earth as their conquest objective, since our own in-fighting distracted humankind from believing that UFOs were a clear and present threat. Having thus explained themselves, the aliens deem the human woman no longer of use, so they vacate her body and pitch it off of a cliff, and upon rushing to her corpse, the survivors find that her body is now as desiccated as that of a mummy.Locking themselves in the hull of the crashed plane, the survivors opt to pick one of their number to be bait so they can actually witness a vampire do its thing, all in the name of science.The invader stalks......and preys.The survivors are picked off one by one until only the co-pilot and the stewardess remain, and they defeat the alien by dousing it with previously foreshadowed jet fuel and setting it alight.The invader seeps out, vanquished by flame.But, in[...]



31 DAYS OF HORROR 2017-Day 11: JIGOKU (1960)

2017-10-11T03:04:40.211-04:00

"Once drawn by that merciless wind, the fair youth of morning is at dusk naught but bones. In the end, all must die. Numberless are the sins committed on the way to death. For those sins, there may be punishment in the law. Some may slip through its net, but the awareness of sin cannot be escaped. Religion imagines a world after death, dealing punishment in place of the law. That world is Hell."— opening narrationTheology student Shiro Shimizu (Shigeru Amachi) is engaged to Yukiko (Utako Mitsuya), the daughter of his respected teacher, Professor Yajima. He also maintains a strange relationship with the uber-creepy Tamura (Yoichi Numada), who seems to know the intimate and sometimes shameful secrets of all and sundry. Showing up uninvited to the professor's house as Shiro announces his intention to marry Yukiko, Tamura makes it clear to the professor that he knows of an atrocity that the man committed during WWII and leaves with Shiro. As Tamura drives Shiro home, Tamura lets on that he knows Shiro has been sleeping with Yukiko and asks him to consider the possibility that she may be pregnant. (The guy's a total buzzkill from the word "go.") Tamura (Yoichi Numada) and Shiro (Shigeru Amachi), on a road trip to a dire destiny.Seconds later, Tamura runs over a drunk named Tiger Kyoichi, a leader of the Gondo yakuza syndicate, and drives away. Shiro demands that Tamura stop the car so they can see if the victim is alright, but Tamura stoically refuses and blames the accident on Shrio, citing that it would not have happened if he had not asked Shimura to deviate from his planned route of travel. While Shiro silently contemplates his culpability for murder if the man dies, the gangster's mother (Kyoko Tsuji), alongside his floozy girlfriend, Yoko (Akiko Ono), grieves over her son's corpse and vows vengeance should she ever find the hit-and-run perps. Upon reading of the hit-and-run in the paper the next day, Tamura could not give less of a shit if he tried, while Shiro tries to convince him to go with him to the police and turn themselves in. Tamura notes that Kyoichi was only some piece of yakuza scum and not worth the best years of their lives, but the guilt-ridden Shiro confesses the accident to Yukiko, who suggests that her father might know what to do. While on their way to see the professor, the cab the pair are riding in crashes into a telephone pole and Yukiko is tragically killed. After Yukiko's funeral, Shiro frets over whether he or Tamura will "win" their battle of conscience (or lack thereof) and finds himself hanging out in a sleazy nightclub, where he meets, picks up, and puts the bone to the yakuza's bereaved girlfriend (who is also revealed to be a heroin addict, in a narrative bid to up the vileness quotient). Yoko twigs to the fact that Shiro is one of her lover's murderers, so she reports back to the gangster's mother and, with the target now identified, the plot for revenge escalates.As if Shiro were not already fucked up enough by his fiancee's untimely demise, he heads to a rustic retirement community upon being notified that his mother if terminally ill, and while his mother lays there slowly expiring, her husband cavorts in the very next room with some kimonoed hoo-er. (Yeah, this movie's a roller coaster ride of sunshine...) Suddenly, a cutie named Sachiko shows up and she happens to look exactly like the dead Yukiko (which only makes sense, as she's p[...]