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Preview: The Vault of Buncheness

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, 2004-2018.

Updated: 2018-03-21T07:20:30.741-04:00




NOTE TO NEW READERS: this is a rerun from previous years (with minor updates), but it's apropos for today so please enjoy.So it's Saint Patrick's Day 2018 and I'm going to stay off the streets of New York tonight while the populace at large gets Viking-level destroyed on their fermented beverages of choice. During the bygone days of my misspent youth I gladly joined in the revelry, happy that this one day of the year was more or less given over to everybody getting completely fucked up and shedding the burden of being human, but Saint Patrick's Day has long since lost its allure for me thanks to growing up (sort of) and having worked two St. Patrick's Days at the barbecue joint. The joint — now defunct — opened nine years ago today and St. Paddy's is as good a day as any for the anniversary of that fine dining establishment, but it became a bit overwhelming and the altered behavior of most of the crowd in attendance got rather David Lynchian in its crawly strangeness.I don't know about the rest of the nation but New York City in the throes of intoxicated Irish pride is an untamable green-clad beast that yowls and screeches random Pogues hits in tones even more unintelligible than those found in a live performance by the band's toothless wreck of a front man, Shane McGowan. Seriously, it took me years to decipher McGowan's wasted warbling during his infamous Saint Patrick's Day performance of "Body of An American" on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE back in 1990.The might and Majesty that is Shane McGowan.There's a strange blend of good feelings and ready-to-erupt primal savagery that permeates the air on this day, a palpable buzz of expectation and yearning that mutates into the full gamut of human emotion once strong drink is introduced into the mix. Fucking and fighting are practically guaranteed, occasionally at the same time, and every bar in the city is sure to be packed to the rafters with folks decked out in cheap plastic Leprechaun hats and "Kiss Me I'm Irish" t-shirts, merrily gobbling up free and fatty corned beef and cabbage while swilling down foul-tasting beer tinted with green food coloring, a libation barely a step up from McDonald's odious seasonal horror, the Shamrock Shake.The Shamrock Shake: minty taste treat, or mass-marketed bio-hazard sludge?But the worst thing to come from all of this is the day-after remains of hardcore partying, namely broken bottles everywhere, carelessly discarded party cups, rivers of reeking piss provided by both men and women and, worst of all, sidewalks copiously adorned with spewed beer and partially-digested food, making the streets look like they've been carpeted with day-old corned beef hash. I shit you not, in some years the pavement was so puked-out that one could easily have skated on the vomit, this phenomenon being especially bad near the Park Avenue offices of Marvel Comics during the early-1990's.The morning after also sees the subways smelling of fetid beer and drunks who have voided themselves in all possible ways without the benefit of having a restroom close at hand. The floors are glazed with spilled drinks and your feet stick to the linoleum like flypaper. Just plain revolting.Please don't get me wrong. I totally understand the need to let off steam and get buck-wild but St. Patrick's Day is rightfully termed "amateur night" by those of us who know how to properly get our drink on and not inflict out-of-control, sloppy assholism on the innocent citizenry, so we tend to sit this day out. Have you ever been out on St. Patrick's Day and had some boozed-up Staten Island chick with big tits and green hair chat you up, only to get close to you and bark up her dinner and last six shots of Jameson all over your chest? Well I have, and I can assure you that it completely harshed my evening and forced me to shell out ten bucks for one of those "I Heart NY" t-shirts to replace the vomit-sponge that the shirt I'd worn had become. Sorry, but stark white with a touristy slogan simply is not my ae[...]



I just went around the corner to pick up groceries at the Associated supermarket, and as I was heading back to my building with my purchases, a black SUV slowly matched  my pace as I walked. The window rolled down and woman smiled at me as she said "Hey!" and beckoned me over. I figured she probably wanted directions, so I walked over to the car. Inside were the woman, two children in the back seat, and her husband behind the wheel. The husband leaned toward me and said "Hello, my friend," in a thick Middle-Eastern accent. "I from Dubai! Need go to gas station, get gasoline, but have no money, credit card. You help us out?"

Not buying it at all but remaining polite, I told him I was sorry I could not help him because I had just spent all of my money on groceries. (I of course had money, but like I was going to just give away my cash to some rando...) He cranked up the begging a notch or two, repeating his initial pitch, and I again stated that I had no money, adding "Dude, that was it. I have nothing to give you. I am poor." The man would not take no for an answer and slipped a chunky gold-looking ring off of his finger, which he proffered to me and stated "This worth fifty dollars! Please take! Trade me money!" Fed up, I simply said "I'm sorry" and headed up my building's front steps. 

As I watched them drive away, I wondered if any local would actually give them cash. Ah, Park Slope...   



Meet the gorgeous Barong that Samurai House Pup brought back for me from his recent training foray overseas. It's crafted from Kamagong, one of the hardest woods native to the Phillipines, and is perfectly suited to my tastes in weaponry as it does not possess a sharp blade. It can, however, if properly wielded, deliver a considerable amount of punishment to an opponent, probably even a lethal ass-whupping, so I intend to rain with it on the roof once the weather gets warmer. Yeah, I know I'll never carry it anywhere outside of my building, but it will be fun to become self-taught fluent with it.



My mother's latest run-in with a Westport moron:Though still ill, mom's off the ruinous chemo drug and is feeling well enough to hang out at Westport's senior center. While spending time there last week, some ancient white lady whom she had not met before looked her up and down and said "You must live in Norwalk." (For those not in the know in regard to Fairfield County's racial assumptions, it used to be common for all black people to be assumed as residents of either Norwalk or Bridgeport, both of which featured higher concentrations of us boogies than Westport/Weston/Fairfield. During my earliest years in Westport, I was often asked if I had been bussed in from Bridgeport or Norwalk, and often asked by white kids who would pose the question in what I later learned was Amos 'n' Andy-style dialect, which their parents had apparently taught them was how the majority of black people spoke. No, I am NOT joking.) My mother, irritated at having been asked that question for the umpteenth time over the course of 4.5 decades, simply answered with, "No. I live in Westport. I've lived here since 1972. Are you asking me that because I'm black? Because that's the message I'm getting," and left it at that.Skip ahead to today, and mom was once more at the senior center, when the same dusty old twat approached her and flatly stated, with no preamble whatsoever, "You MUST be from Africa."Let us pause to consider the staggering ludicrousness of that pronouncement for a moment, shall we? First of all, my mother originally hails from deep, rural Alabama, and is the spawn of a highly-mixed gene pool that includes black, white, and Native American, and she bears a reddish/orange complexion, so she looks NOTHING like a native African, by any stretch of the imagination. Nor does she speak with anything resembling what is considered an African accent. Her original accent was very southern, though her diction and such were quite precise (as enforced by her domineering mother's rigid matriarchy's standards), but once outside of her home state she worked hard to divest herself of the accent that she felt sounded "ignorant." She now rocks a sharp Connecticut manner of precise speech, with her southern twang only re-emerging when she's majorly upset. In short, there is NOT ONE THING about her that would lead any sane person to conclude that my mother was from straight-up Africa.After forty-five years of being barraged with the stupidity of the privileged in Westport, my mom's heard it all and is damned near impossible to shock, but that one momentarily stopped her dead, and she said she nearly laughed in the obnoxious coffin-dodging axe-wound's Boris Karloff-as-the-Mummy-like face. Collecting herself, mom fired back with, "No. I was born in this country. My parents were born here, and my grandparents before them were born here. Prior to that, I can't tell you, because that's as far back as I know regarding my family's history."That was where the conversation left off, so I'm waiting to see if mom encounters that woman next week and if the woman asks my mother if she hails from the city of Helium on the planet Barsoom. [...]



I had my first Jing Fong dim sum meal of the new year, and it was great, with me being one of perhaps ten non-Chinese in the whole place. This time around, all of my favorite items were to be had within five minutes of being seated, and the lo mai gai made me glad to be alive. Just what I needed during my ongoing recovery from the blast of negative vibes that was this Christmas holiday.
That said, on the train back to Brooklyn, I found myself in a car with a small number of commuters, and at the otherwise empty far end of the car there stood a wild-eyed black guy who was balancing himself carefully as he slowly expectorated a long, thick bolus of phlegm onto an empty seat. He defiantly glared at all who dared to look at him while he did that, and when the glob had cleared his mouth, he laughed long and loud with a Joker-like cackle, and proceeded to merrily distribute his lung-butter upon more empty seats. I always wondered how random patches of dried phlegm ended up on subway seats instead of the floor, and now I have a pretty good idea...



You guys know what's been going on, so with that in mind I share what may end up being the final Christmas card I draw for my mother. I hope she enjoys it.

I came home to find that most of my markers were dead or missing (some borrowed by mom, who has a thing for pens, and not properly cared for), so I had to make do with only five colors, two black brush pens (one with a chisel nib), no blenders, and a dying brush pen left over from the Marvel Bullpen days. That last one acted as a quasi blender.



Here's wishing all of you a very happy Mud and Sticks Day! 

Pictured above is the traditional ceremony wherein the natives invite the local jungle man and his family over to share in the ritual cannibalism of white missionaries. Festive times for all! (For those not in on it, "Mud and Sticks Day" is a tradition I instigated during my happy days as a staffer at my hometown's Fine Arts 1&2 movie theater, a holiday cribbed from a National Lampoon piece that explained how Africans were too heathen to celebrate Christmas and instead "worshipped mud and sticks or something.")



Made mom a late breakfast: my first Eggs Benedict. They turned out great, which made me happy because mom eagerly devoured every bit, which, for her of late, was a real accomplishment. (I've known how to poach eggs for years but never bothered to get fancy about it until now.)

Mum's hearty appetite is usually quite unfettered, especially when it comes to snacking — or as "grazing," as she calls it — and breakfasts, so, now that lung cancer and bleeding ulcers have rendered her desire to eat all but a moot point, I'm pleased to see her stuff her face with virtually anything. 



As seen yesterday at the Westport Stop & Shop: fucking Star Wars salad greens. The shameless whoring-out of the franchise marches on, so what's next? Home pregnancy tests? Hemorrhoid ointment? Anal bleach?



I'm packing for the yuletide trip home to Connecticut and I am filled with a crawling sense of dread.

Those of you who have known me in the real world since I was in my early teens is aware that my relationship with my mother has been a study in contentious dysfunction, punctuated by brief moments in which my mom can be very sweet and a lot of fun to be around. My years spent under her roof living with her made it so that I genuinely feel like I have PTSD at the mere thought of spending even the slightest amount of time there.

It took me decades to either do the detective work for myself or sit there utterly gobsmacked as, in rare unguarded moments, mom filled me in on some truly horrible aspects of her rigid, ultra-dysfunctional southern matriarchal upbringing and subsequent experiences in life, so I totally understand why she is the way she is. I understand it, but that does not make it any more tolerable to be around. She's simply too damaged by a life where her every legitimate and impressive accomplishment is unjustly balanced by tragedy and awfulness (of sorts that are not mine to discuss publicly) and she's too stubbornly set in her ways. For however much time she has left, she will never change, and I long ago accepted that as a sad fact. All of which is made worse by the fact that I know most of her behavior over the last four decades was not intentionally malicious. I know that she adores me, as I am her only child, but her upbringing did not equip her with the proper tools with which to regularly communicate and express familial affection in healthy ways. The judgment, the imperiousness, the sheer inflexibility, the prudishness and prejudices instilled by the horrors of her formative years were programming of the most unbreakable order, and more's the pity because she's an otherwise remarkable human being. When she inevitably gives up the Ghost, I will not mourn for her overall, but will instead mourn for the Mildred Delores Bunche who only rarely let down her Adamantium emotional armor and allowed herself to be lovable and fun. Those moments were as rare as tits on a trout, and they are quite precious to me.

And now that she's terminally ill, this Christmas will likely be a mentally and emotionally exhausting doozy. I've tried to go into it with a positive attitude, but our relationship is contentious under even the best of circumstances, so throw her almost-85-year-old crotchetiness and the anti-delight that is lung cancer and bleeding ulcers into the mix and you have a recipe for pecan Christmas cookies in which what at first were passed off as pecans are in actuality cockroaches.

So, to those of you out there who are fortunate to have families and loved ones with whom you are more than happy to spend time, especially during the annual holidays that are meant to bolster the sanctity of the hoped-for happy family unit, you have my envy. If you and your family have even a modicum of genuine enjoyment of spending time with one another, and if the annual holidays do not fill you with nervous edginess and inevitable seasonal depression, never forget how truly fortunate you are.



My seasonal antlers, the story of which is found below...This year's Christmas season for your favorite Bunche has been one of worse misery than usual (I find the entire season to be highly irritating) and I don't like to bring this blog down with ultra-depressing entries from my world outside of the internet, but this particular story requires a bit of unpleasant preamble.If you are a regular reader of this blog, you will have noted that other than my annual 31 Days of Horror essays for Halloween, my general postings have been few and far between for the past handful of years. That's been due to an ongoing nightmare of personal medical issues that I will one day get around to, but let it suffice to say that those issues drastically affected my life in nearly all respect, including perpetual sleep-deprivation that nearly drove me mad and that needed strong prescription sleeping opioids to allow me to rest. There was a lot of other shit involving my health that's too involved to go into right now, but while all of that was going on, I was also dealing with a very serious situation involving my mother.As some of you already know, my mom and I have an often tense and contentious relationship for a number of reasons, and her behavior toward me since my adolescence has been a major factor in my absolute hatred of ever having to go home to visit. I love my mother, I really do, and I appreciate all that she has done and sacrificed for me, plus to say nothing of her considerable influence on my attitudes as a warrior who fights the everyday battle that is human existence, but as anyone who knows her well can tell you, she can be rather...difficult. Now that I am in my middle age, I am aware of most of what made her the way that she is — which I will not go into publicly; that's her business and only hers to tell, should she choose to do so — and, frankly, I'm amazed she weathered the shitstorm that life put her through as well as she did. Now that I am older, I truly get her, but that understanding does not make being at home any more tolerable. I have come to accept the simple fact that she will never cease her controlling ways and deeply-ingrained and rigid Southern matriarchal sense of "propriety" or stop treating me like her "little boy," plus spending time at home alone with only her while she spends nearly every waking hour on the downstairs couch, glued to endless hours of MSNBC and CNN repeating the same news items over and over again,  is boring beyond my capabilities of endurance. Couple that with the fact that our hometown of Westport, CT is not at all stimulating for a person with my proclivities and interests, informed as they are by nearly three decades as a denizen of the City That Never Sleeps and the fact that's there's nothing there for me to do, and you hand me a recipe for toxic and depressing boredom. When I'm there, I literally count down the hours until I can return to my meager hovel here in Brooklyn. And be aware that my mother has a ready wit and can be both very funny and fun when she lets her guard down, but those moments are rare...Mom is currently about a month shy of turning 85 and the last year and a half have not been easy for her. She lives in a state of self-imposed isolation in a home kept in the micro-managed pristine condition of a collector's dollhouse, with only a handful of equally-aged friends remaining, and a support group of people  she's friendly with from her church,  but I am the only blood-relative with whom she is still in touch. Thus it was that during May of 2016, my mom suffered a near-fatal car accident, in which her car ended up looking like a flimsy beer can that had been rent apart by an agitated Pit Bull. I was in Brooklyn when it happened and once the ER at Norwalk Hospital alert[...]



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)


(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.[...]



 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-interes[...]



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.



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 r[...]

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


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 budg[...]



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 [...]



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)


"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 min[...]



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 hum[...]

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


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 [...]



"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[...]



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)


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 (TH[...]